A Presbyterian Writes with Some Questions

A Presbyterian Writes with Some Questions October 9, 2015

Sez he:

So I am a Presbyterian, but a bad one, and I have been reading the Orthodox Study Bible, and have taken the day to study Judith (I do weird things like this every now and then).  In reading about it, and doing some homework, I stumbled upon one of your articles and thought it was truly fabulous, well argued and compelling.


Currently I have no intentions of converting to Catholicism or Orthodoxy, though at the moment, I would find a stronger argument for Orthodoxy than Catholicism if such an event were to ever take place in my life.  My faith walk has been that of a godless moralist (whatever that means) to an Evangelical.  But concerning Marian doctrines and Apostolic authority, I’m a bit of an oddball in the conservative evangelical world.  What I want is to know Christ, His Truth and to love His Church well.  Currently, my work is in the area of prayer, church unity and evangelism… and my hopes are to one day see the Church more united than She presently is, so I read a lot across “denominational” lines.

Good for you!  “That they may be one” is the prayer of our Lord and we are called to seek the unity of the Church.

So my questions are… (1.) what books have you written that speak more to Catholic apologetics and/or refute Evangelical ones?

There are three that scratch where you itch:

1. By What Authority?:  An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition

2. This is My Body: An Evangelical Discovers the Real Presence

3. Mary, Mother of the Son

You can get them here.  Or, if you prefer, you can click through that page to the Kindle versions of those books.

And (2.) do you have any resources that refute Orthodox positions (Papal Supremacy and differences in the canon in particular would be questions I’m asking).

1. Jesus, Peter, and the Keys 

2. Upon this Rock by Stephen K. Ray

3. You might also want to take a look at John Paul II’s encyclical Ut Unum Sint.

I’m not up on indepth discussions of the difference in canon between East and West, but it basically comes down to “What is the custom of the Churches on those areas?”

And if your travels ever take you to Chattanooga please let me know.  I’d love to buy you lunch.

Sounds good!


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  • Joseph

    Excellent, Mark. You haven’t lost your apologetic touch. 🙂
    It’s quite common for those from Protestant denominations suddenly coming to the understand that *there is something more* to Christianity to lean towards Orthodoxy. I can speak for myself here as one who was raised to believe “anything but Catholic”. Marian doctrines and the Petrine Authority are obviously the biggest hurdles. I think the sources you cited are good.

  • Aaron

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think the Canon is an issue in Catholic-Orthodox relations, at least not from the Catholic side. The Eastern Catholic Churches use the expanded canon, I believe. It’s just not part of the Western tradition. Here’s a more in depth history: http://www.catholicbridge.com/catholic/orthodox/why_orthodox_bible_is_different_from_catholic.php

    • Joseph

      You’re right. It’s not. I think that, ultimately, the only really substantial issue between both sides is what is St. Peter’s role.

      • D.T. McCameron

        What about original sin, esp. in regards to the Immaculate Conception?

        • chezami

          The Immaculate Conception is the answer to a question the Western Church asked and the Eastern Church didn’t. So the Western Church naturally came up with an answer while the Eastern Church didn’t worry about it. The Eastern Church is content with the far more important fact that Mary is Panagia, All Holy, etc. and leaves to God the question of how she got that way. It’s really a difference of emphasis rather than a fundamental difference in theology. Compared to many Protestant view of Mary as a sinner, Catholics and Orthodox are practically indistinguishable.

          • D.T. McCameron

            They reject the dogma though (and with it, the authority that declared it)? And if the Mariology is effectively the same, doesn’t that shift the discrepancy to the doctrine of original sin?

            • Joseph

              The point is, they only reject the *dogma*. They’re perfectly OK with the doctrine as it doesn’t contradict Apostolic Tradition, tradition, and the Scriptures. To them, it’s not something specifically *defined* and is a mystery, but believing in the Immaculate Conception is not forbidden in the EO. For the record, they reject any *dogma* by the Catholic Church after the Schism. That doesn’t mean that they reject the doctrines that the Church elevated to dogma post-Schism. It goes back to the authority issue and how they see St. Peter’s role.

  • Bill Burns

    One difference in the canon is that the Orthodox churches include all the books of the Septuagint including 3 and 4 Maccabees (which we exclude). However, I read on an Orthodox site that they should have actually followed the Catholic practice following the Council of Carthage. Their notion of the canon is not as fixed as the Catholic. Some Orthodox consider procession of the Holy Spirit from Father and Son to be heretical, and they have a different theology concerning Original Sin (which also impacts their understanding of the Immaculate Conception and Purgatory).

    • Joseph

      This is also not *technically* an issue as has already been discussed by the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Popes in the past. The Eastern Catholic Church do not say, “proceeds from the Father *and the Son*”, so it’s clear that it’s more of a matter of interpretation and understanding than it is a theological hurdle. Talks between Catholics and Orthodox leaders have zeroed in on the authority question over the last couple of decades because both sides know that is the ultimate point of division.
      As far as the Canon, yes, like most things that Catholics have designated as *dogma* post-Schism, they are more willing to keep them in the realm of mystery. Mostly because they only view the Seven Ecumenical Councils as valid. We’re much closer to unity than many fundamentalists like to imagine. What I found is that Protestant converts to Orthodoxy take a fundamentalist approach simply because they still retain that little bit of anti-Catholicism that makes them reject Papal authority… and really it’s because they don’t want to understand it. They want the smell, bells, beauty, and tradition without Catholicism, which, to them, will be the Whore of Babylon until at some point they can crack their anti-Catholic bias and actually try to consider what they’re reading.
      Most *real* Orthodox I’ve met are cool with everything but the Catholic view of Papal authority, and really that’s just because they don’t believe that Vatican I was a valid council in the first place so the pronouncement is null.

  • K. Lundquist

    FWIW, I know our pal Rod Bennett has some interesting thoughts (published only on Facebook, I believe) on church unity and a proposal of a pathway to travel toward it. Mark, it might be good if you were to hook your reader up with Rod, since he’s not too far away in east Tennessee. 🙂