Voices from Russia

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Tweedledee and Tweedledum… “Liturgical Fundamentalism”, Indeed!

Filed under: Christian,intellectual,Orthodox life,USA — 01varvara @ 00.00


There are many solid and cogent reasons for one to believe that St Vladimir’s Theological Seminary (SVS, for short) in Yonkers NY is an incoherent and moribund institution. For instance, there appears to be an institutional tolerance of perversion if one holds the “proper” theological opinions, which was illustrated, sadly, by the documented sexual assault by an SVS faculty member against Eric Iliff, an assault that led to Mr Iliff’s tragic suicide (one wonders if John Behr was hired in order to try and burnish their image after this event).

We shall confine ourselves to one facet of this degeneration, only. Two faculty members, Paul Meyendorff and Bradley Nassif, hold an interesting theological opinion. Anyone who disagrees with their modernist notions on liturgical theology is labelled a “liturgical fundamentalist”. What does this mean? Well… I am not bereft of experience in reading the Fathers. I have NEVER seen this construction in ANY Patristic writing. As my knowledge of the Fathers is slight, relatively speaking (although much wider than that of the konvertsy who continually bloviate on the subject), I decided to ask those who are better suited, through their education and erudition, a simple question, “Is the term ‘liturgical fundamentalist’ Orthodox… that is, does it have a grounding in Patristics, Scripture, or Tradition?”

There is a “short answer”, friends and neighbours. The terms fundamentalist and fundamentalism are not Orthodox theological terms and we should avoid their use at all costs, as these constructions do not have definite, fixed, and objective definitions. Basically, these are “weasel words” used by those on the Theological Left to describe their opponents, nothing more. That is to say, they are nothing but empty words of opprobrium and censure, windy ways of labelling someone or something in a pejorative fashion. Theological Liberals mean to say that someone is “extreme” and/or “narrow” when they use such language, but, current taboos of the pseudo-intellectual Left forbid these usages. As SVS falls within this milieu, not that of Lived Orthodoxy, is it any surprise that its faculty would use terms current amongst Godless Secularists rather than Orthodox Christians?

We see fundamentalism misused at every possible juncture. There are Muslim “fundamentalists”, Protestant “fundamentalists”, and even (according to Messrs Meyendorff and Nassif, two great authorities, wot?) Orthodox “fundamentalists”. Then, what IS fundamentalism? Properly speaking, Fundamentalism refers only to an intellectual movement within Calvinistic Protestantism, one that arose in the early-20th-century in opposition to Modernism. Alright… what IS Fundamentalism? It has five basic principles, often labelled “The Fundamentals”:

  • The inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit and the inerrancy of Scripture as a result of this
  • The virgin birth of Christ
  • The belief that Christ’s death was the atonement for sin
  • The bodily resurrection of Christ
  • The historical reality of Christ’s miracles

I sent this list to an acquaintance who is an Orthodox theologian with the simple request, “Are these five points Orthodox, and, if not, why not?” The answer was stunning in its simplicity… “These points can be subscribed to fully by an Orthodox Christian, with the understanding that the Church’s comprehension of them is different from that of classical Protestantism”. Furthermore, he said kind words regarding J. Gresham Machen (1881-1936), the main spokesman of the actual Fundamentalists. “If all Protestants were as literate, perceptive, and compassionate as the late Professor Machen, our relations with them would be far more cordial”. I find myself in total agreement with both statements, needless to say. As a final note, the classical Fundamentalists decried a literalistic reading of the Scripture, contrary to the false notion that has been spread abroad through the dishonest statements of theological Modernists.

Then, what is the false, misleading, and mischievous definition of “fundamentalism” as is used by the stalwarts at SVS (and other Theological Liberal institutions)? Here is a cut-and-paste from Wikipedia:

The pattern of the conflict between Fundamentalism and Modernism in Protestant Christianity has parallels in other religious communities, and in its use as a description of these corresponding aspects in otherwise diverse religious movements the term “fundamentalist” has become more than only a term either of self-description or of derogatory contempt. Fundamentalism is, therefore, a movement through which its adherents attempt to rescue religious identity from absorption into modern, Western culture, where this absorption appears to the enclave to have made irreversible progress in the wider religious community, necessitating the assertion of a separate identity based upon the fundamental or founding principles of the religion.

This formation of a separate identity is deemed necessary due to a perception that the religious community has surrendered its ability to define itself in religious terms. The ‘fundamentals” of the religion have been jettisoned by neglect, lost through compromise and inattention, so that the general religious community’s explanation of itself appears to the separatist to be in terms that are completely alien and fundamentally hostile to the religion itself.

Some fundamentalist movements, therefore, claim to be founded upon the same religious principles as the larger group, but the fundamentalists more self-consciously attempt to build an entire approach to the modern world based on strict fidelity to those principles, to preserve a distinctness both of doctrine and of life.


What unqualified bilious rot and nonsense signifying absolutely nothing! Chukcha would say, “Look and see what people want you to believe about them. Do not listen to their words… however… see who they want to impress”. We could ask, “What circles does SVS wish to circulate in?” The answer should give us all pause for thought. SVS has no use for Lived Orthodoxy (as is manifest in its virulent Russophobia and its violent dislike of the more popular aspects of the Orthodox Revival in Russia)… rather, it wishes to be a part of the Mainstream Theological Liberal establishment… then, we should let it do so! Only, we should take away their authorisation to act as an Orthodox institution and send them no money! There’s no use arguing with such sorts… it’s pig ‘rasslin of the most classic sort, I say!

Now, you see what the “Tweedledee and Tweedledum” of the title refer to! You thought that I was referring to Meyendorff and Nassif… silly rabbit… SVS and their Modernist Protestant (and Papist) buddies… which is which? Damned if I know… What I do know is that the above proves that the lot at SVS are intellectually-dishonest to the core… any time that a Theological Liberal/Modernist uses the term “fundamentalist”, it signals a disconnect between what is said and reality. Well… you know what to do!

Keep your money in your own wallet when they come around begging for a donation… don’t give these poseurs a dime. You dishonour Eric Iliff’s memory if you do.

img_0001Barbara-Marie Drezhlo

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Albany NY


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