Eastern Orthodoxy

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Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
I have a former presbyterian friend who is now Eastern Orthodox (EO).

Our discussions about ANYTHING always lead to Sola Scriptura and him saying that isn't Scriptural and that protestants are hypocritical on this point. Him pointing out the Protestant churches use of Church Tradition as an authority. Examples: Canonization of Scripture, the church councils, the development of the Trinity, the use of Calvin, Luther, etc.

Because I deny Tradition as a final authority, he responded in this way, "You would deny the Church her God given place by accusing her of being so devoid of the Holy Spirit, that the men who replaced the apostles in the Church could not keep the faith for 2000 years. You claim that God is so sovereign yet you would deny that the same God either couldn't or didn't guide the Church for the last 1600 years. Your view of God seems pretty weak."

As to the use of icons he has said, "You are bearing false witness against your neighbor when you insinuate that I am an idolater because the Orthodox venerate icons. In the Old Testament it was forbidden to attempt to represent God because no accurate representation could be made. He had never shown Himself. After the Incarnation it is acceptable to represent Christ , the Incarnate Son of God because He became a man. I worship the Holy Trinity, I do not worship the icons. To venerate an icon is like the child who kisses her father that she sees outside her window going to work. When she kisses the window what is she kissing? She is kissing her father. When I venerate an icon I am not venerating wood and paint. I am venerating Christ."

Continually it is very frustrating for me, it keeps going back to Sola Scriptura (I know that is the hinge of any argument with him). Actually the Holy Spirit is the hinge :) But for argument sake, Sola Scriptura. Any thoughts???
 

Hamalas

whippersnapper
I feel your frustration brother, many of my friends are either EO or leaning that way. I have just recently been introduced to the EO faith and have been using the last few weeks to read whatever I could on it. I have come across a few good articles that may be helpful.

As regards icons: Eastern Orthodoxy

As regards Sola Scriptura: solascriptura.html

Here are two great links to articles about EO and Sola Scriptura in general, (I assume you know about Monergism.) ;)
Monergism :: Sola Scriptura
Monergism :: Eastern Orthodoxy

I hope this helps!

-----Added 12/26/2008 at 11:21:34 EST-----

I have just recently been introduced to the EO faith and have been using the last few weeks to read whatever I could on it.
By the way, I just thought I should clarify that when I say "introduced" I don't mean that I am a part of the EO church! I do think that we have much that we can learn from them and share certain things in common. However, the things that divide us, Sola Scriptura, Original Sin, Iconography, Penal Subsitution, Theosis, etc.... Are far to big to be ignored. I am, and will Lord willing remain, a faithful Presbyterian.
 

Neogillist

Puritan Board Freshman
That is quite interesting, but indeed, I have heard of a few recorded cases of Reformed Christians turning to EO. The tendency is stronger among paleopresbyterians because they have a very high view of church authority and government that they are tempted to attribute too much power to the structure and neglect the authority of Scriptures.

I myself have a Reformed friend who has started to show some sympathies for EO and I have become a little worried. However, last time I talked to him he said he was not about to convert to EO knowing their excessive retualism and belief in pre-Medieval catholicism.

The fact that your friend seems so defensive and confident of his EO beliefs might be evidence that the Holy Spirit is not opening a door for you to bring him back?
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
That is quite interesting, but indeed, I have heard of a few recorded cases of Reformed Christians turning to EO. The tendency is stronger among paleopresbyterians because they have a very high view of church authority and government that they are tempted to attribute too much power to the structure and neglect the authority of Scriptures.

I myself have a Reformed friend who has started to show some sympathies for EO and I have become a little worried. However, last time I talked to him he said he was not about to convert to EO knowing their excessive retualism and belief in pre-Medieval catholicism.

The fact that your friend seems so defensive and confident of his EO beliefs might be evidence that the Holy Spirit is not opening a door for you to bring him back?

This is what I have been thinking. He has asked me if I believed he is a Christian? I have answered no. He has asked me if he is in sin? I answered Yes. I asked him what the gospel was, he told me Jesus, etc. I asked him, do you have to be baptized to be saved? He said, Yes. that is a different Gospel --> Galatians 1.

In some ways I desire to not talk to him again, but another part of my desires to continue dialoguing with him, to tell him of the good news of Jesus Christ.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
I have a former presbyterian friend who is now Eastern Orthodox (EO).

Our discussions about ANYTHING always lead to Sola Scriptura and him saying that isn't Scriptural and that protestants are hypocritical on this point. Him pointing out the Protestant churches use of Church Tradition as an authority. Examples: Canonization of Scripture, the church councils, the development of the Trinity, the use of Calvin, Luther, etc.

Because I deny Tradition as a final authority, he responded in this way, "You would deny the Church her God given place by accusing her of being so devoid of the Holy Spirit, that the men who replaced the apostles in the Church could not keep the faith for 2000 years. You claim that God is so sovereign yet you would deny that the same God either couldn't or didn't guide the Church for the last 1600 years. Your view of God seems pretty weak."

One comment on the canon...If the alleged infallibility of the church is able to define the canon infallibly, then ask your EO friend why the council of Trullo approved four different canons of Scripture. How can four different canonical lists all be infallible delineations of the canon? Is that how his communion has kept the canonical list for the past 2000 years? Is that the way he believes the God of the Bible has guided the church for centuries, so that (according to his claims) it can't even recognize infallibly one infallible list of the canon? It seems to me your friend is engaging in an overt double standard. This is but one of many discrepancies in traditions that lack uniformity. The following EO writer has pointed out this fact quite candidly...

Demetrios J. Constantelos: The early church as a whole did not take a definite position for or against the Deuterocanonicals. Church leaders and ecclesiastical writers of both the Greek east and Latin west were not in full agreement. Some preferred the Hebrew canon, while others accepted the longer canon that included the Deuterocanonicals. The ambivalence of ecumenical and local synods (Nicea, 325 CE; Rome, 382; Laodicea, 365; Hippo, 393) was resolved by the Trullan Synod (692). It adopted deliberations of councils that had favored the shorter list, and decisions of other synods that had advocated the longer list. See his article “Eastern Orthodoxy and the Bible” in Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, eds., The Oxford Companion to the Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), p. 174.

Moreover, the early church does not have a uniform view on the use of icons. Some in the early church forbade their use. One such example was Epiphanius of Salamis...

Epiphanius of Salamis (310/320-403): Asking what place it was, and learning it to be a church, I went in to pray, and found there a curtain hanging on the doors of the said church, dyed and embroidered. It bore an image either of Christ or of one of the saints; I do not rightly remember whose the image was. Seeing this, and being loth that an image of a man should be hung up in Christ’s church contrary to the teaching of the Scriptures, I tore it asunder and advised the custodians of the place to use it as a winding sheet for some poor person. NPNF2: Vol. VI, The Letters of St. Jerome, Letter 51 - From Epiphanius, Bishop of Salamis, In Cyprus, to John, Bishop of Jerusalem, §9.

I have a saying for the Romanists and the EOs..."Let the dogs bark, the caravan moves on."

DTK
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Wow, what a tangled mess of logic you are having to deal with!

It sounds like this fellow has a holdover knowledge of some reformed ideas that he is confusingly mixing with his apparent new set of doctrines.

This makes me more inclined to think baptisms administered by this organization cannot be acceptable valid Christian baptisms to be received by the rest of the Christian church.

-----Added 12/26/2008 at 12:10:26 EST-----

"You would deny the Church her God given place by accusing her of being so devoid of the Holy Spirit, that the men who replaced the apostles in the Church could not keep the faith for 2000 years. You claim that God is so sovereign yet you would deny that the same God either couldn't or didn't guide the Church for the last 1600 years. Your view of God seems pretty weak."

Being devoid of the Holy Spirit? What does he mean by that? This may stem from a fundamentally different view of the person and work of the Holy Spirit in the Orthodox Church.

The Holy Spirit must be resident in believers for someone to be a Christian, does he not know that?

Who does he say "keeps the faith" if it not the Holy Spirit resident in believers?

"Guiding the church" is not the same as creating new infallible doctrine and changing earlier (infallible) doctrine through a plurality of people, after the faith was once delivered unto the saints (cf Jude 1:3).
 

P.F.

Puritan Board Freshman
Our discussions about ANYTHING always lead to Sola Scriptura and him saying that isn't Scriptural and that protestants are hypocritical on this point. Him pointing out the Protestant churches use of Church Tradition as an authority. Examples: Canonization of Scripture, the church councils, the development of the Trinity, the use of Calvin, Luther, etc.

There is an important difference between authorative sources, like the books of the Bible, and persuasive/informative sources like the church fathers and councils. Reading Pastor McMahon's article may be helpful (link). For a look at the difference between the Scripture and the Confession, here's another article.

Because I deny Tradition as a final authority, he responded in this way, "You would deny the Church her God given place by accusing her of being so devoid of the Holy Spirit, that the men who replaced the apostles in the Church could not keep the faith for 2000 years. You claim that God is so sovereign yet you would deny that the same God either couldn't or didn't guide the Church for the last 1600 years. Your view of God seems pretty weak."

One response in kind is to say, "You claim that God is so sovereign yet you would deny that the same God either couldn't or didn't put everything we need to know about Him in Scripture. Your view of God seems pretty weak." One could then add to that remark the fact that the Scriptures speak of themselves as being able to thoroughly equip the man of God, and being able to make one wise unto salvation. On the other hand, the Scriptures warn us of coming false teachers, demonstrating that there is no guarantee of long-term institutional integrity.

As to the use of icons he has said, "You are bearing false witness against your neighbor when you insinuate that I am an idolater because the Orthodox venerate icons. In the Old Testament it was forbidden to attempt to represent God because no accurate representation could be made. He had never shown Himself. After the Incarnation it is acceptable to represent Christ , the Incarnate Son of God because He became a man. I worship the Holy Trinity, I do not worship the icons. To venerate an icon is like the child who kisses her father that she sees outside her window going to work. When she kisses the window what is she kissing? She is kissing her father. When I venerate an icon I am not venerating wood and paint. I am venerating Christ."
The Old Testament doesn't say that the reason is because no accurate representation could be made, and we don't have any assurance that the representations in Eastern Orthodox iconography are accurate representations. Certainly, many of the infancy icons of Christ are quite unrealistic.

But moving on from the incarnation claim, the remainder is a bit silly. Scripture speaks of the pagans as worship idols, but do you think the Ephesians thought that the statue of Diana was really Diana? Of course not. They weren't that stupid. The idols of the pagans served the same representative role as the icons of the "Othodox."

Continually it is very frustrating for me, it keeps going back to Sola Scriptura (I know that is the hinge of any argument with him). Actually the Holy Spirit is the hinge But for argument sake, Sola Scriptura. Any thoughts???

I'd recommend reading Pastor King's work on Sola Scriptura, "Holy Scripture: The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith." One thing that he provides in the three-volume work is a look at the relation of the church fathers (including both eastern and western fathers) to the Scripture as the rule of faith.
 

Craig

Puritan Board Senior
EO are more cobbled up than Rome...if your friend wants to appeal to authority, ask him why his church denies authoritative teaching from councils before they broke from Rome...things such as Pelagianism (which they are completely Pelagian), and why he insists on being Nestorian (his use of icons representing Christ would make him a practical Nestorian).

Their arguments re: authority are reversing the order God has established. All authority is derivitive from God. EO and RC's pit their authority over Scripture...if he wants to say sola scriptura is unbiblical, ask him if that's why he submits to the authority of EO or if there is another reason. If the former, he affirms sola scriptura, if the latter he acknowledges church authority usurps the authority of God's Word. Essentially, what this argument for EO/RC authority does is toss the imago dei to the wind...instead of a Fall where man is corrupted morally/spiritually, we have man that is too far removed from God to properly understand His Word...it becomes a metaphysical predicament...such a view should not give confidence to those that trust in EO/RC authority, it should undermine their assurance that they can understand anything.
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
Andrew,

EO is basically irrational/mystic. People don't go to EO for rational reasons. Generally, those interested in liturgies and FV goofiness will find their way to EO. As such, if God has given a man over to such reprobate motives (I don't know if such is the case with your friend, since I am generalizing) arguments will do no good. You can cite councils disproving his mysticism, but perhaps mysticism is a better place to start. You may be able to demonstrate how bankrupt mysticism is for any knowledge or guidance on any topic.

Cheers,

Adam
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Yep, i agree, he was dabbling in Doug Wilson stuff and other FV stuff. Along with mysticism stuff and taoism, Buddhism thought processes because he was into marital arts. I saw the dangers, I warned him, he listened not... Sad it is. Thanks for everyone's input so far, it has been good.
 

JM

Puritan Board Doctor
I attended the divine liturgy for almost 2 years but the apophatic theology drove me crazy and yes, it is very mystic.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
EO are more cobbled up than Rome...if your friend wants to appeal to authority, ask him why his church denies authoritative teaching from councils before they broke from Rome...things such as Pelagianism (which they are completely Pelagian)...
Dear Craig,

I would refrain from saying they are completely Pelagian. They do not deny original sin outright, as did Pelagius and his followers, but they do approach Pelagianism in their denial that guilt is passed on to Adam's posterity for his sin.

They do believe that the stain and corruption of original sin is passed on to Adam's posterity resulting in spiritual and physical death. Here's some comments by one of their leading theologians who recently died...

Meyendorff: There is indeed a consensus in Greek patristic and Byzantine traditions in identifying the inheritance of the Fall as an inheritance essentially of mortality rather than of sinfulness, sinfulness being merely a consequence of mortality. The idea appears in Chrysostom, who specifically denies the imputation of sin to the descendants of Adam; in the eleventh-century commentator Theophylact of Ohrida; and in later Byzantine authors, particularly Gregory Palamas. John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes, 2nd rev. ed. (New York: Fordham University Press, 1983), p. 145.

Meyendorff: Byzantine theology did not produce any significant elaboration of the Pauline doctrine of justification expressed in Romans and Galatians. The Greek patristic commentaries on such passages as Galatians 3:13 (“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us”) generally interpret the idea of redemption by substitution in the wider context of victory over death and of satisfaction. They never develop the idea in the direction of an Anselmian theory of “satisfaction.” John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes, 2nd rev. ed. (New York: Fordham University Press, 1983), p. 160.

Meyendorff: In the east, the cross is envisaged not so much as the punishment of the just one, which “satisfies” a transcendent justice requiring retribution for man's sins....The point was not to satisfy a legal requirement, but to vanquish the frightful cosmic reality of death, which held humanity under its usurped control and pushed it into the vicious cycle of sin and corruption. And, as Athanasius of Alexandria has shown in his polemics against Arianism, God alone is able to vanquish death, because He “alone has immortality” (1 Tm 6:16). Just as original sin did not consist in an inherited guilt, so redemption was not primarily a justification, but a victory over death. John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes, 2nd rev. ed. (New York: Fordham University Press, 1983), p. 161.

Blessings,
DTK
 

Craig

Puritan Board Senior
Dear Craig,

I would refrain from saying they are completely Pelagian. They do not deny original sin outright, as did Pelagius and his followers, but they do approach Pelagianism in their denial that guilt is passed on to Adam's posterity for his sin.

They do believe that the stain and corruption of original sin is passed on to Adam's posterity resulting in spiritual and physical death. Here's some comments by one of their leading theologians who recently died...

Thanks for the quotes Pastor King...btw, I've benefited greatly from your 3 volumes on Holy Scripture.

I must admit, I was speaking from more from experience with Eastern Orthodox individuals rather than careful study...so I don't want to act like I'm well educated on their theology. However, given that they do not believe in Original Sin as an inherited guilt, then truly they view Original Sin as a metaphysical predicament...that is why they view Christ as the bridge for humanity to become divine.

According to EO, Adam's race experienced a metaphysical fall where we became mortal...sin follows after the fact. Simply reading through those quotes from Meyendorff bares this out:

Ex1:
There is indeed a consensus in Greek patristic and Byzantine traditions in identifying the inheritance of the Fall as an inheritance essentially of mortality rather than of sinfulness, sinfulness being merely a consequence of mortality
Ex2:
(Eastern Orthodox) interpret the idea of redemption by substitution in the wider context of victory over death and of satisfaction
Ex3:
The point was not to satisfy a legal requirement, but to vanquish the frightful cosmic reality of death, which held humanity under its usurped control and pushed it into the vicious cycle of sin and corruption.

I'm having difficulty seeing how this pagan view of the Fall and their emphasis on LFW can be anything other than outright Pelagianism.

Again, I don't mean to tread carelessly where I'm not well-informed.
 

Christusregnat

Puritan Board Professor
Yep, i agree, he was dabbling in Doug Wilson stuff and other FV stuff. Along with mysticism stuff and taoism, Buddhism thought processes because he was into marital arts. I saw the dangers, I warned him, he listened not... Sad it is. Thanks for everyone's input so far, it has been good.

That is sad; it seems to follow a pattern: when I hear "presbyterian" and "EO" in the same sentence, I think FV, Wilson, etc.

Cheers,

Adam
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
I'm having difficulty seeing how this pagan view of the Fall and their emphasis on LFW can be anything other than outright Pelagianism.

Dear Craig,

I don't know what "LFW" represents, but I would have to know what you understand Pelagianism to be. As I understand it, the EO view of the Fall of Adam introducing mortality to all his posterity is half right with respect to original sin. Now, to be sure, I think their view is half-baked, has the cart before horse (with sin being a result of mortality), but I do not see how that is outright Pelagianism; for they, at least, attribute the cause of death to original sin. Pelagians deny altogether the concept of original sin as affecting Adam's posterity.

Moreover, it is true, historically, that Pelagians sought to enlist some eastern theologians in support of their views. But when Julian the Pelagian (for example, or the anonymous author who made use of Julian's writings) sought to recruit the view of John Chrysostom (an Eastern father) to support his own position, Augustine retorted with a quote from a letter of Chrysostom to Olympias, wherein Chrysostom said, "Adam committed that great sin and condemned the whole human race in common." See John E. Rotelle, O.S.A., ed., The Works of Saint Augustine, Answer to the Pelagians, III, Answer to Julian, Book I:52, Part 1, Vol. 25, trans. Roland J. Teske, S.J. (Hyde Park: New City Press, 1998), pp. 80-81. This letter of Chrysostom can be found in Migne, PG 52:574.

In many ways, modern day Eastern Orthodoxy has departed from the views of those to whom they claim a historical connection and continuity, but they do, at least, confess the consequence of Adam's sin as death for the whole human race.

Those are my thoughts, but I encourage you to continue to investigate this question to your own satisfaction.

Blessings,
DTK
 

Jan Ziska

Puritan Board Freshman
As I mentioned in the other thread on EO, they point to the images of cherubim stitched into the tabernacle walls and the ark of the covenant itself as examples of images rightly being used in the worship of God.
 

Craig

Puritan Board Senior
Dear Craig,

I don't know what "LFW" represents

Sorry, "libertarian free will".

I would have to know what you understand Pelagianism to be.

This is probably where I'll be techinically wrong. I understand Pelagianism as a rejection of moral corruption inherent to man post-fall. EO will have moral corruption as a consequence to mortality, but that is not a logical necessity, only a possibility...which is why they insist we acquire guilt only by our actions, not by way of imputation.

If we call Romanism and Arminianism "semi-pelagian", then EO is certainly more pelagian than it is "semi"...in this case, it is difficult to see a significant disagreement between pelagianism and EO.

I doubt I'll put much more effort in EO...not out of laziness, I have other interests I'm preparing for academically. I have to pick my battles, as I'm sure you understand.

Peace,
Craig
 

Romans922

Puritan Board Professor
Anybody have any links on Eastern Orthodoxy that would be apologetic in view.


I looked on CARM but couldn't find anything (like a link)... Any help?
 

Zeno333

Puritan Board Freshman
I have a former presbyterian friend who is now Eastern Orthodox (EO).

Our discussions about ANYTHING always lead to Sola Scriptura and him saying that isn't Scriptural and that protestants are hypocritical on this point. Him pointing out the Protestant churches use of Church Tradition as an authority. Examples: Canonization of Scripture, the church councils, the development of the Trinity, the use of Calvin, Luther, etc.

Because I deny Tradition as a final authority, he responded in this way, "You would deny the Church her God given place by accusing her of being so devoid of the Holy Spirit, that the men who replaced the apostles in the Church could not keep the faith for 2000 years. You claim that God is so sovereign yet you would deny that the same God either couldn't or didn't guide the Church for the last 1600 years. Your view of God seems pretty weak."

As to the use of icons he has said, "You are bearing false witness against your neighbor when you insinuate that I am an idolater because the Orthodox venerate icons. In the Old Testament it was forbidden to attempt to represent God because no accurate representation could be made. He had never shown Himself. After the Incarnation it is acceptable to represent Christ , the Incarnate Son of God because He became a man. I worship the Holy Trinity, I do not worship the icons. To venerate an icon is like the child who kisses her father that she sees outside her window going to work. When she kisses the window what is she kissing? She is kissing her father. When I venerate an icon I am not venerating wood and paint. I am venerating Christ."

Continually it is very frustrating for me, it keeps going back to Sola Scriptura (I know that is the hinge of any argument with him). Actually the Holy Spirit is the hinge :) But for argument sake, Sola Scriptura. Any thoughts???

God's preservation of Scripture is a might powerful deed of God. It is a powerful view of God for sure.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Keith Mathison's section on it in The Shape of Sola Scriptura is helpful. It is almost too brief but he covers some problems in their approach to Scripture and tradition. there is no "silver bullet" approach to debunking EO (or anything else, for that matter).

Mathison is pretty good.

-----Added 1/9/2009 at 08:06:38 EST-----

I was thinking: whatever happens you will probably not win him back to Protestantism any time soon. And probably not be "reasons alone." Best thing to do is just talk to him. Find out--and if you have alrady mentioned this in the thread, sorry--real reasons for leaving. Some people just have bad reasons for "poping" or going EO. Some are intellectually scared and want some kind of "assurance."

In the meantime it wouldn't hurt to read some EO stuff. The Patristic Paperbacks are pretty good. Also get familiar with with their terminology (essence vs. energies, etc). That goes a long way in conversation and building trust.
 

CDM

Puritan Board Junior
If you want to get more aquainted with the EO, here is a must read[ame="http://www.amazon.com/Orthodox-Church-New-Timothy-Ware/dp/0140146563"]Amazon.com: The Orthodox Church: New Edition: Timothy Ware: Books[/ame]

Ware writes this book so those who are not EO can understand EO in their own words. He covers everything that has been brought up in this thread.

Product Description
Since its first publication thirty years ago, Timothy Ware's book has become established throughout the English-speaking world as the standard introduction to the Orthodox Church. Orthodoxy continues to be a subject of enormous interest among Western Christians, and the author believes that an understanding of its standpoint is necessary before the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches can be reunited. He explains the Orthodox views on such widely ranging matters as ecumenical councils, sacraments, free will, purgatory, the papacy and the relation between the different Orthodox churches.

About the Author
Timothy Ware, His Excellency the Most Reverend Metropolitan Kallistos of Diokleia, was Spalding Lecturer of Eastern Orthodox Studies at Oxford University until his retirement in 2001.​
 
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