Today’s posting is by Michael Bressem, Ph.D. Michael studied theology at a Reformed seminary, Western Conservative Baptist Seminary. Welcome Michael!
According to the Oxford Dictionary, to reform means: “to make better by the removal of faults and errors.” Martin Luther famously started this process by the posting of “The Ninety-Five Theses” (1517)—a disputation against clerical abuses, especially the sale of indulgences. However, the Protestant reformers were not content merely to “correct” the errors of the Roman Catholic Church and renew or return the Western Church back to the Ancient Christian Faith that existed and still exists within the Eastern Orthodox Church; rather, the Protestant reformers sought to recreate or remake the Church in accordance with their own theological ideas. No where is this more true than in the figure of John Calvin (1509-1564). His “Institutes of the Christian Religion” (1536) did not reaffirm the writings of the Church Fathers in opposition to Roman Catholic practices, but instead Calvin’s catechism revised Christian doctrine according to his interpretation of Holy Scripture. His view of salvation, summarized by the acronym TULIP (Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and the Perseverance of the saints), is not a reinstatement of the soteriology of the Christian Church that existed in unity for a millennia (until the schism of 1054); but rather Calvin’s tenets are a rejection of the Ancient Christian Faith’s traditional theology.
Reformed or Reinvented Church?
So why is it Protestant denominations that follow Calvin’s doctrines call themselves the “Reformed” Church? Shouldn’t they call themselves the “Reinvented” Church? When politicians say they are going to reform city hall, it usually means to remove the corruption presently existing there and bring the government back to the foundational laws by which it was created and meant to operate under. To reform has the connotation of remedying, rectifying, or revitalizing. However, the Protestant “Reformation” did not bring Western European Christianity back to the foundational laws constituted by the Ecumenical Councils of the Church; but instead Protestant theologians tore down almost everything that came before and then they near completely rebuilt, reorganized, and refashioned Christianity.
To my mind, the Reinvented Church creates a basic theological problem I have titled “Calvin’s Conundrum.” Either ( A ) Jesus Christ lied to His disciples when He stated the Holy Spirit would guide them “unto all truth (John 16:13, also 14:26), and the Holy Spirit did not descend upon the apostles at Pentecost (Acts 2), but rather the Holy Spirit only came 1500 years later to give John Calvin the truth; or ( B ) the first 1500 years of the Church was just another “dispensation” of God’s unfolding plan of salvation, and John Calvin was a divinely inspired prophet who “instituted” a newer Covenant—his “Institutes of the Christian Religion” is a New New Testament (despite the warning of Revelation 22:18). To put this in the form of essential questions everyone in the Reinvented Church should ask and answer for themselves: How can hundreds of brilliant theologians who defended the Church against heresy for a millennia and more ALL be in error? Did the Holy Spirit disappoint millions of Christians by not guiding them to true salvific knowledge of the Faith before John Calvin set us all straight? Is it not the pinnacle of hubris for John Calvin to claim his interpretation is right over and against that of the Orthodox Church for 1500 years?
Then and Now
As a former Protestant for 25 years, who got a Masters of Arts in Theology from a “Reformed” seminary, I can attest no one presented to me anything similar to “Calvin’s Conundrum” nor asked me the above questions. I went through two and a half decades believing Calvin, and the other reformers, actually returned Christianity to that which the Ancient Church believed and practiced. In other words, I was deluded. Now that I’ve been an Orthodox Christian for the last 10 years, I feel my eyes have finally been opened to the truth: the Orthodox Church never needed reforming and certainly not reinventing. The Orthodox Church has “instituted” the true Faith from the time of the Apostles, and has courageously preserved those beliefs and practices to this day. The Orthodox Church is not in need of “re-“ anything. She is the Church that responsibly retains the fullness of the truth about Christianity, and I find that both reputable and remarkable.
Michael Bressem, Ph.D.
“rather, the Protestant reformers sought to recreate or remake the Church in accordance with their own theological ideas.”
This is the exact argument made by some English Theologians in the 19th Century that Isaac Taylor answered in his book Ancient Christianity. He shows that the early acceptance of pagan ideas such as angelic celibacy were root causes of the devlopment of doctrine that you have in the early Church. One such example is Tertullian, To His Wife 1.6, Examples of Heathens Urged as Commendatory of Widowhood and Celibacy . I mean the guy flatly admits that he wants to take Pagan rituals and show the pagans that the Christians can do it better. This results in a Gnostic and Neoplatonist view of Creation and God, a skewed view of Mary as she was a supposed life long celibate, a Neoplatonist view of the of the Church and a Neoplatonist view of Authority http://eternalpropositions.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/eastern-orthodoxy%E2%80%99s-hierarchical-pantheism-neoplatonism/. I posted this on Monk Patrick’s recent post on the Priest and the Believer and he replied not a single word. The doctrine of angelic celibacy affected the sacraments in that the people expected to receive the holy sacrament from holy hands (celibacy implied). The clear connection between the angelic celibacy of the ancient Church and their view of the sacraments comes from the fact that they believe the rites of the church such as celibacy and fasting to be intrinsically holy and efficacious. Not only so but a man accustomed to live such an unnatural life finds the supernatural an easy bed buddy (Thus, the fanaticism with exorcisms). And not to forget the fact that these men thought of themselves as terrestrial seraphs through whom miracles are ordinary done. This is how multiple sacraments became established through the church: by asserting intrinsic efficacious powers to the monastic disciplines. There are other issues that celibacy affects but these are the most damaging to the soul.
Therefore, when you ask how the whole Church, at least in its visible administration, fell into the same apostasy all at once I give you an answer for them. Northern Egypt long the home of the hermit life was succeeded by the Nicene Monks who picked up right where they left off.
“India was, however, the cradle of the anchoretic life, and Buddhu the father of its doctrines; and in like manner as all Christendom, during many centuries, was accustomed to look to Egypt and Nubia for its brightest patterns of holy abstraction and mortification, so did these refer to the banks of the Indus, and the Gnages, as the sources of their doctrine and practice.” [Taylor, Ancient Christianity, 425]
So the Reformers were trying to take things back to the Ancient Church in the sense of the Apostolic Teaching of the New Testament. They may have come across like they were saying that the Anchoretic Church was theirs but I don’t think most Protestants think that.
” Jesus Christ lied to His disciples when He stated the Holy Spirit would guide them “unto all truth (John 16:13, also 14:26)”
But he never said that the truth holders would be in the spotlight of Visible Christendom.
“How can hundreds of brilliant theologians who defended the Church against heresy for a millennia and more ALL be in error?”
A few bad presuppositions. And I deny that the Church that you are talking about in every age is the Church. I believe like a Protestant should that the Pope is the antichrist. Methinks the majority of true believers though there may be some exceptions, went into the wilderness of obscurity sometime in the 6th -8th centuries.
Matthew Pool in his A Dialogue Between a Popish Priest and an English Protestant (London, Cockeril at the Atlas in Cornhill, 1676) says to the Popish priest who is making your same argument,
“Moreover, I find in Scripture, several instances of such times when the Church was as much obscured, and invisible, as ever our Church was; as when Israel was in Egypt, so oft-times under the Judges, Judg. 2.3, and so under divers of the Rings, as Ahab, when Elijah complained he was left alone, and the 7000 which were reserved, though known to God, were invisible to the prophet ; and under Ahaz and Manasseh and so in the Babylonian Captivity: and so under Antiochus; read ay thy desire, 2 Chron. 15.3 28.24.29. 6,7.33. 3,4. So in the New testament, how obscure, and in a manner invisible was the Christian Church for a season? Nay, let me add. This perpetual visibility and splendor is so far from being a note of the true Church, that on the contrary, it is rather a sign that yours is not the true Church, as appears thus: Christ hath foretold the obscurity and smallness of his Church in some after ages; he tells us that there shall be a general Apostasy and Defection from the Faith, 2 Thess 2.1. 1 Tim. 4. I read of a Woman, Revel. 12, and she is forced to flees into the Wilderness and I am told your own Expositors agree with us, that this is the church which flees from Antichrist into the wilderness, and secret places, withdrawing herself from persecution. Is it true?
Pop. I must confess our Authors do take it so.” pg. 39-40
The thing that scares me about someone like you is that in 25 years of being a Protestant you were unable to find even rudimentary responses to the arguments you mention here that are in primary Puritan Manuals of Theology. I have been satisfied with every argument presented to me by every Eastern Apologist I have read and I have read them for years now.
“I posted this on Monk Patrick’s recent post on the Priest and the Believer and he replied not a single word.”
This is a disingenuous statement. While you did reference his article in your own, posted on your website thus putting a trackback link in the comments box, you did nothing to contribute to the conversation at Energetic Procession. Perhaps if you post what you wrote in the combox instead of assuming everyone follows every trackback link you might get some feedback from Monk Patrick. Until then, assuming that he has no response is nothing but silliness.
I unapproved a comment which was basically an ad hominem attack on another reader. Please be civil and criticize others’ arguments but not their character. May Christ’s love and mercy be with you all.
So, we are to have faith in some invisible band of proto-protestants? Meanwhile accepting the contributions of the neoplatonic gnostic pagans such as the biblical canon, the ecumenical councils and their theological terminology? Who are these people and can they be located in history? Calvin and Luther certainly make reference to the Fathers, do they refer to this other “wilderness group” and quote from their teachings? What are their doctrines? The Church of the first three centuries would certainly qualify as being in the wilderness yet it won’t take one too long to realize that the ante-Nicenes aren’t Protestant. If the true Church went into the wilderness some time in the 6th-8th centuries, may I ask what we teach now that the Church didn’t teach in the year 700??
It’s easy to make up some phantom group of people and hold that they just happened to believe just like you do. JWs and Mormons do the same. Not to mention, we do hold that the Church does flee into the wilderness during different periods such as the Arian crisis, the Monothelite crisis, and the Islamic and Communist eras yet we see a consistent thread of what they taught. This visible/wilderness dichotomy doesn’t prove your point at all. The point is that God will always have a witness in the Church and she will be a beacon so that in every age people will have a place to come and be saved. Even in the wilderness she will be a “city on a hill that cannot be hidden”.
You also called celibacy an “unnatural life”. Did Christ, live unnaturally during His eartly sojourn? Was Paul being unnatural when he said: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman” and, “I wish that all were as I myself am”? How about when John described the 144,000 who followed the Lamb as “virgins who hadn’t defiled themselves with women”? Perhaps I’m reading you incorrectly but you seem to make ascetism=paganism. Was John the Baptist influenced by the Buddha? How about these people: They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated; of whom the world was not worthy–wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
It really is harder to face the music and say, “I’m believing something not taught in the first 1500 years of Christendom.” It’s obvious that the Reformers thought they were returning to the teachings of the ancient visible church as opposed to the innovations of the medieval Papacy:
“A common opposition to what they regarded as papal pretensions led the Protestant Reformers to make use of Eastern Christianity for propaganda and polemics. At the Leipzig debate in 1519, Martin Luther, pressed to defend his view that the authority of the pope was not normative for Christian doctrine and life, cited the example of ‘the Greek Christians during the past thousand years … who had not been under the authority of the Roman Pontiff.’ The following year he declared that ‘Muscovites, White Russians, Greeks, Bohemians, and many other great lands in the world … believe as we do, baptize as we do, preach as we do, live as we do.’” – Jaroslav Pelikan, The Spirit of Eastern Christendom (600-1700)
Your response actually proves the point of this post.
I think “Calvin’s Conundrum” is completely overstated and overblown. This article is little more than a polemical hit piece and is rather unimpressive and unpersuasive.
What a marvelous idea! To make people of such conflicting world-views and strong convictions lay all their differences aside, and gather round the same table for a nice game of bridge, animated by the genuine spirit of ecumenism… 🙂
I like your tongue-in-cheek comment. Actually, the aim of this blog is not for people to lay aside their differences but to come together and discuss their theological differences. See my Welcome page. What we share is the conviction that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who came to save sinners by his death and third day resurrection. But if you want to set up a game of bridge I would be more than happy to bring the chips and dips. 🙂
“So, we are to have faith in some invisible band of proto-protestants? ”
>>>No, the scriptures. And this complaint is the exact same one that the Jews made of Christ and the Apostles. Let me ask you, are you saying that I have to go through hierarchies and intermediaries to get to the One? I think you guys need to do some serious study into the Ecclesiastical Hierarchies of Pseudo Dionysius. He brought Neoplatonism into the Christian Church and fooled it into believing he was a first century disciple of Paul. This guy is probably the biggest disaster that ever happened to Christianity.
Matthew Pool takes up your position on authority in his Dialogue pg. 27 Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox communicants often use the argument that a visible and established Authority is required to understand and interpret the Bible. This is the position of the unbelieving Jews at Christ’s time. The Jewish Chief priests and elders said to Jesus,
Mat 21:25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?
This is an interesting question because the Pharisees probed John’s authority to act in an ecclesiastical manner as well in John 1:25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?
They could not tell. I ask you the same question sir: Was John the Baptists Baptism from heaven or from men? If it was from heaven what empirical proof did John offer? None. Where did John get the authority to do these things? Obviously it was not from the Jewish Magisterium or the established visible Church (Assuming your definition of Visible Church).
In Acts 4:7 Peter is asked of his healing of the impotent man “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?” His answer is the name of Jesus of Nazareth. No ecclesiastical or Magisterial reference here. No empirical proof.
Maximus your criticisms require a conversion to the Apostate Jewish Religion. If your views of authority were true, 1. The apostles and Jesus did not speak the truth because they did not go through the hierarchies and intermediaries at their time. They had no ecclesiastical authority. That was the major argument of the Jews. 2. If your argument holds that we can only take the sense of the Bible from the institution/organization that gave it to us, then we must take the sense of the Old Testament from the Jews.
Oh, but Jesus was the head of the Church, Peter was an apostle! By whose visible established earthly authority? None.
“Meanwhile accepting the contributions of the neoplatonic gnostic pagans such as the biblical canon, the ecumenical councils and their theological terminology?”
>>>The unbelieving Jews at Christ’s time acknowledge the right books.
“Who are these people and can they be located in history? Calvin and Luther certainly make reference to the Fathers, do they refer to this other “wilderness group” and quote from their teachings? What are their doctrines?”
>>>I don’t know. Who were the 7000 that had not bowed their knees to Baal? What were their doctrines? If you cannot answer this you have no basis to complain about the Puritan position.
“the ante-Nicenes aren’t Protestant.”
“If the true Church went into the wilderness some time in the 6th-8th centuries, may I ask what we teach now that the Church didn’t teach in the year 700?”
>>>>I am not saying that true Christians at this time believed everything that the Anchoretic Churches were teaching. I am simply stating that according to Historicist Eschatology and the Pope as Antichrist, this period was the full unfolding of the Antichrist as first introduced in the Church State amalgamation at the time of Justinian and Vigilius. As true Christian saw what the Papacy was being defined as they could have proof that though they may have had concerns before now they have living evidence that the Anchoretic Church was the apostasy of 2 Thess 2 and 1 Tim. 4.
I am not saying that the Church at the year 500 or 600 was faithful and true. I am simply stating that the corruption of the Anchoretic system would in the Pope have a full manifestation that could easily be recognized by true Christian as the religion of antichrist.
“It’s easy to make up some phantom group of people and hold that they just happened to believe just like you do.”
>>>Elijah also felt the weight of this difficulty.
“The point is that God will always have a witness in the Church and she will be a beacon so that in every age people will have a place to come and be saved.”
>>>Prove it. Don’t just assert it. Prove it.
“Even in the wilderness she will be a “city on a hill that cannot be hidden”.”
>>>The whole idea of being in the wilderness is that you are not a city.
“Did Christ, live unnaturally during His earthly sojourn?”
>>>Yes. He did not have a human hypostasis but a divine hypostasis. Maybe you should promote Nestorianism to defend your anchorism.
“Was Paul being unnatural when he said: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman” and, “I wish that all were as I myself am”? ”
>>>The passages quoted to support angelic virginity: Luke 20:35 etc. are simple speculations that give no connection or relationship to the life of the Christian. They simply assert that angels do not marry. This says nothing against marriage nor does it give any intrinsic value to celibacy. 1 Cor 7 and especially verse 38 says that celibacy is easier or practically better than marriage. Does he appeal to the inherent carnality in sex? No he appeals in vs. 28 But and if thou marry, thou hast not sinned; and if a virgin marry, she hath not sinned. Nevertheless such shall have trouble in the flesh: but I spare you. Not sin r carnality, trouble. This is practicality not morality. These verses are not saying that celibacy is morally and intrinsically better than marriage. Paul simply encourages us celibate people that there are benefits to being celibate. I don’t have all the financial burdens on me that a married person does; I can travel whenever I have the means to, and I don’t have to listen to babies crying at 3am etc. I don’t have someone second guessing every decision I make during the day. I don’t have to argue with a wife about what brand of paper towels I want to buy this week. There is a sense in which my celibacy puts my attention on God more than marriage would but it also leaves me ignorant of the mysteries of marriage that typify Christ and the Church. Revelation, being a very metaphorical and spiritualistic book gives Rev 14:4, little weight in defending celibacy. The passage mentions men being defiled by having sex with women. This, we understand to be spiritual fornication or adultery as Israel is called an adulteress many times for her spiritual unfaithfulness. Not to mention that this verse proves too much. This would prohibit marriage completely and those who use it prove angelic celibacy show their devotion to Gnosticism two-fold. For crying out loud, Christ himself allows ministry by women and is often found in their company in the gospels. This would offend Origen’s pious hypocrisy no doubt.
“Perhaps I’m reading you incorrectly but you seem to make ascetism=paganism.”
>>>I understand that fasting is necessary to asceticism but not sufficiently and jointly exhaustive. Fasting is Christian, not ascetic. But as a system of philosophy as a whole, yes asceticism is pagan as Tertullian admits.
“Was John the Baptist influenced by the Buddha?”
>>>Pointing out celibate figures in the history of Abrahamic religion is not going to do you any good. Where is the Monastery in the OT?
“How about these people: They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated; of whom the world was not worthy–wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”
>>>Persecution and trial is not the same thing as asceticism. Give me a break.
It really is harder to face the music and say, I am believing something that was not taught in the history of the Abrahamic tradition for 4 thousand years before the time of the Christian Anchorism. Where are the angelic celibates in the OT? Where are the monasteries? Where is image worship? Where are images of any of the divine persons? Where is an example of someone lawfully introducing something into worship without divine warrant given by special revelation?
“It’s obvious that the Reformers thought they were returning to the teachings of the ancient visible church as opposed to the innovations of the medieval Papacy:”
>>>>If by ancient visible church you mean the anchoretic I deny it. That is not how Isaac Taylor defended the Reformation in the early 19th century. Ok, Luther did hold to those principles, though he argues just like a regualtivist Calvinist in his defense of only two sacraments. The Calvinists and the Lutherans have a big difference called the Regulative Principle. Luther uses this principle to defend only two sacraments but is inconsistent in his abandonment of it in other areas. Methinks he would have come around to our view if he had lived during Knox’s and Calvin’s debates with the English Prelates. Luther died 10 years before this really blossomed. Calvin changes drastically to the Puritan worship style in the 1550’s after correspondence with Knox in his debates with the prelates. In the 1540’s Calvin’s worship service would have included the Kyrie Eleson among other things. In 1556 he approves the Puritanic Genevan Book of Church order. This the A Capella” exclusive psalm singing that you have later with the Scottish Puritans who are the most consistent with these principles.
It might be helpful to read the previous Blog-posts & comments. Several of us here are or were long-time Refomed men very familar with Refomed presuppositions and arguments…along with original Orthodox writings and arguments. I suspect it will set your thinking and your comments in context better. There are quite a few very good and helpful links to various articles you’d profit from reading carefully. God’s richest blessings to you.
What does seem obvious is the different way Protestants & Orthodox use & read the Apostolic & Patristic Fathers. The Orthodox read them often without much qualification…even if they know there are Fathers “way-out-there” who hold some strange and heritical views. So, you’d think there would commonly be some qualification about ‘How’ the Fathers should be read. There is a big difference is saying “….the Fathers said/held…” and saying “…most of the more respected Fathers recognized as teacher of the Church, who also agree with the Church Councils (an aggregate of the Fathers’ opinion) teach this because…” Let stop assuming Protestants automatically know ‘How’ the Orthodox qualify the writings and opinions of “The Fathers”.
The curious thing you see in the Protestant ‘Use’ of The Fathers is their not only a “selectiveness”….but conflicting metaphors. Here “The Fathers” (like Athenatius, Augustine) are “Giants” upon whose shoulders we stand… But (perhaps in reaction to Orthodox use) we seen some referring to The Fathers…as “Babies”. This comes from the belief in an inherent Progressivism in theological maturity and understanding. If correct, I suppose will one day Calvin will take his own place amongst the “theological babies.” Of course, it is awkward to know just when we should stand on the “Giant Shoulders”…of those “theological Babies”?
Finally, there is John 14:15 connected to II Tim. 2:2. Protestantism rightly gives the Apostles a unique “Apostolic Authority” in preaching, miracle-working and especially in the writing of Scripture. The rub comes with just how well they taught their own disciples the “All Things” Christ promised to teach them. What is all but ignored is any real ‘Authority’ given to the “Oral Tradition” of the Apostles…mentioned often but especially in II Thes. 2:15 and 3:6. So, what did the Apostles teach their disciples by ‘Oral Tradition”? Well, it seems the early disciples commonly: crossed themselves, had liturgical and sacramental worship, icons, veneration of Mary, real authority in Bishops-Presbyters-and Deacons…all together giving us a decidedly “non-Protestant” picture of Church and Discipleship life. What explains this history? Apostolic Failure? Did the Apostles fail to pass on the Reformed Calvinism and austere anti-liturgical/sacramental Puritanism’s minimalistic regulative principle & faith to their disciples? Mathison’s arguments about Tradition I seems to hint this a bit… But I’ve yet to see these questions about Apostolic oral tradition and early Church practices dealt with carefully…without simplistic denial or obfuscation. I’m not saying there is no good explanation…only that I’ve not seen it yet. So (my Protestant convictions nothwithstanding) Bressem’s Calvin’s Conundrum still calls for a thoughtful response.
You said: No, the scriptures. And this complaint is the exact same one that the Jews made of Christ and the Apostles.
Surely even you realize that Scripture can be quoted out of context. Satan brought Scripture out of context as a weapon against Christ and hearts are hardened when Moses is read to this day. Every heretical group clothes their doctrines in Scripture. Perhaps you meant “No, the scriptures with Reformed exegesis”.
You said: Let me ask you, are you saying that I have to go through hierarchies and intermediaries to get to the One?
In Acts 8 did the Samaritans need Peter and John to come to them after they experienced belief, miracles and baptism? Did they need them to get to the One? These sorts of questions seem to be indicative of the individualist “me and Jesus” attitude. The hierarchy (human or angelic) is not an obstruction to God but a help from Him. This is evident in the Scriptures of both Testaments. Moses, Aaron, Joshua, the Judges, Samuel, Saul, David, Christ, the Apostles, Timothy, etc. Angels set our prayers before God, assist us in our salvation and pray for us. David refused to malign Saul and Michael refuses to malign Satan because of authority instituted by God. Korah did not practice such prudence and you see what happened to him.
St Augustine: Let us beware of such arrogant and dangerous temptations, and rather reflect that the apostle Paul, no less, though cast to the ground and then enlightened by a divine voice from heaven, was sent to a human being to receive the sacrament of baptism and be joined to the church (Acts 9:3-8). And Cornelius the centurion, although an angel announced to him that his prayers had been heard and his acts of charity remembered, was nevertheless put under the tuition of Peter not only to receive the sacrament but also to learn what should be the objects of his faith, hope, and love. All this could certainly have been done through an angel [or through God Himself, I would add], but the human condition would be wretched indeed if God appeared unwilling to minister his word to human beings through human agency. It has been said, ‘For God’s temple is holy, and that temple you are’ (I Cor. 3:17): how could that be true if God did not make divine utterances from his human temple but broadcast direct from heaven or through angels the learning that he wished to be passed on to mankind? Moreover, there would be no way for love, which ties people together in the bonds of unity, to make souls overflow and as it were intermingle with each other, if human beings learned nothing from other humans. (On Christian Doctrine)
You said: I ask you the same question sir: Was John the Baptists Baptism from heaven or from men?
You said: If it was from heaven what empirical proof did John offer? None.
Wrong. He told them that he was preparing the way for another and that God told him to baptize so as to reveal him. The proof he offered when questioned was to tell them of the One coming. When He appeared in their midst working the signs of God they still disbelieved. They should have realized this (although some did) and recognized that John was a true prophet.
You said: In Acts 4:7 Peter is asked of his healing of the impotent man “By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?” His answer is the name of Jesus of Nazareth. No ecclesiastical or Magisterial reference here.
Peter is the ecclesiastical reference here. He is a pillar and foundation of the ecclesia. Everything we do is also in the power of our Lord Jesus Christ. Again, you see things in reference to individuals and Jesus whereas I see Peter and the Apostles sitting on thrones ruling over Israel with the authority of Christ. You oppose the Apostles against the Church.
You said: Oh, but Jesus was the head of the Church, Peter was an apostle! By whose visible established earthly authority? None.
The Resurrected Christ was the visible authority and head when the Church was established. God has come and taken the kingdom away from the unbelieving Jews in charge at that time but prior to this Christ told the people to heed the ones who sat in Moses’ cathedra. This change is unique in salvation history and it attested to by the destruction of the Temple . Unless you feel as though this same thing has occurred with Calvin and Knox.
You said: The unbelieving Jews at Christ’s time acknowledge the right books.
Did they? That’s a whole other debate. Not to mention the oracles were given to Israel and the OT canon developed over time and wasn’t simply promulgated by “unbelieving Jews at Christ’s time.” So you admit that derive your sole authority from the actions of unbelieving Jews and the so-called apostate anchoretic church?
You said in reference to the 7000: “I don’t know. Who were the 7000 that had not bowed their knees to Baal? What were their doctrines? If you cannot answer this you have no basis to complain about the Puritan position.”
The existence of this group was given by special revelation to Elijah the Prophet therefore he didn’t assume their existence. I’m sure their doctrines lined up with Elijah’s. His name means “Yah is God” and the 7000 refused to bow down to the baalim. Did God come and give you a special revelation pertaining to proto-Protestants and their teachings as opposed to “anchoretic church”?
You said: I am not saying that the Church at the year 500 or 600 was faithful and true. I am simply stating that the corruption of the Anchoretic system would in the Pope have a full manifestation that could easily be recognized by true Christian as the religion of antichrist.
All this breaks down when one stops assuming that “true Christian” equals “imaginary proto-protestants”. You’re assuming the existence of a group which held to your historicist perspective and your ecclesiology/theology.
You said: “It’s easy to make up some phantom group of people and hold that they just happened to believe just like you do.”>>>Elijah also felt the weight of this difficulty.
Again, Elijah received a revelation so he didn’t bear the weight of that difficulty. Until the revelation he assumed he was all there was.
You said: “The point is that God will always have a witness in the Church and she will be a beacon so that in every age people will have a place to come and be saved.”>>>Prove it. Don’t just assert it. Prove it.
The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth, the gates of hades will not prevail that the manifold wisdom will be known. I believe what the bible says about the Church. The ecumenical councils did a good job in my reckoning.
You said: “Even in the wilderness she will be a “city on a hill that cannot be hidden”.”>>>The whole idea of being in the wilderness is that you are not a city.
I didn’t mean a literal city but the analogy that Christ was using was probably referring to Jerusalem which sat at a higher altitude and therefore was easily seen. My point was that the Church will shine even during persecution and history bears this out. All through the Scriptures the people of God are called the city of God . Also, it was said that St. Anthony turned the desert into a city.
You said: “Did Christ, live unnaturally during His earthly sojourn?”>>>Yes. He did not have a human hypostasis but a divine hypostasis. Maybe you should promote Nestorianism to defend your anchorism.
Wow. Christ, who became like us in all things except sin lived “unnaturally” human in His flesh? How could he could He heal human lives if he didn’t assume a life according to our nature? Our lives are the one’s lived not according to our nature and that is the problem. Perhaps we differ due to your Reformed anthropology.
You said: >>>Pointing out celibate figures in the history of Abrahamic religion is not going to do you any good.
I pointed out John the Baptist, Christ and Paul. I could also point out Anna the prophetess in the Temple, Bannus, the ascetic teacher of Josephus and the Qumran community. Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus (fl 130-196), also mentions the aged virgin daughters of Philip from the book of Acts. There were Jewish ascetics around the time of Christ but I’ll asume you see this as a pagan influence. Also, I also believe John was signifying something with the virgin reference in the Apocalypse but I see virginity being espoused as higher ideal in his usage of the term. Please remember, Christ was celibate.
You said: Where is the Monastery in the OT?
There is something analogous in the OT, those “sons of prophets”. The ISBE says: “These associations probably originated in this way, that an experienced prophet attracted to himself bands of youths, who sought to receive a measure of his spirit. These disciples of the prophets, together with their families, lived in colonies around the master.” There is no command in the Torah to form such associations. But we can also ask, “Where are Moses’ seat and the synagogue in the Old Testament? Where are Pharisees and Sadducees?”
You said: “How about these people: They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated; of whom the world was not worthy–wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”>>>Persecution and trial is not the same thing as asceticism. Give me a break.
Elijah, Elisha and John the Baptist didn’t dress and live that way simply because they were persecuted.
You said: Where is image worship?
Orthodox don’t “worship” images in the way I assume you are using that term. You know that. But if you mean veneration of holy images: Jos 7:6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening, he and the elders of Israel.
You said: Where are images of any of the divine persons?
Angels are persons. Ezekiel describes images in which their human faces are depicted.
You said: Where is an example of someone lawfully introducing something into worship without divine warrant given by special revelation?
Where is the command to put the bulls under the brazen sea? The very image that made Israel stumble. I don’t see the Lord specifically commanding Solomon like He did with Moses and the Tabernacle yet the Lord was pleased to manifest His glory in Solomon’s Temple. Josephus had a real problem with Solomon’s Temple because of the images too.
You said: “It’s obvious that the Reformers thought they were returning to the teachings of the ancient visible church as opposed to the innovations of the medieval Papacy:”>>>>If by ancient visible church you mean the anchoretic I deny it.
You said that the ancient visible church was the anchoretic church. That’s your whole point isn’t it? My point is that the Reformers reference members of this visible body regularly. Augustine would certain qualify as a neo-platonic anchorite in your view right?
Hey brothers, sorry so long. I won’t debate this any further. I desire us all to be of one mind and saying the same thing.
I have just now had the opportunity to read and respond to the comments regarding my article. What I find interesting is Drake’s need to justify the Protestant position against Orthodoxy being the normative Christian Faith by appealing to rather dubious references: angelic celibacy taken from the pagans? Buddha the father of anchorism? The true Church retreated into the wilderness in the 6-8th centuries? The Puritan Manuals of Theology are “the” books that put to rest the doctrinal stance of the Orthodox Church? Psuedo-Dionysius being the biggest disaster to Christianity? Etc.
Even if I agreed with Drake’s points (and I do not), it is easy to find problematic areas (errors, failures, misunderstandings, questionable practices) in any institution within almost any age. Institutions, like the Church, are goverened by fallible human beings. Would you do away with the American Constitution just because Richard Nixon once held office? Or because our nation allowed slavery for a period of time, or made an amendment for prohibition and then had to repeal it? Pointing at questionable exceptions doesn’t invalidate the institution itself, particularly an institution that is self-correcting. The Orthodox Church is a self-correcting institution (unlike the Roman Catholic Church) in that it has breifly held to errors (e.g., iconoclasm) and then righted itself. The general argument I was making was: how can Orthodoxy have failed for 1500 years to correct its major doctrinal errors, particularly that of how we are saved (the essential doctrine above all others), until the Reformers came along? The Church Fathers were not puppets of the hierarchy of the Church. Doctrines were debated for centuries (monotheletism, iconography, hesychism, etc) and many of the Church Fathers were severely persecuted for their stances. Yet, eventually the Orthodox Church came to a consensus and its doctrines were accepted.
How is it then that Calvin’s theological ideas, whose views were rejected very early, in 1672 at the Synod of Jerusalem, never got much of any debate in the Orthodox Church? Where were the Orthodox Fathers (theologians of that time) saying “Wait, John Calvin really has something here. Let us debate this in the Church, no matter if we are persecuted for it, and no matter if it takes centuries to do so.”? The fact is, Calvinism never got much serious attention within the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church didn’t see any need to update its theology based on the brilliance of Calvin or the other Reformers. Shouldn’t that give a Reformed Protestant pause?
Imagine someone standing up today and saying, “For the last 200+ years our Supreme Court misinterpreted the Constitution. They strayed from what the Founding Fathers actually taught. We need to reform the US Constitution. We should come up with an entirely new statement of our laws and liberites. And if the politicians on Capital Hill don’t like it then we will form our own government within the US despite them!” By analogy, this is exactly what Calvin, et. al. did. The Reformers didn’t simply correct the preceived problems of the Orthodox Church by lobbying or by becoming politicians within the institution. They succeeded from the Union and set up there own government. How is that in any way keeping the “oneness” of the Church that Christ prayed for in the upper room (John 17:20-23)?
Unless Protestants address the fact that they choose to completely rebel against what had come before (“throwing the baby out with the bath water”), in terms of the major doctrines of the Church, rather than hide behind the idea they corrected petty excesses or minor questionable practices (and we are talking about the Orthodox Church here and not the admittedly major faults of Roman Catholicism) then all they are doing is “straining gnats while they swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:24).
To all who commented on my article, thank you. Please forgive me, my Reformed brothers, if anything I stated in any way offended you.
“Surely even you realize that Scripture can be quoted out of context. ”
>>So can the Fathers.
“In Acts 8 did the Samaritans need Peter and John to come to them after they experienced belief, miracles and baptism? Did they need them to get to the One?”
>>>I wrote an article on this issue: http://eternalpropositions.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/bishop-joseph-hall-and-matthew-pool-answer-perry-robinson-on-issues-of-authority-by-drake/
Let’s see Acts 8:
25 So, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans. 26 But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert road.) 27 So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.” 30 Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “Well, how could I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of Scripture which he was reading was this:
“HE WAS LED AS A SHEEP TO SLAUGHTER; AND AS A LAMB BEFORE ITS SHEARER IS SILENT, SO HE DOES NOT OPEN HIS MOUTH. 33 “IN HUMILIATION HIS JUDGMENT WAS TAKEN AWAY; WHO WILL RELATE HIS GENERATION? FOR HIS LIFE IS REMOVED FROM THE EARTH.”
34 The eunuch answered Philip and said, “Please tell me, of whom does the prophet say this?Of himself or of someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him.
The Eunuch was not saying that he did not understand the Bible at all. He did not say that he did not understand even the Chapter he was reading. He said that he did not understand how a specific passage was going to be fulfilled. In this case revelation was needed. The New Testament was needed, not an over lording Magisterium.
“Did they need them to get to the One?”
>>>No. First I am a Christian. I believe in a thoughtful Triad not a thoughtless Monad.
“These sorts of questions seem to be indicative of the individualist “me and Jesus”
>>>There is One God and One mediator between God and Man, the man Christ Jesus. 1 Tim 2:5
“The hierarchy (human or angelic) is not an obstruction to God but a help from Him. ”
“The hierarchy (human or angelic) is not an obstruction to God but a help from Him. This is evident in the Scriptures of both Testaments. Moses, Aaron, Joshua, the Judges, Samuel, Saul, David, Christ, the Apostles, Timothy, etc. Angels set our prayers before God, assist us in our salvation and pray for us. David refused to malign Saul and Michael refuses to malign Satan because of authority instituted by God. Korah did not practice such prudence and you see what happened to him.”
>>>I see no proof of a Hierarchical Intermediary that I must approach to receive secret interpretations of the Bible. And my friend, Maximus the Confessor’s infusion of Immortality to the human genus at the level of nature is just that.
Your subsequent comments are clearly not addressing what I am getting at. See here: http://eternalpropositions.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/dionysius-the-areopagite-and-his-influence-in-christian-history-by-drake/
And here: http://eternalpropositions.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/eastern-orthodoxy%E2%80%99s-hierarchical-pantheism-neoplatonism/
“Wrong. He told them that he was preparing the way for another and that God told him to baptize so as to reveal him. ”
>>>Where is the empirical ecclesiastical sanction? Where is his visible establishment?
“The proof he offered when questioned was to tell them of the One coming.”
>>>What is the difference between the authority he is speaking from and the one a Protestant speaks from? He has no succession, no ecclesiastical authority, which is why the Jewish leaders reject him and Christ and the apostles.
“They should have realized this (although some did) and recognized that John was a true prophet.”
>>>From whose established visible authority?
“Peter is the ecclesiastical reference here. He is a pillar and foundation of the ecclesia.”
>>>The Established Ecclesiastical authority denied this. The only way the people who heard peter could believe that is if they, of their own individual private judgment came to this conclusion.
“Peter and the Apostles sitting on thrones ruling over Israel with the authority of Christ.”
>>>So did the established visible ecclesiastical authority interpret it that way for the people?
“The Resurrected Christ was the visible authority and head when the Church was established.”
>>>So your view must say that the Church began with the Apostle’s. Typical Dispensationalism. I have one verse for you: Acts 7:38 This is he, that was in the CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and [with] our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us:
“God has come and taken the kingdom away from the unbelieving Jews in charge at that time but prior to this Christ told the people to heed the ones who sat in Moses’ cathedra. ”
>>>I disagree. Mat 23:3 All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, [that] observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.
The literal reading of this verse in the greek is “All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, and do; but do not ye after their works for they say and do not.” The indicative and the imperative are easily confused in Greek. He is telling them what they are doing, he is not telling them what to do. They are obeying the Pharisees which they should not do because the Pharisees are hypocrites.
It would be a bit strange to tell them this after Mat 15 where he openly rebels against their teachings.
“Unless you feel as though this same thing has occurred with Calvin and Knox.”
>>I could not make any sense of this.
“So you admit that derive your sole authority from the actions of unbelieving Jews and the so-called apostate anchoretic church?”
>>>>I don’t remember saying I have any authority. If you are saying that I am saying that the Bible is my only authority and it comes from apostate Jews and Anchoretics then I deny it. My only source of knowledge is the Logos per Augustine: http://olivianus.thekingsparlor.com/epistemology-and-metaphysics/was-augustine-a-scripturalist-by-drake
“The existence of this group was given by special revelation to Elijah the Prophet therefore he didn’t assume their existence.”
>>>Their existence was not the nature of your question. Your question was “Who are these people and can they be located in history? Calvin and Luther certainly make reference to the Fathers, do they refer to this other “wilderness group” and quote from their teachings? What are their doctrines?”
Not one time do you ask me, “How do you know these people exist.”
“Again, Elijah received a revelation so he didn’t bear the weight of that difficulty”
>>>>We are told nothing about the theology of the 7000 except they did not bow to balaam. You want to make protestants and EO completely different even though some doctrines are the same while making a full theological magisterium of the 7000 based on a single doctrine.
“The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth, the gates of hades will not prevail that the manifold wisdom will be known. ”
>>>You still have not shown a promise of a perfect visible preservation of the visible church. The gates of hell is talking about death. The word there in the greek is not the word for hell it’s hades, the abode of the dead. It is the same thing as 1 Cor 15:55 where Paul says, O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” In Mat Christ says that death shall not prevail against the Church, then Paul repeats it. I made a video about this issue here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OaaCrDLjm4U
“I didn’t mean a literal city but the analogy that Christ was using was probably referring to Jerusalem which sat at a higher altitude and therefore was easily seen.”
>>>Rev 12 is talking about the church being hidden from the serpent. So on your view, God’s great service to the church in hiding her from the serpent is setting her on a hill to shine to the world. Give me a break.
“How could he could He heal human lives if he didn’t assume a life according to our nature?”
>>>This is a common mistake that I have read in Eastern Theology manuals. Essence does not mean the same thing as “natural” sometimes. For instance morality is natural in that man was born with it but is not natural in the metaphysical sense that if a man is immoral he is no longer a man. Some things can be accidental even at the level of essence.
“Our lives are the one’s lived not according to our nature and that is the problem.”
>>>I could not make any sense out of this.
You didn’t answer the scriptural issues of virginity I mentioned. You just re-asserted your position and walked right on by.
“Where are Moses’ seat and the synagogue in the Old Testament? Where are Pharisees and Sadducees?”
>>>Moses’ seat is simply a reference to the role of interpreting the law given by Moses. Hold on are you trying to assert some wooden chair as an innovation in worship and therefore a denial of the reg. principle?
Pharisees and Sadducees were nowhere that is why they got such a tongue lashing from the Lord for their misrepresentation of his religion. And by the way the magisterium did not protect them from multiple schools of theology.
“Elijah, Elisha and John the Baptist didn’t dress and live that way simply because they were persecuted.”
>>So where are any of these men claiming that they are angelic seraphs? Show me the scripture.
“Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening, he and the elders of Israel.”
>>>>Hold on, so you fall down to the ground before icons? Second, in the context of sin and repentance falling to the earth is an act of repentance. Job 42:6. Third, the verse says nothing of worship or veneration of the ark. The ark and the temple symbolized the special presence of God among the people of Israel. These items were not worshipped or venerated but were outward symbols in a ceremonial economy. You want to introduce veneration of images with no divine warrant in an economy that has specifically removed the ceremonial.
“Angels are persons. Ezekiel describes images in which their human faces are depicted.”
>>>I am talking about the persons of the Trinity.
“Where is the command to put the bulls under the brazen sea? The very image that made Israel stumble. I don’t see the Lord specifically commanding Solomon like He did with Moses and the Tabernacle yet the Lord was pleased to manifest His glory in Solomon’s Temple. Josephus had a real problem with Solomon’s Temple because of the images too.”
>>>Everything about the temple was given to Solomon by divine revelation: 1 Chron 28:11-19
11 Then David gave to his son Solomon the plan of the porch of the temple, its buildings, its storehouses, its upper rooms, its inner rooms and the room for the mercy seat; 12 and the plan of all that he had in [f]mind, for the courts of the house of the LORD, and for all the surrounding rooms, forthe storehouses of the house of God and for the storehouses of the dedicated things; 13 also for the divisions of the priests and the Levites and for all the work of the service of the house of the LORD and for all the utensils of service in the house of the LORD; 14 for the golden utensils, the weight of gold for all utensils for every kind of service; for the silver utensils, the weight of silver for all utensils for every kind of service; 15 and the weight of gold for the golden lampstands and their golden lamps, with the weight of each lampstand and its lamps; and the weight of silver for the silver lampstands, with the weight of each lampstand and its lamps according to the use of each lampstand; 16 and the gold by weight for the tables of showbread, for each table; and silver for the silver tables; 17 and the forks, the basins, and the pitchers of pure gold; and for the golden bowls with the weight for each bowl; and for the silver bowls with the weight for each bowl; 18 and for the altar of incense refined gold by weight; and gold for the model of the chariot, even the cherubim that spread out their wingsand covered the ark of the covenant of the LORD.
19 “All this,” said David, “the LORD made me understand in writing by His hand upon me, all the details of this pattern.”
“All the details” he says. Not some. ALL. Not by opinion or taste but by the Lord.
”Augustine would certain qualify as a neo-platonic anchorite in your view right?”
>>>>In some periods of his life, yes. ADS is neoplatonism par excellence.
“ The Puritan Manuals of Theology are “the” books that put to rest the doctrinal stance of the Orthodox Church?”
>>>I don’t remember making that broad of a generalization.
“never got much of any debate in the Orthodox Church? Where were the Orthodox Fathers (theologians of that time) saying “Wait, John Calvin really has something here.”
>>>Actually the man was the ecumenical patriarch of your entire church his name was Cyril Lucaris. I really enjoyed writing that I must say. The overlook there was so massive I am like, is this guy going to serve me up an underhand slowball?
“The fact is, Calvinism never got much serious attention within the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church didn’t see any need to update its theology based on the brilliance of Calvin or the other Reformers. Shouldn’t that give a Reformed Protestant pause?”
>>>I guess the highest position of authority in your church is not enough attention for you. Shouldn’t a Calvinist patriarch give you pause?
“By analogy, this is exactly what Calvin, et. al. did.”
>>>The problem is you have to say the same thing about the Roman Church.
>>>I am not going to defend the Reformed attempts to understand EO because they are terrible. I have had my own pastor threaten me with hell for studying your church’s Theology Manuals. I am considered among my Reformed readers of my blog under heavy influences of eastern orthodoxy and someone to avoid. I understand that the Eastern Church deserves much more of a hearing than they have received. I have recently sent 3 years of study in a few articles to my presbytery why I have rejected the Filioque and ADS and affirmed the Monarchy of the Father and a single procession. I am just as interested in putting the Eastern Church before the eyes of Reformed people as you are. John of Damascus’ and Fr. Thomas Hapko’s work on the trinity saved my sanity. I am very grateful to the Eastern Church for its Triadology. I am grateful to Joseph P Farrell for teaching me about the Neoplatonic nonsense of ADS and the problems with the Filioque. I am grateful to Maximus the Confessor for teaching me about the two wills in Christ and the impossibility of an utter passivity of humanity whether Christ or normal men in the economy of salvation. I am grateful to Lossky for teaching me about the Monarchy of the Father. One God because one Father. I am grateful to Gregory Palamas for teaching me that the knowledge of God is immediate and uncreated. As a genuine Christian, I do not only receive a created modulation of God but God really and truly. I am grateful to Palamas for showing me that this premise is required for a real hypostatic union in Christ, that if regular men cannot really participate in God then neither can Christ’s humanity for our humanity is consubstantial. I have a great love for Eastern Theologians because I have learned so much from them. I complain to my Reformed friends that whenever I want to read something super hard core about the Trinity or Christology I have to check out an EO book. My Reformed friends refuse to read them and because of this there is alienation and fear. I confess it is very difficult to translate over into Eastern terminology but the labor is well worth it.
It’s good that you are so eager to contribute to the discussion but I think you need to ease off on the quantity of your comments. The number and length of your postings can be overwhelming for those of us who have other responsibilities to attend to. There’s no deadline hanging over us to force us to put everything on the table all at once. Also, by slowing down your comments you will give the rest of us more of a chance to listen to you attentively. I want the OrthodoxBridge to be a place where people can get to know each other’s viewpoints and the reasoning behind their convictions.
Regarding Cyril Lucaris, I would say that you missed Michael’s point which is that the Orthodox Church operates on the basis of theological consensus. The Patriarch of Constantinople does not have the authority to make doctrine like the Pope of Rome. Orthodoxy is conciliar in nature not authoritarian. The Ecumenical Patriarch stands alongside his fellow patriarchs of Antioch, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Moscow etc, not over them. He also shares with his fellow bishops the responsibility to keep intact the Faith received from the Apostles of Christ. I think what Michael finds so “surprising” is that Cyril Lucaris was alone in his infatuation with John Calvin. Calvin may have quoted the Church Fathers but his theological system is alien to the theology of the early Church Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils. I’m glad to hear that you found Eastern Orthodox theology helpful. I would urge that you continue to study the Church Fathers and the Seven Ecumenical Councils. Acquiring a patristic mindset of the Church Fathers and role of the Liturgy is key to understanding Eastern Orthodoxy.
I don’t know what you meant by the statement that your pastor objected to your studying Eastern Orthodoxy’s “Theology Manuals”, but I don’t think he would object to your studying the early Church Fathers since even Calvin read them. There are many Church Fathers. I would suggest you become familiar with the major ones like: Irenaeus of Lyons, Athanasius the Great, Cyril of Jerusalem, Basil the Great, John Chrysostom, John of Damascus and stay away from the early theologians of dubious reputation like Origen. And if you want something “hard core” about the Trinity I would say that one of the better sources are the prayers and hymns used in St. Basil’s Liturgy and St. John Chrysostom’s Liturgy. This is the heart of Orthodox theology. True trinitarian theology leads to the worship of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Michael Bressem has done us a great service with this post. Many thanks Robert for this.
Just a simple, technical question: Is this merely an abstract of a more lengthy paper where Michael properly footnotes this paper? If so, can we have the link, preferably in .pdf form so that we can download it and study it more fully?
If as I suspect that this was the case, methinks that much space occupied above could have been foreshortened.
I’m glad you liked Michael’s posting. So far as I know this is a short think piece. I’m sure Michael could expand it into a full length paper if he wishes. He does have the background and qualifications to do so. I hope Michael can generate additional essays that I can post on this blog. Thank you Michael for a job well done!
Thanks for this. I look forward to the expanded version of this “short think piece”. It is likely to be good.
In the light of 1672, I have for many years held a distrust of Calvin, especially the developed Calvinism that Loukaris adopted. I have also been deeply worried over Calvinism’s extraordinary cerebalism and intellectual approach to both the Gospel and soteriology. Where, for instance, acceptance of certain propositions *about* God, Jesus, Church, Salvation, etc. is sufficient for *salvation*. [i.e. “propositional soteriology.’]
This Reformed vs Reinvented paradigm of Michael, in the light of Calvinist soteriology triggered another synaptic idea for me: can we not also call the developed Calvinism of today – with all its cerebalism and intellectualism – a form of highly-developed Gnosticism???
I would be interested in the responses of Yourself, Michael, and others on this site to this development of Michael’s idea.
The theology you described above flows from anchorism. God revealed this to these men through celibacy, fasting and prayer. Read about the lives of Maximus and Gregory Palamas. These men will say this explicitly. St. Gregory Palamas struggled against Barlaam because he ridiculed hesychastic anchorites. His teaching arose out of his defense of the “heretical navel gazers”. They were and still are accused of pagan and neoplatonic influences. Perhaps your reformed colleagues are right to avoid you because they sense they won’t be able to reformed any longer if they hear you out. I can’t understand how you can synthesize what you said above with the core reformed dogmas. I’m not trying to debate you but how can you accept Orthodox theology but
excise it from the anchoritic context from which it originates? This is how we got this
You have deleted 2 replies I made to Maximus. I read over them many times and there are no personal character attacks. I spent hours writing that and you just delete them?
That’s pretty frustrating man.
Actually, my WordPress software flagged your comments which is why they didn’t show up. I just read one of your comments and approved it. Please be patient and understanding with me. I’m working on other things besides this blog. When I find the time I’ll take a look at your other comments. I can tell that you have a lot to say. Take it easy, relax, and let the rest of us have the chance to read through your comments.
“The theology you described above flows from anchorism. God revealed this to these men through celibacy, fasting and prayer.”
>>>Hold on, I am a Puritan, I have not been married since my early conversion years and I have been celibate for 10 years, I fast, and I pray. That does not make me an anchoretic. I see no inherent carnality in sex. I do not consider myself a terrestrial seraph.
“St. Gregory Palamas struggled against Barlaam because he ridiculed hesychastic anchorites.”
>>>I understand that. I read the Triads too Maximus.
“His teaching arose out of his defense of the “heretical navel gazers”. They were and still are accused of pagan and neoplatonic influences.”
>>>I understand that. I am an occasionalist after the book Augustine wrote called Concerning the Teacher. That is a form of uncreated and immediate knowledge that is not hesychast or anchoretic in itself.
“Perhaps your reformed colleagues are right to avoid you because they sense they won’t be able to reformed any longer if they hear you out.”
>>>Well that’s true and the other reason is they would have to admit that Cornelius Van Til was wrong and Clark was right.
“I can’t understand how you can synthesize what you said above with the core reformed dogmas.”
>>>Well, it is a form of philosophy called Scripturalism. Dr. Gordon Clark built a complete Christian philosophy from Augustine’s book Concerning the Teacher.
“I’m not trying to debate you but how can you accept Orthodox theology but excise it from the anchoritic context from which it originates? This is how we got this”.
>>>>Well, it’s not Eastern Orthodox in the precise definitions. When I say I get immediate uncreated knowledge, this means that the Logos, the Teacher within immediately bestows saving knowledge on me, upon certain occasions like reading the bible or listening to preaching etc.
Augustine Concerning the Teacher
11.38[Basic Writings of Augustine Volume 1 pg. 391]
“But, referring now to all things which we understand, we consult, not the speaker who utters words, but the guardian truth within the mind itself, because we have perhaps been reminded by words to do so. Moreover, He who is consulted teaches; for He who is said to reside in the interior man is Christ, that is, the unchangeable excellence of God and His everlasting wisdom, which every rational soul does indeed consult. But there is revealed to each one as much as he can apprehend through his will according as it is more perfect or less perfect. And if sometimes one is deceived this is not due to a defect in the truth which he has consulted any more than it is a defect of external light that the eyes of the body are often deceived; yet we confess that we consult this external light about visible things in order that it may show them to us in so far as we have the power to discern.”
Here is where the real meat of the matter pertains. Here Augustine denies that knowledge is gained through sensations of an external world and asserts that Christ ALONE is the Teacher of men, ergo revelation is the source of knowledge not the senses.
12.40 Against the Academicians and The Teacher [Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing, 1995]
vs 30-35 “When we deal with things that we perceive by the mind, namely by the intellect and reason, we’re speaking of things that we look upon immediatley in the inner light of Truth, in virtue of which the so-called inner man is illuminated and rejoices…Therefore, when I’m stating truth’s, I don’t even teach the person who is looking upon these truth. He’s taught not by my words but by the things themselves made manifest within when God discloses them.”
So Clark rejected ADS because we posit a plurality of distinct ideas in God’s Mind and Aquinas built his analogical predication off of ADS and Clark held to Univocal predication: univocal participation in God. A real participation.
This lead right to a rejection of Filioque and the Western errors of the Trinity.
I actually learned about the Scottish Reformed rejection of an utter passivity by reading Robert Shaw’s commentary. In brief man is passive in regeneration but active/synergistic in conversion. These are the two parts of the effectual call. The Americans did not like the idea of the Covenants as constructed by the early Scottish Puritans like Rutherford because it ended up with a Theocracy and national Baptisms and other denominations being put to death and persecuted for teaching other doctrines than the Scottish Presbyterian Established Theology. So the Americans took Thomas Boston’s view of the Covenants which is indistinguishable from the Baptist view, which has hyper Calvinist tendencies. Ergo, the many problems with Calvinism as it is represented here in America has been exposed as an entire societal error. People are leaving it and they should. The fundamental structures that it produces are not Christian. I took me a year and a half to figure out that Eastern Orthodox arguments are geared directly toward the same complaints that the Scottish were voicing during the Marrow Controversy. The Free Offer of the Gospel and Common Grace are doctrines designed to prove that grace is not alien to nature and that man must act in a synergy with God somewhere in the economy of salvation. The issue is, American Religion is so ignorant of what the Scottish Puritans laid out that what you have here in America, in Calvinist Churches is almost unidentifiable with what they originally penned.
John L. Girardeau proves very clearly in his Discussions on the section concerning adoption that the created legal state of Reformed Justification is not the only thing that you get in Reformed Theology.
“I can see no reason, therefore, for receding from the position, that the obedience of Christ as the mediatorial servant of the Father, a subject under moral law, grounded the Justification of his people as subjects of law, and that his obedience as a [eternal] Son grounded their Adoption as children in God’s house. The one entitles them to bow before God’s throne, the other to sit at God’s table.”
The create legal state is simply a right of passage to receive the uncreated Sonship. The eternal Sonship is not earned or created.
The one that has not yet been approved begins,
“Surely even you realize that Scripture can be quoted out of context. ”
>>So can the Fathers.”
Drake, I emailed you a few days ago so you might still have my emails. If you want me to read your replies I’ll gladly read them.
John, you make an interesting and important point about Reformed Theology, and Protestantism in general, when you stated they advocate for “acceptance of certain propositions *about* God, Jesus, Church, Salvation, etc. is sufficient for *salvation*. [i.e. ‘propositional soteriology.’]” Because the reformers threw out anything from their theology that in any way had to do with “work” (truly a bad 4 letter word in their vocabulary) then all that was left for salvation was mental ascent. The disciplines of the Faith got relegated to something you could do if you wanted to, as a response to God’s love or to become more sanctified, but the disciplines (ascesis) were not in any way necessary for salvation. This is of course “sola fide.” As a result, you have a Christianity that is more interested in what you believe than how you behave. And as a further consequence, there is an epidemic of theological scrupulosity within the Protestant Church that rivals that of the Pharisees in Jesus’ time. What is of interest to Protestants, at least those intellectuals who are sincerely zealous of their Faith, is reading all the systematic theologies they can get a hold of and then debating the fine points of their propositions (e.g., “Why doesn’t Erickson agree with Berkhoff about having a tripartite versus a dual anthropology?”). And I state this fully knowing that for over two decades I was one of those scrupulous, Pharisaical, Protestants (may God have mercy on me). I wasted countless hours trying to figure out and make sense of every Protestant theologians’ statements of what Scripture “really” means, who was right and who wasn’t, updating or changing my beliefs with every new book I read, rather than concern myself with living the virtuous Christian life.
As a Protestant, I somehow believed (wrongly believed I know now), that if I kept studying the “truth” that it would like osmosis filter down to my lifestyle and I would then be a better Christian. Not only did I maintain my immoral behavior, I also never found “the” truth, because every Protestant theologian I read had a different slant on doctrine—and there are tens of thousands of those different slants! My studying became a disease, an obsession, a hoarding of theological tomes. And not for me alone, but also all my seminarian friends had the same contagion. My temptation was to smorgesbord style pick and choose particular doctrines from various theologians or denominations, and create my own church of Michael Bressem! Or at least, in my arrogance, I had to be well-equipped with having read all the famous and obscure Protestant theologians throughout the past five centuries so I can hold my own in a debate with my peers. Such pride! Such nonsense! All the while my soul was suffering with confusion, doubts, and neglect—neglect in feeding my soul the grace that comes from Godly behavior rather than filling my mind with the dubious wisdom of men.
One of the chief advantages of being an Orthodox Christian, at least for me, is that the doctrinal-intellectual gymnastics are over. Not that the Orthodox Church doesn’t debate comparatively minor issues or contemporary problems to this day, but the major doctrinal positions have been settled for centuries. There are no Orthodox “systematic theologies” that would be the equivalent of what is in the Protestant Church, and that is because Orthodoxy never divorces its theology from its praxis. The Church Fathers taught that true theology comes from a life of prayer rather than a life of scholarship. In other words, Orthodoxy is fully pragmatic in its writings—truths exemplified by the lives of the saints, rather than merely confessed.
In my 30+ years Reformed, there certainly is a strong emphasis on “knowing” and expressing doctrine rightly. (It’s largely the reason most Reformed still refuse their baptised covenant children the Lord’s Supper — since we can’t “know” that they “know” rightly.) This zeal for precise knowledge ascends up from young children to poor Pastors who must perform (oophs i mean “preach”) the flock into spell-bound adoring grouppies every week. (Wouldn’t wanna ‘disappear’ leading the flock in an inherited liturgy of praise and sacrament!…or would they?)
Nevertheless, I will take issue with one thing you said: “the reformers threw out anything from their theology that in any way had to do with “work” (truly a bad 4 letter word in their vocabulary) then all that was left for salvation was mental ascent.”
The idea of “works” (good & righteous) has NOT been swallowed up by an indifferent “sola fide” in my Reformed experience (PCA, OPC, CREC). Indeed, I’ve FAR more often been exhorted that we are created “unto good works…” Faith is unto Works…Reformed Pastor/preachers having been taught and sincerely belive the flock of God will largely be transformed by the power of their preaching. Praxis and real holiness of life might often take a back seat to mean, sarcastic theological lint-picking, but this simply isn’t altogether true in many Reformed circles.
I do, however, appreciate your last comments: “The Church Fathers taught that true theology comes from a life of prayer rather than a life of scholarship. In other words, Orthodoxy is fully pragmatic in its writings—truths exemplified by the lives of the saints, rather than merely confessed.”
I believe MANY Reformed Pastors would agree with this. Thanks be to God.
There may be some extreme Protestants who believe this, but in general this is an extremely inaccurate portrayal of Protestant faith and practice as far as salvation is concerned. Witness Matthew Henry on James 2, a commentator respected by nearly all sides in Protestantism:
This statement also is highly inaccurate in the main. In truth, the magisterial Reformers like Calvin very much pressed the need for works right along with salvation and the history of the disciplinarian approach to church government which the Genevan Reformers pursued very much shows this to be the case. But, there is more here to remember. The theological diversity to which Bressem refers under the widely cast umbrella of Protestantism makes clear that he cannot speak so stridently about sola fide as if all Protestants conceive the matter the way he puts it above. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Additionally, Protestants have not always framed the matter of salvation within the context of sola fide but some have been quite ready to accept theories of the atonement and salvation that are less concerned with rebutting the errors of Rome. Gustaf Aulen’s Christus Victor theology and the work of J. Todd Billings in regards to Calvin’s interest in/understanding of deification are two witnesses here to call to mind.
I would suggest that a more thorough examination of all Christian groups betray an affinity for errors like the ones presented by the Pharisees of old simply because we live in a fallen world as fallen men. Besides, the comparison really is apples and oranges since the Pharisaical error was not a matter of theological or doctrinal conviction but rather a behavioral issue in avoiding the dictates of the Law. The correction of Jesus offered to the Pharisees was not one of ignorance or misunderstanding but instead a condemnation of their disobedience. That said, it must still be acknowledged that every ecclesial body has certain elements that are undesirable and the Orthodox are not any different than others here.
It is a simple error to universalize one’s experience upon the whole of a greatly diverse body like Protestant and I believe that is what Bressem is presenting us with here. I can say as a Protestant that such is not why I would entertain a look at any systematic theology nor is my experience in that regard all that uncommon. Others may indeed have gone down this same experiential road as Bressem but that doesn’t make it the sort of universal truism he implies in terms of Protestant experience especially among intellectuals who are undoubtedly more diverse than he seems to imply.
First, before I comment, I want to make clear that I’m not presenting an ad hominem argument against Bressem. His experience is his experience–I have no issue with that. However, since he has brought his experience out to light in order for us to reflect on these things I do think it is quite appropriate to question whether or not this “disease” and “obsession” to which he refers had no small amount of influence in moving a certain direction toward Orthodoxy. It doesn’t appear to me that he had a healthy practice of Protestantism as he describes it here. That doesn’t make Protestantism or Orthodoxy false or true, but I point it out because the method Bressem is pressing us with is to consider that his experience (and that of his seminary buddies) is normative in Protestantism and I would just have to flatly deny that such is the case. It certainly doesn’t accord with my own experience (or my seminary friends at Fuller!) or those that I know who are committed to the historic principles of the Reformation. I have no problem with the idea that some extremities of Protestantism may trend toward the direction Bressem notes, but the nature of these particular groups are defined by their extremes away from the main praxis of Protestantism in general. We shouldn’t, in other words, make a rule out of the exception.
Here, we need to remember that every group has its own errors and all of them work equally severely in accordance with nature of the respective errors in differing contexts. While it is true that Orthodoxy and its theology could hardly be called systematic in a more classic sense, that is not to say that Orthodoxy is never guilty of divorcing its theology from its praxis. Protestantism (even with all of the warts generated by errant men and limited and sometimes conflicting views) as a culture eventually produced the American Republic while Eastern Orthodoxy continued headlong under great oppression with very little ability to work its way out of such an environment. To blame that sort of submission to tyranny only on the tyrants is undoubtedly historically naive.
Noting these things however doesn’t make one or the other religious viewpoints true or false–I’m only suggesting that a pollyanna view of any faith communion is not really owning up to the whole truth of the matter and can serve to deceive parties who may fail to consider that the grass is rarely greener on the other side.
I unapproved your July 21 comment on Michael Bressem’s posting because it contained an ad hominem attack on Michael which is inappropriate for this blog. Please confine your comments to the contents of the posting. If you excise the personal attacks from the comment I would be happy to approve it.
I’m sorry, but you’ll have to be more specific. Which sentence are you referring to exactly?
I saw that in your July 22 4:22 pm comment that you left out the objectionable language.
Also, I’m not comfortable when people question others’ theological credibility on the basis of what school they went to. The Reformed circle is a pretty diverse bunch ranging from the predominantly liberal mainline denominations to the small ultra-conservative denominations. The same thing applies to seminaries. Also, people may change their views after graduating and after further reading. Let’s focus on what people have to say and rebut them using counter arguments or quotations from appropriate sources. You show you can do a good job of rebutting Michael’s positions with counterarguments.
I’m not questioning anyone’s ‘theological credibility’ by questioning where they went to school. You should be familiar enough with theological dialog however to admit that when you use the word “Reformed” as you have, you are not using it typically in the way most conservative Reformed/Presbyterian folks use the word. You might better use the word “evangelical” in describing a seminary like Western. That’s important only because saying things like ‘no one ever answered these things in a Reformed seminary’ is not really being completely communicative of the point that Bressem had a hard time finding answers for his potential conundrum in a generic evangelical seminary like Western. Describing Reformed as you and Bressem do can give the undue impression that these things can’t or haven’t been answered. Bressem, for example, didn’t go to Reformed Theological Seminary where he no doubt would have had different answers provided were he to have asked those questions than a place like Western Conservative Baptist Seminary. Just look at the difference between Western statement of faith and the Westminster Confession of Faith to see what I mean in terms of the differences between evangelical and Reformed.
I’m just asking you all to be more clear and realize not everyone agrees with your rather wide understanding and use of the word “Reformed”–especially those in your apparent target market.
Honestly, the original post above is just simply more of the same. “Calvin’s Conundrum” as it has been termed is merely a false dilemma and as such doesn’t even really deserve comment let alone an answer which presupposes that there is any truth to what’s really being argued here. The other thing I find somewhat tragically amusing is that somehow the writers here feel that Western Seminary is Reformed as if that gives the author (whose doctorate is actually in Clinical Psychology) any credibility at all in speaking to these issues. I don’t doubt that the author might have had some difficulties in typical Conservative Baptist or generic evangelical circles getting answers to some of the complex questions he poses above, but to think that there is no Reformed position on these issues is just not playing fair.
The Reformers did not pretend they were completely redefining the Church but instead quite successfully argued that they were reforming what essentially always had been something other than what the Roman hierarchy claimed. Modern proponents of Orthodoxy and Eastern theology may not be convinced of their success, but consider the source: these same proponents count themselves among those who closed up shop on the entirety of Western Civilization in 1054 A.D. It’s at least fair to point out that what’s being considered here on the part of Orthodoxy advocates comes to us with no small amount of bias. The Reformation as a historical event undoubtedly affected Europe in dramatic ways and not all of these ways were as negative as some here might like to claim. After all, the USA and her freedoms largely stem from classical Protestantism. Orthodoxy, by way of contrast, was never able to secure such freedoms in the dark corners of the Eastern world.
But, part of the reasons questions like those asked above are hardly discussed is because the presence of the East rarely entered into the work of the Reformed. This was true simply because such interactions between the two perspectives historically speaking were horribly limited by distance and political issues. The work of the East was just simply irrelevant to more pressing concerns in Western society during the Reformation. That’s not to say the Reformers never interacted with Orthodoxy but such actions only had them tangentially in mind as history moved forward.
But, the magisterial Reformers are not the only ones who have to face up to questions if we grant for the moment the absurdities presented by Bressem. One has to wonder how the West survived at all with the advent of the Great Schism and whether or not our Lord’s promise that the Church would be guided into all truth really came true given that both East and West abandoned each other five hundred years before Calvin came to the scene. I suspect that some here are not willing to consider that what is good for the goose ought also to be good for the gander. It is easy to blame children for what you think is constant naughtiness and misbehaving but such behavior is generally the fault of bad and abusive parents.
All in all, this article hardly represents Calvin, the Reformers, the later Reformed, or the history and theology of the same with any real fairness to what they actually thought and wrote. Given that, once again we have to pass on any real dialog that might otherwise be productive.
“After all, the USA and her freedoms largely stem from classical Protestantism. Orthodoxy, by way of contrast, was never able to secure such freedoms in the dark corners of the Eastern world.”
The personal presence of the Son of the living God and the apostles themselves did not secure those freedoms, nor did they aspire to. They did not procure the abolishment slavery, Roman opression, or Jewish legalism. Your pragmatic line of evidence for true Christianity stands wanting.
You mistake my comments for something other than what they are. I’m not arguing here for “true Christianity” because Protestantism supposedly works better. I’m only pointing out that classical Protestantism had a clear role in producing the American Republic. Orthodoxy has had no such role in society. In saying this, I’m not saying one is more true than the other. I’m just noting that Orthodoxy has had its own struggles in history like any other Christian communion. In other words, we shouldn’t pretend that Orthodoxy doesn’t have its own set of equally severe problems throughout its history.
Just to add. I wonder in say 200 years when Christians look back at our time in 20/21 century North America, if they will say “wow, what freedoms they had.” Or will it be, “where was the influence of the Protestant/Evangelical project?”
Look at what they allowed their eyes to view! Look at what perverse filth and violence that society produced! Look at their service to the god of mammon in their economic systems, stealing from the people to give to the money lenders! Look at their thirst for war in the name of peace! Look at their division!
I hate to wonder what they will think of us, Kevin? Although I wonder if Evangelicalism will not have already collapsed by then, and classical Protestantism….?
I can’t say what the future will hold. I’m not that kind of prophet.
Isn’t there a difference between the Evangelical Movement (which had a huge influence on some of our founding fathers of America) and Classical Protestantism?
I would say that both the Evangelical Movement of George Whitefield, John Wesley, and Johnathon Edwards and the Enlightenment movement had way more influence on our founding Fathers in wanting to start their own Nation than Classical Protestantism did. The influence of this country was mixed from the very beginning.
When I refer to “Evangelicalism” I’m referring to the twentieth century Protestant non-denominational movement that emphasized personal conversion, evangelism, bible study, and a high view of Scripture. When you mentioned George Whitefield, John Wesley, and Jonathan Edwards you are referring to eighteenth century leaders who played a major role in the series of revivals that reshaped the religious landscape in America.
To claim that classical Protestantism led to the United States of America is a bit of a stretch. One can say that classical Protestantism led to Puritan commonwealth in New England which was much more like a Protestant theocracy than a free thinking secular polity that is the USA. The American stress on individual freedom can be more easily traced to John Locke’s liberal philosophy. I highly recommend Nathan Hatch’s “The Democratization of American Christianity.” The ideological origins of the USA is a very complex matter and I get skeptical whenever theologians start talking like political scientists. To keep this blog discussion focused and coherent let’s stick to the matter of what Orthodox and Reformed Christians believe and practice.
To be sure, I have spoken in very general terms but it is almost impossible to do justice to this sort of issue in any brief fashion without doing so. So, a few words here…
Hatch’s work is important though it is not really central to understanding how the American Republic was put together. Hatch’s work is better for understanding American Christianity and its roots more than anything else. And, saying classical Protestantism is largely responsible for the American Republic does not contradict his claims.
Classical Protestantism is responsible for many things and most all the Christian movements Hatch outlines in his book and even many of the Enlightenment thinkers that inspired certain parts of our society came out of classical Protestantism and the work of the Reformation. A better work to understand the import of Protestantism on the framing of the American state would be Bernard Bailyn’s “The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution”. Another important work I read recently is Nelson’s “The Hebrew Republic: Jewish Sources and the Transformation of European Political Thought” — this work makes it quite clear that in terms of ideological development the ‘republic’ itself comes more from Protestant digging into Hebrew sources than any sort of Enlightenment contribution. I would also suggest, Robert, that recent studies have confirmed that Locke’s contribution is decidedly exaggerated in the literature in favor of a less ‘religious’ and secularized understanding of our nation’s founding.
Again, here, I am not arguing for Protestant superiority because of the nature of our nation’s founding. Only that each communion has had both successes and failures tied directly to their theological understanding and their varying ability and inability to hold to a proper center in that regard. In other words, I am rebutting what I see as Bressem’s overly Romantic presentation of Orthodoxy as not having problems similar to Protestantism. I do so not to demonstrate that Orthodoxy on that basis is somehow false, but only to make sure we’re not presenting some sort of Wizard of Oz presentation of the East without a peak behind the curtain showing that Orthodoxy is just as human as the other communions of Christ–liable and subject to error just like the others.
First you said this:
“After all, the USA and her freedoms largely stem from classical Protestantism. Orthodoxy, by way of contrast, was never able to secure such freedoms in the dark corners of the Eastern world.”
“I’m only pointing out that classical Protestantism had a clear role in producing the American Republic. Orthodoxy has had no such role in society.”
And finally this:
“Again, here, I am not arguing for Protestant superiority because of the nature of our nation’s founding. Only that each communion has had both successes and failures tied directly to their theological understanding and their varying ability and inability to hold to a proper center in that regard.”
Is that blowing sound I hear a move of the Holy Spirit, or is it the vortex created from your backpedalling?
It is disingenuous to pick out some freedoms of the modern American empire which is collapsing
before our eyes, yet ignore the conversion of nations by Orthodoxy for centuries. Communism and
Muslim hordes couldn’t destroy Orthodoxy yet North American Christian influence has been brought
to it’s knees in our day amid the excessive freedoms we enjoy.
My remarks are not out of line with what I previously said even in spite of your skepticism. Not two sentences after I wrote what I did originally I said much the same:
Your assertion that I’m being disingenuous is without basis and offensive. I have no problem talking about the negative issues plaguing Protestantism and/or the positive effects of Orthodoxy. As I said, each communion has both its own problems and it’s equally true that each has its own bright spots. But I have no need to go over what Orthodoxy has done well here since we have no lack of people who are happy to talk about it all day long. I’m merely bringing a little balance to the Force on this website, truly.
“But I have no need to go over what Orthodoxy has done well here since we have no lack of people who are happy to talk about it all day long.”
Ok. I’ll take you at your word. But you did not bring this out when you starkly contrasted the American Protestant influence and stated “Orthodoxy has had NO such role in society.”
Kevin, I appreciate your comments. Please forgive me when I overgeneralize to make an argument. Of course there are exceptions, and I appreciate the fact that not ALL Protestants or ALL Reformed are. . . . However, you must also accept the fact that the occassional exception doesn’t disprove the point. If I had to address every exception that exists, in order to be completely fair, then the main point would be lost in the details, and it would not be possible to carry on short blog comments, like this one. However, I don’t want to needlessly step on toes either, so I’ll try to soften the language of my rhetoric in the future.
Your point about the Western Reformers not having much historical cross-fertilization with the Eastern Orthodox Church is completely valid. However, presently that is not as much the case; hence, Robert Arakaki’s blog site. The questions I asked in my article are obviously addressed to those who are Reformed now who will hopefully reflect upon what their theological viewpoint advocates as opposed to what the Orthodox Church has consistently represented for over a millenia. Orthodoxy is relatively new on the scene of American Christian culture, and as such people should have the opportunity to get to know us and how we think about theological matters— particularly, when people have misconceptions about what the Orthodox Church teaches.
For example, you wrote:
“One has to wonder how the West survived at all with the advent of the Great Schism and whether or not our Lord’s promise that the Church would be guided into all truth really came true given that both East and West abandoned each other five hundred years before Calvin came to the scene. I suspect that some here are not willing to consider that what is good for the goose ought also to be good for the gander. It is easy to blame children for what you think is constant naughtiness and misbehaving but such behavior is generally the fault of bad and abusive parents.”
The Eastern Orthodox Church would strongly disagree that we abandoned the Western Catholic Church at the 1054 schism. The Western Church, like the Reformers, gradually made “innovations” in their doctrines and practices that were not accepted by the other four historic Patriachates, not accepted by Ecumenical
Councils, and not practiced by the majority of the Christian population at that time. However, the Patriarch at Rome, Pope Leo IX, thought he had final say, carte blanche, in what constituted acceptable church belief and behavior and his delegate initiated the excommunication of the Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, that led to the schism. Pope Leo demanded Patriarch Michael to accept Leo’s
Sorry, I glitched and posted the above comment without finishing my point.
. . . Pope Leo demanded Pariarch Michael to accept Leo being the authoritative “head” of the Church rather than mere “first among equals” as is canon law. Therefore, in your parent-child analogy, it is the Catholic Church who is the “misbehaving” child of the Orthodox Church and the Protestant Church is then the grandchild of that misbehaving child.
Finally Kevin, I want to state that Western Conservative Baptist Seminary, 30-25 years ago when I attended there fully taught Reformed theology. Now that it has become simply “Western Seminary” it has become more broadly Evangelical. After seminary, I attended for many years a Presbyterian church, and I taught Reformed theology at a Christian college. It was Robert Arakaki’s idea that my seminary be added to the article; however, I believe a person’s background should not discredit his arguments as I think this is a form of prejudice. Therefore, I will not ask you what it is you do for a living nor what education you had.