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The UnReformed Truth

A Response to the Credenda Agenda

This page is a partial Orthodox response to an issue of the Calvinist journal Credenda Agenda, Volume 6, Number 5. A response has been long in coming because the representation of Orthodoxy in this Protestant publication was so distorted that it was deemed unworthy of a response. However, as the negative influence of this issue has been noted by a number of people, it was finally decided to formulate a reply. Interestingly, others have also publicly condemned this journal for its imprudent attack. Michael Morbey writes:

This said, I therefore find it ironic that the issue of C/A which you recommend could choose to portray Eastern Orthodoxy in such a jaundiced light that one would be hard put to find any redeemable features at all. I could almost be tempted to concede the point of those Orthodox Christians who would doubt that the Reformation and C/A were really in the Christian camp. Thankfully, I know the Reformation better than to allow this undiscerning and uncharitable line of thinking to intrude. If only the C/A writers could have come to know Orthodoxy better, by at least temporarily taking a stand within the system, as your 'presuppositionalism' properly requires....

I do not deny that there is much good reading in this issue of C/A, much that is refreshing, and much that should be thought-provoking and even salutary for Orthodox Christians. The overall message, however, consistently, one-sidedly, and with little real understanding, places Orthodoxy in the worst possible light, just as if Orthodox Christians were to dwell only (as they tend to do) on the darkest aspects of the Reformation as they see it....

While I would not go so far as to call it hate literature, I must voice concern that this particular issue of C/A is sitting there on a Christian web site, bearing a false witness against Orthodox Christianity even as it provides several helpful insights. It is not representative of the best of Reformation scholarship that could have been brought to bear on this topic. A 'caveat emptor' should come with the recommendation to point its way.

The bold face headings for each section are reproduced from the Credenda Agenda issue in question so that the reader can clearly tell which article each author is responded to. We made one minor change to the ordering of the issue's sections. We have placed "Thema: A Column on Our Theme" first, as it is the lead article that ties in all the rest of the responses. It should be the first article one reads.

Thema: A Column on Our Theme

The Puritan Eye: Thoughts from the Past & Historia: On History

Non Est: On Unbelief

We quote again from the post made by Mr. Michael Morbey on the soc.religion.christian newsgroup on April 8, 1996:

Nor has the author of this Credenda Agenda article fared any better in his portrayal of the 'apophatic' theology of the Eastern Church, which I suspect he may be miscontruing as mere 'negative' theology in the Western sense. Further reading in the works of Vladimir Lossky would have removed this misapprehension. Nor did he fare any better in his approach to the Orthodox mystical doctrine of Synergy which he takes (quoting St. Maximus outside of his full presuppostional context) as making salvation ultimately dependent on man's will. Orthodox synergy, however, is nothing more, nothing less than the Biblical reality of Philippians 2:12-13, consistent with the Greek middle voice of mystical union used in the word for (Heysychast) reflection in II Corinthians 3:17-18.  I would also point out that the Orthodox doctrine of Salvation as Deification, which Douglas Jones finds problematic and unbiblical, is certainly no more baleful and un-Christian than a similar viewpoint on this matter expressed by John Calvin and summarized by David J.C. Cooper: 'The task of the image is to deify (*deificare*) the children of God and to transform the world. Christ is the prototype. He 'rose for the purpose of making us...partakers of the same glory with Himself.' The chief instrument is the Gospel, the end of which is 'to render us eventually conformable to God, and, if we may so speak, to deify us.' The change refers not to 'essence by quality' in order to preserve the distinction between creator and creature. We are made to 'conform to God, not by an inflowing of substance, but by the grace and power of the Spirit...who surely works in us without rendering us consubstanial with God.' Although we have 'participation in God,' it is 'Christ alone' who 'has an *imago* relation in substance to God, men only by irradiation'...Not only humanity is to be transfigured. 'The elements of the world...are to be consumed, only that they may be renovated, their substance still remaining the same'" (Taken from pages 233-234 of Rev. David J.C. Copper, "The Theology of Image in Eastern Orthodoxy and John Calvin," Scottish Journal of Theology, 35(3): 219-242 (June 1982).

See Also

Orthodoxy and Platonism: An Exchange of Letters with Protestant Apologist Douglas Jones.

The Ascetic Ideal and the New Testament: Reflections on the Theology of the New Testament, by Father George Florovsky. This is one of the most important articles a Protestant inquirer to Orthodoxy could read. It is a lengthy survey of almost the entire New Testament. The author demonstrates that in each book the Orthodox doctrines of synergy and theosis are taught. He interacts constantly with the theology of Luther and Calvin, as well as the book Agape and Eros, by Anders Nygren.

The Transformation of Hellenistic Thought on the Cosmos and Man in the Greek Fathers, by Father Gregory Telepneff and Bishop [now Archbishop] Chrysostomos, (The Patristic and Byzantine Review, 1990, IX, 2&3).

An Excerpt from The Paschal Fire in Jerusalem, by Bishop Auxentios of Photiki. In these fourteen pages are found a very lucid and succinct treatment of some of the common misconceptions about Orthodoxy and Neo-Platonism, Icons, Palamite thought (including interaction with Fr. John Meyendorff's views), Western concepts of contemplation and meditation, etc. Start reading with the last paragraph of p. 125. The tables above this discussing the Holy Fire can be skipped.

The Humanist Quest for a Unity of Knowledge and the Orthodox Metaphysics of Light: A Corrective to Father John Meyendorff's Misunderstanding of the Theology of St. Gregory Palamas, by Bishop Auxentios of Photiki. Orthodox Tradition, Vol. XI, No. 3, pp. 7-17.

The Hellenic-Christian Philosophical Tradition, by Dr. Constantine Cavarnos (Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1989). This is a series of lectures comparing ancient Greek philosophy with the Christian philosophy of the Church Fathers. Dr. Cavarnos proves beyond any doubt that the Holy Fathers selectively employed the terms and ideas in numerous Greek philosophers—like a bumblebee collects nectar, to use an image of St. Basil the Great—, Christianizing them for use by the Church. This is a very careful study using almost entirely primary source material. The accusations of the Credenda Agenda are quickly discovered, in the light of this very important work, to be mere chaff—entirely without basis in fact. There is no excuse for men of their education to have so misrepresented the relation of the Church to Greek philosophy.

Stauron: On the Cross

No article was written as a directly reply, but see:

Veneration of the Virgin Mary, by Protopresbyter Michael Polsky.

An Orthodox View of the Virgin Mary: who is She and why do Orthodox Christians "worship" Her?

Why is Mary Considered Ever-Virgin?: a compilation from various sources.

The Place of Holy Relics in the Orthodox Church, by the Blessed Father Justin (Popovich) of Chelije

On the Veneration of the Holy Relics and Remains of the Saints, by Archpriest Vasily Demidov. Orthodox Life, 1980.

The Incorruptibility and Miraculous Powers of Holy Relics. See also the eyewitness account and official account of the opening of the tomb of St. John the Wonderworker of Shanghai and San Francisco (+1966) in 1993.

The Ecclesiastical History of the English People, by St. Bede. This eighth-century work is available in numerous editions, the most popular being the Penguin Classics edition. An excellent companion volume, also published by Penguin, is The Age of Bede. These books are filled with references to incorrupt relics, the veneration of the Saints, etc. Have Protestants ever read this?

Poetics: On the Arts & Similitudes: Stories with a Point

See Also

The Icon FAQ, by Father Deacon John Whiteford.

In Defense of Icons, the classic work by St. John of Damascus (c. 730).

Writings from the Seventh Œcumenical Synod in Nicea (c.787).

Exegetica: Textual Exegesis and Exposition

No article was written as a directly reply, but see:

An Orthodox View of Sola Scriptura: by Deacon [now Father] John Whiteford. A solid critique of this "pillar of Protestantism."

Disputatio: An Exchange of Ideas

No article was written as a directly reply, but see:

Paradosis and its Noetic Base: Towards a Spiritual Statement of Tradition in Orthodox Thought, by Archimandrite (now Archbishop) Chrysostomos and Hieromonk (now Bishop) Auxentios. This is the summary chapter (V) from Scripture and Tradition (Etna, CA: Center for Traditionalist Orthodox Studies, 1994). Appended to this chapter are two discussions about the misuse of St. Vincent's Canon.

A Commonitory, by St. Vincent of Lérins.