John Romanides: The Most Interesting Theologian in the World

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16 Responses to John Romanides: The Most Interesting Theologian in the World

  1. Mark Armitage says:

    Taking your Florovsky post in this series as a model, a more sympathetic version might read: “I don’t always talk about the cure of the neurobiological sickness of religion, but when I do, I’m vehemently anti-Frankish. Stay empirical, my friends”.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      I’m afraid I have little sympathy for the work of Romanides. Unlike the scholarship of Florovsky, Romanides’ “scholarship” is riddled with an embarrassing tendentiousness. IMHO. I do not judge him to be a serious or reliable scholar, even though he may have been a wonderful man and priest.

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  2. StephenUSA says:

    In the main, do you agree or disagree with his main arguments of 1) The franco-germans (or whatever you want to call those folks from up north) took over the papacy from the locals (such folks as were in and around Rome who had greater connectivity with Old Rome than the folks up north) and 2) this more than anything else contributed to the still-enduring split between east and west?

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Stephen, I do not know enough about the history of the papacy to have an opinion. It’s not a topic I have read a lot about.

      What I do believe is that Romanides was prone to making excessive generalizations. I see him as engaging in a form of ideological “scholarship.” A good example is his early book on ancestral sin, in which he conforms the Church Fathers to fit his particular cookie-cutter paradigm of East/West differences. History is a lot messier than he allows it to be. Hence I would never rely upon the specifics of his arguments. I’m certainly not saying that he always got the Fathers wrong. I’m just saying that I would not rely upon him as an authority on patristic theology and church history. And I don’t think I’m alone in being skeptical of his theological and historical judgments.

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      • StephenUSA says:

        No, you’re not alone, but then, neither is Romanides when it comes to making excessive generalizations on these topics. Yet he does create a visceral reaction, either for or against. Not too many fence sitters when it comes to his writing.

        Still, I’ve not read of anyone before him putting forth so expansive a Non-Gibbon point of view (using Gibbon here as a author/promoter of the long-standing, dominant view that the Byzantine Empire was created ex nihilo, and that the Carolingans were the true heirs of ancient Rome and the First Christian Millenium). The style and details of his scholarship aside, he did challenge consensus, and if his main thrust is closer to the truth than the more Gibbonesque versions, then that would be significant.

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        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          A “scholar” who evinces a “visceral reaction,” may be interesting, stimulating, and provocative (I love interesting, stimulating and provocative); but I’m not going to go to the mats for him. And neither should any Orthodox who cares more for truth than polemic.

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    • William Tighe says:

      It is fun, but more confusing than illuminating, to ponder the “what ifs” of history. The “northern” take-over of the papacy occurred between 962 and 1049; and it seems to me that by 962 there were already serious, and potentially church-splitting, differences between the East and the West. What would have happened had this take-over never happened, which is in part to say, if the Ottonians had not revived a scaled-down version of Charlemagne “Holy Roman Empire” in the third quarter of the 10th Century, and brought the papacy under its strong influence and, at times, control, is anybody’s guess. Perhaps the papacy might have continued its basically western orientation, but attempted to remain on good terms with the East, as it did for the better part of a century after 880. Or perhaps (in the absence of an Ottonian State) East Rome might have directed its expansionistic energies westward in the latter half of the 10th Century, to recover Sicily from the Moors and southern Italy from the fragmented and quarrelling Lombard duchies, and so brought the papacy into an eastward orientation.

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  3. Josephus Squiggly says:

    This is a valuable example of social signaling among the “good kind” of American Orthodox. Predictably, Romanides is dismissed or mocked, but not actually *argued against.*

    If he’s wrong, make the argument or direct us to someone who has done so. In this case, an argument would demonstrate, using primary sources that Romanides has either abused or misunderstood those same primary sources he cites in his work. It may be fashionable to dismiss Romanides, but AFAICT no one–including Moss–has actually done this.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Josephus, you are the first to describe me as the “good kind” of American Orthodox. Thank you. I doubt, though, that the “good kind” would welcome me into their company. 😉

      As far as refuting Romanides, it’s not my job to do so. All I will say is that I’ve read enough of his works not to take him seriously as a scholar or as an Orthodox theologian.

      P.S. I don’t consider Vladimir Moss to be a scholar and theologian either.

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      • Josephus Squiggly says:

        Yeah, my reference to Moss was sloppy and ambiguous. The point there is to emphasize that the people who have tried to go after Romanides on the substance, are themselves thoroughly undistinguished.

        Now, you’re right–this is your space, obviously, and it isn’t your job to refute Romanides. But the guy is routinely laughed at or brushed aside *without any argument.* YMMV but I’ve found that this phenomena is just as commonly applied to politically incorrect truths as it is to self-evidently absurd quackery.

        So I would be “all eyes” to read a compelling takedown of Romanides–and there may be one out there–but so far I haven’t seen one. Which makes the dismissals look, well, political.

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  4. Josephus Squiggly says:

    To clarify, I’m referring to the combox conversation and not to the meme, which made me smile.

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  5. Stephen says:

    A site you might find of interest in this regard
    http://www.friesian.com/romania.htm

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  6. Mina says:

    His virulent polemic on the West tarnished his otherwise good theological intentions and reputation. I first read Fr. John Romanides when I was researching into the Chalcedonian debate, and I had a lot of respect for him for trying to become quite balanced and eirenic in his research concerning non-Chalcedonians. Unfortunately, as one delves into the research he does tend to paint the West in a bad picture even in this discussion. The first time I was turned off was how so disrespectful he was to St. Augustine. Nevertheless, I still try to make it my personal interest to be as “unitive” as possible. I read both Fr. John Romanides and Vladimir Moss’ works on the doctrine of redemption or Ancestral Sin. I find both to be correct, and talking past one another. I find that Fr. John misrepresents some Western formulations as well. But my reason for being so open to still liking Fr. John is because this hits home as well in the Coptic Church, where many of our clerics are just starting to have this debate. HH Pope Shenouda was quite an Augustinian, since those seemed to have been readily available in Arabic. The next generation of Coptic theologians are either slandering him (akin to Romanides’ approach), supporting him, or venerating him but supporting a more fuller theological understanding of both the East and the West, even if Pope Shenouda is said to have made mistakes. I take this latter approach, and that is why I still have a respect for Fr. John even when I disagree with him or his approach.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Funny things is, I read my first Romanides article back in the early 90s and liked it very much—it was on the eucharistic theology of St Ignatius of Antioch. I didn’t read anything by him until years and years later, and then was shocked by the level of polemic.

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      • ddpbf says:

        While I agree, late Fr. John was quite prone to exagerations, I dont think he could be casted as un-serious scholar. Just, he was exagerating, a lot.
        His basic claim that Franks politicized Filioque, and Iconoclasm, is quite accepted by modern Scholars… Secular and Orthodox alike.
        I agree his percieved dichotomy between Ancestral and Original Sin concept, is not that helpful, and probably unclear to anyone save him, but he was, at least partialy right, full implications of Augustine’s Soteriology and Triadology lead to gap between East and West. Also, he went that far to accuse Theodoret of Cyrrhus as heretic… yet, when he was not trying to find dichotomy, he had excellent toughts…

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