The following is a reply to Erick’s article which continues our debate on who started the Great Schism. It is my hope that readers who want to dig deeper into this topic will see I have addressed the logic of the Roman Catholic opposition with a fairly simple counter-argument: they caused the schism by overtly installing new Bishops and not recognizing the ones already there.

This article will include excerpts from Erick’s article in italics and my responses as follows.

Craig understands that his case is proven by showing the 2nd liturgy, altar, and bishopric installed in Eastern sees during the Crusades shows that the Latins “punched” the Greeks in the face first, and therefore are the schismatics. A gross oversimplification if there ever was one.

A gross simplification shared by the fathers and Scriptures, as I have shown!

What of the joint effort of the Eastern Patriarchs (Alex, Antioch, and Constantinople) in deposing St. John Chrysostom?

What of it? Serdicia allowed for appealing to the Bishop of Rome in a dispute. Jerusalem was not acknowledged as a Patriarchate and could not be appealed to. Further, we have seen earlier such episodes, such as with Antioch during the Paul of Samosata controversy, where both Rome and Alexandria inserted themselves into the controversy and, in the end, Antioch asserted they took care of it on their own. Taking a situation where someone looks for recourse to a See with primacy is not in of itself proof of anything more than a Serdician privilege. A little more than 10 years ago, the Church of Jerusalem appealed to Constantinople in the replacement of their Patriarch. Is this proof of Constantinopolitan supremacy? No, it just shows Canon 3 of Constantinople I at work. Erick’s point here simply does not work.

The follow up “what ifs” do not seem really relevant. It would be like if we were discussing the same topic, but then I veered into unrelated examples of Popes that supported various heresies. Just because an eastern Bishop did something bad, what’s that prove? That eastern Bishops have gone into schism? Of course they have. But so did Rome during the time of Meletius and Crusades. Being that there are four times the Patriarchates in the east than the west, we should expect four times more schisms initiated in the east. It’s a two way street.

What about the confiscation of the Illyricum jurisdiction (later Bulgarian) from the Apostolic See by Emperor Leo the Isaurian, which the Greek episcopate eventually went along with?

This was an illegal action, canonically speaking. However, illegal actions with the consent of all parties involved may become resolved. For example, much of southern Italy obviously was transferred to Greek jurisdiction as well–a jurisdiction that Rome recognized until the Norman conquests and that which the laity for centuries considered themselves part of. The same is true of other relevant jurisdictions, such as Illyricum. Ironically, in both cases, there were no second Chairs set up until there were Roman Catholic conquests. So, this would not meet the bar of schism and it, in fact, had the obvious consent of the laity and local bishops. Schism literally only occurred when Roman Catholics installed new Bishops.

What about the the many anti-Latin canons composed by the Greeks, and the subsequent violence threatened by the Byzantine Emperor on the successor of Peter for not accepting Trullo (692)?

1. Examples?

2, What parallel schismatic body was set up as an immediate result?

3. Are you aware Pope Hadrian I wrote that he accepted the Canons of Trullo and considered them part of the sixth council? He wrote to Tenasius of Constantinople, “All the holy six synods I receive with all their canons, which rightly and divinely were promulgated by them, among which is contained that in which reference is made to a Lamb being pointed to by the Precursor as being found in certain of the venerable images [Canon LXXXII].” He also wrote, “”I receive the Sixth Synod with all its canons.” It should be noted that the sixth council had no canons other than those of Trullo. Not coincidentally, the minutes of Nicea II constantly refer to Trullo’s canons as authoritative, leading Anastasius (Pope John VIII’s librarian) to note that Rome “never” accepted them, perhaps glossing over Hadrian I’s and his legates’ acceptance.

What about the slaughter of the Latins in 1182, thousands of which either died or were sold to the Turks as slaves? 

What relevance does a race riot have pertaining to the question of schism? What Bishop was replaced by the riot? Do I defend it? Of course not. But, I did not cite examples of Roman Catholics simply being “mean.” I very specifically argued that they followed a protracted policy of violence whose aim was to set up second Chairs throughout the Orthodox world.

[W]hen the Greeks and Latins regrouped in reunion efforts [i.e. Florence], agreement on doctrine had been at least nominally reached where the content of that doctrine was both thoroughly Patristic and thoroughly coincident with the then Catholic Church.

As I noted in the debate, this is an “absurd” idea. Florence was never accepted by any measure. I simply commend readers here to listen to the debate at this was addressed.

[M]any years past the Crusades, the Byzantine episcopate entered into discussions with the Pope over healing the schism, and each time this occurred, the focus was not on “who punched who first”?, but rather “what say the Church fathers“?

This is a simplification. Saint Mark of Ephesus at Florence was astonished that the Latins were “not only schismatics, but heretics.” And, ironically as Father Kappes showed, Saint Mark was a moderate Papalist! This shows that minds were already made up about who started the schism–Florence was about hammering out doctrine. In Erick’s reply here, nor during the debate, does he dispute the Biblical and Patristic definition of schism presented by myself. So, “what say the Church fathers?” Well, we have already addressed that.

This would make for quite a catastrophe, for if the Eastern Orthodox are supposedly the continuation of first thousand years’ true Church, which was headed by Papalist Popes of elder Rome, then this would mean that the current Orthodox Church was founded and then subsequently re-founded with different beliefs when the schism occurred.

This point was both addressed in the debate and an earlier reply I made to a different article from Erick.

Erick’s article then begins numerous logical extrapolations concerning Saint Peter’s Chair. I personally do not feel obligated to address such speculation, I feel it better to remain grounded within Patristic and Biblical expositions on the matter. As for the following point:

However, I don’t know how Craig can admit that the Bishop’s chair is Peter’s chair and then deny Peter had jurisdiction over under-subjects.

As I said during the debate, the logical extrapolations that Erick is putting forward is “ecclesiological predestinarianism.” Without confirming or denying that Peter himself had jurisdiction over the other Apostles, or what that would even mean if he did, what I can confirm is the underlying idea behind Apostolic Canon 34. If Peter did, he was only able to exercise power from said Chair via consent. It cannot be unilateral. Therefore, you cannot have the creation of second Chairs and have it be wrong in every respect other than “the Pope did it.” If Peter himself did not operate this way, nor could he, nor does God Himself when saving our souls (!), then the Pope most certainly cannot.

Erick writes:

Here it is unmistakable that Cyprian understands the Roman church to be a origin for the universal unity spread out in the whole priesthood. 

No one is denying this. What we are denying is Erick’s application of Saint Cyprian’s thought–an application which flagrantly contradicts Saint Cyprian’s own application. To get into the rebaptism controversy and what Saint Cyprian, and others, said and did during it would definitively respond to Erick’s point here. Plenty of people have done this. I simply commend readers here to read Epistles 73-74 and Cyprian’s council “On the Rebaptism of Heretics.”

Erick then writes on Saint Optatus. The problem with his interpretation is that it presumes that Rome may never go into schism, because it is the hub of a big “Chair of Peter” wheel. Without the hub, the spokes do not hold up. While such an interpretation makes sense, it is not explicitly what Saint Optatus taught. However, he did explicitly teach that setting up second Chairs against any unique Chair is schismatic. Hence, Peter (and Rome) present to us a unifying principle–not, as Erick infers, an unchanging demonstration of this principle for all time. This latter assertion, which was untrue during Optatus very own lifetime, was not explicit in Optatus’ thought.

The previous two examples, of Cyprian and Optatus, show the very danger of reading what the men write in isolation and then ignoring their own, and their contemporaries, actions. The actions of the fathers are just as relevant as, if not more so than, their writings. They are absolutely necessary for us to make proper interpretations. Nicea II, in defending icons, appeals to the actions of the fathers all the time in defending the doctrines in dispute. So, I am not pulling this out of nowhere.

Augustine indeed says that the Donatists may have justly appealed the decision of the Pope to a “plenary council of the universal church” in order that if the judges at Rome “were convicted of mistake, their decisions might be reversed”. This is supposed to prove that, for Augustine, the Pope is inferior to a plenary Council of the whole Church, and that he, like all others, is held subject to its authority. However, that doesn’t really follow.

Well, I believe it does. A Roman Catholic priest (a friend, Father Max) likewise considered by interpretation “reasonable.” It does not mean I am correct or Father Max may still agree two years later. However, it shows one I am putting forward is a legitimate interpretation of Saint Augustine’s thought. In response to Saint Augustine’s explicit words, I see a lot of speculation. Maybe its correct, maybe its not. I obviously think it is not. However, it simply is not compelling enough to recast Saint Augustine’s words.

Next Erick speaks of Saint Jerome’s odd letter, where he writes he recognizes no Bishop of Antioch–an odd position to say the least being that the Pope did recognize one of them. Let’s lay aside the fact that Erick would not agree with Jerome’s view of the Biblical Canon, his priority of the proto-Masoretic text, his assertion that early churches had multiple Bishops per parish, and other speculations and hyperbolic assertions of his. It is my opinion that in Letter 15 Jerome was probably being mostly literal. But there are complications when interpreting Letter 15. When was Jerome writing it? Why? Was he in some respects a Papal diplomat at this point? Would not such language be expected in the Papal court and by his ministers?

The preceding is important, but also underscores (or in Erick’s mind concedes) that Rome had obvious Papal pretensions. I never deny this and never had in any of my debates. My view has always been that (1) Popes have relented when taking their pretensions to extremes before the schism and (2) Popes have understood (in practice) they did not have:

  • Universal jurisdiction.
  • The power to act apart from consent.
  • The ability to supersede ecumenical canons.

So, take away these three bullet points and what you have is a pretentious Pope, but with no real power to run the Church like a dictator. Rather, his role is to lead by example and in disputes to act as a final court of appeals below an Ecumenical Council. Hence, Popes (and Saints) Victor I and Stephen I could refuse to recognize everyone–and turn out to be wrong and rejected by their contemporaries. Nevertheless, did they, like the schismatic Novatian, set up second Chairs because those churches disagreed with them? No! This is the difference between the 90% Papal Supremacy and 100% Papal Supremacy I constantly allude to. This is why these men are saints in the Orthodox Church like Saints Hippolytus, Justinian, Isaac the Syrian, and others whose ecclesiology is questionable at points.

Erick writes:

If Orthodoxy is true, and if the fathers are supposed to all be singing one great harmonious orchestra for Orthodoxy, we should not be reading anything like the above. 

Yet, it is not my contention that the early Church at all points functioned like a harmonious orchestra. In fact, we get into our biggest problems when using brute epistemological force via syllogisms and logic we ignore that some things cannot be harmonized in such a fashion–the actions and words of the fathers do not lend themselves to it. Saint Paul warns us not to argue over “disputable matters.” And so, if I have a very clear definition of schism with consensus in the Church, I can with no moral scruples expound this. When we get into the “vagueries” of what Saint Cyprian “really meant” by the Chair of Peter, what we can gather is more limited–he obviously did not view it the same way Pope Stephen I (or modern Roman Catholics for that matter) did and his actual application against the Novatians is identical to what I was putting forward in the debate. I think we run into real danger speculating beyond the application of these men’s words. If they were more harmonious, maybe we can take words at face value–like the Protestants do when they latch onto Chrysostom of Ambrosiaster saying “faith alone” or something to that effect. But, we must not interact with the fathers in this way.

…Pope St Hormisdas…

His formula is addressed during the debate.

This would mean that during the 6th century, the whole entire Church was engulfed into either the Monophysite heresy…

This sounds like hyperbole. I am not aware of the Patriarch of Jerusalem, for example, being “engulfed.” Elias (bishop to 518 AD) supported Chalcedon and experience grief for it, Patriarch John III was likewise a Chalcedonian (bishop to 524 AD). So, Erick is historically incorrect here.

Erick writes:

“Eh! They only tolerates the contents of the Formula, and didn’t really ingest it into their faith”. Well, that only makes matters slightly better, since that would entail dishonesty…

So, Saint Cyprian was dishonest for that matter? Or is it perhaps that our later explanations of the saints’ thought are deficient because we ourselves are far removed from their time and sanctity?

Erick ends his article saying he will address the Crusades themselves, something he conceded to during the debate that the West was wrong in every respect. Perhaps this was too much of a concession–one which will now be clarified to some degree. But, suffice it to say, it is clear that the Roman Catholics were wrong and very clearly installed second Chairs, thereby causing schism according to the Patristic definition.


Exceedingly brief rejoinders to 17 responses to this article (scroll to the bottom of this link):

  1. It is not an oversimplification if the Biblical and Patristic criteria is that simple.
  2. I view this point as a concession, as it shows there is nothing important about Chrysostom appealing to Rome when wronged by Alexandria.
  3. Erick’s theoretical “what if” questions are irrelevant. We must stay within the realm of fact, not speculation.
  4. Erick will have to cite what letter Pope Hadrian I qualified his acceptance of the Trullo canons. As I alluded to, there is a problem with Latin letters saying one thing and what is written to the Greeks saying another–which shows Rome did not publicly/officially teach supremacy and therefore consented to the eastern ecclesiology.
  5. Erick (I think) now changed the point about Florence from whether the east accepted it (they did not) to whether their appeals to the fathers were correct (this is a different topic).
  6. Accuses the Greeks of being in heresy and therefore being in schism. This is a lame argument. Sides that were correct theoretically can go into schism. For example, Saint/Pope Stephen I taught that Marcionites did not need to be rebaptized, something contradicted by canons of both Nicea I and Constantinople I. Yet, when he excommunicated Cyprian and Firmilian, he was (according to Roman Catholics) not in schism. Orthodox all the time say that “the west was in schism the moment they were heretics.” Being that both sides accuse the other of heresy, this is far from a concrete criteria from discerning who started schism. This is why the Biblical and Patristic criteria I did put forward in the debate, which we may arrive at independently from the doctrinal veracity of a given party, is so important.
  7. I think Erick employs, what James White calls, “Peter derangement syndrome” in reading passages on the Chair of Peter. I gave a solid counter-argument to Erick, asserting that the context of passages on the subject concerning Rome were vis a vis a Donatist chair in the same city–not comments on the Chair of Peter of Rome vis a vis Peter chairs throughout the world. What they were not speaking about, as Erick presupposes, was some eternal security of Rome’s “chairiness” preventing them from committing the sin of schism. Essentially, Erick is presupposing an epistemology that truth cannot be known without an unwavering constant, that being Rome. Essentially, Erick finds it inconceivable which side in a given conflict was heretical/schismatic/whatever else without someone (here Rome) always acting as a constant. Hence, his interpretative lens is epistemically biased which, in my view, prevents him from understanding Roman ecclesiology the same way the Romans themselves would have, as they never employed nor mentioned such an epistemology.
  8. This shows Erick does not understand soteriology and imposes a Calvinist view of salvation onto the operations of the Church. (Of course this is not something Erick is consciously doing.)
  9. Erick’s idea, that there must be a point where people “have no further recourse than to the same authority itself” is irrational, as it places the Pope in the final position other than God Himself. Whether it is a council acting as the speaking of the Spirit, or the Pope himself, both would be logically equivalent–the one key difference being the Scriptures and ecumenical councils all in passing (and the fifth council explictly) endorse conciliar action as accomplishing this–while all do not endorse the Pope, in isolation, as such. Hence, Erick goes beyond the fathers in this.
  10. Apparently, Saint Cyprian, whose holiness we may only wish to achieve in a thousand lifetimes, understands himself not as well as Erick does. I do not care who one cites as support for such an outrageous assertion. Its wrong.
  11. When Erick asks, “What is meant by ‘in this chair, unity should be preserved by all,'” my response is Optatus like Jerome is speaking of the founding of the Apostolic college having an “equal” power between all but a solitary origin–otherwise there would be limitless chairs as there are so many Apostles and successors after them.
  12. Erick asserts that “actions are not always in concert with dogmatic theory,” which is when I say theory must be thrown into the garbage pail if it contradicts the actions of the saints. Words must be understood through the life of the Church as it is in this the Spirit testifies to truth. Otherwise, the Protestants can understand the Scriptures in isolation from tradition. This is an understated difference between Orthodox and Roman Catholics, and why Roman Catholicism spawned Protestantism. In Orthodoxy our prayers, hymns, and liturgies are infallible. Universal expressions of the faithful are governors on doctrines. Obviously, this cannot be neatly systematized. The West is obsessed with an infallible set of source material and infallible interpretative authorities for those things. Protestants simply lifted this idea, went “back to the sources,” and then created confessions/systematic theologies which offer official interpretations. The approach fails because it ignores the organic Orthodox view of infallibility.
  13. I think Erick’s response on Augustine pertaining to the Pelagians, as I pointed out in my comments on the first debate, are unsubstantiated.
  14. Erick writes concerning my perception of complexities in interpreting Jerome’s 15th letter as “complications that are only in Craig’s mind.” This may be a fair statement, if it were not for the fact that Rome regularly had their own private/internal ecclesial dialogue; and yet another when they communicated to the world. Further, the fact the Jerome recognized zero bishops of Antioch in the letter seems to me that he was writing out of frustration pertaining to the obvious confusion around the situation, citing the Pope himself as a constant. Ironically, though this sounds very “pro-Papal,” this may be a high context way of actually disputing the Pope. How so? Because the Pope recognized Paulinus. Jerome, the “boots on the ground” so to say close to Antioch, responds “I don’t know if it is Paulinus or Meletius…who knows. That guy Meletius recognizes you too. All I know is that you really are Pope!” Its a little passive aggressive, but it sound to me that Jerome suspected Paulinus was wrong and was nudging the Pope a little bit to recognize Meletius, but if he did not, oh well. But, being that this letter is “not so complicated” according to Erick, I suppose Erick can accept this interpretation or simply say Jerome was making no sense in part of it and making sense only in the part that pertaining to Roman supremacy (which, ironically, is not what the letter is about).
  15. Being the Erick really did not address my assertion that even Popes viewed themselves as below councils, which we have clear declarations from them to this effect, I have nothing else to add.
  16. Erick saying that “John III, at one time repudiating Chalcedon, then turned Chalcedonian, became the Patriarch of Jerusalem” is besides the point. He was Chalcedonian before he was Bishop, as was the Bishop before him. So, what Erick cannot show, is the Jerusalem’s Bishop was in heresy as he alleges.
  17. Nothing to add here.