Friday, February 1, 2008

Steal, Kill and Destroy

One of the things I found to be a huge contrast between the non-denominational Protestant church I used to attend and the Orthodox Church is how much is simply 'not there' in the Protestant church. If you look at the Orthodox Church, you have the Eucharist, the Mysteries, the icons, the vestments, theosis, the Liturgy, the spiritual displines, the major feasts, the minor feasts, the Bible with the Apocrypha, the teachings of the Church Fathers, holy water, and so much more I have have not included on this list. Basically, the historic fullness of all that is truly Christian.

In comparison, the modern non-denominational Protestant church looks like a drastically scaled back version of the Church. It has the 'abbreviated' Bible, only symbolic sacraments in baptism and communion, no art to speak of (but that is changing somewhat), no altar - basically not much to anchor you to the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets. I only say this as a comparison of the outward look and feel of this version of Protestantism, because there is no doubt sincere believers in Christ there - I just think they are getting short changed.

The reason? Because the enemy has done exactly what Jesus said he would do - steal, kill and destroy. He has honed down, watered down and extracted from the Faith its glorious fullness, and the result is sincere believers are not getting the powerful presence and reality of the Lord they love. So much has been done in the way of setting up road blocks through Western history that it seems like an insurmountable task to clear the way for my dear friends to see the fullness of the faith and how much has been stolen.

Be that as it may, I pray for them. I am still in close relationships with many sincere, true Protestant believers, and I love them dearly for their zeal and commitment to the cause of Jesus Christ and the salvation of souls, and I desire so much for them to see the greatness of our God in the historic and life-giving fountain of the Holy Spirit in the Holy Orthodox Church, the visible and tangible Body of the Living Christ on earth.


Jim H. said...

Of course the Bible church response to this is that Orthodoxy has forgotten to include biblical teaching in the midst of all its sacred beauty and liturgy.

"Sure," they say, "You've got a ton of Bible verses that are chanted throughout the liturgy, but no one has clue about what it means."

And, they say, the failure of adequate Bible teaching results in an inward-looking church that has forgotten (or maybe never knew) that all Christians are called out into the world to love their neighbors and make disciples.

In your view, are you satisfied that your Orthodox community is accomplishing this?

Nicodemus said...

The Bible church response is not unwarranted, especially with some of the nationalistic Orthodox churches around the country. I feel fortunate to be in an Orthodox church that is primarily populated with converts from Bible-literate churches. For us, the liturgy is profoundly rich, as we understand the context and symbolism intended in the selected Scripture readings. Because of this demographic in our parish, we are very much outreach focused - we are intentionally evangelistic.

If you have done any other web-surfing or reading regarding the Orthodox, you may have noticed that there is a shift from an inward-looking to an outward-focused mindset. This is particulary true of the Antiochian arm of Eastern Orthodoxy, but many Greek Orthodox parishes, as well as the Orthodox Church in America (OCA), are that way as well.

If you get a chance, you may want to investigate some of the podcasts on Ancient Faith Radio (I have a link to it on the sidebar). You may be surprised at just how outreach-focused the Orthodox have become. With an influx of Bible-literate believers now discovering and infiltrating these parishes, it has had a rejuvinating effect on those who have grown up in the Church.

So, you don't have to sacrifice biblical teaching for sacred beauty, and many Orthodox churches, including mine, are relishing in the intensity of both. When you have this kind of experience, I feel you can't help but share with your friends and neighbors - it is the natural outcome of a life filled with the Spirit.

I hope that answers your question. I could not be a part of a church that did not reach out - I consider that radically irresponsible.

John said...

Nicodemus, I would have to agree. Until the recent arrival of our priest, we were not able to have weekly services at our mission. On those Sundays, I would, on occasion, accompany my wife to her (my former) evangelical Protestant church. It provided an interesting contrast with our Orthodox services. They were the friendliest people in the world, but everything seems stripped-down, light and fluffy, in comparison to my Orthodox services. Archbishop Dmitri (raised Baptist) summed it up in speaking of his early experience when he said that "he just wanted the rest of his church."

Jim, I will respond to the 2 charges made by the Bible church regarding Orthodoxy. The first, I believe, is totally without merit. It is a self-justifying accusation on their part, but I find little truth in it. I find the Orthodox to be anything but clueless about the scripture chanted throughout the service. The second charge they make does hit closer to home, however. Even so, I don't believe this inward-lookingness is the result of inadequate Bible teaching, but rather has its roots in the cultural heritage of being under the thumb of the Ottomans for 500 years (or more) or the Soviets for 70 years or so.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I have a tough time at the sense of inadequacy perceived from your post. That my own relationship with God has no real bearing because I don't carry with me the trappings of the Orthodox Church. Adam and Eve in the garden were naked and didn't realize it. It was only in their sin that God made them clothes. Perhaps being naked and real before God alone is all He really desires, clothed in the Word and the sacrifice of His Son, offering our heart, not man's affectations.