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    Greg and Beth

    the political and personal musings of two
    mountaineers living in west-central Florida
     
    Digression, Rant, Near-Troll Comment
    Gregory Morris, 8/4/08 12:17:31 pm
    After reading and discussing a bit about the historical aspects of scripture, as we know it, I found myself writing a response that was quite a digression from the discussion at hand. Being that I tend to criticize protestants, and since I was diving head-first into that territory with this discussion, I decided to move my somewhat off-topic comments back to my blog.

    Anyway, the discussion over at The Whited Sepulcre deals with the recent public availability of of the Codex Sinaiticus... which is generally believed to be the oldest copy of what we understand to be "The Bible" in existence. The discussion there, and in many other places, has shifted from "cool, old bible!" to "wait a minute, why isn't this identical to my bible?!?" I'll leave that conversation with WS, but post my tangent here. If you are a Protestant or Catholic who is easily offended, I'd suggest not clicking on "read more". If you are open to debate, and interested in theology, by all means, keep reading.


    I find it strange that protestants would concern themselves so much with the actual history and tradition of the holy scripture...

    It is clear that post-reformation protestantism has allowed the once-unified church to disintegrate into infinitesimal factions. I've always wondered why Luther and Calvin never made their way _back_ to Orthodoxy... It seems their biggest beefs with the Pope and the Catholic Church would have been handily addressed in this manner.

    Actually, there was a minor attempt in Germany to re-unite the eastern church with the anti-papist reformers, but ultimately it failed because protestantism, in an effort to resolve their conflict with Rome had shifted too far away from Orthodoxy. They threw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak.

    The doctrine of "Sola Scriptura" fuels the disjoint nature of Protestantism, and in my opinion wasn't a necessary result of the reformation. It was a knee-jerk. All that was necessary to address their concerns was to cast off the burdern of papal rule, and the idea that the church stood between a man and god, as well as the non-orthodox political quagmire that the Catholic church had become. Note: I'm not saying the Byzantine-centered Eastern Orthodox Church was perfect, by any means, just that a European Orthodox Patriarchate would have given the reformers equal footing with the rest of the Christian world.

    It seems to me that Protestants divide themselves based on what they disagree about, whereas members of the Orthodox Church (or Catholic Church for that matter) unify themselves based on they agree upon.

    I've found that most modern protestants fail to understand that Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church is more of an interpretive tool than a set of rules or dogma such as you'll find in among Catholics. It gives a clear and inspired frame of reference for understanding scripture. I find that navigating scripture, absent its history tradition, is not only a hopeless task, but a nearly meaningless one. Of course, Protestants don't really do this... they attempt to explain their pre-scriptural beliefs in terms of both history and word, rather than allow the history and tradition of the scripture define their beliefs. In taking this tact, they merely provide an ever-moving goalpost for the spiritual understanding they strive for.

    End Rant.

    Update:
    Bump.

    [Comments are closed after a month.]

    Re: Digression, Rant, Near-Troll
    MLB, 7/30/08 2:35:44 pm
    "It seems to me that Protestants divide themselves based on what they disagree about"

    I see that statement a lot, but the arguers seem to miss that this is a good thing. They also seem to miss that American Christian denominations do a lot of official and unofficial cross-over: in the spirit of the market for culture, so to speak, we're mostly aware of the differences and decide when and whether they matter (often we decide they don't, and that doesn't make the denominational distiction any less important).

    "I've found that most modern protestants fail to understand that Holy Tradition of the Orthodox Church is more of an interpretive tool than a set of rules or dogma such as you'll find in among Catholics."

    I haven't, but then people who don't care aren't likely to discuss it with me.

    "they attempt to explain their pre-scriptural beliefs in terms of both history and word, rather than allow the history and tradition of the scripture define their beliefs."

    That's not true for my education in my denomination (LCMS, Lutheran; rather "traditional" among protestant denominations). Luther's interpretation of the revelation to all man of the scripture led to the idea of only faith, scripture, and grace mattering. And that _is_ all that matters -- objections to that don't look good at all. They look like they're trying to prop up indefensible doctrine. On the other hand, solo scriptura necessarily includes any reasonable interpretations thereof. That's what Paul's writings were in the first place!

    I think of solo scriptura in relation to faith and interpretation in the same way that Jewish scholars treat the Talmud in relation to their own important interpretations which filled out their society. God gives rules and a command to create institutions based thereon, but leaves the implementation to us -- there are necessarily going to be disagreements, and mostly cultural. With the Word out in the Gentile world, conflicting and stubborn cultures is the norm, and doesn't change the Word itself.

    Anyway, "solo scriptura," to the extent that it strips Catholic tradition of politics and weird policies that led to things like indulgences, seems worth-while. And while the Reformation was a reaction to the state of Catholicism at a certain time, it was a return to more direct and full understanding of scripture (which is, namely, that by faith and grace alone are we saved). This does not imply discarding Catholic (or Jewish) Biblical scholarship, as is often nonsensically implied.

    "In taking this tact, they merely provide an ever-moving goalpost for the spiritual understanding they strive for."

    I don't know if I see that. You might be confusing populist gospel-lite with Protestantism. The latter could be defined as choosing one's own interpretation of scripture; the former is a product of new-age liberalism and resembles contentless, never-ending tent revivals. Sure, it's more likely to come about under Protestantism because the latter gives us such freedom. And I'm not going to hesitate to rebuke it, and I need nothing more than scripture (even a conservative edit) to do it.

    "whereas members of the Orthodox Church (or Catholic Church for that matter) unify themselves based on they agree upon."

    But what is the significance of that? The "invisible Church" doesn't change in substance (I don't know whether that term is of Orthodox or Protestant origin). To be frank, it sounds like a way to keep doctrine under control (in a bad way) rather than to keep it truthful. That is, I have the library of traditions at my disposal, and I can use that scholarship to resolve my own doctrinal issues, as can -- and do -- my denomination's higher-ups. I anticipate the criticism that a market of churches can result in a plethora of damned congregations who've gotten comfortable with preaching they agree with. I don't have a good answer to that except to say that family tradition is still more important to instruct children and to draw the parallel that even good laws can't construct good people.
    Re: Digression, Rant, Near-Troll
    Gregory Morris, 7/30/08 4:24:56 pm
    Thanks for your comments. I'll try to address them in a reasonable order.
    "They look like they're trying to prop up indefensible doctrine."
    In some cases it seems that way... but once again, most of the "doctrine" found to be "indefensible" by early Protestants does not exist in the Orthodox Church.

    "God gives rules and a command to create institutions based thereon, but leaves the implementation to us"
    Except that the lord left quite a few explicit instructions, many of which Protestants either ignore or merely pay a cursory service.

    "there are necessarily going to be disagreements, and mostly cultural."
    Indeed. Yet there are disagreements within the Orthodox Church that don't result in schisms. The faith is what it is. The Catholic Church keeps trying to add things, while the Protestant churches threw out all of the holy traditions... except for the bits and pieces that didn't seem that offensive.

    "doesn't change the Word itself."
    My problem with western Protestants (and I include everyone from the whacky backwoods Baptists to the most straight-laced Methodist in that grouping) is that each congregation is free to incorrectly interpret "The Word" as they see fit. If a preacher decides the Word ought to say that homosexuality is bad, then it says that. Within the Orthodox faith, we read the Nicene Creed, and understand it in terms of what it meant when it was written. To be Orthodox is to be able to read, "I believe in One God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth..." and mean it. (Note, we read “I” instead of “we” which is common in Protestant churches, because it is a declaration of our individual faith.) Yes, I know most protestant denominations also read that from time to time, but I never meet Protestants (other than the occasional minister with a doctorate in theology) who really, truly understand what is said in the Creed. Most of them get the part about believing in one God... but what about "I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church." Show me a Methodist that gets that one. There is One Church... not a thousand independent groups that have a vaguely similar understanding of who Jesus is. The One Church is Holy in that it is inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit. The One Church is Catholic, meaning it is Universal. The One Church is Apostolic, meaning that every bishop and priest can trace his ordination back, via the bishop that ordained him, to one of the Apostles. Churches that can't say that do not read and understand the Creed.

    "to the extent that it strips Catholic tradition of politics and weird policies that led to things like indulgences, seems worth-while"
    "Seeming worth-while" isn't good enough to throw out the whole of tradition as well as the original foundation for the understanding of scripture! As I have said, the problems the reformers had with the Catholic Church could have been addressed without such a wild shift in faith.

    "return to more direct and full understanding of scripture"
    It is hard to argue that the protestant reformers were "returning" to something... had they "returned" the Orthodox Church would be a lot bigger in Europe and the US... I don't disagree with you that it is faith and grace that leads to salvation, but Christ, through his Apostles, gave us some other rules besides "believe". In the end, it is only through grace that we are saved. It is freely offered, and instructions are given on how we should live His Word, and thus accept His Grace.

    "You might be confusing..."
    I tend to lump western non-Catholic and non-Orthodox groups claiming to be "Christian" under the category of "Protestant". I know technically that may be incorrect. There are some real whacko groups out there such as the Unitarians who believe it is OK to not really have any real beliefs. There are also groups who intentionally pervert the Word to their own political end. Indeed, there are groups that run the entire range of lunacy, including those who would call themselves "Christian", yet deny the Trinity, or that Jesus was both fully God and fully man. Oh, and there are Episcopalians as well, which throw a further kink into the framework... Perhaps in the future I will try to be more specific... but part of the problem that I face is that there are so many different churches! There are Lutherans, Methodists, Baptists... and many others... plus different strains and spin-offs each one of them. There are independent churches, and those which belong to a larger hierarchy. How am I to keep track of them all? You'll have to forgive my lumping Calvinists with backwoods snake-handlers... I mean it not as an insult but as a matter of my own inability to discuss what the myriad of western churches have in common.

    "The 'invisible Church' doesn't change in substance..."
    Consider the Church Militant (the body of the church on earth), and the Church Triumphant (the kingdom of heaven.) What you refer to as the "invisible church" we refer to as "the Church Militant. This has nothing to do with the building where you worship, or the people or the priest in that building. It is the body of all Christians who share in the same faith... those that are in communion with one another. It is not something to control people, like the Catholic "mother church". It is no more or less than what I'd suspect Lutherans think of as the "Lutheran Church".

    It is easy to stretch, ad absurdum, the typical protestant belief that denomination isn't all that important. As you succinctly put, "a market of churches can result in a plethora of damned congregations..." One could argue that by fracturing the faith down further to the atomic level, the individual, you have destroyed the "church", and made each man into his own god. You have seen scripture abused for foul purposes; just as I have... the devil can cite scripture and all that. But ignoring that there is some commonality, some inherent unity REQUIRED by the Christian faith is to give in to that.

    At the same time, you must keep in mind that the unified experience of the Orthodoxy in no way detracts from the fact that we have a personal faith and a personal relationship with God. That is where protestants confuse us with Catholics who tend to keep a priest and a set of rules in between the faithful and God.
    Re: Digression, Rant, Near-Troll
    name, 7/30/08 7:00:19 pm
    [Sorry for the length, but I got on a roll.]



    "Except that the lord left quite a few explicit instructions, many of which Protestants either ignore or merely pay a cursory service."

    Maybe, though the one relevant argument I recall wasn't very convincing (albeit in defense of the position of the Pope based on a half of a sentence directed at Peter). I'd love to read about them, if you have any links. I am very much ignorant of what makes Orthodox churches uniquely different from Protestantism as a whole (or at least from Lutheran and Calvinist tradition).


    "but I never meet Protestants (other than the occasional minister with a doctorate in theology) who really, truly understand what is said in the Creed. [...] here is One Church... not a thousand independent groups that have a vaguely similar understanding of who Jesus is."

    I don’t have any theological degrees, but just a couple of decades of private-school training. I may overestimate the traditions I'm steeped in, but that was something explicitly discussed in my Lutheran elementary school and beyond, which is why I brought up the "invisible church" concept. (About the Apostolic tradition: Luther came from the tradition of Catholic Church rather than up and created one outside of that tradition, but I don't know whether that counts). I don't expect you to keep track of all of the denominations, and I would embarrass myself trying to make a list ranked according to closeness to orthodoxy. But nothing you've described sounds different from mainstream Protestant denominations except for the words "Orthodox" and "Catholic," and we use "Catholic" to refer to the "Universal Church" and read and damn near dissect the creeds on occasion.


    "had they 'returned' the Orthodox Church would be a lot bigger in Europe and the US."

    Well, I did mean returned to a more direct understanding, not returned to their source tradition; whether or not it was beneficial, the "direct" part seems to have been the salient direction early Protestants were heading. I see how the schism could have remained only a tool of change rather than a permanent wedge. However, that would not have prevented Joseph Smith from inventing something out of his hat or pagans treating snake-handling as conduits to the Holy Ghost or South Americans continuing to practice borderline idolatry, and it probably wouldn’t have prevented them from identifying as Christian. That is, I don’t think Protestantism created those things.


    "What you refer to as the ‘invisible church’ we refer to as ‘the Church Militant.’ [...] It is no more or less than what I'd suspect Lutherans think of as the 'Lutheran Church'."

    Well, we’d consider “the Lutheran Church” that collection of congregants on Earth who belong to a certain Protestant denomination, but not extend that to anyone who doesn’t identify themselves as such. We consider The Church Body, Earthly Church, or Church Militant as all who profess belief that is Christian enough to be in accord with the Universal Creeds, I think (at least, that’s what I remember from last I discussed it; I’d have to look up the offical stance to be sure). The latter includes Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Crudely: “you don’t have to be Lutheran to be saved, but it sure helps.”


    "One could argue that by fracturing the faith down further to the atomic level, the individual, you have destroyed the 'church', and made each man into his own god."

    That is, indeed, a danger in trying to design a church that preaches to the choir. And people constantly, naturally, try to do that. But equating Protestantism with seeking talk therapy in lieu of the Word only makes the existing schism look bigger than it is. At the least, I think Protestantism does not in a worse way prevent, as the result of doctrinal ignorance, one from being saved than the alternatives.


    “But ignoring that there is some commonality, some inherent unity REQUIRED by the Christian faith is to give in to that.“

    But that _requires_ complete doctrinal uniformity? One of the very visible things many Protestant denominations do get wrong is application of institutions. I don’t agree with Baptists’ stance on baby baptism, or many denominations’ allowing strangers to participate in communion, but those aren’t necessarily evidence of doctrinal rot any more than Catholic clergy misbehavior. In fact, those may be examples of cultural rot, which tends to slowly rot into doctrine more than the other way around. Obviously, strong, Biblically-defensible tradition is important to defend against that (the ability to point here and say “that’s wrong,” rather than equivocating in order to remain inclusive; the latter is a Liberal tradition everywhere).


    “As I have said, the problems the reformers had with the Catholic Church could have been addressed without such a wild shift in faith.”

    Well, Luther didn’t start the Reformation by creating his own denomination but by discussing the problems that needed to be solved.

    Re: Digression, Rant, Near-Troll
    MLB, 7/30/08 7:01:08 pm
    [Oops, that last one was me. I didn't fill out the name field.]
    Re: Digression, Rant, Near-Troll
    Gregory Morris, 7/30/08 9:27:15 pm
    I don't have the energy to complete a complete response this evening, but I will in the morning. Until then, I just wanted to make a quick comment:
    "I am very much ignorant of what makes Orthodox churches uniquely different from Protestantism as a whole"
    I, too, am not particularly well-versed on Lutheranism, and the comparison I make is against protestantism in general, not Lutheranism specifically. From what I understand, the Lutheran Church actually maintained most of the "good" theology from Catholicism, unlike the Baptist, Methodists, etc. That being said, perhaps this exchange of ideas will help illuminate both of us.

    If you are interested in doing some research, you might try Orthodox Wiki The wiki format makes it easy to "surf" through info and bounce around from one topic to the next. I'd suggest reading about the Sacraments of the Orthodox Church, and see how they differ from Lutheranism. Probably the best place to start is the overall discussion of what Orthodoxy is and is not.

    If you could share any particularly good websites for me to inquire into the theology of the Lutheran Church, I'd be thankful.
    Re: Digression, Rant, Near-Troll
    Gregory Morris, 7/30/08 9:46:54 pm
    Also, 16th century discussions between the Lutherans and the Orthodox Church. Luther was a fan of Orthodoxy.
    Re: Digression, Rant, Near-Troll
    MLB, 8/1/08 4:55:58 pm
    Yeah, I need to read some before I can continue, and it's so hot around here I can barely think. I'm going to look at those links you provided, too. Thanks.

    The LCMS site itself describes beliefs and practices, including the Book of Concord), Luther's catechisms, and statements of doctrine. They have all the important stuff there, and right now I can't think of anywhere else specifically to look, but I'll post it if I think of anything. (I'm hitting a spam filter here, I think because I made a lot of links to the same site.)

    I want you to know that I enjoy your blog, and this thread has deepened that appreciation.
    Re: Digression, Rant, Near-Troll
    Gregory Morris, 8/4/08 9:32:24 am
    I'm glad you enjoy the blog! I do it for my own enjoyment, but it is a good feeling to know that others benefit from it as well.

    Anyway, I was out of town this weekend which is why I haven't had a chance to respond. I'll spend some time reading the links you sent though.

    Even though we have not come to an agreement on the value or need for uniformity of faith (and in particular the issue of interpretation of scripture through individual reason versus Church consensus), I thought I’d address some of the issues that separate the Lutherans from the Orthodox. I think, after delving into these issues, the Orthodox components of the faith which are ignored by Protestants lead me to the conclusion that there are more than simple differences; there are deficiencies in the communal practices of western churches which diminish the experience of the Christian faith.

    I find it interesting that (based on some other reading I've done) the early Lutheran church was extremely adamant about not "innovating". This is something that sets the Lutheran church distinctly apart from many of the "new" western churches, as well as the Catholic Church. In fact, it seems to me that this is the biggest reason they entered discussions with the Eastern Orthodox Church early in the reformation period. The reasoning was that the Orthodox Church was cut off from the west for many years, and was often seen as "the Church that time forgot", which was rather appealing to the early Lutherans (in theory.) However, after some discussions, the Patriarch of Constantinople realized some significant incompatibilities with the Lutheran church, and of course neither church was interesting in budging on any single issue. The antiquity of the Orthodox practices were never in question. However, the early Lutherans, only recently disavowing the Catholic Church, ironically found it distasteful to sacrifice many of the innovations of Rome, such as the theologically incorrect Filioque.

    My contention is that the issues separating the two churches were either bits of Catholic innovation that the Lutherans kept, or traditions of the "early" church that they threw out. Of course, that is my bias. However, I think most western denominations find the experience of the Orthodox Church to be odd or even wrong, mostly due to their misunderstanding of what we believe.

    Take the invocation of the Saints for instance. It is often believed by Protestants that the Catholic and Orthodox churches "pray to" or even worship Saints as some type of sub-deity or other such nonsense. In reality, we merely see (capital "S") Saints as good examples for the faithful (as does the Lutheran, Catholic, and Episcopal churches.) The one thing that every Saint has in common is that they lived their lives as sinners. Some worse than others (read about Mary of Egypt sometime!), but they are recognized as Saints by the church because of their own sacrifice and exemplary deeds. It is in the bible, Romans 1:7 specifically, that we are all called to be "saints". The Orthodox Church believes that any member of the Church Triumphant (those in heaven) is indeed a saint. We also recognize, through consensus, that "capital S" Saints are those whom we may ask to pray for us. It makes sense if you think about it... you have no problem asking your Aunt Edna to pray for you in times of tribulation, why not also ask those who are closest to our Lord?

    The Lutheran church, it would seem, remembers some Saints to give thanks for their deeds, and also advises the faithful to imitate the Saints. However, early in the foundation of the Lutheran church, the decision was made only to retain biblical and apostolic Saints, as well as a few others (which along with a few other salvaged traditions, seems to violate “solo scriptura”.) It seems that reverence for the Saints and their deeds is mostly minimal, and the celebration of their lives during liturgical worship is generally minimized in favor of private study. The defense for minimizing the celebration of the Saints is that it might take away from the “true purpose” of worship. Although I can’t deny that this would be true for idolaters, the Orthodox Church incorporates our celebration of the Saints with our liturgical worship because it is meant to be a parallel to our daily private worship and prayer. Theosis, becoming more “God-like”, is the goal of Orthodox Christians. What better way to approach this than by following the examples of the Saints in our day-to-day lives? This is why we believe that the lessons taught to us by the Saints are not only appropriate, but necessary for invocation during our worship services.

    It follows that there is another significant difference between the two churches that is bound to cause fits for most Protestants: Icons. This was a divisive issue in Byzantium during the time of Turkish rule. I believe that Iconoclasm within the church was a matter of the sentiment of a community which was surrounded by, and immersed in an Islamic theocracy. Veneration of icons was not a question before Islamic rule caused Christians to be treated as second-class citizens. The iconoclasts were eventually considered heretics not only due to the incorrectness of their beliefs, but also because of their willingness to sacrifice Holy Tradition to appease their Islamic rulers!

    Modern Protestants rarely understand the use and meaning of Icons, other than their assumptions based on how they feel about Catholicism. There was some debate over the use of Icons during the reformation, although as with other components of tradition, anti-Catholic sentiment universally paralleled iconoclasm. (In recent times, “pictures” of Jesus have strangely become popular in the private homes of many Western independent Protestants, as well as depictions of events such as Christ’s Nativity.) This sentiment, however, arose before the reformers had any contact with the Eastern Orthodox Church. The Icon is considered a window. It is not an idol, or a photograph, or even a life-like depiction of some holy person or event. We consider an Icon to be “written”, not “painted” (eikonographia translates to “image writing”.) The icon does not of itself teach us anything about a Saint; but rather gives us, through the depicted Saint, a way to reflect upon and remember the Saint. The moment an Icon is considered nothing but art, or for that matter, the moment we take our gaze away from it, the Icon is no longer holy. It is only our use of the icon which is holy. This is what confuses many non-Orthodox persons; for they tend to be under the incorrect assumption that we believe the picture itself has mystical properties. (Read the writings of St. John of Damascus, writings about the Second Council of Nicea, and related commentaries, for more info on the topic.) Contrary to what some (Protestants, Muslims, etc.) believe, Orthodox Christians are strictly prohibited from worshipping an icon, and any behavior that appears as icon-worship is considered heresy. One of the better arguments as to why we allow a depiction of God (what Protestants often call “graven images”) is that God the Son (Jesus Christ) took on flesh, having a physical appearance; it is thus allowable to use physical matter to depict God the Son.

    There are, of course, many other issues to discuss… differences in how we figure and accept Holy Tradition, use of the filioque, free will/predestination, the sacraments, the correct method of baptism, issues surrounding the Holy Eucharist, Feasts/Fasts and other ecclesiastical customs. Some of them are clearly more important than others, but when you begin to really consider all of the differences, you find that there is much less unity in faith than many would assume. Time and time again you hear Protestants say “we all believe in Jesus, so what’s the difference?” Belief in Jesus is indeed (per his own words in John 14:6) the only way to enter Heaven: “No one comes to the Father except through me.” However, it is not through “belief in Jesus” that we are saved, but through Divine Grace. As I have said before, Grace must be accepted, and to understand, believe in, and follow the words of Jesus is the only way to do so. While it is our own, private faith that allows us to believe and accept The Word, I believe that we cannot fully understand The Word using nothing but our own “reason”. The Church is the body of Jesus Christ, and it is through the Church that we can understand and become close to Him.
    Re: Digression, Rant, Near-Troll
    MLB, 8/17/08 8:25:13 pm
    I had a chance to read the latest reply, and a little time to make some quick observations:

    I still need to actually research it, and I realize that makes my comments less and less useful, but I must say that I don't hear a difference between my tradition and what you're describing, apart from the use of the word "saints," which sounds very "Catholic" and mystical to us sometimes, in lieu of any other identifying information (eg, Apostle, Judge). And if "private study" is meant to also include study groups (which used to be usually led by a pastor in adult groups; or VBS or Sunday-school type situations), then that accounts for just as much time spent as a long sermon, if not a complete service.

    Also, the description of paintings as windows parallels my experience in my grade-school cafeteria, in the way they were discussed in Sunday school and such. I hadn't thought about that in a while, and their purpose never quite clicked until now.

    As for the misconceptions regarding icons, that stems from strange and widespread Catholic practices, which is so big and loud that it makes it seem like nothing beyond Catholic and Protestant exist. (We have stained glass and other images, except for the body on the cross -- He is risen -- and we don't worship [at] them, so that's probably where we'd draw the line.) That's where most of the confusion lies, and I doubt it's going to get any better in the mainstream's conception.

    I guess we were trying to be Orthodox all along (though things have changed recently, and it's looking far less like that than it did; if the LCMS eventually decides to merge with one of the liberal "Lutheran" denominations, I'll have to choose between Orthodox and lapsed Baptist or something).

    It's not that an Orthodox view of Protestants is a straw man, it's just that "Protestant" is nebulous. Plenty of people are superficial about their faith, but some others don't have the time or will to care about any but the most important parts, which is a bad thing if they get lazy rather than staying, in purpose of life, tight. Which, of course, they do.
    Re: Digression, Rant, Near-Troll
    Gregory Morris, 8/19/08 7:28:56 am
    "which sounds very 'Catholic' and mystical to us sometimes"
    That is the usual problem protestants have with the Orthodox Church. It seems very similar to the Roman Church. If you could simply imagine that there is no Roman Catholic Church, ignore everything they've ever been taught about why the Catholics are wrong, then it would allow you to focus on the reality of Orthodoxy. I'm always amazed when protestants explain their apprehensions about the Orthodox Church in terms of their disdain for Romans Catholicism. On the other hand, we do believe, as early Christians did, that there is a mystical aspect to the faith. Modern Protestants down-play this almost to the point of ignoring the truth that there are mysteries which we cannot comprehend. It is not wrong for worship to be "mystical-feeling".

    Regarding "private study", I think all churches actively encourage private and group study. The Orthodox are no different. We do not believe that you can get "everything you need" from our liturgical services. On the other hand, we also don't think you can get everything you need without them.

    "makes it seem like nothing beyond Catholic and Protestant exist"
    Once again, in comparing Orthodoxy to a particular protestant belief, I find it best to ignore Catholicism, because honestly the Orthodox Church pre-dates the current instantiation of the Roman Church. I think it also tends to be difficult for protestants to understand our use of icons when they see the near-paganism of various "Catholicized" cultures... consider the many strange customs in South America where the Catholic worship has been merged with their pre-Columbian paganism. In many cases it seems like idolatry both to you and to us.

    "we don't worship [at] them"
    I am glad you said this. This is one of the scariest things for a protestant studying Orthodoxy. As I've said, we don't worship icons. We don't worship Saints. Nor do we worship "at" icons or Saints. 100% of our worship is directed at the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I understand the "mainstream" won't get it, because the "mainstream" has no interest in understanding our ancient faith. The "mainstream" wants a rock'n'roll buddy-Jesus, and quite frankly, I want nothing to do with them. Those who are honestly willing to learn rarely have a problem with what the Orthodox Church teaches.

    "It's not that an Orthodox view of Protestants is a straw man it's just that 'Protestant' is nebulous."
    I know. It is nearly impossible to even define what a "Protestant" is anymore. During the Reformation, they were devout Christians who questioned the authority of Rome. It made sense back then to compare their views with Orthodoxy. But the resulting fracture of Christianity was directly caused by the Reformation and subsequent failure to re-unify with the Orthodox Church. That is why I don't have a problem lumping all protestants together, although the comparison is no longer precisely equivalent. Each Protestant denomination has a varying degree of similarity to the Orthodox faith, but not one of them comes close to the completeness of Orthodoxy. Many Protestants even believe that their church's doctrine is not necessarily "complete" but rather each denomination only maintains a portion of the truth. I find it both strange and absurd that someone would defend the incompleteness of their church.

    For further reading material, I'll direct you to this site which has some of the clearest discussions of the Orthodox faith I have found. Here are a number of essays in defense of the Orthodox faith.
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