Thursday, June 16, 2011

Logocratic Tendencies

A Greek priest in Athens with whom I have been corresponding recently noted that Protestant converts to Orthodoxy have a "logocratic" mentality. He went on to suggest that this logocracy keeps them from entering very deeply into the Mystery of the Faith. "Logocracy" means rule of or by words.

I thought some of my blog readers might be interested in reading my response:

Dear Fr. C.

Christ is in our midst!

Thank you for your insightful letter. I was particularly intrigued by your characterization of Protestant converts as "logocratic." To tell you the truth, I had to do a little research to find out exactly what that word means. It is not in my standard dictionary. I found it, however, on Wikipedia.

I think that logocratic is an excellent word to describe the habit of western thought generally. I often struggle to express Orthodox concepts/experiences/beliefs/practices because the very words I must use (in English) imply limitations and logic that are not part of the Orthodox Christian experience. And these words are important to western minds. For many, the words are the reality; or the words represent a specific, delineated reality. There is no conception in many western minds of Mystical reality that can only be noetically apprehended and for which words are only and at best metaphors pointing at a reality that cannot be delineated by the human mind.

I was discussing this with my wife this morning and she pointed out how in a family, words are flexible and meanings are fluid because the love within the family is what is known and expressed through the words. In fact, the very tweaking of words and the heavy dependence on tone in intimate family talk shows that the words themselves are not what is important. Rather the words (along with tone, gesture, facial expression, etc.) point to that which cannot be contained by mere words. However, somewhere in middle school it begins to be drilled into children that words have precise meanings and something either is X or is not X.

Perhaps this nonfamilial way of thinking that western (and thus Protestant) adults are so steeped in is part of the reason why they often have trouble accepting Mystery and have trouble emotionally connecting with the Holy Virgin Mother of God. They want Her to be delimited. They want Her to be defined. They have forgotten how to know a Mother, how words are used in a loving family. And I think this also is part of the reason why western minds have trouble with the intercession of the saints and perhaps even with their whole relationship with God. When one's relationship with God is reduced to words, to juridical definitions, it is pretty hard to experience a loving relationship with the God whom the Holy Spirit in us calls out to as Abba Father. It is pretty hard to know the familial love and intimate sharing of all the Saints.

For myself, for my first three years after becoming Orthodox, I accepted the words of the Orthodox faith, but it was not until a particular crisis in my life that I began to know personally and connect emotionally with the Mother of God, and through Her, the Saints. And even after that, it has taken many years to feel a kind of familial intimacy and security (not without fear--but not fear of rejection) in my relationship with God. I have come to the point that I can say in prayer, "Lord, I am a mess; but I am your mess." I feel before God as a three year old before his Mother and Father. The child may lose control of himself or in some way fail miserably, but the love and protection and care of the Mother and Father is never doubted. This sort of experience of God is, I think, rare in western forms of Christianity.

Sincerely in Christ,

Fr. Michael Gillis

1 comment:

Pippi said...

This is fascinating. As an ex-Fundamentalist finding myself more and more drawn to Orthodoxy, this seems to describe the struggle I've had with the Orthodox way of worship and yet at the same time, iromically, the dissatisfaction I feel with Western Christianity. Thankyou for writing it.