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Orthodox Fundamentalism


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#21 Anna Stickles

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Posted 11 February 2015 - 02:59 AM

I think Fr John Whiteford's article is also a good example of how specific issues can be addressed, and conversation be engaged in without just lashing out at some abstract attitude called "---" (fill in the blank - fundamentalism, modernism, etc).


Edited by Anna Stickles, 11 February 2015 - 03:12 AM.


#22 Anna Stickles

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Posted 11 February 2015 - 03:21 AM

I think his point is that regarding religion, the term "fundamentalism" is already quite well and tightly defined, and the good professor is not using it the way it is understood.  It naturally follows to ask him to explain what he means, especially given the broad and quite vague examples of how his definition of the term manifests itself.  He did mention the Volos conference, which was the only specific example.  (I also found some of the contents of the Volos conference a little concerning).  Here's one attendee's take on the Volos conference in question:  https://lessonsfroma...hodox-theology/

 

In any case, Father John replied back with specificity, rather than vague generalities, which at least to me gives his views a little more credence.

Just to clear things up Demacopoulos was calling those who criticized the Volos conference fundamentalists. 


Edited by Anna Stickles, 11 February 2015 - 03:23 AM.


#23 Kosta

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Posted 11 February 2015 - 03:42 AM

So are there any examples of these two sides? What exactly is being described? I am a fundamentalists as I believe in a literal virgin birth. Miracles and Ressurection , modern day christianity does not. So how does patristics fall into this? Lack of examples of what each side means.

#24 Fr John Whiteford

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Posted 11 February 2015 - 03:56 AM

As a matter of fact, George Demacopoulos was calling Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) and Fr. George Metallinos "fundamentalists."



#25 Rick H.

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Posted 11 February 2015 - 04:40 AM

Not two sides.  Two conversations.



#26 Lakis Papas

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Posted 11 February 2015 - 05:28 PM

In Greece today, there are two basic schools in pastoral practice and theological thought. One is based on dialectic and the other on didactics.
 
A few days ago a priest posted the following comment on the parable of the prodigal son :

The son did well and left!
The mistake is not that son left his father's house. And what was the right thing for him to do?
To become the fathers's child for a lifetime? To live with his father for ever? Could it be 40 years old and stil to be with dad? !! Is this maturity and progress?
 
Where is the problem then?
 
The problem is that, he left with broken relationships and conflict.
Problem is also the prodigality of his lifestyle.
The problem is not that he tried to stand on his own feet.
This, moreover, is also one the main worries of God : God does what ever it takes to unsticks us from our fixations, dependencies, sick psychologies etc.

 

 
Sermons of this style are not unanimously accepted. The dialectic form and the originality of the sermon is considered anti-traditional. The revisionistic approach to theological thought is considered as compromisational approach and as a sample of ecumenism.
 
I think this theological conflict has deep roots. It is a cultural and theologic confrontation that does not leave room for conciliation. But as far as I understand the history of the Church it is a necessary collision.

Edited by Lakis Papas, 11 February 2015 - 05:32 PM.


#27 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 11 February 2015 - 06:36 PM

That sermon (though I guess there was more to it) does not strike me as right since it ignores the scriptural and spiritual messages of the parable. It is also factually wrong.



#28 Christophoros

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Posted 11 February 2015 - 07:11 PM

Within the context of Orthodoxy, I’ve found Orthodox who use the term “fundamentalists” are either one of two things: 1) those who have never experienced what may be called holistic Orthodoxy as practiced in historically Orthodox countries such as Russia, Greece, Romania, etc., or 2) those who wish to reform Orthodoxy to exclude those aspects of holistic / traditional Orthodoxy that they find incompatible with modern life (its spiritual life is too ascetical, its doctrines too exclusive, its liturgical life too cumbersome, etc.).


Either way, the value of whatever is written utilizing that term within Orthodoxy is quite limited.



 



#29 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 12 February 2015 - 07:43 PM

As one who has commented often on this subject on other threads, I should say here that I agree almost entirely with Fr. John's excellent response to Demacopoulos. This does not surprise me, as Fr. John and I have been on the same side of many arguments that would get us branded as fundamentalists by others of Demacopoulos's ilk.

 

The point on which I would disagree with Fr. John concerns the usefulness of the term. Many words have different meanings in different contexts. In some contexts, fundamentalist still means what it meant originally, though such contexts are now largely limited to scholarly discussions of religious history.

 

Demacopoulos uses the word in its least scholarly way, in the context of a polemic against Orthodox conservatives, whom he wishes to paint as extreme, unreasonable, and pernicious — thus the need for a vague, pedestrian pejorative like fundamentalist.

 

But in other contexts, the word fundamentalist is useful in making the point that Orthodox conservatives can sometimes be unreasonable in their defense of Orthodox tradition, when, for example, they insist on the literal inerrancy of every word in the Church's "liturgical deposit" just as the original fundamentalists insisted on the literal inerrancy of every word in the Bible.

 

Such "fundamentalists" can indeed be expected to object to sermons like the one quoted above by Lakis Papas on the grounds that it ventures an understanding of a familiar parable without known patristic support. I emphasize the word known because, though the passage is carelessly phrased, I would not be surprised if some sainted father has said something somewhere very similar. The point is that the passage will strike some people as dangerously novel, and that alone will be enough for them to fault the preacher for doing his own thinking and not merely passing on the thinking of the Fathers (as if the Fathers never did THEIR own thinking).


Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 12 February 2015 - 08:00 PM.


#30 Rdr Thomas

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Posted 12 February 2015 - 08:54 PM

Such "fundamentalists" can indeed be expected to object to sermons like the one quoted above by Lakis Papas on the grounds that it ventures an understanding of a familiar parable without known patristic support. I emphasize the word known because, though the passage is carelessly phrased, I would not be surprised if some sainted father has said something somewhere very similar. The point is that the passage will strike some people as dangerously novel, and that alone will be enough for them to fault the preacher for doing his own thinking and not merely passing on the thinking of the Fathers (as if the Fathers never did THEIR own thinking).

 

In the earlier referenced thread, Deacon Patrick, you made a statement along the lines of "...[people] want to know what they truly must believe and how they should understand various parts of tradition" (from here).  Since the Creed clearly is one of those things that we "truly must believe", is it appropriate to refer to the New Testament as "mythical/legendary"?



#31 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 12 February 2015 - 10:21 PM

For the record, lest someone jump to conclusions, I never described the New Testament as "mythical/legendary," nor would I, because the meaning of those words varies, and they are very likely to be misunderstood.

 

Some will understand "mythical" and "legendary" to mean "untrue," and that is indeed one popular definition of both words: a fictional story.

 

Others will understand  "mythical" and "legendary" differently, with more respect for their original and deeper meanings. In that understanding, neither myths nor legends need be untrue. A legend is simply something written and read, which may or may not be true. A myth is a story told to convey a meaning beyond the literal meaning -- it is a narrative expressive of a metanarrative. A myth can therefore be true in both senses, or false (fictional) in the first sense and yet true in the second sense.

 

Forgive me if you already know all this. It seems to me pedantic to explain it, but I don't want to be misunderstood.


Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 12 February 2015 - 10:24 PM.


#32 Anna Stickles

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Posted 12 February 2015 - 11:02 PM

The fundamental problem with the above sermon that Lakis quotes is not that it is novel, but that it replaces spiritual values with modern humanistic ones.

 

The focus of the original story is not on broken relationships. The Father does not get upset or angry when the son unreasonably demands the inheritance early, even though he would have every right to do so. He simply allows the son to leave. This in particular sets the stage for what will come later. Here already in the beginning of the story we get some hint as to the love and humility of the Father that gives His son the freedom to misuse what rightfully still belongs to Him.

 

Neither is the focus of the story the need to "grow up" and be independent. If this were an important value, then the son returning home would be a failure, not something to celebrate. 

 

Needing to fix psychological abnormalities and be independent, then replace the themes of repentance and humility.

 

What happens when we take cultures' values and start to project it into our theology?  Well one example can be seen in Anselm. He took his own culture's ideas about justice in terms of satisfaction of honor in degree according to someone's rank, and projected it into the theology of salvation, and what a mess this has made of Western theology of redemption.  The same thing is happening here. Our relationship with God and each other starts to be redrawn in terms of needing something different to fix it than what Tradition calls us to.


Edited by Anna Stickles, 12 February 2015 - 11:03 PM.


#33 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 13 February 2015 - 12:12 AM

Have we heard enough of this sermon to pass judgment on it? 

 

The first line quoted is problematic, the last line quoted is problematic, but is the rest of what's quoted all wrong? And what is not quoted? What else did the priest say? 

 

Give the priest a break. He isn't preaching heresy.


Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 13 February 2015 - 02:38 PM.


#34 Rdr Thomas

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Posted 13 February 2015 - 01:02 AM

For the record, lest someone jump to conclusions, I never described the New Testament as "mythical/legendary," nor would I, because the meaning of those words varies, and they are very likely to be misunderstood.

 

Some will understand "mythical" and "legendary" to mean "untrue," and that is indeed one popular definition of both words: a fictional story.

 

Others will understand  "mythical" and "legendary" differently, with more respect for their original and deeper meanings. In that understanding, neither myths nor legends need be untrue. A legend is simply something written and read, which may or may not be true. A myth is a story told to convey a meaning beyond the literal meaning -- it is a narrative expressive of a metanarrative. A myth can therefore be true in both senses, or false (fictional) in the first sense and yet true in the second sense.

 

Forgive me if you already know all this. It seems to me pedantic to explain it, but I don't want to be misunderstood.

 

Father Deacon, I have read enough of your online writings to guess that you yourself did not believe this, at least in the popular sense of the words "myth" and "legend".  And I am quite aware that there are classical usages of these terms that could encompass a meaning that still remains within the bounds of Orthodoxy.

 

Here's an irony that is not lost on me:  "fundamentalism" has a precise meaning, as do both "myth" and "legend".  In all three cases, it's because these words have all been "made fuzzy" by common use that confusion has entered.

 

The point is that those who speak "with authority" should use great care.  Fuzzy language invites the Evil One in to create division.

 

Granted, I seem to recall that the sermon quoted was originally in Greek; it's possible that a careless translation caused the confusion.

 

In Christ,

Thomas



#35 Kosta

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Posted 13 February 2015 - 08:08 AM

It seems such sermons are intended more for agnostics who seek encouragement with the wordly situations. Interpreting the parable of the 10 Virgins as 5 virgins being uncharitable for not sharing their oil makes pious the 5 that the parable condemns. Instead the priest should be preaching the spiritual meaning.

#36 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 13 February 2015 - 03:31 PM

Father Deacon, I have read enough of your online writings to guess that you yourself did not believe this, at least in the popular sense of the words "myth" and "legend".  And I am quite aware that there are classical usages of these terms that could encompass a meaning that still remains within the bounds of Orthodoxy.

 

Here's an irony that is not lost on me:  "fundamentalism" has a precise meaning, as do both "myth" and "legend".  In all three cases, it's because these words have all been "made fuzzy" by common use that confusion has entered.

 

The point is that those who speak "with authority" should use great care.  Fuzzy language invites the Evil One in to create division.

 

Granted, I seem to recall that the sermon quoted was originally in Greek; it's possible that a careless translation caused the confusion.

 

In Christ,

Thomas

Thomas, you are new to this forum and I haven't read all of your posts, so I did exercise great care in answering your question in post #30, so as to avoid confusion. Yet it seems that some things about language still need to be explained.

 

The word fundamentalism does not have just one precise definition: It has several. It has three in an old dictionary I have at home, and three in a new dictionary I have at work, and two in an online dictionary I just checked. All of these precise definitions differ to some degree, and according to at least one of those definitions, I am a religious fundamentalist.

 

What is more, all of these precise definitions were crafted after the word came to be commonly used to mean what the definitions say it means. That's how language usually works. Philosophers will sometimes define their terms first and then proceed to use them accordingly, but most of the time, usage itself conveys a basic sense that is only later defined precisely.

 

It is therefore unreasonable to argue that the word fundamentalism may only be used in one way. It is also unreasonable to say that it may only be used according to an already existing definition.

 

It is not unreasonable to argue that using the word is problematic because the word is likely to be misunderstood, but it is unreasonable to argue that the word may never be used because not everyone will understand it as one wishes.

 

The fact is that the word is often useful because most people do understand it: They understand it to mean unreasonably extreme religious conservatism. Does such a thing exist? Yes. Does such a thing exist among the Orthodox? Yes. Some Orthodox are unreasonably conservative. We can argue about who is and who isn't, but arguing that no Orthodox is unreasonably conservative is itself proof of Orthodox fundamentalism.


Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 13 February 2015 - 06:58 PM.


#37 Anna Stickles

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Posted 13 February 2015 - 06:31 PM

From the Free Dictionary online

 

Fundamentalism

1.  A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.

 

When words start being used politically, then several thoughts start getting linked that everyone then starts to naturally assume belong linked. I think that is what is wrong with definitions like the above.

 

Notice how according to the dictionary a "return to fundamental principles" automatically equals "rigidity and intolerance". 

 

Obviously a return to fundamental principles in Christianity necessarily and rightly equals something very different then rigidity and intolerance, and yet neither does a return to the fundamentals of Christianity equal wide open tolerance and freedom.

 

The definition is wrong and misleading from the get go in what it causes people to assume, and completely unredeemable in forms like this.  It was created precisely as a political move. There is a saying that whoever defines the terms wins the argument.  What is being won in accepting this term, is that a return to Tradition and to the fundamentals of Christianity is not something good. 

 

In the end "fundamentalist" Christianity is a rigid adherence to the flexible humility and charity and beauty of Christ's character ...  but now we have completely stepped outside the bounds of how this term is used in the culture around us. Maybe we need to redefine the terms. :)

 

One thing I think we will all agree on is that there is a culture war.  Modern man wants absolute freedom to do, to be, to think and act however he himself judges as right.  Anything that steps on this freedom is rigid and intolerant.

 

For the Christian, freedom is to be experienced and gained entirely differently and rigid and intolerant aren't really words that we use, we use words like unkind, harsh, insensitive - ie moral words that indicate a lack or distortion of God's character.


Edited by Anna Stickles, 13 February 2015 - 06:43 PM.





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