A Tale of Two Gospels

"And was-given to-him [the] book of-Isaiah [the] prophet" Source
“And was-given to-him [the] book of-Isaiah [the] prophet” Source

By Stefan Pavićević.

Stefan
Stefan Pavićević

If there’s one thing I really think Protestantism has gotten wrong, it would be the way it treats the Bible.  Now, before I continue, I want to assure the reader that my intention is not to bash Protestants, because I have many friends who are good Christians and Protestants, people I deeply respect and love as my brothers and sisters in Christ.  My point here is not to be rude to Protestants or to even try to set out the logical outworking and problems with Sola Scriptura per se. This has been done over and over there is no need to repeat it here. I want to offer a fresh perspective and look at things a bit differently.

Protestants would often say that they believe in the true Gospel, making it clear that they are not like those who believe in a false Gospel. But, what is the true Gospel? And what is a false Gospel? Some would say the true Gospel is that Jesus Christ died to save us from our sins.  I see nothing objectionable about that definition. But tell me, what major Christian denomination, group or church doesn’t believe that? Why then, do Protestants insist that Roman Catholics or Orthodox do not have the true Gospel?  Then the Protestants would add a number of other qualifications for what counts as the true Gospel, and what doesn’t. Then different groups would come up with different descriptions of what the true Gospel really is. And now we have chaos!

What they don’t see is that they have made an abstraction of the Gospel.  They have set up a neat logical and abstract system which they call the (true) Gospel. However, this approach is always bound to fail.  Why? Because it misses the most central fact of Christianity: the Incarnation. Now, I don’t want to even remotely imply that they have rejected the Incarnation.  But I am concerned that they may have turned the Incarnation into an abstraction, an idea.

We are abstracting whenever we go from what is tangible and particular to what is universal and remote to our senses, accessible only to our intellects. Such is our idea of God, abstract and indirect. But we are not abstract concepts. As living breathing human beings we need tangible reality, not abstract reality.  That is why we need the Incarnation.

 

The Word of God Became Flesh - Icon of the Annunciation. Source
The Incarnation — The Word of God Became Flesh for our salvation   Source

The Incarnation is the most important event in world history.  This event has cosmic consequences. The intangible, inaccessible, unlimited God became tangible, accessible and limited in order to save us. Not only did he share in our suffering, and tasted our bitter grief and death, but He revealed His Divinity in His very own flesh. God became a living breathing human being who walked on earth (1 John 1:1-3)! The Gospel is the Incarnation. Jesus Christ is the Gospel.

Thus, the Gospel is a living, tangible reality of sharing in the life and sufferings of the Word of God, so that we may share in His most blessed divine life. This life consists of the experience of and in the Church, a life of ascesis, prayer and partaking in the Holy Mysteries, the Sacraments. Our life in Christ and the life of countless of others, especially those who have reached the light of deification, this is what the Gospel is.  The light of deification means that the Gospel is more than a teaching, it is a reality that will profoundly change who we are.  It is the continued life and incarnation of Christ in His Church.

That is why we need to heed the advices and most divine words spoken to us by the prophets, the apostles, the fathers, and all the saints, as they speak to us. These are not formulas and algorithms for salvation, but words that are life eternal, that ought to be practiced and lived. We don’t need an abstract Gospel, we need a tangible, incarnational Gospel! We need Emmanuel, God with us!

The capital “W” Word of God is not the Bible, it is Christ Jesus, our Lord who is the eternal Word (Logos) of the Father. The Bible is not the way, the truth, and the life, it is Christ who is the only way, truth and life (John 14:6). The Holy Scriptures are profitable unto salvation only when through them we encounter our Lord Christ. The Bible doesn’t have the answers to all questions, nor is it a textbook of correct belief and right living. Yet, for some Protestants it is as if reading the Bible is all one needs. As if reading the Bible is enough to be true Christians, with sound and correct belief and right living. As if those who read the Bible can never become heretics. But what about history? What about those who fought against heresies and who have spent their whole lives on defining the landmarks of orthodoxy, can we just ignore them? Can we ignore the history of the Christian Faith, risking the grave danger of repeating the mistakes and the errors of the past?

Whenever someone commits himself to a strict, literal reading of the Scriptures, divorced from the actual life of the Church, they are not only reading the Bible in a superficial and profitless manner, but they actually sever themselves from the communion of saints and from communion with Christ. The Bible is called the Word of God only by analogy, because it is Christ who is the True Word, and the One the Scriptures testify of.

Now, someone would say: “Stefan, you’re painting with a broad brush.” I realize there are people from traditional Protestant churches who don’t read the Bible in the literal way. But my point still stands as I’ve noticed that this trend of reading the Bible literally is very popular among many Protestants.  This is especially true for those with an evangelical bent, regardless of the denomination they may formally belong to. Our tale of the two Gospels illustrates my point perfectly. There is the true Gospel, and there are false Gospels, according to many Protestants. They approach the Bible as if it has come down from heaven and has become Emmanuel, God with us.  But it is a Person, the Word of God, who came down from heaven. (John 1:14)  Just as Jesus Christ took on flesh in the Incarnation so likewise the Incarnation continues in the Church the Body of Christ. (1 Corinthians 12:12-13)  It is at Church, the Body of Christ, on Sunday mornings that we meet God.  We first hear God’s word in the Scriptures and then at Holy Communion we go up to feed on the body and blood of Christ, the Word of God made flesh for our salvation.  Jesus said:

I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:53-54)

Where Protestant worship emphasizes the Gospel as the written word of God especially through the sermon, Orthodox worship emphasizes the Gospel as the Incarnate Word of God who gave us His Life on the Cross for our salvation and incorporates us into His Body, the Church.  For the Orthodox Christian the true Gospel is not just a message to be intellectually understood but a life of worship, discipleship, and ascesis in the context of the Church, the Body of Christ.

I propose that we distinguish between the tangible, incarnational Gospel and the abstract intellectualized Gospels. The former is the true one, because it is rooted in the life and experience of the Church even as she lives and experiences the life of Christ, whereas of the latter I need not comment.

And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Cor. 3:4-6)

 

Stefan is a cantor at the Macedonian Orthodox Church. He is interested in arts, music, philosophy, church history, patristics and theology, as well as computer science (in which he is majoring). In the free time, he likes to read books (he’s an avid Lord of the Rings fan), listen to Orthodox chant as well as secular music, or just hang out with friends. When it comes to Orthodox theology, his main interests are in St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Maximus the Confessor and St. Dionysius the Areopagite.  

 

See also:

Stefan Pavićević — “The Mystery of the Church and My Search for Truth”  24-January-2015

 

40 comments:

  1. You say there is nothing objectionable about ” true Gospel is that Jesus Christ died to save us from our sins”. Whereas I would say that statement only has one element of the gospel and is thus objectionable. There are Protestant voices like Scot McKnight in his book “The King Jesus Gospel…” who present a much fuller definition of the Gospel more along the lines that you are outlining. The Gospel is essentially the story told in the Gospels set in a Jewish context. I see that to some extent in this area we are learning from the Orthodox. Dawit

  2. Hi Stefan (great name!),
    There are multiple systems in the Protestant world for Biblical hermeneutics. Each one is trying to find the ‘magic bullet’ that will sweep away doubt and confusion. When I studied theology (at a non-orthodox university) I was taught a historical/linguistic method and a method that examined the narrative of the OT as if it was a piece of fiction. Needless to say, these systems bring little unanimity.
    One of my lecturers was very proud of his knowledge of Hebrew ( he had studied in Israel ) and often mentioned the Jewish readings of that verse or this verse. I found it strange that he had taken Christ out of the OT.
    I don’t think there are two gospels, there are multiple competing gospels. It is through the matrix of Church, Scripture and Tradition (all inspired by the Holy Spirit) that the true gospel can be recognised and lived. When Protestant thinkers take something Orthodox and throw it into their mix they aren’t really helping much because they are adding it to their system as another tool.
    What Protestants should do is ask themselves how the bible/gospels were understood in the first 1,000 years of Christianity.

  3. Hi Stefan, your blog is thought-provoking!

    As a Christian from a Protestant background, I would add to the definition of the Gospel. Yes, Jesus died to save us from our sins, but what differs in the major denominations is the belief on how salvation is obtained. The book of Romans makes it very clear that we are justified by faith, not by good works, baptism, circumcision or keeping the Law. Salvation is a gift of God not deserved by anyone. Through faith we come to know Christ who should be the centre of our lives. It is through reading the Bible we learn about the attributes of God and correct me if I am wrong, none of the writings of the early church fathers add to the revelation of God. They mostly expound what is already revealed in the Bible or what the writers experienced personally as followers of Christ. These writings are to be cherished, but cannot be equalled to the inspired writings we have today, the Bible, thanks to the protection of the Church!

    One aspect of the Gospel which is missing from the Orthodox interpretation is the certainty of possessing eternal life in the here and now. From what I understand (again correct me if I am wrong) an Orthodox believer has to wait until after death to have his/her life assessed by Christ before finding out if they have done enough good works to merit a place in heaven. As I mentioned, salvation is a gift. The Giver is not a liar, so if He promises eternal life to those who know Him and follow Him to the end, then we can rejoice now that eternal life awaits us. We receive eternal life on Christ’s merit, not our own. John’s Gospel records much of what Christ taught about gaining eternal life. One example is in John 5:24: “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” The apostle John refers to this several times in his first epistle, for example: “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.” 1 John 5:13. It is through Christ’s resurrection we have this certainty. The Gospel is ‘good news’ after all. It a message of hope and love with a practical outworking on the earth.

    You mentioned the literal interpretation of the Bible by Protestants. One verse we do not take literally is John 6:53-54. Christ was speaking metaphorically here. He died once for all and cannot be offered every time there is Holy Communion. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:24-25 that we take the bread and wine ‘in remembrance’ of Christ and in verse 26 he states, ‘as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.’ We ‘proclaim’ His death , we do not partake literally of His body and blood.

    Just a few thoughts. Greetings to you.
    Olive.

    1. Dear Olive,

      Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! Glad to have you join the dialogue. Since this is Stefan’s article, I’ll let him respond to you first before I give my two cents.

      Robert

    2. Olive, thanks for your comment!

      While I’d agree with you that salvation is wholly undeserved and a gift, that doesn’t mean God doesn’t require our cooperation with Him. The Incarnation of the second Person of the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ means that God took our human nature and made it His own, He became a man. From the instant He was conceived, He infused humanity with divine power, He transformed it and He deified His flesh. Fallen humanity didn’t lose the image of God, but it lost its spiritual capacities, it lost its capacity for bearing life within it, it lost its capacity for God, Who is Life. That’s why there’s is death. Death is not so much a legal punishment as it is the natural consequence of not being able to eat of the Tree of Life (to use Scriptural imagery).

      St. Cyril of Alexandria, one of my favorite early fathers, is very important to the Church, because it was through his efforts that the battled Nestorianism and established the proper dogma regarding the person and the work of Christ. He says that there’s “One Incarnate Nature of the Word of God”, which basically means that the human nature of Christ is the very same humanity we have and it is His very own, it is God being made man. That’s why we say that Virgin Mary is the Theotokos, Mother of God, not that she is the birth-giver of the Deity, but of God on account of human flesh. That is, it is God Himself who mysteriously and ineffably came in the form of slave and put human flesh on Himself as if were a garment. He is true God and true man. One of the implications of this is that His humanity and His divinity work together so that His flesh becomes an object of worship (and something which would be grave idolatry were He not God in the flesh), and and His divinity is revealed through His flesh, while His flesh is ennobled through His divinity. This has also implications for the Sacraments, and I will get back to that later.

      So, for Orthodox Christians, salvation story begins with the Incarnation. The Incarnation is not just the vehicle God used so that He could punish His Son on our behalf, but it the very center of the Gospel. The Virgin Mary is the second Eve because as Eve is the mother of all living, the Theotokos is the mother of Life Himself.

      With the fall of Adam and Eve, man lost his communion with God and lost his ability to be morally righteous and good. There is no one good, says Christ, and this is most certainly true. We have all become slaves to sin and evil, our will has been weakened and we don’t have the power to live a life of virtue and holiness. It is impossible for a man to save himself. Yet, with His coming, Christ reversed this, and with His death He swallowed death up in victory and it has no power over us anymore. We will all rise with Him one day and pass from corruptibility to incorruptibility. However, that doesn’t mean we have simply lost our free will and that we need not cooperate with God.

      St. Athanasius says that “God became man so that man may become god”, which doesn’t mean we become divine by nature, but that we get a share in God’s life through grace. This is theosis, or deification, something that is very important in early patristic teaching. Salvation is not about being proclaimed righteous before God, but about being made righteous and holy. Works certainly don’t save us, and neither does faith alone. It is not faith plus works either, it is “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6), that is faith made actual through love. This is cooperation with God. It is not simply that I do good works in hope that because of them I will be saved, it is that I do good works for their own sake; my faith is actualized through them, and my faith cannot be separated from them. (James 2:14-26)

      St. Maximus the Confessor (another very important Father) says:
      “Just as the thought of fire does not warm the body, so faith without love does not actualize the light of spiritual knowledge in the soul.

      Just as the light of the sun attracts a healthy eye, so through love knowledge of God naturally draws to itself the pure intellect.”

      And what is the assurance of the believer? The partaking of the Sacraments, as Christ says that He who eats His body and drinks His blood will have life. When He says it is His blood and His body, we trust that it is, and we believe that it has the power to save us and give us life, because it is the body and blood of God Incarnate. This sacramental understanding is espoused by Christ Himself, by St. Paul and by all the early Church Fathers.

      When we consecrate the Eucharist, we’re not repeating the sacrifice, we’re not sacrificing Christ again, but we’re actually remembering His ultimate sacrificial death and asking God to make the wine and the bread the very blood and body of Christ so that we may partake of them and receive life. The Greek (and its Hebrew equivalent) behind “remembrance” (anamnesis) when Christ says do this in remembrance of me is not simple mental recalling of some event, but actually making it present, and that’s what the Eucharist is. The Eucharist is Christ being really and truly present in our midst, giving Himself to us.

      ‘This Greek word is practically untranslatable in English. “Memorial,” “commemoration,” “remembrance” all suggest a recollection of the past, whereas anamnesis means making present an object or person from the past. Sometimes the term “reactualization” has been used to indicate the force of anamnesis.’ (Frank C. Senn, The New Dictionary of Sacramental Worship, p. 45)

      Stefan

      1. Yes, Stefan, I agree with you entirely about the Incarnation of Christ. I wasn’t negating it in my comments. Of course God requires our cooperation in the salvation of our souls in the sense of making Christ the very centre of our being. Christ is our goal (Philippians 3:10). I do not believe in ‘cheap grace’ for one moment, i.e. live as you like and God will turn a blind eye because I’m ‘saved’. We have new life in Christ which means new desires and new goals. The sinful life is crucified and the flesh must die. I am also not belittling the importance of good works – faith without works is dead.

        I interpret the Eucharist differently because I do not accept that Christ was teaching transubstantiation in John 6. That’s why I am not Orthodox or Catholic. Christ is present spiritually, not physically in the elements, that is why He sent the Paraclete. We can agree to differ.

        Again, the ‘Fathers’ are just expounding what is already revealed in the Bible. The incarnation is explained in the OT and NT in many places (Isaiah 7:14, 9:6, Matt 1:22-23, Philippians 2:5-11… et al). Love is also a central theme in the Bible. As I said, the writings of the early church fathers are to be highly esteemed, but the Bible is God-breathed which gives it supreme authority.

        May Christ dwell in all our hearts through faith, being rooted and grounded in love so we may ‘comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth’ of Christ’s love.

        Olive.

    3. Dear Olive,

      One aspect of the Gospel which is missing from the Orthodox interpretation is the certainty of possessing eternal life in the here and now. From what I understand (again correct me if I am wrong) an Orthodox believer has to wait until after death to have his/her life assessed by Christ before finding out if they have done enough good works to merit a place in heaven.

      Unfortunately, your response shows quite an extensive ignorance of Orthodoxy. (and I don’t say that in a hostile manner). There is much is what you wrote to correct you about…but I have only the time to touch on one aspect of your reply.

      Orthodox Christians do not believe works save them, or that works merit them heaven. Indeed, the very understanding of heaven and hell cannot be meaningfully spoken of as they are completely different. (The Orthodox version is much more tragic and frightful.)

      Indeed, Orthodox Christianity probably has a more robust understanding of the relationship between faith and works than any of the Christian sectarians. Most of us here have come from Reformed backgrounds…and would have expressed exactly the same misunderstandings you have…but would have done little to really seek truth. In my case, I was extremely hostile to Orthodoxy, and my forays into its doctrines and the history of the Church were only to combat it. That plan backfired. :/ What you have stated above is nothing but fiction regarding Orthodoxy and I would invite you to take the time to divest yourself of false premises.

      I offer to you the following text of St. Mark the Ascetic regarding the relationship between faith and works…i.e. faith working through love.

      Concerning those who think that men are justified by Works.

      “Some, not fulfilling the commandments, think that they believe rightly. Others, fulfilling them, wait for the Kingdom as a reward which is owed to them. Both are mistaken as to the truth. A reward is not something owed to his servants by a master; nor again, do those who do not serve rightly gain freedom. When you hear Scripture saying that “He shall reward every man according to his works” (Matt 16:27), do not think that works are worthy of Gehenna or of the Kingdom, but that Christ rewards each one according to this works of faith or lack of faith in Him, not as being an exchanger of things, but as being God our creator and Redeemer. Those of us who have been deemed worthy of the washing of regeneration offer good works not for recompense, but for the preservation of the purity that has been given us. Every good work which we perform through our own nature makes us refrain from the opposite, but without grace is incapable of adding to our sanctification.

      Those who, on the pretext of struggle, are arrogant towards those who are more negligent, think that they are justified by bodily works. But those of us who, resting on bare knowledge disparage the ignorant, are much more foolish that the first. Without works in accordance with it, knowledge is not yet secure, even if it is true. For of all things the confirmation is by deeds. Often, from negligence with respect to deeds, knowledge becomes darkened. For of those things whose practice has been neglected, the memories in turn will be lost. It is for this reason that Scripture counsels us to know God according to lived knowledge, that we might serve Him rightly through deeds.”

      I would be happy to share with you many Scriptural precepts which show the complete congruence between faith and works, as one in the same thing. Orthodox Christians are quite sensitive to the historical reality and abuses that occurred in the Western Latin Church which prompted schism. We agree with those criticisms as they stand apart from the doctrinal innovations used to combat them by the Reformers. No one merits salvation.

      I hope that in the coming months and years, you will take seriously a complete study of the Orthodox faith – not with an eye towards anything other than a more complete and accurate understanding on your part.

      If anything, the Orthodox faith has a more robust and complete revelation of salvation and eternal life in the here and now…but it is necessarily rejected by Reformed dogma.

      That’s my experience…and an experience that I fought for decades. We love our Reformed brethren (and sisters) and hope for a return to the true faith.

      But I expect that both you and I will face the same judge on the same day and will pass through the same fire. I don’t expect that I will be any better off than you for being Orthodox. Indeed, I know – and expect – that I will be judged more harshly.

      ( Luke 12: 43ff.) And the Lord said, Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his lord shall make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of meat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

      “For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.”

      “For everyone will be salted with fire. “Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again?”

      So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. Now the one planting and the one watering are one in purpose, and each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s coworkers. You are God’s field, God’s building. According to God’s grace that was given to me, I have laid a foundation as a skilled master builder, and another builds on it. But each one must be careful how he builds on it. For no one can lay any other foundation than what has been laid down. That foundation is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on that foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, each one’s work will become obvious, for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire; the fire will test the quality of each one’s work.If anyone’s work that he has built survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, it will be lost, but he will be saved; yet it will be like as though an escape through fire.”

      So many of the parables of Christ speak directly to faith working through love that it becomes incumbent upon a person speaking about Romans to see the full scope of Scripture and even Paul’s admonitions towards a life of sanctity and work as a “doulos” i.e. slave of Christ and to come to terms with the false dichotomy presented in the never ending war between the Latinists and Reformers.

      Dragging the Orthodox into that fight and painting us with the brush of Latin abuses is disingenuous.

      In Love and Hope in our Lord Jesus Christ,

      Onesimus.

      1. Hi Olive,
        I have to say that I support what both Stefan and Onesimus have said. Your initial comments come across as very ignorant, especially in light of Orthodox theology.
        I’ll give you a few simple qualifiers:
        1) Orthodox believe in Justification by faith
        2) Orthodox do not believe in Justification by faith alone (what ever that actually means) because it is not biblical
        3)Orthodox do not believe that baptism ‘saves’
        4) Orthodox believe that baptism is part of the process of salvation
        5) Orthodox do not believe the Holy Spirit makes us ‘do good works’ against our will
        6) Orthodox believe our will works with the Holy Spirit towards our salvation
        7) Orthodox do not believe that the Church Fathers add to the Bible
        8) Orthodox believe that the Church Fathers are accurate interpreters of scripture
        9) Orthodox don’t believe in eternal security – but then the majority of Protestants don’t either. Just ask the Lutherans, Anglicans and Methodists
        10) Orthodox have confidence in their salvation, which is in the hands of God.

        I loved that quote from Stefan about the meaning of anamnesis. The Reformers based their understanding of ‘remembance’ on a limited linguistic understanding of the Greek word. 400 years later there has been greater understanding but Protestants still run with the mistake thinking they are being Scriptural.

        Olive, I encourage you to read some of Robert’s posts on some of these topics, especially those addressing Reformed doctrines. You will find them enlightening.

        Regards
        Stefano

        1. Hi Stefano,

          Yes, I agree with you, I am ignorant regarding Orthodox beliefs, that’s why I’m happy I found this blog through Stefan. Will take time to read earlier posts.
          Olive.

      2. Dear Onesimus,

        Thank you for your extensive reply and for correcting me on the Orthodox teaching of faith and works. I indeed am ignorant of Orthodoxy, and I do not mean to be facetious, but many of my Orthodox friends seem to be unaware of what the Church teaches also. I have had many conversations with Orthodox believers who gave me the idea that they can never be certain of having eternal life in the here and now. Indeed I have been accused of being proud and arrogant to make such a claim, yet I am only holding onto a precious promise from my Saviour.

        I agree entirely with you about faith and good works. Faith without works is dead as James reminded us and indeed we will be stand before the judgement seat of Christ in a future day. As I wrote to Stefan, I do not believe in ‘cheap grace’, where people might live as they like and believe all is forgiven because they are ‘saved’. We are to be ‘conformed to the image of His Son’ and God will even chastise His children to ensure we change. (Hebrews 12:6). Ephesians 2 sums it up well:

        “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

        Some Christians believe they can earn God’s favour through good works and I was of the opinion that many Orthodox believers hold this view. That is why I am glad I found this blog through Stefan to learn more of true Orthodoxy.

        Greetings in His love,

        Olive.

        1. Olive,

          Please do not take offense with Stefano’s phrase “very ignorant.” We need to be patient with others from other religious traditions. There was a time when I was very ignorant of Orthodoxy. After I became aware of Orthodoxy I started learning bits and pieces about Orthodoxy and that was when I started making all sorts of bloopers and whoppers! So you are not at square one but somewhere past that. Your conversations with your Orthodox friends have taken you from ignorance (knowing nothing) to half-understanding. So don’t be discouraged just realize that Protestantism and Orthodoxy operate from quite different paradigms. I encourage you to keep learning about Orthodoxy.

          One of the biggest paradigmatic differences has to do with our understanding of how we are saved. Both Protestants and Orthodox agree that faith in Christ is essential but have different understandings as to what that salvation means. For example, take John 3:16 in which it is promised that those who put their faith in Jesus Christ will have “eternal life.” Many Protestants, especially Evangelicals, that “eternal life” means going to heaven after you die. But in John 17:3 Jesus defined “eternal life” as knowing God the Father and Jesus Christ. “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” So eternal life is a relationship with Christ who is Life itself. So long as we are faithfully following Christ we are abiding in Life itself but should we lapse into sin we become cut off from Life (John 15:6), our soul become corrupted and diseased. To remedy that we repent and confess our sins thus returning to God who is merciful to sinners. Here the fundamental difference becomes apparent. Protestants, especially Evangelicals, hold that as a result of the ‘born again’ experience all our sins — past, present, and future — are forgiven, we have a clean slate no matter what happens after the ‘born again’ experience when we first put our faith in Jesus as our Savior. For Orthodox Christians faith in Christ is an ongoing process. We believe in Christ over and over until the end of our life. We repent of our sins throughout life until the end of our life. That explains why Protestantism does not have the sacrament of confession and why Orthodoxy has the sacrament of confession. This leads to another major paradigmatic difference. Protestants are fond of using the courtroom metaphor to explain salvation as a one time experience — the Judge pounds the gavel and with a loud bang declares us totally absolved of all offenses. Orthodox Christians are fond of using the metaphor of Christ as the Physician of our souls and the Church as the hospital for sinners. Think of the parable of the Good Samaritan; Christ comes over to us and binds up our wounds and then takes us to the inn where we recover.

          As a former Protestant let me share with you one observation. The good thing about the Protestant paradigm is that it emphasizes God’s love and his willingness to forgive our sins; however, the weakness is that it tends to neglect the fact that every time we fall into sin we injure our souls. I would guess that there are many Protestant churches where people struggle with sinful desires and carry the burden of sick souls all the while clinging to the beliefs that their sins are forgiven and that one day they will be in heaven. My concern is that many sincere Protestants will die and enter into the presence of God with damaged souls. In Orthodoxy I have found the means for the healing of the soul: the Liturgy, the Eucharist, the Scripture readings, the prayers, the sacrament of confession, the Jesus Prayer, the intercession of the saints in heaven. I don’t enjoy going to confession but I have found spiritual healing through this particular sacrament. You might find it hard to grasp but let me assure you as a former Protestant that this has been one of the unexpected surprises I discovered as an Orthodox Christian.

          I’ll close with one more thought. You wrote: “One aspect of the Gospel which is missing from the Orthodox interpretation is the certainty of possessing eternal life in the here and now.” My response is that the Orthodox tentativeness with respect to having eternal life right now, here and now is similar to Saint Paul’s thinking in Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Orthodox Christians are hesitant to say “I have already” as some Evangelicals would. The Christian life is a journey. It begins with faith in Christ expressed in baptism, is nurtured by diligent attendance at the Liturgy, and culminates when we end our life trusting in God’s goodness and mercy.

          Robert

          1. Dear Robert,

            Thank you so much for taking the time to reply to my comments. I am not offended at all by Stefano’s ‘very ignorant’ phrase because he’s right. How can I know about Orthodoxy if I’ve never studied it? That is why I’ll be reading the blogs here.

            Your comments about repentance are most helpful. Yes, Evangelicals do tend to use the ‘born again’ terminology, but this is how our Lord defined it. This is His idea to talk about being ‘born again’ or ‘from above’. And of course Nicodemus was baffled, as are many. Protestants do not leave it there. We are told to keep short accounts with God and that is something I practise myself, so I repent often. My question is, however, when does the Spirit of Christ enter a person? Romans 8 verses 9-10 appear to state that either a person has the Spirit or does not:

            ‘But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.

            And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.’

            I have heard many testimonies of people being changed when Christ’s Spirit came into their lives. They were ‘delivered.. from the power of darkness, and … translated … into the kingdom of his dear Son’ Colossians 1:13. I do not know Greek, so I need to ask if ‘delivered’ in the Greek is a perfect tense or a continual aspect (mentioned by Onesimus)? Of course there is a continual aspect in our salvation, we are being saved every day in the sense of sanctification, but Paul writes in 2 Cor. 5:17: ‘if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.’ and in Ephesians 1:13b: ‘…in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.’ It appears to me there is a moment in time when we receive the seed of new life but then have the rest of our lives to experience the outworking of salvation which is to conform us into the image of His Son.

            Regarding Phil 3:12, Paul has not yet received the actual prize for which he has been striving – perfect holiness, perfect knowledge, perfect happiness – but yet he says in ch 1:23 that to depart from this life would mean for him to be with Christ and in v 21 ‘to live is Christ and to die is gain’. He has the assurance that he will be with Christ and this does not only apply to Paul because he exhorts the Thessalonians not to sorrow as those who have no hope (1 Thess 4:13-14).

            Yes, I believe the Christian life is a journey which starts not with baptism, but with new birth when the Spirit of Christ enters a person. I believe in baptism when a person confesses faith in Christ and not as a baby.

            Once again, thank you for responding and allowing me to be part of the dialogue here. As you can see I am not a theologian, just a simple follower of Christ.

            Greetings in Him,

            Olive.

          2. Dear Olive,

            For the Orthodox we receive the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of chrismation. This is not to say that the Holy Spirit is absent in the lives of non-Orthodox. The Holy Spirit’s activity cannot be restricted according to neat categories. There is a prayer that is found in the Orthodox Morning Prayer: “Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of Truth, who are present everywhere and fillest all things, Treasury of good things and Giver of Life ….” I would say that when reading the New Testament writings like Romans and Galatians it is best to read it from an ecclesial and sacramental perspective rather than from an individualistic subjective framework. That is, when Paul wrote about receiving the Holy Spirit he had in mind a particular ritual event rather than a private subjective experience. I remember when I was a young Christian and I struggled to make sense of the debates between Evangelicals who believed that we received the Holy Spirit in the ‘born again’ experience and the Pentecostals/charismatics who believed that the baptism in the Holy Spirit was a separate event. In reading the book of Acts I could see that becoming a Christian was more complex than the Evangelical definition as a one time event, the ‘born again’ experience. The Pentecostal two-fold understanding of ‘born again’ experience followed by the ‘Spirit baptism’ matches Scripture and parallels the two-fold model of early Christian conversion in which baptism is followed by chrismation.

            You will notice that I placed quotation marks around the phrase signaling my reservations about the Evangelical understanding of what it is to be born again. I do not dispute the reality of the experience. I was an atheist until I came to faith in Christ through reading the New Testament. My life turned around that day. I truly believed in Jesus Christ as Savior but I did not become a Christian in the formal sense until I was baptized. You might have read Cal’s comment about the significance of covenant theology in Reformed theology. I believe Cal made a good point. I approach the sacraments, not as elaborate church rituals, but as covenantal acts in which one encounters the Risen Lord who conquered sin and death and invites us into his kingdom. The Christian life is more than just spiritual experiences, it is framed by the New Covenant established by Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross. Baptism is a ritual by which one enters into a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ and becomes part of the covenant community, the Church.

            One problem I have with the Evangelical reading of John 3 is that it takes a non-sacramental approach which overlooks the rich symbolism of the chapter and confines the reading to the first half while ignoring the second half of John 3. Another problem I have with the Evangelical understanding of being ‘born again’ as a subjective experience is that this emphasis on experience is not part of historic Christianity but comes out of seventeenth century English Puritanism. For the Puritans to be one of the elect one needed to be able to testify to converting grace. Later this took on more emotional undertones in the altar call of the eighteenth century frontier revivals. So from a historical standpoint the Evangelical reading of John 3 is conditioned by recent history and does not reflect the broader Christian tradition. And what troubles me about the Evangelical approach is that it implies that cradle Orthodox are not really Christians because of their inability to say they had this experience in this place at this time. There are Orthodox Christians who love God as evidenced by their faithful attendance at the Sunday Liturgy even if they haven’t had this experience. I’ll grant you that there are those who go to church out of habit but we need to be careful about passing judgment on their inner state. It’s the priest’s job to discuss the inner life of the parishioner. That’s why it’s so important for an Orthodox Christian to go to confession; it’s like going for a check up with a spiritual doctor.

            You seem to be of the opinion that babies cannot experience God’s grace and for that reason should not be baptized. I encourage you to read my article: “Is Infant Baptism Biblical?

            You asked about the word “delivered” and “translated” in Colossians 1:13. The Greek word for ‘delivered’ is ‘errusato’ which has the aorist middle indicative form. The same can be said for the ‘translated/transferred’ which has the Greek root ‘metestesen’ which has the aorist active indicative form. The aorist tense means “action simply occurring in past time.” This is different from the imperfect tense “action going on in past time” and the perfect tense “action now completed.” The definitions are from Stephen Paine’s “Beginning Greek.” To make it simple for you, think of the aorist tense as telling you that an action happened in the past, e.g., making a monthly mortgage payment in June. The imperfect tells you that an action took place repeatedly, e.g., he (kept on) paying the mortgage. The perfect tells you that the mortgage payment was made and completed, and that the condition of the mortgage been paid on the house continues on into the present. Think of the happy glow when you use the perfect tense with reference to paying the mortgage on the house. 🙂

            You may claim that you are not a theologian but you come pretty close to the Orthodox understanding of what a theologian is. Orthodoxy likes Evagrius of Pontus’ definition: “If you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian.” Keep praying for God to grant you spiritual enlightenment.

            Robert

          3. Cal

            Assurance may have been made a paramount doctrine of the Reformation, and you might ascribe that to the work of Enlightenment or Renaissance, but I’m not sure that has purchase.

            Well, I don’t know what to say to such a dismissive statement. I am not sure if the way you wrote your statement reflects a lack of study on your part (and a true “I’m not sure”) or the questioning of the historical reality. Even within Evangelical Protestant circles this historical reality is coming to the fore of scholarship and Christian consciousness. (I attend an Evangelical seminary.) It baffles me that a person could reduce the influences of a person like Luther to his anxiety. Of course he was that…but you’ve actually dismissed the intellectual milieu in which Luther worked as an Academic and which influenced his, and the vast majority of thinkers of the time who felt that the Enlightenment principles represented a “universal” principle that would change the face of all human knowledge. You are right of course to note a certain kind of “anti-rationalism” in Luther’s thought. But this was always belied by the materialist philosophy burgeoning at the time, which was put into action in such dogmatic formulations as “ad fontes” and “sola scriptura” – which are nothing but dogmatic formulations which have their very essence based upon the principles of the Enlightenment. “Ad fontes and sola scriptura are reductionist materialist presuppositions, even if they do not degenerate into pure materialism. Forgive me, but in my view, to try to deny the “purchase” of this is simply ignorance of the historical reality. I don’t know what else to call it. Even decidedly Reformed historians, such as Alister McGrath affirm the reality I set forth. See McGrath’s books Iustitia Dei, Christian Theology – An Introduction and Christianity’s Dangerous Idea. You might also look at Reformed Scholar Dr. James K.A. Smith’s work Desiring the Kingdom. The doctrines of assurance came from a general trend of Enlightenment thought – definitive even in today’s worldview – that one must be “sure” of a thing. How one becomes sure is a matter of philosophical investigation of material objects “alone.” It is a admixture of Aristotelean philosophy, Augustinian theology in abstractus inherited from the Latin Church, and materialist philosophy. Indeed, whatever Luther and other Reformers birthed – and whatever their intentions – others quickly took the reigns and their internalization of the principles of the Rennaisance and Enlightenment are just as formative – if not more formative – than reducing such movement to the ideas of their figureheads. Luther was a cog – but a visible cog in a much more dynamic intellectual paradigm shift.

            I’m not sure who or what you are defending here, but it surely based upon something other than historical and sociological scholarship.

            I am not trying to be diminutive…but your assertions here are caricatures of history based on a very superficial reading.

            Of course, I’d say the East, by and large, has escaped from the ladder-climb approach found in Latin merit theologies. Well, I guess that is excluding teachings on aerial tollhouses. But I digress.

            This itself shows a complete ignorance of the “tollhouses.” There is nothing about merit in the “tollhouse” teachings – as much as I don’t like how people twist the purpose and concepts being related by these non-dogmatic teachings. Those who really want to have some insight into what is incorporated into the thought of this should watch Fr. George Aquino’s lecture https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54gRw1jVebY. Assigning “merit” to the tollhouses shows a very cursory review of the subject in which one has not done research into the Patristic literature (which is not necessarily a bad thing) These are teachings for the very Spiritually mature…not for all. I see little value in such teachings for anyone outside of the monastic life under the tutelage of a Spiritual elder. Too many people abuse these teachings by plucking them out of their rightful context and audience – and this is where all kinds of twisting and disingenuous readings are proffered.

            The problem that Evangelicals rightly have with Eastern soteriology is found in how you used the marital analogy.

            One does not become more or less married by disposition, or act.

            However, a severance might occur at a build up, where the functional reality becomes the actual reality. Thus, divorce occurs.

            Unfortunately, you make false dichotomies by twisting conventional concepts. Driving an artificial wedge between “functional reality” and “actual reality” here is the danger of abused convenant thought. One actually does become less marries by disposition or act. You would (I hope) see such a fallacy if you applied the same logic to any other sin. The legalistic forensic approach you just outlined with marriage applied to any other break in covenant is ludicrous. Is there a difference between “functional murder” and “actual murder?” No. Is there a divergence to be made about “functional fraud” and “Actual fraud?” No. Covenants have to do with a return to ontological awareness and are meant as a condescension to the fallen mind of man. They show the fidelity of the “image and likeness” of God that we are called to despite every harm. They point to selflessness. They are meant to lead us to the Spirit of truth…but covenants in and of themselves are actually artificial. It is the Spirit which leads to ontological and Trinitarian-like relationship which no longer considers it a burden of legalistic obligation, but can see that freedom results from ultimately becoming the kind of person whose covenant is their life….their way of existingnot some external legal agreement which cannot actually change them. The transformation from glory to glory is one from understanding the difference between a covenant as a condescension to the fallen nature of man to life him back up and push him towards higher “epignosis” and the worship of God which can only come in “Spirit and Truth” where all things ultimately pass away, but three things remain – “faith, hope and love.” Love – not faith – being the greatest.

            And here lies the greatest diminishment of the gospel – the separation of the understanding of Love to the Soteriological and ontological meaning of the Church. Dividing the Church is the ultimate act of selfishness – and the denial of Love, without which no man can say they Love God.

            I won’t try to outline a Patristic understanding of covenant theology here…but it is far removed from the Reformed model or what you presented.

            The Reformed (in their best) try to systematically analyze both sides (hence the artificial justification/sanctification division that is almost neurotically maintained). Given the Latin context, the Reformed, given our analogy, want to emphasize the ‘act of getting married’. There is a confidence that marriage establishes an extrinsic state that one can look to.

            And? I spent 37 years as a Reformer. I understand the need. That doesn’t make it helpful. Continuing to justify the actions of Protestant false teachings by giving them a pass because of the context they were combating is unhelpful in bringing the Truth to bear on false doctrines which rob sectarian Christian denominations of their Christian inheritance. We don’t say that an abused child is right because they respond to abuse with self-abuse. We seek to treat them and heal them and return them to truth. It is my belief that 99% of people are victims of their false teachers who limit the fullness of the gift God has given them in the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. But to simply say that they are fine where they are is like saying a person with cancer is just as good getting treatment at an Urgent Care Center rather than a Hospital Oncology Ward. It’s a false equivalence you are preaching here.

            Ideally, in a marriage, one live comfortably in the love. But imagine a man who is constantly fretting whether this relationship is legitimate, always fearing his wife is going to leave him. He can always hold up the certificate as a symbol of the fact she said she would never leave nor forsake him.

            And this insecurity and apprehension is a product of fear and sin. Your analogy of this man represents a deformation away from the Spirit and an affirmation of his fallen needs. Such a condescension for the sake of a man weak in faith may be necessary – but only when it seen as what it is and the man is lead out of his sinful mindset and learns to rest in faith and the Spirit of love which fears no harm – forgives all harm – and is capable of maintaining his relationship regardless of another person’s inconsistency.

            This is an analogy, so it can’t be taken too far. I think there are problems with applying the marriage relation between God and an individual person. But I hope you see what I’m getting at.

            I do. Applying the marriage relation between God and an individual person is a Scriptural precept insofar as one understands that when one is incorporated into the Body of Christ – and repent from individualism – becoming a true person in the Bride of Christ – the Church – certain things about individuality are put “to death” in Baptism – and we are raised into a single “Body” which is meant to be presented as a “spotless” Bride to Christ. It seems that you are missing the ecclesial consciousness that replaces the “individual” ego in Baptism and later sanctification.

            I am NOT saying that the East lacks a proper understanding of “justification” (as Reformed/Evangelicals might call it). However, for the sake of dialog, it might help to elucidate along these lines.

            In this you have made your point the most clear…and I think you are correct.

            The best thing the Reformed did was revive Covenantal theology, understanding the kind of relation God has. The East could profit a lot from work done in this.

            I disagree. Covenantal theology must be presented rightly. Deformed covenantal theology does much harm.

            It shouldn’t be a one-side take all, but allowing the generous possibility that the Holy Spirit truly blows where He wills. Even if you think the Reformed are all heretics, God allowed an Arius and a Sabellius to rise up to define the Trinity, resisting two pagan extremes.

            The Holy Spirit is present everywhere. But the Holy Spirit works in proportion. I have no doubt that non-Orthodox and non-Christians will be saved. This would be in spite of false doctrines, not because of it. Arius and Sabellius rose up because of their own pride. Of course God allows it…but he does not will it. It seems you are confusing the two.

            God also allowed Mohammed to “rise up.” This is no way blesses false teachers or makes their work a work of the Spirit.

            We must be concerned for what christian sectarians are being robbed of and not simply act as if these are simply two ways of looking at something. It is much more important than that.

            I will never discount the reality that God has faithful servants outside Orthodoxy. We will be judged equitably, not equally. But this does not abscond us from bringing sectarians back to the Truth of the One Undivided Church.

            My major concern for Evangelical Protestants is the degree to which they become complicit (by the nature of Evangelical structures) in attempting to keep people away from the fullness of the Truth of the gospel which is embodied in the Body of Christ- The Orthodox Church.

            Unfortunately, I will not have the time to continue discussing the matter with you. I hope you will pray on this, consider what I’ve said, and seek direction from your Spiritual elder (assuming you are Orthodox).

            For my part, I promise to do the same with what you have written, as I take these conversations to my Spiritual Father for guidance and – where necessary for repentance and correction.

            Onesimus

        2. Olive,

          I want to thank you for your presence here, and for your heart. Having a visitor who is open to understanding is a blessing, and I appreciate you!

          You spoke of “cheap grace” and the nod to Bonhoeffer is fantastic. His book Discipleship is a great book.

          I wanted to touch on a couple of issues here.

          Part of the issue is that when we (as Reformers or Evangelicals) speak with Orthodox there is a huge difference in terminology. Orthodoxy is steeped in the original language of the Biblical text and the continuing revelation of Pentecost to all generations which Christ promised in His Church which is the “pillar and ground of truth.” (1 Tim 3:15)

          So cradle Orthodox and Reformers tend to talk past one another. There is much more agreement than one might see at first blush…but it’s buried behind strong stances on specific ways of speaking. Often…sadly…we are saying very similar things…but in starkly different fashion. This is not to say there are not differences. There most surely are very important ones. But both sides intensify those differences unnecessarily.

          For example – the following observation you offered.

          I have had many conversations with Orthodox believers who gave me the idea that they can never be certain of having eternal life in the here and now. Indeed I have been accused of being proud and arrogant to make such a claim, yet I am only holding onto a precious promise from my Saviour.

          The disparity here has many sources…but one of the fundamental ones is the understanding of Soteriology. Soteria – the Greek work for salvation or being saved, and Pistis, the Greek word for “faith” or “faithfulness.” Evangelicals and Reformers who are steeped in the Enlightenment and Renaissance thought paradigms of Western European scholasticism are obliged through that philosophy to “be sure” of everything they believe. Only what can be “proved” or which one can be “sure” of is real. Everything else is to be rejected. Faith takes on a verifiable form and is tested by a textual interpretative tradition (be it Luther, Calvin, Wesley, etc.) Most Westerners are not aware of how pervasive the philosophy has become in all aspects of life and faith.

          The Greek language uses a linguistic form called “aspect” in its verbs. This was previously spoken of as aorist tense or present tense, but there is some bleed over here. You can read about the scholastic re-emergence of an understanding of aspect in an Evangelical student paper here. http://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1085&context=honors. Aspect is different but related to tense, past-present-future. In Greek linguistic studies in has become increasingly clear that Aspect has been diminished or overlooked by Erasmian Greek scholars. Greek Orthodox have never forgotten this, it is still a part of their theology and language, but the West has never believed it could learn anything about Greek from the Greeks. Go figure.

          Anyway… A verb like Soteria in the past or present tense can either be “continuous” or “completed” in aspect. A continuous action in aspect could be something that starts at a point in time, but continues indefinitely into the future. “Last night I began studying.” A completed action in aspect indicates a thing that happens at one point and ends. “I studied last night.” This might be how such a difference is or is not implied in English. In the Greek there is a much clearer delineation which is quite central to the language.

          So it is quite consistent in the Greek to say something like “I am saved” in the past tense, but for it to have a “continuous aspect” — a thing begun at a specific time but continuously occuring.

          Protestants (in general) speak of “being saved” or “are you saved” and develop doctrines like OSAS as ways of being “sure” of salvation in Enlightenment fashion. But the verb Soteria and Pistis are almost always presented in the continuous aspect in Greek, or in all tenses, past present and future.

          Such is the case with the verbs, “ask, seek, knock” in Matthew 7:7 which might more properly be translated “be always asking, be always seeking, be always knocking,”

          Being saved is a process, not a moment. It is a promise, but a promise to give to us grace freely. But we must continuously receive it and to offer it back to God. There is a wonderful line we use in our liturgy; “We offer You these gifts from from your own gifts.”

          The Reformer Dr. James White notes this;

          “…an important truth is presented that again might be missed by many English translations. When Jesus describes the one who comes to him and who believes in him, he uses the present tense to describe this coming, believing, or, in other passages, hearing or seeing.

          The present tense refers to a continuous, on-going action. The Greek contrasts this kind of actions against the aorist…which is a point action, a single action in time that is not on-going. The wonderful promises that are provided by Christ are not for those who do not truly and continuously believe.The faith that saves is a living faith…”

          So when you are speaking to an Orthodox Christian…it makes no sense to them to speak of being saved as a single – verifiable – one time declaration without a relational undergirding. The promise is for those who nurture the promise. The promise is for those who do not “hide their talents.”

          Sanctification is not a passive process. It is an active, living faith, confirmed and built on deeds as God’s “co-worker.”

          Not because Christ hasn’t secured salvation for us…He HAS…

          but because we can CHOOSE to accept or reject what He has accomplished for us by our way of life… We must allow ourselves to be “transformed from glory to glory” by kenosis. Just as Paul says; “but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

          Paul does not assume his own sanctification or his own qualification for salvation, and he does not presume to believe he has attained anything…he depends on the mercy and grace of God…

          Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

          Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ,whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory…”

          Faith and salvation is a relationship. We look at it like marriage. One can treat their wife like trash and keep pointing to the marriage certificate and say….”See…we’re married.” But if a husband is not acting like he is married, if he is not receiving the grace of love given by his wife to him and offering it back to her in thanksgiving mixed with his own free love…then he is not actually fulfilling his relational nature to her. He cannot meaningfully say he is married, regardless of what legal status he presents. Salvation and faith are the same. They’re a continuing state of relationship. Christ gives us all the grace in the world…but we can “grieve the Holy Spirit” (Eph 4:30) by our own intransigence.

          God can give us all the grace in the world…just like air…but if we refuse to breathe and hold our breath…we can resist grace….despite Reformed claims of “irresistible grace.”

          Many Protestants understand this truth on a foundational level, but their doctrines get them all twisted about it…and stop them from exercising their faith in any demonstrable manner. Others are faithful not because of their denominations teachings, but quite in spite of them, by the grace of God. Faith is faithfulness…not simply mental ascent to a belief matrix. This is how our deeds fit in…and this is why James can rightly say, “You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24)

          In regards to the “body and blood” of Christ…the Orthodox Church does not believe in or teach transubstantiation as the Latin Church has.

          We affirm exactly what Christ affirmed, which caused many to leave him. We do not pry into the mystery of “how” this works…we simply affirm Christ’s words and teachings….

          Put yourself in the below scenario…listening to Christ’s words in John 6.

          Do you affirm his words, or do you…like the those who left Him say to yourself and to others; “This teaching is hard! Who can accept it? ”

          One need not accept “transubstantiation” or a “analogy” – that is a false choice. One can accept in faith the words of Christ as a mystery.

          “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness,bn and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that anyone may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread he will livebp forever. The bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

          At that, the Jews argued among themselves, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat? ”

          So Jesus said to them, “I assure you: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life in yourselves. Anyone who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day, because My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink. The one who eats My flesh and drinks My blood lives in Me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread that came down from heaven; it is not like the manna your fathers ate — and they died. The one who eats this bread will live forever.”

          He said these things while teaching in the •synagoguece in Capernaum.cf

          Many Disciples Desert Jesus

          Therefore, when many of His disciples heard this, they said, “This teaching is hard! Who can acceptcg it? ”

          Jesus, knowing in Himselfch that His disciples were complaining about this, asked them, “Does this •offend you? Then what if you were to observe the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? The Spirit is the One who gives life. The flesh doesn’t help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. But there are some among you who don’t believe.”

          From that moment many of His disciples turned back and no longer accompanied Him.

          There is no need to explain away the mystery of Christ’s Eucharist. Neither is there a need to explain it. It is. That is enough for one seeking God in faith.

          Again, thank you for your presence here and your willingness to understand the Orthodox Catholic faith.

          Yours in the grace and Love of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

          Onesimus

          I

          1. There’s a lot of good stuff here, but for Olive’s sake, allow me to offer a few rejoinders:

            Assurance may have been made a paramount doctrine of the Reformation, and you might ascribe that to the work of Enlightenment or Renaissance, but I’m not sure that has purchase.

            The Reformation was a rather diverse event. Calvin was clearly a renaissance man, but Luther was much more Medieval. When Luther asked about assurance, he wasn’t asking for a rational proof, but was strangled by anxiety. The answer, of accruing merits through the life of the Church, didn’t console him as he was intimately feeling his sin.

            Of course, I’d say the East, by and large, has escaped from the ladder-climb approach found in Latin merit theologies. Well, I guess that is excluding teachings on aerial tollhouses. But I digress.

            The problem that Evangelicals rightly have with Eastern soteriology is found in how you used the marital analogy.

            When someone gets married, there is a point when something ‘happened’. There was a moment before you were married, and a moment after you were married. A covenant is established at a point in time. That covenant remains true, no matter how bad the parties act. One does not become more or less married by disposition, or act.

            However, one does live-out or participate in that marriage by their actions. One’s fidelity is the lifeblood of the marriage. If one ceases to act married, it doesn’t make him unmarried. However, a severance might occur at a build up, where the functional reality becomes the actual reality. Thus, divorce occurs.

            Evangelicals many times fault on this. There is such an emphasis on the ‘act’ of marriage, that the subsequent functioning life is neglected. But God says that unfruitful branches will be cut off.

            The Reformed (in their best) try to systematically analyze both sides (hence the artificial justification/sanctification division that is almost neurotically maintained). Given the Latin context, the Reformed, given our analogy, want to emphasize the ‘act of getting married’. There is a confidence that marriage establishes an extrinsic state that one can look to.

            Ideally, in a marriage, one live comfortably in the love. But imagine a man who is constantly fretting whether this relationship is legitimate, always fearing his wife is going to leave him. He can always hold up the certificate as a symbol of the fact she said she would never leave nor forsake him.

            For Luther, a man like this, it’s not a justification to act as he pleases. But it frees him to actually invest in the relationship every time a doubt arises. The man can focus on loving the wife because he is no longer constrained to worry.

            This is an analogy, so it can’t be taken too far. I think there are problems with applying the marriage relation between God and an individual person. But I hope you see what I’m getting at.

            I am NOT saying that the East lacks a proper understanding of “justification” (as Reformed/Evangelicals might call it). However, for the sake of dialog, it might help to elucidate along these lines.

            The best thing the Reformed did was revive Covenantal theology, understanding the kind of relation God has. The East could profit a lot from work done in this. It’s my contention that TULIP is mostly irrelevant to defining what is ‘Reformed’. It’s the focus on the Covenant that is most key.

            What the East can bring is the ontological depth that is many times lacking. It’s really two different approaches. It’s like one group is trying to discuss and analyze the text of a marriage contract, and the other is pointing out a lived marriage. This is broad generalization, there are Reformed who have focused on piety (i.e. “sanctification”), and Orthodox who have focused on the ‘mechanics’.

            Sorry this is becoming my own personal manifesto of what a blog like this could be. But what intrigues me is the possibilities present. It shouldn’t be a one-side take all, but allowing the generous possibility that the Holy Spirit truly blows where He wills. Even if you think the Reformed are all heretics, God allowed an Arius and a Sabellius to rise up to define the Trinity, resisting two pagan extremes.

            cal

          2. Cal,

            I appreciate your point about the importance of the covenant. You might be interested in my covenantal approach to the sacraments in my reply to Olive.

            Robert

          3. Dear Onesimus,

            Thank you sincerely for your lengthy reply which helps me to understand better what Orthodox believers believe. Your comments about the continual aspect of Greek are helpful. I have no knowledge of Greek, so can I ask you about the concept of being ‘in Christ’? – maybe you could read what I replied to Robert so I do not repeat myself here.

            The term Protestantism is very broad which means that all Protestants do not have the same beliefs. I come from a strict Christian Brethren background which emphasizes sanctification and giving account to God for our lives. We take communion every Sunday and take our faith very seriously.

            “Many Protestants understand this truth on a foundational level, but their doctrines get them all twisted about it…and stop them from exercising their faith in any demonstrable manner”

            – maybe this refers to nominal Christians within Protestantism? Be assured there are serious Christians within Protestantism who exercise great levels of faith every day and have given their lives to serve the Lord in missionary, charity and humanitarian endeavours.

            Regarding John 6, I believe Christ was speaking metaphorically just as He was speaking metaphorically when He said He was the Vine, or the Door, or the Good Shepherd or that we are the salt of the earth or the light of the world. Also, if Christ was fully man, how can His body be omnipresent (or in thousands of places at once)? – only His Spirit is omnipresent, that is why I believe His presence is there in the Spirit, but not His body and blood literally. (Matthew 18:20)

            Again I appreciate your comments because this is a learning exercise for me and I have every respect for your beliefs.

            Sincerely in the Lord’s love,

            Olive.

        3. Onesimus,

          I’m not sure what exactly you thought I wrote, so I’ll try and restate.

          The Enlightenment, as a Historical category, did not occur much later. So I do not know what exactly you are referring to. At first, I thought you meant a particularly exaggerated, kataphatic, Scholastic method. Now I don’t know what. Luther rejected much of this, going as far to say Aristotle is the most likely candidate as Satan in the flesh.

          I did not intend to be dismissive, and I do not intend to sound dismissive now.

          I only disagree that Charles Taylor’s narrative of Western transformation has the greatest explanatory power. Luther/Calvin does not equal, nor imply, nor necessitate, Voltaire/Rousseau. Historical narratives like that are too convenient. Luther was not thinking along the same lines as Descartes or Locke.

          All I was trying to get at is why the Reformers craved assurance is not equal to why the Physiocrats functioned the way they did.

          I’ve read historical works on this too, so you can name-call if you want. I dissent from such an easy story.

          As for Toll-Houses, sure, I admit ignorance. This is not dogmatic, so I’ll leave it at that.

          As for marriage, there is no “artificial wedge”. If I am in a marriage convenant, no matter how terrible of a husband I am, if my wife sleeps with another man, this is not just fornication, this is adultery. Your equation of marital infidelity with other sins is a bad comparison. None of those necessitate a covenantal connection. I may be a terrible employee, but if I commit fraud, I am still an employee until my “convenant” is broken (i.e. I get fired).

          Covenant is the form a relationship takes. We will always be covenantally bound, we are brought to glory through the means God has decided (i.e. adopted as sons through the Son). Yes, the content is the most important part. No one is disagreeing. Yes, the hope is that the covenant becomes our life, that’s internalizing an extrinsic reality. Yes, this is growth. But I don’t understand the hostility to any extrinsic reality. There doesn’t need to be a war between exterior and interior.

          I don’t know what you think I am saying. I’d like to see how you are comparing Patristic and Reformed understandings of the covenant.

          The abused child analogy is ridiculously unhelpful. Read TF Torrance (if you haven’t) and consider the possibility of Reformed and Orthodoxy rapprochement. I’m not saying there aren’t areas of contention, but the hope is reunion.

          As for the fretting man, yes he’s someone who is struggling with love due to pollution of sin. Who isn’t besides our High Priest and the saints who’ve been glorified? We are given a New Covenant for this reason: so we might learn to purge fear and rest in love. It sounds almost as if you’re saying that the Eucharist, Confession, gathering as the Church are all “affirmations of our fallen needs”, and looking down on that. I will assume, for good will, that that’s not what you’re saying.

          As for my constraining of the marital analogy, I’m all for an ecclesial awareness, but I am still ‘I’. I was referencing a particular ‘bridal mysticism’ proclaimed through people like Origen and Bernard of Clairvaux. I (or my soul) am not God’s Lover, the Church is Christ’s Beloved. I don’t know how recognizing that I am an individual person with agency somehow necessitates ‘individualism’.

          A return to Covenantal theology is a proper reframing of the discussion. If we think it’s all about me-and-Jesus then we can get nowhere. Me-and-Jesus may take form in bad pop-theology, bridal mysticism, or particular forms of monasticism. Yes, there can be bad covenantal theology, but its bad content than bad form. It’s hard to get good content across if the terms of discussion are rotten.

          It’s a heavy dose to diagnose why an Arius or Sabellius rose up, to say pride is uncharitable, though misguided is to say the least. The Biblical God is a God whom is able to turn and use even the worst events for the greatest glory. The crucifixion of Christ was the salvation of the Human race. Heretics or false prophets fit into the same paradigm. I don’t know why. Providence is an article of faith.

          The point of my conversation was to commend points of connection between Orthodoxy and Reformed/Evangelical thinking. As Stefano said in so many words, such thinking is insane. I hope that with God, all things are possible. The world is an ecclesial mess. The Orthodox are not excepted (e.g. the confused jurisdiction in America). I hope for healing, but not flat, false ecumenicalism ala. World Council of Churches, but real genuine healing. I don’t know what that will look like, but I pray for healing. I’d rather be a fool for Christ, then to be a hardened internet debater.

          God have mercy on the two of us,
          cal

          1. Cal,

            I think we are closer on some issues here than I thought at first blush, and I am thankful for your well thought out reply. I’m in the middle of finals…but I wanted to take a moment to comment, even though I shouldn’t let myself be distracted. (guilty pleasure this). We still have some daylight between us…but I’m sure our good will towards one another can overcome that.

            Starting out of order

            All I was trying to get at is why the Reformers craved assurance is not equal to why the Physiocrats functioned the way they did.

            Granted and affirmed. There is a difference by degree.

            The Enlightenment, as a Historical category, did not occur much later. So I do not know what exactly you are referring to.

            From my perspective, The foundations of both the enlightenment and Protestantism are the renaissance and humanism. They are peas in a pod – brother and sister. Unique, but from the same birthmother, and raised on the same breastmilk. That would have been a more accurate statement at the outset. Historians like to give movements definitive dates, but they will all tell you that movements evolve. You don’t have one and then “poof” one day there’s this new thing called “the enlightenment.” Thought evolves and then historians see a time when a critical mass allows for them to define a period from another. But it is progressive, not definitive. A historian sees the bleeding together of these movements. Call it the proto-enlightenment if you like. One cannot study Protestantism and not see the direct hand in hand relationship between it and the renaissance/ enlightenment. I think we agree here…because…

            …you are correct I think in saying Luther/Calvin does not equal, nor imply, nor necessitate, Voltaire/Rousseau. Luther was not thinking along the same lines as Descartes or Locke.

            But here’s the rub, without an Huss, a Wycliffe, a Copernicus and a Galileo, among others, you have no Luther, Calvin, etc. Without a Calvin, Luther, etc. you have no Descartes, Voltaire, etc. No, Luther / Calvin does not equal Rousseau or Descartes. Agreed in spades. But their work and the work of the Reformation does lay the ground for the Descartes and Rousseau’s of the world, and they are extensions of the same paradigm. This is likely a poor analogy…but It would be like Sikorsky following in the line of the Wright Brothers. Of course their works were different…but they were connected by paradigm of thought. No Wright brothers, no Sikorsky.

            …so you can name-call if you want. Did I? What name did I call you? I’m a bit perplexed, but will most certainly apologize if I can find where I called you a name. Most definitely not my intent.

            our equation of marital infidelity with other sins is a bad comparison. None of those necessitate a covenantal connection.

            This is where we get off track, and I anticipated that you might respond with the above objection. Here’s my take, and I think (and hope) that after reading this you will agree. Rightly understood covenental connections are the natural state of being, i.e. the “image and likeness” of the Trinitarian God. But in saying this – it is Meaning this;

            Man was meant to be – and is called in Christ to be – Just as the Trinity is – God’s “mode of existence” – Love. “man was created for a life of complete selfless love, whereby his actions would always be directed outward, toward God and neighbor, and never toward himself–whereby he would be the perfect image and likeness of God–”

            This is the natural covenant….what is sometimes called the “eternal covenant.” The eternal covenant is the state of God’s being; selfless love, which we were created to share in and to united the created and uncreated. Thus, The only true covenants are covenants that reflect this. God’s eternal covenant is always true and always reflects this. It is not a covenant for God because He promises it (the promise is the condescention to fallen man – faith needs no promise)…It is a covenant for God because it reflects this single truth; If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.God Himself IS the covenant because He is love. It is love that will never pass away.

            So it is – from my perspective – impossible to say that ANY relational action is not a covenant. It most surely is. I am covenented to my neighbor not to kill him because of the divine nature to which I was endowed – but from which I have fallen – and am called back to. Contra Cain – “I am my brother’s keeper.” Likewise, fraud is the breaking of the natural covenant, if not a worldly covenant. I believe these do necessitate a covenant.

            And this is why I think poor covenental theology is harmful…because people truncate it to marriage or contracts, etc.

            My point about “being less married” or what have you is that all covenants are relational. The covenant should be seen as a gift. The gift must be maintained, nurtured, developed or it dies. It can be dead even when the “officiality” of the covenant is presumed. If I cheat on my wife – I have damaged – and from my end broken the covenant. Only her mercy and fidelity can maintain it at that point. God’s covenant reflects that kind of mercy and fidelity, that even as we continuously reject and destroy relationship, He maintains it. She may be faithful to me and forgive, but to say that the covenant is still intact? Only if I repent. I think this is the idea Christ is getting at when he says to those who have said “Lord, Lord” and He says in reply “Depart from me, I never knew you.” The Lord is faithful to His end, but those who have been unfaithful have severed their relationship, even as they believe they have fulfilled it.

            Covenant is the form a relationship takes.

            I liked this whole paragraph. Very nice… we seem to agree…

            But I don’t understand the hostility to any extrinsic reality. There doesn’t need to be a war between exterior and interior.

            Perhaps you have not seen the damage that is being done in many churches due to the duality imposed. I’m simply trying to ensure a proper understanding of covenant. When we overly structuralize it…we loose something. The external has a place…especially in new believers or those weak in faith. It is a starting place. The issue I see is that too many use covenental theology as the stopping point. Indeed, I’ve seen far too many churches disintegrate into tooth and nail fighting over covenants and rights. People forget to forgive and suffer harm in Love— They’re too concerned about the legal framework of the covenants they’ve made and the harm done to them and they shove covenental language in one another’s face. Mercy gives way to legalism. There is a middle ground in this discussion, but when I see people say something like fraud and killing are sins that don’t necessitate or imply a break in covenant…I take it as confirmation that either there is a deformation of covenental theology – or more likely that we’ve talked past one another.

            The abused child analogy is ridiculously unhelpful. Read TF Torrance (if you haven’t) and consider the possibility of Reformed and Orthodoxy rapprochement. I’m not saying there aren’t areas of contention, but the hope is reunion.

            Here we disagree. I’ll leave it at that.

            As for the fretting man, yes he’s someone who is struggling with love due to pollution of sin. Who isn’t besides our High Priest and the saints who’ve been glorified? We are given a New Covenant for this reason: so we might learn to purge fear and rest in love.

            What a beautiful statement. Very nice.

            It sounds almost as if you’re saying that the Eucharist, Confession, gathering as the Church are all “affirmations of our fallen needs”, and looking down on that. I will assume, for good will, that that’s not what you’re saying.

            Now you’re being silly…silly. 🙂 But yes, God condescends to us in everything to give us grace unto sanctified. He meets us where we are, and if we allow Him to by synergy and recieve His gifts, He lifts us up. And yet…when a person stagnates in Eucharistic reception, or confession, or any other sacrament, they are complicit. Those who approach the chalice unworthily, eat and drink condemnation upon themselves. Those who are unrepentant in confession are given penance. Likewise, those who distort covenental theology must be led to a place of understanding…not stagnation, and not to affirmation of their sin. This takes pastoral care and gentleness in Love. But to encourage such self absorption is not helpful to anyone. IMO one who does not see all life as covenant is missing the gospel. “All the law and prophets hang on these.”

            I (or my soul) am not God’s Lover, the Church is Christ’s Beloved. I don’t know how recognizing that I am an individual person with agency somehow necessitates ‘individualism’.

            This is where I am coming from; and you could not have known this. There is a difference between an individual and a person (prosopon/ hypostasis). An individual is our fallen identity which conceives of itself as “it” or I. The darkened ego or nous. An individual is “the old man.” A person on the other hand is the “new man,” the nous being healed. Christ allows us to “partake of the divine nature.” This Trinitarian nature is three “hyopstases” in one “ousia.” Three persons in one substance. The Church is the same. We become hypostases in a single ousia – the Body of Christ. We are not our own.

            Our only agency is the call to be “douloi” i.e. slaves of Christ. A slave has no agency. This is kenosis and nepsis. It is an act of freedom and love…but we give up our agency so that the Christ lives in us. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me;

            It’s a heavy dose to diagnose why an Arius or Sabellius rose up, to say pride is uncharitable, though misguided is to say the least.

            Heresy is not really ever a doctrinal issue. It is an issue of pride and a sin against love. αἵρεσις (hairesis) is not to have a wrong idea – but literally “to choose” discord or faction and personal opinion over the whole of the Church in conciliar love. I probably have 10 heretical ideas before breakfast everyday. Lord have mercy. But I seek peace and to be of “one mind” and to “love” the brethren in unity via concilarity and mutual submission. God doesn’t care if we’re right about every doctrinal issue. Doctrinal purity is a fruit of love and unity, not a precursor to it. But He does care if we can love one another and be one mind (psuche = soul). From time immemorial, the Church has always been conciliar, and the Spirit was known to work through all Her members in concilarity and mutual submission. Individuals, or small factions breaking with the whole do so out of pride at a minimum. Diascorus would be the epitome of such a one. Anyone seeking to divide the Church is self-condemned, but always welcome back into the fold upon repentance. If its uncharitable…so be it. God will judge those men. But the Church has already judged them, and Christ is Her head. There is no separation here. Dividing the Church without repentance is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Victims of heretics are a different story. Most are doing the best they can with what they’ve been handed. God seeks their return to the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. He knows the heart. He will judge all rightly and in accordance with the gifts they have been given and the knowledge they have. Those who consciously reject the true Church – esp. those already inside of it – are self-condemned. Lord have mercy. Those truly seeking Her in Love are not complicit in sectarianism.

            The Biblical God is a God whom is able to turn and use even the worst events for the greatest glory.

            Indeed, well said. Still not His will…but his will is not hindered. “…we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Using worst events does not however justify them.

            The crucifixion of Christ was the salvation of the Human race. Heretics or false prophets fit into the same paradigm.Heretics or false prophets certainly do fit. The liklihood however is that a heretic will go into eternity with the disposition that blasphemes the Holy Spirit. This will not be forgiven either in this life or the life to come…because those who partake in such a disposition of putting themselves against the whole of the Church have already resisted the Holy Spirit to their last breath and have been – and will likely remain – dispositionally unrepentant when in the presence of the fire of God’s presence.

            Christ is their ultimate judge, and His mercy is definitive. I hope all will be saved…even Arius. It is not Christ who refuses such a one, but such a one who refuses His Body. The Church judges as led by Him and by the Holy Spirit. Her judgements are bound and loosed in heaven, for her judgements are of the Holy Spirit. We will judge angels. We do not judge those outside the Church, but those in the Church we do judge. (1 cor 5:12)

            Christ is the judge of all others.

            In any event, I’ve appreciated your comments.

            I sincerely hope that one day – all who profess to be Christians will be united under the one and same Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of whom Christ is the head. Only a free choice in Love can accomplish this.

            Onesimus.

          2. This will be my last comment as well. I really appreciated this dialog.

            Yes, the Enlightenment may have spawned out of certain currents of the Reformation (and it is a complex story, not a simply a->b->c), but is that really a problem? DB Hart and Ivan Illich (two very different men) gladly admit that the swamp we live in is a by-product of Christianity gone wrong. Particularly for Illich, it’s that the “corruption of the best is the worst”. I won’t get into more details than this. But I for one am glad that a Reformation occurred in the Latin West.

            By the way you explained Covenant, I can see how I took a misstep there. Yes, when framed, all our sins are covenantal breaks, attacks on our relationship with God and our fellowman. I got a little narrow focused on the particular examples.

            My point was to emphasize the external act that goes from one side to the other. I don’t want to separate exterior from interior. A man who is unfaithful to his wife is less-and-less participating in that marriage. But there is a difference that occurs in the ‘final break’, when a bad marriage ceases to ‘be’, the judgment of ‘divorce’. It’s not surprising necessarily. When talking covenants, maybe this is how ontology and speech-act might help and complement one another. This is all to make sure that the external and the internal stay closely knit. Anyway, your comments are very beneficial. Thank you for corrections!

            That’s fair enough about your semantic differentiation between ‘individual’ and ‘person’. I’m not sure I’d make that. However, contrary to modern discourse, I think there is much less significance to ‘individual’. An individual could be a human, a dog, a rock, a grain of sand. The ‘person’ is much more significant. The goal is not to maintain a kind of boundary between the ‘I’ and the world around it. The world is porous. You’re on to something good 🙂

            Your thoughts on judgment are good. I pray too all who earnestly seek unity, being possessed of the Spirit, will be brought to such.

            God bless you Onesimus,
            cal

        4. Dear Olive,

          I want to start off by saying that if anything I write here strikes you as ungentle, it is not my intent. My intent is purely love and guidance back to the truth. You may take it or leave it. But please, pray on these things. I will pray for you by name. Please pray for me. I am chief among sinners, and you are likely much more Holy than I. God loves you. I love you. But I will be honest and forthright in that love.

          – maybe this refers to nominal Christians within Protestantism? Be assured there are serious Christians within Protestantism who exercise great levels of faith every day and have given their lives to serve the Lord in missionary, charity and humanitarian endeavours.

          People of all faiths exercise great levels of faith and give to charity, humanitarian endevours, etc. Mormons do. Muslims do. Sikhs do. Atheists do. Works, as we have already discussed, are not the end all be all of faith, though they are connected. There is something much greater to faith, a way of being completely united in ecclesial Love; what Paul calls “being of one mind.” The greek word here is psuche…one soul…agreeing in all things. This is Christ’s prayer that we be One, as He is One with the Father. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us in proportion to our faith and our ability to selflessly seek unity with the “mind of the Church” in all ages. Continuity and consiliarity in mutual submission has always been the way of Love in the Church in coming to “one mind.” Those who resist such faith, Orthodox or no, will be sanctified only in proportion to their limited faith. If one is faithless, “even what they have will be taken away.” “Those who have will be given more.”

          So let’s speak to faith by discussing the Eucharist, which you deny is the body and blood of our Lord, as I once did. I have no doubt that one day, the glorious truth will be revealed to you by our Lord, who wishes only good for you and your unity in the faith.

          You say; “Regarding John 6, I believe Christ was speaking metaphorically just as He was speaking metaphorically when He said He was the Vine, or the Door, or the Good Shepherd or that we are the salt of the earth or the light of the world.

          I’ll leave aside the Vine, the Door, the Good Shepherd, the salt and light for the moment. It will get too lengthy if I address everything. But all of those things are more than metaphors. They are mystical realities.

          They used to be called “symbols.” The problem is that the Greek word for symbol means the uniting of two realities; the created and the uncreated. Two worlds and two realities coming into unity through Christ. We hear symbol and we think something completely different in English.

          So, Where do you come up with the idea that this is metaphorical? Does Scripture say it is metaphorical? (I start with Scripture because I know that it and your denominations teachings are your only source) Let us look at what Scripture actually says.

          He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55″For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56″He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.…

          The important thing to note here are the words “is true.” The NIV translates this as “real,” the KJV “indeed,” and some others “truly.”

          The Greek word is ἀληθής = alethes. You can go here to see the whole Greek text word for word with English interlinear next to it. http://biblehub.com/interlinear/john/6-55.htm Here is the Strong’s defintion of the word. http://biblehub.com/greek/227.htm

          Strong’s Concordance (a Protestant publication) defines it as;

          “true, as it accords with fact (reality), i.e. attested because tested – literally, “what can’t be hidden.” See 225 (alētheia).

          [227 /alēthḗs (“what can’t be hidden”) stresses undeniable reality when something is fully tested, i.e. it will ultimately be shown to be fact (authentic).]

          In 1 Cor 11:27 Paul is speaking about the sharing of the Eucharist as worship.

          Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy way will be •guilty of sin against the body and blood of the Lord. So a man should examine himself; in this way he should eat the bread and drink from the cup. For whoever eats and drinks without recognizing the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. This is why many are sick and ill among you, and many have fallen •asleep. If we were properly evaluating ourselves, we would not be judged, but when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord, so that we may not be condemned with the •world.

          Here Paul says that what you call metaphorical is so powerful that those who come to it in an unworthy fashion become guilty of the very body and blood of Christ. He reiterates that whoever partakes without discerning the body eats and drinks judgement upon themselves. He goes further and says that people are actually getting sick and dying because of this.

          In 1 Cor 10:16 Paul states;

          Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?

          This is no metaphor. This is reality. Just as the words of Christ indicate. Just as the Apostle Paul attests to.

          I am saddened for what many sects of Christianity have been robbed of. The only reason many choose not to have faith in this reality is because they’ve been taught not to have faith in it – just as I was taught not to. It is just as Matthew 23:13 – we have had false teachers “shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces.” Where does such a denial of the truth come from? Opinons of men. For your denomination, which started in 1708, eight people who formed your denomination decided it based upon their own opinion of Scripture.

          But the Orthodox Church has always believed the same thing, since Pentecost in 33 A.D. One can read the writings of all Christians in every century from 33 A.D. and see a continued belief in one in the same truth, and a continued succession in faith and practice from then until now, without change.

          Saint Ignatius of Antioch, a disciple of the Apostle John affirmed the reality on his way to martyrdom in about 100 A.D.

          Consider how contrary to the mind of God are the heterodox in regard to the grace of God which has come to us….They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer, because they do not admit that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, the flesh which suffered for our sins and which the Father, in His graciousness, raised from the dead.”

          “Come together in common, one and all without exception in charity, in one faith and in one Jesus Christ, who is of the race of David according to the flesh, the son of man, and the Son of God, so that with undivided mind you may obey the bishop and the priests, and break one Bread which is the medicine of immortality and the antidote against death, enabling us to live forever in Jesus Christ.”

          “Take care, then who belong to God and to Jesus Christ – they are with the bishop. And those who repent and come to the unity of the Church – they too shall be of God, and will be living according to Jesus Christ. Do not err, my brethren: if anyone follow a schismatic, he will not inherit the Kingdom of God. If any man walk about with strange doctrine, he cannot lie down with the passion. Take care, then, to use one Eucharist, so that whatever you do, you do according to God: for there is one Flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the union of His Blood; one altar, as there is one bishop with the presbytery and my fellow servants, the deacons.

          I’ll spare you the references to Christians in each and every century who professed the same as a criterion to being faithful Christians. If you ask, and are interested, I’ll provide the unbroken chain in every century affirming the belief in the real presence. All of them affirmed that Christians are bound to profess the real presence and have faith in the same.

          Only gnostics denied the real presence until the Reformation. That would mean that for 1500 years, the promise that Christ made that he would lead the Church into “all truth” and that His body and blood were “true” food and “true” drink were all misconstrued until some Germans and French people in Medieval Europe emerging from the dark ages, completely unfamiliar with Biblical greek decided it wasn’t true and rediscovered the truth?

          You ask; “Also, if Christ was fully man, how can His body be omnipresent (or in thousands of places at once)?

          There is a big problem here. Christ is not only fully man, He is also fully God. Forgetting the later nullifies the former. For Orthodox Christians we profess that in worship time dilates, and we are all mystically present at the Last Supper…partaking each time in the eschaton. To limit the power of God to be present in the Eucharist is to limit everything about Him. If the Word of God (the Logos) Christ brought all matter into existence through Himself (John 1) by simply speaking matter into being…it is nothing for Him to – through His Holy Spirit – to make the Eucharist what it is. Do you actually think that the physical world and it’s laws can stop God from doing what He said?

          Why limit faith? Because people have taught that one must limit faith in the words of Scripture? Why would we explain this away?

          I know you are a woman of faith and Love of Christ.
          If any of us has faith as small as a mustard seed, we will see the truth that is in the Eucharist, and we will always hunger and thirst to partake of it in unity with the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It is the most amazing gift in the world…to partake in the divine nature. (2 Peter 1:4)

          You cite Matthew 18:20 – Would you affirm that Mormons have Christ among them? Jehovah’s Witnesses? Unitarian Universalists? Of course, in a sense Christ is everywhere present and filling all things. (Ephesians 1:23) In Him “we live, move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) You have taken Matthew 18:20 as a proof text isolated from the scope of Scripture. From an Orthodox perspective, those who separate themselves from the Church are not gathered in His name, but in their own name. That does not mean He will not be merciful to them, or sanctify them to the degree that they cooperate with the Holy Spirit. But the fullness of the Holy Spirit is granted to those who participate in faith and unity in the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. If one has no faith in the Eucharist, the Holy Spirit will not impose sanctification through the grace of the sacrament. Those in the Orthodox Catholic Church who eat unworthily eat and drink condemnation on themselves. In many respects, those of us in the Orthodox Church are responsible for more, and “how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” Orthodox Christians have been given much, but to whom much is given, much is required. Just like any hospital, we are full of sick people. Not all are following the treatment regime. We can always turn to God and repent of neglect.

          (Eph 4:30) May God grant the increase.

          Blessings to you and to all yours

          In Agape,

          Onesimus

  4. Stefan,

    This is soft-ball of a strawman for Protestants, which are not defined except as cerebral book-centric people.

    The heart-and-soul of the Reformation’s revolt against Rome was that the Church in the West had been so encrusted with ‘bad’ particulars that it needed a cleansing. Please, consider that Protestants by-and-large have not done what you’ve said. Whether its an Anglican kneeling to receive the holy Eucharist, or a Pentecostal who has hands raised and belting out along with the “worship team”, or what have you, no one is denying particulars.

    And Bible-centric? Most mainline Protestants functionally detest the Bible. For those who don’t, and the vast numbers of Evangelicals, it is more complicated. Sola Scriptura, principally, is about seeing Scripture as Canon (a rule-stick). This is a question of hermeneutics. So, as St. Irenaeus wrote, the heretic repositions the mosaic of a beautiful king into a fox. But the problem is not a “literal” reading, but rather the wrong reading.

    This is where an actually fruitful discussion about how we read Scripture could ensue.

    Furthermore, if Scripture is given as a sure testimony of Christ (i.e. John 5:39), why sneer at those who give proper reverence to such a witness? The Blessed Mary does not save anyone, nor is she a “goddess”, but she is Theotokos, the one who brought God into the world for the salvation of mankind, so we properly honor her. Her honor is in relation to Christ, and so the Bible. Similarly with the Prophets, the Patriarchs, the Apostles, yes the whole Church.

    Christ is the Word of God, but the Scripture is the written-down word. As Luther would put it, it’s the cradle for the Word of God. Luther argued with authorities on the interpretation of Scripture. He quoted Church Fathers, Papal bulls, conciliar decisions to make his point. He was squelched. Should St. Athanasius have shut his mouth when an Arian Emperor and bishops exiled and deposed him (unjustly)? On what was he standing?

    Now, most Protestants don’t look like Luther (at least the early Luther), but how can the East engage them in a way that doesn’t polarize. Do you think most Evangelical Protestants understand the ‘filioque’? Dichotomizing as ‘us-and-them’ falsely will only lead to a greater gulf.

    Protestants have a lot of problems, but tilting at a windmill will do nothing to help. As another commenter posted above, Scot McKnight among others, are trying to do things to live a fuller gospel. Is there a way to build and to heal instead of criticizing?

    cal

  5. Cal,
    Saying that Protestants ‘functionally detest’ the Bible doesn’t inspire confidence. Any statement about Protestantism tends to be broad and needs qualifiers as the spectrum of Protestantism is immense.

    Dialogue can be critical but also constructive. Evangelical Protestantism deserves some criticism because it takes harsh (and true) words to knock it out of its stupor. I have a way of healing – that way is the truth. You can’t just pick and choose. Half measures like snaffiling the Othodox respect for the Theotokos or the liturgy or respect for the Church Fathers just add to the confusion. If you are going to take anything from Orthodoxy then take the whole thing.

    1. Stefano,

      I did qualify Protestants, I said “Mainline”.

      Yes dialogue can be critical and constructive. But in this case, the rhetoric of the post is a dichotomy, a cutting in two, a this or that. I’m not saying that can’t (or shouldn’t) be done either. But in this case, Stefan has not adequately explored, explained, or fairly articulated any sense of a “Protestant” position.

      I think plenty of Fathers would disagree that it takes “harsh” words to knock someone out of their “stupor”. There is a time for severity and a time for kindness, but considering we are writing on anonymously on a blog proclaimed to be a “bridge”, I think the situation calls for kindness. Evangelicals may be nasty, brutish, ignorant, and/or rude. That doesn’t require an equal measure.

      Your last sentence is the most bizarre. There are millions of Christian who profess faith in Christ. Orthodoxy need to take this seriously. Huge segments functionally abide, though at times unknowingly, by the 7 ecumenical councils. If there is to be healing, it should be thought of reconciling, not in terms of a “turn”. This is not a question of conversion, but a question of the fullness of truth.

      Yes, the Truth will heal, but the Bible qualifies: truth in love. How do we get behind the rhetoric and understand our terms so we can communicate. Stefan, instead of clarifying, only muddied the waters. That’s all.

      cal

      1. Cal, thanks for your comments!

        What I meant by “Protestants” is explained in this part where I wrote This is especially true for those with an evangelical bent, regardless of the denomination they may formally belong to.

        I am not trying to say Protestants who are Evangelical (big “E”), but those who approach the Scriptures with a typical evangelical mindset, ie. if we just read the Bible, everything will be clear to us. That’s not to say the essence of evangelicalism consists in that, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true of most of it, at a popular level, at least.

        If you have noticed, that’s why I also said that my post is not directed against traditional Protestant backgrounds, when people are truly rooted in the traditions of the Reformers (Luther, Calvin, etc.).

        However, in my particular experience, for example, I’ve noticed even Lutherans who read the Bible in the typical evangelical manner, “me and my Bible”, and they are Lutherans as long as their reading of the Bible confirms the Lutheran Confessions, not because they believe the Confessions are the correct reading of the Bible.

        1. Stefan,

          Thanks for your reply.

          This is why I called it lobbing a soft-ball. It’s not fair or just to pick on the pop-level as the fullest expression. It can be done with any and every tradition, and it’s fallacious reasoning that the worst thus represents the best.

          I’ve seen somewhere that according to a Gallup poll 60-70% of Lutherans believe that if you do good deeds you get into Heaven. I’ve met my fair-share of Reformed people who are ignorant of covenantal theology. I’ve heard of Orthodox, priests and laity, who support gay-marriage, abortion, and are completely ignorant of the Bible. The overwhelming majority of American Roman Catholics blatantly ignore the Magisterium’s teaching on birth-control (and it’s not out of ignorance).

          Evangelicals focus on owning their conversion and engaging the Scripture, trying to read it. Yes, Evangelicals, by vast majority, are ignorant or even slightly hostile to any appeal to tradition. But that is not necessarily their fault. By and large, tradition is swung like a club polemically.

          There’s no doubt most Evangelicals can’t see past their own American cultural hermeneutic. It’s why a Dispensationalist can confidently tout what he sees is just clearly in the Bible, not knowing Scofield is only 150 years old.

          So saying “you and I are separated by a gulf, you’re on the wrong side” and this is because they read their Bible literally…? I’m sorry, this is a terrible approach and only makes you sound like a post-liberal. Literally means understanding as the text was meant to be understood. Poetry read literally is read poetically. Christ taught the Apostles, their eyes opened, how to read the Old Testament. It’s this the Fathers learned and repeated, with varying success. Yes, some Alexandrian Fathers in particular(very spiritual and holy men) argued that everything must be read allegorically. They and the Antiochenes duked it out (also holy men). The reality is that there is no ecumenical, binding conciliar decision one way or the other. So let’s keep reading and arguing.

          Evangelicals may say “me and my Bible”, but if they are reading a translation, or have ever interacted with a Christian, or have seen any interpretation of Christianity, they are never reading it alone.

          But don’t criticize them for trying to be Bereans about it. The Bible is the Word of God, it doesn’t take away from Jesus as Logos, it is His utterly reliant witness. Yes, the Bible must be read in Church, but it is still His infallible witness (2 Tim 3:15-17).

          On a semi-related note, Evangelicals have much to offer Orthodoxy, and I hope the two might united. Bradley Nassif is very wise in this regard. Orthodoxy might have the riches of spiritual wealth, sparkling jewels of the soul, but if Orthodoxy is an ethnic club, or womanly religious sowing-circle (this isn’t meant to be sexist), or superstitious, then all the wealth in the world is useless. Orthodoxy in America seems to often replicate liberal Mainline Protestantism and liberal Rome with its own unique flavor.

          Where is the zeal? Where is a real call to askesis based in a deep gospel of God’s conquering love across time and space? To lob bombs when your house is disordered is foolish.

          cal

  6. Hi Cal,
    I thought I might respond to some of your comments.

    You say ‘I’ve heard of Orthodox, priests and laity, who support gay-marriage, abortion, and are completely ignorant of the Bible.’ This sort of thing is touted a lot as a kind of ” you are no better than us” argument. I would really challenge the validity of this statement. In 30 years of active involvement in the Orthodox Church I have never heard a priest or bishop come out in support of gay marriage. Orthodox consider homosexuality as one of many sexual sins that western society is currently involved in. Evangelicals seem a bit fixated on the issue, especially in America. Do some Orthodox laity come out in support of homosexuality and abortion? Yes, they do. Politicians are a bit notorious for this. Is the Orthodox Church racked by a moral liberalism? I think not.
    There is a good way to solve this. Give me the names of 3 Orthodox bishops who have come out in support of gay- marriage. In Australia ( where I live) every Orthodox bishop recently signed a letter to the government disagreeing with its current policy on legalising gay marriage.
    Ah, Bradley Nassif. Evangelicals love to say how much he owes to Evangelicals and how much Orthodox can learn from them. I can say fairly confidently that this is not the mainstream view. Bradley Nassif has overstated his case.
    I recognise the common Christianity between us but if Evanglialism is the dominant type of Christianity in America then it has done a terrible job on society.
    This is what I have learned – the USA is land of the cults. Mormons, JWs, Adventists, Pentecostals, liberals proliferate. Despite all their ‘bible knowledge’ the average American Christian seems very vulnerable to these groups. America is the land of obesity, school shootings, hyper-sexuality in media, social inequality and latent racism. As far as I’m concerned the jury is still out on what we can learn from Evangelicals but I’m not hopeful.
    Zeal! You are right. Orthodox don’t have a reputation for being particularly zealous at the moment. What we do have is a tenacity that many have underestimated. Sure, we don’t shout Jesus from every corner but then again we don’t have the revolving door of converts like many Evangelical Churches. I’ve known too many zealous Evangelicals who have dropped out over the years to see that the emotional high that passes as zeal is an illusion.

    You finish with the statement ‘hope the two might unite’. Seriously?? Do you know nothing of Orthodox ecclesiology? It will never happen. For us Orthodox unity means communion. For this to happen you must give up heresy. I’m afraid that’s the only way. Sorry to be so blunt. Please don’t be offended.

    Also, I notice this post has Robert, Onesemius and Stefan all commenting. An example of Orthodox zeal?

    1. Stefano,

      If you read the context, the point was that pop-examinations are not fair indicators. Truth is not democratic. To fairly criticize is to examine the best of Evangelical theology and compare with the best of Orthodoxy, not the worst of Evangelicalism and the best of Orthodoxy.

      Yes, most forms of evangelicalism are corrosive for society. It doesn’t mean one can’t learn from the best parts. America’s current social-state does not equal Evangelicalism. That would be as fair as saying the current state of Greece equals Orthodoxy. Truth is not tied to nation, nor is Truth utilitarian.

      Three people posting does not equal zeal. And this is not a competition. You have no idea what I meant by “hope for union”, instead you go instantly towards criticizing and strawmanning. I have no intention to say, a blog is a terrible place for that.

      Go in peace,
      cal

  7. Hi Cal,
    I don’t think that even the ‘best’ of Evangelicalism has much to offer Orthodoxy. The truth is that Evangelicalism has always been disfunctional. I would count the evangelical movement as arising in the 18th century so it has only taken you 3 centuries to turn into a mess. What pagans have martyred you? What aggressive jihadists attacked and took over your civilisation? What militant communists sent you to gulags? What Nazis labelled you as subhuman and tried to exterminate you? Yes, Orthodox has some issues with nationalism and nominalism but you can see why.
    Greece has an economic problem so I’m not sure how it reflects on their Christianity. The government spent for 40 years without an adequate tax base.
    One of the big problems I see with Protestantism in America is the disconnect between faith and holiness. Yes, we are all sinners but we are called to be holy. I am amazed how little impact faith can have on a Protestant’s live. The pentacostals and charismatics are the worst for this. Yet, in Orthdooxy, I have found holiness.

    1. Whoa Stefano! I’ve been critical of Protestantism and Evangelicalism on this blog but I’ve also pointed out the good things I learned and took with me when I converted to Orthodoxy. Two valuable lessons I learned as an Evangelical are consistent attendance at the Sunday service and the daily morning devotion which comprised prayer and bible reading. When I became Orthodox I learned about the Liturgy and the Eucharist, and I learned to use the Morning Prayers. Orthodoxy broadened and enriched my Christian discipleship that I learned from my Protestant friends. Also, when I was a missions chair at my old church I got to know many Evangelicals who sacrificed much to serve in other cultures to help others know about Jesus Christ. Of course as an Orthodox Christian I could come down hard on my old church but I prefer to stress that in Orthodoxy is the fullness of the Christian Faith. BTW, a good example of modern day Evangelical martyrs would be the group who were killed by the Aucas tribe in Ecuador. Elisabeth Elliott wrote about her husband’s death in Through Gates of Splendor. And Evangelicals can point to Corrie Ten Boom and her book The Hiding Place as an example of suffering Christ in the Nazi concentration camps.

      But with respect to Cal’s assertion that we should compare the best of Evangelicalism against the best of Orthodoxy is to leave out the historic Church. Cal is in effect confining the comparison to the present day and dehistoricizing the conversation. This is where much of your points are on target but we need to avoid getting into a game of one-up-manshp. Bottom line, the line of apostolic succession, the handing on of Holy Tradition from the Apostles to the present, is to be found in the Orthodox Church. For all their reading of the Bible Protestants do not have apostolic succession. One thing I appreciate about the Orthodox Church is that it is the fulfillment of Jude verse 3: “contending for the Faith delivered once and for all to the saints.” In light of that I think Cal underestimates how difficult it will be to bridge the gap between Evangelicalism and Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy as the recipient and guardian of Apostolic Tradition has not and will not compromise on Apostolic Tradition. This means that we will not negotiate on matters of Holy Tradition. Cal’s attempt to confine the comparison to the present day churches implicitly excludes the two thousand year old Apostolic Tradition from the discussion. But Orthodox should not shy away from entering into conversation with Protestants and Evangelicals. Here we must be careful as we engage in dialogue between the two traditions that we don’t impose our expectations on the other side.

      Robert

      1. Thanks for this, Robert.

        In terms of Protestant confessors and martyrs, let’s not forget that Orthodox and Protestant faithful have suffered side by side in Romania and other places under Communist oppression. Another example (and a great admirer of his Orthodox brethren) was Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, a Lutheran (and convert from Judaism) who suffered in Romanian prison for 14 years. Frederica Mathewes-Green interviewed him before his death a few years ago and that podcast is available, I believe, on Ancient Faith Radio. Another faithful Lutheran Christian who suffered and died under Nazism is Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

        I can add that along with Dr. Bradley Nassif, another who, raised Orthodox, was favorably influenced by Evangelicals to own his own faith in Christ as a young man is my Bishop, Bp. Paul (Gassios). I’m sure these are not alone.

        Evangelicalism has many faults, but there’s no denying it is far more likely in this country (and even many others) that someone will be favorably influenced to commit to faith in Christ as Lord through an Evangelical witness than an Orthodox one (the numbers being what they are), and there are many of us who can attest we first came to love Christ and the Scriptures in a Protestant context (that being all we knew). And we learned the Holy Spirit was still in the business of giving gifts to the Church through the charismatic movement and through Pentecostalism (as misguided as much that has happened under those labels today has been, it is worth remembering these movements started as a result of Protestant believers yearning for greater holiness and deeper experience of Christ). Much that we learned in our Protestant context was a solid preparation for the fullness of Orthodoxy, even as we have left behind those teachings, practices and experiences that proved themselves over time to be spiritual dead ends.

  8. I fail to understand why every critic of sola scriptura feels somehow obligated to also reject a “literal” interpretation of the Bible. I don’t get this. One can argue against sola scriptura quite easily without the dig at “literalism.” So what’s the deal?

    For one thing, there are passages of the Bible that Orthodox interpret literally that Protestants don’t (the “real presence” for example). To insist contra Protestants that these passages in John 6 be interpreted literally while simultaneously attacking “literal interpretation” is simply illogical.

    Furthermore, Evangelical Protestants associate attacks on the “literal interpretation” primarily with attacks on narratives of historical episodes in the Old Testament. Is this what Orthodox object to? Do they consider the story of Adam and Eve, of Noah, of the Tower of Babel, to be subversive to the Orthodox worldview? If they do not, I have no idea just what it is about a “literal” interpretation that they object to. Perhaps the word “literal” is being used (pardon the expression) non-literally?

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