Friday, December 15, 2006

Let's Agree to Disagree (When We Can)

Let me join this plea for inter-Orthodox unity and an end to the internicene warfare that consumes so much time and space online. Huw Raphael points out something I've said (offline) for some time: Orthodoxy demands acceptance of a number of theological doctrines, upon which there can be literally not one iota of compromise. Outside that well-defined territory, the Church has been home to a number of pious opinions, or theologoumena, which vary and may even contradict each other. Moreover, the Church does not condemn those who hold either position, as long as such an opinion is not an heresy (which, again, is well-defined). To further puzzle some, all these views may have a Biblical/patristic pedigree chockful of quotes from the Fathers, the canons, ctaechisms, and the lives of the Saints.

It may be the influx of former Protestant evangelicals or the pervasive, egotistical push for self-justification that seems to have driven this charitable spirit into exile. We desperately need its return.

Seas of ink have been spilled and vast oceans of electrons have been displaced as adherents of one theologoumenon press their teeth upon the other. (If you want to see what I mean, do a Google search of "Aerial Toll-houses" -- which, unfortunately, have nothing to do with chocolate chip cookies [though mine probably will].) Life could be much easier if we agree that, in matters not rising to heresy, we simply understand equally Orthodox individuals who equally love God have a difference of opinion. (I've advocated a similar approach with some of my WRV brethren about the prevailing Orthodox opinion on non-abortifacient birth control, only to be denounced as a would-be abortionist.)

While we should be honest, and may be spirited, in disagreement, we should agree to keep such disagreements civil in tone, respectful in conduct, and limited in verbiage. (If this is a matter of opinion, it's hardly worth taking time away from praying the Office or evangelizing the outside world. Ultimately, we're navel-gazing.) And we should refuse to employ language that would present the other side as heretics, when they very well may end up being right.

Let the tolerance begin!


Blogger Seraph said...

When I read, say, the writings of St. Justin the Martyr (mid second century), or even places in St. Irenaeus, I note that there was difference of opinion on various topics. The Elders or Bishops of one place might hand down a tradition that was somewhat different than elsewhere. But all of those items were not the basic realities of our relationship with the Living Triune God: Father, Son, Holy Spirit: and of our Redeeming Christ, the God-Man. What you say makes sense to me, and echoes another wise person who said, "In essentials unity; in doubtful things liberty; in all things charity."

Surely if one trusts Christ our God and walks with him, it will not matter so much if one is mistaken in a small matter.

1:03 AM  
Blogger Huw Raphael said...

Let the tolerance begin!

From your keyboard to God's terminal.


9:04 AM  
Blogger Ben Johnson said...

Seraph, this is a key difference between Orthodoxy and Protestantism, especially in its more evangelical areas. On the one hand, some believe doctrine doesn't matter; OTOH, they believe Heaven requires you be correct on every single point. In Orthodoxy, we tell people to always strive, but realize God doesn't demand perfection. (If he did, we'd all be lost!)

Huw, I suspect your keyboard is closer will get a speedier answer. THANK YOU for your original post!

God bless,

8:10 PM  

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