Thursday, March 06, 2008

The archbishop of Babel (Thinking about Entropy)

I had the occasion to deal with a concrete instance of the Babel-ing I described in my last post. Dr. Scott Carson had recommended taking a look at a work of Joseph P. Farrell that had recently become available. Dr. Carson rightly chastised one commenter for mentioning that since Farrell was goofy on historical matters like Nazi flying saucers and the Giza Death Star, since it doesn't follow that having a flawed methodology in one area makes you incompetent in other areas. In response to Dr. Carson's statement that "it does not follow from that, of course, that his theological views are as insane as his physics," I pointed out that much of what Farrell says is little different than similar goofiness he had previously identified (e.g., romantic visions of the Confederacy, John Hagee's wacky apocalyptic theology) and that both methodologies suffer from the same fundamental flaw (what I called Babel-ing in the earlier post). I am reproducing my comments here to provide some additional context for those earlier reflections:

While I agree with the principle, I think they are in this case. I've read the Giza books just to see if it were the case that both were insane. Based on his take on paleophysics, the various references to Christianity, and his rejection of the "Western" critical textual method, the two conclusions (theological and scientific) appear to be rooted in the same fundamental goofiness. IMNSHO, one might glean that from his historical fiction. If there were a metropolitan of Babel, it would be Farrell. His is an idea beyond the possibility of feedback from reality, speculation without evidence or experiment, and I do not plan to fund that sort of nonsense any further than I already have.

The problem I see is that Farrell's anti-Catholicism doesn't seem to be different in kind from John Hagee's anti-Catholicism or the romantic view of the Confederacy, for example. It's just a matter of degree. Zionist conspiracy theories aren't much different than Frankish conspiracy theories in the end. And Hagee's madness has a pedigree in historical Protestantism, just as Farrell's has a pedigree in anti-Western Orthodoxy. One might argue that the Protestants misunderstood Catholicism just as badly as Mark of Ephesus et al. did. But if that's the case, then one might as well not beat up Hagee for uncritically accepting crazy beliefs either. Farrell may be more polite and educated, but I don't think that excuses him for being wrong.

At this point, I just regret that so many smart people have been sucked into pseudo-scientific, quasi-mystical gobbledygook about "dialectic" and whatnot. Everything I have seen suggests an extremely selective disregard for the clearest historical counter-evidence, and I don't know how to deal seriously with people who can't deal in reality. Hagee and Farrell suffer from the same brand of delusion, and I'm not inclined to give Farrell a pass because he's more educated and articulate. Well-spoken insanity is still insane, and possibly the more diabolical for it.

I mention all of this because you strike me as a guy who is willing to call "bullshit" on anybody, be it a "very promising young scholar and theologian" for his "redolence of Bultmann," a priest for his "dreamy-eyed longing for one of the most despicable periods in American history," or your own employer for dragging people halfway across the country when they don't have a chance of being hired to fulfill a diversity quota. Unlike the previous commenter, I am not hiding behind any cloak of anonymity, and I am not attempting to poison the well. I think Farrell's uncritical acceptance of both his own sheerly speculative premises and the unfortunate prejudices of his historical subjects (e.g., Photius) is just irresponsible, and it is the same M.O. at work in his historical and scientific works. Moreover, if Asher Black's assessment at Energetic Procession is correct, the current spate of anti-Western Orthodoxy, with its concomitant urination all over the prospects of Catholic-Orthodox ecumenism, comes "not from the fire started by Fr. John Romanides ..., not from all the anti-Augustine thinkers out there, but from the planting of these things all over the English-speaking world by [Farrell]...." I would add on a personal level that there are two guys whom I happen to like a lot who are, in my view, squandering the best years of their intellectual life on anti-Western bigotry. We can write off Farrell, Hagee, and every other historical revisionist as "eccentric," but it hasn't been your habit to do so, and I'd encourage you not to give Farrell the benefit of the doubt when he has done little to deserve it.

At least consider that the noticeable stultification in thought on the issue of the filioque and the "beyond being" stuff, which you yourself have noted more than once, is directly connected to Farrell's work, based on a similar uncritical and revisionist methodology. Farrell's pseudo-profundity has been the lead lemming for more than a little of this intellectual cliff-diving.

In response to a request for more specific information concerning Farrell, I mentioned the following examples:

As to Farrell, I can pinpoint the moment the Farrellites lost me; it was when I read an article linked off of Asher Black's Filioque webpage (the same Asher Black who is currently publishing GHD). I scrolled down to this article on The Frankish Papacy's Involvement in Judeo-Masonry (my favorite gem of anti-Semitism: "The hidden hand of Talmud and Kabbalah is revealed wherever the Jewish people are made the objects of veneration and sanctity"). Asher Black's link section includes the disclaimer "At the same time, we freely list and annotate resources we may have serious qualms about - we don't accept the fallacy of guilt by association - nor does any rational creature." But I assume that to say "see especially X" is not indicative of any such serious qualms. And besides, if what's sauce for McCain's goose is sauce for Asher Black's gander in this instance. It doesn't suffice to indicate disagreement when the person in question has specific ideas that make him appear crazier than a bedbug, and you haven't gone out of your way to deal with that. And this is a close confidant, even a disciple, of Farrell's.

Perhaps you think that this brand of Franco-Roman conspiracy is a bit more extreme than the strain endorsed by Romanides and Farrell, so I picked another serious political example just to point out that it isn't just Hagee who has odd opinions about world politics.

I read this letter that John Romanides wrote to President George H. W. Bush in 1992. To be fair, he doesn't actually accuse the Pope of collaborations with Nazis; he just implies it:
"The Frankish bishops described herein by Saint Boniface in 741, as well as "Saints" Lanfranc of Canterbury (1070-1089) and Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) were, by civilised standards, common criminals. Yet the latter two, and others, who support their positions on killing by religious orders in the name of Latin Christendom, are still considered great saints by the Vatican. This raises the question of whether the Vatican simply tolerated or also supported the World War II massacres of Serbs by Croats and of Jews by Nazis. So long as the Vatican does not officially reject the practises and theories of such 'saints,' the Balkans will continue to be in turmoil, especially when coupled with the Islamic Jihad."

Romanides ties this back to his Franco-Roman conspiracy theory:
"However the Croats became Latins after the Roman Papacy was abolished and replaced by the current Franco-Latin Papacy, having at the time also come into dependency on Ostmark East Franks and the Hungarians. The Serbs, together with the Romans of the West Balkans and Southern Italy, reacted by joining the church jurisdiction of New Rome. The Saxon and Celtic bishops of England also refused to accept this Franco-Latin Papacy and were exterminated by the Normans."

I assume the fact the one takes this stuff sufficiently seriously to write a letter to the President indicates that one's belief has political implications, even though it doesn't have the traction here that it would in Greece. To me, this whole "Franco-Latin papacy" idea is about a basic anti-Teutonic animus that dates back to hostility between the Byzantine empire and the Franks. It is Romanides's quackery that causes him to see the modern situation as "Dark Age Crusades in modern garb under the cover of Western Civilisation," when he is the one living in a (mostly mythical) past of his own devising. The fundamental notion is not just that Catholicism (the "Franco-Latin papacy," as Romanides puts it) is wrong, but that it is so wrong that it inherently produces these bad results. It isn't merely the accusation that people are in heresy, but that Catholic dogma actually *produces* socialists and Nazis, as if they are entailed as a logical consequence of the dogma.

That is essentially the idea here: that Catholic dogma has built-in defects inherited from barbarians (read: Teutonic culture) that causes us all to behave like barbarians. It is based on this conspiracy theory about the Franks coopting the papacy in the 11th century. And because we Westerners lack the enlightenment of the East on Greek philosophy, we have simply latched on to the worst aspects of "Hellenism" from which the Eastern Church was purified, particularly in the acquisition of Aristotle in the West.Now one might say that that was Romanides and not Farrell, but I think it relatively clear that Romanides's political understanding and the position of Farrell on the so-called "Second Europe" found in this excerpt from GHD simply isn't that different.

This is sort of reasoning is not analysis (how does one reason from calling St. Bernard a saint to suspicions of collboration in the Holocaust?). It's just name-calling, and name-calling with a disturbingly ethnic character. I'm not going to excuse the deals the papacy made with the Franks and the abuse of the Eastern Church during the Crusades. But there is a HUGE difference between viewing that as a significant lapse in judgment (in the same way that I take you viewing much of Christianity as having lapsed into heresy) and some conspiracy theory that views it as the pernicious influence of a barbaric ethos in the very psychology of being an obedient Catholic. That is, in my view, the result of the same pseudo-scientific rendering of ancient history that Farrell practices, and indeed, it is the sort of name-calling that Farrell himself licenses.

The fact that these folks are fewer in number than Hagee is simply one of the God-given blessings of self-restricting insanity: even if lots of people are crazy, it's hard to convince them to be your particular strain of crazy. On the other hand, I can't see any way around the notion that this whole "history and dialectic" routine is, in fact, crazy. When you see things like "filioque is the sum of all heresies," "ecumenism is a cabal (literally) between liberal rabbinic Judaism, Freemasonry, and the Pope," and vague adumbrations about fictional entities like the "Frankish papacy" and the "Celtic Orthodox Church," that's crazy.

If people want to make some purely metaphysical or even historical argument about the untenability of some specific theological belief (as David Bradshaw does), I have no qualms about listening, because I can respond to that and disagree based on some real facts. I can say "no, you've got Aquinas wrong" or "no, that doesn't follow." But when this historical speculation completely severed from close textual analysis and specific historical evidence of intellectual derivation starts coming down the pipe, the place starts looking like a pig sty, and I have no desire to wallow in the muck. And that's what you get with Farrell: a bunch of mudslinging about the Second Europe that basically accuses the Western mind of being "aberrant" without evidence. Maybe they're right; maybe Orthodoxy really does hold this stuff as dogma in the Synodikon or whatever. But that is hardly to Orthodoxy's credit if true.

31 Comments:

At 12:43 PM, Anonymous Paul Hamilton said...

Interesting post, Jonathan. I would have missed this excerpt from Farrell entirely had you not linked to it. I will usually read a few posts over at EP from time to time, something I do mainly out of the great respect I have for Perry. I remember not reading the particular excerpt from Farrell's book because it was just a long, unorganized stream of text. I took the time to read the whole thing this time around. I had no idea how ridiculous the thesis actually is.

I guess the only thing I can do is to continue praying for the unity of the Church. :/

 
At 5:11 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

I don't think that Perry goes in for that stuff. As he himself says, "[Farrell's] material on Maximus has its own legs and in [Perry's] judgment, that is what matters." So long as people stick to that, it's fine.

But I think it's hovering at the edge of the abyss to attempt to tar Augustine with the "Origenist dialectic" and to accuse St. Thomas of simply glibly following along. I have no doubt that he is wrong about that, and I find much of the scholarship purporting to show Platonism in St. Augustine and reviling him for his predestinarianism is based more on repeating the conclusions of other scholars than close textual analysis. That's true of St. Thomas and Bl. Duns Scotus as well, particularly with Scotus, and I have seen enough groupthink in theology to take most of this stuff with a grain of salt. People jump to conclusions left and right, and it seems to me that the more careful scholars are invariably the ones who don't go out on these speculative limbs and who stick to conclusions for which they have direct evidence.

However, to tie this whole thing to the Franks, as if there were some Western patristic filioque that got coopted by the Frankish domination of the papacy, is just squirrely. I have no problems admitting that if Augustine was wrong, then there are plenty of Westerners that were wrong (indeed, I am hard-pressed to find any from Pope St. Leo the Great on who would have been orthodox if Augustine is heterodox). None of that has anything to do with the Franks based on any sort of reasonable historical method; people who say otherwise are either selling something or smoking something.

Nonetheless, like Perry says, there are scholars more reputable than Farrell who make criticism in the same vein without partaking of the goofiness. For example, check out this article, which extends the work of John Jones at Marquette. It deals with a specific theological issue with specific historical consequences using specific texts relevant to the issue. I completely disagree with the conclusions and the assessment of St. Augustine and St. Thomas, primarily on the differences in the metaphysical bases for knowledge in Augustine and Thomas versus Ps.-Dionysius. But it isn't crazy. He's not overreaching for larger psychosocial conclusions, even if he happens to believe them. He's not even so ambitious as to map Augustine's error onto Origen's, although there is a connection made (via Bradshaw) between Augustine's doctrine of divine simplicity and the Plotinian Intellect/Neoplatonic Nous. As I said before, I think that connection is grossly overstated, but it's not crazy. Dr. Bucur takes the modest approach, much like his adviser Hieromonk Alexander (Golitizin), of pointing out that the two concepts are incompatible in some respects, which is probably true.

But it seems pretty clear to me that Daniel has no interest in reining in his speculation, and Perry isn't willing to listen to different opinions on St. Thomas or the scholastics (and probably not St. Augustine either, although Catholics haven't exactly been racing to his defense). I pretty much can't see any possibility for dialogue, so I think we just say "rant away!" In the end, I don't think that people who are actually interested in these matters will settle for that level of discussion.

 
At 8:01 PM, Anonymous Paul Hamilton said...

Jonathan, maybe you can answer a few things for me. I'd ask them at EP, but the environment hasn't been very guest-friendly in the past couple of months.

So what is this argument concerning the Franks supposed to be? How exactly was the western Filioque supposed to have been hijacked? When did the Franks have the power to do such a thing? Why didn't anyone in the west notice this radical theological paradigm shift as it was happening?

How does the Origenist dialectic differ from plain ol' dialectic? Why is the term considered such a bad word?

And finally, how're the children doing? You have a one-year old now, don't you?

 
At 8:31 PM, OpenID arturovasquez said...

And you haven't even touched on Yannaras saying that Gothic architecture is the Filioque in stone and mortar. Or him saying talking about the god of Anselm and the god of Augustine as if he were talking about Moloch...

It's rhetoric and pigeonholing, and it is fundamentally due to a deep fear that they are just as modern as the people they are criticizing. It is paranoid differentiation, and the best thing to do is just ignore it.

 
At 11:53 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

I'm deleting comments from fellow goofballs, and I hope that the intellect-challenged coward who implicitly promised in his name that it would be his "First and Last Visit" will be as good as his word, nameless though it might have been. If you're going to be an idiot on my blog, just email me at jonathanprejean at hotmail dot com, and I can get direcly to the point with you without all of the posturing and grandstanding for whoever you think is reading this blog. Frankly, the readership I care about keeping is too smart to do anything but laugh at you anyway.

 
At 11:55 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

It is paranoid differentiation, and the best thing to do is just ignore it.

Yep. Dr. Carson's point was simply that if such "paranoid differentiation" actually makes a difference, then it should be denounced loudly by men of good will. On that point, I agree with him.

 
At 12:10 PM, Anonymous Paul Hamilton said...

Arturo,

My tongue was only half in cheek when I wrote that.

Just because certain people are prone to making silly analogies just to spite their opposition, that doesn't mean that all of their arguments are that way. So while I have this itching hunch that the whole story is as bogus as the rest of their historical analysis as you and many others say, I would at least like to hear the story once before dismissing it as a conspiracy theory.

Reading your post has reminded me that I haven't checked your blog recently, Arturo. :-)

 
At 12:11 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

So what is this argument concerning the Franks supposed to be? How exactly was the western Filioque supposed to have been hijacked? When did the Franks have the power to do such a thing? Why didn't anyone in the west notice this radical theological paradigm shift as it was happening?

... or to add another question, how was the mere presence of a German pope who was more or less immediately constricted in his power by conquest by (and alliance with) an entirely different group of people? The basic thesis is that there was an Orthodox West Roman take on the filioque that was overridden in the West by the Franks co-opting the papacy. In real historical terms, the Frankish influence over the papacy was practically negligible given the political constraints on the papacy at the time, both by the indigenous Roman population and by the competing regional powers. To say otherwise is myth-making, not history. Moreover, the historical FACT is that the Western version of the filioque did not change in theological content through the Frankish papacy. The only wrongdoing was that the Popes deliberately played on the ambiguity between the goofier strain of Frankish theology and the orthodox version. Thus, for example, this was exploited so that the Franks would attack the Eastern monasteries (which they believed to be heretical on their confused understanding of the filoque) while preserving the Western monasteries. Effectively, it exploited the Frankish confusion to create a difference between the West and East in the Franks' eyes and to divert attention from the West, and that is the victimization of the East that Photius saw. But the Franks' efforts to break the power of the papacy and to cease being beholden to Rome ultimately failed entirely, as Rome ended up with newer and more effective allies in the Normans anyway.

There is nothing glorious in the papacy making deals with barbarians on the one side while claiming to support Constantinople on the other, with the quite predictable consequence that the East would suffer as a result. Indeed, it might well be that the Popes of the time *wanted* the East to suffer to further the political powers of Rome. The conspiracy theory is in making these mundane political realities into an overarching defect in theological paradigm, attempting to lump numerous historically disparate circumstances (like the Norman conquest of England) into the same bucket. As hard as Bill Tighe has worked online to rebut this oversimplification (and I thank him for sending me so many works that have illuminated the historical realities of England in particular), it keeps coming back. That's what has caused me to attempt to diagnose the origin of this goofiness.

How does the Origenist dialectic differ from plain ol' dialectic? Why is the term considered such a bad word?

It shouldn't be, but for a particular Neoplatonic framework. That's what I've been pointing out lately about the differences in epistemology. Hope to have more later.

And finally, how're the children doing? You have a one-year old now, don't you?

Actually, a four-year-old and a two-year-old now, and believe me, the time flies for me just as much as you. They are so big now, and it's fun to be able to do so many more things with them.

 
At 12:14 PM, Anonymous Paul Hamilton said...

...hmm. I didn't realize that someone else's post(s) had been deleted when I was writing my response. Arturo, I didn't realize that your comment wasn't directed at me when I was writing it.

 
At 3:08 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Ah, the comment crossing phenomenon! There was a comment from someone named "First and Last Post Here" or something like that. It was sheer drivel (or more accurately, just character assassination against me), completely irrelevant to either Paul's or Arturo's comments.

 
At 9:22 AM, Blogger Andreas said...

I think that it's a mistake to focus on the theological controversies of the ninth century without taking into account what led there. I mean, it might be true that that's the era where a new world view arises, but the historical causes go much earlier.

In my view it goes like this: When the barbaric tribes conquered the western part of the roman kingdom, they brought with them their way of life. The church of Rome gave a huge fight, and it even managed to win the battle over the new peoples' arianism, turning them to orthodoxy, but it lost the war over the way of life those peoples led.

It takes great spiritual maturity for the conqueror to allow for the conquered to take him by the hand and show him the Way. It seems that the new peoples did not follow that way of humility. Instead, the way of life they had back home, they brought it into their new home.

Of course, in an era of great change and war and anarchy, the church of Rome was an institution that offered stability and was the only bearer of an advanced civilization. Which explains why the new peoples came into orbit round it.

Anyway, the whole point is that th theology those people created remained philosophical in nature and did not have the theoptic character of the orthodox theology, something that was not lost by the eastern part of the kingdom, where change in populations took place in a much more gradual and slow way.

And even though these new peoples managed to create a great civilization, the very civilization to which we partake today, its character is inherently anti-orthodox, in the sense that it is a creation of the same causes that led to the schism.

 
At 12:05 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Anyway, the whole point is that th theology those people created remained philosophical in nature and did not have the theoptic character of the orthodox theology, something that was not lost by the eastern part of the kingdom, where change in populations took place in a much more gradual and slow way.
...
And even though these new peoples managed to create a great civilization, the very civilization to which we partake today, its character is inherently anti-orthodox, in the sense that it is a creation of the same causes that led to the schism.


The problem is that I have no idea what "philosophical" and "theoptic" mean in this context (or "new world view" for that matter). This all seems hopelessly vague. If we are going to be scientific about this, then we must necessarily dissect and analyze, let we fall into incoherence.

I have no question that modern society is a creation of the same causes that led to the schism, but apart from a glaring application of the genetic fallacy, I don't know what conclusion is to be drawn from it. The West did the East numerous bad turns, and the reason for many of those assaults was the political alliance with the Franks. The Frankish culture certainly did have an effect in the West. But the Frankish culture strikes me as morally neutral, and there is nothing inherent in it contradictory to Christianity or any Christian dogma, nor did it spontaneously produce the schism apart from the deliberate bad acts of particular people. Indeed, I'm not even sure how a culture can be contradictory to Christianity, for all cultures are ultimately natural activities of man, and Christianity does not contradict nature but completes it. This notion that people of a certain culture are inherently "barbaric" strikes me as exactly the sort of reasoning that I find troublesome, because it seems thoroughly contrary to my experience and to numerous historical examples. Anybody can learn the philosophia perennis, because it deals with universal aspects of human nature. You don't need a particular cultural phronema overlaid on it.

There can be cultural expressions of theological error. If you worship a false god who demands that you sacrifice your children, then that has sociological consequences. But the problem is that these vague sorts of connections that have nothing to do with the content of the theological error just confuse the issue. You wouldn't treat cancer without accurately diagnosing what organs were affected and how it was spread, yet the people advocating a cure for a "neurobiological sickness of religion" appear to be the ones least concerned to develop an etiology for the alleged disease.

 
At 12:53 PM, Blogger Andreas said...

How do we get to know God? How do we get to do theology?

These are key questions. As far as I can tell, the catholic approach of the orthodox was that our knowledge of God depends on our morality. That unless we get initiated by someone more advanced in the Way, unless we keep the commandments of Christ, we cannot get to know God.

Yet, many people want to engage with the great theological questions of their time without paying the existential price it takes for knowing God. So, they used philosophy to give answers to those questions.

The great heresiarchs of antiquity followed that way. They tried to give answers based not on their actual experience of God, but on what they thought about God.

So, the way of life the new peoples carried with them when they conquered those roman lands matters, because if they didn't change their way of life to match this of the natives, this would prevent them from actually doing theology the way it was done by the orthodox.

 
At 1:57 PM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

These are key questions. As far as I can tell, the catholic approach of the orthodox was that our knowledge of God depends on our morality. That unless we get initiated by someone more advanced in the Way, unless we keep the commandments of Christ, we cannot get to know God.

Precisely. My rejoinder is that this is not merely a principle that Christians invented; it is a bedrock principle of reality itself! Where the heresiarchs went astray was in thinking that they had done what no person could do, viz., to reach up to God by natural reason. Philosophy, at least when unclouded by inordinate curiosity, is self-limiting. When practiced correctly, it does not render the conclusions absurd. Indeed, the cases of Eunomius and Arius both condemn them most clearly because they ought to have known better; they were too sure. Nothing in nature or culture forces this, only lust for knowledge that one cannot have. It is not philosophy but rather the irrational belief that philosophy can say what it cannot possibly say that causes this phenomenon. Orthodoxy precedes philosophy with ethical purification, but it is certainly no harm for one to discover through philosophy that one needs ethical purification before proceeding.

 
At 1:48 AM, Blogger A Simple Sinner said...

I am almost a little hesitant to weigh in as I am more than a little out of my depth on more than a few of the points being made.

That being said, ASimpleSinner feels compelled to make a simple point.

Namely, that for all the combox entries, posts, tracts, chapters, books, multi-volume compendiums and indeed entire live's work dedidcated to "Western error" and "the Franks" I come to the same conclusions time and again.

Having waded through some of it for years in my stuggle to discern if I should remain in "Granny's Greek Catholic Church" or profess Orthodoxy I always come up with the same problem among the aforementioned.

Namely all the effort to come to the conclusions about the evils of the West and "the Franks" really don't honestly come to thier conclusions - they START OUT with them as presuppositions they set out to prove.

Whether it be Father John Romanides or a number of his interweb disciples, as often as not, they come to the table with foregone conclusions, and spend a lot of time researching for support.

 
At 1:49 AM, Blogger A Simple Sinner said...

Ouch that last post is typo-central!

Sorry about that.

 
At 6:39 AM, Anonymous Paul Hamilton said...

simple sinner,

Which books were you reading? One day I hope to crack open a few of them. Not that I'd get around to reading them any time soon, but I never hesitate to extend my endless list of books-to-be-read.

 
At 7:03 AM, Blogger Joseph said...

SS,

Thankfully, for one to be Orthodox, he does not have to subscribe to any of the aforementioned theories. One can still be opposed to the filioque without believing that the Illuminati is behind it.

 
At 7:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can find the main arguments on the web site Romanity.org.

Franks, Feudalism and Doctrine is a good place to start. It certainly gives a very different view of early medieval history.

I'm not sure if there have been any responses to this work by medieval scholars.

I have to agree with Simple Sinner. The evidence is fitted to the conclusion.

 
At 7:12 AM, Blogger Lee Faber said...

As an academic-in training at notre dame who has taken medieval history classes, I can assure you professional historians would just laugh at this stuff. scholars don't think this way. If anything, they attempt an almost relativistic detachment and try just to follow the evidence and contextualize it.

 
At 7:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Then it behooves those scholars to refute the arguments. Ignoring them leaves the field open to their advocates.
It would be nice to see a point by point refutation.

 
At 10:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From Wikipedia;

Joseph P. Farrell is the foremost scholar on the East West Schism. Dr. Farrell holds a Doctorate of Philosophy from Oxford in Patristics. A protege of Timothy Ware, he went on to be professor of Patristics at Saint_Tikhon's_Orthodox_Theological_Seminary. Dr. Farrell translated the Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit (preface by Archimandrite (now Archbishop) Chrysostomos of Etna), and the translation, with it's introduction, quickly became a classic in patristics. He concentrated on St._Maximus_the_Confessor, publishing "Free Will in St. Maximus the Confessor" (forward by Timothy_Ware - now Bishop Kallistos Ware), and "The Disputation with Pyrrhus". The culmination of his work would be his four volume magnum opus on the Great Schism between East and West, with its cultural consequences for the resulting two Europes, entitled God, History, and Dialectic.

 
At 10:22 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Namely all the effort to come to the conclusions about the evils of the West and "the Franks" really don't honestly come to thier conclusions - they START OUT with them as presuppositions they set out to prove.

Well said.

Thankfully, for one to be Orthodox, he does not have to subscribe to any of the aforementioned theories. One can still be opposed to the filioque without believing that the Illuminati is behind it.

Thankfully. I would hope to promote the notion that this actually is a huge misunderstanding, much like the Meletian schism was for the West.

Then it behooves those scholars to refute the arguments. Ignoring them leaves the field open to their advocates.

Fortunately, no one is ignoring it. The contrary scholarship is out there; one simply has to find it. I've recommended a few books that actually study in detail the pertinent theological elements of the Western (and Frankish) authors: John Cavadini, The Last Christology of the West (comparing Pope Hadrian and Alcuin, though overly sympathetic to the Adoptionists as against Eastern theology); George Tavard, Trina Deitas (Hincmar and Gottschalk, though recognizing that both could have benefitted from a reconsideration of the filioque); Toivo Holpainen, Dialectic and Theology in the 11th Century (Peter Damien, Anselm, Lanfranc, though overly sympathetic to Berengar); Irwin Resnick, Divine Power and Possibility in St. Peter Damian's De Divina Omnipotentia. In my opinion, what people say about the theologians of Frankish affiliation simply repeats the older scholarship that it criticized and (in my view) convincingly debunked by these works. What I don't see is people dealing with these sorts of works, and there are more where those came from re: Augustine, Leo the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Hilary, and others (I've stuck to major works addressing theological method among Western authors supposedly in the "Frank" camp). The problem isn't that responses aren't being given, but that people aren't keeping up with the debates. Farrell certainly has NOT been keeping up, and it doesn't seem to me that his advocates are checking up on the currency of his comments or the most recent scholarship.

In particular, they seem to take this "hostile witness" approach that anything admitted by a Catholic must be correct, since they wouldn't admit it if it weren't true. But as Lee Faber points out, that may just be wishy-washiness on the point of the scholars. One sees that even in scholars like Cavadini (straining to be sympathetic and to give credit to the Adoptionists) and Holpainen (sympathizing with Berengar's theological method with nary a criticism of the soundness of his conclusions). Catholic scholars can be every bit as wrong as anyone else, and in my experience, lots of Catholic scholars go out of their way to show that their scholarship isn't tainted by Catholicism given the very real history of scholars like Jugie who were overly hostile, resulting in overcompensation in the other direction. In my experience, most of these broad explanatory generalizations get defeated by examining concrete texts and historical context, and the recent scholarship has been very good at addressing these problems with respectful but real criticism of these tendencies in early-to-mid 20th century scholarship, when Catholic ressourcement was in its early and overly enthusiastic stages. Lee Faber and Michael Sullivan have been good at debunking those sorts of conclusions with respect to Scotus, and it isn't really any different with the sort of theological issues I mention above.

Joseph P. Farrell is the foremost scholar on the East West Schism.

Wikipedia: Proving the maxim "you get what you pay for."

 
At 10:26 AM, Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Namely all the effort to come to the conclusions about the evils of the West and "the Franks" really don't honestly come to thier conclusions - they START OUT with them as presuppositions they set out to prove.

Well said.

Thankfully, for one to be Orthodox, he does not have to subscribe to any of the aforementioned theories. One can still be opposed to the filioque without believing that the Illuminati is behind it.

Thankfully. I would hope to promote the notion that this actually is a huge misunderstanding, much like the Meletian schism was for the West.

Then it behooves those scholars to refute the arguments. Ignoring them leaves the field open to their advocates.

Fortunately, no one is ignoring it. The contrary scholarship is out there; one simply has to find it. I've recommended a few books that actually study in detail the pertinent theological elements of the Western (and Frankish) authors: John Cavadini, The Last Christology of the West (comparing Pope Hadrian and Alcuin, though overly sympathetic to the Adoptionists as against Eastern theology); George Tavard, Trina Deitas (Hincmar and Gottschalk, though recognizing that both could have benefitted from a reconsideration of the filioque); Toivo Holpainen, Dialectic and Theology in the 11th Century (Peter Damien, Anselm, Lanfranc, though overly sympathetic to Berengar); Irwin Resnick, Divine Power and Possibility in St. Peter Damian's De Divina Omnipotentia. In my opinion, what people say about the theologians of Frankish affiliation simply repeats the older scholarship that it criticized and (in my view) convincingly debunked by these works. What I don't see is people dealing with these sorts of works, and there are more where those came from re: Augustine, Leo the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, Hilary, and others (I've stuck to major works addressing theological method among Western authors supposedly in the "Frank" camp). The problem isn't that responses aren't being given, but that people aren't keeping up with the debates. Farrell certainly has NOT been keeping up, and it doesn't seem to me that his advocates are checking up on the currency of his comments or the most recent scholarship.

In particular, they seem to take this "hostile witness" approach that anything admitted by a Catholic must be correct, since they wouldn't admit it if it weren't true. But as Lee Faber points out, that may just be wishy-washiness on the point of the scholars. One sees that even in scholars like Cavadini (straining to be sympathetic and to give credit to the Adoptionists) and Holpainen (sympathizing with Berengar's theological method with nary a criticism of the soundness of his conclusions). Catholic scholars can be every bit as wrong as anyone else, and in my experience, lots of Catholic scholars go out of their way to show that their scholarship isn't tainted by Catholicism given the very real history of scholars like Jugie who were overly hostile, resulting in overcompensation in the other direction. In my experience, most of these broad explanatory generalizations get defeated by examining concrete texts and historical context, and the recent scholarship has been very good at addressing these problems with respectful but real criticism of these tendencies in early-to-mid 20th century scholarship, when Catholic ressourcement was in its early and overly enthusiastic stages. Lee Faber and Michael Sullivan have been good at debunking those sorts of conclusions with respect to Scotus, and it isn't really any different with the sort of theological issues I mention above.

Joseph P. Farrell is the foremost scholar on the East West Schism.

Wikipedia: Proving the maxim "you get what you pay for."

 
At 10:48 AM, Blogger Lee Faber said...

One might also point out that if Farrell really does invite critical evaluation, he should publish in venues that scholars are likely to read...such as reputable journals or academic presses. Considering the amount of garbage that does get published, someone such as myself who has no axe to grind and is indifferent to such matters (ie., the Franks), it is far less likely that the reason he can't get published is because of prejudice or conspiracies, than it is that he just can't string a coherent sentence together. Plenty of 4 volume monsters exist already in scholarship; lengh along isn't what keeps him bound to PDF files

 
At 1:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for the referrals, ( 3 out of 4 available at the McGill Library ain't bad).

It's all very nice for these "refutals" to be available, ( if someone digs them up), however, it still is a problem that they are not taken into consideration by those, ( of the opposing camp, as it were), who should acknowledge them.

It's on the same level as the Orthodox who claim Gothic Cathedrals embodying the Filioque, (?), or the fact that God is "up there" in comparison to the domed church embodying the fact that God descends and surrounds the faithful.

Unless the real facts, as can be definitely known, are promulgated at every instance, the opposing view will continue to determine the deebate.

This is not just an "intellectual" debate but one that involves all believers, Orthodox and Catholic and Protestant alike.

 
At 2:28 PM, Blogger A Simple Sinner said...

I wish for the life of me I can remember the tome I looked at some time ago done by a monk that examined the filioque as the "cause of the Sacred Heart heresy" which in turn lead to the "enthronement of the heresy of papism"...

Thick enough to kill a man if it feel from a high enough off the bookshelf...

Honestly, things like that convince me that no real hope of corporate reunion baring a sign from the heavens (which in turn certain Athonites would decry as demonic)...

 
At 3:24 PM, Blogger Michael said...

Anonymous,

the "opposition" may very well be aware of contrary evidence and simply ignore it.

This is what they've done every time I've argued with them: They make a crazy claim. I provide arguments, with textual references etc., to show that their claims are not supported by the evidence or that their logic does not follow. They ignore it and repeat their claim.

On their blogs they regularly delete comments by people offering contrary arguments or evidence. They just act like it didn't happen. Unfortunately a lot of bad scholarship is like this. If I don't acknowledge it I don't have to refute it and my own positions stand.

As Mr Prejean kindly points out, my friend Faber and I have spent some time trying to debunk myths about Scotus. We'd do a lot more, and on more than Scotus, if this weren't just a hobby. We're both working on our doctorates and have to spend most of our time on that, only getting into arguments about areas we already know a fair bit about. I don't know how these other guys manage to do so much internet wrangling on so many topics and still make progress at school. If I did that much arguing, considering the time it takes me to put arguments and evidence together, I wouldn't do much else.

 
At 3:43 PM, Blogger A Simple Sinner said...

"I don't know how these other guys manage to do so much internet wrangling on so many topics and still make progress at school. If I did that much arguing, considering the time it takes me to put arguments and evidence together, I wouldn't do much else."

This is perhaps impolitic of me to suggest...

But could it be that in the course of their studies and work, much of the polemic that they espouse is the basis for their scholarly pursuits? In much the same way that I convert longer combox comments into blog entries after editing them to recycle them...

Maybe it is the case that the polemics being offered as as often as not simply being pulled out of the papers they are writing...

 
At 6:56 AM, Blogger Mike L said...

Gentlemen:

I used to tell myself that, if I had a life of leisure, I'd write a book diagnosing and explaining that disorder of the spirit which leads people to say and believe things like "the filioque is the sum of all heresies." I'm not sure even Farrell actually believes that; yet given what I've been reading lately by him and his admirers, I don't believe such a book would be worth my time to write even if I had the time. The best strategy for guys like you is to reduce him to a footnote, focus on original sources and better scholars, and bring out the logical problematic in the very considerable strand of Orthodox thought of which Farrellism is one of the less attractive manifestations.

Having reached that conclusion some time ago, I stopped disputing with the EP guys. I stopped disputing with Photios Jones when he and Steven Todd Kaster not only admitted, at the old Pontifications, that the account of theosis they presented violated the law of non-contradiction, but evinced pride in the fact and dismissed my concern about it as mere Western rationalism. I stopped disputing with Perry Robinson when our debate about absolute divine simplicity reached a dead end with his claim that, inasmuch as God is "beyond being," one cannot make de re modal statements about him as I had been doing in a long post at my own blog. Why did I give up at that point? Because if one holds that such statements are inapplicable to God-in-himself, then no sense can be given to a doctrine, common to East and West, on which Perry had relied when we first started debating started three years ago: that God need not have created this universe, or indeed anything at all. There is no way that claim avoids entailments that are modal claims. So if modal claims about God-in-himself are ruled out, then we don't know what we're talking about when we say that at least some of God's actions (or: energies) are free, and thus might have been otherwise. And if we don't know what we're talking about when we say that, then we don't know what we're talking about when we say that ADS is inconsistent with it.

To my mind, the dead ends I've reached with the EP guys are evidence that we're confronting something here that is better handled by prayer, fasting, and charity than argument. I'm not denying there's important work to be done, though Jonathan and Michael are better acquainted with the needed secondary literature than I am. I think Eastern apophatic theology is worth studying, so that its experiential insights can be framed in a way that actually make sense. But it's best to let the Farrellites be and just do good work on one's own account.

Best,
Mike

 
At 11:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I stopped disputing with Photios Jones when he and Steven Todd Kaster not only admitted, at the old Pontifications, that the account of theosis they presented violated the law of non-contradiction, but evinced pride in the fact and dismissed my concern about it as mere Western rationalism. I stopped disputing with Perry Robinson when our debate about absolute divine simplicity reached a dead end with his claim that, inasmuch as God is "beyond being," one cannot make de re modal statements about him as I had been doing in a long post at my own blog. Why did I give up at that point? Because if one holds that such statements are inapplicable to God-in-himself, then no sense can be given to a doctrine, common to East and West, on which Perry had relied when we first started debating started three years ago: that God need not have created this universe, or indeed anything at all. There is no way that claim avoids entailments that are modal claims. So if modal claims about God-in-himself are ruled out, then we don't know what we're talking about when we say that at least some of God's actions (or: energies) are free, and thus might have been otherwise. And if we don't know what we're talking about when we say that, then we don't know what we're talking about when we say that ADS is inconsistent with it."

Well, Nagarjuna they ain't. In fact, that guy would have em' for a snack.

 

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