Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Christianities (?)

C.S. Lewis famously described Christendom as a house with different rooms, from Congregationalism to Greek Orthodoxy in it's diversity. He is a man universally respected by everyone from Mormons to Baptists to Roman Catholics to Anglicans. He was one of the few great men that were Anglican on purpose, but he respected other creeds at odds with his own. He somehow managed to affirm sola fide in one place, and Purgatory in another.

In any case, I was thinking about him today as I listened to a discussion on the Great Schism/Orthodox-Catholic split of 1054. I am always amazed and perplexed by how people personally understand their faith. I know the intellectually fighting arena quite well, but it's a different thing entirely to look at the practical spiritual journeys of individuals. I was thinking about Photios 'the great' of Constantinople. What made him want to be a Christian? Why did he enter the priesthood? When he read the Scriptures what did he imagine they meant? What was the faith to him? When he died what were his thoughts about? Was he trusting in Christ as Lord and Saviour, as Billy Graham (and Romans 10) would tell him to? or was he thinking about the Filioque and his own 'orthodoxy' and merit before God?

He is only really considered a schismatic, and examined as a historical figure, but what did it mean for Photios to be a Christian? Is he in Hell or Heaven? I'm finding these questions more interesting now, as opposed to the supreme apologetic ones.

I am thinking about this today, because I realize that in my heart, the gospel feels like it is the offer of Free Grace and Righteousness to the repentant sinner trusting in Jesus apart from works. It is 'of the Lord', and an effectual call. But what did Photios think Christianity was? What did the Venerable Bede? What did saintly Augustine?

Am I (or anyone for that matter) allowed to say what I personally think Christianity is essentially/substantially and make that the measure of everyone else's orthodoxy?

I was looking for what Christianity was in the Vincentian way: believed everywhere, at all times, by everyone. But what if that doesn't exist? What if Christianity is as simple as saying "Jesus is Lord"? What if it is as simple as saying an "Our Father" and meaning it? What if it is as complex as Confessing every mortal sin in number and kind, and receiving the sacraments at the proper time and with the right disposition and dying in this state?

The more and more I look, the less and less sure I am. I don't think there are any easy answers. I had a Baptist pastor once tell me: There are no black and white answers to colorful questions. He might be right... but I'm starting to sound like a Kantian, if not a Relativist.

I was talking to my friend Fr. Scott, my Anglican Priest, and he was talking about the Orthodox Church, and how they haven't had time to go into Western Scholastic squables because they've been praying so much. "Is justification by faith alone or faith formed by love? - I don't know but the Communists are coming, let's pray". If the blood of the Martyrs is the seed of the church as Tertullian writes, then the Orthodox Christians of Russia must be a green tree with all they've suffered. Muslims, Commies, and everything in between. I don't really like Orthodox theology, I'm more of a Filioque guy myself (thank Thomas for that), but perhaps I might be leaning towards the sort of unIntellectual or rather non-polemical inquiry that I despised so much in my Evangelical upbringing.

Once again, my common rejoinder: I just don't know. I don't know where I'll end up, I truly and honestly don't, but I'm enjoying some time to just browse and not buy. It is a humbling experience. I have been so humiliated with all of these changes, and as John Donne wrote: Humiliation is the beginning of Sanctification, so perhaps this is all a part of God's unknowable Providence, I hope so.


  1. (Apologies in advance for throwing in some apologia in your pacific post)

    Pontificator’s Laws

    First Law: When Orthodoxy and Catholicism agree, Protestantism loses.

    (Former Episcopal priest Fr. Al Kimel is the Pontificator.)

    Whether papal primacy is true or not, Orthodoxy and Catholicism agree on Apostolic Succession, and it is all over the Fathers both East and West. Something to think about.

  2. I know, but Orthodoxy allows for divorce and remarriage, doesn't have an issue with receiving the Eucharist without Confession (like Catholicism does) and is in general much less legalistic than Catholicism.

    Romans tend to see Orthodoxy as a Pope-less Catholicism with beards, but it's much different than that. In any case, I have no defense of Orthodoxy, I was just saying I appreciated it's spirit.

  3. Catholics view Orthodox as the original protestants (schismatics)

    Orthodox view the Pope as the first Protestant.

    And as Alexis Khomiakov who wrote the following in 1846 Orthodox view 'All Protestants are Crypto-Papists'