The Protestant Reformation turned society upside down in countries under the aegis of the Vatican, but did anybody pay any attention in Orthodox countries? If so, who did they side with?

  • 1
    Can whoever close voted suggest a refinement? – Ne Mo Nov 20 '16 at 15:38
  • 1
    The close reason is given as "too broad" so you might want to look at ways of narrowing it down. For example, you ask "did anybody pay any attention", well "anybody" covers a lot of people and "any attention" covers a wide range of responses (from "Oh?" to "send in the army!"). You might also want to narrow down the date range, since as it stands the question could cover any impact, right up to the current day. – KillingTime Nov 20 '16 at 16:30
  • Yeah, I suppose the thing is I anticipate that not many people will know the answer to this question as it stands, and the more I narrow it the fewer people will be able to offer anything. The date range idea is a good suggestion though – Ne Mo Nov 20 '16 at 17:35
  • 3
    If you would do a little bit of research on line there is much you would find in answer to your various questions. This article might be a good starting point for the effect of the Reformation on the Eastern Orthodox church. – WS2 Nov 21 '16 at 10:31
  • 1
    @WS2 could you point to a question for which a little bit of internet search would not provide some answer? – hyportnex Nov 23 '16 at 20:59

The impact was mostly limited, despite the efforts of Patriarch Cyril Lucaris (died 1638) to bring the Orthodox church and the protestant churches together. There was also some proselytizing which went both ways at various times, but this also the case with the Catholic church. In areas under Ottoman control, the Orthodox church was understandably far more preoccupied in dealing with Islam.

Although there was common ground in that both the Orthodox church and Protestant Reformation rejected the supremacy of the Pope in Rome, the differences between them were otherwise too great for the large majority of the orthodox hierarchy who regarded some of the teachings of the reformation to be heretical.

In a 2017 paper given by Fr. Panayiotis Papageorgiou Ph.D, a researcher in Early Christian Studies, history and theology, the author starts out by stating:

...from the perspective of the Orthodox of that time as well as the modern Orthodox world, the Protestant Reformation is a purely Western Christian issue. Even today, most Orthodox still do not know much about it, both as to why it happened as well as the intricacies of the issues and the theological diversity which subsequently arose out of the movement.

Timothy Ware, in The Orthodox Church, observes that, for the most part,

The forces of Reform stopped short when they reached the borders of Russia and the Turkish Empire, so that the Orthodox Church has not undergone either a Reformation or a Counter-Reformation. Yet it would be a mistake to conclude that these two movements have had no influence whatever upon Orthodoxy.

Efforts on the part of Lutherans, though, were ultimately rejected. In 1559, an approach was made to Patriarch Joasaph II but no reply was received, probably partly because

There is abundant evidence that the proselytizing activities of both Protestants as well as Roman Catholics in the Eastern European Principalities populated by Orthodox Christians worried the Patriarchate of Constantinople at that time.

For example, in Transylvania

Calvinist preachers first became active in Oradea in the early 1550s....The government also exerted pressure on the Romanians in order to change their faith. The Diet of 1566 decreed that a Romanian Calvinist bishop be their sole religious leader.

More importantly, though, the documents presented to the Patriarch by the Lutherans

". . . embarrassed Joasaph and the Holy Synod. A brief glance at the Confession of Augsburg showed that much of its doctrine was frankly heretical. But it would be undesirable to spoil relations with a potential friend. The Patriarch and his advisers took refuge in the favorite device of oriental diplomacy. They behaved as if they had never received the communication, which they carefully mislaid."

Source: Stephen Runciman, 'The Great Church in Captivity', cited in 'The Protestant Reformation and the Orthodox Christian East'

Later, Patriarch Jeremias II (1572–1595) was approached

by Lutheran theologians from Tubingen university who wished to gain his favorable opinion to assist them in their struggle with Counter-Reformation theologians over issues of justification theology.

Source: John Anthony McGuckin, 'The Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity'

However, the approach was again ignored at first and - when that delay ran its course - a polite but firm rejection of the proposal for a unification of the two churches. Several further attempts were made by the Lutherans over the next ten years until

Patriarch responded for the last time in the Summer of 1581. This time he recapitulated the points of disagreement and begged for the correspondence to cease: "Go your own way", he wrote, "and do not send us further letters on doctrine but only letters written for the sake of friendship."

It was not until the time of Patriarch Cyril Lucaris (died 1638) that elements of the Orthodox church took a much closer look at the new Western churchs, and in particular the Calvinists:

...As patriarch, Lukaris actively worked to establish better relations with both the Calvinists and the Anglicans, even presenting King Charles I of England with an early Greek manuscript of the Bible. In 1629, influenced in large part by the theology of Antoine Leger, he affixed his name to a Confessio Fidei (which he also may have authored), an attempt to harmonize traditional Orthodox thought with Calvinist theology.

This confession proved deeply controversial, though, and was rejected at several synods. Further,

His enemies, including Cyril Kontaris (later Patriarch Cyril II) and the Jesuits, frequently conspired together against him, allegedly offering the sultan money in exchange for Lukaris’s life. In 1638 he was accused of inciting the Cossacks against the Turks and executed by agents of Sultan Murad IV.

However, interest in links with protestantism did not completely fade for, at the end of the 17th century,

Around 1694 there was even a plan to establish a ‘Greek College’ at Gloucester Hall, Oxford (now Worcester College), and about ten Greek students were actually sent to Oxford; but the plan failed for lack of money, and the Greeks found the food and lodging so poor that many of them ran away.

Source: Ware

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    Fascinating stuff, thanks – Ne Mo May 25 '19 at 13:00

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.