Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism: 3 Views

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BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
As far as the Zondervan Counterpoints go, this is a better volume. I will forgo a thorough review, since expositing some essays would take many, many pages (and I plan to do that in my book on EO). So here is a short overview, with strengths and weaknesses:

Thesis: Are Evangelicalism and Eastern Orthodoxy compatible? Notice that the thesis is not whether one position is true or not (though that inevitably comes up). The answers:

Yes: Bradley Nassif. My favorite of the EO writers today. While I enjoyed his essay, sadly he does not represent most Orthodox. His criteria of compatibility, as dissenter Berzonsky noted, were drawn from Evangelical, not Orthodox sources.

No: Michael Horton and Vladimir Berzonsky. Horton notes that Orthodoxy's own criteria precludes any real "compatibility." He then does explicates the NT teaching on justification and compares it with EO sources. If Evangelicals cannot budge on this point--and they cannot--and if EO cannot incorporate it into their own theology, instead of making sublating everything into theosis, then there isn't much possibility of compatibility, much less union.

Berzonsky's essay does little more than offer numerous assertions on why Evangelicals should reject their sinful identity and become Orthodox. At least he is honest. He thinks everyone is a radical Anabaptist and doesn't make any attempt to interact with Horton's arguments. In the final reflections, he is quite silent on Horton's specific rebuttals.

Maybe: George Hancock-Stefan and Edward Rommel, Romanian Baptist and American orthodox respectively. Stefan gives a very interesting, but anecdotal essay of his life as a convert in Romania. He explains how the Romanian Orthodox elite silenced and stifled evangelical voices. I sympathized with his essay but it isn't much in the way of logical argument. However, he did point out that in Orthodoxy the church mediates everything through the priest. This is the theology of Pseudo-Dionysius.

Conclusion: Horton and Berzonsky are correct. Per the latter, if Orthodoxy is the fullness of the faith, then what precisely does Evangelicalism have to offer? On the other hand, if Orthodoxy is indeed the fulfillment, then please deal with Horton's arguments.
 

One Little Nail

Puritan Board Sophomore
I had a greek friend who was orthodox, with whom I conversed on things of the faith, they tend to have the same moral teachings on certain points, like the second table of the Law, was encouraged for a little while in that he read the Bible &
even used the NKJV which is N.T. Translation the Orthodox Church approves of for their english reading members, which I thought was better than the Critical Text translations & as such was encouraged by this.

But, heres the crux, no matter how many points I would bring up in regards to Orthodox practice & belief, like Iconography & Mariolatry, he would always rebuff me & hold to the Traditions of the Greek Orthodox Church, explaining away the Bible teaching or ignoring it, though he also rejected Purgatory but on Traditional not Scriptural grounds!

I came to realise that the Orthodox believer holds to tradition above the Scriptures as much as any Roman Catholic, & basically rejects Sola Scriptura, despite the fact that the Greek Orthodox Church was the Guardian & Preserver of the Greek New Testament Text & holds it in Reverence.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
I had a greek friend who was orthodox, with whom I conversed on things of the faith, they tend to have the same moral teachings on certain points, like the second table of the Law, was encouraged for a little while in that he read the Bible &
even used the NKJV which is N.T. Translation the Orthodox Church approves of for their english reading members, which I thought was better than the Critical Text translations & as such was encouraged by this.

But, heres the crux, no matter how many points I would bring up in regards to Orthodox practice & belief, like Iconography & Mariolatry, he would always rebuff me & hold to the Traditions of the Greek Orthodox Church, explaining away the Bible teaching or ignoring it, though he also rejected Purgatory but on Traditional not Scriptural grounds!

I came to realise that the Orthodox believer holds to tradition above the Scriptures as much as any Roman Catholic, & basically rejects Sola Scriptura, despite the fact that the Greek Orthodox Church was the Guardian & Preserver of the Greek New Testament Text & holds it in Reverence.

Right. Some will say that Trad. and Scripture are equal in standing, but that distinction is impossible in practice. Further, development is a historical fact, making any identification between the apostles tradition and "what we are doing today as tradition" all the more difficult.

It will be interesting to watch how conservative they remain in the coming decades. Doctrinally, they are fairly conservative. Most of them are on political issues, too (though in the parking lot of the Greek church in my town, I saw bumper stickers with Left wing politicians). The Patriarch of Constantinople has been known to give his support to "Greek-American" politicians, many of whom are pro-sodomite and pro-abortion. Not that Bartholomew agrees with that, but that is what he deems the cost of doing business.

The OCA, a Russian off-shoot, is fairly consrevative politically, though the Lavender Mafia is making inroads there. I am not sure why Metropolitan Jonah was ousted, though I suspect many feared his conservatism.
 

SRoper

Puritan Board Graduate
It sounds like Berzonsky attitude goes a long way towards explaining why the answer has to be "no." I'm not even sure the Evangelical curiosity of the East is reciprocated.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
It sounds like Berzonsky attitude goes a long way towards explaining why the answer has to be "no." I'm not even sure the Evangelical curiosity of the East is reciprocated.

Berzonsky was the most consistent. Here is the problem for the East in this question: On one hand they have the teaching that "They have the fullness of the Faith." Technically, they don't need evangelicalism. But what about converts to EO? Are their baptisms valid? Most EO say yes, and Basil the Great has a long discussion arguing the position (which embarrasses hardliners). But if Evangelical baptisms are valid, then how is the church not valid (yes, I know the painful nuances; I just don't think the distinction holds in real life)?
 

Philip

Puritan Board Graduate
I took a class on RC and EO taught by a prof from Slovenia, who grew up as an evangelical with Orthodox and Catholic neighbours. One of his astute observations was that for many, Orthodoxy is as much an ethnic as a religious identity, similar to the way Catholicism can be in certain ethnic groups. On the one hand, this puts Protestants in the position of being outsiders and seen as not quite loyal to the nation. On the other, it gives Protestants, particularly evangelicals, the unique opportunity to be non-partisan and to bring the light of the Gospel to bear on ethnic violence. Many times, Protestants are called to arbitrate disputes because the assumption in Eastern Europe is that Evangelicals are neutral.

Horton's essay was also encouraging to me, largely because he gives a genuinely sympathetic reading. It actually encouraged me to read and engage with the Greek Fathers and with modern EO theologians.
 

Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
I read that book maybe 7-8 years ago. I don't have the book anymore so am relying on memory. I remember appreciating Horton's contributions and thinking the "maybe's" were of some interest but were of little merit as actual arguments. The book would have been helped by having an Orthodox contributor who was more conversant with Reformed views, or conversant with even somewhat responsible and literate evangelical views. Berzonsky, to my recollection, was attacking the worst that evangelicalism has to offer whereas some who hold Horton's views disclaim the evangelical label altogether. My recollection is that Berzonsky came across very belligerently as well, in addition to not really addressing Horton's views. Not without some justification I'm guessing he would say that his assignment was to address "evangelicalism" and not a form of confessional Reformed thought that is almost invisible even in the midst of a "Reformed resurgence" or whatever you want to call it.

Given the paucity of literature on the subject, I guess this is arguably a must-have nonetheless for those interested in the subject. Maybe it can be had cheaply for Kindle as many of the Counterpoints books are. If one wants to simply read Horton on this kind of thing, his ST should definitely be bought first since he seems to interact with EO there too.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Horton's essay was great and the Romanian Baptist's was very interesting. Bradley Nassif is a very respectable EO figure and he really knows 'Merican Evangelicalism. My only problem with Horton's take on EO is that he reads the EO's emphasis on "essence/energies" as anticipating what the Reformed would say about how we know God via his covenantal condescenion to us. Colin Gunton, however, makes clear that the eastern fathers meant anything but that. They viewed God as behind the Persons who were behind the energies (okay, that was simplistic, but that's pretty much a word-for-word quote from Palamas). They saw the energies as the peri ton theon, the things around God. This is not what Turretin or Cocceius meant.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
So has anyone done a study comparing and contrasting the developments of Palamas with the earlier Fathers?

Yes. Most of them are in French and Russian. The ones written in French more often than not are by neo-Thomists with an axe to grind. I know of a few articles in German. I would translate those articles if I could get my hands on them. The best article on Palamas in English is by Rowan Williams. Unfortunately, it isn't available on EBSCO or ATLA databases (or so I've been told). Basically, Williams destroys neo-Palamism.

Williams, Rowan. “The Philosophical Structures of Palamism,” Eastern Churches Review 9 (1977): 27-44D.

The best treatments of Palamism in book form can be found in Letham, The Holy Trinity and his book on EO. Catherine LaCugna, a very liberal Romanist, does a decent job in her book on the Trinity. This looks good but it is above my pay grade. My own arguments against Palamism are based off of Jenson and Lacugna.
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
Do you know of any inner EO critique or recognition of those developments (either modern or contemporary with Palamas)? Or do they just assume that Palamas is the legitimate continuation of the apostolic tradition?
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Clerk
Do you know of any inner EO critique or recognition of those developments (either modern or contemporary with Palamas)? Or do they just assume that Palamas is the legitimate continuation of the apostolic tradition?

The Synodikon of the Sunday of Orthodoxy made his conclusions received doctrine, so in that sense yes. I have not found where they elevate Palamas to the position of Gregory of Nazianzus, Chrysostom or Simeon. Some Orthodox writers today like David Bentley Hart reject, if not outright ridicule Palamas as incoherent. I agree with Hart's conclusions but I think he is outside of Orthodoxy on this point.

I don't think Palamas's specific philosophical arguments leading up to the E/e distinction are canonically binding, but his conclusions are.
 
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