Related Content

Miles from the Truth

A Response to "Thema: Eastern Heterodoxy"

by Deacon [now Father] John Whiteford and Patrick Barnes

"A thousand words from the pen, in a stream; but ten thousand miles away from the theme." —a Chinese saying


In the past decade there has been an ever increasing level of interest in Orthodoxy in this country. Along with this interest has come a tremendous increase in the number of converts from Protestantism to Orthodoxy. Thus, it was inevitable that Protestant apologists would begin to train their intellectual artillery on Orthodoxy. In the Protestant Reformed journal Credenda/Agenda, we find one of the first attempts to repudiate the claims and teachings of the Orthodox Church in a way that does not merely rehash anti-Roman polemics (though the author does not fully escape this temptation, as we shall see).

In the lead article of the issue under consideration, Douglas Jones attempts to lay out the battle plans for subsequent articles. He briefly levels six specific charges against the Orthodox Faith in order to support his basic thesis that it is apostate. We have chosen to list these in the order in which we will address them, not as he presented them: 1) our theology is Platonistic, and thus pagan; 2) the doctrine of Theosis relegates the Cross of Christ to a "quaint sideshow"; 3) Orthodoxy teaches salvation by works, substituting human effort for Christ's effort; 4) we have subjugated God's revelation (Holy Scripture) to human tradition; 5) we place an undue emphasis on ecclesiastical power and tradition which has turned the Church into a magisterial authority dominated by "ecclesiastics"; 6) our worship is arrogant and pagan.

One may wonder why it has taken so long for an Orthodox response to this Credenda issue to appear. Even though some Protestants have found the articles persuasive, many Orthodox have argued that these articles should not even be dignified with a response. Jones' remarks in particular lack balance and objectivity. The Church that has produced tens of millions of martyrs for Christ in this century alone is to him merely a "synagogue of Satan." Common sense, decency, and even a cursory reading of Orthodox materials—let alone interaction with Orthodox Christians—would easily lead an objective person to the conclusion that the Credenda staff's depiction of the Orthodox Church is way off.  Nevertheless, we have decided to respond to these articles because many sincere Protestants who are unfamiliar with Orthodoxy  have unwittingly accepted them at face value.  We felt that a thorough reply was necessary for the sake of those Evangelicals who want to learn the truth about the Orthodox Church.

What will become more clear as one reads the rest of the issue in question is that the authors' fundamental misunderstanding of Orthodoxy stems from a penchant for analyzing everything through the prism of a Reformed Protestant worldview. This worldview is decidedly different from that of the Orthodox, and likewise that of Christian antiquity. Their mistakes are also the result of an over-dependence upon modern Orthodox writers (who frequently do not properly articulate the Patristic consensus), as well as a complete neglect of the liturgical texts of the Orthodox Church. The latter is an especially serious error; for our theology is often set forth in these texts in ways that other written forms of Holy Tradition do not. To overlook them is to invite error and misrepresentation, both of which are rife in these essays. In the end, Jones and company portray an Orthodoxy which no one (Orthodox or otherwise) with even a moderate grasp of Orthodox belief could recognize.

Though we wanted to give a thorough introductory response to Jones' many accusations, each of them will be dealt with more thoroughly in the other essays in this Internet rebuttal.

I. Platonistic Theology

Jones lobs his first charge:

A Paganized Deity. The Colossian church struggled in the midst of a culture enslaved to mystical and ascetic Greek philosophy with its degrees of divine being. To them Paul declared, "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ" (Col. 2:8). Eastern Orthodoxy loudly repudiates Plato only to embrace Plotinus, whose Neo-Platonic system has been openly cultivated into every aspect of Eastern Orthodox theology, from God’s degrees of being to human deification. Such paganism flies in the face of the first commandment.

This is a hackneyed charge that is frequently brought against Orthodoxy by Protestants. It is entirely without ground and indicates a superficial understanding of our Faith and its interaction with Hellenism. Twenty years ago this would have been excusable, for the number of works in English on this subject were very few. However, in our day, and especially for one who is well-educated, these accusations are rather astounding.

In arguably the most important book on the subject of Christianity’s interaction with Hellenism, Dr. Constantine Cavarnos makes the following extended remarks apropos of our discussion:

The presence of Platonic notions and terms is so noticeable in the writings of Gregory of Nyssa, a brother of St. Basil, that he has been called by some a "Christian Platonist." Two later Church Fathers—John Damascene, who flourished during the first half of the eighth century, and Photios the Great, who lived in the next century—have been characterized by some as "Christian Aristotelians." This has been occasioned by the fact that both wrote substantial chapters on the Categories and the Predicables of Aristotle. But a careful reading of the whole body of their works shows that they made much greater use of Plato’s writings than of Aristotle’s, particularly in their discussions of God and the human soul. With regard to Photios, it is very significant that in his Lexicon of ancient Greek words, entitled Lexeon Synagoge, there are far more references to Plato than to Aristotle. In listing words used by Plato, Photios often names the Platonic works in which they appear. He mentions altogether fifteen dialogues.

Moreover, in one place he speaks of Plato as "great" (ho megas Platon), but he nowhere uses this highly honorific word for Aristotle. On the basis of such internal evidence, there would seem to be a justification for calling Damascene and Photios "Platonists," rather than "Aristotelians." Actually, the use of either of these terms for them is inappropriate, a serious error, as it is when applied to Justin Martyr, Basil the Great, Gregory of Nyssa, or any other of the Greek Church Fathers. For the foundation of their thought is neither Platonism nor Aristotelianism, nor some other secular system of thought, but is Christian revelation. This very important fact is noted frequently by the Greek Fathers from the earliest to the latest. Thus the fourteenth century Father Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessaloniki, says: "Whence did we learn about God, whence about the universe, whence about ourselves something certain and free of error? Is it not from the teaching of the Spirit?"

The adoption of certain notions and terms from Plato, Aristotle, and other pagan writers does not make the Greek Church Fathers adherents of such writers. They would have had no objection to being called simply "philosophers." For they call Christianity "philosophy," "the divine philosophy," and characterize serious reflection on some problem or topic, such as those they engaged in, "philosophizing." But none of them called himself or any other of their learned Christian predecessors a "Platonist," an "Aristotelian," a "Christian Platonist," or a "Christian Aristotelian." Such characterizations were for them unthinkable. They were unthinkable because they would have been untrue, for the foundation of their thought was, as we have noted, neither Platonic nor Aristotelian, but Christian. Although they did use many elements from Plato and Aristotle, they chose those elements that did not contradict revealed teaching, but were in harmony with it and helped express or illustrate its content. In other words, their use of pagan philosophy was not a wholesale, slavish one. it was a very selective or "eclectic" use, which left them quite free to criticize the errors of secular philosophy. Material for this eclecticism was provided for them not only by the writings of Plato and Aristotle, but also by those of the Stoics and other Greek philosophers and, further, by ancient Greek poets, historians, and orators. The following remark by St. Basil is very illuminating in this connection: "Since it is through virtue that we must enter upon this life of ours, and since much has been uttered in praise of virtue by poets, much by historians, and much more still by philosophers, we ought especially to apply ourselves to such literature."

The guiding principle for this eclecticism was put forth by Basil and used by the other Christian philosopher-theologians or Church Fathers of the East. Basil advised: Take from heathen books whatever befits the Christian and is allied to the truth, and pass over the rest. The model to be used is the bee. "Altogether after the manner bees," says Basil, "must we use these writings, for the bees do not visit all the flowers without discrimination nor indeed do they carry away entire those upon which they light, but rather, having taken so much as is adapted to their needs, they let the rest go." . . .

One reason why the Greek Fathers selected and adapted such elements was because they found them very helpful for formulating in clear and precise form the content of the Christian faith. Another reason was the fact that the use of philosophical terms and concepts would attract to the faith the more educated among the pagans—those who had received instruction in philosophy. For these reasons, too, they chose as their language not the common Greek, the koine, but Attic Greek, using as their models particularly such great masters of Attic prose as Plato, Aristotle, Demosthenes, and Thucydides. From Plato, they took many philosophical elements, modified them to a greater or lesser extent, and assimilated them organically in the Christian teaching." [1]

The author then proceeds to show clearly, and from primary sources, how the Greek Fathers emulated the bee in their expressions of Christian truth. Dr. Cavarnos is an Orthodox Christian and scholar of international repute. He received his B.A, M.A., and Ph.D. from Harvard University. He has authored over forty books in the fields of philosophy, Orthodox theology, and Byzantine and modern Greek art and thought. He is exceptionally well read in the Fathers. In short, he is an eminently more trustworthy authority on these matters. Additionally, his findings are corroborated by a number of other eminent scholars, including Jaroslav Pelikan—a recent convert to Orthodoxy from Lutheranism who has authored, among many other fine works, a five volume history of the development of Christian doctrine [2]—and Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna [3], another widely published scholar of Patristic literature and Orthodox theology. His Eminence makes the following forceful remarks in the opening paragraphs of his article:

The relationship between Hellenistic thought and the theology of the Greek Fathers is one which is frequently misunderstood by Western theologians, not only because they look rather superficially at classical Greek philosophy itself, but also because they often overlook the clear process of development, during the first few centuries of Christianity, that led to a remarkable unity of thought in the Greek Patristic understanding of the cosmos and man. Thus it is that various theologians and Church historians hold forth with pompous and sweeping, if naive and sometimes unctuous, pronouncements against the "Platonic" or "Aristotelian" foundations of this or that Eastern Patristic notion. Indeed, even many an ingenuous scholar has eulogized the Greek Fathers with tales of their woeful fall to the traps of Hellenistic paganism.

One cannot deny, of course, the existence of certain affinities between the corpus of Patristic writings, both Eastern and Western, and Hellenism. Nor would we wish to disclaim certain general intuitions, as it were, held in common in these respective systems of thought. But the Greek Fathers, in "borrowing" language, images, and ideas from the Greek philosophers, maintained, in this process, views that are wholly at odds with the cosmology and anthropology of the Greek ancients. One might even say that their debt to Hellenistic thought is not so much that of a student to his mentor as that of a sculptor to his stone. The Greek Fathers built with the basic materials of Greek philosophy, but what they produced was different in form and in intent from that philosophy. The very vision of what it was they were to form from the stone of the Greek ancients, in fact, flowed from a view of man and the universe that the Greek classical philosophers would have considered "revolutionary.

Interestingly, as Carmen Fragapane points out in his article in this Internet response, the Church Father who rightly can be closely associated with a misuse of neo-Platonism is St. Augustine—the watershed Father for Western Christendom. His doctrine of the Holy Trinity, as espoused mainly in De Trinitate, is thoroughly imbued with neo-Platonic thought and has profoundly influenced Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. The resultant failure of Western theology to embrace the Patristic consensus concerning the dogma of the Holy Trinity is well known. As Christian truth is properly derived from an understanding of the Holy Trinity, the effects of Western Trinitarian dogma—especially the filioque—can be seen in many theological tributaries downstream of these tainted headwaters. Quite ironically, the charge of neo-Platonism could be brought against the West, not the East!

Jones also appears to be unaware that skeptics make the very same charges as he with regard to the New Testament itself! His failure to deal with this point significantly weakens the force of his assertions. The New Testament was written in Greek and the majority of the early Church Fathers wrote in Greek. As Dr. Cavarnos pointed out above, the use of various Hellenic philosophical terms was deemed necessary for the defense and propagation of the Faith. Certainly Jones must know that even St. Paul himself quoted approvingly from the Greek poets such as Menander (1 Cor. 15:33), Aratos (Acts 17:28), and Epimenides (Titus 1:12). [4] Furthermore, the use of Platonistic expressions throughout the New Testament, and particularly in the book Hebrews, is a well known and indisputable phenomenon which one will find discussed in great detail in any Protestant Biblical commentary of any worth.

Finally, Jones also fails to address a related problem which his polemic raises. Since he adamantly affirms the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, including St. Athanasius’ explanation of the Holy Trinity and the Incarnation; and since he also claims allegiance to the Chalcedonian Christology—all of which involves the use of Hellenistic philosophical terms that were brought into use by the Church—, how can he lambast Orthodox theology as being "neo-Platonic" and "Hellenistic" while not also indicting his own tradition?! His "guilt by association" attempt fails on all accounts in a rather embarrassing way.

II. Salvation, the Cross, and Theosis

Jones spends a great deal of time attempting to attack the Orthodox doctrine of Theosis, which he views as a par excellence example of the influence of neo-Platonism upon Orthodoxy.

In response, we note that the phrase "God became a man, so that men might become as gods" (i.e., "divine") was used by no less than St. Athanasius himself—a Church Father who Protestants generally hold up as a pillar of the Faith. Jones tosses this phrase into the arena, but he fails to adequately explain what Orthodox mean by it. The reader gets the distinct impression that he is employing these phrases and terms only with a view towards shocking the sensibilities of the reader.

Nevertheless, theosis language can be found throughout the writings of the Holy Fathers. The doctrine of theosis—that man can become God by grace, though not by nature—is without any doubt one that can be readily discerned in even a cursory examination of the Patristic corpus. The Church has always taught that man, by participating in the divinizing Energies of God, can become like Him.

The doctrine of theosis flows from the Patristic understanding of salvation, as centered upon our organic union with Christ through the Mystery of Baptism—"For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones" (Eph. 5:30). This union literally infuses us with the Life of the God-Man. As St. Athanasius put it,

It was not things non-existent that needed salvation, for which a bare creative word might have sufficed, but man—man already in existence and already in process of corruption and ruin. It was natural and right, therefore, for the Word to use a human instrument and by that means unfold Himself to all.

You must know, moreover, that the corruption which had set in was not external to the body but established within it. The need, therefore, was that life should cleave to it in corruption's place, so that, just as death was brought into being in the body, life also might be engendered in it. If death had been exterior to the body, life might fittingly have been the same. But if death was within the body, woven into its very substance and dominating it as though completely one with it, the need was for Life to be woven into it instead, so that the body by thus enduing itself with life might cast corruption off. Suppose the Word had come outside the body instead of in it, He would, of course, have defeated death, because death is powerless against the Life. But the corruption inherent in the body would have remained in it none the less. Naturally, therefore, the Saviour assumed a body for Himself, in order that the body, being interwoven as it were with life, should no longer remain a mortal thing, in thrall to death, but as endued with immortality and risen from death, should thenceforth remain immortal. For once having put on corruption, it could not rise, unless it put on life instead; and besides this, death of its very nature could not appear otherwise than in a body. Therefore He put on a body, so that in the body He might find death and blot it out. And, indeed, how could the Lord have been proved to be the Life at all, had He not endued with life that which was subject to death? Take an illustration. Stubble is a substance naturally destructible by fire; and it still remains stubble, fearing the menace of fire which has the natural property of consuming it, even if fire is kept away from it, so that it is not actually burnt. But suppose that, instead of merely keeping the fire from it somebody soaks the stubble with a quantity of asbestos, the substance which is said to be the antidote to fire. Then the stubble no longer fears the fire, because it has put on that which fire cannot touch, and therefore it is safe. It is just the same with regard to the body and death. Had death been kept from it by a mere command, it would still have remained mortal and corruptible, according to its nature. To prevent this, it put on the incorporeal Word of God, and therefore fears neither death nor corruption any more, for it is clad with Life as with a garment and in it corruption is clean done away. [5]

In this vein, we read in the Catechetical Lectures of St. Cyril of Jerusalem the following:

But beware of supposing this to be plain ointment. For as the Bread of the Eucharist. after the invocation of the Holy Ghost, is mere bread no longer, but the Body of Christ, so also this holy ointment is no more simple ointment, nor (so to say) common, after invocation, but it is Christ’s gift of grace, and, by the advent of the Holy Ghost, is made fit to impart His Divine Nature. Which ointment is symbolically applied to thy forehead and thy other senses; and while thy body is anointed with the visible ointment, thy soul is sanctified by the Holy and life-giving Spirit....

Moreover, you should know that in the old Scripture there lies the symbol of this Chrism. For what time Moses imparted to his brother the command of God, and made him High-priest, after bathing in water, he anointed him; and Aaron was called Christ or Anointed, evidently from the typical Chrism. So also the High-priest, in advancing Solomon to the kingdom, anointed him after he had bathed in Gihon. To them however these things happened in a figure, but to you not in a figure, but in truth; because ye were truly anointed by the Holy Ghost. Christ is the beginning of your salvation; for He is truly the First-fruit, and ye the mass; but if the First-fruit be holy, it is manifest that Its holiness will pass to the mass also. [6]

In other words, contrary to the Reformers, we truly are made godly by means of our union with Christ.

It is somewhat surprising that Calvinists would disagree with any of this, especially given St. Peter's statement that we "might be partakers of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:3-4). However, given Luther's teaching that a person cannot be made righteous but only legally declared by God to be so (recall the imagery for a Christian that he used—a dunghill merely covered in snow); and given Calvin's similar views, especially as laid out in Book III, Ch. 11 of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, it is understandable that many (thought not all) Protestants would take exception to an organic (instead of only a forensic) understanding of salvation and the concomitant doctrine of theosis. [7]

It is a shame that, despite the clear witness of the Holy Fathers, Jones is unable to see Orthodox teaching as anything more than neo-Platonic and pagan. Frankly, we would rather take the word of the two great Saints cited above—two examples of many which can be found in the writings of the Fathers—over Luther, Calvin, or Jones.

The author then attempts to impugn Orthodoxy’s understanding of the significance of the Cross:

Salvation without the Cross. Since deification is grounded in the incarnation rather than the atonement, Christ’s cross becomes, in principle, non-essential, a quaint sideshow in deification. Discussions of substitutionary atonement and propitiation are virtually absent from their published explanations of salvation. Such concerns cannot fit comfortably into their Neo-Platonic scheme. Deification needs only incarnation and a faucet of grace, but apostolic faith is essentially driven by the sacrificed Messiah whose perfect righteousness is decisively imputed to His people. Biblical salvation is deeply Hebraic, not Hellenistic.

Jones obviously is under the mistaken impression that the Church understands the Incarnation to be a reference only to the birth of Christ. In fact, it is properly understood as a reference to the entire first advent of Christ from his Navitity to His Ascension.  This is reflected in a widely available catechism by Metropolitan Philaret of Moscow, a document which Jones almost certainly owns since it is contained in the three-volume Creeds of Christendom by Philip Schaff. In this catechism we read:

Q: You said that the Son of God was incarnate for our salvation: in what way did he effect it?

A: By his doctrine, his life, his death, and resurrection. [8]

Reformed Protestants often view the veneration of Saints and their relics, praying to Saints, or even the free will of man, as somehow robbing God of the glory that is due solely to him—a violation of soli deo Gloria. That this flows from a mindset under the sway of late medieval scholastic nominalism has been aptly demonstrated by Louis Bouyer in his The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism. We will not elaborate further on this point. However, this same mindset is evident in Jones' accusation that the Cross becomes a "quaint sideshow." Jones apparently thinks that because we emphasize other aspects of Christ’s saving economy that the Cross becomes a "non essential." In keeping with our analogy, by venerating the other saving acts of Christ we are accused of robbing the significance of the Cross from the doctrine of salvation. This is patently false. Not only is the premise flawed, but his conclusion cannot stand under the weight of evidence from Orthodox dogmatic texts and hymnography.

First, let us examine the apparent premise: that an emphasis on the Incarnation, the Baptism of Christ, the Resurrection, etc., along with the Crucifixion, takes away from the significance and centrality of Christ’s Death. As Sacred Scripture and the writings of the Holy Fathers attest, Christ’s work of redemption involved far more than his Death on the Cross. The Orthodox understanding of Christ’s ministry on our behalf is beautifully reflected in this prayer of St. Symeon Metaphrastes. It is used by countless thousands of Orthodox Christians all over the world in their preparation to receive Holy Communion:

O only pure and sinless Lord, Who through the ineffable compassion of Thy love for mankind didst take on all of our substance from the pure and virgin blood of her that bare Thee supernaturally through the descent of the Divine Spirit and the good will of the everlasting Father; O Christ Jesus, Wisdom of God, and Peace, and Power, Thou Who through the assumption of our nature didst take upon Thyself Thy life-giving and saving Passion—the Cross, the nails, the spear, and death: mortify the soul-corrupting passions of my body. Thou Who by Thy burial didst lead captive the kingdom of hades, bury with good thoughts mine evil schemes, and destroy the spirits of evil. Thou Who by Thy life-bearing Resurrection on the third day didst raise up our fallen forefather, raise me up who have slipped down into sin, setting before me the ways of repentance. Thou Who by Thy most glorious Ascension didst deify the flesh that Thou hadst taken, and didst honour it with a seat at the right hand of the Father, vouchsafe me through partaking of Thy holy Mysteries to obtain a place at Thy right hand among them that are saved. O Thou Who by the descent of Thy Spirit, the Comforter, didst make Thy holy disciples worthy vessels, show me also to be a receptacle of His coming. [9]

Notice that almost the entire scope of his ministry is spoken of, not just the Cross. This is in perfect step with what the Church has always taught from the very beginning. One need only read On the Incarnation of the Word of God by St. Athanasius the Great to get a view of the breadth and depth of patristic soteriology. Despite this, Jones seeks to impugn Orthodoxy because we do not agree with his myopic and scholastic soteriology introduced chiefly by Anselm in Cur Deus homo and later advanced by the Protestant Reformers. Our refusal to do so stems from the fact that the Protestant overemphasis on substitutionary Atonement and the forensic aspects of Christ’s Death are entirely inconsistent with the consensus of the Holy Fathers. Though the idea of substutionary Atonement is not wrong per se and can indeed be found in Orthodox writings, the emphasis given to it by Protestants is completely unbalanced. It is the bad fruit of their whole rationalistic and legalistic theological construct.

Moreover, the Protestant focus actually reduces and narrows Christ's ministry. For example, where does one find in Protestant theology any proper understanding of the Lord's Baptism in the Jordan? Many Protestants would acknowledge that all of creation is under the Curse and has become the abode of demons; that not only us sinners but also matter itself must be redeemed. Yet the relation of Christ's Baptism to this necessary work is lost on Protestants. In Orthodoxy, however, this event is given its proper place. The following is just one of many texts that could be cited for the Feast of Theophany:

(Irmos) He who stilled the heat of the flame of the furnace
That mounted high in the air and encircled the godly Children,
Burnt the heads of the dragons in the stream of the Jordan:
And with the dew of the Spirit He washes away
All the stubborn obscurity of sin.

The fierce Assyrian flame that prefigured Thee
Hast Thou quenched, changing it to dew:
And now Thou hast clothed Thyself in water, O Christ, and so dost burn up
The evil spoiler hidden in its depths,
Who calls men to follow the path that leads to destruction.

Of old the Jordan was parted in two,
And the people of Israel passed over on a narrow piece of dry land,
Prefiguring Thee, O Lord most powerful,
Who now makest haste to bear the creation down into the stream,
Bringing it to a better and a changeless path.

We know that in the beginning Thou hast brought upon the world the all-ruining flood,
Unto the lamentable destruction of all things,
O God who revealest wonders most great and strange:
And now, O Christ, Thou hast drowned sin in the waters
Unto the comfort and salvation of mortal men. [10]

And this, from the Eighth Ode:

Let the whole earthly creation clothe itself in white,
For this day it is raised up from its fall from heaven.
The Word who preserves all things
Has cleansed it in the flowing waters:
Washed and resplendent, it has escaped from its former sins.

Thus, our human nature and all of creation was cleansed by Christ in the Jordan. He who holds the whole world in the palm of His hand and Who took upon Himself our corrupt nature has emerged from the waters having restored all things to their original (natural) state. In short, Jones' accusations should be recognized for what they are: the misguided potshots of an outsider who cannot see spiritual things clearly because he is seriously hampered by the Calvinist prism through which he views all things.

But let us continue with the second premise. Jones claims that, for Orthodoxy, the Cross is a "quaint sideshow," a "non-essential." Only one who has the most limited knowledge of Orthodoxy could come away with the impression that the Orthodox Church downplays the significance of the Cross. Aside from the fact that making the sign of the Cross is the most common act of Orthodox piety, and aside from the constant references to the significance of the Cross in our services, Jones needed only to look into a standard Orthodox catechism that is universally available, and almost certainly in his own private library:

Q: How does the death of Christ upon the cross deliver us from sin, the curse, and death?

A: That we may the more readily believe this mystery, the Word of God teaches us of it, so much as we may be able to receive, by the comparison of Jesus Christ with Adam. Adam is by nature the head of all mankind, which is one with him by natural descent from him. Jesus Christ, in whom the Godhead is united with manhood, graciously made himself the new almighty Head of men, whom he unites to himself through faith. Therefore as in Adam we had fallen under sin, the curse, and death, so we are delivered from sin, the curse, and death in Jesus Christ. His voluntary suffering and death on the cross for us, being of infinite value and merit, as the death of one sinless, God and man in one person, is both a perfect satisfaction to the justice of God, which had condemned us for sin to death, and a fund of infinite merit, which has obtained him the right, without prejudice to justice, to give us sinners pardon of our sins, and grace to have victory over sin and death. [11]

That the Cross is an essential aspect of our theology, life, and worship is attested by fact that on the date of September 14 (according to the Church Calendar) we celebrate one of our twelve major annual Feasts-the Universal Exaltation of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross. The Exapostilarion for this Feast declares:

The Cross is the guardian of the whole earth; the Cross is the beauty of the Church. The Cross is the strength of kings; the Cross is the support of the faithful. The Cross is the glory of angels and the wounder of demons… Today the Cross is exalted and the world is sanctified. For Thou who art enthroned with the Father and the Holy Spirit hast spread Thine arms upon it, and drawn the world to knowledge of Thee, O Christ. Make worthy of divine glory those that have put their trust in Thee.

Also, on the Third Sunday of Great Lent we celebrate the Adoration of the Precious and Life-Giving Cross. The first verse in Ode Nine of the Canon for Mattins reads:

Thy tomb, O Christ, has brought me life: for Thou, the Lord of life, has come and cried to those who were dwelling in the grave: "O all who are in bonds, be loosed: for I am come, the Ransom of the world.

Or this, sung by the Choir when the faithful are coming forward to venerate the Cross:

Today the Master of the creation and the Lord of Glory is nailed to the Cross and His side is pierced; and He who is the sweetness of the Church tastes gall and vinegar. A crown of thorns is put upon Him who covers the heaven with clouds. He is clothed in a cloak of mockery, and He who formed man with His hands is struck by a hand of clay. He who wraps the heaven in clouds is smitten upon His back. He accepts spitting and scourging, reproach and buffeting; and all these things my Deliverer and God endures for me that am condemned, that in His compassion He may save the world from error.

These are just a few examples out of hundreds that could be brought to bear from our services. No one who has even the least familiarity with Orthodox worship could make the kind of accusations that our author in question sets forth. The texts used in Orthodox worship perfectly reflect the Patristic consensus and the fullness of the Christian Faith. Those which speak of Christ’s saving economy are very similar in content and tone to the writings of at least one Saint who is dear to the hearts of many Protestants—St. Athanasius the Great. In his On the Incarnation of the Word of God—which C.S. Lewis calls in his Introduction to the St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press edition "[a] masterpiece… The whole book, indeed, is a picture of the Tree of Life…"—St. Athanasius speaks often of the Cross. Here is a small sample of the many passages in this classic work which show the importance of the Cross for Orthodox Christians:

We must next consider the end of His earthly life and the nature of His bodily death. This is, indeed, the very centre of our faith, and everywhere you hear men speak of it; by it, too, no less than by His other acts, Christ is revealed as God and Son of God. [12]

Fitting indeed, then, and wholly consonant was the death on the cross for us; and we can see how reasonable it was, and why it is that the salvation of the world could be accomplished in no other way. [13]

The Orthodox Church believes exactly as St. Athanasius the Great taught.

For this reason, and because of our "Hebraic" belief that symbolic actions participate in the reality of that which is signified, we venerate the Cross of Christ and employ the sign of the Cross in every aspect of our life and worship in the Church. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, quoted approvingly in the Credenda/Agenda, summarizes the importance of the Cross in his Catechetical Lectures:

Let us not then be ashamed to confess the Crucified [i.e., Christ]. [Let] the Cross [be] our seal made with boldness by our fingers on our brow, and on everything; over the bread we eat, and the cups we drink; in our comings in, and goings out; before our sleep, when we lie down and when we rise up; when we are in the way, and when we are still. Great is that preservative; it is without price, for the sake of the poor; without toil, for the sick; since also its grace is from God. It is the Sign of the faithful, and the dread of devils: for He triumphed over them in it, having made a shew of them openly; for when they see the Cross they are reminded of the Crucified; they are afraid of Him, who bruised the heads of the dragon. Despise not the Seal, because of the freeness of the gift…. [14]

This is echoed later by St. John of Damascus, the great Byzantine theologian, hymnographer, and dogmatic systematizer in the eighth century:

Every action, therefore, and performance of miracles by Christ are most great and divine and marvelous: but the most marvelous of all is His precious Cross. For no other thing has subdued death, expiated the sin of the first parent, despoiled Hades, bestowed the resurrection, granted the power to us of contemning the present and even death itself, prepared the return to our former blessedness, opened the gates of Paradise, given our nature a seat at the right hand of God, and made us the children and heirs of God, save the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. For by the Cross s all things have been made right. So many of us, the apostle says, as were baptized into Christ, were baptized into His death, and as many of you as have been baptized into Christ, have put on Christ. Further Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Lo! the death of Christ, that is, the Cross, clothed us with the enhypostatic wisdom and power of God. And the power of God is the Word of the Cross, either because God’s might, that is, the victory over death, has been revealed to us by it, or because, just as the four extremities of the Cross are held fast and bound together by the bolt in the middle, so also by God’s power the height and the depth, the length and the breadth, that is, every creature visible and invisible, is maintained. This was given to us as a sign on our forehead, just as the circumcision was given to Israel: for by it we believers are separated and distinguished from unbelievers. This is the shield and weapon against, and trophy over, the devil. This is the seal that the destroyer may not touch you, as saith the Scripture. This is the resurrection of those lying in death, the support of the standing, the staff of the weak, the rod of the flock, the safe conduct of the earnest, the perfection of those that press forwards, the salvation of soul and body, the aversion of all things evil, the patron of all things good, the taking away of sin, the plant of resurrection, the tree of eternal life. [15]

One might easily turn Jones’s arguments against him, asking why it is that Protestants never make the sign of the Cross over themselves? Are they ashamed of such things? Or why are there no special services of worship for Protestants in which the Cross is the focus? Why do Protestants not show proper respect and veneration for the Cross, as the Orthodox do? One could quite easily argue that it is the Protestant Faith that has done harm to the centrality of the Cross by rejecting the ancient and venerable Church practices concerning it, and by putting an unbalanced emphasis on the forensic nature of the atonement to the neglect of the other saving works in Christ’s economy towards mankind.

Aside from these readily available affirmations of the significance of the Cross, no one who is the least bit familiar with the Orthodox understanding of theosis would fail to see the role that the Mysteries (Sacraments) of Baptism, Chrismation, and the Eucharist play in connection with deification. These Mysteries are integrally related with the Death of Christ, a claim that can be easily proven by an appeal to our dogmatic and liturgical texts. It is through these Mysteries that we participate in the death and resurrection of Christ.

As St. Nicholas Cabasilas wrote in his classic work The Life in Christ:

What could be more precious than this death [upon the Cross], what more awesome? How great a sin had human nature committed that needed so great a penalty to expiate it! How great was the wound that required the power of this remedy! [16]

He who seeks to be united with Him must therefore share with Him in His Flesh, partake of deification, and share in His death and resurrection. So we are baptized in order that we may die that death and rise again in that resurrection. We are chrismated in order that we may become partakers of the royal anointing of His deification. By feeding on the most sacred bread and drinking the most divine cup we share in the very flesh and Blood which the Saviour assumed. In this way we are joined to Him who for our sake was incarnate and who deified our nature, who died and rose again [17].

St. Paul himself said of the Eucharist "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come" (1 Cor. 11:26). It should go without saying, but without any doubt, the Eucharist is the most central feature of Orthodox worship, and it is in celebrating this chief of mysteries that we emphasize exactly what Douglas Jones accuses us of relegating to a "quaint sideshow."

III. Faith, Works, and the Doctrine of Synergy

Jones cites "one Russian ascetic" (St. Theophan the Recluse) whom he quotes as saying "being assisted by grace, man accomplishes the work of his salvation." The intent of this citation is obvious: Jones wants his readers to believe that the Orthodox teach salvation by works, contrary to the Protestant belief that we are saved by faith alone.

It is futile to rehash here the centuries of debate between Protestants and Roman Catholics on this issue. Let it suffice to say that for Orthodox, the debate over grace and works is something that has never found a foothold. It is an entirely Western argument, founded upon false concepts of grace and free will as largely espoused by St. Augustine. While acknowledging that the Church did synodally uphold the Blessed Hierarch's defense against Pelagianism, his views on grace and free will that were later to fuel theological debates in the West remained foreign to the ethos of Orthodoxy. They are not supported by the patristic consensus.

It is interesting to note that in the entirety of Scripture, the words "faith" and "alone" appear together in only one book—the Epistle of St. James, which states: "See how a man is justified by works and not by faith alone" [ouk ek pistews monon] (James 2:24). Though Jones impugns the Orthodox doctrine of "Synergy", we find St. James specifically stating it: "Do you see that faith was working together [synergei] with his works, and by works faith was made perfect [or completed]" (James 2:22). Of course, the Apostle Paul himself also commands us to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phil. 2:12).

The Orthodox Church teaches that we are saved only on the basis of God’s grace. However, God himself has established conditions for us to receive this grace, namely faith and works—the first of which must be repentance. These conditions do not earn our salvation, but God nonetheless requires them of us, and this is what the Scriptures and the Holy Fathers through every century have taught. In fact, it is also what many Protestants teach. As St. Nicholas Cabasilas put it:

There is an element which derives from God, and another which derives from our own zeal. The one is entirely His work, the other involves striving on our part. However, the latter is our contribution only to the extent that we submit to His grace and do not surrender the treasure nor extinguish the torch when it has been lighted. By this I mean that we contribute nothing which is either hostile to the life or produces death. It is to this that all human good and every virtue leads, that no one should draw the sword against himself, nor flee from happiness, nor toss the crowns of victory from off his head. [18]

Also, the Orthodox Church certainly does not teach that the Mysteries alone can save someone apart from faith, as Jones implies. Judas received the Eucharist from Christ himself, and then went out to betray him—and so his unworthy participation in the sacraments was actually to his damnation. Consider also what St. Cyril of Jerusalem said in his pro-catechesis:

Even Simon Magus once came to the Laver: he was baptized, but was not enlightened; and though he dipped his body in water, he enlightened not his heart with the Spirit: his body went down and came up, but his soul was not buried with Christ, nor raised with Him. [19]

It is interesting to note that Lutherans specifically rejected the Calvinistic conception of the Mysteries. Instead, they affirmed that Baptism is regenerative and that the Eucharist truly is the Body and Blood of Christ. [20]. One wonders when we will see a Credenda issue titled "Lutheranism: Reformation Betrayed", perhaps with a picture of Martin Luther with his hand over his mouth on the cover. However, one probably should not hold their breath.

Our author then lays another claim:

Glorification by Human Discipline. Eastern Orthodoxy attempts to evade the charge of self-salvation by appealing to the foundational grace shown in the incarnation. Rome speaks of merit, and the East speaks of acquisition, but both substitute human effort for Christ’s effort. So both have reason to boast, but not before Christ. Climbing up the chain of being, even when aided by grace, is Plotinus again, not New Covenant faith.

Those with a Wesleyan background will find this charge interesting; because what Jones says about the Orthodox view of asceticism also impugns the Wesleyan Tradition, which has always emphasized the significance of discipline in the Christian life.[21] So if this makes the Orthodox apostates, it makes a large portion of Evangelicalism apostate as well.

It seems that Jones takes particular exception to the use of the term "acquisition" or "acquire" in relationship to the Holy Spirit. This term is found often in the writings of the Holy Fathers, especially those from Russia. Perhaps the most famous use of these terms stem from St. Seraphim of Sarov's famous conversation with Nicholas Motovilov:

"The Lord has revealed to me," said the great Elder [to Nicholas], "that in your childhood you had a great desire to know the aim of our Christian life, and that you continually asked many great spiritual persons about it."

I must say here that from the age of twelve this thought had constantly troubled me. I had, in fact, approached many clergy about it; but their answers had not satisfied me. This was not known to the Elder.

"But no one," continued Father Seraphim, "has given you a precise answer. They have said to you: 'Go to Church, pray to God, do the commandments of God, do good—that is the aim of the Christian life.' Some were even indignant with you for being occupied with profane curiosity and said to you: 'Do not seek things that are beyond you.' But they did not speak as they should. And now poor Seraphim will explain to you in what this aim really consists.

"Prayer, fasting, vigil and all other Christian activities, however good they may be in themselves, do not constitute the aim of our Christian life, although they serve as the indispensable means of reaching this end. The true aim of our Christian life consists in the acquisition of the Holy Spirit of God. As for fasts, and vigils, and prayer, and almsgiving, and every good deed done for Christ's sake, they are only means of acquiring the Holy Spirit of God. But mark, my son, only the good deed done for Christ's sake brings us the fruits of the Holy Spirit. All that is not done for Christ's sake, even though it be good, brings neither reward in the future life nor the grace of God in this. That is why our Lord Jesus Christ said: He who gathers not with Me scatters (Luke 11:23). Not that a good deed can be called anything but gathering, since even though it is not done for Christ's sake, yet it is good. Scripture says: In every nation he who fears God and works righteousness is acceptable to Him (Acts 10:35)....

"That's it, your Godliness. In acquiring this Spirit of God consists the true aim of our Christian life, while prayer, vigil, fasting, almsgiving and other good works done for Christ's sake are merely means for acquiring the Spirit of God."

"What do you mean by acquiring?" I asked Father Seraphim. "Somehow I don't understand that."

"Acquiring is the same as obtaining," he replied. "You understand, of course, what acquiring money means? Acquiring the Spirit of God is exactly the same. You know well enough what it means in a worldly sense, your Godliness, to acquire. The aim in life of ordinary worldly people is to acquire or make money, and for the nobility it is in addition to receive honours, distinctions and other rewards for their services to the government. The acquisition of God's Spirit is also capital, but grace-giving and eternal, and it is obtained in very similar ways, almost the same ways as monetary, social and temporal capital.

"God the Word, the God-Man, our Lord Jesus Christ, compares our life with a market, and the work of our life on earth He calls trading, and says to us all: Trade till I come (Lk. 19:13), redeeming the time, because the days are evil (Eph. 5:16). That is to say, make the most of your time for getting heavenly blessings through earthly goods. Earthly goods are good works done for Christ's sake and conferring on us the grace of the All-Holy Spirit.

"In the parable of the wise and foolish virgins, when the foolish ones lacked oil, it was said: 'Go and buy in the market.' But when they had bought, the door of the bride-chamber was already shut and they could not get in. Some say that the lack of oil in the lamps of the foolish virgins means a lack of good deeds in their lifetime. Such an interpretation is not quite correct. Why should they be lacking in good deeds if they are called virgins, even though foolish ones? Virginity is the supreme virtue, an angelic state, and it could take the place of all other good works.

"I think that what they were lacking was the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God. These virgins practiced the virtues, but in their spiritual ignorance they supposed that the Christian life consisted merely in doing good works. By doing a good deed they thought they were doing the work of God, but they little cared whether they acquired thereby the grace of God's Spirit. Such ways of life based merely on doing good without carefully testing whether they bring the grace of the Spirit of God, are mentioned in the Patristic books: 'There is another way which is deemed good at the beginning, but it ends at the bottom of hell.'

"Antony the Great in his letters to Monks says of such virgins: 'Many Monks and virgins have no idea of the different kinds of will which act in man, and they do not know that we are influenced by three wills: the first is God's all-perfect and all-saving will: the second is our own human will which, if not destructive, yet neither is it saving; and the third is the devil's will—wholly destructive.' And this third will of the enemy teaches man either not to do any good deeds, or to do them out of vanity, or to do them merely for virtue's sake and not for Christ's sake. The second, our own will, teaches us to do everything to flatter our passions, or else it teaches us like the enemy to do good for the sake of good and not care for the grace which is acquired by it. But the first, God's all-saving will, consists in doing good solely to acquire the Holy Spirit, as an eternal, inexhaustible treasure which cannot be rightly valued. The acquisition of the Holy Spirit is, so to say, the oil which the foolish virgins lacked. They were called foolish just because they had forgotten the necessary fruit of virtue, the grace of the Holy Spirit, without which no one is or can be saved, for: 'Every soul is quickened by the Holy Spirit and exalted by purity and mystically illumined by the Trinal Unity.'

"This is the oil in the lamps of the wise virgins which could burn long and brightly, and these virgins with their burning lamps were able to meet the Bridegroom, Who came at midnight, and could enter the bridechamber of joy with Him. But the foolish ones, though they went to market to buy some oil when they saw their lamps going out, were unable to return in time, for the door was already shut. The market is our life; the door of the bridechamber which was shut and which barred the way to the Bridegroom is human death; the wise and foolish virgins are Christian souls; the oil is not good deeds but the grace of the All-Holy Spirit of God which is obtained through them and which changes souls from one state to another—that is, from corruption to incorruption, from spiritual death to spiritual life, from darkness to light, from the stable of our being (where the passions are tied up like dumb animals and wild beasts) into a Temple of the Divinity, into the shining bridechamber of eternal joy in Christ Jesus our Lord, the Creator and Redeemer and eternal Bridegroom of our souls.

As one can see, nowhere does St. Seraphim suggest that we can "merit"—in the medieval Papist sense—the gift of the Holy Spirit. In context, the terms "acquisition" and "acquiring" are used metaphorically in a way not unlike the way our Lord spoke in parables (the Pearl of Great Price immediately comes to mind).  As with most metaphors or analogies, they break down when pressed beyond their original limited intent.  The reader is encouraged to consider the entire "Conversation" with great care. It is a profound work, and captures perfectly the Orthodox understanding of the Christian life.

In this vein consider also this prayer, said every morning by Orthodox Christians around the world:

O my plenteously-merciful and all-merciful God, Lord Jesus Christ, through Thy great love Thou didst come down and become incarnate so that Thou mightest save all. And again, O Saviour, save me by Thy grace, I pray Thee. For if Thou shouldst save me for my works, this would not be grace or a gift, but rather a duty; yea, Thou who art great in compassion and ineffable in mercy. "For he that believeth in me," Thou hast said, O my Christ, "shall live and never see death." If then, faith in Thee saveth the desperate, behold, I believe, save me, for Thou art my God and Creator. Let faith instead of works be imputed to me, O my God, for Thou wilt find no works which could justify me. But may my faith suffice instead of all works...

But note carefully: this faith is not separated from works, for the prayer concludes:

Vouchsafe me, O Lord, to love Thee now as fervently as I once loved sin itself, and also to work for Thee without idleness, diligently, as I worked before for deceptive Satan. But supremely shall I work for Thee, my Lord and God, Jesus Christ, all the days of my life, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen" [22].

In short, the Orthodox Church strongly affirms that which is clearly taught in Holy Scripture: that we are saved by grace through faith—but not by faith alone (James 2:24). For those who wish to delve into this further, Carmen Fragapane's response to Jones' "Salvation by Plotinus" and Fr. George Florovsky's "The Ascetic Ideal in the New Testament" thoroughly address Jones' misconceptions.

IV. Scripture and Tradition

Jones continues with another "Orthodox apostasy":

Subjugation of Scripture. Christ reserved some of his most heated denunciations for that ecclesiastical body which subjugated God’s revelation to human tradition. Eastern Orthodoxy attempts to evade this charge by claiming to preserve only divine tradition. But the Pharisees made the same claim, and it in no way alleviated Christ’s condemnations. Those who attempt to suppress God’s covenantal word invite on themselves the curses of the covenant.

This is an unsubstantiated accusation. It has been answered in detail in a monograph by Fr. Deacon John Whiteford entitled Sola Scriptura: an Orthodox Analysis of the Cornerstone of Reformation Theology. Speaking about the fact that early Christians often did not have access to the writings of Holy Scripture, Father John writes:

So how did they know the Gospel, the life and teachings of Christ, how to worship, what to believe about the nature of Christ, etc? They had only the Oral Tradition handed down from the Apostles.

Sure, many in the early Church heard these things directly from the Apostles themselves, but many more did not, especially with the passing of the First Century and the Apostles with it. Later generations had access to the writings of the Apostles through the New Testament, but the early Church depended on Oral Tradition almost entirely for its knowledge of the Christian faith.

This dependence upon tradition is evident in the New Testament writings themselves. For example, Saint Paul exhorts the Thessalonians: "Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word [i.e. oral tradition] or our epistle" (II Thessalonians 2:15).

The word here translated "traditions" is the Greek word paradosis—which, though translated differently in some Protestant versions, is the same word that the Greek Orthodox use when speaking of Tradition, and few competent Bible scholars would dispute this meaning. The word itself literally means "what is transmitted." It is the same word used when referring negatively to the false teachings of the Pharisees (Mark 7:3, 5, 8), and also when referring to authoritative Christian teaching (I Corinthians 11:2, Second Thessalonians 2:15).

So what makes the tradition of the Pharisees false and that of the Church true? The source! Christ made clear what was the source of the traditions of the Pharisees when He called them "the traditions of men" (Mark 7:8). Saint Paul on the other hand, in reference to Christian Tradition states, "I praise you brethren, that you remember me in all things and hold fast to the traditions [paradoseis] just as I delivered [paredoka, a verbal form of paradosis] them to you" (First Corinthians 11:2), but where did he get these traditions in the first place? "I received from the Lord that which I delivered [paredoka] to you" (first Corinthians 11:23). This is what the Orthodox Church refers to when it speaks of the Apostolic Tradition—"the Faith once delivered [paradotheise] unto the saints" (Jude 3). Its source is Christ, it was delivered personally by Him to the Apostles through all that He said and did, which if it all were all written down, "the world itself could not contain the books that should be written" (John 21:25). The Apostles delivered this knowldge to the entire Church, and the Church, being the repository of this treasure thus became "the pillar and ground of the Truth" (I Timothy 3:15).

The testimony of the New Testament is clear on this point: the early Christians had both oral and written traditions which they received from Christ through the Apostles. For written tradition they at first had only fragments—one local church had an Epistle, another perhaps a Gospel. Gradually these writings were gathered together into collections and ultimately they became the New Testament. And how did these early Christians know which books were authentic and which were not—for (as already noted) there were numerous spurious epistles and gospels claimed by heretics to have been written by Apostles? It was the oral Apostolic Tradition that aided the Church in making this determination. [23]

Jones' tactic is "guilt by association." As the Pharisees were condemned for appealing to tradition, in likewise manner should the Orthodox be condemned. The inadequacy of this charge, if not evident by now, will become glaringly so after our critique of his claim that our worship is arrogant (Section VI).

Though Jones does not make this specific accusation, it is here worth highlighting the fact that the Orthodox Church has always strongly encouraged the reading of the Scriptures among the faithful. Anyone familiar with the writings of the ascetic Fathers will know that great emphasis is laid upon reading and doing the Gospels in particular. An example is the focus that is clearly evident in The Arena, the nineteenth century classic by St. Ignaty (Brianchaninov).  Bishop (then Archimandrite) Kallistos (Ware) made the following remarks apropos of our rebuttal in his Introduction:

What are the chief sources upon which Ignatius relies in presenting his picture of the Christian's path? First and foremost comes the Bible. Ignatius quotes frequently from Scripture, and he underlines with great clarity the part which the Gospels in particular should play in our ascetic training. 'From his very entry into the monastery'—such are the opening words of The Arena—'a monk should occupy himself with all possible care and attention with the reading of the holy Gospel. He should make such a study of the Gospel that it may always be present in his memory, and at every moral step he takes, for every act, for every thought, he may always have ready in his memory the teaching of the Gospel.' 'Never cease studying the Gospel till the end of your life,' Ignatius adds a little later. 'Do not think that you know it enough, even if you know it by heart'." Those who imagine that the Orthodox Church pays insufficient attention to the Bible would do well to keep these passages from The Arena in mind. No 'Evangelical' in Victorian England showed a greater reverence for God's Word than this nineteeth century Russian bishop. [24]

In another Russian Orthodox classic, The Way of Pilgrim, we read about the spiritual journey of a man who travels through Russia with only a New Testament and a copy of Philokalia. Another example among many of the emphasis given in Orthodoxy to the reading of God's word is a story found in the booklet Missionary Conversations with Protestant Sectarians. [25] In it we read that a Russian priest, after defeating a Protestant in a public debate, then proceeds to hand out free copies of the Russian New Testament to the crowd.

The Orthodox Church has also continually made the translation of the Scriptures into the native tongue the first priority when doing missionary work. Moreover, one who is familiar with Orthodox worship would know that our hymnography is almost entirely drawn from Holy Scripture.[26] To study these texts is to be rewarded with many profound insights into a variety of topological themes related to our Redemption. Various circles within the Protestant Reformed tradition have always placed emphasis on typology. It is a wonder why Jones has not seen this.

We might also add that all Orthodox Christians hear a passage each from the Gospels and the remainder of the New Testament (excluding the Book of Revelation) at every Divine Liturgy. Much of the Psalter is also chanted at this service. If one attends other Orthodox services a similar emphasis is found. One could truthfully say that the Bible is read and heard more in Orthodox worship than in any form of Protestant worship!

V. The Church and Authority

Jones' remarks concerning Orthodox ecclesiology were worded in such a way that it was difficult to determine what he was trying to say. He also made no attempt to substantiate his claims. Nevertheless, we have deduced several ecclesiological questions that are worth addressing.

First, Jones begins his essay with a fairly accurate presentation of some tenets of Orthodox ecclesiology, though, for example, he erroneously states:

Rejecting the infallibility of Church councils and the Roman Pontiff, Eastern Orthodoxy holds that the "decisions of an Ecumenical [worldwide] Council, formulated by the bishops under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and accepted by the clergy and laity, constitute the highest authority of the Orthodox Church."

While it is certainly true that the Orthodox Church rejects the infallibility of the Pope; and while it is true that we do not vest blanket infallibility in any gathering of Bishops in Synod; it is not true that we reject the infallibility of truly Ecumenical Councils (better, "Œcumenical Synods").  In fact, quite the opposite is true. We consider the decrees of such Synods to be an infallible and inspired defense of the Apostolic Faith. But it is vitally important to understand that Œcumenical Synods do not constitute the highest authority in the Orthodox Church. Authority for us is rooted in Christ, the Head of the Church. As Jones correctly points out elsewhere,

the whole Church catholic... bishops, presbyters, deacons, and laity,... through time and space, amounts to an ongoing council.... In the long run, then, ultimate authority is vested by Him [Christ] in her.

This authority is expressed in the written and oral traditions of the Church—i.e., Holy Tradition, which could also be called the Mind of Christ. One's ability to discern the Mind of Christ grows through participation in the Mysteries of the Church, ascetic struggle leading to purification of the soul, and reading the Lives and writings of the Saints. In this way a person begins to acquire or enter into the phronema ton Pateron, or "mind of the Fathers," which enables him or her to know the will of God to an ever greater extent.  Relating this concept to our discussion of Bishops meeting in Synod we would say that when the entire Church accepts their synodal conclusions—i.e., when Her members confirm that what was stated conforms to the Mind of Christ (Holy Tradition)—then this synod is invested with authority. We might also not that this "entering into" is another aspect of the acquisition of the Holy Spirit, as discussed in an earlier section. Ultimately, then, authority is for Orthodox Christians a pneumatological concept that is not easily related to those outside of the Church.[27]

In another place Jones tosses out the following Patristic reference without sufficient explanation. It is one that would undoubtedly foster alarm in the mind of most Protestant readers:

Given this, they strongly affirm the generalization that "Outside the Church there is no salvation, because salvation is the Church."

This statement comes from no less than St. Cyprian of Carthage, an early Hieromartyr of the Church. It is also echoed in the writings of other Saints such as Augustine of Hippo. The reader should understand that the Orthodox Church does not teach that everyone who remains outside of Her in this life will be eternally damned. As Patrick Barnes notes in his book on this complex and subtle question:

The status of the heterodox is properly seen in two ways. When speaking of their ecclesial status—i.e., their relation to the Orthodox Church—we would say that the heterodox cannot be seen as Her members because they have not been ingrafted into the one true Body of Christ through Holy Baptism. On the other hand, when speaking of their eternal status—i.e., the implications of this ecclesial separation—, we leave them to the mercy of God and do not judge them. To affirm their separation is not to imply their damnation.

The final issue Jones raises concerning ecclesiology is contained in his list of our supposed "Primary Apostasies":

Church as Emperor. With God's written revelation suppressed due to its "obscurity," the ecclesiastics take over the supreme position. Their own traditions are somehow remarkably clearer than God's word. Once supreme and unconstrained, the church becomes a magisterial authority rather than ministerial authority. That is not Christ's Church.

It is unfortunate that Jones does not elaborate further. We can only make an educated guess about what disturbs him. The accusation follows on the heels of the claim that we subjugate Scripture to human tradition. (This we have dealt with in the previous section.) In this context, what our author seems to be saying is that, having suppressed the witness of Holy Scripture, the institutional side of the Orthodox Church—i.e., the Priest, Bishops, and other authoritative "ecclesiastics"—has stepped into the silent void, bringing with it a certain unscriptural dictatorial power that squelches the ministerial side of the Church.

Here Jones is clearly viewing Orthodoxy through the lens of medieval Papal abuses. The result is a complete distortion of the true nature of Orthodox ecclesiology. The essence of the mistake is a confusion over prophecy and order. The prophetic nature of the Church has always prevailed over the administrative aspect of the Church when the need arose. Orthodoxy teaches that the entire Body of Christ is responsible as guardians of the Faith: "...because the protector of religion is the very body of the Church, even the people themselves...." [28] Church history is replete with times when the "ecclesiastics" had fallen to heresy and the laypeople were left to defend the Faith against these wolves in sheeps clothing. In every instance the actions of heretical heirarchs were thwarted by the resistance of the laity and the true shepherds that remained.[29] This is entirely to be expected, for Christ promised that He would never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5) and that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against [the Church]" (St. Matt. 16:18). This preeminence of prophecy over order reflects the Orthodox understanding that the Church is constrained by the will of Christ, which is expressed in Holy Tradition. Fidelity to Holy Tradition, which is identical to obedience to Christ, is the standard by which any ecclesial body with Apostolic Succession is judged to be Orthodox. This is an important point that is often missed by many Orthodox today who have been unwittingly influenced by the modern Ecumenical Movement and the corresponding neo-papal "officialdom" that has infected every one of the Orthodox churches involved in it.[30]

In closing our brief critique of Jones' view of ecclesial authority we must point out that, for Orthodox Christians, the Bible, Tradition, the Church, and authority are all intertwined.[31] As St. Paul taught, the Church is "the pillar and ground of the truth." For Protestants, it is the Bible. Orthodox accept the consensual teaching of the Saints throughout the centuries. Protestants derive their authority ostensibly from Scripture alone, apart from the consensus of the Church and almost exlusively through the interpretive framework of the pivotal Reformation figures.   The reader will do well to grasp the fact that our disagreements ultimately stem from this fundamental disagreement over the nature of authority. Everything else flows from this. Until this problem is faced squarely, debate over various points is largely futile. The reader would do well to ponder whether it can be shown that the Church has, throughout the centuries, viewed the relation of Holy Scripture and Tradition in the way that the Protestant Reformed tradition does.

VI. Orthodox Worship

Completing our author's claims:

Arrogant Worship: God forbids us to worship Him on our own terms. He sets the terms of His worship. To ignore such commands is to mock His Lordship. More than almost anything else, Israel's deterioration under its Kings is expressed by its arrogance in worshiping Jehovah as their tradition saw fit. They used all sorts of images, statues, and sacrifices to worship Jehovah, not other gods. The Lord judged their arrogance in a fearful way. Eastern Orthodoxy shows no concern for conforming any aspect of its worship to the requisites of the Lord. They rejoice in imitating the inferior worship of the Old Covenant temple and shallowly overturn the ancient prohibition on venerating images. God says that He will not be mocked.

There are two issues here: one implicit and the other explicit. Coming from the Reformed tradition, Jones would affirm what they call the "Regulative Principle of Worship." This is defined as follows:

Good and necessary consequence, or be derived from approved historical example (e.g., the change of day from seventh to first for Lord's day corporate worship). "As under the Old Dispensation nothing connected with the worship or discipline of the Church of God was left to the wisdom or discretion of man, but everything was accurately prescribed by the authority of God, so, under the New, no voice is to be heard in the household of faith but the voice of the Son of God. The power of the church is purely ministerial and declarative. She is only to hold forth the doctrine, enforce the laws, and execute the government which Christ has given her. She is to add nothing of her own to, and to subtract nothing from, what her Lord has established. Discretionary power she does not possess."

The view commonly held among Protestant churches today is that anything is permitted in worship, provided it is not explicitly forbidden in the Bible. This was, and is, the accepted view among Episcopalian and Lutheran churches. The early Reformed and Presbyterian churches rejected this view as unscriptural. The Westminster Confession of Faith says, "the acceptable way of worshipping the true God is instituted by Himself, and so limited by His own revealed will, that He may not be worshipped according to the imaginations and devices of men. . . or any other way not prescribed in the holy Scripture." [32]

Jones charges us with worshiping "on our own terms." We thus infer from this that the Orthodox Church has violated the "Regulative Principle."

In reply we briefly note two things. First, Protestants should be the last ones to accuse anyone of worshipping God on their own terms. Most Protestant worship is demonstrably novel and dissimilar with that of the early Church, whereas Orthodox worship is undeniably continuous with it, having organically developed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit from the Temple and synagogue worship to its present form today. Our worship is entirely in keeping with what we read about in the Holy Fathers of every age. Second, as with the doctrine of "sola Scriptura," the "Regulative Principle" has never been taught by the Church. Nothing like it can be found in the writings of the Holy Fathers. Moreover, the Refomed defense of it stems from the same distorted views of the Bible that they use to justify "sola Scriptura," iconoclasm, and other heresies.

The burden of proof is once again upon the Credenda writers to demonstrate that the Church has always viewed worship in the way that the Reformers did.  Our author has his work cut out for him; for passages such as the following from St. Basil the Great's On the Holy Spirit abound in the writings of the Fathers. The impetus behind this passage is important to underscore. St. Basil is not attempting to defend the unwritten traditions that he lists. Rather he is appealing to unwritten traditions that even the heretics with whom he was disputing took for granted. He was appealing to the Doxology as evidence that the Holy Spirit is God. His opponents countered by stating that the Doxology was unwritten and therefore lacked authority. St. Basil then demonstrated that many aspects of the Christian faith and life stemmed from unwritten tradition, and no one disputed these things. If Jones reasons consistently then this Saint would also be "arrogant," for he clearly violates the "Regulative Principle" which requires written Scriptural proof for any element of worship.

Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly enjoined which are preserved in the Church some we possess derived from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us "in a mystery" by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will gainsay; — no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public definition a mere phrase and nothing more. For instance, to take the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? What writing has taught us to turn to the East at the prayer? Which of the saints has left us in writing the words of the invocation at the displaying of the bread of the Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known, content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten teaching. Moreover we bless the water of baptism and the oil of the chrism, and besides this the catechumen who is being baptized. On what written authority do we do this? Is not our authority silent and mystical tradition? Nay, by what written word is the anointing of oil itself taught? And whence comes the custom of baptizing thrice [i.e., by triple immersion]? And as to the other customs of baptism from what Scripture do we derive the renunciation of Satan and his angels? Does not this come from that unpublished and secret teaching which our fathers guarded in a silence out of the reach of curious meddling and inquisitive investigation? Well had they learnt the lesson that the awful dignity of the mysteries is best preserved by silence. What the uninitiated are not even allowed: to look at was hardly likely to be publicly paraded about in written documents. What was the meaning of the mighty Moses in not making all the parts of the tabernacle open to every one? The profane he stationed without the sacred barriers; the first courts he conceded to the purer; the Levites alone he judged worthy of being servants of the Deity; sacrifices and burnt offerings and the rest of the priestly functions he allotted to the priests; one chosen out of all he admitted to the shrine, and even this one not always but on only one day in the year, and of this one day a time was fixed for his entry so that he might gaze on the Holy of Holies amazed at the strangeness and novelty of the sight.

Moses was wise enough to know that contempt stretches to the trite and to the obvious, while a keen interest is naturally associated with the unusual and the unfamiliar. In the same manner the Apostles and Fathers who laid down laws for the Church from the beginning thus guarded the awful dignity of the mysteries in secrecy and silence, for what is bruited abroad random among the common folk is no mystery at all. This is the reason for our tradition of unwritten precepts and practices, that the knowledge of our dogmas may not become neglected and condemned by the multitude through familiarity. "Dogma" and "Kerygma" are two distinct things; the former is observed in silence; the latter is proclaimed to all the world. One form of this silence is the obscurity employed in Scripture, which makes the meaning of "dogmas" difficult to be understood for the very advantage of the reader: Thus we all look to the East at our prayers, but few of us know that we are seeking our own old country, Paradise, which God planted in Eden in the East. We pray standing, on the first day of the week, but we do not all know the reason. On the day of the resurrection (or "standing again"; Grk. anastasin) we remind ourselves of the grace given to us by standing at prayer, not only because we rose with Christ, and are bound to "seek those things which are above," but because the day seems to us to be in some sense an image of the age which we expect, wherefore, though it is the beginning of days, it is not called by Moses first, but one. For he says "There was evening, and there was morning, one day," as though the same day often recurred. Now "one and "eighth" are the same, in itself distinctly indicating that really "one" and "eighth" of which the Psalmist makes mention in certain titles of the Psalms, the state which follows after this present time, the day which knows no waning or eventide, and no successor, that age which endeth not or groweth old. Of necessity, then, the church teaches her own foster children to offer their prayers on that day standing, to the end that through continual reminder of the endless life we may not neglect to make provision for our removal thither. Moreover all Pentecost is a reminder of the resurrection expected in the age to come. For that one and first day, if seven times multiplied by seven, completes the seven weeks of the holy Pentecost; for, beginning at the first, Pentecost ends with the same, making fifty revolutions through the like intervening days. And so it is a likeness of eternity, beginning as it does and ending, as in a circling course, at the same point. On this day the rules of the church have educated us to prefer the upright attitude of prayer, for by their plain reminder they, as It were, make our mind to dwell no longer in the present but in the future. Moreover every time we fall upon our knees and rise from off them we shew by the very deed that by our sin we fell down to earth, and by the loving kindness of our Creator were called back to heaven.

Time will fail me if I attempt to recount the unwritten mysteries of the Church. Of the rest I say nothing; but of the very confession of our faith in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, what is the written source? If it be granted that, as we are baptized, so also under the obligation to believe, we make our confession in like terms as our baptism, in accordance with the tradition of our baptism and in conformity with the principles of true religion, let our opponents grant us too the right to be as consistent in our ascription of glory as in our confession of faith. If they deprecate our doxology on the ground that it lacks written authority, let them give us the written evidence for the confession of our faith and the other matters which we have enumerated. While the unwritten traditions are so many, and their bearing on "the mystery of godliness" is so important, can they refuse to allow us a single word which has come down to us from the Fathers; — which we found, derived from untutored custom, abiding in unperverted churches; — a word for which the arguments are strong, and which contributes in no small degree to the completeness of the force of the mystery? [33]

This passage is from one of the most important Patristic texts of the early Church. It is obvious that Credenda/Agenda loves to quote from various Church Fathers, even St. Basil the Great. But it is abundantly clear that they pick and choose the quotes that fit with their interpretive schema. There is a term for this: proof-texting.[34]

As for the charge that we "shallowly overturn the ancient prohibition on venerating images," this has been thoroughly refuted over eleven centuries ago by St. John of Damascus in his On the Divine Images. [35] The famous Orthodox iconographer, Leonid Ouspensky, summarizes the Church's reasoning concerning the Old Testament prohibition of images. This reasoning is thoroughly Biblical and logical:

The Church teaches that the image is based on the Incarnation of the second person of the Trinity. This is not a break with nor even a contradiction of the Old Testament, as the Protestants understand it; but, on the contrary, it clearly fulfills it, for the existence of the image in the New Testament is implied by its prohibition in the Old. Even though this may appear to be strange, the sacred image for the Church proceeds precisely from the absence of the image in the Old Testament. The forerunner of the Christian image is not the pagan idol, as is sometimes thought, but the absence of direct iconography before the Incarnation, just as the forerunner of the Church is not the pagan world, but the Israel of old, the people chosen by God to witness His revelation. The prohibition of the image which appears in Exodus (20:4) and in Deuteronomy (5:12-19) is a provisional, pedagogic measure which concerns only the Old Testament, and is not a prohibition in theory. "'Moreover I gave them statutes that were not good' (Ez. 20:25) because of their callousness," says St John of Damascus, explaining this prohibition" by means of a biblical quotation. Indeed, the prohibition of all direct and concrete images was accompanied by the divine commandment to establish certain symbolic images, those prefigurations which were the tabernacle and everything which it contained, and the smallest details of which were, so to speak, dictated by God. [36]

Jones fails to address the fact that God commanded the use of images in the Temple. Perhaps this is because he cannot explain how these images could be permissible in the light of the Old Testament prohibitions. Douglas Wilson adds to this error in his article expanding upon Jones' introductory remarks. Wilson asserts: "We know that the Jewish Temple had no images for use in prayer and worship." Have they not read the Old Testament descriptions of the Tabernacle and the Temple? We find numerous images of Cherubim in the following places:

  • On the Ark—Ex. 25:18
  • On the Curtains of the Tabernacle—Ex. 26:1
  • On the Veil of the Holy of Holies—Ex. 26:31
  • Two huge Cherubim in the Sanctuary — I Kings 6:23
  • On the Walls — I Kings 6:29
  • On the Doors — I Kings 6:32
  • And on the furnishings — I Kings 7:29,36

Are the editors of Credenda/Agenda therefore asserting that the Temple itself was not used as a place of worship? Also, as we shall see, Wilson fails to deal with the actual historical data in anything beyond the most superficial ways.

Returning to Ouspensky's summary, he states that the eighth-century iconoclasts

limited themselves to the biblical prohibition and confused the Christian image with the idol. Comparing the Old Testament texts and the Gospel, St John shows that the Christian image, far from contradicting the prohibition of the Old Testament, is, as we have said, its result and conclusion, since it arises from the very essence of Christianity.

His reasoning can be summarized as follows: in the Old Testament God manifests Himself directly to His people only by sound, by word. He does not show Himself, and remains invisible. Israel does not see any image. In Deuteronomy (4:12), we read: "The Lord spoke to you out of the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but saw no form; there was only a voice." And a bit further (4:15), we read: "Therefore take good heed to yourselves. Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire." The prohibition comes immediately afterwards (4:16-19)....

Thus when God speaks of creatures, He forbids their representation. But when He speaks of Himself, He also forbids the making of His image, stressing the fact that He is invisible. Neither the people, nor even Moses saw any image of Him. They only heard His words. Not having seen God's image, they could not represent it; they could only write down His divine word, which is what Moses did. And how could they represent that which is incorporeal and indescribable, that which has neither shape nor limit? But in the very insistence of the biblical texts to emphasize that Israel hears the word but does not see the image, St John of Damascus discovers a mysterious sign of the future possibility of seeing and representing God coming in the flesh. "What is mysteriously indicated in these passages of Scripture?, he asks.

"It is clearly a prohibition against representing the invisible God. But when you see Him who has no body become man for you, then you will make representations of His human aspect. When the Invisible, having clothed Himself in the flesh, becomes visible, then represent the likeness of Him who has appeared... When He who, having been the consubstantial Image of the Father, emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant [Phil 2:6-7], thus becoming bound in quantity and quality, having taken on the carnal image, then paint and make visible to everyone Him who desired to become visible. Paint His birth from the Virgin, His baptism in the Jordan, His transfiguration on Mount Tabor... Paint everything with words and with colors, in books and on boards."

Thus the very prohibition against representing the invisible God implies the necessity of representing God once the prophecies have been fulfilled. The words of the Lord, "You have seen no images; hence do not create any," mean "create no images of God as long as you have not seen Him." An image of an invisible God is impossible, "for how can that which is inaccessible to the eye be represented?" If such an image were made, it would be based on imagination and would therefore be a falsehood and a lie. [37]

In another section describing the response of St. Theodore the Studite, Ouspensky states:

The iconoclasts also said that nothing in the New Testament indicates that icons should be made or venerated. "The custom of making icons of Christ has no foundation either in the tradition of Christ, or in that of the apostles or the Fathers," they maintained. "But, St Theodore the Studite replied, "nowhere did Christ order any word to be put down; and yet His image has been traced by the apostles and been preserved up to now. What is written down on paper and with ink, is put on the icon through various colors or another material." [38]

How interesting! Jones and company take Orthodoxy to task for painting and venerating images when the New Testament does not explicitly state that we are allowed to do so, and yet they fail to see the beam in their own eye: that our Lord never commanded anyone to write down what he said or did. So much for the Bible in the light of the "Regulative Principle." Are not words a type of image? Do they not metaphorically "paint" something? Absolutely. Speaking of the decrees of the Seventh Œcumenical Synod, Ouspensky writes:

The council states that Holy Scripture and the holy image are "mutually revelatory." One single content is witnessed in two different ways—with words or with images—conveying the same revelation in the light of the same sacred and living Tradition of the Church. We read in the council's canons:

"The Fathers neither transmitted to us that it was necessary to read the Gospel nor did they convey to us that it was necessary to make icons. But if they conveyed the one, they also conveyed the other, because a representation is inseparable from the biblical account, and, vice versa, the biblical account is inseparable from a representation. Both are right and worthy of veneration because they explain one another and, indisputably, substantiate one another."

Thus, the visible image is equivalent to the verbal image. Just as the word of Scripture is an image, so is the painted image a word. "That which the word communicates by sound, a painting demonstrates silently by representation," the Fathers of the council said, referring to St Basil the Great. Elsewhere they write, "By means of these two ways which complement one another, that is, by reading and by the visible image, we gain knowledge of the same thing." In other words, the icon contains and proclaims the same truth as the Gospel. Like the Gospel and the Cross, it is one of the aspects of divine revelation and of our communion with God, a form in which the union of divine and human activity, synergy, is accomplished. Aside from their direct meaning, the sacred image as well as the Gospel are reflections of the heavenly world; the one and the other are symbols of the Spirit they contain. Thus, both the one and other transmit concrete, specific realities, not human ideas. In other words, what was asked was "How can the icon correspond to the Gospel and explain it, and vice versa?"

In the eyes of the Church, therefore, the icon is not art illustrating Holy Scripture; it is a language that corresponds to it and is equivalent to it, corresponding not to the letter of Scripture or to the book itself as an object, but to the evangelical kerygma, that is, to the content of the Scripture itself, to its meaning, as is true also for liturgical texts. This is why the icon plays the same role as Scripture does in the Church; it has the same liturgical, dogmatic, and educational meaning. [39]

It is beyond the scope of this paper to fully address the Orthodox response to iconoclasm. We can only summarize the Church's reasoning and remind the reader that this question was resolved to the satisfaction of the entire Church—East and West—more than a thousand years ago. The Orthodox teaching on Icons is readily available in English. We find it highly unlikely that Jones could have overlooked these works. Yet he fails even to acknowledge that the Orthodox explanation of why the Old Testament prohibitions no longer apply is not only firmly grounded in Scripture and the doctrine of the Incarnation, but that it is also eminently reasonable. Had he acknowledged this and simply stated that he personally disagreed with what the entire Church heartily affirmed in the Seventh Œcumenical Synod over a thousand years ago, we would have no argument with him. However, Jones and company seem only to want to rehash iconoclasm using antiquarian arguments that have already been soundly refuted. They fail to see that certain Old Testament prohibitions were temporary. The Incarnation brought many things to fulfillment. As the Holy Fathers reasoned and the Church affirmed, to be an iconoclast is to be against the Incarnation. Credenda/Agenda clearly stands outside of the Christian tradition on this matter.


In his closing, Jones ushers a summary warning:

Scripture promised us that the church would include false teachers (II Pet. 2:2), and right in the midst of apostolic tradition, Paul warns us that "the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, ... they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (II Tim. 4:3). Eastern fables point us to Hellenistic heterodoxy not covenantal orthodoxy. May the Lord have mercy on us all.

In the following responses to the Credenda/Agenda’s attacks on the Orthodox Faith, we will see that the Apostle Paul is not referring here to the Orthodox Faith which has preserved the Apostolic Tradition, but rather refer to heretical and schismatic leaders and their followers who turn aside from that Faith. Elsewhere, St. Paul speaks of such heretics saying, "men shall arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:30). Jones is a Calvinist, a group named for John Calvin. Other Protestants are referred to variously as Lutherans (for Martin Luther), Arminians (for James Arminius), Wesleyans (for John Wesley), Mennonites (for Menno Simmons), etc. The Orthodox are not named for any leader who has spoken perverse things and drawn us away to be his disciples. Our Faith is the Faith of the ancient Christian Church. It is Jones who has followed the novel teachings of John Calvin and other key Reformers who are outside of any Church with historical and doctrinal continuity with the Apostolic Church. It is not Orthodoxy which has betrayed Tradition, as the Credenda writers assert, but rather Papism and its offshoot, the now thirty thousand Protestant sects (and growing!).


* Unless otherwise noted, all quotes from the Church Fathers are drawn from the 38-volume Ante-Nicene and Nicene Fathers set that is widely available on the Internet.

1. The Hellenic-Christian Philosophical Tradition (Belmont, MA: Institute for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, 1989), pp. 17-21. The quote from St. Basil is taken from To Young Men, on How They Might Profit from Greek Literature, sect. IV and V; cf. 1 Thess. 5:21.

2. See his Christianity and Classical Culture: The Metamorphosis of Natural Theology in the Christian Encounter with Hellenism (Yale University Press, 1993).

3. See "The Transformation of Hellenistic Thought on the Cosmos and Man in the Greek Fathers," The Patristic and Byzantine Review, 1990, IX, 2&3.

4. Cavarnos, p. 20.

5. On the Incarnation, trans. and ed. by A Religious of C.S.M.V. (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1993 [1944]), 44, pp. 80-81.

6. Lesson 21, 3 and 6.

7. See, for example, Gordon R. Lewis, "Are Mormons Christians?", The Christian Research Journal, Fall 1992, p. 33. Also, Wesleyans have often appealed to this doctrine to support their own understanding of the doctrine of sanctification. See Christensen, Michael J. "Theosis and Sanctification: John Wesley's Reformation of a Patristic Doctrine." Wesleyan Theological Journal, Vol. 31, no. 2 (Fall 1996), pp. 71-94; McCormick, Kelly S. "Theosis in Chrysostom and Wesley: An Eastern Paradigm on Faith and Love." Wesleyan Theological Journal, Vol. 26, no. 1 (1991), pp. 38-103; Maddox, Randy L., "John Wesley and Eastern Orthodoxy: Influences, Convergences, Differences," The Asbury Theological Journal, Vol. 45, No. 2 (1990), pp. 29-53; Synder, Howard, "John Wesley and Macarius the Egyptian," The Asbury Theological Journal, Vol. 45, No. 2 (1990), pp. 55-60; David C. Ford, "Saint Macarios of Egypt and John Wesley: Variations on the Theme of Sanctification," The Greek Orthodox Theological Review 33, (Fall 1988), pp. 285-312.

8. The Creeds of Christendom: Volume II, The Greek and Latin Creeds, Philip Schaff, ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1983), p. 474.

9. Prayer Book, 4th ed., (Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1986), pp. 358-9.

10. Second Canon of the Seventh Ode.

11. Schaff, pp. 475-6. Appended to the catechism answer are the texts for Col. 1:26-27 and Rom 5:17, 8:1-4.  The use of the term "satisfaction" here is not to be confused with that of Anselm or the use strains of Protestantism have put to it. As Fr. Michael Pomazansky points out in his Orthodox Dogmatic Theology:

The interpretation of the truth of the Redemption was greatly complicated thanks to the direction which was given to it in the Western theology of the Middle Ages. The figuative expressions of the Aposteles were acceptied in medieval Roman Catholic theology in their literal and overly-narrow sense, and the work of redemption was interpreted as a "satisfaction"—more precisely, a satisfaction for offending God, and even more precisely, a satisfaction of God (God in the Holy Trinity) for the offense caused to Him by the sin of Adam." It is easy to see that the foundation of such a view is the special Latin teaching on original sin: that man in the transgression of Adam "infinitely offended" God and evoked God’s wrath; therefore it was required that God be offered complete satisfaction in order that the guilt might be removed and God might be appeased; this was done by the Saviour when He accepted death on the Cross: the Saviour offered an infinitely complete satisfaction.

This one-sided interpretation of Redemption became the reigning one in Latin theology and it has remained so up to the present time. In Protestantism it evoked the opposite reaction [in certain segments of Protestantism—ed.], which led in the later sects to the almost complete denial of the dogma of Redemption and to the acknowledgement of no more than a moral or instructive significance for Christ’s life and His death on the Cross.

The term "satisfaction" has been used in Russian Orthodox theology, but in a changed form; "the satisfaction of God’s righteousness." The expression "to satisfy the righteousness of God," one must acknowledge, is not entirely foreign to the New Testament, as may be seen from the words of the Saviour Himself: "thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness" (Matt. 3:15). An expression which is close in meaning to the present term, but which is more complete and is authentically Biblical, and gives a basis for the Orthodox understanding of the work of Redemption, is the word "propitiation," which we read in the First Epistle of John: "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (I John 4:10). ("Propitiation" is a direct translation of the Greek word ilasmos. The same use of the word is to be found in I John 2:2, and in St. Paul’s Epistle to the Hebrews, 2:17, were it is translated as "reconciliation" in the King James Version). [Trans. Hieromonk Seraphim Rose (Platina, CA: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood, 1973) pp. 208-209.]

12. Ibid., p. 48.

13. Ibid., p. 56.

14. Chapter 13:36.

15. Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, St. John of Damascus, "On Faith and Baptism," Book IV, Ch. 9.

16. The Life in Christ, trans. by Carmino J. DeCatanzaro, (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1974), p. 59.

17. Ibid, pp. 65-66.

18. Ibid, pp. 48-49.

19. Catechetical Lectures, Lesson 1, 2.

20. See, for example the "Formula of Concord," and "Saxon Visitation Articles" in The Creeds of Christendom: Volume III, The Evangelical Protestant Creeds.

21. This is why they were called "Methodists." See, for example, The Early Methodist Class Meetings, David Lowes Watson (Nashville: Discipleship Resources, 1987.

22. Prayer Book, ibid., p. 21.

23. From the Internet version of the published monograph.

24. Trans. Archimandrite Lazarus (Moore) (Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery, 1991), pp. viii-ix.

25. The Rev. Kyrill Zaits (Jordanville, NY: Holy Trinity Monastery Press, 1985).

26. An Orthodox Priest has taken great pains to document the extent to which the Divine Liturgy is made up of passages from the Holy Scripture. See Fr. Constantine Nasr, The Bible in the Liturgy (Oklahoma City, OK: Theosis Publishing Company, 1988).

27. For more on this concept see the many articles on the "Acquiring an Orthodox Phronema" (Mindset) page.

28. Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs, 1848.

29. Two excellent examples are the Monothelite Controversy involving St. Maximos the Confessor (6th. cent.) and the pseudo-Synod of Ferrara-Florence involving St. Mark of Ephesus (15th cent.).

30. For further reading on the complex and nuanced topic of Orthodox ecclesiology see: Dr. Alexander Kalomiros, Against False Union, Ch. 28-30: "Orthodox Ecclesiology"; Fr. Alexander Schmemann, "Problems of Orthodoxy in America: The Canonical Problem," St. Vladimir's Seminary Quarterly, Vol. 8, No.2 (1964); Father Georges Florovsky, Collected Works, Vol. 1, Bible, Church, Tradition: An Orthodox Perspective (Belmont, MA: Nordland, 1972-79); Father Michael Pomazansky, "The Unity of the Church," Orthodox Dogmatic Theology (St. Herman of Alaska Press, 1994), pp. 234-237; articles on "canonical" and "canonicity" on the "References and Terms" subpage of Ecumenism Awareness.

31. See Bible, Church, Tradition, ibid.

32. Brian Schwertly, "The Regulative Principle of Worship and Christmas".

33. On the Holy Spirit, 66-67. Tertullian also uses a similar argument in "The Chaplet, or De Corona", Ch. 3.

And how long shall we draw the saw to and fro through this line, when we have an ancient practice, which by anticipation has made for us the state, i.e., of the question? If no passage of Scripture has prescribed it, assuredly custom, which without doubt flowed from tradition, has confirmed it. For how can anything come into use, if it has not first been handed down? Even in pleading tradition, written authority, you say, must be demanded. Let us inquire, therefore, whether tradition, unless it be written, should not be admitted.

34. In this vein, Fr. George Florovsky has written eloquently:

It is not enough to be acquainted with the texts and to know how to draw from them quotes and arguments. One must possess the theology of the Fathers from within. Intuition is perhaps more important for this than erudition, for intuition alone revives their writings and makes them a witness. It is only from within that we can perceive and distinguish what (actually) is a catholic testimony from what would be merely theological opinion, hypothesis, interpretation, or theory... Only in the integral communion of the Church is this "catholic transfiguration" of consciousness truly possible. Those who, by reason of their humility in the presence of the Truth, have received the gift to express this catholic consciousness of the Church, we call them Fathers and Doctors, since what they make us hear is not only their thought or their personal conviction, but moreover the very witness of the Chruch, for they speak from the depth of its catholic fullness. Their theology evolves on the plane of catholicity, of universal communion. ["The Ways of Russian Theology" in The Collected Works of Georges Florovsky, Vol. IV, Aspects of Church History (Belmont, MA: Nordland, 1987), pp. 191, 192.]

It is precisely this connection with the catholic consciousness of the Church that the writers of the Credenda issue lack. Their use of the Fathers is like dipping buckets in a stream, or raking up old dead documents. We cannot stress this enough. Our challenges for proof are likely made in vain, for their recourse will undoubtedly be almost entirely to Scripture, with a few select quotes from the Fathers thrown in for good measure. For Orthodox Christians this methodology is unacceptable.  "Following the Holy Fathers" does not mean to selectively quote from them but rather to "acquire their mind, their phronema" ("Patristic Theology and the Ethos of the Orthodox Church," Ibid., p. 18). Thus, a reasonable argument pieced together from various passages does not constitute proof. Rather, they must clearly show from the writings of the Fathers, Œcumenical Synods, and other expressions of the Church's life and faith that their views have been held, to quote St. Vincent of Lérins, "everywhere, always, and by all." Piecing together various texts, or interpreting Scripture willy-nilly—i.e., apart from the consensual interpretation of the Church Fathers—was long ago denounced by another of their more oft-quoted Saints, Irenaeus of Lyons. His analysis is applicable today more than ever:

Such, then, is their [the Protestant Reformed] system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but of which they boast that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge. They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures; and, to use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand, while they endeavor to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions. Their manner of acting is just as if one, when a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skillful artist out of precious jewels, should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should rearrange the gems, and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or of a fox, and even that but poorly executed; and should then maintain and declare that this was the beautiful image of the king which the skillful artist constructed, pointing to the jewels which had been admirably fitted together by the first artist to form the image of the king, but have been with bad effect transferred by the latter one to the shape of a dog, and by thus exhibiting the jewels, should deceive the ignorant who had no conception what a king’s form was like, and persuade them that that miserable likeness of the fox was, in fact, the beautiful image of the king. In like manner do these persons patch together old wives’ fables, and then endeavor, by violently drawing away from their proper connection, words, expressions, and parables whenever found, to adapt the oracles of God to their baseless fictions. We have already stated how far they proceed in this way with respect to the interior of the Pleroma.

35. An excellent English translation of this text has been produced by St. Vladimir's Seminary Press and is widely available. See also St. Theodore the Studite, On the Holy Icons, also by SVS Press.

36. Leonid Ouspensky, Theology of the Icon, Vol. 1 (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1992), pp. 41-42.

37. Ibid., pp. 42, 44.

38. Ibid., pp. 130-131.

39. Ibid., pp. 138-139.