St. Justin and Orthodox ecumenism—how it should be
It is very clear for us how St. Justin felt about Western Christianity, what he saw as the biggest problems and heresies. He has written countless more works about the falling away of the Western church and its heresies. However, here has been brought to light the core in his thought about this, his criticisms. Let’s now focus on St. Justin`s thoughts about how ecumenism should take place from an Orthodox perspective; because despite his sometimes very harsh writings about ecumenism and its participants, he was not totally against an ecumenical dialog. Bishop Atanasije Jevtic, one of St. Justin`s spiritual sons and the one that was closest to St. Justin, calls people that suggest St. Justin was against every kinds of ecumenism as “unwise zealots” and that they are blaspheming St. Justin by thinking that.25 Some critics of ecumenism claim that people’s efforts to find positive views towards the ecumenical movement in St. Justin’s thoughts are forced and out of place. It is, however, important to point out that people like bishop Atanasije are regarded as rather cautious or even negative towards ecumenism themselves, and many describe him (Bishop Atanasije) as ultra-nationalistic and conservative in a way which would exclude ecumenism almost completely. This is an indication that he would have no personal interest in portraying and defending St. Justin`s thoughts in any inaccurate way.
St. Justin calls ecumenism “The substance of the Church”26. This ecumenism is not the ecumenism understood and practiced today, especially in the Protestant world. For St. Justin, ecumenism is the way the apostles worked miracles by the Holy Spirit and in the name of Jesus. Ecumenism can only be practiced with and by the holy mysteries (that is, the sacraments) of the Church, with Holy virtue that “christify us and trinitize, divinize and sanctify us”27. This would again imply truth, being in truth, in the Church, as the main criteria for ecumenism. I think the way one might understand this is that all should go back to the roots of the Christian church; hence the apostles being mentioned, and from there work forwards, rejecting all innovations not accepted by the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the things that are not truth and that has caused division among Christians. Everything must be done through Christ and with Christ in ecumenism. The saint lists a few key fundamentals of ecumenism. I have divided them here into small categories as I saw fit.
Ecumenism is “Where two or three are gathered together” (Matt 18:20).
Ecumenism should be build/have its foundation “On the Holy Spirit”28. Like the apostles and the ecumenical councils, ecumenism must allow the Holy Spirit to act just as it does within the Church. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth.
Ecumenism can’t be about us humans; it can’t be anthropologic. As the apostle Paul preaches: For we do not preach about ourselves, but about Christ Jesus as Lord (2 Cor. 4:5). About the God-man and “Not about Paul nor Apollos nor Cephas—neither Luther nor Calvin”29. Instead we should preach the Gospel, which is not according to man. Humanistic Christianity is pseudo-Christianity. Every humanism is a heresy.
The only way ecumenism can work again, the only way out so to speak is through repentance “that leads to a full knowledge of the truth” (2tim 2:25). This repentance must come by humbling oneself before the God-man, before His Church, before the Theotokos and all the saints. St. Justin never, not even once, talks about repentance in an earthly way; he never seeks for forgiveness here on earth from heretics towards the Orthodox. Instead he always puts the God-man in the center of all; and because heresy is such a grave sin, forgiveness and repentance can only be asked from God and given by God – through his only begotten son the God-man Christ and his Church.