George Florovsky was a big ecumenical deal. That much I know, and the originator, I think, of the quest for a “neo-patristic synthesis.” Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick excerpts a new scholarly work on Florovsky, which I’ll further excerpt.
In the phrase “separated brethren,” the adjective weighs as heavily as the noun. True ecumenism demands a “theology of the abnormal.”
Florovsky observes a certain “hyper-historicism” in Roman Christological consciousness — as if the Ascension marked Christ’s exit from history, leaving his deputy behind to govern.
In Protestantism, conversely, Florovsky detects a “hyper-eschatological” reduction of history …
Christian unity understood as “universal conversion to Orthodoxy” entails neither submission to the East nor rigid uniformity, but rather “agreement with all the ages” and “mutual acknowledgement in the truth.”
It is not insignificant, in fact, that one of the first appeals for Lutheran support went from Germany to Constantinople. The Tübingen theologian, Jakob Andreae, penned the following as an attachment to the Greek translation of the Augsburg Confession, sent to Patriarch Jeremias of Constantinople:
I am sending you a little book that contains the main parts of our entire faith, so that Your Holiness may see what our religion is, and whether we agree with the teachings of the churches under the jurisdiction of Your Holiness; or whether perhaps, there might be something that is not in agreement (which I would not desire). I earnestly ask Your Holiness to receive it with the same good favor with which you have accepted my previous communications and, if it is not too much for your wise person, to kindly express your most favorable judgment concerning these articles, if God would grant that we think alike in Christ.
The hope of the Lutherans, in fact, was that the Orthodox Patriarch “count [them] worthy of [his] indulgence and receive [them] kindly into [his] paternal care.”
Indeed, therefore, from the earliest days of the Reformation, the Lutherans sought theological affirmation from the Orthodox Church (and not vice versa), in no small part because they viewed the Orthodox Church as holding unswervingly to the faith of the apostles. The Orthodox were, very simply, the Church.
And, so, in a most profound way, I have done what the earliest Lutherans had hoped to do. Finally, I have come home. But some are not home, at least not yet.
[The “preferential option for the poor”] acquires an almost exclusive focus in many strands of liberal Protestantism and post-Protestant spiritualism, as not just a significant aspect of Christ’s social teaching, but as essentially constituting the entirety of the true Gospel.
And who could deny Christ’s unique concern for, and identification with, the poor? But in one of the mysteries of the Christian faith, the gospels simultaneously witness to an oft-neglected counter-preference that, on its face, seems to run directly contrary to this ‘preferential option for the poor.’ It’s Jesus Christ’s special, unique concern for wealthy tax collectors.
Of course, this still falls under the category of concern for those on the margins of society. Only in this case it’s a person who is despised and marginalized, not for his poverty or weakness, but for his position of relative power and wealth, with its attendant potential for abuse.
When Christ is seen eating with “sinners and tax collectors”, to the disapproval of the Pharisees (Matt. 9:10-13; Luke 5:29-32) — the modern analog of which would be befriending IRS agents and Wall Street bankers, while the ‘social justice’ crusaders look on with rueful scorn — this caused some scandal …
Ironically, this is made especially clear in the account of the rich man who had kept all the commandments from his youth (Matt. 19:16-26; Mark 10:17-27; Luke 18:18-27), which is usually cited to opposite ends. The rich man’s inquiry in this incident is “what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Christ responds by telling him that “if thou wouldst be perfect”, in addition to keeping the commandments, he ought to sell all he has and give the proceeds to the poor. The central concern here is explicitly the eternal life and spiritual perfection of the rich man …
In Luke 19:1-10, Jesus singles Zacchaeus, “who was a tax collector and rich”, out of a crowd and treats him with kindness and love, again to the grumblings of the crowd — grumblings which are very familiar these days and can be heard coming from self-righteous liberals who treat the rich with naked animus, while expecting all enlightened persons to do likewise ….
British writer and historian Hilaire Belloc said that if pure capitalism reigned there would be constant unemployment, starvation in the streets, and perpetual turmoil. Belloc believed modern capitalism was an unstable force and in conflict with the moral theories of liberty. Belloc’s contemporary, G.K. Chesterton, couldn’t have agreed more, and they both directed much of their energies into disparaging what they deemed to be the “Servile State,” an economic system whereby an unfree majority of nonowners work for the pleasure of a free minority of owners.
This came as a relief to me:
What happens when you gather thinkers in thrall to scientism, and ask them to list the most important books for civilization? A compendium that includes books on robot sex and immortality, but nothing on plumbing, or farming, or the God recognized by a third of the world’s population.
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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)