Examining the Church Fathers on the reception of heretics in the Orthodox Church
Excellent article. I would like to add some more points if that is alright.
1. Not only in the theology of St. Augustine, but especially in St. Nicholas Cabasilas' writings, the sacraments are "wholes." The form and the grace together are wholly Christ, Christ is made water, oil, bread and wine in the sacraments. In baptism the form is inseparable from the effect of baptism which is being stamped in Christ's image and freed from original sin, and chrismation can only be received by those who have received baptism as being under original sin makes reception of the spirit impossible according to Cabasilas. There is no idea, in any of the fathers I have read, that the grace of one sacrament can be given under another. Chrismation emphatically is not baptism, and neither is confession. Rigorists will appeal to scattered statements of chrismation "completing" baptism, but all this means is that chrismation is to follow baptism, not that baptism can be given by chrismation. The resulting sacramentology is basically Docetistic, as the form is not integral to the reality and meaning of the sacrament, and undercuts all rigorist polemics against Rome (for example) for disregarding normative sacramental forms.
2. The "sacramental rigorists," in light of the above, are egregious innovators. Sacramental form being interchangeable for them, it becomes completely relative. They no longer need to baptize as Christ commanded, for convenience they can simply receive unbaptized by oil or confession. This means that in trying to follow a minority "tradition" and charismatic elder's visions they disregard the word of God, "making the word of God of none effect through your tradition (Mark 7:13)." This effects their whole view of tradition. The theological thread of the Church's witness in history on the reality of heterodox sacraments is, in principle, to be ignored by sacramental rigorists. For them tradition is not a matter of reasoning in history, history only has validity or value if it can be used to defend the rigorist ideas they hold to.
Sacramental rigorism goes hand in hand not only with an anti-hierarchal elderism, but with an a-historicism, a denial of reason in history. God willing it will be weeded out of the Church as so much chaff.
Great article! I have a couple of observations which I think would buttress some of your points:
1) One must bear in mind the possibility that the 2nd Ecumenical Council's distinction between Eunomians and Arians was based not simply on outward baptismal form/invocation, but also on some dogmatic differences concerning the Trinity. Eunomians were, in fact, radical neo-Arians who regarded the Son as a creature, whereas the "Arian" label proper fell on the old Arians, moderate semi-Arians and homoiousians.
2) The argument made by the Fathers of the Seventh Ecumenical Council concerning the validity of ordination from heretics is made even more relevant by the fact that, as precedent, they mentioned the case of St. Meletius of Antioch as someone who had received his ordination from Arians — and this, after the Council of Nicaea! Some rigorist apologists have tried to contest this point, claiming that this particular group of Arians were secret heretics who had not yet been condemned synodically and therefore remained in the bosom of the Church, though the historical evidence is silent on this. Regardless of what might be historically true, the fact remains that the Fathers of the 7th Council affirmed that he was ordained by Arians, who at the time had already been anathematized.
It would be really interested to hear you dialogue with Dr. Gavin Ortlund with this material. As a Baptist theologian, he really tries to emphasize the rigorist viewpoint as the Canonical, Patristic Orthodox position- all to make the point that, despite what his charitable Orthodox interlocutors suggest, our “true ecclesiology” is exclusivism, and force us to say that he and all non-Orthodox are outside of the Church and therefore unsaved.
Thank you Benjamin for being a counterpoint to the online Orthodox types on this issue. I recall experiencing great stress over this topic when I was received into the Orthodox Church because I was reading material from the Orthodox Ethos at the time. After some prayer and contemplation I discovered that the stress and turmoil in my heart was not the peace that Jesus gives, and stopped consuming any material from that website. Best to avoid them completely in my opinion.
An argument used to justify baptizing Protestants and Roman Catholics although they were baptized in the name of the Trinity is that their understanding of the Trinity is not the Church's understanding of it.
Yet, the Ecumenical Councils told us not to rebaptize Arians and Macedonians coming to Orthodoxy.
No serious person, steeped in the primary sources and not an ideologue, can honestly think that Protestant or Roman Catholic Trinitarian theology is further from Orthodoxy than that of the Arians and Macedonians. Making the Son or the Spirit creatures is a far more egregious and irreconcilable error than, say, the filioque's double procession error.
I am all for strictness in the reception of converts. But our akrivea should be in relation to strictly following the canons of the Ecumenical Councils which themselves express the patristic consensus and not in relation to following the few saints, fathers, and local councils who took an undifferentiated approach to receiving the heterodox into the Orthodox Catholic Church.
These articles on Rebaptism, Heers, and Dyer are very helpful to me. I am in ROCOR and have been for about thirty years having moved from the OCA. Heers is very popular in my parish.
Recently this Cyprianic practice of baptizing every convert has extended to giving "corrective baptisms" to people requesting it and who have been practicing converts to Orthodoxy for years but were received by chrismation or the renunciation of errors.
While awaiting their baptism, these Orthodox abstain from the Eucharist and are treated as catechumens. To me that is leaving even Cyprian behind and getting uncomfortably close to Donatus. I find myself very uncomfortable with it.
Has anyone else heard of this practice?
Is it widespread?
Isn’t baptism “for the forgiveness of sins” according to the Nicean Creed? Many adult converts to Orthodoxy desire to be washed from a lifetime of very serious sins. Why withhold that from them?
If the only criteria for a baptism to be “valid” is the invoking of the Holy Trinity (not apostolic succession nor right belief) without regard to what the one baptizing and the one being baptized actually believe theologically about baptism, isn’t that also hocus pocus?
If Protestants have “valid” Baptism, then why not also just give them the Holy Mysteries too? Then are they all crypto-Orthodox? Unknowingly part of the Orthodox Church? Or are they in some sort of a 3rd category, “baptized” but not part of the Church?
Do you think it would be more accurate to say that Protestants have a “form” of Baptism which can be filled up or completed by chrismation into the Orthodox Church?
Additionally… is there really such a thing as “re-baptism”. If God is the only who baptizes… wouldn’t only one be baptism and the other one merely be getting wet or some sort of remembrance or preparatory washing?
I think our language around these issues betray us, because they are all loaded and have many implications.
It wasn't mentioned in the article, but if you think about it, the rigorism they argue regarding baptism is similar in thought and logic to the Roman Catholic Eucharist and transubstantiation. If the sacrament is not performed EXACTLY how it has been decreed (form and invocation) then it is not valid, thereby reducing the mystery of the Eucharist to essentially a magic spell that must be correctly spoken and the right physical movements performed; recently there was a huge kerfuffle because it was brought to a priest's attention that he had been incorrectly invocating the Holy Spirit (can't remember exactly, but it was something incredibly minute like saying "in" instead of "on") and thereby apparently all the hundreds of Holy Communions he had performed over the last decades weren't valid according to their teaching.
This sounds like the same line of logic as not just rebaptism, but that it must be down in the exact form or else it's not valid. Not immersed? Invalid. But like you said, what does this mean? We have hundreds and thousands of Bishops, Priests and Saints over the millennia who haven't been validly baptized and aren't validly baptizing people?
Thank you sincerely for your article, Mr. Cabe; may I ask, though, that my username is hidden from view? I’m the individual who corresponded with Fr. Peter Heers in the images above, and—although I’ve no issue with my comments being shown—I’ve since deleted them from YouTube, and would prefer to remain anonymous.