Tag Archives: Will Cohen

Orthodoxy and Ecumenism in View of the Upcoming Great and Holy Council

by Will Cohen

Some members of the Orthodox Church, who regard ecumenism as a heresy, have been predictably critical of the preconciliar document “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World” since it was approved by the Orthodox primates at Chambèsy in October 2015.  In that document, the identification (¶1) of the Orthodox Church with the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church of the Nicene creed is entirely consistent with Orthodox ecumenism (¶4).  For anti-ecumenists, by contrast, this identification can only mean that all others that call themselves church are not church at all.  As the eminent Greek theologian Fr. Theodore Zizis in a recent talk on the upcoming Great and Holy Council said about Orthodox participation in the World Council of Churches, “The Church amidst 340 Protestant groups!  What business do we have there?  Are we a heresy?  Do we lump ourselves in with the heretics?”  The idea is that we know all we need to know about what other Christian traditions think and believe.  There is no reason to pay it any further attention.  Continue Reading…

Trump and Humiliation

by Will Cohen

A recurrent refrain in Donald Trump’s 2011 book Time to Get Tough is that America is being laughed at–by China, OPEC, Russia, Iran. Compared to their leaders ours are weak and stupid.  Trump describes Barack Obama’s approach on geopolitical and economic issues as “embarrassing”. Obama is said to “grovel,” “kiss the feet” of foreign leaders and dignitaries, “kowtow” and engage in “pretty-please” diplomacy with our enemies.  Vladimir Putin, by contrast, is someone “of whom I often speak highly for his intelligence and no-nonsense way”.

If America is to be a winner we have to elect a winner to lead it. “Every day in business I see America getting ripped off and abused. We have become a laughingstock, the world’s whipping boy, blamed for everything, credited for nothing, given no respect.” We need a president “who knows how to get tough with China . . . and how to keep them from screwing us at every turn.” Continue Reading…

Trump and Transgression

by Will Cohen

Although there are, as many commentators have observed, social and economic factors at play, a perhaps more significant key to understanding the popularity of Donald Trump’s campaign is its sheer transgressive quality.  In this sense I would suggest that Trump’s campaign is a phenomenon entirely in keeping with an essential dynamic of our cultural fabric.

Not every flouting of established norms is a transgression in the proper, theological sense of being a sin; it depends why it is being flouted, and what the norm is.  Continue Reading…

Decision-Making in the Church

by Will Cohen

(This essay was originally delivered as a public talk at the June 2015 Fordham/OTSA conference on the upcoming Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church. It was part of a panel on ecumenical relations.)

For Orthodoxy’s ecumenical relations as for all ecumenical relations in the early 21st century, an important question is what means there are within one’s own communion – and in others – for rendering a decisive ecclesial judgment capable of being accepted as binding. This is different from having a teaching that has been passed down and is therefore binding.  Most such teachings handed down by tradition were, themselves, at one time, forged in the crucible of internal ecclesial contention. The church has perennially passed through periods of controversy in which it had no ready-made answer to whatever the question confronting it was; it arrived at an answer. This is not to say that the Gospel changed, but that its authentic application and embodiment in each new context had to be discerned. Continue Reading…