During the conversation, someone noted, "It seems to me that putting all of your theological eggs into the basket of correct ecclesiology is not ultimately a very helpful move, especially if shouting at each other is indeed 'a waste of time.' It ends up making your position only marginally different from the KJV-only fundamentalist who ends every argument with 'the Bible says so.' Is the opponent of that argument ultimately convinced? Of course not. So at what point is theological dialogue possible?
This is my response: I was simply trying to answer your question of why it seems that so many of these discussions begin at one point but eventually settle on matters of epistemological authority and, by extension, ecclesiology.
I do think ecumenical dialogue is possible and can even be fruitful for all involved. If I didn't, I wouldn't be here. However what happens so often is this type of dialogue:
Non-Orthodox: "I think this is the correct and best way of understanding [insert theological position/opinion/thought]..."
Orthodox: "Ok. But for 2000 years the Church believed something very different. Here is the Church's teaching and experience and why it matters....."
Non-Orthodox: "Whatever. I still think that I'm right. Why are you being so mean as to tell me that my 21st century, novel concept is wrong/heretical/evil etc."
Orthodox: "I'm not trying to be mean. I'm just telling you that it is a historical, verifiable, clear *fact* that this particular question or issue has already been worked out within the Church. What you espouse, and more importantly, the foundational assumptions behind your belief, have already been discredited. I'm not making this stuff up!"
Non-Orthodox: "Ok. Fine. Put your eggs in one basket. Be a legalist. Be triumphalistic." Storms out of the cyber-room. [End of discussion]
This fictional conversation is an exaggerated example, but do you see why, on so many levels, it seems to us that it is the *non-Orthodox* participants who have put their eggs in a basket: the thinly woven basket of solipsism and the right to my own private opinion on matters of ultimate truth in clear defiance to the historical witness and reality of the Church?
Just as you may not be impressed with "The Church says so" as a trustworthy foundation for belief, we are not impressed with the relativism of "just because I think it, it must be true" that is so often the modus operandi of the modern Christian. Will you be convinced by our witness? Maybe, maybe not. I'll leave that up to the Holy Spirit. You, I hope, will do the same for us.
What seems to happen so often is that people refuse to understand WHY the other person believes as they do, and WHERE their foundations for their belief come from. This is the only goal of ecumenical dialogue. The only Person who convicts or convinces anyone of truth is the Holy Spirit. All we can do is present, to the best of our ability, what we have been entrusted with. For the Orthodox, this is an immense task.
Bottom line: What we all need to do is to make our positions as clear, as charitable, and with all humility while at the same time committing ourselves to uncovering and obeying the Truth of Christ. And this is something the Orthodox are not perfectly doing, I'll be the first to confess.
Update:Alana shares similiar frustrations in her last couple of posts.