January 14, 2022
It’s all yours today…
August 24, 2012
March 11, 2016
May 10, 2013
Is it fair to say that the press has tried to hijack the term *evangelical?” It seems to me that anyone who calls himself a Christian should be evangelical….. A conservative should be evangelical, BUT
NOT a watered down, compromising with popular politics…. ? ? ?
Taliban? ? ? Say what???
Bible’s purpose is not inspiration, but transformation! ….. Amen
But what do I know? I am old….. 😚
Lots of ponders there, Michael ….. Thank you!
“Is it fair to say that the press has tried to hijack the term *evangelical?””
The term has been hijacked by American nationalists to its ruin.
Good choice in terms of Stackhouse. He’s pretty well on the money with his analysis although I think the issues with American evangelicalism go beyond the “idol of nationalism”.
He only had half an hour… 🙂
John Stackhouse is one of my favorite theologians…as is his wife Carolyn…
More Americans belong and ID with the mainline churches than those who are “evangelical.” 16% mainline, 14% evangelical.
Since 2006, white evangelical Protestants have experienced the most precipitous drop in affiliation, shrinking from 23% of Americans in 2006 to 14% in 2020. That proportion has generally held steady since 2017 (15% in 2017, 2018, and 2019).
In the westward expansion –
Methodists rode horses
Lutherans travelled in wagons
Presbyterians used carriages
Episcopalians waited for the railways to be built…
What’s the major theological or practical differences of belief and orthography between Orthodox and Evangelical Christians?
The Orthodox are sacramental the evangelical are symbolic in regard to baptism and supper.
A lot more but this is central.
A good introduction is ‘The Orthodox Way’ by Kallistos Ware. It’s short, easy to read and informative…
Ware is a good readable resource. You may find a home if you’re not careful.
In our casual conversations here, there seems to be a major a major divide between Evangelicals and Orthodox beliefs. I’ll read the book, but can you guys speak to the major differences—if there are any? Just so I am understanding you, Dread, what do you mean by the terms “sacramental” and “symbolic” in regards to Baptism and the Lord’s supper?
Please forgive my ignorance
Yes the orthodox see the sacraments as a work done by God — received when done and worked out throughout the life of worship and devotion. For evangelicals the supper and baptism are signs of what God has done in which we participate but no actual transaction happens in the act.
For the orthodox there is one true church being the orthodox faith as an unbroken fellowship flowing back to the apostles. the church is ruled by an episcopacy with apostolic succession.
Salvation is theosis or the process of union with God and being freed from sin. God became what we are in order to make us what he is. In this the distinction between God and man remains.
This is a poor and incomplete statement but summaries abound to be found online. The Orthodox and the Catholic split in 1054 over the doctrine of the procession of the Spirit (Filioque). That was a long process and an unfortunate schism. I think the split was more ecclesial than theological but it is not my expertise.
There are major theological differences – church, sacraments, a view of history and theology. In many ways it is a world unto itself. When I lectured in an Orthodox seminary in Russia, the students were a bit baffled why I wasn’t Orthodox! In the course of discussions it became clear that while we believed many of the same things, there were also differences owing to culture and history. In the west we approach things very differently, even when we use the same language. This is why Ware is so good. As a native born Englishman (double First at Oxford) , he helps to build bridges in his explanations. He is, by the way, a charming person…
Dread and Duane, thanks for those definitions and examples.
All, in practice, what are the differences? If we agree on the essence of the gospel, in that we receive a sacrificed Christ for salvation and sanctification while we’re on this earth, how do the differences play out in different traditions? Is God really in control? Can He meet us where were at, whether evangelical, orthodox, or other? Can He introduce what we need in our lives to draw near to Him? Do we trust for that? What does that look like?
Please remember that I have not studied this, so basics are important. Many thanks.
Xenia would be the best to weigh in on this. You are right, however, God does meet us where we are… More tomorrow… cocktails with my wife this evening!
There are a couple of things evangelicals will wrestle with first in Orthodoxy.
There is no doctrine of justification by faith alone and there is a “works” component.
Oh… and no pews…
Xena? Can you weigh in on this question?
What? No pews? ? ? 😯
Does the bread and wine actually turn into the flesh and blood of Jesus as many have been taught?
The Logos became flesh and blood. He can give us his flesh and blood to eat and drink according to his word and according to his good will. Nothing is impossible for him.
But you likely know the various views of the Supper that invokes your question.
“Does the bread and wine actually turn into the flesh and blood of Jesus as many have been taught?”
Am I going to argue about it?
Is there scientific evidence to support that claim?
It’s not a scientific claim.
What are the differences? To borrow a phrase from my old friend Peter Gillquist, it’s “the physical side of being spiritual”. Yes, it is the same Christ and the same narrative of salvation, but the message is proclaimed in a physical liturgy, within a physical and unique Church calendar and it finds its apogee in the eucharist in which we physically encounter Christ in his words (This is my Body… This is my Blood) and in the consecrated elements of Bread and Wine.
On a practical level the worship and structure of Church is “set”, that is, it is not a reflection of the whims or peculiarities of the pastor(s) or worship leader(s). The sermon also tends to steer clear of “hobby horses”, at least in a majority of liturgical/sacramental churches.
I also need to say, people can find this worship and structure in many different places. Back in the late 70s there was a group of us searching for something outside of evangelicalism, or at least something that could ground our evangelical ideals. We were tired of people and pastors “making it up as they went along”. Yet, we did not all end up in the same place. Peter Gillquist and his group ended up in the Orthodox Church (along with Duane Pederson of the Hollywood Free Press). My dear friend John Michael Talbot was attracted by the life and message of Francis of Assisi and became a Roman Catholic. Robert Webber and I became Anglicans. Our journeys, beliefs and motives, however, were much the same.
I recently ran across a video of a homily on prayer that I delivered 35 years ago. I could give the exact same sermon today and not change a word. Moreover, I could circulate that sermon among my old friends in these varied traditions knowing that all would assent. I’m pretty certain that this would not be the case if I chose one from my evangelical days. It’s as much about the spirit in which one acts as it is about the theology that stands behind that spirit.
I’ll answer some questions, if I can.
I think the most observable difference in our everyday lives is the importance of physical things in our corporate, family, and private worship. We believe God uses physical matter to work out our salvation, with the biggest example being Jesus Himself, who came in a real physical, not ephemeral, body. So matter matters.
Therefore, we believe the bread and wine really do become the Body and Blood of Christ, but we don’t attempt to explain it. We believe holy water, incense, icons, etc. in some way bless us as we live our lives in Christ. So there’s a lot of “holy” things in an Orthodox Church and an Orthodox family home.
We believe salvation is a process as we live our lives in Christ, with the goal being theosis (joining with Christ) which is completed in heaven.
We believe holy people who have made it to the finish line before us, accept prayer requests, and pray for us, since the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. We have paintings (icons) of these holy people all over our churches and houses, as most people have photos of family members. We love them, but we don’t worship them.
We believe baptism in real physical water saves people, even babies, but he/she who endures to the end will actually be saved.
We believe in confession to our priest. He is not the one who forgives us, he’s the God-appointed witness. We believe in living lives of repentance.
We are not Sola scriptura, we have Tradition, of which the Scriptures (including the Apocrypha) are the most important part. We also consider the 7 Ecumenical Councils and the writings of the Fathers to be part of the Tradition. We believe in Bible study, but Sunday morning liturgy is not a Bible study.
We are amillennial, so no beliefs about a Rapture.
Pious Orthodox Christians should have morning and evening prayers. We use prayer books to help with this.
We keep lenten fasts four times a year, with Great Lent before Easter being the most rigorous.
It’s not a sin to not keep the fasts, by the way.
Our creed is the Nicene Creed minus the Filioque.
Our priest can be married, our bishops are not married.
We have a robust monastic system which is very, very conservative. There aren’t orders, like the RC orders (Jesuits, Benedictines, etc.) There’s just male and female monastics. We like to visit monasteries. 🙂
We celebrate many holy days beside Christmas and Easter, such as Pentecost, Theophany, the Dormition of the Theotokos, and days for Saints.
All Orthodox churches (except for a small group that observes the Western Rite) have the same liturgy, that being the liturgy of St. John Chrysostom. The longer liturgy of St. Basil is served on special occasions.
The cultural divide in Orthodoxy falls between the Slavs and the Mediterranean-area churches.
We believe we are saved by grace and not by our works, but our lives in Christ consist of cooperating with Him on daily basis, thereby working out our salvation. We are not monergists, we are synergists. We believe in free will, if God wills it.
We use the LXX (Septuagint) version of the Old Testament.
We cross ourselves, although in the opposite direction the Catholics cross themselves. We do this with the same regularity that a Pentecostal will say “Praise God!” We also cross ourselves when the Trinity is mentioned, or if we hear sirens in the distance, or when we are awaked in the morning by the emergency broadcast system with Tsunami advisories, as happened today.
We have a deep and reverent love for the Mother of God. We have songs to her, as we have songs for all the Saints. I sing a little song to my St. Xenia most every night. I love her. 🙂
Politically, Orthodox Christians run the gamut, with Greeks being most likely to be a little more liberal in some areas and with Slavic parishes (Serbs, Russians, Bulgarians, etc) being more likely to be be politically conservative. I have never heard a whisper of politics in any EO homily, but individuals have their own opinions and sometimes it’s better not to ask.
So what have I left out….
That’s a superb confession.
Many Orthodox churches in America do have pews, especially among the Greek and Antiochian parishes. Our parish has some chairs along the walls and an old piano bench in the back.
Thanks for the time and effort to compile this information—as well as the info itself. Also to dread and michael.
Many thanks… always better from the inside than the outside!
Here is a Commencement Address that I consider the official founding of Evangelicalism. Preparations had quietly been underway for some time, but 10-1-1947 was it’s public proclamation.
You have to parce Ockenga’s text. He is referring to the destruction of the war. America is the only world power to escape it’s destruction due to the fighting took place on foreign soil.
Evangelism has culture war in it’s DNA. Ockenga will call in the latter paragraphs for a social contract. It is also predicated on American global dominance. Again, latter paragraphs. What is missing is Evangelical jargon, since that will only develope in subsequent decades.
Ockenga, and his audience on that day, where Fundamentalist, but embarrassed to be called Fundamentalist. I was schooled by Fundamentalist, but a type unwilling to hide their Pre-War Fundamentalism. Yes, they wanted power, but where not willing to pragmatically shut up about dancing, pool halls, jazz, black people and how God hates everybody.
Take away.. Evangelicalism = American military / economic power.
A few more things I just thought of:
We don’t use musical instruments in our church services, it’s all acapella, with the hymns and prayers being sung/chanted by a choir that is usually out of sight. The choir represents the congregation. (Greek churches have chanters, which is the same idea, but sounds more exotic.) We also have Readers who are specially appointed to chant/ read/ sing portions of the Scriptures. Only a Deacon or the Priest read from the Gospels.
Many Russian parishes use Church Slavonic, a language with a fascinating history but which very few understand. It was originally used as a language that most Slavic people could more or less understand, but in my opinion, and the opinion of many, it’s a relic of the past and the Liturgy should be in the language of the people. Happily, this is changing for the better. Some Greek parishes use all Greek, especially Greek monasteries, even here in America.
We keep a short fast before Communion, which means nothing by mouth, not even water, not even COFFEE, from midnight til Communion the next morning. We are all pretty hungry (and thirsty) by the time Liturgy is over, so we always have a meal in the church hall afterwards. In our parish, it’s a potluck.
We all have a Saint’s name. Some converts swap over to their Saint’s name, like I did, but some just use it for church. When I go up for Communion Father G. says “Handmaiden of God Xenia receives the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins and for the healing of soul and body.”
Even babies receive Communion.
If I think of anything more, of if anyone has questions, I’ll try to answer.
You might say something about the international scope of Orthodoxy. Many Americans are unaware…
“We like to visit monasteries. 🙂”
So do I.
Years ago I was on a motorcycle trip with a guy who has a different rhythm than I do when riding, and it was draining on me. We stopped for lunch at a Greek Orthodox monastery (he didn’t really care about it), and after we ate, I found a nice piece of grass and slept for almost two hours, No one bothered me. I was recharged and able to finish the trip.
Xenia…thank you so much for your explanation. I agree–the capsulation of your beliefs was clear and concise and I really appreciate it. I’ve heard you explain about the icons and images, and listened for a time to an orthodox podcast you recommended, so this is not unfamiliar to me.
In response to Michael’s comments:
Regarding a works component, I think James covers it–you’ll get no argument from me there. Where we get into trouble is works in place of faith.
Regarding the pews–I’m just grateful to have a place to rest my arthritic bones, whether it be a pew, a cold metal chair or a something to lean against!
Regarding transubstantiation, I have a hard time with this one because I want to understand the why. I realize we don’t always know the why, never-the-less, I have questions.
-Why must a priest be the one to consecrate the supper?
-Why is it essential that the actual body and blood of Christ be taken into our physical bodies? I know Xenia said “we don’t try to explain it” and I’m not interested in arguing about it.
-Is confession to a priest a tradition or an essential element of the orthodox faith? We know that James says to confess our sins to one another. Is this in keeping with the liturgy in the sense that all critical elements of the life of faith are offered by the church?
Duane, thank you for your explanation. I’ve been off and on the PP site for years and there were lots of discussions during the Calvary Chapel controversies that suggested that many of the problems in independent evangelical churches could be avoided with liturgy and association with well-established ministries or denominations that provide accountability.
To be fair, that can also be avoided with an independent board and elders, though I’ve seen that go awry, too. I’ve had several friends leave evangelical churches and choose liturgical churches. It’s my experience that I learn a different aspect of faith and ministry at different churches of which I’ve been a part.
My brother-in-law studied for many years to become an RC priest. He never took his final vows. He married a woman who is protestant and they attended an orthodox church and had their children baptized there. To my surprise, they performed an exorcism before the infant baptism. I’ll have to dig to better understand that tradition.
Xenia–thank you for the further explanation. One of my husband’s cousins, a devout believer, entered a discalced RC order and took a new name. I understand the significance of this. She and I have always been close and we continue to exchange prayer requests.
pstrmike and Xenia–I like visiting monasteries, too. Mostly I like peaceful places and must admit I’m an introvert by nature.
Why must priests consecrate the supper?<<<
I think the simplest answer is that it was an office appointed for them by God. In the writings of St. Ignatius, who was a disciple of the Apostle John and MAY have been the child Jesus put on his lap, he makes the case for the offices of Bishop-Priest-Deacon. It's the Bishop who has the authority to ask the Holy Spirit to transform the bread and wine, but he delegates this authority to the priests in his area, too. (Not to deacons.) I think it's a matter of good order? If I or anyone could just take some bread and wine in hand and claim it was the Body and Blood of Christ, what would the people I gave it to actually receive? I think it's all about authority. It's set aside for the clergy, it's special, it's sanctified. This is quite different from the extremely casual way communion was celebrated in some churches I attended in the past.
Confession. <<< If I sin against an individual, I need to repent and apologize to that person and make any amends I can. A formal confession before (not "to") a priest makes it real. I remember being in the company of some people in my former days who would sin and then say "Sorry Lord!" and then go back to whatever they were doing. If they had to tell their faults to a priest and he says "The Lord forgives you" and offers some counsel, etc., it makes more of an impact, especially if you have to go back the next week and confess the same sin! It really helps, at least, that's what I've found. Even in my Calvary Chapel days I tried to confess a few things to my pastor, but he was very uncomfortable and finally said "Why are you telling me this?" Of course, if you are in the middle of nowhere with no clergy around you can still repent and talk to God. We can always talk to God.
Is it essential that the real Body and Blood be taken into our bodies… <<< I've wondered about this a lot. I would say it is "normal" Christianity and it's the way God proscribed that we receive the "medicine of immortality." But as with many things, I look around and have to adjust my thinking to fit what I see. I see millions of Christians who do not receive the Body and Blood of Christ. So do I say they can't be saved? God forbid! God is not willing that any should perish. So I think He has made accommodations for all who believe in His Son. I think the Eucharist is extremely important, but I cannot doubt the obvious fact that millions of believers get along ok without it. Let's be honest: Where were the Orthodox when people all over the world were being evangelized by Protestant and Catholic missionaries? We had our times of great evangelization, and I think we will again, but right now we are in the process of gathering up the remnants that remain, both in Russia, the Middle East, and here in the USA, which is a weird and special case.
Xenia…you understand your faith and communicate it so well.
My husband and I were discussing this at breakfast this morning and I’d read My Utmost for His Highest, which talked about the day you decide to obey the Lord not matter what He asks. We talked about Abram/Abraham’s faith in not questioning the Lord, but traveling to an unknown destination. About Moses putting a bronze snake on a pole, but not understanding the representation of the savior, made sin for us, crucified on a tree that we might be saved from the bite of sin. He just obeyed. There is blessing in obedience every time. Of that I am sure. And, having gone through many physical problems and difficulties the last year and a half, I now understand the deeper fellowship we have with the Lord, most especially in suffering. That suffering has made me more of an evangelist.
I understand gathering up the remnants, where countries with orthodox faiths have suffered greatly.
I so appreciate your witness, your honesty, and your gentle spirit Xenia.
I’m with Linnea on standing…..
The local Orthodox church here wants people to stand, sing in a language that I do not know, and adhere to a dress code. That and the priest has the same narrow epistemological perspective of some I know in his former Protestant denomination. I decided to pass.
“In the writings of St. Ignatius, who was a disciple of the Apostle John and MAY have been the child Jesus put on his lap, ”
Ignatius of Antioch?
” I think the Eucharist is extremely important, but I cannot doubt the obvious fact that millions of believers get along ok without it.”
Michael and I had a similar discussion earlier this week in regards to another sacrament. There are always the outliers, and it is hard to know how to understand those cases.
I don’t consider participation in the sacraments work—we take communion often in our church—and I agree that it is of great value. But many I know seem to get along just fine without frequent participation in the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper/Communion, etc. But then again, I do not believe in the transubstantiation, although I am convinced that there is definitely more going on than a strict memorializing of the death of Christ.
“Of course, if you are in the middle of nowhere with no clergy around you can still repent and talk to God. We can always talk to God.”
I think of the Desert Fathers and Mothers who did not always have access to a confessor or even a church in which to take communion with. I equate their physical desert experience with our spiritual desert experience of our day. Like the early monastics, we have to make due in environment we find ourselves in.
I decided to pass.<<<
I hear you. I almost wonder if I know who this priest is.
“I decided to pass…”
Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, Lutheranism all occasionally suffer from “the zeal of a convert”…. Just sayin’
Thank you Xenia for sharing and helping me to understand what you believe and why.
Xenia and I had that conversation here many years ago about a friend who found himself in Orthodoxy and then attempted to to take on one of the leaders within his diocese. He had, at least in his own mind, become more orthodox than the orthodox. But of course, it is that zeal I think, that drives them to search out another tradition.
FWIW, I’ve had Ware’s book for about 15 years. Its a good read.
One last comment, then I’m gone……
Trans substantiation is, for me, puzzling, i.e., why would our Lord mingle His Holy body and blood with our rotting and dying flesh? ? ?
You’re welcome, everybody, and thank you for the kind words. I only hope I explained everything properly!
Remarkably well done!
Em…my husband and I discussed your comment this morning. What happens to the host when it passes out of your body? I don’t mean this to sound crass.
I’ve read accounts of RC nuns who want to receive the communion every day to to be in communion with the Lord.
In my life, I can be in communion with the Lord with or without the supper, though I prefer the communion because it reminds me to confess my sin to Him and to be in fellowship with other Christians.
There are so many touch points that remind me of what God has done, and continues to do for us. A beautiful sunset, budding trees, someone encouraged, someone healed, even a minuscule move from atheism to agnosticism, fractals represented in plants, the solar system that reflects the atomic structure, and numerous other applications. I’ve learned to find encouragement in everyday happenings and in complex explanations. He truly is above all and in all.
My favorite verse is “He is above all things and in Him, all things hold together”, Colossians 1:17.
“why would our Lord mingle His Holy body and blood with our rotting and dying flesh? ? ?”
To begin the process of transforming us into truly new creation…and as a means of grace…
The body and blood do not leave the body…
My wife’s great-Aunt was married to the Headmaster of Westminster School, London. Visiting her on our honeymoon in 1980 we told her we were going one evening to a lecture by Kallistos Ware. She said, “You mean Timothy! He used to eat all my biscuits we he came for tea at school… He lives just a street away…” She invited the Bishop for tea the next day and, of course, he came!😁
I met Bp. Kallistos Ware, too. He was the speaker at an event for the Orthodox school I used to attend in San Francisco.
Well this thread is a breath of fresh air 🙂
she must have made great biscuits! lol!!!!
“I’ve read accounts of RC nuns who want to receive the communion every day to to be in communion with the Lord.”
I would like to do the same. Taking communion helps me stay connected—in union with Christ. It is not necessary, IMO, but helpful to do so.
Xenia, (perhaps you missed this question above)
“In the writings of St. Ignatius, who was a disciple of the Apostle John and MAY have been the child Jesus put on his lap, ”
Ignatius of Antioch?
Yes, St. Ignatius of Antioch, not St. Ignatius of Loyola.
I wish that made sense…. our bodies all rot, slower, if you’ve been embalmed, but….
Thank you, though for the answer
Em, something I’ve struggled with since becoming a Christian is the verse Psalm 139:14 “I am fearfully and wonderfully made…”
Since the moment we were married, my husband advised that I meditate on that verse. We’ve been married 33 years. It wasn’t until all the physical and mental suffering I’ve gone through over the last few years that he suggested that we are made for fellowship with Him, not necessarily to hold up long in this world. Now that made sense to me.
Yes, we start dying the moment we are born, but we are made for eternal fellowship with Him though our bodies waste away. Not sure if that helps…
Thanks Xenia. I knew it wasn’t Loyola who was 16th century…. I actually got a book in the mail yesterday concerning the Spiritual Exercises.
I have catastrophic problems with the ROC on account of Stalin alone, but you said things here that blew my mind. I ended my faith journey an Anglican, and I suspect we have a lot in common when it comes to why.
Reuben, Stalin? In what way?
On another note, congrats on your youngest one’s latest worship song writing endeavor.
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