Why the Strong Anti-Western Bias Among Orthodox?
#1
I am a frequent listener to Michael Lofton's Reason and Theology podcast. Listening has sparked a recent interest in Eastern Christianity (not just exclusively Byzantine). 

I checked out some books on the topic, most of which are by Orthodox Christians. 

One thing that I have noticed is that, at least in some authors, there is a very strong anti-Western sentiment and a tendency to blame the West for every evil or wrong. (Alexander Schmeman was a good example of this that I recently encountered.) The accusations tend to be that the west is overly Rationalistic, that the West has a defective theology, that the West has allowed xyz innovation to corrupt their spirituality.

As far as I am aware, I haven't noticed a similar attitude coming from Catholics towards to the Orthodox. Generally, the Catholics seem to be very conciliatory towards the Orthodox churches, and this attitude seems to be the historical one (the Council of Lyon 1274 and the Council of Florence 1439 being attempts to heal the schism, which more or less succeeded until the Eastern Bishops returned to their dioceses.)

I haven't read too deeply into the subjects and am trying to get my bearings.
"Especially will I do this if the Lord make known to me that you come together man by man in common through grace, individually, in one faith, and in Jesus Christ... so that you obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but which causes that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ." St. Ignatius of Antioch

"But Polycarp... waving his hand towards them, while with groans he look up to heaven, said, 'Away with the Atheists.'" Martyrdom of Polycarp
Reply
#2
Consider divorce.

In Catholicism, there's no ability for anyone to end a valid sacramental marriage other than by dying. It can't be done. Either the marriage was valid, or it wasn't. If it wasn't, a marriage tribunal may issue a decree of nullity, giving the (non-)spouses moral certainty that they were never married and that they are free to marry. But if it was valid, there's nothing the Church or anyone else can do for them. 'Til death do you part.

In the "Orthodox" Churches, a priest may, at his discretion, allow his parishioners to divorce. Not only may he grant permission to divorce, he may grant permission for an individual to divorce up to three times. Why three, you ask? Who knows?! Sure, Our Lord said, "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder," but let's just do whatever we want, right?

I hypothesize that people stuck in the East know that these positions are irreconcilable with scripture, to say nothing of the authentic magisterium that exists only in communion with Rome. Troubled by these obvious false teachings, they lash out.
[-] The following 4 users Like ChairmanJoeAintMyPresident's post:
  • Augustinian, Bushum, newenglandsun, SeekerofChrist
Reply
#3
It's the same as anyone outside of the fullness of Truth. You attack the one which has the Truth. It's why everyone attacks the Catholic Church. It is why so many hate Christ. And why the Orthodox have anti-Western and anti-Rationalist leanings (this is to speak generally, not ALL are like this). I even went through a period of this when I was sympathetic to the Orthodox, where I would downplay St. Thomas's teachings in favor of the more "mystical."

A specific example I've seen is their aversion to St. Augustine, typically accusing this great Doctor of "over-rationalizing" the Trinity or other fundamentals of Christian truth.
"The Heart of Jesus is closer to you when you suffer, than when you are full of joy." - St. Margaret Mary Alacoque

Put not your trust in princes: In the children of men, in whom there is no salvation. - Ps. 145:2-3

"For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables." - 2 Timothy 4:3-4
[-] The following 3 users Like Augustinian's post:
  • ChairmanJoeAintMyPresident, Justin Tertius, SeekerofChrist
Reply
#4
Justin, I was Orthodox for a time.  Your take on their hostility to the West is correct.  When I had my fill of it as an Orthodox Christian, I returned to Rome.

Even their better authors are afflicted with this bias.  I am thinking of Bishop Hierotheos Vlachos, who otherwise writes so profoundly on the subject of purifying the nous.

I think a partial explanation is their need to justify their existence and their separation from Rome.  I have even seen them calling the pope "the first Protestant." I believe they sincerely believe what they say about the West.

On the basis of my experience, I have no hope at all that they will return to communion with Rome.  Even if a section of the Orthodox churches reconciled with Rome, a large part of the churches would go into schism.

If you want to read a strong Orthodox defense of the West, read Russia and the Universal Church by Vladimir Soloviev.
The Gospel is traditional.
[-] The following 4 users Like Evangelium's post:
  • Augustinian, Justin Tertius, Melkite, SeekerofChrist
Reply
#5
(01-29-2021, 01:48 PM)ChairmanJoeAintMyPresident Wrote: In the "Orthodox" Churches, a priest may, at his discretion, allow his parishioners to divorce.  Not only may he grant permission to divorce, he may grant permission for an individual to divorce up to three times.  Why three, you ask?  Who knows?!  Sure, Our Lord said, "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder," but let's just do whatever we want, right?

I am not going to brag about the current condition of the Catholic Church's annulment practices, which are a scandal. But, at least on paper, we have preserved what I think is the clear teaching of Scripture. Divorce and remarriage are clearly against Scripture.
"Especially will I do this if the Lord make known to me that you come together man by man in common through grace, individually, in one faith, and in Jesus Christ... so that you obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but which causes that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ." St. Ignatius of Antioch

"But Polycarp... waving his hand towards them, while with groans he look up to heaven, said, 'Away with the Atheists.'" Martyrdom of Polycarp
[-] The following 1 user Likes Justin Tertius's post:
  • SeekerofChrist
Reply
#6
(01-29-2021, 01:52 PM)Augustinian Wrote: It's the same as anyone outside of the fullness of Truth. You attack the one which has the Truth. It's why everyone attacks the Catholic Church. It is why so many hate Christ. And why the Orthodox have anti-Western and anti-Rationalist leanings (this is to speak generally, not ALL are like this). I even went through a period of this when I was sympathetic to the Orthodox, where I would downplay St. Thomas's teachings in favor of the more "mystical."

A specific example I've seen is their aversion to St. Augustine, typically accusing this great Doctor of "over-rationalizing" the Trinity or other fundamentals of Christian truth.

I can appreciate this attitude of mysticism and accepting that certain things are beyond the grasp of human reason. Catholicism is full of these mysteries. Even the greatest Scholastic theologians were profound mystics (St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure). And the Carmelite and Cistercian traditions are deeply mystical.

I think, however, that an appeal to mystery as a way to avoid providing some explanation of a doctrine is a cop-out. Philosophy enters into theology as the tool in which to frame the mysteries of the Christian faith. Trinitarian theology and Christology are two prime examples of that. One can't speak about these mysteries without an appeal to philosophic language like essence, energy, hypostasis, substance, cause, etc.

And I think the recent trend to downplay St. Augustin is unfortunate. St. Augustine is recognized as a Saint by the Orthodox, so far as I am aware. Though, to be fair, I have seen Vladimir Lossky use some of St. Augustine's thought before.
"Especially will I do this if the Lord make known to me that you come together man by man in common through grace, individually, in one faith, and in Jesus Christ... so that you obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but which causes that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ." St. Ignatius of Antioch

"But Polycarp... waving his hand towards them, while with groans he look up to heaven, said, 'Away with the Atheists.'" Martyrdom of Polycarp
[-] The following 2 users Like Justin Tertius's post:
  • adoro.te.devote, Augustinian
Reply
#7
(01-29-2021, 02:25 PM)Evangelium Wrote: On the basis of my experience, I have no hope at all that they will return to communion with Rome.  Even if a section of the Orthodox churches reconciled with Rome, a large part of the churches would go into schism.

If you want to read a strong Orthodox defense of the West, read Russia and the Universal Church by Vladimir Soloviev.

I have hope that some of them will return (at least the Greeks), but I think that you are right, generally. 

I have a pdf of Soloviev and it is on the reading list, so I look forward to it! I am also reading Fr. Aidan Nichols' book Rome and the Eastern Churches and is pretty enlightening about the history of the schism. I was also surprised at some of the things Kalistos Ware says in his intro to Orthodoxy.
"Especially will I do this if the Lord make known to me that you come together man by man in common through grace, individually, in one faith, and in Jesus Christ... so that you obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but which causes that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ." St. Ignatius of Antioch

"But Polycarp... waving his hand towards them, while with groans he look up to heaven, said, 'Away with the Atheists.'" Martyrdom of Polycarp
[-] The following 1 user Likes Justin Tertius's post:
  • Evangelium
Reply
#8
(01-29-2021, 02:30 PM)Justin Tertius Wrote: I am not going to brag about the current condition of the Catholic Church's annulment practices, which are a scandal. But, at least on paper, we have preserved what I think is the clear teaching of Scripture. Divorce and remarriage are clearly against Scripture.

Everyone sins, including the members of marriage tribunals. And the people seeking annulments may feel pressured to exaggerate or omit relevant facts.

Compare it to confession. If a person goes to confession and intentionally omits mortal sins, they still hear the words of absolution, but the confession is invalid (and is itself a mortal sin). There's no fooling God, and trying is a sin. But it doesn't mean that we get to skip confession and make up our own rules just because some people might lie and commit sacrilege. And that's what happens when "Christians" decide they're going to allow divorce. They're making up their own rules.

The rules need to make sense at least on paper. If we rewrite the rules to excuse our worst behaviors, we're protestants (or worse).
[-] The following 2 users Like ChairmanJoeAintMyPresident's post:
  • Bushum, Marmot
Reply
#9
(01-29-2021, 04:38 PM)ChairmanJoeAintMyPresident Wrote: Everyone sins, including the members of marriage tribunals.  And the people seeking annulments may feel pressured to exaggerate or omit relevant facts.

Compare it to confession.  If a person goes to confession and intentionally omits mortal sins, they still hear the words of absolution, but the confession is invalid (and is itself a mortal sin).  There's no fooling God, and trying is a sin.  But it doesn't mean that we get to skip confession and make up our own rules just because some people might lie and commit sacrilege.  And that's what happens when "Christians" decide they're going to allow divorce.  They're making up their own rules.

The rules need to make sense at least on paper.  If we rewrite the rules to excuse our worst behaviors, we're protestants (or worse).

I wouldn't say that it is "Protestant" to do what you see happening in Orthodoxy regarding marriage. Maybe unfaithful, maybe capitulating to human weakness, but not really Protestant. 

Protestant has a historical meaning and it isn't Eastern Orthodoxy.

And I only bring up the annulment scandal precisely because it is a scandal. It is, for all intents and purposes, treated as "Catholic divorce." I am not denying it in principle (there is a place for annulment), but I think it would be foolhardy to suggest that it hasn't been seriously abused in recent decades. 

But I agree, on paper the Catholic Church still rejects re-marriage.
"Especially will I do this if the Lord make known to me that you come together man by man in common through grace, individually, in one faith, and in Jesus Christ... so that you obey the bishop and the presbytery with an undivided mind, breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality, and the antidote to prevent us from dying, but which causes that we should live for ever in Jesus Christ." St. Ignatius of Antioch

"But Polycarp... waving his hand towards them, while with groans he look up to heaven, said, 'Away with the Atheists.'" Martyrdom of Polycarp
Reply
#10
(01-29-2021, 02:25 PM)Evangelium Wrote: Justin, I was Orthodox for a time.  Your take on their hostility to the West is correct.  When I had my fill of it as an Orthodox Christian, I returned to Rome.

I was a schismatic for a time, wandering among the arid spiritual desert otherwise known as Protestantism.  One thing was common in all these denominations, from Episcopalians to Baptists: anti-Catholic bias and sentiments.

(01-29-2021, 02:41 PM)Justin Tertius Wrote: I can appreciate this attitude of mysticism and accepting that certain things are beyond the grasp of human reason. Catholicism is full of these mysteries. Even the greatest Scholastic theologians were profound mystics (St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure). And the Carmelite and Cistercian traditions are deeply mystical.

I think, however, that an appeal to mystery as a way to avoid providing some explanation of a doctrine is a cop-out. Philosophy enters into theology as the tool in which to frame the mysteries of the Christian faith. Trinitarian theology and Christology are two prime examples of that. One can't speak about these mysteries without an appeal to philosophic language like essence, energy, hypostasis, substance, cause, etc.

And I think the recent trend to downplay St. Augustin is unfortunate. St. Augustine is recognized as a Saint by the Orthodox, so far as I am aware. Though, to be fair, I have seen Vladimir Lossky use some of St. Augustine's thought before.

I once heard "mysteries of faith" described as something we can only incompletely speak about and explain, with room for development of our understanding (genuine development of doctrine, that is).  This tendency to denigrate reason among the Orthodox has always been off-putting to me.  If something isn't subject to at least basic reasoning and rationality, I've got no reason to accept it as true.  It very much reminds me of the Mormons.  They HATE philosophy and base everything on their religious experiences.  I get that the Holy Ghost bears witness to us of the Truth and calls us to conversion but that doesn't mean we can't rationally explain and defend the Faith, albeit only in an incomplete manner.
"For the true friends of the people are neither revolutionaries nor innovators, but traditionalists."
- Pope St. Pius X

"For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears: And will indeed turn away their hearing from the truth, but will be turned unto fables."
- 2 Timothy 4:3-4

"Therefore God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying: That all may be judged who have not believed the truth, but have consented to iniquity."
- 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12
[-] The following 2 users Like SeekerofChrist's post:
  • Augustinian, Justin Tertius
Reply




Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)