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StGeorge
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« on: March 24, 2009, 11:11:32 AM »

Hello,

This thread is particularly for converts to Orthodoxy from Protestantism.  In moving towards Orthodoxy, what role did the question of authority play? 

I used to be RC, and I noticed that many Protestants who became Catholic based a large part of their decision on the question of authority: i.e. Scripture alone, or a Magisterium (Pope) to interpret Scripture.  So far, I haven't met any converts to Orthodoxy from Protestantism who share the same strong emphasis on authority.  The ones I've spoken with mention how Scripture is to be interpreted in the Church, and its place is in the Liturgy.  They do not, however, emphasize the authority of the Orthodox Church, of the bishops of the Orthodox Church, to correctly interpret the Scripture, over and above laymen.   

I'm wondering what converts to Orthodoxy from Protestantism think of this emphasis on authority, and how they approached the question in relation to becoming Orthodox.  Did you find that authority means something different than what you grew up believing?

In any case, I'm interested in hearing what you have to say. 
« Last Edit: March 24, 2009, 11:20:00 AM by StGeorge » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: March 24, 2009, 11:45:31 AM »

Well, this is certainly an interesting question, and I'm looking forward to hearing others' input. Coming from a fairly evangelical, possibly even fundamentalist, background, it was bewildering for me to see how often Orthodox folks seemed to call up their priests, or spiritual fathers-even for very simply matters. I wasn't used to this approach at all and was more inclined not to want to bother them, or to read Scripture or other books for myself, forming my own opinions (the Orthodox Study Bible has been extremely helpful to me). I do still struggle with this approach and wish there would be more emphasis on Bible Study etc. The few Orthodox Bible Studies I've attended (at a Greek parish) have been simply amazing and wonderful, and I do wish the Russians would have more of this. And I do miss having deep, stimulating sermons on Sunday- I miss this in the extreme. So, for me, the emphasis on authority is somewhat difficult to accept, especially when I see corruption or mis-use of power in certain cases.
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« Reply #2 on: March 24, 2009, 11:58:03 AM »

I am, technically speaking, a convert from Protestantism because I was baptised in a Presbyterian congregation. However, the congregation where I was baptised and even briefly served as an elder (2005-2006) was a part of the so-called Presbyterian Church (USA), a very liberal, modernist, "soft" religious group where everything, including issues of Scriptural authority, is somewhat "watered down." We did have "Bible studies," but they were, essentially, just gatherings of people who wanted to spend some time philosophizing, musing about the Bible. There was a lot of spontaneity there and a lot of attempts to "reconcile" the Bible with modernity, but nothing really deep or interesting for me. I can't, in all honesty, say that I "miss" that in the Orthodox Church.

Also, I do not miss Sunday sermons. Maybe it's just pure luck: my parish priest (our own Fr. Chris) delivers wonderful, very deep and interesting sermons, to my complete satisfaction. Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: March 24, 2009, 12:19:59 PM »

Hello,

This thread is particularly for converts to Orthodoxy from Protestantism.  In moving towards Orthodoxy, what role did the question of authority play? 

I used to be RC, and I noticed that many Protestants who became Catholic based a large part of their decision on the question of authority: i.e. Scripture alone, or a Magisterium (Pope) to interpret Scripture.  So far, I haven't met any converts to Orthodoxy from Protestantism who share the same strong emphasis on authority.  The ones I've spoken with mention how Scripture is to be interpreted in the Church, and its place is in the Liturgy.  They do not, however, emphasize the authority of the Orthodox Church, of the bishops of the Orthodox Church, to correctly interpret the Scripture, over and above laymen.   

I'm wondering what converts to Orthodoxy from Protestantism think of this emphasis on authority, and how they approached the question in relation to becoming Orthodox.  Did you find that authority means something different than what you grew up believing?

In any case, I'm interested in hearing what you have to say. 

I'm just happy to have an actual real Bishop. I use to read about them in the writings of early Christians. Baptists don't normally have Bishops, and I know they don't have the kind we got.....well, I shouldn't say I know for you might find one somewhere......there are alot of different protestant groups trying to get one these days.

But I knew for a long time that in E.O. every Bishop was equal(at least in theory)........I could be wrong, but I think I saw that (many many years ago) in the Apostolic Constitions as well, I could have read the samething in some of the works of early christians.

But real Authority (in E.O.) seems to be the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Many many years ago, what kepted me safe from the pitfalls of higher criticism was what I read from an Orthodox lady (on the internet). I don't know if it was an article or a forum, but her words stuck with me forever.

It had something to do about being asked if she had trust in the Bible. Her answer was no, she said, She has Trust in God, and through Him she is able to trust the Bible.

That's not what she said in verbatim, but it was something like that. But anyway, that blew me away, for if all your eggs are in Trusting scripture then any Muslim apologist, Militant college Atheistic professor, or Liberal/Modernist higher critical scholar can take your Faith away by making you doubt by using some of the difficulties found in the KJV(King James Bible).

My college friend lost his faith when an Atheistic Engineering professor was trying to evangelize/convert him to Atheism. He finally ended up crashing down when he read a Biblical commentary from a higher critical /modern scholar (a former chaplen of the school)

When I saw that happened, that's when I said......."oh no". My friend later gained his faith back when he got envolved in the Charismatic movement. He told me that he spoke in tongues and was able to read the whole(protestant) Bible in one day......or something like that.....but anyway, he got his faith back.


The same is true if you put all your eggs in a Bishop(like the Bishop of Rome). If he does something immoral then that will cause alot of people to loose faith.


 So my Authority(all my eggs) is in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and through God it is in everything else.........like the Church, and Holy Tradition and all the things within Holy Tradition......like Scripture, Great Church Councils, Church Fathers, the Liturgy, Icons.......ect.





JNORM888
« Last Edit: March 24, 2009, 12:33:07 PM by jnorm888 » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: March 24, 2009, 12:46:28 PM »

I could be wrong, but I think the Evangelical scholar Daniel B. Clendenin summed it up well when he said:

In the book "Eastern Orthodox Christianity: A western perspective":
here


Quote
"For Westerners, this absence of formal criteria or authorities," Meyendorff admits, is "puzzling, . . .nebulous,. . .romantic,. . . unrealistic," apparently "subjectivistic," and even an "embarrassment" of sorts. Nevertheless, "the Orthodox East has never been obsessed with a search for objective, clear, and formally definable criteria of truth, such as either the papal authority or the Reformed notion of sola scriptura." Meyendorff takes pains to clarify this extremely important point: "This lack in Orthodox ecclesiology of a clearly defined, precise and permanent criterion of Truth besides God Himself, Christ, and the Holy Spirit, is certainly one of the major contrasts between Orthodoxy and all classical Western ecclesiologies. In the West the gradually developed theory of papal infallibilty was opposed, after the collapse of the conciliar movement, by the Protestant affirmation of sola scriptura. The entire Western ecclesiological problem since the sixteenth century turned around this opposition of two criteria, two references of doctrinal security, while in Orthodoxy no need for, or necessity of, such a security was ever felt for the simple reason that the living Truth is its own criterion." This, of course, is the exact point made by Khomiakov, that in Orthodoxy the criterion of truth is not external or dogmatic, a speaking to the church, but internal and pneumatic, a living Lord within the church.

Positively, we might say that the only ultimate theological criterion to which Orthodoxy appeals is the living presence of God himself, who safeguards the church and promises through his Spirit to lead us and guide us into all truth (John 14:25-26; 16:13). This was the pattern established by the original church in council at Jerusalem, which based its decisions on the charismatic criterion: "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us" (Acts 15:28). Thus the Orthodox appeal to Irenaeus: "Where theChurch is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is Truth."

Ironically, while many people accuse Orthodoxy of a dead, static repetition of ancient tradition and liturgical ritual, a historicism of sorts, it eschews such a notion of tradition in favor of the dynamic, living presence of God who continually vivifies the church. As Florovsky notes, "reference to tradition is not historical inquiry. Tradition is not limited to Church archaeology. . . Tradition is the witness of the Spirit . . . the constant abiding of the Spirit and not only the memory of words. tradition is a charismatic, not a historical, principle." Tradition is the life of the Spirit in the church, who alone is the ultimate criterion of truth. This, Thomas Hopko insists, is the unanimous position of the Orthodox church, both ancient and modern: "For each of the authors directly studied on this point, and there are about twenty to whom concrete reference could be made here, the Holy Spirit alone remains the ultimate criterion of truth for Christians even though other eternal institutions in the Church, such as [the tradition of the church, including Holy Scripture;] the Councils; and the Church itself are named as the 'highest' and 'supreme' authorities providing formal authorities in the Church. . . The Church itself taken as a whole cannot and must not remain 'external' to the believer, and indeed not the theologian!" pages 104-108 [1]





JNORM888

[1]pages 104-108, from the book "Eastern Orthodox Christianity: A western perspective" by Daniel B. Clendenin. Baker Academic 1994, 2003
« Last Edit: March 24, 2009, 12:48:21 PM by jnorm888 » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: March 24, 2009, 03:11:26 PM »

Former Evangelical, hard-core sola scriptura here. 'The question of authority' was the critical point for my conversion to Orthodoxy. But in a rather different sense than you seem to be defining it.

I was a literature and history major in college. Higher Criticisim wasn't much of an issue for me (the fact that Bibilical scholarship was generally following the same path but 40 years behind normal literary scholarship contributed to that), but the inherent subjectivity of interpretation was --the degree to which not only the reader but the author bring their own history and cultural preconceptions to a text. How could I ever be certain that I (native English speaker/20th century American/raised Protestant/etc, etc) was understanding the text in the same sense that the original author (native Aramaic speaker writing in Koine Greek, 1st century Jew, working class fisherman, etc, etc) had. My Bible teachers would always emphasize the importance of context, but they seemed to be missing the fact that at the highest level, our context was completely different from that of the Apostles and there was no way we could *know* their context. At best we were piecing it together through deduction and induction which left huge opportunities for missing something.

From other studies, I knew that 1st century conceptions of the words 'freedom' or 'community' were very different from my own. What other words was I missing? And even having recognized the difference how could I be certain that I was understanding the actual nature of the difference? Reading literature or even philosophy, those question just added to the interest to me--but if I got it wrong, no big deal. But Scripture was more than just a mental exercise. My soul depended on getting it right.

In that context, running across Orthodoxy and its understanding of authority and interpretation (very well described in jnorm's posted excerpt) was a revelation. The Church, as the living Body of Christ (in a very real not symbolic sense), headed by Christ and enlivened by the Spirit, produced the Scripture and that by gaining the mind of the Church, which is the mind of Christ, one could enter into the original context of production and reception for the words of Scripture.

I respect the charism of the bishops to teach, but that is not what underlies the Authority of the Church--after all, the bishops remain human beings with free will who can work in synchronicity with their calling and the Grace offered by God; or who can choose in any specific instance to reject that synchronicity and exercise their free will in deviating from their calling. (That's why Roman conceptions of authority didn't do anything for me--the Roman Church had come up with someone who could say yes or no on correct interpretation but could never answer for me what they would do if that individual acted in a very human matter and chose to say no when he should say yes, or vice-versa). Instead, the fundamental criteria is the Mind of Christ, expressed through the concensus of the Fathers and the collective teaching of the bishops. I don't claim to have yet come close to fully enter into that mind, but at least I know the path.

That is, I can now acknowledge my own partial and faulty interpretation of Scripture (and the Fathers) as *expected*, but also as something that is being corrected and improved over time in the same way that the rest of my fallen nature is, through the life and experience of the Church.
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« Reply #6 on: March 24, 2009, 05:03:34 PM »

Welcome to the Convert Issue St George.  This is a very good Topic, I look forward to the info.

Thomas
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