I have to admit that the original Lutherans, who are immediate offspring of the Roman Catholics as opposed to the Evangelicals who came in much later, are much less carnal in their worship. I would also confess that since becoming Orthodox, I have developed a tendency to lump together all the groups that formed after 1517 into one denomination and dare call it "Protestants" in much the same way that a typical Christian would lump together the various forms of Islam. For this, I apologize. I suppose that slight differences in doctrine become irrelevant when one discovers a totally different brand of Christianity. Take note that I am not the only one who sees it this way. The chart in the following doesn't even mention the names of the splinter groups!
Anyway, you have made it perfectly clear that you are a Lutheran. We appreciate that. You have also expressed the importance of being specific when conversing with "Protestants." I now realize that there is no single approach to introducing Orthodoxy in the West. It is imperative therefore that we employ specific methods for each "Protestant" denomination. More importantly, after opening your mind to Orthodoxy, I suppose that you are in the best position to suggest as to how we Orthodox could effectively share what we know to your Lutheran brethren. For instance, Where do we begin? Do we go about discussing Church history, or is questioning the validity of the juridic concept of atonement a valid starting point? Finally, it would also help us if you could relate your experience and identify the points of interest which led you to explore the Orthodox Church.
Sorry for the delay in responding. I've been very busy the last few days.
Your apology is noted, and accepted. I sincerely appreciate your openness to the counter-arguments, a true sign of intellectual maturity. I in turn apologize if my tendency to 'stick the barbs in' has caused any offense or hurt on your part. I have a tendency towards the caustic, but it is never meant to be hurtful. In the same spirit, we can hopefully move on to a more balanced discussion of Protestantism, one that might yield productive insights. I think your question on how Orthodox should approach people in specific denominations such as Lutheranism is excellent and worth discussing in depth. I may not be the best person for that but I am happy to contribute what I can. As OzGeorge has noted, however, that discussion is better had on other threads than this one. However, I do think we still need to discuss exactly what we mean when we use the term 'Protestant'. (I note, now in jest, that you STILL haven't defined it.
) In any event, I certainly agree with you that there are SOME Protestants who have taken to a carnal, dramatic approach in recent years - it is rather complicated. So in order to be more precise, let me spend some time discussing my views on how the term may be used.
One can use the term 'Protestant' in many different ways and for different purposes, and this is the problem. Errors in use usually occur, as on this thread, when one has in mind one definition but is speaking to another definition. For example, many of the criticisms on this thread leveled at Protestants are of an attitudinal or doctrinal quality, the accuser criticizes Protestant ignorance or Protestant emphasis on particular beliefs. And yet the definition that seems to be operative is broad and historical, encompassing many attitudes and many docrines (even contradictory doctrines). As a result, the charge of overgeneralization is perfectly legitimate. Here are all the many ways I have seen the term 'Protestant' used. There may be others as well.
(1) As a general label denoting all Christians of a particular branch of (western) Christianity. This definition tends to operate by elimination. If a denomination or sect calls itself Christian, is of western creation, and is not Roman Catholic, then it is by definition Protestant. Under this definition even Oneness Pentecostals and Unitarian-Universalists are Protestant. Some might even include Mormons, Adventists, and Jehovah's Witnesses under this label depending on how one also defines 'Christian'.
(2) As a general historical label denoting all Christians who can trace a lineal relationship to the Reformation. Under this definition all those western Christian groups who identify themselves with one of the four Reformation traditions - Lutheran, Reformed (Calvinist), Anabaptist, or Anglican - are Protestants. Groups such as the Quakers (Society of Friends) wouldn't likely count since they generally see themselves as distinct even though they arise from Anabaptist roots. Nor would groups like Mormons even though Joseph Smith came from a Protestant matrix.
(3) As a specific historical label more restrictive than (2) and including only the Lutheran and Reformed traditions of the Reformation, since Anglicans have always been of a different character of 'protest', and Anabaptists were never reformers but radicals, and thus opposed by the Reformers as well as the Catholics. Obviously those groups that are offshoots of the Anabaptist or Anglican traditions, including Mennonites, Methodists, and Pentecostals, would not qualify as Protestant under this definition.
(4) As a very restrictive historical label applying only to Lutherans, since they (we) were the original issuers of the protestio
(5) As a doctrinal label to varying degrees of specificity. Here a Protestant would not be defined historically but rather doctrinally. A very restrictive doctrinal tag would require confession of all the solas. However even here there are significant differences between Protestants on the nature of free will, whether Calvinists, Arminians, or Lutherans. A looser and more common standard might simply affirm sola scriptura, sola gratia, and sola fide as the primary standard for being a Protestant, though the actual views on sola scriptura are quite nuanced between traditions. For example Lutherans dont believe that sola scriptura means that all beliefs and practices must be explicitly present in scripture to be valid - there is still a place for historical developments as with the Catholics and Orthodox. Other doctrinaire Protestants do take the view that if it isn't in Holy Scripture, then it shouldn't be adhered to at all. While most Protestants probably hold to a substitutionary atonement view, there are various competing views here throughout history, including Christus Victor. I think it is true that the Orthodox have the fuller teaching here, but it is incorrect to claim that all Protestants are Anselmians exclusively. In short, regardless of what YOU THINK Protestants believe, it is actually VERY difficult to make assumptions about what constitutes true Protestant belief, even when considering the foundational solas. And those who do go around making those sorts of assumptions...well you know what they say about those who ass/u/me.
(6) Finally one might be able to define a category for Protestant practice, liturgy, ritual, art, and aesthetic, as distinct from the Catholic approach. Obviously this will again depend on which of the above definitions one is using, which traditions are included and which are not. Anglicans look very Catholic in their approach, while most of the mainline Protestant groups are more minimalist. It really depends. However, I would claim that Protestants in general are (or at least have been) almost Japanese in their minimalism and simplicity. And in my experience God can be found in the minimal as well as the maximal.
So this is why I found the charge of artistic carnality to be so outrageous, coming from an Orthodox source especially. As I said, there are certainly Protestants (depending on definition) who have confused the dramatic and carnal with the spiritual. And I tend to decry those congregations that have turned to guitars and tambourines, scripturally shallow modern Christian music, and preacher centeredness over traditional choir, organ, and scripturally-based hymns. Certainly I find the current spread of megachurches with latte and popcorn, or the arising of "Prosperity Gospels" to be a travesty and an insult to Christ. Perhaps one can find salvation in such places, but I am skeptical. Nevertheless, what I think really doesn't matter - it is in God's hands. But I think we must certainly acknowledge religious secularism, the loss of the sense of the vertical, and the loss of the sense of the virtuous as the psycho-spiritual diseases of our times. I suspect that Orthodox are not totally immune from this, though I have found in my explorations that Orthodox have perhaps more resistance than most, and that is a major reason for my turn towards Orthodoxy.
One more comment on the issue of carnality in art. It is without a doubt that the most carnal art ever produced in the last century (apart from advertising) came from that abhorent school called socialist realism. Carnality is not a purely western phenomenon, even if socialism, that most carnal of political ideologies, originated in the west. It certainly found fertile enough soil in the east. While capitalism at its worst seeks to make the heart into a commodity, the ultimate in kitsch, socialism seeks to deny the heart altogether. Adam Smith realized that capitalism could not operate properly apart from the morally and spiritually stabilizing influence of the heart - we often forget that in our modern world, and then the carnal truly does take over. However, when capitalism does operate properly it acts as a partial antidote for one of the most pernicious sins at the center of the human condition - envy. [As an aside, I recommend reading "Business As a Calling" for a discussion of the positive moral aspects of capitalism and the defeat of envy. It's a short book worth picking up used if you can.] Anyway, this conflict over the vertical and the virtuous is at the heart of our culture wars, and this war extends into the inner sanctum as well, as we have seen every denomination challenged from within.
So to summarize a few conclusions. First, the term 'Protestant' is a practically meaningless term unless explicitly defined. In particular one often sees an implicit definition that is historical mixed up with a criticism based on perceived doctrine. This is an incorrect approach in every case, particularly since it is questionable to what extent one may even generalize from denominational labels these days. Intra-denominational diversity is a real problem. Unfortunately this applies even to Lutherans. For example, doctrinally speaking the most traditionally 'Protestant' groups nowadays are the fundamentalists and the Pentecostals. Now Pentecostals are not particularly big on theology and catechesis, and yet in surveys of members' beliefs they tend to score higher than mainline denominations in their adherence to traditional Protestant doctrines such as sola fide. Within most mainline denominations only around 20-30% would pass the test of Luther or Calvin, so far has theological knowledge fallen out of favor in the quest to be 'relevant' in society. And yet as I pointed out above, Pentecostalism may not even qualify as Protestant under some definitions. Such is the importance of defining terms and applying that definition consistently.
[Side note: there is much that may be considered carnal in Pentecostalism in my (outsider) opinion, though I think it is unrelated to their fidelity to traditional Protestant thought - this would be an interesting area to explore.]
My apologies, Theognosis, for the length of my answer. I haven't even gotten to your other points. Let me address those on the next post.
Sincerely in Christ,