The Great Apostasy: John Calvin and the Fall of the Church

The traditional site of the grave of John Calvin. His exact burial site is unknown.
The traditional site of the grave of John Calvin. His exact burial site is unknown.

Did John Calvin believe in the “Fall of the Church”?  That is, did he believe that the early Church apostatized from Apostolic doctrine and worship, and that true Christianity was not restored until the Protestant Reformation?  The “Fall of the Church” is widely held among Protestants but some readers on my personal weblog deny that Calvin held this view, calling it a “canard.”

Part I. The BOBO Theory

Fuller Seminary professor and missiologist Ralph D. Winter noticed that many Evangelicals are under the impression that Christianity “Blinked-Out” after the Apostles and then “Blinked-On” with the Protestant Reformers.

. . . “BOBO” theory—that the Christian faith somehow “Blinked Out” after the Apostles and “Blinked On” again in our time, or whenever our modern “prophets” arose, be they Luther, Calvin, Wesley, Joseph Smith, Ellen White or John Wimber. The result of this kind of BOBO approach is that you have “early” saints and “latter-day” saints, but no saints in the middle.

Winter noted that this view has resulted in Protestants having little interest in the one thousand years of church history before the Reformation because nothing spiritually important was happening between the New Testament church and the 1500s.  Winter wrote about the negative effect this had on Protestants:

But this only really means that these children do not get exposed to all the incredible things God did with that Bible between the times of the Apostles and the Reformers, a period which is staggering proof of the unique power of the Bible! To many people, it is as if there were “no saints in the middle.”

The BOBO theory is crucial to Protestantism’s self understanding.  Protestants believe that after the calamitous “Fall of the Church,” the Reformation marked a return to the early Church – the way it was meant to be.  Without this justification, the Reformation would be a schismatic deviation.  Sometimes one is presented with a more subtly nuanced version that allows for a small continuing “Remnant Church” present throughout church history that held on to the True Faith – of course assumed to be more or less Protestant.  The problem with this view, aside from the lack of historical evidence, is that this supposed historic “Remnant” existed independently of any historically recognized Church be it Orthodox or even Roman Catholic.

 

Did Calvin Hold to the BOBO Theory?

In “Necessity of Reforming the Church” Calvin made reference to the “primitive and purer Church” (p. 215).  In his Institutes Calvin saw icons, altars, vestments, ritual gestures, and other decorations as signs of the early Church’s decline and degeneration.

First, then, if we attach any weight to the authority of the ancient Church, let us remember, that for five hundred years, during which religion was in a more prosperous condition, and a purer doctrine flourished, Christian churches were completely free from visible representations. Hence their first admission as an ornament to churches took place after the purity of the ministry had somewhat degenerated. I will not dispute as to the rationality of the grounds on which the first introduction of them proceeded, but if you compare the two periods, you will find that the latter had greatly declined from the purity of the times when images were unknown. (Institutes 1.11.13, p. 113; emphasis added)

Calvin also traced the fall of the church to the emergence of liturgical worship, something that commenced soon after the original Apostles passed on.  Calvin wrote in the Institutes:

Under the apostles the Lord’s Supper was administered with great simplicity.  Their immediate successors added something to enhance the dignity of the mystery which was not to be condemned.  But afterward they were replaced by those foolish imitators, who, by patching pieces from time to time, contrived for us these priestly vestments that we see in the Mass, these altar ornaments, these gesticulations, and the whole apparatus of useless things. (Institutes 4.10.19, p. 1198; emphasis added)

In this passage we find a succession of: (1) “the Apostles,” (2) their second generation “immediate successors,” and (3) the subsequent generations of “foolish imitators.”  What Calvin is asserting here is that the Eucharist underwent considerable change shortly after the passing of the Apostles resulting in the “Fall of the Church.”  That all this happened within a few decades or in the first century after the Apostles’ repose raises serious questions about Calvin’s understanding of post-Apostolic Christianity.  Calvin here is implying that the Apostles’ disciples disregarded Paul’s exhortations to “preserve” and “guard” the Faith “with the help of the Holy Spirit” (see 2 Timothy 1:14).  This alleged “Fall” raises serious questions about the sincerity of the Apostles’ disciples and about the Holy Spirit’s presence in the early Church.  This is not a small claim but very serious accusations!

We have here two different versions of the “Fall of the Church”: (1) an immediate Fall right after the passing of the original Apostles (Institutes 4.10.19) and (2) a later Fall after the first five centuries (Institutes 1.11.13).  This inconsistency makes it hard for a church history major like me to ascertain when the “Fall” took place, who instigated the “Fall,” and what was the driving force behind the “Fall.”

The Blinked-Out, Blinked-On trope is especially evident in Calvin’s essay “The Necessity of Reforming the Church”:

This much certainly must be clear alike to just and unjust, that the Reformers have done no small service to the Church in stirring up the world as from the deep darkness of ignorance to read the Scriptures, in labouring diligently to make them better understood, and in happily throwing light on certain points of doctrine of the highest practical importance. (“Necessity” pp. 186-187, cf. p. 191; emphasis added)

We maintain to start with that, when God raised up Luther and others, who held forth a torch to light us into the way of salvation, and on whose ministry our churches are founded and built, those heads of doctrine in which the truth of our religion, those in which the pure and legitimate worship of God, and those in which the salvation of men are comprehended, were in a great measure obsolete. (“Necessity” pp. 185-186; emphasis added)

Therefore, from the evidences above it is clear that Calvin did in fact hold to the BOBO theory of church history.  Orthodox theologians and historians can in many ways agree with Calvin about the Roman Church’s decline.  However, where many Orthodox view Rome’s decline as having occurred after the Great Schism of 1054, Calvin viewed the “Fall of the Church” as having occurred during the time of the Ecumenical Councils when Rome was in communion with the other patriarchates.  This is something Orthodox Christians would find problematic.  Orthodoxy believes that it has faithfully kept and preserved Apostolic Tradition for the past two thousand years and because it never suffered a “Fall” is the same Church as the early Church.

Calvin’s Dispensationalism

Calvin’s understanding of church history as discontinuous marked by ruptures is not all that anomalous.  One sees a similar understanding in Calvin’s view of the relationship between the Old and New Covenants.  He wrote:

For if we are not to throw everything into confusion, we must always bear in mind the distinction between the old and new dispensations, and the fact that ceremonies, whose observance was useful under the law, are now not only superfluous but absurd and wicked.  When Christ was absent and not yet manifested, ceremonies by shadowing him forth nourished the hope of his advent in the breasts of believers; but now they only obscure his present and conspicuous glory.  We see what God himself has done.  For those ceremonies which he had commanded for a time he has now abrogated forever. (“Necessity” p. 192; emphasis added)

The problem with this statement is that it is unbiblical.  It contradicts Matthew 5:17 where Christ taught that he did not come to abolish (abrogate) the Law but to fulfill it.  With the New Covenant came a new priesthood based on Christ’s priesthood and a new form of worship based on Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross.  Here It seems is the root cause of Calvin’s mistake – he tragically transposed the Protestants’ controversy with Roman Catholicism onto the early Church.

Part II. The Historical Evidence

Calvin’s belief that the early church fell away from the Apostles’ teachings can be tested by examining the earliest Christian writings with respect to: (1) the Eucharist, (2) the use of icons in worship, (3) the Gospel Message, and (4) church government (the episcopacy).  We will be using the following writings: (1) the Didache (c. 90-110), (2) the letters of Ignatius of Antioch (d. 98-117), (3) Justin Martyr’s Apology (d. 165), and (4) Irenaeus of Lyons’ Against Heresies (d. 202).  These comprise the earliest Christian writings outside the New Testament and thus give us valuable insights into the faith and practices of the post-Apostolic Church and allow us to ascertain the degree of continuity in faith and practice.

Eucharistic meal – 3rd century Roman catacomb

The Eucharist

One way of testing Calvin’s “Fall of the Church” theory is by examining early Christian worship.  One feature that immediately stands out is the importance of the Eucharist for the early Christians and their sacramental understanding of the Eucharist.

When I was a Protestant one thing I always heard at the monthly Holy Communion service was the pastor emphasizing that the bread and the grape juice were just symbols.  So when I read the early church fathers I was struck by the fact that none of the church fathers taught that the bread and the wine were just symbols.  As a matter of fact, they taught something quite different.  Ignatius of Antioch referred to the Eucharist as the “medicine of immortality (Letter to the Ephesians 20:2).  His belief in the real presence can be found in another letter.

I desire the “bread of God,” which is the flesh of Jesus Christ, who was “of the seed of David,” and for drink I desire his blood, which is incorruptible love. (Letter to the Romans 7.3; emphasis added)

Belief in the real presence can also be found in Justin Martyr.

For not as common bread and common drink do we receive these; but in like manner as Jesus Christ our Saviour, having been made flesh by the Word of God, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so likewise have we been taught that the food which is blessed by the prayer of His word and from which our blood and flesh by transmutation are nourished, is the flesh and blood of that Jesus who was made flesh.  (The First Apology 66; emphasis added)

Another early witness to the real presence in the Eucharist is Irenaeus.

When, therefore, the mingled cup and the manufactured bread receives the Word of God, and the Eucharist of the blood and the body of Christ is made, from which things the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they affirm that the flesh is incapable of receiving the gift of God, which is life eternal . . . . (Against Heresies 5.2.3; emphasis added)

The Eucharist was central to early Christian worship and theology.  In the early church to deny the real presence in the Eucharist was to commit heresy.  Ignatius of Antioch wrote regarding the heretics:

They abstain from Eucharist and prayer, because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Saviour Jesus Christ who suffered for our sins, which the Father raised by his goodness. (Letter to the Smyrneans 7.1; emphasis added)

As an Evangelical I was struck by the fact that it was the heretics who denied the real presence in the Eucharist.  Just as significant is Ignatius’ insistence that the Eucharistic celebration is integrally linked to the office of the bishop.  In other words, early church government was episcopal, not congregational!

Be careful therefore to use one Eucharist (for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup for union with his blood, one altar, as there is one bishop with the presbytery and the deacons my fellow servants), in order that whatever you do you may do it according to God. (Letter to the Philadelphians 4.1)

As an Evangelical in a congregationalist denomination I was unsettled by the fact that modern Evangelicalism was much closer to the early heretics than they realize.  This started me thinking:  Was it the early Christians who fell away or the modern Evangelicals?  Why is Evangelicalism so different from the early Church?

Thus, the evidence shows that the Eucharist was at the center of early Christian worship – not the sermon.  By subtly displacing the Eucharist and putting the sermon at the center of Christian worship, Calvin detached the heart and focus of worship from its Eucharistic moorings. Those who came after Calvin would go even further and strip Christian worship of its sacramental character. One only need witness today’s Protestant worship to see the absence of the Eucharist most every Sunday – much less the real presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist! This has resulted in the recent move among Protestants to restore liturgical worship, but even then the sermon still overshadows the Eucharist.

Altar, Vestments, and Ceremonies

Calvin taught that the early church celebrated the Eucharist with “great simplicity” (Institutes 4.10.19).  But he is arguing from silence.  He seems to be assuming that because the New Testament writings had little to say about how the early Christians worshiped that their worship was devoid of liturgical rites and ceremonies.

When we read the Old Testament we find biblical support for the use of altars, vestments, and ceremonies in worship.  The Tabernacle had two altars: one for burnt offering (Exodus 27:1-8) and another for incense (Exodus 30:1-10).  The priests were dressed in ornate vestments of gold, blue, purple, and scarlet in accordance with God’s directions to Moses (Exodus 28:1-5).  Thus, Old Testament worship was an elaborate affair with processions, music, and ceremonies – nothing at all like the stark austere Reformed worship!

When we come to the New Testament we find no evidence of Old Testament worship being abolished and the instituting of minimalist worship with bare walls.  We do, however, find hints of Old Testament worship being carried over into Christianity.  In Hebrews 13:10 is a cryptic statement: “We have an altar . . . .”  This was a reference to the Eucharistic celebration.  The Christians saw themselves as the New Israel of Christ and in that light viewed the Eucharist as the continuation and fulfillment of the Old Testament sacrificial system.  So we shouldn’t be surprised by Ignatius’ references to a Christian altar.

Be careful therefore to use one Eucharist (for there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup for union with his blood, one altar . . . . (Letter to the Philadelphians 4.1; emphasis added)

And,

Hasten all to come together as to one temple of God as to one altar, to one Jesus Christ, who came forth from the one Father, and is with one, and departed to one.  (Letter to the Magnesians 7.2; emphasis added)

If the early Christians understood the Church as the Temple of the New Covenant then it is no surprise that they would view the clergy as the priests of the New Covenant (see Isaiah 66:19-21).  All this makes sense in light of the fact that the Eucharist was central to early Christian worship.  Thus, the wooden table or box (ark) where the priest celebrated the Eucharist would be considered an altar.

Prophet Jonah – Roman catacomb painting

Icons

Calvin believed that the early churches were “completely free from visible representations” (Institutes 1.11.13).  His assumption seems to be that because the New Testament had little to say about religious pictures in church buildings that icons were not part of early Christian worship.

But Calvin’s iconoclasm is weakened when we take into account the Old Testament passages about the images of the cherubim in the Tabernacle (Exodus 26:1, 31) and in the Temple (1 Kings 6:29-32).

Thus, the Old Testament places of worship were filled with visual representations: cherubim, palm trees, and flowers.  Images of the cherubim were depicted on the curtain for the entrance to the Holy of Holies as well on the walls of the inner and outer rooms of the Temple.  See my article: “The Biblical Basis for Icons.”  In light of an absence of any New Testament passages mandating the removal of icons or the abolition of Old Testament worship we can assume some continuity between Jewish worship and early Christian worship.

Recent archaeological research found that Jewish synagogues around the time of Christ were not bare rooms devoid of images but embellished with religious decorations.  See my article “Early Jewish Attitudes toward Images.”  Especially damaging to Calvin’s argument are the recent archaeological findings of images in the Jewish synagogue and Christian church in the town of Dura Europos which was buried circa 250. Taken together the biblical and archaeological evidences present a strong refutation of Calvin’s “Fall of the Church” theory.

Dura Europos Synagogue

Defending the Gospel Message

A study of early church history shows that the church faced numerous theological challenges: Ebionitism which affirmed Jesus as Messiah but not as divine, Docetism and Gnosticism which denied that Jesus was truly human, Marcionism which saw the Old and New Testaments as representing two different religions and deities, and Montanism a prophetic movement which held that Apostolic tradition was superseded by the new prophecies.  One thing that is striking is the absence of any controversy during this period over the issues mentioned by Calvin: liturgical worship, vestments, incense, or icons.  Surely if the early Church had drifted away from the Apostles’ teachings as Calvin alleged someone would have spoken up?

The Apostle Paul was not unaware that the Church would come under attack by heretics so he took steps to ensure the safeguarding of the Gospel.  At Timothy’s ordination to the office of bishop he admonished:

What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Jesus Christ.  Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you—guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.  (2 Timothy 1:13-14; NIV; emphasis added)

The phrases “pattern of sound words” and “good deposit” referred to a set of core doctrines to be held by all Christians.  This was the basis for the theological unity of the early Church, to deviate from this doctrinal core was to fall into heresy.  The early Christians were diligent in defending the orthodoxy of the Church.  Ignatius warned Polycarp against tolerating those who taught “strange doctrine.” (Ignatius to Polycarp 3)  A similar warning against “another doctrine” is found in Didache 11.1 and in Polycarp’s Letter to the Philippians (7.2).

In Against Heresies 1.22.1 Irenaeus referred to the “rule of faith (truth)” by which one could determine someone adhered to the Apostolic teachings or not.  In Against Heresies 2.9.1 Irenaeus remarked how the entire Christian Church received the Apostles’ Tradition.  Polycarp in Letter to the Philippians 7.2 made reference to the traditioning process as well.

The early church preserved the Apostles’ teachings by means of the bishop having received a body of teaching from his predecessor, the bishop as the primary teacher of the local church, and the congregation united with the bishop at the weekly Eucharistic celebration.  For Irenaeus theological orthodoxy was linked to the bishop’s role in the traditioning process.

True knowledge is [that which consists in] the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout the whole world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved, without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which she believes]; . . . . (Against Heresies 4.33.8; emphasis added; see also 3.3.1)

Irenaeus described his mentor Polycarp’s efforts to remember accurately the teaching and example of his mentor the Apostle John.

And as he [Polycarp] remembered their words, and what he heard from them concerning the Lord, and concerning his miracles and his teaching, having received them from eyewitnesses of the ‘Word of life,’ Polycarp related all things in harmony with the Scriptures.  These things being told me by the mercy of God, I listened to them attentively, noting them down, not on paper, but in my heart.  And continually through God’s grace, I recall them faithfully.  (in Eusebius’ Church History 5.20.7,  NPNF p. 371; emphasis added)

In other words, the early Christians did not play fast and loose with the Apostles’ teachings as one might infer from the “Fall of the Church” theory.  Rather, they sought to preserve and transmit faithfully the Apostles’ teachings to later generations.  If anyone dared to stray from the regula fidei they would have been excluded from the Eucharist.  That is why the episcopacy and the Eucharist were so critical to the theological integrity of the early Church.

Priests and Bishops

Just as the Jewish temple had a priesthood so too did the early church have a priesthood (clergy).  Under the New Covenant the Eucharist was based on Christ’s once and for all sacrifice on the Cross.  The bishop along with the priests (presbyters) presided over the Eucharistic assembly.  Ignatius was an early witness to the three orders: bishops, priests, and deacons.

Be zealous to do all things in harmony with God, with the bishop presiding in the place of God and the presbyters in the place of the Council of the Apostles, and the deacons, who are most dear to me, entrusted with the service of Jesus Christ . . . . (Letter to the Magnesians 6.1; emphasis added)

He viewed this threefold hierarchy, not as optional, but as necessary.

Likewise let all respect the deacons as Jesus Christ, even as the bishop is also a type of the Father, and the presbyters as the council of God and the college of Apostles.  Without these the name of “Church” is not given.  (Letter to the Trallians 3.1; emphasis added)

In his Letter to the Smyrneans 8 Ignatius stressed that the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper were not valid unless done with the consent of the bishop.  Irenaeus made a similar point as well:

Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the Church, — those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the Father. (Against Heresies 4.26.2,)

An examination of church history shows that the episcopacy was the universal form of church governance.  It was not until the Protestant Reformation that we see the emergence of novel polities: congregationalism, presbyterianism, and independent non-denominationalism.

Assessing Calvin’s “Fall of the Church” Theory

While insightful, Ralph Winter’s essay seems to have overlooked some of the startling theological implications of the BOBO theory.  One implication is that the Holy Spirit was active in the early days of the church then disappeared for the next thousand years or more then reappeared with the Protestant Reformation in the 1500s!  Also, Winter did not discuss Christ’s promise in John 14:26: “but the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”   This has profound implications for the doctrine of God’s sovereignty in history.  For Reformed Christians this gap in church history also has troubling implications for God’s ability to keep his covenant promises.  How can a Reformed Christian square his belief in the sovereignty of God and covenant theology with the “Fall of the Church” theory proposed by Calvin?

For me as a church history major the “Fall of the Church” theory stems from a foundational flaw.  The “Fall of the Church” theory makes sense if one reads church history with the assumption that the early Christians were Calvinists.  Any hints of liturgical worship among early Christians, i.e., anything unlike Reformed worship, can be attributed to their “falling away.”  But this approach is like taking a meat cleaver and hacking church history into pieces!  It utterly disregards the notion of historical continuity and development.  A more reasonable approach is to view early Christian worship of the second century described in the post-apostolic writings as flowing from the Christian worship of the first century described in the New Testament.  In light of the evidences one can then decide whether or not early Christian worship was liturgical, simple or elaborate, with or without icons.  And whether or not there was continuity or significant departures in practice or doctrine.  The second century writings are more useful for understanding first century Christian worship than those from the 1500s, the time of rhe Reformers.

Calvin’s BOBO theory of church history was influential in the Reformed tradition until Philip Schaff gave his “Principle of Protestantism” address in 1844.  In it Schaff proposed that the Protestant Reformation represented the flowering of medieval Catholicism.  Where Calvin saw discontinuity and rupture, Schaff saw continuity and evolution.  Thanks to Schaff church history became an academic discipline that stood on its own independent of theology.  This allowed for the emergence of historical theology.  Jaroslav Pelikan’s The Christian Tradition is probably one of the finest works of historical theology in the twentieth century and extremely useful for understanding commonalities and divergences in the different theological traditions.  [Note: This eminent Yale historian and long time Lutheran pastor to the surprise of many converted to Orthodoxy!]

Calvin’s theological system is complex and contains contradictions.  These contradictions offer points of contact between the Reformed tradition and Eastern Orthodoxy.  Despite his view that early Christianity had deteriorated over time, Calvin at times held some of the early church fathers in high regard.  Calvin was not averse to quoting the church fathers against his Roman Catholic opponents.  In his “Reply to Sadolet” Calvin affirmed the antiquity principle asserting “our agreement with antiquity is far closer than yours” (p. 231).  Calvin’s arguments against the medieval church may be valid but does it likewise apply to the Orthodox Church?  It has been noted that the Latin Church under the influence of medieval Scholasticism and the rise of the legal schools drifted away from its patristic roots.  This suggests Calvin may have been a victim of historical circumstances.  Calvin’s openness to the church fathers and the early Church laid the foundation of Mercersburg Theology in the 1800s and the attempt by Nevin and Schaff to bring back the catholic dimension to the Reformed tradition.

So while Calvin’s BOBO theory of church history is seriously flawed, he is to be commended for his willingness on occasion to draw on the early church fathers.  This gives Reformed Christians an advantage over their Evangelical counterparts when it comes to engaging Eastern Orthodoxy.  I found in Mercersburg Theology and the Reformed tradition a point of contact leading me to the early church and ultimately into the Orthodox Church.  I am deeply indebted to Mercersburg Theology for the intellectual tools that enabled me to critically examine Reformed theology even though it had unintended consequences like my eventually converting to Orthodoxy.

 

Source

Calvin, John.  1960.  Institutes of the Christian Religion.  Ford Lewis Battles, translator.  The Library of Christian Classics. Volume XX. John T. McNeill, editor.  Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

Calvin, John.  1964.  “The Necessity of Reforming the Church” in Calvin: Theological Treatises, pp. 184-216. Editor: J.K.S. Reid.  Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

Calvin, John.  1964.  “Reply to Sadolet” in Calvin: Theological Treatises, pp. 221-256. Editor: J.K.S. Reid.  Philadelphia: The Westminster Press.

Eusebius.  1890.  “The Church History of Eusebius” in Eusebius.  Translator: Arthur Cushman McGiffert.  Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers.  Second Series.  Vol. I.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Ignatius.  1985.  The Apostolic Fathers.  Volume I.  Loeb Classical Library.  Editor: Kirsopp Lake.  Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Irenaeus.  1985.  The Apostolic Fathers.  Editors: Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson.  Ante-Nicene Fathers.  Volume I.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Justin Martyr.  1985.  The Apostolic Fathers.  Editors: Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson.  Ante-Nicene Fathers.  Volume I.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

Polycarp.  1985.  The Apostolic Fathers.  Volume I.  Loeb Classical Library.  Editor: Kirsopp Lake.  Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Winter, Ralph D.  1992.  “The Kingdom Strikes Back: Ten Epochs of Redemptive History.”

31 comments:

  1. excellent article. it is a pity that many sincere Reformed Christians are simply unwilling to read outside their own Tradition…and learn that despite his zeal, Calvin was simply dead wrong about some critical issues.

      1. How so?

        And given the Didache’s provenance (i.e., that it comes from the very period of the Apostles themselves and/or their immediate disciples), what is more likely–that its theology of the Eucharist is consistent with the Scripture, or that an interpretation of the Scripture that is not found until roughly 1500 years later is more consistent? If the latter is correct, why did it take so long for anyone to interpret the Scriptures correctly?

        1. I’m not sure what’s with the tone of disresect. I greatly admire the Didache as a historical document. I am quite confused by chapter 7(?) where it talks about the Eucharist, where the bread does not stand for Christ’s body and the bread and the wine are in a different order. If someone can explain that, I would greatly appreciate it!

          1. I’m honestly not sure what in my comment was disrespectful.

            In any event, here’s everything the Didache has to say about the Eucharist (Kirsopp-Lake trans.):

            CHAPTER 9

            The Eucharist — The Cup — The Bread

            1 And concerning the Eucharist, hold Eucharist thus: 2 First concerning the Cup, “We give thanks to thee, our Father, for the Holy Vine of David thy child, which, thou didst make known to us through Jesus thy child; to thee be glory for ever.”
            3 And concerning the broken Bread: “We give thee thanks, our Father, for the life and knowledge which thou didst make known to us through Jesus thy Child. To thee be glory for ever.

            4 As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains, but was brought together and became one, so let thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into thy Kingdom, for thine is the glory and the power through Jesus Christ for ever.”

            5 But let none eat or drink of your Eucharist except those who have been baptised in the Lord’s Name. For concerning this also did the Lord say, “Give not that which is holy to the dogs.”

            CHAPTER 10
            The final prayer in the Eucharist

            1 But after you are satisfied with food, thus give thanks: 2 “We give thanks to thee, O Holy Father, for thy Holy Name which thou didst make to tabernacle in our hearts, and for the knowledge and faith and immortality which thou didst make known to us through Jesus thy Child. To thee be glory for ever. 3 Thou, Lord Almighty, didst create all things for thy Name’s sake, and didst give food and drink to men for their enjoyment, that they might give thanks to thee, but us hast thou blessed with spiritual food and drink and eternal light through thy Child. 4 Above all we give thanks to thee for that thou art mighty. To thee be glory for ever.

            5 Remember, Lord, thy Church, to deliver it from all evil and to make it perfect in thy love, and gather it together in its holiness from the four winds to thy kingdom which thou hast prepared for it. For thine is the power and the glory for ever. 6 Let grace come and let this world pass away. Hosannah to the God of David. If any man be holy, let him come! if any man be not, let him repent: Maran atha, Amen.”

            7 But suffer the prophets to hold Eucharist as they will.

            […]

            CHAPTER 14

            The Sunday worship

            1 On the Lord’s Day of the Lord come together, break bread and hold Eucharist, after confessing your transgressions that your offering may be pure; 2 but let none who has a quarrel with his fellow join in your meeting until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice be not defiled. 3 For this is that which was spoken by the Lord, “In every place and time offer me a pure sacrifice, for I am a great king,” saith the Lord, “and my name is wonderful among the heathen.”

            Which part is of concern?

          2. 1. Your 1500 year comment was pointed at me being a Protestant, even though my comment pertaining to the Didache was not about Protestantism.

            2.I already iterated in my previous comment what I meant. THe Didache does not call the bread and wine Christ’s flesh and blood.

            Specifically: “As this broken bread was scattered upon the mountains, but was brought together and became one, so let thy Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into thy Kingdom.”

            If someone can explain that, I would greatly appreciate it!

          3. 1. That wasn’t intended to be disrespectful, but it was indeed a criticism. If someone is going to come up with a novel interpretation of Scripture, it is worth asking why it should be reckoned as authoritative. The comment was also in the context of this post, which is about Calvin and the doctrine of the Great Apostasy.

            2. That doesn’t mean that the author doesn’t regard it that way. (You also said “stands for” in your earlier comment, which at least suggests a Zwinglian memorialism one won’t find in the early Church.)

            In this case, the Eucharist is being depicted in an ecclesiological way, that the wheat which came together to make the bread is analogical to the dispersed humanity which comes together into the Church. That’s not inconsistent with seeing the Eucharist as Christ’s Body and Blood. It’s just another interpretation of what’s occurring. In chapter 14, the author makes use of still another interpretation, i.e., the Eucharist as sacrifice.

            If you’re interested in writing from the same period which combines both ecclesiological and sacrificial interpretations of the Eucharist with mysteriological ones, I especially recommend reading the epistles of St. Ignatius.

          4. “That wasn’t intended to be disrespectful, but it was indeed a criticism.”

            I mean this with all due respect, but you are not very introspective for a priest. You’re being insulting and it’s just not good manners. Being a Protestant has nothing to do with adhering to the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the elements. Both Luther and Calvin did. So do I.

            “If someone is going to come up with a novel interpretation of Scripture, it is worth asking why it should be reckoned as authoritative.”

            Real Presence is novel???

            “The comment was also in the context of this post, which is about Calvin and the doctrine of the Great Apostasy.”

            But not in context of the comment itself. Again, the bad manners…

            “You also said “stands for” in your earlier comment, which at least suggests a Zwinglian memorialism one won’t find in the early Church.”

            You’re reading too into stuff, my point is that the comparison in the DIdache is much different than that found in 1 COrinthians, Matthew, Mark, Luke, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, etc.

            “In this case, the Eucharist is being depicted in an ecclesiological way, that the wheat which came together to make the bread is analogical to the dispersed humanity which comes together into the Church. That’s not inconsistent with seeing the Eucharist as Christ’s Body and Blood. It’s just another interpretation of what’s occurring. In chapter 14, the author makes use of still another interpretation, i.e., the Eucharist as sacrifice.”

            Can you explain this more? So, as the CHurch is a body and CHrist is the head, how do the elements have anything to do with this? And why the reverse order?

            “If you’re interested in writing from the same period which combines both ecclesiological and sacrificial interpretations of the Eucharist with mysteriological ones, I especially recommend reading the epistles of St. Ignatius.”

            I have and he maintains the Real Presence of Christ, as does the whole Bible and church history up until 500 years ago.

            FYI “Calvinist” soteriology is as old as the Bible and is found in the writings of the fathers and in church councils,, such as the 3rd ecunemical council which denounced pelagianism in the first canon and in the canons in the Council of Orange.

          5. I mean this with all due respect, but you are not very introspective for a priest. You’re being insulting and it’s just not good manners.

            I’m honestly not sure why you’re taking my comments as insulting. I certainly don’t intend them that way. Being critical is not the same thing as being insulting. Now, you can continue to insist that it’s all just bad manners whenever someone disagrees, or you could assume (as I do with you) that those who comment are replying in good faith.

            Suffice it to say that the latter will probably be more profitable for all concerned.

            Being a Protestant has nothing to do with adhering to the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in the elements. Both Luther and Calvin did. So do I…. Real Presence is novel???

            But that’s not what you initially said and what I responded to. You said, “It should also be noted that the Didache seems to teach an unsound approach to the Lord’s Supper, but I digress” (and that was it). You did not say, “The Didache does not teach the Real Presence.” If you had said that, well, that would have been different, and I would have responded differently.

            You’re reading too into stuff, my point is that the comparison in the DIdache is much different than that found in 1 COrinthians, Matthew, Mark, Luke, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, etc.

            Really? Ecclesiological readings of the Eucharist are really everywhere in the early Church, including the Scriptures. Here’s one example: “For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17). There are plenty more, though, including in nearly all the writers you name.

            Now, if you mean that the Didache teaches against the Real Presence, well, you’ll have to show me that, because I see nothing in it which teaches against that. It may not mention it explicitly, but that’s not the same thing as denying it.

            Can you explain this more? So, as the CHurch is a body and CHrist is the head, how do the elements have anything to do with this? And why the reverse order?

            There are multiple ways of understanding both the Church and the Eucharist found in Scripture and the Fathers. Not all models are strictly consistent with each other in interchangeable ways. What does it mean, for instance, that the Church is both the Body and Bride of Christ, with Christ as the Head? Does that mean that He has a headless bride? Or that He is betrothed to His body parts? Likewise, the Eucharist as an ecclesiologically unitive experience does not mean that those who experience and explain it that way do not believe that it is His Body and Blood.

            As for the “reverse order” (i.e., Blood before Body), well, Paul does this in 1 Cor. 10: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (v. 16-17). I’m not sure why it’s that big of a deal whether one speaks first of the Body or the Blood. Certainly the liturgical order is the reverse of Paul’s order here, following rather what he gives in the next chapter.

            FYI “Calvinist” soteriology is as old as the Bible and is found in the writings of the fathers and in church councils,, such as the 3rd ecunemical council which denounced pelagianism in the first canon and in the canons in the Council of Orange.

            I’m not really sure why you’ve introduced that here, but suffice it to say that we must disagree. Orthodoxy is not monergist and doesn’t see monergism in the Scriptures nor the Fathers but rather sees a strong sense that salvation requires human assent and cooperation, i.e., “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” that we are “co-laborers” (synergoi) with God (literally what the Scriptures say in 1 Cor. 3:9 and 6:1).

            As for the canons of the Council of Orange, they do not teach monergism. Rather, they teach that our ability to respond to God’s grace comes from grace. Orthodoxy agrees with that. Where Calvinist monergism parts ways from that is that it teaches that God does not give that grace to respond to all men. You won’t find Orange teaching that God gives that grace only to some. Indeed, the idea that God predestines some to evil is explicitly repudiated by Orange: “We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema.”

            Regarding the first canon of the Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus, it only anathematizes those who follow Celestius, who taught that “it is not God, that is to say, in other words, the Holy Spirit, that apportions to whomsoever He wills the means of attaining to piety and salvation, but the nature of the human being himself which has forfeited bliss on account of sin. This, according to the meritoriousness of his free will, is either attracted (or invited) or repelled (or repulsed) by the Holy Spirit.” Again, rejecting this is fine with Orthodoxy, because we also do not believe that human nature unaided by grace is capable of following God’s will. Against Calvinism, however, we teach that all mankind is being aided by grace. Indeed, that we are capable of breathing is the result of grace, for human nature is not of itself alive. Only God has life in Himself.

            In short, denying that unaided human nature is capable of salvation doesn’t make one a Calvinist. Rather, it is both denying that and also saying that God does not aid everyone — that is, that God is in fact willing that some should perish — that makes one a Calvinist.

          6. “Being critical is not the same thing as being insulting.”

            Why do you have to justify yourself to me? You know in yourself when you are angry, proud, vainglorious, however you feel when you write what you write. That’s between you and God.

            “But that’s not what you initially said and what I responded to.”

            I thought it was common knowledge that the Didache did not teach the Real Presence, which is why I took issue with it. But, I accept your interpretation and appreciate it.

            I will respond to the latter part of your reply soon.

          7. If it’s really between me and God, why do you keep harping on it? 🙂

            I’m not insulting you. I’m simply engaging what you’re saying. Please stick to the topic at hand and don’t worry about whether someone is supposedly being insulting. I’m not trying to insult you. Please move on.

          8. Double predestination (though held by Augustine) is not necessarily a Calvinist doctrine, perhaps hyper-calvinist, though for Biblical reasons I do believe in it.

          9. “Orthodoxy is not monergist and doesn’t see monergism in the Scriptures nor the Fathers but rather sees a strong sense that salvation requires human assent and cooperation, i.e., “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” that we are “co-laborers” (synergoi) with God (literally what the Scriptures say in 1 Cor. 3:9 and 6:1).”

            First, you left out the next sentence in Philippians 2 that says “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.”

            Why did you not complete the sentence?

            I have seriously read the Bible and some of the church fathers (I am sure not as exhaustively as you) and I have honestly come to the conclusion that monergism (as it is coined today) was the default mode of thinking.

            I happily concede to you, are we in reality talking about synergism? Yes. Augustine makes this exceedingly clear. Our own experience does as well. We know we have free will.

            However, God begins the work of changing our will from a carnal to a spiritual mind, and then He guides believers by His Holy Spirit. So, God in all ways is both the “author and perfecter of our faith” (Heb 12:2). So, we cooperate to a degree, but God holds our hand throughout the whole process and leads us forward. This is why we are “new creations in Christ Jesus,” we are not the same men anymore.

            For example, let me list the following quotes to show how for 550 years, thought on this matter remained unchanged in the church:

            __
            Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, [e]combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 14 But [f]a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually [g]appraised.15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 16 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ. (1 cor 2:12-16)

            Let not then any one deceive you, as indeed you are not deceived, inasmuch as you are wholly devoted to God. For since there is no strife raging among you which might distress you, you are certainly living in accordance with God’s will. I am far inferior to you, and require to be sanctified by your Church of Ephesus, so renowned throughout the world. They that are carnal cannot do those things which are spiritual, nor they that are spiritual the things which are carnal; even as faith cannot do the works of unbelief, nor unbelief the works of faith. But even those things which you do according to the flesh are spiritual; for you do all things in Jesus Christ. (Ignatius, Chap 8, Epistle to the Ephesians)

            If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, “The will is prepared by the Lord” (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, “For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). (Canon Four, Second Council of Orange)

            __

            So, the agreement is that natural man cannot choose God. To quote even the RCC’s 1994 catechism: “The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’[Matthew 4:17]. Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high.”

            To me, the conclusion is inescapable: God controls the destiny of man if it is He that controls whether He can even believe.

            “Where Calvinist monergism parts ways from that is that it teaches that God does not give that grace to respond to all men. You won’t find Orange teaching that God gives that grace only to some.”

            I am very happy that you brought up this point, because this is where both sides begin with orthodoxy and then one necessarily splits off into heterodoxy.

            My opinion is that the default presumption in Scripture and the preponderance of the fathers, because I am yet to read anything that shows otherwise, is that there is no existence of “common grace” that all men essentially have been blessed so that they are predisposed towards both belief and unbelief, and now it is up to them to go one way or the other. If you can find that in the Bible and the Fathers, I can be persuaded.

            However, this is a qualification that Arminians, (and I presume) Catholics and EO add. The Bible, Ignatius, and the Councils simply state that those who are carnal simply cannot believe and that anyone who does believe does so by the grace of God. Obviously, the Pelagians taught that belief was purely an act of will. Now, you may not “officially” teach that, but what you seem to have is a contrived paradigm that is exactly the same. “Yeah, God prepares all men’s hearts so that they can believe, so the onus is on them to choose.”

            This “onus” however is not found in the Bible nor the Fathers. To me, it seems to be a paradigm added in the middle ages. This is why the RCC seems to grudgingly concede God’s role in salvation metaphysically, but for all practical purposes will assert that man chooses his own destiny by default. It is practical Pelagianism, with the existence of original sin added to it.

            “Indeed, the idea that God predestines some to evil is explicitly repudiated by Orange: “We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema.””

            Correct, James says God causes no man towards evil. Augustine and the Calvinists don’t disagree with this. THe argument is that the default tendency of man is to sin and apart from grace, he will continue doing so and reap condemnation. God does not need to make man sin so that man may be found guilty.

            “Regarding the first canon of the Third Ecumenical Council at Ephesus, it only anathematizes those who follow Celestius…Again, rejecting this is fine with Orthodoxy, because we also do not believe that human nature unaided by grace is capable of following God’s will.”

            Good. My point was to show that the Second Council of Orange merely was elucidating the details of orthodoxy that would have been presumed in Canon 1 of the 3rd ecunemical council.

          10. For all the problems inherent in Calvinist doctrine I’ll refer you to Robin’s excellent series just recently published on this site.

            I don’t have time to make a thorough study today, but if you’re looking for quotes from the Fathers showing that they’re not Calvinists, here’s a rather big pile and here’s an even bigger pile. And here’s a whole paper on synergy in Maximos the Confessor.

            My biggest objection to monergism, though, is the one that John Wesley made and which seems quite obvious to me: If God has predetermined who will be saved and who will be damned and there is nothing that anyone can do to change their eternal destiny, what is the point of preaching? Indeed, what is the point of all the exhortation throughout the Scripture? It’s all really kind of a sick game if no one has any real choice whether to obey or disobey. “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand” isn’t a command (for no one can obey but those so compelled) but a taunt. Does the puppet master preach to his puppets? No, he simply pulls their strings.

            Mind you, I have no doubt that a Calvinist will find Calvinism in the Fathers (should he care what they think), just as he will find it in the Scripture. I still think he’s wrong. Of course, if Calvinism is really true, then I have no choice but to think that. 🙂

          11. I wrote a series of refutations for those articles and an EO I know online said that they didn’t really address important questions.

            Again, you are ignoring 3 clear citations and the whole thrust of my argument. Why is this so? You wasted far more time on previous conversation, now it is all at a head. The ball is in your court. I ask that you respond and settle this now.

            PS The fact your biggest objection to monergism is by your own admission philosophical, and not from the Bible or from ancient church tradition, is very telling.

          12. How is an appeal to preaching and all the moral exhortation in Scripture and the Fathers (complete with links to piles and piles of Patristic quotations) “philosophical, and not from the Bible or from ancient church tradition”? I’m also not sure how I ignored what you wrote.

            I kind of wonder sometimes if we’re using the same English language here.

            As for your responses to Robin’s pieces, I read them, and they were so full of misrepresentations of Orthodoxy that I didn’t think they actually responded to Robin at all. It was one of those “Well, where does one even begin?” kind of things. I’m sure you know what I mean. I respect that “an EO [you] know online” gave his expert opinion to you, but that doesn’t really help us much here, does it?

            Anyway, forgive me for saying so, but you’re the guest in this house, so demanding that the host “respond and settle this now” is not really going to get you anywhere. I have work to do for a Bible study this evening, a sick clergyman to go visit, bread to pick up for my wife, and a few other things. You’ll just have to live without my contribution on this for the moment, I’m afraid.

          13. Go get the bread and come back, because we are close to finally cutting through all the differences between our poistions. We are at the ehart of the matter.

            My contention: “My opinion is that the default presumption in Scripture and the preponderance of the fathers … is that there is no existence of “common grace” that all men essentially have been blessed so that they are predisposed towards both belief and unbelief, and now it is up to them to go one way or the other.”

            If you take issues with this, please address the reasoning I give and the citations I use to back it.

      1. To quote myself:

        [I]n reality, there are almost no preserved ruins of a church for the first few hundred years of Christianity. One of the earliest known churches, which happens to be in Israel, has pictures of fish, not people. If anything, there seems to be indications that Christians avoided artistic representations for at least two hundred years, even though there were notable exceptions after that point in time (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aniconism_in_Christianity#Early_Christianity). See also here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Christian_art_and_architecture#Christian_Art_prior_to_313).

        Furthermore, anyone who has actually studied ancient history knows how qualified our statements have to be when we say things like “everyone knows all the respectable Corinthian women wore head coverings” or “all the early Christians used the fish symbol” or any other claim. There are simply not enough ancient records and ruins for us to make such a complete picture of an ancient society, give or take a hundred years.

        http://reformedchristiantheology.wordpress.com/2014/01/28/why-i-am-a-calvinistic-christian-part-4-god-makes-us-righteousness/

        1. There’s a wonderful book called “Early Christian Attitudes Toward Images” by Steven Bigham where he details the so called aniconism of Jews and early Christians. If you don’t have time to read the book, Robert has a series of articles (4 total) that review the content of the book. That can be found at the link below:

          https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthodoxbridge/clearing-the-way-for-reformed-orthodox-dialogue-on-icons/

          I’m not sure Wikipedia is a great place to run to for information. Robert, on the other hand, is quite scholarly in the way that he writes, using citations of books and other scholarly works. I highly recommend the book.

  2. Very interesting article. Luther undoubtedly moved (tried to move) the RC Church back to a focus on the Gospel albeit whilst still encapsulated in that nasty Roman system of merit. Unfortunately Calvin took the baton in this BOBO direction. I’m fairly certain that Luther and Melanchthon didn’t hold to BOBO as they cited many Church Fathers as being in step with the Augsburg Confession.

  3. John Calvin, for me, is utterly SYMPTOMATIC of the unhinged Protestants that infected the Church at the time they attempted to “purify” it in the 15th and 16th centuries. No wonder so many of them, Protestants, seemed to be just in a HAZE as to what the Church was founded for by its Divine Creator, Jesus. It makes me so thankful that I’m a cradle Catholic that never had to wander through the maze of confusion and contradiction that so typifies Protestantism. I also went to Catholic Schools in the early ‘fifties, graduating from a Catholic High School in 1957; it was the golden era of Catholicism, my faith being formed before the Conciliar Church could confuse and disorient me from the true faith. This I’m thankful for as well. So many fallen-away Protestants I’ve known were so in despair because of the rueful doctrine they preached of predestination; it encouraged despair, too. Finally, the great gift of Mary Immaculate in my life, what would I have done without her and the Rosary? We all need to pray very assiduously for the Protestants that they convert from their terrible gloomy trap of despair and hopelessness that Protestantism engenders.

    1. While I am now seriously considering the Orthodox Church, I grew up Catholic, attending Catholic schools and I can still say, no matter where I land, I could never return to that life. There was such an air of relentless dogmatism that I was burdened with guilt and fear perpetually. Other than one or two sweet nuns, my teachers, both priests and laymen, were hard, often unkind, and unwilling to countenance questions (and I was an eager to please “good girl” and a straight A student in those early years). My Catholic high school was as filled with sexual immorality and godlessness as the state university I attended after graduation. I left thinking there had to be more. When I first walked into the Protestant church that has now been my home for 20 years, I saw real love for others. I began to walk alongside people who truly loved Jesus, and who cared for people with whom they had little in common. While doctrinal issues are compelling me to investigate the ancient faith, my heart is heavy. I have known such love in this body that I want to cry at times at the thought of parting with them (and my husband and our teen children absolutely love our church, always have). While the Catholic Church may have many doctrinal points in their favor, I could never return to any body that does not love deeply nor lives out the doctrines claimed by them. So far, my interaction with the local Orthodox Church has been wonderful. I hope my experience with the Catholic Church is unique, and I’m glad you experienced a time filled with golden memories. Mine nearly destroyed my faith altogether. Even as I prepare to “cross the Bosphorus”, I praise God for drawing me to a group who taught me to love and to honor God’s Word.

  4. craigtruglia,

    I am far from being a scholar, but I just had to chime in here.

    Just based on faith of an idea of religion, I came to the cross roads of choosing between something that was created, by a man, in the early 1600s (Baptist) and something that existed from the very beginning, created by the Creator Himself (Orthodoxy). It wasn’t really a hard decision. Once I was presented with the facts I decided instead of looking for something that entertained me (music concerts, a good speaking preacher, a hot dog mission) I needed to practice something God instituted and has been practiced for centuries. It was a simple matter of asking myself, “What did the Apostles do?” They practiced what they were taught from the very mouth of God.

    Again, I don’t have masses of books to quote from and I have no degree in anything, but seems your argument on the Grace issue is simple and you are saying what we believe. Christ died for all of creation and Grace was given. As you say, ” … there is no existence of “common grace” that all men essentially have been blessed so that they are predisposed towards both belief and unbelief, and now it is up to them to go one way or the other.” I would venture to say that “blessing” as you call it is the Grace we have been given to understand or at least to question God’s existence. We have the freewill to go one way or the other. Just seems like the same idea with different words.

    On the icon issue I have to say, I was taken aback, when I first found Orthodoxy. But, using your own reference of Wikipedia it shows that the Apostle Luke was the first iconist. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luke_the_Evangelist. So, I’m thinking if Luke was painting pictures of the Theotokos and Christ, then it was acceptable. I mean, you accept what Calvin says, so I’m thinking early Christians accepted Icons because Luke painted them. I guess I could be wrong.

    I commend you for standing up for your beliefs. Paul told us to stand fast. I just think Paul was talking about the traditions past on by him and the other Apostles and not someone who came along a thousand years later. This is why I chose to convert to Orthodoxy.

    The Orthodox Church is evangelical, but not Protestant. It is orthodox, but not Jewish. It is catholic, but not Roman. It is not non-denominational, it is pre-denominational. It has believed, taught, preserved, defended, and died for the Faith of the Apostles since the Day of Pentecost nearly 2000 years ago in 33 A.D.

  5. The point of reformism was not historical correctness. Their’s was a program, which was to deliberately sever faith from its most irrational/enthusiastic/habitual elements to bring faith up to a confession of a steady, committed heart. Blinded by religious “originalism” it would be easy to forget to what extent we owe to the reformers our privilege to be readers of the bible. Such reading will either be necessary or unnecessary in the future, and that is what will determine whether the bible is to be read with spiritual or merely scholastic interest.

  6. Dear mr. Robert Arakaki,

    While I like a lot of what you have written in your post, there is one problem I have with the episcopal hierarchical structure of a church. You can see Ignatius really hammering on it but, as far as I am aware, no one else of his period did this. You have quoted Irenaeus who clearly refers to Presbyters, as does Ignatius (even though, for him, the bishop is what holds it together). The model of a Presbyterian leadership seems to be the most accurate when compared to the writings of the New Testament. Furthermore, nowhere is it written that Christ would get a local representative in each local church, let alone a pope. I love studying early church history. To me it seems like there are major flows in the 3 major traditions. I have a huge respect for the orthodox church, even though there are things I can’t agree with from an earlier church historical perspective. Kind regards, may God bless all true believers in Christ in the Orthodox church and may He save and bless those that just come out of habit, not having an intimate relationship with Christ. May He do the same in the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches.

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