Fr. Andrew S. Damick has started a new blog (in addition to Roads from Emmaus) titled Orthodoxy & Heterodoxy and tellingly subtitled “Doctrine Matters.” In a few short weeks, he’s had guest authors, has suggested that he wishes more people would call him a heretic, and now asks provocatively “Who’s not a Christian?“
As I became Orthodox, one of the things that surprised me was how doctrine was not “front and center,” especially since having a few of my Protestant doctrines (sola scriptura and invisible church ecclesiology) smacked down played a big role in pushing me toward “swimming the Bosphorus.” I’ve come to recognize that’s not because of doctrinal laxity (I never thought it was), but because doctrine is pervasive and tacit. And although doctrine doesn’t save us (in the Evangelical sense of salvation), it does matter.
In any event, Fr. Damick has returned to something close to his “please call me a heretic” plea:
Perhaps one of the more vexing questions in discussions between the members of various Christian communions is the question of mutual recognition. One of the barbs occasionally thrown by those fighting the rearguard in certain sectors of Protestantism, dismayed that a handful of their former co-religionists are swimming either the Bosphorus or the Tiber, is that those converting either to Orthodoxy or Rome were now required to look upon their friends and family who remained behind as no longer Christians, second-class Christians, deficient Christians, etc. That is, this is an argument from meanness, i.e., it would just be plain mean for you to be joined with that communion, because doing so is implicitly leveling judgment on those who do not join you …
But I have been led to wonder lately what exactly is the point of this desire for mutual recognition. Why exactly would, for instance, a Lutheran want me to recognize him as a Christian? Or why would a Baptist bother to wonder whether a Roman Catholic is a Christian? Why this drive for defining a communion as Christian that is, by its nature, not Christian in the way that one’s own communion is Christian?
Underneath all this, it seems to me, is actually a cryptic expectation that I will accept the anti-ecclesiology, that there is no one, true Church. In other words, what I am actually being asked for is an approval of a certain kind of orthodoxy, a recognition that the other guy is “in” something along with me, even though we do not commune together, do not worship together, do not have the same doctrine, and do not practice the same day-to-day spiritual life.
It seems to me that the real reason why I am supposed to accept as Christian those who believe certain things is actually that I am supposed to accept the … idea that there can be multiple “denominations” (including the non-denominational denomination) of Christianity who have conflicting doctrine and practice and yet are somehow all legitimately the Body of Christ, the Church. But I don’t believe that. That presupposition is antithetical to my faith. I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, not myriad, conflicting, fragmented and innovative denominations. I do not accept that there are different “brands” of Christianity. There is only the Church, and as an Orthodox Christian, I believe that that one Church is the Orthodox Church.
The bolded question (emphasis added) strikes me as surprisingly deep and provocative.
I’d encourage you to pay a visit, read the whole thing (I have deliberately omitted one of the best paragraphs, which elaborates the basic question), and add your voice, respectfully of course, to the comboxes, which so far have been an Orthodox “Amen Corner.”
I’m closing comboxes here so you can pick up the gauntlet there: Why, Gentle Protestant Reader, would you want Orthodox Christians to acknowledge that you, too, are Christian?
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