Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The faith

  • Anti-evolutionism isn’t a hill I'd die on. The church is against a random, chaotic, godless theory of evolution, but theistic evolution, in which God made man’s soul, like him and unique from other animals, and which fell through sin, is fine. You can believe in creationism, etc., but don’t have to.
  • Modestinus hits one out of the park: For my part, my (meager?) defense of Catholicism over Orthodoxy, aside from my familial ties and history in Catholicism, is that there is nothing true in the Eastern tradition writ large which can’t be crammed into the Catholic tent, up to and including just about every single Saint — official and quasi-official — the Orthodox have ever venerated. But when I am Orthodox, I lost 1,000 plus years of Western Catholic spirituality, theology, and liturgy. That’s a bad bargain if you ask me. Moreover, there are certain tenets of Catholicism that I just find more plausible than the Orthodox explanation or, to put it another way, I don’t find the Orthodox polemic against them to be convincing (e.g., Purgatory).
  • Yes, that polemic’s about a non-issue. Other than the scope of the Pope, none of their polemic holds up; either you accept the papacy or you don’t. Orthodox pray for the dead a lot; there’s a whole candle stand in church just for that. Prayer services for the dead after Sunday Liturgy are part of an Orthodox parish’s bread and butter. Prayer for the dead logically assumes an intermediate state on the way to heaven. The form of that state — mini-hell with fire, etc. — isn’t doctrine. Hell is possible and final because God gives us free will and is just. There may be no people there, but you can’t presume that. Kallistos (Ware) and some other hip Orthodox speculate about universalism in the form of apocatastasis, that you can pray someone out of hell and in the end all will be saved. (Based on one church father; the fathers’ opinions have to be vetted against doctrine.) Appealing. But wrong.
  • The toll houses aren’t about purgatory but the particular judgement right after death; a Russian folkloric opinion on what that’s like.
  • The official Orthodox Church is ethnic folk traditional Catholicism. Like Owen White, I like Rust Belt/Midwestern ethnic/immigrant Orthodoxy a lot because it’s so Catholic-like. Its right-wing splinter sects are like the church on crack.
  • Bishop William Love of Albany: The death and resurrection of Jesus Christ is and always has been central to the Christian faith. It is not a fable or some story made up by man to help us feel better about dying. It is the very heart of the Gospel - the Good News of Jesus Christ. Our Lord's death and resurrection is the perfect expression of God's total, unconditional, all sacrificial love for the world. Great. But his denomination can vote that teaching away. The Continuers don’t get that leaving the Episcopalians doesn’t solve the problem.


  1. I like Rust Belt/Midwestern ethnic/immigrant Orthodoxy a lot because it’s so Catholic-like.

    A friend (native Ohioan) once sent me a pic of a sign outside a Greek Orthodox church. The sign was advertising the weekly Bingo Night.

    Can't get much more Catholic-like than bingo. :)

  2. "one church father" [re: apocatastasis]

    You are referring to Origen, right? I have only read a couple of books by Timothy Ware [a/k/a Archbishop Kallistos]. He is dabbling in universal salvation? This is a surprise to me. I read some years ago he was talking something about the restoration of deaconesses. Caused a bit of a stir. Not sure if female deacons are meant in the same terms as the male deaconate, i.e., as one of the three levels of Holy Orders with the indefectible mark on an ordained man's soul, etc. [using RC terms/understanding here.]

    Our mutual friend, Karl-Anton [Tubwell] posted on FB yesterday a link re: Saint Elizabeth the New Martyr. A great and holy woman who was widowed when her husband was murdered by "socialist" terrorists in 1905. She then took the monastic veil, founded a monastery, and gave-up her wealth to work with and support the poor. She was a promoter of the restoration of deaconesses to Russian Orthodoxy, but the Orthodox hierarchy said nyet.

    1. And/or St Gregory of Nyssa; seems universalists trying to be respectable bring those two up. Ware's overrated. His early, more Catholic-like stuff is better; the older he gets, the more he sounds like a Novus Ordo liberal or a mainliner such as an Anglican. A Catholic friend at the time summed up his The Orthodox Church: sloppy theology. Counterbalanced by the traditionalism in Orthodox church life. Paradoxical?

      Yeah, hip Orthodox have been pushing for women deacons. Of course given Eastern European cultural conservatism, that's DOA.

      evagrius at Modestinus' has been online for many years; he reminds me there is a rare type of Orthodox convert but they exist (met some once); the Novus liberal who's 'into spirituality'.

    2. The evagriuses are an example of a very rare bird in American Catholicism, but standard in Episcopalianism: liberal high church.

  3. Prayer for the dead logically assumes an intermediate state on the way to heaven


    You can't get dogma from logic. It's either given to us in the Apostolic Tradition or it's not. If it is not given to us, it is at best a theolegoumenon. And by "Apostolic Tradition," I mean literally "from the Apostles," not some Newmanesque "development."

    Besides, even as logic it doesn't hold up. Prayer for the dead could mean some sort of intermediate state, but it could just as well mean that the life of the redeemed in heaven is dynamic and involves progress into greater and greater degrees of participation in the divine nature (which is exactly what I was taught as an Orthodox). If that be the case then prayer for the dead makes perfect sense without any notion of purgatory.

    1. The notion that all the traffic around the panichida table is for 'the life of the redeemed in heaven, which is dynamic and involves progress into greater and greater degrees of participation in the divine nature' sounds like over-theologized convert fantasyland.

      Orthodoxy's Catholic. Deal with it.

  4. If Orthodoxy were Catholic then our respective choices are just personal preference and you can stop making these posts. You insult both traditions pretending the differences are insubstantial.

    1. Our differences are insubstantial. Or at least extremely minor. That's the whole point, IMHO: Some people make way too much out of minor differences.

      People exaggerate differences all the time. (Viz. racism. Just as one example.)

      Isn't it appropriate to point this out?

    2. I hear you. It's like when an Anglican, trying to be nice, insults both Catholicism and Orthodoxy by including them as 'branches' of the church. But except for the scope of the Pope, the differences between Catholicism and Orthodoxy ARE insubstantial.

  5. Catholicism says never-Catholic Orthodox get the benefit of the doubt regarding schism, so they're an estranged part of the church; Orthodoxy's Catholic.


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