Reply to Robin Phillips 24-Aug-2011 Comments (2 of 2)
On August 24, 2011, Robin Phillips sent five lengthy responses to my blog posting: “Response To Robin Phillips’ ‘Questions About Sola Scriptura’” (August 1, 2011). Rather than burying the dialogue between Robin and me in the comment section, I decided to use Robin’s responses as a basis for two postings.
Robin’s comments are first presented in italics. I propose to present the issues raised by Robin in the form of a question to which I will give an answer. Due to the length of the disucssion I plan to post Robin’s response in two postings: August 28 and September 1. Today’s posting is the second of the two part response.
Robin Phillips — Reply #3
Robert wrote, “Protestantism also believes in apostolicity but in a quite different manner. It believes that after the apostles died the apostolic witness continued solely in an inscripturated form and that the authority of Scripture is independent of the church. Where Orthodoxy assumes an essential continuity between the apostles and the post-apostolic church, the Protestant model interposes a series of ruptures or discontinuities. It assumes that the post-apostolic church quickly fell into heresy and apostasy, and that the Gospel was rediscovered with the Protestant Reformation.” Is that essential to Protestantism or accidental? I mean, couldn’t a Protestant just correct that aspect of Protestantism and still remain a Protestant? But doesn’t this all hinge on a bit of a false dilemma anyway? If our only options are between (A) the Orthodox view of apostolic succession, with the consequence that the church has and always has had genuine God-appointed authority, and that such authority is located in the EO church; and (B) the common Protestant view that the true church fell off the board, maybe flaming up once in a while with people like Hus or a small ‘remnant’ from time to time, but basically not existing until the reformation “rediscovered” it, then A is clearly the more Biblical, given the strong statements that the apostles themselves made about the church (“pillar and ground of the truth” etc). But isn’t there a third option, namely that the true church did exist throughout all of the Middle Ages in the institution of the Roman Catholic church and the Eastern Orthodox church, and that the true church still exists today in all three of the main branches of Christendom? Since the visible church, within this schema, does not imply perfection or apostolic succession, the Protestant who adopts this position can affirm both that the Western church of the Middle Ages acquired significant defects without denying that it ever stopped being the true church. So basically, the Orthodox are and have always been the true church, the Catholics have and always have been the true church, and the Protestants are and always have been the true church (excluding the Protestant sects like Mormonism, obviously). One could then say, as Philip Schaff did in The Principle of Protestantism, that the Reformation was the greatest act of the catholic church since the apostles, that Luther was simply unfolding the best of the historical church’s theology, and further sharpening it with his additional exegetical insights. The Protestant reformation was a purifying and reposition of what was already there. This position preserves the basic Protestant emphasis that the church can go wrong (even grossly so) without lapsing into option B above where the church dropped off the board to be rediscovered.
Robert Arakaki’s Response
Question #3.1 – Is it essential to Protestantism that the church fell into error and that the Reformation played a key role in the recovery Gospel? Can we not affirm that the church existed all through the Middle Ages in the Roman Catholic Church and that “the Reformation was the greatest act of the catholic church since the apostles”?
Philip Schaff’s argument that the Reformation constitutes a fruit of the Catholic Church rests upon a Hegelian approach to church history. This is a view I am very familiar with. I once identified my theology as Mercersburg Theology. However, I came to the conclusion that Schaff’s model is untenable. One is that his The Principle of Protestantism speaks to Western Christianity. He sets up his dialectics between the English Oxford Movement and the American frontier revivalism, and between the Reformation and Catholicism. Nowhere did Schaff address the split between East and West and the Filioque clause. Furthermore, Orthodoxy’s staunch rejection of innovation makes Schaff’s Hegelian methodology problematic. In addition, I would note that Schaff’s approach to church unity resulted in the Ecumenical Movement which is based upon the understanding that doctrine and worship are negotiable items. The Orthodox churches may have participated in the World Council of Churches but it has not put her dogmas or liturgies on the table so to speak. Furthermore, Schaff’s partner, John Nevin, considered historical continuity in the form of adherence to the Nicene Creed and the sacraments. Using these two criteria much of Protestantism today must be excluded on the grounds that they do not formally hold to the Nicene Creed, nor do they hold to the Reformed understanding of the real presence in the Lord’s Supper.
Robin Phillips — Reply #4
I appreciated Robert rooting EO in history the way he did, and this echoes what other Eastern Orthodox brothers have told me about the claims of the EO church standing or falling on history. As Robert wrote, “The advantage of Orthodoxy’s stress on historicity is that it lends itself to external verification.” However, I don’t think approach comes without any problems of its own. Apart from the point that Tim made about historical truths not being necessary truths (which I do not feel has been properly answered yet), my only question would be: how do we avoid the problem of each person being his own individual pope when interpreting history? Don’t think I am succumbing to sophistry in asking this question; it is actually quite practical because I often feel (when assessing the arguments presented by EO apologists) that one would almost have to have a PhD in history to adequately adjudicate between their claims and those of Protestant historians. I’ve given myself a headache on more than one occasion just trying to adjudicate between EO historiography and RC historiography. Therefore, it is by not means certain that the Eastern Orthodox have not replaced the problem of private interpretation of scripture with the equally difficult problem of private interpretation of history. Thus, to echo a point that Tim has already made, (and which has not yet been adequately addressed) if the individual cannot be trusted to interpret scripture for himself, how can he be trusted to interpret history for himself?
Robert Arakaki’s Response
My Response #4
My grounding of my apologetics in history is partly due to my empirical bent; but more importantly it stems from the historical reality of the Incarnation, the basis for Christian Good News. The Incarnation of the Eternal Word, that is, the entrance of the divine Logos into human history means that the life of Jesus Christ cannot be considered mere contingent historical events but charged with universal relevance. Jesus Christ is not another man, but the Second Adam. This is not a scientific finding but a faith stance of a Christian; it is foundational to being a Christian.
I would also like to note that much of the Bible’s teachings are presented in the form of historical narrative. Jesus Christ likewise appealed to the miracles he did as sufficient grounds for his messianic claims (John 10:37-38)
Question #4.1: How do I respond to Tim’s point that historical truths are not necessary truths?
I suspect that Tim here is reiterating Gotthold Lessing’s famous axiom: “Contingent truths of history can never be proof of the necessary truths of reason.” I am not a philosopher by training so I will just make a few comments and invite others who are better trained in philosophy to provide their insights. The first thing I noticed about this axiom is that it assumes that the necessary truths of reason are superior to concrete historical facts. This seems to slice reality into two disparate domains. G.W. Bromiley noted that that Lessing’s axiom is basically a denial of the Incarnation; Jesus is viewed as a man among men, and lasting value is to be found in his teachings, not in what he did or who he was. The Orthodox faith, actually the Christian religion, is grounded in the historicity of the Incarnation, Christ’s death and his third day resurrection. The Christian faith was originally cast in the form of a narrative as evidenced by the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed. Protestant creeds, organized along the lines of abstract syllogistic logic reflect a novel epistemology.
A quick read of Philosophos.com’s article “Liebniz” states that for Liebniz God is pure being, the Primary Monad, and that by definition monads do not interact. If that is an accurate description of Liebniz’s metaphysics and if one can surmise that his metaphysics underly his eptistemology, then Liebniz’s philosophical system is hostile to the Christian doctrine of the Incaration.
My difficulty with the notion of “necessary truths of reason” is that it assumes the superiority of abstract concepts. This view entails a disembodied notion of truth whereas Orthodoxy is based upon the understanding of truth as real, concreted, historical, and embodied. To put it another way, the Orthodox understanding of truth is social and ecclesial. I found George Lindbeck’s The Nature of Doctrine in which he put forward the “cultural-linguistic alternative” rather helpful. To give an example of the socially constructed nature of Orthodox doctrine, honoring Mary is not just an idea but a doctrine expressed in practice whenever we sing the “Axios Estin” (It is truly right to bless you….) in every Sunday Liturgy. In Orthodoxy right doctrine is expressed in its worship. Either one consents to the teachings of the Orthodox Church or one can leave for another church; remaining in the Orthodox Church while disagreeing with its fundamental teachings is to be a hypocrite.
See G.W. Bromiley’s article “History and Truth: A Study of the Axiom of Lessing.” The Evangelical Quarterly (July 1946).
See George Lindbeck’s The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age.
“Liebniz” in Philosophos.com
Question #4.2: How do we avoid the problem of each person being his own individual pope when interpreting history?
I once began an article with the statement: “Tell me the history of Christianity and I can tell you your theology.” The point I was making was that history is more than facts and chronology, history entails narrative, i.e., a unifying and organizing theme that frames the persons and events. There cannot be an impartial objective history because the narrator has to situate himself somewhere before he can tell the story. Human history is part of a social process; it is different from the chronology of events constructed by natural scientists.
I suspect Robin suffered massive headaches in adjudicating between Eastern Orthodox historiography and Roman Catholic historiography largely because he was seeking some impartial middle ground. It can’t be done. It’s like a divorce where either the husband leaves the wife, or the wife leaves the husband. There are two issues by which one can assess the claims of the two parties: (1) Rome’s unilateral insertion of the Filioque clause into the Nicene Creed and (2) Rome’s claim to papal supremacy over all Christians. Using the preponderance of evidence approach one can then determine whether or not the biblical evidence, the patristic consensus and Ecumenical Councils support the claims of the Roman Catholic Church or the Eastern Orthodox Church. It was by using this approach that I came to the conclusion that there wasn’t much evidence to support the Catholic understanding of the papacy. When I was at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, I had a meeting with a fellow student who had just converted to Catholicism. When I asked him about the biblical basis for papal supremacy he couldn’t give me a satisfactory answer. I read through several books by converts to Catholicism and was disappointed with the evidence they presented. Thus, using the preponderance of evidence approach I determined that the Roman Catholic claims fell short on one particularly important test case. I am very interested to learn from Robin what he has learned and/or concluded from his research on these two crucial make or break issues: (1) the Filioque clause and (2) papal supremacy. It is important to keep in mind that there are two ways of approaching the issue. One way is to examine the Roman Catholic arguments for the reasonableness and logic in support of the double procession theory. The other way is to follow the Orthodox approach which looks for conciliarity and patristic consensus. Where the first stresses abstract reasoning, the latter gives more weight to historical continuity and ecclesial unity.
One doesn’t have to have a Ph.D. in history to make that determination. God guides each person according to the gifts he has given them. I have a good friend who has an undergraduate degree in Architecture. He struggled through his understanding of Evangelicalism and became Orthodox before I did. Because of my extensive reading in theology and my seminary background, I needed more time to think through the issue before I was ready to become Orthodox. If anything my educational background slowed me up but because I had to think through several critical issues (not all the issues) before I was able to convert to Orthodoxy with a clear conscience. My advice to Robin and others in his situation is to thank God for the gifts and talents He has given you and use them the best you can, and always ask God for his guidance. If you have a high school education, do your reading, visit the local Orthodox, talk it over with your spouse, pray about it and follow God’s leading in your life. The same thing applies to a seminary professor or church pastor. It may be that they will have to do a lot more reading and soul searching but in matters of spiritual discernment, their advance degrees do not necessarily give them the edge over their less educated brethren. Robin and other highly educated Christians should guard against giving reason more priority than is necessary. George Lindbeck in The Nature of Doctrine notes:
In the early days of the Christian church, for example, it was the gnostics, not the catholics, who were most inclined to redescribe the faith in a new interpretive framework. Pagan converts to the catholic mainstream did not, for the most part, first understand the faith and then decide to become Christians; rather, the process was reversed: they first decided and then they understood. More precisely, they were first attracted by the Chrstian community and form of life (p. 132; emphasis added).
The reasons for attraction ranged from the noble to the ignoble and were as diverse as the individuals involved; but for whatever motives they submitted themselves to prolonged catechetical instruction in which they practiced new modes of behavior and learned the stories of Israel and their fulfillment in Christ. Only after they had acquired proficiency in the alien Christian language and form of life were they deemed able intelligently and responsibly to profess the faith, to be baptized. (p. 132; emphasis added)
I suspect that Robin’s preoccupation with an adequate intellectual grasp of Orthodoxy may reflect his modern Western cultural orientation, and possibly the influence of medieval scholastic theology.
One last point about being an “individual pope,” the term “individual pope” can only happen in Protestantism where there is no external magisterium as each individual is bound to their own conscience and the word of God. With Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy there can be no “individual pope”; this is because both traditions expect their members to submit to the authority of the church. In the case Roman Catholicism one submits to the Pope through the local bishop. In the case of Eastern Orthodoxy one submits to the local bishop the guardian and recipient of Tradition. In the case of a potential convert one has the freedom to investigate the claims of the Orthodox Church and disagree and even disregard her teachings and practices, but to be received into the Orthodox Church one relinquishes one’s autonomy and accepts the teachings and practices of the Church. To become Orthodox entails more than intellectual assent to her doctrines but also the promise to live by her spiritual disciplines and to submit to the authority of her priests (cf. Hebrews 13:17).
Robin Phillips — Reply #5
Robert wrote, “An Orthodox bishop cannot disregard the Ecumenical Councils. He cannot disregard the church calendar with its feasts and holy days. That would be like a politician dismissing the US Constitution as a piece of paper….What does one do if the bishop becomes heterodox? The first thing is to make sure one has the facts right. If one acts in haste then the peace and harmony of the church gets disrupted. Let’s say that a bishop does go off the rails, then one can raise the issue with one’s priest and with other laity. One can appeal to other bishops in America and abroad.”
But doesn’t this assume that the majority are still trustworthy? But how do we know that? How do we know that a priest is going to stay as loyal to the Ecumenical Councils as a politician should stay loyal to the US Constitution? (I haven’t yet read Robert’s’ post about Apostolic Succession, again in response to an article of mine, so forgive me if these questions are answered there) Given that the East teaches that the entire Western church fell off the board, we surely cannot rule out a priori that the bishops cannot disregard the Ecumenical Councils. When we factor in verses like Acts 20:25, together with the fact that the bishops in the West who are (by EO standards) heterodox were also claimants of Apostolic Succession, it seems problematic to maintain a priori that the true church cannot error institutionally.
Robert cited II Timothy 2:2 as a proof text for Apostolic Succession, but according to my own private interpretation of the passage, the blessed brother Paul is issuing a command rather than a promise. We could say that because Apostolic Succession is true it follows that my private interpretation is flawed by virtue of being my private interpretation, but then wouldn’t that be begging the question?
Robert Arakaki’s Response
Question #5.1: Given that the “entire Western church fell off the board” does that mean we cannot rule out bishops disregarding the Ecumenical Councils?
From an Orthodox standpoint Robin’s question here is a non sequitur. For all its criticism of the Church of Rome, the Orthodox Church never claimed that Rome disregarded the Ecumenical Councils. If I am wrong here, please show me the evidence. The Orthodox Church did in fact accuse the Church of Rome of breaking from Tradition through innovative teachings like the Filioque clause, papal supremacy, papal infallibility, etc. Officially speaking, the Church of Rome has not disregarded the Ecumenical Councils; if anything the same cannot be said of Protestantism, especially the mainline Protestant denominations including the Anglican tradition.
Question #5.2: Are the majority of today’s Orthodox bishops still trustworthy? And how do we know a priest is going to stay loyal to the Ecumenical Councils?
My response is: What grounds do you have for being suspicious of the Orthodox bishops? Are there any reasonable grounds or is this just blind prejudice? If there are reasonable grounds for suspicion, please show us the evidence.
My apologia here is based upon the concept of catholicity as taught by Irenaeus of Lyons, not majority rule as understood in modern democratic theory. Evidence for orthodoxy corroborated by catholicity was cited by Irenaeus as proof of the veracity of the early orthodox Christians. A comparison of today’s Orthodox bishops with the teachings of the early bishops and the Ecumenical Councils shows remarkable congruence. I recommend Robin read up on the church fathers and meet with an Orthodox priest for a one-on-one conversation.
Ironically, the catholicity of the Orthodox faith can be seen in the multiple Orthodox jurisdictions here in America. One can visit a Greek Orthodox parish, an OCA parish, an Antiochian Orthodox parish, a Serbian Orthodox parish, a Russian Orthodox Church Outisde of Russia parish, an Ukranian Orthodox parish, or a Bulgarian Orthodox parish and come away with knowing that they share in the same faith. If a particular bishop or country had gone their own way and develope their own theology it would soon become evident in this multiple jurisdictional situation. My initial encounters with Eastern Orthodoxy were with the Greek Orthodox parishes, then with former Evangelical converts in the Antiochian Orthodox Church. My first in depth encounter with Orthodoxy was at a Bulgarian Orthodox parish in Berkeley. More recently in Hawaii, I find myself in frequent contact with priests from the Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia, and the Orthodox Church in America. I can bear witness that all these priests share the same faith and Liturgy, this despite their different jurisdictional backgrounds.
If one wants to create a scenario in which bishops abandoned Tradition, I would refer them to William Ledwich’s The Durham Affair which describes the installation of David Jenkins, who denied the bodily resurrection of Christ, as Bishop of Durham. In addition, there is John Robinson, bishop of Woolwich, who wrote the controversial Honest to God, and John Shelby Spong, bishop of Newark, who questioned many of the fundamental tenets of the Christian faith. I would note that there is nothing remotely like that happening in the Eastern Orthodox Church today. If there is, I would appreciate Robin bringing it to my attention.
As far as an Orthodox priest remaining loyal to the Ecumenical Councils, I would note that the local priest does not have the wherewithal to innovate with the Divine Liturgy. I have seen Roman Catholic priests omit the Nicene Creed and other components from the Mass; I have never seen anything like this in Orthodoxy. Furthermore, the teachings of all seven Ecumenical Councils are integrated into the Sunday Liturgy. The teachings of Orthodox Church are also remembered and celebrated in the feast days in the church calendar. Priests are expected to celebrate the Liturgy on these days and say the appointed prayers and hymns for the day, and laity are expected to be present at the major feast days. Soon after I became Orthodox I discovered that even if I didn’t do any further readings I would learn a lot of the teachings of the Orthodox Church just by listening to the feast day services. In light of this there is no room for an Orthodox priest to introduce innovations into the Liturgy. If he tried both the cradle Orthodox and the converts would question him about it. If he persists then the bishop will hear from the laity. To answer Robin’s question, there are enough safeguards to ensure that the priest will adhere to the teachings of the Church.
Question #5.3: Given Acts 20:25 (actually verse 28) and the fact that the heterodox Catholics in the West can claim apostolic succession can we maintain that the true church cannot err institutionally?
Irenaeus of Lyons taught that it is not enough to claim apostolic succession; the bishop must also have safeguarded the apostolic faith. This is one major test of doctrinal orthodoxy in the early church. By the fourth century there emerged another test of doctrinal orthodoxy, adherence to the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils. The five ancient patriarchates – Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem – all accepted the findings of the Councils. When the Pope unilaterally inserted the Filioque clause into the Nicene Creed he was acting contrary to the conciliar principle underlying the Ecumenical Councils and independently of the other patriarchates. Eventually, Eucharistic unity between Rome and the other patriarchates was broken. For the Orthodox to be denied the Eucharist is to be outside the true Church; this is because the Church is a Eucharistic community.
How does one understand the break between Rome and the other ancient patriarchates? In light of the fact that Orthodoxy rejects the branch theory of the church, it means that the Church of Rome, even with its venerable history, is now outside the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
For the Orthodox there can only be one Church, not two. Similarly, there is only one Bride of Christ, not two. Nor can the Orthodox affirm that the one Church, the body of Christ, is now torn into two halves. If we granted that with respect to the Church of Rome, what will we have to say about Protestantism with its plethora of denominations? If we did want to include Protestantism in the “one Church” we will need to abandon the notion of a visible Church and the Eucharist as the unifying center for some vague intangible invisible church.
Question #5.4: Is Robin’s interpretation of II Timothy 2:2 necessarily wrong because it is his private interpretation?
I would say that a private interpretation is not necssarily wrong. I view private reading of Scripture as but a first step in the broader hermeneutical process. The next step is to consider the weight of evidence. What is the preponderant understanding of the meaning of the passage? If the preponderance of the evidence is against you, then one needs to consider revising one’s opinion. If the preponderance of the evidence supports your opinion then your private interpretation is no longer strictly private but in harmony with a broader hermeneutical community. Even then, one’s reading of Scripture may be in agreement with the local church one attends or one’s denomination, but are they in agreement with the church of the Ecumenical Councils?
Robin and others may view the notion of “Seven Ecumenical Councils” with skepticism in light of the fact that there were numerous councils in the early church. If one took the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers’ volume on the Ecumenical Councils and seek to determine which councils deserve to be honored as “Ecumenical” using rational, objective criteria one will end up in frustration. That there are Seven Ecumenical Councils reflects the settled consensus of the Orthodox Church. This Church recognizes these Seven as Ecumenical and binding. There was a time when certain councils were questioned but in time the entire church, clergy and laity, recognized them as ecumenical. This settled consensus cannot be revisited today. It is now part of the social reality of the Orthodox Church. This is binding on all Orthodox Christians, clergy and laity. If one is not a member of the Orthodox Church, i.e., outside the Orthodox communion, the number of councils is a matter of one’s own choosing, but they can serve as useful resources. Truth for Orthodoxy is embodied truth; it is ecclesial and liturgical; it is not abstract and scholastic.
I try to understand a biblical passage in light of modern biblical scholarship but also in light of the early church fathers. Thus, my approach to the reading of the Scripture is both individual and ecclesial. Since I’ve become Orthodox my reading of Scripture has been further influenced by the Liturgy and church hymns. Private interpretation is flawed only if one resists listening to the broader community out there. I don’t think Robin intends that his reading is strictly private, autonomous, and isolationist; I believe that he has much broader and ecclesial approach to the reading of Scripture. If that is the case, I would like him to identify the hermeneutical community that he belongs to and why he prefers membership in that community.
As to not have the ever-ready Protestant detractors (former FV guys, medieval protestants, whatever they are; they certainly aren’t NAPARC TRs) accuse this of being a “back-slapping” convertsky post, I’ll acknowledge from the outset both the pros and cons of this website (and your post):
1. Some of the posts are way, way too long and the site is generally difficult to navigate.
2. There are still a lot of issues I remain unconvinced on: how do we know the tradition of Damascene is the same as the tradition of the post-apostolic church? While sola scriptura cannot account for its own foundations, I am not entirely sold on the tradition idea, either.
1. I do like how thorough you are in dealing with these issues.
(Sorry [Triadic] for the length, but with so few comments, I thought it might stir the pot a bit? :-)) Robin’s first question wants to argue that it’s NOT “essential to Protestantism that the church fell into error” (even the late Renaissance/Reformation era) “and that the Reformation played a key role in the recovery Gospel…the Reformation was the greatest act of the catholic church since the apostles”?
One wonders what Protestant group would embrace such an obvious historic salvaging enterprise. On the surface it is duplicitous. It assumes an essentially unfallen Church, ignores the great schism – then grants the Reformation as the Church’s greatest act since the Apostles! (What needed a grand Reformation?) Maybe this is Robin’s magnanimous spirit of catholicity run away – wanting to say “You’re OK, I’m OK” to the Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Protestants (at least most of them)”? Who knows what becomes of History – and the substance of all theological disputes. Perhaps there is some Ultra-Liberal christian group so hostile to history they are willing to set everything heretofore an issues aside, declare all our forefathers of whatever stripe, quibblers, and say lets all be friends now. But then others will insist (despite all the magnanimity in the UN) that some have been wrong and others right. If Robins’ real point is that we all overstate our differences while minimizing our areas of agreement, fine. But there are far better ways of saying this without repudiating most of Christian history. (Is history a recurring problem for Robin?)
Robin next wants Tim’s point answered about “historical truths are not necessary truths”? Perhaps this should be rephrased “are historic truths equally essential truths?” to which we’d all agree, “of course not”. That my son hit three home-runs in one game, Hendrix could play guitar, is not an equally essential truth as David was King in Israel, Moses saw a burning bush, Creation occurred in six days, Christ was incarnate in the womb of the virgin Mary, lived sinlessly, died on the cross for our sins, and rose from the grave, and promised the Apostles the Holy Spirit would lead them into ALL truth.” Indeed, some real historic truths aren’t “necessary” for anyone. But I seriously doubt Tim or Robin will argue that historic Truths of holy scripture are “unnecessary” much less “nonessential”. We won’t jettison the Historicity of the Faith just because it is difficult, yeah all but impossible to sparse out which historic claims of the Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Protestants are “really true”. Not all details are equally essential (was King David 5’5” or 6”2…) – though some details are clear! (History’s still a problem here.)
The Orthodox do make pretty big claims about the way Apostolicity functioned in the early Church, and how Christ’s promise of the Holy Spirit played out the first 300-700-1154 years of the Church’s life. Are these claims true/essential? Or, have Roman Catholic and/or Protestant historians proved them wrong — or the facts so chaotic & conflicting that “we just can’t know for sure”? But then, do Roman Catholic and Protestant historians come to the table of Church History without an ax to grind or an agenda for their own self-justification and survival? Robin’s headaches have a point – which group of historians should we place most confidence in? Whom do we trust more? Are protestants vindicated altogether when they discover Constantine wasn’t really only 5’9” and not 6’8”? Or is Roman Catholicism securely established when they show a Patriarch deferring to the Bishop of Rome? What IF the Orthodox are wrong about a number of incidentals of history, but overwhelming right about the big things – the Apostles and Fathers did essentially leave the Orthodox Holy Catholic Church of 98, 178, 345 and 850 the Divine Liturgies, Prayers, Sacraments, Apostolic Succession…as they claim Christ promised them in Jn. 14:26? Does it make us each our own Pope to pick amongst this Big Three? Perhaps. Or, it might be less a grasp for authority, than a matter of submission – to whom will I submit and entrust my soul and family — in history?
While the Orthodox claim “the Fullness of the Faith, and the guarantee of Salvation” to be theirs alone – they will grant “some measure of real Trinitarian Christian grace AND the possibility of Salvation” to exist outside of Orthodoxy. They are even excessively patient “proselytizers” often counseling would-be converts to stay put and not be unnecessarily disruptive. Are Protestants and Roman Catholics equally magnanimous? What say ye, men? (and ladies)
Robert, isn’t this missing a “not” — “Using these two criteria much of Protestantism today must be excluded on the grounds that they do hold formally hold to the Nicene Creed, nor do they hold to the Reformed understanding of the real presence in the Lord’s Supper.” between the “do & hold” (with an extra “hold”)? Not trying to nit-pic, only to understand rightly what you’re saying.
Also your point “I would also like to note that much of the Bible’s teachings are presented in the form of historical narrative.” is a common theme in CREC circles — usually made to differentiate between the lower-precision of biblical theology, and the rigors of systematic theology. While I like your “grounding of my apologetics in history” I wonder if this arising from your “empirical bent” is necessary? I suspect it a bit dangerous to rest the Historicity of the Church upon empiricism? Here I’m thinking that much of “Church-history” is of a super-natural revelatory nature, rather than ’empirical’ historic facts. Does this make sense? (We say the Incarnaton, Ress., Asscention, Pentecost all “historic-facts” thought not empirically proven…are are all miracles.)
Thanks for your close reading of my posting! I made the needed correction.
My empirical bent reflects how I like to do research. My personal bent is not a necessary requirement. Priority must be given to the way Scripture does theology. And the fact that much of the Bible’s teachings are presented in the form of historical narrative is instructive to all Christians. I think the CREC folks are on to something in their attempt to differentiate between biblical theology and systematic theology by focusing on biblical narratives.
Christianity rests upon the Good News of Jesus Christ. The term “Gospel” entails actual historical events of momentous consequence, not just a set of abstract propositions. My stress on the historicity of the Gospel stems from the attempts by Liberals to reduce the biblical miracles to mere fables that have meaning but did not necessarily take place in history. I think part of the possible confusion may lie in your associating empiricism with quantitative measurement. In that sense the biblical miracles and biblical events cannot be quantitatively verified. If that is the case, I share your concern. It’s dangerous to attempt to apply the methods of modern natural science to the domain of history and theology. Hope this helps.
It does, and I’m very happy with your appeal to history…for the same reasons. A popular book 25 yrs ago in our Reformed circles was Phillip Lee’s _Against The Protestant Gnostics_, and excellent book in most respects. It fits in this discussion as our Faith is all tied up in the physical, material, historic events that happen(d) on terra firma…in time and space. I wonder if most Protestant-Orthodox discussion & debate end up here with the Orthodox more comfortable & emersed in Historicity and the physical/material (in more than one sense)…while we Protestant are inclined to steer the discussion/debate toward the abstract/propositions…while discounting history…? I don’t believe for a minute that the best Protestants (historic or present) are Gnostics… I’m just not sure we Protestants are as comfortable (still a bit timid) with the complete integration of the physical/material creation with the Spiritual as we might should be?
Given that Lessing was a bitter and violent enemy of Christianity, I’m rather confused that Protestants are appealing to him.
I mean, the argument is kind of like saying, “Orthodoxy depends on the supernatural, but we know that is bunk because Hume refuted miracles.”
I am not echoing Lessing, and in any case, you seem in your response to have immediately confused Lessing with Leibniz. Given your admission that you had to go do a “quick read” of a dot.com article so that you could respond to my point, I begin to wonder what is the value of your (hasty, sloppy) charges of “postmodernism” – which, interestingly, you flip-flopped on Brad Littlejohn’s blog into the charge of “modernism.” You will have to forgive me for wondering if you actually have any idea what you’re talking about, or if you’re just slinging around convenient terms of abuse designed to keep everyone who disagrees with you in little conceptual boxes that are easy for you to get your own mind around, thus maintaining your personal illusions about not just what “Protestantism” is, but what it *must* be.
What I meant by saying historical events are not necessary was said in the context of the frequent refrain of both Catholics and Orthodox that just because ecclesiastical organization took form X from an early period, form X is always and everywhere not just the norm, but the Divinely Mandated norm. Thus, because Irenaeus said there are bishops, and sticking with the bishop is the way to avoid heresy, it is universally true that this is the way to avoid heresy.
This whole matrix of thought is questionable, even for one like myself who gives far more weight to tradition as a category of thought and life than many Protestants. For, echoing Brad Littlejohn’s quite proper complaint on his own blog that converts tend to present an “ossified” and “dehistoricized” picture of “Sacred Tradition” as the panacea for all the ills of modern Protestantism, it is quite obviously the case for anyone who actually *is* “deep in history” that the form of ecclesiastical ordination that prevailed early in Church history is a sacralized form of the Roman Imperial cultural system. It can be easily demonstrated, for instance, that the adminstrative divisions of the Church took the form of Diocletian’s division of the Empire into dioceses. Likewise, that Cyprian’s talk of the power of bishops relative to laymen relies heavily on the Roman concept of patrons and clients. Likewise that Orthodoxy’s authority claim rests entirely on Constantine’s baptizing of Constantinople as a fifth patriarchy.
This is all historically relative – meaning that God *could have* done things much differently than this, and so it is improper to say that because it *did* work out this way, it *must have* worked out this way – and anything else is transparently a departure from Divine Truth. To say that, as you converts are always saying, is to essentially baptize one form of human culture – the Roman one, either in its Western (Catholic) or Eastern (Orthodox) spin – and to claim that it is universally valid. But quite clearly, God has done many things over the centuries that are quite separate from Roman culture, and just as important to the history of redemption as Roman culture. But it’s Jupiter, not Jesus Christ, who said “I have given to the Romans an empire without end.”
At the end of the day, for those who really care about history and who deeply ponder it as the stage upon which God is performing His salvific works, it is not true to say that any form of theology – a divine science constructed by human reflection upon revelation – has gotten everything (or at least everything truly important) 100% right, and that it is the plumbline for the accuracy of all others. It is not true to imagine that Orthodoxy or Catholicism or even Reformed Theology has managed, like some giant disembodied Cartesian Brain, to pull itself completely out of history and culture and give “just the facts, ma’am.” Human knowledge of God and His works is analogical at best, not univocal. This isn’t “postmodernism,” unless we are going to extend “postmodernism” back to Socrates and Job, both of whom teach that all the wisdom humans can ever possess is as nothing compared to God, who alone is wise.
You converts would do well to ponder this, especially because you *are* converts, and have a built-in psychological necessity to pretend first that you totally understand what you left, and second that what you now embrace is not at all just another form of “seeing through a glass darkly,” but rather a one-to-one correspondence with the very mind of God.
Tim Enloe seems to have missed the key element of my postings which was the traditioning process underlying the episcopacy. The argument I’ve been trying to make is that historic Christianity was grounded in the original apostles handing over a body of teaching and practice to their designated successors, the bishops. This can be seen in the New Testament and in early writers like Irenaeus of Lyons. The traditioning process implies historical continuity which is why church history matters for the Orthodox. Mr. Enloe’s discussion how early ecclesiastical ordinations were patterned after ancient Roman administrative practices misses the point. As a church history major I an well aware of this. His discussion touches on the external form, not the internal mechanism. If anything, what Mr. Enloe needs to address is Orthodoxy’s claim that Christian theology is based upon a received tradition and that the Orthodox Church stands in historical continuity with the original apostles. It is this historical continuity that Protestantism clearly lacks. This leaves me wondering, Does he view the traditioning process as reflective of the way the early Christians did theology or that it was just an adaptation from Roman society? If he disavows the traditioning process as foundational to doing theology then he is in fundamental disagreement with the early church fathers.
Regarding the baptizing of one culture then universalizing it doesn’t make sense in light of Orthodoxy’s considerable diversity. Contemporary Orthodoxy includes the Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbians, Russians, Palestinians, the Japanese and the Aleuts. The examples of missionaries like Sts. Kiril and Methodios, St. Nicholas of Japan, Innocent of Alaska.
The statement that: “…Orthodoxy’s authority claim rests entirely on Constantine’s baptizing of Constantinople as a fifth patriarchy.” is full of historical errors. History shows that Constantine made the decision to make the tiny village of Byzantium the second imperial capital. There is no evidence of Constantine elevating the city into a patriarchate. It was recognized as such by the second Ecumenical Council in AD 381 in Canon III. Probably the most problematic aspect is Enloe’s claim that the Orthodox Church’s authority claim “rests entirely” on this decision by Emperor Constantine. In short, Enloe’s sentence is sloppy and bad history. It makes me wonder if he even understands Eastern Orthodoxy’s basis for its claim to authority. If Enloe disagrees with me here, I invite him to provide me the historical evidence in support of the quoted sentence.
The disparaging comments about converts are a form of personal attacks and should be avoided. I have in mind Mr. Enloe’s last sentence: You converts would do well to ponder this, especially because you *are* converts, and have a built-in psychological necessity to pretend first that you totally understand what you left, and second that what you now embrace is not at all just another form of “seeing through a glass darkly,” but rather a one-to-one correspondence with the very mind of God.
I have two responses. One, many of the recent converts to Orthodoxy come from the heart of the Protestant and Evangelical worlds. They have a good understanding of what it meant to be a mainstream Protestant or an Evangelical. I have in mind the late Jaroslav Pelikan who taught at Yale University and Peter Gillquist who was leading staff member for Campus Crusade for Christ. I don’t recall anyone claiming to have “totally understood” Protestantism. My impression is that they had a quite adequate understanding of what it was to be Protestant. Two, so far as I know none of the converts claim to have found the “very mind of God.” If anything we believe that we have found in Orthodoxy the faith of the apostles. We say this because the Orthodox Church stands in historical continuity through apostolic succession. It may be that Enloe disagrees with this statement on the grounds that it is historically unfounded or that it is all historically conditioned. If the first then I invite him to present evidence in support of his position, if the second then I would like him to present an argument for why the traditiioning process is not needed for doing theology and what alternative system provides a better way of doing theology.
For someone who is suppose to be too bizzy to respond to the actual arguments made in the blog post, you sure seem to have alot of time on your hands to write a long response filled with personal insults. Also to attack our Ecclesiology is to attack the Ancient Faith and the great Ecumenical Councils formed by that Ancient Faith. You can’t claim to hold to the Council of Nicea and Constantinople 1 while at the sametime reject their Ecclesiology. Basically, what you just told us is that you reject the Ancient Christian Faith. You also told us that the beef between Jew and Gentile(pagan) still exist. Tim Enloe, Jesus not only Reconciles the schism(separation/disfellowship) between mankind and God, but He also reconciles the schism(separation/dis-fellowship) between Jew(the definition of non-paganism) and Gentile(paganism is everything non-jewish / non-Mosaic).
Christianity is suppose to have one foot in Judaism and the other foot in various Gentile cultures. That’s the way it pivots. If you hate gentile culture that much then go back to the Mosaic law completely. At least then you will be consistent.
You’re a convert too.
Your argument is a straw man. The argument for apostolic succession is not that ministry and authority took such and so form in an early period and that this is universal and so it is divinely mandated.
Rather the argument is that the universality and antiquity implies and renders it highly plausible and probable that it is divinely mandated. On this score the Reformed make the same principled claim. So your complaint isn’t against the Orthodox or Catholics, but against the Reformers as well.
Ireneaus’ claim is that it is normatively the way to deal with heresy. We can add to this scriptural material as well.
As for the claim of ossification, this cuts both ways, for the same Protestant argument here is turned around to critique the authenticity of the Gospels. Why is it acceptable to employ with post NT tradition but not the NT itself then? Secondly, that a society fixes its memory doesn’t imply the falsity of the memory. Consequently the statements of dehistoricism and ossification are rhetorical pieces at best. They do not reach their argumentative target. Furthermore, the view of sacred tradition pre-dates modernity by oh, over a thousand years so I think checking the calendar would help before making this argument.
For anyone actually deep in history a sacerdotal priesthood existed long before the Roman imperial cultural system had a chance to do its work. Secondly, any sacralization done by it is with respect to the external casing, unless you wish to give an argument for the claim that we can discuss. Further, a sacerdotal priesthood is present in the OT and in plenty of pre-Roman cultures. A real spiritual gift is conveyed by the laying on of hands. That is all over the OT and the NT, not to mention churches that never had any significant Roman influence such as the churches in Persia or India in one direction or as far away as Scotland in the other.
As for as proving that the administrative divisions that is irrelevant. First because no one disputes this. Second, because it is inconsequential to the doctrine of apostolic succession. Third, no one uses this as proof of the truth of apostolic succession anyway. So it is a red herring at best.
Sure Cyprian may structure some of his thinking on the Roman relationship between patrons and clients, but that doesn’t prove that there is wholesale borrowing going on either. Influence admits of degrees, except for the mentally retarded or very small children. The same is true for the influence of Hellenism on Christianity. Was there influence? Sure. Was there wholesale borrowing? No. There is no consensus or anything near it that Cyprian borrows his view of the apostolic ministry wholesale or in its essential parts from Roman law. To paint it this way is historically irresponsible and borders on the intellectually vicious.
To claim that Orthodoxy’s authority rests entirely on Constantine’s act relative to Constantinople as a patriarchial seat is a naked assertion. You need to actually provide some clothing lest your statement seem like a whore of reason rather than a genuine lady.
Here are some reasons for thinking your claim is false. There were and are plenty of other apostolic sees in the East apart from Constantinople-Ephesus, Thessaloniki, Colosse, Alexandria, Antioch, and oh yeah, Jerusalem. This was recognized by the Reformers themselves in their appeal to the Eastern churches over against Rome. The East had plenty of apostolic authority, (two Petrine sees even!) long before Constantine re-founded the empire on himself as the new pater familias, replacing Romulus.
Granted that the way God did it is relative in the sense that God could have done otherwise (at least if you think God has libertarian free will). But from that it is specious and apparently paralogistical too, to think that this implies the complete lack of value in the way that God did do things. This would be so if you were perhaps an Ockhamist, but then you’d need to actually defend that philosophical ground, rather than play the let’s pretend game of not having a philosophical position to defend along with everyone else. So, so what, God could have done it otherwise? It has no bearing on the value of what has been done, that is, if you believe in secondary causes beyond an Occasionalist reading of them. What is more, such events are accidentally necessary-they are over and done with and can’t be changed now anyway. So noting that it could have been otherwise is moot.
No one is arguing for anything like analytic fixity (if there even are analytic truths) with respect to how God did things so your argument is wide of the mark. We are no more arguing for it than those who argue for the truth of the resurrection based on historical evidence and philosophical arguments. So here you seem to be shadow boxing.
As “you converts” of the reformation keep saying, simper reformada and this is in reality nothing more than humanistic commitment deferral. Nothing in this world can be fixed, except of course the human position to judge everything else as contingent. I find it particularly odd that Protestants do not permit for example votes on the canon of scripture every so many years so that every Christian can decide for himself, rather than rely on some kind of human tradition to bind his conscience.
At the end of the day, for those who really care about history and philosophy, it is entirely unhelpful and rather sophomoric to uphold humanistic pelagianism as the unspoken criterion of what is or is not possible in the realm of history. Orthodoxy doesn’t view theology as a “divine science” and so theology is not a human reconstruction process (ecclesial and theological pelagianism) as you seem to think it is. Simply asserting that it is, and that humans are essentially cut off (and so human nature too and is therefore autonomous-que pelagianism) from participating in things divine in an intrinsic way, will require an actual argument.
But if you think about such a view long enough, as Nietzsche clearly did, two things will come to mind rather quickly. First, the autonomy of the natural renders the appeal to the supernatural and so the supernatural virtues, irrelevant to explain human existence. Que modern atheism. Second, anyone who observes human nature or believes in total depravity will come to see it as the natural self enclosed human existence and then we are right back to Thrasymachus all over again-que the Will to power, the Joker or any number of representations. Your remarks here would if taken consistently undermine belief in any transcendent or leave one in an entirely fidestic position.
Your remarks about Cartesianism is not only a very bad reading of Descartes, it is a straw man. (The detachment Descartes has in mind relative to the world of the mind is a causal independence, not a lack of influence. Of course taking a grad seminar and working through Descartes’ actual works rather than paging through some secondary source would keep one from falling into that mistake.) Take Tarski’s conclusions regarding the philosophy of language, that any natural language in order to get jump started semantically entails a transcendent source. Transcendence though doesn’t entail a lack of imminence and this is what you are assuming.
As far as human knowledge of God goes, to say that it is analogical presupposes a certain view of God so that you are merely question begging here. And you should be aware, even if you’re not, that the Reformed have had a longstanding love-hate relationship with the notion of analogical knowledge of the divine. How analogical knowledge squares with the doctrine of total depravity and natural law theory I’ll leave to you to sort out. Second, there is more than one concept of analogy on the table so you’d actually have to pick one to inform your readers what you had in mind in your assertions rather than perform some hand waving here. In any case, no one is arguing for a non-theory laden appeal to facts. But a theory laden appeal to facts doesn’t imply non-access to the facts, it only implies that facts can have significance and normative content. And if that is true, then the claim seemingly made by you that the Orthodox not only don’t but can’t get to the way things are via the facts falls flat.
So you as a convert would do well to ponder this and that talk about a persons’ psychological make up is nothing more than an ad hominem, which is entirely ironic when your own psychological dispositions seem to be on open display.
As far as psychological necessities relative to pretending that we actually understood what we left, it seems odd to give the philosophical cat calls against necessity and history above as you have done and then sneak in a kind of psychological necessity through the back door here. You can’t have it both ways, so please pick which fallacious mode of argumentation you wish to advance at the very least.
And I we do not understand what we left, it seems all the more true that by psychological necessity you seem to have to pretend that you understand something you were never a part of. One good ad hominem deserves another I suppose.
And belief that one has revealed truth doesn’t entail a kind of Clarkian naked correspondence between the divine mind and the human so here you are shadow boxing. Seeing through a glass darkly, in context deals with existential realities, and so a different kind of knowing that is on the table, namely the propositional. Your remarks certainly confuse the two. And besides, seeing through a glass darkly is still seeing as opposed to being completely blind.
Can I tease out something that Tim (Sept 7, 20:51h) said (corrected spelling):
“that the form of ecclesiastical ordination that prevailed early in Church history is a sacralised form of the Roman Imperial cultural system. It can be easily demonstrated, for instance, that the administrative divisions of the Church took the form of Diocletian’s division of the Empire into dioceses. Likewise, that Cyprian’s talk of the power of bishops relative to laymen relies heavily on the Roman concept of patrons and clients. Likewise that Orthodoxy’s authority claim rests entirely on Constantine’s baptizing of Constantinople as a fifth patriarchy.
I will address these points one by one:
#1 that the form of ecclesiastical ordination that prevailed early in Church history is a sacralised form of the Roman Imperial cultural system.
A: This only applied in the Pauline strand. In its less than satisfactory dealings with Marcionism, it collected a soft version of Marcion’s Roman administrative ideology. This was strengthened by Cyprian “Nullus salus extra ecclesia”, and then on to the next point below.
$ In the Jewish-Jerusalem / British Celtic Arrangements, both steered well away from Romanita. The Priest/Bishop was merely one charism amongst a number, and was seated, so to speak, at a round table, where they were merely “inter pares”, NEVER primus inter pares!
#2 the administrative divisions of the Church took the form of Diocletian’s division of the Empire into dioceses.
A: Again, this was a “Pauline” eccentricity consequent upon Paul’s inability to repudiate all trace of the Classics mandated by the Canonical Prophet Daniel. It was precisely this administrative arrangement that Constantine found so attractive – this Pauline church was already “structurally enabled” for seamless and effortless integration into the essentially unchanged Pagan Roman administrative system so blisteringly condemned by the Prophet Daniel as being precisely the administrative structure of what the Church has always called the antichrist!
This became the “Constantinian Church”.
$ Again, in the Jerusalem/Jewish and British Celtic model, Bishops were NEVER central, the Anamchara/Prophet was central, and the Bishop was only able to legitimately exercise episcopacy as they were in submission (!) to the Anamchara / Prophet. This Anamchara/Prophet eventually evolved into the Celtic form of Abbott. In the British Isles, this was based on the Brehon law principle of “check and balance” which itself was influenced by Jewish Law ever since King Eochaid of Tara and his marriage to Tamar Tephi.
#3 Likewise, that Cyprian’s talk of the power of bishops relative to laymen relies heavily on the Roman concept of patrons and clients.
A: Again, in the “Constantinian” Church the position of Bishop was parallel to the office of Prefect – a top-down ecclesiology – where the Emperor was the Patron and his subjects were his “clients”. This was autokrator in both structure and nature, without any “check and balance”. Thus the Imperial hatred of the Biblical Prophet and his/her independence from this system, and for their Biblically-sanctioned capacity to eliminate the legitimacy of both Emperor and Patriarch. (See Samuel’s annointing of David while Saul was still king, and his prophesied destruction of the “Eli-succession”).
$ Again, in the Jerusalem/Jewish and British Churches, the Roman concept and relationship of “patron and client” did not exist. And in any case even in the Brehon Law civil society, there was mutual responsibilities – the king had carefully defined responsibilities to his clan. And he could be removed from office if he did not fulfill these and someone “fasted against him”. Similar arrangements existed against Bishops, No such parallel existed in Roman Law.
Roman arrangements came to the British Isles with Augustine of Aosta (later of Canterbury), and were finally enforced upon the British mainland by William the Norman (the Conqueror) in 1066, and 1171 in Ireland with Strongbow. It was the repudiation of Romanita that gave such strength to the Protestant Reformation in the British Isles etc.
#4 Likewise that Orthodoxy’s authority claim rests entirely on Constantine’s baptizing of Constantinople as a fifth patriarchy.
A: Please! Let’s not limit this to Orthodoxy! It applies just as validly to Rome and its Magesterium. The rise of Constantinople as the “second Rome” was precisely on account of Constantine elevating the Bishop of Rome to “primus inter pares” being solely on account of the Bishop of Rome being resident in the Primary (since 284) Imperial Capital. And of subsequent Ecumenical Conciliar acclamation of Constantinople being the centre of the “New Rome” since 330.
$ Besides, the Jewish/Jerusalem & British Celtic Churches never recognised the Biblical legitimacy of the Roman Empire nor any of its arrangements, and thus the Imperial idea of a “Pentarchy” was alien to these Churches. In any case, why rest your claim on mere “Apostolicity” when you could claim the Church’s “Blood-Royal” as your true founders?!?
The “visiting inspector” to the Jerusalem Church was Joseph of Arimathea, whose authority undergirded that of James (head of the messianic Jerusalem Bet Din – called anachronistically the “Jerusalem Council).
The British Church was founded by Joseph of Arimathea (nephew to Joachim) in 36CE.
And this Joseph was in a real sense the “King of the Jews” according to the Luke Genealogy (as properly understood).
Why waste time over a later Roman Imperium when we have an older Network in existence that is closer to Jesus and His extended family?
The administrative arrangements of the “seven” ecumenical councils NEVER applied to neither to the Jewish/Jerusalem Church, nor to the Brehon Law – governed British Celtic Church.
Only in Trinitarian dogma, and dogma supporting the Nicene Creed were the Jewish/Jerusalem and the British Celtic churches fully “on board” with the Roman Imperial church of the “seven” Ecumenical Councils. All else, other than admin. was either theologumena or theological opinion – and often disputed at that.
I trust that this assists.
***have a built-in psychological necessity to pretend first that you totally understand what you left,***
That’s a pretty arrogant statement, and in any case demonstrates why psychology is a joke. I left the Reformed faith because of the Filioque and the two energies of Christ.
In regards to converts, you need to keep in mind that just as you are SUPPOSE TO BE too bizzy to read the blog posts here and respond accordingly, well, those who convert have lives too! You shouldn’t have the expectations that you have for they are bizzy people too!
Also, not everyone who converts do so for the same reasons. Most of us convert probably for different reasons. For me, the Mysteries(the Sacraments) were extremely important. I read the early church fathers off and on for 10 years before I converted to Orthodoxy. And if you don’t know, not too many protestant groups hold a high view of the Sacraments. I was raised Baptist, but had to become Anglo-Catholic(yes, I said Anglo-Catholic) because I needed a place as a protestant to commune. My conscience wouldn’t allow it in any other protestant place. Also, through the early Church Fathers I believed in many other things as well, like Baptismal Regeneration. Now how many protestant groups believe that? Eventually, the more one believes like the Ancient Church, the smaller the possible churches that one can go to becomes. And if you believed in the Eastern Christian and at one time early western interpretation of the doctrine of the Trinity, like I did, and if you had an appreciation for the LXX family of texts, like I did then it’s only natural that I would want to go East.
But you think we are all ignorant and stupid and silly for converting. I left the Baptist because I was no longer Zwinglian in my understanding of the Sacraments and I no longer believed in Once Saved Always Saved and I believed in Baptismal Regeneration and a three tier system of Church Government (as well as other beliefs). And no, I wasn’t going to read every book under the sun about why Baptists believe the way they do about the ordinances, church government, OSAS, Credo-Baptism and it being symbolic……etc. That’s silly and not realistic.
Jnorm, well, I’m 20 days late responding to this, thanks to being “bizzy.”
I grant that others are “bizzy” too. That’s not a problem until they begin to speak about things that their “bizziness” has not allowed them sufficient time to study – like, say, serious Reformation theology. I find that a lot of what is brought forth on this blog is just the pious ramblings of laymen who have converted, but who for whatever reason have no serious interest in studying alternative views of the Reformation other than the one they already hold, and against which they reacted when they converted to Orthodoxy. That’s what I have a problem with, not the conversion itself.
Also, I don’t think any of you are ignorant and silly and stupid for converting. I have tended to come across confrontationally on this blog because, well, doggone it, most of you are confrontationally-oriented. If you want to know what I think of converts in general whenever they are not rudely in my face insisting that their various personal problems while they were Protestants, which were followed by glorious personally transforming experiences, are all normative for all Protestants, you may read my outline here:
perhaps we should qualify which kind of ‘private interpretation’ we are talking about. It exists on two levels. The kind of personal devotion which is a kind of private interpretation, is actually encouraged by the church. The kind of private interpretation which is off the rails is when people seperate themselves from the church.