Bekkos on simplicity of faith
November 1, 2007
John Bekkos, De pace ecclesiastica, opening paragraphs. Translated from the Greek text in V. Laurent and J. Darrouzès, Dossier Grec de l’Union de Lyon (1273-1277) (Paris 1976), pp. 425-427.
It would have been truly a blessing if the preaching of the Gospel had forever shone brilliantly in Christ’s Church in all its unspeculative simplicity. It would have been genuinely salvific if the seal imprinted by the invocation of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit upon those undergoing regeneration through baptism had been seen by all as the one and only seal of godliness. But since Sextuses and Pyrrhons (I mean those people who, at various times, have discredited the true teachings by their argumentation) have thrown ecclesiastical matters so far off center that, on the one hand, unspeculative simplicity of faith now appears as stupidity to our theological connoisseurs and religious intelligentsia, and those who know no more than their confession of faith in the Holy Trinity are scarcely counted as belonging to our religion, while, on the other hand, variety and hyper-speculation in doctrinal matters are considered a form of wisdom and of nearness to God, perished is the blessedness of simplicity of faith, perished is the common salvation which was expected to be enjoyed once and for all by all who are imprinted with the seal of baptism; for theological divergence over the Trinity, united above all reason, and theoretical variety over the Unity, ineffably made Three, have splintered the Christian people into competing denominations.
For if simplicity of faith had always prevailed, perhaps people throughout the world would have had no other identifying mark of their cultic, religious differences than the fact that some of them, through baptism, have been sealed with the seal of Christ while others remain unenlightened, with no participation in grace; thus, it would have sufficed that someone be called a Christian for that person to be known, by that very fact, to occupy the heights of godliness; between the name “Christian” and the summit of godliness, there would have been no gap. Such a supreme good would have been seen in all Christians, if multifarious differences over theology had not produced innovations, both in doctrine and in the Christian name, with each heresy offering, as a sort of common name for its adherents, the name of its founder. In this way, doctrinal variety has led to a loss of blessedness for many. For what is more blessed than that all who are called by the name of Christ be adorned with a single glory of faith? so that, as far as faith is concerned, the words “mine” and “yours” — those cold terms that banish godly concord — would not be known in the Church of Christ, neither this person belonging to Paul, that one to Apollos, that one to Cephas; but all would be of Christ and would consider each other as belonging to a single Body, joined and brought together into a common, connatural bond and referred together to a single Head, Christ.