Orthodox Teenager Rebuts Pastor Doug Wilson

KabaneTheChristian

KabaneTheChristian, aka Tommy Hamilton, refutes Pastor Doug Wilson’s 13 June 2011 podcast: “Is the Orthodox Church the Only True Church?” Kabane’s rebuttal is remarkable in light of the fact that he has done his research and carefully thought through the issues. 

Kabane is a young Orthodox apologist in more ways than one.  He is apparently still in high school, and he converted to Orthodoxy about two years ago.  What is striking about the podcast is the clarity with which he presents and defends the Orthodox faith.

Other Podcasts by KabaneTheChristian

Other podcasts of interest are:

Romans 9 and Reformed Theology

Romans 9, continued

Salvation in Ephesians 2:8-10

 

51 comments:

    1. This kid radically misrepresents Augustine and paints him as though HE was the only person who was supporting the filioque theory. In reality, filioque impulses were present all over the western Church. (Explicitly by St Hilliary in the mid 300s, probably around the time that Augustine was learning Latin. As well as Ephrem the Syrian, Epiphanius of Salamis in the East, in addition to Cyril of Alexander who was a contemporary of Augustine all of which spoke Greek and are free of the Gnostic baggage that Augustine had).

      I have all sorts of problems with Doug Wilson, but this is not a fair treatment of the issue or of Augustine.

      1. Tony,

        Thanks for joining in the discussion! I would say that Kabane was describing Western Christianity using broad brush strokes for a short podcast. I appreciate your more nuanced and detailed description of the Filioque. Maybe you can recommend a book or article for our readers to follow up on?

        Robert

  1. I haven’t been following this site but had to visit in order to believe it was really true…teenage refutations! ROFL.

    This site is becoming like the Orthodox equivalent of the National Enquirer for Internet Apologetics. What’s next? Roseanne Bar converts to Orthodoxy and shames R.C. Sproul through a stand-up routine??? Or, maybe a thousand monkeys randomly typing come up with the Jesus Prayer after just 45 minutes? I’m sure we’ll have the video for all to see on YouTube for that one!

    This is just too hilarious. Keep up the good work guys, I never knew comedy could be such an exceptional apologetics tool.

  2. Tim Enloe and Rev. Kevin D. Johnson, please show more respect for my friend Seraphim Hamilton. And yes, he is a friend of mine!

    I won’t tolerate rude remarks against him!

    1. Kevin,

      Did you listen to the podcast? If you did, was there anything in the content that you found incorrect or unconvincing? Let’s stick to the content of the subject matter. I want this blog to be a place where there’s intelligent discussion on both ends. Your snide allegations are not contributing any substance to our discussion. I know you can do better than that.

      Robert

      1. Robert,

        Yes. I listened to the podcast and was duly unimpressed as my above comments ought to have made clear. But, no, I’m not going to engage either the young man or what he attempts to demonstrate. Furthermore, I’m absolutely uninterested in defending Douglas Wilson (yawn) as if he carries any sort of authentic voice for what it means to be Reformed.

  3. Tim/Kevin,

    For men who strain so desperately for respect to be regarded as “scholars” you might wanna begin by patiently and compassionately showing only the slightest respect for others. This young man fired a quick shot…but you offer no substance to your laughter and scorn. I have dear Liberal/Letftist friends and relatives who “argue” in exactly the same manner whenever a Government boondogle or Democrat is called to account…all without dealing with the substance. Kindly and graciously show us just where this young fellow is wrong per Pastor Wilson podcast, and we will listen and prehaps respect you. But your laughter and scorn (allthewhile pleading to be regarded as serious scholars!) is far from persuasive. Indeed, it is embarassing. It makes you look like my pompous condescending Liberal/Leftist friends…empty bluster without substance. Like Robert said, you men are bigger and better than this. Man up and grow up.

    1. David, I will repay your bluntness with bluntness of my own: stop taking this stuff on this site so seriously. You continually respond to materials here as if you’re a starry-eyed Evangelical who’s only just now realized that gee whiz, the Bible had to be compiled and put between covers by somebody, and that somebody wasn’t a member of my denomination. Gee whiz, also, Christianity had a history before the establishment of my own denomination, and wow, other intelligent people read it differently than me and my denomination. Your attitude to the materials here is not in keeping with a well-trained, unafraid Reformed mind, and your repeated jabs at Kevin and myself for our refusal to be as starry-eyed as you are really tiresome.

      Kevin and I have been around this block for many years. You don’t have to believe what we say just because we say it, but unless you want to simply call us liars (not knowing either of us at all), and unless you have more to offer from your own Reformed convictions than continual fawning over the posts and comments here, then frankly you have no business pretending a superior wisdom regarding how seriously this stuff should be taken.

      So to this particular post. Robert wants engagement with the “substance” of this young man’s podcast. Excuse me? What “substance” can anyone realistically expect from a HIGH SCHOOLER? Good Lord, man, in high school you’re lucky to handle the bodily and emotional traumas of puberty while keeping your grades up and trying not to wreck your relationship with your parents. Certainly there is no time, and more importantly, no maturity to one’s thought processes that deserves any serious attention from adults regarding matters of serious intellectual substance. Anyone who has been a teenager KNOWS that the besetting sin of that age range is believing oneself to know a lot more than one knows. Confidence is extreme; real knowledge is in very short supply. But it takes years for one to realize that, and it takes a process called “growing up” to make one realize just how foolish one was in one’s teens. Like the old joke goes, “In my teens I thought my parents knew nothing, but when I grew up I was surprised how much they had learned.”

      I absolutely refuse to listen to a zit-faced high schooler lecture others about complex matters of theology and history that professional scholars spend decades trying to master. I’ve been a zit-faced high-schooler, and I remember my idiocy, thinking I knew so much and everybody else was dumb for not seeing how “obvious” it all is. If you think this immature KID, who is likely more concerned with the social awkwardness of changing voice tones and trying to grow a mustache has any kind of substantial knowledge of matters that have occupied people like Athanasius, the Cappadocians, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, etc., then you are living in a fantasy land. Let him cite scholars on this or that if he will – but citing scholars is not the same thing as oneself KNOWING what the scholars know. Scholarship is more than the ability to memorize information. It involves a formation of the mind that takes many years of long, careful, sober-minded preparation. It is not the kind of thing you can achieve as a teenager peering into your video camera and blabbering out of your immaturity because you have this great felt need to be an “apologist” on YouTube.

      So, David, keep your condemnations of me and Kevin to yourself. If you’re so insecure in your Reformed convictions as to be unsettled by a teenager, that’s your problem, not ours. Certainly we are not obligated in any fashion to take him seriously simply because YOU do.

      1. Tim, if your m.o. here is “in keeping with a well-trained, unafraid, Reformed mind,” may God truly keep and save us all from that!!! Really, your attitude positively reeks of the kind of demonic influence James 3:13-18 talks about. It hits one like the wall of stench one encounters entering a public restroom at an inopportune moment, shall we say! It’s probably not worth the trouble to remind you that our Lord was also once a teenager (and accordingly sanctified that condition) and at the age of 12 impressed the elders of his day with his wisdom. A genuinely biblical theological astuteness worth its salt (a.k.a., true wisdom) is available not on the basis of academic training or chronological age (though one hopes that might help), but is abundantly given to the pure and humble of heart.

        David, my cyber friend, you are a far kinder and more gracious conversational partner in this circumstance than I would find it possible to be.

  4. And by the way, if you are inclined to say I’m simply an arrogant posturer, few things are closer to my mindset than the immediate willingness to admit, in full view of the public, that I don’t know something and am not competent to discuss it. Perry Robinson is an Orthodox scholar who sometimes appears here, and in my long history with him I have 99% of the time concluded that his intellectual formation on whatever issue we were discussing so far surpasses mine that whatever I might say on the subject is just about worthless. But there is a vast difference between being schooled by a serious scholar like Perry, and pretending that a zit-faced teenager can school me. I’ve been a teenager. They don’t know jack, and one of their biggest faults is precisely the fact that they think they DO know jack.

  5. Tim,

    I only asked for substance…not more condescending name-calling. The young man tried a serious response to a specific podcast…with a 4-5 point response to him (NOT trying to refute the whole Reformed Faith!). You have not, in all your vast experience, reading and depth responded to one point. Oh, but you do call him derogatory names, several times …oh and me too…”stary-eyed evangelical”. (LOL that’s your best shot) Your notion that he is sooo beneath you is pathetic and comical at the same time. Of course, almost old enough to be your father, I’ve been around the Reformed block at least as many times as you, and am weary of your self-important know-it-allness who is far better at insults and arrogance than substantive arguments…especially online where you can show all the disrespect you wish with impunity. You would not speak thusly in person. Do you seriously believe this personna makes your Classical Reformed Faith attractive and persuasive to Lurkers, anyone? Though I suspect we agree about most things, your manner makes me want to openly distance myself from you. I can’t imagine Pastor Wilson not wincing to hear you and Kevin are his defenders! Lord, have mercy on us all.

    1. Tim,

      I have to agree with David here. Please stick to the issues and make substantive remarks, not derogatory names. Please also keep in mind that you represent the Protestant tradition and that your remarks reflect poorly on you and your fellow Protestants. If there are any out there who feel they can do a better job of rebutting KabaneTheChristian please feel free to comment.

      1. “Please also keep in mind that you represent the Protestant tradition and that your remarks reflects poorly on you and your fellow Protestants.”

        Yes, Robert, thanks. You got that one exactly right. I think it is quite evident here where the truly puerile mindset lies based on the comments (in their own contexts). As far as what is evident at least in these posts, I’d take KabaneTheChristian’s communication skills as a positive example for my 14 year old son over a couple of these commenters any day! “Out of the heart, the mouth speaks” (or the typed words appear, as the case may be). Be careful, because Jesus followed that teaching with, “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matthew 12:35-37). That’s pretty sobering to me, and I’ve said or typed a lot of things over the years I wish, for various, reasons I could take back.

        On the other hand, continuing in this vein may be one of the best apologetics (albeit unwitting) at this site to demonstrate the attractive sanctifying effects of the fullness of Orthodox Christian tradition over against the apparently lesser effectiveness of a particular Protestant tradition on the mindset and practices of their practitioners!

  6. Sorry Kevin, didn’t see you yawn per Pastor Wilson. So delete my assumption you were defending Pastor Wison’s podcast — which is the subject of this young man’s response.

    And Tim, I don’t believe politely, even patiently, engaging the substance of anyone’s argument who disagrees with me, is a mark of insecurity…but rather a mark of confidence even humility. Now, if I were an insecure and arrogant snob, I’d ignore his arguments, and just ridicule his youth, bodily circumstances and insult him as derisively as possible (but from a safe distance because in his youth he might snap and whip my smart-ass). That sort of behavior would, to me, be a SURE mark of REAL psychological and theological insecurity. LOL!

  7. I’m with David here. Pr. Wilson’s podcast wasn’t serious scholarship. The response is on about the same level as the original. This isn’t a knock against Pr. Wilson–he wasn’t trying to come in on a high scholarly level, but to make a good popular appeal. Not everything the Kabane says hits home, but he scores several good points.

    And anyway, the standing of the kid is irrelevant. Sometimes children make amazing contributions. Galois was little older than this Kabane when he formulated Galois theory. Newton was 24 when he invented calculus. St. Therese of Lisieux was 21 when she died.

    Calvin was only 27 when he published the Institutes. I’ve heard people say that Calvinism is suspect because Calvin was too young. But that’s all just ridiculous ad hominem, and “a sign of a certain mentality that is not comfortable with classic dialectic.”

    1. Matthew,

      It would be one thing if there was an amazing contribution here that we’re talking about (and comparisons to Calvin et al. are simply apples and oranges frankly), but nothing was presented of any real worth sufficient to make your comments apply.

      1. But the ad hominem is never legitimate. And if you refuse to listen to someone because he’s young, I can refuse to listen to Calvin because he was young. It’s a double standard for you to accept Calvin, but refuse to even listen to this kid.

        And they’ve interacted with Wilson here before, even having several exchanges. So it seems legitimate for them to continue to do so. Are you really suggesting that simply by engaging Wilson they fail to do anything serious? But surely there is a place for engaging the popular appeals of your opponents.

  8. Truth be told, Wilson’s remarks are on an ever growing list of victims of Reformed and Lutheran foot in mouth disease when it comes to Orthodoxy. Wislon’s analysis was rather pathetic in every sense of that term. I am only suprised at his seeming lack of familiarity with major areas of theology. Wislon, Sproul, Horton, et al are good for target practice and not much else. People like Muller though are much bigger fish. I much rather read Leithart who doesn’t appear to be a member of the traditional Calvinist assholes for Jesus club.

    1. Perry,

      We have been saying for a long time now that the popular sources of Reformed theology have not been representing both the depth and the breadth of the traditions inherent both on the continent and in England. It should come as no surprise then that such popular thinkers are equally problematic when they look outside their own circles at other communions. I for one have had little interest in defending Douglas Wilson for this very reason. However, what ought to be called for on your side are serious examinations of Reformed perspectives that are worth addressing. To rejoice over the ‘refutation’ of someone like Douglas Wilson by some teenager is really nothing more than tilting at windmills and preaching to the choir. The serious work here just isn’t being done and that’s one reason why I have had huge problems with a site like this that purports to really interact with Reformed theology but seems to normally fall quite short in its attempt while pretending it’s all a slam dunk.

      1. The other difficulty, however, is that the Reformed tradition is broad enough that nearly any attack can be treated as a straw-man because it doesn’t address my particular understanding of my favorite authors. The argument “but that doesn’t address who I think it should address” is just facile. I suppose anyone from any tradition can be tempted to make that argument, and we should all be careful to guard against it. It would be far better to say “that is a legitimate criticism of them, and they are on my side” than to say “but they aren’t the real tradition.”

        1. As the Federal Vision controversy so ably (or painfully, the scars from RTS Jackson have not yet healed) demonstrated.

          I could put on my Hegel cap and say that the Reformed tradition has a contradiction in it, which is why both sides of the FV debate could legitimately claim they were the “true” Calvinists.

  9. I realize per Tim and Kevin’s glosses, that I, too, given that I am interested in Orthodoxy, am also suffering from “stupid convert sickness.” Be that as it may, does Richard Muller count as a serious scholarly representative of Calvinism? Here’s my review and critique of him.

    http://medievaltriad.blogspot.com/2011/10/review-of-mullers-christ-and-decree.html

    Not that my review means anything, but everytime someone who is interested in Orthodoxy and hails from the Reformed tradition, makes a pointed argument, a lot of Reformed guys simply ignore the real issues and say, “Well, he’s just suffering from convert sickness.” If you keep doing that and never engage the real stuff like triadology and the two energies of Christ, you wll see more and more people leave Calvinism, and not because they are “psychologically sick.”

    1. Having read your review (thanks for the link), do you mean the “two energies” are equivalent to the “two natures”? (I’ve never heard the “two energies” terminology before).

      There certainly are a lot of issues in Protestant theology to deal with. A book that was recently published by a Covenant College professor (which I’ve only had the chance to skim; there is a nice summary interview with him in a recent Christianity Today) called “Ten Myths about Calvinism” would be a helpful read to many Orthodox (and many Reformed!). One of the “myths” he deals with is the relation of Calvin to modern-day Calvinists: we do not consider him inspired and there are many exceptions taken to his theology — hence the reason for an infralapsarian/supralapsarian debate (for example).

      However, that said, and this is coming from my own Reformed viewpoint and bias, I do think (as far as my admittedly limited study of both the Fathers and Orthodoxy is concerned) that there are theological issues with Orthodoxy that still haven’t been fully dealt with. I don’t consider this a bad thing, either. Obviously (from an historical standpoint), doctrine takes time to flesh out: the Chalcedonian definition cannot, wholesale, be read back into the New Testament or the earliest Fathers (although it is there in nascent form, if you ask me). This (I cringe to call it development, more like fulfillment) process will continue: that is what makes any tradition living and active, and inSpirited, this is the task of theology. Could the West learn to tone down its soteriological passivity (on the part of humans)? Certainly: we do believe in a kind of theosis, but it often gets bogged down in philosophical precommitments (that aren’t all that necessary). Could the East learn to tone down synergy a bit, at least in popular polemic? Certainly: God always acts first, Christ goes always before us, the Holy Spirit is changing us even without our constant active effort, etc.

      So, instead of lambasting back and forth, continued dialogue is necessary. Thanks for your time, my apologies if my reply seems only tangential to what you had written — my thought “developed” as I wrote.

      Russ Warren

      1. Two energies are not synonymous with the two natures, though the latter imply the former (which is why Calvinists like Richard Muller and Bruce McCormack say that Chalcedon is NOT compatible with Reformed soteriology, because Chalcedon is synergistic).

        1. Could you go deeper into this? Feel free to email me so that we don’t threadjack the conversation.

          rwarren at tsm dot edu

          (Interestingly enough, a *very* Calvinistic group of Theonomists would name their whole organization after Chalcedon. I’m going to have to go back and read Rushdoony’s “The One and the Many” and “The Creeds and Social Order” to see where he might fall in this — minority report as he and his group were.)

          Russ

          1. The difficulty with Chalcedon is that it is possible to read it in a Nestorian way. Indeed if the critical passage is mistranslated, as it is if you google “Definition of Chalcedon” it is blatantly Nestorian.

            Following Chalcedon there was a very deep and violent conflict over whether Chalcedon was infact orthodox, with St (?) Severus of Antioch clearly articulating the position that it was not. The final resolution, at II Constantinople was that it is indeed Cyrilan, and orthodox, and must be read such.

            However, it is possible for Reformed sorts to read Chalcedon according to Severus’ reading (which if the true reading is openly Nestorian), but with approbation, rather than Severus’ censure.

            I’ll let Perry or Baroque explain energies, and I for one would prefer they did so on this blog rather than in private emails so I could read it.

          2. Rushdoony is an open Nestorian. See his chapter on Cyril. Yes, I know he condemns Nestor., but his theology nonetheless… He explicitly endorses Nestorius’ position (and I can show you the link).
            http://tsarlazar.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/rushdoony-versus-athanasius/

            Person operates by will. Will is a property of nature and energy is operation proper to that nature. So in Christ Incarnate there are two will and two operations proper to each nature, but the divine energeia deifies the human will and energy.

            Russ…another thought about that “Chalcedon” group. I’ve actually published in *Faith for all of Life* magazine! Hindsight, i wish I hadn’t.

      2. Russ Warren,

        In regards to two Energies, you will have to read up on the concept of Neo-Chalcedonianism, the 6th ecumenical council, and the works of Saint Maximus the Confessor.

  10. Kevin and Tim do touch on a point worth addressing. Neither Pastor Wilson’s nor Kaban’s podcasts touched upon deep theological issues. I don’t think either intended to. They dispute points of History…and most of us would say the historicity of the Faith once for all delivered to the saints IS important at some level. But all Blog posts are not of equal weight. And I doubt seriously if Robert intends of imagines this Blog will deal with deep and heavy theological issues in every post. Some will be lighter and more on the surface than others. I think Matt’s point is not that Kabane is Calvin at 27 or Newton…but rather he should NOT be ridiculed simply due to his youth or acne…but from his content. Baroque follows that endless psychological presumptions have become wearysome. God ALONE knows our hearts. So, let us stick as graciously as we can (given our sin) with the substance of the issue before us. If it’s too light-weight for your interests, so be it. Just wait for a point of entry where you can be helpful. But personal ridicule (however clever) is not a good argument, and often sin. Beside, are we really all just partisian rivals who will defend our Team, Party or Theological-Camp to the death? OR, are we all brothers in Christ, sincerely and honestly trying to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit? I pray it really is the latter…Lord have mercy upon us all.

  11. 1 Timothy 4:10. Bravo to this young man! He gets it right in terms of the big picture in his critique of Wilson. Plus he is direct, succinct, charitable, and respectful in his arguments, unlike some supposed grown-ups who seem compelled for some strange reason to take the time to contribute insults and ad hominems where they say they see no real merits to a post!

    David, thank you. Well said. You, sir, are a TRUE Christian gentleman.

  12. it seems like shrill arrogance to dismiss someone based on their age as someone has already pointed out. If teenagers or young adults cannot possibly make compelling cases then why not correct them instead of just dismiss them? its an excuse not to think.

  13. Another thought:

    While Wilson is not a “scholarly rep” of the Reformed world, interacting with him is certainly necessary (and it’s simply a non-starter for the medieval protestant crowd to cry “foul” everytime someone responds to a Reformed attack on Orthodoxy). In the late 1990s, Wilson’s ministry was reaching over 10,000 people almost on a weekly basis. That might not sound like a lot, but since there aren’t that many reformed folks to begin with, it is (proportionally). Ever since the FV debacle, one can only imagine that Wilson’s popularity (notoriety?) has increased.

  14. This is a very rushed response. I didn’t have time to refine it.

    I have seen several videos from Kabane, and I honestly almost never enjoy them. His age doesn’t concern me. A really gifted teenager could silence a shallow adult. So all the personal stuff aside, I just generally dislike his stuff. I almost never agree with on anything. His exegetical skills, as I have observed them from this and other videos (including the one on Eph 2:8-10 linked to above), are awful. The way he handles Ephesians 2:8-10 in one of his videos (which is linked to above) is atrocious. His treatment of Hebrews 12:1 in this video is a very common misreading. His treatment of Revelation 5 is poor as well. Point being, he does not handle Scripture well at all. He is much better at historical arguments.

    Four points about his use of history: First, you can’t get an ought from an is. So we see this practice and that practice at a given period in history. That is no argument that the practice is legitimate. Second, I would have liked to see him support some of his historical claims of this or that practice going on in Judaism or early Christianity. He didn’t give enough detail for my liking. (That isn’t so much a criticism on his part as it is a personal complaint on mine.)

    Third, if there is this distinction between internal and external apostolic succession, it only favors Protestants, for it allows for there to be the existence of one without the other. For example, he mentions that Roman Catholicism has the external succession of ordination without having maintained the internal succession of faith. I would say, in the very least, the Reformed faith-tradition has maintained the internal succession without maintaining the external. (Of course, I don’t think the EO has maintained the external either.) I would further suggest that if the internal succession is maintained, the external isn’t necessary for the existence of a true church or a legitimate expression or form of Christianity. Hence it is allowable, I would argue, on the EO’s on terms according to Kabane, that a Reformed church is a true church. He even alludes to this in his conclusion when he calls the EO church “the most Christian church.”

    Fourth, if Kabane is correct that the icons exist for us in order to help us focus upon the one depicted in the icon, but that the EO Christian can still pray to Christ just as well (or just as fully or truly) without the icon, then the icon is unessential. If we can pray to Christ just as truly and fully without the icon, we don’t need the icon.

    One last theological point, I am completely against the practice of praying through icons of anyone other than Christ. If an icon of Christ helps an EO Christian focus more on Jesus (as it has helped me at times in the past), I don’t really have a problem with that at this point (I’m still thinking through how I feel about icons in general). But to offer prayers to anyone other than a member of the Trinity is reprehensible blasphemy and idolatrous worship. Prayers to the Saints are bad enough, but the prayers and veneration offered to Mary are the worst kind, especially in the context of the gathered worship of the church on the Lord’s Day.

    Anyways, nothing impressive in the video at all, which is usually how I feel about every video I watch from Kabane. I certainly don’t mean any disrespect to him or his efforts at reading, studying, and making these videos. I would encourage him to continue reading, studying, and learning, as I myself seek to do. But at this point, from what I have seen for myself, he has been neither impressive nor compelling.

    Wesley

    1. I can only add an “Amen!” to Wesley’s comments concerning the substance of the videos. I didn’t feel a need to address them simply because they do reflect a typical juvenile and fairly unlearned approach to the topics at hand. But, Wesley has taken the time to go the extra mile and explain some of the reasons why this is likely the case. I went ahead and listened to the first Romans 9 video and the Ephesians videos after listening to the Wilson critique. The more I listened however the worse my opinion of the arguments became. At any rate, I’m surely on safe ground to say that they are not at all convincing to anyone who has a sufficient handle on the Reformed faith, appropriate biblical exegesis, and the historical issues at play. We might say, “Nice Try” but in reality the young lad needs to go back to the drawing board and start over with arguments that his opponents feel have some amount of force. Otherwise, as I said earlier, this is just more tilting at windmills and preaching to the choir.

    2. Wesley,

      Kabane’s defense of icons relied not just on history but also on Scripture. He notes that in Exodus 25:17-22 God commanded Moses to construct two cherubim to be placed on top the Ark of the Covenant. He didn’t mention Exodus 26:31 where God commanded Moses to make a curtain with the image of the cherubim worked in. When we read the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20 against Exodus 25 and Exodus 26, we see that it does not support the iconoclasm advocated by Reformed Christians. Given that the Second Commandment which prohibits the making of idols is preceded by the Preamble (v. 2) which declares Yahweh to be their God and the First Commandment (v. 3) which forbade allegiance to any other deity, it makes sense to understand the Second Commandment (v. 4) as pertaining to the pagan worship practices of the other nations. Reformed Christians take the Second Commandment out of context and seek to apply it to the worship practices of the people of God when Exodus 25-30 provide a more suitable guide for how we are to worship God.

      Kabane’s discussion of images found in an Jewish synagogue and an early Christian church draws on the recent archaeological discoveries at Dura Europos. He brings this up to refute Pastor Doug Wilson’s erroneous claim that icons were a late addition to Christianity. Keep in mind that much of Protestant critique against Eastern Orthodoxy assumes that Orthodoxy introduced novelties to the supposedly “pure simplicity of the first church.” Furthermore, Pastor Wilson pointed to icons as the one sure sign that Orthodoxy could not be the true church. Tracing the use of icons in worship to the very early church doesn’t necessarily — as you pointed out — make a practice theologically correct, but it does effectively refute the idea that icons were a later addition. Furthermore, it raises the possibility that this practice was part of the early church and that the early church was not iconoclastic as assumed by so many Protestants. There is more historical evidence in support of the Orthodox use of icons than the Reformed iconoclasm. Is there any historical evidence that the early Christians were iconoclasts?

      Lastly, the primary use of icons was not for private devotion but for corporate worship. You can certainly pray to God without icons but you cannot have truly Christian worship in a place where icons are purposefully excluded. The Seventh Ecumenical Council settled the issue; they ruled that those who are iconoclast in their approach to worship are mistaken and have ‘gone off the reservation.’ The council fathers based this decision on Scripture, Tradition, and Christology. We need to heed the Ecumenical Councils not simply because we like their reading of Scripture but because they speak for the one holy catholic and apostolic Church.

      You can dismiss Kabane, but you cannot dismiss the Scripture passage he cites. Furthermore, you cannot dismiss the Seventh Ecumenical Council which speaks for the early Church. I urge you to reexamine the evidence and reconsider your position. If anything icons are evidence that the Orthodox Church is the true Church and that Reformed Christianity has departed from the historic Christian Faith.

      Robert

      1. Thanks, Robert. It seems to me you have highlighted some of the substantive issues Protestants (of any stripe) can’t get around if they want to effectively engage with Orthodoxy.

      2. Robert,

        At best the passages in Exodus 25 and 26 legitimate the creation of icons of creatures and the display of those icons in places of public worship, but not the veneration of the images or their use in religious devotion. The Second Commandment makes a strict prohibition against the depicting of God and against the offering of religious devotion to images. The concern of Exodus is that no one tries to depict God as a creature in an image, and that no one treats an image with religious devotion. (I am repetitive here to emphasize the point.)

        So making icons of creatures with the explicit understanding that the icon is not a depiction of God is acceptable. Owning such icons and displaying them in one’s home or in places of public worship are also acceptable. But venerating icons by religiously touching them, kissing them, bowing down to them, using them in prayer, or praying to whoever or whatever is depicted is a violation of the Second Commandment, plain and simple. Are we really to believe that if Moses had seen a Jew in the camp of Israel bowing down in prayer and veneration before the images of the Cherubim woven into the curtain of the Tabernacle, that Moses would have accepted the distinction of dulia and latria? I hardly think so. Soli Deo Gloria! No religious devotion (glory) is to be given to anyone or anything but God alone, and the veneration and devotional use of icons are clearly religious devotion. The Second Commandment prohibits this practice explicitly. When anyone violates the Second Commandment with an otherwise “innocent icon,” that icon becomes an idol, and the religious devotion becomes idolatry. This is exactly what Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians are doing.

        Your statement that we “cannot have truly Christian worship in a place where icons are purposefully excluded” is, to be candid, ridiculous. The Father is seeking those who will worship him in spirit and in truth. If we can worship the Father in spirit and in truth without the use of icons, then your statement is proven false, and Nicaea II is simply dead wrong. When the Ecumenical Councils speak against or out of harmony with the Scriptures on any point, they ipso facto do not speak for the Church on that point.

        And again, I would simply point out that, on Kabane’s own terms (which, presumably [since you’re the one who promoted his video], he shares with you and the EO position in general), the Reformed faith-tradition may possibly be acknowledged and accepted as a legitimate or authentic expression or form of Christianity since it possibly possesses an internal apostolic succession of faith and truth. I would contend it is indeed the case that the Reformed faith-tradition has maintained the true faith.

        Wesley

        1. Wesley, I look forward to Robert’s reply. I do know that to this day Jews bow and pray toward the Temple wall, kiss the scrolls of the Torah, and do other similar gestures toward created things as a symbol of their reverence for God and His word. The ancient Israelites were instructed to bow down before the Ark of the Covenant, the physical locus/seat of God’s Presence in the OT (and the Jews of Jesus time oriented their synagogues toward the Temple (again a created thing). Anything in the Temple (images, vessels, etc.) were set aside as holy and treated with honor (i.e., venerated) in a special way different than items set aside for everyday use. This is the way the Orthodox approach veneration of icons.

          1. Even still, Karen, such is an argument from silence since there is nowhere recorded in the Scriptures such things for the treatment of icons of saints, Jesus Christ, or God. Whatever later Jewish or even Christian tradition has done in various places in the history of God’s people is also irrelevant since mere practice does not equate to endorsement by the Scriptures of the same. The history may inform our view but it does not require us to submit to its witness.

            The Ark of the Covenant was not an image (though it had images on it, and ‘statues in the round’ — this was condemned by the 7th Council so here again we find another place where the council is in error if we are to take your view seriously) but a place where God’s presence and the law resided. But, it was also not to be touched except at penalty of death so it was manifestly a different thing than the sort of icon-kissing veneration applied by the Orthodox to their objects of worship.

          2. Karen,

            Thank you for looking for my response to Wesley! I responded in the form of a separate blog posting: “Icons and the Veneration of Saints” posted November 2.

    3. Not that anyone is still paying attention to this thread, but since I was harshest in my “personal” remarks about the kid, let me just say that I agree with Wesley that, yes, it is quite possible for a gifted teenager to silence a shallow adult. Aside from the rhetorical remarks about the immaturity of teenagers in general, my remarks above refer to the odious “democratization” of truth phenomenon that is everywhere in the land of converts, especially relatively new ones. That’s what I meant to highlight, for better or for ill. For those who crave scholarly engagement they think I’m not providing, Hatch’s Democratization of American Christianity, Noll’s The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, and Murray’s Revival and Revivalism well outline this problem in American Protestantism. All I’m doing is extending the logic of their very incisive analyses and critiques to the man (or boy) who converts from American Protestantism to something else. Yes, gifted teenagers can refute shallow adults, but one of the biggest problems with converts from American Protestantism, even those in their late 20s, 30s, 40s, and even 50s, is precisely that in their attitude about truth and its defense they tend to be immature teenagers who imagine that all adults are ridiculous – or worse still, that everyone else is not even a teenager yet, but an infant. That’s the attitude with which they tend to approach others, and it gets ever so tiresome ever so quickly.

    4. No ones worshipping Mary or the Saints. We ask them to pray for us. No matter how many times we try to tell you protestants this, you cant get it through your heads and you automatically think its worship. I just love the close mindedness.

      1. Demitri,

        Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

        BTW, please be patient with those whom you think are “close minded.” With patience and charity on our part, they may become open to what we have to say.

        Robert

    1. Thanks, Karen! I appreciate that =] I enjoy reading your kind and informed contributions to this blog. Keep being a challenge and a blessing!

      Grace to you and peace,
      Wesley

  15. Dear Wesley,

    Thank you for the critique. I don’t have the time to go through it point by point, but I wanted to respond to the major arguments you made.

    1. On Ephesians 2: I have often heard Protestants assert that my reading of it was “ridiculous”, but I have never heard it explained exactly how. If one acknowledges, together with many respectable scholars, that the “pistis” of Ephesians 2:8 is in fact Christ’s pistis, then it follows that the focus of the passage is on salvation by grace, without a focus on personal faith. Of course faith is important, but it’s not what’s in view in the passage. You follow the logic through to 2:9, and you find the same thing taught as is taught in passages like Romans 4:4. It’s about a work done in opposition to grace, where one is seeking to obligate God to pay a debt.

    2. On Romans 9: You likewise asserted that it was ridiculous, but the exegesis that I did on Romans 9 was actually derived from many credentialed New Testament exegetes and scholars, mostly Protestant. In fact, once one stops “automatically” reading the texts in the way that one has been trained to read them, the Reformed reading isn’t so obvious anymore. If St. Paul is using the OT texts of Genesis 25 and Malachi 1 correctly, as he undoubtedly is, then he is discussing corporate groups. This would make sense in light of Romans 11, which completes the argument of Romans 9, which is all about the destiny of national Israel.

    3. On the general depth of my argumentation. I fully acknowledge that the videos you reference are fairly surface level. This was for a reason. Unlike debates between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, most Westerners are generally unfamiliar with Orthodoxy altogether. Thus, I have to introduce people to the whole idea of Orthodoxy, how we read Scripture, where we get our doctrines from in Scripture. I am actually working on a much more depth analysis of Orthodox soteriology from Scripture at the moment, so I hope you’ll find that a bit more satisfying.

    4. On the internal and external succession. The point of succession is that it is continuous. You can’t have a break in the succession of priests anymore than you can have a break in the succession of faith. So, you can’t say that Protestants have the succession of faith, because there isn’t a succession. It was a “Reformation.” The “faith” had to be restored. Furthermore, I mentioned the succession of faith not as a substitute for the succession of priests, but as its necessary counterpart. One has the succession of bishops extending in a direct line of consecrations back to the Apostles, and those bishops must also confess the faith of the Apostles. This is because we believe that Bishops sit on the Chair of St. Peter by confessing the faith that St. Peter confessed in Matthew 16:17.

    5. On Icons. You mention that it is not necessary to “pray through” an Icon. Well, of course, Orthodox Christians do pray without the use of Icons. But when we use Icons, we don’t say that we are “praying through” that Icon, as if the Icon were a “contact point” between man and God. This is actually the ancient Hebraic meaning of “graven image” condemned in Exodus 20. The Icon is used to assist us in directing our focus towards Christ and His Saints (who are themselves Images of Christ, Romans 8:29). Did the Jews venerate Icons? I believe so. Their synagogue walls were covered with Icons, and the Icons were facing out towards them. That is, even when there was an OT scene depicted where they should be looking at each other, the Prophets and Patriarchs depicted are looking outwards. These are on the same walls that the people face during the service. They were chanting and prostrating towards this very wall. Obviously, because we don’t have video of an ancient Synagogue Service, we can’t know for sure. But all the circumstantial evidence we have points in one direction, and it is towards ancient Jewish creation and veneration of Icons.

    6. On the Intercession of the Saints. I’m sure you know this, but the prayer directed “towards” a Saint is of a fundamentally different quality than the prayer directed towards God. Indeed, our prayers are not really to the Saints, but to God. The Saint is a prayerful intercessor. One problem I have encountered is that Protestants read the Akathists without first acquiring an Orthodox mindset. They don’t understand what we mean by certain things. We say “Most Holy Theotokos, save us!” and it is assumed that we believe the Theotokos is the source of salvation. Actually, she saves us in the same way that the “prayer of faith will save the sick.” One of our holy Elders said “What God does through His Power, the the Theotokos does through her intercession.” The obvious meaning is that it is still God doing the work- the Blessed Mother prays fervently for it. Another example: a Protestant reads an Orthodox Christian declaring that we are saved through the Holy Theotokos. All this means is that Christ, who alone is our Savior, became incarnate through her. So, the incarnation, which saves us, occurred through the Holy Virgin. Therefore, we are saved through her. Once one understands these principles, the Akathists and prayers make much more sense.

    To other comments:

    I’m sorry that some feel that my presentations are shallow, uninformed, and surface-level. It is my intention to bring a higher level of apologetics to Orthodox Christianity than has generally existed. I’m actually going to be receiving my first lessons in Greek in less than two weeks, so I should eventually know the language of the New Testament and be able to improve my arguments accordingly. I will also be on the campus of a seminary in Kenya for six months, and will be able to regularly use its library.

    Thanks to all for the comments and critique. For my Old Calendar brethren, have a Blessed Nativity!

    In Christ,
    Seraphim

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