Fr. Stephen … I want to better understand the kingdom of God … what exactly it is, has it already…
Florovsky’s “Limits of the Church”
34 responses to “Florovsky’s “Limits of the Church””
[…] By fatherstephen I have added Fr. Georges Florovsky’s seminal article, “The Limits of the Church,” to the Pages section of the blog. This article is one of the most thoughtful and […]
I think there is copy paste error. It starts repeating part of the way through. Search on dispensatio.
This is excellent. It could be a good basis for dialogue about Vatican II’s concept of ‘imperfect communion’ with the Church.
“The Church customarily receives adherents from sects – and even from heresies – not by the way of baptism, thereby obviously meaning or supposing that they have already been actually baptized in their sects and heresies.”
The way I always heard it was that the Church infused a previously empty, or at least potentially empty ritual with the grace of the Church. Similarly with receiving clergy, their previously empty ritual is infused with the Church’s grace and legitimacy.
“This is impossible. The ‘repetition’ of a sacrament is not only superfluous but impermissible.”
But he didn’t say the repetition of the sacrament, but the repetition of the visible sign of the sacrament.
“The ‘economic’ interpretation is not the teaching of the Church. It is only a private ‘theological opinion’, very late and very controversial”
Well, in the west, the idea of not needing to rebaptise schismatics arose very early, and was the view apparently contra Cyprian. And didn’t Augustine say “but that it will only then be of avail for the remission of sins, when the recipient, being reconciled to the unity of the Church…” against the Donatists? Isn’t that the exact position being argued against here, that Augustine recognized the baptism, but only when the person was reconciled with the church? So can it really be argued to be “late”? Modern Rome may justify no rebaptism on other grounds, but it seems this article is more in line with modern Rome than Augustine, who seemed to defend the position being argued against.
If the argument is that this position is not economy, it must be an exceedingly fine distinction being drawn. After all, it is recognizing a baptism which was NOT performed according to the canons and rites of the Church. Sounds like economia to me.
If the argument is that it is not economia, because supposedly it is in some sense valid the question becomes also whether Augustine was right about that anyway. Firmilian after all in the east agreed with Cyprian, as does many modern Orthodox that rebaptism is the strictly correct approach. Apostolic Canon 46 speaks about the inadmissibility of heretical baptism. The 1st ecumenical council speaks of receiving Paulianists by baptism. The 2nd council prescribes different rules for different schismatic groups, and exactly where modern schisms fit into the scheme is open to some discussion. One could at least make the argument that the canonical thing to do in the case of a sect not mentioned in the councils would be the more cautious route of rebaptism.
“He directly affirms that in the sacraments of sectarians the Church is active: some she engenders of herself, others she engenders outside herself, of her maid-servant, and schismatic baptism is valid for this very reason, that it is performed by the Church (de bapt. i, 15, 23).”
I can’t see this statement in de bapt. 15,23.
While Augustine says that baptism outside the church is “valid”, we have to understand what he means by that. He talks of “our Church as a medium for Christian salvation, and that the baptism of Christ is only profitable in it, even when it has been received elsewhere”. He doesn’t say it is valid because the “Church is active among sectarians”, at least I can’t see where he says that.
“The sacraments of schismatics are valid; that is, they genuinely are sacraments”
Why would we assume this as a definition for Augustine’s use of the term “valid”? If as it is often defined, a sacrament is the outward sign of inward grace, and Augustine says schismatic baptism is not “profitable”, then it would not have grace and therefore not be “genuinely a sacrament”, at least not in the sense most people would understand such a phrase. It would seem more in keeping with Augustine’s line of thought to say that they become genuine when in communion with the church.
“If the rites of schismatics are not sacraments, then they are a blasphemous caricature, and in that case neither ‘economic’ suppression of facts nor ‘economic’ glossing over of sin is possible.”
This seems to be a claim without any justification. If it happened to be that God did not consider Baptist communion to be a worthy vehicle for infusing with grace, it does not follow that he thinks it blasphemous.
“St Cyprian was right: The sacraments are accomplished only in the Church. But he defined this ‘in’ hastily and too narrowly. Must we not rather argue in the opposite direction? Where the sacraments are accomplished, there is the Church”.
Can we really say that they are “accomplished” in a situation where Augustine says they are “unprofitable”? In any case, what is the point of this formula since we don’t know where outside the church they might perchance be “accomplished”?
BTW, the entire article, or at least a large part of it seems to be duplicated above.
I recall reading Fr. Florovsky creative attempt to employ Bl. Augustine’s ecclesiology as a key for cutting through the gordian knot created by the apparent incompatibility between St Cyprian’s ecclesiology, which was implicitly ratified by referent incorporation at the Council in Trullo with that expressed in Basil the Great’s First Canonical Epistle, which I believe is also ratified by referent incorporation at the Council in Trullo. At the time, some ten years ago now, I felt that Fr. George’s work seemed to be on to something, but ultimately unsatisfying — though much less disappointing the crude attempt made to reconcile the two positions made by St. Nicodemus in the Pendalion — as if no tension between them ever had existed, which is patently counter-factual. Indeed, Nicodemus’s work systematically reversed what had been the normative practice of Orthodox since at least the 4th century, thereby unilaterally and on solely on his own authority “reinstated” Cyprian’s conciliar legislation on baptism despite the fact that Byzantine canonists had understood Cyprian’s procedure as superseded by later practice and also had interpreted the Apostolic Canons in the light of the rulings of Basil the Great, the Synod in Trullo, and other ancient authoritative texts!
Upon re-reading Florovsky, and the pertinent portions of the Pendalion, my disquietude remains about with using either Augustine or Nicodemus as the key to unraveling to the apparent ecclesiological inconsistencies found within Orthodoxy to this day — in large part because of both seem to use a typically Latin, juridical approach to the whole matter. We must recall that Augustine, though not the only juridically minded, great thinker of Christian antiquity, is the Father par excellence of the LAtin theological ethos with its (in)famous tendency for legalistic or juridical thinking. Furthermore, we must recall that Nicodemus first published the Pendalion in 1800 A.D., well before the Orthodox Neo-Patristic Movement arose to fight against the (in)famous “Western Captivity” of the 17th and 18th century Orthodox methodological mindset. And, as I am convinced of the general correctness of the Orthodox Neo-Patristic Movement, which helps express and recapture the historically “therapeutic mindset” of Holy Tradition, the methodology of both Augustine and Nicodemus natural seem alien to the recovery of an authentic Orthodox ecclesiology.
Of course, as preeminent figure in the Neo-Patristic Movement himself, Florovsky was no fan of Augustine’s overly juridical tendencies. And, Fr. George, therefore, was attempting to “baptize” Augustine’s outcomes because they, rather than Cyprian’s, seems closer to the perennially and universally praxis of the Church which accepts the baptisms of separated Trinitarian Christians — a practice that Cyprian could never have countenanced. Nevertheless, though correct in his aim of seeking an ecclesiology that more accurately mirrors the practice of the Church than Cyprian’s, Florovsky simply comes up short into his attempt to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse — only the Lord himself can do that.
Instead of Florovsky’s close-but-no-cigar attempt to redeem Augustine’s juridical rationale for recognizing schismatic baptisms, I believe that it past time that we simply bite the bullet and admit that, regardless of his other virtues, St Cyprian’s puritanical approach to ecclesiology was simply wrong head. Indeed, by his own admission, Cyprian’s black-and-white ecclesiology was a novelty when he unveiled it. And, its difficult to see how an ecclesiology propounded for the first time in about 230 A.D., admitted by its author to be in contradiction to prior practice, could possibly constitute an authentic statement of Holy Tradition. Moreover, we must keep in mind that Cyprian advanced his novel theory of ecclesiological exactness in the heat of an almighty ecclesial row regarding who ought be deemed the true Bishop of Rome. And, this was hardly the sort of calm atmosphere conducive to reflection upon, and reiteration of, the ancient, consistent, and universal approach of the New Testament Church to defining its earthly parameters.
Furthermore, when St. Cyprian’s form-over-substance ecclesiology — Cyprian is (in)famously quoted as saying that the Orthodoxy of a man’s beliefs and practices are utterly irrelevant and utterly void if he has irregular ecclesial standing — simply pales in comparison to the older, more “proportional” ecclesiology found in Basil the Great’s First Canonical Epistle. Indeed, Cyprian’s ecclesiology has the crabbed and narrow tenor of a brief crafted by a canon lawyer that is attempting to win a specific jurisdiction dispute; whereas, in sharp contrast, Basil’s ecclesiology has the irenical and charitable outlook we expect from a pastor motivated by care for the cure of lost sheep. Indeed, Basil’s sought bring those once in good standing with the Church back into the fold by avoiding any rigid or strict approach that might have the tendency toward hardening of hearts, creation of intractable separations, and the entrenchment erroneous views in the mind of the separated. As long as separated Trinitarian Christians (of which he accounted even those whacky charismatic Montanists!) sought to surrender and to return to the bosom of the Church, Basil was against imposing the “harsh peace” of rebaptism.
In sum, IMHO, the influential theory of propounded in the Pedalion, which recognizes the juridical ecclesiology of Cyprian as correct — that all separated Christians are utterly outside the Church even if Trinitarian or even virtually Orthodox and therefore the baptisms performed in such groups are void ab initio — simply does not represent the tradition and perennial teaching of the Orthodox Church. It is not the teaching of scripture, of the Consensus of the Fathers, or of later Byzantine canonists, nor is it the majority position of the Orthodox churches today. Instead, IMHO, the key to understanding the authentic ecclesiology of the Orthodox-Catholic Church from the earliest times to the present is to be found in Basil the Great’s First Canonical Epistle.
In explanation of Basil’s ecclesiology, and demonstration of the superiority of Basil’s ecclesiology, I offer the following passages quoted from the “Agreed Statement on Baptism” produced in 1999 by the standing and still functioning North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation:
* * * * * * *
In the Orthodox Church, a consistent position on the reception of those baptized in other communions is much more difficult, though not impossible, to discern. On the one hand, since the Council in Trullo (692), the canonical collections authoritative in Orthodoxy have included the enactments of third-century North African councils presided over by Cyprian of Carthage, as well as the important late-fourth-century Eastern collection, The Apostolic Canons. Cyprian’s position, supported by his contemporary bishop Firmilian of Caesaraea in Cappadocia, was that salvation and grace are not mediated by schismatic communities, so that baptism administered outside the universal apostolic communion is simply invalid as an act of Christian initiation, deprived of the life-giving Spirit (see Cyprian, Epp. 69.7; 71.1; 73.2; 75.17, 22-25). Influential as it was to be, Cyprian and Firmilian both acknowledge that their position on baptism is a relatively new one, forged probably in the 230s to deal with the extraordinary new challenges presented by Christian sectarianism in an age of persecution, but following logically from a clear sense of the Church’s boundaries. The Apostolic Canons, included in the larger Apostolic Constitutions and probably representative of Church discipline in Syria during the 380s, identifies sacraments celebrated by “heretics” as illegitimate (can. 45 ), although it is not clear in what sense the word “heretic” is being used; the following canon brands it as equally sacrilegious for a bishop or presbyter to rebaptize someone who is already truly baptized, and to recognize the baptism of “someone who has been polluted by the ungodly.” Both Cyprian and the Apostolic Canons, in any case, draw a sharp line between the authentic visible Church and every other group which exists outside its boundaries, and accords no value whatever to the rites of those “outside.” On the other hand, continuing Eastern practice from at least the fourth century has followed a more nuanced position. This position is reflected in Basil [the Great’s] First Canonical Epistle (Ep. 188, dated 374), addressed to Amphilochius of Iconium, which claiming to follow the practice of “the ancients”–distinguishes among three types of groups “outside” the Church: heretics, “who differ with regard to faith in God;” schismatics, who are separated from the body of the Church “for some ecclesiastical reasons and differ from other [Christians] on questions that can be resolved;” and “parasynagogues,” or dissidents who have formed rival communities simply in opposition to legitimate authority (Ep. 188.1). Only in the case of heretics in the strict sense, those with a different understanding of God, among whom Basil includes Manichaeans, Gnostics, and Marcionites, is baptism required for entry into communion with the Church. Concerning the second and third groups, Basil declares that they are still “of the Church,” and as such are to be admitted into full communion without baptism. This policy is also reflected in Canon 95 of the Council in Trullo, which distinguishes between “Severians” (i.e., non-Chalcedonians) and [so-called] Nestorians, who are to be received by confession of faith; schismatics, who are to be received by chrismation; and heretics, who alone require baptism. Thus, in spite of the solemn rulings of the Fifth and Sixth Ecumenical Councils [apparently] against their christological positions, “Severians” and [“]Nestorians[“] are clearly reckoned as still “of the Church,” and seem to be understood in Basil’s category of “parasynagogues;” their baptisms are thus understood–to use scholastic language–as valid, if perhaps illicit.
In an atmosphere of heightened tension between Orthodoxy and Catholicism following the Melkite Union of 1724, and of intensified proselytism pursued by Catholic missionaries in the Near East and in Hapsburg-ruled Transylvania, the Ecumenical Patriarch Cyril V issued a decree in 1755 requiring the baptism of Roman Catholics, Armenians, and all others presently outside the visible bounds of the Orthodox Church, when they seek full communion with it. This decree has never been formally rescinded, but subsequent rulings by the Patriarchate of Constantinople (e.g., in 1875, 1880, and 1888) did allow for the reception of new communicants by chrismation rather than baptism. Nevertheless, these rulings left rebaptism as an option subject to “pastoral discretion.” In any case, by the late nineteenth century a comprehensive new sacramental theology had appeared in Greek-speaking Orthodoxy which provided a precise rationale for such pastoral discretion; for the source of this new rationale, we must examine the influential figure of St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain (1748-1809).
The Orthodox world owes an immense debt to this Athonite monk, who edited and published the Philokalia (1783), as well as numerous other works of a patristic, pastoral, and liturgical nature. In the Pedalion (1800), his enormously influential edition of — and commentary on — canonical texts, Nicodemus gave form and substance to the requirement of rebaptism decreed by Cyril V. Thoroughly in sympathy with the decree of 1755, and moved by his attachment to a perceived golden age in the patristic past, he underscored the antiquity and hence priority of the African Councils and Apostolic Canons, and argued strenuously, in fact, for the first-century provenance of the latter. Nicodemus held up these documents, with their essentially exclusivist ecclesiology, as the universal voice of the ancient Church. In so doing, he systematically reversed what had been the normative practice of the eastern church since at least the 4th century, while recognizing the authority of both Cyprian’s conciliar legislation on baptism and the Apostolic Canons. Earlier Byzantine canonists had understood Cyprians procedure as superseded by later practice, and had interpreted the Apostolic Canons in the light of the rulings of Basil the Great, the Synod in Trullo, and other ancient authoritative texts.
Nicodemus was clearly obliged, however, to reckon with the approach of Basil the Great and the ecumenically-ranked Synod in Trullo to baptism “outside” the visible Church, different though it was from that of Cyprian. His attempt to reconcile his sources with each other drew on a very ancient term, oikonomia, used in the New Testament and patristic literature to denote both God’s salvific plan and the prudent “management” of the Churchs affairs, and employed in later canonical literature as roughly the equivalent of “pastoral discretion” or stewardship. In adapting this term to differentiate between what he understood as the “strict” policy (akriveia) of the ancient Church and the apparently more flexible practice (oikonomia) of the Byzantine era, Nicodemus inadvertently bestowed a new meaning on the term oikonomia. By means of this new understanding, Nicodemus was able to harmonize the earlier, stricter practice of Cyprian with that of Basil and other ancient canonical sources; so he could read the fathers of the 4th century as having exercised “economy” with regard to baptism by Arians in order to facilitate their reentry into the Church, just as the Synod in Trullo had done with respect to the “Severians” and Nestorians, and could interpret the treatment of Latin baptism by Constantinople at the Synod of 1484 and later Orthodox rulings as acts of “economy” designed to shield the Orthodox from the wrath of a more powerful Catholic Europe. In his own day, he argued, the Orthodox were protected by the might of the Turkish Sultan, and so were again free to follow the perennial “exactness” of the Church. Latins were therefore now to be rebaptized.
After the publication of the Pedalion in 1800, backed by Nicodemus’s formidable personal authority, the opposed principles of akriveia [strictness] and oikonomia [economy] came to be accepted by much of Greek-speaking Orthodoxy as governing the application of canon law in such a way as to allow for either the rebaptism of Western Christians (katakriveian), or for their reception by chrismation or profession of faith (katoikonomian), without in either case attributing to their baptism any reality in its own right. This is the understanding that underlies the “pastoral discretion” enjoined by the Synod of Constantinople of 1875, as well as by numerous directives and statements of the Ecumenical Patriarchate since then. In the work of some modern canonists, oikonomia is understood as the use of an authority by the Church’s hierarchy, in cases of pastoral need, to bestow a kind of retroactive reality on sacramental rites exercised “outside” the Orthodox Church – rites which in and of themselves remain invalid and devoid of grace. The hierarchy is endowed, in this interpretation, with a virtually infinite power, capable, as it were, of creating “validity” and bestowing grace where they were absent before. This new unders tanding of “economy” does not, however, enjoy universal recognition in the Orthodox Church. We have already noted that the East Slavic Orthodox churches remain committed to the earlier understanding and practice of the Byzantine era, which does not imply the possibility of making valid what is invalid, or invalid what is valid. Even within Greek-speaking Orthodoxy, “sacramental economy” in the full Nicodemean sense does not command universal acceptance. As a result, within world Orthodoxy, the issue of “sacramental economy” remains the subject of intense debate, but the Nicodemean interpretation is still promoted in important theological and monastic circles. Although these voices in the Orthodox world are significant ones, we do not believe that they represent the tradition and perennial teaching of the Orthodox Church on the subject of baptism.
The “inconsistencies” to which we referred at the beginning of our second section turn out, on closer inspection, to be less significant than they might appear to be. Granted, a vocal minority in the Orthodox Church refuses to accord any validity to Catholic baptism, and thus continues to justify in theory (if less frequently in fact) the (re)baptism of converts from Catholicism.
The influential theory of “sacramental economy” propounded in the Pedalion commentaries does not represent the tradition and perennial teaching of the Orthodox Church; it is rather an eighteenth-century innovation motivated by the particular historical circumstances operative in those times. It is not the teaching of scripture, of most of the Fathers, or of later Byzantine canonists, nor is it the majority position of the Orthodox churches today.
Thanks ever so much for noticing the duplication error. It’s repaired now. I offer this important article, not professing an expertise, nor inviting argument, but for serious reflection on a topic that seems to be growing within world Orthodoxy. Though there are no plans that I’ve heard for the topic to be included at the “Great and Holy Council,” it would be surprising if it were not.
The reflections posted to this point are good reading – thank you!
deathbredon: I don’t know that you can so easily toss Cyprian away. What is the quote where Cyprian admits his position is not prior practice?
And how do you know, in light of Augustine, that the consensus of the Fathers is not that schismatic baptisms are not in some sense void? Augustine said they are valid in some sense, but effective when in communion with the church. If you want to argue that someone else taught differently, you would have to show that whoever takes either a valid tack, or an invalid tack, that they were meaning it in the exact same sense as the other one. If you think that the consensus of the fathers is that they are valid, you will have to show in what sense they are valid. Valid in an Augustinian sense that they are still ineffective?
My sources are (1) found in the footnotes of the Agreed Statement on Baptism issued by the North American Orthodox-Catholic Consultation. Try Googling for a noted version of the text — it was prepared by some of the finest Orthodox and Catholic scholars in North America; (2) in J.N.D Kelly’s “Early Christian Doctrines,” which also has a good discussion of the development of Cyprian’s ecclesiology as part of his polemical case against anti-Pope Stephen; (3) in St. Basil the Great’s First Canonical Epistle, wherein States that states that the ancient Fathers of the Church did not practice rebaptism of Trinitarian schismatics and in which he, therefore, in which he then expressly forbids rebaptism of so-called Monophysites and Nestorian; and (4) in the undisputed historical fact that the Byzantine Church followed Basil’s approach and never adopted Cyprian’s approach, which was not expressly revived until after 1755.
Deathbredon and xpusostomos,
I am out of my league in the patristics questions at hand. Though I have found it interesting that St. Cyprian has come to play such a large role in the question of the reception of converts rather than St. Basil just as a matter of instinctive habit (normally I would take St. Basil every time). That’s not to deny St. Cyprian his due – only to note that, particularly in the East, St. Basil is far more normative. The language of St. Cyprian has always seemed somewhat problematic, in that he introduces words and concepts that are not always common in the East. Valid and invalid seem problematic to me, for instance. My instinct wants to find different language. The manner in which he uses the word “grace” also seems quite different than how it is generally and commonly used in the East. Thus I tend to feel that I am being pressed into language and imagery that are not quite comfortable. To be rather blunt about it – St. Cyprian, fine Orthodox saint that he is, is quite Latin in a way that is certainly within the realm of Orthodoxy of his century – but in a way that would eventually become rather foreign to mind of the Orthodox Church.
I don’t dismiss him and continue to read and ponder and to listen – but I thought I would share these thoughts – for whatever worth they may have. Could just be some useless opinions…I have a few…
I find this very odd, because when I look up the Cyprian references given, I find in epistle 69 that “we put forward our opinion, not as a new one, but we join with you in equal agreement, in an opinion long since decreed by our predecessors, and observed by us, — judging, namely, and holding it for certain that no one can be baptized abroad outside the Church, since there is one baptism appointed in the holy Church.” with the footnote in Schaff commenting: ” Cyprian was not conscious of any innovation.”
This seems to be the opposite of what is being claimed that Cyprian was admitting he was innovating.
And again, just because Basil did not rebaptise, does not mean he thought them efficacious, as we see from Augustine who thinks them valid in one sense, and invalid in another sense.
I don’t know what supposedly changed in 1755. Basil said in his first canonical epistle that “The ancients, viz. Cyprian and Fermilian, put these, and the Encratites, and Hydroparastatæ, and Apotactites, under the same condemnation; because they have no longer the communication of the Holy Ghost, who have broken the succession”, apparently saying, if I read him right, that having broken the apostolic succession they needed “to be purged by the true baptism”, which I take to mean baptised again.
And the situation we have today is hundreds of sects, most of which clearly have “broken the succession”. And he says “not that of the Encratites; for they have altered their baptism”. Again in the hundreds of sects we have today, most have “altered their baptism” from the traditional forms. “We are not to allow their baptism, because they allow ours, but strictly to observe the canons.” says Basil. Basil seems to give a whole list of schismatic groups, some he allows, some he doesn’t on various criteria, not just trinitarianism.
And isn’t this exactly what happens in Orthodoxy today? Bishops make up their minds about whether whatever group was involved and may or may not allow it depending on his own assessment of the situation.
None of this answers the question of what standing the schismatic baptism has while the person is still outside the church. If someone wants to say it is definitely completely valid, contra Augustine, I’d like to see the quote on that.
Please allow me to try to make the matter clearer.
1. Cyprian and Basil alike indubitably would agree that that there is no baptism outside the Church. Hence, your quotation of Cyprian as regarding baptism outside the Church as null and voidin accord with ancient tradition, is not controversial. I am certain writings by Basil to the same affect can be found.
2. What Cyprian and Basil disagree about is not whether baptism outside the Church is possible — they agree that it is not — but rather what constitutes being “outside the Church” for purposes of baptismal ontology.
3. Indeed, Pope Stephen I, foreshadowing Basil, directly ordered Cyprian to correct his position and follow the long-standing tradition of the Church, which is that baptisms of non-heretical schismatics are to be honored.
4. In defense of his disobedience — Cyprian had many times before in writing that he had an duty to be in accord with the BIshop of Rome — Cyprian did not dispute Stephen’s appeal to tradition, but rather interposed his own appeal to logic, arguing that that anyone in schism, not just heretics, must be outside the Church. Thus, in a sense, Cyprian could claim to be following tradition — the noncontroversial rule that baptism outside the Church is not possible — but he never pretended that his position that all non-heretical schismatics are outside the Church, in itself, was traditional.
5. Indeed, Cyprian’s writings regarding the unity of the Church betray a logically strict, absolute unity that allows for no sense of that the visible Body of Christ on earth is in any way mystical. Even, Augustine, a fellow Latin, North African found rigorousness with which Cyprian pushed his ecclesiology to be untenable, as Florovsky notes in his article. Most certainly, Cyprian’s ecclesiology was out of step with Rome and the Eastern Sees of his time.
6. Thus, when the North American Orthodox-Catholic Consultation’s agreed statement on “Baptism and “Sacramental Economy’” states that, “[i]nfluential as [Cyprian’s position] was to be, Cyprian … acknowledge[s] that [his] position on baptism is a relatively new one,” the self-conscious innovation that the Consultation is attributing to Cyprian himself is his hyper rationalistic conflation of the status of non-heretical schismatics — who may be in bad standing with the Church solely over a petty jurisdictional or calendar matter, for instance — and that of formal heretics, who have intentionally renounced the fundamental dogmatic precepts of the Orthodox-Catholic Church.
7. In any event, after Cyprian’s death, his position on rebaptism died with him, save in the puritanical Donatist sect. See, e.g., Everett Ferguson’s “Baptism in the Early Church.” Hence, the only evidence we have of trinitarian schismatics being rebaptised in Orthodoxy-Catholic antiquity is during Cyprian’s tenure as Bishop of Carthage — a peculiarly small area of time and space involving very few souls.
8. Thus, we can say that ancient teaching and practice of the Orthodox-Catholic Church was decidedly that memorialized by Pope Stephen I and Basil the Great with almost without exception until 1775. Indeed, it was in 1775, the Ecumenical Patriarch issued a ruling that Roman Catholic baptisms are to be considered null and void and that Roman Catholic converts to Orthodoxy must be rebaptized. Nichodemus of the Holy Mountain became the leading apologist for this position by resurrecting Cyprian’s ecclesiology.
9. Even the Pendalion, however, only endorses a quasi-Cyprianic ecclesiology. Indeed, in his commentaries, Nicodemus opines that, under the exercise of episcopal discretion, Cyprian’s “strict” practice may be set aside in favor Stephen and Baisl’s more “economic” practice. This hybridization of Cyrian’s and Basil’s approaches is a whole-cloth novelty knit by no one other than Nicodemus himself, as Cyprian never suggested that any practice other than his own was even theoretically possible, much less allowable; and Basil likewise never hinted explicitly or implicitly that rebaptism of trinitarian schismatics was possible or allowable.
10. In sum, the support for the practice of rebaptizing trinitarian schismatics within the Orthodox-Catholic Church is extremely weak both in terms of the theology and praxis. Indeed, prior to 1755, the only evidence that this ever happened comes from the diocese of Carthage solely during Cyprian’s tenure as bishop. Even then, it was condemned by Pope Stephen I and gain known support from only one Eastern bishop. Moreover, even following the anomalous ruling of 1755, the Orthodox Churches that contain the overwhelming majority of the faithful have not received the quasi-Cyprianic revisionism of the Pendalion.
“who may be in bad standing with the Church solely over a petty jurisdictional or calendar matter, for instance — and that of formal heretics”.
But what are we discussing here? Are we discussing old calendarists, or old believers or other groups with petty differences, or are we discussing groups who are formally heretics? Because we now seem to be confounding the two groups.
“In sum, the support for the practice of rebaptizing trinitarian schismatics within the Orthodox-Catholic Church is extremely weak both in terms of the theology and praxis.”
As I pointed out, Basil seems to be advocating the the rebaptism of groups who have “have broken the succession”. That’s not a trinitarian issue. And some might want to make the argument that the filioque is a trinitarian issue.
“What Cyprian and Basil disagree about is not whether baptism outside the Church is possible — they agree that it is not — but rather what constitutes being “outside the Church” for purposes of baptismal ontology.”
OK, how do you know? When did anyone, Basil included, make reference to the boundaries of the Church in order to justify accepting baptisms outside the Church? Isn’t Augustine’s argument about accepting baptisms in spite of them being outside the church, and not because they are in some way inside the church?
1. Cyprian was discussing the followers of Novatian in particular, who Cyprian himself admitted was not a formal heretic. Nevertheless, Cyprian demanded rebaptism, which is plainly the Donatist, not Orthodox, view.
2. When you read Basil’s First Canonical Epistle as whole, he plainly indicates that trinitarian schismatics, regarding only “heretics,” which he defines in this context as those who have formally rejected the trinity — i.e., all varieties of monotheists. The context makes clear that such formal rejection of Orthodox-Catholic precepts constitutes a clean break or a break of succession in the apostolic teachings.
3. We know what Cyprian’s position was because he expressly wrote that all schismatics, regardless of the Orthodoxy of their doctrine are utterly outside the Church, and that their baptisms are null and void. Likewise, we know from Basil’s First Canonical Epistle that he taught, in accord with Pope Stephen I before him, that formal heretics were outside the Church and that, THEREFORE, their baptisms were null and void. So yes, Basil does make express reference to the boundaries of the Church in explaining why the baptisms of formal heretics are void, but that of trinitarian schismatics are not. Indeed, Basil expressly called the later “of the Church” in direct contrast to the former, which he term outside the Church. The juxtaposition makes clear what Basil’s ecclesiology is — an it ain’t that Cyprian or even Augustine. To the contrary, the North African bright-line rationalism of Cyprian, the Donatist, and Augustine is completely alien to that of ancient Rome and all most all of the East, save one Cappodacian bishop that we know agreed with Cyprian.
*2. When you read Basil’s First Canonical Epistle as whole, he plainly indicates that only “heretics,” which he defines in this context as those who have formally rejected the trinity — i.e., all varieties of monotheists — have left the Church altogether and that therefore their baptisms are void. The context makes clear that by “break of succession” he mean break from the apostolic teachings, not mere jurisdictional schism.
Basil introduces his first canonical epistle by saying that those who have discussed the Puritans, who were schismatics, were of “various sentiments”.
Basil then goes onto say that Cyprian “The ancients”, put schismatics and heretics under the same condemnation.
He then says that “some in Asia” have thought otherwise, and therefore allows their opinion to stand.
He concludes by saying “custom and the Fathers, that is bishops, who have the administration must be followed”.
His final statements are that he “raises fears in them concerning their baptism” and “We are not to allow their baptism, because they allow ours”.
Where does Basil actually contradict Cyprian? If anything he seems to virtually fall down on the side of Cyprian, except he allows “some in Asia” to follow their own judgement, without condemning it. He never says “Cyprian said X, but we will do Y”. He says “Cyprian and the ancients taught re-baptism, some in Asia did not”, without coming down firmly on one side or the other, but certainly not on the side of Asia, but his concluding remarks are more Cyprian.
Concerning those who “broke the succession”, Basil is referring to Cyprian’s point of view in this phrase, and you’ve already said that Cyprian’s view had nothing to do with trinitarianism. The context of who “breaks the succession”, is actually Cyprian’s view, so the context of who breaks the succession even includes schismatics. “… Cyprian… put these [Puratin schismatics], and the Encratites [heretics] under the same condemnation; because they have no longer the communication of the Holy Ghost, who have broken the succession”. i.e. schismatics and heretics have broken the succession.
Neither Basil, nor Basil referring to Cyprian mentions anything about what heresies break you off. Apparently heresies are anything that are not mere “ecclesiastical disputes”.
Basil’s conclusion is to follow “custom and the Fathers”, and Basil has explicitly pointed us towards Cyprian as “the ancients”. As well as “the bishops who have administration”. That’s what we have in Orthodoxy now. The bishops decide, and they do so with reference to the custom and the Fathers, which includes Cyprian, and it includes Basil who points us to Cyprian, and so forth. And Basil concludes by “raising fears” concerning their baptism and to “not accept their baptism because they accept ours”. Sounds to me like Basil and Cyprian are basically one, except that Basil is not so strident about it. Basil will let those “in Asia” do differently, but he doesn’t actually advocate it.
I believe you are badly misreading Basil’s fist canonical epistle. The crucial points are as follows:
1. First, Basil notes that the ancient view is the heresy puts men outside the church, or as he he puts it “break men off and make the aliens from the faith.” The quote is as follows:
“The ancients speak of heresies, which entirely break men off, and make them aliens from the faith. Such are the Manichæans, Valentinians, Marcionites and Pepuzenes, who sin against the Holy Ghost, who baptize into the Father, Son and Montanus, or Priscilla.”
2. Next, Basil distinguishes schismatics from heretics by noting that the former are “not incurable.” The text is as follows:
“Schisms are caused by ecclesiastical disputes, and for causes that are not incurable, and for differences concerning penance. The Puritans are such schismatics.
3. Basil then accurately sets out Cyprian’s position as conflating schismatics and heretics, unchurching both. The text is as follows:
“The ancients, viz. Cyprian and Fermilian, put these, and the Encratites, and Hydroparastatæ, and Apotactites, under the same condemnation;”
4. Next, Basil contradicts Cyprian and Fermilian’s position by indicating that the first generation of a schismatic group does not depart from the Church despite their schism, but rather keep “the spiritual gift.” The text is as follows:
“They who first made the departure had the spiritual gift;”
5. Basil then notes that such schismatics, however, become laymen and baptize as only as laymen do — which is valid but not complete without chrismation of in his idiom “purged by true baptism” at the hands of those with valid orders. The text is as follows:
“[B]ut by being schismatics, they became laymen; and therefore they ordered those that were baptized by them, and came over to the Church, to be purged by the true baptism, as those that are baptized by laymen.”
6. Next, because some in Asia are agreeing with Cyprian’s error, he has to proclaim that the lay baptisms of schismatics are to be allowed as real lay baptisms. The text is as follows:
“Because some in Asia have otherwise determined, let [their baptism] be allowed:”
7. In contrast to the rule of reception for schismatic (lay) baptisims, Basil indicates that the baptisms of such heretics as the Encartites are not to be allowed — thereby keeping the distinction between schismatics and heretics. The text is as follows:
“But not that of the Encratites; for they have altered their baptism, to make themselves incapable of being received by the Church.”
8. Then, Basil emphasizes that his rulings on these matter are not new but follow tradition. The text is as follows:
“Yet custom and the Fathers, that is bishops, who have the administration, must be followed.”
9. In particular, Basil makes clear that that schismatics received must have “unction,” which he has previously referred to as the true baptism that completes a lay baptism. The text is as follows:
“But let none be received without unction.”
* * * * *
Basil’s canon, as I have tried to interpret for you, was followed by the entire Church for some 1500 years without deviation, whereas Cyprian’s approach only outlived him among the Donatists. This is basic, noncontroversial church history, which proves that your reading of Basil and Cyprian as according are incorrect. Indeed, Canon 95 of the Synod in Trullo embodies Basil’s approach by indicating that
“Severians” (i.e., non-Chalcedonians) and Nestorians, who are to be received by confession of faith; schismatics, who are to be received by chrismation; and heretics, who alone require baptism. Were Cyprian’s policy that of the Church, an ecumenical council could not have ratified Canon 95, as Cyprian made no distinction between schismatics and heretics as the Canon 95 does, and as Pope Stephen I and Basil the Great did.
deathbredon and xpusostomos,
I’m learning a lot from your conversation. Thanks. It’s helpful thought.
Deathbredon and xpustostomos, if you don’t mind my asking, what are your backgrounds that you have studied this issue out? Thanks for your contributions here–I’m learning a lot, too.
“Next, Basil contradicts Cyprian and Fermilian’s position by indicating that the first generation of a schismatic group does not depart from the Church despite their schism, but rather keep “the spiritual gift.” The text is as follows:
“They who first made the departure had the spiritual gift;”
I don’t think this phrase is Basil talking, rather this is a continuation of the previous sentence of Basil laying out Cyprian. The reason I say this, is the entire sentence is Cyprianic – i.e. those who were baptised by “them”, aka the schismatics, and who “came over to the church”, were “to be purged by the true baptism”. And I argue that “true baptism” is exactly what the words mean.
One other point: this sentence says that those who became schismatics “became laymen”. In other words, they lost their holy orders. This is very Cyprianic in its view of the sacraments. And I think this is the context of the words following “who have broken the succession”. The reason succession is broken is because the schismatics “became laymen”. They became laymen by becoming schismatics. All very Cyprianic and more evidence that this sentence is Cyprian, not Basil.
“Basil then notes that such schismatics, however, become laymen and baptize as only as laymen do — which is valid”
Why would we suppose that schismatic baptism is valid in this statement’s context?
Basil: “those that were baptized by them, and came over to the Church, to be purged by the true baptism”.
That those baptised by the schismatics and came to the church had to have “true baptism” seems about as clear as day as referring to an invalid baptism (an “untrue” baptism), that needed to be replaced by a “true” one. Basil distinguishes the invalid and schismatic baptism from a valid baptism by labelling it as “true”. Basil was quite capable of referring to unction if that was his intent.
“but not complete without chrismation of in his idiom “purged by true baptism” at the hands of those with valid orders.”
There is no mention of chrismation in this context. To assume that “true baptism” is not actually baptism, but is really chrismation is to read your beliefs into Basil, that are not there.
“Next, because some in Asia are agreeing with Cyprian’s error, he has to proclaim that the lay baptisms of schismatics are to be allowed as real lay baptisms. The text is as follows:
“Because some in Asia have otherwise determined, let [their baptism] be allowed:””
So you’re claiming that the Asians agreed with Cyprian? I think because you have read your theology into the previous sentence, it has necessitated that you reverse the meaning of this one too. The Asians disagreed with Cyprian. They “thought otherwise” than the statement that schismatics needed a “true baptism”, and allowed their baptism to stand. Therefore, because the Asians allowed the schismatic baptisms to stand, Basil says “let their baptisms be allowed”. Basil will let the Asians disagree with Cyprian, he isn’t going to make an issue of it.
If the Asians agreed with Cyprian and rebaptised, why would Basil feel the need to say “let their baptisms be allowed”? They would be double baptised already, so there would be no question of them having at least one valid baptism. It is only because the Asians disagree with Cyprian – the position he has just laid out at length, that Basil feels the need to insert his judgment that he is going to let them do what they want to in their jurisdiction.
But even among the Asians, he isn’t going to let the baptism of the Encratites stand. But if the Asians rebaptised everyone, why bring up the Encratites, since they would have certainly rebaptised everyone, including the Encratites?
“Basil’s canon, as I have tried to interpret for you, was followed by the entire Church for some 1500 years without deviation”
Even if what you think Basil was saying was the position of the Church, it doesn’t mean the Church thought that was what Basil was saying, let alone does it mean that is actually what Basil was saying. In fact, I would say that it is as far as I see not only opposite to Basil, but also anachronistic, in that you are reading in a whole lot of considerations like trinitarianism into Basil which are completely outside of the context. Even if we allowed your general outline of interpretation, all the cases of interest in the current day involve groups that are actually heretics, rather than those in mere ecclesiastical disputes. Papists and Protestants are, technically speaking heretics, as unpolitically correct as that word is to our ears. It is no mere ecclesiastical dispute that separates us, even though they may believe many things rightly. Thus even your interpretation of Basil, can’t help without reading in even more extraneous ideas like trinitarianism.
“Were Cyprian’s policy that of the Church, an ecumenical council could not have ratified Canon 95, as Cyprian made no distinction between schismatics and heretics as the Canon 95 does, and as Pope Stephen I and Basil the Great did.”
Basil does make a distinction as far as he is not willing to dispute with the Asians, and he recognises the “various sentiments” about schismatics. I’m not arguing that pure Cyprian is the undisputed opinion of the Church. I’m saying that Basil recognised Cyprian as one of the opinions in the church, and one that he had a great deal of regard for. He never once intimates that it is an “error”. Quite the opposite in referring to them as the “ancients” whilst simultaneously telling us to follow the Fathers.
I think the tone of Basil is that of economia. Cyprian and the ancients said “X”, but by way of concession he allows the Asians to be less strict.
The other point is that the 2nd ecumenical council allowed Arians’ baptisms to stand. I’d be struggling to call Arians trinitarian. I think just because a council codifies a particular treatment of a group, doesn’t mean that it isn’t in a sense economia. Its economia on a grander scale. The 6th council asks for rebaptism of the followers of Paul of Samosata. I’d be struggling to find the sense in saying that Paul of Samosata was a bigger heretic than Arius. It seems to me that they exercised their economia in a way they thought was pastorally necessary at the time, but how this relates to the heresies of our own time is not clear, whether the looser view of the 2nd council, or the tighter view of the 6th council. That’s why we leave it to the bishops to decide on this stuff. But they are allowed to decide on the stricter view, even as strict as Cyprian, or as I argue, as strict as Basil following Cyprian. As for the treatment of the Latins, their heresy has become worse over time. Certainly they were within their rights in 1775 of changing their view, if nothing else because the target had changed. In fact, some people put the genesis of ultramontanism around 1790, others put it in the 1600s.
And the other point is, nothing has yet been presented that actually allows baptisms outside the church to stand because they are in some sense not outside the church. Whatever you think about the facts of not requiring rebaptism, I haven’t heard anything to contradict Augustine that whatever validity they have is despite being outside the church, and that their efficacy is only made sure by coming into the church.
None of the academics or canonists read Basil as your do. Rather they see a direct inconsistency between Basil’s and Cyprian’s respective ecclesiologies. See, e.g., Everett Ferguson’s “Baptism in the Early Church,” or any scholarly work on Baptism or Ecclesiology in the early — they all agree whether the author is Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed, or Free Church. Moreover, Canon 95, which has no hint of Cyprian at all, memorializes the actual Basilian practice — never Cyprianic — of the Church universal for the 1500 years after Cyprian’s death. I suppose it is possible that Nicodemus “recovered” the true way, but all the evidence indicates that his commentaries in the Penadlion on this point was a polemic to bolster the E.P.’s rash action in 1775, and that the only time the Cyprianic practise was used in antiquity by orthodox Christians was during Cyprian’s tenure as Bishop of Carthage.
P.S., The fact that to this day, the vast majority of Orthodox Bishops have not received the Cyprianic mode as even an allowable alternative approach — rebaptism of trinitarian schismatics is strictly forbidden in almost all jurisdiction and can get a priest defrocked — is further evidence that you are misreading Basil.
deathbredon and xpusostomos,
Discussion is good – but remember the rules of the blog. Respect and kindness (please) even in disagreement. Disagreement is no sin. Lack of kindness, however… I have taken my moderator’s privilege to edit out a sentence or so that do not pertain to the discussion – that become too personal. Forgive me.
Deathbredon – it is not actually the case that all trinitarian baptized schismatics are strictly forbidden to be rebaptized. In some places, even within the OCA, “sectarians” are frequently received by Baptism – and the matter is undergoing discussion (though nothing formal at present). Much of this is driven by the continually changing “target”. Some elements of Protestantism are changing so quickly and so radically that Orthodox consciences are greatly troubled. Though I would say that you are correct that most Orthodox Bishops would take an entirely more generous approach on converts from Roman Catholicism. In most places of the Church, a Catholic priest would be received as a convert by confession and “re-vesting.”
I think Xpusostomos actually takes a moderated approach (however the two of you disagree about the reading of St. Basil, et al) in which he notes that it is the Bishops who decide the economia of receiving converts – and recognize that this remains the case.
There have been very noted Orthodox scholars (such as Florovsky as well as others) who have struggled to state in an Orthodox fashion how we are to understand the matter. I am aware of a fair variety of thought on the topic. It is an important matter in the present world because of the complexity of Christian groups.
It requires sober discussion and prayer.
My own thought (though I am an ignorant man) is that more needs to be thought about grace and the mysteries of the Church and to be certain when we speak of these matters to speak of them in an Orthodox manner. As I have noted, sometimes grace is spoken of in a manner that would seem at odds with the mature teaching of St. Gregory Palamas. Though we make reference to the Fathers, we prefer St. Athanasius to some of the fathers of the 2nd century on the subject of the Trinity because his statement is clearly more mature and complete. By the same token, the Palamite treatment of grace represents a more mature or complete Orthodox understanding. I do not believe in a “development of doctrine,” but it is clear that the Church speaks more completely at certain points and for obvious reasons.
Thus, I would like to see the Church, in this present time, speak of the Mysteries of the Church in the fullness of its understanding of grace and preferably not in the limits of understanding expressed in the formulas of St. Cyprian. I do not mean to dismiss him but to bring him into dialog with the fullness of Orthodox understanding, which must include the Palamite councils as well (for example).
Much that is being written at present as the question of the reception of converts is being discussed does not go far enough in my mind. More needs to be said, I think, but not only about what St. Cyprian meant, or how St. Basil understood him, etc. I pray that in time the Church will be able to speak about this (in her Bishops) in such a fullness.
Well, you’ve said that the EP practiced it, and ROCOR and the Serbs. It’s almost sounding like an ecumenical consensus. :-).
I don’t know what Anglicans and Lutherans etc are saying. They certainly have an incentive not to agree with Cyprian. Of course Basil does not agree with Cyprian – Cyprian is hard line, Basil is not. Basil says that they “may” be admitted by chrismation. Call that a disagreement if you want, it certainly isn’t the same as Cyprian, but it doesn’t mean Basil advances this as the correct one among the “various sentiments”.
As for scholars, the Schaff note to Canon 95 says “There seems but little doubt that whatever may be the truth in the matter, the early theologians and fathers held that even though the external rite of Holy Baptism might be validly performed by schismatics and heretics, yet that by it the person so baptized did not receive the Holy Ghost, and this opinion was not confined to the East, but was also prevalent in the West. Vide Rupertus, De Divinis Officiis, Lib. X., Cap. xxv.”
That doesn’t help the ecumenical or “sort of inside the church” theory.
I can’t see anything in Everett Ferguson’s “Baptism in the Early Church,” that addresses the topic of Basil’s view. He mentions Basil’s first canonical epistle as a witness to the practice of Chrismation, but I can’t see him offering an opinion of where he stands with Cyprian.
It seems to be common practice that if you are looking for some ecumenical material, to quote Basil because he at least allows entry to the church by chrismation. But to jump from him allowing it to him promoting it as the only and final correct way seems a leap to me. Even more of a leap to say Basil was promoting sacraments outside the church, as seems to be promoted by ecumenical documents. Schaff is apparently under no such illusions.
In fact, if anyone should think Basil is promoting some view of people outside the church being somehow inside the church, didn’t Basil say “Even if the Schismatics have erred about things which are not Dogmas, since the head of the Church is Christ, according to the divine Apostle, from Whom all the members live and receive spiritual increase, they have torn themselves away from the harmony of the members of the Body and no longer are members [of that Body] or have the grace of the Holy Spirit.” I don’t know the reference for that quote, but I’ve seen it quoted in a number of contexts. Sounds very Cyprianic.
Here is someone in OCA, which while not a rigorous examination of the text, at least agrees with the basic points that (a) Basil “advances” Cyprian’s view that schismatics must be rebaptised. And (b) that the situation of the Asians is one of mercy towards their differing with Cyprian, and not that he is condemning the Asians as being in some kind of Cyprianic error:
Here is someone from the Moscow Patriarchate (my understanding is the author is in the Moscow Patriarchate) citing Basil’s first canonical epistle in favor of the notion that “heretics and schismatics are outside the Church and have no sacraments” and that the nature of Basil’s exception is economia.
Here’s someone in the Moscow Patriarchate, who while I don’t know if I agree with all his distinctions, at least agrees with the basic point that ” as such, those whom they have baptised / ordained should be received by baptism”, although it is not “clear cut” as Basil allows some also to be allowed by chrism.
If you’ve got someone who seriously wants to deal with Basil’s text, but who agrees with your interpretation, I’m happy to look at it. Do you at least concede the quote I gave that Cyprian is certainly not advancing his view as a novelty, but advances it as the ancient view?
Fr. Stephen & X,
Please for give any uncharitableness in my posts.
I am aware that reception by baptism is becoming more common these days among nominally Christian “converts,” but my impression was that the question has to do with whether the person being received actually had a trinitarian baptism — something that is not necessarily guaranteed merely because the baptism occurred in a mainline Protestant denomination or even in North American Roman Catholicism (although the later would have to involve a fairly kooky praish/priest).
Of course Cyprian tried to make stick the view that his ecclesiology was traditional by arguing that the only principle at stake was the unity of the Church, a noncontroversial truism. What he did not, and could not seriously claim however, is that his specific position that schismatics were absolutely devoid of sacramental validity was a traditional Christian view.
Moreover, I think it is quite obvious that we are never going to reach any level of agreement here, as I read your quotation citation of Schaff as weighing in favor of my point! We read the same text and come to inconsistent conclusions. A decided impasse.
Finally, I must say, without any sense of malice, that I find your notion that characterizing the citation of Basil the Great (!) as some sort of desperate rhetorical maneuver of “ecumenists” as a bit bizarre or bewildering! This is so, for me, because (1) Basil’s canon on reception and ecclesiology, constituted the sole theory and practice of the Church for 1500 years and still is the prevailing view among the vast majority of Bishops, and (2) I don’t consider ecumenism a dirty word.
There seems to be some movement on the question of reception, or some reconsideration going on. In general “mainline” Protestants baptized in water in the name of the Trinity are received by chrismation (though this is becoming increasingly problematic with the increasingly tolerated heretical position in many matters within some of those denominations). Thus, I could no longer say that things are as straightforward as they were a generation ago.
The continuing conversation (debate) within Orthodoxy itself between a position that is largely reflective of the work of St. Nicodemus of the Holy Mountain (and his work on the Pedalion) and that largely held within Eastern Slavic lands, represents two approaches regarding St. Cyprian, St. Basil, and the various canons. That conversation seems to hit dead ends most of the time. Which tells me that more prayer and more prayer (and yet more) are required. It is vexing on occasion (which makes me want to pray more).
This discussion caused me to want to read the canonical epistles of Basil for myself. One item not mentioned in this discussion which seems pertinent is that this discussion centers on Canon I of the First epistle, while Canon 47 of the Second (as numbered by Schaff) also seems relevant. As I understand it, Basil here states that Novatians are to be re-baptized just as heretics are. Now Basil goes on to justify his position in the Canon by stating that even though they have a Trinitarian baptism, they have false teachings about God because apparently they consider wine and God’s creatures to be “defiled.” He even seems to claim that the Novatians are more like Marcionites than Orthodox. Basil here seems to be claiming that simply a baptism that is Orthodox in form is not enough when the group performing it has fallen into heresy and not just schism (though I had always thought Novatians were schismatics, but Basil seems to disagree).
The canon acknowledges that his view of the Novatians could be considered controversial and so allows for local custom to prevail. This seems to an untrained layman such as myself to imply the oikonomia/akriva distinction. He specifically explains that because they are heretics they must be re-baptized. This implies that if they had been merely schismatics this would not be necessary. However, he allows for local circumstance (oikonomia?) to temper a strict application of his views of the Novatians.
I admit that I am not aware of the scholarly discussions of these issues and have no knowledge of canon law in general and so perhaps elements of context escapes me.
Interesting. Would that we were all fluent in Greek, as I find varies translations of the canon.
Still, I think the sentence that says, if your local canon forbids rebaptism of Novatians (as at Rome), “yet let reason prevail,” means that Basil intends his good-sense canon to supersede any local canon to the contrary on the ground that he is adjudicating, by operation of his epistle, that the Novations now to be regarded as heretics and are no longer to be treated as mere schismatics. Hence, I don’t think Basil intends for local custom regarding the Novatians prevail anymore. If he did, it would be more logical for him merely to say nothing about and let the diverse status quo continue.
In sum, I still think that the idea of an strictness/economy option is just not in Basil’s thought either explicitly or implicitly and, therefore, that Basil cannot be so easily reconciled with Cyprian. Indeed, the fact that no body wrote about any such strictness/economic distinction before Nichodemus — well over a millenium after Basil wrote his canonical epistles — tends to support this view.
In the work of several canonists (such as Erickson at St. Vladimir’s) the development of the distinction between akribeia and economia is seen as somewhat unique in Nicodemus – or how he uses it is seen as somewhat unique (it helped reconcile some things within his thought). The traditional Russian take on those things is apparently somewhat different. Truth told – certain aspects of the canons really require a level of expertise in the field not possessed by most priests, monks, even bishops. Much of the present discussion that is taking place lacks that level of expertise. It creates much heat and little light. It is of great interest to me – but pushes beyond my training. I honestly have to look at some of it and say, “I don’t know about that.”
“What he did not, and could not seriously claim however, is that his specific position that schismatics were absolutely devoid of sacramental validity was a traditional Christian view.”
Are you saying that Cyprian didn’t teach that, or are you saying that he didn’t claim it as a traditional view? I’m not aware of Cyprian teaching exactly what you have formulated here, but he was at least not assuming the existence of sacraments outside the church, and he was claiming that as the traditional view.
” I read your quotation citation of Schaff as weighing in favor of my point!”
How? You favorably quoted the Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation:
“Concerning the second and third groups, Basil declares that they are still “of the Church,” and as such are to be admitted into full communion without baptism.”
That’s saying that schismatics are still of the church (whatever that means), and for THAT reason, their baptism can stand. But Schaff says:
” the EXTERNAL RITE of Holy Baptism might be validly performed by schismatics and heretics, yet that by it the person so baptized did not receive the Holy Ghost”
Schaff is saying that schismatics can perform the externalities correctly, but it avails to no good for the recipient who does not receive the Holy Spirit (unless he were to come into the church).
Do you think the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation would have proudly released a document stating Schaff that schismatics do not have the Holy Spirit?
BTW, I’m not claiming that anyone doesn’t have the Holy Spirit. I’m saying that the traditional view is there is no certainty of sacraments outside the church, which is contra what this Theological Consultation is saying. And I don’t know why this document quotes “of the Church” as if that is some kind of direct quote from Basil when he doesn’t say anything even nearly like that.
“Basil’s canon on reception and ecclesiology, constituted the sole theory and practice of the Church for 1500 years and still is the prevailing view among the vast majority of Bishops”
Why would 1500 years of anything be controversial to me, since I have stated Basil’s position that people may be received by either baptism or not by baptism? That pretty much accounts for all the possibilities. You are not offended by 1500 years, but I am not offended by 2000 years.
” (2) I don’t consider ecumenism a dirty word.”
Neither do I, but this particular ecumenical document has misrepresented Basil. I’m more offended by the misrepresentation than the conclusions. There is no quote in Basil about “of the church”, nothing even like it. And if you agree with Schaff, there is no comfort in the Fathers for ecumenists who want to say that they are in mere schism and therefore each other certainly have valid sacraments because they are both in the church. If they want to say they “might” have valid sacraments, maybe that would be another thing, but ecumenists rarely want to tread so carefully when they can make a bold statement by saying they are all of the church.
John Erickson is indeed an impressive canonicist. Would that I could one day study directly under the man!
“yet they make God the author of evil, and assert, that wine and the creatures of God, are defiled” – Basil
This is certainly not a trinitarian argument. Even these specific criteria might be levelled against Calvinists, churches of the Reformation, 7th Day Adventists, and maybe Augustinian Roman Catholics of past ages. It doesn’t take much heresy I think for Basil to want to start rebaptising.
You are definitely right here. It seems to reduce Basil’s understanding of the outer limits of the Church to merely, as opposed to generally, Trinitarianism would be incorrect.
This point also ties in with Fr. Stephen’s comment regarding contemporary Orthodoxy practice of no longer presuming that a Trinitarian Baptism is valid.
And yes, I have always thought that, by necessary inference double predestinarian Calvinist make God he author of evil. But, Calvinists of this type reject this seemingly inescapable inference by appealing to mystery. So, I suppose the argument could be made that, however confused they are, TULIP Calvinist refuse to directly ascribe evil to God’s authorship.
Hello!! Can someone email me the 1775 EP agreement?
Indeed, it was in 1775, the Ecumenical Patriarch issued a ruling that Roman Catholic baptisms are to be considered null and void and that Roman Catholic converts to Orthodoxy must be rebaptized. Nichodemus of the Holy Mountain became the leading apologist for this position by resurrecting Cyprian’s ecclesiology.
“‘For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body’ (1 Cor. 12.13), and the prototype of this unity is the consubstantial Trinity. The measure of this unity is catholicity or communality (sobornost), where the impenetrability of personal consciousness is softened – and even removed – in complete unity of thought and soul, and the multitude of them that believe are of one heart and soul (cf. Acts 4.32).”
Good to know!
Thank you for this important reminder Father Stephen.