Why no Reformation in the East?

by Andrea Elizabeth

Speaking of the Mongols and Ivan, further into the Introduction to GHD, Dr. Farrell states:

We may inject the First Europe into this series of questions to ask a new series
more profoundly disquieting: Why did the First Europe not go through the
Reformation? Is it to be explained adequately on the basis of merely secular causes, as
the result of the “cultural isolation” of Russia? Or because its “dogmatic mysteriological
piety” locked its culture in the reliquary of “unchangeable ritual”? Or because of the
Mongol invasion and conquest of Russia? Or because of the “timely but inevitable” Fall
of Constantinople scarcely a century before the Reformation began? Or is the lack of the
dialectical movement of Reform and Counter-Reformation to be explained on the basis
of something much more fundamental and spiritually rooted? It is the task of these
essays to show that the Byzantine and Russian detachment from these upheavals in the
Second Europe is unrelated to any merely secular explanation of them, for the root
causes of that detachment predate the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth, or Ivan the
Terrible’s Drang nach Osten and “collection of the Russian lands” in the sixteenth
centuries. These essays explain this detachment as a result of the continued rejection by
the First Europe of Hellenization, and its insistence that Augustinism was but a recasting
of formal heresies previously condemned by both East and West when both segments
were still a part of one Church, and therefore, both a part of One Europe. Thus we arrive
at a corollary to our thesis. Only the First Europe has an adequate theological basis on
which to analyze the movements of the intellectual histories of the Two Europes from
one consistent perspective; the Second Europe, to the extent that it becomes
increasingly “Augustinized” is to that extent incapable of performing the task. For those
who prefer Ockhamist lucidity: I argue that Western Christian civilization is bound with
dialectical inevitability to misinterpret both itself, the Eastern European Christian
civilization, and the antiquities common to both; only that First European civilization and
its theological paradigm are adequate to undertake a genuinely comprehensive and
universal history of Christendom. (GHD intro, p. 12)

Here he discounts isolationism or lack of freedom as preventing a Reformation in the east, but a recognition of the heresies that lead up to it.

Dr. Farrell goes pretty far in his description of the second (western) Europe’s theology as being not only incorrect, but as leading them to have a different God. Liberal Western Christians are probably offended by this, and Conservative Christians probably think the same thing about the east. I believe that the descriptions of God are different, and that the Eastern one is correct. My feeling is that wrong descriptions of God hamper one’s unity with Him, as does the lack of communion in the correct Church. However, there are many other things, such as sin and inattentiveness, that hamper this whether a person is eastern or not. Knowing God isn’t just knowing about Him, but being in union with Him in all things, including right behavior, right worship, and right theology.

I agree with him that the beginning place for world events, and understanding them, is theology, and not psychology, politics, which includes sociology, philosophy, or any other secular discipline.

The task of these essays
is therefore to expose the specifically Augustinian dialectical formulation of Trinitarian
doctrine as the root of these two very different historical movements, and to demonstrate
the Augustinian departure from traditional doctrine, and to trace the departure in its
cultural effects in the development of law, science, and philosophy. Thus the thesis of
this work is quite simple: the Two Europes worship different Gods. This may seem a
surprising, perhaps even an irreverent, assertion, until one recalls why the doctrine of
God is so significant. It is the doctrine of the Trinity which is at the core of the Church’s
belief and the ultimate basis of Her cultural influences. The differences in the theological
formulation of that doctrine therefore reflect, illuminate, and cause the difference of the
Two Europes. Once the profundity of Augustine’s dialectical formulation of the Trinity is
grasped, we shall come much closer to the fundamental influences driving much, if not
most, of the intellectual development of the Second Europe. (GHD intro, p.10)

To illustrate the nature of dialectics in the west, I’ll go ahead and include this paragraph,

We may highlight the seriousness of that development by asking some rather
obvious, though deeply serious, questions. Why did the western half of Christendom split
along so cleanly dialectical lines during the Protestant Reformation and Catholic
Counter-Reformation? Why, for example, is it not only convenient but possible to
describe that split by a series of polar oppositions: Faith versus works, Scripture versus
Tradition, “private conversion stay-at-home-and-watch-television religion” versus “public,
sacramental, institutional” religion; predestination versus free will, Kernel versus Husk,
Kerygma versus Dogma, Luther versus Zwingli, Calvin versus Arminius, Whitefield and
Edwards versus the Wesleys, Henry VIII versus the Pope? It has its secular counterparts
as well: Empiricism versus Rationalism, Materialism versus Idealism, Science versus
Religion, Creation versus Evolution, hard versus soft disciplines, and so on. One could
cite an endless litany of similar oppositions. Indeed, theologians, philosophers, and
historians of the Second Europe have long written about this or that pair of these eitheror
polarities, but astonishingly, have either done so in isolation of an examination of the
paradigm of dialectical opposition itself, or they have accepted that paradigm as an
inevitability of Christian theology or of Judeo-Christian civilization itself. The
phenomenon of this acceptance is therefore deeply rooted, and must be accounted for.
These essays argue that the paradigm is itself a direct consequence of Augustine’s
formulation of trinitarian doctrine. But the movement from the specifically Augustinian
formulation of the Trinity to these cultural consequences is certainly not an easy one to
recount, and thus, many theologians — those most adequately equipped to undertake
the task — fail to do so, for they view the original dispute between the East and West
over that formulation as a dispute about words. The troublesome questions multiply:
Why did a Church and a culture, which believed absolutely in the complete union in
Christ of the utterly spiritual and the completely material, without separation and without
confusion, lose sight of the implications of that belief in the movements of the dialectical
deconstruction of its thought and institutions? Why did the same Church, which, heir to
the doctrine of the Trinity, ought to have believed in the “both-andness” of Absolute Unity
and Utter diversity find itself embroiled in life-and-death constitutional struggles between
the Empire and the Papacy, or more fundamentally, between endless contests between
One Pope and Many Bishops? (p.11)

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