Solo versus Sola Scriptura: What’s the Diff?

 

Luther Invoking Sola Scriptura at the Diet of Wurms
Luther Invoking Sola Scriptura at the Diet of Wurms

Father Andrew Stephen Damick recently wrote: Protestants and a Churchless Tradition: “Sola” vs. “Solo” Scriptura.  It’s an excellent article and I encourage readers to read the entire article.  In this article I have excerpted parts of Father Andrew’s article and used it as a basis my take on what is happening with the recent rediscovery of historic sola scriptura by Evangelicals.

 

Hipster Liturgist  Source

The Latest Evangelical Fad – Tradition is Cool!

Fr. Andrew describes the high church fad sweeping the Evangelical world:

Charismatics are celebrating Lent. Baptists are talking about the Eucharist. The inscrutable maybe-universalist and now Oprah-darling Rob Bell is even using the phrase the tradition. Maybe this tradition stuff isn’t so bad. I can branch out a little. I can line up some Athanasius next to my MacArthur, and a volume or two of Gregory of Nyssa next to my Bonhoeffer. Osteen still goes somewhere preferable near the bottom. (Who gave me that book, anyway?) Maybe we’ll put Origen down there with him. Both are questionable, right? Oh, hey, I’ve heard Ratzinger is kind of interesting. And that “wounded healer” Nouwen guy’s onto something. Has anyone heard of someone named “Schmemann”?

Welcome to the club, the Lutherans and certain Reformed types say. We’ve been waiting for you. Help yourself to some creeds. We hope you’ll stay for some liturgy.

And we hope you’ve discovered the difference between sola and solo scriptura.

 

Simple Fundamentalism versus Sophisticated Evangelicalism

Most Evangelicals grew up on what Keith Mathison calls solo scriptura.  They were taught that all that is needed is the Bible – no external authority or assistance is needed for understanding Scripture.  (See my review of Keith Mathison’s The Shape of Sola Scripture.) This approach can be traced to Alexander Campbell, an American revivalist who lived in the early 1800s.  Out of the frontier revivals came the motto: No creed but Christ, no book but the Bible.

In recent years Evangelicals in growing numbers have begun to discover Church history. They are venturing beyond Evangelicalism’s provincial sub-culture to explore the broad and diverse Christian traditions: historic Protestant Reformation, early Christianity, mysticism, Roman Catholicism, and Orthodoxy.  They soon discover that the original Protestant Reformers were not afraid to use creeds or to cite the early church fathers and that the Bible only slogan they grew up on is different from what Luther and Calvin taught.  Classical sola scriptura while affirming Scripture as the supreme authority in matters of faith and practice allowed for creeds and the early church fathers.  The original Reformers had a far higher view of the church compared to many Evangelicals today who question whether church membership is necessary to Christian discipleship.

 

Is Sola Scriptura Enough?

In recent years Evangelicals have begun to question and criticize solo scriptura.  Keith Mathison points out that solo scriptura results in everything being evaluated in accordance with the individual believer’s opinion of what is Scriptural.  As a corrective Evangelicals like Mathison have begun to call for a more communal and historically informed approach to Scripture, i.e., sola scriptura.

Father Andrew notes that to say sola scriptura involves a communal reading of Scripture leads to important questions about the church.

The Church is there to help. The Church will interpret the Bible together. I don’t have to go it alone.

But what if my church is wrong? What about when my church interprets it in a manner that contradicts the Methodists down the block? Who’s right? Just read the Scripture? But that’s what I’ve been doing!

What is missing here is ecclesiology.

Father Andrew notes:

One can say that the Church has authority to interpret Scripture, but which Church? Is it all of them? What about the fact that they don’t all agree? And no, they don’t even all agree on essentials. “Which Church?” is a critical question, and it’s one that isn’t being asked very much in these discussions. Still further, “What is the Church?” is also just as critical, and I fear it’s also gotten lost somewhere. The second question finally leads to the first. If you can figure out what the Church is, then you will realize that not all “churches” are the Church.

If not all churches are the Church, then that means there’s got to be one that is that One. The Bible talks about only one.

Thus, historic sola scriptura becomes deeply problematic in light of Protestantism’s deep rooted denominationalism.  I have called this “Protestantism’s fatal genetic flaw.” (See article.)

 

Cause for Rejoicing

Father Andrew finds Evangelicalism’s recent discovery of church tradition cause for rejoicing.

I’m overjoyed, of course, that Baptists, Lutherans, Calvinists and others should want to read the Church Fathers, sign onto the ancient creeds, and so forth. This is very good news, and I can only believe that it is likely they will thereby move closer to the faith that I hold as an Orthodox Christian.

We also rejoice with Father Andrew that Evangelicals are discovering the early Church and that they are discovering the Liturgy.  Evangelicals are rediscovering their family roots and finding out about the ancient treasures of historic Christianity.

This has given rise to a curious kind of ecumenicism.  Some Evangelicals tell me that they too reject sola scriptura (i.e., they reject solo scriptura) and that they too accept church tradition like the Orthodox.  Or they will maintain that classical Protestantism like Orthodoxy allows for creeds, liturgies, and the church fathers.  What is being implied here is that high church Evangelicalism is just as much a part of the one Church as the Orthodox.  However, on closer inspection there are problems here. It becomes increasingly obvious there is a superficiality to the recent Evangelical rush to embrace church tradition.

 

Cherry Picking Church History

One thing that stands out about the recent Evangelical embrace of early Christianity and church tradition is how decidedly/overwhelmingly Protestant it all is.   While contemporary Evangelicals can pride themselves for being well read, and more historically informed than their Fundamentalist cousins — they both come from the same Protestant family tree.  Father Andrew writes:

This is finally the problem with Protestants laying claim to elements of Christian tradition while still retaining sola scriptura—it all becomes just “texts,” resources that can be called on or discarded as the individual sees fit for himself. I like it when Basil speaks highly of Scripture but not when Ignatius speaks highly of the bishop. I like it when Athanasius insists on the homoousios but not all that “man becomes god” stuff. I like Chrysostom’s commentaries on Scripture but not Cyprian’s insistence that you cannot have God for your Father without the Church for your mother.

This kind of individualism has never been part of Orthodoxy. To be Orthodox is to accept Holy Tradition and to live under the authority of the bishops the appointed guardians of Tradition.  What we find in the Orthodox Church: the Divine Liturgy, the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the early Church Fathers, the Sacraments, the priestly order, the icons, comprise an integrated package known as Holy Tradition.  These are all the result of the Holy Spirit guiding the Church.

And Holy Tradition is not simply anything one might find lurking somewhere in Christian history.   . . . .   Rather, it is the living reality of Christ in His Church, vivifying the Church by the Holy Spirit. No new dogmas are revealed, because everything was revealed in Christ. There is an ongoing revelation, but it is a revelation of the same things, the same God Who wishes to be known by every person.

This understanding that the Holy Spirit guides the Church is a very crucial point.  Father Andrew notes that for Keith Mathison, God inspires Scripture – but God does not necessarily inspire His Church.  This despite Christ’s promise in Scripture! (see John 14:26, 16:13)  Protestantism’s refusal to believe the Holy Spirit inspires the Church (likely a reaction against Papal authority) resulted in the individualistic interpretation of Scripture: Luther, Calvin, Wesley, one’s pastor, one’s favorite TV preacher or seminary professor giving rise to the current plethora of Protestant denominations.

 

What’s the Diff?

In the end the differences between Fundamentalism’s solo scriptura and high church Evangelicalism’s sola scriptura are inconsequential.  It is like the difference between the practical, plainly dressed Fundamentalist who likes Hal Lindsey and Charles Stanley and his upscale hip Evangelical cousin who likes Henri Nouwen, G.K. Chesterton, and Alexander Schmemann.  Having descended from the same Protestant family tree they both retain their individualistic autonomy.  Even the Reformed Christian who recently discovers the church fathers and believes in the real presence in the Eucharist do so as a matter of individual choice.  There is not the slightest ecclesiastical consequence for wholesale rejection of the historic Church’s view of bishop rule, the Seven Ecumenical Councils, the Liturgy and Eucharist.  Each denomination (individual?) can have their own unique view of these things.

For Protestants church is a place of fellowship and mutual encouragement, a temporary rest spot before moving on.  Tragically absent in Evangelicalism is the biblical understanding of the Church as “the pillar and foundation of truth.” (1 Timothy 3:15)  Orthodoxy affirms it is the one holy catholic and apostolic Church confessed in the Nicene Creed.  This is something most Evangelicals and Protestants would hesitate to affirm about their particular denomination.  Most Evangelicals have no problem with the notion of an invisible Church, but this leaves them with no concrete authoritative Church here on earth to guide them and provide them safe shelter from heresies.

 

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Children in the Attic

 

Father Andrew closes his article with the wonderful image of tiny rowboats, all bumping up against the great Ark of Salvation, the Church.  Allow me to suggest an alternative word picture.  I am reminded of the scene where a group of children stuck in the house on a rainy day, make their way to the attic.  Opening antique trunks they discover old dresses and clothes their ancestors wore years ago in the old country.  They put on the old clothes and pretend to reenact life in the old days.  The magic of the old days fills the attic for a brief moment on that rainy afternoon, but after awhile they tire of it and go downstairs to resume their “normal” everyday twenty first century life as before.  Before you know it, they will find another new fun hobby.  But for those of us who believe church history is the fulfillment of Christ’s promise in John 16:13 and who believe that ancient Church of yesterday continues in the Orthodox Church today we bid others to cross the Bosphorus with us.  We converted to Orthodoxy not because it’s coolbut because it’s true.

Robert Arakaki

 

See also

Robert Arakaki.  “Book Review: The Shape of Sola Scriptura.” OrthodoxBridge. 4 June 2011.

Robert Arakaki.  “Protestantism’s Fatal Genetic Flaw:  Sola Scriptura and Protestantism’s Hermeneutical Chaos.”  OrthodoxBridge.  3 January 2012.

Robert Arakaki.  “Crossing the Bosphorus.”  OrthodoxBridge.  15 January 2013.

Chris Armstrong.  “The Future Lies in the Past: Why evangelicals are connecting with the early church as they move into the 21st century.”  Christianity Today.  8 February 2008.

Holgrave.  “Hipster liturgists: or, Why I am an Episcopalian.”  Hipster Conservative.  25 August 2014.

Frederica Mathewes-Green.  “The Emerging Church and Orthodoxy.”  Precipice Magazine.   7 July 2007.

Keith Mathison.  “Solo Scriptura: The Difference a Vowel Makes.”  Modern Reformation. March/April 2007.

Steve Woodworth.  “How Hipsters Became More Powerful than the Gates of Hell.”  The Thursday Circle.  15 August 2013.

 

136 comments:

  1. Well said and written Robert. Lord have mercy.

    As for FrAndrew’s closing: “…the wonderful image of tiny rowboats, all bumping up against the great Ark of Salvation, the Church.” we pray more and more of our
    protestant and other brothers will lose all fear, and find the courage to grab hold
    of one of the many life-lines thrown down to them in their tiny boats, bidding them come aboard for the fullness of life in the Church “once for all delivered to the saints.”

    As for your picture, the “old clothes from the attic” fit & feel amazingly well, comfortable with the smell of old incense, far quicker than you think. and much
    of the old baggage brought with you finds is rightful home. Come…to the Church and live. Lord have mercy.

  2. Or as a friend of mine about to convert to Orthodoxy from a conservative branch of Presbyterianism aptly wrote in a recent e-mail: “. . . the Reformers simply replaced the Papal Magisterium with sola scriptura, elevating the Bible in the place of the Pope as far as teaching authority of the church.”

  3. If I may ‘wade’ in on this, between the boats of EO and the Reformed that is :), what would you say about this illustration?
    The Blessed Virgin Mary grew the Christ in her womb, gave birth to him, and then nurtured him in his infancy. Once He was established, though, it became evident that He was greater than that which had gave birth to him. Consequently, all things, even the Blessed Mary, must from then on must be judged and examined by His light and testimony.

    Likewise, the Holy Spirit initially taught believers through the oral tradition of the Apostles, but He then saw fit to have them record their testimony as a permanent record. While this record was preserved and protected by its mother (the Church), once established it was evident that the written word would be the measure or final arbiter by which to judge its teachings after the passing of the Apostles and their associates (as statements such as II Thessalonians 2:15, II Timothy 2:2 were written before this happened).

    Why do this – “it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:3-4). To better understand the eastern mindset on the written word versus the oral, consider the example of Ahasuerus/Xerxes in Esther. Once Xerxes had the order to kill all Jews written and sealed there was nothing even he could do to undo that. Words were written to provide the certainty of truth (Prov. 22:21-22) and authority over all other things, even the oral commands of the King.

    All of this would then find accord with statements such as these from some early Church Fathers (which I think undercut such assertions by Basil about their being secret oral traditions passed on indefinitely):
    Gregory of Nyssa:
    “…we make the Holy Scriptures the rule and the measure of every tenet; we necessarily fix our eyes upon that, and approve that alone which may be made to harmonize with the intention of those writings.”
    Cyril:
    “For concerning the divine and holy mysteries of the Faith, not even a casual statement must be delivered without the Holy Scriptures; nor must we be drawn aside by mere plausibility and artifices of speech. Even to me, who tell you these things; give not absolute credence, unless thou receive the proof of the things which I announce from the Divine Scriptures. “
    Augustine:
    “The authority of these books has come down to us from the apostles through the successions of bishops and the extension of the Church, and, from a position of lofty supremacy, claims the submission of every faithful and pious mind….Scripture has a sacredness peculiar to itself.”
    Theodoret:
    “Orth.— Do not, I beg you, bring in human reason. I shall yield to scripture alone.
    Eran.— You shall receive no argument unconfirmed by Holy Scripture, and if you bring me any solution of the question deduced from Holy Scripture I will receive it, and will in no wise gainsay it.”

    Now I understand from previous statements you have made that the EO do not place Tradition above or below Scripture, but insists that the two are mutually intertwined and dependent on one another. However, when you consider the statements above, which speak of the written word providing certainty, being the rule and measure, or affirming its lofty supremacy or peculiar sacredness, it is hard to understand how Scripture is not given ultimate primacy over any other aspect of Tradition in the modern Eastern Orthodox Church. As well, contra Basil, there can be nothing outside of it. Now I confess that Tradition is needed to serve as the interpretative lens to understand Scripture, but it is a submissive concurrence, not an authorization of it. For example, the Western Orthodox Church, i.e. Continuing Anglicanism :), speaks simply of the sufficiency of Scripture. Echoing Gregory and Cyril above almost verbatim – “Holy Scriptures containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the faith”.

    1. Erik, I’m sorry but this seems to be but a restatement of the bankrupt protestant argument. IF…the Fathers of the Church HAD taken your protestant view above (after settling the “Cannon of Scripture”)…there would have been calls for new Ecumenical Councils to completely “Re-Do” what the Church had done, in the 400-500s AD similar to the protestant reformation a 1,000 years later. There would have been a wholesale repudiation on Holy Tradition…the place and Rule of Bishops, the Divine Liturgy, The Eucharist, Theotokos, the Trinity, Christology…ALL had to be reworked in terms of “sola/solo scriptura”.

      Sorry…this did NOT happen. There is not a whiff of this…because they did not speak or read your quotes thought the biased lens of Protestant assumptions and presuppositions. Rather, the Father’s loyalty to Scripture arose within the context of Holy Tradition where they had been written and judged by the Church…just as Stefano intimates below…and Robert and FrAndrew explain above. Sorry, as they say, that protestant dog just won’t hunt.

      1. I’m not actually arguing for sola scriptura, I advocate for prima scripture – see my reply to Stefano below.

        I don’t see anything in EO teaching with regards to Bishops, Liturgy, the Eucharist, Theotokos, the Trinity, or Christology that would need to be reworked in light of prima scriptura. I think the case can be made that these things explicitly appear or can be logically deduced from the depth and breadth of all Scripture.

        1. I like this Erik…and also your gracious spirit about looking & learning. Yet my question to you is Why? Why do you believe these things? Is it mostly because of your own individual independent studies happen to agree that the Fathers’ teachings are “logical” in you own mind? OR, do you believe because you have good reason to assume the Holy Spirit has lead the Church and Father into truth…and you grant the Fathers and Church Councils got it right…a prima-facie credibility in their own reading of Scripture? [Sorry to have misunderstood you above brother. ;-)]

          1. Why – in short, reading Scripture in light of undivided Church history. For example, independent study of Scripture would lead me to conclude that it could advocate either a Presbyterian or Conciliar-Episcopal form of church polity. However, teachings of the Apostolic Fathers like Ignatius explicitly describe a three-fold government of bishop, presbyter, and deacon. It is hard to argue that someone who sat at the very feet of John the Apostle could be misinformed on such matters. This coupled with the fact that an Episcopal form was practiced everywhere by the undivided church is pretty convincing.

            As for councils, I submit to their authority because this method of settling disputes is patterned by the Scriptures, specifically the Council of Jerusalem in Acts.

        2. Erik,

          Could you give us a definition of “prima scriptura”? And how does it differ from the classical “sola scriptura” in practice? That would help the conversation.

          Robert

          1. “The Church hath power to decree rites or ceremonies and authority in controversies of faith; and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to God’s word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ: yet, as it ought not to decree anything against the same…Whosoever through his private judgement willingly and purposely doth openly break the traditions and ceremonies of the Church which be not repugnant to the word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly that other may fear to do the like…”
            I think sola scriptura would not give this kind of authority to the Church
            Demonstrated in practice:
            Jesus honored the celebration of Hanukkah (John 10) even though it was not specifically ordained by God but was still faithful to the Scriptures, but on the other hand Jesus rebuked those who sat in the seat of Moses for peddling traditions that were repugnant to the spirit of Scripture (Mark 7)

  4. I always thought that there was basically no difference between ‘solo scriptura’ and ‘sola scriptura’. Luther took a highly personalised approach to the Scriptures. He picked and chose from the Fathers, Councils, Creeds and liturgy to the degree that they agreed with him. He convinced a lot of people but ultimately these people were in agreement with his (solo) interpretation of the Scriptures. The same goes for Calvin, Menno Simons, John Smyth and Charles Wesley. The solo scriptura types today simply aren’t able to convince large numbers of people of their views so you have religions of one man or people in loose denominations with widely divergent views. Lots of little Protestant popes running around. Same methodology but less cohesive.

    As for Erik’s comments, if the New Testament included everything a Christian needed then it should have been explicit about this. The majority of NT writing are occassional rather than exhaustive. The Church Father quotes that seem to support sola scriptura evaporate when you realise they are operating in the church/tradition/scripture matrix already. Some of them took it for granted that the churches view was ‘obvious’ so they appealed to their opponents to just believe in Scripture when what they actually meant was to accept what the church taught about this verse or that.

    Saint Basil’s remarks on ‘secret tradition’ are often misunderstood. He was certainly not talking about some kind of esoteric hidden teaching. He meant simply those teachings that were taught to and practised by baptised Christians as opposed to catechumens and pagans. Remember no seeker services existed. Worship was only for Christians. If you read Saint Basil’s Treatise on the Holy Spirit his point about Tradition only makes sense if everybody knew the examples he raises. He wants to show that the Holy Spirit has always been worshiped (as God) as shown in liturgical acts like the doxology and baptismal formula.

    There is no ‘Western Orthodox Church’, there simply the Orthodox Church. Sorry Continuing Anglicans but you are (mostly) Protestant. Near enough to Orthodoxy isn’t good enough. Reject schism and heresy and join the ark of salvation.

    1. “if the New Testament included everything a Christian needed then it should have been explicit about this.”
      I’m not arguing that it necessarily has everything for sanctification or edification (e.g. liturgy, polity, etc.), I would just say that it is explicit about salvation.

      “The majority of NT writing are occasional rather than exhaustive.”
      Individual books yes, but I think the case could made that cumulatively (to include the OT) they can exhaustively provide a canon or a measure of judgement for everything else. For example, the use of icons is not explicitly mentioned in the NT, but the case can be made for them when you look at Scripture as a whole and they find harmony with it.

      “The Church Father quotes that seem to support sola scriptura evaporate when you realise they are operating in the church/tradition/scripture matrix already.”
      Actually, my argument was not for solo or sola scriptura but for prima scriptura. I don’t object to it being part of an interrelated matrix, I only object to the idea that it is simply within and not over the other parts – the pinnacle or crowning achievement of teaching if you will. In other words Tradition should either be stated in Scripture or logically deduced from it and I think that accords with the quotes I mentioned.

      Point taken about Basil; that is why I’m engaging here – trying to learn.

      1. Erik,

        Thanks for your thoughts.

        Regarding Scripture, the key question is not whether Scripture is solo or primary. The key question is whether it is the individual or the Church which is the ultimate arbiter in deciding how to interpret Scripture. If your position is that it is the individual, than your position is really not very different from that of sola Scriptura, for you are relying on your private judgement to interpret Scripture and butressing that private judgement with those Fathers that support your judgement.

        I suspect that you have done this (which is sort of proof texting) with the quotes you have provided from various Fathers in support of your view. Yet, these Fathers did not embrace Prima Scriptura; rather, they had a high view of Scripture, which Orthodox do, yet relied on the Church to interpret that Scripture. Moreover, I know of no Father of the Church that believed what you write here:

        “Tradition should either be stated in Scripture or logically deduced from it and I think that accords with the quotes I mentioned.”

        Augustine of Hippo, whom you cite, called the Theotokos “ever-virgin”, not because this was readily deductible from tradition, but because this was true, based on the best evidence available, of which Scripture was just one source. The tradition of the ever-virginity of the Theotokos cannot easily be deduced from Scripture, yet it was believed “everywhere always and by everybody”. So your rule of faith does not accord with Augustine, and he cannot mean what you imply he means.

        Moreover, the canon of Scripture, one of the most important teachings from Tradition, which presumably you accept, cannot be found in Scripture or be deduced from it. So your rule of faith would also not accord with what you believe.

        1. I meant, “Augustine of Hippo, whom you cite, called the Theotokos “ever-virgin”, not because this was readily deductible from Scripture”,

          1. Actually it was pretty standard fare in the OT for people to become or remain celibate once they were specifically commissioned as a prophet or some other special role by God. So it would actually be breaking from the pattern of Scripture for the Blessed Mary to have not remained a virgin.

          2. Erik,

            I wish the argument from Scripture for the Ever Virginity were that simple.

            Actually, in order to accept the Ever Virginity of the Theotokos, one has to accept the importance of interpreting Scripture through the prism of Tradition versus a straightforward understanding of what “brothers” and “until” means. That means one is not deducing Tradition from Scripture, as your description of Prima Scriptura would have you do, but rather understanding Scripture in light of Tradition. Without Tradition, that which is not deduced from Scripture, one tends to arrive at the wrong conclusion regarding the Ever Virginity, as most Protestants do. Scripture seems to say one thing–that the Theotokos had relations with Joseph and that Jesus had brother– but the Church has always understood those confusing Scripture passages in a completely different way.

            So we see in this issue that Scripture is not perspicuous, as both you and the adherents of Sola Scriptura assume, but needs the Church to understand it.

          3. I would disagree, the majority opinion of the Reformers, especially the prima scriptura or even those who took the Mathison version of Sola Scriptura, took the Ever Virgin stance. You can check Luther, Calvin, the Second Helvetic Confession, etc. Those who opposed it come from the solo scriptura we-hate-anything-the-RC Church-believes wing.

          4. Well, it is true that the Reformers including Zwingli all accepted the Ever Virginity of the Theotokos (though it seems Calvin later rejected it). It does not follow, however, that they believed this because they were following Prima Scriptura. Maybe their belief in the Ever Viginity was simply an overlooked vestige of their previous Roman Catholicism, which is why their denominational descendants today no longer accept it.

            As I argued above, the tradition of the Ever Virginity has tenuous support from Scripture, although it part of the deposit of the faith. Even considering the Old Testament reference to celibacy you mention above, would you really suggest that the tradition of the Ever Virginity is “deduced” from Scripture? You would need to make a stronger case to demonstrate that logical deduction than you have. If the Ever Virginity cannot be logically deduced (or the canon of Scripture or fasting on Wednesday and Fridays or a number of other aspects of authentic Christian faith), than your Prima Scriptura rule cannot be true.

            I think, in fact, that your definition of Prima Scriptura rests on at least two assumptions which it shares with Sola Scriptura:

            1) the right to private judgment. You reserve the right to disagree with the Church about what Scripture means;

            2) the perspicuity of Scripture. You imply that understanding Scripture or deducing Tradition therefrom is easy.

            Orthodoxy disagrees with both these assumptions.

          5. “Well, it is true that the Reformers including Zwingli all accepted the Ever-Virginity of the Theotokos (though it seems Calvin later rejected it). It does not follow, however, that they believed this because they were following Prima Scriptura. Maybe their belief in the Ever Viginity was simply an overlooked vestige of their previous Roman Catholicism, which is why their denominational descendants today no longer accept it.”

            My thoughts, exactly, Eric.

            Further to your comment, I see nothing in any of Erik’s comments about appealing to “Prima Scriptura” to tell me it offers a way around the problems raised in Robert’s post for Protestants wishing to make more use of historic Christian tradition.

          6. I am thinking that maybe you didn’t read some of my other comments above in response to questions from David and Robert because your appraisal of prima scriptura doesn’t really jive with what I’ve said there. When I said I disagreed, I wasn’t disagreeing with everything you said, just the part about the Ever Virginity not be relatively easily deduced from Scripture since it fits the mold of the entire Old Testament. I guess we can agree to disagree about that one. But it also doesn’t matter much in the principle of prima scriptura because as I said to David, our understanding of Scripture comes from reading it “in the light of undivided church history”. Or as I defined it to Robert using the 39 Articles:
            “The Church hath power to decree rites or ceremonies and authority in controversies of faith; and yet it is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything contrary to God’s word written, neither may it so expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore, although the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ: yet, as it ought not to decree anything against the same…Whosoever through his private judgement willingly and purposely doth openly break the traditions and ceremonies of the Church which be not repugnant to the word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked openly that other may fear to do the like…”
            I think sola scriptura would not give this kind of authority to the Church
            Demonstrated in practice:
            Jesus honored the celebration of Hanukkah (John 10) even though it was not specifically ordained by God but was still faithful to the Scriptures, but on the other hand Jesus rebuked those who sat in the seat of Moses for peddling traditions that were repugnant to the spirit of Scripture (Mark 7)

            Also, I don’t deny that some things in Scripture are hard to understand; Peter claimed as much about Paul’s writing. On the same token, there are some things that are crystal clear. “God created the heavens and the earth” – I don’t think there is any ambiguity there about who created the heavens and the earth. So prima scriptura do not actually share the two assumptions you listed for it.

          7. It seems you are trying to have your cake and eat it too, a position I understand as a longtime former Anglican and also, thereafter, Continuing Anglican (the Charismatic Episcopal Church). Your “understanding of Scripture comes from reading it in the light of undivided church history”, which yes is different from Sola or at least Solo Scriptura.

            Yet you still reserve the right to disagree with that Church, as the 39 Articles aver, if you judge its doctrines, rituals, or customs contrary to Scripture. So, again your position ultimately collapses into Sola Scriptura, for you are the ultimate authority rather than the Church.

            Your rule of faith for accepting Tradition–i.e. it must be deduced from Scripture, which you state above–cannot be consistently applied. You accept both the Canon of the NT as well as the Ever Virginity, neither of which can be derived, very convincingly in any case, from Scripture. The 39 Articles itself appeals to the authority of the Church for the Canon:

            “By holy Scripture is meant those canonical books of the Old and New Testaments whose authority has never been doubted within the church”.

            So, like the 39 Articles, you are having this rule of Prima Scriptura, except when you don’t.

            The passages of the 39 Articles you cite assume the place of private judgment, which allows one to disregard Church teachings if these are “repugnant to the Word of God”, which of course the individual must decide. The 39 Articles do not exhort one to submit to the Church which follows the consensus of the Fathers. On the contrary, we are told

            “General Councils may not be gathered together without the commandment and will of Princes. And when they be gathered together, (forasmuch as they be an assembly of men, whereof all be not governed with the Spirit and Word of God,) they may err, and sometimes have erred, even in things pertaining unto God. Wherefore things ordained by them as necessary to salvation have neither strength nor authority, unless it may be declared that they be taken out of holy Scripture.”

            The Orthodox position is that the Ecumenical Councils are perhaps the best expression of the consensus of the Fathers and what was believed “everywhere, always, by everyone”–a testament to the work of the Holy Spirit through the Church. We submit to them because the Church did; the 39 Articles would have you submit to them only insofar as you believe they accord with Scripture. Again, Anglicanism still reserves the right to private judgement.

            Also, there is at least an implicit assumption of the perspicuity of Scripture throughout the 39 Articles. The justification for rejecting the veneration of icons or the intercession of the saints, for example, is that these are “repugnant to the Word of God”, (Article 22). There is no mention of how the Fathers or Councils understood Scripture regarding these issues.

  5. I think Orthodox Christians would agree that the Holy Scriptures hold a special place in the Holy Tradition of the Church. Prima Scriptura strikes me as a modern term that doesn’t quite do justice to the church/tradition/scriptures matrix that the Church Fathers operated in. Erik, you sound like you want to hold the Orthodox Church to ransom by insisting that Scripture is somehow ‘over’ it. If Scripture emerged within the Church, and if the Church existed before the writings of the New Testament and if the Church preserved the Scriptures then how can they be above it.

    I’ve heard of this idea that Scriptues plainly teach what is necessary for salvation. I’ve always found it minimalist because it reduces salvation to a set of stark beliefs rather than a life. If you start picking and choosing about which part of Tradition is more important than another then who knows what tangent you could go off on! People might conclude that the Virgin birth is not a core belief necessary for salvation, or that miracles and the intervention of the Holy Spirit has ceased, or the devil doesn’t exist, or that you don’t need the church to be fine with your cosmic buddy.

    Take a Tradition like the use of only human voices as part of worship. The Church has never used musical instruments. This seems very minor. But when you see what worship has become in the rock band churches then you realise how important this Tradition is.

    1. “Erik, you sound like you want to hold the Orthodox Church to ransom by insisting that Scripture is somehow ‘over’ it. If Scripture emerged within the Church, and if the Church existed before the writings of the New Testament and if the Church preserved the Scriptures then how can they be above it.”
      I think it would be better to say that Scripture (both Old & New) emerges from the Holy Spirit and is received by the Church. Since it originates from something that is greater, it is an authority over that which is lesser in the relationship. Or what about the relationship between a bishop and a priest, both are involved in the matrix of Holy Tradition, correct? But wouldn’t you say that a bishop is over a priest? Not in a held ransom sense, but as in an authority to which they must give account. Also, I’m not really sure it can be said that the early church necessarily existed before the NT. Now just hang with me for a second, but if you acknowledge that all of the canonical books were written and dispersed before the death of John, then there was never a time the early church was not without divine revelation (or a living NT) until the written word had first been preserved.

      “I’ve heard of this idea that Scriptures plainly teach what is necessary for salvation. I’ve always found it minimalist because it reduces salvation to a set of stark beliefs rather than a life”
      Well, I think Scripture in more than one place sums up what it takes to at least initially bring one into covenant or union with Christ, such as “what must I do to be saved?…Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved”. However, having said that, I would agree that belief/faith has to be more than mere mental ascent to a proposition, after all even the demons believe. Saving faith in Scripture is always presented as a working living faith.

      “Take a Tradition like the use of only human voices as part of worship. The Church has never used musical instruments.”
      A cappella music is something I have maintained also, in accordance with the early church and their reasoning from Scripture that it was intrinsically tied to sacrificing animals and was therefore not befitting Christians. Of course somebody needs to tell this to the Greek Orthodox Church I visited once, as they were using an organ to accompany their singing.

  6. Thanks for the conversation here. I would like to suggest to Erik, if he has interest and hasn’t already done so, that he visit Fr. Stephen Freeman’s site (https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/) and read a number of articles there on reading (interpreting) the Scriptures from an Orthodox perspective. You can just go over there and put “Scriptures” in the search box and a number of articles will come up that I think would be very useful in helping a Christian from western traditions begin to understand the nature of the Scriptures, the Church, and the question of “authority” in the Church from an Orthodox perspective. His comments, for me, brought Fr. Stephen’s most recent post to mind. This comment of Fr. Stephen’s in the comments thread (dated October 11) of that post I think succinctly hints at why even “prima Scriptura” doesn’t really quite properly describe the relationship between the Church and the Scriptures for the Orthodox:

    God not only gave us a text, He gave us a community in which the text was birthed and that was and is the context of its reading. You cannot remove a text and take its meaning with it – every new community will read it differently. This often creates a “chicken and egg” problem – but in Orthodoxy, the chicken and the egg (the Church and the Scriptures) are virtually simultaneous and they have continuity through the ages. It is one of the most convincing and important reasons that Orthodoxy describes itself as the “true Church.” That continuity has been disrupted everywhere else.

  7. Interesting conversation. Erik’s doing a fine job representing Protestantism, so I will sit this one out. I don’t know if erik mentioned it, but his position sounds a lot like the Anglican Hooker.

    1. Was thinking the same thing Jacob. Erik is a delight and the
      conversation has been fruitful & reminded me of Hooker. Yet
      there is really no option but Individualism…or the validity of
      various “Traditions”. Which compels us to search our hearts
      and minds to sift out just “Which Tradition” carries the most
      plausible and historic-“logic” with it from the Fathers.
      Lord have mercy on us all.

        1. And, the Orthodox answer to this that comes to my mind is “not exclusively”. Spiritual discernment (and this is required for historical discernment as well) is the result of synergy between the human will/heart (not the rules of Aristotelian “logic”) and divine grace. There is no way we will come to know the truth (about Christ, or His working through history) through our rational faculties alone (though, I agree 100% they must be engaged in the process). Consider it was not only the intellectual debates around Scripture and historical precedent in the Church’s tradition that guided the Church Fathers’ decisions about what constituted correct dogma in the various theological controversies that had to be addressed as various heresies cropped up, there were also events that were discerned to be acts of God speaking to the matters at hand. One such I remember reading about was the untimely death near the end of a council of the leading bishop advocating what was ruled to be the heretical viewpoint! (Perhaps Robert knows which council and bishop that was–I don’t remember.) I’m convinced there are little “events” and “coincidences” that God orders into the life of the Church and into the lives of individual seekers and believers that are absolutely essential to their eventual encounter with and embrace of the truth. In our culture, the religious folks who are “right” according to the pristine logical evidence they can present from Scripture and history are a dime a dozen–and it seems no two of them (or groups of them) can fully agree about even some things as central to the Christian faith as what was the motivation of God/the Father in sending His Son to be the Atoning Sacrifice for our sin, and what are the meaning of baptism and the eucharist and what ought to be their form? Such issues of interpretation touch on the very nature of God Himself–the nature and meaning of His love, sovereignty and holiness–as well as how we connect meaningfully with Him. These are not trivial or peripheral from the perspective of the early Church or of the Orthodox.

          1. ***And, the Orthodox answer to this that comes to my mind is “not exclusively”. Spiritual discernment (and this is required for historical discernment as well) is the result of synergy between the human will/heart (not the rules of Aristotelian “logic”) and divine grace. ***

            And no one disagrees with that (and you used Aristotelian logic to make that statement).

            ***There is no way we will come to know the truth (about Christ, or His working through history) through our rational faculties alone (though, I agree 100% they must be engaged in the process).***

            I agree. God must initiate the revealing process. Jonathan Edwards preached a whole sermon on this point.

            ***Consider it was not only the intellectual debates around Scripture and historical precedent in the Church’s tradition that guided the Church Fathers’ decisions about what constituted correct dogma in the various theological controversies that had to be addressed as various heresies cropped up, there were also events that were discerned to be acts of God speaking to the matters at hand.***

            Interpreting events is tricky. One could easily see Muslim invasions as a result of the 7th Council (note: I am not making that claim). I’m saying the argument can cut both ways.

            ***In our culture, the religious folks who are “right” according to the pristine logical evidence they can present from Scripture and history are a dime a dozen–and it seems no two of them (or groups of them) can fully agree about even some things as central to the Christian faith as what was the motivation of God/the Father in sending His Son to be the Atoning Sacrifice for our sin, and what are the meaning of baptism and the eucharist and what ought to be their form?***

            Well, you didn’t give any examples of Reformed people besides broad statements, so I don’t really know what to say.

            ***Such issues of interpretation touch on the very nature of God Himself–the nature and meaning of His love, sovereignty and holiness–as well as how we connect meaningfully with Him. These are not trivial or peripheral from the perspective of the early Church or of the Orthodox.***

            ? okay ?

    2. Yes, Jacob, our minds and heart are doubtless engaged in sifting
      through the logical truth-claims of competing Traditions. I know
      of no Orthodox who believes or calls for a brainless and unthinking
      subservience to any Tradition. Nor does Holy Tradition require it.
      For decades I was content in the Reformed faith…though I’d never
      really tested other Traditions, or take serious the promise of Christ
      to the Apostles, or to the Church via the Holy Spirit.

      So to avoid a life of detached individualism “some” Tradition IS
      what Christ promised the Holy Spirit would lead the Church to.
      Once we find “that” Tradition most plausible derived from the
      Holy Spirit, Apostles and early Church…IT has a claim upon us
      that trumps any individualism. One cannot get away from “What
      Tradition — What Church is historically most plausible to have
      such a claim upon me?” Despite my contentment and family con-
      nections within the Reformed community, when I approach the
      Faith & Scriptures with such a “Spiritual-Logic” the Orthodox
      Church simply made the most “Christian-Sense” for having a
      historic claim upon me.

      1. Perhaps changing a few nouns, I would agree with that statement. Remember, individualism is an anabaptist concept. For Presbyterians who have to submit to Confessional authorities, individualism is definitionally excluded.

        My point is a lot of the rhetoric is along the lines of “private rationalism of the West” versus submitting to tradition, but reality is not that simple.

      2. Your comment about competing traditions raises a question for me – How would you decide who is right between the Russian Orthodox Church and other Orthodox Churches in regards to the list of canonical books for the Old Testament? Who has the right Tradition in this case and on what basis?

      1. That actually had a strong pull for me at one time. In fact, I would have joined Cont. Angl but said mission didn’t open up in my down until after I had joined another church.

        You wrote,

        ***I think sola scriptura would not give this kind of authority to the Church
        Demonstrated in practice:
        Jesus honored the celebration of Hanukkah (John 10) even though it was not specifically ordained by God but was still faithful to the Scriptures, but on the other hand Jesus rebuked those who sat in the seat of Moses for peddling traditions that were repugnant to the spirit of Scripture (Mark 7)***

        That’s a big difference between the two positions that I had’nt really thought about.

  8. Jacob writes: Interpreting events is tricky. One could easily see Muslim invasions as a result of the 7th Council (note: I am not making that claim). I’m saying the argument can cut both ways.

    No argument from me there–and with regard to recent history or present day events for sure. (However, I would trust many present day Orthodox Elders’ discernment on things like that before I’d take my own judgement or that of any old bishop or would-be spokesman for Christian faith without hesitation). But a difference perhaps between a (faithful) member of the Orthodox Church (canonical bodies–not the self-declared “autocephalous Orthodox Church of England; aka Continuing Anglicanism” ;-)) and a you (from what I understand, so far) is that a faithful Orthodox doesn’t look back through history and second guess the rulings made in Councils that have been formally accepted by all Orthodox Churches, nor practices (such as honoring of Mary as Ever-Virgin, established fasts and Feasts of the Church year, liturgical prayer, veneration of Holy Icons, making the sign of the Cross, understanding the Eucharist and handling its reception in a particular way) that have ancient and consistent attestation as properly part of the life of the Church for centuries.

    1. I don’t see myself as “second-guessing” the councils, but neither can I turn my rational judgment off. It’s just not possible as a human. It’s how I was created. While I accept, for examples, Councils 3, 4, and 6, I am not blind that there are “tensions” within those councils that make affirming all of them quite difficult (I do affirm them, but with heavy qualifications).

      You cannot consistently say to interpret events in history and then say any such interpretation is “second-guessing.”

      1. Seems this is much the way Jordan, Leithart et al in the CREC “affirm” the Westminster standards…w/”heavy qualifications” given their creation as rational creatures. 😉

        My understanding from reading is that local Bishops have some just how the Councils apply today (Cont Ang/RCs and other protestants/sacraments…are NOT usually held to be “altogether without grace” and to be “anathametized” just LIKE heritics at the time. Yet I’m not at all sure many of the TR Reformed types are willing to allow your language IF applied to the Westminster standards.

        1. ***Seems this is much the way Jordan, Leithart et al in the CREC “affirm” the Westminster standards…w/”heavy qualifications” given their creation as rational creatures.***

          Touche

          ***Yet I’m not at all sure many of the TR Reformed types are willing to allow your language IF applied to the Westminster standards.***

          I’ve wondered about that, but several things came to mind:
          a) I haven’t yet applied such reservations to Westminster.
          b) with the publication of Robert Letham’s work on the Assembly, letham being a man whose conservative credentials are impeccable, more understand is shifting to the fact that the Standards are often compromise documents.

      2. By second-guessing, I’m referring to looking back at an event like that of the death of the bishop that swayed the vote on the Church’s position vs. heresy which I mentioned, and second-guessing whether those bishops were correct to view this as God speaking to them at the time. I’m also thinking primarily of the
        decisions of the 7 Councils accepted by the Orthodox writ large and particularly with respect to the dogmatic affirmations that came out of them. I’m not saying we needn’t (or the bishops needn’t) wrestle with the interpretation or proper application of particular canons (rulings pertaining not to dogma, but to church governance) which came out of those Councils in the present, but I don’t wrestle with the dogmatic aspect. I don’t feel compelled by my rationality to argue with any of that. (Why would I when my experience within Orthodoxy only confirms it?) Unlike you, my discovery of Orthodoxy settled the biggest theological and eccesiological disconnects I’d had as I had traversed the Protestant scene, and shedding Protestantism’s assumptions set me free from the conundrums that kept me at a distance in my experience from God.

        I don’t know about you, but personally I don’t expect to be able to put all aspects of what the Church proclaims in her dogma in a perfectly logical and airtight theological system fully amenable to human rationality. That was never God as I encountered Him in my life or through Scripture either. At some point, trusting God is an act of faith rooted in the heart, not logic. I used my rationality to clear roadblocks to embracing Orthodoxy out of the way (like understanding the veneration of the Mother of God and Saints is not worship), but what drove me along the path to Orthodoxy, as I understand it, were little “nudgings” of the Spirit and acts of God (including a couple of “heart strangely warmed” experiences like John Wesley’s spiritual awakening)–little “events/coincidences” that had powerful meaning for me at critical points in my walk and life of prayer with God. Frankly, though, as you pointed out, I make ample (if imperfect) use of my human reason and logic in a forum like this (and find it helpful in a number of ways), I’d be up a creek without a paddle in my faith convictions if that was all I had to build them on.

        1. ***By second-guessing, I’m referring to looking back at an event like that of the death of the bishop that swayed the vote on the Church’s position vs. heresy which I mentioned, and second-guessing whether those bishops were correct to view this as God speaking to them at the time.***

          I never made that claim.

          *** I’m not saying we needn’t (or the bishops needn’t) wrestle with the interpretation or proper application of particular canons (rulings pertaining not to dogma, but to church governance) which came out of those Councils in the present, but I don’t wrestle with the dogmatic aspect.***

          A lot of the dogmatic claims turn upon the interpretation (case in point: does the human nature of Jesus “act?” This is a highly contested point in patristics)

          ***I don’t expect to be able to put all aspects of what the Church proclaims in her dogma in a perfectly logical and airtight theological system fully amenable to human rationality.***

          I never said it had to be air-tight. No one is making that claim.

          1. Hi Jacob,

            Regarding the kind of second-guessing–I was clarifying where I was coming from and speaking in generalities, not accusing or trying to peg this specific example on you. 🙂

            “Does the human nature of Jesus act?”

            That might be a “highly contested question in patristics” among non-Orthodox Christian scholars, but it isn’t in Orthodoxy from what I understand. (Orthodox more learned than me can correct me if I’m mistaken here). How does this sort of question affect your salvation, Jacob? Do you have a conviction about the answer? My understanding is that this question was settled in the embrace of Orthodox teaching of the unity of the two natures (without confusion) in the One Divine Person of God, the Son, Who became incarnate in the specific man, Jesus Christ, who is the One who acts. It is the Person, the “hypostasis” (in Whom both natures are present) Who acts. From an Orthodox perspective, a “nature” cannot “act.” Only a person can act (assuming here we mean an “act” of the personal will). Have I correctly interpreted your question and Orthodox teaching here?

  9. Eric, I have great respect for Continuing Anglicans who are trying to hold on a to semblance of traditional Anglican orthodoxy in the face of the rank apostasy of the Episcopal Church. I count Continuing Anglicans among my friends (and descend on my dad’s side from Episcopal roots). I have great respect for the sincerity of their (and your) faith, but, with respect, your church has not been an Orthodox one since before 1054 AD.

    I have been a member of an Eastern Orthodox Church now for 7 years, and I can assure you that Continuing Anglicans do not resemble Orthodox Christians very closely at all (as friendly as relations can be between us). Rather, if you would ask them what constitutes “the Church” (universal) and what the meaning of the Eucharist is, they are virtually indistinguishable in their range of answers to these questions from their more educated, cultured (and often more artistically-inclined) modern Evangelical peers, and they even can disagree with one another within their own “Continuing Anglican” house about things as basic as these two issues to determining the nature of Christian faith (the “wide tent” of Anglicanism), never mind with “orthodox” Evangelicals in other denominations, whom they still count as fellow members of “the Church.” Correct me anywhere I err here in representing your views.

  10. Eric,
    “Yet you still reserve the right to disagree with that Church”
    I’m not sure where you’re getting this in light of “Whosoever through his private judgement willingly and purposely doth openly break the traditions and ceremonies of the Church which be not repugnant to the word of God, and be ordained and approved by common authority, ought to be rebuked”. This means it’s not up to personal opinion, what is contrary to the word of God would be decided by the church in synodical gathering.

    Eric & Karen,
    In response to your most recent comments in general, I don’t deny there are very real differences between the modern EO Church and the Anglican Church. However, the Anglican Communion was, and the Continuing branch still is, a lot closer than you may think. I’m sure you are both aware of the efforts in the 70s towards reconciliation between the EO and AC, but have you actually read some of the joint declarations that emerged from their meetings, such as The Moscow Agreed Statement of 1976 or the Dublin Agreed Statement of 1984. For example, in your observation about councils erring, the Articles & Homilies really have things like Trent and their like in mind; though the Anglican Reformers definitely did have the 7th Ecumenical Council in view. However, their misunderstanding of icons really had to with misinterpretations from the Greek where they took venerate to equal the same as divine worship. As well, there was some question in regards to its ecumenicity since no Frankish bishops were represented and they responded in kind with the Council of Frankfurt in 794.

    In any event I digress because what I really wanted to highlight was the joint response to these two things: “Anglicans and Orthodox…believe that all bishops are empowered by the Holy Spirit to bear witness to the truth; but if the doctrine of infallibility means that it is possible to guarantee by external criteria that certain statements of a particular bishop are safeguarded from error, we cannot accept this. Equally no such guarantee can be given concerning the statements of an episcopal assembly, since the ecumenicity of a council is manifested through its acceptance by the body of the Church.” (For instance, the EO would say that the Council of Florence erred since the Church as a whole refused to recognize the efforts of their bishops at ending the schism with the RC Church)
    Then to icons: “In the light of the present discussion the Anglicans do not find any cause for disagreement in the doctrine as stated by St John of Damascus…’I do not venerate matter, but I venerate the creator of matter… Icons have always been understood as a visible gospel, as a testimony to the great things given to us by God’…From this perspective icons and Scripture are linked through an inner relationship; both coexist in the Church and proclaim the same truths.”
    Additionally, there is also the American branch’s Affirmation of St. Louis that gave full recognition to all seven Councils.

    With respect to Scripture and Tradition they both agree to the following:
    “We affirm (i) that Scripture is the main criterion whereby the Church tests traditions to determine whether they are truly part of Holy Tradition or not; (ii) that Holy Tradition completes Holy Scripture in the sense that it safeguards the integrity of the biblical message…By the term Holy Tradition we understand the entire life of the Church in the Holy Spirit. This tradition expresses itself in dogmatic teaching, in liturgical worship, in canonical discipline, and in spiritual life. These elements together manifest the single and indivisible life of the Church…The Church cannot define dogmas which are not grounded both in Holy Scripture and in Holy Tradition, but has the power, particularly in Ecumenical Councils, to formulate the truths of the faith more exactly and precisely when the needs of the Church require it.”

    Hopefully in our lifetime there will be realignment in the AC that throws off her heretical branches so that we can get back to fruitful efforts like the ones mentioned above. I think the AC recognizes that the Articles were a synodical ruling that mostly sought to differentiate itself from Romish errors. As being only a regional confession though, it is able to be modified through ecumenical gatherings with both EO and AC bishops.

    1. Erik,

      I’m intrigued by your claim that Continuing Anglicanism recognize all seven Ecumenical Councils. Does that mean you yourself venerate icons in your local church on Sundays? And does your order of worship honor the Virgin Mary as the Theotokos in every Sunday service? If so, what is the name of your local Anglican church and the name of the order of worship used?

      And one further question: How would you respond to Moscow Patriarchate’s statement that the recent vote in the Church of England to allow for women bishops destroys even the “theoretical possibility” of the Orthodox Church recognizing the existence of apostolic succession in the Anglican hierarchy. That being the case how can Continuing Anglicanism claim apostolic succession? I look forward to hearing your answers.

      Robert

      1. Eric,

        As I mentioned above, I am a former Anglican and Continuing Anglican, so I understand your position.

        I still believe Prima Scriptura eventually collapses into Sola Scriptura, since whether it is you, or rather your Anglican “church in synodical gathering”, you are reserving the right not to agree with the consensus of the Fathers if it contradicts your view of Scripture. That means that you belong to a communion that is fragile in its orthodoxy; you may agree with it now, but how confident are you that it will remain “orthodox”?

        If, as you seem to suggest, you do not disagree with the Orthodox Church in her rule of faith, why not become Orthodox? I could understand remaining in a Continuing Anglican Church if that were all that was available to me. But, now having made the jump, I recognise how important it is to be in a communion that is and has been consistently faithful to the Apostolic faith.

        Many blessings to you in your journey!

        1. “Why not become Orthodox?” – I know you will not agree, but I did become Orthodox, just one in the Western liturgical tradition as opposed to the Eastern rites.

          What do you think of this statement from the Moscow agreement?
          “We affirm (i) that Scripture is the main criterion whereby the Church tests traditions to determine whether they are truly part of Holy Tradition or not; (ii) that Holy Tradition completes Holy Scripture in the sense that it safeguards the integrity of the biblical message.”
          In my estimation section 1 affirms Prima Scriptura because it acknowledges that Scripture is the touchstone by which tradition must be judged. It uses the term “main” criterion, and I would say that main is synonymous with primary, primary being linguistically connect with prime or prima.

          Same to you.

          1. Erik,

            In response to your comment posted a few minutes ago I would say that I found your reply encouraging. I’m supportive of the use of the Western Rite in Orthodoxy. I’m a little surprised by your answer to my question about the veneration of icons. I’m guessing that you haven’t been to an Orthodox service where people venerate icons by kissing the icon or bowing their heads to the icon. This is a practical outcome of the Seventh Council. This makes me suspect that Continuing Anglicanism is somewhat removed from the teachings of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (Nicea II, 787).

            I think the term ‘prima scriptura’ describes well the approach used by many of the early Church Fathers. The rub probably lies in what constitutes Apostolic Tradition and who is the rightful holder of Apostolic Tradition. But so far I am quite encouraged by your responses.

            Permit me to ask you a few more questions. In a speech to ACNA a few years ago Metropolitan Jonah of the OCA told them that they must renounce the heresy of Calvinism; does your church tradition repudiate Calvinism? And does your church tradition reject the insertion of the Filioque into the Nicene Creed? If your answers are positive to both, then I would be quite optimistic about the prospects of unity between the two traditions. I look forward to your reply.

            Robert

          2. Well, in the one Greek Orthodox service I attended there was an icon near the entrance that some people would place a candle in front of and/or kiss. I can’t recall if I saw anyone bow but that was pretty much the extent of icon veneration I witnessed, apart from censing the iconostasis of course. Would you say that is outside the norm?

            As to the Filioque in the Moscow Statement:
            “The Anglican members therefore agree that:
            (a) because the original form of the Creed referred to the origin of the Holy Spirit from the Father,
            (b) because the Filioque clause was introduced into this Creed without the authority of an Ecumenical Council and without due regard for Catholic consent, and
            (c) because this Creed constitutes the public confession of faith by the People of God in the Eucharist, the Filioque clause should not be included in this Creed”
            Most Cont. Anglican churches still use the 1928 BCP, which includes the phrase, but I don’t think there would be any major resistance to the phrase being dropped in total now. For example, whenever there have been ecumenical services with Eastern Orthodox clergy in attendance the phrase is dropped.

            Yes, I remember Metropolitan Jonah’s statement about Calvinism and it is actually a rather unhelpful statement due to its vagary, especially given the loose modern usage of the term. I mean when a Baptist, a Presbyterian, an Anglican, and anything in between can be called a Calvinist then the term has become almost meaningless. For example is he saying to reject a Trinitarian view of the Godhead, a hypostatic union Christology, the sovereignty of God over the universe, salvation through union with Christ, a covenantal view of God’s dealings with man, church rule by presbyters, credo-communion, a cappella singling, liturgy in the vernacular, etc. Or is he taking the more parochial view that Calvinism can somehow by summed up or equated to TULIP. If so, then you can get into the whole debate between Calvin vs. Calvinism. Moreover, in another sense asking Anglicanism to reject Calvinism (in the fully orbed sense) is like asking someone if they have stopped beating their wife. The statement presumes a condition that doesn’t already exist. If Anglicanism accepted Calvinism in total than it would have taken the shape of a Continental Reformed or Anglo-Presbyterian Church. However, it can definitely be said that Anglicanism was influenced by Calvin, but it was as well by Luther and other Reformers. Thus Anglicanism can reflect Calvinistic, Lutheran, etc. aspects, but the Bishop needs to be more specific about what parts of Calvinism we actually need to reject.

          3. Erik,

            What you saw at the Greek Orthodox church pretty much describes how Orthodox Christians venerate icons. Kissing the icon, placing a candle before the icon, making the sign of the cross, or making a short bow with the head are what Orthodox Christians typically do upon entering the church.

            I’m encouraged by what you wrote about the Continuing Anglican position on the Filioque clause.

            You made a good point that Calvinism can mean many things to many people. The simple and practical question would be: Is your church leadership willing to receive the Confession of Dositheus (1672)? A synod was convened in Jerusalem after the Patriarch of Constantinople, Cyril Lucaris, was deposed for accepting Calvinist doctrine. This statement is considered the official Orthodox position on Calvinism. On this question you should consult with your priest and obtain from him where your hierarchs stand with respect to the Confession of Dositheus before writing your answer. It is not a matter of whether you personally agree with it but whether your church as a community is willing to accept this synodal document.

            So far, I’m encouraged by your responses to my questions!

            Robert

          4. “If Anglicanism accepted Calvinism in total than it would have taken the shape of a Continental Reformed or Anglo-Presbyterian Church.”

            Not necessarily. The Church of Ireland, which has always had the same polity as the Church of England, never adopted the 39 Articles 9or any other confession of faith during the reign of Elizabeth I. In 1615 that church’s bishops formulated and adopted the “Irish Articles of Religion:” a thoroughly Calvinist confession of 104 articles. In 1634, the Crown forced the Church of Ireland to revoke these articles, and adopt instead the 39 Articles of the Church of England. the text of the Irish Articles can be found here:

            http://www.lasalle.edu/~garver/irish.html

          5. It’s hard to imagine that the province would have an official or a well-developed consensual stance on a regional synod, but I could definitely look into it.

          6. Erik,

            If your church body desires full unity with the Orthodox Church I’m sure it will be worth the effort.

            Robert

          7. William,
            Well, the Irish Articles drew upon the Lambeth Articles and these two are generally considered the stepping stones to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Now while the Westminster Assembly did not officially settle upon a form of government, it did in fact lead to the birth of Anglo-Presbyterianism as the Three Forms of Unity were instrumental in the development of the Continental Reformed Churches. But yes, Anglicanism is Calvinistic, and while Calvin did collaborate with Cranmer on the formation of the Book of Common Prayer, he did not consider the Anglican Church fully reformed. In fact, he advocated for a fuller Reformation through letters to the Duke of Somerset during the reign of Edward VI. Calvin’s opinion would be even more realized if one were to consider the Anglican Church’s formation as stretching from the early Reformers through to the Caroline Divines.

          8. Erik,

            While I agree in general terms with your response, I demur at this:

            “while Calvin did collaborate with Cranmer on the formation of the Book of Common Prayer.”

            There is no evidence either of “collaboration” between Cranmer and Calvin, nor that Calvin had any impact on or influence over the formation of the BCP. The man to look to in this regard is Heinrich Bullinger (1504-1575) Zwingli’s successor in Zurich. Cranmer’s eucharistic theology seems to me and many others (e.g., Diarmaid MacCulloch) very close to Bullinger’s, and not particularly close at all to Calvin’s — and, in fact, when Bullinger and Calvin came to an agreement on the Eucharist in 1549 (the Consensus Tigurinus) it was Calvin who made all the concessions. Calvin did correspond with Somerset, but Bullinger corresponded with everyone of Protestant significance in Edwardian England. Calvin’s emergence as one of the leading Reformed theologians is a phenomenon of the mid-1550s, when he took the lead in defending Reformed views on the Eucharist from renewed Lutheran attack.

            I could give a number of scholarly references on this topic, but actually I wanted to draw a different important book to readers’ attention, Anthony Milton’s *Catholic and Reformed: the Roman and Protestant Churches in English Protestant Thought, 1600-1640* (1995, 2002: Cambridge University Press), a big, expensive, but very important, book which demonstrates the thoroughly Reformed (and, in practice, by 1600 largely Calvinist) nature of the Church of England in the view alike of its friends and its foes, and how this was transformed by the rise of a “party” who rejected Calvinism in particular and Reformed views on the nature of the visible Church in general, and who managed to seize control of the Church of England in the years 1625 to 1640 with the enthusiastic support of King Charles I and, in so doing, created “Anglicanism.”

          9. I could definitely be remembering incorrectly with respect to Calvin and the BCP as I have the sleep-deprived baby-brain that comes with a newborn in the house, and those of you with kids know how this affects your memory. Perhaps I was confusing that bit with Bucer. In fact, I would have originally said that reformers like Bucer and Martyr had more influence on the development of Anglicanism anyway since they actually lived for a time in England. But the lack of Calvin’s direct involvement only proves my point more – Calvinistic (or influenced by some associated with Geneva) but not full blown Calvinism or I think the CoE would look somewhat different.

      2. Erik, since I was not Anglican, I have not really followed the dialogue between EO and AC very closely, except to note occasionally that they have and do happen. I’m happy for the interaction and any progress within Anglicanism to reclaim her first Millennium heritage, but Robert has raised some very pertinent questions, and I realize this does not change the reality on the ground that I have observed, which, to me, is quite significant for one’s capacity to really know Christ experientially in the context of the corporate life of such churches (and not just have an ideology about Him). I’m not saying I did not encounter Christ experientially or in a transforming way when I was an Evangelical, but curiously it was quite an individual thing, sporadic and quite independent of the churches as bodies that I belonged to, except insofar as these introduced me to the basic rudiments of many of the teachings of the gospels–i.e., their making use of the Scriptures and some historic creeds, prayers and hymns of the Church, and I don’t wish to minimize this). In contrast, some of the experiences of what I perceived at the time to be the “presence of God” in response to some aspect of a service of corporate worship (since I was Pentecostal for a while, I experienced a lot of emotional manipulation in that context that passed for “moves of the Holy Spirit”) usually evaporated as the fleeting emotional responses to manipulation they were in the full light of Scripture and the daily grind of trying to live as a Christian

        Like Eric, though I was more broadly an Evangelical Christian (having been a member of several different denominations before I became Orthodox), I have discovered there is a huge difference between being a member of the EO Church, and standing outside of her affirming (or seeming to affirm) many of her positions (judged from the outside). One of the biggest blessings I experience personally is to no longer have a shifting ground beneath my feet of the kind of flexibility (ambiguity) of dogma and practice that exist in Evangelicalism (and which produce very different spiritual experiences), but rather the solid Rock of the Truth of Christ as He is proclaimed in the Liturgy of the Orthodox Church–a clear and steady vision of Him.

        The ability of Evangelicals to live with contradictory views of nature of the Atonement, of the Godhead, of God’s sovereignty and man’s free will, of the sacramental (or not) life of the Church and still view themselves and each other as members of this “Church” ultimately means many times that theological positions within Evangelicalism are simply imaginary conceptual constructs (i.e., dead and without power to transform us into Christ’s image) and not the result of a living corporate encounter with Christ. Orthodoxy, properly understood, is the latter.

      3. Sorry for the delayed response, for some periods I am constantly behind a computer and for some periods I’m on it about 5 minutes a week. In any event, to your question, the order of worship used is the Sarum Rite, which to my understanding is the order used by Western Rite Eastern Orthodox Churches. For me personally, the use of icons is rather new and is a work in progress. As for the corporate rituals, no – there isn’t an iconostasis that is incensed every Sunday (if that’s what you mean) and there are not specific corporate recitations that elaborate on the Theotokos (though this is acknowledged).

        In short, I don’t see how the Patriarchate’s statement applies to Continuing Anglican branches because they have been separated from the apostate dioceses since the 70’s when they first started ordaining women. In other words all bishops and priests within Cont. Anglican churches can be traced back through all male successors. I do see how any future reconciliation cannot go forward with the worldwide communion as it currently exists, that’s why I made the comment about the eventual realignment of orthodox vs. non-orthodox dioceses needing to occur before such efforts can continue.

  11. As far as I’m aware the Orthodox Church does not recognise Apostolic Succession in the Anglican Church or its traditionalist breakaway groups like the Continuing Anglican Church. During the interwar years some Autocephaelus Orthodox Churches made some positive statements about Anglican orders but this was mainly due to zealous Anglicans misrepresenting how ‘catholic’ Anglican doctrine was in order to get their orders recognised after the pope rejected them in 1896. Anyway, most of the discussion about orders was about a theoretical reunion not individuals. Anglican priests are always (re) ordained when they become Orthodox. Take for example the case of Ingram Nathaniel Irvine, who converted from Anglicanism and was ordained by St. Tikhon in 1905. I’d love to hear of some examples of Anglican clergy who became Orthodox and had their priesthood recognised. I think any church who would have a heretic like Spong in it and not despose him on the grounds of inclusiveity is far removed from the Apostolic Faith.

    A Greek Orthodox Church using an organ doesn’t really prove much. We all struggle to keep our Traditions in a hostile world. Russians and Serbs rightly criticise these Parishes. I’m Greek Orthodox and I’ve visited 100 churches in Australia, Greece and the UK and I’ve yet to see an organ. The point is that we can recognise when someone is not keeping the Tradition.

    Erik, I found it hard to believe that you were unsure if the Church existed before the NT. Now both the Scriptures and the Church are products of the Holy Spirit. How can one thing made by the Holy Sprit like the New Testament be greater than something led by the Holy Spirit like the Church? At first the only scriptures the Chuch had was the Old Testament. The oldest NT document is 1 Thessalonians, which was probably written around 50 AD. Now, what were Christians in 60 AD doing when they were baptising? We’re they waiting for the Gospel of Matthew to be written or were they following Tradition? From 50AD to 100 AD you have the other NT writings written but they were a series of circulating documents. One church might have had the Gospel of Mark and another the Gospel of John. One Church might have 10 letters of Paul and another might have 6. There is no New Testament, just a set of circulating NT documents. Then we have the long period of canonisation until finally these documents are accepted. Do I have to repeat the well known fact that the first list of NT books that agrees with what is standard today was written by Saint Athanasius in 367 AD. There were lists before this period that varied. All this Reformation talk on sola scriptura, solo scriptura and Prima scriptura presupposed a closed and unanimous canon.

    Don’t even get me started on the Old Testament. The 7th Ecumenical Council actually accepted 5 different canons. There is some wiggle room about the exact boundaries of scripture but I’d say the Orthodox Church has a consensus. The synod of Jerusalem ‘s decree on the canon in 1672 is widely followed. The Greek Church accepts 4 Maccabbes in an appendix while the Russian Church, since the time of the Ostrog Bible and Elizabeth Bible, accepts the Latin Esdras (4 Esdras) in an appendix. I suspect no absolute consensus has been reached in the Orthodox Church about the boundaries of the Old Testament because it is not necessary. We believe the same. Protestants have consensus by accepting the Jewish canon but they disagree doctrine.

    Erik, according to your minimalist understanding of salvation which is just a few NT precepts like believing in the resurrecton and sola fides, having women priests shouldn’t impact your salvation. So why all the fuss? Both sides are locked in a debate and both claim scriptural support. This hardly qualifies the Continuing Anglican Church the title of Orthodox. You are the breakaway of a breakaway of a breakaway.

    The Orthodox Church is full of sinners. I know because I am one. The Church is not perfect because people are no perfect. BUT the Church is true because the Holy Spirit is truth and the Holy Spirit dwells there. Erik, please reconsider your ecclesiology. The witness of the Orthodox Church can only increase by adding faithful people like you to her ranks.

    1. I think that sounds right about re-ordination when moving from Anglican to EO, recognition of orders was something that still needed to be resolved before the meetings ceased.

      What I was getting about the Church not existing before the written NT was that the Church has never existed without an infallible source of divine revelation. Pre-written NT it had the Apostles to check tradition against, which were in a sense a living NT. Further, all of the canonical books of the written NT were received by the Church before the final Apostle passed away, so that now the Scripture is the main or primary source of divine revelation to check traditions against.

      ‘according to your minimalist understanding of salvation” – ouch, that hurts. Actually my understanding of salvation/redemption extends beyond individual concerns. Yes, Christ came to pay the ransom for individuals but He also came to inaugurate the re-creation of the entire cosmos. However in one sense, yes, a person’s salvation is not determined by who their priest is. To say otherwise I think makes the mistake of Donatists, which the universal Church condemned by saying the effect of grace resides in the means themselves, not in who administers them. Preserving the make episcopate is concerned with right doctrine and practice and brings a coherent order and clarity to the justification/sanctification process. But as one Antiochian orthodox priest stated in an article about whether unbaptized infants go to hell – ““No…Do we really think that God is so small that He is bound by our rites, the rites He has given us? God is sovereign, and He will have mercy on whom He has mercy and judgment on whom He has judgment”.

      1. Hi Erik,

        Met. Kallistos (Ware) has written to the effect that the Church does not have a monopoly on the Holy Spirit who “blows where He wills,” that the Holy Spirit is not bound to the norms of the Church, but we (who acknowledge them) are. An Orthodox Christian is bound to accept the norms of the Church, but we don’t, therefore, assume that everyone in the Church is being saved (since there can be those in the Church who are not of her), nor do we limit God to only saving those visibly united to the Church. That does not mean we can acknowledge bodies still in schism from the Church as yet part of “the Church,” much less those bodies still in communion with heretical bishops and which still embrace heresies (Calvinism?).

        That said, I wanted to comment about your statement that “the Church has never existed without an infallible source of Divine revelation” and your speculation that during the NT, this “infallible source” was the Apostles and now it is the Scriptures. The problem with that theory is that the Apostles in and of themselves were far from infallible (witness Galatians 2:11-15 among other things). They were infallible only as the Holy Spirit guided and confirmed their leadership of the Church and their witness to Christ. The second problem with your speculation is all the problems of Sola Scriptura (which I agree with others here inevitably devolves into “solo” Scriptura for those outside the Orthodox Church because Scripture must be interpreted). It is the Holy Spirit-led interpretation of the Scriptures that is infallible (i.e., God Himself). I believe I am faithful in representing the Orthodox position when I say it boils down to only the Holy Spirit is infallible and He is revealed in His fullness only in His Church (as a sacramentally constituted, historically identifiable corporate Body).

          1. God forbid that I should run to “the Bible,” Jacob! It’s that mentality that I have fled. How do I know? Not through any empirical or objectively identifiable means that would satisfy you, I suspect, but through the only real means open to any seeker of God: through the presence and working of the Holy Spirit in my own heart and also in and through presence of Christ in the Orthodox Church (which influence even extends into the heterodox traditions–in part–through the Scriptures, creeds, hymns, and prayers, etc., of the Church that have been retained by them). John 5:39 and John 7:17 are touchstones in the Scriptures I keep coming back to in terms of what I understand to be the key to understanding both the Scriptures and what disposition of heart within me enables me to recognize the full meaning and truth of Christ and His teaching, but I do not offer these as the kind of “proof” of which you are speaking.

          2. (This is in response to Karen’s comment below).

            ***but through the only real means open to any seeker of God: through the presence and working of the Holy Spirit in my own heart***

            The Mormon apologists who came to my door said the exact same thing. John Calvin based his rationale internal testimony of the Holy Spirit. Basically any group can make the same claim.

        1. I never said the Apostles were inerrant (e.g. Paul correcting Peter) only that their leadership in moving the Church forward was infallible – as in the gates of hell will never prevail against it. As to your second problem, I would point you to the joint statement again:
          “We affirm (i) that Scripture is the main criterion whereby the Church tests traditions to determine whether they are truly part of Holy Tradition or not; (ii) that Holy Tradition completes Holy Scripture in the sense that it safeguards the integrity of the biblical message…By the term Holy Tradition we understand the entire life of the Church in the Holy Spirit.”
          I think part 2 jives with what you are saying, no?

          1. Erik,
            Thanks for the clarification about the sense of the Apostles’ infallibility. That agrees with Orthodox understanding it seems to me.

            I don’t have a problem with “Holy Tradition” meaning “the entire life of the Church in the Holy Spirit.” What I have a problem with is the “Holy Tradition” of the Anglicans disagreeing (through the presence of schism and, from the perspective of the first millennial undivided Church, heresy) with the Holy Tradition of the Orthodox. The Holy Spirit does not disagree with Himself over time. So, it is one thing to have a proper understanding in concept, but until that concept becomes embodied in reality such that schism and heresy are actually healed (and let us thank God that such are indeed possible, and are happening on the individual and parish level in many places–I have heard of Anglican parishes embracing Orthodoxy and coming under the Orthodox bishops), it doesn’t replace that embodied reality. It is embodied connection of the branches to the Vine that enables the full partaking of its life.

          2. Yes, Jacob, I think your logic follows. However, if the premise and consequent are true, they suggests rather bad news for most Protestants.

            (P) If a church denomination is divinely ordained, (Q) then it will last.

            But also, if Not Q, then Not P. So:
            Q: The Protestant Church, if it ever existed in the Early Church, did not last. The Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopal and Presbyterian mainline churches did not last.
            P: Theses Protestant churches are not divinely ordained.

        2. Hi Erik,
          I have to agree with Karen here. The Orthodox Church believes Christ’s promise about the Holy Spirit (John 14:17, 14:25-27, 16:13, 17:20-23). There is no way the Church could have survived the persecutions of pagans, militant Islam, Crusaders and aggressive Catholic powers, Communism, nazis and nationalistic governments who seek to use the Church for their own purposes if it was merely a human institution. Outside the Church there is something happening due to the Holy Spirit but it is hard to nail down. It is also very much the exception rather than the rule.
          All these Anglicans who ordain women are generally nice people who believe in God, etc but I can hardly credit this movement to be guided by the Holy Spirit.

          1. I don’t want to dispute the “staying power” of the Orthodox Church. However, a few observations:

            1) Jesus told the churches in Revelation that he would remove their lampstand if they were unfaithful, promises of perpetuity notwithstanding. This explains the entirety of the mainlin church world.

            2) technically speaking, your argument won’t hold. It reads like this:

            (P) If a church denomination is divinely ordained, (Q) then it will last.
            Q: The Orthodox Church lasts.
            (P): Therefore, it is divinely ordained.

            This is the fallacy of affirming the consequent. You may in fact be right, but you have only demonstrated a necessary condition, not a sufficient one.

          2. Hi Bayou Huguenot,
            For some reason I can’t respond to your post below so I’ll respond to my previous post.
            I think my point is perfectly valid as it is the Biblical perspective. Christ did promise that the gates of hell would not overcome the church and that the Holy Spirit would guide it to all true. The reference you mentioned in Revelation is about individual churches or communities lapsing, not the Church.
            Every other denomination has a human founder and a beginning in history after the Apostolic Age. Everybody knows Luther created the Lutherans in 1517 or that Wesley founded the Methodists in the 18th century. They would say they were restoring the Church but would not claim any continuity. It used to be claimed that Constantine created the Catholic/Orthodox Church by Protestants but this myth has been exploded by historians. The pre and post Nicene Church was the same.
            Those who read the Church Fathers honestly who are from a Protestant background rarely stay Protestant.
            So, Orthodox were there at the beginning and are here now. All other candidates for the true church are latecomers. Even Roman Catholics admit the papacy is more a creation of the medieval church in the west.
            Bayou, can you tell me who created the Orthodox Church if it wasn’t Christ and his Apostles?

      2. Erik, you also say,
        “all of the canonical books of the written NT were received by the Church before the final Apostle passed away, so that now the Scripture is the main or primary source of divine revelation to check traditions against.”

        I don’t think this matches what happened in history. There was no “received by the Church” cannon before the final Apostle passed away. Many other books and gospels circulated and were read in divine worship for several centuries. The first stabs at IDing a “Cannon” was at the end of the 2nd century…and didn’t get settled until the end of the 3rd, still with further disputes about James, Hebrews, Revelation, gospel of Clement. We’ve been over this several times…likely in Robert’s early 4-Pt series on Sola/Solo Scripture.

        1. Was not the Book of Revelation, penned by the last remaining Apostle John, the final book of what became the canonical list? Did he not write it before he died? If both of these are true then was not the church in possession of all the NT texts before he died? The establishment of a canonical list is indeed something that happened later but this was to remove other books from the recognized list of inspired texts that arose after this final book was written.

        2. The Orthodox Church has no problem at all acknowledging John WROTE Revelation before he died & it existed. That’s not what you originally say that I took issue with. You say our current NT was “received by the Church before the final Apostle passed away” not the same thing. Nor is your contention, “now the Scripture is the main or primary source of divine revelation to check traditions against.”

          That is simply not the way the early Bishops or even the Apostles when they were alive used and interpreted Scripture. It existed “within & along side” of the Tradition that produced it. Nor is there an exhortation from Christ before, or within sola-Scripture itself to “collect and establish a written Cannon of our letter…which includes these…” The fact of the decades before ANY scripture was written…and their “Place” within the life of the Church for several centuries thereafter explodes normal protestant contentions.

          1. “You say our current NT was “received by the Church before the final Apostle passed away” not the same thing” – If the churches had not received or taken possession of all the texts that had been recorded before all the Apostles died then where were they being hidden?

            “Nor is your contention, “now the Scripture is the main or primary source of divine revelation to check traditions against.”” – It’s not just my contention, this is the verbiage used in the joint statement agreed to by EO Patriarchates: “We affirm (i) that Scripture is the main criterion whereby the Church tests traditions to determine whether they are truly part of Holy Tradition or not”

          2. Erik, I suspect in using the term “received” here, David was not just referring to the fact that one or other of the local churches/bishops had possession of this document, but rather that the Church as a whole through her Councils had formally recognized and “received” the document as part of the apostolic tradition handed down in the Church. Perhaps that helps?

          3. Karen,
            Perhaps…I would say the Scriptures emerged from the Holy Spirit, were received by the Church, and that the councils simply gave recognition to those earliest first century and inspired texts over and against those texts that emerged later and/or had a problematic pedigree. In other words, the councils work had more to do with cutting away the fat then actually creating the steak (Sorry for the food analogy but it’s almost dinner time where I am *:) happy)

      3. Hi Erik,
        I have to agree with what Karen has written below. The Orthodox Church has never claimed that the Holy Spirit only operates within its boundaries. However, due to Christ’s promise (John 14:17, 14:25-27, 16:13, 17:20-23) we can be assured that we are guided by the Holy Spirit. As I always say to my non-Orthodox friends, there is NO way the Church could have survived all the centuries of attacks by militant Islam, Crusaders and aggressive Catholic powers, communism and the Nazis if it was merely a human institution. Outside the Church it can be a bit hit and miss as to who has the Holy Spirit. A quick look at the Churches of the Reformation shows their doctrinal shifts and liberalism in the space of a few hundred years.
        In Australia we have the Uniting Church, which is a merger of Methodists, Congregationalist and Presbyterians. Their massive decline in numbers and nominalism is shocking compared to the zeal of these churches in the 19th century. Did that church have the Holy Spirit or was it riding the wave of human enthusiasm dressed up as religion?

  12. Hi Karen,

    ***How does this sort of question affect your salvation, Jacob? Do you have a conviction about the answer? ***

    Most every traditions, yours included, sees Christology and soteriology as involving each other, so my question is directly relevant. My own conviction is that the Councils were getting at the right idea but were hamstrung by substance ontologies.

    ***It is the Person, the “hypostasis” (in Whom both natures are present) Who acts. From an Orthodox perspective, a “nature” cannot “act.” Only a person can act (assuming here we mean an “act” of the personal will). Have I correctly interpreted your question and Orthodox teaching here?***

    You have read my question correctly. You have expounded good Cyrillian Christology. The problem is that Leo’s Tome says that “each form does the acts which belong to it.” This is why miaphysites rejected Chalcedon. They saw this problem (Yes, I know the fathers at Chalcedon interpreted Leo through Cyril, but it doens’t change Leo’s words).

    This position was hardened at the 6th Council with Christ’s two energies.

    1. Thanks, Jacob.

      I guess I can thank my somewhat less historically and rationally scrupulous eclectic Evangelical background, as well as (perhaps) my strong right brain dominance which makes me tend to focus much more on the big picture (psych. major here) for keeping me from getting hung up on some of the particulars that present issues for a thinking and well-read person (with strong rationalist and Reformed influences?) like you.

      Have a good weekend!

  13. Karen you remind me of a famous Richard Weaver quote most likely from his great _Ideas Have Consequences_. I don’t believe Jacob is a closet empiricist, though I’ve known more than a few detailed well-read Protestants young men who often got stuck between the forest and trees. Sadly, often results in a prolonged unsettledness of heart which does not bode well for a stable family posterity. Yet there is a perverse security of sorts in battlegrounds of theological minutia — always hoping one tibbit gem from a yet unknown Father will clear all things up perfectly.

    “The theory of empiricism is plausible because it assumes that accuracy about small matters prepares the way for valid judgment about large ones. What happens, however, is that the judgments are never made. The pedantic empiricist, buried in his little province of phenomena, imagines that fidelity to it exempts him from concern with larger aspects of reality.” Richard Weaver

    1. That’s interesting David. I have a relative who has been stuck for more than 3 decades examining the minutia of the “trees” while missing whole swaths of “forest” of the gospel in his spiritual life because of some of these false assumptions (in his case, the influences are Fundamentalist, not Reformed).

      Fr. Stephen Freeman has been doing a good series of articles on these sorts of problems over at his site. The most recent is very relevant to the issue you raise–some good insights/comments in the thread under that article, too. (See: https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/glory2godforallthings/2014/10/17/bible-spirit-democracy/)

      1. i think i’d just read his latest on ‘Democracy & Scripture’ when I read you’re reply! FrStephen’s writing is often a great blessing to me. 😉 excellent stuff

    2. That is correct. I am not an empiricist. At the risk of philosophical jargon, the following:

      a) I am a moderate realist (ala Wolterstorff).
      b) I hold to Thomas Reid’s refutation of British Empiricism.
      c) However, I do accept the empiricists’ critiques of some elements of the Platonic tradition.

      1. Interesting, Jacob. Would you mind putting those three points in language an elementary student can understand for us non-initiates? I’m not trying to be facetious here–I truly learn better when things are brought down to the concrete level, and I am sincerely interested in understanding how people think. Anyway, since you are a teacher, I figure this should be right up your alley, right! 🙂

        1. Sure. Empiricists, of which I was implicitly accused, believe only in induction and particulars (no universals). Both you and I reject that position. Think of a string of beads without the string. Each of the beads represents a fact, yet there is nothing connecting the facts.

          Common Sense philosophy: I believe in the reality of the external world and that God designed my faculties in such a way that he is not deceiving me. The truth of this position is seen that no one can seriously live by denying it.

          However, I reject the Platonic view of universals. That view holds that there is a hierarchy of Forms, each form participating in the one above it. This is the view of Pseudo-Dionysius and I reject it for a number of reasons.

          1. Jacob,
            Was it me saying: “I don’t believe Jacob is a closet empiricist, though I’ve known more than a few detailed well-read Protestants young men who often got stuck between the forest and trees.”…that implicitly accuses you of being an empiricist? 😉

            Still don’t think you’re an empiricist, though you sometime take comfort in finding minutia you allow to obfuscate weightier matters.

          2. Thanks, Jacob.

            Clearly, I’ve come across here as being more learned than I am or you would have “dumbed down” your explanations considerably more than you did! I didn’t even remember the meaning of the language of “induction”, “particulars” and “universals” if I ever knew them (though I may unwittingly occasionally traffic in the concepts). I had one philosophy requirement for my BA, and that is all I took (and that was eons ago now). Having recalled Dr. Robin Collins, prof. of philosophy at Messiah College (in his online work “Understanding Atonement”) mentioning in a footnote that the EO view of “universals” (or lack thereof) was his only problem with fully embracing the EO view of the Atonement, I went back to check that out. Here is what he says in the footnote:

            8For the standard Eastern Orthodox development of the doctrine of Atonement (or Salvation, as they call it) see Lossky (1985, pp. 97-110), Mantizaridis (1984, pp. 15-37), Staniloae (1980, pp. 181-212), and Florovsky (1976, pp. 95-159). As a Western philosopher, one of the main problems I have with what I understand to be the standard Eastern Orthodox theory of the Atonement is that it assumes that human nature is a universal (in the strict philosophical sense). In the Western philosophical tradition, “universals” are those properties shared in common by many objects, which are called “particulars.” For instance, all particular red objects in the world share the universal property of redness. Universals, however, by their intrinsic nature cannot change. If every red object in the world were suddenly to change to green, redness (the universal) is not what would have changed; rather, the objects themselves (the particulars) would have changed, taking on the new universal property of greenness. In contradiction to this Western conception of universals, according to Eastern Orthodox theology universal Human Nature has fallen (changed from its original state) in Adam, and it has been restored (changed again) in Christ. Thus what Eastern thinkers mean when speaking of a “universal” is unclear from a Western perspective. Eastern Orthodox theology also runs into the problem of not being able to explain how particular human beings participate in this supposed universal change in Human Nature. Why, for instance, if universal Human Nature was restored at the time of Jesus’ Resurrection, weren’t all particular human beings automatically restored and their sanctification accomplished instantaneously?

            From this link: http://home.messiah.edu/~rcollins/Philosophical%20Theology/Atonement/AT7.HTM

            So that helps with “particulars” and “universals.” I would still need a more elementary explanation of “induction” before I had the faintest idea what you were on about.

            In answer to Dr. Collins’ question, btw, I would hazard a guess that the qualities of either “fallenness/death” or “salvation/life” are not, from an Orthodox perspective, properly properties of human nature (or essence) taken in and of itself at all, but rather describe the realization of the two potentials inherent in the freedom of the will of each human person being called (eternal present tense) into life/being/existence/salvation by the will of God. What “changes” in the Fall and in redemption is not human nature per se, but rather the condition of that human nature. This is perhaps why some have suggested that human beings are more properly (from a Christian perspective, at least prior to their realization of their union with Christ), called human becomings!

            I’ve really gone off-topic from Robert’s post now, but this whole line of thought puts me in mind of the images of theosis/salvation/heaven and sin/corruption//hell in C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce

            I suspect this problem of trying to shoehorn Orthodox language into Western philosophical and theological categories, is that it was never formed to fit these, but rather the Orthodox fathers borrow philosophical human language (individual words not having a fixed meaning, but malleable, depending on the contexts in which they are first borrowed and then used) to express the concrete spiritual encounter of the Apostles and of the Church with the Incarnate Christ. This latter experience and this alone, is the proper context of those words and alone properly and fully illumines their meaning. Perhaps this may answer (though perhaps not in a way that would ever satisfy you) the seeming discrepancy between the language of Leo’s Tome and the 6th Council?

            I could certainly be missing a lot (probably am), but it seems to me only some serious and unhurried reflection and contemplation of Fr. Stephen Freeman’s discussions of the modern “secularist” mindset and the “Two-Storey Universe” would open your eyes to recognizing the inadequacy (though I would certainly not argue the complete unreasonableness) of your “Common Sense” philosophy for understanding the fullness of spiritual reality as it is revealed in Christ, the history of the Church, and in the Scriptures. Common sense certainly is a decent starting point for understanding merely material reality and relationships, but the full meaning behind what we perceive on the personal, relational, and spiritual level only reveals itself to “those who have ears to hear and eyes to perceive” according to Christ. God reveals Himself only the the “pure in heart.”

            Even merely horizontal personal and relational reality often confounds our individual “common sense” perceptions again and again. So certainly when it comes to understanding the language of Scripture and the Church (iow, the teaching of Christ) and gaining a proper perception of vertical personal and relational Reality, human “common sense” is insufficient and must be aided by grace (direct immediate revelation of God). In my experience, that aid doesn’t come a moment before we are willing for the change that its Light will effect within us (and the new and different choices it will require us to make). This is why salvation (in all its aspects) as we experience it in this life is a process, not a destination.

            Of course, we covered Plato in that class long, long ago, and far away, but I haven’t a clue what a hierarchy of “Forms” is. From what I remember of Plato, I certainly don’t find Platonic concepts to have been imported wholesale into Orthodox thought (though some of his language may have been borrowed and bent to fit a new frame and fit a particular purpose at a particular place and time in the history of the Church)!

            (Apologies for the long post!)

      2. P.S. I believe I recall that you teach at the secondary, not elementary level, but I believe there is a lot of truth to the principle I heard once, that unless you can explain what you are teaching to a small child, you don’t really understand it yourself. (This, it seems to me, is especially true of spiritual things.)

        1. Hi Karen,

          Thanks for the rather long post. I found parts of it informative. Here are my thoughts:

          a. I don’t think EO adopted Plato wholesale. The 7th Council condemns much of Plato. And most of the fathers were wise enough to know that Plato has some huge gaping holes.

          b. I don’t think East and West differ all that much on universals. I know that Nyssa applies universals to the Trinity whereas Augustine doesn’t. As relating to human nature, that gets complicated.

          c. I am familiar with Freeman’s two-storey model. He borrrowed the model from Francis Schaeffer. All that common-sense philosophy says is that God created my cognitive faculties in a way that I can reliably process information *all other factors being equal* (e.g., I am in a normal environment, sober, etc). The proof of that is if you can understand what this sentence is.

          1. Thanks, again, Jacob. Glad I managed to shed light for you in “some parts” (undoubtedly, about the extent of my ignorance! LOL!). Regarding your reply:

            a. That’s good.

            b. Didn’t seem so from Collins’ use to me either. I defer to your greater familiarity with some of the particulars in this area.

            c. Thanks for reminding me about the Schaeffer connection there (whom I read in high school and college). Yes, Fr. Stephen has said as much. It would be interesting to go back and compare their insights and use of this metaphor. Perhaps you have an observation there.

            (Same borrowing, btw, with Fr. Stephen’s frequent use of the insight emphasizing the ontological nature of salvation that “Christ did not come to make bad men good, but to make dead men live.” And, on that note, briefly back to my comment on Collins’ question about the philosophical treatment of human nature as a universal, even on the merely physical level a dead human has equally human DNA as a live one. The spiritual qualities of “dead in sin” and “alive to God” and how they affect our essential humanity would be completely analogous istm.)

  14. “The Mormon apologists who came to my door said the exact same thing. John Calvin based his rationale internal testimony of the Holy Spirit. Basically any group can make the same claim. . . . ”

    Jacob, this is why my comment also included ” . . .and also in and through presence of Christ in the Orthodox Church.” I don’t think a Mormon or Calvinist would add that.

    Your response was quite predictable which is also why I had included in my comment, “Not through any empirical or objectively identifiable means that would satisfy you, I suspect,” and “but I do not offer these as the kind of ‘proof’ of which you are speaking.”

    Please do me the favor of not ignoring the full context of my statements in your replies to me. I understand, and understood, my reply was not likely to provide you the kind of “evidence” you are looking for. I can’t provide that kind of “evidence” for those looking for that kind of substantiation of the Incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ either.

    1. Hi David,
      I took a quick look at the article you suggested and I think it raises lots of good points. It’s hard to argue sola scriptura or any of its variants in the scriptural context that the article discusses.

  15. Hi Stefano,
    I am responding here probably for the same reason you can’t respond above

    Hi Bayou Huguenot,
    For some reason I can’t respond to your post below so I’ll respond to my previous post.
    I think my point is perfectly valid as it is the Biblical perspective. Christ did promise that the gates of hell would not overcome the church and that the Holy Spirit would guide it to all true. The reference you mentioned in Revelation is about individual churches or communities lapsing, not the Church.***

    I dispute the category of “church” in the sense you are using it, so my reference to Revelation stands (until I am provided with a defeater that makes me relinquish that belief)

    *** Every other denomination has a human founder and a beginning in history after the Apostolic Age. Everybody knows Luther created the Lutherans in 1517 or that Wesley founded the Methodists in the 18th century. They would say they were restoring the Church but would not claim any continuity. ***

    I am neither, so okay. Further, I deny that continuity in the sense you are using it is a necessary condition for the church.

    ***It used to be claimed that Constantine created the Catholic/Orthodox Church by Protestants but this myth has been exploded by historians. The pre and post Nicene Church was the same.***

    I don’t claim Constantine invented the church (nor have I seem modern Protestant historians make that claim). I do think the Constantinian paradigm altered church praxis (and not always for the better).

    ***Those who read the Church Fathers honestly who are from a Protestant background rarely stay Protestant.****

    I’ve read 2,500 double-columned pages of the church fathers. I was bothered by stuff like Athanasius saying the Spirit proceeded from the Son. In any case, this is an assertion and can’t function as the criterion of belief.

    ***So, Orthodox were there at the beginning and are here now. All other candidates for the true church are latecomers. Even Roman Catholics admit the papacy is more a creation of the medieval church in the west.***

    My dispute–and the logic of my complaint still stands; that hasn’t been dealt with (nor do I think it will)–is that the Orthodox Church is not *here in the same way.*

    ***Bayou, can you tell me who created the Orthodox Church if it wasn’t Christ and his Apostles?***

    I am not using “Orthodox” in the sense you are when I read ancient sources. So, any answering of your question will be equivocating on the term. Your questioned presupposes unbroken continuity in unspoken tradition as well as written sources, not to mention liturgy. I have maintained that the unspoken tradition cannot be proven (by definition it is impossible to verify)

    1. Hi Bayou,
      You didn’t answer my question. I only used Lutherans and Methodists to illustrate a point. You seem to misunderstand the term Ekklesia = Church. It is not an abstract but a concrete visible thing with clear boundaries. The septuagint uses Ekklesia to describe Israel and you can’t get more defined than that. The ancient Athenians used ekklesia to descibe their citizen body. The meaning didn’t change with the NT.

      As for the Church Fathers, keep reading.

      1. (Yes, your modus tollens was correct)

        I didn’t answer the question about methodists et al for the simple fact that they are still here. As apostate as they are, God in his mercy has not removed their lampstand.

        Even calling ekklesia a visible entity doesn’t help all that much. No one denies that and by itself it doesn’t prove anything.

        I really don’t know how much more of the ECFs to read. I dare say I’ve read more than most EOs and RCs. I dont’ boast. I spent years and years reading them and their leading itnerpreters (usually Orthodox ones at that).

  16. Hello Eric Toddy,

    ***But also, if Not Q, then Not P. So:
    Q: The Protestant Church, if it ever existed in the Early Church, did not last. The Lutheran, Methodist, Episcopal and Presbyterian mainline churches did not last.
    P: Theses Protestant churches are not divinely ordained.***

    Again, as I’ve mentioned to Stefano, I do not believe that EOC is divinely ordained in the sense that Christ
    a) established all of EOC doctrine and practice lock-stock-barrell
    b) he did so in a way that makes it beyond reproof (Paul specifically told the Roman community that God will cut them out of the branch for apostate behavior, notably its treatment of Jewish people; that makes it rather interesting to study Russian history).

    So, I dont’ see Paul’s warnings making any sense if what you say is true.

    1. The Orthodox do not claim that Christ “established all of EOC doctrine and practice lock-stock-barrell”. Do you know any Orthodox who claims that Christ established the NT Canon? Yet this is Orthodox doctrine. So that is just a straw man argument.

      Yet the Church, filled with the Spirit of truth, has lasted and has not changed her fundamental truths as received by the Apostles. Protestantism has not lasted and thus–if not Q, then not P–it cannot be divinely inspired.

      1. If you don’t claim that, then you must admit development and becoming into your system. Fine by me.

        You say that Protestantism hasn’t lasted, yet I see Protestant churches around me. I don’t know what to make of that statement.

        1. “If you don’t claim that, then you must admit development and becoming into your system. Fine by me.”

          Again, straw man, if “development” means Christ hasn’t established all Christian practice. Do we reject the Jerusalem Council since Christ wasn’t there?

          “You say that Protestantism hasn’t lasted, yet I see Protestant churches around me. I don’t know what to make of that statement.

          Well, it’s the implication of your Premise and Subsequent. So if you want to use it against the Orthodox, you better be willing to defend your own church from its (stronger) implications.

          Any Protestant Churches that can claim to have lasted continuously from the Apostles and have preserved her teaching? Amongst the Protestant churches, where is the remanent of Christ’s bride the Church that prevailed continuously against the gates of Hades?

          1. Hi Bayou,
            Do you understand the point that Eric and I are trying to make? It’s not that there are various denominations like Baptists, Methodists, Anglicans around today but that they weren’t around 1,000 or 1,500 or 1,800 years ago.

            I’ll ask my question again, Who founded the Orthodox Church? You seem to think we aren’t quite compatible with the 4th century church,for example. So when did the change happen?

          2. Your claim only works if I accept the premise that Yeshua established the EO church (as it exists today) in 33-34 AD, as I’ve mentioned to Stefano. I have my reasons for denying that to be the case.

            As to practices that I maintain are developed and ha Meschiach would dispute,

            a) burning incense to the Queen of Heaven.
            b) icons (yes, I know the reasons for and against; simply asserting it here)
            c) praying to Mary.
            d) hierarchy of saints and prayers thereto.
            e) Aristotle’s understanding of ousia as it was used by Basil
            f) Essence/energies distinction (though I think E/e is correct in what it is trying to get at. If it can be divorced from neo-Platonism I migh tnot have a problem with it)

            If the above are key within EO’s infallible tradition, but are acknowledged to have developed later and were not present in 34 AD, then I Have a fundamental problem with saying *this* is the church Yeshua founded.

          3. False premise leading to a false conclusion.

            P. The divinely ordained Church founded by Christ is that which only displays those teachings of doctrine and practice described by Christ “lock, stock and barrel”, as evidenced by the gospels.

            ~P. No Church displays only those doctrines and practices. All Christian Churches accept the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) or a NT canon not taught by Christ.

            ~Q. The divinely ordained Church does not exist.

            Since premise 1 is not Orthodox teaching, you are simply committing the fallacy of definition and proving nothing.

            Again, a straw man.

    2. Hi Bayou Huguenot,
      I’d like to continue along with this line of discussion if you don’t mind. Robert, I’m really enjoying your site.

      a) As an Orthodox Christian I’m happy to admit that Christ did not establish every Orthodox practice lock-stock-and barrel. For example he didn’t establish deacons or even presbyters for that matter. Christ also didn’t establish reading the Gospels during worship either. Christ did not authorise the Bible to translated. He did not instruct specific buildings called Churches to be built. Christ did not instruct presbyters to conduct marriages. The list is very long. What you need to consider is ‘Does the church have the authority to respond to society in the context of the Gospel?’ In the litany we pray for travellers, including those by air. Shock, horror – Christ, the Apostles or even the Church Fathers (let’s not forget the Church Mothers) never prayed for air travellers. Are you scandalised by this? Just another day in the living Tradition of the Church.

      b) Christ warns of false teachers, prophets, etc. He doesn’t say that somewhere down the line teachers will turn up and ‘fix things’. Again I would distinguish from groups or parts of the Church from the whole. Roman Catholics were once part of the Church but are no longer. They can be rebuked for their heresy.

      The Russian Orthodox Church is not the Orthodox Church but part of it. The treatment of Jews in 19th century Russia was terrible but it was hardly sanctioned by the Church, it was more a result of rampant Nationalism. The whole anti-semitism idea and its blood libel predecessor was an import from the west. According to the Righteous Among the Nations site 189 Russians, 2, 472 Ukrainians, 131 Serbs, 321 Greeks, 601 Belarussians, 79 Moldovans, 60 Romanians and 20 Bulgarians saved at least one Jewish life. FYI, the sole Japanese on the list was also Orthodox. During the great Blood Libel Trial in Kiev in 1913, Menahem Beilis was found innocent by an Orthodox Judge and Jury. The ‘expert’ witnesses for the prosecution were Roman Catholics.
      Bayou, don’t confuse human failings with the Church. Those crazy Russian nationalists were Orthodox and they might have even thought they were doing the work of the Church but we know they were just following their own agenda.
      What you need to do is find some Orthodox conciliar statements that advocate violence against the Jews are you are right.

      1. I mostly agree with the above statement (I was a Russophile nationalist for quite a while, btw). I would point out, per (b), that Christ said false teachers would arise within the church. That brings up issues of discretion, judgment, and rationality, and standards for evaluating evidence, which are perhaps to be fleshed out in another day.

  17. Hi Stefano,

    Per your next to last comment:

    The Magisterial Reformation, which is completely distinct from other forms of Evangelicalism, saw itself as reforming the Western Catholic tradition. It was when the Pope refused to address corruption and put out a hit on Luther that separation became inevitable. And the NT supports prima facie some separation: come out from among them and be ye separate.

    You are wanting me to say that Christ founded today’s EO Church in 33-34 A.D. I will not say that because I am convinced that certain EO practices today would not be countenanced by Ha Meschiach 2000 years ago.

    1. Hi Bayou Huguenot,
      Thank you for prompt replies. What you have said is interesting. Just so we can be clear, I never wanted you to say that the Orthodox Church was founded by Jesus Christ. If you believed that then you would already be Orthodox. I just wanted you to explain to me how you think the Orthodox Church emerged in history.

      You said that ‘I really don’t know how much more of the ECFs to read. I dare say I’ve read more than most EOs and RCs. I don’t boast. I spent years and years reading them and their leading interpreters (usually Orthodox ones at that)’ yet you completely misunderstand the Orthodox view of Tradition and Orthodox ecclesiology. Your earlier statement about Jesus needing to be responsible for all Orthodox practices shows this.

      Thank you for your list of what you consider to be Orthodox aberrations. It is rather a mixed bag. I’m not sure what you mean by e. I’m not a particularly philosophical person. For f, an increasing number of non-Orthodox are recognising the Orthodox distinction between essence and energies. I don’t know what Plato or Neoplatonism has to do with the debate as the Athonite monks were not philosophers.
      Your problem with saints (Mary is just the greatest of them), icons and incense is typically Reformation. I think Robert has dealt with these on his site. All I can say is that the veneration of saints was a universal practice of the Church, both east and west, up to the Reformation. Everyone must have gone off track on this really early in church history!!!
      So, I’m interested in knowing if its not too intrusive, what denomination do you belong to Bayou?

      1. Stefano,

        This is an excellent response…especially this:

        “You [Bayou/Jacob] said that ‘I really don’t know how much more of the ECFs to read. I dare say I’ve read more than most EOs and RCs. I don’t boast. I spent years and years reading them and their leading interpreters (usually Orthodox ones at that)’ yet you completely misunderstand the Orthodox view of Tradition and Orthodox ecclesiology. Your earlier statement about Jesus needing to be responsible for all Orthodox practices shows this.”

        This is a typical protestant construct. They redefine & restate …not what Orthodox has painstakingly said say Holy Tradition IS…but imply their new restated, narrow & truncated definition of Holy Tradition is true…and then show how it should be rejected. Some protestant Pastors do the same sort of thing often with changing ‘veneration’ in ‘idolatrous worship’ of Icons. And they know better.

        Both (all) strawman arguments…if not dishonest. Jacob is more than bright enough to know even he’d have a very hard time finding an obscure Orthodox Priest, Bishop, writer somewhere in Bullshidonia who really, really, really, believes Holy Tradition MUST be exactly what Christ delivered intact and in all its fullness to the Church in 33-34 AD…or that Orthodox really do offer idolatrous worship to Icons/idols in their veneration. It’s a fools errand…even if one does exist.

        In other words, they either know what they choose to argue against (with a straight face) is simply a strawman caricature… OR they don’t understand [don’t want to understand?] the Orthodox view of Holy Tradition and veneration of Icon…et al. So much for all the reading, egh?

        1. ***This is a typical protestant construct. They redefine & restate …not what Orthodox has painstakingly said say Holy Tradition IS…but imply their new restated, narrow & truncated definition of Holy Tradition is true…and then show how it should be rejected. Some protestant Pastors do the same sort of thing often with changing ‘veneration’ in ‘idolatrous worship’ of Icons. And they know better.***

          Does this have anything to do with what I’ve said? I was told to read the Fathers. I have. Lots of them. Over more than half a decade (or longer than a decade, if you consider Augustine a father). And then I am told that doesn’t count.

          As to the idolatry charge. I didn’t specifically say that. I have problems with veneration and I ultimately think the distinction you guys make will not hold up, but that wasn’t my point here.

          ***Both (all) strawman arguments…if not dishonest. Jacob is more than bright enough to know even he’d have a very hard time finding an obscure Orthodox Priest, Bishop, writer somewhere in Bullshidonia who really, really, really, believes Holy Tradition MUST be exactly what Christ delivered intact and in all its fullness to the Church in 33-34 AD…or that Orthodox really do offer idolatrous worship to Icons/idols in their veneration. It’s a fools errand…even if one does exist.***

          This still assumes I made the idolatry charge on this thread, which I don’t think I did. And I do fear your post has more heat than light. My point was this: Orthodox guys claim an unbroken tradition. When it gets down to specifics, though, as this thread shows, you freely admit accretions and developments. I have no problem with that. My larger point is that if you admit accretions and developments, then how can you claim an unbroken tradition and praxis?

          ***In other words, they either know what they choose to argue against (with a straight face) is simply a strawman caricature… OR they don’t understand [don’t want to understand?] the Orthodox view of Holy Tradition and veneration of Icon…et al. So much for all the reading, egh?***

          You appear angry and not wanting to interact with my specific arguments. But to a specific: as for venerating icons you don’t see a lot of that *for or against* in the earlier fathers. I made specific arguments on development (or lack thereof) and you guys got really defensive and then went on rants about what other Protestants are saying. Well, okay.

          1. No anger whatsoever here Jacob. You’re reading it into what i said. I am weary of slippery re-definitions and obfuscations. The Orthodox have been more than clear enough to be understood. Holy Tradition is not a meticulous exercise in fundamentalists proof-texting…never has been. The icons import was merely another example of what protestant do. It’s not all about you Jacob. 😉

        1. Hi Bayou Hugenot,
          I suspected you were in a church with a reformed/Presbyterian background. What surprises me is you don’t cite the 5 points of Calvinsim as something that Orthodox have ‘abandoned’. Do you think that Jesus would have recognised free will?
          What I think is that you show a distrust of Christ’s promise about the Holy Spirit. You must have realised by now that people like Robert can put up a clear Biblical, historical and theological defence of things like icons and prayers to the saints that put your doubts to rest.
          On the other hand I remember learning about Reformed theology when I was younger and being shocked at its incompatibility with the Bible and the Early Church. Nothing I’ve read since has changed my mind.

          1. The 5 Points, so-called, are a late application and expression of Reformed theology. I almost never bring them up. I believe in them, but reducing Reformed theology to 5 English Letters which are almost 1-3 centuries later in development is the abyss of scholarship. Most scholars think “TULIP” as a theological acronym can’t be found in the English language before 1910. In fact, the Canons of Dordtrech collapse calling and atonement into one heading, making it “TULP” instead of TULIP.

            Would Jesus have affirmed “Free will?” There are probably a dozen connotations and denotations of what free will may or may not mean. I simply say “free agency” and leave it at that. Francis Turretin outlined seven different usages of free will and noted that the Reformed can affirm six of them.

            ***You must have realised by now that people like Robert can put up a clear Biblical, historical and theological defence of things like icons and prayers to the saints that put your doubts to rest****

            I know that. I think his arguments are severely wanting, with all due respect. I have addressed, rebutted, or in my opinion refuted them over the past two years (at my blog).

            As to Reformed theology being out of accord with the early church–if we want to play that game we can open Pandora’s box and I can start pointing out historical discrepancies to the reverse. I have hinted as much in above posts.

  18. Eric Toddy,

    ***False premise leading to a false conclusion.

    P. The divinely ordained Church founded by Christ is that which only displays those teachings of doctrine and practice described by Christ “lock, stock and barrel”, as evidenced by the gospels.

    ~P. No Church displays only those doctrines and practices. All Christian Churches accept the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) or a NT canon not taught by Christ.

    ~Q. The divinely ordained Church does not exist.

    Since premise 1 is not Orthodox teaching, you are simply committing the fallacy of definition and proving nothing.

    Again, a straw man.***

    You are right that is a fallacy–denying the antecedent. I don’t see the Q consequent anywhere, so I will do my best at figuring out what this argument is. It is a fallacy, to be sure, but the argument is undeveloped in any case and I will leave it at that.

    a) Do you believe that Jude 3 teaches that the Orthodox received the deposit of the faith?
    b) can you identify this deposit in, say, 96 AD?
    c) Is, for example, Gregory’s teaching of essence/energy part of the deposit of the faith and what has always been taught (The Sunday of Orthodoxy tends to think it is)?
    d) Can we find (c) in the fathers? (I admit; it is there in parts of Basil)
    e) If d) is false does that mean that a) needs to be modified?
    f) if we admit development–and that is not a bad thing–does this not mean we need to be more modest in our claims of “being the one True Church (™)”?

    1. What is the a priori rationale for the various dates you have given as cutoffs (33 AD or 96 AD)? Are you suggesting that Orthodoxy claims no further development of doctrine after these cutoffs? Why would you suggest that?

      1. The dates for Jesus’s crucifixion/resurrection are usually thought to be either 30 AD or 33 AD. 96 AD is when John is supposed to have written Revelation (I reject the 70AD view).

        All I am getting at is this (and I am not even making the argument that you guys are wrong). EO guys love to say they have an unbroken tradition and continuity reaching back to the Apostles. Fine. You then need to modify your claim (which, again, I am not claiming is wrong. I think it is personally, but that’s not my argument here).

        —>We believe and hold to an unbroken continuity with the earliest apostles; however, there are a number of practices that we do which cannot be proved original to the apostles and even if they were, we cannot know it.<—–

        This should be your new claim. It is more respectable and stronger, if it somewhat does land you near Newman.

        1. Hi Bayou Hugenot,
          I’d like to give a response to your definition of Tradition. It is certainly on the right track. As you’ve come to realise Orthodox don’t necessarily claim every practice is straight from the Apostles. Doctrine is different. What we believe is what the Apostles believed, albeit in a more defined and elaborate way. The Apostles had the creed ‘Jesus is Lord’ while we currently use the Nicene-Constantinoplian Creed which is a bit more complex.
          The last bit about ‘and even if they were, we cannot know it’ is too sceptical for your average Orthodox. Most early church writings are about issues not directly relevant to us today (ie combating Gnosticism, apologies to paganism) but they do provide hints about doctrine and practice. These help identify a practice to some extent.
          I’ll give you some examples. The first references occur at the start of the 3rd century. The Lutheran theologian Joachim Jeremias wrote a study of the evidence called ‘The First Four Centuries of Infant Baptism’ and concluded the practise was Apostolic. A colleague of Jeremias, Kurt Aland, responded that infant baptism originated in the second century. For him the time gap for evidence was enough that he simply could not bring himself to link infant baptism to the Apostles. Now, Bayou Hugenout, would you accept Jeremias’ point of view or Aland’s.
          Another example, something you disagree with, prayers and invocations to the saints. There is pre-Nicene evidence and lots and lots from the 4th century onwards. St. Vladimir’s press put out a nice collection of John Chrysostom’s homilies for various saints feast days called ‘On the Cult of the Saints’. New City Press has published a complete translation of all the works of Augustine. There are a couple of volumes of homilies for various liturgical feasts and celebrations that Augustine preached. I quite enjoyed the ones he preached in honour of St Perpetua and St Cyprian. Even if we didn’t have the pre-Nicene evidence, this would be enough for a firm claim as an Apostolic practice. Veneration of the saints is too widespread and too entrenched to be something that heretics made up. The leading theologians of the 4th, 5th, 6th and onwards were preaching sermons in honour of the saints. They were defending key doctrines at the Ecumenical councils but somehow missed they were engaged in a non-Biblical practice. Interestingly, the Reformers like Calvin quote the Fathers in opposition to 16th century Catholicism but they totally failed to recognise the unanimous practice of the Fathers on this point.
          I’d like to make one last observation. Orthodoxy is inherently conservative. The Russian Old Believers is a good example of a minor change in practice causing huge uproar. (While I believe that the sign of the cross is Apostolic, the three fingers is a later development). You just can’t get away with it. The Greek Old Calendar Movement is another good example. Update the calendar and they react. Even when the Homoousion was introduced at the Council of Nicea in 325, it was disliked because it was new. It took a generation to convince people (and bishops) that it was a genuine expression of the faith.
          What stops me from being sceptical is the lack of controversy on an issue. If standing and facing east for worship was not an Apostolic Practice then there must have been a time and place of its origin and this would have generated dispute as the standers tried to impose their will on the other group.
          Unless new documents are discovered there will be gaps in the evidence. FYI this goes for the manuscript tradition of the NT as well. But I notice every single archeological discovery in the last 200 years relating to early Christianity supports Orthodoxy. Just take a look at all the art that has been discovered. This has narrowed the gap but obviously hasn’t convinced you.
          Thank you for your time.

          1. Oops,
            A phrase is missing from my third paragraph. What the sentence should have said was ‘The first references to infant baptism occur at the start of the third century.’ You could pick up why point further in the paragraph but I wanted to make it clear. I’m sure I wrote it but when I looked it wasn’t there.

          2. Hi Stefano.

            Thank you for your courteous response.

            ***What we believe is what the Apostles believed, albeit in a more defined and elaborate way.***

            I can respect that statement and I thank you for your clarity. I disagree with the statement, but there.

            ***The last bit about ‘and even if they were, we cannot know it’ is too sceptical for your average Orthodox. Most early church writings are about issues not directly relevant to us today (ie combating Gnosticism, apologies to paganism) but they do provide hints about doctrine and practice. These help identify a practice to some extent.***

            And my difficulty is that the dearth of evidence tempts one to read later doctrines back into it.

            RE the Cult of Saints: I admit it has an early pedigree. I simply deny that Jesus established it.

            I know Calvin quoted the Fathers in response to Rome and this has lead some careless Calvinists to think that the Fathers support Calvinism. I’ll have to take the quotes on a case-by-case basis.

        2. “The dates for Jesus’s crucifixion/resurrection are usually thought to be either 30 AD or 33 AD. 96 AD is when John is supposed to have written Revelation (I reject the 70AD view).”

          Interesting, important First Century dates, no doubt, but you haven’t expatiated on their relevance to ostensible Orthodox claims.

          What precisely is the Orthodox argument employing these cut off dates that you are attacking?

          Who are the EO guys who love to say this argument?

          1. ***Interesting, important First Century dates, no doubt, but you haven’t expatiated on their relevance to ostensible Orthodox claims.***

            Presumably on the EO gloss Jesus established his church around the first date. I can allow for the fact that it would take a while to get the kinks worked out. Thus, the second date. Do we find Palamas’s E/e distinction, for example?

            ***Who are the EO guys who love to say this argument?***

            Every book written about conversion stories.

          2. “Presumably on the EO gloss Jesus established his church around the first date. ”

            So the premise you wish to attack is this?

            Do you disagree that Jesus established His bride, the Church? If so, who established it? If someone besides Jesus, that puts you well outside of orthodox Christian tradition.

            Or do you think Jesus established it, but not during his life? How would he do that?

            If this is the contentious premise that you find troubling, you are right: every Orthodox Christian believes Jesus established his Church in His lifetime. So does any other traditional Christian.

            Would you like to modify your premise?

  19. In response to Mr Tighe,

    ***There is no evidence either of “collaboration” between Cranmer and Calvin, nor that Calvin had any impact on or influence over the formation of the BCP. .***

    I agree. Martin Bucer is the unsung hero of the Reformation. We are slowly getting translations of his work into English. He had a big impact on the godly Edward VI. One wonders what the fate of the English-speaking world would have been if Edward VI survived.

    1. I’m not so sure about Bucer, either. Calvin admired Bucer almost unreservedly (except that he came to think that Bucer made too many concessions to the Lutherans in the 1536 Wittenberg Accord), and I think that their ideas about the Eucharist were very similar. I don’t think that Cranmer’s ideas about the Eucharist were any closer to those of Bucer than they were to those of Calvin.

      Dom Gregory Dix’s *The Shape of the Liturgy* (1945) offended many Anglicans by his insistence, in the book’s penultimate chapter, that Cranmer was a Zwinglian in his eucharistic doctrine. In 1946 G. B. Timms published an article in the *Church Quarterly Review,* “Dixit Cranmer,” in which he tried to identify Cranmer’s views with those of Calvin and (especially) Bucer. In 1947 Dix replied in the same journal with “Dixit Cranmer et Non Timuit,” a great part of which was devoted to demonstrating the gulf between Cranmer’s views and those of Bucer and Calvin (which he takes as identical in all important respects). Bucer produced in ca. 1550 for Cranmer a work entitled *Censurae* which was a critique of the 1549 Book of Common Prayer in view of the revision which Cranmer was then preparing. Dix demonstrates that it was precisely those portions of the 1549 Communion Service which Bucer praised as expressing or congruent with his ideas about the genuine spiritual reception by the faithful of Christ’s Body and Blood as exhibited by, or conveyed through, the bread and wine that Cranmer altered so as to remove those words and phrases.

      I am thus rather uncertain how much influence in practice Bucer had over the process of Reformation in England under Edward VI; certainly, on these matters he had little lasting influence on Cranmer. The years 1550-53 seem, rather, to show a continuing movement toward Zurich and Bullinger.

        1. There is also (from my p.o.v.) a good treatment of Cranmer’s eucharistic views in Diarmaid MacCulloch’s magisterial and monumental *Thomas Cranmer: A Life* (Yale, 1996). His conclusion is that Cranmer’s views were substantially identical with those of Bullinger, although expressed differently; whether he was a Zwinglian depends on whether Bullinger’s views did or did not differ significantly from those of Zwingli (on which MacC reserves judgment).

          On that latter question, one might wish to search out Paul Rorem’s *Calvin and Bullinger on the Lord’s Supper* (published originally in two parts in 1988 in *Lutheran Quarterly,* and then in 1989 by Grove Books); there is also an article (mostly superseded by Rorem) by Bruce Gerrish in his collection of essays entitled *The Old Protestantism and the New* (1982); I forget that particular essay’s title.

          There is also the essays by Timms and Dix which I mentioned in the previous comment, and especially the attempted arbitration of that exchange by Cyril C. Richardson in his *Zwingli and Cranmer on the Eucharist* – originally entitled, “Cranmer Dixit et Contradixit” (1949).

          On a different, but related, subject, Bucer, in his *Censurae* criticized Cranmer’s first Ordinal (1550) for having different ordination rites for deacons, priests and bishops. He thought that there should only be one ordination rite, as he held deacons to be lay church officers, and bishops merely presbyters or minister with supervisory duties. Cranmer ignored that, too, when compiling his second Ordinal (1552).

  20. David,

    ***Holy Tradition is not a meticulous exercise in fundamentalists proof-texting…never has been. ***

    Proof-texting Scripture, or th Fathrs, or both? I think you mean the Fathers. Whatever the Patrum Consensus is, and I stand by what I believe are difficulties in such a position, it is built by the particulars of the Fathers–what the fathers have said. If what the fathers, councils, hymns are what you mean by tradition, then I think we can begin to have a conversation on this point.

    My difficulty is when you guys see tradition as some nebulous Platonic entity that always eludes definition and explication. If that’s the case, then it really doesn’t matter what questions I ask, because they can always be brushed aside with an appeal to a non-verifiable, often unexplainable “tradition.”

    As to it not always being about me: I was the interlocutor in the thread. I made claims and counter-claims. You appeared to respond to my thread at first, then you began attacking…I’m not sure what, actually…something like Mississippi Valley Presbytery (which attacks I would probably agree with).

    1. We have, of course, ploughed this field several times before.
      I’ll not review the detail once again but just commend everyone
      to Robert’s second article below for careful reading as it clearly
      lays out what the Orthodox mean by Holy Tradition.
      https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthodoxbridge/contra-sola-scriptura-part-2-of-4/

      Also relevant to Orthodox presupposition is a continuing Pentecost.
      https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthodoxbridge/pentecost-and-the-promise-of-god-fulfilled/

      These two articles together should give anyone a clear understanding
      of just what is implied by Holy Tradition, and how it honors Scripture.

  21. Eric Todd,

    ***Do you disagree that Jesus established His bride, the Church? If so, who established it? If someone besides Jesus, that puts you well outside of orthodox Christian tradition.***

    My point was that the internal definition of Jesus’s bride has changed too much for EO guys to claim a monopoly on being Christ’s bride.

  22. “My point was that the internal definition of Jesus’s bride has changed too much for EO guys to claim a monopoly on being Christ’s bride.”

    Sorry. Now you’ve completely lost me. Could you please explain your major premise? As stated before, I believe you are fighting a straw man. It seems either:

    (I)you are arguing that the Orthodox affirm something that no Orthodox I know affirms, but also no other traditional Christian affirms : The divinely ordained Church founded by Christ is that which only displays those teachings of doctrine and practice described by Christ “lock, stock and barrel”, as evidenced by the gospels.

    Or (II) you are arguing that the Orthodox affirm something that every traditional Christian also affirms: Jesus established His Church in His lifetime.

    You mentioned this without explaining its relevance:

    “The dates for Jesus’s crucifixion/resurrection are usually thought to be either 30 AD or 33 AD. 96 AD is when John is supposed to have written Revelation (I reject the 70AD view).”

    What precisely is the Orthodox argument employing these cut off dates (33 AD or 96 AD) that you are attacking and who makes this argument? What is it that was established “lock, stock and barrel” which EO love to argue.

    If you could establish clearly the argument you are attacking and give me some examples of EO who make that argument, we might better address your concerns about Orthodoxy.

  23. Bayou Huguenot,
    You have stated that you don’t consider icons to be idololatry and now you mention that you recognise that the veneration of saints ‘has an early pedigree’. These are very positive statements. I’m sure that the Reformers would not have made them.
    You didn’t respond to my other example about infant baptism. What makes you accept the Biblical, Theological and historical evidence for this this practice but reject similar evidence for veneration of the saints? I suspect it is merely your preconceived notions rather than the evidence itself.

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