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If a tree falls and an expert doesn't hear it, is there a sound?

One of my main points here at Turnabout has been that if government sells itself as neutral administration and adjudication, then ultimate power belongs to whoever gets to say what knowledge is. Another has been that officially-recognized knowledge today is a matter of “expertise”: the views of self-contained bureaucracies of knowledge arrived at in accordance with procedures inaccessible to other people. Those views can be counted on to reflect the outlook and interests of experts as a class. In addition, by their nature as “expert” they can’t draw on things that aren’t neutral and can’t be formalized, like common sense, the lessons of tradition, and the day-to-day experience of ordinary people. Such things therefore become by definition “ignorant” and if persisted in “bigoted.”

All that’s very abstract, so it’s worthwhile keeping examples in mind. Here are a few I’ve noticed in the past couple of days:

  • A case unrelated to institutional or ideological concerns: scientists are finally getting around to admitting the existence of “rogue waves,” hundred-foot walls of water that suddenly appear and destroy ships on the high seas. Those waves hit freighters, tankers, passenger ships and oil platforms, they’ve been seen by thousands of capable and credible observers, they’ve been photographed, and every year they destroy a number of lives and hundreds of millions of dollars in property. Satellite scans now confirm how common they are. Nonetheless, for years scientists refused to believe they existed because they preferred to stand by theories of wave formation that told them that such a wave could only be a once-in-10,000 years event. (I touched on this issue briefly some time ago.)
  • If even physical scientists ignore the obvious, you can imagine how things are in softer fields of study that touch on moral, ideological and religious issues. This piece on modern psychology and priestly sex abuse suggests what can happen. Modern psychology, as a matter of fundamental principle, rejects the classical and Christian view of the soul as hierarchical and oriented toward higher principles. It views the soul as a collection of natural drives, habits and whatnot, all pretty much on the same level, and its health as the harmonious development of those constituents. As a result it is simply unable to make sense of asceticism, priestly celibacy for example, and is likely to recommend developing and acting on sexual impulses as necessary to human maturing. Hence—as such views spread through the Church during the postwar period—the changes in the operative attitudes of Church authorities toward sexual misconduct, and ultimately the gross failures of leadership and discipline that led to a rogue wave of pederasty they were simply unable to recognize and treat as a serious problem.
  • And here’s a rather wordy and pugnacious, but illuminating, account of how clergy conferences look to an Orthodox clergyman. Talking to the other priests and the bishop about personal and practical experiences is helpful, but it’s not accredited knowledge and therefore—even, apparently, within the Orthodox Church—can’t be taken altogether seriously. So they have to trot out the experts. As usual in these things, the experts know absolutely nothing that’s relevant to the situation, so they want to become rogue waves themselves, tearing through the Church and destroying everything while trying to make it over in whatever image they’re taken with.


Speaking as an Orthodox convert, I was distressed to discover that such individuals as this Orthodox liturgist were beavering away at destroying Orthodoxy’s rich legacy. Just as their counterparts have already done in Protestantism and in the Roman Catholic Church that most American worshippers encounter (outside of a few traditionalist foxholes). I can truthfully say that they have made far less headway in Orthodoxy than elsewhere. I don’t know what the future holds for American Orthodoxy in this regard, although the percentage of converts is so high in many jurisdictions that they tend to get a frosty reception. The newbies are a respository of Convert Zeal (tm), and that, combined with cradle-Orthodox inertia and general lassitude, has protected American Orthodoxy thus far.

Anne Roche Muggeridge provided an acute analysis of this phenomenon in “The Desolate City.” The trouble always seems to come from church “middle management” functionaries who, in Orthodoxy as elsewhere, exist on a plane far removed from that of ordinary worshippers. The centralization of authority in Roman Catholicism makes it easier for them to spread their toxins, because they only have to win over their coevals in the “expert” class. Orthodoxy’s bewildering and seemingly irrational decentralization presents a far higher mountain for them to climb.

Orthodoxy is not, and will not be, immune from modernity. Mr. Williamson talks of Orthodoxy’s “bewildering and seemingly irrational decentralization,” and, yes, it’s easy to see why we call some things “Byzantine.” But the structure is less irrational and bewildering once you get a closer look.

Here’s the picture. I fear you have liberal professors at the seminaries who would love to run the show the way their Catholic and mainline Protestant friends do, but they can’t. One simple reason: The bishops stand in their way. Beneath all the Byzantine structures, you must remember one thing: the bishops rule. The bishops rule, however, slowly and in many times a convoluted way, but the hammer can fall. And that’s what has kept Orthodoxy from joining the ranks of Catholicism and liberal Protestantism. So far.

All it will take is for a crack in the ranks of bishops and I fear the water will come rushing in. As the article should make clear, the modernist experts are out there, waiting for their time.

“All it will take is for a crack in the ranks of bishops and I fear the water will come rushing in. As the article should make clear, the modernist experts are out there, waiting for their time.”

This of course is possible. Indeed some jurisdictions seem to be at more risk at this moment than others. There is no guarantee that a given jurisdiction is immune to the poisons that have ruined other Christian churches.

On the other hand, it seems to me that Orthodoxy can make a strong case for being the Church in its fullness. If this is true—I, at any rate, believe that is it—then it will in the last analysis stand against the gates of hell. But in the here and now, in ordinary time, as the RC’s call it (or used to call it), I wouldn’t hazard a guarantee about the safety of any given jurisdiction. I merely make the observation that the modernists have made less headway in Orthodoxy than in Roman Catholicism and Protestantism.

Mr. Williamson,

There are movements afoot within the Orthodox Church to have married bishops, let priests marry, and add female deacons. There’s a great deal swirling out there. Also, you have to remember there are only four Orthodox seminaries in America (and two of those are minor seminaries). In other words, if the rank of bishops would break somewhere and the seminaries could be more of what they want to be, there are only four power points, four creation points for priests. It wouldn’t be too hard for the modernists to control the pipeline of priests reaching the parishes. Ask the Episcopalians. Once that happens, game over. Fifteen years ago, there were two conservative Episcopal seminaries, Nashotah and Trinity. Nashotah was pushed to the side. Bishops wouldn’t send candidates there, so it’s a mere shadow of itself, and Trinity keeps going but it doesn’t fit anymore with where the church is going. Today it is hard for a parish to find evanglical or catholic candidates.

If Orthodoxy is the true church, the gates of hell will not prevail against it, but, as you note, that doesn’t mean the Church will maintain every jurisdiction, especially in a church structure that is very top-down in its management style but still decentralized among the jurisdictions and national churches. It could get very messy.

I have one question, and this isn’t meant to offend in the least. How much of a fight would or could the average non-convert Orthodox put up against the modernists, if they enacted their theological and liturgical agenda piece by piece?

M.S.: I think Orthodox priests have always been allowed to marry. A Russian Orthodox church I visited had a married priest - with a lot kids, too. As I understand it, marriage is allowed for parish priests while the bishops and higher officials all come from the monasteries and are thus celibate. (Please correct me if I’m in error, Mr. Williamson.)

There seems to have been a wave of converts to Orthodoxy in the past decade or so - chiefly from the ranks of Protestant Evangelicals who could no longer stand the constant march of liberalism, even within conservative churches. (One example of what I’m talking about would be leaders like James Dobson holding up the Apostate-Marxist-Adulterer Martin Luther King as an example of Christian courage and leadership.) I am seriously considering Orthodoxy as well. I sometimes wonder if Protestantism has a fatal flaw that causes it to drift ever leftward into liberalism. All of the mainline Protestant churches in the US were conservative and evangelical a mere century ago. Look at them now - sham churches whose theology is nothing but apostasy with a pseudo-intellectual mask.

my dear brother carolus, what is your opinion about following article:

Thank you very much, MS. A long read but cartainly interesting. There are theological concepts described here that are nearly impossible for the western mind to grasp. I have to wonder whether Gilchrist and the other converts - westerners that they are - could ever be truly Orthodox.

Let’s go back to what may be the root of the problem - the tension whithin Christianity between universality and particularism. Why are we witnessing the utter destruction of the Christian west - entire nations - both Protestant and Catholic, before our very eyes? The scriptural passage, Galatians 3:28 (We are no longer Jew ot Greek, slaves or free men , male or female„,) has been used as a battering ram by leftists operating within the church to destroy the church. (Why can’t women be priests, as an example? After all, we are neither male or female…etc.) Of course, St. Paul’s letter refers to the standing of believers before God in the church, it is not a manifesto for the abolition of Jews or Greeks as distinct peoples, nor is it an early example of the liberal ideal of total literal equality and interchangeability. Because of its misinterpretation of this scripture, the western church invites its own destruction. The reductio ad absurdam is Unitarianism. ‘There are no Jews or Greeks, men or women, children or adults, animals or humans, Chrstians or Muslims, or Hindus, or Wiccans, just everyone getting along in our smiley-face multicultural utopia of spaceship Earth.’