Lex Rex

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Lex Rex

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Early Church

Blessed Resurrection Day Zain (and Lex Rex)!

I am very impressed by your post (again) and must kick myself to make time to properly respond to your sound reading and questions (as Lex Rex).

I completely agree with most all of your approach. I found in my studies the same three choices you mention; Catholic, Orthodox and Anglican. I will happily go through my thinking as to my inclination towards the Orthodox (when I reply further).

[Note: An incredible note on this topic is Prince Charles’ recent inclination towards Orthodoxy! How’s that for conflicted; He is to be the head of the Anglican Church as King, yet he has all but converted to Orthodoxy. See this very interesting article:]

Your citation of the bishop of Rome as the first among the bishops is exactly correct, and remains Orthodox teaching (even though this may be surprising).

With extreme brevity, Rome is the first among the bishops, like the Chief Justice is first among the Supremes. He has honor and ceremony on his side. He can speak for the bishops (often, not always) but he cannot speak for himself, against the other bishops, as if he speaks for God. He does not have a superior authority that allows him to claim universal earthly jurisdiction, nor infallibility in utterances of faith and morals, nor superiority to the balance of the college of bishops.

As for who is in schism, you are exactly right; there’s the rub. The flippant answer is 4 out of 5 patriarchs chose Orthodoxy (Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem vs. Rome). The longer answer will involve the nature of the schism, its politics and dispute. Suffice it to say that Protestants and Orthodox agree (to my read) that Rome expanded its claims of the authority of the Bishop of Rome as it was married to Frankish politic of western expansion and empire.

The Frank theologians empowered the Roman bishop with such claims of universal jurisdiction (over the college of bishops) as it sought to strengthen the “Holy Roman Empire” of the west, against the second Rome (Constantinople) and the Byzantine
Empire (which was the actual, first Christian empire, for better and worse).

Thus political power and empire building required novel theology. This was broadly the source of the schism (from an Orthodox perspective).

Also, as for apostolic succession, the Orthodox and Catholics generally (not universally) recognize the legitimacy of each other’s sacraments, priesthood and succession. They were one Church for 1000 years, east and west, sharing all of this. Thus their differences are largely (not entirely) known as schism (as your rightly note) rather than heresy (although there is now some of this in the mix, too).

As they share so much, my route would be to investigate the origin of their distinctives to attempt to determine their origin. I believe that you will find the Orthodox to be the ancient Tradition, and that the Catholic is the later, deviant doctrine on these topics (but your should certainly investigate on your own).

I love the Catholics (and the Protestants). I encourage them where we agree and wish them to change where I presume them in error.

As for the ethnic churches of the Orthodox, all I can say is GUILTY AS CHARGED. You are totally correct and this is a failure and disgrace. Some of this is ignorance, some is mere cultural, but plenty of it is a totally failure in the great commission.

As an Orthodox I have a real freedom to criticize the real failures of the Orthodox (historic and present). Never think for a moment that because I find fault with Protestant theology (as you may have noticed) that that makes the Orthodox beyond criticism. If the Orthodox have what I think they do, they need be held to a higher standard (as you have pointed out). I pray to be used in some way in this rejuvinated American Orthodoxy.

I leave on an appropriate Orthodox response for today: “We adore His glorious third day resurrection!”

Grace, BGM