Ordination of Women in the Orthodox Church

PeterTheAleut

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ozgeorge said:
Is it an absolute Truth that women are spiritually weaker than men and therefore require more grace than men do? Because it seems to me that this is what St. John Chrysostom is saying. Is this the "dogma" on which a male-only Priesthood is based, and therefore the dogma people are asking me to give the assent of my faith to?
Sorry. No can do.
Have you actually read the statements of St. John Chrysostom that Pensateomnia posted?  If so, can you say that your own interpretation of St. John's statements is correct?  What if you find out that you had taken his words out of the context of the rest of his public teaching?  It seems to me that you're reading your own biases and preconceived notions into St. John's statements rather than letting his own words speak for themselves within the Tradition of our Church.  (btw, I think most Orthodox recognize St. John Chrysostom as a spiritual authority, but we don't recognize any of his own personal doctrines to have the weight of dogma.)

ozgeorge said:
You are free to believe as you wish. However I will never accept as Orthodox a doctrine which says that one half of the human race is less redeemed by Christ than the other simply because they have an XX chromosome rather than an XY chromosome. It's nonsense.
You're right, but I don't think that St. John Chrysostom really said this in his public doctrine.  I'll certainly have to read his statements again.  Let me quote some snippets of Pensateomnia's post on this matter so you can (hopefully) see what I think St. John Chrysostom tried to say.

pensateomnia said:
Chrysostom has a fairly well developed theology of the ontological distinctness of men and women. On the one hand, he emphasizes that they have an absolute identical nature and that every person, regardless of gender, class or education, is one in Christ. Yet, as a proper Late Antique thinker, he is very keen on the idea of hierarchy and divinely appointed order.

...

The problem, however, is that St. John, like most ancient people, seems to occasionally identify outward characteristics with inward qualities. Thus, social or physical inferiority can also imply moral inferiority, e.g. the physically weak female also has a weak will and is therefore prone to sin. This seems to be the way St. John and many other Fathers interpret Eve's transgression and women's general response to hardship, battle, temptation, etc. (cf. the many times St. John praises certain women for their manliness, for overcoming their weakness, especially if they do so by means of the virginal life). Thus, women are weaker and need to be protected. By their very nature, they are not given to daring and leadership. Although St. John obviously bases his statements on Scripture, his statements are quite similar to the assumptions, arguments and explanations we find in pagan Greco-Roman sources.
I guess you are free to believe what you will, but I would counsel you to be very careful in saying which parts of the Orthodox faith you will accept and which parts you won't.  We are all called to be interpreters of the Faith by virtue of being the Church--this task doesn't just fall on the Fathers and the bishops alone--but this doesn't mean that we are free to reject what the Fathers and the Orthodox consensus recognize to be Orthodox.  In this task, we should not so readily reject anything that such a Spirit-filled man as St. John Chrysostom had to say in his public ministry.
 

pensateomnia

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Here's the promised quote from St. Clement, which comes from Book III of his Pedagogos, a work supposedly written in order to instruct new Christians in how they should live. He basically says guys who shave are pansies and that bodily hairiness is a God-given symbol (throughout nature) of the fact that the male sex enjoys a superior nature. Most of his reasoning about men's hairiness and the bit about bodily heat come right out of Aristotle and the ancient medical tradition (which believed that females were biologically deficient males because they had no semen and not enough body heat....I'll explain later). Check it out:

But for one who is a man to comb himself and shave himself with a razor, for the sake of fine effect, to arrange his hair at the looking-glass, to shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and smooth them, how womanly! And, in truth, unless you saw them naked, you would suppose them to be women. For although not allowed to wear gold, yet out of effeminate desire they enwreath their latches and fringes with leaves of gold; or, getting certain spherical figures of the same metal made, they fasten them to their ankles, and hang them from their necks. This is a device of enervated men, who are dragged to the women's apartments, amphibious and lecherous beasts. For this is a meretricious and impious form of snare. For God wished women to be smooth, and rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane; but has adorned man, like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him, as an attribute of manhood, with shaggy breasts,--a sign this of strength and rule. So also cocks, which fight in defence of the hens, he has decked with combs, as it were helmets; and so high a value does God set on these locks, that He orders them to make their appearance on men simultaneously with discretion, and delighted with a venerable look, has honoured gravity of countenance with grey hairs. But wisdom, and discriminating judgments that are hoary with wisdom, attain maturity with time, and by the vigour of long experience give strength to old age, producing grey hairs, the admirable flower of venerable wisdom, conciliating confidence. This, then, the mark of the man, the beard, by which he is seen to be a man, is older than Eve, and is the token of the superior nature. In this God deemed it right that he should excel, and dispersed hair over man's whole body. Whatever smoothness and softness was in him He abstracted from his side when He formed the woman Eve, physically receptive, his partner in parentage, his help in household management, while he (for he had parted with all smoothness) remained a man, and shows himself man. And to him has been assigned action, as to her suffering; for what is shaggy is drier and warmer than what is smooth. Wherefore males have both more hair and more heat than females, animals that are entire than the emasculated, perfect than imperfect. It is therefore impious to desecrate the symbol of manhood, hairiness.
AWESOME! That is one of my favorite passages from the late 2nd century! You can read the whole section of the Pedagogos here: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/clement-instructor-book3.html It's really quite an amazing work, with some very impressive sections. Clement develops a Christianized theory of Art and Aesthetics that is at once Scriptural and also properly sophisticated in terms of contemporary Alexandrian philosophy. Enjoy.
 

pensateomnia

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Okay. I posted the above quote on the fly. It's rather a mediocre translation. I wish I had translated it myself, but I didn't have time.

Nevertheless, I want to explain the quote in a little more detail, because -- in addition to beauty in its poetic allusions (especially Aeschylus) and wonderful Second Sophistic rhetorical features -- it contains much that is pertinent to our discussion of the Patristic understanding of women.

This is a device of enervated men, who are dragged to the women's apartments, amphibious and lecherous beasts.
Such a man is "amphibious" because he is cold-blooded, i.e. like a woman. Ancient Greek/Hellenistic science believed that men were warm-blooded and women were more cold-blooded, and that this was one of the fundamental biological deficiencies of women. Since they did not have enough warmth in their body, they did not develop into a superior biological specimen.

Aristotle summarizes this nicely in On the Generation of Animals (especially 716a5-23, 727a2-30, 727b31-33, 728b l8-31, 765b8-20, et al., available here: http://www.stoa.org/diotima/anthology/wlgr/wlgr-medicine339.shtml):

Further, a boy actually resembles a woman in physique, and a woman is as it were an infertile male; the female, in fact, is female on account of inability of a sort, viz. it lacks the power to concoct semen out of the final state of the nourishment (this is either blood, or its counterpart in bloodless animals) because of the coldness of its nature.
Typical Aristotle! That is an extremely, extremely concise explanation of the biological difference between men and women according to ancient science. Women are, in fact, deficient men (an "infertile male"), lacking in the full biological traits needed to be a strong red-blooded dude. Thus, we have a biological hierarchy: 1) Women are the lowest; 2) young boys, since they are still kinda girly, are next; 3) and then comes men. Just keep this in mind, because, believe it or not, this understanding -- which would have been as widely believed and obvious then as it is now to say that the world has lots of bacteria -- plays an important role in understanding sexual dimorphisms such as hair (a point we shouldn't forget when reading St. Paul's words about long hair on women, as we shall see).

For this is a meretricious and impious form of snare. For God wished women to be smooth, and rejoice in their locks alone growing spontaneously, as a horse in his mane;
How does this talk of long hair on women's heads have anything to do with effeminate, amphibious, cold-blooded guuuuuuuuurly men? Because long hair on the head is also a sign of lack of heat! Again, Aristotle:

So that if you reckon up (a) that the brain itself has very little heat, (b) that the skin surrounding it must of necessity have even less, and (c) that the hair, being the furthest off of the three, must have even less still, you will expect persons who are plentiful in semen to go bald at about this time of life. And it is owing to the same cause that it is on the front part of the head only that human beings go bald, and that they are the only animals which do so at all; i.e. they go bald in front because the brain is there, and they alone do so, because they have by far the largest brain of all and the most fluid. Women do not go bald because their nature is similar to that of children: both are incapable of producing seminal secretion. Eunuchs, too, do not go bald, because of their transition into the female state, and the hair that comes at a later stage they fail to grow at all, or if they already have it, they lose it, except for the pubic hair: similarly women do not have the later hair, though they do grow the pubic hair. This deformity constitutes a change from the male state to the female.
According to this scientific rationale (repeated by Galen and the other medical writers), long hair (and head coverings) are the quintessential signs of femininity. Only a real manly-man has an exposed head! (And what kind of woman would want to look like a massively fecund dude?) It would be UNNATURAL biologically speaking for a woman not to have long hair. Women's long hair is the natural consequence of their lack of heat and deformed brain (which doesn't have any generative fluid in it!). To put it bluntly: According to the science of the Hellenistic/Late Antique world, a woman with short hair is a woman with semen -- and that just ain't right! (How might this shed light on St. Paul's talk of hair and head coverings?) Keep in mind that for the ancients the male state was the natural one and the female was the deficient one...that's why Aristotle talks about "a change from the male state to the female".

but has adorned man, like the lions, with a beard, and endowed him, as an attribute of manhood, with shaggy breasts,--a sign this of strength and rule. So also cocks, which fight in defence of the hens, he has decked with combs, as it were helmets...This, then, the mark of the man, the beard, by which he is seen to be a man, is older than Eve, and is the token of the superior nature.
Imagine yourself as a Christian at the time of the early Church. Sure, we're all one in Christ, created in God's image, but it's a biological fact that women are inferior. They have less heat, which means they have smaller brains, which means they have less initiative, courage and ability to lead. Duh. That's the way they were made!

In this God deemed it right that he should excel, and dispersed hair over man's whole body. Whatever smoothness and softness was in him He abstracted from his side when He formed the woman Eve, physically receptive, his partner in parentage, his help in household management, while he (for he had parted with all smoothness) remained a man, and shows himself man. And to him has been assigned action, as to her suffering; for what is shaggy is drier and warmer than what is smooth.
Right out of what everyone knew to be medically true. Again, hair is very important to both St. Paul, St. Clement, St. John Chrysostom and other Fathers who speak about women because everyone knew hair (and body hair) was an important marker of sexual dimorphism and female inferiority. Clement devotes no small degree of attention to it, as does Philo of Alexandria and St. John Chrysostom.

Wherefore males have both more hair and more heat than females, animals that are entire than the emasculated, perfect than imperfect.
This is a bad translation. I'll have to look it up in the original. The point here is that male animals (and humans) are "entire" and NOT emasculated (a female = an emasculated male); males are "perfect" and not "imperfect" like females, who lack generative organs, abilities, bodily heat and properly dispersed hair, as we have seen.

It is therefore impious to desecrate the symbol of manhood, hairiness.
*stroking my beard*
 

ozgeorge

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PeterTheAleut said:
What's this say about men who just don't grow any hair on their chests (like me)? ???
Well, like Nacho and yourself hold: the Fathers haven't made a mistake or simply based their teaching on cultural norms of their day, but are talking about "more permanent truths" (isn't that how you put it? ;) ). So I'm afraid you're just less of a man, and less "entire" than men with hairy chests (like mine). :D
 

ozgeorge

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Nacho said:
Wow, that was a perfectly good cop - out from the excellent post above yours. Just as God saw fit for an all male clergy going all the way back to the OT, why can't we just assume that maybe men and women are sometimes meant for different roles? I guess such a notion would offend our modern day sensibilities now would it? Hmmm, something maybe akin to saying that women make good nurses and mommies and men good construction workers and fathers (Of course there is no truth whatsoever to this lol). I guess God doesn't know what he's doing and we should listen to the people that want to throw away thousands of years of Tradition. That's nice, where were people like you when we needed such great advice dispensed so long ago, especially after the choosing of the 12 male apostles etc...? I'll stick with the 'faith' of the fathers instead of the 'faith' of current day logic.
So, Nacho, are you telling me that you accept as an Orthodox Dogma the belief that only men are complete human beings and women are imperfect ones.? And this is "proven" by the fact that women are "mommies" and nurses while men are construction workers and fathers? (And, of course, there are no male nurses..... ??? )
P.S. How hairy is your chest? Because, as you know, the Fathers never make mistakes.....
 

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while men are construction workers and fathers?
And also a sailor, an Indian, a cowboy, a police officer all singing Macho Man...
 

ozgeorge

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Νεκτάριος said:
And also a sailor, an Indian, a cowboy, a police officer all singing Macho Man...
LOL :D
 

PeterTheAleut

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ozgeorge said:
Well, like Nacho and yourself hold: the Fathers haven't made a mistake or simply based their teaching on cultural norms of their day, but are talking about "more permanent truths" (isn't that how you put it? ;) ). So I'm afraid you're just less of a man, and less "entire" than men with hairy chests. :D
I didn't say anything like "I hold that..." or "I believe that...."  I simply said that "I am inclined to believe..." and "I am more likely to conclude...."  I see a fine distinction in tone between these two approaches.  The tone of the former statements is to me much stronger and more assertive than the tone of the latter.  I intended to communicate that I am not yet convinced that I need to believe what I am right now inclined to believe.  I will reserve judgment until I see much more evidence or much more convincing evidence.  That's all I'm saying right now.

I've always known that I'm somewhat less than a man, which explains why I've finally decided to let my beard grow out a bit.  :D  (But then what do you have to say about American military men who are not allowed to grow beards?  They certainly try to be very macho.)
 

ozgeorge

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PeterTheAleut said:
(But then what do you have to say about American military men who are not allowed to grow beards?  They certainly try to be very macho.)
Well, according to the Fathers, they are a bunch of big girl"s blouses. And the Fathers couldn"t possibly be wrong about such "non-cultural eternal truths". ;)
 

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ozgeorge said:
Well, according to the Fathers, they are a bunch of big girl"s blouses. And the Fathers couldn"t possibly be wrong about such "non-cultural eternal truths". ;)
Did Jesus Christ consult Aristotle when he chose the twelve apostles?  Was Aristotle--not the Holy Spirit--the one who guided the Church for 2,000 years?

No and No.
 

ozgeorge

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Theognosis said:
Did Jesus Christ consult Aristotle when he chose the twelve apostles?  Was Aristotle--not the Holy Spirit--the one who guided the Church for 2,000 years?

No and No.
I repeat:
ozgeorge said:
To me, Holy Tradition, true Holy Tradition, is the history of the Holy Spirit in the Life of the Church. Holy Tradition is not simply a rigid adherence to practices in the Church, no matter how ancient they may be. Even if at one point in the history of the Church a practice is inspired by the Holy Spirit, it may not be inspired by the Holy Spirit later. For example, in the early Church, glossolalia and prophesy inspired by the Holy Spirit formed an integral part of the Liturgy at Synaxia (assemblies) of the Church. However, if someone in the congregation at a Divine Liturgy today began prophesying or practicing glossolalia out loud, they would probably be exorcised or have an ambulance called for them rather than be assumed to be inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Bishop Kallistos Ware said it well when he said "the Church is indeed an old tree, but a living one".
What the Church decides on this issue is not important to me. What is important to me is that the decision should not be pre-empted by phoney means. If the teaching of a male-only Priesthood is dogma, then, well and good. But good cannot be obtained through evil means. For example, as I've said before, if what we know to be ontologically true about men and women in Christ has to be distorted in order to accomodate a "dogma" of a male-only Priesthood, then it cannot be a dogma or Holy Tradition, but is simply a custom.
 

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ozgeorge said:
P.S. How hairy is your chest? Because, as you know, the Fathers never make mistakes.....
Even in this regard, they did not make a mistake.  Today, we know that testosterone level is related to hair growth, and that men secrete 30 times more of this substance than women do.  So biologically and physically speaking, there is a difference between male and female.  Given this fact, it is valid to suppose that there is a difference in our spiritual make-up as well--at least in our fallen nature.

Fortunately, when our bodies are resurrected, there will be no distinction between male and female.
 

ozgeorge

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Theognosis said:
So biologically and physically speaking, there is a difference between male and female.  Given this fact, it is valid to suppose that there is a difference in our spiritual make-up as well--at least in our fallen nature.
So then, you are saying that it is a dogma that men are "more human" (and therefore, "more redeemed" by the Incarnation) than women are?
 

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ozgeorge said:
So then, you are saying that it is a dogma that men are "more human" (and therefore, "more redeemed" by the Incarnation) than women are?
Stating the fact that male and female are not the same physically and biologically doesn't follow that one is more redeemed than the other.  Granting without accepting that women are "more fallen," then they are more blessed because they shall be receiving the most grace from God.
 

ozgeorge

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Theognosis said:
  Granting without accepting that women are "more fallen," then they are more blessed because they shall be receiving the most grace from God.
Why do women receive more grace than men? Are men somehow more able to attain Salvation throiugh their own "merits" and effort without needing "as much" Grace as women?
 

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ozgeorge said:
Why do women receive more grace than men?
For the sake of argument, if women are "more fallen," then they would require more Grace.  If more Grace is bestowed by God to women, then women are more blessed in this particular aspect.

That's the simple logic behind it.  I will not discuss this any further.

Are men somehow more able to attain Salvation throiugh their own "merits" and effort without needing Grace?
Everybody needs the Grace of God.
 

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Theognosis said:
For the sake of argument, if women are "more fallen," then they would require more Grace.  If more Grace is bestowed by God to women, then women are more blessed in this particular aspect.
:eek:
Good Heavens!!! You honestly believe that "Men are less fallen than women" is an Orthodox dogma??

Theognosis said:
That's the simple logic behind it.  I will not discuss this any further.
It is not "simple logic", but rather "simplistic logic" and the "logic of simpletons". I'm not surprised you won't discuss it further...

Theognosis said:
Everybody needs the Grace of God.
Yes, and they all equally need Grace 100%, whether male female, eunuch or hermaphrodite. No one is "more redeemed" than anyone else simply on the basis of how they were born.

It is not in some future eschaton in which the members of the Church are one in Christ as you claim. It is now.
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28).
 

PeterTheAleut

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GiC,

greekischristian said:
This is hardly a revolutionary proposition, the fact that women were second-class citizens in the Greco-Roman world is well documented; since this unfortunate mindset infected every other element and institution of society, it is most reasonable to believe it also influenced the Church.
Another way your logic breaks down in the above statement: it makes the potentially false assumption that the Church was little more than just another institution in human society (which, btw, fits quite nicely into the general tenor of most of your assertions about the nature of the Church on this forum).  If the Church is indeed just another element of society, then the above logic makes sense.  But from the very beginning the Church has understood herself as being not of this world. (John 15:19)

The Church has from Apostolic times realized her need to not conform to the ways of this world (Romans 12:2; 1 Corinthians 3:19).  Sure, the people of the Church as it manifests itself in the world are fallen human persons who come into the Church polluted by sin and the ways of the world and bring their pollution with them into the Church, but the work of the Church is to purge this worldliness off her members.  Because the Church has identified opposition to the world to be central to her mission, I find it very hard to believe that the faith of the Church could have been polluted by the world's philosophies to the degree that you claim it has.  Now, if you want to point out the ways that Patristic doctrines and Christian beliefs are similar to certain beliefs in the contemporary secular culture, you might be able to make a case for how the Church was influenced by her surrounding culture--this is the tactic I see Pensateomnia trying.

In my reasoning on how secular culture may have influenced the Church through the ages, I posit two mutually opposing poles: the mindset of the Church vs. the mindset of the surrounding secular culture.  I then see each of the Fathers somewhere on the spectrum in between.  The more closely a particular father's doctrine approaches the mainstream of Church belief, the less likely is it that the doctrine in question was influenced by secular culture.  Likewise, the converse is also true.  The more closely a patristic doctrine approaches the mindset of the surrounding culture, the more likely it is that the doctrine was influenced by the secular culture.  This is how I view the teachings of St. John Chrysostom and St. Clement of Alexandria that Pensateomnia posted most recently on this thread.  Chrysostom's view of women appears much closer to the mainstream of Orthodox thought on the issue, and St. Clement's view approximates much more closely the mainstream of the secular worldview of his day.  Therefore, I deem it reasonable to believe that St. Clement was much more influenced by secular thought than was St. John Chrysostom, making it much more likely that Chrysostom's doctrine represents the eternal truth revealed by the Holy Spirit.  However, I recognize that even my statement "I deem it reasonable to believe" is more the substance of my own speculation on the matter than any proclaimed truth.  I repeat that such speculation does not serve well as a foundation for dogmatic statements or for drastic change.

When I look at the subject of women's ordination, I recognize that the status quo is to exclude women from priestly orders.  Seeing how dangerous disruption of the status quo can be, I believe that the burden of proof falls squarely on the advocates for change to convince the Church of why we need to lift our ban on women's ordination.  These advocates must present to us a case solid enough theologically, ecclesiologically, and pastorally to sway the Orthodox consensus.  This means near unanimity, first among our bishops in Ecumenical Council, then in near unanimous acceptance by the Orthodox faithful.  The strength of reasoning and evidence required for this case to succeed makes absolutely no room for mere speculation as I have recently defined it.
 

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Theognosis said:
Even in this regard, they did not make a mistake.
Really, this has nothing to do with making mistakes. It has to do with the limited nature of human knowledge and the unavoidable influence of commonly held beliefs. Today, this very hour, all of us probably believe many things that, in 1000 years, human beings will know to be laughably false. Does that mean we, as Christians, don't know theological Truth? No.

However, this does highlight the potential trouble of treating ancient texts as entirely transparent (including the Scriptures). How can one understand St. Clement's instructions for new Christians if one doesn't recognize his commonplace assumptions about biology? Certain words may have a very clear meaning to a modern reader, but that meaning may have nothing to do with the actual text in its context, since every author writes with certain assumptions and to a certain audience (not to mention with certain generic forms and textual gaps). What, then, of St. Paul's words?

Today, we know that testosterone level is related to hair growth, and that men secrete 30 times more of this substance than women do.  So biologically and physically speaking, there is a difference between male and female.
Right. That's how we explain the obvious biological and physical difference NOW (hormones, chromosomes, etc.). However, we DON'T say that this observable difference stems from our body temperature, nor do we say that females are biologically deficient males (in fact, we now know that all males are female at one point and only develop into males later in gestation).

Ancient biological assumptions may be more influential than we realize. Why is God the Father a "Father" (even though He is not a male)? Because He is active and generative (he begets a Son). According to Hebrew/Greek/Roman/Late Antique ideas of biology, only the male is an actual agent in procreation. Thus, it would have been purely inconceivable (no pun intended) to refer to a generative God with anything other than masculine titles and pronouns.

Stating the fact that male and female are not the same physically and biologically doesn't follow that one is more redeemed than the other...For the sake of argument, if women are "more fallen," then they would require more Grace.  If more Grace is bestowed by God to women, then women are more blessed in this particular aspect.
This is almost where St. John and the Cappadocians take things, except they just say something like: We all know women have an inferior nature; thus God helps them out a little more. (Except in the case of St. Macrina, who, as St. Gregory of Nyssa says, was manlier than the men.)
 

ozgeorge

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PeterTheAleut said:
The Church has from Apostolic times realized her need to not conform to the ways of this world ........<snip>..... I find it very hard to believe that the faith of the Church could have been polluted by the world's philosophies to the degree that you claim it has.
This just doesn't bear historical analysis. Here are a few quotes from the Fathers about what was considered the serious sin of usury (charging interest on a loan):

"If you gave to a prosperous person you should not have done so: but if (even so) you gave it as to a needy person, why should you demand more on the score of his being prosperous? Some lenders are wont to take small gifts of dilferent value, not realizing that whatever is received over and above what was given is called usury and superabundance. They ought not to take more, however much it be, than was originally given by them." (St. Jerome)

"Neither do we think that it should be lightly passed over that some people, seized with the desire for filthy lucre, put out their money at usury in order to become rich thereby. And we have to complain of this not only with regard to those in clerical office but we likewise grieve to see that it holds true of lay people who wish to be called Christians. We decree that this should be severely punished in those found guilty, so that all occasion of sin may be washed away."(St. Leo the Great)


However, since the Industrial Revolution, usury has become the basis of our economy. Even Church buildings are mortgaged. Does this indicate that the Church has conformed to the world?
 

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ozgeorge said:
This just doesn't bear historical analysis. Here are a few quotes from the Fathers about what was considered the serious sin of usury (charging interest on a loan):

"If you gave to a prosperous person you should not have done so: but if (even so) you gave it as to a needy person, why should you demand more on the score of his being prosperous? Some lenders are wont to take small gifts of dilferent value, not realizing that whatever is received over and above what was given is called usury and superabundance. They ought not to take more, however much it be, than was originally given by them." (St. Jerome)

"Neither do we think that it should be lightly passed over that some people, seized with the desire for filthy lucre, put out their money at usury in order to become rich thereby. And we have to complain of this not only with regard to those in clerical office but we likewise grieve to see that it holds true of lay people who wish to be called Christians. We decree that this should be severely punished in those found guilty, so that all occasion of sin may be washed away."(St. Leo the Great)


However, since the Industrial Revolution, usury has become the basis of our economy. Even Church buildings are mortgaged. Does this indicate that the Church has conformed to the world?
Just what are you trying to prove?
 

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PeterTheAleut said:
I posit two mutually opposing poles: the mindset of the Church vs. the mindset of the surrounding secular culture.
I understand the spirit of what you are trying to do here, but this particular expression is a profoundly artificial dichotomy.

I then see each of the Fathers somewhere on the spectrum in between.  The more closely a particular father's doctrine approaches the mainstream of Church belief, the less likely is it that the doctrine in question was influenced by secular culture.
Who is the arbiter of the "mainstream of Church belief"? Does this supposed "mainstream" not include the major Fathers from the first seven centuries? Or is the problem, perhaps, the WE define the "mainstream" in a way other than the Fathers?

When I look at the subject of women's ordination, I recognize that the status quo is to exclude women from priestly orders.  Seeing how dangerous disruption of the status quo can be, I believe that the burden of proof falls squarely on the advocates for change to convince the Church of why we need to lift our ban on women's ordination.  These advocates must present to us a case solid enough theologically, ecclesiologically, and pastorally to sway the Orthodox consensus.  This means near unanimity, first among our bishops in Ecumenical Council, then in near unanimous acceptance by the Orthodox faithful.  The strength of reasoning and evidence required for this case to succeed makes absolutely no room for mere speculation as I have recently defined it.
With all of that, I personally agree. But that's a very different argument (and sentiment!) than judging the Fathers against one's own idea of the "mainstream" of the Church. And it's not really a particularly compelling justification for what is perceived as unjust by an increasingly liberal world. It may seem reasonable and fitting to an initiate, but is our task to convince ourselves? While it may work for us, in reality any justification based on respect for the status quo is rather pyrrhonic.
 

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ozgeorge said:
What I am asking is how could usury once have been a serious sin, but now it is not?
In other words, what has changed? Is it Divine Law? Is it the Church`s interpretation of it? Is it the mind of the Church based on the historical circumstances in which she finds herself?
 

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pensateomnia said:
PeterTheAleut said:
In my reasoning on how secular culture may have influenced the Church through the ages, I posit two mutually opposing poles: the mindset of the Church vs. the mindset of the surrounding secular culture.
I understand the spirit of what you are trying to do here, but this particular expression is a profoundly artificial dichotomy.
Maybe so.  I offered it primarily as a way to make my point in this discussion.

Who is the arbiter of the "mainstream of Church belief"? Does this supposed "mainstream" not include the major Fathers from the first seven centuries? Or is the problem, perhaps, the WE define the "mainstream" in a way other than the Fathers?
What I meant by "mainstream of Church belief" is Orthodox consensus as determined by the whole Church.  I see the major Fathers of the first several centuries actually being central to forming this consensus, so this "mainstream" cannot be defined in any way separate from Patristic doctrine.
 

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ozgeorge said:
In other words, what has changed? Is it Divine Law? Is it the Church`s interpretation of it? Is it the mind of the Church based on the historical circumstances in which she finds herself?
Has the Church universally accepted the practice of loaning money with interest?  Or is this acceptance only known in some specific locations?
 

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ozgeorge said:
In other words, what has changed? Is it Divine Law? Is it the Church`s interpretation of it? Is it the mind of the Church based on the historical circumstances in which she finds herself?
I dunno. Which is it?

Usury is an interesting parallel to the equally common prejudices against women, I suppose, since pretty much EVERYONE (at least in theory) thought usury was wrong for thousands of years. It's a major moral no-no in everything from the Hindu Sutra to Plato and Aristotle to the Torah to the early Christian writings to the Medieval Christian writings. That's just the way things were, right? And that's also what God proclaimed in Scripture, what the Church decreed in canon and what the Fathers wrote. And yet, maintenant...

(This thread should be re-named: "Is the Church an absolutely unchanging, completely sui generis Reality?")
 

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PeterTheAleut said:
Has the Church universally accepted the practice of loaning money with interest?
Yes.
PeterTheAleut said:
Or is this acceptance only known in some specific locations?
Can you name a location where the Church hasn't accepted it? Can you name one place on Earth where the Church forbids taking out a loan with interest or credit cards?
Are all unrepentant Merchant Bankers and Bank Managers going to hell? ;)
 

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ozgeorge said:
Yes. Can you name a location where the Church hasn't accepted it? Can you name one place on Earth where the Church forbids taking out a loan with interest or credit cards?
Are all unrepentant Merchant Bankers and Bank Managers going to hell? ;)
You certainly make a good case (based on what little I know) that church practice has changed, and I'm certainly too ignorant to explain why.  I'm not sure, though, that I would necessarily call this "conforming to the world."  I might be more inclined to say that the Church examined the nature of our current practice and determined that it should be considered OK.  But then, what authority does the Church have to overturn its traditional doctrine of centuries past?  Or it could be that the Church just doesn't have the influence on society that it once did in both East and West and just doesn't see usury as that big an issue compared to such issues as defense of our faith in the Deity of Christ against the heresy of atheism.  I don't know, so I speculate...
 

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PeterTheAleut said:
You certainly make a good case (based on what little I know) that church practice has changed, and I'm certainly too ignorant to explain why. I'm not sure, though, that I would necessarily call this "conforming to the world." I might be more inclined to say that the Church examined the nature of our current practice and determined that it should be considered OK.
Well, usury is a matter of morals, not dogma (to wax Pontifical). But it is hardly the most serious of ways in which the Church has adapted because of cultural assumptions or political expectations (viz. national autocephaly as a means of ecclesiastical governance or divorce).
 

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pensateomnia said:
(This thread should be re-named: "Is the Church an absolutely unchanging, completely sui generis Reality?")
Interesting statement.

I believe that the Church is a divine-human entity.  The Church is divine in that she is united to the life of Christ through baptism and reception of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist and is enlivened and cleansed by the Holy Spirit to the glory of God the Father.  Yet the Church is also a human institution in that its members are human.

As a divine entity, the Body of Christ, the Church is unchanging because He who gives her life is "the same yesterday, today, and forever." ( Hebrews 13:8 )(aside: Why is it that I can't type in the previous Scripture reference normally without getting a **** smiley?)  Because the Church is united to Christ who is not of this world, so is the Church not of this world.  Yet the Church is human, and therefore a part of this world whether she likes it or not.  As a human institution, the Church and all of her members individually cannot help but be influenced to varying degrees by the world in which we live.  To some degree, the Church has been shaped by contact with the world just as she has shaped the world.  One can see this in the similarities between certain churchly beliefs and threads in the mindset of the surrounding culture.  (I don't think I denied this in my refutations of greekischristian's logic; I just wanted him to give evidence of his assertions that we should ignore Chrysostom's teachings about women because he was unduly influenced by the misogynism of secular society.  Maybe St. John was, but I am not convinced by GiC's faulty reasoning.)

It is not all bad that the Church has been shaped by contact with the world.  Whereas I do believe that only the Church possesses the fullness of the truth who is Christ, I don't believe that the Church is the SOLE witness to truth.  Truth--I don't mean scientific truth--can present itself even in secular society or pagan religion; it is up to the Church to discern this truth, but only by testing a belief against the Faith of the Church revealed in the Scriptures, the teachings of the Holy Fathers, the dogmas of the Ecumenical Councils, and the consensus of the faithful.

In short, I believe that to make the unqualified claim that the Church never changes because she is the Body of Christ is to deny her humanity in a way that follows closely the heresy of monophysitism.

(If I seem to contradict some other statements I've made tonight, maybe I have.  Or maybe I just like to revel in paradox.  It's been a long week, and this is Memorial Day weekend for me.  I'm tired, and I'm not thinking at my best, so I may be a bit more incoherent than usual.)
 

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On the Subject of Paradox

definition from http://www.askoxford.com/concise_oed/paradox?view=uk (web site of the Compact Oxford English Dictionary):

paradox

  • noun 1
a seemingly absurd or self-contradictory statement or proposition that may in fact be true.


What can one say about all the paradoxes we Orthodox preach?
  • God is Three, yet God is One.
  • Christ is Divine, yet Christ is human.
  • Christ's death is the ultimate victory of life.
  • He Whom the heavens cannot contain was contained in the womb of the Theotokos.
  • The Virgin gave birth.

For the sake of this thread, let's add a couple to the list.
  • The Church is unchanging, yet history shows that the Church is always adapting.
  • The Church is not to conform to the thinking of this world, yet the Church has embraced certain elements of "secular" philosophy. (Even our dogma of the Trinity draws heavily upon Greek philosophical terms.)
How does one reconcile the two mutually contradictory poles presented in these paradoxes?
 

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PeterTheAleut said:
How does one reconcile the two mutually contradictory poles presented in these paradoxes?
Faith.

Faith in the same God who loved us even as humanity nailed Him on the cross.

Faith in the knowledge that things do not have to make sense to us.

Faith in the hope contained within Christ's mission to us.
 

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chris said:
Faith in the knowledge that things do not have to make sense to us.
It does appear that most of our heresies were created by persons who saw a dichotomy where the Church sees a paradox and reasoned that since one pole is true the other must be false.
 

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PeterTheAleut said:
It does appear that most of our heresies were created by persons who saw a dichotomy where the Church sees a paradox and reasoned that since one pole is true the other must be false.
Much of this was led to by the fact that the acceptance of the paradox was unwritten and untested; in the consciousness but not in the written word of the Church.  But you're right on the money - heresy is almost defined as the absolutization of a partial truth, which is what happens when one tries to logically justify/rectify a paradox.
 

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chris said:
Faith in the knowledge that things do not have to make sense to us.
When the paradox is in  Dogma, I agree.
When the paradox is in morals, I disagree. "Moral paradox" is a technique used by paedophiles to "groom" their victims. Morals do have to make some sort of sense, otherwise, we can end up with the situation where people believe they are being "moral Christians" by being inhumane:

e.g. :
"State torture is morally justified to defend the State, and it is of no concern to the Church".
"Schism is justified by the existence of the 'heresy' of ecumenism."
 

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ozgeorge said:
:eek:
Good Heavens!!! You honestly believe that "Men are less fallen than women" is an Orthodox dogma??

It is not "simple logic", but rather "simplistic logic" and the "logic of simpletons". I'm not surprised you won't discuss it further...
Yes, and they all equally need Grace 100%, whether male female, eunuch or hermaphrodite. No one is "more redeemed" than anyone else simply on the basis of how they were born.
It's pointless discussing things with you, really.  I don't believe that "men are less fallen than women" is Orthodox dogma.  I never accepted that, hence I said "granting without accepting."

It is not in some future eschaton in which the members of the Church are one in Christ as you claim. It is now.
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28).
That's embarrassingly way out of context.  Paul was referring to our liberation from the Mosaic Law in that passage.  It has got nothing to do with your concept of women having equal authority with men.

 

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Really, this has nothing to do with making mistakes. It has to do with the limited nature of human knowledge and the unavoidable influence of commonly held beliefs. Today, this very hour, all of us probably believe many things that, in 1000 years, human beings will know to be laughably false. Does that mean we, as Christians, don't know theological Truth? No.
An appeal to potential falsification will not support the ordination of women.  A theory remains valid unless falsified TODAY.  With regard to the Church Fathers' association of manhood to hair growth, they have been vindicated by medical research.  That is my point.

(in fact, we now know that all males are female at one point and only develop into males later in gestation).
Then becoming male is the next stage of development, so to speak.  This is supportive of the St. John Chrysostom's view.  Hence, his words are vindicated anew by secular science.
 

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Theognosis said:
It's pointless discussing things with you, really.
OK. you are welcome not to.

Theognosis said:
I don't believe that "men are less fallen than women" is Orthodox dogma.
You have no idea how relieved I am!

Theognosis said:
That's embarrassingly way out of context. 
Don't be embarrased. We're all friends here.

Theognosis said:
Paul was referring to our liberation from the Mosaic Law in that passage.  It has got nothing to do with your concept of women having equal authority with men.
Oh, hang on, stop right there.......errr "MY concept of women having equal authority with men"?  Thank you for pointing out concepts I never knew I had. But at any rate, what has this to do with "my concept", (even if it does exist)?  The context is what Christian Baptism into the Church and Faith in Christ gives us:
"For you are all sons of God through Faith in Christ Jesus, for as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew no Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus."
And it is this context in which I mentioned this quote to you to correct your error in believing that this is not a present reality but a future eschaton. I got this impression when you said:
Theognosis said:
Fortunately, when our bodies are resurrected, there will be no distinction between male and female.
And by the way, who said that there will be no distinction? How do you know that everyone will have the same body?
 
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