An Apology to the Eastern Orthodox Community
As the owner and president of Pulpit & Pen, I feel that I need to issue a public apology to the Eastern Orthodox community in regards to my managing editor’s recent words. In a series of posts, Pulpit & Pen editor, Jeff Maples, took it upon himself to essentially anathematize the Bible Answer Man, Hank Hanegraaff, and in the process said some hurtful things about an old and revered religious tradition. I would be remiss not to clarify Jeff’s remarks and in the process, make some apologies. I pray that it is received well by all of our friends in the Eastern Orthodox community.
Firstly, we would like to apologize on behalf of Protestants everywhere for overlooking the grave and damning heresies of the Eastern Orthodox tradition, compared to our stalwart protest of Rome. This has been an oversight of Protestants, due mostly to the revival of actual Biblical orthodoxy (you might call it Protestantism) developing primarily in the West, and under the wicked authority of Rome, and not under the Eastern schismatics known by the misleading name of “Orthodox.” While we have rightly called the Bishop of Rome the “antichrist” in our Confessions of Faith, we have overlooked the many antichrists that have gone out into the world and settled in their positions as leaders in the Eastern Orthodox tradition. It was not right of us to prejudicially focus on the Western anti-christ church just because they happened to be the ones murdering us for several centuries. In the future, we will strive to explain that anyone who seeks the title of ‘priest,’ (a blasphemous title if ever there were one), lead people into idolatry, claim the sole mediary position between God and man, practice necromantic prayers to the dead, engage in corpse worship, and promote meritorious salvation is an antichrist, every bit as much as the Roman Catholic abomination. We are sorry for leaving out specific condemnations of your religion in our Confessions, as it wasn’t very inclusive of us.
Secondly, we are sorry that many Protestants have stopped protesting, sending the impression that our confessional doctrinal beliefs don’t anathematize you as not only being sub-Christian, but being anti-Christian. We are sorry that men like Albert Mohler, Paige Patterson, Russell Moore and Carl Trueman, all who should certainly know better, seem to have affirmed you in your superstitious and pagan religion. While the Intelligentsia class of evangelicalism are happy to learn about how Rod Dreher’s monasticism fetish might be a valuable tool for fleeing the culture wars, the rest of us failed to speak up loudly enough to challenge them on this, partially because the idol-factory of our hearts are quick to make our own popes out of mere men, and we don’t like to challenge our popes. The fact is, Greek Orthodox men like Rod Dreher have no part in the Kingdom of God on Earth, because they have no part of the Kingdom of God in Heaven, unless they were to recant their idolatry and believe the one, true, catholic doctrine of Sola Fide. There’s no such thing as being “kind of Christian,” and the Trinitarian ontology of the Eastern Orthodox Church doesn’t undo the fact that trusting in your merit for salvation is just as damning as being a Modalist like TD Jakes or believing in 9 divine persons like Benny Hinn. So, therefore, we apologize for our evangelical leaders who have stopped protesting, even though they call themselves Protestants. Much of your outrage (the thousands of angry, F-bomb dropping emails we have received) is due to the fact you’ve never heard a Protestant say you’re not a Christian. It’s not because Protestant doctrine doesn’t say you’re lost (it certainly does), but because we’ve become a bunch of limp-wristed milksops. Forgive our cowardice.
Thirdly, we apologize for making it seem, should you have perceived it that way, that you’re unchristian because your priests wear dresses and you burn incense. While true religion has little patience for pretentious pageantry, the issue for us concerning your doctrinal apostasy is your denial of Sola Fide, Sola Scriptura, and Penal Substitution. The fact that you adorn your buildings in gaudy and sacrilegious, bedazzled idols is second to the more blatant soteriological heresies that damn your soul (although idolatry is damning enough). The fact that you believe that superstitious voodoo oil poured over someone’s head fills them with the holy spirit and brings them back from apostasy is secondary to your hope in your own righteousness for salvation. We (still-protesting Protestants) shouldn’t have focused upon your bizarre, extra-biblical rituals that resemble more seance than Biblical service of worship; we should have focused far more upon your doctrinal beliefs that oppose Jesus and the very Gospel itself.
Fourthly, we apologize for letting you get away with asserting your religious superiority by the age of your church. While it is true that you happen to live in a part of the world that was first affected by the Gospel, your geographical proximity to the early church does not mean that you hold to the doctrines or practices of that New Testament Church. The fact is, the heresies of Gnosticism, Antinomianism, and the Judaizers all predate the Greek Orthodox Church. In fact, the sect of the Nicolatians (founded by an Acts 6 deacon) predates your church considerably. Logic, of course, would not deduce that these groups, because they are older, are right. We apologize for not being more forward in pointing out that Jesus specifically wrote to the Ephesians Church (where there is now the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate) that he would remove the lamp stand (IE the Holy Spirit) from their church for forsaking their first love, the Gospel of Jesus. The Scripture contains a very explicit warning, directly from the dictation of Jesus, that the church that would become Eastern Orthodox would have the Holy Spirit depart it should they continue on their path of abandoning true religion. While the Eastern Orthodox church is older than, for example, churches in other parts of the world, that doesn’t make it better. It just means that the Eastern Orthodox Church has been apostate longer than most churches have existed. Big. Stinking. Deal. You don’t get brownie points for the number of centuries since the Holy Spirit left your building.
Fifthly, we apologize for not pointing out, as you rage in anger that we anathematize you, that you anathematized us first. Like the Roman Catholic apostate church, Eastern Orthodoxy has also declared Protestants to be hopelessly damned for trusting in Christ’s accomplished work alone for our salvation. While the Eastern Orthodox community has ranted and railed with lamenting and gnashing of teeth toward Pulpit & Pen in recent weeks, they seem blissfully unaware that, like many cults, official Eastern Orthodox teaching declares that only they are the one true church and more specifically, they teach that actual Christians like ourselves are damned for trusting only in Jesus. We apologize for not pointing out that your man-made tradition similarly anathematizes, only it does it wrongly. There is no moral high ground of tolerance and open-mindedness that you can confess toward outsiders without denying the official teachings of your church, a church you believe infallible based upon nothing but the amount of time it’s held to its heresies.
I pray that you, as the Eastern Orthodox Community, will receive our apologies charitably. There has been much confusion because of the inability or unwillingness to articulate what Protestants actually believe about those who deny Sola Fide and Penal Substitution. We aim to fix all that, and do better in the future.
There is no justification outside faith alone in his accomplished work. Christ’s accomplished work includes his substitionary and vicarious death in our place, being for us our propitiation.
No amount of smells and bells, chanting absurdities, or calling out the gods of Ba’al and Asherah with much incense-burning, bell-ringing pomp and circumstance will change that.