Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Ecumenical Dialogue With a Couple Reformed Brothers

Thos, if you're reading this you would have enjoyed our lunch room conversation today. Plate in hand and with our Calvinist-Thomist-Origenist discussion on soteriology literally ringing in my head as I sat down, my friend immediately asked me "so what do you think about salvation these days". I hardly had time to collect my thoughts. He (an elder) and the other gentleman sitting there (a psychologist) were both OPC members. "Well....ahem..." I'll spare you the details but here's where it ended up.

The Dr. asked me, if it comes down to Catholic tradition versus Scripture then which one do you believe? I said "Thats a false either or, and besides, when you say Scripture what you really mean is my interpretation of Scripture". We came to an agreement then on the fact that it was the Church's job to interpret Scripture and she held authority over the individual (no big surprises there). But this institution with authority over them in their minds was the OPC general assembly. I started going down the road of apostolic succession which they werent too keen to follow on and later he (the elder) asked me "why is it that if I go to a non-denominational mega church, as bad as their doctrine is I still feel some level of connectedness but not with a Catholic Church?" I replied "To be honest, it's because you're separated from the Church".

And does a "feeling of connectedness" indicate truth? Would a Muslim "feel connected" in a Christian community? The Dr. actually came to my aide and agreed and said it has more to do with your upbringing than with truth in doctrine.

Christianity has been done the Catholic/Orthodox way for 2000 years, if you don't feel connected with that kind of Christianity, who is to blame?

He and I are good friends and for that very reason we rarely discuss theology. We're too close in doctrine to be of much use to each other.

It's like I say about John Calvin - brilliant guy. He almost got Christianity right. The problem is that he almost got it right on a whole lot of issues. That made him a heretic.


Anonymous said...

One of the two gentlemen you spoke with (I'll preserve his anonymity) once told me that if he were not a God-fearin' Calvinist he would be Eastern Orthodox. When I asked him why he said: "Because they have preserved their tradition; they haven't changed for all these years."

From an Augustinian-Thomistic (i.e., classical Western) theological perspective, it is amazing how "free-willing" the ante-Nicene Fathers were and the Eastern Orthodox are. Which made the Presbyterian's comment all the more surprising. Better Pelagian than Roman, eh?

Tim A. Troutman said...

Hah, that's funny. Said gentleman attended my wedding and was surprised to hear the priest offer Communion to both Catholics and Orthodox (while denying the Protestants)

He told me later that he thought the Eastern Orthodox believed in Consubstantiation. He has also admitted to me that he is not well studied on early Church history. Then I have to think, why do you have such preconceived notions about it then? How can you guess that the Eastern Orthodox believe this or that without studying it? In short, why would you, by default choose Constantinople over Rome? Same three reasons every single convert wrestles with this:

1. Authority
2. Authority
3. Authority

I think you're right about the inclination towards the free will end of the spectrum in the East more so than the West. I have quoted Origen and Chrysostom doing some heavy manipulation on Romans 9 (whether right or wrong) in the interest of preserving free will in the face of a seemingly harsh predestined edict from God.

Thos said...


I'm here, just a few days late on the game. I wish I had been there at lunch with you, I would have *really* enjoyed it. Only, a lunch hour isn't long enough to contain the matter. I would have had fun playing [skeptic's] advocate against all of you...

Andrew's point's a good one. I've had a growing perception that as the days of my-denomination-is-true-ism (denominationalism?) wane, Protestants are surprisingly warm to Eastern Orthodoxy (as we choose to perceive her, at least). It's a have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too infatuation, in my opinion. You get to have ties to the ancient church, but can still be a "conscientious objector" as the situation demands (e.g., various positions on birth control).

Peace in Christ,