The theologian in the service of the church in ecumenical dialogue

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Lecture at St. Vladimir’s Seminary 23 May 1980

in honor of Father Georges Florovsky

© John S. Romanides
The Orthodox Theological Society of America has established an annual lecture in honor of the great Orthodox theologian Father Georges Florovsky. Father John Romanides of the School of Theology of the University of Thessaloniki was invited by the Society to give the first lecture, delivered on 23 May 1980 at St. Vladimir’s Seminary.


Fifth Column Augustinian heretics posing as Traditional Old Calendar Orthodox
The fifteen Canonical Orthodox Churches, numbering some 250 million Orthodox Christians, sent their representatives to Thessaloniki to meet with each other between April 29th and May 2 in order to deal with a new Old Calendar heresy. This new phenomenon of heretical Augustinians are headed in Greece by the so-called Orthodox Metropolitan Cyprian of Filis and in the U.S.A by the so-called Orthodox Archbishop Chrysostom of Aetna, California. They have been caught trying to establish their Augustinian heresy in such countries like Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Georgia etc. This Cyprian of Filis had originally been a new calendar priest of the official Church of Greece. But some years ago he joined an Old Calendar Church. It is suspected that behind this movement those who are trying to penetrate Orthodox countries with Augustine’s heresies under the guise of Traditional Old Calendar Orthodoxy. Posing as very super-conservative traditional Orthodox, Cyprian of Filis and Chrysostomos of Aetna have been quite busy trying to promote and defend Augustine’s heresies among the Orthodox as one can readily see in their publications. What is of interest is the fact that both Latins and Protestants consider Augustine as the founding father of both the Latin and Protestant theologies. Therefore, what is said in this introduction about the cure of the sickness of religion applies equally to both Cyprian of Filis and Chrysostomos of Aetna and their attempt at penetrating traditional Orthodox countries with the sickness of religion.
This Introduction is followed by the original text of the lecture entitled THE THEOLOGIAN IN THE SERVICE OF THE CHURCH IN ECUMENICAL DIALOGUE. This text is followed in turn by a POST SCRIPT which continues to indicate that directors of dialogues between Orthodox and non Orthodox have never intended to become real partners in dialogue. I am not dealing with any willingness or not on their part to become Orthodox, but simply with their refusal to allow the Orthodox tradition to speak for itself. Instead, most, if not all of them, have been trying to steer dialogue with the Orthodox by means of those semi-Orthodox who agree with themselves in the field of theological method.

Both Latin and Protestant theological methods stem from Augustine and are therefore founded on so-called natural revelation, i.e. analogia entis and on so-called supernatural revelation, i.e. analogia fidei. Luther, as an individual, had his suspicions about analigia entis but this never became a fixed Lutheran position.

The first is based on a supposed similarity between God and creation, i.e. that created reality is supposed to be a copy of God’s uncreated ideas.

All Orthodox join in the condemnation of those who believe in the reality of such uncreated archetypes during the service of the Sunday of Orthodoxy.

The second analogy is based on a supposed similarity between God and Scripture since He supposedly reveals Himself and His actions there. This is true in principle, but only for those who read and study the Bible having had the same experience of glorification as the prophets and apostles (sent ones) of both the Old and New Testaments. The revolt of some Latin Nominalists against Platonism from time to time was based on a supposed similarity between God and Scriptures only. For the Orthodox Fathers of the Church this is a heresy also, unless the one reading and studying scriptures has reached glorification.

When properly used Scripture leads one to the purification and illumination of the heart and, in God’s time, to glorification. But there is nothing in the Scriptures which has a real similarity with the uncreated. This is so because «It is impossible to express God and even more impossible to concieve God» and «there is no similarity between the uncreated and the created.» This reality one knows by one’s own glorification. Until one arrives there one uses these axioms or postulates of the Fathers as one’s basic guide through purification to illumination of the heart. As one is getting accustomed to «unceasing noetic prayer» wthin one’s heart, the words of the Bible and of the Fathers begin to become an open book. Then when one arrives at various degees of glorification one is having the exact same experience of the Lord (Yaweh) of Glory as the Old and New Nestament prophets and apostles and the saints of the Church.

For the Fathers of the Nine Orthodox Ecumenical Councils, according to Roman Law (and not only the First Seven), one recieves the capacity of reading Scripture and the works of the Fathers only by beginning this process of the cure of the sickness of religion. It is only by the unceasing prayer in one’s heart that the short circuit between the heart, which pumps blood, and the heart within the spinal column, which pumps spinal fluid, is repaired. It is by the cure of this short circuit that one becomes rid of «fantasies,» and begins to see reality as is and as much as one may support. In this way one ceases seeing reality by means of one’s sick imagination.

In the hands of neurologically sick people the Bible becomes a source of «uncontrollable fantasies.» And indeed religion is one of the most dangerous. Instead of being a manuel for the cure of the sickness of religion the Bible becomes a book for the propagation of the sickness of religion.

Thus for the Orthodox Fathers of the Church there exists neither analogia entis nor analogia fidei. The basic reason for this is that religion itself is simply a neurobiological sickness. But this also means that there is a neurobiological cure also. This cure re-establishes communion between the heart of the cured one and the uncreated glory and rule of God which saturates creation. Christ, the Lord (Yaweh) of Glory, offers communion with His uncreated Glory and Rule to all, but only those who are participating in this cure by means of the purification and illumination of their hearts are participating in reality. Even those who have been baptized, but are not in the state of either purification or illumination take communion of the body and blood of Christ «unworthily…» and «…eat and drink judgment against themselves.» (1 Cor. 11:27-29ff.)

The Bible calls the center of the human personality the ‘spirit’ of man which the Fathers also call ‘noera energia (noetic energy).’ Thus we have the difference between ‘unceasing noetic payer in the heart,’ which keeps the short circuit in question repaired, and ‘intellectual prayer’ in the brain which at given times occurs in tandem. St. Paul makes this distinction quite clearly: «What should I do then? I will pray with the ‘spirit’ and I will pray with the ‘intellect’ also; I will sing psalms with the ‘spirit,’ but I will sing psalms with the ‘intellect’ also.»(1 Cor 14;15). In the West one finds this tradition expained by St. Patrick, St. John Cassian and Gregory of Tours. However, Gregory misunderstands this tradition as belonging to his realm of miricles. His discription is indeed quite humorous.nd

Not understanding this reality about the human personality, Protestants, Latins and some so-called Orthodox Bible scholars are unable to read either the Bible or the Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils correctly.

Bible Professor Paul Tarazi was thrown out of Balamand University, Lebanon, because he called St. Simion the New Theologian, one of the great specialists in this tradition, a «jackass» in class. Also Bible Professor Theodore Stynialopoulos has been trying hard to throw aspersion on this tradition by calling it 14 century «Palamism,» even though it is generally accepted that this was the practice of such earlier Fathers as St. Simeon the New Theologian, St. Macarius of Egypt, St. John Cassian, St. Patrick of Ireland and all writers whose works on the subject are to found in the Philokalia.

This tandem prayer phenomenon cannot be viewed as a metaphysical or a theological problem. Here we have a neurobiological sickness stemming from a short circuit with a physiological cure of unceasing and uninterrupted prayer in the heart which repairs the short circuit. In tandem with is prayer in the heart is the prayer with the brain at fixed times. How can one invent such a neurobiogical phenomenon philosophically or theologically?»

Each historical heresy condemned by the Nineth Roman Ecumenical Councils had been destroying the very foundation of the cure of the human personality from the sickness of religion caused by the fantasies produced by the short circuit in question.

So the basic question to be dealt with here is not theological at all. One is dealing with a neurobiological sickness which produces fantasies in the human imagination and distorts one’s vision of reality and interpersonal relations. The real problem is that such scholars, like Taraze and Stylianopoulos, are fundamentalists who reject a therum in advance because not in conformity with their own slogans and visions of reality which they borow evidently from their professors and their readings.

We mention these two ‘biblical’ scholars because, like Protestants and Latins, they accept positions in advance because voiced by various members of the society of Biblical scholars and reject the Patristic method of dealing with the Bible which they simply ignore and show no desire to even study it.

The first breakthrough in the Orthodox-Lutheran dialogue was when we agreed that only those who have reached glorification in this life can know what the Bible means by glorification. Prof. Anna Marie Aagaard, a Lutheran in dialogue with the Orthodox since the beginning, had accepted this working axiom along with the rest of the Lutherans, but all of a sudden began repeating that we do not want any ‘Palamism’ which evidently began making the rounds after emanating from Prof. Stylianopoulos. But we are still waiting for his study substantiating his position.

In any case does this mean that Prof. Aagaard is saying that St. Gregory Palamas had not reached glorification, or that she has now rejected our agreement that only those who have themselves reached glorification can know what Biblical glorification means?

It is up to the Lutherans to tell us what they want. If they are not interested in the purification and illumination of the heart and glorification, then that is their problem, not ours.

Of course it is not difficult to find Orthodox who not only do not practise the cure in question, but also reject this tradition or simply ignore it. The question before the Lutherans, and for that matter before all who want to have dialogue with the Orthodox Tradition, is whether they want to dialogue only with those Orthodox who accept methods of research similar to their own, or else are willing to take a short cut to the heart of the problem of unity. What must be repaired is the electrical short between the heat which pumps blood and the one which pumps spinal fluid. This will get rid of the fantasies which are at the root of our problem of unity.

But with the Latinization of Russian Orthodoxy, chiefly by Peter the Great, both analogia entis and analogia fidei became part of the tradition of those Theological Schools which simply imitated their Latin or Russian prototypes. The Russian Slavophil theologians continued both analogia entis and analogia fidei, but claimed that they had a better Slavic philosophy than that of the Greek speaking Roman Fathers who supposedly were using the philosophy of the ancient Greeks. Of course this was true for the Franco-Latins who were using Augustinian Platonism which was finally fused together with Aristotle by Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas.

Sacred Hellenism was Father Florvsky’s attack weapon against the Slavophils who believed that Slavic philosophy had surpassed that of the Latin and Greek speaking Fathers.

In contrast to this confusion over which philosophy is supposed to be better, the Greek speaking monasteries, especially of Mount Athos and Palestine, had a low opinion of the products coming out of such Theological Schools, whether Russian or Greek. Fortunately this holds true for many of the students themselves of these so-called «Theological Schools.» These students simply memorize the contents of lectures in order to pass exams and get a degree, but pay much more attention to their monastic spiritual fathers.

At Amsterdam in 1948 the Protestant founders of the WCC began their theological cooperation with their three Orthodox co-founders. They were Archbishop Germanus of Great Britain and Father Georges Florovsky, professor at St. Sergius School of Theology in Paris, both representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople New Rome. The third Orthodox co-founder was Professor Hamilcar Alivizatos of the University of Athens who represented the Church of Greece.

The Protestants within Faith and Order had already begun their theological dialogue with Father Florovsky and continued doing so when Faith and Order became part of the WCC in 1948. All this time Father Florovsky had been one of the chief spoksmen of Orthodox theology.

But by the time of the Genral Assembly of the WCC in New Delhi 1961 Father Florovsky and other Orthodox present sensed that their Patristic theology was about to be replaced by Nikos Nissiotis’ ideas about theology. That Nickos Nissiotis had beome the «chosen one» of Visser ’t Hooft, the first General Secretary of the WCC, became clear when he made his debut as a main speaker at the General Assembly at New Delhi in 1961. This was ‘the omen’ that dialogue between the Orthodox and the Protestants within the WCC would end up a disappoining and expensive failure.

Some Orthodox professors present at Delhi had initially had voted to reject Nissiotis’ doctoral thesis submitted to the faculty of the University of Athens and were a bit surprised at seeing him being promoted as a distinguished Orthodox theologian. The basic reason why both they and Father Florovsky were quite bewildered was simply because he was not a specialist in the theology of the Orthodox Fathers of the Church. He was an outstanding specialist in such theologians as Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Existenilasm and related topics.

At the very same time that Nissiotis’ doctoral thesis on existenialim was being processed for approval my thesis on «Ancestral (Original) Sin» was also being approved by the very same faculty. My thesis had proven that Augustine’s analogia entis and analogia fidei and his teachings about original sin as inhereted guilt and predestination of some inspite of this guilt which supposedly makes them worthy of eternal damnation but with some saved anyway because God so choosed, were completley foreign to both the Bible and the Orthodox Fathers of the Church.

Nikos Nissiotis was indeed a brilliant specialist in the field of modern Western Theology and related topics. Of course he was at home within the traditions of analogia entis and analogia fidei not knowing that both catergories are completley foreign to Patristic Orthodoxy. In spite of this Nissiotis was promoted within the WCC for dialogue, not within these categories, but for dialogue with the Orthodox Tradition which historically rejects both analogia entis and analogia fidei. This fact he did not know since it was this writer who brought this Patristic fact to light in 1957. In any case Nick Nissiotis had given the General Secretary of the WCC the impression that he knew how to bridge the gap between Orthodoxy and Western Christianity. But between Othodoxy, which rejects both analogia entis and analogia fidei, and those traditions which accept either one of them or both, the gap is unbridgable..

While doing my research at Yale University Divinity School I was discovering the fact that the ancient Fathers who were building the bridge between the Bible and the Roman Ecumenical Councils reject analogia entis, analogia fidei and happiness as the destiny of man. At this point I began losing my adolescent facination with Thomas Aquinas, whom I had been studying with a former Dominican, and now also with such theologians as Barth and Brunner. I was collecting the Patristic material which finally made up the bulk of my book on Ancestral Sin and related topics.

But Nisiotis went the way of analogia entis and analogia fidei and stayed there. So automatically this meant that the intriguing Protestants of the WCC began by never intending to take the Orthodox Tradition seriously because they could never imagine that the Fathers of the Ecumenical Councils reject both analogia entis and analogia fidei. They never moved even a bit from this line and are determined not to do so.

Another distressing experience in the life of Father Florovsky was his expulsion from the faculty of Holy Cross by Archbishop Iacovos who had been a staunch supporter of the General Secretary’s «chosen one.» I had the feeling that the real reason why Archbishop Iacovos dismissed Father Florovsky was to please the leaders of the WCC in their support of Nikos Nissiotis. I personally felt so insulted and disgusted by this act that I myself resigned in protest from the faculty of Holy Cross.
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