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§ 68. The Consensus and Dissensus between the Greek and Latin Churches.


No two churches in the world are at this day so much alike, and yet so averse to each other as the Oriental or Greek, and the Occidental or Roman. They hold, as an inheritance from the patristic age, essentially the same body of doctrine, the same canons of discipline, the same form of worship; and yet their antagonism seems irreconcilable. The very affinity breeds jealousy and friction. They are equally exclusive: the Oriental Church claims exclusive orthodoxy, and looks upon Western Christendom as heretical; the Roman Church claims exclusive catholicity, and considers all other churches as heretical or schismatical sects. The one is proud of her creed, the other of her dominion. In all the points of controversy between Romanism and Protestantism the Greek Church is much nearer the Roman, and yet there is no more prospect of a union between them than of a union between Rome and Geneva, or Moscow and Oxford. The Pope and the Czar are the two most powerful rival-despots in Christendom. Where the two churches meet in closest proximity, over the traditional spots of the birth and tomb of our Saviour, at Bethlehem and Jerusalem, they hate each other most bitterly, and their ignorant and bigoted monks have to be kept from violent collision by Mohammedan soldiers.


I. Let us first briefly glance at the consensus.

Both churches own the Nicene creed (with the exception of the Filioque), and all the doctrinal decrees of the seven oecumenical Synods from a.d. 325 to 787, including the worship of images.

They agree moreover in most of the post-oecumenical or mediaeval doctrines against which the evangelical Reformation protested, namely: the authority of ecclesiastical tradition as a joint rule of faith with the holy Scriptures; the worship of the Virgin Mary, of the saints, their pictures (not statues), and relics; justification by faith and good works, as joint conditions; the merit of good works, especially voluntary celibacy and poverty; the seven sacraments or mysteries (with minor differences as to confirmation, and extreme unction or chrisma); baptismal regeneration and the necessity of water-baptism for salvation; transubstantiation and the consequent adoration of the sacramental elements; the sacrifice of the mass for the living and the dead, with prayers for the dead; priestly absolution by divine authority; three orders of the ministry, and the necessity of an episcopal hierarchy up to the patriarchal dignity; and a vast number of religious rites and ceremonies.

In the doctrine of purgatory, the Greek Church is less explicit, yet agrees with the Roman in assuming a middle state of purification, and the efficacy of prayers and masses for the departed. The dogma of transubstantiation, too, is not so clearly formulated in the Greek creed as in the Roman, but the difference is very small. As to the Holy Scriptures, the Greek Church has never prohibited the popular use, and the Russian Church even favors the free circulation of her authorized vernacular version. But the traditions of the Greek Church are as strong a barrier against the exercise of private judgment and exegetical progress as those of Rome.


II. The dissensus of the two churches covers the following points:

1. The procession of the Holy Spirit: the East teaching the single procession from the Father only, the West (since Augustin), the double procession from the Father and the Son (Filioque).

2. The universal authority and infallibility of the pope, which is asserted by the Roman, denied by the Greek Church. The former is a papal monarchy, the latter a patriarchal oligarchy. There are, according to the Greek theory, five patriarchs of equal rights, the pope of Rome, the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. They were sometimes compared to the five senses in the body. To them was afterwards added the patriarch of Moscow for the Russian church (which is now governed by the “Holy Synod”). To the bishop of Rome was formerly conceded a primacy of honor, but this primacy passed with the seat of empire to the patriarch of Constantinople, who therefore signed himself “Archbishop of New Rome and Oecumenical Patriarch.305305    See the passages in Gieseler II. 227 sq.

3. The immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary, proclaimed as a dogma by the pope in 1854, disowned by the East, which, however, in the practice of Mariolatry fully equals the West.

4. The marriage of the lower clergy, allowed by the Eastern, forbidden by the Roman Church (yet conceded by the pope to the United Greeks).

5. The withdrawal of the cup from the laity. In the Greek Church the laymen receive the consecrated bread dipped in the wine and administered with a golden spoon.

6. A number of minor ceremonies peculiar to the Eastern Church, such as trine immersion in baptism, the use of leavened bread in the eucharist, infant-communion, the repetition of the holy unction (to; eujcevlion) in sickness.

Notwithstanding these differences the Roman Church has always been obliged to recognize the Greek Church as essentially orthodox, though schismatic. And, certainly, the differences are insignificant as compared with the agreement. The separation and antagonism must therefore be explained fully as much and more from an alienation of spirit and change of condition.


Note on the Eastern Orthodox Church.


For the sake of brevity the usual terminology is employed in this chapter, but the proper name of the Greek Church is the Holy Oriental Orthodox Apostolic Church. The terms mostly in use in that church are Orthodox and Oriental (Eastern). The term Greek is used in Turkey only of the Greeks proper (the Hellens); but the great majority of Oriental Christians in Turkey and Russia belong to the Slavonic race. The Greek is the original and classical language of the Oriental Church, in which the most important works are written; but it has been practically superseded in Asiatic Turkey by the Arabic, in Russia and European Turkey by the Slavonic.

The Oriental or Orthodox Church now embraces three distinct divisions:

1. The Orthodox Church in Turkey (European Turkey and the Greek islands, Asia Minor, Syria and Palestine) under the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem.

2. The state church of Russia, formerly under the patriarch of Constantinople, then under the patriarch of Moscow, since 1725 under the Holy Synod of St. Petersburg and the headship of the Czar. This is by far the largest and most important branch.

3. The church of the kingdom of Greece under the Holy Synod of Greece (since 1833).

There are also Greek Christians in Egypt, the Sinaitic Peninsula (the monks of the Convent of St. Catharine), the islands of the AEgean Sea, in Malta, Servia, Austria, etc.

Distinct from the Orthodox Church are the Oriental Schismatics, the Nestorians, Armenians, Jacobites, Copts, and Abyssinians, who separated from the former on the ground of the christological controversies. The Maronites of Mount Lebanon were originally also schismatics, but submitted to the pope during the Crusades.

The United Greeks acknowledge the supremacy of the pope, but retain certain peculiarities of the Oriental Church, as the marriage of the lower clergy, the native language in worship. They are found in lower Italy, Austria, Russia, and Poland.

The Bulgarians, who likewise call themselves orthodox, and who by the treaty of Berlin in 1878 have been formed into a distinct principality, occupy an independent position between the Greek and the Roman Churches.



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