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Author Topic: A return to Primitive Christianity in a Modern Age  (Read 5444 times) Average Rating: 0
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Brigid of Kildare
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« on: May 06, 2003, 07:02:09 PM »

A Return to Primitive Christianity in a Modern Age  
 
Christian Science Monitor  

Mar. 6--As many seekers have set off in recent years to pursue spirituality outside the bounds of organized religion, another trend has quietly emerged within and across Christian denominations: a return to orthodoxy.

In response to the disillusionments of modern life, this resurgence is gathering believers of many ages and faith communities--mainline and evangelical Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox--in a vigorous ecumenical exploration of the early teachings of Christianity.
It is perhaps most visible in the least expected place--the liberal mainline churches--where many "renewal" groups are taking an assertive stance, seeking to replace what they consider secularized theology and political activism with biblical authority and evangelical fervor.

Methodist theologian Thomas Oden, a former liberal turned avid orthodox, describes and makes the case for this new movement in "The Rebirth of Orthodoxy: Signs of New Life in Christianity." While his book seems addressed more to the theologically and philosophically attuned than to the average layperson, his aim is to win believers to the cause of "classic Christianity." That is, Christian tradition as defined by the sacred texts of scripture, the ecumenical councils of the first five centuries, and the teachings of the "fathers of the first millennium."

We are living, Oden contends, not in what many call the post-Christian era, but the postsecular age. The secular ideologies of modern society are collapsing, and have left us with a deep rootlessness and moral confusion. As secular culture pervaded many churches, people lost touch with the scriptures and an ability to set boundaries for what is true. But, Oden writes, "God is at work in grass-roots Christianity, awakening a ground swell of longing for classical ecumenical teaching in all communions." The astonishing survival and growth of Christianity in China, for example, serves as vivid testament to the persistent power and universal relevance of its basic teachings.

The contemporary face of orthodoxy is taking many forms, from ecumenical online journals such as re:generation and Touchstone, run by younger followers, to international evangelical ministries, rediscovery through translation of early scriptural interpreters, and the activism of renewal groups who seek to "reclaim" mainline denominations.

A professor of theology and ethics at Drew University, Oden is a leading voice of this movement. He heads an ambitious scholarly venture to publish--with an ecumenical team of translators and editors--a massive 28-volume commentary called "Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture." Anyone wishing "to think with the early church about the sacred text" will be able to find, in verse-by-verse format, the reflections, deliberations, and debates of Christian monks and leaders of the first to eighth centuries.

Oden also leads the Association for Church Renewal, which coordinates the work of renewal movements within the mainline churches (i.e. Methodist, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Lutheran). Riven in recent years by divisions over biblical interpretation and social issues, mainline churches struggle with the threat of schism. These movements seek to capture the denominations' institutional resources and theological commitment.

For them, orthodoxy means "right remembering" of the earliest testimony of scripture, along with learning to say "no" to false doctrine. It involves hewing to the creeds, liturgies, and doctrines set by the early councils and accepted over two millennia--including the Trinity, incarnation, and resurrection. There is "avid new interest" in setting boundaries for Christian teaching, Oden says, and a growing literature on heresy and apostasy.

Certain that this is a global movement led by the Holy Spirit, the author compares what he considers the bankrupt mainline-led ecumenism of the 20th century with this "new-ancient ecumenism," and argues--though not always convincingly--that orthodoxy is more authentically multicultural, inclusive, fair, and intellectually free than are modernist versions of Christianity.

Oden recounts his own journey of transformation from an agnostic seminarian to a teacher motivated by revolutionary activism to a devout orthodox theologian. On this journey, he says he found that the theological questions his contemporaries were grappling with had already been considered and effectively resolved by the early church.

This rallying call to the faithful to hold fast to that historical consensus is a direct challenge to those who today call for changes to Christian symbols and teachings to speak effectively to a postmodern world. What remains to be seen is whether this emphasis on doctrine can satisfy today's yearnings for direct experience of God and for authentic living that mirrors Jesus' works and the commands given to his followers.

 
 
Jane Lampman writes about religion and ethics for the Monitor.

Copyright -¬ 2003 The Christian Science Monitor. All rights reserved.  
 
http://www.beliefnet.com/story/122/story_12242.html
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« Reply #1 on: May 06, 2003, 08:05:09 PM »

Sounds hopeful. Perhaps the Lord will use this to bring some mainline Protestants into His Church.

I sincerely doubt that it will have much impact among Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, however. They have already invented their own version of ecclesiastical history, which sees a Church gone apostate with the coming of Constantine and the Fathers as the minions of Satan.

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« Reply #2 on: May 06, 2003, 08:53:48 PM »

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which sees a Church gone apostate with the coming of Constantine and the Fathers as the minions of Satan.

I heard this spoken today for the first time (outside of TBTSNBN) on Calvary Satelite Network.

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As many seekers have set off in recent years to pursue spirituality outside the bounds of organized religion, another trend has quietly emerged within and across Christian denominations: a return to orthodoxy.

I am a bit pessamistic that rather than follow in the footsteps of Fr. Gilquist and the EOC, they will reinvent Orthodoxy to fit their worldview.  I've not read the book (The Rebirth of Orthodoxy: Signs of New Life in Christianity), but I hear that it does little to acknowlege the Orthodox Church.  The other (early Christian Commentary) looked promising from the peek I got.
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« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2003, 09:49:26 PM »

I agree with you, Oblio.

I also think that all some of the more liberal Protestant churches will get from all this is perhaps the introduction of incense into the worship service and the hanging up of a few icons - probably icons(?) of Martin Luther King, Caesar Chavez, and Mohandas Gandhi.

In this way they will feel they have connected with their first century roots! :cheeky:
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« Reply #4 on: May 07, 2003, 08:32:42 AM »

I agree with you, Oblio.

I also think that all some of the more liberal Protestant churches will get from all this is perhaps the introduction of incense into the worship service and the hanging up of a few icons - probably icons(?) of Martin Luther King, Caesar Chavez, and Mohandas Gandhi.

In this way they will feel they have connected with their first century roots! :cheeky:

Perhaps you should take a look at a current American BCP, Linus. The trisagion has been added to the liturgy; one of the eucharistic prayers is based on the liturgy of St. Basil.

MLK Jr. has been on the Episcopal Kalendar for at least a decade; Bridge-Building Icons has some seriously wierd stuff but it's hardly an official organ of any church.

Anyway, it's hardly reasonable for the Protestants to forget history-- their history. They are Western churches, so they hardly can be expected to abandon western rites for Eastern rites willy-nilly. What's happening here isn't rolling back their entire history (and then unrolling a new one-- Eastern practice todays is most cetainly evolved from 1054, after all). It is the continuation of the history that already is, by recovering some of what has been lost.

Some of it will undoubtedly be superficial-- there are a lot of people who are superficially Orthodox too. But do not miss the point that they are looking back into Christian history because they already are, from their perspective, Christians. Patristic history is their history too, but they will look on it as Protestants. Some parts will be brought forward, and some will not. The authority of the fathers will not be good enough for them; the arguments will be revisited; some will withstand criticism, and some will not.

I don't know about fundamentalists; who are by definition dogmatic. Evangelicals, Linus, I think you are wrong about. It seems to me that there is a strong movement among evangelicals to recover a theological history, and in doing so they are looking into the early church. The problem with Constantine here is that he represents the marriage between the authoritarian state and the (now) authoritarian church. Gilquist et al. got past this stumbling block; not everyone will. And I sense a certain discomfort in Orthodoxy outside the Antiochian church with this evangelical injection.
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« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2003, 10:15:16 AM »

I agree with you, Oblio.

I also think that all some of the more liberal Protestant churches will get from all this is perhaps the introduction of incense into the worship service and the hanging up of a few icons - probably icons(?) of Martin Luther King, Caesar Chavez, and Mohandas Gandhi.

In this way they will feel they have connected with their first century roots! :cheeky:

Quote
Perhaps you should take a look at a current American BCP, Linus. The trisagion has been added to the liturgy; one of the eucharistic prayers is based on the liturgy of St. Basil.

I think that makes my point rather well.

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MLK Jr. has been on the Episcopal Kalendar for at least a decade; Bridge-Building Icons has some seriously wierd stuff but it's hardly an official organ of any church.

Exactly.

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Anyway, it's hardly reasonable for the Protestants to forget history-- their history. They are Western churches, so they hardly can be expected to abandon western rites for Eastern rites willy-nilly. What's happening here isn't rolling back their entire history (and then unrolling a new one-- Eastern practice todays is most cetainly evolved from 1054, after all). It is the continuation of the history that already is, by recovering some of what has been lost.

If they want to recover primitive Christianity they will have to forget most of their history, which is the story of groups heading away from primitive Christianity "willy-nilly."

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Some of it will undoubtedly be superficial-- there are a lot of people who are superficially Orthodox too. But do not miss the point that they are looking back into Christian history because they already are, from their perspective, Christians. Patristic history is their history too, but they will look on it as Protestants. Some parts will be brought forward, and some will not. The authority of the fathers will not be good enough for them; the arguments will be revisited; some will withstand criticism, and some will not.

Patristic history is heritage lost (or, rather, abandoned) by most Protestants.

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I don't know about fundamentalists; who are by definition dogmatic. Evangelicals, Linus, I think you are wrong about. It seems to me that there is a strong movement among evangelicals to recover a theological history, and in doing so they are looking into the early church. The problem with Constantine here is that he represents the marriage between the authoritarian state and the (now) authoritarian church. Gilquist et al. got past this stumbling block; not everyone will. And I sense a certain discomfort in Orthodoxy outside the Antiochian church with this evangelical injection.


Some "cradle Orthodox" are uncomfortable with converts period. That's their problem.

The "problem with Constantine" that Evangelicals have is part of the problem with Evangelicalism. Christ promised that the gates of hell would never triumph over His Church, the Church He promised to be with forever. Evangelicals think hell triumphed over the Church in the person of Constantine, and that Christ abandoned her.

I and others (Monkey and Oblio, for example) have asked them pointedly where the "true Christians" (i.e., Evangelicals) were when all this was going on. They cannot say.

And now, despite their best efforts at searching for orthodoxy, most of them will still not be able to find the Christians.
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« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2003, 08:44:29 PM »

I agree with you, Oblio.

I also think that all some of the more liberal Protestant churches will get from all this is perhaps the introduction of incense into the worship service and the hanging up of a few icons - probably icons(?) of Martin Luther King, Caesar Chavez, and Mohandas Gandhi.

In this way they will feel they have connected with their first century roots! :cheeky:

Quote
Perhaps you should take a look at a current American BCP, Linus. The trisagion has been added to the liturgy; one of the eucharistic prayers is based on the liturgy of St. Basil.

I think that makes my point rather well.


Not especially. You do not know the reasons, after all, for these changes. We're back at a familiar point: that Protestants, having given up raw authority as the only reason for justifying a practice, may yet come upon doing the same practice for other reasons.

There are Protestant studies of liturgy and other practice. If you can't take them seriously, then of what value can your opinion be? I've read the central tome of modern liturgical studies (The Shape of the Liturgy by Gregory Dix), and it is quite a tome-- in excess of 800 pages. It isn't a perfect book, but at least I've read it. And I read modern Orthodox commentaries as well, as well as some patristics.

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Quote
Anyway, it's hardly reasonable for the Protestants to forget history-- their history. They are Western churches, so they hardly can be expected to abandon western rites for Eastern rites willy-nilly. What's happening here isn't rolling back their entire history (and then unrolling a new one-- Eastern practice todays is most cetainly evolved from 1054, after all). It is the continuation of the history that already is, by recovering some of what has been lost.

If they want to recover primitive Christianity they will have to forget most of their history, which is the story of groups heading away from primitive Christianity "willy-nilly."

But this is unhistorical. Evangelicals are driven historically in a nice straight line from state churches who took the membership of their peoples for granted. Orthodoxy is full of this problem-- I hear people in Orthodoxy complaining about it all the time. For the evangelicals, churchmanship is about winning converts. And they certainly have a point. The problem, of course, is that they see this conversion within a particular Protestant theological system whihc you no longer accept (assuming you ever did). But that too has a historical context.

They do not necessarily have to "forget" their history; but they do have to review it and reform what they have now.

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Some of it will undoubtedly be superficial-- there are a lot of people who are superficially Orthodox too. But do not miss the point that they are looking back into Christian history because they already are, from their perspective, Christians. Patristic history is their history too, but they will look on it as Protestants. Some parts will be brought forward, and some will not. The authority of the fathers will not be good enough for them; the arguments will be revisited; some will withstand criticism, and some will not.

Patristic history is heritage lost (or, rather, abandoned) by most Protestants.


Now we're back with the gross generalizations. How do you know this? Do you know where the biggest repository of Patristic material on the web is? It's at CCEL. And do you know where CCEL was originally hosted? At Wheaton College, the epicenter of evangelical education.

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I don't know about fundamentalists; who are by definition dogmatic. Evangelicals, Linus, I think you are wrong about. It seems to me that there is a strong movement among evangelicals to recover a theological history, and in doing so they are looking into the early church. The problem with Constantine here is that he represents the marriage between the authoritarian state and the (now) authoritarian church. Gilquist et al. got past this stumbling block; not everyone will. And I sense a certain discomfort in Orthodoxy outside the Antiochian church with this evangelical injection.


Some "cradle Orthodox" are uncomfortable with converts period. That's their problem.

I don't think it's quite that simple, but be that as it may....

Quote
The "problem with Constantine" that Evangelicals have is part of the problem with Evangelicalism. Christ promised that the gates of hell would never triumph over His Church, the Church He promised to be with forever. Evangelicals think hell triumphed over the Church in the person of Constantine, and that Christ abandoned her.

But now you've forced their vision of history through your ecclesiology! They don't understand The Church Visible to mean precisely Orthodoxy, so they find themselves as proof that the gates of hell have not prevailed. This simply isn't a valid criticism as it stands, because you are introducing point of interpretation to which they do not agree, and without justification.

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I and others (Monkey and Oblio, for example) have asked them pointedly where the "true Christians" (i.e., Evangelicals) were when all this was going on. They cannot say.

And now, despite their best efforts at searching for orthodoxy, most of them will still not be able to find the Christians.

They aren't searching for Orthodoxy. They are searching for God, and if they find Orthodoxy an impediment, their attitude is going to be, so much the worse.

What bothers me about this the most is your manifest disrespect for them. How can you possibly appeal to them this way?
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« Reply #7 on: May 07, 2003, 10:01:50 PM »

Obviously, Keble, we disagree.

It does not matter what Wheaton puts on the web. I could publish Das Kapital on the web; that does not mean I accept it or even have much respect for Marx.

There are Evangelicals who study patristic writings and yet see the post-Constantinian Church as apostate. They pick and choose what they like from the Fathers and throw out what they regard as "too Catholic."

Evangelicals are not "searching for God." They believe they have found Him. Check out the title of this topic. It is not "Searching for God."

Protestantism has been a movement away from primitive Christianity, and that is NOT "unhistorical."

If you think it is, then please find evidence of some primitive Christians who held those beliefs peculiar to modern Evangelical Protestantism: Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide, to name just two. Failing that, find primitive Christians who held the beliefs of modern mainline liberal Protestants.
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« Reply #8 on: May 07, 2003, 11:30:53 PM »

Obviously, Keble, we disagree.

It does not matter what Wheaton puts on the web. I could publish Das Kapital on the web; that does not mean I accept it or even have much respect for Marx.

You could, but from what I see of you here, you wouldn't-- and precisely because you do not respect Marx. So it does matter what Wheaton does; I think their actions speak louder than your words about them.

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There are Evangelicals who study patristic writings and yet see the post-Constantinian Church as apostate. They pick and choose what they like from the Fathers and throw out what they regard as "too Catholic."

Orthodoxy picks and chooses too-- otherwise we would still be fighting out issues of Gnosticism and Arianism and dozens of other heresies. Again, you are still trying to force their actions through your perspective. Picking and choosing among the fathers is what they do because that is how one interacts with tradition. One has no choice but to distinguish good tradition from bad tradition; that is how one gets the "Ortho-" in Orthodoxy. It is a cheap shot to say that everyone else is just picking and choosing, but that your tradition is descerning through the Holy Spirit. I'm sure some of them would say the same.

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Protestantism has been a movement away from primitive Christianity, and that is NOT "unhistorical."

But so has Orthodoxy. Primitive Christianity didn't have iconostases or large numbers of litanies in their liturgies. Primitive Christianity didn't have the Chalcedonian formula, never mind the Nicene creed.

There is clearly a problem with a lack of awareness of modern Orthodoxy (again, varying geatly from group to group). But modern Orthodoxy isn't the primitive church either.

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If you think it is, then please find evidence of some primitive Christians who held those beliefs peculiar to modern Evangelical Protestantism: Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide, to name just two. Failing that, find primitive Christians who held the beliefs of modern mainline liberal Protestants.

I'd have to say that the whole notion of "Sola Scriptura" is meaningless in an Ante-Nicene context. Sola Scriptura is really an answer to the question, "what is inarguable?" It makes more sense in the context of Catholicism anyway, because of the way that Catholic dogmatism has developed. Likewise, "Sola Fide" gets its meaning out of the complex of Catholic indulgences and other grace accounting devices. It seems to me that the character of this changes in an Orthodox context, because then the issue becomes the legalism which does seem to me to be a common problem in Orthodoxy.

There is a problem here in that you are insisting that I argue for the positions of people with whom I do not agree. I can only take that so far.
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« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2003, 02:31:27 AM »

Christos Anesti! Alithos Anesti!

But so has Orthodoxy. Primitive Christianity didn't have iconostases or large numbers of litanies in their liturgies. Primitive Christianity didn't have the Chalcedonian formula, never mind the Nicene creed.
The Primitive church is the child in the photograph. Of the two (or more) adults standing before us, only one is recogniseable as that child grown up but she is clearly recogniseable. I won't bother listing the reasons why these changes occured to fit the changing needs of the church as you probably know them better than I. Not much point in argueing over something we probably agree on is there? Smiley

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« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2003, 09:59:12 AM »

Keble,

     Have you read Byzantine Theology by John Meyendorff? I would highly recommend it as it explains the historical development of iconostases and the Chalcedonian formula, among other things. Obviously, with respect to the former, you can't do the same Eucharist with thousands of Christians crowded into a cathedral, and heresies abound which challenge the Church to respond. However, I believe it is quite clear that the Orthodox Church dates back to the apostles and has maintained its sacramental structure, as history shows. Its development has occured with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who first showed Christ to be the Son of God (Theophany, Transfiguration).

It is quite unhealthy, as J.R.R. Tolkien believed, to be so fixated on the early church as to reject all useful development under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The reason why most heretics were wrong was because they, most of the time, rejected the Eucharist, the core foundation of the Church.  

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« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2003, 10:35:19 AM »

Obviously, Keble, we disagree.

It does not matter what Wheaton puts on the web. I could publish Das Kapital on the web; that does not mean I accept it or even have much respect for Marx.

Quote
You could, but from what I see of you here, you wouldn't-- and precisely because you do not respect Marx. So it does matter what Wheaton does; I think their actions speak louder than your words about them.

I respect Marx as a philosopher who influenced the lives of millions of people. I think his influence was negative, but I respect him.

Wheaton's words, the words of an Evangelical institution that espouses the "Constantinian Apostasy" of the Church, speak louder than their publication of the Fathers on the web.

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From Linus7:
There are Evangelicals who study patristic writings and yet see the post-Constantinian Church as apostate. They pick and choose what they like from the Fathers and throw out what they regard as "too Catholic."

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Orthodoxy picks and chooses too-- otherwise we would still be fighting out issues of Gnosticism and Arianism and dozens of other heresies.

Bogus.

Gnostics and Arians left the Church, not vice versa. They did the "picking and choosing," which is what makes them heretics.

The Church merely codified what she had always believed.

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Again, you are still trying to force their actions through your perspective.

Excuse me, but what other perspective do I have?

If I accepted their perspective, I would be one of them, and we would not be having this discussion.

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Picking and choosing among the fathers is what they do because that is how one interacts with tradition.

That is not how an Orthodox Christian "interacts with tradition."

The tradition has been established by the Church, which is the God-given authority. It is not for individuals (as the supreme arbiters of what is Christianity) to decide for themselves which Father was right at what particular time and on what particular issues.

Protestantism is the elevation of the individual to the place of authority in Christianity. That is why there are almost as many versions of "Christianity" in Protestantism as there are Protestants.

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One has no choice but to distinguish good tradition from bad tradition; that is how one gets the "Ortho-" in Orthodoxy.

One does that by accepting the authority created by Jesus Christ Himself: His Church. That is what puts the "Ortho" in Orthodoxy.

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It is a cheap shot to say that everyone else is just picking and choosing, but that your tradition is descerning through the Holy Spirit. I'm sure some of them would say the same.

You use that term, "cheap shot," frequently. I am not sure I know what you mean by it, except that it applies to the statements of those with whom you disagree.

Protestantism is all about picking and choosing. It is all about the individual and his authority to decide what Christianity is. The individual reads the Bible and decides what it means. The individual reads the Fathers and separates the good tradition from the bad.

The "Church" is then the voluntary association of those who more or less agree on interpretations that they have arrived at privately. As those interpretations change, so does the human and doctrinal make-up of a particular church.



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From Linus7:
Protestantism has been a movement away from primitive Christianity, and that is NOT "unhistorical."

Quote
But so has Orthodoxy. Primitive Christianity didn't have iconostases or large numbers of litanies in their liturgies. Primitive Christianity didn't have the Chalcedonian formula, never mind the Nicene creed.

I disagree.

Certainly the iconostasis and the litany are far more primitive than the distinctive doctrines of Protestantism.

I note also that you have chosen in the iconostasis and the litany developments that have little impact on the essential tenets of Christianity. You might have also pointed out the fact that Orthodox priests today often drive to Church in automobiles with internal combustion engines - certainly a far cry from primitive Christianity!

Personally, I think the 4th and 5th centuries were pretty primitive, but let's say that the "primitive Church" period ended with the end of the 2nd century.

The first and second century Church may not have had the Nicene Creed and Chalcedonian formula, but she certainly had the faith codified by them. The doctrines of Nicea/Constantinople and Chalcedon were canonized by men who were the direct successors of the Apostles, men who had been appointed to direct Christ's Church, and who, as such, were guided by the Holy Spirit.

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There is clearly a problem with a lack of awareness of modern Orthodoxy (again, varying geatly from group to group). But modern Orthodoxy isn't the primitive church either.

I don't think the lack of awareness is mine. And I don't  think Orthodoxy varies as much as you seem to think it does.

Obviously modern Orthodoxy isn't the primitive Church, but she stands in the line of direct descent from the primitive Church and is the legitimate successor to and custodian of primitive and Catholic Christianity.

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From Linus7:
If you think it is, then please find evidence of some primitive Christians who held those beliefs peculiar to modern Evangelical Protestantism: Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide, to name just two. Failing that, find primitive Christians who held the beliefs of modern mainline liberal Protestants.

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I'd have to say that the whole notion of "Sola Scriptura" is meaningless in an Ante-Nicene context. Sola Scriptura is really an answer to the question, "what is inarguable?" It makes more sense in the context of Catholicism anyway, because of the way that Catholic dogmatism has developed. Likewise, "Sola Fide" gets its meaning out of the complex of Catholic indulgences and other grace accounting devices. It seems to me that the character of this changes in an Orthodox context, because then the issue becomes the legalism which does seem to me to be a common problem in Orthodoxy.

There is a problem here in that you are insisting that I argue for the positions of people with whom I do not agree. I can only take that so far.

No one knows what positions you hold exactly, Keble, because you refuse to say. But we were talking about a movement among Protestants in general, and not just about you.

Sola Scriptura is meaningless before the Church decided what the canon of Scripture would be, but try telling the Evangelicals that.

Sola Scriptura is not meaningless for Evangelicals (like the ones at Wheaton): it is one of the central tenets of their faith.

Sola Fide may have arisen as a reaction to Roman Catholic teaching, but it has a broader application in that it is the Evangelical doctrine of salvation and in direct opposition to the Orthodox position.

I think legalism is about as far from the Orthodox teaching as the East is from the West.

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« Reply #12 on: May 09, 2003, 09:09:11 AM »

My considered reply timed out, so this is going to have to be short and blunt.

First: I think you are talking through your hat about what Wheaton College holds. I've been over their website and I see nothing about any "Constantinian Apostasy". They state quite plainly what they do believe, and it's perfectly ordinary and trinitarian.

Second: You are comparing evangelical laypeople to Orthodox theologians. That's not a fair comparison. I'm reading a book by Willimon (a Methodist) about clergy ethics, and there are long quotations from Chrysostom. Anglican works have similar references. I seem to recall similar things in a book by Richard Mouw, who is going to be speaking at Wheaton in the near future.

You are saying, in effect, "our theologians are inspired and thought fuil; yours just pick and choose". I see no point in arguing the inspired part, but at the very least you could concede that theologians in other traditions might be houghtful too.

Third, it is nonsense to say that the iconostasis is more primitive than Sola Scriptura, when neither of them is primitive at all. I've read St. Germanus; there's no iconostasis in his discourse on the liturgy. A lot of what is most plainly different in Orthodoxy liturgy today is things that they weren't doing 1500 years ago, much less 1800.

Fourth: You might want to consider that even picking and choosing has advantages for Orthodoxy. People like to talk about the great beauty of orthdox worship, but even a service with Russian music can be hugely off-putting, what with the constant chattering and the people wandering around and no place to sit and the repetition and nothing, really, for the visitor to do except watch. Byzantine chant tends to sound like alien space music to Western ears. I remember my first Episcopal services, and they were baffling enough.
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« Reply #13 on: May 09, 2003, 09:28:22 AM »

Quote
but even a service with Russian music can be hugely off-putting, what with the constant chattering and the people wandering around and no place to sit and the repetition and nothing, really, for the visitor to do except watch.

It is important (IMO) that an Orthodox church have a place for visitors to sit, as they most certainly will not be used to standing for the entire service *.

As far as nothing to do except watch, how about pray ? That to me is one of the salient differences between Orthodox services and the sit, stand, preach, announcements etc. that many Western churches adhere to.  When and why did the sermon (and the pastor) become the cetral part of worship ?

* Side story:  On Palm Sunday (Western Easter), we set our usual sign outside of our mission church (A one room Methodist church).  Mid-way through through Hours a couple on the road to Florida pulled off the Interstate and stopped at the first church they saw  Grin.  They stayed the entire Liturgy without sitting once  Shocked, though it might have been because they had another 6 hours of sitting in the car before they got to their destination ... Nice folks, we sent them on their way with a booklet on Orthodoxy and the hopes that one day they would join the Church.
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« Reply #14 on: May 09, 2003, 10:50:28 AM »

Keble -

Do you seriously believe that Wheaton College, an Evangelical Protestant institution, does not teach the "Constantinian Apostasy" of the Church, merely because you could not find it on their web site?

Besides that, discussing Wheaton is somewhat academic (pardon the unintended pun), since ccel.org is not maintained by Wheaton, but by Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

I do not recall comparing Orthodox theologians to Evangelical laypeople. I compared the distinctive tenets of Evangelical Protestantism to primitive Christianity. The former (Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide) cannot be found contained in the latter.

I think discussing the iconostasis is an attempt to divert this discussion, although I do believe the iconostasis is of greater antiquity than the doctrine of Sola Scriptura.

As I pointed out in my last post, the antiquity of the iconostasis has little to do with the central tenets of the Christian faith, just as the fact that many Orthodox priests drive cars to Church has little to do with them.

The distinctive tenets of Evangelical Protestantism, or of Protestantism in general, are regarded by their adherents as identical with some of the central tenets of Christianity, yet they represent a movement away from primitive Christianity.

Orthodoxy has maintained the deposit of faith received from the primitive Church, whether her current priests drive to Church in cars or ride on donkeys, whether her people pray before iconostases in church buildings or meet secretly in private homes.

Taking this or that aspect of the Christian past and introducing it into mainline Protestant worship is not " a return to primitive Christianity." It is dilettantism.
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« Reply #15 on: May 09, 2003, 12:59:52 PM »

Linus, you put "Constantinian Apostacy" in quotes, suggesting you could provide a citation. What I see here is evidence that you can't, and that you don't know what Wheaton College teaches. I found a statement of faith on their web site, and it is not, to my eye, coherent with your accusations against them. I did a Google search for the phrase, and the very few sites I found were all non-trinitarian marginal groups.

So yes-- I seriously believe that they don't teach that.

As far as moving CCEL is concerned, so what? Wheaton hosted it for years; I consulted it myself many times. I do not recall a statement that they have disowned it.

I cannot consider you an expert on the "distinctive tenets" of evangelical Protestantism. Everything I see suggests that the term covers a wide range of people holding a variety of theological opinions.

And you are wrong to state that "The distinctive tenets of Evangelical Protestantism, or of Protestantism in general, are regarded by their adherents as identical with some of the central tenets of Christianity." Maybe some do, but I am certain that anyone who can be seriously regarded as a theologian does not. As far as the Anglicans are concerned, there are two formal statements as to what they think are central tenets in the form of the two "Quadrilaterals", and they are not as you assert them to believe.

Conversely, one of the issues that Protestants have with both Orthodoxy and Catholicism is their tendency to lapse into asserting that anything any Orthodox/Catholic has ever taught as being a "central tenet". If you want an easy guide to "central tenets", what is the matter with what it being what all churches hold in common?

And as far as "dilletantism" is concerned: you are in no position to assert it until you have been dragged lengthwise through theological works and instruction on Protestant liturgics. I've read Gregory Dix, and for you to accuse him of being a dilletante without even the slightest clue of what he said is utterly beyond the pale. 800 pages of painstaking detail of liturgical practices from the Diddache and Serapion to Cramner and Trent is not dilletantism.
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« Reply #16 on: May 09, 2003, 04:27:20 PM »

Linus, you put "Constantinian Apostacy" in quotes, suggesting you could provide a citation. What I see here is evidence that you can't, and that you don't know what Wheaton College teaches. I found a statement of faith on their web site, and it is not, to my eye, coherent with your accusations against them. I did a Google search for the phrase, and the very few sites I found were all non-trinitarian marginal groups.

So yes-- I seriously believe that they don't teach that.

I seriously believe they do teach that the visible Church became apostate with Constantine; it's standard Evangelical fare.

I don't have a citation to prove this of Wheaton; don't want one; don't need one. It is an Evangelical Protestant institution. If they teach something else they have departed from the norm for Evangelicals.

Quote
As far as moving CCEL is concerned, so what? Wheaton hosted it for years; I consulted it myself many times. I do not recall a statement that they have disowned it.

If it was ever "moved" it was done quite a while ago. CCEL has been maintained by Calvin College for quite some time. But no big deal.

Quote
I cannot consider you an expert on the "distinctive tenets" of evangelical Protestantism. Everything I see suggests that the term covers a wide range of people holding a variety of theological opinions.

The distinctive tenets of Evangelical Protestantism are Sola Scriptura
and Sola Fide.

Whether or not I am an "expert" is neither here nor there.

You are right about "a wide range of people holding a variety of theological opinions." In fact, I would say that is an understatement.

Quote
And you are wrong to state that "The distinctive tenets of Evangelical Protestantism, or of Protestantism in general, are regarded by their adherents as identical with some of the central tenets of Christianity." Maybe some do, but I am certain that anyone who can be seriously regarded as a theologian does not.

Of course Evangelicals regard their distinctive tenets - Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide - as absolutely central to the Christian faith.

How can anyone who has read anything produced by Evangelicals imagine otherwise?

Quote
As far as the Anglicans are concerned, there are two formal statements as to what they think are central tenets in the form of the two "Quadrilaterals", and they are not as you assert them to believe.

Are Anglicans considered Evangelical Protestants?

We were speaking of a return to primitive Christianity, and I remarked that Protestantism is a move away from it.

I still believe that is true.

Quote
Conversely, one of the issues that Protestants have with both Orthodoxy and Catholicism is their tendency to lapse into asserting that anything any Orthodox/Catholic has ever taught as being a "central tenet". If you want an easy guide to "central tenets", what is the matter with what it being what all churches hold in common?

I do not regard Protestant sects as churches, so why would I concern myself with holding something in common with them?

Why should Orthodox Christians be interested in reducing the Christian faith to a minimum set of beliefs common to all who call themselves Christians?

The Apostolic Faith is sufficient for us.

Quote
And as far as "dilletantism" is concerned: you are in no position to assert it until you have been dragged lengthwise through theological works and instruction on Protestant liturgics. I've read Gregory Dix, and for you to accuse him of being a dilletante without even the slightest clue of what he said is utterly beyond the pale. 800 pages of painstaking detail of liturgical practices from the Diddache and Serapion to Cramner and Trent is not dilletantism.

I do not know Dix and am not familiar with his book. Honestly, I am not likely to read it either.

I do not recall specifically accusing Dix of dilettantism.

You said something about the inclusion of a trisagion in the BCP. That seems to me to be an example of dilettantism. It certainly cannot indicate a "return to primitive Christianity," not given some of the other things the modern Anglican churches are involved in.

Dilettantism, as I understand it, means dabbling in something.

The introduction of incense, a few icons, and a smattering of ancient liturgical forms into worship does not represent a return to primitive Christianity.

I don't think one need be dragged through the muck of Protestant theology and liturgics to recognize such things as dilettantism.
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« Reply #17 on: May 09, 2003, 06:03:40 PM »

If I may offer this example, though not of Wheaton, it is from the ever prominent Calvary Chapel:

Quote
Consequently, Constantine ended the persecution of Christians throughout the Roman empire when  in 313 A.D he granted the Edict of Toleration. Soon all Roman babies were required by law to be baptized into the Christian faith. CHRISTIANITY BECAME THE STATE RELIGION. A coin issued around this time by Constantine had Christian symbols on one side and pagan symbols on the other. A MARRIAGE TOOK PLACE BETWEEN THE STATE AND THE CHURCH.

Constantine nonetheless was presented with a problem. How could he maintain the political support of the pagan religious community as well as the Christianity? What he did was orchestrate a MIXTURE OF PAGAN AND CHRISTIAN RELIGIONS THAT POLLUTTED THE FAITH OF THE CHURCH. .  

Dr. Raul Ries writes concerning this period:

“By A.D. 312, Constantine had become so affected by the idea of Christianity, that he made it the state religion. Everyone in the Roman empire became a Christian by decree of the emperor. Obviously, that did not mean that everyone under Roman domination suddenly turned to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and embraced the teachings of the Bible. The decree simply re-labeled any existing religious practice as ‘Christianity,’ whether or not it had anything to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. FROM A.D. 312 ON, THEN, THE CHURCH BECAME MORE ROMAN AND LESS CHRISTIAN IN PRACTICE.  The true Christians, however, recognized what was happening, and began separating themselves from the official state religion. As they separated themselves, though, they began to be persecuted again. The church became polluted because of all the things that were imported from Romanism.” (Emphasis added.) [35]

CAPS in the original.

Quote
As mentioned earlier, the false Babylonian religious system which traces it’s origin back to the Tower of Babel and Nimrod (Genesis 10) had emigrated to the  City of Pergamos and then later to Rome itself.[36] The melding of Christianity and pagan Babylonian cultic practices resulted in a number of traditions in the church.

These heresies are out there being promoted by prominent 'Christian' sects.

If you read further in the link, you can see the tired anti-Apostolic tirades and dispensational eisegesis of Revelation.  


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« Reply #18 on: May 10, 2003, 12:36:16 AM »

Oblio, I'm afraid the link doesn't seem to work from here. It appears to be a college chapel of the Calvary people and i'm not sure I would identify those views as particular to Calvary Chapel as a whole. Their main website is rather thin on any kind of doctrinal material.

Linus: Calvin College, like Wheaton, is a member of NAE. So, for that matter, is the Reformed Episcopal Church, and a Presbyterian body, and the Free Methodists..... Again, your assertions about "standard evangelical fare" are not backed up by anything better than your own word, and your word isn't good enough. If you don't care what Wheaton teaches and think you don't need to know, then you need to stop making these sweeping allegations, because you don't know that they're true.

I've read stuff from evangelicals. I've read a lot of different things. Some anglicans are evangelicals; Dix would not be one of them, but yes, I think you do need actually know what's going on behind the adoption of these practices. You manifestly do not, and you've as much as said that you will not bother to find out.

That's exactly where "cheap shot" comes from. By your own statements, you have no basis for accusing anyone of being a dilletante. On top of that, you are trying to hide behind your own eccelsiology on this matter of "central tenets". What I find most repugnant about this whole exchange is how the only thing you seem to be able to get out of these people's first tentative steps towards Orthodoxy is to ridicule those that take them.
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« Reply #19 on: May 10, 2003, 06:26:38 AM »

Keble, sorry about the Calvary link, hanging quote  Embarrassed, it should be fixed now.

One of the quotes is by Raul Ries, one of their regulars on the radio and from what I can tell, part of whatever heirarchy (however informal it may be) they have.  I've also heard this recently from another of their commentators, I can't recall who it was though.
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« Reply #20 on: May 10, 2003, 07:43:33 AM »

Keble, sorry about the Calvary link, hanging quote  Embarrassed, it should be fixed now.

One of the quotes is by Raul Ries, one of their regulars on the radio and from what I can tell, part of whatever heirarchy (however informal it may be) they have.  I've also heard this recently from another of their commentators, I can't recall who it was though.

That's better--- yes, I can see what you mean about this stuff-- pretty standard stuff. Highly bogonic-- their derivation of "scalpel" from "Asclepius" is not what the American Heritage Dictionary says. I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. The passage seems utterly unaware of Orthodoxy; it seems to be pretty clearly an undigested anti-Catholic screed picked up from somewhere else. WHether it represents a doctrinal position of the group as a whole is, I think, an open question. The impression I get from their main website is that they aren't that interested in doctrine.

But let's suppose that they are dispensationalist anti-Catholics when pushed. They are also just a single group, and one which doesn't seem to have a lot of ties to anyone else. (They aren't NAE members, for instance.) They aren't a representative of evangelical views as a whole. And I don't think a movement which crosses boundaries of denomination and even traditions can be expected to hold a fixed theology (or for that matter, a theology at all, in some senses).
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« Reply #21 on: May 11, 2003, 08:16:16 PM »

Keble -

If you don't think anyone at Wheaton teaches the Constantinian Apostasy view of Church history, why don't you shoot them a letter or an email and find out?

Personally, I've read enough Evangelical material in my time and am satisfied with what I know of their teachings.

I am not going to be sidetracked by you into running down just who teaches what among Evangelicals. I know to my own satisfaction that the Constantinian Apostasy is standard Evangelical fare.

If my word is not good enough for you, well, tough.

We were discussing "A return to Primitive Christianity" among Protestants, not "Does Wheaton teach the Constantinian Apostasy?"

If you think I was wrong, prove it. After all, you are the one with the problem with what I wrote.

My point was that Wheaton's posting of the Church Fathers on the net (which was an error on your part) does not demonstrate that Wheaton accords them any special place of heightened authority. I believe they would place the works of Billy Graham or D.L. Moody on the same footing, if not on a higher footing.

In fact, I believe that many of those who teach at and/or attend Wheaton espouse the Constantinian Apostasy as Church history, which leads them to regard the Fathers of the 4th and later centuries with the greatest suspicion.

I could be wrong, but I doubt it.

Even if I am, it does not change the fact that many, if not most, Evangelicals do believe in the Constantinian Apostasy.

In fact, if you check, I think you will find the only deviation among real Evangelicals (not liberals) from the Constantinian Apostasy theory is by those believe the Church began to go wrong much earlier - at the end of the 1st century. Even those folks believe the Emperor Constantine gave the already erring Church an extra special shove into apostasy.

That is how they explain the existence of the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches and how those churches strayed from the true Christian (i.e., Evangelical Protestant) teachings of the 1st century.

This (mis)understanding of Church history is central to the Evangelical Protestant mindset.

Check it out if you don't believe me. Ask a few Evangelicals.
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« Reply #22 on: May 12, 2003, 08:44:44 AM »

What I really want to know. Linus, is who taught you this "Constantinian Apostacy". I have to assume that it's part of your own past because, as I've said, I'm not finding it elsewhere (at least not in the all-pervading form you claim).

And I still don't understand why you have such a problem with these people taking their firs tentative steps in the direction of Orthodoxy.
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« Reply #23 on: May 12, 2003, 10:14:21 AM »

Sounds hopeful. Perhaps the Lord will use this to bring some mainline Protestants into His Church.

I sincerely doubt that it will have much impact among Evangelicals and Fundamentalists, however. They have already invented their own version of ecclesiastical history, which sees a Church gone apostate with the coming of Constantine and the Fathers as the minions of Satan.




There is my initial post to this thread.

I am not so against "these people" taking their first tentative steps toward orthodoxy. I said it sounds hopeful.

I simply expressed the view that this movement will have little impact on Fundies and Evangelicals because of their view of Church history.

Who taught me about the "Constantinian Apostasy?"

I've read it in a number of sources over the years and have heard it repeated by Evangelical preachers. I cannot cite a specific authority as my original source, although, as I recall, I first saw it in the Scofield Reference Bible (but don't hold me to that because I don't remember it as a certainty and no longer own an SRB). Most recently, I saw the Constantinian Apostasy theory espoused in Tim LaHaye's book, Are We Living in the End Times?.

I am surprised that you are having trouble finding it. It is a belief widely held among Evangelical Protestants.

It does not surprise me that it does not appear on Wheaton's web site, however. It is not a doctrine like the Trinity, that will ordinarily appear in a broad statement of faith. But that does not mean that most Evangelicals do not accept it.
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« Reply #24 on: May 12, 2003, 04:47:32 PM »

It appears, Linus, that the reason for all this is that you were hanging around Premillenial Dispensationalists!
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« Reply #25 on: May 12, 2003, 04:54:44 PM »

Just for the record, I use to be a Wesleyan Holiness Christisan (and Amillenial), and the whole "the Church went downhill with Constantine" idea was taken as gospel truth. I was under the impression, from conversations on Protestant message boards, including everyone from Messianic Jews to Mid-Acts Dispensational Open Theists, that most low church protestants believed in this type of stuff.
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« Reply #26 on: May 12, 2003, 05:35:05 PM »

I've looked at CCEL's index and they don't have any Moody, or anyone else whom I can identify as a dispensationalist. Some of what they do have is a little surprising-- The Varieties of Religious Experience?

I know next to nothing about anything Wesleyan Holiness (except that they obviously claim some connection to the Methodist tradition). All of this seems to be getting a bit off the mark. I'm not disputing that this group or that group has problems with the post-Nicene church (though I think a lot of this opposition is hugely overstated; it reeks of anti-Catholic overreaction).

When all is said and done, what Gilquist and his company did on the way to Antioch is just this sort of reconsideration of the past. And it is happening all around us. Some of it is trivial, to be sure. Much of it is not. Protestant theologians have been looking back a lot, of late, and looking off to the east.

What will happen eventually is that a lot of this will stop short. There are problems with Orthodoxy that almost all Protestants have which no amount of reconsideration is going to overcome. As long as Orthodoxy refuses to aknowledge the legitimacy of this sort of reconsideration, it's going to keep some people remaining Protestants. This isn't trivial, nor does it trivialize whatever approach to Orthodoxy they end up making.

Dispensationalism, Fundamentalism, and a whole bunch of other -isms represent theologically-oriented commitments to particular systems. This is characteristic of one part of American protestants, but it isn't the whole and it is a tendency that the rest do not accept. In fact, they tend to look at it as like unto the kind of dogmatism they see in Orthodoxy and Catholicism, except on a lower scholarly level.
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