People reading this text as a source of "edification" would do well to read the comments found in it's opening paragraphs...O.C. (Orthodox Christian): "We Orthodox like mystery. It is our way of describing God."
P.P. (Protestant Person): "How do you know about God? I thought the Communists made sure nobody believed in God anymore?"
O.C. : "They tried, but we all knew He is still there. Russia has been a Christian nation for over a thousand years. It would take more than 70 years of Communism to change who we are."
P.P.: "Wow, a thousand years - that's over four times older than America. I had no idea!"
As I read the opening of the .pdf document, I saw the picture of the bearded, old clergy in the altar of a Church, celebrating the Liturgy...an image so pure, so timeless, so Christian...it could just as well have been taken by a time traveler during the first centuries of the Church, as it could have today.
And these "Baptists", with their barn-like church edifaces and their Mc-theology, have anything to teach the Orthodox world? It would be laughable in a way, if it were not for the fact that so many Russians (and other Eastern Europeans) are defenseless against this onslaught.
Unfortunatly, due to this document being in .pdf format, it's difficult for me to cut and paste from it to offer a reply. I will touch on a few points for now.
Under the heading "Church of the Seven Councils", the Protestant author makes the candid admission that Protestants selectively follow some of the Oecumenical Synods. Conspicuously, the seventh is not one of them. I'd be interested to see a Protestant author address this, and the inherent connection between the definitions of 2nd Nicea, and Christology (namely, the opponents of Ikons were always at least uncomfortable, if not in fact closet heretics, in regard to the teaching of the Incarnation.)
I thought that many of the explanations of Orthodox faith were not that bad (considering where they are coming from, they were actually quite good), but thank God, their "objections" were rather weak, and would only be of value to those who have no experience of Orthodoxy. Sadly, that applies not only to the Protestant audience the text is preaching to, but many Eastern Europeans who have been robbed of their culture and religion.
In dealing with the subject of "Tradition", the author rightly puts forward that the Bible has primacy in a heirarchy of sources from which Orthodox draw their faith. This system of "tradition" (as the author rightly points out) protects our faith from innovation and perversity of individualism. Without actually attacking the veracity of these claims for tradition, however, the author then says they are an obstical to "personal faith in Jesus Christ" (I suppose they know nothing of the lives of the Saints), because they prevent "personal Bible study".
Of course this is not the case - but they do prevent an individualistic attitude towards the Bible, that draws conclusions out of ignorance or delusion that are not in accord with the truth. I wonder however, do these same Protestants really
entertain the sort of liberty they want for Orthodox amongst themselves? That is to say, what if I (reading my Bible) came to not believe in sola-scriptura, or at least denied "sola fides"? What if I came to believe that episcopal Church gov't was the only form that was valid, and that the Eucharist is the true body and blood of the Saviour? Could I still be a "good Baptist" or their brother and friend? Obviously not.
The truth is, they have their own "orthodoxy"; their own doctrines, their own "truths". Thus, their basic position is hypocritical. If anything, I'd say the typical Protestant has more direct guidance of his Bible reading habits than most Orthodox do (for the simple reason they have so many commentaries, and so much of their preaching centers on discussion of the interpretation of a given passage.)
However, the encouragement that Orthodox "read the Bible for themselves" is good. I read the Bible every day, and it has done nothing but keep me where I am (since it's impossible to read a broad section of it, and come to Protestant conclusions - the Lord portrayed in the pages of the Holy Writ is certainly not Luther's god).
As for other points...the case studies offered (of supposedly hard done by Russians, who got nothing but grief from the Church when they went searching for God) should be taken for what they are, and nothing else. While there is bad along with the good in the typical Church, I hardly think the examples given were typical (in fact I'm quite sure that if the persons in question really want to a Priest and poured their heart out to him, he'd receive them with at least some enthusiasm and do what he could for them.)
One area that was incorrect, was the portrayal of the Orthodox view of original sin. Adam's fall did not simply mean there was a simple "disorientation"; it meant he was now subject to corruption, and in need of redemption. The article goes so far as to say that the remedy for the fall, the solution offered by Orthodoxy is not as "dramatic" as that of the evangelicals. This is curious, since I'm not aware of a strong ascetic, self mortifying tradition in evangelicalism...the truth is, there is nothing dramatic about their soterology, save on paper. To say Jesus Christ's victory over sin and death "helps" us back on the right path, is either ignorant or intentionally misleading - simply put, we are hopeless without Christ, and would have forever been satan's subjects had He not rose on the third day.
Protestant missionaries are told to emphasize (to their Russian victims) that God must punish sin because of His holiness. I always thought He punished sin, because He doesn't punish those He doesn't love (as someone rightly pointed out, the opposite of love is not hate, but indifference.)
7 If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
8 But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. (Hebrews 12:7-8)
Oddly enough, the article (unknowingly) even spouts a little Orthodox theology in this regard (all the while criticizing the Church) by stating that Protestant missionaries should tell Orthodox that...
God's holiness may be compared to a fire. When a person is in a right relationship to fire, it brings warmth. However, when a person is not in right relationship to fire, he or she is burned.
That could easily have been from an essay on the late Fr.John's (Romanides) website. The only difference I suspect, is that the understanding of those words differs between Orthodox and Protestants (namely, that the Orthodox believe that the "fire" spoken of will consume Saints and sinners alike, but the Saints will find it as warmth and comfort...where as I suspect for the Protestants, they believe salvation is to be saved from
that uncreated glory...that is to say, be saved from God
, rather than by Him.
Another aside...the article often makes reference (and complains) about the Orthodox tendency to not view Adam and Eve as being "perfect" before the Fall (which is the view of the majority of the Fathers...St.Augustine is really the only major exception in this regard, which explains why western tradition eventually held to a very exalted view of our first parents). I do not see how one can complain about this, since it is quite obvious they were not "perfect"; perfect creatures do not so readily fall for such a pathetic rouse as the devil offered our first parents, nor so quickly doubt what God has to say to mankind (as our first parents were quick to do.)
Of course, the hyper-Augustinian soterology of the Protestants is accuratly portrayed.