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THEOLOGY OF THE MODERN GREEK CHURCH.
BY REV. ALBERT N. ARNOLD, D.D., PROFESSOR IN HAMILTON THEOLOGICAL
SEMINARY, NEW YORK.
The religion of “the Orthodox Eastern church "- for that is the title by which it chooses to be known — is professed by not far from seventy-five millions of the human family. Nearly sixty millions of these are the subjects of the Czar of Russia; about eleven and a half millions are found in the Turkish Empire; nearly three millions in Austria ; not quite one million in Greece; and about three hundred thousand in Montenegro and the Ionian Islands.
As one of the three great parties into which Christendom is divided, the Greek church is justly entitled to a proportionate share of the attention of Christian scholars. It has, indeed, on several accounts, a stronger claim than that wbich is derived merely from the relative number of its adherents. As the most ancient branch, or rather the original stock, of Christianity in its visible and organized manifestation; as occupying the regions where the apostles chiefly labored, and to which most of their inspired letters were directed; as the scene of all the early general councils of the church, and the depository of their original decrees; as retaining still the very language in which the New Testament writings were composed; and, finally, as having, in all likelihood, no inconsiderable part to perform in the future history of those classic and sacred lands which it occupies; the Greek or Anatolic church fairly challenges a larger share of the attention and study of Christian scholars than it has hitherto obtained.
Though for many centuries united with the Western church in one ecclesiastical communion, yet it had from the beginning its own peculiar spirit and its own distinct law of development The same germ of divine doctrine, en
grafted on stocks so different, as the subtile, speculative Greek, and the practical, organizing Roman, bore fruit of the same species, indeed, but of a somewhat different flavor and quality. The divergence began to appear in the very first centuries; but the actual separation did not take place till the latter half of the ninth century, when the patriarch Photius and the Pope of Rome mutually excommunicated and anathematized each other (A.D. 867). The two churches were afterwards nominally united again ; but the breach was never healed; and less than two centuries later (A.D. 1054) the separation was solemnly re-affirmed by the patriarch Michael Cerularius. This may be regarded as the final rupture between the Eastern and Western churches. Attempts to re-unite them were renewed from time to time, even down to the period of the overthrow of the Eastern Empire by the Turks in 1453; but these attempts only tended to keep up the irritation, and to exasperate the parties still more, by the frequent discussion of their differences. At the Council of Florence, indeed (A.D. 14381442), the Greek deputies, with only one exception, overcome by bribery or by menace, assented to the decrees dictated by the Papal party ; but their action was at once indignantly repudiated by their constituents, and very soon abjured by themselves.
Whatever the Greek church may have, therefore, in common with the Romish, whether in doctrines or in usages, we must remember that it occupies a position of declared antagonism to the Papal system as a whole.
Its relation to Protestantism, though less distinctly and formally pronounced, is virtually the same. Some of the Reformers of the sixteenth century cherished the idea of a friendly alliance with the Eastern church, believing that she had preserved more of the primitive purity of doctrine and worship than her younger sister of the West. Melanchthon, about the year 1559, sent a copy of the Augsburg Confession to Joasaph II., Patriarch of Constantinople, with a friendly letter; but he never obtained any reply. The theologians VOL. XXI. No. 84.
of Tübingen renewed the attenipt in 1574, when Jeremiah II. was patriarch. After several interchanges of letters, the intercourse was broken off, upon the patriarch's expressing bis wish that their correspondence should contain no further discussion of doctrines, but be confined to friendly civilities. “ From that time," to quote the words of Alex. ander de Stourdza, one of the ablest Greek writers of the present age, “the silence and neutrality of the Eastern church ceased; the doctrine of the Reformation was rejected by her; and the more recent Councils of Jerusalem, in 1618, and of Jassy, in 1678, traced between the church and the Protestant communion an unalterable line of separation.” The church of Constantinople had indeed a Protestant patriarch, in the beginning of the seventeenth century — the ill-fated Cyril Lucar; but he was so far from being able to bring over to his views the church which he represented, that he lost his life in the attempt (A.D. 1638). There was much friendly correspondence on the subject of union, between the English hierarchy and the Eastern ecclesiastics in the time of Peter the Great; but his death, in 1725, broke off the negotiations. For the last fifteen years, since the decision of the famous Gorham controversy, a decision equally unsatisfactory to the tractarian and the evangelical parties, because it gave neither the right to expel or censure the other, the former, the tractarian or Puseyite party in the Anglican church, have been endeavoring to effect a union between the two churches; or, in default of this, to secure for themselves satisfactory terms of admission into the Greek church ; and there are recent rumors of their special activity in efforts to accomplish this end. But they have not heretofore made any considerable progress, nor met with any such encouragement as to afford a prospect of ultimate suc
The Greek church is, in fact, much less disposed to relax the strictness of any of her ecclesiastical rules, for the sake of facilitating accessions to her communion than the Roman Catholic; principally, no doubt, for the reason, that she is less ambitious of universal supremacy. While occu
pying, therefore, a position of antagonism just as distinctly towards Protestants as towards Romanists, she has had less occassion to manifest her hostility in the former case than in the latter, because she has not been brought into such near relations to the Reformation as she has to the Papacy, nor had the same reason to apprehend the disturbance of her quiet by attempts to make proselytes from among her adherents.
Having thus defined in general the relation of the Oriental church to the other two great divisions of the Christian world, we proceed to speak more particularly of the Theology of the Greek church of the present day. In executing this task, we are obliged to proceed somewhat differently from what we should do in the case of either of the other two portions of Christendom. In giving an account of the theological belief of the Romish church, or of any particular Protestant communion, we could refer to recognized standards of faith, to the writings of learned theologians, the discourses of eminent preachers, and the religious usages of the common people. In the case of the Greek church, there are no universally recognized standards of faith later than the first seven councils. The Eastern church has had no modern council, like the Council of Trent in the Western, whose decrees are universally received; she has no modern articles of faith, like those of the church of England, or the Westminster Confession ; she has had no modern theologians, whose writings constitute an accepted exposition of her doctrines, as those of Luther and Melanchthon do among German Protestants, those of Calvin and Turretin among the Reformed churches, and those of Bellarmine and Bossuet among the Papists; she has had no great preachers, whose discourses embody the latest phase of her theological belief. Her appeal is still to the three ancient creeds and the seven ancient councils, from whose definitions and decrees it is her boast that she has never departed; and be
1 Theophanes Procopowicz deserves, if any one, to be named here as an exception.
tween these and the common popular belief there is hardly anything that can be called an authoritative or official set. ting forth of her distinctive doctrines. The document which most nearly approaches to this character is the Confession of Petrus Mogilas, the metropolitan of Kiew, published in 1640. This was signed by all the Greek patriarchs in 1613, and was solemnly recognized at the Synod of Jerusalem, in 1672, as the Confession of Faith of the Oriental church. It has the highest authority of any modern exposition of the faith of the Greek church, especially in Russia. It is composed in a somewhat polemical spirit, and was designed especially to confirm the members of the Greek church, in view of the actual or apprehended encroachments of Romanists and Protestants, more especially of the latter. It states the antagonism of the Greek church to the Protestant more strongly than the prevailing feeling of the most enlightened portion of the Greek church of the present day would justify. Next to this is the Catechism of Platon, Metropolitan of Moscow, published a little before 1770, when its author was at the head of the monastery in Troitza. This is less polemical than the preceeding, and on those points in which the doctrines and usages of the Greek church are most opposite to those of Protestants, these doctrines and usages are presented in their least offensive form, and defended with much moderation. These two Confessions, together with the writings of Alexander de Stourdza, the learned layman of Odessa, are the sources of which the freest use will be made in the present Article. A residence of more than half a score of years in lands where the Greek religion is the prevailing belief has given the writer somewhat favorable opportunities for becoming acquainted with the faith of the Greek church, as it actually exists in the minds of the people who profess it.
Many of the questions in theology which have been much
The title of this work is 'Ορθόδοξος 'Ομολογία της πίστεως της Καθολικής και 'Αποστολικής Εκκλησίας, της Ανατολικής. It has been published in Russian, Latin, and German, as well as in Gecek.