Essay / Uncategorized

Reflections on East and West

John Mark Reynolds, 2004.

Tonight Book IX of Dante began to provoke thought in me about home. What is home? For Dante, the answer (at least in part) must be Rome. Rome is our home. We are products of Roman civilization if we are from the United States or any nation dominated by Western European thought. Jerusalem is like this as well, but Rome is closer to us. I am often asked as an Eastern Christian why I spend so much time speaking of the West. The answer to this is simple: I am not an Eastern Christian. I am a Christian of the West who is part of the Orthodox Church. I can never be an Arab and am not called to be. I love Arab culture and see the Christian glory of Arabia, but cannot be that without being false. I am an American from West Virginia. It would be a betrayal of my heritage, my home, and my own self to be anything other than I am. My ethnicity and my culture are not the error, just a theological perspective. And the Church accepts this. This Church had for all its history and Eastern and Western branch. Sadly, the Western branch has gone astray.

This is an important point for Protestants. Rome matters. None of us who are not Roman Catholics should give the Roman heritage to the Bishop who at present occupies the seat of Peter. Protestant must claim that they are the true Romans, as the Reformers did. They are the best heirs of the New Testament forms of Christianity as expressed in the West. They have reformed the Western church not invented a new one. Otherwise, they fight the weight of the Eternal City. So we must pray (those of us who are not part of so called Roman Catholic Church) for the liberation of the Roman church. We must pray that the Bishop of Rome become orthodox and really Western. We must view the gradual corruption of the doctrinal and institutional church as just this very thing. In the same manner, Eastern Christians must remember that the revival of the Western church will not lead to an Arabic church. The Church of England must be English, but with its doctrine reformed and purified in the right manner.

Perhaps, most controversially it means the Western church, splintered though it is, may have much to teach the East. The division was real, it was bad, but often great things were done in the sundered West. One of those things was serious thought about salvation. Most important: Luther and the Lutherans carefully and wonderfully forever destroyed the heresy of Pelegius which is always creeping into the church without care. The great Reformers, whatever else they got wrong, got this right. Salvation is through God’s grace alone and not through any work.

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