Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Incarnation, Church, and State

One of the important differences between the Western confessions (Roman Catholic and Protestant) and the Orthodox Church is how they view the Incarnation of our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.

In post-Schism Western Christianity, the legalistic view of the Scholastics has taken firm root:  Christ took on human flesh in order to give the Father an object upon which He could pour out His infinite wrath to satisfy His justice, which mankind had offended by its disobedience to God’s commandments.

This being the case, the act of salvation is necessarily in the past:  By believing that Christ’s atoning sacrifice on Golgotha has freed us from our sin debt, man is saved from eternal torment in hell and is given a place in heaven.  But in this doctrine of salvation, the Body of Christ no longer has any real significance.  If the Lord Jesus were to sunder Himself from His human flesh this very moment and become a ghost (spirit) only, it would not make any real difference to the Western Christians:  Its role was played on the Cross; there is no relevance for it in the here-and-now.

This is clean contrary to the Orthodox doctrine, which teaches Christ came not satisfy the Father’s anger, but rather to heal and deify our human nature that was wounded by the Fall.  Having accomplished this through His sinless life and by conquering death on the Holy Cross, He ascended into Heaven with our human body, sitting down at the right hand of the Father, raising it to the height that He intended for it to be raised from the beginning, but which Adam and Eve failed to accomplish in the infancy of our race.

This Holy Body of the Lord Jesus is the very foundation of the Church:  It is the Church in her fulness.  Men, women, and children become members of the Church by being united to His Body really and truly by the action of the Holy Ghost during the sacrament of baptism.  Union with Christ is no mere metaphor.  By this union, a man is made capable of accomplishing in his own life (through the cooperation of his will with the Grace of God, which flows to us through Christ’s Body that he is a part of) what Christ did in His life:  living a sinless life, attaining true holiness, conquering death.  His Body, then, has an ongoing significance within the life of the Orthodox Church, and for the whole cosmos, which has been united to Christ through His human flesh that it might also be filled with God’s Grace.

Therefore, if Christ shed His human nature, it would be seen as a catastrophe by the Orthodox:  The means of salvation for man and the creation would be done away with.

These differences in Christlore (Christology) necessarily manifest themselves in our concrete, everyday lives.  Let us look specifically at politics.

The two natures of God and man in the one Person of Christ are the image of the relations between Church and State in a society. 

In Orthodox countries, because of the cooperation of the divine and the human in Christ, the relationship between Church and State is one of cooperation, of symphony, both serving the same end - the salvation of man - but in different ways.

In Western countries, because of the denigration of the human body in Western beliefs about salvation, the relationship between Church and State will likewise be disordered and antagonistic.  There is a secular sphere and a religious sphere, and never the twain should meet. 

(And just as the Orthodox teaching of the Enfleshment stresses the importance of all the creation to God, so too does the Western teaching stress the indifference (at best) of God towards His creation, which is exemplified in this section of The Baptist Faith and Message, Revised Edition:  ‘Only of man is it said that he was made in God’s image.  Since God is Spirit, this image relates to man’s spiritual nature’ (Herschel Hobbs, Nashville, Tenn., Convention Press, 1996, p. 43).  In other words, the body is not made in God’s image and therefore has no real value.  And as the human being is the crown of all the creation, the rest of it naturally suffers from this Gnostic view that spirit is good and matter is bad.  This again is in direct contrast to the Orthodox teaching, that the human body in particular, and all of creation in general, is an icon of God, Who is a ‘Meta-Icon’ or ‘Hyper-Icon’, though He is ‘indescribable’, ‘the depth that is filled with the potentiality of all forms’ (Fr Dumitru Staniloae, The Experience of God, Vol. 6: The Fulfillment of Creation, Fr Ioan Ionita, ed. and trans., Brookline, Mass., Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 2013, pgs. 109 & 110).  All of creation is dear to God, Who made it for union with Himself.)

Given this background, it is again interesting to note the direction the South was taking relative to the rest of the West.  As the War with the North was approaching, she was scrutinizing Western ways very carefully and taking some small steps toward recovering the Orthodox tradition, which she unfortunately knew nothing (or very little) about in a direct way.  Her thoughts about the relation of Church and State, of divine and human, is another ensample of this recovery.  In the writings of the Rev James Henley Thornwell, we find some praiseworthy passages (taken from Collected Writings, Vol. IV-Ecclesiastical, ‘Relation of the State to Christ’, pgs. 549-56, https://archive.org/details/collectedwriting04thor, opened 23 Sept. 2016):

 . . . But, gentlemen, we are constrained, in candour, to say that, in our humble judgment, the Constitution, admirable as it is in other respects, still labours under one capital defect. It is not distinctively Christian. It is not bigotry, but love to our country, and an earnest, ardent desire to promote its permanent well-being, which prompts us to call the attention of your honourable body to this subject, and, in the way of respectful petition, to pray that the Constitution may be amended so as to express the precise relations which the Government of these States ought to sustain to the religion of Jesus Christ.

The Constitution of the United States was an attempt to realize the notion of popular freedom, without the checks of aristocracy and a throne, and without the alliance of a national Church. The conception was a noble one, but the execution was not commensurate with the design. The fundamental error of our fathers was, that they accepted a partial for a complete statement of the truth. They saw clearly the human side—that popular governments are the offspring of popular will ; and that rulers, as the servants and not the masters of their subjects, are properly responsible to them. They failed to apprehend the Divine side—that all just government is the ordinance of God, and that magistrates are His ministers who must answer to Him for the execution of their trust. The consequence of this failure, and of exclusive attention to a single aspect of the case, was to invest the people with a species of supremacy as insulting to God as it was injurious to them. They became a law unto themselves; there was nothing beyond them to check or control their caprices or their pleasure. All were accountable to them; they were accountable to none. This was certainly to make the people a God; and if it was not explicitly expressed that they could do no wrong, it was certainly implied that there was no tribunal to take cognizance of their acts. A foundation was thus laid for the worst of all possible forms of government—a democratic absolutism, which, in the execution of its purposes, does not scruple to annul the most solemn compacts and to cancel the most sacred obligations. The will of majorities must become the supreme law, if the voice of the people is to be regarded as the voice of God; if they are, in fact, the only God whom rulers are bound to obey. It is not enough, therefore, to look upon government as simply the institute of man. Important as this aspect of the subject unquestionably is, yet if we stop there, we shall sow the seeds of disaster and failure. We must contemplate people and rulers as alike subject to the authority of God. His will is the true supreme; and it is under Him, and as the means of expressing His sovereign pleasure, that conventions are called, constitutions are framed and governments erected. To the extent that the State is a moral person, it must needs be under moral obligation, and moral obligation without reference to a superior will is a flat contradiction in terms. If, then, the State is an ordinance of God, it should acknowledge the fact. If it exists under the conditions of a law superior to all human decrees, and to which all human decrees behove to be conformed, that law should be distinctly recognized. Let us guard, in this new Confederacy against the fatal delusion that our government is a mere expression of human will. It is, indeed, an expression of will, but of will regulated and. measured by those eternal principles of right which stamp it at the same time as the creature and institute of God. And of all governments in the world, a confederate government, resting as it does upon plighted faith, can least afford to dispense with the supreme Guardian of treaties.

Your honourable body has already, to some extent, rectified the error of the old Constitution, but not so distinctly and clearly as the Christian people of these States desire to see done. We venture respectfully to suggest, that it is not enough for a State which enjoys the light of Divine revelation to acknowledge in general terms the supremacy of God; it must also acknowledge the supremacy of His Son, whom He' hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds. To Jesus Christ all power in heaven and earth is committed. To Him every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess. He is the Ruler of the nations, the King of kings, and Lord of lords.

Should it be said that the subjection of governments to Jesus Christ is not a relation manifested by reason, and therefore not obligatory on the State, the answer is obvious—that duties spring not from the manner in which the relation is made known, hut from the truth of the relation itself. If the fact is so, that Jesus Christ is our Lord, and we know the fact, no matter how we come to know it, we are bound to acknowledge it, and act upon it. A father is entitled to the reverence of his son, a master to the obedience of his servant, and a king to the allegiance of his subjects, no matter how the relation between them is ascertained. Now, that Jesus Christ is the supreme Ruler of the nations, we know with infallible certainty, if we accept the Scriptures as the Word of God.

 . . . What, then, is this public conscience? It is clearly the sum of those convictions of right, that sense of the honourable, just and true, which legislators feel themselves bound to obey in the structure of governments and the enactment of laws. It is a reflection of the law of God ; and when that law is enunciated with authoritative clearness, as it is in the Scriptures, it becomes only the more solemnly imperative. And as the eternal rule of justice, the State should acknowledge it. Considered in its organic capacity as a person, it no more violates the rights of others in submitting itself to the revealed will of God, than a Christian, when he worships the supreme Jehovah, violates the rights of an Atheist or idolater. What the State does itself, and what it enjoins upon others to do, are very different things. It has an organic life apart from the aggregate life of the individuals who compose it; and in that organic life, it is under the authority of Jesus Christ and the restraints of His holy Word.

That, in recognizing this doctrine, the State runs no risk of trespassing upon the rights of conscience is obvious from another point of view. The will of God, as revealed in the Scriptures, is not a positive Constitution for the State; in that relation it stands only to the Church. It is rather a negative check upon its power. It does not prescribe the things to be done, but only forbids the things to be avoided. It only conditions and restrains the discretion of rulers within the bounds of the Divine law. It is, in other words, a limitation, and not a definition, of power. The formula according to which the Scriptures are accepted by the State is: Nothing shall be done which they forbid. The formula according to which they are accepted by the Church is: Nothing shall be done but what they enjoin. They are here the positive measure of power. Surely the government of no Christian people can scruple to accept the negative limitations of the Divine Word. Surely, our rulers do not desire that they shall have the liberty of being wiser than God.

The amendment which we desire, we crave your honourable body to take note, does not confine the administration of the State exclusively to the hands of Christian men.  . . . The religion of the State is embodied in its Constitution, as the concrete form of its organic life.

 . . . But the separation of Church and State is a very different thing from the separation of religion and the State. Here is where our fathers erred. In their anxiety to guard against the evils of a religious establishment, and to preserve the provinces of Church and State separate and distinct, they virtually expelled Jehovah from the government of the country, and left the State an irresponsible corporation, or responsible only to the immediate corporators. They made it a moral person, and yet not accountable to the Source of all law. It is this anomaly which we desire to see removed; and the removal of it by no means implies a single element of what is involved in a national Church.

The amendment which this General Assembly ventures respectfully to crave we have reason to believe is earnestly desired, and would be hailed as an auspicious omen by the overwhelming majority of the Christian people of these Confederate States. Is it not due to them that their consciences, in the future legislation of the country, should be protected from all that has a tendency to wound or grieve them? They ask no encroachments upon the rights of others. They simply crave that a country which they love should be made yet dearer to them, and that the Government which they have helped to frame they may confidently commend to their Saviour and their God, under the cheering promise that those who honour Him He will honour. Promotion cometh neither from the East, nor from the West, nor from the South. God is the ruler among the nations; and the people who refuse Him their allegiance shall be broken with a rod of iron, or dashed in pieces like a potter's vessel. Our republic will perish like the Pagan republics of Greece and Rome, unless we baptize it into the name of Christ." Be wise now, therefore, O ye kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth; kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little." We long to see, what the world has never yet beheld, a truly Christian Republic, and we humbly hope that God has reserved it for the people of these Confederate States to realize the grand and glorious idea. God has wooed us by extraordinary goodness; He is now tempering us by gentle chastisements. Let the issue be the penitent submission of this great people at the footstool of His Son.

The whole substance of what we desire may be expressed in the following or equivalent terms, to be added to the section providing for liberty of conscience:

Nevertheless we, the people of these Confederate States, distinctly acknowledge our responsibility to God, and the supremacy of His Son, Jesus Christ, as King of kings and Lord of lords; and hereby ordain that no law shall be passed by the Congress of these Confederate States inconsistent with the will of God, as revealed in the Holy Scriptures.

All is not well here.  There was still the overthoughtsomeness (obsession) with freedom of conscience, for ensample, which would have made naught the amendment he proposed (which sadly was not adopted), or with the idea of republican government.  But the fact that such things as these, the rethinking of the separation of Church and State, were being written and discussed by influential people (Rev Thornwell was not a fringe figure within Southern society) shows that Dixie was trying to get out of the Enlightenment tarpit the rest of the Union and other Western countries were all too happily sinking more deeply into.  It is this struggle that she desperately needs to rejoin if she is going to continue on as a distinct ethnos in the world and not succumb to cosmopolitan consumerism.

We will close with a few quotes from Dr Matthew Johnson’s ‘The Symphony of Authorities in Russian Political Thought: The Spirit, the Crown and Chalcedon’ (http://www.rusjournal.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Rus_Symphony.pdf, opened 22 Sept. 2016) to show some of what normal Church and State relations look like in Christian countries without Roman Catholic and Protestant distortions:

The Emperors Basil, Leo and Alexander stated that the “sovereign power” is legitimate over the “common good of citizens.” They say:

[The state], in its activities, it should be guided by the Holy Scriptures, the definitions of the seven Ecumenical Councils and Roman law. He must be firm in Orthodoxy and the religious zeal must exceed all [including all priests]. His explanation of the law needs to coincide with that of custom unless it be contrary to the canons. . . .”

The position of the emperor in this view is a religions and ascetic one. The emperor is a special sort of bishop who rules by example rather than coercion. Custom is just an expression of natural law, one that is based on a specific people, but with the same essence. “The political” was quite different from the modern conception. Law in the ancient and medieval worlds was not made but discovered and clarified. The Bishop of Dalmatia, Nikodim Milas writes in 1897 that

The powers of the King of God's people, Israel, differ substantially from the authority of the kings of other peoples and states. It is the king that builds the symphonic relationship between the priesthood of his kingdom and God's kingdom.

The emperor as head of state is the supreme patron and protector of the Church in public and civil law. But as a member of the Church, he is subject to its laws on a par with his subjects. . . The Emperor supports the unity of the internal life of the Church, and elevates the dogmatic definition of councils as part of civil law. He punishes heretics and schismatics as state criminals. In matters of church government, the emperor has the right to convene councils and the right to approve to the higher clergy (as choosing one of three candidates chosen by the synod). . . He has the right to monitor the overall progress of church affairs, especially the behavior of clergy and, finally, the right of legislation for the church in the spirit and on the basis of canons as a means to explain and enforce them.

This certainly means that no heterodox ruler can be legitimate in Russia. The tsar is primarily a religious figure whose main purpose is to keep the church close to its canonical foundation. The church provided the content while the civil law provided the form. This is similar to the view of Russian monarch[ist?-W.G.] Lev Tikhomirov:

The importance of the Russian tsar is found in its position relative to the worldly problems of Christianity. “All authority is from God” our Church teaches, but the Russian tsar has a particular importance, distinguishing it from other rulers in the world. He is not only the Emperor of the country and the leader of his nation, he is also the guardian and protector of the Orthodox Church. The church does not know of any earthly Vicar and has renounced any action save the spiritual realm. The tsar is in charge of the church's earthly well-being and is thus consecrated by her as the leader of the Orthodox people. The Russian tsar is far more than just the heir of his ancestors, he is also the successor to the Caesars of Rome in the East who were the organizers of the Church synods that established very symbol of the Christian faith. With the fall of Byzantium, Moscow rose. From this comes Russian greatness (Tikhomirov, 1905: 129-130)

 . . . St. Photius of Constinople connects the filioque with the collapse of symphony. It was, in a sense, the origin of the arcane “killing of the king” ritual that is essential to western liberalism. The ancient grasp of the Trinity was an idea with political connotations. The Father was the source of all. The filioque implies the Father is no longer dominant, but shares this authority with the son. When father and son are equal in their creation of the spirit, hierarchy is destroyed, the mass is born. In Photius' mind, the filioque places essence over being.

The essence of the Symphony is mutual cooperation, mutual support and mutual responsibility, without invading the competence of one within the exclusive competence of the other. The bishop obeys the state as a subject and citizen. Similarly, the government official obeys his bishop, as a member of the Church, as a sinful man. The authority of one does not derive from the other. The state in such a symphonic relationship seeks the church's moral, spiritual support. The Church receives from the state the creation of conditions that are conducive to the gospel and for the spiritual care of the population.

The Metropolitan Ioann of St. Petersburg treats the idea of symphony as the groundwork of all Russian and Orthodox political theory. It implies that this balance is needed to foster a general consensus on the basic questions of human life. Yet, the authority that puts this into action must be legitimate. It must be Orthodox and accept the canons of the church as normative. The state must have a spiritual content that alone gives it legitimacy. The “human' side of this equation is about balancing interests and classes in society to form the General Will or common good. All of this, of course, has to be based on a strong linguistic unity (Snychev, 1998: 160-161).

The symphony of powers requires the “unity of the religious and moral principles” in a single general consensus of action. This fundamental agreement is absolutely essential for even the most rudimentary consensus to emerge. Further, the state itself must be a unified force around a monarchy and chosen council. It cannot be divided among hundreds of local representatives or regional interests. Unity comes first. Third, the church – the spiritual power – must also be unified. It is an ascetic authority and never a coercive power. Given this, Metropolitan Ioann describes the symphony idea like this as a form of “joint action in the service of the common good. The Scriptures lay this out. It is a pledge for social order and equity. . . .Each half of this unity must be integral and unified. There is a single divine source, but two separate and independent fields” (Snychev, 1998: 158).

In Russia, the symphony, deriving from the sobor, can be reduced to two things.

God wants to entrust the preservation of the truths of revelation necessary for the salvation of men, in specific kingdoms, chosen by Him for reasons unknown. In Old Testament times, this ministry was entrusted to Israel. In the New Testament it is consistently entrust the three kingdoms. Initially, the Rome as the capital of the world at the time of early Christianity. Having fallen into heresy, the Latins were removed from this office and it was granted to Orthodox Constantinople, the “second Rome” of the Middle Ages. It was eliminated due to selfish political calculations which destroyed the purity of faith, accepting the union with heretics, the Roman Catholics at the Council of Florence in 1439; her ministry was removed from her and this went to Moscow, the capital of the Russian Orthodox kingdom as the Third Rome. . . .

For this mission to be accepted, a new organization of the Church, society and the state is required. This godly organization is the autocracy. The Tsar is God's anointed. He is not “limited” in his autocratic prerogatives except the nature of the service itself. The Gospel is the “Constitution” of the autocracy. The Orthodox Tsar is the personification of God's chosen people and their God-bearing mission. He is the guardian of the Third Rome (Synchev, 1998: 23-25).

In the political work of St. Epiphanius the Wise, the elements of the symphony of powers are discovered as the ground of legitimacy. The monarch's service to the church is the first. The crown is a monastic calling and primarily a religion office. Importantly, the role of the restrainer is mentioned. The Russian is держатель (or “holder”) in that he “holds” the line against the Antichrist. This is connected to his role as protector of the land against heretics and nomadic invaders. This of course, includes heretics and other enemies of order.

The Archbishop is the shepherd and the guardian of souls. He is responsible before God not only for outward decorum, but also the inner state of the people. St. Epiphanius explicitly speaks of the harmony and mutual balancing of powers both secular and ecclesiastical.

Conclusion: Two Natures, Two Authorities
Antony, the patriarch of Constantinople, in his message to the Grand Duke of Moscow Vasily Dmitrievich, instructed the Russian ruler, revealing to him the meaning of the Christian empire: “The holy King holds a high place in the Church” the patriarch states, “emperors called the ecumenical councils; they also confirmed their laws in respect of the civil law for the improvement of Christian life to labor against heresy; and emperors set the bounds of dioceses and created basic administrative procedure for the bishops” (from Snychev, 1998: 170-173).

The idea of symphony derives directly from the idea of sobornost.' Florensky compares it to a folk ensemble, where the singers are not necessarily following a strictly written out composition, but can be flexible and inventive with certain aspects. However, given the basic understanding of all the singers, adjustment to this sort of creativity is easy and organic.


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the South!

Anathema to the Union!

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