The Heresies of Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage

Currently in Orthodoxy, we have churches divided over which hierarch has jurisdiction over which country. We have issues of whether a calendar devised or approved of by a Roman Pope could be acceptable or adjusted for calculating feasts and fasts. The issues which divide jurisdictions and arguments between so-called Traditionalists and so-called Modernists are matters of straining at gnats and swallowing camels.

The Orthodox Church as well as all Christians worldwide have been brought face-to-face with challenges to the fundamental concepts of life and the very nature of the family. I would suggest that these challenges are at least as significant and perhaps of farther reaching implications than the doctrinal challenges facing the Church of the first eight centuries.

Both of these go straight to the heart of who we are as humans. Both of these are at the foundation of the created order.

The Councils of the Church debated much finer details than these. That the matters facing the Church today even raise questions would have been unthinkable to the Church Fathers. Neither the Arians, nor the Monothelites, nor the Monophysites, nor the Nestorians, nor the Docetists, nor the Donatists, nor the Pelagians, et al., ad nauseum, would have considered, not to mention condoned, abortion or same-sex “marriage”.

This can be put into Christological terms. If we condone abortion because we say the unborn child is not human, we deny the humanity of Christ in the womb of Mary.  To condone abortion is to deny the Incarnation.  That is heresy.

If we say affirm the humanity of the unborn, but say it is permissible to wilfully take the life of an innocent human – neither a military combatant nor a criminal – we condone murder. To say that murder is not a sin is heresy.

Any Christian who says that either the unborn child is not human or that it is okay to willfully take the life of an unborn human is heretic. Any priest, bishop, archbishop, metropolitan, or patriarch who says that either the unborn child is not human or that it is okay to wilfully take the life of an unborn human is heretic.

So if a hierarch says that Orthodox church believes the soul enters the body at conception and, “generally speaking, respects human life and the continuation of pregnancy,”but that the church also “respects the liberty and freedom of all human persons and all Christian couples,” and further that “We are not allowed to enter the bedrooms of the Christian couples. We cannot generalize. There are many reasons for a couple to go toward abortion,” is this heresy?

Any layman or deacon or priest who is under the omophorion of a bishop and any bishop who is under obedience to a hierarch that is a heretic should take appropriate action. Any bishop who is in communion with a heretical bishop should take appropriate action. It could be argued that any heretical bishop is not in the Church. It could be argued that any priest who is obedience to any bishop not in the Church is also not in the Church.

I leave this for you to ponder and/or comment.

With regard to purported same-sex marriage, there is also a Christological issue. “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.” Marriage is based in the relationship of Christ to the Church. Just as the Church cannot have two heads, neither can the marriage. To allege that a marriage can have two husbands or two wives is to deny that Christ alone is the head of the Church. It is to deny the very nature of the Church. It is heresy.

It is also a denial of the image of God. “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply…’ ” God’s blessing of His image is based in His command to be fruitful and multiply. It is not based in heterosexuality – rather is it impossible without heterosexuality. The sexual aspect is such a given that it need not even be mentioned. To deny it is to deny man as the image of God.

So if a bishop is asked if same-sex unions are a threat to the traditional family, and he says, “Absolutely not. I don’t see that at all…. I would say God bless you,” is this heresy?

I also leave this for you to ponder and/or comment.

6 Responses to “The Heresies of Abortion and Same-Sex Marriage”

  1. James W Says:

    For bishop and priests to preach/support these things, I would say it is apostasy (worse than heresy?). For those of us who have been involved (I speak a a man in respect of abortion) it is a grievous sin. Pray for us.

  2. sol Says:

    An interesting and plausible possibility, James.

    I would be interested in more views.

  3. Donna Says:

    I’m far from being an expert in any kind of theology, let alone Orthodox theology. I think you’ve made your point clearly.

    But, I’m troubled by the exclusivity of your position. Not that individuals do not have the right to exalt their personal opinion above others, but that your position here posits only two positions on each theme. In addition, each of these positions is mutually exclusive — which is, I believe, your point in writing.

    I see each of the positions you mentioned, on each topic, as being the extreme positions on the continuum. Your comments here foreclose the very real possibility that personal beliefs can and do fall somewhere between them. They also foreclose the possibility that persons may believe something to be true for themselves and yet not support the government’s action on their personal beliefs.

    My own beliefs on each of these subjects fall somewhere in between. I believe in the sanctity of life. But, I do not support every action by the government in support of that belief. I do not support the government’s control over a woman’s body which would eliminate all abortion. In the first place, such government intrusion offends my understanding of individual constitutional liberties. In the second, that type of intrusion opens the doors to other types of intrusion which are far less likely to be sanction by the Church.

    My position on homosexual marriage is similar. I don’t recognize the authority of the State on determining the legality or appropriateness of Christian marriage. All the State can do is set the parameters of legal marriage. My work has exposed me to the frequency with which legal marriages do not satisfy my understanding of Christian marriage: both in the creation and termination of them. With that reality, I am not concerned about the State recognizing another type of marriage which the Church would not endorse.

    Those are my practical positions. To be honest, I’m not sure where I stand on the theology you posit. I do not understand, experience, or accept the urgency and exclusivity expressed in each position. It seems to me to be a HUGE leap from accepting homosexual marriage to denying the authority of Jesus as the head of the church. (BTW, I understood that the Greek terms in this passage were primarily military, rather than familial, terms. My understanding of headship probably differs dramatically from yours in addition to that, too.)

    Of course, if persons in authority in my community of faith were making pronouncements of dogma, doctrine, or faith which I believe conflicted with what I thought the Church’s better position was, perhaps I’d feel the urgency you do.

  4. sol Says:

    Thank you for appreciating the clarity of my point, even if you aren’t happy with its exclusivity. You are correct that I am juxtaposing mutually exclusive positions. This is because I don’t see the continuum. I think that personal beliefs can and do fall somewhere other than on one point or the other, but to do so they lack logical consistency.

    I don’t believe that truth can be personal. Truth is objective. Truth is objective because God is objective. People can believe something to be true for themselves, but that does not make it true. Likewise, I think that people have to support government action on two-fold objective truth: the truth about that thing upon which the government might act and the truth about whether it is the proper function of government to act upon such a thing.

    When you say that you believe in the sanctity of life, what do you mean by this? Your lack of support for government action would seem to be based, not upon whether you think the government should act upon your belief, but rather upon how you define life. Your understanding of individual constitutional liberties excludes the constitutional liberties of the unborn. If you believe that the unborn is an individual human, then any government recognition of his or her right to be protected is not the government controlling a woman’s body other than to protect the independent life temporarily housed within it. If it is not an individual human being, then it is merely a factor or component of the woman’s health. If the unborn is a human being, then the protection of that human being by saying he or she cannot be deliberately killed is, ipso facto, not government intrusion at all, any more than saying that a person may not point a gun at you and shoot you. Such a law is not government intrusion on those who wish to point and shoot. The government intrusion is the legalisation of allowing other individuals the right to terminate the life.

    Then it must necessarily come down to the ontological issue. Either the unborn is or is not a human being. We are back to objective reality. A thing is either A or not A. Its being A is not because we declare it to be so, but rather simply because it is. It is not a status to be conferred like citizenship or a university degree. The Church, in its prophetic voice, simply announces what God has declared to be. The failure of the Church to do so does not cause the thing which is to not longer be that thing. Neither is it the Church telling the government that it has to act on what the Church says or sanctions. It is beyond the ability of government to do anything other than recognise or refuse to recognise what is. The government saying that it does not take the word of the Church regarding what is or isn’t doesn’t change the objective reality of the thing.

    The same thing is true of marriage. Marriage is a divinely created institution. This does not change based upon the belief or opinion of any entity who is not God. It simply is what it is. Taking another relationship between two (or more, for than matter) people and calling it marriage does not make it so, whether this is done by individuals, by endorsement of the Church, or whether this is done by the State to establish certain legal rights between these individuals or in their relationship to the State. That is why I always refer to purported same-sex marriage.

    The actions of the State to create rights for other sorts of relationships and call them marriage (or even in this country to call them “civil partnerships”) is inherently the undermining of the social stability based upon the unique existence of marriage as it has been created. Likewise, the State creating the ability to terminate these relationship at will is necessarily undermining the stability of society. It would not be consistent to oppose purported same-sex marriage without also opposing no-fault divorce.

    If marriage is what it is and St Paul is correct in saying that it is a reflection of the greater mystical reality of the relationship between Christ and the Church, one cannot change the recognition of the reflection without changing the recognition of the thing reflected. The man is the head of the woman as Christ is the head of the Church. In Greek the term “head” (κεφαλη) is primarily anatomical, but just like we use it in English, it can have figurative meaning. When St Paul is using it by referring to the head and the body, clearly the imagery is anatomical. Anything with more than one head is a freak and not long surving. Likewise it is clearly altering the image of Christ and the Church.

    In terms of the pronouncements or doctrine clearly derived from the statements by hierarchs mentioned in this post, it is not that they conflict with the Church’s better position, but rather that they conflict with the Church’s universal position. There has never been a time when the Orthodox Church has said otherwise.

  5. Steve Says:

    Has any Orthodox bishop said that abortion is not a sin, or that the church should bless homosexual “marriages”?

  6. sol Says:

    I would say that the two bishops quoted above have done exactly that.

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