Tag Archives: Paul Ladouceur

Some of My Best Friends Are Heretics
What Do Orthodox Really Believe?

by Paul Ladouceur

The evil eye

Orthodox pride themselves on belonging to the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church” founded by Jesus Christ—and with good reason. Orthodox point to the loftiness of Orthodox theology, the beauty and solemnity of its liturgy, its mystical spirituality, the holiness of its saints, and the transcendentalism of its icons, liturgical music, and religious architecture. For many Orthodox, the Orthodox Church is the sole Church of Christ, and other Christian ecclesial bodies are decidedly “lesser,” perhaps not truly Christian, or at best “incomplete.”

But Orthodoxy on the ground, the actual beliefs and practices of Orthodox faithful, Orthodoxy as “lived religion,” yields a different picture. Lived religion focuses the beliefs, practices and everyday experiences of religious persons. Most lived religion studies of Orthodoxy concentrate on measurable practices such as attendance at church services, personal prayer, and fasting, with little attention to religious beliefs. There are a few exceptions. The Pew Research Center report on Religious Belief and National Belonging in Central and Eastern Europe (2017) examines contemporary Orthodoxy in major countries of Eastern Orthodox tradition. Results of this report were incorporated into the broader study Orthodox Christianity in the 21st Century (also 2017), which focuses mainly on geographic and demographic aspects of Orthodoxy, with attention to religious practices and to opinions concerning the church’s positions on issues such as divorce, married priests, women priests, and same-sex marriage. Questions concerning religious beliefs cover basic beliefs in God, heaven, hell, miracles, the soul, and the Bible. But an astonishingly high percent of Orthodox hold non-Christian beliefs such as fate (70%), the evil eye (53%), magic, sorcery or witchcraft (40%), and reincarnation (25%). More Orthodox Christians than Catholics in the region believe in the evil eye and magic and sorcery, and differences between Catholics and Orthodox concerning reincarnation are minimal. And considerably more people (59% to 75%) in countries of Orthodox tradition believe in fate than in the secularized Czech Republic (32%).

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Dispatches from the Western Front

by Paul Ladouceur

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Paris

With all the attention devoted to the Eastern Front (the Ukraine) in the trench warfare between the Ecumenical Patriarchate (EP) and the Moscow Patriarchate (MP) for preeminence in Orthodoxy, the Western Front is largely ignored. The EP opened the Western Front on November 27, 2018, when it unexpectedly annulled its decree (tomos) of June 19, 1999, establishing the Archdiocese of Russian Orthodox Churches in Western Europe as an EP exarchate, thereby placing the parishes of the Archdiocese under the EP’s metropolitans in their respective countries. Subsequently many priests of the exarchate received letters from EP metropolitans in Western Europe ordering them to cease commemorating Archbishop Jean (Renneteau), head of the Archdiocese, but rather the Ecumenical Patriarch and the local EP metropolitan.

The Archdiocese has a long and glorious history. It was established in April 1921 by St. Tikhon (Belavin), Patriarch of Moscow, to serve the needs of the Russian refugees in Western Europe fleeing the Bolshevik Revolution and the civil war. Continue reading

Is Christian Theology Possible Without the Fall?

by Paul Ladouceur

Over the centuries the notion of a fall of humanity from a state of primeval bliss and communion with God has been, faute de mieux, a convenient theological coat-rack to hang such important Christian doctrines as the origin of evil and death, original sin, human moral weakness, the Incarnation of Christ and baptismal theology. The problem, as we pointed out in an article in 2013, is that it is not possible, despite brave attempts to do so, to reconcile a historical understanding of the biblical account of paradise and the fall of Adam and Eve with scientific data and theories. Genesis 1-3 must instead be read as allegory or literary myth, intended to convey certain fundamental truths, such as the divine origin of creation and of humanity and the reality of human evil.

In the project of de-historicizing Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden and the fall, three areas predominate: the nature of human existence; the origin of evil; and the motivation for Christ’s Incarnation. Genesis predicates a form of human perfection prior to the fall (“prelapsarian”), and a much-weakened human existence after the fall (“postlapsarian”). In the standard interpretation, Adam’s fall introduced evil (and the decay and death which accompanied it) into creation. The alternative narrative, we argued, is that God created a world which was neither perfect nor imperfect, but perfectible; decay and death, whether on a galactic or microscopic scale, were inherent in creation from the first moment.

Did God create death? At first blush, the answer is evident: A good God could not have created something as evil as death; to suggest otherwise is outrageous, if not blasphemous. Continue Reading…

Deaconesses and the Camel’s Nose

by Paul Ladouceur  |  ελληνικά  |  ру́сский  |  српски

Opponents of women deacons in the Orthodox Church advance two principal arguments: the “natural and economical order of male and female”; and the conviction that women deacons will lead inexorably to a series of other unwanted changes in Orthodoxy.

Advocates against the ordination of women to liturgical or even non-liturgical functions argue that there is a natural order of male and female, by which God intended that women be subordinate to men. This natural order theory calls into question a fundamental principle of patristic anthropology, the ontological equality of men and women. This principle is expressed very forcefully in Discourse 37 (6-7) of St. Gregory of Nazianzus, in the context a discussion on chastity and adultery. Gregory writes notably:

The wife who takes wicked counsel against her husband’s bed commits adultery, and thence flow the bitter consequences of the laws, but on the contrary the man who takes a prostitute against his wife suffers no sanction. I do not accept this legislation; I do not approve this custom. It is men who laid down these laws, and this is why this legislation is directed against women. […] God does not act thusly, but he says: “Honor your father and your mother” […] Notice the equality of the legislation: one and the same creator of man and woman; one dust for both; one image; one law; one death, one resurrection. […] Christ saves both through his suffering. Did Christ become flesh for the sake of the man? He did this also for the sake of the woman. He died for the man? The woman is also saved by his death.

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