Pentecost and Sola Scriptura

Holy Cross Orthodox Church – High Point, NC
Knox Presbyterian Church – Pasadena, CA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This past Sunday was the feastday of Pentecost (see Acts 2).  Protestants and Orthodox Christians celebrate Pentecost in quite different manners. Many Protestant churches festoon their sanctuaries with bright red balloons.  Once I was visiting a friend’s church and witnessed red balloons cascading from the balcony onto the congregants below.  Orthodox churches celebrate Pentecost with a Vespers service where the entire congregation kneel during the three lengthy prayers.  This kneeling prayers service is universal among the Orthodox. Orthodox churches around the world all used the same prayers whether in the US, Russia, Africa, Latin America, or in Southeast Asia.

Kneeling Vespers – Thailand
Kneeling Vespers – Malaysia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a convert to Orthodoxy, I noticed that there seems to be a greater emphasis on Pentecost in Orthodoxy.  Fr. Stephen Freeman just posted an insightufl reflection on the kneeling prayers: “Entering Hell on Pentecost – With Prayer.” Protestants curious about the contents of the kneeling prayers are welcome to read Fr. Stephen’s article.

 

Pentecost – The River of God Flowing Through History

A reader sent me a comment with several good questions about sola scriptura that I thought merited a separate article.  One of the questions he put to me was: “Are the writings of the Fathers and the liturgy of the church “theopneustos? [God-breathed]”  This is an important question that calls for reflection on the relations between the Holy Spirit, Scripture, and the Church. This will be the basis for next series of articles titled: “Pentecost and Sola Scriptura.”  In this series I will present how differences in the way Protestantism and Orthodoxy understand the Holy Spirit shapes our understanding of Scripture.  In preparation for the next article, readers are invited to read an article I posted earlier: “Pentecost and the Promise of God Fulfilled.”

Robert Arakaki

 

 

6 comments:

  1. How wonderful to show great honor to our Lord by Kneeling before His throne and praying & worshiping Him, especially on such a very powerful day of Pentecost. I know my Baptist church hardly does this, but I guess with such a high packed amount of people on Sundays and little room for everyone to kneel would be hard. Would love to have gone to a Orthodox Church on Sunday and be apart of something like that.

  2. Hi, Robert: Could you explain why so many of today’s fundamentalist Protestants are so extremely anti-history? They don’t seem to have an appreciation for any history prior to the 21st century, and they seem to think that the Bible is all they need. It’s extremely difficult and personally frustrating whenever it comes to sharing the Orthodox Faith with such persons. Thanks!

    1. Jay,

      There are several possible explanations. One is that our modern culture assumes that the present and the future is superior to the past. Another is that for some religion is more about concrete personal experiences than “abstract” history — this pertains to Pentecostals. The fundamentalist Protestants whose focus is on the biblical text and averse to charismatic experiences are likely to be anti-history for a different reason. My guess is that their understanding of church history is shaped by Protestantism’s rejection of Roman Catholicism. In their version of church history church history there exists a huge dark chasm between the Reformation and the early Church of the first century. For them there was no thread of light weaving its way through two thousand years of church history. Given this understanding of church history I would not be surprised if many have not even done the most elementary reading of church history. And, don’t forget that for many fundamentalist Protestants the thinking is: ‘The Bible is all we need.’ We need to stress that God has always had a faithful witness to Christ’s teachings for two thousand years in the Orthodox Church. This means we have to do our homework.

      It is regrettable that many people today have little appreciation for history. When it comes to sharing Orthodoxy with people who have little interest in church history, I believe that it would be more appropriate to find common ground. In the case of Pentecostals we can share Orthodoxy’s rich heritage of miracles and encounters with God recorded in the lives of the saints and monastics. With respect to fundamentalist Protestants we can point to Orthodoxy’s historic link going back to the book of Acts. For example, the Antiochian Orthodox Christian archdiocese can trace it’s roots back to Apostle Paul’s home church in Antioch (Acts 11:26 and Acts 13:1-3). We can also point to Ignatius of Antioch, the third bishop of Antioch, whose description of early Christian practices might shock modern day Protestants. If the fundamentalist Protestant you are dialoguing with has a high view of the King Jame’s bible you might want to order for yourself a copy of the 1611 version of the KJV bible which contains the Deuterocanonical books (Apocrypha). If their bible does not contain the ‘Apocrypha’ you can raise the question as to why that is so and then discuss the question of how we got the Bible and the history of the biblical canon.

      Also you might want to explain that their anti-history stance possibly reflects Protestantism’s break with Roman Catholicism, and you can stress that in many important ways Orthodoxy is not like Roman Catholicism. Many of the concerns that gave rise to the Reformation is not part of Orthodoxy. You can point out that the idea of earning merit for our salvation is alien to Orthodoxy. You can also note that Orthodoxy does not teach indulgences.

      In closing, let me suggest two principles for sharing Orthodoxy with others: (1) find common ground with your interlocutor and (2) share your Orthodox Faith with those who are open and interested. Don’t force your Orthodoxy on others. Follow the teachings of the Church and let your transformed life be a witness to others. And pray always!

      Robert

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