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Author Topic: Matthew777's Question About Missioning to Protestants  (Read 2323 times) Average Rating: 0
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Matthew777
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« on: November 04, 2006, 01:00:24 AM »

It is hard to reach many liberal Protestants, because they are opposed to tradition. And it's hard to reach many conservative Protestants, because of their belief in Sola Scriptura.
What can be done about this? If you don't have any help to offer, please discontinue posting in this thread.

Peace.

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This topic has been split from the thread "The Willful Ignorance of Protestantism".
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« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2006, 09:21:53 AM »

These are just my inexpert and very incomplete observations and views.  I think there are many many ways to parse Protestant Christians so any typology is bound to be incomplete.  However since you asked about different types of Protestants I'll give some views based on my own limited knowledge.

I think the division is actually three-fold within traditonally Protestant denominations:  liberal, mainline, and conservative.  In addition there are movements that extend across denominations and even outside Protestantism, such as Restorationism, Evangelicalism, etc.  Anyway, I think this three-fold division corresponds to the three modes of thinking in society today:  the post-modern, the modern, and the pre-modern, respectively.

(1) Liberal Protestants are heavily influenced by postmodern thinking, and so they tend to adopt the postmodern view that truth is relative and that the highest moral law is 'follow your bliss' and 'if it feels good do it', so long as it doesn't involve judging or harming others.  This is personal religion at its finest (or worst), and extremely liberal Christians are basically not much different from postmodern secularists, so I think similar approaches to both are appropriate.

In approaching a very liberal Christian the first thing to realize is that they don't care much about your claims to truth.  Reason doesn't engage them the way it does for modernists.  Postmoderns see things in terms of attraction-repulsion rather than rational-irrational.  For example claims that Orthodoxy is the one true faith are likely to be repulsive rather than attractive to these types, no matter how reasonable the claim may be.

What matters most is authenticity, and the gravest sin for postmoderns, apart from judgmentalism, is hypocrisy.  Basically a postmodern, whether Christian or not, will only judge you based on how authentically you adhere to your own faith.  Apart from that practically all faiths and lifestyles are acceptable, which is why liberal Christians generally embrace homosexuality, abortion, feminism, religious pluralism, etc.  If you walk the walk and talk the talk, you will be judged authentic in your faith and therefore admirable.  That being said, there are some limits on this open attitude towards authenticity.  It doesn't apply if autheticity to one's faith inherently involves judging or excluding others, for example.  Yes, it's complicated.

In my opinion, the best approach here is not to get into a debate, because they will just respond with, "that is just your truth, not mine".  End of discussion.  Rather the first thing you need to demonstrate is that you and others live your faith authentically.  Then a postmodern may become curious enough to ask about it, and to the extent you display authenticity and a welcoming non-judgmental attitude, may be attracted.  You must be like the light that attracts the moth rather than the wind trying to blow the moth to the light.  Being very open and non-judgmental, yet honest and non-apologetic about your faith, is probably the most effective.  Exposure is the path to conversion, so invite those postmoderns who seem interested to attend liturgy and meet the community.

Certain aspects of Orthodoxy may appeal to the postmodern more than others, and these you might emphasize in discussion.  Here I would include Orthodoxy's exotic non-western image, beautiful liturgy, monasticism, the emphasis on real spiritual practice, its ancient roots, its conciliar as opposed to authoritarian approach to governance, its emphasis on spiritual mentorship, etc.  Most of all, the presentation of the Church as a hospital, as a therapeutic method, should be appealing to this type.  Doctrinally, Christus Victor will appeal, but generally one should emphasize the unique and authentic practice of Orthodoxy over dogmas, cannons, and such.  There are also many things that a liberal Christian will have trouble with, particularly the claim to Truth as the One Church, the emphasis on spiritual obedience, the strict moral code, lack of women priests, teachings on abortion and homosexuality, etc.

(2) Mainline Protestants are mostly modernist in outlook.  They tend to be steeped in the Enlightenment and so find historical biblical criticism, evolutionary perspectives, scientific explanations, and the notion of doctrinal and liturgical development to be acceptable.  Doctrinally a modernist is likely to be a theistic evolutionist or take a figurative and mythic view of Genesis.  Some (many?) modernists have real trouble with miracles, the idea of a personal Devil, traditional conceptions of heaven and hell, and so forth, however this doesn't apply to all.  Generally modernists have real trouble with spirituality, preferring to see religion in moral or social terms.  Unlike postmoderns, modernists appreciate the importance of reason and can accept the notion of absolutes.  Therefore more traditional apologetics may work, as may a study of history.  Whereas the postmodern self-image is based on authenticity, the modern wants to see himself or herself as being reasonable, rational, and scientific in his or her faith.  However, like postmoderns, modernists tend to be very individualistic about their faith, but try to ground it in reason as opposed to subjective emotion.  As a result, the mystical and ritualistic aspects of Orthodoxy may be a problem, as will the usual criticisms like veneration of icons.

I would note that there are really two strands within modernism, even Christian modernism - what one might call the rational and the romantic.  The rational strand is conservative regarding the 18th century Enlightenment and tends to be classically liberal and capitalist.  This type of mainline Christian seeks in Christianity affirmation for a modern capitalist lifestyle and materialism.  Therefore asceticism will make little sense to this type.  The romantic tends to look more towards the 19th century and may hold sympathy for socialist or even Marxist ideas.  Romantics tend to see themselves as champions for the oppressed and downtodden, and so for them religion is primarily about morality and social action rather than spirituality.  If you cannot demonstrate Orthodoxy's engagement in charitable activities or mission work, the romantic Christian modernist will not be attracted.  Obviously you need to know which kind of modern you are dealing with.

(3)  Conservative or fundamental Protestants are the most likely to hold strongly to the doctrines of the Reformation such as sola scriptura (sometimes more strongly than the original reformers).  In fact I'd say that many mainline and liberal Protestants only have a vague notion of their own theology, so if you start off your critique of their beliefs by mentioning sola scriptura or other technical terms you may get a blank look.  Perhaps the defining characteristic of fundamentalist or conservative Protestants is doctrinal knowledge and purity.  In my experience many conservatives are very well informed of their beliefs and can defend them with scriptural support.  If you want to approach a conservative you had better know Holy Scripture inside and out.  Probably the best way to reach these people is by showing the gaps in their scriptural understanding, those verses that are often overlooked but which Orthodox can show present a fuller interpretation.  I don't know, that's just my guess.  Other aspects common to conservative types is a strong emphasis on supernatural reality, Creationism, and a tendency to define themselves in opposition to modernists.  Though not all conservatives are anti-scientific, some are.

I think there are many people who are mixed types, such as liberal-mainline or mainline-fundamentalist.  For example, while I am definitely steeped in the modernist mainline attitude when it comes to emphasis on reason and science, I have as I've gotten older begun to appreciate the more positive aspects of both the liberal and conservative perspectives.  I appreciate the conservative emphasis on doctrinal purity and living fully the life in Christ, and I appreciate the strong liberal emphasis on spiritual autheticity.  In Orthodoxy I see a fairly harmonious blending of all three approaches, so that a Protestant of any orientation will find elements of Orthodoxy appealing (and other things a challenge).  The key to witnessing to a Protestant is really to know who you are dealing with, because within denominations you will often find all types present.

I await any and all critiques or additions, as I am not particularly confident that the way I've explained all this is accurate.  My own experiences and knowledge are necessarily limited.

Sincerely in Christ,
Brian
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« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2006, 11:02:08 AM »

Matthew777---

You ask a very interesting question, and one that is interesting enough that I will once again break my rule to never get involved in any thread you start... Wink (maybe I should change that policy..)

How do you 'reach' Protestants? The same way St. Seraphim of Sarov advised others: by acquiring the Holy Spirit. This is done through living an Orthodox Christian life: by prayer, fasting, and participating in the Life of Christ through the Mysteries of the Church.

The most effective evangelization tool in the world is for us to be authentic in our Orthodox lives! This life of love for God and others will shine out to all the world like a lighthouse in a stormy sea. People will come to you and ask questions---first tentatively, but later on they will ask more often and more openly when they know that the answers they get from you are inspired by your love for God and them, not because you are trying to 'reach them' for potential conversion. Leave that to the Spirit, as it is His work to lead to Truth.

You will never argue someone into the Church. You can only love them into it! Be able to defend yourself intellectually, but wait for the other to make the mistake of starting the offensive. Respond capably and lovingly, and people will know that there is something beyond just the words you use.

And that is what this world is searching for, especially young people like yourself. People respond to love when they see it and hear it. Since the Church is Love itself, live your life as well as you can in the Church. Then you will reach Protestants, Catholics, Islamic people--everyone!

Just my $.02!

Brian---

Excellent job on the 'classification' systems! Bravo sou!

For some of our posters, it might be great if under the three 'types' you could list some examples of churches that may fall under the headings you have provided.
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« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2006, 02:52:36 PM »


How do you 'reach' Protestants? The same way St. Seraphim of Sarov advised others: by acquiring the Holy Spirit. This is done through living an Orthodox Christian life: by prayer, fasting, and participating in the Life of Christ through the Mysteries of the Church.

You will never argue someone into the Church. You can only love them into it! Be able to defend yourself intellectually, but wait for the other to make the mistake of starting the offensive. Respond capably and lovingly, and people will know that there is something beyond just the words you use.


Ah, but Father, this doesn't seem to address the problem of visibility.  Often we Orthodox are invisible, or we reach too few.  We are all called to the acquisition of Grace, seeking out the Lord, but what about making ourselves visible?  Bazaars work well, but U.S. people often discount our bazaars as part of our culture, and don't care about the Christ Who we worship.  Sad

What I am trying to say is that we must hold the line.  On the one hand, we don't want to be like Pentecostal churches that have vivid multimedia appeals to get people to come (or could we hand out paper icons to friends?  That sounds too Roman Catholic to me, but maybe that's just because I've only gotten those sorts of things from my Catholic friends...), and we don't want to be so exclusive that we make our ascetic disciplines limit our social engagement.  We need to do MORE than bazaars, but what else can we do?

I think the division is actually three-fold within traditonally Protestant denominations:  liberal, mainline, and conservative.  In addition there are movements that extend across denominations and even outside Protestantism, such as Restorationism, Evangelicalism, etc.  Anyway, I think this three-fold division corresponds to the three modes of thinking in society today:  the post-modern, the modern, and the pre-modern, respectively.

(3)  Conservative or fundamental Protestants are the most likely to hold strongly to the doctrines of the Reformation such as sola scriptura (sometimes more strongly than the original reformers).  In fact I'd say that many mainline and liberal Protestants only have a vague notion of their own theology, so if you start off your critique of their beliefs by mentioning sola scriptura or other technical terms you may get a blank look.  Perhaps the defining characteristic of fundamentalist or conservative Protestants is doctrinal knowledge and purity.  In my experience many conservatives are very well informed of their beliefs and can defend them with scriptural support.  If you want to approach a conservative you had better know Holy Scripture inside and out.  Probably the best way to reach these people is by showing the gaps in their scriptural understanding, those verses that are often overlooked but which Orthodox can show present a fuller interpretation.  I don't know, that's just my guess.  Other aspects common to conservative types is a strong emphasis on supernatural reality, Creationism, and a tendency to define themselves in opposition to modernists.  Though not all conservatives are anti-scientific, some are.



I really appreciate your classification, although your postmodern explanation was like trying to fit a whale into a bottle.  I definitely deal with these conservative folks in my old neighborhood - this seems fairly common to young people in the suburbs, from my experience.  Maybe it's just my neighborhood....

I believe that all of our knowledge and argumentation is a very difficult path to dialogue with someone on Christ.  This sort of thing I would like to leave to the spiritually astute, but there are so few monks in the U.S.  True knowledge, gnosis, is a life-giving gift of Christ, but it is so rare for us to achieve in our earthly struggles beyond the cathartic stage of our salvation - but then again, only the Lord knows.




Well, now I'm stuck in a rut.  Anyone want to help me out?
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Holy Father Patrick, thank you for your help!


« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2006, 03:50:33 PM »

Ah, but Father, this doesn't seem to address the problem of visibility.  Often we Orthodox are invisible, or we reach too few.  We are all called to the acquisition of Grace, seeking out the Lord, but what about making ourselves visible?  Bazaars work well, but U.S. people often discount our bazaars as part of our culture, and don't care about the Christ Who we worship.  Sad

What I am trying to say is that we must hold the line.  On the one hand, we don't want to be like Pentecostal churches that have vivid multimedia appeals to get people to come (or could we hand out paper icons to friends?  That sounds too Roman Catholic to me, but maybe that's just because I've only gotten those sorts of things from my Catholic friends...), and we don't want to be so exclusive that we make our ascetic disciplines limit our social engagement.  We need to do MORE than bazaars, but what else can we do?

Please indicate to me where you read into my post the idea that we should not be visible or should not 'hold the line'. Please indicate in my post where I mentioned we are only supposed to hold 'bazaars'.

By actually living our lives as Orthodox Christians, we become highly visible! So few of us actually live a life of repentance and humility, that to do so makes us stick so far out of the crowd that we draw attention to ourselves. This means that we defend those who need defending, feed those who are hungry, and clothe those who are naked.

And regarding 'holding the line'---I specifically mentioned that we need to be able to 'defend ourselves intellectually'...this is because when we live out our lives, we will attract attention---some we want, while others will attempt to argue with us. The sole reason we have this type of confrontation is because we draw attention to ourselves if we only live our lives within the Church.

I stand by what I said earlier---you will never argue someone into the Church, you will only love them into it---because it has worked for me in the past, and is working for me now. While I have 'won' arguments with people from pother religions regarding the validity of Orthodoxy, I have never seen them come to Church or approach me to be their Godfather.

Those folks that I have seen enter the Church after approaching me first, have done so because they can tell that through me the Church does work.

editted for a hilarious spelling error I made--whew!
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« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2006, 05:50:49 PM »

I await any and all critiques or additions, as I am not particularly confident that the way I've explained all this is accurate.  My own experiences and knowledge are necessarily limited.

I find your response to be well thought, refreshing, and genuinely helpful. Thank you very much.

Peace.
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« Reply #6 on: November 04, 2006, 06:06:01 PM »

Brian---

Excellent job on the 'classification' systems! Bravo sou!

For some of our posters, it might be great if under the three 'types' you could list some examples of churches that may fall under the headings you have provided.

Thank you Father.  It's not perfect but it's one way of looking at the divisions.  Actually I think you could subdivide the conservative category into evangelical conservatives and fundamentalist conservatives.  The difference is in the degree to which they emphasize purity and their willingness to engage with society.  Fundamentalists tend to prefer disengagement, like the Amish, whereas evangelicals are quite happy engaging with and challenging society in visible ways.

Anyway, you asked for some examples so here are some I think are representative.  As I am not actually a member of any American church, if someone notices a major error let me know.

Conservative: Southern Baptist Convention, Assembly of God, Pentecostals in general, Foursquare Gospel, Seventh Day Adventists, Churches of Christ, Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (or maybe this is mainline tending conservative now?)

Mainline tending Conservative:  American Baptist Churches in the U.S.A., most confessional churches with more liberal counterparts in their denomination

Mainline:  Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Mennonites, Reformed Church in America

Mainline tending Liberal:  United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), Quakers

Liberal:  Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, Progressive Christians

Liberal (really non-Christian now): Unitarian-Universalists

Hope all this helps.

In Christ,
Brian
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« Reply #7 on: November 04, 2006, 06:09:05 PM »

I find your response to be well thought, refreshing, and genuinely helpful. Thank you very much.

Peace.

Glad to help Matthew.  If it promotes better understanding about Protestants and fewer generalizations even better.  Wink

In Christ,
Brian
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« Reply #8 on: November 04, 2006, 06:28:34 PM »

The most effective evangelization tool in the world is for us to be authentic in our Orthodox lives!

I've heard that if you worry about working out your own salvation, that will take care of evangelization. You've articulated that point rather well, and I would have to agree with you.

Peace.
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« Reply #9 on: November 06, 2006, 04:30:34 AM »

By actually living our lives as Orthodox Christians, we become highly visible! So few of us actually live a life of repentance and humility, that to do so makes us stick so far out of the crowd that we draw attention to ourselves. This means that we defend those who need defending, feed those who are hungry, and clothe those who are naked.

And regarding 'holding the line'---I specifically mentioned that we need to be able to 'defend ourselves intellectually'...this is because when we live out our lives, we will attract attention---some we want, while others will attempt to argue with us. The sole reason we have this type of confrontation is because we draw attention to ourselves if we only live our lives within the Church.

I stand by what I said earlier---you will never argue someone into the Church, you will only love them into it---because it has worked for me in the past, and is working for me now. While I have 'won' arguments with people from pother religions regarding the validity of Orthodoxy, I have never seen them come to Church or approach me to be their Godfather.



I yield to Father's points.
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Holy Father Patrick, thank you for your help!


« Reply #10 on: November 06, 2006, 09:03:52 AM »


I yield to Father's points.

I hope I did not offend you in my response to our discussion about missionizing to Protestants.

Y'know, I re-read my post, and it seemed a bit...strong. I guess it is just a bit of frustration on my part because three times now on this site I have written about how evangelization is through forming of relationships with the other person, and then conversion begins, but somehow when I write that people think that I'm saying we should just coast along and not do anything (like many of our parishes are doing now) and so the 'bazaar' comment struck me the wrong way.

Anyway, please accept my apology if in any way I have offended you.

+Fr. Chris
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« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2006, 10:53:09 PM »

Father Christopher,

I think you point about needing to live authentically as a Christian is spot on.  I don't think someone can truly witness their faith unless they live it deeply.  Otherwise everything is reduced to logical and historical arguments without conversion of the heart.  The head follows the heart ultimately, at least for the sincere seeker.  My most heartfelt conviction based on my exposure to Orthodoxy thus far is that you all have a gem and often don't seem to know it.  The reason Pentecostals are the fastest growing Christian group is because they offer something different from most other Protestant traditions.  Well Orthodox also offer something different, and far deeper and more powerful.  Play off your most visible strength - the correctness and authenticity of your spiritual method, proven over nearly the last 2000 years.  As an outsider looking in I personally think that Orthodox should do what they do best in fertile ground like America - develop a robust monastic culture that produces saints.  Those are your true evangelists.  They should be the visible face of Orthodoxy.  They are the ones who can keep Orthodoxy on an even keel whether the age is pre-modern, modern, post-modern, or whatever comes after that.  Those are my two cents for what they're worth.

Sincerely in Christ,
Brian
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« Reply #12 on: November 07, 2006, 01:05:11 AM »

I've also learned, along with Fr. Chris' excellent points, that if you are to engage in a fruitful discussion, do not engage with a group that you are not well prepared to engage in.  For example, I can probably never do well with Conservatives, since I am not well versed specifically on Biblical references.  I seem however to appeal much better to Liberals because I have had a huge interest in Pluralism and understand how they feel, and became quite empathic to their feelings.  In this manner, with humility and love, I am better able to reach out to them.

There's no need however to become so well prepared to face someone.  Love and example always comes first.

God bless.

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