We had a big Orthodox discussion this week and last here on the blog. Overall, I learned a lot, both about Orthodoxy but perhaps even more the arguments Orthodox apologists make. In the end, I had to take the unfortunate step of closing the comments and also warning two Orthodox apologists about their comments.
Am I afraid of dialogue?
Am I afraid of being “proven” wrong?
No. I am open to the truth, wherever it is found.
But warning flags started going up as the comments started stacking up. Because these Orthodox apologists saw nothing good in the Catholic Church, in spite of the fact that our Churches’ beliefs are so similar. Further, they conceded no points, even when they were shown to be factually incorrect on certain statements they made. Finally, in their reading of history, the Orthodox guys were always blameless and the Catholics always prideful and ignorant.
History doesn’t work like that. In many places its ambiguous and hard to really know what someone’s motivations were, which were the “good” guys and which the “bad” (or whether it was a mixed bag on both sides). Beware the apologist who paints a picture that is so lopsided.
Luther had good reason to protest and complain.
Pride sometimes influenced men on both sides of the East-West divide in 1054 AD.
A similarity I saw here between certain Protestant and Orthodox apologists was in how dogmatically they viewed their opinions on interpreting the Scriptures and interpreting the historical data, respectively.
For some Protestants, their interpretation of Scripture is what the Scriptures say.
For some Orthodox, their interpretation of the historical data is the true history.
And no nuance or alternative interpretation can be admitted.
To get a more balanced understanding of the complex history in the time periods we were covering in our dialogue, I recommend Warren Carroll’s History of Christendom series of books, and for a bit more of a theologically focused work, Fr. Aidan Nichols’ Rome and the Eastern Churches.
These are Catholic guys, but they don’t hesitate to reveal the sins and pride of Catholics when it is warranted. Carroll’s history is readable, engaging, fascinating, and astounding. Nichols strives to remain balanced in examining the schisms (both Oriental Orthodox and the Greek Orthodox).
While ultimately the Orthodox have to disagree that the bishop of Rome has the kind of primacy Catholics claim, the overwhelming evidence for there being something special about the bishop Rome is undeniable. Admitting that doesn’t “prove” Catholicism’s claims, but it does show that you have some objectivity and are not blinded by bias.
For discussions to be fruitful, both sides have to be desiring reunion and the healing of the schism. If that good will is not present, then there’s no use dialoguing with someone. Nonetheless, I think the dialogue was interesting and hopefully helpful to people.
God bless, and may Christ heal all schisms and bring us to unity in the truth!