Apologetics for the Masses #265

Bible Christian Society


Not so nice email from an Eastern Orthodox...and the response...and the response to the response.


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General Comments

Hey folks, I'm back!  Sorry for the long lapse between newsletters, but I needed a break.  Not necessarily from the newsletter, but just from the busyness of working four jobs and still trying to be a good husband and father.  I just needed to slow down a bit for a bit.  Anyway, I'm back and rarin' to go and I'm hoping to make up for the lack of any newsletters the last 3 months by getting one out each week for the next several weeks.  My goal every year is to get out 26 newsletters, and I've got 16 so far this year, so I need to get on the stick.  I may not make it to 26 this year, but I hope to get close.


Below is an exchange that I had with a woman who is Eastern Orthodox.  I think she is Greek Orthodox - at least, she used a Greek phrase at the end of her email - but I am not sure.  Anyway, she was rather upset with me - I think for something I may have said in response to a question about Eastern Orthodoxy on my Open Line program.  Anyway, below is her email, followed by my response, and then her follow up to that, which might surprise you.  I offer this as information regarding some of the sticking points between Orthodoxy and Catholicism that might be brought up should you get into a theological discussion with someone of the Eastern Orthodox faith tradition.  If you do, you can use the points I bring up here to respond to what they have to say.



You are a protestant, as is the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Church is the primal protestant church which began in the eighth century AD with Charlemagne, who tempted the Roman Patriarch to accept the false title of "head of the universal church". The heretical filioque clause was soon added to the creed [the portion of the Creed that says the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son; the Orthodox believe He proceeds only from the Father and not the Son] and the doctrine of the eternal Trinity distorted . The crusades, the anti-pope movements and Avingon, and the Dark Ages all were unique to the west because she was apostate from the Lord's Church and His four other Patriarchs in the East. Pope John Paul II of blessed memory apologized for the demonic Fourth Crusade. When the Roman Church finally repents of her apostasy and renounces the false councils following the Seven Ecumenical Councils [the Orthodox recognize the legitimacy of only the first 7 Church Councils], and submits to the collegiality of the five Patriarchates (the Holy Father as first among them--but not infallible), and renounces the filioque clause, then the Roman Church will again become the God-protected Catholic Orthodox of the West----and that will be a happy day. I praise our Triune God that the Roman Church does at least have a valid apostolic succession and the sacraments, and devotion to the Theotokos. Your Eastern Catholic brethren have much to teach you. There is much in the Roman Church that is noble and valid---and you are a brilliant man--and I urge you to use your position to be part of the restoration of the Western Church to the One Holy Catholic Church. Thank you for listening.

Christos Anesti!



My Response

Dear Maria,

Regarding the filioque clause in the Creed: In Rev 22:1, it speaks of the "river of the water of life."  What is the "river of the water of life"?  Well, it's the Holy Spirit, right?  After all, is not the Holy Spirit the living water that Jesus promised to give?  Well, let's look at where the Holy Spirit comes from according to Rev 22:1, "...flowing from the throne of God AND of the Lamb."  The Holy Spirit, according to Scripture, flows from the throne of the Father and the Son.  Scripture says, "and the throne of the Lamb"...the Creed says, "and the Son."  Is the Lamb not the Son? 

Also, the Bible refers to the Holy Spirit as the "Spirit of the Son" (Galatians 4:6), the "Spirit of Christ" (Romans 8:9), and the "Spirit of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:19); just as it calls the Holy Spirit the "Spirit of the Father" (Matthew 10:20) and the "Spirit of God" (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 2:11). In other words, the Bible attributes to the Holy Spirit the same relation to the Son as the Spirit has to the Father. So, if the Spirit proceeds from the Father, and the Spirit is referred to in the Bible in the same relational way to both the Father and the Son, then the Spirit must proceed from the Son as well as the Father. 

Now, to address this whole thing of the Bishop of Rome being "first among equals" and not the head of the universal church, let me ask you a few questions: Was St. Peter the chief of the Apostles or not?  Was St. Peter, and St. Peter alone, given the "keys" of the Kingdom of Heaven?  Was St. Peter alone not prayed for by our Lord in Luke 22:31-32?  Was St. Peter alone not entrusted with the leadership of the flock in John 21:15-17?  Sorry, but you don't seem to have much of a scriptural case for your claim that Peter is not the head of the universal church but rather simply the first among equals.  Besides, if the Roman Patriarch is first among equals, isn't that still first?  I think we see from the examples of the New and Old Testaments that God’s people had one person ultimately in charge. Wasn’t Moses in charge? Wasn’t David? Wasn't Solomon?  Wasn’t there always a high priest?

And, if the Church is not given the gift of infallibility, then how can anyone ever know anything with any certainty?  How can disputes be decided if we can't be sure who is right and who is wrong? In the end, I think it comes down to whether or not you are going to allow another to have authority over you. In the Orthodox Church, as I see it, if there is no one who can pronounce definitively on a matter…no one who can pronounce infallibly on a matter…then, ultimately, nothing can ever be truly decided, and no one really has authority over anyone else, because you can never decide even the question of authority in an authoritative manner. However, if there is a single head to the Church here on earth, and this head has been given authority to decide on matters of faith and morals when there is a dispute over same…and the authority that this person has carries with it the gift of infalliblity…then decisions can be made and made authoritatively. Decisions that everyone has to adhere to.  Infallibility is a necessary gift of the Spirit, and you call it a heresy?!  Shame on you.  

The Crusades?  You have a problem with the Crusades?  I can understand that in regard to the Fourth Crusade [the Fourth Crusade never made it to the Holy Land, instead they wound up sacking Constantinople], but, if you knew your history, you would know that the members of the Fourth Crusade were all excommunicated by the Pope.  And he told them, by letter, after it became clear that they were not heading to the Holy Land as originally planned, that if they did anything to harm the Eastern Christians of Constantinople they would all be excommunicated.  

Regarding the 1st and 2nd Crusades, are you not aware that they actually saved Constantinople from almost certain destruction by the Moslems in the early 12th century?  And are you also aware that Constantinople did nothing to aid in recapturing the Christian lands of Israel that were forcibly conquered by the Moslems?  When called on to help their Christian brothers from the West, they chose to play politics instead.  Where is the apology from the East on that account?  Where was the aid from the East when Rome was being sacked by the Vandals and the Visigoths?  Where is your apology there?  Has the East never sinned against the West so that they owe no apology?  Yet, none is forthcoming.  Who is more Christian on that account?

And if you wish to claim that the anti-pope movements and Avignon and the so-called "Dark Ages" were "unique to the west" because of apostasy by Rome, then how do you explain the conquest of most of the East by Islam?  Is that because you guys were perfect examples of Christianity?  Why is it that the Eastern Patriarchs, throughout the last 2000 years, have succumbed to one heresy after another - yet the Roman partriarch never has?  There is a book written by a convert named David Currie, which is called, “Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic.” Have you ever read it? In that book is a fascinating chart. Across the top of the chart are the 5 main bishoprics of the ancient world…Rome, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Antioch. Down the side is a listing of the major heresies that popped up in the first several hundred years of Christianity. The chart shows that Bishops of Constantinople, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch all taught one or more of these heresies at some point during the first few hundred years of the Church. Never did a bishop of Rome…any bishop of Rome…ever teach one of these heresies. In other words, just as the North Star was what the ancient mariners steered by, it was the Bishop of Rome that the ancient Christians steered by.

Regarding being a part of the "restoration of the Western Church," let me ask you this: What exactly is the Greek Orthodox Church, or any other Orthodox Church, doing to facilitate the restoration?  Do they have a whole section of their governing body dedicated to the re-unification of the Church?  No, they do not.  The Catholic Church has a whole section of the Vatican, the Council on Ecumenism, dedicated to that very goal.  It seems that the "real" church would have such a thing, don't you think?

Also, is the Russian Orthodox Church restoring all the churches and property that it stole from the Catholic Church during the Bolshevik Revolution?  No.  Any apologies for stealing them, and then for not giving them back?  No.  In fact, the Russian Patriarch has pushed for legislation in the past that would prevent Catholic priests from entering the country and ministering to Catholics inside Russia.  No seeking reconciliation there.  Furthermore, the last few Popes have had a desire to visit Russia.  Yet, who is it that has barred them from coming?  The Russian Patriarch. 

So, before pointing the finger at us, you guys better get your own house in order.  And, you need a more informed point of view when it comes to history, and to Scripture.  By the way, I am not a brilliant man.  I am simply a servant of the teachings of the Church.  The Church is brilliant and, as long as I follow her, I can bask in the glow of that brilliance.

God bless!

John Martignoni



Dear Mr. Martignoni,  I would like to apologize for the sentiments I expressed in my letter of last week.  Sometimes I say things that I wish later that I had not.  I am glad that all of you at EWTN are giving sound teaching to people on the radio, and we Orthodox are your sister church and have much to learn from the Holy Roman Catholic Church.  I ask your forgiveness and this is not a penance but a desire of my heart to ask this of you.

In The All Holy Theotokos,




I have to be honest and say that I was not expecting that kind of turnaround.  It takes a good deal of humility to make such an apology and I commend her for doing so.  I attribute her humility to the depth of spirituality of the Eastern Church which she has apparently imbued.  I'll close by just saying that I pray we may one day be one again...


There are major differences between East and West, but they can be overcome - with God, all things are possible.  Notice, though, that as with Protestantism, the core difference is in regard to authority.  So all the things that I say in regard to always bringing conversations you have with Protestants back to the question of authority, the same is true in your conversations with the Orthodox.  I hope all of you have a great weekend!


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Apologetics for the Masses