How does one properly understand these words of the Holy Apostle Paul? Does he really approve of dissensions (1) among Christians or recognize them as necessary or desirable? Is he making them the rule? If so, then how can this be compatible with the numerous places in his epistles where he so forcefully and persistently calls Christians to full agreement and unanimity? Be of the same mind one toward another (Rom 12:16), or Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord of mind (Phil. 2:2).
Furthermore, not only the Apostle Paul, but also other apostles exhorted Christians to be of one mind. Thus the Apostle Peter directly writes to Christians in his first epistle, Be ye all of one mind! (I Peter 3:8).
Not only does the Apostle Paul call Christians to oneness of mind, he even warns them of such people who cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which they have learned (Rom. 16:17) and urges them to avoid them, saying that they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple. (Rom. 16:18)
What kinds of "heresies" can there be among true Christians when the Lord Jesus Christ Himself prayed for them to God the Father in His prayer as the high priest: "That they all may be one; as thou Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us" (John 17:21).
See what unity must exist among true Christians: unity according to the image of the oneness of Persons of the Most Holy Trinity!
Can you imagine that among the Persons of the Most Holy Trinity there would be dissension?
This is why, before beginning the most important moment of the Divine Liturgy—the great Mystery of the Eucharist, followed by the partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ by the faithful — the priest exclaims: "Let us love one another that with one mind we may confess!" -- the choir then explains whom we are confessing: "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, The Trinity One in essence and indivisible."
Thus, oneness of mind is made the chief condition for the communion of Christians in the Mystery of the Eucharist.
If there is no oneness of mind, what kind of communion can there be in this great Mystery, in which the believer is mysteriously united with Christ and becomes one with Him?
But why do we say before all else, "Let us love"? Because, of course, without true Christian love oneness of mind is impossible, and also because true Christian love entails oneness of mind among Christians.
True Christian love is expressed above all by oneness of mind. Where there exists such love, there also exists oneness of mind, and where there is no oneness of mind, there consequently is no true Christian love, but only an appearance of it — only Pharisaism!
All this should be considered and seriously taken into account by all those steadfast in "Christian love," and at the same time persistently and forcefully defending, for some reason, their right "to disagree." To this group belong all contemporary modernist theologians who preach ecumenism, or the imaginary "union of all," and not only the union of all "Christians," but also Jews, Moslems, and pagans. In short, it is the union of all heretics, who retain their full right to "disagree," seemingly confirming the teaching of our Holy Orthodox Church, in the person of the Apostle Paul.
To such clearly heretical teaching there is now suddenly added "inter-communion," when people not belonging to the Holy Orthodox Church are allowed to approach the Holy Chalice, directly opposing the order of the Divine Liturgy established by our Holy Church. According to this established practice may only the faithful receive Communion, but even be present in the church during the Mystery of the Eucharist. Everyone else must leave the church when the priest says, "As many as are catechumens depart." See how these people who so blatantly violate one of the most important rules of our Holy Church even dare to call themselves "Orthodox" and try, by way of all kinds of false interpretations of the Word of God, to justify their "dissension" with the age-old teaching of the Universal Church of Christ. And what is especially horrible—they take shelter behind their imaginary "Christian love" for the "dissenters."
O how great is the evil of these contemporary evil-doers, how unlawfully do they misappropriate for themselves the patent on 'Christian love," and all those who disagree with them they accuse of a lack of "Christian love," and even fanaticism!
The remarkable success which these "much loving evil-doers" enjoying our time can be explained only by the fact that contemporary people, among whom are many Orthodox Christians, have departed too far from true faith in God, in Christ, and in the Church. They do not know the Word of God and are unfamiliar with the teaching of the Holy Fathers and the Church's decrees and it is easy to lead them into error by smooth words and flattery as the Apostle Paul emphasized even in his time (Rom 16:18).
There are also some among them who have a great weakness for gifts and presents and readily follow after anyone who will give them, not troubling themselves to investigate their teaching, whether it be of God (Acts 5:39). These words of the Holy Apostle Paul, For there must be also heresies among you (I Cor. 11:19), contemporary modernist theologians and ecumenists interpret totally arbitrarily, for their own advantage, not bothering to think that they are adulterating the Word of God and thereby they sin mortally.
This saying of the Apostle Paul is beautifully explained by our truly eminent Orthodox theologian, Bishop Theophan the Recluse, who in his time was the rector of a Theological Academy and wrote a complete and remarkably profound commentary on the epistles of the Apostle Paul. Here is how he explains these words [quoting Saint John Chrysostom]:
"By the word 'heresies' he [Saint Paul] understands here not errors concerning dogmas, but actual (and similar) quarrels. If he were speaking of errors concerning dogmas, however, he would not have given occasion for offense (with the words, for there must be). For Christ said, It must needs be that offenses come (Mat. 18:7), but at the same time He did not violate our free will and establish this as a necessity and inevitability for us. He foretold the future which happens from the evil will of mankind, not as a result of His prediction but from the arbitrariness of depraved people.
Offenses occurred not because He foretold them, but rather He foretold them because they were going to occur. For if offenses occurred out of necessity and not according to the will of those who caused them, then in vain would He have said, Woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.
"That the Apostle actually called these disturbances and divisions during meals 'heresies' we see clearly expressed by him in the previous sentence. For he said, I hear that there be divisions among you. He did not stop here however. Desiring to explain what divisions he is referring to, he then says, For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper (11:21). It is evident that he is speaking of these disturbances; but do not be surprised that he calls them divisions (schisms). As I said, he desired to have a greater effect on them by using such an expression. If he had meant dogmatical heresies he would not have spoken to them so briefly." (Saint John Chrysostom, Commentary on the first epistle to the Corinthians).
As we see, Bishop Theophan explains the words of the Apostle Paul with the words of the great universal teacher and hierarch, Saint John Chrysostom, and therefore the explanation is especially authoritative for us.
From this it is clear that it is in vain that the modernist ecumenists use these words of the Apostle Paul for their own ecumenical purposes. These words of the Apostle Paul refer to particular incidents and disturbances during the agape meals, about which he speaks in the eleventh chapter of this epistle. Therefore there is decidedly no basis for using this saying of the Apostle Paul to justify disagreement concerning dogmas, and especially for justifying union of all Orthodox and non-Orthodox in the Mystery of the Eucharist in the presence of obvious differences of opinion, precluding, according to the clear teaching of the Holy Church, the allowance and possibility of such a union.
This is one of the most characteristic examples of how deceitfully just like sectarians, the contemporary modernist theologians use the texts of the Holy Scriptures, attributing to them meaning which is not there. And the Apostle Paul could not contradict himself, saying one thing in one circumstance and something else in another. As we saw above, he clearly and unequivocally condemns differences of opinion among Christians and calls all to absolute oneness of mind and soul. Fulfill ye my joy he writes to the Philippians, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. (Philip 2:2)
Such should be the case among all true Christians, for: There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Eph 4: 4-6)
(1)In the Russian translation, this phrase literally reads: "For there must be also dissensions among you...". Originally appeared in Orthodox Life, Vol. 44, no. 4, July-August 1994, pp. 42-45.
We confidently recommend our web service provider, Orthodox Internet Services: excellent personal customer service, a fast and reliable server, excellent spam filtering, and an easy to use comprehensive control panel.