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:: Tuesday, August 24, 2004 ::

A Calvinist Who Went to an Orthodox Seminary

Doug links to a short article written by a Calvinist who received a Master's from SVS. The author starts by reviewing aspects of Orthodoxy he appreciates and then proceeds to explain why he couldn't become Orthodox.

He writes, "Orthodoxy has no doctrinal statement comparable to the Westminster Confession of Faith..."

My question to the author would be--why do we *need* one? Christianity is a way of life that includes, but is not circumscribed by our Creeds, Scriptures, definitions etc. Plus, if you really need a systematic theological text, just look at St. John of Damascus' "Exposition on the Orthodox Faith."

"Orthodoxy also has a real problem with nominal members"

That is for sure. But then again what church doesn't? Would the author really want someone to judge the Reformed teachings or Presbyterian church based on either the existence or number of her nominal members? I doubt it. The tares always exist among the wheat--why does that always seem to scandalize people? That Chesterton quote about "Christianity has been found hard and not tried" comes to mind.....

"The Orthodox have not thought a lot about sin, regeneration, election, and so forth..."

Doug did a nice job of explaining why statements like this come from the very common error of trying to stuff Orthodox theology into Protestant categories and then claiming victory before one has actually addressed the issue *in context*. My question is how could the author think this after attending services, reading the Fathers, and studying Orthodox teaching? He's free to disagree with the Church's teaching, of course. But to say we haven't given it much thought is just amazing.

"If you want to see this for yourself, read Chrysostom on John 6:44-45, and then read Calvin on the same passage."

As long as you ignore all the other Patristic sources, then sure; you can always find a "one-on-one" match-up with quotes taken out of context to support almost anything.

"Many of the Orthodox tend to have a lower view of the Bible than the ancient Fathers had..."

Sadly, this conclusion is probably based more on his experience with certain liberal professors he encountered in seminary than anything else. The Orthodox have a very "high" view of the Bible--we simply don't limit God's revelation to it via a priori theological presuppositions.

"Almost everything else in any liturgy is a later adaptation and development..."

But wait! Just a few sentences earlier he was claiming that Orthodoxy was "underdeveloped" and thus not to be trusted. So which is it?

Lastly, given the typical Reformed squeamishness with icons and the sacraments in general, his "I don't agree with icons" paragraph leaves many questions begged. I'd love to see his "new and revised" critique....

Update: John has a few things to say about this post and I responded to his thoughts--both in the comments here and there.
Update 2: "Description is ever more real than definition." Seraphim pulls in a little of Florovsky to help explain the Orthodox position on formal confessional/doctrinal statements of faith.
Update 3: Clifton, building on what Doug and I have already said, offers a brilliant critique of the Kinneer article.

:: Karl :: 7:45:00 AM [Link] ::

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