Thursday, April 06, 2006

searching for Peter

Et In Arcadia Ego
Any takers? I'm not hoping for debate, so much as discussion. These waters are over my head. Fr. Justin? Dave? Phil?


pasivirta said...

An interesting read, I wonder how long he has been reading? It would be cool if he came to church and met everyone, maybe he has already. I am learning to have less and less to say except the perennial 'come and see' because my lessons in eastern systematic theology were cut short.

The one thing that sticks out is a discussion I had with a prof today about how what we bring to the text affects how we will read it, as we can begin to see a little bit in what he is saying. He makes many excellent points, but I think that to assume a logical flow from the biblical accounts of Peter's institution as the rock to found the church on, to the nature of the papacy as we see it today is a bit of a jump.
That view can't be much of a surprise, being orthodox, but I think it may have more to do with the way the Roman church has developed the meaning of the role of the pope through history.
The Popes that I have 'known' through the media seem to be holy men, devout and humble. Glory to God that the Roman church has such great exmaples, and ones that are sympathetic to this lung of the church.

Part of Gabe's problem with orthodoxy may lie with his understanding of the place of scripture. (to be fair, that could be my problem too, but I am trusting that it is not)

Scripture took a long time to be canonized, and the lives of the saints and the history of the church show us infinite examples of interpretations of the scripture through experience. living life, undulating back and forth, breathing the Spirit, many people writing it all down.

We can't use the scriptures in a vacuum, as if the rest of history is not an interpretive lens to help us see it through.

The Pleasant Peasant said...

I'd like some further explanation on the Peter aspect of the arugment. I've heard that Peter was only maryred in Rome and was not elevated to the position assumed by some. I've also heard the opposite. And when it came to church authority didn't the Orthodox church recognized the Pope as the "first among equals", but due to personal/political issues of some individual popes they (the popes) violated their rights and declared themselves to have more power that was acceptable?

Simply Victoria said...

how much of what we believe is intuitive? I know that our community is what initially drew me to St. Herman's.
Imagine my relief when the theology was also congruent.
I don't know, but I think I'm with you Dave, "I am learning to have less and less to say except the perennial 'come and see'"

Oh taste and see that the Lord is good.

gabriel said...

Hi- I'll take that as an invitation, David, and with thanks.

With regard to Josina's question, I'm not a church historian, but I know Irenaus spoke of the Church at Rome being founded by Ss. Peter & Paul.

"We can't use the scriptures in a vacuum, as if the rest of history is not an interpretive lens to help us see it through."

I hope I don't disagree with David; but I think the witness of history is divided on the question. And so I return to the Scriptures.

I'd like to add that I hope I don't have a "problem with Orthodoxy." Above all, I desire the unity Christ prayed for- that we would be one, as He and the Father are one, that the world would see & believe.

MatDonna said...

When beginning to seek an understanding of the Orthodox Church's view of St. Peter, it is worth noting that we celebrate him together with St. Paul on June 29th. This is I think the feast of Church unity par excellence-- for though Paul once "withstood [Peter] to his face", they remained united in faith and service, and the icon of the feast depicts them both as teachers and supporters of the Holy Church.
I certainly expect Fr. Justin will be able to chime in on the Orthodox view of the relevant Scriptural texts. Fr. Lawrence I know must have covered it in his commentaries (he is out of town at Archdiocesan Council this weekend.)

Fr. Justin (Edward) said...

Yes, I've been itching to get in on this one, but I'm at work (on lunch break) right now, so I'll have to keep it short. I'm trying to resist the temptation to get polemical and say that my search was not for Peter, but rather for the embodied Christ - OK, so I haven't quite resisted the temptation. Although in fact I let the above polemical remark slip with the admission of its unfairness in that the truth in it is that our focus needs to be on Christ, not on Peter!

This is, in fact, where I believe the problem lies with the Roman interpretation of Christ's remark ("upon this rock, I will build my Church..."): the focus is shifted from Peter's confession to Peter himself. Granted, there were early Church Fathers, like Cyprian, who take this as referring to Peter himself in his office of bishop, but even Cyprian extended this foundational authority to the office of the episcopate as a whole, not to Peter alone. Thus it is more than a little unfair to claim that "the passages which show the particular role of Peter are given no effect in the Church in Orthodox interpretation" - they are given their full effect, but the interpretation of the passages is applied to the episcopacy as a whole.

It is true that, from very early times, the Church accorded the bishop of Rome a "primacy of honour" based (as Irenaeus points out) on the antiquity and the well-known conservatism of the local church that he ruled. Local disputes were often (but not always) referred to the bishop of Rome for this very reason. Nevertheless, even Irenaeus, whom the Roman Catholic historians so love to quote, was not afraid to disagree with the bishop of Rome when he felt he was wrong - any claim to authority that the Church has, or that any bishop in the Church has, rests squarely on its/his fidelity to the apostolic teachings, the faith "once for all" entrusted to the saints.

It is here that Rome has erred, not in claiming a primacy of honour that all were willing to accord it almost from the very beginning, but in claiming that she herself is, in herself, the guarantor of apostolic truth. This was and always has been a trust given to the Church as a whole, and to Peter as the ultimate representative of her episcopal oversight - but a trust entirely dependent (as we see, moments later, in Christ's rebuke of Peter: "get behind me, Satan!") on her fidelity to Christ.

Peter T Chattaway said...

FWIW, I think Gabriel's focus on institutional unity -- as opposed to, say, unity in worship (Gabriel himself concedes that Catholic worship is now marked by "liturgical aimlessness and mediocrity") -- is rather interesting, in light of Frederica's article a while back on the differences between East and West in their understandings of "unity":

The Orthodox Church is smaller and less powerful, so we don't get much opportunity to explain how things seem from our perspective. But it comes down to two words: "unity" and "chaos."

From a Roman Catholic perspective, unity is created by the institution of the church. Within that unity there can be diversity; not everyone agrees with official teaching, some very loudly. What holds things together is membership. This kind of unity makes immediate sense to Americans: Whatever their disagreements, everyone salutes the flag, and all Catholics salute, if not technically obey, Rome's magisterium.

When Roman Catholics look at Orthodoxy, they don't see a centralized, global institution. Instead, the church appears to be a jumble of national and ethnic bodies (a situation even more confused in the U.S. as a result of immigration). To Catholics, the Orthodox Church looks like chaos.

But from an Orthodox perspective, unity is created by believing the same things. It's like the unity among vegetarians or Red Sox fans. You don't need a big bureaucracy to keep them faithful. Across wildly diverse cultures, Orthodox Christians show remarkable unity in their faith. (Of course there are plenty of power struggles and plain old sin, but the essential faith isn't challenged.) What's the source of this common faith? The consensus of the early church, which the Orthodox stubbornly keep following. That consensus was forged with many a bang and dent, but for the past millennium major questions of faith and morals have been pretty much at rest in the Eastern hemisphere.

This has not been the case in the West. An expanded role for the pope was followed by other theological developments, even regarding how salvation is achieved. In the American church, there is widespread upheaval. From the Orthodox perspective, the Catholic Church looks like chaos.

This is hard for Catholics to understand; for them, the institution of the church is the main thing. If the church would enforce its teachings, some adherents say, there would be unity. The Orthodox respond: But faith must be organic. If you have to force people to it, you've already lost the battle; that wouldn't be unity at all.

gabriel said...

You guys are covering enormous ground- I've said a little in reply here, and hopefully I'll find time to respond to some of the other points later tonight.

Fr. Justin (Edward) said...

Thanks, Gabriel. Since your critique required a bit more than a cursory response, I've placed my reply in the main body of the blog, here.

gabriel said...

Duelling interpretations galore!

Well, maybe not, as I try to suggest in, yes, another entry in the Mt 16:18 exegesis sweepstakes.