The gospel is relevant to all, not just guilty bad boys.

God touches different people according to their needs.

Readership: All; Christians;

In the comments under a previous post, A Conversation About Human Potential and Purpose (2020 September 4), Jeff Barnes wrote,

Below is a quote from an article exploring differing understandings of original sin.

“It is suggested by those in the Orthodox Church that the doctrine of ancestral sin naturally leads to a focus on human death and Divine compassion as the inheritance from Adam, while the doctrine of original sin shifts the center of attention to human guilt and Divine wrath. The image of an angry, vengeful God haunts the Western Church where a basic insecurity and guilt seem to exist.”

Having in addition been brought up in a Calvinist church whereby the doctrine of total depravity is emphasised, to me it seems little wonder that I have had trouble listening or trusting my heart.  Learning about the orthodox teaching of synergy between God’s grace and our wills is helping me understand my connection with God.  I never thought the doctrine of original sin was just and now I find that it is in fact a heresy contrary to early church teaching.  I really wrestled with believing the gospel as it was taught to me because it had been presented as penal substitutionary theory, now I can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that is another heresy.  I am not sure whether my spiritual intuitions are more on point than the average person or if being an independent minded thinker caused me to so uncomfortable with many Protestant heresies I had grown up with, but in any case I praise God for revealing to me the truth and beauty of Orthodox theology.

I tend to believe that the modern church has gotten distracted in all the discussion of ancestral sin vs. original sin, monergism vs. synergism, free-will vs. predestination, and so on.  These philosophical exercises have all produced continual schisms and divisions within the Body of Christ, leading to Orthodoxy, Catholicism, Calvinism, Lutheranism, Armenianism, and so on, and resulting in a thousand different sects and denominations.  I do not mean to say that any of these are false heresies, but that they are merely academic models of Christianity as a religion.  These concepts may help one understand and communicate what they are experiencing in their own spiritual lives, but seldom does a theological argument convince anyone to believe in Christ.  (Wintery Knight might disagree.)  Notice what the scriptures say.

10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.  11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.”  12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.  13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed?  And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”  16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel.  For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?”  17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:10-17 (ESV)

Notice in verse 10, it does not say, “For with the mind (or by maintaining intellectual fidelity and integrity) one assents to cognitive agreement and is justified…”  No, it says, “with the heart one believes (or trusts) and is justified (by faith)”.

St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow Russia.

Two chapters later, Paul goes on to explain that after the heart believes, the mind must be renewed.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.  For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.

Romans 12:2-3 (ESV)

In sum, attention to the heart must come first, followed by the readjustment of the mind.  This is the crucial point that many modern iterations of Protestantism have skipped over entirely.  To emphasize any kind of theorology, and ignore the exposition of a heart-based faith in Jesus is a heresy in itself.

I’ll continue on with Jeff’s comment.

I relate to this: “I’ve always known that I’ve been led by something deep and quite different from those around me.  I’ve always known that there was a disconnection between what was and what ought to be…” In my view, that is typical of someone with introverted intuition as their dominant cognitive function or at least in a valued position.

I also see the giant discrepancy between the vision Jesus lays out for us and how the average Christian acts.  And those that see they fall short, often fall into the sin of despair and then label it humility, (I got that from someone else, and I think it is a bit of pithy brilliance.).  To me Jesus most defining trait, or the one most impressed on me was his virtue of humility, and if I look at myself and others our greatest sin tends to be pride.”

I do believe that most all Christians in the West have been exposed to the gospel as a “penal substitutionary theory”, as Jeff and I have.  I do not view it as a heresy, but rather, it is just one perspective of the Gospel that would especially resonate with someone who has a lot of guilt and shame, and who might question how God can remove that burden.  While it is true that everyone has a spiritual deficit such as this, not everyone perceives this as an acute spiritual need, and it therefore fails to touch their hearts and lives as the gospel should.

The way I see it, the shortcoming in how the gospel is presented in the modern Church today, is that it focuses too heavily on Jesus as a Savior (the penal substitutionary exegesis), and it fails to outline any of the other equally valid perspectives of the Gospel which would resonate with others who come from a different background and who perceive themselves as having different spiritual needs.

To iterate this idea further, I’ll offer the following examples.

  • Someone with a poor or absent father figure would most appreciate a gospel that frames God as a loving Father.
  • Someone who has been neglected or abused needs to hear about God as a provider and protector.
  • An unpopular or disadvantaged person needs to know Jesus as a friend.
  • A person who is proud, distrustful, or fearful needs to know how humility, sacrifice, and forgiveness can generate life, love, and joy.
  • A person who grew up in a dysfunctional or broken home needs to experience acceptance and fellowship in God’s family of believers.
  • Someone who grew up in an emotionally and spiritually dead environment needs to experience the joys and blessings of shalom.

And yes, there is a new market niche for the gospel since the advent of 4th Wave Feminism.

  • Feminist wives need to learn about Jesus as an authoritative husband who offers genuine fulfillment but who also demands obedience.
  • Soyboys need a gospel that focuses on Jesus as a powerful conqueror and a victorious overcomer.
  • Incels need a Christian “Red Pill” gospel to give them confidence, hope, and a sense of purpose in life.

I’m sure there are many other perspectives of the Gospel that I have not included in this list.  But my point is that what each person would consider to be the redemptive element of the gospel is a message containing the aspect of God that gives them what they are missing the most in their spiritual life.  In other words, the gospel is best presented as that which arouses a person’s heart to trust in God.  The heavily toted fire and brimstone gospel only reaches the most hedonistic of individuals, and only at the moment they are ready for it.

Related

Ed Hurst has written a series of posts about the nature of a heart-based faith.

About Jack

Jack is a world traveling artist, skilled in trading ideas and information, none of which are considered too holy, too nerdy, nor too profane to hijack and twist into useful fashion. Sigma Frame Mindsets and methods for building and maintaining a masculine Frame
This entry was posted in Churchianity, Collective Strength, Faith Community, Introspection, Maturity, Personal Growth and Development, Organization and Structure, Questions from Readers, Self-Concept, The Power of God. Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to The gospel is relevant to all, not just guilty bad boys.

  1. Ed Hurst says:

    Humans could never formulate from an objective position the gospel message to all the world. We reach those we are designed to reach. The only true message is the testimony you have, and God uses that to reach those He wants to hear it. It’s not a logical proposition, but a relationship.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Jack says:

      @ Ed, et al.,
      I agree that the basic setting of evangelism lies in personal, one-on-one interactions. But my main point in this post is to point out how different people respond to the gospel message. It has to touch people’s deepest heart-felt need. Jesus touches us in the place it hurts most.

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  2. Lance Roberts says:

    All perspectives need to bow to the fact that Christ was crucified for our sins. Sin is what separates us from God and if a perspective doesn’t make that primary then it is an improper perspective. For example, while it would be good for those with a bad father figure to see God as the good one, first they have to be given the faith that allows them to repent of their sins and accept the sacrifice of God’s son for those sins. Without a proper understanding of original sin, no one will ever really understand or have a proper relationship with God. True faith convicts us of our sin, regenerates our Spirit and allows us to be connected to God as opposed to being a slave to sin separated from God.

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    • Jeff Barnes says:

      I agree with you, and it seems that Jack might be offering a plate of gospel options that one can choose from to best grow spiritually. Orthodox understand salvation thing to be one thing only, namely union with God. So if, as you say, our sins are what separates us from God we primarily need to hear that Christ has rescued us from our sins by his sacrifice (of course the details would be debated by Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Protestants). Hard to know what you mean by this:”Without a proper understanding of original sin, no one will ever really understand or have a proper relationship with God” considering Orth, RC, Prots all have a differing understanding of it. I would presume you would reject the Pelagian notion, and say that does not lead to saving faith though.

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  3. lastmod says:

    “Learning about the orthodox teaching of synergy between God’s grace and our wills is helping me understand my connection with God. I never thought the doctrine of original sin was just and now I find that it is in fact a heresy contrary to early church teaching.”

    Please expand on this because my cousin married an Orthodox Greek (from Greece) and their wedding was a LONG ritual of dancing around a crown, the altar, standing, kneeling, standing, kneeling, curtains opened revealing an “icon” a priest speaking in a sing-song gregorian chant voice, people looking at you if you didn’t know when to stand, kneel………I was in the wedding party.

    At Orthodox Easter one year I attended services, and the congregation marched around the church so many times, then priest knocks on the door, and no one answers (duh….no one is in there but it was because “Jesus” is no longer there…….more reciting, kneeling, a scripture read

    I have tried to understand, was given “rolled eyes / ‘oh sweet jesus’ snark-remark” when I posed a question from an Orthodox on Dal’s forum.

    Just from observation I find it similar to my cultural COE upbringing, and my father’s cultural Catholic side of “tradition says” and I have indeed read the Bible a few times, and found nothing in it is the ministry of jesus, or in the Acts of doing all this stuff or jesus explaining “synergy” between God’s grace and our will.

    I thought after becoming a Christian, your will is to be His. Confused.

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    • Lexet Blog says:

      I highly doubt most at the ceremony could even explain the mass/ceremony.

      You would have to go to the catechism and the specific book they have on marriage/funeral rituals.

      It’s based on their man made traditions.
      In a Roman Catholic mass, for instance, everything the priest does is choreographed and symbolic about Christ’s death and resurrection. Most of it is nonsense – the entire point of the mass is that the priest is becomes a conduit that allows the congregation to connect with Christ. Very bizarre stuff.

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    • Jeff Barnes says:

      I would modify my statement and say I was uncomfortable with the Reformed teaching of imputed guilt from Adam sin because he was our head. Orthodox believe in ancestral sin but they do sometimes refer to it as original sin. Ancestral sin means human beings now have a tendency to sin, and experience death and the corruption of this world. In contrast to other teachings on original sin, man kind’s nature is still good and has not been completely fallen, but just corrupted. Also our sin separates us from God ontologically, and we are not guilty for the original sin committed by Adam, but each man is responsible for his own sin. That was my ‘best’ try to explain it, don’t take what I said as gospel though.

      As a Christian my will is to be his, and hence also to be part of his Church. Christ didn’t come to earth to write a book. He came to setup a the one, holy, apostolic church. Only orthodoxy and catholicism can claim to have apostolic succession. God does not give us the Bible so we determine what church has the ‘correct gospel’. Only his CHURCH can properly interpret his Word. The Protestant mess is the result of each man determining for himself what the Bible says by abandoning the authority of the Church.

      I expect most are confused by an Orthodox service the first time they are there, don’t let the initial cultural shock dissuade you from attending.

      Synergy of God’s will and ours just means that we have to exercise our free will to be in alignment to God’s will, and God makes this possible by his grace. In contrast the Calvinist teaching is that salvation is completely monergistic, whereby God’s spirit overrides our will and that is how we grow in sanctification.

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  5. Lexet Blog says:

    Look into provisionism. It’s a label given to describe traditional southern baptist theology before Calvinist hijacked it in the 80s. It rejects the Calvinist doctrine of total depravity. Leighton Flowers’ ministry Soteriology101 is dedicated to refuting the Calvinist position.

    Unfortunately Calvinism creates a straw man opposition that presents everyone with a choice: you are either with them or a heretical pelagian. They do this with nearly every doctrinal argument: create a binary option and make the opposition a straw man.

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    • Jeff Barnes says:

      Thanks for your comment. Would that be at all similar to Calvary chapel theology?
      I myself am not that interested at the present moment in examining the theological positions of the many protestant sects. I profoundly reject sola scriptura, which is an unfounded, damaging and usually unquestioned assumption which underlies the protestant reformation. Right now I am convinced Orthodoxy is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. However I am continuing to examine the claims of the Roman Catholic church despite the fact that I have already decided I will be joining the Orthodox Church. If your interested in understanding why I reject sola scriptura then this article, http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/tca_solascriptura.aspx is particularly informative.

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      • JPF says:

        I profoundly reject sola scriptura

        God gives you free will, so take this as advice rather than commands…
        Titus 1 shows Titus being instructed to appoint elders, but no where does Christ give men inheritable authority* to appoint apostles. And one of the requirements given in Titus 1 for these elders/overseers is that they must be one who is “Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught”. This clearly shows a good spiritual leader does not add to the commands of God. Yes, he may try to advise you as best he can about how you should like your life in the current culture, given the commands that God the Father and God the Son gave to us. But adding commands “as if from God” is not an authority given to sinful men. And both the RCC and the Orthodox are examples of why the Scripture + man-made traditions are foolish. A group of flawed men who think they have the authority to give commands from God will, as a group, not refrain from abuse.

        I currently go to Orthodox churches, so do not take the above as insults. It is merely true that believing you have some special status before God, putting your ideas above the God-given free will of other people, is dangerous and foolish.

        Scripture only shows Jesus choosing/appointing apostles. Yes, in Acts 1 we see the 11 apostles choosing a replacement witness. But we do not see God commanding that another apostle be “appointed”. The passage from Psalms (bishoprick let another take) says to let another take his place/office… and the new person was in fact able to act as a witness of Christ’s teaching and sacrifice. But having authority to give commands “from God”, and especially being able to bestow that authority to successors, is never mentioned in the Bible.
        Instead, we see passages like this one from Colossians 2:8 – See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
        And we see passages like this one from Jesus in John 14:26 that show the Holy Spirit is able to teach humans; we do not need religious leaders to make up commands – But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

        Even if you think Christ gave Paul and Peter authority to give new commands to the church, those guys are long-since dead. All we have now is man-made rules; see Matthew 15:8-9.

        I have always found it strange that people claim Peter and company had authority to make new apostles, who then also had this authority to make other apostles. Romans 12:6, 1 Peter 4:10 and Hebrews 13:20-21 show God deciding what gifts to give to various people. I have no “authority” to decide that Ray will now be an apostle.

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      • Jeff Barnes says:

        @JPF do you believe only in an invisible church of believers? I believe in the one, holy catholic, apostolic Church which is the visible Orthodox church. This is quite a claim, but I could give many apologetical arguments for it. However I think you would most benefit from reading this article here: https://blogs.ancientfaith.com/orthodoxyandheterodoxy/2015/01/07/problem-authority-know-true/

        In my other comment, I did not expect you to take my interpretation of scripture to be authoritative. You being a Protestant would hold to sola scriptura and as such you ultimately would only submit to your own interpretation of God’s word. My intent was not to engage in a bible bashing dialogue but instead to point out the Orthodox understanding of the Church with the aid of useful Bible verses. You may be going to an Orthodox church but it seems to me you don’t understand the Orthodox paradigm. I reject your Protestant interpretation of Timothy 3:16-17. I wasn’t clear when I said: “Orthodox teach that we have right understanding of God and his Word under the inspiration of the holy spirit who guides the Church, not individual believers which is a laughably false Protestant claim.” What I meant to say is that the Church is able to define true doctrine with the authority of the Church by the holy spirit which Christians should submit too, while each individual believer does not receive confirmation from the holy spirit of their own theological beliefs. No Protestant can truly be sure they have correct doctrine, and they borrow from some ecumenical councils while rejecting others to delineate some of the boundaries of their beliefs.

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      • lastmod says:

        Jeff, not to be ‘trite’ but your short statement here: “with the aid of useful Bible verses” to my stupid intellect is the same as the protestants you criticize about sola scriptura. Who in Orthodoxy deems which verses “useful” and “why”? Is it tradition? Some verses are not useful? Who deemed it as such? I mean, Jesus quoted the Torah (“It is written / When Adam walked in the garden…” et al). There wasn’t a Bible when the church was founded in Jerusalem. Nor Paul’s “letters”, nor instructions by Jesus to have bishops, aposolistic succession, a pope, places of worship designed a certain way, or a structure of how church administration is to be setup.

        I am not picking on you for the sake of my cultural protestantism upbringing, and trappings……..I know right now, all the churches are wrong about what Jesus was and who he was. He may be perfect, but man corrupted it. Protestantism is far from a “true” faith. However, Orthodoxy stood by and did nothing to prevent or protect its flock from the Lenin, and Stalin purges…….as the Catholic church in Poland (and I am not talking out of rear here, my father was a boy when the Nazis marched in, and in 1945 when the Soviets marched right back and the ‘holy’ catholic church stood complacent more concerned about rpeserving its man-made hierarchy instead of the supposedly pure church that “jesus” founded)

        I am not knocking Orthodoxy for its beauty and cultural signifigance, because its pretty intense…..but to laugh off your fellow christians as if they do not submit to the Holy Ghost is not the best defense of your beautiful tradition you have decided to be a part of.

        Anyway……..thank you for making it clear that I would not be allloewed in Orthodoxy (I am half Polish, and thus I would not be allowed. Russians, Greeks, and the balkanized areas of Southeastern Europe seem to be only allowed)

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      • JPF says:

        do you believe only in an invisible church of believers?

        I see no reason to debate that particular term, as I do not recall it being used in Scripture. Which means any debate on this is unprofitable and useless (Titus 3:9-11), a foolish and stupid argument (2 Tim 2:22-26).

        I would rather focus on the Scripture passages I already gave:
        – John 17, where Jesus prays that his followers would be one. Compare this attitude from Jesus, with the devisive and arrogant attitude that “only MY church is a true church; all you other people are false”. For example, I have gone to Orthodox churches; I previously attended a Jewish Christian church; and various “protestant” churches. I am capable of being in fellowship with Christians, whether they go to my preferred religious group or not.
        – Jesus’s teaching of “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them”. – We do not need any official religious group; we only need another believer and Jesus — that’s it. Your group, and mine, add nothing.

        Maybe it is unfair to accuse you of doing this deliberately, but I see you trying to pull the focus onto your man-made traditions. I encourage you to stop trying to focus on those, and instead to choose to focus on the words of Christ. Even if you think your religious traditions should be part of your faith, surely a genuine Christian would still consider the words of Christ to be 100 times superior to anything from his religious traditions. If not, then why bother with any Christian group. Christ allows you to walk away; at least be honest about who you are following.

        My intent was not to engage in a bible bashing dialogue but instead to point out the Orthodox understanding of the Church with the aid of useful Bible verses.

        This point of openness/honesty on your part is good. As above, I encourage you to ignore the “understanding” of whatever religious group, and instead meditate on the words of God. See Psalms 119:11, Psalms 119:105, Proverbs 3:5-7 and 1 Corinthians 1:18-25.

        apostolic Church which is the visible Orthodox church

        This raises another interesting point. In many European countries, the Orthodox church is very present. Go to any neighbourhood and you can find an Orthodox church.
        But in North and South America, Asia and Africa, many places have either extremely little presence of the Orthodox church, or absolutely none at all.
        Believing that the Orthodox church is the only “real” church means that you must believe God has abandoned massive parts of the world. But 2 Peter 3:8-9 and John 3:16 shows this to be a completely wrong conclusion.

        In contrast, if you accept the words of Christ (For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them), then any lone missionary can bring the gospel to any other single person / family / community. This one missionary and his one friend can pray together, where the new friend confesses that Jesus is Lord, believes in his heart that God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, and the new friend is now saved (Romans 10:9-13). There are now two of them, gathered in the name of Jesus, and Jesus is there with them. The lack of a physical Orthodox church building is irrelevant. The lack of a protestant church building is irrelevant.
        All the new convert needs is to hear the gospel, confess and believe (Romans 10). Your Orthodox church, and my church of whatever type, are of no importance or value to the question of this new believer coming to repentance and salvation.

        the Church is able to define true doctrine with the authority of the Church by the holy spirit which Christians should submit too

        This is another point of honesty on your part; well done. Many religious organizations want to exert control over other people. While I am sure you did not mean it this way, your statement above clearly shows the expectation of others submitting to the control of your religious group. I suggest you read 1 Peter 5:1-4, and contrast that with the attitudes/positions of your religious group.

        No Protestant can truly be sure they have correct doctrine

        Wrong. See Titus 1:8-9; we CAN hold firmly to the trustworthy message, as it has been taught. Granted, there are many disagreements about minor issues. Also 2 Timothy 3, we mentioned already.
        And there will always be religious groups that ignore the words of God, preferring instead their own rules and traditions. These people do cause great divisions.

        I hope I am wrong, but it seems likely to me this is a fruitless discussion. If you prefer the teachings of your Orthodox church over the direct words of Christ, then
        1) I should not continue to give you the words of Christ. Matthew 7:6 would apply.
        2) We will never have a chance of enlightening or correcting the other, as we are not reasoning from the same base; I am reasoning based on the teachings of God, while you are reasoning based on the teachings of your religious group. Regardless of who is “right”, such a discussion will very likely be of no value.

        Who do you want to defend you on the day of judgement? Will you depend on your religious church? Do you expect your local priest to stand between you and God?
        I will depend on the defense of the One specified in 1 John 2:1. And therefore I submit to Him. (Unfortunately, I do not submit perfectly and without sin. Galatians 5:16-18.)

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      • Jeff Barnes says:

        @Lastmod
        I just ment to say that I was not trying to engage in an exegesis of the text or use the authority of the bible, namely I could have used my own words instead of quoting the Bible. I am sure some of my defence of Orthodoxy is poor or off-putting, thanks for pointing out a specific issue. I mean no disrespect to your experience in regards to Orthodoxy and the nature of the church. I am also still learning how to approach the epistemological issue of how to understand how non-christians or christians reject what I understand to be the Church.

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      • Jeff Barnes says:

        @JPF
        If I asked you this question: “Do you believe in the trinity?” would you also respond in the following manner?
        I see no reason to debate that particular term, as I do not recall it being used in Scripture. Which means any debate on this is unprofitable and useless (Titus 3:9-11), a foolish and stupid argument (2 Tim 2:22-26).

        I would rather focus on the Scripture passages I already gave:
        – John 17, where Jesus prays that his followers would be one. Compare this attitude from Jesus, with the devisive and arrogant attitude that “only MY church is a true church; all you other people are false”.

        In what sense does Jesus want his Church to be one? I would argue he wants us to be one in faith, doctrine and holding to the traditions passed down from Jesus through the apostles as well as all submitting to Holy Tradition which is a product of the life of the spirit in the Church. People are not false, but they can have false ideas about Christ’s Church. I am familiar with the arrogant assertion that “only MY church is a true church; all you other people are false”, but this is a claim generally made by Protestant denominations who are saying their denomination is the most accurate to Scripture. The Orthodox claim is fundamentally different, they claim they are the body of Christ which has preserved the apostolic faith in Holy Tradition as commanded by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:15: “So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.” Most Protestants emphasise the importance of the lowest common denominator of theological belief and are not particularly concerned with convincing you that their denomination has something closest to the fullness of the truth. I would say Reformed people or Calvinists would be one notable exception to this.

        Maybe it is unfair to accuse you of doing this deliberately, but I see you trying to pull the focus onto your man-made traditions. I encourage you to stop trying to focus on those, and instead to choose to focus on the words of Christ. Even if you think your religious traditions should be part of your faith, surely a genuine Christian would still consider the words of Christ to be 100 times superior to anything from his religious traditions. If not, then why bother with any Christian group. Christ allows you to walk away; at least be honest about who you are following.

        Ok this made me laugh. Protestants like to bash Orthodox/Catholics for their man-made traditions but they generally fail to recognise the impact of their own traditions on how they live a life of faith and interpret the Bible. I am not trying to focus you on man-made traditions. I am trying to focus you on ‘God-made tradition’. Jesus did not come to write a book, he came to build a Church. Orthodox recognise the scriptures as a primary and esteemed part of the Holy Tradition given to the Church through the Holy Spirit. However they also recognise the authority of the episcopate, the church fathers, the ecumenical councils, lives of the saints and all other parts of Holy Tradition.

        As above, I encourage you to ignore the “understanding” of whatever religious group, and instead meditate on the words of God.
        Would you consider yourself a presuppositional apologist? I am familiar with their approach which is contrary to the classical apologetical method. I ask because if you are then you would implicitly carry a bunch of philosophical assumptions that I would reject, which may be relevant to our discussion here.

        All the new convert needs is to hear the gospel, confess and believe (Romans 10). Your Orthodox church, and my church of whatever type, are of no importance or value to the question of this new believer coming to repentance and salvation.
        No, you are incorrect and blinded by the Protestant doctrine of sola fide. Salvation is an ongoing process, not found by one-time act of repentance or born-again experience. Orthodox refer to salvation as Theosis, whereby we as Christians become more like God both now and in the next life. If you want to be saved then you should want to join Christ’s body and instead of remaining in schism where you miss out on the grace given by the sacrements, liturgy, and the rest of the life of the Church.

        the Church is able to define true doctrine with the authority of the Church by the holy spirit which Christians should submit too

        I suggest you read 1 Peter 5:1-4, and contrast that with the attitudes/positions of your religious group.
        I read it and it seems to me that you are not one of the sheep willing to submit to the authority of the shepherds. I discern from your writing that you seem to have a stronger strain of individualism then most Protestants. In contrast to the Roman Catholics who subject themselves to the Pope, you have decided to be your own Pope. What if any traditions or confessions do you ascribe to or do you merely pick and choose?

        No Protestant can truly be sure they have correct doctrine

        Wrong. See Titus 1:8-9; we CAN hold firmly to the trustworthy message, as it has been taught. Granted, there are many disagreements about minor issues. Also 2 Timothy 3, we mentioned already.

        Even if you do hold to the minimal common denominator of Christianity you are indebted to the early ecumenical councils held by the Church which defended itself against christological heresies. I would also contend that there are many disagreements over major not minor issues. These include the proper understanding of baptism, holy supper, the other sacraments, liturgy, salvation, icons, etc. Unfortunately the heresy of penal subsistionary theory is promulgated as the gospel in many Protestant churches, when in fact this is at best only one aspect of the atonement made by Jesus on the Cross.

        And there will always be religious groups that ignore the words of God, preferring instead their own rules and traditions. These people do cause great divisions.

        I might accuse you of hypocrisy here. Because of the blind adherence to sola scriptura the Protestant reformation has lead to endless schisms. Many man asserts his understanding of the Bible is needed to reform the church and then we have yet more religious groups with their rules and traditions from men, instead of returning to the Holy Tradition given by God in the Orthodox Church. For the first 1000 years there was only one Church, it was first the Roman Catholics who sort to add their man made tradition as over the Bible which latter lead the Protestants to revert that to declaring the Bible as over all man-made tradition. However Orthodox refuse to get entangled in such an ugly dialectic as for them scripture is part of Holy tradition, and instead pay heed to the command in Revelation 22, “I testify to everyone who hears the words of prophecy in this book: If anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. 19And if anyone takes away from the words of this book of prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and the holy city, which are described in this book.”

        I hope I am wrong, but it seems likely to me this is a fruitless discussion.

        I think this has been a fruitful discussion, I for one have learnt some things. What fruit would need to come of this discussion for you to deem it valuable?

        If you prefer the teachings of your Orthodox church over the direct words of Christ, then
        1) I should not continue to give you the words of Christ. Matthew 7:6 would apply.
        I really don’t see how you can throw that verse at fellow Christian, in this context where we are both searching for truth, and have much in common.
        2) We will never have a chance of enlightening or correcting the other, as we are not reasoning from the same base; I am reasoning based on the teachings of God, while you are reasoning based on the teachings of your religious group. Regardless of who is “right”, such a discussion will very likely be of no value.

        I agree that we are operating from differing paradigms, however I think there is much value to be had in understanding the other person’s position and from the interaction between the paradigms. You are in a epistemically darker place because I have operated in a similar paradigm to your own while you don’t seem to have accepted or engaged much with the Orthodox paradigm I am attempting to explain. However in regards to your second objection, I could try engage from our common base of scripture and with proper exegesis show you the validity of the Orthodox position which is grounded in scripture. However I recognise my limited skills in this regard but would be happy to recommend articles if you wanted them. I actually have greater respect for the direct words of Christ because I am striving to understand them from the wisdom and instruction he has given to his body the Church. Again I repeat there is no conflict or tension between the teachings of the Orthodox church and the direct words of Christ. If I was to convince you or any Protestant of the Orthodox paradigm, I would focus mainly on getting you to reject sola scriptura. However it depends on your openness among other things as to whether such an endeavour would be fruitful. If you would like to read about it might I suggest this article, http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/tca_solascriptura.aspx

        Who do you want to defend you on the day of judgement? Will you depend on your religious church? Do you expect your local priest to stand between you and God?

        Neither, but I do plan to leave my current denomination for a pearl of great price, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. 46 When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” On final judgement day I will be judged before God alone, who will consider what I have done with what he has given me. Luke 12:48, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

        Like

  6. Jeff Barnes says:

    Thanks Jack I really appreciate the article. I agree that the good news (gospel) that is preached should include an emphasis on wider amount of truths than just the that Jesus is our saviour. I agree and relate heavily with the first 6 points you raised apart from this one: An unpopular or disadvantaged person needs to know Jesus as a friend. Reading these my points made me tear up. Most particularly I have grown the most in my faith by understanding God as a loving father. In this regard I probably exaggerated the effect of the theology I was raised with in shaping my understanding of God the Father, as it seems to me that our early understanding of God is most heavily influenced by the understanding of our own earthly father. There is an interesting pattern that several prominent atheists either lost or had absent fathers, (read this article https://probe.org/atheists-and-their-fathers/ if your interested). I myself went through an intensely skeptical phase where I tried to rationally assess the apologetical arguments for the existence of God. Under my previous paradigm I considered myself to have faith and that I was trying to resolve intellectual doubts about the rationality of Christianity or belief in God. I think these experiences have made me more compassionate and empathetic to Atheists. In the end my faith was bolstered after having explored arguments for and against God. One example is that I wrestled with the problem of evil, and I didn’t come to a satisfying answer under the Calvinist paradigm. However imo Orthodoxy have a much better answer, without completely resolving the mystery.

    I heard something akin to the Christian “Red Pill” gospel as you say. I was in a terribly dark place and I was rescued out of it by the Jordan Peterson gospel. I am happy to find truth anywhere, and it just so happened that God rescued me from the hell I was in (Orthodoxy believes hell, and heaven are a present reality) through this man’s message. JP prepared me for accepting both the redpill and the orthopill. I finished reading maps of meaning just after I discovered orthodoxy.

    I consider the main reason my faith-life was so mental and I was lacking in a heart-based faith, to be my psychological issues that separated me from my heart. After healing from some of my trauma, I have grown much closer to God in heart and soul.

    You say: “I do believe that most all Christians in the West have been exposed to the gospel as a “penal substitutionary theory”, as Jeff and I have. I do not view it as a heresy, but rather, it is just one perspective of the Gospel that would especially resonate with someone who has a lot of guilt and shame, and who might question how God can remove that burden.” I myself have suffered from a lot of toxic shame that was not mine to carry which might be a different to those who rightfully feel guilty for their past actions. In my case what was most helpful even before hearing of Orthodoxy (which emphasises this to a greater degree), is that we are all made in the image of God and loved by him because of that. This is a message that I really didn’t hear in church, but have heard from protestants online.

    Like

  7. lastmod says:

    Every denomination claims they are “right” and everyone else……isn’t? Lexet, in Santa ROsa when I was living there I went to a Russian Orthodox service about three times. I asked for information about how and why and what they do, was given a card with a webpage. No greeting, no welcome….and really confused by the icons, the regalic looking medieval looking bible, one verse read. The cross as well. I sat quietly…copeid everyone when they stood and sat. Hardly left “transformed” from the tradition.

    In my COE upbringing, was gently modeled that the Catholics were the bad ones. I know that is not true…….when I was active in the Salvation Army, I was told by everyone since we did not practice the sacraments….I wasn’t a real christian. Hence one of the reasons why I tossed it out. I am not going to get dragged to hell for being taught the wrong thing, while others by their cultural upbringing are somehow “chosen”

    If christians can’t even agree on some practices…….what good is it?

    This is where I get lost, Orthodox has corned the ‘synergy’ between “god grace and our will”?
    Explain this with simple words. I am mentally retarded compared to you all.

    Thank you for the replies…..getting some of it….but most I am lost still. I still don;t get reading some prayer out of a book to a painted piece of wood is “christian”

    Like

    • Jeff Barnes says:

      Orthodoxy is not merely one denomination among many. They claim more than having correct doctrinal understanding. They claim to be the one, holy, catholic, apostolic Church. Almost all protestants believe, whether they are conscious of it or not, in a invisible church.
      This “I am not going to get dragged to hell for being taught the wrong thing, while others by their cultural upbringing are somehow “chosen” ” is something coming from a protestant mindset. In Orthodoxy your beliefs are important but only so far as they help you live the life of a Christian, by achieving salvation or as they call it theosis. Orthodoxy lay claim to being exclusively the Church, however they do recognise that there are many Christians in other traditions more or less dissimilar to the Holy Tradition they have received from Jesus, the Apostles, and through Christ’s body itself. One metaphor I have heard describing this is that the Church is a hospital for sinners, but that sinners can find good medication outside the Church. However if you could go to the hospital and receive all the best care than why would you be content with healing tools you currently have. Orthodoxy has the sacraments, saints, holds to ecumenical councils, the patristic writings of the early church fathers, liturgical worship, iconography, wider view of salvation, etc. Meanwhile Protestants proclaim the importance of personal study of God’s word, but fail to realise how much they are missing out on.

      “If christians can’t even agree on some practices…….what good is it?” Well Satan has power of this world and he is the author of division. You have to deal with the world as it is not as you would like it to be. The spirit blows where it wills, so you should praise God that you where following Christ without being connected to his body. And back to your previous comment, they are plenty of non-Christians in the world who in a sense are going to get dragged to hell for being taught the wrong thing, namely Islam, Athiesm etc. You should be grateful for the grace that God has already given you, and even if the teaching you received is incomplete it still revealed enough truth for you to be a believer.

      ‘This is where I get lost, Orthodox has corned the ‘synergy’ between “god grace and our will”?’ Do you mean coined or cornered instead of corned? There is two broad categories on how will interacts with God’s will, one called monergism the other synergism. The first is that we are saved only by God’s will, the second that it is a combination (synergy) of God’s will and our own. Wikipedia tells me that synergism is upheld by the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, and by the Methodist Churches. It is an integral part of Arminian theology. I am sure in the finer details there are some differences, in any case God doesn’t require a perfect theology for us to get into heaven. In my view many Protestant churches, in particular reformed ones, place an idolatrous emphasis on having a correct theology. I think it will take me a while to break from this myself.

      I hoped that helped let me know if you have any other questions.

      Liked by 1 person

    • JPF says:

      Orthodoxy lay claim to being exclusively the Church

      That is an interesting idea. Compare that idea with what Jesus taught: For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them
      So (some in) the Orthodox religious organization claim that only their churches are the “real” church. Jesus teaches that where two or three are gathered in his name, that he is with them.
      I’ll go with Jesus, and assume he is the one that has the right idea.

      Meanwhile Protestants proclaim the importance of personal study of God’s word, but fail to realise how much they are missing out on

      I think many “good” protestants do understand what they are missing… they are missing bad teaching. Dalrock’s blog had many articles focused on how various religious leaders were going into serious error because they focused on their own “teaching” rather than on the Word of God.

      Certainly, a mature Christian believer can give a good example and exhortation. But the commands of God come from God, not from men. You might ask, what about prophets? Didn’t God choose prophets to give commands?
      No. True prophets only repeated the exact message that God gave. A true prophet did not make up his own rules and then pass those on. Doing this was cause for the death penalty. And 2 Peter 1:20-21 says – knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

      In case there is any confusion, I am not “fighting against” the Orthodox religious organization. As I wrote earlier, I go to those churches. I have high respect for some of the religious leaders.
      I simply do not buy all of what (some of) their religious leaders are trying to teach.
      Whether we are looking at a protestant or Orthodox teacher/leader, what matter is what God says, not what the man says.

      Like

  8. lastmod says:

    When I was in England, I attended morning prayers every morning at the local COE church where ever I was staying (London, Manchester, and Conwy). Only two or three of us there in these huge churches…..I knew when to stand, to kneel and the like…..tradition….it came back instantly, but hardly felt closer to god, or moved. IDK………in the Salvation Army, it was full of former addicts, former hookers, working poor, the mentally handicapped, and mentally ill. Catholic churches are usually filled with Irish, French, Italian, Polish ancestry…..Orthodox are people who are Slavic for the most part……and COE are usually better dressed Catholics……..zero or little fellowship in any of them…….and a segratation of sorts.

    I have heard a lot about Orthodoxy since I stumbled into the sphere in 2011 or so…..and I went. Didn’t see this red-pilled church and culture I was told about there either from my times before (cousins wedding) I was christian or after.

    If I believe that Jesus actually lived and died and the way the Bible says, and I want to be a part of that and strive for that…………why isn’t that enough? The Bible I read is wrong (KJV) or I am not reading it “correctly” and I don’t do this or that, and follow traditions set forth by man (be it in the Salvation Army, the COE, or Catholism, or Methodism which the Salvation Army came from)

    ANd then to be told that what I am following is “wrong”

    Why bother? If it is indeed real…….are we all going to the nether regions because of the fact none of us got it right?

    Like

    • JPF says:

      zero or little fellowship in any of them

      Unfortunately my experiences with Orthodox churches match yours. Protestant churches have many flaws, but one thing they frequently do right is to fellowship openly with other believers and also with non-believers.
      Just show up, and you can strike up a conversation with somebody there. People much younger than you, or the opposite sex, may not want to talk with you, but other men there will likely have no issues with talking with you, answering questions or socializing.

      By comparison, when I go to an Orthodox church, I am shunned. Not because I did anything wrong; they simply will not talk to me. Even when I asked one of their religious leaders to talk to me, first in person and then following up by sending a voicemail message, he ignored me — he did not call back. I guess I am a worthless piece of garbage in their eyes. Ok.
      The only time any Orthodox people at church will talk to me for more time than it takes to brush me off is when I am at one of my wife’s churches. And I assume they only tolerate my presence there as a favor to her.
      My wife says it is typical to not trust outsiders. I understand this, but refusing to even talk with a new person means that you’ll never be able to move him from the “outsiders” group to the “trusted friend” group.

      I regret that LastMod feels rejected by the people that claim to represent God’s people. Not the way it should be. John 17 shows Jesus praying – I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

      Jason, God loves you. I agree you are worthy of love and respect. From a faceless guy on the internet, that unfortunately probably does not mean much.

      Like

  9. lastmod says:

    Jeff Barnes…..where does Jesus say “came to setup a the one, holy, apostolic church.” Only orthodoxy and catholicism can claim to have apostolic succession.

    What is apostolic? He said to Peter to “feed my sheep” and Peter was an apostle…..so that means in 33 AD or whatever, Jesus meant that only apostles could carry the traditon on? Or preach? Or lead? I don’t get this. Jesus didn’t say that. This is where “man” comes in and messes it up and corrupts everything for everybody.

    Like

    • Jeff Barnes says:

      Christ says in Matthew 16:18 that “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[a] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[b] shall not prevail against it.” The rock refers to the authority of the episcopate, (the continuation of bishops). Jesus said many things to the 12 Apostles that we do not know about. However Orthodoxy holds to both the written and oral traditions, and does not see any discrepancy between them. Again I repeat that Christ never came to write a book, he came to minister to his body the Church. But I hear that you might ask how can he instruct the Church after he has gone to heaven? Then read John 16:13, When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. Orthodox teach that we have right understanding of God and his Word under the inspiration of the holy spirit who guides the Church, not individual believers which is a laughably false Protestant claim.

      From Orthodox wiki,
      Apostolic succession is the tracing of a direct line of apostolic ordination, Orthodox doctrine, and full communion from the Apostles to the current episcopacy of the Orthodox Church. All three elements are constitutive of apostolic succession.

      It is through apostolic succession that the Orthodox Christian Church is the spiritual successor to the original body of believers in Christ that was composed of the Apostles. This succession manifests itself through the unbroken succession of its bishops back to the apostles.

      The unbrokenness of apostolic succession is significant because of Jesus Christ’s promise that the “gates of hell” (Matthew 16:18) would not prevail against the Church, and his promise that he himself would be with the apostles to “the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). According to this interpretation, a complete disruption or end of such apostolic succession would mean that these promises were not kept as would an apostolic succession which, while formally intact, completely abandoned the teachings of the Apostles and their immediate successors; as, for example, if all the bishops of the world agreed to abrogate the Nicene Creed or repudiate the Holy Scripture.

      Like

      • lastmod says:

        The rock refers to the authority of the episcopate, (the continuation of bishops)

        Oh “okay” so Jesus couldn’t say “bishop” or use any of the other terms man invented but he could use a metaphor which implies men to have beards, fine robes, a confusing lists of saints, feasts, festivals and to have all these texts, boosk, and icons….]

        Not buying it.

        Like

      • JPF says:

        Christ says in Matthew 16:18 that “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock[a] I will build my church, and the gates of hell[b] shall not prevail against it.” The rock refers to the authority of the episcopate, (the continuation of bishops).

        This is a prime example of exactly the error many religious groups make. Jeff here first quotes a passage – in this case Matthew 16
        Then Jeff adds his own idea about what it means – it this case the new idea of the episcopate (the continuation of bishops)
        Then Jeff expects others to take both what the Bible says and his own addition, as being authoritative.
        (And now I see that LastMod beat me to it, with this idea.)

        And yes, God did built his church on the council of Jerusalem, and the fact that the church is still around 2000 years later shows that Satan failed to crush it, even though Satan has certainly tried.

        Orthodox teach that we have right understanding of God and his Word under the inspiration of the holy spirit who guides the Church, not individual believers which is a laughably false Protestant claim.

        Interesting idea. Compare that with 2 Timothy 3: All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

        Not “that the religious leader may be trained in righteousness, complete, equipped”. No. Every man of God may be so trained and equiped, with nothing more than “All Scripture”. See passage from the Bible, quoted above.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. MLTrippied@aol.com says:

    The Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodoxy are essentially two sides of the same coin. Eastern Orthodoxy split from Rome in 1054. Sola Scriptura? I support that. One can say Jesus was essentially Sola Scriptura because he had no small controversy with the Jewish religious leaders and rebuked them for their slavish adherence to tradition. Jesus being GOD knew perfectly what was in the Talmud and the inspired writings of the prophets. Therefore Jesus held to the writings of the prophets and viewed the Talmud very dimly. As one of these posters on this thread said he wasn’t transformed being in the COE. Therefore the COE lacks any power thereof. One can compare Jewish traditions with the traditions of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy and many Protestant churches and what do they share one thing? They lack the power to transform. The Bible was for the common man and not as something the clerical class would give or withdraw from the unwashed masses. A few questions from the Bible Answer Book by Samuel Gipp can help. As an aside, the RCC, EO, and mainline Protestant churches share also another thing. They baptize infants into their respective churches. Infants lack the intelligence and faculties needed to be saved. One may as well baptize sheep because they too lack the said intelligence and faculties as well. The reason the term “Fundamentalist” was that we needed to go back to the basics of the Christian faith using only the Bible since over the centuries things have been added to which obscured what the faith is all about and what it does to mankind.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. feeriker says:

    My wife says it is typical [of Orthodox congregations] to not trust outsiders. I understand this, but refusing to even talk with a new person means that you’ll never be able to move him from the “outsiders” group to the “trusted friend” group.

    This is the bone I also have to pick with Orthodoxy, and it’s a very big one. My experience is limited to Greek congregations, both in Greece and in the U.S., and to a Macedonian congregation here in the U.S. However, if my tiny sample size is at all representative (and the comments here lead me to believe that it is), then the Orthodox church is less the Body of Christ represented on Earth than it is a collection of ethnocentric civic clubs painted with a veneer of Christian ritual. That’s a strong, even inflammatory statement, I realize, but I can only call it as I have seen and experienced it. I will also grant you that Protestant denominations are not immune from this illness, either (if you have ever attended a Black AME Methodist or Baptist church in the inner city, or a Korean Presbyterian or Hispanic Evangelical service in any major U.S. metropolitan area, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about), but I’ve never seen it present itself as blatantly and unapologetically as in the Orthodox church. I struggle mightily to imagine the original Twelve Disciples even being able to spread the faith anywhere beyond Palestine’s boundaries had they behaved toward “outsiders” as these churches do today.

    Like

    • Jeff Barnes says:

      From what I understand this is one of the biggest if not the biggest problem in Orthodoxy. However I don’t see it as an irreconcilable or damning issue, like some of the theological or historical/philosophical problems of other churches.

      Like

      • feeriker says:

        It’s not an issue at all if the Orthodox church does not wish to concern itself with evangelism. Otherwise, it’s quite the “irreconcilable and damning” issue.

        Like

  12. AngloSaxon says:

    It was very wicked what the Bolsheviks did to the Tsar and his family, thankfully their “Soviet Union” has already disappeared and died, they couldn’t even keep it going for a century.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jack says:

      I consider the assassinations of Nicolas Romanov and Franz Ferdinand to be the greatest crimes against humanity of the 20th century.

      Like

      • AngloSaxon says:

        Nah thats giving women the vote but those two events are definitely in the top five.

        Not a fan of “crimes against humanity” though, it reeks of worthless secular humanism.

        Like

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