In Defense of “Plucking the TULIP”: A Response to Jacob Aitken

 

Responding to Orthodox Bridge, Part One - by Jacob Aitken
Click HereResponding to Orthodox Bridge, Part One

On 8 August 2013, Jacob Aitken, the administrator for Reformed Principia aka Bayou Huguenot aka Outlaw Presbyterianism, posted what he claims to be a rebuttal of my article: “Plucking the TULIP: Part I.”  PDF file.

See Aitken’s Responding to Orthodox Bridge: Part One.  Below is my response to him.

 

TULIP = Calvinism?

Jacob Aitken writes:

Arakaki identifies Calvinism with TULIP with Predestination.  In doing so he is operating off of the severely challenged “Calvin vs. the Calvinists” Paradigm.  This paradigm states in its various forms that Reformed theology is a decretal theology centered around the doctrine of Predestination.  The work of Richard A Muller has effectively buried this thesis (Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, vo. 1, Christ and the Decree).

In one sense my rebuttal is already complete.  Arakaki thinks that the Reformed faith is predestination is TULIP.  By rebutting him along these lines I give credence to his flawed analysis, such that it is.  I suppose it can’t be helped.

First of all, let me state that Calvin’s theological system is a rich and complex one.  Double predestination is one particular doctrine taught by Calvin among others, but it cannot be denied that it was significant and integral to his theology.  Further, I would assert that for many adherents of Reformed Christianity the doctrine of double predestination is central to their theology because it arises from their understanding of divine sovereignty.  Ironically, my personal theological orientation prior to becoming Orthodox was Mercersburg Theology which did not give much emphasis to double predestination.  But the working premise of my blog posting was that for many Reformed Christians TULIP = Calvinism.

I have several questions for Jacob Aitken on this matter.  One, is it not a fact that for many adherents to Reformed Christianity the doctrine of double predestination is an integral and indispensable doctrine?  Two, are you saying that double predestination falls into the category of adiaphora, that one can be Reformed without holding to double predestination?  Three, if so what is the distinctive core doctrine(s) to Reformed theology?

 

By What Confessional Authority?

Mr. Aitken writes:

However, in a footnote he says, “Unlike Lutheranism with its Formula of Concord, the Reformed tradition has no confessional statement with a similar normative stature (Pelikan 1984:236).”  I was stunned when I read this.  Does he not realize that the 3 Forms of Unity are ecclesiastically binding upon Dutch and German Reformed Churches?   He says above that the Canons of Dort represent the Church’s teaching.  Did he forget that he just said that?  Does he not realize that the Westminster Standards not only are binding upon Anglo-American Reformed Churches, but when interpreted in the light of the Solemn League and Covenant, are binding upon the kingdoms of England, Ireland, and Scotland?  If he cannot get these most basic points established, what hope does the reader have that he will be able to seriously represent the intricacies of Reformed Theology?

It should be noted that I did not assert that there was no binding confessional authority in the Reformed tradition; what I asserted was that there was no confessional authority similar to the normative stature of the Formula of Concord among Lutherans.  To refute my footnote about the Lutheran Formula of Concord, all Mr. Aitken needs to do is demonstrate that there is one confessional statement binding on all Reformed churches or at least comparable in stature to the Formula of Concord.  This he fails to do.  If anything he supports my point when he asserts that the 3 Forms of Unity (Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, and the Heidelberg) are binding on Dutch and German Reformed churches, while the Westminster Confession is binding on the Anglo-American Reformed churches.  No one confession binds both the Anglo-American and the Continental Reformed theological traditions.  This is why in “Plucking the TULIP” I took care to supplement my quotes from the Canons of Dort with that from the Westminster Confession and other Anglo Reformed confessions.  Furthermore, my footnote was based on an observation by Jaroslav Pelikan.  Mr. Aitken has unwittingly called into question the scholarship of the widely respected Yale professor of Christian history and author of the magisterial five volume: The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine.

The largest Reformed body is the World Communion of Reformed Churches which represents about 80 million believers. That world body recognizes 3 confessions: the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dort, and the Heidelberg Confession.  So there isn’t “a” single confession representing the Reformed Church, but rather three.  Predestination IS a major doctrine within the Canons of Dort. Reformed like to “hush, hush” predestination, or in some way minimalize its doctrine within the Reformed Church, as it is quite discriminatory (and therefore against modern sensibility). However, there has been no action within the Reformed Church to officially repeal or dismiss the doctrine of predestination.

I would note that Mr. Aitken claims membership with NAPARC (North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council), a much smaller body that claims a little over half a million members. Neither does this particular body claim one single confession as preeminent among the various confessional statements.  And even more striking is the fact that neither the World Communion of Reformed Churches nor the North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council have officially affirmed human free will with respect to regeneration.  All that Mr. Aitken has to show us is a quote from Richard Muller: “We believe in liberum arbitrium, free choice, which is a more accurate rendering than “free will.”  I challenge him to provide an excerpt from an official action by a Reformed body–past or present–that endorses Muller’s position on liberum arbitrium.

 

Total Depravity

Jacob Aitken took issue with my understanding that the Scots Confession teaches that as a result of the Fall the divine image was eradicated from human nature.  He writes:

Second, he thinks that defaced = eradicated.  It does not.  It means “marred.”

But even if “defaced” means “marred,” what are we to make of the fact that the adverb “utterly” preceded “defaced”?  The Scots Confession Chapter 3 states:

By this transgression, generally known as original sin, the image of God was utterly defaced in man, and he and his children became by nature hostile to God, slaves to Satan, and servants to sin.

If human nature was utterly marred as a result of the Fall, wouldn’t that lead us to think that it means the eradication of the divine image from human nature?  Mr. Aitken fails to prove his point here.  His etymological analysis which fails to take into account the rules of grammar—the adverb modifies the verb—leads to a seriously flawed argument.

Further, Mr. Aitken makes two questionable quotations, one from the nineteenth Princeton theologian, Charles Hodge, and the other from the Lutheran Formula of Concord.  While the two sources make statements that neatly and logically bolster Aitken’s position, their relevance has yet to be established.  What Aitken should have done but failed to do was to cite from Reformed confessional documents.  It seems to me that he is approaching the matter from the standpoint of ahistorical logic, whereas I am approaching the matter historically and ecclesially.

 

Augustine Versus Irenaeus

Jacob Aitken writes:

One may legitimately ask, though, why Irenaeus’ reading is to be preferred to Augustine’s?  Irenaeus doesn’t offer anything resembling a logical argument, nor does Arakaki.  There is nothing here for me to rebut because there is no logical argument.

There are two major theological paradigms for understanding the Fall.  Western Christianity in both its Roman Catholic and Protestant expressions has been heavily influenced by Augustine of Hippo, while Eastern Orthodoxy has been influenced by Irenaeus of Lyons.  Jacob Aitken complains that I do not present a logical argument for preferring Irenaeus over Augustine.  I have two responses.  One, the biblical text can be read either way and that the way one reads Genesis 3 depends much on which theological tradition one belongs to.  Two, I would note that neither did Mr. Aitken present a logical argument for preferring Augustine over Irenaeus.  Since he is so concerned about logical argument it is incumbent on him to provide a logical argument for giving preference to Augustine over Irenaeus.

 

Patristic Consensus Versus Medieval Scholasticism

Jacob Aitken is dismissive of my appeal to the patristic consensus.  He writes:

I couldn’t help but chuckle at this since Orthodoxy has its own narrowness.  Lossky, anybody?  Arakaki mentions the “patristic consensus.”  This will figure later into his argument on Scripture, but I will cut it off at the ford.   The Eastern Orthodox have yet to give a coherent, non-circular definition of the patristic consensus.

The next page in Arakaki’s paper is a litany of quotes from the Church fathers on free will.  Since I have already demonstrated the Reformed position on free will, and that Arakaki’s charges miss it, I see no point in responding to these patristic citations.

He complains that I do not employ the deductive logic of medieval Scholasticism.  My response is that I am using the ancient theological method expressed in the Vincentian Canon which places emphasis on catholicity and apostolicity.  The patristic consensus method has its origins in the Council of Jerusalem: “Now the apostles and elders came together to consider the matter” (Acts 15:6, OSB).  This conciliar method agrees with Scriptures advocating Christian unity (John 17:20-23; Ephesians 4:1-6).   For the first millennium the Church was conciliar in its theological method and Eastern Orthodoxy to this day continues to adhere to this ancient way of doing theology.

There are two major problems with the theological method of medieval Scholasticism favored by Mr. Aitken.  One, it is at odds with the theological methods of the early church fathers.  Two, it is an innovation that arose from the insertion of the pre-Christian philosopher Aristotle into Western Christianity.

I issue a two-fold challenge to Mr. Aitken: (1) demonstrate the superior logic of medieval Scholasticism over the ancient patristic consensus method, and (2) either show that deductive Aristotelian logic was employed by the early church fathers or that Christian theology is fundamentally evolutionary in nature.

Since Mr. Aitken is so concerned about the need for logical argumentation I present the following syllogism:

(1)  Epistemological validity is commonly based on the finding of the majority.  This is the method that forms the basis of scientific fact, democracy, and judicial opinion.

(2) Eastern Orthodoxy uses the consensus of the majority (Biblical, patristic, ecclesiastical, and lay) to inform its theology and practice.

(3) Therefore, Eastern Orthodoxy is epistemologically valid.

Liberum Arbitrium (Free Will)

On the subject of free will Jacob Aitken cites Richard Muller to make his point.  He writes:

Yet this is not what the Reformed believe.  We believe in liberum arbitrium, free choice, which is a more accurate rendering than “free will.”  As Richard Muller notes, “[T]he faculty of will (voluntas) is free and that the bondage into which humanity has fallen is not a bondage of the faculty of will as such” (Muller 1995, 176).  What has been lost, or rather limited, is the freedom of choice particularly to salvation.  Further, Will is distinct from intellect (intellectus) [330].  The intellect is that which knows objects, and the will is that which has a desire for them.

What is striking is Mr. Aitken’s failure to quote from Calvin or the major Reformed confessions.  While Muller’s scholarship is not in doubt, the question here is whether Muller’s writings supersede that of the Reformed confessions.  Furthermore, is Mr. Aitken saying that Prof. Muller speaks with authority for the Reformed tradition today?

The issue before us is not the lack of human free will with respect to external matters but with respect to our salvation in Christ.  What does Mr. Aitken make of the following statement from the Second Helvetic Confession Chapter 9: “Wherefore, man not yet regenerate has no free will for good, no strength to perform what is good.”?  And Chapter IX.iii in the Westminster Confession  “Of Free Will” we find: “Man, by his Fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation….”  And Chapter X.ii of the Westminster Confession “Of Effectual Calling” we find: “This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not from anything at all foreseen in man, who is altogether passive therein, until, being quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit, he is thereby enabled to answer this call, and to embrace the grace offered and conveyed in it.”

 

Jacob Aitken’s Conclusion

Mr. Aitken ended his blog posting with: “I think I have demonstrated that the author has not read the Reformed sources, does not show an adequate understanding of official Reformed documents, and offers little in the way of an actual analysis and critique.”  One, a quick glance at my multiple citations from Reformed confessions will show that it is ludicrous to claim “the author has not read the Reformed sources.”  Two, I find the insinuation that Mr. Aitken has a superior understanding of official Reformed documents insulting and dubious.  As I reread Jacob Aitken’s blog posting I did a count of his sources: Reformed confessions = 0; Richard Muller = 2; Charles Hodge = 1; and Lutheran Formula of Concord = 1.  Three, the criticism that little has been offered “in the way of actual analysis and critique” leaves me wondering whether the criticism applies to me or to Mr. Aitken himself.  I leave that for the reader to decide.

 

My Concerns

My biggest concern has been the contentious tone of Jacob Aitken’s recent blog posting.  A friend after reading Aitken’s article commented: “It seems like he’s trying to pick a fight with you.”  I am not upset with the theological differences between me and Mr. Aitken as with his calling into question my scholarship.  I have tried to ensure that my blog postings on the OrthodoxBridge are based on careful scholarship.  I wrote this response to let readers know that I do stand by what I wrote and that I am willing to defend my positions.

In this age of Internet dialogue it is important that Christians across theological traditions treat each other with respect charity and respect.  Ad hominem attacks against another person’s character are to be avoided and shunned.  I welcome responses from others, but I expect them to be based on an accurate understanding of what the other side is saying and respectful in tone.  Regretfully, I find these lacking in Jacob Aitken’s criticisms.  For these reasons I do not wish to respond further to him until these concerns have been addressed.

 

Our Christian Heritage

To our readers, visitors, and lurkers, beyond the differences over predestination, it should be recognized that human anthropology, our being made in God’s image and likeness, is a much bigger issue than either of our—Jacob and my—scholarship.  It is critical that we all understand how the historic Church has understood what the Scriptures teach concerning human nature and our salvation in Christ. Tragically, the Orthodox tradition historically reflecting what the Holy Spirit taught to the early church fathers has largely been lost from view in our day of splintered Protestantism, obsession with scholastic logicalism, and an ecclesiology detached from history. It is our hope to present serious and sincere Reformed readers with consistent exposure to the church fathers and thus to the historic Church’s thinking on this and other matters.  The teachings of the early church fathers constitute a precious ancient heritage that many Protestants have yet to discover and claim as their own.

For our Protestant friends who want to learn from the early church fathers may I suggest that they read my earlier article: “Defending the Vincentian Canon: A Response to Outlaw Presbyterianism.”  In addition to learning about the fifth century church father, Vincent of Lerins, the reader will also see how this present blog posting is a repeat of an earlier clash between me and Jacob Aitken.  Two articles that Baptists and Evangelicals might find intriguing are: “Baptist Questions About Ignatius of Antioch” and “Patristics for Baptists.”  For Protestants who are wary or curious about Tradition, I recommend: “Tradition: Family, Friend, or Foe” by guest contributor “Nicodemus.”

Robert Arakaki

 

47 comments:

  1. I’ll try to get into this later, but one point for now.

    You wrote,

    ***What is striking is Mr. Aitken’s failure to quote from Calvin or the major Reformed confessions. ***

    In another post I did quote from the WCF section on providence which states the same point in different terms. I didn’t quote Calvin, but numerous quotations can be found in Turretin et al.

  2. Addendum:

    I like Calvin, but I see no reason to make him the focus of my theological praxis. I’ve read through the Institutes three times, but I don’t see why my having to quote Calvin would be more weighty than my quoting Rutherford or Turretin. I am not a Calvinist (and as Muller makes clear in Calvin and the Reformed Tradition, few Reformed folk even thought of themselves as “Calvinists”).

  3. I’m following both sides of this with interest, though I’ll readily admit that most of it is over my head!

    This is concerning, however, and I disagree:

    (1) Epistemological validity is commonly based on the finding of the majority. This is the method that forms the basis of scientific fact, democracy, and judicial opinion.

    (2) Eastern Orthodoxy uses the consensus of the majority (Biblical, patristic, ecclesiastical, and lay) to inform its theology and practice.

    (3) Therefore, Eastern Orthodoxy is epistemologically valid.

    I cannot agree with the validity premise 1, and so I disagree with the conclusion. I cannot speak to a quantitative answer to premise 2, and at any rate, if P1 is wrong, P2 is irrelevant. Epistemological validity is/may be commonly based upon majority opinion, but is this “mob-rule” approach to epistemological validity really valid? I disagree that the 51% is automatically right over the 49% (hence the mess that is modern western liberal democracy). The majority is not infallible, and is often horrendously wrong. History bears this out.

    I cannot offer a counter-syllogism, but I completely reject your P1 in this one. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom, and all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are deposited in Christ. That is the epistemology I recognize, although I know that is overly-broad for this discussion.

    Given my complete lack of familiarity with EO faith, and my (embryonic and beginner-level) interest in scholasticism, I may not be qualified to speak to this discussion’s larger points, but these are my thoughts on the syllogism you offered. It is technically logically sound as far as I can tell, but P1 is false in my opinion. I must reject a “mob-rule” epistemology. You may not actually hold to a “mob-rule” epistemology, but P1 makes it sound like this is the case.

    Thoughts?

    Thanks for your time!

    1. Justin,

      Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge!

      First of all, I commend you for recognizing that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Reading lots of books and being able to construct elaborate syllogism are of limited value when it comes to knowing the Living God. Much of Orthodox evangelism can be summed up in: “Come and see!” This is the answer Philip gave to Nathaniel in John 1:46. This agrees with Jesus’ reply to John the Baptist’s disciples. He told them: “Come and you will see.” (John 1:39) I recommend you visit an Orthodox Sunday worship service (called the Liturgy). I strongly recommend that Americans visit an Orthodox Liturgy that is in English. Many visitors do not know much about the intricacies of theology or philosophy but come away with a sense that they have had a holy encounter with the one true God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. May God bless your journey to Orthodoxy!

      As far as your distrust of consensus and your fear that it leads to mob rule, I would point out that the ancient Greeks saw value in “democracy” (the rule of the people) but had a fear of “ochlocracy” (the rule of the mob/crowd). Democracy in ancient Greece was premised upon the notion that the polis (city state) was comprised of intelligent and reasonable citizens and that through public debate wise decisions could be made on public matters. Transposed on Christianity we need to accept Scripture’s teaching that Christ founded his Church (Matthew 16:18), that the gates of hell can in no way undermine Christ’s Church, and we need to trust Christ’s promise that the Holy Spirit will guide the Church into all truth (John 16:13). A careful reading of Acts 15:6, 22, and 25 will show the importance of consensus in the Jerusalem Council and the Holy Spirit’s guiding the first Council. I suggest you read up on the early Ecumenical Councils and see how the Holy Spirit guided the early Church into the truth and compare that against Protestantism’s fractured denominationalism. I know as a good Protestant you strongly believe that God speaks through Scripture, I would also suggest that you have faith that God has been at work in history guiding and protecting the Church founded by Christ.

      Robert

      1. Robert,

        Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

        You said, “I strongly recommend that Americans visit an Orthodox Liturgy that is in English.” The nearest EO church that I can find is around 6 hours away, all the way across ND from me. 😉 It would be interesting to see, I’ll grant, but not likely any time soon. Even the nearest Reformed congregation is 2+ hours away. I’m awash in a sea of ELCA Lutherans and Roman Catholics. 🙁

        May God bless your journey to Orthodoxy!

        I caught that friendly presumption (Not that I’m offended by it, mind you). 😀

        I’m not very familiar with the Ecumenical Councils; as I am able, I will work them into my reading (a schedule which is quite full, lol!).

        I appreciate the distinction you drew between rule by the people and mob-rule. I think often the only thing separating the two is leadership’s ability/willingness to say, “no” (I think of “Silent Cal” type people in the White House and Congress, refusing to spend where they should not, versus the American presidents and officials we have these days who all but buy their offices by bribing the people). Perhaps the same can be applied to the ridiculous amount of splintering evident in Protestantism.

        At any rate, thanks for your interaction, and I’ll definitely take a spectator seat and read the interaction with great interest! I’ll be back and comment with questions and concerns.

    2. Justin,
      Good to have you along. I see you were hanging out at Jacob’s blog. I wanted to highlight the excellent comment by Robin Phillips yesterday on another thread over there, not sure if you noticed it. If we wish to learn about the ancient Orthodox faith, we need to understand how beliefs affect Christ himself (Christology) and/or the Trinity. Robin’s comment highlights the issue(Monotheletism/Monoenergism) that was the final blow to my former Calvinism and hence my conversion to Orthodoxy. The ancient church asked different questions than we are accustomed to when confronted with heretical ideas: What does such and such a doctrine do to Christ our God? Does this agree with what we have received from the apostles?
      Grace and peace.
      http://bayouhuguenot.wordpress.com/2013/08/10/zero-sum-glory/comment-page-1/#comment-1205

  4. Good job Robert,

    It should seem clear to any reader without an ax to grind to see Mr. Arakaki’s article is clearly premised not only upon Calvin, but several of the Reformed Confessional Standards..that he’s read and quoted accurately. LOL! In contrast, Mr. Aitken here seeks a novel refutation (at least per a Reformed perspective) from a few quotes from one modern reformed scholar. This seems all too much like how modern constitutional scholars “refute” what a host of colonial scholars demonstrate what original constitutional writers themselves understood what the constitution meant! lol Of course, the Reformed are often if not ultimately reduced to argumentation that is ahistorical per the Church Fathers, yet devolves into logical reasoning. Here we have one premised upon one modern reformed scholar…is clearly contrary to his own historic Reformed confessional documents. One can’t help but feel saddend to see what the free choice (predestined decision?) Mr. Aitken’s rejection of Orthodox has now led him to embrace.

    But allow me to offer my on logical syllogism for your consideration:

    (1) Christ faithfully kept His promised to send the Holy Spirit to teach His apostles all truth. (Jn 14 & 16)

    (2) Christ made good on faithfully fulfilling His promise on the Day of Pentecost — Holy Spirit coming and leading the Apostolic Church into all truth.

    (3) The Holy Spirit preserved what He taught the Apostles by their delivering over to their disciples (The Church) Holy Tradition the Apostles taught and preserved in the Orthodox Church.
    david

    1. David,

      Your syllogism at the end sounds like what many RC folks would say- just substitute “Roman Catholic” for “Orthodox.”

      How do you respond?

  5. Justin, I believe, has a valid point. We should normally suspect simple majority opinions. Robert’s qualification of public debate is good. But even the founding fathers were suspicious of simple majorities. Like the Greeks, they severely limited those who could vote (slaves & women and propertyless paupers had no voting franshise)! So a popular “majority” of supreme court justices naturally carries more weight in legal disputes…as do the judges at the Olympics. Even here, human “majorities” get it wrong.

    Robert’s syllogism per a Patristic “Church-Consensus”, of course, is a different animal altogether. Christ specifically promised the Holy Spirit to guide & lead the Church. It would seem a consensus of ordained Bishops (not the hoi poli)…over decades if not centuries…might carry similar weight as the Apostles at Jerusalem Council in Act 15?

    Does the Holy Spirit abide with the Church through time after Pentecost? Or, as we’ve seen before “Blink-On/Blink-Off” for centuries at a time…leaving the Bishops to flounder into apostasy? Or not?
    david

    1. I don’t believe in a “blinking” Holy Spirit. I believe that the Great Commission was given to the Church precisely because all power on heaven and earth was given to Christ- IOW, there is power to back up that commission, in time and in this world.

      It is hard to think that somehow Christ’s church foundered for centuries, but I am not sure that that equals (in my mind) that the visible EO (or RC, as they would claim) church is the Church. Then again, OTOH, when I look at OT history, our God did indeed allow His covenant people to founder and desecrate themselves with error and idolatry for long, sustained periods of time.

      So, while I would not like to think that the Church can blunder about in error for centuries, history shows that it can (and has). I suppose the tricky part is in determining when/where the error started to yield to the light. How to do that is the question.

      1. The Old Covenant is different from the New in some ways. This being one them:

        Matthew 16:18
        And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.

        You would have to assume that the entire visible Church collapsed, which would be unbiblical. Yes, every generation in Church History has it’s struggles, but the Church always survives in the end.

        You said:
        ” I suppose the tricky part is in determining when/where the error started to yield to the light. How to do that is the question.”

        But how do you know if it’s truly an error? For it may not even be an error in the first place. I’m just saying, an error according to who?

        1. Jnorm-

          I don’t think that it is unBiblical or inconsistent to say that the visible church could collapse/fall into disarray. The foundation for the church is faith in Christ, not Peter and a visible church. The foundation for the believer’s standing with Christ is faith, not a visible institution. This has not changed from OT to NT.

          As for the second part, knowing what is error, we’re into epistemology, and there are differences between what I would say and what an EO advocate would say.

          Even if I were to concede to a given understanding of patristic consensus as being a valid means of “knowing,” there are problems:

          1.) Patristic consensus is secondary to the Bible. Popery is an aberration not found in Scripture, along with the idea of Mary’s immaculate conception. I don’t care how many people agree on those things, I reject them as unBiblical. I know we’re not talking about RC, but I am just trying to illustrate a point.

          2.) How does one determine that the EO epistemology is valid? For all of the EO and RC arguments about sola (and solo!) Scriptura and how it places the individual as judge over truth, the fact remains that each RC and EO Christian still makes a decision to accept the paradigm of his church, bringing us back to the same place.

          3.) I have been told to go to an EO service and “experience” it to know that the EO tradition is “the one.” The problem I have with this is twofold- I absolutely mistrust my subjective judgment, especially when it comes to impressions and feelings, and this line of thought reminds me of what the Mormon missionaries say, ie, to “pray for confirmation and wait” for a feeling inside. I am not saying that you’re arguing this, but I think it is related to the subject at hand.

          How do I determine “truly” right and wrong?

          I do what I can, prayerfully, to weigh things against Scripture. I am not infallible; no man is. I have to accept that I cannot be certain about everything, due to the effect of indwelling sin in my intellect, will, and affections.

          That being said, I have to rely on the faith that was given me through no merit or effort of my own, a faith that -not being from me- is untainted by the blackness still in me.

          How do you (or a rank-and-file EO believer) discern what is truly error?

          1. Justin said:
            “”I don’t think that it is unBiblical or inconsistent to say that the visible church could collapse/fall into disarray.”

            Please clarify, are you saying it’s not unbiblical or inconsistent to say that the visible church could collapse / fall into disarray in its entirety? I’m sorry, but I don’t see how such a thing could be Biblical. I agree that a local church or region could fall into apostasy, but never the whole entire community of Churches on the planet. For Christ also said:

            Matthew 28:20
            “Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen”

            If Everyone (all churches on the planet) fell into Apostasy then how can Christ be with them?

            Also, if everyone fell into apostasy then how could it even be possible for someone to be approved and recognized?

            1 Corinthians 11:18-19
            For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. 19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.

            Justin said:
            “The foundation for the church is faith in Christ, not Peter and a visible church.”

            The foundation was Peter’s confession about Christ. For who is Christ? Who is this one that we must have faith in?
            Matthew 16:13-16
            “ When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?”
            14 So they said, “Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
            15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
            16 Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.””

            And the Church isn’t just a mere seeable institution. It is the Body of Christ. So why divide Christ from His Body?

            Justin said:
            “The foundation for the believer’s standing with Christ is faith, not a visible institution.”

            Why are we standing with Christ when we are His Body? Is there multiple bodies standing outside of Christ? Or is there one body standing? What you call a visible institution is His Body, the very thing standing. And so, why are you separating Christ from His Body?

            Justin said:
            “This has not changed from OT to NT.”

            Jesus wasn’t Incarnate in the OT and so there is a change, a difference.

            Justin said:
            “As for the second part, knowing what is error, we’re into epistemology, and there are differences between what I would say and what an EO advocate would say.”

            True, so why mention error if we may not be on the same page on what an error is?

            Now in regards to what you said about Patristic consensus.
            1.) Patristic consensus is a means to interpret the Bible, and so it’s our interpretation vs their interpreations. To say it your way is to hide your individual interpretation behind the Bible. As if your interpretation is the judge of all other interpretations. You said Popery and the immaculate conception were aberrations not found in Scripture. Well, how do you know they were aberations? How do you know they are not found in Scripture? Did Moses act like a pope at times? Isn’t Moses in the Bible? Also, if one has a different hermeneutic than you, then they will obviously interpret the Bible different than you. So how can you really know it’s unbiblical?

            2.) How do we determine that the EO epistemology is valid? Simple, how was True Teaching and practice determined in the 2nd and 3rd centuries? They obviously didn’t adhere to solo or sola scriptura and so how did they do it? In regards to the charge of placing the individual as judge over truth, yeah, when I first became EO, I did make a decision, but I wasn’t persuaded completely on every point. And so ultimately I had to accept the authority of the Church over me as an individual, meaning, on those issues that I had problems with or disagreed with didn’t matter, for I knew, that even if I don’t know at this point in time, it’s ok, for I know that the Church knows. So why worry? For the Truth doesn’t stand nor fall on me and what I am able to grasp or understand as an individual. This is the difference I see when it comes to that charge.

            3.) There is nothing wrong in going to an EO service to experience it.

            1 Corinthians 14:24-25
            But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. 25 And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you.

            And so there is nothing wrong with the method per say. A lot of groups give to the poor, does that mean giving to the poor is bad because some other group that we may not like does it?

            The Mormons believe in a total apostasy theory, from the looks of it, you seem to be saying something similar, but it doesn’t seem to bother you.

            Also, why not mistrust your subjective judgment when it comes to reading the Bible? (Bible interpretation)

            You seem to trust it more when it comes to that, but why?

            Justin said:
            “That being said, I have to rely on the faith that was given me through no merit or effort of my own, a faith that -not being from me- is untainted by the blackness still in me.”

            Does that faith include God’s sovereignty and providence in being with the Church always and how the gates of Hell will not prevail against it?

        2. Jnorm,

          I will respond, but it won’t be as a reply to a reply because the ever-shrinking text block gets difficult for me.

          😉

          Look for my reply below before too long. I copied-and-pasted your comment to word, and I will go through what you’ve said and respond.

  6. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but my understanding of the EO position is that Bishops in Council were guided to consensus (not majority) by the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, this consensus had to be of the whole Church and not merely a Council of Bishops. Conciliar decisions of the Bishops had to be accepted by all the local Churches they represented or those decisions were not ultimately binding. IOW, over time those conciliar decisions that continued to be upheld by the whole Church (not just decreed top-down by a Council of Bishops) came to be upheld as authoritative.

    Secondly, for Justin’s benefit, I’ll mention that for the EO, “the Church” does not mean simply the sum total of everything and everyone formally in canonical Eastern Orthodox institutions. For us, “the Church” in her visible manifestation on earth from NT times is certainly evident in formal EO dogma/Creed, Liturgy, and especially in the holiness of those we recognize as Saints.

    For the EO, the Church is the living manifestation of “Holy Tradition,” that is, the Holy Spirit’s presence and teaching, whether oral or written. When we say the EO Church is the Church, we mean we are confident that her dogma, liturgy, and sacramental practices, etc., are fully trustworthy expressions of the real meaning of the Scriptures and the life of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ and are the proper norms whereby human beings are bodily incorporated into Christ in this world. It means that everything that departs from the norms of the Church (whether of dogma or formal practice as well as the sins of her formal members, whether clergy or laity) is not properly part of “the Church.” Thus those confessional associations of professing Christians outside of canonical Orthodoxy (including bodies calling themselves “Orthodox,” but which depart on some point of faith or practice) are not properly, as institutions, within “the Church.”

    What this does NOT mean to us is that everyone formally in the Orthodox Church is being saved while everyone outside the Orthodox communion is not being saved. We don’t have a monopoly on the Holy Spirit who works according to what is really in all of our hearts and can certainly work outside of the norms He has given to the Church. Also, it is possible for an Orthodox who participates in the Orthodox Eucharist to “eat and drink condemnation” unto himself because he is unrepentant and unfaithful. Personal salvation is not magically, mechanistically, or automatically effected by nominal participation in an Orthodox parish, but is the result of engaging faithfully in its life as one is convicted and empowered by the grace of the Holy Spirit.

    So to summarize, from an EO perspective, hierarchs, members, parishes and even whole dioceses of the Church can sin and “blunder about in error,” as you put it, but when they do they show themselves to be not properly of the Church in the sense that the EO use the term (a historic example is the Arian bishops and their dioceses, one of the earliest heresies). In other words, errors of hierarchs, etc., are not errors of “the Church,” but of her members, and this is an important distinction for an Orthodox understanding of what is meant by the “Church.”

    1. Well said Karen. Thinking in terms of Christology, how can Christ “desert His Body and Bride” and still be faithful? And what exactly does Christ really mean when he says, “I will never leave you for forsake you” but “be with you…until the end of ages”?
      …just saying

    2. Karen,

      I just want to say how much I appreciate your observation that the Church is more than the sum total of everything and everyone in a canonically Orthodox institution. It is because of the presence of the Holy Spirit that Holy Tradition a living reality in Orthodoxy. One thing I appreciate about Orthodoxy is the continuity in doctrine and worship which unites its members to the ancient Church. Before I used to read about the Nicene Creed and the Ecumenical Councils, now when I go to church on Sunday mornings I find myself in that same undivided Church. Church history has become a living reality, something I never quite experienced as a Protestant.

      Robert

    3. Yes, Orthodoxy follows the consensus of the Councils, not the consensus of the majority (or even of the Fathers). This has not always been the majority viewpoint in the church at any given time.

  7. Excellent response to Aitken! Thank you, Robert. I think it needs to be kept in mind that the offered syllogism for Patristic Consensus was ONLY to show that Aitken’s claim of “circular reasoning” was unfounded. Of course, God’s direct Revelation must be a validity check on any consensus within the Church. EO takes the “weight” of the combined resources the Church offers—Scripture, patristic writings, Church Tradition, conciliar councils, lay approval, etc.—to form what it knows as truth. Any particular source can be (and sometimes has been) in error, but by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the combined resources (the “majority” of belief, opinion, and revelation) when weighed together is valid.

    What I find notable about Aitken’s article is what he admits are the “intricacies of Reformed theology.” Look up “intricate” in any dictionary and it will give you definitions like “hard to follow,” “puzzling,” “overly detailed,” etc. The Latin root of the word means “tricky.” As a seminarian from a Reformed institution, I can attest first hand that Reformed theology is mind-boggling complex compared to Orthodoxy. One of the things that appealed to me when I converted to becoming Orthodox, is that the theology is relatively straight forward. Occam’s Razor might be another epistemologically valid reason to consider the claims of the Orthodox Church.

    1. Personally, as someone who has spent time thinking about both traditions, I don’t see Orthodoxy as less intricate than Reformed theology. But I do see it as less analytical. And in that sense it is less tricky. Reformed theology requires one to understand and comprehend intellectually all that is taught. I sense that to become Orthodox, one is not submitting to an intellectually superior faith, but rather to what is viewed as the truth.

      1. Prometheus,
        Good points. And this is why we do not employ the methodology of sola scriptura, which is to submit to only those whom you agree with from your personal interpretation of scripture. The Orthodox convert finds Christ’s church and submits to her bishops and her teachings whether they fully understand or are “comfortable” with certain things or not.

  8. These comments remind me of the late brilliant Reformed theologian RJ Rushdoony’s book _Infallibility: An Inescapable Concept_ Of course, he settled on “Scripture Alone” amid the options of a democracy of the people (mob); republicanism selected representatives or judges, academic experts or Institutions, or Libertarian autonomy… What he didn’t do is wrestle in any way with the autonomous shopping individual who selects his own infallibility (per his own judgement) from a array of options. Once one submits to the Holy Spirit teaching Holy Tradition to the Church in time and history…all else starts looking like pride…carving out their own “new-&-improved” tradition.

  9. I can’t get over the similarity between much of what I have heard here vs. RC claims. Do you have any resources on your site about this?

    Pretend I am going to pick EO, RC, or atheism (This is hypothetical, of course). How would you convince me to listen to the Eastern church over the Western one?

    1. Exactly what I struggle with. Is there clear evidence that EO’s claims are overwhelmingly superior to that of RC claims? Whenever there is a valid critique of the RC church, there seems to be a correlating one in the EO church, even where they do not agree. I keep thinking that I want to leave the Protestant movement because of its problems, but I keep finding obstacles in the EO arguments, issues that currently are insurmountable. So I am Protestant by default. I want to get out, but more than that I want to only join the EO church if it is where I think the truth is located. But I cannot yet say that I’m convinced.

      1. Dear Justin and Prometheus,

        Rather than argue for the superiority of Eastern Orthodoxy, I think the better question to ask is: What was the early Church like in terms of polity, worship, and doctrine? Or to put it another way: Was early Christianity Protestant, Roman Catholic with the Pope as the infallible supreme Pontiff, or like Eastern Orthodoxy? Give me your thoughts on this and we’ll see where this takes us.

        Robert

        1. What was the early Church like in terms of polity, worship, and doctrine?

          This seems to be the foundational question, indeed. Answering this eliminates the need to asking the other one.

          The fact is, I don’t know for sure. I know it was rife with heresy and error almost from the beginning. I speak here of the visible church, that is, professing Christians whether converted or not- Christ died to present his bride without spot or blemish.

          I don’t see a lot of warrant for popery in Scripture or in the early church. I also don’t see a lot of room for incense and the heavy (and beautiful, I must say, from online videos) imagery and sensory experience present in the EO church, either. While I understand there are historical circumstances and contexts that must be considered, I don’t see a lot of that kind of thing (either popery or intricate liturgy) coming from groups of worshippers hiding from the Roman sword or Jewish stones. I also don’t see a lot of protestant practices, either, such as heavy scholastic study, etc.

          I do grant that your question about the early church’s practices and faith is a valid one, but I am honestly not sure where to take this from here.

          FWIW- thank you for the “notify by email” button. I think that’s new, and it is very useful to me!

    2. Justin,
      From a Protestant perspective, Rome and EO do have similar claims to being “the church”. Part of this stems from being together in the beginning. Rome will feel more familiar for Prots because they do theology in a similar fashion. They are discussing familiar issues but disagreeing on the result. Catholic scholasticism will just be a different set of propositions but the Reformed scholastics thought the same way. When it comes to Rome, see if you can find the modern Catholic church in the first millennium. For example don’t be satisfied to find a pope from ancient times, but see if he had Rome’s present “full, immediate, universal and absolute” authority. The 5th Ecumenical Council destroys that when an Ecumenical Council spanks a sitting pope. Robert’s post on Catholicism is helpful and be sure to read through the comments for further interaction.
      https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthodoxbridge/why-i-did-not-become-roman-catholic-a-sort-of-response-to-jason-stellman/

      1. What was the early Church like in terms of polity, worship, and doctrine?

        This seems to be the foundational question, indeed. Answering this eliminates the need to asking the other one.

        The fact is, I don’t know for sure. I know it was rife with heresy and error almost from the beginning. I speak here of the visible church, that is, professing Christians whether converted or not- Christ died to present his bride without spot or blemish.

        I don’t see a lot of warrant for popery in Scripture or in the early church. I also don’t see a lot of room for incense and the heavy (and beautiful, I must say, from online videos) imagery and sensory experience present in the EO church, either. While I understand there are historical circumstances and contexts that must be considered, I don’t see a lot of that kind of thing (either popery or intricate liturgy) coming from groups of worshippers hiding from the Roman sword or Jewish stones. I also don’t see a lot of protestant practices, either, such as heavy scholastic study, etc.

        I do grant that your question about the early church’s practices and faith is a valid one, but I am honestly not sure where to take this from here.

        FWIW- thank you for the “notify by email” button. I think that’s new, and it is very useful to me!

        1. Justin,

          I’m glad to see you engaging the question I put on the table. Let me give you some of my thoughts.

          I would say that “popery” is a distortion of the leadership role played by the Bishop of Rome in the early church. This is based on the model of first among equals. I believe biblical warrant can be found in Acts 15 where at the Jerusalem Council, James the Bishop of Jerusalem, hosted and presided over that council. Also, in the Gospels you find Apostle Peter acting as the spokesperson for the group of disciples. He was acting as first among equals, not as one holding a superior rank. This kind of charisma is needed to provide the body of Christ here on earth some organizational coherence without falling into tyranny.

          With respect to incense I suggest you read my posting “Defending Incense.” You might also want to read my article: “Biblical Basis for Icons.” The line of reasoning here is if the Old Testament worship made use of icons and incense, and if the Church is the continuation of Old Testament Israel, then one can expect to see elements of Old Testament worship in Christian worship. This in turn leads to the question which church tradition — Protestant, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox — best reflect the biblical pattern of worship?

          And I’m glad you brought up the issue of the comment notification button! I need to know these things.

          Robert

          1. Oh wow. You’ve written exhaustively on this site! I’ll read your articles.

            As for “that” question on the most resembling the early church, I know that I don’t know, and that’s all I know. 😉

            For now.

            All I can commit to at this point is to study these things out.

          2. Justin,

            Take your time. The point is not quick fire comments and response, but thoughtful dialogue. I’ll wait. And with the comment notification feature I’m sure your comments won’t get lost in the shuffle.

            Keep in mind that one time I had very little knowledge about early church history, but because I’m curious and because by nature I’m a researcher that’s why I wrote all these articles. It’s been an exciting and at times surprising journey for me.

            Robert

      2. Canadian-

        Thanks for the link. Perfect!

        You said, “When it comes to Rome, see if you can find the modern Catholic church in the first millennium.

        I agree that modern popery isn’t present in the early church. I also think that the RC church is “evolving” (that is, adapting to a godless world), and find irreconcilable differences between, for instance, Trent and Vatican 2. For an infallible interpreter, Rome sure changes its mind a lot. I’m reminded of the Mormons getting a “revelation” to discontinue polygamy after they got in legal trouble over it.

        I’m not much for a church that claims to possess absolute truth, but changes to reflect (and somewhat mirror!) cultural ideas. I’m one of those people who is for planting my feet and dying where I stand, especially where the eternal is concerned. Rome moves too much IMO to have any serious claim to represent the faith that was “once for all” delivered to the saints.

  10. Justin,

    Robert & Canadian’s suggestion per finding what the Church of the first 1K yrs was like are excellent suggestions. History is important and Michael Whelton’s book _Two Paths_ was very helpful to me…to ID the Roman church well. Let me encourage you to patiently keep reading and praying.
    http://journeytoorthodoxy.com/2010/10/30/two-paths-michael-whelton/#axzz1tB34cisI

    An issue that increasingly got its grip on me as I read was the implication of Christ’s promise to his Apostles in terms of Pentecost…and the continuing God-presence of the Holy Spirit, teaching the Church all things. Clearly in the texts of NT Scripture — it lays the foundational bedrock for Holy Tradition…also clearly reference in the NT Scriptures themselves. I’d like several articles here but can’t find them in the Archives or Reviews! “:-( But the connection of ‘Promise-Pentecost-Holy Tradition’ is an increasingly compelling argument for justifying “what” the early did and “believed”. Maybe Robert can find you a few of those links to articles I can’t find. In the mean time, Prof. Clarke Carlton’s Journey story (especially the 2nd half) has very salient things to say about the claim of Holy Tradition upon the serious & sincere Christian. http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/tca_carltonfirstbaptist.aspx
    enjoy the journey brother

  11. Jnorm;

    Please clarify, are you saying it’s not unbiblical or inconsistent to say that the visible church could collapse / fall into disarray in its entirety? I’m sorry, but I don’t see how such a thing could be Biblical. I agree that a local church or region could fall into apostasy, but never the whole entire community of Churches on the planet.

    If Everyone (all churches on the planet) fell into Apostasy then how can Christ be with them?

    Point 1, re visible church: I am saying that it is possible that at some point in history, the majority of professing Christians (ie the visible church) have apostasized. In many congregations, it is very likely that most of the members are unconverted.

    Further, apostates were never in Christ’s Church/body to begin with (1 John 2:19). This is vital, especially when distinguishing between the visible and invisible church(es).

    Also, if everyone fell into apostasy then how could it even be possible for someone to be approved and recognized?

    Recognized by who?

    Justin said:
    “The foundation for the church is faith in Christ, not Peter and a visible church.”
    The foundation was Peter’s confession about Christ.

    Exactly. That’s what I said. This was revealed to Him by the Father. We agree. However, mouthing the words is different than having been given the gift of faith.

    And the Church isn’t just a mere seeable institution. It is the Body of Christ. So why divide Christ from His Body?

    I agree. The visible church is not necessarily Christ’s church. I do not divide Christ from His body; I make a distinction between the visible and invisible churches.

    Why are we standing with Christ when we are His Body? Is there multiple bodies standing outside of Christ? Or is there one body standing? What you call a visible institution is His Body, the very thing standing. And so, why are you separating Christ from His Body?

    I do not understand your first 3 questions. Can you re-state them? Also, I do not divide Christ from his body. See above.

    True, so why mention error if we may not be on the same page on what an error is?

    I did not first bring up error. David did, August 12, 10:28. I responded to what he said. Are you asserting that we cannot discuss error? That I can’t talk about it unless we agree on doctrine? We’re here to dialogue and sort things out. At any rate, I won’t argue this point. Fair enough, I suppose. Please define error in a manner that we can agree on.

    1.) Patristic consensus is a means to interpret the Bible, and so it’s our interpretation vs their interpreations. To say it your way is to hide your individual interpretation behind the Bible. As if your interpretation is the judge of all other interpretations. You said Popery and the immaculate conception were aberrations not found in Scripture. Well, how do you know they were aberations? How do you know they are not found in Scripture? Did Moses act like a pope at times? Isn’t Moses in the Bible? Also, if one has a different hermeneutic than you, then they will obviously interpret the Bible different than you. So how can you really know it’s unbiblical?

    Please show me the Bishop of Rome as portrayed by RC in Scripture. It is not there. How do I know? Read. Do so with Mary as well, please. This is not that hard. If the Word says “A,” and the RC church says “not A” in the same sense and context, am I to throw out Scripture in favor of “submission?” Convince me from Scripture, I say, don’t just hit me with “submit.” You and I know that these two RC doctrines are recent innovations. There is no evidence to support either claim. If it were something minor (ie “what happened to Joseph”), fine. All but deifying a woman (who admits to needing a Savior) is a bit far, doncha think?

    2.) How do we determine that the EO epistemology is valid? Simple, how was True Teaching and practice determined in the 2nd and 3rd centuries?
    What about the first century? How did Jesus do it? He quoted the Word, not the Sanhedrin.

    They obviously didn’t adhere to solo or sola scriptura

    How not?

    In regards to the charge of placing the individual as judge over truth, yeah, when I first became EO, I did make a decision, but I wasn’t persuaded completely on every point. And so ultimately I had to accept the authority of the Church over me as an individual, meaning, on those issues that I had problems with or disagreed with didn’t matter, for I knew, that even if I don’t know at this point in time, it’s ok, for I know that the Church knows. So why worry? For the Truth doesn’t stand nor fall on me and what I am able to grasp or understand as an individual. This is the difference I see when it comes to that charge.

    You are still making the decision to submit to the authority of the church as it relates to its truth claims, are you not?

    3.) There is nothing wrong in going to an EO service to experience it.

    No, you’re right. I might be going to one soon, and have watched some videos, but I will not make a judgment about the entirety of its truth claims or whether or not I should surrender my judgment based on an experience.

    And so there is nothing wrong with the method per say. A lot of groups give to the poor, does that mean giving to the poor is bad because some other group that we may not like does it?

    I don’t see how this follows from what I said. I am saying that I must be convinced from Scripture, not by a subjective experience.

    The Mormons believe in a total apostasy theory, from the looks of it, you seem to be saying something similar, but it doesn’t seem to bother you.

    I did not once assert total apostasy. I asserted a difference between the visible and invisible church.

    Also, why not mistrust your subjective judgment when it comes to reading the Bible? (Bible interpretation)

    You seem to trust it more when it comes to that, but why?

    Words are not subjective, unless one is an existentialist fool. Sensory input is different from emotion. I can’t explain how, but this is obvious. My wife cries at things I do not. I cry at things she does not. We both, however, understand what c-a-t means.

    Does that faith include God’s sovereignty and providence in being with the Church always and how the gates of Hell will not prevail against it?

    Again, I distinguish between the visible and invisible churches.

    It would be helpful to me if we tackled one subject at a time. I’m a bit slow. 😉 What area would you like to focus on?

    Seriously. I am very interested in dialogue, but let’s stick to one or two things at a time, otherwise all you’ll get from me are incomplete answers as my brain melts down. 😉

    1. “I don’t think that it is unBiblical or inconsistent to say that the visible church could collapse/fall into disarray”

      This may be a bit loaded with reformed assumptions because the church is inherently visible, unless one embrace ecclesial docetism. The real church is not just the hidden elect. Not every person within the church is necessarily saved, but they are still in the only church there is, hence the warnings in Hebrews 6 & 10.

      “The foundation for the church is faith in Christ, not Peter and a visible church.”

      Eph 2:19-21 The household of God is built on the foundation of Persons….apostles, prophets and Christ as cornerstone. We enter by faith and baptism and become living stones. Eph 1:22-23 shows the fullness of Christ is in his body the church, not the individual.

      Following your numbering:
      1) The church functioned fully and exploded for several decades with no NT writings. The indwelling Spirit working in the body of Christ produced the scriptures. The canon itself is not derived from the scriptures but from the consensus of the father’s. It is special pleading to trust them for a canon but not for their interpretation of it.

      2) The difference is stark here and not the same thing at all. The Prot will never submit to anyone until he first agrees from his personal interpretation of scripture. His interpretation creates the object of submission. If he can’t find a group that agrees, he will start his own. For an Orthodox convert, they use their faculties to find the church Christ established in the beginning and once she is found he submits to those who rule over him as Heb 13 says. His submission is not conditioned on his agreeing from scripture but on the recognition of the authority Christ has established. He often submits without agreeing with much at all. The Pharisaic Christians in Acts 15 argued fervently for circumcision and lawkeeping but completely submitted once the Council ruled. See Acts 16:4.

      3) No, your not being told to “come and see” to see if we can wow your senses and offer you something unique hoping for a burning in the bosom, though God is the author of truth and beauty. I suggest you look at the most ancient liturgies, and writings of fathers. See how they worshipped, what they said and did. Did they have an altar as in Heb 13? And what did they believe about the eucharist, baptism, liturgy, bishops, etc. Then go to an Orthodox liturgy and compare. But start with Vespers service, you can fully participate, it is shorter and quite beautiful.

      As for truth and error, this does not have to be figured out every generation. The faith is once for all delivered to the saints. We know even bishops can become heretics, but they deviate from this faith. So we trust Christ’s promises to that which is the pillar and foundation of the truth, the church and her bishops. For the fullness of Christ is there, and schism is not an option. He promised to lead her into all truth.

  12. This may be a bit loaded with reformed assumptions…

    Yup. I’m reformed. 😉 What did you expect? 😀

    For an Orthodox convert, they use their faculties to find the church Christ established in the beginning and once she is found he submits to those who rule over him as Heb 13 says.

    Well, that’s likely more than a bit loaded with EO assumptions (the bolded portion, which is, of course, the EO church as indicated by “For an Orthodox convert”…). 😉

    That’s what I’d expect, as well.

    I am operating off reformed presuppositions; you from EO presuppositions. Where’s the common ground? Is there “a” starting point for this conversation? Is there a single point we can start with?

    Here is what I have told RC folks who suggest that I swim the Tiber to Rome. They say, “Read the RC Catechism.”

    “Fine,” says I.

    I reject it as unbiblical. They then tell me to submit to the teaching of the RC church, whose authority, BTW, I rejected in rejecting their catechism.

    It seems to me that EO makes the same demands of me. It demands that I abandon what I see as the teaching of God’s Word for an authority that I haven’t come to accept. Should I see the case that establishes interpretive authority and authority over the conscience for the EO tradition, I would gladly abandon my own interpretation and submit. I am no longer a rebel.

    That is what it boils down to, I think. Authority.

    I suppose all of the disagreements I have boil down to that, and all of the questions I have are secondary to that one. If EO’s authority is established, all those questions are void- I will submit to legitimate authority. If EO’s authority over my view of Scripture is not established, then there are many parts of EO practice that I can never accept.

    I’m primarily talking myself through this, if you hadn’t noticed. 😉 I think that this will (has to) be my focus. All other questions are secondary, IMO. Would you agree?

    1. Justin,
      You have a good spirit in this. You are willing to be wrong, I appreciate that.
      I was a reformed Baptist when I examined what the church looked like in the ancient centuries, so I was biased toward the Reformed at the time as well. I didn’t want this to be true. I didn’t want the 6th Ecumenical Council’s Christology to slaughter my Reformed anthropology, but it did.
      The starting point is not to just reject things as unbiblical, because that is completely subjective. Find out what those who were with the apostles believed, and those who followed.
      We reject Rome’s position not because of personal biblical interpretation alone, but because it is not the faith we received from the beginning. You will find Rome has apostolic succession but not a succession of the faith, both are required.

      Yes, authority is huge. In fact, when I came to talk to my local priest after 4 years of study, I said to him “I wish to repent of my state of schism and submit to those that have the rule over me.” I discovered that no NT church ordained their own elders. Not one. It was done for them by those authorized to do so. Acts 14:23, Tit 1:5. So by what authority do you pick elders for yourselves? Certainly not scripture.
      And if the church that gave you a canon also affirms that Monotheletism/Monoenergism are heretical, and that free will is a constituent of human nature, as seen in that Christ assumed it from his mother without change, you have a decision to make about refomed Christology and anthropology.
      As in Acts 16:4, the church has the ability to issue binding and normative doctrine for all Christians, no matter how much OT scripture supports circumcision and lawkeeping. (I’m glad I wasn’t there, I would have blown it for sure, siding with what scripture clearly says in the OT).
      Grace and peace to you. Thanks for putting up with my ramblings.

      1. Canadian-

        I’m certainly not “putting up” with your “ramblings!” 😀 You have been very helpful. I have found conversation here at the Bridge to be edifying, not contentious, in spite of the disagreements.

        You said, “The starting point is not to just reject things as unbiblical, because that is completely subjective. Find out what those who were with the apostles believed, and those who followed.

        That is interesting- the idea that Biblical/unbiblical categorizations are subjective. On the one hand, I immediately reject that statement, because to say that words can have more than one meaning sounds to me like existentialist nonsense. A cat is a cat. A tree is a tree. The Decalogue is the Decalogue. The faith was once for all delivered to the saints. On the other hand, however, I see for myself the thousands of denominations that, by their very existence apart from each other, are making different and conflicting claims about the Biblical warrant/justification of a myriad of subjects. I spent my early life in that maelstrom- church shopping with my parents at various churches, and graduating from an IFB, KJV-only highschool. So while “biblical” and “subjective” are grating to me in the same sentence, I see how this works in real life. That can’t be denied!

        As far as being willing to be wrong, well, I’ve just had the shadowy image of EO that I had built in my mind shattered in detail. That’s always a bit humbling. 🙂

        Thanks, and I look forward to more interaction!

  13. May I suggest that for the group of believing Pharisees in Acts 15:5-7, by all accounts had OT texts about physical circumcision and law keeping that was as close to “a cat is a cat is a cat!” if there ever was one. The OT is explicit in that circumcision is “everlasting” and anyone uncircumcised will be “cut off from my people.” They were wrong.

    1. Canadian,

      I think that perhaps this had much to do with the further specific revelation in Romans and Galatians on the subject.

      I especially appreciate the passages in Romans that speak of what real circumcision is. These passages are just as plain concerning circumcision of the heart as were the OT ones stipulating circumcision in the flesh. I do not deny that some things change, but I believe that the Jerusalem council’s decision on this matter was made in accordance with the gospel.

      While it is true that they did not have the books of Romans and Galatians in written form to make these decisions, these truths written would not have contradicted the truths they had received from the apostles that they based their decision on. The faith “once delivered to the saints” implies a faith -including but not limited to specific doctrinal positions- that was clear and binding on the saints.

      In other words, the written NT teaching on circumcision would have been a given. The Judaizers were wrong, not I think that they were wrong not because they insisted on adherence to OT law, but because their views were contrary to what had been passed from the Lord Jesus to the Apostles.

      $.02

      1. Oops. Need to proofread. Should say:

        I think the Judaizers were wrong not because they insisted on adherence to OT law, but because their views were contrary to what had been passed from the Lord Jesus to the Apostles.

        Sorry for the incoherence. :-/

      2. Right, but the point is that this was not derived from scripture alone. The weight of the literal sense of scripture
        would have led them to err and draw back from Christ, the Conciliar (not just apostolic) interpretation was what “seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us.” And don’t forget Colossians 2 tells us where the circumcision without hands takes place….
        baptism. Just like it is in the human/divine sacrament of marriage where “God has joined together” husband and wife.

        1. I think I may have inadvertently espoused somewhat of an EO view above when I said:

          While it is true that they did not have the books of Romans and Galatians in written form to make these decisions, these truths written would not have contradicted the truths they had received from the apostles that they based their decision on. The faith “once delivered to the saints” implies a faith -including but not limited to specific doctrinal positions- that was clear and binding on the saints.

          I was listening to an Ancient Faith podcast today that spoke to this. I was a bit nonplussed to hear her say that doctrine is not taken from Scripture. When I thought about it though, I found that the implications of what I said above lead to the same place- Scripture is the written form of the faith “once for all delivered to the saints.” So, in a way (I can’t believe I am thinking this), it could be said that doctrine does not come from Scripture. Paul, for instance, spoke of things that he taught the Ephesians prior to writing the letter.

          So much to think about.

          1. You intuit correctly. The scriptures are part of the Tradition, not the tradition enscripturated. Yet the father’s are saturated with scripture and of course scripture is profitable for doctrine, reproof, encouragement etc, but Christ himself is the Word of God and the scriptures testify to him.
            Schaff highlights that all the Ecumenical Council father’s are not acting as scriptural exegetes but as witnesses to the Tradition, in a very short but excellent intro to the Nicene Council:
            http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf214.vii.ii.html

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