THE MYTH OF SCHISM by David Bentley Hart

From Orthodox theologian David Bentley Hart:

“…reunion of the Orthodox and Roman Churches has become an imperative, and time is growing short. I say this because I often suffer from bleak premonitions of the ultimate cultural triumph in the West of a consumerism so devoid of transcendent values as to be, inevitably, nothing but a pervasive and pitiless nihilism. And it is, I think, a particularly soothing and saccharine nihilism, possessing a singular power for absorbing the native energies of the civilization it is displacing without prompting any extravagant alarm at its vacuous barbarisms. And I suspect that the only tools at Christianity’s disposal, as it confronts the rapid and seemingly inexorable advance of this nihilism, will be evangelical zeal and internal unity.”

If we are sufficiently reflective and free of absurd prejudices, most of us would grant that the truly central question that we must approach together is how we are to understand church authority, apostolic authority, and episcopal authority in relation to the Petrine office and to the papal privilege regarding enunciation of dogma. If we were allowed to discuss this, free from any anxiety regarding other concerns, many other issues surely would resolve themselves, as obviously subordinate to this one great concern. But here, as it happens, is the very question I wish to raise in what follows: Will we ever indeed be allowed really to have that conversation? I ask this, because, the most intransigent and extreme members of our respective communions—and those, I fear, who in the East are usually at present the most impassioned and obstreperous among us—seem often incapable or unwilling to acknowledge any recognizable distinction between substantial and accidental differences, between real and imagined difficulties, between obvious and merely suppositious theological issues, and between matters of negligible import and those that lie at the heart of our division.

Thanks, a prioi, for this interesting article. The section I posted here reminds me, in a parallel way, to the Catholic / Lutheran division.

Discussion of papal primacy is, indeed the central question between us. Not soteriology!

Lutheranism worldwide has an equal share of intransigence on the issue.

Some Lutherans will say we have no dog in this hunt. I would say we are completely dependent on this issue between our Catholic and Orthodox siblings. And with that said, I will back out and allow said siblings to discuss.


In the past, I had many online discussions with Protestants, and I Realized that all the side issues: praying to Mary, the Eucharist, etc, all boiled down to the issue of authority.

I should have been clear that I was speaking for myself, from my Lutheran perspective.

Perhaps speaking very generally, you are correct, but for many there are specific doctrinal issues with which they disagree with Rome. Heck, there are significant issues with which they disagree with Lutherans! For them, it has little to do with “authority”, since they view scripture as their only authority. They don’t see authority the way Catholics do. It depends on who you are talking to, and their ecclesial tradition.


And this is all it is. Everybody wants to be their own Pope.

Oh, I understand that there are many issues on which they actually disagree, but if one were to, with the help of the Holy Spirit, explain the issue of authority in a way that he or she came to understand and accept it, the rest would be details to sort out. But until the authority issue is understood and accepted, the other issues remain large for them.

There’s a lot of diversity on each side – which is why it drives me a little crazy whenever non-Catholic Christians act like represents Catholicism. (Of course, I’m sure there are plenty of Catholics who do the same in reverse, w.r.t. CARM or whatever. :o) One of the best illustrations I can think of for differing attitudes – among Catholics – regarding the authority of the papacy comes from Dr. Anthony Dragani:

A year or so ago I was eating dinner with a fellow Catholic. We were discussing matters of religion, and an Asian gentleman heard the conversation. He politely introduced himself, and wanted to learn what Catholicism was. He was a recent immigrant from Asia, and was nominally Buddhist. He asked us what Catholics believe. Before I had a chance, my friend answered:

“We believe in the Pope! Everyone must obey him in order to be saved.”

This line of conversation went on for several minutes, with my friend emphasizing the necessity of “submission to Rome.” There was no mention of Jesus or the Gospel message.

I certainly cannot argue against what you are saying. As someone who’s been on CA for a while, I’ve seen that diversity of views from Catholics on a variety of issues. I might venture to guess, however, that the Catholic who is critical of protestantism would say that in disagreement among Catholics, there is a right answer (even if neither party knows what the right answer is). Whereas, it would be said that among protestants, all the answers are right because of private interpretation. :rolleyes:


Yeah, Jon. If we could get Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on the phone, we could get a pretty clear answer.

Problem is, even then, and I have seen it just today, the clear teaching of the Church still meets with “Well, I don’t believe that” from time to time.

Can you get him on the phone? :extrahappy:

Seriously, I hear that from LCMS Lutherans, too. :o


I don’t want to be my own Pope. Please allow me to describe in some brief detail what it is I want when it comes to authority.

I believe expertise is the key to having authority, not apostolic succession. People who have large amounts of expertise and are able to demonstrate that they know what they’re talking about to the satisfaction of their peers (that would be other experts) are the people that I recognize as having authority. Meaning they are the ones that need to be listened to when they are talking, and they are the ones who get to determine what orthodoxy is (in a general sense). This helps to answer that eternal question that Catholics are always asking Protestants- when two Protestant pastors disagree about a particular teaching, how do you determine who is right? Well, you examine their relative levels of expertise and also consult recognized experts on whatever the issue is, and then one of two things happens. You might find that one pastor in particular needs to learn some things and is somewhat deficient in the expertise that you would hope he has (this actually happens fairly often). The other thing that might happen is you find out that experts have not reached a consensus at this point, but they might do so at some point in the future and at least we get to better understand the issue and better define the range of different opinions. What I hope for is that a steadily larger portion of Christians can increasingly look to a far-flung group of basically cooperative experts in Christian thought for the authority that binds Christians in a less rigidly dogmatic fashion while also being more truly universal.

That is what I want. Now let me ask you one thing, is that what the Pope wants? Because if I’m trying to be my own Pope, one would think that there would be some type of basis for comparison. I can’t possibly see what that would be, though.

Respectfully, if I may, I have a bit of advice for you. Unless you are able to answer this question to my satisfaction, I don’t think it would be the best idea for you to go around telling people that “everyone” (mainly Protestants I assume?) wants thus and such. You are attributing a fairly spurious desire to a broad range of people that don’t all necessarily want the same things, and aside from the high likelihood that it’s inaccurate, it’s a little rude to speak on behalf of people in the process of criticizing them. I get that you have issues, so by all means criticize with charity. But in general, it’s probably not the best idea to speak on behalf of “everyone” in the process of doing so. Of course, you may feel very strongly that what you’ve described is absolutely true and 100% accurate, and if that is the case I will repeat my request.

Please review my own description of what it is I want with respect to authority and then tell me what the basis is for comparing me to the Pope. If you can produce an explanation to my satisfaction, then you can go ahead and keep this particular comment on hand. Otherwise, it would be a much better idea to stay away from it.

In Matthew 16, we read the following:

18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Based upon the authority you recognize, explain the mean of the “rock” in the first verse.


Definitely. In concrete terms, if you got a bunch of CAF posters to read the PCPCU’s “Uniatism, Method of Union of the Past, and the Present Search for Full Communion” (without telling them anything about where the document came from) I can promise that you would hear some very negative reactions.

Second reading
From a sermon by Saint Gregory Nazianzen, bishop
Two bodies, but a single spirit

Basil and I were both in Athens. We had come, like streams of a river, from the same source in our native land, had separated from each other in pursuit of learning, and were now united again as if by plan, for God so arranged it.

I was not alone at that time in my regard for my friend, the great Basil. I knew his irreproachable conduct, and the maturity and wisdom of his conversation. I sought to persuade others, to whom he was less well known, to have the same regard for him. Many fell immediately under his spell, for they had already heard of him by reputation and hearsay.

What was the outcome? Almost alone of those who had come to Athens to study he was exempted from the customary ceremonies of initiation for he was held in higher honor than his status as a first-year student seemed to warrant.

Such was the prelude to our friendship, the kindling of that flame that was to bind us together. In this way we began to feel affection for each other. When, in the course of time, we acknowledged our friendship and recognized that our ambition was a life of true wisdom, we became everything to each other: we shared the same lodging, the same table, the same desires, the same goal. Our love for each other grew daily warmer and deeper.

The same hope inspired us: the pursuit of learning. This is an ambition especially subject to envy. Yet between us there was no envy. On the contrary, we made capital out of our rivalry. Our rivalry consisted, not in seeking the first place for oneself but in yielding it to the other, for we each looked on the other’s success as his own.

We seemed to be two bodies with a single spirit. Though we cannot believe those who claim that “everything is contained in everything,” yet you must believe that in our case each of us was in the other and with the other.

Our single object and ambition was virtue, and a life of hope in the blessings that are to come; we wanted to withdraw from this world before we departed from it. With this end in view we ordered our lives and all our actions. We followed the guidance of God’s law and spurred each other on to virtue. If it is not too boastful to say, we found in each other a standard and rule for discerning right from wrong.

Different men have different names, which they owe to their parents or to themselves, that is, to their own pursuits and achievements. But our great pursuit, the great name we wanted, was to be Christians, to be called Christians.



I’m not interested in “producing an explanation to your satisfaction”. Sounds a lot like Luther and Henry VIII. Thank you. Point proved.

Protestants cannot even agree on Baptism and it’s role in Salvation, protestants cannot agree on proper use of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, protestants deny the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist even though Jesus Himself plainly states this and as God he cannot deceive nor can he be deceived.

Mainstream protestant churches are bleeding members hand over fist and the emergent church scene (Osteen, Newspring, Hillsong, etc) is nothing but “church, have it your way”. Protestanism will be DEAD by 2100.

Forgive me for “butting in” without knowing whether you and he/she have an ongoing friendship, but I have to ask: Do you really care? :shrug:

" Protestanism will be DEAD by 2100. " - unfortunately I can not convey a sense of outrage and anger like the Poster of the above quote did

the term Protestant is so wide a tent that it can easily cease to have any meaning-
but honestly rejection of the Pope’s authority is one of the big 3 issues so I agree with the previous posters

in 2100 in the USA I would predict that the mainline Churches of Lutheran and Methodist and Presbyterians will have merged into one body

it is likely the episcopal Church if it exists will be a remnant of its previous stature

the RC Church will be 90% minority -there will be more spanish masses than English

there will be 10 times as many Muslims than there are Orthodox in the USA

the Mormon Church will be the largest denomination that is non catholic and the Southren Baptists will be a weak 2nd

Lutherans, Methodists and Calvinists will form one body?

I’d be willing to bring something to a covered dish supper just to watch.

How do you decide which interpretation to follow?

Sad to say I will miss your cover dish. There’s no TULIP in my future. :wink:

Is is is


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