Saturday, March 21, 2009

Put Up Yer Dukes!

Another fruitless online boxing match between the East and the West.

In this corner we have the confessional Lutherans, using Holy Scriptures and the Book of Concord (like that's gonna hold any water with the Orthodox in the first place) as a weapon with which to do battle with the Orthodox. In the other corner, we have the Orthodox, using the Church Fathers and Holy Tradition (like that's gonna hold any water with the Lutherans)in the same way. It's like some useless Christian scrimmage.

Guess who won? Nobody! (surprise, surprise).

It seems that lots of faithful Christians get some sort of an endorphine rush by flexing their intellectual and theologically bookish muscles online, waxing eloquent (usually by quoting Scripture and Church Confessions or the Church Fathers) about their profound knowledge of God. Specifically, in a sort of "can you believe that some Christians actually think this?" sort of way.

So this time it's about original sin (the Lutheran understanding of which I never bought even when I was a Lutheran. But the point is that what I buy or don't buy isn't what's important here and may not in any way be what is the Truth.)

Am I the only person who considers this sort of online sparring match to be an incredible waste of time and energy? Do people really think they are going to change another person's mind by regurgitating volumes of what they have read?

Worse, why don't those involved in such discussions view themselves as willing and eager pawns in the "why I am better than you" or "I'm a real Christian and you're not" or "We have the Truth and you don't" game? Remarkably, some (not just one!) will turn around and in a subsequent post attest to their desire for unity in the Church.

If unity in the Church is what we truly want and such online sparring is simply an excercise, then perhaps we should take off our gloves and start by praying for unity first.

Or at least consider who our punching bag is before we come out swinging.

End of rant.


William Weedon said...

Well, since you linked, I'll hope you'll pardon an answer, -C. It was not intended to be a sparring match. It was an inquiry into a statement whether the Orthodox would agree with and defend a statement that I found rather shocking and untenable. They have shown that they do defend it. So be it.

But when they go on to accuse the Lutherans of not representing the teaching of the Fathers or of Scripture on the question, you can't expect on a Lutheran blog for Lutherans not to defend our faith - we will defend it. I think it is quite telling that I've never seen a Lutheran that I know of post an attack upon Orthodox doctrine on any of their blogs. Sadly, such is not the treatment accorded us. We are evidently "fair game" - even during the holy fast of Lent.

-C said...

I not only pardon, but welcome a response from you, Pr. Weedon. I hope I always will (even when I'm frustrated or miffed with something you have written).

"I think it is quite telling that I've never seen a Lutheran that I know of post an attack upon Orthodox doctrine on any of their blogs. "

So this wasn't an attack upon Orthodox doctrine? Sure looked like one to me.

For you to defend a doctrine of your own faith is noble indeed, and I would expect no less of you.

But it wasn't defense - it was a reaction to an Orthodox teaching you don't agree with which you found on an Orthodox site.

So what was the purpose of the post if not to provoke a reaction from the many Orthodox converts that you well know are followers of your blog?

BTW - I found the title of that post ("What to make of this") a little confusing. Do you mean to say by it that you had never heard this view from the Orthodox before? I (someone far less educated and well-read than you are) heard it no less than 20 years before I even entertained the notion of being Orthodox. It's not like it's some new Orthodox teaching or something.

William Weedon said...


I had heard it, but I had been assured that it was NOT true Orthodox dogma. When it came up on another list, I thought: you know, if I put this out on my blog, I'm sure I'll hear how my Orthodox friends DO understand this. I have.

A friend of mine who is very near to converting absolutely assured me that it was NOT Orthodox at all.

It sounds like most Orthodox are willing to defend it. Obviously for a Lutheran it is indefensible, for it was more than subjection to mortality which we inherit from Adam, as I sadly see in myself each day.

-C said...

I daresay that there might be other things within Orthodox teaching that you might find indefensible - but nobody's asking you to defend them. No one's asking you to accept them or to convert or to be anything other than the faithful confessional Lutheran pastor that you are.

If in the future you seek answers to such questions about Orthodox teachings, I might recommend that take them directly to an Orthodox priest and skip the catechumens.

I'm happy to give you contact information for a good and patient question-answering priest if you need one. :-)

William Weedon said...

Good counsel, -C. I think I HAVE one that I can contact and I should have done so: Fr. Brian Jaye. I may do so now to ask his thoughts on this subject.

Sorry if by my blogging I have added to your hardships during Lent. And you must tell your son that I absolutely love his St. Patrick!

-C said...

Fr. Brian was actually recommended to me once by my own patient, question-answering priest, as a good "bi-lingual priest" (one who could speak both Lutheran and Orthodox!). So he comes highly recommended.

I will happily share your comments about the St. Patrick icon with YoungerSon, who only this afternoon made arrangements to it blessed at church next week.

Dixie said...

This one is a tough one for me because I know people have had their understandings clarified and corrected by such discussions...however, Father Andrew (of Christ in the Mountains blog fame) does admit that of the few "debates to conversion" he experienced, even fewer "stick".

I think the discussions should take place but what has to be avoided are the personal attacks and triumphalism. I admit I haven't always managed this myself.

If one participates in such discussions they get the benefit of studying in depth on the topic. If one reads such discussions they can gain clarity on what the other side believes. What would be just as damaging is avoiding discussion for fear of offense. The trick is learning to do it respectfully. I have witnessed some nice transformation of some bloggers in this it is possible.

-C said...

I disagree on several accounts here, Dixie.

First, the very tone of the post was nothing but bait - pure and simple - and highly irregular for this particular blogger. Bait is always wrong, for it only ever seeks a fight (and go see for yourself - he got one).

Secondly, place for such important discussions is not online in a public forum, but face to face, one on one, lest the crowd mentality interfere and dialogue breaks down, which it certainly did here. And where there's a couple of crowds taking sides, the attacks and triumphalism you say are to be avoided are always present - as they are here.

In the end it's a problem of pride. A little (sincere) humility on either side would be a far better way to get anyone to listen. Fear of offense is a healthy fear, I think. Because the minute someone is offended, they stop listening in order to plan a counter attack.

In the end, it all comes down to "neener, neener, neener." Check the spin-offs of the discussion if you don't believe me.

It was a waste of time and cyberspace.

Dixie said...

Oh, I agree that the tone started off wrong an carried right through...I was speaking more in general about online discussion that about that particular post...that post and subsequent comments would be a good example of what not to do!

I can't speak to people's motives. Some of this may be nothing but pride on a stick. Some may not be motivated by pride but driven to explain what they believe and why...particularly if what they believe has brought them hope in Christ. And, some may be driven by other things...for example, Pastor Weedon's concern for a friend considering Orthodoxy. It's not such an easy thing to accept if a friend abandons what one thinks of as the truth. I understand Pastor Weedon's grief in this.

The real difficulty in online discussion is lack of body language and hearing. Body language and hearing tone in communication does much to direct us how to continue communicating. If we see and hear someone starting to steam up we can choose more diplomatic language to help diffuse a potential blow up. The internet doesn't give us that and the facelessness allows us to be bolder than we should be. But the internet is also the great equalizer...age, race, social status, financial positions are virtually unknown paving the way for discussions that might not take place in real life due to social situations. Plus, it isn't always easy to find kindred spirits locally.

Anyway...I guess it as Monk says..."a blessing and a curse". And in all things we should be encouraged to better behavior.

Kali Sarakosti, Blessed Lent.-----R

-C said...

yes, yes, and yes.