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After I became convinced by the historic claims of Christianity concerning the person of Jesus, I started looking for a church to call my own and as I did, I quickly became confused by the disorienting variety of teachings and practices among different denominations and this forced me to confront questions about the divisions that exist within Christianity. I started studying Church history and I quickly narrowed my focus to the division between Catholicism and Protestantism. Eastern Orthodoxy didn’t, at that time, register as a contender for one very simple reason. I’m an English speaking white dude in a British commonwealth country. There is a universality to Catholicism that doesn’t exist in the Eastern Orthodox churches. For me to become Eastern Orthodox, I’d have to join a Church with a very specifically ethnic or national identity. When people ask me why I’m not Eastern Orthodox, I’m tempted to get into a theological throw down, but the easiest way to answer that is by pointing out that I’m not Russian, Ukrainian, Greek, or any other ethnicity that the Eastern churches in the city I live in serve. A point of contention at all the major divisions in Christianity has been the focus on authority. So, the East West split focused on the authority of the Pope vs. other bishops and patriarchs. The protestant reformation was about the authority of the Church and the Pope vs. the exclusive authority of scripture, and the English reformation was about the authority of the Pope vs. the authority of the King. So, as you might guess, authority, how it’s defined, and where it resides, seems like a pretty essential component of the faith. So in the case of the East West schism, there were a number of controversies that they were stuck on, but arguably, the most significant one was the disagreement over the authority of the bishop of Rome vs. that of the other patriarchs and bishops. Rome insisted that the bishop of Rome had a unique and universal authority over the entire Church, without which there would be no universal Church, as inherited from the authority of Peter. The Eastern Orthodox side was arguing that the bishop of Rome was a first among equals but only in an honorific way which meant that he had the same authority as the other patriarchs. So that was their position going into the controversy. OK, how true were they to their positions after the controversy had led to an actual division and schism? Well, the West still maintained the conviction that the bishop of Rome had a universal authority over the whole Church. But the East, did not continue to treat the Bishop of Rome as a first among equals. In fact, they excommunicated him which seems like a clear violation of their own claim that no autocephalous patriarch has authority over another. The honor of first among equals has since been designated to the Patriarch of Constantinople. Jesus wanted his followers to be one as a sign of his divinity to the world. Between East and West, from what little I know of it’s history, I only have ever seen major attempts from the West to realize that unity. Through the councils of Lyon and Florence, the East’s bishops conceded Rome’s position on Papal Supremacy, the Filioque, and purgatory, but the unity that was struck fell apart when the Eastern delegates went home and succumbed to political pressure there. Rome has always been the initiator of ecumenical dialogue, from what I’ve seen. It was at the first Vatican Council that the mutual excommunications of 1054 were lifted. It was the second Vatican council that made ecumenism a high priority for the Church moving forward which paved the way for the joint theological commission of East and West. It was Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI who recited the Nicene Creed with Eastern patriarchs without the filioque. It was the bishop of Rome who first visited the East. It wasn’t until 1995 when the Patriarch of Constantinople finally visited Rome. Last week I made a video about why I never became Eastern Orthodox and it got a lot of reaction, which is great, but that reaction was quite polarized and there seemed to be a lot of misunderstanding about what I was trying to say in that video, so I wanted to take some more time to address some of the feedback as well as the misunderstandings from the previous commentary. The first thing I’d want to point out and re-emphasize is that the perspective I’m trying to share on this topic is more personal than anything else. Some people complained that my presentation of the history and theology of the great schism was too one sided. And that’s completely true. It’s the same criticism or disclaimer I made about it at the beginning of the video by saying that it wasn’t supposed to be an apologetic about why Catholicism is right and Eastern Orthodoxy wrong. It was about my reasons for not being Catholic as opposed to Eastern Orthodox which is going to be inherently one sided. Ultimately, I’d hate for people to think that I’m positioning myself in an adversarial way towards Eastern Orthodoxy because the honest fact is, I do find the peculiarities in Eastern Christianity extremely attractive. I like a lot of the simplicity of it, I like icons, I absolutely LOVE eastern architecture. I love how you’ve been so steadfast against the aberrant currents of modernism, and I could go on. So let me try to dispel what I think is the biggest misunderstanding from the last video which is that some people thought I was criticizing ethnic or national churches which is definitely not what I was trying to say. I think it’s great that there are particular churches that express the theology, liturgy, and spirituality of a particular heritage. The point I was trying to make about the universality of the Church, is that there needs to be a way for those national churches to express their communion and universality with one another. So in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, from what I understand, they would say that their universality is expressed in their common theology… their orthodoxy. But the question for me has always been, how is that common theology defined? How do you make sure that as new difficulties and controversies arise the entire Church responds to address them? Well, if there’s no one final authority, like we have with the Pope, then you’d need an ecumenical council where all the patriarchs and bishops gather to define doctrines and settle controversies. But for the Eastern Orthodox, as they are known today, there hasn’t been an ecumenical council in over 1000 years. And meanwhile, Rome never stopped calling and hosting ecumenical councils through the centuries. So there seems to be something, to me, about the Eastern Orthodox Churches that keeps them frozen and unable to reaffirm the universal aspect of our faith because there isn’t one unifying voice to bring them together in an ecumenical way. In evaluating the East West schism, I tried to find a similar easy to identify and understand argument. Something that made one of the positions self refuting and I felt like I found it in the Eastern position and that’s what I was trying to emphasize in my last video. I was interested in trying to discover which Church stayed true to the very thing they were contending in the division itself. The Eastern bishops maintained that the Bishop of Rome was the first among equals but not supreme in authority. But after the schism, they excommunicated him and haven’t once shown him that kind of honor since, so they’ve betrayed their own position. Now some people responded to that by saying, the Pope excommunicated the patriarch of Constantinople too, which is true. But in so doing, he was acting in accord with the argument that the West was making which is that he had universal authority. The East was saying that the authority of those ancient sees ended there. Constantinople couldn’t tell Rome what to do and vice versa. But in, excommunicating the Pope, they were contradicting themselves and their own arguments. So, I hope that provides some more clarity for what I was trying to say in my last video and again, don’t take my word as some kind of authority because I’m not. Based on my comprehension level, these are the points I found persuasive. You should go do your own research because it matters, and it’s pretty interesting. The Wikipedia article on the East West schism is actually a great resource so, I’ll link it in the description.