Friday, April 27, 2007


In a recent exchange of posts and comments on Glory To God For All Things concerning monasticism, I commented that while monasticism is important to the Orthodox faith, there is always a danger in monasticism of "guruism."

This got me thinking about the occasional series on the Church I have worked on and how monasticism fits into that ecclesiology.

I think I've come up with a few thoughts I'd like to post to test my suppositions.

First, doing Orthodox theology in real life is always dangerous, but the danger is no excuse not to do the faith. The fact is we humans are handling things too great for us when we do the work of the faith, but that immensity is part of our ascesis toward making us both humble and awestruck, which serves many life-giving purposes. It also keeps us from the sad prelest that deludes us into believing we have ever "arrived" spiritually. To our very last breath we will labor with the truths of the faith. Period. Full stop.

Second, monasticism arose in the life of the Church as a charismatic response to the loss of persecution. It is the necessity of martyrdom (being a witness of the faith) that defines the move toward monasticism, a godly desire to take seriously the demands of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The ascesis of obedience, poverty, and physical discipline demand a grace to "die" to this world and live wholly in the next. This powerful and preservative witness of the Gospel of Christ is more necessary in times of affluence and secularism that any other time in history.

Finally, the balance of parish and monastery protects the Church from the extremes of both. Monasticism can tend toward guruism, that perpetual weakness of some to seek to never grow up and allow another to "master" their lives for them. This is balanced by the life of the parish that calls the faithful to live in the "desert" of daily life and still keep their faith. Parish life can tend, in our modern age, toward an unhealthy congregationalism that seeks to reduce the faith to it's "essentials." This creates a poverty of a perpetual spiritual kindergarten that never allows the faithful to struggle with the soul-maturing ascesis of the Orthodox faith. Monasticism stands as a lasting and visible rebuke to shallow Orthodoxy.

In both instances the enemy meant to be defeated is childishness and spiritual immaturity. But, just as the enemy often does, both these good remedies can be misused if we fail to appreciate the wisdom of God in incarnating the faith in real lives and not fall into the temptation for easy answers or reduce the faith to "rule keeping."

Fr. Stephen rightly observes that monasticism flies in the face of our modern penchant to see everything from a utilitarian attitude, but the whole of the Gospel attacks that small notion. Neither monasticism nor parish life were meant to be experienced in a vacuum, and both wise paths in Orthodox eccesiology were meant to work together in serving the spiritual needs of the faithful.

The main purpose, which cannot be forgotten if either of these gifts to the Church are ever going to produce what the Spirit has ordained them to produce, is to submit to the wise work of the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to and produce Christ in us so we can all be brought back to the Father. This is the work of the witness of monasticism and parish life. Anything less runs the risk of becoming an end in itself and ending up doing the exact opposite of its Spirit inspired purpose.


Sunday, April 22, 2007


Fr. Stephen Freeman has a very good post on the power of metaphors on his blog Glory To God for All Things.

It is called Watch Your Metaphors.

Please go there and read it. Father puts into words what I have felt for some time. The West is slowly re-examining its use of metaphor when talking about salvation and the eternal state of humanity. This has been going on for some time now, and offers both the East and teh West an opportunity to see where we can serve one another toward fulfilling Christ's prayer that we be one and He and the father are one (John 17).

Offer your comments as well.

Friday, April 20, 2007


The recent Supreme Court decision concerning the late term abortion method called partial birth abortion is bound to excite partisans on both sides of this debate.

However, the majority decision by the court written by Justice Kennedy lays the ground work for a clear understanding of the State's interest in curbing certain abortion methods.

From a historical Christian standpoint, this decision offers some much needed balance in this society's head long rush toward the pit of gross individualism and instant gratification.

Those who see any legal or societal curbs on the abortion industry will scream like "stuck pigs" that this is the beginning of the end! They will show pictures of coat hangers and drag out the horror stories of desperate women who resorted to "back alley" abortions in the "bad old days" when the "patriarchal system suppressed women" and "kept them bare-footed and pregnant."

All this hysterical language will do is bring out the hysterical language of the other side of the debate.

Both of these extremes, while possessing a kernel of truth, will not move the national discussion forward at all.

This is the greatest weakness in the Roe. v. Wade Supreme Court decision. It short circuited a national debate. What the Left could not do at the ballot box, it imposed through the courts.

But if this issue is ever going to be dealt with, it will have to be done with a culture-wide discussion.

In the end, abortion will be restricted. It will be restricted because medical technology is fast making it absurd and obviously immoral. It will be restricted because wise people will begin to see it as it is, demographic and cultural suicide. Already, there are doctors in Great Britain who are refusing to do abortions for that very reason.

But abortion will not be illegal. It will not be illegal because there are instances when a doctor and a woman patient have to make heartbreaking decisions and legislation ceases to be useful in that sacred space. It will remain legal because in spite of all the good intentions of the pro-life crowd, laws don't change the human heart.

Christian anthropology insists that life is a sacred gift of God. Because of this, we Christians must stand and declare that convenience never trumps human value. Ever!

But we also must equally declare that it is the heart of humanity that must be changed, not the penal code. Let us make more faithful disciples of Jesus Christ and abortion will become irrelevant.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


In an ongoing look at The Church, I have been challenged to rethink my notions of The Church. Taking as my launching pad of this spiritual effort, I hear Fr. Alexander Schmemann's (of blessed memory) words where he declared that Orthodoxy is the antidote for religion.

My first effort at confronting this new vision of The Church began as I came to understand that religion and Orthodoxy are, for the most part, incompatible.

Here, religion is defined as the efforts of humanity to medicate itself with God talk and rituals all meant to "help" man reconcile himself to his mortality. Religion, diffused as it is with the weakness of humanity, has degenerated into nothing more than a self-help plan with Jesus words added to medicate us further.

On the other hand, Orthodoxy (ortho = right or correct; doxa = belief or worship) confronts humanity with an absolute reality - victory over death. True Christian faith invites us to confront all the places where the stench of death has corrupted our "nous" (mind, or better "our deepest self") and teaches us a true "therapia" for authentic healing and victory.

This stark contrast lies at the heart of the differences between time bound traditions of men and the authentic, Holy Spirit inspired "paradosis" of the Christian Church through the centuries.

It also marks a clear contrast in the motivations of religious piety and effort.

But this most striking difference is seen in the idea of "Church" itself.

Taking into context this authentic therapy of the Christian faith to transfigure us from death to life, now we see the primary reality of the Church as the "healing community" where a man or a woman or a child is invited to the healing work of the disciplines of the faith, not to make him a "better" person, but to work the resurrected life of Jesus Christ into every aspect of his being. This work continues until there is not even the hint of mortality about the transfigured man.

So, the motivation of living the Christian life in the midst of this healing community is changed from acts of obedience to either make an angry god happy with us or to "help" us live a "better" life or be a "better" person, into a journey of healing and resurrection and preparation to encounter the Uncreated God and not consider that encounter a disaster.

The Church then exists to both administer this healing "medicine" and to bring men and women into the very act of communion that is meant to foster this healing of each person. The Church ,as a Divine Mystery, then becomes a concrete icon of that very process of "being transformed by the renewing of your 'nous'."

No wonder Fr. Schmemann entitled one of his greatest works "For The Life of the World." It is precisely for the life of the world that we Orthodox Christians pray for and participate in when we enter into the life of the Church and begin practicing the wisdom of the faith in the midst of the Church.

Religion and Orthodoxy are mutually exclusive. One is focused on creating a "better" man, and the other is focused on creating a "New" man.

Friday, April 13, 2007


A quick excursion into modern pop culture and a bit of my politically conservative side to show! Hopefully, you'll see the connection to my thoughts about the Church.

I am sure everyone has heard the recent dust up among the chattering class here in America about the horrendous comments made by Don Imus on his daily morning show. No justification at all for comments that are made about innocent young women who had achieved some wonderful goals in their college basketball career! None, whatsoever.

Having said that, let me also add that at the very same time no one who has any familiarity with Don Imus and the shtick this guy has done for the past 30 years on his daily radio program should even remotely act surprised by his acerbic language.

Whether Imus should or shouldn't have been fired from his job really isn't the issue. A company has a right to terminate an employee for cause. There can be a discussion about whether the punishment fits the crime or not and that is a fine conversation, but I believe there are bigger issues here.

First, the culture has coarsened to the breaking point. While Imus' words were hurtful and crass, much worse is heard every day by young men and women on any hip hop radio station in America. But beyond the morally bankrupt hip hop culture, modern day society has continued to forfeit its sense of propriety on every level. That being the case, both the Left and the Right in this country are all too tempted by the shallow and hollow notion that a government law would fix this moral decay. It won't. It never has. It never will.

There is only one answer to moral decay and that is a vibrant witness by the Church. Period. Full stop. End of discussion. While some legislation may enshrine the intentions of a community, the heart of man will never be healed by statute. It is the leavening influence of the Church that heals a society. Hence, a weak witness by the Church precipitates a decline in culture.

Second, the culture has become too childish and feminized. I know this can be seen as incendiary language, and part of me wishes to go even further, but there has been a trend in this country over the last several decades that has enshrined "feelings" as the ultimate test of right and wrong. Where is the robust ability to maturely engage in frank and forthright talk with one another that doesn't devolve into someone accusing another of "hate speech" when all that has happened is a disagreement?

This is not to denigrate the positive influence of the feminine to soften and mediate the sometimes crude behavior of the masculine. But when the pendulum swings too far one way we get a culture so sensitized against having their "feelings hurt" that we weaken the soul of people to stand in the sometimes harsh reality of truth. Hence, they mistake truth for hate. This is a recipe for social disaster.

It also leads to the very childish behavior we see in modern young people. This perpetual emotional kindergarten never allows our young people to develop the mature skills and abilities of rhetoric and discerning thought. Life is reduced to what makes me "feel good" and that is also a recipe for social disaster. Even though the point of higher education was meant to give our young people these skills, the intellectual apartheid that exists in modern American institutions of higher learning trend toward indoctrination rather than critical thought.

Finally, our society is always a vast experiment. Can freedom really sustain itself without falling into the traps of either the dictatorship of the Left or Right? I believe we stand as a society at one of those defining moments in our history. Being confronted by the specter of radicalized Islam without and the weak and elitist socialism of the powerful within, we average Americans, and more importantly, we people of Faith, are confronted with the challenge to actually live out our faith in such a way that preserves righteousness and dignity and freedom. We will loose all of these if we remain silent and passive.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Here is a recent article by good friend and great religion writer, Terry Mattingly. Terry is a convert to Orthodoxy and his most recent article is a great way to discuss several issues:

The Need for a Genuine re-evangelism of our Orthodox people

The Clash between what is passing culture and what is timeless tradition

The Need to reach out to disaffected Orthodox and help them return home

And many others.

Blessed Holy Week to you all. We are purposefully traveling with the Lord to a dark night and a bright day!

WASHINGTON BUREAU: Terry Mattingly's religion column for 4/04/07.

When Peter Maris' father arrived from Greece the U.S. immigration officer couldn't understand his last name and "Margaris" became "Maris."

When his mother's Jewish parents arrived from Poland they added "ski" to their name because they thought "Rafalski" sounded Catholic and, thus, would be safer.

And when Kathleen Rafalski married Dennis Maris, she immediately joined the St. Demetrios Orthodox Church in Hammond, Ind. "They were married in the Greek church," said Peter Maris, 42. "She learned to speak Greek. She learned to cook Greek. She did everything
she could to show her commitment to the faith."

Then came the parish Christmas party when his mother brought a plate of Polish cookies. His father didn't tell this story often, because it was too painful.

"Some of the women got upset," said Peter Maris. "They told my mother, 'What are you doing, bringing those in here? We don't need you and we don't need your Polish cookies. We are Greek.' "

The family walked out and never returned.

Now, nearly four decades later, Maris has come home to Eastern Orthodoxy -- just in time for "Pascha" (Easter in the West).

This is one man's story, but it contains elements of stories told by thousands of converts in an era when this old-world faith is growing in a land already packed with Protestant and Catholic churches. In most communities, Orthodox parishes are known as the "Greek church" or the "Russian church" or carry some other ethnic label.

This is one man's story and it happens to be a story that I first overheard in the fellowship hall of my own Orthodox parish. What is different about this minister named Maris is that his story combines both the joy and pain experienced by "converts" and "cradles" -- those born into Orthodoxy -- who are learning to live and worship together in an ancient church that is quietly sinking its roots into modern America.

Maris has tasted the bitter and the sweet.

There are an estimated 250 million Orthodox believers worldwide -- the second largest Christian flock -- but only 1.2 million in the 22 ethnic jurisdictions in North America. While a few leaders have raised eyebrows by claiming a 6 percent annual growth rate, an accurate count would have to account for ethnic members who are drifting out of Orthodoxy as well as converts who are joining.

It's safer to count U.S. parishes and watch clergy trends. The convert-friendly Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese has, for example, grown from 66 parishes to 250 parishes and missions in four decades. Also, a recent survey found that 43 percent of today's seminarians are converts, a percentage that must be higher among the Antiochians and in the Orthodox Church in America, which sprang from Russian roots.

Maris is unusual, since he was baptized Orthodox before finding his way into evangelicalism. He met his Baptist wife at Chicago's Moody Bible Institute, did graduate degrees at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia, and worked in Korean Presbyterian and Chinese Christian churches before being ordained as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church.

"For the longest time, I could only see Orthodoxy through the eyes of my childhood," he said. "For me, Orthodoxy was an ethnic ghetto. ... In many ways, I came back to the church kicking and screaming. But in the end I knew this was where I was supposed to be. There was no
place else I could go."

Maris can still speak some Greek and he has been experiencing flashbacks to early memories of the taste of Communion wine, the smell of incense, echoes of Byzantine hymns and glimpses of an icon of Jesus, high in a sanctuary dome.

However, he also remembers his parents' conflicting emotions as their new American dreams clashed with old ethnic traditions. He witnessed similar dramas in Korean and Chinese churches.

"You want to keep the language and you want to keep the food and all of that, somehow, gets mixed in with the traditions of the church," he said. "Then the parents discover that they just can't communicate with their kids and the kids just can't appreciate what is happening in church because that's all wound up with the ethnicity thing. ...

"At some point you have to claim the faith as your own -- you can't inherit it. In the end, you have to believe."

Terry Mattingly ( directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities.

Monday, April 02, 2007


Fr. Thomas Hopko is one of my favorite Orthodox speakers. His immediate command of both theological and historical information and his disarming delivery make him a joy to hear. I've never heard one of his presentations that I haven't learned so much more than I had known before.

Plus, he has a balanced and gracious spirit that makes him hospitable to all kinds of people.

Here is a recent interview with Fr. Thomas that speaks directly to my investigation into the Church. His insight into the relationship between the Scriptures and the Church and his insight of the "organic" nature of the Church with a history is one of the strongest apologetics for the Orthodox Church as the continuation of the Church established by Christ and built on the Apostles and Prophets.

Enjoy, and a blessed Holy Week to ALL!

Commentary on social and moral issues of the day

Interview: An Orthodox Professor Ponders the Scriptures
Peter T. Chattaway

Fr. Thomas Hopko may have retired as Dean of St. Vladimir's Seminary in New York two years ago, but he still keeps quite busy. Last month, the author of numerous books and articles on Eastern Orthodox Christianity spent nearly three weeks on the road, during which time he visited churches in Victoria and Vancouver and spoke at functions hosted by Regent College, Trinity Western University and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.

The indefatigable Fr. Hopko sat down to talk about Orthodox-evangelical relations with at St. Herman of Alaska Orthodox Church in Langley, B.C., after a day spent teaching children's Sunday school, preaching a sermon, and chatting with parishioners for hours during the fellowship afterwards about matters of the faith. A lot of people who are involved in evangelical-Orthodox dialogue -- such as Fr. Peter Gillquist and Frederica Mathewes-Green -- seem to be converts to Orthodoxy, but you are cradle Orthodox. What draws a cradle Orthodox to that sort of discussion?

Fr. Hopko: Well, I think if a person's Orthodox, hopefully whether cradle or convert, you're still very interested in Christian unity and you're very interested in making your witness to what you believe Christianity is -- which is, when all is said and done, exegesis of the Bible.
And then, of course, I love to go to those settings, because I know these people do respect the scriptures and usually know it, at least formally -- and they usually think that we don't! You know, they usually think, "Well, if you're Orthodox, you have traditions and you follow monks and elders and stuff, but you don't really know the scripture." So I like to show them that we do.
There has been a tendency of Orthodox to get away from their biblical roots, but none of the great saints and teachers ever accepted that. The very first booklet that I ever published in my life, in 1963, in my parish, was called 'Reading the Bible,' where I tried to prove to Orthodox people that to read the Bible and know the Bible is not [exclusively] Protestant. And I quoted every saint that I could who spoke about the scriptures and reading the scriptures, how the Holy Fathers were doing nothing but interpreting the scriptures. All the great theological controversies were about what the Bible taught.

So it's wrong to say, "Well, the Protestants have the Bible, but we have holy tradition" -- that's just ridiculous. Tradition is nothing other than the Bible properly exegeted and properly applied. That's how we would understand it. So I like to go among evangelicals to make that point. I've heard some Orthodox say that the Bible is part of tradition. It could sound like you're saying that tradition is in some way separate from the Bible, or comes after it.

Fr. Hopko: Well, I think what I would say, in three sentences, is that you first have a canon of faith that is orally delivered and preached. And that precedes whatever New Testament writings you have. But even that canon of faith is interpreting the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets, so it already has to be kata tas graphas [according to the scriptures].

I mean, St. Paul was converted by a vision, but he preached from the scripture, and he even chided people not to preach from visions and voices, in Colossians, and as soon as he had this conviction that Jesus was raised, he even says, I think in Galatians, that he went and studied the scripture and became convinced, and then he went around preaching from the scripture that Jesus was the Christ.

But then, the canon of faith, we would hold, was defended in apostolic scripture, and that would be the 27 writings of the New Testament. And there were lots of other scriptures at that point -- Gnostic and so on -- that our tradition would say were spurious, were just heretical, were wrong. So certain scriptures were canonized, but they were the scriptures that were in accordance with the canon of faith that was delivered orally. So you have in Thessalonians already, Paul speaking about "what I delivered to you both orally and in writing." So there isn't any competition between the two.

But you've got to go the next step and say, once the New Testament scriptures are canonized -- which took a couple hundred years! -- then they become the criterion by which tradition is judged. You can't have anything in church tradition that is contrary to the scriptures. You might have other things that are not specifically written there -- St. Basil speaks about oral traditions like, I don't know, using the sign of the cross or facing the east -- but they could not be contrary to what is in the scriptures. What do you think evangelicals see in Orthodoxy that would draw them to it?

Fr. Hopko: Two things. I think one is, evangelicals want a church that takes the Bible seriously as the Word of God, but they don't want a church where everybody can interpret it the way they want to, because I think they were frustrated over how many churches there were claiming to really follow the Bible. So they said there has to be some other criterion of exegesis than just picking up the Bible and reading it, with your Scofield commentary or something.

And then they discovered that the early Church and the Fathers were interpreting the Bible. Then they discovered that there were consensuses of interpretation. Then they discovered that there were whole councils that had battled over exegesis and had come to a common mind, and that there was like a history of exegesis from the time of the apostles that those in a certain church agreed upon, namely the one holy Orthodox Church.

So I think that they wanted the Bible -- they were convinced that the Bible was basic -- but they had a problem of how do you interpret it, and how do you maintain the proper interpretation. And then they found that the patristic and Orthodox tradition was doing that, at least in their conviction.

The other big thing is worship. You accept Jesus as your saviour, you believe the Bible is the Word of God, but then what do you do? What church do you go to? And I think for fellows like Gillquist, that was their main problem -- they said, "We all love Jesus, we all know this is the truth, but how do you worship? Where do you go? What church are you in?"

Then they came to the conclusion, if scripture is true, there's got to be a church around somewhere that's consonant with scripture, and then they became convinced it was the Orthodox.

So I think two things: biblical exegesis, a common biblical mind, and then the other was worship, a biblical worship that would be objective, Christian, communal, and that you wouldn't have to make up yourself. I think those were the two things that convinced them. And I think those are the two main cards that Orthodox would have with evangelical people. Is there anything the Orthodox would find appealing about evangelicalism? Does the attraction go both ways, or is it more of a one-way thing?

Fr. Hopko: I think -- I would hope -- that it would go both ways. I don't know if it often does. There was a joke that maybe contains kernels of truth, where it said, "Evangelicals come to Orthodoxy, and we teach them how to be orthodox, and they teach us how to be Christians." [laughs]

I don't know if you want to quote that. But in other words, their commitment to Christ, their zeal for Christ, their missionary enthusiasm, their enthusiasm for works of mercy -- helping the poor, the needy, sacrificing their life to mission fields -- well, Orthodoxy is definitely recharged by that, no doubt about it.

And that's incredibly admirable, because except for the Russian church, all the other Orthodox were under Islam and they couldn't do those things. The only philanthropy they could do was among their own people, and they couldn't preach at all, and they had no schools, and they couldn't even read, practically, so it's very attractive to see a very committed, vibrant, informed, people-who-memorize-the-scriptures -- I mean, that has to be inspiring.

And my own opinion is that the injection into American Orthodoxy from the evangelicals and other converts who join was a very, very critical element in the renewal of the entire Orthodoxy in America. Many, many cradle Orthodox were renewed in their faith by their contact with the evangelicals. Are there any concerns among Orthodox about evangelicals trying to "change" Orthodoxy?

Fr. Hopko: There are concerns. In fact, there were great fears in the beginning that these people just wanted to bring their evangelicalism into Orthodoxy and kind of teach the Orthodox how to be Christian and Orthodox and all that, and would never "get it", and that's a human concern. But I think that both faith and experience show that that was an ill-founded fear.

I was very much personally involved with Gillquist and that whole group in '86, before they were Orthodox, and they definitely had that idea -- "Oh, you know, we'll show them" -- but man, once they came in, and once they got into it, and once it went, it just worked itself out beautifully. It never was a problem. I think that everything that was of God and good, the treasures that they brought humanly speaking, were very important to Orthodox churches, but they also changed in remarkable ways themselves, probably in ways that they never would have imagined.

And I knew some people who joined the Orthodox church not liking it at all. I knew people who were at only two or three liturgies before they decided, "I have to join," and they didn't particularly like it, but they became convinced that it was the truth, and once they got in and began celebrating it organically, it kind of opened up for them. What they ultimately discovered after 10 years was far beyond what they expected that they were going to get when they first came.

There are Orientalisms in Orthodoxy that are hard on people, when they first come in, like doing prostrations in prayer, standing in prayer, using things like the sign of the cross or kissing the picture. People say, "Oh, what's that?" But it's more cultural than theological. But they get used to it after a while. Do you think things like that could ever be modified, in terms of church practise, when the church comes into cultures where people don't, for example, kiss as frequently as people do in the Orient, for example?

Fr. Hopko: Yeah, it could, but I think what happens is you have a culture of the Church itself, that is not bound to any human culture. The Church itself is a cultural phenomenon -- I mean, it's basically christened Judaism.

I happened to be at McGill University once when they were having one of these discussions -- they had an Orthodox priest, a Jew, an evangelical, a liberal Protestant, and a Roman Catholic, and they were talking and talking, and finally somebody in the audience raised a hand and said, "I'd like to ask that Orthodox priest a question. What religion are you closest to anyway?" And just, I guess, for the fun of it, the guy answered and said, "Judaism."

And they said, "What do you mean, aren't you Christian?" He said, "Yeah, but in our way of hearing the Bible, worshipping the way we do, you might say that we feel that sometimes we are closer to the Jews than we are to other Christians because of the way they approach the Bible, the way they approach authority, the way they approach worship," and I think there is a certain truth there.

But the Church itself has a culture. It has songs and icons and hymns and sounds. I think there is a kind of ethos, a culture of the Church itself, that is not just reducible to Slavic or Hellenic or Semitic, that people can relate to. And so a thing like giving a kiss, or making a bow, or lighting a candle -- that's kind of Church culture, it's not just human culture. Your remark about the Jewish parallels reminds me, a couple months ago I saw the Campus Crusade Jesus film for the first time in a long, long time, and when Jesus reads from the scriptures in the synagogue, at the end of that scene, he rolls up the scripture and kisses it -- venerates it, you could say -- and when I saw that, I wondered if the evangelicals who made this film, who wanted to be as authentic to the Jewish culture of that time as possible and showed Jesus himself doing that, ever asked themselves, "When did we stop doing that?"

Fr. Hopko: Yeah, right, right. These days people talk about post-modern culture and how thoughts and words are no longer enough -- we need experience now -- and the Orthodox worship has a sort of appeal there because it engages all five senses.

Fr. Hopko: Holistic, yeah. What would your response be to evangelicals who start using candles and incense and chants and possibly even icons -- all the accoutrements -- but without actually becoming Orthodox?

Fr. Hopko: It's interesting you should ask that, because the Evangelical Orthodox [under Fr. Gillquist] were doing that before they joined up, and I was there when they were doing it, and if you went, the ethos and atmosphere was very Protestant, but they had the words of the liturgy, they had icons.

I think Fr. Nicholas in Santa Barbara stood up that week and said the word that kind of did the trick. He said, "You can't imitate or mimic or mock the Church. You're either in it, or you're not." And Orthodoxy isn't a set of texts or a bunch of pictures -- it's a living, organic community that has texts and icons, and it's that living community where the power is that you need, and if you're not in that community, you can have the accoutrements, but you don't have the power. That's what he said.

And I think that made them realize they had to join up -- for better or worse, put up with all Orthodox ethnicisms and everything. You couldn't just imitate it, you had to be in it. Because it was a historical community, in history, that you had to enter into -- just like the Gentiles had to be grafted to Israel. Otherwise it just becomes the latest fad, in other words.

Fr. Hopko: Yeah, and it isn't any less individualistically self-willed than somebody who would get up in a polyester suit and necktie and bang the Bible and preach -- it's just, you happen to like these kinds of prayers and these kinds of pictures, but it's still not the Church that is doing it, it's you that's doing it.

I wrote in that book, Speaking the Truth in Love, that that individualism and self-will thing can even be very conservative. It's not always liberal to do what I feel I like to do, except my predilections happen to be for old things rather than new things, but it's still me. And the Lord said, "out of his treasure, the man brings forth things new and old," but it still has to be the Church, because it can't be mine. Yesterday you said Orthodoxy was not just one denomination among many. What is the dialogue with evangelicals trying to accomplish, or how do you make that point to evangelicals who do see Orthodoxy as one of many denominations?

Fr. Hopko: I deal with that issue in Speaking the Truth in Love also, because dialogical is the way that it's done. You encounter, you speak, you have to listen in order to relate, so there's always a missionary dimension to dialogue. But it's also a dimension of testimony, it's also a willingness to have yourself tested. Okay, you think that we're wrong -- say why. Let's talk about it.

If we're all Christians, we all love Jesus, we all want the truth, and we don't agree about what that is, we'd better talk about it, and try to have enough dialogue so that we know what we actually disagree about! John Courtney Murray once said, "We don't know enough about each other even to disagree accurately." We've been separated from the Latin West for 900 years!
However, there are all these dangers. The danger could be exactly toward denominationalism.

Even at Trinity Western the other night, when an evangelical who doesn't have a concept of the historical church and the sacramental church says, "I agree with everything you said," sometimes I'm tempted to say, "No you don't!" Because if you're inventing worship every week, and you don't believe that there's a church in history or that it all started in reality in the 16th century, you don't believe what we believe!

Now, the fact that we quote the Bible and talk about how Jesus saves us, you might relate to and believe in it, but the minute you come to how you access it, how it becomes yours, how you live it out -- I still think that there are incredible differences between evangelicals and Eastern Orthodox. Because for us, the Church is part of the gospel. Let me put it this way: The gospel implies the Church.

Fr. Florovsky used to talk about ecumenism in time, as well as in space. Who are you with in the past? You name any century, and we'll tell you who our guys were, and we'll tell you where we think the Church was, and we'll tell you where we think it wasn't, at least not in its fullness, where it became defective. In the early Church, we're with the so-called Catholics and not with the Gnostics and the Montanists. After the 4th century, we're with Athanasius, Basil, Gregory and the Nicene communities. In the 5th century, we're with the Chalcedonian communities, and in the later centuries, we're with Photius as against the papacy.

We have a history that we deeply identify with. We speak about Gregory and Basil as if they were our contemporaries, because mystically they are -- they are! And that's one thing that I think evangelicals, at least in their organic traditions, don't relate to.

In fact, a lot of times, as a matter of fact, they don't even know about it. They don't have the foggiest idea who these people even are. I've met United Church of Canada people who didn't know what the Nicene Creed was, and they were at a [World Council of Churches] Faith and Order Commission meeting representing their church! Seriously.

Then they say, "Why do you need it, it's Greek philosophy, it's old-fashioned, no modern person can relate to it." I remember in Russia once, I was there at a meeting exactly on the Nicene Creed, with Catholics and Protestants from all over the world -- it was an international meeting, sponsored by the Faith and Order Commission -- and the English-speaking Protestants were always on my case every day, because I could speak English, about, "Why do you do this, this is irrelevant, la la la."

And then we went to St. Sergius monastery outside Moscow, and there were all these people -- it was under Communism still -- the blind, the lame, all these people were out there in the middle of the night singing and singing, and these Protestants were out there looking at them and they're crying and saying, "I never saw such a piety," and then they said, "By the way, what are they singing?" and I said, "Well, they're just singing the outdated Nicene Creed that no one knows anything about." [laughs]

They were singing the Nicene Creed! And these people were just arguing that it's irrelevant, nobody cares about it, nobody knows what it is -- well, the one thing you had to do if you were Orthodox was to memorize the Nicene Creed and to know how to sing it. So that's the kind of thing that people find shocking.

I remember Desmond Tutu and his wife were at one service, and I heard her lean over to him and say, "I didn't know white folks could sing like this." So that's what the meetings can hopefully overcome and produce, some kind of new understanding of things, not caricatures.

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