OCN: Christians Coming Home To Orthodoxy [Video]

A new video from the Orthodox Christian Network (OCN) explores some of the basic grounds on which Christians of other traditions choose to become Orthodox Christians. The production value is a little sketchy at points (there seems to be a bit of awkward blue-screening in a couple of the early shots), and some historical details are glossed over (the schism at Chalcedon isn’t mentioned when characterizing the first millennium of Christian unity). Many Orthodox Christians would probably also be hesitant at the ecclesiology implied by the statement that “the Body of Christ has been breaking apart” or that “the Church” is fracturing and watering down its teachings. That might have been easily avoided by the use of “Christianity” or “the Christian world” rather than using ecclesiological terms such as “Body of Christ” and “the Church,” terms that Orthodoxy traditionally applies uniquely to itself.

I’m also not a big fan of the claim of 40,000 Protestant denominations (that number seems to have doubled in the past ten years or so in the various places I’ve seen it claimed), mainly because most of those “denominations” are really just totally independent, non-denominational congregations and not actual confederations of churches or also because the source that most folks use for that number (the World Christian Encyclopedia) counts the presence of a single communion in two different countries as two denominations. The script doesn’t seem to get the difference here, though, because after asserting the 40k number, then it introduces the idea of the non-denominational church. I’d really like to see a full list of these 40,000 “denominations” sometime. My suspicion is that there may only really be a few thousand, though I admit that I haven’t done the homework. It’s a highly debatable claim, at the very least. I’m not sure why we need to use that number. Wouldn’t it be enough to say that Protestantism is fractured into numerous competing churches and denominations?

In general, though, despite my quibbles, the video is still good, and it seems to be an introductory piece heralding some coming convert stories. Give it a watch.

20 comments:

  1. I’d go a little beyond your reservations and say I just don’t like the video at all. Even though I’m in favor of the motivation behind it, and all that. The cheese factor is too much.

  2. Mmm. To me it felt a little forced and scripted, which it was, but, still. For the Faith of life, the scripted language seemed a little dead and incongruous with Orthodoxy. The hoodie-wearing delinquent-esque pictures in the background when talking about falling numbers of faith affiliations was not particularly to my liking.. like Nathan said.. cheese. But the intention of the video… one can’t really argue with that. 🙂

  3. Thank you for challenging the 40000000 denominations claim. When I first stumbled onto and started reading the Ortho-web some 5 or 6 years ago, I think the number was 18,000 or 23,000. I’ve watched as it’s crept up and up over the years, and I’ve always suspected it was a wiffy number.

    The corresponding claim that’s often pasted onto that one is that all these “denominations” are teaching totally different things, and “don’t agree” with each other about what Christian doctrine is. And really, that’s not true either. There’s maybe 10 or 12 major streams of doctrine/ecclesiology that are separated by non-agreement, but I’d suggest that the bulk of denominations all fit in with one of those streams quite well, and don’t really disagree with any other body in that stream. Their separation as a denomination is more a factor of tribe, location, language, revival, politics, or arguments over carpet colors.

    Orthodoxy has a point to make about its history and place as One Church. No need to exaggerate denominationalism’s failings, just to make that point.

    1. Yup, I’m with you, Bill. As one with many thoughtful and committed Evangelical friends and family members, I know inaccuracies like this can distract mightily from the truth that is being indicated. If anything, I think understatement is more effective. Do you think this sort of exaggeration stems from a bit of Orthodox triumphalism, or merely reflects a lack of taking the time and care to become more familiar with the Protestant world?

    2. I get what you are saying but I don’t think we should discount the high number entirely. While some of that is due to region and can be discounted a lot of that is a reflection of deep fracturing in administration. Non denoms may have the same theology as another church bit they don’t recognize a unity beyond the similar theology. They don’t even recognize the possibility of a deeper unity. Only the individual is important at the essential level. That’s where I think the larger number has truth. The theology may not be radically different but the disunity is there anyway at the organic level. My two cents.

      But yeah understating is probably a better course.

  4. Love the intent…and the criticism are certainly valid. One wonders why those doing this sort of thing aren’t more careful, and run their work by other sharp men/women outside their immediate camp? Lord have mercy. Just 20 mins reading per google easily reduces the “denomination” number to around to 7-8K by honest counting…which itself is scandalous enough. This kind of blunder weaken credibility greatly to some…and is totally uncalled for. Mercifully, God often uses imperfect tools/vessels just like this for His glory…thank God/check your mirror! 🙂

  5. I’m a Christian because I am a follower of Christ and I’ve been redeemed not because of my denomination. I do not care for those who think they are THE church. All followers of The Lord Jesus Christ are his church.

    I mean no disrespect but this is my opinion.

    1. There is a difference between being a Christian and being part of Christ’s Church – it’s the same difference between being in love and being married. Nobody doubts the sincerity of the love, but the logical conclusion is to follow it into something formal – the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church!

  6. To me the fact that the video is cheesy is secondary. The real problems are (as you mention above) the following statements, “the Body of Christ has been breaking apart” and “the Church is fracturing and watering down its teachings.” WHAT??? All other aspects about this video mean nothing when there is an Orthodox priest in it making such completely false and damaging statements. I fail to see how this video could possibly help inquiries, or even Orthodox Christians, so long as those statements stand uncorrected. They should delete it, fix those problems, and then upload a new version.

    1. Thank you, Matushka. I certainly have a problem with that as well. To me this just seems like sloppy interaction with the largely Protestant surrounding religious culture. There are inaccuracies as Bill M. notes with properly representing Protestantism, and also (even more serious) the inaccuracy you (and Fr. Andrew) point to in representing the Orthodox understanding of the Church.

  7. I agree with the general sentiments expressed above. But although coming late to the game, I was surprised just now to see that I am the first one to comment on the video on YouTube. And it’s been up since September 5! So if you take issue with it, don’t just express your discontent here on O&H, go and comment on the YouTube video — and ask friends to do so too. Maybe if they get enough negative feedback they’ll rethink their approach.

  8. I think the issue with this video isn’t the content but rather the presentation.
    -The message was fine
    -The editing was fine
    -The direction of the vid could have benefited by a more sober direction

    In my personal opinion, the vids don’t need to be so pretentious and hollywood themselves as if it were a Dateline story.
    Something important and real shouldn’t have to.

  9. Fr. Damick, this whole blog and your lectures are partially responsible for ruining my ability to be a Baptist pastor! After a year of comparing my own denominations doctrine and practices to that of the Orthodox Church and taking very minor steps to encourage my congregation to see some things our two traditions can agree upon, I have angered and frightened too many people with what I see is the truth of the ancient faith. I am in the process of contemplating my resignation letter.

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