Orthodox Church will have its “Vatican II”

The “Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church” will be held in Crete, June 16-27.  The Council, which will be attended by the leaders of all of the world’s 14 Orthodox bodies (though two are threatening boycott),  is being described as the Orthodox equivalent of “Vatican II.”  The issues to be taken up will reportedly include ecumenical relations, how to handle marriage to someone who is not Orthodox, problems of ethnic identity, achieving greater unity, and dealing with various contemporary questions.  After the jump, a story from a Catholic site with an interview of a key Orthodox player.

Orthodox readers, can you tell us more about this?  This wouldn’t have the authority of the early church councils, would it?, since it isn’t “ecumenical.”  But how would this fit in with its “conciliar” theology?  Do you expect the council to take up issues that are roiling the Western churches, such as homosexuality, gender issues, etc.?  Is the council likely to “modernize” Orthodoxy, as Vatican II did to Roman Catholicism?

UPDATE:  Five church bodies are refusing to come, including the biggest one, the Russian Orthodox Church.  So nearly half of the world’s Orthodox churches representing a majority of Orthodox Christians won’t be there.  For a good discussion of this disunity, including the big issue of the conflict between Russia and Constantinople for leadership in Orthodoxy, go here.  (HT:  Joe & McCain)

UPDATE: The Council will go on as planned, despite the absence of the Russians.  The Serbian church decided to attend after all, so only four will be absent.

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Russian Orthodox declare “holy war” against terrorism

The Orthodox church has once against assumed its traditional role in Russia, giving moral support to the reigning regime.  Now in support of the Russian military intervention in Syria, the church has declared a “holy war” against terrorism.

Could any of you Orthodox readers explain the relationship between the various branches of your church?  I know that there is supposed to be a doctrinal unity between them all, and they all uphold the authority of the bishops.  Do the actions of these Russian bishops carry weight with you?  (I know, for example, that the murdered Czar and his family members have been or are being canonized by the Russian church.  So, if you are Antiochan Orthodox, are you obliged also to recognize them as saints?)

But can there really be a Christian jihad?

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Greek soteriology?

I stumbled upon this post from 2012 on The Old Jamestown Church, a “Classical Anglican” blog, written by an ex-Orthodox, now Anglican, priest on the issues Westerners considering Orthodoxy would need to deal with.  I don’t want to stir anything up with my Orthodox friends and readers, but the author made an intriguing point–bolstered by a quotation from the distinguished church historian Alister McGrath–that I wanted to run past you for your thoughts.

He said that the Early Church worked out the important theological foundations of the Trinity and Christology.  But the next important question, soteriology–how we are saved–was not, at first, fully resolved in the same way.  St. Augustine did the heavy lifting, but the issue was still being worked out through the Middle Ages, culminating in the Reformation.  But the Greek churches were already going their own way, mostly rejecting Augustine’s work, and favoring a Hellenized take on the Hebrew Scriptures.  As a result, he says, Orthodox soteriology is very different from Western soteriology, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant.

Read the excerpt after the jump.  Can anyone speak to whether this analysis of church history is valid?  Are these differences exaggerated?  Is there a way any such differences can be reconciled, such as the effects of Baptism and Holy Communion?  Where does the “Finnish School” of Luther studies, which says that Luther advocated a kind of theosis consistent with Orthodoxy, fit into this debate? [Read more…]

Russia’s mission to restore traditional values?

Russia reportedly sees its mission as restoring traditional values to the world, over against the “libertine West.”  This is involving a new alliance between Vladimir Putin’s government and the Russian Orthodox Church.  The immediate goal is to spread the ideal of “holy Russia” throughout Eurasia.  So says Forbes contributor Paul Coyer, excerpted after the jump.

I’ve heard some conservatives  praise Putin’s administration for its opposition to gay rights and other socially liberal movements.  Can or should American Christians get behind the Russian effort?  What would be the problems with that?  I’m curious too to hear from American orthodox folks.  I realize that not all Orthodox churches are Russian Orthodox.  But are any of you in that tradition, and, if so, do you go along with “holy Russia”?  Are any of you other Orthodox in favor of what Putin is trying to do? [Read more…]

The frustrations of ecumenical Protestants

Liberal Protestants, such as the members of the Lutheran World Federation, are strongly committed to ecumenism, and they have been pursuing talks with the Roman Catholics and the Orthodox.  But since the Protestant bodies have been ordaining women, accepting homosexuality, and advocating abortion, those talks have been going nowhere.  Surprise, surprise.  So now the ecumenical Protestants are all frustrated, as if their own projects of cutting themselves off from the historic church wouldn’t cut them off from historic churches.

This is another example of the overarching catholicity of the church over against innovations that turn former branches of the church into sects.  Mathew Block, whom I also quote in today’s post about “catholicity,” tells about a recent dialogue between the liberal Lutherans and the Orthodox, making the point that confessional Lutherans, such as those that belong to the International Lutheran Council, would be far better to talk with. [Read more…]

Natural law vs. nominalism

Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon, an Orthodox priest, gives a lucid explanation of the difference between “natural law” and “nominalism” when it comes to moral philosophy.  He does so in a way that makes it nearly impossible to believe that Luther was a nominalist, as he is often accused of being.  Fr. Reardon also goes on to criticize his fellow Orthodox who believe that since church weddings are sacramental, the world outside may conduct marriage any way it pleases. [Read more…]


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