A Meeting Place for Evangelicals, Reformed, and Orthodox Christians

Tag: Journey to Orthodoxy (Page 2 of 4)

Well Said Indeed!


I received this comment from Matthew on 11 July 2017.  In it he describes how his thinking about sola scriptura has changed and how this sparked his journey to Orthodoxy.  It should be noted that his mind changed gradually.  The inner conversation described by Matthew is probably like that of many others.  This article can be of help to new visitors wondering: “Why on earth would a sincere Christian relinquish sola scriptura?”

Matthew’s comment was insightful and thoughtful that I thought that instead of burying it in the Comment section it should be posted as an article by itself.  Thank you Matthew for your excellent contribution!



Hi Robert,

Just a quick note to say that I’m on my own journey to the Orthodox Church, and your posts have played a significant part in that. Especially your posts on sola scriptura. The first time I read your arguments against sola scriptura I wasn’t convinced. But I still felt at the time that there was something in your posts, something about the general thrust of what you were saying, that attracted me. I instinctively felt, ‘There is something to this,’ and I liked it. I came back again to re-read and re-think.

I began to think about the canon of Scripture and that was a big blow to my sola scriptura view. The canon is absolutely necessary for Protestants, of course, because tied up with sola scriptura is the sole sufficiency of Scripture. For sole sufficiency to work, you need an infallible canon – you need to know precisely which books are in the Bible. But I realised – to my amazement – that you cannot establish precisely which books should be in the Scripture via sola scriptura. I basically realised that this is the same as saying that the Bible doesn’t tell us what it itself actually is (which books are in it); we need the Church for that. But by depending on the Church to tell us what the Bible itself actually is, we have to abandon the principle of sola scriptura. In other words, sola scriptura is self-refuting, because to get a Scripture in the first place, you need an authority besides the Scriptures to tell you what the Scriptures are… That I think is an unanswerable argument against sola scriptura.

Another reason I felt sola scriptura cannot be true is because it cannot help Christians to be united on what heresy is and is not. Sola scriptura cannot tell Christians what they absolutely must believe and what they don’t necessarily need to believe. I began to think that you really need an objective authority to inform you on such a fundamental matter, not just your own opinion on what Scripture is saying. Of course, the objective authority is the Church and her ecumenical councils.

Ultimately, I believe sola scriptura is a myth, and as you say in one of your posts, ‘Sola scriptura won’t work and hasn’t worked because it cannot work.’ I think what Protestants really follow is ‘sola my view of what I think Scripture is teaching’, which is really just ‘sola my reason’. It’s ‘sola myself’. It’s trusting yourself, in other words, not God. Which is why sola scriptura often breeds arguments, divisions and arrogance and stubbornness, none of which are from God, but come from trusting in yourself. What helped me to be more willing to give up this attitude is that I personally witnessed again and again my own mistakes at interpreting the Bible, even on really important matters. I was having to change my mind so much on what Scripture actually says. So in the end, I concluded I’m not good enough to be trusted with interpreting this Bible; I need to be told what it means. I’d rather trust the Church and her fathers than myself. She is much more trustworthy.

I was also staggered when I read Ignatius’ letters and discovered how very similar they were to the Orthodox church and how very different they are to Protestantism. I am amazed at how willing some of my Protestant friends are to simply abandon the Church fathers when their views differ from their own interpretation of Scripture, but I became increasingly uncomfortable with doing this. Especially with Ignatius, because he’s so early, and was a bishop for 40 years, ordained in the apostolic era, and a disciple of apostle John. And here he is, saying the Eucharist is ‘the medicine of immortality’ and the real body and blood of Christ, that the Church is a visible body and you’re either in or out of her, that visible disunity is a terrible sin, that the Bishop is the presence of God amongst us, and having a full-blown sacramental theology. Hardly ‘evangelical’, to say the least! The unity between the Church fathers and Orthodoxy has been one of the main reasons for me accepting the Orthodox Church as the true Church of Christ.

Another big influence upon me was seeing that the Bible so clearly teaches a sacramental theology, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Galatians 3:26-27, John 6:53-57, 1 John 1:9. The Bible makes the sacraments necessary for salvation, which means of course that justification by faith alone is not true, and that we need the Church if we are to be saved.

One of my last convictions came when I realised that the Church must be a visible, concrete body, not a spiritual, invisible body. I think baptism (and the Eucharist) is a real Achilles’ heel for Protestants at this point. And I think 2 Timothy 1:6 is teaching apostolic succession, in the form of a sacrament. Something really did happen when Paul laid his hands on Timothy, and I’m sure something really did happen when Timothy laid his hands on his replacement…

Anyway, enough for now. Take care and keep writing your posts! You’re having a great impact over the world (I’m from the UK).




Hank Hanegraaff Becomes Orthodox

How Should Evangelicals Respond?

Hank Hanegraaff – Bible Answer Man

Right – Hank Hanegraaff being received into the Orthodox Church – Palm Sunday 2017


On 9 April 2017, Hank Hanegraaff – also known as the “Bible Answer Man” – was received into the Orthodox Church.  His conversion to Orthodoxy surprised many Evangelicals.  Some have reacted negatively.  The blog site Pulpit & Pen posted “The Bible Answer Man, Hank Hanegraaff, Leaves the Christian Faith?”  In the article, Jeff Maples wrote a very negative assessment:

The Orthodox Church is a false expression of Christianity, much like the Roman Catholic Church, that is highly driven by graven images and denies the biblical doctrine of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and instead, trusts in meritorious works and a sacramental system for salvation. [Emphasis added.]

A “false expression of Christianity” – really??!!  But where are the facts to support his judgment?  My impression from reading Mr. Maples’ brief article is that he needs to write a longer article in which he presents the arguments and evidence for his harsh assessment of Orthodoxy.  Otherwise, he is just ranting and voicing unthinking prejudice.

Another negative but more tempered assessment can be found on the Reformed blog Triablogue’sHank Hanegraaff’s Promotion of Eastern Orthodoxy.”  Jason Engwer traces Mr. Hanegraaff’s gradual shift towards Orthodoxy through a detailed listing and notation of his podcasts comments.  Mr. Engwer is not happy with Mr. Hanegraaff’s recent conversion because: (1) Mr. Hanegraaff is not adhering to the fine points of Evangelical beliefs; (2) Mr. Engwer questions Orthodoxy’s claim to historic roots; and (3) Mr. Engwer believes that Evangelicalism is healthier than Orthodoxy.  Much of Jason Engwer’s beef against Orthodoxy is that it is not Protestant!  However, it is curious that Mr. Engwer did not raise the question whether Orthodoxy is biblical.  This ought to be the bottom-line question for any Evangelical.

Thoughtful Evangelicals should take the time to ask the following questions:

  • Is Protestantism the only valid expression of Christianity?
  • Does my salvation depend on my being Protestant?
  • What are the marks of genuine Christianity?
  • How do I know that my criteria for “genuine Christianity” are fair?

I recommend that Evangelicals read books like Peter Gillquist’s Becoming Orthodox, Robert Letham’s Through Western Eyes, and James Payton’s Light From the Christian East.  Fr. Gillquist writes from an Orthodox perspective, Letham and Payton from the perspective of sympathetic Protestants.  It is important to get the facts rather than to rush to judgment based on a hostile Protestant critique. I ask all readers to learn about Orthodoxy from seasoned, recognized Orthodox writers, not from hostile sources.

Many Evangelicals are probably wondering: “Why would someone who knows the Bible so well decide to become Orthodox?  Is Hank Hanegraaff still a Christian?”  The answer can be found in the words of Mr. Hanegraaff himself:

And I suppose over that period of time I have fallen ever more in love with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It’s sort of like my wife—I have never been more in love with my wife than I am today, and I’ve never been more in love with my Lord Jesus Christ than I am today. I’ve been impacted by the whole idea of knowing Jesus Christ, experiencing Jesus Christ, and partaking of the graces of Jesus Christ through the Eucharist or the Lord’s Table. And that has become so central in my life, but as far as the statement that you mentioned, that I’ve left the Christian faith—nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact I believe what I have always believed, as codified in the Nicene Creed, and as championed by mere Christianity.

After reciting the entire Nicene Creed, he concluded, “In other words, I am as deeply committed to championing mere Christianity and the essentials of the historic Christian faith, as I have ever been.”  [Source; Emphasis added.]


It is clear that Hank Hanegraaff’s continues to love Christ and the Bible, and that he cares deeply about Christ’s Church.  Many other Protestant and Evangelical converts to Orthodoxy have found this to be the case as well.  What we have found in Orthodoxy is a historically-grounded framework for understanding the Bible (i.e., Holy Tradition) and a reverent approach to worship (i.e., the Divine Liturgy).  In these times of upheaval and shifting doctrines, we have found safe haven in the Orthodox Church.


Is Orthodoxy Biblical?

Another related question a thoughtful Evangelical might ask would be: “Does conversion to Orthodoxy entail a weakened commitment to the authority and inspiration of Scripture?”  My answer to the question is that Orthodoxy is indeed biblical.  It may come as a surprise to some that what they think of as unbiblical, e.g., icons, Holy Tradition, and honoring Mary are indeed profoundly biblical. I certainly was surprised when I became open to other ways of reading the Bible. I have written a number of articles that have dealt with these topics.

I became Orthodox, not in spite of the Bible, but because of the Bible!  Orthodoxy is biblical Christianity without the Protestant add-ons.


Is Protestantism Biblical?

It may come as a shock to Evangelicals to discover that some of their core doctrines are based on a misreading of the Bible.  Evangelicals read the Bible diligently, but they read it with a particular slant.  It is this slant that causes them to misread the Bible.

For example, nowhere does the Bible teach “the Bible alone.”  There are numerous passages about the authority, inspiration, and truthfulness of Scripture, but there is nothing about the Bible as the sole source for faith and practice.  What the early Reformers did was to impose this axiom onto the Bible all the while ignoring passages that affirmed Holy Tradition.  Once the question popped in my head: “Where does the Bible say ‘the Bible alone’?” I was able to read Bible with an open mind and with surprising results.  It was like becoming aware that I was wearing glasses all the time and that the lenses were bending the light in a particular way.

Jason Engwer in the Reformed blog site Triablogue faults Hank Hanegraaff for affirming Scripture as “my rule of faith and practice” but not using the qualifier “alone.”  Could it be because the phrase “bible alone” is not found in the Bible? It is a Protestant add-on. Hank Hanegraaff has by no means watered down his commitment to Scripture and is in fact living up to his title “Bible Answer Man”!

Tabernacle in Exodus

Many Evangelicals are so used to coming to church on Sunday mornings and seeing four blank walls.  But if they were to read Exodus 26:31, 1 Kings 6:29-31, and 2 Chronicles 3:14 they would realize that the Moses’ Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple were richly endowed with sacred images.  That so many pastors skip over these biblical passages reflect Protestantism’s hidden tradition that promotes a certain way of viewing the Bible.  The use of images in churches is an ancient practice that goes back to the catacombs and even has roots in Judaism.  Nowhere in the Bible are we commanded to have four bare walls for our place of worship which raises the question which is more biblical: Orthodoxy with icons or Protestantism with bare walls?

In their reaction against Roman Catholicism, Protestant Reformers unwittingly threw the baby out with the bathwater.  With the novel doctrine sola scriptura, Protestantism became unmoored from the Church Fathers.  This resulted in Protestantism drifting from its roots in historic Christianity.  With the novel doctrine sola fidesalvation by grace alone through faith alone – Protestantism created a new doctrinal standard by which they could judge themselves to be “true Christians” and any who differed from them to be unsaved and lost.  The key defining element in early Christianity was Christology; the Protestant Reformers with sola fide created a new dogma with divisive consequences.

A thoughtful Evangelical must take into consideration the fact that none of the Church Fathers taught the Protestant dogma: salvation by grace alone through faith alone.  While there were several theories in the early Church about how Christ saves us, there was no one dominant theory. Among the early motifs were: Christ the Great Physician, Christ the Second Adam, Christ the Conquering King Victorious over Death. The early Church taught that we are saved by grace through faith in Christ; but no one taught salvation as a private experience independent of the sacraments or life in the Church. A sober and honest Protestant must ask himself: “How could the Holy Spirit fail to teach ANY of the Church Fathers this supposedly essential doctrine?” Nonetheless, the entire Church was united in the belief that Christ saves us by his death on the Cross and his third day Resurrection. This understanding of the Gospel is especially evident in the Orthodox sacrament of baptism, its Sunday worship service (the Liturgy), and especially in the Easter (Pascha) service.


Don’t Be Afraid!

How should Evangelicals and Protestants respond to Hank Hanegraaff’s conversion to Orthodoxy?  My answer is: With charity, curiosity, an open mind, and a willingness to learn about Orthodoxy.  My hope is that they do not succumb to fearful paranoia or unthinking prejudice.  Behind these negative reactions is fear.  We need to bear in mind the words of the angels: Be not afraid!

Jeff Maples sees Hank Hanegraaff’s conversion as indicative of Evangelicalism’s “dismal state.”  I agree with this assessment.  Many who became Orthodox were very much aware of the unsettled drift, fragmentation, and prideful individualism that pervade Evangelicalism and Protestantism. However, another way to look at it is to see it as the culmination of Evangelicalism’s strengths.  Among the recent Evangelical converts to Orthodoxy are pastors, seminarians, evangelists, missionaries, church elders, Sunday School teachers, and dedicated reliable lay people.  They represent the best of Evangelicalism!   Growing numbers of Evangelicals have become Orthodox, not because of a loss of faith in the Bible but rather from disenchantment with Protestantism’s hermeneutical chaos – one Bible but so many rival interpretations!  They take the Bible and truth seriously.  Many have been drawn by Orthodoxy’s reverent approach to worship.   We don’t know the full story of Hank Hanegraaff’s journey to Orthodoxy, but it is sure to be an interesting one!


Come And See!

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

It is providential that Hank Hanegraaff joined the Orthodox Church this past Palm Sunday.  This means that in a few days time, curious Protestants and Evangelicals will have the opportunity to visit Hank Hanegraaff’s new church on Easter Sunday.  Orthodox churches can be found all over.  Just use Google or Google Maps to find the nearest Orthodox parish.  They have the chance to witness the highpoint of Orthodox worship, Easter (Pascha).  Visitors should be aware that most Orthodox churches celebrate Easter on Saturday midnight.  If they come on Easter Sunday, instead of a worship service they may find themselves witnessing an Easter egg hunt or a church picnic.  But if you do attend the Pascha (Easter) service you will hear the joyous “Christ is Risen!” and the answering reply “He is Risen Indeed!”

Robert Arakaki



—-.  “’Bible Answer Man’ Hank Hanegraaff Joins Orthodox Church.”  In Pravoslavie.  10 April 2017.

Jeff Maples.  “The Bible Answer Man, Hank Hanegraaff, Leaves the Christian Faith?” In Pulpit & Pen. 10 April 2017.

Jason Engwer.  “Hank Hanegraaff’s Promotion of Eastern Orthodoxy.”  In Triablogue.  8 April 2017.

Rod Dreher.  “Bible Answer Man Embraces Orthodoxy.”  11 April 2017.

—-.  “Hank Hanegraaff Converts to Orthodox Christianity.” In Finding the True Faith.  11 April 2017.


Memories of the North Shore

Manchester by the Sea    trailer


The movie Manchester by the Sea has been getting rave reviews.  I saw it partly because of the reviews, but also because I used to live in the adjacent village of Magnolia.  Watching the movie brought back memories of my time at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.  The North Shore of Massachusetts is a string of small towns: Salem, Beverly Farms, Beverly, Manchester by the Sea, Magnolia, Gloucester, Annisquam, and Rockport.  Gordon-Conwell is situated nearby, further inland, about eight miles away.  Because I lived in nearby Magnolia, I was constantly driving through Manchester by the Sea.  It was not so much the movie’s storyline, but the background scenery that brought the onrush of memories — the barren winter landscape covered with mounds of snow in the glaring sunlight against the crisp blue sky, the fishing boats floating in the harbor, and the distinctive New England style houses.  [Note: the name of the town is “Manchester by the Sea,” not “Manchester.”]


Seeing the austere New England landscape made me reflect on how this Hawai`i-born Asian-American Evangelical began his journey to Orthodoxy.  I had chosen Gordon-Conwell because of its reputation for theological conservatism and academic excellence.  I also went there because it was situated in the heartland of Puritan New England, the oldest Reformed presence in America.  This would put me in a position to meet Evangelicals and Liberals in the United Church of Christ (the present day descendants of the Puritans).  In the early 1800s, Congregational missionaries from New England brought the Christian Gospel to Hawai`i.  The original missionaries had a high regard for the authority of Scripture but by the late 1900s theological liberalism had become entrenched and dominant in the UCC.  My former home church in Hawai`i was one of the few conservative churches in the largely liberal UCC.   I was part of the Evangelical renewal movement in the UCC called the Biblical Witness Fellowship (BWF).  I went to Gordon-Conwell in hopes of eventually becoming an Evangelical seminary professor to help the BWF bring the liberal UCC back to its biblical roots.  However, in a surprising turn of events I became Orthodox!

Pantocrator icon

How did this happen?  Despite Gordon-Conwell’s reputation as a bastion for conservative Protestantism, there were already alternative currents of thoughts flowing in the seminary.  During the first week at seminary I was walking down the hallway of Main Dorm, to my surprise I saw an icon of Christ on one of the student’s door.  Jim was not Orthodox but a member of the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal group.  Seeing this icon would mark the beginning of the many other surprising encounters over the next three years.



Meeting Orthodox Christians

Part of my turn to Orthodoxy can be attributed to the people I met.  I was fortunate that Gordon-Conwell offered classes on early Christianity.  In that class I met Theo, a bright undergraduate from nearby Gordon College who was Greek Orthodox.  Theo introduced me to Fr. Chris Foustokos, the priest at Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Newburyport.  I later had a long conversation with Fr. Chris during which I grilled him on Orthodox theology and practice.  I came away impressed that he did in fact have a personal faith in Christ.  I was also relieved to learn that he believed that those who converted to Orthodoxy would not have to undergo Hellenization.  In my second year, I sat down for dinner and saw the student sitting across from me make the sign of the Cross.  It turned out that Paul had just graduated from Holy Cross Orthodox Seminary and was up at Gordon-Conwell to study youth ministry.  A number of us Protestants got to know Paul quite well, and later that semester we accompanied him to the Orthodox Good Friday service in Newburyport.

Did these early contacts persuade me to become Orthodox?  Not really.  At the time, becoming Orthodox was the farthest thing from my mind.  Nonetheless, I was curious about Orthodoxy.  These friendly encounters encouraged me to a learn more about Orthodoxy and its ancient Faith.  So, while not decisive, these early encounters were indispensable to my becoming Orthodox.  Looking back, I would say that what was critical were the positive tone and the absence of a judgmental spirit in the Orthodox Christians I met.


Meeting Orthodox Converts

Fr. Peter Gillquiist

In my third year, I went to the Greek Orthodox church in Newburyport to hear a presentation by Peter Gillquist, a recent Protestant convert to Orthodoxy.  I asked him some hard questions about Orthodoxy and Reformed theology.  I admired his honesty, but was frustrated when he humbly admitted that he did not know enough about Reformed theology to answer my questions.  This left me on my own to work out the answers about how Orthodoxy and Reformed theology relate to each other.  In many ways this conversation was the genesis of the OrthodoxBridge blog.  Rather than leave people with similar questions to struggle on their own, I decided I would do the research and present my findings on questions relating to Orthodoxy and Protestantism.  The results of my research can be found in the Archives section of this blog.

Did the lack of answers affect my turn to Orthodoxy?  Yes, because I needed good reasons for making such a radical change.  I shared the Reformed tradition’s concern for right doctrine and the careful study of Scripture.  My sense of personal integrity was such that I could not undergo intellectual lobotomy and mindlessly accept Orthodox teachings and practices; I needed good answers, preferably biblical reasons, for becoming Orthodox.  The complexity of the issues surrounding the Orthodox veneration of icons, and Protestantism’s core doctrines of sola scriptura and sola fide were such that I needed to do extensive research.  The answers are there but require thinking outside the Protestant paradigm and questioning the unspoken assumptions that underlie Protestant theology.

I also got to meet Frank Schaeffer, another recent convert, at the Orthodox church in Newburyport.  Where Peter Gillquist was more soft spoken in his presentation of Orthodoxy, Frank was very much in-your-face.  When I asked whether I had to give up my Reformed theology to become Orthodox, he answered: “Yes, because it’s theologically off the map.”  I was taken aback and a bit affronted by his blunt answer.  I know that Frank Schaeffer has caused consternation by some of his recent statements, but I do have some positive memories of his kindness.  Once a fellow seminarian was struggling with going to church so I suggested he visit a nearby Orthodox church.  He met Frank Schaeffer, who then invited him to his home and cooked him lunch!  I was envious when my friend told me this story.


Paper on Icons

Prof. Richard Lovelace

During my third year, I wrote a paper on icons and Evangelical spirituality for Prof. Richard Lovelace’s class.  For this class I read some of the Orthodox classics like John of Damascus’ Three Treatises on the Divine Images and Theodore the Studite’s On the Holy Images.  I also drove down to Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Seminary in Brookline and interviewed Prof. Theodore Stylianopoulos.  I was struck by how warm and welcoming Prof. Stylianopoulos was.  I was also struck by how restricted access was at the Orthodox seminary library — a big contrast to Gordon-Conwell’s open stacks! One particularly useful book I came across was Antony Ugolnik’s The Illuminating Icon.  From this book I learned how images can shape one’s internal life and how Orthodox icons helped preserve Orthodoxy during the decades of oppressive Communist rule in the Soviet Union.  This book made me keenly aware of how modern American consumerism is suffused with icons (images).  The striking visuals of modern advertising that promote materialism are the spiritual opposite of Orthodox icons.  Protestantism’s iconoclasm has made it vulnerable to the iconography of Madison Avenue and Hollywood.  From the mass media we are inundated with images of beautiful people with “perfect” bodies who have it all and live “perfectly happy” lives (God removed from the picture).  Much of modern advertising speaks to our bodily appetites e.g., food or comfort, or speaks to our inner vanity or selfish desire to do “our own thing.”  What is being promoted is a secular worldview where God is allowed a limited role in the modern American lifestyle.  In contrast, the otherworldly quality of Orthodox icons points us to the eternal reality that lies beyond the evanescent fads of modernity and our accountability before the judgment seat of Christ.

My paper argued that the aesthetic qualities of icons can be beneficial for personal devotions and that the visual nature of icons can supplement Protestantism’s emphasis on the printed text.  This paper falls short of Orthodoxy’s sacramental understanding of icons, but I am not embarrassed by what I wrote because the gap between Protestantism and Orthodoxy is considerable.  It takes a while for a Protestant mindset to “get it” with respect to Orthodoxy.  This calls for much patience and understanding on the part of Orthodox Christians when they meet Protestants interested in Orthodoxy.


Orthodox Books

Much of my turn to Orthodoxy at Gordon-Conwell came through reading.  Two occasions stand out vividly.  During my first year, I went to downtown Boston to make travel arrangements to fly back home.  It was a cold and dark winter afternoon, and as I stood in line reading Alexander Schmemann’s For the Life of the World. I found my secular worldview shattered. In the opening chapter, I encountered Orthodoxy’s sacramental understanding of creation and how the common, ordinary meal was a foreshadowing of the Eucharist.  What I encountered was not just the idea of sacramental reality, but also Orthodoxy as a gateway into that reality.  While Protestantism affirms the reality of heaven, it tends for the most part to project heaven into the distant future or into the afterlife.  This way of thinking leaves the present life encased in a secular materialism.  I learned that in Orthodoxy ordinary stuff like water, bread, wine, and oil can become vessels of divine grace, ushering us into the kingdom of God here and now.

Magnolia rocky shore — Katie Young


During my third year I would often spend my mornings reading while sitting against a large rock on Magnolia’s rocky shore.  One of the books I read was Kallistos Ware’s The Orthodox Way.  The chapter “God as Mystery” gave me a glimpse of Orthodoxy’s apophatic approach of understanding God through prayer.  During this time I was writing my statement of faith paper for Prof. John Jefferson Davis’ class.  This assignment was very much in keeping with Western Christianity’s cataphatic methodology, in which one seeks to learn facts about God and then express this understanding of God through words.  From The Orthodox Way I learned how in the apophatic approach, intellectual study and prayer can be integrated to advance our knowing God


The Liturgy

During my time at Gordon-Conwell, I attended a few Orthodox liturgies.  One might expect that I fell head over heels in love with the Divine Liturgy, but that was not the case.  The language barrier was so daunting that I saw Greek Orthodox worship as an obscure, intricate ritual.  It was frustrating.  My experience was like that of a hungry person drawn to a restaurant but standing with his face against the window, looking on longingly, but unable to taste the delicacies within.  It was not until I began to attend an all-English Liturgy at a Bulgarian Orthodox parish in Berkeley, California, that my journey to Orthodoxy began in earnest.  Attending the Liturgy there week after week, being immersed in the flow of hymns and prayers, helped me to understand what Orthodoxy is about and experience God as Mystery.

Magnolia village, MA   source


Looking Back

My time on Massachusetts’ North Shore was but a small part of my journey to Orthodoxy.  By the end of my three years there I was still very much a Protestant in my thinking, but the various personal encounters and books that I read had had an impact on me.  They were like little seeds planted in the ground, invisible under the surface but slowly germinating, and in due time emerging as a plant that would one day become a pleasing fruit-bearing tree.  An equally good analogy used by my compatriot David Rockett here at the OrthodoxBridge is that these early encounters were like boulders assaulting my medieval castle walls without my noticing the small cracks they were creating in my theological and spiritual foundation! Analogies aside, one take-away here is that journeys to Orthodoxy are rarely instant, dramatic flashes of light in the sky, but more like the gradual light of dawn in which many little things long hidden become noticeable and show their results much later, sometimes after several years.

Robert Arakaki


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