Are Evangelicalism and Eastern Orthodoxy Compatible?

Discussion in 'Cults & World Religions' started by Ask Mr. Religion, Jan 17, 2018.

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  1. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    Modern Reformation article by Horton freely available for the next three weeks:

    "A cursory comparison of the indices of any primary or secondary work on Eastern Orthodoxy and evangelicalism exposes an interesting contrast—in the Eastern Orthodox index, one will find such entries as chrismation, deification, energies of God, recapitulation, theosis, and the like, but notable absences will include original sin, grace, justification, sanctification, substitutionary atonement, and related terms that are familiar to confessional Protestants."
    Adapted from “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible? No” by Michael Horton, taken from Three Views on Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism, Copyright © 2004 by James J. Stamoolis.
  2. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

  3. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Horton’s analysis was good as always, but ultimately I thought he was too soft on Eastern Orthodoxy. While EO theology is in some ways less abhorrent than RC theology, in many ways it is actually worse.
  4. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Horton has read almost all of the scholarly literature surrounding the philosophical debates. Some Eastern thinkers are quite powerful and require more than a two-step refutation. Horton understands this. Scholars like Vladimir Lossky, John Zizioulas, and David Bradshaw are giants and quite sophisticated.

    In response Horton has developed a typology of "Meeting a Stranger vs. Overcoming Embodiment."
  5. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

  6. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

  7. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    That's true. I have some Orthodox friends of mine who were former Calvinists and retained the high view of Scripture. They debate liberal orthodox (what a combination!) on the topic and use the fathers as a hammer to hit them with. It's great fun to watch.

    Part of the difficulty is that there isn't one single volume that offers a refutation from a Reformed perspective. Letham's doesn't count. He addresses the topic but never actually refutes it en toto.

    Daniel McClendennin did the same from a broadly evangelical point of view.

    Another part of the difficulty is that in reading these guys you have to enter another thought-world.
  8. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Indeed, Eastern theology can be quite complex, and Horton does a great job analyzing it. My complaint is certainly not with his understanding and analysis, but rather with his conclusions that seem to stop short of a full throated condemnation. Just because it requires more than two steps to refute something does not mean that it shouldn’t still be condemned, and by condemned I mean called out as unbiblical and dangerous.
  9. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    He was probably at the mercy of the editors on that one. Counterpoints is notorious on that point. He knows if you make a strong condemnation without a minute point-by-point analysis, you win zero arguments.

    The best thing to do in that case is offer defeaters and trust that the defeaters will create cognitive dissonance.
  10. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    That is probably true. Regardless, I enjoyed the book and learned much about the EO mindset.
  11. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Here is the main difficulty, which Letham and Horton knew: what is the single most important problem in EO? This is a harder question to answer than it might seem. For example:

    1. Is it the rejection of the Filioque? This determines their doctrine of God and metaphysics, yet who is ready to go into a sustained defense of the Filioque?

    2. Is it their sacraments?

    3. Their soteriology, where justification is sublimated into theosis (which is a biblical category).

    4. Ikons?

    All of these are easily book-length topics, which is why we probably haven't seen the single-volume refutation.
  12. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    Each of of these are significant issues and could easily take up an entire book. Sadly, there is a real shortage of literature dealing with these issues. Maybe you should write a book.
  13. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    Persons of the Reformed persuation should note the following from the EO service book is required to join the EO church:

    The Bishop questioneth the convert from the Reformed Confession after this wise:

    Dost thou renounce the false doctrine that, for the expression of the dogma touching the Procession of the Holy Spirit, the declaration of our Saviour Christ himself: "who proceedeth from the Father": doth not suffice; and that the addition, of man's invention: "and from the Son": is required?

    Dost thou renounce the false doctrine, that the predestination of men to their salvation, or their rejection, is not in accordance with the Divine foreknowledge of the faith and good works of the former, or of the unbelief and evils deeds of the latter; but in accordance with some arbitrary destiny, by reason of which faith and virtue are robbed of their merit, and God is held accountable for the perdition of sinners?

    Dost thou renounce the erroneous belief that in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist the bread and wine are not transmuted into the Body and Blood of Christ, and are merely emblems of the Body and Blood of Christ?

    Dost thou renounce the erroneous belief of the Reformed teachers, who reject five Sacraments: Chrismation, Confession, Marriage, Anointing with Oil, and the Priesthood itself, which administereth the other Sacraments, and presume to administer Baptism and the Eucharist, never having received, through the laying-on of hands by a Bishop, that Ordination which hath been transmitted from one to another, even from the holy Apostles?

    Dost thou renounce the erroneous belief of the Reformed teachers who receive not the traditions of the Holy Church, reverence not the Saints, and deprive the dead of spiritual aid, and the living of consolation, in that they reject prayers for the dead?​
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  14. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Also the anathemas from the Second Nicene Council. Read the liturgy for Sunday of Orthodoxy.
  15. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I looked into it. I have about 100 pages written, but I am not going to finish it for quite some time. Logistical reasons. Most people, Orthodox or Reformed, just aren't up to the metaphysical discussions. It would actually get more people interested in Orthodoxy. So I decided to hold off. Initially I wanted to write it because I thought people were joining left and right. That's the narrative at Orthodox Bridge (a completely useless site, even from an Orthodox perspective). But there aren't that many people joining EO just as there isn't a large number of people lining up to join most Reformed churches.

    I disagree with EO but I don't see that as the true battle that is being fought in 'Merica today. But these links are pretty good in explaining the issues with converts and EO. They are realistic from an EO perspective. There are some 2C issues on the pages, but that really can't be helped. (PIctures aren't showing up on my browser)

    Orthodox podcaster Kevin Allen has a great panel discussion on the state of the EO church in America. I can't find it but it is quite illuminating on why Orthodoxy grew in the 197os (because Greeks came to America en masse, and throughout the 20th century Russians were coming to America to escape Communism). But now that wave is over.
  16. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    I strongly recommend the articles at Old Jamestown Church. He was EO for quite some time and then converted back to Protestantism. He is sympathetic to some of the concerns but is quite honest about where EO is going in America. You really won't find that kind of analysis elsewhere online.
  17. Bill The Baptist

    Bill The Baptist Puritan Board Graduate

    There has been some movement towards Orthodoxy, but you’re right that’s it’s hardly an epidemic. In my experience, most people find the reality of Orthodoxy to be much less appealing than the concept of Orthodoxy.
  18. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    For a lot of people it depends on the Orthodoxy in their community. If you are in the OCA or the Antiochians, and there are a lot of Western converts with young families, it's a pretty compelling atmosphere. If you are in a struggling Greek community in the liberal GOARCH/EP, where no one shows up to liturgy for the first ten minutes, even if you want to believe, you won't join.

    To be honest, I talk to a lot of people who consider joining. I don't really try to debate them anymore. I tell them look before and after you leap. It's when you join any community: people bring their baggage with them. For any community. Spurgeon won't be your pastor. Athanasius won't be your patriarch. Basil the Great won't be your bishop. Wesley won't be your evangelist.

    I remember when I was interested in EO. I read tens of thousands of pages of the Cappadocians, Athanasius, Maximus, Irenaeus, John of Damascus, Augustine, Origen, Cyril of Alexandria, most of the leading secondary literature, plus the current big names in Russian theology (Lossky, Bulgakov, etc).

    I read Russian history, tried to learn the language (I could read newspaper headlines; I knew most of the guys that National Review gets scared about when talking about "Russian hacking"). I was so excited.

    And then I went to my first Divine Liturgy. It was everything Athanasius wasn't. I'm not attacking the parish. I've been to Reformed services that were underwhelming, too.

    So I tell people that. I don't attack them or immediately try to debate them. I don't want them on the defensive. I want them to make an honest and "eyes-open" decision.
  19. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    They share with the Church of Rome sacramental model of salvation, correct?
  20. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    Their rejection of the Pauline Justification viewpoint of the Gospel of Christ.
  21. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

  22. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    That's not a very helpful way to word things, brother. The Reformed hold that the sacraments are means of salvation.

    Larger Catechism 161:
    Q. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
    A. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not by any power in themselves, or any virtue derived from the piety or intention of him by whom they are administered, but only by the working of the Holy Ghost, and the blessing of Christ, by whom they are instituted.

    Shorter Catechism 91:
    Q. How do the sacraments become effectual means of salvation?
    A. The sacraments become effectual means of salvation, not from any virtue in them, or in him that doth administer them; but only by the blessing of Christ, and the working of his Spirit in them that by faith receive them.
  23. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    Reformed do not though hold to their being salvation grace provided in and through their use, as being born again when one is water baptized, as the RCC teaches and holds with.
  24. TylerRay

    TylerRay Puritan Board Senior

    To the contrary, we do believe that saving grace is communicated through the sacraments to the elect by the power of the Holy Ghost when they are received with faith. But no, we do not believe in baptismal regeneration.
  25. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    Given the fluidity of their views, it would be best to see what one of them actually teaches:

    Per EO, Holy Confession and Communion are part of an ongoing process. One can lose that which one once had, too.
  26. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Professor

    They would then see us needing to co operate with the various means of Grace provided by Goid unto us in order to get saved, and then keeping salvation?
  27. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable


    I want you to also make the distinction between salvation and things like "born-again", as in what we would call regeneration. Often when reading Reformed materials, salvation refers to the entire golden chain of redemption.

    Not making this distinction leads to confusion when confronted with the Reformed view that outside the church there is no ordinary possibility of salvation (extra ecclesiam nulla salus). Not a few when reading this recoil and assume immediate thoughts of Romanism.

    But see Rev. Buchanan's excellent discussion of the topic:

    Calvin sums it up nicely:
    But because it is now our intention to discuss the visible church, let us learn even from the simple title “mother” how useful, indeed how necessary, it is that we should know her. For there is no other way to enter into life unless this mother conceive us in her womb, give us birth, nourish us at her breast, and lastly, unless she keep us under her care and guidance until, putting off mortal flesh, we become like the angels [Matthew 22:30].

    Our weakness does not allow us to be dismissed from her school until we have been pupils all our lives. Furthermore, away from her bosom one cannot hope for any forgiveness of sins or any salvation, as Isaiah [Isaiah 37:32] and Joel [Joel 2:32] testify. Ezekiel agrees with them when he declares that those whom God rejects from heavenly life will not be enrolled among God’s people [Ezekiel 13:9].

    On the other hand, those who turn to the cultivation of true godliness are said to inscribe their names among the citizens of Jerusalem [cf. Isaiah 56:5; Psalm 87:6]. For this reason, it is said in another psalm: “Remember me, O Jehovah, with favor toward thy people; visit me with salvation: that I may see the well-doing of thy chosen ones, that I may rejoice in the joy of thy nation, that I may be glad with thine inheritance” [Psalm 106:4-5 p.; cf. Psalm 105:4, Vg., etc.]. By these words God’s fatherly favor and the especial witness of spiritual life are limited to his flock, so that it is always disastrous to leave the church.​
    Src: Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 2, ed. John T. McNeill and trans. Ford Lewis Battles, (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, reprinted 1977), Book IV.I.4, page 1016.
  28. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    the "pop star" Orthodox outlets are celebrating Hank. The hard-core guys are picking him apart. But yeah, his conversion made a bigger noise than perhaps the situation warrants.
  29. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    That's more important than the doctrine of God?
  30. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritan Board Doctor

    Thank you. This point is often lost in debates with synergistic systems.
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