Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Swimming the Bosporus 7: Of Popes and Patriarchs

 

Six posts in and there’s a question I keep getting: “We get why you left evangelical protestantism for Orthodoxy. But why didn’t you just choose the Catholic Church?” For a Westerner, swimming the Tiber is simpler than swimming the Bosporus based on cultural affinities alone. And, according to Google Maps, the drive from Wittenburg to Rome is 400 miles shorter than Wittenburg to Constantinople. So what gives?

To answer, I first need to give some historical context.

You can find all the Swimming the Bosporus posts here.

The Church was established on the Day of Pentecost, 33 AD, and quickly spread around the Mediterranean. Every church was in agreement with each other as one big, happy family. Well, churlish at times, but what’cha gonna do? False teachers popped up here and there promoting doctrines contrary to Christianity. Councils were convened to discuss foundational beliefs and to condemn heresies.

The first ecumenical council was in Nicaea (325 AD), agreeing upon the first part of the Nicene Creed. The second council (381) agreed upon the second part of the Nicene Creed, which remains accepted by the Orthodox, Catholics, and most Protestants today (with one exception mentioned below).

Ecumenical councils drew leaders from all over Christendom to discuss these matters, sometimes from as far away as England and Persia. Bishops and delegates from Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Rome, etc., discussed and prayed about the issues. Once they reached a consensus, an agreement was released. The Bishop of Rome was considered “first among equals” but, according to the churches of the East, that was a place of honor rather than authority. Rome ultimately considered it to be a place of honor and authority.

In 476, the Western Roman Empire collapsed while the Eastern Roman Empire kept going for another millennium. This cut off Rome from Constantinople administratively; they were already cut-off culturally since one spoke Latin and the other Greek. As western Europe descended into chaos, the Pope was one of the only regionally recognized leaders who could keep things afloat.

After a few centuries of this separation, Rome tweaked the Nicene Creed. The original stated:

[I believe] in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified.

The Pope’s new version was:

[I believe] in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified.

The added clause “and the Son” (“Filioque” in Latin) was not well received among the churches in the East. They disagreed with the doctrine, insisted the council-approved creed could not be changed, and said the Bishop of Rome couldn’t unilaterally redefine the faith on the fly.

Add that to the separate languages, estranged cultures, and wildly different political realities — the East and West were growing apart. In 1054, matters came to a head.

Just before a liturgy at Constantinople’s Hagia Sophia, a papal delegation strode to the altar and excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople. The Patriarch then excommunicated the delegates. There wasn’t even a sitting Pope at the time since one had died and the next hadn’t taken office.

At the time, officials on both sides thought it would blow over, but it never did. The Great Schism stuck.

About 500 years later, a German monk named Martin Luther caused a bit of a stir. Intending to reform the Catholic church, he inadvertently created Protestantism. John Calvin had a different idea and started another church. Then more followed. Now we have approximately 90 bazillion Protestant denominations with new ones forming every other Sunday.

I spent many years in wonderful Baptist churches so I’ll use them as an example. In the US alone, there are 60 different Baptist denominations. If you don’t like the Southern Baptists, you can go with American Baptists, Conservative Baptists, or Free Will Baptists. Too modern? How about the Old Regular Baptists, Old Time Missionary Baptists, or the Original Free Will Baptists. Still too modern? Check out the Primitive Baptists — but don’t get them confused with the Primitive Baptist Universalists or the National Primitive Baptist Convention of the USA.

We’ve fallen far from “One Lord, one faith, one baptism,” so it’s no surprise evangelicals increasingly attend non-denominational megachurches. Who can keep up with this?

Back to Catholicism and Orthodoxy, all their differences stem from the question of papal authority. Rome thinks the Pope is the chief human authority for the universal church; Orthodoxy thinks the patriarchs around the world are, each for their group. After Rome left, the Orthodox named the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople the new “first among equals” as a place of honor, not authority. This continues today.

Since the Great Schism, the Vatican has altered all sorts of doctrines under the Pope’s authority. As a result, there are many differences between the two churches. Here’s a helpful explanation of a few:

After reading up on these issues, I personally thought the Orthodox had the better part of the argument. This obviously doesn’t mean I think Catholics or Protestants are totally on the wrong track. But, to me, Orthodoxy seemed like the best representation of the Church that Christ left to His Apostles.

Outside of these sticking points, what really struck me in reading the Church Fathers was the emphasis on experiencing God rather than just reasoning about Him. My default state is to be hyper-logical and I’ve spent most my life thinking about God instead of spending time with Him. Or, you know, actually doing what He says.

Scholasticism began to dominate the Catholic Church just after the Great Schism, putting reason in the driver’s seat. The West tried to logically understand God and treat theology similar to philosophical inquiry.

The East instead pursued hesychasm, a mystical tradition of contemplation and prayer. They love reading about God, but the goal is to obey and experience him. Since my entire life has focused on my head instead of my heart, I thought this approach would supply more of the things I lack.

As a final note, Catholic and Orthodox Christians have diligently worked toward a rapprochement, an effort that has increased in recent years. We can all pray that one day the 1,000-year-old schism is finally healed.

Chapter 8 here.


This is seventh in the series “Swimming the Bosporus,” on my journey from the megachurch to the Orthodox Church. Installments every Sunday morning. Click here to see all the posts.

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  1. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    Wait, is this @exjon or is this @skipsul ?

     

    • #1
    • August 9, 2020, at 5:51 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  2. J Climacus Member

    Outside of these sticking points, what really struck me in reading the Church Fathers was the emphasis on experiencing God rather than just reasoning about Him. My default state is to be hyper-logical and I’ve spent most my life thinking about God instead of spending time with Him. And, you know, actually doing what He says.

    Scholasticism began to dominate the Catholic Church just after the Great Schism, putting reason in the driver’s seat. The West tried to logically understand God and treat theology similar to philosophical inquiry.

    This is very unfair to Scholasticism, especially as practiced by its most famous exponent, St. Thomas Aquinas. It is fundamental to the theology of St. Thomas that God cannot be understood logically the way other things might be. At best, we can have an analogical understanding of God. Furthermore, the idea that being a great reasoner is somehow opposed to sanctity is contradicted by the life of St. Thomas himself. He is not a Saint because he was a great reasoner, but because of the manifest humility and holiness of his life. My favorite prayer after Communion is from St. Thomas:

    Sweetest Jesus, Body and Blood Most Holy,

    Be the Delight and Pleasure of my soul,

    My Strength and Salvation in all temptations,

    By Joy and Peace in every trial,

     My Light and Guide in every word and deed,

    And my Final Protection in death.

    The life of St. Thomas (G.K. Chesterton’s biography is wonderful) is an inspiring example of the unity of sanctity and philosophical excellence. 

    But I agree with you that the West gave reason a place and dignity that it was not given in the East. In fact, no where else in the world was reason given the dignity it was in the West. The result is the uniquely dynamic, tumultuous and creative history of the West. Your video pointed out some of the negative results of that dynamicism – in particular, unfortunate innovations since Vatican II. But that dynamic nature powered by faith and reason is also why the West, and nowhere else, developed modern science and mathematics, explored the world, and revolutionized everything from agriculture to the market economy. 

    • #2
    • August 9, 2020, at 6:15 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  3. Jules PA Member

    Wow, Orthodox fasting adds up to half the days of the year? 

     

    • #3
    • August 9, 2020, at 6:34 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  4. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnellJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jon, could you recommend a good book that outlines the doctrine an practices of the Orthodox Church. From your series, it seems to have a good deal in common with the traditional Presbyterian church. (I wrote a book about the founding of the Presbyterian church, but know very little about the Orthodox Church.)

    • #4
    • August 9, 2020, at 6:39 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. Dennis A. Garcia (formerly Gai… Member

    I kind of get why, for the sake of brevity, but the narrative offered by this post leaves out Oriental Christians and their earlier schism entirely. That’s a rather large omission. 

    • #5
    • August 9, 2020, at 6:45 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    J Climacus (View Comment):
    But that dynamic nature powered by faith and reason is also why the West, and nowhere else, developed modern science and mathematics, explored the world, and revolutionized everything from agriculture to the market economy. 

    I have to quibble with this because this because this is something often rather overstated. We like to think “Oh, we in the West triumphed in X, Y, and Z because we embraced reason and rational thought in ways nobody else did,” but this is a bit triumphalist while falling into the errors of determinism and backwards reasoning. By way of analogy, if a puddle in a rocky cleft were to suddenly attain conscious thought, it might start to reason to itself “Why, my world is perfect and I am perfectly made for it, see how well this rocky cleft is perfectly shaped to my every contour?” And of course we know its existence is nothing more than the happenstance of many other factors, and when the sun hits it it will dry up.

    Likewise this “triumph of reason” story of history, from the Renaissance through the Enlightenment, can just as easily be said to be the story a bunch of past historians imposed to explain why their society was better than all the others, while ignoring other matters of fortune and luck, like having a geography that meant they had no enemies to their backs, only to the South and East, and so were able to accumulate wealth and power that afforded them the time to explore and then make use of science – something denied to their fellow Christians along the Islamic frontier.

    Of course we like to tout the triumph of Western Civ, and that’s easy to do, but that triumph is not nearly so clean and obvious as we like to claim. We love telling ourselves that we were somehow smarter and had better values than our ancestors – this is the fundamental claim of those who coined the concept of the “Renaissance” as a hard dividing line with the past – but this is short-selling those people.

    • #6
    • August 9, 2020, at 6:49 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  7. Sisyphus Coolidge
    SisyphusJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    Jon, could you recommend a good book that outlines the doctrine an practices of the Orthodox Church. From your series, it seems to have a good deal in common with the traditional Presbyterian church. (I wrote a book about the founding of the Presbyterian church, but know very little about the Orthodox Church.)

    For a thorough comparison of Christian and other religions to Orthodox Christian doctrine, I found Orthodoxy and Heterodox by Andrew Stephen Damick useful. As always, go see what a tradition has to say about itself to see if a particular point holds up, but overall he does a good job.

    PS: Damick also has a podcast series by the same name presenting his lectures on the same material.

    • #7
    • August 9, 2020, at 6:49 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  8. Metalheaddoc Member
    MetalheaddocJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Another big difference is that Orthodox priests can get married and have kids. I think you have to be celibate if you want to move up to the bishop and above levels. But priests can have regular families. A couple of my best friends when I was a kid were the priests kids, one of whom was prone to…ahem…mischief. And he introduced me to Iron Maiden, which is not a sin. 

    • #8
    • August 9, 2020, at 6:50 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  9. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    Wow, Orthodox fasting adds up to half the days of the year?

     

    Well, about 40%.

    It used to for Catholics too, until Vatican I, and many are the Catholics today who still recall “Fish on Fridays” as the norm even outside of Lent.

    • #9
    • August 9, 2020, at 6:50 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  10. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Dennis A. Garcia (formerly Gai… (View Comment):

    I kind of get why, for the sake of brevity, but the narrative offered by this post leaves out Oriental Christians and their earlier schism entirely. That’s a rather large omission.

    Indeed it does. But that subject would require its own essay, and in many respects that schism is far more reparable than the one with Rome – at this point it is largely a matter of politics and culture, which takes time more than anything else to heal. The Eastern and Oriental patriarchs of Antioch and Alexandria have, in the last 30 years, made a series of joint statements and agreements on all sorts of matters, and have taken the position that if their respective peoples at the local levels work together long enough, it will be the people who will force the bishops to formally fix things.

    • #10
    • August 9, 2020, at 6:54 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  11. Jules PA Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    Wow, Orthodox fasting adds up to half the days of the year?

     

    Well, about 40%.

    It used to for Catholics too, until Vatican I, and many are the Catholics today who still recall “Fish on Fridays” as the norm even outside of Lent.

    My sis does meatless Friday all year. Not even fish. 

    • #11
    • August 9, 2020, at 6:55 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  12. Jules PA Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    Wow, Orthodox fasting adds up to half the days of the year?

     

    Well, about 40%.

    It used to for Catholics too, until Vatican I, and many are the Catholics today who still recall “Fish on Fridays” as the norm even outside of Lent.

    So are the Orthodox fasting days special, on the calendar?

    • #12
    • August 9, 2020, at 6:56 PM PDT
    • Like
  13. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    Jon, could you recommend a good book that outlines the doctrine an practices of the Orthodox Church. From your series, it seems to have a good deal in common with the traditional Presbyterian church. (I wrote a book about the founding of the Presbyterian church, but know very little about the Orthodox Church.)

    For a thorough comparison of Christian and other religions to Orthodox Christian doctrine, I found Orthodoxy and Heterodox by Andrew Stephen Damick useful. As always, go see what a tradition has to say about itself to see if a particular point holds up, but overall he does a good job.

    I second this book – it’s also available as a free mini podcast series through Ancient Faith (www.ancientfaith.com) if you want to “try before your buy”.

    The Orthodox Church and The Orthodox Way, both by Kallistos (Timothy) Ware are also superb introductions.

    • #13
    • August 9, 2020, at 6:58 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  14. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnellJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Sisyphus (View Comment):

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    Jon, could you recommend a good book that outlines the doctrine an practices of the Orthodox Church. From your series, it seems to have a good deal in common with the traditional Presbyterian church. (I wrote a book about the founding of the Presbyterian church, but know very little about the Orthodox Church.)

    For a thorough comparison of Christian and other religions to Orthodox Christian doctrine, I found Orthodoxy and Heterodox by Andrew Stephen Damick useful. As always, go see what a tradition has to say about itself to see if a particular point holds up, but overall he does a good job.

    Thanks, @sisyphus, I’ll look for it.

    • #14
    • August 9, 2020, at 7:00 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  15. Stina Member

    How about straddling the Bosporous?

    I know there are some orthodox churches that maintain a western culture (which I would likely prefer if one was near). It sounds like regional patriarchs would support cultural differences in worship style.

    There’s too much good western sacred music to just forsake it all! She says after joining a tiny baptist church that sings none of it. /sigh

    I want to follow. My heart yearns for it. And I’m not blind to the implications of how much such a move would alter my entire life.

    • #15
    • August 9, 2020, at 7:03 PM PDT
    • 8 likes
  16. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    Wow, Orthodox fasting adds up to half the days of the year?

     

    Well, about 40%.

    It used to for Catholics too, until Vatican I, and many are the Catholics today who still recall “Fish on Fridays” as the norm even outside of Lent.

    So are the Orthodox fasting days special, on the calendar?

    Wednesdays and Fridays through most of the year, except for the 40 days after Pascha (Easter), though some jurisdictions go back to regular fasting after Bright Week.

    The Apostles Fast – variable length, from the Monday after All Saints Day, which falls one week after Pentecost, through the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul on June 29.

    The Dormition Fast – from August 1-15, honoring the Falling Asleep of Mary.

    The Nativity Fast, from November 15 – December 24.

    Great Lent.

    A couple of other days too, like 8/29 (beheading of John the Baptist), 9/14 (Elevation of the Cross).

    The fast restrictions vary – some fasts are stricter than others.

    • #16
    • August 9, 2020, at 7:04 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  17. Sisyphus Coolidge
    SisyphusJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    Wow, Orthodox fasting adds up to half the days of the year?

     

    Well, about 40%.

    It used to for Catholics too, until Vatican I, and many are the Catholics today who still recall “Fish on Fridays” as the norm even outside of Lent.

    So are the Orthodox fasting days special, on the calendar?

    I have a free iOS app called DailyReadings that includes the fasting instructions for the day. Today wine and oils are okay, meat, fish, dairy, and eggs are to be refrained from. So, Greek salad, no feta, and maybe a nice bean salad.

    • #17
    • August 9, 2020, at 7:05 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  18. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Stina (View Comment):

    How about straddling the Bosporous?

    I know there are some orthodox churches that maintain a western culture (which I would likely prefer if one was near). It sounds like regional patriarchs would support cultural differences in worship style.

    There’s too much good western sacred music to just forsake it all! She says after joining a tiny baptist church that sings none of it. /sigh

    I want to follow. My heart yearns for it. And I’m not blind to the implications of how much such a move would alter my entire life.

    Did you know there are Western Rite parishes? They are Orthodox in their theology, but celebrate a more familiar liturgy. I don’t know your specific locale, but there are several parishes around the country, and a few monasteries too.

    • #18
    • August 9, 2020, at 7:07 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    This is obligatory for this post:

    • #19
    • August 9, 2020, at 7:09 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  20. J Climacus Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    J Climacus (View Comment):
    But that dynamic nature powered by faith and reason is also why the West, and nowhere else, developed modern science and mathematics, explored the world, and revolutionized everything from agriculture to the market economy.

    Likewise this “triumph of reason” story of history, from the Renaissance through the Enlightenment, can just as easily be said to be the story a bunch of past historians imposed to explain why their society was better than all the others, while ignoring other matters of fortune and luck, like having a geography that meant they had no enemies to their backs, only to the South and East, and so were able to accumulate wealth and power that afforded them the time to explore and then make use of science – something denied to their fellow Christians along the Islamic frontier.

    No enemies to their backs? The Vikings might differ on that. Ireland, Britain and Northern Europe were subject to centuries of Viking terror, not just pillaging monasteries and villages, but carrying off people to slave markets. And those enemies to the South and East were objectively far more powerful than Western Europe. Western Europe in the middle ages was neither wealthy nor powerful. It was a poor region hanging on by the skin of its teeth. The Islamic World, and the Eastern Empire, were objectively far more wealthy than the West.

    Of course we like to tout the triumph of Western Civ, and that’s easy to do, but that triumph is not nearly so clean and obvious as we like to claim. We love telling ourselves that we were somehow smarter and had better values than our ancestors – this is the fundamental claim of those who coined the concept of the “Renaissance” as a hard dividing line with the past – but this is short-selling those people.

    No. It’s just the point that the West wasn’t any smarter than anyone else, or had superior values or was “better” than other people. Something else explains it. The key developments happened long before the Renaissance – in fact, it’s a Renaissance/Enlightenment myth that the Middle Ages was a time of darkness and stagnation in the West. At the same time the West was (barely) holding off Islam, the Vikings (among others – don’t forget the Magyars), it was revolutionizing agriculture with crop rotation, the horse harness, the wheeled plow, inventing eyeglasses, harnessing mechanical energy with watermills, among many other inventions. Not just mechanical inventions either, but uniquely social inventions like the university – a place where man’s reason could explore creation under the Light of Faith. The university was invented in the West because of the Western commitment to both Faith and Reason. Not because they somehow how had leisure time denied everyone else.

    • #20
    • August 9, 2020, at 8:04 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  21. Dennis A. Garcia (formerly Gai… Member

    I feel a little sheepish getting into a historical/sectarian donnybrook here, but this is a discussion site right?

    When I read the history of late antiquity, I see two attitudinal currents in early christianity. The first was tendency to reform imperial graeco-roman society by, for instance, abolishing pederasty and blood sport, while preserving or at least leaving alone what was good; something in its political manifestations similar to the civil rights movement or other human rights efforts in modern times. The second was an iconoclastic* effort to tear down all manifestations of the old faulty order in a way roughly analogous to the statue toppers of the present moment. The more fanatical Christians developed ideological identities around minor points of theological disagreement, filling a psychological need for tribal affiliation and replacing the imperial cosmopolitan identity that had focused on principles and institutions and which had left (some) room for disagreement on the things that really matter. 

    I know it’s a gross oversimplification and apologize for that, but it’s my impression that Orthodoxy has been the inheritor of the latter tradition and Catholicism the former. It’s hard for me to look at the mystic Orthodox tradition you describe and not think “these are the Christians that Edward Gibbon warned us about.” Dostoyevsky accused Catholicism of being a continuation of the Roman Empire, while others claim that the church took on too much baggage from the pagans of the classical world and does not represent an altogether “pure” monotheism. I’m happy to concede both points because these are attributes of the Roman church that I find utterly reassuring. 

    The cleavage in the broader christian world has layers that are theological, philosophical, and even geopolitical, as well as dealing with the influences on each of other faiths and their proximity to heresy. The West was influenced by Aristotle and the nature-loving paganism of the Roman world. The East by Plato and the world-despising monotheism of Persia and Zoroaster. If one can be accused of adjacency to Arianism the other can be accused of the same to Gnosticism. The difference infuses even our art, differentiating the classical realism of the sistine chapel to the idealized gilded backgrounds upon which saints glide in Byzantine churches. 

    I always come back to the Chesterton quote, that to a Christian, nature is “not our mother but our sister.” Only by holding the irreconcilable concepts of Christ as Man and Christ as God together in one’s mind can one avoid erring in the direction of either setting up nature as a pagan idol, or viewing her as an enemy. I don’t view the Orthodox as heretics like the Gnostics. Our real difference is one of focus and emphasis, but there’s an appreciation of God’s gift of creation which I can’t help but see as missing in the East. 

    *using the term here generally, not in reference to its specific application to later Byzantine history.

     

     

    • #21
    • August 9, 2020, at 8:05 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  22. OmegaPaladin Moderator

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    J Climacus (View Comment):
    But that dynamic nature powered by faith and reason is also why the West, and nowhere else, developed modern science and mathematics, explored the world, and revolutionized everything from agriculture to the market economy.

    I have to quibble with this because this because this is something often rather overstated. We like to think “Oh, we in the West triumphed in X, Y, and Z because we embraced reason and rational thought in ways nobody else did,” but this is a bit triumphalist while falling into the errors of determinism and backwards reasoning. By way of analogy, if a puddle in a rocky cleft were to suddenly attain conscious thought, it might start to reason to itself “Why, my world is perfect and I am perfectly made for it, see how well this rocky cleft is perfectly shaped to my every contour?” And of course we know its existence is nothing more than the happenstance of many other factors, and when the sun hits it it will dry up.

    Likewise this “triumph of reason” story of history, from the Renaissance through the Enlightenment, can just as easily be said to be the story a bunch of past historians imposed to explain why their society was better than all the others, while ignoring other matters of fortune and luck, like having a geography that meant they had no enemies to their backs, only to the South and East, and so were able to accumulate wealth and power that afforded them the time to explore and then make use of science – something denied to their fellow Christians along the Islamic frontier.

    Of course we like to tout the triumph of Western Civ, and that’s easy to do, but that triumph is not nearly so clean and obvious as we like to claim. We love telling ourselves that we were somehow smarter and had better values than our ancestors – this is the fundamental claim of those who coined the concept of the “Renaissance” as a hard dividing line with the past – but this is short-selling those people.

    Were there prominent natural philosophers / astronomers / mathematicians in the Byzantine Empire? There were some notable medieval Western mathematicians and astronomers that did work of value. The Eastern Roman Empire seems to have less notable work, despite being more stable than the Western mess until Muslims showed up to kill everyone.

    I do not propose that people in the past were stupid. There are phenomenal works of architecture that prove otherwise. The problem was a lack of information technology (printing) and a paradigm that did not share knowledge or seek physical reasons for events. The idea that God had created in a way that could be understood was crucial to early Western science. 

    • #22
    • August 9, 2020, at 8:19 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  23. J Climacus Member

    Dennis A. Garcia (formerly Gai… (View Comment):

    I feel a little sheepish getting into a historical/sectarian donnybrook here, but this is a discussion site right?

    I only waded in because of the OPs implication that Catholicism is concerned with reasoning about God rather than experiencing Him. If he looked for the experience of God in Catholicism and didn’t find it, it’s not because it isn’t there.

    • #23
    • August 9, 2020, at 9:07 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  24. JoshuaFinch Coolidge

    Thank you for your expression of faith and for the journey you describe.

    • #24
    • August 9, 2020, at 10:40 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  25. MWD Dawg Member

    Metalheaddoc (View Comment):

    Another big difference is that Orthodox priests can get married and have kids. I think you have to be celibate if you want to move up to the bishop and above levels. But priests can have regular families. A couple of my best friends when I was a kid were the priests kids, one of whom was prone to…ahem…mischief. And he introduced me to Iron Maiden, which is not a sin.

    If you are single when ordained to the priesthood, you have to remain single and celibate. You are not permitted to marry. If were married when you became a priest and your wife dies, you are not permitted to remarry.

    (Note: I’m not sure if all of this applies to deacons; I know the deacon in our parish is married. But I don’t know if he’s be permitted to remarry if he were to lose his wife.)

    • #25
    • August 10, 2020, at 4:57 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  26. Stina Member

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Did you know there are Western Rite parishes? They are Orthodox in their theology, but celebrate a more familiar liturgy. I don’t know your specific locale, but there are several parishes around the country, and a few monasteries too.

    Yes. Bizarrely, there’s an orthodox church about 10 minutes away from me… it’s Coptic, though. Most of the services are in Arabic.

    There’s also a western rite orthodox church in a tiny, podunk town between Orlando and Ocala, but it’s still over an hour away. It’s way off the beaten path. I pass that area when we take backroads to visit the parents.

     

    • #26
    • August 10, 2020, at 5:52 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  27. Phil Turmel Coolidge

    danok1 (View Comment):

    Metalheaddoc (View Comment):

    Another big difference is that Orthodox priests can get married and have kids. I think you have to be celibate if you want to move up to the bishop and above levels. But priests can have regular families. A couple of my best friends when I was a kid were the priests kids, one of whom was prone to…ahem…mischief. And he introduced me to Iron Maiden, which is not a sin.

    If you are single when ordained to the priesthood, you have to remain single and celibate. You are not permitted to marry. If were married when you became a priest and your wife dies, you are not permitted to remarry.

    This is the definition of celibate. It is a vow to not pursue marriage. Celibacy is not a promise to abstain from sex, though that is the practical effect if not already married.

    (Note: I’m not sure if all of this applies to deacons; I know the deacon in our parish is married. But I don’t know if he’s be permitted to remarry if he were to lose his wife.)

    It does apply to deacons in the Roman Catholic church. It is the same vow of celibacy that priests take.

    The Roman Catholic church, in the Western Rite, has a policy to not ordain married men as priests. Established in the midst of the Protestant Reformation as a counter to the prior corruption and excesses of a nepotistic hierarchy. Eastern Rite Roman Catholics are not subject to this policy and follow the Orthodox traditions of married priests.

    • #27
    • August 10, 2020, at 5:57 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  28. Seawriter Contributor

    danok1 (View Comment):

    If were married when you became a priest and your wife dies, you are not permitted to remarry.

    (Note: I’m not sure if all of this applies to deacons; I know the deacon in our parish is married. But I don’t know if he’s be permitted to remarry if he were to lose his wife.)

    As far as I know, someone in Orthodox holy orders can remarry if the spouse dies, but if they do they cannot remain in holy orders. It supposed to be a first marriage for both husband and wife to be admitted into holy orders. So, if either a deacon or priest remarries they cease being a deacon or priest. Mind, they remain Orthodox in communion with the church – just not a priest or deacon. 

    I think this reasonable because the clergy are supposed to be setting the example for the rest of the community. 

    • #28
    • August 10, 2020, at 5:58 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  29. Stina Member

    Repeat

    • #29
    • August 10, 2020, at 5:58 AM PDT
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    • This comment has been edited.
  30. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    J Climacus (View Comment):
    No enemies to their backs? The Vikings might differ on that. Ireland, Britain and Northern Europe were subject to centuries of Viking terror, not just pillaging monasteries and villages, but carrying off people to slave markets.

    The Viking were, aside from conquering most of the different kingdoms England, were never anywhere near as much of a threat as the Arabs. Yes, they did a lot of damage, yes, they conquered some territory, but they never seized control over the heartlands of the Frankish empire. They were also culturally closely related to the Saxons, which aided their integration in England, and they Christianized in time.

    By contrast, the Arab invasions conquered 2/3 of Christendom in a matter of decades, and continued to wage war against Byzantium for 2 centuries before their own internal divisions, along with a Byzantine revival pushed them back. They came extraordinarily close to breaking through into the Balkans.

    Moreover, the Arab conquests were in the 600s and 700s, well before the coalescing of the Frankish realms – without the Roman world to soak up that damage, would the Franks have been able to organize?

    J Climacus (View Comment):
    And those enemies to the South and East were objectively far more powerful than Western Europe. Western Europe in the middle ages was neither wealthy nor powerful. It was a poor region hanging on by the skin of its teeth. The Islamic World, and the Eastern Empire, were objectively far more wealthy than the West.

    Not in the same time period where you earlier ascribed the rise of reason and scholasticism. By that time (1000s-1200s) balances of power had shifted massively. France and the Holy Roman Empire were large and powerful by that time, and the Norman kingdoms and warlords were strong enough to conquer southern Italy and Sicily (from the Byzantines), and nearly conquer what today constitutes Albania and Greece. Byzantium was wealthy, and was organized, but it was also so short on manpower that within a decade of beating off the Normans (at huge and irreparable cost) from the southern Balkans, Emperor Alexis was requesting military help to try to retake Anatolia, which they’d lost in the meantime to the Seljuks (this morphed into the 1st Crusade).

    • #30
    • August 10, 2020, at 6:24 AM PDT
    • 2 likes