Monday, April 7, 2008


The Non-Orthodox: The Orthodox Teaching on Christians Outside the Church - Patrick Barnes
Is a person required to believe that everyone outside of the Church is damned? As we demonstrated in previous chapters, the affirmation that heterodox Christians are separated from the Church does not imply that we pass judgment on them or make any pronouncements about their eternal destiny. “[B]ut he that judgeth me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts. . . .” (I Cor. 4:4-5). In keeping with Her apophatic mindset, the Church remains circumspect. Therefore, to state that there is “no salvation outside of the Church” is not the same as stating “no one outside of the Church can be saved.”
This is a good article which addresses the apophatic approach to those outside of the Church without diluting the exclusivity of the Church with relativistic pluralism.

The Iconic and Symbolic in Orthodox Iconography - Bishop Auxentios
In his now classical treatment of the subject [The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church], the Russian theologian Vladimir Lossky makes a Patristic distinction between two ways of theologizing, these, in turn, based on corresponding approaches to knowing and experiencing of God. This distinction is so significant, that Lossky uses it as a focal point in every subdivision of his theological inquiry (e.g., Trinitarian theology, Christology, cosmology, anthropology, etc.). The first of these ways is the cataphatic or "positive" way, and corresponds to man's normal way of relating to his world. It involves, above all, affirmation. From this perspective, we would speak of God in normal cognitive categories, attributing to him such characteristics as supreme good, truth, justice, mercy, love, beauty, compassion, and so on. This first way, this "natural" way, Lossky argues, must rest on constant qualifications and is strongly limited by comparison to a second apophatic, or "negative," way. This second way is ultimately more appropriate to the objective of knowing God or of theologizing. From this more accurate perspective, the human language can only be used to deny or to express negation. Human cognition becomes a method of negation, rather than affirmation, and truth rises above (simply because it lies beyond) cognitive knowledge. Here, one who truly loves, experiences, and knows God (to the extent that such is humanly possible) is compelled to speak as follows: "God is not good, truth, justice, etc. It is not, of course, that God is the opposite of these things (evil, falsehood, injustice...); rather, these characteristics must be refuted, since they are the products of human experience of the created universe. God, being uncreated and, in His divine essence, wholly transcendent, cannot, in the depths of His being, in the internal life of the Trinity, be known in any cognitive manner whatever.
This article, cited in part above, addresses the apophatic approach as it concerns theology.

God, History, and Dialectic: The Theological Foundations of the Two Europes and their Cultural Consequences - Joseph Farrell

Ok, I haven't finished this book yet; in fact, I'm only a short way into volume 1. However, I couldn't help but share a bit. I've provided a couple of contextual clarifications, which are hopefully not confusions in: [ -- M].
For the First Europe [i.e.: Orthodox -- M], the divine ubiquity is not a generalized metaphysical truth about God's essence derived from philosophical speculation, but rather a divine-human reality accomplished in the events surrounding Christ's Crucifixion, Burial, Resurrection, Ascension, and Second Coming. In a sense, he First Europe understands the order of questions differently. The Second Europe [i.e.: Augustinian, Latinized / Protestant -- M] argues from the divine ubiquity and generalized philosophical conceptions about God's Essence to their generalized characteristics, or Attributes, and only at the end of its thought comes to "historical" manifestation and application, the Persons. This is its classic ordo theologiae or "order of doing theology: Essence, Attributes, Persons. but the First Europe argues from their historical manifestation to their generalized conception; God is, so to speak, ubiquitous because the Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are understood to have done certain things, "Operations" [Greek word omitted -- M], and on that basis, concludes certain things about the essence underlying the operations which the Persons do. This is its classical ordo theologiae: Persons, Operations, Essence. Thus, the religious mentalities of th Two Europes not only start in exactly opposite places, but proceed in opposite directions, and at the crucial second stage, refer to a fundamental category of metaphysical thought by different terms, one indicating something static, and the other something dynamic. More will be said about the First Europe's ordo theologiae in the Second Chapter; suffice it for the present to point out its personalism, as distinct from the Second Europe's impersonalism.
Fascinating stuff.

Fantasy - Orthodox Monk
This Orthodox understanding of fantasy is grounded in a deep understanding of human psychology. Fantasy is the world of images and dreams that draw their force from our passions. As we have remarked, our passions are our emotional tendencies to sin. Fantasy is the world of images and dreams provoked by our passions. Indulgence in these images and dreams stimulates the passion further. And recall that there are eight passions, not just the obvious one.

Moreover, at the risk of alienating some of our more Westernized readers, the demons are the disembodied intelligences with a hatred for God (whatever those demons say and teach) that both provoke the images and dreams by stimulating our passions and teach us false doctrine.

This article tweaked my interest in terms of considering the propriety of watching a movie like Mel Gibson's: The Passion of Christ. I'm not prepared to unpack a necessary relation which impugns the latter, but the potential relation intrigues me. The following quotation from here, is in a similar vein:

The idea of spiritual senses of the mind (nous) analogous but not identical to the bodily sense organs is fundamental to Evagrian contemplative psychology. It is with these spiritual or mental ‘organs’ or faculties that the ascetic will contemplate. This has nothing to do with the visualization of angels, Heaven, the Passion, Resurrection or Ascension of Christ and so on, in the sense of directed fantasy or imagination. Something else is involved, and that something else is expressed by the formula: ‘…but the intelligible eye either has not seen, or, when it sees, it immediately surrounds from all sides that which it sees.’ This ‘surrounding from all sides’ conveys the complete cognition of the object being contemplated at whatever stage of contemplation the ascetic is; that is the import of this chapter concerning the five spiritual senses. They should not be considered to be ‘shadow’ bodily sense organs superimposed on the body. Evagrius is describing metaphorically certain operations of intuitive apprehension or cognition by the mind (nous). However, it is well to bear in mind the qualification introduced by Evagrius in Gnostic 40, that the gnostic apprehends the reasons (logoi) of objects of sense in proportion to his measure and that only the Christ possesses the first reason (logos) of any object. Hence, this surrounding from all sides is in proportion to the spiritual measure of the ascetic.

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