Monophysite/ Miaphysite

DavidH

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I am reading some chapters of Fr. Meyendorff's "Imperial Unity and Christian Divisions". In the chapters dealing with the Chalcedonian controversies he consistently applies the term Monophysite to the Council's opposers. Yet, on OO forums they consistently reject this term and call themselves miaphysites. Fr. Meyendorff I thought was always ecumenically sensitive so I was curious whether this was formerly an accepted term that the OO have only recently begun to object to?

In Christ,
Rd. David
 

minasoliman

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DavidH said:
I am reading some chapters of Fr. Meyendorff's "Imperial Unity and Christian Divisions". In the chapters dealing with the Chalcedonian controversies he consistently applies the term Monophysite to the Council's opposers. Yet, on OO forums they consistently reject this term and call themselves miaphysites. Fr. Meyendorff I thought was always ecumenically sensitive so I was curious whether this was formerly an accepted term that the OO have only recently begun to object to?

In Christ,
Rd. David
When was the book first published/written?
 

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I thought one of the "fruits" (corrupt as they are) of the ongoing unity effort is that we stop calling each other Monophysites and Nestorians. Ironically, the oriental orthodox have kept their words and stopped using Nestorians in reference to the Chalcedonian, whereas the Chalcedonian due to the lack of authoritive leadership spiritual governance have not stopped the derogotary use of the term. It appears frequently among Chalcedonian writers. I believe the Chalcedonians have to fix their disunity and contradicting views before they enter into unity talks with the Orthodox and establish one front instead of the contradicting message we get from Athos and Greece.

It shows the shallow approach of those who use the term, not being able to even cast a shadow of doubt on the Orthodoxy of the non-Chalcedonian. At least trace the term back and figure out when it was first used and establish any link to the Orthodox position at Chalcedon as presented by St. Diosocoros, defender of faith, and afterwards as articulated by the great St. Severus and St. Philoxenus.

And Fr. Meyendorff doesn't seem to be using the term derogotarily
Come on, is there a good and respectful use of the term ? Would the Chalcedonian appreciate the term Nestorians in reference to their history ? He can use Non-Chalcedonians.
 

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A further question on this topic would be: can anyone recommend a fair, balanced discussion of the differences between the EO and OO Christologies? Something that doesn't exagerrate the position of either party? Frankly, much of our disagreements are over my head- I think the OO say "from two natures" while the EO say "in two natures" but I don't know the implications that follow from each view. Even polemical suggestions are welcome: what is the best OO discussion of the EO and their own positions? The best EO discussion of their own and the OO position?

In Christ,
Rd. David
 
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Yet, on OO forums they consistently reject this term and call themselves miaphysites. Fr. Meyendorff I thought was always ecumenically sensitive so I was curious whether this was formerly an accepted term that the OO have only recently begun to object to?
The reason why the OOC rejects the monophysite misnomer, is simply that in our declaration of the Cyrillian formula, 'One Nature of God the Logos Incarnate', the Greek term for 'One' that is, and has been, consistently employed, is mia (the very Greek term St. Cyril himself employed). The reason for this, is that in the context of this declaration, we are using physis to denote the hypostasis that so actualises the natural reality/realities. In qualifying this hypostasis with mia, that, as opposed to mono which denotes a strict singularity, in fact denotes a composite unity, we imply that there is in fact more than one distinct natural reality so actualised by this hypostasis. So, far from actually implying a confusion or dissolution of the humanity and divinity of Christ, the phrase "mia physis" in fact implies that there are at the very least, two natural realities (essences/natures) realised by this One hypostasis. Since the only natural realities in question regarding the nature of Christ, are that of humanity and that of divinity, then both must have been preserved unadulterated, according to the logical implications of the mia physis formula - logical implications that simply do not, nay, cannot, follow from a mono physis formula.

It was copyrighted in 1989. And Fr. Meyendorff doesn't seem to be using the term derogotarily.....
I would have to say that Fr. Meyendroff has no excuse, especially considering that he in particular has been a very strong and supportive participant in the rigorous dialogues undertaken with leading Christologians of our Church; he is quite aware of the fact that the term in and of itself is derogatory and even painful for OO's, yet he continued to employ the monophysite misnomer even in his 1997 publication Christ in Eastern Thought.

There have been other Orthodox writers who have taken a much more honest approach to their academics. Take for example Juroslav Pelikan, who consistenly employed the monophysite misnomer in his older works, especially his famous series The Christian Tradition. In his most recent work (published 2005), he has the following to say:

“The name ‘monophysite’ has all but disappeared from the theological vocabulary, being replaced by ‘Oriental Orthodox’ (as distinguished from ‘Eastern Orthodox’)." (Pelikan, Acts, (Brazos Press: 2005), page 202.

Just so as to make it clear, Pelikan is not merely observing a fact here; he is in fact agreeing with this movement. To give you further clarification regarding the context of this quote, he is using the OO/EO dispute as an example of divisions "following upon divergent ways of expressing rather than upon genuine and substantive divergence in doctrine" in his commentary on Acts 18:15: "If it is some bickering about words and names...you may see it to yourselves; i have no mind to be a judge of these matters."

A further question on this topic would be: can anyone recommend a fair, balanced discussion of the differences between the EO and OO Christologies?
Fr. V.C. Samuel, Chalcedon Re-Examined.

Stavro,

He can use Non-Chalcedonians.
I am beggining to have very strong objections to this label also, and am hoping to diffuse this sentiment into the mindset of our OO brothers and sisters. Why should the identity of our Church be based on our relationship to a council we do not even accept, and that has nothing to do with our faith? Let us be called OO, or Ephesians, or Miaphysites, or Cyrillians; let us be called the Church of the Three Ecumenical Councils...anything but the monophysite misnomer, or the condescending non-Chalcedonian title.
 

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I've read from some authors who applied the word "Monophysite" as equivalent to "Miaphysite" due to their ignorance of Greek understanding (although Fr. John should know fluent Greek).

I am quite confused about Fr. John M. I always saw him as a supporter of the dialogues indeed. Fr. John Romanides could be seen as one who was an extreme fundamentalist Orthodox who realized our anti-Monophysite theology, although I sometimes get the feeling he still wanted us to accept all the councils.

Did Fr. John Meyendorff use it for the actual heretics like Eutyches or Isaac, or did he also give this term to St. Dioscorus or St. Severus? Did he mention other comments about our own OO fathers?

God bless.

Mina
 

Fr. George

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EkhristosAnesti said:
I am beggining to have very strong objections to this label also, and am hoping to diffuse this sentiment into the mindset of our OO brothers and sisters. Why should the identity of our Church be based on our relationship to a council we do not even accept, and that has nothing to do with our faith? Let us be called OO, or Ephesians, or Miaphysites, or Cyrillians; let us be called the Church of the Three Ecumenical Councils...anything but the monophysite misnomer, or the condescending non-Chalcedonian title.
It would, though, be completely appropriate for me to refer to your church in terms that relate it to mine; an EO calling the OO "non-Chalcedonian" would be appropos insofar as they are relating your church to ours, just as I would find it appropriate for an OO to refer to the EO in terms that are also appropos (anti-Ephesian would be okay if used in reference to our rejection of 449, but the term is problematic because we do accept 431... but, say, anti-Dioscoran would be something I would understand if used by an OO). Of course, for an OO to refer to themselves as Non-Chal would be somewhat disrespectful to their own tradition. In the end, EO and OO cause the fewest problems when used by people who are not opposed to dialogue between the churches, and terms like non-Chal and non-Dioscoran for those who are....
 

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I do think, though, that many EO need to become more aware of their use of terms and names... dialogue is never helped by ignorance, which can never be an excuse in intelligent or prayerful dialogue.
 

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EA,

I understand your point, and you are totally right in your concern considering practical and realistic issues. When talking to members of the Church, it would be more appropriate to use the only term appicable to our faith,Orthodox, without any extra local designation that have no real significance.

The term "Non-Chalcedonian" should not alarm us and other members of our communion, for rejecting heresy in a council is as much important as accepting orthodox councils, such as Nicea. It depends on how Chalcedon is received or presented to many in our congregations. With the presence of false ecumenist and ignorant servants, who embrace a group hug mentality or have personal reasons to present the council positively, the term "non-Chalcedonian" might be indeed an insult.

I would however reject the use of Anti-Dioscorian in reference to the Chalcedonians as Cleveland suggested, for it is not the rejection of man but rather a faith that was expressed in Chalcedon, at least from our point of view. I would stick to the term Chalcedonians and it will mean the same as Theodorians, Diodorians, Theodretians :-\ .
 

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I only suggested "Anti-Dioscoran" as an example of how one would adopt the aforementioned model (i.e. referring to the other church respectfully in the context of one's own) as an OO; to wit, you wouldn't necessarily call us "Chalcedonian" insofar as you don't accept Chalcedon as a counsel, and thus it is not in your frame of reference. In that same vein, an EO could call the OO's as Ephesus 449's, but that wouldn't make any sense to us, since it would be referencing you with respects to a counsel that we have rejected.

Of course, if one wishes for the focus of the POV to remain Chalcedon itself (which EA was arguing against, since it's not even a synod you guys recognize), then using "Chalcedonian" and "anti-" or "non-Chalcedonian" would be perfectly understandable.
 
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Actually, Cleveland, I've changed my mind subsequent to further thought on the issue...

you wouldn't necessarily call us "Chalcedonian" insofar as you don't accept Chalcedon as a counsel, and thus it is not in your frame of reference.
I only find it faulty to use Chalcedon as a frame of reference, when identifying my own Church, since Chalcedon is irrelevant to the faith of my Church. On the other hand, Chalcedon is certainly relevant to the faith of your Church, so I don't really see what problem it poses to identify you as a Chalcedonian from my perspective. We call Arians Arians because Arius is essentially relevant to their faith, even though Arius is absolutely irrelevant to our own faith. To posit another example which may make the point more obvious, I identify a German as a German, by virtue of his citizenship to the country of Germany, despite the fact that Germany has no relevance to my Australian citizenship.

After further thought and consideration, I thus propose the following general rules:

1) In the course of inter-Communion dialogue, where the strictest objectivity is required of both parties (which thus negates the possible employment, not only of titles with polemical overtones e.g. Monophysite/Nestorian, but also titles with "friendly overtones" e.g. OO/EO) a Church should simply be identified in terms of that which positively defines the uniqueness of its existence in contra-distinction to other Communions, upon the condition that both Communions mutually agree that the element which is the subject of the title of reference in question, is truly one relevant to a positive definition of that Church's existence in contra-distinction to other Communions.

Thus far, the titles which I believe most desirably, accurately, and appropriately, fulfill the above expectation, are: "The Church of Three Ecumenical Councils", for the OO, and "The Church of Seven Ecumenical Councils", for the EO, abbreviated to 3C and 7C, respectively, for the sake of convenience. Other titles which nonetheless qualify are: Chalcedonians or dyophysites, for the EO's, and Epehesus-475er's or miaphysites, for the OO's.

2) In the course of intra-Communion dialogue, where objectivity is desired and sought, an alternative method of identification to that laid down in rule 1) is that the other Communion in question be identified upon the basis of their relationship to, or position towards elements relevant to the faith of the Communion so undergoing dialogue, albeit irrelevant to the faith of that other Communion so being identified.

In this case, an EO addressing an EO audience, wishing to identify the OO Church in an alternatively appropriate and accurate objective manner, may employ the label non-Chalcedonian Church. Similarly, an OO addressing an OO audience, wishing to identify the EO Church in an alternatively appropriate and accurate objective manner, may employ the label non-Ephesus-449 Church.

Therefore, I still have objections to the use of the label non-Chalcedonian being employed in academic works, in spite of the subjective position of the author, unless the work in question was specifically intended for an audience sharing the same subjective position of the author of that very work.
 

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I think the above is a pretty reasonable and well-thought-out approach to the subject.
 

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minasoliman said:
Did Fr. John Meyendorff use it for the actual heretics like Eutyches or Isaac, or did he also give this term to St. Dioscorus or St. Severus?  Did he mention other comments about our own OO fathers?
He used it to refer to all those who rejected the council of Chalcedon. But he also had some very good things to say about the character of Severus. Overall his approach seems to be that the whole issue could have been reconciled with each group accepting the other's Christological terminology as fully Orthodox. He blames the initial misunderstanding on the percieved ambiguity of the terms defined from the anti-Chalcedonian view, the resistance was hardened by strong-arm tactics on the Byzantine side, then by resentment of this on the OO side who also began to get rough. He also points out that the resistance against Chalcedon was not initially anti-Imperial: the initial apologists of the OO position read, thought and spoke in Greek and were deeply loyal to the Empire. The nationalistic dimension of the schism only developed after about two centuries of alternating attempts at compromise and repression. Does this sound accurate?
 
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Does this sound accurate?
I'd dispute his assessment of what primarily provoked "the initial understanding". Fr. V.C. Samuel's book essentially blames the "initial misunderstanding" on a falsely presumed dogmatic Antiochene interpretation of the Formulary (or Symbol of Union). He further discusses other quite significant issues, including the apparent agenda of Leo of Rome to assert his supreme authority over Church affairs, and the apparent agenda of the Imperial authorities to settle at any doctrinal compromise, so long as that compromise best preserves imperial unity.
 

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the initial apologists of the OO position read, thought and spoke in Greek and were deeply loyal to the Empire
Fr. Meyendorff has come to a right conclusion regarding the non-resistance of the Copts, Syrians, Palestinians to the Empirial forces but from a wrong assessment. The apologetics for Chalcedon, after being owned in the 6th century debates with St. Severus, had to come up with this argument to try to present the debate as a political one and therefore alarming non-discerning Emperors like Justin, Justinian, Maurice, Herakles and inistigating the persecution of the Orthodox in Syria, Palestine, Egypt.One can also argue that the use of the term Monophysite has no roots in Chalcedon since the very beginning and is a pure polemical term used in subsequent centuries for propaganda purposes. The fact that Fr. Meyendorff uses this term cannot be tolerated, for it implies heresy, unless he can back up his use of the expression by quotes by our Fathers that tends to confuse, mix and exchange the properties of the divine and human nature of Christ, to any degree. One should expect this from a writer with his reputation if he truly understands the fundamentals of the topic he apporaches.

OO fathers might have spoken and written in Greek, but their thought , the way they structured their theology/christology and the strong adherence to the faith and their overall strong religious conviction is definitely not a Greek product, but should be credited to their Coptic, Syrian heritage and culture that contributed so strongly since the first centuries of Christianity to their steadfastness and religious behavior. Even before Chalcedon, Cyril, Athanasius, Timothy on the Coptic side are nothing but pure Copts by birth, by thought and by their virtues.

If you read the thology of the Pharaohs and their religious convictions, the way they structured their religious system and how they thought of the Logos, this point will be very evident. After Christianity, Orthodox in Egypt, Syria, Palestine owe their theology to the the school of Alexandria, a school that appreciated philosophy yet only within the boundaries of the Apostolic Tradition and under the supervision of the Church. This is the main difference between Alexandria and the heretical school of Antioch.
 

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I only suggested "Anti-Dioscoran" as an example of how one would adopt the aforementioned model (i.e. referring to the other church respectfully in the context of one's own) as an OO
I generally do not find it appropriate to attach a certain orthodox theology/Christology/Soteriology to a person as if it is the fruits of his own findings, or an ideology. I prefer to use the expression "the Orthodox faith as explained/expounded by Cyril, Basil, Gregory, Athanasius" . It is applicable on both sides of the aisle, each talking to his own congregation. The underlying thought is that the Faith was delivered once and for all from the Apostles to the Church, and there is no new findings in the faith or development of new doctrines. The Pillar of Faith, The Great St. Cyril, expounded the elements of the orthodox faith that has existed since the apostolic age to confront a certain heresy, but he did not invent anything new nor did the Holy Spirit reveal new elements of the faith previously unknown to the Church. New methods of explanation maybe, new illustration possible, but no new substance.

To attach the faith to anybody else but Christ, even as great as person like St. Dioscoros our teacher, simply implies that it is an ideology of a man that we follow, not the very truth of the christian faith. Therefore, it does not serve as a good reference in our communion.

But the way EA suggested makes sense as well. ÂÂ
 
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I generally do not find it appropriate to attach a certain orthodox theology/Christology/Soteriology to a person as if it is the fruits of his own findings, or an ideology.
I don’t think this is, in effect, what Cleveland was trying to imply. Anti-Dioscoran would in this instance simply have the same implications for us, as the implications that follow from the title non-Chalcedonian, for the EO’s. I doubt that any EO would, from their perspective, find Chalcedonianism to be an innovation of the EO Fathers at Chalcedon, or a newly discovered ideology, produced and founded by a fifth century council; they merely understand the term to mean the resistance to The Faith as expounded at the Council of Chalcedon (and we would agree with this, except we would qualify it as a resistance to The Faith as insufficiently and incorrectly expounded at the Council of Chalcedon, whereas they would qualify it conversely). In like manner, we would understand anti-Dioscoran to mean the resistance to The Faith as expounded by St. Dioscoros.

The real problem that I personally have, from an OO perspective, with the title anti-Dioscoran, is that it implies a level of emphasis on this one figure’s contribution to the Faith, which he simply does not qualify for. Looking at other titles which revolve around specific figures, for example the label given to the anti-Niceans i.e. the Arians, we find that the figures in question are essential to the faith of the group in question. With respect to our faith however, I wouldn’t consider St. Dioscoros central, as would be the case for example with St. Athanasios, St. Cyril, and especially St. Severos. St. Dioscoros was really just a “mini-St.Cyril” (theologically speaking); not much of his writing survives, and of that which does survive, we find that he essentially said the same things as St Cyril; the same concepts, expounded in the same manner. If you were to subtract St Dioscoros’ theology from its contribution to OO doctrinal thought, our Faith would essentially be unchanged, so long as we continue to maintain the faith as expounded by St. Cyril and St. Severos. It was rather his uncompromising preservation of Orthodox Cyrillian Christology as the dogmatic norm, which constitutes his contribution to our Faith. In this regard, there is nothing particularly special about him that sets him apart from the thousands upon thousands of other Fathers of our Faith who also preserved the normative Orthodox Faith of the day; it was simply his historically and geographically coinciding with circumstances that required him to suffer for this otherwise quite standard activity (i.e. preserving the normative Orthodox Faith of the day), to the point of incurring a false ex-communication, that accounts for the high order preference given to his name during the Commemoration of the Saints.

In saying this however, there is nonetheless nothing objectively invalid about the title anti-Dioscoran (which according to my guidelines, I would posit only maintains objective validity within intra-Communion OO dialogue), assuming the validity of the title non-Chalcedonian (vice versa the statement in the previous parenthesis).
 

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Dear EA,

If I understood Cleveland correctly, he was saying that OO could refer to Chalcedonian as Anti-Dioscorans and be still respectful to their own tradition. As I explained above, this will imply that the reason of division is rather dispute over persons and their actions and not the faith explained by those individuals. If such term would mean rejecting the Orthodox faith explained by St. Dioscoros, it would be fine. Obviously it does not. If, for the sake of argument, the schism happened in the time of Cyril, and it could have if the same circumstances were present, and the opposing group would call us Cyrillian, I would still feel uncomfortable. Orthodoxy is also practiced in worship and celebrated in a life, so the stature of a saint among theologians would be of lesser effect.

I , personally, believe that rejecting heresy is as orthodox as confirming the Orthodox faith, for they are two faces of the same coin. As such, when Non-Chalcedonian term is used by people outside our communion, be it by the Chalcedonian (including the Rc), Protestants (all of them Chalcedonians in a way or another ), I do not feel insulted, for it is indeed a central event in our Church history and it realtes directly to the faith. Of course, I would always prefer the term orthodox that really explains our faith, but I am not inclined to reciprocate it to the Chalcedonian as a courtesy. Would you feel insulted by a muslim (noting the ocean of difference) if he calls you "Nusrani" rather " christian" ? It exposes his lack of knowledge about the difference between the two, but would it matter to you ?

In addition, it is my opinion that when it comes to substance of faith, attaching a theology to a person is dangerous, as in Athanasian theology or Cyrillian christology. Out of convenience , and in front of a crowd that understand what is meant by such terminology, it might be suitable. Yet in a world that considers Christianity an ideology, and that its course in history was decided by the winning side in debates between different ideologists, such expression would confirm this image about Christianity and be fatal to the understanding of the faith. I am sensitive to this issue and think it is the real danger in presenting christianity, and it has taken many names like "faith development", "dogmatic revelations" and other crap.
Within our own communion, we are beginning to find people who call themselves Severians, Athanasians, Cyrillians, as if they taught a different religions and are mere ideologists. They are few, but they are vocal.

The expressions ("Church of the X council" ..x = {3,7}) that you suggested are fine and maybe the current best approach, but the problem will not rise from the number of councils. for they are what history has taught, but from the use of the word "Church" in capital. I apologize for being picky and annoying, but I do not find a way around confessing the belief in a branch theory with all its implications if such terminology is used, specially that council 4 is a big block for the 3C (us) ;) and to some extent council 6, although I am not sure about the latter council.



 
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