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Eastern Orthodoxy and "Oriental Orthodoxy"

Why are the Coptic Orthodox called "Oriental Orthodox"? What do they believe that is different from Orthodoxy as we "Eastern Orthodox" practice it? Why are so many New Calendarist jurisdictions in America anxious to have ecumenical dialogue with these people? Lastly, how do you traditionalists view the Oriental Orthodox? (T.A., CA)

The superficial theological milieu of our era has proven most advantageous for ecumenical ideology, which seeks to gloss over the fundamental and abiding differences which distinguish the heterodox confessions from the Orthodox Faith. All too often, such differences are now conveniently dismissed as merely long-standing miscommunications of alternative, yet equally valid, terminological emphases. This perfunctory approach has been eagerly employed by Orthodox modernists in their theological dialogues with the so-called "Oriental Orthodox" churches. The designation "Oriental Orthodox" itself clearly illustrates the ecumenistic tendency to obfuscate essential theological differences with euphemisms. This deceptive appellation, popularized by the defective world view of Western Christian thought—a world view which lumps together such mutually exclusive ecclesiastical entities as the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Assyrian Church of the East (i.e., Nestorians), "Oriental Orthodox" churches, and Eastern Rite Papists (i.e., Uniates, such as Melkites and Maronites) under the umbrella term "Eastern Christians"—, masks the intransigent heresies held for centuries by three main groups: 1) Armenians, 2) Copts and Ethiopians (Abyssinians), and 3) Syrian and Malabarese Jacobites.

The adjective Oriental is synonymous with the adjective Eastern. There is thus no real distinction between the term Eastern Orthodox (which identifies the only True Church) and the term "Oriental Orthodox" (which denotes several false churches). More importantly, although the "Oriental Orthodox" have appropriated the title Orthodox for themselves (e.g., the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch, etc.), it was precisely their failure to embrace the Christology of the Holy Fathers of the Fourth Ecumenical Synod in 451 that led to their departure from the domain of Orthodoxy to the hinterlands of heresy. They are therefore correctly and accurately designated either as Non-Chalcedonians, reflecting their rejection of this Divinely-inspired Ecumenical Synod, or Monophysites, characterizing their specific heterodox confession of Christianity.

These three groups of Non-Chalcedonians are united in their common profession of Monophysitism, as well as its logical consequents, Monotheletism and Monoenergism—the doctrines that in Christ there are, respectively, only one nature, one will, and one energy. The Fourth Ecumenical Synod anathematized Monophysitism, the Fifth Ecumenical Synod confirmed this decision, the Sixth Ecumenical Synod condemned Monotheletism and Monoenergism, and the Seventh Ecumenical Synod reaffirmed all of the foregoing. Therefore, in addition to being Non-Chalcedonians, the "Oriental Orthodox" are also Non-Second Constantinopolitans, Non-Third Constantinopolitans, and Non-Second Nicaeans. Their unyielding opposition to four of the seven Ecumenical Synods makes it not just a little difficult for us to consider the Monophysite churches Orthodox. After all, even the Latins, not to mention some Protestants, ostensibly abide by all seven of the Ecumenical Synods, and they are never referred to as "Orthodox" churches.

To bear the name Orthodox, one must confess—without equivocation—the Ecumenical Christology of the Catholic and Apostolic Tradition: Jesus Christ united without confusion within His Own Hypostasis His Divine Nature and His Human Nature, His Divine will and His Human will, and His Divine energy and His Human energy. There is no room here for semantic sidestepping. A recent study of Non-Chalcedonianism by the Monastery of Saint Gregory (Gregoriou) on Mt. Athos, The Non-Chalcedonian Heretics: A Contribution to the Dialogue Concerning the "Orthodoxy" of the Non-Chalcedonians, came to this same conclusion (see "Publications" at the back of this issue):

A great ecclesiological chasm exists between us and the Non-Chalcedonians, which only the explicit confession of the holiness and ecumenicity of the Fourth and the following three Holy Ecumenical Synods on the part of the Non-Chalcedonians can bridge. Any manifest or hidden deviation whatsoever from Orthodox dogma, for the sake of some union contrary to the truth, will occasion only harm to immortal souls and suffering for the Church [p. 41].

Because of their subconscious ecclesiastical insecurities, the New Calendarists in America have a pathological craving for worldly recognition, making them only too willing to accept the "harm to immortal souls and suffering for the Church" already occasioned by dialogues between the "official" Orthodox and the Monophysites. For example, as reported in an earlier issue of Orthodox Tradition, several modernist theologians recently participated in an "Oriental and Eastern Orthodox Symposium" co-sponsored by St. Vladimir’s Theological Seminary and St. Nersess Armenian Seminary, a symposium obviously mimicking the union dialogues held in Europe in 1989 and 1990. On the Orthodox side, the symposium included representatives from the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America, the Orthodox Church in America, and the Romanian Orthodox Church in America; on the Monophysite side, it included representatives from the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, the Coptic Orthodox Church, and the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch.

As reported by Solia (Vol. 60, No. 6 [June 1995]), the symposium, in heinous violation of the ecclesiological self-definition of the Orthodox Church as the One and Only Church of Christ, blasphemously referred to "‘the two Orthodox Churches’" as "‘one Orthodox family,’" to quote the heretical phrase of one Coptic priest (p. 16). Relying on the results achieved by past conferences and commissions which have examined the "Orthodoxy" of the Monophysites, the participants glibly concluded "that there exists full agreement on the substance of the faith of the two churches, notwithstanding the differences in terms" (p. 13)—and this, apparently, notwithstanding the Divine Grace which enlightened such God-bearing Fathers as Saints Flavian of Constantinople, Leo the Great, and Proterios of Alexandria (all of whom struggled against and suffered because of the Monophysite heresy) to develop and to refine a precise Christological nomenclature delineating the Orthodox Faith.

Having thus summarily disposed of the insuperable dogmatic barrier between the Truth of Orthodoxy and the falsehood of Non-Chalcedonianism, the symposium quickly turned its attention to the "practical steps...which could be implemented at the global and local levels to ultimately achieve [sic] unity," and "this includes among other things, a statement of reconciliation, academic cooperation, and common catechesis of young people" (ibid.). Deciphering this "ecumenically correct" jargon and restating it in plain Orthodox language, this symposium embraced the renunciation of Patristic Tradition, the scholarly prostitution of sacred theology, and the sacrifice of the next generation of Orthodox to appease the Moloch of Monophysitism. And for this, we have to thank "the great contribution of modern scholarship and the current worldwide ecumenical movement" (ibid.)! The words of the Savior ring with prophetic force: "Ye shall know them by their fruits" (St. Matthew 7:16).

In contrast to our ecumenist counterparts, who—to the detriment of their fellow man—reinforce the Monophysites in their error, we traditionalists, out of love both for the Truth and for those who have deviated from it, challenge the Monophysites to accept the standard of True Orthodox Christianity. Let the Non-Chalcedonian heretics become truly Oriental Orthodox: Let their spiritual orientation turn eastward, facing the Chalcedonian sunrise that dawns universally from the noetic Anatolia of Eastern Orthodoxy, where the Theanthropic One, "Whose Name is Orient" (Zechariah 6:12 [LXX]), the God-Man Christ Jesus, rises in Truth. Only then, when they have renounced their heterodox beliefs, can we genuinely address these theologically disoriented Easterners as Orthodox brethren.

From Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XIII, No. 1, 1996, pp. 20-22.