Sky posted a few questions in response to my March 24th entry. He asked: “can you explain how the statement that the protestant reformation gave the bible ‘back to the people’ applies to the vast communities in the eastern church?”
This is a great question and you brought to light for me again quickly I go to a “Roman/Protestant” place in my thinking and inadvertently forget my Orthodox sisters and brothers. Sky, you have read, studied and thought more deeply on the relationship between Orthodoxy and Protestantism than I, please continue to sharpen my thinking as time allows. From my perspective, it seems this is at least in part, a power and authority question.
I think it’s pretty safe to say that great East/West schism was less about filioque and more the will to power.
The Eastern church seems to look to the Holy Spirit living through Holy Scripture, through church tradition (especially the first seven councils), with an emphasis on living into the ongoing unfolding drama that is the living church, which honors difference by encouraging the multiplicity of leaders within the church. The impetus for constructive Biblical scholarship and theological reflection appears less important in this tradition in part because of view of theology which is more or less non-progressive.
The Church of Rome seems to look Holy Scripture and church tradition with an emphasis on the church’s need and responsibility to lead people where they don’t want to go, (which fits with the Roman Church’s role in the 4-7th centuries). The Roman church seems to emphasize an ecclesial form of “all roads lead to
Rome” thus centralized leadership with one Pope, reflects the Roman church’s relationship with the Caesars. When Rome was sacked the Church of Rome thought of itself as holding the “authority bag” not just for the religious West, but the Roman church saw itself as the authority for the entire Western world, religious, political, social, etc.
I often wonder what kind of world we would have if the West had not excommunicated the East (as if it had the ability to do so) or if the Roman church had entered into the multiplicity of church leadership as was being lived and invited by the East.
What we now look back on as the Protestant Reformation was largely an attempt to reform or deconstruct the indulgences and abuses of power being exercised by the Roman church. The reformers’ primary strategy was to do an end-run around church tradition by going back to Holy Scripture, but in so doing they deconstructed more than they had intended. The Reformers introduced a new way of thinking that essentially argued: one person together with the Holy Spirit and Scripture can stand in protest against any perceived injustice, poor doctrine, ecclesial structure, carpet color, personality difference, etc.
It is in this way the Protestant turn gave the Bible back to the people. People no longer needed the church to tell them what the Holy Narrative said but they could read it for themselves, in their own vernacular. Of course the Bible we got through the Protestant Reformation was virtually a contextless text. And this was more of a response to the Western Church than to the Eastern Church.
The Protestant church is largely responsible for furthering the development of Biblical studies. In fact about two years ago at Holy Cross (Greek Orthodox) seminary in Boston a mini Orthodox council-like-event was held to consider Orthodox Biblical scholarship. Part of the stated reason for the gathering was a sense among Orthodox leaders that the Orthodox voice was being drowned out in Biblical studies. Orthodox studies have tended to focus more on patristics than on Biblical studies.
One of the things I appreciate about the emerging church for those in the Western tradition is that Scripture is being given a context, a location, a people, a history, a tradition, etc. in a way that was lost during the height of modern epistemological project.
Part of the gift that the Orthodox tradition offers to the Roman, Protestant and especially the emerging church is a theo-praxis of an incarnational ecclesiology which renders cultural relevance irrelevant. Sometimes the Orthodox church is criticized for not being more socially active but such criticism fails to appreciate yeast-like function the church has within the world; the Western church (Roman and Protestant) tries to make the church the loaf.
I don’t understand what appears as a virtually non-developmental methodology which seems to undergrid Orthodox theology and praxis, while at the same time such an emphasis on the Spirit’s work in creation. At times there is a sense that God ceased working within the church after the early church councils. By contrast the emerging church appears willing to drop almost everything on a dime. And the emerging church is quick to commodify faith traditions and practices which, in its desire to recover certain practices, often strip those practices of their meanings.
The jury is still out on what the ultramodern church (which is I would say is the emerging church) has to offer our Roman and Eastern brothers and sisters, my hunch is that that the emerging church is a conversational move reforming the Protestant church from protesting to conversing, or relating. I take the “emerging” movement in direction of a more robust pneumatology, incarnation, narrative, mystery, holistic/sensory worship to be encouraging signs. In many ways the emerging church seems to be moving the Western church East. But I will not likely be converting to Orthodoxy anytime soon. Possibly the most “Orthodox” thing Westerners could do is discourage easy conversions while encouraging owning one’s own traditions, and tracing those traditions way back; to live life and quit trying to sell our hipper versions of the church.
I meant to offer a quick response to some really thoughtful questions, I see I have neither answered the questions nor offered a quick response. I don’t know if this made any sense but I’ll post it anyway.