Philosophical Reflections on Theological Problems


theology vs philosophyRecent events have found two members of the Traditionalist Youth Network caught in a scandal with the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church, and it would seem that no amount of kowtowing will appease the Church leadership.  Nothing but completely renouncing any allegiance or loyalty to identity will appease the Church in this case.  The Church is wrong with their current ruling on the matter, and you don’t need to be a theologian to see why.

Each of us have a bundle and mass of experiences that have defined us as people and guide our actions, choices, and lifestyle habits.  Our individual concept of race and identity is one of these experiences, and it is no less important than our concept of family, religion, and community.  What we experience of these things lasts forever even if we stop thinking about it after the moment in which it is actively affecting us.

We talk about the church sermon from last week, a dinner with friends, or the family reunion as if they had happened only just yesterday, but in actuality happened a week or even a year ago.  Whether or not it happened happened a day or a year ago doesn’t change the fact that those experiences still guide you in some way. You can’t rightly say that you’re still at the family reunion and sitting across the table from your brothers and sisters, but you can rightly say that you continue to experience it in some way. The same is true of our lived experiences related to race and identity.

I am what is contemporarily defined as being White, and my identity is the product of experiences and teachings that are also contemporarily referred to as being White. Even if I decide that there is no such thing as the White race there are still qualities and peculiarities that are unique to myself and the people of whom I am a product of.  My identity is the product of a confluence of experiences, and I cannot disregard these things.

“Feeling White” isn’t something that I do 24/7-365.  I don’t roll out of bed in the morning after dreaming of an utopian White Fatherland and say, “holy hell I love being White!”  What I experience as a White person is not a constant and unbroken stream of experiences. If the entirety of our experience was a single and unbroken stream of stimulus then we really could  eat White, sleep White, think White, act White, dream White!  How does a person “eat White”?– with a fork and knife, obviously, but let’s not get wound up over how White people are supposed to eat. However, this poses an interesting problem. How do we individuate the series of experiences that guide and mould us as persons with a racial and tribal identity?

The easiest solution would be to not individuate any experience and instead just refer to every stimulus as being from one agent, God. The second option is to count the stimulus as exceptional and singular. These both sound like strange options, but we’re already doing it, and the reason is more obvious than you think.

We refer to the world of stimulus as being collective and whole when we say, “That’s life”, alternately we individuate experiences into singular and indivisible units when we say “I remember the time that …. “.  My guess is that since the powers of human cognition are limited in some way we are forced to lump all of our experiences together for the sake of convenience, and then we ferret out single experiences as we need them to remind ourselves of something important. That is how we never stop being affected by an experience or a stimulus.

Here’s another example for how we never stop experiencing something: Do you remember a time that you grabbed a hot cast iron pan from the stove top? It probably hurt like hell, burned your hand, and made a red swollen blister on your palm. You never really stop experiencing the pain of the burn even though your hand has long since healed, and as a consequence you know why it’s important to always use a hot-mitt when using cast iron cookware. After the experience has served its immediate usefulness you file it away into your massive fishbowl of other experiences so that you don’t have to experience the pain of a burned hand for all time.

The ways that White people observe their identity and religion are not much different in these regards.  As with any group of people, the manner in which we exercise our cultural identity and religious rituals is unique and creates experiences that we use to make choices.  These experiences are then stored away after the initial moment of occurrence and we then recall these experiences when we need them.  One such instance that we recall our values and identity was when we counter-demonstrated a Slut Walk event in defense of modesty and restraint.

The only way we ever really stop experiencing something is to forget about it, and that is when an experience is no longer capable of guiding our decisions or forming our identity.  The worst option is to pretend like our lived experiences never happened, and that is exactly what the Antiochian Orthodox Church has asked Heimbach and Parrott to do.  Our raced experiences shape us, mould us, and guide us in everything that we do, and our political and religious activism is no exception.  Thus, ignorance is to grab the hot pan with your left hand while your right hand is still red and blistered from trying to grab the same pan only moments before.

But, how does any of this relate to the Antiochian Church scandal?

We recognize that we are members of a diaspora of European peoples, and our lifestyles, values, and religious sensibilities reflect that reality in many ways.  Whether or not it was our demonstration against Slut Walk that brought the Antiochian Orthodox Church to conflict with us is a moot point.  Our customs and identity are experiences that we recall as needed to guide our choices and those of others when trouble arises, and the Church refuses to allow Parrott and Heimbach to use those experiences.  The Church is essentially asking them both to live in ignorance of everything that has made them who and what they are.

I am most definitely not a theologian, but I don’t need to be one to know that the Antiochian Church’s decision is flat wrong.

Parrott and Heimbach have been powerful voices for the White Nationalist movement, and it is because the two will not cease calling up their defining experiences that they are being denied communion.  Heimbach seems willing to play the Church’s game as long as it takes, so I wonder if the American Antiochian Church community has the mettle to keep pace.


Creative Commons License
Philosophical Reflections on Theological Problems by Thomas Buhls is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.


  • Spelunker

    I doubt the Church sees this as a “game”. Seems like they are taking it pretty seriously to me. I think it’s great that you guys love being White and are proud of it. I don’t think many people have any problem with you loving whatever it is you think you are. I think what people have a problem with is your desire to alienate and re-segregate others who don’t wish to be alienated and segregated. In the end, your homeland cannot be a reality without displacing someone who doesn’t want to be displaced. How this would happen is purely speculation. It’s safe to say that it won’t happen voluntarily. It’s even safer to say that it won’t happen at all. I can’t help but wonder why people would invest so much time and effort in such a losing cause. The sheer population of our country alone makes your ethnostate end goal unattainable. Short of a nationwide catastrophe of some sort, there is not even the slightest chance you will ever see your dream come true.

    As for the church hoopla, it’s good to see the church exercising common sense. I wouldn’t budge if I was the church because as you stated, this is just a game to you, a game you will lose. Don’t be poor sports, take your loss like men and move on.

    • marvin120

      Well they’ve clearly gotten under your skin Spelunker, so they must be doing something right. I doubt you would’ve taken the time to visit this site, read the article, and leave this lengthy and thoughtful comment if you thought this was all pointless drivel. At some level, you know that Mr. Buhls and TYN speak truth, and that bothers you. It bothers you so much that you take time out of a work day to leave the very first comment on a fresh article. Says a lot.

      As for the contents of the article, I really feel there is no way out for Parrott and Heimbach until they break free of this church and follow the teachings of Christ. A PRIEST HAS NO POWER OVER YOUR ETERNAL SOUL. A priest is just a man, no holier than anyone else. Not a single one of Jesus’ teachings says otherwise. As a matter of fact, that was a big part of the problem in Israel 2000 years ago– the Pharisees were exalted in Jewish society, held above everyone else, and their God became organized religion. That’s why they didn’t recognize the Messiah when He came– they couldn’t see the forest for the trees, so to speak.

      No one, not a priest or any other man walking the Earth, should tell you how to think, or how to be. The Bible has been translated in just about every language known to man, the teachings of Jesus are there in black and white and they provide the only guidebook you’ll ever need. I’d look your Orthodox priest right in the eyeball and say the same thing.

    • Nate Lawrence

      “A priest is just a man, no holier than anyone else. Not a single one of Jesus’ teachings says otherwise. As a matter of fact, that was a big part of the problem in Israel 2000 years ago– the Pharisees were exalted in Jewish society, held above everyone else, and their God became organized religion. That’s why they didn’t recognize the Messiah when He came– they couldn’t see the forest for the trees, so to speak.”

      Let me guess, you also believe that Christianity is a relationship and not a religion too, right?

    • marvin120

      Nate– being a Christian means being a follower of Christ. The end. No clarification necessary.

      If you think you have to be part of a certain denomination or join a certain church in order to be saved, you’re lost, friend.

    • Nate Lawrence

      “Nate– being a Christian means being a follower of Christ. The end. No clarification necessary.

      If you think you have to be part of a certain denomination or join a certain church in order to be saved, you’re lost, friend.”

      Non-denominational Protestantism at it’s finest.

    • Marvin- That’s why the earliest non-Biblical writings are all about the Priest officiating at the Eucharist- known as the Didache?

      That’s why the only Church worship, until the Reformation, was always and only centered on the Sacrifice of the Eucharist, for over 1500 years, right? That’s why St. Paul says in Hebrews 13:10,

      “We have an altar from which the priests in the Tabernacle have no right to eat.” NLT

      Yup. Sure looks like an ‘evan-jelly-goo’ bible study to me…

      NOT!

    • marvin120

      John– it’s telling that you don’t use any of Jesus’ teachings as your example, instead using Paul, whose only purpose at the time of writing the letter (if he did indeed author the letter that became the book of Hebrews, which is hotly debated) was to spread Christianity worldwide.

      2,026 words. That’s how many words are attributed directly to Jesus in the New Testament, and not one time does he mention anything about one man being holier than another man. Don’t you think He would’ve taken a second to educate the masses on the importance of priests and other clergy if indeed these men were “empowered by God”? Of course He would’ve, and He did not. The church “hierarchy” is simply a man-made construct. “God speaks to me; confess your sins to me, do what I say, give me your money, etc”. Centuries of this type of thing is why the word “religion” often has a negative connotation now.

      A Christian is a follower of Christ. Your eternal salvation DOES NOT depend on what denomination you choose. If you do not accept this as fact, then I feel sorry for you John because you’re lost. I will be happy to pray for you if you would like, though I am also a lowly sinner.

      Furthermore, why is evangelical Protestantism being attacked on a Traditionalist Youth Network board? Is this not a site founded and supported by American white nationalists? Well, in case you haven’t heard, white Protestants built this country, and if the white nationalist “movement” has any hope of success it will white Protestants who do the “heavy lifting”, just as it always has been in America. If you’re waiting on your masters in Rome or Damascus to look favorably on the white nationalist movement in America, you’re in for a long wait.

      Attack something worth attacking.

  • Gavin James Campbell

    Yes, the Church is indeed asking you to make a clear break with past experiences and identity. And that clear break is called a conversion. Saul of Tarsus took the road to Damascus, and gave up on his lived experiences and the racial identity that go with them. And then he became Paul the Apostle and Evangelist of Jesus Christ.
    You are quite correct. The Church wants you make such a clear break with your past. The way St. Mary of Egypt renounced profligacy, the way St. Vladimir turned his back on paganism, the way Fr. Seraphim Rose stopped practicing homosexuality. Imitate all of these.

    • tradyouth

      Gavin,

      Saul of Tarsus took the road to Damascus, and gave up on his lived experiences and the racial identity that go with them.

      Actually, Saint Paul wished that his very soul could be damned in exchange for the salvation of his racial kinsmen. That’s a pretty intense love for his people, one he fully retained even after his conversion.

      I’ll happily imitate all the men who turned their backs on actual-factual canonical sins.

    • Gavin James Campbell

      And he also publicly rebuked Peter for refusing to sit with Gentiles. And he made it explicit that circumscion was not necessary to join the Church. And that he would be all things to all men. He didn’t have just a love for his own people, but for everyone.

      And there is not such thing as a “canonical” sin. The whole point of sin is that it can never be canonical.

    • Nope, Gavin. Sorry. Wrong. And with a name like Campbell.

      As a Scot, you should know better!

      http://thewhitechrist.wordpress.com/2008/01/14/the-three-witnesses/

    • Gavin James Campbell

      Campbells pick the winning side. That is our reputation.
      And that is why I am not on yours, “Fr.”John!

  • I’ve been following this story for awhile, and while I never do the comment thing, this whole thing is pretty ridiculous.
    It seems that no one on this site–not the author of this piece, nor the Matts, nor the anachronistically named “Orthodox Mike”–understands how the Church works. This is not necessarily a slight, since Mr. Heimbach is newly illumined and Mr. Parrot is a catcheumen, but guys, everyone in the comment section who is telling you that you need to humble yourselves and submit to the guidance of the Church is correct, and nothing (not jumping jurisdictions, writing angry essays, or hurling insults at anyone who reminds you of this) is going to change that.
    I am a baptized convert into a ROCOR parish, and my spiritual father was himself a spiritual child of Fr. Seraphim Rose. Very few members of my parish speak English, and their national/ethnic identity is strong. However, while the cultural manifestation of their faith is important, the substance of that faith is primary, meaning that being Russian is secondary to being an Orthodox Christian, and where the two conflict, Orthodoxy is given deference. I had to give up a lot of dearly held ideas–about myself and the world around me–in order to become Orthodox. This brute fact is true, not only for myself, but for 2000 years of other believers. When you agree to be baptized, you agree implicitly that it is true for you too.
    You can form silly Brotherhoods, you can wring your hands, you can yell into the Void, but you won’t change the Church. None of us will, and that’s a good thing. But if you submit, honestly and with your whole self, the Church will change you. Something tells me that that is why you joined up in the first place.
    Obedience comes before knowledge. As Mr. Heimbach pointed out in a podcast I listened to yesterday, this attribute of the Church is intrinsically anti-American, a way of thinking completely (and literally, in many cases) foreign to us. The sooner you get that, the better off you’ll be. The other alternative is to leave. Otherwise, you’re wasting your breath.

    • tradyouth

      This was actually the point of the sabbatical, to humble ourselves to the Church’s wisdom, and see where it goes.

      There’s been no illumination, clarification, or guidance. We agreed to stop “it”, it being defined as everything we could discern to be incompatible with Orthodoxy (ethnophyletism, supremacism, violence, etc…) in very explicit terms. We weren’t told what we’re still doing wrong. Had we been, I would still be patiently and quietly waiting.

      Heimbach’s still patiently and quietly waiting for answers. He’s humbling himself to Apostolic Authority, though it’s profoundly difficult to do that when the “guidance” is so incoherent, inconsistent with Church Tradition, and infrequent.

      It looks, both from the outside and the inside, like a cowardly over-reaction to a pop culture witch-hunt against imagined “racists”. The least we’re owed is a clear explanation of specifically what we’re guilty of and what we’re supposed to do to return to good standing.

      There’s a rich irony in all these liberal Western converts counseling us to be humble and completely entrust our secular politics to the Church’s authority when their blogs and church lives are entirely antithetical to that.

    • >Very few members of my parish speak English, and their national/ethnic identity is strong.

      And you accuse us of fawning over folkish communities? While we’re talking about those folkish communities that you admire so much, let’s ask ourselves how they got that way. It most certainly wasn’t because they embraced modernity, rejected their God given identity, and allowed degenerate feminists and homosexuals to parade in public.

    • Gavin James Campbell

      Our Church lives are not antithetical to anything we are telling you.
      If so many Orthodox Church Christians are adjuring you to let up and submit, then listen!

    • Orthodox Mike

      I agree. I do not want to change the Church one iota, sir. In fact, I truly believe in the Seven Ecumenical Councils and all the teachings of the Fathers. I just don’t believe that thinking my people exist and wanting to preserve them is out of line with those teachings, just like it isn’t out of line for any people to. It is part of our human experience and how people identify with God.

    • >If so many Orthodox Church Christians are adjuring you to let up and submit, then listen!

      Yeah…. because everything is so much better when it’s left to the capricious whim of the mob.

    • KO

      As Matt P. Has said, Our Lord lit into the religious hypocrites of His day.

    • “It looks, both from the outside and the inside, like a cowardly over-reaction to a pop culture witch-hunt against imagined “racists”. The least we’re owed is a clear explanation of specifically what we’re guilty of and what we’re supposed to do to return to good standing.”

      How does it look like anything, when by your own admission in the same paragraph, you’re completely unclear about everything?

      Secondly, you’re not owed anything by the Church, and I think your sense of entitlement is definitely impeding your progress. You’re not even a member of the Church yet, so the idea that you would have something like a penance or formal reconciliation is misguided. Further, I wouldn’t call the extremely truncated length of your self-imposed ‘sabbatical’ waiting patiently. You’re making all kinds of assumptions and blind guesses at intentions and procedures you know next to nothing about, and the fact that explanations or guidance isn’t coming fast enough for you says less about the Church than it does about your distorted expectations of it and bloated sense of self-importance.

      “There’s a rich irony in all these liberal Western converts counseling us to be humble and completely entrust our secular politics to the Church’s authority when their blogs and church lives are entirely antithetical to that.”

      I’m not so sure that I said anything about my own politics or the nature of my church life, neither of which happen to liberal. Also, the website attached to my name, Patristic Nectar, is headed by Fr. Josiah Trenham, whom I can assure you is probably one of the least liberal Priests I know of. A cursory glance around his website would have revealed that, though.

      “And you accuse us of fawning over folkish communities? While we’re talking about those folkish communities that you admire so much, let’s ask ourselves how they got that way. It most certainly wasn’t because they embraced modernity, rejected their God given identity, and allowed degenerate feminists and homosexuals to parade in public.”

      I didn’t accuse you of anything, except demonstrating an apparent willful ignorance about the Orthodox Church, and I didn’t express admiration for the people at my parish–I merely stated a fact, which is that they don’t speak much English and have a strong national identity. Either that was a deliberate misreading, or you have an interesting form of hyperemotional dyslexia. To answer your odd question though, they probably got that way the same way all other immigrant groups do–by being residents in a place that doesn’t speak their language or share their customs, and thereby clinging to the customs and traditions they are most familiar with.

      “I agree. I do not want to change the Church one iota, sir. In fact, I truly believe in the Seven Ecumenical Councils and all the teachings of the Fathers. I just don’t believe that thinking my people exist and wanting to preserve them is out of line with those teachings, just like it isn’t out of line for any people to. It is part of our human experience and how people identify with God.”

      And I agree with you. I don’t believe that those beliefs are out of line, and I don’t think the Church teaches that either. However, the problem lies in the primacy of those beliefs, meaning that your identity as a white guy, or Italian American, or whatever term you prefer, should be second to your identity as a Christian, which should be primary. The cultural manifestations of Orthodoxy are just that: manifestations. To use theological terms, they are energies, not essences. Where there is a conflict, or when your identity as a white person comes before and above your identity as a Christian, then there’s an issue. By not submitting to the authority of the Church, or being interested in reevaulating and possibly repenting of whatever heretical beliefs you may have, you show that you place your ethnic identification above your religious one. The two cannot, and should not, be coequal.

      “Yeah…. because everything is so much better when it’s left to the capricious whim of the mob.”

      It’s not a mob–it’s 2000 years of tradition and complete consensus, guided by the Holy Spirit and manifested in the testimony of millions of Saints, hierarchs, martyrs, and laypeople. In fact, the structure and hierarchy of the Church, which is the subject of your manufactured outrage, is the exact opposite of a mob. I’m not trying to be rude here, but do you know anything about the Church, or are you just pretending to be completely uninformed?

    • >[quoting your entire screed here]

      Translated: Shouting, “be tolerant! BE tolerant! BE TOLERANT!” all the while trying to bludgeon us with your own liberal progressive views. That you said it in more words instead of less doesn’t make you any different than the usual thugs that I run into at demonstrations.

    • Hahaha. Yeah, okay–a philosophy major who’s never heard of an ad hominem logical fallacy. For your convenience, then: http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/ad-hominem.html

      God Bless you, friend. Hope you find what you’re looking for.

  • KO

    You may give up your identity and nationality and traditions and ideals and affiliations when you convert, but you don’t necessarily lose them. You offer them to the Lord, and it’s up to Him what form they are in when he gives them back to you, if he does. I sense that Matt and Matt have done this, and have sensed a calling to receive them back, transformed by His love. It sounds like the institution is not offering any counseling in this vein. This calling is not the end of the matter and there are no doubt many issues for each individual to work through in purifying the heart. Private spiritual direction may be the way to go. God bless.

  • John

    The hypocrisy here stinks to high heaven. As I said before, we all know perfectly well that the church authorities would have said nothing if the two Matts had been black men promoting black interests. Hypocrites aren’t holy just because they wear clerical collars and cassocks.

    • Orthodox Mike

      I agree John. I have had so many colleagues of mine from Eastern Europe and the Middle East express awe and disgust with this whole affair.

    • Lance

      Citing a hypothetical situation, where you predict some other outcome (tolerance of black nationalism by Orthodox Church hierarchy) is an argument utterly without merit, simply a shot in the dark pretending to ‘prove’ your point that a white man can’t get an even break in this horrid country called America.
      What KO says above is the heart of the matter. To ‘give up’ all that you think you have, all pretense, esteem, notions, identity, agendas – at the feet of Christ is the only way you may approach Him. This is conversion. Those unwilling to humble themselves set their own egos up as god in His place, and keep themselves out of communion, remaining unconverted.
      Please be patient. Seek advice, withhold judgment. If you become a real student, you will learn. But the Church has no need at all for people with overweening agendas. Orthodoxy will cost you everything that you have. But it’s worth it, and you will have lost nothing you need when you get that Gift.

    • tradyouth

      Citing a hypothetical situation, where you predict some other outcome (tolerance of black nationalism by Orthodox Church hierarchy) is an argument utterly without merit, simply a shot in the dark

      It’s not a shot in the dark. There are numerous examples of the Orthodox Church hierarchy not only tolerating but sponsoring and promoting identity-oriented projects for Blacks and others.

      But the Church has no need at all for people with overweening agendas. Orthodoxy will cost you everything that you have. But it’s worth it, and you will have lost nothing you need when you get that Gift.

      We didn’t enter the Church with an “overweening agenda”. We haven’t pushed our politics on either the clergy or the laity. The problem with abandoning my identity in embracing Orthodoxy is that Orthodoxy simply does not demand that. If I’m to join a parish which blindly follows the Zeitgeist, I can find one right down the block. The whole point of being Orthodox is…orthodoxy. If it’s a shrill politically correct charade eager to root out secular social heretics then it’s not Orthodoxy.

  • Leslie H. Higgins

    Impressive reflection, Mr. Buhls. Are you a psychology major?

    • Nope. I’m doing a double major in Communications Culture and Philosophy, and a certificate in Journalism. Thanks for the kind words!

theology vs philosophy

By: Thomas Buhls



%d bloggers like this: