Monday, December 24, 2007

Blessed Christmas to All...

...And a happy New Year. My family is spending Christmas together at home this year, deciding to delay our travel to the Northeast to visit family and friends until the summer (gasoline prices nothwithstanding).

Not much to update my readers on. It has been a terribly busy and tiring semester for me, and I am glad to be seeing the end of it now, though in just a few weeks a new semester will be starting! Added to the typical stress of academic administration is our institutional self-study for the accreditation visit in 2009, which may seem far off, but really it's not.

The kids are doing great. Our oldest boy has been receiving acceptance letters from various colleges, which means "decision time" for him. He's got some great options, but yikes! Have you all seen how much college is these days! Our daughter is busy as usual. Keeping up with her social calendar, both in school and at church, is a full-time job in itself! Finally, our youngest boy, ten years old, keeps us feeling young. Lately, he's had a sudden interest in football, which of course means less time playing video games!

My wife and I keep plugging away at the daily routine. Yet we're very hopeful of some significant changes in 2008. As they happen, and as I feel free to share them in this context, I will let you know.

Best wishes to all my friends and readers for the holidays. May God's love shine on you this Christmas and in the New Year.


Saturday, December 22, 2007


God willing the Right Reverend Rayford B. High, Jr. will ordain the Reverend DKD, Ph.D. to the Sacred Order of the Priesthood in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church on the Feast Day of Saint Adrian of Canterbury, OSB, Abbot, Wednesday, January 9, 2008, Seven-thirty O’clock in the Evening at St. Dunstan’s Episcopal Church, Houston, Texas.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Great Discussion on Anglicanism

Check out the discussion over at Per Caritatem. Cynthia Nielsen's educated "outsider" perspective is refreshing and the overall quality of her blog attracts quality commentators. Would that the mainstream Anglican blogs were as constructive and as civil! You won't be disappointed.

By the way, I've been taking some time off in Central Pennsylvania (visiting my parents) before heading off to Pittsburgh for an ATS self-study workshop this coming weekend. Then I'm driving (yes, DRIVING) back to Texas in a car that my parents are giving to us. So I won't be back in the saddle for another week. Keep me in your prayers as I travel across the country.

Monday, September 03, 2007

The Formula of Reunion (433)

We confess, therefore, our Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, perfect God and perfect man composed of a rational soul and a body, begotten before the ages from the Father in respect of His divinity, but likewise in these last days for us and our salvation from the Virgin Mary in respect of His manhood, consubstantial with the Father in respect of His divinity and at the same time consubstantial with us in respect of His manhood. For the union (henosis) of two natures has been accomplished. Hence we confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord. In virtue of this conception of a union without confusion we confess the holy Virgin as Theotokos because the divine Word became flesh and was made man and from the very conception united to Himself the temple taken from her. As for the evangelical and apostolic statements about the Lord, we recognize that theologians employ some indifferently in view of the unity of person (hos eph henos prosopon) but distinguish others in view of the duality of natures (hos epi duo phuseon), applying the God-befitting ones to Christ's divinity and the humble ones to His humanity.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Christological Divide That Anticipated Chalcedon, Part 4: The Formula of Reunion

In the aftermath of the events at Ephesus in 431, the division between the Antiochene dyophysitic and Alexandrian monophysitic traditions was never greater. But two rays of hope for reconciliation came out of the controversy at Ephesus. First, the Cyrillian synod (i.e., the one subsequently dubbed the Third Ecumenical Council) had neglected to canonize Cyril's Twelve Anathemas. Second, the opposing synod under John of Antioch did not actually rehabilitate Nestorius. These two omissions would serve as the foundation upon which the next attempt at rapprochement would be built: The Formula of Reunion.

Ten More Important Facts Concerning the Christological Divide That Anticipated Chalcedon:

(1) Prior to the events in Ephesus of 431, Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Andrew of Samosata had been commissioned by John of Antioch to refute Cyril's Twelve Anathemas, which were viewed by the Antiochene party as little better than Apollinarianism. While the literary exchange was fierce, the debate served the purpose of fixing the meaning of the term hupostasis to be synonymous with prosopon. As a result, while neither fully endorsed Cyril's "hypostatic union," both came close in the end to sanctioning the "one hypostasis" formula (on the premise that this was the equivalent of the Antiochian "prosopic union").

(2) The two years following Ephesus proved pivitol, as Imperial pressure was exerted on both sides to heal the doctrinal breach. However, the way to reconciliation was made clear by the death of Pope Celestine in 432. His successor, Xystus III was intent on finding a mutually acceptable accord provided that the decisions of the Cyrillian synod at Ephesus were upheld.

(3) After intense negotiations, in which Acacius of Berea played a leading role, both sides made important concessions. Cyril agreed to furnish an explanation for his Twelve Anathemas that made clear his disavowal of Apollinarianism. Upon acceptance of Cyril's explanation, the Antiochian party then, with considerable reluctance, agreed to the condemnation and deposition of Nestorius.

(4) In 433, John of Antioch sent Cyril a letter that contained the text that would be used, upon Cyril's assent, as the instrument of agreement between the two parties (from henceforth called "The Formula of Reunion"). Ironically, this very statement, undoubtedly re-drafted at pivotal points by Theodoret of Cyrrhus, had been the very formula approved by the anti-Cyrillian synod at Ephesus in August of 431.

(5) The Formula of Reunion admitted to the orthodoxy of the term Theotokos for the Virgin Mary, but only after safeguards were put in place to satisfy Antiochene scruples. The Formula went on to explain that the Christ is "complete God and complete man," but also that "a union of two natures has occurred, as a consequence of which we Son." Meanwhile, all talk of "two Sons" and a "conjunction of two natures" had disappeared, and the identification of the subject of the God-Man as the Logos was emphasized.

(6) Cyril greeted the new confession contained in the Formula of Reunion with enthusiasm in his famous letter Laetentur caeli. However, his endorsement shocked many of his followers who saw the Formula's notion of a "union of two natures" as a contradiction of Cyril's earlier position on the hypostatic union (i.e., "one nature of the incarnate Word").

(7) Meanwhile, Nestorius' cause was now wholly lost. He was finally banished to Upper Egypt where, just before his death in 450, he completed his Book of Heracleides of Damascus, the definitive defense of his position over against Cyril.

(8) In time, the Formula of Union would prove to be no more than a truce. By 438, Cyril suspected Antiochene duplicity, and began to write against the teachings of Diodore of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia (both of blessed memory), who were still held in esteem by the Antiochene signers of the Formula.

(9) The old debate was now renewed, but with political power decidedly in the Alexandrians' favor, since Constantinople, after Nestorius' deposition, was now supporting Cyril's cause in the person of Nestorius' successor, Proclus.

(10) The political situation changed dramatically upon the death of Cyril in 444 and, shortly after, the death of Proclus in 447. Cyril was replaced by the unscrupulous Dioscorus, who had little use for the Formula of Union and was determined to see to the complete victory of the Alexandrian position. Meanwhile, Flavian, a moderate Antiochene and supporter of the Formula, replaced Proclus in Constantinople. The conditions were now set for the next round of open conflict.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Nestorius' Complaint Against Cyril in the Aftermath of the Council of Ephesus

Cyril is therefore prosecutor and accuser, and I the defendant: is this the council that has heard and judged my words? Is it the Emperor who summoned it, if Cyril was among the judges?

Why do I say 'among the judges'? He was the whole tribunal, for whatever he said was immediately repeated by the rest, and his single personality took the place of a tribunal for them. If all judges had been assembled, and the accusers and accused set in their proper role, all would have had equal liberty of speech, instead of Cyril being everything, accuser, Emperor, and judge. He did everything with arbitrary authority, and after ousting from this authority the Emperor's emissary, set himself up in his place. He assembled those who pleased him both from far and near, and made himself the tribunal. I was summoned by Cyril, who assembled the council, by Cyril, who presided. Who was judge? Cyril! Who was accuser? Cyril!! Who was bishop of Rome? Cyril!!! Cyril was everything. Cyril was bishop of Alexandria and held the place of Coelestine, the holy and venerable bishop of Rome.

--Nestorius, The Book of Heracleides of Damascus.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Inconsistent Logic of Creationism or Why Creationism is Essentially Deistic

...At the heart of their anti-evolutionism, the creationists have hidden a stunning inconsistency in their own logic.

Consider this: Creationists would reject any notion that God is unable to act in the world today. Indeed Christianity, like Islam and traditional Judaism, regards the continued, personal activity of God to be an essential element of belief. Now, let's step back a bit and think about this.

As a matter of unshakable faith, they believe that God can act in the world at the present time. And that, presumably, He can work His will in any way He likes -- with power or with subtlety, by works of nature, or by the individual actions of His creatures. The very same people, bowing to the explanatory power of molecular biology and biochemistry, would also agree that life today can be understood as a wholly material phenomenon. None that I know of would reject the proposition that a single fertilized egg cell -- the classic specimen of developmental biology -- contains the full and complete set of instructions to transform itself into a complex multi-cellular organism. Neither would any respectable creationist challenge the assertion that every step of that developmental process is ultimately explicable in terms of the material processes of chemistry and physics. Miracles aren't required -- the complexities of molecular biology will do just fine.

This means that the biological world of today, which we can test and study, analyze and dissect, is one that works according to purely material rules. But this world is also one in which believers, as a matter of faith, accept sincerely the tenet that God can and does work His will. Obviously, they do not see any conflict in the idea that God can carry out the work He chooses to in a way that is consistent with the fully materialist view of biology that emerges from contemporary biology. Neither do I.

But there's the rub. Curiously, they somehow regard those very same mechanisms -- adequate to explain God's power in the present -- as inadequate to explain His agency in the past. For some reason, God acted in the past in ways that He does not act in the present, despite the fact that we assume in the present that he can do anything and everything. This inconsistent reasoning is at the heart of their desperation to show that evolution -- which depends on the material mechanisms of biochemistry and genetics -- could not have created the multitude of new species that have appeared throughout the geologic record of life.

Such reasoning shows a curious lack of faith in the creative power of God. Creationists act as though compelled to go into the past for evidence of God's work, yet ridicule the deistic notion of a designer-God who's been snoozing ever since His great work was finished. They want a God who is active, and active now. So does any believer. But why then are they so determined to fix in the past, in the supposed impossibility of material mechanisms to originate species, the only definitive signs of God's work? If they believe in an active and present God, a God who can work His will in the present in ways consistent with scientific materialism, then why couldn't that same God have worked His will in exactly those ways in the past?

The more sensible and self-consistent position, scientifically and theologically, would be quite different from theirs. The real, actual, working world that we see around us is one that is ruled by chemistry and physics. Life works according to its laws. If God is real, this is the world He has to work in. Therefore any effort to view God's work in light of modern science must find a way to understand how His will can be accommodated at all times, not just in some distant past.

--Kenneth Miller, Finding Darwin's God (New York: Harper Perennial, 2007), 216-18.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Note to My Readers

I'm on what I hope will be a brief hiatus, perhaps for another week or so. Besides attending to a number of items that need my attention, I'm also dealing with some tough choices that will have to be made in the near future. I can't be more specific on a public blog. But I would greatly appreciate your prayers. Friends, feel free to email me.

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Christological Divide that Anticipated Chalcedon, Part 3

Commissioned by Pope Celestine of Rome to prosecute the judgment of the Roman synod of 430 concerning the teachings of Nestorius, Cyril of Alexandria proceeded to write his infamous third letter to Nestorius, to which he appended twelve anathemas (see entry below). This turned out to be ill-judged, as the pope's charge did not envision a new definition of the faith, and the language of the anathemas only served to incite moderate Antiochenes against Cyril in defense of Nestorius.

Ten More Interesting Facts Concerning the Christological Divide that Anticipated Chalcedon, Part 3:

(1) Moderate Antiochene thinkers like John of Antioch, Andrew of Samosata, and Theodoret of Cyrrus were alarmed by what they perceived to be Apollinarian implications in the Cyrilline Christology.

(2) The teachings of Theodoret can be seen as representative of the mature Antiochene position at this stage of the christological divide. Avoiding the pitfalls of Nestorius' clumsy assertion of two natural prosopa united under one prosopon of identity, Theodoret asserted both the completeness and distinction of the two natures (phusis) while maintaing but one person (prosopon) in which the natures were united. Interestingly, at this point in the history of the debate, Antiochenes like Theodoret were of a mind to avoid Theodore of Mopsuestia's distinction between "the Word who assumes" and "the Man who is assumed."

(3) The essential difference between the Cyrilline and Antiochene christologies lies in the nature of the union of the divine and human natures in Christ. The Antiochenes objected to Cyril's "hypostatic union" as implying some kind of necessary union, harkening back to pre-Apollinarian days when Alexandrian christology, using an essentially platonic anthropology as its base, understood the Logos as constituting the "spirit or soul" of the incarnate Christ. The Antiochenes also objected to Cyril's insistence on a genuine communicatio idiomata as implying a mixing or confusion of the two natures.

(4) At the prompting of Nestorius, and the concurrence of the western emperor, Valentianian III, Emperor Theodosius II of the East summoned a general council to meet on Pentecost (June 7) in the city of Ephesus in 431.

(5) Cyril and his supporters were the first two arrive in the city. On June 22, despite the protests of the imperial commissioners, Cyril and sixty like-minded bishops proceeded to hold a synod without the Antiochene delegation. Nestorius, who had arrived earlier in Ephesus, naturally refused to attend.

(6) After the letters of both Cyril and Nestorius had been read aloud, the Cyrillian synod proceeded to condemn Nestorius as "the new Judas." The synod also canonized the symbol of Nicaea (325) as summarizing the orthodox faith and Cyril's second letter to Nestorius as its authoritative interpretation. This all took place in a one-day session.

(7) When the Antiochene delegation finally arrived on June 26, they proceeded to hold their own synod under the presidency of John of Antioch, and promptly deposed and condemned Cyril and Memnon, bishop of Ephesus, while also repudiating Cyril's Twelve Anathemas as Apollinarian.

(8) The Roman delegation finally arrived on July 10, and, following the instructions of the pope, joined the Cyrillian synod. At this point, John of Antioch was added to the list of the deposed, and, as a gesture of good will to the western delegation, Pelagianism was condemned. It was this synod that would go down in history as the Third Ecumenical Council.

(9) Amidst the confusion, Theodosius was compelled to intern the leaders of both parties. However, given his own theological sympathies, and helped by the aggressive diplomacy of Cyril's supporters, he quickly restored Cyril to the see of Alexandria and deposed Nestorius, who retired to his monastary near Antioch.

(10) While at this point the two parties appeared hopelessly and irreparably to be more divided than ever before, two important factors pointing toward the possibility of future rapprochement deserve attention. First, the Twelve Anathemas appended to Cyril's third letter, while being read aloud at the Cyrillian synod, were not given its endorsement, being passed over in favor of Cyril's second letter. Second, John of Antioch's synod, while condemning Cyril and Memnon, had nonetheless failed to endorse or rehabilitate Nestorius.

The Twelve Anathemas that Cyril of Alexandria Demanded of Nestorius

The things which it is necessary that thy Piety anathematize have been annexed to this our Letter:-

1. If any one confess not that Emmanuel is in truth God and that the holy Virgin is therefore Mother of God (theotokos), for she bare after the flesh the Word of God made Flesh, be he anathema.

2. If any one confess not that the Word of God the Father hath been Personally united (kath hupostasin) to Flesh and that He is One Christ with His own Flesh, the Same (that is) God alike and Man, be he anathema.

3. If any one sever the Persons of the One Christ after the Union, connecting them with only a connection of dignity or authority or sway, and not rather with a meeting unto Unity of Nature (henosin phusiken), be he anathema.

4. If any one allot to two Persons (prosopa) or Hypostases, the words in the Gospel and Apostolic writings, said either of Christ by the saints or by Him of Himself, and ascribe some to a man conceived of by himself apart from the Word That is of God, others as God-befitting to the Word alone That is of God the Father, be he anathema.

5. If any one dare to say, that Christ is a God-clad man (theophoros anthropos), and not rather that He is God in truth as being the One Son and That by Nature (phusis), in that the Word hath been made Flesh, and hath shared like us in blood and flesh [Heb. 2:14], be he anathema.

6. If any one say that the Word That is of God the Father is God or Lord of Christ and do not rather confess that the Same is God alike and Man, in that the Word hath been made flesh, according to the Scriptures, be he anathema.

7. If anyone say that Jesus hath been in-wrought-in as man by God the Word and that the Glory of the Only-Begotten hath been put about Him, as being another than He, be he anathema.

8. If any one dare to say that the man that was assumed ought to be co-worshipped with God the Word and co-glorified and co-named God as one in another (for the co-, constantly appended, compels us thus to deem) and does not rather honour Emmanuel with One worship and attribute to Him One Doxology, inasmuch as the Word has been made Flesh, be he anathema.

9. If any one say that the One Lord Jesus Christ hath been glorified by the Spirit, using His Power as though it were Another's, and from Him receiving the power of working against unclean spirits and of accomplishing Divine signs upon men; and does not rather say that His own is the Spirit, through Whom He hath wrought the Divine signs, be he anathema.

10. The Divine Scripture says that Christ hath been made the High Priest and Apostle of our confession [Heb. 3:1] and He hath offered Himself for us for an odour of a sweet smell to God the Father. If any one therefore say that not the Very Word of God was made our High Priest and Apostle when He was made Flesh and man as we, but that man of a woman apart from himself as other than He, was [so made]: or if any one say that in His own behalf also He offered the Sacrifice and not rather for us alone (for He needed not offering Who knoweth not sin), be he anathema.

11. If any one confess not that the Flesh of the Lord is Life-giving and that it is the own Flesh of the Word Himself That is from God the Father, but say that it belongs to another than He, connected with Him by dignity or as possessed of Divine Indwelling only and not rather that it is Life-giving (as we said) because it hath been made the own Flesh of the Word Who is mighty to quicken all things, be he anathema.

12. If any one confess not that the Word of God suffered in the Flesh and hath been crucified in the Flesh and tasted death in the Flesh and hath been made First-born of the Dead, inasmuch as He is both Life and Life-giving as God, be he anathema.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Dr. Radner Resigns from ACN -- UPDATED

LATEST UPDATE (as of August 3): Read Sarah Hey's latest contribution over at Stand Firm.

UPDATE: Ephraim Radner responds to criticism over his resignation. See entry #188.

Dr. Radner's letter is posted at the Anglican Communion Institute.

Written by Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner
Tuesday, 31 July 2007
A Brief Statement of Resignation from the Anglican Communion Network:

It is with sorrow and deep disappointment that I tender my resignation from the Anglican Communion Network. Since the time I assisted in its founding, its leaders, members, and mission have been dear to me, even when I have disagreed with some of its corporate actions. The recent statements by the Moderator of the Network, Robert Duncan, however, so contradict my sense of calling within this part of Christ's Body, the Anglican Communion, that I have no choice but to disassociate myself from this group, whom I had once hoped might prove an instrument of renewal, not of destruction, of building up, not of tearing down.

Bishop Duncan has now declared the See of Canterbury and the Lambeth Conference -- two of the four Instruments of Communion within our tradition - to be "lost". He has said that God is "doing a new thing" in allowing these elements to founder and be let go. I find this judgment to be dangerously precipitous and unfair under circumstances when current, faithful, and hard work is being done by many to bolster these Instruments as servants of our common life in Christ. The judgment is also astonishingly self-confident and autonomously prophetic in a mode not unlike the baleful claims to visionary authority of those who have long misled the Episcopal Church. Finally, the declaration in effect cancels out the other two Instruments of Communion that also uphold our common Anglican life - the Primates' Meeting and the Anglican Consultative Council. It is the entire Anglican Communion, therefore, that Bp. Duncan is declaring to be "lost". The judgment is far too sweeping.

Bp. Duncan has, in the end, decided to start a new church. He may call it "Anglican" if he wishes, though I do not recognize the name in these kinds of actions that break communion rather than build it up - for such building is what I have long perceived to be the "thing" God was "doing" with the earthen vessel of our tradition. In founding his new church, furthermore, he is, I fear, not working for the healing of our broken Body, but repeating the mistakes of Christians in the past, whose zeal has not only brought suffering to themselves, but has wounded the Church of Christ. It is not only his own diocese that his statements and actions will affect; it is many others, including parishes within them, many of which have worked for faithfulness and peace, truth in love, for some time, and for whom new troubles and divisions are now promised. Enough of this. I cannot follow him in this way. There is great work to be done, with hope and with joy, if also with suffering endurance for the faith once delivered, in the vineyards of the Anglican Communion where the Lord has called us and still maintains His calling; just as there has been in the past, and all for the glory of the larger Church Catholic.

Ephraim Radner (the Rev. Dr.)


P.S. Brett over at Canterbury Pilgrim posted Peter Toon's prediction of things. I'm no "Tooniac" by any stretch, but this is an insightful analysis of where things may be heading.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Why I "Migrated" to The Episcopal Church

For as often as I have been asked this question, I'm sure that there are five times as many people who haven't asked but still would like to know. Recently someone emailed me about this question. This was in part my answer:

I came to the conclusion some years ago that "Anglicanism" was not primarily about doctrine or formularies, but about connection to and continuity with the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church as mediated through the Church of England. So it seemed foolish to me to identify with Anglicanism on this level while aligning myself with a church or movement that almost entirely identified Anglicanism with doctrine (39 Articles) and formularies (1662 BCP).

While this response will surely not satisfy everyone, perhaps leaving more questions in its wake than answers, it is at least a start. Also, I in no way question the commitment to the Anglican Way of anyone or any group that is not part of or connected in some way to the Anglican Communion. These are serious times, and I respect those of serious mind who see things differently than I. I also applaud all efforts to re-connect the various pieces of the Anglican jig-saw puzzle.

I welcome your comments.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Christological Divide that Anticipated Chalcedon, Part 2

The last segment of this series saw the victory of Antiochene dyophysite christology ("Logos-man") over Apollinaris' extreme version of Alexandrian monophysite christology ("Logos-flesh"), culminating in the condemnation of Apollinarianism at the Council of Constantinople in 381.

Ten Interesting Facts Concerning the Christological Divide that Anticipated Chalcedon, Part 2:

(1) As defenders of Nicene dogma, the Antiochene school's main concern was to uphold the full deity of the Logos by denying that any human attributes or limitations could be attributed to the divine Son. For this reason, Apollinaris' teaching that the incarnate Logos is a composite nature, and thus the proper subject of both divine and human attributes and actions, was considered blasphemous. Prominent Antiochene representatives include John Chrysostom, Diodore of Tarsus (a participant at the Council of Constantinople), and Theodore of Mopsuestia (a pupil of Diodore).

(2) Theodore of Mopsuestia (ca. 350-428, bishop from 392) is credited for providing the definitive Antiochene solution to the conundrum of the unity of the Logos with a complete human nature: the theory of "prosopic union." Theodore's account of the prosopic union posits an indissoluble conjunction of the divine and human natures (phusis) that is so complete and intimate as to effect one "person" (prosopon), in the sense of an external functional subject or outward identity.

(3) While Theodore explicitly denied the old Samasotan heresy of two Sons or two Christs, he nevertheless often spoke of the incarnation in terms of the Logos assuming "the man" (homo assumptus), albeit indissolubly and ineffably, at conception. Furthermore, he described the nature of the union in terms of an indwelling of the Logos in "the man" by "good pleasure" (eudokia), whereby the Word in grace confers his own prosopon to the man. On account of the severe criticism his position would receive from Cyril of Alexandria during the Nestorian controversy, Theodore's christological writings would eventually be condemned at the Second Council of Constantinople in 553.

(4) The leading proponent of Alexandrian Christology in this era was Cyril of Alexandria (ca. 378-ca. 444), the nephew of Theophilus of Alexandria, who Cyril succeeded to the patriarchal see in 412. This same Theophilus had engineered the deposition and exile of John Chrysostom from Constantinople in 401. Cyril shared with Theophilus his jealously for the traditional prerogatives of Alexandria, as well as his adroitness at ecclesiastical politics.

(5) Cyril, the latest in the long line of Alexandrian "Logos-flesh" thinkers, understood the incarnation in terms of the Logos adding human flesh (sarx) to his hypostasis, while yet remaining unchanged in his essential deity. The Logos who had existed asarkos (i.e., "outside flesh") had become ensomatos (i.e., "embodied") at the incarnation. Hence, Cyril posited one nature (phusis) "out of two" (eis ek duo). In contrast to the Antiochene "indwelling by good pleasure," Cyril spoke in terms of a "natural" or "hypostatic" union. To express this teaching, Cyril vigorously employed the Apollinarian phrase, "one incarnate nature of the divine Word" (mia phusis tou theou logou sesarkomene), which he mistakenly attributed to Athanasius.

(6) In 428 the Antiochene and Alexandrian christologies collided once again, this time occasioned by the elevation of the Antiochene monk Nestorius to the see of Constantinople. No sooner did Nestorius arrive in the imperial city than he found himself embroiled in a controversy over the use of the venerable title Theotokos ("God-bearer") for the Virgin Mary. Echoing the misgivings of Theodore on the same issue, Nestorius ruled that "that which was formed in the womb is not God," and "God was within the one who was assumed." Hence, Theotokos was judged to be misleading unless qualified with the term Anthropotokos ("man-bearer"), or replaced altogether with the honorific Christotokos ("Christ-bearer").

(7) To make matters worse, Cyril and Nestorius were already at odds over the case of a group of Egyptian monks who had appealed to Nestorius concerning a judgment rendered against them by Cyril. However, Nestorius's disavowal of the unqualified use of Theotokos (a term that had been employed by Athanasius of blessed memory), presented Cyril with tour de force grounds for challenging the authority of the see of Constantinople. Cyril began his attack on Nestorius by writing to the disaffected Egyptian monks in defense of Theotokos.

(8) Despite his reliance on Theodore, Nestorius' articulation of the Antiochene position was deemed innovative and clumsy even by those who were his natural supporters, like John of Antioch. This is because Nestorius spoke in terms of a distinct "prosopon of union," considered by him to be the common prosopon (external identity) of the divinity and the humanity in Christ. This "prosopon of union," not that of the Logos per se, was the historical figure presented in the Gospels. Hence, the truly innovative and heretical feature of Nestorius' position was the coalescence of the two natures, divine and human, into one prosopon that was nevertheless distinct from the prosopa of either the Logos or the man (a genuine tertium quid).

(9) Both Cyril and Nestorius went to great lengths to garner support, writing a series of accusatory letters to each other. Cyril understood the importance of gaining the support of the emperor, Theodosius II, his wife, and his influential sister, Pulcheria, against Nestorius, as well as appealing to the Roman pope, Celestine I. Nestorius also appealed to Celestine, but the latter was already disgruntled by the extension of hospitality in Constantinople to certain exiled Pelagians. A synod held in Rome in 430 called for Nestorius to recant within ten days of the receipt of its judgment and affirm the teaching of "Rome, Alexandria and the whole Catholic Church," or face excommunication.

(10) Cyril, charged by Celestine to execute the sentence, held a synod in Alexandria that confirmed the Roman decision. He then proceeded to write his infamous third letter to Nestorius, to which he presumed to append twelve anathemas that articulated his own uncompromising "Logos-flesh" christology in provocative language and tone. The letter with appended anathemas could not help but alienate prominent Antiochene thinkers like John of Antioch and Theodoret of Cyrrhus, who would now come to the support of Nestorius.

To be continued in Part 3...

Friday, July 27, 2007

Inspired by Barth: My Bullets on Election

Bobby Kennedy probably didn't intend to start a meme, but here's my bullet point contribution to the topic of election:

· The decree of election is God’s eternal (i.e., ever-present) will to give himself in the incarnation of his Son, Jesus Christ.

· Christ is both the Subject and the Object of election. As Son of God, he is, along with the Father and the Spirit, the electing God. As Son of Man, he is also elected Man; albeit not merely as one elected man, but as the One in whom all others are elected.

· Christ is the all-inclusive election in which we see what election truly is – the unmerited acceptance of humankind by grace.

· The will of the Triune God in electing the Son of Man is the will of God to give himself to humankind in the incarnation of His Son.

· This self-giving is two-fold, both positive and negative (hence, a “double predestination,” if you will). Negatively, God elected himself in Christ to be our covenant-partner, and, as such, bore our merited rejection in his passion and death. Positively, God elected humanity in Christ to be his covenant-partner, and, as such, we are taken up into his glory in his resurrection and ascension.

· Reprobation and election are not two kinds of predestination based on two separate decrees. Rather reprobation and election are the two sides of the same eternal decree of predestination. Reprobation is Christ’s rejection for us that we in turn might not be rejected.

· The election of Jesus Christ includes the election of humankind. This does not mean primarily the election of individuals, but rather the election of the whole of humankind, which is manifested in history in the divine calling of the Church, the elect community, the Body of Christ.

· The Church, the community of the elect, stands in a mediate and mediating role as witness to the truth of God’s will for humankind in Christ. In this way, the elect community mirrors the one Mediator, Jesus Christ.

· The gospel is the declaration of the individual’s election in Jesus Christ, i.e., that Christ bore our merited rejection and gives to us his own glory.

· Individuals begin to live as elect by the event and decision of receiving the promise of Christ as mediated through the witness of, and by inclusion in, the elect community via baptism.

· Those who do not receive the promise of God in Christ live as those rejected in spite of their acceptance (i.e., their election in Christ).

· The relation of free will and grace in predestination is a mystery, yet those who continue to live in the reality of their union in Christ (i.e., those who persevere) are those chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Bobby Kennedy's Musings on Election

I cruised over to In Hoc Signo Vinces to see what Anglo-Catholic blogger Bobby Kennedy was up to. His recent musings on election (with lengthy caption from the 2nd Council of Orange) is quite insightful. Read the whole article here. What follows is his bulleted list.


If I had to create a bulleted list today of what I affirm concerning election then it would include the following points, in no particular order. This is also not exhaustive.

--Election is corporate and concerns a holy people, a covenant community, and not primarily individuals.

--Election of the covenant community is accomplished through its connection to Christ via a sacramental and ecclesiological framework.

--Baptism is the means by which individuals enter the covenant community of the elect.

--Election of the covenant community entails God’s missionary efforts to redeem the remainder of humanity.

--The covenant community is an eschatological community which prefigures the age to come in the here and now.

--Election does not create a class of the elite but rather a class of servants.

--Any pre-creation acts of predestination, on the part of God toward his creatures, seems to entail his choice of a bride for his Son, and not of individuals into that bride.

--Foreknowledge seems to be the fore-loving of the covenant community rather than the fore-seeing of who would ultimately compose such a community.

--Salvation is dependent upon one’s continual perseverance in the body of Christ.

--Election is dependent on God’s faithfulness, and thus we have the best grounds upon which to make our calling and election sure.

Ten Interesting Facts on the Christological Divide that Anticipated Chalcedon, Part 1

(1) The major christological controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries are directly attributable to the fallout from the Arian controversy, particularly the widening rift between two distinct approaches to christology within the Nicene party -- repectively dubbed the Alexandrian and Antiochene approaches to christology.

(2) Arianism shared a fundamental conception of the incarnation with orthodox Alexandrians (i.e., the Nicene party), wherein the Logos was seen as constituting the real subject of everything that happens to the Christ presented in the Gospel accounts. Consequently, both positions agreed that the Logos in the flesh experienced hunger, thirst, doubt, suffering, and every other limitation known to the human condition.

(3) The Arians appealed to these limitations as proof that the Logos possesses a passible nature, and thus is a creature. In contrast, Athanasius and the Alexandrain party argued that in assuming human flesh the Logos had also assumed a human way of being without forfeiting his divine way of being.

(4) Despite these differences, both the orthodox Alexandrians and the Arians worked from the Platonic premise that the physical body is animated by a spirit or soul that is essentially alien to it. Hence, the Logos, in assuming flesh, constitutes the true life-principle or "ego" of Jesus Christ. The weakness of this approach was that it did not adequately account for a separate created human mind in Christ. This approach is aptly characterized as a "Logos-flesh" Christology, and is fundamentally monophysite in its conception of the incarnation.

(5) In contrast, the dyophysite approach of the orthodox Antiochene school, aptly characterized as a "Logos-man" Christology, emphasized the role of Christ as the "Second Adam," and thus understood the Word or Logos as uniting Himself to a complete human nature, both body and soul. However, the weakness of this position lies in viewing the incarnation as a conjoining, rather than a union, of two complete natures, divine and human, each considered to be the proper subject of its own respective actions and attributes.

(6) Tensions between the two christologies can be dated as early as 352 AD. In 362, a temporary doctrinal accord was reached at a synod held in Alexandria, in which Athanasius himself presided. There Paulinus of Antioch successfully argued that Christ must have assumed a full human nature (both body and soul) in order to save man's body and soul. This argument clearly impressed Athanasius. Yet since he held (in common with other Alexandrians) that the Logos was the very archetpye of the mind or soul, it is doubtful that he actually understood or appreciated the full anthropological implications of the Antiochene position.

(7) Serious controversy erupted a decade later when Apollinaris of Laodicea, an ardent defender of Nicene dogma and a friend of Athanasius, put forward an extreme version of the Alexandrian position. Interestingly, Apollinaris had been the person largely responsible for bringing Basil of Caesarea to the homoousian position.

(8) Anticipating the Eutychian heresy of the 5th century, Apollinaris took the Platonic conception of anthropology to its logical conclusion by denying the existence of a human psychology in Christ and contending that the assumption of the flesh by the Logos resulted in a composite unity of impassible divinity and passible flesh, in which the flesh was considered to be fully absorbed into the divine (flowing from an extreme application of the Alexandrian principle of communicatio idiomata). Incidentally, Apollinaris was the first to employ "hypostasis" (Gr. hupostasis) in a christological setting, a term which he understood to be synomous with the terms prosopon (i.e., person) and phusis (i.e., nature).

(9) For the orthodox Alexandrians, the scandal of Apollonaris' teaching was his admission that Christ's nature was different from that of ordinary human nature, thus rendering Christ immune from human passions, suffering, and limitations. The resulting christology was expressed in the phrase "one incarnate nature of the divine Word" (Gr. mian phusin tou theou logou sesarkomenen).

(10) Pope Damasus condemned Apollinaris outright at a synod in Rome in 377. The actions of this synod were confirmed by synods held in Alexandria (378) and Antioch (379) respectively, and finally at the Council of Constantinople (381). Despite the condemnation of Apollinaris' teaching, the Apollinarian-inspired phrase "one incarnate nature of the divine Word" would eventually become associated with the teaching of Cyril of Alexandria, the champion of the Council of Ephesus (431).

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Pennsylvanian-Anglican moves to Canterbury

My friend Brett (formerly Pennsylvanian-Anglican) has packed up his blog and moved to a new URL. You can now visit him at A Pilgrim on the Canterbury Trail. I guess Pennsylvania Dutch Country was no match for England's green and pleasant land.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Summer Reading

My inspiration for posting this list comes from the promising young scholar who I hired to teach theology two years ago. Visit his new blog: What God Reads.


1. J.N.D. Kelly. Early Christian Doctrines, Revised Edition. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1978.

--A book I re-read on a fairly regular basis.

2. Kenneth R. Miller. Finding Darwin's God: A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution. New York: Harper Perennial, 2007.

--If my readers haven't figured it out yet, this guy changed my entire perspective on the Intelligent Design / Creationism issue.

3. Matthew Alper. The God Part of the Brain: A Scientific Interpretation of Human Spirituality and God. New York: Rogue Press, 2001.

--I haven't started it yet, but plan to soon. The subtitle says it all. I suspect the author is on a spiritual journey and doesn't know it.

4. Nicholas Wade. Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors. New York: Penguin Books, 2006.

--If you have an open mind (i.e., your gag-reflex is not set off by evolutionary theory), this is an extremely well-written work. I enjoyed every moment of it.

5. Bryan Sykes. Saxons, Vikings, and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland. New York: W.W. Norton, 2006.

--I couldn't put it down. Sykes is a world renown geneticist and the author of the groundbreaking Seven Daughters of Eve. Not only does he demonstrate that the Celtic roots of England run as deep as those of Ireland, he also shows how genetics can even serve as the bridge between origin-myths and history.

6. Aidan Nichols. No Bloodless Myth: A Guide Through Balthasar's Dramatics. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 2000.

--Nichols is one of my favorite authors, and Hans Urs Von Balthasar one of the greatest minds of the 20th century. The combination of the two makes for an incredible read.

7. Lorna Kendall, Ed. Michael Ramsey as Theologian. Oxford: Cowley Publications, 1995.

--Something that's been on my shelf for years. Archbishop Ramsey was a giant, so this reads more like a devotional to me. His theological insights never cease to amaze me.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Skewed Theologies, Dangerous Movements, and other Bad Ideas that Threaten to Discredit Christianity in the 21st Century

1. The Evangelical Take on Biblical Inerrancy (e.g., The Chicago Statement)

Any idea or doctrine that must die a death of a thousand qualifications for the sake of plausibility is ... well ... not very plausible. For a better understanding of inerrancy, study Sections 105-107 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

2. Penal Substitution Theory of the Atonement

Lying somewhere between a case of divine child abuse and a gross miscarriage of cosmic justice, it’s high time for this monstrous understanding of the atonement to be abandoned. For a more biblical and patristic alternative, read Gustav Aulen’s Christus Victor.

3. Belief in a Young Earth

Face it, the earth’s years are properly measured in the billions, not the thousands. It is time for Christians to admit and accept this fact as a "given," just like other "givens" once disputed by theologians (such as the fact that our spherical earth rotates on its axis while revolving around the sun).

4. Creation Science

Have you checked out any science reviews lately? Creationist polemics notwithstanding, the fossil evidence is actually mounting in favor of biological evolution. But I predict that Genetics, not Archeology, will pound the final nail into the coffin of Creation Pseudo-science.

5. Intelligent Design (related to, but not the same as, above)

What does it say about the state of contemporary evangelical theology that its best argument against Charles Darwin's century-and-a-half old theory rests on a Deistic rehashing of the age-old “god of the gaps” fallacy? For that matter, what does it say about Darwin's theory? Read Ken Miller’s In Search of Darwin’s God.

6. Dispensationalism and the Modern State of Israel

Where does Scripture teach that Israel has an unrestricted, unconditional deed to prime coastal real estate in the Middle East? There is no telling how much political, domestic, and foreign policy damage has been done by Dispensational theology. Remedy: Study the BIBLE, not Scofield's notes, to show thyself approved.

7. The term "Born-Again Christian"

Redundant, misleading, anti-sacramental, ecclesiologically nonsensical, and much too often a blatant oxymoron.

8. MegaChurches

Rather than challenging narcissism, the MegaChurch embraces and institutionalizes it, thus turning narcissism into a Christian virtue. The resulting paradox is a hugely successful message that is profoundly vacuous of any objective content.

9. TULIP Calvinism

Once upon a time there was Isaac Newton, and then came Albert Einstein. Once upon a time there was Theodore Beza, and then came Karl Barth.

10. The “Imminent” Rapture

It’s been 2000 years folks! The end may be a bit closer, but don’t cash in your pension or stop paying your life insurance premiums just yet!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Ten More Interesting Facts About the Struggle for the Nicene Faith, Part II: The First Council of Constantinople (381)

(1) After the death of Athanasius (373), the intellectual and spiritual struggle against Arianism was taken up by the "new" Nicene party of the Eastern or Greek Church, consisting of old Origenists and former Homoiousians (i.e., "of like substance" with the Father), who had been persuaded by Athanasius to support the Nicene formula. Early on, the mantle of both organizational and theological leadership fell upon Basil of Caesarea (in Cappadocia). He, along with his brother, Gregory of Nyssa, and lifelong friend, Gregory of Nazianzus, would come to be known as the Cappadocian Fathers.

(2) Basil wrote his famous treatise, On the Holy Spirit, to combat the Macedonians or Pneumatomachi ("Spirit-fighters"), a party of former Homoiousians who admitted the divinity of the Son, but not that of the Spirit. Gregory of Nazianzus, known as an orator of great distinction, left behind many homilies defending the cause of the Nicene Faith. Of the three, Gregory of Nyssa possessed the most theological depth, and it was his development of Basil's theology that led to the critical rethink and revision of Eastern Origenist theology that finally brought the "new" Nicenes and the "old" Nicenes together.

(3) Up to this point, the "old" Nicenes had always contended for a single divine hypostasis through which the three Persons -- Father, Son, and Spirit -- subsisted. This explanation sounded suspiciously modalistic to Eastern ears, and, indeed, in some individual cases (like that Marcellus of Ancyra) it frequently was! In contrast, the East had always contended for three individual Hypostases.

(4) By carefully distinguishing between the terms ousia and hupostasis, Gregory successfully contended that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are three distinct hypostases (i.e., concrete, subsistent realities) that shared a single, identical being or nature (thus properly considered homoousios). What sets the hypostases apart is not activity, but how each hypostasis relates to the others and to the whole, as Source, Offspring, and Procession.

(5) The political and theological turning point for the Cappadocian cause was the defeat of the eastern Augustus, Valens, by the Visigoths at the Battle of Adrianople in 378. The surviving emperor in the West, Gratian, promptly appointed Theodosius I ("the Great") as Augustus in the East, who, unlike Valens, was committed to the Nicene faith. Together, Gratian and Theodosius issued a decree that the whole empire should practice the religion of Damasus of Rome and Peter of Alexandria (i.e., the Nicene faith), effectively establishing these sees as the "senior churches" and guardians of orthodoxy. The Nicene faith was now the official religion of the entire Empire.

(6) Theodosius summoned the council of Constantinople in 381 to deal with the Macedonian issue. Consisting of only 150 eastern bishops, the council had not been intended as an "ecumenical" council at all, but would gradually and eventually be recognized as such.

(7) The council, in contending for the deity of the Spirit, naturally confirmed the original symbol of Nicaea. It also considered another formula based on a baptismal creed in which key Nicene terms and phrases were inserted, and including a phrase declaring that the Holy Spirit is "worshiped and glorified together with the Father and the Son."

(8) The council never actually adopted the new symbol, ironically due to the desire of some and the reluctance of others to insert the term homoousios in reference to the Spirit. Nevertheless, the creed would always be associated with its name and work. Because of its increasing popularity and use as a liturgical symbol, the creed eventually achieved universal acceptance. It was finally confirmed by the Council of Chalcedon in 451, which solemnly declared it to be the faith of the 150 bishops assembled under Theodosius at Constantinople. This creed, rather than the original symbol of Nicaea, is the one we know and recite today as the "Nicene Creed."

(9) Far from being free of contention and controversy, the Council of Constantinople became the source of further tensions between the East and the West: first, by bypassing Rome and Alexandria's choice for president of the council -- Paulinus , a prominent leader of the "old" Nicenes -- in favor of Meletius, a "new" Nicene supported by the majority. Meletius, however, died in the course of the meeting, and the council proceeded to appoint another "new" Nicene, Flavian of Antioch. Gregory of Nazianzus, who had been elected at the beginning of the council to replace the Arian bishop of Constantinople, quickly resigned his see in protest to the council's failure to conciliate Rome. The council then elected Nectarius to be bishop of Constantinople.

(10) The council's Second and Third Canons served to further alienate Rome and Alexandria by declaring (i) Constantinople to be a patriarchal see, and (ii) the bishop of Constantinople to have "the primacy of honor" after the bishop of Rome on the grounds that Constantinople was "new Rome." This not only set up a new source of friction between East and West, but also a new rivalry between Constantinople and Alexandria

Thursday, July 12, 2007

TOP FIVES: My Rock Music Favorites

Favorite Rock Groups / Favorite Songs:
1. Pink Floyd / Echoes
2. Beatles / My Guitar Gently Weeps
3. Yes / Revealing Science of God
4. Led Zeppelin / No Quarter
5. Rush / Working Man

Favorite Male Vocalists:
1. Steve Walsh (Kansas)
2. Paul Rodgers (Free, Bad Company)
3. Freddy Mercury (Queen)
4. David Gilmore (Pink Floyd)
5. Van Morrison

Favorite Female Vocalists:
1. Anne Wilson (Heart)
2. Annie Lennox (Eurythmics)
3. Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac)
4. Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane)
5. Chrissie Hynde (The Pretenders)

Favorite Rock Guitarists:
1. David Gilmore (Pink Floyd)
2. Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin)
3. Steve Howe (Yes)
4. Eric Clapton (Cream, etc.)
5. Jimmy Hendrix (Jimmy Hendrix Experience)

Favorite Rock Keyboardists:
1. Rick Wakeman (Yes)
2. Keith Emerson (ELP)
3. Richard Wright (Pink Floyd)
4. Kerry Livgren (Kansas)
5. Ray Manzarek (Doors)

Favorite Rock Drummers:
1. Neal Peart (Rush)
2. John Bonham (Led Zeppelin)
3. Bill Bruford (Yes / King Crimson)
4. Stuart Copeland (Police)
5. Carl Palmer (ELP)

Favorite Rock Bassists:
1. Chris Squire (Yes)
2. Sting (Police)
3. Geddy Lee (Rush)
4. John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin)
5. Jack Bruce (Cream)

Favorite Rock Albums (from different groups):
1. Led Zeppelin IV (Led Zeppelin)
2. Aqualung (Jethro Tull)
3. White Album (Beatles)
4. Are You Experienced? (Jimmy Hendrix)
5. Let It Bleed (Rolling Stones)

Favorite Progressive Rock Albums (from different groups):
1. Dark Side of the Moon (Pink Floyd)
2. Close to the Edge (Yes)
3. 2112 (Rush)
4. In the Court of the Crimson King (King Crimson)
5. Masque (Kansas)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Athanasius on the Semi-Arians: De Synodis, ca. 359 AD

Those who deny the council (of Nicaea) altogether, are sufficiently exposed by these brief remarks; those, however, who accept everything else that was defined at Nicaea, and doubt only about the Co-essential (i.e., homoousios), must not be treated as enemies; nor do we here attack them as Ariomaniacs, nor as opponents of the Fathers, but we discuss the matter with them as brothers with brothers, who mean what we mean and dispute only about the word. For, confessing that the Son is from the essence of the Father, and not from another subsistence, and that he is not a creature nor work, but his genuine and natural offspring, and that he is eternally with the Father as being his Word and Wisdom, they are not far from accepting even the phrase Co-essential. Now such is Basil of Ancyra, who wrote concerning the faith. For only to say 'like according to essence' (i.e., homoiousios) is very far from signifying 'of the essence', by which, rather, as they say themselves, the genuine relationship of the Son to the Father is signified....This is sufficient to show that the meaning of the beloved ones, that is, the Semi-arians, is not foreign nor far from the 'Co-essential' (Athanasius, De Synodis, 41, 43).

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Ten Interesting Facts About the Struggle for the Nicene Faith

1. Constantine's initial solution to the Arian controversy was to send a letter (in 324) to Alexander of Alexandria and Arius stating that the issue being debated amounted to a minor difference over a point of detail.

2. The idea for dealing with the Arian controversy in an "ecumenical" council came from Hosius of Cordova, who on his return from dropping off Constantine's letter, presided over a council in Antioch which installed Eustathius, an anti-Arian, and issued a rather clumsy confession of faith that proclaimed the Logos "begotten not from non-existence but from the Father, not as made but as properly an offspring."

3. In 325, Constantine invited every bishop of the empire to convene at Nicaea, over 1800 in all, at the empire's expense. However, only about three hundred (the traditional number is 318) actually attended, and only six from the West.

4. Three disparate parties were represented at Nicaea: (1) Arius' supporters, the most prominent being Eusebius of Nicodemia; (2) Alexander's supporters, such as Eustathius of Antioch and Marcellus of Ancyra; and (3) those holding a "conservative" subordinationist position (as taught by Origen), by far the largest contingent, among them Eusebius of Caesarea. Many from this last party were at the time, or would eventually become, sympathizers of Arius.

5. All but two bishops signed the creed, wishing to keep the emperor happy. Yet many expressed suspicion that the creed's language -- particularly the term homoousios -- implied or outright taught the error of modalistic monarchianism. And, indeed, the views of at least one of the creed's prominent fervent supporters, Marcellus of Ancyra, were implicitly monarchian.

6. Eusebius of Nicodemia was exiled shortly after the Council of Nicaea for communicating Arius, but was recalled by Constantine in 328 to become bishop of the imperial capital and Constantine's principle advisor in the process. From this position, he labored to reestablish the dominance of the Eastern subordinationist position, undermining the Nicene formula (under Constantine's nose). Eusebius managed to depose and exile Alexander's successor, Athanasius, on trumped up charges, and Marcellus of Ancyra.

7. After Constantine's death, the depositions of Athanasius and Marcellus would lead to a schism between the East and the West when both bishops appealed to Julius of Rome. Eastern bishops gathered in Antioch in 341 to repudiate Arianism, disavow Rome's right to act as a court of appeal, and assert a subordinationist view of the Logos over against the alleged monarchianism implied by the Nicene symbol. The Latin church convened a separate council at Sardica, from which the Greeks withdrew when Athanasius and Marcellus were invited to sit, where they insisted that there is but one hypostasis of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (ousia and hypostasis were not yet distinct terms).

8. The efforts of Emperor Constantius (Constantine's son) to enforce a non-committal imperial orthodoxy led to the Council of Sirmium's (357) prohibition of terms such as ousia and homoousios, effectively repudiating the Nicene formula. This made room for a revival of "Arianism" in various forms, such as the Homoean party (from homoios, asserting that the Son is "like" the Father), the Anomoeans (who held that the Son was "unlike" the Father), and, lastly, those who insisted that the Son was not only "like" the Father, but "like in respect of substance" (the Homoiousian party).

9. The efforts of Athanasius from 359 to achieve reconciliation between the Homoousian and the Homoiousian parties opened the way to a fresh reappraisal of the Nicene symbol. The pro-Arian policies of Constantius II (and fifth and final exile of Athanasius) further encouraged the budding alliance between the two parties. From this alliance a "new Nicene party" would emerge, eventually finding worthy leadership in Basil of Caesarea (in Cappadocia) and Miletius of Antioch. Basil's brother, Gregory of Nyssa, and friend, Gregory of Nazianzus, would also contribute their theological acumen to the Nicene cause. (These three would come to be known as the Cappadocian Fathers.)

10. Differences between the "old" Nicenes (West) and "new" Nicenes (East) continued to persist for a time, including uncertainty as to the divine status of the Holy Spirit. The differences would be resolved by the Cappadocians' ingenious distinction between the terms ousia and hypostasis in their articulation of the Trinity. The Council of Constantinople in 381 marked the final triumph of Nicene orthodoxy. Intriguingly, while condemning the Pneumatomachi ("Spirit-fighters"), the council did not insist on using homoousios to describe the Holy Spirit's relation to the Father, in deference to the few remaining Homoiousians.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

"Reappraisers and Reasserters": A Re-Working of Balthasar's Statement in Light of the Present Struggles of the Anglican Communion

See the earlier entry below for the original quote.
They are either fanatically "come of age" (the "reappraisers") or fanatically immature (the "reasserters" who clamor for a strict enforcement of confessional standards, as interpreted by them, and seek to move the Communion away from its Canterbury-centeredness toward a federalist scheme). Just as the fanatics (i.e. Puritans) who insisted on a more thoroughgoing reform of the Church of England were condemned, by an iron law of the philosophy of history, to bring about the very opposite of what they intended and thus fall prey to the schizophrenia of dialectics, so today the elements on the fringe of the Anglican Communion, reappraisers and reasserters, are forever metamorphosing into each other, dialectically provoking each other into existence.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

"Progressives and Integrists" by Hans Urs von Balthasar

The last sentence is the money statement...

They are either fanatically "come of age" (the progressives) or fanatically immature (the integralists who clamor for the tangible exercise of papal authority and elevate to the status of dogma things that are not, such as Communion on the tongue and all kinds of apparitions of the Mother of God, etc). Just as the fanatics who insisted on the soli of the Reformation were condemned, by an iron law of the philosophy of history, to bring about the very opposite of what they intended and thus fall prey to the schizophrenia of dialectics, so today the elements on the fringe of Catholicism, progressivism and integralism, are forever metamorphosing into each other, dialectically provoking each other into existence.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Confession is Good for the Soul

Here is my contribution to the Theological Confessions Meme. Biretta tip to Per Caritatem.

I confess that if I were ever given the opportunity to rewind my life and career, and to start over, I would probably enter the Dominican Order. I also confess that when I look at my wife and children, I am grateful that I will never be tempted with that choice.

I confess that I really enjoy having teenage children. I confess that still having a pre-teen in tow makes me feel younger than I am.

I confess that the Catechism of the Catholic Church has been a more formative influence on my life than Cranmer's Book of Common Prayer.

I confess that Karl Barth has irrevocably changed the way I do theology, and that, along with him, Karl Rahner, Henri de Lubac, Paul Tillich, and, lately, Hans Urs von Balthasar, are among my favorite dialogue partners in theology.

I confess that I wish my theological seminary had encouraged me to read modern theology rather than to avoid it.

I confess that those who have hurt me most in life are those who have used the pretense of orthodoxy to secure my trust.

I confess that theological liberals have often been more gracious to me than I have been to them.

I confess that C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, John Paul II, and Mother Theresa are among the reasons that I remain a Christian.

I confess that I have given very serious consideration to becoming a Roman Catholic twice in my life.

I confess that Sacred Heart devotion, gawdy statues, St. Christopher medals, scapularies, and other cheap trinkets are among the reasons that I doubt I'll ever become a Roman Catholic.

I confess that the virtues of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer more than make up for its deficiencies.

I confess that George Harrison is my favorite Beatle, that Pink Floyd's Echoes is the perfect musical composition, and that the end of Yes's Gates of Delerium sometimes brings a tear to my eye.

I confess that some of my most profound spiritual experiences occur while listening to Yes's The Revealing Science of God. I also confess that I find more spiritual value in listening to Rush's 2112 CD than in a MegaChurch service.

I confess that Christian fundamentalism leaves me cold.

I confess that I am in the distinct minority among orthodox thinkers in believing that Interfaith Dialogue is not only beneficial, but also necessary.

I confess that I don't exercise nearly enough for my physical health, nor drink nearly enough for my mental health.

I confess that I sometimes resent that, given my choice of career and my own aspirations, I would have gotten much further in life as a woman and/or an ethnic minority.

I confess that Charles Darwin poses the most serious challenge to the faith of many Christians, mainly because he was correct.

I confess that my disenchantment with Intelligent Design theory rests entirely on my commitment to Theism.

I confess that I am convinced that life exists in other places in our universe, perhaps even in our own solar system, and that the eventual discovery of non-terrestrial life will inspire the most serious re-think of Christian theology since Copernicus. I confess every intention of staying ahead of the curve on this one.

I confess that local orthodoxies (i.e., confessions of faith), while serving a certain usefulness, often become "household idols" that stifle theological inquiry, stall ecumenical progress, and stunt the faith of many. I also confess that I am often impatient with Anglicans who revere the 39 Articles as such.

Why the Articles Must be Interpreted in Light of the Creeds, and Not the Creeds in Light of the Articles: Article I

ARTICLE I: There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.

The shortcoming of this article is that it does not follow the creedal pattern. It starts out correctly: “There is but one living and true God...” but it should continue thus, “...the Father almighty,” as do the catholic creeds. Article I thus falls short of a truly catholic (ecumenical) articulation, as many western articulations do. This is not to say that the article is incapable of supporting an orthodox reading, only that it is capable of supporting an unorthodox one, which constitutes its major flaw.

As it stands, Article I could be read to imply that there is a “Godhead” or “God-stuff” or some supra-personal “God” that is above the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, who are subsumed within or beneath It (or Him). Yet the universal creeds (Apostles, Nicene) teach that the Father, not the "Godhead" (however that is understood), is the ground and hypostasis of unity. Thus the unity of the Godhead is grounded in the Father's monarchy: the Son and the Spirit derive from Him, for the Father is the source of their essence. This is the faith of the Church Catholic.

Friday, June 29, 2007

My Mugshot

Y'all can check out my mugshot at my parish's website, where I will be serving out my diaconate until my ordination to the priesthood in six months. My diocese considers my place of work, (the seminary), as my official placement.


Not exactly breaking news...but for those readers who may not have heard, Fr. Al Kimel of Pontifications is now retiring from the blogosphere. Read his departing entry here.

Here is an excerpt:

Becoming Catholic has brought many blessings, but it has not healed the sorrows of my heart. Indeed, in some ways it has intensified these sorrows. But this is all very private. All I need say is that I often find them overwhelming. God is silent. I am reduced to silence.

I think many of us can relate to this on some level. I know that I can. Fr. Al, you will be missed.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Praying Saint Patrick's Breastplate with Anglican Prayer Beads

The Cross:
I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three. Of whom all nature hath creation, eternal Father, Spirit, Word: praise to the Lord of my salvation, salvation is of Christ the Lord.

The Invitatory:
Christ be with me, Christ within me, Christ behind me, Christ before me, Christ beside me, Christ to win me, Christ to comfort and restore me. Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ in quiet, Christ in danger, Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

The Cruciforms:
I bind unto myself today
the strong Name of the Trinity,
by invocation of the same,
the Three in One, and One in Three.

The Weeks:
1. I bind this day to me for ever, by power of faith, Christ’s Incarnation;
2. his baptism in Jordan river;
3. his death on cross for my salvation;
4. his bursting from the spicèd tomb;
5. his riding up the heavenly way;
6. his coming at the day of doom:
7. I bind unto myself today.

1. I bind unto myself the power of the great love of cherubim;
2. the sweet "Well done" in judgment hour;
3. the service of the seraphim;
4. confessors’ faith, apostles’ word,
5. the patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls;
6. all good deeds done unto the Lord,
7. and purity of virgin souls.

1. I bind unto myself today the virtues of the starlit heaven,
2. the glorious sun’s life-giving ray,
3. the whiteness of the moon at even,
4. the flashing of the lightning free,
5. the whirling of the wind’s tempestuous shocks,
6. the stable earth, the deep salt sea,
7. around the old eternal rocks.

1. I bind unto myself today the power of God to hold and lead,
2. his eye to watch, his might to stay,
3. his ear to hearken, to my need;
4. the wisdom of my God to teach,
5. his hand to guide, his shield to ward;
6. the word of God to give me speech,
7. his heavenly host to be my guard.

The Closing Prayers:

Invitatory Bead:
The Lord’s Prayer

The Cross:
I bless the Lord.

Or, in a group setting:
Let us bless the Lord
Thanks be to God.

Anglican Prayer Beads: A Form of Contemplative Prayer

From the King of Peace website.

Anglican Prayer Beads are a relatively new form of prayer, blending the Orthodox Jesus Prayer Rope and the Roman Catholic Rosary. The thirty-three bead design was created by the Rev. Lynn Bauman in the mid-1980s, through the prayerful exploration and discovery of a contemplative prayer group.

The use of the rosary or prayer beads helps to bring us into contemplative of meditative prayer—really thinking about and being mindful of praying, of being in the presence of God—by use of mind, body, and spirit. The touching of the fingers on each successive bead is an aid in keeping our mind from wandering, and the rhythm of the prayers leads us more readily into stillness.

Symbolism of the Beads

The configuration of the Anglican Prayer Beads relate contemplative prayer using the Rosary to many levels of traditional Christian symbolism. Contemplative prayer is enriched by these symbols whose purpose is always to focus and concentrate attention, allowing the one who prays to move more swiftly into the Presence of God.
The prayer beads are made up of twenty-eight beads divided into four groups of seven called weeks. In the Judeo-Christian tradition the number seven represents spiritual perfection and completion. Between each week is a single bead, called a cruciform bead as the four beads form a cross. The invitatory bead between the cross and the wheel of beads brings the total to thirty-three, the number of years in Jesus’ earthly life.

Praying with the beads

To begin, hold the Cross and say the prayer you have assigned to it, then move to the Invitatory Bead. Then enter the circle of the prayer with the first Cruciform Bead, moving to the right, go through the first set of seven beads to the next Cruciform bead, continuing around the circle, saying the prayers for each bead.

It is suggested that you pray around the circle of the beads three times (which signifies the Trinity) in an unhurried pace, allowing the repetition to become a sort of lullaby of love and praise that enables your mind to rest and your heart to become quiet and still.

Praying through the beads three times and adding the crucifix at the beginning or the end, brings the total to one hundred, which is the total of the Orthodox Rosary. A period of silence should follow the prayer, for a time of reflection and listening. Listening is an important part of all prayer.

Begin praying the Anglican Prayer Beads by selecting the prayers you wish to use for the cross and each bead. Practice them until it is clear which prayer goes with which bead, and as far as possible commit the prayers to memory.

Find a quiet spot and allow your body and mind to become restful and still. After a time of silence, begin praying the prayer beads at an unhurried, intentional pace. Complete the circle of the beads three times.

When you have completed the round of the prayer beads, you should end with a period of silence. This silence allows you to center your being in an extended period of silence. It also invites reflection and listening after you have invoked the Name and Presence of God.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Science and Eastern Orthodoxy


LIGHT FROM THE EAST: Theology, Science and the Eastern Orthodox Tradition
by Alexei V. Nesteruk
Fortress Press (2003)

In the non-Orthodox world, a lively dialogue between science and theology has been taking place for decades. Among Orthodox, however, the theological response to modern scientific theory has hitherto been extremely muted. It has therefore been with great anticipation that they have awaited the study by Alexei Nesteruk which has now been published. For Nesteruk, as well as being a member of the Orthodox Church, is also a researcher at the University of Portsmouth, and, as such, he is someone who can speak of the scientific enterprise from within.

As a mathematical physicist, Nesteruk has clearly decided to stick to those aspects of science that he knows well. Some might regard this as a pity, since it leads him to ignore almost entirely the theological questions arising from some of the aspects of modern scientific theory that Christians tend to find the most disturbing, such as neo-Darwinism. This is, however, less of a problem that might appear at first sight, since Nesteruk’s approach is far more subtle than that of those Western theologians, who – through a methodology of beginning with questions about the perceived dissonance of science and theology – often by-pass important and necessary questions about the nature of the two disciplines.

His fundamental thesis is, in fact, not that theology and science can be interpreted in terms of some surfacelevel consonance, but rather that both can be “reinstated to their proper relationship to the Eucharist,understood in cosmic terms as the offering of creation back to God through art, science, and technology.” In this context, he goes on, scientific activity can be treated as a cosmic eucharistic work (a “cosmic liturgy”). Science can thus be seen as a mode of religious experience, a view obvious to those scientists who participate in ecclesial communities, but as yet undemonstrated to those outside such communities, (p.2).

To illustrate this view, Nesteruk provides, in the second half of the book, a number of extremely interesting but scientifically complex arguments. This scientifically informed argument is, however, based on a more general attempt, in the first half of the book, to develop a patristically-oriented rationale for seeing the sciences as an important aspect of our contemplation of divine realities. To expand on this he provides an extremely thought-provoking analysis of the patristic use of apophatic and cataphatic language in relation to God. He links this way of using theological language to the way in which God must be seen as immanent in the cosmos and yet as utterly transcending it. Like many Orthodox commentators, he sees the witness of St. Maximus the Confessor – especially in relation to the concept of the logoi of created things having their origin in the Logos himself – as central to the development of a contemporary understanding.

A recognition of the importance of this book does not, of course, imply that it is beyond reproach. Being both ambitious and complex, it inevitably has many features that raise critical questions. Some, for example, may wonder whether the concept of hypostasis can really carry the weight that Nesteruk makes it bear. Others,perhaps, will wonder whether a modern Orthodox theology really requires a utilizing of neo-Platonic categories of the sort that is attempted here (and, even if it does, whether modern cosmology can be used to underpin this usage in the way Nesteruk suggests). Perhaps more important than any of these questions, however, is one that arises from the way in which Nesteruk has – as he candidly admits – “been deeply influenced by the ideas of [the Presbyterian theologian] Thomas Torrance” (p. 2). These ideas are, admittedly, themselves deeply influenced by patristic (and especially Alexandrian) perspectives. They are also, however, rooted in important strands of continental Protestant (‘neoorthodox’) theology, and it is far from clear that Nesteruk has taken this adequately into account.

To recognize that such questions are posed by Nesteruk’s approach is not, however, to diminish the importance of what he has done. On the contrary, it bears witness to it. For, by setting off trains of thought of this kind, Nesteruk has surely done an invaluable service, both to his fellow Orthodox – who can now begin to see the sciences in a new and positive light – and to non-Orthodox, who can now see a way in which their own ongoing dialogue of science and theology can be expanded and deepened by Orthodox perspectives.

Nesteruk himself is modest enough to recognize (p. 12) that his efforts represent no more than “first steps ... with no pretensions to completing the enormous task” that lies ahead. It is, however, the first steps in any journey that are the most important, and for this particular journey Nesteruk has arguably not only pointed us in the right direction, but also provided us with many of the vehicles that we shall need as we progress. Our long term judgements of some of his specific arguments may, perhaps, turn out to be negative ones. Even if this is so, however, this will not prevent him from being remembered, in the history of the Orthodox Church, as the pioneer of a new frontier that had for too long remained unexplored. As the first clear expositor of the view that science is a cosmic eucharistic work and a mode of religious experience, he has begun a phase of Orthodox theological reflection which may have truly momentous consequences.

Christopher C. Knight
Condensed from SOUROZH:
A Journal of Orthodox Life and Thought, 2003, N 94, pp.45-49
Also reviewed in ESSSAT News, 13.4

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Master Stroke of Quantum Indeterminacy

To be sure, there is nothing about quantum indeterminacy at the base of our existence that proves it was the work of God. Or of a design to the universe clearly put there by an intelligent force to accommodate living things. However, if there is a God, consider what a master stroke quantum indeterminacy was. To create an orderly material world that didn't require constant intervention, the Creater had to make things obey defined laws. But if those laws were to run all the way down to the building blocks of matter, they would also have denied free will. They would have made it possible for His creatures (eventually) to figure out that all past events and all future ones could be inferred from a single reading of the state of the physical world at any given time.

Remarkably, what quantum indeterminacy does is to deny us the possibility of that ever happening. We cannot uncritically extrapolate the details of the present backwards to learn the past; and the future is what we make of it. Were this not the case, the future would be what our particles make of us. Instead, we are inextricably locked into the present, with our thoughts, words, and deeds helping to construct the future, a future that remains open to our own choices, to a world of possibilities.

Once He had fixed the physical nature of our universe, once He had ensured that the constants of nature would create a chemistry and physics that allowed for life, God would then have gone about the process of producing the creatures that would share this new world with him. He could have created anything He wanted, of course, by any means He cared to use. But He had already decided that the living world would be physically independent of direct divine intervention, and that life would find its support in the physics and chemistry that He was careful to create.

--Kenneth Miller, Finding Darwin's God, pp. 251-2.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

One week away from the "Midas touch"

Just an update on my status, for those who may not be "in the know": I will be ordained to the diaconate by Bishop Don Wimberly of the Diocese of Texas next Saturday, June 23, 2007 at 10:00 a.m. This will take place at Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Houston. I will, however, continue in my present position as Dean of the Faculty at an ecumenical seminary.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Do Positions on Evolution Really Matter in 2008?

Believing in evolution and God is fence-sitting??

Do Positions on Evolution Really Matter in 2008 Race?
By DeWayne Wickham

During a televised debate among GOP presidential candidates last month in California, Sen. John McCain of Arizona was asked whether he believes in evolution. McCain first answered with one word: "Yes." Then he quickly added: "I believe in evolution. But I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there also."

That bit of fence walking might remind some people of what comedian W.C. Fields, a life-long atheist, said when he was discovered reading a Bible shortly before his death. When a friend asked incredulously what he was doing, Fields responded: "Looking for loopholes."

But a recent USA TODAY/Gallup Poll suggests McCain's attempt to have it both ways is not an uncommon view. One-quarter of Americans think evolution, a scientific theory on the origins of life, and creationism, the biblical description of how life began, are both likely explanations. But in the world of politics, reality is too often shaped by what it takes to win over the relatively small number of voters who take part in a political party's selection process — not the thinking of a wider group of people.

Whatever the reason, three of the GOP presidential wannabes standing with McCain that day gave a much different answer. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas and Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado answered with a show of hands when a reporter asked, "Is there anybody on the stage that does not agree, believe in evolution?"
This month, during a GOP debate in New Hampshire, Huckabee was asked about his rejection of evolution. "To me, it's pretty simple," the Baptist minister answered. "A person either believes that God created this process or believes that it was an accident and that it just happened all on its own."

In politics, few things are described so simply. But for many members of the religious right — an influential bloc in the GOP's presidential candidate selection process — answers to questions of faith have no middle ground. This is especially so in the long-running debate over the beginning of life.

Faced with such intransigence in 1925 on the eve of the trial of John Scopes — a man charged with violating a Tennessee law that prohibited teaching evolution — H.L. Mencken, a columnist for Baltimore's The Sun, wrote, "Enlightenment, among mankind, is very narrowly dispersed." Mencken would be surprised to know that when it comes to debate over the origins of life, enlightenment is now in greater supply.

Many Americans think the theories of divine creation and evolution can coexist. And why not accept the Bible's story of God's creation of life as a metaphor, and the evolutionist's version of how life started as a more detailed account of the same event? Isn't it possible the "Big Bang" theory of the universe's beginning is just science's explanation of what happened when God said, "Let there be light?" Why worry about where presidential candidates of either party stand on this issue?

At one point in the New Hampshire debate, Huckabee bristled at being asked about his position on the origins of life. "I'm not planning on writing the curriculum for an eighth-grade science book. I'm asking for the opportunity to be president of the United States," he said.

But with that job comes significant influence over public education, as we have seen with the Bush administration's imposition of teaching standards. The Oval Office job also plays a role in defining the nation's response to harmful atmospheric changes that many scientists say are man-made, and in determining government's response to calls for expanded stem cell research, which could alter lives afflicted with disease.

Putting a religious absolutist in the White House might sharply reduce the role of science in our national life — and distance the next president from the thinking of a lot of Americans.

DeWayne Wickham writes on Tuesdays for USA TODAY.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

NEWS FLASH: "Fed-cons" unite in resolve to scupper Cantuar

Well, folks, Matt Kennedy and Stephen Noll are finally on the same page. Actually, truth be told, they always were, but there was this little issue of the upcoming Lambeth Conference to resolve between these two "fed-cons." For details, catch the latest over at Stand Firm.

Someone, somewhere along the way, coined the terms "federal conservative" and "communion conservative" to describe the differences between two rather nuanced and (up to now) ambiguous, i.e., hard-to-define, positions within what Kendall Harmon dubbed the "re-asserting" camp.

However, what divides so-called "conservatives" (I hate that term too) has never been so clear as it is today. The issue is CONCILIARISM, and we can thank Ephraim Radner and the ACI for articulating this difference beyond any question (See Dr. Radner's excellent article below).

"Fed-con" and "Com-con" are messy, imprecise, and outmoded designations. They should be put to rest. The real division is between non-conciliarists and conciliarists. Obviously, Noll and Kennedy are non-conciliarists, and Radner, Seitz, et al. are conciliarists. It should be obvious where Catholic in the Third Millennium stands.

Let's call 'em what they are.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

A MUST READ: Ephraim Radner's "Lambeth Can Be What It Wants to Be"

Read the entire article at the Anglican Communion Institute website. Here's the Link


The charismatic character of conciliar authority

In light of all this, I would emphasize that the real basis for the authoritative nature of the Church’s conciliar vocation is not, therefore, the entity of a “council” in itself. Councils are not Scripture. Councils themselves are not the Holy Spirit. Councils guarantee nothing. Just because one has a council – local or wider – does not mean that what it decides has any authority in Christian terms. Rather, the basis for the authoritative nature of the Church’s conciliar vocation lies in the faithful perseverance of its members in common over time, that is, in their willingness to live the Christian life together “for the Lord” and “in the Lord”. Since the authority of councils derive from their place in a historical series, it is grasped only retrospectively, and it is possible to do this only because one has carried through with the conciliar life together long enough and through a perseverant life of faithfulness on such a path that the truth is apprehended together. A synod may indeed come to a decision that is “true” in the sense of conforming to and displaying the truth of Scripture, but that council may never gain “authority” in the Church because it never took place within the extended conciliar life of the Church in such a way that its truth was apprehended.

The place where the Holy Spirit “authorizes” a council, therefore, is not first in the abstract nature of its decisions nor even in the juridically-defined and defining shape of a given gathering. It is in the ongoing Christian life of those making decisions and receiving them. Councils are authoritative when they are perceived, that is, as being “holy”, enacted by holy people and received by holy people, conformed to the Scriptural shape of God’s will. True councils are “charismatic”, in the qualification used by Orthodox theologians. Councils are authoritative, not only when they speak the “truth” (this is not a sufficient condition for conciliar authority), but when they are filled with and give rise to the gifts and fruit of the Spirit – faith, generosity, and so on, and “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Rom. 12:6ff.; Gal. 5:22f.). This should not be a surprise, Scripturally speaking: for it is the “gathering in my Name (cf. Mt. 18:20), in its rich and profound sense of the Spirit’s common life, that is promised the presence of Jesus. The Church “over time”, and hence as a truly conciliar reality, exists as Christ’s Body only as she embodies the Holy Spirit’s gifts and fruit in this sense that allows her to gather at all (1 Cor. 12).

The necessary and essential link between council and Holy Spirit, understood in the sense above, underscores a paradoxical reality: the Church’s councils need not be wholly “pure” in their make-up to be valid and authoritative. Rather they require only that some of their members be holy and, more importantly, that such holiness persist in the midst of the Church’s errors and sin. For the Spirit is “sent”; the Spirit does not constitute. The Spirit inhabits; the Spirit does not embody. This is the model of the apostolic church of Jesus, at the Last Supper and Passion: the holiness of the Church – and her councils – is given in the means by which her saints demonstrate the Spirit’s fruit within the Church’s fallenness, by the exercise of truthful witness, mercy and charity with and among her corrupted members, as Jesus did not only towards his persecutors, but towards his own followers who would and who did eventually abandon Him.

In light of this discussion, we can answer a number of questions currently being raised about attendance at the Lambeth Conference of Anglican bishops. We can do so by observing the character of the Church’s first great councils – e.g. Nicea and Constantinople – and seeing how in fact they conform to the outline of conciliar life suggested above, and how they clarify current concerns. Although these two councils represent something “new”, from the perspective of history, they were not in fact “primordial”. They emerged from and took their place within an existing and long line of previous councils, some of considerable significance and weight. As “councils”, they are “general”, not de novo.

Does one sit in council with those with whom one is out of communion?

Nicea answered this question affirmatively: present were not only the Novationist schismatic bishop Acesius, but also Arians (including Arius himself!) who had previously and formally broken with bishops of the (finally decided) “orthodox” party. One does not need to share the Eucharist with another Christian in order for the counsel of the Holy Spirit to be authoritatively pursued among them.

In the midst of disputes within the Church, including ones that cut deeply and that burden us today, this reality (more fully demonstrated below) cuts in all kinds of directions.

Does one sit in council with heretics?

Invited to Nicea, as we know, were Arius and his friends and supporters (e.g. Eusebius of Nicomedia, who ended up causing so much trouble for the orthodox after Nicea, despite signing on to the final agreement).

The first Council of Constantinople, over 50 years after Nicea, had to revisit with much anguish and conflict the very matters already decided at Nicea. This means that the later council, by definition, was one engaged with known “heretics”, established as such by a previous council. Yet that did not prevent the council’s gathering and its engagement of orthodox and heretic together.

Does one sit in council with the excommunicated?

As the previous question and response show, “heresy” can already be conciliarly defined and still be engaged subsequently on a personal level at another council. Hence, Arius, along with at least two African bishops, Secondus and Theonus, had been formally condemned and excommunicated by a formal Alexandrian synod, some time before Nicea convened. Yet Bp. Alexander (and Athanasius, his then-secretary) met with them at Nicea. Both Nicea and Constantinople gathered bishops who had, at various times, been excommunicated and even exiled by opposing parties.

One of the questions to be asked in the context of the above is, “does not counsel with heretics and the excommunicated threaten the corruption of the council itself and of the church subsequently?”. This question has been posed within the Anglican Communion currently in terms of TEC being a liberal “heresy” similar to a “gangrene” or “cancer” whose presence cannot be tolerated in council for fear of contamination. Clearly this was not the view of those participating in the first councils of the Church, including the first two Ecumenical Councils. It was not so because the nature of Christian conciliarity, as we have explained, is founded on the power of the Holy Spirit within the lives of those taking council, not uniformly, but simply really – just as Jesus’ authority in the Church is based on His own pneumatic life, not on His members’ uniformly.

Certainly, there are a variety of responses given in the New Testament church to heresy or immorality within the Christian community. In all cases where possible, discipline is exercised. But discipline within the New Testament is not uniform – as Paul’s experience with the “false apostles” at Corinth makes clear – and is often set aside in favor of the “power” of the Spirit’s “demonstration” in the lives of the Church’s saints, regardless of the failures of others around them. Indeed, the one text in the New Testament regarding “gangrene” (2 Tim. 2:17) is not about complete disengagement with heretics, but about the proper kind of engagement, based not on drawn out controversy but on a particular kind of charismatic posture and example as a teacher (2 Tim. 2:24ff.) that leads the erring person to “repentance”.

The point here is that a council may choose to invite or not, on the basis of discipline or not – none of this validates or invalidates a council. These are prudential decisions, not matters of faith (see below).

Does one sit at council with those who have betrayed previous councils?

Following Nicea, an entire array of Arians and related “heretics” continued to agitate and in fact often “triumph” ecclesially through episcopal establishement and numerous new councils, both local and wider. Many, although not all, of these subsequent councils were attended by “orthodox”, who knowingly came to gatherings in which they were outnumbered, deceived, and mistreated. Their attendance, where possible, was based on the courage, calm, and faith granted them by the Holy Spirit, not on juridical realities. Such councils were often later judged to be invalid; but not because of their initial gathering, but rather because of their fruit. I personally believe it to be the case that, at certain point, if one can no longer trust the word of certain members of the Church, their presence at the Church’s councils do indeed become problematic. But again, to what degree is a prudential decision, not one based on principle.

Does non-invitation of potentially worthy attendees invalidate a council?

The Bishop of Rome was never invited to (nor did he or his formal representative attend) the Council of Constantinople (and he was, at the time, out of communion with the Council’s president, Melitius, as well as with others present). Yet, in time – and not a long time either – the Council of Constantinople was recognized by the Pope as a valid “ecumenical” council, despite not even having a formal papal representative present.The conclusion here, to restate a point made before and well-grounded in conciliar theology, is that councils are authoritative in their historical reception, not in their immediate form. The form, however, points to the character of the council in an initial way, and eventually reveals that inner character over time: one comes to council, and God does His work.

--The rest of the article.