Protestant Reformation in the Old Testament?

King-Josiah-and-Gods-book

A response to Anastasiya Gutnik’s comment 24 June 2016:

From Anastasiya:

What do you think of Josiah?  In his time the worship of God was corrupt.  So much so that the law was literally a musty, dusty old book found hidden away in the temple.  Upon rediscovering the law Josiah launched a reformation destroying the idols and the altars upon which idolatry was practiced. Does this mean there were none of God’s people left?  But as Paul writes about the time of Elijah “I have reserved 7000 who have not bowed to Baal. So there is a remnant according to election of grace.” How is his any different than the Protestant Reformation?  What are your thoughts on the Apostle Paul warning that wolves would come and tear up the flock and that apostasy would happen after his departure? And what are you thoughts on his statement regarding the times of Elijah?

The church is composed of individuals “one of a city, two of a family” as Jeremiah writes. So what do you have against individual believers receiving the Holy Spirit? In the Acts we see individuals corporately receiving the Spirit (such as Cornelius and his house).  And what Protestant ever said this is done apart from the Church?  Article 28 of the Belgic Confession explicitly says of the Church that “out of it is no salvation.” Even today in the apostate and corrupt churches like Hillsong they still recognize the importance of corporate worship and belonging to a community of believers.

See also Anastasiya Gutnik’s comment 26 June 2016

 

MyResponse

Whoa!  All these questions!  I feel like I’m being interrogated by a prosecuting attorney.  What say you that we have a friendly dialogue between the two of us?

I appreciate your vigorous interaction with the OrthodoxBridge.  We may not see eye-to-eye on some issues, but we share common ground in our respect for Scripture.  I will explain my positions using the Bible.

 

Protestantism in the Old Testament?

Your listing of Old Testament passages seems to rest on the premise that the Protestant Reformation has parallels in the Old Testament, thereby providing biblical justification for the Reformation.  This entails the hermeneutical strategy of reading the history of Christianity, especially the Protestant Reformation, onto the Old Testament text.  Getting the types and parallels of Christ and Israel right is what the Jews of Jesus’ time were so poor and weak at.  They were often dead wrong. This means that using the hermeneutics of history approach calls for caution.  Orthodoxy approaches church history through the lens of the unique promise of Pentecost — Christ’s Upper Room promise that he would send the Holy Spirit to guide the Church (John 14-16), and Christ’s promise that powers of hell would never prevail over the Church (Matthew 16:17-18).  Orthodoxy sees church history as one continuous, unbroken narrative from the book of Acts to the present day.  We view world history as the history of the one Church through which God’s power and wisdom unfold bringing about the salvation of the cosmos (Ephesians 1:18-22).

The Apostle Paul’s prediction of the coming of “savage wolves” attacking the flock (Acts 20:29-30) parallels Apostle John’s counsel about heretics who denied that Jesus had come in the flesh (1 John 2:18-23).  The early Church had to deal with early heresies like Gnosticism, Arianism, and Manichaeism.  It survived these heresies, and in time Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire.  It is difficult to see there being a universal apostasy as you seem to have implied.

If one wants to find a possible parallel for Protestantism, I suggest it would be the northern tribes’ revolt against Rehoboam (1 Kings 12:12-17).  What made that schism so tragic was not so much the rejection of the Jerusalem monarchy but Jeroboam’s creation of rival worship centers in Bethel and Dan, and the installation of a new rival priesthood (1 Kings 12:26-33).  These innovations made the schismatic Israelites susceptible to syncretistic borrowing of religious practices from their neighbors.

In your first paragraph you cited the example of King Josiah (2 Kings 23) reading the Book of the Covenant and cleansing the Temple of pagan idols suggesting it has parallels with the Reformation. What he did was to follow the covenant obligations imposed on the king in Deuteronomy 17:14-20.  In no way did King Josiah introduce new doctrines or worship practices.  This has been one of my primary critiques of the Protestant Reformers.  They rightly reacted against many of the abuses and innovations of Medieval Catholicism.  They sought to return to the original Church, not through the Pentecost paradigm — the Holy Spirit working without break through the Church for the past 1500 years, but rather through the novel method of sola scriptura.  This gave rise to novel doctrines not taught by the early Church Fathers or were condemned by early Councils.  Furthermore, it gave rise to a plethora of Protestant denominations with conflicting interpretations of the Bible.  The Protestant rejection of the episcopacy (priestly leadership) and their rejection of the Real Presence in the Eucharist (right worship) as understood by the early Church bears an uncanny parallel with Jehoboam’s innovations.  This is something that should give thoughtful Protestants pause.

You mentioned the Apostle Paul’s quoting 1 Kings 18 about the faithful remnant of 7000 who refused to bow down to Baal (Romans 11:4).  The important point to keep in mind is that Romans 11 is not about the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s, but about the perplexing situation in Paul’s time.  The Messiah had come and instead of welcoming Jesus as the promised Messiah, Israel chose to reject and murder God’s Chosen One.  This created a conundrum: Either Jesus was not the promised Messiah or the Jews were no longer God’s people.  These questions were likely on the minds of Paul and his fellow Jewish Christians.  This question quite possibly contributed to the tensions between Jews and Gentiles which seem to lurk in the background of Paul’s letter to the Romans.  Did Paul’s conversion to Christ require the renunciation of his ethnic heritage and religious roots?  Was Israel no longer Israel?  Romans 11 is Paul’s solution to the conundrum.  In it he explains the relationship between the Israel of the Old Testament and the New Israel, the Church.   In this context it becomes clear that when Paul alludes to the faithful remnant of the 7,000, he has in mind himself, his fellow Apostles, and Jewish Christians.

To claim the Protestant Reformers comprise the faithful remnant of 7,000 mentioned by Paul involves reading Protestant church history into the Bible, a very dubious proposition.  This reading of Scripture cannot be asserted; it must be proven.  For several decades now, Anglican Bishop and bible scholar, NT Wright, has been pointing out this common Protestant flaw of reading the Reformation back into Scripture.  Lowell Handy’s “The Good, Bad, Insignificant, Indispensable King Josiah” (2005) traces the place of King Josiah in church history.  Among the early Church Fathers and into the Middle Ages, Josiah occupied a minor role in biblical studies (Handy 2005:41).  He acquired prominence in the 1500s among the Protestant Reformers who saw in Josiah a model of a reforming king and in the 1800s among Protestant bible scholars who saw the “Book of the Covenant” read by Josiah as evidence for a revised understanding of Old Testament formation.  In other words, the prominence given to Josiah is peculiar to Protestantism and does not reflect the broader Christian exegetical tradition. This retroactive approach of reading Protestant history into the Bible is highly speculative and self-serving.

 

Coptic Icon of Pentecost
Coptic Icon of Pentecost

 

The Church — Individuals versus Corporate Body

In your second paragraph you cited Jeremiah 3:14 — one from a city and two from a family — to justify the idea of the church as an aggregate of individuals.  This is a bit of a stretch.  Where is this interpretation found in church history?  Some of the more extreme Protestant groups believe that all one needs to comprise a church is a group of like-minded believers who gather to hear sermons about the Bible. But that is like saying gathering a group of kids and giving them a ball makes them a team! They need to agree that they are a team, playing the same sport by the same rule, and under a team leader.  A more pertinent passage for explaining the individual Christian’s relation to the corporate body, the Church, would be 1 Corinthians 12:12-13:

The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body.  So it is with Christ.  For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.

And then, there’s 1 Corinthians 12:17:

Now you are the body of Christ and each of you is a part of it.

The Amplified Bible translates 1 Corinthians 12:27 it this way:

Now you [collectively] are Christ’s body, and individually [you are] members of it [each with his own special purpose and function].

The key point here is that we become part of the Church through the sacrament of baptism.  One does not join the Church as one is received by the Church.  Furthermore, Paul understood the Church to possess an internal structure, an ordering of ranks.  In 1 Corinthians 12:27-28, Paul lists the orders of church ministries: apostles, prophets, teachers, and workers of miracles.  In Ephesians 4:11, he gives a slightly different ordering: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.  From these passages we learn that the Church is not an aggregate of independent individuals, but rather a corporate body of interrelated members.  There is no need to grasp at obscure or dubious Old Testament passages for our doctrine of the Church when there are New Testament passages that give us greater clarity on the question before us.  As a matter of fact, the Reformed tradition’s teaching about the Church as a covenant community speaks against the individualistic approach that you seem to favor.

In no way am I opposed to the idea of individuals receiving the Holy Spirit.  The real issue is whether one can receive the Holy Spirit independently of the visible Church.  The main difference is that Protestants deny that we receive the Holy Spirit through the sacrament of the Church (chrismation).  However, they need to take into account the fact that the sacrament of chrismation was very much a part of early Christian initiation.  Cyril, the patriarch of Jerusalem in the 300s, described the sacrament of chrismation in which the newly baptized is anointed on the forehead, the ears, the nostrils, and the breast. (Catechetical Lecture 21.4)  This remains the practice of the Orthodox Church to the present.  The point here is that just as baptism is a sacrament administered by the Church through its ordained clergy, so the reception of the Holy Spirit takes place via the sacrament of chrismation which immediately follows baptism.

The issue of the “baptism in the Holy Spirit” has been an especially divisive one for Protestants. Baptists and many Evangelicals equate the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the “born again” experience. Pentecostals and many charismatics identify the baptism in the Holy Spirit as an experience distinct from the born again experience and signified by the gift of tongues.  It’s not clear to me what the Reformed tradition’s position of the reception of the Holy Spirit is.  I searched through the Belgic Confession, which you cited, and while there were numerous references to the Holy Spirit, there seem to be no specific teaching about the point in time when the Christian receives the Holy Spirit.  I then searched through the Heidelberg Catechism, the Westminster Larger Catechism, and the Westminster Confession and was not able to find anything with respect to the reception of the Holy Spirit. Please help me on this.  Where does the Reformed tradition stand on the baptism in the Holy Spirit?  When does this take place for the Christian?  Does it takes place at the time of baptism, the born again experience, or is it an individual experience distinct from baptism?

You cited article 28 of the Belgic Confession.  The Belgic Confession‘s affirmation that there is no salvation outside the Church is a reflection of the historic understanding of the Church. The novelty of Protestantism is that it denies that claim to Roman Catholicism.  It justifies this denial on the grounds that Roman Catholicism under the papacy has become corrupt, unbiblical, and even apostate. Furthermore, Protestantism lays claim to belonging to the true Church on the grounds that it has the true interpretation of Scripture. This despite the numerous conflicting interpretations of Scripture held by the myriad of denominations!  My point is that you can cite Article 28 of the Belgic Confession all you want, but how do you know your church is part of the true Church?  Which makes me wonder: “What is your church affiliation?  And what leads you to think that your local congregation is part of the true Church?”

In closing, I would like to draw your attention to the fact that Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy are two quite different religious traditions.  They once shared in a common Faith, however, tragically the Bishop of Rome (the Pope) following the Schism of 1054 has moved more and more from the patristic consensus.  What Martin Luther and John Calvin were protesting against was a medieval Catholicism quite different from the Church of the first millennium.  In that light, I view Protestants as unwitting victims of Rome’s deviation from the early Church Fathers.

I have done my best to respond to your questions.  I trust that I have answered them satisfactorily.  I look forward to hearing your responses to my questions and to the interesting conversation you and I will have in the near future.

Robert Arakaki

82 comments:

  1. Dear Mr. Arakaki,

    Excellent article! I very much relish reading your posts and find them very insightful in helping me to better believe and live out the Orthodox Faith. In reading this particular post, particularly the concluding paragraph, I can’t help but realize more acutely just how important it is to understand Protestantism’s profound connections to Roman Catholicism. I myself am a convert from Roman Catholicism to Orthodoxy, and I greatly appreciate seeing such connections illustrated throughout your posts.

    With that said, I’ve always referred to Roman Catholicism and Protestantism as being “flip sides of the same error(s),” if you will – and I mean to say that with all due respect. I am of the opinion that the vast majority of Roman Catholics (be they modernists or traditionalists) and Protestants (be they mainstream or “non-denominational”) does not see how many of the post-Great Schism innovations, both liturgical and doctrinal, affect these two outwardly opposing, yet intrinsically complementary, faith traditions.

    Would you consider doing a post (maybe a series of posts) demonstrating how many of the doctrinal and liturgical innovations that are part-n-parcel to post-1054 Roman Catholicism have affected, and been adopted into, the Protestant mentality and ethos? As a side note, it’s also worth investigating how Rome’s latest Reformation; i.e., the Second Vatican Council and its liturgical/doctrinal [d]eforms, have had, yet again, another profound effect upon the Protestant world in general and the Latin-Papal world in particular.

    I know I’ve said an awful lot in this comment, and anything you would be willing to post concerning these issues would greatly appreciated. Many, many thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to post such well-thought out posts and balanced answers to those who are drawn to the Undivided Catholic Church of the First Millennium whose Faith is truly Orthodox!

    God continue to bless you and your work,

    J.M. Burnham
    Greenbelt, Maryland

    1. Dear Mr. Burnham,

      I’m glad to hear you found my articles helpful. And thank you for your suggestions! I wish I had the time to follow up on them but like so many in these busy days I need to prioritize my activities. The OrthodoxBridge is geared to Evangelicals and Reformed Christians because this is the Christianity I’m familiar with. My exposure to Roman Catholicism has been somewhat limited. I think it there is a need for an Orthodox blog that engages the Roman Catholic tradition much like the way I do. Let us pray for this to happen.

      Blessings,

      Robert

  2. I would agree Protestants are victims of Rome’s errors–but also those of Luther and Calvin and the other “Reformers.”

    (Yes I’m Catholic,with a deep admiration for the East & other orthodox. I hope one day we are in full communion again.)

  3. So if I understand you correctly you believe that the promise of Christ the the gates of hell shall not prevail means that the church would be pure from Pentecost to Parousia, that there would be no error or corruption and no need for reform at any time? That the wolves Paul mentioned were the Gnostics and Arians and other heretics of the early ages? You believe that the history of the church is one pure stream?

    Well even the purest stream is full of mud and stones and fish excrement and you should boil that water before you drink it.

    You did not really answer my concerns about Josiah. Basically you seemed to shrug them off by saying no it was not a protestant reformation because he was just doing his duty and the protestants are more like Jeroboam and I should stop committing the grave error of transposing church history onto the Old Testament, never mind the fact that all history is cyclical. But the substance of my question was about error and impurity in the church. The nation of Israel was chosen by God. It was entrusted with the oracles of God as Paul says. God declared over and over that he would be their God. And yet the nation of Israel went astray time and time again falling into deep apostasy. In the time of Elijah there were only 7000 of God’s people left. A very small remnant. Ezekiel 16 masterfully describes the apostasy of Israel and God’s grace towards Israel despite their apostasy.

    As for Josiah you are right that he did not introduce new doctrines. He rediscovered the old doctrines that had been hidden away and lost. And that is the point I was trying to get at. God promised Israel he would be their God and yet the doctrines of God were lost for quite a long time. What substantial difference is there between this promise “I will be your God and you will be my people” and the promise of Christ “the gates of hell shall not prevail?” God promises Israel He will be their God and yet they fall into apostasy. Jesus, who is the God of Israel, promises the gates of hell shall not prevail and you seem to claim therefore there shall be no apostasy.

    So let’s excise any notion of the protestant reformation and whether not not it was correct out of our sight and focus on the larger question I was trying to hit on which is whether or not there was, has been, and still is error within the church. Is the promise of Christ about the gates of hell not prevailing a promise of complete purity from Pentecost to Parousia? Is the church going to be walking with God in the truth in all its fullness free from every error at every time? Is there ever a time when reformation is or will be needed in the church? And even on a personal level is there ever a time when reformation is needed?

    What about Peter who went astray after he was restored and was rebuked by Paul for leading others into error? If the Prince of the Apostles, the first Pope, Cephas, Peter himself fell into gross error despite the promise of Christ that he had prayed that his faith would not fail what are we to say about the state of the church after his departure? What about the letters to the seven churches? There was only one church was Christ truly pleased with and held no error. What about the testimony of Salvian regarding the rampant corruption within the church during his time (5th century)? What about the Middle Ages of which even you say there was abuses?

    And as for the Holy Spirit guiding and leading into all truth why accept Palmas and reject Anselm who so deftly describes the “how” of the atonement? Christ defeats death and reconciles us to the Father is the “what.” By penal substitution is the “how.” If you accept the clarification of Palamas regarding divine energies even though he was such a latecomer why not accept the clarification of Anselm who was in fact earlier?

    Now we are going to disagree on many things here regarding what is and is not apostasy. I for one cannot accept the notion that just because the Fathers did it and believed it means that its not apostasy and is 100% truth. The formulation of Lerins is no proper measure of truth though it might be a dim flashlight that can show you part of the way. Isaiah says “To the word and to the testimony, if they agree not with these that is because there is no light in them.” So let’s not digress too much about celibacy or images or sacramental efficacy or real presence or even penal substitution. I just want a bit more clarification to know if you really believe that the promise of Christ means there shall never be error within the church or the need to reform the church from Pentecost to Parousia?

    1. Anastasiya,

      I’m not sure where you get the idea that Orthodoxy would be without false teachings or false teachers. What I would say is that the Church as a whole has kept the Faith entrusted to her by Christ and that this Faith has been preserved over the past two thousand years by the Orthodox Church. Orthodoxy has had to contend against people within her who succumbed to false teachings, e.g., Arius, who at one time was a presbyter (priest), and Nestorius, who at one time was the Patriarch of Constantinople. To deal with these heresies the Church met in councils and at these councils repudiated these false teachings and affirmed the Apostolic Faith. Arius and Nestorius refused to submit to the decisions of the councils and so were excommunicated, put outside the Church. You mentioned Peter falling into the error of the Judaizers and who was corrected by Paul. As an Orthodox Christian I am not surprised that the first Pope fell into error. What is important to note is that Peter and Paul were later united in Faith at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15).

      So to answer your question in the close of your comment. No, I don’t think that the promise of Christ means that there would be no error; but I do believe that when confronted by false teachings the Church will hold on to the Truth and reject error. This I believe is the meaning behind Paul’s statement about the Church being “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). This means that the Church will hold on to the Apostolic Teachings for two thousand years and until Christ’s Second Coming. This also means that for Orthodoxy there has never been a “Great Apostasty” as so many Protestants believe to have happened. One thing that has impressed me is the continuity between the teachings and practices of the Orthodox Church today in comparison with the Church Fathers.

      As for your question about the need for reform, if you have in mind novelties like Luther’s “justification by faith alone” and sola Scriptura (the Bible alone) both which were never taught by the Church Fathers then the answer is: No. To accept these so-called reforms would be to sever communion with the early Church and adopt a new faith.

      You never answered my earlier question about your church affiliation, knowing this will help me understand the reasoning behind your questions.

      Robert

    2. Perhaps abandoning the desire to project onto Orthodox ideas which are foreign to it, one might be inclined to listen.

      To give an analogy that our guest might understand;’

      The RCC views the church in her institutional expression to be pure through the teachings of the “magisterium” which have an infallible head in the Pope.

      The Reformed church deny this and view all churches as human institutions, “God created and loves…but (which) God never completely identifies with…” (See Wallace M. Alston and Jr, The Church of the Living God: a Reformed Perspective, rev. ed. (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002), 34.). The infallible head is a book (which is read in various ways.) which many go so far as to collate with the Word Himself.

      If these were akin to the human organism (I.e. The “body” which Paul describes) the RCC view would be of a church impervious to sickness by virtue of some charismata of a single person. The Reformed view would be of the church as one ultimately always sick and distorted by that sickness and somehow must come to truth through discursive reason brought to bear on texts (as its scholastic and Renaissance roots dictate).

      The Orthodox (and Scriptural view) is the Church as the Body of Christ constantly assailed by sickness and disease from both without and within…but which like ANY body (esp. The Body indwelt by Holy Spirit) it is able by God’s grace to fight illness and disease by its immune system and wall off parasites or cancers from the rest of the Body. It may be weakened it the process…it may even be sick for a time as it fights disease….but it never succumbs to disease to the point where it does and corrupts, but always becomes immune to various heresies which attempt to destroy Her, or rejects from the Body those cells which are befouled, shedding them like dead skin. Some may remain as Atrrs amongst wheat, but their teachings can never become part of the inner essence of the Chirch – not because of the Church – but often in spite of it – and by God’s saving grace.

      The Orthodox Church is the Church which is constantly reforming…not by developing a\or innovating doctrine, but by elucidating doctrine contextually in response to attacks which have always been part of the faith “delivered once for all to the Saints.”

      As Canon XL of Laeodicea (adopted as an Ecumenical Canon states); “Bishops called to a synod must not be guilty of contempt, but must attend, and either teach, or be taught, for the reformation of the church and of others. “

      Only the spirit of love in synodality can manifest God’s Spirit and His grace which preserves His Body.

      The Church reforms – but only in and through love….not through rebellion.

      1. Yes, Onesimus, thank you for that, and for the very helpful analogy. It is so very difficult to communicate clearly where the Reformation-Counter Reformation polemics hold powerful sway on imaginations and hearts. The fullness of the Apostolic Truth is completely outside of that Western polemical framework.

        I know you are in a place where you have had plenty of practice to hone your apologetic and explanatory skills! 🙂 I, for one, see that as having served us all well here (and other places in the Orthodox blogosphere).

  4. If you don’t mind Robert I’d like to butt into your discussion.

    Anastasiya,
    The promise Christ made about the Holy Spirit is that there would always be those inspired by the Holy Spirit to defend the ‘truth’ of the Gospel. These were not a random bunch of guys but members of the Church. They are there at every age. Yes, there are heretics but also champions of truth.

    You bring up Elijah again and the remnant 7,000. If you really wanted to compare what happened in Israel to the Reformation then you would say after Elijah there was no one who believed properly in God. Elijah made a bad choice and his follower Elisha was no good. No 7,000. No more prophets. No more teachers. The Babylonian exile meant nothing. Jeremiah and Ezekiel are not teachers but fakes because there was an apostasy. Until more than 1,000 years later when a new prophet turns up and starts things again. I’ll call this prophet Luther and he lived in the 3rd century AD. He declares that God wants people only sacrifice sheep, to wear metal hats but no shoes and only eat vegetarian food. He gathers a following. He looks at Judaism and declares they got it totally wrong but he has fixed things.

    1. Stefano,

      By all means please do! This blog is meant to be a meeting place for folks from different religious traditions to dialogue in a civil and charitable manner. In my “Welcome” page I explain the meaning behind the bridge metaphor.

      Robert

  5. If I understand your question about the Reformed position on baptism correctly, the majority opinion would be that a Christian is reconciled to God, grafted into the body of Christ, and given the gift of the indwelling Holy Ghost during their baptism. This is when you are officially brought into covenant with God. There is no subsequent Pentecostal-like ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’ that is distinct or separate from this. However, while the physical application of water and the spiritual cleansing, or ‘circumcision without hands’, are substantially and truly linked, they may not necessarily occur simultaneously. I think the Geneva Catechism may be helpful here:

    Q327 M. Do you think that the water is a washing of the soul?
    S. By no means; for it were impious to snatch away this honour from the blood of Christ, which was shed in order to wipe away all our stains:, and render us pure and unpolluted in the sight of God. (1 Peter 1:19; 1 John 1:7.) And we receive the fruit of this cleansing when the Holy Spirit sprinkles our consciences with that sacred blood. Of this we have a seal in the Sacrament.

    Q328 M. But do you attribute nothing more to the water than that it is a figure of ablution?
    S. I understand it to be a figure, but still so that the reality is annexed to it; for God does not disappoint us when he promises us his gifts. Accordingly, it is certain that both pardon of sins and newness of life are offered to us in baptism, and received by us.

    Q329M. Is this grace bestowed on all indiscriminately?
    S. Many precluding its entrance by their depravity, make it void to themselves. Hence the benefit extends to believers only, and yet the Sacrament loses nothing of its nature.

    Q331 M. How are these blessings bestowed upon us by Baptism?
    S. If we do not render the promises there offered unfruitful by rejecting them, we are clothed with Christ, and presented with his Spirit.

  6. I’d like to throw out a challenge to those from a Reformed background. The idea of a ‘Great Apostasy’ is a myth. It is not supported by the Bible.
    The ‘evidence’ that is used does not support any claim that there was an aspostasy after the death of the last apostle. As a matter of fact the Biblical evidence (that Robert has already gone through) supports the idea that an indwelling of the Holy Spirit will always guide it to Truth.

    Take for example the supposed evidence of the conflict between Peter and Paul that Anastasiya gave as an example. What does it prove?
    It shows that church leaders can disagree on an issue. There are plenty of examples of this throughout Church History that don’t involve heresy. The fact that Paul corrected Peter actually proves the opposite of a Great Apostasy. The same goes for all the disputes that involved heretics. For every heretic there is a saint that defends the truth. The Bible did not say there would be no false teachers (Anastasiya seems to think the Orthodox Church claims this) but that the false teachers would not swamp/ overwhelm the church.

    Come on Reformed/Evangelical Christians, provide me with some Biblical evidence for the ‘Great Apostasy’.

    1. I would actually not defend the notion of a Great Falling of the Church, therefore I would contend no Biblical evidence for it, but don’t you think Arianism would be an example of a time when a heresy was overwhelming (though of course not ultimately defeating) the Church for many years. This would not have been an example of a defender versus a heretic, but a defender versus a great many leaders of the Church itself. A time when patriarchs were being exiled for supporting it – hence the expression Athanasius against the world.

      1. Erik,

        If one grants that there was no Great Apostasy, then that implies there exists today a church body that can claim an unbroken lineage back to the Apostles. One weakness of Protestantism is that it lacks this historical link to the early Church due to its break with Roman Catholicism. Early on in my journey to Orthodoxy one question I wrestled with was how I could become connected with the early Church. I started with reading the early Church Fathers then over time I concluded that I needed to enter into fellowship with the Church body that they belonged to. This led me to the Church of Athanasius the Great, Irenaeus of Lyons, Basil the Great, Ambrose of Milan, and John of Damascus, i.e., the Orthodox Church.

        Robert

        1. “If one grants that there was no Great Apostasy, then that implies there exists today a church body that can claim an unbroken lineage back to the Apostles.” And the Continuing Anglican Church can make that claim – a church founded in the second century, if not the first, that has maintained apostolic succession, along with recognizing the authority of Scripture, ‘universal’ tradition, and the ecumenical councils.

          1. Erik,

            Interesting! I’d like to hear more about this. You mean they disavow the Filioque in the Nicene Creed? And, that they venerate icons? Also, that they can trace their bishops’ succession back to the Apostles independently of post-1054 Roman Catholicism?

            Robert

          2. Erik:

            You may be right in citing that the Anglican Church is plugged into the apostolic succession, if you are willing to discount the intrusion of recent female “bishops” in the mix. There is an undisturbed line of descent from the earliest apostles through the latest ordinations of priests and deacons in most Anglican jurisdictions. I, myself, am a humble descendent in that line.

            But, you are missing the point. The point is that, in order for a bishop and his flock to be in a continual bond with the ancient apostolic Church, he must show more than an unadulterated genealogy of apostolic succession. He must demonstrate that he has current Eucharistic fellowship with the other bishops who have clearly maintained their bond with the ancient Church, not only by presenting their genealogical bona fides, but also by giving witness to their faithfulness to the apostolic faith, to whit, their zeal to maintain the deposit of faith from the original apostles.

            The Anglican tradition, whether it be the official sort of the Church of England, the Episcopal Church, or any of the continuing Anglican sects, is not able to do that. As much as we may protest to the contrary, we have separated ourselves, not only from our Orthodox heritage, but also from the Roman Catholic Church, which had previously separated itself from Orthodoxy. Therefore, your argument is without merit.

          3. Holy Orders:
            In 1922 the Patriarch of Constantinople Meletius IV wrote the following to the Archbishop of Canterbury: “That the orthodox theologians who have scientifically examined the question have almost unanimously come to the same conclusions and have declared themselves as accepting the validity of Anglican Orders. That the practice in the Church affords no indication that the Orthodox Church has ever officially treated the validity of Anglican Orders as in doubt, in such a way as would point to the re-ordination of the Anglican clergy as required in the case of the union of the two Churches.”
            Similar letters were received from the Patriarchs of Jerusalem (1923), Cyprus (1923), and Alexandria (1930). It could also be noted that in the past some Eastern Orthodox bishops assisted in the ordination of Anglican bishops. Of course, these affirmations could now be questioned since some branches of the Anglican Communion began ordaining women, but the Continuing Churches came out of communion with them when they began doing so and thus have maintained the apostolic tradition of male-only clergy that has historically been recognized by Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs in the same way they recognize Roman Catholic Orders.

            Filioque:
            1976 Moscow Agreement between Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Bishops:
            Art. V, Sect. 21:
            “The Anglican members therefore agree that: (a) because the original form of the Creed referred to the origin of the Holy Spirit from the Father, (b) because the Filioque clause was introduced into this Creed without the authority of an Ecumenical Council and without due regard for Catholic consent, and (c) because this Creed constitutes the public confession of faith by the People of God in the Eucharist, the Filioque clause should not be included in this Creed. “
            1984 Dublin Agreement between Anglican and Eastern Orthodox Bishops:
            Art. II, Sect. 44
            “Further discussions on the Filioque led to the reaffirmation by both Anglicans and Orthodox of the agreement reached in Moscow in 1976 that this phrase should not be included in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. Certain Anglican Churches have already acted upon this recommendation, whilst others are still considering it.”

            Icons:
            1984 Dublin Agreement:
            Art. III, Sect. 85.
            “An icon is a means of entering into contact with the person or event it represents. It is not an end in itself. In the words of St Basil: ‘The honour shown to the icon passes to the prototype’. It guides us to a vision of the divine Kingdom where past, present and future are one. It makes vivid our faith in the communion of the saints. In the definition of the Seventh Ecumenical Council we read: ‘The more frequently they (sc. icons) are seen, the more those who behold them are aroused to remember and desire the prototypes and to give them greeting and the veneration of honour; not indeed true worship which, according to our faith, is due to God alone.’”
            Art. VI, Sect. 113
            “In regard to icons we have found that notwithstanding past Anglican objections and despite differences in liturgical practice, there is no serious disagreement here between Anglicanism and Orthodoxy. It is true that Anglicans do not believe that the veneration of icons, as practiced in the East, can be required of all Christians. But Anglicans agree that the theology of the icon is founded upon, and intended to safeguard, the doctrine of the incarnation. They also accept that it is legitimate to regard the icon, not merely as a decoration, but as a means of entering into relationship with the person or event it represents; and to hold that in response to the faith and prayer of the believers, God through the icon, bestows his sanctifying grace.”

          4. Erik,

            You listed an interesting set of statements. I would greatly appreciate it if you could answer some questions that come to my mind as I read these statements. First, Would not all these statements apply to the current Church of England and the Episcopal Church even with their recent problematic acceptance of women bishops and homosexual bishops? Second, you mentioned Continuing Anglican churches, which one do you have mind? Third, can you give me the name of a Continuing Anglican group that reject the Filioque and venerate icons across the board? And, what is the name of their bishop?

            Thank you.

            Robert

          5. “First, would not all these statements apply to the current Church of England and the Episcopal Church even with their recent problematic acceptance of women bishops and homosexual bishops?”
            I think in theory it could have, but for any practical purpose it no longer does. As I read one Orthodox bishop make the comment that dialogue in the vein of Dublin and Moscow could continue but it would only be academic at this point.

            “Second, you mentioned Continuing Anglican churches, which one do you have mind?”
            I think Jereme provided a comprehensive list in his comment. Personally, I am a member of the Anglican Province of America (APA).

            “Third, can you give me the name of a Continuing Anglican group that reject the Filioque and venerate icons across the board?”
            There isn’t a rejection of the theology when properly understood (see the response the 39 Article comment), thus there is not a pressing need to mandate its removal. I think it is really just more tradition at this point, but one that can be corrected.

          6. Erik,

            The Pope’s insertion of the Filioque into the Nicene Creed implies an authority equal to or greater than the Ecumenical Councils. This for the Orthodox is intolerable. The issue here is not doctrine but liturgical theology. So I admire your quoting St. Cyril on the spiration of the Holy Spirit but that is beside the point. The point here is that the papal version of the Nicene Creed is unauthorized and therefore to be rejected.

            Robert

            Robert

        2. Actually, the rejection of papist usurpation should be reason enough for any Reformed or Protestant church to reject the filioque in the Creed. ‘If the Romanists are for it then it must be wrong, right.’ 🙂
          But my point there was in relation to your comment on the Articles, not the Creed. In the Articles such declarations are no different than that of an Eastern theologian’s treatise that included the same thoughts and language, like that of Cyril’s. So in the Creed it is a problem, in the Articles it is not.

          1. That last sentence should read “So in the Creed it is a problem because of the original Greek, and yes unauthorized papal action, but in the Articles it is not because they are technically talking about a different type of procession, that which is spiration and not generation.

          2. Erik,

            I came across this article about a recent meeting between ACNA (Anglican Convocation of North America) and OCA (Orthodox Church of America) that ook place August 17-18, 2016, at Immaculate Conception Seminary. Hope you find it helpful and encouraging.

            Robert

  7. Hi Erik,
    I appreciate your intellectual honesty but most of your Reformed brethren wouldn’t agree with you. I would like to hear from them.

    Yes, Arianism is a good example of how a heresy nearly overwhelmed the Church. You are also right that it is as simple as merely a heretic versing a Church Father. Athanasius gets a lot of credit but any investigation reveals there were plenty of anti-Arians along side him. Take for example the entire Egyptian episcopate which was always pro-Athanasius. Then there are people like Saint Anthony, Paul of Constantinople (who was martyred by the Arians), Hilary of Pointers, Eusebius of Velii and Ambrose.

    Jerome made the comment ” the whole world groaned to find itself Arian” and this is sometimes taken as evidence for an apostasy but it is clear that Jerome is exaggerating.

    The conflict between Roman Catholics and Orthodox shows that we might not always ‘win’ as Catholics were military and politically dominant but even when Orthodoxy was squeezed by Crusaders on one side and Jihadist Turks on the other (the Russians had to deal with occupation by the Golden Hoard) we still survived as a faithful remnant.

  8. “The idea of a ‘Great Apostasy’ is a myth. It is not supported by the Bible.”

    This is simply just not true. Paul several times mentions a great falling away and Jesus himself says “Nevertheless when the son of man cometh shall he find faith on the earth?” indicating that there would be a dearth of true faith when he comes. Do you really think this is only going to happen for only a short time just before the Parousia? Take a look at Peter and see how he fell away a second time even after Christ restored him. Men are fickle and prone to error. What happens shortly after the death of the apostles? The leaven of “sacramental efficacy” and “christianized gnostic asceticism” creep into the church and cause all sorts of havoc that have lasted unto this day. Now does this mean that the church is not the church anymore simply because it has swallowed these errors? No. Paul in his letters and Jesus in Revelation 2 and 3 both gently correct erring churches but never once say they are not churches.

    “If one grants that there was no Great Apostasy, then that implies there exists today a church body that can claim an unbroken lineage back to the Apostles.”

    This is incorrect also. The church in the wilderness was corrupt and stiff-necked and rebellious and idolatrous and broke God’s covenant over and over again. Idolatry ruled the kings of Israel and Judah. In Elijah’s time only 7000 had not bowed to Baal. By the time of Josiah the book of the law had become lost. Josiah restored the law. Josiah dies and his son goes right back to apostasy despite this restoration. Does this mean Israel was not Israel? No. God’s people are God’s people. And they are so for His sake, not because they are obedient for they were not obedient. See Ezekiel 16 and Acts 7.

    Now apply that the the church. Error slowly crept into the church over a period of time so that by the 700’s you have much bloodshed over worshipping God through pictures. You have men thinking they are eating the hypostatic body of Jesus Christ chewing him with their teeth and digesting him with their gastric juices. You have men and women living in caves starving themselves and beating their bodies with harsh asceticisms nowhere commanded in scripture in order to attain hyper-ouisa. You have men praying “Save us most Holy Theotokos.” You have a system of better/best maried/celibate so that married folks are second class christians while celibates have attained to angelic purity. You have living men paying homage to the bones of dead men in hopes of attaining a miracle or a better resurrection. You have every sort of will-worship one can imagine in hopes of attaining merit and favor with God. You have the Gospel of Christ buried early on actually. In the Stromata there is not a word of about justification through the blood of Christ or being delivered from sin through the atonement of Christ but plenty of rules saying touch not, taste not. Even some rules about beards.

    Now does this mean that those who engage in such practices are not the church? No. They are the church. Albeit a very dirty church needing a whole lot of cleansing much like a matted dog or a car thats been in the garage for years and is now covered with dust. Are the ruins of Detroit not Detroit? No. And we see sections of the city have come back with a little cleansing. Same thing goes for the church. It is still the church it just needs a little cleansing. So just because a church is Apostate does not mean it cannot trace its lineage back to the Apostles.

    The church is here and it is alive. The gates of hell have not overcome it just as Christ promised. Everywhere the name of Christ is preached wether in truth or in pretense. However the church is in desperate need of a bath. Jesus never promised the church would not fall into error. He never promised the church would not get dirty. Let me turn your phrase around for you:

    “If one grants that there was a Great Apostasy, then that does not imply there does not exist today a church body that can claim an unbroken lineage back to the Apostles.”

    1. Anastasiya,

      I find your ecclesiology murky. Are you saying that Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy are part of the church, just as the Reformed, Baptists, and Pentecostals like Joel Osteen are part of the church? Where do you draw the line?

      I noticed you haven’t answered my question: What church tradition are you part of? Are you part of the Reformed tradition? I have a pretty good idea of what you’re against, but I don’t know what you’re for. Until I know that, it is hard for me to respond.

      Robert

    2. Anastasiya;

      Oh Dear me! The above diatribe is the most convoluted ecclesiological construct I think I’ve ever seen. Not only do you not understand – nor have you tried to understand the history of the Church – but you have made a straw man by selective use of Scripture (a hallmark of Protestants) and set yourself up as judge and jury over the Body of Christ! As such you believe that you sit in judgement over the Holy Spirit who preserves the Church through Her struggles against eveil.

      Utilizing the scope of Scripture would be a start — but there are so many issues in your approach beyond that — it is truly a fearful thing to think about the haphazard process by which your ecclesiological convictions are borne — and what their ultimate effects are!

      In all of your above diatribe you are unable to hold two notions in your head at once equally – and this leads you (amongst many other things) into great trouble.

      You are unable to contend with the clear and unambiguous teaching of Christ and the Apostles that His people are preserved by the work of the Spirit and that all heresies are cut off from the Church. You are unable to do this because to do so would condemn your very sectarian tendencies and convict you of the division and factionalism you cause and uphold as central to your ecclesiological ideology. You attempts to overlay OT typology (the shadow) onto the Church of Christ (the fullfillment in Him) leads you into all kinds of exegetical and hermenuetical eisegesis.

      But what does Scripture actually say?

      “They went out from us, but they did not belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us. But their departure made it clear that none of them belonged to us.” 1 John 2:19

      For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders that would deceive even the elect, if that were possible. Matt 24:24

      And indeed, there must be differences among you to show which of you are approved. 1 Cor 11:19

      “Reject a divisive man (haritikon anthropon) after a first and second admonition, knowing that such a man is corrupt and sinful; he is self-condemned.…” Titus 3:10

      I am the true vine, and My Father is the keeper of the vineyard. He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, and every branch that does bear fruit, He prunes to make it even more fruitful. John 15:2

      “If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers. Such branches are gathered up, thrown into the fire, and burned.” John 15:6

      “These men, however, slander what they do not understand, and like irrational animals, they will be destroyed by the things they do instinctively. Woe to them! They have traveled the path of Cain; they have rushed headlong into the error of Balaam; they have perished in Korah’s rebellion.

      These men are the hidden reefs in your love feasts, shamelessly feasting with you but shepherding only themselves. They are clouds without water, carried along by the wind; fruitless trees in autumn, twice dead after being uprooted. They are wild waves of the sea, foaming up their own shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.

      Enoch, the seventh from Adam, also prophesied about them: “Behold, the Lord is coming with myriads of His holy ones to execute judgment on everyone, and to convict all the ungodly of every ungodly act of wickedness and every harsh word spoken against Him by ungodly sinners.”

      These men are discontented grumblers, following after their own lusts; their mouths spew arrogance; they flatter others for their own advantage.”

      But you, beloved, remember what was foretold by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ when they said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow after their own ungodly desires.” These are the ones who cause divisions, who are worldly and devoid of the Spirit. Jude 1:10-17

      “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters. Matt 12:30

      “Even from your own number, men will rise up and distort the truth to draw away disciples after them.” Acts 20:30

      …”the acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; 20idolatry and sorcery; hatred, discord, jealousy, and rage; rivalries, divisions, factions, … I warn you, as I did before, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Gal 5:20

      It may be helpful for you to look into Korah’s rebellion.

      You can try to apply the unfaithfulness of the OT peoples to the Church which is indwelt with the Holy Spirit – but to do so only shows a further lack of understanding of the gift which God has bestowed on His people in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost…which you somehow deny is at work it His Body, preserving it and sanctifying it while cutting off those who do it harm, or rendering them incapable from within. There may be tares amongst the wheat…but the Field is Still Intact. There are good fish that will be thrown into containers – and bad fish thrown away…but the Net is still intact. This is the great issue with the Protestant understanding of Church. It equates the Church as simply an association of people worshipping God. It is more…it is the hospital which cures them by the work of the Spirit. It is the net which draws them up out of the filth. It is the sickle which threshes and separates the wheat and the chaff.

      The words of Saint Paul are apropos of those who cause factions within the One Body and uphold the kind of division you seek and affirm;

      ….having a form of godliness but denying its power. Turn away from such as these!

      “They are the kind who worm their way into households and captivate vulnerable women who are weighed down with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth. They are depraved in mind and disqualified from the faith. But they will not advance much further. For just like Jannes and Jambres, their folly will be plain to everyone.

      Yours is an utterly bankrupt ecclesiology. I hope you will abandon it soon. It is one thing to fall victim to such false teachings – but another thing entirely to set yourself up as a teacher of this…

      Jesus said to His disciples, “It is inevitable that stumbling blocks will come, but woe to the one through whom they come!

      I will be praying for your heart to be illumined and softened to hear the Spirit of Truth Himself who is the cornerstone of the Church which you believe is apostate.

  9. What I am saying is that the churches founded by the Apostles all departed from the purity of the faith even in the time of the Apostles. “O foolish Galatians who hath bewitched you?”, says Paul. And are we to believe those who were so easily lead astray during Paul’s lifetime were not led astray after his departing? Jesus says to six of the seven churches, “Yet I have somewhat against thee.” Yet at no time did Jesus or Paul call those churches not churches. Again Jesus prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail and yet we see Peter, after he was restored by Christ, being rebuked by Paul for dissembling and leading others astray. Was the prayer of Jesus in vain?

    Yes the Orthodox, the Romans, and most of the Protestants are all a part of the church since they all confess they are gathered together in the name of Jesus Christ to worship Him. The difference is in purity. The Romans and the Orthodox all venerate icons and statues, commune with the dead, and believe the they eat the flesh and drink the blood of Christ. The Pentecostals have various and many errors too manifold to mention. Even the mainline Protestants are ordaining women and welcoming homosexuals. It seems as if every church has left the doctrine justification by faith alone in the dust just as the early church did after the death of Paul. No church in existence can lay claim to being a pure church walking in all the doctrines of Christ. “To the law and the testimony” and so much practice and doctrine does not add up. To think so is to deceive ourselves. “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked who can know it.”

    And I can look to Israel and Judah to back up that claim. At no time whatsoever did the nation of Israel keep the covenant of the Lord. They held back their arm during the taking of the promised land, they gathered more manna than allowed, they murmured against Moses, they worshipped a golden calf, they desired a king, they went after false gods. Yet they were always Israel. They were always God’s people. It is all laid out in Ezekiel 16.

    This does not mean everyone’s doctrines are the same or that doctrine does not matter or that no one is not teaching false doctrine or that we cannot know what true doctrine is or that true doctrine is not being taught. It simply means that the Church is still the Church even if she is in error. I am a sinner but I am still a man. The scriptures are the principum cognoscendi externum of the faith and the church is more or less pure as she conforms to them.

    I do have a Reformed background and I think Articles 27-29 of the Belgic confession would more or less agree with what I have written.

    1. Anastasiya,

      I noticed an inconsistency in your first paragraph. You set the bar so high with your “the purity of faith” standard that all churches as you wrote “departed from the faith” in the times of the Apostles. Hence, your claim of universal apostasy. Then you wrote: “Yet at no time did Jesus or Paul call those churches not churches.” Setting the bar so low that from what I can tell what you are saying is that even with a universal apostasy there are still functioning churches. Isn’t that a contradictory statement?

      I think the problem is your standard of “purity of faith.” In the Bible “purity” refers to ritual or moral purity, not to doctrinal/theological purity. The concept of “purity of faith” is an innovation fostered by Western theological traditions that favor elaborate theologies like the Belgic Confession or the Westminster Confession. With elaborate theological systems like these it is very easy not to conform to all the doctrinal minutiae and hence fall away from “doctrinal purity.” I see several problems in this approach. First, it sets the bar excessively high almost guaranteeing that all churches will fail the test. Second, elaborate doctrinal standards like these lack the universality of the Ecumenical Councils. Third, arbitrary standards like the Belgic Confession that are peculiar to a particular religious tradition open the way for a kind of civil war where Christians measure other Christians by their own standards and calling one another apostate. What is needed is a universal reference point for church dogma, i.e., the Ecumenical Councils.

      Another problem is that even with the so-called apostasy you claim that churches are still churches. Here you set the bar so low that almost everyone gets included. But where does one draw the line? Are you including Pentecostals who advocate the word of faith teaching? Are you including Protestant liberals who advocate same sex marriage? Or to Protestant liberals who believe that Jesus is not the only way to salvation? What would you say to Evangelicals who want to enter into ecumenical dialogue with the Mormons? Where do you draw the line without being arbitrary?

      This theological pluralism greatly troubled me when I was a Protestant and I found the Reformed confessions inadequate for dealing with the growing theological chaos. It was not until I learned about the Ecumenical Councils that I found a stable and universal doctrinal framework that was grounded in Scripture and Apostolic authority. Knowing the Ecumenical Councils helped me to find my way back home as it were. I found that in the early Church right faith was manifested through Eucharistic fellowship with the bishops of the Ecumenical Councils. This led me from the early Church of the Ecumenical Councils to the Orthodox Church today.

      The problem I see in your ecclesiological paradigm is that it leaves all of us lost, attempting to find our way back home to the true Church. It means that we are on our own, left to do the best we can. In the Ecumenical Councils I found the Church “the pillar and foundation of truth” Paul wrote about in I Timothy 3:15. The Ecumenical Councils serve as a light house guiding us back home to the one true Church founded by Christ. I know that you don’t care for icons but I have shown in my articles that the Seventh Council’s affirmation of icons is biblically-based and that Calvin’s iconoclasm is seriously flawed. So rather than icons being a sign of apostasy, I came to the conclusion that icons are a sign of orthodoxy — small ‘o’ and big ‘O’. This then means that the Reformed tradition’s iconoclasm becomes a sign of their apostasy from the historic Christian faith.

      I know I’m pushing back hard but I am doing my best to speak the truth in love. Please be open to the spiritual heritage of Orthodoxy grounded in the Faith of the Apostles. Please don’t be so negative or disparaging of Orthodoxy’s worship, theology, and spiritual disciplines. They may seem alien to a Protestant to you but these are rooted in ancient Christianity. For many Protestants (including me) the way back home to the early Church is long but it can be done. I invite you and other readers out there to begin the journey.

      Robert

  10. Hi Anastasiya,
    Luke 18:8 isn’t a prediction about a Great Apostasy but Jesus criticising the faith of the the people of Judea in his own time. You just take half a verse and then run with it. Sorry, this is no evidence for an Apostasy.

    You say Paul says something. What verses were you referring to?

    You then ramble on a random list of complaints. Let me respond:
    1) You have an issue with Sacraments. I’m sorry but there is plenty of Biblical evidence. Matthew 26:26-28 is evidence ( amongst plenty) for the Eucharist and John 3:1-21, Titus 3:5 and Romans 6:4 is evidence for Baptism. I don’t mind if don’t accept the Orthodox interpretation of these verses but at least acknowledge that we Orthodox have a scriptural basis for what we say.

    2) monks and asceticism. Jesus himself said people would choose to live like eunuchs (celibate) for the Kingdom of heaven’s sake (Matt 19:12) and Jesus also said to the man to sell your possessions (ie live in poverty) and follow him (Matt 19:21). Lots of Biblical evidence here, not to mention the examples of Elijah, John the Baptist and Jesus himself. Sorry middle class white people Jesus was not one of you. Yes, a few monks did disparage marriage (Jerome springs to mind) but the majority had a healthy respect for the married life.

    You are totally mistaken that monks reject the world for the same reason as the Gnostics. Orthodox monks see creation as good. They reject material comforts and meat to test themselves. Anastasiya for you to say a comment like that you are only revealing your ignorance.

    Apparently it’s ok for Elijah (1 Kings 19:9) to spend some time in a cave but for Christians its a great error. A bit inconsistent I think.

    3) Relics. 2 Kings 13:20-21 and Acts 19:11-12 is strong Biblical evidence that God can work miracles through material objects, including bones. Saying living people pay homage to bones of dead men is a poor attempt to engage with this belief.

    4) “Pray for us Holy Theotokos” – I explained this is an earlier post. Are you just going to spout the same stuff or listen to what we say. Again, I don’t mind if you disagree with a genuine Orthodox position but you seem to misunderstand this and presume it means something it doesn’t. Remember it is a sin to bear false witness!

    5) Stromata??? I have no idea what you are talking about! Clement of Alexandia wrote a book called ‘Stromata’, are you talking about this? It sounds like you are thinking of the canons or something (the Pedalion perhaps). Please clarify.

    6) hyper-ousia?? This means super/ higher substance. This word is meaningless. It has no theological usage. What has this got to do with monks? Were you thinking ‘theosis’?

    7) Falling Away. The Orthodox Church believes there has been a falling away. Only the Orthodox Church contains the fullness of Truth. There are 2 billion Christians but only 250 million Orthodox. Roman Catholics fell away 1,000 years ago and the various flavours of Protestantism slid into even more error 500 years ago (this is ongoing). We are the faithful remnant who has withstood Cruasders, Militant Islam, Communists and Nazis. I can’t speak for the how the errors of these heretics will affect their salvation (For God is their judge) but I can say error is part of their belief system.

    Anastasiya while I appreciate the interaction I think you need to begin the discussion with a solid Biblical basis for your belief in a Great Apostasy. As I have said I don’t believe you can and you haven’t so far so begin there.

    Secondly, you didn’t mention the role of the Holy Spirit or considered the evidence that Robert has provided on His activity in the Church. You need to say something on this.

    Thirdly, if we are simultaneously Apostate and God’s people/ church is alive then why is there a problem?

  11. Also the end result of the Donatist controversy, that baptism and ordination performed by heretics is valid, I think underscores my point about apostate churches still being churches.

  12. Anastasiya,
    FYI – the Donatists were schismatics rather than heretics but you do make a valid point that bodies outside the Orthodox Church are still given the title ‘church’ by the Church Fathers and modern theologians. However, you are reading too much into this. Yes, they are given this courtesy title but that does not imply they are part of the one holy catholic apostolic church. Orthodox don’t believe in an invisible church but we can recognise the Holy Spirit does work outside our boundaries.

    Some baptisms outside the church (trinitarian baptisms) are counted as valid. Far fewer ordinations outside the Church are seen as valid. They are measured in how close they conform to early church practice.

    I suppose all this doesn’t mean much to you as you a caught up in your own little world view. According to your logic you too must be an apostate in an apostate church. How is it you have managed to get it ‘right’ when all others have failed?

  13. Erik,
    The statements by certain Orthodox Churches on the validity of Anglican Orders is a good example where wishful thinking and politics get in the way of theology. Meletius Metaxas was a notorious worldly patriarch who was interested in power and influence. Also, high church Anglicans were quick to claim they were the ‘real’ Anglicans.
    In reality, the Orthodox Church ( mainly Russians) did re ordain the few Anglican converts in the 19 th and early 20 th century. After the positive statements the practice of reordaination continued to the present day.

    The Church of Constantinople did not only not accept Anglican orders prior to 1922 but didn’t even accept Anglican baptism. The example of William Palmer is a good one to look up. The claim of the 1922 statement that the Orthodox Church has never doubted Anglican orders is simply historically inaccurate.

    I’ve met lots of Anglicans who claim to believe in the theology of icons but I’ve yet to see an Anglican group officially accept the 7 th Ecumenical Council.

    The BCP puts the Filioque clause in square brackets. In typical Anglican fashion the practice is either take it or leave it. Not exactly a decisive rejection of the Filioque!

    1. Erik,

      Just wondering, would you include ACNA (Anglican Convocation of North America) and PEAR (Province de L’Eglise Anglicane au Rwanda) as part of continuing Anglicanism? I have friends in an Anglican church who shun icons and refrain from honoring Mary as the Theotokos, and use the Filioque whenever they recite the Nicene Creed. They strike me as being more Protestant than part of the historic pre-1054 Church.

      Robert

      1. Hi Robert,

        I’m a sometimes enjoyer of your blog and an off and on examiner of Orthodoxy. I’ve come to the conclusion that Anglicanism, in it’s traditional and continuing form, is the only possible landing place for me other than Orthodoxy (I’m currently on the fence).

        There are others that could do this better than I, but here goes nothing:

        I would not consider the ACNA part of the continuing movement (and neither would most continuers). As for PEAR…they are probably in a similar boat but I’m not as familiar with them. The ACNA runs the gamut from Low Church Calvinists to High Church Anglo-Catholics. The are truly part of the broad church tradition of Anglicanism.

        Generally, the continuing Churches are agreed to be those stemming from the Affirmation of St. Louis, in which a number of Episcopalians left the Episcopal Church in 1976 after the vote to ordain women. These groups include but might not necessarily be limited to:

        Anglican Catholic Church
        Anglican Church in America
        Anglican Province of America
        Anglican Province of Christ the King
        The Diocese of the Holy Cross
        United Episcopal Church of North America

        These groups are moving towards full communion with each other.

        Unlike the ACNA, most of the faithful of these groups would probably be open to the veneration of icons (with the possible exception of the last group) but might not personally be compelled to do so (Stephanos’ comment just above about Anglican groups, icons, and the 7th ecumenical council might be rather instructive, although many individual Anglicans have a high degree of reverence for icons). All would certainly uphold the Virgin Mary as the Theotokos. And many if not most would probably uphold the Filioque in the Creed (this is a bit more conjecture on my part than my other statements). The ACNA is a protestant group in my estimation, despite the fact that many in their ranks are very Catholic minded. They are out of bounds for consideration as a home for those of a like disposition as my own (although I hope and pray they move in a more traditional way).

        You can find more information about continuing Anglicanism here:

        http://anglicancontinuum.blogspot.com/

        You might find that many in the continuing Anglican Churches feel a bit left out of ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox because of their relatively small numbers. I see a great deal of overlap between both groups although obvious differences remain (like the Filioque). While restoration of ecumenical fellowship between them is not likely to happen anytime soon the fruit gained between official talks (should they begin) would likely be valuable (and interesting).

        I apologize if I’ve misrepresented the views of any particular group. I’m an outsider looking (intently) in to both Anglicanism and to Orthodoxy (and I intend to visit an Orthodox Parish for the first time this coming Sunday).

        1. Jereme,

          Thank you for contributing to the discussion on the OrthodoxBridge!

          I suspect that the reason for the continuing Anglican churches’ difficulties would lie in their desire for mutual recognition with the Orthodox Church. If on the other hand they are interested in reception (being received into Orthodoxy), I believe the dialogue would move much quicker.

          Please see my article “Which Path to Church Unity? Recognition vs Reception” for an explanation of the two different approaches.

          Robert

          1. Robert,

            I believe your sentiments are correct. I would challenge a few of the claims you make in “Which Path to Church Unity” but I think your conclusion is sound.

            Continuing Anglicans are indeed more interested in recognition than reception. This is a commentary in itself on how we view unity, and one that I’ll have to give some serious thought. It seems that “unity” is more than a theoretical concept, but an actual organic structure.

            But I’m all for dialogue simply for dialogues sake, and I would assume you’d agree since you run this blog. Mutual understanding is indeed progress of a certain sort.

            Cheers,
            Jereme

          2. Jereme,

            Yes, by all means let’s keep talking. As I looked over your listing of Continuing Anglican churches I wondered: Do any of them recognize the Seven Ecumenical Councils as authoritative and binding for all its members and clergy? If any of them do, that would be a great first step to dialogue with the Orthodox Church.

            Next are any of them willing to relinquish the Thirty Nine Articles? I ask this because from an Orthodox standpoint the Thirty Nine Articles is doctrinally heteroodox. For example, Article V affirms the double procession of the Holy Spirit and nowhere is the Filioque repudiated, and Article XXVIII teaches that in the Eucharist the Body of Christ is received “only after an heavenly and spiritual manner.”

            Robert

          3. “Next are any of them willing to relinquish the Thirty Nine Articles?”
            Since the Articles are the product of a national synod, there are open to correction, especially though ecumenical council. The question to be resolved is what exactly needs to be modified.

            For example, Article V affirms the double procession of the Holy Spirit
            You have to remember that in this Article they are using the Latin term procedere that translates into the Greek προϊόν and not ἐκπορεύεσθαι. Thus it recognizes the Spiration of the Holy Ghost from Christ but not His Generation. As the Father is the only font of Generation. As St. Cyril declared “The Spirit proceeds (πρόεισι) from the Father and the Son; clearly, he is of the divine substance (οὐσίας), proceeding (προϊόν) substantially in it and from it”. Even though the theology is not in contrast, ἐκπορεύεσθαι is the Greek used in the originally penned Creed, therefore the filioque should be removed from the Creed.

            “Article XXVIII teaches that in the Eucharist the Body of Christ is received “only after an heavenly and spiritual manner”.”
            A proper dialogue on this issue would probably occupy an article posting of its own. But for now please understand that we do recognize a true and objective presence in the Eucharist. As the Article states in another place – “Bread which we break is a partaking of the Body of Christ; and likewise the Cup of Blessing is a partaking of the Blood of Christ.” Also, in the spirit of Lex orandi, lex credendi’, the priest says the following when we receive communion – “The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee…” and “The Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for thee…”.

      2. It’s actually the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). To be honest I’m not sure if they would be classified as such especially since there are still in communion with Canterbury. However, the churches of Nigeria and Rwanda are definitely closer to being orthodox than either England or the US Episcopal Church. For instance, the APA has an intercommunion fellowship agreement with the Nigerian Church.

    2. “Meletius Metaxas was a notorious worldly patriarch who was interested in power and influence.”
      Do you level the same criticisms against the Patriarchs of Jerusalem, Cyprus, Romania, and Alexandria that agreed? Also attacks on the person do not disqualify the position, for instance many do not look fondly on many of St. Cyril’s actions, but because of his theological positions and defense of Orthodoxy he is still considered a Pillar of the Church.

      “The Church of Constantinople did not only not accept Anglican orders prior to 1922 but didn’t even accept Anglican baptism. The example of William Palmer is a good one to look up. The claim of the 1922 statement that the Orthodox Church has never doubted Anglican orders is simply historically inaccurate.”
      I did look up the instance of Palmer and it was educational, however, I also discovered that while the Greek Church was re-baptizing, the Russian Church did not require it. In fact, the Greek Church appears to be the only one requiring it at the time. So far from what I have read is that even today baptism can always be performed on converts but it is not necessarily required, as chrismation alone is sometimes considered sufficient. The need is essentially left to the discretion of the local bishop.

  14. A few more things Erik,
    Do you have any examples of an Anglican deacon, priest or bishop entering Orthodoxy and not being (re)ordained?

    Also,
    Any examples of Anglican leaders, present day or historically, affirming the 7th Ecumenical Council? Even the non-jurors in the 18th century backed away from that and they were not far from Orthdoxy at all!

    1. “Do you have any examples of an Anglican deacon, priest or bishop entering Orthodoxy and not being (re)ordained?”
      I guess this might be a point of difference in what we consider goals, Orthodox Anglicans are not pursuing, as Robert would put it, Reception into and under existing Eastern Orthodox Jurisdictions. Our focus would be more about Recognition or communion fellowship under our bishops and our Western liturgical rites. We don’t feel we have to become Eastern to become Orthodox. However, with respect to your question, Metropolitan Tikhon was enthroned as the Presiding Bishop at the ordination of R.H. Weller to bishop in the early 1900s. This would at least indicate that he considered Weller’s status as priest to be in some way valid, otherwise why would he participate in any capacity? But to be fair, he did not to my knowledge participate in the laying of hands.

      “Any examples of Anglican leaders, present day or historically, affirming the 7th Ecumenical Council?”
      The Affirmation of St. Louis (1977) – Essentially the birthing document for Continuing Anglicanism.
      “The received Tradition of the Church and its teachings as set forth by “the ancient catholic bishops and doctors,” and especially as defined by the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church, to the exclusion of all errors, ancient and modern.”

      1. Thank you Erik for your detailed replies! Very informative.

        You cited the Affirmation of St. Louise (1977). I’m wondering how it works out in the local parish. Please take a look at my recent post “An Encounter with the Miraculous Hawaiian Icon” and let me know if you and your fellow parishioners would be comfortable with venerating the Hawaii icon. The veneration of the icon of Mary the Theotokos brings together the concerns of the Fourth and the Seventh Councils.

        Robert

      2. Hi Erik,
        There is a great article (that can be found online) called ‘Archbishop Tikhon and Bishop Grafton: An Early Chapter in Anglo-Orthodox Relations in the New World’ by Peter Carl Haskell in St Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly vol 11.4 (1967) that discusses the ordination of Reginald Weller. Saint Tikhon did indeed attend. Bishop Grafton recognised apparently recognised Tikhon’s status as an archbishop so he was given the place of honour in the sanctuary. You are correct that Tikhon did not actually participate in the ordination. This episode show me that Tikhon was respectful but there is no indication (even implied) that he recognised Anglican orders.
        A modern comparison would be the attendance of Orthodox bishops at the ordination of Rowan Williams. No implied recognition. When Williams visited St. Vladimir’s he was even address as ‘archbishop’.

        Some more examples – one Continuing Anglican Bishop has been received into Orthdoxy that I am aware of (Robert (now Alban) Waggener. A Realignment Bishop has also been received (Sam Seamans) into Orthodoxy. In both cases their status as bishops (or even priests) was not recognised.

        I’ll look up the St. Louis Statement to see its exact wording.

        It seems to me you have a ‘branch theory’ ecclesiology. For Orthodox you haven’t been part of the Church for 1, 000 years. And let’s face it, Continuing Anglicanism is a small group of disunited factions while Orthodoxy is a large (sometimes bickering) group of fairly theologically homogenous people.

  15. Stefano,

    Plenty to respond to but I will only respond to 5. Yes I was thinking of Clement’s Stomata. That is the only writing called Stomata from the early church, no? To paraphrase Harnack: The radical fideism of Paul was subsumed by moralism. The writings of the early church are filled with a Christianized gnostic moralism fueled by asceticism. It is not until Augustine that we see anyone grasping what Paul was teaching. But is this any surprise when Peter says of Pauls writings that they are hard to be understood? Is it any wonder that if Peter, a man endowed with much special grace, could not understand Paul, or at least admitted that he was difficult to understand, that the whole church would misunderstand him?

    1. Anastasiya,
      Adolf von Harnack is a notorious liberal theologian who was obsessed with (his perceived understanding of) the Pauline view of justification. I find it strange that you would cite him as an authority.

      Jesus went on a fair bit about moral behaviour. He didn’t say anything about justification. You can says this about all the Gospel authors. Are you going to hold them up to the same standard as Clement of Alexandria?

      You won’t find any Church Fathers going on about sola fides because it hadn’t been invented yet (Luther did it at the Reformation). A few actually use the term ‘faith alone’ but they mean something different from Luther. As for justification by faith I think most took it as obvious and didn’t dwell on it.

      To tell you the truth Clement of Alexandria isn’t even counted as a Church Father and I cannot find his name on any calendar. Actually, Patriarch Photius had real issues with Clement’s theology in the ninth century. Point 5 was a very minor.

      Anastasiya, I really appreciate you making an attempt to dialogue with us but what you can do best is focus your attention on the bigger questions in this discussion.

      1. Stefano

        Point 5 was minor but my reply to it was meant to be a broad response to everything else namely that Pauls fideism was not understood by anyone really. So what happens? Superstition happens. Efficacy of the sacraments and christianized gnostic asceticism happen and leaven the simple faith of the church. That term comes from Isaac Taylor’s “Ancient Christianity.”

        Harnack, despite his liberalism, is indeed an authority in Church history and even Pelikan reckons that we all must deal with him.

        Jesus does not talk about justification the way Paul does. He never talks about himself the way He is spoke of in Hebrews. But so what? He says, I have many things to say to you that I cannot say now but when the Holy Spirit shall come He shall lead you into all truth. Not only did the Holy Spirit come but Paul was chosen by God as vessel to the Gentiles and he testifies he received his Gospel from Christ Himself. Everything we have in Paul we must reckon as coming from Jesus. That includes all of his statements about the nature and result of Christ’s work. Jesus certainly never said he was the second Adam. Does that mean its not true?

        There is nothing in the New Testament like what is in Clement. The New Testament is not a guide to perfect the Christian Gnostic as Clement’s Stromata is.

        “bigger questions”

        There is nothing bigger and more important than justification by faith alone. Nothing. And deny as you might you cant name one work the thief on the cross did or that Paul did to earn there salvation. There is no synergism with Christ.

        Who is the church is and what are the true doctrines of Christ are also a big questions and its undeniable that the church went early on from being an association based on faith in Christ to being an association united by obedience to the Bishop and that the doctrines and worship of the church have changed over time. Hence the need of a Reformation, a Restitution, in the 12th as well as the 16th century.

        1. Hi Anastasiya,

          You write of Harnack: ” . . . even Pelikan reckons that we all must deal with him.”

          Jarislov Pelikan certainly seems much more qualified to “deal with” Harnack and evaluate his work in the light of his own study of the original sources in Christian history and the development of Christian doctrine through the centuries than either of us (I know this in my own case and suspect it in yours based on your comments here). Pelikan’s work on the latter, from what I understand, is the scholarly gold standard unparalleled by any other in this particular area. Perhaps that’s why Pelikan converted from his Lutheran faith to Orthodoxy at the end of his life?

          I read Pelikan on my journey to becoming Orthodox, so his response to what he learned certainly spoke volumes to me!

          By the way, as an Orthodox believer (formerly Evangelical Protestant), I agree we do not “earn” our salvation and that justification is by faith. The thing is, we know faith is never “alone”. A living faith always has works, which are, of course, empowered by the Holy Spirit, and nowhere in the Scripture is it suggested God overpowers our human will either to prevent us from choosing Him or to force us to do so. Grace means we do have free will. This is all that “synergism” between God’s will and ours implies from my perspective as an Orthodox. We are not passive puppets in our own personal appropriation of the salvation Christ has obtained for us, but neither can we appropriate it by our own efforts apart from God’s grace freely extended to us.

          The story of the Repentant Thief plays a key role in Orthodox Liturgy (the primary means of the interpretation of Scripture for us), and in Orthodox understanding the repentance towards Christ he exhibits is the first and greatest “work” of faith.

          “The Wise Thief didst Thou make worthy of Paradise in a single moment, O Lord. By the wood of Thy Cross illumine me as well and save me.”

          (From the Expostilarion: “The Wise Thief” from Orthodox Matins of Holy Friday)

          There is quite a difference in how Orthodox understand the nature of “justification,” “salvation” and “works” than the context and definitions given those terms during the polemics of the Reformation-Counter-Reformation debates in the West. I do recommend the work of Jarislov Pelikan. But most of all, in order to begin to understand how Orthodox understand (and live) the faith, I recommend attending several services in an Orthodox Church, allowing knowledgable Orthodox (as opposed to Protestant polemics) to define Orthodox faith for you, and asking open and honest questions of an Orthodox priest.

          1. Anastasiya,
            If no one understood Paul then how is it that you or Harnack understand him?

            Just because Orthodox don’t believe in sola fides it doesn’t follow that we are ‘superstitious’. If you choose to actually look into it our ideas are very biblical. In fact we are the ones that have the authentic understanding of Paul’s thought not some skewed Reformation misunderstanding due to a crisis of faith by Luther. Anyway, Peter did not say Paul was impossible to understand just difficult.

            I take it that you believe that if you don’t believe in sola fides then God will send you to hell or something. You have to think long and hard for an explanation as to why God would allow this misunderstanding to go on for so many generations. This is even more important as the incarnation was meant to ‘save’ humanity.

            Going back to Clement of Alexandria. Didn’t you get it that he isn’t a significant Orthodox thinker. Yes, he did try to ‘claim’ the label of gnostic but he wasn’t a gnostic gnostic, if you know what I mean.

            Why don’t you do yourself a favour and stop looking at secondary sources like Harnack or Isaac Taylor and take a look at the Church Fathers yourself. If you are really hung up on secondary sources then take Karen’s advice and read some Pelikan.

        2. “There is nothing bigger and more important than justification by faith alone. Nothing.”
          – Might you be referring to the sola fide found only at James 2:24?
          It would do protestants good to visit Luther’s defense of icons which is a far more reasoned defense than his novel idea of sola fide. Luther and Augustine do not represent ecclesiastical consensus anymore than the various soteriological views found in protestantism.

        3. There is nothing bigger and more important than justification by faith alone. Nothing.,/I>

          Except for that pesky love thing…. (1 Cor 13)

          But I guess you’ve refined and redefined what that means too…

          If you actually believe that Von Harnack is a church authority and would choose his highly interpretive works as more authoritative as say, Ignatius of Antioch and/or Polycarp…there is really nothing that can be done for the deep deception you are in….and seek to drag others into.

          Love is unity. You choose your own path.

  16. I don’t know how this weblog software works, but this is another reply to Erik from a fellow Anglican. You cite three points, and your documentation is impressive. However, the ecclesial world is not as it was a century ago, when their was a great deal of rapprochement between the Anglican and Orthodox worlds. It is my impression that no Orthodox hierarch will recognize the validity of Anglican orders, to say nothing of Roman orders.

    When I was in seminary, thirty years ago, the filioque was indeed a bone of contention, and the forward-looking Anglicans bid to eliminate it from the Nicene Creed. The wording of the Apostles’ Creed, still used in the Roman and Anglican churches, regarding the Incarnation is more disturbing to me, to whit: “…conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary…”. The Theotokos did not just loan out her womb to God, now did she?

    Finally, if there is no difference between the Orthodox use of icons, then why not come over to Orthodoxy? That begs the question: If traditional Anglicans are, as you say, in such agreement with the Orthodox, then why not come over and join Orthodoxy?

    Chip Wheeler

    1. “The wording of the Apostles’ Creed, still used in the Roman and Anglican churches, regarding the Incarnation is more disturbing to me, to whit: “…conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary…”. The Theotokos did not just loan out her womb to God, now did she?”
      Interesting, I’ve never considered the verbiage in that respect before. I could see where it could lend itself to a Christokos vs. Theotokos interpretation, but I’m not sure it demands it. I guess I would just consider it to be a simple statement about the virgin birth aspect.

      Finally, if there is no difference between the Orthodox use of icons, then why not come over to Orthodoxy? That begs the question: If traditional Anglicans are, as you say, in such agreement with the Orthodox, then why not come over and join Orthodoxy?
      I don’t consider it necessary to be received into an Eastern jurisdiction to be Orthodox. Anglicanism can be and should be the Western expression of orthodoxy, to include our western liturgical rites and retention of our bishops. However, I do recognize that being in apostolic succession is not merely a continuity in the laying of hands, but a continuity in apostolic faith. And I would argue that Continuing Anglican parishes hold the faith of the undivided Church, and this should be the starting point for any reconciliation or shared fellowship. Admittedly though, while I probably over emphasize similarities, I do recognize there are differences in thought and understandings that need to be hashed out before that could happen. My only argument now is that Orthodox Bishops need to be dialoguing with Continuing churches and not Canterbury, with which there is no hope of reconciliation at present.

      1. Erik,

        I agree with you that mainstream Anglicanism and the Archbishop of Canterbury has diverged significantly from the historic Christian Faith.

        I suggest you bring this comment thread to the attention of your bishop. If he sees any potential for fruitful dialogue with Orthodoxy, please let me know.

        Robert

  17. Robert,

    Well, I really ought to be just an observer in this dialogue, but I’ll do what I can to help to answer your questions.

    This is found in the Affirmation of St. Louis, a confessional document of sorts for the continuing Churches:

    Tradition
    The received Tradition of the Church and its teachings as set forth by “the ancient catholic bishops and doctors,” and especially as defined by the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the undivided Church, to the exclusion of all errors, ancient and modern.

    That sounds like me to be an affirmation of the authoritative nature of the 7 ecumenical councils. But it seems that the Orthodox and Anglicans differ on how this is to be worked out in Church life, particularly regarding icons and whether the reverence of icons is necessary or optional.

    Some, such as the Archbishop of the Anglican Catholic Church Mark Haverland, seem to be willing if not eager to relegate the 39 Articles to a mere historical place in Anglicanism. The place of the 39 Articles seems to be a contentious one among continuing Anglicans. It would be difficult to say what the overall tenor of continuing Anglicans is, but most seem to want to affirm them in some manner.

    I think Article 5 is understood by most Anglicans (and western Christians in general) to be that Jesus sends the Holy Spirit and not that the Holy Spirit is eternally processing from the Son. I’m sure you’re aware of the difference in meaning between the Greek and Latin terms for processing in the Nicene Creed. So, yes, this is a matter which is a road block, but one that seems could be overcome. Personally, I’d recommend dropping the Filioque from the Creed, but I think that is a minority position among continuers (the ACNA voted on this and it was something in the 60/40 range).

    As for Article 28: there is a good argument to be made that the best way to read it is in consonance with the historic teaching of the real and bodily presence of Christ in the bread and wine, and that the Body of Christ being received “only after an heavenly and spiritual manner” is referring to receiving the benefits of Christ. But the broadness (some might say confusion) of the Articles is purposeful, so both a Calvinist or Lutheran could affirm the article while a Zwinglian or Roman Catholic really can’t. But the real/bodily presence of Christ in the elements is generally attested to in the continuing Churches (I wish I could say universally, but I simply don’t know that to be the case).

    Personally, the question I want to ask of the continuing Anglicans is whether infant communion is practiced in any of their communions. I know it is tolerated withing the ACNA and the REC, but I don’t know about how in is seen in the continuing groups. I’ll as my friend, who is an ACC (soon to be) seminarian. I’m personally convinced that the practice is both Biblical and historical/traditional, and it could be one of the issues that drives me towards Orthodoxy rather than Anglicanism. And perhaps I’ll invite my friend into this conversation as he’d be better equipped to dialogue with you than I.

    Cheers,
    Jereme

  18. Jereme,
    The sad state of Anglicanism in the western world is a cause of grief for me. At one stage there was a lot to the claim that they were a western ‘orthodoxy’. However, the misguided lust to be inclusive and relevant has killed this.

    The lack of unity amongst Continuing Anglicans is a huge problem. The same goes for the Realignment Movement. If they have so much doctrinal diversity that they can only make vague ‘alliances’ or look to seek vague levels of intercommunion then things won’t get any better. Divisions will continue and so will the decline.

    The Anglican Church in the western world is a sinking ship. Despite the valiant efforts of those loyal to the ‘catholic’ tradition they can only continue to shrink (and become irrelevant) as a group. Nothing any traditionalist Anglican group has done has halted let alone reversed the liberalism in the wider Episcopal Church.

    Now, Orthodoxy has its problems as it engages with the modern world but at least we can work toward a solution within an authentic fidelity to the Tradition of the Church.

    1. Stefano,

      Thank you for your thoughts. I still have hope for the Continuing Movement, but that hope could manifest itself in different ways. I’m not sure I want to hang around and wait for them to get their act together….might be a long wait 🙂

      Cheers,
      Jereme

      1. Jereme,

        If you happen to hear of any interest among the Continuing Anglicans in becoming Orthodox, please let me know. I’ll do what I can to help them out. In the meantime I think the best thing to do is to respect their intention to remain in the Anglican tradition.

        Rober

  19. Stefano

    Clement is indeed a significant Orthodox thinker. As is Origen. As is Tertullian. As is Justin. As are many others who didn’t make the cut and get their own feast on the calendar. The Alexandrian school has influenced the direction and thinking of the church to this very day. You can ignore them at your own peril. Just because they aren’t official “Church Fathers™” with calendar feasts in no way diminishes their importance and significance to the church. (Who even declares who is and is not an official “Church Father™”? Got a list to show me? How much of my ANF/NPNF series should I toss out?)

    But even so what Clement was doing ALL were doing, which is reducing Christianity to a system of philosophy. And that is where all manner of problems creep in. Those problems being a rejection of Christ crucified for our sins and faith in him for a philosophy that answers all of life’s questions.

    Not believing in sola fide won’t send you to hell. It’s not believing in Christ that will send you to hell. “He who believes not shall be damned” says Jesus.

    “You have to think long and hard for an explanation as to why God would allow this misunderstanding to go on for so many generations.”

    Tell me why God allowed Israel to wallow in spiritual adultery and rebellion for hundreds of years despite them receiving his law straight from His mouth and seeing all manner of displays of His power and yet still calls them His people? Misunderstanding and error does not make God’s church any less His Church. Ezekiel 16 is a good example of how salvation is purely monergistic. Otherwise there would be none saved.

    1 Kings 15:14, 2 Kings 14:3-4, 2 Chronicles 25:2, all these verses show that one can be declared to do what is right in the sight of the Lord and yet still not have a perfect heart. Wrong notions and misunderstandings and errors are not necessarily damning.

    1. “It’s not believing in Christ that will get you damned.”

      Anastasiya,

      Orthodox might agree here. The question is how are we to define “believing in Christ”? St. James in his Epistle certainly doesn’t believe saving faith is “alone”. And then there is Matthew 25 where Jesus lays out in His parable the criteria of the Last Judgement. God, who is impartial in His judgement doesn’t judge professing Christians and those who don’t profess faith by a different standard, does He?

  20. Hi Anastasiya,
    You ask a valid question about Clement of Alexandria. Please consider the point that that you don’t have to be Orthodox be a significant and influential theologian. Take for example Arius or Nestorius. Influential but heretical. Tertullian and Origen fall into this category. Clement of Alexandria is a bit more ambitious. Justin Martyr on the other hand has a long and clear history of veneration. For an example you can relate to, Adolf von Harnack considered Marcion the most significant 2nd century thinker (he apparently understood Paul when no one else did!) but no one would considered him a mainstream Christian.

    The Orthodox Church has no central way to declare saints. As a result there are local saints and universal saints. I took a look at the Greek Orthodox Archdioce website and the Orthodox Church in America website and neither lists Clement of Alexandria as a saint. Both these websites are fairly comprehensive. I also looked at the Saint Herman of Alaska brotherhood printed calendar and Clement wasn’t there either. There is an Icon floating around the web that is supposedly Clement of Alexandria but I can’t read the writing.

    Now a saint is basically someone who is remembered and venerated within their community. This is dependant on their personal sanctity and as well as the extent their teaching reflects the mind of the church. So the answer to your question, the Church decides who is a saint.

    The Church Fathers did indeed use some Greek philosophy. It was only to the extent that is was useful. Origen of Alexandria, for example, went too far in his use of philosophy and that is why he got into trouble. If I’m not mistaken Paul used some Stoic terms in his letters. Most of the time the issue of philosophy in early Christianity is used to bash or blame the Church Fathers for their deviance from Reformation thinking.

    I, myself, use modern critical historical thinking, philology, science and archaeology in my thinking. The Church Fathers used what their society offered and I use what my society offers (and so do you!)

    The rest of your post is difficult to respond to. If moral behaviour is not salvific and neither is true faith then we don’t have too much to stress about. Apparently, God decides at random.

    I have to ask, do you think Israel had the Holy Spirit? I think He was there but no quite the same way He operates in the Church. My evidence is Jesus’ promise to send the Paraclete.

  21. I should add that using some philosophy and believing in Jesus is not incompatible.

    What leads you to believe Clement of Alexandia rejected Christ in favour of philosophy? The same goes for other Church Fathers. Are you confused by the fact that Church Fathers used the term ‘philosophy’ to describe Christianity?

    A focus on moral behaviour is hardly a rejection of Christ!

    The ANF/NPNF series plays loose with the term ‘Father’.

      1. Karen,

        Stefano and Anastasiya were referring to the Ante-Nicene Fathers (ANF) and the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers (NPNF) series edited by Philip Schaff in the late 1800s. Schaff was a Protestant theologian who founded Mercersburg theology with John Nevins around the time the American Civil War. Please keep in mind that while an excellent resource, not all the authors listed in the ANF/NPNF series are church fathers as understood by the Orthodox Church. Anastasiya asked how much of the early writers should be thrown out from the ANF/NPNF series; my position is that these writings are valuable historical and theological resources and can be used for studying early Christianity. From time to time I might cite Tertullian but I do so cautiously and I take care not to invoke him as an authority.

        Robert

        1. Thanks, Robert. I do understand. I have heard of Schaff’s work (as I recall, it is referenced in Pelikan’s work). Presbytera Jeannie Constantinou in her introduction to her “Search the Scriptures” podcasts on AFR explains the difference in how the Eastern Orthodox define a “Church Father” vs. the more nominalistic way this is defined in the West and how that influences how Orthodox use their teaching in their study and interpretation of the Scriptures. I do believe it’s a very important difference, the impacts of which on the shape of dogma and practice in the EO Church can’t easily be appreciated by someone outside that context.

  22. Clement of Alexandria wrote a number of works not just the Stromata. One of his works is called the ‘Pedaegogus’ or ‘The Tutor’ or ‘The Teacher’.

    At the end of this work Clement of Alexandria has a hymn to Christ the Shepherd. It is one of the earliest hymns that can be attributed to a specific author. A look at this hymn that Clement was only about philosophy and not about Christ.

    In 1995 Father John McGuckin translated 20 ancient hymns in a book called ‘At the Lighting of the Lamps’. He included the hymn of Clement in a modern English translation. I would like to copy the hymn here word for word exactly as I found it to show Anastasiya’s error in claiming Clement of Alexandria is only interested in philosophy. Father John provides parallel Greek text and the hymn can be found on pages 14-17. This way I can let Clement speak for himself!!

    Hymn to Christ the Shepherd

    Bridle for wild horses,
    Wing of birds unerring,
    Dead-set helm for ships,
    Shepherd of royal lambs,

    Gather your simple children
    To praise holily
    To hymn guilelessly
    With innocent mouths;

    Christ the Guide of children,
    Lord of saints,
    All-subduing Word of the Most High Father,
    Master of Wisdom,
    Strong support of griefs,
    Rejoicing in eternity:
    Jesus, Saviour of the Mortal race,
    Shepherd, Ploughman, Helm and Bridle,
    Heavenly Wing over the all-holy flock,
    Fisher of men who have been saved,
    Catching pure fish with the sweet bait of life,
    from a sea of evil and the enemy’s waves.
    Shepherd of rational sheep,
    Guide us, Holy King,
    As unspoilt children,
    In the footsteps of Christ.

    Heavenly Way,
    Ever-flowing word,
    Immeasurable Aeon,
    Eternal Light,
    Fount of Mercy,
    Adept in Virtue.
    How noble is the life
    Of those who sing to God.
    Christ Jesus, Heavenly Milk
    Of those sweet breasts
    Of the graces of the Bride,
    Pressed from your wisdom.

    Gather your simple children,
    To praise holily,
    To hymn guilelessly,
    With innocent mouths.

    Christ the Guide of children;
    Little children,
    So tender their gums,
    Feeding to the full
    With spiritual dew
    From the nipple of your Wisdom.

    All you who are Christ-begotten,
    Let us sing in all simplicity
    To the Valiant Son,
    A chorus of peace.
    Let us sing together,
    Sober People,
    A hymn to the God of Peace.

  23. Orthodoxy and Catholics used to get into rival discussions and arguments with Jewish Orthodoxy, which was in the developmental stages for the New from the Old Religion, from which many Church Fathers derived their understandings in those dialogues. Called it war that ended for now in WWII.

    Sometimes it looks like this same strategy is being used against Protestants today. My guess is that Protestants will win out, because they are not stifled by the past and also will regenerate as will Orthodoxy. Eventually though, after much pain and process they will have to merge. I think that is when the big falling away will occur in the modern era.
    God forbid if I had to worship icons or eat Christ literally. That would undo what Christ had done and accomplished, in that God/he came into the flesh, gave the message, and his spirit dwells in all of his believers. We do not have to eat him literally like in ancient times when man believed if they drink the blood of an animal they killed or conquered that they would have their powers too. To me that is barbaric…sorry.

    Pray for the churches to manifest God’s love in/ of brotherhood. I don’t believe Orthodoxy is THEE true Church, but the Spirit of God will manifests where God wills and I see that it is also in Orthodoxy. Maybe the ONE true Church is still not here, but we are awakening to it that it is not here yet. May God be merciful to the Churches and to us individually, as we journey on our way believing and maybe coming together.

    1. Maria,

      Welcome to the OrthodoxBridge! I hope you will have an open mind to Orthodoxy. As a former Protestant I opened my mind to Orthodoxy with unexpected consequences. I wrote a paper on icons for a class in a Protestant seminary that would be a first step towards Orthodoxy.

      As for your remark that “God forbid” you would eat Christ literally, you sound a lot like the Jews in John 6:52, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” They would not be asking this question if Jesus had meant it in an allegorical sense. That Jesus could have said he meant it in a symbolic sense is ruled out in the following verse John 6:53 in which Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise hi up at the last last day. For my flesh is real ood and my blood is real drink.” (John 6:53-55). In verse 53 John used the Greek word “phagete” which can mean “to eat” in a literal or symbolic sense, but in the next verse John used the Greek word “trogo” which has a more restricted and literal sense of “to chew.” The early Church Fathers understood this more in a literal sense than in an allegorical sense. The same can be said for the original Protestant Reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin. Your symbolic understanding of the Lord’s Supper is regrettably a very recent innovation and a departure from historic Christianity.

      Thank you again for joining the dialogue here. Please keep learning about church history and the church fathers.

      Robert

    2. As a former “low-church” Protestant, I understand your perception, too, Maria. It was once mine. More recently as an Orthodox, I described the true and Orthodox (apostolic and patristic) understanding of the nature of Christ’s teaching about His giving Himself to us in the Eucharist to a Protestant friend as a “third way” between 1) the crass literalism of what many Protestants deem the Roman Catholic teaching (i.e., that in the Eucharist we are literally chewing/swallowing the spilled blood and mortal body of Christ mutilated at Calvary–which I believe is unfaithful even to the true Catholic understanding, frankly–though I am no expert here, and this appears to have been a common misunderstanding even among the pagans about the earliest Christians) and 2) the quasi-gnostic empty “symbolic” understanding of those Protestants teaching the Eucharist is merely a sort of commanded “object lesson” for communing with our remembrance (a proper biblical word for what we are doing), as our mental conceptualization of the historic event (a complete misconception of the meaning of that biblical word), of Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross and that there cannot be any literal difference between the bread and wine or crackers and grape juice consecrated to be used in celebration of “The Lord’s Supper” and ordinary bread and wine/crackers and grape juice. Neither of these latter two ideas can in any way to be said to faithfully represent what Christ in the Scriptures, the Orthodox Fathers, or the Orthodox Church has actually claimed and taught (as Robert points out).

      Please also note that according to the science of nutrition as we understand things today, the pagan who consumes the blood of an animal aiming to appropriate the animal’s properties is in a very real physical, organic way doing just that! It might surprise us what is going on at the cellular and energetic (and, yes, even “spiritual”) levels–though, I’m not claiming *everything* the pagan might have thought he was getting was what he actually received. In the ancient mind (also the biblical mind), spiritual and material were intimately related and connected in a way we moderns have long forgotten, but although we moderns can scarcely comprehend this except in some distorted and false “magical” sense, I believe the ancient perspective better expresses and comprehends the spiritual/material reality to which we as created images of God belong and in which we participate every day, whether we realize it or not.

      I have found Fr. Stephen Freeman’s writing (in his blog, “Glory to God for all Things”) on debunking the modern, nominalistic world view, which no longer understands how we can really and truly be taking in that which we are capable of receiving of the Living Christ in the consecrated Bread and Wine of the Eucharist, and his seeking to illumine and clarify the truly biblical and Orthodox understanding of the connection between the spiritual and material in how we encounter God as embodied creatures, immensely helpful, but I have been reading him for many years now and it takes lots of pondering for it to begin to slowly sink in. And, one must be open to suspending one’s prior presuppositions about the real meaning of what Christ and the Church has always taught.

  24. Thank you Robert for your welcoming response.

    I read the passages you mentioned, but you have to continue on with the verses from John 6 verse 53-63 as I see it. He is referring to the Spirit and his words in which he speaks that giveth life = His “words” (the declaration that God has entered the world of man in him thru flesh=first born) are breath and life that we eat. In vs 63 he says the flesh is of no use.
    My understanding is that when we accept Christ as our Lord, Master, Teacher, Redeemer, and God having entered Man thru him, in so believing, and you will also know, and I do, that he is also present in us and with us. I stand at the door and knock, anyone who hears my voice and opens the door (heart) I will come in and dine or sup with him etc. (paraphrased) I carry this verse…it is my soul encounters, of all that life means to me. And it can not be rationalized or is subject to another’s approval. That is like saying, well let me look thru this book and see if you are a human being or real. Only God know who is written in the book of life. Orthodoxy is not God, but may be a valuable deposit of historic development of the Church, just like the guarded Rome chambers.

    All of scriptures are fragments and collections of many writings, ( many were left out) a direction and guide for a form of living and being (for the Jews first). But this does not mean I have to live in the same understanding of the first century with all it’s cultural peculiarities. Do Christian Orthodox circumcise? (Jews yes) But it is a definite reference point, guide, moral direction, precepts, wisdom and way of life translated if possible to any time,-past-present and-future if we should lose our ways.
    All things are endowed and inhabited by spirit, but we all give fruit of our own kind or what we are made of.
    For him to say eat my flesh and drink my blood is a hard saying indeed taken literally, but he was also aware that he is more than just a body of mass, his body carried wholeness and spirit-life, and he knew that someone would betray him. Those who would betray him would have to eat their own words, as well as his words. Maybe that is why some later years monks or even Jews would beat themselves up in repentance. ( =missing the mark or I was wrong indeed) In the Jewish tradition they have the custom of throwing an object in a river or lake for every sin they’ve committed and thereby they’ve been atoned, a group thing. Or the sins are laid unto a swine etc. I say what ever works,…just repent.
    And yes, we do breath each others presence preferably in a healthy manner.

    If that is such a big, or important criteria, to take communion in deep honor, reverence and remembrance of him and it is unacceptable to Orthodoxy, then I suppose in all honor and reverence to Orthodoxy, I would not be able to become Orthodox. We Protestants have to live by our experiences and conscience too, not just by the conscience’s of past Church Fathers and/or past saints as honorable as they may be.. Our life’s, Church focus and love in Christ matters today as much as those lives that have lived before us. Christ gives us this time and space to matter for him in new ways and beginnings, just like Children are born each with a new beginning. They may resemble patterns of the past Generations, but it is not the same, nor should they be.

    And calling out Protestants to be a heresy in the sense of the old pattern is abusive and hurtful to Protestants. No one has it free and clear, we all still live in a dark world where the light shines thru in the darkness, often just dimly. Tradition may help at times of darkness, which are patterns of observances, but they are not the light.

    1. Maria,

      I’m not sure how to respond to this. I’m not even sure you are a Protestant in the historic sense. You wrote: “All of scriptures are fragments and collections of many writings, ( many were left out) a direction and guide for a form of living and being (for the Jews first).” This sounds like a far cry from Protestantism’s sola scriptura which asserts the Bible to be the supreme authority for faith and practice. This leads me to ask: What is your denominational affiliation? Are you Reformed? Baptist? Methodist? Charismatic?

      As for your objection to my use of the term “heresy,” I would say that calling a teaching heresy can be an act of kindness. If someone you know is going in the wrong direction, wouldn’t it be doing them a favor to let them know they are going the wrong way? Otherwise, we would be relativists saying that truth does not really exist. But Christ has come as the Light of the world and the Way to the Father (John 14:6). And, he has established his Church as a bulwark against hell (Matthew 16:18) and as the pillar of truth (I Timothy 3:15). What is important is the tone of kindness and compassion when calling a teaching heresy. If used in the spirit of judgment and pride then calling a teaching heresy can inflict spiritual injury on the one we wish to help. I realize that you may not like what I write but just because you don’t like it or don’t feel comfortable with it does not make it less true. The real question is: Are the teachings of Orthodoxy true?

      Let me close with this saying by Augustine of Hippo: “If believe what you like in the Gospels and don’t believe what you don’t like, it is not the Gospel you believe in but yourself.”

      Robert

  25. Thank you Robert for your kind responds.
    I know you have no ill intend, nevertheless it makes me shutter when I think of all that has been done to those who were considered heretics thru out History. So whatever disagreements there may exist between various Religions or denominations, I find the word and use “heretic” alarming. Judaism considers all of Christianity a Heresy; let’s not even consider Islam and what they say. No other Faith’s in the world, or at least I have not heard of any other, has so much animosity toward one another, as the Children and Fathers from the Faith of Abraham.
    I was baptized on Dec.25 in a Church Community of “Free Protestants” in Frankfurt Germany. (Born and raised there) All my ancestors where war-refugees from WWI and WWII and brought their faith with them from Prussia and Eastern Europe. The small church merged later with the Baptist Church where I was baptized at age 12 of free will and choice to be a Disciple or follower of Jesus. But as life has it, it throws curves. My parents divorced and many questions arose for me. American Baptists used our facility in Frankfurt/Germany, and of course questions arouse how Christians could kill Christians during war. I got married and put my quest on a back burner, but never doubted my own salvation or faith. I immigrated to the US thru my husband who was supposedly Catholic, but only on paper and not in life I discovered. I struggled and asked God if he had intended for me to live a demeaning life here in the US. The pain of my childhood experience with divorce made me stay longer in a marriage than I should have.
    But I divorced and took the good from it, because it freed me to pursue my heart felt convictions and return to Church. I was shocked of the many denominations and differences there were within Christianity here in the US. It was not the way I remembered it from home. I had to look at the differences as painful as it was, but then more from a sociological perspective and education(coming from Europe of course) than a false or heresy teachings or preaching’s. And yes of course, some like the prosperity Gospel (a mix of American Capitalism) reminded me of the Middle Ages. I could write a book of all that I’ve encountered, but I am looking for something very particular, or of an understanding, for me to know that this is my Church and this is where I belong. Acceptance and space for differences is a necessity for growth. Cramped into a mold by some power-structure, ignoring my breath I have to breathe into life, would give God no pleasure or service, as I as well as all life was destined to be and fulfill.
    As for your quote from Augustine the Hippo, well it is what he believed. To believe in the Gospel does not mean in all their cultural ways of their times. But then we can twist and use the Gospel as a weapon toward those who don’t agree with us. How can you believe in God when you do not believe in yourself who you can see and touch with senses and all? Or better, how can you say you love God who you have not seen, and hate your neighbor (or yourself). (Something like that?) God never asks us to loose ourselves, but he enters into our lives (thru spirit) and transforms it. The only thing we should ever loose is our blindness.
    And it is precisely this or your way of handling, I call it differences , you call it heresy, and rather would squeeze me into someone else’s understanding, than allowing me to find understanding of Christ’s message to transform my life or shadows of the past into light according to Christ. In this I find security, not in any imitation of another human. And sorry if my English is poor, but hope I make some sense and is intelligible.

    1. Maria,

      Thank you for sharing with me your life journey. I’m sorry to hear of your parents’ divorce and of yours as well. Divorce is such a tragedy. God hates divorce for what it does to people but not the people who do it. God loves you!

      One thing I would like to make clear is that heresy is not necessarily a statement about a person’s eternal destiny. For Orthodoxy one’s eternal destiny is a mystery. Even a long time Orthodox Christian can fall away and lose their salvation. We are all sinners in need of God’s mercy. Think of heresy as something like the FDA issuing a statement that a particular medicine is really a scam and dangerous to one’s health.

      Another point I want to make is that heresy is like a house being in violation of the county building code. Some homes are in violation of the building code and need some renovation work before being in compliance with the building code. Other homes are in such bad condition that it is imperative that one evacuate immediately and the yellow “No Entry” tape be put over the doors to ensure public safety. I have many Evangelical friends who believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and who faithfully attend church. I wish they were Orthodox but I accept where they are at in their life journey. There are some people who are not in a relationship with Christ. I worry about their spiritual state but ultimately that is between them and God. As Jesus said to Peter when he asked about the Apostle John’s fate, “What is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21-22)

      Let me share with you something of my church background. I spent my formative years in a vibrant Evangelical church that was part of a liberal mainline denomination. I saw in the United Church of Christ (UCC) attempts to revise the doctrine of the Trinity, create a deviant soteriology by denying Jesus as the only way to the Father, and abandon historic Christian morality through the promotion of abortion and same-sex marriage. A theology that promotes love and acceptance without stressing the standards of truth and accountability can only be a recipe for disaster. I found in the Ecumenical Councils a standard for orthodoxy that is broader and more stable than what I saw in Protestantism. Orthodoxy does not have detailed statements of faith like the Reformed tradition’s Westminster Confession of Faith. This means that there is more breathing room but at the same time certain things are non-negotiable, e.g., icons, Mary as the Mother of God, the authority of the bishops, the real presence of Christ’s body and blood in the Eucharist. These are not arbitrary, top-down denominational decisions. These are part of the historic Christian Faith that even the bishops are obliged to accept and promote. No Orthodox bishop has the authority to revise Holy Tradition. Everyone in the Orthodox Church, laity and clergy, are obliged to hold to and follow Holy Tradition.

      As I read through your lengthy response I began to wonder if you had ever been to an Orthodox Liturgy (Sunday service) or had a one-on-one conversation with an Orthodox priest. If you have not, I would encourage you to do so. Feel free to voice all your concerns and criticisms with the priest. It is in a direct one-on-one meeting that one can get a sense of the heart of Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is not found in books or Internet sites but in real flesh and blood people who make up the Body of Christ. As Philip said to Nathaniel: Come and see! (John 1:46)

      Robert

  26. Thank you Robert for the time you took to write and try to ease my understanding of Heresy. You did come up with some clever mild forms and explanations. But I have to agree with you, certain moral standards have to be kept according to Christian precepts and laws if it still wants to call itself Christianity.
    Like I said before, some things I can’t do either. Like eat and drink literally the blood of someone who left us a treasure of goodness and love, or declare the Roman Catholic Church in the Nicene creed Holy, or grant Authority to Bishops over the life’s of other believers what to believe, think and do. Europe has been there, done that, and we know how that works out over time (2000 years) and we say “no thank you” for the trust and abuse of power we granted to our Religious Leaders. I have no problem with Mary, blessed be her Name for ever and ever.
    All this does not mean you have not great good and knowledge to offer, because I believe Orthodoxy has true and believing Christians just as they are in Protestant or other denomination. But where there is a power structure such as Orthodoxy or Roman Catholics- Rom, all male dominated, there is also corruption, abuse and sin un-acknowledged . Christ did not create such a construct of community, though there are gifts of Apostles, Teachers etc. I know, by the cultural norms of their time they were given. Though the Truth does not change, but Culture does.
    Thank you for your kindness to respond as I will continue to read from where ever I can learn, here and there, and some day I will find my way home. Many blessings!

  27. Erik,
    The St. Louis Affirmation of 1977 does indeed acknowledge the 7 Ecumenical Councils. It was a surprise to me. The affirmation also references the canon of St. Vincent of Lerins as normative. Also very positive.

    My question would be how has this impacted the beliefs of the average layman and woman? I suspect not much – except for excluding women priests it is pretty much business as usual in the Continuing Church.

    As I’ve often been told, the Anglican Church (and its breakaways) look great on paper.

    1. Stefano,

      You made a good point about the impact on the average Anglican layperson. That is why I asked Erik if he and other members of his parish would be comfortable with venerating the miraculous Hawaii icon of Mary. If his answer is yes, then the prospect for unity between the Continuing Anglicans and Orthodoxy would be much more promising. Let us not succumb to cynicism but to always be hoping for the best.

      Robert

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