Response to Robin Phillips’ “Questions About Sola Scriptura”

Robin Phillips

On April 29, 2011, Robin Phillips posted: “Questions About Sola Scriptura” on his blog: Robin’s Readings and Reflections.  What is so striking about Phillips’ comments is that he brings to light the internal inconsistencies within sola scriptura.  This presents an opportunity to show that Orthodoxy provides a more coherent and compelling alternative.  I would like to thank him for inviting me to respond to his blog posting.  

Synopsis of Robin Phillips’ Posting

The posting begins with a description of James White’s debate with a group of Mormons.  When the Mormons asked White to provide a justification for sola scriptura, he refused on the grounds that doing so would establish an authority higher than Scripture.  The Mormons then asked White about the basis for recognizing a book as Scripture.  White appealed to the criterion of consistency with other canonical scriptures.

The debate got Phillips thinking about the issue of sola scriptura.  He put forward a one paragraph critique of sola scriptura by a hypothetical non-Protestant apologist.

Can you give reasons for believing in sola scriptura? Surely you can’t, because the reasons for believing in sola scriptura cannot be from outside of scripture, since then that would contradict the very doctrine of sola scriptura. But the reasons for believing in sola scriptural cannot be drawn from scripture either, because scripture never addresses the question of sola scriptura, nor does it even define scripture (after all, the church gives us the Bible’s Table of Contents page).  Source

The key point of the critique is that sola scriptura can’t be logically defended because it excludes any extra-biblical authority.  Phillips correctly points out that this critique is based on a distorted version of sola scriptura that Keith Mathison labels “solo scriptura.” Another problem with the hypothetical non-Protestant critique is that it is very Roman Catholic in its thinking.  This is can be seen in the reliance on syllogistic reasoning and the insistence on logical consistency.  This is very different from the Orthodox approach which stresses apostolicity and catholicity.  This is unfortunate because by not representing the Orthodox approach it missed an opportunity for engagement with the Eastern Orthodox approach to the authority of Scripture.

In the next section Phillips notes that the classic understanding of sola scriptura — Scripture as ultimate authority but interpreted within the context of the regular fidei given by the church — raises the question of where the regula fidei is to be found.  It also raises the question whether this approach to sola scriptura makes the individual the ultimate arbiter over what is the regula fidei.

Phillips wrote to Keith Mathison about this problem.  Mathison wrote back that there are two possible answers: (1) a one true visible Church or (2) an invisible church manifested through various visible fragments or branches.  Mathison opts for the latter.  Phillips closes the posting noting that for him Mathison’s branch theory of the church does not seem workable in practice.

Basic Premises for the Orthodox Approach

The foundational premise for Orthodoxy is the Good News of Jesus Christ’s third day resurrection.  This historical event establishes Jesus’ lordship over heaven and earth and his commissioning his followers to teach the nations (Matthew 28:19-20).  It should be noted that Jesus did not promise an inspired Scripture but the Holy Spirit who would guide the church into all truth (John 16:13).

The apostolic witness is foundational to the Eastern Orthodox model.  Paul and the other apostles planted churches upon the preaching of the Gospel.  The apostles were keenly aware that they were speaking in behalf of the risen Lord and therefore their apostolic preaching had the weight of the word of God (I Thessalonians 2:13; II Peter 3:16).  Apostolic preaching would in turn lead to apostolic succession (II Timothy 2:2).  The New Testament churches were guided by the apostolic message in oral and written forms (II Thessalonians 2:15; I Corinthians 11:2).

The advantage of Orthodoxy’s stress on historicity is that it lends itself to external verification.  Theology in the form of historical narrative can be found in Genesis and Deuteronomy.  These narratives follow the ancient covenants in which the mighty deeds of the Suzerain are recounted prior to the presentation of the terms and obligations of the covenant.  So likewise the historical narratives found in the four Gospels provide the covenantal basis for the New Testament.  This openness to external verification means that one can exercise critical reasoning to examine the Orthodox Church’s truth claims and not be forced into blindly accepting the theological axiom of sola scriptura.

Orthodoxy has a pluriform understanding of the apostolic witness.  It believes that the apostolic witness continued by several means: (1) in an inscripturated form, (2) the regula fidei — the confession of faith received at baptism, (3) the weekly eucharistic celebration in which the sacred texts are read, and (4) the bishops — the successors to the apostles whose job is to expound on the meaning of Scripture and keep the apostolic witness intact for the generations to come.

Protestantism also believes in apostolicity but in a quite different manner.  It believes that after the apostles died the apostolic witness continued solely in an inscripturated form and that the authority of Scripture is independent of the church.  Where Orthodoxy assumes an essential continuity between the apostles and the post-apostolic church, the Protestant model interposes a series of ruptures or discontinuities.  It assumes that the post-apostolic church quickly fell into heresy and apostasy, and that the Gospel was rediscovered with the Protestant Reformation.

Thus, Orthodoxy assumes a church embedded in human history but faithfully safeguarding the apostolic faith; Protestantism seems to assume a pure Scripture sailing through church history unaffected by the vicissitudes of human failings.  In essence, the Protestant paradigm wrenched Scripture out of its proper context: the one true church.  If one isolates the covenant document from the covenant community one ends up with either ecclesiastical tyranny or hermeneutical chaos.

Orthodoxy’s Criteria: Apostolicity, Continuity, Fidelity, and Authority

Much of the complexities surrounding sola scriptura can be more easily understood if one approach it as a theological system.  Sola scriptura is designed to meet certain functions essential to a theological system: (1) provide a basis for the formulation of doctrine and practice, (2) provide a hermeneutical framework for the right reading of Scripture, and (3) provide doctrinal unity for the community of believers, the church.  In what follows I hope to show that the approach taken by Orthodoxy does a better job of fulfilling these functions for a theological system.

Canon Formation.  How does one know that Scripture is inspired?  And how does one know which books are sacred Scripture?

Canon formation had its start in the life of the early church.  The apostles’ letters and the four Gospels were read out loud during the weekly Eucharist (First Apology of Justin, Chapter LXVII; cf. Acts 2:42).  The weekly Eucharist was under the supervision of the bishop, the successor to the apostles (Ignatius’ Letter to the Smyrnaeans, Chapters VIII-IX).  The recognition of what was Scripture depended on its acceptance into the readings of the weekly Eucharistic gathering.  The main criterion seems to have been apostolicity: what one church received from one apostle was mutually recognized and shared with other churches founded the other apostles.  Early on there was a consensus about the four Gospels and most of Paul’s letters.  There was some dispute about the other writings like Hebrews, Jude and Revelation which would in time be recognized as Scripture.

Initially, canon formation was a local and informal process.  Later regional councils formalized the process through the making of official lists, i.e., canons.  The main intent behind these lists was to provide guidance to the scripture reading in worship.  These councils include: the Council of Laodicea, the Council of Carthage, and Apostolical Canon which was later approved by the Council in Trullo.  When the later Councils, e.g., the Sixth Ecumenical Council, endorsed the decisions of earlier councils the process of canon formation was concluded.

The Protestant appeal to the criterion of consistency is really an appeal to an abstract ideal.  What it does is put the individual Protestant in the driver’s seat when it comes to canon formation.  The Orthodox approach on the other hand is historical and conciliar. Unlike Protestantism which takes divine inspiration as its starting point for canon formation, Orthodox takes apostolicity as its starting point.   This approach is premised upon the Holy Spirit’s active presence in the post-apostolic church.  This approach avoids the debate over whether the Church wrote the Bible or whether the Church is based on the Bible.  The answer is that both are the inspired product of the Holy Spirit.

This is why apostolic succession matters so much for the Orthodox.  Continuity in episcopal succession and continuity in teaching are two important means for safeguarding the proper reading of the Scripture.  Continuity in teaching can be verified through reading the Church Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils.  This means of verification guards us from the secret knowledge of the Gnostics and heretical innovations.  Formal apostolic succession is not enough; there must also be continuity in teaching — fidelity.  The Church of Rome can claim formal episcopal succession but after the Schism of 1054 its theological system became increasingly removed from its patristic base.

The 1054 Schism and the Filioque controversy represent a watershed moment in church history.  If one accepts the Filioque clause then one accepts the Western approach to theology which assumes that Christian theology evolves in light of the church’s understanding of Scripture.  The Eastern Orthodox approach assumes that the Christian faith has been delivered to the saints once for all time and that the apostolic deposit must be guarded against change.

Hermeneutics.  How does one arrive at the right understanding of Scripture?  What is the proper approach for the reading of Scripture?

When one encounters difficulty in understanding a text the best thing to do is to ask the author of the text what he or she intended.  If the author is no longer living the next best thing is to do is to ask the students who studied under him.  This is the advantage of apostolic succession.  This is why the study of the early church fathers is so important to the proper reading of Scripture.  It provides a means by which one can access the original intent of the author.  However, this approach works only if it can be shown that a historical linkage exists going back to the original Apostles.  Orthodoxy can make this claim, Protestantism cannot.

In the early church one could not be a member unless one had been baptized and catechized.  Being catechized meant that one had learned from the bishop the regula fide — a short creed much like the Apostles Creed.  The regula fide has its roots in the oral apostolic teaching.  It was not derived from an exegesis of Scripture.  It comprised an independent and complementary witness to Scripture.  The Apostles Creed was the hermeneutical framework through which the early Christians read Scripture.  In time the local creeds would become the Nicene Creed, the definitive confession of faith for all Christians.

Keith Mathison affirmed the creeds of Nicea and Chalcedon as representative of the regular fide on the basis of the witness of the Holy Spirit.  Mathison’s approach is vulnerable to the criticism that he affirms these two creeds because they conform to his personal interpretation of Scripture.  This leaves him open to the criticism of circularity.  Orthodoxy affirms the Nicene Creed and the Chalcedonian Formula on the following principles: (1) it was the decision made by the Church through its bishops the successors to the apostles and (2) it was received by the Church as a whole (catholic).  Orthodoxy’s emphasis on apostolicity and catholicity avoids the pitfalls of individual interpretation of Scripture and circular reasoning.

Magisterium and Communion.  Who has the authority to expound on the meaning of Scripture?  What are the marks that identifies the true Church?  Can doctrinal orthodoxy and church unity go together? 

Mathison takes the classic Reformed position that the Church is the true interpreter of Scripture.  But this leads to the question: “Where is this Church?”  Mathison rejects Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy for the Protestant branch theory of the church.  Mathison’s position is that while there may be several branches, some are the closer to the regula fidei than others.  This approach is like the popular Where’s Waldo? game.  But did Jesus intend that his followers should have to search high and low to find the true church?  I propose that a better approach is to assume that the early church in the book of Acts was the true church, that it had received the regula fidei from the apostles, and that one of the identifying markers of the true church is historical continuity that can be traced back to the original apostles.

In Orthodoxy, Scripture is read and understood within the context of Tradition.  The bishops as successors to the apostles are the authorized expositors of Scripture.  Unlike the original apostles, present day bishops cannot lay claim to new revelations, rather their authority is confined to the exposition of the meaning of Scripture according to Tradition. Where the magisterium in Orthodoxy is grounded in apostolic succession, in Protestantism it is quite often grounded in academics.  I remember walking across the Gordon-Conwell campus and realizing that the teaching authority of my seminary professors came from their Ph.D. degrees, not from their ordained standing.  My Gordon-Conwell professors could appeal to reason and scholarship, but they could not invoke the authority of the church.

Eastern Orthodoxy’s rejection of the branch theory can be seen its practice of closed communion: only those who are in agreement with the teachings of the Orthodox Church and live under the authority of her bishops are allowed to receive Communion.  Being in communion with the local bishop means being in communion with all other Orthodox bishops around the world and their historic predecessors all the way back to the original apostles.  This gives Orthodoxy remarkable doctrinal consistency in comparison to Protestantism’s fragmented polity and considerable theological confusion.  Likewise, Orthodoxy’s position on closed communion undercuts the conundrum of Mathison’s proposition that if one submits to others only when one agrees with them then one is really submitting to oneself.  One can freely submit to the magisterium of the Orthodox Church but this in no way impinges upon her authority.

Conclusion

As a theological system sola scriptura is highly problematic.  One, it is highly instable.  This can be seen in the two versions: the classic sola scriptura vs. the popular solo scriptura.  Two, another problem is its theological incoherence.  This can also be seen in the doctrinal confusion among Protestants even though they hold in common sola scriptura as the starting point for doing theology.  Third, it is unable to promote Christian unity.  This troubling propensity for doctrinal heresies has forced many a Protestant to have to uproot themselves and look for a new church home giving rise to the question: Where is the true church?  Doctrinal orthodoxy in Protestantism has quite often meant leaving a mainline denomination for a smaller and sectarian branch. Orthodoxy and catholicity seem to be incompatible opposites in modern Protestantism.

When I was a Protestant I was frustrated by the theological chaos between popular Evangelicalism and mainline liberalism.  I found sola scriptura to be a heavy burden because I was compelled to assess the latest theological fads against my study of Scripture.  I gave up on sola scriptura when I concluded that it was incapable of producing a coherent theology capable of uniting Protestantism.  I found the branch theory espoused by Keith Mathison of very little practical value.  I often felt like I was standing under a leaking umbrella in the pouring rain wishing that I was safe and dry in a house.  I found a roof over my head and a spiritual banquet — the Eucharist — laid out every Sunday when I became Orthodox.  To become Orthodox I had to renounce sola scriptura but in its place I gained the true Church founded by the apostles.  Orthodoxy’s theological system has a stability and coherence unmatched by the best Protestantism has to offer.

Robert Arakaki

86 comments:

  1. Hey Robert,

    Interesting stuff for serious Protestants to ponder. And I love reading Robin Phillips stuff because he goes out of his way to be fair and gracious, without losing the edge of his point. Unlike so many apologists for their cause(s), he seems unwilling to merely score cheap-points via stawman cheap-shots at others’ expense. This is a fine example of a Christian gentleman’s public behavior (admists many very bad examples) and proves one need not lose their substance while being kind. (These apply also to why I like your blog here, too!)

    Now to the above: You say “He [Robin] put forward a one paragraph critique of sola scriptura by a hypothetical non-Protestant apologist.”

    Since it’s only one paragraph your are using as a foil — why not give us the text of Robin’s one-paragraph hypothetical critique of Sola Scripturea? It’d keep me from wondering WHAT he said and HOW he said it. It would also have set the context of your comments off with far more clarity, and avoid the confusion of trying to sift out Robin’s prior comments from your responses. It’s one of those little…big things that keep such written conversations clear.

    Also, if your are going to contrast the Roman Catholic (western) method of “reliance on syllogistic reasoning and the insistence on logical consistency” with “the Orthodox approach which stresses apostolicity and catholicity” — then give us a brief but pointed example of WHY the Roman Catholic way is flawed, and WHY the Orthodox way is better. Otherwise, most western Protestants will not understand and wonder “what’s wrong logical syllogisms?” Seem sometimes in your effort to be succinct, you fail to give us those few extra sentences that better make your point…and leave us western Protestants hanging, and scratching our heads?

    I know you took some heat here at first for a couple long articles. (wrongly in my mind) But IF you are going to be brief and too the point with synopsis articles (that bait Protestants like me for more!) — then give us some links to a few excellent longer articles that make the points more fully, you are making briefly. Otherwise, you make Orthodoxy appear [unintentionally] a bit shallow and light weight in answering both Roman Catholic and Protestant arguments. Thanks again Robert for a fine and challenging blog. May our conversations be honest and helpful to us all.

    1. David,

      Thank you for your suggestions! I inserted the hypothetical critique as you suggested into the posting. The hypothetical critique is just one aspect of Robin Philips’ rather complex discussion of sola scriptura. I would urge you and others to click on the link provided at the beginning of this posting. The main thing I am trying to do here is to sketch out how Eastern Orthodoxy understands the nature of Scripture and doctrinal authority.

      Robert

      1. Drake,

        Florovsky is always worth reading. He’s a highly regarded Orthodox theologian. In my opinion the “hard core” stuff would the Divine Liturgy and early Church Fathers like Irenaeus of Lyons, Athanasius the Great, Basil the Great etc.

        Let me put it this way: Florovsky is a superb secondary source but the Divine Liturgy and the church fathers would be the primary sources for Orthodox theology. It is much like comparing an erudite law professor’s book against the rulings issued by a judge.

        I suggest you ask around and find out what others think.

        Robert

    1. Drake,

      The Orthodox Church doesn’t work like that. We have the Old and New Testament Scriptures, the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom and that of St. Basil the Great. Then there’s the consensus of the Church Fathers. There’s an organic quality that runs contrary from the cut-and-dried approach you seem to be looking for. But to reassure you of the reliability of what I wrote on this blog posting I would recommend that you read Chapter 10 of Kallistos Ware’s “The Orthodox Church.”

      The closest thing to an “official manual” is the “official man,” the local Orthodox bishop and his priest. I write as a layperson but if you want to get the official word talk with the ordained clergy.

      Robert

        1. Would you agree that the writings of Dionysius-Pseudo Dionysius in his Ecclesiastical Hierarchies have influenced your church greatly?

          I offer two videos:

          1. Drake,

            I will allow this comment because its contents are not objectionable. But this particular comment is not germane to the topic of this posting which is Robin Phillips’ posting about sola scriptura. Please keep in mind that this is my blog site and that I have a particular focus in mind. You can contribute to the discussion at hand but I really do mind when you try to insert your agenda into this blog site. I’m sure a lot people know you have your own blog site and they are welcome to visit that site if they want to. Because your question is not germane to this posting, I am going to pass on it.

            Folks, FYI the two links are to videos of Drake presenting his views.

  2. Drake,

    Probably, but I think most people consider Fr Florovsky more “hardcore” on the Fathers, especially St Maximos. I imagine his stuff on Scripture/Tradition is representative, but I hesitate to say more because I am somewhat unfamiliar with Florofvsky in the details.

  3. So much of what you say and believe seems to depend on this alleged apostolic succession of bishops, not just succession of right teaching. I have heard a lot of talk about apostolic succession for a long time, both from Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox. What I have never seen is any proof. The claim is made all the time, but I’ve never been given an actual reason to believe the practice has been faithfully carried out without interruption. I would love to see a comment or, better yet, an entire post backing up this assertion of apostolic succession being preserved in tact to this very day. Frankly, I don’t buy it for a second. I think it is completely unfounded and unbelievable, but I am more than happy and willing to listen to a reasoned defense of the claim.

    1. Actually we made it up out of the blue last Saturday evening over beers 😉

      Actually, Robert, I don’t know what your plans are, but I would like to see what you might write up on this subject. While I obviously don’t believe it unfounded, a post on Apostolic Succession would be good to have. And a discussion to boot!

      John

    2. Wesley,

      You’re right that much of my argument rests upon apostolic succession. I didn’t give much thought to the concept of apostolic succession until I read Eusebius’ Church History (EH) in which he describes the apostolic succession in Jerusalem (EH 4.4-5; NPNF {Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers} Second Series Vol. 1, pp. 175-176), Rome and Alexandria (EH 4.10-11; NPNF Vol. 1 p. 182-183), Rome, Alexandria, Antioch (EH 4.19-20; NPNF Vol. 1, p. 107), Corinth and Athens (EH 4.23; NPNF Vol. 1 pp. 200-202), Antioch (EH 4.24; NPNF Vol. 1, p. 202), especially noteworthy is the listing of bishops for Rome (EH 5.6; NPNF Vol. 1, NPNF p. 221). I was also struck by Irenaeus of Lyons’ defense of the Christian Faith against the Gnostics which rested on the traditioning process and apostolic succession (see Against the Heretics Book 3 Chapter 3; Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 1, p. 415-416). This is not meant to be a comprehensive listing of evidence but a quick sketch of how I came to accept the concept of apostolic succession as plausible. For those who want to check out the texts directly, I recommend they check out the CCEL site.

      With respect to the present day Orthodox Church here is one example, the Antiochian Patriarchate.

      But having said all that, I must note that you have set very high standards of proof. You insist that I show you that apostolic succession has been carried out faithfully without interruption. I don’t think I can come up with the evidence that meet these high standards. Having studied church history, I am well aware of the gaps and interruptions that have taken place in the history of the Orthodox Church. What for you would constitute adequate and convincing evidence? Sworn affidavits? 🙂

      I would respond that the use of apostolic succession for doing theology was vouched for by Irenaeus of Lyons, regarded as the greatest theologian of the second century. Are you suggesting that he was off the wall? Also, I would note that Eusebius devoted not a little attention to documenting apostolic succession. I would contend that for you to say “completely unfounded” is untenable. After reading the evidence I presented, can you still say completely unfounded and unbelievable?

      1. Robert,

        About 25 years ago I came across the book “Ecclesiastical History”, published by Astir, Athens, 1959 (in Greek). In some of its Appendicies (pp795-805) it gave a list of first the Roman and Byzantine Emperors from Octavius Augustus (31-14BCE) to 1453 (pp794,5).

        It then lists the Bishops in the Pentarchy Sees, Commencing at Constantinople (pp796-799) – to Athenagoras in 1948ff, then Alexandria (p799) – to Christodoulous 1939ff, then Antioch (p800) – to Theodosios 1959ff, then Jerusalem (p801) – to Timotheos 1935ff, then Rome (pp802-804) – {my last page photocopy went missing}.

        I think that this would be a good place for Wesley to start. The incumbents in these Patriarchal Sees after these dates should be readily available through the services of Google.

        I trust that this assists.

        Regards,
        John

    3. My assumption of “Ordination-Secession” was at first just as skeptical — likely resting on Protestant experience and assumptions about “Ordinations”. Any small group of men can form a “Denomination” and start “Ordaining” each other!!! Hell, you can go online, click a debit card, and be “Ordained” in a few minutes! Honestly, I know of respected Reformed men whose “Ordination” might embarass them if you looked closely at the history and people.

      But since Orthodoxy’s history, and theology of the Church regarding Ordination is far more serious & critical than is most Protestants — I thought it perhaps more charitable to grant them a little benefit of the doubt. And in the Orthodox Church they are talking about tracing the Ordination of Bishops…not every Priest. All you need there is some documentation showing the Bishop to Ordain Fr. Fred…was Ordained by a legitimately Ordained Bishop Gustav… I’ll look around a bit, but the more I’ve considered it, the eaiser it seems to be verifiable…one way or the other. Beware, it might not be fair at all to assume or to impose the slipshod manner of splintered Protestantism toward “Ordaination” with the practice and experience of the Orthodox jurisdictions. Of course, I could be wrong.

  4. Robert, I’m far from expert on this subject, but I’m guessing that the standard of historical proof Protestants tend to expect and want for “Apostolic Succession” would also not be available for many tenets of the faith and interpretations of Scripture they tend to take for granted as foundational to orthodox Christian faith and practice. Perhaps someone else can provide examples of this?

  5. Robert Arakaki writes:

    When I was a Protestant I was frustrated by the theological chaos between popular Evangelicalism and mainline liberalism. I found sola scriptura to be a heavy burden because I was compelled to assess the latest theological fads against my study of Scripture. I gave up on sola scriptura when I concluded that it was incapable of producing a coherent theology capable of uniting Protestantism. I found the branch theory espoused by Keith Mathison of very little practical value. I often felt like I was standing under a leaking umbrella in the pouring rain wishing that I was safe and dry in a house. I found a roof over my head and a spiritual banquet — the Eucharist — laid out every Sunday when I became Orthodox. To become Orthodox I had to renounce sola scriptura but in its place I gained the true Church founded by the apostles.

    Honestly, someone needs to do a PhD study on the psychology of conversion because the above statement speaks huge volumes to those of us who have had little issue seeing the legitimacy of classical Protestantism. Not everyone has had such insecurities when dealing with the nature of Scripture and its import in the community of the faithful and to universalize such an experience in fleeing to the East is not wise. I personally want to ask questions of so-called “converts” to other communions whether or not what they encountered in ‘Protestantism’ and left really represented actual historic Protestantism or was their conversion more of a fleeing from half-hearted gnostic caricatures of the real thing over-baked in the sort of modernism that likely all of us decry. As one thoroughly baptized into classical Protestantism and having read much of the primary source material on it out there, I find no issue with sola scriptura, see little reason to view it as a “system” as Mr. Arakaki rather anachronistically claims, and don’t view its acceptance as a sort of burden to have to vet every opinion out there. I wonder whether there is no small amount of insecurity on the part of those who flee to a more authoritarian and what they see as a safe environment.

    Too, I would go over the details of Mr. Arakaki’s answers to Robin Phillips, but they are so wide of the mark in terms of describing both sola scriptura and historic Protestant considerations that it would take paragraphs and paragraphs to correct it all. I don’t mind that Mr. Arakaki has his point of view but somewhere it must be stated that anyone endorsing classical Protestantism to any degree is going to object to the presentation of the matter he has made on various historical, biblical, and doctrinal grounds.

    I will present one example first, however, and then one more to show you what I mean. I find it interesting that the first standard for proof here is ultimately an empirical one — historical verification in the form of the resurrection, the witness of the early Church, and the Apostles (as if, for whatever reason, Protestants do not take equal comfort in such things!). This is a thoroughly modern approach to the entire subject and betrays no small amount of private judgment in the first place in looking at these things. If this truly is a matter of historicity and verifiability by independent witness, why the need to embrace Orthodoxy as the interpretive authority in these matters? Being among the first moderns, many of the Reformers claimed no small amount of similar historicity in terms of their fidelity to the Fathers (whether Orthodoxy proponents here agree that such faithfulness really was evident in their writings). And, to consider that this must be a matter of choosing between the two or considering one more rational than the other based on which set of historical data is verifiable is simply betraying a overly modern Enlightenment-focused gnostic Protestantism underneath all the veneer present here in the form of appeals to Orthodox authority.

    The second claim is posited here:

    Protestantism seems to assume a pure Scripture sailing through church history unaffected by the vicissitudes of human failings. In essence, the Protestant paradigm wrenched Scripture out of its proper context: the one true church. If one isolates the covenant document from the covenant community one ends up with either ecclesiastical tyranny or hermeneutical chaos.

    This presentation of Protestantism is manifestly untrue. This is not what the Reformers taught at all nor is it how they lived. There may be some sons and daughters of the Radical Reformation like fundamentalist Baptists that think this way (or perhaps some modern-day evangelicals), but reams of material could be brought to bear from multiple sources in Protestantism to demonstrate just how false this suggestion is. If this is indeed the understanding of Protestantism supposed by this website, it is no wonder that little can be offered to the Reformed in terms of actual dialog concerning sola scriptura and almost anything else. For one thing, any careful read of Calvin will show that he was aware of differing manuscript readings of Scripture and preferred some readings over others as he went in looking at the Bible and what it said. If we are to believe Mr. Arakaki, such a scenario on the part of Calvin would be absolutely impossible. But, both Luther and Calvin (and scores of others) recognized quite clearly that interpretation of Scripture and its use manifestly was to normally take place in the context of the covenant community. To assert otherwise is to deal in something other than historical fact. This continued prejudicial, inaccurate, and reductionist read of historical Protestantism is simply not beneficial to continuing any sort of conversation about these things.

    1. You wonder if these guys who convert ever read Book IV of Calvin’s Institutes, or Whitaker’s Disputations on Holy Scripture, or Turretin on the Church and Scripture. Scratch that: they have NOT read these things, or the caricatures being presented here would never arise and be treated as normative of real Protestantism.

      The portrait of Protestantism presented in posts like this is just ludicrous if it’s offered as a serious analysis of the historical moorings of the thing. What is actually being written about – and subsequently brilliantly demolished – is merely the American “frontiersman” distortion of Protestantism. Have these guys read Hodge or Nevin or Schaff? Nathan Hatch or Iain Murray?

      What a frustrating website this is! I went round and round this hamster wheel with Roman Catholics 10 years ago. How ironic that for all the massive differences we are told exist between RCs and Orthodox, the convert pyschology and all its arguments are EXACTLY the same, and are rooted in EXACTLY the same populist caricature of Protestantism.

      1. I’ve read Calvin through almost three times now. I haven’t read Whitaker et al because they aren’t peer reviewed and others have demonstrated weaknesses in their argumentation.

        I’ve noticed something else on the whole pyschology charge thing: while it is true some may convert for psychological reasons (whatever those are: I deny that psychology is even a valid discipline), it is also true that whenever Mathison is taken to task people tend to accuse the critic of not having read anything on the other side.

        For what it’s worth, and I speak as a fool, I’ve read everything Van Til has written, almost everything Frame has written, everything Bahnsen has written, Mathison’s work twice, over twenty evangelical systematic theologies, everything N.T. Wright has written, most of Warfield, though he is very weak on this topic, over 2,000 pages of Augustine, about 500 pages of Aquinas, over 5,000 pages of the Post Nicene Fathers, along with about 2,000 pages of Oxford published leading interpreters on these fathers.

        As my old blog (tsarlazar) mentioned, we aren’t backwoods rubes.

        1. LOL. Whitaker needing to be peer-reviewed.

          No one is calling anyone a ‘backwoods rube’, but in my experience your level of reading is an exception to the rule in terms of so-called converts.

          But, more importantly, if your claim to have read all that is accurate why don’t you take your fellow Orthodox associates to task for misrepresenting Protestantism in the main?

          1. Lack of energy, mostly. I rarely comment on blogs. And to answer your question, I do. I tell “converts” to spend a year reading Richard Muller and guys like that. And also the Catholic catechism. I’ve actually read very little in terms of Orthodox polemics.

            On the other hand, I have noticed that whenever Mathison is criticized, Protestants act like everything is under attack. How come these same Protestants didn’t get up in arms when Brad Littlejohn *made the exact same* criticisms of Mathison that basically everyone has made?
            http://johannulusdesilentio.blogspot.com/2008/07/ill-take-high-church-road-4-reshaping.html

            I’m under the impression, and I could be mistaken because this was several years ago, that Littlejohn is part of the broad CREC-ish, post Federal Vision movement.

          2. Well, as I said elsewhere on the site, I really couldn’t care less about Mathison’s work. I don’t feel as if it’s the best tool in the shed and never have. It’s much more important to be reading the primary sources of the Reformation and those closely following after them than to read overly modern ‘peer-reviewed’ works like Mathison’s. I appreciate your admission however concerning the misrepresentations of Protestantism here. As to the group-think model you speak of in regards to the CREC/FV issues, sadly that is not limited to one tiny corner of the Reformed world but instead seems to be everywhere–even here.

      2. Tim,

        The portrayal of Protestantism in this posting is not mine but Robin Phillips’. All I did was provide a synopsis of it. If you have a beef about the way Protestantism was characterized, I strongly recommend you take it up with Robin Phillips on his website. I provided a link in the first paragraph.

        The main intent of this posting is to present an alternative approach to the Protestant model that Phillips found dissatisfying. What I attempted to do was to show the advantages of the Orthodox way of doing theology. Ultimately, your response would have to show Phillips why he would be better of sticking with sola scriptura.

        As far as Calvin is concerned, I have read through the entirety of his Institutes and I’ve read a number of his other writings. I’m not convinced that Whitaker or Turretin are major theologians in Reformed theology. What do they have that Calvin lacked? And are you asserting that these two men are essential to understanding Reformed theology? As you know Reformed theology is quite complex and has many different branches. I’m of the opinion that they are representative of one aspect of Reformed theology.

    2. Kevin,

      A few years ago I bought a new laptop with MS Vista installed. LIke so many other users I found Vista maddening and frustrating. Was the problem my emotional state or the software?

      Apparently, you don’t have much a problem with the Protestant situation because you labeled vast swaths as “half-hearted gnostic caricatures” and modernists, and confined Protestantism to classical or historic Protestantism. You talk a lot about having read the primary sources of Reformed theology but what about your church affiliation? One cannot be a Reformed Christian just by reading Reformed books; one must be in fellowship with a church, preferably a Reformed church. This is the teaching of Calvin and the Reformers. I used to trace my spiritual heritage through my local church back to Puritan New England. Many of the Protestant churches in Hawaii were the result of the missionaries coming from New England. And from New England I traced my spiritual lineage to Calvin’s Geneva. How do you trace your spiritual lineage? Surely you are not going give me a listing of books you’ve read! 🙂

      Based upon what you wrote previously I would suspect that you have taken the route of sectarian Calvinism. For you all the rest of Protestantism don’t matter and for that reason your emotional state is one of calmness. I would contend that it was I cared about the United Church of Christ and the mainline Protestant denominations that I was so upset. Keep in mind that whenever a local congregation succumbs to theological liberalism there are significant consequences to the surrounding community. This is because each local church has a spiritual influence on the local community. Forgive me if I mischaracterized your position. Please feel free to correct me.

      As far as your objections to my misrepresentation of sola scriptura, please keep in mind that these are not my views but Robin Phillips’ thoughts about sola scriptura. I would urge you to visit his site if you have not done so and respond to his posting. My intent in this posting is to sketch out the Orthodox approach to doing theology.

      Lastly, you misunderstood my point about the Protestant understanding of “Scripture sailing through history.” I agree with you that Calvin and the other Reformers had a healthy appreciation for history. The point I wanted to make is that Protestants assumed a direct link going back to the original apostles via the biblical text. My impression is that Protestantism assume a break in church history early on and that this linkage/continuity resumed only with Luther and Calvin. To prove me wrong, all you would have to do is affirm that there was a continued correct understanding of Scripture in Western Church even in the Middle Ages prior to the Reformation or in the Eastern Churches.

      1. Robert,

        Nah. I’m not going to play this game.

        I don’t have any issue with Robin Phillips asking questions nor do I see his presentation of Reformed or Protestant history as overly problematic. As far as I know, Robin’s a thoughtful guy entertaining honest questions.

        I was referring to your description of the matter of Protestant/Reformed identity and history and not his (which is why I provided quotes *from you* in that regard). When you say things like ‘I’m not convinced that Turretin is a major theologian in Reformed theology’ you disqualify yourself from having any claim to actually knowing Reformed history and theology in any depth. It matters little to me that you’ve graduated from Gordon Conwell as scores of graduates come out of seminaries all the time quite uninformed about a great deal of things. I just wish you’d quit acting like you have some sort of expertise in these subjects.

        Additionally, your suggestion that I may be a sectarian Calvinist is not only offensive, it’s quite ludicrous. For one thing–if you actually knew me you’d know that I rarely refer to myself as a Calvinist in the first place given the semantic absurdities present in modern-day circles with the name and secondly, you ought to be willing to deal with the actual truth of these matters without having to be so personal.

        1. Kevin, LOL! You’ve GOT to be kidding!

          Kevin to Robert: “It matters little to me that you’ve graduated from Gordon Conwell as scores of graduates come out of seminaries all the time quite uninformed about a great deal of things. I just wish you’d quit acting like you have some sort of expertise in these subjects.”

          Perhaps I’ve just missed it, but I don’t recall Robert being the one who has repeatedly:
          1) Questioned peoples’ academic credentials degrees…& Colleges.
          2) Questioned lists of books they’ve read or not read.
          3) Scorned the knowledge/understanding of many.
          4) Constantly belittled arguments with scorn/sarcasm.
          5) Been cautioned if not edited(?) for personal attacks.

          If ANYONE has postured themselves as an expert — often in an offensive way — it’s you Kevin! FCOL (for crying out loud!).

          Since I care about you Kevin and sincerely belive you can be coached (and realize perhaps you’ve never been taught how to act like a Christian gentleman)…try this next time:

          “Robert (anyone) do I understand you to be saying (this…)? If so, I think perhaps you got if from (here, or here, or here), and I want to take issue with it. It doesn’t represent (IMHO) the best of the Reformed tradition…like that found here in Calvin who said (“this”) on this very subject. I know the ‘Reformed Community’ can be larger than many suspect, I just think it would be most profitable for you to interact with the best of the Reformed tradition. Hope this has been helpful.”

          NOT This. “Robert, your arguments betray a laughable ignorance of elementary beginning of Reformed theology. Have you read this, this, this and this reference…Oh, NOT you’ve obviously not read ANY of them! Where did you get your degree anyway? Obviously not a good place I approve of as credibly Reformed.” (perhaps I exagerate…a tad!)

          You see Kevin? The former is a gracious Christian Gentleman — the other a pompous…not gentleman.

          Also, it’s not enough for you to reference/list a few works (if they can be pulled out od you to go ‘on record’). You must demonstrate by specific reference/quote that said book(s) shed new and helpful light on the specific issue at hand. Throwing out lists of book you’ve read — is not even close to ‘wisely applying the content/arguments’ in said book saliently to the issue at hand. Plllleeeease.

          1. David,

            Thanks for butting into this particular part of the conversation, putting words in my mouth, making false accusations, and lecturing me on how I ought to converse with others. A real gentleman’s approach, to be sure. Southern hospitality, undoubtedly.

            Somehow, I think I’ll proceed on my own advice. Thanks, anyway.

  6. Well, I said I couldn’t come around here anymore, but alas, I’ve made excuses for continuing to read, and now I’m making one for commenting again.

    Look, guys. You can’t start with epistemological skepticism (claiming with enormous rhetorical exaggeration that as a Protestant you just got exhausted with the search for truth and finally realized that as a Protestant you had NO WAY to know truth) and then suddenly adopt this “Apostolic Succession” as the criterion of truth and expect others not to see the inconsistency. You can’t rail against the use of “reason” (as many of you do) yet expect me to buy the conclusions of your REASON looking at the “evidence” of history and making a personal judgment (if not a private judgment) as to what the truth is. If you couldn’t figure out truth from the Scriptures, you sure can’t figure it out from historical analysis – which is easily as complex, if not more so, as biblical exegesis. If the basic message of the Bible is too opaque to understand, how can you be expected to understand the writings of the Church Fathers? You can’t have it both ways, sorry.

    Further, the question of the succession getting broken is quite important. It was often broken in the West – in one case prior to the Reformation, one see had no bishop for 100 years. When the Western Schism came along, nobody knew who the true pope was for 40 years, and even afterwards, Roman Catholic defenses of the integrity of one particular line and the invalidity of the other two are so grossly question begging that it’s a wonder any intelligent person actually buys them. If this happened in the West, why should anyone believe it didn’t, let alone couldn’t, happen in the East? And if, as an Orthodox friend recently told me, what is passed down through the ages is a “mystical power” rather than a body of truth, what happens to that power when the succession of ordinations is disrupted? The bottom line is that “Apostolic Succession” may have been an excellent criterion of truth (though by no means the only one) in the time of Irenaeus, but that doesn’t mean it’s a perpetually valid standard. Historical arguments do not establish necessary truths; at best they establish what was the case at a certain time, and OTHER criteria have to be brought in to decide whether what was true then remains true now.

    Further still, in the West, thanks to centuries of conflict between popes and emperors, and between councils and popes, the idea slowly developed (well before the Reformation) that, yeah, darn it it, Acts 20:25 actually DOES mean that savage wolves can arise from WITHIN the episcopate, and that this means the episcopate is not simply and utterly trustworthy. Bishops can and have and will always continue to become heterodox. Paul tells Timothy to pass on the faith to TRUSTWORTHY men – that implies that there may be UNtrustworthy men jockeying for the episcopate, and it also implies that sometimes the UNtrustworthy ones might get the job. Bishops are not infallible standards of truth, not even taken as a whole. This is another lesson we in the West learned from the papal controversies: sometimes God actually does maintain the truth through minorities operating outside of the dominating legalistic-bureaucratic apparatus. It’s not His ordinary way of doing so, but it can and has happened at times.

    Along with the above question about the question-begging nature of your arguments about “authority,” a really significant question, especially for those of you who converted from Protestantism on the specious basis that “Apostolic Succession” gives you an infallible criterion of truth that you can’t get anywhere else is this: What do you do when your bishop becomes heterodox? You have to grant it could happen, else you contradict Acts 20:25. Yet on this pretty, tidy little theory of Succession of Ordinations, what matters is the “mystical power” handed down through the laying on of hands NOT the content of what is being taught, and so there is NOTHING you can do if your bishop becomes heterodox. He is the teacher, you are the learner, and who are you EVER to say he is wrong? You can’t know the content of the faith unless you ask the bishops. Further, you don’t have the “authority” to decide that he’s wrong, and since the Scriptures are, apparently, too opaque to judge the teaching of the bishops, you have no recourse at all. If Orthodoxy is anything like Catholicism on this point, laymen are simply up the creek without a paddle in the face of heterodox bishops.

    I’m sorry, Robert, but posts like this give no thoughtful Protestant any reason to reconsider his position.

    1. Tim,

      Based upon the last two paragraphs of your comment, I don’t think you are that familiar with the way Orthodoxy operates. First of all, the bishop cannot make doctrine. He can only teach the Faith that he received. Second, all four orders of the Church are the recipients of Tradition — bishops, priests, deacons, and laity. And all four levels are responsible for safeguarding Tradition. Three, Orthodoxy does not allow for innovation. A bishop cannot decree a new doctrine. Third, Orthodox doctrine is all over the place, in Scriptures, in the Ecumenical Councils, in the service books of the Divine Liturgy, the hymns and prayers of the church calendar, the icons and prayer books. Every bishop operates within this context. There is no way a bishop can operate independently or contradict the various components of the Orthodox Tradition I mentioned.

      In the case of the West, their grip on Tradition became tenuous after the Schism of 1054 and Tradition became what the bishops and the popes decided. Because Constantinople and the Eastern Churches did not go through the Dark Ages there were a lot of educated lay people involved in the life of the church capable of reading the Greek New Testament and speaking out on issues. This gives Eastern Orthodoxy an altogether different atmosphere compared to the West.

      What does one do if the bishop becomes heterodox? The first thing is to make sure one has the facts right. If one acts in haste then the peace and harmony of the church gets disrupted. Let’s say that a bishop does go off the rails, then one can raise the issue with one’s priest and with other laity. One can appeal to other bishops in America and abroad.

      Let’s say a bishop becomes an iconoclast and I were to have the opportunity to speak to him, I would not say to him “In my opinion…” or “I’ve studied the matter in depth…”, rather I would invoke the authority of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, the Sunday of Orthodoxy, the writings of John of Damascus and of Theodore the Studite, the icon celebrating the seventh ecumenical council. An Orthodox bishop cannot disregard the Ecumenical Councils. He cannot disregard the church calendar with its feasts and holy days. That would be like a politician dismissing the US Constitution as a piece of paper.

      Let’s say that a bishop or even a group of bishops were to make significant concessions to the Church of Rome (and this did happen in the Council of Ferrara-Florence) then the laity will rise up and throw them out. It happened! Let’s say the Patriarch of Constantinople goes off the rails (it happened with Nestorius and Cyril Lucaris) then the other bishops will step in see that he is deposed. The thing to understand about Orthodoxy is that it is by nature conciliar. It is not authoritarian like the Roman Catholic Church. A bishop cannot just claim that he has apostolic succession; if he deviates from the apostolic teaching his claim to authority is invalidated. If that happens his office becomes vacant and a successor needs to be appointed in his place (Acts 1:20, 25).

  7. Robert,

    It seems to me Tim and Kevin are perhaps conflating Orthodox and Roman Catholic understandings of Apostolic Succession. My sense of the Orthodox teaching is not that it is some sort of mystical (i.e., magical) charism, still less some rigid legal category, that persists when a bishop becomes heterodox or apostate and is formally ousted as such, but so long as he is formally associated and functioning in that role and still formally a member of the Church, (i.e., formally associated with the historic apostolic communities’ and their formally embraced faith/dogma), God’s working through his administration of the sacraments is based on their meaning as given by Christ to the Church and maintained by the whole community throughout the ages in a formal way, not on that bishop’s (or group of bishops’ as the case may be) actual spiritual state and heterodox beliefs. I suspect that, in a similar way, scholarly historic Protestants would not discount a person’s baptism and membership in a Protestant confessional church and embrace of that confession’s teaching because the pastor who baptized and/or confirmed him or her later turned out to be heterodox according to their tradition, particularly if said baptized member continued as a good-faith member of that confessional tradition. I am not a formally trained theologian, so I don’t know if I’m properly representing the Orthodox position. Perhaps the Orthodox understanding is also reflected in the NT’s treatment of the nature of the High Priesthood at the time of Christ. The High Priest of the Jews who authorized Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion, who I think in the historic and spiritual context could only be understood as an unrepentant religious hypocrite heavily compromised with worldly and demonic forces rather than a genuinely faithful leader and prophet of Israel, nevertheless was said to prophesy “not by his own authority,” (i.e., by implication and in spite of himself by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) “because he was the High Priest” when he said of the situation with Jesus that it was expedient that one man die for the people. This is despite the fact that he obviously had no faith in the real spiritual import given by the Gospel writer, of what he was saying, and in context appears to consciously intended it as a statement about political pragmatics (John 11:46-53). I look forward to seeing you and perhaps others work to clarify what Apostolic Succession does and does not mean/imply to an Orthodox.

    1. Karen, I was told by an Orthodox friend, whose grasp of Orthodoxy I have no reason to distrust, that in terms of “Apostolic Succession” Orthodoxy believes primarily in a mystical power passed on through ordinations. My friend stated that it is NOT a body of truth passed down, but mystical power to teach – and if someone doesn’t have that, that is precisely why they are not and cannot be an “o[O]rthodox” Christian.

      But this solves nothing, because anyone who is a Protestant and starts grappling with authority questions has no recourse but to use HIS OWN personal reasoning powers to analyze and sift the ream of data that are out there in order to try to find an answer. It is no answer to claim, as most of these converts do, that as Protestants their personal judgments were unable to find truth, but suddenly, once they used their personal judgments to decide that Orthodoxy is true, now everything is hunky-dory and they’re in an epistemologically superior position.

      The reason that I speak of bishops becoming heterodox is precisely because the episcopate is held up by these folks as a Universal Solution to the problem of human error. It isn’t. These folks start with a false problem (“I must find a way to eliminate all possibility of error in my spiritual life”) and embrace a package of thinly-veiled sophistry designed specifically to answer their false (and quite immature) expectations about the Christian life.

      1. Tim,

        It would be more accurate to say that in the sacrament of ordination the bishop prays over the candidate asking God “to fill with the gift of thy Holy Spirit.” This is in recognition that the priestly ministry is more than ministry skills but a divine calling that requires God’s help and blessing.

        We all need to use our God given ability to think. I applaud people like you who seek to honor God with their mind. I wouldn’t say that Protestants using their personal judgments are unable to find truth. First, that’s just plain wrong. I believe that my Evangelical friends have a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. And many Protestants know their Bible way better than many Orthodox. I learned a lot of the basics of the Faith as an Evangelical but in Orthodoxy I found the fullness of the Faith.

        The problem I see in the Protestant personal judgment approach is not that it results in isolated autonomous believers. Calvin in Book 4 of his Institutes called the Church, “The Holy Catholic Church, Our Mother.” Many Protestants wouldn’t go as far as Calvin but the vast majority would recognize the need for belonging to a church. The problem I see in the Protestant approach is that it has become very problematic knowing which church community to belong to. Apparently, one way of dealing with rampant liberalism among the Protestant mainstream and the peculiarities of popular Evangelicalism is to issue a sweeping condemnation of the Protestant mainline and popular Evangelicalism and retreat into tiny sectarian branches that hardly anyone knows about. That is the road of schismatic Fundamentalism and I reject that. I used to trace my spiritual lineage back to Puritan New England and to Calvin’s Geneva, the United Church of Christ’s capitulation to liberalism blew that application of Calvin’s ecclesiology out of the water. As I considered the possibilities I did not find the prospects of sectarian Calvinism attractive. In short, personal judgment needs to be matched with a faith community that is doctrinally orthodox and I reached the conclusion that there is no viable solution out there in the Protestant world.

      2. Tim,

        “Tim, I was told by a Protestant friend, whose grasp of Protestantism I have no reason to distrust, that in terms of “Justification” Protestantism believes primarily in a ‘Once- Saved-Always-Saved’ decision. He said decided for Christ as teenager at a Billy Graham rally, then drove a stake down in his backyard. My friend stated that it is NOT future good works or even faithful Church attendance — but once-and-for-all judicial/legal justifying declaration that saves..and if someone doesn’t have that, that is precisely why they are not and cannot be an “True” Christian.” (Just changed a few strategic words to your paragraph above to Karen, buddy! 🙂

        Any, slightly well-studied Refomed Christian would laugh at this knowing it a silly caricature…even though millions of sincere Protestant even Reformed Christians DO believe this! Not a pretty or impressive method of treating our Orthodox brothers with much respect is it? You can do better than this brother…as we ALL can with each other.

  8. ***The reason that I speak of bishops becoming heterodox is precisely because the episcopate is held up by these folks as a Universal Solution to the problem of human error.***

    I didn’t read all of Robin’s above post, nor did I read the comments, but in my discussions with Orthodox “converts,” they hold to the exact opposite of what you just said (and if anyone is familiar with the Old Calendarists….well, let the reader understand).

    I think you are reading some legitimate criticisms of an extreme ultra-montanist skepticism back into the discussion.

  9. Robert, first, my videos were displays of the source of your view of authority which is what this post is all about.

    “but the Holy Spirit who would guide..

    >Then you must accept that the Holy Spirit led the Eastern Orthodox Church to anoint a flaming Calvinist to the highest position of authority in the 17th century, i.e. Cyril Lucaris.

    “It assumes that the post-apostolic church quickly fell into heresy and apostasy”

    >Acts 20:29-30, 1 Tim 4, 2 Thess 2:3-4. That is what the NT says.

    “Thus, Orthodoxy assumes a church embedded in human history but faithfully safeguarding the apostolic faith”

    >That’s presumptuous. Icon worship was an innovation, holy days were an innovation, uninspired song in worship was an innovation, organs were an innovation etc. This is not a safeguard but invention.

    >You mention that the creeds are the source of the regula fide. Maybe I misunderstand you but is this an assertion that the church as a whole is the primary authority? What is the infallible judge? The clergy and laity as a whole? The laity only? The Patriarch only? A general council? Do you assert a living prophetic office? If so, then the creeds cannot be the judge.

    “But did Jesus intend that his followers should have to search high and low to find the true church? ”

    >The puritan position is that according to being/essence there are many Christian Churches in the world and I would affirm that in your communion there are churches where a person could get enough info to be converted. However, a truly constituted church is that which has a complete form of sound words, at least as sound as they can be at the time. This is strictly speaking the truly constituted visible church of Christ which can fade into obscurity

    “Unlike the original apostles..

    Is this an admission of cessationism?

    The Scottish Puritans also believed in closed communion. Rutherford refused to serve communion with Blair at St. Andrews; and on another occasion Rutherford and Moncrieff debarred Resolutioners from the table at Scoonie. Greg Price has some sermons here on the issue: http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=42101152912

    “I found a roof over my head..

    Too bad your church is not agreed on what this means. At an Orthodox forum, on The Eucharist, Fr Raphael Vereshack says

    “There was a discussion about this at monachos last April which eventually became quite heated. At the time possibly every Holy Father known was quoted to support both positions. By the time this finally cooled off there were two basic positions that seemed irreconcilable.”

    http://www.monachos.net/forum/showthread.php?1640-The-Eucharist-in-the-Orthodox-Church

    “Orthodoxy’s theological system has a stability..

    LOL! Sure buddy. I don’t believe everything the SWRB guys believe but they are the most consistent and stable and also the most hated.

    “sola scriptura makes the individual..

    Depends on your view of logic. If you believe logic is something universal and objective then a coherency theory of truth accompanied by the affirmation that truth is propositional, i.e. Clarkianism, would be neither subjective nor arbitrary.

    1. Drake,

      Your question about the primary authority in Orthodoxy is nonsensical. It would be like asking which of the four wheels of a car moves it forward. The front right? the front left? the rear right? or the rear left? The correct answer is: It’s a stupid question and ALL the wheels must work together in order for a car to move forward or backward.

      The ultimate authority for Orthodoxy is the Spirit of Truth who inspires the entirety of the Church, who inspires Holy Scriptures, who endowed the Church Fathers with wisdom and understanding, who is present at every worship service, who blesses the priests who are called to preach in the Sunday liturgy. Your question about what constitutes the primary authority shows a lack of experience with Orthodoxy. You need to take Orthodoxy as a whole, and not dissect it into discrete components. To give one example, in Council of Ferrara-Florence a group of bishops and priests made some major concessions to the Roman Catholic Church; when they returned the laity threw them out of the church. A patriarch of Constantinople embraced Calvinism and was deposed and soon afterwards a council was convened and the Confessions of Dositheus was drafted and endorsed. Mistakes will be made, church leaders will fall into error but the Holy Spirit will protect the Church and guide her. You cannot, I repeat, CANNOT understand Orthodoxy from the books alone, you must VISIT a local Orthodox parish and INTERACT with real live Orthodox Christians. Otherwise our discussions will bear little fruit.

      Re. cessationism, of course not, if the bishops could claim new revelations then we would have the Montanist heresy all over again. They are the recipient and guardians of the Apostolic Deposit.

      Re. closed communion, the fact that obscure groups have practiced closed communion does not mean that they are part of the one holy catholic and apostolic Church confessed in the Nicene Creed.

      Re. Fr. Raphael Vereshack, there is agreement in Orthodoxy about the core elements in Tradition, there is room for disagreement on a lot of things. When it comes to the Real Presence, the basic Orthodox position is that it is a mystery. To seek doctrinal precision with respect to the Real Presence in the Eucharist is to take a Western approach to doing theology.

  10. Tim, I’m sure your Orthodox friend made his statement in good-faith, but I read a booklet on the subject by Orthodox Priest (and convert from Protestant Evangelicalism), Fr. Gregory Rogers, published by Conciliar Press, where I don’t think you will find the phrase “a mystical power” with reference to the topic. I could be wrong and maybe there is something of an equivalence in there, but despite your friend’s basic integrity, I would still recommend starting with something like this booklet (or better yet an Orthodox priest) to make sure you have a reliable grasp of the Orthodox understanding in its own context at least.

    1. Karen,

      You’re right. In the service of ordination the bishop prays for the “great grace of thy Holy Spirit” and “the gift of thy Holy Spirit.” Let me quote part of the prayer:

      O God great in might and inscrutable in wisdom, marvelous in counsel above the sons of men: Do thou, the same Lord, fill with the gifts of thy Holy Spirit this man whom it has pleased thee to advance to the degree of Priest; that he may be worthy to stand before thine Altar; to proclaim the Gospel of thy Kingdom; to minister the word of they truth…. (p. 317, Service Book translated by Isabel Florence Hapgood)

      If we cannot confess Christ as Lord without the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12:3), how more does the priest or pastor need the grace of the Holy Spirit! Orthodoxy is not about magic; it is about our opening our lives to the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    2. Good point Karen. And I doubt serious that my friend Tim would take seriously “my sincere friend/recent convert’s” serious but ‘questionably- authoritative-in-most-any-respect’, caricature of the Protestant view of, say justification. Brief blog posts and our comment all suffer from the dangers of succinctness…ie…summaries tend easily to be caricatures of “the other guys” ridiculous position! No one like to be simplictically caricatured. Let’s ALL be careful we do not turn around and DO!, what we just childed another guy/gal of doing to us! Not an easy thing with short blog posts.

      My sympathies to Robert…when you have several very different flavors of “Reformed” out there (from Calvin/Continential early Reformers with some Lutheran & Anglican overlap, Scottish Refomers, English Puritans, Reformed/Calvinist Baptists, Southern Presbyterian Reformed, Dutch Reformed, any number of Modern Reformed (CREC/Federal Vision, RC Sproul, John Piper, MacAuthor…and more even Charismatic Reformed in the EPC!) — it’s hard NOT to offen someone — a caricature of one accurately describes another — and be careful of the quality of our references!

  11. Here’s another thought that I think both sides have missed. A lot of the Protestant detractors here think that Orthodox converts are saying, “if you don’t have an infallible ___________, then you can’t know anything.” It’s like a bizzaro version of Bahnsen’s TAG.

    But for anyone who’s read through a few scholarly journals on epistemology, it’s obvious one can fulfill the conditions of knowledge without an infallible authority. In this sense, one can employ “private judgment” and know what some parts of the Bible are talking about.

    On the other hand, simply because one fulfills the conditions of knowledge does not mean one’s reading of Scripture is binding upon the catholic church. (Granted, this is more of a problem in Baptist and low church environments, where one literally has 16 million popes. Reformed bodies dodge this problem, at least on this front, with the “ministerial authority” of the Confessions).

    And to address another issue, if I am deciding between the claims Protestantism, Moonie-ism, Rome, and Mother Russia, sure I am using private judgment. What of it? As a good dyotheletist, I see no tension between my reading of history (will) and the church’s claims of history (will). The problem of private judgment is not that Vladimir chooses between a and b–that’s part of being human. Rather, the problem is when my reading of Scripture is normative doctrine for the church.

  12. Here’s something else I may have missed: Robin Phillips appears to be a Reformed Calvinist. He publishes for Canon Press, writes for the Kuyper society, attacks Roman and Orthodox liturgical practices, etc. He has also published in World Net Daily, of which no doubt he is deeply ashamed. This puts this comments section in a new perspective (forgive the allusion!):

    1. Phillips is offering the same criticisms against Mathison that everyone else has offered.
    2. The attacks against Arakaki and Co., so far from being attacks against Orthodoxy, are in fact attacks against a form of high church Protestantism!

    1. ‘Triadic…’

      No. I’m not at all attacking either Robin’s notions concerning Mathison or even directly answering his questions. What I have consistently echoed here is that Mr. Arakaki and friends are not really engaging the more important Protestant/Reformed sources and concerns. Furthermore, their presentation of Protestantism is flawed in the first place and they seem to be knocking down the sort of paper tigers and caricatures of Protestant theology and history with an eye to persuading others to Orthodoxy. I’ve issued no critique of ‘high church Protestantism’ nor do I think Robin Phillips is out of line in asking his questions. They are in fact good questions and deserve a hearing though I would say that it would be foolish to assume that there is no legitimate Protestant (and even ‘high church’) answer to them.

  13. That’s fair enough, but one can’t help but wonder, and this is beginning to be a repeated theme, that maybe you aren’t being too helpful. Granted, it is not right to ask, “What ist the standard Protestant work on this?” Fair enough, but if one says to read “Calvin,” or whoever, what should we be looking for? As the Federal Vision controversy pointed out, there are MANY intepretations of Calvin. That doesn’t mean he’s wrong, but in order to not misunderstand Calvin on authority, what are some key themes to look for when one reads him? Obviously, the claim to self-authentication is one theme. Are there more? You are not being that helpful.

    ****For one thing–if you actually knew me***

    To be fair, you’ve been asked at least a dozen times on this blog questions concerning your church authority, jurisdiction, etc. I’ll put my cards on the table. Ii go to a high church PCA church. There isn’t a feasible Orthodox parish within 100 miles, and given the horror of Baptistdom in my town, this really is the best option. Now it’s your turn.

    1. TR,

      Helpful to what end? I’m not here to aid anyone’s particular agenda other than point out that the authors of this site and various commentators need to better familiarize themselves with Protestant history and theology before they continue to unduly criticize it while pretending to know anything about it. Clearly, we’ve at least established that together. How that can be something other than helpful in looking at a topic like this is beyond me. I’m not here to answer questions about sola scriptura or to take up the flag in defending Protestantism. To me, it’s enough to signal a warning that the writing here is done with a certain bias and end in mind and generally does not reflect a careful or knowledgeable consideration of Reformed theology and history.

      As to my personal background, again, I don’t see it as relevant to discussing these issues. I’ve already declared an affinity to classical Protestantism and needing to know more is unnecessary to discussing or evaluating these matters.

      1. Does your form of “”classical protestantism”” exist today? Are you the only one who believes in it? What denomination in North America best represents what you call “”classical protestantism””?

        You need to keep in mind the reality of those who call themselves Calvinists and Reformed today. For they are the ones most of us are in contact with.

      2. Rev. Kevin D. Johnson,

        Most conservative Presbyterians I personally know look to NAPARC as the Reformed standard in North America.

        North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council

        Drake talks about Scottish Presbyterianism.

        You and Tim want us to look to “”Classical Protestantism””. Well, first of all what does that mean? What do you mean by that? Are you using the word “Protestant” in a strictly “Reformed” manor or in a different sense? If you are using it in a generic sense then “classical protestantism” would equal a collection of fragmented families. From Lutheran(Evangelical), to Reformed(Protestant), to the Church of England(Anglican). Now most people would exclude the Anabaptists, but in the generic sense of the word, they are protestants too.

        And so what do you really mean by quote on quote “”Classical Protestantism””? I know you think we are a bunch of dummies when it comes to talking about protestantism. So help us out here, define your terms! What do you mean by “”Classical Protestantism””? Who exactly are you talking about? Or better yet, who exactly are you not talking about?

        Also, modern American protestantism was heavily influenced by the evangelical movement of George Whitefield, Johnathon Edwards(the first great awakening), and John Wesley

        Will you include this movement and the people I mentioned from this movement in your definition of “””Classical Protestantism””” or would you put it(and them) in a different category?

        You are throwing around this term as if we automatically know what you are talking about? So what are you talking about?

        I recall in another thread that you were clergy and so please forgive me if I was rude.

        1. First, no, I don’t think you all are “a bunch of dummies” in regards to these topics. Nor am I offended though I appreciate your request for forgiveness. If I do get offended, I will be sure to let you know. 🙂

          The term “Protestant” was originally used in Speyer, Germany to speak of those opposed to the then corrupt Roman hierarchy during the advent of the Reformation. Now, however, we face an environment where seminaries and churches alike all have a stake in what it means to be legitimately Reformed or Protestant. Just today I read a critique of Michael Horton’s revisionist understanding of the Reformation. It seems Horton would like to excise certain parts of Calvin’s understanding of the Gospel and its implications to fit his rather extreme Two Kingdom Stay Away from the Public Square view – see this article for more.

          Obviously, this makes your question relevant not only to this discussion but also to the general state of all things Protestant as this can become quite confusing to some in terms of what’s really being said and claimed. So, I’m not without sympathy to your conundrum.

          I would say that *in general* classical Protestantism refers to the overall movement that arose out of the Reformation and still exists to some degree today. There are indeed Protestants ‘in name only’ such as the garbage carried on by Spong and others in the mainline churches. But, by Protestants Tim and I are normally talking about those groups and persons that stayed true to the overall emphases of the Reformation be they what is now known as Reformed, Lutheran, Anglican, etc. To hopefully set the boundary markers firm enough, we would not generally include the Radical Reformers such as the Anabaptists among classical Protestantism. Nor would we generally include later English separatists who became what we now know as Baptist (though the Puritans who followed Geneva count loosely among Protestants). Of course, in speaking so generally, there is obviously going to be some bleed through in terms of fidelity to the Reformation and its ideals as well as degrees to which some groups are more faithful than others. The Reformation itself was a variegated response to Rome and her errors and as such constitutes both a deep and a wide set of theological traditions and histories. Yet, there is some general commonality between them all. I would recommend Philip Schaff’s book, “The Principle of Protestantism” to really get a good handle on what I’m talking about here.

          Speaking for myself, I am not an advocate of the branch theory of understanding the identity of the Church. Things are a little more complicated than that. But, hopefully, this little summary provides you with a working definition and the ability to read more via Schaff if you are so inclined.

          1. Rev. Kevin D. Johnson,

            Thanks for clarifying. Ok, so you are using the term “Classical Protestantism” in reference to the Reformed, Lutheran, and Anglican families. This blog seems to be focused on the Reformed tradition and so in order to stay on track with the theme of this blog it might be best if we ignored the Lutheran(unless a hybrid between the Lutheran and Reformed traditions are mentioned…..like Michael Horton and Philip Schaff) and Anglican(ignoring the high church and Anglo-Catholic wings of that tradition) families.

            I know when you first came on here you were jumping on Rob for making this blog, but you need to remember that this blog was built out of a labor of love for Rob is a Native Hawaiian who’s ancestors were converted by the New England Congregationalists. Now you said that the puritans who followed Geneva count loosely among Protestants. Well, ok. Now we have a clue as to why you and Tim are a little upset about the articles on this blog. Maybe traditional Lutherans and Anglicans have different answers than the Reformed do. But why should a Calvinist(outside of the exceptions of Michael Horton, and Philip Schaff) want to use Lutheran and Anglican arguments in order to stay protestant? Aren’t Lutheran answers built to support a Lutheran paradigm? If so, then how many times can a Reformed person get away with using outside answers before it begins to distort their Reformed infrastructure to the point of no longer being Reformed?

            Also, if the Cambridge Calvinists(Puritans and the later English separatists) are counted loosely as Protestants then much of British and American Calvinistic protestantism would also have to be seen as loosely protestant by default for the Calvinists at Cambridge had a huge impact on English speaking low church protestantism.

            Most of the American Calvinists that I run into either come from this stock or they were heavily influenced by it. Also, a good portion of them were influenced by the 18th century British and North American Evangelical movement as well.

            And so this is the reality we are dealing with today with a good portion of people in the English speaking world who call themselves Calvinist or Reformed.

            Yet you don’t want Rob to write articles about this demographic and the stuff they put out.

            Thanks for the Philip Schaff book reference. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to read anything outside the scope of either the early church fathers of the first 6 centuries (both east and west), the theology behind the 7 ecumenical councils and their decrees, the 5 points of Calvinism(what they are or what they are not), the definition of Calvinism(what it is or what it isn’t), grace as understood by the early church fathers, Predestination as understood by the early church fathers, the fall as understood by the early church fathers, Perseverance or the lack there of as understood by the early church fathers, the atonement as understood by the early church fathers……..etc.

            However, I will put the book on my list. It might be a year or two before I get it.

            You mentioned that you are not an advocate of the branch theory. Ok, so you are not high high Anglican when it comes to that issue. It’s been a long while since I glossed over the Reformed(they might have more than one view, I really don’t know) and Lutheran views. But the Reformed seem to stress the idea of the invisible church. Which in and of itself can lead to a type of branch theory. So what do you advocate?

          2. These comments are actually well out of the original posting, but I put them here because I’ve been directly asked. I trust everyone is okay with that.

            Jnorm responds:

            Thanks for clarifying. Ok, so you are using the term “Classical Protestantism” in reference to the Reformed, Lutheran, and Anglican families.

            Actually, I wouldn’t characterize the differing communions as “families” – the problem here is that we can be too simplistic and limiting by assigning classical Protestantism to particular faith communions or denominations. Protestantism functions more as a principle than it does a marker of particular denominations or faith communions. Ultimately, the real marker for us is not about Protestantism but about being Christian and that comes through Baptism.

            This blog seems to be focused on the Reformed tradition and so in order to stay on track with the theme of this blog it might be best if we ignored the Lutheran(unless a hybrid between the Lutheran and Reformed traditions are mentioned…..like Michael Horton and Philip Schaff) and Anglican(ignoring the high church and Anglo-Catholic wings of that tradition) families.

            The problem here is that there is not just one Reformed tradition. There were Reformed traditions on the European continent as well as in England during the Reformation and afterward. The tradition(s) we find in the New World also developed differently. To speak of “the Reformed” without realizing this and without taking into account its variegated nature is part of what causes a blog like this to be so limited and uninformed in its critique of Protestantism. I’m happy to ignore the Lutheran tradition(s), 🙂 but there are times when mention of them is quite relevant (like the previous post on Nevin — the German Reformed churches were very much influenced by Lutherans contra Dort and that influence is part of what caused the fight between Hodge and Nevin). As far as Anglicans go, high church does not mean Anglo-Catholic. The old high churchmen were very much Reformed in their understanding of the Gospel. In fact, the Reformed tradition among the established English Church is a very important and long forgotten influence in terms of the overall Protestant tradition (especially for American Christianity).

            I know when you first came on here you were jumping on Rob for making this blog…

            My original beef with this blog was simply that it was put forward as a way to dialog between the Reformed and the Orthodox as an ecumenical effort to understand one another – but as I read more it became clear that this blog exists to pull people out of the Reformed world into Orthodoxy. I don’t believe the stated purpose of the blog and the impression it leaves is as upfront as it could be.

            Now you said that the puritans who followed Geneva count loosely among Protestants. Well, ok. Now we have a clue as to why you and Tim are a little upset about the articles on this blog. Maybe traditional Lutherans and Anglicans have different answers than the Reformed do. But why should a Calvinist(outside of the exceptions of Michael Horton, and Philip Schaff) want to use Lutheran and Anglican arguments in order to stay protestant? Aren’t Lutheran answers built to support a Lutheran paradigm? If so, then how many times can a Reformed person get away with using outside answers before it begins to distort their Reformed infrastructure to the point of no longer being Reformed?

            I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying here. I’m not sure “staying protestant” is the goal of being a Christian or even being Protestant.

            Also, if the Cambridge Calvinists(Puritans and the later English separatists) are counted loosely as Protestants then much of British and American Calvinistic protestantism would also have to be seen as loosely protestant by default for the Calvinists at Cambridge had a huge impact on English speaking low church protestantism.

            Yes. I have no issue with this. I would point out that most Presbyterian churches today on the whole are actually more Baptist than they are Reformed. The separation from the established church in England had dramatic unforeseen consequences for the Puritans and the separatists that only today we are seeing in spades. This is part of the reason why I refer to *classical* Protestantism — this is pretty much unknown in America today due to the implications of the separation of church/state contra a more Reformed understanding of the Christian magistrate.

            And so this is the reality we are dealing with today with a good portion of people in the English speaking world who call themselves Calvinist or Reformed. Yet you don’t want Rob to write articles about this demographic and the stuff they put out.

            Yes. I grant this – and this is part of the reason why we cry ad fontes and call people back to the primary sources of the magisterial Reformation. Because, what is taught in seminaries and in churches today does not really reflect classical Protestantism but rather an Americanized version only loosely based off of what the Reformers were originally concerned with. In short, the arguments Arakaki & Co. put forward contra Protestantism actually work only against a sort of half-hearted gnostic evangelicalism which manifestly isn’t real Protestantism.

            Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to read anything outside the scope of either the early church fathers of the first 6 centuries (both east and west), the theology behind the 7 ecumenical councils and their decrees, the 5 points of Calvinism(what they are or what they are not), the definition of Calvinism(what it is or what it isn’t), grace as understood by the early church fathers, Predestination as understood by the early church fathers, the fall as understood by the early church fathers, Perseverance or the lack there of as understood by the early church fathers, the atonement as understood by the early church fathers……..etc.

            [grin…you have a lot to read]
            I would ditch the study of the 5 points of Calvinism (they are not essential to what it means to be Reformed or classically Protestant) and rather read Calvin’s Institutes and then Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics. You might also check out Anthony N.S. Lane’s work on the use of the Fathers in Calvin’s work. The thing you might remember about the Fathers in studying them is that they wrote in a different context than we do, they were men and subject to error like we are, they often disagreed with one another even on points we consider fundamental to the faith today, and that just because one Father (or groups of them) held an opinion does not mean we ought to hold the same. Rather, Scripture should be normative by the nature of the case.

            You mentioned that you are not an advocate of the branch theory. Ok, so you are not high high Anglican when it comes to that issue. It’s been a long while since I glossed over the Reformed(they might have more than one view, I really don’t know) and Lutheran views. But the Reformed seem to stress the idea of the invisible church. Which in and of itself can lead to a type of branch theory. So what do you advocate?

            Actually, the “branch theory” has its roots more in the Anglo-Catholic/Oxford Movement version of understanding Christianity. I would echo rather a more classic (older and to your statement, actually, HIGHER CHURCH) Anglican/Reformed view which is that we are Reformed catholics (cf. Heidelberg Catechism Q/A 22). In other words, there is one church and we as Christians participate in it regardless as to our local affiliation or membership in particularly hierarchies (such as Rome or the East). The term “communio sanctorum” is also relevant here in describing what I am talking about.

  14. David and Triadic, Thanks, guys! Have at it.

    Tim and Kevin, I think these David and Triadic are making very reasonable comments and asking good questions. Can we get back to the discussion at hand and stop throwing out red herrings like accusations of “immaturity” and suggestions that some particular (peculiar?) psychology is at work in Evangelical or Reformed Protestants converting to Eastern Orthodoxy?

    And, for discussion’s sake, even if there were found to be some commonalities in that regard, does that mean that we would find no commonalities in the psychology of those adopting your own particular position and affiliation(s?) and the reasons they do so? Would it also give us any real idea of whether the psychology behind whatever lead to your commitment to the confession of Christians you belong to (whether bodily/sacramental or abstract/ideological) would be indicative of a more sound spiritual state than those committing to Orthodoxy? And by whose criteria do we judge? As a BA grad in Psychology from a major Evangelical college, I don’t think we really want to go here, do we?

    1. I’m sorry, Karen, did you want to have a discussion about psychology or would you rather drop the subject? .

      The fact remains that the psychology of what it means to be or have been a “convert” is a legitimate thread here if only because Robert brought it up by describing his own personal journey out of Protestant circles toward Orthodoxy. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with us but perhaps it will help explain why we might be inclined to focus on it.

      As to red herrings, I’m sorry but obviously we are going to disagree. Noting that inaccuracies and uninformed perspectives exist in this discussion concerning Protestant theology and history is not a red herring but rather provides a more proper context by which to weigh the claims and statements of Mr. Arakaki and others regarding these things.

  15. Kevin (or Mr. Johnson if you prefer), actually, I love to discuss psychology because of what I have learned from it both in and outside the classroom, but obviously, this isn’t the purpose of this blog. For purposes of this blog, I’m interested in particulars of the discussion at hand (even from your perspective) because I cannot understand (based on my own four decades in different Evangelical traditions) exactly what it is that Robert is failing to address from your perspective (not having the particulars of it, just your blanket assertions). I can certainly understand if all you want to do is point out that Robert’s is a particularly Orthodox perspective and therefore, biased, but I should think that would be obvious from everything else on his blog! So what are you doing here if it is only to make insidious accusations and point out the obvious? 🙂

  16. Sorry, I didn’t mean “insidious accusations,” rather “insinuations and/or accusations” –just checked the dictionary.

    1. As I have repeatedly written, I am here to demonstrate that more study needs to be done on Protestant history and theology before such sweeping statements can be made on the part of Mr. Arakaki and others concerning these subjects. Not everyone has the background to understand where all of these arguments are falling short or even where bias may exist. I’m just making that clear for those who may have concerns in that regard.

      In terms of discussing psychology, again, it’s relevant to the discussion because the blog author brought up his own experience. Were Mr. Arakaki to only stick to the theological/historical issues, it might be out of order to discuss such things. That, however, is not the case.

  17. ***nor do I think Robin Phillips is out of line in asking his questions.***

    Since Arakaki just reposted Robin’s post, then you should also say that Arakaki is also not out of line in asking these questions.

    Therefore, I think the real issue of contention is not that sola scriptura is built on a very weak foundation, which Robin clearly demonstrates, but that the implications of that weak foundation are more troubling, no?

  18. TR,

    Arakaki did not just repost Robin’s comments, but provided his own commentary and answers to the questions. My questions concerned Mr. Arakaki’s comments. I have no problem at all with either party asking the questions. I have a problem with the uninformed presentation of Protestant history and theology.

    As to the “weak foundation” of sola scriptura – I don’t see the necessity of concluding such even when such questions are asked or current popular literature seems to betray such a conclusion. So, we can’t go there quite yet.

    1. At least Drake actually quotes from real Reformed material. And so we know he reads classical protestant stuff, but all we get from you and Tim is talk.

        1. I think what Jnorm is saying is that when Orthodox guys critically interact with Reformed sources (and by the way, I have no problem interacting with Calvin on Christology–it won’t be pretty), you say we aren’t reading the Reformed sources. Then when we ask for Reformed sources, you dodge the issues.

          1. I’m not dodging the issues. I have limited time to attend to these things. I work full-time while pursuing a master’s degree in theology. So, I understand the frustration some may have but the suggestion to dig deeper in Reformed sources really is warranted here (as I believe you quite agree with given your comments above). I’m sorry I don’t have the time to really go tooth and nail here with you or others much as I would like to — Tim is in much the same quandary with his teaching career.

      1. Jnorm, unlike a lot of people who populate blogs and message boards, I have a real life that is far more important to me than arguing with converts. I won’t ignore my wife and children and job responsibilities so I can argue about “Truth” and where is “the Church” on the Internet. Contra your “all Tim gives is talk” slander, I have listed a number of relevant classical Protestant sources in this thread, and on other threads dating back 6 weeks or so, I made some substantial arguments. Some engaged them; most, sadly, only had the ability to repeat the same old caricatures that drove their conversions in the first place.

        When a person makes assertions like “Protestants believe ____” and “The Reformation can only lead to ____,” it’s not the job of Protestants to run themselves ragged refuting it. It’s the job of the people making the assertions to actually back up their words with sources. I’ve been around this wheel with converts for over 10 years on the Roman Catholic side, and time and time again it has been proven that most converts have never read anything substantial in the Reformers themselves, let alone any substantial books about the Reformation or various issues impinging on it. People like Perry Robinson are different, obviously, and the problem I have with him is that I simply don’t have time to read “4 bookcases full” of books on Apostolic Succession like he has so that I can properly grasp and respond to his arguments. But his is a much different story than most converts. He’s actually read a lot of serious stuff. He actually puts his money where his mouth is. Most converts are nothing BUT mouth, and when challenged, all they can do is whine, “But you haven’t provided me anything to go on.” Translation: “I’m too lazy to go read anything for myself, so I want you to provide me with a few quotes I can rip apart based on my present state of (lack of significant) knowledge; that way I can pretend that I actually have an intellectual life and don’t just while away all my time painting the image that I have one.”

        So, with all due respect, get off the Internet and go read some of the sources we’ve mentioned.

        1. Dude, if you have time to write paragraph after paragraph of nothing but talk and complaints then you should also have time to write something of worth and substance in regards to the topics at hand. All I hear are complaints from you. You claim to know all this stuff, and that you read all this Classical Protestant literature, but when pushed you mostly back off and give excuses. Like I said, if you have time to write insults and complaints then you should have time to write something constructive and worth while as well.

          And no, I will not read anything outside the scope of the project I am currently working on. if you have any resources in the area within my scope then I would be more than happy to read those. Anything else will just have to wait.

          1. You’re right about one thing: I am doing little more than complaining about the conduct on this blog. I could do a lot more, if I didn’t have a family and job responsibilities, but unlike when I was in my 20s and early 30s, wasting hundreds and hundreds of irreplaceable hours arguing with Roman Catholic converts, I’ve learned that Internet discourse is largely a waste of time.

            I came here, like Kevin, thinking this place was different. There’s been some good here, to be sure (as with my conversations weeks ago with Fr. John, and as with Mr. Arakaki’s engagement with Bonomo’s work), but for the most part, it’s been same old, same old, and I simply can’t fritter away any more of my life on that. Though my complaints really are just, since by my own admission I don’t have time to get into extended conversations (especially not with people who manifestly have not done much reading in the primary or secondary sources), it’s best that I just stop.

          2. Tim,

            You’re right that there are more important things than spending hours on the Internet. I just want to let you know that I am working on a posting you posted on your site Viatorchristianus. Hopefully you will find my response constructive and challenging.

        2. You mentioned the issue of most converts. Well, I would like to talk about that. Just as you claim to have a life and don’t have the time to read all the books that Perry read. Well, maybe the converts you are talking about also have a life and just don’t have the time to read all the books you think they should of read. Have you ever thought about that?

          So why are you pointing the finger at most converts? Look, I said what I said about you for a reason. Drake quotes lots and lots of stuff. You don’t see me trying to rip his quotes apart. I respect Drake! Because I know he reads and re-reads alot of stuff. And so no, it’s not about me trying to rip you apart. It’s not about me trying to rip your quotes apart. It’s about me trying to understand you and why you think reading Classical works will solve the problems you think they will solve. Also, I would like you to deal with the arguments of the blog more in depth. Most of what you do is complain. It’s like you are simply trying to crash the party or something.

          Look, if you don’t have time to respond to the arguments then don’t respond at all. And if you do have time to respond, then try responding to the arguments at hand.

  19. Drake,
    “Your question about the primary authority in Orthodoxy is nonsensical…”

    >You didn’t answer it. You also did not answer whether you believed in a living prophetic office.

    “A patriarch of Constantinople embraced Calvinism and was deposed”

    >While he was living? There were interruptions in his office but he died the Patriarch
    of Constantinople in 1638. He was martyred by Muslims and hated by and conspired against by the Jesuits most of his reign as Patriarch. Get your history straight man.

    “and soon afterwards a council was convened..

    >1672. Soon afterwards? You mean 34 years afterwards. Get it straight man. This man was a Calvinist before he was elected to Patriarchy of Constantinople in 1620. He was lawfully elected as a Calvinist.

    “church leaders will fall into error…

    >No, no, no, don’t twist it. He was a Calvinist before he was elected Patriarch. He did not “fall” into Calvinism as a Church leader, he was elected a Church leader as a Calvinist. Read the book “Protestant Patriarch”.

    “You cannot, I repeat, CANNOT understand Orthodoxy from the books alone, you must VISIT a local Orthodox parish and INTERACT with real live Orthodox Christians.”

    >I have. I took a 12 week theology course at the Orthodox Church here in Louisville. I have attended a service and learned all the elements of the liturgy.

    “Re. cessationism, of course not, if the bishops could claim new revelations then we would have the Montanist heresy all over again.”

    > Ok so cessationism means you don’t believe in new special revelation. I ask you if you admit to it, you say of course not and then deny new special revelations. Rob, you keep convincing me that I am wasting my time here.

    “there is room for disagreement on a lot of things. When it comes to the Real Presence, the basic Orthodox position is that it is a mystery. “

    >So you think that ambiguous mysteries that your theologians still cannot agree on are “a stability and coherence unmatched by the best Protestantism has to offer”. Give me a break. Thanks for keeping me a Protestant Rob. The more you type the more I am convinced you are wrong.

  20. Triadic,

    “A lot of the Protestant detractors here think that Orthodox converts are saying, “if you don’t have an infallible ___________, then you can’t know anything.”

    Read Perry Robinson’s article, The Open Door
    “http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/the-open-door/”

    That is exactly Perry’s point in this article is that without an infallible authority you cannot know anything about the Bible.

  21. I really don’t think Perry is saying that. I think he was using an internal critique against the JWs. I distinctly remember him saying what I said–in fact, I took that line from Perry–in a debate against Rhoblogy.

    Or maybe not. I’ve heard both. I think he is using a different strategy against the JWs. Maybe he is saying something along the lines of “people who argue from the Bible are presupposing the normativity of tradition,” since to use the Bible requires the Canon, which is from tradition. When I read that link a few months ago that was my impression of the conversation.

  22. Has anyone actually gone to take a look at Kevin’s blog? If not, I’d advise doing so before continuing the discussion here (and perhaps dialogue a bit over there) and before drawing conclusions about his beliefs/affiliations from his comments here.

    Kevin, I really liked your May 5 post re: Ecumenism . . ., etc., and see a lot of common ground between a lot of your convictions expressed there and mine as I have encountered and appreciated many thoughtful Christians evidencing the activity of the Holy Spirit and real encounter with Christ in their lives (albeit imperfectly, as also with me) from many varied Christian traditions. I wonder if there is also more commonality between the Orthodox understanding of Apostolic Succession and yours than you think. My enquiry about the conflation issue for you and Tim between Roman Catholic understandings and Orthodox still stands.

    Orthodox ecclesiology is a big hurdle to get over for anyone whose first encounters with Christ and spiritual formation have been in a Protestant tradition, and I don’t think I could have had the courage to tackle it if it hadn’t been for the fact that, to quote Fr. Gregory Rogers, “Most modern Orthodox thinkers, when looking at the tragedy of a divided Christendom, say that while we can say where the Church is, we can’t always say where it isn’t” (from his booklet on Apostolic Succession). It has also been extremely helpful that Orthodox refuse to make any blanket judgments about a person’s salvation based on his/her formal relationship with the institutions of the Orthodox Church. Because I am “officially” Orthodox does not automatically mean I will be among the saved on Judgment Day, nor does the fact that someone is not Orthodox (and in some instances not even explicitly Christian) mean that they will be among the condemned. Having said that, I have to say that for me, personally, Orthodox ecclesiology has also been the biggest gift to my spiritual life since Christ met with me and kindled a love for Him in my young heart by hearing Gospels stories read in a Methodist Sunday School (in N. Ireland) when I was a grade school child.

    Consider also this quote from a contemporary Orthodox bishop (who has been officially recognized now as one of the Orthodox Church’s Saints):

    http://solzemli.wordpress.com/2009/09/22/metropolitan-philaret-of-new-york-on-the-faith-of-non-orthodox-christians/

    Food for thought. Hope it at least dispels some misconceptions/misperceptions.

    1. Nice, thoughtful post Karen (and true)…Kevin is my friend, and is a far better man than he sometimes protrays himself to be…(kinda like me!) 🙂
      “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners.”

  23. Rev. Kevin D. Johnson,

    This just came to my mind. You called the non-Anglo-catholic high church Anglicans Reformed. In a way I will agree with you, but in another sense I will not. I was raised Baptist but I left that to become Anglo-Catholic for a number of years before becoming Orthodox, and so I am familiar with a number of Episcopalians saying that there is a difference between high-church Anglicanism and Anglo-catholicism. This is why I said “high high Anglicanism” in my previous post. Back when I was in an Anglo-Catholic parish in the ECUSA, there were three groups. The low church, the broad church, and the high church. Now some will make a distinction between high church and Anglo-Catholicism, but in general there were 3 groups.

    In one sense the high church Anglicans before the Oxford movement did share in the Reformed tradition (by way of Zurich not necessarily by way of Geneva). But in another sense they didn’t. Like for instance, the topic of this blog post is in the area of Sola Scriptura. Now I could be wrong, but I believe the enemies(the Caroline Divines) of the puritans held to the view of Prima Scriptura. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to ignore the Anglicans for it could be said that we Orthodox also hold to a Prima Scriptura view. Now you had issues with Keith A. Mathison’s book, but his position is not that far away from us(Orthodox) and the Anglican Caroline Divines. And so if you are going to include the high Anglicans before the time of the Oxford movement then you will have to accept Prima Scriptura as being a valid “Reformed protestant” view/position. And you might have to revise what you said about Keith A. Mathison’s in regards to it and the Classical Protestant view. Most Calvinists I run into never heard of the term(Prima Scriptura) before. But the ones I run into that do know of it’s existence actually despise it for they think it’s something that belongs to the Methodist tradition. And so to include it would cause confusion. Thus it would be best to leave the Lutherans and Anglicans out when talking about the issue of the Reformed tradition within Classical Protestantism. Now I agree with you that there are times in where we will have to include the other traditions(you mentioned one of the founders of Mercersburg Theology as an example), but in general I think it would be best to stick to non-Lutheran and non-high Anglican traditions when talking about the Reformed tradition in Classical Protestantism. Yes there are exceptions to the rule, but to keep things simple and not confusing it would be best to limit our attention to a certain stream within Classical Protestantism.

    I find it interesting that you want to stress Classical Protestantism as a principle and not necessarily limited as a set number of groups that existed in the past.

  24. I want to thank Robert for taking the time to write such a detailed reply to my questions and also for the fair summary of where I was coming from. Despite some of the ad hominems thrown at Robert in the discussion, I think he is doing a great job here with this site in opening up discussion (and through it, hopefully increased mutual understanding) between the reformed and the Orthodox. It is within that spirit that I wish to throw some more questions onto the table for discussion.

    The alternative Robert provided to the model I found problematic is much more satisfying and avoids most of the practical problems associated both with Solo Scriptura, Sola Scriptura and Branch Theory (I will respond in a moment to Kevin’s contention that Robert’s ‘solution’ hinged on a false caricature of Protestantism). However, I do wonder sometimes if the architecture of Robert’s argumentation often implicitly hinges on making the non sequitur leap from (A) the EO model is more pragmatically satisfying; that is, it works better, to (B) therefore the EO model is true. He never made this progression explicitly but I did detect it implicitly a number of times. But Robert, how would you respond to someone who said that maybe the truth just is unsatisfying? As human beings we want things to make sense, and it would be nice to be able to say that the ecumenical councils cannot error or to make the type of claims about Mother Church that EO makes. But merely because a position is pragmatically superior doesn’t mean it is true. Or if it does mean that, we would have to first establish that through priori argumentation.

    Consider, it may be pragmatically superior and satisfying for a man to believe that his wife is faithful when she is not, but he’s better off believing the cold truth about her than not. In a similar way, one could argue that Protestantism is realistic (painfully and uncomfortably realistic) to the reality of human sin and the types of potential for corruption that we find suggested in verses such as Acts 20:25 and elsewhere.

    Taking this and applying it to some of the epistemological problems behind the discussion (which I want to look at more closely momentarily) what would you say, Robert, to someone who claimed that the best we can do is a probabilistic approach to theological knowledge which recognises that the finitude (and therefore partial relativity) of the knowing human subject makes indubitable certitude not only impossible but unrealistic (and maybe even idolatrous). We note the way that we trust and love and operate without certainty; we note the bankruptcy of the alternatives; we delight in the stronger certainties (but never indubitable) of the cross and resurrection; we anticipate greater clarity with the passage of time; and we “get on with it.”

    Robert wrote, “This is why apostolic succession matters so much for the Orthodox. Continuity in episcopal succession and continuity in teaching are two important means for safeguarding the proper reading of the Scripture. Continuity in teaching can be verified through reading the Church Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils. This means of verification guards us from the secret knowledge of the Gnostics and heretical innovations. Formal apostolic succession is not enough; there must also be continuity in teaching — fidelity. The Church of Rome can claim formal episcopal succession but after the Schism of 1054 its theological system became increasingly removed from its patristic base.”

    OK, but again, just because something is essential to guard us from error doesn’t mean it’s true. Israel didn’t have apostolic succession but they were still the people of God or the ‘true church’ if you will, so we would have to first establish that the New Testament promises to guide the church into all truth actually mean successfully safeguarding the proper reading of scripture in the way claimed by EO. But that would have to be an exegetical argument and not an appeal to church teaching or else the EO apologist is begging the question.

    1. Robin,

      Thank you for your in-depth response! I’m glad you took the time to think through your response. I ask for your patience in return. I will need to give your response the attention they deserve.

  25. Robert wrote,

    “I found sola scriptura to be a heavy burden because I was compelled to assess the latest theological fads against my study of Scripture. I gave up on sola scriptura when I concluded that it was incapable of producing a coherent theology capable of uniting Protestantism. I found the branch theory espoused by Keith Mathison of very little practical value. I often felt like I was standing under a leaking umbrella in the pouring rain wishing that I was safe and dry in a house. I found a roof over my head and a spiritual banquet — the Eucharist — laid out every Sunday when I became Orthodox. To become Orthodox I had to renounce sola scriptura but in its place I gained the true Church founded by the apostles. Orthodoxy’s theological system has a stability and coherence unmatched by the best Protestantism has to offer.”

    I can relate to everything Robert wrote above (I will respond in a moment to the contention that this is a caricature of Protestantism) and I can see that Orthodoxy’s theological system has a stability and coherence unmatched by the best Protestantism has to offer. But where does that actually get us? To establish that the EO church has theological stability and coherence is not necessarily to establish that it is true. It might, for example, possess the stability of stagnation and the coherence of heterodoxy, so we would need argumentation to show that this wasn’t the case.

    It has been suggested in the preceding discussion that these alleged problems in Protstantism which create this sense of psychological uncertainty which Kevin has so scorned arise because of a half-hearted gnostic caricature of Protestantism which is quite distinct from classical Protestantism. Properly understood, the argument goes, Protestantism is not a leaky umbrella in which rain can come in, but a safe house since it does actually preserve a high Ecclesiology. However, as I pointed out in the original post that Robert was interacting with, if you carry the axioms of Protestantism far enough you end up exactly with the type of leaky-umbrella situation that Robert described experiencing when he was a Protestant. A reformed Presbyterian Bible teacher and author once told me that if I privately concluded that Jesus isn’t God, then as a good Protestant I would be bound to also infer that the Arians truly represented the apostolic tradition and that all the early councils were heretical gatherings. Apart from the problem of circularity, it is hard to see what is the practical cash value for contending, as Sola Scriptura apparently does, that we must interpret scripture through the lens of the subordinate authority of historic tradition if our interpretation of scripture is what defines the boundaries of that tradition in the first place. If we extrapolate the implications far enough, how can we keep Sola Scriptura from collapsing into the Anabaptist doctrine of Solo Scriptura? This throws us back to the question of whose understanding of the Word of God ought to be normative in measuring the traditions that are meant to serve as subordinate guides beneath the authority of scripture? Is my own personal understanding of God’s Word meant to be the yardstick? In that case, we are back to the radical individualism of the Anabaptists and the modern evangelical movements. Or is the reformed church’s understanding of God’s Word meant to be the yardstick by which traditions are measured? If yes, then I have either reached that position by studying scripture, in which case it is self-contradictory, or I have merely assumed it, in which case I am question-begging. Of course, everyone, must exercise private judgment in satisfying the conditions of knowledge (after all, the choice to follow the Pope or embrace EO tradition is itself a judgment that must be made by the private individual), just as every mathematician exercises individual judgment when answering math problems. However, in math there are normative standards that can guide individual judgment and determine whether my personal judgment is correct or not. Sola Scriptura doesn’t seem to provide any such normatives since even the subordinate authority of church tradition has boundaries that are up for grabs should my interpretation of scripture change. Putting the problem another way, since all traditions on the Protestant view must conform to our personal understanding of the Word of God in order to be legit, then saying that we interpret the Bible through the lens of a legitimate subordinate tradition (i.e., the apostolic faith) is simply another way of saying we interpret the Bible through the lens of our interpretation of the Bible. And again, the Arian might use that argument with equal consistency. Nor would it be easy to know how to answer the Arian if he went on to parody Luther’s famous appeal to individual conscience: “I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God…it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience.” Of course, Luther believed that his convictions had continuity with the historic teaching of the church. But ultimately, it was his interpretation of scripture that enabled him to identify what was in fact the historic teaching of the church. Ergo, the only reason a Protestant doesn’t feel the type of leaky umbrella syndrome that Robert describes is because the Protestant isn’t being completely consistent. The fact that Protestants like Kevin exist which do not feel the same problem does not mean that the problem is not objectively inherent to the axioms of Protestantism, only that some Protestants exist which are not 100% consistent with their Protestant presuppositions.

    But why should we even be expected to be completely consistent, given Robert’s criticisms of Western “syllogistic reasoning and the insistence on logical consistency”? There are many areas of life where we have to hold competing truths in tension without carrying such truths to their logical conclusion, as Chesterton showed in chapter two of Orthodoxy. Real life is often fuzzy and messy, and this seems to echo the perilous dialectic at the heart of classical Protestantism.

  26. Robert wrote, “Protestantism also believes in apostolicity but in a quite different manner. It believes that after the apostles died the apostolic witness continued solely in an inscripturated form and that the authority of Scripture is independent of the church. Where Orthodoxy assumes an essential continuity between the apostles and the post-apostolic church, the Protestant model interposes a series of ruptures or discontinuities. It assumes that the post-apostolic church quickly fell into heresy and apostasy, and that the Gospel was rediscovered with the Protestant Reformation.” Is that essential to Protestantism or accidental? I mean, couldn’t a Protestant just correct that aspect of Protestantism and still remain a Protestant? But doesn’t this all hinge on a bit of a false dilemma anyway? If our only options are between (A) the Orthodox view of apostolic succession, with the consequence that the church has and always has had genuine God-appointed authority, and that such authority is located in the EO church; and (B) the common Protestant view that the true church fell off the board, maybe flaming up once in a while with people like Hus or a small ‘remnant’ from time to time, but basically not existing until the reformation “rediscovered” it, then A is clearly the more Biblical, given the strong statements that the apostles themselves made about the church (“pillar and ground of the truth” etc). But isn’t there a third option, namely that the true church did exist throughout all of the Middle Ages in the institution of the Roman Catholic church and the Eastern Orthodox church, and that the true church still exists today in all three of the main branches of Christendom? Since the visible church, within this schema, does not imply perfection or apostolic succession, the Protestant who adopts this position can affirm both that the Western church of the Middle Ages acquired significant defects without denying that it ever stopped being the true church. So basically, the Orthodox are and have always been the true church, the Catholics have and always have been the true church, and the Protestants are and always have been the true church (excluding the Protestant sects like Mormonism, obviously). One could then say, as Philip Schaff did in The Principle of Protestantism, that the Reformation was the greatest act of the catholic church since the apostles, that Luther was simply unfolding the best of the historical church’s theology, and further sharpening it with his additional exegetical insights. The Protestant reformation was a purifying and reposition of what was already there. This position preserves the basic Protestant emphasis that the church can go wrong (even grossly so) without lapsing into option B above where the church dropped off the board to be rediscovered.

  27. I appreciated Robert rooting EO in history the way he did, and this echoes what other Eastern Orthodox brothers have told me about the claims of the EO church standing or falling on history. As Robert wrote, “The advantage of Orthodoxy’s stress on historicity is that it lends itself to external verification.” However, I don’t think approach comes without any problems of its own. Apart from the point that Tim made about historical truths not being necessary truths (which I do not feel has been properly answered yet), my only question would be: how do we avoid the problem of each person being his own individual pope when interpreting history? Don’t think I am succumbing to sophistry in asking this question; it is actually quite practical because I often feel (when assessing the arguments presented by EO apologists) that one would almost have to have a PhD in history to adequately adjudicate between their claims and those of Protestant historians. I’ve given myself a headache on more than one occasion just trying to adjudicate between EO historiography and RC historiography. Therefore, it is by not means certain that the Eastern Orthodox have not replaced the problem of private interpretation of scripture with the equally difficult problem of private interpretation of history. Thus, to echo a point that Tim has already made, (and which has not yet been adequately addressed) if the individual cannot be trusted to interpret scripture for himself, how can he be trusted to interpret history for himself?

  28. Robert wrote, “An Orthodox bishop cannot disregard the Ecumenical Councils. He cannot disregard the church calendar with its feasts and holy days. That would be like a politician dismissing the US Constitution as a piece of paper….What does one do if the bishop becomes heterodox? The first thing is to make sure one has the facts right. If one acts in haste then the peace and harmony of the church gets disrupted. Let’s say that a bishop does go off the rails, then one can raise the issue with one’s priest and with other laity. One can appeal to other bishops in America and abroad.”

    But doesn’t this assume that the majority are still trustworthy? But how do we know that? How do we know that a priest is going to stay as loyal to the Ecumenical Councils as a politician should stay loyal to the US Constitution? (I haven’t yet read Robert’s’ post about Apostolic Succession, again in response to an article of mine, so forgive me if these questions are answered there) Given that the East teaches that the entire Western church fell off the board, we surely cannot rule out a priori that the bishops cannot disregard the Ecumenical Councils. When we factor in verses like Acts 20:25, together with the fact that the bishops in the West who are (by EO standards) heterodox were also claimants of Apostolic Succession, it seems problematic to maintain a priori that the true church cannot error institutionally.

    Robert cited II Timothy 2:2 as a proof text for Apostolic Succession, but according to my own private interpretation of the passage, the blessed brother Paul is issuing a command rather than a promise. We could say that because Apostolic Succession is true it follows that my private interpretation is flawed by virtue of being my private interpretation, but then wouldn’t that be begging the question?

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