Note several things: I am challenging Orthodox claims, not the lives of saints and monks, nor the theology passed down in the Councils. Further, I still remain sympathetic to much in Orthodoxy. However, when I was communicating these Orthodox claims to other Protestatnts, I was met with the following responses. Dealing with these responses successfully will better help Orthodox Apologists in the Western world. I am doing you a favor. Please allow me to be very clear: I really like you guys. Some Orthodox thinkers like Fr Seraphim Rose and Fr Raphael Johnson have been so influential I really can’t put it into words. I am doing this so that your own presentation of the faith will be so much sharper. This is not a combative debate.
And when I use the term “convertskii,” I am doing it in good fun. An orthodox convert friend of mine coined that term.
1. By the nature of the case, oral tradition is resistant to verification. One needs a written document to verify that the tradition exists.
2. Even if we deny the principle of sola Scriptura, yet when explicit appeal is made to Scripture to ground a given dogma, then such an appeal must be exegetically sustainable.
3. In what sense is the church “objective,” but the Bible is not? Chrysostom thought it was objective.
4. Given that no Magisterial promulgation is necessarily perspicuous, any answer anyone gives to the question of “what is the criterion by which perspicuity can be identified?” must have been discovered by some other means. And since knowledge and application of this criterion will be a precondition for even understanding what Magisterial proclamations in fact mean, it turns out that the sort of private judgment about which RCs lament follows from Protestantism really follows from RC. (I realize this more touches on Roman Catholic claims).
5. to invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit in the church begs the question of how we identify the true church. In which church is the Holy Spirit to be found? What are one’s criteria? Why those criteria? I suspect that the very positing of the criteria begs even further questions. Of course, this is true of any tradition.
6. Appeal is often made to Vincent of Lerins canon. Yet in that same work, building that very argument, Vincent says that the church has always taught the Federal Headship of Adam’s sin (Commonitories, chapter 24). The reply is, “The Fathers aren’t right on everything.” Fair enough, by what criteria, then, is Vincent right on the canon and wrong on imputation of Adam’s sin?
6a. In other words, we are hearing an appeal to the Fathers to help prove tradition. But to justify the Fathers elsewhere, we appeal to other aspects of tradition. How is this not circular reasoning?
6b. Energetic Procession once made the criticism that sola scriptura was faulty because it relied on an appeal to what Scripture said elsewhere to interpret what it says here. Admittedly, this is circular reasoning. How is doing it with the Fathers and tradition any better?
7. By what criteria do we affirm that your miracle stories are true and mine are not? (And for the record, I affirm the stories to be true).
8. You laugh at the grammatical-literal method of interpretation of the Bible, yet you employ this same interpretation when you read the fathers. Why? Can I employ Chrysostom’s method?
9. It’s easy to make fun of the so-called 20,000 Protestant denominations, yet is the Orthodox church truly “one?” Do the “True Orthodox” count as part of the Orthodox world? Are they in communion with SCOBA, for example? What about the catacombers? Yes, ROCOR did reunite with MP, but the fact that ROCOR existed for so long seems to be an argument against the “seamless unity.”
9a. These True Orthodox guys deny communion with you, saying you “lack grace in the sacraments.” Here the Protestant inquirer faces an insurmountable difficulty: both sides claim to be Orthodox. One side was even formed out of resistance to Masonic and government apostasy (which seems to line up with what St Cyril of Jerusalem said on the end times–the True Orthodox shall fight Satan in his very person; therefore the prima facie claim to the real Orthodox guy goes to the True Orthodox). Yet both sides make mutually exclusive claims. Who gets to adjudicate? Appealing to one side over another begs all sorts of questions.
10a. If Athanasios is correct and that communing with someone is sharing in that person’s life and doctrine, what are the implications of sharing in the life and doctrine of one who has sworn an intimate oath with Lucifer?
11. Can I appeal to Gregory the Great of Old Rome on the extent of certain canonical books? Jnorm responded to me saying that Gregory was responding to Western needs, or something like that. Fair enough. My question remains: I am a Westerner who resonates with Gregory’s liturgy. Can I quote Gregory on this? Is his understanding of the scope and limit normative for me, a Western Christian?
12. I understand that many balk at the Calvinist’s understanding of God’s sovereignty. I don’t like it either. Ultimately, though, all sides have to deal with the claim: Is the future certain for God or not? If it is, how is this not God’s causal determining of the future? If not, open theism.
13. Cyril of Alexandria solved many problems. Did he create more?
14. Are earlier fathers like the Cappadocians and St Maximus using the term energia/logoi in the same sense as Palamas? Bradshaw affirms it of Nyssa but denies it of Maximus. Radde-Galwitz denies it of both. If they aren’t, does this not represent some form of development?
14a. As Drake points out, how is God simplicity itself and beyond simplicity?
15. Did Athanasius affirm the extra-Calvinisticum?
16. Why does Monachos block my threads inquiring about ecumenism and Freemasonry (okay, you don’t have to answer that question).
17. Much is made of the person-nature distinction, and the claim that Western models confuse person and nature with regard to Federalism. Yet the Corporate Person is unavoidably biblical (see also Achan’s sin in Judges; Isaiah 53).
18. The East rightly critiques Rome’s claims to unity based upon Rome’s faulty doctrine of God, Absolute Divine Simplicity. This view reduces all reality to “The One.” Applied to ecclesiology, Rome reduces unity to a visible, singular unity. Yet often when Orthodox talk about the unity of the Church, they use this exact same argument.
19. The Orthodox make the claim that God is hyperousia, beyond being. All of God is beyond being, essence, energies and persons. I know this is from Plato (Republic, 549 b, I think). Is it really wise to base your divine ontology off of Plato? ROCOR condemned Fr Sergii Bulgakov for doing precisely that. I know that some sharp Orthodox philosophers will deny that their view is Platonic since they deny that God has an opposite. Maybe so, but Andrew Radde-Galwitz, to whom these very same guys appeal, says that for Gregory of Nyssa every good has an opposite (pp. 206ff.), and these goods are correlative with the divine essence.
20. I know this next one isn’t true of all, but it is something I have been seeing a lot of: there seems to be an incipient Manicheanism concerning the use of reason. When I make logical arguments over at Orthodox Bridge, I am told that there is more to Orthodoxy than just books. Fair enough. But why the aversion to propositional reasoning? Maybe this is also why many Orthodox don’t like Perry’s blog.