Tag: Swimming the Bosporus

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.

Swimming the Bosporus 9: ‘Are You Saved?’


Moving around for the Navy and college meant I visited a lot of churches. My standard protocol was to slouch in the back row then flee the instant the service wrapped up. (Introverts unite! Better yet, go over there.) But the church ladies were onto me. Before I could reach the door, they would sidle up with small talk before closing with the classic evangelical question: “So, are you saved?”

You encounter this question constantly in American Protestant circles since it’s such a foundational doctrine. Heaven or hell. Turn or burn. Sanctify or french fry. And the path to salvation is pretty straightforward. Sincerely recite the Sinner’s Prayer and you’re in for good.

You can find all the Swimming the Bosporus posts here.

There are variations, but here’s the Billy Graham version:

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.