Thursday, June 17, 2010

The rich, rich irony

Following in the spirit of this older post pointing out the gross and obvious chasm between how Eastern Orthodox talk up their church's unity and the actual exercise of that "unity", I pause to note the just-published article "Why the True Orthodox are Truly Orthodox" from The Holy Metropolis of the COC of America.  As the first link should make clear, it's not as if this is a recent development, hot off the presses, and I just couldn't wait to crow about how the Eastern Orthodox Church's long-invulnerable armor of unity has just now been cracked.  I'm writing about it because it activated my brain.  Yes, it hurt.

Anyway, let's consider this irony.

Eastern Orthodox (like their partners on the other side of the Sola Ecclesia coin, Romanists) love to rip "Protestants" for their disunity, for fragmenting into 59 gazillion (and growing) denominations.  The answers we've given to that are manifold (and not well dealt with by EOx and RCs) but what do we see here if not a break within the Eastern Orthodox Church itself?
It's pretty funny how it's gone down, too.  Often I have to explain to our EO and RC friends that we are biblically commanded to break fellowship with those who have fallen into heresy.  They want to count towards the 59 gazillion, say, Oneness Pentecostals among the ranks of "Protestants", or liberal types who deny virtually everything supernatural in the Bible but still go to a "Presbyterian" or "Lutheran" or "Methodist" church.  When we respond, "Um, no, those guys are called 'heretics' and are not Christian in any meaningful sense", they often choose to ignore the obvious and settle for the pejorative quip that, see? we even call each other non-Christians and heretics!
And that's for major differences in doctrine - the Trinity, the Resurrection of Christ, the virgin birth, etc.
Now, they'll say, you also break fellowship with others over minor matters, such as the music you use during worship, women pastors, who gets to head the Agape Meal Planning Committee, etc.  That can be true, and sometimes it's sad and a bad thing, sometimes not so sad or bad.
But lookie here - I don't guess the Eastern Orthodox have room to talk noise about that.  These guys are throwing the Heretic Card for people who hold to a different calendar.  In terms of pettiness, that's sandwiched riiiigggghhhhttt between the music-during-worship schism and the Meal-Planning-Committee schism.

But Rhology!  The Calendar is a big deal!
||Nodding skeptically||  Um, OK, if you say so.  Then so's the Meal Planning Committee, yo. 

To wit, from the article:  
In our day a new heresy has appeared which seeks to bring all these together and for this reason is aptly referred to as a "pan-heresy." This is Ecumenism, which we may briefly define as the belief that sects which the Church had previously considered heretical and cut off from her are in fact in some way still part of her. The threat Ecumenism poses to the Church is perhaps greater than that of any heresy of the past, for two reasons. First, by far the larger part of the Church has succumbed to its temptation.
Get that?  Most of the EOC has engaged in heresy.  Is that "the gates of Hades" overcoming the church (Matt 16:18)?  So, since this is the church that believes the true meaning of the Bible, I presume they'll be excommunicating over half their members pretty soon?  No?  Hmmm.  But, wouldn't just keeping those people around in the churches imply that they prefer more butts in pews feet on the floor (they don't sit at most Divine Liturgies) and more rubles in the offering plate than to be consistent and cease fellowship with heretics?  Wouldn't that put them in the same position as the Sola Scripturist, who appeals to the remnant paradigm from the Old Testament people of God to rebut the challenge that believers in the slightly-later-than-early church were not Sola Scripturists or Sola Fide-ists (which we don't necessarily grant, but just for the sake of argument)?
Or could it be that Matt 16:18 doesn't say what our EO and RC friends like to say it says?

One thing I've learned over the years is that RCs and EOx like to make attractive and impressive claims about how their church is this and that, and how bad my church is, and it can be tempting.  But just take a hard look at the alternative they're offering you, and it becomes clear it's really poison and fake.

Here's the punchline - I don't see a good reason to think that a lack of unity within a certain faith group has a whole lot to do with the truth value of the system the group is proposing.  In this way I am unlike our EO and RC friends, but unfortunately since neither EOC nor RCC can live up to the standard that they brag they fulfill, this makes me more intellectually honest than they.  Further, since each bills itself as "The Church Christ Founded®", thus entailing some great unbroken unity, which turns out to be a product of wishful imagination, this becomes an argument against the truth of EOC and RCC because of the claims each makes.  Sola Scripturist churches do not make that kind of claim; why would we think that disunity in our ranks is evidence of our beliefs' untruth?  So, at best, this internal squabbling and tossing around of "Heretic"s shows that EOC and RCC are false churches.  At minimum, it destroys a very common argument that EOx and RCs use against Sola Scripturists.

(Please leave any comments at the Beggars All post.)