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VOL.27 | NO.1 | JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2018 | $6.95

“Is it possible
Orthodoxy has
turned from
the sufficiency
of Christ to the
shadows of
the law?”
M O D E R N R E F O R M AT I O N A R C H I V E F O R F R E E !

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Are Evangelicalism and

Eastern Orthodoxy Compatible?
B Y M I C H A E L S. H O R T O N


Drifting East: A Pastoral Approach

to Christians Considering Conversion


The Forgotten Reformer: Cyril Lucaris



Beware the Convert



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5 55 62


A Call for Orthodox Damning Words: Differences between

Churches to Preach The Life and Religious the Reformed and
the Gospel Times of H. L. Mencken Eastern Orthodox

Introverts in the Church:

9 Finding Our Place in an
Extroverted Culture 64
Martin Luther and The Communion
the Enduring Word of of Saints
T H E O LO GY God: The Wittenberg BY ERIC LANDRY
Will the Real Jesus School and its Scripture-
Please Stand Up? Centered Proclamation

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should not be skimmed over. Mike Brown’s report

on the recent migration of Reformed churchgo-
ers to the Eastern Orthodox (EO) fellowship tells
us that the beauty and mystery of the liturgy is
one of most reasons frequently given for joining
the EO communion, which Alison Sailer con-
firms in her discussion of her own journey from
Geneva to Constantinople. John Stovall illus-
trates the historical context of Eastern Orthodox
and Protestant distinctives with his fascinat-
ing portrait of Cyril Lucaris, the patriarch of
Constantinople who was assassinated for his
commitment to Reformed teaching. While there

eauty has a hard time in confessional is much we share with our Orthodox brethren,
Protestant circles, and it’s easy to there are also significant differences that warrant
understand why. In our sex-saturated serious consideration, particularly for high-
society, this powerful and elevating profile Protestant teachers, as Perry Robinson
value has been exploited and degraded to the points out in his essay on the conversion of Hank
level of commercial property. Once ranked as Hanegraaff (the Bible Answer Man).
the necessary companion to truth and goodness, There is certainly a place for beauty and maj-
it’s devolved into little more than the ultimate esty in worship. If the divine service is indeed an
selling point for everything from smartphones in-breaking of the glorious kingdom age on our
and cars to Hollywood starlets and earthly reality, then the church’s
politicians. As heirs to a histori- physical building and liturgy
cally iconoclastic church, we’re not ought to reflect this. Ultimately,
sure what to do with it. Scripture at “THERE IS we do not come to a facility that
once gives us Solomon and his bride’s CERTAINLY holds however-many hundreds
ecstatic rejoicings at one another’s of people and hosts so-many
beauty, and Peter’s admonition that
A PLACE FOR conferences a year at such-and-
women ought not to let their adorning BEAUTY AND such an address. We come to the
be with “the braiding of hair and the MAJESTY IN city of the living God, the heav-
putting on of gold jewelry.” If we’re enly Jerusalem, to innumerable
honest, the simplicity (we won’t call
WORSHIP.” angels in festal gathering, to the
it ugliness) of the church buildings assembly of the firstborn who are
we worship in today has more to do enrolled in heaven, to God, the
with primarily pragmatic considerations than judge of all, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new
scriptural principle. covenant (Heb. 12:22–24). As this year begins,
Not so with the Eastern Orthodox Church. we rejoice that the city of the living God contin-
They may have a few problems, but a nuanced ues to grow, unshackled by small budgets and
and well-articulated view of beauty (particularly, hostile city councils, and unencumbered by the
the beauty of worship) isn’t one of them. While grandeur of the greatest cathedral. 
Protestants could certainly stand to take a leaf
or two out of the EO’s aesthetic book, Editor-
in-Chief Michael Horton reminds us that the
theological principles that inform that aesthetic BRO OKE VENTURA assoc iate editor

01 C H R I S T & C U LT U R E

A Call for Orthodox Churches

to Preach the Gospel
L E F T: I L L U S T R AT I O N B Y A R T H U R M O U N T; R I G H T: I L L U S T R AT I O N B Y C H R I S T O P H E R D E L O R E N Z O

by Adriel Sanchez

have had several close friends con- (because Fr. Damick was able to critique his tra-
vert to Orthodoxy over the years, dition in an important area) and disheartening.
I and they’re always excited to talk Disheartening because Fr. Damick recognizes a
about their transition. “Come and deficiency in Orthodoxy today among the laity:
see,” said one friend, smiling. the average Orthodox Christian does not know
“The iconography, the vestments, the beauty!” what the gospel is. “It would probably be no big
It’s not just the visual engagement. There is also stretch to say that, if one were to ask the aver-
an ancient stimulation of the other senses—the age Orthodox Christian the question, ‘What is
smells, the chanting, all of it so different from the gospel?’ he would not have an answer.” More
what evangelicals are used to. But I’ve never had recently, retired priest Fr. Aidan Kimel lamented,
a friend who converted to Orthodoxy say, “Come
and hear the preaching!” Why is that? Since my retirement I have heard numerous
Some time ago, Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick Orthodox homilies. With few exceptions,
spoke at an Orthodox homeschooling conference they have been horrid—poorly constructed,
and posted his talk “Do Orthodox Christians poorly delivered, and lacking in substance.
Know the Gospel Message?” on the Ancient But bad technique may be forgiven if the
Faith blog. The speech was both encouraging preacher is at least attempting to proclaim

C H R I S T & C U LT U R E

the good news. Alas that has not usually steadfast adherence to tradition, yet the
been the case. What I have heard is exhor- good news of Pascha remains unpreached.
tation . . . to imitate Christ, obey the ten To these congregations—but especially to
commandments, be nice to my neighbors, the priests who have been entrusted with
pray more often, confess my sins . . . even the stewardship of the gospel—the terrify-
a lengthy harangue scolding the congre- ing condemnation of Jesus is spoken: “Woe
gation for its failure to support the parish to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
festival. Exhortation and more exhorta- for you are like whitewashed tombs, which
tion—dreary, impotent words that do not outwardly appear beautiful, but within
convert, do not heal, do not transform, do they are full of dead men’s bones and all
not deify. A few years ago I listened to an uncleanness” (Matt 23:27). Exhortations
interview with Fr Theodore Stylianopoulos and admonitions will never create the righ-
in which he described the kinds of sermons teousness that justifies. Those who are dead
he heard growing up. He called them “try in sin cannot raise themselves from their
harder” sermons. Yes, I thought, that’s graves; they cannot pull themselves up by
what I’m hearing now. No wonder church their Pelagian bootstraps. Only the uncon-
is so depressing. If “try harder” is the only ditional promise, spoken in the power of
word the pastor has to share, then it would Spirit and absolute Love, can bestow the
be far better to skip the sermon and allow new life that is repentance and faith. But
the Divine Liturgy itself to enact the good if that word is never declared, where will
news of Pascha. faith be found?

“Behold, the days are coming,” the prophet This problem was noted by another Orthodox
declares in the Name of the Lord, “when I Christian, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, just a few
will send a famine on the land; not a famine decades ago:
of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hear-
ing the words of the Lord” (Amos 8:11). We One can observe an undoubted decline or
are experiencing this famine today. Many even crisis in preaching in contemporary
priests and congregations pride them- church life. The essence of this crisis lies
selves on their dogmatic orthodoxy and not in the inability to speak, in a loss of

“When the word was rehabilitated in the church, the

result was spiritual renewal, a reformation our churches
desperately need in modern times.”
VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018
“style” or in any intellectual deficiency on the Protestant Reformers had against the
the part of the preacher, but in something Roman Catholic Church (a complaint that may
far deeper: in an oblivion to what preaching also be raised in the context of this discussion)
in the church assembly is supposed to be. was that while Rome did not abolish the word,
The homily can be, and often is even today, it had subordinated it to the sacraments and
intelligent, interesting, instructive and shrouded it in extrabiblical traditions. This
comforting, but these are not the criteria by abasing of the word led to the moral and theo-
which we can distinguish a “good” homily logical failures of the medieval church. The
from a “bad” one—these are not its real genius of the sixteenth-century Protestants was
essence. Its essence lies in its living link in restoring the primacy of the preached word.
to the gospel that was read in the church When the word was rehabilitated in the church,
assembly. For the genuine sermon is nei- the result was spiritual renewal, a reformation
ther simply an explanation of what was read our churches desperately need in modern times.
by knowledgeable and competent persons, What then is the solution to the present crisis
not a transmission to the listeners of the that exists not only in Orthodox churches, but
theological knowledge of the preacher, nor in many evangelical churches as well? It begins
a mediation “a propos” of the gospel text. In with a proper understanding of the word’s pri-
general, it is not a sermon about the gospel macy. This lofty position isn’t bestowed on the
(“on a gospel theme”) but the preaching of word by any individual or church, but is inher-
the gospel itself. ent to its nature. Since the word comes to us
from God (2 Tim. 3:16), it needs no external
Fr. Schmemann’s call is for the church to preach authority to authenticate it. With a recovery
the good news of Jesus Christ, not just to talk of the word’s primacy comes an understanding
about it (or depict it in iconography, I might of the word’s power. When God compared his
add). Until the Orthodox Church rediscov- word to that of the false prophets in Jeremiah’s
ers this emphasis upon the importance of the day, he said, “Is not my word like fire, and like a
preached word as well as the sacrament, I sus- hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?” (Jer.
pect that its laity will continue to suffer from 23:29). The word alone has the power to warm
gospel illiteracy. The beauty of Orthodox liturgy, calloused hearts and break rock-hard wills. It
with its sensory emphasis, cannot compensate doesn’t just deconstruct—Isaiah likened God’s
for the sacramental word, which alone creates word to a life-giving rainfall, sent out to accom-
faith in the hearts of dead sinners. God has plish God’s purposes in the world (Isa. 55:10–11).
promised to save humanity through the fool- The heavenly shower of apostolic preaching is
ishness of preaching (1 Cor. 1:21), not through the foundation upon which the church is con-
the veneration of icons or burning of incense. structed (Eph. 2:20), and wherever that word is
If a church focuses on the latter, or even on the not upheld, God’s temple is in disrepair.
sacrament apart from the word, it is destined It also isn’t enough to say we need to have
to produce disciples who cannot articulate the a high view of God’s word. There are many
simplicity of the gospel. churches that believe in the divine inspira-
The Protestant Reformers would have sym- tion and power of Scripture, but they still fall
pathized with critiques like this, because they short when it comes to communicating the
too believed the church needed to “rediscover” substance of Scripture. This type of preaching
gospel preaching. This is one of the reasons I am (as Schmemann put it) misses the essence of
grateful for the Reformed tradition, in which the gospel and (according to Kimel) doesn’t
the emphasis has always been “Come and hear deify. The verbum agraphon (unwritten word)
the gospel!” In fact, one of the chief complaints spoken by the prophets and apostles and the

C H R I S T & C U LT U R E

“Once congregations missing. I’m reminded of Calvin’s commentary

experience the life-giving on Galatians 3:1.

power of the preached Let those who would discharge aright the
gospel, they won’t ministry of the gospel learn, not merely to
settle for replacements speak and declaim, but to penetrate into
the consciences of men, to make them see
(regardless of their
Christ crucified, and feel the shedding of his
aesthetic beauty).” blood. When the church has painters such as
these, she no longer needs the dead images of
wood and stone, she no longer requires pic-
tures; both of which, unquestionably, were
first admitted to Christian temples when
the pastors . . . uttered a few words from the
pulpit in such a cold and careless manner,
that the power and efficacy of the ministry
were utterly extinguished.

We can learn a great deal from our Orthodox

brothers. The staple liturgy of John Chrysostom,
with its holistic engagement of mind and
body, reminds us that we’re not simply souls
trapped in bodies. Worship should engage
the whole person. Orthodox churches, how-
ever, should recover the expository rigor of
verbum engraphon (written word) inscriptur- John Chrysostom, whose homilies weren’t
ated for subsequent generations were always ten-minute musings but in-depth biblical exhor-
meant to lead us to the Word as Person, Jesus. tations; they should reclaim the “preaching
This happens only when our preaching tran- of the gospel itself,” as Fr. Schmemann called
sitions from moral exhortations (law) to the it, and prioritize the weekly refrain Christos
powerful proclamation of God’s victory over Anesti! (“Christ is risen!”) over the “try harder”
our moral failures (gospel). This is the rain that sermons that leave people in despair. Only when
arid souls long for—the solution to our parched the liturgy of John Chrysostom is accompanied
spirituality. by his expositional preaching can we expect
When pastors rightly understand the pri- today’s famine to end. 
macy and the power of God’s word, they won’t
grow tired of preaching it; and once congrega- ADRIEL SANCHEZ is a graduate of Westminster Seminary in
tions experience the life-giving power of the California and a church planter at North Park Presbyterian
preached gospel, they won’t settle for replace- Church (www.northparkpres.com) in San Diego.
ments (regardless of their aesthetic beauty). I
remember being pleasantly surprised when a
member of a Reformed congregation lamented 1 From http://blogs.ancientfaith.com/roadsfromemmaus/2015/05/08/
to me about the church he visited while on vaca- 2 From https://publicorthodoxy.org/2016/12/17/the-politics-of-pascha.
tion, “The pastor only preached the law, not the 3 Alexander Schmemann, The Eucharist: Sacrament of the Kingdom
(New York: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003), 77.
gospel!” We should preach the gospel so clearly 4 John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians
that the laity in our churches lament when it is and Ephesians, vol. XXI (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009), 80–81.

VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018


Will the Real Jesus

Please Stand Up?
by Matthew Richard

hould we take a hammer and The fact that we like to make Jesus over in
chisel to the Jesus of the Bible our own image isn’t exactly big news. When
S and shape him into our own per- we consider the general mind-set of our
sonal Jesus? Of course not! This North American society, it makes sense. We
does not, however, stop North are a culture that personalizes just about
Americans from getting out their toolbox. everything—playlists, food, smartphones,
Obviously I’m not speaking literally, but the relationships, even gender. Why shouldn’t
tendency of people to “rebrand” the Jesus of we customize Jesus? And this is precisely
history into their own personal avatar is quite what we do. We redefine Jesus according to
real. Truly did Calvin say that our hearts are idol our own image, desires, and aspirations. He
factories, carving out that which is uncomfort- becomes the Giver of Bling, the Feminized, the
able and enhancing that which speaks to our Mystical Friend, the National Patriot, the Moral
desires. Remaking Jesus into an image of our Example, the New Moses, and the Mascot. We
choosing results in a happy medium between twist him into a funhouse-mirror image of our-
the discomfort of bowing one’s knee before the selves, since life is easier when we can convince
real Jesus and the guilt-inducing conviction of ourselves that what Jesus really wants is what
an outright rejection. we really want.


“We can taste, see, and believing that the Jesus of our imagination can
believe the real Jesus fulfill our deepest human desires. While false
christs stand or fall by our own power, Jesus
right here and right now.” Christ continually sits at the right hand of the
Father. He stood in our place as he became flesh
and blood and walked through the wilderness of
depravity on our behalf. He conquered the temp-
tations to which we so easily succumb, drinking
the vile cup of our suffering and sin, stumbling
The problem with our false christs is that up the hill to Golgotha. He was displayed on a
they can’t fix our problem. They may make us bloody cross, his body pierced, and blood and
feel better, but they can’t address the founda- water poured out for each and every one of us
tional flaw in our existence. They have no power who desperately hold onto hollow, fake christs.
to appease the wrath of God. Our problem isn’t Unlike the idols of our creation, which harden
ultimately that we die, suffer physically, men- our hearts against the inborn knowledge of sin,
tally, and emotionally, or that there is rampant Jesus declared from his cross that our sins
injustice and corruption. Our problem is that we have been paid for. Unlike our false christs,
have offended a holy God and that we cannot, by who ultimately require that we live and die for
our own powers, be reconciled to him. Our false them, the true Christ lived the righteous life we
christs cannot resurrect us from the dead—they ought to have lived and died the death we should
crumble at the slightest discomfort; they smash have died. Unlike the “rebranded” Jesus, who
to the ground as we stumble into the traps of our is hampered by the finite and flawed power of
own sin and despair; they stare back with vacant their creators, the historical Jesus rose victori-
eyes as we plead for salvation. ous from the grave, taking his seat at the right
They cannot forgive sin or resurrect dead hand of the Father in glory, allowing all who
people, because they are not real. Like trees cut believe in him to share in his triumph. Through
down and carved into idols one day and used as his word and sacraments, we not only hear who
firewood the next, these false christs are essen- he is and what he did, but we receive him and
tially puppets of their creators (Isa. 44:9–20). his benefits of forgiveness, life, and salvation.
Like their mutable and easily swayed originals, When our culture, society, and circumstance
they vacillate from one thing to another—a shift like reeds blowing in the winds of change,
savior one moment and kindling the next. this Word does not change but remains forever
They are frail and will never have more power (Isa. 40:7–8). We can taste, see, and believe the
than those who fashioned them, which means real Jesus right here and right now.
they cannot overcome sin, death, the devil, or This is the real Jesus—the Jesus you and I do
the world. They may possess the qualities of not deserve but certainly need. This is the God
the Jesus of Scripture, but they are not God of who is for you, who has saved you, and who will
God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begot- not fail you. Unlike idols that cannot see or speak,
ten, not made, being of one substance with the he has drawn near to you in his word to reveal
Father, the Savior of both body and soul. himself to you, so that you might receive him by
There’s an old saying, “If you want to show up faith and be his own. This is the real Jesus: Christ
a crooked stick, put a straight one next to it.” crucified and resurrected, the only one who for-
We need the real Jesus to stand up so we can gives sin and grants everlasting life. 
clearly see who he is and hear what he has done,
because it is only the power of that gospel that REV. DR. MATTHEW RICHARD is pastor of Zion Lutheran
will set us free from the sin that ensnares us into Church in Gwinner, North Dakota.

VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018

V O L .2 7 | N O.1


We have beheld enough

of his love, peace, and glory,
to worship him, sense his love,
and know that one day
we will enjoy full, soulful,
peaceful resonance with him.”


12 24 38 46






illustration by  C O M PAT I B L E ? JOE CAVAZOS

A cursory comparison of the indi-
ces of any primary or secondary
work on Eastern Orthodoxy and
evangelicalism exposes an inter-
esting contrast—in the Eastern
Orthodox index, one will find
such entries as chrismation,
deification, energies of God, reca-
pitulation, theosis, and the like,
but notable absences will include
original sin, grace, justification,
sanctification, substitutionary
atonement, and related terms
that are familiar to confessional

It is an oversimplification, but it may be said

generally that, while Western theological systems
often follow a Trinitarian pattern reflected in the
Apostles’ Creed, the focus is often more on the
work of the persons than on their perichoretic
unity and the nature of the hypostatic union of
the God-Man. This becomes most apparent in the
second article, where Western theology tends to
regard Christology as an essential means to the
end of soteriology. Thus there is an emphasis on
the cross and resurrection as the apex of human
redemption. In Eastern patristic and Byzantine
theology, however, the accent falls on the incarna-
tion itself. Jesus Christ the God-Man is not only
who he is in order to be a Savior; he is a Savior pre-
cisely in being who he is.

Regarding the first five centuries as defini-
tive, Orthodox theology revolves around
Christological issues, and this is why one
may find teeming citations for hypostasis,
Arianism, and the filioque, but few for guilt,
Pelagius, forgiveness, reconciliation, and pro-
pitiation. In many cases, further conversation
between Eastern and Western partners reveals
considerable agreement in substance despite
different taxonomies. The heart of our differ-
ences emerges over the material principle:
justification by grace alone through faith alone
because of Christ alone.


nselm’s famous retort to his imaginary
friend Boso “You have not yet consid-
ered how great your sin is” applies to all
of our communions, especially in this day THE HEART OF OUR
of optimism about human capabilities. Despite
the agreements noted above, the Christian East, DIFFERENCES EMERGES OVER
in the Reformed view, possesses an inadequate THE MATERIAL PRINCIPLE:
view of sin. This becomes apparent in its treat-
ment of original sin, excluding inherited guilt JUSTIFICATION BY GRACE
from the picture and embracing a synergistic
view of regeneration as well as a medicinal view
of justifying grace. BECAUSE OF CHRIST ALONE.
To do justice to the Orthodox view, we must
again recall that the reigning paradigm is rela-
tional and transformative. Humanity is on a
pilgrimage from innocence to mortality to
immortality. Father Palachovsky explains:

We have been made in His image through

Creation, but we must become like Him
by ourselves, through our own free will. To
be the image of God belongs to us by our
primordial destination, but to become
like God depends upon our will….Human
nature has not remained intact, as some
theologians teach, but has become corrupt.
Nevertheless, this corruption does not go
so far as the Protestant theologians teach.

We must appreciate the categories of Orthodox

thought on this issue, since the context of
early patristic development was Gnosticism,

VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018

Manichaeism, and their kindred heresies in merely with an incomplete account but with an
which creation and redemption were set against erroneous one. Can sinfulness be regarded as a
one another. Matter was inherently evil because consequence of mortality and vice versa when
it was intrinsically temporal rather than eter- Scripture so clearly states that “sin entered the
nal, physical rather than spiritual, and so forth. world through one man, and death through sin,
Sin was accounted for in a cosmic fatalism and in this way death came to all men, because
grounded in ontological dualism. It would only all sinned” (Rom. 5:12)? “The wages of sin is
make sense that the church fathers would con- death” (Rom. 6:23). Here in Romans 6, “wages”
front this pagan determinism and dualism with is a similarly legal category, a debt that is owed.
an emphasis on human responsibility and free- The biblical testimony to the Savior’s payment
dom, as well as on the goodness of the Creator of a debt is so replete as not to require citations.
God (and therefore of every natura he creates). The New Testament language for sin (e.g., con-
There are some passages in Augustine, particu- demnation of the law) and redemption (e.g.,
larly in his description of the origin of sin, that justification, imputation, reconciliation, acquit-
come perilously close to viewing nature qua tal) is unmistakably forensic as well as relational.
nature as sinful. This is thoroughly rejected Even those who have not in their own persons
by the Reformers and their successors. committed exactly the same sin as Adam’s are
Still, even granting this important point, nevertheless guilty of that sin (Rom. 5:14). “The
Orthodoxy appears to deny clear biblical state- judgment followed one sin and brought condem-
ments on this important question. Corruption nation” (v. 16), and “by the trespass of the one
and mortality are hardly the only categories in man, death reigned through that one man” (v. 17).
biblical teaching. Nevertheless, as Constantine N. “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass
Tsirpanlis writes in presenting the Orthodox view, was condemnation for all men” (v. 18). (I have
purposely reserved the corollary of the second
Now, Adam’s sin was a personal choice Adam for our discussion below.) Paul repeats
and act, not a collective guilt nor a “sin of for effect, “through the disobedience of the one
nature.” Hence, inherited guilt is impossi- man the many were made sinners” (v. 19). Death
ble….In other words, the posterity of Adam comes through sin, inherited both in its power
inherited the consequences of his sin, i.e., and in its guilt. Therefore, the consequence is
physical death and mortality, sickness of inherited. That is Paul’s logic in this text.
corruption, and obscurity or distortion of The Orthodox view excludes original guilt,
God’s image, but not his personal guilt. while the Western view admits both original
guilt and original corruption/mortality. Despite
John Meyendorff concurs that there is, in fact, Augustinian (and Roman Catholic) distortions
“a consensus in Greek patristic and Byzantine of sin and nature, the confessional Protestant
traditions in identifying the inheritance of the articulation of original sin is thus able to do
Fall as an inheritance essentially of mortal- greater justice to the fuller teaching of Scripture,
ity rather than of sinfulness, sinfulness being even if it needs to give more attention to the
merely the consequence of mortality.” “The emphasis on immortality in the second Adam.
opposition between the two Adams is seen in
terms not of guilt and forgiveness but of death
and life,” he says, citing 1 Corinthians 15:47–48.

First Corinthians 15:47–48 is a marvelous and eo-orthodox theologies prepared the
much-overlooked side of the sin-and-grace mes- soil for a wide-scale reassessment
sage. Orthodoxy offers profound insight on this of the Western tradition in terms of
aspect, but in presenting half of the picture as if “relational” versus “legal” catego-
it were the whole, it ignores the obvious juridi- ries. Protestants have subjected what they
cal elements and consequently leaves us not have referred to as “Augustinian legalism” to

relentless criticism. Perhaps partly because Christus Victor, Reformation theology has nev-
of the society in which many evangelical theo- ertheless recognized the victory of Christ over
logians now live, with its therapeutic culture Satan, mortality, evil, and the demonic as the
in which justice must give way to love in every consequence of his satisfaction of the Father’s
instance, the Pauline explanation for how God plan to propitiate God’s wrath against sin. Even
is, in Christ, both “just and the one who justi- in one of the clearest Christus Victor passages,
fies those who have faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26) Paul apparently makes this very connection:
has lost its attraction for a growing number
of those theologians. The difference between When you were dead in your sins [a moral
the two categories is the difference between a category, since his readers are still physi-
“courtroom” model and a “family room” model. cally alive] and in the uncircumcision of
The former is indisputably Roman, while your sinful nature, God made you alive with
the latter is thoroughly scriptural, it is sug- Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having
gested. This is precisely the view expressed by canceled the written code, with its regula-
modern Orthodox theologians, such as Christos tions, that was against us and that stood
Yannaras: opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to
the cross. And having disarmed the powers
A great misconception and distortion of and authorities, he made a public specta-
the ecclesial truth about the abolition of cle of them, triumphing over them by the
death by the cross of Christ had already cross. (Col. 2:13–15)
appeared in the West by the first centuries
and progressively dominated the spiritual That last statement depends on that which pre-
climate. Tertullian, Augustine, Anselm and cedes it. The power of Satan over us was chiefly
Thomas Aquinas are the great landmarks God’s own law, a recurring Pauline theme; but
in the formation and imposition of this dis- once this was satisfied by the substitution of
tortion which was finally proclaimed as an Christ for sinners, the powers and authori-
official teaching of the Western church at ties were disarmed. The “public spectacle” is a
the Council of Trent (1545–1563). It is a courtroom scene in which God judges his Son
matter of a legalistic interpretation of the in our place.
biblical images of “ransom” which Christ Here, once again, this view accounts for
paid with his death on the cross. . . . In the both the Christus Victor motif and the substi-
teaching of Luther and of Calvin later, it is tutionary motif, while the Orthodox emphasis
not simply divine justice, but the wrath of apparently cannot accept the very premise (i.e.,
God which must be appeased by the sacri- God’s wrath against sinners) that would pro-
fice of Christ on the cross. vide a context for Christ’s victory. Irenaeus, for
one, incorporates both motifs in his thought.
This account Yannaras can regard only as Not only by his incarnation but “by means of
“sadistic,” leading to “egocentric justification his passion” Jesus Christ has conquered death:
as well.” Individualistic and legalistic, this the-
ology fails to recognize the ecclesial and cosmic For doing away with that disobedience of
redemption that comes from God as a passion- man which had taken place at the begin-
ate lover. ning by the occasion of a tree, “He became
Orthodox theologians should attempt to obedient unto death, even the death of the
understand the surprise of those who have seen cross”; rectifying [a legal term] that dis-
in both Old and New Testaments a recurring obedience which had occurred by reason
emphasis on the cross of Christ as “payment,” of a tree, through that obedience which was
“propitiation,” “sacrifice,” “satisfaction,” and [wrought out] upon the tree [of the cross]
the like. Acknowledging the important theme of (CONTINUED ON PAGE 19)

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O F C H R I S T U S V I C T O R , R E F O R M A T I O N








very day brings of the church those who, are freed, when they can In April 2017, a video of
another gruesome by confession of faith, by worship in peace, and when Coptic Christians chanting
story of men, example of life, and by par- their lives are safe from the Nicene Creed went
women, and children in taking of the sacraments, threats of harm. viral on social media.
the Middle East being profess the same God and People claimed it was
persecuted for their faith Christ with us.” Taking their That does not mean, a response of the small
in Christ. Churches are mark from Calvin, other however, that we shouldn’t Christian minority in Cairo,
destroyed, families are Reformed theologians still seek to bring them—as responding to attacks on
pushed out of their homes have often spoken of the we do our neighbors here Palm Sunday that killed
and villages, individuals “judgment of charity” with in the West—to a better, dozens of worshippers. If
have their throats slit— regard to how we evaluate fuller, and richer under- we watch that video and
and the entire world another person’s claim to standing of the Christian are moved to question the
watches with horror. West- faith. The idea here is that faith. As circumstances veracity and vitality of the
ern Christians regularly unless someone proves by allow, our missionaries faith of those who—at the
pray for our persecuted their profession or their should try to convince risk of their own lives—
brothers and sisters in actions that they are not them of the significant appear in public to profess
Christ, but some wonder Christians, we should take errors of Orthodoxy and their faith with the same
if it is proper to think of them at their word and not Catholicism. Being freed words we recite on Sunday
them as fellow Christians. second-guess their profes- from a theology of works mornings, then we lack the
After all, missionaries have sion of faith. righteousness will give judgment of charity Calvin
been at work in many of them significant peace and enjoins on us. Instead,
those same regions for This attitude should help assurance of their stand- we should be moved to
years, trying to convert us give the benefit of ing in Christ today. Along prayer and praise instead.
people from Orthodox the doubt to those men, the way, we may discover For there will “always
and Roman Catholic women, and children who that some Middle Eastern be a church on earth” to
Churches to Protestant- are being persecuted Christians were Christians worship God (WCF 25.5),
ism. Why were they trying simply for being Christians. in name only—having and the gates of hell shall
to convert them, if they The important theological a cultural connection not prevail against it (Matt.
were already “in Christ” distinctions we discuss in because of family and 16:18). 
with us? the free West are not even place of birth, but no vital,
under consideration among living faith. In that sense, ERIC LANDRY is exe-
In his Institutes of the those whose very lives they are no different from utive editor of Modern
Christian Religion (IV.1.8), are threatened by their many Americans who are Reformation and pastor
John Calvin refers to simple profession, “Jesus is Christians in name only, of Redeemer Presbyterian
“a certain charitable Lord.” We can and should identifying as a Christian Church in Austin, Texas.
judgment whereby we rejoice with them when because of a family or
recognize as members their towns and villages cultural connection.

VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018

(CONTINUED FROM PAGE 16) of Paul’s controversy with the Galatians, and
….In the second Adam, however, we are the writer of the book of Hebrews’ controversy
reconciled, being made obedient even unto with the Judaizers. “The righteousness that is by
death. For we were debtors to none other works” is set in opposition to “the righteousness
but to him whose commandment we had that is by faith,” not because works and faith are
transgressed at the beginning. opposed in the least, but because the righteous-
ness that God’s justice requires is found only in
Note that he says we were debtors to the Christ. It must be imputed, or credited—terms
commandment we had transgressed at the that are of Pauline, not Protestant, origin.
beginning—in Adam. Hence, human beings At this point, proof-texts could be sent back
“are not justified of themselves, but the advent and forth, but Orthodox theologians will not
of the Lord.” There is, therefore, no basis for be likely to find ours appealing, since they do
“trusting to works of righteousness.”12 not accept the motif these texts assume. For
It is important to recognize that while certain instance, the gospel we find in Scripture (Luke
affectations from Roman jurisprudence—or, 18:14) says that the believing tax collector (pub-
more directly, medieval feudalism—appear in lican) went home justified once and for all,
Western discussions (especially in Anselm’s rather than the Pharisee who had been trying
account), the Reformers explicitly criticized to attain righteousness by his own efforts (per-
these tendencies while building on their labors. haps even with the help of grace, since he does
It is difficult to dismiss the Old Testament’s thank God that he is not like the tax collector).
legal character. In fact, as recent scholarship After demonstrating that the Old Testament
has underscored, much of the Old Testament saints were justified through faith alone, Paul
may be read as a covenantal charter in the pat- announces, “But to him who does not work
tern of the ancient Near Eastern suzerainty but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly,
treaty. Without recognizing the legal char- his faith is accounted for righteousness, just
acter of the Mosaic economy, involving strict as David also describes the blessedness of the
observances for remaining in the land and man to whom God imputes righteousness apart
requiring the shedding of blood for remission from works” (Rom. 4:5–6 NKJV). Paul says that
of sins, and the anticipation in the prophets a person is justified not when he ceases being
of a Servant who will bear the guilt of sinners, ungodly but while he or she is ungodly, and that
the Old Testament loses its plot and the New God imputes righteousness apart from works—
Testament loses its claim as the fulfillment of not apart from works alone or through works
all types and shadows. that are performed in cooperation with God’s
grace, but by faith apart from works. We find
the same construction earlier in Romans:

he parallel between the first and second But now the righteousness of God apart
Adams in Romans 5 draws together from the law is revealed, being witnessed
tightly the corollary of “double impu- by the Law and the Prophets, even the
tation”: Adam’s guilt and Christ’s righteousness of God which is through
righteousness. Orthodoxy’s apparent denial of faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who
original guilt and its reticence toward legal cat- believe. For there is no difference: for all
egories cannot help but lead to a denial of the have sinned and fall short of the glory of
imputation of Christ’s righteousness, or “jus- God, being justified freely by His grace
tification.” Orthodox theologians frequently through the redemption that is in Christ
dismiss the entire discussion of justification as a Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propi-
Western debate, although it was the debate at the tiation by his blood, through faith. (Rom.
heart of Jesus’ controversy with the Pharisees, 3:21–25 NKJV)

A denial of this point is no small thing for the when he says, “Whosoever has been born of God
apostles, as Paul relates in his distress: does not sin” (1 John 3:9 NKJV).
Even Father Callinikos’s catechism asks, “On
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to what basis will Christ judge the world?” The
God for Israel is that they may be saved. For answer:
I bear them witness that they have a zeal
for God, but not according to knowledge. On the basis of His Gospel. Whosoever has
For they being ignorant of God’s righteous- believed in it and has acted in accordance
ness, and seeking to establish their own with its dictates, will sit up on the right
righteousness, have not submitted to the hand of the Judge….Faith in Christ with-
righteousness of God. For Christ is the end out good works is not enough to save us.
of the law for righteousness to everyone Good works by themselves are also not suf-
who believes. (Rom. 10:1–4 NKJV) ficient. Our salvation will be the outcome
of a virtuous life permeated and sealed by
Just before, Paul had argued that salvation does the inestimable blood of the Only-begotten
not “depend on man’s desire or effort, but on Son of God.
God’s mercy” (Rom. 9:16), and later (ch. 11)
he will warn Gentile Christians that they must C i t i n g Au g u s t i n e a p p r o v i n g l y, Fa t h e r
not rely on their pedigree, since if the physi- Palachovsky says that daily sins “may be cleansed
cal descendants of Abraham may be broken off through (1) the recitation of the Miserere,
to make room for believing Gentiles, God will (2) almsgiving, and (3) fasting.”
certainly not fail to reject Gentiles who place Daniel Clendenin, who describes himself as
the least confidence in their own cooperation an evangelical student of Eastern Orthodoxy,
with God. offers a sympathetic reading of this position:
Whether Orthodox, Roman Catholic, or
Protestant, we must all take this to heart. It is Orthodox theologians contend that in the
trusting in Christ’s merit alone, not in our coop- West the doctrines of sin and salvation have
eration with grace, that we are justified. It is by been unduly dominated by legal, juridical,
embracing the apostolic message, not tracing and forensic categories. These categories,
one’s ministerial ancestry to the apostles, that a they insist, are not only overly negative and
person or a church is approved by God. alien to the spirit of Eastern Christianity,
Discerning in these New Testament lines of but, when allowed to dominate are actual
thought a clear distinction between law and distortions of the biblical message. Ernst
gospel—that which commands without prom- Benz suggests that this legal framework
ise or assistance and that which gives without predominates in Western thinking (both
command or judgment—Reformation theology Catholic and Protestant). He notes how the
observes in Orthodox theology a serious con- apostle Paul [that great Western thinker!]
fusion on this point. Despite the fact that the frames his Epistle to the Romans in terms
Orthodox use the Greek New Testament (as well of divine law and justice, categories that
as the Septuagint), Father Palachovsky cites are perhaps taken from Roman civil law,
Acts 2:38 in its erroneous Vulgate translation: and that his idea of justification by faith
“Do penance.” The Greek metanoeo (repent) is answers the question of how guilty people
transformed into the Latin command “Do pen- can stand before a just God. Benz suggests
ance,” and this leads to the same confusion of that the Catholic church especially, with
justification and penitential merit one finds in its doctrines of penance and indulgences,
Roman Catholic soteriology. He distinguishes its concepts of the church, the role of the
between peccata leviora and peccata graviora, priest, and canon law, developed in this
the latter of which John apparently has in mind [Paul’s?] legalistic direction. This accent

VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018

on legal concepts, in contrast to the idea
of mystical union, perpetuated in the East,
is seen by Orthodoxy as the “real issue that
unites the West theologically and divides it
from the East."

Clendenin correctly notes that this is irrecon-

cilable with the position of the Reformers:

In his Institutes Calvin described justi-

fication by faith as “the hinge on which
all true religion turns,” and in his precise
definition of the doctrine he compares it
to an acquittal in the courts of divine jus-
FROM MY PERSPECTIVE, tice: “just as a man, deemed innocent by an
impartial judge, is said to be justified, so a
BOTH ORTHODOX AND sinner is said to be justified by God when he
ROMAN CATHOLIC asserts his righteousness.” In the history of
Orthodox theology, on the other hand, it is
THEOLOGIES TEND TO startling to observe the near total absence
of any mention of the idea of justification

Clendenin goes on to suggest that we need to
THE EAST IN A PREFERENCE balance Orthodoxy’s emphasis on mystical
union and Protestantism’s forensic emphasis.
FOR GOOD CREATION It is true that a genuinely Pauline theology will
OVERWHELMING SIN, WHILE emphasize both mystical union and the “sum-
ming up” of all things in Christ on the one hand,
THE WEST TILTED and individual justification and reconciliation
on the other. However, how one relates the two
TOWARD CONFUSING SIN is all-important. Any view of union and recapit-
WITH CREATION. ulation that denies that the sole basis for divine
acceptance of sinners is the righteousness of
Christ and that the sole means of receiving
that righteousness is imputation through faith
alone apart from works is a denial of the gospel.
Calvin especially had a developed doctrine of
mystical union with Christ, and it was in fact
central to his thought, linking justification and
sanctification in an inseparable bond, as both
depended on Christ and all his benefits.
I wonder what our Orthodox interlocutors
would make of the following conclusion: From
my perspective, both Orthodox and Roman
Catholic theologies tend to collapse ontological
and ethical categories—the East in a preference
for good creation overwhelming sin, while the

West tilted toward confusing sin with creation. vigorously as any, while denying what Clendenin
It seems to me that the Pauline line of thought regards as “a healthy synergistic antidote to
in particular presses us to distinguish ontologi- any antinomian tendencies.” Synergism, in
cal and ethical categories without either setting our reading of Scripture, is never healthy, and
them in opposition or allowing one side to swal- as an antidote to antinomian tendencies it can
low the other whole. To be sure, God made the only prove to be a cure worse than the disease.
world and pronounced it good. Nothing evil In fairness, Clendenin does encourage the
can be attributed to nature as nature. And yet, Orthodox not to dismiss such biblical motifs
Western theology is correct to recognize that as justification by faith as Augustinian corrup-
sin has become an inherited part of human tions. However, to miss these biblical motifs is
existence. By clearly distinguishing the onto- not merely to leave out a few pieces of the puzzle
logical goodness of nature from the ethical but is to make the puzzle into something else
depravity that makes the attainment of sal- entirely. Orthodoxy has many healthy empha-
vation impossible even for the most morally ses, but its denial of the full seriousness of sin
committed, one is able to uphold the integrity and its consequently high appreciation for the
of creation and its consummation on one hand possibilities of free will keep it from recognizing
while doing justice to the imputation of guilt the heart of the gospel.
that leads to death on the other. In this way,
both a subtle form of Manichaeism on one hand
and a subtle form of Semi-Pelagianism on the

other can be avoided. f antinomianism is what one calls being
In The Philokalia, Clendenin recognizes “a freely justified (declared righteous, not
very clear synergism or cooperation between made righteous) once and for all the
the grace of God and human effort.” But moment one looks away from oneself to
Clendenin simply takes this as a restatement Christ and his merit as sufficient for all sins for
of James: “Thus, faith without works and works all time, then I confess to being an antinomian.
without faith are equally rejected.” A further But, of course, classic Reformation teaching
concession is made, one that could easily be has always affirmed sanctification—the pro-
made by an Arminian Protestant who shares cess of being conformed to Christ’s likeness.
the Orthodox understanding of synergism (i.e., Reformation theology has drunk deeply from
regeneration as the fruit of free will’s coopera- the same wisdom as the Christian East on this
tion with grace): “The Orthodox emphasis on reality of the new creation and the renewal
the importance of the human response toward that even now is taking believers “from glory
the grace of God, which as the same time clearly to glory.” But it has opposed every tendency to
rejects salvation by works, is a healthy synergis- confuse justification and sanctification, ren-
tic antidote to any antinomian tendencies that dering the former the goal of the latter rather
might result from (distorted) juridical under- than its basis.
standings of salvation.” John Meyendorff provides a helpful explana-
I include this because it seems to me that tion of the Orthodox doctrine of theosis that, I
Clendenin’s approach is typical of many would argue, can be understood in a manner
evangelical responses to both Orthodoxy and consistent with evangelical theology:
Roman Catholicism. “Balance” would suggest
neither Pelagian denial of grace nor what he The man Jesus is God hypostatically, and,
calls an “antinomian” rejection of synergism. therefore, in Him there is a “communica-
However, this seems to me to be wrong on two tion” (perichoresis—circumincessio) of
counts. First, it is simplistic. Reformation the “energies” divine and human. This
theology emphasizes “the importance of the “communication” also reaches those who
human response toward the grace of God” just as are “in Christ.” But they, of course, are

VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018

human hypostases, and are united to God priesthood that could never and can never take
not hypostatically but only “by grace” or away sin? 
“by energy.”
MICHAEL S. HORTON is the J. Gresham Machen Professor
In fact, Meyendorff clearly distinguishes the of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster
Orthodox view from Pelagianism, but then Seminary California in Escondido.
he reiterates the synergistic perspective that
remains at the heart of the debate between The above excerpt is adapted from “Are Eastern Orthodoxy
Reformation theology and its rivals: and Evangelicalism Compatible? No” by Michael Horton,
taken from Three Views on Eastern Orthodoxy and Evan-
It is not through his own activity or gelicalism Copyright © 2004 by James J. Stamoolis. Used
“energy” that man can be deified—this by kind permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.
would be Pelagianism—but by divine
“energy,” to which his human activity is
“obedient”; between the two there is a
“synergy,” of which the relation of the two
energies in Christ is the ontological basis.
1 V. Palachovsky and C. Vogel, Sin in the Orthodox Church and in the
Protestant Churches (n.p.: Desclee, 1960), 31, 35.
In spite of his repudiation of Pelagianism, 2 Cf. Saint Augustine, City of God, trans. Gerald G. Walsh et al. (New
Meyendorff confirms our suspicion that York: Image Books, 1958), bk. 12, chs. 3–5.
3 Saint Augustine, bk. 13, chs. 13–16. See also Saint Augustine,
Orthodoxy reflects a Semi-Pelagian con- Confessions, bk. 1, chap. 7; bk. 21, chap. 27.
sensus. Although it will sound like a gross 4 Constantine N. Tsirpanlis, Introduction to Eastern Patristic Thought
and Orthodox Theology (n.p.: Michael Glazier Books, 1990), 52.
oversimplification, many of us will regard 5 Tsirpanlis, 145.
this as a difference—although an important 6 Tsirpanlis, 146.
one—of degree. To what extent can humans 7 See Richard Gaffin, Resurrection and Redemption (Phillipsburg, NJ:
P&R, 1978).
be said to contribute to their own salvation? 8 Christos Yannaras, Elements of Faith: An Introduction to Orthodox
Pelagians answer, “Entirely”; Semi-Pelagians Theology, trans. Keith Schram (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1991),
say, “In part.“ Neither of these answers, from 9 Yannaras, 113.
a classic evangelical perspective, does justice 10 Irenaeus, “Against Heresies,” 544.
to the biblical account of sin; nor does either 11 Irenaeus, 499.
give the comfort that is held out to us in “the 12 Irenaeus, 500.
13 Cf. Meredith G. Kline, The Treaty of the Great King: The Covenant
good news.” Structure of Deuteronomy (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1963).
14 See Palachovsky and Vogel, 14.
15 Palachovsky and Vogel, 16.
CONCLUSION 16 Constantine N. Callinikos, The Greek Orthodox Catechism: A Manual

of Instruction on Faith, Morals and Worship (n.p.: Greek Archdiocese
he treasure that the church carries of No. and So. America, 1960), 31.
17 Palachovsky and Vogel, 47.
in earthen vessels is the gospel—the 18 Daniel B. Clendenin, Eastern Orthodox Christianity: A Western
announcement that God has done for Perspective (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 122.
us in Christ that which we could never 19 Clendenin, 123.
20 Clendenin 124.
do for ourselves, even with his help. This is 21 Clendenin, 135. The Philokalia is a collection of texts written
all we have at the end of the day, and without between the fourth and fifteenth centuries by spiritual masters of
the Orthodox Christian tradition. First published in Greek in 1782
it our ancient pedigree and customs, liturgies and translated into Slavonic and later into Russian, The Philokalia
and rites, ecclesiastical offices and powers, has exercised a greater influence than any book other than the Bible
in the recent history of the Orthodox Church.
are worthless. Is it possible that Orthodoxy 22 Clendenin, 136.
has, like the recipients of the epistle to the 23 Clendenin, 158.
Hebrews, turned—even so soon—from the suf- 24 Clendenin, 158.
25 John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and
ficiency of Christ and his eternal priesthood to Doctrinal Themes (New York: Fordham University Press, 1999), 164.
return to the shadows of the law and its temporal 26 Meyendorff, 164.


illustration by  ISABEL SELIGER

hy are people leaving Reformed

W churches for Eastern Orthodox

churches? While there have always
been some who have left Protestant
churches to be received (chrismated) into
Eastern Orthodoxy (EO), significant cultural
differences have generally prevented it from
being a significant draw to Protestant “search-
ers.” With the advent of a distinctly American
flavor of EO found in the Antiochian Orthodox
Christian Archdiocese of North America and
the Orthodox Church in America, and the influ-
ence of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological
Seminary in New York, many are being drawn
to EO who evidently had a limited familiarity
and access before.
In the 1960s and ’70s, a large number of evan-
gelicals left Campus Crusade for Christ and

founded a movement called the New Covenant
Apostolic Order. Those who belonged to this
movement had spent significant time reading

EAST the early church fathers in an effort to discover

the New Testament church. They came to the
conclusion that EO was that church, and in
coming years, large numbers of pastors and
laypeople were received into that fellowship.
Peter Gillquist spearheaded a publishing effort
A Pastoral Approach
to teach Protestants about EO, resulting in a
to Christians steady stream of converts who now saw EO as
Considering Conversion a way to participate in an ancient faith without
the trappings of the Roman Catholic Church.
Generally, there are three categories of reasons
why people join Eastern Orthodox churches:
mystery, history, and beauty.

O worship is described as participa-

tion in and expression of fund-
amental unknowable realities: the
Trinity, the incarnation, Creation,
the sacraments, and the church. For many con-
verts to EO, a main draw is the idea that EO
worship (and even theological formulations)
supremely reflects these mysteries, especially
in contrast to Western Protestantism.
Many who have left for EO would say that
the West is more focused on talking about God

rather than actually experiencing, loving, and by descriptors of God, such as ineffable, incom-
serving him. They perceive a conflict between an prehensible, invisible, and inconceivable).
attempt to define, explain, and codify God and Protestants are said to give lip service to God’s
to revel mystically in the unknown. Many EO incomprehensibility, but then they compromise
convert stories highlight being carried away in it via their theological systems, confessions, and
some aspect of beauty, mystery, or experience, philosophies when they explain that which was
rather than having a question answered; they just confessed as incomprehensible. Vladimir
may speak less of finding some elusive answer Lossky says:
in EO theology, and more of being soothed out
of existential angst by the EO experience. They We must live the dogma expressing a
speak of being alive to possibility, of being lost revealed truth, which appears to us as an
in spectacle and grandeur as they see, hear, and unfathomable mystery, in such a fashion
touch, in contrast to the stagnancy they felt in that instead of assimilating the mystery to
a bland or shallow Western religious program. our mode of understanding, we should, on
They speak of finding the West’s dogmatic asser- the contrary, look for a profound change,
tions unsatisfying and lacking, the product of and inner transformation of spirit,
callously spouted answers and touted systems enabling us to experience it mystically. Far
that swallow up purity, piety, and humility. from being mutually opposed, theology
and mysticism support and complete each
other…there is, therefore, no Christian
mysticism without theology; but, above all,
there is no theology without mysticism….
or EO, mystical experience is an Mysticism is…the perfecting and crown of

ascent toward God—an experience all theology: as theology par excellence.
that surpasses all human under-
standing, and an existential attitude
that involves the whole being. One implication
of this is that knowing begins in prayer, in lit- s human beings created in the image
urgy, in sacraments, as opposed to starting with,
as is said to characterize the Reformed and A of God, we are more than thinking
beings. It would not surprise us
Western church, a preoccupation with mere that many of our friends attracted
rationalistic constructs. to EO will need more deliberate, patient, per-
Thus in EO, the beginning place of knowing sonal, holistic (body and soul) care. This is the
is, ironically, in unknowing. Central to EO is care, after all, that the Father gives us. We can
the idea of apophaticism, a way of knowing in model and teach holistic piety in the way we
which one knows God primarily through mysti- interact in church and in the world.
cal contemplation, rather than through positive To provide this care would first be to ensure
propositions or intellectual activities. It is an that our own local churches’ love and commu-
emptying of the mind of logic and engaging in nion extend beyond the walls of the church on
prayer in one’s ignorance. The goal is not knowl- the Lord’s Day. Thoughtful, intentional, and
edge but union with the Triune God, what EO calls sacrificial seeking to love and serve one another
deification. This negative way of apophaticism daily is our calling. The phrase “They will know
is the only way to open the door to a legitimate we are Christians by our love” is not just a plati-
positive way of cataphaticism (a way of saying tude but a calling, a privilege, a responsibility, a
something positive about God). Denials, or nega- participation in the life of God and his people.
tions, are the beginning point of EO theology, If we wish to minister most effectively to those
and everything else is God (as displayed by the believing that EO is a more desirable place to
negations of the central Athanasian Creed and experience the mysteries of the Christian life,

VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018

then let us spend time with one another, weep- has revealed. Certainly there are things
ing with those who weep, rejoicing with those beyond our comprehension as finite
who rejoice, chasing after the wandering, bind- creatures, but that does not undermine
ing up the wounded, bearing with one another, the fact that there are things we know
and by the Spirit serving and loving one another and can know as God has revealed him-
as God the Father loves and serves us in Christ. self in nature, in his word, and in his Son.
It behooves us to examine ourselves in light of Scripture itself makes this distinction
God’s word to see if we sound like the noisy gongs between the revealed and hidden things
and clanging cymbals that lack love. (Deut. 29:29). The incarnation, the real-
But alongside living in caring community and ity of which is inaccessible to us in great
ministering to the whole person the entire week, and many ways, is that the Eternal Word
it will likely be helpful to review and affirm some became flesh and dwelt among us. We only
of our thoughts on the broad concept of “mys- know in part, yes, but we do know! And
tery,” including the following: while knowledge for knowledge’s sake may
be problematic, and speculation is idola-
• We, in fact, take pains to express the pre- trous, the Lord never prizes ignorance.
ponderance of mystery, as evidenced by To say that we cannot know something
the over twenty times we refer to it in fully is not to say that we do not know it
the Belgic Confession, especially with meaningfully or sufficiently. What God
regard to the Trinity, the incarnation, has said to us, we must learn.
the church, the Lord’s Supper, God’s will,
election, and regeneration.
• The Holy Spirit shapes faith by institu- nother major contributing factor in
tion and ritual, as well as by intellectual
explanation and assent. The church is A Protestant conversion to EO is the
allure of antiquity. EO claims to be
important for faith, life, practice, and the original Christian church
piety; indeed, outside of her there is no founded by Jesus, with liturgy, doctrine, and
salvation. The sacraments (at least the government that has remained unchanged since
two instituted by Christ) are far more the days of the apostles.
than bare signs but effectual means of In the first place, EO contends that its worship
grace. Extraordinary things are happen- has not changed since the days of the apostles.
ing through ordinary means. They claim that the Divine Liturgy “was in prac-
tice right after the descent of the Holy Spirit
• The ecumenical creeds and confessions of on the Disciples of Christ on the 50 day after
the church are not merely lists of things His Resurrection.” While they admit that the
to which we subscribe, but lively words Divine Liturgy saw subsequent development
forming our liturgical lives in union with and did not take its final form until the fourth
our Triune God and his people. We stand century, they maintain that the basic structure
before God in awe, and he dwells within of their worship has not changed since the early
us. We are not just talking about God, church. As one Orthodox monk put it, “You
but we are talking to him and with him have to understand, the words we are saying in
and because of him—given that in him today’s liturgy are the same words that Christ
we live and move and have our being, and was saying, the same words that saints from the
the Spirit of Christ dwells within us. first century, the second century, the third cen-
tury, the fourth century [were saying].” Unlike
• Though there is much to be recognized American evangelicalism that undergoes con-
as mystery, there is much that the Lord stant updates and changes in its musical and

liturgical styles, the Divine Liturgy appears we as Reformed Christians respond to these
to remain untouched by the passing fads and claims? The notion that the Divine Liturgy has
whims of popular culture. been in place since the days of the apostles is
Second, while EO describes itself more as a misleading and grossly oversimplified. The
way of life than a system of belief, it neverthe- nearest example in the New Testament of an
less claims to represent the unbroken succession apostolic liturgy is found in Acts 2.42: “And
of apostolic Christianity in its doctrine, which is they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teach-
summarized in the seven Ecumenical Councils ing and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread
(Nicaea in 325, Constantinople in 381, Ephesus and the prayers.” But this, of course, is not a
in 431, Chalcedon in 451, Constantinople in 553, liturgy; rather, it describes the four main ele-
Constantinople II in 681, and Nicaea II in 787) ments present in the weekly worship of the
and their respective creeds and canons. For the apostolic church: word, fellowship, sacra-
Orthodox Church, these ecumenical councils ments, and the prayers (which include the
constitute its confession. In addition to the seven singing of Psalms and hymns). Likewise, the
ecumenical councils, EO recognizes as authori- most reliable documents from the post-apos-
tative the writings of the early church fathers. tolic early church, such as the Didache (c.
This is “for guidance in questions of faith, for the second century) and Justin Martyr’s First
correct understanding of Sacred Scripture, and Apology (c. 155–157), provide us with evidence
in order to distinguish the authentic Tradition of that worship in the ancient church consisted
the Church from false teachings.” of Scripture reading, preaching, singing, the
Finally, EO offers connectivity to the ancient Lord’s Prayer, and weekly Communion. These,
church in its government through its claim of however, show no signs of looking identical to
an unbroken succession from the apostles to the Divine Liturgy of the Orthodox Church. In
the current bishops of the Orthodox Church. fact, the oldest surviving liturgy in use by EO
EO has three tiers of church hierarchy in its today is the “Liturgy of St. James,” which dates
government: bishops, presbyters, and deacons. no earlier than the fourth century. EO’s claim
These offices, EO claims, have direct lineage to that its liturgy has remained unchanged since
the apostles—that is, the men who serve in these the days of the apostles is unsubstantiated and
offices today were ordained by men who were overstated.
ordained by men (and so on), all the way back to Turning to EO’s claim to represent the unbro-
the apostles. Without this apostolic succession, ken chain of apostolic doctrine, we make two
says Orthodoxy, a church is not a true church: brief observations. First, EO’s claim works
“The succession from the Apostles and the only if one accepts the Orthodox notion of the
uninterruptedness of the episcopacy comprise church’s infallibility and, specifically, that the
one of the essential sides of the Church. And, canons and decrees of the ecumenical councils
on the contrary: the absence of the succession are infallible. If the canons and decrees of the
of the episcopacy in one or another Christian ecumenical councils are infallible, as EO claims,
denomination deprives it of an attribute of the then they possess the same weight and authority
true Church, even if in it there is present an as Scripture. On the other hand, if the church
undistorted dogmatic teaching.” and its various councils are fallible, then it is
possible that the church has erred in its rulings
from time to time since the days of the apostles.
We believe, as the Westminster Confession of
Faith states, that “all synods or councils, since
s it true that EO represents the the Apostles’ times, whether general or particu-

I unbroken chain of apostolic

Christianity in its worship, doc-
lar, may err; and many have erred. Therefore
they are not to be made the rule of faith or prac-
trine, and government? How should tice; but to be used as a help in both.”

VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018

Second, we point out that essential Christian
doctrine is not limited to the seven ecumenical
councils of the ancient church. While we agree
that there exists a “catholic consciousness” in
the ancient creeds, confirming “a number of the
fundamental truths” of Christianity, we also rec-
ognize that the history of the Christian church
continued after the eighth century, giving rise
to crucial questions and debates that required
more clarity than the canons and decrees of the
ecumenical councils provide.
Finally, we respond briefly to EO’s claim to
apostolic succession in its government—that
is, that their current bishops have a direct lin-
eage to the apostles. While such a claim is in
itself dubious, even if it could be proven, it is
no ground for the believer’s confidence that EO
The true apostolic has preserved the truth over the past two mil-
succession is not
lennia. As Michael Horton states,

one of men but of Orthodoxy’s appeal to a direct line to the

apostolic ministry— apostles is surely no greater ground for
confidence than that which the Galatian
ministry of the churches could have claimed. Yet they
word of God, were wrong. It is on the basis of the apos-
tle’s own rebukes that we know they were
which alone is the wrong, and that their lofty place in the
final authority for the history of the church could not save them
from the apostle’s anathema.

Christian’s faith
and life. In other words, if the apostolic church itself
was fraught with problems and sometimes
deviated from the truth, how does EO’s claim
to apostolic succession of its bishops give us
confidence that the truth has been preserved
pristinely over the centuries? The true apos-
tolic succession is not one of men but of
apostolic ministry—ministry of the word of
God, which alone is the final authority for the
Christian’s faith and life.

The treasure that the church carries

in earthen vessels is the gospel—the
announcement that God has done for us
in Christ that which we could never do for
ourselves, even with his help. This is all we
have at the end of the day, and without it
our ancient pedigree and customs, liturgies

Beauty is therefore
pursued not simply
for subjective
experiences of
delight, but because
to gaze upon beauty
is to gaze upon God’s
own beauty revealed
in creation. I L L U S T R AT I O N / P H O T O B Y N A M E H E R E

VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018

and rites, ecclesiastical offices and powers, Louth explains: “We see a created order of beings
are worthless.19 both visible and invisible, a creation which,
because created out of nothing, manifests noth-
It is not upon an apostolic succession of men ing but God himself, for the whole created order
that Christ has built his church, but upon the is to be seen as a theophany, a manifestation of
gospel that the apostles proclaimed. God, indeed a manifestation of God’s beauty.”
Beauty is therefore pursued not simply for sub-
jective experiences of delight, but because to gaze
upon beauty is to gaze upon God’s own beauty
eauty is another category that has revealed in creation. Indeed, the very layout of

B been a factor in people’s embrace of

EO. Some conver ts to EO have
EO worship spaces is intended to be a model or
reflection of the entire cosmos.

become frustrated with the lack of Second, eschatology comes into play as the
beauty in many Protestant worship services. For beauty of worship especially reflects God’s rev-
example, note the following: elation of beauty as it exists in the eschaton.
The idea of the age to come breaking in on the
I never understood why Old Testament present age is not a category wholly foreign
worship utilized all the senses, and then to Reformed theology. After all, we regularly
suddenly we get a new and better covenant speak of the already/not-yet and recognize the
(Heb. 8:6) and switch to plain white walls in-breaking of the kingdom of God in Jesus’
free of any symbolism. Orthodox people miracles. Orthodoxy, however, tends toward
taste, touch, see, hear, and smell virtually an over-realized eschatology, attempting to pull
everything! Orthodoxy is exceedingly beau- more and more of the age to come into the pres-
tiful. Worship is beautiful in Orthodoxy, as ent in worship. Furthermore, this eschatological
it should be. And every detail of worship is distinction is even conceived in terms of an
carefully designed for the honor and glory ontological or metaphysical movement toward
of God—from the way we sing to the images “being.” For example, Leonid Ouspensky,
that adorn our walls to the vestments of the a famous Russian Orthodox iconographer,
clergy. speaks of those in glory (the saints) as more fully
human than sinners because they have “put on
Since a hallmark of Reformed churches since the incorruptible beauty of the kingdom of God.”
the Reformation has been simplicity of wor- He continues:
ship, and since Reformed church décor is often
designed to minimize distraction from the For this reason beauty, as it is understood
preached word, converts like the one just cited by the Orthodox Church, is not the charac-
describe their transition as one from worship teristic beauty of a creature. It is a part of
that is ugly and bland to worship that is beauti- the life to come, when God will be all in all.…
ful and vibrant. For the church…the value and beauty of the
visible world lie not in the temporary splen-
dor of its present state, but in its potential
transformation, realized by humans. In
ne reason EO has such a sensory other words, true beauty is the radiance of

O approach to worship is because it

emphasizes both ontology and escha-
the Holy Spirit, the holiness of and partici-
pation in the life of the world to come.

tology when describing beauty. First

of all, ontology (i.e., being, existence) comes into Again, there is validity in speaking of the glory
play in the belief that the cosmos is designed to of the age to come breaking in on the present,
reflect God’s own beauty. EO theologian Andrew but glorification is not the same as Plato’s pure

being. The beauty of the age to come is consum- used in EO descriptions of beauty seems to go
mate beauty, to be sure, but EO’s handling of this beyond Scripture’s intent, reflecting ideas more
beauty using the language of being and ontology Platonic than biblical. Nevertheless, the Bible
ups the ante, as it were, concerning what hap- assumes that beauty is praiseworthy and good,
pens in worship. If in worship the worshipper that beauty found in this world is a reflection of
experiences nothing less than the age to come God’s perfect beauty, and the artisanship found
manifesting a beauty that is more real than the throughout Scripture’s pages is even attributed
present, then it is no wonder that worship is so to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (e.g., Exod.
geared toward sensory experience. 31:1–11). The pursuit of and delight in beauty by
humans should be seen as a natural outworking
of this very truth.
Is the character of EO worship truly beautiful
vis-à-vis Protestant worship? No. The only way
cripture speaks regularly of beauty, converts can downplay the beauty of Protestant

S although it does not do so in a philo-

sophical and analytic direction.
worship is by judging Protestant worship by one’s
tastes for Byzantine artistic culture. Though
“Instead the biblical writers are some claim that the simplicity of Protestant wor-
content with beauty as a general artistic qual- ship is “boring” (i.e., lacking beauty/aesthetics
ity denoting the positive response of a person and so on), Darryl Hart and John Muether offer
to nature, a person or an artifact.” It is true an important response: “The real question…is…
that God’s creation is beautiful; the fruit of the how did Reformed and Presbyterian churches
tree was “a delight to the eyes” (Gen 3:6) and come to a point where members sometimes per-
the various results of God’s creative acts were ceive preaching, the sacraments, prayer, song,
declared “good” or “very good.” And the beauty Bible reading, and benedictions as boring?”
of this world does seem to direct our attention Indeed, how did they? We suggest that the prob-
to a “beauty that is more permanent and tran- lem is not with Protestant worship but with the
scendent than anything this life can give.” Yet overly narrow tastes that have been cultivated
beauty in Scripture is not only an aesthetic by converts to EO. A scenario, offered by John
quality but also a spiritual response to the Witvliet, is illustrative:
beauty of God.
It is also true that Scripture does describe God On a Sunday in Advent, the Kyrie and
himself as beautiful. David desires to enter God’s Gloria are sung by a choir of developmen-
presence to “behold the beauty of the Lord” tally and physically disabled children. The
(Ps. 27:4). The psalmist notes that God made Old Testament lectionary reading is from
the heavens and that “splendor and majesty Isaiah 35. Their singing, by any standard
are before him; strength and beauty are in his measure, lacks aesthetic integrity—it is
sanctuary” (Ps. 96:6). But it is noteworthy that, unrhythmic and out of tune. Yet here a
in the Old Testament, beauty is frequently used powerful symbiosis of social factors (per-
as a synonym for glory, majesty, splendor, and sonal knowledge of individual choristers)
pleasantness. Yahweh in his glory and Jesus and theological factors (the vivid and hope-
in his transfiguration (Matt. 17:1–8; Mark filled eschatological theme of Isaiah 35)
9:2–8; Luke 9:28–36; cf. 2 Pet. 1:16–17) and transform the aesthetic dimension of the
his appearance among the seven lamp stands choir’s contribution into a rich, kingdom-
(Rev. 1:12–16) equally depict the beauty of God’s oriented liturgical experience.
holy array. Thus, while beauty is predicated
on God and while there is an appropriateness There are indeed times when Protestant wor-
to speaking of his beauty in aesthetic terms, ship is done sloppily and lazily. But it is crucial
the ontological and eschatological language to remember that the broken and contrite heart

VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018


grew up in a fun- fullness of them only within his church (singular), “and understands that all of life
damentalist “Bible the Orthodox Church. the gates of hell will not is a sacrament in Christ
church” that loved prevail against it.” who fills life itself with
God and had a clear Protestantism’s narrative the Holy Spirit. Ortho-
desire to serve him, but I of church history left me Evangelical and Reformed doxy is centered on one
questioned why my church dissatisfied. In particular, Christianity left me dis- sacrament, “the Eucharist,”
was so isolated from other what happened between satisfied by their liturgy. which is the “sacrament
Christians. By the time the first-century church All churches inescapably of sacraments” and the
I graduated from high and the dawn of the have a liturgy, but many heavenly banquet of the
school, I found something Reformation? Evangelicals evangelicals say that kingdom of God. In Holy
in the more historical faith essentially told me that formal liturgical worship Communion we partake
of Reformed Presbyterian- the Christian church fell is “canned,” “dry,” or of the body and blood
ism, but I still wondered into heresy right away and pharisaical. The Orthodox of Christ, the Eternal
what exactly transpired did not recover until years Church worships together Passover Lamb who makes
between the first century later when Martin Luther in beauty and holiness, and us alive and holy with
AD and 1517. rescued the faith from the I was drawn to it. Because himself. This is why we
hands of Roman Catholi- liturgy is rooted in the worship, and this is why
During my first year of cism. Although Reformed incarnation, we worship I transitioned from evan-
college, I attended a thinking is more generous God with our whole being: gelicalism into the fullness
Reformed Church on Sun- to the early church, it still body, mind, and soul. of the faith of Christian
day mornings and a Roman takes significant pause at Anyone who has attended Orthodoxy. 
Catholic Church on Sunday what transpired between an Orthodox service
evenings. My theology was Jerusalem and Geneva. can speak of the holistic ALISON SAILER is a board
still Reformed, but I longed worship: incense, icons, certified music therapist
for rich, liturgical worship Orthodoxy claims that the vestments, chants, and practicing in South Florida.
saturated in Scripture. A church has been here all prostrations. She attends Saint Herman
year later, I encountered along, unchanged, and still of Alaska Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodoxy and relevant. Orthodoxy is both Finally, evangelicalism in Lake Worth.
knew immediately that was “right belief” and “right left me dissatisfied by its
where I belonged. General worship” in the context sacraments where there is This article originally
dissatisfaction with evan- of apostolic succession. little to no recognition of appeared in the March/
gelicalism led me to search In other words, someone the elements as physical April 2012 issue of Modern
for the historic church of has to preserve the faith vehicles of grace, and Reformation.
liturgy and sacraments. (duly ordained bishops), Communion is celebrated
And while Reformed and the right faith must more as a memorial service
Christianity sometimes has be preserved (Orthodoxy). than as the life-giving
these elements, I found the Christ promised to build bread and wine. Orthodoxy

renders something to God in worship more themes of restoration from ruin, repair of bro-
beautiful than any external adornments that kenness, victory over Satan, glorification, and
meet any number of cultural aesthetic norms. the like. And certainly there can be too much
law and not enough gospel in our liturgy and
preaching, distorting our people’s understand-
ing of God’s character.
rthodox converts regularly speak of It seems, however, that the substantive dis-

O a fuller, broader understanding of

the gospel in Orthodoxy than is typi-
agreement here is not over how broad a range
of gospel blessings are believed and taught, but
cally believed and taught in over the doctrine of justification itself, and most
Protestant churches. Protestants are accused of of all whether that doctrine’s basic “courtroom
“gospel reductionism”: model” elements should have a primary role in
the communication of the broad gospel bless-
In the Holy Scripture and in the Holy ings. We are compelled to answer this question
Fathers salvation is a grand accomplish- by asking: In what framework and model, and
ment with innumerable facets, a great and in what balance or emphasis, do the Scriptures
expansive deliverance of humanity from communicate the fullness of gospel blessings?
all of its enemies: sin, condemnation, the Not without other frameworks, yes, but the
wrath of God, the devil and his demons, the Scriptures in fact weigh heavily toward the
world, and ultimately death. In Protestant image of the Divine Judge acquitting criminals
teaching and practice, salvation is essen- in the courtroom. This is the image that perme-
tially a deliverance from the wrath of God. ates Scripture: sin as the cause of the wrathful
curse, and of Christ who comes to die to atone
Some Orthodox converts say that as a result of for the debt of that sin. The Lord levies the hor-
this broader understanding, they experience rific curse in the garden in direct response to
an increased joy in their salvation, draw greater man’s idolatry and straightaway announces
encouragement from it, and find more gospel the bruising of the Seed for the crushing of
power for holy living. This better experience is the Serpent; his law at Sinai even anticipates
a result, they may argue, of Orthodoxy subju- Israel’s unthinkable gross apostasy for which
gating the primary, dominant salvific image in he will drive them into onerous exile, and insti-
Protestantism (i.e., the Divine Judge acquitting tutes the sacrificial system where only smelly,
criminals in the courtroom) to the image of the bloody slaughter brings forgiveness; his proph-
divine doctor healing the sick in the hospital. This ets explain at great length the gross sin of the
offers some degree of relief from the angst of what people as the cause of his severe judgments,
they would probably characterize as an errant or and that their only hope for reconciliation will
imbalanced understanding of God’s wrath. come through the unjust spurning, crushing of
We readily admit that the proclamation of an obedient Son; Jesus himself speaks force-
these broader elements of redemption may be fully of the wrath to come, and in the gospels
inappropriately neglected, not only in churches increasingly reveals the driving purpose of his
that indeed have a narrow view of gospel bless- death, to pay the ransom debt; and, of course,
ings, but even in churches that explicitly Paul directly systematizes the longstanding jus-
confess a rich and broad understanding of the tification theme.
gospel. Preaching and liturgy absent of com- So if what attracts someone to Orthodoxy is
municating the Lord’s victory through Christ that the chief biblical structure of the gospel’s
over all of humanity’s enemies is surely defi- communication is relegated to the back burner,
cient, and we do well to be self-critical if we such that the discomforts inevitably caused by
have lapsed into such an imbalance. Rounded the chief structure get muted, the existential
preaching and worship includes the gospel relief may be delightful, but it is, to use the

VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018

metaphor from C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles
of Narnia, Turkish delight. 33 Christians can
and should learn to be comfortable with being

It is good that one should wait quietly for the

salvation of the Lord. It is good for a man
that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him
sit alone in silence when it is laid on him;
let him put his mouth in the dust….For the
Lord will not cast off forever, but, though he
cause grief, he will have compassion accord-
ing to the abundance of his steadfast love;
for he does not afflict from his heart or
grieve the children of men. (Lam. 3:26–33)

As we ought regularly to struggle with and feel

some angst about our violations of God’s law (“a
Rounded preaching sense of this corruption should make believers
and worship often to sigh, desiring to be delivered from this
body of death” ), we flee to the atoning suffering
includes the gospel and death of Christ. This is a salve that is, let us
themes of restoration admit, unsettling but also beautiful.

from ruin, repair Practically, we are concerned that when

professing Christians flee to EO for a kinder,
of brokenness, gentler gospel, some take that path to evade
victory over Satan, accepting and confronting the horrific nature
and extent of their sin, and thereby cultivating a
glorification, and godly sorrow for it that leads to repentance. This
the like. path was opened to them, and such a journey
was encouraged in the Protestant churches they
have left. They may try to quiet the law working
on their conscience with EO religious exercises
and a gospel easier on the ears. Ironically, then,
this Orthodox critique of Protestantism’s sup-
posed gospel reductionism is akin to the modern
evangelical church’s pragmatism or its penchant
to adapt theology and practice primarily for its
value to fulfill people’s emotional, social, or
other perceived needs.
It is also worth offering some counsel to
those who (probably rooted intellectually in
the problem of evil and/or emotionally in per-
sonal experience of abuse at the hands of sinful
authority) are anxious about the biblical God
of wrath. Let us remember that the Lord, given
all we know about him, is worthy of our confi-
dence in his justice. He gave us his own Son, and

so though we may have some questions about peoples’ troubles rub up against the edges of
him and may at times be intimidated by him, Reformed doctrine. There was a man in one
we have beheld enough of his love, peace, and of our churches who was tormented by the
glory, to worship him, sense his love, and know Reformed conception of God’s sovereignty
that one day we will enjoy full, soulful, peaceful because of the suffering of a family member.
resonance with him. Somehow, he found relief on this point in EO.
In either situation, our normal work of loving
counseling and discipline, rebuking and com-
forting must be renewed so that, as much as
depends on us, the sheep do not compound
irst, of paramount importance, their sins with false religion or wander else-

F while communicating with those in

our care who are anywhere along a
where for false comforts.
Third, put together a short list of talking
road considering EO, let us main- points or questions about the core differences
tain intellectual honesty and humility. We between the Reformed faith and EO that can
should feel free to admit the foreignness of structure otherwise open conversations with our
Orthodoxy to many of us rather than presum- members about Orthodoxy. It is more important
ing (under pressure) to speak hastily to it. to discuss sola scriptura versus conciliar infal-
Those promoting Orthodoxy pounce on obvi- libility, or iconoclasm versus the mandatory use
ous mischaracterizations of their faith made of icons, than it is to get lost in discussions about
by their critics (e.g., when we conflate every jot and tittle of EO tradition. And through
Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism), and we these discussions, we do well to be patient and
easily lose credibility if we also become guilty understanding (though also firm), as opposed
of mischaracterization. We expect that in the to being primarily adversarial.
long term, the care we take in patiently Finally, while the person remains a member
responding to them may be every bit as impor- of one of our local churches—if they are explor-
tant as the substance of our answers to EO ing EO, reading, even attending an occasional
claims. We should try to slow everyone down. service—patience on our part is an excellent
One man in our churches who left for EO was virtue to exercise. As long as a person is not
introduced to it, “studied the matter on the given over to promoting beliefs and practices
internet for three months,” and then left his inconsistent with their Reformed profession,
Reformed church of over ten years (without any let us seek to extend as much latitude as pos-
discussion or indication of such a move to any sible. There is a difference between someone
pastor or elder). Not only should this man be who is genuinely curious and needs to think
told that he moved hastily, but we ourselves through new challenges to their profession
should model for him and others a slow, care- without us standing over them and inquiring
ful, and thoughtful approach. at every turn, and someone who is spreading
Second, let us be sensitive to the difficult life newfound Orthodox convictions on their social
situations of those who are considering EO. It media page. In the latter case, admonition and
is quite possible that in someone’s home life discipline must be considered. 
or in their church life they have become rest-
less for reasons technically unrelated to the MICHAEL BROWN is pastor of Christ United Reformed
differences between EO and confessional Church in Santee, California.
Protestantism. One man’s brash and offensive
character traced to his tremendously traumatic This is an abridged adaptation of Rev. Brown’s report to the
life seems to have made him a religious vaga- United Reformed Church of North America’s Study Com-
bond (EO may prove only to be a comfortable mittee on Eastern Orthodoxy and is reprinted here by kind
stop along the road). In other cases, however, permission of the author. 

VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018

1 Peter Gillquist writes of his conversion in Becoming Orthodox: A 15 For more on EO’s claim that the canons and decrees of the ecumenical
Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith, rev. ed. (Ben Lomond, CA: councils are infallible, see Pomazansky, Dogmatic Theology, 29­–49,
Conciliar Press, 2010), and shares the conversion stories of eigh- and The Patriarchal Encyclical of 1895.
teen Protestant pastors in Coming Home: Why Protestant Clergy 16 Westminster Confession of Faith, 31.4.
are Becoming Orthodox, 2nd ed. (Ben Lomond, CA: Conciliar Press,
1995). 17 The claim itself is dubious, given both the history of Orthodoxy and
its ecclesiastical structure. As Robert Letham observes, “The Eastern
2 Andrew Louth, Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology (Downers church in the Byzantine Empire had no systematic ecclesiology. Unlike
Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013), 1. the West, there was no coherent body of canon law, due to the fact
3 Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church that the Byzantines never considered the church in a juridical man-
(Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1976), 8–9. ner.” See Robert Letham, Through Western Eyes: Eastern Orthodoxy:
4 For a useful discussion the breadth of the human person, a breadth A Reformed Perspective (Ross-shire, UK: Christian Focus, 2007),
that goes beyond “cognitivist approaches” that reduce man to merely 121. Throughout much of the Byzantine Empire (c. 330–1453), the
a thinking being, see James K. A. Smith, Desiring the Kingdom: Orthodox Church was not held together by a magisterium and final
Worship, Worldview, and Cultural Formation (Grand Rapids: Baker authority, as was the Western Church with its College of Cardinals
Academic, 2009). In places, Smith sounds as if he is minimizing the and Papacy in Rome. Not only did its center shift to Moscow from
importance of knowledge and cognition, but this is not his intent. Constantinople, which fell to the Turks in 1453, but under the pres-
sure and persecution of Islam since the seventh century, the Orthodox
5 Those who believe the Reformation to be exclusively cerebral seem Church gradually dispersed into a monastic movement of ascetics,
to have paid insufficient attention to the Puritans whose writings mystics, hermits, and recluses. While this does not disprove EO’s claim
evidence a thorough and careful theology wedded to a deep and pas- to apostolic succession, it does seem to make the claim more difficult
sionate piety and experience of faith. For a useful introduction to to prove than the similar claim of Rome, which has, for the most part,
Puritan writers, see Joel R. Beeke and Randall J. Pederson, Meet remained seated in one place for two thousand years and developed a
the Puritans: With a Guide to Modern Reprints (Grand Rapids: highly structured ecclesiology.
Reformation Heritage Books, 2006). Also, Joel R. Beeke and
Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids: 18 Michael Horton, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism
Reformation Heritage Books, 2012). Compatible? No: An Evangelical Perspective,” in Three Views on
Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism, ed. James Stamoolis (Grand
6 Daily household devotional reading and prayer, the regular exercise of Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 142.
hospitality, and the development of local/regional household prayer
and fellowship gatherings would be ways to serve these purposes. 19 Horton, “Are Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism Compatible?,”
7 Wilhelmus à Brakel’s words on humility, meekness, and peaceable-
ness are commendable as we seek to avoid the pride and arrogance 20 Jamey Bennett, “Liturgy, Sacraments, and All That Jazz: Ten
that is often more true of us than we wish to admit. Wilhelmus à Reasons I Joined the Orthodox Church,” Journey to Orthodoxy (blog),
Brakel, The Christian’s Reasonable Service, ed. Joel R. Beeke, trans. September 30, 2013, http://journeytoorthodoxy.com/2013/09/
Bartel Elshout (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 1995), liturgy-sacraments-all-that-jazz-ten-reasons-i-joined-the-ortho-
4:67–101. dox-church.
8 There is particular (and catholic) reflection on our experience of 21 Andrew Louth, Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology (Downers
that mystery, as represented by John Owen’s Of Communion with Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2013), 66.
God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (Works 2:1–274), and applied 22 Louth, Eastern Orthodox Theology, 133–34.
in Sinclair B. Ferguson’s The Trinitarian Devotion of John Owen 23 See Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, ed. Raymond
(Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2014). O. Zorn, trans. H. de Jongste (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and
9 See Esther Lightcap Meek, Longing to Know: The Philosophy of Reformed, 1962), 65–70; Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old
Knowledge for Ordinary People (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, and New Testaments (1948; repr., Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth
2003). As this unknowable/knowable discussion applies to the Trust, 1975), 386.
essence/energies distinction, consider Michael Horton’s adapta- 24 These are metaphysical matters that can get complicated, but for
tions in The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims a description of the details, see Michael S. Horton, Covenant and
on the Way (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 129–31, 159– Eschatology: The Divine Drama (Louisville, KY: Westminster John
60, 612–13, and critical interactions with them; for example, Knox Press, 2002), 20–45. This is a chapter titled “Eschatology after
Ryan M. McGraw, “Shifting Paradigms in Reformed Systematic Nietzsche.”
Theology: A Review Article of Michael Horton’s The Christian Faith:
A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way,” Puritan Reformed 25 Leonid Ouspensky, “The Meaning and Content of the Icon,” in
Journal 5:2 (July 2013): 250–54. Eastern Orthodox Theology: A Contemporary Reader, ed. Daniel
Clendenin, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003), 42.
10 This is according to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. See
George Mastrantonis, “Introduction to the Divine Liturgy,” Greek 26 “Beauty,” in Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman
Orthodox Archdiocese of America, accessed March 10, 2016, http:// III, eds., Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Downers Grove, IL: IVP
www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7117. Academic, 1998), 82.
11 Harry Radliffe and Michael Karzis, “Mt. Athos: A Visit to the Holy 27 “Beauty,” 85.
Mountain,” 60 Minutes, May 22, 2011, accessed March 10, 2016, http:// 28 See Edmund Clowney, “Living Art: Christian Experience and the
www.cbsnews.com/news/mt-athos-a-visit-to-the-holy-mountain. Arts,” in God and Culture: Essays in Honor of Carl F. H. Henry, ed.
12 “Many misunderstandings and prejudices concerning the Orthodox D.A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans,
Church thus go back to a wrong approach as students try to form, 1993), 240.
merely with the help of sources and scholarship, a picture of 29 Clowney, “Living Art,” 246.
Orthodoxy, which is not really doctrine but a way of life, with its 30 D. G. Hart and John R. Muether, With Reverence and Awe: Returning
own system-related criteria and thought forms.” Anastasios Kallis, to the Basics of Reformed Worship (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2002),
“Orthodox Church,” in Encyclopedia of Christianity (Grand Rapids: 115.
Eerdmans, 2003), 3:866–68.
31 John D. Witvliet, “Toward a Liturgical Aesthetic: An Interdisciplinary
13 Michael Pomazansky, Orthodox Dogmatic Theology (Platina, CA: St. Review of Aesthetic Theory,” Liturgy Digest 3, no. 1 (1996): 76.
Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1983), 43. See also Timothy Ware,
The Orthodox Church (London: Penguin Books, 1969), 22, who states 32 Josiah Trenham, Rock and Sand: An Orthodox Appraisal of the
that the Orthodox Church possesses a “Patristic mind” that consid- Protestant Reformers and Their Teachings (Columbia, MO: New
ers “the Fathers . . . as living witnesses and contemporaries.” Rome Press, 2015), 288. As an aside, Father Trenham is a convert
from the Reformation to EO; he is a former PCA minister and alum-
14 Pomazansky, Dogmatic Theology, 257–58. Pomazansky adds, “The nus of Westminster Seminary California.
Apostles established in the Church the Grace-given succession of the
episcopate, and through it the succession of the whole Grace-given 33 C. S. Lewis used the confection Turkish delight as a metaphor for
ministry of the Church hierarchy, which is called to be stewards sin and temptation in The Chronicles of Narnia. See C. S. Lewis, The
of the Mysteries of God, in accordance with 1 Corinthians 4:1,” in Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (New York: HarperCollins, 2008).
Pomazansky, Dogmatic Theology, 247. 34 Belgic Confession of Faith, art. 15 (regarding original sin).




The medieval historian Steven Runciman once

quipped, “Of all the roads that a historian may
tread none passes through more difficult coun-
try than that of a religious historian.” If he’s
correct, then the controversial terrain of Greek
reformer, writer, and eventual patriarch Cyril
Lucaris (1570–1638) is a most treacherous bog
for us to enter. Yet enter we must, for the life
and times of Lucaris deliver all the intrigue of
a le Carré novel and the passion of a Kennedy
speech—moreover, this saint’s life offers a salu-

tary reminder of the costs of the gospel and the

travails of Christ’s bride.
Lucaris was born to Greek parents on the
Mediterranean isle of Crete, which was under
the auspices of the mercantile republic of
Venice yet always aware that on the horizon
loomed a grave threat: the Ottoman Turks. With
the collapse of the Byzantine Empire and the
fall of Constantinople in 1453, the rise of the
Ottoman Empire heralded the emergence of an
Islamic power in a former hub of Christianity.
Combined with the sixteenth-century tumult
of Reformation and Counter-Reformation,
Lucaris’s lifetime was a hubbub of theological
and political strife—in which he stood squarely
in the middle.


illustration by  MLC
From an early age, he was rescued from a
life of poverty via the benefits of patronage
and connection and given access to wealth and
education in the entrepôt of Venice. Here, he
learned Greek, Latin, Italian, and theology.
More significant than expert tutelage and
guides, however, were the prestige, presence,
and patronage of his uncle, Meletios Pegas
(1549–1601). Pegas, who would eventually rise
to the patriarchate of Alexandria, did not simply
provide support for Lucaris as a blood relative;
he molded the precocious young man into his
protégé. Pegas was a critical contact in the for-
mation of young Lucaris, responsible for his
rise through the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the
Orthodox Church. The training Lucaris received
at the university, combined with his family con-
nections, made him an ideal candidate to move Lucaris was able to bridge
within Greek, Catholic, and Protestant circles.
As a preacher, his sermons were filled with bibli- the gap between the Greek
cal quotations, classical allusions, and humanist
references. In short, Lucaris was able to bridge
and Latin streams of
the gap between the Greek and Latin streams of Christianity—quoting from
Christianity—quoting from the Cappadocian
fathers, while dripping sweet words from
the Cappadocian fathers,
Augustine, all wrapped in burnished rhetoric while dripping sweet words
and impervious logic.
Beginning in 1590 with his establishment to from Augustine, all wrapped
the Alexandrine see, Pegas asked for his nephew
to come from Italy to work in Egypt. By the age
in burnished rhetoric and
of twenty-three, Lucaris was ordained as a priest impervious logic.
and subsequently sent to Poland, where we find
our man joined in the heat of confessional battle
for the existence of the Orthodox community.
While he is most known in Western circles for
his later anti-Catholic animus, Lucaris first
encountered the assiduous energy of Jesuit
educators and papal power as a liaison between
the Greek faithful in the Ottoman Empire and
Orthodox bishops in Poland and Lithuania. In
Poland and the Ukraine, Lucaris was forced to
watch as a (slight) majority of bishops com-
mitted the Orthodox Church to a merger with
Rome—concluding the Union of Brest in 1596.
Lucaris then became one of the allies of those
Orthodox believers who refused to submit to the
authority of this council, teaching and educat-
ing across Eastern Europe while under threat of

VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018

expulsion. It was here that he first encountered Church—and reform was needed, on a host of
Lutheran divines, who began to plant the idea levels, ranging from dilapidated churches to
in him of a union between the Lutheran and illiterate priests. The only problem was that the
Greek churches—a long-sought dream of the Greek Church was not its own master. Since the
Lutherans. fall of the Byzantine commonwealth in 1453, it
Yet, after his time in Poland, Lucaris had to had been governed by Islamic jurisprudence of
rush back to Alexandria. His uncle Pegas was the Ottoman Turks. While the branch of Islamic
dying and wanted his nephew to replace him in law used by the Ottomans was the more tolerant
the high office of patriarch of Alexandria. Soon, Hanafi School, the status of the Greek Christians
Lucaris was within the inner circles of Orthodox was precarious at best. We might hear this and
ecclesiastics, where he would stay until elevated tremble for the welfare of Christians living under
to the first rank of patriarch of Constantinople Islam, but ironically, the minority position of the
in 1620. While in Egypt, Lucaris cemented his Greek Orthodox made them an irresistible com-
second key relationship (after his uncle) when modity for all foreign powers. For if the English
he met Cornelius Haga—the Dutch ambassa- or the French could capture the allegiance of
dor to the Ottomans—who would become a close Lucaris and this fifth column within the Ottoman
friend. Haga spawned in the belletristic Lucaris lands, then perhaps they could instigate an upris-
a European-wide network of contacts that would ing against Islamic overlords; failing that, at
endure until Lucaris’s death in 1638. For the least they could gain a religious triumph to show
intellectual Lucaris, Haga encouraged connec- the progress of Rome or Canterbury.
tions with Dutch theologians (Jan Uytenbogaert Recent work on the reliability of Lucaris’s
and David le Leu de Wilhelm) and gave the patri- writings has enriched our grasp of his mind-
arch his first taste of the writings of John Calvin. set. He was not solely focused on high matters
Haga also supplied the financial means of Reformed theology. Rather, his life’s work
to Lucaris’s desires for reform of the Greek was more mundane and penultimate: crush-
ing the threat of a Catholic Poland through an
ambitious plan to forge an alliance between
Russia, Sweden, and the Ottoman Empire for a
common offensive against Poland. For a small
taste of his vitriol against the Catholic Church,
we note how he labeled himself in one letter to
Dutch politicians, “the horror of your adver-
The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth saries.” He detested “the dogmas of the Roman
(a land united by marriage since 1386 church because they are false.” This grand plan,
and enduring until 1795) was a polyglot if accomplished, would have completely changed
land and the largest nation in sixteenth- the religion and politics of Europe, which was
century Europe. one of the major reasons Lucaris became a
political persona and a household name in all
Economically powerful yet politically divided among European courts.
landed magnates and home to Catholic, Orthodox, Prot-
The hurricane of activity that Lucaris brought
estant, and Muslim subjects, the Commonwealth was the
to all he did—whether penning missives to
playground for inspired Reformers (such as Jan á Lasco),
Moscow or outmaneuvering the Jesuits—
avaricious merchants, and jumped-up warlords alike. For a
superb treatment of life and religion in the pluralistic soci- displayed a mind and a man committed to his
ety of the Commonwealth, see David Frick’s Kith, Kin, and work and sure of its success. Beyond the political
Neighbors: Communities and Confessions in Seventeenth- machinations, Lucaris is most known to us as a
Century Wilno (Cornell University Press, 2013). theological and educational reformer, aghast at
the dilapidated state of the Greek Church, who
attempted immediate renovation. Taking his

VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018

norm for faith and practice. Indeed, such was
UNION OF BREST Lucaris’s commitment to Reformation teach-
ing that he was willing to “die as an Orthodox
Catholic, faithful to Evangelical doctrine and
Since the eleventh-century schism between to the Belgic Confession.”
the Latin and Greek wings of Christianity, Ever since its Latin publication in 1629,
attempts to reunite the two branches have Lucaris’s Confession has sparked debate over its
sparked—briefly flaming brilliantly but legitimacy, intent, and purpose. Did he actually
invariably burning out after a time. write it? Some doubts were spawned by its late
appearance in Greek (1633), for if he penned
In the last decades of the sixteenth century, the religious
it, wouldn’t he have written in Greek first?
cauldron in the Ukraine gave rise to yet another call
Instead, the timing of the confession’s publica-
for reunion. While individual Orthodox nobles (such as
Konstantin Ostrogsky) wanted to maintain traditional
tion worked in the favor of Lucaris’s Dutch and
links to Byzantine and Greek rites, most of the Ukrainian English allies, who were able to use this blast
and Ruthenian bishops nursed grievances over their from the East in their unceasing conflict with
treatment by fellow Orthodox believers—notably at the Habsburgs in Germany.
the rapacious visits from Greek lands, which seemed Therefore, while Lucaris’s authorship of his
to always demand money and never offered to rebuild confession is now a consensus view (since he never
churches or fight against the heresy of Protestantism. denied it), it is likely that the original publication
The only solution appeared to be the nuclear one: create was planned for foreign political benefit—not
a united church with Rome. On December 23, 1595, after
for his own domestic plans or even for a Greek
bitter debate, the Greek Catholic (or Uniate) Church was
Reformation. As sometimes occurs in this pres-
born via papal decree. Significantly, the papal legates
ent age, the intersection of politics and theology
included the filioque clause in the documents of union
but did not require its recitation in Uniate churches, and does not always benefit the ordinary church-goer,
bishops retained the right to appoint their own clergy. and we have little indication that Lucaris’s confes-
While the majority of bishops in Ukraine wanted union, sion of faith was ever used beyond some schools
the common folk generally split along geographical lines; in Crete. The initial response from Rome was to
those in western Ukraine tended toward a pro-Rome label it a forgery, with repudiation and counter
stance and those in the east against union. confession following in 1631. However, the most
deadly result of his continued polemics was not
ink but blood. In July 1638, backed by a secret
deal with the Ottoman Vizier and supplied by
cues from Genevan pastors (such as Antoine gold from the Jesuit mission fund, the governor
Leger) and Dutch ambassadors (Cornelis of Constantinople arrested Lucaris, sent him on a
Haga), Lucaris set about translating the New boat into exile, and watched as soldiers strangled
Testament from its first-century koinê Greek him and threw his body overboard. Thus ended a
into seventeenth-century Greek vernacular. most intriguing life.
His plan to reform the Greek Church was The intrigue, however, continues, for Lucaris
conjoined with politics. Not only did he move still represents a tantalizing path not taken.
to install the first Modern Greek printing press It should not surprise us that his reputation
in Istanbul (which was subsequently destroyed in Rome was dismal, yet in the lands of the
after a French spy warned the Ottoman authori- Orthodox he received an array of judgments.
ties), but he also drew up the fateful document Within a decade of his death, Lucaris stood con-
that would endear him to history: a confession of demned by at least two pan-Orthodox synods; yet
faith filled with robust statements on the nature in 2009, the Greek Orthodox patriarchate can-
of justification by faith alone, a solid predesti- onized him. What prompted such a divergence?
narian streak, and a constant stress on the need Likely, his pastoral zeal (expressed through the
to return to the word of God as the only norming commitment for the reform of morality and


VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018

for the intellectual and spiritual growth of the
clergy), his defense of Orthodoxy, and his violent THE HABSBURGS
death at the hands of the Turks combine to make
him appealing to the Orthodox Church.
If we Protestants are not in a rush to canon- One of Europe’s leading families and
ize Lucaris, why learn of him at all? I suggest longest-reigning dynasties, the Habsburgs
that several pertinent details from his life offer represented the apex of European prestige
crucial guidance to twenty-first-century would- and Catholic vitality.
be Reformers. Lucaris points us to the privilege
Ruling initially a small duchy of the Holy Roman Empire,
and difficulty of living in a contested religious
they expanded rapidly through fortunate betrothals.
environment, not unlike our own. The network
Thus the proverb Bella gerant alii, tu felix Austria nube
of contacts he maintained across Europe, from (“Let others make war; you, lucky Austria, marry”). At the
the Russian tsar Mikhail Fyodorovich Romanov height of their prestige, during the middle and late 1500s,
and George Abbot, archbishop of Canterbury, to the Habsburgs controlled the entirety of Spain and her
the Swedish prime minister, Axel Oxenstierna, colonies, the Holy Roman Empire (including much of
and the Remonstrant, Jan Uytenbogaert, indi- modern-day Germany), and the Netherlands. Such power
cate the influence and cachet Lucaris presented was not to last, as the abdication of Charles V in 1556
to all of Europe’s elite. split his combined hegemony into Spanish and Austrian
What endured when tsar and archbishop- parts. By the time of Lucaris, however, the Austrian
branch of the Habsburgs was still a potent reminder of
ric faded was not political succor but personal
Catholic interest in European affairs.
friendships based on a shared commitment to
Christ and his church. The willingness of the
Dutch ambassador van Haga and the Swiss
pastor Leger to support and shield Lucaris, even on such “foreign missions” supplies a salutary
to buy him safe passage from Jesuit schemes, reminder to American Christians today who
should remind us of the love and friendship may wonder at the value of supporting believ-
shown by the Christians in Ephesus, who walked ers across the globe.
to the shore with Paul and wept when he left. As we look back on his life, what stands out
Furthermore, the advance of a Reformed most is his energy. The patriarch mastered
confession and the inroads into the Orthodox multiple languages, possessed a remarkable
community were only possible through the mul- library, and could choose his references. He
ticultural associations of Dutch, English, and was as comfortable with political philosophy as
German pastors, companies, and state dignitar- with theology—able to sprinkle quotations from
ies. While we may value the heroic missionary Augustine, Ficino, and Calvin in seventeenth-
trope of Victorian-era writers, it is important century Greek. He was passionate about the
to avoid placing Lucaris in the genus of top propagation of the Christian faith in the face of
man—even his industry and gifts did not pro- Islam, supported the common good of the Greek
vide a sterling legacy; his devotees scattered people in educational reform, and attempted to
and his allies departed. Within twenty years, turn the ship of Orthodoxy toward the Scriptures
the status quo of Turkokratia returned to the and the Christ they proclaim. Yet for all this, he
Greek Orthodox community. failed. Likewise, we too must take our stand not
For Lucaris, the status of a Christian minority on what-ifs or might-haves, nor on the strength
in a Muslim-dominated society was a challeng- of chariots or princes, but on the gospel itself as
ing prospect, and the offers of financial support the power of God unto salvation for the Greek. 
and personal acclaim from his Protestant co-
laborers served a vital role in sustaining Lucaris JOHN STOVALL is pastor of the Rock Presbyterian Church
through multiple periods of exile and impris- in Stockbridge, Georgia, and is a doctoral candidate in his-
onment in the 1620s and 1630s. The impact tory at the State University of New York, Albany.


illustration by MLC

You could say that I have been around the theological block
a few times. I’ve converted to and from a number of things.
Baptized Catholic and raised Episcopalian, I ran through non-
denominational groups in my teen years and then was off to
the Reformation. I went through some philosophy degree pro-
grams and left the Reformation to toy with Scotism, Thomism,
and parts of Ockhamism. I eventually landed in the Orthodox
Church, where I have been for the last seventeen years. I’ve done
a fair amount of on-the-street and classroom apologetics. While
I may not have seen everything, as I said, this is not my first time
around the block.

I have a pretty good idea of what it means, wrong-doing, even when it may not be entirely
what it takes, and what happens when some- or even mostly your fault. It might not have been
one converts to another theological model and your fault at all. Parceling out blame is not the
community, particularly Orthodoxy. Friends are point. At the very least for public figures, setting
gained and lost; families are happy or not happy. one’s inner house in order would entail a public
There are complications with work or derailed statement of repentance for any past wrongs,
life plans, including marriages. Most important real or perceived, prior to reception. That way,
of all, children can be affected, for good or ill. A nothing from your past besmirches your new
conversion usually brings some type of sword. convictions and doesn’t bring the body of your
Every so often, a notable figure converts to new allegiance into disrepute. This is especially
this or that position. Of late, the popular Hank true for public figures whose livelihood depends
Hanegraaff has left his religious home, appar- on promoting themselves as teachers of the faith
ently somewhere in popular evangelicalism, and who consequently bear a stricter judgment,
for the Orthodox Church. This struck me as as St. James indicates (James 3:1).
odd. I worked for Hanegraaff’s organization, Probably, the most commonly required bit
Christian Research Institute (CRI), in the of prudence for converts to Orthodoxy is to be
early 1990s, so my perspective is informed by quiet—for a few years, to be precise. This is not
firsthand experience. Second, I am Orthodox only to protect yourself, but also to protect the
and a former Calvinist. I have a good grasp of church. There is a lot you don’t know, and the
Reformation theology and understand what paradigm shift takes a long time to complete, if
classical Protestants mean when they talk about ever. If Rome wasn’t built in a day, then certainly
sola fide, sola scriptura, and so on. Given all of Constantinople wasn’t either. Don’t set yourself
the above, Hanegraaff’s shift to the Orthodox up as an expert in Orthodoxy, attempting to speak
Church, while not unprecedented, seemed publically as a teacher of the faith. Whatever
strange and likely fraught with difficulty. In Hanegraaff was prior to reception, he is still a
what follows, I will sketch some prudential (newly minted) layman. Whatever his ordina-
“do’s and don’ts” for converts, but particularly tion was in the world of Protestantism (which was
high-profile converts, and I will try to bring to dubious even by Reformation standards), or how
light the demarcating lines between Orthodoxy many books bear his name as a Protestant, none
and the Reformation traditions that Hanegraaff of that is recognized by the Orthodox Church.
appears to have missed or is unclear about. So being quiet is prudent, even for converts with
Prudence is a useful virtue to acquire, but relevant education and degrees.
it is difficult to get people excited about it. But this is a significant challenge for
Prudence can prevent unnecessary suffering Hanegraaff, since it is his job to talk about the-
for ourselves and others around us and can be ology and church history five days a week across
beneficial for our long term spiritual welfare. the airwaves of the nation. In this way, he is
When converting, one wishes to make a clean unlike other high-profile converts—he has to
start. In Orthodoxy this includes forgiveness, be ready from day one to discuss complicated
both in granting and seeking it from others. Orthodox teachings, such as the doctrine of the
Any priest worth his salt will likely impress divine energies, deification, and the role that
upon someone seeking to enter the Orthodox Dyothelitism plays in structuring Orthodox
Church that they should spend some time soteriology. These may seem obscure teachings,
reflecting on whom they may have wronged but to really explicate Orthodox teaching, even
or from whom they may have suffered wrong, at a basic level, one has to have a substantial
prior to making a “life confession” that covers grasp of them. There is no time for on-the-
their whole life outside the church. It is wise to job training. While it is possible to explain
make an effort, suck up your pride, and make Orthodox teaching succinctly and precisely, this
a phone call. Go that extra mile of admitting takes academic work, which takes time.

VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018

It is wise to anticipate a cost to be paid for
conversion. A conversion as substantial as
from Protestantism to Orthodoxy will have
repercussions, especially if you are a high-pro-
file figure like Hanegraaff. It seems to me that
Hanegraaff interpreted his being dropped by
Protestant radio networks as a kind of religious
persecution, which is strange since Protestant
radio stations largely exist to promote, well,
Protestantism. Being dropped from Protestant
venues was highly probable; even a small amount
of foresight should have prepared him for this.
If Hanegraaff crossed the Tiber tomorrow, the
Orthodox venues would behave in exactly the
same way and for the same reasons.
It is also unwise to downplay one’s conver-
sion—moving from Protestantism to Orthodoxy
is not akin to switching from Oreos to Hydrox-
brand cookies. Hanegraaff has given the
impression that his change was not theological
but rather a change of churches or denomi-
nation. On his April 10, 2017, Bible Answer
Man (BAM) show he remarked, “I am now a
member of an Orthodox Church, but nothing
has changed in my faith….I believe what I have
always believed, as codified in the Nicene Creed,
and as championed by mere Christianity.” And
on April 11, “Look, my views have been codi-
fied in twenty books, and my views have not
changed.” In these and other comments since
his conversion, he appears to be communicat-

IF HIS VIEWS ing the idea that his conversion is not a big deal
or a life-altering decision. He has just changed

HAVE NOT churches and not theology, or if he did, he just

changed out “secondary” or “nonessential” doc-
CHANGED, trines. He maintains “mere Christianity” along
the lines of C. S. Lewis.
THEN HE None of this is intellectually honest. All of the
books that bear his name were written when he
WAS NEVER was Protestant. It is not possible on Protestant
or Orthodox grounds that his views haven’t
PROTESTANT changed. Many of the areas that had to change
are at the core of the respective theological sys-
OR IS tems including the Trinity, Christology, and
most obviously soteriology. If his views have
NOT NOW not changed, then he was never Protestant or is

not now Orthodox. What is more, the Orthodox
Church generally requires a public renunciation

of theological error and affiliations from either
Protestant or Catholic bodies prior to chris-
mation, which is most warranted in the case
of high-profile converts such as Hanegraaff.
Besides, if his views haven’t changed, then why
The Orthodox Church does not consider itself
to be a denomination. The Orthodox Church
takes itself to be the Church of Jesus Christ
and his apostles, full stop. As far as they are con-
cerned, Hanegraaff went from being outside the
Church, in at least material heresy and schism,
to being inside it.
What is more, “mere Christianity” (as C. S.
Lewis glossed it) is an abstraction with not a few
fairly arbitrary lines. There is no church you can
join that is the “mere Christianity” church. It is
a pragmatic construct. Does “mere Christianity”
include the filioque or sola fide? Does it include
that the Father alone is autotheos? Baptismal
regeneration? You get the point. It dies the
death of a thousand qualifications. Christian
theology isn’t compartmentalistic, but rather
anatomic—that is, every part is intrinsically
and constitutively connected to every other part. THEOLOGY ISN’T
Such a compartmentalistic gloss by Hanegraaff
would imply that what is distinctive about COMPARTMEN-
Orthodox theology, to which he is obligated to
adhere down to the last iota, is of secondary TALISTIC,
importance, which is something the Orthodox
Church flatly denies. Conversion is a big deal BUT RATHER
that shouldn’t be entered into lightly or down-
played as insignificant. ANATOMIC—
Hanegraaff does provide two doctrinal
changes that he views as integral to his conver-
sion: a change in adherence to the doctrine of
the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist,
and the doctrine of theosis or deification. With
respect to the Eucharist, Hanegraaff makes
legitimate criticism of the popular nondenomi-
national practices and beliefs on which both
classical Protestants and the Orthodox agree.
Popular evangelicals tend to treat the Eucharist
with a familiarity and casualness I am sure is
quite familiar to reformational Christians. Of
course, those could be avoided by reception into TO EVERY
a Reformation tradition. Adherence to the real
presence could be had by becoming Lutheran.

VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018

The only way the real presence could be singled Much the same problem apparently exists
out as a sufficient theological reason for conver- for Hanegraaff with respect to sola scriptura.
sion to Orthodoxy is if it was coupled with a On the April 10, 2017, Bible Answer Man show,
commitment to apostolic succession and sacer- he said, “In terms of sola scriptura, I’ve always
dotalism. So far, Hanegraaff has yet to indicate been committed to the Bible as the infallible
as much. guide for faith and practice. And I think that’s
As to theosis, it is difficult to discern what what it means—it means that the Bible is infal-
Hanegraaff thinks that doctrine is exactly, or lible and is inspired by the Holy Spirit.” Either
what it is about the Orthodox view that would Hanegraaff is redefining sola scriptura, or after
be sufficient for conversion. He describes it thirty years as a Protestant he doesn’t know what
in the most basic terms—namely, the bibli- it means. The measure of that conceptual con-
cal terms every Christian tradition already tent is not what Hanegraaff thinks sola scriptura
adheres to. Every Christian tradition has to means but what it has historically meant. There
have some doctrine of deification or glorifica- is also that shibboleth of “only”/”alone” that is
tion, because that language is in the biblical conspicuously missing. A clear articulation—
text. In some academic circles, theosis has and substantiated denial—from Hanegraaff is
reached a somewhat faddish state, with vari- what his theological position requires and what
ous Protestant and Catholic writers being his callers and audiences have a right to expect
afflicted with “theosis envy.” (A priest I know from someone self-designated as the “Bible
once remarked, “Orthodoxy is the new black.”) Answer Man.” The pertinent question is not
Everyone has some doctrine of theosis; this is whether those doctrines are true, but rather how
hardly news. What we need from Hanegraaff they are defined—whether or not Hanegraaff
is some explanation of what it is about the believes they are true, and whether or not he
Orthodox view that was sufficient motivation can profess them as a member of the Orthodox
for him to convert. Church. For the Orthodox, the answer to the
With respect to the twin principles of the latter is clearly no.
Reformation, Hanegraaff seems either con- There are many other areas besides soteriol-
fused or unwilling to disavow them directly. ogy that require mastering in the respective
This is problematic, since the CRI doctrinal theological systems, such as Trinitarianism,
statement still lists them both as “essential” Christology, and anthropology—each of which
Christian doctrines (Article 6), and all CRI play a critical role in informing and structur-
employees are required to adhere to it by per- ing each system’s soteriology. For example, the
sonal signature. For sola fide, when repeatedly Orthodox have a different soteriology because
queried about it, he consistently reads from a they have a different Christology. This is why
prepared CRI factsheet, giving the standard mastering these other core areas is necessary,
Reformation commentary on James 2—namely, and why it takes a good amount of academic
that works are the evidence of a saving faith, work and time to be able to speak accurately
rather than forming saving faith. Given that about them. Suffice it to say that a person in
the Orthodox Church condemned the former Hanegraaff’s position should have a deep grasp
position (Synod of Jerusalem, 1672, Decree of these areas before speaking publically. Many
13), this option is not open to him. Instead of converts to various positions have sacrificed as
saying, “This is what sola fide is, these are the much or more for their newfound faith. A clear
reasons I previously believed it, and I no longer articulation would only increase the credibility
think those are good arguments for the follow- of his conversion. 
ing reasons,” he seems to consistently avoid
denying sola fide. It isn’t appropriate to cloak PERRY C. ROBINSON teaches high school history and
one’s conversion behind equivocal or ambigu- resides in Southern California with his wife and three chil-
ous statements. dren. He blogs at Energetic Procession.

N U M E R O U S S U RV E Y S , polls, and sociological studies have
conclusively shown that evangelical Christians—that is, those who
profess to take Scripture, Christ, and the gospel seriously—are
increasingly unaware of or unclear about some of the most basic issues
of Christian faith and practice. While many pastors and elders are
faithfully devoted to their ministry, it must be concluded with a grave
sense of duty as well as soberness and humility that this is the exception
rather than the rule.
In a time when the “nones” (or those claiming no religious adherence)
are, according to pollsters, growing and when our own churches are
stagnant or shrinking, it is more important than ever to identify and
celebrate the gospel: the glory of God manifested in the grace he shows
to those who deserve the very opposite. This is Christ-centered
Christianity at its best and we want to partner with you to help inform
the next generation of Reformers. Will you join us?
Partners are the heart of White Horse Inn. With the support of our partners we produce radio shows,
magazines, Bible studies, international teaching trips, and more. Through a variety of media, we start,
change, and shape conversations that help transform churches, prisons, families, and individuals.



A theological talk show A bimonthly magazine A multimedia

featuring roundtable applying timeless initiative dedicated to
discussions on faith, Christian doctrine to broadcasting the core
culture, and apologetics the questions of today. message of Christianity
to equip Christians to and answering the most
“know what they believe fundamental questions
and why they believe it.” of the Christian faith.


Join the conversation for a modern reformation online.



Book Reviews
56 57 59
Damning Words: The Introverts in the Martin Luther and the

Life and Religious Church: Finding Our Enduring Word of God:

Times of H. L. Mencken Place in an Extroverted The Wittenberg School
by D. G. Hart Culture and its Scripture-
by Adam S. McHugh Centered Proclamation
by Robert Kolb


Simonetta Carr Anna Smith Silverio Gonzalez


Damning Words: The Life and Religious biography of a man such as Mencken. I wasn’t
Times of H. L. Mencken disappointed. I learned much about both
Mencken and his times, which are introduced
by D. G. Hart with ease by a biographer who has devoted much
Eerdmans, 2016 attention to this period.
279 pages (hardcover), $26.00 In his chronological approach to Mencken’s
life, Hart manages to be both objective and per-
he enduring influence of sonal. I sympathized with some of Mencken’s
Christianity on many of its great- childhood impressions of Sunday-school
T est critics is one of modern Christianity, and admired his dedication to his
history’s paradoxes. In Damning work and his prowess with words that earned him
Words: The Life and Religious Joseph Krutch’s accolade of “best prose writer in
Times of H. L. Mencken, D. G. Hart highlights twentieth-century America” (2). At the end of his
this apparent incongruity in the life of the leg- life, Menken’s bleak view of human existence as a
endary American agnostic—from his childhood pointless and “endless standing in line” reminded
in the last decade of the nineteenth century to me of the words of the Preacher of Ecclesiastes—
his death in 1956. But Hart minus the uplifting hope of the
does much more than that. He biblical conclusion.
brings us close to a man who Hart is up-front about his
has been considered one of the emphasis on Mencken’s reli-
most fearless iconoclasts of gious life, a task he considers
American society, and leads us necessary as “few who have
to reflect on uncomfortable studied Mencken attach much
subjects with the same honesty significance to his writing about
and candor that made faith.” Besides, he hopes that
Mencken famous. Mencken’s “attitude as an unbe-
I approached this book with lieving minority in a majority
the basic ignorance I suspect C h r i s t i a n s o c i e t y … m i g ht
affects many Americans. At a show a way to demilitarize the
popular level, Mencken seems combat” in today’s society (9).
to be remembered simply for According to Hart, Mencken
his memorable quotes that can teach both Christians and
fit any of our most caustic the “so-called new atheists”
moods. In fact, his quotes are some healthy humor and the
often remembered more than the man. In my ability to take themselves less seriously. He can
case, this ignorance was aggravated by the fact also communicate a measure of respect for the
that I was born and raised in Italy, far from the powerful effect religion has exercised on human
American sociopolitical scene and only vaguely history and a realistic and “Augustinian” view of
puzzled and amused by some of its excesses in human nature.
dramatic fervor over issues most Europeans In fact, it was this view that brought Mencken
viewed with skepticism or indifference. History to find common ground with and sincere admi-
does shape culture. ration for the Presbyterian J. Gresham Machen,
I read this book for a reason I suspect has whose “one and only purpose was,” in Mencken’s
motivated many readers: I had come to appre- words, “to hold it [the Church] resolutely to
ciate D. G. Hart’s writings and scholarship, what he conceived to be the true faith. When
and I was curious to see how he approached a that enterprise met with opposition he fought

VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018

vigorously, and though he lost in the end and just an introvert. Adam S. McHugh, a pastor and
was forced out of Princeton it must be manifest introvert, has written Introverts in the Church:
that he marched off to Philadelphia with all the Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture to
honors of war.” help churches figure out the difference.
While I disagreed with many of Mencken’s Many books have been written about how
views (especially about Nazi Germany, the Jews, American culture prizes extroverts and needs to
and blacks), I had to stop and listen to what learn to value introverts, defined as people who
he had to say and appreciate his honesty and (generally) are energized by solitude, process
perception in many instances that are usually internally, and prefer depth over breadth (35–
treated with superficial generalizations. Even 43). McHugh realizes that this process needs to
the lack of references, which can be a flaw for happen just as much, if not more, in the church,
footnote-lovers like me, was strangely unnotice- where broader cultural preferences have been
able in this book—maybe because the narrative adopted and transformed into measures of righ-
flows easily and Hart managed to answer all my teousness. In many churches, ideal Christians
questions within the main text. The omission is are friendly, outgoing, energetic, and engaging.
remedied by a final section in essay form titled Introverted Christians are left with two dark
“Notes on the Sources,” which include additional options: either accept their role as inferior
insights and a final paragraph on Mencken’s rel- Christians, or utterly exhaust themselves in an
evance on the American intellectual landscape. attempt to be something they aren’t. Depression
In the end, Hart persuaded me that we need and dark nights of the soul can follow, as intro-
more biographies of critics of Christianity, verts struggle to be faithful but cannot meet the
written to discover and reflect rather than to church’s expectations, which are easily mistaken
demonstrate, oppose, or defend. And more of for God’s expectations.
these should be written by biographers who, like As an introvert who has endured this strug-
Hart, are familiar with the basic concerns and gle himself, McHugh wants to encourage and
tenets of the Christian faith and can transcend support others. He points out that making
the all-too-frequent shallow, assumed, and pre- extroversion the hallmark of Christian matu-
dictable accounts.  rity isn’t biblical. God is pleased to work through
all the personality types he has created, so it’s
SIMONETTA CARR has translated several books from English important for introverts to understand their
into Italian and has written for newspapers and magazines personality and work with it, not against it.
around the world. McHugh outlines common introverted tenden-
cies and shows how they benefit believers and
the church.
For example, introverts can be more attuned
Introverts in the Church: Finding Our to the workings of their hearts. Evangelicals
Place in an Extroverted Culture can be suspicious of the heart, which of course
is deceitfully wicked and no one can know it
by Adam S. McHugh (Jer. 17:9). But introverts are naturally internal
IVP Books, 2017 processors, so they spend a lot of time digging
240 pages (paperback), $18.00 around in there, examining their motivations
and desires. They find lots of gunk, but they also
f you hate church fellowship hour, find evidence that God is at work, and they learn
evangelizing strangers, and youth to tell the difference. This knowledge of their
I group lock-ins, you might be a ter- inner workings is beneficial in their own lives
rible Christian. Or maybe you’re and in understanding the motivations of others,


who might not have spent so much time doing more on listening in the context of relation-
internal excavation. ships than engaging in quick-witted debates
Introverts also have the potential to be more with strangers. He helps introverts tackle other
comfortable with contemplative and quiet forms common areas of struggle by suggesting con-
of spirituality. The Reformation put a great crete goals for fellowship time, strategies for
emphasis on the word of God, which is certainly engaging in conflict, and spiritual practices
appropriate. But Christians often confuse the that align with introverted sensibilities.
importance of God’s word with the importance He recognizes that not every introvert will
of their own. McHugh writes, “Our verbal effu- identify with every issue he raises. Sometimes
siveness can devolve into breezy clichés, hollow it’s hard to disentangle the threads of introver-
sound bites, and repetitive sion, quietness, scholarliness,
song lyrics” (25). This breezi- shyness, and social anxiety.
ness can be devastating when One could be a bona fide intro-
it’s applied to difficult situa- vert and love church fellowship
tions that demand sensitivity hour or evangelizing strangers.
and carefully chosen words. One could be an extrovert and
Introverts are equipped to help hate those activities. But by
the evangelical church relearn interviewing many introverts,
the importance of silence and McHugh identifies frequent
the fact that human words will patterns that should connect
only take you so far. with most introverts on some
I’m a shy introver t who level.
has been driven to Xanax by Since McHugh is a pastor,
Sunday morning coffee hour, he spends a lot of time focus-
so it was remarkably refresh- ing on introverts in leadership.
ing to read whole sections If Christians are expected to
encouraging me to see my be extroverts, then that goes
introversion as a gift instead of double for pastors and quintu-
a burden. I didn’t realize how many extroverted ple for youth pastors. McHugh gives practical
expectations I was placing on myself, and real- tips for introverts in leadership to embrace their
istically, I’m never going to be good at some of good qualities, shift the expectations of their
those things (such as unstructured chit-chat). congregations, and manage their limited social
I’m also able to better appreciate my strengths, energy well.
such as my love for studying the Bible, a passion This is a book well wor th reading for
my introversion complements well. introverts or extroverts, especially pastors.
McHugh wants to remove burdensome expec- Introverted pastors will learn about themselves,
tations from introverts, but he isn’t distributing and extroverted pastors will learn how to better
get-out-of-evangelism-free cards. All Christians minister to their introverted sheep. Churches
are called to do things that make them uncom- should be places where all personality types are
fortable. But we don’t need to make ourselves welcomed, appreciated, and challenged. This
more uncomfortable by assuming the task can be book helps us get there. 
done only in an extroverted way, such as believing
evangelism is best done by accosting strangers on ANNA SMITH (MA, biblical studies, Westminster Seminary
airplanes. (Why is it always airplanes?) California) teaches high school English, edits for The Gos-
Instead, McHugh reframes evangelism in a pel Coalition, and blogs at www.thebeautifulplaceblog.com.
way that introverts can appreciate, focusing She lives in South Florida with her husband, Andy.

VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018

Martin Luther and the Enduring Word Without the team around Luther, there would
of God: The Wittenberg School and its have been no Wittenberg Reformation. The
Scripture-Centered Proclamation cross-fertilization that arose from conver-
sations has long since disappeared into thin
by Robert Kolb air, but it can be sensed in the writings of
Baker Academic, 2016 all of them as well as in their personal rec-
528 pages (hardcover), $49.99 ollections. (7)

n Martin Luther and the Enduring This conversation around Scripture—its

Word of God, Robert Kolb places message, form, and doctrine; proper meth-
I his readers in contact with a ods of its interpretation and application; its
world where the interpretation proclamation; and even the practice of textual
and application of Scripture was criticism—is a conversation Kolb introduces
more than a matter of personal religious convic- to pastors and students. It is his hope that his
tion. The sixteenth-century Reformers sought lengthy overview on the Wittenberg school of
to recover God’s speech in Scripture—speech scriptural interpretation and proclamation will
that had been crowded out by opinions, tradi- inspire and “stimulate new research,” even as
tions, and superstitions, speech that addressed “it attempts to provide biographical orientation
human beings in all areas of life: society, family, for such new studies of many of the subjects dis-
church, and the depth of human hearts where cussed” (14–15).
fear, pride, despair, or indifference fought to Martin Luther and the Enduring Word of God
maintain its grasp over the souls of men and accomplishes this goal in a readable, engag-
women who sought to earn God’s love and saving ing study that did more than stimulate my
grace through a system of cooperation and inner nerd. Kolb’s work inspired, challenged,
merit. As Kolb describes, Martin Luther and informed my reading of the Bible, and for
believed that God spoke to all these matters this reason I recommend this book to anyone
through Scripture: interested in Martin Luther, the Reformation,
hermeneutics, or even the Bible.
The Bible served as the center of his entire In chapters 1 through 4, Kolb presents
enterprise, combining elements in these Luther’s theology of Scripture in historical
several components of life to forge plau- context. He tells the story of Luther’s devel-
sible answers to the questions of daily opment into a teacher of Scripture within the
life. Without the Bible, there could be no late medieval world, a world that “had been
preaching and therefore no evangelical anything but a world without a Bible” (34).
church life. Permeating the whole of life The world Luther inherited was filled with
for the Wittenberg theologians was the Scripture, but it “lacked an understanding of
presence of God, particularly of God in con- God as the God of conversation and commu-
versation with his people in, through, and nity, engaged personally with his people, and
by means of Holy Scripture. (8) an understanding of the human creature cen-
tered on trust in God’s goodness and mercy,
Yet Luther was not alone in his wrestling with as well as love and service to other human
God’s word; he was part of a community that beings” (18).
sought to recover Scripture’s message of grace, Kolb shows Luther immersed in the patterns
which hinged on the two little words faith alone. of monastic life, with its daily hours of prayer
Kolb explains that this band of reformers was and Scripture reading. He inherited a method
essential to the Reformation: of scriptural interpretation with renewed


interest in the text’s literal sense, which and effects, and how this influenced the inter-
had been chosen by his superior, Johannes pretive practices he inherited from medieval
von Staupitz, for university training. Luther Christianity, along with the rhetorical and her-
became a “teacher of the Bible” and a late- meneutical advancements made by humanist
medieval theologian well equipped beyond scholars, such as Erasmus of Rotterdam.
many of his peers (23–28, 31). Chapters 5 through 9 place Luther as a
When Kolb writes about Luther’s theology professor, preacher, and translator in con-
of Scripture, he explains Luther’s understand- text with the rest of the Wittenberg faculty.
ing of God’s word as it relates Here, Kolb shows how much of
to God’s character, Christ as Luther’s insights and develop-
the Word from the Father, the ment were the outworking of
gospel, and the controversies a team of scholars committed
of Luther’s own day: justifi- to the cause of reformation.
cation, the nature of faith, Philipp Melanchthon was
human nature, and church one such scholar and friend,
authority. For Luther, God whose humanistic learning
effects what he declares in greatly contributed to Luther’s
Scripture and governs what it thought and the development
affects: “God’s word governs of t he Wittenb er g Scho ol
the course of human history.… (241–42).
God’s Word creates faith, rees- Chapters 10 through 14
tablishing the relationship e x p l a i n t h e l a tt e r d e v e l -
of parent and child with his opments and concerns of
chosen people” (48). “God’s Lutheran thinkers to follow
Word creates the Church and the original faculty. Here,
governs it” (62). Kolb provides a helpful
As an interpreter of Scripture, Luther is resource for new scholars seeking to research
revealed as one who both maintained a super- Lutheran thoughts on Scripture and exegeti-
natural understanding of Scripture’s origin, cal practices. In chapter 11, Kolb notes the
content, and effects together with a human concerns over challenges from the Romans
understanding of language, able to embrace Catholic Church, preaching, catechesis, and
the humanist practices of textual criticism of the abundance of exegesis done to forward the
his day: work of reformation begun by Luther with the
Wittenberg faculty.
Despite the perception that the utterly In the wake of the five-hundred-year anni-
reliable, faithful God had been pres- versary of the Reformation, Kolb reminds us of
ent in the composition of Scripture the confidence the Wittenberg Reformers had
and remained present, confronting its in God and his word. This book is well worth
contemporary readers, Luther was not the time it takes to read and digest its many
oblivious to seeming discrepancies…. pages. 
Luther’s linguistic sensitivities prevented
him from insisting on a strictly literalistic SILVERIO GONZALEZ is an associate editor at the White
interpretation of every passage. (85) Horse Inn and a member of Escondido Orthodox Presby-
terian Church in Escondido, California. He holds a BA in
Kolb shows Luther’s understanding of God’s philosophy from the University of California Santa Barbara
presence in Scripture’s formation, content, and an MDiv from Westminster Seminary California.

VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018


C. S. Lewis famously remarked that “mere Christianity” is like a hallway where real conversations between
Christians of different convictions can begin and develop over time, as we emerge from our various
rooms to speak of Christ and his gospel to one another. For over twenty years, White Horse Inn has hosted
this conversation both on our radio show, White Horse Inn, and in our magazine, Modern Reformation.



Differences between the Reformed

and Eastern Orthodox Churches
by Tim Massaro



Inheriting the theological arguments of the Conciliar Move- Eastern churches place Scripture above tradition but not in a
ments of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the Refor- qualitative way. Scripture “is one of the purest manifestations
mation brought something unique to the table. Reformation of tradition. It is constitutively within sacred tradition, not
churches developed a nuanced vision of tradition and authority. apart from it.”1 For Eastern churches, the worship of God and
Tradition and the church’s authority took a ministerial (i.e., the liturgy handed down in the traditions is clear.
dependent and secondary) role to Scripture. They made a Tradition takes on an authoritative role in relation to the
qualitative distinction between Scripture and tradition. Scrip- church and its practices. Tradition is handed down as a gift
ture cannot err, while tradition, councils, and bishops have done that cannot be “owned.” It is not something a church pos-
so and continue to do so. sesses, either as a rigorous set of documents or as relative to
This does not mean the Reformation dismissed tradition. culture. The true church has had a vision of the path to God
In fact, many Reformed doctrines and practices evolved from from the beginning. Liturgical life determines what beliefs
fruitful interaction with the past. Nevertheless, Scripture is have authority. Creeds and conciliar decrees take effect when
clear on matters of salvation. Reformational churches believe they shape the church’s liturgy, which brings people into vital
that justification by faith alone is the most radiant aspect of communion with God. The authority of a tradition is depen-
God’s self-revelation. God’s word alone is without error. Church dent on the universality, antiquity, and conciliarity of the belief
tradition, which is helpful and should not be discarded lightly, is or practice.
less clear and, more importantly, is fallible.

VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018



Protestant reforms sought a healthy use of the church’s medieval Eastern churches view the liturgy as a predominately mystical
and ancient practices. The material principle of solus Christus reality. The eschatological, cosmic reality of heaven becomes
and the formal principle of sola scriptura shape Reformation wor- transparent through the icons and liturgy. This heavenly
ship in distinct ways. By centering everything on the life, death, worship is the gospel. By the Spirit’s abiding presence with
and resurrection of Christ, Christians are formed in his image. the bishop, who holds to tradition and the Eucharist, heaven
The regulative principle of worship (RPW) guards the church comes down to us. Icons are not idols but transparent doors
against idolatry, which is defined as whatever hides the pure into the heavenly temple. Through the divine liturgy, the soul
preaching of the gospel. Sadly, this principle can be applied too ascends back into the life of the Triune God. The spiritual work
rigorously at the expense of beauty. of God in the Eucharist brings reconciliation to the world. While
Worship and vocation flow from gratitude for God’s free expressing many helpful aspects of the Christian faith, the
grace. A Christian’s justification in Christ frees him to serve East tends to emphasize beauty and images over the clarifying
God without fear and to live for his glory. necessity of the preached word.


Adopting the Augustinian strain of medieval thought, the Central to the Eastern theological vision is the doctrine of
ascent of man into God’s life is inverted into the descent of deification, or theosis. God’s infinite essence is incapable of
Christ and his Spirit. While this language is not foreign to the penetration by the finite creature. The question then becomes
East, the discussion evolved with the law/gospel distinction, how finite, sinful creatures can enter that infinite life. The incar-
which results in a refined doctrine of justification. To safeguard nation of the Son is God’s reply. The church participates in the
God’s unconditional promise, justification can no longer include divine life of the Trinity by the grace found in Jesus. Through
the conversion of the soul or the infusion of some virtue. the liturgy and tradition of the church, salvation is receiving by
Regeneration and virtue are the results of this free gift, not its grace what God has by nature. The incarnation of the Son has
cause. Yet, the Reformation tradition never dismissed repen- purified the world by the working of the Holy Spirit.2 Life is an
tance, conversion, virtue, or participation in the life of God. It ascent into God as he enters into the world by Christ’s incarna-
found a new, clearer mode of expressing this truth. Justification tion. Within the East, differences exist between the general
by faith alone in Christ alone means that we are given the life modes of this ascent. Some lean more toward a Semi-Pelagian
of God in Christ by the Spirit simply by promise. God’s descent view of the human will, while others have adopted a more
to us reorients life around the joy of promise, one that radically Augustinian vision of grace and perfection in God. 
alters a sinner’s heart. The Christian life now participates
in that very promise by which we have communion with the
TIMOTHY W. MASSARO (MDiv, from Westminster Seminary
Triune God. Reformation churches believe that without this
California) is social media manager at White Horse Inn and
correct ordering, the gospel can never be cosmic, transforma-
associate editor for Core Christianity.
tive, or good news.

1 John Anthony McGuckin, The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to

its History, Doctrine, and Spiritual Culture (Chichester, UK: Wiley-
Blackwell, 2010), 101.
2 Vladimir Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church
(Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1997), 65–70.


The Communion of Saints

by Eric Landry

I believe in the Holy Spirit, There is great comfort in this truth for those
the holy catholic church, who are facing death, either their own or some-
the communion of saints, one they love. All of us will, sooner or later, go
the forgiveness of sins, the way of all the earth, but our communion
the resurrection of the body, with one another will never end. In 1 Corinthians
and the life everlasting. Amen 10:17, Paul tells us that our participation in the
Lord’s Supper ensures that we are participants
in Christ’s own body and blood: every time we
partake of the bread and wine, we participate
with the risen Lord and his body, here on earth
hen we Christians profess our and in heaven. This was why Paul exhorted the
belief in “the communion of immature Christians of Corinth to flee from
W saints,” we’re acknowledging that sexual immorality and to pursue peace and
our relationships in the kingdom unity within the church. A real bond existed
of God transcend other forms of between them and the risen Lord, and he didn’t
human connection. Although it’s hard to imag- want them to pollute that bond by their sin and
ine, in Christ we have stronger connections with strife. For those of us who are staring down that
other Christians—even those we don’t know— last enemy, there should be great comfort in the
than we do with our natural family, fellow fact that our union with one another is secure
citizens, or ethnic group. We sometimes over- even after the ravages of death have done their
look, however, how the phrase reminds us that worst.
our connection with one another stretches Pop culture encourages us to speak of loved
across time as well. The author of the sermon- ones who have died as still being present with
letter to the Hebrews tells his congregation that us in some sense: their spirit is present or
during worship we commune not only with they’re looking down from heaven. The Bible
“God, the judge of all,” but also with “the assem- gives us an even greater comfort and measure
bly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven” of union with our friends and family who have
and “the spirits of the righteous made perfect” died: We still worship with one another! And
(Heb. 12:23). Our worship transcends the time our worship, even though it is now separated by
and space in which we worship. We have true the vale of tears, unites us to one another just
fellowship not only with God but also with those as it unites us to God. 
men and women who died in faith before us, and
who are surrounded by innumerable angels in ERIC LANDRY is executive editor of Modern Reformation
festal gathering. magazine.

VOL.27 NO.1 JAN/FEB 2018

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