The BackShop Journal

A Gallery of Thoughts on Arts, Culture and Orthodox Christian Spirituality

The Roots and Development of Divergence between the Latin West and the Greek East

Last Autumn, the anniversary of the Council of Constantinople (867) was commemorated. Convened by Patriarch Photios to address the question of papal supremacy over all of the churches and their patriarchs and the use of the filoque, one of the stumbling blocks to the unity of the Latin West and the Greek East, it represents the virtual beginning of the separation of the two churches that culminated with the Great Schism of 1054. In the light of the recent renewed efforts by Vatican and the world's elite to bring the two churches together again, it is good to remind ourselves of the historical and theological progression of differences that surrounded this tragic rift.

Disappearance of Mysticism

The history of the Christian Church, one can argue, is the history of western civilization itself in the last two thousand years. People’s actions are to a greater or lesser degree determined by their convictions, and Christianity has been the most powerful ideology in the last two millennia in Europe. Since the appearance of the New Testament, there have been thousands of different interpretations of the Incarnation, and this divergence continues to grow. 

In the beginning, various heresies shook the institution of the Church. After 1517 and the growth of the Reformation, an uncountable number of new “churches” have arisen, each somewhat different from the others, some so distinct and innovative that the only element linking them to the rest is the figure of Christ, himself understood and worshiped in countless ways. The first event that started the crumbling of Christian unity is certainly the Great Schism between the Western, Latin, and the Eastern, Greek Church in 1054. Before that, the Church did not rely on dogmatic definitions to the same degree as the Roman Catholic Church of today does (Ware 204). Christian dogma was based on the Sacred Scripture and the Sacred Tradition (Pomazansky 31). The Sacred Tradition was based on the Canons of the Holy Apostles, the Symbols of Faith, ancient Liturgies and the rite of Baptism, the Acts of the Christian martyrs, the records of the Church and the works of the ancient Fathers and teachers of the Church (39). There was no undisputed hierarchy either, for Christ was the one presiding over the Liturgy. Even the formulation of the faith in the creed, defined in the Seven Ecumenical Councils, was mainly brought about by a need to fight the ever-appearing heresies (Sherrard, The Greek East and the Latin West 51-57). 

If the schism did not immediately bring radical changes to the accepted beliefs, Reformation certainly did. This crucial event in modern history brought about a flood of new tendencies and interpretations. 

One element that has given a new orientation to Christianity in the West is the gradual disappearance of mysticism. In the teaching of the early Church Fathers, there is a clear emphasis on the process of theosis, the capacity of the “divinization” of every individual, the ability to become Christ-like, partakers in the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4), to attain, according to St. Paul, “to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13). This capacity is linked to the purification of our spirit, the third faculty in humans beside body and soul. In medieval times and beyond, theologians and ascetics who wrote about this process in the West were known as mystics. The disappearance of ascetic practices linked to theosis was gradual and multifarious.  Significant in this respect was the contribution of the Scholastics, especially Thomas Aquinas. 

From Red to White Martyrdom

Christian mystery consists, among other things, in the belief that the Church is the body of Christ, and Christ is its head. In liturgical hymnography and other writings, Christ, is, therefore, often presented as the bridegroom, and the Church as his bride. Writing about the union between a man and a woman, St. Paul compares it to the relationship between Christ and his Church: “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior […] Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her […]  In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies” (Eph. 5:25-28).  Christians believe that the Church, as the body, is guided by the Holy Spirit. Even Luther believed the translation of the Vulgate, for example, had been divinely inspired and not, therefore, prone to errors, causing the objection of Erasmus, who, with his supreme knowledge of Greek and Latin, sought to ameliorate the translation. No matter how many and what kind of trials and tribulations in the form of persecution and theological fallacies beset it, Christians aver that the Church will be preserved until the end of time.

The nature of those tribulations has changed over time. The vision of a cross in the sky by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 312 is the event after which Christian identity was radically transformed.  “In This Sign You will Conquer” is the inscription that appeared in front of Constantine’s eyes, and indeed he won the ensuing battle. His conversion to Christianity and the subsequent abolishment of the persecution of Christians brought an end to their glorification through physical torture and death, and started a new age of a different kind of suffering for Christ.

The idea of martyrdom has had a central place in the spiritual life of early Christians ever since the stoning of proto-martyr Stephen, described in the Acts of the Apostles (7: 54-60). Before the conversion of Constantine, Christians viewed their Church as founded upon blood – not only the blood of Christ, but the blood of his “witnesses” as well. After the establishment of Christianity as the state religion of the Roman Empire, when the Church no longer suffered persecution, the idea of martyrdom did not disappear; it only took different forms. The monastic life, for example, is regarded by many Greek writers as a version of martyrdom (Ware 14). The same view is found in the West as well. In an Irish homily of the seventh century, for example, a Celtic writer likens the ascetic life to the way of the martyr:

Now there are three kinds of martyrdom which are accounted as a Cross to a man, white martyrdom, green martyrdom and red martyrdom. White martyrdom consists in a man’s abandoning everything he loves for God’s sake… Green martyrdom consists in this, that by means of fasting and labour he frees himself from his evil desires, or suffers toil in penance and repentance. Red martyrdom consists in the endurance of a Cross or death for Christ’s sake. (qtd. in Ware 15)

The times of red martyrdom have been rare after the Edict of Milan, proclaimed in 313, and the green and white forms prevail. Refraining from satisfying the physical needs of the body (food, sleep and sexual intercourse), together with prayer, participation in the Eucharist and unquestionable obedience to one’s spiritual father became a formula for obtaining a direct communion with God for centuries to come.

In modern Western scholarship, the emphasis on spiritual aspiration where knowledge of God was attained by self-denial, subjugation of the flesh and the cultivation of intellectual purity so a man’s soul could rise above his baser nature in medieval practices is linked to Platonism and Neoplatonic practices proscribed by Porphyry and Plotinus (Evans 25). This renunciation is viewed by Michel Foucault as a continuation of the Greek and Roman ask­êsis, which he sees as one of the three characteristics of “spirituality” and which he connects to the Socratic notion of the “care of the self” (15-16). The admission of all of Aristotle’s works into Christian thought in the thirteenth century can be considered a reaction to this preparation for death, as Socrates calls philosophy in the Phaedo (64a4-6).  The scholastic incorporation of Aristotle into theology, as Mary Clark writes, represented a “rejection of that type of Platonic other-worldliness that implied repudiation of ‘this world’” (13).

Formulation of the Doctrine

The second period of Church history is marked by the seven Ecumenical Councils, which shaped the theology on which the faith was based. The first council in Nicea, summoned by the Emperor Constantine in 325, had as its main goal the condemnation of Arian heresy, which placed the Son among created things, thus rendering  human deification impossible (Ware 22). The Council of Nicea drew up the Creed, and dealt with the visible organization of the Church. The Second Council, held at Constantinople in 381, added to the Creed the teaching about the Holy Spirit. The following two Councils, both held in Ephesus in 431 and 449, battled the teaching of Nestorius, who emphasized the diversity of the two natures of Christ and who refused to call Mary “the Mother of God.” The Council of Chalcedon in 451, regarded as the fourth General Council, was summoned mainly to ward off the Monophysite claim that Christ has only one, divine nature, and proclaimed the two natures in Christ, separate and united at the same time, which is significant for the ensuing argument. The fifth Ecumenical Council (553) explained more thoroughly how the two natures of Christ unite to form a single person, and the sixth (680-81) condemned the heresy of the Monothelites, who argued that, although Christ has two natures, he has only one will (Ware 29). Finally, the seventh Ecumenical Council (787), which met again at Nicea, allowed icons to be used in worship.

In his book The Greek East and the Latin West, Philip Sherrard explains the affirmative and the negative aspect of the definition of the faith framed at the seven Councils. From the Christian or any other genuine religious point of view, he argues, there can be no common measure between the Truth, in its absolute and eternal nature, and its formal expression accessible to human understanding. If one says, for example, that the eternal Logos “became flesh” in the Incarnation, this acquired human nature does not absorb or exhaust the divine nature. Such wording represents a limitation because it gives a finite form to what is infinite and, from the point of view of the human intelligence, formless (51). One has to look at the formulation of Christian faith in the Ecumenical Councils as measures drawn up for a specific purpose. This description represents an expression of the Truth “made in accordance with the needs and capacities of a part of humanity living in a particular historical environment, and the mere assumptions of man made in accordance with his own human conception of things,” Sherrard points out (53). 

Put in Bakhtinian terms, the utterance immediately entered the diverse world of heteroglossia, and its perception became dependent on the worldview of individuals and a society as a whole, in the form of public opinion. Worse still, this formulation became the “authoritative word.” The definition of the Christian doctrine, formulated in order to establish the unity and cohesion of the imperial society upon the unity and cohesion of its faith, brought about an “exteriorisation,” and, therefore, a “differentiation” of the truth, Sherrard argues (55). The formal expression of Christianity, thus, tending to be absolute in its local application to a particular historical environment, became irreconcilable with all other expressions of the truth and characterized by a high degree of exclusiveness (54-55). The truth on which the doctrine is based, Sherrard asserts, is something that can be known only by one who is “initiated” through following the discipline of the Christian way, similarly to Foucault’s reorientation towards “spirituality,” or to what Marangudakis calls “direct intuition of the Divine” (250). It transcends reason and logic. 

The fact that it was now codified in a form accessible to individuals regardless of their capacity to experience the truth exposed the doctrine to “the infiltrations of the philosophical mentality” (Sherrard 56). The philosophical mentality assumes that logic and the reason are capable of arriving at the truth, and that the truth itself is essentially logical and rational, for otherwise the logical and rational mind would not be capable of knowing it. This circumstance increasingly contributed to a divorce between the doctrine and the method, and to a demand that the contradictions and paradoxes be as consistent as logic, which is impossible (56-57). In other words, the definition of the faith made the essence and meaning of the revelation profane and exposed it to minute analyses of the mind whose function is based on rational thinking.

The Schism

The Eastern and the Western Church grew increasingly apart mainly due to political and cultural circumstances. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire (476), the see of Rome was left without military protection, and, in order to defend itself, it gradually assumed a political role beside the ecclesiastical and spiritual role it always had. The four eastern patriarchates (Constantinople, Jerusalem, Antioch and Alexandria), on the other hand, were protected by the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, and could dedicate themselves with less trouble only to ecclesiastical and spiritual matters. Also, while everyone in the Mediterranean had once spoken both Latin and Greek, communion between the two parts of the Roman Empire was largely facilitated. In Augustine’s day it was a matter of “mild embarrassment” to an educated Latin-speaker to be unable to read Greek fluently (Evans 22). By the time of Gregory the Great (c.540-604) the language-barrier was dividing the Empire as clearly as was the political situation. Bede, the early-eighth-century Benedictine monk, knew only a few words of Greek, and John Scotus Eriugena (c.810-77) was almost unique in Carolingian times with his knowledge of the language (Evans 22). With the fall of the Western Roman Empire and influx of the Gothic people, the Roman schooling system collapsed. A shortage of teachers hindered education until Charlemagne. With the foundation of the Holy Roman Empire in year 800, Rome received another protector and embraced the Franks as part of their cultural domain. 

The uneducated population infiltrating from the East gradually adopted the existing culture of Western Europe, inevitably contributing to the development and changes of the Church in Western Europe in their own way. Joseph Pieper describes the character of medieval philosophy in the light of the acquisition of a tremendous body of existing thought by these newly arrived Germanic tribes. In this period, we see the new nations settling down upon an alien foundation, the “barbarian” peoples making themselves at home in a house they had not themselves built (21-22). The newly Christianized tribes, Marangudakis asserts, cherished individuality, warfare and initiative. They preferred individual action to submission to the “passive” contemplation practiced in the East. They favored “doing” God’s will over “experiencing” it (248).

There were two principle points of contention between the Churches of the Greek East and the Latin West. The first was the papal claims: Rome demanded total submission in ecclesiastical matters from the Eastern patriarchates, while the Greeks saw the Roman see only as “the first among equals” and relied on the “collegiate and conciliar nature of the Church” (Ware 47). The second was the addition of the proceeding of the Holy Spirit from the Son as well (filioque in Latin) into the Creed by the West. Beside the two major issues, there were also matters of worship and discipline: the Greeks allowed married clergy, while the Latins insisted on priestly celibacy, the two sides had different rules of fasting, and the Greeks used leavened bread in the Eucharist, while the Latins used unleavened (Ware 50-51). The sacking of Constantinople in 1204 by the Crusaders and the subsequent sixty-year occupation of the Byzantine capital did not help either. Those differences, however, could probably have been reconciled.

Byzantium continued to live by the theological ideas and language of the early Greek fathers, especially the fourth-century Cappadocians (Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and Gregory of Nyssa), seen by Foucault as the continuers of the ancient philosophic tradition of the “care of the self” (12). In the West, theology was mainly based on the writings of a single individual, St. Augustine, who ignored the Greek fathers because he did not read Greek (Marangudakis 246-48). By eliminating any substantial differences between Father and Son and accepting a fully transcendent and fully indivisible God, St. Augustine made a step toward removing Christ from his position as the head and principle of unity in the Church, and the visible hierarch (the Pope) would become the real authority and guarantor of the One and Holy Church, of the Christian World. In Latin theology, consequently, simplicity and indivisibility of God—in contrast to the differentiation between God’s essence and energies, which will be discussed later—did not allow the relationship between the three persons, and, therefore, with humanity. Augustine minimized the possibility for humans to commune directly with God, Marangudakis asserts. His Civitas Dei accustomed Latin theologians to absolute dichotomies such as God vs. World, supernatural vs. natural, visible vs. invisible (248-49). St. Augustine started the long process of separation between spirituality and knowledge whose origin and development are located in theology (Foucault 28). In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the tradition of the Fathers was finally replaced by Scholasticism, named by Ware “the great synthesis of philosophy and theology” (62).

Apophatic vs. Cataphatic Approach 

Perhaps the greatest point of divergence in the Latin and Greek traditions lies in the method related to the apophatic approach traditionally named hesychasm (Gr. hesychia – inner stillness). The underlying idea of the hesychast prayer can be found, for example, in Macarian Homilies, traditionally attributed to St. Macarius of Egypt (300-90), which uphold a concept of humans as consisting of the entire person – body and soul together – not just a soul imprisoned in a body, emphasized more in the Scholastic approach. The belief in the holiness of the body in Orthodoxy, reflected in the existence of Christ’s body and blood in Eucharist and the material representation of Christ, Virgin Mary and the saints in icons, corresponds, to the centrality of the Incarnation and to the Biblical resurrection of the body together with the soul after the final judgment. Charles Lock explains how “religion” and “theology” are terms that within a Protestant paradigm invoke the categories of ethics (behavior) and belief (intellectual conviction). Within an Orthodox paradigm, the immediate associations would be neither creedal nor ethical, but liturgical (bodily presence) and sacramental (the holiness of matter) (Lock 100).

As opposed to the traditional Greek teaching of the mind or intellect (nous), Macarius talks about the heart, which includes the entire person together with the intellect, will, emotions and body.  During the prayer, usually the Jesus prayer (“Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner”), the prayer’s mind is supposed, through his own efforts and through the grace of God, to “descend into the heart,” until the prayer becomes automatic and fills one with the state of perpetual blessing from on high. The culmination of this mystical experience is the vision of Divine and Uncreated Light, like the one seen by three apostles on Mount Tabor during Christ’s Transfiguration (Mt 17:1-9; Mk 9:2-9; Lk 9:28-36).

The lack of familiarity with Eastern mysticism and the reliance on Roman law in matters of religion stimulated theologians in the West to develop along the lines of cataphatic (“affirmative”) approach. According to the Roman law, every argument should be “positive,” stating what the case is, rather than what is not, including assertions about God (Marangundakis 247). Consequently, Latin theology became particularly keen to define God’s attributes and specify the way God makes the world an intelligible substance.  “The outcome was the unavoidable self-defeat of the rationalist project and the rise of deism and atheism,” Marangudakis argues (246-47), or, in Foucault’s terms, the complete oblivion of access to the truth by means of spiritual transformation (15-20).

Hesychasm

Macarian mysticism is entirely based on the Incarnation of the word, John Meyendorff asserts (26). For him, monastic life is not the restoration of the “activity proper to the intellect,” but a deeper fulfillment within us of the grace of baptism; the unceasing prayer of the monk is not aimed at freeing the spirit from the impediment of the flesh; it allows man even here on Earth to enter into eschatological reality, the Kingdom of God, which embraces his spirit and his body in a divine communion. “The whole man, body and soul, was created in the image of God and the whole man is called to divine glory,” Meyendorff explains this “mysticism of the heart” (26). The eschatology of the Christian withdrawal from the world is based on Christ’s words from the Gospel, “My kingdom is not of this world” (Jn 18:36), and his assertion, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life” (Mt 19:29). For hermits and monk, therefore, the dedication to constant contemplation of the divine and the ceaseless prayer are irreconcilable with the sensual temptations of this world. This would be tantamount to serving God and wealth (cf. Mt. 6:24). 

In the West, a tension ran—especially after the Schism—between withdrawal from and service to the world. With the founding of the friars in the early thirteenth century, there appeared a combination of preaching and renunciation of the material support. The old monastic goal of personal salvation through withdrawal and salvation of society through prayer was eclipsed, Bynum asserts. Monasteries continued to play a fairly important role, but the major philosophical, theological and spiritual leaders of Western Europe were now Franciscans and Dominicans, from which Scholasticism arose (13). Even the Cistercians, famous in the twelfth century for their contemplative life of prayer and for saints such as Bernard of Clairvaux began to decline during the early thirteenth century. Their “contemplative spirit caved in under the pressure of so many active and material interests, and the Cistercians tended to lose themselves entirely in the active side of their lives,” (Merton 31). We have seen how the monastic ideal has further changed during the Renaissance, gradually dissolved by an affirmation of active life and partly transformed into a private life of a scholar.

During the time that Scholasticism was becoming increasingly ingrained in the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, Hesychasm gained a strong footing in the East. The difference in approaches is perhaps best illustrated in the so-called Hesychast controversy of the fourteenth century, in which Hesychasts were attacked by a learned Greek from Italy, Barlaam the Calabrian, who stated the doctrine of God’s “otherness” and our inability to know him in an extreme form. Barlaam had grown up and received his early formation in a country where the spirit of the Renaissance was already in ferment. The humanistic circles in which he had moved were seeking to free themselves from the intellectual discipline established by the Scholastics, embodied in the nominalist, or “conceptualist,” philosophy of William of Ockham, a movement towards emancipation that ultimately led to the Protestant Reformation, according to Meyendorff (88). Barlaam argued that God can only be known indirectly, and that an immediate experience of God is impossible to achieve in this life.  He accused the Hesychast’s bodily exercises and their claim to attain a vision of the Divine and Uncreated Light as gross materialism.

The defense of the Hesychasts was taken up by St. Gregory Palamas (1296-1359), Archbishop of Thessalonica, who, in order to explain how the vision was possible, developed a distinction between the essence (substance) and the energies (operations) of God. This distinction goes back to the Cappadocian fathers. “We say that from His operations we know our God;” wrote St. Basil, “we do not undertake to approach His substance itself. His operations come down to us, but His substance remains inaccessible” (Letters 160). “Yes, ‘pure prayer’ gives a knowledge of God,” St. Gregory of Nyssa confirms. “Yes, Jesus is intimately present in the Christian’s heart. But this presence can never be more than a free act (energeia) of God, who in His essence remains inaccessible, a grace of the essentially transcendent God” (Meyendorff 43).

Essence vs. Energies

How does the distinction between God’s essence and his energies make a difference in worship? When God is only infinite and unknowable, as it came to be increasingly stressed in the West, He is unreachable by humans. According to the original Christian perspective, God is, on the one hand, immanent and present in all things, and all things are an aspect of his divinity, and, on the other, he is totally transcendent and has no relationship with anything, not even himself. There is a trap involved in these two statements, and Christian theologians faced it from day one. If only the total transcendence of God is affirmed, then all created things must be regarded as without any real roots in the Divine, and thus “illusory” in character, while, if only the total immanence of God is affirmed, creation must be looked upon as real in its own right, instead of deriving from and participating in the Divine, and the result must be a pantheism, a worship of creation rather than of the Creator (Sherrard 36).

St. Gregory Palamas, following St. Basil, St. Athanasius and St. Maximus the Confessor, crystallized, therefore, the distinction between the Essence of God, which is infinite and unknowable, entirely simple, totally transcendent and exempt from all change, and God’s energies, expressed in his hypostases, or persons, each performing a unique function in the Christian’s existence. He is purified through the Son, illumined by the Holy Spirit, and unified in the Father. Made in the image of God, but fallen and exposed to the influence of fallen angels, man possesses, besides soul and body, a third faculty of power, the uncreated and divine image of God, through which he can get to “know” God. By his Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection, the Son has opened the way to man’s redemption. By participation in the Mysteries of his Church, man may receive the deifying energies, and once more “know” that spiritual principle of his being, obscured by the “fall.” “Man becomes God to the extent that God becomes man, for man is elevated by the divine ascension to the same degree that God is overcome by His love of men in descending without change to the last extremities of nature,” St. Maximus writes (91). “If the soul rejects attachment to inferior things and cleaves in love to one who is superior by submitting to him […], it receives from him illumination, adornment and betterment, and it obeys his counsels and exhortations from which it receives true and eternal life,” St. Gregory explains (127).  This is Socrates’ exposition to the source of light (The Republic 7:517c) and Foucault’s “de retour,” when the truth enlightens the subjects, and gives it beatitude and the tranquility of the soul (18).

The Latins, on the other hand, could not accept a doctrine that appeared to diminish the essential Unity of God through the emphasis on his persons, and they increasingly started stressing the simplicity and non-differentiation of the divine nature. This perspective tended to envisage God’s essential nature as a purely ontological reality, as Being itself (Sherrard 67-68). The adding of the filioque to the Creed can also be seen in the light of Essence and Being describing one and the same reality. If the cause and principle of being in the Trinity is the Essence, and the Son is identical in Essence with the Father, it is logical that the Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son (71). Latin theology trusted “reason” as the primary means to approach God, Armstrong asserts (234), and Eastern Christianity, as do Islam and Judaism, accepted that God could not be enclosed and grasped by reason, because a comprehensible God is not a transcendental God anymore (Marangudakis 245).

Monasticism and Theosis

Similarly to Pieper and Sherrard, Kyriacos Markides interprets the rise of the two distinct orientations in Christian theology in the light of the different historical developments of the western and the eastern part of the Roman Empire. While the eastern part of the empire known as Byzantium thrived and prospered, the social and political infrastructure of the Western part of the empire eventually collapsed under the weight of the Germanic invasions (220). In Byzantium, there were clear and definitive boundaries between the ecclesiastical, religious sphere on the one hand, and the imperial state on the other. The emperor’s primary role was to safeguard and protect Orthodox Christianity, and the monks were left in peace to focus their energy and attention on the systematic exploration of inner spiritual life and otherworldly goals (222). In the West, the Germanic invasion signaled the beginning of the preoccupation of the Western Church with the management of this world, “so much so that in some cases the Pope himself participated in military expeditions and used the sword with the same ease as the Gospel” (221). 

The theology that later developed in the West was based on the thoughts of Aristotle, the philosopher whose primary focus was the study of this world, and Saint Thomas Aquinas was the catalyst of the Roman Catholic Church to embrace Aristotelian philosophy and establish it as the central orientation in Catholic theology. Western theology planted "the seeds for the scientific revolution and the rise of rationalism that paved the way for the modern secular world as we know it,” while Eastern Orthodoxy, cut off from the secularizing influences by the fall of Constantinople to the Turks in 1453, has to an extent preserved the belief that God can only be known through spiritual practice and direct mystical illumination (Markides 222-23). After Aquinas, certain Dominican friars such as Ulrich of Strasburg, Dietrich of Freiberg, and most famously Meister Eckhart (1260-1327) did try to reach back, in Marrone’s words, “to the Neoplatonic traditions of Pseudo-Dionysius and the pagans Proclus and Plotinus to reinstitute a program of personal mental enlightenment as the way to a near-beatific encounter with God” (36). Mysticism never found a fertile ground in the West until the fourteenth century, Armstrong argues, when it was too late for the Latin Church to reorient itself from the scholastic rational investigation of God and nature (256).

Protestantism came as a reaction to Catholic theology and politics. The Pope wished to be the spiritual and political leader of Christendom. This double mission brought the de facto political rulers in conflict with the de jure leader of Christianity, Marangudakis contends (259). A certain way to undermine the political dominance of the Pope was to attack the theological component of his authority. Protestantism and later the Enlightenment “reversed and twisted” the Scholastic argument to expose its internal contradictions. Protestantism “proved” that Catholicism is not truly Christian. The Enlightenment “proved” that Catholicism is not truly rational. “Each wished to outdo its tormentor” (259). Foucault also denies that reason can transcend time and accident, and lead us out of the impasse he thought was confronting us, since reason itself is an instrument and part of the program of enlightenment (Nehamas 175). Modernity imitates scholasticism in the way it perceives what the French philosopher calls “l’ordre du discours” (the order of discourse), the mechanism by which knowledge is conceived and organized.

Western Christianity underwent further radical secularization with the Reformation, Markides argues.  With Protestantism, monasticism as an institution disappeared, and the practice of honoring the saints, “who traditionally had served as spiritual beacons on the path to Theosis,” was abolished (223). As the German sociologist Max Weber points out, the reorientation of Western culture towards disciplined, rational action in this world replaced the ancient asceticism and helped develop a “Protestant work ethic” that played a major role in revolutionizing the world by opening the gates to modern capitalism and the Industrial Revolution (34-37).  Gradually, science came to be viewed by many Western thinkers as an alternative to religion, and the Western intellectual traditions since the Middle Ages has been “galvanized by an unrelenting adversarial spirit against religion, which was identified and equated with social backwardness and reactionary politics” (Markides 223).

As we can see, the differences between the two churches are not only doctrinal, but also political, cultural, even temperamental. Considering the damage done and the obstinacy involved, it would be really hard, even spiritually harmful, to forcefully reunite the two churches that have meanwhile, in spite of globalisation and the overwhelming secularisation, grown worlds apart.

Svetozar Postic

Works Cited

Clark, Mary T. Ed.  An Aquinas Reader.  New York: Fordham University Press, 2000.

Evans, G.R.  Philosophy and Theology in the Middle Ages.  New York: Rutledge, 1993.

Foucault, Michel.  L’Hérmeneutique du sujet: Cours au Collège de France, 1981-1982.  Paris: Seuil/Gallimard, 2001.

Gregory Palamas, Saint.  The One Hundred and Fifty Chapters.  Trans. Robert E. Sinkewicz.  Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1988.

Holy Bible: New International Version.  Colorado Springs: International Bible Society, 1984.

Lock, Charles.  “Bakhtin and the Tropes of Orthodoxy.”  Bakhtin and Religion: A Feeling for Faith.  Ed. Susan M. Felch and Paul J. Contino.  Evanston, IL.

Marangudakis.  “The Medieval Roots of Our Ecological Crisis.”  Environmental Ethics 23 (2001).  243-60.

Markides, Kyriacos.  The Mountain of Silence.  New York: Doubleday, 2001.

Maximus the Confessor, Saint.  Selected Writings. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1985.

Merton, Thomas.  The Waters of Siloe.  New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1949.

Meyendorff, John.  St. Gregory Palamas and Orthodox Spirituality.  Trans. Adele Fiske.  Crestwood, New York : 1974.

Nehamas, Alexander.  The Art of Living: Socratic Reflections from Plato to Foucault.  Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998.

Pieper, Josef.  Scholasticism: Personalities and Problems of Medieval Philosophy.  Trans. Richard and Clara Winston.  New York: Pantheon Books, 1960.

Plato.  The Republic.  New York: Penguin, 1987.

Pomazansky, Michael.  Orthodox Dogmatic Theology.  Trans. Seraphim Rose.  Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 2005.

Sherrard, Philip.  The Greek East and the Latin West.  Oxford, UK: Oxford UP, 1959.

Ware, Timothy.  The Orthodox Church.  New York: Penguin, 1997.

Featured Article
Ilya Kabakov and the Ironic Nostalgia for Soviet Utopia
Ilya Kabakov and his wife, Emilia, are among the most celebrated artists of their generation, widely known for their large-scale installations and use of fictional personas. They are best known for their ‘total’ installations, which completely immerse the viewer in a dramatic environment. They trans...
Read More
Recommended Links