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 materialslet alone interaction with Orthodox Christianswould 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 Gods 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 Christianitys
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 FathersJohn
Damascene, who flourished during the first half of the eighth century, and
Photios the Great, who lived in the next centuryhave 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 Platos writings than of
Aristotles, 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
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 pagansthose 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."
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 Pelikana recent convert to Orthodoxy from Lutheranism who has
authored, among many other fine works, a five volume history of the development
of Christian doctrine and Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna , another
widely published scholar of Patristic literature and Orthodox theology. His
Eminence makes the following forceful remarks in the opening paragraphs of his
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
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.
Augustinethe 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 dogmaespecially the filioquecan 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).  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 Christologyall
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 himselfa 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 theosisthat
man can become God by grace, though not by natureis 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
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 manman
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. 
In this vein, we read in the Catechetical Lectures of
St. Cyril of Jerusalem the following:
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 Christs 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
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. 
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 useda
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. 
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
abovetwo examples of many which can be found in the writings of the Fathersover
Luther, Calvin, or Jones.
The author then attempts to impugn Orthodoxys understanding
of the significance of the Cross:
Salvation without the Cross. Since deification is
grounded in the incarnation rather than the atonement, Christs 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.
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 hima 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 Christs 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
Christs Death. As Sacred Scripture and the writings of the Holy Fathers
attest, Christs work of redemption involved far more than his Death on
the Cross. The Orthodox understanding of Christs 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 Passionthe
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. 
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 Christs 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
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
(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. 
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
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.
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
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
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 Christs 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 ProtestantsSt.
Athanasius the Great. In his On the Incarnation of the Word of Godwhich
C.S. Lewis calls in his Introduction to the St. Vladimirs 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. 
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. 
The Orthodox Church believes exactly as St. Athanasius the Great
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
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
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 Gods 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 Gods 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. 
One might easily turn Joness 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 Christs 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
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! 
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 .
St. Paul himself said of the Eucharist "For as often as
ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lords 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
bookthe 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"
The Orthodox Church teaches that we are saved only on the basis
of Gods grace. However, God himself has established conditions for us
to receive this grace, namely faith and worksthe 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. 
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 himand
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. 
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.
. 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
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 Christs 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. 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
"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 goodthat 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
"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 willwholly 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 anotherthat 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 sensethe 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" .
In short, the Orthodox Church strongly affirms that which is
clearly taught in Holy Scripture: that we are saved by grace through faithbut
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
Gods 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 Christs
condemnations. Those who attempt to suppress Gods 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
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
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
The word here translated "traditions" is
the Greek word paradosiswhich, 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 fragmentsone 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 notfor (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. 
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. 
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.
 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. 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, "cumenical
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 cumenical 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 Churchi.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
conclusionsi.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.
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 statusi.e.,
their relation to the Orthodox Churchwe 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 statusi.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
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 Churchi.e., the Priest, Bishops, and other authoritative
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...."
 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. 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.
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. 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." 
Jones charges us with worshiping "on our own terms."
We thus infer from this that the Orthodox Church has violated the "Regulative
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? 
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.
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.
 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. 
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
- On the ArkEx. 25:18
- On the Curtains of the TabernacleEx.
- On the Veil of the Holy of HoliesEx.
- 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
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
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
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." 
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 cumenical Synod,
The council states that Holy Scripture and the holy
image are "mutually revelatory." One single content is witnessed
in two different wayswith words or with imagesconveying 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. 
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
ChurchEast and Westmore 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 cumenical
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/Agendas
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
* 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
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 ), 44,
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
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 Gods 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
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 Protestantismed.],
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 Christs 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 Gods
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. Pauls
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. Vladimirs 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)
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
the Holy Spirit, 66-67. Tertullian also uses a similar argument in
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, cumenical 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-nillyi.e.,
apart from the consensual interpretation of the Church Fatherswas 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 kings 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.