Once in a while, someone writes or says something about Orthodoxy (and, in this case, several related traditions) that is just so incorrect in so many ways that one doesn’t really even know where to begin.
This is one of those times.
It’s one thing to disagree with a tradition. It’s something else entirely to get the basic facts about it so very wrong. James Jordan ought to know better. He apparently doesn’t.
Note: James Jordan is a well-known Reformed theologian and the author of a number of books, including The Liturgy Trap, which is referenced here. He is being interviewed here by fellow Reformed pastor Ralph Smith.
In the interest of getting the facts right: the Reformed pastor interviewing James Jordan here isn’t Peter Leithart. It’s Ralph Smith, pastor of Mitaka Evangelical Church in Tokyo and author of “Trinity and Reality: An Introduction to the Christian Faith” and other books.
Thanks — fixed!
To be honest, I can’t listen to the video–it will flip me out. I’m commenting on this one thing: “It’s one thing to disagree with a tradition. It’s something else entirely to get the basic facts about it so very wrong.”
This is actually intentional. I might not explain it right, but it’s a form of the diversionary technique. They state a particular doctrine or belief or practice of theirs, which is invariably addled, and then base it on a lie. You then find yourself not being able to argue your position on the main/stated issue because you’re mired in arguing against the lie, which they never concede is a lie. They simply believe it.
Case in point: the Odium Fidei-ists say it’s wrong to pray to the virgin mother, but you never get to argue that point because first, they claim Catholics and Orthodox worship Mary–the fact that we pray to Mary is ‘unassailable proof’ of worship. They’ll say that in the same breath they use to ask you to pray for them (ironic or hypocritical?–they want you to intercede for them!) but it’s all based on that original lie–the one that says that Orthodox and Catholics worship Mary.
Now you don’t even get to argue whether or not it’s okay to pray to Mary, because you’re locked in heated, back and forth debate about whether we worship Mary or whether prayer constitutes worship. Their arguments make sense only if one accepts the original lie.
And they insist all inquirers and converts accept completely all their lies. They can’t make any of their wild claims stick without laying down a foundation of lies. Orthodox and Catholics also worship icons and saints–that’s another lie upon which they rest a great deal of their doctrine.
Really well said my friend!
Some protestants do have the misconception that Catholic and Orthodox Christians worship Mary. But I know many who understand the difference between worship and veneration. The primary argument against Marion doctrine (as the speaker in the video explains) is that we are no where commanded in scripture to try and communicate with the deceased and we have no early church record of such a practice. I’m not sure I would go as far as he does and call it Necromancy though.
Wow, this guy is so off it isn’t funny!
As far as I know, this is the same James Jordan who is considered a heretic by many reformed folks. FWIW.
I’m “exploring” the possibility of “swimming the Bosphorous” myself. I attended an Orthodox liturgy recently, and am looking at beciming a catechumen fairly hard. There are issues, however.
Thanks for your site.
It’s kind of hideous in its dishonesty. It’s as if he never, ever, ever not once darkened the door of an Orthodox church, met a priest or even an honest-to-goodness Orthodox Christian. And his use of “our culture is better than yours” to justify his silly views is beyond offense.
Agreed. Which makes it actually inexcusable.
One’s idea of what Orthodoxy is can be much more of a stumbling block than Orthodoxy itself.
John Calvin: Protestant (Reformed) idol; mediator between Reformed Christians and Jesus Christ; murders Servetus, burns countless people at the state, has young children beheaded for striking their parents, generally, kills and murders a lot of people “in the name of Jesus” (sic). Martin Luther, Protestant (Lutheran) idol, mediator between Lutheran Christians and Jesus Christ, has Peasants murdered at his behest, and generally has blood on his hands against his opponents, just as Calvin did. Generally, perhaps, Calvin killed more people than Luther did. And these men oppose icons. And the people who venerate icons are not killing other people, and burning people at the stake for alleged “heresy”. Reformed hypocrisy: make no images of angels, saints, the Virgin Mary, or of Jesus Christ, but it’s okay to take photographs of your own family and cherish those, and it’s okay to make sacred paintings of John Calvin, John Knox, Theodore Bexa, and the other Calvinist Reformers, whereas a picture of Christ is an “idol”, a picture of John Calvin is “not an idol”. Strange.
Scott, we should not accuse the Reformed (i.e., Jordan) of being disingenuous if we ourselves are not speaking the truth about the Protestants. Calvin was the prosecutor of Servetus, neither his judge nor his jury. When a sentence of the pyre was handed down, he argued strenuously that Servetus instead be put to the sword. Further, he knew for years where Servetus was, and could have betrayed him at any time to the Inquisitors but did not. He did tell Farel that he would not allow Servetus to come to Geneva and be able to leave alive, but he wasn’t hunting him, and he didn’t invite him to Geneva, that was Servetus’s own stupidity. Servetus was a self-important, apocalyptically mad, revolutionary, and was asking for what he got (that’s not to say that I think he should have gotten it). Geneva even havered about what to do with him once he was convicted, and it was only when the other reformed cities (as well as Melanchthon at Wittenberg) urged death, did they act. There were no other people burned at the stake in Geneva, least of all by Calvin. As to Luther, he burned no one. While he would argue that capital measures be taken against blasphemy, he was opposed to any judicial proceedings against Heretics (and Catholics were not heretics to Luther) other than exile and expulsion. These men have enough errors for which they are responsible without adding elaborated and hyperbolic ones. (I don’t know where you got the beheading of children charge.) As for Luther, nothing he said or did moved the princes against the Peasants, that was done before his infamous tract “Against the thieving, murderous horde of peasants” was printed (he just looked like the cad he was once the dust had settled). In short, these men were not the blood soaked ogres you paint, and it does our cause no good to so depict them. I’d rather emphasize Luther’s failure of ecclesiology, his nominalist soteriology, and his subjugating of the Church to the prince; and Calvin’s voluntarism, his Christological and Trinitarian idiocy, and his internal contradictions pitting his nominalism against his Aristotelianism and Platonism, inter alia. Let us emphasize the true, for that is the only way we are going to convince those in doubt. If we say things that are false, we only harden people against the truth.
Cyril, do you have more resources on the Luther’s nominalist soteriology? I am a confessional Lutheran deeply considering Orthodoxy, particularly for the issue of ecclesiastical authority, infant communion, and others. I recently wrote a paper on the influence of nominalism through the Ockhamist School, Gabrel Biel et al., on Luther’s theology of divine omnipotence and foreknowledge, and its ramifications for free will as it is articulated in his Bondage of the Will (if you are interested, that paper can be found here: http://cuaa.academia.edu/VictorDomin under “The Consolation of Philosophy: Omnipotence, Ockham, and the Christian Conscience in Martin Luther’s De Servo Arbitrio.”
My paper doesn’t make an in-depth exploration Luther’s ramifications for soteriology. However, while his argument is logically consistent, I conclude the ramifications of his premises have drastic implications for the human will and the incarnation, and beg the question “what does it mean to be human?”
Thank you for your even-handed reply to scotth19602013; Luther, while on the record as holding some harsh words for the Saxon peasantry, thought the massacre of the Peasants’ Revolt was a heavy-handed and unChristian slaughter.
Dear friends of Lutheranism: Do you think that Peter F. Wiener’s book: “Martin Luther: Hitler’s Spiritual Ancestor”, is fair and balanced? As far as I can tell, Mr. Wiener had no axe to grind, and was merely presenting the truth about Luther. At the very least, I consider that I want to be or to at least become a mere Christian, as C.S. Lewis suggested aptly. There is common Christianity to be lived and believed, regardless of one’s denominational affiliation. If Luther’s writings and theology are not fair representations of what the early Church believed, it is hard to know what is being “reformed” in the so-called Protestant “Reformation”. If the papacy of Rome is in heresies and schism, how is reforming and reformulating the basic Roman Catholic Augustinian theodicy and theology, going to give us the true Gospel as it was lived and understood by the early Church, the earliest Christians, beginning from 30 AD to 70 AD, and then from 70 AD to 170 AD, and up until the time of Augustine, 353 AD, with the birth of the key thinker of Western Christendom, Augustine of Hippo, 354 AD? Before Augustine, the only one even close to being like Augustine of Hippo in doctrines was Tertullian, and he did not hold to all the same peculiar things that Augustine held to! (As far as I can tell!). I was young and naive, and did not think to question the authority of Lutheranism. It was the only form of Christianity that I knew, until I was introduced to the Pentecostalism/charismaticism of the Assemblies of God American denomination. Big mistake! But I later found Lutheranism, too, is a big mistake. I am looking for simple, New Testament Christianity, and the simple Biblical worship of the historic NT Church. What is that? To know that, we need to look to the unaltered historic Creed of the Orthodox Church, without the Filioque! God save us. In Erie PA SCOTT R. HARRINGTON PS God bless you all and save you in the blood of the Lamb of God Who taketh away the sins of the world, Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
I have not read Peter F. Wiener’s book“Martin Luther: Hitler’s Spiritual Ancestor.” As such, I cannot comment on its content. What I can say is this: If the title is not a rhetorical question, I suggest that attributing such a fact solely to a man and teachings from 5 centuries prior is a little fallacious, given the disparity in dogma between the Lutheran Confessors and the 3rd Reich. I reckon a man like Dietrich Bonhoeffer is a much better representative of Lutheran progeny. Also, see Gene Edward Veith’s “Modern Fascism” or Lowell C. Green’s “Lutherans Against Hitler.”
You stated: “If Luther’s writings and theology are not fair representations of what the early Church believed, it is hard to know what is being ‘reformed’ . . . If the papacy of Rome is in heresies and schism, how is reforming and reformulating the basic Roman Catholic Augustinian theodicy and theology, going to give us the true Gospel. . .”
Two points: First, while I agree this is a valid critique of Reformation theology, I think it is a grave mischaracterization to attribute all the misgivings and heresies of the post-schism west to one man, who quite frankly (if I am not mistaken), is saint in both east and west. The issues Christendom faced in her early centuries varied widely both culturally and geographically, and St. Augustine is reacting to heresies in a specific context. If certain teachings of his were false, he either recanted them himself, or they were rejected in a conciliar manner. I am not denying that he held peculiar views (e.g. his belief stated in his Confessions on the heaven of heavens as some sort of living entity– which he himself notes is a theological opinion). While I am not dismissing his monumental influence on Christianity, especially in the west, I reckon Augustinianism down through the ages isn’t necessarily Augustine, just as what often passes for Lutheran Christianity isn’t Luther.
Second, I agree that a reform to post-schism Medieval Catholic dogma is in fact unhelpful. Original Creed, Infant communion, christmation, communion in two types, etc. are lost. Furthermore, I think many of the hairsplitting distinctions of Scholasticism and its conception of “merit” are wrong and do lead to the beliefs and practices the various Reformers were trying to reject. Unfortunately by this point the filioque had been so long instilled in Latin Christendom, that, as far as I know, the Lutheran confessors didn’t know any better and sincerely believed they were keeping with historic practice. This itself is a testament to the power of liturgy and tradition. I agree that Luther was wrong about many things; he was also right about many things, too. But, “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.”
May God purify our hearts and preserve us from every evil thing!
Thank you Cryril!
Let me get this straight…the majority Protestant West is such great shape, but the Orthodox East isn’t??? Ahh…OK… Need I REALLY elaborate on this hypothesis?
Not only does he misunderstand Orthodoxy, but I would say, the Old Testament it self. The basic premise of Protestantism, that is: if you strip back the layers of accumulated paganism you will find a “pure Christianity” of the “early church” is simply a myth. Where does one find this mythical church? What does the worship of Israel in OT look like? Detailed instructions about how to set up the temple, ritual, incense, symbolism, the ark of the covenant (very idolatrous), relics contained in the ark (manna, tablets of the commandments, the rod that budded etc.), vestments etc. This is a true picture of the worship of the Jews. Even when the temple was lost many of these elements existed in simpler form in the synagogue. When Jesus entered the temple he read “the appointed reading” according to the lectionary, it wasn’t simply whatever Rabbi so and so decided to choose that day. There was always ritual, incense, symbolism, which is considered pagan by the protestants. The question arises then, when the early church began to form its own worship apart from the synagogue what model did they follow? The Jews who worshiped like pagans or the pagans who worshiped like pagans. I speak in jest of course, but you see the point.
The whole premise is wrong.
Our Lord said: “I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it,” what he did not say is ” I will build my church and then it will immediately go astray after the apostles die but sixteen hundred years later someone (Luther) will revive it.”
Cyril Jenkins, Not according to Stanford Rives, Esq., who is a Calvinist, by the way. I have nothing against Calvin personally. I am merely against what he DID. Some of it was wrong. I have done some wrong. I don’t want to try to make excuses. I have done some things I should not have done. Calvin wrapped up his errors in Scripture: he justified hating Servetus and having him killed. Is that not true? I don’t believe there is any evidence that would exculpate Calvin and find him innocent of ill intent toward so called “non-Calvinist heretics”. As far as Calvin was concerned, Calvin himself was lord and sovereign, “pope”, over the entire city and area of Geneva, Switzerland. He took any criticism of John Calvin as a criticism of God Himself. As far as I can tell, Calvin did not apologize for what he did against people. He took the law, God’s law, into his own hands. See: “Did Calvin Murder Servetus?” by Stanford Rives, Esq. BookSurge Publishers, Charleston, South Carolina, 2008. 1 St. John 2:9,11; 1 St. John 3:15; 1 St. John 4:20.
You asked “he justified hating Servetus and having him killed. Is that not true?” No. It’s not. Where in Calvin’s Opera or his Epistolae do you get that he hated Servetus? Is this in the record of the Company of Pastors of Geneva? Is it in the record of the trial? Calvin carried on a long exchange with Servetus about theology and broke it off when he believed Servetus intractable. Calvin returned to Paris in 1536 to meet with Servetus following the placard affair (the spur to his writing the Institutes), but Servetus didn’t show. Did he defend Servetus’s execution? Yes. Did I say something otherwise? This is the basis for the whole controversy with Castellio. But Castellio, Baudouin, and Montaigne apart, the whole of Catholic/Protestant Europe lined up against Servetus. He was condemned and burned in absentia in Vienne. Calvin was a man of his age, I am not excusing him. What I am saying is that saying he murdered Servetus is quixotic nonsense. Had he wanted him dead he could have betrayed him at any time to the Inquisitors in Lyons.
Cyril Jenkins, So are you saying, “John Calvin delayed killing Servetus”, so it’s okay that he eventually killed him, because he tried to put it off and delayed doing it? As if hating one’s brother is okay and good and Christian at any point, and that trying not to kill is as good as not killing, for if one eventually kills in the name of Christ, it’s okay, as long as one tries real hard to not kill and murder in the name of Jesus. Strange idea; what about John 2:9.11; John 3:15; John 4:20. Is killing one’s brother loving him? In Erie SRH
That’s a pretty uncharitable reading of what Dr. Jenkins wrote. Do you honestly think he’s saying that it was okay to kill Servetus?
In any event, I strongly suggest you tone the rhetoric down a bit. I’m not going to be publishing your most recent comment which is currently sitting in the moderation queue, because it doesn’t really add to the discussion but only just continues down this same rhetorical path of somehow believing that your interlocutor supports burning heretics.
Is that what I said? Did I justify Geneva’s (or even Calvin’s) action in regard to Servetus? I am saying that the real issues with Calvin aren’t how he related to Servetus. If you think that this is what is driving Jordan than you aren’t arguing with what this blog post is about. The point of this post is on a grave theological matter, namely the slighting of our Holy Faith by someone (whom I happen to know also doesn’t justify Calvin) who claims to be speaking for the Faith. Was the sixteenth century as a rule wrong about how it treated heresy? Yes. Where ever do you get that I would think otherwise? Is this germane to what is really important here? Not at all. Are we going to condemn Orthodoxy because St. Justinian persecuted the Monophysites, because emperor Alexius I burned Boris the Bogomil? No. And neither do I damn Calvinists because Calvin was a sixteenth-century man. I pray for his soul. Now, let us return to the real problems: people who blather on videos about a non-existent Orthodoxy.
You’re right, Fr. Damick. I was not trying to be uncharitable. I’m just disgusted with the whole thing. I have no lack of charity for Rev. Jenkins. I just don’t think we should split hairs and try to defend the indefensible. Of course, nobody’s perfect. I make all kinds of mistakes. Does that mean I can’t be sad for what Calvin did? I’m sure Rev. Jenkins doesn’t support what Calvin did. It discredits Reformation theology to have such a history, though. My own experience is what I got from Lutheranism did not lead me to repentance. Of course, there is some good in the things that come from Luther and Calvin. They were not in total error; in no way am I saying that. God have mercy on all. Perhaps these Reformers found the way to the truth. There should have been some mercy for Servetus. I’m certain Luther and Calvin had a better understanding of Scripture than Servetus did; but they should have known better that to try to justify cruelty against anyone, whether heretical or not. Forgive me. I am sorry if I get worked up on this. Take care.
I’ll let Dr. Jenkins speak mostly for himself, but since I happen to know him personally (and he is also a member of my parish), I’ll at least say that his concern is for accurate history. He is the head of the Department of History at Eastern University and specializes in Reformation history, especially the various Reformed camps and particularly Calvin. He would never mention all that, which is why I am.
I apologize, Fr. Damick. I am sorry if I crossed a line I should not have crossed. I am sorry, Mr. Jenkins.
Scott, not a problem. Polemics can get the best of any of us. Let us return to the matter at hand.
When I first viewed the site, there was an add for Ruffles featuring a dude with a sweet ‘stache and a Dukes-of-Hazard Honey Mustard car…
I think that video was more informative about orthodoxy than the above.
I looked up several definitions of heresy. So, If heresy means any of these definitions:
“belief or opinion contrary to orthodox religious” or;
“An opinion or a doctrine at variance with established religious beliefs” or;
“adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma” or;
“any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs or customs”
Then the argument is really mute, isn’t it? Or, at least we should set things in order.
We (Orthodox Christians) are considered heretics by the Jews, because we are contrary and at variance with the orthodox dogma of the established beliefs or customs of Judaism.
Anyone who becomes contrary and at variance with the orthodox dogma of the established beliefs or customs of Christianity (as originally established) is a heretic.
So, in 1054 someone became a heretic, in 1517 someone became a heretic of the Roman Catholic Church, then in the 1600’s the Baptists (my favorites) became heretics of the reformers and so on and so on.
So, it is impossible for any faith or denomination which was created, by a man, after 33 AD to accuse the Orthodox Church as being heretics, except from Judaism. Our faith was the first Christian faith established and was the orthodox dogma of established beliefs or customs. So, anything developed after that is a heretic.
Mr. Jordan has it all backwards. He is a heretic of heretics therefore, in turn, a heretic of the Orthodox Church. We can’t possibly be heretics of something that didn’t even exist until centuries after our orthodox dogma of established beliefs or customs.
It strikes me as ironic that, in this man’s iconoclastic and libelous accusation that Eastern Christians are idolators, he clearly misrepresents what is stated in the “2nd commandment,” as though the original tablet were a numbered list of basically unrelated bylaws. For a group that tends to embrace a sola scriptura approach, misreading the text of scripture in such a gross and obvious fashion is especially problematic, n’est-ce pas? Obviously the proscription against graven images is given in the context of the overarching commandment, or, if you like, covenantal sine-qua-non, that there be no other God worshiped in Israel. Thus the graven images are images of “other gods” or “something else” being worshiped precisely “instead of God.”
Thus this man’s own rhetoric would come back to bite him. He makes the claim, with which I wholeheartedly agree, that it makes no sense to approach Christ other than directly, since we Christians are all “in Christ.” This does not mean, however, that the saints are “over there.” Nay, rather, “where I am, there my disciples will be.” So, veneration of saints would not seem to be opposed to worship of Christ, since all veneration of the saints is really praise of Christ for the wonder of what Christ achieves in the lives of the saints for the benefit of all mankind. Veneration of icons, properly understood, is celebration of the wonderful and numberless things God does with us. Veneration of icons is always wrapped up with worship of God, worship of Christ, in whom all the people and things depicted in the icons “live and move and have their being.” Icons aren’t worshiped at all, much less “instead of God,” but rather are instruments by which we enter into the worship of the Holy Trinity. The allegation that they are idols is preposterous and some willful ignorance is required, I think, in order to hold that allegation to be true.
I don’t think that a thoughtful and ethical commentator upon religious practice would make statements like these, because such a commentator would bother to do his homework before being videotaped in an interview. From what I saw, this guy doesn’t even really understand the difference between Roman Latin Rite Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, nor does he get that the worship of the church extends way beyond the divine liturgy, even if it all reaches its apex in the eucharist. Even in the modern Roman Catholic Liturgy of the Hours, the hymnody is largely comprised of ancient hymns. No, I think that James Jordan simply doesn’t want to face the reality of the ancient churches, because even Roman Catholicism as it is today presents a continuity with an early church he wants to pretend never existed. That one could pretend to have any familiarity with the Eastern Church (Roman Catholic or Orthodox) and deny that there we have the ancient and living tradition of Christian worship requires serious historical, theological and liturgical incompetence or outright mendacity. Strong words, and I mean every one of them.
Hear! Hear! But this has been the Reformed Prot tradition, a sine quo non, of their existence, from the beginning. For once you admit that icons and saints are not worshiped, you have given away any putative justification for not practicing this, and you have jettisoned your own version of sola fied. But for the Reformed, all worship is “spiritual,” i.e., intellected. That’s how they feed on Christ in the Eucharist, and receive him in baptism: faith is an intellection. Jordan himself, however, inconsistent almost everywhere and in all things, wants to have candles on the communion table and ministers in vestments. How then is this visual not idolatry if the veneration of icons is? Once you admit relative honor and veneration, even within the confines of the Liturgy being pedagogical (which he blathers about in another video), you cannot deny the veneration of the Saints. All we are doing is recognizing what God Himself has done, for it was He who magnified Our Lady the Theotokos. Aren’t we being unBiblical in not magnifying her also? Really, this is a form of Bulverism (a C. S. Lewis term), wherein you attribute your interlocutors errors to some constitutional defect, and thus need not answer the argument itself (i.e., “You only say that because you’re a man!).
Reading between the lines however…
It’s interesting that at the beginning he argues that people going to Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy are longing for a dreamland that doesn’t exists because they are no longer enact the liturgy like they did in the past. But what does he use for his example? Roman Catholicism –and– Lutheranism. That’s an odd switch for him to use Lutheranism for an example when he is speaking about Orthodoxy. Therefore, it seems that Orthodoxy is still doing the Liturgy like it always has.
The second point between the lines is that people ARE going over to Eastern Orthodoxy in numbers that are getting attention. It isn’t some obscure ethnic religion anymore.
Wow, where to begin? Christ is risen so we’re not “talking to dead people.” Doesn’t this man believe in the bodily resurrection of Christ? Doesn’t he believe with the Apostle Paul that we are “in Christ?” Next, he’s wearing a clerical collar. Isn’t that a symbol of something? Doesn’t this man believe God became visible in Christ? If Christ is God made visible, isn’t it good to use the visible to draw us to Christ? Isn’t the rejection of the physical being a part of our worship a dangerous trend toward the rejection of the Incarnation? Certainly idolatry is evil, but to equate the veneration of icons as idolatry is really missing the point. Certainly necromancy is prohibited, but to equate the victory of Christ over death as encouraging necromancy is tantamount to insulting the Holy Spirit. Christians don’t die. And he wants to protect his children from these “curses?” No wonder Reformed organizations are shrinking. No wonder the two men he worked with a great deal in his earliest comments went to Rome anyway. Sad.
Clearly absurd on multiple levels, but the most fascinating is the idea that Protestant culture is so much ‘nicer’ than that of traditionally Orthodox lands, and this shows that praying to the Saints and the presence of icons are bad things. Nicer in what respect, exactly? Is it our lewd, vapid entertainment culture which highly influences most people’s lives? Is it our rampant pornography? Is it our broken political system? Is it our ‘freedoms’ and relative economic prosperity (that we used to have)? Is it our legalized abortion on demand at any stage of pregnancy? Is it our highly violent culture? Is it our commitment to war abroad? These are the fruits of refusing to pray to Saints and iconoclasm? Hmmm, he may have a point after all..
“No early church evidence of trying to talk to saints, that doesn’t come in till centuries later and was resisted by the Early Church Fathers…” What exactly is he referencing here? Which Church Fathers?
So…let’s get this straight…Fr Alexander Shumemann & Met. Kallistos Ware…w/Saints Augustine, Chrysostom, Athanasius & thousands of other Saints throughout the centuries…engaged in and promoted the practice of Necromancy? Really? What is really ironic here is how loud (we) Theonomists and Federal Visonists would cry “Foul” when other Reformed purists would blatantly spin and misrepresent us! This is especially rich when much of his love for liturgical & sacramental theology comes from Orthodoxy. For Jordan and others to now do much the same to the Orthodox Church, is really either willful ignorance, or willful misrepresentation. Sorry, what other options are there? Ethics aside, I sense a growing fear in these men who seem increasingly willing to spin and obfuscate the truth for their own gain…short-term though it may be.
He has a degree in his own sectarian tradition, and that makes him an expert in a theology he has obviously never studied. About like a Hollywood “star” suddenly becoming an expert in foreign policy or macroeconomics! Seems his academic career sheltered him from the post-adolescent discovery that he did not, in fact, know it all, after all! How can the saints be anywhere else than where Christ is, if they are, in fact, in Christ? If they are in Christ, then how is it he calls them “dead?” Do Orthodox talk to icons? Really? For all his academic achievements, the greatest seems to have been that of encapsulating and enshrining his own ignorance.
I do think James Jordan is blatantly intellectually dishonest in this interview on almost every point, but he is also tipping his hand as to why. He is trapped in belief system at odds with reality. The very foundation of his belief system is inherently flawed. In a Protestant ideology, the Church cannot be the pillar and ground of the truth as I Timothy 3:15 declares that it is. Within a sola scriptura mindset, this foundation is replaced with rationalism and trust in one’s own intellect. (ie. “The Holy Spirit will lead ME into all truth if I _____________.”) Christ’s promise to the Church and the Apostles is commandeered for personal use.
Sadly, this is an untenable position. The insecurity it creates requires the psyche to protect the belief system with pride (which blinds us and sets us at odds with God). So, he is a victim to his own internal defense mechanisms and insecurities. Attacking his beliefs will only trigger these defenses and reinforce his need to bolster the foundation of his faith by blindly attacking anything that is a threat to it. So, history and truth become victims to his distorted revisions. Paradoxically, intellectual dishonesty protects his rationalism. This is, of course, doomed to failure. In the end, anything except the truth will eventually lead to this type of circular logic. Christ called the Pharisees, “blind guides” and told us that only the truth would set us free.
When I first watched this I was angry at him, but now I pity him. Of course, he should know better, but he is spinning in circles from the insecurity which blinds him. He is set at odds with the truth of Orthodoxy, so he cannot be freed by it. I only wish others within his circle could see that, but they stumble over the same thing in the same darkness. Orthodoxy is a stumbling block to many within Protestantism in much the same way that the Jews’ Messiah was a stumbling block to them: They expect something that looks much different.
As a protestant investigating Orthodoxy, some of what you say here is true of me.
Sola Scriptura is slowly coming apart for me, and with it, my commitment to Protestantism.
Everything I said is somewhat autobiographical. I am a former Protestant, myself. 🙂
It was like looking in a mirror.
Is the Bosphorous river cold? I might be swimming it soon. 😉
I hear the temperature varies considerably: 1.9°C – 26.7°C. But seriously, the “water” is warm! I was just baptized in it at Christmas.
Are you attending a parish, or reading books, or both?
The nearest church is 2 hours away. We went for the first time last this past Sunday. I’m afraid that we won’t be able to go every Sunday (especially in winter), but we hope to move closer to a town with a parish (this one or somewhere else) soon.
I am reading some books as I go. The Orthodox Study Bible, some stuff by Timothy Ware, and the Jordanville Prayer Book. Also, I found St. John of Damascus’ work on the Church (the title escapes me right now) for the Nook as well. Various internet resources and articles have been helpful too.
Sounds great! Check out the podcast by Fr. Damick with the same title as this blog and other podcasts as well on Ancient Faith Radio. Our journey to Orthodoxy took 16 years, and I’ll tell you the same thing that I was told by many others, “Take your time.” There really is no rush. It’s more about depth and experience than speed. A good, ongoing dialog with your “local” parish priest and experiencing the various services and feasts and fasts throughout the year is vital to really coming to understand and know the Orthodox Church. God bless your journey.
I’m puzzled by his comment that Reformed culture is better than Orthodox or Roman Catholic. I wonder what he bases the judgment on? According to most of the criteria by which culture is usually judged (apart from Truth), this statement is puzzling. Most of the treasures of art, literature, music, etc. in the Christian world have come from “High” traditions — whether Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, or Lutheran. There is a certain austere majesty in some old Reformed churches, but this is mostly due to the inheritance of their Gothic architecture, which stems from Roman Catholicism anyway. The only thing I can think of is Dutch painting (and Vermeer became a Catholic whereas Rembrandt was not formally of any confession) and the political traditions of the Dutch Republic and Swiss Confederation (and it’s a stretch to call this “culture”). If anybody can point me to some obvious or not-so-obvious cultural contributions I’ve missed, I’d be curious and grateful to learn. I suspect though that his comment is really a snide and perhaps even racist contempt for southern and eastern European nations, which admittedly have had problems of poverty and autocracy through much of modern history. In reality, it’s very hard to have a substantive culture when the attitude toward images and symbols is so negative. Classic Islamic civilization has managed it, but along a very different path of development, and often by “cheating” when it comes to figural imagery and mysticism.
The superiority of Protestant culture is usually/historically premised upon wealth & liberty. It’s a sort of Joker’s-Capitalism “look at all those cool toys” they have! From a pure materialism/cool-stuff mentality, it can hardly be argued otherwise. Of course, this begs the question…are their “other-issues” we might use to assess a healthy culture? Alexander Solz certainly thought so…as do most monks, Bishops/Priests and even a few million secularist in western Europe…not to mention the billion or so in China, India… It’s all a function of one’s world view and presuppositions, egh?
oh, sorry I forgot…jordan not to subtly implies that Orthodox cultures are and have been punished by God for their Necromancy. “just think of all the ‘cool-stuff’ they could have like us…if only they stop their idolatry”
I’m sure James Jordan et al ask friends and family to pray for them, the last time I checked that’s referred to as intercession, so….someone is now between them and Christ. Why go to someone for prayer, why push Christ off in the distance and place a human being that close to you, when Christ is obviously closer to you than yourself? According to Jordan’s logic, this is absurd. I think Jordan, if I may be so audacious, is guilty of the very thing he accuses RC and EO for doing: placing someone/something between himself and Christ.
Read the Bible through then isolate yourself and try to “think” Christianity into existence. What most people unaided by the apostolic tradition will come up with is demonstrated by this poor bewildered guy.
Maybe he’s noticing the fact that millions have moved from historically Orthodox and Catholic countries to Protestant countries; if your cultures are so great, why are your own people leaving them? A culture, a society that can’t feed what it breeds is a failure.
There is also the question of corruption: historically Protestant countries generally rank higher (sometimes much higher) than historically Catholic and Orthodox cultures/countries. If you have a better religion, why can’t you get your own people to stop stealing and bribery? You’re proud of pictures that ooze oil but you can’t get something done in your societies without paying a bribe or having to “know someone”? Really? This is a superior culture/religion? Sorry-don’t think so.
Years ago I read James B. Jordan’s 1986 book The Sociology of the Church, which spoke favorably of the richness of traditional Christianity, e.g., the sign of cross, liturgy, vestments, things that Reformed Protestantism has largely lacked. The book was a big reason, humanly speaking, that many years later I am an Orthodox Christian now.
In the 1990s JBJ authored a series of essays called, The Liturgy Trap, published in his newsletter Rite Reasons, to which I was a, ardent and faithful subscriber. This series was probably intended as a kind of damage control after The Sociology of the Church had argued so well for traditional Christian practices. The series, later published in book form and also entitled, The Liturgy Trap, critiqued Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Anglo-Catholicism. From a Protestant perspective the book was persuasive but it presupposed sola scriptura. JBJ could not understand how Holy Tradition could be a thing and said as much in The Liturgy Trap.
One thing The Liturgy Trap critiqued was the notion of following the Church Fathers. JBJ pointed out that the Church Fathers themselves operated out of a larger paradigm than can be ascertained from their writings. In other words, the Fathers knew and believed more than they committed to writing, so following them is problematic. However, the same criticism can be leveled at the principle of sola scriptura: the authors of the book of the New Testament also operated out of a larger paradigm and did not commit everything to writing.
JBJ also argued in The Liturgy Trap against the veneration of images by pointing out that the Second Commandments simply says, Do not bow down to images or serve them–so just don’t do it. JBJ asserted that this part of the commandment conditions the earlier part: Do not make images of anything whatsoever. JBJ argued that the Tabernacle and Temple contained images so the prohibition on images should not be taken in an absolute sense. But who says? One could just as easily argue that the Tabernacle and Temple’s images were exceptions that prove the rule: unless you are a Bezalel adorning these unique buildings, don’t make any images for yourself.
As long as we are looking at the letter of the Law, it would not be irrelevant to mention that the Hebrew and Greek words translated ‘worship’ in Psalm 99 (LXX 98) is the same word used in the Second Commandment when it says not to ‘bow down’ (Exodus 20:5) to images. Psalm 99:5, then, literally encourages us to bow down to God’s footstool: ‘worship at His footstool.’
JBJ opined in the Liturgy Trap that people joining a traditional, un-Reformed version of Christianity were mistakenly looking for a home. JBJ argued that we have no home here on earth; our home is in heaven. Such an answer betrays a Nestorian ecclesiology. In reality, the Church on earth is ontologically one with the Church in heaven. We are Christ’s one body, whether on earth or in heaven. And if the Church of the living God is the household of faith, it is the home we should all be looking for.
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