Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cyril Lucaris - Orthodox and Calvinistic

Sometime ago I read Bob Letham's book Through Western Eyes about the Eastern Orthodox church and blogged on it here. One character in the OC that I find fascinating is Cyril Lucaris (1572-1638) who was a Calvinistic Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople. He wrote an interesting confession of faith that gives one pause for thought on how Calvinism can be expressed in eastern language. Less we get too excited, I would point out that Cyril's positions were opposed at the 1672 Jerusalem Synod with the Confession of Dositheus which doesn't hold back on the polemics!

Is there any hope for a Reformed-Orthodox reapproachment? Well, Anglicanism might be the best conduit in town for that dialogue. I note that Nashotah House (an Anglo-Catholic Seminary) and St. Vladamir's Seminary in the USA have a formal agreement to work towards unity. At the ACNA assembly this year metropolitan Bishop Jonah called for full communion with the new Anglican province (though he did call Calvinism a heresy along the way). I also note, with due understanding but with genuine disappointment all the same, that NT scholar Edith Humphrey has left the Anglican Diocese of Pittsburgh and been received into the Orthodox Church (see her explanation here). Hopefully she'll be involved in Anglican/Orthodox discussion somewhere along the line. Michael Horton suggested possible eastern influences on Calvin's view of the eucharist in his excellent book, People and Place. I would also draw attention to a piece written by Jack D. Kinneer called A Calvinist Looks at Orthodoxy, which is significant because Kinneer is an OPC member and he studied at St. Vladamir seminary. How do you get John Calvin and John Chrysostom to sit at the one table and what would they agree on?


Esteban Vázquez said...

Patriarch Cyril was not, of course, a Calvinist nor anything remotely resembling one. For a fine short piece discussing this ubiquitous misconception (one that, now as then, serves the interests of Western confessions without regard for the Orthodox mindset: then polemical, now ecumenical), see Archbishop Chrysostomos' The Myth of the Calvinist Patriarch.

Also, for a superb book by a Calvinist which (unlike Letham's) actually does justice to our Orthodox Confession, see James Payton's Light from the Christian East: An Introduction to the Orthodox Tradition.

mark said...

This post caught my eye as I had earlier this year read Timothy Ware's "The Orthodox Church" and was struck to hear about an Orthodox Patriarch who took on Calvinist teachings! Fascinating stuff!

From the Calvinist tradition, I'm sure we can learn some wonderful things from the orthodox church, and with writings from David Bentely Hart, we may perhaps see more cases of the Franky Schaeffer kind in the future. I hope not though!

One of the things I also gleaned from Michael Horton was the use of the orthodox energies/essence distinction with respect to union with Christ. Very interesting stuff in his Covenant and Salvation book.

Thanks for prompting the thought again!


Paul J said...

I think the E. Orthodox tradition, mysticism and emphasis on God as healing sinners, is appealing when you get too much of the Reformed emphasis on the rational side of faith. Even the Reformed emphasis on obedience of faith can leave you feeling alone, because of the contractual view of the covenant. If Reformed leaders could recapture the union with Christ emphasis of Calvin, in a personal way, it would add the hopeful, holistic feel to our faith.

Michael F. Bird said...

Esteban, the problem is that in personal correspondence with friends, Loukaris admitted to writing the "Confession". See Hadjiantoniou’s Protestant Patriarch (Epworth Press, London 1961). He was no less Orthodox, but he had Calvinistic sympathies to some degree or other.

Jason said...

Bishop Jonah simply laid down the standard party line: do it our way (7 sacraments, no women, no filioque, etc., no Calvinism even in the 39 Articles sense). Not exactly a call for full communion, except in the sense that they are always calling for full communion.

Anonymous said...

Metropolitan Jonah, while calling for union with the New Province in his message at the conference at Nashotah House, outlined seven obstacles in doing so: one of them was Calvinism's influence in Anglican theology. So, while union would be nice, and Calvinism and E.O. speaking can be good, Metropolitan Jonah sees Calvinism as the problem and not the solution or even a vehicle towards union.

Steven said...


You might find some of this of interest: http://wedgewords.wordpress.com/2008/10/15/england-and-orthodoxy-in-the-17th-cent/

Peter M. Head said...

He also kindly presented Codex Alexandrinus to Charles I of England in 1627 - one of many attempts to get the English to read the Bible.