Why do the Orthodox ally with liberal Protestants?

One of the mysteries of the American religious scene is why all but one of the Eastern Orthodox church bodies in this country are members of the National Council of Churches, the mouthpiece for liberal Protestant denominations.  Not only that, the NCC consistently promotes abortion, homosexuality, a leftist social gospel, and a whole array of doctrines opposed to the traditional theology the Orthodox claim to champion.  And it isn’t like the Orthodox representatives are speaking up all that much against the NCC’s anti-orthodoxy.  John Lomperis of the Institute for Religion and Democracy asks some pointed questions.

From Juicy Ecumenism:

What exactly is accomplished by all but one of the jurisdictions of Eastern Orthodoxy in the United States being member communions of the National Council of Churches (NCC)?

First, we must ask what the effective purpose of the NCC is today.  Its member communions include neither the Roman Catholic Church nor more than an increasingly narrow fraction of American Protestants.  . . . The first and foremost effective purpose of the modern NCC is to promote the values of theologically liberal/heterodox Protestantism and to use the name and resources of churches as a politically convenient tool to promote partisan public-policy agendas, including ones that directly oppose clear Scriptural teachings.

Devout Eastern Orthodox prize their church’s identity as the bearer of what they see as unbroken Christian tradition. Of course, important parts of this tradition’s moral teachings are the basic Christian moral values of valuing the lives of unborn children and honoring the God-given boundaries of sex only within man-woman marriage.

Yet over the years, IRD has documented numerous instances of the NCC defending abortion and/or homosexual practice while demonizing those who stand up for Christian values (at least nominally shared by Eastern Orthodox leaders) on such issues. . . .

Do Eastern Orthodox leaders really have no problem with the direction and values of a church council of which they are a part being shaped by the input of people who deny the divinity of Christ, while Protestants who actually believe in the Nicene Creed are often disproportionately excluded from such discussions in the NCC? Do Eastern Orthodox leaders really have no problem with their name, through the NCC, being associated with a radical group’s work to promote religious support for abortion and sexual immorality?

If Eastern Orthodox leaders choose to remain silent, this would tragically be consistent with their past behavior. . . .What I have observed rather consistently (and had this confirmed by other trustworthy observers) is that Eastern Orthodox leaders participating in NCC meetings have shown little to no interest in openly defending Christian values (particularly on life and sexuality) when confronted by the aggressively secular values of Liberalprotestantism, instead choosing to remain meekly passive. This includes what I have observed of those few Eastern Orthodox individuals who have obtained staff or leadership positions in the council. There have been exceptions to this bizarrely self-imposed code of silence, but these have been rather sporadic, rare, and not sustained. . . .

As any Greek readers may discern, Eastern Orthodoxy is part of my own family heritage. So I really do sympathize with how important it must have been decades ago for religious leaders of struggling new immigrant communities in an often very intolerant America to be invited to have a seat at the table with leaders of the cultural mainstream. But after a century of an established presence of Eastern Orthodoxy in America, shouldn’t such church leaders want more than merely being seen but not heard?

Orthodox readers, I respect you greatly.  Can you help us understand this?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • fjsteve

    As smaller immigrant groups, the Eastern Orthodox probably saw the NCC was a road to legitimacy, recognition, and representation. They were afforded strength in numbers in very much the same way as culturally conservative immigrants who align themselves with more progressive political parties. Of course, the NCC was not as progressive when the Orthodox churches joined. But, even today, there may be more emphasis on the NCC’s international clout than on it’s moral positions. A big part of that is the NCC’s position on Israel. While many, more conservative evangelical bodies are overly friendly with Israel, the NCC maintains support for a two-state solution and calls Israel’s “occupation” of the Palestinian territories “unsupportable”. Many Eastern Orthodox share this view.

  • http://www.cyberbrethren.com Rev. Paul T. McCain

    Does the NCC have any clout anywhere anymore? I think most everyone in the Christian community today regards it as simply a sort of dying fire of the old liberal mainline, which itself is in rapid decline, and the sooner the better.

  • fjsteve

    Actually, Paul, I’d be surprised if most people in the Christian community even know what the NCC is. But they do have clout when they can sit with the First Lady and claim to represent 45 million Christians.

  • Kathy

    I’ve had friends who gave me Orthodox reading material and have also heard from other sources that the Orthodox Church does not believe in the atonement. So…if they deny the bigger issue, I wouldn’t expect them to stand for anything consistently.

  • Klasie Kraalogies

    Most of the Orthodox I know are pretty conservative theologically, as well as in general politics, but with a very different view of Foreign Relations than other conservatives – as fjsteve noted.

    Kathy – the Orthodox do not hold to an Augustinian view of Original Sin. Thus a western expression of “atonement” does not make a lot of sense.

  • Abby

    Last week I visited with an Orthodox priest for an entirely different matter. Near the end of our visit I asked him if I could ask a question. He said, ‘sure.’ So I asked if the Orthodox believe that the imputation of Christ’s righteousness for a believer is enough to get to heaven all by itself with no cooperation or anything added to it from me. (Works) And then I asked about the other words: propitiation, justification, atonement, grace. Were those enough, by themselves, to attain heaven. We got into a small discussion about works. And he said that it is not what we do that damns, but what we don’t do: “feed the hungry, visit those in prison, . . . Christ will say, ‘I never knew you.’” And he then took salvation back to the incarnation, but stopped short of saying that Mary was also needed to forgive sins.

    Then he said, “Well, Martin Luther is said to have died a Catholic.” And I said, “Well, on his death bed it is told that he said, ‘We are all just beggars’ (for God’s mercy). He asked me, “Do you think Martin Luther really should have done what he did? Look at all the fractions of denominations there are now.” And I said, “Yes, he absolutely should have done what he did then. But all the people who came after him took more steps further and further away from where they should be and that is not his fault.” He also condemned “Scripture Alone.”

    We discussed the LCMS and I told him we have an excellent President, Matthew Harrison. He asked about the “problems” we are having and I told him that we are divided by “worship wars.” But that the men who want to exercise their autonomy in worship style have not forsaken the basic and fundamental truths of the Sacraments. He said, “You will never see a praise band in an Orthodox church!” (Which I already knew!)

    So, bottom line, from what I could gather in that brief discussion, the Orthodox do not accept grace apart from works. Because when I brought up assurance he lightly dismissed “predestination.” And in regards to assurance, we only have “hope” that we will get to heaven. And I said, “that is what the Catholics believe – even the Pope does not know if he will get to heaven until he gets there.”

    Well, Lutherans – was Martin Luther right or not? I can certainly see “Grace Alone” from Scripture. But how can I trust my puny mind? And how can I put my puny mind up against the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church which both go all the way back to the beginning?

    I have attended many Orthodox services over many years. In fact, used to be a member when I was very young for about 2 years. I need to look at their liturgy again, but I began to have a question as of late – where is the Law? I have never heard it preached there (although their homilys are only about 5 minutes long—the rest of the service is liturgy with Holy Communion – which is absolutely closed to all outsiders.) It seems to me that the Law is assumed. And there is no preaching on “sanctification.” The only doctrine, it seems to me, is Baptism and Holy Communion. There is corporate Confession/Absolution and private C/A is always encouraged. And a large portion of the service is dedicated to prayers. Jesus Christ, Mary, the saints, prophets, and angels are predominant. The life of Christ is taught by use of icons and the various special services such as the Baptism of Christ.

    Are these enough for salvation? I say, yes. But what do you do with people who have troubled consciences like Luther had? His conscience was afflicted by the attainment of enough works to satisfy God’s demands. And his sins loomed too large for God’s forgiveness. Until he found Grace.

    Even though they are experiencing many who are joining the Orthodox faith. Just as many leave for the “evangelical” churches. Part of that may be that the Orthodox, until very recently, did not “teach” (Bible studies). Now they are beginning to do that. I would like to be in one of their classes when they come to the books of Romans, Galatians, or Hebrews. I would really like to hear that.

  • Abby

    I forgot to add, I love them (the Orthodox). I wish we did not have a division between us. I worked with a lady who was Orthodox. And we used to talk about it a lot, food — etc. One day she asked me, “So what are you? Lutheran or Orthodox?” I said, “both!” I know — I can’t have that! But in my heart, I do. I feel much closer to them than the Catholics. I told the priest that. I have relatives who are Orthodox. And I continue to attend some services.

  • Hanni

    Why is it important or is it a matter of curiosity? Is it really any of our business, but I would be interested in seeing a statement of faith, not as judgmental

  • SKPeterson

    There are quite a few similarities between Lutherans and the Orthodox, but also some very real and stark differences. It boils down to fundamental differences in anthropology. We essentially have a Western/Augustinian nee Ambrosian view of original sin and our atonement doctrine flows out of that in the sense that it is Catholic. The Orthodox have taken a different road, which they claim as the original view, but that begins to break down when one reviews actual Church history and not the sometimes legendary or mythological views often held by many EO. However, much of our Lutheran Christology relies heavily upon some of the early Orthodox Fathers such as Basil and Cyril – how that squares with Ambrose/Augustine goes a long way toward explaining the core of Lutheran confession in my opinion (moderated by good ol’ Bernard of Clairvoux as well). A good way to phrase the differences between Wittenberg and Rome to one of the Orthodox might be to cite the differences between Alexandria and Antioch. Some of those debates are quite esoteric and are often outside the frame of reference for those in the Western Church. However, would the Orthodox say that Alexandria or Antioch were not Orthodox even though they often took pains to excommunicate one another? The problem for the Western Church and a good argument to the Orthodox priest is that there was no counterpart to the Bishop of Rome. In fact the Orthodox recognize that the exclusive claims of the papacy are not doctrinally sound themselves. Why should they then expect that those who were nominally under the authority of Rome might have to avail themselves of other means when there did not exist an Antioch to counter Alexandria in the West. Rome did not exist within the same dynamic as Antioch and Alexandria (or later Constantinople) and as a result there were no competing or countervailing bishoprics that could provide a balance to an increasingly unbalanced papacy. True, we did see the emergence of the Churches of Scandinavia that became Lutheran, and there is the Anglican Church as well, but the Orthodox become oddly fixated on the Pope as the be all and end all for orthodoxy in the West, even while they simultaneously hold that his position and claim to doctrinal authority are in error (placing them in agreement with the Lutherans) and that the papacy does not hold exclusive rights to “the Church.”

    In effect, the Orthodox say to Lutherans, “You were wrong to go against the Pope even though the Pope was and has been wrong and his doctrinal assertions are in error. Only we get to legitimately oppose him.”

  • Abby

    Sorry, all for jumping in again. But to answer the question, “Why do they ally with liberal Protestants?” That is a question that has bothered me for years. That they are completely quiet on “social sins.” In recent years they have taken a public stand (in their statement of beliefs) regarding abortion. They, seemingly, will not speak about anything else. I wonder if (and I am not judging) it goes to a higher elevation of their traditions over what God says in His Word? Do they like to keep themselves out of the “Left-hand” kingdom completely? Does it have to do with their lack of speaking of the Law? Does not St. Paul exhort and admonish in the New Testament?

    Their emphasis is Confession/Absolution and Holy Communion. Your own conscience has to condemn you. But I do know, yes, they are quiet about calling out sins.

    But, remember, they come from the Middle East. Would they continue to exist if they called out sins over there? What would the Muslims do to them? So they practice quietly, the Liturgy and Sacraments. Christ’ death, burial, and resurrection. For believers.

    And the priest did make a distinction with me regarding the “Eastern” and “Western” thinking regarding our doctrinal differences. (“Western” being from Augustine — who followed an error of translation from a Latin transcript, he said.)

  • Abby

    SKP @9: Thanks for that good explanation! You know your history!

  • http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com Pr Mark Henderson

    to Abby @ #7:
    Fascinating report of your discussion with an Orhtodox priest, Abby.
    His responses were just what I would have expected and result from a confusion of Law & Gospel.
    I’m sure one can find the Gospel in Orthodoxy but it is layered over with centuries of tradition that obscures it.
    On the NCC matter, I think njsteve @ #1 got it – it was a route to legitimacy for an ethnic-based religious group when the US and the NCC were quite different from today. I note that in North America the Antiochian Archdiocese has pulled out of the NCC on theological and moral grounds. I would expect more Orthodox jurisdictions to do so as the NCC continues to drift into heresy and obscurity.

  • Greg

    I think this helps clarify some points about Orthodoxy’s involvement on the NCC.
    http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles6/JacobseNCCExit.php

  • Abby

    I was wondering which Orthodox had pulled out — it was the Antiochian. I really do like Metropolitan Philip. I have heard him speak a few times. It is the Antiochian that I associate with. I wish he would get together and talk with our Rev. Matthew Harrison. I think they would like each other.

  • Abby

    Greg @13 Thank you for that article! From the article: “For the Antiochian Orthodox, the cultural estrangements of the immigrant era and the search for accommodation by the nation’s religious elites are over. They are replaced by a determination to preach the gospel of Christ unencumbered by the political ideologies that shackle groups like the NCC.”

    This is true. This is the way that Metropolitan Philip talks when he speaks. He is trying to pull out all the stops on evangelism. There are a lot of converts to Orthodoxy from evangelicalism and some Lutherans. Thus the new emphasis on Bible study also. Which is good.

  • Greg

    A comment for Mark,
    I disagree that it’s hard to find the Gospel in Orthodoxy, it is the center piece of our liturgical lives. The traditions that we hold too, that St.Paul told us to hold fast too, is the Gospel of Christ. The first part of the liturgy is called the Liturgy of the Word. It is prayer, then reading of an epistle and then with fear of God, we read the Gospel. The homilies (preaching) are not that long, the prayers are! The reading from the epistles is for teaching. The readings of the Gospels are for teaching. The whole Church year moves from the annunciation that Christ would be born to the fulfillment of the Church at Pentecost. It is the Gospel of Christ.

    Full disclosure, I am Eastern Orthodox. I am a former Evangelical Protestant.

  • Abby

    Greg @16: As a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy from evangelicalism — what were you looking for, and what did you find in EO?

    How would you answer my questions about salvation being based on Christ’s work alone? (The imputation of His righteousness — plus nothing contributed from me.) Do you believe that works have to be added to procur salvation? And if so, how can they be measured — how do we know we have done enough?

    Does Holy Baptism give the forgiveness of sins, and does Baptism “save?”

    Do you believe in the atonement from Christ’s sacrifice? Was Jesus’ sacrifice full and complete satisfaction of the justice the Father demanded, or do we as Christians need to do something else in addition?

    Do you consider the New Covenants established by Jesus to be the fulfillment of the Old Covenants from the Old Testament? Does Holy Communion give forgiveness of sins?

    Do you understand the error from a Latin translation which Augustine used in the establishment of the Western church?

    I understand the EO have the Gospel. That is what I hear there. I truly wish to understand salvation from an Eastern Orthodox position. Is assurance possible at all for a believer? The answer given me was there is hope for salvation.

    I apologize if I asked too many questions.

  • Robert

    Abby from an EO perspective we can certainly understand your questions but they are by and large irrelevant, or perhaps better put, they are the wrong questions to ask. One must be set free from this Protestant mindset. For one, salvation does not consist in the comprehension of knowledge.

  • http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com Pr Mark Henderson

    to greg @16
    Sure, there are a lot of evangelical riches to be received by attentively participating in the Divine Liturgy. When I wrote that the Gospel can be found in Orthodoxy it was the Divine Liturgy that I was primarily thinking of – should have spelled that out. Unfortunately, I have found that doesn’t flow through to the teaching one typically hears in Orthodox sermons or writings, where the emphasis falls on the human effort (ascesis) required to achieve and preserve salvation. As a result, not many Orthodox, in my experience, can articulate the Gospel, although I’m sure many will be saved because in their hearts they believe it, i.e. trust in Christ alone for salvation, including, I hope and pray, yourself :0)

  • Paviel

    I can see a problem about EO (speaking myself almost from within the Russian Church, being a convert to Lutheranism), at least one of those that might have to do with the above, in the idea of Symphonia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphonia_(theology)). Eastern Orthodox churches were developed in authoritative states in a strong union with the authorities throughout centuries. So they really have a problem about their relations to the state, they have an urge for the public recognition and some position in the state and are often ready avoid pronouncing thing that conflict with the state. Starting from the Byzantine Empire and to the Soviet Union. So, now when Orthodox Churches in their home countries are enjoying more or less conservative state authorities (Russia, Romania, Greece, Serbia etc.) its easy for them to be conservative. But in the US that’s the other way round.

  • Fr. Hans Jacobse

    Look at it this way: In Orthodoxy salvation is understood as dynamic communion with the Risen Christ. That communion confers life, and that life is salvation. That’s why the emphasis is on ascesis (personal self-discipline) since the only thing that can separate us from experiencing communion with Christ is our sins (sin is movement away from God). Nonetheless we are sinners, which is why the Orthodox teach that repentance is the way of salvation. This repentance is ongoing, since continuing communion also implies continuing sanctification.

    That’s also why the Eucharist is the culmination of Orthodox worship. We are a sacramental Church and believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist (as Luther did). However, there is no Eucharist without the Gospel. The Gospel is always read (and the sermon belongs after it) before the Eucharist is offered in Orthodox worship.

    The reason that you don’t hear the Law-Gospel distinction in Orthodoxy is that the Orthodox read Romans a bit differently than Luther did. Luther perceived Paul’s references to the “Law” in Romans as pertaining to a cosmic moral law. The Orthodox read it as the Mosaic (Levitical) Law alone. That’s why the Orthodox don’t have a problem with the book of James (“…show me your faith by your works…”) that Luther did.

  • Abby

    @21 Thank you, Fr Jacobse, for that concise explanation. I know that I am way off topic, but I couldn’t help wondering about this statement you included:

    “Luther perceived Paul’s references to the “Law” in Romans as pertaining to a cosmic moral law.” I have never heard of this kind of law pertaining to Luther.

    ““For Luther, it is within this unconditional context created by the gospel, the reality he called “living by faith,” that the Law understood as God’s good commands can be returned to its proper place. Freed from the burden and bondage of attempting to use the Law to establish our righteousness before God, Christians are free to look to commandments, not as conditions, but as descriptions and directions as they seek to serve their neighbor. In other words, once a person is liberated from the commonsense delusion that acting righteously makes us righteous before God, and in faith believes the counter-intuitive reality that being made righteous by God’s forgiving and resurrecting word precedes and produces righteous action, then the justified person is unlocked to love. 1 John 4.19: “We love because he first loved us.” Works of love flow from prior belovedness.” (I didn’t record source for this)

    And:
    “The Ten Commandments

    As the head of the family should teach them in a simple way to his household

    The First Commandment
    You shall have no other gods.
    What does this mean?
    We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. . . ” (From Luther’s Small Catechism http://www.cph.org/t-topic-catechism-ten.aspx)

  • Abby

    Also, Luther on the Law:

    “In a treatise from 1520, “The Freedom of a Christian,” Luther stated an essential element of his theology: “the entire Scripture of God is divided into two parts: commandments [Law] and promises [Gospel].” The basic distinction is straightforward: the Law tells us what we ought to do; the Gospel tells us what God has given. At this level – what Luther called the “level of words” – “There is no one so stupid that he does not recognize how definite this distinction between Law and grace is.” At a more basic level, however – what Luther called “the level of reality and experience” – this distinction “is the most difficult thing there is” (Galatians 1535). There are two reasons why this simple linguistic distinction is an existential difficulty. First, and for Luther most importantly, when a Christian is aware of and afflicted by their sin, it is “the most difficult thing in the world” to let the conscience listen to the voice of Christ rather than the condemnation of the Law. Second, the distinction between Law and Gospel is ultimately – that is, in reality – not a distinction between what is said; it is a distinction between what is heard; or more precisely it is a difference between whether God’s verbal encounter with the human effects condemnation and death or works faith, forgiveness, and freedom. Thus, for Luther, the same words can be heard as either Law or Gospel. For example, the 10 Commandments are both the “hammer of God” that terrifies sinners with the “thunder of Mt. Sinai” and the pure promise that “I am the Lord your God.” Conversely, the beautiful and basic words of the Gospel – “Christ died for your sins” – can be, to the ears of unbelief, nothing but an announcement of the “enormity of God’s wrath” (Against the Antinomians 1539). An awareness of the doubleness of the distinction between Law and Gospel – a distinction that is so simple that the “stupid” recognize it and so difficult an art that “only the Holy Spirit practices it” (Galatians 1535) – forces us to step back and ask about Luther’s theological definition of Law.” http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2011/09/12/luther-on-law/print/

    ““The fatuous idea that a person can be holy by himself denies God the pleasure of saving sinners. God must therefore first take the sledge-hammer of the Law in His fists and smash the beast of self-righteousness and its brood of self-confidence, self wisdom, and self-help. When the conscience has been thoroughly frightened by the Law it welcomes the Gospel of grace with its message of a Savior Who came–not to break the bruised reed nor to quench the smoking flax–but to preach glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, and to grant forgiveness of sins to all the captives.” Martin Luther

  • greg

    Abby #17
    “what were you looking for, and what did you find in EO?”
    Abby, what I was originally looking for was answers regarding salvation. Maybe I am too right brain, but I could not accept answers within my own denomination when some many others would draw the opposite conclusions. There are colleges, professors, PHDs who are pretty sure their own understanding is correct even though they disagree with the other denominations. The more I studied Scripture, the more questions I discovered. It’s really a long story, I would be happy to share it with you.
    What I found was a fullness of faith that really can only be experienced; it is beauty and faith that I would not describe as a denomination or religion. I discovered the fullness of the Christian Faith.
    Regarding your specific questions, I would need to come to a common understanding of what you are asking. You ask a lot of questions about Salvation and being saved. Saved from what and from whom? These are serious questions to answer with a few verses of scripture. It is far more import than that.
    Again, I would love to speak to you about this if you are seeking. I am no priest, but I can offer you a perspective from someone who was been a serious believer on both the Western and Eastern side of the Faith.

    May the Lord have mercy on your journey

  • Abby

    Greg @24 Yes, it is very confusing out there. I read a lot and listen a lot. If I would sit down with 10 pastors I would hear something different from each one. It does make me think of God’s Word which is inexhaustible. I can get something new from a portion even if I have read it a 1000 times. That’s how it relates to life.

    ” . . . it is beauty and faith that I would not describe as a denomination or religion.” The Orthodox church is very beautiful. I would love to hear of your journey.

  • Abby

    Greg @24 “Regarding your specific questions, I would need to come to a common understanding of what you are asking. You ask a lot of questions about Salvation and being saved. Saved from what and from whom?”

    I would say: Sin Death and the Devil/(hell) — the elements of the Fall of Adam and Eve. Back to the Garden. And then, right away, God gave the promise of salvation: Genesis 3:15.

  • Tom Hering

    Actually, we’re saved from God’s judgment of “guilty,” which we deserve.

  • Fr. Hans Jacobse

    Abby, there’s a lot to like in Luther, but for the Orthodox Paul’s distinction between faith and the works of the Law pertain to the Mosaic Law alone. We don’t extrapolate a dynamic of “works righteousness” from it. The Law could not complete salvation because man was still bound to death and thus captive to sin (except for Christ of course). For that reason it was a “school teacher.” It passed from relevance when Christ resurrected when the power of death was destroyed by Christ’s resurrection.

    Remember, the Law was meant to confer righteousness. And Jesus, because He rose from the dead, proved that He indeed met all the requirements of the Law. Had he not, the He too would be subject to the death that sin engenders (the sting of death is sin). Yet, He rose from the dead (the Holy Spirit raised Him (if the Spirit that rose Christ from the dead…) and this shows He was judged righteous by the Father.

    The righteousness conferred on us then is the righteousness of Christ, although we know He is righteous because He rose, which is to say He conformed Himself to all the dictates of the Law. Yet this righteousness is only shared through faith, since faith is required to see the Risen Christ (the only defense against Truth is unbelief) who confers that righteousness. IOW, because He is righteous we can become righteous, but that righteousness is imputed through communion with Him.

    Works, then still matter, although there is no thought in Orthodoxy that works makes you righteous. Christ saves, but we have to do that interior work (struggle against sin) in order to appropriate the salvation He offers. That communion, the dynamic participation in Christ where Christ’s life interpenetrates our life is the substance of our salvation.

  • Fr. Hans Jacobse

    Gene, here’s some background:

    NCC Exit Poll: Why One Orthodox Church Left the National Council of Churches

    You should know there is extensive internal debate and criticism over the involvement in the NCC in Orthodox circles. Also see my response to the original article on the Juicy Ecumencism blog.

  • Abby

    @28 Fr. Jacobse — Thank you for your reply. “. . . there’s a lot to like in Luther.” I’m glad you think so.

    “Yet this righteousness is only shared through faith, since faith is required to see the Risen Christ (the only defense against Truth is unbelief) who confers that righteousness. IOW, because He is righteous we can become righteous, but that righteousness is imputed through communion with Him. . . Works, then still matter, although there is no thought in Orthodoxy that works makes you righteous. . . ”

    This sounds like we agree. I still believe we’re a lot closer together than maybe we both know.

    As Robert said above, ” . . . salvation does not consist in the comprehension of knowledge.” While that is true, “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ.” Romans 10:17
    I tend to ask a lot of questions, I know. Thank you for taking the time to give such a thorough answer.

  • Abby

    Fr. Jacobse, Nice article in Touchstone magazine! And, again, I am glad it was the Antiochians who left. Hopefully the others will too.

  • Tom Hering

    … we have to do that interior work (struggle against sin) in order to appropriate the salvation He offers. (@ 28)

    That is exactly backwards. We struggle against temptations, our evil, and our sinfulness BECAUSE we have been saved, and are new creations, gifted with faith.

    See how great a love the Father HAS bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; AND SUCH WE ARE. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, NOW WE ARE CHILDREN OF GOD, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And EVERYONE WHO HAS THIS HOPE FIXED ON HIM purifies himself, just as He is pure. (1 John 3:1-3)

    Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has CAUSED US TO BE BORN AGAIN to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, WHO ARE PROTECTED BY THE POWER OF GOD THROUGH FAITH for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your FAITH, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, BUT BELIEVE IN HIM, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as THE OUTCOME OF YOUR FAITH the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3-9)

  • Fr. Hans Jacobse

    Tom, not backwards at all. We actually agree with this difference: From the Orthodox point of view, salvation is an ongoing enterprise since communion with the Risen Christ (and all that implies including resistance against sin) is the substance of our salvation.

    So where does certainty about salvation lie? In the death of resurrection of Christ — the act where the Father removed the final barrier between Him and His creatures — namely death. Repentance is the way of salvation and we are saved through God’s mercy.

    The appropriation of that salvation then, because it is dynamic encounter with the Risen Christ, necessitates ascetic struggle. Salvation is ongoing and every deepening because the Father Himself is infinite, the author and source of all life that is mediated through the Son.

    The entry into this new life (from the Orthodox POV) is baptism since in baptism one enters in the death of Christ and is raised in the likeness of His resurrection. In baptism that which the first Adam lost, the second restores — namely the Holy Spirit.

    None of this begins of course without the hearing of the Gospel. The Gospel, when preached (spoken) reveals Christ. The Gospel constitutes the Church (Peter preached and then the Lord added to the Church those who would be saved) and must reconstitute in every generation.

  • Fr. Hans Jacobse

    Abby, Luther drew a lot from the Early Church Fathers, particularly Chrysostom. That’s why some of this resonates. There still are differences between Lutheranism and Orthodoxy but those differences do not cancel out the similarities.

    I fight a solitary battle in Orthodox ranks (although I am winning converts) about the Orthodox critique of “sola-scriptura.” Many Orthodox apologists take the term to mean that anyone is qualified to interpret the bible (the modern construction of the term) and fight it on those grounds. Luther never meant that at all.

    Luther taught that the apostolic (and prophetic) teaching recorded for us in scripture is the primary authority within the Church. Go back to the Church Fathers and they say exactly the same thing. I wonder if that is where Luther drew it from.

  • Tom Hering

    Thanks for your kind response, Fr. Jacobse. Yes, we have differences.

    … salvation is an ongoing enterprise …

    If by “ongoing enterprise” you mean God’s work, I agree. As Peter said, “we are protected by the power of God through faith,” which is always gift received. But if you mean our work – even if you only mean our cooperation – I disagree. Salvation is a decree of “not guilty” on account of Christ (the great exchange of taking our punishment and crediting His righteousness).

    … communion with the Risen Christ (and all that implies including resistance against sin) is the substance of our salvation.

    If by substance you mean real results of salvation (we are in Him and He lives in us / we’re surprised to find ourselves turning from sin), I agree. But if again you mean our response (the practice of communion with Him / the practice of godliness) is an ongoing cause of our salvation, I disagree.

    So where does certainty about salvation lie?

    I would say outside ourselves, in Christ redeeming the whole world – whether or not the world believes it or follows Him. Because the Word says so, and faith (which is not of ourselves) trusts this Word. (So I know I’m redeemed because there’s no one who isn’t.)

    Repentance is the way of salvation and we are saved through God’s mercy.

    Certainly, we are saved by grace. But while there is a way to salvation – hearing Law and Gospel, rightly divided – salvation isn’t itself a way. No one journeys to get someplace they already are. And repentance is as much a gift as the faith that causes it (before I repent, I believe I must repent).

    Salvation is ongoing and ever deepening because the Father Himself is infinite …

    Salvation is tailored to men – finite creatures who can’t help themselves in the least bit. It is God coming down to become one of us, rather than us ascending to God.

  • Abby

    Fr. Jacobse @33 “Repentance is the way of salvation and we are saved through God’s mercy. ”

    Now we really agree. That began Martin Luther’s Reformation: “Martin Luther opened the Reformation by nailing “The Ninety-Five Theses” to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral. The very first of the theses was: “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ . . . willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance. . . ! Luther seems to be saying Christians will never be making much progress. But of course that wasn’t Luther’s point at all. He was saying that repentance is the way we make progress in the Christian life. Indeed, pervasive, all-of-life-repentance is the best sign that we are growing deeply and rapidly into the character of Jesus. . . It is important to consider how the gospel affects and transforms the act of repentance. . . But in the gospel the purpose of repentance is to repeatedly tap into the joy of our union with Christ in order to weaken our need to do anything contrary to God’s heart.” http://download.redeemer.com/pdf/learn/resources/All_of_Life_Is_Repentance-Keller.pdf

    “The appropriation of that salvation then, because it is dynamic encounter with the Risen Christ, necessitates ascetic struggle.” This sounds like it is coming from the “right direction” (grateful response to Christ rather than from the direction of trying to please God, or earn anything, by putting oneself again under the Law).

    In the Lutheran Church, we “struggle” with this too: http://cyberbrethren.com/2013/02/25/aversion-to-sanctification-caused-by-phobic-allergic-reaction-to-any-talk-about-good-works/ and http://cyberbrethren.com/2013/02/27/are-lutherans-antinomian-some-are-but-genuine-lutheranism-is-not/ (Our friend at CPH, and others, tries to keep us on the straight and narrow!)

    From Tom @32: “… we have to do that interior work (struggle against sin) in order to appropriate the salvation He offers. (@ 28)” I think the problem in this line might be the words “in order to” — isn’t this meaning that “in order to” be saved *we* need to struggle “in order to” appropriate salvation? Which still sounds like *we* procur salvation *through* struggle/works. Because you say “appropriation of that salvation then . . . necessitates ascetic struggle.” So instead of all of life being repentance, it sounds like all of life is the struggle to procur salvation? Do I understand that correctly? And, when you say “Salvation is ongoing and ever deepening . . .” doesn’t this indicate there is no assurance then — being not obtainable in this life?

    The Holy Spirit is given in Baptism, is the forgiveness of sins given there? When the Eucharist is served, is forgiveness of sins given there? So, in this life, do we ever *have* salvation at all or are we only moving towards it and we will find out if we are saved when we get there? Is Christ’s righteousness *imputed* to us in this life without our having to earn it somehow? Are we saved by what He did, all by itself? Or are we adding to it by the “struggle” for righteousness? When Martin Luther said “all of life is repentance,” he didn’t mean that we add works in order to attain salvation. That is where justification comes in. As well as propitiation, grace, expiation, atonement, and imputation. So that repentance does not become a *work.*

    “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal. Then they said to him, ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom who he has sent. . . Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. . . All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” John 6:27-37

    “So where does certainty about salvation lie? In the death and resurrection of Christ — the act where the Father removed the final barrier between Him and His creatures — namely death. Repentance is the way of salvation and we are saved through God’s mercy.” Along with forgiveness of sins, this we receive in Baptism. http://legacy.esvbible.org/search/1+Peter+3%3A18-22/

    (An aside, to let you know we honor these men along with you: http://cyberbrethren.com/2013/01/27/commemoration-of-st-john-chrysostom/ and http://cyberbrethren.com/2013/01/10/basil-the-great/)

    The Orthodox and the Lutherans really should talk. At a much higher level than with me. Even though I enjoy the work of the dialog!

  • Abby

    Fr. Jacobse @34 “I fight a solitary battle in Orthodox ranks (although I am winning converts) about the Orthodox critique of “sola-scriptura.” I am so glad.

    I wonder if that is why, for all these years, Bible study was not really encouraged or done (by the laypeople) in the Orthodox Church? I know that the new Orthodox Study Bible published in 2008 was a project pretty much steered by Fr. Peter Gilquist — a former Campus Crusade evangelical — and a “right-hand man” to Metropolitan Philip. (He is named on one of the front pages.) Since the release of that Bible, Adult Bible study classes began to come out in some of the Orthodox churches (the ones I am familiar with anyway). I was thrilled and have even attended a few. One young priest even led a Bible study on the “End Times” around the time of the Harold Camping failed prediction of the end of the world last year.

    “Luther taught that the apostolic (and prophetic) teaching recorded for us in scripture is the primary authority within the Church. Go back to the Church Fathers and they say exactly the same thing. I wonder if that is where Luther drew it from.” From what I understand, Luther clung heavily to the early church fathers. His bone of contention was with the Pope — because that is where the distortions in the church were coming from! He was robbing the people of their rightful and *free* salvation! And trying to make the people slaves to the church instead of to Christ. (Almost like this: http://legacy.esvbible.org/search/Matthew+23%3A1-15/)

    I don’t know if this is true or documented or not. An Orthodox priest once said that Luther wanted to join the Orthodox church upon his excommunication from the Roman Catholic church. He sent a message to Constantinople and it did not arrive (in time). (This may be an urban legend, or wishful thinking on someone’s part if there is not documentation about this.) Although, that would be interesting if true.

    (I have a comment in moderation before this one. I don’t know when or if it might be released.)

    Thank you again for the discussion!

  • Abby

    Fr. Jacobse @33 When you say, “ . . .salvation is an ongoing enterprise. . .,” it seems to me you are saying it is a “process” throughout life. Not actually attainable. Is that correct?

    “Repentance is the way of salvation and we are saved through God’s mercy.” Here we see it together! Here is where Luther began the Reformation. “Martin Luther opened the Reformation by nailing “The Ninety-Five Theses” to the door of Wittenberg Cathedral. The very first of the theses was: “Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ . . . willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.” On the surface this looks a little bleak! Luther seems to be saying Christians will never be making much progress. But of course that wasn’t Luther’s point at all. He was saying that repentance is the way we make progress in the Christian life. Indeed, pervasive, all-of-life-repentance is the best sign that we are growing deeply and rapidly into the character of Jesus.” http://download.redeemer.com/pdf/learn/resources/All_of_Life_Is_Repentance-Keller.pdf

    This: “. . . appropriation of that salvation. . .” and this: “ . . . necessitates ascetic struggle. . .” sounds like it is up to us to make salvation happen through our “struggle.” This sounds to me that we make “repentance” (and other deeds) into a “work” we do “in order to” finally achieve our salvation? In my life I struggle against sin and repent and confess everyday. But that is not to “qualify” for salvation. I already have salvation as a free gift by faith, unless I abandon Christ and turn away from Him without ever repenting and coming back.

    “In baptism that which the first Adam lost, the second restores — namely the Holy Spirit.” In Orthodoxy does baptism give the forgiveness of sins? Does the Eucharist also give forgiveness of sins? http://legacy.esvbible.org/search/1+Peter+3%3A18-22/

    “’Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal. ‘ Then they said to him, ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ . . . Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. . . All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.’” John 6:27-37

    Fr. Jacobse, I hope you understand I am not arguing with you. I am truly trying to understand salvation from an Orthodox view.

  • Abby

    @38 I inadvertently duplicated my comments in #36 — I thought it got lost.

  • Abby

    I said previously that I have relatives who are Orthodox. One woman is a committed attender and another does not attend at all, although she is considered a member. Both have had multiple abortions. Both favor “right to die/euthanasia,” and say that the church has no business speaking about these issues.

    I don’t know how many years ago that the Orthodox church made an official statement regarding abortion (it doesn’t seem very long ago). But even though they have, it still remains pretty quiet and I think not really known to that many in the church. These same women have no problem with sex outside of marriage, gambling, and many other issues you would be surprised at. One woman declared very happily and openly that when she went to confession, she “didn’t have anything to confess!”

    This “culture of death” that exists in my family has caused – and is still causing — more trouble than you would believe. (Even to the door of the Supreme Court of the U.S.) And, of course, I was derided as a “Lutheran” because the Orthodox are the “right” church and the “original” church.

    I know this exists in all churches. Because liberals and conservatives co-exist in every church. But I am wondering if it would not, in fact, be more helpful to their people if the church took a stand on certain biblical/societal issues? Even if they don’t agree with the church’s stand. Is not the church obligated to do so? If the church would take a stand, I know it would not necessarily relieve trouble. But at least, those who are in the church would know that what they are doing is not in agreement with God’s Word. And then they have their own decisions to make apart from God’s Word if they choose.

    In the Orthodox church, in my opinion, that is where the education factor (one part) has been missing. And for some I know who left for evangelicalism – that is why they left (unless it was for a marriage partner that was not Orthodox who didn’t convert — or they just ceased to attend). Although they would have been better off, in my opinion, to have come to the Lutheran church (because of the value we put on Christian/biblical education) instead of go so many more steps away from true doctrine – especially in regards to the Real Presence in the Sacraments.

    When the Orthodox Study Bible came out, I gave a copy to a Lutheran pastor, friend of mine. I told him (I thought), “this is historic!” And I told him Bible studies were beginning to be held for the first time in a very very long time. And I said, “I am very thankful.”

  • Greg

    Abby #40
    According to a study the Alan Guttmacher Institute, in 2011, 72% of all abortions in the USA were women who identify as religious. 37% are Protestant, 28% are Catholic. (Eastern Orthodox I am sure are lumped in with “other”) Population within these groups can be argued who has largest rate, but that is not my point.
    http://www.guttmacher.org/presentations/abort_slides.pdf (look at page 27)

    Last time I checked, Catholics and Protestants spend a lot of time preaching against abortion, and I understand why they do! Yet, we Christians are just as much a part of this culture as our non-religious friends. If all that identified themselves as Christian stopped having abortions, we probably would not have much to talk about.

    “But I am wondering if it would not, in fact, be more helpful to their people if the church took a stand on certain biblical/societal issues?” (Abby #40)

    The problem is with people, not “sins”. If I say the hospital does not tolerate sick people, then what was the point? Orthodoxy is all about “me”. Why do we have such problems around us? Because “I” am not more Christ like. Instead of marriage counseling, parenting seminars, self-help books, protest, etc, I need to get the plank out of my eye and become more like my Lord. I need to be a saint. (for the record, let’s call it a work in progress….)

    During the time Christ walked among us, the Romans had, um, issues. Lots of social issues. Lots of moral issues. But our Lord spends his time fixing 12 men (and 70 and the multitude), but for the most part, 12 men. These simple men are the ones that went out and changed the face of the earth. Not by preaching against homosexuality, infanticide, etc, but preaching Christ crucified and the Resurrection.
    Teaching is still alive and well in the Orthodox Church, but our focus towards the sick, naked, and the hungry should be one of compassion, not condemnation. Just like the days of old, we will save people with love. You cannot use biblical reasons why the “non-religious” should not do these things. And speaking from personal experience, even those things that I know are wrong, I continue to do them. (Lord have mercy, Lord have mercy, Lord have Mercy)

    I pray for peace upon you and your household.
    Chief among the sinners,
    Gregory

  • kerner

    Greg:

    I think what Abby is looking for, and the reason she is a Lutheran (NOT trying to speak for you Abby, but this is my read on you) is a BALANCE between Law and Gospel. To know they need a savior, people first need to know they have sinned. Only in that context does the Gospel make sense. You can show all the love you want to, but if people don’t see the need for it, what good has it done?

  • Abby

    This is long, but I will let it be because probably not many will read it at this point.

    Kerner @42 You can speak for me all you want – I always need help. And you zeroed down on what I was trying to say very nicely. (Especially after you see how many words this is.)

    Greg @41 I agree with everything you said. But I will go a little further.

    “. . . Last time I checked, Catholics and Protestants spend a lot of time preaching against abortion . . .”
    When I was 18, I became pregnant. One of the women I referenced above (#40) told my boyfriend that I should have an abortion. (She had already had 2 of them.) She told him he should leave me because it was all my fault. He did not have to take any responsibility. When he came and told me this, I said, “You do not have to marry me. I will not have an abortion. I will take care of the baby myself.”

    I have been talking quite a bit about the “lack” of Bible studies, previously, in the Orthodox church. When I was 18 I had never heard any “preaching” against abortion. I had only a vague knowledge of what an abortion even was. I only knew that it would destroy the life I now believed was in me. I told my boyfriend it was a baby and I would not kill it.

    How did I know this when I was 18? The minute he said that this woman wanted me to have an abortion, a Bible verse came into my head. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you . . .” Jeremiah 1:5

    I had attended a Lutheran school. I had an excellent teacher for 4 years. He made us read the Bible stories from the Bible. We used no other books besides the catechism, hymnal, and Bible. We read a lot of the Bible. Did I understand it? A lot of it I did! Which says that the Holy Spirit was teaching me through His Word.

    “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you . . .” These words saved my daughter. And in fact, gave me a complete family. A husband, 3 children, and 4 grandchildren. All are Christians. My husband served the church. My 2 daughters and both of their husbands serve in their churches. All of the grandchildren attend Lutheran schools. All profess their faith.

    Am I bragging? Hardly. For I can only look at this as an undeserved gift. I know my sins. I struggle with them daily. I love the Law. It doesn’t scare me. It sends me to the cross daily. It makes my life one of repentance. How do you repent if it were not for the Law? If Jesus doesn’t save me completely by what He has done with nothing added to it by me, then I am doomed. Because I cannot be or do enough to satisfy a Holy God. It is too late. I would have needed to be perfect from birth.

    I am not advocating a lot of “preaching” against abortion, homosexuality, etc. But I am advocating for preaching and teaching God’s Word. God does His own speaking through His Word.

    Yes, I would not have wanted to live among the Romans back then. The Christians gave witness of their faith by rescuing aborted babies from garbage piles and taking them home to raise them. They would pick up dead bodies that were lying around and clean them and give them proper burials. They witnessed in word and deed. The word part got many of them killed. Including all but one of Christ’s apostles. These never ceased to “preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and folly to Gentiles.” (1 Corinthians 1:23)

    As far as the two ladies – I have tried to love them and serve them as long as I’ve been in the family. But if I don’t agree with something they say or do, I speak up. (So far they haven’t kicked me out!) Has any of this changed their dispositions towards God? Not that I can see and hear. Everything is still the same. But see, this is coming from me. It needs to come from the church first and foremost. In Corinthians Paul tells the people not to judge those outside the church—because then they would have to remove themselves from the world, but they are to discipline those in their midst who were blatantly sinning.

    I was looking through the Gospels today. I would like to note a few points that I see.

    “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 This is how Jesus began His ministry. What makes one repent?

    “And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues . . .” Mark 1:35-39

    “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” Mark 6:34

    “And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.” Matthew 22:33

    Jesus spent a lot of time preaching and teaching. Everywhere he went. Big crowds, little crowds. He healed. He gave to the poor. But nowhere do I see that He became primarily engaged in a social gospel. He told the rich young ruler to sell all he had and give to the poor to test him. Somewhere else He said the poor you will always have with you. There are very very few people even remotely like Mother Theresa. We all need to repent of our stinginess.

    When John the Baptist was in prison he asked if Jesus was the one who was to come. Jesus sent this message back to him,”Go tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.” This was how people were to recognize that Christ was the one promised from the Old Testament.

    Today was “Cross Veneration Sunday” in the Orthodox church. This is how it is described in the bulletin: “. . . this particular Sunday is set aside to worship and venerate the Precious and Life-Giving Cross: ‘Inasmuch as in the 40 days of fasting we, in a way, crucify ourselves and become despondent, the Cross is presented to us for refreshment, assurance and comfort. We are like those following a long and difficult path, who in their tired and weakened state, see a beautiful tree with many leaves. They sit in its shadow and rest for awhile and then, as if rejuvenated, continue their journey. Likewise the Cross has been planted in our midst by the Holy Fathers to lighten our burden and strengthen our courage for the remainder of the Lenten journey. For the Cross is called the Tree of Life, and it is placed before us in Mid-Lent to remind us that while Adam’s partaking of the fruit from the tree in Paradise brought him death, our partaking of this Tree will bring us eternal life. Yes, today the Cross is placed before us to show us God’s infinite love for us, to remind us of Christ’s suffering for our sake and to highlight our own obligation to carry our daily cross with great fervor and perfect obedience.”

    When I look at the cross I see the Law and the Gospel. I see an absolutely Holy God. I see a God of wrath and judgment against sin. I see death. I see a God who absolutely loves mankind. I see a Son who “. . . for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2

    “The fatuous idea that a person can be holy by himself denies God the pleasure of saving sinners. God must therefore first take the sledge-hammer of the Law in His fists and smash the beast of self-righteousness and its brood of self-confidence, self wisdom, and self-help. When the conscience has been thoroughly frightened by the Law it welcomes the Gospel of grace with its message of a Savior Who came–not to break the bruised reed nor to quench the smoking flax–but to preach glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, and to grant forgiveness of sins to all the captives.” Martin Luther

    The Law part of the cross is not a pretty picture. It is grotesque, ugly, and bloody. That is what my sins look like to God. That is the penalty that had to be paid to buy me back. If I did not have the cross to look at I would be in Romans 6. Thinking that it is ok to sin so that Grace can abound. I would be a slave to sin and think nothing of it. That is where many people are. Even some in the church. All churches.

    I am advocating, as Kerner so well stated, for Law and Gospel. I am advocating for God’s Word to be taught. Not just in liturgy on Sunday morning, or a few special services. But in its fullness, and often. Jesus sat down and began to teach. People came and listened. One verse that God brings to your mind can change your life.

    “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.” Psalm 119:97-99 A Jewish saying about these verses is: “The love is the impetus of the study. The study is the expression of love. – Study is the highest form of worship.”

    You have heard me say, I love the Orthodox church. It is beautiful. It is Christian. But in order for us not to be lost sheep we need this: “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” Mark 6:34

    I am not saying the Orthodox do not teach. (They are beginning more and more.) The liturgy and services teach. But if you remember me saying earlier that I was a member once for 2 years – the reason I finally had to leave was the lack of Bible teaching outside of the Sunday service. I was never even given the basic training for what an Orthodox is when I joined. I was looking for books on my own to find out what kind of church I was in. I needed my children to have more. And please do not think I am judging. Because I truly am not. I also know that many people do not want to learn or hear. Even if it is presented. But, I believe, present it we must.

  • Tom Hering

    I was never even given the basic training for what an Orthodox is when I joined. I was looking for books on my own to find out what kind of church I was in. (@ 43)

    That isn’t everyone’s experience with the Orthodox.

  • Abby

    ‘Suppose someone should be caught in the act of adultery and the foulest crimes and then be thrown into prison. Suppose, next, that judgment was going to be passed against him and that he would be condemned. Suppose that just at that moment a letter should come from the Emperor setting free from any accounting or examination all those detained in prison. If the prisoner should refuse to take advantage of the pardon, remain obstinate and choose to be brought to trial, to give an account, and to undergo punishment, he will not be able thereafter to avail himself of the Emperor’s favor. For when he made himself accountable to the court, examination, and sentence, he chose of his own accord to deprive himself of the imperial gift. This is what happened in the case of the Jews. Look how it is. All human nature was taken in the foulest evils. “All have sinned,” says Paul. They were locked, as it were, in a prison by the curse of their transgression of the Law. The sentence of the judge was going to be passed against them. A letter from the King came down from heaven. Rather, the King himself came. Without examination, without exacting an account, he set all men free from the chains of their sins. All, then, who run to Christ are saved by his grace and profit from his gift. But those who wish to find justification from the Law will also fall from grace. They will not be able to enjoy the King’s loving-kindness because they are striving to gain salvation by their own efforts; they will draw down on themselves the curse of the Law because by the works of the Law no flesh will find justification.’
    Chrysostom, From ‘Discourses Against Judaizing Christians’ I:6-II:1.
    October 13th, 2011 Cyberbrethren.com

  • Fr. Hans Jacobse

    Abby, no, I don’t think you are judging so don’t worry about that. What I read is that someone in your Orthodox experience failed to do their job.

  • Fr. Hans Jacobse

    Regarding the Chrysostom quote, again, all references to the Law pertain only to the Mosaic (Levitical) Law, not a cosmic moral law. Faith nullifies the Law because the righteousness that the Law was meant to confer can only be found in Christ. Why? Because Christ was obedient to the Law in full measure. His resurrection proves it. If he weren’t, the curse (death) would have afflicted Him as well and He could not have been raised from the dead.

    This righteousness is conferred on us in baptism, where we enter the death of Christ and raised in the likeness of His resurrection. “Likeness” here is not metaphor. It is concrete, existential reality made possible by the acquisition of the Holy Spirit given in baptism (what the first Adam lost the Second Adam restores).

    This is why the works of the (Mosaic/Levitical) Law are no longer of any value. Faith in Christ replaces it because He is the only righteous one (the resurrection proves He is righteous according to the Mosaic (Levitical) Law. The moral works that troubled Luther so greatly are not the works of which Paul speaks. That is why James is included in the canon of scripture despite Luther’s protestations that the inclusion was an error.

  • Fr. Hans Jacobse

    The fact that Jesus consented to accept the shame of crucifixion and death despite the fact that the sentence of death was not upon Him since He did not sin (again, the resurrection proves He was righteous according to the Law), reveals that His death was a completely voluntary sacrifice.

    The idea that 1) Jesus had to die in order to displace the Father’s wrath from us onto Jesus and that 2) this shows us that the Father loves us is foreign to Orthodox thinking. Rather, Jesus entered death in order to destroy death, to break open the prison in which man was enslaved. That His death was a voluntary sacrifice, that God Himself became man in order to rescue us from this death is what shows the love.

  • Fr. Hans Jacobse

    …2) this *displacement* shows us that the Father loves us is foreign to Orthodox thinking.

  • Fr. Hans Jacobse

    Greg, people turn to Christ only when they have to face their own brokenness. Their brokenness, their weakness, once faced is what compels the heart to deeper things. If they pick up their particular cross, which is to say recognize the inherent weakness exemplified in the brokenness (whatever it might be, it varies from person to person), only then is the Gospel compelling.

    That’s why the poor, hurt, lame and so forth respond to the Gospel. Life has not afforded them the luxury and comfort of endless distractions and medications. No amount of browbeating about how sinful they are will change this fact. So, yes, for a person to come to Christ he must first realize he is a sinner. But people are never persuaded into this self-realization. They come to it when they are broken by the vicissitudes of life (sickness, loss, and so forth) — when they realize that carrying the cross is a part of life; that one cannot find their life until they first lose it.

  • Abby

    Fr. Jacobse @47 “The moral works that troubled Luther so greatly are not the works of which Paul speaks.” I’m still puzzled about what this means. It seems to me that if Luther was confused between a “moral” law and “mosaic” law — that it was something that came from the Catholic church?

    Here is his take on faith and works: “Against this doctrine of faith and salvation, the devil, his apostles and henchmen, are fighting with all their might. They distort this doctrine with their heretical marginal notes and maintain, here is how you must understand this article: He that believes and does good works shall be saved. That’s why it is doubly important to be fully equipped to analyze their deception and reply, I know very well that genuine faith is active in good works, and that if there are no good works, then true faith does not exist; but opening the gates of heaven and being saved are things that only faith can accomplish; works cannot do that. I must first have the all-important gift of salvation. But when, through faith in Christ, my sins have been forgiven and the gates of heaven opened to me, so that I am saved, then I, too, can say: fiat justitia [become just], “You must live a godly life and do what is right.” – Martin Luther preached in the afternoon of Ascension Day at the parish Church, 1533. House Postil II:138.

    Here is how we explain his conflict with the Book of James from Worldview Everlasting.com: “Luther was not alone in his time for rejecting the canonical status of the Epistle of James. Cardinal Ximenez, Cardinal Cajetan, and Erasmus all questioned the canonical status of James (as well as Hebrews and Revelation). The reasons for this were many, its authorship is questionable whether it was written by the apostle James or not. The question of authorship was called into question by Origen and Eusebius who also listed it as antilegomena. Secondly, Luther pointed out that in fact James 2:24 seemingly contradicts Paul, especially Ephesians 2:8-9. Thirdly, Luther pointed out that though the Epistle mentions Christ, it teaches nothing about Him or what He has done. It is this last point that Luther considered the lynchpin for canonical status. Finally, it should be noted that it was not until the Council of Trent (shortly after Luther’s death) where Rome officially codified the canon. That said, also consider Luther’s remarks in his introduction to the Epistle of James: “I praise it and consider it a good book, because it sets up no doctrines of men but vigorously promulgates the law of God.”

    So what are we to do? Chemnitz followed Luther and placed 2 Peter, 2 & 3 John, Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation on the same level as the OT Apocrypha (or deuterocanon). Personally, I believe this is the most useful approach. That we read these books in light of the more clear, more Christ centered books of Scripture which have been universally accepted. Yet if we wish to reconcile James and Paul, I would suggest this, as our confessions state, “Our churches teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruit [Galatians 5:22–23]. It is necessary to do good works commanded by God [Ephesians 2:10], because of God’s will. We should not rely on those works to merit justification before God.” (AC VI.1, Concordia) And “Furthermore, we teach that it is necessary to do good works. This does not mean that we merit grace by doing good works, but because it is God’s will [Ephesians 2:10].” (AC XX.27) And “Good works certainly and without doubt follow true faith—if it is not a dead, but a living faith—just as fruit grows on a good tree [Matthew 7:17].” (FC-Ep IV.6)

    In other words, I cannot show my neighbor my faith, but I can show him good works which flow from faith.

    Key: AC = Augsburg Confession, FC-Ep = Formula of Concord – Epitome

    Matthew Lorfeld, Pastor
    Messiah Lutheran Church
    La Crescent, MN”

    Thank you for your responses!

  • Abby

    Fr. Jacobse @47 “This righteousness is conferred on us in baptism, where we enter the death of Christ and raised in the likeness of His resurrection. “Likeness” here is not metaphor. It is concrete, existential reality made possible by the acquisition of the Holy Spirit given in baptism (what the first Adam lost the Second Adam restores). ”

    Thank you for that understanding. It seems we agree that Baptism actually *does* something and is not only a representation of something.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X