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February 2, 2004 by AK

Orthodoxy: the Faith and the Church

Le Sabot Post-Moderne is a blog kept by an American Presbyterian on a mission in Kyiv/Kiev with his charming wife and children. For those who are interested in Ukraine, Calvinism, or politics — i.e., virtually for every one, it should be a worthwhile and useful read. But it is not things I agree with that put my fingers in motion, but those I either ardently admire or vehemently disown. Discoshaman (the Presbyterian) has recently produced a rather controversial, as they put it nowadays, post titled Russian Orthodoxy: a Friend to Dictators. (To be fair, he is almost as tough on the Pope.) Like most untruths, the ones in Discoshaman’s post are but distortionary exaggerations of the truth. I doubt I should run a line-by-line critique of the entry: it might be wiser to dwell on more general points than, say, the current Patriarch’s alleged cooperation with the KGB. I prefer that matters of faith be kept private, and not be profaned by bloggy babbling, and that theology be avoided where possible lest it become an idle mind game.

The Church is a large hierarchic organization, and, as such, is vulnerable to corruption. (I suppose “Russian Orthodoxy” in the title refers not the religion but to the Church as an organization.) Its hierarchs may, and sometimes do compromise the body in their charge to the utmost extent. Moreover, as any social body, it is comprised of members who are mostly children of their time and land, thus limited in their choice of political beliefs. However, the Church is more than an earthly association; that should explain the rest. Eastern Orthodoxy relies greatly on its ancient dogma and inexaustible tradition; with them, and a monastic, ascetic ideal at its core, it is partly protected against the follies of its chiefs, as long as they do not openly commit apostasy. The Churst rests not on its Patriarchs, but on the apostolic tradition, passed along for generations. Yet the Russian Church’s institutional failures did bring it, and Russia, great trouble, such as the tragic schism of the 17th century, followeâ by the subjugation of the Church by the Czarist state, and the Bolshevist de-Christianization of the country.

If one detests everything associated with the Russian Orthodox Church as a Moscow-based religious organization but still has interest in Christian Orthodoxy, I would recommend the writings of three great 20th-century Orthodox priests who lived and preached in the West: Anthony Bloom, Alexander Schmemann, and John Meyendorff.


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