It was while I attended a Reformed seminary — Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary — that I first became interested in Orthodoxy. I was drawn to the staunch orthodoxy of the early Church Fathers, the deep sense of worship in the Orthodox liturgy, and the strong sense of historical continuity. However, my journey to Orthodoxy was hampered by the fact that the Orthodox Christians I met were not able to address the questions I had as a Calvinist: What about icons? What about sola scriptura (the Bible alone)? What about sola fide (justification by faith alone)? What about Mary? What about TULIP?
I needed good reasons for converting from the Reformed tradition to Orthodoxy. Eventually, I did my own theological and historical research, and bible study, and developed reasons why Eastern Orthodoxy is truly biblical and grounded in the historic Christian faith; much more so than the Reformed tradition.
The major challenge lies in the fact that Calvinism and Orthodoxy operate from two different theological paradigms. There is a need for theological translators who can explain the differences and commonalities between two great Christian theological traditions. It is my hope that I can help Calvinists interested in Orthodoxy come to a better understanding of Orthodoxy and perhaps cross over to the other side.
“From Unchurched Hawaiian to Local Orthodox” Journey to Orthodoxy
“How an Icon Brought a Calvinist to Orthodoxy” Again Magazine
I traveled from Reformed theology to Holy Orthodoxy and I eagerly await the posts resulting from all your studies. Here is a post of patristic quotes I put together on TULIP:
Ascend eagerly brother!
I just wanted to add my 2 cents. Im Eastern Orthodox but I have Calvinistic-Reformed leanings (hopefully I won’t be condemned by fellow Orthodox for that on here) and I will be reading your site as you post to find out more about both sides and how they do/can interact. I will be honest with you: though I cannot see myself in a Reformed church, neither can I accept all things in the Orthodox church completely so Im as we Greeks say “in aporea” a bit of a mental quandry. I do firmly believe that both Reformed and Orthodox are ‘christian’. Orthodox afterall accept Christ by faith as saviour and serious Reformed believers do not (as far as I know reject major christological truths of historic christianity).
Anyway I have read your about me and May 20th posting. I hope you continue with bringing calvinistic reformed believers and Orthodox together on here.
Yorgo, I appreciate your honesty. You seem to be in a very interesting place with respect to Orthodox and Reformed beliefs. Please feel welcome to join our discussions. We want both sides to be heard and to listen to each other. I view Reformed Christians as fellow believers in Jesus Christ who have much in common with historic Orthodoxy. That is why I set up this blog.
The article “Can Orthodox Christianity Speak To Eastern Religions?” by Kevin Allen on OrthodoxyToday.org provides a revealing look into Orthodoxy. Here is a sample of quotes:
“Orthodoxy is therapeutic and transformative in emphasis”
Great peace have those who love your law; nothing can make them stumble.
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.
“We agree on the sickness (of the human condition). Where we disagree is on the cure.”
Applied to Orthodoxy itself: the idea of “theosis” or union with God is found in Scripture although expressed in different terms however the difference between Scripture lies in the primary means or “the cure” Orthodoxy teaches that leads to this union, ie. sacraments.
Scripture teaches that union with God comes through both private and corporate fellowship with God in prayer, reading, listening, meditating, memorizing and other interactions with God’s Word.
“The true [Christian] theologian isn’t one who simply knows doctrine, but one who knows God.”
Intelligence and religious knowledge are indeed of little value and in many cases are liabilities in attaining the most valuable possession: spiritual knowledge of Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:16).
I regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord
Theological understanding must always lead to ever-increasing separation unto Christ for rest, joy and fulfillment, who is Christ Himself.
“Buddhist and Hindu dhamma emphasizes cessation of desire, which is necessary to quench the passions. Holy Tradition teaches apatheia, or detachment as a means of combating the fallen passion.”
Holy Spirit teaches that it is the cross of Jesus Christ that accomplishes this:
Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, “by which” the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Galatians 6:14).
“it is only in the Eastern Orthodox Church and through its deifying mysteries…”
Again we see the primacy of sacraments rather than Scripture which Orthodoxy teaches lead to deification (sanctification and glorification in biblical language)
“[The seeker] will be led to participate in the Uncreated Energies of God, so that they may be partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4)”.
The most famously misconstrued verse in Orthodoxy: 2 Peter 1:4.
2 Peter 1:4 says: He has granted to us his precious and very great promises so that “through them” you may become partakers of the divine nature.
The Holy Spirit, through this verse, teaches us that it God’s precious and very great “promises”, His Word essentially, that enables us to partake in the divine nature.
Orthodoxy often cites 2 Peter 1:4 to support the idea of sacraments which is not only contrary to the verse, but to the whole of inspired Scripture.
“deification is available to all who enter the Holy Orthodox Church, are baptized (which begins the deifying process) and “partake of the holy mysteries.” ”
This idea is foreign to the Christian Bible and Christianity in general.
PS Saint Symeon the New Theologian is a hero of mine (as is Cyril of Jerusalem). They seem to be on the same wavelength as where I am.
Look forward to reading and interacting with your posts. Have liked the tenor and substance of what I’ve seen thus far…and look forward to much more.
Thanks for creating this site!
I enjoy your site and reading the debates here! Your articles are very good.
I only have one complaint: at the top of the page- the lady on the bridge is traveling in the wrong direction….
Actually, she’s waiting for someone to come onto the bridge and converse with her!
Hi, Robert. As you can see, I subscribed to your new blog and I hope that, as I suggested, you are planning to post on it all your previous works (materials) I read and which some of them can be found on your http://localorthodox site. I know not all of them are directly linked with the main subject of this new blog, but maybe people will be interested and I think they’ll love them. In the mean time, I hope the Yorgo, my greek intelligent brother and strong believer, by reading your posts, will realize with the help of the Holy Spirit that he has to accept everything about the universal teachings and practices of the Orthodox Church and he will probably feel more comfortable with being an orthodox, if he will try not use too much the rational thinking where it is not its place and if he will try to look more to Orthodoxy than to the orthodox people. We believe that we are sinners and sometimes we even sin as we wouldn’t expect from ourselves, but we know we have the right path of Orthodoxy to go further on it and which will help us stand up and follow God in Truth.
I am very excited that I found this blog! As one who was previously reformed, I am always looking for ways to grow in the historical faith that is Christianity. I wanted to ask however, how did you decide between the Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. I know much more about the Catholic Church than the Orthodox, but I am currently reading a book on Orthodoxy by Vladimir Lossky. Are there any resources that you found helpful? Did you consider Catholicism as an alternative to Orthodoxy?
Good to hear from you! My journey to Orthodoxy was fairly long and convoluted. I did give the Roman Catholic Church some consideration, but it never became a serious option for me. On the other hand the challenge that Orthodoxy presented to my Evangelical theology grew over time. Let me relate three incidents that helped me to prefer Eastern Orthodoxy over Roman Catholicism.
One, when I was at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary one of the students there converted to Roman Catholicism. I sat down with Gary one morning over coffee and while I found his story fascinating I left unconvinced over his acceptance of the supreme authority and infallibility of the Pope.
Two, in my first year when I was in Berkeley CA I attended the Candlelight Mass at the Newman Center on a regular basis. I was moved at seeing all these UC Berkeley students at the Mass. Then I began to notice that the Mass varied from Sunday to Sunday depending on the priest. For example, the Nicene Creed was not said at every Mass. Also I was jolted to hear an after service announcement for the Gay and Lesbian Fellowship. What I saw on the grassroots level did not match the formal teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. In my second year I found about a Bulgarian Orthodox Church meeting just off the university campus. What I saw at that tiny parish matched with what I was reading about Orthodoxy. I also became aware of being in the mystical presence of God in the Liturgy.
Three, I majored in church history at seminary and was puzzled by the discrepancy between Roman Catholicism and the early Church Fathers. The light went off in my head when I realized that while Catholicism has ancient historical roots in many ways what we know of as Roman Catholic Church is in many ways the medieval Catholic Church. In other words Roman Catholicism has departed significantly from its patristic base. What I found in the Orthodox Church is a church of the Church Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils. As an Orthodox Christian I am in the same Church as Irenaeus of Lyons, Athanasius the Great, Ambrose of Milan, Justin Martyr, Cyril of Jerusalem, John of Damascus and so many of the great heroes of the faith.
Hope this helps.
Thank you for creating this blog and the reminder for us not to neglect the early centuries of the church. There needs to be balance to learn from many saints throughout history regardless of when they lived (time of habitation is not what determines importance but intimacy and conformity to Christ). If you ask an Eastern Orthodox if he/she knows about Amy Carmichael, Hudson Taylor, Jim Elliot, there is a good chance they have never heard of these or other “modern” saints, heroes, martyrs. There is much to learn from the ancient faith, we should not neglect our historical treasure but neither should we neglect what the Lord has been doing down through the ages and continues to do today, it goes both ways 🙂
For an example of a living hero of the faith see here:
Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! Thank you for sharing with us about your saints. Orthodoxy has modern saints too! As an Asian American I feel drawn to the Chinese Christian Martyrs of the Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901). I also admire Peter the Aleut who was martyred in San Francisco in 1815. And I admire Saint Innocent and Saint Herman of Alaska who brought the Gospel to the Natives while respecting their culture.
Let’s keep the conversation going!
Oh what joy fills my heart after perusing your blog! I am a Eastern Orthodox convert who came out of the Confederation of Reformed Evangelicals back in early 2006. I had been a part of this religious movement for over thirty years before being introduced to the Orthodox faith by a professor of ancient Christianity from Oxford who just happened to be hanging out in the cigar and pipe room of my coffeehouse pub which went by the name of the famous reformer, Bucer. My Pauline entrance into the Ancient, Apostolic, Catholic, Holy Church was dramatic, eventful and painful. It is no longer dramatic nor eventful but it does continue to be painful as in deep suffering and joy. At the time of my conversion over five years ago I literally had to flee Moscow but by God’s grace, I have recently returned to establish my residence. An Orthodox mission has also been established here which has taken the name of St. Katherine the Great. This saint is famous for having conquered with eloquent speech fifty of the emperor’s most wise counselors convincing all of them to not only follow Christ but to die for Christ. I mention this because I beseech her intercessions constantly on behalf of Doug Wilson and all the local leaders of the CREC and I expect amazing things to happen here and having found your blog and realizing the influence you can have is quite exciting to say the least. May God richly bless your work my dear brother and I am with great joy adding you to my prayer list.
Link: St Katherine the Great: http://orthodoxwiki.org/Catherine_of_Alexandria
Link: Moscow Orthodox Mission: http://www.stkatherines.net/
I trust that God will bless many people as both sides seek to honor him through gracious and courteous dialogue. Pray for us!
Thank you for your website. This is important work, and I hope that God will give you the strength to keep it up. I am a convert to Orthodoxy from the Campbellite / Church of Christ tradition, and now I’m a student at Holy Cross Seminary in Boston.
You might consider doing a post on the Reformed theologian Thomas F Torrance, an amazing man who had many connections to Orthodoxy. He was the academic mentor of our patristics professor here, Fr George Dragas, when he was a student at the University of Edinburgh. While Torrance’s view of church tradition is typically reformed, believing that the Orthodox ‘went wrong’ at some point, I think he simply didn’t examine the later Greek patristic sources and likely would have been convinced otherwise had he done so. He knew the early fathers incredibly well, however, and knew his Greek, as you can see by consulting his book on patristic interpretations of Scripture, Divine Meaning, which is full of direct citations from PG (Patrologia Graeca).
Your readers also may be interested in consulting a page of my own, Biblioteca Patrum (http://bibliotecapatrum.blogspot.com/), which is simply a bibliography of English translations of the Orthodox fathers with some links to free online editions where available.
I’m glad you like this blog! And thank you for recommending the Reformed theologian Thomas Torrance. I’ve read and enjoyed a number of his books. I think our readers would learn much from a posting on Torrance from the Orthodox and Reformed perspectives.
I think this is a very interesting site. I suppose I come from a reformed background and I think this blog is a great idea! I, by no means am ‘investigating’ Orthodox Christianity (big ‘O’) but I was wondering – what do Orthodox Christians believe doctrinally? I’ve found trying to find a statement of beliefs rather elusive and therefore I actually have no idea in what ways Orthodox Christianity is different to… well I suppose I don’t know if it is different yet either! I had only heard of the existence of Orthodox Christianity over this last year!
Keep on writing!
Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! Orthodoxy shares many of the fundamental beliefs with historic Protestantism. We say the Nicene Creed at every Sunday worship, and so do many Protestants. If you are not familiar with the Nicene Creed you can visit creeds.net. The way Orthodoxy does theology is quite different from Protestantism. Where Protestantism has many systematic theology texts, the Orthodox Church does not. The closest thing to systematic theology is the Divine Liturgy which is celebrated every Sunday. Our theology is not in books but in our worship. The Liturgy consists of fixed prayers, hymns, creeds, and responses that embodies the faith of the Church. There’s a lot of spiritual truths in the Liturgy! If you want to understand what Orthodoxy is all about, I would recommend you attend an all English Orthodox service. You also might want to get a copy of the Orthodox Study Bible.
I a;so come from a reformed background. I have been Orthodox since 1997.
I would like to invite you to visit and read from my Orthodox blog, “Finding the way to the heart”
Sorry I sent my comment before I was done. I will be reading your blog. I would like to invite you to read my blog, these 4 posts in particular;
May Hod bless you and your readers!
Hello Robert, I look forward to reading the posts. I was Presbyterian and preparing to be a minister of the Word and Sacrament and am now a chatacumen in the Orthodox Church. Thank you for this site. It is obvious a lot of work goes into it.
Thank you very much! Inquirers from the Reformed tradition often ask questions that require a lot of thought and research. It is my hope that the OrthodoxBridge will be useful to you and others who open to learning more about the Orthodox Faith.
We greet you in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.Amen.
Welcome to evangelize in Kenya. We really need your blessings.
Hay! Bishop what a wonderful teachings that we have come across on the website. May you be blessed and be blessed for ever for the mission you are extending all over the world, and the world will be saved because of your wonderful teachings.
We tried to get the printout and we explained to the people and surely they said that they have been lacking such a marveling teachings.
Surely here in Kisii,Kenya the congregation is really requesting that you remember them in every liturgical prayers so that one day our Truine God will assist you to jump and come over Kenya,Kisii and assist us to spread the word which is under Apostolic succession.
May God grant you many, many and prosperous years in your Mission.
Be blessed for ever.
Here is a link to a podcast that is about Orthodoxy’s growing presence in East Africa. I pray that there will be an Orthodox church in Kisii, Kenya where you are and that many of your countrymen will come to the true worship of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I want to thank you for the work you put into this website. I would say I’m reformed and I’m attending a “non-denominational” church who is Calvinistic and believes in the solas. Lately, I’ve been drawn to the orthodox church because of an interest in the early church and a frustration with the disunity of Protestant churches in America. Your site is very well written- I’ve never taken notes on a blog before! If you could, e-mail me more information about other good orthodox blogs or books I would really appreciate it! Thanks again!
Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! I’m glad you found this site helpful. I will provide you with a list shortly.
Thank you for your in sight. It seems this forum would be useful also to those in the convergence movement.
Glory to God. May I copy paste aand translet many articles in Indonesian. I a interested for our orthodox mission in Indonesia.
Selamat Datang ke OrthodoxBridge!
Saya dihormati bahwa Pak sukai blog ini. Silakan menerjemahkan karangan-karangan ke dalam Bahasa Indonesia! Gereja Anda terletak di mana?
hi thank you for adding me! my hubby and I stumbled upon your site just the other day and wow! both my hubby and I come from Assemblies of God backgrounds and are currently catechumens at a Greek Orthodox Church here in SD. We are really excited about your page and pray that God will keep in our memory your thought provoking questions and statements so when we are asked questions we will with the Help of the Holy Spirit be able to answer wisely. again thank you!
Thanks for writing! May God bless you and your husband’s journey to Orthodoxy. And thank you for your prayers!
I am very happy to have stumbled on this site. I have been trying to have a rational discussion of Calvinism on another web site and found it impossible to have a polite exchange of ideas because two rabid Calvinists dominated the discussion and resorted to sarcasm and personal attacks instead of an honest and respectful exchange of ideas. Trying to understand Calvinism helps me understand my own Orthodox Faith.
Fr. John W. Morris
Dear Fr. John,
Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! While there may be some shouting Calvinists out there, I believe that there are many quiet Calvinists out there who are listening and interested in Orthodoxy. Let us keep reaching out to them in respectful conversation.
hi; I’m not a calvinist, but I stumbled across your website at the bottom of your article ‘ Orthodox Worship versus Contemporary Worship’ published in ‘Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy’ which I received Sept. 10 by email.
So I look forward to seeing more of your articles.
Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! I’ve subtitled the blog: “A Meeting Place for Evangelicals, Reformed, and Orthodox Christians,” so you are included as well.
I’m wondering if you can point me in the direction of anything related to what is commonly referred to as “Neocalvinism.” I am particularly interested in thinkers from this dutch tradition such as Abraham Kuyper or Herman Dooyeweerd and what they have in common with Orthodoxy. Is anyone familiar with this strain of calvinism or these guys? Here’s a link to wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo-Calvinism
I referred your question to a Reformed friend who wrote the following:
I am a Lutheran who has been attending a conservative Reformed seminary. My questions have caused me to study history, originally by reading Justo Gonzalez and Jaroslav Pelikan, and now patristics. I’ve been feeling the tug towards the western shore of the Bosohorus, but one of my feet is still planted in Wittenberg and my hand has got a loose grip in Geneva. I’m enjoying your posts.
I’m glad to hear that you have been enjoying the posts. God bless you in your reading and the exploration of the history of the Church.
Just a question with no ulterior motive and will not respond to an answer unless it’s just absolutely too ambiguous. Genuine question. Was the reformation a necessary evil? If the RCC deviated from the one holy apostolic church, then doesn’t the reformation make sense as a necessary course of action, or would it have been preferred that the Roman church stayed hierarchically intact? Also if I may, which of these 3 protestant systems of Lutheranism, Reformed, and Anglicanism are closest to the teachings to the ancient church? (Not intended to endorse one of those systems, I truly just want to know which one of those 3 most closely resembles the historic Apostolic church and why.) Peace in Christ and your expertise is much appreciated!
When I was a Protestant I saw the Reformation as something necessary. As an Orthodox Christian I now view the Reformers’ seeking something needed: a return to the early Church founded on the teachings of the Apostles, both written and oral tradition (II Thessalonians 2:15). What the Reformers desired was indeed needed but whether or not they succeeded is another question. I would describe Protestants as innocent victims of Rome’s break from the ancient Church. Protestants are like children who suffer as a result of their parents’ divorce. I wish that the Church of Rome had not gone its separate way breaking up the ancient pentarchy but that is what happened.
As to whether the Reformation was a “necessary evil,” it would like asking: Was the Protestant Reformation a “justifiable evil”? My response is that two wrongs don’t add up to one right. Rather than attempting to pass judgement on the necessity or the rightness of the Reformation, let me just say that for all their sincere attempts the Reformers did not end up with the Apostolic Tradition. They had bits and pieces of Apostolic Tradition but not the whole package.
Due to the loss of Holy Tradition the Reformers attempted to recover the Church prior to the deviations and innovations of Roman Catholicism. Each of the Protestant traditions you mentioned succeeded and failed in different ways. The Lutheran tradition held to a liturgical form of worship and a strong sense of doctrine but lacked the office of the bishop. The Anglican tradition held to a liturgical form of worship and possessed the office of the bishop but its reliance on “via media” (the middle way) it became vulnerable to doctrinal drift and compromise. The Reformed tradition held a high view of Scripture, the preaching ministry, and the need for a strong vibrant church but it lacked the office of the bishop. Furthermore, in the Reformed tradition the sermon came to displace the Eucharist despite the emphasis that Calvin gave in his Institutes. So to answer your question as to which tradition is closest to the ancient church, my answer is that they all fall short in some critical manner. If one wishes to restore ties with the ancient church one will need to enter into eucharistic union with a bishop who stands in apostolic succession to the original Apostles. To put it succinctly, one needs to accept the totality of the Apostolic Tradition and be received into the Orthodox Church.
Hope this answers your questions!
God bless you for your blog Robert! I’ve been having a blast checking out the various articles and your honest and respectful interaction with peoples questions. And even those who are more polemic.
My prayers and best wishes to you in your work.
Thanks! I appreciate your prayers. Pray that I have a healthy spiritual life and intellectual rigor as I write my blog postings.
Thank you so much for publishing this site. I am on the verge of paranoia as it relates to my growing interest in Orthodoxy and my fears of how my fellow believers and family members will react. This site is like a quiet garden. What a great ministry! Keep it up!
Thanks! I like the image of this blog being a quiet garden. Having one’s assumptions about theology can be unsettling, my advice is that you trust in God and keep your focus on Christ.
At the outset of your critique of Reformed soteriology under the title Plucking the TULIP you state that double predestination is the hallmark of Reformed theology. I would suggest to the contrary that Covenant Theology is the hallmark of Reformed theology – and I purposely use the designation Reformed as opposed to Calvinism. Do you have a similar critique of Covenant Theology (Works – Grace) here? Can’t find anything but it is central to our hermeneutic. I’m probably missing a link somewhere so thought I might ask.
I agree that covenant theology is very important to Reformed theology. I haven’t posted on it yet. The main reason is that I need to do some research on the subject matter for before I publish on my blog. But thank you for raising the issue. I anticipate the two of us will have some interesting discussions on this.
This volume, devoted to the theme of TF Torrance and Orthodoxy, should be of special interest to the participants of this blog:
Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Looks very interesting. I might even do a short review of it.
Please do that review! The volume is an important one, for many reasons, and has not yet received the attention it deserves.