The Intercession of Saints in God’s Divine Council

According to the Old Testament, the heavenly or divine council is the host of angels surrounding God, “advising” Him. You see this theme in Job 1–2, 1 Kings 22, and so on. But the theme begins all the way back in the first chapter of Genesis. In the Beginning In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth—but only the earth was without form, void, and dark. God spends six days…

Blessed Is the God of Our Fathers

For much of popular Christianity today, faith is an entirely personal matter. We are all individuals on our own personal journey to heaven, and the trappings of a “corporate” experience are altogether optional. The Church is not a kingdom of Saints, but rather one of many ways to get to God. But throughout Orthodox prayer books and services, God is referred to as “the God of our Fathers.” This phrase, lifted directly from the…

Vincent of Lérins and the Catholicity of the Church

On May 24, the Orthodox Church commemorates Vincent of Lérins, a fifth century Gallic monk. St. Vincent spent the earlier part of his life as a Roman soldier, later converting to Christianity and accepting a monastic vocation. He lived his remaining years at the castle monastery on the island of Lérins in the French Riviera. Leaving only a solitary written work behind, St. Vincent’s Commonitorium (ca. A.D. 434) is a treatise on the “catholicity”…

Is the Apostle Paul Really the Great Falsifier of Apostolic Succession?

A few years ago, I wrote a five-part response—and recorded an accompanying podcast—to an article at The Calvinist International on the patristic critique of icons (or lack thereof, as it were). In the original article, a Presbyterian pastor named Steven Wedgeworth shared five excerpts from the early Church supposedly demonstrating their disdain for iconography. The proofs were brief, and he offered little commentary in support. However, the claims he did make were sweeping, and…

An Orthodox Response to John Calvin on Icons: Icons and Idolatry

Are all religious depictions idolatry? This is a question that plagued the Roman Empire near the end of the eighth century, and again in the ninth. And though our patristic forebears no doubt assumed this aversion to iconography was settled once and for all—as celebrated most pointedly on the Sunday of Orthodoxy near the beginning of Great Lent—the aniconic spirit reared its ugly head again in the Protestant Reformation. In my first…

Hear No Evil – The Problem of Openness

A fundamental assumption of our modern discourse is that dialogue, openness, and a free exchange of ideas are intrinsic goods, without limit or qualification. Closed-mindedness is one of the chief sins in this milieu, and any hint requires swift correction from the appropriate gatekeepers. You even find this same basic assumption in Christian higher learning and among writers who aspire to be viewed as–or at least like to consider themselves–“enlightened.” You find this…

An Orthodox Response to John Calvin on Icons: The Rhetoric of the Reformation

Ever since the Protestant Reformation, there has been varied opposition among Christians to religious or devotional artwork—what Orthodox Christians generally refer to as holy icons. As I have noted before, the Reformers were not all in agreement on this subject, with some allowing religious artwork and a limited veneration of both the Cross and Eucharist, others allowing their presence in church buildings while completely opposing their veneration or religious use, and the…

Sola Scriptura vs. Holy Tradition: Is There a Difference?

I have recently—and on a few other occasions—written about the differences between the Protestant approach to authority and the Orthodox. For Protestants, the final authority or rule is the Bible—a principle known as Sola Scriptura. And while some Protestants have written catechisms and other companion material to the scriptures themselves, these too are held in check by the proper interpretation of the Bible. With regards to the latter, I have previously offered: Even when…