Ed Siecienski - "The Filioque"
10:03PM Jun 25, 2020
Jonathan J. Armstrong
roman catholic church
Today it's a delight to be speaking with Dr. Ed Siecienski. Dr. Siecienski is Associate Professor of Philosophy the Clement and helis Helen Pappas, Professor of Byzantine civilization and religion at Stockton University in New Jersey. Dr. Siecienski is a graduate at Fordham University in 2005, with his doctorate in theology, and he later published his Fordham dissertation as The Filioque Way: A History of a Doctrinal Controversy, with the Oxford studies in historical theology. Dr. stuczynski We're delighted to be speaking with you today. Thank you. Dr. Siecienski. First of all, if I could ask a background question. I remember as your fellow student at Fordham University up through the late 90s and into the early era about 2000 there was tremendous excitement about the public reunification of the Roman Catholic Church in the Eastern Orthodox Church. And I believe it was john paul to who even called the church to breathe with, quote, both lungs as it were, therefore, thereby setting up a hope for the reunification of the church, perhaps even before the end of the millennium, what is the state of ecumenical affairs today?
Well, there was a lot of optimism, even as far back as the 1960s. For the first time in centuries, the Orthodox and Roman Catholics began engaging each other on official level 1980 they began at official theological dialogue. And there was an unrealistic, I think, expectation that reunification could be achieved in a relatively short period of time. With the pontificates of pope john paul the second, the efforts toward reunion with the Orthodox readable pope john paul made himself a slob I think made reunification with the East a particular theme of his pontificate. And, you know, issued one of sins and Oriental illumine in order to kind of bring the two churches closer together. I don't think anybody truly expected reunification to come about before the millennium, even even the Pope. However, I think what you can say is that the relationship between Catholic and Orthodox churches today is probably better than it was 1000 years ago, when the two churches were technically still in communion. I mean, if one wants to date facism 1054, which most people would say it's not a great dating system. But if you want to do that, and you go back to 1016, the two churches were not very cordial the communion was very strange. I think he could say that even though technically formal communion does not exist, there is still a better relationship now than there was 1000 years ago. So it does give people who work in on the in the medical field, a lot of optimism, that perhaps building on that a closer degree of unity can be achieved. Hmm.
The Doctor stuczynski what would we even be looking for? What would be some signs of some significant ecumenical progress with this come about through a council? Are we expecting and it's cyclical to help promote Christian unity? What what are even the signs we're looking for?
I think the
community will come about step by step over a very long period of time. I don't think there will be any one moment during the middle Middle Ages and 1274 at the Council Leone, and in 1438 39, at the Council for our Florence, the hope was there could be this one gathering, everybody would come together sign a union documents, and the two churches would be reunited. I don't think anybody really envisioned that happens. Again, I think what you're going to see are a series of small steps. The upcoming, if it does, indeed, take place, Pan orthodox council that's scheduled for this June of 2016, I think will perhaps bring the Oracle locks into a greater degree of unity among themselves, and perhaps allow them to a greater degree of engagement with the Roman Catholic Church, the Roman Catholic Church, you know, in Vatican two really kind of set itself on a course. It engaged with the ecumenical move But for the first time, and once the Catholic Church was engaged in that they are the biggest of all the Christian denomination, what's there in that really changed the tone and tenor for the entire movement? I think once the Orthodox can, as a group buy in, I think you will begin to see a greater degree of progress. But again, that progress will be step by step, perhaps, further dialogues on the primacy and the power. Oh,
that, of course, is the real issue today. Hmm. And if I can ask one more introductory question, what what might we be expecting from this 2016 pan orthodox Conference of the Eastern Orthodox Church?
I have to say, there, there are people who wouldn't bet a lot of money that it will take place. There's a lot of intra orthodox tension between the patriarchy, sometimes lowball and patriarchy of Moscow are disputes between some of the other Orthodox churches on jurisdiction. So if you can get everybody in a room together and the council actually takes place, what could you expect? Well, the hope would be that orthodoxy for the first time in quite some time, could I could say something to the world with a united voice. One of the realities of the Orthodox, jurisdictional confusion is that it's not very easy for the Orthodox to do that. But perhaps if orthodoxy can get together, and for the first time, the representatives of 250 million Orthodox Christians can speak to the world on issues that matter to the world. This could be rather important. Marvelous.
Dr. satinsky. I'm excited to be discussing with you your book the filioque way, a history of a doctrinal controversy. First of all, would you be willing to explain to our viewers what To filioque way is briefly
the Nicene Constantin politan Creed, which many Christians will say on, for example, a Sunday worship, when it was written contains a statement concerning the Holy Spirit I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father. And this has a long history about why it was written like that. It is more or less based on the johannah and statements concerning the Holy Spirit. And over the centuries, there was in the west for a variety of theological reasons. Belief arose, that if the sun is truly equal to the Father, then the son must be able to do everything the father does. If the father brings forth The Spirit and the sun must also be able to bring forth the Spirit. And so what you see is this belief that if the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, he must also proceed from the sun and this word and from the sun. Julio Cray is eventually added to create in the western church, and the process by which that takes place over some centuries. However, by the ninth century, and then again in the 11th century, the East became aware of this development and reacted very negatively to it. And for the last 1100 years, the East has taken some offense, one that they believe that theology behind the precession of the Holy Spirit from the Sun is erroneous, and to that the word was added to the creed Without their consultation that was done unilaterally when the creed itself was composed by an Ecumenical Council.
Doctor suggests key one of your early chapters in this text is dedicated to Maximus the Confessor. What is precisely Maximus the Confessor his legacy in this controversy over the filioque way clause?
Well, Maximus in a letter to marinas is actually the first evidence we have that there was some questions being raised about the use of this word, and Maximus tries to explain to the east what is is not meant by the filioque way. He says that it does not not make the sun in any way a cause of the whole experience because only the father within the Trinity can be a cause. However, it's trying to express the con substantiality of the Father and the Son, the idea that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, but also flows forth through the son. And it is that kind of effort to explain the filioque way in a way that is acceptable to both east and west, that is really maximises true legacy that, unfortunately is forgotten. In the medieval period. Both sides tried to use Maximus as a proof text for their own position. But I think what we've seen, especially in the 20th and 21st centuries, theologians and now even the Roman Catholic Church itself, looking at this formula of Maximus and saying, Yeah, this is what's the filioque which will be nice. And the East reacting rather positively to that. Hmm.
As Maximus the Confessor is explaining his interpretation of the filioque waves Who the East? Does the East buy it? What's the response?
We don't know. The there is no mention of this for another hundred and 50 years, and then there the disputes in Jerusalem when some monks hear it's being prayed by some Frankish monks and they're wondering what's going on. And so there there is no immediate, you know, immediate response to the east. However the East remains suspicious of it. And it will be under ferocious that the first true and if negative reaction with affiliate equate comes from Hmm,
Dr. satinsky. If I can follow up on that ferocious has a negative statement towards the filioque way is he condemning does he note that this is part of the distance between Eastern and Western Christians What's his view?
Well ferocious take some
take offense to the theology behind it. He believes, as he did that really defines a hypothesis within Trinity. Each has a certain defining hypostatic characteristic and the fathers is to be caught the sole cause within the Godhead. And best to ascribe causality, to the son blurs the distinction and calls into kind of sub elitism. And so he says as theology is bad plus and there's this idea that the creed is not something one tampers with the creed was written by the council's and even some orthodox would later say the council itself prohibits any kind of change. So there's this these two arguments that are being put forward. ferocious will later Come in the eastern consciousness, the first champion of Orthodoxy, especially when it comes to the filioque. Right, he's the one who stood up. But it also should be mentioned that cautious is not fighting with the pope at this point. He's fighting with the Franks, because the pope at this point is not accepting of the filioque way in decreed. It is, in fact something that the Frankish theologians in have kind of inserted against the Pope's wishes. And so ferocious is taking issue with the Franks, not necessarily with the church of Rome.
Dr. satinsky it we have quite a lot to discuss about the filioque week clause when we get to 1438. It's here that officials both from the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church gather at Ferrara, Italy. In order to mark out a pathway to possible inter communion between their respective churches. This is, of course, as is at the Council of Ferrara or Florence. The Council is named both from different perspectives. Ultimately this council fails to restore unity to the church. How is it that this council fails? What is the failure?
There are two views about the Council of Florida. The first is that it was a success that failed that Florence had everything a successful Ecumenical Council needed it had free debate, it had discussion of all the relevant issues, and that had it not been for the stubbornness of mark of episodes, as this one orthodox prelate who refused to sign the council may have worked.
That that view is perhaps overly saying
the other side and perhaps I might be more inclined This view is that it was a failure that almost succeeded that by the 15th century, there was no shared ecclesiological consciousness between Eastern that the Orthodox province came to the west. And after several months, and many delays and some hardships, they, they accepted the Latin position. In fact, that's the problem. The final document that the council was the Latin position, it was not a negotiated stance, it was not based say on the 15th of Mexico, it was simply a restatement of the of the Latin position that the Orthodox signed on to and realize rather quickly that they had air. So you might say it was so great a victory for the life insurance that never could attain any kind of long term acceptance in the east. Which is why, within a few years, the council had been completely rejected by the entire Eastern Church.
What's your view? Dr. satinsky? What would have happened if mark of emphasis had been a little bit more agreeable, and signed the document and there had been formal reunification at this council of Florence, what what have actually happened?
What apps are always difficult, and when you're dealing with history, but I think you could say even if Mark had signs or been punished by the Emperor, as the Emperor promised, I don't think you would have seen widespread acceptance. By that period of time. The two it grows so far apart, like two brothers who would live in different parts of the country for too long. By the time they actually came back together at for our Florence, they really had very little in common. There's a wonderful story about it. an orthodox bishop. And he said, when I go into a Latin church, I don't recognize the same store inscribed there, and I don't know who they are. And so I simply bless myself and pray to the cross I've made because he simply didn't recognize the Latin churches being part of the same great church. Perhaps one of the wonderful things you can say about the 20th century is that with the exception of a few hardline, anti anti Catholic, and Orthodox Catholics and Orthodox today recognize each other as truly part of the same great tradition. Yes, we recognize that there are differences, differences and important differences. That but at the same time, we see in each other fellow Christians
Dr. satinsky Has your research taken us since this text to filioque way history of a doctrinal controversy? What are your current research interests now?
Well, I have just completed what might be in the follow up book. There are a few issues that divide us Historically, the filioque way, the primacy of Rome. During the Middle Ages, there were also the issue of a zines or leaven versus unleavened bread, and purgatory, and even the issue of clerical beards. But I decided for my next book, to to deal with the papacy. So my next book, which should be out, hopefully, within a year or so, will be the papacy in the Orthodox history of debate, which like the filioque way will trace the history of the debate from the historical Peter and Peter in Scripture, through the modern periods from Peter to Francis, and how the Orthodox have viewed the papacy. Both in terms of accepting it and rejecting it, focus claims your jurisdiction and then the idea of a universal jurisdiction exercised by the district of Rome.
Dr. stuczynski, I know that the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox communion are currently in a dialogue concerning the the status of the papacy through the first millennium. Will your new book be out in time to perhaps influence any of those involved in that debate? I remember back at the Oxford patristic conference in 2007. Then Archbishop Rowan Williams of the Anglican Communion snuck into a here your presentation so I know that ears are listening to your work. How are you hoping that this book may influence future discussions?
Well, I don't think the debate about the privacy is going to end anytime soon. A preventive statement issued a few years ago. Good talking about the issue. issue of privacy that within even within a conciliator structure more Orthodox are willing to grant that there is a need for a private not simply on a local level, like a metropolitan level or, but even a universal Primus. The question really is going to be what powers on authorities as a primary path. And I think that's where the debate really will be moving. As you know, there are elements within orthodoxy, especially the Russian church that took issue with the Ravenna statements, and it's a question of privacy. But I think you're going to see the issue shift not toward whether there should be a private and whether that should be the Bishop of Rome. But what really powers we want to ascribe what powers worse crimes 1000 years ago, what powers would be orthodox be willing to grant? These are the issues, I think I hope my book to show all these ones historically that were granted, and even the ones that were rejected and perhaps we can use that as a basis for future discussion.
Dr. stuczynski, what are your hopes for the future of the Ecumenical Movement?
Like many Christians, the hope is, that may may be one, that there will be a day when the church will exhibit a greater degree of unity. Now, we know that the church was never one very, very often we idealize the church, the era of the undivided church, but we know even from Paul, that there are divisions and current and other places very early on that there are always going to be these debates are always going to be but I think one of the great movements of the 20th century at least. So you theological is the realization that the movement towards one another needs to overcome this movement away from one. I think that's the grace, the Will there ever be a sign of a true union, that I, there's a part of me that likes to believe it's possible. And that's, I guess the part that keeps me working on these kinds of projects. But there's also the realist, the one who studied the history. As I mentioned, at the end of my book on the polio claim, very often, the cism was declared ended prematurely. They were singing the dams at Leone and Lawrence, believing that you were all one again, but that wasn't really the case. So I skepticism should walk hand in hand with optimism. Hmm.
And Dr. stuczynski If I can close with a question that I've been asking all of our guests on this program, and that is this, what would it mean for the church to be united today? How would we recognize this unity? And what can we do as individual, individual Christians to pursue this unity?
A Well, on an individual level, the idea of prayer, that we would pray for unity, perhaps, pray together, whether come from the reformed tradition, the common Catholic tradition, orthodox, that we should be able to pray to our common Lord, or the unity that he will, his church, that we can come together in various settings, to work in dialogue for unity. But there needs to be kind of a groundswell. And I think you see that here, especially in the United States, where unity very often is from below. It's when your Catholic neighbor, airy Lutheran bride, and or your orthodox position, goes out and buries a Presbyterian. That kind of humanism from below. I think that's going to force people to ask, why are we still divided? But how will we recognize that? I believe it will be simply not by merging churches
by recognizing other churches
in communion with us and I could go for example, at some point the Roman Catholic Church, recognize them as being one in my faith and experience energy Different from my own an Orthodox Christian, but recognize the same faith and pray with them and receive communion with them to be in them, and have that expressed to
spread our privilege to be speaking today with Dr. Ed satinsky, Associate Professor of Philosophy, the Clements and Helen Pappas, Professor of Byzantine civilization and religion at Stockton University, and also the author of the book that we're we've been discussing today, the filioque. Wait a history of a doctor of controversy. Dr. satinsky, thank you for being with us.
Thank you very much.