One does not normally associate theoretical or intellectual rigor with Orthodoxy. By that I don’t mean that Orthodoxy is incoherent, or doesn’t stand up to rigorous philosophical inquiry. After all, among the most brilliant of thinkers in the history of the Church are the Cappadocians, St. Maximus, and St. Gregory Palamas (who, I hasten to say aren’t Orthodoxy’s unique property, but are nonetheless integral to Orthodoxy in the way St. Augustine is to the West). But Orthodoxy is not a tight, architectonic system like Calvinism, nor does it have the sort of Aristotelian philosophical grid that Roman Catholicism post-Aquinas has. Orthodoxy’s greatest thinkers share no such system or grid.
No, in fact, Orthodoxy has, as Vladimir Lossky’s book title puts it, a “mystical theology.” Which simply means that Orthodoxy thinks in terms of her experience of the revelation of God in Christ. Orthodoxy is quintessentially an experiential religion. She thinks with her mind, but with a mind that has descended into her heart.
This is why, when I have spoken about my reasons for attraction to the Orthodox Church in the past, those reasons derived from the experience of the Faith. In December 2003, I finished up a nine-part post on the reasons I was attracted to Orthodoxy. The Orthodox Church honors the past, respects the present, has a consistent theology, has the fullness of the Christian faith, has both an existential and objective worship and askesis, makes claims that are historically and objectively verifiable and theologically valid, and unites the home and family in the Church. Six months later, I added an additional post on my relief that Orthodoxy not only tells me what salvation is, but shows me how to acquire it. Today, nearly a year after that last post, and more than a year and a half since the last post of the original series, I want to add yet one more post answering, “Why Orthodoxy?” And today I want to talk about Orthodoxy in terms of intellectual consistency.
Let me say it clearly and starkly: Orthodoxy has a purity of thought unmatched by the Roman Catholic Church and by all of Protestantism. I don’t mean Orthodoxy has never had heretics. No, in fact, some of Orthodoxy’s heretics were the most highly-placed of her hierarchy. Rather, I mean that if one conforms one’s mind to Orthodoxy one will quite literally never go wrong.
Continue reading “Orthodoxy Is the Thinking Man’s Faith (Why Orthodoxy? XI)”