TULIP in the New York Times?!? Not the blooming kind but the total depravity and unconditional election kind! In an interesting turn of events Reformed Christianity (aka Calvinism) has gotten the attention of a major newspaper. On 3 January 2014, the New York Times (NYT) published “Evangelicals Find Themselves in the Midst of a Calvinist Revival” by Mark Oppenheimer.
Although some folks may find it hard to believe, the NYT article opened with a discussion of TULIP, total depravity, and unconditional election. Once obscure theological concepts are now in the national media spotlight. What caught the NYT’s attention is the growing influence of Reformed theology among Evangelicals. Below is “Nicodemus” response:
What is one to make of articles like this? Perhaps, it depends on ones spiritual context? Broad Evangelicals might panic fearing the loss of their free will, while devout Muslims nod approval. But as the article itself acknowledges, a few years ago the Emergent Church was all the rage at the fringe of Evangelicalism. And pastor Joel Osteen still has a huge following as do others of his theological inclinations. Should we not expect a more rigorous side of Protestantism to appear from time to time? If the majority of Evangelical Churches are mostly trapped in various form of the “feel-good, easily believism God who wants to help you feel better about yourself,” should we not expect a more rigorous no nonsence appeal to arise from time to time – especially for men weary of effiminante touchy-feely gospels of success?
Calvinism certainly fills the bill here. I often compared my move from the sincere but shallow end of Evangelicalism to Calvinism – as God pouring me out of an Olympic Size swimming pool into Lake Superior. It was far deeper and vast . . . bigger than just me and my individual concerns. And I swam there very happily for over 33 years, reveling in the theological rigor, logical consistancy and taste of reverent worship. In Calvinism there is also the counter cultural appeal of swimming against the modernist tide of weak and fading secularism without good answers. As with Evangelicalism, one must admit there not only an appeal, however culturally temporary, but also true grace for the lost.
Like Evangelicalism, Calvinism is not the historic Christian Tradition the Apostles repeatedly exhorted their Church-Disciples to “hold fast” and keep. If a Calvinist Reformed Faith became Lake Superior to me – Orthodoxy has become the Pacific Ocean. Despite the vastness of this deep ocean, I now swim with the heavenly host of Apostles and their myriad of disciples, marytrs, monks and theologians. Here is the Historic Church that has proven a stable ship and hospital, taking and healing the faithful for over 20 centuries.
Rather than a host of fads that come and go, Orthodoxy offeres the same rich Liturgical and Sacramental theology offered centuries ago. No need or call for you to invent or re-invent your Liturgy, Calendar, Vestments, Fasts, Holy Days and Saints, as if the Church had never given it much thought before you or your denominational gurus came along. No, the Orthodox Church offers you the stability of Historic Christendom in a multi-layered tapestry received from the Holy Spirit by the Apostels, guarded and handed down by the Church. It has withstood all fads. So we bid our fellow brothers wondering about in various wildernesses – forget swimming pool fads and even Lake Superior. Wade into the Orthodox Ocean!
Come to the water’s edge. Take your time and test the waters carefully, there is no rush. Learn of the Saints who swam before you and from them learn about the deep waters of Christian spirituality. Then at the right time, enter into the Church Christ Himself promised the Holy Spirit would lead into all Truth.
See also my Plucking the TULIP series: 1, 2, 3, 4, and the all in one PDF version.
This is where the word “Calvinist” has no objective meaning. It is interesting from a sociological perspective, though. 25 years ago everyone thought the PCA was going to the “Calvinist” option for thinking baptists. However, a number of articulate, deep Baptist thinkers who loosely adopted “Calvinist” loci were able to offer Calvinist Baptists something besides a Presbyterian alternative.
Implication: the PCA (and OPC) will grow at slower rates because Baptists will have fewer reasons to abandon some of their key identities.
I think we can see a larger phenomenon at work: “Boomer” religion is failing–and God speed it on its way! People are searching for…quite frankly anything besides it (Calvinism, Orthodoxy, even Odinism among Dugin’s discontented disciples). As the analysis on the article rightly notes we should be weary of placing too much weight on the coming rise of Calvinism in America. While failing, Boomer religion is still in charge.
Amen & well done “Nicodemus”, well done!
Says Russian Orthodox scholar Nicholas Afanassieff:
Dear Pastor Bigelow,
Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! Interesting article by Nicholas Afanasieff! I would note that one element of continuity in Orthodoxy is the episcopacy. The absence of bishops who can trace their succession back to the Apostles is an indication of Protestant Christianity’s being cut off from the historic Church. As Ignatius of Antioch noted in his “Letter to the Smyrneans” an eucharistic celebration could only be valid if it was celebrated by the bishop or his appointed delegate. The Eucharist and the bishop as the successor to the Apostles are manifestations of the Church’s unity.
Thank you for the welcome.
Please consider that when Ignatius writes:
… the emphasis of Ignatius is only secondarily on the bishop; he is first concerned about Christ’s presence among the catholic church, that is, the church of all the redeemed there in Smyrna. He doesn’t say, “wherever the bishop is, there is Jesus Christ….”
This matches with the biblical theology of the Eucharist. Notice the emphasis on the first person plurals in the following quote from Scripture:
…there isn’t any mention of a bishop mentioned, but rather constantly, the body: “we… we… we…we.”
This is even more pronounced in 1 Cor. 11:17-34 where no bishop is mentioned, but only the church. Six times in a few verses the emphasis in a Eucharistic context is on “coming together” and not once on who leads.
In other words, there is no need for a charism in a man to make the Eucharist. Instead, it takes the church coming together.
So here’s my point.
One of your own, Afanasieff, kicks out the most important pillar of Orthodoxy: a hierarchical episcopacy, for the first 300 years of Christianity. Yikes. Without hierarchy, is there even a charism to be passed along?
And further, Paul completely ignores both hierarchy and bishop in the most extended record we have on proper treatment of the Eucharist in the apostolic age.
We are forced to make a choice, though, between Paul and Ignatius. Ignatius goes on to say,
That teaching has nothing in the apostle Paul who only wanted the Eucharist occurring when the church came together. So you have to make a choice as to who to prefer.
For me, I take Paul, because he visibly saw Jesus Christ, risen from the dead.
But either way, when the article states:
… it is wrong.
“We are forced to make a choice, though, between Paul and Ignatius”.
Why do you assume that St. Ignatius’ ecclesiology and teaching, a first century Christian leader who may have met Jesus and was a disciple of John, is not consonant with that of St. Paul? If this were true, than surely some of the 70 Apostles would have noticed this and would have tried to correct him. Yet, on the contrary, one generation after Jesus, St. Ignatius’ letters were widely circulated throughout Christendom.
So we are forced to make a choice: your innovative interpretation of St, Paul, of that of the Church everywhere, always, by everyone. For me, I’ll go with the Church, the body of Christ and pillar of truth
Seems likes you’ve made your choice. But it deosn’t accord with Scripture.
70 apostles? hmmm. Them meeting Ignatius? double hmmmmm. “Ignatius may have met Jesus?” Ouch – please read John 12:20-23.
You say to me, “Why do you assume that St. Ignatius’ ecclesiology and teaching… is not consonant with that of St. Paul?” – Yet my prior post was explicit.
Perhaps this will help.
Have you read carefully the article you adduce, which you evidently think vitiates the notion that the Orthodox Church is the historic church handed down from the Apostles?
You evidently think that Afanassieff is inveighing against a hierarchical ecclesiology. Yet he says:
“Theologians were formerly interested in discussing whether the primitive local church had a single person at its head (it hardly matters what name he was called by), or whether one-man management was a feature of the second stage in the history of the church organization. I cannot deal here with the historical side of the problem, and in any case it is difficult to solve, as direct information is lacking. But I would like to point out that, from an ecclesiological point of view, there can be no doubt that the local churches did have a single person as leader from the very beginning. ”
If you disagree with universal ecclesiology, fair enough. That is the author’s point. Most Orthodox would agree. However, Eucharistic ecclesiology still assumes a hierarchy, as Afanassieff points out.
So you are fighting a straw man.
Certainly every local Orthodox Church still contains everything necessary to its life. It is not technically reliant on what a Patriarch says or does. Each Church can constitute the WHOLE Church in and of itself.
As Afanassieff states, the Churches did not need another bishop outside themselves. They each had their own and where the bishop is, there is the Church. The Bishop stands as the representative of the Apostolic inheritance. The Church is not formed due to the authority of the Bishop. It seems to me that you look at it as a matter of authority. As a Protestant moving towards Orthodoxy, I see that the Protestant and the Catholic tend to lean so heavily on top down structures, be they general assemblies or bishops. Yet the Orthodox do no function in such a way. Authority runs top down and bottom up simultaneously with the Mind Of The Church being the holder of Holy Tradition, not a bishop. It is THIS structure that forged the Bible you cherish (minus the deuterocanonical books that were expurgated without any council by the reformers – the Protestant Bible is out of line with Church history).
I think you are distorting Afanassief’s work here to fit your own purpose, in part due to misunderstanding of how the Orthodox Church actually functions. I think you are superimposing the Roman hierarchical where it does not exist.
We certainly see the Bishopric well established even at the end of the 1st Century. We also know from the New Testament itself that the Apostles did not pass all knowledge through their letters and Gospels. They passed things on through direct teaching as well, the teaching the Orthodox have preserved. The Church of the first three centuries had no universal Bible to refer to, only the Septuagint, scattered documents, and the regula fidei. The regula fidei is used by Justin Martyr and Irenaeus to argue for the Faith.
And the early Fathers do clearly say that the local church is The Church when the bishop is present because THAT represents it is in line with the regula fidei handed down from the Apostles, but it ultimately requires more than just the bishop to constitute it. All Four Orders are necessary and important, but they together can constitute the Church Universal with the local Church fully. As far as I can tell, this is still the teaching of the Orthodox. No Patriarch is required. The local Bishop is important because of his ties to the Apostles themselves. Without this tie and adherence to the regula fidei, the Faith becomes disunified and fragments – much like what has happened with Protestantism and even Catholicism. Both of those branches severed themselves from the Apostolic tree. There is some truth in each, but the fullness of the Faith resides in neither.
I fully recognize Afanassief is not a Baptist, and am properly representing his words. He is truthful in what he writes, for he recognized Cyprian’s determination not to allow a hierarchical episcopacy. Such hierarchy was only made possible by Constantine in the 4th Century and not before. Yet you want to claim it is apostolic.
Too bad Afanassief didn’t carry the earliest ecclesiology, that of the NT, to its logical extent.
Yet the apostle Paul does not, as my first post above shows. Sorry, your regula fidei disagrees with Paul.
You posit above that the ecclesiology of the Early Church Fathers is contrary to the teachings of St. Paul. In your view, it’s St Paul versus the Fathers, a dichotomy I think is false. This proposition raises myriad problems, I should think, which perhaps you can kindly help to resolve.
1. Why should I trust your interpretation of St. Paul rather than that of the Fathers? The Early Fathers understood NT Greek and some of them knew the Apostles personally. St. Clement of Rome, who was a disciple of St. Paul and knew St. Peter, appears to believe in the offices of Bishops and deacons, the importance of charism for celebrating the Eucharist as well as apostolic succession, thus disagreeing with your ecclesiology.
On the importance of bishops:
“The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done sol from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God… And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus says the Scripture a certain place, “I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith”.”(I Clement 42).
On the special role of the priesthood in celebrating the Eucharist:
“Where and by whom He desires these things to be done, He Himself has fixed by His own supreme will, in order that all things being piously done according to His good pleasure, may be acceptable to Him. Those, therefore, who present their offerings at the appointed times, are accepted and blessed; for inasmuch as they follow the laws of the Lord, they sin not. For his own peculiar services are assigned to the high priest, and their own proper place is prescribed to the priests, and their own special ministrations devolve on the Levites. The layman is bound by the laws that pertain to laymen.” (I Clement 40).
On Apostolic Succession:
Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers–ie bishops and deacons as per I Clement 42] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole Church, and who have blame-lessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties (I Clement 44).
St. Polycarp, a disciple of St. John, provides an introduction to the letters of St. Ignatius and therefore shares his ecclesiology (which you reject).
Why should I trust your interpretation of St. Paul rather than those who knew the Apostles? Why are you so convinced that your interpretation of St. Paul is correct, when those who were near him seem to interpreted him differently. Was St. Paul a bad “discipler” of men, unable to transmit his ecclesiological teachings? Why is his teaching so difficult to understand, yet you understand it, whilst the early martyrs didn’t?
2. What evidence do you have for the implied great apostasy in Early Church, beyond your idiosyncratic interpretation of St. Paul? That is, you say St. Paul said “A” regarding ecclesiology but the Fathers, who lived at the same time as St. Paul or just a few generations later, said “B” and thus the Fathers were wrong. Surely if this were the case, there would have been some Fathers during this period who embraced “A”, that is, the correct interpretation of St Paul. These guys were willing to go to the lions for the sake of the authentic Gospel, so surely someone must have reacted if many prominent Fathers in the first few centuries of the Church apostatised. Yet there is nothing of this in Eusebius’ 3rd C. History of the Church or any other source I know. So, please provide external evidence from Church history or the Fathers of this apostasy.
3. Why would you want to follow a religion that so quickly fell into error? Your views seem to make Christianity self defeating. You believe Christianity is true and rely on the Bible alone as Gods only revelation. Yet the Bible says that the Church is Christ’s body (Eph 4:15-16), that the Christian faith was delivered once for all to the saints (Jude 3) and that the gates of Hades would not prevail against the church (Matt. 16:18). Christ said “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20) and that we would have “the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:16) to help us understand.
However, if after one generation, you say the Fathers such as St. Ignatius completely misunderstood the teachings of St. Paul on ecclesiology, then it seems the Spirit did not lead them to truth. The gates of Hades thus prevailed against Christ’s body, since, in your view, it quickly fell into heresy regarding ecclesiology. And thus, your views inadvertently weaken the case for the Bible being true, since it’s claims seem false.
Thanks a priori for your responses to my excessively prolix questions.
Eric, b/c your post is long, I’ll answer the first two of your points. Depending on how you respond back will depend on if we continue this discussion.
Don’t. But you do have to read Paul’s words on the Eucharist for yourself, for your judgment before God will not be based on the righteousness of the fathers, but on your own. In pointing out how they differ above, am I the enemy to your faith? Then I’m glad, for perhaps you will receive Paul’s words as authoritative, and worthy to be submitted to at the exclusion of other rivals for your heart.
Better to read Clement for yourself. He writes to one church, Corinth, which had a plurality of overseers and deacons, not a single bishop. Further, he testifies this is what the apostles set up in every church in chapter 42. Like Paul, Clement differs with your faith, for you believe in a hierarchical single bishop system.
Except that Paul clearly indicates that not all of his teachings are communicated in his epistles. Remember, the Bible only has authority because of the Church. Christ left a Church, not a Bible. Paul, John, Peter, etc taught directly and travelled great distances for a reason – for physical apostolic succession and to preserve the regula fidei. How would early Christians know all that Paul taught since not all localities had his writings? How would they know.the canon when it had yet to be established.
St. Paul’s letters are in the canon because they are in line with the regula fidei. It is The Church, specifically the Orthodox, that preserved the teachings given once for all. No church existed without a bishop until fairly recently – past 500 years.
While you question the regula fidei, I still question why Tobit, etc are not in your canon. Under what authority were they excluded? It’s not like God dropped the Bible out of the heavens. It is good that you revere Paul, but his epistles only scratch the surface and you argue from absence. Yet we know as a fact that Bishops were established in the first century. We know Ignatius was put on the seat of Antioch by Peter. We know Mark was placed in Alexandria by Peter. The Apostles clearly left successors. Teaching personally is a lot better than just leaving text that is subject to superimposed biases. They left us protectors of the regula fidei,who left us others.
Paul only has authority because The Church can acknowledge what God has granted and see it. It is the Orthodox that recognized Paul’s authority because of the Spirit and the regula fidei.
“But you do have to read Paul’s words on the Eucharist for yourself, for your judgment before God will not be based on the righteousness of the fathers, but on your own. ”
So again, there is a question of authority: your private interpretation of St Paul versus that which was believed universally in the Early Church. At some point, since none of us has unlimited time, we have to rely on the authority of others. We who believe in the existing canon of Scripture as God’s Word rely on the authority of those before us who have been led by the Holy Spirit to choose our canon from amongst hundreds of Early Christian documents? You cite Hebrews, yet how do you know it is God’s Word? Who wrote it?
As for the dread judgement, I would prefer to say that I believed the Christianity that was taught “everywhere, always, by everyone” than to say that I relied on “Ted”, or worse, my own private interpretation divorced from the Church.
I am glad you like St. Clement, who argues for Bishops, deacons, the need for priests to serve the Eucharist and apparently in apostolic succession. Again, since his ecclesiology differs from your views expressed here, does this suggest St. Paul was a bad teacher? If St. Paul is so difficult to surmise, how are you sure you get him right? Was Polycarp’s discipler St. John also a bad teacher, since St. Polycarp and St. Ignatius clearly got it wrong on ecclesiology according to you?
I look forward to hearing your evidence for the great apostasy in the Early Church and for how you justify that apostasy Biblically.
Eric, the last words in final sentence in my previous comment is a link. Place your mouse over it and click.
still not working: go to http://www.churchsonefoundation.com/precept-and-example/
Your system, even if it were absolutely airtight, can’t work without someone detailing the contents of the Scriptures (i.e. the Church). Without this authority (your Bible’s table of contents is not inspired), how do you know another precept/example doesn’t exist? How do you know that a precept/example you are using qualifies as inspired Scripture? Your system stand upon a system that, at best, is circular, that is, using the Bible alone to prove that one must use the Bible alone.
Again, even if your system is airtight, it can’t work without a canon and your system can’t give you canon.
*the above sentence “Your system stand upon a system …” should say “Your system is, at best, circular.” Sorry for any confusion.
Traditionally Protestantism, and even large parts of medievalism, didn’t view a canon as necessary (or rather, did not view 100% epistemic certainty as necessary). If Christ only had ectypal knowledge according to his human nature, which Chalcedon demands, then it is doubtful even he could have 100% epistemic certainty on the canon. Which means I shouldn’t strive for it, either.
I own this statement entirely. Thanks, for the true knowledge of God rests not upon the power of men, but upon the self-disclosure of God (Hebrews 6:13-14).
Your system too is circular, resting upon the traditions of men. Do you not see it?
No, it rests on the fullness of the faith delivered once for all to the Apostles and handed down faithfully, preserved by the Holy Spirit. It produced the New Testament. For over 300 years there was no canon and it was men leading. If they are not dependable, how can you be sure your NT canon is?
And how do you know the faith was preserved by the Holy Spirit? Because the Church says so.
And how do you know the Church is right? Because they handed down the faith.
There is no one so blind who doesn’t see his own circularity.
Ted, I believe it because Paul says the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth. I believe it because Christ promised the Spirit to lead the Church into all truth. I believe it because the Church is easily identifiable pre-schism and even the modern Oriental Orthodox and Church of the East have great unity with the Eastern Orthodox on most everything except semantics. It is not so in the west.
Which Protestant branch has been led into all truth? The Calvinists? The Dispensationalists? The Amillenialist?
I found shocking things when I went back to the beginning and followed the Church forward instead of trying to follow it back or assume that the Bible is the only place to discover anything involving the rule of faith. The record of history points to the Orthodox having the ties and the ancient faith. It points to the Catholics being Orthodox before making a power grab. While there were disagreements along the way, history reveals what The Church is – the one that existed before the Bible had ever been compiled. The one that forged the Bible and protected it as a central part of Holy Tradition, not the tradition of men.
Any faith is circuitous. I grew up Presbyterian and WAS a Calvinist. I also am an historian and the Protestant claims made no sense, so I dug
. I do believe the Apostles left a Church and it continues. I believe there is some truth in splinter sects, but the fullness exists only in Orthodoxy. And I believe it is God who saves, but the Orthodox understanding is true and far richer than the poor understanding of salvation in the West.
I’m a former “Calvinist” from the PCA – now Orthodox and wish to respond to this statement by Ted.
Protestantism’s claim to prove the Bible alone via the Bible alone is indeed circular – as you acknowledge – but it therefore must be invalid as a respectable argument. There is no reason whatsoever to accept any interpretation from the thousands of protestant sects since all interpretive authority is the fruit of the poisonous tree of circular reasoning.
Orthodoxy’s claim to Apostolic authority is not circular: it’s a recursive argument. This is the argument in my own words.
1) We are the Church because the generation before us ordained, commissioned, and identified us as the Church – and they being the Church had the authority to declare as such.
2) This previous generation was the Church because the generation before them ordained, commissioned, and identified them as the Church – and they being the Church had the authority to declare as such.
3) Follow this succession back in time approximately 2000 years.
4) The sub-Apostolic Church was the Church because the Apostles of Christ ordained, commissioned, and identified them as the Church.
5) The Apostles were the Church because Christ himself (who is Theanthropos (God-man)) ordained, commissioned, and initiated them all into the Church.
Indeed the claim to authority via Apostolic Succession is a valid argument (not circular argument). We argue back through history in a linear way. Protestant claims to “proving” the Bible alone via the Bible alone is clearly invalid and fallacious reasoning. Whether one accepts Apostolic Succession historically is a different matter – at least it’s a valid philosophically sound and logical way of thinking and arguing. The same can’t be claimed for Protestantism’s complete novelties 1500 years removed – in time, language, and geography – from the Apostles.
I feel I need only reply to this brief quote from you to see that our differences are too wide to bridge without a total paradigm shift:
But, the promise from Jesus is most clearly not to “the Church” but to the apostles.
Notice to whom Jesus makes the promise: “”I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. (John 16:12)” This can only be the men who are with Christ, and who due to their inability to understand not only the resurrection, but its implications as well, cannot handle further truth that depends on that crucifixion/resurrection. Such truth includes the church.
Without hesitation Jesus next says, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth.”
This is not a promise to the future church, but to the very men who are with Him at that moment.
But don’t miss the forest for the trees, here. Why will these men, and these alone, be guided into all the truth? Because they will be witnesses of the crucifixion/resurrection. This is not something “the Church” can claim, and why I encourage you to abandon your position immediately.
The point is, when you claim the Church is going to be led into all the truth over time, you dismiss not only the crucial nature of being a witness of the crucifixion/resurrection and its implications for receiving “all the truth,” but you also assume the giving of all the truth is going to be a centuries long process.
You have no right to make this assumption, which is nothing but a twisting of Christ’s quite clear words in order to assert the doctrines of men who did not see Christ risen from the dead, and make them equal to the apostles.
That paradigm shift is faith in the words of Christ and the apostles, not the teachings of men.
I’m late to the party, as usual, but I went to biblegateway to look up the Hebrews verse you mention, 6:13-14, and I accidently entered Hebrews 13 instead and read this:
7 Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation.
17 Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.
This would seem to suggest both Church hierarchy and authority with accountability.
***So again, there is a question of authority: your private interpretation of St Paul versus that which was believed universally in the Early Church. ***
As I have linked on my site, the commenter “John” on this site showed how false that claim was. There were numerous competing views in the early church (Sylvester vs. the Deponysii, for one).
*** I would prefer to say that I believed the Christianity that was taught “everywhere, always, by everyone” than to say that I relied on “Ted”, or worse, my own private interpretation divorced from the Church.****
How do I know I am interpreting the Fathers correctly, especially when the disagree? How do I know which council to affirm? One particular crisis for me was the case of Sergii Bulgakov. St John Maximovitch’s council condemned him, but I found his arguments to be logically wanting. Even worse, another council exonerated Bulgakov. So which one is right?
I suspect this territory has been covered before, but my understanding is the “universality” and “consensus” that St. Vincent of Lerins taught and that binds Orthodox as one Church is that which is eventually exonerated by recognized Councils of Bishops as “orthodox.” It is not necessarily what all Bishops or Fathers of the Church are arguing for extemporaneously in a given moment of time. (No one here, I suspect, would argue that discernment of the Spirit’s leading in the Church is a process in which members never make errors.) That is why St. Vincent of Lerin’s principle includes that which is believed (in context by orthodox believers) not only across all parts of the Church (eventually), but also across all ages. What are we to make of the contrast between the relative stability of Orthodox dogma and liturgy over time (and their similarity with those of the earliest Christians–especially with regard to their understanding of hierarchy, of the Eucharist, manner of prayer, and of the Creed which constitutes its rule of faith) with the relative lack of this in other traditions within Christendom that still want to own the tenets of the Nicene-Constantinoplian Creed and (a significant portion at least) of the canon of Scripture those same Nicene Fathers/Bishops bequeathed to us? What do we make of the contrast of contemporary Orthodox practices (especially among its most faithful adherents) with the widely-diverging beliefs and practices among Protestants, like Pastor Ted in this thread–especially if we are assuming the “sola/solo Scriptura” approach that Pastor Ted is advocating (though he recognizes his circular reasoning) is correct?
*** is that which is eventually exonerated by recognized Councils of Bishops as “orthodox.”***
By this criteria one can never possibly know what is true or not until many years later.
***That is why St. Vincent of Lerin’s principle includes that which is believed (in context by orthodox believers) not only across all parts of the Church (eventually), but also across all ages.***
And this only works with generalities, for we can show a number of specifics that belie this claim.
***What are we to make of the contrast between the relative stability of Orthodox dogma and liturgy over time (and their similarity with those of the earliest Christians–especially with regard to their understanding of hierarchy, of the Eucharist, manner of prayer, and of the Creed which constitutes its rule of faith)***
Patriarch NIKON, New Calendarism, Sergianism, The muslim-controlled Phanar, the liberal elements within the EP…we can go on.
You quoted someone above and commented:
*** is that which is eventually exonerated by recognized Councils of Bishops as “orthodox.”***
“By this criteria one can never possibly know what is true or not until many years later.”
I have heard some Orthodox say (whether it is right or not is another point, but I think it interesting) that in the midst of controversies, especially concerning those surrounding the ecumenical councils, that the faithful at that time are to be shown mercy, by us and probably by God as well, because of the confusion at the time. It is easy to look back with 20/20 vision and so “Oh, the answer is obviously X”. Well, obvious to us who stand a few centuries or more out from the conflict.
Given how the process of discernment works through the history of the Church, yes, it is probably true that the truth of the matter isn’t known for some time until after the controversy is settled, at least with certainty by all. But what’s the problem with that? Granted, it sounds a bit dirty and down to earth and not nice, clean and crisp, but that generally does seem to describe the way in which throughout history the Church has dealt with various problems. Arianism didn’t disappear overnight, neither did iconoclasm (some of those elements are alive and well even today!).
I don’t know what the ramifications of this line of thought are, having just put them together from a couple of past conversations with folks like myself, not bishops, theologians, or seminarians. Just regular Orthodox Christians interested in history, theology and the like. Another Orthodox Christian may (and please do!) come along and correct me.
***but I think it interesting) that in the midst of controversies, especially concerning those surrounding the ecumenical councils, that the faithful at that time are to be shown mercy, by us and probably by God as well, because of the confusion at the time.***
Ideally, that’s true (whether it was practiced is another story), but not the same question as the ground of whether a proposition is true or not.
Further, I wonder how this claim with “showing mercy” can be squared with the anathemas of the 7th Council regarding those who are hesitant to venerate icons. Given the violent political atmosphere, many were likely hesitant yet they would fall under the anathema, which is not showing mercy.
I googled “Sylvester vs. the Deponysii” and Orthodox-Reformed Bridge was the only thing that appeared. This makes me suspicious that it represents some “proof” against Orthodox claims or that it validates Protestantism somehow. Why are you claiming that a 4th century Bishop of Rome is the “early” Church anywise? What is your definition of “early”? For us, the 4th century was like yesterday!
When one reads the ante-Nicene Fathers and other pre-Nicene documents, one clearly sees primitive Catholic Orthodoxy: I saw this as a Presbyterian. None of these documents support various Protestant church polities, practices, nor any unique Protestant distinctive (sola scriptura, sola fide, etc). Clearly, Protestantism – as 16th century break away novelty religions – and as a rebellion movement, is totally divorced from nearly all prior Christian history.
I just realized that this may have come across more harshly polemical than intended.
***I googled “Sylvester vs. the Deponysii” and Orthodox-Reformed Bridge was the only thing that appeared. ***
I think I spelled “Deponysii” wrong. Fr Malachi Martin documents it in greater detail.
***This makes me suspicious that it represents some “proof” against Orthodox claims or that it validates Protestantism somehow. ***
Never said it vindicated Protestantism. I am simply showing tensions between the Vincentian claim (who incidentally believed that the church always taught the judicial imputation of Adam’s guilt) and modern Orthodox praxis.
“How do I know I am interpreting the Fathers correctly, especially when the disagree? How do I know which council to affirm? One particular crisis for me was the case of Sergii Bulgakov. St John Maximovitch’s council condemned him, but I found his arguments to be logically wanting. Even worse, another council exonerated Bulgakov. So which one is right?”
Are you serious? The life and times of Sergei Bulgakov, an obscure 20th century Russian Orthodox, and St. John Maximovitch are somehow creating personal crises for you and eroding your confidence in the Vincentian Canon? You need to get out more 🙂
I think Robert has expatiated impressively on this site about the Vincentian Canon. The idea that Christianity is best understood as that which was believed “everywhere, always, by everyone” seems a better epistemology to me that my own private interpretation, for a number of reasons which I and others have expressed in other threads here. True, ecumenical councils are the best expression of the Spirit working through the Church universal and thus would satisfy the criteria of the VC. However, the validity of councils depends on whether the universal Church accepts those councils.
The seven Ecumenical Councils have been embraced by the Church, but the same cannot be said for other local councils, and some council decisions have been rejected (eg the Council of Florence, supported by the Ecumenical Patriarch yet rejected by the Church). So, if the Spirit hasn’t spoken clearly through a particular council on an issue (as evidenced by acceptance by the Church), I wouldn’t get too excited or let it lead me to personal crisis. Perhaps the issue at hand isn’t sufficiently essential to salvation for the Church to speak with one voice (yet).
In any case, IMHO given that St. John Maximovitch is considered a saint by the Church, I personally would certainly overweight his views in that particular dispute with Bulgakov (for whom I have little time). St. John’s The Orthodox Veneration of the Mother of God is a very worthwhile and balanced view of the Theotokos, again in my opinion.
I’ve read Rose’s bio on Maximovitch. Bulgakov’s disciplining wasn’t the spiritual crisis in my life. I simply illustrated a point. And since Bulgakov was dealing with matters of truth, he can only be successfully engaged by truth-claims.
***I think Robert has expatiated impressively on this site about the Vincentian Canon. The idea that Christianity is best understood as that which was believed “everywhere, always, by everyone” seems a better epistemology to me that my own private interpretation,***
No one on this site ever responded in detail to “Messianic John.” (linked on the right hand side of my site). I simply cannot accept the VC except in the most general terms.
Jacob, your approach confuses me.
It’s precisely because I am looking at the big picture (general terms) and have the benefit of hindsight in evaluating the claims of the Orthodox Church with regard to what was established in the first millennium of Church history (the 7 Ecumenical Councils) as fully orthodox that it is clear to me there is no contest between various forms of Protestant expressions of Christian faith (or even Roman Catholicism) and Orthodoxy.
The examples you cite (particularly more recent ones) of controversies/contradictions in various theological opinions within the Orthodox Church doesn’t make even a dint in this big picture to me. You clearly are requiring a kind of logical proof that I suspect isn’t even there for the Resurrection of Christ. Forgive me. At some point we are trusting the witness of others for what we cannot possibly fully understand (apart perhaps from our own attainment of Sainthood!). It seems to me the bottom line is who do you trust in terms of contemporary witnesses and those in history? For me as an Orthodox, logical precision isn’t as critical as the whole holiness of life and impact of the person in determining what interpretation and application of Scripture is genuinely consistent with what has been revealed in Christ. I find nowhere in Scripture that the truth will always appear fully logical in terms of human systems of reason (which is frequently fraught with false presuppositions that are often hidden from our own conscious perception). Quite the contrary (1 Corinthians 2).
***Ted, I believe it because Paul says the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth.***
And “ground” can also mean, as Turretin shows, forensic witness to the truth, not ontological and epistemic ground of the truth, for if it were the latter Jesus and the Holy Spirit really become unnecessary, which was Schaff’s critique of Ignatius’s soteriology.
How can Jesus Christ the Holy Spirit be unnecessary when without them the Church cannot be the Church? To say that the Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth doesn’t mean it stands alone, apart from communion with the Holy Trinity. It seems you are creating a wedge between Christ and His Body by saying that He (not to mention the Holy Spirit) becomes unnecessary, as if He could stand apart from His Body and it (His Body) remain His Body.
Just some observations that come to my mind as I read your post.
Ground as used by Paul in 1 Timothy means foundation and is related to the Greek work for seat, specifically a word often used by the Greeks in referring to the place where their gods sat. I was taught Attic Greek and couldn’t disagree with Turretin more. Indeed, I have great doubt in the quality of many of the Western Reformers Greek.
The meaning of pillar and ground is quite plain. It’s a building metaphor. The foundation is laid and the pillar is supported by it – but the pillar displays the power of the foundation. Ground here literally means “foundation”.
It’s also important to understand that the Church is Christ’s body. It is He who forms the foundation AND the pillar with the structural integrity maintained through the Spirit.
A central problem is that critics seeing power flowing FROM the bishop. This is not the case. The bishop it the WITNESS that a body is The Church, certainly from Ignatius’ point of view and the witness of the Fathers. The Church is not a top down structure but Western minds seem to find a difficult time in escaping that construct due to the Catholic influence.
The idea that ground means forensic witness is ludicrous. I’m sorry, but Paul wrote very plainly. The meaning is clear. It gets danced around in an attempt to support the silly “invisible Church” construct upon which all of Protestantism hinges.
I can freely grant that ground means what you say it means, but that in no way necessitates the conclusion that the Orthodox church is the onetruepurechurch.
***A central problem is that critics seeing power flowing FROM the bishop. This is not the case. The bishop it the WITNESS that a body is The Church, certainly from Ignatius’ point of view and the witness of the Fathers***
I am glad to hear it but that is usually not how Ignatius is understood. When I read Ignatius speaking of salvation and the bishop’s proximity, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion.
***The meaning is clear. ***
Scripture’s meaning is clear? Oh, the implications…
There are times when the Greek is very plain.
How to know the Orthodox Church is the one true Church? Ultimately you don’t know in the scholastic sense. Yet the continuity of it with the ancient church is a record of history. Have there been schisms off it? Sure, but the ancient schismatics are largely gone. Apart from the Orthodox in the West we see great additions in Catholicism and great subtractions in Protestantism.
There is no perfect flow from the past because there have been branches, yet the Orthodox body remains.
Yet if I were to decide between EO and Rome, the above is no help at all. It is no different than the Mormon missionaries who came to my door and told me to “just believe.”
And the part about schisms being gone is simply not true. When I was looking into Orthodoxy, the problems of New Calendarism, Sergienism, the Old Rite, Freemasons in the Phanar, and Archer-Daniels Midlands bankrolling the OCA really bothered me, since the “True Orthodox” could make a compelling historical case. In any part, both sides mutually said of the other that the other’s sacraments lacked grace. It was sort of a damned if you do, damned if you don’t conundrum (literally!).
I wept and wrestled over this and lost sleep over this for years. Protestantisms problems, real that they are, simply–at least for me–paled in comparison.
Olaf, it is greatly different because there’s an historical lineage behind it. Mormons have no such thing. They don’t have 2,000 years of testimony behind them. That comparison is spurious.
I didn’t say schisms were gone, I said that the ANCIENT ones were largely gone, at least in their original forms. There are always issues. The concept of Holy Tradition is not a completely clean one because humanity gets its hands in it. The Ecumenical Councils provide a strong guide as does the Canon of Scripture (again, there’s serious questions about Protestants excluding the deuterocanonical books), but the writings of the Fathers also provide a fairly clear picture. That does not mean there are no differences of opinions or that politics cease to exist inside the Church itself as it operates as a human institution on Earth. There are political skirmishes inside The Church as well, but I’d hardly call those schismatic issues.
For the OCA, there are other branches of Orthodoxy in the US. I live in an area where the OCA, the Greek Orthodox, and the Antiochian Orthodox all have parishes. Tarpon Springs is heavily Greek, so that is the most common Orthodox Church in Tampa Bay. In short, there are other branches on the Orthodox tree.
The idea of the sacraments lacking grace in the Orthodox Church is silly. Wicked priests cannot corrupt the Eucharist. So it is here as well. And ultimately it is God who saves and Christ is the Judge of all.
Even so, there is a greater underlying unity in Orthodoxy than in Protestantism. I am quite familiar with many forms of Protestant theology and praxis. I grew up in the Methodist and Presbyterian Churches, also spending quite a bit of time in Baptist and other evangelical churches. I’ve been a Calvinist, a Dispensationalist, a Premillenialist, an Amillenialist, etc. I’ve been for and against the ordination of women. The idea that Protestantism’s problems pale in comparison doesn’t hold any water for me.
What is the Eucharist to a Protestant – a central question? Why does the Bible have authority? How many books are in the OT? Under what authority can you name those books? Should worship be liturgical as it is Biblically? What is salvation? Is it merely just going to heaven? Did Christ need to shed bled just so God could forgive sins? Do you have any will? Are vestments good or bad? Is modern music okay in a service? How long should a sermon be? What is the purpose of a sermon? What is our purpose of life in Christ? Should we fast?
Protestantism is ultimately about what feels good to the individual. It is an intensely nihilistic for of Christianity because you can pick the theology and soteriology that best suits you and write it off as a “non-essential”. There is no real guidance from the Saints of the past. There is not real concept of an eternal Communion of Saints. There is not real understanding of WHO formed the Canon of Scripture and why they forged it as they did.
If you want something neat and tidy, Rome offers you the best solution. Top down, hierarchical. There’s a magisterium that can answer your questions and a stand in for Jesus to let you know how things truly are. That can’t be matched in Protestantism or Orthodoxy.
Yet the Orthodox have the historic ties and considerable Holy Tradition that informs and ENRICHES scripture. The Orthodox soteriology makes far more sense (as in, what we are actually saved FROM and TO). The Orthodox guidance in our walk is also far more informative AND has continued to be much the same as it was over 1,000 years ago with Feasts and Fasts and real purpose behind the liturgical calendar. Both Rome and Protestantism has lost that.
The minor squabbles inside Orthodoxy pale in comparison to the theological issues inside Protestantism, modern or otherwise and also have kept in check the innovation of the top down model in Rome.
That’s not to say there is no truth found elsewhere. I tend to agree with Florovsky, that we can see the clear canonical boundaries of The Church but we cannot see its charismatic boundaries. I hold that all True Believers that are steadfast in Christ will be Orthodox, whether here or in the world to come. That is when all the flaws of the human church will fail to exist. Yet the canonical bounds of the Church remain. It’s not all neat and tidy, but the history and lineage of Orthodoxy is apparent to anyone who traces the Church from the first century and is honest with themselves.
Olaf – thanks for your email.
Furthermore, “the church” in 1 Timothy 3:15 is the institutional church 1 Timothy bears witness to – a single church, like Ephesus, with a plurality of biblically qualified elders and deacons (1 Tim. 3:1-13), not a hierarchical episcopate (Acts 20:17, 28).
Paul knew exactly what church he was speaking of to Timothy. No need for anyone to go inserting a later ecclesiastical development back into 1 Timothy (except for those with an agenda to not see churches led by a plurality of qualified elders).
The Church in 1 Timothy is the fully constituted Church that occurs in a locality. But it ultimately is a universal statement.
However, why does Paul have this authority to tell us this? Why do you listen to Paul? Why do you trust that his letters, as identified, are scripture? It is the continuity of the Apostolic succession that set the scripture you point to. Your logic is circuitous, succession in a direct line from the Apostles is not.
My take on this is likely different from other Protestants. I see Paul as a witness to the truth that Jesus is the conclusion to Israel’s story, not that Paul is a database of divine factoids independent of that story.
***It is the continuity of the Apostolic succession that set the scripture you point to.***
It was more like the church’s reacting to various heresies that formally codified a NT canon. This is not the same thing as proving apostolic succession. And Ted’s charge of circularity means that you have to supply as your first premise “The Church teaches apostolic succession” (since Scripture is silent on that issue) in order for you to prove apostolic succession.
The canon was established in reaction to heresy. It was unnecessary for a long time because The Church maintained the regula fidei. Irenaeus certainly identifies The Church as being the same everywhere in the 2nd Century. The Church didn’t really codify the canon quickly either. Athanasius’ Paschal letter in from the 360s. You could tie that to the canon since the Mind Of The Church assented to what Athanasius had written.
Of course, Paul witnessing the Christ is the conclusion to Israel’s story is definitely different from some Protestants. Many modern evangelicals are dispensationalists either explicitly or implicitly and see The Church and Israel being separate entities. The Orthodox and, indeed, the Ancient Church almost uniformly, see Jesus as Israel’s fulfillment and the Church as the New Israel based on its identity as Christ’s body. The Magisterial Reformers held this view as well.
As for the Church teaching Apostolic succession and scripture being silent – I beg to differ. It is silent on Apostolic succession as pertaining to the Eucharist, but there is an implied succession due to the travels of the Apostles and the need to physically visit established churches. There’s also the implication of oral tradition, something Paul makes quite clear. The implication is that tracing Apostolic succession gives you the validity of handed down Tradition. Ignatius, Polycarp, Papias, and Clement of Rome are easily traceable, as are Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, and even down to Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Hilary, Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine. You could even lump Origen and Eusebius in.
This is where you look for the preservation of what was taught but not written – the very thing Paul wrote of. Tracing back to the Apostles.
We also see the importance of Apostolic authority in Acts 15. The importance of the Apostles and Presbyters in Acts 16 (and it’s easy to see the Presbyters taking over the Apostles and ordaining new Presbyters – and the Diaconate was first ordained in Acts as well).
It’s also worth noting that Paul uses another word for foundation in Ephesians 2:20, calling the Apostles and Prophets the foundation with Christ as cornerstone. If the teachings coming from them are destroyed, so too is the foundation.
The concept of Apostolic succession is implicit in the NT. The idea that someone could run off and start there own church without the Apostles is foreign. Even schism is foreign at the Council of Jerusalem. As the Church grew, some issues would occur. Apostolic succession could never guarantee purity, but the Body itself could check against that – and the Holy Spirit could continue to guide the Mind Of The Church. Not through one vicar in Rome or multiple conflicting theologies, eschatologies, and ecclesiologies – but through the Body testifying over time.
Okay Jeff. I’ll try to respond to your major points:
***Canon of Scripture (again, there’s serious questions about Protestants excluding the deuterocanonical books)***
And there is strong evidence that the Palestinian Jews rejected the Apocrypha.
***For the OCA, there are other branches of Orthodoxy in the US. I live in an area where the OCA, the Greek Orthodox, and the Antiochian Orthodox all have parishes. ***
No such option in my neck of the woods. There are two overly dominant religions in my state: Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics.
***The idea of the sacraments lacking grace in the Orthodox Church is silly***
That line isn’t original to me. The Milan Synod says you lack grace. Would you return the favor? When roasting in hell is on the line, thisbecomes a very legitimate psychological question.
*** The idea that Protestantism’s problems pale in comparison doesn’t hold any water for me.***
I don’t commune with Freemasons who swear oaths to Lucifer (and thus share in his very being). I am not saying you do. Freemasonry openly compromised the Phanar in the 20th century (Stephen the Malevolent, etc).
Your next paragraph about a dozen questions. I doubt you asked them wanting an answer from me. Moving on…
***Protestantism is ultimately about what feels good to the individual. It is an intensely nihilistic for of Christianity because you can pick the theology and soteriology that best suits you and write it off as a “non-essential”.***
Two can play at this game: Orthodoxy is ultimately about what feels good to the individual. It is an intensenly nihilistic for of Christianit….etc. (Not really a helpful approach, is it?)
***There is no real guidance from the Saints of the past. There is not real concept of an eternal Communion of Saints. There is not real understanding of WHO formed the Canon of Scripture and why they forged it as they did. ***
In logic these are called assertions. They have no truth-value.
*** There is not real understanding of WHO formed the Canon of Scripture and why they forged it as they did. ***
Bruce Metzger was the world’s leading New Testament scholar. Are you seriously suggesting that his book “has no real understanding of WHO formed the Canon”? That’s condescending.
*** The Orthodox soteriology makes far more sense (as in, what we are actually saved FROM and TO).***
*** I hold that all True Believers that are steadfast in Christ will be Orthodox, whether here or in the world to come.***
The problem is that the True Orthodox don’t return the favor. Heaven and hell are on the line. I can’t simply roll the dice and hope for the best.
***It’s not all neat and tidy, but the history and lineage of Orthodoxy is apparent to anyone who traces the Church from the first century and is honest with themselves.***
The condescending tone aside, here is what I see in Orthodox apologetics: when they want to present how grand their faith is, they do sound rather neat and tidy. When someone starts bringing up counterfactuals and logical difficulties, then it’s all mystery.
“***Canon of Scripture (again, there’s serious questions about Protestants excluding the deuterocanonical books)***
And there is strong evidence that the Palestinian Jews rejected the Apocrypha.”
The Orthodox basis for accepting the deuterocanonical books is that Church tradition has deemed it worthy of the canon. Your response is thus curious: if church tradition is not an acceptable basis to form a fixed canon, why than justify your position with Jewish tradition?
Why do you think this particular Jewish tradition is valid and that Jews have the authority to fix the canon, whilst the Church, guided by the Spirit of truth, does not? If you ascribe authority to the human tradition of Palestinian Jews to define a canon, why wouldn’t you ascribe greater authority to the human tradition of Christ’s bride?
Hopefully we would agree that the OT canon was practically fixed before Jesus (yes, I know of Jamnia). If it wasn’t, that is no problem because we can see Jesus using Scripture even if the boundaries weren’t entirely fixed.
I have no problem accepting a “Jewish tradition” on this point. Indeed, I hope I can be found in Israel’s narrative.
***If you ascribe authority to the human tradition of Palestinian Jews to define a canon, why wouldn’t you ascribe greater authority to the human tradition of Christ’s bride?***
When I read Athanasius’s festal letter on this point, his list didn’t line up with the Table of Contents page in my Orthodox Study Bible. I simply reject the claims behind your rhetoric.
*** Most of this occurred at Tiberias in the 3rd century AD, ***
Much of it was already in place before Christ. Jamnia was in the 90s CE.
You haven’t explained why a canon set by Jewish tradition has authority, yet one by Christian tradition does not.
***And there is strong evidence that the Palestinian Jews rejected the Apocrypha. ***
And there is strong evidence the Christians did not. Indeed, there is evidence that they rejected it BECAUSE the Christians accepted it. The Hebrew canon was forged after the rise of Christianity and in response to the widespread use of the Septugint by the Christians. Books like Tobit were seen as extremely Christological and rejected. Most of this occurred at Tiberias in the 3rd century AD, I believe. It’s pretty clear that Jesus was familiar with the Wisdom of Solomon and Jude even quote from the Book of Enoch, a text outside of the Apocryphal books. Those books existed in Sinaiticus in the early to mid 4th century. Tobit, Sirach, and the Letter of Jeremiah were also found with the DSS in Qumran. Christians clearly used the deuterocanonicals and bits were found in pre-Christians Jewish manuscripts. I’ve seen little evidence that they were shunned in Palestine. Again, I think the historical record indicates the Jewish religious leaders expurgated them AFTER the rise of Christianity. The Protestants did the same believing that the original language of Hebrew was a strong criteria, though in our modern age we have found the LXX to be quite reliable and, in many ways, more reflective of the ancient bits we have of the Hebrew text from pre-1AD.
***No such option in my neck of the woods. There are two overly dominant religions in my state: Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics.***
Sorry there. Florida has a greater tapestry than most places because people come here from all over.
***That line isn’t original to me. The Milan Synod says you lack grace. Would you return the favor? When roasting in hell is on the line, this becomes a very legitimate psychological question.***
The Milan Synod and the Old Calendarists are the ones that separate themselves from the Body. They certainly could have protested inside The Orthodox Church, but they chose to not have communion. Their beliefs have not been ratified or endorsed by the larger Mind of the Church and they have severed themselves from the historic bishopric.
***I don’t commune with Freemasons who swear oaths to Lucifer (and thus share in his very being). I am not saying you do. Freemasonry openly compromised the Phanar in the 20th century (Stephen the Malevolent, etc).***
Really? The Church of Greece declared it idolatry in 1933. The Ecumenical Patriarch issued a statement just a month ago stating that despite claims from groups outside of Constantinople, the Patriarch has no links to Freemasonry. I’d love to see something more than hearsay about the links. I’ve never seen any evidence for this.
***Two can play at this game: Orthodoxy is ultimately about what feels good to the individual. It is an intensenly nihilistic for of Christianit….etc. (Not really a helpful approach, is it?)***
Except it’s not really, is it? Any Christianity or religion generally can be nihilistic. Yet Orthodoxy at its core is not. I’ve yet to meet an Orthodox that looks forward to fasting or does it to show off. Struggle is not generally nihilistic and Orthodoxy encourages the struggle. SOME Protestantism does, but so much of it is about you feeling good about yourself or feeling like your guilt has been assuaged. Morality is mutable to a certain extent, a far greater one than found in ancient tradition.
***Bruce Metzger was the world’s leading New Testament scholar. Are you seriously suggesting that his book “has no real understanding of WHO formed the Canon”? That’s condescending.***
And who declared him such? I’m familiar with Metzger. We put modern authors on pedestals so frequently when they have yet to prove they can stand the test of time. For the record, I have torn apart Metzger’s “scholarship” in the past and had well regarded profs who have done the same. Again, who named him the leading NT scholar? Was it his book publisher?
***The problem is that the True Orthodox don’t return the favor. Heaven and hell are on the line. I can’t simply roll the dice and hope for the best.***
Assertion. How do you define True Orthodox? The argument from history via Florovsky is quite strong. There are those who would disagree as well – both with the Fathers and beyond. There are also those that agree. You roll the dice either way, right? But do you really?
***The condescending tone aside, here is what I see in Orthodox apologetics: when they want to present how grand their faith is, they do sound rather neat and tidy. When someone starts bringing up counterfactuals and logical difficulties, then it’s all mystery.***
Then you’ve had an experience different from mine. I’ve never been told or found it to be neat and tidy. I’ve read and listened and been told that it ISN’T neat and tidy. I’ve also been told that there are mysteries, but that just saying “it’s a mystery” is a simple explanation for someone who doesn’t know or doesn’t wish to answer.
It’s not appealing to the ones who love systematic theology, with its order. Same goes for Rome. And it’s not for those that are focused on individual expression, because the idea of an authority other than God Himself being over you (and even Him at times) is rejected. Orthodoxy seems to jump between all the camps frequently. Those who I have listened to and read are quite open about the warts. Mr. Arakaki here is one of them who is very forthright.
***Really? The Church of Greece declared it idolatry in 1933. The Ecumenical Patriarch issued a statement just a month ago stating that despite claims from groups outside of Constantinople, the Patriarch has no links to Freemasonry. I’d love to see something more than hearsay about the links. I’ve never seen any evidence for this.****
I am glad he did so, but I have my own thoughts from private conversations with leading Orthodox theologians who themselves admitted this problem was far from dealt with. I suppose I could provide links in another venue (maybe on my blog? )
***And who declared him such? I’m familiar with Metzger. We put modern authors on pedestals so frequently when they have yet to prove they can stand the test of time.***
I don’t particularly care for Metzger’s conclusions, but my point was that it is highly condescending (if not downright insulting) to assume that he’s just totally ignorant on how the canon was formed (given that he wrote a book on that very topic).
***Assertion. How do you define True Orthodox?***
Something like a nexus of Old Calendarists who resist what used to be known as SCOBA. As per this and the Masonic charge, Fr Matthew Raphael Johnson had thoroughly documented it, but his site (Rus Journal) is no longer up. I think I can find some of the stuff on archive.org.
***You roll the dice either way, right? But do you really?***
***I’ve never been told or found it to be neat and tidy. ***
I was referencing the numerous, grandioise claims to have the church the apostles’ had and everything is wonderful now (that kind of stuff I hear all the time).
***It’s not appealing to the ones who love systematic theology, with its order. ***
Agreed. God is a God of order. Systems are inevitable.
*** It was unnecessary for a long time because The Church maintained the regula fidei. ***
And what was the specific content of the Regula Fide? Any answer to this question, even correct answers, will necessarily assert the consequent.
*** The Orthodox and, indeed, the Ancient Church almost uniformly, see Jesus as Israel’s fulfillment and the Church as the New Israel based on its identity as Christ’s body.***
Premillennialism was taught early on (though not dispensationalism). I am very uncomfortable with supercessionism and while my own reading of Scripture (necessarily wrong that it is since I am a Western Protestant) simply cannot square supercessionism with Romans 11.
***but there is an implied succession due to the travels of the Apostles and the need to physically visit established churches***
If it is implied, then by definition it is not specifically taught.
*** There’s also the implication of oral tradition, something Paul makes quite clear.***
Oral Tradition by definition resists empirical verification. This leads us back to Ted’s circle: how do we know that oral tradition is what you say it is? Because you say it is.
***Ignatius, Polycarp, Papias, and Clement of Rome are easily traceable, as are Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Cyprian, and even down to Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Hilary, Ambrose, Jerome, and Augustine. You could even lump Origen and Eusebius in.***
This may work only with regard to generalities. Justin and Irenaeus were premillennialists. Irenaeus openly attacked what would later be the Neo Platonism of Clement and Origen. Justin had a quasi-Arian view of the Trinity (as seen in his doctrine of Logos Prophorikos). Origen…well, Origen.
***It’s also worth noting that Paul uses another word for foundation in Ephesians 2:20, calling the Apostles and Prophets the foundation with Christ as cornerstone. ***
I have no problem with that. That in no way entails the Orthodox edifice (no pun intended).
*** If the teachings coming from them are destroyed, so too is the foundation.***
I don’t see how that follows. Paul said that wolves would come in and devour. Jesus promised to remove lampstands in Revelation. Anyway, we’ve yet to establish in a non-circular fashion the *content* of those teachings.
*** The idea that someone could run off and start there own church without the Apostles is foreign.***
We’ve yet to prove that in a non-circular manner.
***And what was the specific content of the Regula Fide? Any answer to this question, even correct answers, will necessarily assert the consequent.***
The Regula Fidei is the faith handed down from the Apostles and verified by the Holy Tradition of the Church as stipulated via the Mind of the Church. The Bible you read was produced by the regula fidei and verified by it. Without the regula fidei, the Bible would not be verifiable by the Church when it was canonized. Yet the regula fidei was passed down independently through various distant communities – and yet the Bible was recognized and the teachings of the Church are remarkably uniform considering there was no internet or quick postal service.
***Premillennialism was taught early on (though not dispensationalism). I am very uncomfortable with supercessionism and while my own reading of Scripture (necessarily wrong that it is since I am a Western Protestant) simply cannot square supercessionism with Romans 11.***
Premillenialism was well liked early on, though never dogmatically picked up by The Church.
As for supercessionism, that is not what I speak of. Paul calls the Church The Israel of God in Galatians 6:16. The Church is a fulfillment of True Israel and is in continuum with True Israel as represented by Moses, David, Solomon, Jeremiah, Isaiah, etc. The purpose of ethnic Israel was to both bring about Mary, man’s gift to God – a pure virgin who would obediently consent to His Will, and Jesus Himself. That does not mean that God does not have a plan for ethnic Jews at all (or for each of us), but the Promise was made to Abraham’s seed, that is Christ. Israel is fulfilled in Him. Indeed, Jesus is Israel and the True Israel can be identified because it abides in Him.
***Oral Tradition by definition resists empirical verification. This leads us back to Ted’s circle: how do we know that oral tradition is what you say it is? Because you say it is.***
No, because it is testified by the Fathers and verified by the Mind of the Church, not by me. The Ecumenical Councils are a strong guide, including their canons.
***This may work only with regard to generalities. Justin and Irenaeus were premillennialists. Irenaeus openly attacked what would later be the Neo Platonism of Clement and Origen. Justin had a quasi-Arian view of the Trinity (as seen in his doctrine of Logos Prophorikos). Origen…well, Origen. ***
And it all gets sorted out by the Mind of the Church. Again, The Church does not dogmatically take a millennial position. It does take a position on the Pre-Trib Rapture and is quite emphatic of Christ’s sudden return followed by judgment.
And regardless, the millennial stance of Justin or others has no bearing on the succession of the Apostles, especially since eschatology was a minor portion of his writing. Irenaeus is similar. It is also worth noting that Irenaeus proves quite reliable about what Gnostics believed. Prior to the Nag Hammadi findings, skeptics thought Irenaeus had made it all up and had invented doctrinal Christianity. Yet the millennial stance is not universal, as Justin himself says. And it certainly doesn’t square with modern concepts of premillenialism, as you state.
Eschatology, frankly, isn’t that important. I know God is victorious. I knew Christ will return. I know I am to be ready because it can happen at any moment. I also know that only the Father knows the day or hour. I think that’s one reason why The Orthodox Church doesn’t do much to dogmatically define The End Times, though they may negate certain views. I doubt that the views of Justin, Irenaeus, etc would be negated, but not all the Fathers wrote is part of Holy Tradition.
***I don’t see how that follows. Paul said that wolves would come in and devour. Jesus promised to remove lampstands in Revelation. Anyway, we’ve yet to establish in a non-circular fashion the *content* of those teachings.***
Or have we? Maybe teaching that communion is merely symbol constitutes a form of removing a lampstand? Maybe sola scriptura does the same?
My point was can you find specific liturgical practices in the regula fide: praying to pictures, iconostasis, etc.?
***As for supercessionism, that is not what I speak of. Paul calls the Church The Israel of God in Galatians 6:16.***
That interpretation is by no means agreed upon.
***And it all gets sorted out by the Mind of the Church.***
If “it gets sorted out” later then there logically wasn’t a consensus on these points at an earlier moment.
***Eschatology, frankly, isn’t that important. ***
I disagree. Jesus says “blessed are those ” who read aloud and understand the book of Revelation.
***I doubt that the views of Justin, Irenaeus, etc would be negated***
I’m fairly sure chiliasm was specifically rejected.
***Maybe teaching that communion is merely symbol constitutes a form of removing a lampstand? ***
I’m pretty sure that’s not what Jesus was talking about in Revelation 2-3. Anyway, I don’t believe communion is merely symbol.
***Maybe sola scriptura does the same?***
Or praying to the Queen of Heaven?
***That interpretation is by no means agreed upon. ***
It was in the past and it is pretty clear. The general question regards the rendering of kai, but it’s clearly explicative. The change in understanding came about in the 19th century as the Dispensationalist perspective grew in popularity. There is strong uniformity in the interpretation of Paul’s comment prior to the 1820s in Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant circles. Part of that is because the usage is clear when compared in line with Greek usages of kai as explicative outside of the Bible itself.
That’s also an argument I have for those training to study Greek to not merely study koine, but to have an understanding of Attic Greek and be able to read the Classics. There’s quite a bit of passed down problems in English renderings.
***If “it gets sorted out” later then there logically wasn’t a consensus on these points at an earlier moment. ***
Often, no. Every Father is not perfect, nor was every Saint while walking on the Earth. The difference is that the body largely (stressing that word) works it out over time and doesn’t tend to schism quite as much. It doesn’t mean splinter groups like the Old Calendarists don’t exist, but it doesn’t feature the denominational and theological diversity of Protestantism which often eschews ancient tradition for more modern tradition and ancient writers and scholars for modern ones. In many modern Protestant circles, John MacArthur > Athanasius. I think a part of that is that many Protestants (and I do not accuse you of this) tend to succumb to the modern sensibility that newer is always preferable and better. We may have a point of agreement here – and I’d guess we do, that it is wise and prudent for Christians in various traditions to read Irenaeus, Ignatius, Athanasius, etc. I think CS Lewis had it right about old books and their value.
***I disagree. Jesus says “blessed are those ” who read aloud and understand the book of Revelation.***
That assumes that Revelation is primarily eschatological. Indeed, there is some evidence to suggest that many early Christians didn’t accept Revelation. Gregory Nazianzus wasn’t a fan, not was Martin Luther.
Yet Revelation hardly deals with just the Parousia and the Eschaton. There are many interpretations, including the Church history or retelling of Christ’s story. Here is my won view and it is influenced by some Protestant thought on the matter (as I turn and see Revelation: Four Views on my bookshelf), but I take O. Palmer Robertson’s more measured approach of it being a reminder of Christ’s victory and an encouragement for the Church to be bold in Faith for the victory is already won.
I did phrase my statement poorly. The details of the Eschaton are not of utmost importance. The order of this and that is not. We know of terrible times before the end, but all the details are not known to us. I have considered them important in the past, but care far less about what happens and far more about being prepared. That is the major takeaway of Revelation.
***I’m fairly sure chiliasm was specifically rejected.***
Yet rejecting one concept that Irenaeus or Justin Martyr advocated does not negate everything else they wrote. Their writings are important, but not at the level of Scripture because the Church never considered their writing divinely inspired. However, their writing does serve as a guide for reading and understanding Scripture and the rule of faith. Irenaeus’ arguments in Against Heresies rely almost fully an appeal to the regula fidei.
***I’m pretty sure that’s not what Jesus was talking about in Revelation 2-3. Anyway, I don’t believe communion is merely symbol.***
I apologize if I made it seem like I was accusing you of that. It’s a generalization for many, but not all, Protestants that come down largely from the Radical Reformation.
***Or praying to the Queen of Heaven?***
Except intercessory prayers from the Saints are depicted in the Bible. In the Deuterocanonical books and Revelation as well. His mother is called the Queen dressed in gold at His right side. Intercessory prayer is encouraged and why should we think we’re out of communion with the Saints? They offer up our prayers in their bowls before God and they interceded during the Hasmonean age, did they not? Jeremiah is depicted as doing so. If the deuterocanonicals are expurgated, you can ignore that bit – but the question still should be asked as to why they were removed and under what authority? I think they first time they were pulled from a Christian Bible in English was the 17th Century, though I could be wrong on that. That’s a long time for them to be accepted and then removed.
I didn’t see this comment for some reason.
***It was in the past and it is pretty clear***
I know. I advanced that argument for the longest time. Still, it rests upon certain epistemological and cultural presuppositions.
***The difference is that the body largely (stressing that word) works it out over time and doesn’t tend to schism quite as much.***
The problem, as I’ve demonstrated here and on my blog a number of times, is that this method is basically ad hoc and circular.
*** I think CS Lewis had it right about old books and their value.***
Agreed. That’s why I took three years and read through ten volumes of the NPNF series.
***Indeed, there is some evidence to suggest that many early Christians didn’t accept Revelation. Gregory Nazianzus wasn’t a fan, not was Martin Luther.****
Well, Jesus promises a blessing. The fact that they didn’t view it as such is too bad for them.
***Except intercessory prayers from the Saints are depicted in the Bible. In the Deuterocanonical books and Revelation as well. His mother is called the Queen dressed in gold at His right side.***
I reject the Apocrypha and I don’t read Revelation that way. (Mexican standoff, Iknow). My larger point was that God brought destruction and death to the people of Israel and Judah for praying to the Queen of heaven. Iconic arguments aside, that is literally playing with fire (and I said prayers to Mary for several years, much to my shame). God doesn’t judge people negatively for playing it “safe” on this. And the distinction between doulia and latria won’t hold for me, since God told his people not to bow down or *serve* (doulia) them.
*** I think they first time they were pulled from a Christian Bible in English was the 17th Century, though I could be wrong on that. ***
Kind of. Aquinas accepted the Apocrypha but refused to base doctrine on it. That was also common among Hugh of St Victor and others.
Jacob/Olaf writes: I disagree. Jesus says “blessed are those ” who read aloud and understand the book of Revelation.
On that subject, have you listened to the “Search the Scriptures” AFR podcast series on Revelation by Presbytera Dr. Jeanne Constantinou (who also has recently published a book on one of the earliest Christian commentaries on Revelation, which I believe is available online)? I found her introduction particularly illuminating, and she seems very well qualified (from a scholarly perspective) to teach in this area.
I listened to some of it some years ago. It doesn’t substantially change my point. In fact, she may even agree with me that eschatology is important. In fact, I think she does. I was contrasting Jesus’s words “Blessed is he who…” with the claim above “Eschatology isn’t that important.”
Another interesting contrast: is the book of Revelation read aloud in today’s churches? What does Revelation 1:3 say in response.
“That paradigm shift is faith in the words of Christ and the apostles, not the teachings of men.”
With this conclusion, you are making your entire post self defeating. If we are not to trust the teachings of men, as you suggest, than your innovative teachings about what St. Paul wrote about the “pillar of truth” or what Christ said about the “Spirit of Truth” cannot be trusted either.
Following your hermeneutic methodology, we should forget how the Early Church understood Christ and St. Paul and instead, just rely on our own private interpretation.
Why is that a good way to understand Scripture?If men cannot be trusted to teach Scripture, this must be because Scripture is not perspicacious. Yet if I cannot trust others to understand it, how can I trust myself?
You assume that the Fathers cannot be trusted. Why? Because their understanding of St. Paul and Christ disagree with you? Your refusal to even admit the Fathers, who were closer to the actual historical events of the New Testament, suggests a rejection of the historical method. You leave us with nothing but a self-defeating argument for subjectivism.
I am still looking forward to your explaining the big picture: what evidence have you for the great apostasy of the Pre-Nicene Church (apart from the Fathers disagreeing with you) and why would you want to follow a religion that was so poorly taught or so difficult to understand that after a generation, it’s followers had fallen into serious, unbiblical heresy.
It isn’t self defeating because my argument drew a clear difference two things – two competing interpretations of the words, “He will guide you into all the truth (John 16:13)”
You first made the claim that the “you” in John 16:13 referred to something called “the Church.” I said it did not, but the “you’ referred to the apostles He was speaking to at that time. The context is so simple even a 3rd grader can see which argument is correct.
The only person who wouldn’t agree to that is a person who has an agenda against the words of Jesus Christ.
All you are doing is dismissing an argument that upsets your faith because it shows that Jesus Christ does not teach your faith. I am glad and hope you will repent.
As I asked you on your blog, will you stop being so condescending? There is also an Orthodox poster above who Olaf has asked to stop being condescending. Whether either of you two mean it to be, that’s exactly what it sounds like. Robert and Olaf are two great examples of folks on both sides of this issue who, as far as I can tell, take the time to stick with the issue, without resorting to the silliness that the two of you have brought to the table, seemingly trying to get your guys’ pop shots in. I have no doubt that the people who hold to a contrary ecclesiology than you (or me for that matter) sincerely love Jesus Christ and are trying to follow him faithfully. Let’s treat one another with the same love that we know our Lord has for each of us, please.
Asking for repentance based on a you misrepresenting the teachings of Jesus Christ to people is not condescension.
Please do the same for me, and it will be a blessing to me.
Your argument above is still self defeating, whether “your” refers to the Church or the apostles, since you are teaching us not to listen to the teachings of men.
By your logic, you cannot really call me to repentance, since that also is a “teaching of men”. Unless you relax this assumption and accept that you can legitimately teach me, your correction begs the question.
But if you can teach me, so can the Fathers. So I fear your argument gets us nowhere.
All I can do is point you to the actual words of Jesus Christ and show you where your teachings differ with His.
If you do not wish to repent based on His teachings (or disprove my assertions based on what He does say), well then, that pretty sums up where you are at with Him.
Your question-begging and condescending tone do you little service. If simply reading and “understanding” the scriptures/words of Christ were perspicuous – as you imply condescendingly – then all theology everywhere would be a moot point and there wouldn’t be tens of thousands of Protestant sects – each with varying interpretations.
You sound like another Protestant “mini-pope” who has a “correct” personal/private interpretation of scripture vis-a-vis every other Protestant sect invented since the 16th century. You tell others not to follow any sort of “tradition” or the words of men – yet you – yourself a modern man divorced from historic Christianity – conduct yourself as if all should accept YOUR interpretations as THE correct and perspicuous understanding of scripture/Christianity. This is what Eric was highlighting in showing that your very assertions – if they were true – would undermine your own credibility.
“All I can do is point you to the actual words of Jesus Christ and show you where your teachings differ with His.”
Hello Pastor Ted,
I hope you are well.
If I might summarise a bit, it seems in this exchange that we disagree on the answers to two key questions:
1. What is the material authority of Christian doctrine and practice—i.e the text which is interpreted? You say that text is the Bible–the teachings of Christ and the Apostles–whilst I would add other texts from Tradition (e.g. the Fathers, Ecumenical Councils, hymnology and liturgy), some of which you evidently reject as heretical (eg St. Ignatius).
2. What is the formal authority of Christian doctrine and practice—i.e. he who interprets? Here, you say we should reject the “teachings of men”; you thus aver an absolute right to your private judgement to interpret Scripture. By contrast, whilst not rejecting private judgement in all cases, I would submit to the judgement of the Church “everywhere, always by everyone”.
When you write comments like those quoted above, you seem to demonstrate a confusion of the material authority of Scripture, which I would agree is authoritative, with the formal authority to interpret it.
That is, you seem to posit that Scripture is a formal authority that interprets itself. True, sometimes it does, but generally it does not, and if it does, those interpretations also need to be interpreted. Just as a Constitution needs a Supreme Court to interpret itself (even though the Constitution may sometimes refer to itself), so Scripture needs a formal authority to interpret it. In your case, that formal authority is you, in spite of your self-defeating arguments above that effectively debase that authority. You are reserving an absolute right to judge Scripture, even when it contradicts how Christians have generally always, everywhere believed it.
Moreover, you are making your private judgements universally normative (and, in fact, threatening my standing with God if I do not also embrace your normative judgements). Your rejection of the consensus of the Fathers, a material authority, as a source of interpretation of St. Paul’s words on ecclesiology is a case in point. Instead of viewing Scripture through the prism of the Church, you insert yourself as formal authority.
Thus, our key difference is not #1–i.e. whether we follow Scripture or not. I agree that Scripture is normative as a material authority, though I do not agree that Scripture is the only material authority or that it teaches as such.
Rather, our key difference is about what is ultimately universally normative: (I) your private judgement about Scripture–about, for example, the meaning of the “Spirit of Truth” (John 16:13) and the “pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim 3:15)–or (II) the judgement of the Church universal about this Scripture.
In short, we both want to believe Christ’s words, but you want to believe your judgement of them, whilst I want to submit to the judgement of the Church, at least in so far as the Church speaks with one voice.
Since your only material authority is Scripture, I wonder if you could demonstrate for me #1 and #2 from Scripture. That is: where in Scripture does it teach that Scripture is the only material authority and where does Scripture grant each of us an absolute right to private judgement?
What I see here is that Pastor Ted has made an equation between Eric’s acceptance of his own particular (Baptist tradition’s?) interpretation of a particular statement of St. Paul and that person’s acceptance of the authority of Jesus Christ. Does anyone else see a problem with that?
Further, Pastor Ted appears to be basing his interpretation of St. Paul upon immediate grammatical issues without regard to the witness of all of the Scriptures (including Acts 15) as the full context for this statement as well as ignoring how the Church actually operated in the NT and pre-Nicene periods.
It appears to me Eric’s clarification of what Pastor Ted is demanding (that Eric accept Ted’s own human authority over that of the early Father’s) is spot on.
Correction: My first paragraph should have read:
What I see here is that Pastor Ted has made an equation between Eric’s acceptance of his own particular (Baptist tradition’s?) interpretation of a particular statement of St. Paul and Eric’s acceptance of the authority of Jesus Christ. . . .
If I may make a couple of comments on this. One of the glaring problems of sola scriptura that is rarely dealt w/ is that if scripture is the final ultimate binding source of Christian truth why is it that the extreme vast majority of Christians throughout the vast majority of Christian history have had little to no access to this one source of truth of their faith? They were incapable of practicing this sola scriptura. Why did God have to wait till the 15th century and the printing press and then a couple more centuries for the Bibles to get cheap enough for the average family to buy one in order for His people to practice sola scriptura on their own? Fact is, Christians throughout history had no choice but to depend on the Church to tell them what scripture meant. Once folks got their own Bibles and started practicing this sola scriptura what we get? An ever increasing gob of splintered groups all claiming to interpret the Bible better. Boy what a good idea that was. Sola scriptura is easy to believe in when we have cheap Bibles running out of our ears. This was not the case historically.
The other comment is concerning the scripture about who Christ made the promise to about being led into all truth by the Holy Spirit. In my thinking, even if we (the Orthodox) grant that the promise was only made to the Apostles that doesn’t weaken our position at all, in fact it strengthens it. The Faith was indeed delivered once and for all to the Apostles who then spread it around to the rest of us. It is we, the Orthodox, who say there is NO more truth to be had. It was already given to the Apostles and they chose worthy men to maintain this deposit of truth. That’s what Bishops do….maintain what was given and make sure those they are responsible for do the same. Now when various heresies arose different aspects of this Faith were perhaps fleshed out, articulated differently etc in order to refute these heresies. But it was the same unchanged truth that the Apostles were led into and delivered to us. I’m not suggesting that the Holy Spirit does not guide the Church, surely even our Protestant posters here would not deny that the Holy Spirit guides the “invisible” church in some way along w/, possibly, the Reformation itself, I’m just saying that I don’t see how seeing that verse as Jesus only referring to the Apostles undermines the Orthodox position.
Comments welcome of course.
I agree to an extent. Still, at the same time, Chrysostom urged his congregation to read the Scriptures and judge accordingly (cf. Third Sermon on Lazarus and Third Homily on 2nd Thess.).
You raise an almost interesting point: You said that sola scriptura’s being defined as the “final” source makes it impossible for a people lacking access to it. Had you said “only source” instead of final source, I would agree. The “final authority” simply means a norm that norms my norms. It necessarily implies, as magisterial Protestantism teaches, “subordinate norms.” So there is no contradiction.
I grant that ignorant, pop-Reformed apologists say ignorant things like “only source.” Too bad for them.
*** It is we, the Orthodox, who say there is NO more truth to be had. ***
The difficulty from our point of view:
a. Christ said “led into all truth,” which implies future motion, which would seem to weigh against “receiving all of it now.”
b. The historical difficulties: I am currently writing a chapter on Gregory Palamas for my book on Eastern Orthodoxy. Even on the most sympathetic reading, few would seriously argue that Palamas’s minutely precise philosophical distinctions (which must hold if his essence/energies doctrine is to hold) were present in “CE 100.” To argue that such a doctrine is “present anyway” because of the deposit of faith is to beg the question.
Regarding Christ’s (at the time) future promise that the Holy Spirit would lead the Apostles into all the truth, it seems to me this can be understood in two ways. In that they received the full revelation of the gospel of Christ (i.e., there is nothing more to the gospel than that which the Apostles received and which was clarified to them in its fullness as well as the meaning of the OT opened to them (Luke 24:27, 45), this promise was fulfilled after Christ’s Resurrection. Also, the Apostles were witnesses to Christ, who is the fullness (completion) of God’s Self-revelation to Man. In this sense, they had received the fullness of the Truth. On the other hand, for them and for their successors, the full working out of this complete revelation of the gospel in Christ and it’s application to future conditions, false teaching, etc., would need to be an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Isn’t this, on some level, the way both Orthodox and many conservative Protestants understand the promise?
LOL! I’m glad my point was “almost” interesting. Anything is better than boring I suppose. My wording was probably not the best but I was trying to roughly define sola scriptura as it was originally conceived as opposed to todays solo scriptura. Of which, to me, there is little difference to this distinction in practice. Anyway, still, w/o access to the scriptures they could never finally verify any teaching. They were at the mercy of whoever was teaching them. The purpose of the scripture is to give us the Truth is it not? They did not have access to this. Who knew if the subordinate teachings were in line w/ this Truth or not? Again, I can’t believe that the fundamental means of conveying God’s message to His people being unavailable to most makes any sense at all. There must be something else. We say Tradition. As far as the Reformers making room for subordinate truths that was a moving target. Sure, if a particular Reformer found a Church Father agreed w/ him on his interp of something then he was more than happy to haul that Father aboard his argument. But if any Father disagreed w/ his personal interp of something then that Reformer was just as willing to toss that Father overboard. It always eventually goes back to being solo scriptura. Me and my interp of my Bible.
“Christ said “led into all truth,” which implies future motion, which would seem to weigh against “receiving all of it now.””
That is vs. 13. I would suggest your answer is in vs. 12:
“I still have many things to say to you but you cannot bear them now.”
They weren’t ready at that time but when the Holy Spirit came at Pentacost it is obvious to see their eyes were opened. Then they finally “got it”.
About the Palamas part I am not very knowledgeable. Just know the basics. But it could be the principle that has been alluded to before by others. You can have knowledge of a subject w/o minutely articulating every nuance of it. Especially if there is no need. But if someone were to come along and say something about that subject that was wrong you would, upon hearing it, chaff and immediately know something’s fishy. To counter the error someone w/ the ability would need to step up to the plate and accurately articulate this subject in greater detail that was not previously expressed when there was no need. So at a later date one might look at the fleshed out arguments and declare that those detailed points were not to be found in earlier teachings on this subject but that could only mean that the later argument merely fleshed out what was previously known in a more general sense. So it’s not a new teaching just a much more expanded one on an old subject.
I hope I’m making sense here. Hopefully someone w/ a lot more knowledge of Palamas will pipe in.
By “almost interesting” I Meant no disrespect. You made a very good point that I wanted to pursue. Mea culpa.
***They weren’t ready at that time but when the Holy Spirit came at Pentacost it is obvious to see their eyes were opened. Then they finally “got it”. ***
true enough, but my question would be how do we know that the liturgical traditions et al practiced today are the same ones mentioned to the apostles when “the finally got it”?
***On the other hand, for them and for their successors, the full working out of this complete revelation of the gospel in Christ and it’s application to future conditions, false teaching, etc., would need to be an ongoing work of the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Isn’t this, on some level, the way both Orthodox and many conservative Protestants understand the promise?***
Yes, plus Newman’s development doctrine ala Rome. The problem is that if you pursue this line thoroughly, it’s harder to say you have already received all the truth.
It certainly would seem that the idea that Christ’s teaching on the Spirit of Truth was meant just for the Apostles was not how the Early Church understood it. For example, Tertullian wrote in the 2nd Century against the idea of a Great Apostasy, whereby the Church universal fell into error, and he refers to John 14:
“Grant, then, that all have erred; that the apostle was mistaken in giving his testimony; that the Holy Ghost had no such respect to any one (church) as to lead it into truth, although sent with this view by Christ, (John 14:26) and for this asked of the Father that He might be the teacher of truth; (John 15:26) grant, also, that He, the Steward of God, the Vicar of Christ, neglected His office, permitting the churches for a time to understand differently, (and) to believe differently, what He Himself was preaching by the apostles—is it likely that so many churches, and they so great, should have gone astray into one and the same faith? No casualty distributed among many men issues in one and the same result. Error of doctrine in the churches must necessarily have produced various issues. When, however, that which is deposited among many is found to be one and the same, it is not the result of error, but of tradition. Can any one, then, be reckless enough to say that they were in error who handed on the tradition?” (Prescription Against Heretics 28)
Other Fathers such as Melodius (Discourse IX, 4th C AD) can be adduced to show that the Early Church, or at least part of it, certainly believed that Christ’s words were meant for more than just the Apostles.
That should say “St. Methodius”.
Right. Even though the NT is replete with Christ’s promises to be with his church, I don’t see how it’s warranted to infer “Our Particular Understanding of the Church Will Receive the Fullness of Truth and Doctrine Always Free from Error.” The NT is just as replete with warnings that wolves will come in and danger will appear from within the church.
Further, if one accepts the view that the Man of Sin applies to the church (which most commentators outside of the 20th century agree), then we have a diabolical error arising from within the church.
And then there are Tertullian’s comments where he said the Church should imitate the devil-worshipers and adopt angelic celibacy.
“And then there are Tertullian’s comments where he said the Church should imitate the devil-worshipers and adopt angelic celibacy.”
Isn’t this just a red herring? No Orthodox claims that even her Saints are right on every count, and Tertullian didn’t even end his life Orthodox/orthodox, never mind being declared a Saint in the Orthodox Church.
“’Our Particular Understanding of the Church Will Receive the Fullness of Truth and Doctrine Always Free from Error.’” = ideological claim not being made, as far as I can see, by the Orthodox Church (not saying anything about particular members, whose opinions aren’t binding on anyone). I think it is demonstrable that there are frequently theological opinions being advanced within the Orthodox Church, that after processes of discernment by Synods of Bishops, don’t pass the test and are eventually identified as heretical. As far as formal Orthodoxy is concerned, this continuous process of discernment is a given, particularly given the NT warnings about wolves. Saying the Orthodox Church is “the Church” doesn’t obligate one to accept every interpretation and opinion set forth by a canonical member of the Orthodox Church, or even one of her Saints or hierarchs. It is the teaching of the Church that even these can err.
The Orthodox Church has kept in her formal dogma the essential understandings of Orthodox/orthodox faith and practice from the earliest centuries and still embraces as her dogmatic marker the only form of the Creed that was ever universal for all Christians united in faith and dogma during the first millennium. She is the only Christian Church in existence that still embraces all 7 “Ecumenical” Councils = historical fact that identifies all canonical Orthodox churches formally and dogmatically with the united Church of the first millennium. For an Orthodox understanding of the “charismatic” boundaries of the Church, see the statement quoted elsewhere in this blog (maybe in this thread) from Florovsky. I think this is what the claim that the Orthodox Church is “the Church” means.
“The NT is just as replete with warnings that wolves will come in and danger will appear from within the church” = concrete circumstances for which we have historical record as well as conciliar decisions and statements for how these were dealt with and will be dealt with in the future.
All that is to say the Orthodox Church is not making an ideological claim, but an historic one, when she claims she is the visible expression of the fullness of the Church in her formal dogmatic faith and practice in a way unique from any other Christian communion. This is different from the claim that all her members always keep this historic faith and practice. That claim is not being made. We have already addressed the issue that this also does not mean she is claiming anyone currently outside her formal boundaries is automatically “unsaved,” much less that all her formal members are, thus, automatically being “saved.”
***Isn’t this just a red herring? No Orthodox claims that even her Saints are right on every count, and Tertullian didn’t even end his life Orthodox/orthodox, never mind being declared a Saint in the Orthodox Church.***
Tertullian’s views on celibacy are by and large identical with pretty much everyone in the ancient Christian world, both East and West.
***Saying the Orthodox Church is “the Church” doesn’t obligate one to accept every interpretation and opinion set forth by a canonical member of the Orthodox Church, or even one of her Saints or hierarchs. It is the teaching of the Church that even these can err.***
Which brings us back to the issue of when the church is giving an authoritative teaching and when it isn’t, and I have maintained that you can’t do this without begging the question.
***The Orthodox Church has kept in her formal dogma the essential understandings of Orthodox/orthodox faith and practice from the earliest centuries and still embraces as her dogmatic marker the only form of the Creed that was ever universal for all Christians united in faith and dogma during the first millennium.***
Gregory Palamas’ teaching on the unknowability of God is radically different from what went before and marked a key compromise of Trinitarian theology. That’s why I don’t accept claims that the EO hasn’t changed at all.
Thanks for this great quote! I didn’t know about it.
I know I’m a few weeks late to the discussion (which has been very interesting by the way), but I wanted to make comments as to why, after serious exploring Eastern Orthodoxy for a few years (and being a catechumen for a couple of months), I ultimately landed in a Continuing Anglican church as a classical Anglican:
1. I couldn’t accept the implication that the Holy Ghost went >poof< and vanished from either half of the Church in 1054 simply because Pope and Patriarch excommunicated each other. Particularly, although I sided with the East in rejecting the ever evolving claims of the papacy, I didn't automatically conclude that this made every Western saint and theologian suspect before or since then.
2. As a corollary to this, I couldn't abide the knee-jerk anti-Westernism that I had read in many modern day EO apologists' writings. As much as I liked the early eastern fathers such as Athanasius, the Cappadocians and Chrysostom, I also found much good in Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas. As much as I appreciated the role of the 1st Seven Ecumenical Councils in clarifying orthodox Trinitarianism and Christology, I was convicted that the Western semi-Augustinian consensus (expressed at the Second Council of Orange, chiefly) was instrumental in clarifying the Scriptural teaching about grace/salvation.
3. At the end of the day, although I agreed that Eastern Orthodoxy preserved much that many Protestants (but not all) today have forgotten or ignored (sacraments, synergy, sanctification), I also think the Reformers had recovered much that was obscurred or neglected over the centuries in the East and the West, especially justification based on faith in the merits of Christ alone. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't ignore the biblical teachings of the Substitutionary Atonement and Justification based on the imputed righteousness of Christ by faith which I found all through Scriptures, most vividly perhaps in Isaiah 53 and Paul's epistles. Yet there seemed to be an outright denial of, or at least a significant underemphasis of, these teachings in the works of many modern proponents of Eastern Orthodoxy whom I read. So even if modern evangelicalism has often reductionistically distorted these doctrines in weird and dangerous ways, these doctrines are still at the heart of the the early Apostolic preaching and thus of the GOSPEL itself.
4. Early Church history wasn't as neat and tidy as either RCC or EOC apologists claim. One can read the accounts of the councils to see how messy and political things were. On the other hand, neither was the Early church devoid of a broad consensus on important issues like the nature of God, Christ, salvation, church goverment, the sacraments, and the rough boundaries of the canon (which is why I couldn't remain a Southern Baptist either) so that a genuine paleo-orthodoxy can be identified.
I could go on, but those are the main points. Suffice it to say I still admire much in Eastern Orthodoxy, but I can say the same thing about Roman Catholicism and different strands of Protestantism as well.
Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! I agree with much of what you had to say, e.g., the value of Augustine and Ambrose, the messiness of church history, and the value of justification by faith. My concern is that the Continuing Anglican tradition is unable to trace its apostolic succession back to the Apostles of Christ even though they say they do. If you ever want to reconsider Orthodoxy, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
I am currently in an ACNA mission parish in my home town (before that I was driving an hour away to a continuing parish in the ACC). We may have some disagreement about the validity of Anglican succession, and certainly ACNA is not without it’s problems (particularly the unresolved WO issue), but I have always appreciated the tone of your blog and responses. God bless.