Greetings. I believe that most of the Protestant points that you mention about Orthodoxy are purely ahistorical. This is not to say that all Protestantism is ahistorical; indeed, there are some very knowledgable historians and churchmen in the Anglican, Lutheran, and other Churches, who have done a great service to the Church catholic in their publishing efforts. Nonetheless, as to the particular objections you mention, almost all of them are built upon a faulty (sola scriptura) methodology for approaching Christian history. In fact, not only is sola scriptura ahistorical, but this principle also ignores what Scripture itself teaches. The Scripture plainly says that there were things handed on by the Apostles which were to be followed by Christians but which were not written down (2 Thes. 3:15; cf Jn. 20:30; 21:25). Orthodoxy Hierarchical?
This is perhaps the strangest charge, since it should be obvious even from a quick reading of Scripture that the early Church was hierarchical. Jesus picked twelve specific disciples to have a special place in the early Church (Matt. 10:1-4; 28:16-20; Mark 3:12-19; Lk. 6:13-16; 9:1-2; etc.), and he also picked three of those disciples to have an even more prominent role than the other nine (Matt. 17:1-9; 26:37; Mk. 5:37). At another time our Lord sent 70 specific disciples out (Lk. 10:1).
Jesus clearly said that he had founded a Church (Matt. 16:18-19), and that Christians would be bound to follow the leaders of this Church (Matt. 18:17-18; Jn. 20:23). This is why the author of Hebrews said, "Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of their conversation" (Heb. 13:7), and "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your soul , as they that give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you." (Heb. 13:17)
The apostles did nothing more than continue the hierarchical system that they had been given by Christ our God. They quickly replaced the fallen apostle with another (Acts 1:15-26), and later on specifically chose seven deacons to minister to the Church (Acts 6:2-6). Everywhere that they traveled they appointed specific people to be the leaders (Tit. 1:5; 1 Tim. 3:10; etc.) St. Paul said: "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee" (Tit. 1:5). This was a divinely inspired calling done through the human instrument God had chosen, as shown elsewhere when Paul says, "And God set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers" (1 Cor. 12:28).
This is why, writing in 96AD, St. Clement of Rome (who had lived, learnt, and ministered among the apostles) said: "The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done sol from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God." (First Epistle to the Corinthians, 42
). St. Clement also gave the reason for God doing this:
Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry. We are of opinion, therefore, that those appointed by them, or afterwards by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole Church, and who have blame-lessly served the flock of Christ in a humble, peaceable, and disinterested spirit, and have for a long time possessed the good opinion of all, cannot be justly dismissed from the ministry. For our sin will not be small, if we eject from the episcopate those who have blamelessly and holily fulfilled its duties. First Epistle to the Corinthians, 44
This principle of an apostolic succession was specifically articulated by other writers
throughout the early Church, including early Fathers such as St. Ignatius (GÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¡107) and St. Irenaeus (GÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¡202). But getting back to what the Scripture itself tells us, we know not only that the apostles had appointed specific people to be leaders in the Church and to appoint other leaders, but that the apostles also sometimes warned that specific leaders had gone bad and were to be avoided or rebuked. (Tit. 3:10; 3 Jn. 9-10; 2 Tim. 4:5).
In essence, there was a clear hierarchy and there was suppose to be accountability within this hierarchy. This is the reason that, even when someone was
especially chosen outside of the regular procedures to be a leader, it was still felt that this appointment had to be ok'd by the Church. Think about this: St. Paul was given a special commission and taught "his gospel" directly from God, and yet felt that he needed to make sure he was in doctrinal agreement and accepted by the apostles! (Gal. 1:11-12, 17-19; 2:1-10). Also, St. Paul tells us himself that he was healed and confirmed by someone in the Church, before he started preaching his gospel (Acts 9:17-20).
It is no suprise, then, that more than once in Acts we see the hierarchy of the Church gathering to consider how to resolve certain issues. One of the most important such councils is recorded in Acts 15. The formula given by Saint James about how they arrived at their decision perfectly articulates how the Orthodox Church believes the hierarchy should work: "It seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us" (Acts 15:28). Act this council, the church leaders present made a decision on certain issues facing Gentile converts, and then sent this decision out as something which they expected would be followed and affirmed by everyone in the Church (cf Acts 15:28-30). When there were some problems, and some clarification was necessary, another council was convened (as recorded in Acts 21.)
And so it has continued throughout Church history, that the hierarchy which has its succession directly from the apostles, gathers in council together to discuss and resolve various matters. The early Church was very "formal," if you want to use that word, when it came to many matters. Hierarchy and administrative church order, while admittedly remaining very loose and unstructured for the first few centuries, was nonetheless supposed to be "peer reviewed" by all the other hierarchs in the Church, and actions were to be taken when someone went too far outside the bounds of orthodoxy. The letters
of St. Ignatius witness to this very well.Orthodoxy Liturgical?
The answer to this particular issue is not as easily seen in Scripture, though we are not totally devoid of evidence. It might be easiest to start with the obvious: the Church retained much of things seen in worship in the Old Testament times, including a regular use of the Psalms as the sort of de facto prayer book (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; James 5:13), and use of incense, appointed times of prayer, etc. (Acts 3:1; 10:9, 30; Rev. 8:3-4). We know from the writings of the early Christians that there were definate, set worship practices which were more or less followed by the Church, as can be seen in the Didache
(c. 100AD), St. Justin Martyr
(GÃƒÆ’Ã¢â‚¬Â¡ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â¡165), and other sources.
The New Testament itself attests that in the years following the victory of our Lord on the cross, Christians continually and regularly met for prayer and worship, but these are sometimes vague and contradictory. St. Paul speaks to the Corinthian Church as people who already know and follow the same practices as himself (cf 1 Cor. 10:16), and St. Paul also took some time to correct the Corinthians on something they were doing wrong when it came to their gathering (1 Cor. 11:19-34). It might also be said that when worship services are seen as symbols throughout the book of revelation, they have a very liturgical feel to them.
The only instance in the Scripture that gives direct support to liturgical worship that I am aware of can be found in the book of Acts: "As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Seperate me Barnabas and Saul fo the work whereunto I have called them." (Acts 13:2) The word rendered "ministered" here is leitourgeo in the Greek, meaning "to perform religious or charitable functions" (Strongs Concordance). There may be good archaeological evidence out there on this topic, but unfortunately I wouldn't know where to look for it.
Certainly by the fourth century there is a lot of evidence of liturgical worship, but then it is admitted that this would hardly be persuasive to most Protestants. Certainly from the beginning we followed St. Paul's command: "Let all things be done decently and in order." (1 Cor. 14:40). For further info on liturgical worship, I would suggest the following sources:The Doctrines of the Orthodox Church: Worship and Sacraments
Father Constantine Nasr, The Bible in the Liturgy
Archbp. Lazar (Puhalo), Understanding the Divine Liturgy: Scripture in the Liturgy
EDIT--Fixed a Scriptural verse which was incomplete. I know there are other typos, sorry.