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Nature of EO/OO discussions in the Community


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#1 Peter Farrington

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 07:34 AM

Father, I am surprised that you can speak about any stifling of discussion?

Whenever I have posted recently, as indeed in this case, you suggest that my questions are somehow wrong, and should not be asked. How then is asking a question - how can you use a heretical letter when there are so many other sources that could be used? - stifling discussion? I don't understand?

I thought that this forum was for studying patristics? That surely requires asking questions? Even questions that people might not want to answer? If it is not allowed to ask questions then we are not studying the patristic deposit at all surely?

I am deeply confused as to why you wish to limit my participation to exclude asking questions which any serious study would produce?

I also don't see where I have mentioned the OO? So I am not sure where your criticism comes from? It seems rather that you do not wish me to ask questions at all?

Peter

#2 John Charmley

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 08:55 AM

Certainly as Orthodox Christians we are allowed to examine things in their own light; to show what their intent was & if need be critique them. This is the only way one can understand what was being said and its significance.
In Christ- Fr Raphael


Dear Father Raphael/Peter,

The quoted extract seems to me excellent advice, and I have a suspicion that if we stick to it then we stay within what is needful. I do wonder whether we all always take the time that some of our posts require to understand both the spirit and the letter of the post?

On my reading of it, it does not seem as though Peter was using the Ibas letter as you have interpreted, Father, although I can see how such a view of it could have been taken, I saw rather a wider point about how one must use with extreme care a source which an Ecumenical Council had condemned as unorthodox.

Nor, I am sure, would anyone wish to controvert your comment, Father, that:

I especially at this point question the increasingly frequent use of arguments which proceed by guilt by association. I consider that it stifles a spirit of real discussion.

But, again, it is hard for me to read anything any of us has posted as tending in this direction; however, again, I can see how other readings might be possible.

This all underlines the tricky nature of the medium within which we are operating here. The internet allows for none of the visual or aural signs by which we can recognise the tone in which our interlocutors are operating, added to which there is, in my fairly wide experience, a cultural difference in dialectical style between Europe and the Americas; what seems robustness to the former can seem to be verging on the rude to the latter, and, in other matters, vice-versa.

It may be that you are correct, Father, in your reading of Peter's intentions, but since I have the pleasure of having met him, I would absolutely doubt it. What I pick up from his posts (and he will speak for himself more eloquently than I) is a sense of frustration at the style of some of the answers to his questions. It may be that the style of his questions raises feelings of frustration elsewhere?

But to me, having had the privilege of corresponding with both of you here, it would be a shame if we did not pause, take breath, and make sure that we are reading what is really there, not what frustrations born of the limitations of the medium are putting there.

Sorry if this is off post, so to speak, and I hope that no one will misread this one!

In Christ,

John

#3 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 11:30 AM

Thanks for those comments, John. It's easy to let the internet sweep things into a flurry!

INXC, Matthew

#4 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 01:24 PM

Father, I am surprised that you can speak about any stifling of discussion?

Whenever I have posted recently, as indeed in this case, you suggest that my questions are somehow wrong, and should not be asked. How then is asking a question - how can you use a heretical letter when there are so many other sources that could be used? - stifling discussion? I don't understand?

I thought that this forum was for studying patristics? That surely requires asking questions? Even questions that people might not want to answer? If it is not allowed to ask questions then we are not studying the patristic deposit at all surely?

I am deeply confused as to why you wish to limit my participation to exclude asking questions which any serious study would produce?

I also don't see where I have mentioned the OO? So I am not sure where your criticism comes from? It seems rather that you do not wish me to ask questions at all?

Peter



The argument you have used for bringing the Letter to our attention can also be used in your own regard. Formally it can be maintained that to us you are a heretic in regards to the Ecumenical Councils which you reject & the many you regard as saints whom we regard as heretical or excommunicated. Other examples could also be brought up.

So following from the logic of your post if we listen to you in any way (except repentance and return to the our Faith of course) then we betray the Faith.

As I am trying to say above this is false and not the intent of the Councils nor is it Orthodox in spirit. We should let you speak and then discern what you say in its own light.

So likewise we should do with Ibas' Letter and judge it in its own light according to its own claims.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#5 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 01:27 PM

Thanks for those comments, John. It's easy to let the internet sweep things into a flurry!

INXC, Matthew


I found the post deeply disturbing and felt it had no place on an Orthodox forum.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#6 John Charmley

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 03:52 PM

I found the post deeply disturbing and felt it had no place on an Orthodox forum.

In Christ- Fr Raphael


Dear Father Raphael/Matthew/Peter,

At first sight of this I was rather distressed, since, following the grammatical construction, I read it as referring to my post, and the thought that I had caused you offence, Father, was one that mortified me. Then, following my own advice (an occasional practice in a few small circles!) I reread it and realised it could be read as referring to Peter's post; in which case, what we have here is a prime example of what I was referring to - the difficulty of getting a correct bearing on the tone and purpose of a post.

If the grammatical reading is correct, then please accept heartfelt apologies, although any offence is probably heightened by my failure to see what caused it; but taking offence is in the eye of the beholder, and if offence was taken, my apologies follow.

If it was Peter's post to which offence was taken, then the comments in my post still seem applicable.

I have read your last post, Father, with great interest, and will read further later.

But for now, can I simply say sorry if I have upset anyone, and suggest we all take a deep breath before we take offence? I cannot believe that anyone here means to post something that any Orthodox would think has no place here, so in charity, I always try to think of an alternative explanation - and, as I have just done, re-read to make sure I have read it correctly.

As I say, I am still unsure as to the subject of your post cited above, dear Father Raphael.

In Christ,

John

#7 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 05:48 PM

Dear Father Raphael/Matthew/Peter,

At first sight of this I was rather distressed, since, following the grammatical construction, I read it as referring to my post, and the thought that I had caused you offence, Father, was one that mortified me. Then, following my own advice (an occasional practice in a few small circles!) I reread it and realised it could be read as referring to Peter's post; in which case, what we have here is a prime example of what I was referring to - the difficulty of getting a correct bearing on the tone and purpose of a post.

If the grammatical reading is correct, then please accept heartfelt apologies, although any offence is probably heightened by my failure to see what caused it; but taking offence is in the eye of the beholder, and if offence was taken, my apologies follow.

If it was Peter's post to which offence was taken, then the comments in my post still seem applicable.

I have read your last post, Father, with great interest, and will read further later.

But for now, can I simply say sorry if I have upset anyone, and suggest we all take a deep breath before we take offence? I cannot believe that anyone here means to post something that any Orthodox would think has no place here, so in charity, I always try to think of an alternative explanation - and, as I have just done, re-read to make sure I have read it correctly.

As I say, I am still unsure as to the subject of your post cited above, dear Father Raphael.

In Christ,

John


Well, considering the nature of the forum it's difficult to talk about these things here.

Maybe though this is what's needed. Sometimes in a family or parish everyone has to sit around and talk and air things out before the situation can move on.

All I know is that I am far from the only person concerned that discussions on this forum are being consistently pushed in a pro-OO direction beyond the bounds of what most of us wish to go. If not explicitly then almost always as part of something that is implicit in how things are said or presented.

What this does is to force the discussion in directions most of us do not wish to go anymore. Persistence in this gives the impression that no matter what effort we make to disengage ourselves and to have a peaceful discussion the subject will not really be let go.

Maybe it would be helpful to look more carefully at the post which I reacted to in the light of what has just been described in order to understand the reaction which at this point is also from others within the community. If it's difficult to understand what we are saying then try to look at what agreeing with the point about the 5th Ecumenical Council would have meant to the whole discussion. I think this would be a better way of understanding what we are trying to say.

I suggest that at this point the only solution to this is a much more firm disengagement from the EO-OO issue & to try more diligently to not bring it or its considerations at all into the discussions. A tall order (there is still an ongoing thread for us if we want to continue the EO-OO discussion) but the only alternative to this I think is continual tension over this.

Nobody I hope is trying to deal with this difficult question by directing it at particular people. I think all can sympathize that we carry the issues of where we come from. We can't entirely remove ourselves from who we are and from what concerns us. But as community members I hope that we can see how even in this, balance is needed to have a real discussion.

And if I can speak from personal experience: this is definitely not the place to bring our burning issues. They're for elsewhere.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#8 Peter Farrington

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 06:11 PM

Dear Father

So that I am clear what is implicitly being required of me as a member, are you saying that the 5th Ecumenical Council should not be discussed on a forum which describes itself as for Patristic Studies?

That seems rather remarkable.

What do Patristic studies entail if not asking questions? I must admit, if we are clearing the air, to a similar frustration to that which you are feeling, in that there seems a powerful reluctance to answer any questions about the substance of the Eastern Orthodox faith.

How should I expect Patristic studies to be pursued in a forum such as this? I had believe that the creation of such a site by a Patristic scholar such as Dr Steenberg would guarantee a scholarly and open attitude to such studies, but it seem that I am causing offence by pursuing such studies.

This is a shame, since it is certainly not my intent. But if no questions are to be asked of the EO tradition, other than the simplest ones with a black and white answer, then it seems to me that the forum should not describe itself as for Patristic studies.

And would it be impolite to ask who the 'most of us' are? Has there been a poll? I was not aware of it or invited to participate.

Best wishes

Peter

#9 Antonios

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 06:47 PM

Brothers in Christ,

Perhaps it would be time to review the Community Outline found here.

#10 Peter Farrington

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 07:10 PM

The Monachos.net Discussion Community is an on-line and e-mail based message board system, provided for the discussion of patristic, monastic, liturgical and ecclesiastical studies in an Orthodox Christian context. It is not primarily an opinion forum, but rather an environment for the reflection upon and deliberation of themes within this scope of focus.

Hi Antonios

A good idea. I am not sure where I have mentioned OO after being asked not to? I have tried not to go against the stated purpose of the forum.

My last posts have been, as far as I can see, about the patristic tradition in relation to receiving communion, the patristic meaning of various terms and how I understand the Fathers to describe these terms, and various questions such as 'what does the apparent reception of Ibas' letter at Chalcedon (with accompanying quotes) mean?'. I am quite willing to ask all these questions without mentioning the OO at all. But some folk are caused offense and distress by my asking the. So I ask again, what do 'Patristic Studies' mean if not a scholarly and respectful back and forth in response to questions.

I don't mind anyone saying 'I think you are wrong in understanding or explaining this or that issue, and here is the reason'. But generally I have found that I am being told my questions cause offense or distress, or are sinful, or that I cannot even begin to ask the correct questions. All of these positions are valid, but they do not seem to be consistent with the stated aim of 'Patristic Studies' and 'Discussion'.

I am not sure, after the 'reminder' where I have mentioned the OO or failed to discuss Patristics. It would seem to me that asking questions about Ibas' letter is entirely within the scope of Patristic studies. Do you think differently? Is my contributing passages from the Apostolic Constitutions and Didaskalia also offensive? I am not sure at all where the offense lies and am still not clear how restrictive and narrow conversation here should be?

Best wishes

Peter

#11 John Charmley

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 09:00 PM

Well, considering the nature of the forum it's difficult to talk about these things here.

Maybe though this is what's needed. Sometimes in a family or parish everyone has to sit around and talk and air things out before the situation can move on.

All I know is that I am far from the only person concerned that discussions on this forum are being consistently pushed in a pro-OO direction beyond the bounds of what most of us wish to go. If not explicitly then almost always as part of something that is implicit in how things are said or presented.

What this does is to force the discussion in directions most of us do not wish to go anymore. Persistence in this gives the impression that no matter what effort we make to disengage ourselves and to have a peaceful discussion the subject will not really be let go.
In Christ- Fr Raphael


Gentlemen,

What to say? My previous posts here have tried to provide another way of looking at this issue, but that is clearly unwelcome; which is sad, but there we are.

As an answer to those posts, it indicates the point about the difficulty in getting answers, but to go there would hardly help.

I note that Peter is 'of esteemed reputation', which I had taken as a sign of the eirenic nature of those who post here, and am a little shocked at what you say, Father, about the feelings elsewhere.

Unaware as I am of anyone being forced to post on any topic, I can, nonetheless, see the point you are making, and cannot see any useful purpose would be saved by offering an alternative reading of these things which is not welcome.

I hope that on reflection there will be seen to be something worth pondering in what was posted earlier about the difficulties of the internet as a medium of communication. It still seems to me that most of the difficulties being raised actually come from that source.

There is something here that is not at all clear to me, and that is the reason for such a defensive tone on a site where the vast majority of posters are of one Orthodox communion, and are sure that theirs' is the one true Church; coming from such a position of strength, surely the mutterings of a few non-Chalcedonians, however persistent, need give no cause for such emotion?

It is not my part to defend or to criticise, but it is to be hoped that, on reflection, the reasons why Peter has an 'esteemed' reputation will prevail over the 'concerns' expressed in private. Peter asks his questions plainly enough, and they can surely be answered in the same way?

Obviously, everyone will take their own view on this, and since I am much further from the Orthodox mindset than most people round here, mine may not be worth a hill of beans, but there it is, all the same - good parish meeting style.

And before taking offence, let us take a deep breath and ask why we are doing so - and what road we might take instead?

In Christ,

John

#12 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 10:46 PM

Gentlemen,

What to say? My previous posts here have tried to provide another way of looking at this issue, but that is clearly unwelcome; which is sad, but there we are.

As an answer to those posts, it indicates the point about the difficulty in getting answers, but to go there would hardly help.

I note that Peter is 'of esteemed reputation', which I had taken as a sign of the eirenic nature of those who post here, and am a little shocked at what you say, Father, about the feelings elsewhere.

Unaware as I am of anyone being forced to post on any topic, I can, nonetheless, see the point you are making, and cannot see any useful purpose would be saved by offering an alternative reading of these things which is not welcome.

I hope that on reflection there will be seen to be something worth pondering in what was posted earlier about the difficulties of the internet as a medium of communication. It still seems to me that most of the difficulties being raised actually come from that source.

There is something here that is not at all clear to me, and that is the reason for such a defensive tone on a site where the vast majority of posters are of one Orthodox communion, and are sure that theirs' is the one true Church; coming from such a position of strength, surely the mutterings of a few non-Chalcedonians, however persistent, need give no cause for such emotion?

It is not my part to defend or to criticise, but it is to be hoped that, on reflection, the reasons why Peter has an 'esteemed' reputation will prevail over the 'concerns' expressed in private. Peter asks his questions plainly enough, and they can surely be answered in the same way?

Obviously, everyone will take their own view on this, and since I am much further from the Orthodox mindset than most people round here, mine may not be worth a hill of beans, but there it is, all the same - good parish meeting style.

And before taking offence, let us take a deep breath and ask why we are doing so - and what road we might take instead?

In Christ,

John


I think the problem is that we feel the questions being asked of us are not genuine questions in the sense of genuinely wanting to know our answers. Rather they are rhetorical questions to which you already have your own answer. Anything we answer can only result in a confrontation. So I genuinely think there is nothing to answer to these questions.

An example of what I am talking about is the St Isaac thread. We were supposed to keep all EO-OO topics to its own thread. But very soon on the St Isaac thread demonstrations of how St Isaac is a Nestorian appeared from Peter & yourself.

Do you know how it appears to us that someone from outside of our church & from the OO would take it upon themselves to answer our laity that, yes we can make a strong argument that St Isaac was a Nestorian? (actually some of the wording was more definitive than this).

What does it mean that you would come onto an EO forum and take this up?

I will tell you what I interpreted from the posts which you made: 'St Isaac was a Nestorian.' So for over a thousand years we have been venerating a heretic.

What does this then say about our church? At the very least we're too soft on heretics, inclined towards Nestorians, and at worst deluded as to what the Faith of the Church actually is. How else interpret venerating for so long a heretic?

And at no point it seems was hesitation shown & the question asked out loud-what do you people think about St Isaac, shouldn't we get guidance on this sensitive issue before we answer the questions of your laity. Instead once again you reached for evidence to support your arguments: evidence which actually are the sources of our own church in order to use against us and to show us how adrift we are.

Think of it from our perspective: using what comes from our church in order to attack the integrity of our church. And this has been done many times here- in fact it is the point behind the objection to yesterday's post about the 5th Ecumenical Council. Why are you using our Councils which aren't even part of your canonical tradition as a means of attacking us? It's like welcoming someone into your house who then ransacks what is most sacred to you and uses it to try to attack your integrity. There's something inherently wrong with this approach- it's more an intellectual approach or an attempt to win arguments than something truly Patristic.

Anyway I have hope that something good can be still be achieved if we can refocus.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#13 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 11:02 PM

Dear all,

You'll note that this new thread has been created in the About the Forum area to discuss the question of how EO/OO discussions are carried out in the Discussion Community as a whole.

I would ask that discourse about this topic be carried out here, to give those interested a dedicated place to discuss the matter together.

INXC, Matthew

(NB: By putting this thread in the About the Forum area, it also allows for the use of 'smilies' in messages - often quite helpful in getting 'tone of voice' across in difficult topics, but which - as rather tacky and unsightly in most other regards - aren't supported in most of the areas of the forum. ;) )

#14 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 11:17 PM

Dear friends,

As it's rather late at the moment, at the end of a long day, I find that I'm not able to offer a lengthy post just at the moment. However, I did want to say a quick word before the day ends.

It is quite clear that a certain tension has arisen with regard to this specific matter over the past weeks, that has brought out concerns among many. On one hand, this is a positive sign: the concern shows that the Community is something members feel a personal interest in and care for -- and the 'worry' shown over questions individuals have as to its focus, etc., is a sign of the real community-orientation of the place as a whole.

On the other hand, emotions are easily stirred up. I've appreciated very strongly John's recent comments on the nature of internet message boards as intrinsically prone to misinterpretation of intention, tone, meaning, etc. It's very easy to read posts in a manner other than the author's intention; to be offended at a meaning a member may never have implied; to take peaceful statements as confrontational given a lack of clarity or perception of intention; etc. It's part of the nature of a medium that does not provide for facial expressions, tones of voice, etc.

At the same time, there are some real concerns expressed, and it's right that they be considered. And they are -- both at the level of the forum's moderation and policy, and also, as is clear, among the members of the Community itself. As I've appreciated John's comments on the limitations and challenges of the medium, I've also much appreciated others' comments (e.g. Fr Raphael's) as to real concerns about the nature of the Community and its orientation, etc.

Just a few thoughts during this process, in terms of immediate reactions to comments and posts (all of which I've said before, over the years):

  • If you feel someone is attacking you, they probably aren't.
  • If you feel you should respond quickly and strongly to someone's comments because they've stirred anger in you, you probably shouldn't.
  • If you feel you're being ignored, you probably aren't.

This is not to say that people never attack, that you mightn't have a good cause to respond, or that people will at times ignore; but it's too easy to respond too passionately when emotions are on edge.

INXC, Matthew

#15 John Charmley

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 11:55 PM

Dear Father Raphael,

I would advise everyone to heed Matthew's wise advice.

However, I am made deeply sorrowful by the assumptions you have made.

My questions were quite genuine, and I am at a loss to know why anyone thought otherwise.

My answers to the questionson St. Isaac were quite straightforward and cited Orthodox sources; if one cannot do this on a patristics website, it is hard to know what one can do.

My sole point was that it was rather cheering that three different traditions (five if you count the RCs and the Anglicans) venerate St. Isaac - where the heresy accusations come from I don't know - perhaps another assumption being made here?

The tone problem, and your obviously hurt feelings, make it hard to be sure whether there is a dichotomy being set up between faith and intellect in what you say. I had assumed that this was the Richard Dawkins, atheist line that sites like this disproved. St. Cyril was not averse to the use of his intellect, nor to a good argument, not to winning one; knowing so little about the tradition of Orthodoxy, I had not realised that things had changed so much.

I am sorry for the hurt you clearly feel, and can assure you it was not intentional. I made no assumptions about you or others, and simply thought I was being dim in not understanding your answers.

I am genuinely searching, but if one person assumes I am in good faith and answers me, whilst another makes the opposite assumption and does not, and if one is robust enough to engage in discussion and the other seeks refuge in talk which seems to disparage intellect, the signs are pretty clear, and perhaps I should have spotted them earlier?

As it is, I remain here in good faith, and I steadfastly assume the same of my fellow posters. Being English I rest with the motto of the Knights of the Garter: Honi soit, qui mal y pense.

For myself, I prefer to assume the best of others.:)

#16 John Charmley

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 11:55 PM

Gentlemen,

I should, of course, have signed the last post (so to speak)

Rest and the morrow will bring enlightenment, I trust.

INXC

John

#17 Athanasius Abdullah

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Posted 03 November 2006 - 12:02 AM

Dear Fr. Raphael,

+irini nem ehmot,

I think the problem is that we feel the questions being asked of us are not genuine questions in the sense of genuinely wanting to know our answers. Rather they are rhetorical questions to which you already have your own answer.


I'm not sure that the two 'types' of questions you note are mutually exclusive. One can already have their own answer to a question whilst genuinly seeking to understand the answer held by another to that same question. The intention is to confront difference and to seek to reconcile such difference if possible, or to acknowledge contradiction if there is no other way around it.

An example of what I am talking about is the St Isaac thread. We were supposed to keep all EO-OO topics to its own thread. But very soon on the St Isaac thread demonstrations of how St Isaac is a Nestorian appeared from Peter & yourself.


How exactly is St. Isaac's being a Nestorian pertinent to the EO-OO debate? It's a stand-alone topic that Peter and John sought to give their positions on, and they did so quoting EO authorities so as to not come across as merely passing their own personal judgment.

I didn't know the creation of an EO-OO sub-section meant constraining the input of OO's to that sub-section also. How exactly are OO's expected to respond to inquiries made by others? If directing those others to EO sources procures criticism, then I would presume "not at all"? And to think that I was about to ask if OO's were allowed to quote their own Fathers and sources in reference to such topics!

I am not complaining, I simply want to understand what type of forum the administrators have in mind with monachos.net. After all, it's your forum, and hence your prerogative to set the rules and guidelines, the scope and direction etc. It seems we are being accused of pushing boundaries, but if that is truly the case, then that is because you have not clearly defined what those boundaries are. Please let us know where we stand, what we can post, how we can post, in what capacity we can post; we don't want to push any boundaries.

I will tell you what I interpreted from the posts which you made: 'St Isaac was a Nestorian.' So for over a thousand years we have been venerating a heretic.

What does this then say about our church? At the very least we're too soft on heretics, inclined towards Nestorians, and at worst deluded as to what the Faith of the Church actually is. How else interpret venerating for so long a heretic?


You do realise, Father, that St. Isaac is a Saint and Father of the OO Church too? If Peter or John truly held to such malicious intentions (and I have no doubt in my mind that they certainly did not) so as to give rise to such negative implications, they would be shooting themselves in the foot. Thus surely you can see how unreasonable it is to impute such intentions on them?

And at no point it seems was hesitation shown & the question asked out loud-what do you people think about St Isaac, shouldn't we get guidance on this sensitive issue before we answer the questions of your laity. Instead once again you reached for evidence to support your arguments: evidence which actually are the sources of our own church in order to use against us and to show us how adrift we are.


This seems like a rather far-fetched conclusion to draw. Could it not simply be that in responding to an EO question regarding the EO Church's position on St. Isaac, that Peter and John quoted EO sources by vritue of their understanding that such EO sources directly answer that question from an EO perspective? How is it that you gather that we are using your own sources against you? Again, let me remind you, that St. Isaac, the Nestorian Bishop of Ninevah, is a venerable Father and Holy Saint of the OO Church--the OO Church that was and continues to be a most ardent opposer of Nestorianism.

Think of it from our perspective: using what comes from our church in order to attack the integrity of our church. And this has been done many times here- in fact it is the point behind the objection to yesterday's post about the 5th Ecumenical Council.


How on earth did you interpret Peter's comments as an attack on your Church? He was simply questioning the validity of your personal approach to the issue in light of your Church's position on a particular matter (one that his/my Church in fact shares in common with yours!).

Why are you using our Councils which aren't even part of your canonical tradition as a means of attacking us?


The letter of Ibas was already condemned by the OO's prior to the 5th Council of your Church. Our condemnation of this letter is common, even if the sources of such condemnation are not. Whether or not your source is part of our canonical tradition, it is nonetheless the source of a condemnation that certainly is part of our canonical tradition. What was relevant to the discussion in question was the fact of the condemnation, not the source; Peter merely appealed to the source to re-inforce the fact of the condemnation, and since he was attempting to reinforce that fact to you, an EO, then understandeably he appealed to your source, and not ours. You were not being attacked, you were simply being questioned with respect to what Peter perceived to be an apparent contradiction in your methodology.

In IC XC
-Athanasius

#18 Antonios

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Posted 03 November 2006 - 06:44 PM

Dear brothers in Christ,


First off, thank you, Matthew, for starting a new and timely thread on this topic.

I am not complaining, I simply want to understand what type of forum the administrators have in mind with monachos.net. After all, it's your forum, and hence your prerogative to set the rules and guidelines, the scope and direction etc. It seems we are being accused of pushing boundaries, but if that is truly the case, then that is because you have not clearly defined what those boundaries are. Please let us know where we stand, what we can post, how we can post, in what capacity we can post; we don't want to push any boundaries.


I think this is a very fair and honest post, Athanasius. In fact, it leads us to a very difficult predicament.

While I can understand your point of view, I can also understand the frustration of others who feel like many of the threads in recent weeks have had polemic undertones, some more subtle than others. This is, of course, not a new phenomenon when people from different experiences enter into dialogue (in fact, history has shown this to be a consistent reality), but it is a fairly new one in regards to this particular discussion community. While we Christians have always had to defend our faith, we haven't been accustomed to having to defend it on such a frequent basis in this particular little corner of the web. Of course, as this forum becomes more and more popular, more and more points of view will naturally follow, and I blame Dr. Steenberg for this since he is the creator and founder of this wonderful and increasingly popular web site! ;)

In regards to the issue which has led to this current thread, it may benefit us to re-examine the guidelines set up for this forum. The current Discussion Community Terms of Use states:

Given the nature of the forum, readers and members should be clear that the Monachos.net Discussion Community, as the Monachos.net web site as a whole, is what might be called ‘Chalcedonian Orthodox’; that is, it terms as ‘Orthodoxy’ the Churches of the seven ecumenical councils, including Chalcedon, as found in the ancient patriarchates of the Eastern Orthodox communion. The web site is not directly affiliated with any Orthodox jurisdiction, but represents the Chalcedonian Orthodox traditions found in, for example, the Russian Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox Church, etc.


further down, it states:

The Monachos.net Discussion Community is not an interfaith forum for general discussions on Orthodoxy with respect to other Christian churches, denominations or religious faiths. This means that general discussions on, e.g., ‘Orthodoxy vs. Protestantism’ are beyond the purview, and conversations which transform to such points of focus will most often be terminated. The same holds true for inter-church discussions with respect to groups of common heritage, e.g. ‘Eastern Orthodoxy vs. Oriental Orthodoxy’.


This is followed by:

Discussions which occasionally compare doctrinal or practical issues across churches / traditions, and which do so explicitly for the purpose of attempting better to understand the patristic, monastic, liturgical and ecclesiastical heritage of the Church (rather than modern differences), are welcome; in such conversations, however, the over-arching theme of discussion under the above purview, and not simply expression of personal opinion or confessional comparison with Orthodoxy, is paramount. (emphasis my own)



I believe this last part is where a balance is attempted, that is, not allowing the forum from becoming a polemic back and forth at one end, and at the other end, not making it so exclusive that only Eastern Orthodox Christians participate, something I don't think many of us want.

So this leads us to the difficult predicament I alluded to earlier. It seems to me the guidelines do set boundaries, however the difficulty is discerning how far these boundaries can be stretched.

And so, as always, in the very end, this leads us to discernment.

As a consequence of my ignorance to the OO's history and teachings, I have not had much to add to many of the threads, though I have found many of the posts refreshing and enlightening. More importantly, however, this same ignorance has precluded me from criticizing their faith and beliefs. Sometimes, I guess, ignorance is bliss!

I would like to believe (or, more accurately, pray to believe) that even if I studied and knew their councils and traditions and history, I wouldn't try to use any percieved inconsistencies or inaccuracies or incorrect interpertations stemming from my own or from other people's weaknesses to undermine their hardened faith or belief. The truth is, we are a Church of sinners, and our charge is to love one another. How we express this love, God has let us discern.

And so, similarly in regards to this forum, in the end, it comes down to discernment.

#19 John Charmley

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Posted 03 November 2006 - 10:20 PM

I would like to believe (or, more accurately, pray to believe) that even if I studied and knew their councils and traditions and history, I wouldn't try to use any percieved inconsistencies or inaccuracies or incorrect interpertations stemming from my own or from other people's weaknesses to undermine their hardened faith or belief. The truth is, we are a Church of sinners, and our charge is to love one another. How we express this love, God has let us discern.

And so, similarly in regards to this forum, in the end, it comes down to discernment.



Dear Antonios,
A very helpful contribution, for which many thanks.

It does seem to me that a combination of our own limitations and those of the medium can lead all of us into reading more into some posts than the writer ever intended. The line between robust discussion and being thought to undermine someone's faith is perhaps thinner in the eye of the beholder than might always be realised.

One of the consequences of discussion within one's own community is that, perhaps unconsciously, comfort zones develop because of a core of common assumptions, linguistic use and cultural familiarity; it is easy to interpret the unspoken assumptions of another culture as a subtle attack on one's own, when, in reality, they are simply epiphenomena of someone else's comfort zone, where the linguistic use and cultural practices are unfamiliar.

It is perhaps an error to assume that Christians are any less subject to this phenomenon than other groups in our society.

So, thank you for these reminders Antonios.

INXC,

John

#20 Peter Farrington

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Posted 03 November 2006 - 10:39 PM

I would have say that I still find myself mystified that any of the discussions here could be thought to be outside the remit of Patristic studies in recent times and apart from the EO/OO thread?

As has been stated clearly, St Isaac of Syria is a member of a communion considered heretical by my own Orthodox Church so that the idea of raising this matter is polemical is simply unbelievable. I could not even imagine such a view would be taken. I have also only quoted, as far as I can see, from +Hilarion and a Russian archpriest who has been published in SVOS' journal. So the idea that any of this discussion is polemical is also completely misplaced.

I would want to say that in all the time I have been Orthodox, sice 1994, I have always eschewed polemics, as the papers I have written and the websites I have supported and maintained clearly show.

As for the question about undermining faith? I must ask again, is this a forum for Patristic Studies, which may well undermine not faith but mere received opinion?

Is it really the case that the thread on St Isaac should have proceeded thus?

Q. Was St Isaac a Nestorian?

A. No.

Q. Thank you.

How is that studying patristics?

It is suggested that EO would not ask such questions on an OO forum. Why not? There are many questions that an intelligent, thoughtful EO should ask. Questions like:

Q. In what way does the reception of Eutyches at Ephesus II not make the anti-Chalcedonians Eutychian?

Q. How is the distinction between the humanity and Divinity in Christ preserved if you reject the phrase 'in two natures'?

Q. How can the OO both condemn the Assyrian Church for Nestorianism while venerating one of her bishops as a saint?

These are all reasonable questions that intelligent and thoughtful OO should be able to answer without finding their faith shaken. Indeed they should be asking themselves these questions in any case.

I am disappointed, truly disappointed, that in a forum which has a reputation for scholarly content in fact all of these sorts of questions are obviously precluded in case the laity are shaken in their faith. I am not convinced that 'received opinions' are at all the same as the Tradition, and in many cases we all need to be shaken into thought at some time.

If the EO are not able or willing to answer these questions here then I am more convinced that they need asking elsewhere, and others must provide the answers. I could easily have become EO 12 years ago but in all honesty I do not think I could have remained Byzantine if it is not permitted to ask the sort of questions I am always asking of my own OO tradition, and find large numbers of other (more) intelligent OO people asking and answering.

Perhaps I had better just keep silence now and only contribute on threads that have no possible controversial content. Truly I am disappointed. The idea that questions are the same as polemics is really disheartening and makes me feel that if this view is widespread then there is no hope for real dialogue with the Byzantines.

Best wishes

Peter




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