Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Theology Thursday #11: 1054

When I was in college, a group of guys would get together some evenings in our all male dormitory. We'd stay up late, talking, and our discussion invariably would turn to philosophical and theological topics.

I remember one discussion I had with a conservative Roman Catholic student. We talked about many things, church polity, the mystery of the sacraments, the richness and history of the divine liturgy; our discussion was interesting and respectful, until it turned into something else:

RC Guy: "Yes, the church of Rome is the One, True Faith. Since you are Protestant, you must re-think your ways."

Me: "But, um, doesn't salvation extend to other Christians - indeed, to all people - by the work of Christ?

RC Guy: "No."

Me: "Really? But doesn't the catechism of the Second Vatican Council actually extend salvation to those in other, imperfect relationships to God?" (It does, by the way.)

RC Guy: "[Sigh], the Second Vatican has been repudiated by many learn-ed theologians. The true faith says..."

Funny. I still remember the look on that guy's face when he answered "no" and the way he said "learn-ed theologians."

And I still want to punch him in the nose.

* * * * * * *

In 1054 A.D. (yes, I know we're supposed to use CE, but I find this more a statement of faith since the year is still the same) the church in Rome and the church in Constantinople split. The year is known as the East-West, or Great-, Schism.

What it boils down to is that the Church in Rome didn't like the Greeks and didn't like their use of the phrase "and the Son" (the filioque) in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. The Greeks thought the Romans were arrogant nitwits for demanding to be called "the Mother Church." Essentially, it was more about politics than real theological issues.

They split.

* * * * * * *

People will always like to think they are "right" as long as there are people who have different perspectives. I used to really let this crap affect me. Why, for instance, do I remember conversations like the one I wrote about above? It's because I think I'm right. Someday, I believe, that dork will be suffering, knowing that I, too, am part of the Reign.

Hmmm. Dan, think again.

It's gotten better, though. How? When I realized that all mythologies are just that: mythologies

First, you need to understand the word "myth" does not equal FAKE. Myth comes from the Greek mythos, which means story. Human beings are story tellers. What once captivated people around a campfire, now captivates them primarily on television or online (regrettably).

Mythos can be differentiated with another Greek term, logos, which is more like an "account." Logos is the logical side of things.

I believe a chief cause of problems with religion is that religion turns stories into accounts. Accounts, that is, truths which are maximized to the point of separation of humanity, are "worth dying for." Stories, that is, truths which convey the human condition and stimulate cordial discussion, aren't worth dying for. 

They are only worth listening to...

Tell me your story, your Mother's story, your Great Grandfather's. I will listen. Tell me an account, a truth to separate, to tear and rip; I will walk away. 

1054 does not need to come, yet again.

1 comment:

Kari said...

Weren't the Romans the ones who added the 'and the son' without getting it OKed by a council? Regardless, it was an extremely political, power-driven decision to split. I also think that the unity of the early church is greatly overstated--there are four different versions of the Gospel, for example. And based on Acts and the Epistles, Paul didn't always agree with Jerusalem or James or Peter or Barnabas or Timothy or a myriad of other people. The Councils happened b/c people disagreed about how to understand God and the experience of Christ--otherwise there wouldn't have been a need for the meeting. There are many things I like and respect about the Roman Catholic Church, one of them is that they don't splinter the way we Protestants tend to do. One of the things I hate, though, is the sense that the Roman Catholic Church is the 'one, true faith', meaning all other Christian denominations are not really part of the body of Christ. I can't stand the 'Come home' commercials the Catholic church put out during Christmas, b/c they aren't just talking about Roman Catholics who quit attending worship, but about all non-Roman Catholic Christians, regardless of their level of participation--the Roman Catholic ideal of ecumenism is welcoming all of the wayward Christian denominations back into the fold, not recognizing the unity we already share through Christ. I find that premise utterly arrogant and repulsive. The development of various Christian denominations, I think, is basically good--I have no desire to create one giant Christian Church on earth--it's unnecessary (and probably impossible--and the potential for corruption is waaayyyy too high). One of the things I like about the ELCA is our effort to recognize the unity in Christ that Christians already have and to find ways to allow our governing structures to work with one another as easily as possible. Having said that, there are Christian denominations I am tempted to describe as 'allegedly', 'supposedly', or 'unfortunately' Christian, which belies my bias. One of my professors, Dr. Bouman, talked about his frustration with the distinct probability that he might have to share heaven with Ronald Reagan--whom he hated for having made the work of Dr. Bouman's wife decidedly more difficult. Perhaps they're playing checkers or something now.