An Early Christian Prayer to Mary

 

Rylands Papyrus 470

Many Reformed Christians like Orthodox Christians hold the Virgin Mary in high regard.  That many Reformed Christians are even willing to call her “Theotokos” is not surprising in light of the fact that the Reformed tradition accepts the first four Ecumenical Councils: Nicea (325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), and (Chalcedon 451) (See the Second Helvetic Confession Chapter 11).  It was at the Third Ecumenical Council (431) that Mary’s title as the “Theotokos” was formally affirmed to be a dogma of the Church: “If any one refuses to confess that the Emmanuel is in truth God, and therefore that the holy Virgin is Mother of God (θεοτόκος), for she gave birth after a fleshly manner to the Word of God made flesh; let him be anathema.” (See NPNF Series 2 Vol. XIV p. 206)  Recently, some Reformed groups are rediscovering the early Church and selectively including more and more early Church practices in their Sunday worship.

 

Where they differ from the Orthodox Church is over the propriety of addressing one’s prayers to Mary.  Being guided by the principle of Solus Christus – that salvation is through Christ alone and that Christ is the sole mediator between man and God, Protestantism frowns on Christians praying to the Virgin Mary or the saints.  They confuse Mary’s role as a chief intercessor by mistakenly thinking our Blessed Theotokos to be a deity! Sadly, many Protestants wrongly believe with little evidence and even less serious study that Christianity became corrupted and encrusted by non-biblical beliefs around the time of Emperor Constantine in the early 300s, if not earlier.  However, this hypothesis has been discredited by the growing evidence that early Christians prayed to the Virgin Mary prior to Constantine.  Papyrus 470 which dates back to 250 can thus be considered an example of a very early extra-biblical tradition.

In 1917, the John Rylands Library acquired a collection of papyri.  Many Protestant pastors who took New Testament Greek and exegesis are likely to have heard in passing Rylands Papyrus P52 dating as early as 117 to 138 and considered to be the oldest extant record of the canonical New Testament.  During this early period were other early Christian writings like the Didache, Clement’s first Epistle to the Corinthians, and Ignatius of Antioch’s letters.  It is important to keep in mind that many if not most of the first generation of the Apostles’ disciples were still alive and leading the Church during the time of these early writings.  These disciples of the Apostles devoted themselves to preserving and passing on the Apostles’ teachings.  As we have noted several times before, the Protestant notion of the Holy Spirit “Blinking-Off” in the Church soon after the Apostles died then “Blinking On” with the Reformation is problematic both historically and theologically.  Orthodoxy rejects this Protestant approach to history and upholds Pentecost as a continuous ongoing reality, that is, the Holy Spirit was present in the early Church teaching and guiding the Church into all Truth, as Christ promised (John 16:13.  The Rylands collection contains P470 which contains a prayer to the Virgin Mary dating as early as 250.  The date 250 is significant in light of the fact this was the time of the Decian Persecution and thus predates Constantine’s Edict of Milan issued in 313.  This early prayer to Mary arose from the vibrant spirituality of the early Church.

 

An Ancient Christian Prayer

Papyrus 470 predates the Council of Ephesus (431) by two centuries.  This is the Third Ecumenical Council that was convened for the purpose of addressing the Nestorian controversy – Nestorius’ refusal to address Mary as “Theotokos” in the Liturgy.  In other words a high view of Mary was held by Christians early on and was not the result of late development of tradition as some might claim but rooted in an ancient Christian tradition.  Furthermore, the term “Theotokos” was not coined at the Council of Ephesus but was already in use for some time by early Christians.

As we read the text of this short prayer – 22 words in the original Greek – we find a number of significant ideas.  One aspect is the titles given to Mary:

  • “Theotokos” – the prayer addresses Mary not on a first name basis but by the formal title “Theotokos,”
  • “Only blessed” – a reference to Mary’s special election by God, and
  • “Only pure” – a reference to Mary’s perpetual virginity.

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This was not an individual prayer but a corporate prayer – the early Christians prayed to Mary in their Sunday worship!  This prayer was translated into Latin and in the Latin tradition came to be known as “Sub Tuum Praesidium.”  In the Orthodox tradition this prayer is sung during the Vespers service for Great Lent and is echoed in similar prayers in the daily prayers and the Sunday Liturgy.  This points to the universality of this ancient prayer.  In light of the Vincentian Canon – that which is believed everywhere, always, and by all — prayer to Mary the Theotokos is a catholic or universal Christian practice.

We learn from this papyrus that when early Christians gathered for worship they addressed Mary by the title “God Bearer” recognizing her role in the mystery of the Incarnation – Christ coming down from heaven and assuming human flesh for our salvation.   Further, we learn that early Christians believed in praying to the saints and asking the saints to pray on their behalf.  In contrast Mary is all but ignored in Protestant worship services today; she is never addressed as “Theotokos;” and she is not asked to pray for us.  It is as if Mary is taken out for display during Christmas and then the rest of the year is put away in a box until next year.  An early Christian visiting contemporary Protestant worship services would likely be disconcerted if not dismayed by how little attention Christ’s Mother is given by Protestants today.

 

Steps to Recovering Ancient Christian Worship

images-50As archaeological evidence Rylands Papyrus 470 suggests that Protestantism, especially the Reformed tradition and Evangelicalism, may have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.  Protestants can enrich their worship and devotional life by learning from the early Church by emulating their respect for Mary the Theotokos.  A good first step is to refer to Mary not just as “Mary” but also as “Theotokos” or in English “Mother of God” or “God Bearer.”

The occasion of Protestantism’s High Holy Day: “Mother’s Day” (May 10 in 2015) would be a good opportunity for Protestant pastors and their parishioners to call Mary by her proper title “Theotokos.”  Doing this on this upcoming Sunday morning would mark one positive step towards recovering historic Christian worship.  A good follow up would be to print this ancient prayer in the church bulletin and let people be free to use this prayer to the extent they feel comfortable using it.  Reformed and Evangelical Christians can ask Mary to be their prayer partner asking God’s blessing for their earthly mothers.

Another good follow-up would be to visit an Orthodox worship service to learn how they honor Mary the Theotokos in the ancient Liturgy that dates back to the early Church and how Mary sets an example of Christian discipleship through her total commitment to Jesus Christ.

A Mother’s Day Prayer

Beneath your compassion,

We take refuge, O Mother of God:

do not despise our petitions in time of trouble:

but rescue us from dangers

only pure, only blessed one.  [Source]

 

Robert Arakaki

Resources

Fr. Wilbur Ellsworth.  2010.  “The Christian Reformed – Who Are They?Ancient Faith Radio.

Robert Arakaki.  2012.  “Why Evangelicals Need Mary.”  OrthodoxBridge.

Robert Arakaki.  2011.  “Response to Brad Littlejohn’s: ‘Honouring Mary as Protestants.’OrthodoxBridge.

Henri De Villiers. 2011.  “The Sub Tuum PraesidiumNew Liturgical Movement.

John Rylands Papyrus.”  2007.  TheoblogoumenaA Blog of Theological Opinions.

YouTube Video – Greorian chant sung by the Benedictine Monks of Santo Domingo de Silos – “Sub Tuum Praesidium”

YouTube Video – St Elias Church – “Forgiveness Vespers – Dismissal Hymn

 

138 comments:

  1. A very interesting rapprochement article, something that I have been thinking about for awhile.

    1. David,

      I’m glad you liked the article. And I’m happy to know I’m not the only one who’s being thinking the same thing.

      Robert

  2. Thank you Robert. It seems strange to me that so many people are willing to ask their christian friends to pray for them, but not the saints. It is as if God is not the God of the living (Mark 12:26-27).With God all people are alive to him even if they have ended their earthly life from our point of view. Though they await the resurrection at the last day, with God they are alive, and if they are alive to God they should be to us if we are in Christ. When we know so clearly the power and closeness to God of those who have lived a holy life, why would me not come to them asking prayers with more assurance of help from their prayers to God than we do from our friends who we know to be struggling. We draw a line “at death” as if God has not overcome it and as if all communion stops for us at this line. Christ says,”Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” (Rev. 14:13). In I Cor. 15 Paul speaks at length about Christ overcoming death and that all those in Christ are free from death and its power. When we have put on the imperishable and the immortality of Christ, through faith in Christ, then, “Death has been swallowed up in victory”(ICor.15:14ff see also Hosea 13:14). Then death is no longer death, but a passageway into the eternal life of God. From the perspective of History the earth awaits the “resurrection of the dead”, but from the understanding of those who are in Christ, Eternal life begins now, is confirmed upon our death, and continues into eternity for those in Christ. The saints, who have died in Christ and seem dead to us in our human reasoning, are the very ones who are, even now, worshiping the Lamb with the angels, around the throne of God, as the Book of Revelations shows repeatedly. It makes sense that Mary and those who have lived their life for Christ on this earth are the faithful witness who are with Christ. They are the, “called, chose, and faithful”(Rev. 17:14). Saint Paul exhorts Timothy (and all of us) that “supplications, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men.” (I Tim:2:1). In verse 8 of the same chapter he says this should happen “everywhere”.
    How much more then in heaven, with Christ, will those saints who are with him still continue to “out of love” intercede for all men. If our prayers have effect for each other’s salvation, won’t theirs continue to bear much fruit to God’s glory?
    David

    1. David,

      Thank you for sharing your insights into the meaning of Christ’s resurrection for those who have already passed on. They are not really gone from us because we are all in Christ.

      Robert

    2. While I strongly agree that all the redeemed are with Christ after death, that in no way necessarily implies that they are conscious with an exception maybe of the martyrs. Even if they are conscious I see no assurance that they can hear prayers made to God thro them. Further I expect they are still finite and would be unable to process the pleas of Christians as the shear simultaneous number would overwhelm them.
      For me it seems unwise to pray to saints as many of those not well taught tend to verge from adoration of icon and saint to worship. Certainly that seems true of the Roman Catholics in Quebec just across the river north of where I live. The church I attend when my cancer allows has the equivalent of icons but we don’t kiss and adore them. DaveW

      1. While I certainly agree that we shouldn’t attribute semi-divine properties to disembodied souls, the biblical text is quite clear that the departed are conscious.

        ***I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O [k]Lord, holy and true, [l]will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”***

        In fact, the whole point for substance dualism (which the Orthodox tradition, as all Christian traditions, accepts) is that our conscious states are not reducible to brain-states, meaning they survive the destruction of the brain.

      2. There is something quite different about the nature of “prayer” as viewed in Western and Eastern Christianity, which I think is at some of the heart of the issues.

        For the Western Christian prayer is singly synonymous with worship and supplication from the individual to God, often for some end.

        For the Orthodox Christian, prayer is a communal event first – a participation in unity. It is an act of communion in that all supplications (and requests to other Christians for prayer) are directed toward Christ IN WHOM we are all united. All prayer, including the Lord’s prayer is communal, not individual – relationship being the key aspect of our “image and likeness” of the Triune God. This is why two or three must be present in “asking anything” and Christ will be there among us. A “prayer” to a Saint or to Mary is not a supplication to them to provide an answer or to “grant” a petition, – nor is it worship. It is timeless solidarity and communion with each other through our union to the timeless ONE.Asking a Saint to pray for you is nothing but an act of Love in Christ, who unites ALL Christians. Death is no barrier to His sanctifying and unifying power beyond ALL TIME AND SPACE.

        Failing to see the sanctifying power of Christ’s union to His Body the Church, and the timelessness in which the Church is drawn into communion is one of the fruits of rationalism and “choosing” to use one’s logical faculties over and beyond the experience of the faith.

        As a reformer I would never allow my mind to get around the sanctifying power of Christ and the complete power of the Triune God. Only after placing my trust in Christ fully could I discern the reality that Paul’s prophetic words applied to me as a reformed thinker…who held “to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power.”

        The question is not if the “power” or “ability” of the Saints and Mary in life or death – but totally IN who they are by being UNITED with… Christ. The question is does Christ have the power to do these things and to make Christians – dead or alive- remain in timeless communion? The Orthodox say yes. Reformers limit such faith. And this is no judgement, simply a truth.

        Throughout the NT the term “Love” is used as a Christian equivalent to unity, being of “one mind” and the eschatological inbreaking of the Kingdom within the Church body.

        And thus, Paul can ask; “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? ….Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

        Nothing has separated us from communion and worship of our Lord with the Theotokos…least of all death…which has been trampled down by Christ Himself. His defeat of death means union for us…if we choose to see it and affirm it. Choosing otherwise is just that…a choice to limit faith in Christ’s power.

        May the Lord Jesus Christ illumine all of us and allow us to repent from the deceptions of the Evil One, who wishes to divide the Body of Christ in any way he can.

        1. Aaron, this is an excellent clarification and explanation. It reminds me of the title of a book that maybe you’ve heard of, Being As Communion! 😉

    3. While I will confess that I think are good arguments to be made for asking the Saints to pray for us, I don’t think it necessarily equates that just because someone is alive in the presence of God they can necessarily hear the requests of millions or billions of people across time and space. Just because they are alive in Heaven, does that entitle them to be omniscience or omnipresent? If not, then how can they handle such a deluge? Or are such attributes/energies communicated to the deceased Saints by virtue of being in union with Christ?

      As to why Protestants will ask others to pray for them but not the Saints, this is because Scripture gives the express command to pray for one another but it never says anything about praying ‘to’ each other. That is why I like to frame the issue as more of asking or petitioning the Saints, rather than praying to, but I still end up with the above problem. Also (to not just make this a Sola Scriptura Regulative Principle versus Tradition issue) there are some areas of Scripture that seem to directly contradict the practice. For example, Ecclesiastes 9 states that those who have passed over know nothing of this world, “their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and forever they have no more share in all that is done under the sun.” Or in a discussion about death Job 14 claims that “If his sons are honored, he does not know it; if they are brought low, he does not see it.” Even the one time (at least that I know of) that Scripture mentions the living communicating with the dead (as in when Saul sought Samuel’s help) it was within the condemned context of necromancy or divination. Not exactly a ringing endorsement.

      Like I said, there are good arguments for it, but there are also troubling concerns.

      1. Erik,

        One thing that strikes me is the concern some Protestants have about the mechanics of how the intercession of the saints works. The basic Orthodox answer is: “It’s a mystery.” It’s a lot like driving a car. Many of us know only that we get into the car, insert the key, turn the key, step on the gas, and the car starts. What goes on underneath the hood is a mystery to many of us except for those who love “wrenching.”

        But let me venture some guesses as to how the intercession of the saints might work. The Russian Orthodox Church in Hawaii has been blessed with a miraculous icon of the Theotokos. Reader (now sub-deacon) Nectarios who has been tasked with transporting and safeguarding the miraculous icon will pray through a list of prayer requests while flying to the next destination. He is a working and married, not a monk. I find his devotion to prayer for others and to Christ inspiring.

        Another observation I have is that concerned Protestant inquirers quite often assume that we share the same space-time dimension as the departed saints but any reader of C.S. Lewis’ ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ series will know that the time flows differently between our world and Narnia. As I said earlier these are my guesses but for me what matters is that this is how the Christian Church has been praying from antiquity and reflects the mystery of Christ’s resurrection. When I was I was a Protestant I understood Christ’s resurrection as affecting only Christ himself, but thanks to Orthodoxy I have come to see that Christ’s resurrection has awesome generated ripple effects through our space-time continuum that go far beyond sci-fi literature.

        Robert

        1. Not sure if I’ve said it here before or not, but yes, while the East is concerned with the Who and Why of matters, we in the West are more concerned with the How and When 🙂

          Seriously, though, I think it’s a big question for the Western mind because we need to know how the Saints can be granted this ability without making them divine. Because obviously making them divine to the extent that they share in the essence of God is verboten in both the East and West. Hence my question about whether the answer can possibly be found in the sharing of energies. However, confessing that it is a Holy Mystery is a fair response. After all, how God can be trinity or how He created the universe can also be explained simply as Holy Mysteries. I would be curious and appreciative to hear any answers to the Scriptural issues I raised.

          1. Erik,

            I think we tend to underestimate the power of God to transform us. By divine grace the Apostle Peter was able to walk on water — a sign of divinity — like Jesus did (Matthew 14:28-29). In the book of Acts we read that Peter like Jesus raised the dead, another sign of divinity (Acts 9:40; cf. Mark 5:41-42). And yet we know that Peter still retained his humanity. These bible verses point to aspects of deification, the Orthodox understanding of salvation in Christ. Deification can also be seen in departed saints like Moses and Elijah who appeared in a glorified state and were able to converse with Jesus about the future unfolding of the plan of salvation (Luke 9:30). When I was a Protestant I saw these as weird bits and pieces floating around in the Bible but as an Orthodox Christian I see these verses and others as presenting a coherent witness to the promise of deification in Christ. From the paradigm of salvation that extends beyond the usual Protestant forensic understanding of salvation, I don’t have much problem with asking the saints their prayers. Like I said earlier, I am of the opinion that we all too often underestimate the power of God to transform us.

            Robert

          2. Mike,

            Calvin would essentially agree with you here. He affirms in one place “Let us then mark, that the end of the gospel is, to render us eventually conformable to God, and, if we may so speak, to deify us.” And in another “We expect salvation from him—not because he stands aloof from us, but because ingrafting us into his body he not only makes us partakers of all his benefits, but also of himself”.

      2. Erik, You do make a good point that human beings alive on earth or dead and with Christ are not omniscient nor are they omnipresent. Yet by the grace of God he is even now stretching our finitude toward his infinite life. I will mention a woman I know how has crushed in the Hyatt Regency accident in 1981 in Kansas City. She was trapped under tons of rubble and was miraculously pulled out by a man (whom she later learned was a monk on Mount Athos) who was at prayer in Greece yet whom God saw fit to send to her aid in America. He was in two places at once to bring about God’s will. This is not answering millions of prayers at once, but it does show, that “when God so wills the order of nature is overcome and what is beyond humankind comes to pass” (verse from Cannon for Annunciation). Scripture does speak about limitations of Angel to be present to our aid to the spiritual battles in which they are engaged. Daniel chapter 10 speaks of Daniel’s vision when he is visited by the “guardian angel” for the nation of Israel. Daniel is greatly consoled by the angel’s presence. The angel says he heard Daniels prayer right away, but could only come 21 days later because he was involved in a fight with the angel (demon) of Persia. The Angel Michael was fighting with him and he stayed in the fight so the angel could come to Daniel (Dan. 10:13). The angel said, “I have come because of your words” (10:12). It may be that God hears all prayers and sends help as he wills, in this case an angel, in my friends case a man in prayer and also present in another place to do God’s will. The fact that God uses human (personal) agents to accomplish his will is part of the wonderful personal communion that we share in in God’s plan of salvation for all of humankind (“for the salvation of the world”). Our prayer is that “all men may be saved” (1Tim 2:4). We are saved by are volition, by our will, by our act to come to God, but it is Christ who under-girds all this by his grace. We are not saved alone. We are saved into the Church (into Christ’s Body). We are not separable from the hand or foot or eye who is our brother. The depth of seeing in our brother, Christ, is more than just showing kindness with a cup of water, visiting them in illness…”when you did it to one of the least of these my brethern, you did it to me”. (Mt.25:40). Th Orthodox church has always seen this to be true on the ontological level. As St. Anthony says,” From our neighbor is life and death. If we gain our brother, we gain God”.
        Christ is himself the new Adam and joining him in new life we take up the life of all into ourselves by the power of his love. Otherwise how can we love our enemies? The prayer of every christian should be this prayer for all of the world that they would come to know the love of Christ and to” know fulyl even as we are fully known” (1Cor.13:12. This knowing is not abstract knowledge, but transforming experience of the love of God. The saints have experienced such love here on earth, first from God, then for God, then for all of mankind in God. This is the love of the resurrection which we so often speak of as coming only at the second coming, but the kingdom of God is within us and the saints are those who begin to live this life of the kingdom to come in the here and now. When they die, they pass on to what they already know, to a union with God within which they have already lived. Their prayer on the earth has been for millions. Maybe not at once, but certainly their love in Christ is this big.
        Dying they continue to be united with Christ and their love for all the world does not cease. They continue to pray to Christ for all of the world. There is much more to says on this mystery.

  3. Not outright disagreeing, but several observations and/or questions:

    1) Reformed do not say the church was corrupted to that extent. We’ve gone over this several times.
    2) We presume that Mary has a human body and human nature in heaven. We are just wondering how she can have nigh-omniscience and nigh-omnipotence with several hundred million people praying to her at once.
    3) I assume you accept the Dormition of Mary. If you don’t, then my objections in (2) don’t apply. In that case Mary, being a disembodied soul, probably could be in two places at once since she isn’ t limited by the body.
    4) But in that case, the final resurrection would limit her bodily, which seems to be a throwback to chain of being ontology.
    4) We do not have a promise from God attached to prayers to Mary; therefore, we would be praying without being sure she hears us. Therefore, we would be praying without faith.

    1. Jacob,

      This article is a reflection on archaeological evidence that points to an ancient prayer practice among early Christians. I understand your reluctance to embrace that tradition, but the points you raise reflect a theological tradition (Protestantism) that only goes back to the 1500s.

      Robert

      1. I understand the archeological evidence, but archeology is only one source of knowledge. You say my tradition goes back to the 1500s. Well, even if that were true that doesn’t negate any of the issues I raise. History is only one source of knowledge and certainly not the ultimate judge.

        1. Jacob,

          Even if Papyrus 470 was never discovered, we would still have the historic Christian practice of asking the Theotokos to pray for us. What Papyrus 470 does is help us appreciate the fact that this prayer is a very much a part of early Christianity and not something added on. The reason why Christians in both the Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions use this prayer is that it is part of the received tradition that is now part of the capital “T” Tradition.

          Robert

        2. I grant that you can find quite old documents praying to Mary. I am just not persuaded that antiquity is the judge of truth.

          Hi J.B.

          I’m interested to know what you are persuaded isthe judge of truth?

          I think this is what Robert is getting at when he points out the relative “novelty” of the Reformed tradition. Is this not your “judge of truth?” If it is not, are you the judge of truth? How many hard sciences and proofs need to converge for you to have faith in Christ’s work in the Church?

          For us Orthodox, clearly the “Church is the pillar and ground of truth” which is in no way different from saying Christ is the pillar and ground of truth. All Robert has shown here is that archaeological evidence – as one aspect of knowledge, yes – backs up what the Orthodox faith has always maintained…and defended with blood.

          You are right, antiquity IS NOT the only judge. But it seems that you are willing to be the ultimate judge of ANY evidence and pick and choose what you’d like to acknowledge and dismiss based on it’ consistency with your worldview.

          Nearly all of us here have been in your shoes. I certainly have. I understand where you are coming from. I used to walk into Orthodox Churches in Bulgaria and mutter under my breath, “pagans.” Then I’d go pick up Institutes and placate my own predilections.

          Lord forgive me…but I was wrong, willful and worst of all…I actively worked to divide the Church over what I was willing to accept as possible or impossible, true or not true. This as my sin, not yours…but my point is that many of us (Karen, Robert, me) have wrestled with the same cognitive dissonance you are and have had to challenge our own self will and our own limits to faith.

          There comes a point when you must realize that the obstacle is not the evidence, but who it is you think is the proper judge of truth. If you reserve that right for yourself…so be it. But do so with full understanding of who and what it is you trust in.

          May your path be guided by the Light of Christ back into the arms of the Orthodox faith. We love you.

          “And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God…for where there is division and wrath, God doth not dwell. To all them that repent, the Lord grants forgiveness, if they turn in penitence to the unity of God, and to communion with the bishop.

          When I heard some saying, If I do not find it in the ancient Scriptures I will believe the Gospel; on my saying to them, “It is written” They answered me “That remains to be proved.” But to me Jesus Christ is the place of all that is ancient: His cross, and death, and resurrection, and the faith which is by Him, are undefiled monuments of antiquity. The archives ought not to be preferred to the Spirit. “It is hard to kick against the goads.”

    2. First Mr. Gingoro,

      First, IF…you ask your friends, Mother, Grandmother to pray for your
      cancer…then why not the Theotokos…or any other Christian you respect?
      This is especially so since the Scriptures themselves teach us (as does
      the Holy Tradition that produced it) that “the prayers of a righteous man
      avails much”? Following Jewish tradition…the early Church did not see
      the separation of death to be absolute…but has the Church seen together
      with the Saints departed as one only company.

      That we on earth cannot fathom “How” any Saint processes multitude
      of prayer request is irrelevant. There is no command or exhortation for
      us to ‘comprehend & explain’ the “How” miracles are done throughout
      the Holy Scriptures, “how” Bread and Wine become Body and Blood, “how” the Incarnation and Resurrection occurred…on and on. We receive and believe these are facts…not by our rational logic…but by faith.

      Jewish and Apostolic Tradition as well as Holy Scriptures are full of men venerating and bowing before great men…even women. It is a mark of
      both respect and humility Modern Christians have all but completely
      lost — giving “double honor…to whom honor is due”. So, arguments from abuse (that some poorly taught can fall into “worshipful adoration” of
      these) is rejected by Holy Tradition, Scripture…and specifically in the
      Church Council dealing with this.

      Robert’s article here on Calvin & the Icons deals specifically with this
      issue in detail and was very shocking to me as a Protestant. Calvin &
      the Reformers who bought his teaching here were and are simply
      wrong.
      https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthodoxbridge/calvin-versus-the-icon/

      Jacob my good friend:
      1) This seems mostly an obfuscation. Robert as demonstrated in at
      least two Blogs that Calvin DID believe in a Fallen/Corrupted Church.
      Yes we have gone over this several times and have noted that later
      Reformed scholars HAVE had to “adjust” this and even depart from
      this…being forced by history. But the overwhelming majority of Ref.
      Pastors and Elders openly believe and teach (to some “extent”) the
      corruption and falling away of the Church during the first 3-4 centuries.
      I was one for decades. It is why we all felt comfortable picking and
      choosing among the teaching of the Fathers and Ecc. Councils…as do
      most Reformed to this day.

      2) See my answer above on Christians having no necessity to explain
      “How” miracles are performed…or how prayers to the Saints/Theotokos
      are “processed”…any more that Christ explained “How” men saw from
      heaven into Hades & earth in several of His parables. That you and I do
      Not know..is ‘immaterial’ so to speak. -;)

      4) Yet we do “have a promise from God attached to prayers of a
      righteous man” specifically promised in Scripture (Jm 5:16). Also,
      the Church lived by Holy Tradition given first to the Apostles before
      Scripture for at min 25 yrs…if not 50 before they were all written…
      then several centuries before the NT Canon was specifically recogn-
      ized by a Church Council. This Tradition is specifically reference IN
      Scripture “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions
      which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.
      (II Thes 2:15) and many others that you well know…along with
      John telling us that “many other things” Jesus said and did.
      So no, we are praying “by faith” in accord to what the Church has
      received and been taught to believed from the beginning. Robert’s
      article on Holy Tradition will be helpful to many here.
      https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthodoxbridge/contra-sola-scriptura-part-2-of-4/

      tr to Mary; therefore, we would be praying without being sure she hears us. Therefore, we would be praying without faith.

      1. Thanks, David. Well said.

        I, too, wonder why it must be assumed that in our eternal state (even with our resurrection bodies), having become, by Orthodox definition, fully “partakers in the divine nature” and having become “God/gods, by grace”, we would still be subject to the limitations we experience as mortals here on earth? Jesus simply “appeared” in the midst of the disciples in the upper room after His resurrection while the doors were locked. Clearly, His resurrection body, though, by definition, still fully human, did not share the limitations it did before the resurrection. Why must ours (if God wills that we be made completely like Christ, in all things, excepting that it be by the grace of the Holy Spirit rather than by nature as with Christ-God Himself, as the Fathers teach)? St. Paul describes this process in 1 Corinthians 15:41-43. “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Why, indeed, should we be able to expect to be able to explain such things–it is rather something that remains to be fully revealed (1 John 3:2)?

        Because of the Scriptures I have cited and many others, it seems to me that in Christ, God wills to make us full participants in the communion of the Godhead and co-regents with Christ over the entire creation. He is not looking for slaves, but sons. Surely, this also means our becoming participants–co-workers with Him–in His intercessory and High Priestly ministry for the whole world, through the grace of the Holy Spirit (we are called in 1 Peter 2:9 by the Apostle Peter, a “royal priesthood”, echoing Exodus 19:6)? What is Christ’s work in the world, what is the expression of His love (and ours) if not that? This is so clearly the whole point of the Divine Liturgy every time we celebrate it: We make intercession for all, and we offer what God has first given to us–all we are and have–back to God through Christ in thanksgiving as He transforms that gift, offers it to God, and gives Himself to us in return. This is the whole nature and meaning of our “salvation.” Isn’t this why we confess faith not only in the Triune God, and in the Incarnation, but also in the Church and the Communion of Saints that are part and parcel of the very nature of our salvation in Christ?

        1. Indeed Karen 😉

          Space/time limitation to us are so real…but shall certainly “change” in the eternal state.

          “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man, the riches God has prepared for us in Christ”. (1 Co. 2:9)

  4. Ok, well now I think you are being less than honest–“Reformed” aka Calvinists do NOT hold the Mother of God in high esteem-you cited NONE in your article–you are simply projecting your now Eastern Orthodox ideas upon them.

    Why don’t you try finding any of the most famous Calvinist theologians who have written a sermon praising the Blessed Virgin Mary–at best, faint praise indeed and always with caveats, reservations, and warning about avoiding “Romanist” exaggerations and idolatries. No “Reformed” would tolerate praying to or venerating Mary-so let’s get honest about this, ok.

    1. Robert,

      It is significant that the Reformed tradition affirms the Third and Fourth Ecumenical Councils which affirmed Mary’s role in the Incarnation by affirming the title given her “Theotokos” or “God Bearer.” This is the point in my reference to the Second Helvetic Conference in parentheses. This is more than what many low church Evangelicals are willing to do. Furthermore, the drafters of the Second Helvetic Confession had no problem referring to Mary as the “Blessed Virgin” (see Chapter III) and Mary being “ever virgin” (see Chapter XI). These are terms that many low church Evangelicals would refuse to utter. You challenged me to cite a sermon by a famous Calvinist theologian but in a confessional tradition like the Reformed tradition a highly respected confession like the Second Helvetic Confession carries considerable weight.

      If one looks at Protestantism as a spectrum then the Reformed tradition does hold Mary in high regard when compared to the low church traditions. Granted that many Reformed Christians and Calvinists may not be aware of this but it is part of their theological heritage. What I tried to do in my article is to identify common ground between the Reformed and Orthodox traditions while also noting the areas of differences.

      Your last point about no Reformed Christian praying to or venerating Mary may be a bit of an overstatement. Many Reformed and even Evangelicals today are interested in the early Church and are seeking ways to be rooted in the faith and worship of the early Church; what this article seeks to do is suggest ways in which they can be reconciled with an ancient Faith that so many Protestants have been estranged from.

      Robert

        1. Jacob,

          In my article I noted that praying to Mary is one of the big differences between the two traditions. The question then for an inquiring Protestant is the choice between a tradition that is relatively recent and one that has ancient roots.

          Robert

          1. JB Aitken,

            Antiquity per se is not a particularly cogent epistemology. However, the Vincentian Canon is: that which was believed “everywhere, always, by everyone”. We know that prayers to Mary were widely employed by Christians from India to Iberia in later centuries. That such an early prayer can be found lends credence to the belief that prayers to saints were part of the Apostolic deposit.

            It also shows that the Church that determined the New Testament Canon also believed in petitioning the saints in prayer.

          2. Hi Erik Todd

            ***Antiquity per se is not a particularly cogent epistemology. ***

            Agreed. Otherwise the truth would belong to Hinduism.

            ***However, the Vincentian Canon is: that which was believed “everywhere, always, by everyone”.***

            Vincent also thought the imputation and continuation of Adam’s Guilt was believed by everyone.

            ***We know that prayers to Mary were widely employed by Christians from India to Iberia in later centuries. That such an early prayer can be found lends credence to the belief that prayers to saints were part of the Apostolic deposit.***

            Thank you. This is the classic example of affirming the consequent:

            If this, then that.
            That.
            Therefore, this.

            ***It also shows that the Church that determined the New Testament Canon also believed in petitioning the saints in prayer.***

            What exactly are you trying to prove? If you mean that the “church” proximately determined the table of contents page in my Bible and *some* of these same guys also petitioned saints, then I don’t disagree.

            If you take that proximate recognition as on the same level as God’s speech-act, and that those later witnesses (valuable fathers that they are) are on the same level as the Scriptural writers who warned not to burn incense to the Queen of Heaven, then I demur.

          3. Jacob,

            You wrote:

            If you take that proximate recognition as on the same level as God’s speech-act, and that those later witnesses (valuable fathers that they are) are on the same level as the Scriptural writers who warned not to burn incense to the Queen of Heaven, then I demur.

            I think this excerpt from Gabe Martini addresses your concerns:

            “Romans used to burn incense and offer prayers before statues of the Emperor and other false gods. Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians do the same thing with statues and icons of Jesus, Mary, and the Saints. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck … it’s a duck! They are both blatant idolatry!”

            To which I retort:

            “Two people sit in front of a computer screen. One is watching pornography; the other is watching a theology lecture. Both are sitting in front of a monitor (they’re even both Dell monitors!); both are being radiated by them; both are using speakers to listen to what’s being displayed on the screen; both are enjoying that content through the computer screen. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck … it’s a duck! Watching videos of a theology lecture on your computer is pornography!”

            Bad arguments are bad.

          4. Jacob,

            LOL…no one has argued that “Antiquity is the judge of Truth” or even primarily establishes Truth! The request (demand?) of Protestantism that we show early historic examples of Prayers to Mary and the Saints…is simply answered. But it does not logically serve, all by itself, as your initial “This” false premise.

            How you know what St Vincent thought everyone else believed about a specifics like Adam’s guilt…is not only questionable, but is really irrelevant. That there was overwhelming unity of doctrine and practice throughout the Church is St Vincent’s point such “factoids” strain to miss…or obfuscate.

          5. The analogy breaks down. Watching is a passive activity. Praying, incensing, and prostrating oneself are not.

            Even assuming God wants us to pray to not-God, you can understand our reticence if we do not? God destroyed–poured out his wrath–upon his covenant people for worshiping not-God.

            But we can rephrase the question along more charitable lines:

            Can I worship God rightly without praying to Mary?

          6. Jacob,

            I would have to disagree with your assessment of Gabe’s analogy. I pray you please have an open mind about asking the intercession of the saints. 🙂

            My response to your last question is: My experience is that the Liturgy is very Christ-centered and Trinitarian with Mary and the saints playing a supporting role. I assume by “right worship” you mean: Christ-centered and Trinitarian. I invite others to give their answer to your question which I think is a fair one.

            Robert

          7. JB Aiken,

            New moniker, eh?

            “Vincent also thought the imputation and continuation of Adam’s Guilt was believed by everyone”.

            Thank you. This is a classic example of the poisoning the well fallacy.
            1. Unfavorable information (be it true or false) about person A is presented.
            2. Therefore any claims person A makes will be false.

            Does he who formulates a canon need to be infallible? In such case, how can you accept the Athanasian Canon of the New Testament? Athenasius believed in prayers to the saints, so by your reasoning, these are either licit, or his NT canon is not.

          8. JB Aiken,

            New moniker, eh?

            “Vincent also thought the imputation and continuation of Adam’s Guilt was believed by everyone”.

            Thank you. This is a classic example of the poisoning the well fallacy.
            1. Unfavorable information (be it true or false) about person A is presented.
            2. Therefore any claims person A makes will be false.

            Does he who formulates a canon need to be infallible? In such case, how can you accept the Athanasian Canon of the New Testament? Athanasius believed in prayers to the saints, so by your reasoning, these are either licit, or his NT canon is not.

        2. But you guys NEVER have honored her in any way that the term makes sense-let me be more blunt: there is no room for the love of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Protestantism save MAYBE in high church Anglicanism-and that is just a leftover from the devastation left by one of the most evil men who ever lived, Henry VIII.

          Why is there no room? Many reasons. For the Calvinists ONE of the reasons is that their God is so insecure about His sovereignty that any praise or honor not given to Him is basically evil.

          1. Robert,

            As the site’s administrator I seek to encourage civil and charitable discussion on this site. In light of that I must ask you to refrain from ad hominem attacks even in indirect forms (e.g., your characterization of Anglicanism’s Henry VIII and your depiction of Calvinism’s God) on this site. I already received one complaint your comment being “shrill” and which contained a quote from your comment.

            Robert

  5. Jacob,

    Do you seriously believe Robert is arguing that Antiquity is the SOLE
    judge of Truth? Of course, there is specific Scriptural verification for
    Holy Tradition, as I sketched quickly above, also referencing Robert’s
    excellent blog article above “The Biblical Case for Holy Tradition”. But
    the Reformed often ask for some confirmation from history for Orthodox
    practices & Holy Tradition. That’s what you have here. Historic confirma-
    tion of Holy Tradition. There are also Ecc. Councils confirming Holy
    Tradition by hundreds if not thousands of Bishops convocating in
    counsel with each other to specifically discern what the Holy Spirit has
    taught the Church in past centuries.

    This is precisely why the Orthodox reject the Rule of the Papacy over
    all Bishops. The Rm Catholics point to historic precedence that some
    early Fathers seemed to have believe it. Yet the Orthodox reject it be-
    cause isolated occurrence with the Church practice. There is no consi-
    stent pattern of submission to the Pope by the other Patriarchs or in
    the Church Councils. But this is not the case with Prayers to the Saints
    and Mary for intercession to her Son. You have just the opposite…a
    consistent pattern, practice and believe throughout the Church which
    is confirmed by Church Councils.

    1. David,

      I appreciate your response to Jacob but I think the danger is that we are going to rehash a lot of stuff that have been said before. So I hope that Jacob and other long time readers will respectfully agree to disagree. In the past I would let reader interactions with Jacob stretch into a long contentious comment thread; this time I’m taking a more active role in chairing the discussion.

      The floor is open to comments by new readers or lurkers. The only request I have is that they be civil and respectful in their comment and that the comment be on topic. Thank you for understanding.

      Robert

      1. Erik,

        Yes. The intercession of the saints was affirmed by the Seventh Ecumenical Council – Nicea II (787). The intercession of the saints was intertwined with the Orthodox veneration of icons.

        The Extracts from Session I contains a confession by bishop Basil of Ancyra (NPNF Vol. 14 p. 533).

        I believe, therefore, and make my confession in one God, the Father Almighty, and in one Lord Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, and in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life. The Trinity, one in essence and one in majesty, must be worshipped and glorified in one godhead, power, and authority. I confess all things pertaining to the incarnation of one of the Holy Trinity, our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, as the Saints and the six Ecumenical Synods have handed down. And I reject and anathematize every heretical babbling, as they also have rejected them. I ask for the intercessions (πρεσβείας ) of our spotless Lady the Holy Mother of God, and those of the holy and heavenly powers, and those of all the Saints.

        Session IV has a statement that likewise affirmed Christians asking the prayers of the saints: “… and to seek for their intercessions….” (NPNF Vol. 14 p. 541)

        But we salute the voices of the Lord and of his Apostles through which we have been taught to honour in the first place her who is properly and truly the Mother of God and exalted above all the heavenly powers; also the holy and angelic powers; and the blessed and altogether lauded Apostles, and the glorious Prophets and the triumphant Martyrs which fought for Christ, and the holy and God-bearing Doctors, and all holy men; and to seek for their intercessions, as able to render us at home with the all-royal God of all, so long as we keep his commandments, and strive to live virtuously.

  6. I read this just recently in Wounded by Love by St. Porphyrios (of Greece) on page 170:

    “Prayer should be said all day with love –prayer, hymns and prostrations in turn. And the prostrations which we make to our Holy Lady are directed to Christ, because Our Lady carries Christ within her. Christ is the Saviour of our soul and our Holy Lady is our mother, our great intercessor.”

    I offer this as an example of the Orthodox attitude in veneration of the Theotokos and of all the Saints. Veneration offered to the Saints goes to Christ, because they carry Christ within them (this being the very reason they are venerated in the first place).

  7. Yes I understand and completely agree with you Robert. My answers
    to my friend Jacob was not so much for him…as he knows these things
    likely better than I do. 😉

    Rather, I was thinking of new readers and new lurkers who might not
    have had opportunity to read the prior blogs and comments the past 3-4
    years. I just wanted them to not only to see my answer, but also other
    blog article where these issues have been addressed. But for the most
    part the comments have been gracious, for which I am thankful.

  8. “Beneath your compassion we take refuge, O Theotokos! Do not despise our supplications in adversity, but deliver us from perils, O only pure and only blessed one!” (from the Lenten Troparia) [I wonder if the missing pieces of the papyrus would have included the preceding troparia, too.]

  9. Hi Everyone,
    I’d like to make a general observation. Every archaeological discovery and other discoveries in the last 300 years support the Orthodox position in doctrine and its view of history. The remains of ancient basilicas with sanctuaries and alters point to liturgical and sacramental worship. The Dead Sea Scrolls show the antiquity of the Septuagint text. The catacombs show early Christian art and burial practice. Synagogues like Dura Europos and Beth Alpha clearly religious show art in a Jewish context. Ancient graffiti in churches and the catacombs shows the veneration of the saints. The tombstone of Abericus has an early reference to prayers for the dead. Uncial Greek manuscripts like Siniaticus and Vaticanus show that bibles had the longer LXX canon. Every text of a church father that is discovered and published shows the early church was ‘less Protestant’ than could have been imagined during the reformation. When the authentic writings of Ignatius of Antioch were rediscovered in the 17th century many reformed theologians attacked them as forgeries as they could not accept evidence for the episcopy at such an early date. A few years ago some previously considered lost Greek homilies on the psalms by Origen of Alexandria were discovered in an obscure manuscript in Munich.
    As the great late 19th and early 20th papyrus discoveries are being sorted they are finding fragments of liturgical material, hymns, creeds, church fathers, etc that simply support the sacramental and liturgical view of worship.
    I don’t know about everyone else but Papyrus 470 increases my confidence in the Orthodox Church from an empirical perspective. What else waits to be discovered?
    Interestingly, all the Christian evidence from the pre-Nicenean period, both textual and archaeological, shows that the Church was the same as that after Nicaea. This puts to rest that Protestant cliche that the church was corrupted under Constantine.

    1. Thank you, Stefano. I note the “Didache” is also among those very early textual witnesses (to such things as a Church-wide practice of fasting and liturgical prayers, etc.) only very recently discovered.

      1. Karen,

        I like to think that these recent archaeological discoveries are God’s gifts to the Doubting Thomases who need proof of the Church’s Tradition. Blessed are those who do not know about the archaeological evidences yet trusted in the Tradition of the Church! Let us be patient and kind to our doubting Protestant friends.

        Robert

  10. “Bad arguments are bad.”

    Very true. The problem is even if there is something blatantly false in the logic, if a bad argument gets drummed into us often enough (especially by those we trust, who can also make true observations about a great many other things), we will tend to believe it anyway. Propagandists and marketeers rely on this propensity of human nature.

  11. I took at look at volume 3 of Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church:Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity AD 311-590 (1889). In his section on ‘Mariolatry’ he states ‘The first instance of the formal invocation of Mary occurs in the prayers of Ephraim Syrus (died 379), addressed to Mary and the saints, attributed by tradition of the Syrian church, though perhaps in part incorrectly, to the author’. (Page 422) He then goes on to confidently imply that the lack of this practice points to it as a creation of the 4th century, thus a corruption. Poor Schaff even thinks that Epiphanius is against the adoration of Mary. What a historian can claim 100 years ago has to be completely revised in light of new evidence like Papyrus 470.

  12. Jacob, if you honestly understood the nature of the human being and even something as basic as how our brains function on a material level, you would understand that watching is most certainly NOT a passive activity! Things change within us in ways that play a huge part in who we become and everything we do as we watch things (and especially other people). Go have a look at the science of “mirror neurons” if you will. I don’t say this to be unkind, but my jaw drops time and again when I read posts like this last one of yours and I realize how divorced the modern abstract conceptual, individualistic, and rationalistic mindset has become from reality–I see some serious blind spots in your vision. (If it’s any consolation, I’m sure I have plenty of those, too.)

    1. I’m convinced there is nothing humans do that is completely passive. None of us (even from birth) are a tabula rasa on which our experiences just imprint themselves. God installs some hardwiring there first that makes us active processors and decision-makers from the get-go.

  13. “Can I worship God rightly without praying to Mary?”

    There are a few ways to answer this question, it seems to me.

    One thing I believe is that whenever you are sincerely and truly worshipping Christ rightly in terms of the intentions of your heart (and however that may be expressed–there are probably virtually endless possibilities here, it comes only by a work of the Holy Spirit revealing Christ to our hearts), you are implicitly honoring and “praying to Mary” (and all the Saints) as Orthodox understand this as well.

    If you were to “pray to Mary” in the sense you seem to understand this looking through a particular Reformed lens, you would be sinning, because “whatever is not from faith is sin” and what you seem to understand by “prayer to Mary” is actually a lie and not the true nature of Christian prayer at all. I’m not convinced if you were to pray to *God* in the sense you understand prayer to Mary, you wouldn’t also be sinning (at least potentially) to be quite honest. God is not a divine vending machine, nor a genie to grant our wishes. Nor is He like the unjust judge in Christ’s parable and a grudging giver. God knows what we need before we ask, so the real purpose of prayer must be to come to know God more fully and in the process come to also more genuinely know ourselves.

    You cannot worship God rightly in the sense of including everything which goes to make up a fully orthodox Christian corporate liturgy without including prayers to Mary and the Saints.

    1. Folks,

      Yesterday I received 6 consecutive comments from Jacob. That’s too much. To avoid the conversation getting side tracked I am quarantining his comments. He may wish to consolidate his responses on his own blog site and other readers may wish to respond to him there.

      Robert

      1. Eric,

        I am quarantining your last comment because it is not on topic. You may wish to submit it on Jacob’s personal site. I hope you understand.

      2. Eric,

        I’m happy to defer to Roberts judgement(s) about your response to Jacob not being on topic and thus giving you the old ‘quarantine” treatment! 😉

        But…I WOULD love to see what you’ve written. So, will be so kind to please if you will send it to me? Thank you brother. david rockett

        1. guess the email i included for Eric email hidden; JavaScript is required won’t post? robert, how do we contact each other?

  14. Dear Brothers,

    Let me warn you not to get drawn in to these vain traditions of men. The Lord has given us scripture to be our rule of faith and life, and while we ought to hold in high esteem the interpretation of the scripture by the church through the ages, we ought not to hold in high esteem the vain traditions of men that are in addition to scripture. The Reformers who were faced with a whole array of vain traditions that had sucked the life out of the church recognised the biblical rule of worship which is called the Regulative Principle of Worship– that if we do not have biblical warrant for a practice either by express command or by necessary inference, we err in following or in allowing that practice.

    All we need to say about prayer to the saints is that there is no example or command or even suggestion of it in scripture. We do not need to debate whether departed saints can hear us– the point is that God has not sanctioned calling upon them in His word– period! If it is such an important feature of true apostolic worship that we are missing out on, why is the scripture lacking this essential doctrine? Would you dare to suggest that the scriptures are not sufficient? Did the Holy Spirit err in not giving us at least one or two references to some practice that was (supposedly) widespread in the teaching of the apostles?

    It is rather amazing that you would suppose that finding some rare references to vain traditions in 250 AD would imply that these were sanctioned by the Apostles when we have the apostles already having to write against vain traditions that had crept into the churches that they themselves had established! For example, in 60 AD, the Apostle Paul writes to the Colossians, and in chapter 2 he is ALREADY (just 15 or so years after planting the church) having to deal with the worship of angels and many other traditions of men. The NT is in fact filled with addresses against errors that were coming in. This is why we must not rely on traditions of men to guide us, but on the holy scripture. Just because you can find something in the liturgy of this church or that church in the first three centuries absolutely does not imply that it is apostolic!

    Let me recommend John Calvin’s book “The Necessity of Reforming the Church.” It has some very relevant material to ponder.

    It is very sad to see brothers panting after vain ceremonies that are without any biblical warrant whatsoever. This has always been a problem with God’s people. Deuteronomy 12 is clear that we must not add or take away from what GOD has commanded:
    Deut 12:29 “When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land,
    30 “take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’
    31 “You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.
    32 “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.

    A cursory reading of the OT will quickly show that adding to what God commanded was exactly what was done. In fact, there are only two kings out of all the kings of Judah and Israel who removed worship of Jehovah at the high places. There were more kings who removed the worship of other gods (first commandment idolatry), but only two removed the worship of Jehovah at the high places (second commandment idolatry), and it is noted repeatedly that those who did not remove it erred, often as an exception to an otherwise faithful reign. Let us learn from scripture rather than from the traditions of men.

    Sincerely for the Glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,
    John R. Shearouse

    1. Dear John Shearouse,

      Welcome! The purpose of the Reformed-Orthodox Bridge blog is to encourage dialogue between Orthodox and Reformed Christians. It is also meant to serve as a meeting place for Evangelicals as well to learn about Orthodoxy. It becomes difficult to have a conversation when someone starts out with something like a sermon. If you are willing to enter into a conversation with people who have different views, we welcome you. This blog site is meant to be a two-way street. If you only wish to lecture us without listening to what we have to say, then it would best for you to go elsewhere.

      Many of us who have become Orthodox in recent years did so out of love for Jesus Christ and the Holy Scripture. We have made this step out of the conviction that there is an Apostolic Tradition that consists of both written tradition and oral tradition (2 Thessalonians 2:15). We esteem Scripture highly as divinely inspired (2 Timothy 3:16) but in reading Scripture we have discovered that nowhere does Scripture teach “Scripture alone.” This is a Protestant theological tradition that began in the 1500s. It becomes troubling when we see that the early Church bears very little resemblance to Protestantism. Neither did the early Apostles apply the regulative principle of worship to Old Testament Temple. The regulative principle was invented as a response to Medieval Catholicism. That so much of Protestantism can only be traced to the 1500s has troubled many of us. Protestantism’s disconnect with the early Church has caused many of us to give Orthodoxy a closer look.

      But in order to get a conversation under way let us look for common ground. If you are from the Reformed tradition, do you agree with the Second Helvetic Confession in its upholding the first four Ecumenical Councils? And if you are Reformed, are you able to affirm that Mary is rightfully the “Theotokos” as was done at the fourth Council of Chalcedon? If you are not Reformed, could you kindly inform us what your church affiliation is?

      Thank you.

      Robert

      1. Robert,

        I appreciate you asking about ministerial credentials. That is an important matter. I am an Associate Reformed Presbyterian minister who is presently serving at Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church in Halifax, Nova Scotia. And yes, I affirm the following statement:

        THE CREEDS OF FOUR COUNCILS RECEIVED. And, to say many things with a few words, with a sincere heart we believe, and freely confess with open mouth, whatever things are defined from the Holy Scriptures concerning the mystery of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ, and are summed up in the Creeds and decrees of the first four most excellent synods convened at Nicaea, Constantinople, Ephesus and Chalcedon — together with the Creed of blessed Athanasius [The so-called Athanasian Creed was not written by Athanasius but dates from the ninth century. It is also called the “Quicunque” from the opening word of the Latin text.], and all similar symbols; and we condemn everything contrary to these.

        I also affirm the title of “Theotokos.” However, that has more to do with what I believe about Christ and His nature than how I “address” Mary. I do not believe that I should address Mary or any other saint who has departed (and by the way, the NT uniformly calls all who are in Christ Jesus saints) because there is no biblical example or command to do any such thing. I know many believers who have been freed from such practices and I find it painful to see those like yourself going into such bondage. Mary was a fine woman from the little we are told about her in scripture, and we should love her to be sure. She was especially blessed to be the mother of our dear Lord Jesus Christ. But we are not called to try to speak with the dead. That does not mean that we count them to be unconscious in the intermediate state; not at all! Is is just that we have no warrant from scripture for including prayers to them in our worship of God.

        Now as to whether I fit here– if by “dialogue” you mean that I would not have the freedom to issue warnings or declare a brother to be in error (as I have done above), then I do not fit. I am called and ordained to be a minister of Jesus Christ and in faithfulness to Him, I have a duty to warn and admonish, and to do so with gentleness and meekness as a servant of Christ. If you are not interested in hearing or answering arguments from one who holds firmly to the Westminster Standards and who therefore speaks from scripture as the sole authority for faith and practice, and if you do not wish for your subscribers to hear from one who holds such views, then my contributions will not be acceptable to you. I want unity very much, but the unity I want is not through the setting aside of Biblical truth, but rather through conformity with it. Ephesians 4:1-16 comes to mind. That is what I desire. I am glad to listen to arguments from scripture. I want to be shown where I am wrong. Do you?

        As to your response, you have asserted several things that are not true, such as that the regulative principle of worship was the invention of the Reformers. It was not their invention, it was a faithful exposition of Holy Scripture (to which they turned) and it is a principle which is affirmed by Jesus and His apostles who denounced the traditions of men that they very often crossed with.

        In defense of the regulative principle, I not only quoted from Deuteronomy 12 where the principle is expressly stated, but also pointed out that disobedience to this principle was common among God’s people. It was constantly rebuked by the LORD through His faithful prophets. I showed with few words that only a small minority were faithful in their worship throughout the entire OT period, and that in the NT the Apostles were already having to address the vain traditions of men (not to be confused with the traditions of the apostles). The variance in these traditions of men themselves shows that they are not on a par with scripture or from the apostles (such as the date of Easter).

        You spoke of the difference in reformed churches from the early church– at what time period? Deviation from the apostolic model (clearly and sufficiently set forth in Scripture) was introduced quickly (already the apostles were having to address such deviations in their writings). If we learn from scripture, we should not be surprised by this at all. How quickly did all Israel turn to worship the calf? Moses was gone but 40 days! How quickly did Israel turn not only to worship Yahweh at the high places (which was bad enough), but even to worship Baal? If you were an OT believer, would you want to follow the traditions of the early church a century after Moses in the time of the Judges? Or how about a century after David? Would you want to look like that, or worship according to the pattern established by Moses in his writings? It is never safe to assume that the majority or the establishment are following faithfully what God has instituted, especially inasmuch as it contradicts the writings of His holy prophets and apostles.

        You have quoted from 2 Thess 2:15. Of course the Apostles had both written and oral teaching, but the Holy Spirit has given scripture to record both their actions and their words and we have no reliable source beyond infallible scripture to determine what they said. To put traditions of men that cannot be found in scripture on a par with the traditions of the apostles is a leap that you are not warranted to make from 2 Thess 2:15. Don’t you agree?

        Are you willing to rethink this? Don’t be ashamed to be in the minority [yes, I am preaching– take it or leave it– I am called]. Which of the prophets was not rejected? Did Jesus not tell us that it will be so with us if we follow Him? Was He Himself not rejected by the official established church of His day, and was not a big part of His rejection that He did not follow the tradition of the fathers? The only way we can know that we are following Him is by basing our doctrine and practice upon Scripture.

        I will leave it at that, and as you are the moderator, it is your choice whether you want to include this contribution.

        Yours in Christ,
        John

        1. John,

          I wonder how the Regulative Principle leads you to determine the New Testament Canon. Could you please cite the relevant passages that enumerate the NT books?

          If you rely on some methodology other than Scripture to determine the NT Canon, I wonder what it is. Could you describe it? Since you eschew so clearly anything that Tradition has given the Church apart from Scripture, I assume that you would not look to any “vain tradition” for the NT Canon. Since you do not trust the 3rd Century Church’s view on prayers to the saints, surely you must therefore reject that same Church’s 4th century NT Canon, which we still use today.

          Since Tradition is evidently lacking the Holy Spirit’s guidance, please tell me how you determine the NT Canon from the numerous First Century “Christian” documents: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com

          I am particularly interested to know if Hebrews should be included in the NT Canon and if so, why?

          1. Eric,

            Good questions! Rev. Shearouse, as to whether you fit on this site I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. 🙂

            In your response to Eric’s questions, I ask that you answer at most 1 or 2 at a time, and that you keep your comments brief. I know you have much to say but the point here is that we want to have an ongoing conversation, not one long sermon/lecture given in response to another sermon/lecture. If you feel the need for a long detailed reply, you can reference it on your personal or church’s website. Thank you for being understanding.

            Robert

          2. Welcome John! We are glad you are here!

            Perhaps a further question for you John in the same vein as above is in regard is how you juxtapose and defend your “tradition’s” use of the Masoretic Text instead of the use of the LXX, something NEVER accepted as normative in the Scriptures, by the Apostles, or by any Christian body before Protestantism scholastic critical approach to scripture and the intentional importation of a 10th century corrupt rendition of Rabbinic Jewish scribe’s MT into Protestantism with the incorrect assumption that the Jews had kept their scriptures pure in Hebrew.

            Unfortunately, we know unequivocally, that this is not the case, as Jewish scribes openly and routinely changed scripture through a scribal process known as “tiqqune soperim” i.e. “the restoration of the scribes” – in a concerted attempt to diminish Christianity.

            Clearly, John – your “tradition” is not in keeping with the Apostolic use of the LXX throughout the NT…(in only 6 cases out of some 300 – does the NT agree with the Mt – all other times it agrees with the LXX.) The citations of the LXX by the Apostles and throughout the history of the Church until the Reformation put you in the difficult position of being the one relying on the importation of a “tradition of men.”

            Clearly, if one is using a version of the text that Jewish scribes openly and routinely changed through a scribal process known as “tiqqune soperim” i.e. “the restoration of the scribes” – even after their canonization in the 2nd c. A.d. – going to far as to blatantly change “virgin” into “young girl” and “Holy One” into “disfigured one” – your “tradition’s” importation of a corrupted text puts you already on shaky ground. The very scriptures used by your “tradition” are different from those used by the Apostles…there is something amiss from the get-go.

            Is not then a “tradition” created by the Reformation to use an abrogated collection of scriptures in the MT (canonized and utilized NOT by Christians, but adopted from Rabbinic Judaism who canonized these “corrected” texts into a Jewish canon in the 2nd century A.D.) not a “vain tradition” in and of itself?

            https://theorthodoxlife.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/masoretic-text-vs-original-hebrew/

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masoretic_Text

          3. First let me say that the the Holy Spirit definitely does guide the church through the ages. But my point is that scripture (prophets tested by methods set forth in scripture (Deut 13, Deut 18, etc.) must be tested by conformity to prophecies already given and received. I agree that the Holy Spirit guides the church as a body through the ages. But this does not automatically made the church infallible (as the prophets were) because there are very blatant deviations received by the priests and elders (such as the rejection of Christ or the continual introduction of worship that was not authorised by the official confirmed prophets of the LORD). My argument is that we must go back to those who are recognised prophets confirmed by signs and wonders to evaluate if we are in conformity. Sometimes this is definitely not the case! And one of the most dangerous things is for us to allow tradition (not recognised prophets– scripture now) to guide us in worship because worship is in particular one of the areas where such deviation has occurred. Now when it comes to the Canon, I would suggest that you take a look at Michael J. Kruger’s book, “Canon Revisited.” (If not, I will get too long here). You need to realise that is not that the church got together one day and established the Canon. God gave prophets and apostles and their writings were immediately recognised by the churches who received them. Over the years, other books by those who were not prophets were brought in and what the church had to do was sift those out. I will leave it at that– you can look at Kruger for more details.

          4. Here is a reply to Aaron. There is no reply button available under his reply to me.
            Aaron, I will be very brief here. First, I am by no means an expect in this area. However, I think you are way overstating the differences between the MT and the LXX. I think the extensive use of the LXX by the apostles demonstrates the validity of translations and that we do not need to be overly fussy about every detail. That seems to me to be more the fruit of the digital age where every digit matters in a phone number (for example).

          5. Rev. Shearouse,

            Thank you for your responses. Please keep in mind that there is a limit to the number of comments made to earlier comments. This has to do with the computer software. I think that explains why you were unable to find a comment button. I’m not computer savvy, so I’m guessing here.

            In any event, it’s a good practice to preface your response with the name of the person you are addressing. I appreciate the brevity of your replies. Let’s see what others have to say.

            Robert

          6. Now I have a general comment. No one is answering my questions about how you can rely on tradition for worship when the church has such a bad record in introducing what are said by official prophets and apostles to be vain traditions and when we are told not to add or take away from what has been appointed. Of course we must recognised the canon as a church, but why not simply practice the worship that has been given by those who are sent by the Lord as prophets, especially when those who are not prophets have collectively erred. Please answer my questions instead of just giving me new questions.

          7. “God gave prophets and apostles and their writings were immediately recognised by the churches who received them. Over the years, other books by those who were not prophets were brought in and what the church had to do was sift those out. I will leave it at that– you can look at Kruger for more details”.

            “Immediately recognised by the churches”? What do the churches matter. As you said, we need to rely on Scripture! Not the “vain traditions” of the churches. Theses churches, as you explain above, are not any more reliable than the tribes of Israel who rapidly turned to Baal. After all, “the Lord has given us scripture to be our rule of faith and life”. As such, surely you can provide us with a justification for the New Testament Canon that comes from Scripture.

            Again, since as you suggest, the Church is unreliable (see Deut. 12), please provide a justification for your Canon that does not reference the Church.

          8. No Todd, you are setting up a straw man here. I can’t blame you for that, however, because some modern reformed brothers give you cause by their low view of the church. I am not among them. I have a very high regard for the church (and so did the reformers and the Westminster divines and the continental reformers). The church is reliable for all that God has authorised it to do. The church is called to recognise true prophets and to distinguish them from false ones. We are not called to determine how God is to be worshipped. He gives grace to the church (the true church which is not always the same as the majority church) to recognise true prophets. The pattern has normally been that the prophets in any age are rejected by the establishment church which has become full hypocrisy in its highest ranks (as it was in the days of Jeremiah or with Jesus Christ Himself), but that within the church are found faithful elders and ministers (a remnant according to election) who recognise the true prophets and though they were rejected in their day, they are the ones who (in God’s providence) are inscripturated. It is really quite marvellous how the writings of those who were rejected by the hierarchy in their day end up in scripture!

            The church, however, is clearly not reliable (apart from inspired prophets and apostles of the church who are part of the church) in determining how God is to be worshipped. It is responsible to follow what the LORD has said through the prophets about worship, not for coming up with new traditions of worship. That is why we must go back to scripture to determine how to worship God, as Moses said from the start, neither adding nor taking away from what God has appointed.

            Let me just summarise– we agree that the church was authorised to recognise scripture (though we probably have some differences there– see Kruger for what is essentially my view). My contention is that the church (again– I stress– apart from inspired prophets) was not authorised to determine how God is to be worshipped and that inspired scripture testifies to the failure of the church whenever they have attempted to do this. I have given Biblical proof of this in previous posts (and we both accept the authority of scripture, yes?), and it is your task to show me that the church was reliable in determining how God is to be worshipped apart from inspired prophets and apostles.

          9. “Now I have a general comment. No one is answering my questions about how you can rely on tradition for worship when the church has such a bad record in introducing what are said by official prophets and apostles to be vain traditions and when we are told not to add or take away from what has been appointed. Of course we must recognised the canon as a church, but why not simply practice the worship that has been given by those who are sent by the Lord as prophets, especially when those who are not prophets have collectively erred. Please answer my questions instead of just giving me new questions”.

            Why do you reject the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians?

            “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” 2 Thes 2:15

            It seems you only want to “stand fast and hold” to the traditions that you select, such as the NT Canon, whilst rejecting other traditions, such as prayers to the saints. Traditions you accept are evidently of prophetic origin from the Holy Spirit, yet traditions that even predate those you accept are called “vain”.

            If the Church has such a “bad record”, as you suggest, why do you follow its Tradition, seemingly blindly, in accepting the Canon? (You have provided no justification for the NT Canon other than the fact that it was accepted by “the churches”). I don’t rely for advice on those who have a “bad record”. Why do you?

            Can you see the inconsistency of your position? You are not exempt from “vain traditions”. Rather, you embrace Tradition when convenient (e.g the Canon), whilst rejecting it when inconvenient (e.g prayers to the saints). You accept the NT Canon which was “recognised by the churches” yet reject prayers to the saints which was recognised by the same churches. Your epistemology seems arbitrary and capricious.

            Can you provide us with a more consistent rule of faith for determining what of Tradition is true (evidently the NT Canon as formulated in the 4th century by St. Athanasius) and what is false (evidently the prayers to the saints espoused by the Early Church and her esteemed theologians, amongst whom St. Athanasius)?

          10. John,

            Not only have I read carefully what you said, but I have provided responses to your questions and have asked specific questions, citing your words. Could you provide specific answers?

            Just referring me to a book by Mr. Kruger doesn’t help, since I haven’t got his book and he is evidently not here to answer for you.

          11. “Let me just summarise– we agree that the church was authorised to recognise scripture”.

            I believe that. Do you? The same Church that recognised the current NT Canon also recognised the deuterocanonical books for the OT Canon.

            Do you accept the deuterocanonical books in your Bible? If not, your Krugerian argument looks more like an ad hoc justification for your accepting the 4th Century NT Canon, whilst rejecting much else the 4th Century Church authorised like prayers to the saints.

            “My contention is that the church (again– I stress– apart from inspired prophets) was not authorised to determine how God is to be worshipped and that inspired scripture testifies to the failure of the church whenever they have attempted to do this.”

            Sorry, where in Scripture does it say that the Church is not authoritative for anything but Scripture? Where do Christ or the Apostles say this?

            Moreover, where do you see anybody, anywhere who believed this? Do you really believe this interpretation of Scripture is part of the Deposit of the Faith? If so, please show me one Church Father who accepted this interpretation.

            If you cannot cite even one Father, it would seem that it is just an innovation by your Mr. Kruger.

    2. Welcome John,

      Glad you are here! Robert is right that many of here on this blog came
      to Orthodoxy from your own very Tradition and convictions. For 30+
      years (twice a PCA Elder) I could have written and believed your re-
      sponse above. Let me encourage you to stick around for awhile and
      read some of the older Blogs…especially the early 1st 4 that dealt spe-
      cifically with Scripture and Tradition. Amazingly, what you will find is
      that your beloved “Regulative-Principle-of-Worship” and “Sola-Scriptura”
      are both Traditions of men devised outside of Scriptures themselves!
      IF you are willing open your heart to learn…you will. You might start
      with this blog: “The Biblical Basis for Holy Tradition”
      https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthodoxbridge/contra-sola-scriptura-part-2-of-4/
      God keep you…in His tender mercies

  15. Dear Mr. Shearouse,

    Blessings to you and your family in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    You write***“No one is answering my questions about how you can rely on tradition for worship when the church…etc. Please answer my questions instead of just giving me new questions.”

    Please try to understand dear sir, that in presenting the following information and line of dialogue…that I am attempting to bring us to a place in which we might better be placed to answer your question. There are things you are not fully conversant in and aware of that have direct bearing on the question you ask. For example…You write;

    ***”That is why we must go back to scripture to determine how to worship God, as Moses said from the start, neither adding nor taking away from what God has appointed.”

    Which is why I asked you about the MT vs. the LXX.

    Which scripture do we go to?

    Your reply, ***”First, I am by no means an expect in this area. However, I think you are way overstating the differences between the MT and the LXX. I think the extensive use of the LXX by the apostles demonstrates the validity of translations and that we do not need to be overly fussy about every detail.

    Overstating the difference between the MT and the LXX? You can’t be serious Mr. Shearouse. This makes it positively clear that you have no idea that the when Protestantism began using the MT instead of the LXX, it dumped 10+ books from the canon. The following books of the Bible…which had always and by every Christian Church been accepted as canonical were removed; entire chunks of the Book of Esther, the book of Tobit, The Book of Judith, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Maccabees, the Book of Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, the Letter of Jeremiah, significant chunks of Daniel. It is only by a miracle and intervention of conscientious men that Martin Luther did not get the NT books of Jude, James, Hebrews and Revelation tossed because it didn’t comport to his own ideas.

    So, I need to get this straight….the removal of 10+ books from the canon of scripture – which equates to a brand new – truncated canon of scripture of its own…a canon of scripture never before seen on the face of the earth by any Christian in that form – – which you base all of your doctrine, practices and worship on – is “way overstating the differences?”

    I’m not even beginning to touch on all of the miscellaneous chunks of scriptures changed or removed wholesale by Jewish scribes in the MT which are retained in the LXX faithfully…(which we know from both the citations of the LXX of the Apostles and from the Dead Sea Scrolls.)

    And so we must go back to the very foundation of ALL aspects of your faith…”preserved scripture…” As you say….

    ***”That is why we must go back to scripture to determine how to worship God, as Moses said from the start, neither adding nor taking away from what God has appointed.”

    But which Scriptures!?! Oh…Well, that’s easy, the books that the Protestants have chosen by fiat in the 16th century of course! Oh…and let’s simply pick the books that match our manmade philosophy and toss those other inconvenient ones.

    “Neither adding nor taking away from what God has appointed indeed.”

    Who is following a “tradition of men” now?

    If your entire basis of worship and faith is based entirely on a canon of scripture that your tradition chose and compiled to comport to its own wishes – but is at variance with the WHOLE history of the Church…then how are you any different than a Mormon? Your could have just as easily added scriptures like they did and it would have had the same effect.

    If several members of your church were to meet up for a bible study and decide to remove 10 books of your currently accepted canon and base all of their regulatory doctrines of worship on that arbitrarily selected “canon” – your church would be aghast.

    You see, Mr. Shearouse, I AM….and I HAVE answered the question you asked when you write;

    ***How can we “rely on tradition for worship when the church has such a bad record in introducing what are said by official prophets and apostles to be vain traditions and when we are told not to add or take away from what has been appointed.”

    The real question is – how can YOU rely on scripture for worship when YOUR church has introduced vain traditions by taking away from what has been appointed?

    The reformed faith was a response to an apostate church – The RCC – which separated from the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, and the four equal Patriarchates and Bishops of the whole Ecumenia who always made decisions in conciliar Love instead of by authoritarian fiat, as with the papal innovation. I’m sorry that – THAT apostate Church has had such a “bad record” of introducing vain traditions that it caused its abused children (mine and your ancestors) to naturally seek a return to that which they could not access under the yoke of Roman Catholic rule – the True Church – the Orthodox faith. Instead, it tried to recreate from scratch what it read about…but in so doing decided that certain things had to go because they were not “reformed” enough. God has preserved, by His Holy Spirit -the Church. We love you. We care for your salvation and for the rich inheritance which BELONGS to you – which great throngs of martyrs (60 million in the 20th century alone) have defended with their blood under Islam, Communism and assaults by the Western Churches.

    I don’t expect you to convert. Only to research. Only to learn. Only to reason. Only to love. God will do the rest if you allow Him to.

    Here is the work where my journey home…and where I had to consider those things which no one had ever told me before….

    https://ijov.wordpress.com/2009/01/18/on-the-western-confessions-of-faith/

    Read it or don’t – it is up to you.

    I love you.

    AJ

    1. Aaron,
      I apologise for being so long in getting back. I have been very busy and I think I forgot to check the box to notify me of new comments because I did not get notified– just happened to check on Friday I think it was and saw a couple of responses. Unfortunately, right now I only have about five minutes, so I will be brief.

      First, let me say that I thought I did not catch the fact that by referring to the LXX you were referring to what you call the Deuterocanonical books. I thought you were comparing the MT to the LXX translation.

      I will say again that I think you have WAY overstated things. The early church was not so unified about the Apocrypha. As one who has apparently studied this subject extensively, I would think that you would know that. It was through careful deliberation which included consulting the views of the fathers that the reformers came to the conclusions they did about these books that had been variously recognised through the ages. It should be understood that consulting the fathers is only one part of evaluating whether a book is canonical. Kruger sets forth four tests that were employed to evaluate this. That was why I pointed to him– I will try to present those tests when I have more time. But when books such as the Apocrypha are disputed, by the fathers, their testimony obviously carries less weight than it would it there was the imagined unity that you describe. The books that virtually all branches of the church were sure about over for over 1000 years prior to their day were the ones the reformers settled upon. This was a safe and wise course.

      I will just leave it with this one point for now as my time is gone. I’d be happy to hear what you have to say.

      1. Hi John,
        I hope Aaron doesn’t mind me butting in. I constantly hear lots of misinformation about the canon. Firstly, there are no manuscripts of the Septuagint that follow the Rabbinical/Protestant Canon. The German scholar Alfred Rahlfs catalogued about 3000 manuscripts and papyri that contained all or part of the Septuagint. Interestingly, the overwhelming number had only a limited number of Old Testament books. They mix ‘canonical’ and ‘apocrypha’ indiscriminately. Vaticanus, Sinaiticus and Alexandrinus are exceptions to this but please note they also freely mix ‘canonical’ and ‘apocrypha’.
        Let me give you some examples from the list. Codex Ephraemi from the 5th century is not complete but contains sections from Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach and Song of Songs.
        Manuscript 19 of the Rahlfs numbering system is from the 12th century. It contains the Octateuch, Kings, Esdras, Judith, Esther, Maccebees 1-3, and Chronicles
        Codex 55 from the 10th century has the Octateuch, Kings, chronicles, Judith, Esther, Tobit, Maccebees 1-4, Job and Psalms.
        Codex 254 is from the 10th century and contains wisdom literature. It has Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom of Solomon and Sirach.
        The list of examples like this is extensive so you can see the usage of the Church regarding the canon, the tradition if you will, was very consistent.
        My other point is very often overlooked by those who tout out the canon lists of fathers like Athanasius, Jerome, Gergory of Nazianzus and Epiphanius of Salamis. That is despite their advocating a narrower canon they continue to refer and quote the ‘Apocrypha’ as if it is Scripture. Some Church Fathers, especially in the 4th century, seemed to have been unnerved that there was a difference between Christians and Rabbinic Jews over the canon. However, in reality, it rarely affected usage. Needless to say, the ‘Apocrypha’ is liberally referenced in Byzantine worship.
        I hope you find this information helpful. Kruger tends not to be forthcoming with information like this as it tends to spoil his argument.

        1. I am surprised to see that you think the Apocrypha was so fully received. Here is a good documented paper to show that this is certainly not the case. http://www.christiantruth.com/articles/Apocrypha3.html. The endnotes are very helpful.

          As far as Kruger, I was referring to his book *Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books* because Aaron had asked how we reformed types determine the Canon. In this book he does not treat the Apocrypha particularly, so I was not referring him for that. He explains that the NT Canon is self-authenticating and that there are three attributes of canonicity that the Holy Spirit uses (I wrongly said four before): Divine Qualities, Apostolic Origins, and Corporate Reception.

          1. John,

            If Scripture is the only or the primary source of spiritual truth, then surely Scripture must teach your Mr. Kruger’s argument, that evidently Scripture is self-authenticating. Could you show me where this is in Scripture? Where is the NT Canon found, either implicitly or otherwise, in Scripture?

            Also, and again, since you seem to be loath to respond, who amongst the Apostles and Fathers, actually believed Mr. Kruger’s understanding of the “self authorisation of Scripture” ? Do you really believe this interpretation of Scripture is part of the Deposit of the Faith? If so, please show me one Church Father who accepted this interpretation.

            If you cannot cite even one Father, it would seem that it is just an innovation by your Mr. Kruger.

      2. Hello Mr. Shearouse,

        Blessings on you and your family.

        No apologies necessary…we all have busy lives and priorities. I have little time as well to respond as well…and cannot promise to keep up with the convo like I would wish to. We are all here for the long haul to discuss matters of faith…so we should all settle in and not be in any rush.

        To start, let me first say…that it is quite understandable from a historical and ecclesiastic perspective why Reformers would be driven to try to purify a corrupted tradition in their own RCC roots. Orthodox Christianity has always seen the abuses and innovations of the RCC as abusive and corrupting. The RCC abuses and innovations that skew and distort tradition have nothing to do with Orthodoxy and legitimate maintenance of Tradition by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and the blood of many martyrs. Reformers often have some vague idea of what they are fighting in regards to the RCC, but have no real living understanding of Orthodoxy – because all they know is the abuses of the RCC and conflate RCC traditions with Orthodox Tradition is a mistake.

        No need to quote Kruger’s “tests” (which are a reference to the NT canon only BTW…not to the Deuterocanon, the use of the MT, etc.)…I’ve researched his views. I will address your specifics regarding canon in another post…but I brought up the canon tangentially any insofar as it serves to illustrate a truth which Reformers are deign to acknowledge….and which Kruger tries to sidestep through his own analysis, but which you have walked quite unabashedly into acknowledging.

        Your reply to my question has highlighted exactly the fact that I hoped it would highlight.

        Tradition.

        You make no less than four appeals to interpretations of tradition as the basis for how the Reformation divines “concluded” what scriptures to use.

        Let me summarize your arguments.

        1. Tradition cannot be trusted — only scripture. (Your first post) 2. Since scripture doesn’t tell us what scripture is…the reformed divines had to analyze Tradition to determine what scripture should be trusted. 3. Only the scholastic methodologies (a tradition of its own) of the Reformers can rightly “conclude” and define what constitutes scripture. All previous “conclusions” of the Church in toto(i.e. Tradition) regarding scripture are irrelevant, only the tradition of the Reformers is to be trusted. 4. Scripture is defined as what the Reformed tradition of interpreting Tradition concludes scripture to be. i.e. scripture is determined by our interpretive tradition’s analysis of earlier Church Tradition. 5. Tradition is bad…unless it’s our tradition of interpreting Tradition, then it’s okay.

        Your logic is simply circular and self congratulatory and self affirming.

        Your reply has only highlighted the inconsistency of your entire approach, which denies Tradition overtly, while crossing it’s fingers behind its back and seeking to formulate its own traditions of analyzing and making its own conclusions about how to interpret…shocker…Tradition.

        You would have no scriptures whatsoever, and no methodology to determine what scriptures to use without an analysis of Tradition. You rely on it heavily – but simply pick and choose what you wish to apply – and what you wish to ignore – who you want to quote – when you want to quote them. Reformers never take the whole corpus of the Father’s in account, or Councils or the whole of Tradition into account…only what serves their purposes of justifying their approach. A little here…a little there…ignore this statement…oooh…that one helps…it all ends up being a shell game and a use of what suits you. When it is convenient Reformers will locate a quote or make reference to the Fathers or a Council (in isolation – which is not proper use or understanding of Tradition) and use this to support their own designs (ignoring all other aspects of what the Father or Council might have said in context, or how those fit in with the whole of Tradition). In this respect (and I do not say this disparagingly, only as a etymological fact) the Reformed tradition is a tradition which is wholly based upon hairesis (αἵρεσις) (lit. choosing without regard to the whole Body or corpus)

        A tradition is the very basis of your 5 unscriptural “solas.”

        A tradition is the very basis of using the MT instead of the LXX…and this is a tradition NEVER EVER EVER used by ANY CHURCH ever. This is fact. Downplaying and denying the differences as you have done requires an entire article and extensive time to rebut. I don’t have that time…I suspect neither do you. I suggest you research more.

        A tradition which depends on an illegitimate and truncated understanding of Tradition determines what you will accept and not accept as scripture.

        Therefore your entire “sola scriptura” premise is undermined by the very reality that the only way to come to any recognition of what scripture is in the first place – is through your own scholastic tradition – which seeks to reanalyze Tradition through a lens all its own – and denies Tradition in exchange for ….a new tradition….a man-made philosophy.

        Reformers “accept a tradition, and at the same time deny the principle by which tradition is justified.” And they do so while trying to pick and choose from Tradition in order to justify their views, without ever bothering to understand how the WHOLE of Tradition (properly maintained by Orthodoxy/distorted by the RCC and therefore dismissed entirely by the RCC’s abused children the Protestants) works as a check and balance.

        Your tradition maintains its own constructs and theologies formulated by its own man-made tradition and relies on distorting and holding up Tradition in order to maintain any integrity whatever. (2 Peter 3:16)

        Tradition rightly adhered to in Love of the Holy Spirit (unity) is like a finely balance mobile, a series of checks and balances that consists of the following equally informing the other -(not all inclusive and not in any particular order) 1) Scripture 2) Local and Ecumenical Councils 3) Overall Consensus of the Fathers (not piecemeal portions of one) 4) the Liturgical Life 5) Love and unity in the Spirit – i.e. mutual submission 6) Parity of the Bishoprics 7) The Laity –

        All of these exist and are equal and balance the whole. No one can be “above” the other – they all exist and inform one another as a whole…but no one aspect can contradict the other – indeed, it is only through all of these (THE LIFE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE CHURCH) that any other aspect can make any sense at all. Isolating any aspect and attempting to come to “regulative” methods of worship is like trying to build a house with blueprints but no tools, materials or skilled workmen. The very substance and makes up the Church is gone…and so one simply improvises with what one can insert into the text and creates a kind of illusion…and copy…a knock off…calling it “church.”

        Tradition which violates one or more aspects of the balance of Tradition creates a lopsided ecclesia, as both the RCC and Protestant realities reveal, and it leads to anemic or completely distorted Christian life.

        I understand your views….they were once my own. But to pretend that you don’t use a form of tradition through which to promulgate your views of what scripture is and what it says is just that; fantasy. To pretend that “sola scriptura” protects you from being wrong is simply ridiculous. Every heresy in history has used scripture and twisted it for their own purposes…Arians, Nestorians, Gnostics, RCC, Protestants. Scripture can only be protected in its proper place within Tradition – within the Love and unity of the Church which is the very Spirit of God.

        “The Church in her fullness, as a spiritual organism, is neither a collective or an abstract entity; she is the Divine Spirit, who knows Himself and is unable not to know. The whole Church wrote the Holy Scriptures and then gave life to them in Tradition. To put it more accurately, Scripture and Tradition, as two manifestations of one and the same Spirit, are a single manifestation. Scripture is nothing but written Tradition, and Tradition is nothing but living Scripture.” (2 Cor 3:2)

        I have no time now to speak specifically to the tangential canon issues…though I would like to. When I have time I will, but that is likely to be weeks from now.

        In the meantime…a good back and forth on the subject exists between Kruger and Fr. Stephen Freeman….here…and here…which highlights some of the very nature of the divides…

        http://michaeljkruger.com/there-is-no-bible-in-the-bible-really/

        https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2014/10/10/church-scriptures/

        1. I forgot to sign off….

          I will be unavailable to attend to your reply due to other obligations, so I hope you can engage with others here in a spirit of love. I hope and pray for your continued study of the matter and prayer to God for illumination. You are in my prayers and I wish you and your family nothing but blessings and the grace of God to reveal to you all the fullness of the Truth.

          Blessing and more blessings.

          AJ

        2. I’ve etched out a little time for the discussion of the MT vs. LXX.

          Having reviewed the article you posted for Todd, it is in it’s very first paragraph intentionally misleading, stating that Athanasius excluded and “taught” the exclusion of the Deuterocanon. In actually he listed them as to be taught and but excluded them from the liturgical lectionary of the canon. There is a huge difference lost on Protestants who do not even know what this means. It is false to claim he did not see them as part of the corpus of scripture. A Catholic rebuttal is located http://thecatholicvoyager.blogspot.com/2010/09/did-athanasius-reject-deuterocanon.html

          Athanasius’s own words…But for greater exactness I add this also, writing of necessity; that there are other books besides these not indeed included in the Canon, but appointed by the Fathers to be read by those who newly join us, and who wish for instruction in the word of godliness. The Wisdom of Solomon, and the Wisdom of Sirach, and Esther, and Judith, and Tobit, and that which is called the Teaching of the Apostles [i.e. Didache], and the Shepherd. But the former, my brethren, are included in the Canon, the latter being [merely] read; nor is there in any place a mention of apocryphal writings. But they are an invention of heretics, who write them when they choose, bestowing upon them their approbation, and assigning to them a date, that so, using them as ancient writings, they may find occasion to lead astray the simple.

          I thought you were comparing the MT to the LXX translation.

          I am doing both…comparing the translations…AND the scribal changes (which effect exegesis) AND…highlighting the fact that the MT was never used by ANY Church in history, and that the Reformers sought and achieved the ability to change what is in the modern day bibles their adherants read – and LIMIT their access to these books. They are neither included, read or found to be scripture in the Protestant Church. Since Orthodoxy is not bound by “sola scriptura” and has at its disposal a vast Tradition from which to corroborate doctrine, it is Protestants who adhere to this sola who are in the position of needing to defend its use and the elimination of several books and several chapters of the scriptures from the hands of their flocks. To say that doctrine is not affected by the removal of these books is ludicrous.

          Now, to examine the differences in the text between the MT and LXX let us just look at some of the following facts;

          “Concealing the unmentionable was a well known characterisitic of the scribes who transmitted the texts, and this causes considerable problems for any investigation…The process was called itqqune soperim, the “restorations of the scribes.” Rabbinical literature and the marginal and final Massorah of many Hebrew Bible codices record that the scribes altered the text in small hardly negligible number of passages. The changes were deliberate departures from the previous states of the text. The texutal reading as transmitted by the soferim (scribes), their stylistic embellisment,s words read in the text but not written, and words written but omitted in the reading are all halachah…In every case, the alteration was said to avoid blasphemy.”

          After the advent of Christianity, which based so much of its proclamation on the fulfillment of Scripture, there were many reasons for the Jewish scribes to further “correct” the Hebrew texts, and early in the second century CE, Justin accused the Jews of removing texts that were important to the Christians. such as Deut 32.43 where the Masoretic Hebrew is shorter than the Qumran text, and the missing lines are the messianic proof text used in Hebrews 1.5: “Let all God’s angels worhip Him.” So too, the varient in the great Isaiah scroll from Qumran, where on different letter reveals that the Virgin was called the “Mother of the LORD” The sons of God, of whom the LORD was one, disappeared from Deuteronomy 32.8 and became instead the sons of Israel: and the Anointed One (Isa.52.15) lost one letter and became the disfigured one. There are many obvious examples of a post-Christian reaction and redaction. This is why we now read that the people of Samaria had calves not in byt ‘lBeth El, the house of God, but in byt ‘wn, Beth Aven meaning the house of idolatry.

          One of the major changes as we shall see, was effected by editing/censoring the older Wisdom writings…A good example would be Proverbs 30.1-4, which appears in the LXX in a much longer form than the MT. The lines in the LXX are not attributed to Agur, son of Jakeh, as they are in the MT…In the following passage from the MT, the LXX Proverbs 24.25-26 is in italics, for comparison…

          Surely I am too stupid to be a man
          for I am the most foolish of all men
          I have not the understanding of a man
          And the practical wisdom of men is not in me
          I have not learned from Wisdom
          God has taught me Wisdom

          The difference betweeen the Hebrew and teh Greek came about by exhanging two letters: the original had ‘l, God rather than l’, not, and so the line was: “God has taught me”, rather than “I have not learned.” The correcting scribes thus obscured and denied the source of wisdom. By detaching the text from its original royal context (The MT moves the verses to another context) which has been preserved by the LXX, the MT and the royal wisdom tradition has been obscured.” (Barker, Margaret, The Mother of the Lord)

          This is only a triffling of the changes made by the scribes to the MT, with hundreds of others to be listed among these. Far from being unimportant, the changes have SIGNIFICANT affect to the meaning and understanding of Scriptures.

          Hundreds and hundreds of changes purposefully made to the MT to obscure, change or deny Wisdom, the LORD and other Christian teachings were made.

          The Protestant tradition rejected the LXX and took the MT as authoritative…only to learn over time that it was corrupt. Now, translators constantly have to compare the MT with the LXX and Peshitta to deal with these changes and attempt to render a correct rendering. The MT has uses…but NOT as Scripture…and downplaying or denying that these differences are significant to the meaning of the text is simply denial (It’s not just a river in Egypt you know.)

          The very fact that the Protestant tradition has take the MT and excluded books of Scripture that have widespread consensus among Tradition purposefully ignores the fact that from 300 to 600 AD the entire Ecumenical Church had come to terms with the inclusion of ALL the Deuterocanon. The periods before 300 AD represent the local autocephaly of various jurisdictions and their use in that specific Church. Among these Churches – even those who listed the canon without the deuterocanon also listed the later as a requirement to be taught and considered Scripture – but separate from those items to be used in liturgical lectionaries (i.e. canon)

          Because Protestants cannot or will not understand how Tradition lives within the Church, they cannot deal intellectually or spiritually with disparity among lists of canon between independent Churches. The recognition of canon by local councils and then by the Ecumenia occured early in Christian history and widespread consesus was achieved in the Ecumenia by Nicea II.

          The MT was NEVER used, never warranted, never found to be authoritative for specific reasons, which the Reformers could neither appreciate or handle. The results are not “WAY overstated.” They are real, appreciable and present issues that effect how Scripture is received and read. The inclusion or exclusion of Scripture and the acceptance by the Reformers of the MT constitutes a breach of every known tenet of Christian history to that point. Jerome’s work on the Vulgate represents an outlier and was never accepted by any Church as authoritative in the way the LXX is/was. The complete re-thinking of what the “canon” is in terms of it’s place in or out of lectionaries has been largely achieved by Protestant innovations. Because they cannot understand the place of the Deuterocanon in the life of the Church, they have essentially reduced them to being un-scriptural – a position at odds with the consistent testimony of the Early Church. These ARE Scripture and are part of Scripture but had differing and different uses in the catechumenate and liturgical rites which the Father’s spoke of as “canon” which is a far cry from the Protestant notion of “canon.”

          The article you posted twists as much as it can about this history to try to create a false image of the deuterocanon being rejected at Nicea II. It is essentially a disinformation piece full of obvious lies. Any time taken at all to research the article can tear it to shreds in a single night.

          1. Hi John,
            I’ll just tag a few comments following Aaron.
            On page 89 of ‘Canon Revisted’ Michael Kruger notes in footnote 4 that Augustine is clear evidence for a self-authenticating canon. That Augustine supported a longer canon does not seem to bother Kruger at all. This means that Augustine accepted a different self-authenticating canon ( or does this concept only word for the NT?)
            F.F. Bruce notes in his ‘The Canon of Scripture’ (1988) that Athanasius ‘appears to have paid little attention to the formal distinction between those books which he listed in the canon and those which were suitable for the instruction of new Christians. He was familiar with the text of all, and quote from them freely, often with the same introductory formula – “as it is written”, “as the scripture says “, etc.’
            As I said previously, relying on just the bare canon lists can be deceptive.
            William Webster makes the claim ‘The Eastern Church generally followed the views of Athanasius, Cyril of Jerusalem and Epiphanius.’ yet here we are arguing about the canon. Webster’s claim cannot be substantiated by the evidence like the manuscripts I mentioned previously. Even if you take the 10 Church Fathers that advocated a Rabbinic Canon that does not exclude the hundreds that didn’t. Just because St. John Chrysostom did not draw up a list it does to mean his OT canon should be ignored.

        3. The original subject was prayer to Mary. I am interested to look into the subject of the canon more as that is (as I have admitted) not an area that I have devoted a lot of time to– because I rely on tradition (smile!).

          My point has been that traditions in worship arising in the church (like prayers to the saints) cannot be relied upon to determine how God is rightly to be worshipped. Corporate reception is an important factor in recognising scripture that I very much rely on and have always relied on. When reformed writers say that scripture is self-authenticating, the meaning is not that each individual must figure out what belongs in the canon. It is rather that the church as a body is able to discern scripture which is what we have done– though different conclusions were reached about the Apocrypha.

          But what I am challenging you (and others) about here is not the canon, but rather that the church is not authorised to add to the worship of God her own traditions that were not instituted by the apostles and prophets. That is the tradition I have been writing against. I have shown from the Holy Scriptures (scriptures that we both affirm to be God’s Holy Word) that the church has been guilty of adding vain traditions in worship. The church is not authorised by God to determine (beyond what has been given her by apostles and prophets) how God is to be worshipped. My arguments are summarised in my response to Eric Todd below.

          1. John,

            Thanks for your response. I recognise that you are arguing about the ideas of prayers to Mary and not the NT Canon. However, I and others here have challenged your view, because it seems hypocritical: you accept Church tradition regarding the NT Canon, yet reject that same Church’s tradition regarding prayers to Mary. If you are assuming that the Church somehow became corrupted over time, this should lead you naturally to be less sceptical of the tradition of prayers to Mary, evidence for which dates from at least the 2nd century than the 4th century NT Canon that we use today.

            It seems the idea that Scripture is “self authenticating” is another way of saying it was self evident. Yet, if the NT Canon was self evident, why did it take four centuries for the Church to come up with it? Why were those who studied Scripture profoundly in the Early Church–great men of of God such as St Irenaeus, St Clement of Alexandria and St. Athanasius–in disagreement about the NT Canon if Scripture authenticated it?

            That methodology for choosing Scripture patently does not work.

            It is curious that you then venture to choose one of their NT Canons, that of St Athanasius. Why that one? How do you know that your version of the Canon is not also a vain tradition and one of the other great Biblical scholars got it right? Yet with respect to prayers to Mary, which the Early Church seems relatively united in supporting, you reject the Church’s view.

            You rationalise selectively supporting some traditions like the Athanasian Canon whilst rejecting other traditions such as prayers to Mary by citing various passages from Scripture. If your view is right, surely their are Fathers who also understand Scripture this way. The absence of any mention of this Krugerian epistemology in any early texts I have read suggests that it is a post Reformation innovation. So you are rejecting Early Church tradition in favour of Reformation tradition. Therein lies the inconsistency in your approach.

            Why would one do that? You suggest a rule of faith that could almost be considered Orthodox:”that the church is not authorised to add to the worship of God her own traditions that were not instituted by the apostles and prophets”. How do you know that prayers to Mary were not of apostolic or prophetic origin? And what do prayers to the saints have to do with the worship of God?

            St. Paul tells us in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 to “stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught , whether by word, or our epistle.” How do you know that Orthodox worship of God is not like the traditions passed on by the Apostles, through the oral tradition? Certainly Orthodox worship today squares more closely than Reformed worship both with its predecessor of Hebrew worship in the Old Testament as well as worship in the Early Church.

          2. You deny prayers to /for the dead / I.e. The saints saying they are not found in scripture. The canon has direct impact on this. The problem is they are not found in your truncated form of scripture, they are in ours. Beyond all of this Christ warned the Pharisees as he warns you, you diligently search the scriptures for in them you think you will find life. But you refuse to me to me so that you may receive life. Christs Body-the Church- is Life- for it is united with Him and preserved by Him. Deny this, you deny Christ. Deny the Church and its unity in the Spirit….and…well….I’m praying for all who do so knowingly. Exchanging this Life for a book which points to that Life is biblioidoladtry… You cannot find Life in a book that can only be read properly once one is in the Life (United) to the life of Christ in His One Church. “They cannot understand for such things are discerned.”

            The practice of prayer is the practice of communion, not worship. all prayer to the saints is prayer with the saints to Christ in the unity He gives us. Mary is first among the saints. One of the many problems with your sola scriptura is that it has thrown out (based on a scholastic tradition) scripture AND the Life of the Church wherein such practices are shown (ie prayer for /with the dead). You formulate doctrines such as the sentence of wrath against humanity against sin that fly in the face of the scripture…because you no longer accept those scriptures that unabashedly tell us that God did not create death nor is it a sentence of his…but a power of the devil. You cannot even read the scriptures with the “mind of the church” and the Spirit and the unity of the Church because you have removed yourself from communion with the Spirit (love). The very tenets of the Reformation bund you to read the scriptures through your own sectarian eyes and not the eyes of Love.

            I can only tell you that once a person lets go of the bondage of the Reformed faith and enters the Orthodox Church-then it as if they are living inside of scripture, not apart from or under it. I mean this literally- the Body of Christ is the only light that can illumine scripture. Too many have reformed their way out of communion with that Body and proceed to actively persecute it and lead sheep astray treating the bible like a Quran.

            You are loved, but this is Truth. I am happy to call you a brother in Christ….I pray His mercy on all of us…especially me who is chief of all sinners. I once would have said the same things you say here and opposed them just as vehemenently. I WAS WRONG. I pray that the Lord forgives me and that my life as a Reformer opposing the Body of Christ never rose to the level of “blaspheming the Spirit.” I pray that not be the case for you, and that over time you mast understand your true calling in Christ as an Orthodox Christian. I truly believe that in every christian,( even in U.S. professed Orthodox) there is an true Orthodox Christian “the inner man” trying to get out…if only we don’t “quench the Spirit” and it’s desire to transform us into Christ likeness.

  16. Seems to me from experience that belief is our foundation and then based on what we’re open to believe we accept or remain skeptical no matter the evidence for something that contradicts our foundational belief.

    In the case for praying for the INTERCESSIONS of our Theotokos, here’s the issues and responses that I can gather:

    1) Why pray to her at all?
    Response: Why ask my mom to pray for me? The Lord is communal. He is 1 but He is 3. His love in relationship creates. We are all meant to be one as Christ and the Father are One. My prayers are your prayers, which are the Virgin Mary’s prayers, which are the prayers of the Apostles …. (names could be added in infinit at this point lol)

    2) How do we even know that praying to the “dead” contributes anything?
    Response: First, it’s in scripture. Second, from the experience of the Church. Throughout history, there never was a time when asking for the HELP of a saint did not show to be fruitful. Appearances to people, miracles worked before peoples very eyes vindicate this practice.

    3)There’s the risk that one ends up worshipping the Virgin Mary, or Saint Paisios or (pick your saint)…
    Response: That’s why the Church is there to guide us. The Church is all within it and nobody will be allowed to fall off the edge. Just as no Protestant would allow another to fall into the mistake of worshiping the Bible (which btw, there have been that have done that). The danger is always there when spirituality is left to ourselves.

    In my personal prayer life, I pray to our Lord in general but when i feel spiritually weak like when my dad was possibly ill, I asked for our Theotokos and Saint Paisios to pray with me and FOR me . I just wanted their help. I thank them for their prayers as it’s now a year later and my dad is just fine. We’re all family in Christ and I ask for help from family.

    My thoughts

  17. Hi Robert,
    I’ve recently purchased a little booklet published by the Alcuin Club (Joint Liturgical Studies Volume 70). The volume is called ‘Two Early Egyptian Liturgical Papyri’ and is translated and annotated by Alistair C. Stewart. As liturgical manuscripts have a high usage rate they tend to deteriorate from constant use. As a result the manuscript tradition of many liturgies like the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom is relatively late ( I think the earliest manuscripts date from the 9th century). Due to papyri discoveries the date has been taken back centuries. The booklet I bought has a translation of the ‘Barcelona Papyrus’, a 4th century Egyptian liturgy. It is not the Byzantine Liturgy but a local liturgy that existed at the time. As I look at the text I see close parallels to the Byzantine Liturgy. Please Robert, take a look and tell me what you think.
    Stefano

    1. Stefano,

      Studying the textual history of the liturgies can help us better understand the meanings and contexts in which the early Christians worshiped. Early Christian worship was both diverse and unified, then over time acquired stability and fixity. So I appreciate the Alcuin Club’s attempt to publish current scholarship on the early liturgies. I noticed that the Alcuin Club is Anglican which tells me something about their approach to liturgical revisions. The Anglican tradition is much more open changing its liturgy but Orthodoxy tends to much more conservative when it comes to changing even the text of the Liturgy. These varying approaches affect our attitudes and approach towards the studying the ancient liturgies. My guess is that where the Orthodox would read these materials for better understanding of the Liturgy, the Anglicans would also read them for implications for “improving” their liturgical practices. I trust this answers your question.

      Robert

  18. This is a response to Eric Todd from John Shearouse (JRS). I am placing it here because the software will not allow me to reply directly. Mr. Todd, I have quoted your message in full (which was a response to me) in bold (NOTE> It does not appear that the bold came through– so I went through and tagged your comments with ET>) and then inserted my responses with the tag “JRS>” I hope this is acceptable to you.

    Eric Todd says:
    May 16, 2015 at 8:10 am
    ET> “Let me just summarise– we agree that the church was authorised to recognise scripture”.
    ET> I believe that. Do you? The same Church that recognised the current NT Canon also recognised the deuterocanonical books for the OT Canon.

    JRS> The Apocrypha was not nearly as universally recognised by the church as equal to the NT Canon or the 22 books of the OT as you pretend. Here is a document with some good documentation for you to ponder that dispels that notion. http://www.christiantruth.com/articles/Apocrypha3.html,

    ET> Do you accept the deuterocanonical books in your Bible? If not, your Krugerian argument looks more like an ad hoc justification for your accepting the 4th Century NT Canon, whilst rejecting much else the 4th Century Church authorised like prayers to the saints.

    JRS> I was using Kruger simply to refer to how the NT Canon was recognised. I was referring to his book Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books. In this book he does not treat the Apocrypha particularly, so I was not referring him for that. He explains that the NT Canon is self-authenticating and that there are three attributes of canonicity that the Holy Spirit uses: Divine Qualities, Apostolic Origins, and Corporate Reception. You had asked me how I recognise a book as canonical or not, and I was answering you briefly by referring to the work of one that does a good job summarising the Reformed understand of this subject which I agree with.

    ET> “My contention is that the church (again– I stress– apart from inspired prophets) was not authorised to determine how God is to be worshipped and that inspired scripture testifies to the failure of the church whenever they have attempted to do this.”
    ET> Sorry, where in Scripture does it say that the Church is not authoritative for anything but Scripture? Where do Christ or the Apostles say this?

    JRS> I did not say that the church is not authoritative for anything but Scripture. I said that the church was not authorised to add to the worship that was appointed by the Lord through those who are official prophets and apostles.

    JRS> I proved from scriptures (the ones which we both accept as possessing full divine authority) that whenever the church has attempted to add to the worship instituted by the prophets, the consequences have been disastrous. I will seek to put my argument forward in a more orderly way, and then you (and others) can show me which points you do not agree with. I am arguing:
    1. That Deuteronomy 12, speaking of worship, tells God’s people that they are not to add to or take away from what God has commanded in worship. One of the main things prohibited in Deut 12 was the offering of sacrifices to the LORD in places author than the central sanctuary that He appointed and would appoint. It was not first of all the worship of other gods that was at issue, but the worship of the LORD in the ways that the nations worshipped their gods. Deut 12:2-4: “You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. You shall not worship the LORD your God with such things.” At the end of the chapter, the clear command is given not to add or take away from what God has appointed in worship: Deut 12:29-32: “When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods. Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.”
    2. That this is exactly what the church did, first with the golden calf, then with worship at the high places which eventually led to worship of other gods. I assume you are familiar enough with the OT that I do not need to provide specific references.
    3. That the prophets rebuked these sins frequently in scripture, and that there were only two out of all of Judah and Israel’s kings who reformed worship according to scripture (Hezekiah and Josiah), cutting off worship at the high places. I assume you are also familiar with this history. This proves (from the record of the prophets that we both accept as being authoritative and divinely inspired) that the church has a very bad record when it comes to the matter of adding their own traditions to what God has appointed in worship.
    4. That Jesus Himself referred to this as a serious problem when He was upon the earth. It was not just heretical sects that were involved either, but those officially recognised as sitting in Moses’ seat (Mt 23:2). Jesus even accused them of making the commandments of God of no effect by their tradition (Mt 15:6) and in Mark 7:8-9 He said: “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men—the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do.”… “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.” We both accept Matthew and Mark as authoritative, so you must admit that it is at least possible for the church in her true officers to add rituals and ceremonies that are contrary to the will of God. It seems to me that you must also admit that this was not an unusual problem, but one that plagued the church throughout her history under the old covenant.
    5. That in the first century, the churches which were in their infancy were already exhibiting the same problems with adding their own traditions to the worship that God had instituted through the holy Apostles and Prophets of the New Covenant. This is directly addressed by those official Apostles and Prophets themselves (whose task it was to establish the churches according to all that Christ had commanded). For example, there is Gal 4:8-11: “But then, indeed, when you did not know God, you served those which by nature are not gods. But now after you have known God, or rather are known by God, how is it that you turn again to the weak and beggarly elements, to which you desire again to be in bondage? You observe days and months and seasons and years. I am afraid for you, lest I have labored for you in vain;” and there is Col 2:11-23 which I will not quote in full, but only: verses 16-19: “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ. Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head….” Once again, the problem of adding vain human traditions (which arose within a mere decade or two after these churches were founded) must be admitted by anyone who accepts the authority of the NT as you and I both do. Do you agree that this was a problem?
    6. That if we find non-apostolic traditions arising in the church before the apostles are even off the scene, should we not expect to find such traditions arising after the apostles are gone? And even if some of them later become widespread, should that surprise us when we have divinely inspired testimony from the OT showing us that such vain traditions arose and were recognised officially (but erroneously) by the church under the Old Covenant? The way we know which traditions are apostolic and which are not (which are authorised and which are not) is by consulting the writings we agree upon as being officially apostolic—the New Testament Scriptures.
    7. that you have no solid ground for positing that prayers to departed saints has any apostolic sanction. We search in vain for even a hint of such a practice in the NT canonical scriptures. You cannot simply take some random practice and claim that it is according to the unwritten traditions of the apostles. If prayers to departed saints was as important as you (and the author of this article we are commenting on) suggest that it is, there should at least be some mention of it in the NT. Do you not agree that it is at least problematic that there are NO references to this practice in our New Testament? It seems like that should trouble you a lot!

    ET> Moreover, where do you see anybody, anywhere who believed this? Do you really believe this interpretation of Scripture is part of the Deposit of the Faith? If so, please show me one Church Father who accepted this interpretation.

    JRS> As I have shown, you have grossly misstated what I said. I do think the church is authoritative, but I also hold that “the supreme Judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in Scripture.” Authoritative is one thing—authorised to institute worship that was not appointed by either apostles or prophets is quite another.

    ET> If you cannot cite even one Father, it would seem that it is just an innovation by your Mr. Kruger.

    JRS> Again, I was only using the one you call “your Mr. Kruger” with reference to how books are judged to be canonical by the Reformed branch of the church.

    1. John,
      You quote Deut 12:29-32 against the Apocrypha. Seriously?
      You do realise that all the following books of the OT and NT were added after Deuteronomy. You can’t seriously be considering that the author of Deuteronomy saw into the future that would be a 66 book canon and then wrote his warning accordingly. It is the use of out of context quotes that makes me wonder about Reformed exegesis some times.
      Have you read my previous comments? William Webster is not quite the slam dunk you think he is. Yes, some Church Fathers did write lists in favour of a shorter canon, which was rarely in total full agreement with the Rabbic Canon as they tended to leave out Esther or include the longer Daniel or Baruch with Jeremiah, but this did not affect their usage – see by quote from F.F. Bruce in a previous post.
      John, please read more than Webster and actually read what people have written on this thread. I realise that the issue of the canon is not the main point but people have gone out of their way to correct your misconceptions.

  19. Aaron, as to your last post of yesterday:

    It’s good to read that you consider Pastor John Shearouse, an ordained minister of the Gospel, to be a “brother in Christ.” Thank you for that.

    Bill

  20. I am new to the writing part of this conversation, but have been following this thread for a while. I too am a minister in the same denomination and presbytery as John Shearouse, and we are dear friends. I am simply responding to a paragraph written by Aaron, and pray that my words will be edifying, and not too verbose – one can hope :).

    Aaron wrote: “The practice of prayer is the practice of communion, not worship. all prayer to the saints is prayer with the saints to Christ in the unity He gives us. Mary is first among the saints. One of the many problems with your sola scriptura is that it has thrown out (based on a scholastic tradition) scripture AND the Life of the Church wherein such practices are shown (ie prayer for /with the dead). You formulate doctrines such as the sentence of wrath against humanity against sin that fly in the face of the scripture…because you no longer accept those scriptures that unabashedly tell us that God did not create death nor is it a sentence of his…but a power of the devil. You cannot even read the scriptures with the “mind of the church” and the Spirit and the unity of the Church because you have removed yourself from communion with the Spirit (love). The very tenets of the Reformation bund you to read the scriptures through your own sectarian eyes and not the eyes of Love.”

    “Mary is first among saints” – while she was the mother of the Lord Jesus Christ I think it particularly important to emphasize that she is not the mother of the Holy Triune God, but only of the incarnate Christ. She is blessed to have become such a servant of God Almighty in bearing the eternal Son of God who had to come in the flesh, but she was nonetheless a sinner needing a Saviour, which she expresses in her own words [Luke 1:47]. To grant her the title “first among Saints” seems to contradict what Jesus said in Matthew 12:49; Mark 3:34; Luke 8:21 and as well what it means to be a “saint” according to the gospel [1Corinthians 1:2]. Nowhere in Scripture do I read of Mary performing miracles, preaching and teaching and accomplishing the ministry of the Apostles and prophets, to whom are attributed the position of being the foundation of the Church with Christ as the cornerstone [Ephesians 2:19-22]. She is a blessed servant of the Lord God Almighty, but so too was Mary Magdalene [Matthew 26:13]. I cannot see from Scripture where we are given the authority to elevate people in such a manner – could you explain to me from where this authority comes? Thank you.

    As well you accuse John Shearouse of removing himself “from communion with the Spirit [love]” and of having “…sectarian eyes.” May I say, it seems you do the same, and, in his defense, that is an uncharitable and untrue statement to make. I am not saying you are being malicious, but perhaps your experience in the Reformed doctrine [not Reformed faith for there is only ‘one faith’ Eph.4:5] is skewing your view of it. Biblical doctrine is meant to be liberating [John 8:32] as it promotes the doctrine of the gospel of Jesus Christ [John 8:36]. One needs to be careful against assuming that one’s experience is the measure for everyone else.

    1. Dear Rev. Carter,

      Welcome to the Reformed-Orthodox Bridge. I appreciate your speaking up for your colleague, John Shearouse. I looked over Aaron’s earlier remarks and saw how it can be viewed as uncharitable in tone. Thank you for the reminder that conversations on this site should be courteous and civil in tone in order to promote reasoned discourse. Please forgive us Orthodox converts if we lapse into a preaching mode of “You must” instead of following the line of thought “Wouldn’t it make more sense if . . . .”

      I appreciate John Shearouse’s speaking for the Reformed tradition; I am in the process of writing my response to him.

      Robert

    2. Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for writing. I suppose I should have been clearer about what I meant about” reforming oneself out of communion with the Spirit, ” but that would take a treatise on pneumatology. So, in that vein, i.e. I should have either taken the time to either explain that pneumaology or not have said something that can be construed in ill manner. My apologies for making it sound like some sort of accusation rather than a theological and ecclesiologal point that could be digested and engaged with. I certainly believe that John is not devoid of grace or the Work of the Spirit in his life. But we are all capable of “quenching the Spirit”. Again, what I said requires a robust understanding, and should not have been said unless I was going to make that understanding clear. I won’t defend what I did not make absolutely clear.

      Perhaps my experience has skewed my view. Granted. perhaps your experience has skewed yours? Is this something you will grant? I can only speak to my experiences. Others are free to accept, reject, learn from or interact with those experiences as they see fit.

      . Indeed there is only one faith! But does that mean all who claim to preach the gospel are part of that faith? Arians were not part of that faith. Nestorians were not part of that faith. Gnostics were not part of that faith. There comes a point when the changes made to a group become so far removed from faithful Christisnity that we say so. Are Mormons part of the faith? Jehovah’s witnesses? Unitarians? You? Me? Who is part of the One Church? What makes you part of the Apostoloc faith? What makes me part of that faith?

      Mormons fight tooth and nail these days to be called “Christians” just like anyone else. Does this make it so? Do consistent statements that one is part of the one faith make it so?

      some of us in the above list are not fsithful to that gospel, and this was what Mr. shearouse came here to tell us unequivocally; that we Orthodox are unfaithful to the gospel, “warning” us against our praxis even. For us, the opposite is true. But what is good for the goose is not good for the gander. Counter warnings are uncharitable, but how would you characterize his ibteractions here from the beginning? IMO he came out swinging.

      But back to my failings….Apologies for making a statement that could be construed in any possible interpretive light. The problem with writing is that we often know what we mean and the theology that informs our statements. The fact that you and Mr. Shearouse do not share those understandings makes it incumbent upon me to be more careful and /or clear so as to not avoid misunderstandings.

      I’m i am learning that the old Marine in me needs to smooth out the rough edges.

  21. Just to interject but the Krugeran Epistemology is based on what Reformed theology would call Presuppositionalism. It is a well known fact that this system of epistemology is circular indeed. Particularly when it acknowledges that all forms of reasoning would inadvitably be Circular. What I personally dislike about Presuppositionalism which Kruger himself used to justify the 66 book canon of Protestantism is the fact that it leaves no neutral ground to engage with non believers or potential inquirers into Christianity. Second off is that we can pretty much attribute Divine Inspiration to any text by virtue of these texts claiming so. We can easily adapt Presuppositionalism to prove the Quran or the Vedas of Hinduism. In a discussion with one of my Reformed friends regarding Presuppositionalism, I pointed this out. The result was silence and an admittance that he could not answer this problem.

    Getting to the topic of praying to the Theotokos, I think that it is important. I would be arguing from a Confucianist standpoint for this.

    The goal of Confucianist philosophy is to harmonize one’s will with that of the T’ian(Heaven). Confucius himself never gave any clear or strict definition of what T’ian is. Thus, as Christians we can say that we must align our wills with that of God’s as expressed down in Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church. According to Confucianism, one of the ways to align one’s will to that of the T’ian is through Ren(humaneness) which would then naturally extends towards Li(Ritual or Rites), the outward expression of Ren which is innate.

    Part of Ren involves caring for the wellbeing of others which leads to another fundamental aspect of Confucianism, Filial Piety which is even elevated above Ren itself at times. Prayers to Mary can be taken as an expression of this particularly when Mary is the mother of God(Jesus) and all Christians(given that the act of Jesus declaring to St John that she is his mother is also symbolic of how Mary is now the mother of all Christians). As the Mother of God, Mary is the greatest of all Saints for being the one who brought life and salvation to the world in contrast to Eve who brought death and sin. This parallels the aspect of Mary being the mother of humanity itself just as Eve was in the Old Testament. Given this, it is appropriate and even necessary that we honor Mary and pray to her. It is an expression of love and respect for what she did and in virtue of her being our mother who brought us the door to eternal life through the ultimate example of Synergy and humility through obedience to God. These acts of prayer and veneration of Mary following the Confucianist philosophical thought would actually be associated with obedience, love and loyalty towards God Himself. In the Old Testament, one of the Ten Commandments inform us to honor our mother and father. Given this, the very act of venerating Mary is in fact an act of aligning oneself towards the Will of God or the T’ian as in Confucianism and is in fact quite necessary.

    1. You are right in that presuppositionalism maintains the position that all arguments are circular because they all must ultimately rely on a basis proved by itself. If someone tells you they only use reason based on observation to verify truth; then ask that person to account for the validity of reason and observation without using either. As they cannot, and since they must use autonomous reason to justify reason, they show that is their presupposition. The key is whether or not an argument can remain internally consistent based on its presupposition. The Christian Presuppositionalist argues that only Triune Christianity can maintain this consistency. For example, the atheistic materialist that uses the problem of evil to attack Christianity is not being internally consistent because in their worldview there is no such thing as evil. There can be no true neutral ground argument in this instance because the question is illogical based on their system. If they want to admit that there is such a thing as evil then they have already abandoned their worldview.
      The same argument can be made that other systems like Hinduism and Islam also prove themselves inconsistent. For instance, Hinduism teaches that our reality is an illusion and thus discounts the uniformity of nature, however, its believers live their lives and practice things like science based on this uniformity in spite of their beliefs. Also, being monistic Hinduism denies that there are any distinctions in ultimate reality but then goes on to distinguish between maya and nirvana. Islam, on the other hand, being Unitarian cannot account for the problem of the one and the many. As well, when Islam affirms the truth of the Bible it denies the validity of the Koran since all true prophets of God must agree with previous revelation and Mohammed taught things that were at odds with the Bible. Also, the Islamic principle of Mukhalafa so stresses the transcendence and unknowability of Allah in human category or language that it in essence denies the validity of the Koran since the Koran itself attempts to relate knowledge of God through human language and category.
      I would strongly encourage you to never rely on false religions or the teachings of demons to justify a principle of Christianity. Whatever small amounts of truth that can be found in them will always be tainted or poisoned by their corrupt foundation.

  22. Granted, at first glance, the use of reason to justify the validity of reason itself may seem circular given that any justification for its validity would inevitably involve the exercise of reason itself. However this is not so once we get deeper into how reason works, it’s basically making sense of the external world based on premises and the use of presupposed axioms which serves as the foundation for gaining any knowledge about the external world. So to justify whether or not reason itself is valid for obtaining knowledge, we are not referring to the act of reasoning itself but rather, axioms and premises. To question the very validity of the exercise of reason as a faculty in itself would lead us to nowhere since without it, we would not be able to gain any knowledge about the external world given that there is already nothing of which to serve as a foundation to increase the deposit of information given that the very faculty needed to gain this truth is pretty much uncertain. Thus, we are left without any means of gaining information about ourselves or even the external world itself. This is precisely why the faculty of reason and axioms are needed. Without them, we can’t get anywhere and would actually mean that we can’t even know whether or not Scripture itself is Divinely Inspired or even have any grounds of accepting its claim to Divine Inspiration.

    I don’t see anything wrong with Atheists bringing up the Problem of Evil argument. Granted, within an Atheistic framework, there is no room for an objective morality. But this need not matter to the Atheist as the goal is simply to expose a contradiction in the propositions of Christianity by positing how a benevolent deity(through the definition that Christianity would use for the term “benevolent”) could allow for Evil to occur in this world despite being all powerful and having the very capability to stop this. Given that the non Presuppositionalist Christian and Atheist will agree on the rules of logic, there is neutral ground for dialogue on this issue and for both sides to gain something. I admit that I can’t convert any Atheist by arguing with him as William Lane Craig would with Hitchens or Harris but at least I can give something for him/her to think about through what I know and my personal opinions and meditate on what the opposing side would bring to the table. Denying any neutral ground to me is kinda question begging and kinda arrogant. This is why while I am not a William Lane Craig fan, I can at least appreciate the fact that he gives neutral ground for the Atheist to actually express his/her arguments and viewpoints and tackle them head on rather than go on the retreat and avoid them all together.

    I think it is important to note that Hinduism ain’t some monolithic viewpoint. There are varying schools of thought within it some of which such as the Nyaya school that present arguments for the existence of God which have similarities with Aquinas in some aspects. Because of the multiplicity of perspectives in Hinduism, I won’t comment much about it.

    I’m no expert in Islam but just because Muhammad taught things contrary to the Bible and affirms the truth of it, it doesn’t follow that Islam is somehow invalidated. Islam would say that some parts of the Bible is true while interpretations of which such as the Trinity or deity of Christ would be false. Muslim apologists can conjur interpretations of the OT prophets such that they are in line with the revelation of Muhammad. Stressing the unknowability of Allah in human language and thought also does not count as somehow invalidating the Quran, unless God in the Quran is somehow described in the way a marketing textbook describe the workings of Market Research.

    It is true that we shouldn’t rely too much on false religions. But we must understand that there is always a degree of truth found in them and can be used for Christianity’s benefit. Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria are examples of those who use what is good from Pagan philosophy to validate Christianity. So I would say that we can use what is beneficial from other religions but be vary of aspects which are incompatible with Christianity. For example, we can use some of the arguments of the Nyaya school of Hinduism to argue for God’s existence but we cannot accept the concept of Reincarnation or that Ganesha and Krishna are divine beings.

    1. “To question the very validity of the exercise of reason as a faculty in itself would lead us to nowhere since without it, we would not be able to gain any knowledge about the external world”
      Please don’t misunderstand, the Christian Presuppositionalist does not eschew the use of reason, it makes liberal use of it. It simply argues that some other systems cannot account for their use of it. For instance, why should the atheistic materialist give any more credence to his reasoning than that of a monkey since both are just consequentialist-synapse firings within bags of meat and bone. They have no reason to trust their reasoning.

      “we are not referring to the act of reasoning itself but rather, axioms and premises.”
      Exactly, I was not necessarily referring to reason as a process but as a foundational axiom. But if you don’t like that example, then fine, you are still agreeing with my point that all arguments eventually find their way back to a presupposed axiom. In other words everyone does it, it’s just who is consistent in doing it.

      “But this need not matter to the Atheist as the goal is simply to expose a contradiction in the propositions of Christianity”
      I would say it does matter, because to even ask the question they must step over any supposed neutral ground and stand on or borrow from the Christian worldview. The point is that they must abandon their system to ask the question. Why is this important? Even if you answer them with a coherent rebuttal, it’s not going to make a difference because those who suppress the truth in unrighteousness are more concerned with attacking your system than any real specific example. I’ve seen it happen before, you can answer specific objections all day long and they will do nothing but just constantly search for another. It is more important to simply attack the foundation of their system because this will bring down any and all of their objections. For example, if you want to cut down a tree you don’t cut off the branches, you cut it at the trunk and dig out the root.

      “Given that the non Presuppositionalist Christian and Atheist will agree on the rules of logic”
      Not granted, while the Atheist can make use of logic, they cannot account for its existence or validity, and thus are arguing inconsistently

      “I think it is important to note that Hinduism ain’t some monolithic viewpoint”
      Irrelevant, I was just giving specific examples of where it can sometimes be inconsistent. The point is simply that their texts fail the test of Divine Inspiration because they are inconsistent.

      “Islam would say that some parts of the Bible is true while interpretations of which such as the Trinity or deity of Christ would be false”
      I’m not just referring to interpretations; there are specific differences such as wrongly calling Mary, and not Miriam, the sister of Aaron or claiming that Judas was crucified in place of Jesus.

      “Stressing the unknowability of Allah in human language and thought also does not count as somehow invalidating the Quran”
      I would say it does, if you claim that God cannot be described or known through human language, and then say you have a human language text that describes and makes God known, then you are contradicting yourself. Only Christianity can reconcile both the imminence and transcendence of God.

      “Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria are examples of those who use what is good from Pagan philosophy to validate Christianity”
      Just because a few individuals may have done it does not mean we should or that it is right. A more important measure is whether Scripture or Council has done so.

      1. It doesn’t matter whether Presuppositionalism eschews the use of reason or discourage it. By definition, it is already the exercise of reason itself. The only difference between reason as the faculty as philosophers would see and the Presuppositionalist is that the former leaves room for amendments and change. It follows rules and axioms which serve as the foundation for gathering any knowledge about the external world. Presuppositionalism closes doors by preventing any objections to be raised against it. Any valid problems with the system is left unaddressed and unanswered by virtue that they have no right to even exercise their reason to begin with. This is already exemplified by your very point about Atheists have no reason to even trust their reasoning simply by virtue of their materialistic viewpoint which already serves as a discussion killer. The discussion is effectively over before it can even begin with an argument like that.

        Again, just because everyone uses a set of foundational axioms in exercising their reason does it entail that their reasoning is circular. It’s not. Basic logic and philosophy doesn’t even hide this fact to begin with. A foundational axiom is simply something we all know or take to be true without question such as “I’m not omniscient” or “I have the ability of perception”. These are what we can know to be true by virtue of our personal experience with them which is common to any other sentient entity that exist. We also can give a non circular justification for taking these foundational axioms as true that is their very necessity for gathering any information about the external world and make progress. This doesn’t even rely on claiming these axioms as the conclusion. Taking the Presuppositionalist route would entail that we can’t even know unless the Calvinistic god as taken by the Calvinist reading of Scripture to be true since the Calvinist interpretation is what that is considered to be what the Bible actually conveys rather than any logical reason of doing so, particularly questionable aspects of Calvinism such as Limited Atonement, Penal Substitutionary Atonement and the rejection of Libertarian Free Will which all go against the very definition of omnibenevolence particularly when circular reasoning is already justified to begin with which effectively reduce it to “Calvinism is true because its interpretation of Scripture says so”.

        “I would say it does matter, because to even ask the question they must step over any supposed neutral ground and stand on or borrow from the Christian worldview. The point is that they must abandon their system to ask the question. ”

        This is a rather arrogant approach when dealing with Atheists. If I were one and I got told this when presenting my arguments, I probably in all honesty walk away rather than entertain since nobody is gonna gain anything from it. Even if the opposing side is simply gonna come up with new arguments, running away by going towards the Presuppositional apologetics route as we see men like Holvind and Sye would do is only running away from the question and ignoring arguments. Not something that Christianity is known for doing throughout the years if you ask me.

        What you did is simply prove that certain Hindi schools of thought are inconsistent. It’s just like me refuting Gnosticism and then claiming that Christianity is inconsistent because of it. It doesn’t work that way. Even then, these very objections can be easily answered by the Hindu his/herself to begin with and can even switch the inconsistency towards the Presuppositionalist.

        Islam doesn’t even take the New Testament as true to begin with. They only see certain parts of the Bible to be true not all of it. I’m no expert on Islam so I wouldn’t be going through this much.

        It’s not just a few individuals. Practically quite a number of Church Fathers do this, even the infamous St Augustine himself who drew from Neoplatonism. The use of Pagan philosophy to defend and even develop Christian theology isn’t done by a mere few individuals as you claimed. This is not to say that all the Church Fathers does this. There are generally two positions on this, the incompatabilist view and compatabilist positions when it comes to the Church Fathers on the benefits of Pagan philosophy.

        1. “A foundational axiom is simply something we all know or take to be true without question such as “I’m not omniscient” or “I have the ability of perception”. These are what we can know to be true by virtue of our personal experience”
          A better definition is that an epistemological axiom in philosophy is an irreducible or indemonstrable primary. It is a foundation of knowledge or something that cannot be proved without reference to itself. If anything can be shown to precede it, then that in turn becomes the axiom. For example, how do you know you are not omniscient or have sense perception? If you answer that it is through personal experience, then personal experience is your epistemological axiom. These two statements are then postulates or conclusions, not starting points.

          “The only difference between reason as the faculty as philosophers would see and the Presuppositionalist is that the former leaves room for amendments and change.”
          We may be talking past each other here because I was not referring to reason as faculty; I was referencing more the abstract use of epistemic or evidential reason.
          For example, take this quote from C.S. Lewis that undermines the presuppositions of Hume’s argument against miracles (as he can state it more eloquently then I could ever hope to): “Now of course we must agree with Hume that if there is absolutely ‘uniform experience’ against miracles, if in other words they have never happened, why then they never have. Unfortunately we know the experience against them to be uniform only if we know that all the reports of them are false. And we can know all the reports to be false only if we know already that miracles have never occurred. In fact, we are arguing in a circle.”
          Hume also states in his argument that even all historians attested to a miraculous event and no naturalistic explanation could be given, he “would still reply, that the knavery and folly of men are such common phenomena, that I should rather believe the most extraordinary events to arise from their occurrence, than admit of so signal a violation of the laws of nature”. In other words, despite any evidence Hume will not admit to miracles because they simply violate his operating assumption about the universe and nothing will convince him otherwise. As Bahnsen has noted, the “denial of the very possibility of miracles is not a piece of evidence for rejecting the Christian worldview, but simply a specific manifestation of that very rejection.” It’s not that Christians should flee or be afraid of evidentiary arguments; it’s just that they need to understand that their proper understanding can only be found within a theistic worldview.

          “Islam doesn’t even take the New Testament as true to begin with.”
          The Koran in Surah 5:46 affirms the Torah and the Gospel message – “And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which came before him in the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous.” So yes, the Gospel in this context does not intend the four gospels written but at least the gospel message revealed in some proto-form. However, it is a bold denial of history to affirm that Jesus brought a Gospel message, one which acknowledged and included His crucifixion for 600 years in an out of Scripture, and then of all of a sudden deny the crucifixion of Jesus as part of that gospel message.

          “What you did is simply prove that certain Hindi schools of thought are inconsistent”
          Not really, the original point to your presuppositionalist friend was that the Vedas could be proven divinely true using the self-attesting presuppositional method. I am pointing out that the Vedas (texts recognized by all Hindus) fail this test. Again, for example, the Vedas teaching on maya makes knowledge in this distorted and illusory word incoherent. If we cannot trust our senses and the things perceived by them in this world, then this calls into question our ability to accurately perceive and thus gain truth through the Vedas themselves.

          “This is a rather arrogant approach when dealing with Atheists”
          Sorry if I seem blunt, I was only doing so here for the sake of brevity. If I were really interacting with a questioner I would try to be much more gentle or tactful. There is nothing wrong with answering such a question per se, especially if they are sincere. I would just say that it is better to at first point out to them where the problem is with their question and then go on to answer why and how Christianity in turn can reconcile the issue while theirs cannot. After all, every Christian should be willing and able to give an account for the belief. However, I do not think this account must only consist of a point by point refutation, but as in the words of Kuyper – “principle must be arrayed against principle”.

          1. A Foundational axiom is simply a proposition which doesn’t need any other subsequent proofs and is self evident. Just as how I have the ability of perception and that I’m not omniscient. These are plainly obvious to practically everyone that we can easily accept these two propositions as true without question. It is not the “experience” of such that would be the foundational axiom. While axioms such as “I’m not omniscient” are postulates, they are still starting points. They are the anchor in which we use to then gain information about the external world. Without them, we can’t know anything.

            Regarding miracles, Atheists can simply lay the claim that these miracles are simply the laws of nature which we do not have any understanding of manifesting themselves. After all, if I were to travel back in time and conduct the double slit experiment in front of Hume, the very collapse of particles into wave functions could be something “miraculous”. I take no issue with what CS Lewis have to say about Hume here since it is under the context that we simply cannot start with the assumption that historically, no miracles occurred and use that as a basis of disproving the plausibility of miracles to occur given that it is simply begging the question. I wouldn’t be placing any judgement on what Bahnsen noted as you cited. But I would add that if he is simply using this as a basis to avoid any argument that purports to show why miracles can’t occur, then he is not doing a good job by making that claim. After all any arguments against them can be seen as a “manifestation of that very rejection”. True enough, Christians shouldn’t flee from evidential arguments but Christians also should not create excuses to close the discussion as Presuppositionalism would do and in fact do some work to show how the Theistic worldview is consistent and is the most plausible.

            Again, I’m no expert on Islam but, I do know that they could simply argue that the Gospel as Christianity would see it was edited. Remember, Islam do believe that there’s some truth in the Christian Scriptures but they are also “altered” and a Muslim apologist can simply appeal to that supposed “alteration”. Referring to Biblical scholarship on the New Testament should be able to refute this, particularly to testimonies of the Church Fathers before Islam even arose.

            Again, the Nyaya school of Hinduism doesn’t posit this for example. They do not see the external world as an illusion. Hinduism isn’t just a single thought of ideas. The Vedas like Scripture can be interpreted differently. This is why we get the very disputes in Protestantism in the first place over issues such as the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Baptism, Free Will and Predestination. But of course, let’s grant your argument here for a second. There’s a problem with this, even if the external world is somehow an illusion, understanding the mechanisms of this illusion may have benefits and thus warrant the pursuit of science to find ways to cope and even “hack” the system.

            The very projection the Presuppositionalist makes towards the Atheist or any non Christian(or even non Calvinist) is already in my opinion, arrogant. Presuppositionalists see Atheists as presupposing the Calvinistic god each time they make sense of the world or exercise reason. Their very own system of thought already denies any neutral ground towards the inquirer given that they can’t even raise legitimate theological questions such as on the Problem of Evil given the very point you raised prior about how there is no “objective moral standpoint” in an Atheistic viewpoint. Hiding all these impressions under the facade of answering the questions of the inquirer is in some sense…deception.

          2. “It is not the “experience” of such that would be the foundational axiom.”
            Sorry, by your own admission personal experience is your foundation of knowledge in the example you gave. It is how you know, or your epistemology. “I am not omniscient because experience tells me this”. Think of Descartes’ classic Cogito Ergo Sum or “I think, therefore I am”. “I am” is not the axiom itself. He is saying I am because my thinking tells me this, or my thinking tells me that I am. Thinking, or better yet Consciousness, is his foundation on which all other knowledge is built, it is his irreducible primary. The statement “I am not omniscient” is demonstrable or provable because you are saying that my experience of the ability to learn new things tells me this. Your experience is the foundational axiom because it is what is telling you that you are not omniscient. Take this Oxford English Dictionary’s connection between indemonstrable to axioms in Philosophy:
            “1.1 Philosophy (Of a truth) axiomatic and hence unprovable.
            Example Sentence
            Part of the issue rests on the requirement that first principles, which assert primary, indemonstrable attributes of their subjects, be necessary truths.”

            “Again, the Nyaya school of Hinduism doesn’t posit this for example. They do not see the external world as an illusion”
            Being unfamiliar with the specific Nyaya school, I just did a quick Wiki search and this shows up in the header – “False knowledge is not merely ignorance to Naiyayikas, it includes delusion. Correct knowledge is discovering and overcoming one’s delusions, and understanding true nature of soul, self and reality.” So if I am suffering because I am trapped in ignorance and what I perceive may be “delusions”, then how can I trust what I am reading in the Vedas?

          3. Sorry for the late reply here.

            The validity of experience in gaining knowledge is based on the axiom that we have the ability of perception. No experience cannot be gained if this axiom is not accepted given that all experience is derived from sensory or cognitive perceptions such as touch or the act of thought itself. This axiom thus precedes experience. These axioms are even accepted in the first place on the basis that each and everyone experiences the same thing about them and anyone that I would ask would tell me that they aren’t omniscient and have the ability to perceive something thus being propositions which are classified as axioms. After all things like qualia are taken to be true but are not empirically proven. I would not say that experience is the foundation of all knowledge but rather the ability of experience since without them, no experience can be encountered.

            I find your attempt to invalidate Hinduism or the Nyaya school of it quite unsatisfying since the same can be said about Presuppositionalism.

            Because part of the Presuppositionalist viewpoint presupposes that all human beings are Totally Depraved and do not seek God(they can’t to begin with), how do you know that your interpretation of Scripture itself is the real one given this depravity? How would you know that Satan isn’t deceiving you here?

            Also doesn’t the very act of making sense of the words of Scripture involves the exercise of cognitive faculties which would be damaged by the Fall? What if they weren’t regenerated at all and that the Presuppositionalist reading of Scripture is wrong?

          4. “I would not say that experience is the foundation of all knowledge but rather the ability of experience”
            How do you know that you have this ability? Aren’t you really saying that you know you have this ability to experience because you have experienced sensory input? As Hume admitted: “To the question What is the nature of all our reasonings concerning matter of fact? the proper answer seems to be that they are based on the relation of cause and effect. When it is further asked, What is the foundation of all our reasonings about cause and effect? we can answer in one word, experience.” In turn, on what grounds do you even trust this ability (or the experience itself) to give you accurate knowledge? Aren’t you really basing the justification of experience to give you knowledge on something like the uniformity of nature, otherwise experience is meaningless because there is no logical reason to assume that the future will imitate the past? Or again as Hume admitted “even after we have experience of the operations of cause and effect, the conclusions we draw from that experience are not based on reasoning or on any process of the understanding.”

            “I find your attempt to invalidate Hinduism or the Nyaya school of it quite unsatisfying since the same can be said about Presuppositionalism.”
            Not so, the Bible does not discount our ability to accurately perceive or interpret reality as opposed to someone trapped in a world of illusion or delusion.

            “Because part of the Presuppositionalist viewpoint presupposes that all human beings are Totally Depraved and do not seek God(they can’t to begin with), how do you know that your interpretation of Scripture itself is the real one given this depravity? How would you know that Satan isn’t deceiving you here?”
            Incorrect, the concept of Total Depravity is a doctrine built on the presupposition that the Triune God exists and reveals Himself through Scripture. It is not an epistemological presupposition itself. The doctrine’s formulation would be open to debate within the framework that Scripture is true. Satan cannot alter our reality or take away our ability to accurately perceive it, he can only seek to morally corrupt our understanding of truth.

            “Also doesn’t the very act of making sense of the words of Scripture involves the exercise of cognitive faculties which would be damaged by the Fall?””
            Yes, cognitive faculties are used – no, they are not functionally damaged by the Fall. Man’s rejection of truth and separation from God are a moral issue, not an intellectual or cognitive one. A natural man can read the Scriptures and accurately perceive or gain knowledge; they just choose to suppress the truth in unrighteousness and their choice to reason apart from him prevents them from coming to a true or consistent understanding.

            “After all things like qualia are taken to be true but are not empirically proven”
            Now you are hitting on one of the arguments of presuppositionalism, that whatever you use as the basis of knowledge is necessarily something that cannot be proved without reference to itself. Hence this is why all arguments are ultimately circular.

        2. “How do you know that you have this ability? Aren’t you really saying that you know you have this ability to experience because you have experienced sensory input?”

          This is one thing but another is the assumption that these experiences are real and aid in gaining insights into gaining information about the External World. After all, if we doubt these experiences and our ability to actually have it, we would be stuck in a deadlock of knowledge and no form of progression can be made regarding knowledge. It is not the feeling or experience that form the ultimate foundational axiom not to say that they aren’t important.

          “Not so, the Bible does not discount our ability to accurately perceive or interpret reality as opposed to someone trapped in a world of illusion or delusion.”

          In Calvinism, it already does through this thing called Total Depravity. Granted, Total Depravity does not alter or affect the ability to reason. I never said that it does, rather that nobody would seek God on their own accord given the depravity they have according to Presuppositionalism. I never said that Satan could somehow alter reality for example, suspending the law of Gravity. The focus of my point is regarding deception which even you noted that “he can only seek to morally corrupt our understanding of truth. ” This could be so when it comes to reading or interpreting Scripture itself. Satan could very well be using the deduced interpretation as deceiving the individual as he/she reads the Scriptures. It could be that my approach to Scripture could be a work of Satan or maybe Luther’s approach or that of Wesley’s or even yours under the very same implication of Presuppositionalism.

          Also could it be that the same denial of God and the truth be said about the Presuppositionalist’s own interpretation of Scripture? People are known to engage in rationalization to justify their beliefs be it true or delusional. Thus, one could easily come up with an all new interpretation of Scripture that contradicts and opposes the truth following this Depravity and thus would not bother to come to God in the first place. If this is true then how can the Presuppositionalist’s own interpretation of Scripture be true? What if it is a deception by Satan or blatant rationalization in an effort to deny the truth?

          Again, basing foundational knowledge on axioms do not count as making all reasoning circular. It does not work that way. For a reasoning to be circular, the very conclusion of the argument itself is found in the premises presented. Basing all knowledge on foundational axioms do not cause this but Presuppositionalism does given that in the first place, nothing about reality itself could be known without Scripture itself.

          1. “After all, if we doubt these experiences and our ability to actually have it, we would be stuck in a deadlock of knowledge and no form of progression can be made regarding knowledge.”
            Exactly, this is the dilemma of those that argue from autonomous naturalistic reasoning; they have no rational basis to trust their experiences or what implications can be drawn from them as there is no reason to expect that the past will be an indicator of the future.

            “rather that nobody would seek God on their own accord given the depravity they have according to Presuppositionalism… This could be so when it comes to reading or interpreting Scripture itself.”
            Whether you want to attribute why Paul said none seek after God to TD or something else is inconsequential to the basis of Presuppositionalism. Presuppositionalism does not equal or require Calvinism. It is true that most of its proponents are to be found in Reformed schools of thought and seek to incorporate certain aspects of that system, however, there are Presuppositionalists that are not Calvinists and there are Calvinists that hate Presuppositionalism. The two are not interdependent.
            Correct me if I am wrong, but you seem to be saying that private interpretation can be corrupted. I agree and reject private interpretation. That is why I would endorse the notion that God will ultimately guide the Church and protect truth via the Holy Ghost and the Divine Revelations found in Scripture and the historic Church, such as what has been witnessed through ecumenical creeds.

            “Again, basing foundational knowledge on axioms do not count as making all reasoning circular. It does not work that way. For a reasoning to be circular, the very conclusion of the argument itself is found in the premises presented.”
            Okay, justify how you know that experience or the ability to experience is true and a valid basis for acquiring knowledge (which is your conclusion) without making reference to experience or your ability to experience.

  23. For those who are arguing about the differences between the Masoretic and Septuagint texts, I would like to point out two things. One, you should be careful not to espouse a sort of quasi Septuagint-onlyism because the Apostles also made use of other texts like the Targum, Samaritan, and Aramaic editions of the Hebrew Bible for OT quotations. Second, the textual distinctions are irrelevant when it comes to the canonical lists because the Masoretic edition did not even exist when the Church Fathers were constructing them. The real qualifier is what books appeared in the Hebrew Bible in general. To answer this I would offer what can be found in a recent catechism of the Russian Orthodox Church (note this is long after the synods at Jassy and Jerusalem)

    “31. How many are the books of the Old Testament?
    St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Athanasius the Great, and St. John Damascene reckon them at twenty-two, agreeing therein with the Jews, who so reckon them in the original Hebrew tongue. (Athanas. Ep. xxxix. De Test.; J. Damasc. Theol. lib. iv. c. 17.)
    32. Why should we attend to the reckoning of the Hebrews?
    Because, as the Apostle Paul says, unto them were committed the oracles of God; and the sacred books of the Old Testament have been received from the Hebrew Church of that Testament by the Christian Church of the New. Rom. iii. 2.
    33. How do St. Cyril and St. Athanasius enumerate the books of the Old Testament?
    As follows: 1, The book of Genesis; 2, Exodus; 3, Leviticus; 4, the book of Numbers; 5, Deuteronomy; 6, the book of Jesus the son of Nun; 7, the book of Judges, and with it, as an appendix, the book of Ruth; 8, the first and second books of Kings, as two parts of one book; 9, the third and fourth books of Kings; 10, the first and second books of Paralipomena; 11, the first book of Esdras, and the second, or, as it is entitled in Greek, the book of Nehemiah; 12, the book of Esther; 13, the book of Job; 14, the Psalms; 15, the Proverbs of Solomon; 16, Ecclesiastes, also by Solomon; 17, the Song of Songs, also by Solomon; 18, the book of the Prophet Isaiah; 19, of Jeremiah; 20, of Ezekiel; 21, of Daniel; 22, of the Twelve Prophets.
    34. Why is there no notice taken in this enumeration of the books of the Old Testament of the book of the Wisdom of the son of Sirach, and of certain others?
    Because they do not exist in the Hebrew.
    35. How are we to regard these last-named books?
    Athanasius the Great says that they have been appointed of the Fathers to be read by proselytes who are preparing for admission into the Church.”

    I would offer that the historic (though often not modern) Protestant regard for the Apocrypha is essentially in agreement with this Russian Catechism. While it recognized the value and edifying nature of these books, it simply did not place them on the same level as what was canonized by the Hebrew Church. For example, the Anglican lectionary includes public readings from books like Wisdom and Sirach during Morning and Evening prayers despite not recognizing them as canonical. I would also argue that just as Orthodoxy considers Scripture the crown jewel of Holy Tradition; it also considers the four Gospels the crown jewel of the Scriptures themselves. As has been pointed out on this site, historic Councils and Synods have recognized different lists and it appears that it can do this because it does not give equal weight and value to all books, they are gradated out from the central anchor of the Gospels.

    1. Hi Erik,

      The entire reason for bringing up the LXX vs. the MT was to highlight the dependence on “tradition” for what scripture “is” in the first place.

      One, you should be careful not to espouse a sort of quasi Septuagint-onlyism because the Apostles also made use of other texts like the Targum, Samaritan, and Aramaic editions of the Hebrew Bible for OT quotations

      Two points in response. One….regarding “quasi Septuagint-onlyism.” Agreed and disagree simultaneously. The great breadth and depth of texts available to us should be used as a comparative tool. But, The Church has always…always…always used the Septuagint and has seen it as inspired (not inerrant).

      Two, if and where the Apostles used the Targum, Samaritan and Aramaic editions – all of those clearly agreed with the Septuagint….not the MT. It’s probably muddier than that, but as a generality, it’s true.

      The point here is that if you are part of a Christian tradition that ostensibly places ALL of it’s eggs in the Scriptures “sola scriptura,” then that tradition needs to ensure that the Scriptures it uses are not variants of the originals and that they have a firm basis in history of being used by Hebrews and Christians. The MT fails on both counts. Unfortunately, it cannot be said with a straight face that the MT are not intentional variants of the Hebrew OT. And as you pointed out….they did not exist until near the end of the 1st millennium AD.

      Second, the textual distinctions are irrelevant when it comes to the canonical lists because the Masoretic edition did not even exist when the Church Fathers were constructing them.

      Not irrelevant. The entire point is that the Masoretic text DID NOT exist and that the Jewish canon was never a closed canon up until the 2nd or 3rd century AD. They might be irrelevant to the Fathers, but they certainly are should not be irrelevant to a Protestant tradition which wants to point to the Church Fathers with one hand and deny them with the other? And then to further muddy the waters, they use a text with variances and a canon which supports their denial of tradition….all under the assumption that rabbinic Judaism had kept pure what the Church must have corrupted. When all historical, archaeological and textual studies show just the opposite, they simply pretend none of this matters.

      The real qualifier is what books appeared in the Hebrew Bible in general. There was no “Hebrew Bible” until Jamnia….there were only “the Scriptures” and just like the Church, various regions and sects within Judaism utilized different Scriptures. The Pharisees and the Saducees being a perfect example. But there was no canonized “Hebrew Bible” in general….so I don’t see your point. The real qualifier cannot be what did not exist as a cohesive “thing.” Maybe I’m misunderstanding you.

      As has been pointed out on this site, historic Councils and Synods have recognized different lists and it appears that it can do this because it does not give equal weight and value to all books, they are gradated out from the central anchor of the Gospels.

      And I think this is the most important thing for us to recognize. The whole discussion of the differences between the canon and the texts of the LXX matter less to Orthodoxy than they do to the very underlying premises of Protestantism. We have a great Tradition within which sits the Scriptures….they are inseparable from it…an expression of it…part of the Life of the Church. But when they become a “rule book” which must be interpreted without the Tradition and Life of the Spirit in the Church (Tradition is the Life of the Holy Spirit) then one is forced to defend the very use of the MT and the canon as formed by Protestants because it is the very measure for everything done or not done. Of course that only solves one problems with abuses of Tradition by the RCC, and creates thousands of other abuses because now everyone is sole interpreter of “scripture alone.” Every single denomination that exists tries to say it is living by scripture.

      If I am building a house using blueprints…but the blueprints have been altered by someone, I’m going to build a unsafe, unsound house. I can point to the blueprints all I want and say “the blueprints say so” but the very fact that the blueprints themselves show a door on the roof and a toilet in the kitchen don’t change the fact that they are altered plans. When someone comes along and shows me that they are not the original, and I keep pointing to the altered plans saying…no they’re the same…and I continue to build my house…I’m only hurting myself and others whom I show how to build houses with altered plans.

      Why doesn’t Orthodoxy have the same issue and the same vulnerability? Because it uses the blueprints ALONG with master builders and the knowledge of building that has been handed down. IT knows how to read the blueprints…it has the tools to build the house, it even knows from experience that the blueprints don’t teach a novice the intricacies of the art of building a house. The blueprints will NEVER tell me that when I apply this paint in this way, that the dry time will be variable and that in humid weather I ought to do A, B or C to deal that reality. It will never tell me that when I put a board up and leave it without doing A,B, or C that the board may warp. Only life in and within the world of construction can teach me that. The same applies to the Christian life. Reconstituting the Church from Scripture is like building a house with blueprints, but no experienced workers, no tools, no understanding of how to go about the process, and the hubris to never ask anyone else with experience what might work. You might get close…but you might also end up with leaky, unstable and unsafe home.

      In the military and paramedicine you quickly learn that the guys who are “by the book” can never learn how to do their jobs effectively because they are stuck in a book…not in reality. No doctor, no nurse, no paramedic CAN EVER become any of those things through book learning….they must be APPRENTICED in a hospital. The books about medicine are a reflection of what happens in the hospital, not vice versa, and if a doctor ever told me he never worked in a hospital before, but simply read all the books on medicine at the library…he has disembodied medicine from the only place the art can truly be learned. That “doctor” is not qualified to touch me.

      1. “Two, if and where the Apostles used the Targum, Samaritan and Aramaic editions – all of those clearly agreed with the Septuagint….not the MT. It’s probably muddier than that, but as a generality, it’s true.”
        You could probably say more often than not, but definitely not always. For example Mat. 12:18-21, Rom. 12:19, Heb. 10:30, Mar. 4:12, Eph. 4:8, and Acts 7:4 are examples that either do not agree with the Septuagint or differ from both the Septuagint and Masoretic.

        “Not irrelevant. The entire point is that the Masoretic text DID NOT exist and that the Jewish canon was never a closed canon up until the 2nd or 3rd century AD…There was no “Hebrew Bible” until Jamnia….there were only “the Scriptures” and just like the Church, various regions and sects within Judaism utilized different Scriptures. The Pharisees and the Saducees being a perfect example. But there was no canonized “Hebrew Bible” in general….so I don’t see your point. The real qualifier cannot be what did not exist as a cohesive “thing.””

        I’m not saying there are irrelevant to all discussions, just as it relates to Early Church canonical lists.

        With respect to Pharisees and Sadducees, it is most likely not true that the Sadducees only recognized the Pentateuch. Rather, it is more likely, they simply rejected the unwritten traditions of the Pharisees. To support this case it can be shown in the Talmud that the Sadducees utilized books outside of the Pentateuch to support their arguments.

        If you reckon Jamnia as the point at which the Hebrews canonized books, this was in the first century and not the 2nd or 3rd. More importantly, on the one hand it has been argued that Jamnia as a council is a fabrication that never happened, with its first mention not being until 1871. On the other, if you consider the discussions of ben Zakkai found in the Mishnah, which took place in the “vineyard of Jabneh”, to represent this council, then they if fact introduced no innovations in the canon but reviewed what was handed down to them and left them as it was. Thus they simply recognized a canon that existed well before the first century. While there is no majority historian consensus as to when the OT canon was “officially” closed, most place well before the first century – anywhere from 116 to 587 BC.

        Perhaps I am wrong to use the term Hebrew Bible, but it seems that Cyril, Athanasius, John Damascene, Philaret of Moscow, and Holy Synods of the Russian Orthodox Church would disagree with you about the importance of what books were received and preserved as canonical by the Hebrew Church and then passed on to the Christian Church.

        1. Very interesting conversation. Both Erik and Stefano have brought up interesting points.

          You could probably say more often than not, but definitely not always. For example Mat. 12:18-21, Rom. 12:19, Heb. 10:30, Mar. 4:12, Eph. 4:8, and Acts 7:4 are examples that either do not agree with the Septuagint or differ from both the Septuagint and Masoretic.

          Yep. Agreed. Buuuuuuuuuuuuut, let’s make this as crystal clear as possible then for others who might not actually realize what it is you just laid out…

          You just listed the 6….and the only 6 (as far as I’m aware) citations of the OT in the NT that agree with the MT. 6….out of 350. The other 344 agree with….drumroll please….the LXX.

          Percentage wise, 98.28% are in agreement with the LXX. 14 % are in agreement with both. Only 00.17 % are in agreement with the MT. leaving 85.7% word for word quotations from the LXX. Thus my, qualifier “It’s probably muddier than that, but as a generality, it’s true” holds.

          I’m not saying there are irrelevant to all discussions, just as it relates to Early Church canonical lists.

          I can see that. I guess the issue I see here is that it begins to matter when 1000 years later a bunch of guys want to come in and introduce the MT as if it had some kind of provenance with the Church Fathers. It matters in the sense that the Reformers were comparing the MT rabbinic canon to the Christian canon and going with the former and then searching for Church Fathers to support the move. It mattered little to them what the “mind of the Church” did…only finding isolated instances of those that would give them cover.

          Insofar as the canon being “closed” between the 1st and 5th centuries BCE and not in the CE….this would simply be a back and forth between scholars etc. based on opinion. It is clear to me that; 1) The Hebrew religion was not monolithic and that the canon was NOT closed until between the 1st and 3rd centuries CE when rabbinic Judaism became dominant, and 2) In support of this I would offer that Jesus and the Apostles themselves show that the canon was not closed, referring outright to the Book of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses….and indeed, if some scholars (Aland, Charlesworth, Metzger) are to be believed (though I’m not sure) in hundreds of allusions of the Apostles and Jesus in the NT with both the Deuterocanon and other OT Pseudepigrapha. see here for a listing of some allusions.

          If the canon was closed, or if the canon was seen by the Hebrews as anything akin to the current Protestant “sola scriptura” then most certainly the Apostles and Jesus would not refer to uncanonical books or to….gasp….Tradition.

          Finally, whatever the Russian Church is doing internally in Synods as an autocephelous church cannot overturn the fact that an Ecumenical Council at Nicea II set the canon by reaffirming the Carthaginian canon. While the Ecumenical Council is binding, it has always been a bit difficult to reign in autocephalies in ensuring observance. Its generally not an issue, because Russia is not off the rails. If it became a serious issue, I’m sure there would be some push back. The Russian Synods can say what they like…they are not Ecumenical and their local synods are just that….local. The Ecumenical Synods have stipulated what is canonical and that has not changed.

          Now…with that said, the whole issue here with calling them “Apocrypha” is to diminish the actual meaning behind what they were called by the Church Fathers, deuterocanon – i.e. the second canon. These were distinguished from the protocanon – i.e. the first canon.

          The deuterocanon were called antilegomena in Greek…Euseubius calls OT and NT books antiegomena ….and yet…many of these NT antigomena became canonized Scripture which Protestants accept. Yet, they want to try to remove the OT antigomena because they were once disputed? Again, if Luther would have had his way, he would have been successful at removing many of these NT antigomena…and they were called at the time, “Luther’s Antilegomena”

          What Luther was unsuccessful in doing to the NT, the Reformation was successful in doing to the OT.

          Anyway….thanks for your thoughts on this subject…it’s very interesting…I appreciated your insights.

          1. “Ecumenical Council at Nicea II set the canon by reaffirming the Carthaginian canon.”
            Can a council undo the decrees of another council? Because, correct me as I may be wrong here, the First Council of Nicaea affirmed the Synod of Laodicea’s canonical list, which agreed with Athanasius’s list, which only included the 22 Hebrew Books. Or would you say this is simply adding to another council’s decree and not correcting it?

            “Now…with that said, the whole issue here with calling them “Apocrypha” is to diminish the actual meaning behind what they were called by the Church Fathers, deuterocanon”
            I was not intentionally calling them that to demean them; it’s just generally how they are labeled in the West. I have no problem with using Athanasius’ distinctions – Canon, Ecclesiastical (what you call deuterocanonical), and Apocrypha (or books to avoid altogether).

            “the Apostles themselves show that the canon was not closed, referring outright to the Book of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses”
            The Apostle Paul quotes Epimenides’ Cretica in Titus; does that mean it should be included in the deuterocanonical list?

            “If the canon was closed, or if the canon was seen by the Hebrews as anything akin to the current Protestant “sola scriptura” then most certainly the Apostles and Jesus would not refer to uncanonical book”
            We see it in the Church Fathers that distinguished between canonical and ecclesiastical books, and yet quoted from both as authoritarian sources.

            “You just listed the 6….and the only 6”
            Those are just a few examples I have come across, I am not knowledgeable enough to say whether this list is exhaustive or not.

          2. Can a council undo the decrees of another council? Or would you say this is simply adding to another council’s decree and not correcting it?

            Not adding to or correcting…but making more clear in response to heresies and false teachings.

            So…an example would be the Nicene-Constantinoplitan Creed. The Creed established at Nicea was good and correct. It needed nothing further to be stipulated at the time. Only later in response to heresy and factions did it need to be made more clear. It was not “changed” or “added to” per se….but was responsive to the clarity required to protect the faith and the challenges to Orthodox faith at a later time. It required clarification in the face of new challenges…not a change or addition to. The same could be said regarding the canon. It is not a correction to…but a clarification of in response to trends that attack the Church’s practices or create divisions.

            I was not intentionally calling them that to demean them;

            I know brother….I wasn’t accusing you…simply railing against the trend that I see as an attempt to “rename” things. When we begin to use the language of those who have renamed things…we are allowing that worldview to set the paradigm of discussion and we are already fighting our way out of a procrustean bed. When we use the word “Apocrypha” we are already digging ourselves out of a Protestant worldview and allowing that worldview the home-field advantage…as if it were normative. If someone begins to call a dog a cat….and refuses to call it a dog, and I then begin to call the god a cat as well…I have affirmed their challenge and begun the process of redefining language.

            The Apostle Paul quotes Epimenides’ Cretica in Titus; does that mean it should be included in the deuterocanonical list?

            I think my point here was missed….my point NOT being that these need to be included as deuterocanon….but that the canon was clearly not closed in the minds of the Apostles. In terms of philosophers being quoted…I take the stance of Justin Martyr and the earliest Christians…in that all that exists that is good and true is of God and when interpreted by the Church and in the Church is good. The Church through the Holy Spirit can find and affirm the “spermatekoi logoi” in any worldly system…separating out the falsity from the truth…but those systems are subject to the “mind of the Church” which is the mind of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s use of Greek philosophy is the proper reference to philosophy through the prism of the mind of the Church, not philosophy as a prism to understanding the Church…there is a vast difference. Attempts to impose philosophy onto the Church are different and are to be avoided. But the Church may rightly interpret and shed light on any truths which apparent to men by nature (Romans 1) that they may have approached rightly…and divide them from those things which they have approached wrongly. “…he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one.” (1 Cor 2:15) rightly dividing the word of truth.

  24. I love a good discussion on the canon and textual history of the Old Testament.

    Erik,
    Your examples of fathers like Athanasius of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem, John of Damascus and the catechism of Philaret are hardly decisive for the Orthodox. Their validity on this issue is only to the point that they agree with the Church. As I have stated elsewhere, the usage of the Church is unanimous on the usage of the ‘apocrypha’.
    The 19th century was the low point for confidence in the LXX, especially in the Russian Church. Philaret even translated the Bible into Russian from the Massoretic Text. However this edition called the Russia Synod Version of 1876 still retained the Apocrypha.
    The Church of Greece issued a decree that reaffirmed the LXX canon in 1954 – this one is often overlooked by Protestants who are quick to tell Orthodox Christians what their Bible is.
    The Orthodox Study Bible was recently issued. It had the support of a cross section of hierarchy from a number of differing jurisdictions, including ones from a Russian heritage. It follows the LXX canon.
    The Cambridge History of Judaism (Volume 4) : the Late Roman-Rabbinic Period agrees that the Council of Jamnia was not concerned with closing the canon but speculates that it probably took place in the 2nd or 3rd century AD. (Pages 234-35). It states ‘While a few scholars interpret it to mean that the Ketuvim had been closed before Yavneh, many now understand it to mean that the Ketuvim were not crystallized until later’ – notice that those who think that the OT canon was closed before the destruction of the temple are by far a minority. The Cambridge History of Jerusalem then lists the few scholars who hold the minority view. This hardly counts as ‘most’.
    We live in an age when it is really easy to check our Bible quotes. The New Testament were happy to quote from memory so some of their quotes don’t always quite match the LXX. This is hardly grounds for claiming that they are accessing Targums, the Samaritan Pentateuch or the Massoretic text.
    Finally, the early Reformers weren’t so confident in dismissing the longer canon. The Wycliffe Bible, the early English Bibles like the Kings Bible and Matthews Bible, Luther’s Bible, the Geneva Bible ( first few editions) and the King James Version all included the a Apocrypha. In fact, the British Bible Society had a schism in 1825 for allowing the Apocrypha. The minority breakaways were those who wanted to discontinue the practice of printing Bibles with the Apocrypha.

    1. The recent Orthodox Study Bible is actually high on my list of books that I want to buy.

      “Finally, the early Reformers weren’t so confident in dismissing the longer canon”
      Agreed, excludsion the Ecclesiastical books later on was a loss to the West, however, it is still retained in the Anglican Lectionary.

    2. “The Church of Greece issued a decree that reaffirmed the LXX canon in 1954 – this one is often overlooked by Protestants who are quick to tell Orthodox Christians what their Bible is.”
      Fair point, but why does the East keep having to reaffirm this if it is already universally accepted in all Orthodox Churches? It just appears to the West that in the East there is not universal agreement and that there is some inconsistency. Come on, you know how we like things in neat and orderly systematic columns and rows, we cannot stand for overlapping lines 🙂

      1. Why has the Church constantly had to reaffirm the Trinity, or the deity of Christ, or the Tradition of the Church…etc. etc. etc.

        What is universally accepted by the Orthodox Church does not stop it from being challenged by without and within by heretics. Yes, there are heretics both without and within the Church constantly attacking it. Thus…all of these things…inlcuding the canon of the LXX must constantly be reaffirmed in the face of these attacks…which have become more and more prevalent as Orthodoxy comes into contact with Protestantism.

        These things were not attacked in the past in the way they have been since the Reformation. Universal agreement in the East has always been maintained about a number to things….only when those things are challenged are we required to defend them. The absence of a Creedal formula before Nicea and Constantinople does not indicate that there was not universal agreement about the Trinity….only that it became a point that required being defended and reaffirmed in the face of heresy.

  25. I hope people don’t mind me double dipping.

    Section 33 of the catechism of Philaret is actually incorrect. There are a number of divergences between Cyril’s actual list and the 22 books listed. Cyril of Jerusalem endorsed the Letter of Jeremiah and Baruch as part of his Old Testament. He also had the longer version of Daniel (with the story of Susanna, etc) and the longer version of Esther (the Greek Esther). Also First Esdras for Cyril means the Apocryphal book while Second Esdras is a combination of Ezra/Nehemiah. All this points to Cyril not really knowing the contents of the Rabbinical Bible.
    Athanasius of Alexandria is similar. He did not count Esther as canonical. Similar to Cyril, he counts Baruch as part of Jeremiah. He also uses the longer version of Daniel.
    In reality neither of these Fathers endorses the Rabbinic canon. They come close, but is close enough good enough?
    Albert Sundberg in his article ‘The Old Testament of the Early Church (a study in canon)’ Harvard Theological Review 51.4 (1958) correctly interprets the problem as some the Fathers trying to artificially endorse a shorter canon because the Rabbis told them that their canon was ancient and they believed them. Sundberg is not Orthodox and neither is he being polemical. Two things lend credence to his thesis. Firstly, most Fathers, like Cyril and Athanasius, get the canon slightly wrong when they make their lists. This means they weren’t very familiar with the rabbinic canon. Secondly, they continue to quote the ‘Apocrypha’ as canonical. They do this because they were raised with the idea of the Apocrypha as canonical and just keep up the habit.
    I strongly encourage people to read Sundberg’s article as it is very enlightening.

    1. Great info Stefano….thank you. I’m quite interested in the topic…and I am learning alot from both you and Erik. Good stuff!

    2. “They do this because they were raised with the idea of the Apocrypha as canonical and just keep up the habit.”
      I have seen that sentiment expressed elsewhere. For example, in a letter from Julius Africanus to Origen, Julius points out that the History of Susanna could not be counted as an original Hebrew composition because the climax of the story turns on a pun that is only possible in Greek. Origen affirmed the strength of the argument and conceded that the Greek Bible contained many things not found in the Hebrew text, yet he simply replied that the Church could not be expected to give them all up.

      Do you have a link for the article?

  26. Hi Erik,
    I’d like to make a few more remarks.
    Firstly, a list of canonical books can be drawn up for two reasons – to affirm usage or attempt to change usage. Take the Westminster Confession of 1646? Did it draw up its list of canonical books because because the previous century saw Protestant quoting the ‘Apocrypha’ as scripture or was it affirming current usage?
    The Synod of the Church of Greece’s affirmation in 1954 should be taken in a similar vain.
    The NT evidence is not decisive either way. Claims that the ‘law and the prophets’ refers to a complete and closed Hebrew canon are a bit of a stretch. The NT quotes pseudepigrapha like Enoch and the Assumption of Moses. The NT quotes 24 of the 39 books of the Old Testament according to the textual apparatus of the Åland/Nestle Greek New Testament (3rd edition), pages 897-900. Books like Judges, Joshua, Ruth, Esther, Song of Songs, Lamintations, Ecclesiastes, Ezra, Nehemiah are just not mentioned or quoted. You are right, of course, that pagan authors like like Aratus, Menander and Epimenides are quoted but, again, the Aland/ Nestle Greek New Testament has an ‘Index of Allusions and Verbal Parallels’ which includes a page of data on the ‘Apocrypha’, (pages 910-11). This certainly proves that NT authors knew the ‘Apocrypha’ but it is more difficult to make a judgement on what this means in regard to canon. The Greek NT did not have quotation marks so the question is was a phrase a quote or simply using the same language. There is some debate, for example, if the Letter of James quotes Sirach for this reason.
    I think a decisive point is there was no name for the collection of Holy Books in Hebrew till much later. Tanak is a much later coinage. There is no word in either Hebrew or Greek or Latin for ‘Scripture’. The word they used (like graphe in Greek) was the ordinary word for writing not a technical word for holy writing.
    All this points to a lack of ‘canonical understanding’ in the first century as we would see it today. There were books that were definitely counted as holy like the Pentateuch but the boundaries were a bit fuzzy.
    Interestingly, Rabbis continued to quote the Wisdom of Sirach as scripture up to the 4th century. There are a number of quotes to this effect in the Talmud. Feel free to check.

    Erik, I’m afraid the Sundberg article is only available from JSTOR for a price. If you would like I’d be happy to email you a pdf of the articles. I’d do the same for you Aaron.
    Email me on email hidden; JavaScript is required
    I’d be interested in what you think.

  27. If I may I’d like to bring the conversation back to John’s use of the Regulative Principle (RP) because that is the crux of that matter regarding much of the tension between Orthodoxy and the Reformed. As John stated, the RP states that God may only be worshipped as he has said he should be worshipped, i.e., there must “biblical warrant for a practice either by express command or by necessary inference” for a practice to be implemented and used for worship. For example, singing, praying, reading/preaching of the scriptures, are all areas that would fall under this category. The RP is not meant to determine which books belong to the canon or other matters. It is strictly applied to the worship of God by God’s people.

    At first glance this makes a lot of sense in a Reformed perspective which stands not only against the RCC/Orthodox practices but also Lutheran tradition which stipulates that God may be worshipped in any way so long the practice has not been condemned by scripture. But the challenge of the RP is that it too is dependent upon a tradition to understand how it is to be implemented. There are divisions within the Reformed world regarding its practice, e.g. the debate around John Frame’s understanding of the practice as evidenced by his book “In Spirit and Truth.” Another challenge to the RP is its own inconsistent application. For example in strict RP churches dancing would not be permitted during worship and would actually be cause for disciplinary action if it did occur but this flies in the face of Psalm 149 where worshippers are invited to dance in praise to God.

    That being said i do think John has raised some very good points that I think need to be dealt with, at least for me. One is the response to Eccl. 9 and Job 14. If these statements are true then why pray to the saints? There seems to be at some level a contradiction here.

    Also, the contention that the apostles had to deal with the “vain traditions of men” so early on is it not feasible that traditions crept in that had little or nothing to do with the apostle’s teachings and traditions.

    1. “Another challenge to the RP is its own inconsistent application. For example in strict RP churches dancing would not be permitted during worship and would actually be cause for disciplinary action if it did occur but this flies in the face of Psalm 149 where worshippers are invited to dance in praise to God.”
      Actually, I don’t think there is necessarily a contradiction in this instance. Calvin argued that the usage of musical instruments and dancing before the Lord was directly tied to the sacrificial system of the OT economy. Once animal sacrifices were done away with, the elements of instrumentation and dancing went with it. As well, what examples or imagery of worship that is presented in the NT do not include instruments or dancing. Interestingly, Orthodox churches also do not incorporate instruments or dancing, but I do not know on what reasoning.

      That aside, where I see a problem with how the RP is utilized in many Reformed churches is how it seems that they in no way incorporate the picture of worship presented in Revelations. I would argue that most, if not all, of what you see as part of worship in “high” liturgical churches can find direct correlation in Revelation’s picture of heavenly worship – facing or bowing to the altar/throne, ministers in white, communion with Christ, bells, incense, etc. So it seems that these types of liturgical activity do fall within the realm of Biblical example or inference.

      As for prayers to the saints that have fallen asleep specifically, there is probably a bit more to unpack there. On the one hand, the OT prohibitions against communication with the dead should not be taken lightly or brushed aside. However, on the other hand, Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection have definitely changed the dynamics of the created order. As well as man’s relationship to heaven and earth within His kingdom that has-and-is coming. Also, God is not the God of the dead but of the living, and if all saints are in communion with and through Christ there is reason to believe that there could be some sort of interplay or communication between those still on earth and those in heaven. So perhaps it could be said that generally speaking the saints in heaven do not observe all the activities occurring on earth as expressed in Ecclesiastes or Job, but maybe they can directly relate to or receive requests from us when we are worshipping through Christ.

      Going back to Revelation, there is no question that the prayers of “all the saints” (Rev. 8:3), or those both in heaven or earth, are presented equally to the Lord. And that in worship, when the veil between heaven and earth is lifted, we join with those saints in worship of God. Personally, I think it would help to change the language used at this point. Instead of saying prayers to the saints, as prayer is something we in the West think of as being solely reserved for God, and simply refer to it as petitions to the saints. After all, you don’t pray to the person standing next to you to pray for you, you simply ask (or petition) them.

      1. “Personally, I think it would help to change the language used at this point. Instead of saying prayers to the saints, as prayer is something we in the West think of as being solely reserved for God, and simply refer to it as petitions to the saints. After all, you don’t pray to the person standing next to you to pray for you, you simply ask (or petition) them.”

        Good point. I agree. Orthodox “prayers” to the saints can usually, though not always, be identified as petitions. I think in practice we don’t think of saints themselves as answering our prayers, even though some prayers, particularly those to the Theotokos, may give that impression.

    2. Hi Mark,

      Great questions and interaction.

      The RP states that God may only be worshipped as he has said he should be worshipped, i.e., there must “biblical warrant for a practice either by express command or by necessary inference” for a practice to be implemented and used for worship.The RP is not meant to determine which books belong to the canon or other matters. It is strictly applied to the worship of God by God’s people.

      The relationship between the RP and the canon is vital because the RP is dependent upon which canon one establishes to infer from. This is not a problem inherent to Orthodoxy, but only to those who use the RP. To use the RP to say there is no “biblical warrant” or that “nowhere in the Bible do I read such and such” becomes immediately problematic because the RP fails if you have in actuality truncated the canon. I can cite whatever I like from the Deuterocanon to support praxis, but those adhering to RP will reject it because they do not accept the Deuterocanon. So while the RP is not meant to determine which books belong in the canon…the RP cannot stand apart from what it has established the canon to be. If that canon proves to be arbitrary in nature, or if its whole basis of formulation contradicts the very principles upon which its tradition rests (sola scriptura, etc.) then there can be little hope for the RP being capable of being regulatory in any real sense.

      If I were to start my own church tomorrow (nothing is stopping me) and I decided arbitrarily to remove the books of Luther’s antilegomena…and to apply a form of the RP to that, the result would be…unrecognizable Christianity. This is also the (part) of the crux of the problem from an Orthodox standpoint.

      the RP states that God may only be worshipped as he has said he should be worshipped,

      The problem here is that there is a disconnect between what both traditions view as “worship.” The foundation of understanding the nature of God is at odds. On is preoccupied with a worldview structured around an angry God and PSA (generally) – salvation as satisfaction of wrath….and the other worldview is structured around a God that IS Love and is completely impassible, seeking only restoration of His creatures to their created nature (salvation as holistic healing) – salvation as restoration of the “image and likeness” of God through Christ. Speaking in generalities -(more astute Reformers would understand differently and more robustly.) the Reformed tradition looks at God as a deity who requires A,B, and C in worship to be satisfied. Any form of “worship” which offends or can rob God of glory is sin. The RP stands at the center of this because it posits that God is offended by sin. At its very basis, the Reformed tradition denies the impassibility of God and posits that our actions in worship (and life) somehow change His disposition towards man. The Reformed tradition denies the anthropopathic nature of the Scriptures in this regard. Worship in the Reformed tradition is for God. (Sola Deo Gloria).

      Speaking again in generalities, Orthodox worship sees worship as a restorative act for mankind to be transformed into Christ-likeness. God needs no worship, but wants US to be healed and restored through transformation to Trinitarian likeness (Love and unity and selflessness). One cannot rob God of glory, even if one wanted to. Sin robs US of the glory (likeness) of God to which we were created, and changes not HIS disposition towards us, but OUR disposition towards HIM. Worship exists for US to become healed…not for God to become satisfied…for US to be sanctified/deified and transformed from “glory to glory.” In this action is the Glory of God reflected in mankind and God’s glory shines forth in His creation as intended.

      A Reformer will attack this as being man-centered gobbledygook on its face without understanding the deep underlying differences in understanding of the nature of God. A great introduction to the major issues that underlie these differences can be found in a series of podcasts by Paul Vendrediaka…Orthorev. It’s polemic in nature…but can be both entertaining and enlightening.

      So how then does worship differ? Worship in both traditions seeks to be communal, but the understandings of what communal worship is and accomplishes are completely different. One the Reformed end there is a sense that we are all connected to God individually and then sharing in that connection corporately. In Orthodoxy the belief is that one cannot worship God without becoming like God through kenosis….i.e. becoming connected with other humans in selfless communion which reflects Trinitarian Love. This is the only form of worship that matters because it is the kind of worship that is transformative for US, and brings us into communion with the divine nature by being reflections of Trinitarian love in our lives with one another. This is why LOVE is always elevated above faith in the Scriptures (no much for sola fide) and why the Apostles constantly say that without Love of brother, one cannot Love God. Love = communion = worship. Communion for one is individual first, corporate second….communion for the other is corporate and salvific – sanctifying…etc…full stop. For one it is a celebration of an event disembodied from the reality that event allows us to participate in….for the other it is the work (liturgia- work of the people) towards realization of Christ-likeness.

      Worship is communion in love. There is no acceptable worship without love and unity with the other Christian. (1 Jn 4, Mt5:22-24 among many, many others.) Indeed the “law of love” is the law of worship and life itself.

      We worship God only when we are in communion with one another, and without Love in unity, (the image and likeness of God) any assembly that seeks to worship God is in actuality “eating and drinking condemnation unto” themselves – not juridically speaking, but by being unlike God (LOVE in UNITY) while purporting to worship Him in LOVE. This applies to any Church or individual…even the Orthodox. Being IN the Church does not guarantee anyone salvation. In fact, it simply ups the ante…(To whom much is given, much is required.) This is why Christ tells us we must “leave our gift at the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering.”

      That being said i do think John has raised some very good points that I think need to be dealt with, at least for me. One is the response to Eccl. 9 and Job 14. If these statements are true then why pray to the saints? There seems to be at some level a contradiction here.

      One view (Protestant) of this accepts the temporal restrictions of mankind as still intact. Mankind is somehow subject to temporality – space and time – and accepts that God works only within these parameters for us. The ORthodox view is that temporality – space and time – are conquered by Christ and that we live in the eschaton NOW. A heavenly mindset – the mind of Christ – allows us to see that which has been accomplished “it is finished” is a reality for us now….even as we fail to appreciate its implications in our temporal reality. Protestants might refer to this as the “now but not yet.” Orthodox would say that the “not yet” is illusory…that WE must live mindful of what IS accomplished…bringing the eschaton into our temporal lives.

      Time and space have not meaning IN Christ. They only have meaning in the fallen state…from which we are being redeemed. The very fact that time is relative (according to science) and non-existent in the Alpha and Omega destroys any sense of incongruity or contradiction for me. Such passages must be taken in the light of Christ…not in a wooden literal sense which does not see them through the fait accompli of Christ.

      Incorporate into this the Scriptures in the Deuterocanon which support the communion of the Saints in both the Church millitant and Church triumphant…and you work through the SCOPE of scripture, not through prooftexting.

      Also, the contention that the apostles had to deal with the “vain traditions of men” so early on is it not feasible that traditions crept in that had little or nothing to do with the apostle’s teachings and traditions.

      The Church’s struggle has always been against such “traditions of men.” But the promises of Christ assure us that these creeping traditions of men will never overcome the Church. The whole of the NT and Apostolic writings make it clear that what all such false doctrines and traditions will inevitably be separated from the Truth of the Church and the Church will be maintained by the grace of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Orthodox Church has constantly been removing from its presence the heretics and false traditions that infect it. It is always becoming Orthodox….and there are non-Orthodox within the Orthodox Church and they must constantly be called upon to repent….or depart….with a view always to their restoration to communion.

      So, “is it not feasible that traditions crept in that had little or nothing to do with the apostle’s teachings and traditions.” The answer is no….not if you have faith in the promises of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit in preserving the Church. All divisions then from the Church prove only the truth that John stipulates in 1 John 2:19. “They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.”

      2 Peter speaks to this…and some will use only portions of it to support your premise of the feasibility of the corruption of the Church….to wit;

      “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their unrestrained ways, and the way of truth will be blasphemed because of them.d 3 They will exploit you in their greed with deceptive words. Their condemnation, pronounced long ago, is not idle, and their destruction does not sleep.”

      The problem is the failure to incorporate the promise of God and the later reality affirmed by Peter in the same Chapter….

      and if He rescued righteous Lot, distressed by the unrestrained behavior of the immoral …— 9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, especially those who follow the polluting desires of the flesh and despise authority.

      The very basis of the RP and of “sola scriptura” fails in the face of Peter’s warnings which show that such basis for faith is no guard against error…

      “The untaught and unstable twist them to their own destruction, as they also do with the rest of the Scriptures.” and “that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation….”

      Thus the words of Paul warning against the “αἱρετικὸν ἄνθρωπον” – hartikon anthropon – i.e. – a heretic – the man who “chooses” to disrupt the unity of the faith…for his own interpretations and his own twisting of Scriptures against the “Traditions” we are told to maintain in the Love of the Church…..

      Titus 3 – “Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, 11knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.” NASB….or KJV…” A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject;”

      http://biblehub.com/titus/3.htm comparative translations.

      There is much to explore in these interactions…and your questions and points are good ones. But the methodology of each tradition is so at odds when even approaching the epistimology to understand the nature of God that it becomes confusing to even talk to one another. Sad really.

      1. Aaron, I do have to caution you about the Orthorev site. It is polemical in the extreme and would not be endorsed by any Orthodox I know (certainly not by my Priests). I am extremely uncomfortable not only with the lack of accuracy in some of the information on offer there, but also with the spirit in which it is offered (which I don’t find to be Orthodox) and personally wouldn’t recommend it to inquirers. Generally, I only recommend canonical jurisdictional sites, sites by Orthodox Priests who have the blessing of their Bishop to be posting material or sites recommended by my own Priests. The Internet it a wonderful tool, but it is also wide open for the dissemination of disinformation.

        1. Agreed, Karen. I thought about that before posting it…but find some of the information there to be helpful as well. Discernment is indeed necessary, and I agree that it is far too polemical. With that said, it attempts to meet many Calvinists on a level they are accustomed to…debate, intellectualism and polemics…and engages in that regard. I find that it is not a site for inquirers per se, but those whom we often encounter who are opposed to Orthodox faith and stand on rigid doctrinal grounds. To those, I think the site offers important challenges.

          I agree with your assessment in general however…though not in regard to the “lack of accuracy.” I think the work done by Paul takes pains to be accurate and appeal to those who are bent on “logical” dogmatics… though it does represent a viewpoint that at many points are his unabashedly his own.

          With all of that said…you are right…it should be offered with caveats. In general, internet Christianity has many flaws…but for good or for ill we must all work to discern that as we go.

          Thank you for the admonition…I think it was an important point.

          1. Thanks, Aaron. With regard to “accuracy” what I remembered (and I believe it was discussed under another thread here at Robert’s site) was Paul’s treatment of St. Augustine (whom he treats as a heretic and not a Saint, while Augustine is most certainly a Saint in the Orthodox tradition and treated with appropriate respect, even if certain of his speculations must be rejected–even as certain teachings of other Saints are as well). I believe he is recognized as a Saint by the Fifth Ecumenical Council (if my recall of that earlier discussion is correct).

  28. At first glance, the Regulative Principle sounds quite persuasive. What better way to avoid the “vain traditions of men” than to worship God as Scripture would have us do?

    The problem with this principle, like so much of Reformed epistemology, is that it is self defeating. Where in Scripture do we find taught the practice that there must “biblical warrant for a practice either by express command or by necessary inference”? This is just an assertion, a logical proposition, not an inference from Scripture.

    Indeed, St. Paul tells us on the contrary in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 that we should “stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle”.

    Since, according to the Regulative Principle, a practice must be grounded in Scripture by command or inference and yet the RP itself cannot be grounded as such, since it is contradicted by St. Paul, amongst others, the RP is self defeating and cannot be true.

    1. Graham,

      Thank you for writing. Your point about ancient error is a good one. Gnosticism, Marcionism, Arianism, and Nestorianism are all ancient heresies and are still around today. Please also consider that the lack of historic precedence makes many Protestant doctrines and practices suspect. New is not necessarily better. When it comes to how we understand Mary and her role in our salvation in Christ, we ultimately must choose between a religious tradition that is 500 years old (Protestantism) or one that can trace its historic roots back to the Apostles (Orthodoxy).

      Robert

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