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In one of many interesting comments on Sunday’s post, crossingthebosphorus said that:

 

I don’t know that, for me at least, the focus of my wanderings is on what I would call “incidentals.” And certainly not to the exclusion of such “weightier matters.” Rather, I find myself wavering between Catholicism and Orthodoxy out of a desire for fullness. So the “incidentals” become something not incidental at all because they are an integral part of the fullness.

which, as always with him, set the mind to work.

My comment was inspired by a sense of frustration that in the face of the attacks to which Christianity is subject, our churches are far from united, and grown adult men who are certainly bright enough to know that the addition of the filioque to the Creed does not mean that Rome believes in double-procession, still seem to think it a barrier to acting together. Knowing a little of the history of the Church in the fifth and sixth centuries, it reminds me of how the disunity which followed Chalcedon in 451, weakened Christianity and helped pave way for the rise of Islam. Well, those who will not learn from history will be taught their lesson until they do.

Now the point here is that those involved in the Christological disputes which my co-author has described all thought they were arguing over ‘essentials’ – but what was the result? Within a few hundred years many of the inhabitants of Egypt and Syria were Muslim. Those who rejected the results of the Council of Florence (1438/9) on the Orthodox side thought they were arguing over essentials. In 1453 the Eastern Roman Empire ceased to exist and thousands were killed or sold off into slavery, and Constantinople became a Muslim city.

There are, of course, those zealots who would hold that these were prices worth paying to retain the purity of the Faith. My reaction is incredulity. Just what was so important that it justified leaving the door open to the expansion of Islam, thus condemning countless millions over a thousand years and more to be deprived of the riches of Christianity and the salvation it brings? Could anything have been worth that?

Well, in our times the enemy is writ large. It is out there as visible as the iceberg which sunk the Titanic. But our captains are arguing over who should be captain and what it means to be a captain; our wireless operators aren’t keen on sharing data, and our look-outs are debating the meaning of the words ‘iceberg’. Nor is it clear we have enough life-boats. But by all means, let us argue over the placing of the deck-chairs.

Long experience of being in a position of privilege and even superiority in the West make us indignant over losing some of these things. But what is at stake is so much more than that – it is the souls of millions. If we, as Christians do not sort ourselves out and begin to see that there are real dangers out there in the water, then we shall, as our ancestors in the Middle East and the Balkans did, a huge price. We might choose to take that on – but should we make that choice for generations unborn? Or for generations which will not be born?

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