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Author Topic: The Purpose of the Pastor? And other doubts on my Protestantism  (Read 836 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: February 14, 2011, 01:02:03 AM »

I hope this post is not out of line. If it is, please feel free to move it or close it down.

As stated on my profile, I am still a Protestant who goes to a Protestant church. However, as also indicated I'm obviously having doubts and struggles with it.

Keeping that in mind, I open this question to other Protestants on this board, to Orthodox converts, and to "cradle Orthodox:"

What is the point of having a pastor in a Protestant church if we have done away with the Sacraments? Even less, why should a woman be forbidden from being a pastor if there are no Sacraments?

I guess, what is the difference between a "teacher" and a "pastor" under the Protestant position? This is something that has weighed on me quite a bit, that sans Sacraments the position of "pastor" makes little to no sense. Under the Protestant sense the Pastor teaches, gives sermons, gives advice, and in some situations is the Church "CEO" and makes the final decisions.

Beyond this, two other problems I've had:

1) The Lord's Supper - we have taught that it is symbolic, but I remember reading distinctly in one of Ignatius' letters that anyone who denies that the bread and wine are literally the body and blood of Christ is a heretic (or something to that effect, I don't have it in front of me right now). Now, keeping in mind that Ignatius was a disciple of the Apostle John, one would think that someone would have gone against Ignatius' understanding, or if Jesus meant "this is my body" figuratively that John would have passed this onto Ignatius. So it's hard (in fact, it's nearly impossible) to believe that the Eucharist was somehow a "corrupted doctrine" since it existed so early in Christianity.

2) Again, turning to Ignatius and even Polycarp we see an emphasis on the Bishops. Even Clement of Rome addresses this issue and how we are under the authority of the Bishops. Again, all of these men lived, knew, and learned under the orignal eleven Disciples, and knew others who knew and learned under Christ. So who are we to say that these men made up these doctrines? We would have to argue that all of the original Disciples were wrong and that Christ allowed His Church to be abandoned to falsehood immediately after He left this earth; that's not a proposition that any conservative Christian or fundamentalist should be willing to make.

These are the two major doubts that have moved me towards Orthodoxy (I did not move towards Roman Catholicism for a number of other reasons). Here's what I'm curious about:

A) To Protestants, how do you deal with this? And instead of turning to Scripture (I know that's a temptation), turn to Church history. I ask this not out of disrespect to Scripture, but rather out of disrespect to your interpretation; if the earliest Christians - who spoke Koine Greek, who knew the Disciples, who knew Jesus - all agreed on these matters, who are we to say they are wrong?

B) To converts to Orthodoxy - did these doubts ever play a factor in your conversion?

C) To "cradle Orthodox" - have you considered evangelizing Protestants, especially those who are well-studied, in this way?

I look forward to the answers and the discussion.
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« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2011, 01:14:14 AM »

Congratulations! You've exposed many of the fallacies which underpin protestantism. Well done!
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« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2011, 01:43:00 AM »

B) To converts to Orthodoxy - did these doubts ever play a factor in your conversion?

C) To "cradle Orthodox" - have you considered evangelizing Protestants, especially those who are well-studied, in this way?

B) Yep. Once I started really taking the early patristic writings seriously, I was totally screwed.

But then after you become exposed to this information, the Holy Scriptures themselves open up to you. The "mere memorial" view is decimated by 1 Corinthians 11:30. I never knew that "falling asleep" is a euphemism in Greek for dying. Mere memorials don't kill people, or for that matter make them sick or bedridden.

C) I'm no cradle, but I have presented these points to a Lutheran woman who reads St. Ignatius and uses him to support the Real Presence doctrine. But when I bring up what he says a few sentences later about the bishop being necessary for a valid Eucharist, she ignores my posts. The Protestants that do quote the fathers quote them rather selectively.
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« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2011, 01:44:14 AM »

1) The Lord's Supper - we have taught that it is symbolic, but I remember reading distinctly in one of Ignatius' letters that anyone who denies that the bread and wine are literally the body and blood of Christ is a heretic (or something to that effect, I don't have it in front of me right now). Now, keeping in mind that Ignatius was a disciple of the Apostle John, one would think that someone would have gone against Ignatius' understanding, or if Jesus meant "this is my body" figuratively that John would have passed this onto Ignatius. So it's hard (in fact, it's nearly impossible) to believe that the Eucharist was somehow a "corrupted doctrine" since it existed so early in Christianity.

2) Again, turning to Ignatius and even Polycarp we see an emphasis on the Bishops. Even Clement of Rome addresses this issue and how we are under the authority of the Bishops. Again, all of these men lived, knew, and learned under the orignal eleven Disciples, and knew others who knew and learned under Christ. So who are we to say that these men made up these doctrines? We would have to argue that all of the original Disciples were wrong and that Christ allowed His Church to be abandoned to falsehood immediately after He left this earth; that's not a proposition that any conservative Christian or fundamentalist should be willing to make.

These are the two major doubts that have moved me towards Orthodoxy (I did not move towards Roman Catholicism for a number of other reasons). Here's what I'm curious about:

B) To converts to Orthodoxy - did these doubts ever play a factor in your conversion?

At least for me, they stopped being a problem once I realized that the Roman Catholic Church isn't the only church that believes/teaches/practices these things. After that, Church history played a major role in how I started forming my beliefs. My standard went from "can this be proven using the Bible" to "what really happened".
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And FWIW, these are our Fathers too, you know.

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« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2011, 03:08:29 AM »

Starting with your questions about the role of the pastor in the Protestant churches:

I believe most Protestant churches that consider themselves "Bible based" and hold a conservative opinion on the definition of their biblical basis would oppose the ordination of women on the grounds of St Paul's "I do not permit a woman to teach".

 As to the reason for having the position of "pastor" at all they would point to verses regarding the "overseer"(episkopos) and point out that there is no New Testament correlation between the administration of the Sacraments to the role of the "overseer".  Basically they have to live in a New Testament-only vacuum, disregarding any historical evidence (such as the writings of Sts Clement and Ignatius) that would tell a tale to the contrary.  So long as you disregard the other evidence their view pretty much boils down to an "absence of evidence" fallacy.  But, I suppose, in a sola scriptura world absence of evidence really is the evidence of absence. 

As to the difference between a Pastor and teacher, well, it's simple: the pastor is the guy that puts you to sleep for thirty minutes every Sunday, the teacher is the one that you see in Sunday School leading you through whatever banal devotional your denomination publishes.

Regarding your other questions specifically toward converts: While the Lord's Supper and the presence of bishops were deciding factors in my conversion to Orthodoxy they did not quite lead me there directly.   I got sidetracked by the Anglicans who claimed Real Presence and Apostolic Succession, the latter under the wonders of the Branch Theory.  This was much easier thirteen years ago when the Anglican Communion, while it was apparent it had it's troubles, was nowhere near as wildly chaotic as it has been in the past seven years.  Once that edifice came crashing down I was basically left with a choice between Orthodoxy and a sort of "emergent Catholicism" (if that idea makes any sense, probably would have been something very similar to the early Evangelical Orthodox movement of the late 70s).  It was basically the role of the priest and the Church that finally won me over.
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« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2011, 03:34:04 AM »

What is the point of having a pastor in a Protestant church if we have done away with the Sacraments?

Good question. When I first started to read the Fathers back in 1997/1998, I started to struggle with the idea of partaking of the Eucharist in most protestant churches. Eventually this led to an out right refusal to partake in most protestant churches. This was the reason why I eventually joined an Anglo-Catholic Parish within the ECUSA back in 2002/2003. I was still a protestant back then, but I knew I needed the Sacraments. My conscience just wouldn't let me partake in too many other places.

What you mentioned up above is something I don't think I thought about back then. I see you are a deep thinker. I guess in a way, a protestant pastor with no sacraments is like a form of secularism. Or secularization.


 
Quote
Even less, why should a woman be forbidden from being a pastor if there are no Sacraments?


Interesting, what connection are you making here?



Quote
I guess, what is the difference between a "teacher" and a "pastor" under the Protestant position?

I recall saying that the protestant Reformation was an Academic Revolt. The Northern Renaissance movement was a literary movement. Without that, there would of been no Martin Luther. John Calvin was trained and educated at the University of Paris. I could be wrong, but I think he first became a protestant while still in school.

Also The preacher, instead of wearing vestments, now wears a professors robe. And what was once a Eucharistic focus Liturgy, turned into a sermon focused Liturgy, and in some cases.....especially in modern times...... no Liturgy at all. But some type of class room in where people take notes.


 
Quote
This is something that has weighed on me quite a bit, that sans Sacraments the position of "pastor" makes little to no sense. Under the Protestant sense the Pastor teaches, gives sermons, gives advice, and in some situations is the Church "CEO" and makes the final decisions.


I am always being criticized by Reformed protestants by connecting this to later secularism and atheism.



Quote
1) The Lord's Supper - we have taught that it is symbolic, but I remember reading distinctly in one of Ignatius' letters that anyone who denies that the bread and wine are literally the body and blood of Christ is a heretic (or something to that effect, I don't have it in front of me right now). Now, keeping in mind that Ignatius was a disciple of the Apostle John, one would think that someone would have gone against Ignatius' understanding, or if Jesus meant "this is my body" figuratively that John would have passed this onto Ignatius. So it's hard (in fact, it's nearly impossible) to believe that the Eucharist was somehow a "corrupted doctrine" since it existed so early in Christianity.


Yes, I recall the passage by Ignatius. Those who wish to see it as a corruption refuse to consider the fact that maybe, just maybe their doctrine was the brand new doctrine by way of the 9th century christian Naturalist who saw it as a symbol. Some of the Reformers took his lead some centuries later.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ratramnus (Ratramnus)

Quote:
"Ratramnus sought to reconcile science and religion, whereas Radbertus emphasized the miraculous. However the two agreed that Christ was present in the eucharist, Radbertus by miracle and reality and Ratramnus by faith and symbolism. Ratramnus's views failed to find acceptance; their author was soon forgotten, and, when the book was condemned as heresy at the synod of Vercelli in 1050, it was described as having been written by Johannes Scotus Erigena at the command of Charlemagne. During the Reformation, there was a revival of interest in the book; it was published in 1532 and immediately translated. It was especially influential in England, where Thomas Cranmer claimed to have been finally convinced against transubstantion by Ratramnus."



The sad thing is, many in our day are willing to change the Faith by trying to be more acceptable to what modern science says. Hopefully we can learn from History that it's always best to keep the Faith against the strong temptations of wanting to be accepted by the science of the day.



Quote
2) Again, turning to Ignatius and even Polycarp we see an emphasis on the Bishops. Even Clement of Rome addresses this issue and how we are under the authority of the Bishops. Again, all of these men lived, knew, and learned under the orignal eleven Disciples, and knew others who knew and learned under Christ. So who are we to say that these men made up these doctrines? We would have to argue that all of the original Disciples were wrong and that Christ allowed His Church to be abandoned to falsehood immediately after He left this earth; that's not a proposition that any conservative Christian or fundamentalist should be willing to make.


True, but you will be amazed at how many are probably willing to believe just that....especially when pushed to the corner on the issue.



Quote
B) To converts to Orthodoxy - did these doubts ever play a factor in your conversion?


Yes, the issue of the Mysteries/Sacraments played a huge role.




« Last Edit: February 14, 2011, 03:51:51 AM by jnorm888 » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2011, 03:59:16 AM »

I appreciate all the answers and there's quite a bit here to respond to, so I may not get to everything said and for that I apologize.

Quote from: Alveus Lacuna
B) Yep. Once I started really taking the early patristic writings seriously, I was totally screwed.

But then after you become exposed to this information, the Holy Scriptures themselves open up to you. The "mere memorial" view is decimated by 1 Corinthians 11:30. I never knew that "falling asleep" is a euphemism in Greek for dying. Mere memorials don't kill people, or for that matter make them sick or bedridden.

This has been happening for me. Today was the first opportunity I've had since I've looked at Orthodoxy to partake in the Lord's Supper at a Protestant church. To be honest, I struggled with whether or not I would do it (since I am not Orthodox, nor am I in the process of converting), but decided to. I actually felt guilty afterwards and knew that I shouldn't have done it.

But reading the Scriptures has completely changed. I now look to Church history first and see what they said. On issues where there's no disagreement, I find it hard to adhere to Protestantism. On issues where it's iffy, I struggle.

Quote from: Melodist
At least for me, they stopped being a problem once I realized that the Roman Catholic Church isn't the only church that believes/teaches/practices these things. After that, Church history played a major role in how I started forming my beliefs. My standard went from "can this be proven using the Bible" to "what really happened".

That has helped me quite a bit honestly. I knew the RCC couldn't be true, just because too much of what they taught didn't line up with what the Church Fathers wrote or what Scripture said.

Quote from: FormerReformer
Starting with your questions about the role of the pastor in the Protestant churches:

I believe most Protestant churches that consider themselves "Bible based" and hold a conservative opinion on the definition of their biblical basis would oppose the ordination of women on the grounds of St Paul's "I do not permit a woman to teach".

 As to the reason for having the position of "pastor" at all they would point to verses regarding the "overseer"(episkopos) and point out that there is no New Testament correlation between the administration of the Sacraments to the role of the "overseer".  Basically they have to live in a New Testament-only vacuum, disregarding any historical evidence (such as the writings of Sts Clement and Ignatius) that would tell a tale to the contrary.  So long as you disregard the other evidence their view pretty much boils down to an "absence of evidence" fallacy.  But, I suppose, in a sola scriptura world absence of evidence really is the evidence of absence. 

As to the difference between a Pastor and teacher, well, it's simple: the pastor is the guy that puts you to sleep for thirty minutes every Sunday, the teacher is the one that you see in Sunday School leading you through whatever banal devotional your denomination publishes.

Regarding your other questions specifically toward converts: While the Lord's Supper and the presence of bishops were deciding factors in my conversion to Orthodoxy they did not quite lead me there directly.   I got sidetracked by the Anglicans who claimed Real Presence and Apostolic Succession, the latter under the wonders of the Branch Theory.  This was much easier thirteen years ago when the Anglican Communion, while it was apparent it had it's troubles, was nowhere near as wildly chaotic as it has been in the past seven years.  Once that edifice came crashing down I was basically left with a choice between Orthodoxy and a sort of "emergent Catholicism" (if that idea makes any sense, probably would have been something very similar to the early Evangelical Orthodox movement of the late 70s).  It was basically the role of the priest and the Church that finally won me over.

The comment about preaching and teaching is too true. Of course, many Protestant churches are trying to "spice" things up and discussing sex more and more from the pulpit. Not that it's a wrong thing to do (after all, look at the homilies of St. John Chrysostom on marriage), but it becomes the focus and it's simply "shock theology."

And I'm familiar with the "Emergent Roman Catholic Church" (I think it's called "Radical Orthodoxy," James K.A. Smith is a proponent if I believe) and I agree, it's not much of a choice between Orthodoxy and that form of Roman Catholicism.

And finally, it is a problem when they live in a New Testament vacuum, and this has been a problem I've noticed in Protestantism. What we think the Church was and what it actually was tend to be two different things.

Quote from: jnorm888
Interesting, what connection are you making here?

In the New Testament we have examples of women teaching and taking on some roles of prominence. Many protestant theologians who support women being pastors often use these passages to show that women held authority and taught. Even in the early Church we see many women took on teaching roles. We can even see in St. Gregory of Nyssa's dialogue over the soul and resurrection with his sister St. Macrina that she is teaching him (fictional or not, it shows that St. Gregory had no problem with casting his sister in the role of a teacher and him as a student).

So if the role of a preacher is essentially a teacher and women were allowed to teach in the New Testament and early Church, why should they be forbidden from being teachers? It would seem that nothing in God's economy for the Church would prevent women from being teachers. The only defense I can think of would be saying that there is something special about the pulpit, but if this is true then why deny the Sacraments? Furthermore, wouldn't the idea of "There is something special about the pulpit" go against the Protestant belief of the "priesthood of the believers"? In short, if all of us are truly priests and equal, then why can't women teach?

It would seem that Paul's forbidden women to teach or have authority would only make sense if there was a certain Church economy where the pastorate held actual power and that power was only meant for men. I'm certainly not trying to sound like a sexist, but merely saying that God designed men and women for certain roles and functions in life; it would appear that the pastorate (or priesthood) is meant only for men for whatever reason, but this only makes sense if there is something involved in being a priest other than teaching.

I hope that makes sense.

Quote from: jnorm888
I am always being criticized by Reformed protestants by connected this to later secularism and atheism.

How does it lead to atheism? Are you going along the lines that it takes too big a bite of naturalism and denies the miracle of the Sacraments? I'm not disagreeing, I'm just curious where your reasoning is going on this.

To the scandal of many of my colleagues, many of whom are Protestants, I'm fond of turning to mystery when explaining the deeper things of theology. I've noticed that this doesn't go over too well, which would explain their opposition to the Sacraments (i.e. "But how can the bread turn into flesh? Wouldn't Jesus 'run out' of Himself at some point?" At some point they forget that God is God).


Quote from: jnorm888
Yes, I recall the passage by Ignatius. Those who wish to see it as a corruption refuse to consider the fact that maybe, just maybe their doctrine was the brand new doctrine by way of the 9th century christian Naturalist who saw it as a symbol. Some of the Reformers took his lead some centuries later.

I wasn't familiar with Ratramnus at all and this is the first time I've heard about him or the connection to the Reformation. If you know of any books or articles concerning this, I'd be very grateful for the link. Smiley

_________

Again, I thank all of you. All of this has been helpful for me just to have a place to voice my frustrations. My best friend is converting to Orthodoxy, but he's married with three kids and lives two states away right now so we don't always have time to go over this stuff like we used to (ironically we were both being drawn to Orthodoxy without the other knowing about it, at the same time!), so if nothing else this has been very therapeutic for me. I think I am at the point where it is no longer a matter of if I'll convert to Orthodoxy, but merely a matter of when.
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« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2011, 04:47:18 AM »

In regards to the link of modern secularism and eventually atheism coming from protestantism. You can look at these books:

http://www.amazon.com/Bible-Protestantism-Rise-Natural-Science/dp/0521000963 (The Bible, Protestantism, and the Rise of Natural Science)



http://www.amazon.com/Soul-American-University-Establishment-Established/dp/0195106504 (The Soul of the American University: From Protestant Establishment to Established Nonbelief)


An audio that talks about this very issue:
http://www.maxieburch.net/audio/AmericaSession8.mp3 (America Session Cool




He gives hints of the link in this book
http://www.amazon.com/Christianitys-Dangerous-Idea-Revolution-Twenty-First/dp/0060822139 (Christianity's Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution--A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First)



A whole chapter is dedicated to the issue here
http://www.amazon.com/Twilight-Atheism-Disbelief-Modern-ebook/dp/B0013380YG/ref=tmm_kin_title_0?ie=UTF8&m=AG56TWVU5XWC2 (The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World)



BBC did a series on the connection between protestantism and modern secularism here
Part 1:
(protestant Revolution)

Part 2:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-1470266014220992013&ei=5ECoSuv1L8folQe6m8yzAw&q=The+Protestant+Revolution+-+Part+2&hl=en# (Protestant Revolution)

Part 3:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-439856437001382026&ei=qWCoSuDQHsrWlQfOtYCyAw&q=The+Protestant+Revolution+-+Part+3# (Protestant Revolution)

Part 4:
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8477831376519661961&hl=en&emb=1 (Protestant Revolution)


I hope this helps!
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« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2011, 04:52:20 AM »

theo, just from what you are struggling with...is Orthodoxy hard for you to accept because of relationships you have forged at your Protestant church?
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« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2011, 10:12:30 AM »

To B: These very same realizations were my point of no return. Once I saw the late first-century Church looked a whole lot more like Orthodoxy than any Protestant group I was aware of, the jig was up. All the weird rituals and prayers to saints, I knew I just needed to get over, because this was the Church.

To C: The first book my priest gave me to read as an inquirer was the Apostolic Fathers, and that proved to be a wise move. I think it's not for everyone (you first have to be open to being wrong and acknowledge that church history trumps an incorrect private opinion based solely on scripture), but it certainly would give history buffs something to think about.

"To be deep in history is to cease being Protestant." -GK Chesterton
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