Mother Hubbard's Cupboard

A look into the mind of one of the most random, crazy people in all the land.

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Location: East Peoria, Illinois, United States

A Lutheran seminarian eagerly awaiting the return of Our Lord. Soli Deo Gloria!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Review of 3 Views on Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism

This was posted by me at on "Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism: 3 Views" published by Zondervan.

This book gets four stars because of both the great idea of comparing the two Christian traditions and Bradley Nassif. The other authors were very unprepared for the book. Michael Horton does the best job of the evangelicals but still gets some aspects of Orthodox theology wrong. Vladimir Berzonsky was the worst writer by far because he equated all evangelicals with Anabaptists in their theological views (particularly with the Sacraments). This is not his fault though, because the book itself does a horrible job explaining what evangelicalism is.

The two evangelicals are (I think) Baptist and Presbyterian (or Reformed), but there are huge differences in these traditions, and I am truly shocked that none of the writers were Confessional Lutherans even thought the historical meeting between the Patriarch of Constantinople and the Lutheran scholars of Tubingen is brought up in nearly every chapter. This means no writer defends the view of Lutherans that the bread and wine in the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper have the real presence in them after they are blessed (with the exception of Dr. Nassif who also understands that the term usually applied for this which is Consubstantiation is a very poor term nearly no competant Lutheran and/or Episcopal scholar uses)!

Nassif also used the best methodology in his analysis of doctrine (that of Christological Maximalism) thus showing many views, particularly of the Sacraments (if I may dare call them that) in the evangelical churches were argued over in the past by councils who found such views contrary to the doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation which all branches of non-heretical Christianity accept.

My review should not be seen as a praise of just the Orthodox. Nassif happens to be an Orthodox writer who was at one time an evangelical and it shows in the quality of his presentation (even though I would say he should have made his position a maybe). The worst writer, Berzonsky both commits the aforementioned oversimplification but he also made it seem as if all the differences between the two were the lack of tradition (which in some ways I agree with), but also the denial of the council in which the iconodules won over the iconoclasts, which not all evangelicals would disagree with (i.e., not all evangelicals are iconoclasts.....i.e. me).

Overall I think that the book should have been much longer and should have been much more thought out by the last four writers. Nassif gets the gold medal....everyone else needs to repeat Seminary, or really read and try to understand either "The Orthodox Church" by Bishop Kalistos Ware (and the Philokalia for the mystically minded) or Calvin's "Institutes of the Christian Religion" (and Luther's Large Catechism and the Book of Concord).

This book is worth it for the first chapter. The responses are just kissing up to each other....usually :-).

Monday, February 20, 2006

D-Day is HERE.....N!! It's been SOOOOOOOO long since I've written here. What have I done? Well, I actually have substituted on two occasions. One was for 5th grade at Concordia Lutheran School in Peoria, IL. The other was East Peoria High School for three days. I also get to substitute this Thursday at least for Ms. Westler at EPCHS so it'll be primarily biology and anatomy. I enjoy it quite a bit and I hope I get to do it much more (primarily for money for grad school, etc.).

I also visited Chicago this weekend with Eurick. We stopped by at Wheaton, IL and visited McG and Tagge (who just turned 23!). Then we stopped by the city of Chicago and walked around a little (but stayed in primarily because of the 30 below wind chill!). Really we just sat around, played video games, or watched Family Guy all weekend.

I'm almost done with the Servant Leadership class I'm taking from Scott at church and I've also joined the Brass and Winds group......and I'm surprisingly not as bad as I thought I'd be for not playing much in the last 4-5 years. I haven't heard back yet from University of Kansas about grad school, and Bradley apparently didn't have the transcripts yet was sitting in the UNDERGRAD! I did get my degrees in the mail finally.

So aside from all that the rest of my break has been spent reading. I finished "Three views on Evangelicalism and Eastern Orthodoxy" which was quite deep theologically (at least the first article was....the one that was ~112 pages). There's quite a bit of agreement but much of the problem with the book was that traditional misunderstandings continued to be used unabated. One Orthodox writer equated all evangelicals with Anabaptists in rejecting infant baptism and the sacraments and as a Lutheran I know that many true evangelicals do accept the sacraments. The evangelical writers had a tendancy to overplay justification as the only way of seeing the Atonement while the Orthodox writers didn't help matters by rejecting justification outright (which isn't really what the main body of Orthodoxy teaches) due to its legalistic appearance. Of course both West and East support Justification through faith.

The main problem is that evangelicals don't understand that Justification in the Eastern church is tied to many other aspects of church life.....but it does come through faith. Many evangelicals also make the mistake of seeing Justification as being the minimum requirement for salvation (it is of course the only requirement) and hence that's all you need. Of course genuine Lutheran thought while holding the belief of Luther that one is saved "by grace alone, through faith alone" which we know from the Scriptures alone, does not throw the baby out with the bathwater and reject the idea that some aspects of Scripture are interpreted via tradition which is simply the idea that the Holy Spirit didn't take a vacation until the Reformation and as a result it isn't surprising to find the Church Fathers quoted heavily by Luther (and for those other denominations out there....Calvin did as well). While Father Berzonsky makes the mistake of equating all evangelicals as minimalistic copies of each other, it isn't hard to understand where he gets the idea. So many modern church worship services, particularly non-denominational services have abandoned all the traditional forms, including the liturgy which is extremely important in order to fill the worship year with what is needed.

As Scott said once during our class, the reason we have a church year with Lent, Advent, Epiphany, etc., was so we don't have a sermon series on Matthew that takes six or seven weeks....we save that for Bible study. The sermon instead should focus on both Law and Gospel, be preceded by an invocation with Confession and Holy Absolution, readings from the Old Testament, Epistles, and New Testament, then be followed by prayers, the Creed and the sharing of the Peace, Holy Eucharist, and the benediction. It might be asked where in Scripture is this brought up. Perhaps rather than answer that with an answer, I ask where in Scripture is it not mentioned? Early churches from our records had some form of liturgy, not just praise bands, prayers, and a Bible study during church. Whose decision was it to just abandon these aspects of worship? What was their justification? If it was to return to the way worship was like in the New Testament, I've got some bad news for you........while the liturgy did not exist in its current form some form of organization occurred. Did not St. Paul require that the Lord's Supper not be done until all had arrived for worship?

Aside from the misunderstandings the book was quite good and a genuine thought experiment. However, if you are not familiar with Orthodoxy or you think it is simply Catholocism without the're going to be lost....BIG TIME. The best part of the book I feel is the first writer. He is an Orthodox writer who spent time as an evangelical. He focuses on the similarities and believes both are compatible. I might be more along the maybe category, believing the more traditional theological traditions of Christianity are more compatible.

Aside from that book I'm also reading many others. Still reading Dune: Butlerian Jihad, Hostage to the Devil, Darwin's Black Box, and The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality (which was a gift from McG). I'll let you all know how they turn out. Till then, I'm going to sleep and pray I get a job tomorrow morning.....even though it's 1:30 am. NIGHT!