Was There a "Latin Captivity" of Orthodox Thought? Fr. Seraphim Rose says "No"

Originally appeared at: Православный Блог

Modern theologians and devotees of piety answer:

1. Hierarch of blessed memory. Seraphim (Rose):

“As for “Latin (and/or Protestant) influence”: should we really decanonize St. Macarius of Corinth for using the Catechism of Metropolitan. Plato? What about Rev. Nicodemus, who revised several Latin books on spiritual life and included the name of St. Augustine in his Synaxarion?

Don’t you see, father, that with such “jealousy” you are depriving yourself of the ground under your feet, casting a shadow of doubt on literally all the fathers and saints of recent centuries and declaring to the whole world that you (and those who think the same way as you) “understand better” than these holy men, many of whom were great theologians? If we think logically, then this brings you closer to Protestants: you claim that there is a gap in the Orthodox tradition that only your group managed to cross, stepping through the period of “Latin captivity” and turning to “original sources.”

Some time ago you wrote that if St. Augustine is present in the Russian calendar, it is only due to the “Uniate influence” of recent times. Well, we conducted a study and discovered that Blessed Augustine was included in the Monthly Dictionary of the Russian Church solely thanks to the authority of St. Nicodemus of the Svyatogorets - due to the fact that the Russian Church tried with all its might to be in harmony with the best part of the tradition of the Greek Church. What's wrong with that?

Do you realize how far broad generalizations regarding “Catholic influence” or “Latin captivity” can take you? The very concept of “Latin captivity” is used by Schmemann and others like him precisely in order to destroy the very idea of ​​the continuity of the Orthodox tradition. Don't fall into this trap! [1]

2. Archim. Rafail Karelin:

“As for accusing the Orthodox Church of “Latin captivity,” this is a large-scale provocation of modernists, the purpose of which is to find a plausible reason for carrying out their destructive plans and reforms in the Orthodox Church itself.

Modernists loudly shout about the need to “cleanse” Orthodoxy from Latin influence, but in fact they came up with this technique to cleanse Orthodoxy from Orthodoxy itself - to discredit the Orthodox Tradition contained in church hymnography, conciliar decrees, hagiography and the charter of the Church. Modernists do not even hesitate to write off a significant part of Tradition as mythology.

It must be said that Catholicism is based on ancient Christianity, which was subsequently distorted and disfigured by human inventions and passions, such as: merging with politics (which manifested itself in Caesaropapism), forceful methods against the heterodox, the destruction of conciliar principles, the cult of the First Hierarch, the desire for unions not only with other faiths, but also with the semi-pagan spirit of the world (through permanent secularization). However, all these negatives do not give the right to consider Catholicism an anti-Christian phenomenon, as Luther wanted to present it. Before the tragic fall from Ecumenical Orthodoxy, Rome belonged to a single Church and after the fall it retained part of what belonged to it. Therefore, while rejecting the errors of Catholicism, we must note that, along with alluvial layers of human inventions, it preserves the remnants of ancient teaching. Catholicism polluted the ancient Tradition, but did not completely destroy it. And Protestantism, with its iron hammer, smashed the remains of the walls from the already destroyed altar.

The next technique of the modernists is to accuse Orthodox theology of inculcating Western scholasticism, as one of the proofs of the “Latin captivity.” It should be noted that scholasticism is not at all fruitless sophistry, but a desire to bring theological knowledge into a certain system, using the principles of analysis and synthesis, methods of deduction and induction. Let us note that in the Old Testament Church there initially existed an oral Holy Tradition, but then, due to the decline in the spiritual level of people, it was necessary to fix it in the form of Holy Scripture so that it would not be completely lost.

We can see something similar in the transition of patristics to scholastic theology - when it was necessary to preserve Christian speculative truths through the theological system. This was also the need of the hour, due to the growing spirit of secularization. At the same time, in Orthodox theology, scholasticism did not reject patristics, but relied on it. Unfortunately, in the West, along with scholasticism, rationalism began to penetrate into theology, namely the desire not only to give a general picture of dogma and explain it, but to test dogma itself through human reason. It was precisely this abuse that discredited scholasticism and undeservedly gave it a negative character. But scholasticism itself appeared and is a necessary stage in the history of dogmatics; without it, modern theology would become a chaos of private opinions.

Scholasticism appeared in the West several centuries earlier than in the East, so it is not surprising that Orthodox theologians could use some Catholic texts as working material, removing errors and irregularities from them, clearing them of later errors and theological crookedness. Such work is reminiscent of that done by the Church Fathers, using the language and terminology of ancient philosophy in their writings. At the same time, they rethought such borrowings and poured new content into old forms, and in some cases developed and clarified this terminology, adapting it to Christian teaching.

Until the 20th century, no one blamed the Church for “Latin captivity” and deviation from Orthodox teaching. Only at the beginning of the revolutionary 20th century were voices heard demanding reforms of Orthodoxy. Unfortunately, some voices came from theological schools. At that time, some teachers and even priests were intoxicated by the word “freedom”; it got to the point that within the walls of the Theological Academies memorial services were ostentatiously served for the instigators of the revolution (for example, Lieutenant Schmidt), sermons were preached and published, where they angrily denounced the suppression of the rebellion of 1905 (which Lenin called “a dress rehearsal for the October revolution”), participated in strikes, etc., in general, expressed solidarity with their future undertakers. In this environment, the slogan “renewed Orthodoxy” arose and such a catchy expression as “the Latin captivity of the Church” appeared. One of the prominent theologians of that time wrote: “The doctrine of atonement no longer satisfies our contemporaries - they need new ideas.” These words meant the abandonment of the eternal truths of Christianity for the sake of pragmatism.

“The Latin captivity” never happened and could not have happened in the Church, otherwise it would have lost its inspiration, would have ceased to be “the pillar and foundation of the truth,” the keeper of the fire of Pentecost and the immaculate Bride of Christ” [2].

3. Murdered priest Daniil Sysoev:

“All talk about the “Latin captivity” must take this into account. It is impossible for entire generations of Orthodox bishops, priests, monks and laity, among whom were the greatest saints (John of Kronstadt, Ignatius Brianchaninov, Theophan the Recluse, Seraphim of Sarov, the Optina elders, the new martyrs), to remain in grave error and forget the teaching of the Fathers of the Church. One can admit that there is some inaccuracy in terminology, but it is unacceptable to think that the sacrament of faith was lost for several centuries so that it was restored by theological liberals in the 20th century. To say this means to blaspheme the Holy Spirit” [3].

4. Prot. Valentin Asmus:

“The hypertrophied, inflated concept of “Western captivity” of Orthodox theology is not confirmed by historical facts... Historically incorrect, the concept of “captivity” severely attacks the doctrinal authority of the Church itself. How can a Church claim to possess the fullness of truth, which could supposedly be mistaken for many centuries, follow the lead of heterodoxy in such important truths of faith as the Incarnation, Atonement or the Eucharist?” [4]


[1] https://thoughtsintrusive.wordpress.com/letters-of-fr-seraphim-rose-1961...

[2] https://pravoslavie.ru/73492.html

[3] https://blagogon.ru/articles/181/

[4] http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/97468.html

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