September 20, 2020

Winning The War, Part VI: He Who Proceeds From The Father

FilioqueOne of the first tasks you face after converting to Orthodoxy is to decide what stance to take towards the West and towards Western Christianity.    There is a real temptation to despise the West, or even worse, to let the whole West just simmer in all the heresies you had to renounce when you were chrismated.  There are certainly Orthodox converts who feel this way.  I met one convert from the  who I believe had been so scarred by his upbringing that he couldn’t avoid seeing the diabolical fingerprints of the legalistic, liberal West all over what he called “World Orthodoxy”.  I lost contact with him when he left the Antiochian Archdiocese for a traditionalist group left over from the union of ROCOR with the Moscow Patriarchate in 2007. He is the one who told me this:

We don’t need anything the West has to offer.

Take a few minutes to think about how bold that statement is.  Laying aside my Orthodox brother’s manifest pathologies, I am going to give him the Amen.  We aren’t missing a lung, and we are not anybody else’s missing lung.   Rome’s departure diminished us neither a jot nor a tittle.  We don’t need the unifying charism and ministry of Peter, nor the Ordo Saluti, nor the Active Obedience of Christ imputed to our accounts, nor the Solas, nor the Law/Gospel distinction, nor Papal Infallibility, nor the Hermeneutical Quadrangle, nor the Baptism in the Holy Ghost with evidence of speaking in tongues, nor a born-again experience of accepting Jesus Christ into our hearts as our personal Lord and Savior.  We are not awaiting a revival, a reformation, or a renewal.  That is dogma, not Mule’s personal opinion.   A statement like that doesn’t mean that the Orthodox Church considers herself perfect, just that she isn’t going to be looking to the West to provide solutions.

Nevertheless, despite this ecclesiological arrogance, the Orthodox Church still has to deal with the West.  Dealing with the West is not an option for anybody; not the Islamic world, not the Hindu world, not the Chinese.  At this present time in history, the West, by which I mean primarily the European world north of the Danube and west of the Vistula as well as her successor states on the other side of the Atlantic, bestrides the world like a Colossus with a constellation of military might, economic power, and cultural influence unparalleled in human history.  That alone is enough reason not to turn your back on the West, but a more compelling reason is the ongoing spiritual agony of the West.

It is important to remember is that the West wasn’t always the West.  For a thousand years it was part of the Mystical Body, the Great Church that stretched from Ctesiphon to Brigantium, from the Gallarus Oratory in the far west of Ireland to the Monastery of the Virgin Mary in Asyut, in the south of Egypt.   The hagiography of the Great Church is alit with the stories of monks undertaking pilgrimages from the most remoter parts of the utter West like Pembrokeshire in Wales or Galicia in Hispania to centers of Christendom such as Constantinople or Jerusalem.  My patron saint, David of Wales, received his bishopric from the hands of the patriarch of Jerusalem in 560 AD.  The story of how the West became estranged from the East depends on what frame you want to use, history or theology.  Historically, the Carolingians are saddled with most of the blame for the destruction of the West Roman polity.  The Carolingians, having seized power from the legitimate Merovingians, encouraged their patrons the popes of Rome to assert themselves against the Imperial authority in Constantinople.  The historical story of the East-West Schism is fascinating, full of interesting characters like Pepin I, Pope Leo III, and Patriarch Photios.  The estrangement took place over a time period at least as long as the entire history of the United States of America from Jamestown until now.  However, history will have to step aside for theology for the time being.

The theological issue that separated the West from the East was the notorious filioque clause inserted by Western Christians into the Ecumenical Creed of Nicea/Constantinople.  That creed, recited by premodernist Christian congregations every Sunday, is as follows;

Here is that Creed from the 1892 Book of Common Prayer.  I love the stately liturgical English of the traditional Prayer Books:

 I BELIEVE in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And of all things visible and invisible :

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God ; Begotten of his Father before all worlds,  God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God; Begotten, not made; Being of one substance with the Father ; By whom all things were made : Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man : And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate ; He suffered and was buried : And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures. And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father : And he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead ; Whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceedeth from the Father [and the Son]; Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified ; Who spake by the Prophets.

And I believe one Catholic and Apostolic Church : I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins : And I look for the Resurrection of the dead : And the Life of the world to come. Amen.

That phrase, “and the Son”, seems indeed like a very small thing.  As Vladimir Lossky put it, this is the only dogmatic issue separating the East from the West.  It seems like it should be a very simple issue to resolve.  “What shall we do with this… least of Rings, this trifle that Sauron fancies?”  It appears that new vigor has been injected into this centuries old debate by a [pending?] decision by the Anglican Church in North America to drop the phrase “and the Son” from the Creed as recited in their churches.

Now, together with the Chalcedonian definition, the Filioque controversy is one of the Ur-kontroverses of Christendom.   Once you set foot in it, you are setting foot in a real minefield, one that makes the Reformers vs Trent seem like the Gallipoli Campaign in World War I.   It is not my job here on iMonk to resolve the filoque controversy and heal the schisms of the churches.  Can you say not in my job description?  What I want to do is give you one Orthodox layman’s understanding of the issue with as little scholarly apparatus as possible.

To get to a lay theologian’s level on the filioque controversy, say at the level of a capable PCA ruling elder, I would think it necessary to have read the writings on the Trinity of the Cappadocian Fathers; St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, and St. Gregory of Nyssa as well as the De Trinitate of St. Augustine.  I haven’t done this.  I am aware that there are pastors who read this board, so I want to tread somewhat lightly.  I want to generate a healthy controversy without passing myself off as more knowledgeable than I actually am.

The Orthodox believe that the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father alone is the only Triadology that preserves the identity and the diversity of the Most Blessed Trinity as equally absolute.  As Vladimir Lossky explains it:

In fact, the absolute diversity of the Three cannot be based on their relations of opposition without admitting, implicitly or explicitly, the primacy of the essence over the hypostases, by assuming a relative (and therefore secondary) basis for personal diversity, in contrast to natural identity. But that is exactly what Orthodox theology cannot admit.

The one nature and the three hypostases are presented simultaneously to our understanding, with neither prior to the other. The origin of the hypostases is not impersonal, since it is referred to the person of the Father; but it is unthinkable apart from their common possession of the same essence, the “divinity in division undivided.”

The introduction of the idea of the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Son as well as the Father introduces a Dyad into the Trinity, that of the Father-Son opposed to the Spirit which stands in opposition to this Unity of the Father of the Son in serving as the source of the Spirit’s procession.  In other words, it destroys the idea of a “simple Trinity”.  The Father and the Son share something together which the Spirit does not.

Whereas Western theologians would swear up and down that it wouldn’t, I cannot help believing would unconsciously place the Spirit at a level subordinate to the Father and the Son.  Indeed, in the course of the development of Western theology there appears to be a frenzied, desperate search for the missing Spirit.  What happens first is that the monarchical Papacy bloats to dizzying power in the newly independent Western church, absolutizing the Universal, only to be dismantled by the rising nation-states and fragmented into a thousand competing shards as the Particular reasserts itself.  The unity that the sovereign Spirit works in the churches in response to Christ’s High Priestly prayer is a true unity-in-diversity, which on the human plane is very sloppy in the way it works itself out.  It is neither an administrative monarchy nor a Gnostic invisible entity.  You can point to it, but you cannot circumscribe it.

In addition to the problem of the disappearance of the Spirit, you have a problem of abstraction.  If the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son, then His Procession cannot be a personal procession.  It has to be from an abstract Principle or “Godness” that the Father and the Son share.  In a sense, this absolutizes the binary over the analog.  I like what Frederica Mathews-Greene said about the Orthodox Church.  We don’t have mystics or contemplatives over against actives and social-justice warriors.  God doesn’t agglutinate people into groups; here are the contemplatives over here contemplating and over there are the actives feeding the poor, and then deciding to gift them appropriately.  God deals with humanity on two levels.

First, there is what God has done for all of humanity.  It is human nature that has been restored by the Cross, the image of God in humanity.  Then, God deals with every unique human being as a person created in His image.  I think this is the reason why we don’t have different “Orders” in the Orthodox Church, just monks.  We don’t have Monastic Rules, like those of the Benedictines or the Franciscans or the Dominicans.   To be honest, we don’t even have different rules for monastic and married believers.  The same “rules” apply to both.  Marriage and monasticism are seen as equally valid, and equally difficult, means of ascent.

I’m going to go beyond my teachers and betters here.  I wonder if maybe, just maybe, the introduction of the filioque and the subsequent two-tiered architecture of the Trinity led to that most pernicious binary division of all Western separations, that between the elect and the reprobate, which in these degenerate days has decayed into a division between the churchy and the worldly.  Father Deiniol of Wales describes this graphically and explains how it interferes with his mission among the Welsh:

RTE: And what can you tell us about this remote and beautiful town?

Fr. Deiniol: “So this is the town I live in, a very poor town, high levels of unemployment and many people with a sense of hopelessness. Nevertheless, they wouldn’t think of turning to church, because the Calvinist legacy is a very negative one. I’m not saying that everything was bad about the chapels; the Nonconformist tradition produced a genuine Christian spirituality with a real love of Scripture, a real love of God, and very fine hymnography, but it had a shadow side, and this shadow side was Calvinism and its censoriousness, being very judgmental and placing people in categories. It wasn’t known for its compassion for the frail and vulnerable, or for those whose lives took a negative turn.”

“The Calvinist doctrine is that God has predestined people from before the creation of the world for redemption. In other words, He has brought some human beings into existence, having already determined that they shall go to hell for eternity. They maintain that He has done this in His infinite Wisdom and that the logical contradiction between that and God’s infinite love is not for us to question and understand.

RTE:  I imagine, then, that you would have to take care to appear “good” to prove that you are one of the saved, or is that too simplistic?

Fr. Deiniol: “No, that’s very accurate. ‘How do we know who is saved?’ ‘Oh, by their fruits you shall know them.’ Accordingly, observable behavior becomes very important, and at a certain stage in the evolution of things, when conviction and faith are no longer so strongly present, this preoccupation with appearances becomes a very distinctive characteristic of these societies. That is certainly what I think happened in Wales. Also it means that people don’t look at the darker side of themselves, and don’t encounter their shadow. Darkness is then projected onto other people, so you have groups that are the scapegoats, the lowest of the low. Communities are very hierarchical and there are people right at the bottom of the pile. In Wales, this emphasis on behavior also got linked up with the Temperance Movement, which, much as it may have been needed, divided the society into two—those who went to the chapel and those who went to the pub, those who drank and those who didn’t (or at least said they didn’t drink.) To this very day, many Welsh people who go to the pub will not visit a church or chapel. The two locations are thought to be mutually exclusive locations, and those who frequent one of these places will usually hold the other place and its frequenters in contempt and think they will not be welcomed there! By now almost everybody does visit the pub, but the dichotomy persists and it is almost impossible to persuade people to visit a church.

This is one of the reasons why, when people ask me why I became Orthodox, one of my nastier replies is that I got tired of pretending I was twice-born and decided to go back to being born just once.  My son attended a large anime convention recently.  These are large events that draw a lot of young people who are fans of Japanese popular culture, and who often spend a lot of time and effort dressing up as the objects of their obsessions.  My wife and I wandered through the crowd marveling at the youthful energy and creativity on display.

I understand the appeal of something like this.  On the Metro line headed towards the convention, the anime fans mingled with another group on their way to a college football game.  It was obvious who was who.  Our society does a good job of putting people into the proper egg crates.  The sports fans were, as a whole, more prosperous and physically more attractive than the anime crowd, but when the anime fans entered the convention, they blossomed.  I saw a lot of people who didn’t fit the larger society’s standards of physical beauty proudly posing for photographs and receiving a lot of complements on their appearances.  I also saw a lot of underlying hurt in a lot of eyes that undoubtedly came from being something of a misfit in the wider worlds to which they eventually had to return.  I found myself praying that God would allow me to generate enough love in my heart to make these people feel accepted by me should I ever have any personal dealing with them, to take that wariness and caution out of their glances.

Yeah, for the sports fans too.

If I had gone as the crippled, frightened, insecure evangelical I still am in so many ways, I would have been asking God for a way to “reach them”, to “churchify” them.  I think this a result of what the Orthodox condemn as a “filioquist culture”, a man-hating culture, one that elevates abstractions and ideals over personhood.   A culture that introduces an artificial and abstract distinction into the very core of existence, into the very Triune Unity, will have no problem introducing artificial and abstract distinctions between people to their own despite.

Heresy hurts, people.  It is the most savage act you can commit.  Genocide is jaywalking by comparison.

I haven’t exhausted what I want to say about the filioque, although I always fear I have exhausted your patience.  With your continued indulgence, which always astounds me, I would like to take up the specific issue of the ACNA’s removal of the filioque clause from the Creed.  As well, I would like to offer an exhortation to my Orthodox brethren about the need to establish the Holy Spirit as the Spirit of Christ, which I think the filioque was originally crafted to address.



  1. Wow. A lot to think over here. Some initial thoughts:

    “We aren’t missing a lung, and we are not anybody else’s missing lung. Rome’s departure diminished us neither a jot nor a tittle.” That’s really how you feel? Just write us all off unless we turn our backs on 1500-odd years of religious heritage and culture (in whose development the Holy Spirit apparently had absolutely no hand, unlike further East)? Our Lord’s prayer in John 17 is just about the Eastern patriarchs and doesn’t apply to Western Christians at all? The loss of millions of brothers and sisters in the Faith to heresy (in your view) and schism diminished the Church ‘neither a jot nor a tittle’ and should be neither mourned nor repaired? Yeah, I can’t swallow that, and I’m trying really hard not to be offended. I find much about Orthodoxy and the Eastern expression of the Faith appealing, and I’m willing to be convinced on the filioque, but if Orthodox folks really look at the West like this, as literally godforsaken for almost its whole history with no good in it and nothing of its own to offer the universal Body…..well, I don’t really know what to say to that, except that I profoundly and fervently disagree.

    Re the filioque, as I say, I’m willing to be convinced. You haven’t convinced me yet. It seems, at least as put here, a very abstract controversy. Which is ironic since you blame the West’s propensity for abstraction on being on the wrong side of the controversy. I get what you’re saying (or sort of do, anyway) about introducing a Dyad into the Trinity. I’d like to hear more on that point, since it seems reasonable that this might be a problem. Perhaps more on the Eastern theology of the Spirit specifically. I’d like to see the theological consequences of this difference. How does believing the Spirit does NOT proceed from the Son affect what you believe about the Spirit and how He works?

    The consequences you have outlined here- yeah, I’m not convinced there either, I must confess. Correlation does not equal causation. I don’t see how what is seen in the West as a very fringe difference by the vast majority of Christians could have the huge ideological effects that you say. We may have problems, but tying all of them to the filioque is, I think, a stretch. Different kinds of monks? Really? I’m not seeing it. I rather think that’s evidence of the Spirit working rather than not. Different groups have different gifts, all by the same Spirit. Can the eye say to the hand, and all that. If all the Dominicans and Franciscans and Jesuits suddenly went back to the monastery, I think Christianity would be the poorer.

    Oh, if only Charlemagne had married Empress Irene! Would have solved a heap of problems down the track.

    In any case, you’ve certainly got me thinking, and I hope to see you write more on this topic.

  2. You may not be awaiting a Reformation, but God knows your church could use a Reformation. Orthodoxy has got to be one of the least civilized forms of Christianity, closer in spirit to the Islam or the Mongolian Empire than the European West. Instead of democracy and human rights, you’ve got autocracy and women’s headscarves. The worst excesses of the Middle Ages live on in Orthodoxy, including anti-Semitism. To turn a phrase, we don’t need anything Orthodoxy has to offer.

    You complain about abstraction, but your condemnation of the “notorious” filioque is at least as abstract as its target. (Notoriety of course is in the eye of the beholder–to some, the Council of Chalcedon was notorious.) You say that Orthodoxy discourages binary thinking, when it divides the world into themselves and everyone else. And then you complain that the Carolingians usurped the “legitimate” Merovingians? I look forward to learning which Chinese dynasty you believe ought to be restored.

    And to top it all, there is the enormous *arrogance* of the Orthodox, which never fails to inspire revulsion and disgust. Surely a just God would never allow the Orthodox to be right about theology.

    • If it’s on your side of the debate, it’s revulsion and disgust. It’s only arrogance when it’s in the other guy.
      The “least civilized” form of Christianity? Seriously? As if the worst excess of the Middle Ages aren’t alive and well in Evangelicalism as well. Oh, but they make their women cover their heads. How barbaric. There is no suffering like fashion fascism. Which country is it where the Orthodox church has supreme governmental power?

    • In my parish (I’m a catechumen), women wear headcoverings voluntarily. It’s not forced on anyone, in fact, our priest has had to ask some of the more vigorous women to not impose headcoverings on all women. We have 600+ families and maybe 30 women cover their heads. Not even the priests’ wives do. Our parish is ridiculously diverse, I believe over 40 different ethnicities/races. Some don’t even speak english. I don’t see the charge of racism, at least in my parish. Everyone is so warm and welcoming. I haven’t worshiped in a place that has transformed me in the way Orthodoxy has. Liturgy will do that. It’s very purpose is to train our desires away from this world and into the Kingdom.

    • Youch. I hurt for some beautiful Muslim friends who have been lumped in with this statement.

      I’m sure Mule’s post is provocative and worth some heated debate, but I’m taking some umbrage at calling all Muslims uncivilized, and implying that any dress-codes and ‘unamerrikun’ lack of democracy in a faith tradition make it somehow barbaric.

      Any organization that has been around as long as the Orthodox Church is going to have some less admirable parts of its history, but these should not necessarily negate any validity to most of their beliefs.

      • Umi – +1. (Like you, I have had some lovely Muslim friends, neighbors and former students, and ache every time I see generalizations like the one in Mule’s post…)

    • Patrick Kyle says

      Hey Mule, here are a few things the Western Church has that you guys could use a big dose of : A church not thoroughly divided into competing camps along ethnic lines.. and one that isn’t presently colluding with governments to block other churches from moving into their ‘territory.’ or actively recruiting Pastors from other churches..

      Your opening paragraphs are a giant F___ Y__ to every other Christian group.( I am guessing that this means you don’t think they are really churches at all.) Congratulations, you got away with it in an actual post no less. Comments as brazen as yours are usually moderated out of the comment threads.

    • Patrick Kyle says

      “That alone is enough reason not to turn your back on the West, but a more compelling reason is the ongoing spiritual agony of the West.”

      And the cure for our ‘spiritual agony’ is the EO view of the filioque?

    • One of the least civilized forms of Christianity? Seriously? I’ve been to Eastern Europe, and seen very conservative Christianity…no shorts or tank tops inside the church, the liturgy done in Old Slavonic languages, etc…but I’ve yet to be in an Orthodox setting where women were forced to cover their heads. I’ve seen plenty who did so voluntarily, but I’ve never seen it required.

      As far as the “arrogance of Orthodoxy”, let’s talk about evangelical Christians and their efforts to “convert” those who aren’t of their denominational preference. When I started attending a Baptist church in my thirties, they insisted I wasn’t saved because of my previous denominational affiliation…”They don’t preach the Gospel”…which they very well did, and still do. The Baptists also insisted that my baptism wasn’t legitimate, because it was done without me having prayed the magical prayer, and it wasn’t immersion. Baptists also threw false numbers at me to convince me that Eastern Europe was hopelessly lost, and all Orthodox Christians were atheists in thin disguise. Once I traveled to Macedonia and Bulgaria myself, I found some of the most sincere, knowledgeable Christians I had ever met…and they were Orthodox.

      To close, I’ve never met an Orthodox priest who believed that evangelical Christians were outside the faith because they were outside of the Orthodox Church; however, I’ve met plenty of evangelicals who will tell you that anyone in a sacramental tradition is most assuredly hell-bound. Friend, that’s not only arrogance personified, it’s ignorance promoted as doctrine.

  3. Christiane says

    Thanks for writing this, MULE. I have never got into the workings of the ‘filioque’ controversy myself, so this helps me to understand it better. You come ‘from the West’, albeit a non-Catholic background, so that brings some added perspective.

    I was thinking that often there was a change in the Creeds that was designed to fight a certain heresy at the time. So, if you could expand on that possibility, it would help. (I’m thinking variations of the Arian heresy here.)

    And translation problems . . . I can only imagine how fragile a translation can be where even in one’s own language, the subject matter is more abstract than not . . . could this not be a part of the trouble? I think it must be.

    I never before heard of the Holy Spirit as less than the Father or the Son in majesty and power, as in our Catholic teaching we have always seen the Trinity as three Persons in One God. I know there were many, many heresies at the time that the Church was forming its trinitarian doctrines, but the Schism between East and West did not occur until the 11th Century A.D., although a heresy might have prompted the wording of the filioque clause as a ‘defense’ of the Trinity. (?) I need to know more about that.

    Is your post ‘clear’ to me? Not all, no. But part of it IS clear and valuable, and I am grateful you have taken the time to write this up . . . please continue.

    (My godmother is Byzantine Catholic and her family came from the Ukraine. She is ‘Catholic’, yet of an Eastern rite, which makes her very interesting to talk to and learn from. Even among Catholics, not all are ‘Western’ or ‘Latin rite’, and that is something to remember.)

    • Even among Catholics, not all are ‘Western’ or ‘Latin rite’, and that is something to remember.

      Excellent point (along with the rest of your post).

      I think few people outside of Eastern Europe and the Middle East are aware of Eastern-rite/Byzantine Catholics, even now…

      • P.S.: I think the whole “filioque” controversy has generated far too much animosity over the centuries for us to keep feeding the fire now. (And there’s much else besides that controversy that brought about the splits between the Eastern and Western halves of both the Roman Empire and the church – keep in mind that there’s a very heavy component of church/state fusion in the Byzantine Empire from early days…)

  4. Ali Griffiths says

    ‘Whereas Western theologians would swear up and down that it wouldn’t, I cannot help believing would unconsciously place the Spirit at a level subordinate to the Father and the Son.’

    I’m no expert on this controversy but your argument in the respect of origin at least needs some further work. The fact that someone’s origins are in someone else has long been used to make a case for the subordination of women – which I have always thought more than slightly daft. After all, are your children subordinate to you because they originated out of you? Of course not! They are in no way subordinate to the parent in the eyes of God They are full human beings in their own right. If you accept this then the Spirit cannot be said to be subordinate to the Father and Son on the grounds of origin.

    Due to recent posts on IM I have been pondering over the whole issue of leaving churches and particularly why we choose to go to different denominations. I have concluded that I can put up with a fair amount of what I consider to be doctrinal nonsense as long as there is a sincere love of God and love of neighbour being practised. The only church I never want to belong to is the one that believes itself to be ‘The True Church’, sneering at other groups of believers and failing to appreciate what they bring to the party. It is sad that you seem to appreciate the diversity outside the church but not within it. If it really is true that the Orthodox church believes that it needs nothing from the West you’ve just limited my options. Such arrogance is really unappealing and I honestly don’t think there’s much more to say than that save that I cannot dismiss the East so easily. I am pretty sure that we all need each other.

    • I can put up with a fair amount of what I consider to be doctrinal nonsense

      I am beginning to think we will never really have much choice in the matter, anyways. Anyone managing to find a complete escape from it, please, notify me as soon as possible! I am not blessed with your levels of forbearance, Ali, but neither do I seem to have other options.

  5. Heresy is worse than genocide? Now if that isn’t a hideous abstraction, leading to the most hideous abuses imaginable, I don’t know what is. It’s morally abominable.

    • Right? I can easily imagine the explanation that might be offered for his ridiculous assertion, but it doesn’t matter. It’s still preposterous and obscene. I’d like to think his opinion isn’t representative of the Orthodox in general, that he’s just trolling for reactions and clicks. I keep encountering passionate young Orthodox converts online, though, who also end up being antisemites, nasty and demeaning towards women, and apologists for gross “scientific” racism. I don’t get why this correlation exists, but it’s getting hard to ignore. There is so much of beauty in the Eastern Christian tradition, and I prefer to think more on what we share in common than how we differ. But there seems to be a strain within their ranks of really virulent hatred for “outsiders” of all types, and it is disturbing.

    • Genocide destroys the body. Heresy destroys the soul. Genocide has an end. Heresy persists for millennia and does unlimited carnage. This doesn’t put Pelagius in the same category as Hitler. But Pelagianism has sent more people to hell than the Nazis did, assuming there is such a place. If Christ is the Lamb of God and Lord of all, I think I would rather be killed for my skin color than kept from Him by lies. Of course, unbelief loves its own skin more than the Savior.

      • Really, Pelagianism? Can we not lay this to rest? The self-deprecating Augustine takes out a personal grudge against one monk, and forever we have to tarnish his name? The man defended himself if court TWICE, to two separate popes, and Augustine condemned him on a third run which he couldn’t attend. He wrote a letter on holiness that was so “heretical” it was… attributed to Saint Jerome!

        Pelagius is on record saying that there is no original sin (as developed by Augustine, for he thought all did and would sin), and that -BY THE GRACE OF GOD- we all can live sinless lives. There are no other extant writings from the Monk. Think about that; other than one letter which became attributed by accident to Jerome, there are no extant writings from Pelagius, only second hand accounts from Augustine, the man who condemned him!

        Pelagianism is not a heresy, it is straight orthodox doctrine! It is just said in a kinder, more optimistic way. We should all aspire to one day be “only” so heretical.

        • Lol, fine. Arianism, then. Or choose your own heresy. What the hell do Augustine and the universal consensus of the early church and ecumenical councils know, anyways? Orthodoxy is whatever I say it is. 😛

        • It also largely won. Part of that debate was over if unbabtized infants go to heaven to which the almost universal Christian answer is yes. Pelagius’ side.

      • We’d be having a field day with Mule’s comment and Miguel’s defense if it came from a Piper/Robertson/Driscoll type. Just sayin.

        • +1

        • Mules atavistic minimization of genocide is no different from the justification that Protestant and Roman Catholic Christians used when conquering the Americas and dispossessing and slaughtering the indigenous peoples; I consider it the same as the worst intellectual sins of Christian fundamentalism.

          It’s sickening and revolting.

          • + 1, Robert F, for your to-the-point comments on genocide.

            And yep, there’d be no end to the amount of umbrage here if one of the calvinista types said the same exact things.

            I honestly don’t understand why Mule gets to publish here.

          • My people were also victims of a genocide. When Mule’s relatives are raped (mothers and daughters together) before being buried (barely) alive in a mass grave; when his babies are tossed in the air and caught on bayonets; when his girls are crucified in naked rows along the street, then I will listen to him talk about heresy.

        • Lol, and rightly so, if letting a woman express her theological opinion is considered “heresy.” But when it comes to whether or not Jesus is the Son of God, as many people as have given their life to confess this, you would think it has more value to the faithful than life itself. Would Jesus or Paul’s rhetoric in Matthew 18:1-9 or Galatians 1:8 be considered polite enough?

        • RHE would already have a call-out post up about it.

      • The Jews who died in concentration camps during WWII couldn’t have cared less about whether or not their mostly Catholic and Lutheran torturers and executioners were heretics by the standards of Orthodoxy, or any other standard; they most emphatically cared, and died, because their Christian tormenters, whether heretics or orthodox, were engaged in genocide.

        Genocide is soul destroying for those who commit it, and those who condone it. I consider it, when done by Christians, to be a heretical desecration of the image of God in themselves and their victims; and it proclaims and preaches its heretical view by murderous action, as well as words.

        To make a statement comparing genocide favorably with heresy is inflammatory and callous, and reflects a medieval insensitivity to the lessons of history. It’s exactly such reasoning that lead to the Inquisition: “better to torture someone into recanting their heretical views than let them go to hell freely believing their errors, since the mortal body has less value than the immortal soul,” was the reasoning. It was wrong then, and it’s wrong now. It bifurcates the body and soul in a way that is completely illegitimate for Christians, and reflects an underlying gnosticism that is incompatible with a true conception of body/soul unity.

        • Robert, nobody is advocating heresy or genocide. I would hardly call that a favorable comparison. Genocide is certainly no joke, and in line with Judeo-Christian ethics (…and most other dogmas for that matter) can rightly be considered heretical. The inquisition was also heretical, because it was based on the idea that faith can be coerced. The point isn’t that the lesser of two evils should be taken in order to avoid the greater. I’ll let Mule speak for himself as to what he meant, but the way I understood it is that we ought not underestimate the damage done by lies. After all, the heinous acts men do to one another have their roots in false belief to begin with. Before genocide is committed, it is justified in somebody’s mind. It all depends on what you mean by “heresy.” While I do not think the Filioque rises to this level of damage, if the East is indeed right, the consequence of this idea may be a bit more concrete than we are giving it credit for. I got the impression that the gist of the article was against the bifurcation of body and soul.

          • The assertion that a clause of a few words in a Creed can have such far-reaching effects (a claim which Mule makes without any evidence) on social realities is an extraordinarily gnostic claim; I think Mule’s name should be changed to Gnossos Pappadopoulis.

          • Robert, that’s a bizarre statement…why do we have creeds? Why do we teach anything at all. What about “In one Lord Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord…”? If we excise that, does the faith simply end up happy-go-lucky and ready to what’s right, just without some dusty dogma of Jesus’ Lordship?

            Seems like it means every man for himself at that point. Welcome to your new social reality.

            I’m still working out if the filioque is as important as the EO says it is, but the idea that creeds (and the associated teaching along with them) don’t affect social realities is just not true.

          • Okay, Nate. I was trying to say something more nuanced than what I actually did say, but it was late and I was not thinking clearly and what I said is…as you said….bizarre. I don’t think it’s worth doubling back and trying to fix it at this point, so, with your permission, I’ll withdraw the comment.

        • People, pleaee! “Medieval” is NOT a word that sums up all that is barbarous and cruel in human history. How about “twentieth-century” as a better adjective in this case?

        • Be reasonable Robert. The worst thing another Christian can possibly do (worse then genocide) is not serve as a prop to your ego by mirroring your own beliefs back to you. Because of this, and because it is impossible to tell if you’re the heretic (that’s a general you, Robert your definitely a heretic); if we don’t want to be as bad as Hitler, we must abandon religious belief entirely and become merely apostate.

          • The comparison between the influence of the filioque and genocide is invidious; if you want to be sensitive to the lived experience of other people, you refrain from such invidious comparisons. But Mule is a provocateur who doesn’t give a wit, Witten, about the lived experience of the people he is provoking. He’s a kind of theological Howard Stern.

            If you think I’m a heretic, I must be doing something right.

    • He’s “Muling”. It’s pretty much trademarked 🙂

      I grew up around the “genocide before heresy” camps. They’re hard to talk to, and hard to talk with.

      I work at a school that is run by evangelicals from the Calvin Camps. Doug Wilson types. They believe that as Christians, we have access to “Truth”. Capital T stuff. Only certain Christians have access to it though, as evidenced by correctness of Theology (again, capital T’s only thank you). That direct line to Truth meant that we were more correct about any subject we put our hand to; our science was Science, our math was Math. Why would you send your child to public school? They have no access to Truth! You are making shipwreck of your child’s faith.

      Better to be uneducated than poorly educated.
      Better to be a killer forgiven than a unrepentant pious man.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        I work at a school that is run by evangelicals from the Calvin Camps. Doug Wilson types. They believe that as Christians, we have access to “Truth”. Capital T stuff. Only certain Christians have access to it though, as evidenced by correctness of Theology (again, capital T’s only thank you). That direct line to Truth meant that we were more correct about any subject we put our hand to; our science was Science, our math was Math.

        Not “Correctness of Theology”.
        Purity of Ideology.
        Just like the Communists and their direct line to Capital-T TRUTH, the Inevitable Marxist-Leninist Dialectic of History.

        And isn’t “only certain Christians have access to it as evidenced by Correctness of Theology” the essence of Gnosticism? Only a Speshul Select Few have access to the REAL Truthy Truth, like Conspiracy Theorists who alone KNOW what’s REALLY going on. (“Gnostic” = “He Who KNOWS Things”.) The Lure of The Inner Ring.

  6. Are you saying that societies where Orthodoxy has had strong influence, let’s say Greece, for example, do not make discriminatory distinctions between people based on appearance and natural attributes? And that they don’t make these distinctions precisely because Greek Orthodoxy does not include the filioque? Is that what you’re really saying?

    Call me incredulous.

    • Not just that… the orthodox Church is *the* state church in Greece. Conversion to other denominations is met with, well… let’s just say it’s far from acceptable over there.

      As for this

      Genocide is jaywalking by comparison.

      I am truly sickened. And it’s painfully ironic, given the rise of the Golden Dawn Party in greece, complete with brass bands playing the “Horst Wessel Lied.” People are scared – especially the few remaining Jewish people in Greece – and well they should be.

      I find your attitudes medieval, Mule. This especially.

      • Tsk. “Medieval” is NOT an insult.

        • oh, in this case, it most definitely is, Damaris!

          • Aargh! You obviously meant it as such, numo, but the Middle Ages deserves better than to be the default insult. I’ve already suggested the twentieth century as a by-word of barbarism, but if you don’t like that, how about the Assyrian Empire?

          • I replied way downthread… and pretty much agree with you re. medieval history being squished together and the worst elements being used as representative of all people who lived during those many, many centuries.

            but in this case, I really do mean it as a slam.

  7. There are 2 issues. The first is the theological discussion over the Trinity. The second, and painful to the Orthodox, is the fact that the West went back and changed a creed. The problem with that, to the Orthodox, cannot be understated.

    I think the ACNA is attempting to encourage relations with the East, since there are many similarities, and some dialogue has taken place. Some in the ACNA agree that the West stepped beyond its authority, and damaged unity, by adding the phrase. Therefore, the ACNA hopes to re-establish good will.

    Once that step is done, then the theological discussions can take place.

  8. Mule, what does the Orthodox position say about John 20:22: “And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.’ ”

    Robert F…about the genocide comment…methinks Mule sometime says things like this for shock value, but I could be wrong.

    • I’m going to second you with the shock value. Mule’s prose needs to be read with a bit of a sense of humor and a little forgiveness for being a little heavy-handed with the hyperbole. Without that you’ll lose most of what he’s actually saying.

      • I agree, Umi.

        Not in this post, but in other posts he is also quite free with some sexual innuendos too. There was a good one that no one commented on so I wasn’t sure how many people noticed it and I was going to comment and then thought…nah, let’s not get the boys going. 😉

      • Brianthedad says

        Who can read his prose? It’s inscrutable. Like walking in heavy mud. in the rain. In a maze.

    • One of the issues leading to confusion about the creed is the word “proceeds”. In English, and in Latin, it can mean the origin (which is what the Greeks mean) or it can mean to send. I was stunned a few years ago that the Creed is speaking about the origins of the Holy Spirit–that his origin is with the Father. The Creed is not speaking about the Father and Son sending the Spirit into the world as an advocate.

      In the Creed where it speaks about the Son being “begotten not made” we are talking about the origins of the Son. When we speak about the procession of the Holy Spirit, we are speaking about the origin of Spirit.

      Joanie, earlier you mentioned a heresy in Spain that bishops addressed with the filioque. Another source of the problem is that the word “procession” means something different than the equivalent Greek word.

      The Western Church agrees with the Monarchy of the Father: that he is the sole origin of the Son and Spirit. The Spirit is sent by the father and son upon the Church.

      Also in the West we speak about “spirations” that the Father’s total self giving to the Son is the Spirit and that the Son totally gives himself to the Father. The initial spiration is with the Father, and through the Son the Spirit is returned to the Father . . . or something like that!

  9. Whenever I read about the great arguments of old regarding the trinity and especially when I encounter the Athanasian Creed I think it must have been nice if the biggest controversy of the time was how to properly define something which is truly a great mystery. This is a somewhat odd post because one of the things I’ve always appreciated about the Orthodox churches is that they are generally much more tolerant of leaving the mystery alone.

    For some reason it struck me this Sunday that it’s entirely possible that there are other “pieces” of God, but that these three are the only ones that humans need to know about. Maybe I should start a movement to change the creeds to represent this. We wouldn’t want to place unnecessary limits on how big God really is.

    • You will never change the creeds. They belong to the church, and she has bled for them.
      But it isn’t necessary anyways. What you seek is already present therein. Nothing in the creeds “closes the book” on God. They give us what we can know from the Scriptures, but never that assert there can’t possibly be anything else.

      I think the creeds weren’t so much an attempt to define a mystery as they were deliberate structures designed to protect the sacred mysteries from being defined. All the early church heresies sought to explain God in a way that made sense to human understanding. The Trinity as we have it today does not.

  10. It seems to me that what the Filioque controversy really is is the very model of the sort of arcane argument over something we humans cannot really understand about God, where we force ourselves to choose sides over what are in the end two human constructs, and abandon charity and mercy and brotherhood. At a point when humility in the face of the overwhelming majesty of God would have served, east and west chose pride and arrogance, and have persisted in them for a thousand years and more.

    • Amen and amen and amen!

    • David Cornwell says

      I think you are correct John. It is like many theological controversies. Our language is incapable of putting into words these understandings and descriptions. God has played a joke on us, making us a little lower and without the capacity of imagination and language to ever be able to adequately describe Him. Yet we attempt to elevate ourselves and describe God in philosophical and theological terms that are so limited they will never be adequate.

      When we add into the mix our different cultures, mixes of history, prejudices, and personal stories it can become impossible.

      And God sits back and says “they’ve still got it wrong.”

      If this is the way we attempt to describe Christianity to the world we are doomed. However we DO know enough because we have Jesus, God incarnate, who came, lived among us, died, and rose from the dead. And His Spirit is still with us, Spirit of God, Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit. (probably theologically wrong here?).

      Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. I know people who are barely literate who are aware of this.

      And there may be some heretics in Heaven. Not so sure about those who commit genocide?

    • Absolutely! I get the idea at times that the Church is rather like a guild of medieval alchemists arguing over who has the right formula to turn lead into a “filigree” of gold.

    • John G – +1!

  11. > We don’t need anything the West has to offer.

    The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” … God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. (1 Cor 12: 21, 24-25)

    It seems to me that, unless you write off a group of Christians as being not even Christian, they are a part of God’s body with you, and therefore it’s rather unwise to say that you don’t need them.

    Orthodoxy, in my experience, attracts two sorts of converts: those who are drawn by the mysticism and beauty of Orthodox faith, and those who really like the feeling of being right and better and different than everyone else. I’ve got a lot of respect for the former, but the latter are rather annoying.

  12. As an Anglican whose founding Articles (#39) re-affirm the Filioque, perhaps I in my untrained way, can push back on your very rigid interpretation of the clause.

    The creed bears the history of the Church universal. Take for example: “one baptism for the remission of sins.” It was inserted to focus attention on a problem theology that was creeping into the Church. The Filioque was also inserted to deal with some heresy.

    However on a purely theological level:
    The Filioque to an Anglican means that the Holy Spirit comes by way of the Father and the Son. As in Matthew 3:16, and Luke 3:22. The Father has sent the Holy Spirit to people at the request of the Son – John 14: 16 onward and then in chapters 15 and 16 Jesus tells us that He will send the Holy Spirit/Comforter.

    Many of the early Church fathers like Anthanasisus and Jerome as well as Cappadocians have affirmed that the Spirit comes to us by way of the Son.

    I rather think it is a point of “violent agreement.” We both agree that there is a role of the Son in sending the Spirit and we both agree in the Father’s unique role. So why can’t we group hug.

    I feel that this needs more fleshing out; however I must go teach a class.

    • I have encountered this justification of the Filioque before and find it grossly unsatisfying. The creed says proceeds from, not sent by. If I call my wife at home and asker to pick up the dry cleaning, she may be sent by me, but she proceeds from our residence. Christ himself is not the source of the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t exude Spirit, but rather, is Himself filled with It. The Filioque completely blurs this distinction. It seems to me unclear and unhelpful in this regard. I don’t believe it was added merely as a corrective to heresy so much as it was invented as a political move to distance some from it who needed to prove their aversion to it. The later church Fathers seemed perfectly content with a creed lacking this phrase.

  13. Richard Hershberger says

    “Historically, the Carolingians are saddled with most of the blame for the destruction of the West Roman polity. The Carolingians, having seized power from the legitimate Merovingians, encouraged their patrons the popes of Rome to assert themselves against the Imperial authority in Constantinople.”

    This period is not my strength, so perhaps I am talking through my hat here, but this seems more than a stretch on nearly every count. The Merovingians were legitimate in the sense that they had seized power a couple of centuries earlier. For that matter, the Carolingians didn’t so much seize power from the Merovingians as they took it by default after the Merovingian dynasty gave it up. In any case, this is a dynastic dispute within one of several Germanic successor states to the Western Roman Empire. Equating the Merovingian dynasty with the West Roman polity is, um…, startling.

    As for the Bishop of Rome asserting himself against the Eastern Imperial authority, recall that Pope Gregory II excommunicated the Eastern Emperor around 730, some twenty years before Pepin made himself king. Similarly, the seeds of the Papal States were sown in the slow-motion collapse of Eastern imperial control in Italy, with the Pope filling the resulting power vacuum.

    That being said, the deal the Carolingians cut with the papacy, and in particular the coronation by the Pope of Charlemagne as Emperor, are interesting and important steps in the development of the papacy. But it was neither the beginning nor the completion of this process.

  14. Well, it’s nice that Mule has taken off the Orthodox mask and let all you/us Westerners and non-Orthodox Christians know what Orthodox Christians (or those who are “true” Orthodox Christians) really think about the non-Orthodox and non-Orthodox churches.

    • All he’s done is show us there are extremists on both sides of every question. The only reason you don’t hear more of the ‘western’ church saying things like that about the Orthodox church is that we’ve mostly chosen to just pretend they aren’t there. Out of sight, out of mind.

      I’m glad that there is somewhere I can go to read about things like this.

      • Tom:

        I was an Orthodox convert for 3 years (2 years as an Inquirer and Catuchumen, then 1+ year as a fully baptized and chrismated Eucharist-partaking member). I became acquainted with the anti Westernism. As a Jew, I was sensitive to some of the anti-Semitic comments and statements I’d read in some ultra-Orthodox (or “true Orthodox” as they’d probably refer to themselves) publications – e.g., their denigration of the Masoretic Text vis-a-vis the Septuagint. I pointed this out to the priest about a publication the church was receiving, and I think he ceased receiving it after that.

        In some correspondence between a former Orthodox person and a convert to Orthodoxy re: the Holy Spirit, the former Orthodox person wrote in part:

        “…There were Christological controversies during the New Testament period, but the Apostles did not get sidetracked into endless debates about it. There continue to be controversies for Judaism and Islam, and there is the Western development of Unitarians, Jehovah Witnesses and United Pentecostals. In almost all of these cases one cannot win a debate by using the formulas of the Church Fathers, which begs the question about just how much was accomplished in the Golden Age of theology. In fact, most Jews and Muslims who are being converted are convinced by signs, wonders and demonstrations of the Spirit.

        “In large part the Christological controversies were the result of approaching Christianity from a Hellenized epistemology. Vladimir Lossky and Georges Florovsky both provide some rather good arguments that Orthodox theology was not the Hellenization of Christianity, but the Christianization of Hellenism. However, the transition from a Church full of the Spirit in Acts toward the more Hellenized model would indicate otherwise. The Orthodox Church cannot afford to admit such a thing since it claims to have guarded the sacred deposit without corruption, maintaining the fullness of what the Apostolic Church had in the New Testament period.

        “The Fathers employed the Greek paradigm of the various schools with the general interest in ontogeny, cosmogony, theogony and anthropology. Consequently there was an obsession with understanding the Scriptures from an eclectic Greek cognitive construct. This was further complicated by the pedagogic canons for rhetoric, grammar and sophia (wisdom). Greek hermeneutics and homiletics lost the life, the power and the Spirit of revelation as it sought to dogmatize theoria. The many quarrels about the First Arche and the Eternally Begotten and the much later quarrels about the Monarchy and the procession of the Holy Spirit are all matters of interest to the Greek mind.

        “…Even those who wrote about the Holy Spirit, such as Ambrose and Basil, spoke of Him in detached terms based on a study of Scriptures, indicating that they were not familiar with the active living presence of the third Person of the Trinity in their lives. The role of the Holy Spirit was redefined as liturgical, Eucharistic and rationalistic, as though the living God were to comply with the rubrics of the Sacraments. He could no longer be trusted to show up and inspire the people in unregulated spontaneity or impromptu movings. He could no longer be trusted to speak, lead, guide, reveal and heal. Only the most advanced could expect to see the uncreated light and experience the deifying work of the Spirit. Consequently, the monastic understanding of the Holy Spirit was limited to an ascetical approach which, in turn, became the prevailing opinion of the Orthodox Church.

        “Clearly the role of the Holy Spirit changed within a couple of generations of the Church….”

    • It’s really not personal, despite the use of the personal pronoun in “Rome’s departure diminished us neither a jot nor a tittle”. I would actually say that Rome’s departure did diminish “us” in some sense in that there was a whole western Orthodox culture that was lost, probably forever. But I would agree with what I think is Mules point, that Rome’s departure was a schism from the Church, not a division within the Church. He is right, that is dogma. And, as I understand it the flip side of that dogma is held from a Roman Catholic perspective, although they do a lot more soft pedaling of the issue.

      All that being said, it seems to me that forcing this conversation within an ecumenical setting such as this blog is an exercise in futility because we don’t share the same basic understanding of the Church that would lead to any sort of common ground.

    • Heaven forbid somebody actually be convinced enough of their own perspective to not only believe that they are right, but to accept the logical necessity that those who dissent are not.

  15. My, how offended we can get at simple, factual assertions!

    Those of you put off by the assertion that the East needs nothing from the West need to get over yourselves and provide him an exception. As a Westerner, my feelings are not hurt by that. I look at the Eastern church, and I don’t see anything they legitimately need from us. …but that’s not saying a whole lot, because I could almost say the same thing for many Western churches. I believe those church bodies that are intimately connected with the greater Christian tradition and a reverent practice of the Sacraments are, for the most part, self sufficient. Lutheranism don’t need nothin from Rome, and Rome don’t need nothin from England. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t possibly learn anything from each other. But all that is needed are the Words and Sacraments of Christ.

    Mule, here’s where I do take issue (but certainly not offense) with you, albeit somewhat predictably: The Law/Gospel distinction is not a product of the West. It is simply a feature of the Scriptures present from the first century. You can say that you don’t need the hermeneutical science developed by the German church, but I will respond that you already use it to some extent. Anytime you proclaim Christ as the Victor over evil, you are making the law/gospel distinction: Evil exists, it is bad. That is law. Christ has overcome it. That is Gospel. We believe both are to be proclaimed to their fullest, but take care not to confuse one with the other. The existence of Evil is never good news, and the victory of Christ should not be a club with which we pummel others into submission. Lutherans simply made a science out of it because the confusion of the two, refusing to call a thing what it is, was creating great obstruction to the Gospel so that men were being given a Christ who is a demanding taskmaster. If your church does not do this, it isn’t because they don’t need the law/gospel distinction: it’s because they already make it. The hermeneutical science developed in Lutheranism wasn’t so much a doctrinal innovation as it was a response to certain errs that are overwhelmingly dominant in the West. Read Walther’s 25 thesis and tell me where you digress.

    About the Trinity: If the Filioque creates a Dyad in the trinity, doesn’t the lack thereof also create a sort of negative inversion of this? If the Spirit proceeds from the Father, and the Son is begotten of the Father, doesn’t it almost seem that the two together are somehow subordinate to Him? I don’t know that there is a way to completely level their relational structure from seemingly hierarchical implications.

    …also, say the ACNA does drop that clause. Won’t their use of female elders still present an insurmountable barrier to fellowship with the East?

    • Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

      The ordination of women to the priesthood and diaconate is currently under debate in ACNA. The vast majority of the bishops are against it for historical reasons, but most of our Global South allies do it. We are proceeding very prayerfully and carefully on this, as we don’t want the final decision to come by way of political fiat, but by way of really looking at the theological and pastoral issues involved. Famously (or infamously) at our inaugural meeting, Met. Jonah of the OCA provided a list of seven non-negotiables that has come between the Orthodox and Anglicans historically. Of that list, the things that are actual issues between ACNA and the Orthodox are the filioque, the ordination of women, and Calvinism. As has been stated, the filioque is likely to be removed, and in the proposed liturgies has been. The nature of Holy Orders is currently being studied and discussed. I expect that it will eventually lead toward phasing out women priests and deacons, just because of the numbers behind the thing. Calvinism, though… I honestly can’t see that being repudiated as a heresy by Anglicans. Now, perhaps in discussion, the Orthodox and the Anglicans can come to an agreement on that somewhere in the middle, but full repudiation as heresy ain’t gonna happen.

    • If the Spirit proceeds from the Father, and the Son is begotten of the Father, doesn’t it almost seem that the two together are somehow subordinate to Him?

      Yeah I had a similar question as well. East and West can certainly agree on the Son being “born of the Father before all ages.” If this does not imply a hierarchy, why does it imply one to say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son?

      • “If this does not imply a hierarchy, why does it imply one to say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son?” I had the same thought, Michael. Forgive the frustrated cry of one who will never understand the depths of Trinitarian theology, but — Who cares?! God is surely content with Himself as He is. His mind is vast enough to understand love in terms other than submission, dominance, and hierarchy, even if our minds never are. I’m grateful for the ecumenical councils and the creeds that they gave us, and I’d be happy to scrap the filoque since it was added in an act of unilateral business. Beyond that I would rather worship Him than parse Him.

      • Brianthedad says

        As did I. Good question.

    • “also, say the ACNA does drop that clause. Won’t their use of female elders still present an insurmountable barrier to fellowship with the East?”

      Yes, that is an issue that may cause further unity.

    • Miguel,

      N.T. Wright’s “Christian Origins” books pretty much convinced me that the law/gospel distinction was actually not present from the first century. Though I have loved the Lutheran Tenebrae service, I totally understand Luther’s Angst about Assurance (one of the issues that made me leave RC), and Lutherans are some of the best Christians I know, I was never drawn toward Lutheranism in my wanderings.

      And in the east, evil has no existence of its own; it’s a parasite that co-opts the life of the person in whom it originates and pushes a person toward continued non-union with God, which is death. We don’t ignore it, and we don’t ignore sin; but what we proclaim is Christ the Victor over Death because of the Cross and Resurrection. In the east, Christ is never set forth as a demanding taskmaster.

      The way to “level the structure” is to see the Unity arising out of the relationship between the Persons with the Father as arche (and basically leave it at that), not from the Persons all having “god-ness” (Essence). I may be omitting something, but this is how I understand it. The paradox of 3-in1/1-in-3 is expressed in a lot of dogmatic poetry in EO services. Does everyone understand it? No. It’s the best we can express in human words, and God loves and comes to us whatever amount of understanding we have.


      • Dana, I’m not claiming that St. Peter read and applied C. F. W. Walther’s Law & Gospel. The Law and the Gospel are simply present in the Scripture, period. Surely you cannot deny the existence of either.

        I actually agree with your understanding of evil. Nonetheless, even that understanding, the idea that there is such thing as an ideal and the corruption of that is bad, is a statement of law. The delineation between right and wrong, and any system of ethics, are laws.

        We don’t ignore it, and we don’t ignore sin; but what we proclaim is Christ the Victor over Death because of the Cross and Resurrection. In the east, Christ is never set forth as a demanding taskmaster.

        You are proving my point: this is why the necessity to make a clear distinction never developed in the East.
        Don’t get me wrong, though. I am quite open to being persuaded on the Filioque. It’s never quite sat right with me. I am against the way it originated, the way it was imposed, and the way it is post-hoc justified by Scriptures. Just not enough to get over the doctrine of Justification by faith alone. In your statement which I quote, you actually have made the law and gospel distinction rightly. Doing so is not the exclusive property of Lutheranism. We’ve just spelled it out in more detail. I give you the same challenge I gave to Mule: Which of Walther’s 25 thesis do you disagree with?

        • Well, in my limited understanding of Lutheranism, with just the 25 theses as presented, I would have to say I disagree with all of them, at least in part, and with the terminology as presented. Even before I came to EO, I did not believe that the phrase “word of God” indicated scripture, but rather Jesus. So this terminology stops me right at the beginning. I could maybe go with IX if it were not for the phrase “struck down and terrified by the Law.” I just don’t believe striking us down and terrifying us with the Law is what God is up to. And there is no definition of the word “gospel” anywhere. As I’ve said before, my whole journey started with the question “What is ‘the gospel’, and particularly, what does Jesus say ‘the gospel’ is?”

          Again, the hermeneutical thing… Your belief about my words about evil being a “statement of law” is in accordance with the Lutheran interpretation of the meaning of scripture. I don’t believe scripture is meant to be interpreted through the law/gospel dichotomy. That’s not to say one does not find that dichotomy, mutatis mutandis, in Orthodox thought, but the emphasis and interpretation is very, very different. Orthodoxy would affirm “conversion” but as an aspect of sanctification, not as a one-off event.

          The Reformation understanding of “justification by faith alone” is a whole topic that just isn’t found in Orthodoxy. EO tends to view the dik- words much as Wright does, leaning much more toward “faithfulness” as the way Paul would understand and use them as a Jew, rather than “legal standing of sinlessness”. I suppose one could sort of import the law/gospel dichotomy into that “faithfulness” thing, but I really think that dichotomy is not the point. Viewing everything through that lens leaves too many loose threads for me. For example, I cannot see how that dichotomy and those 25 theses have any bearing on or could provide any comfort in my situation of having miscarried twice before I had 3 healthy children.

          It’s the hermeneutics that have been the paths upon which we have trod, friend.


  16. Not all Orthodox theologians view the filoque controversy in the same way that Mule has done. Some, according to Timothy (Kallistos) Ware in The Orthodox Church say the main problem isn’t about whether or not (or the degree to which) the Spirit also proceeds from the Son, but the fact that the Western Church inserted the filoque without consulting the East, which broke the bonds of East-West unity.

    • Some Orthodox theologians say that there is a way to understand the filioque in an Orthodox manner, and I’ve also heard that the way most Roman Catholics understand the filioque nowadays is consistent with Orthodox theology – that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father from eternity but is sent by Christ temporally. But all Orthodox theologians would way that the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone from eternity. And Met. Kallistos point is also universally agreed upon in the Orthodox Church – that the original Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed was agreed upon at an ecumenical council and accepted by the whole Catholic Church, and for the west to alter the creed outside of another ecumenical council violated the principle of conciliarity which had governed the way doctrinal disputes were resolved in the ancient Church up to that point.

    • “The Western Church inserted the filoque without consulting the East, which broke the bonds of East-West unity.” I think that’s much more to the point than what we say about something (the Trinity) we don’t understand. I’m sorry it happened and hope that the arrogance and hard-heartedness on both sides can someday be healed.

      • I have so much to learn, I know. But we must face the truth that Christ prayed that we be one, without qualifications of “unity in diversity” and passive allowance of the numerous amputations of the body that have occurred over the centuries. Daily, I must remember to pray for that unity and to review my day to assess how my behavior — thoughts, words and deeds — contributed to separation or unity.

        When the local Greek Orthodox priest was asked during a tour of his church building to place his church among the other Orthodox bodies, he responded the other were not Orthodox; that only the Greek Orthodox Church embodied Christian truth. I was again reminded, as if I needed to be, of the power and influence of ethnic and tribal identity as a determinant of faith expression and sadly, its execution. We area a long way from overcoming that sin.

        Yet I do see examples of the hope Damaris seeks: Francis’ insistence from the outset of his papacy of being known as the “Bishop of Rome”, instead of Pope, but noting this week that he is head of the “Roman” Catholic Church; the statement of the patriarch who attended Francis’ installation, saying that when — not if — unification occurs, it will be centered around a bishop of Rome ( in collegiality I presume); and for this conversation, the following quote of Bishop Kallistos (Timothy) Ware:

        “The filioque controversy which has separated us for so many centuries is more than a mere technicality, but it is not insoluble. Qualifying the firm position taken when I wrote [my book] The Orthodox Church twenty years ago, I now believe, after further study, that the problem is more in the area of semantics and different emphases than in any basic doctrinal differences” (Diakonia, quoted from Elias Zoghby’s A Voice from the Byzantine East, 43).

        Looking for common ground is much more productive than celebrating differences. Indeed, hope remains.

        • As mentioned below, the cultural divides in EO, though not publicized, hinder the Eastern Christian body in talking with a unified voice.

    • The Filioque controversy cannot be separated from the Papacy. The superiority of the Bishop of Rome allegedly gave him the divine right to make such decision on his own. I suggest that the doctrine of the Papacy may be the single most divisive force in Christendom, of which the Filioque is merely a symptom.

      • flatrocker says

        Your suggestion that the Papacy may be the single most divisive force in Christendom is also in direct contrast to the billion Catholics who see it as the single most unifying force in Christendom.

        It matters which lens we choose to look through. Same “doctrine”, radically different conclusion.

        • …um, yeah, it unifies Roman Catholics in their severance of fellowship from the rest of Christianity. That’s one hell of a unity. It unifies the church of Rome internally. Great. But it practically caused the Great Schism and introduced unprecedented levels of fraction through the body of Christ globally and historically. So long as “extra Ecclesiam nulla salus” refers to YOUR denomination, any institutional office propagating that understanding willfully and deliberately bars the rest of Christendom from fellowship. Same doctrine, different conclusion, but not all conclusions are equally valid.

          • Tell that to Fr. Leonard Feeney. The man was excommunicated for a reason.

          • Well that was an insightful story for me to google. I suppose I have to reevaluate that.

          • flatrocker says

            So does it then follow that dissolution of the papacy would bring about the potential for fellowship and unity to Christendom? Assuming, per your suggestion, that the papacy is the main force driving division, its absence should then become the primary source for healing.

            If only the Catholics could all become Protestant it would make everything so much eaiser.

            And by the way, how’s that unity thing going? Or should we give it a few more centuries to work itself out? In the meantime, we’ve got to blame somebody for all our discord. It’s worked so far.

      • David Cornwell says

        Disagree. The Pope is the leader of the Church, whether we like it or not. Catholicism is an overarching reach that inclusive of us all. Thus the word “catholic” really means something. We do not look to Methodist or Lutheran bishops to speak on anything of relevance. Southern Baptists are just that: southern and Baptists. No one in that church speaks to anything of overarching importance to the Church.

        Liberal churches are ignored and mostly irrelevant. Protestantism has lost its way and is a part and parcel of American imperialism. Evangelicals are divided over every jot and tittle.

        However, when the Pope speaks, we listen. This does not mean perfection. Far from it. But, it seems, we all look to Rome in the end. Pray for the Church.

        • “However, when the Pope speaks, we listen. This does not mean perfection. Far from it. But, it seems, we all look to Rome in the end. Pray for the Church.”

          Wow, spoken by a non-Roman Catholic! There probably are a lot of folks, though, who consider themselves to be Christian who do not want to look to Rome at all. I am pleased so far with what Pope Francis has done and said since becoming Pope, but, being the liberal Catholic that I am (we ARE out there!) there are some further things I would like him to do and say.

        • I don’t.

          If I listen to or read what the Pope says, it’s out of curiosity, not out of interest.

        • The Pope is the leader of the church whether we like it or not? If popularity is a sure sign of divine right to govern, then sure. I was fairly certain, however, that Christ was the head of the church, he speaks for Christians, and it is to Him that we look to speak on our behalf. In light of Hebrews 1:1-2, I don’t really see why a Pope is even necessary. Rome can have an archbishop, that’s all fine and dandy. But he’s their archbishop, not the whole world’s. …and according to Rome, it is unacceptable for me to see it that way and have unity with them. “Accept this new doctrinal innovation of ours, or you have no part of the church,” says the voice of divisiveness.

          • David Cornwell says

            Well, that might be how you would like it to be, and maybe with some scriptural support, but anything can be proven that way. All I am saying is that in actuality it is the Bishop of Rome that is listened to by the world, even those who shut their ears to it. He may be wrong, and has been many times. He has made huge mistakes in history, but it is his words we hear in the news. It is his election that the world follows. In many ways he has become pastor to the world. His words, if wise, bring healing; if not hurt. It is from the church he leads that most of us have our origins.

            The church, because of the Reformation, has splintered into thousands of parts, all with a doctrinal distinctive, and most ready to split once again over almost anything. I fail to see how that is good. It is the result of human sin, starting with the Mother Church, but still in cancerous corruption to the Body of Christ.

            There are many wanna be Protestant popes, little men with little agendas for the most part. But we don’t know who they are. Many, in this country, are subservient to the doctrines of American democracy.

            There are many reasons I have not and will never be a Catholic. But I acknowledge my debt to that Church in spite of my estranged heritage.

            I like what Stanley Hauerwas, a Methodist, who has taught at both Duke and Notre Dame says, and find myself increasingly agreeing with:

            “Reformation names the disunity in which we currently stand. We who remain in the Protestant tradition want to say that Reformation was a success. But when we make Reformation a success, it only ends up killing us. After all, the very name ‘Protestantism’ is meant to denote a reform movement of protest within the Church Catholic. When Protestantism becomes an end in itself, which it certainly has through the mainstream denominations in America, it becomes anathema. If we no longer have broken hearts at the church’s division, then we cannot help but unfaithfully celebrate Reformation Sunday.”

          • The church didn’t splinter into a thousands parts because of the Reformation; the church exploded from forces within, and the Reformation was the outer manifestation of that explosion. Before the Reformation, the church had arrived at a place where it had only a coerced, external, institutional unity, but within were deep spiritual divisions that had been suppressed for long long centuries. The church carried the Reformation inside of itself. And those broken hearts at the church’s division existed before the Reformation ever came along.

  17. So Mule: what, in your Orthodox opinion, needs to happen for East and West to reunite?

    I know the chances are slim to none, but there’s at least a greater chance of a Catholic-Orthodox reunion than a Protestant-Catholic reunion. That one probably became irreversible in Luther’s time.

    • Good question. I would like to hear your response t this also.

    • flatrocker says

      Before we look at the chances of a Protestant-Catholic reunion, the real long shot is a Protestant-Protestant Reunion. My oh my, what would that look like?

    • Though that might be on the Catholic radar, it doesn’t seem to be something the average Orthodox (at least the ones I know) even think about.

  18. Seems to me that the Byzantium’s lack of attention (or at least sporadic attention) of the Italian peninsula and the re-occuring hordes of nomadic migration and invasion forced the western church to find a new protector, as the Byzantine’s were not up for or didn’t care about the communitieswithin this sphere.

    The Orthodox Priests I talk to still reference the sacking of Constantinople, and although tragic, may have occurred eventually by some other roving horde or at least at the coming of age of the cannon, which was the ultimate demise of the land walls by the Sultan. Way too much weight has been put on this since the Byzantine Empire was already rotting from within by centuries of decay from inward fighting (assasinations and the like).

    I have much respect for the eastern lung of the Church. I find it beautiful. I have little patience or use for the arrogance that is orthodoxy. I see a constant problem with patriarch’s that do not come together on theological thought. I find it hypocritical that we look at the faults of the West but do not talk about the factionalism between cultures that is Orthodoxy’s dirty little secret.

    I keep expecting to see some meat here in the discussion on the Filioque… still waiting…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      While the Eastern Church accreted more and more elaborate liturgy and theology under the patronage and protection of Caesar in Constantinople, the Western Church had to deal with a continuing post-Apocalyptic situation. Road Warrior without the cars and fuel refinery, just a succession of the next “Great Humongous, Warlord of the Wasteland.” Where Eastern priests and bishops elaborated their liturgy, Western priests and bishops had to become feudal lords, govern, and enforce what laws were left as the only legitimate authority remaining in their area.

      What I find in a lot of Net Orthodox is “Cage Phase Orthodoxy”, where any problem or situation is solvable by more “ORTHODOXY! ORTHODOXY! ORTHODOXY!” Like the Evangelical “Just Say the Sinner’s Prayer and Accept Jeesus Christ as your Personal LOORD and Savior(TM)”, it’s become tunnel vision into a One True Quick Fix.

      I keep expecting to see some meat here in the discussion on the Filioque… still waiting…

      Because we’re not Extreme Theology Wonks who think and even dream in Liturgical Greek, that’s why.

      • Brianthedad says

        Because we’re not Extreme Theology Wonks who think and even dream in Liturgical Greek, that’s why.

        Yes. This. Really everyone, is it really this complicated?

  19. David Cornwell says

    I’ve recently been doing some research (reading) of Charles and John Wesley’s convergences with Eastern Orthodox thought. John Wesley’s thought is difficult to classify. One can read Wesley and find appreciation of Roman Catholic tradition that went beyond the typical Anglican understanding.

    What is gaining some interest now, and for a few years, is how he was affected by early Greek theological voices. When he gives lists of those he studies or admires, it is predominantly the early Greek writers. Mostly Wesley was interested in theology that became practical in the living of the Christian life.

    This is evident in his thought about the filioque controversy. He intellectually ascribed to the relevant Anglican article that became part of the “Methodist Articles of Faith”. However in an paper for the “Asbury Theological Journal” with the title “John Wesley and Eastern Orthodoxy: Influences, Convergences, and Differences,” Randy L. Maddox makes the following observation:

    …”…his understanding of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s relation to Christ was somewhat more dynamic than Western precedents. Thus, one could plausibly argue that Wesley was closer to the Eastern tradition on this point than he realized. Likewise, Wesley’s interest in the distinct operations of the “persons” could be
    viewed as sympathetic to the Eastern approach to understanding the Trinity.” (p. 38)

    I’m going to do some more reading on the subject of Wesley, his understanding of the Spirit, and how he was influenced by the Eastern Church. But it takes time, especially waiting on relevant materials and being so far from good theological libraries and book stores. So one waits.

    Mule has an unusual way of provoking interest in a subject. I can see him in a classroom of students. They would not be sleeping at their desks.

  20. Isaac (or possibly Obed) says

    I’m a priest in the Anglican Church in North America. Some of our internal (read: Facebook, for those of us that aren’t bishops) debates on the filioque have been very interesting. We’ve got our share of vocal Calvinist types who think that the removal of the filioque will be the end of our orthodoxy (little “o”). We’ve got some East-ophiles who think that the removal will finally usher in the Utopian unified Church of yesteryear. Most folks, however, seem to be approaching it pretty pragmatically.

    Most folks don’t really seem to understand why the East views this as a hill worth dying on. Most folks seem to consider the filioque correct theologically, based on John 14:26, John 20:22, John 24:49, etc., but incorrect ecclesiastically. I.e. the West had no business adding the filioque without the consensus of the Whole Church, so, despite having no theological issues with the filioque, we are willing to abandon it for the sake of unity. It seems that this is picking back up the ball that was put in the air at Lambeth 1978, reaffirmed at Lambeth 1988, but then ignored thereafter due to other issues ever since Lambeth 1998.

    I definitely count myself among the seeming majority in ACNA. I honestly don’t understand the issue from the Orthodox point of view. The passages from St. John’s Gospel seem to affirm it, but I’m willing to hear what our Eastern brothers have to say. For me, it’s not a hill worth dying on.

  21. But we *know* that the filioque is not the insurmountable obstacle to healing the Schism! Lyons II and Florence both prove that! Benedict and Bartholomew reciting the Creed together, sans filioque, proves that! The insurmountable obstacle is the very attitude you’ve displayed in this post: that of thinking you lack nothing, of not needing another lung, of not being able to forgive and forget offenses that happened centuries ago.

    Mule, I very much enjoy your writing, but my friend, you’ve erred here. We must be the ones who work towards unity on the ground. We will not be invited to any meetings between high-level hierarchs, but we can and must be the ones to do a better job of promoting charity between Catholics and Orthodox…

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      The insurmountable obstacle is the very attitude you’ve displayed in this post: that of thinking you lack nothing, of not needing another lung, of not being able to forgive and forget offenses that happened centuries ago.

      Because once you have achieved Utter Perfection, any change is downhill.

      It’s an attitude you find all over, not just in a church context.

    • +1

  22. To say the filioque is the theological issue that the Church split over is…. well, it is over simplying things a great deal, I think. Sometimes you have to talk about things more simply and less accurately, but even then it is important to admit that you are doing so.

    I think we have each been involved in an interpersonal dispute and know how those go. If someone asks me why my husband and I are in a tiff, my natural inclination would be to talk about the thing we find ourselves arguing aloud about, say… the laundry. But we’re not just arguing because of the laundry, of course. The laundry was just the thing that came up when the quiet bubbling of disagreements finally spilled over into speech. No, in that argument about who is going to do the laundry and how, there are the simmerings of disagreement about kitchen chores, working hours, general splits of responsibility, and who wins on whether the windows should be open or the AC turned on.

    Some of those other, less sung factors, hundreds of years of them, we know about. I’m sure we have lost knowledge of many others. It was a true tragedy, the kind you can read and see the viewpoints of both sides and understand them as they resolutely turn on each other. You cry for them as you read the fiction, and it is right to cry for us as we read our history – Chacedon, the Great Schism, the Reformation, the Counter-Reformation, and the Old Calendarists.

    We have to live in the present, one forged by that tragic history. We can try to forge a better future, but working through all that baggage will take prayer, love, time, and healing. Let us do as we do every Divine Liturgy, and pray to God for “every righteous spirit made perfect in faith”, for every city and country, and the people dwelling therein.

    In the meantime, we should talk about things like the filioque, and I hope to see another, more focused post on it from you, Mule! I understand the history of events that one is referring to when they say the “filioque” and how that divided the church. I don’t fully understand the importance of the theology itself. Our church says that it is important, and I’m willing to grant the point and take them seriously, but to say I understand why would be a very different thing. It also confuses me as it goes against the usual orthodox plan of not trying to fit God in a formula, to explain and define paradox.

    • Aside from thrological differences or what I term looking at the diamond from a different angle, I think the evangelization issues Catholic missionaries in predominantly eastern lands (eastern Europe/ Russia) and vice versa also provoked much anomisity between east and west.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      To say the filioque is the theological issue that the Church split over is…. well, it is over simplying things a great deal, I think.

      After the Empire split, there was cultural drift between the Western/Latin and Eastern/Greek segments. (Look at the Serbs and Croats — same language, different alphabets. Because the East/West Empire dividing line ran between Croatia and Serbia.) And this cultural drift got reflected in the two “lungs” of the Church in those two segments. And about a thousand years down the road, they’d drifted apart to the point that everything finally blew sky-high.

      Including “the Battle of the Beards” — Western clergy were usually clean-shaven, Eastern clergy grew ’em like ZZ Top or Duck Dynasty, to the point that The Beard was God’s Image and shaving was Blasphemy. Cultural norm become Dogma Ex Cathedra. (Even now, you can tell an Orthodox fanboy by his amount of facial crabgrass; according to OrthoCuban, “Monk Wannabe” is the most common method for Orthodox — usually new converts — to flake out.)

  23. Aidan Clevinger says

    I think that given the context, Mule is absolutely right to say that the East doesn’t need “anything” from the West. Note that all of the things he lists are doctrinal propositions (or hermeneutical ones, in the case of the Law/Gospel distinction) that he rejects because he is an Orthodox Christian. Given his presuppositions – namely, that the doctrines of the Orthodox Church are true – he is entirely right to make that statement. Doctrine isn’t a triple berry smoothie, where we can pick a little from Catholicism, a little from Orthodoxy, and a little from Lutheranism. Doctrine works as a ring, as a bell (to use Luther’s analogies); damage a part and you damage the whole. As a confessional Lutheran, I would say the same thing: we don’t need any of the doctrines of Roman Catholicism, Orthodoxy, or the rest of Protestantism.

    HOWEVER, all of this is worlds apart from saying, “We don’t love you guys and don’t want you around and enjoy mutual charity with you”. Mule never said that, nor would he, from what I’ve read of him

  24. All I know about theology I’ve learned from reading this and other blogs on the internet. So I’m not about to argue along those lines.

    But anyone can see how Orthodoxy has actually played out in the world. The largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches, the Russian Orthodox, was early and thoroughly co-opted by the Czars. It engaged, with them, in the grim oppression of the Russian serfs and other dispossessed people. The Orthodox Church for centuries was basically an agency of the czarist government (though admittedly an agency with very attractive rituals and trappings).

    When the faith of a carpenter and a few humble fisherman is turned into an enormously wealthy arm of oppression and imperialism, with a power Rome itself would have envied, there has been a gross perversion of our Founder’s words and work, of which the “filoque” is the very last and least of our concerns.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      The largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches, the Russian Orthodox, was early and thoroughly co-opted by the Czars. It engaged, with them, in the grim oppression of the Russian serfs and other dispossessed people. The Orthodox Church for centuries was basically an agency of the czarist government (though admittedly an agency with very attractive rituals and trappings).

      It still is under Czar Putin, Autocrat of all Russia. Including stomping on every other branch of Christianity they can with the power of the State.
      “Two Romes have fallen;
      A third — Moscow — stands;
      Never shall there be a Fourth!”

      When the faith of a carpenter and a few humble fisherman is turned into an enormously wealthy arm of oppression and imperialism, with a power Rome itself would have envied, there has been a gross perversion of our Founder’s words and work, of which the “filoque” is the very last and least of our concerns.

      Parsing Theology letter-by-letter and calling Jihad over it while pastors’ widows eat out of dumpsters is pretty common here, too. Nothing like getting your Priorities straight….

    • “The Orthodox Church for centuries was basically an agency of the czarist government”. This is an untrue statement. It may be true that the top hierarchy in the Russian Orthodox Church was too cooperative with the czars for a time, but the Orthodox Church as a whole exists in many different nations, cultures and contexts. Besides, one can point to the worst in the history of any tradition and say “look how that played out”. I prefer to look at the lives of the saints to see how Orthodoxy plays out.

      • It may seem like a bit of a cheapshot to bring up the worst of pre-1917 Russian history. But when Mule spends rails against the Catholic and Protestant churches for betraying Christianity, talks about how corrosive the filioque is to a society that values human dignity, and barely bothers to acknowledge the Orthodox’s church’s sins, I think it’s an understandable reaction.

      • Clayton, it really *is* true that the tsarist governments of the 19th c. worked closely with the top people in the RO church to suppress dissent, persecute and kill Jewish people, and oppress the poor/serfs. There’s far too much in the historical record about this for anyone to be able to do a bit of digging and then deny it.

        otoh, I am equally certain (though don’t have facts at my disposal) that there were a great many people of good will who were Orthodox. If only they could have helped wrench the church away from the state, a great deal of evil might have been prevented.

        • “Clayton, it really *is* true that the tsarist governments of the 19th c. worked closely with the top people in the RO church to suppress dissent, persecute and kill Jewish people, and oppress the poor/serfs.”

          Ok, but that’s not what you said in your original post. You were pointing to a situation involving top hierarchy in one particular country at one particular period in time to indict an entire tradition.

          • No, I was not. One of the things I discussed (I think it’s actually further down in this thread) was Nicholas II’s collusion with the top EO clerics to get rid of the Jewish population of Russia. In other words, he sought – and received – official sanction for pogroms *and* for having 1/3d of the male Jewish population forcibly drafted into the army, where it was presumed that they, too, would die.

            as for those sent to the Pale of SEttlement, they were in the direct path of those who carried out pogroms.

            Genocide, not to put too fine a point on it.

            and this is not the only atrocity in which the ROC was complicit during the many centuries of tsarist rule. People – from “small” to great – were involved in those actions; some people are venal and easily corruptible and have no compunctions about killing their fellow human beings; others view it all differently.

            At the present time, there are some really vocal, scary Orthodox within Russia itself who would love to get rid of (literally) the remaining Jewish population, as well as immigrants, people who aren’t Orthodox (= Jews and immigrants), etc. They’re neo-Nazis in all but name.

          • here’s the link to the comment in question:

          • Sorry, I mistook you for the author of the original post I was responding to.

          • Clayton – no worries!

      • “The Orthodox Church for centuries was basically an agency of the czarist government”. This is an untrue statement.

        Clayton, not so untrue. The tsar was officially the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, equivalent to the pope ecclesiastically, but likely not theologically. In practice though, he wielded ultimate political power, which caused grief now and again until Lenin took him down in 1917. That produced other problems. Now there was a Church without a head, and a country, now communist, officially without a God. The concept of filioque wasn’t likely on the radar in those days.

        • Historical correction, because I heard the nagging voice of my old history prof, Dr. Kolz, drilling into my brain: “It vass not Lenin who overthrew the Tsar, it vass the Provisional Government! Und Lenin, in turn, overthrew the Provisional Government!”

          Either way, the church/state monolith was destroyed, the Tsar ended up dead, and the Russian Orthodox Church was headless, like some unicorns during a different revolution because, as we know, the Age of Reason has no need of Tsars. Or unicorns.

          Ask HUG. It’s a grim story.

  25. …and other dispossessed people.

    Like the Jews under the rule of all the tsars, but during Nicholas II’s time, persecution and genocide (aided and abetted by the Orthodox Church) reached a whole new level of horrificness. Basically the strategy was that 1/3d of the Jewish population would be forced into what was known as the Pale of Settlement, while 1/3 would be forced to join the army – and fully 1/3d would be killed in pogroms.

    In saying this, I am *not* intending to slam the many good people who are Orthodox and would never countenance such a thing. But making statements like “heresy is worse than genocide” while ignoring the genocide that those at high levels of the OC *have* schemed for and perpetrated gives them a level of tacit approval that might not have been Mule’s intention, but is implicit in his words.

    Dude, I know you’re passionate about the OC and your conversion – and I can understand that. But to go around making these kinds of statements is not only irresponsible, it’s willfully being blind and deaf to the sufferings of many millions.

    Also, I can’t imagine how the Western part of the church could have survived the chaos of invasions (etc. etc., as covered by some previous commenters) and *not* ended up split off from the imperial authority of Byzantium, where the emperor was next to God (and thus, in his own mind, free to murder and kill his rivals).

    History is far more complex than it’s made out to be in this post, and in saying that, I’m not even beginning to touch on belief and the history of theology, East and West.

    • someone else mentioned anti-semitism in the Orthodox Church today – and they’re right, especially re. Russia.

      Sadly, the hatred – and the propaganda that was produced under the tsars (like the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion) lives on.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says

        In the graphic anthology “Big Book of Hoaxes”, the chapter on “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” begins “More people have been killed because of this hoax than by any other”. Somewhere between 10 and 12 million dead at last count, all because a Czar was trying to deflect discontent onto Russia’s Jews and had his Okhrana fabricate and distribute the thing.

        • Don’t you know, “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” is ,moral jaywalking when compared to “…proceedeth from the Father and the Son…”

          More importantly: if I had been raised in a church tradition where the filioque had been omitted, how much better would my geeky teenage years have been?

          The loss is unimaginable.

  26. Just an observation…
    Damaris’ article yesterday and Mule’s today talk about similar themes (Orthodoxy), but there’s a difference in approaches. Damaris gives a testimony that doesn’t seem preachy, while Mule gives a testimony that seems preachy (my opinion). Thus, reactions to the two articles seem to vary accordingly, with a lot of defensiveness here and less so on Damaris’ thread. I even found myself wanting to throw out a “Wait a second, Mule” here, while I felt no such need to do so at Damaris.

    All I’ll say now is that any and all man-made religions have their brokenness. Be careful when pointing out the splinter in one while ignoring the plank in your own.

  27. I think this a result of what the Orthodox condemn as a “filioquist culture”, a man-hating culture, one that elevates abstractions and ideals over personhood.
    Ironically, Mule’s whole post is an exercise in abstract theorizing. You blame the evil effects of the filioque creating “us vs. them” divisions and degradation of human dignity, while acting as if the things you blame the filioque for don’t exist in Orthodoxy.

    Other people got to Russian history before I did, but it bears repeating – Russian tyranny didn’t begin with 1917 – there’s a really long line of awful autocrats with unlimited power. Extreme religio-nationalism has also been a historic problem – Moscow was referred to as “the third Rome” for a reason. Russia was a state uniquely ordained by God; certain forms of American right-wing politics pale in comparision. The condition of the serfs in Russia was horrible, too – it was much worse and more abusive than the western version and more deeply embedded in society.

    The Orthodox church was frequently complicit in this stuff too, and it continues with more recent Russian thuggery – the homosexuality law is the most current, but going back a couple more years, there’s that ban on American adoptions. Not all of the church supported this, but a lot of it did.

    None of this is to at all downplay how horrible communism was after 1917, by the way. Or to remove Russia’s positive cultural contributions, mostly in great literature.

    • I just realized I had way too many dashes in that post. 😉

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says

      Check out the time-travel SF novel 1636: Kremlin Games by Eric Flint sometime. It’s part of his “1632 series”, where an entire West Virginia town takes an involuntary one-way time travel trip into Central Europe of 1632 (during the Thirty Years’ War) and all the repercussions and aftereffects of this Event. Kremlin Games is what happens in Russia — reaction and counter-reaction — to the introduction of Uptime ideas and technologies (personified by one Uptimer recruited by a Russian envoy) while all the other novels in the series are going on in the West.

      While reading it, I was struck by the similarities of Old Russia (a generation after Ivan the Terrible) with the Soviet System. Autocracy, Serfdom, oppression, Ideology (in the form of the Orthodox Church’s xenophobia), corruption, payoffs in the form of political favors and political power instead of money, dagger-and-poison infighting between centralization under the Czar and the various Great Family clans, the convoluted bureaucratic web of rank and influence of minor boyar nobility. How much of the Soviet System seemed prefigured by traditional Russian society. It seems the Bolsheviki just loosed all the Dark Side of Russian civilization to run wild all at once.

      • keeping in mind that Russia was embroiled in civil war for a good while *after* 1917 – which is one of the excuses for a highly authoritarian form of “communism” being put into force. Yeats’ “Slouching Toward Bethlehem” comes to mind, though I think that was meant to address WW I in general, not Russia specifically.

  28. Sigh – it’s so easy for me to want to be defensive. I will try not to express myself that way, and ask forgiveness in advance if I do. I’ll try to simply share my thoughts.

    When I first encountered Orthodoxy, near the beginnings of my wanderings in the Ev wilderness, I had the very same thoughts and feelings about its “arrogance” as people expressed earlier. That actually kept me from investigating EO further at that time. As I proceeded, looking for a holistic theology that doesn’t put up a barrier between belief and praxis, I would follow a hopeful thread… to an eventual dead end. This happened many times. Either the theology had holes and left my questions unanswered, or it was so focused on belief that actions didn’t matter, or vice-versa. I felt like a little train engine on a line where the track ran out. I realized that I needed to pay attention not to the “fringe elements” but rather to the best examples of whatever thread I was investigating; but even with that attempt, the core assertions of all of them I was looking at (those who took scripture seriously) included a belief that, while God loves everyone, he is required to punish, and that there is absolutely no remnant of possible goodness or right motivation left in creation and humankind, respectively, even after having “accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior” (or equivalent). I already didn’t believe that last part; and I had departed from what Evangelicalism asserts about that and other things because of having read N.T. Wright deeply. There was, for me, nowhere else to go except continuing Anglican (If Wright could be Anglican, couldn’t I?) or revert to RC. There were reasons I could not do either. That’s when I discovered the EO view of ancestral sin, and what that meant. That in itself was incentive for me to go deeper.

    And when I went deeper, and waded through the partisan nonsense and the fringe elements out there on the Internet, I asked God to let me see “the good, the bad and the ugly” about EO. He certainly answered that prayer… As I discovered the core and looked at the lives of the best examples of EO I actually found Christianity where God is good and loves mankind, where creation is not something that will eventually burn up, where the ramifications of humanity created in the image of God and that image not at all lost are taken seriously, where Paradox is embraced and perfection not demanded, where the theology is seamless with no loose ends, where we may hope and pray for the salvation of all because that is what God desires and he is not constrained to punish since his love never changes, where humility and non-judgmental love are the paramount expressions of a Spirit-healed human being and the relational goal that is most prized, and – most importantly for me – where Jesus is truly the center, and scripture and everything else are interpreted through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.

    Historically, both the east and west failed to stop the schism, for various reasons; there is plenty of blame to go around for everyone. The Orthodox fringe elements give the good folks a bad rap, just like the Evangelical fringe elements give the good folks a bad rap. That Greek priest is going to have a chat with the Lord when he gets to the other side of the curtain. Atrocities have been committed. There are no perfect people. As an Orthodox, I can only say, yes, we are guilty; we have not lived what we say we believe. May God have mercy on all of us and help us to love better. In my neck of the EO woods, we don’t write off the west or say other churches are “godforsaken”, and we partner with Christians of other traditions to do works of mercy. I am Orthodox for reasons, and those reasons go beyond the superficial, and, I hope, beyond the worst examples of my “tribe”.

    As for the Filioque, in my view, the theological problem is the emphasis on Essence (God-ness), which is particular to the western tradition; this is not a bad thing, but it has come at the expense of a larger apprehension of the Persons (and by persons I do not mean “individualities” or “distinctions”, but rather the theological understanding of “person” – much like Willard’s – as “a center of willing action”) of the Godhead. In the East, the unity of the Godhead arises not from the Essence, but from the Persons. (As the late Richard Twiss said, “God is one *because* God is three.”) Though we will never be able to fully understand God, we have to find some words to use to be able to talk about these things and to deal with questions, and words are important. I’m with Met. Kallistos; we could probably all sit down and hash this through and come to an agreement on what words to use that would make the best sense given all the limitations we have.

    Though categorization appears in every expression of humanity, it does have a very strong connection to the philosophical trends and methods that developed in the west. Again, this is not a bad thing; but it seemed to have been made into the thing that other things must serve. Correlation is not causation, no – but this is the water in which we swim in the west, and we have to deal with it.

    For those interested, another take I have found helpful is Philip Sherrard’s “Church, Papacy and Schism” (3rd ed.). Small book – lots and lots to chew.


    • Dana, I always love your writings. Thank you for your well thought-out comments!

    • Dana – how about writing a post or two for iMonk? Your perspective is incredibly helpful.

      • numo & Joanie,

        You are very kind, and I am honored. I would probably disillusion you, as I actually do agree with a lot of what Mule has written, here and previously. One of the things I really like about Orthodoxy is that on matters that are not dogma, we’re free to have opinions – and that’s all they are 🙂

        I’m not sure I would agree with the comparison of heresy and genocide, I also understand that all those things that have been considered heresy arose from aspects of the basic question, “Who exactly is Jesus?” That’s why it’s important to “get it right” insofar as we can put words on it (but absolutely not to shed blood over, and we have dishonored our Lord when we have done that). The dogma that came forth from the interpretation of scripture by the great Eastern teachers of the church and their understanding of the *meaning* of the death and resurrection of Christ was squeezed out in response to the pressure put on it by these questions related to the filioque, Arianism, Nestorianism, monothelitism, etc. etc. The questions have been asked; you can’t put those djinn back in the bottle.

        I think Mule has hit the nail on the head with this:

        “I wonder if maybe, just maybe, the introduction of the filioque and the subsequent two-tiered architecture of the Trinity led to that most pernicious binary division of all Western separations, that between the elect and the reprobate, which in these degenerate days has decayed into a division between the churchy and the worldly.”

        …and I would add, “… as the Christian expression of the deepest binary division of all, that of ‘upper storey’ where God and everything non-material and “sacred” are, and ‘lower storey’, where everything material and ‘secular’ are, and never, ever, shall the twain be allowed to meet.” Francis Schaeffer saw this, where it came from, and how destructive it is.

        Really, you can find no better Orthodox writer on this point than Fr Stephen Freeman at glory2godforallthings dot com. All I would do would be to point to him. Sometimes he is tough on where this 2-storey view has led in terms of western philosophy, but that does not come from exclusivity or being anti-west or needing to be right; it comes from actually trying to engage today’s realities with compassion.

        I thank you.


        • Dane – I don’t view the Trinity as being hierarchical or two-tiered, but then… I have gone back to some of the early documents (like the Athaniasian Creed, or statement, as some call it) and that is the exact opposite of a hierarchical view of the Trinity.

          (Revert to ELCA Lutheranism, that’s me.)

        • I just wanted to second the endorsement of Fr Freeman. His writing is beautiful and amazing. And I only know about him because a while back I asked Mule for some orthodox resources good for the uninitiated and he told me to read Fr Freeman.

          • Third on Fr Stephen Freeman. Him and Fr Thomas Hopko are my go-to Orthodox guys, and consistently challenge me to rethink things I thought I’d already thought through.

          • I, too, read Fr. Stephen Freeman’s blog from time to time and like his writings very much.

    • Great post. In my own journey, I’ve searched for & am currently finding the following in my evangelical landscape:

      “As I discovered the core and looked at the lives of the best examples of EO I actually found Christianity where God is good and loves mankind, where creation is not something that will eventually burn up, where the ramifications of humanity created in the image of God and that image not at all lost are taken seriously, where Paradox is embraced and perfection not demanded, where the theology is seamless with no loose ends, where we may hope and pray for the salvation of all because that is what God desires and he is not constrained to punish since his love never changes, where humility and non-judgmental love are the paramount expressions of a Spirit-healed human being and the relational goal that is most prized, and – most importantly for me – where Jesus is truly the center, and scripture and everything else are interpreted through the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.”

      Summed up beautifully.

      • Sean,

        I’m glad you have found this in your Evangelical landscape; I couldn’t find it anywhere. God meets us where we are. Stay faithful.


    • More Orthodox like you, please. May your tribe increase.

  29. Dan Crawford says

    MCB’s slightly venomous anti-Catholicism is reminiscent of the worst kinds of Protestant anti-Catholicism. I know orthodox Orthodox who hold a much more benign view of the Bishop of Rome and his minions. Because of them, I find hope that what both major branches of the church catholic have sown over the past millenium and a half might actually bear fruit and lead to an opening of our hearts to Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper. In the meantime, I will pray that some small charity might enlighten MCB’s heart.

    • +1

    • Dan,

      I did not hear any “slightly venomous anti-Catholicism.” I read the post 3 times. Sometimes I’m deaf to points made in sarcasm, but there wasn’t much sarcasm today.

      Did you not read this:

      “I found myself praying that God would allow me to generate enough love in my heart to make these people feel accepted by me should I ever have any personal dealing with them, to take that wariness and caution out of their glances.

      Yeah, for the sports fans too.”


  30. Vega Magnus says

    So the addition of two little words that realistically don’t change anything to most Christains has caused a spate of controversies and issues that have led to massive division and anger? Maybe I’m not theologically trained enough to appreciate that or maybe I misunderstood something, but on the surface, it sounds mind-numbingly stupid.

  31. Jeff and Chap. Mike: there are commenters on this thread (as well as other iMonk contributors, like Damaris) who could write rings around a certain Mule when it comes to providing an Orthodox perspective that’s shot through with kindness and a desire to acknowledge the *whole* Body of Christ.

    I am not interested in oversimplified arguments about why the medieval RCC did one thing and some of the Eastern metropolitans and patriarchs did another, let alone the Protestants (and God forbid another nasty go-round on gender essentialism!)

    I think Met. Ware is right – there is a way to solve this (not just the “problem” of the filioque), but it’s not necessarily about theologizing.

    (And Dana Ames, I’m looking at you re. possible posts!)

    Please, please bring back Fr. Ernesto as well. (I keep asking; maybe someone will be able to lure him back over here as a single Liturgical Gangsta…)

    • That’s not to say, btw, that I think the discussion of differences is unimportant, but I have met (and read) some lovely Orthodox folks who were/are able to do this without taking cheap shots at their Western counterparts, both clerical and lay.

    • One of the things I like and have always liked about this website is that it doesn’t tend to pull punches with the opinions expressed here.

      I can see that you do not like Mule’s writing or him personally, at least insomuch as what of him is apparent in his writing. This is a space to agree, disagree and discuss. And I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but there’s something about this appeal to the mods to remove Mule as a contributor that grinds my gears.

      Perhaps I don’t know enough about orthodoxy to get as mad at him as you have, and we must just not read into his words the same way. I enjoy the amount of discussion that he stirs up, and I like his writing. Do I agree with everything he says? No, but oftentimes I can see where he’s coming from. My point here is that just because you vehemently don’t like him doesn’t make it appropriate to call for his ouster. That would be like if I were to tell you that you should leave if you don’t like what’s being said. I don’t often see your point of view, but it contributes greatly to the discussion and that’s the feather in the cap of this site’s community.

      That’s what I’m tired of and will dismount my high horse now.

      • Yes, he’s provocative, and he’s intelligent.

        I just wish he was far less sarcastic, and far more peace-loving. His comment about genocide is really, really bad, imo.

        If he toned down his rhetoric a bit, it might just work!

        • Brianthedad says

          I’m sure he has some awesome things to say, but every time I read him, I’m reminded that brevity is the soul of wit.

    • I don’t want to be a cynic, but I wonder if his, as someone else put it “theological Howard Stern” routine and the page clicks it brings is more profitable than would be engaging a writer who could hold a strong opinion without spewing hatred and bile towards women and anyone outside their faith.

      • Katharina,
        If you’re a cynic, then color me cynical, too: I think this Mule is making jackasses out of all of us to his own benefit, and it does seem to be about page clicks. I think his objective today is to make his number without ever making an appearance in the comments.

    • David Cornwell says

      numo, I’d like to say otherwise, but I’m agreeing more and more with your assessment of this. There are poor, better, and best ways to do and say things, especially here. On the other hand I’m not wild about censorship. I do like provocative writings, strong positions, and paradox. I’ve learned a lot. And look at the number of responses and also how many have had to think through a position.


      • David, I, too like provocative writing, food for thought and all the rest, but… genocide.

        My brain just cannot even deal with that.

      • I’m also not a fan of censorship, but there’s a difference between censorship and discretion (editorial and otherwise).

        Being constantly inflammatory doesn’t help anything, or anyone – again, I’m *not* saying “Don’t discuss anything controversial” by any means.

        As you say, there are a variety of approaches; I think it helps – with issues like the ones under discussion – when people at least try to take the high road. (Which I think most people here do…)

  32. I can’t help but be amazed how much we are missing the forrest for all the trees. Everyone is so busy getting offended by Mule’s exclusivist statements that not a single reasonable object has even been raised to them! For those who feel his claim is illegitimate, answer this: What can the West exclusively provide the the East is in need of? If you cannot answer that question, then just admit he is right. You can audition for the Olympics next year when they make “getting offended” an official sport. 😛

    I saw a lot of people who didn’t fit the larger society’s standards of physical beauty proudly posing for photographs and receiving a lot of complements on their appearances. I also saw a lot of underlying hurt in a lot of eyes that undoubtedly came from being something of a misfit in the wider worlds to which they eventually had to return. I found myself praying that God would allow me to generate enough love in my heart to make these people feel accepted by me should I ever have any personal dealing with them, to take that wariness and caution out of their glances.

    That’s it, right there. The point of the post, people! It’s about Jesus shaped spirituality, and how Orthodoxy is catalytic towards it. For pete’s sake, he isn’t anathematizing anybody, though he does seem to be receiving quite a bit of it in return. This even proves his point! Let’s not elevate abstraction over personhood. Engage his the substance of the post, not the rhetoric.

    If I had gone as the crippled, frightened, insecure evangelical I still am in so many ways, I would have been asking God for a way to “reach them”, to “churchify” them.

    I couldn’t agree more. I am still recovering from this traumatic paradigm of evangelism. I am becoming more convinced daily of untold levels of psychological injury it inflicts, and how foreign it is to the way of Christ.

    • What substance is there to Mule’s assertion? That he would be nice to a bunch of outsider kids interested in anime instead of sports? Where is his proof that societies under the influence of EO have been more accepting of and loving to outsiders than Western societies have been?

      He offers none, and commentators on this site have offered counter-evidence. That combined with his stereotypically medieval winking at genocide undercut any bald assertions he may make about the self-sufficiency of EO.

      • Okay, I know I’m being a crank here, but who else is there to defend the Middle Ages from baseless defamation? (Martha?) Robert, what is stereotypically medieval about winking at genocide? I want some substance and proof for that assertion.

        • Honestly, is this really the time and the place to make this your death hill? Sheesh.

          You know people get upset about this genocide stuff because for some folks? It’s personal.

        • I love medieval history (if I could read scholarly German, I might have specialized in medieval art, but there’s not enough time in one life to induce me to learn the language *that* thoroughly), so…

          When I used the word “medieval” upthread, I was referring to some of the worst things about those many centuries, not the best! (A bit of hyperbole on my part, maybe…)

          But I can understand and appreciate why you dislike seeing “medieval” used as a synonym for bad things; I sympathize, believe me!

        • Damaris,
          I retract my inaccurate use of the word “medieval.” I apologize to you, Damaris, and all other medievalists.


          P.S. I do not retract the substance of my argument with Mule.

          • Graciously conceded, Robert. Thank you. 🙂

          • well… let’s put it this way: the “Christian” charge of deicide against the Jewish people started gaining a lot of traction in Europe during the Middle Ages, and pogroms and expulsions were the result. They remained so for well over a thousand years.

            The deicide thing was not taken out of the Mass until Vatican II – though as a Lutheran, I’m all too aware that we have our own VERY serious problems to answer for. (My synod has repudiated :Luther’s “On the Jews and their Lies,” but I could – and do – wish he had never written such a hateful screed.)

          • Unfortunately the sad truth of the matter is that we cannot unring the bell and Luther’s polemics bolstered the worst aspects of the surrounding culture and did tremendous damage. You can still find racist idiots quoting that particular tract on the web, and as a Lutheran blogger I have had to tell off WAY too many neo-nazis who started following my posts expecting I would be supportive of their agenda.

          • Katharina – yeah. Oh, how I wish, though…

        • Brianthedad says

          Having studied medieval history as a counterbalance to my engineering major, I will agree with you that the medieval period does not necessarily equal dark ages.

      • Thank you Robert. I just don’t even buy his assertion. I’ve been to Lutheran and Catholic parishes that were filled with outsiders who could find a home nowhere else, but made a family of their parish. It’s not exclusive to the East, and I don’t think it’s really a function of theological specifics at all. Hey, actually, I know of a couple synagogues with a similar vibe. Love and acceptance are in all kinds of places, fortunately.

        But apparently mowing over shtetls is comparitively more “Jesus-shaped” than saying the Latin word “filioque” so yeah, let’s get our priorities straight here.

        Honestly, for all the appeals to “haha Orthodox are the originals!” this is a bunch of trendy nonsense. This stuff gets a pass because it’s novel to the “post-evangelical” crowd.

      • Robert F – I think that if Mule started to write in a more personal way, it would be much, much better for his development as a writer.

        I feel extremely uneasy with allowing one person to come across as an expert on the orthodox church, when they are, in fact, a new convert. I’d rather hear from someone with more time and experience under their belt(s).

        and Mule, that’s not meant as an insult. I appreciate your passion for the EO church, but I think it takes a *lot* of time for things to shake out and settle when one makes a big leap (as in, AoG to EO), and I am dubious about your having arrived at the place where things begin to settle. (I can honestly relate, though, in ways you might not be willing to believe, and that will need to stay off-list.)

    • Yes. Thank you for this, Miguel.


    • ‘For those who feel his claim is illegitimate, answer this: What can the West exclusively provide the the East is in need of?’

      Let’s see. Off the top of my head:
      * Separation of church and state. That’s a biggie.
      * The ability to organise more ecumenical councils (ok, not in quite a while, but we did get the Council of Florence going. Have the EOs had one since 787? I’m open to correction, but I don’t know of any). Not such a biggie, perhaps, but if the East really lost nothing when the West was lost, so to speak, why haven’t there been any Ecumenical Councils since?
      * Saints who aren’t clergy or monastics.
      * Theology of vocations (does the EO have that? Correct me if I’m wrong)
      * Balancing institutional unity and cultural and ethnic diversity. Not so well since the Reformation, I guess, but there isn’t an Italian Catholic and Irish Catholic Church the way there is a Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox Church. Presumably something right was happening there.

      Just a few ideas that immediately occur to me. I expect there are others.

      • Those seem like good points to me. Perhaps the East could benefit greatly from these things. I don’t know how much of an absolute necessity they are, but they seem most certainly strong positives.

      • There are more differences within various parts of the Catholic church than you’d credit – someone mentioned the eastern Rite Catholics above; in Lebanon alone, you can find several distinct “flavors” of Catholicism, mainly based on what I’ll call clan associations, going *way* back.

        I don’t think this is as cut and dried as it might appear at 1st blush.

        • Actually, I think that makes the point more strongly. I’m well acquainted with the Eastern Catholic Rites (well, as well acquainted as any other Latin Rite person). I knew a whole bunch of Maronites during my university days (lots of Lebanese in Sydney, and indeed, the Maronites seemed to have a good track record of keeping their kids enthusiastic about Jesus through their time as students whereas the majority of Western Catholic kids tended to flake out, with a few exceptions) and I once dated a Melkite. The liturgies are different, not to mention other things (the way Easterners do Lent is intense!!), but there is still an institutional unity. We could, and did, all worship together. We could attend each other’s liturgies, knowing the differences were, as you say, flavours, not barriers. In my view, balancing that kind of cultural, ethnic and, yes, liturgical diversity with an overall institutional unity is quite an achievement.

          • Glenn – wise words! I wish I had more experience of being around Melkites and Maronites, as you do.

  33. If you are an accurate representative of what Orthodoxy has to offer, Mule, then we don’t need anything the East has to offer.

    • Well, converts to any religious faith are often very passionate about their new-found beliefs (think Paul of Tarsus). Psychologically, it’s a normal human reaction for people to rail against the faith they formerly held, and idealize their new one.

      Also, of course all faiths have shameful episodes in their past, and some in their present. Sincere, Bible-believing, praying American Protestants fought to the death for the right to hold slaves, supporting their actions by the “clear” words of the Bible. (Meantime, those same slaves read Exodus and drew rather different conclusions!)

      As a white American who was born at a time when some former slaves were still living, I have no right to get up on any theological/historical high horse. My objections to Russian Orthodoxy were not that the Orthodox were uniquely bad, but that Mr. Briers presented them so vehemently as uniquely good. But he’s a convert, and also one who apparently enjoys poking at hornets’ nests, so maybe it’s understandable. In any case, I for one certainly would not want him to go away from IM — he provokes — and I do mean provokes — some of the liveliest discussions around.

    • I would agree. But I am holding out hope that this guy–who with his penchant for hanging around places like “hooking up smart” to give filthy sex advice to young women, doesn’t seem to be holding himself to a very high standard of ethics in general just yet–is not at all representative of Orthodoxy.

      • Aha – Katarina, I see that I’m not the only one who’s found those sites and Mule’s truly unpleasant posts.

        Thank you for speaking out. I’ve been biting my tongue for weeks now, albeit not off-list. (Have written to both Jeff and Chaplain Mike with examples of said posts, too.)

      • Vega Magnus says

        *Googles.* Huh. I can only get so angry at Mule because he wrote the Hell on the Installment Plan entry, which is utterly brilliant in my opinion, however, he is very grating otherwise. I’m not quite advocating kicking him off the iMonk staff, but I do feel that he has some troll tendencies and that it would be better for those who vehemently disagree with him to simply ignore his posts.

        • Vega – in this case, ignoring his posts means tacit agreement that it’s OK for someone to attack and belittle women, black Americans, Muslims (etc. etc. etc.) in this place.

          And that is *very* far off from the late Michael Spencer’s intent for this blog, at least, once he got past his culture warrior tendencies.

          Mule is not jsut a culture warrior, he’s a “manosphere” advocate. (Google that and see where it takes you.) iMonk has historically been very supportive of women, and I find Mule’s mansophere-infused rantings on the subject of relations between the sexes to be the absolute antithesis of what this blog has been about (up til now, taht is).

          Add to that the comment in today’s post about genocide and it all becomes pretty well intolerable. (Having grown up in the immediate post-Holocaust era, it has a whole different ring to me than it might to you…)

          • numo,
            This is exactly why I won’t take the advice of some of the commentators on this thread that if we don’t like what Mule has to say, we should just avoid his posts; as long as he is spreading venom, I would feel remiss in not applying a little anti-venom where I can. In a free society having freedom of expression, the only appropriate response to speech we strongly disagree with is opposing argument.

            I won’t, however, join you in calling for banning him from iMonk. Let the ass bray….he reveals his true colors every time he does, and more and more of the commentators are seeing it.

          • Yeah this isn’t a little archaic chauvinism that we can just write off with “oh he comes from another generation, the dear man.” This is a virulent form of not sexism, but woman-hating, with a sharp edge to it. It’s poisonous. And I can see it having a negative effect on this forum already.

          • Robert F – oh, I don’t think he should be banned from commenting at iMonk, but I bet we could all do with a break from posts – or else a little editorial intervention, whichever.

            As for Mule’s “generation,” i do believe I’m older than he is, as are lots of other commenters here. Enough said.

      • Ah, so there is more to this that what is evident here.

        I googled him on that site, and I must not have found the posts you referred to. What I read seemed mostly in-line with what I’ve come to expect from him, which I would characterize as ‘uncomfortably honest’, especially in areas that can be volatile.
        I’m not much of a feminist myself, (I have been accused of being a traitor to my sex before…) and maybe I can sympathize for being a mixer and getting crap for being honest about my unpopular opinions.

        I do hope that he gets to defend himself here in the comments sometime soon. I’m interested in what he has to say to the crowd he’s stirred up.

        • he posts on a *lot* of sites, including heartiste and Dalrock…

          • I have tried to post what I find to be one of the more egregious examples. Last time it got zapped and not posted. We shall see if they let it through this time.

          • Vega Magnus says

            I just skimmed Heartiste. That might the most vomit-inducing thing I’ve ever seen.

          • Vega – Well, I won’t say “I told you so,” but…

            Katharina – funny thing; my links (and posts addressing the subject) got canned, too, a few weeks back.


          • Vega – the way supposed “men” attack and humiliate and relentlessly bully *guys* at Hearteiste is every bit as sickening as what they say about women.

            It’s like Lord of the Flies, pretty much.

          • How do the comment threads get moderated here? Is there one person who handles every one, or do they go to the author of each individual entry? Hmm…

            • Comment threads are not actively moderated in the sense that we regularly edit or delete comments. If we are going to do so, we will identify that in the post. Occasionally if a comment is way off subject or clearly offensive it will get trashed. If the conduct continues, one of us will contact the commenter personally and explain.

              If comments do not appear in a timely fashion it is usually because they have been “caught” in the spam filter and it may take awhile for one of us to see that and clear it. We work full time jobs and have full lives and look at the comments whenever we can. Chaplain Mike is usually monitoring throughout the day on his iPhone when possible and in the evening on the computer. On some days when we have additional time, we may engage in the conversation more fully. None of us actually know when the others may be looking at the comments.

              Beginning with Michael Spencer (who moderated much more strictly), we have built a community of discussion here that we generally trust to have helpful and insightful discussions. Every once in awhile we have to bounce someone but that is rare.

              For questions about writers, Jeff Dunn should be the one who is contacted unless it is clear that Chaplain Mike has invited someone to contribute. He usually makes the final decisions when we ask someone to be a regular writer.

              I have let your comments stand this time, but it would be appreciated in the future if you would not have off-topic conversations in the comment thread. Send email if you have concerns. I know for a fact that thought and consideration, as well as communication with our authors has taken place. In some cases posts have been rejected, rewritten or edited as the administration has thought suitable.

              Hope that helps.

          • Katharina – I believe that Jeff Dunn and Chaplain Mike are the mods hereabouts – not the guest authors.

          • Oh, and one more thing. If you include links, it’s likely to get trapped in the spam filter. If it gets held, I may see it and set it free, but if it goes straight to the dreaded spam folder, well good luck. Right now, in just one evening, the spam folder has received over 1100 spam comments. I might not — might not! — have time to search through that.

            : }

        • see his comment here:

          and yeah, if you want to call me a “tiny angry feminist,” I’ll accept the label with pride!

          • I tried to post this a couple rounds ago but it got censored…

            hookingupsmart dot com “a father’s loving advice to a teenage daughter by Mule Chewing Briars”

            “You already have girl game. Its called butt, boobs, hair and legs [but never show off more than hair and one other at any one time]. You don’t need anything else. Really. Any guy who isn’t responding to your BBH&L has access to better BBH&L elsewhere. Sorry, life isn’t fair. See rule #4.”

          • So I’ve been more right than I knew in comparing him with Howard Stern…..

          • Vega Magnus says

            I think the thing with me is that I’ve read enough stuff like that before that it doesn’t shock me anymore. Still, I think there is a difference between passionate debate sparked by thoughtful and engaging writing and the passionate debate sparked by troll comments, and quite frankly, Mule too often drifts into troll territory. I’ll admit that I’m not a theologian nor a long-time reader of this site, so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but I do not think that posts like this from Mule promote the proper tone of discussion for this site.

          • I just want to spell this out further: I think the lewd commentary highlighted above is far outside what any mainstream Christian tradition would consider appropriate, normative, or good. It is objectifying and crass. It considers women–even the author’s own young daughter!–it terms of being a sex object, not as a human being made in the Image of God. It views sex as a transaction or power play, not as the means of unity between a married couple. It is a serious, serious issue that someone who is churning out this kind of bilge is given a platform on a Christian site.

          • Katharina – That “Hooking Up Smart” post is one of his milder ones, really…

          • I don’t doubt it, Numo. It’s certainly bad enough, though.

            I would really appreciate if the site maintainers, here, would address these concerns directly. It is disturbing.

          • Katharina – I’d appreciate some direct comments (public) from both jeff and Chaplain Mike on this subject. I’ve written to them both on it, complete with links and text, and received polite replies.

            But nothing has changed, except for the significant fact that our comments are being posted. that’s a start, but it doesn’t even begin to address the misogyny in so many of Mule’s comments on other sites.

            How can misogyny and Christ go together? (I am, to put it mildly, perplexed.)

          • I have to say I think you have him all wrong. I read both the links posted: the BBH&L one, and the comment on baggagerclaim. I really don’t think you’re reading him right at all. That’s understandable because his style sort of has a spin to it that’s confusing.

            He’s basically talking about biology. He’s not telling people they should LIKE biology the way it is and thus succumb to every hormonal whim, or condoning the objectification of anyone. He’s giving people the facts.

            The fact is that men DO want physically attractive women, pretty much full stop. That doesn’t mean wise men don’t look for other things as well, eventually, but biologically, that’s how they’re wired, and it’s not going away. And he’s trying to get across that women will, whether they like it or not, play along with this. If I were a young woman, I would think having the tools to navigate that world- one in which hormones and animalistic desires basically rule the day- is valuable. It’s not male-centric chauvinism or something, it’s life on “planet XY” as he calls it.

            It may not be in the most sensitive language, but that’s just a matter of style. It’s not always that effective to scrub what you’re saying in order to avoid hurt feelings anyway. He’s just making sure there’s no room for confusion.

          • Nate, a Christian does not view humans as simply biological beings, nor does a Christian view sex simply as mating and the “survival of the fittest.” A Christian does not view men and women as alien species from opposing planets, but the two halves of the Imago Dei, reunited in holy matrimony. A Christian parent does not reduce their child to a series of secondary sexual characteristics and advise them that their job is to “find a boy who wants to have sex with you.”

            There is zero compatibility between “game,” which is all about promiscuity and objectification, and the Christian faith. Zero.

            Quite simply he cannot be both who he claims to be here, and who he claims to be there. One of those images is false.

          • But a Christian may admit that most of the world views people that way, and that on a purely hormonal level, Christians do as well. And that in any male-female relationship, however holy, this dynamic is still functioning.

            HIs advice to his daughter may be dumbed-down speak in order to intentionally incite a sudden, conscious awareness of all this. It doesn’t mean it’s his last word for her, or the pinnacle of wisdom. This is just how some people talk

          • I’ve read the manosphere and “game” some, and it is truly evil. It’s built on a toxic worldview that reduces everything to “the sexual marketplace.” It’s like the most vulgar and deconstructive forms of Marxism, only replacing economics with sex (repackaged Freudianism, you might say?) It grew out of “pickup artist” advice to help men be promiscuous and objectify both women and themselves. Some people took this, turned up the misogyny, added shallow social analysis and pseudoscience, and turned it into a comprehensive doctrine of life.

            And while it’s horribly misogynistic, it’s also very degrading to men. The attempts to make it compatible with Christianity are only slightly less ugly than the secular versions. Whatever small handful of good insights they may have can also be found in less poisonous contexts.

            I wasn’t really shocked by Mule’s post on gender, because I’ve read that sort of thing before, but I was quite surprised to see iMonk posting it. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt that he wasn’t just cribbing from Roissy and others, but I was wrong.

            Part of the reason I am so repelled by this stuff is that I am a single in my 20s who finds dating and women hard to understand and very frustrating at times. So when I’ve read the manosphere I see sort of a shadowy version of what I could become if I allowed bitterness, hate, and resentment to consume me (in the way that some people see a dark mirror what they could become in the movie Taxi Driver).

          • Yes, men do want someone they find physically attractive (so do women, by the way, even if they are slightly less visual). There’s a big difference between encouraging a woman to take care of appearance within reason and saying “show some skin to get the guys.”

          • Joel – +1 +1

            You’re right that the whole “manosphere” thing is poisonous and degrading for men (the constant attack posts at Heartiste are particularly horrible examples).

            It’s as if these guys have to dehumanize *everyone* that they despise, be it people of my gender (women) or of their own.

            It might not come as a surprise to know that the Southern Poverty Law Center has “manosphere” sites on their watchlist of hate groups/sites, though their info. is a bit out of date (doesn’t include the many prominent blogs that have sprung up over the past couple of years).

        • Umi,
          The Great Wizard of Mule will not make an appearance unless someone pulls aside the curtain…

          • I get the distinct feeling that nobody’s planning to do that.

            Hope the loyal opposition continues to go well. It might be best if I bow out.

        • This all makes me glad that I’m smart enough to troll under a pseudonym.

      • Yikes! Hadn’t seen *those* posts before I googled just now. And I sort of wish the experience had been indefinitely postponed!

    • Richard Hershberger says

      In fairness, what we are seeing here is the intersection of a Convert to Orthodoxy and Net Orthodoxy. Either alone tends to encourage ungraciousness. The combination of the two is not pretty.

      I see the same thing all the time within my Lutheran corner of the church, with its divisions. Net Missouri Lutherans are prickly and argumentative. I assume they find net ELCA’ers the same. Yet when I moved into a new town and joined the local LCMS congregation, my old ELCA congregation sent a letter of transfer with blinking, and the new LCMS congregation accepted it. Then some years later when I moved again and ended up in an ELCA congregation, the letter of transfer once again was sent and accepted without comment. And when my current (and final, I trust) congregation has its annual sauerbraten dinner, a contingent from an LCMS church two counties over shows up every year and we have a lovely time.

      The moral is that how you see people behaving on the net bears only the faintest resemblance to congregational real life.

      • Richard, I truly do appreciate your perspective (having been raised ELCA myself), but the problem is, this blog draws lots of traffic and ranks high in google searches.

        That means that even more people are being exposed to the more pernicious aspects of Net Orthodoxy than might otherwise be the case. (Myself, i much prefer the more irenic style of Fr. Ernesto, who blogs at OrthoCuban and who was a regular participant in discussions here back during Michael Spencer’s lifetime).

        it might seem like I’m anti-Orthodox, but the opposite is true. It’s the Net/new Convert type of Orthodoxy in Mule’s posts that concerns me, as I think it’s far from giving an accurate picture of Orthodox belief and practice.

        • Just one quick add: I don’t necessarily *agree with* Fr. Ernesto on a lot of things, but I love his style and presentation.

  34. Mule, here’s a big hug. What we see here is just in miniature what went on as the Nicene Creed was hammered out. Hammered out in pitched battles, literal battles, with intrigue, deception, politics, exile, injuries, and fatalities. All in the name of sweet Jesus. Folks sure can get upset over words.

    In my view the solution to this particular problem is to take out the whole clause, “Who proceedeth from the Father [and the Son]”. Actually I no longer will recite this whole loyalty oath when faced with the situation, tho I do stand silently so as not to disrespect those who think it important. More and more I see it as quibbling over obtuse Greek philosophy, and I seriously doubt if the original crafters had two together who understood the same thing from the final words.

    In my view if there is one thing worse than heresy, it is rigid dogma devoid of warmth and spirit. The most telling thing about this creed for me is that it does not once refer to love. An intellectual donut with a hollow center.

  35. I smell tar and feathers. I’m gonna duck and run if I still can, and lament that I ever tried to form an opinion here. This is as far as I will stick out my neck for a Lutheran understanding of the eighth commandment, and I sincerely retract anything I have said that anyone finds offensive. Tapping out.

    • Not really. Some of us have been trying to make these points for well over a month, but our comments were deleted or never approved in the 1st place.

      but I’ve said more than enough for one night.

      • Final Anonymous says

        Much longer than a month, actually.

        • Final Anon. – yes, you’re right about the time frame. My bad!

          • Final Anonymous says

            Numo, wasn’t meant as a correction, just adding my voice to ones who have expressed public and private dissent over this stuff for months now. It is not religious complementarianism or disagreements over Paul’s intent; it’s flat-out misogyny doused with a heavy dose of seminary-speak to make it sound palatable to the intellectual and/or traditionalist crowds here.

            I find it harder to stomach than even the Mark Driscoll drivel that has been regularly dissected here.

  36. Mule, thank you for writing this. As someone who has written a few posts for imonk, I know how it can dominate your day to write a post (not to mention looking at all the comments).

    I appreciate your exploration of the issue from the EO side of things. As I grow older, I realize how much I need to hear the viewpoints of other believers from diverse traditions.

    I sometimes have trouble, reading your posts, to know when you are summarizing the viewpoints of others or when you are describing your own. So forgive me if I misunderstand you. But I want to interact with your arguments a bit.

    You seem to make three main arguments in favor of rejecting the filioque clause. First, that only the EO stance absolutely “preserves the identity and diversity” of the Trinity since the western view introduces a dyad. Second, that western theology on this point subordinates and minimizes the Spirit. Third, that the filioque leads to abstraction, since the Spirit proceeds from two persons, not one, and that this “absolutizes the binary over the analog”. This last point, you seem to argue, accounts for the many of the west’s ills (division, man-hating, elevating abstractions over personhood).

    Regarding your first argument, I have to say I am un-convinced. Yes, I suppose, asserting that the Spirit proceeded from the Father and Son places some sort of conceptual dyad into the trinity. In this regard, the Father and Son stand apart from the Spirit. But a conceptual dyad is not avoided by removing the clause. You still have the Spirit and the Father conceptually on opposing sides. One proceeds from the other. The EO solution does not remove the dyad; it simply leaves uncertain which side of the dyad the Son is on.

    This same point is why your second argument also does not work for me. Either this “proceeding from” subordinates the Spirit or it does not. If it does, then the Spirit is subordinate to the Father on either scheme. If it does not, then it would not matter (on this point) whether that proceeding was from the Father or Son or both.

    Your last point I find difficult to follow. Why should the filioque clause prohibit a personal procession? The Father and the Son are both persons. Must it only be from one person to be personal? I don’t see why this should be so. If my wife and I together decide to have a child or move to another city, I don’t see how that makes the decision less “personal” than if I decided it myself. How much less, then, if we are speaking of the perfectly aligned wills of the persons of the Father and the Son. The Spirit does not have to proceed, under western formulations, from some abstract principle.

    I cannot follow you, then, in your last third of the article, in which you blame this abstraction for the ills of the west. Perhaps you could prove your point here by comparative history, but, looking at the comments above, that may prove difficult. I certainly find troubling your statement that heresy (defined in this context as not having the correct view of the filioque controversy) makes genocide look like jaywalking.

    This is not to say that I think the western formulation is certain truth. Personally, I feel the inner workings of the Trinity are beyond our ability to understand (at least for now). Except where we are given explicit information in scripture about the trinity, we should be content with our ignorance, or even let that ignorance be a midwife to awe.

    Again, thank you for your time in writing this, and forgive me if I have misunderstood you.

    Grace and peace

    • Daniel,
      Brilliant critique. And admirably irenic. I’m afraid I cannot approximate either your brilliance or your charity, because this Mule has raised my ire, but I do admire them.

    • One thing not mentioned is that the original Nicene creed (325) was completely silent on this point. It ended after “and in the Holy Ghost”.

      It was ‘revised” in 381, and the statement about proceeding from the Father was added. Also added were the statements on baptism, the church, and a few other items.

      Interestingly enough, the Third Ecumenical Council (at Ephesus) upheld the language of the original Nicene Creed of 325, and made this statement (canon 7):

      “It is not permitted to produce or write or compose any other creed except the one which was defined by the holy Fathers who were gathered together in the Holy Spirit at Nicaea. Any who dare to compose or bring forth or produce another creed for the benefit of those who wish to turn from Hellenism or Judaism or some other heresy to the knowledge of the truth, if they are bishops or clerics they should be deprived of their respective charges, and if they are laymen they are to be anathematized.”

      Thus, unless one argues that the 381 creed is not a different creed than the original of 325 (as Rome does, saying that the 381 creed “clarified” the 325 creed) it would seem we should prefer the earlier, original version. In any case, it is certainly possible for protestants like myself to believe in the Nicene Creed (original version) without taking a stand on the filioque issue.

      Sources: you can look up the Wikipedia articles on the Nicene creed (which compares the two versions) and the Council of Ephesus, or you can go here:

      • The Creed was revised in response to a heresy which had arisen denying the divinity of the Holy Spirit – the same heresy that rears its head when the filioque clause is added to the Creed. The Fathers of the 2nd Ecumenical Council fashioned the Creed without the filioque on for a reason.

        • This doesn’t make sense. The clause added in the “revision” of 381 subordinates the Spirit to the Father. The Spirit proceeds from the Father, but the Father does not proceed from the Spirit. If this “revision” was designed to elevate the Spirit it failed completely.

          • I didn’t say it was designed to elevate the Spirit, I said it was meant to protect the understanding that the Holy Spirit is divine. The Father begets the Son, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father. The Gospel of John is clear about both of these points. So the Father is source or fountainhead of the Trinity. All members of the Godhead share the Divine Nature of the Father, so they are all equally God. But “fatherness” is a quality belonging only to person of the Father, not the divine nature in general.

          • Procession does not imply divinity. Creation proceeds from the Father as well. We, as part of creation, proceed from the Father, since, to use your term, He is the “source” of us all (as Paul put so well in Acts 17).

            In fact most scholarship since the late 1900’s has argued that the 381 creed was based on a separate document, and the wording changed to be more in line with the original Nicene Creed.

          • Creation does not proceed from the Father from eternity, as does the Holy Spirit. And you don’t know what the word procession implies apart from what God has revealed, because no one can fathom the inner life of the Trinity. But what has been revealed is that the Father begets the Son, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father (how these are different – who knows?), and the Son and the Holy Spirit are of the same essence as the Father.

          • The creed says nothing about the the Spirit proceeding from eternity (unlike its language about the Son).

            And I was using your idea of procession (as source) since I was responding to your argument.

  37. Mule,
    I repeat my request from way up this page: besides the change in the mode of your kindness to a group of outsider teenagers, where is the evidence in cultures strongly influenced by Orthodoxy that the absence of the filioque from the Creed led to social realities that were more respectful of “personhood” than those in the West?

    You haven’t adduced one bit of historical evidence to support this claim; you’ve merely asserted it.

    Where’s the evidence? Or is the idea of needing evidence also the result of fallacious Western binary division?

    Let me play the prophet: the Emperor is naked, and there is no evidence, much less proof….

    • You are entirely right. It is bald assertion.

      You can agree with it or not. I did not write this post to elicit agreement, although of course I would be delighted if agreement ensued.

      If I have to observe academic or courtroom protocols, my subsequent posts would contain less conjecture, which my remark was clearly marked as being.

      I’ve been naked a long time. I’m used to it.

      • There you are.

        You’re chum has drawn sharks, hasn’t it? But that was your intention, wasn’t it? You put a little blood in the water, and now everything has turned red. Congratulations; you got what you wanted.

        Your assertions about the deleterious effects of the filioque on the West are feathery, history-less abstractions; no one expects you to meet academic or courtroom standards of proof, but your arguments don’t martial even enough anecdotal support to pass muster at the local bar.

        Your demotion of genocide to a pedestrian violation in comparison to heresy reveals your gnostic blindness to the meaning of Incarnation, to the deep intimacy of the human body and spirit, that makes sin against the flesh also sin against the spirit (and Spirit), and against truth.

        Genocide is heresy, it desecrates the presence of Jesus in every human hand and face, it destroys the souls of the perpetrators and degrades the humanity of the victims even as it destroys their bodies, and the life of their communities. And it takes place in history among real people, not in the abstract reveries of amateur theologians debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

        You say you’ve been naked a long time, and are used to it. But really you’re hiding, you’re on the run; you’re a rolling stone, Mule.

        You haven’t stopped rolling yet, but you will.

        Why not stop now?


        • I have a blog. Leave a comment to me there. You will get an email in return. My blog is relatively moribund and I don’t write anything here to generate interest there.

          The genocide remark was purposefully inflammatory. but I stand by it in principle. Heresy > genocide, not heresy => genocide, if only because heresy precedes genocide as an architect’s drawings precede a building. Trust me, I get at least as worked up about actual genocide as you do. Certainly, it occupies a not insignificant portion of my daily prayers.

          My views concerning the relationships between the sexes are deeply at odds with the prevailing ethos. I retract nothing I have posted elsewhere. If I am crasser elsewhere than I am here, it is because I am a guest here and trim my sails accordingly. I have positions that are more extreme than I share here, but only because the bailiwick here is theology and Christian life, not politics or economics.

          And calling me ‘medieval’ is like calling a high-jumper “hopper”. It’s something I have to work at diligently if I expect to be any good at it.

          • Please tell us: where is the love and mercy and compassion of Christ in what you write?

            Where is the love and mercy and compassion of Christ in your comments on Heartiste, Dalrock and similar sites?

            Your posts seem to me to be based entirely in an Us. vs. Them mentality, whether it’s men being supposedly harmed by the independence of women, or the the words of the filioque supposedly laying waste to much of the world, while your "Us" (the East, or at least, your part of the Orthodox church) is pure and untainted.

            Where is the compassion of Christ in your claims about heresy being worse than genocide?

            I do not see *any* compassion on the "manosphere" sites I've checked, only rage – against women, against other men, against our common humanity.

            Your "ethos" is not one I understand or recognize as having anything to do with the life and teaching of Christ. (And that's *not* a slam against the Orthodox church; I find much in Orthodox belief and thought that engages my mind and heart.)

            As I mentioned in another comment, the Southern Poverty Law Center has "manosphere" sites on its watchlist (you know, list of hate groups and sites).

            I cannot see how "Game" and "Commandments of P*on" have anything in common with the constant admonitions of both Christ and the writers of the Epistles to love others – both those we think are our neighbors and those whom we believe to be our enemies.

            Mule, I hope for a change of mind and heart for you. I hope you can arrive at a place of peace, where there’s no need to write what are – to my mind, and the minds of many others – venomous attacks.

          • sorry for all the italics – unclosed tag (again)!

            Thanks to whoever fixed my previous coding error, btw – if you catch this one, I’ll be doubly grateful.

          • Mule,
            I have no interest in visiting your man cave. What would we do? Would I play Enkidu to your Gilgamesh? Or vice versa?

            How ironic that these man caves are so womb-like. Perhaps you do need to be born again, to be delivered from your man cave.

            Your genocide remark was purposely inflammatory? No kidding. To play on such an exposed and sensitive nerve as genocide puts you in the grip of the spirit at the heart genocide; even if your assertion about the extent of heresy’s evil is correct, your intentional gouging of such a deep moral wound bespeaks a level of cruelty and callousness that is terrible.

            I hope that you somehow will be able to see this, if not now, then later.

            May God open your eyes.

  38. Firstly, the painting at the top is too literal and therefore annoying.

    Secondly, if God is one, and exists eternally in three persons, why any discussion either of the filioque (Holy Spirit proceeding from the Son) or even of the Spirit proceeding from the Father? Are the three persons eternally co-existent or are they not? It makes as much sense to say that the Father proceeds from the Holy Spirit. I will not suggest that the Father proceeds from the Son, but again, if the three are eternally co-existent, why not at least ask the question?

    The doctrine of Trinity is not explicitly taught in the Bible, but all of the moving parts are there for us to recognize it. And, although the Trinity is extremely important to believe in (so that we don’t fall off a cliff theologically, or at least down a slippery slope), it seems to be more for our understanding of God’s nature than for God’s spiritual health and well-being. I think He knows who He is.

    This filioque controversy seems the equivalent of a Trinity-within-a-Trinity, if that’s possible; as if the Trinity itself weren’t already as mind-blowing as relativity.

  39. Think I’m going back to lurking after this post. I always used to be afraid of jumping into the comments section in the old days, and now I’m remembering why. This is way more drama than I’ve had since I left my old church and it has reminded me of why I don’t go anymore. Sorry if I added to the dustup.

    • Oh, please don’t. I understand the impulse, but I love your comments.

    • Yes Umi … seems that things are getting a bit personal here… I understand it but don’t condone it. All of us are made up of different stock. Each has something valuable to say even if we can sometimes be way off base or present it in a way of being provacative. I am not in favor of pulling opinions from other websites to support opinions formed here. If that is the case then there are more than a few here who might be painted in a different light.

      I write under a pseudonym too, mostly because I value my privacy. I don’t blog anywhere else (unless its on a technical or engineering issue pertaining to my job) so I am not so worried about my words… I tend to be pretty genuine and try to work on the humble thing which I struggle with…

      So… please continue to post… what you say is of value here and we will continue to keep this place a safe haven for posting.

      To the rest of you… You should always feel free to disagree, express your opinions, and even you emotions, we live in a free society… but please, for the sake of others, please don’t go looking for info to assasinate character… for I may not agree with the person or you but I may just find something to ponder.

    • Thanks guys.

      I’ll try not to resort to the old “I’m leaving, wah!” thing again, it’s sort of juvenile. Reminds me of my days on the AOL bulletin boards back in the mid-90’s, lol.

      But this thread has gotten a little too dirty for me and ruined my night a little yesterday, so I think I need a self-imposed time-out from the playground for a few days to cool off.

  40. “I think this a result of what the Orthodox condemn as a “filioquist culture”, a man-hating culture, one that elevates abstractions and ideals over personhood. A culture that introduces an artificial and abstract distinction into the very core of existence, into the very Triune Unity, will have no problem introducing artificial and abstract distinctions between people to their own despite.”

    If this is the core conclusion of your post, it colludes perfectly with something that I’ve had to slog through myself regarding a correct understanding of the Spirit, though not being Orthodox I didn’t see in “filioquist” terms.

    Basically, I realized I had a schism in my view of Christ and his Spirit (and so did most of my church peers and teachers) that led to either the dismissal of the Spirit altogether as unimportant, or effectively non-existent, or to a vision of his work as something akin to magic, and having more to do with the personal experience of the individual than the mission and work of Christ.

    I don’t know how it stacks up and relates to the filioque problem, but I’ve since done what I can to approach the Spirit in conversation (and in my personal reading/thinking) only in reference to Christ and his work. Or at least as much as possible.

    It’s remarkable how we in evangelicalism fail to even notice how we separate the Spirit out from everything else in Scripture and almost feel a license to say whatever we want about him.

    Penal substitution obsession hasn’t helped this tangle either, I imagine.

  41. Joseph (the original) says


    and how many angels are doing the hand jive atop the head of a pin…



  42. I’m disappointed at the way this post and the comments turned out. I was looking forward to discussion on Orthodox pneumatology, which was a big reason of my initial (and continuing) attraction to the Orthodox Church. And I actually think getting the doctrine of the Trinity right does matter. This issue nothing like how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. Doctrine matters. And if the Lord Jesus Christ thought it important enough to teach that the Spirit proceeds from the Father, and the Apostle John thought it fitting to include those words in his Gosepl, and the Church Fathers thought it well to include his words in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, all Christians should seriously consider the underlying reasons. There is plenty of substance to discuss regarding this issue, very little of which has taken place here.

  43. Radagast,

    Suppose I were invited to post articles here as, say, a Catholic nun with a unique handle like “Sister Savonarola.” Suppose I wrote eloquent, complex articles about Catholic theology, which drew interest and even admiration among many of the commenters here.

    Then suppose that one day you’re poking around religiously-themed sites on the internet, as some of us do, and you run across “Sister Savonarola” posting on a holocaust-denier website. Startled, you google her/my handle, and find that I regularly post vicious anti-Jewish remarks on many such sites, including the KKK website, where I (under my handle) am also a subject of interest and admiration.

    Is this really OK with you? Do you really feel it’s wrong to even mention this here? Should I be free to continue posting articles representing Catholic theology on this site, without any notification to anyone that I write in an entirely opposite persona elsewhere, and moreover, that my “other” persona totally invalidates my pretensions to be a representative of Catholicism?

    Think about it.

    • + 1, H. Lee.

    • +1 +1

    • H. Lee,

      I understand your point of view. I do. The problem with the internet is that too many folks post too much about themselves or comments that reveal their inner self. I don’t have a clean answer for you and tend to value everyone’s opinion here, even those I disagree with. I could go all “what would jesus do with this” but that is not my way. Suffice to say that I read the post here and I take it at face value, try not to get upset about the style (by the way I posted critically against some of it as well) and try not to let other stuff found outside this blog influence it. I think this type of thing may scare off the more timid from participating.

      But… I do understand the strong reaction from some of you who have additional information to evaluate the writings. I am just choosing to evaluate on what is here on the site.


      • Peace to you too, Radagast the Brown. I can’t be very mad at someone who takes his handle from Tolkien. 🙂

      • Radagast – I can understand why you feel as you do, but the thing is, what Katharina and I (and others) have raised really *is* germane, given the fact that Mule has written two posts about men and women and relationships that contain a lot of “manosphere” thought.

        someone who knows him from Heartiste and Dalrock commented on the 1st post, saying that he was glad that Mule ahd brought in “manosphere” issues/thinking, but that he should have credited Heartiste and Dalrock for the ideas.

        That was pretty much an open invite to check the sources, and I did. What I found was/is extremely disturbing, and I think it is public property, given the nature of Mule’s posts on men and women + the fan shoutout that he got on that 1st post on the topic.

        • Final Anonymous says

          IMO the outside sources aren’t any different than what has been written here, albeit with less taste and tact. Kind of restores my faith in the iMonk commenters that others are finally smelling the nastiness for what it is.

          I’m finding it hard to take seriously any claims of greater love and acceptance, no matter the faith tradition, while the woman-hatred practically burns through this and Mule’s previous posts.

          I do hope Jeff and/or Mike will publicly address the issues that have been raised.

          • Final Anon – I couldn’t agree more.

          • That’s what I have been trying to say, also. There is an issue of deep credibility, here, and it would be sensible for the “management” to take a closer look at what they may have gotten themselves into by letting Mule use their letterhead.

            Hatred of women is every bit as serious of a character issue as is virulent racism or conspiracy-oriented antisemitism. Unfortunately, it’s often not treated as such a serious issue, even among so-called progressives.

          • I completely agree with you, numo and Katharina. Numo and Katharina, thank you for your comments.

            I have been reading Internet Monk since 2003 and have enjoyed the conversation very much. Before Mule began writing for Imonk, he posted a link to his own blog in the comment section of another post here on Imonk. I followed the link and found a piece he had written on this own blog espousing the manosphere manifesto. So I was disappointed to see that he was going to be writing for Imonk. Then I was disappointed that he so quickly posted those same views on Imonk. I also hope that Jeff and/or Mike will publicly address these issues.

            Mule says that he prays” that God would allow me to generate enough love in my heart to make these people feel accepted by me should I ever have any personal dealing with them, to take that wariness and caution out of their glances.” I also pray that God will allow Mule to generate enough love in is heart to stop addressing teen-aged girls as a collection of body parts to be judged by men.

          • Dana – Like you, I’m a longtime reader of iMonk (since 2006, I think), but was an infrequent commenter until recently. I did have a few really enjoyable – albeit brief – email exchanges with the the late Michael Spencer, and though I disagreed with him on many things (his views on Mark Driscoll especially!), I think he did a great job and I found many posts and comments that have been helpful to me as someone recovering from a highly abusive evangelical/charismatic church (well, churches, actually)

            I’ve also really enjoyed this blog since Jeff and Chaplain Mike have taken over – until Mule’s arrival. I think that closing comments, deleting some comments and continuing to publish his pieces without any public commentary or willingness to address the concerns many of us have stated both on and off-list is all deeply troubling.

            I can’t see how *anything* in the “manosphere” is even remotely compatible with the teachings and life of Christ. And then there are Mule’s remarks about black Americans, Muslims, genocide, etc. etc. as icing on the highly inedible cake.

          • Dana, a P.S.: we might not agree on a number of things, but I still like your presentation of your beliefs – and of Orthodoxy! (Very much so, in fact.)

            do you have a blog, by any chance?

          • Whoops – I’m not Dana Ames. I’m a different Dana. I don’t comment often, but I should make that clear if she has already been commenting in a thread. I’m Another Dana from now on.

          • another Dana – Oh, gotcha! Sorry for any confusion on my part.

            And I really appreciate your comments.

        • Understood numo.



      • Radagast – I think your choice is very legit, and I respect it, and you.

  44. Klasie Kraalogies says

    Eish! That is some comment thread. After briefly scanning through all of this, noting the tendencies in Mule’s writings that some have highlighter here, and ignoring it for a bit, here’s my comment on the theology and politics of the east-west split:

    What happened in the 11th century was essential the result of a long-standing pissing contest between guys in big hats over who gets to call the shots and receive the honour. The theology is just an excuse – they were pretty good at coming up with those back then. The theology, especially from the Eastern side, is obscurantist wrangling over concepts enveloped in mystery that cannot be proven this way or that anyway, but serves as nice fodder for dropping heresy bombs on your opposition. And many, many orthodox writers, theologians and bloggers attribute everything wrong west of the Carpatians and north of the Danube as being its fault. It is facile ridiculousness – in that case, we might call the frequent exposure of Putin’s bare chest the result of the rejection of the filioque. Stupidity on wheels….

    • That’s one very cynical interpretation. I prefer to believe that the Holy Spirit really has been guiding the Church into all Truth, as promised by our Lord Jesus Christ, and that the doctrinal formulations agreed upon in the Ecumenical Councils accepted by the Church catholic, are divinely inspired. And to your point about the guys with the hats, only one of them thought he had the authority to alter the words of Jesus Christ contained in the Creed.

  45. I still don’t understand how this is an important issue or how it makes the West wrong or even all that different than the East.

    First, Mule is from Georgia. The majority of Christians in his state, Evangelicals in general, Baptists specifically, don’t make much, if any use of creeds, including the Nicene creed. The vast majority of them have never heard of the filioque. You might as well be speaking Klingon to talk to them about the filioque. Even the small minority of them who have heard of the filioque have likely never thought it about all that much.

    With that in mind, how on God’s green earth has the filioque had any influence whatsoever on Baptists? And that’s only one example of Western Christians, although a relevant one considering both where Mule lives and Michael Spencer’s Baptist background.

    Second, I am the only one who found the quote from Vladimir Lossky within this post and Mule’s complaint about “artificial and abstract distinctions” really odd? Sorry, but if your going to quote a guy about essence and hypostases, it doesn’t help your case to turn around and complain about Western abstractness at the end of your post.

    • We modern Christian take the doctrines of the Divine-Human Nature of Christ and the Trinity for granted. The Christianized understanding of concepts such as hypostasis (person) and ousia (essence) is what made the preservation of these core doctrines of the Christian Faith possible under the pressure of the Greek philisophical milieu of those early centuries of the Church. If you are going to write off this terminology as “artificial and abstract”, you might as well write off the core Christian dogmas because they can’t be separated. And the Filioque issue is wrapped up in all of that.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says

        That is where you display an almost Reformed Baptist view of doctrine: It all has to be right!! It all has to be right!!

        Fiddlesticks. We have to get to the stage where we clearly admit that many texts are not clear, that the church fathers did not agree on everything, that (theological) mysteries cannot be explained etc etc. Roscoe is absolutely dead on with his complaint.

        • Boy, talk about putting words into my mouth. I’ll be the first to say that many texts are unclear, that the Fathers do not agree on everything, or that there are theological mysteries which cannot be explained.

          But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some things that can be said, and have been said and agreed upon in Ecumenical Councils, about the mystery. Those are the dogmas that are worth defending. If you are going to dismiss the Ecumenical Councils and the Church of that period, you might as well leave Christianity altogether because we have nothing to go on that doesn’t come to us directly from that Church.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says


            The speculative theology of the Orthodox understanding of the Trinity is hardly the stuff of Councils. There comes a point where you have to admit that you do not know.

            And meanwhile, Sergei is hungry and only the Party promises him delivery of the Tsar’s oppression…

    • how on God’s green earth has the filioque had any influence whatsoever on Baptists?

      It’s actually quite simple and obvious. The radical reformation didn’t happen in the East. There is no Protestantism to Eastern Orthodoxy. The factionalism and theological diversity of the Evangelical circus is completely unique to the West. I don’t know if we can blame that on the Filioque with a whole lot of epistemological certainty, but it certainly does speak to something!

  46. Actually, the Orthodox understanding of the Trinity is the stuff of Councils.

    • Not that there isn’t a place for speculation within Orthodoxy, but that isn’t the same thing as dogma. And the understanding of the Holy Spirit’s procession from the Father is not an area of speculative theology. That is most definitely the “stuff” of Councils, the second one to be precise.

  47. Quote: “It’s actually quite simple and obvious. The radical reformation didn’t happen in the East. There is no Protestantism to Eastern Orthodoxy. The factionalism and theological diversity of the Evangelical circus is completely unique to the West. I don’t know if we can blame that on the Filioque with a whole lot of epistemological certainty, but it certainly does speak to something!”

    Ever heard of the Old Believers and the Old Calendarists? Orthodoxy is not without factionalism. It would probably have a lot more factions if not for its historic connections to the state. Speaking of that, the main reasons that you see so much factionalism and theological diversity in the United States isn’t because of the nature of Evangelicalism or the radical reformation. It’s because since its independence from Great Britain, the United States hasn’t had an established church. This is quite different from Europe. The radical reformation never attracted many adherence in Europe largely because the state, whether linked to Catholics or the magisterial reformers, used force to stamp the radicals or at the very least keep them down. While counter-factuals have their limits, its quiet likely that Western European nations, and Russia as well, would have experienced far more
    factionalism, especially before secularization took hold, if they had disestablished all the churches several hundred years ago.

    quote: “If you are going to write off this terminology as “artificial and abstract”, you might as well write off the core Christian dogmas because they can’t be separated.”

    Calling something artificial and abstract isn’t the same as writing it off entirely. I grant that said terminology may well be vital to some degree. That said, your average Christian of any stripe, Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant (and this goes double for Baptists) couldn’t explain to you what these terms mean. They believe in the Trinity, but sure couldn’t explain it in that level of precise detail. This is why I find it hard to believe that the filioque affects the theology and practice of many Christians. Thus, it is a stretch to blame it for much of anything. And again, it is a bit much to complain about Western abstractions on the one hand and raise all the terminology previously mentioned on the other hand.

    • Roscoe – Thanks for the reality check on factionalism within the Russian orthdox Church; the factionalism besetting the *rest* of the Orthodox churches is also a huge problem (or problems), as other commenters have mentioned.

      Also, very much agreed on the difference between many countries that have had state churches for hundreds and hundreds of years. We don’t realize how much freedom we have in religious matters, for the most part.

      • Schisms within the Eastern Orthodox world and Protestant denominationalism are two different things. The matters that cause Orthodox groups to go in schism are things like which calendar a church uses, or how much ecumenism they tolerate. These are not situations where someone has a novel theological idea or worship style that they want to build a new church around. And in all cases in the Orthodox world, the belief is that there is an actual schism taking place with one group or the other – not that we’re all still part of some invisible church. The theology and worship of the groups in schism, including those that go back to Chalcedon, are remarkably similar. This is a very different thing from protestant denominationalism.

        • What about the attitudes toward Copts, Ethiopian orthodox Tewahedo, Armenian Apostolic (and similar) folks?!

          That stuff is *not* pretty.

          • What attitudes are you talking about? That there are individual members of the EO Church who have sinful attitudes would come as no surprise to me, but what’s your point?

          • prejudices against them, to put it bluntly (doctrinal, ethnic and racial). Plus, like any other denomination(s), the Orthodox world is full of factionalism – and it’s not just about calendars and the like.

            Did you know that an Armenian Apostolic prelate was stabbed to death, during a service (here in the US) by men from a rival faction? (This was many decades ago, but still…)

            The Orthodox world is not as peaceful (internally) as you’re making it out to be. I am *not* saying that to slam the Orthodox churches, but it’s reality that some folks seem to want to deny, and I’m not buying that.

          • My observation is that the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox who live in the same region, particularly in the Middle East where both groups are under tremendous persecution from Islamists, are quite cooperative.

          • Numo – I’m not denying anything, but I still don’t see what point you are trying to make. That there is sin in the Eastern Orthodox Church? Obviously, as with any other church. Beyond that, what are you saying?

          • Clayton – I honestly don’t know how I can make things any clearer than I’ve already attempted to do in my posts about the Ruswho are not-white, or sian Orthodox church and politics, the far-right faction within the RO church that wants to “eliminate” jews, immigrants and those of other religions (mainly, but not entirely jews and immigrants, by default); the many political, doctrinal and ethnic/racial divisions in the various orthdox bodies, and the racial/ethnic prejudices that exist between people who belong to different parts of the Orthodox church (including prejudice/hatred toward those who are not-white, between “white” people of different ethnic groups, etc.).

            to present the Orthodox as if the are one single body that is basically in agreement (internally) is just not accurate. I could say “Look at the fistfights and squabbles that break out at the holy sites in Jerusalem,” but that seems more like a symptom than anything else.

            Yes, the Orthodox *might* have more unity than many other people of similar beliefs, but to present the entirety of the Orthodox Church as if that was so is nonsense. There are far too many Greek, Russian, Moldovan, Serbian etc. etc. etc. Orthodox running around claiming that those in other parts of the Orthodox church are not “true Orthodox” for me to ever believe otherwise.

          • Uh oh – I forgot to close a tag! apologies for all the bolding above; it was not intentional.

      • Additionally, the numbers involved in schisms affecting Eastern Orthodoxy are quite small relative to the overall number of EO Christians. And, schisms are understood to be lamentable, not a normal and acceptable condition as it is in Protestantism.

        • Whoever said that schisms/divisions within Protestantism are “acceptable”?

          Please, we’re not all after each other with battleaxes… 😉

          • Protestantism is defined by its denominational divisions. That’s the normal state of affairs, and I don’t know of many people who think it’s that big of a problem. My point is that schisms in Orthodoxy are not the same thing as denominations in Protestantism.

          • I would love to see more unity, not less. (But then, I’m a high-church Protestant, and as such, have very different views on the subject.)

            The thing is, we pretty much have to start where we are, and the reality is that there are many, many divisions, not just a few. I don’t expect that to change, ever – at least, not until Christ’s return.

            some things simply cannot be undone, but I do think that having some perspective on what roman Catholics call “the mystical body of Christ” is helpful.

            Just my .02.- one person’s opinion.

        • Hmm… Here’s a really good documentary about the Old Believers, just in case you want to learn about them and the history of one of the Russian schisms. (Includes historical fact about the persecution – and state-sanctioned execution – of Old believers. Keep in mind that there was no separation between church and state under the tsars…)

          • I’m well aware of all of this. But I still fail to see what point you are trying to make. Do you just enjoy highlighting other people’s sin (from the look of a lot of your other comments, it appears maybe so).

            I suspect the point you are trying to make is that the EO Church is not united as it claims because there is prejudice and ethnic factionalism. If that is your point, then you misunderstand the Orthodox Church’s understanding of unity. The unity of the Church is not based on the niceness of its members to one another, or the lack of divisions based on ethnicity or whatever. The unity of the Church is based in the Body and Blood of Christ received by its members in the Eucharist. In the Orthodox understanding, the Church is united because we share one Eucharist. If members hold prejudices or are divided with one another, then we partake in an unworthy manner and eat and drink condemnation unto ourselves, Lord have mercy. But this does not diminish the objective spiritual reality of the Eucharist and the unity of the Church.

          • i give up, Clayton.

            We’re talking apst each other, I think.


          • I guess so, ’cause I have no idea what you are saying other than pointing out all the bad things Orthodox have done to each other. You can point out the failure of members within any group to live out the ideals of that group, but that says nothing about the truth or falsehood of the ideals themselves. To really know the truth about the Orthodox Church, you have to look at those who live out the Orthodox faith, the saints, and there are plenty of them.

          • Clayton, we had a similar go-round above re. the tsars and the RO church.

            I am by no means opposed to the Orthodox churches – very much the contrary (though i cannot see myself converting anytime soon).

            If, like Mule (in the post above), you are claiming that Orthodoxy is pure and undivided, but the West (Catholic and Protestant alike, along with the Eastern Rite Catholic churches) have somehow sold out to “heresy” and evil via the filioque, I think you are probably wrong.

            I can see common beliefs in Orthodoxy, but also a great deal of divisiveness over issues that are more pressing than the liturgical calendar. I can also look at history and see how various parts of the Orthodox church – when given free rein as state churches – have greatly abused their power in the name of Jesus Christ. – even to the point of torturing and killing in very large numbers (the persecution and murder of jewish people and the Old Believers are only two of many examples).

            Doctrine says what it says, but it is up to human beings to live according to the teaching of Christ. I think it’s entirely possible to believe in something but to use it to justify evil behavior (up to and including genocide, though thank God, it usually stops far short of that!)

            I am not for one second condemning anyone – orthodox, Catholic, protestant, or those of other faiths (or none) – who lives in a way that reflects the goodness of God. (and yes, i do believe that people who are not Christian are as capable of good as those who call themselves Christians – often, they live in a way that puts many of us to shame).

            There is much in the Orthodox tradition – at least, as far as I know it, which isn’t very – that engages my mind and heart on a very deep level. I respect and appreciate your part of the church universal, which is, at its heart, the human beings who are part of it.

            I realize that I might not have answered your question, but I do hope this is helpful in explaining some of my thinking.


          • Imagine if, as a Protestant, I made a post ripping into the Catholic church for its history of persecuting the church and killing martyrs, said Rome is the Beast/Dragon/Babylon from Revelation, and said we had nothing at all to learn from the Catholic. And I speculated that the existence of a magisterium that directs how people are to interpret the Bible enslaves’ people’s minds and therefore naturally leads to support for physical slavery. Commenters, including ones sympathetic to Protestantism, would rightly point out that Protestants have sometimes persecuted dissidents too, call me out on virulent anti-Catholicism, and many people would certainly bring up Protestant churches’ support for American slavery.

            Imagine if a Calvinist were writing the kind of stuff Mule is posting here. Almost no one here would tolerate or defend it.

          • Meet the new Mule, same as the old jackass…

          • I’m not defending all of the content of Mules post, and certainly not his approach. I was critical elsewhere in the comments. I was trying to clarify where I saw misunderstandings about the Orthodox Church and its teachings, since so many people read this blog and may get a bad impression based on alot of the comment thread. But in the end the Church doesn’t need my defense, and I’m sure I did a bad job of it anyway.

    • As an aside, there are communities of Old Believers in both the US and Canada…

    • There is nothing artificial or abstract about the doctrines of the incarnation or the Trinity. Mules point which seems to have been totally missed is that the Filioque introduces something abstract, meaning nonpersonal, intro the Godhead; namely, that the source or the shared divine nature is no longer a person (either that or the Holy Spirit isn’t divine).

      • That last sentence should say “source of the shared divine nature…”.

      • Mule’s point was not missed; it just didn’t ring true for us.

        Please see my comments above for my response to the “abstraction” argument.

        • What I meant was that the point about abstraction was missed by the original commenter I was responding to. Mule wasn’t saying the west uses more abstract language than the east, and then contradicted himself by using abstract language to explain the Trinity as the commenter implied. The fact is all language is abstract. But God is ultimate personal reality, and the Filioque doctrine bring abstraction and confusion into the mix, or at least it does in my feeble mind.

  48. numo and Katharina,
    Thanks for your comments directed against Mule’s misogyny. +1 all the way.

    • Well, I tried, and have been trying off-list for some time now. Whether it has any positive results is another thing altogether.

      I’m grateful for your efforts, and Katharina’s, as well as everyone else who has spoken out there about Mule’s misogyny, as well as hist anti-Muslin, anti-Catholic, anti-black American and, ultimately, anti-Orthodox comments.

      Scorched-earth posts like his – the super-flippant remark about genocide in particular – don’t exactly have an effect other than getting people up in arms. They’re right to take umbrage at it all. It’s just cruel, and not a little coarse (sexually and otherwise).

      This blog has been pretty much supportive of women throughout the years, so I’ve been truly horrified by the many misogynistic posts and comments Mule has made.

      Still waiting to hear directly from Jeff and Chaplain Mike on the blog, though…

    • also… a longer version of Mule’s observations on a handful of black people, leading to his extreme generalizations (and misunderstandings) in a previous post here.

      Predictably, it has to do with sex.

      and no, I don’t mean this as a cheap shot. the 1st thing about Mule’s writing here that made me truly angry were said comments on black folks. They were far shorter than his comments on women, but every bit as acid.

      • I forgot to mention earlier that the men’s rights/manosphere types are often racist too.

        I can understand how the men’s rights movement came about. Our cultural institution of dating, hooking up, and even marriage is a trainwreck right now, and feminism has had many excesses. But the hateful bitterness of the manosphere (masquerading as objectivity using pseudoscientific evolutionary psychology and highly selective social science) is only going to make it worse.

        • Their rhetoric reminds me of the Klan’s and the sheer viciousness toward anyone and anything they hate is truly sickening… but beyond that, the sheer desire to cause harm to women (and men that they don’t like) is what makes them especially cruel and is frightening in its intensity.

  49. Clayton,

    O.k., suppose I’m completely wrong about Mule’s point about abstract language and the filioque. Suppose further that the filioque is problematic and distorts how one sees God.

    Even if I grant all of that, as I asked in my original post, how in the world has the filioque influenced Baptists? Again, Baptists believe in the trinity, but generally aren’t familiar with the Nicene creed. And the vast majority of Baptists have never heard of the filioque.

    Essentially, what I want to know is how can something (the filioque in this case) that you’ve never heard of and that you probably don’t have an opinion on one way or the other have an impact on your theology? The obvious answer to me seems to be that it doesn’t. If that is the case, the Orthodox line that the filioque has led to all sorts of problems in the West just doesn’t hold for many Western Christian, especially for those in my neck of the woods, namely the Southeastern United States.

    • I’m not smart enough to give you any convincing arguments. I can only speak from my experience as a Southern Baptist who knew absolutely nothing about Nicene Creed or the Church Fathers turned Orthodox. I had an understanding of God as being distant, probably angry at me, gave very little thought to the Trinity or why it mattered other than as a badge of orthodoxy. In the Eastern Orthodox Church I have encountered the Christian Faith as I always intuitively felt it should be – God as person, God as love, and an experiential way of living out the Faith, driven by prayer, with the goal being union with God in Christ Jesus. People much smarter than me have studied the history of western theological development and noted ways in which they believe it departed from the original apostolic faith (both in spirit and content), which was better preserved in the east. Because of my experience, their explanations ring true to me. It’s not that everyone today is consciously aware of the issues such as the Filioque, its just that these issues have influenced a common mindset towards God in the west that is different than in the east. That being said, I know many protestants and Roman Catholics who or more Orthodox than I will probably ever be, and I do not doubt their experience of God’s grace.

    • And omission of the filioque certainly hasn’t made the Eastern nations under the influence of EO churches any more Christian in their social realities. There’s no proof of that at all.

      • Nor has the omission of the filioque made them simply more humane than Western nations. Again, no real evidence of that.

        Btw, I’m not opposed to dropping the filioque from the Creed in the West in the name of ecumenicism; I don’t think it really adds any meaning to the Creed. It’s unnecessary.

        • “And omission of the filioque certainly hasn’t made the Eastern nations under the influence of EO churches any more Christian in their social realities.” Well, considering that these nations are either majority Muslim, or still recovering from the atheistic-communist takeover of their cultures, I don’t think its a valid comparison. In any case, the spirit of the western, secular age is the most evil that has ever existed since the beginnings of Christendom, and that I am firmly convinced of.

      • “And omission of the filioque certainly hasn’t made the Eastern nations under the influence of EO churches any more Christian in their social realities.” Well, considering that these nations are either majority Muslim, or still recovering from the atheistic-communist takeover of their cultures, I don’t think its a valid comparison. In any case, the spirit of the western, secular age is the most evil that has ever existed since the beginnings of Christendom, and that I am firmly convinced of.