DESINIGRATION OF DIALOGUE: EASTERN ORTHODOX AND TÜBINGEN LUTHERANS FIRST CONTACT

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  DESINIGRATION OF DIALOGUE: EASTERN ORTHODOX AND TÜBINGEN LUTHERANS FIRST CONTACT
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  1 DESINIGRATION OF DIALOGUE: EASTERN ORTHODOX AND TÜBINGEN LUTHERANS FIRST CONTACT Michael Bremner 25 July 2013 www.michaelbremner.com In the Spirit of Ecumenism, many of the doctrinal agreements made  between different Christian groups are unfortunately vague and look to come into union by overlooking important theological differences . This is very much abused  between relations with Eastern Orthodox and Protestants, who differ so much in language and history that it is very difficult to really understand whether or not there is an agreement. However, in the past when polemics were being sharpened and dogma was of the outmost importance for Christians, the leaders of certain groups were not afraid to admit where they disagreed with each other. The importance in any dialogue is to understand the history of relations which shape our future relations. As a result, a review of the history behind the first major interactions between Protestants and the Eastern Orthodox Church is utilized; discussing what lead to the initial contact between the two  bodies of Christians and then focus is shifted to the letters sent between Patriarch Jeremias II and the Tübingen Lutherans. It is the contention of this essay that the dialogue  between the Eastern Orthodox and Tübingen Lutherans broke down because of the differences in how authority and salvation were understood, at a time when both parties  believed union was only possible through a shared common faith.  2 The History Leading to contact between the Eastern Church and the Lutherans. The Orthodox Church found itself under political and spiritual leadership changes with the rule of the Ottoman Empire Turks. Before the fall of Constantinople Cardinal Isodore, a Greek man who was loyal to Rome and believed a union with the West could save the Byzantine Empire, was given the title by Rome as the Patriarch of Constantinople. When Constantinople fell, Mohammad the Conquer realized it would be a strategic problem to hold his territories if he left the Patriarchate empty or if a patriarch loyal to Rome was the successor. Thus, the Ottoman Empire would find itself dabbling in the elections of Patriarchs in order to establish anti-Roman leaders. 1  Furthermore, all Orthodox Christians under the Ottoman Empire were put under the sole rule of the Patriarchate, 2  resulting in the Patriarchate taking the role of the spiritual center for most Orthodox Christians. Thus, the patriarchate became a natural first contact point for those interested in pursuing relations with the Orthodox. 3  Fast forward to 1572 and Metrophanes III was removed from the patriarchate for his Roman allegiance, something  both the Ottoman Empire disliked as well as the Orthodox peoples, and was replaced by Jeremias II. 4  For the Ottoman Empire their goal from stopping any kind of union with Rome was political, for the Orthodox it was theological. However, the Orthodox still 1   G. Goerge Arnakis, “The Greek Church of Constantinople and the Ottoman Empire,” The  Journal of Modern History  24 (Fall 1952): 246. 2  Ibid., 242. 3  Steven Runciman, The Great Church in Captivity: A study of the Patriarchate of Constantinople  from the eve of the Turkish conquest to the Greek War of Independence  (London: Cambridge University Press, 1968) 177. See also Eve Tibbs, and Nathan P. Feldmeth, "Patriarch Jeremias II, the Tübingen Lutherans, and the Greek Version of the Augsburg Confession: A Sixteenth Century Encounter." (Fuller Theological Seminary, 2000), 6. 4   Moustakas Konstantinos, “Metrophanes III of Constantinople , ”  Encyclopaedia of the Hellenic World  , trans. Koutras Nikolaos 2008, http://www.ehw.gr/l.aspx?id=8066 (accessed February 22, 2013).  3 looked to the west for political reasons and for liberation. 5  Thus, given the anti-Roman sentiment from the Orthodox Church and its gaze to the west for political support, the atmosphere was ripe for contact and friendships to develop between the Protestant west, who also shared opinions that were anti-Roman. Luther was accustomed to looking to the Eastern Orthodox Church for use in his  polemics against Rome, leading to a sort of feeling of shared common ideals with the Orthodox Church. 6  In the Leipzig dispute between Luther and Eck, the debate shifted to the topic of the Pope’s  primacy (a subject which Luther was known to become passionate in his polemics). 7  He spoke of the Greek Church as a group who had not been under Rome and yet who continued the “practice of the whole Church” 8  which “ even Rome itself dare not call heretics or schismatics because of it. ” 9  Luther also wrote that the Greek Church “believe as we do…  [and]  preach as we do” 10   and that they were “ the most Christian people and the best followers of the Gospel on earth. ” 11  Indeed, Luther saw the Greek Church as an ally against Rome, which he called the antichrist, praying and exhorting the Greek church to resist Rome together with him “  by all means [and] to 5  Georges Florovsky , “ Collected Works of Georges Florovsky, vol. 2, ” Christianity and Culture  (Belmont, MA: Nordland Publishing Company, 1974), 169. 6  Tibbs,  A Sixteenth Century Encounter  , 7. 7  Philip Schaff,  History of the Christian Church, Volume VII. Modern Christianity. The German  Reformation (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1882). 8  Martin Luther, Works of Martin Luther, vol. 3 (Albany: Books For The Ages, 1997), 61. See also, Florovsky, Collected Works , 70. 9  Ibid. 10  Ibid. 11  Ibid.  4 remain constant in this their opinion. ” 12  The opinion spoken about here is the Eastern Orthodoxy’s   resistance to Rome’s  claim of authority. Thus, Martin Luther idealized the Eastern Orthodox Church setting up an ideal and positive environment for later Lutheran leaders to contact the Eastern Church. This idealization of Luther’s was not malicious  or deceitful; instead, the development of the Greek Augsburg confession is a testimony to the Luther and his successors ’  belief that the Eastern Church was true to apostolic tradition. In the polemics that went back and forth between both the Romans and the Lutherans, both bodies looked to the Eastern Orthodox as a faithful representative of an ancient tradition to bolster their attacks against each other. 13   This belief of Luther’s became an ecumenical mission for Luther’s contemporary Phillip Melanchthon and his students. 14  Melanchthon saw the reformed church as not being an innovator, but as a Church that had come back to the apostolic faith. 15  With Rome ’s  good opinion of the Eastern Church, acquiring an agreement from the Eastern Church that Lutheran dogma was apostolic would become a decisive blow against the Roman’s accusation  of innovation against the Lutherans. 16  Thus, a Greek translation of the Augsburg confession was developed with the expectation that the Patriarch would agree with everything written in it. It was received by Patriarch 12  Ibid., 61-62. 13  Florovsky, Collected Works , 69 14  Jaroslav Pelikan, The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (600-1700)  (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1974), 281. 15  Florovsky, Collected Works , 146. 16   Wayne James Jorgenson, “The Augustana Graeca and the Correspondence between the Tübingen Lutherans and Patriarch Jeremias: Scripture and Tradition in Theological Methodology.” (Unpublished dissertation, Boston University Graduate School, 1979), 16.  5 Jeremias II in 1575. 17  Most telling of the Lutherans belief in their apostolic continuation is the title of this Augsburg confession version which begins with “CONFESSION OF THE ORTHODOX FAITH. ” 18  This title reveals the presumption that the Lutheran Faith and the Greek faith were a shared orthodox faith. Furthermore, in a letter sent with the confession it read, “As far as we know, we have both embraced and preserved the faith” 19   and that this faith was the faith of “the God -bearing fathers and patriarchs, and the seven [ecumenical] synods. ” 20  What we see in this in this paragraph is that the Lutherans  believed their differences were cultural, not dogmatic. The dialogue between the Lutherans and Orthodox. The first Patriarchal reply was sent on 15 May, 1576 21  and was unfortunately not what the Lutherans were expecting, revealing the major differences in theology between the Lutherans and the Eastern Orthodox. The Lutherans were fairly optimistic that the agreement between the east and themselves would succeed. 22   Patriarch Jerimias II’s first 17  Tibbs,  A Sixteenth Century Encounter  , 17. 18  Ibid., 5. 19  Colbert,  Acta et scripta theologorum Wirtembergensium et Patriarchae Constantinopolitani D. Hieremiae: quae utrique ab anno MDLXXVI usque ad annum  MDLXXXIde augustana confessione interse miserunt: graeca et latine ab iisdem theologis edita  (Wittenberg, 1584), 3; quoted in John Travis, “ Orthodox-Lutheran Relations: Their Historical Beginnings ”  Greek Orthodox Theological Review  29 no 4 (Winter 1984), 313. Emphasis mine. 20  Ibid. 21  Florovsky, Collected Works , 150. 22  George Mastrantonis,  Augsburg and Constantinople: The Correspondence between the Tübingen Theologians and Patriarch Jeremiah II of Constantinople on the Augsburg Confession (  Brookline, MA: Holy Cross Orthodox Press, 1982), 29. A letter that came with the confession reads, “If the merciful Heavenly Father, through His beloved Son, the sole Savior of us all, would so direct us on  both sides so that even though we are greatly separated as far as the places where we live are concerned, we become close to one another in our agreement on the correct teaching and the cities of Constantine and Tübingen become bound to each other by the bond of the same Christian faith and love, there is no event that we should desire mo re.”  
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