Volume III - Church History

Seventeenth Century

Cyril Lukaris

Cyril Lukaris (1572–1638) served as patriarch of Alexandria (r. 1601–1620), and then as patriarch of Constantinople—in five separate periods between 1620 and 1638—under the Ottoman Turks before they finally strangled him on false charges of treason. In his ongoing struggle against Roman Catholicism, beginning in his homeland of Crete, during his education at the Orthodox school in Venice and then at the University of Padua, and in teaching at Orthodox schools in Poland and Ukraine, he was drawn to Protestantism through friendships with various Calvinists. As Patriarch of Alexandria, and then as Patriarch of Constantinople, he became convinced that his flock, suffering under the oppressive hand of the Ottoman Turks, needed rejuvenation that he thought could come through imbibing the enthusiasm, doctrines, and practices of Protestantism.

This is the context in which he wrote his brief Confession of Faith in 1629 that was almost entirely saturated with Calvinist thought. It was forthrightly condemned by the same church councils in Kiev and Jassy which upheld the orthodoxy of Peter Mogila’s catechism and service books.

In 1672 the Council of Bethlehem/Jerusalem endorsed the Confession of Faith written by Patriarch Dositheos of Jerusalem (r. 1669–1707), which he drew up as a point-by-point refutation of Lukaris’s creed. Unfortunately, this confession also reflects the typical tendency among Orthodox theologians in these years to use Protestant arguments against Roman Catholicism and Catholic arguments against Protestantism. Its last eight chapters are heavily influenced by Roman Catholicism.