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The questions that some Eastern Orthodox Christians can not abide

24 Oct
Confessional Lutheran Pastor Weedon on the Eastern Orthodox: more into venerating the icons of the fathers than actually reading what they wrote...

Confessional Lutheran Pastor Weedon on the Eastern Orthodox: more into venerating the icons of the fathers than actually reading what they wrote…

I regret to say that it seems I have worn out my welcome at Father Freeman’s blog Glory to God for All Things.  I will admit I was a bit feisty over there, but I felt that as long as he was willing to have me as a guest, I should show up and let him know that some of his recent posts had been been quite unfair and uncharitable towards confessional Lutherans.  I did make the mistake of coming right in, briefly explaining myself, and linking to a comprehensive post that made my case.  Father Freeman said that I was “trolling” which has to do with “fishing in someone else’s waters”.  I understood his point and admitted that I should have raised my concerns in a different way.

From that point on, there was some good back-and-forth between myself, Father Freeman, and other thoughtful contributors.

That said, let me share a couple of the comments that I just put up there this morning but were deleted shortly thereafter (on this thread).  I think they are very important.

When it became clear to one commentator that I was retaining my firm Lutheran (and Scriptural) convictions throughout the conversation, he asked:

“forgive me saying this, but I cannot help thinking : what are you really doing in this Orthodox blog then?”

Here is how I responded:

I am here spending time with persons whom, it seems to me, are my fellow believers in Christ. I have always been interested in EO ever since I learned about it, and my efforts here are to find out, through conversation, more about what they believe. I do not just want to believe what others say the EO believe or to think that I have firmly and fully understood the articles and books of EO authors. It is much better to talk with individual EO Chrisitians, in the flesh if at all possible, who can answer specific questions I have and who might be willing to explore their faith – what they believe – in conversation with what another person says (for perhaps we might find surprising points of agreement?). Of course, inevitably, I find out more what I believe in the process.

I continue to do this and will do this wherever persons welcome me. As a result of these kinds of inquiries, I wrote my series I did trying to get EO and Confessional Lutherans to take a new look at their similarities and what we have hitherto seen as differences. The series of posts, “If all theology is Christology, how wide the divide?” [that is here] was even promoted by Father Kimel on his blog, who I can only assume found it fair and useful.

Further, I commend to you the story in Galatians 1, where Paul talks about his joy in receiving the right hand of fellowship from those who seemed to be pillars….*

…I will end my comments here at this point. I did one more post on this blog over at the “Authority: Answers Without Questions” thread this morning as well. If any of you are willing to address my post there, I would be interested to hear what you have to say.

+Nathan

That comment above was the first one that was deleted.  And what were those comments on that other post (here it is)?

To set the context, I had made this comment:

I was seeking to better understand why you have labeled all Protestants Rationalists… and think that I find the beginnings of an answer in this post.

You say:

“Orthodoxy is truth-embodied. And though this can be described, no description is the same thing as the truth-embodied. An argument never approaches the true question of authority – it ultimately only distracts the soul and disguises the true and appropriate questions. The dogged resistance of Orthodoxy to various ecumenical overtures are found precisely in this organic instinct for the truth. For there are no propositions that can be accepted that would, in fact, make one Orthodox. And even accepting all so-called Orthodox propositions still fall short. For it is only the self-emptying life of repentance that has any standing. Its proof is found in a deified life.”

[I replied:]

I really do think I get the idea of Orthodoxy being truth-embodied and how no description can capture this. I believe I am someone who thinks more or less in the same way about my Confessional Lutheranism (who as you know, also have a reputation for dogged resistance to various ecumenical overtures, stubborn lot we are). The issue that perplexes me is this : are you not an authority making *an argument* about why we, for example, lack true authority? And if I listened to what you said and, by the power of the Holy Spirit turned from my Lutheran errors, how would I not become [Eastern] Orthodox?

I am guessing that I am not the only person thinking about questions like this. Or perhaps this is one of the first keys in helping me and others to understand our own captivity to the Rationalism you speak of? I am guessing that the word “understand” is not part of what you would say the problem is.

+Nathan

Father Freeman did not answer that specific question saying, in part: 

I’m not interested in answering questions viz. your continued monologue about Confessional Lutheranism. It belongs on your blog, not mine. If I’m interested in the topic I’ll visit it there. But it has become lengthy, repetitive and a distraction here. I “get it” that the self-understanding of Confessional Lutheranism is that it’s not Protestant, that it is somehow a continuation of the early Church, etc. Orthodoxy rejects that as spiritual delusion. But since it is a self-understanding I do not expect to disabuse you of the notion. But I’m not particularly interested in it nor in spending the time and space of the blog on it.

Maybe I should have taken the hint.  That said, I tend to be hopelessly optimistic, thinking that the Spirit of God will use us to break down barriers between us – helping us (not just him) to realize where we have perhaps been a bit blind.  I responded to him and another man in the following way:

Mule Chewing Briars, Father Freeman,

Thank you for answering the question about bowing in Revelation. My initial impression is that I would have no trouble bowing, kneeling, kissing the feet, kissing the ring, etc. of any great saint or Apostle. That I do not make this a part of my regular worship does not indicate that I would be unwilling to do so.

That said, I am re-reading Chemnitz now on the invocation of the saints, and if his survey of the early church is correct – and I have no reason that is was not, as I believe for good reasons that Chemnitz did in fact reverently read the entire corpus of the early church (more than most any of us) – there are very good reasons for not embracing such a practice even aside from the fact that there is absolutely nothing in the Scripture[s] about it (and Father – you never did tell me a resource that makes the case that a common use of the word “Scripture” goes beyond the canonical books). And yet, I have gotten the distinct impression here that not invoking Mary would be enough for the Eastern Church to not recognize us as brothers in fellowship – even if we believed you about most everything else.

Think about that for a minute: is this not absolutely scandalous? You would put the certainty of salvation and peace with God good Christian people have (I John 5, Romans 5:1) into doubt over this. I have held my tongue long enough but I believe I would be guilty and derelict at this point for not saying this: I do not think I can avoid concluding that that is absolutely un-Christian.

Finally – Father Freeman, I appreciate all the hospitality I have been shown up to this point. I really do. Thank you. I hope and pray that you will continue to think about the two questions I asked above (October 23, 2014 at 5:39 am) – and consider answering them in a future post. I think that everyone here knows that one need not be a confessional Lutheran to ask such questions, for they are eminently reasonable (rationalistic?) for a human being to ask another human being when they speak the way you do.

+Nathan

I’ll admit that comment about Mary was quite strong, and perhaps I should have not been surprised that my comment was deleted.  That said, it did seem right to me to make that point, since invocation to Mary was being pressed so strongly during the course of the conversation I had been privileged to have in Father Freeman’s home.  I don’t think I am wrong in concluding that, In effect, we are being told that because we do not pray to Mary we could not be considered to be “truly Church”.  Therefore, from the E.O. point of view, we have no reliable guarantee of our connection to Christ.

I recognize that I was a guest in Father Freeman’s house.  I know in some person’s homes they really do appreciate intense discussion, debate, questioning, etc.  I do not think that it needs to be that way everywhere even as that is what I prefer.  I do not begrudge Father Freeman for not allowing these comments to remain posted in his house.  He believes that I am a wolf and that he must guard the flock entrusted to his care there.  Or perhaps he simply could not make the time to continue to carefully answer me.  I do not think I am being un-humble, however, in suggesting that it would do well for Father Freeman and serious Eastern Orthodox Christians to reflect on the words that I said.

FIN

*the rest of the comment:

As for the saints question, of course we have many wonderful laypersons who are not professional theologians who I could mention and commend to you. Of course all of us are theologians though and I think most any saint would readily embrace the opportunity to know more about the Fathers of the Church, Church history, etc – if they were given the opportunity. Of course we do not all need to be intellectuals, but we do, as given the opportunity, strive to love God with all are mind as best we can – for the sake of our neighbor

xxxx, (response to a different person)

I went into some detail above explaining why your gloss on our view of salvation of “monergism” is incorrect and why Lutherans themselves have not traditionally talked this way. I maintain that whatever truth might be found in such a phrase (again see my comments above), it should strictly be avoided [as it is not a Scriptural word nor one that appears in our Confessions]

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12 Comments

Posted by on October 24, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

12 responses to “The questions that some Eastern Orthodox Christians can not abide

  1. Tippex

    October 24, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    must say, your answer (on g2gforallthings):
    “You are right – it is a living stream… that flows in Wittenberg!”
    about the living stream of saints mirorring that of the orthodox was a little far fetched though 🙂
    cheers

     
  2. Andrew

    October 28, 2014 at 1:47 am

    Nathan, I am curious what do you mean by “brothers in fellowship?” Dou you mean in Communion? I think by Orthodox standards you are not “truly church,” not because you don’t venerate the Mother of God, but because you are not Orthodox. I am probably missing something.

     
  3. infanttheology

    October 28, 2014 at 11:16 am

    Andrew,

    Maybe I am missing it, but I don’t see where I used such terminology above. Obviously, we are not in communion, even as I might think personally those I meet outside my fellowship show serious evidence of being real believers in Christ.

    As for your third sentence, would not my venerating the Mother of God and doing the other things EO Christians say I should do – by the power of the Holy Spirit – make me EO? That gets to the heart of the question I asked Father Freeman.

    +Nathan

     
  4. Andrew

    October 28, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    “And yet, I have gotten the distinct impression here that not invoking Mary would be enough for the Eastern Church to not recognize us as brothers in fellowship – even if we believed you about most everything else.”

    I think that being baptized and/or chrismated under the authority of an Orthodox bishop would make you Orthodox. If you chose not to honor the Mother of God as an Orthodox Christian, that would be strange, but I do not think it would cut you off from the Church.

     
  5. infanttheology

    October 28, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    Andrew,

    That is a really interesting reply. So it would be fine, you think, if an EO person did not venerate the Mother of God (what if they were vocal about their reasons for not doing so?)? Would you be willing to give me the reasons you have for thinking this? The reason I am so surprised is that on Father Freeman’s blog I was getting the idea that this is a sine qua non of sorts.

    +Nathan

     
    • Andrew

      October 28, 2014 at 11:54 pm

      First a disclaimer: I am uneducated, ignorant about many things pertaining to the Church, and am not really qualified in any manner to speak about the Orthodox Church.

      I think that the veneration of Mary can not be seperated from the Church. The hymns and prayers are saturated with petitions to her and references to her role in our salvation and the life of the Church. So, why would you want to be Orthodox without believing in this aspect of the faith? That said, it is not your veneration of Mary, or your prostrations, or your fasting, that make you an Orthodox Christian. It is the fact that you have been born again through baptism and recieved the Holy Spirit through Chrismation (in a manner accepted by the Church.)

      So, in your hypothetical situation, maybe your priest would instruct you in the importance of the Theotokos, and guide you into a better understanding of why and how we honor her. Who knows what course this imaginary spritual father might deem wise if you continued to refuse to venerate Mary and loudly proclaime your position. I see Orthodox people saying some crazy things on the internet about various subjects, that probably do not line up with the teaching of the Church, but they are (if they are) still Orthodox Christians.

      Would a Lutheran who badmouthed Luther stil be a Lutheran?

       
  6. infanttheology

    October 29, 2014 at 10:10 am

    Andrew,

    Thank you. I am incredibly ignorant as well.

    “That said, it is not your veneration of Mary, or your prostrations, or your fasting, that make you an Orthodox Christian. It is the fact that you have been born again through baptism and recieved the Holy Spirit through Chrismation (in a manner accepted by the Church.)”

    I guess I have always understood this to be a both/and.

    I want to emphasize that I would not want to be “loud” (i.e. make a scene) about why I would not want to say some prayers to Mary. I would just tell them I read volume 3 of Martin Chemnitz’s Examination of the Council of Trent and he convinced me that prayers to the saints were not a well-known phenomenon in the church until very late. Now some baptists say that about infant baptism/regeneration, but here one sees the fathers clearly speaking about it and then one can go back to Scripture and the Scriptures about infants being included become much more clear at that point (or at least they should).

    Lutherans do not pray to Luther of course, nor do we really venerate Him. Most all respect him greatly though, even if we do not say that every word he said or attitude that he harbored was good.

    +Nathan

     
  7. Cane Caldo

    October 29, 2014 at 9:10 pm

    After reading the whole thread I came away with a dim view of Father Freeman’s tactics in that thread.

    1. Nathan says “Please explain to me why and so on and so forth…”

    2. Fr. Freeman replies that a non-Orthodox Islamic Protestant can’t understand the words coming out of his mouth, so he sees no point in responding except with chastisement that cannot be understood.

    3. Several interlocutors respond to Nathan with various explanations of why they can understand Nathan’s language (responding to Nathan in a way they understand him to understand), but yet Nathan cannot understand theirs. But at least they responded.

    4. Fr. Freeman breaks his self-imposed language-barrier embargo to cheer on the interlocutors, and then further chastises Nathan for the error of–what must be taken (in Fr. Freeman’s understanding of no understanding) as literally and essentially–trying to speak with him.

    1. Nathan says “Please explain to me…”

    Repeat.

    It would have been better to me if he had said, “Nathan, I don’t care to discuss it with you. Peace.” and left it at that.

     
  8. infanttheology

    October 30, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Cane,

    Well, I think he might be inclined to say that to me next time…. I don’t want to call E.O. Christianity liberalism, but sometimes I wonder why the only other persons I know who use phrases like “so and so just doesn’t ‘get it'” are persons who do not want to conserve things, but liberalize….

    +Nathan

     
  9. Cane Caldo

    October 30, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    @Nathan

    I don’t want to call E.O. Christianity liberalism, but sometimes I wonder[…]

    You know more about it than I do, but liberalism doesn’t doesn’t come to my mind when I think of E.O. (Again, what I think is not saying much.) However; I do know that one person repeatedly and successfully communicating that communication is impossible is–at the very least–bizarre; even if quite common.

     
  10. infanttheology

    October 31, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    Cane,

    I agree. I hadn’t ever thought to make the connection there. Its just that after hearing the whole “gets it” thing as often as I have, one starts to just wonder what is going on. In defense of persons resorting to such language, I don’t want to say that there is nothing to the idea of “getting it”. After all, having one’s own children, for example, is an experience that no one can really prepare you for.

    “I do know that one person repeatedly and successfully communicating that communication is impossible is–at the very least–bizarre; even if quite common.”

    That is very true.

    +Nathan

     

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