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Why Not To Be Orthodox December 4, 2007

Posted by Michael in Religion.

I’ve often thought that if I were not Lutheran, I might be Greek Orthodox. I kinda like their style. Like Lutherans, they are sort of Catholic, with a rich liturgical tradition, but without the papal nonsense and related heresies.

Or so I thought. This post makes me think twice: Why I am not Orthodox « Dare To Decide.

So, that’s it. End of story. The Lutheran tradition is really the only choice.


1. Sobek - December 5, 2007

Interesting. My second choice is black southern baptist. If movies are a reliable guide, they have that backflipping down the aisle thing you don’t see in a lot of churches these days.

2. Muslihoon - December 5, 2007

There is another aspect that is not mentioned: dividing the faithful on national lines with the concomitant internal ethnic rivalries and divisions.

There is no “Orthodox Church” per se: Eastern Orthodoxy is more a confederation of separate, ethnicity-based churches that adhere to certain forms, traditions, and beliefs. Whereas there is a titular head, the Patriarch of Constantinople, also known as the Ecumenical Patriarch, he is but a figurehead and unable to truly unite the Orthodox.

To get a sense, consider the intense debates among Orthodox as to whose tradition or church is more authentic, which most preserves the truth. The Russian Orthodox Church claims Moscow is the Third Rome, making that church the paramount Orthodox church. The Greek Orthodox Church believes it is the true preserver of authentic Orthodox tradition and, having been around longer than the Muscovites, the Russian Orthodox Church is a pretentious upstart. (The fact that the Ecumenical Patriarch is essentially Greek Orthodox certainly does not help diminish the Greeks’ pride.)

This ethnicization and nationalization of the Church does not sit well with me. There is a manifest difference between one Church whose administrative units are divided by nation, as dioceses can be in the Catholic and Anglican Churches, on the one hand and nation-based Churches uniting to form a loose confederation on the other. The one is one unit while the other is the body of Christ fractured.

3. Muslihoon - December 5, 2007

Two more points:
1. I could go on longer on why the Orthodox Communion is perhaps not the best.

2. Michael: for having suggested that something could be comparable with Lutheranism, how long will you have to spend in the Lutheran Millennium reeducation camps?

4. eddiebear - December 5, 2007

also, there are other “Orthodox” Groups, IIRC:
Serbian, Bulgarian and Romanian. And what about the Orthodox Christians living in the Middle East? I have never figured out which group is which.

5. Muslihoon - December 5, 2007

Absolutely. Ukrainian also. Poland and Hungary are Catholic, which is strange for that region.

Beware, though of the Orthodox churches, the Catholic Oriental churches, and the non-Catholic Oriental churches. I believe there exists terminology that differentiates between the Catholic ones and the non-Catholic.

And a common deal-sealer on the Orthodox vs. non-Orthodox can be summed in one word: filioque.

6. lauraw - December 5, 2007

Sobek in #1, I’m laughing helplessly over here.
Nice way to start the day!

7. Dave in Texas - December 5, 2007

I would be a Frisbyterian.

8. geoff - December 5, 2007

I would be a Frisbyterian.

…but not an Orthodox one.

9. Dave in Texas - December 5, 2007

the orthodox ones believe that when you die your soul goes up on the roof and you can’t get it down.

10. Greek Orthodox Frisbyterian - December 5, 2007

the orthodox ones believe that when you die your soul goes up on the roof and you can’t get it down.

Thats if your good. If youre evil, your soul gets snatched by Cerberus before it even gets close to the roof.

11. Dave in Texas - December 5, 2007

is Cerberus my neighbor’s shelty?

12. Greek Orthodox Frisbyterian - December 5, 2007

Depends. Does your neighbors shelty have three heads?

13. eddiebear - December 5, 2007

Damn dogs! Stay off my lawn!

14. kevlarchick - December 5, 2007

Lebanese Catholics are part of the Maronite Rite. Their Mass is still spoken in Aramaic. Beautiful.

Egyptian Catholics are of the Coptic Rite.

Both are considered Orthodox, but also recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. Pope says ok.

15. Lipstick - December 5, 2007

Dad and I met a Coptic couple on the Canada train trip. They left Egypt when Nasser came to power and said that many many educated professionals left then too.

16. kevlarchick - December 5, 2007

True, Lips. I worked with a Coptic woman who says Coptics cannot practice their faith safely in Egypt.

17. lauraw - December 5, 2007
18. Ben - December 5, 2007

Hi, I’m the author of the referenced post. Please don’t misunderstand me … I don’t think the Orthodox church is bad or not Christian. My wife’s mother converted to Orthodoxy a few years ago and it’s been great for her. I have learned a lot through my interactions with Orthodox folks. I could draft a similar list, also, saying “Why I am Not a Baptist”. Etc. Actually, it’s kind of frustrating to be disillusioned with Protestantism but unable to accept these aspects of Orthodoxy.

19. Sobek - December 5, 2007

“I don’t think the Orthodox church is bad or not Christian.”

I don’t think that’s what Michael was saying, either. Lutherans, on the other hand…

“Actually, it’s kind of frustrating to be disillusioned with Protestantism…”

Disillusioned how, exactly? If you don’t mind my asking.

20. Mr Minority - December 5, 2007

After reading your article, I didn’t get the impression that you dissing the Orthodox Church, you were just saying that certain elements of it don’t appeal to you, and that is very understandable.

And if you do do an article on “Why I am Not a Baptist”, drinking and dancing are a good place to start.

21. Sobek - December 5, 2007

Of course the whole discussion is moot:

22. Mr. Moot - December 5, 2007

My ears are burning…

23. Michael - December 5, 2007

Well now, Ben, I’m sure we’d all be very interested to know what is wrong with Dave why you are not a Baptist.

24. Ben - December 5, 2007

Haha, yeah, good point Mr. Minority.

Sobek: I’m disillusioned in the sense that … I think the Orthodox church is right about some things. Like, there really is a massive disconnect between our view of church history and what actually happened. I think many of the new doctrines that came out of the Reformation were a really bad idea (monergism, for instance). I think that the split over the filioque clause was the Roman church’s fault. Etc.

25. Muslihoon - December 5, 2007

Question: Is the filioque really such a dire issue?

The impression I get is that the real problem with filioque is not the doctrinal error therein, if such there is, but rather the example it provides of papal autocracy more than anything. That is, the problem is not that the Holy See added an incorrect word but that the Holy See, against tradition and for its own purposes, made unauthorized changes and expects everyone else to goose-march along. This is the Orthodox impression.

That said, traditionalism can be divisive. There are more Catholic authorities who are willing to breach the Great Divide than there are Orthodox authorities.

Also, all this said, the beauty of Orthodoxy cannot be denied, nor their connection with the ancient ways.

26. Greek Orthodox Frisbyterian - December 5, 2007

monergism? filioque clause? WTF dude? Whos got time to think about this kinda stuff? God cant have meant for this shit to be so complicated.

Life is short. You never know when its gonna end. One minute your sailing along minding your own business and then: Wham-O! youre Cerberus’ chew tow for all eternity.

Screw it. ‘Just do unto others’ and call it a day.

Now lets go out back and toss a few ‘bees.

27. Muslihoon - December 5, 2007

Toss or throw? Heretic!

28. Mr Minority - December 5, 2007

I pray that Ben has a sense of humor and come to the realization that this site is not about arguing the minute points of Church dogma, but is about nonsensical things in general and tainted humor most of the time.

29. eddiebear - December 5, 2007

^and nekkid wimmins

30. Ben - December 5, 2007

Muslihoon: you know that’s what I thought about the filioque clause, too, but apparently the Orthodox folks (at least the ones I’ve talked to) feel very differently. They have this whole different view of the Trinity because of it. The filioque thing came from Augustine, too, and from what I gather they have a lot of problems with his thought.

31. Muslihoon - December 5, 2007

Thanks, Ben.

Interesting point: I’m not sure if other Orthodox Churches do this, but in the Greek Orthodox liturgy there is still a part between the Liturgy of the Catechumens and the Liturgy of the Faithful where catechumens are ordered to leave and the doors are ordered to be secured. This harkens back to the ancient tradition of only the faithful — baptized Christians — to attend to the mysteries of the liturgy. The Catholic Church reembraced this with their new RCIA program where converts-to-be leave after the Liturgy of the Word.

32. BrewFan - December 5, 2007

So what’s the dispute about monergism? Us Calvinists call it ‘irresistable grace’ and its one of the main tenets of the New Testament. We are saved by grace, not works.

33. Ben - December 6, 2007

BrewFan: Well, the Orthodox, and I agree with them, look at monergism as the opposite mistake of Pelagianism. Pelagianism held that man could save himself without God’s intervention, as I remember. Extreme Monergism (a la Edwards) holds that God saves and sanctifies man without any human involvement. Up until the Reformation, pretty much no Christian believed in monergism (even everyone’s pal Augustine holds a view of Salvation / Justification similar to modern Arminians). Etc. I think the Orthodox have, if not the correct view, a more correct view than Reformed theology. They (and I) would say that to read monergism / TULIP as a main tenet of the NT is to read it incorrectly.

I should also point out that the Orthodox don’t believe in salvation by works … at least, not by their definition. They still believe that man needs Jesus’ sacrifice for salvation and that it is an unearned gift. But they don’t believe in things like irresistable grace, because they believe that humans have libertarian free will. Again, this was basically “how it was” before the Reformation. The Reformers swung against Pelagianism too far, and the Catholics (possibly) swung against the Reformers back into Pelagianism.

34. Second choice « Another Potting Shed - December 6, 2007

[…] I spotted a thought-provoking blog post about Why not to be Orthodox on the WordPress blogs […]

35. BrewFan - December 6, 2007

Ben, I don’t know how you can get any clearer then this:

EPH 1:17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, 19 And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to usward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power.

EPH 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.

I’m not dogmatic about predestination as the Calvinists would have you believe. As we’ve discussed here before I believe God is everywhen so the fact He foreknew the saints wouldn’t suprise me. However, the scriptures are pretty clear that we are born spiritually dead so something supernatural has to happen before we can make a decision. BTW, I have some good news for you Ben (and Michael); once saved, always saved!

36. Michael - December 6, 2007

I believe God is everywhen so the fact He foreknew the saints wouldn’t suprise me. However, the scriptures are pretty clear that we are born spiritually dead so something supernatural has to happen before we can make a decision.

Brew, I think we’re pretty much on the same page about predestination.

On the other hand, we still have a disagreement about the eternal security of believers.

I don’t know how you can get any clearer then this

Sorry, Brew, I just can’t help myself. Here’s how:

(Mat 24:1213 NASB) “And because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved.

I.e., Jesus wants to make it clear that security is dependent on the endurance of your faith (which requires nurturing with Word and Sacrament).

(1 Cor 10:8 NASB) Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.

Paul here is referring to OT events, but makes it clear that this applies to us. The point here is not that it requires good works to be saved, but it does require an enduring faith.

Clear enough?

(Luke 8:13-14 NASB) “And those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away. And the seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity.

Well, maybe it’s not really all that clear, because an enduring faith is itself a gift of God, and not the result of works.

(Phil 1:6-7 NASB) For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.

(1 Pet 1:3-5 NASB) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Confused? Me too. I look at it this way — the Bible seems to be promoting a state of nervous confidence about our salvation.

37. BrewFan - December 6, 2007

Maybe this will bolster your confidence a little:

Jesus said, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”

And Paul wrote, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Finally, John wrote, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life”

38. Michael - December 6, 2007

Amen, Brew.

39. Retired Geezer - December 6, 2007

I like the NASB.

And the NIV.

And the Greek Interlinear.

40. BrewFan - December 6, 2007

I use the NASB most of the time but all of the cites in the on-line Westminster Confession of Faith are in the King’s English 🙂

41. Michael - December 6, 2007

Brew, spring loose a few bucks for QuickVerse Deluxe. It’s amazing what you get on that CD. All the major translations, the original languages available at a click, word studies, concordance, Bible atlas and dictionary, commentaries, chain references, etc.

42. Muslihoon - December 6, 2007

I’m oldskool.

I read the original Greek parchments.

My favorite one says: “The”. So profound!

(Now to find a way to get around those restraining orders the ancient collections libraries have against me…I honestly never thought using a highlighter would be so bad!)

43. BrewFan - December 6, 2007

Brew, spring loose a few bucks for QuickVerse Deluxe

Back in the day I had the DOS version. You had to install from about 150 floppies (I exaggerate, but it was a lot). It was way cool, though.

44. BrewFan - December 6, 2007

Musli, I have a degree in ancient Greek punctuation.

45. Muslihoon - December 6, 2007


The Gospel writers could have made it more difficult.

“Are you sure it’s ‘god’ and not ‘dog’? Which way is the text running this time?”

46. Muslihoon - December 6, 2007

(Of course, I’ll conveniently ignore that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John likely spoke Aramaic, no?)

47. Michael O. - December 7, 2007


Was this supposed to be tongue-in-cheek?: “So, that’s it. End of story. The Lutheran tradition is really the only choice.”

I certainly hope no one would base their decisions for a church on something so simplistic. Did he even characterize what Orthodox teach correctly? If so, what are the reasons for such teaching?

I don’t have a problem with Ben giving a brief summary of why he’s not Orthodox. Even if Ben’s statement interacts little with Orthodox thought or how it might respond to his claims, for that does not mean Ben has necessarily failed to interact with it; he may have a much more sophisticated understanding of Orthodoxy and the debates over the issues he raised, but they were simply beyond the scope of the summary he wished to offer. For a reader of his statement to take it on its face without thinking through whether his claims accurately depict the Orthodox position and what the Orthodox defense of those positions would be (like Ben may have), however, that is indeed short-sighted. So, Michael, it may be the case that you were serving your statement with a grain of salt, and if so, great; if not, please appreciate that the Orthodox position is quite deep and rich and is worth interacting with further. I’m sure you wouldn’t want someone to rule out Lutheranism just because I told them Lutherans emphasize anarchy over hierarchy (that person should see if that is even true of Lutherans), or because I said that the bible teaches we are saved by works and not by faith alone so forget sola fide (one should learn how Lutherans respond).

Anyway, sorry if I took you more seriously than you meant to be taken. Good day to you.

48. geoff - December 7, 2007

Rest easy, Michael O., it was a joke. Part of running gag here.

49. Michael O. - December 7, 2007

Thanks Geoff. I figured that was the case (I probably shouldn’t have bothered explaining why it would be wrong if that was not the case -slower to speak I ought be).

50. Perry Robinson - December 10, 2007

In one sense the jurisdictional distinctions are ephemeral since one can easily take communion in any national jurisdiction. Second, to divide people’s and include or exclude primarily on the basis of ethnicity was condemned as heterodoxy by the Orthodox over a century ago. It is known as the heresy of phyletism.

It is quite true that the Ecumenical Patriarch can’t unite the Orthodox and for good reason. That is because they are already so in a common faith under Jesus. And this the way it has always been, even with the bishop of Rome. This is why Ecumenical Councils were able to prosecute Roman bishops for heresy.

The Muscovite claim to being the Third Rome has to do primarily with intermarriage between the Caesars of New Rome and the Muscovite Rus. In any case, jusridictional squabbles do not touch the unity of the faith and are nothing new nor limited to the Orthodox.

As an American of non-Greek, non-Rus, non-Antiochian descent, I am quite familiar with the degree to which those bodies are influenced by ethnicity. Of course, I do recall not a few Lutheran churches who pride themselves on being German, CRC churches who label themselves the “Dead Dutchmen”, with every parishioner family starting with “van” something or other and being raised Anglican, I do recall not a few stripes of English pride there as well. The fact is that most Americans are blind to the ethno-centric ways they have imbibed and structured the gospel and only notice it when others have done so.

51. Perry Robinson - December 10, 2007


If you read the debates between Rome and the Orthodox, it becomes quite clear that one cannot have the Papacy without the filioque and vice versa. Rome’s claim to papal supremacy at a theoretical level, depends on the methodology (development of doctrine) as well as the content, the Spirit proceeds from the Son, and hence the Son’s vicar into the church, of the filioque.

I would think it would be obvious that any tinkering with the Trinity would be a major concern, especially for Protestants who embrace Sola Scriptura. Oddly the Filioque is one Roman innovation, that Protestants unquestionably accept which has no scriptural support.

52. Perry Robinson - December 10, 2007


I suppose the Orthodox missed Ephesians for the 1,500 years they were copying it in Greek and commenting on it prior to the Reformers? I agree with Ephesians, but I don’t agree that it teaches monergism. Eph 2:8 teaches that we are not the source of divine power, that is grace. It doesn’t teach that nature is bereft of all good post fall. We distinguish between image and likeness. The Likeness is lost, but not the image.

Our main objection to monergism is that it is the anthropological version of the Christological heresy of Monothelitism. There is synergy between humanity and divinity because there is so in Christ and Christ shows us the true relationship between God and his creation. The human power of choice (will) in Christ is not subdued or subordinated to the one divine will shared by the Trinity.

Scripture says we are spiritually dead IN the transgressions and we are opposed to God because WE have SET our minds ON carnal things. This does not imply that we can do no genuine good things, but only that they aren’t sufficiently good. We miss the mark, not that we are unable to make a shot.

True Paul says that nothing can separate us, but that is in the context of the general resurrection in Romans 8. In Romans 9-11 he then goes on to warn them about being cut out of the Covenant for unbelief and pride. And sure we can know we have eternal life, but knowledge doesn’t necessarily imply certainty or that what I know about not, might not change later.

53. Anonymous - December 13, 2007

I was raised LCC and had an Orthodox friend growing up. In examining my own beliefs Orthodox vs Lutheran a great resourse has been the link below. It is a radio show on Othodox beliefs, commonly comparing thier beliefs with Protestant and Roman Catholic and, in my opinion, rather diplomatic.

54. Anonymous - December 13, 2007

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