16 April 2007

On Christians

I hesitate to blog on this subject, because I am not sure that it will be helpful. But it has sort of illumined for me something that I didn't understand, and it might for others as well. In hopes that it will bring light and not heat, I'll risk it. In a discussion that took place off the Orthodox-Lutheran Dialog list and which was posted on it, an erstwhile Lutheran, currently Orthodox noted:

"Orthodox do not believe this and do not really have a hidden or invisible Church ecclesiology that allows someone to be a true Christian in an untrue Body."

Which, I can only assume, means that he does not see how Lutherans can even BE Christians. It's not a matter of a "purer" faith, but of leaving falsehood and embracing THE faith, to him.

What this helps me understand, I think, is how some Orthodox can seem so danged persistent in pushing their point of view. To them, it is precisely a matter of salvation. Not, of course, that they mean that being Orthodox guarantees salvation; being certain of salvation is as anathema to the Orthodox as it is to the Roman Catholic. That would be, to their ears, the sin of presumption and pride. I've heard at times Lutherans described as "neurotic in their need for assurance."

I write this not to slam the Orthodox. I disagree with them about certainty of salvation, of course, because for the believer there is certainty *in Christ* while there is no security in *self.* The Blessed Apostle John is utterly clear on this: "I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life." 1 John 5:13 Nevertheless, because when we are treating with each other, it helps to understand where the other person is coming from. If there is a certain urgency in the way that some Orthodox address us, I believe it comes from their conviction that we are not Christians.

It's almost like dealing with the Southern Baptists all over again. It makes me rejoice more than ever in the glory of Walther's Thesis XX in Law and Gospel: "In the sixteenth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when a person's salvation is made to depend on his association with the visible orthodox Church and when salvation is denied to every person who errs in any article of faith." When Lutherans dialog with Orthodox, we tend to begin with the assumption that we are talking to fellow Christians. We need to know that this assumption is not universally shared by those speaking to us.

44 comments:

Past Elder said...

I have wondered often why it is that some Orthodox who were formerly Lutheran follow Lutheran blogs so closely. You may well be on to the answer. Honestly, I don't know.

Maybe as a convert to Lutheranism myself I wonder this in light of my personal experience. In such contact as I may have with the Roman church as it is these days -- someone dies, gets married, or a big deal hits the news, or I pass EWTN on the way to the Disney Channel -- I come away grateful that I am no longer involved in such a swirling mass of confusion, and in no case would set out to frequent Catholic blogs or post on them.

(The one exception being der alte Schuetz, and that because he was one of us and because he chose to step into that swirling mass of confusion rather than Orthodoxy or traditional Roman Catholicism still held for example by the Society of Saint Pius X.)

Anonymous said...

I guess I wonder that sometimes myself, why I frequent this blog.

I think the reason is that I used to consider myself in some sense a friend of Pastor Weedon, and in another sense, I used to have a great deal of respect for his theological reflections and insights.

And so I was greatly disappointed when he either changed fundamentally who he was, or turned out never to have been who I thought he was.

It was a hurt and disappointment that continues up to the present, and so I continue to pray for Pr. Weedon and his family, and all of those concerned.

I frequent this blog, hoping for some sign of awakening or change, but only too often see none. Instead, there seems to be a need to try to poke at controversial matters and stir up dicord and debate. This worries and troubles me all the more.

And so, I continue to read... It would probably be best if I didn't, and next year, God willing, I won't have the opportunity, so hopefully I'll learn to forget, and only to pray.

But God knows. May He have mercy on us all, especially on me, who is just as guilty and more so, even if God, in His lovingkindness, continues to surprise and gladden me by His continual mercy.

In Christ,
John Hogg

Fr Gregory Hogg said...

Pastor Weedon,

I will take your comments at face value when you say you don't want to engender heat, but light. Allow me to note a couple of things that might contribute to that end:

1. You begin by citing words from Christopher Orr which say, "Orthodox do not believe this and do not really have a hidden or invisible Church ecclesiology that allows someone to be a true Christian in an untrue Body."

But the point of Christopher's comments is missed when you omit the antecedent of the "this," and is likely to generate more heat than light.

He says, "The other issue is that this list is structured to place Orthodox and Lutherans (well, a certain branch of Lutherans) on the same level." The antecedent of "this" is the notion that Orthodox and Lutherans are on the same level. The Orthodox Church does not subscribe to a "hidden" Church, or a "branch" theory of ecclesiology; this is true.

Hence the Orthodox point is not "we know you are not Christians"--though we are greatly concerned, especially about those who have been exposed to the fullness of the truth and reject it. The Orthodox point is that there is no such thing as "untrue Body."

Elsewhere I've noted that Lutheranism commits the fallacy of composition when it says, "The people making up the Church are sinful; therefore the Church is sinful."

Here, it appears, you're committing the fallacy of division. "The Orthodox Church says that it alone is Church," (true enough); therefore there are no Christians outside its canonical boundaries (false). To state that other bodies claiming to be church, are not church, is not the same as stating that individuals claiming to be Christian outside the bounds of the Orthodox Church are not Christian.

Concerning the question of whether there are Christians outside the Orthodox Church, we speak with a hopeful agnosticism--i.e. we cannot know where the Holy Spirit is not, but we have reason to hope that there are Christians outside the bounds of the Orthodox Church, for God is good and loves mankind. And as we see many coming from all sorts of denominations, and from other religions, and from no religion, to the Church, we say with St. Peter, "Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him," and with St. John, ". . .he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God."

This also explains what Christopher Orr meant when he said, "it isn't the Orthodoxy 'way' to argue about why some other faith is wrong, though we will discuss what we believe and why - and only in that context will we compare and contrast with other teachings, non-Orthodox and non-Christian. This goes hand in hand with the Orthodox way of evangelization: we do not get in the face of others, but simply have an answer ready." We recognize that the truth is powerful, and it will work, either to convert or to harden in unbelief. It is better to keep silent than to speak what is true when it is clear that such speaking will harden. It is also better to speak than to keep silent when it is clear that others may be led astray if witness is not borne to the truth. So Solomon writes, "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes." Many times I have shown myself to be a fool by not recognizing which of those two situations I'm in.


2. When you go on to comment, "What this helps me understand, I think, is how some Orthodox can seem so danged persistent in pushing their point of view. To them, it is precisely a matter of salvation. Not, of course, that they mean that being Orthodox guarantees salvation; being certain of salvation is as anathema to the Orthodox as it is to the Roman Catholic"--here again, you risk generating more heat than light, in two ways:

a) you mix in the issue of personal assurance of salvation to the issue of the nature of ecclesial entities (which was Christopher Orr's point). Mixing topics together leads to confusion, as your dear Chemnitz would remind you.

b) you lump the East together with Rome, which inevitably will distort the Orthodox position on assurance of salvation.

I know of no Orthodox theologian who would disagree with the notion that there is certainty in Christ and no security in self. That is why we plead perpetually to him for mercy. To read Orthodox statements about assurance in the way you have, lumping them together with Rome, is a grave disservice to the Orthodox position, and will generate more heat than light.

It is not the Orthodox position to judge whether other individuals are Christians. We leave such judgments to God. But we can and do judge whether an entity claiming to be Church, is in fact Church.

In our dialogue, we do assume that our dialogue partner has some connection with Christ. Our concern for those partners grows, of course, to the degree that they are exposed to the truth and reject it. But it is not ours, as individuals, to judge whether even those who have known the truth and then turned from it are Christians. We continue to pray for such, and plead for God to show mercy. (So we pray, in the Liturgy of St. Basil, "Sustain the good in their goodness; make the wicked good through Your goodness. Remember, Lord, the people here presented and those who are absent with good cause. Have mercy on them and on us according to the multitude of Your mercy. Fill their treasuries with every good thing; preserve their marriages in peace and harmony; nurture the infants; instruct the youth; strengthen the aged; give courage to the faint hearted; *reunite those separated; bring back those in error and unite them to Your holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.*")

Judgment is the prerogative of Christ, the Head of the Body, and of his Body met together--the Church, who in her Councils has made such judgments (e.g. anathematizing Arios).

The unworthy priest, yes, and fool,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

William Weedon said...

John,

Thank you for the prayers. They also rise for you and for your family. The intention of the post really was not to stir up controversy. It was a bit of an "aha" moment for me - maybe the aha was wrong (see your dad's post), but that's what struck me last night.

Fr. Gregory,

Thank you for you your words. The reason assurance came up in my blogging was because it came up in personal correspondence between Christopher and myself. I may be wrong, but it does not appear that you and he are entirely on the same page on the question. My comments were, again, not to inflame, but they were an attempt to express the "aha" that some great energy and earnestness and persistence of the Orthodox in treating with the Lutherans is the concern for our very salvation. It seems to me to explain a dynamic that I had honestly missed. Of course, Lutherans do NOT begin with the assumption that the Orthodox are not or may not be Christians.

I know you eschew the point of dialog but one of the things I find helpful in it is precisely when assumptions are clarified (often we don't think to express them clearly, just because they ARE assumed).

Pax!

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pastor Weedon,

I understand how assurance may have come up. If, as you say, it came up in personal correspondence, then perhaps it would be best addressed in personal correspondence.

I am assuming you did not intend your comments to inflame; that is why I posted what I did, to show how your intention may not prove successful and to suggest a few ways to minimize the likelihood of your concern's being realized.

On that same dialog list you cited earlier, you posted on Sunday that Orthodox prayers to the Most Holy Theotokos are heard as "polytheistic" by Lutheran ears, and you add, "To us, idolatry is looking to the creature for that which comes from God alone." Yet here you say, "Lutherans do NOT begin with the assumption that the Orthodox are not or may not be Christians." I guess that confuses me. Are you saying that idolatry and polytheism are consistent with being Christian, or are you saying that prayers to the Theotokos are not polytheistic and idolatrous?

The unworthy priest, and fool,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

William Weedon said...

Father,

To describe a PRAYER as sounding polytheistic or idolatrous is not to say that those who use that prayer use it with that intention - for I know they do not.

I had thought I was clear on that, but if I was not, please forgive me. Here is what I said immediately afterward:

"That's not saying that the Orthodox have any *intention* of allowing the latria that is due to the Blessed Trinity alone to be given to a creature, but it certainly sounds to us as though the hyperdoulia that is accorded the Blessed Virgin at times is so hyper as to cease to be doulia and to become instead latria."

Anonymous said...

Pastor Weedon, forgive me for being uncharitable, but I don't see how it is possible that your intention is not to stir up controversy, based on how often you do just that. If you truly don't see the heat that you continue to generate, maybe it would be best to reflect more before making posts?

As for why we're still involved in these discussions, I think you do understand at some level. There are certainly theological issues involved, and very important ones. But the faith isn't a matter of the mind only, but also of the heart, the will, and the actions.

What is involved here is the interaction between hearts, as well as a concern for actions, both of which flow from and return to the theolotical issues being discussed.

Yes, it is and will remain my desire to see you brought into Christ's Church. But that is not my immediate and overarching concern. Indeed, if you were to make a 180, and make that decision, I would supoort a long catechumenate, although, of course, I would trust Bishop Mark's decision.

My immediate and overarching concern lies elsewhere. I am honestly very concerned for you, and I would be initially happy simply to see a change in your postings.

But then, here I am, continuing to read and comment, when I know it's probably not the best for either of us. May God have mercy on us both, since He is a good God, and loves mankind.

In Paschal joy,
John

Anonymous said...

Also, with regards to your last post, although you say that you don't believe that it is our intention, that doesn't really change things. You still say that it seems to you that sometimes we offer latreia to the Theotokos, which would still mean that it seems to you like we're (unintentionally) polytheists. That is consistent with Christianity?

Please, think about what you are writing. Under the guise of Christian charity, you are accusing us (and for that matter, the majority of Christians throughout history) of ignorant polytheism.

I hope you understand why we take such a charge seriously.

But also consider: If you claim that the Church unknowingly prays polytheistic prayers, what would be said about one who believed such prayers to be polytheistic, and yet prayed them anyway?

:-/

In Christ,
John

William Weedon said...

Dear John,

If you want to carry on a conversation about the nature of those prayers, why not participate on the O-L dialog? Or, if you don't care to do that, check out Chris Orr's blog where he has asked for some comments about the prayer itself. The topic is not what this thread was about, so I'd rather reserve comments on the topic for the places where it is being discussed.

Pax!

Eric said...

Light and heat go together. That's just how it is. But there is still a big difference between the lamplighter and the arsonist. Anyone who mistakes Pr. Weedon for the latter needs to stop sticking his hand into the good reverend's lamp.

christopher3rd said...

As the primary culprit, I should say that there is not an equation of Church membership and salvation, or lack of Church membership and perdition. However, according to the Orthodox Church, the normal means by which God saves mankind is the Ark of Salvation, the Church, which is a visible Body - not a Zwinglian ecclesiology where the Body is 'spiritualized'. We hope and pray for the salvation of all, but if it is not assured that those in the Church will be saved how much less likely is it for those outside of her care, bereft of the totality of her saving tools (fasting, the prayers by and of the saints, all the Sacraments, etc.)? There is hope and then there is hope, which are different for those inside and outside of the Church - similarly to the fact that there is grace and then there is grace (the energies of God Himself, not just his good favor), in different ways for saints, sinners, those in the Church and those outside of the Church.

Pr Weedon and I have been discussing many things offline, but I thought this was a clarification that was pertinent and appropriate to his and other's comments here.

Joel said...

But isn't there a cold streak in Lutheranism itself, where non-Lutherans are considered at best semi-Christian?

William Weedon said...

Dear Joel,

I am sure that there are times when Lutherans are uncharitable in their remarks about fellow sisters and brothers in Christ who hold a differing confession of the faith. I know I have been. May Christ forgive me! But I do not know of any Lutheran who has held or who holds that those baptized into the name of the Holy Trinity and who hold in faith in the Gospel promises of the Savior are not to be regarded as brothers and sisters in Christ because they do not hold the Lutheran Confession of the faith.

Eric said...

Chris,

> the normal means by which God saves mankind is the
> Ark of Salvation, the Church, which is a visible Body

A few observations:

1) That sounds like something I would say about baptism: it is the normal means God has ordained by which to save men, but I believe he sometimes works without it. So you view us not as necessarily damned, but as unbaptized, essentially. There's barely a hair of difference there.

2) Of COURSE the Church is a visible body. I've never encountered an INvisible Christian, church, or denomination.

christopher3rd said...

Eric, I think you have it the nail on the head. Baptism for Orthodox is primarily entrance into the Church, it is the incorporation of the person into the Body of Christ (which is the Church). Baptism is not primarily forgiveness of sins, though this is an important part of it, as if Baptism is then the foundation for objective justification - there is not objective justification in Orthodoxy, or, I would argue, in patristic theology. Similarly, God "sometimes works without" either Baptism or the Church, e.g., The Wise Thief, many of the early martyrs.

Orthodoxy is clear that there are no Sacraments outside of the Church, though they are sometimes accepted and provided with 'what is lacking' by the sacraments of chrismation and/or communion - out of economia ('pastoral dispensation and care'). The next question becomes whether those outside of the visible bounds of the Church may in some way be members of the Body of Christ in some other-than-ordinary way. Patrick Barnes discusses this in his book, "The Non-Orthodox", especially in Chapter 7 (it is available to view free online if you are interested). So, being unbaptized and being damned are not, in the Orthodox understanding, necessarily the same; and, it is important to note, being baptized is not the same as being saved - being baptized Orthodox does not save one, it starts one on the path to salvation.

Finally, Lutheran ecclesiology says that the Church is comprised of all those who rightly believe regardless of their outward religious affiliation. So, while there is no such thing as an invisible Christian or an invisible church body, true portions of the Church (Christians) may be hidden in outwardly tainted 'Christian' bodies. This is more than a hope, but is a stated belief. Orthodoxy hopes that people may be saved outside of the visible bounds of the Church, but this would be in a way that is extra-ordinary, and due only to the secret work of God Who is experienced in Orthodoxy firs and foremost as Philanthropos.

Eric said...

Chris,

Thank you for a substantive response. I'm sure you can understand that for a Lutheran, there is very little difference between being told, "You are unbaptized," and being told, "You are going to hell." I mean, if we really _were_ unbaptized, we could simply get baptized. But if we've already been baptized, and you say we haven't been, then you're saying we're screwed. When an EO tells us, "Oh, that doesn't mean you're _necessarily_ damned," we think, "Yeah, I'll bet you would say the same thing to a Muslim. Thanks, but no thanks."

> while there is no such thing as an invisible
> Christian or an invisible church body, true
> portions of the Church (Christians) may
> be hidden in outwardly tainted 'Christian' bodies.

Are you aware that you teach an "invisible Church" too? Every time you say that simply being a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church is no guarantee of salvation, you recognize the fact that in this world we cannot see who is and who is not eternally united with Christ. Those who actually ARE the body of Christ, and not simply members of the EO Church, are the invisible Church.

So in fact we both believe in a distinction between visible and invisible Church. What is more, we both believe that the invisible Church is a subset of the visible Church. What we disagree on is the definition of the VISIBLE Church.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Eric said,

"Are you aware that you teach an "invisible Church" too? Every time you say that simply being a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church is no guarantee of salvation, you recognize the fact that in this world we cannot see who is and who is not eternally united with Christ. Those who actually ARE the body of Christ, and not simply members of the EO Church, are the invisible Church."

Rx:
The problem that the "invisible Church" tries to address is the fact that we cannot see who is and who is not united to Christ. This problem, in its essence, is epistemological.

The claim that the Church is invisible is an *ontological claim, about the nature of the Church.*

Hence this claim is broken at its outset, for it seeks to answer an epistemological question with an ontological answer. The Church is not, in fact, essentially invisible. (Nor is it even essentially unknowable, for St. Peter saw that Ananias and Sapphira were not members.)

Eric:
So in fact we both believe in a distinction between visible and invisible Church. What is more, we both believe that the invisible Church is a subset of the visible Church. What we disagree on is the definition of the VISIBLE Church.

Rx:

(a) We do not in fact both believe in a distinction between visible and invisible Church. (Indeed, among Lutherans themselves there is debate about whether to speak of "invisible" or "hidden.")
The Church is the body of Christ. It is in the nature of bodies that they can be seen, touched, and handled; as the risen Christ said, "See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have."

(b) Nor, by Orthodox teaching(assuming your distinction for the sake of dialog and by way of oikonomia), is the "invisible" Church a subset of the "visible." Subsets have this property, that all their members are also members of their superset; but the Orthodox claim is that there may be Christians who are not members of the Orthodox Church. (Parenthetically, the visible/invisible distinction is a root of the whole open communion problem among Lutherans--just another reason to eschew it altogether.)

(c) The Church cannot, properly speaking, be defined--unless we use ostensive definition. We (Orthodox) point to the Theotokos as Church in miniature, as when we sing "Shine, shine, O new Jerusalem, for the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee; dance now and be glad, O Zion, and do thou exult, O pure Theotokos, in the arising of Him Whom thou didst bear." How interesting that as the role of the Theotokos has faded in Lutheranism, so also has its sense of ecclesiology.

(d) Dialog requires that one hear the dialog partner on his own terms, in his own words. The Fourth Crusade and Council of Florence were not "dialogs" by Orthodox standards. When I have criticized Lutheranism, I have always sought to use the words and thinking of the Lutheran Symbols themselves (compare my theses "There is no Lutheran Church")--not to impose Orthodox categories on Lutherans.

The unworthy priest, and fool,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Eric said...

> Hence this claim is broken at its outset, for it seeks to answer an
> epistemological question with an ontological answer.

What makes you think it’s an ontological answer? It isn’t. Ontologically, the body of Christ is visible. As I said a few posts ago, I’ve never encountered an invisible Christian, church, or denomination.

> (Indeed, among Lutherans themselves there is debate about whether to speak
> of "invisible" or "hidden.")

The point is, we can’t see the outlines of Christ’s body. I don’t care which word people want to use.

> Nor, by Orthodox teaching(assuming your distinction for the sake of dialog and
>by way of oikonomia), is the "invisible" Church a subset of the "visible." ...the
> Orthodox claim is that there may be Christians who are not members of the
> Orthodox Church.

Any claim that there “may” be X is a claim of exception. As a matter of system, you do distinguish between the visible set and the invisible subset. Then you add the exception: “And there might be others who are even more invisible, because they aren’t even in the visible set. We just don’t know.”

> (Parenthetically, the visible/invisible distinction is a root of the whole open
> communion problem among Lutherans

Any doctrine can be abused. That proves nothing. And I’d much rather deal with the abuse of open communion than the set ecclesial policy of denying that “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved”—no matter how earnestly you follow that denial with, “Well actually, we can’t be certain. It is possible that whoever calls on the name of the Lord is saved.”

> The Church cannot, properly speaking, be defined

That’s another way of saying, “The Church, properly speaking, is invisible.”

> Dialog requires that one hear the dialog partner on his own terms, in his own
> words.

Sometimes dialogue requires that one demonstrate to the dialogue partner that a perceived substantial difference is really just a difference in terminology. Then the dialogue can focus on the real difference (in this case, the definition of “Visible Church”).

Chaz said...

I think the Orthodox comments on this thread prove Pr. Weedon's point.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Eric said:
What makes you think it’s an ontological answer? It isn’t. Ontologically, the body of Christ is visible. As I said a few posts ago, I’ve never encountered an invisible Christian, church, or denomination.

Rx:
The statement, "The Church is invisible," as well as your statement "Are you aware that you teach an 'invisible Church' too?" (which is founded on it) are both ontological claims, because they are claims about the nature of the Church, not claims about how I know the Church. Answering epistemological questions with ontological statements is not a recipe for clarity. It would be better if one answered the question, "Why can't I know who is and who isn't in the Church," with the answer, "Because I'm blind," than with the answer "Because the Church is invisible."

Hogg:
> (Indeed, among Lutherans themselves there is debate about whether to speak
> of "invisible" or "hidden.")

Eric:
The point is, we can’t see the outlines of Christ’s body. I don’t care which word people want to use.

Rx:
From the fact that the faith of an individual's heart is not visible to me, it does not follow that the outlines of Christ's body are not visible. The one is a claim about individual parts, the other a claim about a whole. Hence in addition to confusing ontology and epistemology, you're also committing the fallacy of composition.

Hogg:
> Nor, by Orthodox teaching(assuming your distinction for the sake of dialog and
>by way of oikonomia), is the "invisible" Church a subset of the "visible." ...the
> Orthodox claim is that there may be Christians who are not members of the
> Orthodox Church.

Eric:
Any claim that there “may” be X is a claim of exception. As a matter of system, you do distinguish between the visible set and the invisible subset. Then you add the exception: “And there might be others who are even more invisible, because they aren’t even in the visible set. We just don’t know.”

Rx:
When all else fails, pull out the exception.

Hogg:
> (Parenthetically, the visible/invisible distinction is a root of the whole open
> communion problem among Lutherans

Eric:
Any doctrine can be abused. That proves nothing. And I’d much rather deal with the abuse of open communion than the set ecclesial policy of denying that “Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved”—no matter how earnestly you follow that denial with, “Well actually, we can’t be certain. It is possible that whoever calls on the name of the Lord is saved.”

Rx:
Open communion is not an abuse, but a use, of the doctrine of the invisible Church. If the Church properly speaking is a collection of rightly-believing individuals, without respect to their corporate affiliation, and if the Sacrament belongs rightly to those in the Church properly speaking, then I must be prepared to commune those not in my corporate affiliation--which, in fact, happens in Missouri, and not only among liberals.

We do not deny that whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Nor do we deny that not everyone who says "Lord, Lord" will enter the Kingdom of heaven.

Hogg:
> The Church cannot, properly speaking, be defined

Eric:
That’s another way of saying, “The Church, properly speaking, is invisible.”

Rx:
And your words are another way of saying, "I know what the other person is saying better than he does."

Hogg:
> Dialog requires that one hear the dialog partner on his own terms, in his own
> words.

Eric:
Sometimes dialogue requires that one demonstrate to the dialogue partner that a perceived substantial difference is really just a difference in terminology. Then the dialogue can focus on the real difference (in this case, the definition of “Visible Church”).

Rx:
The word you're looking for is "monologue," not "dialogue."

In Christ,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Eric said...

No, I'm sorry, the term "Invisible Church" does not involve an ontological claim. You can continue to interpret it that way if it give you something to beat the West with, but you're beating a straw man. It is called "invisible" only because we cannot discern its boundaries. That is, as you pointed out, an epistemological problem, so give us a little credit here.

We _could_ say "I'm blind" instead, but that's not going to replace the traditional language, for reasons I should think you would symathize with. Besides, "it's invisible" and "I can't see it" mean the same thing. Things that are invisible to me are actually quite visible on infrared, or with a microscope. Only a pedant would tell me, "No, it's not invisible. You just can't SEE it."

> From the fact that the faith of an individual's
> heart is not visible to me, it does not follow
> that the outlines of Christ's body are not
> visible.

Of course it does. If you can't go into church next sunday with a Sharpie and draw an X on the forehead of every man, woman, and child who's going to enjoy the Eternal Kingdom, then you can't see the outlines of Christ's body.

> Open communion is not an abuse, but a use,
> of the doctrine of the invisible Church.

You know, the only difference between "use" and "abuse" is that "abuse" is a BAD use. This is clearly a bad use, hence an abuse.

> If the Church properly speaking is a collection
> of rightly-believing individuals, without
> respect to their corporate affiliation, and
> if the Sacrament belongs rightly to those in the
> Church properly speaking, then I must be prepared
> to commune those not in my corporate affiliation

...but not those who wrongly believe, or who remain (contrary to their correct belief) in corporate affiliation with those who wrongly believe. What's the problem? THIS doesn't explain Open Communion!

> And your words are another way of saying, "I
> know what the other person is saying better
> than he does."

Hmmm... Like you, insisting that I don't know what "Invisible Church" means, right?

Look, I don't necessarily know what you MEAN, but I do know what you are SAYING. To DEFINE something is to draw a delimiting line around it, to say, "It means only this, not all that." If you can't see the borders of something, you can't define it, and if you can't define it, it's because you can't see the borders of it. And if you can't see the borders of it, it's _invisible._

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Eric,

To speak of the Church herself as iinvisible when what's meant is that one cannot determine which individuals make her up is sloppy at best, and false at worst.

What is invisible is not the Church, but the faith in the heart of any given individual. But a feature of an individual part cannot be claimed as the feature of a whole made up of those parts. If a house is made up of bricks each weighing three pounds, it does not follow that the house itself weighs three pounds. Just so, from the fact that we cannot see the faith of a given individual, it does not follow that the Church composed of such individuals is invisible.

With regard to your Sharpie illustration--would God himself have drawn a mark on Demas, before Demas' defection? God has marked me and every Orthodox Christian in chrismation, but I have made myself unworthy of his Kingdom.

If you hold that those "who remain (contrary to their correct belief) in corporate affiliation with those who wrongly believe" should not be communed--then either you hold that lay preaching and administration of the sacraments is not wrong belief, or you hold that no one in the Missouri Synod should commune.

In Christ,

Fr. Gregory

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

In Orthodox ecclesiology, every baptized person, worthy or unworthy, is a member of Christ and of His Body, for the time being. That includes also those who in the end are not going to be saved. It's just that some members OF HIM are going to be pruned away. Until that happens, they are branches of the Vine, albeit unfruitful ones. (John 15: 1-2)

So yes, you can put an X on all their foreheads and know who they are right now.

It's the UNbaptized whose exact relationship to Christ is not perfectly clear.

In dialogue with Muslims, the Orthodox assumption is, they are NOT baptized. In dialogue with Lutherans, the beginning assumption is, we aren't sure whether they have true baptism or not. Assurance we have only concerning Orthodox baptism. Heterodox baptism is outside our ken.

We do NOT assume you are not Christian. We know we do not know.

I have encountered some Lutherans who write and preach things that are distinctly unchristian, such as that God hates sinners. Such encounters do make the question more acute.

Anastasia

Michael said...

Christopher,

You said:

>how much less likely is it for those outside of her care, bereft of the totality of her saving tools (fasting, the prayers by and of the saints, all the Sacraments, etc.)? There is hope and then there is hope, which are different for those inside and outside of the Church - similarly to the fact that there is grace and then there is grace (the energies of God Himself, not just his good favor), in different ways for saints, sinners, those in the Church and those outside of the Church.

and later

Orthodoxy is clear that there are no Sacraments outside of the Church<

Two things have come to mind...

1. I have never heard of Orthodoxy believing in "partial" grace. So how then is grace (even hope) different for one, in or out of the church, and saints, sinners, etc...

2. I was given to believe that there exists no Dogmatic statement concerning sacraments outside the Church. So I wonder how one may conclude, absolutely, that the sacraments do not exist in other communions?

Michael

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Dear Michael,

Probably what Christopher meant was, we are clear that there is nothing outside the Orthodox Church that we are able to *recognize* as sacraments.

Our recognition, however, is obviously not the criterion. We know that as well.

Anastasia

Michael said...

Eric said...

>>It is called "invisible" only because we cannot discern its boundaries.<<


Father Hogg said...

>>What is invisible is not the Church<<


Im curious as to how this relates to what I believe Fr. Florovsky said concerning the canonical boundaries and the spiritual boundaries of the Church, i.e., the Church can at once be both visible and invisible...no?


Michael

christopher3rd said...

Michael,

The difference in grace is often described as the difference between grace coming to us from the outside vs. welling up from the inside. All creation - including inanimate objects, demons, sinners, as well as Christians and Orthodox Christians - are upheld and exist only because of the grace of God. Grace in Orthodoxy is also defined primarily as the energies and presence of God Himself, not his beneficent attitude toward us. The Sacraments - which, as Anastasia rightly points out, are only able to be recognized within the Church, which is by Orthodox definition only the Orthodox Church - implant this grace within us from where it starts working in a way different than the common, loving, patient, upholding grace God liberally showers on all creation out of his great love for his handiwork.

Recognition is meant not in a canonical way primarily, though there is this aspect to it in practical terms. It is meant in terms of whether we recognize someone we haven't seen in awhile, whether we recognize someone as we walk down the street (here in Manhattan it is an odd experience to literally bump into people you haven't seen for years - from high school in MN, from school in Boston, from living in LA, work, church elsewhere, etc.). As Orthodox Christians we simply do not not 'recognize' the denuded or metamorphosed Sacraments of other churches. A simple description would be to ask what a 'proper' Eucharist entails? bread, wine, water with the Words of Institution? The, bread, wine, water with the Words and the epiklesis? all those and a canonically ordained priest or bishop? In fact, all of those plus the entire Divine Liturgy, plus the relics of a saint, plus... The entire rite of the Divine Liturgy is required for recognition. We don't normally recognize a friend on the street simply by their shoes ,or only by the back of their head - sometimes we can, but more often we pass each other like ships in the night never knowing we were even there.

So, in practical terms according to strict norms (canons), there are no Sacraments outside of the Church. And yet, St. Porphyrios the Actor was truly baptized when mock baptized in a comedy skit - he came out of the font preaching; when the crowd stopped laughing and realized he was serious they promptly martyred him. So, this was a true baptism outside of the Church - God using or allowing other than ordinary means in the same way he did with the Wise Thief and martyrs baptized in their own blood. The exception proves the rule. Practically speaking as well, while there are no dogmatic statements regarding sacraments outside of the Church (in fact, there are very, very few truly dogmatic statements in the Orthodox. Period. They are generally limited to the 7 Ecumenical Councils' decrees) the practice of the ancient, conciliar Church was quite clear. If the full, proper form of the sacraments is maintained, then the Sacrament is accepted in toto even if that group had twisted various other dogmas and teachings (e.g., the Person of Christ, Triadology). Those groups that changed the rite (e.g., single immersion, sprinkling, not in the name of the Trinity), however, regardless of the purity of the rest of their doctrine, were required to go through the rite in the Church (not 'again', since the changed form was not the Sacrament, properly speaking).

When Orthodoxy came back into contact with the West after the Reformation, this issue became more complicated since the West had no truly consistent doctrine or practice on any subject. Given the article of the Creed regarding one baptism, the Orthodox tended to assume that baptism had been properly maintained out of an abundance of caution so as not to rebaptize. In fact, there were areas on both RC and Protestant Europe that triple immersion was maintained as the norm up until very modern times (e.g., my godson was raised Anabaptist in PA and their practice is full, triple immersion in the name of the Trinity). Whatever deficiencies or improper baptisms there may have been were seen to be 'filled' or 'completed' by chrismation and/or the Eucharist itself. However, when the Orthodox learned more and more about the entrenched, staunch, actual non-Orthodox practices of the West, some began to require the full rite so as to more clearly draw a line in the sand - not to create confusion within or outside of the Church. In the 19th Century, the Greeks were of this mind, in the 20th Century they switched with the Russian who had only required chrismation (e.g., St. Elizabeth the New Martyr). You will find both practices in the Church today (I was baptized upon joining the Church following the practice of Athos and Jerusalem; my sister was chrismated as was the late Fr. Seraphim Rose). Canonically, however poorly a given priest or even bishop may explain it, sacraments outside of the Church are only ever 'recognized' out of economia, per St. Basil the Great, for what it had right rather than focusing on what deficiencies it had. But, that baptism (and confirmation in the case of RCs) only is not enough for one to commune in the Orthodox Church - chrismation is required - thus showing there is a 'deficiency' that had placed one outside of the Church (according to the ordinary standard).

I would definitely suggest reading online Patrick Barnes book "The Non-Orthodox" as well as "I Confess One Baptism..." by Metallinos to get a better understanding. For the full range of understanding on this issue within Orthodoxy see:

http://aggreen.net/baptism/baptism.html

christopher3rd said...

I'm curious as to how this relates to what I believe Fr. Florovsky said

I don't know what article you are referring to exactly, but commonly this refers to an essay written by Fr. Florovsky very early in his career and very early in the Ecumenical Movement. By the end of his life, Fr. Georges was very much against ecumenism as a waste of time, a poor witness.

Eric said...

Fr. Hogg,

If one man cannot see something, we call that person blind. If no man can see something, we call that thing invisible. This is normal usage, not sloppy in the least.

> If a house is made up of bricks
> each weighing three pounds, it
> does not follow that the house
> itself weighs three pounds.

What does that have to do with anything? Try this: if a house is made up of red bricks, will the house be red? Or if it is made up of invisible bricks, will it be invisible?

> With regard to your Sharpie
> illustration--would God
> himself have drawn a mark on
> Demas, before Demas' defection?

No, because the Sharpie-X in my example represents eternal incorporation with Christ. Chrismation is a mark of membership in the visible Body.

> either you hold that lay
> preaching and administration
> of the sacraments is not wrong
> belief, or you hold that no one
> in the Missouri Synod should
> commune.

Lay preaching and administration of the sacraments is bad church order, and generally speaking a bad idea except when the only other alternative is to have no preaching or sacraments at all (a very rare and unlikely situation). But it does not rise (or fall) to the level of false doctrine.


Anastasia,

> In Orthodox ecclesiology, every
> baptized person, worthy or
> unworthy, is a member of Christ
> and of His Body, for the time
> being.

Does that include someone who has privately become an atheist, but attends church from time to time because he is proud of his Greek heritage?

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Eric:

If one man cannot see something, we call that person blind. If no man can see something, we call that thing invisible. This is normal usage, not sloppy in the least.

Rx:
We're not going to get anywhere with this one. FWIW, the Creed says of the Church that it is one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. Not invisible. What is ineptly said by claiming the Church is invisible, is rightly said by the Creed, "I *believe* in one holy catholic and apostolic Church." Invisibility is not an attribute of the Church.

Hogg:
> If a house is made up of bricks
> each weighing three pounds, it
> does not follow that the house
> itself weighs three pounds.

Eric:
What does that have to do with anything? Try this: if a house is made up of red bricks, will the house be red? Or if it is made up of invisible bricks, will it be invisible?

Rx:

But the Church is not made up of invisible people.

Hogg:
> With regard to your Sharpie
> illustration--would God
> himself have drawn a mark on
> Demas, before Demas' defection?

Eric:
No, because the Sharpie-X in my example represents eternal incorporation with Christ. Chrismation is a mark of membership in the visible Body.

Rx:
So, Demas was not truly incorporated into Christ, since he was not eternally incorporated into Christ?

Hogg:
> either you hold that lay
> preaching and administration
> of the sacraments is not wrong
> belief, or you hold that no one
> in the Missouri Synod should
> commune.

Eric:
Lay preaching and administration of the sacraments is bad church order, and generally speaking a bad idea except when the only other alternative is to have no preaching or sacraments at all (a very rare and unlikely situation). But it does not rise (or fall) to the level of false doctrine.

Rx: AC 14 says, "Of Ecclesiastical Order they *teach* that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called." What goes against a true teaching, is a false teaching.

In Christ,

Fr. Gregory

Eric said...

Fr. Hogg,

> the Church is not made up of invisible people.

... or of three-pound people, either. I'm just showing you that if your illustration proved anything, it would disprove your argument. But it doesn't prove anything. There is no fallacy of composition here, because I am not saying that the people who compose the invisible Church are invisible. I am simply saying that the Invisible Church's invisibility consists in the fact that we cannot see which [visible] people are in it.

> So, Demas was not truly incorporated into
> Christ, since he was not eternally
> incorporated into Christ?

Demas was truly incorporated into Christ. Then he truly separated himself from Christ and, as far as we know, never returned. These temporal events add up to the eternal fact of Demas not being in the Body of Christ.

> What goes against a true teaching, is a
> false teaching.

No, it's a bad _practice_.

christopher3rd said...

Demas was truly incorporated into Christ. Then he truly separated himself from Christ

Orthodox would define this incorporation into Christ as beginning with Baptism and Chrismation, but also through the ongoing communion in the Sacraments and regular participation in the services. A couple points about this, Baptism is unrepeatable - even if one repents after active apostasy you are simply chrismated. So, there is an eternal stamp of Orthodox Christianity placed on a person's soul. Also, the canons state officially that missing 3 consecutive Sundays without cause means that you have excommunicated yourself and must be reconciled to the Church through the Sacrament of Confession (probably a common reason that the two Sacraments are so closely intertwined in the minds of most Orthodox given the history of infrequent communion following the Turkokratia and the Lutheran-style Oberprocuratory of the Church in Russian after Peter I). But, excommunication in Orthodoxy does not mean one is outside of the Church, just that one has been barred from communion for the sake or demand of repentance. In the early and conciliar Church there were penances of several years of excommunication for various faults, being barred from the nave or narthex of churches, removed from the nave at a certain point of the service, etc. - some were barred from communion until their deathbeds, even. They always remained members of the Church however. This may partially be due to the fact that the Divine Liturgy not only calls down the Holy Spirit to change "the gifts here offered" but also to change "the people here present" into the Body and Blood of Christ.

That all being said for the continuation of members to the Body of Christ, apostasy, absence without cause, and continued, willful and knowing disobedience to the Church definitively removes one from the Church until repentance. So, that is separation from the Church.

There are the normal boundaries of where the Church is and is not. While we can HOPE that God has or will incorporate others into the Church, or will save those not outwardly in communion with the Church, that is only a hope. There is no teaching in the Church that this is the case because the presence of the message alone is not salvation - but, neither is incorporation into the Church equal to salvation, it is the beginning of the path to salvation, the seedbed of salvation. Christianity is the Way per Acts, the Path, not the destination. Running the race is not the crown, neither is the crown received at the start, but only upon the finishing.

Eric said...

Christopher,

That sound about right, except for the arbitrary "3 Sundays and yer out" policy.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Hogg:
> the Church is not made up of invisible people.

Eric:
... or of three-pound people, either. I'm just showing you that if your illustration proved anything, it would disprove your argument. But it doesn't prove anything. There is no fallacy of composition here, because I am not saying that the people who compose the invisible Church are invisible. I am simply saying that the Invisible Church's invisibility consists in the fact that we cannot see which [visible] people are in it.

Rx:
The reason you claim you can't see which people are in the "invisible Church" is because you can't see the faith of an individual's heart. Hence your Sharpie marker illustration earlier. But it does NOT follow that because the faith of each individual's heart cannot be seen, and the Church is made up of individuals, therefore the Church cannot be seen. This is a fallacy of composition.


Hogg:
> So, Demas was not truly incorporated into
> Christ, since he was not eternally
> incorporated into Christ?

Eric:
Demas was truly incorporated into Christ. Then he truly separated himself from Christ and, as far as we know, never returned. These temporal events add up to the eternal fact of Demas not being in the Body of Christ.

Rx:
Earlier you said that God himself would not have marked Demas with the Sharpie--before Demas' defection. So it's not at all clear to me, anyway, what you mean by "eternal incorporation into Christ." I smell Calvinism in the background.

Hogg:
> What goes against a true teaching, is a
> false teaching.

Eric:
No, it's a bad _practice_.

Rx:
It involves practice, to be sure; but that practice is founded upon a teaching. And that teaching is false. Earlier you made the case for an exception to AC 14 in the case of otherwise there being no preaching at all. But the Confessions themselves make no such exception, and Luther explicitly says in his lectures on Galatians that no one should preach without a call. Period.

In Christ,

Fr. Gregory

Eric said...

Fr. Hogg,

> But it does NOT follow that because the faith
> of each individual's heart cannot be seen,
> and the Church is made up of individuals,
> therefore the Church cannot be seen.

I never tried to make that argument about the VISIBLE Church. I do call it visible, after all. But it DOES follow that because the faith (and future faith) of each heart cannot be seen, the eternal Body of Christ cannot be seen either. All you can see are members of the Visible Church who are hopefully, but not definitely, also members of the Invisible Church.

The Eternal Body of Christ is the Invisible Church. The Temporal Body of Christ (wheat + tares) is the Visible Church.

> I smell Calvinism in the background.

Not Calvin, Augustine. This is his terminology, you know.

> that practice is founded upon a teaching. And
> that teaching is false.

1) Sometimes disobedience is just disobedience. Not all rebels write manifestos.

2) If the presence of a few false teachers invalidated the Church, the Church would have ceased to exist in the First Century.

As for exceptions, you should never be surprised to find them omitted when the rule is stated. And the ancient and universal exception that allows laymen, and even infidels, to baptize believers _in extremis_ argues strongly that I am in good company when I suppose that it is better to have irregular preaching and sacraments than to have no preaching or sacraments at all.

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Yes, I do include "someone who has privately become an atheist, but attends church from time to time because he is proud of his Greek heritage". Such a perosn IS in the Church if he or she is baptized. Christ said it was unfruitful branches "IN ME" that would be pruned off in the Last Day. Until He does that on the Last Day, or until He does that via a formal excommunication, said atheist is still, in some way, by Holy Baptism, within the Body of Christ, awaiting the pruning (and burning) to come. He's IN until Christ shall cast him out.

The Church for the Orthodox includes both the wheat and the tares, not to be sorted out from one another until the eschaton.

Anastasia

Eric said...

Anastasia,

That man, then, is a perfect example of one who is in the visible Church, but not the invisible Church--temporally connected to Christ's body, but eternally excluded from it.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Hogg:
> But it does NOT follow that because the faith
> of each individual's heart cannot be seen,
> and the Church is made up of individuals,
> therefore the Church cannot be seen.

Eric:
I never tried to make that argument about the VISIBLE Church. I do call it visible, after all. But it DOES follow that because the faith (and future faith) of each heart cannot be seen, the eternal Body of Christ cannot be seen either. All you can see are members of the Visible Church who are hopefully, but not definitely, also members of the Invisible Church.

The Eternal Body of Christ is the Invisible Church. The Temporal Body of Christ (wheat + tares) is the Visible Church.

Rx: What is your source for the phrase "Eternal Body of Christ"? I am not aware of it in any theologian I've read. Nor is it useful for discussion to explain one unclarity (visible/invisible) with another (eternal/temporal).

Hogg:
> I smell Calvinism in the background.

Eric:
Not Calvin, Augustine. This is his terminology, you know.

Rx:
Calvin's wine, Augustine's grapes--both grown in Plato's soil. And by "this" terminology, do you mean "eternal body of Christ"? References, please.

Hogg:
> that practice is founded upon a teaching. And
> that teaching is false.

Eric:
1) Sometimes disobedience is just disobedience. Not all rebels write manifestos.

Rx:
These ones did. I don't think you were yet in the Synod when the Wichita Amendment to the Augsburg Confession was adopted (at the '89 Convention).

Hence my initial point stands. "If you hold that those 'who remain (contrary to their correct belief) in corporate affiliation with those who wrongly believe' should not be communed--then either you hold that lay preaching and administration of the sacraments is not wrong belief, or you hold that no one in the Missouri Synod should commune."

Eric:
2) If the presence of a few false teachers invalidated the Church, the Church would have ceased to exist in the First Century.

As for exceptions, you should never be surprised to find them omitted when the rule is stated. And the ancient and universal exception that allows laymen, and even infidels, to baptize believers _in extremis_ argues strongly that I am in good company when I suppose that it is better to have irregular preaching and sacraments than to have no preaching or sacraments at all.

Rx:
Baptizing is not preaching.
Baptizing is not administering the Eucharist.
And cases _in extremis_ do not last for decades.

In Christ,

Fr. Gregory

Anonymous said...

Eric,

You seem to me to be confusing "Church" and "Kingdom." Do you see a distinction between the two?

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

"That man, then, is a perfect example of one who is in the visible Church, but not the invisible Church--temporally connected to Christ's body, but eternally excluded from it."

In Orthodox parlance, our hypothetical atheist (whether or not he ever attends church) is in the Church, period. He has more than a visible connetion to Christ; by virtue of his baptism, he has a spiritual (invisible) one, too -- for now. (Every sacrament is both visible and spiritual.) But like the Church of Laodicea, which was true Church, he is in danger of being spewn out of the mouth of Christ, of being cast out of Him.

"As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ."

Anastasia

Eric said...

Fr. Hogg,

> What is your source for the phrase "Eternal
> Body of Christ"? I am not aware of it in any
> theologian I've read.

If I'm quoting anyone there, I don't know whom. I'm simply talking about those who are eternally saved.

> Nor is it useful for discussion to explain one
> unclarity (visible/invisible) with another
> (eternal/temporal).

They are not two different "unclarities." They are the same. If you think of them as different, then it is very useful indeed for me to point this out.

> And by "this" terminology, do you mean
> "eternal body of Christ"? References, please.

No, I mean "visible" and "invisible"--the terms we've been discussing, right?

> either you hold that lay preaching and
> administration of the sacraments is not wrong
> belief, or you hold that no one in the Missouri
> Synod should commune.

I've already explained to you that this is bad church order, not false doctrine. A layman can preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments, and neither will lose their power, because the Gospel is preached by Christ and the sacraments given by Him, whoever the human servant may be.

And I repeat, if the presence of a few false teachers invalidated the Church, the Church would have ceased to exist in the First Century.

> cases _in extremis_ do not last for decades

Bad church order, as I've said.

Eric said...

Anastasia,

The word "invisible" in "Invisible Church" doesn't refer to the "invisible connection" our hypothetical atheist may still have with Christ because of his baptism. Baptism is visible. In fact, it defines the Visible Church.

Anonymous,

You'll have to expand on that a little.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Hogg:
> either you hold that lay preaching and
> administration of the sacraments is not wrong
> belief, or you hold that no one in the Missouri
> Synod should commune.

Eric:
I've already explained to you that this is bad church order, not false doctrine. A layman can preach the Gospel and administer the sacraments, and neither will lose their power, because the Gospel is preached by Christ and the sacraments given by Him, whoever the human servant may be.

Rx:

Let this be the last word, then. You believe that a layman can do what the Lutheran Confessions say a layman should not do. Perhaps you should have a dialogue with the Lutheran Confessions.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Eric said...

Fr. Hogg,

You've said it exactly right: "You believe that a layman CAN do what the Lutheran Confessions say a layman SHOULD NOT do."

No contradiction there.