Friday, July 17, 2009

Twisting the record

David Waltz has hosted and posted a questionnaire by a revert to Orthodoxy:

“1) Was not 1400 years from the first century rather late to try to purify and to remold the Church according to new doctrinal views?”

Rather late in what sense? Overdue? There’s a sense in which it was long overdue. So what?

There’s an obvious sense in which the reforms of Josiah were not only long overdue, but came too late. Too late to forestall the Babylonian Exile.

That, however, is hardly an argument against the need to address and redress the corruptions that Josiah inherited. That hardly means the status quo ante was acceptable.

“2) If the Reformers considered the Roman Catholic Church to be the true visible church during the preceding centuries, why would they provoke a schism? (Yes, we know they sought to restore true doctrine.) The results for Protestantism have been, first, a schism from the mother Church.”

i) That’s a false dichotomy. It’s not as if you must regard the status quo ante as either wholly true or wholly false.

ii) Why does an Orthodox churchman like Ken think it’s schismatic to break ties with the Church of Rome? Does he also think Photius was guilty of schism?

iii) The Reformers didn’t leave “the mother Church.” Rather, they left a local church. The church of Rome is a local church.

They were members of that church because they were 16C Europeans. The church of Rome was the regional church for someone living at that time and place. The church of 16C Western Europe.

If a Dane leaves the Lutheran church to become a Baptist, has he left “the mother Church”? Hardly.

He attended the Lutheran church because he was Danish, and the Lutheran church is the national church of Denmark.

The Reformers were affiliated with the church of Rome for geographical reasons.

iv) Likewise, what they left was a 16C institution. What’s wrong with leaving a 16C institution? If a student transfers from Harvard to Patrick Henry College, has he done something wrong?

“Second divisions within their own denominations over the sacraments and other matters”

It’s like medical diagnostics. If your initial diagnosis is wrong, what should you do? Should you stick with a mistaken diagnosis because it’s too messy to go back through all the symptoms and debate alternative diagnoses? Better to let the patient die than have to messy up our pretty black board?

To take a concrete example, consider messianic Judaism. You have Jews who convert to Christianity. But having rejected the hereditary package of beliefs and practices they were raised in, they then have to do a lot of sorting. It would be a whole lot simpler if they never left their faith. If they died in a Christless state. Does Ken think that’s preferable?

“And finally, endless splits (schisms), new sects and cults giving birth to endless discussions over how to maintain biblical truths and to just live as churches.”

There are splits within Orthodoxy. Indeed, Orthodoxy often forces the issue. Every ecumenical council has winners and losers. If you can’t stand schisms, then adopt a latitudinarian policy where anything goes. The big tent approach.

“Third, a massive adoption of liberalism in Europe and America”

Of course, that trend is occurring in nominally Catholic countries and nominally Orthodox countries as well as nominally Protestant countries. So if that trend disproves Protestantism, it also disproves Catholicism and Orthodoxy. Futhermore, you have liberal Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox politicians in America.

“Matters settled ages ago are continually brought up for renewed discussion in their national assemblies.”

Ken reminds me of liberals who defend Roe v. Wade as a “super-duper” precedent. Let’s not debate whether Roe v. Wade was wrongly adjudicated. Instead, let’s justify Roe v. Wade by appeal to stare decisis. Stability trumps truth or morality.

His 3rd point is a repetition of his second point.

“4) Is the ecclesiastical situation better today than during the 1500s?”

Yes. It’s better to pick and choose which mushrooms you eat.

All sects claim they ‘follow the Bible alone (Sola Scriptura)”.

i) Actually, they don’t. You have charismatic sects.

ii) You also have “sects” which claim to be the one true church.

“One might also examine the history of various theological schools to see how the winds of liberalism influenced them.”

That’s funny coming from an Orthodox churchman. What about St. Vladimir’s?

In his 5th point, Ken questions the coherence of Presbyterian paedobaptism. However, even if his objection were sound, that’s hardly an objection to Protestant sacramentology in general, since there are several other options he needs to evaluate.

“Protestant Worship Services - Protestant worship services did not fill me with a sense of God’s Presence, of mystery and awe.”

i) That objection depends on what we should expect in this life.

ii) It also confuses the emotional effect of fine art and music with the presence of God.

“Some Reformed congregations celebrate with grape juice, others with wine and still others offer both on the same plate in little plastic sterile cups.”

We can have a legitimate debate about the communion elements as well as the best way to celebrate communion.

But it’s not as if a church service at St. Alexander Nevsky’s in Sophia Bulgaria bears any close resemblance to the Last Supper in the upper room.

“7) Evidence from the Early Church writers (2nd to 6th centuries) - The apostolic tradition, whether in the West and held by Justin Martyr, (the Latin writer Tertullian, who is not regarded as a saint or a Church Father), Irenaeus, or in the East, John Chrysostom and others, gives evidence of a high view of Baptism and the Eucharist.”

Why would we equate a 6C writer with apostolic tradition?

“8) Church Services - The Protestant rejection of the ‘Mysteries’ has given rise to church services that are intellectual and/or entertaining. Protestant worship has lost all sense of continuity with the Church of the first millennium.”

I’m more concerned about losing all sense of continuity with the NT church.

“Their sermons are intellectual, stressing the exegesis of Scripture and biblical languages…”

Yes, it’s an awful thing when a pastor makes a conscientious effort to teach what the word of God actually meant to say. So much better to feed your flock allegorical fantasies.

“The Worship Space - The removal of the lamps and icons (and in some denominations, crosses and stained glass) has diminished a sense of reverence and worship, the sanctuary becomes a place for conversation and socializing. The worship space often resembles a classroom where the laity is expected to sit still and listen while the ‘anointed’ one preaches and prays for all in attendance. The rejection of icons has caused a loss of familiarity with the lives of the Christian heroes of the faith (Hebrews Chapters 11 & 12).”

Did 1C house-churches have icons?

“What would they do without the Book?- In the end, Protestantism gave me the impression of being a religion of the book. (And I am in no way denigrating Holy Scripture which I read every day.) Protestant churches have great appeal for intellectuals and folks who are in love with knowledge for its’ own sake. Attending their services one notes the endless stress placed upon the ‘Bible’.”

That’s the problem with St. Paul. He’s so wordy and Protestant (Acts 19:8-10; 20:7-8). Or take those long, boring speeches by Jesus (Mt 5-7; Jn 14-17). Give me icons and incense.


  1. Those are the questions that led him to leave Protestantism? :\

  2. Feelings.. whoa whoa whoa.. feelings...

  3. Uhm... didn't You rather mean revert to *Protestantism*? :-\

  4. obviously he's not the brightest of the bunch. It's be bst if he ket quiet for a few years while he sorts things out.