Oh something like these guys from Night at the Museum. Remember all that yelling?
Isn't this post about The Orthodox Church, you ask? Most definitely,but chapter three's beginning impressed upon me how "barbarians" influenced Christianity!
For the record, I like to believe we have moved past these barbaric tendencies, but I think in reality we have those little warriors lurking just below the surface and more often than we like to admit: they surface!
Chapter 3 of The Orthodox Church begins with the estrangement leading up to the great schism between eastern and western Christianity. The author reminds us that the rapid spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire during the apostles' time was due to commonalities in politics and culture. Many people spoke both Latin and Greek. Over time politics and culture throughout the Empire changed. Step by step, the crack widened. I suppose it's like a marriage where spouses develop and pursue different interests. Before you know it, you've grown apart and then if you aren't careful, you find yourself estranged, separated and "schismed." I mean divorced.
Here are factors that I noted as contributing to the increasing estrangement.
Political disunity happened first.
1. Unity of the Mediterranean world declined partly when Constantine founded a "second imperial capital in the east". Except for Rome, barbarian invasions carved up much of Europe under various chiefs.
2. Illyricum, formerly seen as a bridge between east and west, became a barrier when Avars and Slavs invaded the Balkan peninsula.
3. Due to the rise of Islam, the Mediterranean Sea fell largely under Arab control and contact between east and west became more difficult.
4. The Iconclast controversy. Some were for icons; others were not.
5. Pope Stephen reaching out to Pepin brought increased Frankish influence to Rome.
6. Fifty years later, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne, King of the Franks, as Emperor. He was unable to gain sought-after recognition by the Byzantines who regarded him as an "intruder."
All of this political disunity naturally lead to cultural divisions over time. Whereas before many people were bilingual, increasingly, those in the west spoke only Latin and those in the east, Greek. As this pertains to the church, the people stopped reading each other's books so the Latin-only people got more "Latinized" in thinking whereas the Greeks, predictably, went in the other direction.
Even from the beginning the Latins and Greeks approached theology and the Christian Mystery differently. For example:
the Latin approach was more practical, the Greek more speculative;
Latin thought was influenced by judicial ideas, by the concept of Roman law, while the Greeks understood theology in the context of worship and the light of the Holy Liturgy.
When thinking about the Trinity, Latins started with the unity of the Godhead, Greeks with the threeness of the persons;
when reflecting on the Crucifixion, Latins primarily thought of Christ the Victim, Greeks of Christ the Victor;
Latins talked more about redemption, Greeks of deification. (pg. 48)
But when the two groups were in political unity, they would complement each other's work. Both approaches could be melded into one. When the disunification happened, this "blending" stopped.
The Byzantines always were more involved in councils and had a collegiality style, whereas the Latins - with those numerous, divided barbarian tribes - often looked at the Roman Church as the one unifying presence. The western Church grew to resemble a monarchy.
The east tended to be more educated with many "lay" theologians abounding. By contrast the commoners were illiterate in the west so the Church took on a bigger role. People were not reading the Scripture for themselves - how could they? - so they had to wait for the Church to tell them what it said.
With all that power - no checks and balances from other churches or the common folks - I can certainly see how corruption could settle in! Power too often breeds corruption.
Eventually the churches grew into direct conflict regarding two things:
1 -- Papal claims to more authority than the eastern churches wanted to give. The Orthodox were for primacy of Rome, but not supremacy. (Perhaps this monarchical-type ruling in Rome among the barbarian tribes transferred to Rome thinking even the other churches should bow to their wishes.)
2 -- The Filioque -- changing the Creed from saying the Holy Spirit proceeds from not just the Father, but also the Son. While this insertion was not necessarily a bad theological position for some Orthodox, the fact that Rome decided to do this independent of the council, the Orthodox simply could not handle.
So does the individualistic nature/independent streak of many westerners go back to the Roman Church acting independently of the council of Churches? The East even today is more community-minded, yes?
It's all rather interesting, huh? What are your thoughts?