A Meeting Place for Evangelicals, Reformed, and Orthodox Christians

Welcome

Recently, there has been a growing openness among Christians in the Reformed tradition to Eastern Orthodoxy.  The OrthodoxBridge is intended to serve as a meeting place where Calvinists and Orthodox can dialogue, ask questions, exchange opinions, and debate matters of faith in a civil manner.

The title has several meanings.  One, a bridge serves as a connection that reaches across a deep gap.  Two, a bridge brings people together for friendly dialogue and exchange.  Three, a bridge can serve as a  means by which a person can cross over from one side to the other.

The beliefs and practices of Eastern Orthodoxy can seem strange to those not familiar with it.  While interested in Orthodoxy many Calvinists find aspects of Orthodoxy questionable.  It is our hope that we can show our Calvinist friends that big “O” Eastern Orthodoxy is truly biblical and small “o” orthodox in the fullest sense of the word.

We welcome your reactions, questions, and feedback, and look forward to many interesting and invigorating dialogues.  May our great God and Savior Jesus Christ be glorified!

Robert Arakaki

See also: My Posting Policy

See also: Comment Policy

43 Comments

  1. Cyril

    Robert,

    My friend Perry Robinson had your website up on his FB page, so I came over. Keep at it brother. I came out of the PCA some 11 years ago, though I knew that I was heading East since about 1996. My good friend Frank James is now GC’s provost (or is it chancellor?). The only argument or critique I have of your blog is that the person on the bridge on your header is walking the wrong way.

    Keep up the good work!
    Cyril (Gary) Jenkins

  2. Gavin Ortlund

    Hey Robert,

    I found your blog through a friend’s facebook link. Looks interesting. Just curious: since your blog is “intended to serve as a meeting place where Calvinists and Orthodox can dialogue, ask questions, exchange opinions, and debate matters of faith in a civil manner,” will you be having Calvinists or evangelicals posting about their own perspective at all, or will your posts be primarily Orthodox responses to Calvinism/evangelicalism?

    Gavin

    • robertar

      Great question! Please see my May 20th posting.

    • Isaac

      Hi Gavin,

      I agree with your perceptions about this site. It is pro-Orthodox which reflects the origins of the site founder. However, this site would only be of interest to those with links to the Reformed protestant world, either past or present, that would find the site interesting. So it is a bridge. Whether you cross the bridge or remain on your side is entirely up to you and the Lord. The other aspect is that the Orthodox faith has been hidden under Islam and later Communist rule and is slowly starting to emerge in the West. So if someone is Reformed and they are interested in the Orthodox faith – it has been my experience that the Eastern mindset is different firstly, to the Western (Catholic) and further still the Western Protestant mindset of which the Reformed form about 5%.
      So a site like this is a bridge where the Reformed issues are more likely to be given due consideration compared with e.g. Orthodox forums.

      Cheers: Isaac

      • robertar

        Isaac,

        Thank you for understanding my intention for this site.

        Robert

  3. Darrell

    Robert,

    I found your blog through Classical Christianity. I am currently Evangelical, although my wife and I have been researching Orthodoxy for several months. We have attended several services at a local OCA Mission Church and are seriously considering becoming Catechumens.

    I really like the tone of your blog and find your posts to be informative, gracious, and very thought provoking. Thank you for the hard work! I have struggled with strong 5 Point Calvinism for some time and coming across Orthodoxy and reading the teachings of the Early Church has really opened my eyes to the synergistic view of Salvation. It is a beautiful teaching that really speaks to my heart.

    I don’t see a place where one can subscribe to your blog (to receive the posts via e-mail). Perhaps I am overlooking it. Do you have one? If not, have you considered adding one?

    God Bless!

    Darrell

    • robertar

      Thanks Darrell! I’m glad you found OrthodoxBridge helpful. I intend to cover a whole range of issues including 5 point Calvinism.

      Sorry about the absence of a link for subscribing. I’m working on making this site more visitor friendly. That feature should be in shortly.

  4. Anthony

    Robert,

    Thank you so much for this website and for helping with my search for the true Christian faith. I wasn’t sure where to post this, but since your articles are often very enlightening and I can’t find much by way of defense elsewhere, I thought I’d ask if you had any suggestions for better coming to terms with the Orthodox doctrine of the Dormition. Among all of the doctrines of Orthodoxy, this one most troubles me (along with other Marian doctrines), yet I haven’t found any strong defense of it anywhere.

    I’d be really interested in hearing any reading suggestions you have for coming to terms with this doctrine, or on your own views.

    • robertar

      Anthony,

      Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! I’m glad to hear that you found my articles helpful. A while back I wrote a paper: “Why Evangelicals Need Mary.” In light of your request I think about now will be a good time to post it. Please be sure to subscribe to this blog so you can be alerted to the posting on Mary. I have two review postings lined up on a book titled: “Three Views” edited by James Stamoolis. Most likely the article on Mary will go up after that.

      Robert

  5. Archmandrite Pablo

    Dear Br. Robert
    Through a very good friend of mine from Indonesia I have known your web site and I found it most interesting. For that reason I have subscribed to ORB.
    I think the best thing I have done in my life has been becoming an Orthodox. Although I was an Anglican (High Church) I missed lots of things that I found in the Orthodox Church.
    I wish you and your team all the best for such good job.
    In IC XC and the Holy Theotokos
    +Pablo

    • robertar

      Dear Archimandrite Pablo,

      Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! I am happy to hear that you like this site.

      Let us work together to build up Christ’s Church and glorify the name of Trinity.

      Robert

  6. PGS

    I have been enjoying your website – so much to learn & think about! I am reformed, but find EO interesting, mainly because it is so foreign to someone raised in a culture dominated by the western church (protestant & RC).

    A question I can’t seem to find a clear answer to: Why did the Reformation reject 2nd Nicea? I’m bothered by a knee-jerk rejection of that(icons= idolatry), when my Creedal/Liturgical Reformed church accepts most? all? the other ecumenical councils.

    Maybe you have some insights?
    Thanks!

    • robertar

      PGS,

      I’m glad you have been enjoying this site. I think the iconoclasm of the early Reformers may have to do with the excessively ornate church architecture of the time and the fact that they had very little exposure to Orthodoxy. Protestants today are in a much different situation. There are Orthodox churches in every major cities and people can drive to a nearby town to witness an Orthodox Liturgy (worship service). There are former Protestants who can explain what Orthodoxy is about. The OrthodoxBridge tries to be bilingual in the sense of using Protestant and Evangelical terms to explain Orthodox concepts. The real tragedy would be for Protestants today not to be open to reconsidering the issue of the biblical and theological basis for icons.

      I have one semi-facetious answer to your question about the knee-jerk reaction. I read somewhere that it’s okay to change doctrine but don’t you dare change the pews in the church! If a church were to change its mind on icons, it would have to then put these change into practice. Not easy but it can be done. The late Fr. Peter Gillquist in Becoming Orthodox (p. 131) tells the story how a group of Protestant Evangelicals took the bold step of putting tiny postcard size icons on the wall behind the altar.

      Robert

  7. guy

    Hi Robert,

    i’ve been reading your site for a while and really appreciate it. i’m a catachumen and have only been attending an Orthodox parish since January. i’ve been doing tons of reading and listening to other sites and sources as well.

    i’m wondering if you have thoughts on a couple issues i’m dealing with right now: the relation of the Orthodox Church to the State (both historically and normatively) and also an Orthodox view of mission/benevolence–is the Orthodox Church as vigorous about being involved in building/funding hospitals or charitable organizations as are Catholics and Protestants?

    –guy

    • robertar

      Guy,

      You brought some very important issues. I hope I can touch on them some time in the future. In the meantime you might be interested in Andrew Crislip’s “From Monastery to Hospital.”

      Robert

  8. Baird

    Mr. Arakaki,

    I am sure I am not the first to question this.

    How does one reconcile conversion to Orthodoxy after following Jesus (or attempting to) after many years in a Protestant tradition. My wife and I have attempted to follow him, be led by his spirit in our lives, and do whatever we felt that He led us to do.

    Was all of this for naught? I cannot deny how he has led me, protected me in war, and provided for us physically. How is the the action of God working in protestants viewed from the OC? How can I not ask “if this is the truth, why didn’t God lead me here sooner?”.

    Thanks

    • robertar

      Dear Baird,

      I learned much from my time as an Evangelical. I learned to read the Bible, to have a personal devotion on a daily basis, and the importance of attending church on a regular basis. I also learned that faith in Christ also means doing God’s will. For me becoming Orthodox is not the rejection of Protestantism but its fulfillment. It was what the Bible taught about Tradition and the use of icons that opened me up to Orthodoxy. So no, it was not for naught.

      God’s love and mercy extends beyond the walls of the Church. At the close of the Liturgy the priest prays: “…for He alone is good, and He loveth mankind.” Also, keep in mind that Jesus Christ is the Truth and the way to the Father (John 14:6). If you have faith in Christ then in some real way you have come to know God the Father. As to the question why God did not lead you to this place sooner, all I can say is that God works through the messiness of our lives. It took me a while to become aware of Orthodoxy, then several years before I began to take Orthodoxy seriously. If you are just starting to look into Orthodoxy, my advice is take things slowly, attend Orthodox services, become familiar with the teachings and worship of the Church, and get to know the local priest.

      Robert

  9. Burckhardtfan

    Dear Robert,

    I have a few questions regarding:

    1. The priesthood in the Church. How would you answer Protestant objections to a priesthood in the early church? Protestants will always cite 1 Peter 2:9 and claim the priesthood was a later corruption of the early church. But do these arguments have any firm basis? When do we see the priesthood in the writings of the fathers for the first time?

    2. Images and icons. How would you answer Protestant objections to icons? They use the 2nd Commandment, as well as injunctions from early fathers and councils against the use of images in churches, such the Council of Elvira (305-6) and Epiphanius (he pulled down a cross in a church he visited, saying that such a thing did not belong in a Christian setting).

    3. Sola fide. How would you answer Protestants who say that the Bible and early fathers taught sola fide, a doctrine which was later corrupted into ‘works-righteousness’? Protestants will cite I Clement 32 (as I pointed out before) and the Shepherd of Hermas. But how did Clement and the early fathers understand ‘saving faith’? Basically, did Clement and the early fathers have Protestant ‘assumptions’ when they understood saving faith (such as the perseverance of the saints, that our works are not a complement to faith but done out of love for God, that we can have assurance of salvation in this life, etc?) Also, Evangelicals will cite 1 John 5:13 to show that one can have assurance of salvation. Father Damick in ‘Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy’ made a mention of this verse, stating that the Greek word for ‘know’ does not have the connotation Evangelicals assume. I couldn’t quite follow his reasoning; he didn’t explain too well what he believed the verse meant. Anyway, what is this verse saying?

    4. Catechising. I mentioned in passing to my father that the early church catechised believers before granting church membership. My father then replied that this contradicted Biblical doctrine, since the converts at Pentecost were never catechised; neither were Lydia, Cornelius, the Ethiopian eunuch or the Philippian gaoler.
    Any thoughts?

    I know I’m asking a lot of questions. If you can’t answer all of them, can you point me to any resources which will help me?

    God bless,

    Burckhardtfan

    • robertar

      Burkhardtfan, Because you asked several important but complex questions I’ve decided to copy your questions and insert my answers after your questions. I’ve italicized your questions so that you and others can distinguish your questions from my answers.

      I have a few questions regarding:

      1. The priesthood in the Church. How would you answer Protestant objections to a priesthood in the early church? Protestants will always cite 1 Peter 2:9 and claim the priesthood was a later corruption of the early church. But do these arguments have any firm basis? When do we see the priesthood in the writings of the fathers for the first time?

      My Response:
      Isaiah prophesied that in the Messianic Age the Gospel would be proclaimed to the Gentiles, that the Gentiles would be gathered at God’s holy mountain (the Church), and that God would take some of the Gentiles to be priests (Isaiah 60:19-21). Next we need to ask: What makes a person a priest? Fancy vestments? The answer is that a priest is someone who offers up sacrifice and that means an altar. Hebrews 13:10 has a strange verse that many Protestants tend to overlook: “We have an altar which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat.” The first thing we learn from this verse is that the early Christian worship involved an altar. An altar is not a table where one puts flowers next to the Bible but a place where a sacrifice is offered. Thus, this verse is about the Eucharist in which Christ’s sacrificial death is reenacted and re-presented to the Father. When Jesus died on the Cross he fulfilled the Old Testament sacrificial system. The Eucharist is a thanksgiving sacrifice based on Christ’s death on the Cross. Hebrews 13:10 means that the Eucharist is available only to those who confess Jesus as the Christ. This means that it is off limits to the Levites who were working at the Jewish Temple under the old covenant.

      The Eucharist is the point of continuity and discontinuity between the worship of the old covenant and worship in the new covenant. Where the Jewish priesthood depended on physical descent from Aaron, the priesthood under the Christian dispensation depended on spiritual descent, that is, apostolic succession or being ordained by the Apostles. Acts 6:7 tells us that a large number of priests became Christians. We also learn from Acts 4:36 that Barnabas, Paul’s mentor (Acts 11:22-26) and missionary companion (Acts 13 and 14) was a Levite. This means that the early Church did not recreate the Jewish Temple worship but transferred it over to the Christian Eucharist.
      The point of I Peter 2:9 is that the priestly office applies to the entire church. If you listen to the prayers in the Orthodox Liturgy, you will find that the priest is not speaking to God but to the congregation: “For _____ let us pray to the Lord….” and the people respond: “Lord, have mercy.” The priest leads the congregation but it is the congregation who do the heavy lifting so to speak. Also, in Orthodoxy the priest cannot do the Liturgy unless one lay person is present. I remember one time going to a Liturgy during the middle of the week and seeing the priest smiling with relief when I walked in because no one else was there. As soon as I walked in the Liturgy could begin. In Orthodoxy the priest needs the laity and the laity needs the priest.

      One thing that puzzles me is how Protestants get the idea that I Peter 2:9 teaches that there is no longer a priesthood in the church when it clearly states that we are a royal priesthood. The overall tone of the verse is positive, it affirms the priesthood. Nowhere does one find a negative tone in I Peter 2:9. The Protestant reasoning seems to be: We are all priests, therefore no one is a priest. That is illogical!

      From the standpoint of church history Christian worship was liturgical and had a priesthood since the beginning. It was only with the Protestant Reformation that we find the historic Christian worship replaced by a sermon focused service and with a leadership indistinguishable from the laity. The obliteration of the clergy/laity distinction did not happen until the 1800s; it was not part of the original Reformation. You might want to read my blog posting: “Orthodox Worship Versus Contemporary Worship.”

      2. Images and icons. How would you answer Protestant objections to icons? They use the 2nd Commandment, as well as injunctions from early fathers and councils against the use of images in churches, such the Council of Elvira (305-6) and Epiphanius (he pulled down a cross in a church he visited, saying that such a thing did not belong in a Christian setting).

      My Response:
      The 2nd Commandment (Exodus 20:4) needs to be read in context. It follows the 1st Commandment (Exodus 20:3) which forbids the Israelites from worshiping other gods, that is, the pagan deities. Thus, the 2nd Commandment prohibits the Israelites from making images or statues of the pagan gods. Protestants have interpreted this to mean that no images should be permitted even for Jewish and Christian worship. But that becomes problematic when we read on in Exodus and come to Exodus 2518-25 where God commands Moses to make two statues of cherubim for the Ark of the Covenant and Exodus 26:31-33 where Moses is instructed to weave a curtain for the entrance to the Holy of Holies with the image of cherubim woven into the curtain. The problem with the Protestant reading of Exodus 20:4 is that if one makes it into a universal prohibition then you will have one part of the Bible contradicting another part.

      For a more in depth exploration about what the Bible has to say about images and right worship please read my blog posting “The Biblical Basis for Icons.” The Orthodox Christian Information Center has a useful blog article about icons: “The Icon FAQ.”

      With respect to the Council of Elvira and Epiphanius, the important principle to ask is: “What has been the universal consensus? And even more crucially: What did the early Church through the Ecumenical Councils decide on the issue?” There was some disagreement in the early Church about the use of icons. The Seventh Ecumenical Council in 787 repudiated iconoclasm and affirmed the veneration of icons. The thing to keep in mind is that the authority of an Ecumenical Council overrides that of a regional council like the Council of Elvira. The Ecumenical Councils can be viewed as being like the US Supreme Court ruling on the meaning of the US Constitution. An Ecumenical Council’s decision is final because it represents the thinking of the entire Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Ecumenical Councils defined the historic Christian Faith and was considered binding on all Christians. They are a fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that the Holy Spirit would guide His Church into “all truth” (John 16:13). A Protestant could reject the decisions of the Seventh Council but in doing so they are declaring their independence of the early Church.
      With respect to Epiphanius, he was just one individual. Again, the question must be what the consensus was in the early Church. There disagreement on many major issues in the early Church including whether or not Jesus was God, whether or not the Holy Spirit was God. These important questions were settled by the First and Second Ecumenical Councils.

      3. Sola fide. How would you answer Protestants who say that the Bible and early fathers taught sola fide, a doctrine which was later corrupted into ‘works-righteousness’? Protestants will cite I Clement 32 (as I pointed out before) and the Shepherd of Hermas. But how did Clement and the early fathers understand ‘saving faith’? Basically, did Clement and the early fathers have Protestant ‘assumptions’ when they understood saving faith (such as the perseverance of the saints, that our works are not a complement to faith but done out of love for God, that we can have assurance of salvation in this life, etc?) Also, Evangelicals will cite 1 John 5:13 to show that one can have assurance of salvation. Father Damick in ‘Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy’ made a mention of this verse, stating that the Greek word for ‘know’ does not have the connotation Evangelicals assume. I couldn’t quite follow his reasoning; he didn’t explain too well what he believed the verse meant. Anyway, what is this verse saying?

      My Response:
      The straightforward answer is that the Bible teaches that we are justified – brought into a right relationship with God – through faith in Jesus Christ. No where does the Bible assert “faith alone.” The disagreement between the Protestant Reformers and medieval Catholic theologians is different from the disagreement the Apostle Paul had with the Judaizers. In Romans and his other letters Paul was trying to show that the Gentiles could enter into a right relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ and that becoming a Christian did not require that one keep the Mosaic Law. This is different from what Protestants have in mind when they reject works righteousness. When we come to Martin Luther’s time we find a system of works righteousness that is alien to the early Church’s understanding of salvation. The Protestant understanding of faith and works is rooted in medieval Catholic theology and the Protestant reaction to it. This has in turned colored their reading of Romans and other letters by Paul. I would suggest that you do some research on the historical context of the Protestant doctrine of sola fide. One thing that shook up my Protestant paradigm was when I looked at Paul’s testimony about how he became a Christian. He would recount how he was zealous for the Jewish law but nowhere did he talk about works righteousness or about earning salvation or sola fide.

      With respect to the word “know” in I John 5:13, I think Fr. Damick is referring to an experiential knowing as opposed to an intellectual understanding. As far as the assurance of salvation is concerned, I suspect that Evangelicalism’s concern with assurance goes back to the Calvinists’ concern about who was part of the elect and who was not.

      If Protestants want to cite I Clement 32 in support of sola fide, then I will cite I Clement 30 which says: “Let us put on concord in meekness of spirit and continence, keeping ourselves far from all gossip and evil speaking, and be justified by deeds, not by words.” But this does not support the medieval Catholic notion of works righteousness. Rather it supports the Apostle James’ point about the need for faith to be a living faith, that is, faith in action. I Clement 31 talks about how Abraham wrought righteousness and truth through faith. Then he describes how Isaac let himself be led as a sacrifice and Jacob left for another country. Our faith in Christ is but a response to God’s gracious initiative. When Protestants seek to use I Clement in support of sola fide they are inadvertently taking it out of context and superimposing their medieval European theological framework onto the early Church fathers.

      Protestants need to become familiar with the history of Christian theology. They cannot assume that the early Church was Protestant; to make such a claim shows how little they know of church history. Similarly, for Protestants to assume that the priesthood is a corruption of the early Church shows how little they know of early Christian worship. They can claim that corruptions and innovation were introduced into the early Church but to do so they will need to identify when these innovations were introduced and who made these innovations.

      4. Catechising. I mentioned in passing to my father that the early church catechised believers before granting church membership. My father then replied that this contradicted Biblical doctrine, since the converts at Pentecost were never catechised; neither were Lydia, Cornelius, the Ethiopian eunuch or the Philippian gaoler.

      My Response:
      With respect to the catechism, I think your father’s position is rather extreme. First of all, the Bible never forbade giving instruction to those who wanted to convert to Christianity. One has to have some understanding of the faith one is converting to. The converts at Pentecost where people who were deeply committed to the Old Testament. This can be seen in their going on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Peter’s Pentecost sermon can be viewed as a catechumenate, especially in light of the fact that the basic truths of the Gospel were presented: Jesus’ death on the Cross (Acts 2:23), Jesus’ third day resurrection (Acts 2:32), and Jesus’ as the Christ (Acts 2:36). Cornelius the Centurion was a God fearer. This means that he had abandoned the pagan gods and had come to embrace Israel’s God as far as he could without becoming a Jew (Acts 10:2). In the case of Lydia Luke recounts that Paul spoke to the women who had gathered at the river for prayer. I’m sure Paul did an outstanding job in presenting the Christian message to Lydia before baptizing her. And in the case of the Philippian jailer, I’m sure the jailer must have known something about the reason for Paul and his companions being arrested. Furthermore, Luke records that Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns out loud, loud enough for others to hear (Acts 16:25). So in conclusion, the New Testament points to some kind of catechism going on even if it was informal.

      The main thing about Christian conversion is that it involves a commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord. Baptism binds you to Christ covenantally. Knowing the doctrines about Christ becomes secondary if one has had a personal encounter with Christ. Baptism is more than an outward sign of an inward grace, it is an act of covenantal commitment to Christ as Lord. This is contrary to the Baptist understanding that baptism is “just a symbol.” It’s just like someone saying that the signature on the home mortgage is just some squiggles of ink on a piece of paper. Uh uh, that squiggle you wrote on the dotted line binds you legally and contractually (covenantally) to the bank. If you fail to keep your part of the agreement, there will be consequences.

      It helps if a conversion is preceded by instruction but that is not always the case. If so, then follow up is essential. The good thing about Orthodox worship is that the liturgy in many ways functions as an ongoing catechumenate. There are so many rich deep teachings in the Liturgy. One simply needs to be attentive to what is being said during the Liturgy and reflective afterwards. The biblical basis for the catechumenate can be found in the Great Commission when Christ commanded his Apostles to teach the converts “to obey everything I have commanded you.” So I’m not sure what your father’s point is.
      Any thoughts?

      I know I’m asking a lot of questions. If you can’t answer all of them, can you point me to any resources which will help me?

      My closing comment:
      Burckhardtfan, I appreciate your asking all these questions and now I would like to ask you a few questions: (1) Have you been an Orthodox Liturgy yet? And (2) Have you met with an Orthodox priest about your questions? At a certain point in your journey you will need to put aside the books and get off the Internet and encounter the Mystery of God in the Liturgy. And you will need to meet the flesh and blood people who make up the Orthodox Church. God bless!

      Robert

      • John Carpenter

        Hi Robert,

        First, the Second Commandment (Ex. 20:4ff) does NOT limit itself to simply “pagan” gods. It is purposefully broad: ““You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. 5 You shall not bow down to them or serve them,”. ANY LIKENESS OF ANYTHING. The context has to do with worship, not with all decorations or images. But images are expressly prohibited for use in worship. Contrary to “Orthodox” insinuation, the decorations in the tabernacle and temple were not used for worship/”veneration” (a fabricated category to disguise idolatry).

        This was the understanding of second Temple Judaism and the early church, which is why the early church did not use images, even being accused of being “atheists” by the Romans for their lack of imagery.

        Second, the (second) Seventh Ecumenical Council was not part of the “early” church but of the medieval period. No one seriously puts 787 as part of the early church. Further, the council you mention was actually the second so-called “Seventh Ecumenical Council.” In 726, the emperor Leo started a campaign to eliminate the icons. In 754 the first “Seventh Ecumenical Council” (often known as the Council of Hieria) convened near Constantinople. The 333 assembled bishops condemned the icons:

        If anyone ventures to represent in human figures, by means of material colours, by reason of the incarnation, the substance or person (ousia or hypostasis) of the Word, which cannot be depicted, and does not rather confess that even after the Incarnation he [i.e., the Word] cannot be depicted, let him be anathema!

        This is what happens when you base your faith on the traditions of men: they contradict each other. The reality is that the “Orthodox” church got carried away from Christianity by an influx of idolatrous pagans.

        • robertar

          John,

          If one takes your broad interpretation of Exodus Second Commandment (Exodus 20:4-6) one runs into the problem the Bible contradicting itself, e.g., God instructing Moses to make statues of the cherubim over the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:17-22) as well as the images of the cherubim on the curtain on the entrance to the Holy of Holies (Exodus 26:31-33). Furthermore, your interpretation makes Psalm 5:7–“In reverence will I bow down toward your holy temple.”–problematic. If I understand you correctly even bowing down to the Temple would be idolatry.

          My understanding is that the early Christians were accused of atheism because of their refusal to offer sacrifices to any of the pagan gods. You need to provide evidence that it was it was the lack of images that was the basis for the accusations.

          I am not sure why you make a big deal about the Council of Nicea II not being part of the early Church. One can use “early” or “medieval” narrowly or broadly. Here I use the term broadly. I don’t see how this undermines my affirmation of icons. You referenced the council of 754 (Council of Hieria) as evidence that the medieval church condemned the use of icons. The thing to keep in mind is that eventually the churches of Rome and the other patriarchates (Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem) rejected this council. In time it was the consensus in both the Latin West and the Byzantine East that it was appropriate to use icons. This became the position of the united church hence the term “ecumenical.” The iconoclastic heresy was condemned and faded away until Calvin and his followers resurrected this heresy.

          I’m puzzled as to why you cite councils that were rejected by the “early” Church. Neither Roman Catholics nor Eastern Orthodox give credence to these councils. Your technique of using rejected councils is a lot like someone digging around my trash can and using my discarded notes against my final published articles. But apparently you do because you agree with their findings. But that doesn’t make sense because as a Protestant you wouldn’t consider them binding on you or your congregation. Even more troubling is the fact that in rejecting the findings of the Ecumenical Councils you are separating yourself from the historic Church. I see this as a tragic consequence of Protestantism’s misreading of Scripture.

          Robert

        • margaret

          The Dura Europas, Syria, excavation in 1922 revealed that both an early third century synagogue and the only Christian house Church still in existence were both decorated with iconography. The synagogue had three tiers of the master stories of Judaism, and full figure icons of Aaron and Moses. The Torah niche was flanked by columns which represented the pillar of fire and the pillar of smoke that accompanied the Hebrews in the desert. According to archeologists, the images of the synagogue were well-established, and any Jew entering the Dura Europas synagogue would have recognized and understood the story being told. These images in the synagogue were no more for idol worship than the iconographic images decorating the walls of Christian Churches. The nearby Christian house Church had images of Christ walking on the water and the Samaritan woman at the well on the walls in the Baptistry. Unfortunately, all other synagogues of the first and second centuries uncovered in Syria and Israel no longer have walls, but have left us impressively decorated mosaic floors depicting animals, the heavens, and plants. Apparently, the master stories of Christ’s life did not belong where they could be trod upon.

          Iconography taught illiterate Christians the master stories of Christianity for centuries, giving them access to scriptural truth; because icons by Church Canon Law must be an accurate portrayal of Scripture. Icons have a language of their own that must be taught which illumines scriptural truth through color, items, animals, geography, buildings, and plants. The genius of icons is that regardless of what language you must use to teach as you travel and evangelize, the image is an effective and memorable way to convey Scriptural truth no matter what verbal language you use as you travel and convert pagans. People could reproduce the image from memory to instruct their families. Iconography survived the Reformation in the form of molded cookies; the earliest surviving German cookie molds dating from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century are the iconographic images of the master stories of Christianity: the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Annuciation, the Theophany, the Incarnation, the Crucifixion. Following the Reformation, the illiterate German people retained a way of using the canonically correct scriptural images to continue to convey the master stories of Christianity to their children.

          Icons were created to serve a teaching function: to glorify the Son of God who was born in the flesh and could be depicted. The bias that icons are idols blinds one to the obvious need to both educate and keep the knowledge of scriptural truth vibrant to millions of illiterate believers for more than a 1,500 years in Churches, and in homes. By the sixth century, missionaries had carried the identical images of scriptural truth from Ireland to China, and from Finland to India; wherever Christians went, the ability to teach to diverse populations through visual images went with them.

          Lost in English is the language of the Seventh Ecumenical Council which used the Greek words meaning ‘to greet or embrace a friend’ to convey the impetus of veneration, and the word ‘to work for wages’ to convey the ‘worship that belongs to God alone.’ These precise words rightly convey the emotion of a believer who overwhelmed by God’s great condescension to be born in the flesh, accept baptism like a creation, suffer as a servant, and be resurrected, allow us to be moved to ‘greet’ the pictorial image of scripture rightly portrayed. We may reverence both the verbal icon of the printed Holy Gospel, as well as the pictorial representations of those stories. The precise Greek word for worship recognizes the actions that take place in the contexts of Divine Liturgy, hymning, praising, and both private and corporate prayers are the work of the people to glorify the Creator of All.

          Icons have served a valid and valuable function in the education and evangelization of the world. To condemn the use of images to educate and to keep scripture present in a sacred space for corporate or private worship is denying that God made our entire bodies to be involved in worship, including our eyes. Visual images are powerful, and if we allow secular images to dominate our psyche we are failing to comprehend the importance of scriptural imagery to the completeness of our faith. Scriptural images have the ability to combine both Old Testament prophecy and New Testament witness in one powerful image that conveys truth in a non-linear message, and that can reach deep into our hearts. Icons are not idols, they are scripture correctly depicted.

          • robertar

            Margaret,

            Thank you for sharing about the Dura Europos site and the value of icons!

            I am working on a reply to John Carpenter’s published article on icons. Hopefully, you will get to read it soon!

            Robert

  10. Drew

    Robert, I am new to your site and must say I really enjoy what I am reading for the most part, especially your series on Calvinism. Having briefly read your thoughts on universalism in that series, do yo think that those who hold to universal restoration(like myself) are simply succumbing to modern liberal ideology or do yo think it is possible that they have good biblical/historical/practical reasons for believing so? My Eastern Orthodox friend sent me here and im glad he did. Thanks for taking the time to try and build bridges with the reformed Christians.

    • robertar

      Drew,

      Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge!

      My answer is going to be brief and tentative. Origen’s teaching apocasstasis was condemned at the Fifth Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (553). You might find Bishop Kallistos Ware’s chapter “Dare We Hope For the Salvation of All?” in his The Inner Kingdom helpful.

      When it comes to matter of the eternal destiny of individuals and other eschatological concerns one can find a certain amount of ambiguity or multiple opinions. I would say that the important thing is to keep our focus on the core of the Christian Faith which is that God in his goodness made all things and that he sent his eternal Son to take on human flesh, and die on the cross and rise on the third day for our salvation and for the restoration of the cosmos. Origen was condemned because he went too far in some of his ideas. It’s easy to condemn modern liberal theology, but we need to keep in mind that oftentimes they were trying to correct an imbalance in conservative theology; that is one of the recurring problems in Protestant theology.

      As far as your favoring universal restoration I would say first read Bishop Ware’s chapter then give me your take on it. If you want to become Orthodox, my guess is that you would need to qualify that view as a possibility but not as a dogma. I think if you held to it tentatively you could find a place in Orthodoxy. But having said that we need to keep in mind that becoming Orthodox entails submitting one’s self to the teaching authority of the Church. While there is room for personal faith in Orthodoxy, there is no room for personal theology. As for the last statement I would encourage you to talk to a local Orthodox priest to find out about the narrowness and broadness of the Orthodox Faith.

      Robert

    • robertar

      Drew,

      I just found on Ancient Faith Radio an announcement that on 10 February there will be a live broadcast of Kevin Allen’s Ancient Faith Today dealing with the question: “Will Everyone Eventually Be Saved (Universalism)?”

      I think you will find it helpful and enlightening.

      Robert

  11. Geo

    This an interesting site and fits people I know who have married into my family ,some who are strongly reform minded .. Is this site utilized by others like myself who are born and raised orthodox .?Being such I often appreciate readings of the reform movement to get a crossover effect and note the similarities of the two.

    • robertar

      Geo,

      Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! I’m sure there are all kinds of people who visit this site. Those who are born and raised Orthodox are welcome, not just to read the postings, but also to join the conversation. I’m sure that both sides can learn from each other.

      Robert

  12. Fr Michael Azkoul

    It is not arrogance that leads the Orthodox Church to proclaim that she is the one true Church. There can only be one Church, even as Christ, whose body she is, is one. God has not permitted that His Church can be divided by doctrinal error, lest conflicting beliefs hide those truths necessary for salvation. There is “one faith, one Lord, one baptism” which declares that all religions may be wrong, but only one religion can be right. In other words, Orthodoxy allows only monologue. Her faith was “once delivered to the saints” and there is no place for compromise or concession.

    • robertar

      Fr. Michael,

      Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! Thank you for your comment.

      Robert

  13. Wayne Pearce

    Great site Robert. I look forward, as a Reformed minister, to examining the claims of Orthodoxy. God bless.

    • robertar

      Rev. Wayne,

      Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! I look forward to your comments and questions.

      Robert

  14. Eglise Orthodoxe Toulouse

    Great website, thanks for it Robert !

  15. Charles D. Smith

    I am in the process of movong from the Reformed traditon (Cumberland Presbyterian Church) to local Orthodox mission congregation of the Russian Orthodox Church
    out side Russia. It has been a very long journey, beginning with attending a R/C School in South Louisiana in the 1950’s. There I first heard of the Orthodox Church and its long tradition. Attempting to find a softer form of Calvinism I found the Cumberland s to be a great in between spot. But even in seminary, i never forgot the Orthodox interest, and even attended a local Orthodox Church when I went back to Seminary for my D.Min. I am no retired as a Cumcberland Minister and attending the mission church that I mentioned above, having recently comitted myself as a Catachumen. I appreciate the historicity of the Orthodox Church, and its commitment to the Christian faith. I find myself agreeing with thos who say that the Reformed tradition is a little too cerebral, and becomeing more western by the second.

    • robertar

      Charles,

      Thank you for sharing with us your journey to Orthodoxy! God bless.

      Robert

  16. nekogami95

    This is a great site over here. I really do wish that there are more websites defending Orthodoxy in a charitable manner whilst still providing valuable information for both sides of the divide to reflect and ponder upon. Kudos to you Robert for this website, it is informative and helpful in my journey from Roman Catholicism to Orthodoxy.

    • robertar

      Thank you! Please keep me in your prayers.

      Let us do what we can to let others know about the spiritual treasures in Orthodoxy.

      Robert

  17. Stephen Gonzalez

    I appreciate this website. My journey in Christ has been bumpy, every city I’ve lived in had really no churches desiring to disciple people in the ways of Jesus, thus I had to almost everything through private reading of the bible, commentaries, etc. Let’s just say after 6 years of it I am tired mentally and looking to sink my life into an Orthodox tradition that both has ancient roots in a long sustainable history with thick practices that cultivate communities of people who are engaging the peoples around them.

    I look forward to learning more about the EO position. I currently lean “reformedish” but find the newness (1600s) to keep me from settling down.

    I look forward to interacting with the readers here. I wish I could have jumped in on the coversations about PSA. I think there’s a healther more gracious understading of it than wasn’t (imo) protrayed in the article.

    Grace and peace

    • robertar

      Stephen,

      Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! I admire your zeal to serve God. All of us at one time or another have been disappointed in our church experience but I encourage you not to forsake meeting with fellow Christians (Hebrews 10:25). I strongly encourage you to attend the Sunday Services at an Orthodox church and to get to know the local priest. Don’t be surprised if you encounter challenging people or what looks like questionable practices. Take your time, persevere, ask questions, do your reading, and always pray to God for guidance.

      It took me 7 years to transition from Protestantism to Orthodoxy, hopefully your journey won’t be as long!

      Robert

      • Stephen Gonzalez

        I could never stop pursuing community with the body. It’s not possible to follow Jesus in a healthy and holistic way without.

        With that said, the nearest Orthodox church near me is over an hour away. Which makes community life impossible with that distance.

  18. Deanna Christian

    Loving Orthodoxy! Coming to it late in life and as a woman graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary. Read Peter Gilquist’s book Becoming Orthodox and wonder about women theologians and women in ministry in the Orthodox Church. Is there a place for us? In Gilquist’s book, the women typed the manuscript, poured coffee, and booked airline tickets for the men. Please tell me that’s not it for women!

    • robertar

      Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge!

      I’m familiar with Fuller Seminary having taken a few extension classes in Hawaii and a few summer classes at the Pasadena campus. Wonderful folks there!

      Thank you for your question about the place of women in Orthodoxy. The greatest of all Christian disciples is Mary the Theotokos, the Second Eve. We are reminded of her devotion to Christ at every Orthodox service. Her life inspires us to commit our whole lives to Christ. But you are probably wondering about the practical working out of women’s role in the Orthodox Church. Orthodoxy has married priests. We call the wives of the priests “matushka” (mother) in the Russian tradition, “khouria” (related to the Greek word “kurios” lord) in the Antiochian tradition, or “presbytera” (the feminine form of “presbyter” which means “elder”) in the Greek tradition. This means that the wife shares in the priest’s ministry. The priest and his wife are a ministry team in the life of the parish. The priesthood is not a professional role but a very personal calling. I noticed that sometimes when it comes to questions about dating and relationships I would be more comfortable approaching Matushka than Father.

      One good example of a priest wife who does a lot outside the house is Frederica Mathewes-Green who is an author, pro-life activist, and public speaker. Another example of a woman who serves Christ’s Church is Mother Christophora of Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Ellwood, Pennsylvania.

      If one looks in history there are inspiring Orthodox saints. For example, I attend Saints Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Cathedral. A lot of attention is given to Emperor Constantine but his mother Helen was just as devoted and as active in her Christian life. She undertook to build some 80 churches and the discovery of the Cross. Keep in mind that this after Christianity became a legal religion; before that it was regarded as an illicit cult and a security threat to the Roman Empire. She is called “Equal to the Apostles” reflecting her role in the evangelizing of the Roman Empire. You might be interested in Saint Nina, Equal of the Apostles and Enlightener of Georgia.

      With respect to Orthodox women theologians today there are a few that come to mind. One is Dr. Jeannie Constantinou, professor at University of San Diego. She has a podcast on Ancient Faith Radio “Search the Scriptures.” Another Orthodox theologian that comes to mind is Dr. Edith Humphrey, professor at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

      I hope that this helps dispel the notion that women only type, pour coffee, and booked airline tickets! We owe so much to them.

      Wishing you a Blessed Pascha/Easter!

      Robert

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