What is Orthodox Christianity?

Aboulia

Robin
i'm absolutely not saying you shouldn't go to church, btw. i'm from a muslim country, i'd love to have a church, to have people in my life who love Jesus. what i'm saying is that, God, from the beginning was against the idea of being tamed into a building. our bodies are the temple of God. it's a wonderful thing to come together in the name of Jesus and sing praises to the holy name of God, but if redemption is attached to it being a necessity, this is antichrist. buildings are made with hands and the entire hierarchy is us, under Christ, who is under The father
You are correct in the sense that our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, and you're right in the sense that a "building" is not necessary for salvation, otherwise there would be no salvation for wilderness ascetics like St. John the Baptist. And you're completely correct if you were talking about Roman Catholicism. Since priests are necessary for their view. Roman Catholicism is legalistic and bureaucratic. In Orthodoxy priests aren't necessary for salvation, there has been many times when there has been few legitimate priests around (like in the Soviet Union, or during the Arian heresy). God will not condemn you just for not having a priest. However, it would be entirely foolish to toss aside accumulated knowledge about the path to salvation, just because you think you can read the Holy Scriptures, even though you are living 2000 years later, in a culture which is completely foreign. The scriptures were compiled with an interpretation in mind, and can't just be read using modern definitions of words.

Orthodoxy is primarily about truth, the world and how to interact with it. Here's a podcast related to the topic, I highly suggest you check it out.

The Jurisdiction of Truth
 

John 14:6

Newbie
However, it would be entirely foolish to toss aside accumulated knowledge about the path to salvation, just because you think you can read the Holy Scriptures, even though you are living 2000 years later, in a culture which is completely foreign. The scriptures were compiled with an interpretation in mind, and can't just be read using modern definitions of words.
Amen to that! Enter laborers of God, feeding His sheep. In turn I'd like to suggest the works of Dr. Michael Heiser to everyone who thirsts for knowledge. Peace and grace to you all!
 

Aboulia

Robin
Amen to that! Enter laborers of God, feeding His sheep. In turn I'd like to suggest the works of Dr. Michael Heiser to everyone who thirsts for knowledge. Peace and grace to you all!
What work specifically that is relevant to this discussion? I checked out his website, it seems like a bunch of nonsense about UFOs, the man has a podcast called "The Naked Bible" which is a ridiculous, because that is an assertion that the bible can be taken in abstraction from it's context. What exactly does this man teach that's edifying? I read a few articles and came across this.


After the Jerusalem council, Paul went on to start many churches whose congregations were mixed (inclusive of Jew and Gentile). There is no hint that the original 12 had any sort of ruling authority over those churches. Even Paul couldn’t actually claim that, as he appointed leaders in those churches. For sure if doctrinal problems arose, Paul would take steps to correct that (and Paul’s own authority for having that status had been validated by the original 12 at the Jerusalem council).

Consequently, there is little merit to the idea that someone could claim “apostle status” today and wield authority over other churches. The question would be as follows: If you were not at the level of the original 12, on what basis would you assume their mantle–their authority? I see no coherent, scriptural argument for that. That idea comes with conflating the term “apostle” in other passages with the 12, which (as we will see) the New Testament explicitly refuses to do, and even denies.

....There is no evidence that apostles could claim authority over churches they had not started, or in which they had not exercised leadership ministry. The only conceivable authority at that level was the original 12
The author misplaces authority by putting it in a person, and conflates authority and power. Authority is the right to rule, those who are authorities on subjects have knowledge on that topic. Power is just vulgar domination. Paul could correct people because he was accurate with regard to teachings, and his teachings were only true because they corresponded to reality.

Ego driven domination has no place in the Christian worldview. The author comes to correct conclusions that churches are to be de-centralized in power, but he's mistaken that if one is a "apostle", he must wield power. This is what happens when you take the bible in abstract. If he's this wrong on basic church structure, does he have anything of value to say?
 

Blade Runner

Kingfisher
Most people prefer simple and direct, the [spoon fed] approach to feed their religious impulse. Not only is the term "hermeneutics" in itself confusing and too difficult or extracting of energy, it is not preferred by many precisely because it takes so much work to fit all of the gospel into a coherent framework. Ironically, this is precisely why any given man needs a guide, and why he especially needs an orthodox guide, I would argue the big and small "O" on this one, since it has the fullness of the truth. The beauty of Orthodoxy rests in its flexible, yet firm understanding of what human life is and how it should be directed, and for the polemicists, in ideas such as "We concern ourselves on what has been revealed, on what and where the church is" --- focusing on this rather than speculating on what is outside of this domain. That's its beauty. As a priest in the northeast once said [paraphrasing], "He were know what we have. If you want to gamble, go out there (pointing to Atlantic City)." If one put in the effort to seek and find these gems, I have always felt, it would sparkle in their hearts and in the minds. It is a treasure that those with the gift of faith can't deny.
 

Hermetic Seal

Kingfisher
Gold Member
Re-reading this thread, I felt that perhaps my own journey over the past months might be able to shed some light on these issues or prove helpful to others in trying to evaluate Orthodoxy and understand what the Church is.

To give some context, I come out of a largely Baptist, evangelical background - not to the extent of KJV Onlyism and IFB shenanigans, but definitely Left Behind and Young Earth Creationism Land. What is happening to me right now is the culmination of years of suspicion and disillusionment surrounding the assumptions of the evangelical background and finding that Orthodoxy presents an appealing resolution for them.

The Church

For most of my life, I accepted the idea that The Church was an invisible communion of everyone who had faith in Jesus, of various denominations and traditions (excluding clearly heretical sects like Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.) But the problems with this idea became evident with further examination and learning: namely, that this “church” was completely foreign to the first millennium of Christianity. Nobody believed this idea until recent times.

There were no denominations, or different churches organized according to a variety of convictions; you had the Church, and some heretical sects like gnosticism, Arianism, and Nestorianism. The Church had a clear conception of doctrinal unity; if the church in Antioch believed something different about Jesus from the church in Thessalonica, that meant that one of them was wrong, and nobody would have thought that reaction strange.

This brought me to the realization that Protestantism is forced to do one of two things:

- Declare that your church, for example, the Most Faithful Family Baptist Church founded in 2007 is the One True Church and everyone else is wrong and was wrong for 1500-1900 years. Something resembling this position is more common among fundamentalists, especially the IFB movement.
- Retreat to a sort of soft agnosticism concerning its own convictions, holding an unspoken assumption that, like the blind men and the elephant, all the denominations have bits and pieces of truth, but nobody gets it all right.

Both of these approaches are crippled by monumental problems. If you think the church stumbled into heresy for 1500 years, only to be rediscovered by Luther/Calvin/Zwingli/whomever, then you are effectively denying Jesus’ promise to build the church on his Apostles, and that the “gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Although the Church is not immune from problems, I do not believe there was a “Great Apostasy” or reduction of the true Church to tiny scattered sects like Paulicians, Donatists, and so on, as the absurd Baptist mythology of “The Trail of Blood” argues. I’ve found fundamentalist criticisms of the early church to be sorely lacking (long predating my interest in Orthodoxy),

The problem with the second option is that it implies that God doesn’t care about the truth, or for some bizarre reason doesn’t want us to have the whole truth about Him and what his Church is supposed to be. Taken in a vacuum it’s already a strange enough idea (and barely removed from Universalist ideas that all religions teach a part, but not whole, of the truth), but it leads to absurd implications that, in order to be applied consistently, would require you to assume the Early Church also didn’t have the whole truth and taught different doctrines. In fact, as we see from the Epistles, if someone was teaching a different doctrine, it was unambiguously denounced. The church of the Apostles taught the correct doctrine and truth; and if we take Jesus at his word, that truth would be guarded and preserved (as it is clear from reading the early patristic writers, that they took great pains to accomplish.) This means that there is objectively correct and true Christian doctrine, there is a true church out there, and discovering and entering that church is a matter of vital importance.

So does that mean that all other “Christians” are damned and some small sliver of them who believe exactly the right thing will actually be saved? To answer that question, I’ll give some more of my personal experience.

I became a Christian as a child and always believed the “right” things. I thought I was doing everything right, but my problem was that I never experienced any real sense of spiritual growth or permanent advance in my faith; I would have temporary spiritual highs from exciting worship bands, or church retreats, or good sermons; but it never led to real, lasting change, despite my desire for this. I never felt close to God, despite believing all the right things in my head and reading the right books. Something vital was missing; but what?

When I finally got around to investigating Orthodoxy for real, I discovered that this church was not just a different style of worship, but a complete lifestyle. There was vastly more involved in Orthodoxy than evangelicalism: morning and evening prayer sessions structured around written, fixed prayers; frequent, rigorous fasting; communion treated as the center of Christian life and demanding careful preparation; and confession, to name a few. With Orthodoxy, one is presented a complete program for re-orienting your life around the pursuit of knowing the Lord. I can’t overstate how much a difference this is from Evangelicalism’s vague instructions of “read your Bible, pray something off the top of your head when you feel like it, and maybe volunteer at the food bank or something.”

In all my years as a serious, committed Evangelical, across numerous churches and ministries, never was I presented with any real program of changing my life to conform my mind and heart to the Lord; just aimless, unstructured pursuit of an emotional, revivalistic experience. When experiencing a dopamine-fueled high is the end goal of Christian life, as (in my experience) it has been in Evangelicalism, is it any wonder that the vast majority of young Evangelicals leave the church after high school and never look back, finding the dopamine highs of sex, drugs, partying, and social media fame to be so much better than the tepidness of worship bands and revivalistic sermons?

This is the crux of the issue: I believe that I was “saved” before I knew a thing about Orthodoxy. I believe that I had real (though rare) encounters with the love of God. But I experienced Him through a tradition that didn’t give me all the tools or disciplines to fully pursue him, and that seemed to create glass ceiling of piety, beyond which I wouldn’t advance with Evangelicalism’s meager toolbox. Evangelicalism was like perceiving God through a dirty, blurry, window covered in hairline cracks: I can see Him on the other side, but only in the form of indistinct shapes and colors, never really in focus. Orthodoxy’s Church, on the other hand, is like seeing right through a clear, unbroken window; at last, an unobstructed view of the Lord.

The benefit of the Orthodox approach is that you are provided with the whole “toolbox”: prayer, fasting, confession, the Eucharist, patristic writings, access to priest, monasteries, and so on, that allows you the full experience of the Christian life and a broader well of knowledge about how to live it. In many ways, my experience thus far with Orthodoxy is something like a spiritual detox program. I believe this is exactly what we should expect to find in the true church that maintains the apostolic teachings of Jesus and his Apostles: the practices of that church should be effective. What I was doing in the Protestant tradition wasn't.

With this, the problem with statements like “Salvation is all that matters” (page 4) becomes evident. Salvation is NOT all that matters; rather, what matters is the comprehensive whole of our relationship with the Lord, of spiritual growth and holiness. And it becomes increasingly evident that the sharp delineation between justification, sanctification, and salvation doesn’t do justice to what both the Bible and patristic tradition presents, in which these concepts are all interconnected to each other. The idea of an abstract salvation that exists in isolation from your actual lived practice as a Christian is historical novelty.

All of this explains why accusations of “WORKS SALVATION!” are so misguided and betray an utter lack of effort actually understand the Orthodox position. The tools in the Orthodox toolbox are not used to impress God or look good in front of others, as the Pharisees of Jesus time did; the purpose of these tools is a means through which God does his work in us, healing us from sin and its effects, and making us holy. I’ll say it again so it’s really clear for the IFB folks in the back: the practices of Orthodoxy are not about us working to impress God, but God working to impress himself upon us.
 

Hermetic Seal

Kingfisher
Gold Member
The Word

Meanwhile, I’d had my doubts about the Protestant tradition for years before that. “Sola Scriptura” being a great example: this was a fundamental doctrine, but taught nowhere in the Bible, and maybe most importantly, not taught by anybody prior to the Reformers. This was a historically novel idea that wasn’t part of the church.

I first developed an allergic reaction to theological novelty in my adolescence, when I realized the premillennial dispensationalist view of eschatology was cooked up in the 19th century; the idea that Christians had all misunderstood eschatology for almost two millennia was self-evidently stupid. While more common Protestant doctrines are not quite so extreme, they are affected by this problem to a lesser extent. The Reformers’ Sola Fide (and subsequent distinction between Justification and Sanctification) didn’t exist before the 16th century; in studying the issue, it seemed that the emergence of such doctrine was a reaction to the extremes of contemporary Rome rather than a return to scripture and early church tradition.

My big problem with Protestantism is that I just don’t find it remotely plausible that some European lawyers in the 16th century figured out what Christianity was really all about, and that the Church Fathers much closer geographically and culturally to the original context somehow completely misunderstood the message that had been passed down by the Apostles. This, and an awareness of cultural context studies shedding light on the original culture of the Bible and emphasis on concepts like honor/shame, purity/impurity, and kinship relations caused me to have extreme doubt about the credentials of Reformers to properly understand and interpret the Bible.

In this light, Bible interpretation as a whole seemed fraught with peril: if the Reformers, who shared common goals and philosophical backgrounds, couldn’t even agree on the meaning of the Eucharist, the core Christian practice, then why should I take Sola Scriptura seriously? The ensuing tens of thousands of denominations resulting from an inability to agree on what Scripture means is utterly damning to the merits of this approach. It would be a different story if, free from the oppression of Rome, the Reformers got together and harmoniously came to a consensus on Scripture, clearly guided by the Spirit to unity. But of course, nothing of the sort happened. The fruit of Sola Scriptura has been dissension and chaos.

Sola Fide has many of the same problems. This is a doctrine that always caused me great angst when I really thought about it because it seemed to involve prioritizing a couple of Pauline passages and ignoring a ton of other scripture that directly contradicted it - like:
Matthew 7.21 and 16.27
John 3.36 and 8.51, to name just a few examples from Jesus; and from elsewhere,
1 Corinthians 9.24-27,
Galatians 5.19-21,
Philippians 2.12 and 3.11-16,
Hebrews 2.1, 3.14, 4.1, 4.11, 10.26-29, and 12.25,
2 Peter 1.10-11;
and finally, the real death blow, James 2.24.

I always found Evangelical attempts to explain away the obvious meaning of these texts to be unconvincing exercises in exegetical gymnastics; if it was one or two verses, I’d let it slide, but there are a ton of them; I didn’t even come close to mentioning them all, just ones that have stood out in recent Bible reading over the past few weeks. I would still unhesitatingly affirm that it is faith in Christ that saves, and not our “works,” but the notion that all you have to do is pray a magic prayer and then you’re saved for good is objectively absurd; as dozens of passages of scripture make clear, you have to persist in holding to your faith until the end, and avoid/repent from sin. In 1 Corinthians 9 and 10, even Paul didn’t think he was safe! And again: this is how the Church always understood it until the Reformers came along with their new ideas and semantic distinction between Justification and Sanctification.

In the end, I came to realize that in order to properly understand the Bible, we need to interpret it in the context of how the Church has historically understood it, and approach new doctrines and interpretations with extreme skepticism. We should prioritize the pre-Schism, first millennium church and its teachers. This is exactly what the Orthodox strive to do and strikes me as the correct approach. The disadvantages of interpreting Scripture in a vacuum, and the ensuing denominational chaos, is self-evident.

As some in this thread have mentioned, there is a certain type of Internet Orthodox Bro in the vein of Jay Dyer who can seem to care more about owning opponents through internet debate than pursuing the daily, quiet practices of prayer, fasting, and so on. In my opinion, we should spend a lot more time talking about the actual lived experience of Orthodoxy, rather than making Orthodoxy a rigorous intellectual framework in the same vein as Catholicism or Calvinism. Although there is value in knowing how to defend what you believe, and I’ve gotten good information and insights from Jay Dyer along the way, the drawbacks of focusing too heavily on reading a mountain of books rather than quiet, daily pursuit of holiness seems clear.

You might ask: why head toward the exotic shores of Orthodoxy rather than Catholicism? I have looked at Catholicism some as well, and while I’m certainly not hostile toward it and think there’s good within its tradition, I can’t say I’m particularly convinced. I don’t find arguments for Papal supremacy convincing and think a sort of decentralized leadership makes the most sense and seems most like how God would want the Church to operate (and consistent with what we see in Acts 15.) When too much power is invested in one guy, it creates an obvious route of attack and subversion for Satan, and avenue for pride and conceit. But the decentralized, consensus-driven model of the Ecumenical Councils seems much more plausible because no single man gets to say that he speaks for God; God speaks collectively through the group as a whole. I think this is one reason why the Orthodox church has managed to maintain its doctrine over the centuries, and avoid the current mess of Roman Catholic papal politics. Still, I sympathize somewhat with the Catholic position and find various things about Catholicism more convincing than Protestantism at this point.
 
Hermetic Seal, I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts!

When I finally got around to investigating Orthodoxy for real, I discovered that this church was not just a different style of worship, but a complete lifestyle. There was vastly more involved in Orthodoxy than evangelicalism: morning and evening prayer sessions structured around written, fixed prayers; frequent, rigorous fasting; communion treated as the center of Christian life and demanding careful preparation; and confession, to name a few. With Orthodoxy, one is presented a complete program for re-orienting your life around the pursuit of knowing the Lord.
When I first joined the Orthodox Church, I hadn't thought much about actual Christian living. I just wanted to be in a Church with the OG teachings. But since joining, it's this hands-on approach that I've come to appreciate most. I like that it's not just a set of abstract beliefs; it's a very practical program for living out God's commands.
 

infowarrior1

Hummingbird
A counter-point:
The Word

Meanwhile, I’d had my doubts about the Protestant tradition for years before that. “Sola Scriptura” being a great example: this was a fundamental doctrine, but taught nowhere in the Bible, and maybe most importantly, not taught by anybody prior to the Reformers. This was a historically novel idea that wasn’t part of the church.

I first developed an allergic reaction to theological novelty in my adolescence, when I realized the premillennial dispensationalist view of eschatology was cooked up in the 19th century; the idea that Christians had all misunderstood eschatology for almost two millennia was self-evidently stupid. While more common Protestant doctrines are not quite so extreme, they are affected by this problem to a lesser extent. The Reformers’ Sola Fide (and subsequent distinction between Justification and Sanctification) didn’t exist before the 16th century; in studying the issue, it seemed that the emergence of such doctrine was a reaction to the extremes of contemporary Rome rather than a return to scripture and early church tradition.

My big problem with Protestantism is that I just don’t find it remotely plausible that some European lawyers in the 16th century figured out what Christianity was really all about, and that the Church Fathers much closer geographically and culturally to the original context somehow completely misunderstood the message that had been passed down by the Apostles. This, and an awareness of cultural context studies shedding light on the original culture of the Bible and emphasis on concepts like honor/shame, purity/impurity, and kinship relations caused me to have extreme doubt about the credentials of Reformers to properly understand and interpret the Bible.

In this light, Bible interpretation as a whole seemed fraught with peril: if the Reformers, who shared common goals and philosophical backgrounds, couldn’t even agree on the meaning of the Eucharist, the core Christian practice, then why should I take Sola Scriptura seriously? The ensuing tens of thousands of denominations resulting from an inability to agree on what Scripture means is utterly damning to the merits of this approach. It would be a different story if, free from the oppression of Rome, the Reformers got together and harmoniously came to a consensus on Scripture, clearly guided by the Spirit to unity. But of course, nothing of the sort happened. The fruit of Sola Scriptura has been dissension and chaos.

Sola Fide has many of the same problems. This is a doctrine that always caused me great angst when I really thought about it because it seemed to involve prioritizing a couple of Pauline passages and ignoring a ton of other scripture that directly contradicted it - like:
Matthew 7.21 and 16.27
John 3.36 and 8.51, to name just a few examples from Jesus; and from elsewhere,
1 Corinthians 9.24-27,
Galatians 5.19-21,
Philippians 2.12 and 3.11-16,
Hebrews 2.1, 3.14, 4.1, 4.11, 10.26-29, and 12.25,
2 Peter 1.10-11;
and finally, the real death blow, James 2.24.

I always found Evangelical attempts to explain away the obvious meaning of these texts to be unconvincing exercises in exegetical gymnastics; if it was one or two verses, I’d let it slide, but there are a ton of them; I didn’t even come close to mentioning them all, just ones that have stood out in recent Bible reading over the past few weeks. I would still unhesitatingly affirm that it is faith in Christ that saves, and not our “works,” but the notion that all you have to do is pray a magic prayer and then you’re saved for good is objectively absurd; as dozens of passages of scripture make clear, you have to persist in holding to your faith until the end, and avoid/repent from sin. In 1 Corinthians 9 and 10, even Paul didn’t think he was safe! And again: this is how the Church always understood it until the Reformers came along with their new ideas and semantic distinction between Justification and Sanctification.

In the end, I came to realize that in order to properly understand the Bible, we need to interpret it in the context of how the Church has historically understood it, and approach new doctrines and interpretations with extreme skepticism. We should prioritize the pre-Schism, first millennium church and its teachers. This is exactly what the Orthodox strive to do and strikes me as the correct approach. The disadvantages of interpreting Scripture in a vacuum, and the ensuing denominational chaos, is self-evident.

As some in this thread have mentioned, there is a certain type of Internet Orthodox Bro in the vein of Jay Dyer who can seem to care more about owning opponents through internet debate than pursuing the daily, quiet practices of prayer, fasting, and so on. In my opinion, we should spend a lot more time talking about the actual lived experience of Orthodoxy, rather than making Orthodoxy a rigorous intellectual framework in the same vein as Catholicism or Calvinism. Although there is value in knowing how to defend what you believe, and I’ve gotten good information and insights from Jay Dyer along the way, the drawbacks of focusing too heavily on reading a mountain of books rather than quiet, daily pursuit of holiness seems clear.

You might ask: why head toward the exotic shores of Orthodoxy rather than Catholicism? I have looked at Catholicism some as well, and while I’m certainly not hostile toward it and think there’s good within its tradition, I can’t say I’m particularly convinced. I don’t find arguments for Papal supremacy convincing and think a sort of decentralized leadership makes the most sense and seems most like how God would want the Church to operate (and consistent with what we see in Acts 15.) When too much power is invested in one guy, it creates an obvious route of attack and subversion for Satan, and avenue for pride and conceit. But the decentralized, consensus-driven model of the Ecumenical Councils seems much more plausible because no single man gets to say that he speaks for God; God speaks collectively through the group as a whole. I think this is one reason why the Orthodox church has managed to maintain its doctrine over the centuries, and avoid the current mess of Roman Catholic papal politics. Still, I sympathize somewhat with the Catholic position and find various things about Catholicism more convincing than Protestantism at this point.
Counterpoints:

Most if not all of the objections to Sola Scriptura and so forth have already been addressed. For example.

His Email if you want to discuss more on the subject:
[email protected]
 
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PainPositive

Kingfisher
Gold Member
I feel like I'm so close to becoming Orthodox I could give a better explanation in favor of Orthodoxy than most Orthodox people. Just a word of advice though - Making dirty glass analogies is probably not a good way to bring them into the church. Statements like these are so rife with pride it probably pushes people away more than it brings them in.
 
Very helpful explanation, Hermetic Seal. Thanks. I've been looking for a write-up like this for several years, and yours is straight to the point.

I'm not Orthodox, though, and can't see myself joining an Orthodox church, in part because of an experience I had in Jerusalem: As I was walking down an Old Jerusalem street with my wife, I start to hear a loud, repetitive "click" noise. It gradually grew louder and closer. Eventually all the people in the street moved to either side, making a clear path down the middle. Then around the corner comes a group of about 10 priests. In the middle of their group is an old man who must have been a higher-up, like a bishop or something. They were all loudly slamming their sticks into the ground in unison to make tons of noise. They passed through the crowd like they were gliding through the Matrix. They were definitely Orthodox (judging by their clothes), although I don't know exactly which church. ... By the time it was over, I felt that I'd just seen perhaps the most ridiculous thing I'd ever seen in my entire life. I couldn't help but laugh. Why would a man--a sinner--act in such a proud manner, especially within just a short walk of where Jesus died for our sins, when Jesus--in all his perfection--had arrived on a donkey? ... Whatever merits the Orthodox church may have, I don't think I could in good conscience join an institution that sees this arrogance as not only acceptable, but preferable. Building up a rigid hierarchy around such behavior makes it all the harder to refuse to participate in the absurdity.

I mean no offense. I respect the Orthodox church, and I agree that in many ways it's superior to Protestantism. Just explaining my objections. If you have a counterpoint, I'm all ears.
 

Jessie

Newbie
Hermetic Seal, some of the things you are saying are true about Protestantism. But a lot of what you are saying isn’t true, either. Yes, there are many who believe in “the sinner’s prayer” and Darby’s version of a secret rapture. There are some Christians who pray when they feel like it and that may be next to never. Bible reading may be scarce for them. But are they really Christians? Only God knows for sure, but their fruit suggests they are not. There are many Protestant believers who don’t believe in Darby’s dispensationalism. They don’t believe that “salvation is all that matters”. Glorifying God and enjoying him forever is the purpose for our lives. That means daily communion with God, praying without ceasing, meditating on His words day and night, living in obedience to His commands, etc. You are describing the weakest and claiming it as the entirety. I can say the same thing about many of the Catholic and Orthodox “christians” I talk to when I’m out doing ministry on the streets.
 

Hermetic Seal

Kingfisher
Gold Member
@PainPositive: I have a bad tendency toward dramatic metaphors, I didn’t intend this to come across as an attack on good Evangelical churches (including ones I've attended); I was thinking more of the day-to-day spiritual/devotional practices associated with Evangelicalism vs. Orthodoxy. If I wrote it again, I'd rephrase it something like this:

The "window" starts out blacked out by thick, goopy paint. Evangelicalism is like a damp cloth that cleans some of the "paint" and lets light, color, and shape come through; Orthodoxy (at least so far) is a cloth soaked with paint thinner that takes off the substance, giving a clear view.

I still have a great appreciation for most of the Protestant churches I’ve been a part of over the years. I appreciate their love of scripture, commitment to missions, and many fine friendships I’ve enjoyed in those times. The church I’m still at right now, aside from their frustrating dalliances with woke ideology in recent times, is really doing just about the best that can be expected from one operating in the evangelical nondenominational milieu: power spread out between several people/not all invested in one guy; pastors who actually pastor the congregation rather than just preach; a band that attempts to be down-to-earth rather than create a big spectacle. I think the problem isn’t the love or sincerity of the people leading it, but rather the framework of Protestant evangelical church in which they’re working.

@torchbearer: That is a very strange story. I'm not totally sure what to make of this incident, other than to say that I would encourage you not to write off all of Orthodoxy because of something odd that happened on the other side of the world, where you (completely understandably!) didn't have the context of what was happening, or even know, really, which church this was.

I can give this anecdote from my experience: when I decided to bite the bullet and visit an Orthodox church at last, I emailed three different priests around 9 PM on a Saturday night looking for info about their churches. Two replied to my email within minutes, and the third, by 11 PM or so. I was impressed. In visiting churches and talking to their priests, I've been incredibly impressed by the love and care they've shown me, and all without ever coming across as pushy or trying to sell me something. I know there are bad priests/parishes out there, but I've been fortunate to have a good experience so far. If you're interested in Orthodoxy, you might try reaching out to some priests in your area, visit some places, and see what sort of vibe you get from it.

@Jessie: I’m not at all trying to tar all Protestants with the worst excesses of weird fundamentalist doctrines; I cited them as examples on a few points, but I haven’t been involved in churches that taught those things in well over a decade now.

The last few churches I’ve attended are ones which I think offer the best of evangelicalism in various ways (or at least, they did at an earlier point in time.) These churches and their leadership have largely consisted of people who take their faith very seriously and aren’t casual/“Christmas-and-Easter” Christians at all. That’s why I’ve found the failure of their practices to really help me grow spiritually to be so alarming; these are churches that by all accounts are doing the Protestant thing right. I would, and still do, absolutely affirm the value of “daily communion with God, praying without ceasing, meditating on His words day and night, living in obedience to His commands, etc.”, but for all their good intentions, and effort (both from them and myself), these serious, passionate Evangelical churches never actually offered me a practical, sustainable approach of how to do any of these things; rather, a set of propositions for intellectual assent, and emotional highs in worship music.
 

Hermetic Seal

Kingfisher
Gold Member
@infowarrior1: I checked out some of the articles on the site you linked and I didn’t find them persuasive.

Most egregiously, Orthodox don’t deny the atonement at all; rather, they reject a specific formulation of it, the Penal Substitution Theory, in favor of something similar to the Christus Victor theory of atonement. I was already a skeptic of Penal Substitution for years before now, so this wasn’t much of a change for me. Of course, Penal Substitution isn’t the universal interpretation amongst Protestants anyway, and many hold to Christus Victor or other models. None of the patristic quotes offered suggest Penal Substitution.

Here’s a good article that goes into the Orthodox view of the Atonement.

In regards to Sola Scriptura: this guy’s definition of “Sola Ecclesia” doesn’t even seem like an accurate representation of how the Orthodox Church sees itself. Using his own method of terminology, “Prima Ecclesia” would be a more accurate way to describe the Orthodox conception of the Church: in which the Church holds the Bible in a position of esteem and honor, but guides how it’s interpreted. (Actual Orthodox folks on this forum, feel free to correct me if I’m stating this wrong.) Using things like the bodily assumption of Mary as some sort of argument for Sola Scriptura is just silly because Mary was still alive when the scriptures were written! Of course there’s not anything about that in, say, Paul’s epistles.

In regards to celibacy of bishops, some research reveals that this ecclesiastical change was instituted in order to prevent nepotism, where one family could control a bishop’s seat for generations; an issue not even remotely in view in Paul’s time, but a clear issue in a mature church that was no longer being persecuted. Requiring celibacy from bishops helped prevent the emergence of a sort of family empire of church properties passing from a bishop father to son. More on this subject here.

I know there will be differing opinions on this, but I don’t see evolving organizational demands as “changing the Word of God” at all, particularly when you consider that the purpose of Paul’s epistles is often troubleshooting issues brought up by the Galatians, and we don’t have the original letters *to* Paul. The New Testament epistles are not intended to be full expressions of everything Christians ought to believe and don’t contain detailed instructions for important topics like how worship ought to proceed, how we should pray, and so on, all of which would have been taught by the Apostles (and, as the Orthodox claim, are maintained by their church.) The Epistles are valuable and God-inspired, of course, but not comprehensive. I would be concerned if some moral teaching were changed, and an Ecumenical Council had declared the morality of homosexuality or something like that, but there’s nothing of the sort.

Moving on...

In both these situations, the tradition, belief or doctrine actually overrides the authority of scripture. Though many might protest this and assure us that the church is merely “interpreting” scripture, or that they are just enacting something in the prudence of time, the fact remains that the authority to change this is coming only from the church, and is bypassing the word of God. Even if one were to argue that the church is sourced to God as well, this only invites the problem of God contradicting Himself – first through the infallible words of scripture, then through the infallible council of the church. Infallible sources cannot be contradictory to one another.
This is an illuminating quote because *the Jews could bring this exact same charge against Christians!* The actions and teachings of Jesus in the New Testament appear to be “God contradicting himself,” like Jesus’ actions upon, and teaching about, the Sabbath. Changes to ecclesiastical codes are a far less egregious case than what appeared to the Pharisees as *an alteration of the Ten Commandments.*

However, if we place authority upon the church that supersedes scripture and permits it to contradict scripture, then we have usurped the authority of God’s word.
This is simply begging the question and relies on the assumption that the interpretation of Scripture is a free-for-all and not entrusted to the Church; an idea that not really anybody believed before the 16th century. I fully acknowledge the authority of God’s word; but now I recognize that an endless stream of problems have resulted from turning interpretation into a personal affair. On top of that, I’m not convinced that the typical areas of objection (Mary, saints, etc.) are contradicted by scripture at all. There are some verses that are used as positive evidences for such practices, but I won’t even go that far; I’d just say, the Bible on its own is silent or ambiguous about them.

This guy spends a lot of time on writers like Frederica Mathewes-Green and Matthew Gallatin, but these are lay people and popularizers. Not to say they don’t represent Orthodoxy, but they don’t carry anywhere near the rigor of somebody like Father John Whiteford, who has written extensively on Sola Scriptura and issues involved..

Again, as I wrote in my original post, a huge problem I have with Sola Scriptura is that it didn’t exist before the Reformers created it. It’s not found in the Bible. It’s an interpretative presupposition and this guy’s response is laughable: the word “Trinity” doesn’t appear in Scripture, but was articulated by the Ecumenical Councils and early church writers and also has scriptural evidence. Sola Scriptura is not found in the Bible, wasn’t believed by anybody before the 16th century, and none of this guy’s numerous citations support his argument that only scripture is the ultimate authority: only that scripture can be used to instruct and correct wrong teaching, both of which any Orthodox Christian would also affirm.

The “scripture” of 2 Timothy 3.16-17 is the Old Testament, and following “Sola Scriptura” would lead to the absurd conclusion of rejecting Gospel and Christian faith which hadn’t even been written down yet at that time! His attempt completely fails to argue that “…the only infallible teaching authority given in scripture is scripture itself,” which is not evidenced in the passages cited. Again: the content of what we now consider the New Testament would not have met this guy’s own criteria in the first century.

This writer doesn’t really deal with the challenges to Sola Scriptura: he tries to hand-wave the endless division and creation of denominations by politics or other non-religious factors, but in this quote:

…many more sects, such as the Evangelical Methodists breaking away from the United Methodists, happened because the leadership was falling away and not following scripture…
He proves the point. The United Methodists will tell you that they’re following Scripture and give you a list of references affirming their decision to ordain gay clergy or whatever.

In the vast majority of these cases it comes down to a difference of interpretation, and even amongst conservative Evangelicals and their range of interpretation, the differences are so striking that you can reasonably ask if they even worship the same God. Is the God of double-predestination the same God of the Arminian, or the open theist? Is the Penal Substitution God who punishes one person of the Trinity to sate the wrath of another person of the Trinity the same as a God who offers His Son not as a sacrifice to himself, but to break the power of Satan?

These are vital questions, to name just a few, all of which can be backed up by copious references to scripture. The fact that serious, committed, God-loving Christians can come to such dramatically different conclusions about core Christian beliefs on the basis of scripture alone ought to cause extreme doubt about the wisdom of building one’s faith on the edifice of Sola Scriptura’s presuppositions, especially since these kinds of divisions were not present in the first-millennium Church.

Trying to turn this around to use against Orthodoxy, as he does in his tepid "BUT WHICH APOSTOLIC CHURCH?" quip in regards to 1 Timothy 3.15 is just silly, and a weak argument when you can count Orthodoxy’s significant schismatic movements (I’ll avoid including the Catholic Church here, Catholic Bros) on one hand:

- The Oriental Orthodox churches who rejected the Chalcedonian definition of Christ’s nature,
- The Assyrian Church of the East,
- Russian Old Believers,
- True Orthodoxy,
- and Old Calendarists.

The issues separating these communions are all of far less consequence (Semantics! Calendars! Hand gestures! [I know this is simplifying things somewhat, but you get the idea]) than amongst Protestantism, and they don't, as far as I can tell, come from differences in scriptural interpretation (perhaps excluding the Oriental Orthodox schism.) This whataboutism is a rather egregious example of this critic ignoring the Protestantism-shaped log in his own eye, where the divisions in Protestantism outnumber Orthodoxy by magnitudes, and Protestant divisions have their very root in scriptural interpretation.

Finally, this critic is frequently lazy; a good example is his “Objection #6”, in which he mentions “…Thomas Aquinas correcting the views of men like John Chrysostom” as if an Orthodox cares about how a post-Schism Roman Catholic theologian evaluates a 4th century patristic writer. Orthodox already affirm the patristic consensus of the Church Fathers and their shared ideas, rather than over-emphasizing someone like Augustine who held views on things like Original Sin that weren’t in accord with the other patristic writers. The appeal to patristic authority is based on the notion that those closer to the source are in a better position to evaluate and interpret scripture properly than lawyers living in 16th century Europe. This doesn’t mean the Reformers never have a good insight or interpretation; but it does mean we should skeptically examine their presuppositions and new ideas not found in earlier Christian writers.

Again, if you're an Evangelical who holds to Sola Scriptura I don't think you're going to hell or anything like that, and don't even remotely view you as "the enemy." I'm just sharing observations from my journey, hoping that somebody finds it helpful.
 
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NickK

Sparrow
Very helpful explanation, Hermetic Seal. Thanks. I've been looking for a write-up like this for several years, and yours is straight to the point.

I'm not Orthodox, though, and can't see myself joining an Orthodox church, in part because of an experience I had in Jerusalem: As I was walking down an Old Jerusalem street with my wife, I start to hear a loud, repetitive "click" noise. It gradually grew louder and closer. Eventually all the people in the street moved to either side, making a clear path down the middle. Then around the corner comes a group of about 10 priests. In the middle of their group is an old man who must have been a higher-up, like a bishop or something. They were all loudly slamming their sticks into the ground in unison to make tons of noise. They passed through the crowd like they were gliding through the Matrix. They were definitely Orthodox (judging by their clothes), although I don't know exactly which church. ... By the time it was over, I felt that I'd just seen perhaps the most ridiculous thing I'd ever seen in my entire life. I couldn't help but laugh. Why would a man--a sinner--act in such a proud manner, especially within just a short walk of where Jesus died for our sins, when Jesus--in all his perfection--had arrived on a donkey? ... Whatever merits the Orthodox church may have, I don't think I could in good conscience join an institution that sees this arrogance as not only acceptable, but preferable. Building up a rigid hierarchy around such behavior makes it all the harder to refuse to participate in the absurdity.

I mean no offense. I respect the Orthodox church, and I agree that in many ways it's superior to Protestantism. Just explaining my objections. If you have a counterpoint, I'm all ears.
There are many groups in Jerousalem that look Orthodox but are not.
What you saw must have been Copts, or Armenians, or Syrians.
 

infowarrior1

Hummingbird
@infowarrior1: I checked out some of the articles on the site you linked and I didn’t find them persuasive.

Most egregiously, Orthodox don’t deny the atonement at all; rather, they reject a specific formulation of it, the Penal Substitution Theory, in favor of something similar to the Christus Victor theory of atonement. I was already a skeptic of Penal Substitution for years before now, so this wasn’t much of a change for me. Of course, Penal Substitution isn’t the universal interpretation amongst Protestants anyway, and many hold to Christus Victor or other models. None of the patristic quotes offered suggest Penal Substitution.

Here’s a good article that goes into the Orthodox view of the Atonement.

In regards to Sola Scriptura: this guy’s definition of “Sola Ecclesia” doesn’t even seem like an accurate representation of how the Orthodox Church sees itself. Using his own method of terminology, “Prima Ecclesia” would be a more accurate way to describe the Orthodox conception of the Church: in which the Church holds the Bible in a position of esteem and honor, but guides how it’s interpreted. (Actual Orthodox folks on this forum, feel free to correct me if I’m stating this wrong.) Using things like the bodily assumption of Mary as some sort of argument for Sola Scriptura is just silly because Mary was still alive when the scriptures were written! Of course there’s not anything about that in, say, Paul’s epistles.

In regards to celibacy of bishops, some research reveals that this ecclesiastical change was instituted in order to prevent nepotism, where one family could control a bishop’s seat for generations; an issue not even remotely in view in Paul’s time, but a clear issue in a mature church that was no longer being persecuted. Requiring celibacy from bishops helped prevent the emergence of a sort of family empire of church properties passing from a bishop father to son. More on this subject here.

I know there will be differing opinions on this, but I don’t see evolving organizational demands as “changing the Word of God” at all, particularly when you consider that the purpose of Paul’s epistles is often troubleshooting issues brought up by the Galatians, and we don’t have the original letters *to* Paul. The New Testament epistles are not intended to be full expressions of everything Christians ought to believe and don’t contain detailed instructions for important topics like how worship ought to proceed, how we should pray, and so on, all of which would have been taught by the Apostles (and, as the Orthodox claim, are maintained by their church.) The Epistles are valuable and God-inspired, of course, but not comprehensive. I would be concerned if some moral teaching were changed, and an Ecumenical Council had declared the morality of homosexuality or something like that, but there’s nothing of the sort.

Moving on...



This is an illuminating quote because *the Jews could bring this exact same charge against Christians!* The actions and teachings of Jesus in the New Testament appear to be “God contradicting himself,” like Jesus’ actions upon, and teaching about, the Sabbath. Changes to ecclesiastical codes are a far less egregious case than what appeared to the Pharisees as *an alteration of the Ten Commandments.*



This is simply begging the question and relies on the assumption that the interpretation of Scripture is a free-for-all and not entrusted to the Church; an idea that not really anybody believed before the 16th century. I fully acknowledge the authority of God’s word; but now I recognize that an endless stream of problems have resulted from turning interpretation into a personal affair. On top of that, I’m not convinced that the typical areas of objection (Mary, saints, etc.) are contradicted by scripture at all. There are some verses that are used as positive evidences for such practices, but I won’t even go that far; I’d just say, the Bible on its own is silent or ambiguous about them.

This guy spends a lot of time on writers like Frederica Mathewes-Green and Matthew Gallatin, but these are lay people and popularizers. Not to say they don’t represent Orthodoxy, but they don’t carry anywhere near the rigor of somebody like Father John Whiteford, who has written extensively on Sola Scriptura and issues involved..

Again, as I wrote in my original post, a huge problem I have with Sola Scriptura is that it didn’t exist before the Reformers created it. It’s not found in the Bible. It’s an interpretative presupposition and this guy’s response is laughable: the word “Trinity” doesn’t appear in Scripture, but was articulated by the Ecumenical Councils and early church writers and also has scriptural evidence. Sola Scriptura is not found in the Bible, wasn’t believed by anybody before the 16th century, and none of this guy’s numerous citations support his argument that only scripture is the ultimate authority: only that scripture can be used to instruct and correct wrong teaching, both of which any Orthodox Christian would also affirm.

The “scripture” of 2 Timothy 3.16-17 is the Old Testament, and following “Sola Scriptura” would lead to the absurd conclusion of rejecting Gospel and Christian faith which hadn’t even been written down yet at that time! His attempt completely fails to argue that “…the only infallible teaching authority given in scripture is scripture itself,” which is not evidenced in the passages cited. Again: the content of what we now consider the New Testament would not have met this guy’s own criteria in the first century.

This writer doesn’t really deal with the challenges to Sola Scriptura: he tries to hand-wave the endless division and creation of denominations by politics or other non-religious factors, but in this quote:



He proves the point. The United Methodists will tell you that they’re following Scripture and give you a list of references affirming their decision to ordain gay clergy or whatever.

In the vast majority of these cases it comes down to a difference of interpretation, and even amongst conservative Evangelicals and their range of interpretation, the differences are so striking that you can reasonably ask if they even worship the same God. Is the God of double-predestination the same God of the Arminian, or the open theist? Is the Penal Substitution God who punishes one person of the Trinity to sate the wrath of another person of the Trinity the same as a God who offers His Son not as a sacrifice to himself, but to break the power of Satan?

These are vital questions, to name just a few, all of which can be backed up by copious references to scripture. The fact that serious, committed, God-loving Christians can come to such dramatically different conclusions about core Christian beliefs on the basis of scripture alone ought to cause extreme doubt about the wisdom of building one’s faith on the edifice of Sola Scriptura’s presuppositions, especially since these kinds of divisions were not present in the first-millennium Church.

Trying to turn this around to use against Orthodoxy, as he does in his tepid "BUT WHICH APOSTOLIC CHURCH?" quip in regards to 1 Timothy 3.15 is just silly, and a weak argument when you can count Orthodoxy’s significant schismatic movements (I’ll avoid including the Catholic Church here, Catholic Bros) on one hand:

- The Oriental Orthodox churches who rejected the Chalcedonian definition of Christ’s nature,
- The Assyrian Church of the East,
- Russian Old Believers,
- True Orthodoxy,
- and Old Calendarists.

The issues separating these communions are all of far less consequence (Semantics! Calendars! Hand gestures! [I know this is simplifying things somewhat, but you get the idea]) than amongst Protestantism, and they don't, as far as I can tell, come from differences in scriptural interpretation (perhaps excluding the Oriental Orthodox schism.) This whataboutism is a rather egregious example of this critic ignoring the Protestantism-shaped log in his own eye, where the divisions in Protestantism outnumber Orthodoxy by magnitudes, and Protestant divisions have their very root in scriptural interpretation.

Finally, this critic is frequently lazy; a good example is his “Objection #6”, in which he mentions “…Thomas Aquinas correcting the views of men like John Chrysostom” as if an Orthodox cares about how a post-Schism Roman Catholic theologian evaluates a 4th century patristic writer. Orthodox already affirm the patristic consensus of the Church Fathers and their shared ideas, rather than over-emphasizing someone like Augustine who held views on things like Original Sin that weren’t in accord with the other patristic writers. The appeal to patristic authority is based on the notion that those closer to the source are in a better position to evaluate and interpret scripture properly than lawyers living in 16th century Europe. This doesn’t mean the Reformers never have a good insight or interpretation; but it does mean we should skeptically examine their presuppositions and new ideas not found in earlier Christian writers.

Again, if you're an Evangelical who holds to Sola Scriptura I don't think you're going to hell or anything like that, and don't even remotely view you as "the enemy." I'm just sharing observations from my journey, hoping that somebody finds it helpful.
No hard feelings mate. That's why I shared his email with you.

He does respond. So I am hoping for a more fruitful journey for both as well as myself.

I believe it has more solid legs than you think.
 
In regards to Sola Scriptura: this guy’s definition of “Sola Ecclesia” doesn’t even seem like an accurate representation of how the Orthodox Church sees itself. Using his own method of terminology, “Prima Ecclesia” would be a more accurate way to describe the Orthodox conception of the Church: in which the Church holds the Bible in a position of esteem and honor, but guides how it’s interpreted. (Actual Orthodox folks on this forum, feel free to correct me if I’m stating this wrong.)
What the author @infowarrior1 linked to refers to as sola scriptura appears to be in line with Orthodox teaching. What he dismisses as a caricature of sola scriptura, the guy screaming about how he doesn't need nothing else but the Bible, is exactly what Orthodox are arguing against when we argue against sola scriptura. This is probably because in the US, a huge portion of Orthodox are converts from exactly that sort of Christianity.

What he calls sola scriptura, on the other hand, appears Orthodox. Our source of dogma is divine revelation, as recorded in the scriptures. And because the scriptures are really God's word, we must maintain the original understanding, rather than make up new ones. At least, I think this is what the author was getting at.

Oddly enough, it was the RC theologian St. Thomas Aquinas who coined the term sola scriptura when he wrote that "sola canonica Scriptura est regula fidei." Canonical scripture alone is the rule of faith. We look to the Fathers, not as a source of additional divine revelation, but for the proper explanation of what had already been written in the scripture.

Fr. George Florovsky's article "On Church and Tradition" is the most helpful thing I have read on the subject, and should probably be required reading for anyone involved in Orthodox/Protestant apologetics.

Terminology like this becomes a huge issue in discussions of theology, because different people mean different things by the same words. The people I personally know who say they believe in sola scriptura claim that you could give the Bible to an ignorant savage, and he would figure out the complete Christian faith, on his first read. And that's what I assumed everyone meant by the term until pretty recently.
 

Dr. Howard

Peacock
Gold Member
In other words, you are comparing our worst to your best. It’s not a fair or even honest assessment.
I support this view. For example, I don't paint catholics as being the group of kids that went to catholic private school and then never attended church since, or the Kardashian's as shining stars of the Orthodox church. I also certainly wouldn't hope someone thought they could opine on all protestants because they went to a united chuch where the lesbian minister was wearing one of those rainbow scarves.

There are dead churches everywhere, and in living churches there are people there who know the routines and rituals but do not have Jesus in their heart, they are not a temple to the Holy Spirit.

If an missionary baptizes a man in a river in Africa does it only count if the missionary is of the right denomination? Or does only the man who was baptized know that he has accepted the gift of salvation?

There are traps of the devil are everywhere and custom made for everyone, intellectualism for the smart and capable, vice for the simple, Self righteousness for the proud, vanity for the beautiful.

Is worrying about being in the right church just a procrastination about dedication to the Lord? More severely, do we examine ourselves to reflect on the amount of time we spend justifying or denigrating other churches versus sharing our testimony with those who don't go to a church at all? The parable of the talents makes me fear the Lord if I use my salvation to simply "get in the door", be an Christian intellectual and never share the gift I have received from Jesus with those who don't know.
 
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