Theology

Between Rigorism and Relativism: The Givenness of Tradition

by Marcus Plested

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Tradition is the central problematic of modern Orthodox theology. We are a Church that takes tradition seriously. Where disagreements arise these tend to revolve around questions of fidelity to tradition. What does it mean to be faithful to the tradition of the Church? Just how free may we be with relation to the tradition of the Church?  I suggest that there are two main errors to avoid when tackling this controverted question – rigorism and relativism. Tradition, I argue, should be embraced in its totality and not selectively discarded or selectively defended.

Tradition is as much a verb as a noun, denoting the process of transmission (or handing over) as much as that which is handed over. Tradition is the mode in which the whole experience of the Church is handed over in lived history. It is the living continuum of faith comprising scripture, the achievements of the Fathers and the councils, sacraments and liturgy, iconography and canons, feasts and fasts, theology and prayer, and much more. Ultimately, it is a way of life – the life in Christ. But how do we discern what constitutes properly traditional theology? The road to such discernment, I suggest, lies between rigorism and relativism. Continue Reading…

Conjugal Friendship

by Giacomo Sanfilippo

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One of the more useful insights of postmodernism, so self-evident that it hardly needs to be said, is that reframing one’s fundamental question will produce a different answer. To the question, “Can two persons of the same gender ‘have sex’ with each other?” we hear from Holy Tradition a resounding no. Yet if we ask, “Can two persons of the same gender form a bond in which ‘the two become one?’” the scales begin to fall from our eyes. Holy Tradition possesses in germinal form everything necessary to articulate, thoughtfully and cautiously, an Orthodox theology and spirituality of what we now call same-sex love, adequate to the pastoral needs of the 21st century and fully consistent with the ascetical ethos of Orthodox life for all. Continue Reading…

On Ecumenoclasm: Salvation for Non-Christians?

by Paul Ladouceur

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Early Christian thinking on non-Christian religions was conditioned by the official paganism of the Roman Empire, Greek philosophy, Christianity’s relationships with Judaism and flourishing mystery cults. Later, Orthodoxy had extensive historical experience, often but not entirely negative, as a religious minority under non-Christian regimes in Persia, the Middle East and the Ottoman Empire. Christian communities under Muslim rule were frequently in a survival mode, which made theological reflection on the meaning of religious diversity in God’s plan for salvation next to impossible. Only in recent times have Orthodox begun to consider the theological significance of religious diversity, especially as Orthodoxy is increasingly challenged with this reality both in countries of Orthodox immigration in Western Europe and North America, and increasingly in countries of Orthodox tradition. Continue Reading…