ENGLISH VERSION: Deacon Eugene Morgun. A short theological analysis of the draft document of the Pan-Orthodox Council
The draft document of the Pan-Orthodox Council is entitled "Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World".
We begin by considering the title of the document. This title promotes, as an assumption, an idea that outside the Church there is a “rest of the Christian world”, with which the Church may have some kind of “relationships”. This introduces, from the outset, ambiguity and vagueness into the definition of the concepts of “Church”, “Christian world”, and “Christians”. Thus, the very title of the document makes the Orthodox Church a part (!!!) of a certain “Christian world”, which supposedly contains the Orthodox Church. In other words, in the same “Christian world” we have both the Orthodox Church and “the rest”.
What is the very essence of this substitution of concepts? The concept of “Orthodox Church” is a definition hallowed by the patristic tradition; however, the concept of “Christian world” was taken from a different tradition, a tradition of a society detached from the Church and secularized, the so-called “secular” society, for which the concept of “Christianity” is scientific and cultural, rather than confessional. We deliberately use the concept of “confession” instead of the concept of “religion” here. For culture experts, “religion” or “religions” is a subject of study and scientific analysis, and this scientific framework includes a certain “Christian world”, which is a collection of disparate communities of people one way or another expressing their faith in the one they believe is Christ. The nuance here lays in the fact that the one they believe in is not necessarily the real Christ. It is not even a subject of science. For modern “secular” science, a certain “Christian world” does really exist as a subject of analysis. However, from the perspective of the Church, That Church that is truly One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, this modern concept of a certain “Christian world” is completely meaningless and has no semantic content. It is outside of patristic context, and, therefore, it is meaningless.
In this way, the title of this document contains an explicit semantic error: a church concept is used alongside a scientific concept of the secular society. Moreover, since this error is repeated in various shades of grey throughout the document, no further analysis is needed. The very title of the document aggressively imposes on us terminology extraneous to the Church tradition, and since we choose to adhere to the patristic position, we cannot and should not embark on a detailed analysis of the presented verbal constructions — just because it is pointless and even harmful.
So firmly has the imposed terminology come into general use, that sometimes it is difficult to see any particular logic behind a series of strained interpretations and omissions and the alternating use of the patristic, scientific, religious and cultural terms.
How might we analyse, for example, an article entitled “Human attitudes towards the rest of the animal world”? Yes, from a scientific perspective, humans are animals. But if we take the Bible as a basis, rather than the theory of evolution, such a comparison will be at least offensive because man was directly called “the image of God” (Gen. 1, 26). The use of the word “rest” itself smuggles in the idea that human beings are also animals. This is assumed by default and cannot be discussed, as a question that has already been settled. And does it make sense to continue any analysis of such a hypothetical article beyond its title? By penetrating into the meaning of such an article, we will indirectly grant the right to exist to ideas that in their essence are explicit and blatant lies, insulting to the truth.
Of course, this is not a perfect analogy, but it gives us an illustration that can be applied to the document in question as well. The concept of the “rest of the Christian world”, which allegedly exists besides the Orthodox Church, is fixed rigidly in the document’s title by default, as if it was decided in advance and shall not be negotiable. However, in all ages the church consciousness refers to the “rest of the Christian world” as heretics and schismatics, who fell away from the unity of the Church, but nowadays these concepts are supposedly “outdated” and have become “politically incorrect” and “intolerant”.
This is exactly what makes all sorts of modernists so dangerous: they use church terms, “filling” them with what is essentially a pagan sense, which is extraneous to the church consciousness. It is exactly this that will “seduce even the elect” (Mark 13, 22). Thus, the pseudoscientific “humanism”, in which a certain “Christian world” exists among other “religions”, declares the notorious “human rights”, which the church consciousness can only view as the right to sin, as they have no Holy Gospel percepts in their basis. In such an inconspicuous manner, God is substituted by a man, and not just any man, but ‘‘that man of sin…, the son of perdition” (2 Thess. 2, 3). At the level of terminology, the Church’s Christocentricity is replaced with egocentricity, which directly brings us to such a worldview, the implementation of which will be the accession of a god-man called Antichrist.
Apostasy, whereby one lives his or her life in a way that abandons the God-man Jesus Christ, lays not only in the declared and frank renunciation of God, as explicit atheists do, but to a greater extent in an implicit substitution of concepts and definitions. Such actions aim to displace all the true and God-revealed knowledge and replace it with false human sophistry. This substitution is the essence of modernism, which seeks to perpetuate completely pagan and anti-Christian meanings of words that remain “Christian” in sound only. It is this that destroys the very foundations of the Christian worldview. All this eventually leads to the denial of God-man Christ, and, as a punishment for this, God will allow the accession of a god-man called Antichrist.
A lie is essentially the absence of truth. It is not shades of colour; it is darkness. We have four books of the Gospel, and this is a manifestation of the shades of meaning, since no single person can fully embrace the Truth of Christ, which cannot be expressed even by all “the books that should be written” (John 21, 25). But the demonic lie is always the same: “Is it really true that God said?..” (See. Gen. 3, 1), i.e. even without God there is allegedly some activity, God deceived you, the terms hallowed by the tradition of the Church are not sufficient, they need to be corrected, etc. If we do not reject such a devil libel right from the outset, we can easily get caught in the same quagmire in which Adam and Eve were bogged, having disobeyed God.
Thus, precisely because of this substitution of concepts, which starts from the very title and continues throughout this document should be completely rejected and considered non-compliant, in terms of its meaning, to the patristic Tradition of the Church. A more detailed discussion would only work in favour of casuistically minded servants of the devil, who are just waiting to make an infinite logomachy of this simple topic.
However, paragraphs 22 and 23 of this document should be specifically noted.
Paragraph 22 mentions that “any attempts to shatter Church unity, undertaken by individuals or groups under the pretence of preserving or defending true Orthodoxy, must be condemned». Note that, despite the insignificance of the movements whose aim is to guard the true Orthodoxy, “the great and the good” could not pass them over in silence in an official document, even though that would have benefitted them most in any respect. Any recognition of a protest is an implicit recognition of its power and, in some sense, of the incontestability of its arguments, since a strong idea that conforms to the Truth, is not afraid of a protest, because such an idea does not reject people, but attracts them.
Paragraph 23 declares that “it [theological dialogue] should always be accompanied by witness to the world through the acts of mutual understanding and love, which reflect the joy unspeakable” of the Glad Tidings (1 Pt. 1, 8), excluding any practice of proselytism or any outrageous manifestations of inter-confessional antagonism”. In other words, the prohibition of proselytism means only one thing: in these theological dialogues, it would be important not to allow the Orthodox Church to have any exceptional status, so that it was merely one of the many so-called “churches”. Only in this case, the prohibition of proselytism is justified. In securing specifically this condition, i.e. in depriving the Orthodox Church of the right to the exclusivity of being called the “Church”, in depriving it of the duty (!) to preach the Truth of Christ and, eventually, in depriving it of the duty to bring as many people as possible to Christ, lays the true purpose of this document. In fact, the first deprives the Church of its name of “One”, the second deprives it of its name of “Holy”, and the third deprives it of its name of “Catholic”. Would the Church in such a case still remain Apostolic?
Christ commanded the apostles, and through them the whole Church, to preach the Word of God: “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4, 2), expelling all lies and false beliefs. The prince of this world interferes with the Church, demands to be worshiped and, first of all, demands this from its hierarchs and pastors, as it is the most convenient way to seduce their flock. However, God is infinitely stronger than the devil and all his servants put together, so we need only to reject the cowardice, and to love the Truth of Christ, and let our Lord Jesus Christ give us faith, so that we are not ashamed before His face on the Judgment Day.