Where’s the love?

October 4, 2007

I’m writing in reference to this post.

I was actually thinking about posting something along these lines, anyway, but this post spurred me on even more. I’m not just pointing fingers at Energetic Procession, or Orthodox types, because obviously this is something we all deal with. I just want to know at what point you should stop considering someone your brother in Christ because what they believe differs from what you believe. Obviously there is a point where this is justified, but isn’t there enough hate in this world? The idea that one church (or line of belief) could be the only true representation of the church universal should have died out a thousand years ago.  There’s room for discussion, debate even, but contempt? Even if you did consider the Calvinists or Orthodox outside of God’s saving grace, shouldn’t that be a cause to pity them, reason with them?

So, that’s what I think … but please, chime in with answers to these questions:

a) What is non-negotiable? What differentiates “mission field” from “missionary”?

b) For those inside the true church universal — can’t we all agree to disagree, learning from each other and accepting each other? Why or why not?


19 Responses to “Where’s the love?”

  1. Lee Says:

    Well… The instructions seem pretty straightforward:

    Galatians 1:6-9 (NKJV)
    6 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7 which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

    In the context, Paul was referring to false teachers in the midst of the Galatians – specifically, the Judaizers.

    In practice, however, I agree – we get way to tied up in what sometimes amount to semantic differences (though sometimes the differences are of course more substantial), or even over the types of instruments which are allowed during worship – and thus completely miss the point.

    a)1. The gospel.
    a)2. Not sure I understand the question.

    b)1. History shows us that this is not likely.
    b)2. Because we all have such a long way to go in being conformed to His image….

  2. hughstan Says:

    For me, though in close proximity I admit it does sometimes become difficult, given my inadequate tolerance base and deeply ingrained personal concepts of what following Christ means, a brother or sister in Christ is one who believes they have been called out into the community of those who follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Master, and is doing their best in their own way to do so.

    That we travel on different buses or trains, or drive different cars, or even cycle or walk by choice on our spiritual journey does not influence my mental acceptance of all those others as being on the same team.

    They answer to our loving Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ and not to me, as I also do and not to them.

  3. Ben Says:

    A harmonious, conservative ecumenism may indeed be unlikely, but the choice is with you. Everyone can choose for themselves whether or not to respect those they disagree with as brothers/sisters in Christ, even if you can’t control whether others will respect you in return.

    (a2) is just a rephrasing of the question – some people say “you’re either a missionary or a mission field”. In my cosmology of greater Christianity, Baptists and Orthodox would be “missionaries”, JW’s or Mormons would be a “mission field”.

  4. My comments were meant to highlight theological problems not necessarily to imply that people weren’t genuine recipients of grace.

    But I have to wonder, what is and how is schism possible on your view of Christianity?

  5. Lee Says:

    (a2) Ok, then the answer is still the Gospel 🙂 (Actually, given your examples, the Gospel overlaid with Christology.)

  6. Ben Says:

    Yeah, Perry, as to schism, that’s kind of why I’m opening it up to discussion. I guess we kind of have to define terms here though.

    Does schism = parting of the ways of two true churches, over a disagreement? As opposed to … expelling a truly heretical doctrine (Arianism, etc.). If so … well, I think there is always room for debate. It’s just a matter of … what’s worth splitting over? That’s really what I wanted to know. And also, if you must split, can you still respect the other side, even if you disagree, and treat them as if “Whoever is for us cannot be against us”? Because obviously, we can’t just “re-graft” all of the Protestant churches into the Orthodox church. It would be bedlam. But that doesn’t mean we can’t respect, aid and learn from each other.

    As to your post, I don’t think you intended it maliciously, but think about it … you’re basically saying, “Calvinism has its roots not in Christianity, but in a pagan, polytheistic religion that wanted to destroy Christianity.” I have often thought (and said) that Calvinistic-type thought had roots in neo-platonism (not that I’m a PhD candidate in philosophy, of course), but I wonder if a comment like that doesn’t go too far?

    If I said, hey look, I’ve found evidence of the use of icons in worship in the OT, here it is:


    … wouldn’t you, as an Orthodox believer, be a little offended (if it wasn’t so obviously a joke)?

    Maybe I’m blowing this out of proportion, but I had already kind of been thinking about this issue anyway. In evangelical churches, I think a lot of people view the Orthodox as on the very edge of Christianity, if they are inside it at all. Perhaps this is due to 500 years of bad blood with the RCs, or the fact that very few RCs in the US are “evangelical” (and a lot of Protestants don’t know the difference), but I just want people to stop and think before they toss an entire church out the window … in a time like this, with so much uncertainty, so much at stake, and the possibility of a new, orthodox ecumenism closer than at any point since 1054, shouldn’t we be asking, “What’s keeping us from working together?”

    BTW … I saw you’re in the Philosophy Ph.D at Saint Louis … a friend of mine was in that program until recently (he’s at Notre Dame now, I think). I think one of my wife’s bridesmaids is there now too. That’s heavy stuff … not for the faint of heart …

  7. Well scripture doesn’t seem to speak of schism in the terms you do here. It seems just as condemnatory. Schism is the breaking of communion. And if the faith was once for all delivered, it seems that there is plenty that isn’t up for debate. The same goes for Jesus’ teaching concerning someone who will not abide by the judgment of the church.

    Moreover, lots of people seem to have an unspoken belief in the “essentials” and then there are things that are peripheral. But teh Bible, at least from my reading knows no such list. From my view, every false ataching ends up denying Jesus at the end of the day, it is just more difficult to see it than in other cases. Arianism for example had its own view of baptism, eucharist, etc.

    From my view there are no splits or schisms in the Church, but only from the church since the church is one in Christ. And if Protestants, to be quite frank were not against the Orthodox, they wouldn’t be sending missionaries to target Orthodox Christians in the post soviet world. I am all for respecting others, but to be clear, Orthodoxy doesn’t consider Protestant bodies to qualify as visible churches and historically Protestantism has returned the favor.
    I think CalvinISM is heretical. If I thought it was true, I’d still be one. Not everything in its is wrong. In some ways it is far better than other things on the American market. But make no mistake, Calvinism, Lutheranism and Jansenism have strong corollaries in anthropology and other areas. Protestants are paranoid about avoiding one of the errors that Augustine went after, Pelagianism, but they ignore the other horn of the dialectic, Manicheanism and often fall into it. I am not arguing from mere similarity but historical lineage and identical or near identical forms of reasoning.

    Besides, the image you posted isn’t an icon and is far too late to show any dependence and we don’t worship icons anyhow, anymore than the Hebrews worshipped the king. 1 Chron 29:20. I understand people beive such things and I have heard it all before. I have learned to have thicker skin. I know lots of evangelicals think we are barely Christian, which is really pretty funny. The oldest churches literally founded by the apostles, suffered unspeakable persecution is “barely Christian.” I think it shows how much more American than Christian evangelicalism is truth be told.I am all for people stopping and thinking which is why I made the post. I want to bring things to people’s attention.

    None of what I think about calvinism or Protestantism in general keeps me from having Protestant friends, having a beer with them. Want a beer?

  8. Ben Says:

    I was not seriously implying that the Golden Calf is analogous to the Orthodox view of icons. On the other hand, I didn’t really expect you to consider all Protestants to be Arius-level heretics.

    I don’t consider the Orthodox “barely Christian”. I was just commenting on that attitude, which as you observed does exist.

    It’s too bad that you are for exclusion, though … on the Protestant side, we could probably afford to “live and let live” … and don’t. The Orthodox, I guess, don’t have a choice, because to believe in the Orthodox church (perhaps) requires you to be believe it is the only church. Which is worse?

    I guess even if Protestants believed and behaved exactly as you do, you’d still consider them heretical, because they didn’t accept the authority of the Orthodox hierarchy?

    Yeah, I’m not a fan of that. I don’t think there’s a precedent for that in the Bible … you might say that doesn’t matter … but when the Orthodox church is the only thing saying that you must listen to the Orthodox church … ?

  9. Ben Says:

    Oh, one more thing … the Post-Soviet world … most of the Orthodox there (from what I’ve heard) have been utterly broken by Communist influence, so that nothing other than the merest vestiges of Christianity remain.

    Whether a person is inside the “covenant” of the Orthodox church or not, you’ll probably agree that they’re not a Christian unless they meet a few basic criteria (whatever that may be). I guess the real question here would be: why isn’t the Orthodox church sending missionaries to the post-Soviet world? A true revival in the Russian Orthodox Church could be an incredible witness to the Muslims and Atheists of Central Asia. Why aren’t they the ones sending in people to preach, teach, and disciple?

    And let’s be honest, it’s not like the Orthodox church in America isn’t trying to convert Protestants. I don’t feel threatened by that, why should you?

  10. Ben Says:

    Ah yes, and if you’re going to make blanket statements like

    “Well scripture doesn’t seem to speak of schism in the terms you do here. It seems just as condemnatory.”


    “But the Bible, at least from my reading knows no such list [of essentials and peripheral issues].”

    … would you consider detailing why you think that (using scripture), either here or (better yet) in a post on your own blog. I’d like to see that — the scriptural support for the concept that “the True Church brooks no disagreement”. It could be a profitable discussion for Protestants and Orthodox alike.

  11. As for the Golden Calf, I didn’t think you were serious. As for Arius level heretics, consider this. The Creed speaks of baptism for the remission of sins. That in practice at the time included infants. And it is pretty clear from the canons of Nicea that it included the belief in baptismal regeneration as well. Now, why wouldn’t I consider a baptist who rejects those two creedal beliefs as a heretic? And given that all doctrines are interconnected, and especially so with Christology, a defective view of baptism will imply a defective view of Christ, even if the advocate isn’t aware of this fact.

    Protestants can afford to let live as it were because they share the same basic ecclesiology, although little else. The Church is everywhere in general but no where in particular and this is so because they make the Spirit and not the incarnation the bond of unity between believers. Of course after 500 years, Protestants don’t consider generally other visible Protestant bodies to be true visible churches and so don’t have intercommunion. So Protestants it seems to me, “let live” in an atomistic state, with each body a church unto itself. So yes, it is important to ask, which is worse?

    There is plenty of precedent for an authoritative hierarchy though in the Bible. Hebrews 13:7, 17 comes to mind.
    Quite true, when you exterminate 80% of the leadership and nearly one hundred million people over an 80 year period what would you expect Christians to be like? How well did Protestants fair in the same situation? Not well. Of course, the Russians are just one jurisdiction. And it is not like Protestantism is doing ever so well with its freedom to be gimmicky, materialistic, narcissistic and just plain ignorant. I’ll take someone ignorant who has suffered for the faith over Bettery Butterfield types any day of the week. It will take at least a century to undo what the Soviet’s did, if not longer, if ever.

    Christians are made in baptism generally speaking. People can be faithful or unfaithful Christians. As for sending missionaries, in one sense there is already an established church in the post soviet era. What they need is not missionaries, but the repairing of those churches and re-establishment of seminaries. Of course the Moscow Patriarchate is busy in such things, not the least of which is running hundreds of orphanages and houses for the poor, something that Protestants generally aren’t interested in doing on their three week “missions.” Just because we don’t “teach, preach and disciple” in the way that Protestant evangelicals do, doesn’t mean that we don’t do it.

    And it is quite true that Orthodox hear are “preaching, teaching and discipling” Protestants here in America, but of course, we aren’t taking advantage of a situation where a faith tradition has been practically exterminated either. And given Protestant ecclesiology, if those people already are Christians and hence part of the invisible church, why try to win them over to your visible sect? On Orthodox grounds there is such a thing as schism and so there is a real danger and a substantial reason to convert Protestants (and Catholics).

    And I never argued that the true church doesn’t have or allow for disagreement. Of course Acts 15 with the church council seems to definitely settle specific matters. One wonders how such an event could be possible on Protestant principles. On our view some things are not revisable and on Protestant principles everything seems revisable.

  12. Ben Says:

    You know what? I know intelligent, influential Orthodox folks that think you’re dead wrong. And even if you are right, honestly, I would prefer to be wrong than share your attitude, which is so clearly not in harmony with that of Scripture. If you ask me, your approach neglects “the weightier matters of the law.”

    I also think you should stop being so prejudiced against Protestants, because many of the things you’ve said are just plain incorrect. Certainly every group has its good and bad, but out of the missionaries I know personally several are working with orphanages, and none are targeting Orthodox believers. The Protestants I know are not Bettery Butterfields, but people who are (for the most part) intelligent, humble, seeking God, and striving to overcome the sins and prejudices of the culture they live in.

    I’ll tell you though, my friends who are Lutheran, Baptist, Presbyterian, non-denom, Vineyard, anything, would have no problem working alongside each other in ministry. We may debate and argue and choose to believe differently, but we are still on the same team. My Orthodox friends don’t think this is incompatible with Orthodoxy. So what about you? Are you for us or against us?

  13. Ben Says:

    A friend referred me to Brad Nassif, an Orthodox theologian, who wrote this


    I think it might be very relevant to our discussion.

  14. Ben,

    You seem to be taking my comments personally. So let me clarify in an attempt to divert some steam. While I do not take Protestant bodies to be genuine churches, and I do take individuals to be material heretics, this does not imply that I think that such persons are not genuine Christians. Many of them just do not know any better or there is some other exculpatory cause. And I don’t think that being a recipient of grace necessarily depends on having the right mental relation in your head to divine objects.

    Second, very few Protestant bodies consider each other true visible churches, which is why they do not have inter communion. The Lutherans do not have communion with the Episcopalians, Baptists or Presbyterians, and they all reciprocate because they all think that they fail to meet the Reformation marks of a true visible church-rightly dividing the word, rightly administering the sacraments and rightly administering church discipline. So I am not on that point saying anything they don’t already say about other Protestant bodies or Orthodoxy for that matter.

    Now, if you know intelligent Orthodox who think I am wrong, it would be helpful to me to point to some representative sources on exactly where I am so. Second, without telling me exactly what you think I am wrong about, I can only ask. Am I wrong that Orthodoxy teaches that it is the only true visible Church? Is that what you want me to agree to? I am just not clear on what you wish me to agree to.

    I agree that works of love are important but my blog is well…a blog. We discuss ideas. The acts of love we can carry out on the blog are of a different nature, specifically helping people to understand, develop intellectual and some moral virtues, to remove barriers to belief in Christ, etc. As for my personal life, to be quite frank, you know nothing of it, so I think it would be better for you to take a step back before accusing me of neglecting the “weightier matters of the law.”

    Now, I have tried to discuss ideas rather dispassionately. Now my comments were critical of Calvinist teaching, which happens to be something of a biblical injunction. I was trying to point out significant and problematic parallels between Reformed and Manichean anthropology. I was not trying to sling needless mud. I was trying to get people to think about the common phrase “sinful nature.” Now you made some critical comments about Orthodoxy in Russia. What did you expect me to do? Not defend my Church with reasons? So I am just not clear on what you mean by my “attitude.”

    I don’t think I am prejudiced against Protestants. I was one and I have and continue to study Protestant theology at a fairly in depth level. The problems I have pointed to have been made by well known Protestant theologians so I am not being prejudiced. I have not judged matters apart from and prior to hearing the facts and arguments.

    I am well aware that there are Protestant missionaries who are doing charitable works in Russia. They tend to be the exception. You and I both know that the majority of missionaries are short term and are there to make converts. ALL of the Protestant missionaries I know in Russia deliberately target Orthodox. To take one example, the PCA missionaries are now setting up icons at the back of their churches for veneration in a number of locations to lure people. Now, they are deliberately going against their own Prebyterian Confession to lure Orthodox laymen.

    When you speak of your friends from multiple backgrounds working in “ministry” well that depend doesn’t it? Do they all take communion together? Do they all recognize each other as having the fullness of the faith and genuine baptisms? I don’t think so. This doesn’t imply that to some extent we can and do work together in some areas, but that does not imply that the visible church is ephemeral and not genuinely united to Christ. That is, that doesn’t depend on accepting a Protestant view of the Church as being ultimately invisible.

    If we are on the ‘same team” why are there Protestant missionaries converting Orthodox in Russia, not to mention Greece or other locales at all? And we are only on the same team to the extent that we believe in the same Jesus. Consequently because protestants have a *confessionally* defective view of Jesus, to that extent we aren’t on the same team. (2 Cor 11:3-4, 1 Cor 11:19) So when you ask, am I for you or against you? Is being against you tantamount to being against Christ? If so, who do you say Christ is exactly?
    I have read Nassif’s article and I am well aware of the practical problems of nominal membership in the Orthodox Church. That being what it is, every body has nominal members so it isn’t Orthodoxy per se that creates them. Protestants have nominal members in other ways. For example, about half of the LCMS think that one goes to heaven for being a good person. A clean third or more of Evangelicals in the US don’t think there is such a thing as absolute truth. Their views on divorce are glaringly subbiblical. There is no significant quantifiable difference between the way Protestants live in the US and pagans.

    People often confuse personal sentiment for a lively faith. The same can be said with memorizing biblical texts. Such people simply inherit a tradition with set expressions which they identify with genuine faith. If you don’t speak their version of “Christianese” not to mention their novel and pet doctrines (like the rapture) the genuineness of your faith is in doubt. So I simply don’t buy that the problem of nominal members doesn’t effect Protestantism. It just takes a different form than it does in Russia.

    Now Nassif’s article is right in many respects. Of course there are two problems with it. The first problem is that anyone who has half a brain and pays attention to the liturgy can’t help but hear the gospel every week. The problem is people are lazy and don’t pay attention. Apart from screaming at people there isn’t much one can do but keep presenting the gospel to them. The second problem is that Nassif because of his evangelical background tends to present the faith in an exclusively personal manner. It has a personal component and it is quite important, but opposing personhood to culture or rather nature is not in my view Christian. Christianity teaches the salvation of the *world* and not just persons, but all of God’s creation. Consequently people who often appear to have a nominal faith, or merely a cultural faith whatever their mistakes happen to be, often live in a more consistently Christian manner and are far more informed on the faith, if you know how to ask about it. They just don’t express themselves in ways that Evangelicals are familiar with.

  15. Ben Says:

    Perhaps you haven’t been exposed to the “good” of evangelicalism, because, as Nassif noted, the folks I know that are genuine Christians are more about being Christian first and the Lutheran or Baptist part, though perhaps important, is secondary. And we would take communion together, because we don’t elevate the sacrament to a place above Christ. The overlying structures may still be a little stuck in the past, but I’d say that there’s a lot of folks that don’t feel that way.

    I’m sorry if my comments were personal in nature, but this is a very personal issue for me. I respect the beliefs and traditions of the Orthodox church, but I cannot look at the Bible and find an excuse for the attitude that says, essentially, that because I do not receive Orthodox Communion, I am a failed believer. To my reading, the gospel is not about sacraments or traditions or outward conformance to the law, but about following Christ and knowing Him, and I don’t think that not being Orthodox cripples my view of Christ enough to invalidate that.

    To my view, requiring complete purity of doctrine and equating your sacraments with Christ is to mistake what He valued and to “neglect the weightier things”.

    So, what I’m talking about is an idea, in a sense, but ideas of course carry emotional weight. My idea here is …

    Your approach (that non-Orthodox folks are a lesser form of Christian) is unbiblical. The core message of the gospel is not what you are saying it is. Etc. I admit that doctrines have consequences in behavior and thought, but I do not think that the approach you have detailed here on this post would be justified even if the Orthodox church had every point of doctrine correct.

    When I say, “Are you for us, or against us?” I am saying just that. By opposing understanding between denominations (and I view the Orthodox Church as a denomination) you are opposing the gospel of Christ. I don’t think you’re going to hell, but I think that what you’re saying is wrong and damaging.

    I don’t mean to attack you personally, except in the sense that by associating yourself with this idea, to attack the idea is in a sense to attack you. I hope you know I would still be willing to go out for a beer, if necessary.

  16. Ben Says:

    As to the post-soviet world/targeting the Orthodox, don’t misunderstand me. I would not advocate, for instance, placing icons in a church to “fool people”. And I don’t think you should judge all Protestant missions by those folks … just as I would not judge the Russian Orthodox church by the fact that in former times, they sent bishops at the head of Russia’s conquering armies, to bless them as they destroyed the Muslims (not exactly my idea of missions).

    I don’t know, though, there’s a lot of stuff at play here. For one thing, the Russian Orthodox church has had 20 years to recover. Not for nothing, but Protestant churches have exploded in places like Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan in that time, and I can’t believe you’d want them to just say to all those new believers, “Sorry guys, we were out of bounds here. This is Orthodox territory … go back to being Muslims, Atheists, etc.”

    I don’t approve of targeting true Orthodox for conversion (or even RCs, whom I would have less affinity with), but you’ve got to understand that I would gauge that differently than you do. To my understanding, a person who was baptized as a baby into the Orthodox church, attends once in a blue moon, couldn’t begin to tell you anything about Jesus, the Trinity, the gospel, because they’ve never understood it, and lives their life exactly as they would without Christ, is not a believer. I would say the same of a nominal Baptist. Those folks I would have no qualms about bringing into a Protestant church or Bible study, if that helps them to connect with the God they never before connected with. Baptism, circumcision, what have you, does not replace Christ.

    Thirdly, and most importantly, and I hinted at this before, I may be completely ignorant on this point, but there have been a lot of changes in the way evangelicals do missions in the last couple hundred years. Some folks are still very behind the times, but I’ve had the privilege of working with some that are at the forefront, and there are more missionaries than you might think that are just behind it. They are finding new ways to minister to Muslims, for instance. If there were no Protestant presence in Kazakhstan, there would be almost no chance that Muslims would be walking into an Orthodox church and saying, “What was I thinking? Hand me a framed photograph of Putin! I’m a Christian now!” Evangelical missions nowadays try to make Christianity “contextual” for a culture. Which means that instead of making a Muslim change his name, identity, turn his back on his family and culture, we would seek to create an environment in which he can be a Christian, but still be a Kazakh. I would love to be wrong, but I have never heard of the Orthodox Church doing anything like this. And even if they were, would it make sense (once again) for us to stand aside and say, “All yours, guys! We didn’t realize this was your territory!” Of course, my reasoning here comes from my way of thinking, which is that a regenerated believer counts the same whether he is Orthodox, Lutheran, or Baptist. So, I would guess that you’re hoping evangelicals would just stop missions altogether? Etc.

  17. My experience in evangelicalism was as wide as many people’s but given the ever expanding nature of it, it is impossible to grasp it all. I was complaining not about every practitioner of it so much as what it in general produces. And besides, I don’t take sincerity to be the mark of truth.
    And I have to wonder, if people are more interested in being Christian first and Lutheran or Baptist or whatever, what is and where is Christianity in general? And second, why call themselves Lutheran or Baptist or whatever at all? I don’t think anyone takes themselves to elevate the Eucharist that Christ instituted to be above Christ. All Christians though, one would think, would take what Christ instituted and what the Apostles continued to be important and the mark of churchly unity. If they were truly united they would eat together because that is what family does. So whatever folks feel is irrelevant to what is in fact the case. What do they officially profess corporately as a body?

    All of these issues are personal for every person discussing it. I am not sure where you get the idea that someone who is not Orthodox is a “failed believer.” And isn’t it exactly the point that by *your* reading Christianity isn’t about all of those things because you have placed your choice above that of the community? Moreover, you seem to be imputing Orthodoxy with Protestant teachings, namely that outward performance is essentially divorced from internal dispositions. That isn’t what the Orthodox think. Sacraments are not mere outward man made and humanly acted events. They are God’s actions. Baptism is not something we do, but something God does to us, for example through his authorized Covenant representatives. And that certainly seems to have a fair place in the OT and NT.

    Since Christ taught that the Gates of hades would not prevail over the teaching that Jesus was the Christ and that with the Aposlte Jude the faith was once for all delivered, preserving the true faith seems to be something the Bible is concerned with. In fact, Paul speaks to Timothy of preserving his doctrine for by doing so he will save not only himself but his hearers. (1 Tim 4:16) Likewise proving oneself to be a faithful steward of Christ seems to be something Jesus is concerned with as well.

    I think treating people who break the unity of the Church, who are in schism, as lacking something important I think is quite Biblical. Jesus places the ultimate judgment in the hands of the Church and to treat eschew those who reject it. (Matt 18:17) Paul treats people likewise who teach contrary or who act immorally. John the Apostle in his epistles does the same as does Peter. The attitude seems quite Biblical and historically Protestants have classically done the same and continue to do so, in relation to each other, to Rome or to the Orthodox and they do so not on a casual or anecdotal basis but confessionally and officially. So we aren’t doing anything that Luther, Calvin, and their followers haven’t done and continue to do on principle.

    I thought the core message of the Gospel was that God saves humanity by becoming incarnate and defeating death and because he is now the Lord of all and good, he will freely and without payment forgive you should you ask him to do so.
    The Orthodox Church isn’t a denomination for lots of reasons. First is that the idea of a denomination was created by Protestantism in the 19th century to explain how the many Protestant schisms could all be fundamentally Protestant. They were all different flavors of the same fundamental thing. Orthodoxy then is pre-deominational and we don’t qualify as a denomination of some generic abstract Christianity since we don’t even share the same canon of Scripture for example let alone other doctrines. The areas where it seems we agree just depends on how specific one wishes to get and when one does so, it becomes apparent that we disagree at bottom on major issues in the Trinity, ,Christology, etc.

    Even if you aren’t going to hell for something wrong and damaging, why wouldn’t you nonetheless take what is wrong and damaging seriously?

    I don’t have a principled problem with priests blessing soldiers before they go into combat, especially against invading Muslim hordes. How is that different than Protestant ministers blessing solders invading Nazi occupied France? I’d suggest you take more seriously Christian teaching on the nature of justifiable and virtuous warfare.

    As for the Russians, 20 years after nearly a hundred of oppression and extermination isn’t very long, especially where poverty is rampant and crime syndicates run most everything. It is hardly a stable and comparable situation with say the US. Protestant bodies, mainly pentacostal, which borders at this point on being recognizably Christian, have exploded in such places but this is for lots of reasons. One reason is that they are new, simplistic, require very little in personal renovation and emotionally and materialistically driven. When you appeal to emotion and greed, you are going to get followers and lots of them. Not to mention that in those countries they excel at making converts of people who were already Orthodox teaching them that they weren’t Christian before. They do the same with Catholics.

    Again I don’t think that baptism is a done deal soteriologically speaking. If one is baptized but never goes to church, confession, the eucharist and lives a heathen life, that person is not Orthodox. And the teaching of the Orthodox church on that matter is quite clear and direct. So I don’t know where you got that idea from. In fact, such a person per Paul is under a more severe judgment. As for the Trinity and such, most Protestants at this stage in even the English speaking world, with no political oppression whatsoever couldn’t tell you jack squat about the Trinity without lapsing into major heresy in under three sentences. The same goes for Christology for example. So I hardly find ignorance to be the special province of nominal Orthodox members. Ignorance is an equal opportunity employer.

    We do not think that baptism replaces Christ but rather one puts on Christ in baptism as the Bible says. (gal 3:27) Oddly I’d wager you don’t think you put on Christ in baptism and at the same time believe that passage.

    Evangelicals have changed the way to some degree that they have done missions but this is because of a more serious mistake, that of thinking that the ends justify the means. They aren’t interested in redeeming the culture and language of the people they proselytize but of simply using it as an effective tool. This is why Evamglicals in the US adapt themselves to American pop culture. This has deep and disturbing implications for the doctrine of Creation and the nature of the world, not to mention the teaching about Jesus’ becoming flesh.

  18. Ben Says:

    I have no idea what you’re talking about in the last paragraph there. I would guess it is some sort of critique of evangelical missions, but it doesn’t make any sense. I’m pretty sure “redeeming the culture” is our goal. Perhaps you would equate “redeeming the culture” with “forcing them to use Greek-contextualized liturgy”?

    I can’t really understand a lot of what you’re saying … it seems like we are both misinterpreting each other’s positions here, and I really would prefer clarity and brevity on these comments. I don’t have the time to respond to every point, especially when they are so half-formed that I can’t really tell what you’re saying.

    If you don’t think evangelicals are failed Christians, then why bother to bring up all these examples and points? If you can accept that, even if not the “fullness of the faith”, my evangelical tradition contains what it needs for me to be a Christian, please say so. That’s the respect that I accord to you, and if you can’t return the favor, then I’m sure there’s no point to this discussion.

  19. Ben Says:

    One more thing: “justifiable and virtuous warfare” is not what I’m talking about, and neither is “invading Muslim hordes”. I’m talking about the Russians going out to conquer places like the Caucasus, and exterminating the Muslims who just wanted to be left alone, with the church’s blessing. That kind of sends the wrong message. It’s not even important! That wasn’t the point of what I said. The point was “don’t judge the actions of all Protestants by the actions of some”. Are you telling me that no Russian Orthodox priest at any time supported something wrong that the Russian government was doing? Yikes.

    I don’t remember the Russians having to face invading Muslim hordes, although certainly the fall of Constantinople is one of Christendom’s great tragedies, for many reasons.

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