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…

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…

An Orthodox Commentary on the Gospel Coalition Controversy

In recent months, several key evangelical pastors have been involved in a public debate regarding the Christian doctrine of sanctification. In the Protestant framework,[1. Known as the ordo salutis or “order of salvation”] sanctification is the progressive transformation of a converted sinner into a true disciple of Christ. Having been justified by God’s grace, sanctification is the “setting apart” or consecration of Christians as people of God. For Orthodox Christians, distinctions between stages of…

A Journey through Romans 9 (Part Four)

This is the final part of a four part series on interpreting Romans 9. You can also read part one, part two, and part three. – – – And as Isaiah predicted, “If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring, we would have been like Sodom and become like Gomorrah.” —Rom. 9:29 The citation is from Isaiah 1, where the prophet describes “survivors” of the great disaster. Where Isaiah has…