I commented a few weeks back on some astonishingly affirming things the “Bible Answer Man,” an Evangelical, said about Orthodox Christianity. Little did I know that he was on the eve of entering the Orthodox Church on Palm Sunday at age 67 (some innumerates report “77”). He confirms it here (April 11 program, beginning at 10:43). Glory to God!
Of course many are reflexively treating this as apostasy rather than as a hint they should heed. Hanegraaf answered that by affirming the Nicene Creed, but, heck. some doofuses think creeds are evil, so for them he just confirmed the idiotic judgment.
My advice to anyone in the Protestant world troubled by Hanegraaf’s Chrismation into the Orthodox Church?
First, open up your mind to a little bit of mystery. In my experience, it seems to me that the Orthodox Church hasn’t tried to answer many of the questions about which I once was curious, and I’ve come to accept that it’s okay. Read this article on Apophatic Theology.
Then read it again.
Now think about it. When it comes to things like the doctrine of the trinity, for instance, any explanation you can wrap your head around (comprehend) fully is doubtless heretical. Remember, we’re dealing with God, and we’re not Him. His ways are not our ways. Trying to make a divine mystery logical is an almost ironclad guaranty of heresy. “Not three Gods” and “not three manifestations” and other apophatic negations may be the best we can do (or as St. Patrick alludes to it in this cartoon):
Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.
(Athanasian Creed, apophatic emphasis added)
So if an Orthodox answer feels evasive, consider that maybe the topic doesn’t lend itself to answers that are both true, positive and comprehensible — maybe the best answer is apophatic.
Second, in the strongest possible terms, I urge you not to accept the second-hand descriptions of Orthodoxy by its critics.
I rejected Roman Catholicism for decades based on hostile second-hand sources. Had I read primary sources, I don’t think I’d have become Roman Catholic (I’ve read many since becoming Orthodox and they haven’t changed my mind), but I never should have relied on polemical critics if I really wanted to know what really was what.
There are many contemporary sources from Orthodox themselves, including by former Evangelical Protestants:
- The Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity
- Searching for God in a Land of Shallow Wells (one I wish had been around when I was in transition)
- Becoming Orthodox (Campus Crusade – now “Cru” – staff reading their way to Orthodoxy)
- Welcome to the Orthodox Church: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity (I have not read this, but trust and admire the author)
Read critics, too, by all means, but primary sources are better if you really want to know what we believe, and not just what some dipwad thinks we must believe based on dubious inferences from an alien frame of reference.
Third, ask yourself: if sola scriptura is true and if the scriptures are perspicacious, why are there thousands or tens of thousands of denominations with somewhat conflicting beliefs? Is God the author of confusion?
And how, of all people, could The Bible Answer Man become Orthodox and never break his stride (unless a questioner elicits an Orthodoxy answer) giving Bible answers unless you, like, maybe forgot to underline a few passages in your Bible? What’s that passage about “the Church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth“?
You can do it. I did it 20-21 years ago (it wasn’t instantaneous).
Where would we be without sociological concepts like recuperation?
On April 6, Purdue’s Graduate Student Government brought ‘free speech’ activist John Rauch to campus to speak. Rauch’s condescending talk employed a disheartening raft of false analogies, false dilemmas and arguments from authority to co-opt an idea created to protect minorities and use it to ensure that the speech by the majority remains unchallenged.
Sociology gives us the concept of recuperation, which explains how the powerful, in order to continue oppression, violently co-opt radical ideas (such as, free speech) envisioned to protect the powerless. We saw this in Rauch’s talk three ways. First, when he explained the “privilege” that minority voices gain from the enlightening experience of being marginalized and oppressed. Second, when he reframed speech designed to threaten minority groups as just another group arguing for their viewpoint. Finally, when he claimed, “I have an 18 year old trans friend,” just as others claim “a black friend” or a “gay friend” as cover for intellectual laziness.
Rausch’s talk failed not from his conception of free speech, but his fetishization of it. That fetishism is of an “absolutist” free speech double-speak that is weaponized to prevent dissent by less powerful voices and privilege the viewpoints of those with power. The denouement of Rauch’s warped perspective came he when assumed that students who walk past pink triangles, relics of the Holocaust used to identify LGBTQ individuals, inside of Purdue’s LGBTQ center, couldn’t possibly know what they mean as well as he did.
Rauch seemed excited to “offend” people, but I am not offended. I’m saddened that yet another brilliant basis of America’s rise to freedom and independence has been repurposed to maintain the status quo.
Todd Fernandez, Lafayette
(Letters to the Editor, Lafayette Journal & Courier, April 11, 2017) If “recuperation” weren’t swell enough, Fernandez coins his own wondrous “absolutist free speech double-speak that is weaponized.”
I think what Señor Fernandez is saying, in English, is “just as only white people can be racist, so only minority groups legitimately enjoy free speech.”
Mercifully, Fernandez didn’t try to disrupt the speech. This was Purdue, after all, and My Man Mitch likely would insist on consequences befalling those who peacefully break windows, set fires, and assault and
batter re-accommodate “violent” speakers.
You might not be interested in the culture war, but the culture war is definitely interested in you.
(Rod Dreher, after responding wistfully to Emma Green’s Atlantic interview of Sociologist Philip Gorski, author of American Covenant).
Gorski thinks there are resources within classical liberalism that can get us past our current hyper-partisan gridlock. By calling it “civil religion,” he triggers my reflexive suspicion. But his description of it resonates:
Green: You contrast civil religion with two other narratives of American democracy: radical secularism and religious nationalism. Describe what those are.Gorski: The radical-secular interpretation of American history is that American democracy is an Enlightenment project based solely on secular values. The religious-nationalist interpretation is that America was founded as a Christian nation, and our laws and Constitution are all grounded in Christian or Judeo-Christian scripture. One of the points of the book is to show that at the many junctures of our history, those two sources have been intertwined with each other ….
Dreher wishes (as do I) that some intertwined secularist/Christian values could bail us out, but I think Belshazzar’s Feast is winding down, and Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin is already on the wall. Only sackcloth and ashes can save us now.
More on Hank Hanegraaf:
The Rev. Father Patrick Cardine, priest at Saint Patrick’s Orthodox Church in Bealeton, Virginia, explained in a Monday phone interview with [Christian Post] that one of the main differences between Eastern orthodoxy and evangelical Protestantism is the nature of the Church.
The Orthodox view of the Church is that it is “an icon of Christ and the Body of Christ,” he said. Just as Jesus had a physical body, so too, the Church; it is not a spiritual phenomenon as some evangelicals understand the Body of Christ.
“And by physical we mean hierarchical and sacramental … the expression of her concrete reality,” he continued.
Cardine told CP he was not surprised that Hanegraaf was received into the Orthodox Church in light of his deep knowledge and study of the Scriptures.
Protestantism, he offered, “is actually much more philosophical and abstract and adheres to theological systems created by men, which tries to take the Scriptures as proof texts to prove those teachings.”
Cardine, a former Baptist, noted that since he became Orthodox he was for the first time “able to actually embrace the Scriptures on their own terms and without reservation.”
“The Scriptures say all kinds of things that Protestants don’t really like or believe.”
(Christian Post, emphasis added)
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“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)