AN OPEN LETTER TO THE WESTERN CHURCH

Scriptural Prologue

Have you heard the Master calling (John 10:27) and are seeking to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23)? One is your Master, even Christ (Matt. 23:8). Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ...having made known to us the mystery of His will, ...to recapitulate all things in the Christ, ...And He put in subjection all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the Church, which is His body... (Eph. 1:3-23) ...the Church of the living God, pillar and stay of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15) ...built up on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the cornerstone (Eph. 2:20; cf. Rev. 21:14). And... [concerning the confession], Ņ'Thou art the Christ, the Son of God, the living One' ... Jesus ... said ... 'upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against her'Ó (Matt. 16:16-18). In Christ alone is there salvation, for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12). Jesus saith ... 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one cometh to the Father, except by Me' (John 14:6). For the law was given through Moses, but the grace and the truth came to be by Jesus Christ (John 1:17). He that saith, I know Christ, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (1 John 2:4). If anyone loves Christ, he will keep His word (John 14:23), and that of the Apostles also (John 15:23; cf. 1 Cor. 2:13). If indeed ye heard Him and were taught in Him, as truth is in Jesus: to put off from yourselves the old man, with respect to the former manner of life, who is being corrupted according to the desires of the deceit, and to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new man, who, according to God, was created in righteousness and holiness of the truth (Eph. 4:21-24). Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4). In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise (Eph. 1:13) ... the Spirit of Truth ... [Who] will guide you into all Truth ... (John 16:13).

Introduction

Truth is not relative. Jesus Christ is Truth. The Body of Christ, the Church, is Truth. To join ourselves to Truth, to be able to offer up True worship, means we must join ourselves to–and participate in the Life of–Christ and His Body, the Church that is built on Christ, the Apostles, and the Prophets, and follow His–and so the Churches–precepts. This Church still exists and always will, for the devil (the gates of hades) can not prevail against Her. But don't look for Her where the Gospel is not followed in toto, or where the Words of the Apostles and Prophets are discounted. She may not be the largest "church" around, and you may, in fact, have to be diligent in searching Her out, but She, as Christ's Body, will always be. Her name for quite some time (in human history) has usually included the adjective "Orthodox" (meaning right praise), although, be warned, in these last days there are many ravening wolves in sheep's clothing (Matt. 7:15) who call themselves orthodox, but are really out to destroy souls and get dishonest gain (Iezek. 22:27); for they have been deceived and are chasing a lie (as did Adam and Eve, initiating our–human–fall into sin; Gen 3:1-6), having abandoned Apostolic Tradition (2 Thess. 3:6,14), that is, the Teaching of Christ, the Faith, that was delivered once to the Church (Jude 3) and passed down in all Truth to the present by the faithful.

The Church and Heresy

The True Orthodox Church (whatever the name a particular synod goes by), as manifest to the world, is The Church founded by, in and through Christ, as represented by His Apostles, Disciples, and the other Faithful that received the Father's Message which Christ preached, and so believed on Him, the Only Begotten Son of God, as having been sent from the Father, as witnessed to by the Holy Spirit. And it is this same Holy Spirit, Who proceeded from the Father, that was sent by the Son after His Ascension to the Church as Comforter, Who strengthens, teaches, guides, and preserves the Church such that the gates of Hades shall not (and, in fact, so cannot) prevail against Her: those of us who have been received by Her (through Holy Baptism) and are in Her (through continued participation in Her Mystical Life, such as through the Holy Eucharist), those of us who have believed and kept the words of the Apostles (and so of Christ) down through the generations since that time. In a more complete sense, The Church includes those faithful who are alive in an earthly body–the Church Militant–and those who have won the race–the Church Triumphant–under both the Old and New Covenants, as well as the immaterial or bodiless hosts–the Angels–who continuously minister to and serve the One, True God.

To be sure the enemy, the devil, with all his malice grown out of self-pride, has tried to prevent people from hearing the Message (Gospel), or, if they have heard it, to twist it in their minds such that they fall away from the Truth (in part or completely) and so separate themselves from the Church.

There are many examples, a few of which follow here. In the beginning satan deceived Eve, and through her, Adam. Then there was the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11:1-9), where men thought they could ascend to Heaven on their own (when, in fact, it is only by God descending to us that we have a chance to commune with Him; cf. Psa. 17:9, Psa. 143:5, Isa. 64:1, Mic. 1:3). Or consider how at the time of Christ's Ministry, most of the learned men in Israel (Pharisees, Saducees, and scribes) no longer understood the Holy Scriptures in Truth, but in terms of their self deception and false "traditions," only having an outer form of worship, and not in their hearts (Matt. 15:8, 23:1-39). Even during the ministry of the original Apostles we are told of heresies arising, which, nevertheless, have the purpose of serving to separate the chaff from the wheat (1 Cor. 11:19). By the early fourth-century A.D., one writer (Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis; commemorated 12 May; +403) was able to catalogue and describe in detail 80 heresies in his book, the Panarion ("Medicine Chest")!

For the most part, while disastrous for the individuals led astray, heresies were not spiritually disruptive to the Body of Christ, the Church. Outwardly this may not have been obviously so, when the True Church in various times and places was repressed and persecuted, with an intent on satan's part to eradicate Her; but Truth always prevailed. This is because it is the whole Church–clergy, monastics, and lay, male and female (cf. Rom. 10:12, Gal. 3:28, Col. 3:11), as strengthened, guided, and enlightened by the Holy Spirit–that is responsible for standing fast, holding on to, and passing on to us the Traditions, the Faith, taught by the Apostles, whether by spoken or written word (2 Thess. 2:15). This is an important point. In the time of the original Apostles, the Faith was delivered once to the Church (Jude 3), and this Tradition of the Apostles (2 Thess. 3:6) has been preserved and transmitted down to the present day by the Church; I say "Church" and not bishop, for example, because it is the whole Church as the body of Christ, all of Her members, both lay and clergy together, under the witness of the Holy Spirit, that serve in this role of keeping the Faith. As St. Vincent of Lerins wrote (commemorated 24 May; + ca. 445) in what is commonly known as the Vincentian Canon, the Orthodox Christian Faith is Ņthat which has been believed everywhere, always and by all.Ó While bishops are consecrated into the Apostolic office and thus clearly have significant responsibilities for teaching (transmitting the Faith)–as part of their role as a shepherd–this does not mean that they hold any form of exclusive "theological" rights to Truth, nor can they create, proclaim, or mandate some new doctrine. In fact, there have been several occasions down through Church history where Her bishops gathered in a synod and made proclamations that were subsequently rejected by the Church at large. For those who are His sheep hear His voice (John 10:27), and the Holy Spirit bears witness to the Truth to those who are of His Body (John 15:26; cf. Rom. 9-1, Heb. 10:15), whether they are a "foot," "hand," "ear," or "eye" (1 Cor. 12:4-31). That is, Truth is not based on some external criterion (e.g., the "pope" said it), but, rather, the Truth is made manifest of Itself and made inwardly plain in greater or lesser degrees to all members of the Church in proportion to the Grace they have received through the putting off of the old man and renewal of their mind (Eph. 4; Rom. 12:2); it is not an intellectual exercise found in the domain of scholars. To say it another way: "He who devoutly strives to attain wisdom and is on his guard against the invisible powers, should pray that both natural discrimination–whose light is but limited–and the illuminating grace of the Spirit abide with him. The first by means of practice trains the flesh in virtue, the second illuminates the intellect so that it chooses above all else companionship with wisdom; and through wisdom it destroys the strongholds of evil and pulls down 'all the self esteem that exalts itself against the knowledge of God.'" (St. Maximos the Confessor; commemorated 21 Jan.; +662; "Second Century on Theology," Philokalia, Vol. 2, Faber & Faber, 1981, p.145, para. 33; cf. 2 Cor. 10:3-5)

Yet there have been several occasions where false beliefs caused such turmoil that representatives of the entire Church were assembled together (yes, mostly bishops, but representatives nonetheless) in order to formulate clear statements regarding Truth (not create new doctrine)–which included among their number what are known today as the Seven Īcumenical Councils. Unfortunately, men in their pride, following after their master, the father of lies, satan, can be found still today who refused to follow the Truth of The Church that was clarified or clearly set forth–again, not originated–by these councils. For example, consider the Third Īcumenical Council (the First Council of Ephesus held in 431) that condemned Nestorius who had said that Jesus was not the Son of God but rather the son of Mary, and, so, that the Virgin Mary was not Theotokos (the Mother of God); there were some that refused to accept the formulation of Faith of this Council, preferring to remain in their heresy and so cut themselves off from the Church, passing down their false belief through succeeding generations, as found today in the Assyrian "Church" of the East (principally Iraq). Another example comes from the Fourth Īcumenical Council (the Council of Chalcedon held in 451) that condemned Eftyches the Monophysite leader who said that Christ has only one nature, His humanity being absorbed by His divinity; those who refused to accept this Council–also preferring to remain in their heresy and so cut themselves off from the Church–can be found today in the Oriental "Orthodox Church:" the Armenians, Copts, Ethiopians, Eritreans, and Syrians.

The Conception of the Protestant Spirit

Following his defeat at the Seventh Īcumenical Council (the Second Council of Nicea held in 787), where the iconclasts–with their lack of understanding of Christ's human nature and, so, the relationship between Redemption and the material universe–were overthrown, the devil came up with another ploy to deceive mankind. In the mid-ninth century, within the Church of Rome, documents were forged–the Donation of Constantine and the Pseudo-Isidorian Decretals–that, among other things (like making a land grab for the money and power involved), exalted the papacy of the Latin-speaking church. Pope Nicholas (the First, ca. 800-867), in a thirst for power, made reference to these forgeries as supporting evidence that he had the right to establish universal laws and doctrine for the entire Church, rather than invoking Canons (actually in violation thereof) of the Īcumenical Councils, which, of course, would not have supported his bid for power. And power–both spiritual and temporal–historically has been what the Western popes have been all about since that time, and their struggles have been the cause of or in exploitation of many wars; consider just one example beyond the Donation–the period from 1378 to 1429 when three rival lines of popes existed not for any dogmatic reasons, but for purely political ones!

However, going back to the idea of the pope as the supreme spiritual authority, it should be recognized how new and novel (really devious) of an idea this was (compare it to the responsibility for Tradition held by the whole Church as described earlier). Certainly the Church at all times has had bishops with varying degrees of additional administrative authority (e.g., someone has to be responsible for calling and arranging for periodic synod meetings between the bishops in a particular geographical area, or for distributing tithes to help those in need, or...), but the privileges pertaining to these archbishops, metropolitans, and the like has NOTHING to do with dogma over and above their role as a bishop. In spite of the fact that Nicholas was excommunicated by a council in 867 for his pretensions, the seed for authoritarianism and the pride that comes with power (cf. Iezek. 30:6, 1 Tim. 3:6) had been deeply planted in the Latin church, and it was this idea that lay at the root of what the papacy became in short order; its growth lead ultimately to what is called the Great Schism (nominally dated to 1054) between the church in the West, or what came to be known as the Roman "Catholic Church" (elsewhere herein, however, I will generally refer to it as the Latin church, or simply Latins, as the Byzantines of the day still referred to themselves as Romans), and those who remained faithful to Apostolic Tradition (what came to be known as the Eastern Orthodox Church). It also gave rise to numerous heresies; consider just one: because authority was delegated down to him from the pope, a priest can conduct a mass–what the Orthodox would call the Holy Liturgy–without any of the faithful being present, negating Scripture that refers to "where two or three are gathered..." (Matt. 18:20)! Ironically, this same seed of authoritarianism can be considered to be the conception of Protestantism!

As noted earlier, in Orthodoxy, all of the Faithful, both clergy and lay, have a responsibility toward maintaining unadulterated the Truth contained in the Tradition (which includes Holy Scripture) delivered to the Church. However, with its move to authoritarianism, the Latin church ripped this fundamental, internal responsibility away from the Church as a whole and placed it in their pope. Although with its decrees of papal infallibility the Latin church has continued to try to uphold such a role, observations of ineptness, corruption, abuses, and the like in many popes gave rise very quickly to the notion that perhaps others could do better on their own in studying and understanding what the Holy Scriptures really had to say. In the West, dogmatic development thus became externalized from the Body of the Faithful where true infallibility was to be found, and was placed into the hands of anyone who wanted to play at being a theologian; forget the Apostolic warning against individual interpretation (2 Pet. 1:20). This shift was also catalyzed by the rise of scholasticism, whereby theology became subject to the deductions of reason.

Scholasticism had its beginnings in the West. In some sense we can lay it on Augustine of Hippo, who defined the Latin equivalent of theology, theologia, as  "reasoning or discussion concerning the Deity" (City of God Book VIII. i "de divinitate rationem sive sermonem"), as if we can use the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic concerning God. ("Created beings are termed intelligible because each of them has an origin that can be known rationally. But God cannot be be termed intelligible, while from our apprehension of intelligible beings we can do no more than believe that He exists." St. Maximos the Confessor, "Second Century on Theology," Op. cit., p.115, para. 8; cf. Luke 10:22.) Scholasticism began to take root, however, through a decree issued by Charlemagne in AD 787 that established schools in every abbey in his empire. One of the "founders" of scholasticism was an Irish philosopher, Johannes Scotus Eriugena, who lived ca. 815-877, and who was highly proficient in Greek (though rare at that time in mainland Western Europe, Greek script was widely used in medieval Irish manuscripts). Eriugena moved to France ca. 845, first taking over the Palatine Academy, and later was appointed head of the Palace School. While the writings of Eriugena point out he was clearly familiar with the Orthodox works of "Pseudo-" Dionysius, Maximus the Confessor, and the Cappadocian Fathers, in his beliefs he followed after Origen (a heretic against whom the Fifth Īcumenical Council–the Second of Constantinople held in 553–pronounced 15 anathemas). Eriugena's works were condemned by two councils: that of Valence in 855, and that of Langres in 859. By the former council his arguments were described as pultes scotorum ("Irish porridge") and commentum diaboli ("an invention of the devil").

Another founder of scholasticism was Peter Abelard (1079-1142), who worked to apply formal rational methods to ecclesiastical doctrine, and originated the heretical Doctrine of Limbo (which the Latins accepted). Archbishop Lanfranc of Canterbury (ca. 1005-1089) is also credited with being one of the founders of scholasticism; he was the first to use Aristotelian concepts to explain the Eucharistic change–transubstantiation–rather than heeding Church Fathers such as St. John Damascene (commemorated 4 Dec.; ca. 676-749): "However, should you inquire as to the manner in which this is done, let it suffice for you to hear that it is done through the Holy Ghost, ... And more than this we do not know, except that the word of God is true and effective and omnipotent, but the manner in which it is so is impossible to find out." ("An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith", Book IV, Chapter 13, Saint John of Damascus: Writings, Frederic Chase, trans., Fathers of the Church, Inc., NY, 1958, p. 358.)

The final historical figure usually considered to be one of the founders (or even The founder) of Western scholasticism is Anselm of Canterbury (ca. 1033-1109). Anselm attempted to elaborate a rational system of faith and, in doing so, developed a variety of heretical ideas, such as: God's honor has been offended by sin, and must be satisfied, and God being Who He is, His honor and dignity could only be satisfied by the sacrifice of the God-man, Jesus Christ (i.e., Knights of the Round Table behavior)!

In fact, during the High Middle Ages, theology was named "The Queen of the Sciences" (Thomas Albert Howard, Protestant Theology and the Making of the Modern German University, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2006, p. 56), and Hooker, a famous western "theologian," referred to theology as "the science of things divine" (Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, 3.8.11). Basically, in the West, theology become (and is today) an academic discipline where anyone can rationalize concerning their beliefs almost to the point where they have none, and assign to their opinions a credence equal to those of any other "theologian."

Even with this brief summary, it should be clear what a disaster (from an Orthodox perspective) Western scholasticism was for theology and Truth. But such trouble was only the beginning. Rational thinking within scholasticism gave rise to formal rationalism and its attendant skepticism–which rejects authority–and asserts that much knowledge is attributable to reason independently of the senses. In contrast, a competing "sister" in philosophy also arose: the doctrine of empiricism, which denies that humans have innate ideas or that anything is knowable without reference to experience. Both approaches lead to rejection of the Church Fathers and Tradition, and ultimately to atheism. (And philosophy has continued its destructive "development" down through the Age of "Enlightenment" to the surfeit of philosophies available in the present day.)

The Birth and Spread of Protestantism

The excesses of the Latin church hierarchy eventually reached the point that groups of people were willing to openly revolt–especially when they had the leadership of one or more charismatic individuals–in support of a reformation of the church, even though it resulted in persecution and war. Some of the more famous movements include: Peter Waldo (ca. 1140-1218) and the Waldensians of the mountain valleys in southeast France and northwest Italy (generally absorbed into the later Protestant movement, but some direct links apparently exist to the Union of Methodist and Waldensian Churches); John Wycliffe (ca. 1328-1384) and the English Lollards (generally considered to have been absorbed by the later Protestant movement, while noting that Lollard ideas were carried on by the Baptists, Puritans, and Quakers); Jan Hus (ca. 1372-1415) and the Czech Hussites (now represented by the Moravian, Unity of the Brethren, and Czechoslovak Hussite churches); Petr Chelčický (ca. 1390-1460) of Bohemia and the Anabaptists (successors today include the Amish, Brethren, Hutterites, and Mennonites); Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1521) and the reformed churches of the Swiss Confederation (now represented in the Reformed churches); and John Calvin (1509-1564) and the reformed churches of Southern Europe (now represented in the Reformed and Presbyterian churches).

Another famous reformer was Martin Luther (1483-1546), who many consider to be the person who launched the Protestant Reformation when he published his famous 95 theses to a church door (1517). This appellation is true in a sense, if it is recognized that "Protestant" was first a political term applied to the German states that resisted the Edict of Worms issued in 1521 (which declared Luther to be an obstinate heretic and banned the reading or possession of his writings), and, second, that Luther was calling for reformation of the church (as many others had done); that is, the "Protestant Reformation," strictly speaking, refers to a reformation movement within certain German states and cities that followed after Luther's teachings. It is not true if–as is generally done–all reformation movements of the Western church are lumped under the term Protestant, as should be clear from the short list of earlier movements given above. What made Luther's reforming initiatives initially so successful is the extent of the political power his movement was given. Luther was used as a rallying cry by many (generally northern) German dukes or princes in order to throw off the hegemony of Charles V, Emperor of the "Holy Roman Empire," which, as a result–and following the Schmalkaldic War–effectively ceased to mean anything after 1555 and the Peace of Augsburg signed that year. Political forces were also at play in the adoption of Lutheranism during the 16th century in the Scandinavian countries. While Luther's writings may also have initially been used by the common people as a cry for reformation, he lost much of their support when, after they used violence in the 1524 Peasants' Revolt, Luther urged the princes to wipe out the rebels as if they were "mad dogs."  (Erlangen, Heyder, Martini Lutheri Exegetica Opera Latina, Vol. 24, Elsperger, p. 294, 1829-84.)

Luther's protests were centered principally against the theology of the scholastic movement. While his 95 theses were focused especially on the issue of indulgences, he later spoke out on other topics, such as, e.g., the popes not having the exclusive right to interpret Scripture. Yet while disagreeing with the scholastic theology of his day, Luther and his followers used scholastic methods, often with ironic results. For example, Luther's rational tendencies showed forth in his eventual rejection of all church authority (originally he was quite submissive to the pope), yet what did he do? He set himself up as the sole authority, declaring: "I will have my doctrine judged by nobody–not even by angels; he who does not receive my doctrine, cannot be saved!" (Thein, John, Ecclesiastical Dictionary, Benziger Brothers, New York, 1900, p. 428.)

Luther's theology was embodied, at least in part, in the Confessio Augustana (Augsburg Confession), which has been the primary confession of faith of the Lutheran Church. This confession was drafted by one of Luther's confederates, Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560), and was first publicly presented on 25 June 1530; later revisions were made, and different Lutheran churches officially subscribe to different versions (if at all). To be sure, it must be recognized here that "at least in part," reference to Melanchthon, and "different versions" point to the fact that at no time did there exist a definitive theological expose written by Luther alone and adopted fully by a church. Religious controversies abounded among the Lutherans during the 16th century (to say nothing of today) between different factions such as the Antinomians, Crypto-Calvinists, Philippists, Sacramentarians, Ubiquitarians, and the Gnesio-Lutherans. Yet so sure did the Lutheran theologians become in the main thrust of their work that they presented a copy of a version of the Augsburg Confession in Greek to the Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremiah II on 24 May 1575 as the start of what became a seven-year long dialogue. The Lutheran goal was to win over the Eastern Church "to the Gospel"! (Mastrantonis, George, Augsburg and Constantinople, Holy Orthodox Cross Press, Brookline, Mass., 1982, p. 14.) On the Patriarch's part: "Would that you would be of like mind with our Church of Christ..." (Ibid., p. 30). Neither side prevailed upon the other, but the Answers of Jeremiah form a useful Byzantine patristic presentation of the Eastern Orthodox Church to anyone taking the time to read them. One is left to wonder what would the world be like if the Lutherans had corrected their doctrine and rejoined the Church at that point.

Generally speaking, in spite of the different factions that participated in its formation, Lutheranism has experienced fewer schisms than some other "Protestant" groups, likely because it was the national or "folk" religion in the places it originally spread to in Northern Europe. Divisions that did occur tended, therefore, to be along national lines. For example, in 1817 the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III forced reunification between the Reformed church, to which he belonged, and the Lutheran church, to which his wife belonged, so they could take communion together; this resulted in another schism and the formation of the "Old Lutherans," while other objectors emigrated to the U.S. and formed the Missouri Synod. Another example is when Adolf Hitler forced the same thing (now the Evangelical Church in Germany); a small number of Lutherans–including Dietrich Bonheoffer, Martin Niemšller, and Karl Barth–formed a separate movement called the "Confessing Church." This cannot be said for Lutheranism in the U.S. where doctrinal liberalism holds sway, and over the years many divisions have formed; today the U.S. Lutheran church is represented for the most part by: The American Association of Lutheran Churches; the Association of Free Lutheran Congregations; the Augsburg Lutheran Churches; the Church of the Lutheran Brethren of America; The Church of the Lutheran Confession; The Concordia Lutheran Conference; The Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church, formerly the Evangelical Community Church-Lutheran; The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; The Evangelical Lutheran Synod; the Independent Lutheran Diocese, formerly The Old Lutheran Church in America; the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ; The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod; the Lutheran Churches of the Reformation; the North American Lutheran Church; and The Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. In addition to the Evangelical Church in Germany, internationally the Lutheran Churches of today include: the Church of Sweden; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brazil; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada; the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland; the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church; the Lutheran Church of Australia; the Lutheran Church–Canada; and the Lutheran Church in Malaysia and Singapore.

It should also be recognized that Luther's theology was not adopted by all churches of the Reformation. Of particular note is the doctrine of the Reformed churches that, while developed under the influence of numerous writers and reformers, was dominated by the work of Calvin. Rather than at least nominally following a single, shared statement of faith, as in the Lutheran church (duly noting various revisions arose), the Reformed churches exhibited a greater diversity of confessional statements from the start. Reform movements within Calvanism down through the years has also resulted in greater diversity as compared to Lutheranism: in 1999 there were 746 different Reformed denominations worldwide (wikipedia entry accessed 01 December 2010). It is of some interest to note that Calvinism also had an encounter with Eastern Orthodoxy in the person of  Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Cyril I (1572-1638). Unfortunately (from an Orthodox perspective) Cyril was born in Crete when it was part of the Venetian Republic, which meant that when he studied theology it was in Venice, Padua, Wittenberg, and Geneva. While this gave him a strong antipathy for Roman Catholicism–useful in the lead role he played in the Orthodox opposition to the Union of Brest-Litovsk–it placed him under the influence of Calvanism. During his (multiple) tenures as the Ecumenical Patriarch, it appears that Cyril had an aim to reform the Orthodox Church along Calvinistic lines, and to this end he sent many young Greek theologians to the universities of Switzerland, the northern Netherlands, and England. In 1629 he also published his infamous Confessio wherein he tried to cast Calvinistic doctrine in terms of the language and creeds of the Orthodox Church. As would be expected, the Confessio was not received by the Orthodox. Cyril was condemned by a synod in Constantinople in 1638, and a synod held in Jerusalem in 1672 refuted the Confessio in a point-by-point rebuttal (published in the Acts of the synod) that is commonly known as the Confession of Dositheus (Dositheus was Patriarch of Jerusalem at the time). It is not clear if the results of this synod were ever reviewed by Calvanists of any influence within the Reformed churches, but it would seem that this provided an opportunity for them to align their doctrine with Orthodoxy similar to the opportunity given the Lutherans through Patriarch Jeremiah II.

In addition to the Lutheran and Reformed churches, a third major split from the Latin church occurred in 1534 when King Henry VIII took the position of Supreme Head of the Church of England, thereby severing ties to Rome. This he did solely to be able to force the church to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, his first wife, so that he could marry Anne Boleyn (the second of eight, to say nothing of mistresses); under pressure from Catherine's nephew, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Pope Clement VII had refused the annulment. That is, under Henry, there was no reforming movement in the sense of Luther and Calvin (although he did dissolve the monasteries–in order to gain control of their wealth–and he did order the clergy to preach against icons, relics, miracles, and pilgrimages–which provoked the great northern rising of 1536-1537). After Henry's death, his heir, Edward VI was crowned at the age of nine; under the influence of Thomas Cranmer (who was initially a humanist after Erasmus, but later developed strong ties with the Swiss reformers, and so Calvanism; he also developed an early antipathy to Martin Luther), and the reformers among his tutors and courtiers, Edward became convinced that "true" religion should be imposed in England. By 1552, with the issuance of Cranmer's revised prayer book and the second Act of Uniformity, the English Church had arrived at its own version of reformed protestantism. Although Queen Mary later attempted to undo the reforming work of her brother's reign, on Mary's death in 1558, Queen Elizabeth firmly re-established the "theological" developments of Edward's reign. Down through the years since the English reformation, multiple contacts have occurred between the Church of England and the Orthodox that provided opportunity for Anglicans, as a group, to rejoin the Apostolic Church. Records of these contacts can be found in the correspondence of George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury (1562-1633) with the Patriarch of Constantinople, of the Philhellenes of Great Britain in 1672, and of the Non-Juror bishops with the Eastern and Russian Patriarchs during the years ca. 1716 to 1725, as well as many other forms of contact including formal proceedings down to the present day. A simple assessment: the English Church wants restoration in the form of recognition of the legitimate succession of its bishops regardless of questions concerning Apostolic Tradition, while the Eastern Church wants the English church to revise its doctrine to be Orthodox after which Apostolic Authority can be established; so it is fair to say that the two will never be united as True Orthodox.

To recap and provide a simple summary of further developments, by the mid-16th century, reforming movements within the Western church had produced several "protestant" groups, the dominant of which can loosely be referred to as: the Anabaptists, the Lutherans, the Calvinists, and the Anglicans. By the late-16th century, the Puritans and Separatist movements had split off of the Anglicans, and the Calvinists had split into the Reformed and the Presbyterian. The mid-17th century saw Pietism arise from the Lutherans, the Congregationalists from the Presbyterians and Puritans, and the Baptists from the Anabaptists and Puritans. However, once the "dam" of self-styled reformation had broken, the division did not stop, but accelerated at an ever-increasing rate. To name just a few further divisions: the 18th century saw the formation of the Methodists, the 19th century produced the Adventists and the Holiness movement, and the 20th the Pentecostals. In actual detail, it is almost impossible to capture the degree of division that has occurred; the closest thing to an authoritative source in this regard is the World Christian Encyclopedia (David B. Barrett, et al.) printed by Oxford University Press. The 2001 edition (the first edition appeared in 1983), which was produced in two volumes, ran to 1,699 pages. Within Christianity it documented 33,830 denominations (up from 23,000 in 1983), with membership in "independent" churches–the fastest growing Christian group of the 20th century–at 386 million people, second only to the 1 billion Roman Catholics. (http://www.adherents.com/misc/WCE.html) Such division has sin wrought (cf. Rom. 16:17-18, 1 Cor. 1:10-13, 1 Cor. 3:1-6, 1 Cor. 11:16-22)!

Conclusion

In 1976, Oxford University Press published a short book by a David Christie-Murray entitled A History of Heresy, which–unintended by the author–captures the spirit of the modern age, the ultimate conclusion and final work of the Reformation, the hope of a real 1960's "I'm OK, You're OK" near-universal panacea, the Grand Heresy of Heresies: modern Ecumenism. In short, in the final chapter the author concludes: "The increasing complexity of modern life affects religion as it does all else. Heresies, in their original meaning of 'choices', multiply as more and more sects appear; yet, in the ecumenical movement in which all but a few Christian churches have joined, fragmentation is balanced by coalescence. Heresy as a departure from a recognized orthodoxy disappears, because such an orthodoxy has almost ceased to exist. The very word 'heresy' is not found in the indices of most histories of twentieth-century Christianity, and, if it is referred to in their texts, it is placed within inverted commas. The Bible, the creeds, the dogmas of past theologians, may still be the authorities which orthodoxy declares must be obeyed. Yet there is scarcely a Christian in any church who takes them as all literally true, much less accepting them as true in the sense of the truth they were originally intended to convey. ... As the centuries pass heresy tends to disappear. Heretics are replaced by believers who are 'mistaken on certain points', 'do not have the full Gospel', 'follow Christ according to their lights but are not members of the true Church'. More knowledge leads to less dogmatism, at least among the wise, until the modern age is reached when full liberty of religious conscience is the ideal, at least among the western heirs of Christendom. Now there is no heresy, for no longer is their any certain orthodoxy or authority. ... The Bible, once the infallible authority for Protestants, has become a library of sixty-six books of varying dates and values, its every syllable examined textually, historically, scientifically, its shortcomings manifest, at best the subject of pendulum swinging now to radicalism in interpretation, now to conservatism. Psychology argues to the subjectivity of the inner light and lists the neuroses which give rise to saintliness and the Beatific Vision. ... Virgin Birth, miracles, resurrection and ascension may all go, yet Christ remains alive and continues to speak in the modern age and to men of nationalities of which the Jesus of first-century Nazareth did not even know the existence. Perhaps the orthodoxy that the centuries are shattering may be replaced by another, more embracing and closer to the ultimate truth; perhaps the greatest heresy is the existence of any dogma at all. ..."

Like it or not, anyone belonging to the Western church during the last Millennium has been "part and parcel" of this grand heretical movement, helping, as it were, build a New Tower of Babel. Here is the god set up by the nations that cannot save (Esa. 45:20). Here we find the dark hearts, those who have become vain in their imaginations, those who, professing themselves to be wise, have become fools (Rom. 1:18-25). This is the broad way that many follow which leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13).

In direct opposition to this stands True Orthodoxy, the narrow way that few find (Matt. 7:14). Where the wisdom of the world is seen to be foolishness with God (1 Cor. 1:20, 1 Cor. 3:19). Where, rather than becoming self-deluded through worldly wisdom, we prefer to be fools in the world's eye for salvation's sake (1 Cor. 3:18, 1 Cor. 1:18-31), and would find the Grace that comes with humility, as with a little child (Matt. 18:4, Matt. 23:12, James 4:6, 1Pet. 5:5). This does not mean we choose to be ignorant, irrational, or foolish as a synonym for retarded (as in mentally handicapped). For we are called to study and rightly divide the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15). Not, however, to develop our own interpretation (2 Pet. 1:20), but to instill in us the words of Christ and His Apostles, that we may keep their words (John 14:23, John 15:23; cf. 1 Cor. 2:13). That we may daily take up our cross and follow Him in a manner that is worthy of the Lord (Col. 1:10, 1 Thess. 2:12). That we may finish the race (1 Cor. 9:24, Heb. 12:1), be accounted worthy to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21:36), and to enter the Kingdom prepared for us (2 Thess. 1:5).

The choice is yours.

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NOTE: Old Testament book title, chapter, and verse references found herein are based on the Septuagint, which, in some cases, do not align with those of the King James or other Protestant versions of the Bible.