Saturday, November 18, 2006

Odds and ends...

Item I
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America has posted an agreed statement resulting from joint discussions with the Orthodox on the Trinity. In this statement the “filioque” received prominent attention.

(7) Our dialogue has discussed extensively the historical and theological issues surrounding the one point in the Creed on which Lutherans and Orthodox have traditionally disagreed with regard to faith in the Holy Trinity: the procession of the Spirit. Together with other churches rooted in Latin-speaking Christianity, Lutherans have traditionally confessed the creedal faith in the Holy Trinity by saying that the Holy Spirit "proceeds from the Father and the Son [Filioque]," and Lutheran theologians have traditionally defended both the addition of the phrase "and the Son" and the truth of the teaching embodied by this addition. Orthodox have traditionally opposed both the addition of the Filioque clause to the Creed and the teaching that the Spirit proceeds from the Son. Our dialogue has progressed to the point where we can make the following statements regarding this historic dispute.

(8) Lutherans, together with many other Western Christians, now widely recognize that the addition of the Filioque to the Nicene Creed, which took place locally by a unilateral action of the Latin Church and without the action of an Ecumenical Council, was illegitimate and contributed to disunity among Christians. Moreover, many Lutherans are now convinced that the original Creed without the Filioque addition could and should be restored in their worship . This need not contradict the Lutheran Confessions, which commit Lutherans to "the decree of the Council of Nicaea" (CA I). It is especially important to note that this article commits Lutherans not simply to the teaching of "the synod of Nicaea," but to the decree —that is, the text— of Nicaea, and to the specific doctrinal decisions embodied in that text. But the text of "the synod of Nicaea," that is the text of A.D. 325, amplified by the First Council of Constantinople of A.D. 381, as reported in the Acts of the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451), does not include the Filioque. It simply says that the Holy Spirit is to ek tou patroH ekporeuomenon ("the one proceeding from the Father"), in line with the Gospel of St. John (John 15:26). On this basis, Lutherans can now acknowledge that the Filioque is not ecumenical dogma, but has the status of a local tradition which is not binding on the universal church.

(9) For this reason the Lutheran members of this dialogue are prepared to recommend to their Church that it publicly recognize that the permanently normative and universally binding form of the Nicene Creed is the Greek text of A.D. 381, and that it undertake steps to reflect this recognition in its worship and teaching. This would be a way of enacting in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America the Lutheran World Federation resolution of 1990, which found it "appropriate" that member churches "which already use the Nicene Creed in their liturgies may use the version of 381, for example in ecumenical services," and further found it appropriate that Lutherans preparing common vernacular texts of the Nicene Creed together with Orthodox churches "may agree to a version without the ‘western’ filioque."

(10) At the same time, Lutherans are not prepared to regard the teaching that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as a heresy—a teaching against faith in the Holy Trinity. It is part of their confessional documents, and many of the chief teachers of the Lutheran tradition, including Luther himself, taught it vigorously. Lutheran recognition that the Filioque is not part of the Nicene Creed in its original and ecumenically binding form is not, therefore, to be equated with Lutheran rejection of all theological teaching which ascribes to the Son a role in the procession of the Holy Spirit, still less with an acknowledgment that all such teaching is heretical. Nevertheless, Lutherans are open to further exploration of the relation of the Spirit to the Son in conversation with Orthodox and in careful dialogue with their concerns.

(11) Orthodox very warmly agree with the Lutherans that the Filioque does not belong to the normative Creed as recognized by the Council of Constantinople of A.D. 879/880, which was accepted unanimously by both East and West. At the same time, Orthodox do not regard the teaching that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son as well as from the Father to be one which they can accept. This teaching is opposed to the monarchy of the Father and to the equality of the Spirit to the Father and the Son as a hypostasis or person distinct from both, as expressed by the original Creed. On the other hand, Orthodox may accept the teaching of the "double procession" of the Spirit from the Father and the Son in the patristic sense that the Spirit is sent from the Father through/and the Son in the mystery of our salvation in Christ. The relation of the Son to the Spirit in the context of salvation (oikonomia) is not the same with their relation in the eternal Trinity (theologia). Thus for Orthodox the dispute over the Filioque can be narrowed down to accepting or rejecting the distinction between how the Trinity is eternally in themselves and how they appear in Christ. That the Holy Spirit eternally comes forth from the Son, so as to depend for his being and his possession of the one divine nature on the Son as well as on the Father, is a teaching which Orthodox uniformly oppose.

(12) Despite our differences in theological perspective, Lutherans and Orthodox agree on certain basic theological commitments, which constitute criteria of acceptable Trinitarian teaching. In particular they agree that any acceptable Trinitarian teaching: (a) must affirm the monarchy of the Father; (b) must affirm that the divine essence exists only in the three distinct, equal, and undivided persons of the Trinity, without confusion of their personal properties; and (c) must affirm the consistent Christian teaching of the intimate relation of the Son and the Spirit in the economy of salvation.

Sometimes progress comes in little bites…

Item II
St. Vladimir’s Seminary has a new Dean and Provost. Fr. John Behr has been elected as Dean and Fr. Chad Hatfield formerly Dean of St. Herman’s seminary in Alaska will serve as Provost. The following is from the official web site of St. Vlad’s

Fr Chad Hatfield comes to St Vladimir’s from St. Herman Seminary in Kodiak, Alaska, where he has served with great distinction as Dean since 2002. Fr Hatfield holds a Doctor of Ministry from Pittsburgh Theological Seminary where his thesis was “An Examination of the Pastoral Rites for Ministry to the Sick as Found in the Orthodox Christian Euchologia.” He received his Master of Divinity in 1978 and Master of Sacred Theology in 1988 from Nashotah House Seminary in Wisconsin. Ordained as Priest by Bishop Basil (Essey) of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America in 1994, he is Vice President of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center (OCMC) Board, Co-Chair of the OCA Department of Evangelism, and member of the OCA Board of Theological Education, the Editorial Advisory Board for Christian Bioethics journal and the Kodiak College Advisory Council. Fr Hatfield and his wife, Matushka Thekla, will be moving to St Vladimir’s campus at the completion of the current academic year.

Fr John Behr is the current Professor of Patristics at St Vladimir’s and is widely regarded as one of the eminent theologians of our time. Having studied under Bishop Kallistos (Ware), Fr Behr earned his Doctor of Philosophy in Theology from Oxford University and a Master of Theology from St Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. A prolific author, his most recent published books include The Mystery of Christ: Life in Death (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 2006) and The Nicene Faith, vol. 2 of The Formation of Christian Theology (Crestwood, NY: SVS Press, 2004). He has also published numerous articles and papers and speaks throughout the world on Orthodox theology. Ordained to the priesthood in 2001, Fr Behr is the current editor of St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly and the Popular Patristics Series and is the faculty supervisor for the Inter-Seminary Dialogue. He lives with his wife Kate and their two sons and daughter on St Vladimir’s campus.

Many Years to both men and congratulations to the board of trustees on such excellent choices!

Item III
There is a fascinating video in two parts (part 1 & part 2) on youtube which discusses the history of the development and reform of the Roman Liturgy post Trent with an emphasis on the Pauline reforms post Vatican II. This is not your usual one dimensional slam by traditionalists (although certainly the narrator is sympathetic to the traditionalist point of view). The film presents significant historical background (especially so for a video) on some of the origins of the liturgical revolution in the Latin Church. Not wanting to get into the theological differences between Orthodoxy and the Latin Church, I will confine myself to saying I do not agree with the negative emphasis given to communion under both species and the dangers presented by a vernacular liturgy and married clergy. The video completely ignores the fact that the East has all of these and is in much better shape liturgically than the Roman Church. That said it is certainly worth a look for those wanting to know why some are so bent out of shape over the way things have been going for the last four decades. It is not you typical polemic broadside.

Item IV
Al Kimel over at Pontifications has posted an essay on Theopoiesis vs. Theosis. This is not light reading. But for those whose eyes don’t glaze over when the topic gets deep, there are bound to be theological fireworks in the discussion hosted by the redoubtable Michael Liccione at Sacramentum Vitae. Frankly this is probably a bit over my head, but I will enjoy following (as best I can) the discussion.

Item V
On a personal note, we Orthodox on the reformed calendar are now entering the first full week of the Nativity (Advent) Fast. During this period of spiritual preparation for the Feast of the Nativity I will be making a conscious effort to curb and limit the attention I pay to the distractions of the world. This is not to say that I am retiring to a monastery until Christmas. But I do expect (and hope) that it will mean less time spent in front of a computer monitor and more time in front of my prayer corner. Thus I will beg the indulgence of my readers if in the coming weeks my posts are somewhat less frequent and regular. I do hope to post at least weekly or more often if something of importance or great interest pops up. (Look for comments on the Pope’s forthcoming visit to Turkey and the EP.) But frequent updates should not be expected to resume until after the fast is broken.

Under the mercy,
Ad Orientem


Seraph said...

ELCA Lutherans already welcome infant communion; I only wish I could say that the ELCA were truly Orthodox-friendly. When we continue to flirt with gay ordination and marriage, it seems like window dressing to discuss the procession of the Spirit!

Your time and care are a true gift; enjoy and be refreshed in your advent time of prayer and fast. I do look forward to your thoughts on the pope's visit to Turkey and the patriarch.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the ECLA and abortionm, plus its commitments to American Episcopaganism (I know the term is derogatory, but there simply is no other word for (P)ECUSA/TEC or whatever it calls itself these days.)