Tag: Orthodox Church

Swimming the Bosporus 10: The Good Book and Holy Tradition

 

I did a lot of church-hopping in my college and Navy days. To simplify the search, I would look to see if a church claimed to be “Bible-believing.” This indicated they were non-denominational, pretty conservative, and focused on the Scriptures. If their name included “Bible Church,” even better.

Following the Bible is the main point of these assemblies, a principle that stems from the Reformation. Martin Luther declared that the Catholic Church was wrong to emphasize both Scripture and tradition. Instead, the authority should be Scripture alone (or, Sola Scriptura in Latin).

You can find all the Swimming the Bosporus posts here.

Luther looked at the Vatican of his day and thought they had lost the plot. He viewed their many rituals, traditions, and innovations as so many barnacles that had attached themselves to the Barque of St. Peter. So, he decided to strip them off.

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As the birthday of the impudent Heron was being kept, the object of the termagant dancer’s oath was achieved; for the head of the Forerunner was cut off and offered on a charger, as food for those reclining.  What a loathsome banquet, replete with wickedness and horrible murder.  As for us, we bless the Baptizer, […]

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Swimming the Bosporus 8: The Rock and the Raft

 

Everyone knows what “time” is but it’s a slippery concept to nail down. Religion, philosophy, art, and science all have theorized about the meaning, but I’ll stick with the old line, “time is what keeps everything from happening at once.”

In most variants of the three major religions (and some philosophies) God resides outside of time. He is immortal and never-changing; existing before the ages began, while they continue, and after they’re gone. He created space and time as an envelope for humans to reside within. Spending too long thinking about it can make your brain hurt (just analyze any time-travel movie) but it has major implications for one’s faith.

You can find all the Swimming the Bosporus posts here.

As noted in a previous post, church history isn’t stressed in Protestantism. At the close of the Book of Acts, the timeline is fast-forwarded 1,500 years until Martin Luther is nailing his 95 Theses to the Wittenburg door. That millennium-and-a-half is treated as either a slow drift or a rapid descent into error until the Reformation set Christendom back on track.

Swimming the Bosporus 7: Of Popes and Patriarchs

 

Six posts in and there’s a question I keep getting: “We get why you left evangelical protestantism for Orthodoxy. But why didn’t you just choose the Catholic Church?” For a Westerner, swimming the Tiber is simpler than swimming the Bosporus based on cultural affinities alone. And, according to Google Maps, the drive from Wittenburg to Rome is 400 miles shorter than Wittenburg to Constantinople. So what gives?

To answer, I first need to give some historical context.

You can find all the Swimming the Bosporus posts here.

The Church was established on the Day of Pentecost, 33 AD, and quickly spread around the Mediterranean. Every church was in agreement with each other as one big, happy family. Well, churlish at times, but what’cha gonna do? False teachers popped up here and there promoting doctrines contrary to Christianity. Councils were convened to discuss foundational beliefs and to condemn heresies.

Swimming the Bosporus 6: Angels in the Architecture

 

Last week, I finished the narrative portion of my swim from the Megachurch to Orthodoxy. I could have drawn it out for a year, but readers were getting impatient — as was I. Several details were left out, so let’s follow those rabbit trails to add some context.

Over the course of my life, there have been several elements of modern American Protestantism that didn’t quite make sense to me. Some questions involved deep theology, while others were … more pedestrian. Architecture, for instance.

All the Swimming the Bosporus posts here.

For years, I annoyed evangelical friends with my rant about church architecture, so I thought it time to annoy a larger audience. You’re welcome! (Years ago, a Greek guy overheard my criticism and said, “are you sure you aren’t Orthodox?” Perhaps it was fated.)

Swimming the Bosporus, Chapter 5: Reaching the Far Shore

 

I began attending my local Antiochian Orthodox church, erratically at first, then more and more often. My wife and kids weren’t sold on Orthodoxy but were very supportive as I made the journey by my lonesome.

At the same time, my dad was dying. He was diagnosed with dementia about eight years prior, then Alzheimer’s disease a couple of years after that. My siblings and I would regularly visit though he could barely communicate.

Read the previous entries: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4.

Being a good stoic Finn, I betrayed almost no emotion. I had to hold it together for my daughters’ standard teenage drama and their own struggles with behavioral health, autism, and annual hospitalization. It seemed unnatural to be so cold, but they came first; maybe I can fix myself later.

Swimming the Bosporus, Chapter 4: Entering the Shallows

 

I had heard of the Church Fathers but, as noted in my last post, the first book I’d actually read by one was On the Incarnation by Athanasius of Alexandria.

The Fathers were a loose collection of Christian writers and thinkers who established the intellectual and doctrinal foundations during the first 750 years of Christianity. Some were taught by the apostles themselves, many participated in church councils, and others wrote about controversies facing the early church.

Read the previous entries: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3

I had read an endless assortment of Christian, philosophical, and secular books, all of which pointed to the truth in their own way. It was as if they showed me part of an elephant, perfectly describing the ear, the trunk, or a leg. All useful knowledge, but I didn’t know how they interrelated.

Swimming the Bosporus, Chapter 3: The Slough of Despond

 

As noted in my last post, I was officially disillusioned with megachurchdom. My family was understandably tired of trying different communities, so it was time to strike out on my own, Lone Ranger style. Since I didn’t care about the music or the surface-level social interaction, I’d just listen to great preachers on podcasts and online. Get the good word from the big names and avoid the stuff I didn’t like. (Which included waking up before Noon.)

This went okay for a while. Friends told me about liturgical Protestant options, which definitely drew my interest. But the closest option was a tiny place 30 miles away and the family wasn’t down.

Chapter 1 is here. Chapter 2 is here.

The previous few years had been rough. Laid off, stepdad died, dog died, mom died, laid off again — that was a fun 15 months. Both of our girls experienced a wide spectrum of apparently undiagnosable behavioral issues and the resulting violent mood swings and school crises. Add in our own health and financial issues, and it made for a bleak time.

Swimming the Bosporus, Chapter 2: Steeplechase

 

In my first post, I set the table. Born Lutheran, became Evangelical in my teens, and eventually became a model citizen of megachurchville. Everything was swell. Sure, I had nagging questions about my beliefs but I’d figure those out eventually.

My generic American evangelicalism was a mélange of the zillions of churches and Bible studies I attended, along with the popular books I read. Nearly all were non-denominational with a few Baptist churches here and some Calvinist leanings there. Few sermons dug deep so I relied on the books for that.

Read this post for Chapter 1 and a thorough disclaimer.

The foundational belief they shared was that each individual had to admit their sins to God and accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Once you did that, you were eternally saved. In theory, you could immediately charge into a life of depravity and remain on the Big Guest List in the Sky.

Swimming the Bosporus, Chapter 1: 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.

How Sweet the Sound

 

What would Black Gospel Music sound like if it blended with Eastern Orthodox liturgical tradition? Though liturgical traditions have a reputation for their timelessness, or at least for not changing, the Eastern Orthodox liturgy of singing and chanting antiphonally has changed over the past 2,000 years, particularly when Orthodoxy has met with other cultures whose own musical talents and understandings are different.

Though the broad outlines of a Russian or Greek liturgy are substantially identical, with the same prayers, the same order of service, the same structure, they do not exactly sound the same, even setting aside the language differences.  Saturday night in Columbus, Ohio, Dr. Shawn Wallace, Director of Jazz Studies at Ohio State University, and an Orthodox Christian himself, presented a project long in his heart.  How Sweet the Sound was a concert that presented an Orthodox vespers service as blended with, and sung in the style of Black Gospel music.

Words are inadequate to properly describe the concert.  It was beautiful, joyful, and above all worshipful, weaving traditional Gospel and other Protestant hymns in and through the prayers, psalm reading, and hymns of vespers – a service sung and chanted to mark the ending of one day, and herald the beginning of the next.  Holy Holy Holy wove in and out of Psalm 104, Wade in the Water carried, like waves Lord I have Cried, and Amazing Grace brought Psalm 117 to a beautiful crescendo.

Practical Differences Between the Orthodox and Evangelicals

 

First Orthodox Cathedral built in Georgia in 1,000 years.

I am a Baptist and a missionary that was on the field for 14 years and I worked primarily in Georgia but other Orthodox countries as well. My experience with culturally Orthodox and faithful Orthodox believers are from these countries in descending order of interaction, Georgia, Russia, Romania, Ukraine, and America. I was inspired by this post from @heavywater on the conversion of the Bible Answers man to Orthodoxy. What I wanted to do here is to lay out the practical differences I found between not just the teaching of Orthodoxy and Evangelicals generally but how the teaching is put to work in the real world. I am a Baptist and I would be a Reformed Baptist, on the question of salvation, to lay down a theological marker.

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When we left Queen Tamar and Dread David they were securely rulers of Georgia.  Their challenges were not done and their greatest dangers lay before them.  Tamar method of ruling is very interesting to me.  Tamar did not seem to have any great physical strength or skill in arms, her one skill that would be […]

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The Russian Orthodox Church, headquartered in Moscow, is facing a challenge to its authority over Ukrainian congregations. My reading, of summary histories, of Russia, and of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire), suggests deep roots to such conflict. Church and state politics seem closely intertwined, at least where Moscow is concerned. Although both churches trace […]

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This post is a shout out and query to my Orthodox friends here – I think I am remembering this correctly (@skipsul, @jamesofengland, @midge, and others who I have missed). Obviously, others may opine as well – as if you need the invitation. At Catholic World Report, Dr. Adam A. J. DeVille has a post […]

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