… [T]he reading of history that you have taken on from Joseph Farrell, that I think constitutes an ideology, in fact resembles, theoretically and rhetorically, the ideology of those who gave fuel to the Bosnian war. It presents a discourse wherein the West is conceived to have fallen from divine grace, and the chief villain of the story is St. Augustine. It is to his “dialectic” of divine simplicity, which you see as fundamentally akin to that of Eunomius, that you ascribe the manifold problems of the West. It may well be that you accord Augustine some credit as an honest Christian; but his thinking you consistently represent as heresy, “Sabellianism” or “Semi-Sabellianism.” When I say that this is an ideology, I mean that it is maintained only through a kind of willful disregard of Christian history. It presents a caricature view of both the West and the East, a caricature that arises from an impatience with looking at facts. Neither the East, nor certainly the West, was ever as monolithically Photian in its understanding of the trinitarian mystery as you make it out to be. That is one of the things, in writing this blog, that I have tried to show.
That impatience with looking at facts has serious consequences for Christian relations. The West is asked to renounce its own past, to take on a view of God that never really belonged to it. I do think that this is a kind of destruction of memory, implicitly a kind of violence, and that the West rightly rejects such a demand. And I know that theoretical violence often issues in the physical kind.
This is not to say that the West never perpetrated violence on the East, both theoretical and physical. And it is right that the theoretical and physical causes of violence be acknowledged and renounced on both sides. But my consistent claim throughout this blog has been that people like the Cappadocians, St. Athanasius, St. Maximus, and other fathers of the Church were constantly aware of the dangers of Christian misunderstanding, dangers of violence, and that they sought to obviate those dangers by perceiving, if at all possible, the underlying commonality of doctrine when there was a verbal disagreement. I think that that is what St. Maximus does in his Letter to Marinus. And I am pretty certain that the underlying commonality of doctrine St. Maximus defends in that letter allows for the orthodoxy of St. Augustine’s teaching on the Holy Trinity, in spite of what is said by Anastasius the Librarian.
In short, I think that Bekkos is a better reader of the patristic evidence than Photius is. It may be that you think such an acknowledgment is inconsistent with belonging to the Orthodox Church. Perhaps you are right; God is judge. But I have a great hesitation to leave Orthodox discourse entirely in the hands of those who are impatient with fact, and who thereby disallow the possibility of any Christian reconciliation from the outset …
Update (6/30/2008) – A new post at De unione ecclesiarum: “On exclusive truth-claims; or, What I Believe”