Reflections on 3 Views: EO/Evangelicalism

As far as the Zondervan Counterpoints go, this is a better volume.   I will forgo a thorough review, since expositing some essays would take many, many pages (and I plan to do that in my book on EO).  So here is a short overview, with strengths and weaknesses:

Thesis:  Are Evangelicalism and Eastern Orthodoxy compatible?  Notice that the thesis is not whether one position is true or not (though that inevitably comes up).  The answers:

Yes:  Bradley Nassif.  My favorite of the EO writers today.  While I enjoyed his essay, sadly he does not represent most Orthodox. He criteria of compatibility, as dissenter Berzonsky noted, were drawn from Evangelical, not Orthodox sources.

No:  Michael Horton and Vladimir Berzonsky.  Horton notes that Orthodoxy’s own criteria precludes any real “compatibility.” He then does  explicates the NT teaching on justification and compares it with EO sources.  If Evangelicals cannot budge on this point–and they cannot–and if EO cannot incorporate it into their own theology, instead of making sublating everything into theosis, then there isn’t much possibility of compatibility, much less union.

Berzonsky’s essay does little more than offer numerous assertions on why Evangelicals should reject their sinful identity and become Orthodox.   At least he is honest.   He thinks everyone is a radical Anabaptist and doesn’t make any attempt to interact with Horton’s arguments.   In the final reflections, he is quite silent on Horton’s specific rebuttals.

Maybe:  George Hancock-Stefan and Edward Rommel, Romanian Baptist and American orthodox respectively.  Stefan gives a very interesting, but anecdotal essay of his life as a convert in Romania.  He explains how the Romanian Orthodox elite silenced and stifled evangelical voices.  I sympathized with his essay but it isn’t much in the way of logical argument.  However, he did point out that in Orthodoxy the church mediates everything through the priest.  This is the theology of False Dionysius.

Conclusion:  Horton and Berzonsky are correct.   Per the latter, if Orthodoxy is the fullness of the faith, then what precisely does Evangelicalism have to offer?  On the other hand, if Orthodoxy is indeed the fulfillment, then please deal with Horton’s arguments.

Continuing the Future Discussion

OB is at it again and they are actually referencing intelligent discussions.  If they would only manage to let contrary voices participate, we might get somewhere.  Before I continue I must make one clarification.  Whatever good points Leithart may have made, he missed the most important point:  if Rome and Constantinople’s claims are true on church unity, then we are all in damnable sin.  You can’t simply say, “Hey bro, let me play too.”

OB’s post revolves around the debate between Hauerwas and Mohler.  Hauerwas writes,

But I suspect it’s true in most places because basically a buyers’ market, that very description, reproduces the presumption that you live in a demand economy that says that the buyer is supreme and they get to buy what they want and therefore…

As a sociological description, this is probably the case and few can deny it.  OB comments,

Membership is a matter of individual choice; one is not bound to a particular church body.

But I have to ask, “Did you not make a choice to become Orthodox?  Why are choices a bad thing when Protestants do it but the right thing when you do it?”  They further note concerning the revival of doctrine among the Reformed wing,

 Their stress on covenant and disciplined church life can be seen as a reaction to libertarian individualism rife in popular Evangelicalism.

This is a very important admission.   He rightly contrasts Evangelical libertarianism with Reformed covenantalism.  Keep this in mind, for any charge of “individualism” against “Protestants” (a word he always leaves undefined) will not stand by his own admission.  They note in regard to Leithart’s position:

If Hauerwas’ metaphor of Evangelicalism being in a buyer’s market holds true then the question needs to be raised as to whether Peter Leithart’s Reformational Catholicism can ever expand beyond being a niche market.  Leithart’s call for “Pentecostals attuned to the Christian tradition” (20:14), “Baptists who love hierarchy” (20:17), “liturgical bible churches” (20:22) runs against the grain of specialization and niche marketing that underlie Protestant denominationalism.

Who cares if Haeurwas is correct?  What matter is if it is true.   Other than that it is a good expose of Leithart’s position.

But what is Orthodoxy’s role and challenge today?

 It can be expected that Orthodoxy will hold fast to Apostolic Tradition into the twenty second century and beyond, while Protestant denominationalism will continue to mutate and morph into forms barely recognizable to those living today.

Nikonian reforms.  Desponysii. New Calendarism.  Sergianism.  They won’t touch these issues with a ten foot pole.

Where Protestantism emphasized the individual, the catholic dimension emphasizes the Christian life in community.

But earlier he noted that the Reformed emphasize the covenant, which contradicts this statement.   It hinges on what we mean by “Protestant.”  Historically, the term preserved these values, give or take:  Reform of worship, papacy is the Antichrist, penultimately legal binding of Confessions, and the covenant.  It appears that he is using Protestant to mean slappy-clappy-baptist.  He is equivocating on the term.

Conclusion

OB ends with an analysis of Internet Monk.  That doesn’t concern me here, except on a humorous point:  Spencer was giving an Anabaptist critique of the worst elements of Baptist culture in America.  I couldn’t care less.

Millions of Evangelicals will quit. Thousands of ministries will end. Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Many Christian schools will go into rapid decline. I’m convinced the grace and mission of God will reach to the ends of the earth. But the end of evangelicalism as we know it is close.

To which Grumpy Cat says,

Remember, Protestant =/= Evangelical.