Given that I’ve been so critical of Orthodoxy and that the Orthodox are taking Leithart to task, one would expect me to defend him. I will do no such thing. While he makes some good points, he largely brings this on himself. Fortunately, the article isn’t that long so I will respond point-by-point.
What I have in mind is the logic behind some conversions, namely, the quest of the true church. Protestants who get some taste for catholicity and unity, who begin actually to believe the Nicene Creed, naturally find the contemporary state of Protestantism agonizing (as I do). They begin looking for a church that has preserved its unity, that has preserved the original form of church, and they often arrive at Catholicism or Orthodoxy. – See more at:
That’s probably a fair sociological assessment of the situation.
Apart from all the detailed historical arguments, this quest makes an assumption about the nature of time, an assumption that I have labeled “tragic.” It’s the assumption that the old is always purer and better, and that if we want to regain life and health we need to go back to the beginning.
A lot of Orthodox got irked at that statement, but do they not consider themselves older and purer? It’s a fairly straight-forward observation. I think most people missed his “tragic” reference. He wasn’t saying, “Aww, how sad.” He was drawing upon a certain line of thought in the interpretation of Greek drama (e.g., always going back to the golden age with the correlating inference that the future can never get better. This effectively guts eschatology). It’s a fairly genius point, but since no one in the world studies Greek drama, who cares?
That, I think, is a thoroughly un-Christian assumption. Truth is not just the Father; the Son – the supplement, the second, the one begotten – identifies Himself as Truth, and then comes a third, the Spirit, also Truth, the Spirit of Truth. Truth is not just in the Father; the fullness of Truth is not at the origin, but in the fullness of the divine life, which includes a double supplement to the origin.
Technically, I agree with what he just said, but few people really understood it. If by it he means progressive epistemology of our knowing the divine life, and hence, truth, then it is a fairly incisive claim which can’t be gainsaid. Unfortunately, not only did he not really develop that point, he failed to make the next application. If God didn’t reveal all truth at once, which he didn’t especially concerning the Trinity, then why do we think that he will reveal all at once in the life of the church? Yes, I know what Jude 3 says, but no one seriously thinks that the church had all the knowledge deposited at once? If so, then what was the point of Councils if the church already knew that?
My problem with all of this is that the Federal Vision/CREC company needs to own up that their own antics drive a lot of people to Orthodoxy. You can’t write a slough of books and articles attacking the Reformed faith and arguing for high church sacramentalogy and not expect your acolytes to take you seriously.