Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Friday, August 10, 2012

Dositheos Speaks - Calling All Protestants

As the Influence of the reformation spread throughout Europe in the 17th century, The One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church- the Orthodox Church, found itself forced to respond to the new innovations of theology.  Interestingly enough, they responded to the reformers using the reformers methods. They used a post-reformation style "confession of faith".  I am referring to “The Confession of Dositheos”.  In this document the Eastern Church addresses most particularly the kind of Protestantism innovated by Calvin.

The Confession of Dositheus

Dositheus, by the mercy of God, Patriarch of Jerusalem, to those that ask and inquire concerning the faith and worship of the Greeks, that is of the Eastern Church, how it thinks concerning the Orthodox faith, in the common name of all Christians subject to our Apostolic Throne, and of the Orthodox worshippers that are sojourning in this holy and great city of Jerusalem (with whom the whole Catholic Church agrees in all that concerns the faith) publishes this concise Confession, for a testimony both before God and before man, with a sincere conscience, and devoid of all dissimulation.

Decree 1

We believe in one God, true, almighty, and infinite, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; the Father unbegotten; the Son begotten of the Father before the ages, and consubstantial with Him; and the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father, and consubstantial with the Father and the Son. These three Persons in one essence we call the All-holy Trinity, — by all creation to be ever blessed, glorified, and adored.

Just like the reformation's confessions, The Augsburg, 39 Articles, Belgic, and Westminster Confessions, Dositheos' confession begins with an Article on “God”. The difference being, the article’s clarity and simplicity. The 1st article states that whatever may known about God,  the most important thing is that God is one essence, and a communion of three persons. Within this tri-personal communion the Father is the original ontological source, the Son is eternally begotten of the Father, and the Spirit finds His original procession from the Father. This article is nothing more than the reaffirmation of the Nicene Trinitarianism that was accepted by the whole undivided church prior to the alterations made inthe Council of Toledo.

Here, the original and unchanging Orthodox Church reminds the Protestant reformers that by accepting the fileoque they are participating in the innovations of Rome and its Schismatic method of determing truth, and thus doing what they are supposedly opposed to. Therefore, in a gentle way, the confession starts off by calling the reformers to the faith of the undivided church. This return to the original faith was after all the impetus behind the entire reformation. In other words, the confession says to the reformers, "if you really want to return to the faith, then return to its God, and to its concilliar method of determing truth."

It seems to me that this is exactly where our conversation with non-Orthodox Christians must begin.  We must discuss who is God at the most basic level, and how truth is to be determined.  The conversation might take place around a set of questions, such as:

  1. Is there a hierarchy in the Godhead?
  2. If so what sort?
  3. What is the significance of the ontology of God? 
  4. What is the purpose of this unity within the Godhead?
  5. How does the alteration of God affect the faith? 
  6. Perhaps the most important question is: who gets to define the faith, the ecumenical councils, local councils, or the individual?
It is very challenging to speak the truth in love, However, this Confession of Dositheos may be just the thing that helps us to speak of Orthodoxy in love, using Protestant language.

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