Treasures and Trials of the Orthodox Church

Sun_Rays_Through_Storm_CloudsDylan Pahman, a colleague of mine at the Acton Institute – and fellow Orthodox Christian, summarized a talk presented last night at Calvin College given by Dr. William Abraham of the Southern Methodist University Perkins School of Theology….. You can read Dylan’s entire blog post here…. but I wanted to share the 5  Treasures and Trials of Orthodoxy – as they are very insightful, and challenging to those of us who are Orthodox in an often un-orthodox world.  

Treasures:

  1. The Orthodox enjoy a close proximity to the Church fathers. They are not merely subjects of study but friends. The Orthodox read their works not idealistically but with a hermeneutic of gratitude and love. As Abraham put it, they “bind up the wounds of the fathers.”
  2. The core of the Orthodox faith is the Holy Trinity. Questions of methodology and metaphysics are not elevated above their place (though perhaps they are valued too low [see Trial #4 below]). Instead, the Orthodox faith has preserved the importance and centrality of the question: who do we worship? And the answer is clear and uncontested: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  3. Orthodox piety fosters a natural connection between knowledge of God and knowledge about God. That is, through the Orthodox spiritual tradition one’s relationship and communion with God is not disconnected from doctrinal teaching about God. Abraham especially noted the simple, meditative prayers “Lord, have mercy” and the Jesus Prayer. I would add that many of our prayers and hymns contain vitally important theological concepts (some of which were matters of piety before doctrine), such as homoousios, Theotokos, and Chalcedonian Christology, among others. These teachings are taught organically through the prayers of the Church just as much as through catechesis.
  4. In theology, the Orthodox hold together a twofold emphasis on the kataphatic and apophatic methods (known as the via positiva and via negativa in the West). That is, after one has said all that can be said about God, the proper response is a silence in which “language will not work” anymore to describe the indescribable being of God. In Abraham’s experience, the liberal American Methodists he had encountered when he first came to the United States were too quickly kataphatic: they simply had nothing to say about God at all, yet the silence was not so much inspired by awe as methodological distress.
  5. The Orthodox have a much broader understanding of the term “canon.”While the Greek word kanon can mean “list,” such as a list of the canonical books of the Bible, it also can mean a criterion or measurement. Thus, the Orthodox have not only a canon of Scripture but of doctrine, saints, icons, fathers, theologians, and so on. Abraham related this to his studies of the early Church in which there was no official canon of Scripture or revelation (or even of the Atonement or the relationship between faith and reason), but they did canonize an ontology: they cared above all about having the correct answer to the question, “Who is God?” They began with the Holy Trinity and other canonical areas unfolded from there.

From these five treasures of the Orthodox Tradition, he moved to four trials that he believes the Orthodox need to face, not only in the West but simply in our more globalized context in which all of us must interact with one another.

Trials:

  1. In Abraham’s view, the Orthodox are underdeveloped in ethics and moral philosophy. While noting some positives, especially the Orthodox pastoral approach to divorce and marriage, he believes there is much work to be done here by modern Orthodox writers.
  2. The relationship between Church and State needs a lot more attention. I have already noted the struggles of the Orthodox to rebuild after Communism, during which times there were many compromises made with the atheist, Soviet governments. Certainly articulating a healthy yet traditional and Orthodox understanding of the relationship between Church and State is something that deserves more thoughtful reflection and practice.
  3. Abraham, who himself is an expert in the field, isolated evangelism as an area that the Orthodox need to focus more on today. In particular, he mentioned the post-Christian trends of Europe. “Europe needs to be re-evangelized,” Abraham said, and “we need all hands on deck.”
  4. Lastly, in his assessment the Orthodox are “hopelessly behind the times” in the area of epistemology, another topic of his own research. In particular, he highlighted apologetic concerns: the challenge of an aggressive atheism and a new encounter with Islam in the West. The Orthodox have the resources to address these challenges, but “they need to get to work” according to Abraham. “I wish they’d help us,” he said. Too often, however, in his experience contemporary Orthodox writers tend to unfairly dismiss such important intellectual challenges related to epistemology as Western “rationalism,” and as a result they miss an opportunity to add their voices to a discussion that has radically changed since the 1970s, highlighting the work of the Reformed philosopher Alvin Plantinga in particular.

 

Treasures:

  1. The Orthodox enjoy a close proximity to the Church fathers. They are not merely subjects of study but friends. The Orthodox read their works not idealistically but with a hermeneutic of gratitude and love. As Abraham put it, they “bind up the wounds of the fathers.”
  2. The core of the Orthodox faith is the Holy Trinity. Questions of methodology and metaphysics are not elevated above their place (though perhaps they are valued too low [see Trial #4 below]). Instead, the Orthodox faith has preserved the importance and centrality of the question: who do we worship? And the answer is clear and uncontested: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  3. Orthodox piety fosters a natural connection between knowledge of God and knowledge about God. That is, through the Orthodox spiritual tradition one’s relationship and communion with God is not disconnected from doctrinal teaching about God. Abraham especially noted the simple, meditative prayers “Lord, have mercy” and the Jesus Prayer. I would add that many of our prayers and hymns contain vitally important theological concepts (some of which were matters of piety before doctrine), such as homoousios, Theotokos, and Chalcedonian Christology, among others. These teachings are taught organically through the prayers of the Church just as much as through catechesis.
  4. In theology, the Orthodox hold together a twofold emphasis on the kataphatic and apophatic methods (known as the via positiva and via negativa in the West). That is, after one has said all that can be said about God, the proper response is a silence in which “language will not work” anymore to describe the indescribable being of God. In Abraham’s experience, the liberal American Methodists he had encountered when he first came to the United States were too quickly kataphatic: they simply had nothing to say about God at all, yet the silence was not so much inspired by awe as methodological distress.
  5. The Orthodox have a much broader understanding of the term “canon.”While the Greek word kanon can mean “list,” such as a list of the canonical books of the Bible, it also can mean a criterion or measurement. Thus, the Orthodox have not only a canon of Scripture but of doctrine, saints, icons, fathers, theologians, and so on. Abraham related this to his studies of the early Church in which there was no official canon of Scripture or revelation (or even of the Atonement or the relationship between faith and reason), but they did canonize an ontology: they cared above all about having the correct answer to the question, “Who is God?” They began with the Holy Trinity and other canonical areas unfolded from there.

From these five treasures of the Orthodox Tradition, he moved to four trials that he believes the Orthodox need to face, not only in the West but simply in our more globalized context in which all of us must interact with one another.

Trials:

  1. In Abraham’s view, the Orthodox are underdeveloped in ethics and moral philosophy. While noting some positives, especially the Orthodox pastoral approach to divorce and marriage, he believes there is much work to be done here by modern Orthodox writers.
  2. The relationship between Church and State needs a lot more attention. I have already noted the struggles of the Orthodox to rebuild after Communism, during which times there were many compromises made with the atheist, Soviet governments. Certainly articulating a healthy yet traditional and Orthodox understanding of the relationship between Church and State is something that deserves more thoughtful reflection and practice.
  3. Abraham, who himself is an expert in the field, isolated evangelism as an area that the Orthodox need to focus more on today. In particular, he mentioned the post-Christian trends of Europe. “Europe needs to be re-evangelized,” Abraham said, and “we need all hands on deck.”
  4. Lastly, in his assessment the Orthodox are “hopelessly behind the times” in the area of epistemology, another topic of his own research. In particular, he highlighted apologetic concerns: the challenge of an aggressive atheism and a new encounter with Islam in the West. The Orthodox have the resources to address these challenges, but “they need to get to work” according to Abraham. “I wish they’d help us,” he said. Too often, however, in his experience contemporary Orthodox writers tend to unfairly dismiss such important intellectual challenges related to epistemology as Western “rationalism,” and as a result they miss an opportunity to add their voices to a discussion that has radically changed since the 1970s, highlighting the work of the Reformed philosopher Alvin Plantinga in particular.

- See more at: http://palamas.info/the-treasures-and-trials-of-eastern-orthodoxy/?fb_source=pubv1#sthash.AgyVdzug.dpuf

Treasures:

  1. The Orthodox enjoy a close proximity to the Church fathers. They are not merely subjects of study but friends. The Orthodox read their works not idealistically but with a hermeneutic of gratitude and love. As Abraham put it, they “bind up the wounds of the fathers.”
  2. The core of the Orthodox faith is the Holy Trinity. Questions of methodology and metaphysics are not elevated above their place (though perhaps they are valued too low [see Trial #4 below]). Instead, the Orthodox faith has preserved the importance and centrality of the question: who do we worship? And the answer is clear and uncontested: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  3. Orthodox piety fosters a natural connection between knowledge of God and knowledge about God. That is, through the Orthodox spiritual tradition one’s relationship and communion with God is not disconnected from doctrinal teaching about God. Abraham especially noted the simple, meditative prayers “Lord, have mercy” and the Jesus Prayer. I would add that many of our prayers and hymns contain vitally important theological concepts (some of which were matters of piety before doctrine), such as homoousios, Theotokos, and Chalcedonian Christology, among others. These teachings are taught organically through the prayers of the Church just as much as through catechesis.
  4. In theology, the Orthodox hold together a twofold emphasis on the kataphatic and apophatic methods (known as the via positiva and via negativa in the West). That is, after one has said all that can be said about God, the proper response is a silence in which “language will not work” anymore to describe the indescribable being of God. In Abraham’s experience, the liberal American Methodists he had encountered when he first came to the United States were too quickly kataphatic: they simply had nothing to say about God at all, yet the silence was not so much inspired by awe as methodological distress.
  5. The Orthodox have a much broader understanding of the term “canon.”While the Greek word kanon can mean “list,” such as a list of the canonical books of the Bible, it also can mean a criterion or measurement. Thus, the Orthodox have not only a canon of Scripture but of doctrine, saints, icons, fathers, theologians, and so on. Abraham related this to his studies of the early Church in which there was no official canon of Scripture or revelation (or even of the Atonement or the relationship between faith and reason), but they did canonize an ontology: they cared above all about having the correct answer to the question, “Who is God?” They began with the Holy Trinity and other canonical areas unfolded from there.

From these five treasures of the Orthodox Tradition, he moved to four trials that he believes the Orthodox need to face, not only in the West but simply in our more globalized context in which all of us must interact with one another.

Trials:

  1. In Abraham’s view, the Orthodox are underdeveloped in ethics and moral philosophy. While noting some positives, especially the Orthodox pastoral approach to divorce and marriage, he believes there is much work to be done here by modern Orthodox writers.
  2. The relationship between Church and State needs a lot more attention. I have already noted the struggles of the Orthodox to rebuild after Communism, during which times there were many compromises made with the atheist, Soviet governments. Certainly articulating a healthy yet traditional and Orthodox understanding of the relationship between Church and State is something that deserves more thoughtful reflection and practice.
  3. Abraham, who himself is an expert in the field, isolated evangelism as an area that the Orthodox need to focus more on today. In particular, he mentioned the post-Christian trends of Europe. “Europe needs to be re-evangelized,” Abraham said, and “we need all hands on deck.”
  4. Lastly, in his assessment the Orthodox are “hopelessly behind the times” in the area of epistemology, another topic of his own research. In particular, he highlighted apologetic concerns: the challenge of an aggressive atheism and a new encounter with Islam in the West. The Orthodox have the resources to address these challenges, but “they need to get to work” according to Abraham. “I wish they’d help us,” he said. Too often, however, in his experience contemporary Orthodox writers tend to unfairly dismiss such important intellectual challenges related to epistemology as Western “rationalism,” and as a result they miss an opportunity to add their voices to a discussion that has radically changed since the 1970s, highlighting the work of the Reformed philosopher Alvin Plantinga in particular.

- See more at: http://palamas.info/the-treasures-and-trials-of-eastern-orthodoxy/?fb_source=pubv1#sthash.AgyVdzug.dpuf

Treasures:

  1. The Orthodox enjoy a close proximity to the Church fathers. They are not merely subjects of study but friends. The Orthodox read their works not idealistically but with a hermeneutic of gratitude and love. As Abraham put it, they “bind up the wounds of the fathers.”
  2. The core of the Orthodox faith is the Holy Trinity. Questions of methodology and metaphysics are not elevated above their place (though perhaps they are valued too low [see Trial #4 below]). Instead, the Orthodox faith has preserved the importance and centrality of the question: who do we worship? And the answer is clear and uncontested: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  3. Orthodox piety fosters a natural connection between knowledge of God and knowledge about God. That is, through the Orthodox spiritual tradition one’s relationship and communion with God is not disconnected from doctrinal teaching about God. Abraham especially noted the simple, meditative prayers “Lord, have mercy” and the Jesus Prayer. I would add that many of our prayers and hymns contain vitally important theological concepts (some of which were matters of piety before doctrine), such as homoousios, Theotokos, and Chalcedonian Christology, among others. These teachings are taught organically through the prayers of the Church just as much as through catechesis.
  4. In theology, the Orthodox hold together a twofold emphasis on the kataphatic and apophatic methods (known as the via positiva and via negativa in the West). That is, after one has said all that can be said about God, the proper response is a silence in which “language will not work” anymore to describe the indescribable being of God. In Abraham’s experience, the liberal American Methodists he had encountered when he first came to the United States were too quickly kataphatic: they simply had nothing to say about God at all, yet the silence was not so much inspired by awe as methodological distress.
  5. The Orthodox have a much broader understanding of the term “canon.”While the Greek word kanon can mean “list,” such as a list of the canonical books of the Bible, it also can mean a criterion or measurement. Thus, the Orthodox have not only a canon of Scripture but of doctrine, saints, icons, fathers, theologians, and so on. Abraham related this to his studies of the early Church in which there was no official canon of Scripture or revelation (or even of the Atonement or the relationship between faith and reason), but they did canonize an ontology: they cared above all about having the correct answer to the question, “Who is God?” They began with the Holy Trinity and other canonical areas unfolded from there.

From these five treasures of the Orthodox Tradition, he moved to four trials that he believes the Orthodox need to face, not only in the West but simply in our more globalized context in which all of us must interact with one another.

Trials:

  1. In Abraham’s view, the Orthodox are underdeveloped in ethics and moral philosophy. While noting some positives, especially the Orthodox pastoral approach to divorce and marriage, he believes there is much work to be done here by modern Orthodox writers.
  2. The relationship between Church and State needs a lot more attention. I have already noted the struggles of the Orthodox to rebuild after Communism, during which times there were many compromises made with the atheist, Soviet governments. Certainly articulating a healthy yet traditional and Orthodox understanding of the relationship between Church and State is something that deserves more thoughtful reflection and practice.
  3. Abraham, who himself is an expert in the field, isolated evangelism as an area that the Orthodox need to focus more on today. In particular, he mentioned the post-Christian trends of Europe. “Europe needs to be re-evangelized,” Abraham said, and “we need all hands on deck.”
  4. Lastly, in his assessment the Orthodox are “hopelessly behind the times” in the area of epistemology, another topic of his own research. In particular, he highlighted apologetic concerns: the challenge of an aggressive atheism and a new encounter with Islam in the West. The Orthodox have the resources to address these challenges, but “they need to get to work” according to Abraham. “I wish they’d help us,” he said. Too often, however, in his experience contemporary Orthodox writers tend to unfairly dismiss such important intellectual challenges related to epistemology as Western “rationalism,” and as a result they miss an opportunity to add their voices to a discussion that has radically changed since the 1970s, highlighting the work of the Reformed philosopher Alvin Plantinga in particular.

- See more at: http://palamas.info/the-treasures-and-trials-of-eastern-orthodoxy/?fb_source=pubv1#sthash.AgyVdzug.dpuf

Treasures:

  1. The Orthodox enjoy a close proximity to the Church fathers. They are not merely subjects of study but friends. The Orthodox read their works not idealistically but with a hermeneutic of gratitude and love. As Abraham put it, they “bind up the wounds of the fathers.”
  2. The core of the Orthodox faith is the Holy Trinity. Questions of methodology and metaphysics are not elevated above their place (though perhaps they are valued too low [see Trial #4 below]). Instead, the Orthodox faith has preserved the importance and centrality of the question: who do we worship? And the answer is clear and uncontested: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  3. Orthodox piety fosters a natural connection between knowledge of God and knowledge about God. That is, through the Orthodox spiritual tradition one’s relationship and communion with God is not disconnected from doctrinal teaching about God. Abraham especially noted the simple, meditative prayers “Lord, have mercy” and the Jesus Prayer. I would add that many of our prayers and hymns contain vitally important theological concepts (some of which were matters of piety before doctrine), such as homoousios, Theotokos, and Chalcedonian Christology, among others. These teachings are taught organically through the prayers of the Church just as much as through catechesis.
  4. In theology, the Orthodox hold together a twofold emphasis on the kataphatic and apophatic methods (known as the via positiva and via negativa in the West). That is, after one has said all that can be said about God, the proper response is a silence in which “language will not work” anymore to describe the indescribable being of God. In Abraham’s experience, the liberal American Methodists he had encountered when he first came to the United States were too quickly kataphatic: they simply had nothing to say about God at all, yet the silence was not so much inspired by awe as methodological distress.
  5. The Orthodox have a much broader understanding of the term “canon.”While the Greek word kanon can mean “list,” such as a list of the canonical books of the Bible, it also can mean a criterion or measurement. Thus, the Orthodox have not only a canon of Scripture but of doctrine, saints, icons, fathers, theologians, and so on. Abraham related this to his studies of the early Church in which there was no official canon of Scripture or revelation (or even of the Atonement or the relationship between faith and reason), but they did canonize an ontology: they cared above all about having the correct answer to the question, “Who is God?” They began with the Holy Trinity and other canonical areas unfolded from there.

From these five treasures of the Orthodox Tradition, he moved to four trials that he believes the Orthodox need to face, not only in the West but simply in our more globalized context in which all of us must interact with one another.

Trials:

  1. In Abraham’s view, the Orthodox are underdeveloped in ethics and moral philosophy. While noting some positives, especially the Orthodox pastoral approach to divorce and marriage, he believes there is much work to be done here by modern Orthodox writers.
  2. The relationship between Church and State needs a lot more attention. I have already noted the struggles of the Orthodox to rebuild after Communism, during which times there were many compromises made with the atheist, Soviet governments. Certainly articulating a healthy yet traditional and Orthodox understanding of the relationship between Church and State is something that deserves more thoughtful reflection and practice.
  3. Abraham, who himself is an expert in the field, isolated evangelism as an area that the Orthodox need to focus more on today. In particular, he mentioned the post-Christian trends of Europe. “Europe needs to be re-evangelized,” Abraham said, and “we need all hands on deck.”
  4. Lastly, in his assessment the Orthodox are “hopelessly behind the times” in the area of epistemology, another topic of his own research. In particular, he highlighted apologetic concerns: the challenge of an aggressive atheism and a new encounter with Islam in the West. The Orthodox have the resources to address these challenges, but “they need to get to work” according to Abraham. “I wish they’d help us,” he said. Too often, however, in his experience contemporary Orthodox writers tend to unfairly dismiss such important intellectual challenges related to epistemology as Western “rationalism,” and as a result they miss an opportunity to add their voices to a discussion that has radically changed since the 1970s, highlighting the work of the Reformed philosopher Alvin Plantinga in particular.

- See more at: http://palamas.info/the-treasures-and-trials-of-eastern-orthodoxy/?fb_source=pubv1#sthash.AgyVdzug.dpuf

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