Two Schools: What the Council of Crete Means for the Future of Orthodox Theology

Various media reports and editorials have described the controversies before, during, and after the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, recently held during Pentecost on the island of Crete.

Some have concluded that the Council’s difficulties were the result of geopolitics, and can therefore be explained away as little more than an ecclesial version of the larger political and cultural battle taking place between Russia and the West. Others have concluded that the disagreements revealed disparate visions between those wishing to engage the broader world and those more interested in internal disputes over church administration.

In some sense, these factors played a role in the weeks leading up to the Council, but something far more significant was brewing beneath the surface. A real theological disagreement came to a head during the debate at the Council itself, to the degree that the Council almost failed to pass one of its pre-approved documents, “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World.”

What’s the Big Deal?

The controversy engendered by the document’s topic is nothing new, but rather a modern-day manifestation of a theological and pastoral debate that is as old as Christianity itself. Just open your Bible and read the Johannine epistles, which emphasize that our close connection to Jesus Christ, and through Him our eternal salvation, is only possible in the fellowship of truth and love found within the right-believing Church. See, for example, 2 John 1:7-11:

Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist! Be on your guard, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but may receive a full reward. Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. Do not receive into the house or welcome anyone who comes to you and does not bring this teaching; for to welcome is to participate in the evil deeds of such a person.

Agreement “with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that is in accordance with godliness” is of paramount significance to any Christian (1 Timothy 6:3).

The Questions at Stake Today

What, then, should we do when theological disagreements end up leading to estrangement, schism, or heresy? Obviously, we have to be willing, as 2 John indicates, to kick someone out of the house over fundamental matters of apostolic faith. But where and in what ways do we draw the line? How do we, as Orthodox believers today, relate to the long-standing confessional divisions that have persisted for centuries in the Christian world? Finally, considering the answers to these questions, how and why do we receive into the Church, for example, a Roman Catholic who wishes to become Orthodox?

The answers to these questions influence the way in which we go about ecumenical dialogue on a formal or personal level – and our conclusions are not of narrow significance, affecting many people’s family relations, friendships, and daily life.

In an ideal world, the Holy and Great Council would have resolved these questions once and for all. That it didn’t do so in the real world should come as no surprise. To understand why, and to understand the controversy that took place during the Council itself, a little context is required.

Two Schools Across History

In situations not so dissimilar from our own, Church Fathers in all eras of history have developed theological and pastoral frameworks for interacting with the long-ingrained schisms and heresies of their own context. Different times and places produced differences in nuance, and new challenges have called for new explanations; but, in general, there have been two rather distinct “schools of thought” across the ages, neither of which has found complete acceptance in the Orthodox Church.

The Purists

On the one hand, there have been “purists.” In antiquity, the most famous and influential was St. Cyprian of Carthage; and, in more recent times, Patriarch Cyril V of Constantinople during the mid 18th century.

According to this line of thinking, if one recognizes that there is no salvation outside of the Church, one can’t help but conclude that there is no grace and there are no sacraments outside of the strict canonical boundaries of the Orthodox Church. Once cut off from Orthodoxy, schismatic and heretical groups wither and die spiritually, to the point that their adherents are no longer really “Christians,” but, in reality, like unto heathens.

Thus, our relations with such groups should be limited quite severely, consisting mainly in (1) re-affirming the anathemas and arguments that our Fathers have voiced against these or similar groups in times past and present, (2) calling them to repentance and abjurement of their heresies, and (3) should they respond to our clear presentation of the truth, receiving them into the Church through baptism, just as any heathen who undergoes Christian initiation.

Further explanation or a series of illustrative quotes seems unnecessary, simply because this view has been represented very well on the Internet and in popular books, and its logical clarity gives it the advantage of quick comprehension.

The Realists

On the other hand, there have been “realists”: St. Basil the Great is an especially salient example in antiquity; and the fathers at the Pan-Orthodox Council of Moscow in 1667 represent a common synodical position voiced in multiple instances over the last 500 years.

According to this line of thought, there are degrees of separation from the Church. Some heretical doctrines depart so drastically from apostolic truth that those who confess them actually belong to another faith altogether (e.g. the docetists referred to in 2 John); while other heterodox teachings remain closer to the truth of God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ. Thus, it is possible for Christians who hold certain errant or heretical views and who are outside of the canonical boundaries of the Church to experience, as God so wills, vestiges of the grace and truth which exist only in the Orthodox Church.

Elder Sophrony Sakharov, a Russian monk most famous for popularizing the life and teachings of St. Silouan of Mt. Athos, put it this way in the 1930s: “The fullness of grace may be held only by the one and only Church, but the other churches have grace because of the faith in Christ, yet not in fullness.” Archimandrite Sophrony’s words might seem shocking to those only exposed to “purist” thinking, but the Elder’s observation merely reflects the perspective of the Russian Orthodox Church for centuries before him. More recently, in 2000, the Jubilee Bishops’ Council of the Russian Orthodox Church promulgated a very helpful text, “Basic Principles of Attitude to the Non-Orthodox,” which explains:

The Orthodox Church, through the mouths of the holy fathers, affirms that salvation can be attained only in the Church of Christ. At the same time, however, communities which have fallen away from orthodoxy have never been viewed as fully deprived of the grace of God. Any break from communion with the Church inevitably leads to an erosion of her grace-filled life, but not always to its complete loss in these separated communities. This is why the Orthodox Church does not receive those coming to her from non-orthodox communities only through the sacrament of baptism. In spite of the rupture of unity, there remains a certain incomplete fellowship which serves as the pledge of a return to unity in the Church, to catholic fullness and oneness.

Even in the midst of schisms and heresies, we are able to engage other Christians as separated brethren because of the theological and spiritual realities we still share. In the words of the “Basic Principles” text:

The ecclesial status of those who have separated themselves from the Church does not lend itself to simple definition. In a divided Christendom, there are still certain characteristics which make it one: the word of God, faith in Christ as God and saviour come in the flesh (1 Jn. 1:1-2; 4, 2, 9), and sincere devotion.

With these shared characteristics in mind, we have far less reason for isolation and far more reason to interact, dialogue, and seek reconciliation in the fullness of the truth. Finally, as the “Basic Principles” text make clear, it is precisely because there is not a complete loss of grace in separated communities that we can receive certain heterodox Christians into the Church by means of chrismation or simple renunciation of former heresies. Their previous Christian initiation reflected enough of apostolic truth and order that it bears the mark of reality.

Realists beyond the Russians

Just to be clear: the point of view described above is not peculiar to Russia. Similar positions have been held in a variety of contexts across Church history. A couple of examples are representative.

In the Confession of Faith of Patriarch Dositheus of Jerusalem, promulgated by the Pan-Orthodox Council of Jerusalem in 1672, we read:

Moreover, we reject as something abominable and pernicious the notion that when faith is weak the integrity of the Mystery is impaired. For heretics who abjure their heresy and join the Catholic Church are received by the Church: even though they held a deficient faith, they received a perfect Baptism; wherefore, when they afterwards become possessed of the perfect faith, they are not again baptized (καίτοι ἐλλιπῆ ἐσχηκότες τὴν πίστιν τέλειον ἔλαβον τὸ βάπτισμα· ὅθεν τελείαν ὕστερον τὴν πίστιν κεκτημένοι οὐκ ἀναβαπτίζονται).

And the most respected Romanian dogmatic theologian of recent generations, Fr. Dumitru Staniloae, writes in Volume 2 of his Orthodox Dogmatic Theology:

But here the question is posed: what are the other Christian confessions that do not confess such an intimate and effective union of the integral Christ in them? We hold that they are incomplete churches, some closer to fullness, others farther away… We hold that the non-Orthodox confessions are separate groups that have been formed in a certain relationship with the full Church and exist in certain relationship with it, but do not share in the full light and power of Christ the sun. Thus in a way the Church includes all the confessions divided from it, because they could not fully depart from the Tradition present [in the Church]. But the Church in the full sense of the word is only the Orthodox Church.

Within these “incomplete churches,” according to Fr. Staniloae, believers “have a diminished faith in the true Christ and practice a reduced sharing in Him through weakened sacraments,” but are still connected to the one true Church, which is Christ’s very Body, “thanks to their link with Christ the incarnate Word by faith.”

What’s in a Name?

To my knowledge, no one has ever classified these two tendencies in Orthodox thought as schools or given them the name “purist” and “realist.” I do so merely as an exercise in helping to identify a long-standing difference in how various Orthodox authorities approach the issues implicit in the debate over the Council of Crete’s “Relations” document.

The “purist” school’s strength is its concern for clear proclamation of the truth. Yet in developing its argument along strictly logical lines, it ends up privileging pure theory over the lived reality of the Church. Such has been the case since its inception: St. Cyprian freely admitted that his approach was a departure from the earlier traditions and practices of the Church. Instead of seeking to find a theological explanation for the Church’s actual experience in history, he developed a logically coherent theological system that flowed from its initial (true) axiom. Something analogous happened in the famous 18th century “purist” authorities, such as St. Nikodemos the Athonite — but that’s a very long topic for another day!

The strength of the “realist” school, on the other hand, is that it attempts to make theological sense of what the Church really does, not just in theory but in practice, throughout Her entire historical experience. Its concern is to explain the paradox of reality: that the Orthodox Church is the one and only Church of Christ, and yet if one looks at the world as it really is, one finds, in the words of Moscow’s “Basic Principles” document, points of unity in a divided Christendom.

A deeper analysis of other strengths and weaknesses in these two schools will have to wait, as my aim in this blog post is simply to provide some sense that two ways of thinking about these issues have existed within the Church for centuries, and that the unresolved nature of these questions underlie the debate we witnessed during the conciliar proceedings on Crete.

The Road Ahead

The existence of two “schools” in Orthodox thinking on these issues is less a sign of division and more a sign of a set of open questions.

After the Council of Crete, we are no closer to a comprehensive theological resolution. The council document itself stays mainly on the procedural level, and does not penetrate the deeper issues. To do otherwise would have been a grave and monumental task, and the unfortunate reality is that very few churches took the conciliar process or the questions raised during its preparatory phase seriously enough. Over the last 50 years of preparation, deep engagement with the theological issues was sorely lacking. As Fr. Cyril Hovorun has remarked, the synods throughout the world “were supposed to scrutinize the documents and accept or reject the drafts. In reality, however, few read the texts. After formal approval, they were sent to collect dust in the archives.”

In the end, then, it was impossible for a comprehensive discussion to take place. Even so, the Council has raised the issue and engendered the beginnings of a public debate. Future councils may therefore be able to address the topic again in a more satisfactory fashion.

A few years ago, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware wrote that the major issue of 20th century Orthodox theology had been ecclesiology, particularly the limits of the Church and Her relationship to heterodox confessions. In the 21st century, however, His Eminence predicted that new issues, such as anthropology and bioethics, would become far more pressing, as debates over ecclesiology recede from the forefront of controversy.

At least so far, the Council of Crete indicates otherwise.

About Seraphim Danckaert

Seraphim Danckaert is Headmaster of St. Peter’s Classical School in Ft. Worth, Texas. He is co-editor of On the Tree of the Cross: Georges Florovsky and the Patristic Doctrine of Atonement (Holy Trinity Seminary Press, 2016). Some of his other articles are available on

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  1. In my very limited understanding, I see these two sides as being complimentary in the long run. The “purists” can act as an anchor of the truth and tradition of the Church to keep the “realists” from drifting too far in the names of “compassion” and “pastoral care.” I personally lean toward the “purist” side, but I also don’t like to see Canon Law and the Fathers treated like a New Testament Mosaic Law.

    Along the same lines of the Russian councils you quoted, I’ve noticed during a brief study of the canons of the Church that there have been different ways of receiving converts depending on what type of group they come from. Some were simply received with a confession of faith, others with the whole “package.” If I remember right from my study of the canons, even the Arians were not forced to be re-baptized. They had to make a confession of the faith, renounce their former heresy, and maybe were chrismated.

    1. I tend to agree with you here, Jeremiah (though I am much more on the realist side; perhaps between the two of us we prove your point!)

      For this reason, I think we need to be a bit more careful with our vocabulary than this article has been (though it’s a very good article all told). These are not “theological” disputes in the full and proper sense of the term: they do not involve questions about our doctrine and understanding of God. These problems are pastoral and ecclesiological.

      That means they are very important, but it also means that the question of how the Church is divided from other groups is not itself a Church-dividing issue (if that makes sense). If this were a properly “theological” problem, then the Orthodox Church would be in a full-blown schism over it. Instead, we continue to live with it as we have for centuries.

      My big fear for the Council was that the various factions would lose sight of this fact and cut off communion. If Georgia refuses to call the catholics a “church,” then fine, but there is no grounds for excommunicating those who do (and vice-versa). I cannot express how relieved and happy I am that even with things getting as heated as they did, no major group has yet made that mistake.

      Also, Jeremiah, you might want to see Michel Stavrou’s article in St Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 60:1-2, p 205 for an excellent summary of the history of the baptism question.

  2. Excellent presentation. This review helped me to see that I am a realist.

    1. R. Joseph,

      I don’t believe the author’s intent here was to define two categories for us to hold on to and identify. Forgive me if I am assuming here that was your only takeaway from the article but the comment you posted lends me to believe you have. He explicitly stated it was a thought experiment.

      The reality is probably all of us fall somewhere along these artificial boundaries in some things, and not the other. For example, as the author describes, we are all “purists” when it comes to the Eucharist — you must be Orthodox. No Exceptions. However, when accepting converts, depending which faith you come, we lean on the “realist” side.

  3. The conflict between the “two schools” of thought (“Purists” and “realists”) concerning the validity of non-Orthodox sacraments, the “heresy of ethnocentrism”, and the “heresy of ecumenism” involve dogmatic issues that appear insoluble since any conciliar consensus necessary for resolution is assuredly rendered impossible by the “purists”‘ understanding of Tradition which does not allow for any innovations departing from that Tradition.
    The present actual divisions among hierarchs and theologians on the issues above raise a serious question that is not being confronted: How pursue Church Unity with others when there are real schisms and heresies within Pan-Orthodoxy?

    1. It’s indeed a difficult reality. The purist view can’t be maintained because it fails to articulate the real life of the Church. Pope Gregory IX’s opinion on the invalidity of Greek Orthodox baptism can be used as an example where purist view can’t be accepted and should be rejected. St Cyprian’s novelty on limiting the efficacy of grace in sacraments has foundation in neither Scripture nor Traditions. Had the purist view prevail it’d discourage ecumenical dialogue between the Eastern Orthodox church with the Catholic church, the non Chalcedonian church, and the Assyrian church that have been fostered in the past 50 years.

      It’s tragic when Ss Cyrpian, Hippolytus, and Photius who died as realists in communion with the Catholic church are used as examples by the purists. The author nail the core issue to ecclesiological in essence. History contains facts that need to be interpreted, it’s never neutral. The Invention of Peter and Orthodox Construction of the West by George Demacopoulos are select few examples where the line between historical facts and historical interpretations sometime blurred and confused.

      Throughout history the Church approach the issue of ecclesiology with pastoral concern. Beginning from reception of the Gentiles and inclusion from the strict observance of the Mosaic laws, the usage of homoousian language previously condemned at Antioch in 268 for Samosatan heresy into its reception at Nicaea in 325 to combat Arians, the removal of Nicaean anathema clause that conflate hypostasis as ousia at Alexandrian in 365, the Formula of Union in 433 between St Cyril’s miaphysitism and St Theodoret of Cyrrhus’ dyophysitism, to the failed attempts of reconciliation at the Second Constantinople in 553 and Florence in 1439.

      1. Adithia, can you restate your position in plain, simple English. You have evidently given it a lot of thought but I lack the background to understand it.

      1. Dear Seraphim,
        Yes, there are theological debates on doctrinal issues in Catholicism but they are on issues which have not been resolved by its teaching authority.
        But in contemporary Pan-Orthodoxy how is it possible that “purists” and “realists” or, as Metropolitan Kallistos put it, “hawks” and “doves”, can still debate what was formerly held as “official” teaching on such matters as:
        whether trine immersion is necessary for baptism;
        whether such sacraments as baptism and confirmation leave an indelible mark;
        whether non-Orthodox sacraments are “without grace”;
        whether the Catholic Church is really a Church;
        whether contraception is immoral;
        whether “divorce and re-marriage” is contrary to the Law of Christ regarding the indissolubility of sacramental marriage;
        whether the doctrine embodied in the “Filioque” is heretical;
        whether the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God as defined by Pius IX in 1854 is really “heretical”;
        whether Palamism as defined in the 1351 Council of Constantinople is really dogma.
        I mention the latter in so far as the Encyclical Letter of the Orthodox Council held in Crete reaffirmed that Synod’s teaching on “uncreated divine energies” as a “truth of faith”. Is it? or is it a matter open to theological debate among Orthodox?
        Not to prolong this, but readers may understand why non-Orthodox see grave doctrinal disunity among the 14 autocephalous Orthodox Churches.

        1. Unfortunately, from an Orthodox perspective, Catholicism professes much more for the Pope than merely coordinating unity.


    2. Mr. Likoudis,

      Purism is hardly ethnocentrism. Is Feenyism, a more extreme form of purism found in your adopted communion, a form of ethnocentrism? Which ethnos?

      “Purists” and “Realists” have much more in common which each other than with other groups outside the Church. What they disagree about concerns what is outside the canonical boundaries of the Church. And, except for some extremists, they remain in communion which each other.

  4. Does this not limit the current state of affairs a bit? Based on some of the comments of certain hierarchs (yes, many taken out of context), there does seem to be a camp that is willing to admit that the Orthodox Church, in its current state of disunion with other Christian confessions, is not the “fullness of the truth,” at least while the disunion persists. Or am I reading too much into the careless personal opinions of a small number of individuals?

    1. Hi Nick. Thanks for your comment. I am aware of news reports about two bishops (one EP and one Serbian) that might lead you to infer what you did. In both cases, the reports were demonstrably false.

      1. Just to clarify: by false I mean that the news reports attributed things to the bishops in question that they did not say.

      2. Seraphim,

        Nicholas is right. There is another group at work. This group is a minority, nevertheless, it’s a powerful one. Surely, all the statements (ambiguous and otherwise) and joint prayers over the years would force one to conclude that this was the case more than any recent news reports.

        The purists and the realists have coexisted in the Catholic Church since Sts. Cyprian and Pope Stephen at least. Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, certainly a realist, declared:

        ‘The Augustinian understanding of the “efficacy” of the sacraments was never fully accepted in the Orthodox Church. Such an understanding of the sacraments is unacceptable for Orthodox Tradition, for it is an understanding in which the grace inherent within them is considered autonomous, independent of the Church. The sacraments can be performed only within the Church, and it is the Church that bestows efficacy, reality, and salvation on them.’ (Orthodox Christianity Vol. II: Doctrine and Teaching of the Orthodox Church, p. 405)

        Likewise, Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, a purist, declared:

        ‘…[T]here is a close connection between Church, Orthodoxy and Eucharist, as we see in Saint Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons. There is no Church without Orthodoxy and the Eucharist; nor is there Orthodoxy without the Church and the Eucharist; just as there is no Eucharist outside the Church and Orthodoxy. Then, the Divine Eucharist cannot be considered Orthodox outside the canonical structure of the Church and the necessary requirements for participation in it.

        …Besides, apart from the Divine Eucharist, basic centers for the life of the Church are Scripture, dogma and prayer, which the Divine Eucharist presupposes. There is a very profound association between the lex credendi and the lex orandi.

        … All of this made Fr. John Romanides say that it is not the Eucharist that makes the Church the real Church, but the Church which makes the Eucharist the real Eucharist. In other words, the horse (dogma/canons) comes before the cart, not vice versa. In any case, as we know, outside the Orthodox Church, with its dogmas and sacred canons, there is no Eucharist in the Orthodox meaning of the word. So we can talk about ecclesiastical Eucharist, but not about Eucharistic ecclesiology.’ (Post-Patristic Theology from a Church Perspective)

        Metropolitan Kallistos Ware sets forth the history of the two streams of purism and realism in his study on the thought of Eustratios Argenti. In this work his opinion is that the Cyprianic view is the normative view of the East, and that it was held by the majority of the Fathers:

        ‘The Cyprianic view can be summarized in a syllogism:

        True sacraments cannot exist outside the Church;
        Heretics and schismatics are outside the Church;
        Therefore, heretics and schismatics do not possess true sacraments.

        But the West since the time of Augustine has normally adopted a somewhat different position. Augustine accepted Cyprian’s minor premise but denied his major. Unlike Saint Cyprian, he distinguished between validity and regularity: a sacrament performed by heretics or schismatics, while irregular and illegitimate, is nonetheless technically valid provided that certain specified conditions are fulfilled. Whereas Cyprian denied heretics both ius and potestas to perform sacraments, Augustine denied them the first, but not necessarily the second. A number of Orthodox theologians, particularly in Russia during the past three centuries, have inclined towards the Augustinian view; but in general the position of the Orthodox Church has been Cyprianic and non-Augustinian. The Cyprianic view was taken for granted by most Greek writers of the 18th century… and the Cyprianic view is still followed by the standard Greek manuals of theology in use today.

        Two qualifications must be added here. First, although the Augustinian theory predominates in the West, it is not accepted universally: in some Roman Catholic writings an approximation can be found to the Cyprianic position. (see F. Clark, Anglican Orders and Defect of Intention, London, 1956, p. 10, note 1.) Secondly, while most Orthodox continue in the main to hold the Cyprianic theory, many of them today would slightly modify the austerity of Cyprian’s conclusion. Augustine accepted Cyprian’s minor premise but denied his major; it is equally possible to accept the major and deny the minor, and it this that many Orthodox at the present moment have chosen to do. They continue to claim that the Orthodox Church is the one, true Church; they still uphold the basic Cyprianic principle that outside the Church there can be no sacraments; they make no use of the Augustinian distinction between validity and regularity. But they would yet add that many non-Orthodox Christians are still in some sense members of the Church, so that it is possible that in certain cases these non-Orthodox possess true sacraments. But Greek Orthodox in the eighteenth century… were less lenient in their reasoning: like Cyprian — and for that matter, like most of the Fathers — they would simply have said that heretics and schismatics are outside the Church, and left the matter at that. (Eustratios Argenti: A Study of the Greek Church Under the Turkish Rule by Kallistos Ware, pp. 80-82)

        Met. Kallistos stated that the realist position has predominated in Russia since the 17th cent. But prior to that, it was purist: ‘The earliest norm in Russia for the reception of Western Christians, first Roman Catholics and later Protestants, into the Orthodox Church was by (re-)baptism. In doing this, the Russian Church was in line with the Church of Constantinople.’ (Fr G. Dragas)

        Archimandrite Placide Deseille, a convert from Roman Catholicism baptized on Mount Athos, holds to the view described by Met. Kallistos above:

        ‘I have been asked for my retrospective opinion on the sacraments that we had ourselves administered while still priests of the Roman Church. I would simply reply that the Orthodox Church speaks more willingly about the “authenticity” and “legitimacy” of sacraments than about their “validity”. Only sacraments administered and received in the Orthodox Church are “authentic” and “legitimate” and, according to the usual order of things, the validity, or effective communications of grace, depends on this legitimacy. But the Holy Spirit is free with His gifts, and He can distribute them without going through the usual channels of salvation wherever He finds hearts that are well-disposed.’ (“Stages of a Pilgrimage”. The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain: Contemporary Voices from Mount Athos trans. By Hieromonk A. Golitzin, pp. 86-90)

        Fr. G. Dragas, a purist (?), holds that if our Mysteries are one with Roman Catholics (or any other group) then our ecclesiology must necessarily be the same as well, since sacramentology goes hand in hand with ecclesiology. But realism surely dictates that our ecclesiologies are dissimilar.

        Fr. Dragas continues: “…could it be claimed pari passu that Orthodox ecclesiology is the same with the Roman Catholic one? Has then the ecclesiological issue that divides Orthodox and Roman Catholics been resolved? Is it not fair to maintain that as long as there is division between these two (and indeed any other) Churches, the Cyprianic-Augustinian dilemma, which is somewhat parallel to the Orthodox akribeia-oikonomia dilemma, is bound to exist?” (The Manner of Reception of Roman Catholic Converts into the Orthodox Church with Special Reference to the Decisions
        of the Synods of 1484 [Constantinople], 1755 [Constantinople], and 1667 [Moscow])

        Is it a coincidence that these particular issues have come to the fore in reference to ecclesiology in the very century wherein belief in an objective truth began to wane? I agree with the documents you quoted from the Russian Church, but I’d like to balance them with another statement from the Russian Council of Bishops in 2008:

        “A witness to the truth of the Holy Orthodoxy is an objective of inter-Christian and inter-religious dialogues, and the Russian Orthodox Church doesn’t accept any attempts to mix confessions, [and] to hold joint prayer services that artificially combine confessional or religious traditions.” (

        Personally, I’m all for this type of ecumenism. I’d also like to add some balance to your Pat. Dositheos and Fr D. Staniloae quotes as well:

        Pat. Dositheos of Jerusalem wrote: “the ecclesiastical affairs are seeing in two ways, in the way of akribeia and in the way of oikonomia; whenever they cannot be dealt with in the way of the akribeia they are dealt with in the way of oikonomia.”

        Therefore, his acceptance of heterodox sacraments was oikonomic; Fr Dragas places his thought along the lines of Pat. Cyril V and St. Nikodemos, not in opposition to theirs. I contend that it’s the same for Fr. Staniloae:

        ‘In the case of one who is entering into full communion of faith with the members of the Orthodox Church and is becoming a member, economia [dispensation] is understood to give validity to a Mystery previously performed outside of the Church.’ (“Towards an Orthodox Ecumenism” excerpted from a Letter to Patriarch Bartholomew Concerning the Balamand Agreement)

        I think that all of these ideas are best summed up in the Ecumenical Patriarchal and Synodical Letter of May 26, 1875. About this document Fr. Dragas states:

        ‘I believe that collecting and carefully reviewing these Patriarchal Synodical documents exposes the real nature of the ‘problem’ and opens up the way towards an adequate solution. To my mind, there is here a sort of asymmetry that deals in an either/or way with the ecclesiological paradox of schism and heresy, which cannot be either explained away or rationalized in a way that an one-track solution tends to promote…the different applications, are not inconsistent with each other I suggest that they are asymmetric to each other, although the result they produce is one and the same.’

        I’m neither purist or realist, perhaps I’m both. I guess…

        1. Thanks for the very long comment, Maximus. You raise some valuable points. It’s impossible to respond to everything, but I would say this: you’re on the right track in so far as you are searching, digging deep, and wrestling with the real “ecclesiological paradox of heresy and schism,” as Fr. Georges Dragas called it in one of your quotes. To awaken people to that paradox is one of the points of my heuristic explanation in the original article.

          It’s really not important if there are more than two “schools” or the names of the “schools” I chose aren’t good or whatever limitation one sees in the “dialectic” established by the original article (as others have complained here and on Facebook). What’s more important is to break out of the complacency of assuming that pat answers and recent apologetics have really addressed the depth of these issues, and to return much more seriously to the patristic sources.

          I would suggest, therefore, that you won’t really make much further sense of the question if you read the typical secondary stuff: Alfeyev, Dragas, Metallinos, et al. You’ve got to get back to the primary sources, including the Church Fathers and the canonical tradition before some of the later Byzantine commentaries.

          Just one example: St. Cyprian of Carthage expressed something like the syllogism you outlined in On the Unity of the Church, but he and his synod modified their position over time during their controversy with Rome. St. Cyprian’s ultimate position includes (1) a recognition that his theory is not in accordance with earlier tradition or what other venerable local churches do, and (2) therefore it’s fine if other local churches don’t follow his approach. Both facts are very relevant to making sense of the patristic and canonical tradition, but are completely overlooked by some later commentators and vitiate the entire apologetic thrust of more recent ones.

          1. Mr. Danckaert,

            Can you provide a quick source reference (preferably in English translation) for your final 2 points about St. Cyprian? – I would like to follow up on that.

          2. Regarding Christopher’s question about St. Cyprian: see his letters for the various ways his final position evolved. I only mentioned two. Probably the most relevant letters are 64, 70, 71, 73, and 75; and the best place to read those in English would be vol. 4 of G.W. Clarke’s translation of all of St. Cyprian’s letters. Clarke also provides helpful context about the North African traditions and debates that influenced St. Cyprian’s conclusions.

          3. Seraphim,

            Thank you for your response.

            I actually found your “two schools” dialectic to be useful for the purposes of writing a concise blog article and I had no issue with that. However, I would contend that the recent debate in the Church is not between the purists and the realists as you presented it in your article, it’s between them and the the third group. This cannot be overlooked if one really wants to address the issue of the reception of the heterodox.

            Also, I definitely prefer primary sources but in my experience most people with adamant opinions on this issue do not even care to read the Holy Fathers. Most people are more familiar with the writers I employed, and I thought that the convergence in the opinions of such esteemed scholars proved my point. I’m with you though, we need to go the sources: the Holy Fathers.

            You summed up St. Cyprian’s ultimate position thusly:

            “(1) a recognition that his theory is not in accordance with earlier tradition or what other venerable local churches do and (2) therefore it’s fine if other local churches don’t follow his approach”

            I take it that you consider St. Cyprian to be an innovator of sorts, and his purist theory to be a novelty. But even the Roman Catholic encyclopedia affirms that +Agrippinus and St. Cyprian were not going against an earlier tradition since it was a new debate : “…it was not the Roman usage. The point, however, had not yet been raised and definitely settled.” (see Agrippinus) Met Kallistos (and also the Roman encyclopedia) holds that Tertullian held the same teaching around 198-200 a.d.; that’s almost twenty years before + Agrippinus and the Council of Carthage decided to rebaptize all the heterodox coming into the Church. Therefore, Tertullian was teaching this in the West fifty years before St Cyprian and he was still in the Catholic Church at that time.

            It wasn’t only the N. Africans teaching purism in the Latin-speaking Church, St. Ambrose of Milan seems to have held to Tertullian’s view as well: …now all are made whole; or more exactly, the Christian people alone, for in some even the water is deceitful. (Jer. 15:18) The baptism of unbelievers heals not but pollutes. (On the Mysteries 4.23) The Catholic encyclopedia states that Pope St. Stephen desired universal obedience to his realist theory but he dropped the issue when he discovered that: “the East was largely committed to the same wrong practice…” (see St Cyprian of Carthage). After studying the Fathers, I have to agree with Met Kallistos when he holds that the ancient tradition of the East is in line with St. Cyprian’s:

            Apostolic Canons

            Let a bishop or presbyter who shall baptize again one who has rightly received baptism, or who shall not baptize one who has been polluted by the ungodly, be deposed, as despising the Cross and death of the Lord, and not making a distinction between the true priests and the false. (Canon 47)

            Clement of Alexandria ca. 150-215

            Now he who has fallen into heresy passes through an arid wilderness, abandoning the only true God, destitute of God, seeking waterless water, reaching an uninhabited and thirsty land, collecting sterility with his hands. And those destitute of prudence, that is, those involved in heresies, I enjoin, remarks Wisdom, saying, Touch sweetly stolen bread and the sweet water of theft; (Prov. 9:17)… Then He subjoins: For so shall you pass through the water of another; reckoning heretical baptism not proper and true water. And you shall pass over another’s river, that rushes along and sweeps down to the sea; into which he is cast who, having diverged from the stability which is according to truth, rushes back into the heathenish and tumultous waves of life. (Stromata 1.19)

            St. Firmilian of Caesarea died ca. 269

            Moreover, all other heretics, if they have separated themselves from the Church of God, can have nothing of power or of grace, since all power and grace are established in the Church where the elders preside, who possess the power both of baptizing, and of imposition of hands, and of ordaining. For as a heretic may not lawfully ordain nor lay on hands, so neither may he baptize, nor do any thing holily or spiritually, since he is an alien from spiritual and deifying sanctity…not all who call on the name of Christ are heard, and that their invocation cannot obtain any grace, the Lord Himself manifests, saying, Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceieve many Mk. 13:6 Because there is no difference between a false prophet and a heretic. For as the former deceives in the name of God or Christ, so the latter deceives in the sacrament of baptism. Both strive by falsehood to deceive men’s wills. (Epistles of Cyprian 74.7-9)

            St. Dionysius of Alexandria died ca. 265

            Previously, indeed, (Stephen) had written letters about Helanus and Firmilianus, and about all who were established throughout Cilicia and Cappadocia, and all the neighbouring provinces, giving them to understand that for that same reason he would depart from their communion, because they rebaptized heretics. And consider the seriousness of the matter. For, indeed, in the most considerable councils of the bishops, as I hear, it has been decreed that they who come from heresy should first be trained in Catholic doctrine, and then should be cleansed by baptism from the filth of the old and impure leaven. Asking and calling him to witness on all these matters, I sent letters. (Epistle 6 to Sixtus, Bishop)

            St. Athanasius the Great ca. 297-373

            For not he who simply says, ‘O Lord,’ gives Baptism; but he who with the Name has also the right Faith. On this account therefore our Saviour also did not simply command to baptize, but first says, ‘Teach;’ then thus: ‘Baptize into the Name of Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost;’ that the right faith might follow upon learning, and together with faith might come the consecration of Baptism.

            There are many other heresies too, which use the words only, but not in a right sense, as I have said, nor with sound faith, and in consequence the water which they administer is unprofitable, as deficient in piety, so that he who is sprinkled by them is rather polluted by irreligion than redeemed. (Four Discourses Against the Arians Bk. 2.18.42-43)

            St. Cyril of Jerusalem ca. 313-386

            We may not receive Baptism twice or thrice; else it might be said, Though I have failed once, I shall set it right a second time: whereas if you fail once, the thing cannot be set right; for there is one Lord, and one faith, and one baptism : for only the heretics are re-baptized, because the former was no baptism. (Procatechesis 7)

            The quotes demonstrate that realism was an early tradition throughout the East and the West. St Basil the Great said: “The old authorities decided to accept that baptism which in nowise errs from the faith.” (Epistle 188); consequently, I think we should attempt to find the earliest evidence for Rome’s tradition instead of charging St Cyprian with novelty. The East definitely made use of multiple pastoral practices when it felt the need to do so. Is St Cyprian any different from St. Polycarp when he recognized that Rome had a different date for Pascha? You seem to hold it against St Cyprian because he held that each Church could follow their own Tradition. This is not a mark against his view, puritanical types aren’t usually willing to allow for dissent. It was actually Pope St Stephen that initially demanded universal obedience to his realist view until he discovered the Eastern practice.

  5. This is your characterization of the so-called “purist” group:
    “Thus, our relations with such groups should be limited quite severely, consisting mainly in (1) re-affirming the anathemas and arguments that our Fathers have voiced against these or similar groups in times past and present, (2) calling them to repentance and abjurement of their heresies, and (3) should they respond to our clear presentation of the truth, receiving them into the Church through baptism, just as any heathen who undergoes Christian initiation.”

    I’m not sure that this is an accurate depiction, at least based on my knowledge of one supposedly “purist” jurisdiction, ROCOR:
    1) In 1971, ROCOR issued an ukase stating that all converts would henceforth be received via baptism. However, it did not order converts that had previously been received via chrismation (such as Fr. Seraphim Rose) to be baptized.
    2) In its decision, it heavily depended on St. Basil the Great, a so-called “realist.”
    3) ROCOR venerates the Royal Martyrs, who include the Empress-Martyr Alexandra and Nun-Martyr Elizabeth, who were both converts from Lutheranism received via chrismation.
    4) Even regarding the salvation of non-Orthodox Christians, Metropolitan Philaret of blessed memory believed (at least when he was still an Archimandrite) that non-Orthodox Christians could not be termed “renegades or heretics” since, being raised Catholic, Protestant, etc. they did not consciously reject Orthodoxy and thus God “ undoubtedly is leading them also towards salvation In His own way.” This is the same Metropolitan Philaret who led the above Council of Bishops to issue the 1971 ukase.

    Thus, ROCOR can’t be characterized as a “purist” group.

    As for the belief of presence of grace in the non-Orthodox, that does not necessarily mean the inherent validity/efficacy of non-Orthodox sacramental rites. For example, the God-fearing Cornelius in the Book of Acts had Holy Spirit, and he wasn’t even baptized yet!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Dcn. John. I certainly wouldn’t want to characterize any jurisdiction as “purist” or “realist.”

      The point of my article is merely to provide a heuristic, or a necessarily imperfect and introductory means to reflect on the diversity of viewpoints that exist on these questions, both today and in many eras of Church history, and to explain to an average reader why, exactly, there were differing points of view at Crete on the question of how the Orthodox Church should relate to the Christian world.

      Many people have their own unique approach, no doubt, but there are clearly some trends.

      Your point about St. Basil and also kind language allows me to clarify something about why I classified things as I did.

      First, why St. Basil as a “realist”? A full answer will require another article, and I may or may not have the time to write one. However, in short, in his epistles St. Basil very clearly speaks about how heresies and schisms have divided the local churches for generations and, in fact, that the Church is now like an old coat, always being torn and never restored to its original strength. He had a very keen sense of pain over the fact that heresies had been causing rifts, and he expresses a serious desire to restore unity and peace to all the local churches. He writes to one correspondent about the problems caused by heresies, and concludes the letter: “Wherefore pray to the Lord yourself, and join all Christ’s noble athletes with you in prayer for the Churches, to the end that, if any further time remains for this world, and all things are not being driven to destruction, God may be reconciled to his own Churches and restore them to their ancient peace.”

      It is in this context that he famously accepted semi-Arian clergy and those who refused to confess the divinity of the Holy Spirit, provided they professed the Nicene Creed (before its additions about the divinity of the Spirit at the Second Ecumenical Council). The rigorist monks of his time lambasted him for doing so, but St. Athanasius the Great wrote a letter or two defending him. So, the question becomes: are there perhaps degrees of heresy in St. Basil’s perspective, and does this influence how he goes about dealing with certain heretics? Much more needs to be said, but perhaps this gives you some idea of the way in which St. Basil approached these issues.

      As for the other point: don’t mistake patristic rhetoric against heresy as the exclusive property of a “purist” or kind words to the heterodox as the exclusive property of “realists.” Manifestly not. “Purists” are not extremists, and “realists” are not doctrinal minimalists. Vladimir Lossky, for example, is a convinced realist, and yet he obviously criticizes Western theology very severely, as does Fr. Staniloae. The same could be said for the Pan-Orthodox Synods and local synods mentioned in the original article, and others besides.

      Perhaps you assumed that I meant to imply that the “purist” way of thinking is somehow tainted by rancor and mean-spiritedness because I wrote that it receives heretics as “heathens”? If so, please know that I used the term as its used in the canonical tradition, e.g. Canon 7 of the Second Ecumenical Council, and various textbooks of canon law. In particular, I had in mind the popular introductory text in Russia by Archpriest Vladislav Tsypin.

  6. Thanks for the excellent article. However, it fails to recognize one reason why the purists became more strident. Over the 50 years that the Church failed to even read the documents, much less approve them, the larger ecumenical movement began to evolve. It became more a World Council of Religions than the World Council of Churches. The solvent of minimalism was believed to be the path to unity. Many if not most of the Western Confessions partipated in this relativist heresy. (At some WCC events, anamist ceremonies were performed where even catholic bishops participated. The expressed rationale – we all worship one God, and this is just their way) Because of this heretical trend, groups like R.O.C.O.R. began to require baptism for converts from other confessions because this ecumenism had robbed them of grace. Eventually, some Orthodox cofessions left the WCC. To them, the idea that we were a part of the WCC to witness had failed. Of course, this is bad ecumenism, but it was dominant at the time and was clearly opposed to the ecclesiastical understanding of the Church. Has this ecumenical situation changed? It is too complex to answer here. But if it has not, then unity with western cofessions is problematic and calling them churches is theologically dangerous. Crete did not address this.

    1. A good point. Thanks. Perhaps we could add this to the weaknesses of the “realist” school — I have enumerated others below: a tendency to beg the question, and a failure to engage “purist” thinkers over the last 50 years.

      I would put your concern this way: what is a specifically *Orthodox* approach to ecumenical dialogue? There have not been many “realist” thinkers recently who have spent much time on the question of method. Fr. Georges Florovsky certainly did, and he proposed two principles: (1) “ecumenism in time,” i.e. we focus our discussions on shared authorities in the past, especially the Holy Fathers and the Seven Ecumenical Councils, and attempt to shift the entire discussion to “a common universe of discourse;” and (2) “molecular ecumenism,” where we do the above on a much smaller, more personal, more local level, as more progress is likely to happen there than on a grand international level. Of course, there’s more to both principles, but that’s the thumbnail.

      1. Mr. Danckaert,

        Concerning the two “thumbnail” points of Fr. Florovsky, are these approaches realistic with other confessions who have accepted a “development of doctrine”, and thus negated time in a sense (only the present being relevant, yet the present always shifting)? Perhaps another way to put it is that they are not heretics in the classic sense (say of the type that St. Basil was dealing with) in that they have no reference to a “common discourse” by their very ontology (where as the heretics of the past had a fixed reference upon which to dissent from). I have my opinion but I would be interested in yours…

    1. It’s one of the many examples of “purist” inspired apologetics in recent decades. As I mentioned below, one of the “realist” schools biggest problems in the last 50 years has been its tendency to beg the question and its failure to engage popular “purist” thinkers. Until that stops, there can never be a comprehensive theological response to the question of Orthodoxy’s relationship to the Christian world.

  7. My wife and I were received into Orthodoxy from Catholicism by confession and recitation of the symbol only. It was decided that we would be recieved in this way based upon knowledge of ourselves personally and the advice to the priest who received us from Met. Kallistos. There are people who were not happy that we were neither re-baptised or chrismated. This still causes us a little pain from time-to-time, but there is no way that we would re-approach our hierarchs and request chrismation or baptism as that in itself would be a questioning and/or repudiation of their authority and competence. The faith needs to be safeguarded, and there is no doubt about that, but it is spirit and not letter alone: the ‘word’ is flesh and it dwells among us. We cannot worship the signposts rather than the One they are pointing us to. The letter is means and God is our end; we need both, but we must guard against the idolatry of worshipping religion. Do not tear down the ancient markers, but in caring for them and preserving them, do not forget about God and prevent others from reaching their Father.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Athanasios. Rest assured that you are fully embraced by the Church of Christ.

      Your story raises the fact that there is another dimension to this issue: the spiritual and pastoral. Because of the fact that the “realist” school has been so weak in the last 50 years, and, at the same time, because of the fact that the “purist” school has had several gifted and prolific public apologists, we are living in a time when our public discourse and even our theological education is very one-sided and unable to explain the full reality of our theological and canonical tradition.

      As a result, real spiritual harm is befalling many well-intentioned lay people and even clergy. I personally know more than 10 people who have become Old Calendrists because of reading certain modern “purist” apologists and then really thinking through the implications of what they read. I also know people who feel in their hearts that their bishop is a heretic (and yet still somehow reconcile themselves to the Church — at least for now); and clergy who secretly baptize converts against the instructions of their bishop or synod; or even re-baptize converts who were received years ago (again in secret). This happens in multiple jurisdictions. As a result, many people are doubting their salvation, unsure if they are doing the right thing, disobeying their bishops, casting aspersions on their priests, taking hard-line stands with their families, and even leaving the Church for schisms. So, there are very serious pastoral consequences.

  8. As it stands in the OCA, if a person was baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, they do not have to be re-baptized, but if they had never been baptized or were from a cult they would need the whole “package”.

    We converted in 2006 from Lutheranism and I believe that I am more of a realist than a purist. I believe that there are people who have a vital and living faith in Jesus Christ who do not have the means of grace necessary to make it to the end of their lives without being separated from Him. When dealing with others who do not share the Orthodox faith, I try to testify to its truths without condemnation, but sometimes I come off sounding like a Purist. My youngest son wants to be know as “A Great Converter” and he has vibrant enthusiasm for the Orthodox faith. We should all be so zealous.

  9. The dialectic of “purists” vs. “realists” does not really add to the discussion in my opinion. The terms are false as “the purists” are actually much more complicated, nuanced, and realistic than described and the “realists” are actually much more idealistic than they understand, having (largely unconsciously) appropriated the enlighted/secular understanding of “dialogue” which is imbued with almost magical properties to “fix” the problems of man/church/fill-in-the-blank.

    This meeting was not the beginning of this “debate” nor did it raise it, these issues have been their from the beginning. However, those who look at the issue in terms of the above dialectic might be surprised I suppose but so called “purists” (well, almost any critique of the EPcate’s program of “ecumenism” or “relations” of the last 100 years) have been pointing out these deeper issues (anthropology and other deep deep theological divides) for a long time…

    1. Thanks for your comment. Again, the “dialectic” is merely heuristic. As I alluded to in the article, anyone interested in these things has likely had a steady diet of “purist” thinking for many years, so there’s really no need to explicate its nuances.

      One of the “realist” school’s weaknesses, especially since the 60s, has been its tendency to beg the question and to avoid real engagement with “purist” thinkers. The result is that our public discourse suffers from a very impoverished sense of our own theological and canonical tradition. A little blog post can only do so much, but it’s a first attempt to make average people realize there’s more to these questions than many apologists would have them believe.

      1. Well, I suppose it is all perspective. As a layperson in NA Orthodoxy for about 20 years now the only “steady stream” I have seen and heard on the issue of “relations with other churches” is the realist position, mostly allied with one or more kinds of faith in “dialogue” – in other words a largely ecclesiological approach, and a curious repetition of this ecclesiological position on divided Christendom in the face of the manifest failure of this ecumenism for about 100 years now. For whatever reason the deeper divides are always pushed back – often in the name of “theological and canonical tradition” (so I am not sure what you mean here – perhaps you could expand). So neither the realist nor the purist gets to the heart of matter in my opinion, and the “realists” name is just a wee bit ironical in my opinion.

        Interestingly, as you point out Ware pointing out, the ecclisological approach is being sunseted not so much out of a “realistic” evaluation of its fruits but because of what has and is happening in Christendom itself around anthropology. In other words the “realists”, who are in fact idealists (at least when it comes to the practical side of “relations”), are being overun by facts on the ground. On the other hand the “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World” document mostly (mostly – there are bright spots) reads like it could have been written 100 years ago so the status quo is still very much in the fore ground.

        I understand Met. Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpatkos & Met. John (Zizioulas) of Pergamon had a “lively debate” over the theology of personhood at the meeting – now that is important in my estimation and crucial to how “relations” or “ecumenism” will in fact be done in the future. While I probably would side with Met. Hierotheos on this matter I admit I have yet to study the “personalist” position in any real depth…

        1. Hello again, Christopher. I’ve been at this for as long as you — a bit longer, actually — so looking closer at our two perceptions might be helpful.

          You seem to be focused on what official church bodies and organizations at the highest level are *doing*: holding dialogues, participating in ecumenical events, releasing press releases and photos with the Pope. I’m talking about what engaged lay people and clergy are *thinking*: the books they’re reading, the websites they frequent, the discussions they have with fellow Orthodox believers and priests, the things they are taught in catechism classes, etc.

          In the arenas I am talking about, which are far more important, “purist” *thought* is completely dominant, and has been for at least 25 years. It’s been dominant in the volume and quality of its literary output, and in its ability to set the terms of discussion — and thereby the popular conception of the problem and, more often than not, its correct answer. I know a lot of priests (well over 200) in many jurisdictions, and I seriously doubt if more than 2 or 3 could give a compelling explanation why we Orthodox do what we do. At best, they might say it’s just a matter of being obedient to one’s bishop, or perhaps it’s an example of economia. Obviously, neither answer is even remotely satisfactory to anyone concerned with faithfulness to Holy Tradition. But that’s all that’s out there. Hardly anyone has read beyond The Rudder, so they have no idea how St. Theodore the Studite or the earlier canonical tradition before St. Theodore understood St. Basil’s first canonical epistle. The entire mental landscape in recent years has been set on purist terms. That’s why I quoted a few sources in the original article that people might not have paid attention to, but which are certainly little hints that perhaps not all is as the current narrative might suggest. I would venture to say that a lot of people who read the article can’t even see its very mild point, since their conception is so dominated by the “purist” apologetics they’ve read over the last 20 to 40 years. I even saw someone aver that the Pan-Orthodox Councils in the 17th century simply could not have said what they did in the quotes, since to do so would evince Vatican II-style thinking!! That’s how little our one-sided discourse has helped us understand.

          As to your other points: I agree with what you said about the “Relations” document itself — but, again, that’s not the level I’m thinking of, and also actually just further evidence of the weak engagement that has characterized Orthodox thinking on these topics since the 60s. I also agree that there are ecumenists who are idealists or naive. As I said in another comment below, such people are probably better called latitudinarians, and are not actually what I have in mind when I speak of “realists,” since all of the “realists” I quoted are concerned with explaining Church Tradition.

          1. Thanks for the long comment. Your point about what the Faithful are thinking/reading on the grassroots level is very important – I hear ya. Perhaps I have had an atypical experience. I have been Orthodox for about 20 years, and a member of 6 different parishes of 4 “jurisdictions” in the USA during that time (work and school moved us around a bit). Of those 6 different parishes 5 of the priests were converts themselves. I can think of only 1 priest who could reasonably be termed “purist”, the rest were “realists” except one who fell mostly into a “latitudinarian” position. The majority could articulate the realist position with enough rigor that they convinced me that they had a real understanding (not a “my bishop says”) along the line you describe. Again, it is just my experience – perhaps it truly is atypical.

            As far as what the average standing next to me believes and is reading, based on conversations/observation I would say the majority of them are in fact latitudinarian. This is no surprise, given that they swim in the secular/modernist cultural soup that we all do (and our hearts are hardly converted). Sure, there is the occasional purist (some of the m have even visited, most have not) but I would conservatively put them at 1 in 10, and even this is probably too many.

            The fact of the larger secular/modernist spirit/mind of the “average” parishioner strikes me as the far greater concern/problem than any more specific application – in this context “relations” or “ecumenism”. One has to walk before learning to run and all that.

            In any case the differences between our perceptions is significant enough that one or both of us has to be (somewhat wildly) off base. Not sure how the truth of the matter could be reasonably ascertained. I am willing (based on admittedly limited data) to project my a experience to being *generally* applicable to the whole NA Orthodox scene, granting some differences regionally (say between the “cradle” NE and the “convert” South and South West). Even on the internet (where as you point out the “purist” position is well articulated and well represented) I would describe it as much more balanced by the “realist” position (not nearly as well articulated as you point out) than you see.

            As I asked you in an above comment, I wonder if the theological ground of the vast majority of the heterodox (I would not exclude the RC in this) has not shifted into a “development of doctrine” spirit to such a point that the earlier realist position you describe can not longer be rightly applied – not because of any internal error/weakness but because of the ontology/spirit of the heterodox themselves. Perhaps it is the exceptions to this spirit that we see on the individual, familial (and perhaps occasionally even on the parish level) that explain the local experience and facts of “Faithful outside the canonical bounds” but these are sort of exceptions that prove the rule (so to speak) in my estimation.

            As is often the case the comments have proved critical to flushing out the theme of the original article!

          2. I agree with Christopher that many people – including those reading blogs such as this one I actually don’t understand the nuances of those who are termed Purists here. It’s evident from some of the comments. I’ll provide some examples from leading Purists:

            -Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus has acceptable several former Non-Chalcedonians into the Church through Chrismation as opposed to Baptism.

            -Dr. Demetrios Tsellengidis, Professor of Dogmatics at the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki has stated we Orthodox Christians have the duty to conduct dialogue with the heterodox.

            -Fr. Theodoros Zisis, retired Professor of Patristics at the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki who studied theology in Germany and obviously made plenty of use of non-orthodox scholarship in his work said something along the lines of: so let’s read Bultmann and Barth, so that they [the Realists] don’t say that we are ignorant of them.

            I think it’s critical to get this type of information out there to people new to the Church, to those on the outside and to those inside who depend on their Realist priest for information.

    2. I agree with you. What everybody is forgetting is that there are two elements for validity:
      Form and Doctrine. The form of Baptism by definition implies triple immersion of the person being baptized and the use of the trinitarian formula. Sprinkling is not baptism, neither the baptism in the name of Jesus. The immersion originally needed a body of living waters, but that was relaxed already in the Didache. According to this most western baptisms done by sprinkling or by pouring are not valid by definition. A different thing are the difference of doctrine, there is the point to talk of Oikonomia or Akribia. The only limit is how severe a heresy is. Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses as well as liberal protestants must always be received by baptism. For Roman Catholics and the church of England there are problems with the form. This only leave us with the Monophysites and Nestorians to be teceived by confession of faith or chrismation.

  10. It is a primary characteristic of all negotiations that both sides will have to make one or more concessions if unity is to be achieved. Ecumenists within Orthodoxy have their list of concessions which they are prepared to make in behalf of Orthodoxy. What concessions will be asked of those on the other side? John Henry Cardinal Newman once wrote that “the world and the Church cannot meet without either the world rising or the Church descending; and the world, forsooth, claims necessity and says it cannot rise, and deems the Church unreasonable when she will not descend instead”. To what extent are the ecumenists willing to “lower the bar” to avoid being labeled “unreasonable” (i.e., “fundamentalists” or, now, “purists”)?
    Mr. Danckaert writes “A deeper analysis of other strengths and weaknesses in these two schools will have to wait,” but I notice that in first pointing out the strength of the Purist position he quickly segues into one of it’s weaknesses. In pointing out the strength of the Realist position he was unable to perform a similar seque into one of their weaknesses. No doubt an unintended oversight. And how long will we have to wait for this “deeper analysis”? I would be interested to know if Ecumenists (Realists) realistically see any weaknesses at all to their position (that the doors cannot be opened fast enough notwithstanding).
    When I asked to be received into the Orthodox Church there was no negotiating. It was only going to happen on her terms or not at all. If I had only known, and had waited long enough, I could have had Orthodoxy on my terms.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Gregory. There are many weaknesses in the “realist” school, especially if one presumes I meant to describe every single position that every single Orthodox person holds. If one (wrongly) presumes I meant to say that everybody holds only one of these two points of view, then one would have to include amongst the “realists” any number of people who are actually doctrinal minimalists, latitudinarians, or whose main motivation is simply to get with the times. In my opinion, no such person is a “realist,” as I defined the school of thought as being concerned with the Church’s real experience, i.e. Her Tradition.

      Regarding your last point: unfortunately, it reveals you missed the entire point of the article (and the larger debate).

  11. Good point if I have it right: Your peace is a dialectic to detail two lines of emphasis. My view is based on my experience IN the church. As a result, I think I’d re-title the two parties somehow, but I’m not quite sure how. One is primarily pastoral and the other more focused on canons, truth, etc. I find it hard to see these as incompatible or necessarily opposing views, but rather two sides of the same truth. My experience with baptisms IN the Church is that they are nothing like those outside, and in the immersion you can really see the dying “old” man in the face of the baptised. Might be he/she is just fighting for air, but faces are so similar to the old man we see in a hospital that it’s remarkable. At least that’s how the eyes have it. For my part, I haven’t as comparison seen a “holy roller” bapstism in the river for that matter – especially in an old South way, but the waters there are rough and not likely blessed with oil and the sign of the cross… so while similarities might exist are not complete, nor can they be seen as the same either.

    As a convert, I came in through chrismation from the Anglican tradition. Could have happened a 100 different ways and still what mattered wasn’t strictly HOW it did so much that it did. Words to the effect that the annointing of chrismation makes whole that which is not, fills that which is not, completes that which is incomplete, and makes perfect that which is imperfect were sufficient. There’s humility in having less of a deal made over our conversion than might have seemed the case otherwise… as it’s the heart, the repentance and conversion of heart over a lifetime of conversion that matters far more than the day we appear in Church and sign up. Sometimes I wonder that wanting more isn’t just gratifying to our ego… and holding on to the old man we need to let go of. Again, while it may seems slightly off track, I take the regard the Church has for St. Mary of Egypt and her conversion and repentance in the desert over a lifetime as chastening our sense that it is only what we do as the Church and not what Christ does as its head – ( and he often does “it” beyond our walls) that matters.

    I do not see the Church’s role as strictly laying down rules and would find a notion of this sort as narrowing the definition to speaking the truth, but at the edge of speaking truth without love. It would do us no good to lose the love in truth, part of which involves speaking the truth when the listener is prepared to hear. This joins the two. But the key is that without the pastoral approach of the church, there is no outreach heard or experienced, the Gospel remains unpreached, and we become whitewashed tombs, rather than a people of God. There are as many ways to become a people of God as there are people, and our sacraments begin with adding love to God’s people wherever and however we find them. Our bishops have to see this, and for me the positive for those who went to Crete is that they had an opportunity to see and meet each other and from there we have a beginning where they might hear and speak the truth in love to each other and to all of us as well. Love to see that same meeting with ALL the bishops of the 14 churches and beyond invited… but maybe that’s just me.

    1. As a result, I think I’d re-title the two parties somehow, but I’m not quite sure how. One is primarily pastoral and the other more focused on canons, truth, etc.

      I don’t think I’d categorize them this way, since both sides are trying to make sense of the truth and the canons in a way that is pastorally applicable. The question is how one handles those things. “Purists” are more concerned with a single theory of ecclesiology that then provides an interpretive basis for the canons (for instance, categorizing them into “economia” and “akrivia” even though the canons don’t categorize themselves that way), while “realists” are generally proceeding from the opposite vector, seeing what ecclesiology is discernible from the canons and actual practice of the Church itself.

      I am sure that my own description would be objectionable to a number of folks, of course.

  12. Maximus, I laud you for attempting to go back to the sources. However, I’m afraid the method you’re using isn’t sufficiently nuanced. Those quotes don’t all say the same thing; and are written in drastically different contexts.

    For instance, the quote from Athanasius is written while he is in Rome attempting to gain back his see in Alexandria. Attempting to disagree with Rome on this point would be political suicide for him; so we can preclude that reading of the text. Another context, however, provides ample justification: Athanasius is trying to explain the complexity of the fallout of Nicea wherein Canon 8 affirms the teaching of Rome and Arles, but Canon 19 appears to depart from it. That is to say, Athanasius is the creator of the criteria of intention. It is not merely sufficient to simply *name* the Trinity, one must also *mean* the Trinity. This the Cathari do, but the Paulinists do not.

    Again, your citation of Dionysius doesn’t take into account Dionysius’ final position. He did, at the time, attempt to be a mediator between Firmillian/Cyprian and Rome. But he ultimately took the position of Rome, as we know from the Conybeare fragments.

    Again, Cyril of Jerusalem’s quote doesn’t help Firmillian at all. It turns entirely on who he means when he uses the word “heretics.” Does he include schismatics in this? Or does he just limit it to people who do not receive a Trinitarian baptism (such as Arles states). He doesn’t say directly (though I think context would demand that he follows the recently established canons). However, he does say other things on baptism. First, throughout the lectures he emphasizes the idea of being baptized in the name. Second, he develops a theory of the Holy Spirit as the true minister of baptism: 17.35-36.

    Likewise, when Clement of Alexandria speaks of heretics, the heretics of his day were precisely those who would later have their baptisms rejected: the gnostics, Marcionites and Montanists. Clement’s rhetoric is targeted particularly against the claims of these groups (he turns their own language against them).

    Your citations from Firmilian is of course correct, as is the Apostolic Canon. However, these two represent a single local tradition. The Apostolic Canons are not apostolic; a fact recognized even by Trullo when it affirmed the canons – while also promulgating an extension to Constantinople 7 (Trullo 95) which contradicts the Apostolic Canons on this point. It is the Apostolic Canons that borrow from Firmilian, not the other way around.

    You have also not dealt with several other contemporary writings that are just as important, if not more important: Against Rebaptism (Anonymous; 3rd c.), Dialogue against the Luciferians (Jerome, 4th c.), On Baptism; Against the Donatists (Augustine, 400), etc. I haven’t even mentioned Ambrose, or Cyril, or Maximus, or Photius, or Symeon the New, or Palamas, or Eugenikos: all of whom hem much closer to Augustine and Jerome than to Firmilian.

    Jerome describes the situation this way: “Cyprian of blessed memory tried to avoid broken cisterns and not to drink of strange waters: and therefore, rejecting heretical baptism, he summoned his African synod in opposition to Stephen, who was the blessed Peter’s twenty-second successor in the see of Rome. They met to discuss this matter; but the attempt failed. At last those very bishops who had together with him determined that heretics must be re-baptized, reverted to the old custom and published a fresh decree.” (Luciferians, 23)

    The whole contemporary neo-Cyprianite phenomenon strikes me as essentially gnostic in character. It rearranges the mosaic of the king to a mosaic of the fox by weaving together a novel historical narrative that just simply doesn’t match the historical reality. It does this by ignoring the context and implications of what people said and merely connect some terminological dots between the proof-texts.

    1. Nathaniel,

      Thank you for taking the time to respond and attempting to provide me with some correction. I don’t interpret the Saints the way you do, and that’s fine. However, you have gone so far as to place many Orthodox Saints and scholars in the very same category that St. Irenaeus placed the heretical Gnostics of his day. I quoted many of our best contemporary scholars to Seraphim and he told me to go the sources, then I go to the sources and you assert that I (and the scholars that interpret the data in the same way that I do despite their Augustinian praxis) are either ill-informed and/or gnostic. My goodness! Even if you disagree with my reading, that’s pretty offensive and you likely don’t even speak in that manner to the heterodox. That’s a trend that I frequently notice in those that who lean toward the liberal side of the theological divide.

      I can respond to every point you made but I will address the most obvious misunderstandings. For instance, even if St Dionysius of Alexandria came into conformance with Rome at a later time, nevertheless, he is a witness that earlier local councils throughout the East were in agreement with St Cyprian, which proves the point which I’ll make below. Another thing I find quite baffling is that you took me to task for not quoting Sts Jerome, Augustine and many other Western works in reference to the Tradition of the Eastern Church! Let me quote contemporary Orthodox scholarship (again):

      Met. Kallistos Ware: A number of Orthodox theologians, particularly in Russia during the past three centuries, have inclined towards the Augustinian view; but in general the position of the Orthodox Church has been Cyprianic and non-Augustinian. The Cyprianic view was taken for granted by most Greek writers of the 18th century… and the Cyprianic view is still followed by the standard Greek manuals of theology in use today… But Greek Orthodox in the eighteenth century… were less lenient in their reasoning: like Cyprian — and for that matter, like most of the Fathers — they would simply have said that heretics and schismatics are outside the Church, and left the matter at that. (Eustratios Argenti: A Study of the Greek Church Under the Turkish Rule by Kallistos Ware, pp. 80-82)

      My interpretation: Generally speaking, the Eastern Fathers and the Greek Church of recent times held a view closer to St Cyprian.

      Met. Hilarion Alfeyev: The Augustinian understanding of the “efficacy” of the sacraments was never fully accepted in the Orthodox Church. Such an understanding of the sacraments is unacceptable for Orthodox tradition, for it is an understanding in which the grace within them is considered autonomous, independent of the Church. The sacraments can be performed only within the Church, and it is the Church that bestows efficacy, reality and salvation on them. In the Eastern Church, the attitude toward the sacraments of heretics and schismatics varied in different ages depending on the circumstances. The important role of evaluating this or that group that had separated itself from the Church provided a teaching opportunity: they approached those schisms that had caused the most damage to ecclesial unity. (Orthodox Christianity: Doctrine and Teaching of the Orthodox Church, Vol. II. pp. 405)

      My interpretation: Augustinian sacramentology was never fully accepted by the Church because it is an understanding not fully in accord with our Tradition.

      Archimandrite Placide Deseille: Since the third century two customs have co-existed in the Church for the reception of heterodox Christians: reception by the imposition of hands (or, by chrismation), and repetition of the baptismal rite already received in heterodoxy. Rome accepted only the laying on of hands and strongly condemned the repetition of baptism of heretics. The Churches of Africa and Asia, on the other hand, held on to the second practice, the most ardent defenders of which were Saints Cyprian of Carthage and Firmilian of Caesarea. The latter two insisted on the bond that exists between the sacraments and the Church. For them, a minister who had separated himself from the Church’s profession of faith had separated himself at the same time from Church herself, and so could no longer administer her sacraments.

      From the fourth century, the Roman doctrine on the validity of heterodox sacraments, upheld by the exceptional authority of Saint Augustine in the West, was imposed on the whole Latin Church, at least in matters of baptism. The question of the validity of the heterodox ordination of priests was not generally accepted in the West until the thirteenth century. In the East, however, thanks especially to the influence of Saint Basil, the ecclesiology and sacramental theology of Saint Cyprian never ceased to be considered as more in conformity with the tradition and spirit of the Church than the doctrine of Saint Augustine… At a later time, in the seventeenth century, the Russian Orthodox Church came under a very strong Latin influence, and was partially won over to the position of Saint Augustine. She then decided to receive Catholics into Orthodoxy by confession and a profession of faith alone. From the perspective of traditional Orthodox theology, this could only be accepted as a very generous instance of recourse to the principal economy. (“Stages of a Pilgrimage”. The Living Witness of the Holy Mountain: Contemporary Voices from Mount Athos trans. By Hieromonk A. Golitzin, pp. 86-90)

      My interpretation: Yet again, another scholar holds that Cyprianism was more prevalent in the East. St Basil agreed with St Cyprian.

      Archimandrite Ambrose Pogodin: St. Basil advances St. Cyprian of Carthage’s point of view according to which all heretics and all schismatics must be re-baptized when coming into the Orthodox Church since the heretics and schismatics are completely lacking in Grace. As a result of all this he says, “But, as some in Asia have otherwise determined, for the edification of many, let their baptism be allowed.” In this way St. Basil expressed his authority not in the direction of a rigorous resolution of the problem but in the direction of a merciful and condescending resolution, serving for the benefit of the Church. (On the Question of the Order of Reception of Persons into the Orthodox Church, Coming to Her from Other Christian Churches, Chap. 1)

      My interpretation: Again, St Basil agrees with St. Cyprian while simultaneously allowing for local variations… Archimandrite Ambrose held to Augustinian understanding, but he interprets St Basil as being in the Cyprianic camp. The ROCOR canonist Dcn. A. Psarev is also of the same mind.

      Fr. G. Florovsky: The sacramental theology of St Augustine was not received by the Eastern Church in antiquity nor by Byzantine theology, but not because they saw in it something alien or superfluous. Augustine was simply not very well known in the East. In modern times the doctrine of the sacraments has not infrequently been expounded in the Orthodox East, and in Russia, on a Roman model, but there has not yet been a creative appropriation of Augustine’s conception. (Limits)

      My interpretation: Augustinian sacramentology was virtually unknown, and therefore NOT received by the ancient Easterners or the Fathers of the Byzantine period.

      Fr. G. Dragas: Prof. John Erickson of St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary, a member of the North-American Orthodox Rοman Catholic Theological Commission, has propounded this view… Dr.Erickson finds St. Nikodemos a sort of ‘modernist innovator,’ at least as far as his edition of the Canon Law of the Orthodox Church (the Pedalion or Rudder) goes. His ‘innovation’ is the distinction between akribeia and oikonomia which, in Erickson’s view, is not warranted in the patristic tradition of Orthodoxy. Indeed for Erickson this modern and false distinction, which has been mistakenly employed by Greek canonists, is unknown to the Russians who follow the tradition of the Fathers. For us the implications of Erickson’s view are far reaching, if one considers that both St. Nikodemos and his Pedalion have been sanctioned by the Ηοly and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. (The Manner of Reception of Roman Catholic Converts into the Orthodox Church, Postscript)

      My interpretation: If what you assert is true then the Greek Church has been violating the Creed and practicing more than one baptism for a long, long time…

      “Neo-Cyprianism/gnosticism” seems to have strongly influenced the whole Eastern Church; have they not read Sts Jerome and Augustine? The obvious answer is: “no”. Your assertions remind me of a statement made in reference to the Latins by + Gennadios Scholarios: “we believe in the Church; they in Augustine and Jerome.” I won’t even bother to mention the supposed gnostic views of scholarly Saints like St John of Shanghai and St Justin of Celije. You even brought up my patron St. Maximus, but what was his view of Non-Chalcedonian bishops? “I remember when I was staying in the island of Crete, that I heard from certain FALSE bishops of the Severan party, who disputed with me, that ‘we do not say, in accordance with The Tome of Leo, that there are two energies in Christ…”(Opuscule 3) And what did he say about the Monothelites in positions of authority in the Church even prior to their condemnation at the Sixth Council?: “They have repeatedly excommunicated themselves from the Church and are completely unstable in the faith. Additionally, they have been CUT OFF and STRIPPED of priesthood by the local council held at Rome. What Mysteries, then, can they perform? And what spirit descends on those whom they ordain?” (Life of St Maximus) You would likely respond to his queries thusly: “They can perform the Mysteries of the one true Church by the power Holy Spirit!” But does it really sound like St Maximus believes that heretics have the mysteriological grace?

      One last thing: last I knew, the Orthodox Church had accorded the Apostolic Canons with great authority, no matter their authorship. The Church has designated them “apostolic” for centuries, but you come along and reject this designation. You’ve also discovered that St Firmilian influenced the author of the Apostolic Canons with his narrow, semi-gnostic, innovative theories. Trullo says it all: “It has also seemed good to this holy Council, that the eighty-five canons, received and ratified by the holy and blessed Fathers before us, and also handed down to us in the name of the holy and glorious Apostles should from this time forth remain firm and unshaken for the cure of souls and the healing of disorders”. The Apostolic Constitutions were supposed to have been tampered with, NOT the 85 Canons. And I can see by the way you interpret Canon 95 that your main problem is that you see a contradiction where there is none; and that when a Father accepts a convert by any means other than baptism, you interpret it an an Augustinian way. Fr Dragas, on the other hand states: “This, Ι believe, in no way minimizes or jeopardizes the canonical integrity or consistency of the Orthodox Church. The two principles of akribeia and oikonomia, which clearly lie behind the different applications, are not inconsistent with each other Ι suggest that they are asymmetric to each other, although the result they produce is one and the same.”

      We’ll just agree to disagree, and if the purists are Gnostics then I stand in great company. Personally, I believe that realists and purists can and have coexisted in the Church.

    2. This is very well put. Not to mention the implicit montanism of affirming Mt. Athos as the great exemplar and bastion of Orthodox tradition on this note. . . as if the monastic republic constitutes some sort of infallible magisterium on the matter.

      Not saying their witness should be ignored. But, really – gerontolatry is not the answer to the modern Orthodox epistemological crisis.

  13. It always strikes me that the authority given by our Lord of binding and loosing, is not mentioned in discussions on this topic.

  14. I think that Purists could manage their shock better through a fuller reading of Elder Sophrony Sakharov. In the paragraph immediately proceeding the quote that was provided, a more Purist/Hawkish/Cyprianic/whatever picture of the holy starets emerges. He writes the following in his 11th letter to Balfour (my translation):

    “One of the most common questions that we happen to encounter is the question, who can be saved and who cannot. These people usually think that not only are the Orthodox saved (according to the teaching of the Orthodox Church) or the Catholic (according to the teaching of the Roman Catholics) but all those virtuous people who believe in Christ. This view passed from the Protestants to the other churches. There are many among the Orthodox who support this view…Closing this subject I desire only to say parenthetically that I would greatly desire (and I pray to God for this) that you be not deceived by all of this but that you believe unshakably with the heart and with the mind that there exists upon the earth that One, Only and True Church that the Lord established.”

    Based on the above and other statements of the elder I think that rather than assigning him to the Realist side, a recognition of both Realist and Purist attributes in him would be closer to the truth.

  15. Dear Seraphim,

    Thank you for your considered thoughts.

    From a couple comments, it seemed that you did not think the practice and theory of economia sufficient to explain the differences within the history of the Church. Could you say more about this?

    Perhaps I have misunderstood economia, but I’ve thought it a helpful way of recognizing that differences in reception exist in the history of the Church, that one way is not necessarily the “right” way, but that sometimes, for instance, it is better to receive a convert by baptism, sometimes by chrismation, and at other times by confession.

    A difficulty I see with economia is that it could appear to relativize canons on the reception of converts; or, at least, it does not explain how the formation of such canons was possible. Is this where you see problems with economia?


  16. Thank you for this article. I grew up in the pentecostal church. I encountered Orthodoxy a several years after being in the Army. I became a catechumen in 1991. I was deeply drawn to it, but I did not yet understand it as being more than just the oldest of the denominations. It was too much of a leap for my family at that time. So, I became Anglican and a priest in that tradition. But I continued to read Orthodox books and visit churches and monasteries. Over the past few years, my wife, and two grown children have become Orthodox

    The only major problem I have had with the Orthodox church has been certain encounters with triumphalist purists- who come across so harshly as to push people away from deeper connection and learning about the Orthodox church. and that has bothered me for over 26 years since I first encountered the church. In one case, I visited an orthodox monastery and all the brothers were very kind and welcoming at first. But once they learned I was Anglican (even though I was still on the journey toward Orthodoxy- which they didnt take time to find out), they all left me standing alone in the room.

    However, at every other Orthodox monastery I have visited, I always experienced a warm welcome. In one case, early in my journey, I was struggling with Orthodoxy and The True Church and all the denominations in the world. (I had not yet been to Bible College or Seminary nor studied any church history). I felt conflicted and I shared this with one of the monks at a particular monastery. He said, “We know where the fullness of Grace is. It is here in the Orthodox Church. But we do not know where Grace does not extend to.”

    Anyway, I just wanted to say thank you. This has helped me reconcile things I have felt in my heart but didnt have the words or references for. Such as St Cyprian and St Basil.

    Thank you,

    Jerry Hix

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