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Offline Mr. J

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Church Search
« on: Wed Apr 27, 2011 - 19:34:41 »
I've been studying a bit on the Orthodox Church, actually trying to decide where to hang my hat  for the rest of my life.  I've made one topic here before and need to thank Trifecta, HRoberson, CDHealy for their book suggestions.

I've read Timothy Ware "The Orthodox Church," and have had two long talks with a priest.  (I'm raised protestant, but unhappy with the huge increase in liberalism.)

I must say, the more I learn about the Orthodox Church the more I am both impressed and distressed.  I very much see the importance of maintaining sameness over generations, but I don't completely buy the Orthodox story of Tradition.  After all, it was a few hundred years after Christ before they finally figured out how they were going to worship.  So much for the idea of Tradition during the first few hundred years.

It took centuries to figure out their version of the Trinity, so it was certainly not handed down from the apostles in the form we see it today.  ( I do think they are closer than most religions.)

I'm not saying I think the Orthodox Church is wrong, I am saying I don't buy the whole "original church" and Tradition story in the strictest sense.  Obviously their own history shows differently.  I also find it a bit interesting that there seems to be a lot of justification of position based on what past men (bishops, etc.) said instead of scripture.  After all, is this not exactly an issue the Orthodox have with Rome and Protestantism, following what a man, or men, say?

On the impressed side of the coin, I had wonderful talks with the priest and find that what I have learned up to now seems to be very similar to how I have viewed the scripture.  The obvious exception to this are the practices of praying for the dead to intercede and worship of Mary and Icons.  Yes, I know they say it is not worship.  It merely looks like worship, sounds like worship, acts like worship, so in a sensible man's view....  Besides, I am not aware of anything Biblical that supports those acts, so they may be a tradition, but they are the Tradition as we are biblically told to keep.

Most importantly, I must keep in mind, "Those who are for me are not against me."  Overall, I am much more positive in my opinion of the Orthodox than not.  I will continue to study, I don't doubt I have more understanding to gain.

If I were forced to choose today between the liberal churches in my area and Orthodox, I may very well choose Orthodox, if only for the reason that I would be assured my children will not be in a church that may well change drastically for the worse in the next few years.  This is the most impressive thing about the Orthodox, even if I do have theological issues with their belief.

I'm not saying a very original and conservative Protestant church may not be more accurate, I just don't know where any exist today.
« Last Edit: Wed Apr 27, 2011 - 19:51:41 by Mr. J »

Offline CDHealy

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Re: Church Search
« Reply #1 on: Wed Apr 27, 2011 - 21:38:16 »
I must say, the more I learn about the Orthodox Church the more I am both impressed and distressed.  I very much see the importance of maintaining sameness over generations, but I don't completely buy the Orthodox story of Tradition.  After all, it was a few hundred years after Christ before they finally figured out how they were going to worship.  So much for the idea of Tradition during the first few hundred years.

In your research of the ancient texts and ancient writers, what gives you this impression?  (I'm asking here not about what others have written about these ancient texts and ancient writers, but what about the texts and writers themselves gives you the impression that it took a few hundred years for them to "finally figure out how they were going to worship"?

It took centuries to figure out their version of the Trinity, so it was certainly not handed down from the apostles in the form we see it today.  ( I do think they are closer than most religions.)

Again, based on your research of the ancient texts and ancient writers, how do you come to this view?  How do you know that the Apostles didn't believe the same thing about the Trinity that those who "took centuries to figure out their versions of the Trinity" believed?  Can you point to specific contemporaneous texts to back up this view?

I'm not saying I think the Orthodox Church is wrong, I am saying I don't buy the whole "original church" and Tradition story in the strictest sense.  Obviously their own history shows differently.

Can you please show me how the Orthodox history shows what you take to be their claims to be the original Church to be different than the claims themselves?


I also find it a bit interesting that there seems to be a lot of justification of position based on what past men (bishops, etc.) said instead of scripture.  After all, is this not exactly an issue the Orthodox have with Rome and Protestantism, following what a man, or men, say?

Can you demonstrate how it is anyone can read the Scripture without at the same time interpreting it?  If you cannot, then please demonstrate how it is that one can have an infallible (or at least epistemically certain) knowledge that the interpretation one espouses is the correct one?

On the impressed side of the coin, I had wonderful talks with the priest and find that what I have learned up to now seems to be very similar to how I have viewed the scripture.

I'm glad the couple of talks you have had have been positive ones.

The obvious exception to this are the practices of praying for the dead to intercede and worship of Mary and Icons.  Yes, I know they say it is not worship.  It merely looks like worship, sounds like worship, acts like worship, so in a sensible man's view....  Besides, I am not aware of anything Biblical that supports those acts, so they may be a tradition, but they are the Tradition as we are biblically told to keep.

If the persons engage in these acts of veneration (what you take to be worship) do not think they are doing what you call worship, then what right do you have to say that they are?  How do you have this insight into their intentions?  If you see me walk in to a bar, would you assume that I did so to get drunk?  What if I told you that was not my intention?  How would you know?

Most importantly, I must keep in mind, "Those who are for me are not against me."  Overall, I am much more positive in my opinion of the Orthodox than not.  I will continue to study, I don't doubt I have more understanding to gain.

Yes, please continue to study.  It took me five to seven years to become Orthodox, though I came at it from a different perspective than it appears you are.  I did not come to have Orthodoxy justify itself to me and my beliefs, but I came to examine Orthodoxy on its own terms and see if it held together, was coherent, and, most importantly, was livable.  Yes, it had to be true, of course.  But I was not the judge of whether or not it was true.

If I were forced to choose today between the liberal churches in my area and Orthodox, I may very well choose Orthodox, if only for the reason that I would be assured my children will not be in a church that may well change drastically for the worse in the next few years.  This is the most impressive thing about the Orthodox, even if I do have theological issues with their belief.

We Orthodox would say that this is one of the evidences for the truthfulness of our claim to be Christ's Church.

I'm not saying a very original and conservative Protestant church may not be more accurate, I just don't know where any exist today.

Until you are convinced that Orthodoxy is what it claims to be, you should not become Orthodox.  If you can be satisfied in an original conservative Protestant church, then become a member of that church.

Offline Mr. J

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Re: Church Search
« Reply #2 on: Thu Apr 28, 2011 - 01:23:04 »
 That's a lot of quotations and a lot of questions.  Each one could take up volumes.  So I'll give my sources and reasons, but this conversation would need to be broken up beyond that.  Way too long of posts!!!

My references are: the Timothy Ware book, talks with the priest, scriptural study, internet study.  I don't intend a big controversy, I only have observations.  I don't expect anyone to like or dislike them.  I'm not insulting anyone's church.  I'm still studying, but some things are obvious to an observer.

Here goes...  My answers will be prefixed with an *** indication, because my editor seems to not be working.

**************************

I must say, the more I learn about the Orthodox Church the more I am both impressed and distressed.  I very much see the importance of maintaining sameness over generations, but I don't completely buy the Orthodox story of Tradition.  After all, it was a few hundred years after Christ before they finally figured out how they were going to worship.  So much for the idea of Tradition during the first few hundred years.

In your research of the ancient texts and ancient writers, what gives you this impression?  (I'm asking here not about what others have written about these ancient texts and ancient writers, but what about the texts and writers themselves gives you the impression that it took a few hundred years for them to "finally figure out how they were going to worship"?

***  If the Orthodox church had been directly blessed with the original teachings of the apostles in action, there would have been no need for ecumenical councils.  787AD, and there were still serious lingering questions that affected worship services.  Some on Orthodoxy called it veneration of icons, some said it was idol worship.  Over 700 years to figure out icons, for example.

It took centuries to figure out their version of the Trinity, so it was certainly not handed down from the apostles in the form we see it today.  ( I do think they are closer than most religions.)

Again, based on your research of the ancient texts and ancient writers, how do you come to this view?  How do you know that the Apostles didn't believe the same thing about the Trinity that those who "took centuries to figure out their versions of the Trinity" believed?  Can you point to specific contemporaneous texts to back up this view?

***  Again, referencing Orthodox ecumenical councils:  The Trinity was not defined or it would not have been an agenda of councils.  The point is, the church did not have a dictate from the apostles as to exactly what the Trinity is.  While the Orthodox officially (T.W) understand the Trinity cannot be fully understood in our human condition, definitions were put to the issue at least as late as the 4th century.  BTW, the fact that they see it as a non-understandable mystery is a credit to the Orthodox in my opinion.  I think they are right on that score, but the church did not start out with this agreement.

I'm not saying I think the Orthodox Church is wrong, I am saying I don't buy the whole "original church" and Tradition story in the strictest sense.  Obviously their own history shows differently.

Can you please show me how the Orthodox history shows what you take to be their claims to be the original Church to be different than the claims themselves?

***  Notice the "strictest sense" limitation.  Tradition was clearly not totally handed down from the apostles.  (see above two answers)  Original church, small "c", seems Ok for a definition if one is cognizant that it was generations from the time of apostolic leadership until the formation of the Orthodox church as we know it... The church structure and many customs were not part of the apostolic churches, they came later.  As far as the original "large C" Church, and one must be a member of Orthodoxy to be saved, Metropolitan Antony Khrapovitsky is pretty clear the he thinks this is true (The Orthodox Church, page 309).  However, the priest I spoke with sees it as a church, the original church, but not the only Church.

I also find it a bit interesting that there seems to be a lot of justification of position based on what past men (bishops, etc.) said instead of scripture.  After all, is this not exactly an issue the Orthodox have with Rome and Protestantism, following what a man, or men, say?

Can you demonstrate how it is anyone can read the Scripture without at the same time interpreting it?  If you cannot, then please demonstrate how it is that one can have an infallible (or at least epistemically certain) knowledge that the interpretation one espouses is the correct one?

***  If I read your meaning right, we're in agreement here.  Looking to the Scripture is what should be done, interpretation being done accordingly.

On the impressed side of the coin, I had wonderful talks with the priest and find that what I have learned up to now seems to be very similar to how I have viewed the scripture.

I'm glad the couple of talks you have had have been positive ones.

***  By far, most of my thoughts about Orthodoxy are positive.  Just a few issues.  Men run churches, no man is perfect, so no church can be perfect unless run by He who is perfect.

The obvious exception to this are the practices of praying for the dead to intercede and worship of Mary and Icons.  Yes, I know they say it is not worship.  It merely looks like worship, sounds like worship, acts like worship, so in a sensible man's view....  Besides, I am not aware of anything Biblical that supports those acts, so they may be a tradition, but they are the Tradition as we are biblically told to keep.

If the persons engage in these acts of veneration (what you take to be worship) do not think they are doing what you call worship, then what right do you have to say that they are?  How do you have this insight into their intentions?  If you see me walk in to a bar, would you assume that I did so to get drunk?  What if I told you that was not my intention?  How would you know?

***  I knew this would stir the pot.  But if a duck tells me he is only moving his feet, but not really swimming, I'd say, "Silly duck!"  Veneration (worship) was not always totally accepted in the Orthodox church.  If icon veneration was OK with the apostles, it would not have taken over 700 years to politic enough to get the votes to pass it in the 7th council.  Not everyone thought that decision came down on the right side.  There is no icon veneration in the Bible.  The same with Mary.  Where is it in the Bible?  It also is a custom, a "small t" tradition, but not something we're shown Biblically, and not something directly handed down from the apostles or there would have been no reason to still be discussing the veneration of Mary in ecumenical councils centuries after Christ.

Most importantly, I must keep in mind, "Those who are for me are not against me."  Overall, I am much more positive in my opinion of the Orthodox than not.  I will continue to study, I don't doubt I have more understanding to gain.

Yes, please continue to study.  It took me five to seven years to become Orthodox, though I came at it from a different perspective than it appears you are.  I did not come to have Orthodoxy justify itself to me and my beliefs, but I came to examine Orthodoxy on its own terms and see if it held together, was coherent, and, most importantly, was livable.  Yes, it had to be true, of course.  But I was not the judge of whether or not it was true.

***  It is the greatest responsibility of any person to judge if what he is following is true.  Not according to opinion or own beliefs, but according to Scripture and the Holy Spirit, because they are all we have.

If I were forced to choose today between the liberal churches in my area and Orthodox, I may very well choose Orthodox, if only for the reason that I would be assured my children will not be in a church that may well change drastically for the worse in the next few years.  This is the most impressive thing about the Orthodox, even if I do have theological issues with their belief.

We Orthodox would say that this is one of the evidences for the truthfulness of our claim to be Christ's Church.

***  I certainly do think the Orthodox is a church of Christ, and a very great people of God throughout the ages, but not solely Christ's Church.  To say it is Christ's Church means all others are damned to hell because Christ only has one Church.  All those who heard Christ and the traveling apostles did not necessarily belong to one of the original churches the Orthodox cite as its beginning.  And what about the "other sheep?"

***John 10-16  And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, [and] one shepherd.


***  Obviously these sheep were not of the Orthodox church (which was not yet formed).  The Orthodox do not have a monopoly on being Christs Church.   I have great respect, but also concerns about some issues.


I'm not saying a very original and conservative Protestant church may not be more accurate, I just don't know where any exist today.

Until you are convinced that Orthodoxy is what it claims to be, you should not become Orthodox.  If you can be satisfied in an original conservative Protestant church, then become a member of that church.

***  If there were original conservative Protestant churches left in abundance, I'd not need to look elsewhere.
« Last Edit: Thu Apr 28, 2011 - 01:44:08 by Mr. J »

Offline trifecta

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Re: Church Search
« Reply #3 on: Sun May 01, 2011 - 16:40:38 »
Mr. J,

I am very pleased to hear of your exploration of the Orthodox Church.  While my background (RCC) is a bit different than yours (although I did convert to Protestantism), I think I can relate to your concerns (as well as positive points) of Orthodoxy.

Let me offer some general comments about your understandable (and well-written) concerns.

1) Tradition - This one was hard for us westerners, who are more comfortable with written documents than more
amorphous movements.  However, in the time of the early church, this was not the case.  Written documents
were viewed with suspicion because forgery was pretty easy to do in those days.

To feel more comfortable with the idea of Tradition, I suggest you study more on church history.  (I suggest
Henry Chadwick's "The history of the early church," written BTW by a Protestant).  But to really simplify it,
consider this:  the New Testament in its 27 book form was not approved for hundreds of years after they were
written.  How did the church make decisions and stay together without selling out to the powers of its day?
The answer is Holy Tradition. 

2) Icons and Mary - Icons were used very early for worship, but, yes, there were people who opposed them.
If God works through history, as I believe he does, the 7th ecumenical council was confirmation of the ancient
practice.  Having said that, the fact that the issue was resolved in such a definitive way, shows that God also
thought it was important to resolve the issue (since God works through history).

I was very surprised to discover that the 7th ecumenical council was only about icons.  It offers a good
example with the problems of Protestantism.   A majority of Protestant churches accept the 7 councils but don't
use icons.  That is not a consistent position.  Some explain it away by saying that they only accept the parts of
the councils that agree with scriptures, but  if they reject using icons in worship,
how can they say they at all accept the 7th ecumenical council? What the Protestants in the past did was
to re-interpret church history to support their rational  Aristolean logical theories.   

As  far as Mary is concerned, we don't go so far as the Catholics do -- we acknowledge Mary's physical death and
do not support her immaculate conception--but we clearly acknowledge her blessedness (as does Luke 1:42).  Consider
this: even Luther and the Protestant reformers had a high opinion of Mary.  Where did that respect come from?  I'll
admit there may not be enough scriptures warrant such status.  The answer must be tradition.

3)  One church and those not in it.  I would say the vast majority of Orthodox theologens, clerymen, and regular
Orthodox Christians do not think all those outside the church are doomed to hell.  Do you reject Protestantism because
some Protestants say that non-(their denomination) people are doomed?  No, nor should you.  Apply the same logic to
Orthodoxy.

As for the One church, remember that much of church history is of groups of people contending that *they* are the
one true church.  For 1500 years, no one was satisfied with the you-go-your-way and I'll-go-mine "way" of the church.
It wasn't until Protestants couldn't agree with each other that the idea that multiple churches (denominations) could
all still be in the same church was floated. 

This is how I see it:  You had two major churches contending for the designation of The Church.  They split, each claiming
to be the One church.  Then, Protestants come along, make thousands of churches, then say "How could there be only
one true church"

As for educating your children, yeah, bring them to your Orthodox church.  They will learn much and not be fed
liberal theology. 

Finally, congratulations for taking a stand and your concern about the future of the P church and your children's role
in it.  I hope you will keep us informed of your journey.

trifecta


Offline CDHealy

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Re: Church Search
« Reply #4 on: Sun May 08, 2011 - 16:13:28 »
I'm not sure your replies give evidence of your research, and having some familiarity with the sources you claim to be behind your research, I'm quite confident you have no direct citations that directly substantiated your assertions.  Indeed, based on your replies, I see little else here but your raw assertions based on preconceptions (many of which, as I'll address below) are simply mistaken and/or in direct contradiction to the historical evidence that is readily available.

I say this not to be insulting or to offend--though you may no doubt feel offense--but to simply clarify that in public discussions such as these there are the following elements: a) common evidence (textual and historical) and facts which are not proprietary to any one interlocutor but the property of all; b) previously held assumptions by which the common evidence is sifted and evaluated and by which arguments are crafted; c) arguments proper (in which, following the rules of logic and research, parts a and b come together and can be agreed to and/or disputed; and finally d) assertions made without the benefit of argument and/or evidence and which usually are simply expressions of b.

I see in your comments to which I will respond a lot of assertions without any reliance on evidence or argument.  Again, I'm not try to insult or offend, but simply stating what appears to be quite clear.  That said, however, if you do have evidence and/or argument to support your assertions, this would be much welcome, and was what I was requesting originally.

Now to my responses.

***  If the Orthodox church had been directly blessed with the original teachings of the apostles in action, there would have been no need for ecumenical councils.  787AD, and there were still serious lingering questions that affected worship services.  Some on Orthodoxy called it veneration of icons, some said it was idol worship.  Over 700 years to figure out icons, for example.

First of all, this is a rather large and significant misunderstanding of the Councils.  None of the ecumenical Councils ever introduced anything new with regard to Christian belief.  The use of icons, for example, did not need to be "figured out" as their use dates back to the first century catacombs.  And in fact, the house church in Dura-Europos, dating from the AD 200s, demonstrates a very ancient and quite developed usage (you can Google Dura-Europos for more scholarly articles).  The seventh Council did not suddenly determine that icons were now legit, but, rather, answered a very recent innovation--brought on by conflict with Muslims--that prohibited the use of icons.  The ancient practice of using icons won out.

Secondly, the ecumenical Councils did nothing else but answer the question "Who is Jesus Christ?" and answered that question in light of the Apostolic Gospel and Apostolic traditions.  In fact, all the ecumenical Councils were convened because new and innovative ways of speaking about Christ were being introduced (Arianism, Monothelitism, iconoclasm, to name a few), and the Church needed to clarify what was the ancient way, the way of the Gospel from the beginning with the Apostles.

***  Again, referencing Orthodox ecumenical councils:  The Trinity was not defined or it would not have been an agenda of councils.  The point is, the church did not have a dictate from the apostles as to exactly what the Trinity is.  While the Orthodox officially (T.W) understand the Trinity cannot be fully understood in our human condition, definitions were put to the issue at least as late as the 4th century.  BTW, the fact that they see it as a non-understandable mystery is a credit to the Orthodox in my opinion.  I think they are right on that score, but the church did not start out with this agreement.

Again, this is simply mistaken.  There is no evidence to support that the Christians did not have a common teaching regarding the Trinity from the very beginning.  Every council that had to address the doctrine of the Trinity did so because new innovations that had never before been believed were being put forth as Christian teaching.  The Councils had to state, "This is what has been believed always, everywhere and by all."  So, if you will investigate the ecumenical councils with regard to the Trinity, you will see that it is precisely the same as the Scriptures and the earliest Christian writings, without variation.

One other comment I'll make with regard to the councils: particular terminology had to be utilized to safeguard the apostolic tradition; for example the term hypotasis (used in the epistle to the Hebrews, but otherwise a relatively little-used term).  The Christians appropriated the term so as to distinguish the proper ancient tradition and the teaching on Christ from that of the Arian heresies.  But the use of the new term was not an introduction of something new into the Christian faith: it was a reaffirmation of what had been believed always, everywhere and by all.  The term was used so as to distinguish the Tradition from the new innovations and heresies being introduced among Christians.

So, while new terminology appears from time to time throughout Christian history, this in no way is an introduction of something new into the beliefs of the Christians.  It was, rather, used to preserve the beliefs already held by the Church.

***  Notice the "strictest sense" limitation.  Tradition was clearly not totally handed down from the apostles.  (see above two answers)  Original church, small "c", seems Ok for a definition if one is cognizant that it was generations from the time of apostolic leadership until the formation of the Orthodox church as we know it... The church structure and many customs were not part of the apostolic churches, they came later.  As far as the original "large C" Church, and one must be a member of Orthodoxy to be saved, Metropolitan Antony Khrapovitsky is pretty clear the he thinks this is true (The Orthodox Church, page 309).  However, the priest I spoke with sees it as a church, the original church, but not the only Church.

I have disputed your assertion that somehow the Orthodox Church introduced new beliefs into Christianity that were not part of the Apostolic deposit.  So I'll not repeat that.

As to the Orthodox Church being the one true Church: there are, as you have discovered, differences among Orthodox as to how strictly to hold these truths.  Some, more rigorous, would hold that there are no Christians outside the Orthodox Church--but this is a minority view and not generally recognized among Orthodox.  Most Orthodox, especially those here in America, believe that the Orthodox Church is the one true Church, period.  But we do not then go on to claim that there are no Christians outside the Orthodox Church.  In fact, most Orthodox Churches will recognize Christian baptism (so long as it's done in the name of the Holy Trinity and by immersion) done in other churches.  (I know of no Orthodox Church that will not recognize marriages done outside the Orthodox Church.)  So there is a belief that the Holy Spirit operates outside the boundaries of the Orthodox Church and does so in grace-filled ways.

That said, however, we also believe that only the Orthodox Church contains the fullness of the faith and life in Christ, that all other churches lack this fullness, though they do not lack grace.  This has been my own personal experience.  I do not doubt my conversion and baptism done many, many years ago long before I became Orthodox.  And I also believe that I experienced God's grace, including answers to prayers, forgiveness and cleansing of sins, etc., while a member of non-Orthodox communities.  But on becoming Orthodox my experience has also been that as an Orthodox my life in Christ and experience of his grace is fuller and richer than any other time prior to becoming Orthodox.  I most definitely want everyone to experience this way of life and the tangible experiences of God's grace and transformation.

I also find it a bit interesting that there seems to be a lot of justification of position based on what past men (bishops, etc.) said instead of scripture.  After all, is this not exactly an issue the Orthodox have with Rome and Protestantism, following what a man, or men, say?

Can you demonstrate how it is anyone can read the Scripture without at the same time interpreting it?  If you cannot, then please demonstrate how it is that one can have an infallible (or at least epistemically certain) knowledge that the interpretation one espouses is the correct one?

***  If I read your meaning right, we're in agreement here.  Looking to the Scripture is what should be done, interpretation being done accordingly.

If we're in agreement, then your point that someone is holding to tradition rather than Scripture seems moot.  The key is not whether or not someone is holding to tradition rather than Scripture but whether that tradition accords with the way Christians for two thousand years have understood Scripture.

***  I knew this would stir the pot.  But if a duck tells me he is only moving his feet, but not really swimming, I'd say, "Silly duck!"  Veneration (worship) was not always totally accepted in the Orthodox church.  If icon veneration was OK with the apostles, it would not have taken over 700 years to politic enough to get the votes to pass it in the 7th council.  Not everyone thought that decision came down on the right side.  There is no icon veneration in the Bible.  The same with Mary.  Where is it in the Bible?  It also is a custom, a "small t" tradition, but not something we're shown Biblically, and not something directly handed down from the apostles or there would have been no reason to still be discussing the veneration of Mary in ecumenical councils centuries after Christ.

Again, you misunderstand the use of icons and the historical evidence for their use.  With all due respect, you cannot look at our practice and judge it according to your spin--especially when we say that your judgment is false.  I happen to know that icons have been used in the Church since the first century.  I happen to know that the teachers of the Faith throughout history have demonstrated that our use of icons is not the worship that is proper to God alone.  And I also have my own experience: I bow before, kiss and say prayers before icons and I in no way worship them.  Period.  Full stop.  For you to contradict me based on your own beliefs is, to say the least, somewhat lacking in humility.

***  I certainly do think the Orthodox is a church of Christ, and a very great people of God throughout the ages, but not solely Christ's Church.  To say it is Christ's Church means all others are damned to hell because Christ only has one Church.  All those who heard Christ and the traveling apostles did not necessarily belong to one of the original churches the Orthodox cite as its beginning.  And what about the "other sheep?"

***John 10-16  And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, [and] one shepherd.


***  Obviously these sheep were not of the Orthodox church (which was not yet formed).  The Orthodox do not have a monopoly on being Christs Church.   I have great respect, but also concerns about some issues.

See my comments above.  It does not follow that because we claim Orthodoxy to be the one true Church that all others are damned to hell.  There is no logical necessity to this claim.

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Re: Church Search
« Reply #4 on: Sun May 08, 2011 - 16:13:28 »



Offline Mr. J

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Re: Church Search
« Reply #5 on: Wed May 11, 2011 - 11:28:55 »
The whole of my initial post can be summed up:  Where does Holy Spirit inspired Tradition end, and where does man made tradition start?

Yes, many things can be traced as beginning during the first 100 years after Christ.  That does not mean there is evidence of holy inspiration through the apostles supporting all the traditions we have ended up with at this point.

I'm not in the camp of absolute "sola scriptura."  The Holy Spirit did and can reveal things at will.  That being said, there is absolutely no evidence given us that icons, for example, are an apostolic tradition.

Just because a practice has been performed since almost the time of the apostles does not make it apostolic tradition.  If the apostles did not teach it, it is not apostolic tradition.  Also, in a very general sense; just because the apostles did not specifically teach something does not mean it is necessarily evil.  However, it is improper to claim apostolic tradition for non-apostolic practices.

I'm in no way against tradition.  The most significant reason I'm interested in Orthodoxy is because I see great value in tradition.  But we are also bound to scripture.  "It is written..." is something our Lord said himself.  If a practice is both inspired and required, it follows that it will be in scripture.

Trifecta said in another thread (paraphrased) that Orthodox of different churches may fight like cats and dogs because people that are more alike are more prone to fight than people that are very different.  So true of people.

« Last Edit: Wed May 11, 2011 - 11:49:51 by Mr. J »

Offline chestertonrules

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Re: Church Search
« Reply #6 on: Wed May 11, 2011 - 11:30:58 »
I've been studying a bit on the Orthodox Church, actually trying to decide where to hang my hat  for the rest of my life.  I've made one topic here before and need to thank Trifecta, HRoberson, CDHealy for their book suggestions.

I've read Timothy Ware "The Orthodox Church," and have had two long talks with a priest.  (I'm raised protestant, but unhappy with the huge increase in liberalism.)

I must say, the more I learn about the Orthodox Church the more I am both impressed and distressed.  I very much see the importance of maintaining sameness over generations, but I don't completely buy the Orthodox story of Tradition.  After all, it was a few hundred years after Christ before they finally figured out how they were going to worship.  So much for the idea of Tradition during the first few hundred years.

It took centuries to figure out their version of the Trinity, so it was certainly not handed down from the apostles in the form we see it today.  ( I do think they are closer than most religions.)

I'm not saying I think the Orthodox Church is wrong, I am saying I don't buy the whole "original church" and Tradition story in the strictest sense.  Obviously their own history shows differently.  I also find it a bit interesting that there seems to be a lot of justification of position based on what past men (bishops, etc.) said instead of scripture.  After all, is this not exactly an issue the Orthodox have with Rome and Protestantism, following what a man, or men, say?

On the impressed side of the coin, I had wonderful talks with the priest and find that what I have learned up to now seems to be very similar to how I have viewed the scripture.  The obvious exception to this are the practices of praying for the dead to intercede and worship of Mary and Icons.  Yes, I know they say it is not worship.  It merely looks like worship, sounds like worship, acts like worship, so in a sensible man's view....  Besides, I am not aware of anything Biblical that supports those acts, so they may be a tradition, but they are the Tradition as we are biblically told to keep.

Most importantly, I must keep in mind, "Those who are for me are not against me."  Overall, I am much more positive in my opinion of the Orthodox than not.  I will continue to study, I don't doubt I have more understanding to gain.

If I were forced to choose today between the liberal churches in my area and Orthodox, I may very well choose Orthodox, if only for the reason that I would be assured my children will not be in a church that may well change drastically for the worse in the next few years.  This is the most impressive thing about the Orthodox, even if I do have theological issues with their belief.

I'm not saying a very original and conservative Protestant church may not be more accurate, I just don't know where any exist today.


Please consider reading this book:

http://www.amazon.com/Office-Peter-Structure-Church-Balthasar/dp/0898700205

Offline CDHealy

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Re: Church Search
« Reply #7 on: Wed May 11, 2011 - 12:25:54 »
The whole of my initial post can be summed up:  Where does Holy Spirit inspired Tradition end, and where does man made tradition start?

Great question.  Now here's the meat of it: Who/what is the criterion for determining what is Spirit-inspired and what is not?  Below you claim that you are not pure (or what I would call strong) sola scriptura.  Since you claim this, then you cannot use Scripture alone as the determinant of what is/isn't Spirit-inspired tradition.  You cannot do it and be consistent with your claim, nor, quite frankly, can anyone do it at all.  No one really, truly uses Scripture alone in evaluating anythingAll of us must necessarily interpret Scripture before we can use it to evaluate anything else.  And when we interpret Scripture we are already, even unconsciously, drawing on a tradition.  How do we know that the tradition we use to interpret Scripture is Spirit-inspired?  Do you see the vicious circle here?

In other words, what I'm trying to point out to you is this: when you claim to use Scripture to determine what is/isn't Spirit-inspired tradition, you are already using a tradition which you have not first determined is a Spirit-inspired tradition.

Bottom line: you become your own pope, "infallibly" determining what is and isn't "Spirit-inspired" tradition.

Yes, many things can be traced as beginning during the first 100 years after Christ.  That does not mean there is evidence of holy inspiration from the apostles supporting all the traditions we have ended up with at this point.

So, what counts as "evidence" and what criterion/-ia are you using to determine what does and doesn't count, and why should anyone else accept your criterion/-ia?

I'm not in the camp of absolute "sola scriptura," meaning that yes, the Holy Scripture did and can reveal things at will.  That being said, there is absolutely no evidence given us that icons, for example, are an apostolic tradition.

You're just simply wrong on this point.  The historical evidence is rich; meaning that the archaeological evidence indicates their use from the first century.  The *only* time in history that there ever arose any question as to whether icons were apostolic or not itself is evidence that they were in common and widespread usage.  Further, when this innovation prohibiting the use of icons came about (as a reaction to the growing Muslim influence), entire treatises (from St. John of Damascus, himself an Arab by the way, and St. Theodore the Studite, for example) were written demonstrating that the use of icons was entirely consistent with apostolic teaching.

If a thing is a) entirely consistent with apostolic teaching, and b) has been practiced since the time of the apostles, then it's a pretty sure bet that it's apostolic.

Further, when St. Paul claims to the Galatians that Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified before their very eyes (Galatians 3:1), there is at least the possibility that what he was referring to here was an icon.  (Note: I'm not actually claiming this is a fact, therefore it is not as though my argument depends upon this point.  I am simply stating that it's a possibility, and it derives its possibility from the rest of my argument; i.e., that icons were in use from the beginning and that the use of icons is entirely consistent with apostolic teaching.)

Just because a practice has been performed since almost the time of the apostles does not make it apostolic tradition.  If the apostles did not teach it, it is not apostolic tradition.  Also, in a very general sense; just because the apostles did not specifically teach something does not mean it is necessarily evil.  However, it is improper to claim apostolic tradition for non-apostolic practices.

I agree with the general lines of these principles, but would not give unqualified agreement.  I believe that certain development in practices, say Church governance, are permissible so long as they do not depart from the essence and form of apostolic teaching and practice.

The problem you have here is that your criterion/-ia for determining what is/isn't Spirit-inspired tradition is both unidentified and a huge problem.

I'm in no way against tradition.  The most significant reason I'm interested in Orthodoxy is because I see great value in tradition.  But we are also bound to scripture.  "It is written..." is something our Lord said himself.  If a practice is both inspired and required, it follows that it will be in scripture.

Actually, no, it does not follow.  There is no logical necessity that requires all apostolic practice to be contained within the pages of Holy Scripture.  In fact, Holy Scripture itself specifically denies this.  See 2 Thessalonians 2:15 and 3:6.


Offline Mr. J

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Re: Church Search
« Reply #8 on: Wed May 11, 2011 - 14:54:22 »
"Sola scriptura" is commonly used to describe some Protestant's total rebellion of all tradition if it isn't specifically, literally spelled out in the Bible.  Forgive my using this phrase from the context of how I've head Orthodox and Catholic use it to refer to Protestantism.  So no, I'm not adamantly "sola scriptura" in that sense.  I am open to church practices that may not be exactly spelled out in the Bible, but are in not in disagreement with scripture.  In other words, "small t" traditions.  All churches have some and the Orthodox have many.

Yes, I do understand scripture is sacred and all things must agree with scripture.  Scripture is exactly why I have some issues with what goes on with Orthodoxy.  All of what is done in Orthodoxy is not supported in scripture.  That is why Orthodox cannot support all their traditions via scripture.  They find it necessary to quote priests and historians or use time frame references like "first century" to try to give credence to some ideas and practices.

[No one really, truly uses Scripture alone in evaluating anythingAll of us must necessarily interpret Scripture before we can use it to evaluate anything else.  And when we interpret Scripture we are already, even unconsciously, drawing on a tradition.  How do we know that the tradition we use to interpret Scripture is Spirit-inspired?  Do you see the vicious circle here?

In other words, what I'm trying to point out to you is this: when you claim to use Scripture to determine what is/isn't Spirit-inspired tradition, you are already using a tradition which you have not first determined is a Spirit-inspired tradition.

Bottom line: you become your own pope, "infallibly" determining what is and isn't "Spirit-inspired" tradition.


Wow.   I'm glad the Orthodox priest I've taken counseling with totally disagrees with that statement.  It sounds a bit like the liberal end of Protestantism to say scripture is scripture, more or less.

I'm in no way against tradition.  The most significant reason I'm interested in Orthodoxy is because I see great value in tradition.  But we are also bound to scripture.  "It is written..." is something our Lord said himself.  If a practice is both inspired and required, it follows that it will be in scripture.

Actually, no, it does not follow.  There is no logical necessity that requires all apostolic practice to be contained within the pages of Holy Scripture.  In fact, Holy Scripture itself specifically denies this.  See 2 Thessalonians 2:15 and 3:6.

Yes, Tessalonians 2:15:  "Therefore brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle."

This is exactly why I'm not adamantly "sola scriptura" and am open to real traditions handed down from the apostles that may not be written.  I'm not open to just anything done in the first century, practices no different than pagans did for all time. 

The first century is not a magical time when everything done was somehow just fine.  A time frame cannot be used to justify anything, good or evil.

So, all apostolic practice must be either by epistle or word, as shown above.  This makes it easy to show apostolic tradition; just show the scripture or show the practice under apostolic leadership while they were still alive.  Saying "first century" does not get it.  And yes, I'm willing to learn, which is why I started making postings in the first place.

Yes, Thessalonians 3:6: "Now we command you brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us."

So, get the "us" in "received from us."  Nowhere did we receive icon or Mary practices from the apostles.  If documentation was available, then you would have shown it.  The closest anyone (not picking on you personally) can get is; "first century."  Sort of like, "Long ago, in a land far away..."

There is absolutely nothing that shows receiving some of these practices from the apostles.  Paul was not saying to accept what came during the first 100 years after the apostles.  He used past tense in this verse, meaning what had already been received up to that point, not additional stuff to come twenty or thirty years later after the apostles were gone.

If Orthodox want to accept these practices on faith, then so be it.  But it cannot be honestly claimed to be apostolic Tradition.  If it could be, you and every other Orthodox would readily have the scripture or documents or letters or something to show it.  But nobody has such backup.  Nor did they have such backup at the ecumenical councils or it would not have taken over 700 years to OK first century (post apostolic) icon practices.

The combined churches that in 325AD became what we know now as the Orthodox Church, was a man made institution.  It is not perfect, nor do I expect it to be.  It has housed great goodness and great evil.  It has been instrumental in saving untold millions of souls.  It has persecuted and murdered millions.  Like all institutions on earth, it is vulnerable because it is man made.

I'm not being disrespectful of the Orthodox Church when I question some practices that are claimed to be apostolic when there is no backup.  It does not mean I think it is a negative organization.  Quite the contrary.  The greatest amount of what I see is very much in line with biblical teaching, much more so than most churches.



Offline CDHealy

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Re: Church Search
« Reply #9 on: Thu May 26, 2011 - 09:01:49 »
You contradict yourself, sir.  You claim not to be absolute on sola scriptura, and yet you do not accept first century practices (or later ones) because you demand "So, all apostolic practice must be either by epistle or word, as shown above.  This makes it easy to show apostolic tradition; just show the scripture or show the practice under apostolic leadership while they were still alive."  This is a nice, tight circle for you which begs the question, ensuring that you set the demands and that all is arbitrated by your own set of presuppositions.

In point of fact, I've already stated to you above (let's take icons) that:
1) It is a first century practice that dates from the time of the apostles
2) Expositions by St John Damascene and St Theodore the Studite, written during the time of the iconoclast heresy to defend the ancient practice, demonstrate conclusively that the practice of using icons not only does not violate any Scripture or apostolic command, but in fact is wholly consonant with the apostolic dogma of the Incarnation
3) The only controversy in the first millennium arising from the ancient practice did not arise for several *centuries* and was wholly addressed in light of the apostolic tradition

So, you set the game up according to your presuppositional rules: it doesn't count as an apostolic practice unless it can be "verified" by Scipture or somehow demonstrating it was a practice under the apostles; and since you say one can't claim that a first century practice is the same as it being a practice under the apostles, all we're left with is Scripture.

In the end your protestations of not being absolute on sola scriptura ring a little hollow.

The true test of whether a practice or teaching not unambiguously attested to in Scripture is apostolic is:
1) does it date early to the time of the apostles (while allowing for some development of details of the practice or over time; but still asserting that the practice or teaching's core essence dates back to the apostles)
2) is it practiced everywhere and by all
3) is it wholly consonant with apostolic teaching

Offline Mr. J

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Re: Church Search
« Reply #10 on: Thu May 26, 2011 - 17:56:10 »
I only asked for evidence, which is not forthcoming.  Perhaps all things cannot be evidenced.

The whole of belief in Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God, is based upon faith.  There are endless evidences of God's creation, but in the end, it is faith we are called upon to practice.

And so with this discussion.  There are practices that cannot be fully evidenced as being directly from the apostles.  My initial thought and learning is to question such practices.  This is not to say I claim they are wrong practices.  I was searching for evidence.  There is a limit to evidence.  Such is belief in the mysteries of God.

I spoke again today to the Abbot.  I do enjoy his conversation.  We spoke on matters not concerning these posts.

I appreciate your posts and your steadfastness.  I do not agree with all you posted, but that isn't so necessary.  Faith is the important thing.  Some of us will be different than others, some will be of differing flocks.  

"For he that is not against us is on our part."  Mark 9:40
« Last Edit: Thu May 26, 2011 - 19:31:47 by Mr. J »

Offline CDHealy

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Re: Church Search
« Reply #11 on: Thu May 26, 2011 - 19:52:53 »
I only asked for evidence, which is not forthcoming.

With respect, you were given evidence which you could follow for yourself (I assume you have the capacity to trace the references to St John Damascene and St Theodore the Studite, as well as the archaeological evidences I've referenced).

You reject the evidence due to an undisclosed bias and an unarticulated set of presuppositions.  That of course is your perogative.

But if you were to practice due diligence and follow the research markers I've given you to follow, you will find yourself with far more evidence than you at present can admit to.