Western Rite Critic

A Balance to Contagious Enthusiasm

Traditional Theology vs. Orthodox Theology

“As Western Christians become increasingly concerned by the drift of their denominations away from traditional Christian theology and liturgical practice, many have returned to Orthodoxy.” – From the Diocesan News for Clergy and Laity, February 1995, Greek Orthodox Diocese of Denver (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople)

Response: This one sentence is so common, in so many different forms, that it seems representative of the theorum supporting the ballooning of WR in the US. It’s in two parts: 1. The flight of disaffected Anglicans, Protestants, and some Roman Catholics based on what a critic might call mysogyny, homophobia, and an unwillingness to stay and fight for the beliefs they claim to hold so dear. Implicit in the lingo, though is an intentional ambiguity: “traditional Christian theology and liturgical practice” – an argument that there is somehow a theology (or here we take the meaning to be doctrine), and liturgical practice, that was present in those confessions prior to recent changes, whether 1979, 1962, or whatever. 2. This ambiguity is then equated with Orthodox theology, doctrine, and liturgy by calling it a “return” to Orthodoxy. In other words, the argument is being offered, demonstrably untrue, that these people are in their hearts and souls, and their pre-1979 Anglican Prayer Books, and pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism, essentially Orthodox. This is a questionable argument indeed, if not specious, but it may explain why, instead of the ancient liturgics, a revised BCP is used, and instead of the ancient fasting rules, why the 1950 Roman Catholic ones are in vogue. What’s interesting, too, is the departure of the Eastern Orthodox jurisdictions, of their own accord, from “traditional” theology, doctrine, and liturgics. To whom will we flee, with our abbreviated liturgies, our Roman Catholic sacerdotal and mysteriological attitudes, and our own relaxed attitudes about morality? What the above argument seems to present is a general, non-specific religiosity that really does call into question whether converts to the Western Rite are truly converting to Orthodoxy, and likewise whether we ourselves are in fact converting to something else. To quote Vladimir Lossky: “a God in general, who could be the God of Descartes, or the God of Leibnitz, or to some extent the God of oltaire and the de-Christianized Deists of the eighteenth century.”


January 17, 2008 - Posted by | -- Anglican, Western Rite Liturgics, Western Rite Questions | , , , , , , , , , ,


  1. Yeah. Frankly, I’ve lost patience with it. Anyone that considers Lossky a hardliner either hasn’t read him (only things ‘about’ him), or has failed to understand both his writing and Holy Orthodoxy.

    The idea that Orthodoxy is comprised only of competing ‘camps’ of thought, and not really anything in and of itself, much less a genuine apophasis which repudiates all camps, is itself begging the question. That type of critic is little more than a nihilst in religious robes.

    Listening to most Orthodox ‘experts’ these days, and their “take” on things, especially academics and their parochial wannabees, is a bit like taking intellectual guidance from pundits, ethics lessons from the US State Department, and tips for living from Dr. Phil. It’s like being chicks in a nest with our mouths open and our minds off.

    To some degree, you have to be radical enough to respond to the so-called “hard line” just to have a basic sense of the Orthodox mind.

    Comment by tuD | May 10, 2008 | Reply

  2. The “traditons” of Catholicism, Anglicanism and Protestanism drifted away from Orthodox Christianity long before the self-inflicted wound of Vatican II. Catholics who believe, for example, that the priestly scandal is a direct result of Vatican II have never read the dictated dialogues of Catherine of Sienna, which in part catalogs diabolism and perversion among the clergy. They are similar in a way to born-again Christians who believe Christianity started with Billy Graham (a probable Freemason). The Uniates prove the disconnect possible between liturgics. theology and ecclesiology. Do we need an “Orthodox” proof as well? Are people “disaffected” on historical and theological grounds?

    It is sad that in many Orthodox circles someone like Lossky is considered a “hard-liner.”

    Comment by publican123 | May 8, 2008 | Reply

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