Essay. Eastern Orthodoxy, part 2

Posted by 2 on September 14, 2006
Man's Religions

In a previous article I overviewed the history and theology of Eastern Orthodoxy. In this article I shall expose some of the common fallacies that Eastern Orthodoxy apologists commit when arguing for their position.

1. The first it what I shall call the Antiquity Fallacy. This is the fallacy that appeals to the antiquity of a position to prove its truth – the older the position, the better. This type of argument is fallacious because the age of an idea or position is irrelevant to the truth of it. There are innumerable positions that are at the same time ancient and false just as there are many discoveries that are recent and true. And so to assert that one’s theological perspective is true on the basis that it has been around longer than any other view (assuming that it can be factually established) is to use flawed reasoning. Thus even if Eastern Orthodoxy has antecedents that pre-date any other tradition – and this is something that is runs counter to the historical evidence – it does not follow that Eastern Orthodoxy is true.

2. The second is the Consensus Fallacy. This type of argument fallaciously appeals to a consensus of people. This fallacy may take a crass form of appealing simply to the number of people who adhere to a particular position or, in a more sophisticated form, to a consensus of reputed experts or those who are in a privileged position. But is a position really proved to be the case just because the majority of people or even experts believe it to be the case? Take the example of Darwinism. Most “experts” believe Darwinism is true. Does this mere fact prove that Darwinism is true?

These first two fallacies often appear together in Orthodox literature. I call this the Ancient Consensus Fallacy. I will deal with arguments that combine fallacies below.

3. The third is the Mormon Fallacy. This is a fallacious appeal to personal experience, whether an individual’s experience or a group’s. Many have spoken with Mormon missionaries at their door and have discovered that they (Mormons) ultimately assert the truth of their religion on the basis of personal experience. When asked how they know their view is true they often respond that God has personally revealed it to them or that they had a burning in the bosom. But personal experience is not determinative in establishing the truth of one’s position or to even give warrant for another to belief in that position. Every cultist and religious practitioner has a testimony. The point is not whether one feels something to be true, the point is whether something is true.

Thus, the way to answer a Mormon is to say, “I have a burning in my bosom which testifies that your position is wrong.” What is he to say at that point? You can see how the debate has degenerated: “I testify that you are wrong” “I testify that you are wrong” and so on. We are left with mere name-calling – fool, fool; heretic, heretic.

Many apologists for Orthodoxy make this same appeal to personal experience. Though their presentations are usually not as obviously fatuous as that of the Mormon’s, since Orthodox apologists more often appeal to the experience of a group of people rather than the experience of an individual, it is fallacious nonetheless.

4. The fourth fallacy is the Continuity Fallacy. The fallacy is committed when one asserts the truth of his position on the basis of historical continuity.

Many religions can, of course, claim historical continuity. Muslims, for example, claim their religion has not altered since the time of Mohammed and has had continuity in its adherence to the prophet’s teaching. Does this thereby prove the truth of Islam?

This fallacy is seen in the argument that since church x has apostolic succession – Peter laid hands on x, x laid hands on y, y laid hands on z and so on – it must be the true church. Ignoring for the moment the factual controversy surrounding this claim – Rome claims to have apostolic succession in this sense as do the national churches that came out of the Reformation – continuity by itself cannot establish which is the true church.1 The question can always be asked: “Yes, but is that what Jesus and the apostles taught?”

5. The fifth is the Appeal to Unity Fallacy. This fallacy appeals to the unity, whether personal or doctrinal, of a position’s adherents in order to establish the truth of the position. All things being equal, unity is a good thing, but unity is not relevant in determining the truth of a position.

This appeal to unity is often used as a dig on Protestantism for its lack of unity. Orthodox polemicists never tire of asserting that there are thousands of Protestant denominations. This, they imply, shows the fraudulent nature of Protestantism.

It must acknowledged that this fragmentation of it is a great tragedy that is the result of human sin and no excuse can or should be offered to attenuate the sin much less exonerate it. Nevertheless, this lack of unity in Protestantism and supposed unity in Orthodoxy does not lend support to the falsity of the former and truth of the latter.

First, the unity of Eastern Orthodoxy is greatly exaggerated. Space constraints prohibit me from going into details, but there are many disputes within Eastern Orthodoxy – disputes over authority, jurisdiction, theology, attitudes toward the ecumenical movement, monasticism, ritual (there is, for example, a split in the Russian Orthodox Church over whether to make the sign of the cross with two fingers or three fingers) and even over the religious calendar. It is just not true to assert that Orthodoxy exhibits a conspicuous unity of faith.

Second, claims to unity are more or less vacuous. Definitionally, the unity of Eastern Orthodoxy consists in its constituent churches having communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. If any ecclesiastical body rejects the authority of this Patriarchate, they are not a part of Orthodoxy. It is, thus, not difficult to maintain unity on this basis. Every church, religious body or even social club has unity in this sense. It merely means that a group’s adherents have fundamental agreements with one another. If unity is to be considered a test for truth, then the Orthodox Presbyterian Church is the one true church because it is unified. This criterion obviously proves too much.

Third, this argument proves too much in the other direction. If unity is determinative in establishing the truth of a position then Christianity is false. Christianity has had three major schisms: the Oriental Orthodox Churches (including the Church of the East and the Coptic and Armenian Churches) broke off from the main body of Christians in the 5th and 6th centuries; the Byzantine Church and the Western Church split in the 11th century; the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant Church divided in the 16th century. Muslims can give a much better account of themselves in this regard. Does this entail the truth of Islam? This is a simpleton’s argument.

6. The sixth fallacy is that of Circular Reasoning. This elementary fallacy occurs when one asserts one thing on the basis of another and then asserts the other on the basis of the first. For example, one may argue that Marxism is true and its truth is seen in the outworking of the historical dialectic. He may then argue that history should be viewed as dialectically working itself in a certain way because Marxism says it does. Each argument is dependent upon the other for support.

This type of fallacy is prevalent, albeit implicit, in Orthodox thinking. Question: How do you know Eastern Orthodoxy is true? Answer: Because it comports with Tradition. Question: How do you know what Tradition teaches? Answer: It is preserved in the living and true Orthodox Church. But now we are back to square one.

7. The last fallacy is what I shall call the Cuisinart Fallacy. This is the fallacy of combining fallacious arguments in order to come up with a supposed stronger argument to prove one’s conclusion. Some Orthodox polemicists recognize that any given argument previously discussed is not sufficient to establish the truth of Orthodoxy. So rather than abandoning them, they combine them with other fallacious arguments to prove their position. The problem is that combining many bad arguments does not produce a good argument any more than combining spoiled or rotten food in a Cuisinart results in good and nutritious beverage.

When an apologist for Eastern Orthodoxy presents his case, it has been my experience that he inevitably commits one or more of these fallacies in reasoning. And this being so, his case is left unproved. And without proof, there is no reason to accept the claim the Orthodox Church is indeed the true apostolic church.

But just because the positive case for Orthodoxy is not proved, it does not follow that Orthodoxy is false. To declare so would be to commit the converse of the appeal to ignorance fallacy. The appeal to ignorance fallacy is committed when one asserts the truth of something on the sole basis that its falsity has not been proven. Thus, just because it has not been disproved that there is a colony of gnomes living in the center of the earth, does not entail that we should believe that there is such a colony. Conversely, just because the case for Orthodoxy has not be proved does not entail that Orthodoxy is false. All it means is that Orthodox polemicists have given no reason to believe that Orthodoxy is true. Nevertheless this is a fatal observation. If Orthodoxy does not give us any cogent reason to believe it is true, we are fully justified, indeed we are rationally compelled, to reject it out of hand.

In a future article, I will examine the Eastern Orthodox view of authority and show that it is internally inconsistent.


1. Though apostolic succession is not a sufficient condition for a church’s legitimacy, it is a necessary one. Many of the independent Protestant churches of our era lack this requisite credential.


29 Comments to Essay. Eastern Orthodoxy, part 2

  • hi mike,

    like the cuisinart fallacy title, fits well with many other lines of ideas…

    steve hoffmeister

  • Dear in Christ Mike,

    I will attempt to give a brief response to each of the “fallacies” you have discussed:

    1- Antiquity Fallacy: If one believes that Christ’s promise is true, one has to assert that His redemptive work did not fail and that His visible Church and teachings have been maintained through the centuries. By faith, we understand that the Holy Spirit guides the church, and establishes her on all the truth that has been laid down by those who came before.

    2- Consensus Fallacy: Orthodoxy does not teach that the majority can find the truth. Many councils have been later rejected as “robber” councils. Patriarchs, Popes, and bishops have been anathematized. Orthodoxy is always suspicious of the “majority” knowing the fallen nature of men. In the 7th century, St. maximus the Confessor was alone in the East to oppose Monothelitism. In the 6th Ecumenical Council of 681 AD, Pope Honorius and Patriarch Anastasios were anthematized for Monothelitism.

    3- Mormon Fallacy: Personal opinion or experience is categorically rejected in Orthodoxy. What is normative is the Consencus Patrum from the very beginning.

    4- Continuity Fallacy: As you said, apostolic succession is not enough to guarantee the truth. Only if the true Faith is taught by those who are canonical successors of the Apostles would one dare say that this is the Orthodox Church. A church can be call itself “orthodox”, but if it does not teach the true faith, it is in fact schismatic of heretical.

    5- Appeal to Unity Fallacy: The notion that communion with the see of Constantinople is the sinequanon of being orthodox is false. Historically, the see of Constantinople fell into heresy several times. The church is united only by confessing the True Faith and keeping the Holy traditon of the Apostles. External administrative unity means nothing and is no proof of truth.

    6- Circular Reasoning: The teachings of the Orthodox Church are the same as those found in the writings of the Early Anti-Nicene and Nicene Church Fathers, 38 volumes, by Hendrickson Publishers. Online at

    7- Cuisinart Fallacy: If it is proven that the teachings of the Orthodox Church are the same or consistent with the writings of the Early Church Fathers, whereas the teachings of the Papists and Protestants are at several points contradictory to those of the Early Church Fathers, would that be sufficient to prove that Orthodoxy is the original true Christianity?

    In Christ Yahweh Who unites us,

  • Mr. Alajaji – On point 7. No, such would not be a sufficient proof. It is the New Testament that gives us the original and true Christianity. What the fathers taught is of secondary importance. We should be concerned with aligning with Paul’s and John’s teachings, not Clement’s and Origin’s.

  • Dear MRB,
    The New Testament has to be interpreted.
    Who has the authority to give us the correct interpretation? Is it man’s fallen reason? Which protestant denomination can claim to have this authority? Doesn’t the Early Church have a greater advantage than us to be correct?
    Did not Christ establish the truth and promise that the Church will be visible till the end of the age?

  • Jerjis,
    Not only does the NT has to be interpreted, so do the Early Church fathers, so does your above statement, and so does my present statement. Interpretation is inevitable. And no one’s interpretation is authoritative. While the Early Church has a “greater advantage [in some respects] than us to be correct”, it does not follow that such an advantage makes them infallible or that disagreeing with them constitutes a departure from orthodoxy.

    I may have a greater advantage to be correct than others, but such an advantage does not make them make them wrong if they disagree with me. In spite of my advantage, they could be right. If I am right, my advantage helps me to be right but it does not make me right or guarantee me to be so. The same goes for the early church fathers.

    Furthermore, where is Christ’s promise that the church would be visible till the end of the age? It seems he said just the opposite, Christ tells the Pharisees in Luke 17 that “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, Look, here it is! or There! for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” Where the true church is located as a body throughout history may not always be discernable to our limited vision. This does not mean that the church does not always exist, but only that our vision (or anyone else’s) to see the church is not infallible.

    You state “If it is proven that the teachings of the Orthodox Church are the same or consistent with the writings of the Early Church Fathers…” The premise is flawed. Th early church fathers do not agree with one another on every point, so how could one even begin to prove that the OC is consistent with their writings? Where two fathers disagree, how do we decide which one to follow?

    None of what I’ve said means that tradition is irrelevant. Voices of the past can aid us in interpretation, but they can never negate the necessity and importance of it. We all must use our fallen reason in arriving at what is true. You have done so as well. This does not mean that there is no authority beyond human reason. We must each submit our reason to the authority of God’s Word, but the way we go about arriving at the what his Word means is a process of constantly returning to the text to correct our understanding of it, not relenquishing our judgment once and for all to someone else’s, in an attempt to avoid the error that can come from fallen human reason.

  • John,
    I agree with much of what you said. Everything has to be interpreted in order to live it personally in our lives. However it has to be interpreted within the framework of the transmitted Holy Tradition and not outside of it.
    Christ promised that the Church will still be here to the end. The Church is the visible Israel, the people of God, that has organic continuity with the old Israel, and has the Holy Tradition, Scriptures, and teachings of the Apostles. The concept of an invisible Church or invisible chosen people of God is foreign to the Bible.
    I have checked the teachings of the Orthodox Church against the Concensus Patrum of the Early Church, and they are all the same. However, some of the main doctrines of early Protestantism are not compatible with the Concensus Patrum or the Bible. The invisible church and the lack of true physical presence of the Body and Blood of Christ in the eucharist are 2 examples.
    How do we reslove this problem?
    One way is to realise that Rome departed from Orthodoxy in the 11th century (at the latest), and that the reformers were unfortunately not able to go back to Orthodoxy, but disagreed with one another and parted ways in different directions.
    It is by faith, based on the Scriptures, that I believe that Christ has preserved a remnant of His Israel the Church visibly to the end. We just have to discover where and who it is.

  • Jerjis,

    I’m still without answers. Where is Christ’s promise that “the Church will be visible till the end of the age”? Don’t the wheat and tares and the sheep and goats parables of Matt 13 indicate that we can’t always see the kingdom? Rather than the church being visible “till the end of the age”, it only becomes fully visible precisely AT the end of the age. How do you fit Matt 13 with your statement that “the concept of an invisible Church or invisible chosen people of God is foreign to the Bible”?

    I appreciate your attempt to wrestle with the dilemma of reconciling Concensus Patrum with the Protestant teaching, but Protestants see a greater dilemma: we are seeking to reconcile doctrine according to Scripture. And while we want to interpret Scripture in light of tradition, if we find that there is a conflict between the two, so much the worse for tradition. So while you’re concerned that early protestant teaching is out of line with Concensus Patrum, I’m concerned that OC teaching is out of line with Scripture, and if forced to choose between them…well, you get the idea.

    Furthermore, does the belief in an invisible church really set one outside the bounds of orthodoxy in your view? Is this a belief that places someone outside the church? Thanks for the dialogue.

  • Jerjis says – “The New Testament has to be interpreted. Who has the authority to give us the correct interpretation? Is it man’s fallen reason? Which protestant denomination can claim to have this authority?”

    Reformed theology teaches that Scripture is its own interpreter. Sure men must interpret the Bible, but they must interpret in terms of itself. Orthodoxy and Rome makes the Scriptures out to be a book that is extraordinarily difficult to understand, indeed, impossible to understand without the church’s magisterium. But anybody by the due use of ordinary means can understand much of it. It is not written in a secret code. God gave his revelation to be understandable. Christianity is opposed to Gnosticism. I fail to see how your approach to Scripture is anything but Gnostic.

    “Doesn’t the Early Church have a greater advantage than us to be correct?”

    Not necessarily. Here is an analogy. We know much more about Aristotle today than the Medieval philosophers and probably a good deal more about his thought than those in the first century B.C. Temporal proximity does nothing to assure a greater advantage. Furthermore, given 2000 years of controversy, credal formulations, exegesis, and so on, we today are in a better position in many regards than the church fathers.

    “Did not Christ establish the truth and promise that the Church will be visible till the end of the age?”

    Yes. The reformed church affirms this. How does it follow that the Orthodoxy is that one church?

    Rather than debating who is in the best position to interpret Scripture, let’s look at Scripture itself and see what it says. Orthodoxy, like Rome, always wants to debate the second order question of who should interpret the Bible. It would be much more fruitful to go the the source.

    Where does the Bible teach salvation as theosis? Where is the use of icons commended? Where is the infallibility of the church taught? Orthodoxy claims to follow the Bible, but upon investigation, we find it teaches the doctrines of men. And then it condemns Protestants for not following its errors.

    Orthodoxy and Rome both want us to trust them because they are the one true church. Okay, prove it. But when asked for proof, both commit the fallacies that I overview in my second essay. They both come down to raw authority claims. But it is God speaking in his word that has ultimate authority, not men or organizations who claim to speak on behalf of God.

  • John,

    Thank you for your reply and your legitimate questions. I am grateful for this friendly dialogue in order to search for the Truth.

    Christ promises that the gates of hell will not prevail over the Church, and also that He will shorten the days at the end of the age for the sake of the elect. Therefore there will be a remnant Church to the end, the visible Israel.
    In addition our Lord asks if He will find the Faith when he comes? It means that there will be massive apostasy and that the true Faith will be hard to find because those in the true Church will be small in number. St. Paul says in 2 Thess. 2 that the falling away must come first before the son of perdition (anti-christ) comes.

    The tares are those outside the visible True Church, and also the false bretheren inside the Church.

    Yes, the Kingdom will be truly visible only at the Second Coming, but Israel, the people of God in the Church, are a people visible here on earth between the First and Second Coming. They are the people that St. Peter calls a holy nation. The Law of the Gospel is transmitted by a visible Israel, otherwise, how do we distinguish the Israelites from the Samaritans in the New Testament era?

    Protestants in general are afraid of the Orthodox Church because they believe it is another form of Roman Catholicism. Far from it. The Orthodox Faith is quite unique and makes the Scriputres much more understandable. One has to only study Orthodoxy and the Concensus Patrum and be familiar with it in order to realise it is completely consonant with Scripture.

    Yes, to answer your question, the belief in an invisible church sets one outside of Orthodoxy. How can one learn the proper dogmas and interpretation of the Bible if there is no visile True Church to go to and learn from?


  • Dear MRB,

    The Orthodox Church has no majesterium. It is true that much of the Scriptures can be understood plainly, but that does not apply to all the passages. In addition the Bible does not describe how to worship and how to fast, how to baptise, etc… If the Bible was so easy to understand, why is there so much controversy over doctrines and so many denominations???

    Gnosticism has “secret” teachings that only certain elect can have access to. There is no such a thing in the Orthodox Church. We just plainly say that in order to learn the Faith one has to learn it according to what the Apostles have delivered to the saints, which is transmitted through the Concensus Patrum or Holy Tradition of the Church.

    How can we be in a better position at understanding Scripture than the early Church Fathers? Why are there so many contradictory teachings and denominations? How come the few of us on this forum cannot agree on visible versus invisible church by just using our reason and Scripture alone? Don’t we need some guidance from the Fathers?

    The Orthodox Church has organic continuity with the Early Church through apostolic succession and also doctrinal continuity through teaching the same Faith as the Fathers. Does any Protestant denomination have any basis to claim the same? How can we be saved by Faith through grace, which the Orthodox believe, if we do not believe in the correct and true Faith?

    You are saying that we should go again and again directly to the Bible to get our answers. But we end up hitting the same wall. How can we agree on what it means? How to baptise? How to celebrate the Eucharist? Is the bread and wine truely the Body and Blood of Christ, or just a symbol? etc… Unless we recognise an authentic historical authority in interpreting the Bible, we will keep running in circles and disagreeing. Why don’t we give the Concensus Patrum a vote in guiding us through the Bible and the christian life?

    Theosis means to be restored to the original image and likeness of God and to share in the Divine life through the Holy Spirit. This is Biblical. Does not St. Peter say that we have become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption?

    Christ has instructed Moses to make divine images. When we read about the dedication of the Temple by Solomon, we find many holy images depicted on the walls of the Temple. Wasn’t that iconography? Or was it idolatry, God forbid? Isn’t the making of holy images Biblical? Surely it is. If the name of Jesus is holy and powerful, wouldn’t His image also be holy, since He became man and deified the flesh to which He united His Person? Even His garment healed the woman with the issue of blood. Isn’t His image precious and deserving of all respect, love, and veneration?

    The Church is infallible not in her sinful members, clergy or laity, but in the truth of her Faith. Individuals in the Church are all fallible, from any Patriarch to the least of the laity. Individual Fathers are also fallible in certain ares. Only the Faith, doctrines, Scriptures, COncensus Patrum, and Holy Tradition of the Church is infallible, because it is generated and maitained by the inspiration and life on the Holy Spirit among His chosen people, the new Israel.

    In the Orthodox Church we show respect to the clergy but we always have to be vigilant and question their orthodoxy. They automatically lose their ecclesiastical authority if they depart from the deposit of the Faith and the Concensus Patrum. The Holy Canons, inspired by the Holy Spirit, command us to leave a false shepherd, priest of bishop, who preaches heresy and who departs from Orthodoxy, BEFORE he is condemned by any synod or church authority. This creates a democratic balance of power between the clergy and laity. It is the laity who are the guardians of the Faith and not the Clergy. It is the religious duty of the laity to study the Scriptures and the Faith and to correct the clergy when they err. If the clergyman remains stubborn and uncorrected, we follow the command of our Lord in Matthew 18:15-17. We are commanded to leave the false shepherd who falls into heresy after several attempts to remedy the error. The Orthodox Church is not centralised. A bishop with his flock has the fullness of the grace of the church. The Orthodox Church is not a monolith but allows some local variations in its external expression of the Faith. It is however united throughout the world and all the ages through the unity of the Faith and apostolic succession.

    It is worth while to slowly get acquainted with the Faith of our Fathers.


  • Dear Brethren,
    By “Apostolic succession” do you imply that there is any individual or member of a group today that functions in the full NT sense as an Apostle, like one of the twelve or Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles? I fail to see one who fulfills either the conditions and requirements set out in Acts 1 by the apostles themselves, or who has been chosen and declared an apostle by God Himself like Paul.
    As far as the ante-Nicene or later church “fathers” are concerned, their writings are of great interest but have absolutely no guarantee of correctness, even if they do accurately reflect local or general opinion at the time. I would suggest, in fact, that orthodoxy and correctness are not at all necessarily synonymous. Peter, certainly leagues ahead of Clement of Rome or Origen in credibility and authority, acted in a consistent manner according to the norms of the Jerusalem church, and had to be withstood to the face by Paul, who warned of wolves even within the body of the church.
    A quick look at Acts 2 should remind us that there is an amazing diversity in this church to which those who are saved are added daily. We might ponder the thought that on Pentecost, if any of us were present, we would have summarily been put out of the temple. We have the declared responsibility to try to keep our doctrine pure within our own fellowships. Were Peter or any of the apostles aware of the mysteries that would be revealed later to Paul? No. Was their doctrine 100% in line with mature NT doctrine? No. Did God save them, bless them and prosper them. yes.
    Unity and conformity are not synonyms, either. Paul and Peter were united in Christ whether or not practice in Jerusalem and the Gentile assemblies was uniform. I fear for the church when nothing but uniformity of dead tradition is acceptable and individual conscience under the leading of the Holy Spirit is no longer tolerable.

  • Glenn,
    Apostolic succession is the ordination of bishops by the laying on of hands from the apostles and in an unbroken chain down the ages.
    The disagreement between Sts. Peter and Paul was resolved by the council of Jerusalem, where the apostles were guided by the Holy Spirit. They declared “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things” (Acts 15:28). Once this decision was taken by the Holy Spirit through a concil of the Church it became authoritative and binding on all christians, like the Holy Scriptures. The same applies to the Seven Ecumenical Councils which formulated the Nicene Creed, and anathematised the heretics.

  • Ok,in my college Logic classes, I have never heard of those fallecies. I have heard of “Apeal to Force”, “Apeal to Pity”, “Apeal to the People”, “Argument Against the Person”, “Accident”, “Strawman”,”Missing the Point”, “Red Herring”,”Apeal to Authority”, “Appeal to Ignorance”, “Hasty Generalization”, “False Cause”, “Slippery Slope”, “Weak Analogy”, “Begging the Question”, “Complex Question”, “False Dichotomy”, “Suppressed Evidence”, “Equivoction”, “Amphiboly”, “Composition”, and “Division”.

    But using your fallecies for a moment – the following story would have a false conclusion.

    Let’s say Mary and John Smith have 10 children. And for all years that the clildren are growing up, birthdays are celebrated in the same manor every year. Those 10 children are grown, and now each have 10 children of their own – and they have chosen to follow the tradition set up in their family and celebrate birthdays in the same manor and want to protect that tradition, so they collected letters and stories from years past that reference the birthday celebrations to pass down the tradition. Also, not only are some traditions are written about, and some tradions are oral and others are expirienced. Now 10 generations pass, and there are let’s say 10,000 or so ancestors who have claimed to maintain the traditions of John & Mary Smith in celbrating birthdays.

    When you get them all together, the celebrations are alike whether it was in Kansas or South America. It would be fair to conclude the traditions of John and Mary Smith have been maintained with in the generations of their ancestors.

    Now at the same time, someone on the outside, who has never expirienced a birthday celebration with the Smith Clan has found a copy of their letters and stories, and has tryed to recreate a true John and Mary Smith Birthday Celebration. Hmmm.

    Which source would be the better source? The Smith Ancester would be the better source.

  • If the certified last will and testament of John Smith said “don’t ever use red balloons” but all the descendents were saying, “we interpret that to mean, ‘you must use red balloons,'” that would be a problem. We would have to either give up rationality, or assume the last will and testament was forged, or that the descendents had gotten it wrong.

    This is what we are facing!

    The word of God must certainly take priority over the traditions of men.

  • Dear in Christ Jen,
    I may be missing something here, but you seem to be proving my point. The case I am building is that the Orthodox Church is like the Smith family, in that they have kept the Holy Tradition of the Apostles, whereas the other churches, papist or protestant, have lost this true continuity, and are trying to recreate a true John and Mary Smith Birthday Celebration. But they have not been born in the Orthodox Church through baptism.

  • Tim,
    I agree that the word of God should take precedence over the traditions of men. That is why in the Orthodox Church, we fast, and the women cover their heads (at least they are told to), whereas in the other churches, this biblical teaching has been forsaken.

  • I am always amazed at the protestant claim that the word of God must be followed yet they deny Christ’s own words He says point blank “This is My body . . . this is My blood” and “For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” Can these statements be any clearer?

    The strict requirements that must be met before being able to partake of Christ’s body and blood keep the Christian on the path of utmost piety! “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body”.

  • Stephen,
    You seem to confuse Protestant’s recognition that:

    “This is My body . . . this is My blood” and “For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.”

    employs metaphor, just as in:

    John 15:1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.

    John 8:12 Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

    John 10:7 Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.

    In fact, could it be any clearer that Christ is not more baked dough or a wooden cup, than He has grape leaves or a doorknob?

    Perhaps that’s why there’s no evidence of any professing Christian teaching the doctrine of physical transformation within the first millenium of Christianity, while at least one council during that period referred to the elements as an icon of Christ (the one and only proper icon of our Lord).


  • JTA:
    You mention fasting and head covering (for women; “at least they are told to”)as evidence of treasuring the Word of God over tradition. Why do you imply these teachings are unique to the E. Orthodox Church? Maybe you do not get around.

    In addition, if there are extrabiblical traditions that are taught in your church, then those must be taken into account when racking up the whose-church-is-faithful-to-the-Word score. The Pharisees were commended for their keeping some laws, but rebuked for leaving others undone as well as rebuked for adding to the law of God with traditions of men. It’s more complex than you seem to imply.

    In fact all the works in the world that WE do cannot atone for our sins. We must have all our sins covered by Christ’s blood (shed on the Cross 2,000 years ago), which is why we remember that in the symbol of the cup of the Lord’s Supper. When we trust in Him for salvation, we will, of course, out of gratitude respond with good, though nonmeritorious, works.

    But best wishes, and may we all grow ever more
    Biblical and follow the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.

  • Dear ElizaF,

    Perhaps JTA will correct me, but I have yet to hear of a so-called Orthodox teacher suggesting that salvation is any other way than by the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ on behalf of sinners.

    Some so-called Orthodox writers are a bit mechanistic (almost sacramental) in the way in which saving grace is applied, but I have never heard of any so-called Orthodox writer promoting salvation through meritorious works.

    I don’t know if you are trying to suggest that in Orthodoxy (so-called) fasting and head-covering are supposed to be works that save.

    I’ve never heard any so-called Orthodox apologete suggest such a thing, and – indeed – I’ve heard that in some churches, such as the American Orthodox Church, the laity (as they are termed) are given the impression that fasting is commendable but wholy voluntary.

    Furthermore, even in more rigid so-called Orthodox bodies, the fasting calendar is not strictly followed by more than a tiny percentage of the church.

    As JTA hinted, it is increasingly common for women to neglect observation of the head-covering, especially among casual church goers (“ethnic Orthodox”).


  • It seems these ‘conversations’ never have an ending. What is the saddest is the fact that Christendom is so divided! It makes me sad that Christians view other Christians in this way—referring to the ‘reformed’ Christians I’ve often encountered and from the discussions have also been found here. The MOST annoying this, as well, is to hear an outsider who has probably never experienced an Orthodox liturgy put them as the likes of Mormonism. This couldn’t be farther from the truth of the matter. I think what all parties need here is a good dose of humility. Your Christianity came from the eastern Church that you are in fact condemning. Your forefather Luther would not have stood for this. In fact, I am quite convinced that Luther’s understanding of Christianity was much closer to that of the East than the modern idea today. Ok, so I’ll get down from my soap box now. Have fun josting with words. I’m going to go find something better to do with my time.

  • Tim:
    That last comment…that surprises me…
    Jen has a point–modern evangelicalism has little in common with the reformers. The modern face of the “church” is a far cry from both E.Orthodoxy and Calvin. From what I understand (which isn’t a lot) the Orthodox have a more, shall I say, “orthodox” view of the Trinity than do most churches (even Reformed). This is an area that deserves more study: the typical, American “Christian” understanding of the Trinity. Personally, I do not understand the constant use of the name Jesus–his earthly name, for the most part. He is Lord and Savior, so why not–the Lord Jesus Christ? Have we not broken up the Trinity into 3 gods, in effect, in our thinking, talking, praying and acting? These are some thoughts from a Reformed person who struggles with some of the ideas/actions/terminology of our modern church.

  • Jen,

    You would have to have experienced Mormonism in order to know E. unOrthodoxy is not like it, according to your reasoning.

    My faith came from God, who gives it as a free and undeserved gift. It didn’t come from the eastern church. Nor is Luther a forefather in the understanding of the E unOrth. If he were, I would have to accept his word as comparably authoritative with the Bible, and that is a view that is foreign to the Word of my Source of faith.

    Words mean things, that is why we use them. In fact, God gave words, not gold-plated cartoon pictures, to reveal himself.


  • Jen:
    How did our (Reformed) Christianity come “from the Eastern Church”? This is a sincere question. I am at a loss to understand your reasoning.

  • Check this timeline from a secular source:

    There was was this idea of the Nicean Creed of ONE, holy, apostolic Church and that Church was not a mystical idea. It was under the Bishop, focused upon the Eucharist. I could back this up but it would take too much time to go into it all. You might try reading Eusebiues History of the Church written in the 300’s, available at a local bookstore.

    Thank you Eliza for being so respectful.

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