Refuting the Eastern Orthodox

Discussion in 'Defending the Faith' started by ChristopherPaul, Oct 5, 2005.

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  1. ChristopherPaul

    ChristopherPaul Puritan Board Senior

    The Eastern Orthodox church seems to consistently be forgotten and left out by evangelicals and even secular pop culture.

    Most Protestants do not even know such a third church exists.

    Why is this?

    For instance, the latest issue of Modern Reformation magazine is devoted to differences between Reformation and Roman Catholic doctrine. Why not have an issue including the EOC doctrine?

    Most apologetics that defend Reformed doctrine, deal exclusively with the Roman Catholic church´s arguments. Has anyone ever taken on the Eastern Orthodox? I understand some of the same arguments (such as sola scriptura) against RCC can be used against the EOC, but that is never so clear to the ignorant.

    1). Does anyone know of any solid reformed apologetical works centered on refuting the EOC?
    2). If not, does such an apologetic exist?
    3). Is anyone willing to support DTK in this much-needed endeavor? ;)
  2. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior


    Notwithstanding your kind expression, I don't think any credit is due me on this front. I haven't written anything on Eastern Orthodoxy. I have made observations regarding some apparent inconsistencies from time to time regarding their claims, but nothing approaching an overall meaningful critique. Such have mainly been some of their ahistorical assumptions. But I am striving to be a student of their belief system.

    There are a couple of good articles to be found here by Pastor Larry Carrino...

    1) Eastern Orthodoxy: Coming Home? Evangelical Issues for the Eastern Orthodox: An Evangelical Analysis of the Claims of Protestant Converts to Orthodoxy (such as Peter Gilquist and Frank Schaeffer) to have found the True Church by Pastor Lawrence Carrino. This Article analyzes Orthodox Teaching on the Key Topics of Authority, Scripture and Tradition, the Gospel, the Meaning of Salvation and the Nature of the Church in Light of the Teaching of Scripture.

    2) Eastern Orthodoxy: Just Say No - An Evangelical Assessment of Eastern Apophaticism: An Evangelical Analysis of the Eastern Orthodox Theology of Negation and Mysticism by Pastor Lawrence Carrino.

    This is an area of concern.

  3. rgrove

    rgrove Puritan Board Freshman

    To be somewhat fair, EO has stayed historically in the East. And they don't engage westerners. They've historically seen no reason to do so quite frankly and consider RC's and Protestants two sides of the same coin. This is slowly beginning to change as they've begun showing up a little more in the west and online. But they aren't a missionary minded church and mostly just lose people. There have been some minor (in the grand scheme of things) "victories" by bringing in some westerners, but it's rare. Look at Gilquist. He went looking for them to bring him in and had a hard time doing it. They didn't trust him. Constantinople told him to get lost. A smaller patriarchate had to take them in.

    Who doesn't know a Catholic in this country? I was raised Catholic and my family still is Catholic. This meets the need of the readers. But who knows an EO personally? Some here may, but it's my guess that the majority on this board have never met one in person unless they went out of their way to do so.

    Who did they break from in protest again? :D

    Michael Horton was involved in a Counterpoints book that was actually fairly good on Orthodoxy. It's called "Counterpoints: Three Views on Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism". He was a little nicer than I would have been, but his contribution was well articulated. Another book that helps to understand the EO was written by Daniel Clendenin called "Eastern Orthodox Christianity: A Western Perspective". The information in the book is very good to help a Protestant understand EO teachings, but is far too easy on them. I believe he's also Methodist which probably explains why he's weak in his criticism in some areas.

    On a personal level, I hadn't run across any until a friend was looking at converting early this year. I read a lot, but mostly from original sources. I'd recommend going to their original sources and who knows, maybe you'll be able to write some of the articles, and perhaps a book even, on the topic from a reformed perspective. :)
  4. Plimoth Thom

    Plimoth Thom Puritan Board Freshman

    Clendenin has also edited a book of EO original sources, which I've read some of; "Eastern Orthodox Theology: A contemporary reader." One of the more famous EO Bishops, at least in the West, (Timothy) Kallistos Ware, was a convert. And at least 80% of the EO I see online are converts, mostly former evangelicals. Although every community I've lived in from California, to New York and Michigan has had at least one EO church, I grew up completely ignorant of what they believed. It wasn't until a couple years ago, when I ran into a lot of EO online that I learned anything about their theology. I was confronted with this new, completely foreign and mysterious faith, which I found somewhat attractive. But after studying their theology, the gap between what I found in Scripture, and their theology, was much to large for me to cross. It was at this same time, that I was studying the Reformation more, and reformed theology. I was a frustrated Baptist/Evangelical on a search for Christian orthodoxy. Of course I became reformed.
  5. ChristopherPaul

    ChristopherPaul Puritan Board Senior

    I am indebted to you for your insights you have given on the writings of the ECF's. I find most of those knowledgeable in reformed doctrines are not so knowledgeable in early church writings. It is encouraging that you do not avoid them, but seek to understand them.

    Thank you for the links!

    Point taken; however, I personally do not know any Gnostics, or Jehovah's Witnesses either. I am grateful for defense the Church has against such heresies.

    This begs the question of why break from the EOC because of the RCC? Was the EOC selling indulgences?

    Thank you for the book recommendations! I did not realize Horton wrote on the topic. I will seek out theses books.

    Before discovering the Reformation, I too investigated the EOC. I eventually became convinced of the five solas and the doctrines of grace, but still find much within the EOC attractive.
  6. ChristopherPaul

    ChristopherPaul Puritan Board Senior

    I believe this is a common trait among converts of EOC and the converts among the Reformed church. People begin investigating what and why they believe due to frustrations within the contemporary/trendy western, protestant church of today. They become disenchanted with TBN, CCM, WWJD type fads, Prayer of Jebez crazes, etc, etc. So they leave Protestantism (at least what they know of it) and search out the non-protestant churches.

    The RCC is already fairly well known to the world and most "ignorant" protestants are already familiar with defenses against her. But when they discover the pope-less EOC and how unfamiliar most protestants are with this church, they embrace such with open arms. Most find the argument for apostolic succession is very convincing. I have conversed with converts, but only to discover they never searched the roots of the west mainly due to the fact that they were never aware of such (many unfortunately think, as I once did, that "Protestantism" accurately reflects all non-catholic Christian churches).

    It would help if we designated between four Christian churches instead of three: EOC (Eastern Orthodox church), RCC (Roman Catholic church), RPC (Reformed Protestant church), and ADPC (Arminian dispensational Protestant church ;)) or something to that affect.
  7. Saiph

    Saiph Puritan Board Junior

  8. ChristopherPaul

    ChristopherPaul Puritan Board Senior

    Mark, I am interested in Bahnsen's article; however, your link does not work.
  9. Saiph

    Saiph Puritan Board Junior

  10. raderag

    raderag Puritan Board Sophomore

    FYI, there are several EOs on carm.orgs catholic discussion board.
  11. ChristopherPaul

    ChristopherPaul Puritan Board Senior

    Thanks. I found the following point quite revealing:

    Does anyone know of any EOC members who converted to Protestantism?
  12. DTK

    DTK Puritan Board Junior

    I don't know of one. But there is one rather notable example of Cyril Lucaris (1572-1638), sometime patriarch of Constantinople who became something of a Calvinist. His views came under attack by others in his communion. You can read his Confession at the following web site.

    There is an interesting article which treats his views and something of the conflict he faced as a result of his teachings in the Trinity Journal, 3:1 (Spring 1982), titled "Sola Scriptura: The Protestant Reformation and the Eastern Orthodox Church" by Randall H. Balmer.

  13. ChristopherPaul

    ChristopherPaul Puritan Board Senior

    That is very interesting, indeed.

    Especially Chapter 2 on Sola Scriptura:
    Thanks for the information!
  14. Scott

    Scott Puritan Board Graduate

  15. AdamM

    AdamM Puritan Board Freshman

    The Issues Etc. radio program has done a number programs recently on EO.

    Try the following dates in the archives for downloads:

    8/21 - 2 hours

    There may be more, but those 5 hours ought to be a good start.
  16. VictorBravo

    VictorBravo Administrator Staff Member


    I know of a few, but, unfortunately, they all converted from EOC to Arminian/charismatic type churches.

    There are a lot of Eastern Orthodox churches in my area: Greek, Russian, and a host of others started by recent eastern block immigrants.

    One of the older ones is a Greek church that holds an annual Greek festival. My wife and I went to the festival, ate the food, and then we went into the sanctuary, which was open to all visitors, to take a look. Some interesting things:

    We saw the pulpit Bible on a sort of altar. It was in Greek. The sign for us visitors proudly proclaimed that the Greek Orthodox did not have to worry about translations because their bible was in the original language. But I looked through certain passages and it was obvious that their bible was not in Koine Greek at all, at least it didn't read like any other Greek text I had seen. It looked more like modern Greek.

    The readings from scripture are in Greek, but the majority of the congregation doesn't speak Greek anymore, so it could just as well have been Latin to them.

    People do not bring their own Bibles. They don't usually read their own Bibles even at home, but some do.

    A priest's robe was on display. From what I could see, it had as much ornate trimmings as a Jewish priest's robe. There was some specific reason for each item on the robe.

    Iconography is a big thing in the church. It is an art form that is revered and practiced to this day.

    We went into the book store. One book I skimmed explained that Eastern Orthodox Christians do not think in terms of being "born again", but rather think in terms of being continually regenerated by virtue of being in the church. It was not a technical book, so it didn't give much detail. My take was that if you are baptized in the church, and are faithful in your devotions, you are continually renewed.

    Most of the books were about iconography. I asked the clerk about the devotion to iconography and whether members of the church were ever concerned about idolatry. She said that the icons were important to convey the truth of the church and that their purpose was to train the illiterate. I asked her (gently) if there were very many illiterate members these days and she said, "of course not."

    I asked her what she thought about John 1:1, but she didn't know what that was. I quoted it to her and asked if she thought the Word of God was preached in her church. She said, "yes, of course. The priest reads from the Bible in the original. Our church has held to the original faith." But I really didn't get the idea that she knew what that faith was.

  17. LadyCalvinist

    LadyCalvinist Puritan Board Junior

    Robert Letham (the same guy who wrote the new book on the Holy Trinity) has signed a contract and is planning on writing a book on the EO. I was rather amused one Sunday morning to find that he was not in church, he was in the EO church (doing research).
  18. ChristopherPaul

    ChristopherPaul Puritan Board Senior

    Thank you Scott, I found that pamphlet very helpful. It is well done and in my opinion, very effective. The timeline is quite convicting although it's approach is similar to lying with statistics.

    Actually I wish more mainline Christians would read such pamphlets so they would actually think more historically about orthodox (used in the general sense of the term) doctrine and practice in general. Most mainline Christians do not even consider whether the Early Church Fathers agree or disagree with how they do church or even think of the logic to their practices being brand new in the scheme of 2000 years of Christ´s Church.

    Thanks Adam, I downloaded these and anticipate listening to them.
  19. ChristopherPaul

    ChristopherPaul Puritan Board Senior

    Really? I find that very surprising. I would assume either they didn´t understand what the EOC was about or they cherish their experiences and feelings over historical and exegetical doctrine.
  20. ChristopherPaul

    ChristopherPaul Puritan Board Senior

    This is encouraging. I hope he doesn´t join Schaffer and company in converting!

    Have you sent him the pamphlet Scott linked? I think it would be of valuable use to him.

    Thanks for the update!
  21. Scott

    Scott Puritan Board Graduate

    BTW, one of my good friends from a Church of Christ background is seriously considering Eastern Orthodoxy. I am having conversations with him about it periodically.
  22. Scott

    Scott Puritan Board Graduate

    BTW, if you want a quick easily digestable overview of topics from an EO perspective, you can listen to these online: Our Life in Christ Radio Programs. Although, these guys are converts from protestantism. It seems to me that sometimes when one converts they are able to present things in a way that seem consistent with the groups they left. These guys may be doing some of that, although I have not listened to many of their programs. For example, they even cite James White's book on the Trinity approvingly (White is in the same region they are).

    Of course, some converts do whatever they can to distance themselves from older communions. This seems to be Shaeffer's approach in the books, articles, and tapes by him that I have reviewed.

    Speaking of Shaeffer, his The Seduction of Orthodoxy is a good article anyone considering Orthodoxy should read. It reveals many warts that only insiders would see.

  23. tellville

    tellville Puritan Board Junior

    Where I come from (Edmonton, Alberta, Canada) there is a sizable Eastern Orthodox community (Many Ukrainians immigrated to Alberta because of the similar geography e.g. Steppes/Plains).

    Furthermore, there are many people in these EO churches who are converts. The current chaplain of my regiment is a friend of mine and he is a member of the EO. I personally wish there was much more on EO from a Reformed perspective. I really think it a shame that they are ignored so much. I am hoping (God willing!) to write some essay´s dealing with their claims in the near future.

    Anyway, here is a link to my friend´s (chaplain) radio program that airs every Sunday morning at 7:00 AM here in Edmonton:

    It´s basically an apologetic show trying to defend EO as the one true Church on earth (they have already had an interview with a lady who converted to EO because of this show). They have constant interviews with converts on why they came to the EO and the EO take on different things and why their view is superior, etc.

    Some programs that I think might interest people here would be:

    An interview with Frank Schaeffer: Reflections on Becoming Orthodox (very recent interview June 5, 2005)

    An interview with Fr. Dn. Morris Why the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church

    An interview with Heiko Schlieper: Orthodox Icons and what they mean to the Orthodox spiritual life

    Introduction to the Epistles of St. Paul With Matthew Francis

    An Overview of Romans With Matthew Francis

    Pt 1 & 2 of a series on why we pray for the Saints, the dead and the use of Icons
    With Fr. John (retired)

    The site is a little crappy and thus you might have to click the links several times before they work.

    Also, there are many other programs that you might find interesting, in particular the several episodes of interviews with Christians from different traditions converted to Orthodoxy. They will give you a good idea of where people are coming from when they convert to Orthodoxy.
  24. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    I don't pretend to be any authority on the EOC but, from my many interactions with Greeks, Georgians, and Russians, I can tell you that there is more than just one.

    Honestly, from what I've seen, if you want an idea about the Greek EOC then watch the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding. That's only partially a joke.

    My wife had a very close friend in Grad school that was married to a Greek EOC priest. When she talked about her religion she talked more about her "Greek-ness" than what she believed. It is not surprising that many EOC Churches are disinterested in growth - they tend to want to maintain their cultural peculiarity.

    I knew a Georgian Officer that I had a graduate seminar with in Command and Staff College. He talked with pride about the Georgian Orthodox Church (this is the country for those of you from the South). He was very proud of both the independence of the Georgian language against being corrupted by being near, and occupied by, Russia for so many years. He also talked with pride about his Georgian Church's "independence."

    Anyway, in the West there are likely some EOC's breaking out of that mold but you cannot discount the cultural identity tied up into what each EOC body is about. To many, the doctrine is inconsequential. From that perspective they're no different than my Irish ancestors who were Roman Catholic because that's what Irish people are...
  25. DanielC

    DanielC Puritan Board Freshman

    It has been my experience (mostly Romanian) that one of the major reasons that we don't have to deal with the EO very much is that few in Eastern Europe see themselves as Eastern Orthodox, but rather Russian Orthodox, Romanian Orthodox, or Greek Orthodox , etc., that is, with a great emphasis on national ties. The Romanian Orthodox Church seems at least as Romanian as it seems Orthodox, and hence has little motive for evangelism. Most "Eastern" Orthodox people I've met have been disenchanted or searching Americans.
  26. MurrayA

    MurrayA Inactive User

    Thanks for raising this whole issue of Eastern Orthodoxy.

    I have been interested in it for some time, especially as in my part of the world (Australia) it is becoming a larger issue, to wit:
    1. A ministerial friend and colleague of mine, then doing a Ph.D. on Syrian fathers converted from Calvinistic Presbyterianism to Russian Orthodoxy some years ago. Several others have made a similar move.

    2. About six years ago the magazine of the Bible College of New Zealand published an entire issue devoted to Orthodoxy, in the most favourable and ingratiating terms. The Church history professor at BCNZ was/is very sympathetic to Orthodoxy.

    3. The Eastern Orthodox churches are making a considerable presence here through immigration. Melbourne for example has the largest Greek population outside Greece, and the Greek Orthodox Church's presence reflects this. Likewise the Coptic Orthodox has quite a number of congregations here. So like it or not, we have to come to terms with this phenomenon.

    As to their views, they are very similar to Catholicism in many doctrines and practices, but with important differences:
    a) they reject the primacy of the Roman Papacy, and especially his infallibility.
    b) they reject some Roman doctrines such as Purgatory
    c) they reject the use of sculptures in devotion, but use icons. This comes down to whether images in two dimensions only are permissible, or two and three dimensional representations, such as in the RC church. In other words,, they follow the decisions of the Second Council of Nicaea (787).
    d) they acknowledge only one order of monks, the Basilian; not a whole range, as in Rome. (I think this is correct)
    e) they reject Augustine's free-grace teaching, and propound a strong synergistic line on salvation. hence they see Protestantism and Rome as merely two sides of the same coin.
    f) the difference is more in the ethos of Orthodoxy: it has the strong flavour of Eastern mysticism. The way this pans out is something I am trying to get a handle on.

    One other thing: one post mentioned Cyril Lucar: because of his Calvinistic views, and trying to promote Reformation teaching in the Orthodox communion he suffered a martyr's death by being thrown bound into the Bosphorus, but he managed to survive, whereupon he was found, and thrown in again. The second time he succumbed. Thus ended any attempt to "Calvinise" the Orthodox Church! Lucar was also the bishop who presented the famous Codex Alexandrinus (Codex A) to Charles I of England on his coronation, as a gesture to promote Biblical scholarship in what was now a Protestant country, a treasure indeed!

    Hope this contributes.

    [Edited on 20-3-2006 by MurrayA]
  27. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

  28. Founded on the Rock

    Founded on the Rock Puritan Board Freshman

    I didn't know that Schaffer converted to eastern orthodoxy!!! When did that happen??!
  29. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Puritan Board Doctor

    Probably 10 years ago or more. Just to clear up any possible confusion, that's Franky Schaeffer, who is the son of Francis Schaeffer. Francis Schaeffer went to be with the Lord in 1984.

    [Edited on 4-2-2006 by Pilgrim]
  30. Founded on the Rock

    Founded on the Rock Puritan Board Freshman

    O ok that isn't as scary as I thought!! Obviously not a good thing but... Thanks for the clarification!!!
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