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Archive for October, 2010

Over the past several years, I’ve had a few acquaintances who have converted to Eastern Orthodoxy (hereafter EO).  Others are currently drawn to it or at some point have been strongly attracted to it.  Most of these are people I’ve encountered in various online discussion forums dedicated to the discussion of Reformed theology.

All of these have been folks who were at one time members of a conservative Presbyterian denomination like the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) or the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) and who were often some kind of Baptist to begin with.  Often, although not always, they were attracted to the Federal Vision and the New Perspective on Paul in the mid 2000’s.   The following observations may or may not apply to the same degree to Westerners from different backgrounds who go EO.

It seems to me that Westerners convert to Eastern Orthodoxy due to a few reasons or considerations:

1.  They reject Roman Catholicism because they cannot accept papal infallibility, the primacy of the Bishop of Rome and maybe a few other things.  In general, Rome has too much baggage for many Americans and some other Westerners of a Protestant background.  Due to Trent and subsequent statements, Rome’s teaching appears to be a lot more clearly defined as well.  A clear marking of boundaries tends to give rise to controversy.  I don’t know that the East ever experienced a scholastic phase to the extent that the West did during the Middle Ages and later with the Reformation and Counter-Reformation.  Thus, it seems that one can look eastward and see what he wants to see to a greater degree.

2.  Many of them would have been attracted to Anglicanism in previous years.  However, Anglicanism is now basically a disaster in the West, having been eviscerated by liberalism over the past 100 years and with apparently no cohesive conservative remnant.  Some Calvinistic evangelical Anglicans (or what used to be called low church) may go into some kind of Reformed or Presbyterian church and a few others may affiliate with the African Anglicans that are now overseeing some parishes that have disaffiliated from the Episcopal Church USA.  A good many of the high church types tend to cross the Tiber eventually unless they are hung up on the ordination of women, celibacy or Rome’s claim to authority. 

3.  They have rejected Calvinism and for whatever reason cannot be Lutheran, probably because of the strong law/grace distinction and Two Kingdom theology that is found in Lutheranism.  The EO types are typically into the idea of Christendom and often have an emphasis on influencing the culture.  Thus, Anglicanism would have been a good fit but see #2.  Lutheranism, like Calvinism, is also viewed as insufficiently apostolic by those who equate the ancient church (and thus authentic Christianity) with Rome or the East.  But I find that the rejection of Protestantism on the grounds of it not being apostolic in its teaching or authority typically follows discontent with it in some other regard.

4.  Due to the conversions of Peter Gillquist and others, the easy availability of information on the internet that wouldn’t have been readily available a few decades ago and perhaps some of the American Orthodox churches becoming less of an ethnic social club, Eastern Orthodoxy is more accessible to Americans than it has ever been.

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