“To be Eastern Orthodox is, above all, to stake a bold and unapologetic theological claim as the one true church of Christ on earth, which alone has guarded right belief and true worship in absolute identity and unbroken succession with the apostolic church. It is precisely this exclusivistic assertion that some Protestant converts, in search of the "true, New Testament Church" have found so beguiling.”
The author raised some objections to the perceived exclusiveness of the Orthodox Church. For example, with reference to #2, the sacraments of the Church, many Orthodox do not recognise the sacrament of Baptism as performed outside of the ORthodox Church, especially when it is performed without the triple immersion. This objection is particular to the Orthodox Church as the other Christian Churches generally will recognise each other's Baptism, as long as the Baptism is performed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
I want to respond to the original message, but now I fear that it will be out of place.
(Gamliel, me too! Mr. Clendenin, hopefully he will eventually join Orthodoxy someday, although the last line of his article pretty much sumed it up. He certainly commands a fairly strong respect of the Church, just based on the tone in his books. I need to re-read again.)
Please do. Let's hope that the discussion will focus on the Mr Clendenin's objections to becoming Orthodox. In the penultimate paragraph of the article, this is what he says (I am separating the points of contention so that we can start addressing them:
"Theologically, just what is at stake in the differences between Protestant and Orthodox theology? In fact, much of what is basic to Christianity:
1. the nature, sources, and interpretation of God's revelation to us,
2. the meaning of the church and its sacraments,
3. the doctrines of sin and salvation, and
4. even how one enters the kingdom of God.
On these points evangelical and Orthodox thinking diverge in significant ways."
Speaking as the Section Moderator, I caution posters to please get back on topic. Please no more comparisons between Orthodox and anybody else, or discussion of yeshuaisiam's POV, except as they relate to Mr. Clendenin's article. Thanks, Second Chance[/b]
I thought that his biggest problem was with infant baptism.
“But whether a non-Orthodox person can even be saved is an open question in Orthodox ecclesiology. Over coffee one day I asked an Orthodox priest whether I, as a Protestant theologian, might be considered a true Christian. His response: "I don't know."”
If an evangelical is not a Christian, even after having been baptized, then what does that say about the recognition of the Sacrament of Baptism outside of the Eastern Orthodox Church?
To be fair to the author, and the understand the context of his objections, let's quote the central section of his article:
"The sacraments. Despite its historical estrangement from Rome, from a Protestant theological perspective Orthodoxy is similar to Catholicism at several points. Most notable are its beliefs about baptism and the Eucharist. The theological objections evangelicals have traditionally had with Rome on these two points rightly apply to Orthodoxy.
Orthodox spiritual life gives central prominence to the sacraments. These sacraments are not mere signs, symbols, or reminders. They are the efficacious means by which God transmits his salvific and sanctifying grace to us. Orthodoxy generally affirms the same seven sacraments as Catholicism: baptism, chrismation or confirmation, the Eucharist, repentance or confession, holy orders or ordination, marriage, and holy unction or anointing of the sick. Preeminent among the sacraments are baptism and the Eucharist.
Baptism is the primary and fundamental basis of the entire Orthodox Christian life. In the words of contemporary Orthodox theologian Thomas Hopko, "everything in the church flows out of the waters of baptism: the remission of sins and life eternal." Administered to infants who are fully immersed three times, baptism effects the "bath of regeneration" by which a person is born again, wholly cleansed from both original and actual sins, and, consequently, saved from guilt and punishment. In chrismation, performed immediately after rising from the baptismal waters, the priest anoints the infant with a special ointment, making the sign of the cross on various parts of the body, thus acknowledging the gift and seal of the Holy Spirit.
Orthodoxy affirms the real, physical presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist (as do Catholics, Lutherans, and many Anglicans), yet unlike Catholicism it is content not to explain how this happens. It makes no appeal to a doctrine of transubstantiation and instead simply affirms the mystery. The Eucharist, according to the Divine Liturgy of Saint Chrysostom (the normal liturgy for Sundays and weekdays), is "for the purification of the soul, for the remission of sins, for the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, [and] for the Kingdom of Heaven."
The Eucharist is a true, propitiatory sacrifice. Different Orthodox theories exist as to what, exactly, this means. Chrysostom's liturgy says of the Eucharistic sacrifice: "Your own, from your own, we offer you, in all and for all." Christ is thus "the Offerer and the Offered, the Acceptor and the Distributed," all in such a way that nothing is added to his once-for-all sacrifice on the cross. Like baptism, the Eucharist is administered to infants.
While Protestant evangelicals have never agreed on the precise meaning or mode of the sacraments, they have historically emphasized two related truths that diverge from the Orthodox understanding of the sacraments. Evangelicals urge the necessity of personal conversion through the faith and repentance of the individual believer, as opposed to the Orthodox idea of regeneration by the sacraments.Also, while evangelicals wholeheartedly embrace the full-orbed New Testament descriptions of the work of Christ (reconciliation, ransom, redemption, forgiveness, adoption, etc.), since the Reformation, justification by faith and substitutionary atonement have enjoyed pride of place in our understanding of the doctrines of sin and salvation. Luther urged that Christianity would stand or fall with this doctrine; Calvin called it "the hinge upon which all true religion turns."
In the history and theology of Orthodoxy it is startling to observe the nearly complete absence of any mention of the doctrine of justification by faith. Rather, "theosis" (literally, "deification"), or the progressive transformation of people into full likeness to God, in soul and body, takes center stage. (2 Pet. 1:4). Further, the Orthodox reject the idea of inherited guilt; we are guilty only for our own sins rather than for the inborn consequences of Adam's fall. Conversely, evangelicals argue that this forensic framework for sin and salvation is not merely a historical and unduly negative carryover from Augustine and Anselm, but rather is the clear teaching of Paul in his Letters to the Romans and Galatians
I have highlighted in bold those areas that the author identifies as the greatest divergences between Orthodoxy (and Roman Catholicism) and Protestantism. At least to me, the apex of such divergence is infant baptism.