The slowing down of theological creativity in the Byzantine Empire

It is understandable that in those churches which were encircled by Moslems, embedded in Moslem states, and perpetually on the defensive, fresh thinking on theological issues would cease or, if it appeared, would be quashed by the ecclesiastical authorities. Any innovation would seem perilous. It is possible that this necessity of passive defense contributed to a somewhat similar absence of creative thought in that portion of the Catholic Church which centred about Constantinople, Theological activity did not disappear in this Byzantine, or, as we must also now call it, Greek Church. Theology remained a major concern in the intellectual circles, especially in the wealthy and highly cultured capital. Yet vigorous, fresh thinking such as was to revive and continue in the Christianity of Western Europe was not found. Certainly the successive blows dealt by the Arabs and then, centuries later, as we are to see in later chapters, the even more disastrous experiences with Christian Crusaders from the West and, after them, with the Moslem Turks, must be part of the explanation.

Whatever the cause, the Byzantine Church displayed no such theological ferment as did Western Europe. It held to what had been done in the Catholic Church in the first seven and especially the first five centuries. It regarded itself as the guardian of the true Christian faith taught by Christ and his apostles. Indeed, that to this day is the attitude of the family of Orthodox Churches in which the Patriarch of Constantinople, his effective authority and the flock over which he immediately presides sadly dwindled, is still theoretically the ranking bishop.

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