As a Protestant I cannot affirm the essence/energies distinction. While Orthodoxy equates that with “the divine light” and I do not, the latter concept is certainly biblical. It is the love and glory of God. Wolfhart Pannenberg recounts an event in his life:
The single most important experience occurred in early January 1945, when I was 16 years old. On a lonely two-hour walk home from my piano lesson, seeing an otherwise ordinary sunset, I was suddenly flooded by light and absorbed in a sea of light which, although it did not extinguish the humble awareness of my finite existence, overflowed the barriers that normally separate us from the surrounding world.
This actually sounds a lot like stories of St Seraphim of Sarov. I mention it because if it isn’t from Jesus, then it must be from Satan. Yet it would be a very odd move for Satan to make. Why would he want people to follow Jesus and write books defending Christ’s judgment in this world? Common sense says otherwise (as does Jesus in Matthew 11-12). We can note a number of implications from this event:
- Protestants are within the saving power of Jesus.
- There is no such thing as “Second class Christians.” The book of Galatians was written to condemn that very idea.
- This brings us to Cyprian’s problematic claim: outside the church there is no salvation. This is where Kallistos Ware’s book falls woefully short, though one applauds his moving away from his early hard Russian stance: if Ware advances (2), as it seems he does, then he has to concede that Protestants are in the True Church.
- If (3) means “only my institution” (be it Coptic, Nestorian, Orthodox, Catholic, Steelite) and none others, then Cyprian’s claim is clearly false.
- If (3) means “those who confess Jesus is the Risen Lord” or some such equivalent, then it is completely true.
- If (2, 5) then Protestants are within the True Church.
- If (6) then much ecclesiology needs to be rewritten.