5. Feb, 2017

A positive movement to reconcile the Eastern Orthodox & Oriental Orthodox Churches

Review by Rakovsky

Georgy Alexander’s book continues to prompt evaluation and move forward a positive movement to reconcile the Eastern Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches. His thesis is that “Although due to cultural, linguistic and political influences, these churches tried to define Christological issues in different terminologies… they profess the same faith and doctrines pertaining to the person of Christ, who was truly God and truly man.” The problem he sees is that their terminologies “were not properly intelligible to each other at that time.” The thesis has appeal because it suggests that if we resolved issues of terminology, we could recognize basic orthodoxy in each other’s beliefs. G.Alexander has helped break the ground for a full analysis on whether this is the case. Such an analysis must be undertaken dispassionately, not based on a fear that one’s own terminology could be incorrect.

Alexander makes observations that show the need for a reasonable grassroots, logical re-evaluation of some Christological expressions. For example, there is a strongly growing trend today among E.Orthodox to reject the label of “Monophysites” for Oriental Orthodox when more and more E.Orthodox hear Oriental Orthodox teaching that Christ has divinity and humanity, and not only a divine nature. Alexander complains that “Many people still think that the Oriental Orthodox believe only in a single nature of Christ.” He also notes how a friend told him her experience that reflects “the sad reality and tragedy of Orthodox” relations:

“I met someone from the Eastern Orthodox Church yesterday who was convinced that the Oriental Orthodox did not believe that Christ had two natures. I am sure they would not accept they were wrong even if Christ Himself said so! Unfortunately, there are people who still cling to these myths.”

The simple, logical, personal Christological statements of G. Alexander and his friend openly and directly match Eastern Orthodoxy on the issue over which our Schism occurred many centuries ago. With such personal declarations, we arrive at “The Orthodox Dilemma” itself. From the traditional E.Orthodox view, G.Alexander and his friend have affirmed core necessary Christological statements. Shouldn’t we treat this moment of agreement as an opportunity? A grassroots movement open to affirming orthodox Christology, rather than in being locked in closed-mindedness, is a required ingredient of the reconciliation that Orthodoxy demands we seek.

And nor are Alexander and other laypersons alone, since some hierarchs have shown open-mindedness. Alexander correctly notes the 1989 statement by Met. Bishoi’s and Met. Damaskinos’ Joint Commission: “Those among us who speak of two natures in Christ do not thereby deny their inseparable, indivisible union; those among us who speak of one united divine-human nature in Christ do not thereby deny the continuing dynamic presence in Christ of the divine and the human, without change, without confusion.”