Monday, July 09, 2007

I am so glad Zach has joined our discussion…and I wish more of you would comment as well! I’m glad Zach has chimed in for a couple reasons. First…he is a HECK of a good guy. In his previous comment he mentions being ‘mean’ to his protestant/evangelical friends…I find that hard to believe. I really do. I’m mean…Ergun Caner is mean…Luther was mean…James White is mean…Zach is not mean at all. He is one of the friendliest and most kind people I think I’ve ever met. Naomi works with him and will testify, sincerely, about how consistently nice a guy Zach is. Second…Zach is a serious student of history…a real historian. His knowledge of history can help us bring context to our discussions. I also appreciate his fairness in discussing history…history is not always objective…like any other written document the pages of history can have degrees of interpretation…”what did Franklin mean when described the rights of man as “self evident”…or what did Luther mean when he declared that people should “be a sinner and sin boldly”…and so forth. I’ve run into many folks (JW’s…Mormons…RC’s…Atheists) who brazenly jam their interpretations of history with no real desire to even attempt objectivity. Zach is not like that…and I appreciate his fairness.

Those of us from the Protestant/Evangelical and ESPECIALLY Baptist traditions need to understand that Scripture can not be rightly divided in a vacuum…in fact NO written document (not even the phone book!) can be interpreted devoid of it’s context. So a historian willing to help us balance our zeal with the context of history is very valuable.

I’m also particularly excited (and curious) to hear the Eastern Orthodox perspective of these issues. Most you may not be aware of this…but Eastern Orthodoxy is rapidly growing…in the West! It has really caught the attention of folks under 40…those of us who have been raised in a postmodern context. Zach was not raised in the Eastern Orthodox tradition…he converted. He is a young man, newly married to his lovely wife Arlie and is in his early to mid 20’s. He left the “high impact”, “trendy” and “polished” world of evangelicalism with all it’s dramas, sound systems, video screens, live rock bands, strobe lights, smoke machines, dancing girls and ball bat breaking “power teams”… and turned to the stripped down, basic and mystical “world” of Eastern Orthodoxy. I can not stress this enough…Zach is not alone. Eastern Orthodoxy is rapidly becoming the most intriguing and fastest growing “religion” or “denomination” in my generation. Those of you who are thinking of ways to attract “young people”…chew on that fact for awhile.

I truly do believe that Eastern Orthodoxy does have some very appealing aspects to it. I think their apophatic approach to theology can have merit…although I do not believe it is the only…or even the best way…to “do” theology. But it is humble and I do admire it for that a great deal…or should I say “it is not arrogant” ;^)

There are some clear theological distinctions between Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism and we will see them manifest as well I am sure. Sadly…what divides us, I believe, are big, big, big issues. Issues about the nature of, articulation of and implications of the gospel message itself. My prayer for all our readers…myself included…is that when we stand before God on judgment day…and we will all stand before Him...that we will stand before Him having been converted to HIS gospel…the gospel delivered to us by His Son and the Apostles of His Son.

“I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Paul the Apostle (Galatians 1:6-10 niv)


Charles said...

OK, Gary, you have bragged about how great a guy Zach is. Now tell me something about the tenets of Eastern Orthodox beliefs and why it attracts you!

Zac said...

Hey Gary!

I appreciate your kind words! I have never before been characterized as a "student of history," much less a serious one! But I must tell you that I would much rather you take the poorly articulated points I made seriously than me personally. =^)

You know I was thinking about historical documents that you might be interested in examining... and I remembered that the original German reformers-- Luther, Melancthon, and others, had a deep respect for Orthodox Christianity. Luther sort of used their existence as proof that the tyrannical papacy of the west was a complete innovation and heresy... but this turned more serious by his disciple, Philip Melancthon, who with several other Tubingen theologians began a correspondence with the Orthodox Bishop of Constantinople, Patriarch Jeremias II, in the year 1576.

If you're interested in their dialogue, I have found a great essay on it at a Lutheran site here:

Also, here is a short little explanation of apophatic theology, which is more than affirmation by way of negation. This is a small letter of St. Basil, a theologian of the 4th Century, who explains the underlying beliefs behind apophaticism:

irreverend fox said...

hey Charles...stay tuned...I'll be sharing my thoughts and impressions about both their strengths and my feared weaknesses soon. I'm working my way through a couple books Zac gave me to consider…and I want to have a more full perspective before sounding off. I’m far more versed in the technicalities of Roman Catholic theology than I am with Eastern Orthodox…I have a basic concept of course…but I think I should read some of their own stuff before publicly evaluating its strengths and/or weaknesses…it is always tempting to get online and read what others say about a group…but going over their own material is better. Who knows…if their positions are truly compelling…I’ll convert! What other choice would I have? There position, like ours…is either true or not…and like us…if their position is true then it will hold up to a silly attempt to critique it! if it lacks…that will also manifest itself. I’m not afraid either way.

zac...I have taken each of your very clearly articulated points seriously...and I take you seriously, lol! I want to finish these books first...I'll be done tonight or in the morning...and then begin to "dig in". thank you for the links! I encourage each of our readers to sift through both links! I can not tell you how excited your challenges has made me…can I have some more! Let’s do lunch this week…Tuesday, Wed or Friday…ok? DEAD FISH WRAPPED IN STICKY RICE AND SEAWEED IS CALLING OUR NAMES!

Zac said...


I would love to have lunch with you this week-- HOWEVER, you will have to run it by my supervisor Naomi. =^) Just tell me the time and place and I'll be there, with more books if you like. The ones I gave you are admittedly not very in-depth... my own collection on Orthodox theology and life includes more than 200 books, so I will definitely begin thinking about some others which might be helpful in writing your critique.

Which, let me just say, I will understand if you have "problems" or you perceive "weaknesses"... While most likely I will disagree with them, I will still certainly respect you and your Christian faith, and your candor in exploring Orthodoxy.

Ultimately a book is inadequate to convey the experience of Orthodoxy in the same way that a book about a person is not the same as actually meeting and knowing that person. The word "Orthodoxy" itself does not primarily mean "right teaching" as it is commonly translated in the West, but "right glory," referring to our worship of the Most Holy Trinity. So I would very much like you to come to a Liturgy, to "come and see" for yourself... of course I know that we will do all this in steps as our friendship develops.

Above all, please just know that I am grateful for your friendship, even if you come to a completely different conclusion about Orthodoxy than I have. As the Lord taught the world-- "A new commandment I give to you, that you love each other, even as I have loved you. By this all men shall know that you are my disciples." And this love is not the false love of the world, but a love that "rejoices with the truth," and this includes your honest assessment of my beliefs.

Call me or whatever and we'll do lunch! (Arlie said she wants to tag along too)

irreverend fox said...


I would LOVE to join you in a Liturgy! My Sundays are jammed as you can imagine...are there Saturday Liturgies?

Zac said...

Absolutely. Liturgy can be celebrated almost any day... I'll check my parish's schedule and tell you when non-Sunday liturgies are scheduled.

Zac said...

Another link for your consideration-- this one from an interview with writer and speaker Frederica Mathewes-Green, who discusses Orthodoxy as it relates to post-modernism and the emerging church.

BTW, that parish I told you about whose patronal feast is next week has a website:

Arlie said...


This is Arlie, Zac's wife. I was looking at Frederica's website this morning since Zac was talking about her and found a study guide to the little book, The Illumined Heart: The Ancient Christian Path of Transformation, he lent you. If you'd like to look at it along with that book I can email it to you. My email is Its a short 4 page chapter by chapter reflection questionnaire.

I am looking forward to going to dinner with you and Naomi. I made Zac take me to the Chinese place since I felt so left out. Haha. I am also very excited for you both to come with us to a liturgy or vespers soon.

irreverend fox said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
irreverend fox said...

zac, arlie and all...

I really am about to sit down and put some thoughts together about what I am admiring and questioning about Eastern Orthodoxy...of course that does not mean that my next post will be the "end all" will rather be my "first thoughts" or "first impressions".

This week Southside is hosting a community event (a family movie night...tonight) along with all the other bliss-filled activities of our local congregation...not to mention all the fun we have going with the second plant, Coram Deo Community...well...I have just been busy,

Lord willing I can breathe here real soon and put some of my initial thoughts down...I know this is driving many of you crazy because of the emails and phone everyone!

Zac said...


I am glad that you will soon publish/communicate your impressions of Orthodoxy, regardless of what they might be. I think that most of all it will help me to understand more about where you're coming from in your own walk with Christ.

Oh by the way, I'm now a blogspot member too! I'm really tired of the scene for several reasons, and since I have been commenting of late on several of these pages I have made the move.

To misquote Luther: "Here I blog. I can post no further."

Tony Myles said...

"Those of us from the Protestant/Evangelical and ESPECIALLY Baptist traditions need to understand that Scripture can not be rightly divided in a vacuum..."

Uh oh... you said the B-word. ;)

irreverend fox said...

lol...most of you don't know what exactly Tony is getting at...

Tony...this blog is about is a benevolent dictatorship...but it's all about MY thoughts and opinions...the views expressed here are not necessarily those of Southside or Coram Deo. So it is I who is from the Baptist tradition...I'm referring specifically to me and people like me.

Hey...if I wasn't Baptist I would be ashamed…lol…that is a JOKE…everybody breathe! I am proud of my conservative and Biblical heritage that was passed down to me through my Baptist upbringing. Being Baptist is certainly NOTHING to be ashamed of.

Southside is a Christian church made up of all sorts of people from all sorts of spiritual backgrounds...the term Baptist is far too restrictive to fully capture our church family. Our eldership is made up of me, a Baptist, Steve, who is not real super comfortable claiming a tradition (he was raised Baptist) and Tim who is a weird blend of Baptist and Pentecostal...but the Lord saved him in an AG church that much is sure. Then the rest of our leadership is made up of Pentecostals, a few former Agnostics and my wife was raised non-denominational…We are Baptist in theology and we support SBC missions but our methodology is not traditional Baptist at all. In one sense…yes…we are Southern Baptist churches because we do hold to Baptist theology and we cooperate in missions. In another…no…we are not Baptist churches due to our methodology and church governance (both churches are elder led and not congregational)…it really depends on how the term is being used. And the “SBC” has no problem with that.

The SBC is a missiological entity of churches who agree to cooperate for the sake of the Kingdom. It is not a denomination in the true sense of the term. Taking the name or methodology of Baptists is not a deal breaker…it is the issues of theology that we divide over. So long as you preach the true gospel and are willing to cooperate for the Kingdom it’s all good. It’s all the best of being independent and all the best of cooperation all rolled into one. I wasn’t raise in the SBC…I joined because it sounded too good to be true…and I’m not sorry that I did.

ANYWAY…I was referring to me and people like me…many people from the Baptist tradition seem to think Church history started with the rise of Billy Graham, W.A. Criswell and Dr. Falwell!

Tony Myles said...

You said the "b" word again... lots of times there. ;)

irreverend fox said...

nothing at all wrong with the "b" word...I'm a Baptist...that doesn't mean every one of my church family is.