Tuesday, July 14, 2015
"Orthodox Fundamentalism" Discussion on Ancient Faith Today
You can read his original article here: Orthodox Fundamentalism
You can read my response here: Response to "Orthodox Fundamentalists" by George Demacopoulos
Kevin Allen invited us to talk about this subject on Ancient Faith Today, and you can listen to it here: Orthodox Fundamentalism: what is it and does it exist?
Someone posted a quote that I think well sums up the problem with Dr. Demacopoulos' use of the term "fundamentalist":
"We must first look into the use of this term ‘fundamentalist’. On the most common contemporary academic use of the term, it is a term of abuse or disapprobation, rather like ‘son of a bitch’, more exactly ‘sonovabitch’, or perhaps still more exactly (at least according to those authorities who look to the Old West as normative on matters of pronunciation) ‘sumbitch’. When the term is used in this way, no definition of it is ordinarily given. (If you called someone a sumbitch, would you feel obliged first to define the term?) Still, there is a bit more to the meaning of ‘fundamentalist’ (in this widely current use): it isn’t simply a term of abuse. In addition to its emotive force, it does have some cognitive content, and ordinarily denotes relatively conservative theological views. That makes it more like ‘stupid sumbitch’ (or maybe ‘fascist sumbitch’?) than ‘sumbitch’ simpliciter. It isn’t exactly like that term either, however, because its cognitive content can expand and contract on demand; its content seems to depend on who is using it. In the mouths of certain liberal theologians, for example, it tends to denote any who accept traditional Christianity, including Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, and Barth; in the mouths of devout secularists like Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett, it tends to denote anyone who believes there is such a person as God. The explanation is that the term has a certain indexical element: its cognitive content is given by the phrase ‘considerably to the right, theologically speaking, of me and my enlightened friends.’ The full meaning of the term, therefore (in this use), can be given by something like ‘stupid sumbitch whose theological opinions are considerably to the right of mine’." -Alvin Plantinga, Warranted Christian Belief (Oxford: 2000), pg. 245.
One additional point that I would make is with regard to Dr. Demacopoulos' assertion that anyone who uses the phrase "The Fathers say..." has never read the Fathers: Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) is a highly regarded contemporary Orthodox Theologian, and you often find him using the phrase "The Fathers say..." Just googling the phrase, I found it used by St. Dorotheos of Gaza, the Elder Cleopa of Romania, and Fr. John Romanides... and I suspect many more examples could be found. Also, at one point in the discussion Fr. Demacopoulos made the statement: "the fathers believed in the birth death and resurrection of Jesus..." So apparently we can make general statements about what the Fathers believed, and so saying that they as a group would say something is not substantively different.
Also, Dr. George quoted Paul Tillich as saying that the opposite of faith is not doubt, it is certainty. It is true that we do not say that we believe something that we know empirically. A better way to look at this came from a sermon from a protestant minister who spoke about a husband and a wife sitting on a porch watching their children playing. He said that the wife knows that her husband is the father of those children. The husband believes he is the father of those children. Of course the husband's belief is only as good as his wife is trustworthy, but we believe that the Church is absolutely trustworthy... but while we can be certain to a high degree, we will only have complete empirical verification of that when we see Christ face to face.