Another Forum Response: On the Canons and Written Tradition

Dear _______:

In the first place, my name is Deacon Joseph Suaiden. Why I’ve been downgraded to my last name in a third-person response to me indicates that you are not communicating directly with me at this point, but communicating about me to other readers. (I’ve known you far longer than to be reduced to a username.) I find such behavior somewhat jarring as I wrote with sufficient candor, but took care not to be offensive. This is not an Internet debate. You are relaying misinformation and now I am correcting it. Further, I found your tone somewhat condescending, which left me disinclined to explain myself.

Now that you wish to make a show of me, however, I will have to take the time to explain your errors.

You write:

However, I don’t agree with your interpretation of Orthodox history, since you seem to think that we have a comprehensive written record for everything going back to the Apostles, which is manifestly not true historically (how else would we have different textual variants of the NT?) and not even doctrinally necessary, as shown by St Basil’s defense of the Sign of the Cross, a practice founded on unwritten authority.

This is a sham argument. I had not claimed that “we have a comprehensive written record for everything going back to the Apostles”. Without touching on the fact that we have everything necessary for the proper functioning of the Church written down in many volumes–which is in fact true– I was referring rather specifically to procedure in terms of the public acts of the Church. Certainly in the time of the Apostles things were preserved much more by oral tradition than written. Yet even the Apostles themselves recorded canons. But to claim that is the case now isn’t just silly, it borders on disingenuous. Certainly by the time of the Ecumenical Councils, there were already episcopal registers, festal sermons, grammatas and numerous other writings connected specifically to Church procedure. Certainly there was virtually nothing being preserved solely by oral tradition in terms of the liturgical actions, which have incredible textual support in East and West.

On these matters I wrote exactly this much: But putting aside the moral aspect of such a view is that the historical record is precisely what we use for making determinations…. This is why our meetings have minutes. This is why meetings, trials, require a scribe or a secretary. Can we even envision a Church of the Councils– with none of the councils having documentation?… We have traditions, we have policies, canons, procedures. They are, for most people, incredibly boring. But to people who are sticklers for doing it right– they are our assurance that we have retained the actions going back to the time of the Apostles.

How you seem to have deduced that I did not include oral traditions in “traditions” is somewhat beyond me, but it is irrelevant to the argument. The procedural aspects to which I referred in my original blog post concerning Abp Auxentios concern the by-laws of the Greek Church and the canons of the Church itself– things that are obviously not oral tradition, and not only written, but have substantial commentary concerning every line. Trasmuting what was canonically a farce of a trial into a mystical act no subject to canonical procedure is a unique but flawed counter to the reality that the events leading the trial and the events leading up to it were patently uncanonical.

I’ve referred to the Synod of the Oak a couple of times on this because the Synod of the Oak’s proceedings were in fact nullified and a second council was reconvened to condemn St John. Even then, there was procedure, which is why St John, like Abp Auxentios, walked away from the proceedings– in the first place, they had no jurisdiction over him, and in the second, he refused to be judged by his accusers. Unlike Abp Auxentios, the persecutors of St John in fact did at least make multiple attempts against him. Apparently, the persecutors of Abp Auxentios didn’t see any need to bother with the inconvenience, canons notwithstanding!

This over-mysticization of routine Church procedure– and the deposition of a Bishop is a routine procedure with a fairly straightforward process, one that the 1985 conspirators basically ignored since it would have worked against them– is a fairly recent phenomenon as official Orthodoxy “renews itself” through the ecumenical movement and has led to disastrous canonical anomalies; but it is alien to True Orthodox of all races.

I would recommend you read the Dialogue of Palladius concerning the Life of St John Chrysostom. Besides the deep edification from such a holy life, it is also very educational on how trials were not to be conducted and precisely how seriously documentation “for those with legalistic scruples” was taken as far back as when the Church had committed only two Ecumenical Councils to its memory. … 2_text.htm

I would also advise trying to read my post in the spirit in which I tried to write it, which was not polemical but explanatory.

Deacon Joseph