I initially intended for this to be a two-part series but, somewhat unsurprisingly, I got a little carried away. So this is part two of three. Look for the final installment early next week.
Back to the handbook: "They [Orthodox] perceive the idea of praying the sinner's prayer as nothing more than a Protestant ritual that might help them."
But isn't it just that? Where in Scripture do we see anyone doing nothing more than the sinner's prayer to become a Christian? How is this different than an enlightened, educated American who hears an altar call? This relates to the issue Mark Byron and I have gone back and forth on last few weeks about "church ritual" Are they all just man made traditions or has God actually ordained certain practices, symbols, and rituals for His glory in the Church? More importantly, by what criteria do we use to determine the difference between "little t" traditions and Holy Tradition?
Now I must give credit where credit is due because the author does make an attempt to qualify the intent of the handbook with this short statement:
"Please realize that none of us are experts in the subject of Russian Orthodoxy."
"No kidding!," I said to myself the first time I read this two years ago. "Why then are you telling us what we believe and why it's wrong? Where is the humility, the acknowledgement of ignorance, to be found in the rest of this handbook?"
There is a famous saying in Orthodox circles: Don't write a single word about the Faith until you've been living the sacramental and ascetical life of the Church for at least a year.
While always said somewhat tongue in cheek, this advice shows the humility the Orthodox have toward missions in particular, and evangelism in general. Nobody should write books or teach others about subjects of which they have no intimate knowledge. Keep in mind, this advice is given to Orthodox thinking of writing about their own faith! Can you imagine what the shelves of the local "Christian" bookstore would look like if this axiom was followed by the Protestants, not just in regards to their "rebuttals" of Orthodoxy, but their own faith?
However, as C.S Lewis pointed out (and as Basil recently noted), you don't have to be an expert in something to correctly determine the error in it. After all it was a little child who pointed out the emperor had no clothes on. We certainly need to be willing to listen in humility to critiques and advice from those outside if their analysis holds up.
The difference in the case of the Baptist handbook, IMO, is that the intellectual and moral requirements of missionaries and official documents are much higher than they are for the normal "critic." In general one is free to display one's ignorance and sin anytime one wants. (We in the blogosphere know this all too well!) But parading around ignorance in official "missions handbooks" won't win one many converts.