Why He’s Heterodox

Sed Contra 

1) Ecclesiology

The Holy Spirit isn’t a means. He is a Divine Person. Last I checked the Church was called the Body of Christ. I suspect that might have something to do with the Incarnation. The humanity of Christ is the bond between members of the Church by the working of the Spirit, which is why the Eucharist holds center stage. To take the Spirit as the unifying principle smacks of docetism and an impoverished view of the resurrected flesh.

2) Authority of Tradition
He can’t believe that the Scriptures are “unchangeable” with respect to the canon, for on his own principles the canon is a fallible set. What Scripture is, functionally for Protestants is a more or less fluid set of books. They modified the canon in the past and I see no in principle reason why they could not do so again.

And even if Scripture were the only normative source for teaching and practice there are I’d wager lots of practices or beliefs that have no explicit support in Scripture such as the perpetual virginity of Jesus or admitting women to the Eucharist.
And even if Scripture were the only infallible rule, the question is, who is the judge that is to normatively apply the rule?

3) Static cultural adaptation

I think we should preserve the Jewish forms of worship from the synagogue and the temple, albeit transformed by Christ. Jesus seemed to like them. To be Jewish in this respect is hardly “syncretistic.” And it is to be quite relevant for it keeps the church from having to follow after silly cultural trends and aestheticism and reinvent itself every five years like our existentially sick culture. It sends a message. We are not your culture. We are about something bigger than your culture. We are not a fad and we will outlast them all. People who constructed the great Cathedrals of Europe understood this. Moreover, they also understood the relevance of the Incarnation to architecture.  With contemporary Protestant architecture, and no small amount of Puritan architecture as well, God is everywhere in general and no where in particular. So much for the Epistle to the Hebrews.

A big part of the divine liturgy is about meeting God in the life of Christ, which is why the Liturgy and the church year are centered around “doing over” the life of Christ. Historically it seems to have done a far better job at making people “holy” than the pop evangelical styles. Evangelicals have values but they lack virtue.

32 Responses to Why He’s Heterodox

  1. Inquirer says:

    Anybody,
    Do Orthodox distinguish between praise and worship? If so, how so?

  2. Ben says:

    Thanks guys, I don’t mean to be harsh, I was just a little tired of being the “Protestant whipping boy” if you know what I mean. I understand of course that that’s how these things tend to end up.

  3. Rob G. says:

    Ben — I echo Mark’s comments. I attempt to be toughminded about these things but I don’t want to cause offense, and I apologize if I did so.

  4. Mark Krause says:

    Ben, I hope you weren’t offended by anything I’ve said either. I wasn’t offended by what you said, and I would talk about it if we were face to face, just not on the web. Actually it helped alert me to the fact that this information was still on my blogger profile so I changed it. Thank you for that. God bless.

  5. Ben says:

    I think I’ve put up with this long enough. Feel free to continue your discussion, but I’m not going to monitor this post anymore. If you just can’t help yourself, comment on the original post on my own blog.

  6. “Don’t you see a problem here?”

    Relativism maybe?

  7. Rob G. says:

    “I think the words of Jesus are enough to let me know what is important and what is not. It may sound arrogant to you, but I am fully confident that, based on that, I can judge at the very least what my priorities ought to be.”

    So to you, the faith really is just a “me and Jesus” thing? And what of the other fellow who also says “me and Jesus” but comes to different conclusions, some of them directly opposite yours? And the third fellow? And the fourth? Don’t you see a problem here?

  8. Just a thought.

    I am always amazed that as a Protestant it somehow escape my attention that in the OT worship was liturgical. In the book of Revelation the worship service in heaven is liturgical, but for some reason between the resurrection and the second coming its anything goes.

    Why did God ordain an elaborate service in the OT, and when he wants us too understand what worship is like in heaven He uses liturgical images, but why do we think that God is pleased with a couple of songs, a corporate prayer said by a deacon or pastor and then a 45-60 minute lecture is just dandy?

    IOW, why does liturgical worship get tossed out the window between the advents?

  9. Ben says:

    I think the words of Jesus are enough to let me know what is important and what is not. It may sound arrogant to you, but I am fully confident that, based on that, I can judge at the very least what my priorities ought to be. So far, the Orthodox church just doesn’t seem to line up with that.

    Mark, I’m sorry if what I said offended you … but if you don’t want people to know about it, you probably shouldn’t put it in your blogger profile.

  10. Rob G. says:

    “…the church I go to is probably a lot more effective at helping me to become more holy and grow in my relationship with God than an Orthodox church would be for me. Again, not for everyone, for me. Can you really say that it would be better for me to have my growth stifled in an Orthodox church than put up with occasional mistakes in doctrine? The answer of course, being yes, means that what you think is important is very different from what I think is important.”

    Ben, this is the wrong way of looking at the question. Move it back a step. First of all, why do you assume that your growth will be stifled in the Orthodox church? You seem to be putting it all down to a matter of choice or taste or aesthetics. Go back a step further now and I would ask, why do you think YOU are the one who gets to decide what is important? See, this is the ultimate problem with Protestantism — it all comes down totally to the individual: what ‘I’ like, what ‘I’ think is important, what ‘I’ believe, etc. Like it or not, at this point you’re your own pope.

    Orthodoxy gives one the true freedom to shed the false ‘liberty’ of individualism; since Protestantism is individualistic to the core, it can’t really provide liberty. Instead it produces license, which ultimately leads to either anarchy or solipsism.

  11. Mark Krause says:

    Ben, I certainly would not hate you for being an evangelical. Lord knows that there are many good people and things to be found in evangelicalism. I was one for about 19 years.

    It’s very commendable that you don’t exhibit the close-mindedness that many evangelicals do (as I certainly once did). The problem is that I don’t believe that you have the right vantage point from which to judge what is necessary and what is not. You don’t understand what is important and what is not. This is not anything particular to your person, it is just that men weren’t meant to figure everything out on their own. Especially young men. I realize that I don’t have the resources to figure out everything for myself, and so I do my best to submit to the wisdom of the holy God-bearing Fathers and Mothers of the Church who have perserved the faith.

    The best thing I could probably suggest to you would be to read the lives of some of the Orthodox saints, especially some of the modern ones like St. Siluoan the Athononite, or St. John of San Francisco. The saints know what I need better than I do because saints have a relationship with God that is far beyond what I do. None of the things in our form of worship are merely of man, but are instituted by God. And how wise God is to see that men need more than shallow praise songs and systematic theologies. We need to have our whole way of life altered. We need to be taught how to think and feel rightly about things. The Church forms the souls of Christians in a completely wholistic way, realizing that we are not just brains that need to be crammed full of the right propositions. As if God could be found in propositions at all!

    All this to say, I don’t think that there is nothing commendable about evangelicalism, but it is not the Church and does not contain the fullness of the faith.

    As far as my educational situation is concerned, I think Perry will probably remove your last comment as all that information is not something I generally like to speak about over the web. That said, I go to school for my academic education. It’s not a church.

  12. Ben says:

    Speaking of, I would think that you would be at least marginally on my side, Mark … if there’s no value in evangelicalism, why are you at Biola? Why, indeed, is Dr. Reynolds there?

  13. Ben says:

    Oops … I posted as my wife. That last comment was me. I keep making that mistake.

  14. bon82 says:

    “No part of the life of the Church (icons, liturgy, incense) is peripheral”

    Ah, you see, that’s just it. I have a responsibility for my own spiritual development. If I choose wrong, God will probably forgive me, but what a waste. I am confident that whether good or bad, icons, liturgy and incense are peripheral. I think it would be foolish indeed for me to join a church which even if in general has followed the historical line of teaching, is mistaken as to what is important.

    “what makes the spiritual father qualified?”

    The Holy Spirit. Maturity, etc. The qualifications for teaching laid out in the NT. Lineage guarantees nothing. Once again, hate me if you must, but I have to rely at least partially on Sola Scriptura, and that doesn’t seem to suggest your version of qualification for spiritual guidance. And indeed, the Holy Spirit itself can be sufficient, though God has obviously designed us to grow towards Him in community with others.

    “Consider the reasons why you refuse to submit to the Church”

    I think that’s what we’re doing here. And it’s not as if I belligerently sought out Orthodoxy and shook my fist in its face. I am doing my best to give it a good hearing, where most evangelicals will write the Orthodox off as barely Christian.

  15. Mark Krause says:

    Ben,
    In regards especially to your last paragraph: I really don’t mean to come off as a jerk (so I truly apologize if my tone is not what I intend it to be), but how do you know what’s effective at helping you become more holy and growing your relationship with God? Do you trust yourself to be a qualified judge of these things? It’s a lot more than just sitting through the Divine Liturgy on a sunday morning that helps form the Orthodox believer. When an Orthodox Parish is functioning properly, there should be a real relationship between the priest(s) and his/their paritioners. The priest is truly meant to be a spiritual father to his parishioners, and he guides them on their journey into God and helps heal them of their spiritual vices. If I had to simply work on my own without any guidence, I know that I would fall into self-delusion (and I still do many times).

    Furthermore, even if one has this sort of a relationship with someone in a Protestant church, what makes the spiritual father qualified? In the Orthodox Church we can say that we can trace the spiriutal lineage of our spiritual fathers all the way back to the holy Apostles. Our spiritual fathers are not just winging it, or relying on personal experience and judgements, or following the latest trends in spiritual disciplines. They are like spiritual doctors who are taking up the family practice which has been delivered by God to Saints with pure hearts who have seen Him, and handed down lovingly and carefuly through the generations.

    No part of the life of the Church (icons, liturgy, incense, etc.) is peripheral. All of these things work together to form the affections and intuitions of the believer so that they might be saved. All are necessary to help cure us of our “bentness.”

    So all this to say, I think you should really consider the reasons why you refuse to submit to the Church carefully, with much prayer. What is it that you are really holding onto?

  16. Ben says:

    Perry: “Prayer is boring and praying for more than 5 minutes reveals the shallowness of the spirituality that people have, if I dare call it that.” I can’t say I agree with you there.

    I don’t think I meant that “genuineness” is more important than form — my post was not intended as an attack on form or ritual. When I said substance, I meant substance, though I might define it a bit differently than you. Once again, I do not intend to attack liturgy — just its exclusivity; because I am convinced that Orthodox liturgy, even if superior (which I could question … though I enjoy the Liturgy a great deal, I don’t think I could stand sitting through it every week) is not the only place that substance is found. I could not become Orthodox, if it meant having this kind of contempt for what are obviously (to me), in the main, true worshippers of the true God, worshipping in spirit and truth.

    I’ve meant to address this before, and you probably already know this, but Protestants don’t generally view that Matthew passage as relating to doctrine, but as relating to sin in the church. Certainly there are other passages that speak of divisiveness — but is what I’m trying to do divisive or inclusive?

    David: If my mistakes are so elementary, what exactly are they? Some of the Orthodox folks arguing with me are refuting my points directly, as if what I said was in fact Orthodox teaching, and some (like Perry, and apparently yourself) seem also to think that I have mischaracterized Orthodoxy. It’s hard to sort out all this stuff when every comment is a novel, and each detractor appears to be saying something totally different from another. Obviously, if what I believe on these points isn’t incompatible with Orthodoxy, what’s stopping me from being Orthodox? Etc. Maybe my problem is that my knowledge of Orthodoxy is coming mostly from bloggers.

    I don’t intend to be a final arbiter of truth, but if I didn’t judge for myself to a certain degree, I would be a dyed-in-the-wool Monergist, as most of the folks I grew up with are. I think I have a responsibility to determine whether a tradition is true or not before accepting any of its tenets; and, honestly, what mechanism do I have available to me other than Sola Scriptura? I obviously accept tradition up to a point. But if tradition says that all tradition is true, how can you evaluate that claim? Etc.

    Really, though, I am realizing more and more that my objections to Orthodoxy are less about what is true and more about what is important, if that makes any sense. Sure, it’s irritating to sit in church and hear the occasional point of doctrine I disagree with … but the church I go to is probably a lot more effective at helping me to become more holy and grow in my relationship with God than an Orthodox church would be for me. Again, not for everyone, for me. Can you really say that it would be better for me to have my growth stifled in an Orthodox church than put up with occasional mistakes in doctrine? The answer of course, being yes, means that what you think is important is very different from what I think is important.

  17. david,

    Don’t be so sensitive. I didn’t take it as rude, but sometimes I am up to something. 😛

  18. David Richards says:

    Perry, forgive me. The question was not intended to be rude.

  19. Inquirer says:

    traveltine,
    How would you explain the difference between praise and worship?

  20. David,

    Why help anybody but myself? In which case, why blog at all?

  21. trvalentine says:

    Ben wrote:

    To raise the Divine Liturgy above Protestant services without reference to substance (that is, “The Divine Liturgy is a reflection of heavenly worship, all other Christian worship is not”) is to glorify the form and not the object of worship, the Trinity.

    Perhaps this would make more sense to you, Ben, if I rephrased the importance of the Divine Liturgy. I realise you’re not inclined to accept historical evidence that the Divine Liturgy is the fulfillment of the Jewish services, so I’ll let that be.

    The Divine Liturgy is worship. Protestants may praise the Holy Trinity (though they tend to amalgamate the three Persons into an amorphous ‘God’), but they do not worship the Holy Trinity. Heck, they don’t even know what worship is.

    Personally, I find the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts (typically on Wednesdays and Fridays of Great Lent) to be the most worshipful. If you haven’t attended one, do so this spring. You might begin to grasp how pitiful Protestant services seem in comparison.

    Thomas

  22. David Richards says:

    Perry, my friend, why waste your time responding to this post? I read it, had typed a response in Microsoft Word, but then discovered that for whatever reason I could not reply on his blog, so I dropped it.

    Not that Ben, as a person, is unworthy of response, but his mistakes are so elementary. For example, his first point about the Holy Spirit confuses the basic concept that we are united to the Church by means of the Holy Spirit with the idea that the locus of unity amongst Christian is Christ and liturgically speaking, the Euchairst. Well, no Orthodox denies that we are united to the Church by means of the Holy Spirit; we have “chrismation” after all, on which the recipient is anointed with oil and sealed with the Holy Spirit. Saying that Holy Spirit effects a union is NOT the same as saying the locus of unity amongst believers is the body of Christ, i.e. the Eucharist.

    And notice how Ben writes, I believe understand each point, that “this is the way *I* read Scripture” or “I just don’t think this is true,” so that his whole post amounts to saying that he is not Orthodox because he has a different view of Christ and the Church. No d’uh. The question is whether that view is justified by the annals of Church history and by the type of spiritual life which has always been exercised by Christians from the first-century AD forward. But, I guess when you have yourself in that vicious circle of Sola Scriptura, the actual quality of spiritual life among first-century Christians is a moot point.

  23. Ben,

    Actually I did read through the comments, all of them. I never said you explicitly denied the personhood of the HS. I am trying to point out what your use of language tends to imply. To evaluate your claim on the “body of Christ” I’d have to know how you understand that term. Is the body of Christ a historical and visible society or something else?

    As to the canon, do you mean materially and known to God or formally as fixed by human authorities? Since you are a fallible knower, there is always an epistemological gap between appearance and reality. So no judgment of yours is beyond possible revision. And I don’t take Protestants arguments to be sufficient to even know in all cases that the proposed texts are infallible. How does one know that say Ruth is infallible and inspired?

    And if you are confident that the canon of the bible matches theirs, can you say with Athanasius “Thus saith the Lord” citing the book of Sirach?

    And it seems rather strange to give the church such weight in its judgment on the canon, the Trinity and such matters, which are generally more difficult to ascertain and yet judge that they royally goofed in soteriology which is supposed to be clearer and easier. If they can get the former right, so much the more reason for thinking they got the latter right. Which implies that you are probably mistaken.

    I don’t think that everything some Father says is infallible. Some made mistakes. This is why we have criteria to ferret out innovations. Why do you frame the matter in terms of “reflection” rather than continuity and tradition? Luke for example frames the matter in terms of what has been passed on to him. That is, why think it is a matter of getting it right primarily as opposed to receiving? (Rom 10:15)

    There is a difference between making a judgment as to what you think is true, and judging with an authority that obligates others to assent even if they lack understanding. That is, do you have the kind of authority necessary to adjudicate a matter in the way that Jesus proposes in Matt 18:17? Are you the judge in that sense?

    I never claimed you advocated fads, though you may be subject to them without a fixed liturgy, which is one of the ways that the liturgy protects the layman. It is true that Christ complains about false worship. But it is not true that he complains about liturgical worship per se. That would be rather strange, since he is the one who instituted it. Can you find me clear examples where the NT teaches that liturgical worship is abolished? I am not arguing that outward ritual is more important than inward disposition. I argue that both are necessary. The error of our age is just the opposite as the opponents of Jesus. We think sincerity covers everything, but it doesn’t biblically speaking. As the priest who married me put it, “People today write their own vows…and it sounds like it.” Words from the divine liturgy or most ancient liturgies far surpass our ability to express either as we ought or are able. Such prayers when employed properly form us spiritually and in a mature way. Humans are body and soul and not mere soul. What you do with your body matters. (Here I would recommend some C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, & Thomas Howard, Chance of the Dance?) Moreover, since about 80-90% of any ancient liturgy are just arranged quotes from the Bible, they are far more biblical formally speaking than either the bare bones Puritan style, the mass market hedonism of pop evangelicalism and I’d argue far more explicitly Trinitarian than any of the Reformation liturgies. In any case, the rejection of favoring form over sincerity doesn’t license the abolishing of form. Sincerity without form is not only mush, but a mass that can be molded to suit the power interests of popular preachers. Evangelical churches are far more about entertainment or getting the right ideas into your head, and especially managing people by moving them from group to group, than it is about prayer. Why? Prayer is boring and praying for more than 5 minutes reveals the shallowness of the spirituality that people have, if I dare call it that.

  24. photios says:

    Lee and Ben,

    Ill try to get it up tonight.

    Photios

  25. Lee says:

    Photios – I’d also be very interested in such a post on the filioque!

  26. Ben says:

    Hm, I would appreciate that post, because I still don’t completely understand the implications of the filioque.

    I think confusing person and nature would be a big deal for some people; I guess I would weigh it by the effects in their life. I disagree with the resulting doctrines of Augustinian-based religion, although I think the jury is still out on original sin for me.

    It just seems to be a bigger deal to me with Arianism because Arianism seems much more clear cut. “Is Christ God?” seems to be a much bigger, more crucial question than “Does the Holy Spirit emanate from Christ or the Father?” Both have implications, certainly, but I would separate them like this:

    Arians: do not believe in the Trinity, because Christ is not fully God.

    Filioque-ians: (possibly) mistake the true nature of the Trinity … but in my WV, the nature of the Trinity is somewhat unknowable anyway, so although I would decry the results in practice that come from a misunderstanding of the nature of the Trinity and confusion of person and nature, I would not consider that it had a guaranteed deleterious effect on their relationship with the Trinity, effective worship of its persons, etc.

  27. Ben,

    If you do not believe the filioque, then bravo. I take back what I said. However, to not understand the reasoning behind the filioque and it’s subsequent rejection doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a dire NEED to understand it to worship God correctly, but since the ‘Augustinian’ mindset seems to pervade everyone’s thinking these days, it seems almost dangerous to ignore it.

    I believe the filioque and the method that produced it has dire implications. I will put up a post of how I believe those implications are quite relevent.

    Let me just ask you a question:

    Do you think a theology that confuses person and nature is an issue of splitting hairs? Athanasius didn’t think so about Arianism. Filioquism is a different God, because it is what St. Photios called Semi-Sebellianism.

    Photios

  28. Ben says:

    No, not really.

    In fact, if I did believe in the filioque, I doubt we would be having this discussion, because I would have no impetus for taking Orthodoxy seriously, and thus posting my reasons for not being Orthodox 🙂

    So here’s my question … how can you consider someone who does believe the filioque to have such a warped view of the Trinity that they cannot possibly worship God correctly?

    In my WV, the question of whether the Spirit emanates from the Son or not is so esoteric that it can only be meaningful to scholars. I don’t think the question occurred to the Apostles one way or another. It seems like splitting hairs to say that a person who believes in the filioque worships a different God than you do. My impression of God from the NT is that He would not care as much about a person’s stance on the filioque clause as you seem to.

  29. Ben,

    Do you believe the filioque?

    Photios

  30. Ben says:

    Can you describe exactly on which points I am lacking the substance of the Trinity? Perhaps you may be mistaken about what I actually believe.

  31. Ben,

    That’s just the thing. We don’t believe you have the substance, nor do we believe that you worship the Trinity. When you diluted the form you left wide open the gnostic game of giving old terms new meaning. I know you have a profession of what you call the ‘Trinity’ and ‘Christ’ and the ‘Incarnation’ but it is not the ‘Trinity,’ ‘Christ,’ and the ‘Incarnation’ of Orthodox patristic dogmatics which we take to be the touch stone of Judeo-Christian civilization.

    Photios

  32. Ben says:

    1) You don’t seem to have taken the trouble to read the comments of the post. I am far from denying the personhood of the HS, or the incarnation. I am merely stating that a person need not be a member of your church receiving your sacraments to be a member of the body of Christ.

    2) I don’t believe the canon is necessarily fallible. I have full confidence that the councils that confirmed the canon were correct. I am confident, as well, that my version of the Bible matches theirs. This does not mean that I consider every teaching of every father to be at the same level, or to be necessarily a reflection of the thought and teaching of Christ and the apostles.

    Who is the judge to apply the rule? In this case, I am. How else can I follow God in a world where the Orthodox are only one voice among many demanding that I follow their interpretation of Christian life to the exclusion of all others? To stick my head in the sand and follow the loudest polemicist would be negligence unworthy of a follower of Christ.

    3) I do not advocate “fads”. However, I believe that to equate form with substance is to mistake the teachings of the NT. To raise the Divine Liturgy above Protestant services without reference to substance (that is, “The Divine Liturgy is a reflection of heavenly worship, all other Christian worship is not”) is to glorify the form and not the object of worship, the Trinity.

    What else could be meant by Christ’s frequent clashes with the religious leaders of his day? Who were the people who opposed him? The Pharisees and Sadducees! The ones who knew the law of Moses inside and out. They clashed with him because they valued outward appearance of the law and observance of ritual more than mercy, more than justice, more than God Himself. And then, in the epistles, one of the most frequent problems that the Apostles drew attention to was that of requiring Gentiles to accept circumcision. The Jewish rituals were a pointer to Christ, and they have value for that reason. But to not realize that Christ is the substance, and the rituals have no value in and of themselves, is to mistake the message of the NT.

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