Today, Tim Kimberley and I had the privilege of meeting with an Eastern Orthodox priest here at the Credo House in Edmond, OK. The meeting was called because there is a young man who desires to work as an “under-monk” (barista) at the Credo House. While we are a Protestant Evangelical organization, we often call ourselves Evangelical “on the last notch of the belt.” In other words, in the spirit of Evangelicalism, we don’t want to unnecessarily divide over non-essential issues. While devoted to his Eastern Orthodox church, this prospective employee loves the Credo House and what we stand for. As discussions went on behind the scenes about whether or not I wanted to deal with the PR of explaining to everyone why we had an Eastern Orthodox employee (along with all the charges of postmodern doctrinal relativism, etc.), as well as the laborious discovery of whether this guy was truly an Eastern Orthodox or an Evangelical attending an Eastern Orthodox church, Carrie set up a meeting between this young man, his priest, Tim, and me.

The following took place at approx. 2:15 CST at the Credo House, 109 NW 142nd St. Suite B, Edmond, OK.

We made cordial introductions and exchanged some background information The priest was a former Evangelical who converted to Eastern Orthodoxy during college.

The Credo House doctrinal statement was the subject of dispute, as the priest sought to distinguish the Eastern Orthodox position from that which is represented by our doctrinal statement. The potential employee sought both the permission and wisdom of his priest to see if working for Credo House was acceptable. I had already determined that, barring some unforeseen (and potentially delightful) complications, Credo House would not be willing to offer employment to a committed Eastern Orthodox.

There were not really any surprises.

Below is a point by point account of the dispute using our doctrinal statement as an outline:

Bible and Revelation: We confess that the Scriptures are verbally inspired and true in every respect. We also confess that the rightly interpreted Scriptures are the only infallible source of revelation.

It may surprise many to know that the issue of sola Scriptura (rightly defined) is not a major point of departure between Protestants and Eastern Orthodox. The subject of church tradition was brought up. We both agreed that tradition stands guard beside the interpretation of Scripture but does not stand in front of it. We also agreed that tradition does not add anything to the Scripture, but is a tradition in which the Scripture is to be interpreted. Tim called this the regula fide (common terminology here at Credo). I was amused when the priest said  he did not use the Latin terminology (i.e., it was in western theological language). But we both agreed that there was no living infallible interpreter of Scripture. Scripture is the final source, yet we look toward history to aid in our understanding.

He did ask what we meant by “verbally” inspired. I informed him that this means that the Bible is inspired down to the very words, not just the concepts. However, this does not mean that we believe in “mechanical dictation.” He agreed. He just wanted to clarify that we did not hold to a view of inspiration like the Muslims.

God: We confess that there is one God, creator of all things, invisible and visible, who eternally exists in three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, all of whom are fully God, all of whom are equal in power and dignity. We also confess that God is all-knowing and is sovereign over all the affairs of His creation.

This was an interesting (and unexpected) discussion. He thought our confession here about God bordered on modalism. It was hard for me to process what was being disputed. Historically, it is true, the eastern church has accused the western church (Protestants and Roman Catholics included) of emphasizing the oneness of God to the neglect of his threeness (modalism). The western church has accused the eastern church of emphasizing the threeness of God at the expense of his oneness (tritheism). However, I had thought we got past this quite some time ago. Nevertheless, he would have preferred that we said “We confess that there is one God, the Father . . . ” He said that, “You cannot separate the oneness from the person.” In the end, he said  it was a “minor” point of wording. I did not have much of a problem with what he said (although I can see where the western church would think this sounds somewhat tritheistic).

Christ: We confess that Jesus Christ is God’s eternal Son, the second member of the Trinity, who exists as one person in two natures, being both fully God and fully man. We further confess that He lived a sinless life and willingly died on a cross as a substitution for the sins of man. We confess that He rose bodily from the dead and ascended to the right hand of the Father; from there He makes intercession for man.

“Substitution for the sins of man.” This was one of the two major points of departure. Every time I have discussed the issue of the atonement with an Eastern Orthodox, this is where deep emotions turn into deep wrinkles on their face. There is quite a bit of passion involved here. The Eastern Orthodox church completely rejects vicarious penal substitution. They do not believe that Christ bore the wrath of the Father. According to him, Christ is our substitute only in the sense that he was the “substitute man” who did what Adam could not. I explained that Evangelical Protestants believe that Christ did indeed become the “second Adam” and that we often, sadly, fail to do justice to his sinless life as part of the atonement. However, I explained that Christ’s life prepared him for the apex of the atonement that took place on the cross. There was a foresaking where He who knew no sin became sin on our behalf and it pleased the Father to crush him. Therefore, the “transaction” between the Father and the Son on the cross, while incredibly mysterious, was real and essential. He disagreed and we moved on.

Holy Spirit: We confess that the Holy Spirit is the third member of the Trinity, equal to the Father and the Son in power, authority, and dignity, deserving worship. We further confess that the ministry of the Holy Spirit is to point to Christ by enabling and empowering all believers to serve God and to grow in Christ likeness. 

There were no notes here. We were good.

Man and sin: We confess that man was created by God, for God, and in God’s image so that man can joyously live in communion with God. We believe that Adam and Eve, the father and mother of all mankind, disobeyed God in Eden thereby causing all people to become like them in guilt and nature. Therefore, we confess that all people are born separated from God and in their natural state are at enmity with God, unable to make any move toward God on their own. We confess that the image of God, while distorted, remains in all men. We confess that when a person dies, the immaterial part of that person consciously goes to either be with Christ or to a place to await judgment.

Here we encountered a second major point of departure. He made it clear that the Eastern Orthodox could not accept any idea of imputed guilt. While they believe that we have inherited corruption, we are not held guilty for the sin of another. He rightly pointed out that Protestants and Roman Catholics both believe that we are held guilty for the sin of another. His argument against inherited guilt was very practical. “How could God hold a baby guilty for a sin he did not take part in?” was his question. I told him that we may be two boats passing in the night here. I explained that all of humanity fell “in and with” Adam. Therefore, when Adam was condemned, the entire human race was condemned with him. God did not necessarily strike the gavel for every baby conceived individually, but he struck the gavel with Adam, our federal head. God could have chose not to redeem humanity and “walked away.” Had he done so, we would be “condemned” to a life without God.

Interestingly, he objected to the statement that man is “unable to make any move toward God on their own.” He said that humanity retains some ability to choose God even if we don’t use it. I informed him that his wording was not, in my opinion, in the best traditions of his own church. The idea that we can make moves on our own toward God without his initiation was either Pelagian or semi-Pelagian. All the magisterial Christian traditions (Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, and Roman Catholics) see the need for God to, motivated by his grace, initiate salvation. We ended up agreeing here.

Salvation: We confess that God had every right to leave man in his depraved and helpless condition, but, by His own gracious and loving volition, He chose to intercede on behalf of man. We further confess that salvation is only possible through faith alone in Christ alone because of God’s grace alone. We reject that any works of righteousness contribute in any way to man’s salvation. We confess that when a person places their faith in Christ they are at that instant declared righteous through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness as a gift of God.

He did not like the word “intercede,” instead preferring “intervene.” This came down to his distinction in the persons of the Trinity. I told him I did not have much of a problem with that.

“Through faith alone in Christ alone.” You may be interested to know there was not much dispute about this. He said that as long as we said that true faith would always produce works, he was good with the “faith alone” thing. But he did not like the wording of, “We reject that any works of righteousness contribute in any way to man’s salvation.” I did not like that he did not like this! He said that we cannot distinguish between faith and works. I said you can insofar as the works themselves do not “contribute” to our justification. I gave an illustration about a gift which we don’t pay for. Any attempt to pay for this gift (i.e., believing our works contribute to the acquisition of said gift) would not only be superfluous, but insulting to the gift-giver. We do good works because of a changed nature (rebirth, justification, adoption), not so that we can have a changed nature.

Last Things: We confess that Christ will come again to judge and reward all people. We confess the bodily resurrection of all believers. We confess the eternal blessedness of those who have trusted in Christ and the eternal damnation of all who have rejected God.

He wanted to make sure we did not believe only in the resurrection of all “believers.” He said unbelievers would be raised as well. I agreed.

It was a wonderful dispute. Again, no real surprises. I do appreciate the Eastern Orthodox church very much. In the end, however, we all determined that it would not be in the best interest of either party to continue to pursue employment at the Credo House. As Tim said, “We don’t want you to be untrue to yourself and we can’t be untrue to who we are.” The priest agreed, saying, “As an Eastern Orthodox priest, I could not sign this due to the two main issues: imputed guilt and substitutionary atonement.”

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Find him everywhere: Find him everywhere

    178 replies to "Credo House Dispute – Our Discussions Today with an Eastern Orthodox Priest"

    • David McKay

      Thank you for letting us listen in.

    • anita

      That’s good. Thanks. Obviously I need to read up on the Eastern Orthodox Church. I thought they were into traditions on an equal level with the Bible.

      • bob lee

        They are. These are the beliefs of the disciples, the apostles, the early church fathers and so on. Protestants follow Luther who came along 1,000+ years later and rewrote doctrine.

    • The EO or Orthodoxy believe in the infallible sense of their Orthodox tradition & history.

      And note indeed that this Orthodox priest could not sign on due to, as he wrote.. “imputed guilt and substitutionary atonement.” Very big loses for or in the Reformational and Reformed faith!

    • NW


      It’s sad to think that someone whose Eastern Orthodox faith has so much in common with your own brand of evangelicalism cannot work at the Credo House. If it is true that the Spirit of Christ is not divided then there can be no good excuse for this state of affairs.

      By the way, the Eastern Orthodox are right to deny the imputation of Adam’s guilt as well as substitutionary atonement, both are fictions invented by the Western church. Particularly in the case of the former, how anyone could believe in the imputation of Adam’s guilt in light of such passages as Rom 5:12 and Rom 7:9 is beyond me.

    • As it is beyond me, how any biblical & theological thinking Christian could miss the guilt of Adam’s sin being “imputed” to us! (Romans 5 ; / 1 Cor. 15:22, etc. / 1 Peter 3:18…”the just for the unjust”.) I will always go with Augustine here!

      Note, Traducianism here!

    • caleb

      Sounds like that was a fun discussion. A bit surprising on what the issues ended up being. I would have not expected those ones and would have thought it to be others.

      sadly, there are evangelicals that would take issue with the same things. But be less cordial about it.

    • NW

      Greetings brother Robert,

      1 Cor 15:22 says “For just all die with Adam so also all will be made alive with Christ.” Sorry, I’m not seeing anything about the imputation of Adam’s guilt here, but I am seeing a nice affirmation of universal salvation. On the other hand, Rom 7:9 clearly seems to teach that Paul was “alive” until the moment of his first sin at which point he “died,” not sure how that can be squared with a doctrine that teaches that all of Adam’s offspring are born “dead.”

      No worries though, I don’t think our Lord and God cares that much about these disagreements.

    • @NW: Indeed, Romans chapters 1 thru 3, with 4-5 and 6, and of course Romans 7, the Law of God, with Romans 8, and the mercy, grace & predestinating love of God! All move together! And it is ‘Law & Gospel’, as both Luther and Calvin, our Magisterial Reformers! It is here that we must understand our Saul/Paul! The whole reality of the Law of God is simply foundational for the true doctrine of Grace & God.

      I like much of the EO on both Christology and the Trinity of God, in fact I would stand closer there as to the Monarchy of the Father in the Godhead! But, again, they simply miss the judicial character of the Law of God! But, hey, I am “Reformed” on the Doctrines of Grace! 😉

      Btw, its really the whole aspect to the theology of God In Christ in 1 Cor. 15, noting, verses 45-49, the doctrine of the First and Last Adam!

      Best In Christ!

      Fr. Robert 🙂

    • Michael T.

      It is rather interesting that these are the two biggest issues I have with Protestantism (as a Protestant) and I would say I lean towards the arguments of the Eastern Orthodox on these matters. On Penal Substitution it takes some bending over backwards to find even the slightest hints of it in the Early Christian writings. It didn’t even really take proto form until Anselm and didn’t reach full fruition until Calvin (yes I know there have been a few books which claim otherwise and there were some quotes from Tertullian – but as far as I’m aware most scholars scoff at the idea that any of the Early Church Fathers had the conception of the atonement that Western Protestants do). At the end of the day I’m inclined to go with C.S. Lewis’ comments in Mere Christianity when it comes to the atonement.

      As far as imputed guilt and it seems to me that the idea of imputed guilt didn’t come along in full form till Augustine. The idea seems to go against Ezekiel 18:20, “The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son.” Furthermore it seems really hard to separate Augustine’s conception of imputed guilt from the need to baptize infants and the corruption being passed on through sex. The first idea – that God would sentence infants to eternal hell simply because their parents neglected to have them baptized or they died before their was a chance – seems repugnant to the character of God. The second idea seems to make something that clearly existed prior to the fall, and thus was good, evil. It seems to me to be a case of Augustine projecting his negative experiences in his youth.

    • R David

      To help people understand Eastern Orthodoxy better, you should re-post the wonderful dialogue you had with Bradley Nassif a few years back.

    • Pete again

      @ Fr. Robert, a clarification on Pelagianism: The controversy between Augustine and Pelagius resulted in the condemnation of Pelagianism; however, at no time did the early church condemn a semi-Pelagian position (the term “semi-Pelagian” was not used in the early church. According to the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology the term was 1st used in the Lutheran Formula of Concord -1527).

      The fundamental assumption here that drives your paradigm is the extreme Augustinian view of the Fall, i.e., that as a result of the Fall man’s capacity to respond to God’s grace was destroyed. This is the Augustinian interpretation of the Fall. It is the opinion of one western church father, but it was not part of the universal patristic consensus.

      Just so there is no confusion: Orthodoxy teaches synergism, not semi-Pelagianism. The real issue between classical Protestantism and Orthodoxy is monergism versus synergism. Historical Orthodoxy unabashedly affirms the synergistic understanding of salvation in Christ: God in his grace reaches out to us and we respond to God’s initiative.

      Gregory of Nyssa: “For He who holds sovereignty over the universe permitted something to be subject to our own control, over which each of us alone is master. Now this is the will: a thing that cannot be enslaved, being the power of self-determination.”

      John Chrysostom: “God never draws anyone to Himself by force and violence. He wishes all to be saved, but forces no one.”

      As for your Calvinist monergism: the mono-energist dogma was the exact scheme used by the monothelite heretics, who said that the human will of Christ (and by extension, our human nature) is not denied but simply overridden by the divine will. Monergism is not only a soteriological scheme, but a Christological heresy.

    • @Pete: First, indeed this is a great theological and really biblical issue, and we will not solve it here! The issue really is the doctrine of God and Sin! Indeed too one area, in my opinion where the EO certainly lacks (profoundly) is in the Jewish doctrine of the Law of God! With in fact, many of the once pagan Church Fathers, who lacked here also, i.e. the Jewish Law of God. This in fact too was the great place and person of our Saul/Paul! HE certainly really, with the Book of Hebrews, gives us the proper balance here. This was one of the great issues of the Magisterial Reformers, i.e. Law & Gospel!

      Btw, I am with Augustine, note his early and later change on Romans 7: 13-25. There is simply no way I see the man here as unregenerate! YOUR position simply must! This is another major hermeneutical difference. As I have noted and suggested people read, David Steinmetz’s book: Calvin in Context, especially chapter 8: ‘Calvin and the Divided Self’. This chapter is very good, also historical, and shows too, that some Roman Catholic theolog’s also held the position of the later Augustine on Romans 7. Indeed we must do our homework here!

      Finally, we can see too Augustine’s well defined doctrine of Prevenient Grace (De natura et gratia). And here this shows that we need not be pressed into the so-called issues of monergism verses a synergism! Augustine held a well defined doctrine of synergism, himself.

      Closing, I would not gloss over Tertullian here, he simply had one of the finest theological statements concerning the doctrine of Antitheses in God! Here too I would recommend Eric Osborn’s book: Tertullian, First Theologian of the West.

    • Phil McCheddar

      If the barista and his priest had no significant qualms about Credo House’s statement of faith, would you have employed the barista without first discussing his statement of faith to see if you significantly disagree with any of his fundamental beliefs? I’m thinking that reviewing only your own SoF with the barista may not have revealed all the potential fundamental doctrinal differences. The EO church may regard certain doctrines as central and non-negotiable which your Protestant SoF may not even mention.

      Regarding the question of imputed guilt, if that is a heretical innovation rather than something intrinsic to the gospel, then surely the idea of Christ’s imputed righteousness must also be a heretical innovation? But I have staked my eternity on the fact that Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to me through faith. He is my representative, so that on the day of judgement God will accept me despite my sinfulness because I am in solidarity with Christ and so his perfect obedience is reckoned to my account as if I had obeyed God’s law perfectly myself.

      Regarding vicarious penal substitution, I had thought Leon Morris’ research into the use of the word propitiation in the LXX had proven that vicarious penal substitution is intrinsically biblical and not merely an artificial framework constructed by the western church to explain the atonement. Am I confused about that?

    • @Phil McCheddar: Well said as to the EO and Reformational and Reformed major theological differences, i.e. at least in soteriology: salvation. Justification and Imputation are first “forensic” (formal argumentation), again the Law of God met by and ‘In Christ’! (And yes, this is Protestant, and even Barth was here!)

      Btw, I would agree too, that having an EO on staff at Credo would be problematic, at least if one has to sign-on to the full Creedal statement? And note btw, I am in agreement with the EO on both Christology and the Trinity of God, myself! But of course we differ most profoundly on the Doctrines of Grace!

      And the doctrine of the Atonement can hold many ideas and views, but the reality of the vicarious nature of the Death of Christ…”the just for the unjust” (1 Peter 3:18 ; see too, 1 Pet. 2:24 / Rom. 15: 3 / Gal. 3: 10-13), is certainly central! And indeed Reformational and Reformed, as to the Atonement!

      “For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, ‘The Reproaches Of Those Who Reproached Thee Fell Upon Me.” (Rom. 15: 3 / Ps. 69:9)

      Finally, I would not follow Morris on the idea of “propitiation” (Latin word really), but would see as the LXX, the meaning of “Expiation” (RSV)…i.e. “Christ” is the ‘mercy-seat’, Rom. 3:25). But still again the “Vicarious” Atonement…’taking the place of another’ in both the Law & Death! Indeed, the Law of GOD must be met!

    • @Phil: See, the LXX or Septuagint in Lev. 25:9 ; Num. 5:8, the covering of sin by means of sacrifice, i.e. expiation and conciliation, again “Christ” is this place Himself in sacrfice and death…”the name of a place” – Mercy-seat, Christ Himself, HE is the saving seat of God’s presence and gracious revelations! This to my mind anyway is the essence of Rom. 3:25…”Whom God displayed or set forth, as an expiation, through faith in His blood, for a display of the Righteousness of HIM, and in His divine forbearance..”

      Here we have both “Law & Gospel/Grace”!

    • Here’s a useful and historical link on Semipelagianism, from a Catholic source…

    • Pete again

      @Fr. Robert, I agree that we will not solve all of the issues here. But, I don’t think that is the point if this blog. The motto is “reclaim the mind” which I take to mean “discover and understand what is the truth”.

      I agree with your statement that “Augustine held a well-defined doctrine of synergism”. That is truth. In fact, the entire Church of his time did too! Calvinist monergism was developed 1,000 years later.

      As the Credo House teaches Church history, it needs to be honest and say that their Calvinist soteriology is based upon monergism, which was a view not held by the united orthodox Christian Church of the first 1,000 years.

      And Credo House is certainly free to hire who they want, based upon the applicant’s beliefs (unless Obama gets re-elected!). But the rejected Orthodox applicant believes in exactly the same soteriological dogma – salvation through synergism – as every 1st millennia church father that I can find.

      Tertullian? He was no monergist or Calvinist:

      “Grace with the Lord, when once learned and undertaken by us, should never afterward be cancelled by repetition of sin”.

      “No one is a Christian but he who perserveres even to the end”.

    • @Pete: I am not a Monergist either, nor was Luther or Calvin, to my mind and understanding! Btw, one of the nice things about being an Anglican, and I hope I am a classic Anglican? but surely both “catholic” and “reformed”. 😉

      Yes, Tertullian is simply a Church Father, to my mind! A must read man of God! Perhaps a first-read book about him, would be Geoffrey Dunn’s book: Tertullian. And btw both Dunn and Osborn are Aussies, Dunn a Catholic, and Osborn an Anglican I believe?

      I cannot speak for the Credo House myself. But hey, I am myself an Anglican conservative eclectic! I know CMP has a bit of the latter, too. Note, I tend toward the FV or Federal Vision, or I am at least friendly there, but not uncritical.

      Here’s a worthy quote…

      “Faith, thus receiving and resting on Christ and His righteousness, is the alone instrument of justification; yet it is not alone in the person justified, but is ever accompanied with all other saving graces, and is no dead faith, but worketh by love (11/2).” (Westminster Assembly, Westminster Confession of Faith, 58.)

    • And btw Pete, let me reommend too, Karl Barth’s book on Anselm: Fides Quarens Intellectum, Anselm’s Proof of the Existence of God in the context of His Theological Scheme.

      “‘There is no way from us to God – not even a ‘via negativa’ – not even a ‘via dialectica’ nor ‘paradoxa’. The god who stood at the end of some human way . . . would not be God.’ This assertation, which would seem to discourage all theology, is by Karl Barth, the most prominent, prolific, and (it seems to me) persuasive of the twentieth-century theologians…. As a critical theologian, Barth ranks with Kierkegaard; as a constructive one, with Aquinas and Calvin.” (John Updike)

      The point here is always the Mystery but Revelation of God in Christ. As important as God’s sovereignty, is that of His “Mystery”! These always run together!

    • Craig Bennett

      I do hope Michael, that you acknowledge that the theory of vicarious substitutionary atonement is but one of many theories of how the atonement works.

      None of the Authors of Scripture actually write in detail as to how it works, and in many ways, all of the theories of the atonement have many elements of truth.

    • @Craig: Wow, this is certainly not a “theory” for those of us that see and believe this in the Holy Scripture! We would call it biblical theology, mate! The question is always whether we can maintain a proper theological construct. And this is certain to my mind, in the biblical reality, on this the “vicarious” atonement of Christ, for His people! Again, 1 Peter 3:18!

      • Bob lee

        Just because you are the loudest voice in the room does not mean your opinion is correct.

    • Btw Michael: I think one of my posts to Pete might have got caught in your spam, perhaps?

    • Michael T.

      Fr. Robert,

      I don’t think anyone disputes that there are certainly substitutionary components of the atonement. The question is whether or not this is the only or even the primary component of the atonement, much less the only component thereof. The fact that the Early Church Father’s did not see the atonement in this manner makes me have serious reservations about the amount of emphasis we place on penal substitution.

    • Pete again

      Good evening Fr. Robert,

      “The EO or Orthodoxy believe in the infallible sense of their Orthodox tradition & history.” Well…suppose that the Church that you belong to could trace it’s bishops directly back to the Apostles in an unbroken chain; that at every point in time you could look back and see unchanged doctrine on every major point in your Church; that the Scriptures exhorted you personally to “hand down the traditions just like you have received them”, no matter which direction the ways of the world were blowing. Now, if that was you, wouldn’t you take the greatest care of “this Pearl of Great Price”?

      I appreciate the Karl Barth recommendation. I am sure he is a genius. Orthodoxy has its share of intelligent theologians over the past 2,000 years (although quite obviously I am not one of them!). Arius, Nestorius, Darwin and Nietzsche were also some of the smartest men ever born; however, Jesus Christ said that the pure of heart will see God, not the smart of brain.

      Thanks for the New Advent link…but I’ve found that I can’t trust the accuracy of the info at that site.

      Finally, I’m truly mystified as to why the Credo House would spend the time and resources to educate fellow Protestants on the honor, importance, unity, wisdom, and rich theological doctrines and sacraments of the historical apostolic Church; and then when a young, sincere member of this very same historical apostolic Church miraculously applies for a job at the Credo House, he is told that he cannot work there because of his Christian beliefs. It’s a head-shaker for sure.

      Take care,

    • @Pete: I wrote a blog for you, that Michael or Credo has yet to moderate? And btw, Karl Barth (pronounced Bart btw), is not just some liberal, but a real modern Church Father to my mind! But, I am not a Barthian myself.

      Note, I am not impressed with only Apostolic “genealogy”, Roman Catholicism has that, and they have errored.

      @Michael T.

      I would see the Christus Victor Atonement model (Gustav Aulen), as Incarnational, but not without Christ as also Himself, the vicarious God-Man for others too.

    • C Michael Patton

      Got it Fr. Sorry. I don’t know why it got caught other than all the cursing that I deleted out. 😉

    • Craig Bennett

      Father Robert. If you call the doctrine anything else but a theory, then intellectual dishonesty occurs.

      Leon Morris wrote a great paper on this very subject –

      He was a committed evangelical Anglican, author of many commentaries by reputable evangelical publishers. What he says has a lot to say in this situation.

    • @Craig: So is the Atonement of Christ now a “theory”? And note too, in Morris article, vicarious covers both the satisfaction and penal “theological” statements! And as the Bible itself states, Christ’s death was an expiatory sacrifice! (Rom. 3:25)

      Even the profound Dr. J.K. Mozley could write: ‘No other word except “substitution” can adequately express the relation of the work of Christ to what I can recognize as my salvation. Christ was crucified for me. . . . He stood in our place and so became our substitute. (Gal. 2:19)’

    • John

      The problem with these kinds of discussions is that they focus on things that are of great interest to western Christianity, but ignore what is central to Orthodoxy. It reminds me of that scene in Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy whe they are trying to invent the wheel and arguing about what colour it should be, but they haven’t even thought about discussing what shape is good for a wheel. So they’ve got triangular and square wheels and arguing about the color. Since they’re arguing about the color of a wheel which is the wrong shape to begin with, the discussion is less than enlightening.

      Now how on earh can the scriptures be the only infallible source of revelation? Wasn’t God talking directly to Moses infallible? Surely that needs some qualifiers. Once you start diving into those qualifiers, you are in the realm of arguing what colour a wheel should be.

    • C Michael Patton

      Solution? Concede that what westerners believe is important is not really so? I hope this is not how you deal with a marraige! I think that the road goes both ways here. Such statements of arrogence and grandure need not represent any conversation. In gact, it is just such conversation stoppers that have typlified the East/West divide for centuries.

      However, you must understand that this conversation was not instigated nor facillitated by me.

    • John

      Just saying Michael, that it would have been better if the conversation went both ways. I.e., also start from an Orthodox list of concerns, and discuss from that direction. I realise you are job interviewing, so there was no particular impetus for that, but still.

      Of course, what you discussed was not what westerners believe. Rather it is what Protestants believe, and what westerners argue about. That’s kind of the point, that Protestant priorities are based on the history of their arguments with Rome. You don’t see these arguments in the church fathers so much, because they are not a natural set of priorities. They are priorities seated in a particular place and time of the medieval west. Again, arguing about the colours of the wheel and ignoring the shape.

    • Phil McCheddar

      @ John
      I know very little about Orthodox Christianity. In a nutshell, what is central to Orthodoxy that Protestantism ignores?
      I am not sure you are right to regard the priorities of the church fathers as necessarily more natural than those of Protestantism. It is true that “Protestant priorities are based on the history of their arguments with Rome”, but the church fathers themselves were not living in a cultural vacuum. They were products of their own generation and were forced to combat the particular heresies put forward by whatever schools of philosophy happened to oppose Christianity at the time.

      @ Michael T
      You wrote: “The fact that the Early Church Fathers did not see the atonement in this manner makes me have serious reservations about the amount of emphasis we place on penal substitution.”
      But isn’t it possible that the doctrine of penal substitution is like the trinity inasmuch that all the raw data was present from the beginning but it took several hundred years of analysis and meditation to crystallise it into a formal, finely-honed statement of faith? It’s relative absence from the writings of the ECFs doesn’t necessarily imply it isn’t the central basis of the atonement mechanism.

      • bob lee

        So by that reasoning, what other doctrinal statements or ideas are yet to be crystallized into formal statements of faith? By what means to we vet these? Possibly a new one will spontaneously crystallize that is contradictory? This reasoning is why we have 20,000 + protestant sects acting with no authority yet all claiming it within themselves.

    • C Michael Patton

      Way Phil said. Good stuff.

    • John

      @Phil: what is central to Orthodoxy that Protestantism ignores? Well, that’s a pretty big topic to put on this thread. But Orthodoxy is more mystical in emphasis. That means that all technicalities tend to be outside its emphasis, not just the ones Protestantism is obsessed with.

      Are the church fathers just as much influenced by the heresies of the time as Protestants? Well, you can argue it, but I think not. The Church fathers are not on the defensive as much as the Protestants. The Protestants had to reinvent the wheel and go against all prevailing wisdom. The Church fathers just had to defend prevailing wisdom. That made them less reactionary, generally speaking. Furthermore, they weren’t all obsessed with just one heresy or one enemy.

    • Pete again

      @Phil: “I know very little about Orthodox Christianity”.

      Here you go:

      Some tidbits:

      * The Christian Church of the 4th century, which today we call “the Orthodox Church”, assembled the canon of the New Testament that you use today.

      * A 4th century Orthodox bishop of Antioch & Constantinople, John Chrysostom, was the first to coin the phrase “Bible” when referring to the Holy Scriptures.

    • Pete again

      This blog has labeled Orthodoxy as being “semi-Pelatiagianist”, which is false. I’ve had some time to do some research and legwork on Church history:

      “Semi-Pelagianism” is associated with the rulings of the second Synod of Orange (AD 529). This local council of the is generally seen in our day as a vindication of both St. Augustine’s debates against Pelagius and the soteriological distinctives of Calvinism. However, even this synod’s conclusions differ markedly from the viewpoints of Calvinists. For example, the council (like St. Augustine) emphatically declares both the necessity of infant baptism and the reality of baptism’s efficacious qualities: “According to the catholic faith we also believe that… grace has been received through baptism.”

      Furthermore, and in a denial of monergism (and vindication of synergism), the synod continues: “… all baptized persons have the ability and responsibility, if they desire to labor faithfully, to perform with the aid and cooperation of Christ what is of essential importance in regard to the salvation of their soul.” Calvinists deny any insinuation that man’s labors are essential for the salvation of a person’s soul, not to mention the idea that grace is received through baptism.

      In a final blow to Calvinism—and not a semi-invented “Semi-Pelagianism”—this Church council also concludes: “We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema.” That eliminates most of the “five points” of Calvinism with one, simple statement.

      Glory to God for all Things

    • Craig Bennett

      Pete, do you have a reference for this?

    • Fred

      Mike P,
      As an Orthodox Christian and friend of Credo House, I just want to say I appreciate your honest and fair approach to looking at the Orthodox Church. Thank you.

      On the subject of monergism vs synergism, Norm Geisler’s book “Chosen but Free” makes a compelling argument for synergism that fits well with Orthodox thinking on the subject.

      Concerning supposed semi-Pelagianism in Orthodoxy…it is easy to get that impression because Orthodoxy upholds both sides of the paradox of free will and grace, and so statements taken out of context can seem to indicate a semi-Pelagian approach. Also, in my experience, converts to Orthodoxy from Calvinist schools of thought sometimes swing the pendulum to far in the opposite direction. In my reading of Patristic and monastic literature, however, there is a clear acknowledgement that our salvation and sanctification is from the Grace of God, which we are of course free to resist or cooperate with. As said by Lev Gillet, “The incorporation of man into Christ and his union with God require cooperation of two unequal, but equally necessary forces: divine grace and human will”

    • @Pete: And note too, “Calvinism” is layered and historical, as I have said, I don’t really believe or think Calvin himself was a Monergist. You might want to read Emil Brunner (himself a moderate Calvinist and a infralapsarian – as I am myself), and his points on Calvin and natural theology.

      Beware of beating on a straw-man here! And Augustine himself is the best so-called Western defense. A Church Father himself! And it is no secert that many of the EO try to diminish the man and his theology! I would recommend the book by the late Fr. Seraphim Rose (1934-1982, himself an Orthodox priest). ‘The Place of Blessed Augustine in the Orthodox Church’, (1983, Revised Ed, 1996).

      Btw, I like to think of myself as someone who has been close to the EO. In a dialogue group many years past as an Anglican with some EO. Heck, I even came close some years back to going with the Antiochain Orthodox. And as I have written, I am close to their Christology and the Trinity of God (no filioque for me).

    • Carrie Hunter

      I am weary of hearing people assert “well the early fathers didn’t write on this….”

      Just because the early church believed or practiced certain things or did not believe or not practice certain things, does not set the standard of what we are to do today.

      I mean, you actually think that because they were “closer to the time of the apostles” meant they didn’t have error? My goodness, we see where error was cropping up in the churches Paul planted within a matter of years of his planting them. That is why he had to write his letters.

      At the end of the day, regardless of what we see in history, when we see history depart from Scripture, we have to side with the latter.

      Scripture is our bar for what is authentically Christian. History only serves to show it as either being adhered to or neglected.

      • bob lee

        “At the end of the day, regardless of what we see in history, when we see history depart from Scripture, we have to side with the latter.” Which scripture? The scripture as interpreted by Luther and the reformers? By your reasoning during the protestant reformation we should have signed with scripture. Luther imposed his own ideas. He even wanted to throw out the book of James. He ad antibaptists murdered etc. I would like nothing to do with that. You understand scripture is the bar sure, but is maintained as such through the preservation of the Church. Your reasoning is backwards. God gave us a standard to preserve the scripture. That being the Early Church. You deny that and as a result claim authority lies within ones interpretation. Interpretation outside of this is heretical and leads to the 20,000+ Protestant sects we see today. I

    • John

      Pete: thanks for those quotes. You are right that semi-pelagian is a massively abused term within protestantism, and I’ve long noticed that no Protestants have a clue what it means.

      Fr Robert: you’re right that Augustine is often disparaged in Orthodoxy, but having read a bit of him myself, I struggle to see how he supports a Protestant cause.

      Carrie: There’s a difference between errors in individual churches, and errors in all the churches. On a purely logical level, how would you explain completely separate churches coming to the exact same error? These are churches with bishops more versed in the scriptures than you will ever be. Once you’ve come up with a suitable explanation, now tell us how you know for sure that this same problem does not also apply to all the Protestant churches.

      Furthermore, I’ve never come across any evidence that any Protestant church ever changed its practices because of scripture. Did you eve hear of a Presbyterian church that decided to become baptist because they were convicted by a scriptural argument, or a baptist church that decided to become paedobaptist? Or a church that changed its polity because they looked hard at scripture? Or a church that changed from Calvinist to Arminian or vice versa? If you know of one, it’s got to be so so rare. All Protestant churches do exactly what orthodox churches do, which is to hold to their own traditions. The difference is we at least have a plausible claim that our traditions date from the beginning.

      • bob lee

        Fantastic repsonse

    • @John: On your last paragraph #42, check out some of the American Presbyterian Churches who are within the now ‘Federal Vision’. They have radically changed on Covenant & Sacrament! As I have stated myself, I am FV “friendly”!

      And as to “Carrie’s” point, I think (as John Paul II wrote), that the Church is always a “Pilgrim” body on earth! (I have that John Paul quote if ya want?)

    • John

      Have they changed? Because my understanding is that the FV folks claim to be the true inheritors of Reformed theology. From what I can see, the Presbyterians woke up one day and realised they didn’t agree on something, and some fell one way, and some the other. Because they only just woke up to the issue even existing at all, it’s a bit hard to say where they stood before.

      Yes the church is a pilgrim. One hopes the pilgrim is continually making spiritual progress, and not on a pilgrimage directly to hell.

    • @John: Indeed the FV is not really a full-blown Reformed Theology, as I have come to understand it, but a “Federal Vision” within Reformed theology, itself. But then, I am only “friendly” here, as an Anglican. I am somewhat “Reformed” on soteriology or salvation myself, but again the Federal Vision is more toward the Covenant and Sacramental life, itself. And as I see it, has some of the “Catholic” beauty in theology… as the Federal Vision of the Doctrine of God! 🙂 My take anyway, for as an Anglican, I am or see both the “catholic” & “reformed” reality!

    • Of course as you Orthodox believe, in “theosis”, but only at the end, before the Bema-Seat of Christ!

    • John

      We only believe in Theosis at the end? That’s an odd thing to say.

    • I should say, that what I believe “theosis” will be, in the presence of Christ, at ‘the Bema-Seat! 🙂

    • ‘Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life, Lord Jesus, Come In Glory!’

    • John

      Sounds like there might be an interesting discussion lurking there, but for now you’ve lost me.

    • The essential thing in a NT Christology & Christianity, is that GOD came to settle in a final way the issue between a Holy God and the sin/guilt of man or humanity.

      God is both the reconciler and the reconciled! (Rom. 3:25-26) But, now I must live in it, and to the end!

    • C Michael Patton

      The belief that Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant have any particular claim on the Fathers of the faith is naive and disrespectful not to mention incredibly assumptive. If this is the major claim of your tradition you have a burden that is very heavy. But, most importantly, it is non-substantive. It is not worth trying to carry to the degree that some attempt. The Fathers were not smarter or more Spiritual any more the Adam was smarter because he walked with God. It is the fullness of history from which we can draw our maturity. There is no reason to freeze it in the first and second century in order to retain it theological infancy. Why would we assume that Irenaus or Augustine or Basil had a greater degree of theological maturity than us? Yes, the basic DNA was there and we should live in fear of theological genetic engineering. However, when I read these guys, while I am encouraged by their faith, there are no transcendent insights, maturity, or unity that I see. In fact, I would say that they, lacking the battle scars of 2000 years of history, have a bit of underdeveloped theology. This is not their fault, but please quit trying to get us back to adolescence.

    • C Michael Patton

      “We all walk through the gardens of church history and choose the flowers we like best.”

    • Go there Michael…rip it! 😉 So many think the Church Fathers walk on water almost! I too respect many of them, but some are just plain verbiage! Indeed we must have that constant sense of the “Ecclesia semper reformada” (always reforming) by “spirit and truth”!

    • Craig Bennett

      I think we have to be careful in how we read the church fathers and the era they come from. Some of them were under the tutelage of the Apostles themselves – so we have to be aware that perhaps they have a better understanding of the early church than what we do.

      I find it interesting that many Calvinists will claim Augustine as their own, yet not acknowledge that in his book the’ city of God’, he shows that the gifts of the Spirit are in full operation, which decries any cessationist approach to understanding church history and theology.

    • John

      Well Michael, if we actually regard the fathers as an authority, and you don’t, I think that gives us a claim that you don’t. I mean, if a Buddist complained that you don’t have a better claim on the apostles than he, you’d object, right?

      And the importance of the fathers has nothing to do with them being smarter or more spiritual, contrary to your objection. The importance of the fathers is that they are a witness to the faith of the one holy apostolic church. Their importance is not what they figured out, their importance is that they are a reflection of the faith of God’s people through the ages. That’s why they are an authority, and yet they are not infallible.

    • […] Credo House Dispute – Our Discussions Today with an Eastern Orthodox Priest: […]

    • C Michael Patton

      Your criteria on why they would be an authority would apply to anyone in the history of the church.

      You said: “I mean, if a Buddist complained that you don’t have a better claim on the apostles than he, you’d  object, right?”

      It may be very telling that in this illustration the Buddist would be represented by all non Orthodox who dare to claim the influence of our shared spiritual heratige. A Buddist does not have shared DNA with Christians. It is hard to believe that one would make such a comparison. We all share Christ and the consessions which our DNA affords. We all differ from them in many ways, but the central confession (DNA) remains the same. I would encourage you to refrain from unnecessary divisions here based upon Church fathers. You could be found to prioritize them above Christ.

      As well, I don’t know how much you place Protestants in the same bath before you throw out the baby and bath water, but Protestants do see the Fathers as authoritative (well, the regula fide which they hold). We just don’t place them as an ultimate or infallible authority. You should come by the Credo House sometime. We have the great theologians of the past standing guard over all that we do. They don’t have to be perfect shoulders to stand on in order to see how indebted we are to them. In the resides the power of the Holy Spirit and the providence of God. They belong to no one yet belong to all.

      As well, I would encourage you to study some of the recent concessions that the Orthodox and Protestant (Anglican and Lutherans) have had concerning the issue of authority. This was confirmed in my “dispute” of the OP. Your view of authority is not much different than ours. We all hold tradition to be of great (albeit fallible) value.

    • John

      Well Michael, I’ve noticed that you are willing to claim the fathers as an authority much more than any other Protestants I’ve ever met. But when I point out how the fathers support,…. Oh say chrismation way back to to the 2nd century on forward, and I ask you, does 2000 years of traditions plus the fathers result in the authority for Chrismation, I get no answer.

      So in conclusion, lip service to the authority of the fathers doesn’t match action.

    • C Michael Patton

      John, the regula fide is always going to he determined by a few criteria. First is the Vimcentian Canon (which I imagine you are familiar with). But there also has to be some sort of explicitly represented within the traditions. In other words, it is not so much a view held in passing or only due to a controversy.

      And of course, holding to my tradition, the first record of Tradition is with the Apostles recorded in the NT. if it is not found there, there is immediate disqualification for said tradition to be a part of the canon veritas. The charismaton is a courteous example that would have to be defined before it could be used as an example. But as it is defined in much of the modern charismatic movement, it would certainly not qualify as being a norm in tradition or practice.

    • John

      You’ve totally lost me Michael. I’ve never heard of charismatics practicing Chrismation. There was never any controversy about chrismation until Protestantism. Just totally lost by this post.

      Of course Chrismation is asserted to be in the NT. Just not as explicitly as Protestants want. Then again, nothing in the NT is quite as explicit as anyone warts.

    • C Michael Patton

      Oh, sorry. Read too fast. Thought you were speaking about the charismatic gifts! (charismaton). I would figure that ordination or the laying on of hands is a principle that can find many expressive patterns. We need to be careful not to marry a good function to a cultural form unless the form is intrinsically tied to the function (ie baptism). This is where tradition would give way to traditionalism. And I know that this is often a point of depature between Orthodoxy and Evangelical Protestants. The Bible does not make a big deal about this type of structure, but allows a great degree of freedom within.

    • C Michael Patton

      “Tradition is the living faith of those now dead. Traditionalism is the dead faith of those now living.” Joslav Pelican

    • John

      Err… so you want to separate the Chrismation from the Chrism? Chrism-less Chrismation?

      I like your blog Michael, but whenever one gets down to brass tacks, the issues melt into abstractions.

    • C Michael Patton

      Now u lost me! Glad you like the blog. It is a taskmaster.

    • Clay G.

      I agree that the Credo House doctrinal statement on God sounds somewhat modalist. And if you say Father Tim’s articulation sounds tritheistic, wouldn’t you have to say the same about the Nicene Creed?

    • SRQTom

      CMP –

      I think what “John” wants you to respond to is: what about things that the church fathers endorsed and have been practiced for 2,000 of Christian history, but are controversial (or not accepted) within Protestantism? Like Chrismation? You certainly appeal to the fathers as an authority, so why are they not authoritative in instances like these?

      As far as I understand Chrismation it is a sacrament where someone receives the Holy Spirit and is administered AFTER baptism. I am not aware of Charismatics doing this at all. I am not aware of anything close to this in the Charismatic movement.

      And personally, not to sound harsh/demeaning/argumentative/challenging/etc, I think its a fair question and one you haven’t given a clear answer to yet. At least not in this thread.

    • Pete again

      Central to Orthodoxy is the understanding of AUTHORITY. Jesus Christ set up Church structure on earth, and He gave specific, clear instructions on the authority given to Church leaders:

      Philippians 2:12-14: Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence…do all things without complaining and disputing.

      2 Corinthians 2:9: The reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything

      Philemon 1:21: Having confidence in your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say

      Hebrews 13:17: Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive

      Who is CMP obedient to? Who is he submissive to? When there is a theological dispute, his decision is final. He gathers all of the available data, filters it through his spiritual lens, and make his decision. He truly is “walking through the dogmatic garden, picking the flowers that he likes best.”

      Without the historical Christian understanding of “authority” – where EVERYONE was accountable to Church leadership, even Peter & Paul – Orthodoxy is viewed as just another “religious view”, another denomination to be defended against, another group who just happen to have made the “personal choice” to follow the conciliar historical Church of the 1st millennia.

      • Bob lee


    • Chrismation, simply assumes a position that even Anglican evangelicals like myself don’t see. And for myself again, not at least at the apostolic level. I think for both Michael and myself as Reformed Christians, the burden of authority is in and rests on the Word of God!

    • And even those of us historical Anglicans that give great place to the Ecumenical Councils and Creeds, the Word of God is the last and final measure! And btw, it here that I am very thankful & greatful for the work and ministry of a John Frame…’God’s governance of our ethical life: revelation, providence, presence’. (DCL., 24) And, ‘The nature of the Word of God: God’s authoritative, powerful, personal speech.’ (PWG, 9-16.)

      Note, Frame’s wonderful Triads! (Speaking The Truth In Love, The Theology of John M. Frame, (P&R, edited book, 2009)

    • Fred

      One thing about Orthodoxy is that over 1000 years of historical development separate Orthodoxy and the western branches of Christianity. For all the Reformation accomplished, Protestantism is still born of Roman Catholic heritage. I don’t mean that with any negative connotation, just an acknowledgement of the reality.

      What this means from a practical standpoint is that there is much more to Orthodoxy than switching around a few theological concepts, having abstract disputes, or simply adding/subtracting Orthodox things like icons, chrismation, fasting, etc. Orthodoxy is a way of life, and must be lived as such to be truly understood. As the saying goes, the map is not the territory.

      From an experiential standpoint, Orthodoxy has helped me to transition from living Christianity in my mind as a set of intellectual propositions I agree with, to actually living the Christian life as set forth in the New Testament. The whole life of baptism, chrismation, liturgy, fasting, confession, communion, praying, venerating, reading, participating in the festal cycles, repenting, and all the rest… it is all born from, and cultivates, a mindset that is different from both the Roman Catholic and the Protestant traditions. I don’t mean that to say that RCC and Protestant traditions cannot also help a person live the Christian life, I just mean that the difference in mindset is profound. The forest of phrenoma is often overlooked for the trees of doctrinal difference.

      • bob lee

        Well said Fred. Cannot agree more.

    • Phil McCheddar

      In reply to Carrie’s comment #41, John asked: “On a purely logical level, how would you explain completely separate churches coming to the exact same error?”

      John, I’m not trying to attack Orthodoxy here – I’m only expressing some of my doubts about Orthodoxy in order to test the water.

      If Christians in the first thousand years submitted unquestioningly to the authority of the church rather than each Christian form his own opinions, and if the widely-scattered congregations were presided over by a hierarchy of leaders with one man at the top of the pyramid, and since humans in power are susceptible to politics and corruption, it seems to me that one man at the top could have introduced an error that inevitably rippled down to all the grass root congregations.

      Trying to do some reading around this subject, I came across the following quote on the internet. I don’t know if it is true but I would be interested to hear your comment please.
      Orthodox scholars like John Meyendorff and Andrew Louth admit there simply isn’t one consistent unbroken tradition in line with the original Apostolic teaching, but rather quite a bit of diversity. Meyendorff describes theologians such as Maximus and Palamas introducing a “Christological corrective” to earlier writers such as Evagrius and Denys. Orthodox tradition deviated from Scripture towards a neo-Platonic philosophical worldview and assumptions (hence the need for a corrective).


    • C Michael Patton

      I don’t think that the Charismation finds wide acceptance historically outside of the EO church. Therefore, it would not fit within the parameters of the Vincention Canon, much less find any explicit bibical mandate.

      Therefore, there is no departure from a doctrine. At best, it would be a departure from an expression (symbolic or otherwise) which finds some practice, but never historic explity or clarity (MUCH less biblical explicity or clarity).

      Pentecostals to have a doctrine of the baptism of the Sprit which mirrors this to some degree.

      But this is my belief about how something qualifies for the regula fide and is therefore universally binding:

      1. Biblical clarity
      2. Bibical explicty
      3. Historic clarity
      4. Historic explicity

      When you have something like this which does not pass any of these tests you would not expect this to be a part of the regula fide. While it may be a part of Eastern Orthodoxy orthoodoxy, it is not a part of historic orthodoxy.

    • C Michael Patton

      Pete, you fail to realize that you have no living infallible authority either. Therefore, in order to make the decision about to whom you will submit, you have to submit to your own authority! But your submission is tenative upon your own understanding as well. You submit to the creeds? Good. But whose interpretation of the creeds? The Fathers? Whose interpretation of them?

      Without a living infallible Magisterium, we are all in the same boat. But even if you had one (which you don’t), you would still have to submit to you own authority about whose authority you submit to? Who told you to submit to the Orthodox faith rather than the Pope? Your interpretation of the fathers? Who gave you the authority to interpret them in such a way?

      The smoke screen of authority always gives way to our own individual responsibility toward God. We cannot punt to others forever. Risky? Yes. But the alternatives are not really any different.

    • Fred

      Phil, Orthodoxy rejects the notion of “one man at the top of the pyramid” because there is only One at the “top of the pyramid” and that is Jesus Christ. Orthodoxy uses a conciliar model of government, where decisions are made by councils of bishops. Even then, the laity and/or monastics can “overrule” a decision, which has happened many times in history. It is beyond my ability to go into much detail about this, but the Orthodox approach is neither strictly vertical as in Roman Catholicism, nor horizontal as in many forms of Protestantism. Through this balance, both unity and doctrinal accuracy are maintained.

      The establishment of the Canon of Scripture comes to mind as an example. The Canon was not officially established by a council until the end of the 4th century, but was practically in place much earlier. One of the criteria for inclusion in the Canon was universal use and acceptance. Thus, the establishment of the Canon was both vertical in the sense that it was officially set forth by a council of Bishops, and also horizontal in the sense that universal use was a criteria used by the council.

      The “one man at the top of the pyramid” concept was an invention of the Roman church owing to historical and political forces, and one of the main causes of the great schism between east and west. The Roman bishop sought to exert his absolute authority over doctrinal matters and this was resoundingly rejected by the other churches.

    • @Fred: Not quite that easy or simple! The so-called Great Schism was both sides ramming heads, over authority, culture and theological issues! Note I side with the EO on the Filioque, however. But I do also reject papal authority and infallibility. As I too reject Orthodox historical infallibility! 🙂

    • The EO have some great men and scholars (theolog’s) today, note the term “theologian” is not given lightly with them! But I like Andrew Louth, John McGuckin.. to name a few! But my fav so-called modern Eastern Father and teacher was the Russian Georges Florovsky! (Btw, he and Barth were friends…yes sir!)

    • And I dare not forget the great Timothy Ware (Bishop Kallistos Ware)…now there’s an Englishman! 😉 Every Christian pastor-teacher should read his book: The Orthodox Church!

    • C Michael Patton

      The second edition of Ware’s book has some interesting differences than the first which some EO are not too excited out.

    • @Michael: Indeed! I have both the older copy (1963) and the so-called “New Edition” (Reprinted with revisions 1993, 1997) Btw, the 1964 version had some reprints too.

      *I have read almost eveything I could lay my hands on by Ware! Perhaps the book: The Orthodox Way, is his most simple theological book and read?

    • Timothy Payne

      One quick addition to the conversation. We decided it would not be good for this man to work as a Barista at the Credo House but we encouraged him to be a part of all that’s happening at the Credo House. Much like a church or seminary, there is a certain criteria for leadership and then another criteria for those not in leadership.

      It would hopefully be a good fit for an Eastern Orthodox to be involved in many of the classes, coffee & conversations, and events at the Credo House. A Barista, however, is not only making drinks but being theologically trained to help educate the community. We are committed to teaching fairly and broadly but when we are pressed we are committed to provide an evangelical perspective. This was where we mutually agreed to depart with this young man.

    • […] Credo House Dispute – Discussions With An Eastern Orthodox Priest […]

    • Pete again

      @CMP, thanks for the discussion, I am certainly learning a lot about your belief system through this blog, and certainly respect what the Credo House is doing.

      “The belief that Orthodox, Catholic, or Protestant have any particular claim on the Fathers of the faith is naive and disrespectful not to mention incredibly assumptive.” I think that the church fathers’ beliefs OVERWHELMINGLY correspond to today’s Orthodox beliefs, vs. Calvinist Protestant. It’s not being arrogant, it’s just a fact. I would be glad to post multiple quotes on the Eucharist, Infant Baptism, Chrismation, The Virgin Mary (Theotokos), Fasting, etc (Fred has a nice list of beliefs and practices above) that are still taught in Orthodox churches today. But I don’t want to hog the blog so I’ll hold back unless you want me to post them.

      “Without a living infallible Magisterium, we are all in the same boat.” Well, we have the benefit if seeing what the Roman Catholic Magisterium has done, and I think that we can all agree that this system does not work in keeping tradition intact. What Orthodoxy does have, and has always had, is a concrete hierarchical worldwide group of churches lead by a local bishop. The bishop’s job is to “keep the traditions (including Scriptural interpretations) and pass them on” to the next generation. The bishops are in communion with each other. The Bible tells us to obey our bishops, right?

      Is it even possible to pass down traditions over the centuries? A strange example I can point to is the Coptic Orthodox Church, which has been out of communion with most Orthodox churches since 451AD, over a Christological dispute. The miracle is that (except for the issue in question) all of our other traditions we shared up until 451AD are exactly alike! The doctrines & dogma that we shared for the first 5 centuries are still intact, even though we’ve spent 1,500 years apart. So it is possible to heed Paul’s orders to keep the traditions.

      Glory to Jesus Christ

    • John S

      Our own guilt comes early, anyone who has kids knows they show rebellion and disobedience at 1 or 2. Does this count as personal guilt, since they don’t know God and his laws? When conscience kicks in are they then personally guilty? When they have awareness of the concept of God?
      In any case it’s a pretty young age, unless you subscribe to a random ‘age of accountability’ based on a human concept of adulthood.
      Everyone sins, early and often, which seems to indicate that we are all in the same group. We got the same thing somehow, so Adam’s sin nature sure seems to rule humanity even if his guilt doesn’t. Maybe we should blame him for our nature, and take credit for our own guilt?
      Either way we are guilty, unless you consider those who are too young to understand to have no guilt. But as they can’t understand they can’t add anything to the conversation. So the ‘unguilty’ are passive in their condemnation or forgiveness. How can someone be guilty for something they didn’t do, you can also ask How can someone be found innocent when they have not done the good God requires? How can a baby be found guilty because someone else didn’t baptize them?

    • Pete again

      “ CMP: But this is my belief about how something qualifies for the regular fide and is therefore universally binding: 1. Biblical clarity, 2. Biblical explicity, 3. Historic clarity, 4. Historic explicity ”

      Clear and explicit Biblical accounts of “Laying of the hands” (Chrismation) and receiving the Holy Spirit as a separate act from baptism:

      Acts 8:14 18: … they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for it had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands upon them and they received the Holy Spirit. And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money.

      Acts 19:5-6: When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them.

      1 John 2:20: But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and all of you know the truth.

      1 John 2:27: As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him.

      2 Corinthians 1, 21-22: Now He which establishes us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God: Who hath also sealed us, and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts.

      Historical data:

      St. Theophilus, bishop of Antioch (169 – 180 AD) :Thus, we, exactly because of this, are called Christians; because we are Chrismated (anointed) by oil.

      Tertullian (155 – 240 AD): Exiting the bath of the baptism, we are Chrismated by Holy Oil following the old ceremony. Bodily, the Chrismation is conducted upon us and then the hand is applied on us, which via the blessing, invokes the Holy Spirit who thus descends upon us”.

      RCC calls it “Confirmation”. It is a 2,000 year old Christian sacrament.

    • John

      Phil: you suggest that the church followed one man at the top and this explains universal practices that you don’t agree with. (a) Are you secretly shilling for the Roman Catholics by arguing there was one man at the top from the beginning? (b) if the universal church polity supported such a thing, then you are back to explaining why the universal polity was different to yours (c) clearly, at no point in history was everyone following one leader anyway (d) that doesn’t explain universal practices that date way back to the early 2nd century (at least), like chrismation.

      CMP: Are you serious??????? Chrismation is not historically unique to Orthodoxy. It was UNIVERSAL till Protestants came along. Admittedly the Romans changed the name to confirmation, and abandoned paedo-chrismation sometime in the early 2nd millennium, but nevertheless it was universal, and attested in the earliest of the early fathers.

      Fr Robert: same challenge for you why you reject a universal and early attested practice. An with the challenge to explain its universality and early attestation as anything other than apostolic sanction.

      CMP: While its popular in Protestant apologetics to claim that everyone is reduced to their own interpretation, therefore a living church is superfluous, I’m not buying. (a) because the church is living, you can actually interact with it in real life. Even though no individual member is infallible, the church overall is. (b) there is a process of clarification over time. According to your argument, we don’t need the NT to interpret the OT, but clearly that is not a Christian view. (c) everyone uses help to interpret, whether it be the sermon or commentaries or creeds. The only question is whether they are good or authoritative. The church gives a framework for assessing the value of helps. You are at the mercy of circumstance whether you get bad help or good.

    • John

      The lowest official leadership position in Orthodoxy is that of Reader. Apparently the Protestant equivalent leadership position is that of Barista. 🙂

    • @John: I have seen the mass of Irish Baptised and Confirmed Roman Catholics (at least in my 50’s and 1960’s), someone has called many of the Irish as simply ‘baptised pagans’! Thus, this places me more toward Luther on Sacraments. And as an Evangelical Anglican, it is Word & Sacrament! And the Baptismal Formula does not express a Trinity of work, or a Trinity of redemptive effort for man, but an essential Trinity, a Trinity in the inner constitution of Deity! Simply GOD is for us, as HE is in Himself, and both His essence & energy! Though of course “we” cannot see the former.

    • John

      Fr Robert: seems you are having an argument which has not come up yet. What sacraments actually are, is a different question to which ones ought to be practiced.

    • And btw John, just because I approach a kind of Anglican Low Church position, does not mean I am “Zwinglian” on Sacraments, no I am just not fully High Church or “sacerdotal”. But I again believe in Christ’s Real Presence! “In, Above & Around” ‘the elements of bread & wine’, yes the “body & blood” – of Christ, but sacramentally.. For Christ is both Risen & Ascended!

    • Indeed John, this ALL centres around CHRIST, who is still Incarnate, at the Right-Hand and on the Throne of God, the Mediator! (Heb. 9:24)…this last verse is simply awsome!

    • John

      Fr. Robert: Above and around eh? The one position that as far as I know is completely devoid of either biblical, historical or philosophical support.

      BTW your profile link seems broken. I’m curious what part of the Anglican world you come from.

    • John: Look under irishanglican.wordpress, that’s me! And btw, ya better check your philosophy, like ontology, etc. I have a D.Phil. btw, on Luther’s Ontology of the Cross! (Years back now)

    • John

      Well, if you want to point me to a defense of the above and around theory, I’ll take a look. I presume you quote Heb 9:24 as a typical protestant argument against the real presence. But then again you say you believe in the real presence, so I’m lost.

    • Does Christ literally leave the Throne above, to come down into bread & wine? Can He not be at both places at both times? I say surely so! Some call this consubstantiation, that the substance of the bread and wine of the Eucharist exists, after consecration, side by side with the substance of the body and blood, but is not “changed” into it, i.e. transubstantiation.

      Indeed as The Report of the Lambeth Conference 1988 states: “Presence and Sacrifice: ‘Both are areas of “mystery” which ultimately defy definition’.

    • Btw John, I hope I am not a “typical Protestant”, but a classic and historical Anglican (Thirty-Nine Articles), and both “catholic” & “reformed”. 😉

    • John

      Fr Robert: Well, you are suckered into using the Roman Catholic categories of substance, which may not be a promising starting point.

      You seem to be saying that Christ pulled a fast one. When he held up a piece of bread and said “this is my body”, and the apostles saw him holding up and referring to bread, he actually meant that his body was there, but it wasn’t what the apostles saw, it was something else that they couldn’t see, that happened to be near the bread.

      I understand the argument that the bread is his body. I understand the Zwinglian argument that he was being metaphorical. I don’t understand the argument that he held up a piece of bread, said it was his body, but actually it wasn’t, rather his body was somewhere around the bread, as if the apostles could be expected to know that.

      You’re right there aren’t really typical Protestants, but Protestants are typified by some things, whether reformed or not, Anglo catholic or not.

    • John

      BTW, in what circumstances does bread have Christ around it? Do you need a priest? A church? A service? What?

    • @John: When at the First Eucharist (Holy Supper), Christ said: ‘This is my body and this is my blood’ HE was standing or sitting right there before them! Of course, as He said it was of a “passover” significance! (Lk. 22: 15-16 / 1 Cor. 5:7-8)

    • @John: Of course this is at the Eucharist…”IN, above & around”! Priest? Only in the sense of the NT “presbyter”! I am an Anglican Low Church guy here…priest-presbyter. Though like Luther, I also practise the Sacrament of “reconcilation”, as before the Lord in forgiveness!

    • John

      So… What are you saying, that the first Eucharist was Zwinglian? Or are you saying that as he held up bread and said “this is my body”, he wasn’t talking about the bread? That would be a real misleading statement for him to make!

    • And btw, many of the Roman Catholic “categories” are simply Pauline and Greco-Roman, yes with some Aristotelian and Augustinian, with some Platonic ideas. We simply cannot escape this!

    • Note, here too the Jewish Hellenism!

    • *reconciliation

    • No John, the Eucharist is always also a “sign” as well as the seal, in its sacramental reality and fulfilled “presence”. Certainly the Eucharist has Jewish and Escatological reality! As the “passover” also has both!

    • Also btw John, you might want to read and check out Augustine’s own views on the Sacraments.

      Note the statement of Peter Martyr Vermigli, who wrote: ‘We say with Augustine that the sacramental symbols are visible words.’

      And as Calvin himself could write: ‘The whole (doctrine of Eucharist) was crowned by Peter Martyr, who left nothing more to be done.’ See btw, the classic book by Joseph McLelland: The Visible Words Of God, A Study In The Theology Of Peter Martyr, 1500-1562.

    • John

      Fr Robert:

      * You’re not answering the question. Was Christ’s body “above and around” the first Eucharist?

      * I didn’t ask if the first Eucharist had “sacramental reality”. The issue is about it being or not being his body.

      * I didn’t want to disparage all RC categories. I just suggested it may not be a profitable starting point here.

    • Craig Bennett

      John…it bears to pay witness to the narrative story here. The last supper was the passover meal, in which there was much symbolism within the variety of elements which had much meaning.

      The bread held much symbolic meaning and the was a tradition of hiding something in the pockets, which were to be discovered.

      So when Jesus held up the bread at the last supper, he is saying that the bread of the passover meal, represented himself and making his sacrificial atonement the new meal…to eat of him – means to believe on him.

    • @John: The “Body” (Life) of Christ was the Living Sign of the first Eucharist, in Christ Himself! How could it be anything else? Since Christ had not yet died! But it would be the living sign, presence and memorial of His death & resurrection! Again we cannot escape the “sign” here!

    • John

      Fr. Robert: sounds like you are saying that Christ was not “above and around” the bread at the first Eucharist, only subsequent ones.


      This completely destroys any argument for real presence. If the words of the first Eucharist weren’t literal at all, there’s no reason to make subsequent ones literal either.

      This leaves you not far from Zwingly.

    • C Michael Patton

      That is right. It is nearly impossible that the first Eucharist was anything other than symbolic as Christ was right there in presurrected. So the first “this is my body” was no doubt symbolic looking forward to the fulfillment of the sacrificial system. How much more so those that followed! Certainly not a sacradotal system there. This is a good example of the simplicity that a belief can be among the fathers.

    • Pete again

      @Craig, if you do not want to believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, that is your belief and I don’t think it is the point of the thread to convince you otherwise. However, you do realize that Christians have believed in the Real Presence in the Eucharist for 2,000 years, right? Until the Protestants came along in the 16th century, there was never a question of the Real Presence. Would you like some quotes from church leaders and fathers throughout the 1st millennia?

      @John, easy with the multiple question marks to CMP buddy! It’s his blog, and we’ve already got one snarky EO on this thread (me). 🙂 Besides, I really believe it when he says that he didn’t know about chrismation. It’s not like they spend 2 semesters on the sacraments at Southeastern Baptist U.

    • John: YOU are losing both the exegesis and the real symbol of the First Eucharist, which points to all the others throughout time, and to eternity! Indeed Christ is always present ‘in, above and around’ HIS own Paschal Meal! When we over press the literal here (as the logic of transubstantiation). WE really loose the deep spiritual and theological reality! How about “transignification” (Dutch)? Btw, you EO don’t use the word “transubstantiation”, though you believe the Real Presence! But I know, you have almost the same reality as Rome, with actual priesthood, etc.

      It is here really, that I like Dr. Luther! And btw, what does the “real presence” mean, if we don’t have “spirit and truth”? Btw our brother Craig’s statement was very good!

    • @Pete: The so-called “Real Presence”, which as I have said, I believe and follow more closely with Luther, does not negate or diminish the spiritual or the reality of the Jewish Paschal place of the Christian Eucharist! (1 Cor. 5: 7-8) And btw, I think this was Craig’s point!

    • Craig Bennett

      I believe in the real presence of Christ in the communion meal. But the early church never relegated the communion meal to a sip out of a cup and a measly bit of bread…

      Communion to them was a love feast of eating together…and where two or three gather in his name, Christ promises to be amongst them. I strongly believe that Christ works in, through and over the communion sacraments, but those elements speak of Christ and in and through those elements the Spirit of God moves powerfully.

      But, those elements themselves do not become the literal body of Christ…because its his people who are the new body of Christ, whom Christ works in, through and over.

    • Pete again


      Irenaeus of Lyon, a disciple of Polycarp of Smyrna, who was in turn a disciple of the Apostle John) “Against Heresies, 5:2:2-3”: He has declared the cup, a part of creation, to be His own blood, from which He causes our blood to flow; and the bread, a part of creation, He has established us as His own body, from which He gives increase to our bodies. When, therefore, the mixed cup and the baked bread receives the Word of God and becomes the Eucharist, the body of Christ, and from these the substance of our flesh is increased and supported, how can they say that the flesh is not capable of receiving the gift of God, which is eternal life? The Word of God becomes the Eucharist, which is the body and blood of Christ.

      Athanasius of Alexandria, circa 350 A.D., from his “Sermon to the newly baptized”: So long as the prayers of supplication and entreaties have not been made, there is only bread and wine. But after the great and wonderful prayers have been completed, then the bread is become the Body, and the wine the Blood, of our Lord Jesus Christ. ‘And again:’ Let us approach the celebration of the mysteries. This bread and this wine, so long as the prayers and supplications have not taken place, remain simply what they are. But after the great prayers and holy supplications have been sent forth, the Word comes down into the bread and wine.

      Jerome, “Commentaries on the Gospel of Matthew”, 4-26, 398 A.D.: “After the type had been fulfilled by the Passover celebration and He had eaten the flesh of the lamb with His Apostles, He takes bread which strengthens the heart of man, and goes on to the true Sacrament of the Passover, so that just as Melchisedech, the priest of the Most High God, in prefiguring Him, made bread and wine an offering, He too makes Himself manifest in the reality of His own Body and Blood.”

    • Pete again


      Cyril of Jerusalem, “Catechetical Lectures“, circa 355 A.D.: “Therefore with fullest assurance let us partake as of the Body and Blood of Christ: for in the figure of Bread is given to thee His Body, and in the figure of Wine His Blood; that thou by partaking of the Body and Blood of Christ, mightest be made of the same body and the same blood with Him. For thus we come to bear Christ in us, because His Body and Blood are diffused through our members; thus it is that, according to the blessed Peter, “we become partaker of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

      Augustine of Hippo, Sermons: What you see is the bread and the chalice; that is what your own eyes report to you. But what your faith obliges you to accept is that the bread is the Body of Christ and the chalice the Blood of Christ. How is the bread His Body? And the chalice, or what is in the chalice, how is it His Blood? Those elements, brethren, are called Sacraments, because in them one thing is seen, but another is understood.

      Cyril of Alexandria, “Catecheses,” 22, 9; “Mysteries.” 4; d. 444 A.D.: We have been instructed in these matters and filled with an unshakable faith, that that which seems to be bread, is not bread, though it tastes like it, but the Body of Christ, and that which seems to be wine, is not wine, though it too tastes as such, but the Blood of Christ. Draw inner strength by receiving this bread as spiritual food and your soul will rejoice.

      Origen of Alexandria, Homilies on Exodus 13,3, circa 225 A.D.: You are accustomed to take part in the divine mysteries, so you know, when you received the body of the Lord, you reverently exercised every care lest a particle of it fall, and lest anything of the consecrated gift perish. You account yourselves guilty, and rightly do you so believe, if any of it be lost through negligence.

    • Pete again


      It was both. It was the Eucharist, and afterwards, it was also the Agape meal, because they had all fasted since the day before in anticipation of the sacrament. Just like the Orthodox still do every Sunday. No eggs or coffee.

    • John

      CMP: Almost impossible??? You mean like… Oh say the resurrection?

      Fr Robert: and here we stumble upon a difference with Orthodoxy. We don’t see the reality of the physical as subtracting anything from the spiritual. You do.

      Still not really sure what you believe either. I think it’s a limitation of your position that it’s too subtle to gain wide acceptance.

      Craig: nobody of any stripe denies the symbolism. The question is whether there is a reality that transcends symbolism. Painting blood on the door posts was symbolic at the original Passover. Do you claim it was purely symbolic?

    • @Craig: I would agree in the real “spiritual” bond of our Christian brotherhood! But I would also agree in the or a correct biblical & theological measure, that the Holy Supper or Eucharist, has some aspect of ritual (ceremonial rite) and nature. We will always have real mystery here! Indeed, “This is my body, this is my blood”, but of the covenant, is holy and Christ really IS present…body & blood, under bread & wine! It will always be a position and place of Faith! I’m seeking to simplify a grand mystery! And I can say myself, that being a celebrant at the Lord’s Table is always a great and precious time! I simply love it! Glory be to God! 🙂

    • @John: Your going to have to explain a little better, your points? Btw, I will always admit to some place of the mystical in my own beliefs here, i.e. I am always the Anglican eclectic, and theological mystic, to degree! Or should I say near Luther? (God forbid “Lutheran”! 😉 ) Love Luther, never have gotten close to Lutheranism, however! Though I love to preach to Lutherans as a visiting preacher! 🙂

    • John

      Fr. Robert: well you seemed to start off saying the first Eucharist did not have Christ above and under the bread. When challenged on the consistency of that you replied that Christ is always above or under his meal. I don’t know if thats a retraction of your first position, or if not, how it is a response.

      BTW, you say that the real presence needs a presbyter. What happens in other denominations where a presbyter does not preside?

    • John: Christ is always ‘in, above & around’ in the elements (bread & wine), since His death & resurrection! But HE WAS the First Eucharist Himself (Sign), before them and present before He died, etc. Btw, your Augustine quote on the Eucharist is close to where I am at… always a mystery! But many of the other statements by some of the Fathers, goes simply beyond the Holy Scripture!

      Remember, I am an Anglican!…Always the Mystical Christ! This was the Christ of St. Paul! Btw, we would agree for the most part on the depth of the Incarnation! 🙂

    • Can’t speak really for other churches, but I am of the belief that the Eucharist should be central on every Lord’s Day! And ‘the Words of Institution’ are also central at the Table of the Lord! And I do like Anglican Liturgy!…BCP 😉

    • Phil McCheddar

      Thank you to everyone who has replied to my questions (Robert, Pete again, John, and Fred).

      As one who believes in the crucified & risen Lord Jesus for the fogiveness of my sins unto eternal life and who submits to Jesus’ authority and serves him as my God, but as one who is not officially a member of the Orthodox church, how does the Orthodox church regard me? Am I a branch in the true vine, a member of the body of Christ? Would the Orthodox church call me a ‘brother’? What verdict will I be given by God on the day of judgement?

      Do you (Pete again, John, or Fred) feel the Orthodox church could benefit in any way from the example of Protestant or evangelical churches … perhaps some distinctive emphasis that we have that the Orthodox church is weak on? What about worldwide evangelism, for example?

      One more question, I have read of several cases in Russia, Romania, and Eritrea where the Orthodox church sided with the Communist/Marxist government to persecute evangelicals, even to the point of betraying them to the secret police and having them imprisoned or executed. Why such hostility?

    • John

      Phil: we know what we are. It’s not our job to pronounce judgement on what you are.

      Protestant churches do lots of things great. We’ve already seen here that their baristas are far in advance of ours.

      It’s really hard to comment on what happened in communist times. The church was infiltrated by the state. Nobody can really judge what went on unless you lived through it.

    • Pete again

      @Phil these responses reflect my minimal understanding Orthodoxy (which is 2,000 years old and very deep):

      “Am I a branch in the true vine?” Like John said, we would say “Yes” to Orthodox, and “Maybe, but I don’t know for sure” for Protestants. Can we really say with 100% certainty that a schismatic group of a schismatic group is part of the Church? Now, do we consider you a Christian? Of course.

      “Would the Orthodox church call me a ‘brother’?” I would.

      “What verdict will I be given by God on the day of judgment?” None of my business.

      “Do you feel the Orthodox church could benefit from the example of Protestant churches?” Absolutely; we could use better evangelization. BUT…our #1 priority is to worship the Holy Trinity, primarily through our Divine Liturgies. Our worship services are very seeker UN-friendly. Stuff like fasting is very unpopular in 21st century America. But we cannot change what we have been handed down from the apostles.

      “I have read of several cases where the Orthodox church sided with the Communist government to persecute evangelicals”. You must understand that more Christians died in the 20th century that in all other centuries COMBINED. And most of those Christians were ORTHODOX. In the Soviet Union alone, an estimated 50,000 bishops, priests and deacons were martyred. So whatever Christians were left…

      Now today, is Russia unfriendly to Protestants? Well, imagine that the USA was 99% Protestant Christian for 1,000 years. Pretty cool. Then, tragically, atheists overtook your country, and wiped out Christianity and Christians. You lost ½ your family in death camps. 70 years later, you regained your freedom of religion. But now, tens of thousands of well-funded Jehovah’s Witnesses from China were streaming into the USA, using their JW “version” of the Bible, evangelizing to everyone, saying that Protestantism was wrong and that you would go to hell unless you converted to JW. In that case, how would you feel?

    • Fred

      Well said John and Pete again.

      To expand a bit on the state of the Russian Church under communism: after most priests, bishops, and monastics were murdered they were often replaced by KGB agents. The official Russian Orthodox Church was so heavily infiltrated and compromised that the Patriarch Tikhon authorized the formation of ROCOR (Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia) to allow the preservation of the Russian Church. It is only in very recent years that this split within the Russian Church has begun to heal.

      As to the question of hostility: as an example, I will refer to a close friend of mine who does missionary work in Mexico. He does a lot of preaching to Roman Catholic parishes there, encouraging them to a personal relationship with Jesus and to baptism. He does not understand at all why he is encountering hostility there. I have tried to explain to him that, from the Roman Catholic viewpoint, they were all baptized as children and a second baptism is not acceptable. Thus, to be re-baptized as an adult amounts to rejecting their first baptism as invalid, and by extension rejecting Roman Catholicism and their family’s beliefs as invalid. My friend does not consider infant baptism as valid, and does not even consider Roman Catholics as being Christian. So, by implication, he is telling the people he is preaching to that they, and their entire families, are going to hell because they have not been baptized. So who is being hostile in this situation?

      Would you appreciate an Orthodox or Roman Catholic missionary coming into your church telling everyone they are not Christians and have it all wrong, and in fact have had it wrong the whole time and are going to hell? Would you appreciate Orthodox missionaries that take the perspective that they are “bringing Christianity to America”, as though it hasn’t been here for a long time?

    • Being baptised & raised Irish Roman Catholic in the 1950’s and early 60’s, I was sort of taught most non-Catholics were on their way to hell! So now (after over 40 years of the true of grace of God and the experience of the ‘New Birth’ by faith) the whole idea that GOD has just one historical visible church, is just not true, and if pressed badly.. is repugnant to me! Yes, its the principle of the Reformation for me, the true Church is always “reforming” itself, by the Word of God! I am happy to see that many of the Orthodox (as too the best teaching of those in the RCC) know and believe salvation is of course bigger than any ecclesiastical aspect. Though historically I find the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles to be one of the best theological statements & documents!

    • Indeed in the end, “the Church” is like a “mother” perhaps to us as Christians, but she does not save us, in and of herself! As 1 Tim. 3: 15, the church is “the pillar and support of the truth.” And yet, even Calvin taught that ‘The True Church With which as Mother of All The Godly We Must Keep Unity.’ And yet Calvin can also call the Church the external means of grace, and herself ‘the Holy Catholic Church’, and the ‘visible church as mother of believers.’ (Calvin: Inst. Book Four: ‘The External Means Or Aids By Which God Invites Us Into The Society Of Christ And Holds Us Therein’).

    • Pete again

      @Fr. Robert,

      Your feelings are valid. On the other hand, what has always been believed by the Church must be proclaimed:

      The truth is not subject to individual opinions. We have seen with the Anglican church what happens when leaders deviate from the Gospel.

    • @Pete: I would agree that the ‘Church is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic’ reality, but again in the end, it is just NOT the Redemption or the Redeemer itself! This will always be the Incarnate Son of God Himself, who is Himself the Savior and the Redeemer, alone sent by God the Father! (John 17:3)

      Btw, we will always each of us alone, stand before God, “And in as much as it is destined for men to die-once, and after this comes Judgment!” (Heb. 9:27) THIS is certainly OUR day before the Lord, and very “individual”!

    • In the real biblical and theological sense, “Christ Jesus” alone is the Church and Body of Christ “Himself”, but the “Elect” believers are also part of the Redemptive Body. But alone known by God. (Eph. 2:16-22 ; 3: 21) Note, I believe in both the visible and invisible Church of God! The true “Elect” of God are in both, but only in the latter are the true redeemed!

    • And btw, just a point, the real difference between the church of a Luther and Calvin, verses Rome, etc. is the contrast of the idea of the “teaching office”, the view that Scripture is ultimately to be interpreted by the church itself and really alone! But ultimately Scripture and church cannot be played off against each other, since the church has preserved the Scripture and the individual receives it from the church, and Luther never advocated individualistic isolation in Scripture interpretation. In fact both belong together! But, we also cannot make the Church itself outside the bounds of or in the individual conscience, for God has given both! The Holy Scripture does always authenticate itself, with both Church and human conscience! And both Luther and Calvin were “churchmen”.

    • John

      Fr Robert: Augustine said that he would not have believed the gospel except for the authority of the catholic church. If you don’t believe in one visible, identifiable church, the question becomes which gospel do you believe, and which bible will you believe. Whether it be the various gnostic and otherwise heretical bibles, Mormon bibles, etc. as repugnant as you might think it is, you are indebted to the early church’s unity in settling the faith, which couldn’t have happened if the church was run like the Anglican communion, let alone like Protestantism in general.

    • Please John, you can have you say, but don’t insult me! You can’t quote Augustine, in one place, without hearing him fully in another! Remember, I am an Augustinian also, both the man and his theology, somewhat!

      And if you took the time to read the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles, noting especially Articles VI-VIII (6.7.8.)

      6. The Sufficientcy Of The Holy Scriptures For Salvation.
      7. The Old Testament
      8. The Three Creeds.

      Here, you would see what I believe! Want to try again? 😉

    • John: Do you have a copy of the BCP? Inside, in the back are the Anglican Articles of Religion. Please read them before you dialogue further with me, at least on Anglicanism!

      I bet I have read more about the EO, then you have of the Anglican? 😉

    • Here are the Anglican Articles (6,7,& 8). Here is what classic and historical Anglicans have always believed, in confession, faith and creed!

      Article VI: Of the Sufficiency of the holy Scriptures for salvation
      Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an article of the Faith, or be thought requisite or necessary to salvation. In the name of the holy Scripture, we do understand those Canonical books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the Church.

      Of the Names and Number of the Canonical Books

      The First Book of Samuel
      The Second Book of Samuel
      The First Book of Kings
      The Second Book of Kings The First Book of Chronicles
      The Second Book of Chronicles
      The First Book of Esdras
      The Second Book of Esdras
      The Book of Esther
      The Book of Job
      The Psalms
      The Proverbs
      Ecclesiastes or Preacher
      Cantica, or Songs of Solomon
      Four Prophets the greater
      Twelve Prophets the less

      And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine; such are these following:

      The Third Book of Esdras
      The Fourth Book of Esdras
      The Book of Tobias
      The Book of Judith
      The rest of the Book of Esther
      The Book of Wisdom
      Jesus the Son of Sirach Baruch the Prophet
      The Song of the Three Children
      The Story of Susanna
      Of Bel and the Dragon
      The Prayer of Manasses
      The First Book of Maccabees
      The Second Book of Maccabees

      All the Books of the New Testament, as they are commonly received, we do receive, and account them Canonical.

      Article VII: Of the Old Testament
      The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the…

    • 7-8…

      Article VII: Of the Old Testament
      The Old Testament is not contrary to the New: for both in the Old and New Testament everlasting life is offered to Mankind by Christ, who is the only Mediator between God and Man, being both God and Man. Wherefore there are not to be heard, which feign that the old Fathers did look only for transitory promises. Although the Law given from God by Moses, as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet, notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from the obedience of the Commandments which are called Moral.

      Article VIII: Of the Three Creeds
      The Three Creeds, Nicene Creed, Athanasius’s Creed, and that which is commonly called the Apostles’ Creed, ought thoroughly to be received and believed: for they may be proved by most certain warrants of holy Scripture.

    • John

      Fr Robert, with respect, I used to be an Anglican, and your response is a non-sequitur for my objection.

    • @John: Sorry mate, but this is no “none-sequitur”, and you must be a very ignorant former Anglican! You have said simply “nothing” for a “Biblical” objection! 😉

    • *non

    • Btw, John, a non-sequitur (is Latin) and means an “argument” in which the conclusion does not follow from the premises. So what is your real point?

    • John

      Fr Robert: well thats amusing. You quote an Anglican creed then accuse me of not making a biblical argument!

      And even if there was something valid somewhere in there, quoting large swaths of the 39 articles, just doesn’t cut it. I cite Genesis through Revelation!!!!!! I win!!!!!

      Anyway, the epistemological problem at hand precedes the bible. You cite the bible, but you are epistemologically dependent on the early church which resolved the canon question with the necessity of a completely different ecclesiology than what you subscribe to. Without that visible church, whose boundaries are reasonably well known, you have no basis to honor its decisions on what the faith is, including the bible itself. I don’t even envisage how your ideas would have worked in the 2nd century.

    • @John: I am always quite amazed when I run into former Anglicans, who are so ignorant of the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles! So this is my somewhat looking anger, which is really more toward the ignorance of the Anglican Articles themselves. So this is not personal to you certainly!

      But again, your statement of a non-sequitur, is itself kind of a smoke screen to me? Especially since it is a Latin term and philosophic, in the western sense.

      Finally, I am always more of a Biblicist myself, though of course I love theology also.

    • @John: Let me look back, but I have really not seen much biblical argument from you, but just the EO is THE Apostolic Church! I remember the old Roman fever of her converts, and I see this in many EO converts also! Very sad to me, really!

      And btw, the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles are very biblical to my mind. That’s way I am still an Evangelical Anglican!

    • John

      I fail to see how you’ve proved I am ignorant of the 39 articles. I also fail to see how it would matter one whit if I was ignorant thereof. You are clearly ignorant of the Tridion. I win, I win, I win!

      As for non-sequitur, I made specific objections. Your response was that you win because I am ignorant of the 39 articles, and proceeded to quote large swaths thereof. You should be able to see this is a non-sequitur.

    • @John: This is not about “winning”, for we are beggers to the grace of God! And I am not about winning against you at all either. No, I am an Anglican priest-presbyter, or simply a pastor & shepherd for the souls of God’s people! Yes, I am seeking truth, but again we are only beggers to such and the mercy and grace of God! So, if you want to be the “winner” you got it mate, but again that really is the non-sequitur, itself! (Doesn’t follow!) For again, GOD In Christ, and our Triune God is the Sovereign and the Lord, the Almighty! Indeed Jesus is Lord!

      Let’s just move on now, and let this not be about who has the “true” Church, for truly Christ is the Church Himself!

      Best In Christ!
      Fr. Robert 🙂

    • John

      Micheal: Well, I don’t personally see any problem about sharing it, since it is a pretty high level summary, and it is after all, just your interpretation of what took place.

      Perhaps one thing you should understand is that priests are sometimes a bit edgy about anything they do being made public, for the reason that they only exist at the mercy of the bishop, and manys the priest who has got into some some three way tussle with a complaining member of a congregation, and the bishop. You know, church politics. That destroying force that all denominations struggle with. So by posting the discussion online, the danger is that sometime in the future, some pedant in his congregation will takes issue with something that isn’t precise or quite correct, and causes this priest some problem. There is an element in Orthodoxy, and probably in most denominations, of pedants who always want everything done just right. Since in Orthodoxy, most things are actually in theory pretty well specified as to the correct way to do it, priests are usually pretty careful about towing the line, and being seen to be towing the line.

    • Steve Meikle

      I had an email discussion with a Greek Orthodox some years ago. His English was fine but when it came to the subject it was like he spoke a totally different language. There was no communication and only mutual incomprehension.

      To be honest I do not see the point in discussing doctrine with the Eastern Orthodox. The gulf is immense. Protestants and Catholics have different answers to the same questions but the Orthodox have a different set of questions altogether. And some Orthodox will still bridle over the filioque, which to me is a total irrelevance

      I am friends with the local Russian Orthodox community in my home town, but would not dream of bringing up the subject of doctrine.

      If they have the Holy Spirit he will teach them. If not then no one can.

      Our efforts are not essential

    • Glenn Shrom

      The Atonement is a book by A.A. Hodge which shows how vicarious atonement and penal atonement goes back way before Anselm. I can provide some specifics later. Of course, there is not only one way to view the atonement; there are several. I prefer to narrow in what way Christ “atoned” for our sins, as opposed to the broader picture of in what ways Christ saves us. In Christ’s death, our sins our forgiven; in his resurrection we are made alive. Both those aspects are included in our salvation, for instance.

    • There are thankfully other Orthodox Churches besides the Russian, I am friends with many in the Antiochian Orthodox Church. And indeed there are major differences theologically between the EO and the classic Reformational and Reformed churches, like I have said, the doctrine of Imputation, etc. But in reality, Christology and the Trinity of God are not the real places of disagreement, as an Anglican I follow the Orthodox in the Trinity of God, and this surely includes the rejection of the filioque. Indeed no small issue within the doctrine of the Trinity! The Father is the monarchy and regal of the Godhead, and as the First person.

    • Btw, agree, the Atonement of Christ simply must include Law and well as Gospel and grace!

    • Glenn Shrom

      A free on-line version of that book is available on google. I’d point out chapter 19, especially pp. 276-281 which cite some of the earliest Church writings, and I’d point out the chapter conclusion on pp. 298-300. The “doctrine” of atonement is what all Christians seem to agree on; whereas the “theories” of atonement are about how the atonement takes place. In some ways, I see Christ being a substitute for us; in other ways I see a melding of us and Christ as we mutually identify with each other. Some Orthodox, and Catholic, seem to me to be saying that we are saved by being given victory over sin in our outward living, which is only possible because of Christ; I see it that we are saved first by Christ’s death and resurrection, and then as part of that salvation we receive power over sin.

    • Glenn Shrom

      Acts 13:39 – “Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.” When you write that the Atonement must include the law, do you mean the law of Moses? Are you saying that we must believe that Christ kept the law of Moses?

    • For St. Paul, it is “Christ’s” death & resurrection..both!

    • The Law of God is in reality the great Moral Law of God, which surely includes somewhere, the mosaic.

    • Glenn Shrom

      Where do you see the resurrection as atonement? I John 2:2 and 4:10 speak of the sacrifice as “atoning”. The resurrection is not part of the “sacrifice”.

    • Glenn Shrom

      Same in Romans 3:25. The Gospel is both death and resurrection of Christ. Our salvation is both the death and resurrection of Christ. But the atonement is only in the death of Christ, unless you can convince otherwise from the Scriptures.

    • The Resurrection is part too of the great Victory of Christ (Rom. 1:4)…note verses 2 & 3 is too connected to verse 4, and especially as HE is Prophet, Priest, and King! And here too, is Christ as the One Mediator.

    • The greatest moral glory of the Death of Christ, is who He was/is…the eternal Son of God, who Himself is “declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 1:4, lit.)

    • Glenn Shrom

      Oh, yes, the resurrection is a key doctrine, and super-important to our faith, to the Gospel, and to salvation. I’m just asking if you consider it part of what we call the Atonement, and if so, to support your answer.

      From the Bible, we can also show that all things that exist have been created through Christ, but that doesn’t make the creation of the moon a part of Christ’s atonement.

    • Yes, I believe the death and resurrection of Christ are of one piece! It would be a long theological explanation, but the great value of both the Atonement & the Resurrection is certainly the Person of Christ! We can see this in the Book of Hebrews especially, the One “within the veil”! (Heb. 6: 19-18, etc. Note also Heb. 9: 28)

    • John

      I’m just asking if you consider it part of what we call the Atonement, and if so, to support your answer.”

      There’s the risk of having a theological discussion which revolves around word definitions, but anyway….

      The word atonement has connotations to do with cleansing and making things right and correct again, and restoration. The corrupt sinful state of man leads to death. There isn’t a proper restoration from this corruption without without the resurrection. If God said, “I forgive you, now go and die” that wouldn’t be a proper restoration.

    • Fred

      Steve Meikle – “Protestants and Catholics have different answers to the same questions but the Orthodox have a different set of questions altogether.”

      This is what I was trying to convey earlier in this discussion. I don’t know that I agree that dialog between east and west is pointless, but I think recognition of the very deep differences is essential in such a dialog. Orthodox thinking is an altogether different way of thinking, and is not nearly so simple as having different ideas about “atonement” or the relationship of faith and works. Those are both important issues, but they stem from a very different way of viewing the world, our place in it, and our relationship with God.

      Most of all, what is needed is mutual respect and charity. I see a lot of misunderstanding on both sides, and a lot of misrepresentation based on misunderstanding. Fortunately, this discussion has been free of that for the most part.

    • Indeed the East/West divide is major! Not only the Eastern view of tradition, but the Western’s difference in the judicial.

    • Clay G.

      In response to a couple of comments that seem to indicate a perception that the Orthodox do not consider the legal aspects of Christ’s atoning work, I offer this quote from St. Athanasius:

      “For the transgression of the commandment was making them [humanity] turn back again according to their nature; and as they had at the beginning come into being out of non-existence, so were they now on the way to returning, through corruption, to non-existence again. The presence and love of the Word had called them into being; inevitably, therefore when they lost the knowledge of God, they lost existence with it; for it is God alone Who exists, evil is non-being, the negation and antithesis of good”.

      As Fr. Stephen Freeman says, “Right and wrong are not measured by abstract laws but by their relationship to existence. That which is wrong has about it the nature of death” (see Romans 6:23). So the atonement is about God, in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, bringing mankind and all of creation back towards existence. In this sense, the atonement certainly involves the moral law (forgiveness of moral transgressions and Christ perfectly keeping the moral law), but this must be understood in the broader context that gives the idea of morality its true meaning.

      Here is a post by Fr. Stephen that articulates more clearly what I’m trying to say:

    • In my opinion, this is where many of the EO are simply varied, it depends upon who one reads here. And, I myself would not agree with Fr. Stephen Freeman here as to the fulness of the Law of God. The Law of God is also quite simply mosaic, if we loose this then we cannot measure the OT Law and Covenant/covenants, etc.

      “…for my family, my kin of the flesh: Israelites they are, and to them are due the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Torah, the worship, the promises; of them were the patriarchs, and from them is the messiah in the flesh – who is over all, and whom God blessed, forever . . . for the gifts of God are irrevocable.” – Saul (Paul) of Tarsus, Letter to the community in Rome, 9, 3-5; 11, 29. (The Jewish Annotated New Testament, NRSV)

    • Kevin

      I’m just going to leave this (link to a lengthy article) here:

      It is not irenic but for the theological astute provides a powerful Eastern Orthodox apologetic against particularly reformed Protestants.

      • bob lee

        Dyer is pretty good on orthodoxy from what I have seen

    • Bob lee

      I made it to the end. The comments were more entertaining than the initial post…haha. I wonder what the denied barista is up to these days.

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