Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Orthodoxy: Tradition Not of This World

By Constantine Cavarnos

"Orthodox always regarded the unchanging persistence of the Orthodox Church in Sacred Tradition as her boast. On the contrary, the heterodox — with exceptions, especially in recent times — regarded this persistence as a sign of decline, as a sign of deficiency in her inner life. In particular, the Protestants hurled the reproof that the Orthodox Church is 'dead' and likened her to a 'petrified mummy.' This demonstrates the ignorance which the heterodox customarily have about the true essence of Christianity, and shows to what degree they confuse the revealed faith with the different worldly systems, with the different human contrivances and creations. Since in the crafts and the sciences there is a continuous development and perfection, they think that the same thing ought to happen in the Christian religion, that here too there should be a continuous revision, change, and replacement of the old by the new—in a word, 'modernization.' Looking at Christianity rationalistically, they misunderstand its revelatory character and demote it to the level of the systems which the mind of man has formed on the basis of reason and the observations of the five senses.

If strict perseverance in Tradition does not entail the deadening of the Church, but on the contrary is absolutely necessary for the preservation and fruitfulness of the life of the Church, as much again the disregard for and even partial abandonment of Tradition entails the slackening of her life and her gradual decomposition. The most persuasive witness to this is borne by the history of the Western Church, which introduced one novelty and "modernization" after the other, chiefly from the time of the Schism and after. This Schism of the Western Church from the Eastern Orthodox Church was a result of Western innovations. And the very revolution of the Protestants, which split the Western Church into warring parties, was a result of the downfall of the Western Church, a downfall which occurred as a consequence of her distortion of Sacred Tradition.

Nevertheless, the introduction of innovations continued. At the end of the nineteenth century, for example, there appeared in the bosom of the Roman Catholic Church the movement of "Modernism" or Modernization, which set as its goal the renovation of Christian teaching by adapting it to contemporary worldly thought. The representatives of this movement inflicted one damage after another on Christian doctrine, and thought that in this way they would revivify their Church. But the result of this spurious Christianity of discarding truths of the Faith and making 'adaptations' was that large numbers of persons left the churches and became complete unbelievers (cf. P. Melitis, Let the Way be Cleared [Athens, 1957], p. 28).

Protestantism, having denied the unwritten Tradition, was quickly divided into different confessions, and they again into others, and so on, so that there exist today countless Protestant confessional groups ... a result of the different innovations and adaptations to each 'contemporary spirit.'"

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