Is Liturgy Magic? A Response to Peter Leithart’s Puritan Sacramentalism

I must admit that it always bugs me a bit when someone tells me what I believe, especially when I do not actually believe it. And so the bug in my bonnet buzzed again a bit when I read Peter Leithart’s latest musings on liturgy over at First Things. In this piece, Leithart lets the Orthodox, Roman Catholics and other “high church”…

On Leithart’s Puritans and the Purity of Sacraments

Introduction In a recent article at First Things, Peter Leithart laments the “high-churchism” of non-Protestant celebrations of the Eucharist. For Leithart, the essential difference between “high” and “low” liturgies is that of the preparatory rites—not necessarily the external ornaments of incense, bells, and vestments. Beyond mere simplicity, the Protestant or “Puritan” sacramentalism was one that eschewed excessive and unnecessary foreplay: The low-church Reformers…

Is Orthodoxy Really United?: A Question from a Reader

I recently received the following question from a reader (slightly edited to remove identifying details): I am aware of one Orthodox church parish leaving one Orthodox group to go to another Orthodox group because of some issue. Doesn’t this kind of dispel the idea of the Orthodox being a unified church organization as it is in the case of the Roman Catholics?…

Grace and Wrath in the Orthodox Tradition

Eric Jobe’s recent series on justification (Part I, Part II, Part III) has spurred some discussion regarding the role of divine wrath in Orthodoxy. To simplify: Some readers seemed to believe that there was no place in Orthodoxy to speak of the wrath of God at all. Our salvation, to them, has nothing to do with deliverance from God’s wrath. Rather than…

Grace and Debt – How do we Understand Legal Terminology in Paul?

The discussion of justification in my past two posts have brought up a lot of good discussion in the comments revealing the great discomfort that Orthodox Christians seem to feel with forensic (i.e., legal) terms used to describe justification. Nevertheless, such forensic terms are quite dominant in Paul’s language, and the Fathers use them as well. We cannot completely rid ourselves of this…

Reconciling Paul and James: Thoughts about Justification

The following post represents some of my musings on the topic of justification which have proceeded in the comments to my last post. I do not intend these musings to be understood as reflecting a particular “Orthodox position,” as in “this is what the Orthodox Church teaches” and thus prescribing such belief. These ideas represent my own thoughts and opinions as I have dialogued…

What Do Orthodox Christians Believe about Justification? A Response to Protestant Criticisms

As Protestant Christians find their way to examining the Orthodox Christian faith, they very often remark about the inconsistency of Orthodox Christianity on the matter of justification by faith, or else they even say that Orthodoxy has no such doctrine of justification. Indeed, the term justification may be a bit curious to most Orthodox Christians who were not reared in Protestant homes, for one…

Infant Communion, Revisited

By Fr. Gregory Hogg Commemoration of the Holy Innocents, 29 December 2014 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world. John 6:51 The young children ask for bread, But no one…

The Problem of Authority: How Do We Know What Is True?

By Mark Meador When formerly Protestant converts to Orthodoxy (or Roman Catholicism) recount the theological reasons for their conversion, it is not uncommon to hear among those reasons that they were persuaded by “the authority of the Church.” Once you become convinced of the Church’s authority, the telling goes, everything else falls into place. While this seems to be sufficient for the…

Newsweek So Misunderstands Bible It’s a Sin

Good biblical scholarship is important… really important. Not only does it help us understand our own Bible and biblical tradition better, it also enables us to spot quite easily when biblical scholarship is misused in ways that are frankly disrespectful to Christians of all stripes and contrary to all reason and good will. Such is the nature of “The Bible: So Misunderstood…