What I Was Getting To

Way back when I posted twice about marriage, I was preparing a general case about the texture of Christian marriage as a particular sacramental institution. I proposed a variety of ways of thinking about Christian marriage, noting that a strictly biblical version of Christian marriage (hence, a version defined by marriage as the New Testament represents it) begins with indissolubility, exclusive duality, constitutive gender complementarity, and the subordination of women to men.* Add to that the long-standing tradition that sexual expression in marriage serves solely procreative ends, and you can get a plausible picture of “traditional Christian marriage.”

Being a vexatiously picky hermeneutical philosopher, I’d be prepared to argue that one can’t simply pick that characterization (or any) up, carve it in stone, and identify it as a changeless divine model for marriage. Let’s ignore my fussiness, though — some with whom I’d be arguing will dismiss my objections out of hand, so we’ll save trouble by affirming what I would myself dispute: that this traditional biblical Christian marriage constitutes a timeless pattern by which [some] Christian marriages orient themselves to God’s will.

Having granted that possibility to those who want to claim it, what are we to say of those who enter into Christian marriage, but who understand that vocation to involve some departure from the “traditional” model I describe above? Perhaps these couples decline to enforce male supremacy in the relationship, or they permit sexual expression apart from procreative intent. Certainly that makes a noteworthy difference from the traditional model — at least, from the most traditional perspective it does. Does a very-conservative marriage that allows both spouses equal authority within the marriage deviate from the “traditional” norm so far that the traditionalist can no longer recognize it as a legitimate marriage? that their reluctance to accord him final authority counts as a sin?

In other words: if you dig in your heels and draw a line in the sand (deliberately, delightedly mixed metaphor) against Change, you can make a pretty resilient case that God permits your kind of marriage, but not others (not the kinds with authority-sharing, remarriage after divorce, recreational marital sex, or more controversially, “open” relationships or same-sex couples). That case is not, I’d insist, airtight — but it’s admirably simple and well-attested.

Once you openly admit some mode of change in your model, though, you enter a different zone of reasoning. Once you adopt (let’s say) shared-authority in marriage as an alternative to traditional biblical Christian marriage, you have opted to permit certain changes and resist others. Then you need to make as strong a case as possible for the particular change that you advocate, and make clear the extent to which the change remains in continuity with the tradition, and you need to differentiate your proposal from “anything goes.”

I see convincing cases to be made for some such changes, and very plausible cases for others. I don’t see how one can inveigh against the possibility (for instance) of same-sex marriages when one allows remarriage after divorce. I don’t see why biblical mandates for gender complementarity can have eternal authority, but biblical mandates for male-dominance (or traditional mandates that sex be oriented solely toward procreation) no longer bind the consciences of Christian spouses.

Let’s step back for a second from an exclusive concentration on marriage. Over the past hundred-fifty years or so, certain portions of the church have adopted particular changes in their doctrine and discipline. Vatican I promulgated the Pope’s explicit claim to ex cathedra infallibility; churches have begun to recognize the marriages of people who have previously been divorced; Roman Catholics have recently accorded dogmatic authority relative to certain claims about the Virgin Mary; many churches now ordain women; some churches recognize same-sex relationships; some churches reject Constantinian baptism (by this rejection, I mean positively the expectation that baptism involve catechesis and a demonstrable commitment to Christian life); and an increasing number of congregations share the sacramental elements with non-baptized congregants. These are all changes from what has long been taught, whether as a making-binding of a traditional point, or the repristination of a quiescent practice, or the reformation of a practice which the church had allegedly misappropriated. These changes look obvious, natural, quite harmonious with the tradition — to their proponents. To their opponents, they endanger the very integrity of the Body of Christ.

Every thoughtful Christian can articulate reasons why these changes shouldn’t simply be equated with one another. “Change” is not automatically good; resistance to change, likewise. Some changes make sharp turns away from the Church’s received wisdom, where others simply make the gospel’s teaching effective in hitherto neglected ways. Of these changes, I’m intrigued to notice that none entails rejecting the conciliar doctrines; one can [not to say that all do] ardently uphold Nicene trinitarian theology, Chalcedonian christology, and countless other marks of orthodoxy, while at the same time adopting and resisting particular points from the list above.

Recently I’ve noticed that some re-asserting voices have begun demurring at the assumption that all “conservative” or all “catholic” observers hold to the same sample of positive and negative changes in the church. I’ve also seen conservative objections to both “open communion” and “open baptism,” which in my own reflections portend a much weightier problem for the church’s relation to its tradition than does the question of who’s in what kind of ecclesiastically-approved marriage-like relationship (I’m not trying to convince others of this, at the moment, just adding my tuppence). This seems good to me — not because I want to fracture the opposition in order to trample them as my side** rolls to victory, but because all of us owe one another a careful account for our theological consciences. Facile binaries between “us” and “them” serve the political purpose of drumming up the fevers of the partisans (especially when we pathologize or anathematize those with whom we disagree), but they rarely clarify the best grounds for advocating one or another theological position, and almost never give somebody a good reason for changing her or his mind.

In the extremely complicated context I’ve stirred up, I can make a case that committed, lifelong, exclusive relationships between people of the same sex makes less of a problem for the church than remarriage, or (to shift out of the sexuality debate) “open communion.” Other people can make strong arguments against those propositions. As I said earlier, I’m prepared to hunker down with hypomonê, respecting those wise souls who disagree with me, not using muscle to settle spiritual dissent.

In the meantime, let’s encourage everyone, on every side, to read and listen more widely, for the more we learn about our teaching and traditions, the more clearly we’ll be able to frame our claims about the truth, and the more we’ll share a repertoire of common premises by which to develop wiser, more edifying disagreements.

Let’s look for profound theologians (regardless of their “side”) who deal with the complexities of these conflicts, which so grieve the people of God — rather than assailing the follies of our least-apt interlocutors.

Let’s work out which claims best bespeak the gospel of holiness and grace. Let’s learn who among us can patiently endure waiting for the Spirit to sort out our confusions, and who knows already what the rest of us ought to recognize if not for our ignorance and willfulness.

And by all means, let’s pray that the truth so win the hearts of us all, that we can lay down insult and accusation in favor of praise and thanksgiving, upholding one another in the vows we have made to God in the church, and showing to all onlookers the kind of shared life that bespeaks the beauty of holiness, the variegated solidarity, and the admirable clarity that point to the One God of heaven and earth.

* The household code in Ephesians stipulates that husbands love their wives, as Christ loved the church; that can be read so as to ground a marital ethic of mutual submission. The prevalent instances of “traditional Christian marriage,” however, have in effect if not also in theory located decisive authority with the husband, the “head” of the wife as Christ is of the church.

** I don’t even want an “opposition” or a “side” — here I’m couching my renunciation in terms that one might anticipate from conventional popular polemics.

DRMA: I Don’t Remember by Peter Gabriel; Thow That Men Do Call It Dotage by Henry VIII/St. George’s Canzona; Pink Turns To Blue by Hüsker Dü; Landslide by Shannon Campbell; Revival by the Allman Brothers Band; Thank You by Led Zeppelin; She Belongs To Me by Bob Dylan; One Beat by Sleater-Kinney; Jammin’ by Bob Marley and the Wailers; Do I? by Decibully; He Brought Us by Delois Barrett Campbell and the Barrett Sisters; (I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone by the Sex Pistols; Something So Right by Annie Lennox; Akimbo by Ani DiFranco; Hard To Explain by Strokes; Rain by the Blake Babies; Cool Dry Place by the Traveling Wilburys; Hypnotized by Fleetwood Mac; If God Will Send His Angels by U2.

16 thoughts on “What I Was Getting To

  1. I agree with you on this, wholeheartedly. This afternoon on the CBC there was a national call in on the involvement of religion with politics with respect to the same-sex marriage issue, and during the course of the discussions, several interesting points were raised in two areas in particular

    A) marriage has changed over the years and there have been very weak arguments put forwrd by the anti-gay marriage side as to why change thta encomapsses same-sex couples should not be legal.

    B) there were a few good points made about the fact that in Canada, freedom of religion has meant that religious organizations are under no obligation to respect some of even the most basic human rights. So for example, Catholic preiests are only men, and in this egregious resistence to equality, the state is permissive. Therefore, the Catholic church should not be worried that the Canadian state will force upon it the requirement to bless same-sex unions as marriages – if the Sumpreme Court were to extend the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to the Church, there is obviously at least one GLARING transgression that would be first on the agenda.

    With seven provinces now making gay marriage legal here, I think there is an inevitability to the idea that this issue will shortly be put to rest. A government that resists this change now will be in the unenviable position of having to invoke the “notwithstanding clause,” which is a legal suspension of Consitutional rights, for one group in society. In effect, you would actually have to legislate away gay rights, and that is a can of worms I think Canadians in general are not prepared to stomach, and one which even the staunchest anti-gay political leaders would be hard pressed to implement practically.

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  3. Reverend Doctor:

    I’m hesitant to offer my thoughts, given that I will a) likely be an extreme minority viewpoint here and thus obligated to the sort of careful articulation that quite frankly I’m too tired to give attention to this morning, and b) recognize that a) is a public rejection of my obligation to the second commandment. Be that as it may:

    I’ve followed, though perhaps not closely, your thread of thought on these posts, and I suppose I’m moved to the sort of Chestertonian sentiments expressed in “The Ethics of Elfland”–which is to say, where is ecclesiology in this?

    In other words, I get the distinct impression that this is one person (or, heaven forfend, “side”) marshalling rationalist arguments against or at least in distinction from another person (or “side”), but see little connection to the millennia-long life of the Church. Even granting the real limitations of a blog, and one’s not infrequent inability to be exhaustive, still I see this as an argument ex academica and less as the mind of Christ ex ecclesia.

    I mean no offense by this, please understand. But if all we are arguing is dogma, we may as well sign up with the scribes and tie on those millstones. What does St. John Goldenmouth have to say, and to pray, about this? And why should we change what he received from his fathers in the faith, and they from theirs, and indeed we from ours, simply because it is a movement afoot in a society most decidely not aligned with the way of the cross?

  4. Brother Clifton, I deliberately avoided arguments from “the life of the church” since so often those serve only to justify whatever one has cooked up. I advert frequently in these posts to “tradition,” the weight of which heavily favors the sorts of theology you advocate.

    At the same time, in that communion to which I seem inextricably bound, we long agreed that the Church is subject to error not only in matters of discipline but also in matters of the faith (and I do not believe that the omission of “Constantinople” in Article 19 warrants the supposition that Agnlicans except Eastern Orthodox believers from this premise). That being the case — and here I signal that I’m aware that some reject that claim — that being the case, we’re always in the position diligently to examine our practices and doctrines to ascertain whether this or that may entail an error that has thuhs far escaped our attention. Self-critical reflection, daring to consider the possibility that even Doctors of the Church have not spoken with unsurpassable human authority on every point, is part of the life of the church, just as self-examination of the conscience is part of the life of the Christian.

    Does that entail a carte blanche for heedless moderns to disregard everything the saionts have taught? Well, it depends on the speaker to whom you’re listening, but I devote a lot of hard work to building up the sense that our obligation to query the soundness of the tradition’s teachings carries a concomitant obligation to recognize the magnitude of the saints’ theological achievement and respectfully, humbly to hesitate before proposing that they may have weighed the various considerations on a given point imprecisely.

    I would not, of course, simply assume that they were speaking out of exclusively human constraints, expressing prejudices and ignorance that is itself most decidedly not aligned with the way of the cross — any more than you would, I trust, simply assume that I disagree with them on particular issues just because there “is a movement afoot in society.”

    In all such discernments, many complications beset our most diligent efforts to fulfill our obligation to test every spirit. If we assent to the calling to test the spirits, though, we must entertain at least the glimmer of a possibility that we find, however rarely, a moment in which our forebears have enacted ecclesiastical norms that do not bespeak the truth of the crucified and risen Lord, poured out now upon all flesh through the Spirit. If one rejects that possibility, and at the moment I’m not trying to talk people out of that particular position, then I do think that yours may be the only responsible path to take. As an ardent Article-XIX Anglican, though, I have to bear the burden of acknowledging that possibility, and likewise the risk that in exercising my discernment may go astray (which is why I always give thanks for the prayers of my sisters and brothers).

  5. A well-argued analytical exercise. With regard to marriage, my own thought process was admirably focused by the omnipresent (economist, TNR pundit, TMQ) Gregg Easterbrook a couple of years ago, when he concluded that the essence of Christianity is Christ’s commandment to love one another. Anything added to that by subsequent generations of ordinary human beings, no matter how devout, is necessarily suspect — as Easterbrook said, “legal traditions change all the time, and what a relief that they do.” I’m personally not given to the sort of demonstrative Christianity others practice, but I have to say, the WWJD people have a point. I’ve known devoted couples of the same sex whose lives would constitute a far better testament than most to the sanctity of Christian marriage, were they only allowed to marry.

  6. AKMA,

    Very thought-provoking comments. I especially appreciate the call to complexity. Simple models are the most dangerous as they allow for the greatest degree of polarization. As things get more complex the polarities break down…

    Careful attention to the cornerstones of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason will confirm that these things are much more complex when they are read, studied, and engaged–as opposed to simply invoking them. As Clifton points out, Chysostom had a particular view on the marriage issue as did many other church leaders–that all marriage was to be viewed with suspicion (or in Jerome’s case, down right distaste). To appeal to these fathers in this case seems odd.

  7. Much enjoyed your painfully rational argument. I say “painfully rational” because people aren’t computers. The world of ideas makes a lot of rational sense. The actual world (of people) is a lot more messy. I’m not sure (anymore) that there’s a lot of value to be gained from pushing a rational line of thought (1). I think the most that can be gained through strict rationalism is a baseline – and I wouldn’t extend that to calling a rational world an ideal world. I’m more tempted to call the real world an ideal world ( of which our understanding falls a bit short ).

    I say this coming not from a Christian point of view, but from the point of view of an IT worker. I work with computers. Not even they manage to work rationally (2). But at some point, as a system grows in size and complexity, the behavior becomes more difficult to qualify rationally – and over another threshold the problem becomes intractable.

    With IT this intractable-ness is a hazard and provides me with job security. But in human social networks the complexity forms a learning, living system – that no individual or group has conscious control over. If we concede that people can’t control culture, your rational argument becomes a symbol, but little more. Even if 100% of people read and were unable to form a watertight counter-argument to it, the behavior of the group would continue to contradict your argument ( I would guess this would remain true even if 100% of people actually agreed with your argument (3) ).

    I’ll mention two books that dramatically changed my (classical/linear) expectations for dynamic systems – which is to say any system with more than a few variables – human cultures easily fit in this definition. Kauffman’s “At Home in the Universe” and Strogatz’s “Sync”. They’re not comparable life-changers to the Bible, but they allow a laymen like myself to refocus emphasis – from pigeon-holed rationality, to a more analog and organic view of the world around me. I firmly believe that if we want to change the world around us we need to understand it as it presents itself – and with that understanding we need to conform to the way it works in order to manipulate it. Without attempting to understand the way things work (on their terms, not ours) any directed effort to change things has a compromised probability of having the desired effect ( I can think of a few poorly conceived pest eradication efforts based on introducing a predator that illustrate how dramatically wrong things can go (4)).

    So, while I do agree with your the points of your argument, I also agree with Clifton Healy, they’re academic (but our agreement stops there). I think you’ve used a lot of words to develop what we could have assumed as a defensible position(1). I guess that’s fine – it is part of what I enjoyed about reading your post, it was solid. But the difficult problem is to insert people into your argument – real fallible, complex, diverse people who move in a group that is not solid (George W. Bush’s three step plan to finding a True Faith is an example of people’s shifting habits). The task that faces thinkers in the next century is to integrate a burgeoning understanding of complexity into rhetoric. Scientists are just learning how to do this in their labs. It’s time the humanities start doing this in their writing.

    I think I’ve made my point, only to paint myself into something of a corner – begging the question; how? I don’t have an easy answer to that. I can say that I attempt to practice what I preach on my blog – not sure how successfully. I can also add a couple points of orientation for writing about difficult problems: a. if you find an easy answer, it’s probably either of little use, or answering the wrong question(s). b. if you find yourself on an established “side” of an argument you’re adding to the volume of rhetoric, but not necessarily the quality of argument.

    I believe George Lakoff is right when he says, the framer of the argument has the power (http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2004/08/25_lakoff.shtml ). I’m betting on people to use a new understanding of complexity to create a wave of change in the major problems of the day – to float a tide of thought above the old, established walls of “the arguments of the day” and redefine the bounding of the problems we face in the big/small world.

    (1): I guess there might be people out there who need the hypocrisy you’ve highlighted explained to them, but I doubt someone holding a belief based on prejudice can be argued to a new position. The nature of prejudice is irrational. It’s literally making a decision before you’ve heard the case. And often the power of the judgment lies more in the power of the group than in rationality. I’m assuming that “rational” like 1+1=2 is immutable, established and not worth much time arguing. Especially in the humanities it’s true that “rational” has less impact than “actual”. For instance, it’s as productive for an atheist to argue you can’t prove God exists as it is for a Christian to argue you can’t prove God doesn’t exist – zero sum. The actual fact is that people act on their beliefs. Those actions are real whether or not the beliefs that underlie them are rational. So, we can infer statistically the validity of the arguments on either side (if a group of people believe and act on something, it becomes a player that we have to admit whether or not it’s rational). If we agree that broad movements based on belief are worth thinking about, then we don’t much need a rigorous rational deconstruction of underlying belief system. What’s more valuable is to look at what’s really going on, and discover ways of understanding that transcend reliance on the merely linear, classical rationality.

    (2) in a network context anyway. I’m not suggesting that individual processes are anything but exclusively rational. garbage-in-garbage-out strictly applies.

    (3) an example: at work one might need to garner support for a project. On an individual level you go around and gain unanimous consensus for this project. But when it comes time to get together to execute the project, political considerations make that same unanimous consensus impossible to retain. The project falls in a heap because of foibles – even though it was well intentioned, well conceived and (on an individual level) unanimously agreed to. The new TivoToGo comes to mind as a project that is in the middle of suffering this sort of “death by committee”.

    (4) the DDT still floating around in birds of prey – years after it was banned – is another example of how applying a far-too-simple answer to a complex problem can have unintended and detrimental knock-on effects.

    and yes, I do like to hear myself type. Sorry, so many words.

  8. At the risk of oversimplifying a scenario to which Father Andrew is essentially saying “it’s more complicated than that”–the corrosion of skepticism, even humble skepticism, vis a vis Scripture and Church dogma, ultimately eats away one’s own Christian foundation. Thomas Didymus is a saint not because he was the proto-Cartesian, but because he accepted the living reality of the risen Lord in the community of the Holy Spirit, and worshipped. Cartesianism, as the learned Doctor here will likely affirm, is it’s own worst enemy. I have this not only on the testimony of certain holy curmudgeons of the likes of GKC, but even such learned non-Christian thinkers as Cicero and Sextus Empiricus.

    Thus, my ultimate question is that if we submit the dogmatic expostulations of our holy Mother Church to rational vivisection, where may one not end? If the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth, yet we chip away at the foundation, what else is left to us? Is this growing into the mind of Christ? Or is it rather an alien contagion which diseases the health of the Body?

    I do not object per se to Father’s probing of the form of Christian (i. e., heterosexual) marriage, nor of his question as to which is the mind of the Church and which human interpretation. But even this is problematic, as it is merely a slight shift of attention to begin questioning more fundamental matters.

    Yes, to be clear, I have invoked the “slippery slope.” But far from a red herring, or a failure to address the substance of Reverend Father’s argument, it is quite central to the whole matter. AKMA, on the force of his Anglican commitments, attributes error to the Body of Christ. But on what authority may we accept such a judgment? That of reason? But isn’t the point here that reason itself is no omnicompetent tool for apprehending the subtance of the faith?

    I don’t mean to pester Father on this point, nor to sidetrack the conversation, and perhaps Father has given the only answer he can. It is, however, clearly one with which I am not settled.

  9. Don’t forget, Clifton, the Fathers themselves began the rational exploration of Christian belief, even against position that enjoyed both then and now the status of dogma. I’m thinking of Dionysis of Alexandria’s rejection of the identification of the author of Revelation with the Evangelist on the basis of divergent Greek… Perhaps the best way to classify the use of rationality in the faith is the classical difference between Anselm (faith seeking understanding) and Abelard (understanding seeking faith). Personally, I find AKMA doing the former rather than the latter.

  10. Derek:

    Authorship of the Apocalypse has never been accorded the same status as the Incarnation. That is to say, the authorship of the Revelation was never dogma.

    Also, I don’t object to the use of reason for more clearly grasping the deposit of faith, or defending it against false gospels. But that is a different use than is going on here. It is not a matter of faith seeking understanding (as though faith needed fulfilled by reason) nor understanding seeking faith (as though reason somehow isn’t engaged in theology unless and until intentionally so). It is rather having the same mind as Christ. If we depart from (to use a clumsy though esteemed shorthand) “that which has been believed always, everywhere, and by all,” then we depart from the Church catholic who has given us this Gospel (and marriage is quite located in the center of the Gospel).

    In terms of dogma, the Church is irreformable. This is a necessity if we are to have a Gospel to preach which is apostolic, and, to be blunt, which can save.

    There are, of course, nondogmatic instances in which the Church can, and likely should “reform,” one may call (some of) them theologoumena, such as the authorship of the Apocalypse.

    Where it would appear Father AKMA and I depart is whether the Church’s understanding of marriage is dogma (in the sense I have defined) or theologoumena.

  11. Clifton:

    You seem to be on shaky ground saying that “marriage is quite located in the center of the Gospel.” Jesus was — Dan Brown et al notwithstanding — unmarried. Paul, himself single, recommends the single life, conceding marriage for those who would otherwise “burn with passion.” (I’m not sure we’ve ever *believed* Paul on this, but that’s a different matter.) Numerous monks, nuns, clergy and saints of the church, known and unknown, have led holy lives while remaining unmarried. I know that none of this is news to you in any way. My point is that many in the Church, as well as our Lord himself, have not seen marriage as being at the center of the gospel, and so there seems prima facie evidence for calling your statement into question.

    So perhaps you might clarify this statement which, to my eyes, looks fantastic?

  12. Father Jason:

    That a dogma is, as at least I am characterizing it here, located at the center of the Gospel, does not necessarily entail that a particular practice which is reflective of that dogma is obligatorily enjoined upon each and every adherent. One would very well locate marriage at the center of the creation of human beings, and procreation at the center of marriage, but it has been the case that God calls some such as Jeremiah to celibacy and manifestly opens some wombs and not others.

    Be that as it may, I stand by my “surprising” assertion on at least these grounds: Paul centers Christian marriage in the reality of the relationship of Christ and his Church. If this reality (Christ and his Church) is not central to the Gospel, then I have misunderstood everything about Christianity. And if Paul enjoins upon husbands and wives normative practices that are specifically tied to this very reality (something he does not do with very many other practices and relationships), then I take it that marriage, or at least Christian marriage, is somehow tied quite centrally, albeit mystically, to the core of the Gospel.

  13. This is wandering off the topic a bit, but do the Eastern Orthodox churches have a system for distinguishing dogma from stuff with a bit more flexibility? To my understanding in Catholicism, canonical council decisions = dogma, papal encyclicals = doctrine, everything else = theology. Do the Orthodox have some equivalent of that?

  14. Camassia:

    Full disclosure: I’m not formally Orthodox, and have not yet even entered the catechumenate. I consider myself on the way, and try to conform to the Orthodox mind and life, but you will likely want to consult with an Orthodox priest or one more seasoned in that faith.

    That being said, the answer is an ambiguous yes and no. Yes: what is found in Scripture, as interpreted by canon, liturgy, and the saints, and the official creeds and pronouncement of the Councils.

    But on the other hand no. Because the Orthodox do not separate out the “official” stuff (Canon, creeds, liturgies, etc.) from the life of faith lived and handed down.

    An example: in our parish, when the priest makes the great entrance (the procession of the holy gifts at the beginning movements of the anaophora, or liturgy of the mass), he blesses all the children present with the chalice. This is a custom among the Serbian Orthodox, and not one you’re likely to find among the Greek or Syrians (among which our parish is a member). Clearly such a tradition is not canonical. It need not be done, and one does not usually invest its absence with some large dogmatic failure.

    By the same token, if you were Serbian anyway, this would be part of the life of the Church. It would in all likelihood, be the only thing you knew, and thus you would hand it down faithfully to your descendants. It would be part of the tradition, though not part of the Tradition, if you get my meaning.

    Thus Orthodox don’t make niceties among what is the bare minimum one must accept and still be a Christian. They take all that they’ve received and pass it on. They do recognize that there are some things that are non-negotiable (Trinity) and others that are local (blessing with the chalice). But since for Orthodox, the Faith is a way of life and not a set of dogma, it all gets mixed together and handed down as a whole.

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  16. Thanks for explaining, Clifton, but I’m a bit skeptical. If there are local differences, there must have been changes made at some point, and to my knowledge there are more-than-liturgical differences between the local units, such as the ability to divorce and remarry. If every Orthodox person really did as you said, nothing would have changed in the last 2,000 years. The Orthodox have probably changed less than anybody else, but clearly changes have happened.

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