Spent an evening at a lecture Fr Patrick gave last week at CSI in Twin Falls. He called the lecture: “Whatever Happened to the New Testament Church?” Throughout the evening, he followed the progression of the church from the years after Christ, through the establishment of Constantinople and the five patriarchates (Church of Rome, Church of Constantinople, Church of Antioch, Church of Alexandria and the Church of Jerusalem). Fr Patrick discussed events that eventually led to the 1054 Schism between the East and the West. Fr Patrick emphasized the catholic unity found in antiquity, and the schimastic nature of Protestantism.
One thing that stood out to me during his lecture was the Orthodox attitude toward Scholasticism. Fr Patrick apologized for picking on Aquinas so much, but “he has to be picked on.” It is clear how the Orthodox faith views traditional, scholastic, modern, rational approaches to the spiritual life. They are leery of such a strong emphasis on these ways of knowing and strive to led their hearts lead their minds.
I spoke with Fr Patrick the following day about the Emerging Church (ec) movement and some of the similarities I see with Orthodoxy (the faith, not a doctrinal position). I asked Fr Patrick what evangelism looks like within Orthodoxy. I doubt you will ever see an Orthodox Christian holding a picket sign or handing out tracts – evangelism is communal. Someone is brought into the community, encouraged to join in the dance of the spiritual life; they are mentored and discipled by spiritual fathers and mothers. It is terribly experiential and this is the basis from which a person understands what it means to be a follower of Christ. To think that a person may enter into a relationship with Christ by signing their name on the back of a 4-page pamphlet is…not unheard of, but simply not the way of the gospel.
There is a strong emphasis on authentic community within Orthodoxy. Obviously, the theologians read are the Desert Fathers, early Church Fathers. The fact that they stay rooted in the past, in the glorious richness of tradition does not mean they are dead, stagnant – rather that they are connected with a living witness.
It seems there is much we can learn from Orthodox Christians. I feel eternally blessed to have become friends with Fr Patrick; I know we will always remain close. And he is the first Orthodox Christian I think I have ever known – which is sad. Our ecumenical dialogue must extend beyond different denominations within Protestantism. We need to be speaking, living and worshipping with our Orthodox brothers and sisters, our Catholic brothers and sisters and any others who are seeking after God.
Below are a few links to some Orthodox blogs I’ve found just now; Fr Patrick may be setting one up soon and I will let you know when it goes live.
May the dialogue begin!