Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Swimming the Bosporus: From the Megachurch to Orthodoxy

 

I was received into the Orthodox Church yesterday.

It’s been a long time coming. I first attended a Greek Orthodox service about two-and-a-half years ago, another at a Russian Orthodox parish a couple of months after that, and a third two months later. I’ve been attending that Antiochian Orthodox church ever since. Today, I’m officially a member.

Since I began exploring Orthodoxy, my evangelical friends and family have been supportive but always asked why. Often in capital letters followed by several question and exclamation marks. Those of other traditions (or no tradition) have wondered as well.

“Don’t know where to begin,” I would reply. “I’d need to write a book.”

This isn’t a book, but the first in a series of posts explaining my “conversion,” if you can call it that. (I view it more as a gradual process of drawing closer to God.) My audience is made up of those family members, friends, and anyone else who might wonder why a child born into Lutheranism, a teenage convert to evangelicalism, former small group leader, megachurch employee, and Sunday school teacher would leave that world and head to some weird old church from the other side of the world. I hope this will provide some answers or at least raise new questions.

I expect to have a new installment of “Swimming the Bosporus” each Sunday morning. The title is a play on converts to Catholicism “swimming the Tiber” and Anglican inquirers “walking the Canterbury Trail.” The seat of the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate is in the ancient city of Constantinople (now Istanbul) which overlooks the Bosporus Strait that divides Europe from Asia. So very clever of me.


“Heaven have mercy on us all — Presbyterians and Pagans alike — for we are all somehow dreadfully cracked about the head, and sadly need mending.”
— Herman Melville, Moby Dick


But first, a warning. This is just my personal, finite view of infinite, capital-T Truth. Nothing I write should be taken as authoritative. I am neither a priest nor a theologian, just a dumb little pilgrim groping in the dark. I’ve been Orthodox less than 24 hours, for St. Pete’s sake. If you want the official stance of the Orthodox Church, talk to a pro.

I’ve long held a proper Finnish Lutheran reserve when talking about religion, never wanting to come off as preachy, judgmental, or rudely challenging anyone’s beliefs. I’m hesitant to write about faith at all.

Please don’t take any of my views on other denominations, faiths, or non-beliefs as a critique, dig, or insult. I am deeply thankful for all the Protestants, Catholics, Evangelicals, pastors, priests, monks, Bible study leaders, and countless Christian authors who have taught me so much. I’m indebted to rabbis, philosophers, teachers from the far East, scientists, psychologists, secular teachers, and everyone else who have pointed to the Truth in their own way. I wouldn’t be here without you.

Lastly, I take Truth seriously, but I can’t take myself seriously. (If you’ve met me, you can understand why.)


“The Orthodox Church is evangelical, but not Protestant. It is orthodox, but not Jewish. It is catholic, but not Roman. It isn’t non-denominational – it is pre-denominational. It has believed, taught, preserved, defended, and died for the Faith of the Apostles since the Day of Pentecost 2,000 years ago.”


Setting the Table

I was baptized as an infant. Don’t remember much.

It was in a Lutheran church, so I was probably sprinkled, and my father scheduled it for the morning of Super Bowl I. The Packers beat the Chiefs 35-10, so dad was in a great mood and I was spiritually destined to be a Green Bay fan for life. He probably dropped some cheese in the Holy Water.

We attended regularly in the suburbs of Chicago and mom taught Sunday School for a while. At age six, the family moved to Phoenix and attended another Lutheran church. It was in the very wealthy enclave of Paradise Valley, AZ, and my middle-class family was disregarded like Dickensian street urchins. Not a great fit.

My brother, five years my senior, got through confirmation but we stopped attending before my sister or I hit the right age.

Mom and Dad got divorced when I was about 14, Dad immediately remarried, Mom started drinking, my buddies and I started sneaking out booze and getting loaded in the desert. In short, high school sucked.

My dad, however, joined my stepmom at a peculiar little church near their house across town. It was non-denominational and evangelical but held several odd views. Their most passionate belief was that they were right and everyone else was very wrong. Other evangelicals might slip under the pearly gates, but they would never reach any level of spiritual maturity. The Catholic Church was the “Whore of Babylon”; the Eastern Orthodox were unworthy of mention.

Regardless, it was there I accepted Christ, stopped getting loaded in the desert, and studied the Bible with zeal. The textbook “born again” experience.

Right out of high school, I joined the Navy and began attending mainstream evangelical churches, usually leaning Baptist. I was deeply involved with evangelical groups on base and went to every Christian rock show that hit Hawaii. (Yes, even Stryper.) In my new thinking, infant baptism was irrelevant; I had to choose baptism as an adult. So I got dunked in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Oahu by a great guy in a Hawaiian shirt named Pastor Brad. You can’t get more evangelical than that.

Upon returning to Arizona, it was mostly megachurches. In college, I helped lead the young adult group, worked in the church office on communications part-time, led small-group Bible studies, hosted a weekly segment on Christian radio, and even started an alternative Christian ‘zine.

I met my wife in that young adult group, had two beautiful daughters, and we later taught Sunday school and AWANA (think Baptist Cub Scouts). In my heart, I remained fiercely non-denominational, jokingly referring to myself as a Megachurchian.

Then, life got more complicated.

Part 2.


The next installment of “Swimming the Bosporus” will appear next Sunday morning.

Published in Religion & Philosophy
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  1. Bishop Wash Member

    Looking forward to these installments. After a long, winding journey I became a Lutheran three years ago, with my born Catholic wife. The Orthodox Church is intriguing and I’ll enjoy reading about your experiences. 

    • #1
    • June 28, 2020, at 8:51 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  2. The Reticulator Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: You can’t get more evangelical than that.

    I laughed at this point.

    Sorry, I’ll try not to do it again.

    Looking forward to the next installment.

    • #2
    • June 28, 2020, at 8:53 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  3. Arvo Coolidge

    Yeah, be a seeker.

    • #3
    • June 28, 2020, at 9:09 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  4. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Many thanks for the post, Jon. It is always an enlightening experience to read of others’ born again experiences. I look forward to more.

    • #4
    • June 28, 2020, at 9:37 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  5. danok1 Member

    Welcome, from a fellow “convert.” (Man, I hate that term. I was Christian before joining the Orthodox Church.)

    I look forward to reading more of your posts on this.

    • #5
    • June 28, 2020, at 9:49 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  6. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Jon, I love hearing people’s stories of their journey in faith. I’ll look forward to hearing the rest of the story!

    • #6
    • June 28, 2020, at 10:22 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Seawriter Contributor

    Welcome aboard.

    • #7
    • June 28, 2020, at 10:24 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Charlotte Member
    Charlotte Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: (Yes, even Stryper.)

    Atta boy.

    Seriously, congratulations and I’m looking forward to reading this series.

    • #8
    • June 28, 2020, at 10:59 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  9. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Have you seen @skipsul‘s posts on Orthodoxy? He’s another fine writer. 

    • #9
    • June 28, 2020, at 11:55 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  10. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Many Years! Our own church has been doing delayed baptisms, chrismations, and weddings aplenty for the last few weeks. Glad you’re finally in the ark.

    • #10
    • June 28, 2020, at 12:08 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  11. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    danok1 (View Comment):

    Welcome, from a fellow “convert.” (Man, I hate that term. I was Christian before joining the Orthodox Church.)

    I look forward to reading more of your posts on this.

    I like the way some have put it – ultimately everyone is a convert, and the conversion is perpetual.

    • #11
    • June 28, 2020, at 12:08 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  12. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: The Catholic Church was the “Whore of Babylon”; the Eastern Orthodox were unworthy of mention.

    This silly graphic has been circulating for years, and I think sums up how some view the Orthodox: the “weird bearded papists”. But the Coptic “sand papists” line always cracks me up.

    • #12
    • June 28, 2020, at 12:11 PM PDT
    • 6 likes
  13. Arvo Coolidge

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: The Catholic Church was the “Whore of Babylon”; the Eastern Orthodox were unworthy of mention.

    This silly graphic has been circulating for years, and I think sums up how some view the Orthodox: the “weird bearded papists”. But the Coptic “sand papists” line always cracks me up.

    I’m aiming for that slot in the first century.

    • #13
    • June 28, 2020, at 12:31 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  14. GeezerBob Coolidge

    Congratulations! It is good to have more company.

    • #14
    • June 28, 2020, at 12:51 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  15. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arvo (View Comment):

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    Jon Gabriel, Ed.: The Catholic Church was the “Whore of Babylon”; the Eastern Orthodox were unworthy of mention.

    This silly graphic has been circulating for years, and I think sums up how some view the Orthodox: the “weird bearded papists”. But the Coptic “sand papists” line always cracks me up.

    I’m aiming for that slot in the first century.

    Come and check us out then. You’ll be surprised.

    • #15
    • June 28, 2020, at 1:09 PM PDT
    • Like
  16. Belt Member

    I’m a Calvinist down to my bones, but if I were to choose some other form of Christianity, Orthodoxy would right at the top of the list. I attended a Greek Orthodox service years ago as part of a field report for a religion class. There are half a dozen different flavors of Orthodox, and I sometimes wonder what an ‘American Orthodox’ religion would look like.

    • #16
    • June 28, 2020, at 1:13 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. Arvo Coolidge

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    Come and check us out then. You’ll be surprised.

    I admit I don’t know enough.

    I was schooled by Missouri Synod Lutherans because we’re Estonians (@jon next best thing to Finnish, right?) where I learned that the Bible is true and the Catholics are wrong. They did fill me with with the Word, and later the Pentecostals set it all ablaze.

    I like to tease my Catholic friends that they’re the original church by succession but I’m the original church (or trying to be) by emulation, and everyone else is somewhere in no man’s land. But I have qualified it now and then with, except the Orthodox.

    So for me, there are two questions. The first is historical, what was the theology and praxis of the first century church? The second, is that theology and praxis normative?

    But anyway, this Jon’s thread, and it’s gonna be a great story.

    Be a seeker. You’re promised you’ll find.

     

    • #17
    • June 28, 2020, at 1:27 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  18. Nerina Bellinger Member

    Congratulations!

    • #18
    • June 28, 2020, at 1:31 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  19. Jon Gabriel, Ed. King
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    Have you seen @skipsul‘s posts on Orthodoxy? He’s another fine writer.

    Yes, they’re fantastic!

    • #19
    • June 28, 2020, at 2:20 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  20. Fredösphere Member
    Fredösphere Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Looking forward to more on this topic. I’ve been Methodist, Plymouth Brethren, evengelical, charismatic, a Catholic fellow-traveler, and a Lutheran. I’ve been fascinated by the Orthodox ever since I was freaked out at age 12 by my uncle’s funeral. (He had married a Greek woman.)

    If you can, please devote some attention to the various Orthodox churches and their activity in North America. I find it interesting that the Antiochian Orthodox seems uniquely competent at receiving English-speaking converts. (I’ve visited my local [unamed] ethnic Orthodox and thought it way too locked into its subculture to be a force in the wider community–and its members were shocking in their lack of promptness in attending worship. No temptation on my part to go back.) Oh, and the music of the Orthodox Church in America (or at least the few examples I’ve heard) is an interesting attempt to domesticate a liturgy with a very foreign origin, so comment on the music if you think you have some insight.

    Thank you!

    • #20
    • June 28, 2020, at 2:22 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  21. Kevin Creighton Contributor

    I first met Jon in a church youth group a long, long time ago (We totally should have done that Christian rave idea we had).

    I haven’t ended up at the same destination as he has, but I have taken the same journey. 
    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/08/opinion/sunday/weird-christians.html

    • #21
    • June 28, 2020, at 2:48 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  22. Jan Bear Member

    Welcome to the party, pal. 

    I was an idiosyncratic Protestant who visited an Orthodox Church (Orthodox Church in America) in 1989 and never looked back. There have been fallings-down and getting back up, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. 

    I’m amazed at how many Orthodox are here at Ricochet. 

    • #22
    • June 28, 2020, at 3:11 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  23. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arvo (View Comment):
    So for me, there are two questions. The first is historical, what was the theology and praxis of the first century church?

    This is actually very easy to find, and among both Orthodox and Catholics has never really been lost or forgotten. You can find a great deal already in the writings of Ignatius and Polycarp, who were both students of the Apostle John and you might say learned from the source. Before the canon of the Bible was fixed in the 4th and 5th centuries (where it was decided to limit the primary scriptures to the 4 gospels we have, and letters directly from Paul and the first Apostles), the letters of Ignatius were widely circulated and read aloud during gatherings for a good 200 years. Clement is another from that first generation after the Apostles.

    And in the 100 and 200s you have a massive proliferation of writers, and a great deal of their works survive too. Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Lyons, Theophilus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Clement of Alexandria, just to name a few. The theology from one generation to the next is consistent, though later church fathers develop it in answer to contemporary challenges.

    The theology and praxis are interwoven. Many of the Apostles travelled rather far and wide, but did not necessarily write things down, passing things on orally and by teaching (Paul says as much himself), but you find common elements in practically all of them (and in their descendants today, from the Ethiopians, Indians, Syrians, Assyrians, Copts, Catholics, and Orthodox). What you find from the earliest days (and this is attested to in the fathers) are gatherings modeled after the Jewish synagogue services (most of the earliest Christians being Jews) with psalm readings and group prayers and hymns, followed by the addition of a Eucharistic service. As for the Eucharist, the understanding of the Eucharist as being the real body and blood of Christ is unanimous from East to West (though the specific doctrine of Transubstantiation in the Roman church is a much later development) – Ignatius calls it in his letters “the medicine of immortality” among other things. Early Christianity is also radically incarnational (God took on a human body, and thus our physical selves must matter and have purpose), and especially emphasized the coming bodily resurrection. In both Catholicism and Orthodoxy, this is all held in common to this day.

    While later church fathers of the 4th centuries onward would continue to explore the implications of the theology of the early church, they are in faithful spiritual and intellectual continuity with that time. And while the Ordo (the specific forms of the liturgical services) would develop and change, those changes were in keeping with the theology, and would be largely recognizable to a 2nd century Christian transplanted to the 10th or the 20th century (once he got up to speed on the language).

    • #23
    • June 28, 2020, at 3:42 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  24. danok1 Member

    Fredösphere (View Comment):
    I find it interesting that the Antiochian Orthodox seems uniquely competent at receiving English-speaking converts. (I’ve visited my local [unamed] ethnic Orthodox and thought it way too locked into its subculture to be a force in the wider community–and its members were shocking in their lack of promptness in attending worship. No temptation on my part to go back.)

    I think this has to do with the number and strength of the ethnic community. I joined the GOC at a parish in Westchester County, NY. There is a thriving Greek community there of mostly 1st and 2nd generation immigrants. The Divine Liturgy and all other services are conducted in Greek, and there is a very strong effort to keep the community “Hellenized,” for lack of a better word.

    We moved to North Carolina and found a GOC parish. The Greek community here is nowhere near as numerous as in New York, and it comprises 3rd, 4th, 5th, etc., generations. As such, there has been a lot of intermarriage with non-Orthodox, and many of the spouses have joined the Orthodox church. We also have some Arab and Russian Orthodox in the parish. The Divine Liturgy and other services are mainly in English. (We say the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer in Greek, English, Arabic, and Russian.) We also have some members who were “seekers,” as @arvo puts it.

    As far as the promptness of arrival is concerned, well, my experience has only been in the Greek Orthodox parishes, and I’ve found the same thing, but only among the older, Greek-speaking members. The attitude seems to be, “As long as I’m there before Communion, it’s okay.” I don’t get it, but I try to get there on time.

    • #24
    • June 28, 2020, at 3:56 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  25. GeezerBob Coolidge

    Belt (View Comment):

    I’m a Calvinist down to my bones, but if I were to choose some other form of Christianity, Orthodoxy would right at the top of the list. I attended a Greek Orthodox service years ago as part of a field report for a religion class. There are half a dozen different flavors of Orthodox, and I sometimes wonder what an ‘American Orthodox’ religion would look like.

    Am “American Orthodox” church would look like all the other Orthodox churches, something that is not well understood by the non-Orthodox. If such a thing came to pass, it would be theologically identical. It would have to be in order to be in communion with the Orthodox world. Peter Gillquist, if you know of him, explained that in his book Becoming Orthodox”  He was part of the group that started the Evangelical Orthodox Church in the eighties. Ultimately, they were taken into the Antiochian fold. His book in a revised edition is available on Amazon at

    You can also find a number of video entries on YouTube. You will find that to be Greek Orthodox rather than Russian Orthodox does not carry the same distinction as the difference betweeen, say, Presbyterian and Baptist. Those “different flavors” may speak differrent languages but they believe the same.

    • #25
    • June 28, 2020, at 4:00 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  26. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arvo (View Comment):
    The second, is that theology and praxis normative?

    Well, yes. The main changes you would notice from century to century are that when the church is relatively safe, the services get more elaborate and ornate, and simplified when under threat, the core remains the same.

    For delving into the history of theological development of the early church, I would recommend the following:

    Aquilina, Mike, The Fathers of the Church: An Introduction to the First Christian Teachers, Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington, IN, 2013
    This is more of a quick reference guide to who the important early fathers were, with snippets of their surviving works. Heavy Catholic emphasis.

    Strickland, John, The Age of Paradise:Christendom from Pentecost to the First Millennium, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019 (I reviewed this one here)

    Webber, Fr. Meletios, Bread and Water, Wine and Oil: An Orthodox Christian Experience of God, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019
    A book that goes back and forth between theology and practice, but not a strict history.

    Wilkin, Robert Louis, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, Yale University Press, 2005
    This is a superb scholarly work by someone whose earliest interest was actually in the ancient critics and persecutors of Christianity, but who found himself back in the faith. Wilkin traces the historical development of different practices, doctrines, and apologetics for Christianity, with enough citations to satisfy any beginning researcher.

    For specific books on the history of the Liturgy (the Orthodox Sunday service), I would recommend:

    Schmemann, Fr. Alexander, Introduction to Liturgical Theology, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1966

    Williams, Benjamin, and Anstall, Harald, Orthodox Worship: A Living Continuity With the Synagogue, The Temple, and The Early Church, Ancient Faith Publishing, 2018.

    I’m sure the Catholics here could recommend books on the developments of the Western rites, but the early chapters of these works cover a lot of common ground for East and West both, considering they started off the same.

    There are a lot of other works I could recommend besides (I’ve got a couple of shelves worth at this point) but these are good entry points.

    • #26
    • June 28, 2020, at 4:01 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  27. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    My own parish is Antiochian, which simply means that our chain of authority from our local priest, through our diocesan bishop, and our continental Metropolitan (basically Archbishop) goes to the Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, who can in turn trace the history of his office back to Ignatius, and back further to Peter himself (before Peter moved to Rome). What this means practically is that we have a lot of Arabic speakers, but our services are in English (mandated by the Antiochians since about WWII, though Arabic services are allowed too) with some Arabic prayers and hymns at times. But our membership also has Romanians, Russians, Ukrainians, a Norwegian, Greeks, Copts, and an Ethiopian (until the Ethiopian community here was large enough to launch their own), plus a lot of converts. And when I’ve gone to the Greek, OCA (Americanized Russian), ROCOR (still very Russian), Serbian, and Carpatho-Russ churches I’ve seen plenty of mixing. Some churches are very immigrant-heavy and so retain their native languages, others not so much, others still not at all. We’re all in communion with each other.

    • #27
    • June 28, 2020, at 4:11 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  28. Arvo Coolidge

    SkipSul (View Comment):
    This is actually very easy to find, and among both Orthodox and Catholics has never really been lost or forgotten.

    Haha, too much to dive into here!

    I really mean first century, the stuff that Wilhelm Bousset and Larry Hurtado worked on in their lifetimes.

    And no disrespect to any of the wonderful writers you mention, but the church at large was a hot mess by Nicea, and likely well before then. Almost to a man, the bishops showed up with letters of accusation against their peers and offered them to the emperor, hoping to have them kicked out or worse. They didn’t realize that Constantine had a habit of burning snitches. By God’s grace, he thought that burning a hundred bishops might not go over well, so he burned the letters instead.

    And the Incarnation! We look for Isaiah 9:6 Christmas cards to send, “…and He shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father…” Jesus was not God Jr.! Paul in his epistles, over and over, quotes Old Testament passages in which he uses Jesus as the referent for Yahweh. And Jude, His half brother and former skeptic, says it was Jesus who saved Israel from Egypt.

    I’m intrigued with the surging of interest in Communion in the Charismatic movement (see Joseph Prince, et al) as something like what you mention about medicine. This is very counter Reformation. And there is little doubt that the earliest church practiced communion very often, but there’s little written by the Apostles about it. Maybe it’s simple.

    One of the aspects of first century v Church Father theology is its elegant simplicity.

    Maybe questions were asked that people didn’t want to answer with, “We don’t know” or “It doesn’t matter.”

    • #28
    • June 28, 2020, at 4:28 PM PDT
    • Like
  29. ShaunaHunt Coolidge

    Congratulations!

    • #29
    • June 28, 2020, at 4:44 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  30. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arvo (View Comment):
    I’m intrigued with the surging of interest in Communion in the Charismatic movement (see Joseph Prince, et al) as something like what you mention about medicine. This is very counter Reformation. And there is little doubt that the earliest church practiced communion very often, but there’s little written by the Apostles about it. Maybe it’s simple.

    Read Ignatius, Polycarp, and Clement – they all learned directly from John, Peter, and Paul. And consider that not everything needful was necessarily written down, much knowledge being passed on verbally or by demonstration – just because it’s not written in the epistles doesn’t mean it wasn’t taught. The Eucharist was considered so sacred and so profound that it was deliberately kept secret from non-initiates, a secrecy best kept by not writing it all down. Early Christians were often accused of cannibalism by the Romans when word did get out. In fact to this day, in the Orthodox rite, there is a call after the Liturgy of the Word (centered on the scripture readings and homily), before the Liturgy of the Eucharist begins, for the deacon to order out the catechumens (the non-initiates) and to guard the doors (though this call is retained, it is largely a formality today). This was done in the early church precisely because the early church was protecting the Eucharist from outsiders.

    Arvo (View Comment):
    One of the aspects of first century v Church Father theology is its elegant simplicity.

    Where do you draw the line between the first century and “Church Father theology”? Only with the Apostles? The first generation afterwards? At what point would you say that the early Christian church somehow apostasized or fell away? This is one of the key predicates to much of modern Protestantism – that somehow the early church failed, only to be rediscovered in modern times. It’s something of a modernist habit of rejecting everything not mentioned by any of the apostolic writings contained in the Bible, while also rejecting the very environment in which the Bible was compiled. The Bible as we have it today emerged directly out of the 4th century world you describe as “a hot mess”.

    • #30
    • June 28, 2020, at 5:12 PM PDT
    • Like