Fr. Andrew on we terrible, Orthodox idolaters

This is a good read from my priest, Fr. Andew Damick in response to Peter Leithart’s most recent screed against Orthodoxy, we idolatrous brothers who are worshiping God through Baal and Moloch. I knew Peter Leithart years ago, and he is a very bright fellow, but puts into sharp relief C. S. Lewis’s question about who knows better the ball: those standing against the wall and hearing the orchestra and watching the dancers on the floor, or those who are out on the floor dancing? Further, Leithart, like most of those who call themselves Reformed catholic, have a very cafeteria approach to what they want to take from that which was believed by all men, everywhere, and at all times.

About Cyril Jenkins

Professor of History
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5 Responses to Fr. Andrew on we terrible, Orthodox idolaters

  1. Pingback: Orthodox Collective

  2. I think you may be slightly misreading Dr. Leithart. His point isn’t to attack the Orthodox, but actually, to defend you. I agree that “idolatrous” is a poor word choice, but setting that aside, and letting him define it as he wants, as “sinful liturgical irregularity”, what more could you want? (Actually, I think he means the word something similarly to how Evangelicals do when they speak of “our private idolatries that we are all guilty of.”) There may be weaknesses in what he says, but he is about as close to defending you as you could want from a Protestant.

  3. Cyril says:

    Matthew, this is kind of like with capitalists like Paul Krugman, who needs socialists. With defenders like Dr. Leithart, who needs detractors. His “defense”, and his analogy, are not merely backhanded, but indeed askew at the very prolegomena of theology. Yes, God did call Israel back, and did have mercy on them, but not for the sake of themselves, but only for Abraham’s, Isaac’s and Jacob’s sakes, and not for the sake of the northern tribes themselves. But more fundamentally, the most telling thing about his essay is his heuristic notion that he can draw an ecclesiology, even an analogical one, apart from Christ. To try and decry Orthodox as idolaters based on the OT notions of what constituted this, misses the mark (to use the OT term) about the nature of the OT revelation of God when compared to the NT. This is really what the discussion is about, but I don’t think Dr. Leithart has gotten there yet. Perhaps he has, or Jim Jordan or someone has, but I have never read any of these Reformed Calvinists who have read, let alone understood what John of Damascus and Theodore the Studite were saying in their treatises on icons.Dr. Leithart hasn’t even grasped what Schmemann was saying. Had he read For the Life of the World without his protestant glasses he may well have seen that Schmemann’s cosmology and cosmogony completely undercut Calvinism. It’s nice to call Schmemann prophetic, but he needs to read a lot more Schmemann and also Schmemann’s friends (Florovsky, Lossky, Staniloae, et cetera), or even their teachers, namely St. Athanasius, just to begin.

    I have no doubt Matthew, that Dr. Leithart is working hard to keep his theology together, and I am certainly not questioning his sincerity, nor his love of God, but eventually his theology will come to an impasse. You can’t have de Lubac’s and Schmemann’s views about the relationship of nature and grace and remain Protestant for very long. I think it was F. Scott Fitzgerald who said that an artists was someone who could hold two irreconcilable principles at once and still function. As gifted and artful and Dr. Leithart is, I don’t think he would ever want to be Fitzgerald’s artist.

  4. Matthew N. Petersen says:

    I don’t think that his article is above attack or anything. But it does seem that’s he’s fighting on both fronts. Thus, for instance, you read it as attacking the Orthodox, whereas some Protestants read it as indicating that he’s about to embrace Orthodoxy. (See here.) I don’t think the article should be read as an attack on Orthodox Idolaters, but rather should be read at an attempt at simultaneously expressing appreciation for the Orthodox, answering people like Greenbaggins, and saying why he couldn’t be Orthodox. It’s a hard task.

  5. Matthew makes a good point here. Peter (a fine man/scholar and longtime friend) usually argues he is merely walking the biblical line the Magisterial Reformers walked — rejecting both Zwinglian & Anabaptist extremes, on the one hand — Rome and Orthodoxy on the other. (Of course, shooting in both directions all but assures you’ll get return fire from both directions!) In this case, his construct of ‘catholicity’ departs not only from Orthodoxy & Rome, but the historic Reformed view itself, Calvin included. Thus, he desperately needs a monumental exegetical argument that a Trinitarian Baptism from any Pastor should suffice as the entry-sacrament to “Table Fellowship” in The Sacramental meal — Holy Communion. Much more to be said…

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