Are Reformed Really this naive?

I try not to keep interacting with Orthodox Bridge.   I certainly can’t comment over there, given their commitment to triumphalist rhetoric.  However, as bad and insulting as some of their articles are, they can be helpful to Protestants.  If you are a Protestant looking at Orthodoxy, yet you also really know what you believe as a Protestant (an increasing rarity), and you see Orthodox guys reading your beliefs as such, you will be insulted.  Similarly, I am doing the Orthodox a favor.  If they will take my comments seriously, they will be better able to help honest seekers who know that the smarter Reformed, even if they are wrong, probably aren’t this intellectually stupid.

I am not going to interact with the whole article.  It is somewhat self-feeding and you get the idea after a while.  It is about a Jewish convert to Orthodoxy who detoured through low church evangelicalism.

The bad news is that often I would decide for myself what the Scriptures meant.

This is ambiguous.   If he is saying “my mental faculties were functioning correctly and I was able to use syntax to figure out what the sentence said” then there is no problem.  This is simply how language works.  If he is saying, “I found out the meaning apart from any interpretive community,” then it is naive.  But no Confessional Reformed church believes that.

I mean, I took sola scriptura (“only the Bible”) seriously!

No, you didn’t.  That is not what sola scriptura means.  It means the Bible is the norm that norms our norms.   If you don’t understand that sentence then you need to quit apologetics for a while and study some more.

Let me hasten to say that the Bible is all God intends it to be. No problem with the Bible. The problem lay in the way I individualized it, subjecting it to my own personal interpretations-some not so bad, others not so good

Every evangelical leans this in the first 5 minutes of hermeneutics 101.

In fact, it seemed to me that the more one held to the Bible as the only source of spiritual authority, the more factious and sectarian one became.

My tradition, the Westminster Confession, explicitly condemns the above statement.

Even the Old Testament was still in the process of formulation, for the Jews did not decide upon a definitive list or canon of Old Testament books until after the rise of Christianity.

This isn’t exactly true.   Paul’s statement that the Jews received the oracles of God would be meaningless if those silly Jews couldn’t identify the oracles of God.

Interestingly, it is this later version of the Jewish canon of the Old Testament, rather than the canon of early Christianity, that is followed by most modern Protestants today.

After Beckwith’s book on the Old Testament, few scholars seriously hold the above line.  Granted, if it falls much of Anchorite apologetics crashes to the ground, so they have a vested interest.

The rest of the article is too painful to continue.  If Orthodox Bridge wants to operate with childish notions of Evangelical scholarship, that is their prerogative.  I know they think that converts by the dozen are fleeing the Evangelical world, but I suspect those numbers are inflated.   I will leave them with some key evangelical works on hermeneutics:

Kevin Vanhoozer, First Theology.

Michael Horton, Covenant and Eschatology

James K. A. Smith, The Fall of Interpretation

Merold Westphal, Whose Community? Which Interpretation?

If you are even remotely familiar with the arguments in the above texts, then you can’t keep with silly posts like above.  If you choose to ignore these above arguments, then you’ve essentially conceded the game.

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In case they don’t approve these

To my surprise OB approved one of my comments.  I wonder why they haven’t approved this one.  Maybe they know, apropos my last sentence, that they can’t give a non-circular justification of their traditions.
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    I’m not saying the distinction is perfect, but an answer does hint itself. The concept of equity. Paul even acknowledged this in 1 Corinthians. A circumstance of worship is choosing whether to worship at 3 AM or 11 AM. Both could be pleasing to God, but equity–for most communities, anyway–facilitates the latter.

    And even some Scottish churches–especially during the Killing Times–worshiped standing up (since they were in the fields!). In fact, we can even see hints of a congregation sitting in 1 Corithians. When Paul admonishes their bad Eucharistic practices, he seems to suggest they are to be at something akin to a feast, which most people celebrate in a sitting or reclining position. In fact, if we are to go back to even the Institution of the Supper, all of the disciples–John anyway–were reclining.

    As to your latter two paragraphs, I simply dispute the assertion that your traditions today are the same ones that Paul mentioned in his letters.

Killing Dinosaurs

Orthodox Bridge compares the Protestant search for the “early church” to the movie Jurassic Park.   As usual, it’s the same thing as the other articles in that site.   But here goes:

to adopt an episcopal structure would mean surrendering congregational autonomy so precious to so much of Evangelicalism.

But are the only two options available episcopacy and congregationalism?  To anyone who has been to a Presbytery meeting this is silly.  For what it’s worth, I have no administrative problems with episcopacy.  What RA is not telling you is that False Dionysius’s ontology undergirds RA’s understanding of episcopacy: the bishop mediates grace to the priest who mediates it to you.

He quotes Ignatius on where the bishop is present in the congregation, there is the church.   A few minutes reflection will show OB really doesn’t believe this without qualification:  the last Greek service I went to did not have a bishop present.   So is Ignatius using the term “bishop” like the apostles did, something akin to the president of the assembly?

Many Protestants by reading only the Bible and ignoring the early church fathers end up projecting their Protestant bias onto church history.

This is bearing false.   He is equivocating on the terms “evangelical” and “protestant.”  I have challenged him dozens of times to clarify his terms, and he occasionally does, so he knows better.  When I was in seminary, as lame as the curriculum was, we read more of the medievals and church fathers than we did of the Puritans (or Bucer, or Melanchton, or John Knox, or Samuel Rutherford. Okay, I will stop).

 Similarly, for Protestants all they had to go by were ancient patristic texts but no living church tradition that goes back to the early Church.  This leaves them guessing as to what the early Church must have been like.

Quick question: Where is the “link” (since we are talking about dinosaurs) between verifiable apostolic documents and traditions like burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and the iconostasis?  There is none; therefore, he must admit to his own reconstruction.

 Protestants end up having to reconstruct the early Church as they best understood it to have been. The Jesus Movement of the 1970s had house churches where people sat on the floor, played guitars and sang praise songs, and everyone with a Bible in their hands.

More false witness, for he is equating hippies with magisterial protestantism.  Martin Bucer did not think he was reinventing the wheel.  He (and others) didn’t want to worship God in a way that God had promised to kill his covenant people if they worshiped him in those modes.

The Protestant view of history assumes that there once was an apostolic Church but itno longer exists today.  But Protestants and Evangelicals need to ask the question:What if the apostolic Church still exists today?  What if there was a church where the errors of the papacy were avoided?  What if that church was within driving distance today?

You show me the verifiable, written link between the apostles and burning incense to the Queen of Heaven.  I deny that a church that does so is a true church.

But when approached from the standpoint of the Old Testament pattern of worship transformed by the New Covenant of Jesus Christ, the Divine Liturgy makes perfectly good sense.  The vestments worn by Orthodox priests are patterned after those worn by the Old Testament priests.

But the OT worship is types and shadows.  Why are you gong back to types and shadows?  I agree with your comparison.  That is why we don’t do it.

If Jesus Christ is the Passover Lamb who takes away the sins of the world then it makes sense to view the Eucharist as the culmination of the Old Testament sacrificial system.

But if Jesus was once for all sacrificed, then why repeat it?

A careful reading shows that icons have a biblical basis in the Old Testament (Exodus 26, 2 Chronicles 3).

Church art is a different category than saying we worship God through pictorial intermediaries (which Karl Barth defined as the essence of idolatry).  It is bad logic to jump from cherubim on the ark to making a picture of God.   Further, if the OT is types and shadows, then the argument, such that it is, nearly refutes itself!

Protestant ecclesiology assumes a major discontinuity in history.

Said no magisterial Reformer ever.  Third instance of bearing false witness.

Protestant church history is based on the idea that there once was a pure and apostolic Church but that early Church fell into spiritual darkness.

The apostle Paul said that wolves would come in after he left.  He also warned against Hellenistic philosophy.  The Orthodox church is heavily Hellenistic.  Who is the “BOBO” now?

The current Patriarch of Antioch,John X, can trace his apostolic succession back to the first century.

Caiaphas killed Jesus and he could trace his claim back to Aaron.

The early form of church government was episcopal – rule by bishop.  Ignatius of Antiochthe third bishop of Antioch and a disciple of the Apostle John, wrote a series of letters on his way to martyrdom in Rome in 98 or 117 about the importance of obeying the bishop.  In his letters he exhorted people not to celebrate the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper) apart from the bishop

Except that most (all?) Orthodox churches do not have bishops presiding every Lord’s Day.  Which means that “bishop” was understood more along the lines of presiding elder.  The very quote from Ignatius seems to imply this.  Did OB even read it?

Continuity in theology

It’s not enough to claim continuity with the apostles.  The Jesus-murderers could claim continuity with Aaron.  The Episcopals can claim apostolic succession.  You must also, per your reading, claim theological continuity.  Okay, so where was the essence/energies distinction back then?

While Basil did anticipate elements of it, the Cappadocians saw God’s ousia as his divine life, not a hidden interiority.   FTW.

A Dialogue on Eucharist and Symbol

Anchorite:  Show me where in the first 9 centuries someone held to your view of the Supper.

Covenant:  Does Ratramnus count?

Anchorite:  No, he is a Westerner.  Show me someone else who held that the Supper was merely a symbol?

Covenant:  Who says I believe that?

Anchorite:  OrthoBridge says you do.

Covenant:  Sadly, I am aware of that.  Even worse, neither he nor his Reformed interlocutor knows what Calvin said.

Anchorite:  Well, here is what he said:

Something similar to Socrates’ Cave can be seen in Protestantism’s emphasis on the profound gap that separates us from God.  It is grounded in ontology (God’s infinity) and morality (God’s infinite goodness and man’s utter depravity).  The moral gap is resolved by Christ’s atoning death on the cross for our sins.  The ontological gap is bridged primarily by the divinely inspired Scriptures and faith in Christ.

Covenant:  Yikes, that’s bad.  The ontological gap is not bridged by Scriptures.  Saying it “bridges” it is misleading.  The ontological gap is always there, but there is an analogical, sacramental union between sign and thing signified.  Orthodoxy simultaneously holds to both univocal and equivocal models:  it is equivocal on their gloss when I approach the bible for I can never know what the words really mean, but it is univocal when they approach the supper because the bread is Jesus’s DNA.  I would critique the Orthodox for not knowing what this is, but Federal Vision guys don’t know either. Orthodox philosophy stayed in the dark ages after Nicea II, so it is not surprising that they don’t have a category for analogical union.

Anchorite:  See how he refutes you here:

However, this is at odds with the first century Liturgy of St. James of Jerusalem which has a twofold epiclesis: upon the congregation and upon the Eucharistic elements.

Covenant:  Did I miss something?  How is throwing a counter quote at me a refutation?

Anchorite:  Well, you all are Johnny Come Latelys:

One striking aspect of the Reformed worship tradition is the omission of the epiclesis.  The epiclesis — the calling down of the Holy Spirit on the bread and the wine — is key to the Orthodox understanding of the Eucharist.  The denial of the local presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist along with the omission of the epiclesis points to the Reformed tradition break from the liturgical theology of the ancient church.

Covenant:  Maybe we omit the epiclesis because we don’t need it.  We aren’t magicians.  We aren’t “changing” anything, so we don’t need a magical incantation.

Anchorite:  It is evidence of a gnostic attitude to history.  It seems that for many Protestants history doesn’t matter, that all we need is the Bible and faith in Christ.

Covenant:  If that is so, then why does the Westminster Confession speak of ministerial authorities?

Anchorite:  Many Protestants honor the early church fathers for combating the heresies of Gnosticism, Arianism, Sabellianism, and accept the early orthodox definitions of Christology and the Trinity but then show no respect to the way the early church worshiped.

Covenant:  That’s because God says people who worship the Queen of Heaven and pictures “hate him.” I agree with their conclusions but I don’t see why I am eternally bound to hold to substance metaphysics and sometimes bad exegesis (see the glosses on Proverbs 8).

Anchorite:  If the Reformed Christians are right on this, then the whole premise of II Timothy 2:2 must be called into question and so also the promise of the Spirit’s guidance in John 14:25-26 and 16:12-15.

Covenant:  No, we just don’t believe asserting the consequent is a good logical argument.  It does not follow that because you do something, and you claim “tradition,” that the apostles meant the same thing you do.

I will concede that Calvin had a Platonic streak in him. I find it hilarious that the Orthodox try to critique him on this point.  You guys think Yeshua is actually hyper-ousia, you have an ontology of “overcoming embodiment,” and you hold to chain of being–but no, Calvin is wrong because he is Platonic.

Some basics on Ascension

A post on the liturgical day here.

The moderator begins on a surprising covenantal note.    I am surprised–indeed, delighted–because Covenantalism is at war with his larger ontology of being.

He writes,

later entire nations like the Russian people in the tenth century.  God’s redemptive work in Christ aims at the restoration of fallen humanity through union with Christ (Ephesians 1:10, 3:14-15).

Slight difference here.   I can understand how the Tsar could be the federal head of a nation (but if you affirm that, why don’t you affirm Christ as our federal head who imputes his righteousness to us?), but how did it work out for Russian piety?

 The phrase “everything I have commanded you” is the basis for Holy Tradition which comprises both written and oral Tradition (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

This is assuming what you are trying to prove.  Paul said to hold to the traditions he had delivered to them.   How do you know that your cultural accretions today–like the iconostasis–are the traditions Paul had delivered?  You simply cannot know this.  Your argument looks like this:

Premise 1: If Paul uses tradition he is using them in the same way we are

Premise 2:  and we use tradition then.

Conclusion:  Therefore, he is using them in the same way we are!

This is the fallacy of asserting the consequent.

The main question I want to ask is this:  Is Jesus bodily in heaven?  If he is, and he only has one hypostasis, then how can he be in a million Eucharists on earth?

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.

 

Rejoinder to Future Protestantism

OB begins,

I am writing this response from the viewpoint of a former insider who is both critical and sympathetic towards contemporary Evangelicalism.

I grant his viewpoint as a former “Evangelical insider.” I firmly deny he has sufficient knowledge of Magisterial Protestantism, as will be evident below.

OB then analyzes Leithart’s own presentation. It’s mostly accurate though I do want to call attention to his use of the Mercersberg school later on.

OB writes,

Many of the original Reformers would question whether present day Evangelicals are Protestants.

I heartily agree. The Reformers will ask where is mention of the covenant or theocracy or Psalm-singing.  In fact, even among Reformed circles the latter is an embarrassing point.  OB doesn’t bring this up, but an interesting suggestion would be that “convertskii” are seeking to be an army of psalm chanters (of course, I maintain they will get buyer’s remorse).

He writes,

If one takes a rigorous theological approach one could deny low church Evangelicals and their Pentecostal brethren are Protestant. Charity and intellectual flexibility are needed to classify modern Evangelicals as Protestant.

It’s not a matter of charity at all. By denying them to be Protestant, I make no judgment about their Christian profession. In fact, I heartily rejoice in their claim to rest on Jesus’s Blood and Righteousness. Will the EO make the same claim to resting only on Jesus’s Blood and Righteousness?

OB writes,

If Pastor Leithart is calling for Evangelicals to return to their Reformational roots one has to ask why they do not join up with the church bodies with the most direct ties with the original Reformation, the mainline denominations. The answer is: For the most part mainline Protestant denominations have become apostate. Many mainline liberals deny the divine inspiration of Scripture, the divinity of Christ, and even his bodily resurrection. One has to ask: Why have so many of the mainline Protestant denominations and seminaries succumbed to the anti-supernaturalistic rationalism of the European Enlightenment? In military terms it would be like an embattled battalion retreating to a position that has been taken over by enemy forces.

This is as effective a rebuttal of Leithart’s project as one can imagine. I need not add any more.

OB writes,

I expect that postmodernism will take its toll leaving only a few congregations and seminaries unscathed. I expect the Protestant brand will still be around by the year 2100, but the content of that future Protestant brand will have been redefined to the point that many of us today will not be able to recognize them as Protestants or even Evangelical!

At the risk of the committing the tu quo que fallacy, the changes in Orthodoxy are just as significant. Any Old Ritualists around? How about the Lavender Mafia in the OCA? And these are the conservative failings. We can get much worse.

My pessimism is rooted in what I call Protestantism’s fatal genetic flaw. Lacking a stable binding hermeneutical framework (Holy Tradition) sola scriptura gives rise to multiple readings of Scripture. This gives Protestant theology a fluid quality, one that results in theological incoherence. It also results in numerous church splits as evidenced in Protestantism’s fractured and decentered denominational landscape. Leithart’s failure to address the sociological consequences of sola scriptura constitutes a serious weakness in his presentation.

This would be a cogent critique if he could demonstrate an apostolic connection between traditions today (iconostasis, etc)and what the apostles actually practiced, using only apostolic documents. It can’t be done and they know it!

The implications for the future of Protestantism are troubling. The more conservative, classical Protestantism of Luther and Calvin has no future. It will continue on in declining isolated pockets, while the ahistoric low church Evangelicalism that Leithart deplores will increasingly dominate the Protestant landscape. Evangelicalism will continue to mutate and adapt to post-modern American/Western society while oblivious to its Reformation heritage. Pastor Leithart rightly waxes eloquent about the need for Christians to band together but there is little evidence of this becoming a broad trend among Evangelicals and Pentecostals.

In logic these are what we call “assertions.” Rarely does this website give logical arguments so I won’t belabor the point.

Pastor Leithart’s call for a Reformational Catholicism is fraught with practical difficulties. He failed to inform his audience how to get there from here. One, isn’t it likely that a Baptist pastor who institutes weekly communion services and accepts as valid infant baptism will be fired by the church board? Two, how many independent congregations would be willing to come under a higher church authority with the possibility that they might be forced to embrace foreign or exotic teachings and practices? Three, who will have the authority to determine doctrine and worship where Scripture is silent or ambiguous?

This is correct, though there is a healthy return to the Lord’s Feast in Reformed churches today.

This raises the question: Can Reformational Catholicism have a future if so many of its best and brightest are converting to Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy? The numbers may be small but the caliber of their intellect is impressive. We are talking here of pastors and theologians exiting Protestantism! I wish Peter Leithart had spoken on the irony and significance of Jason Stellman who sought to try Leithart on grounds of heresy only to soon after become Roman Catholic! Then there is Scott Hahn, a Gordon-Conwell Seminary graduate and Presbyterian seminary professor, who converted to Roman Catholicism. Francis Beckwith was president of the Evangelical Theological Society until he stepped down as a result of his conversion to Catholicism.

These exit numbers are wildly inflated. I’ve challenged these guys on Orthodoxy’s Own Revolving Door.  People aren’t leaving Protestantism in droves. It only seems like it because Protestants make the best converts because they employ Luther’s dictum of bible and reason. They are very loud on the internet but they are not the norm.  Further, I don’t see how anyone can take Hahn seriously (something about Gordon Conwell is floating around in my mind).   Are there really the best counter-examples one can bring up?

Then one has to wonder about Jarsolav Pelikan, a Lutheran pastor and eminent professor of church history, who late in life joined the Orthodox Church. The group of former Campus Crusade for Christ staff workers and their followers numbering two thousand joined the Orthodox Church in 1987. Frank Schaeffer, the son of the famous Francis Schaeffer, became disenchanted with Evangelicalism and became Orthodox.

Please continue that thought on Frank Schaeffer. How did Orthodoxy work out for Franky? Is he a fair representative of Orthodoxy? Is there perhaps a connection between Franky and the aforementioned Revolving Door?

Missing from the conversation were representatives from mainline Protestant denominations. I would suggest that Leithart and his fellow panelists ask their mainline Protestant brethren: What accounts for the theological collapse of the church bodies that have the most direct ties to the Reformation? And, what lessons does the mainline debacle have for Pastor Leithart’s vision of a Reformational Catholicism?

Believing in a real Jesus is probably a prerequisite, and since there wasn’t a motion about apologizing to feminists or using tax dollars to silence the middle class, I doubt the mainline are too interested. The writer seems to suggest a connection between Protestantism and mainline Christianity. He needs to logically demonstrate such a connection instead of asserting it.