Scripture, Authority, and Tradition Part 9

Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9

I’m Hoping the Dust Settles Soon

screw the establishmentIt seems we are stuck in this perpetual cycle of anti-establishment.  Our culture feeds on it, and encourages revolutionary figures.  Look at most of our heroes and superheroes in American society featured in movies, TV, and the news.  They are often people who work alone and battle the establishment.

We also hold to the Great Apostasy Theory, even if subconsciously, in order to justify our independence.  At least that is what I did for most of my life.  The Orthodox Church challenged me.  It helped me ask: what if it isn’t Christianity that needs to change, but myself?  Such a question conflicts with our individualism and pride.

As outlined here, the Christian Church was pretty much one unified body for the first one thousand years.  The western Roman Catholic Church changed doctrinally and ecclesiastically while the Eastern Orthodox Church preserved the Christian faith.  Why is that important?  The church as a whole never apostatized.  There’s no reason to cling to Apostasy Theories.  Because of that, I am now free to accept the biblical canon composed by church fathers and glean much wisdom from ancient Christian writings outside of the Bible.  I am also free to believe that Jesus is capable of guiding his Bride throughout the ages and Martin Luther didn’t beat life back into a dead Jewish sect that died centuries before.

Questioning my own motives

St Jerome and the mirrorThe Orthodox Church has provided refuge for me for many reasons.  But I do have to stop and ask myself: what really draws me to Orthodoxy?  Am I doing this only because the Orthodox are not the establishment here in America?  I’ve always been a bit of a non-conformist, and the Orthodox are relatively unheard of.  Collectively, they represent 0.6% of the American population; though internationally speaking, they are the second largest Christian Church.

I’d like to think my motives are more pure than that.  However, it is something I must bear in mind.  I am in no hurry to join the Orthodox Church because I want to make sure it is not just the latest, newest thing to catch my attention.  I have written these nine blogs in order to process what I have learned and to better understand myself.  I also hope all of these posts help someone else who feels burned out and tired of church.

Read my journey into the Orthodox Church and how I gradually decided to become Orthodox.

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12 thoughts on “Scripture, Authority, and Tradition Part 9

  1. A very thoughtful entry. ” I am also free to believe that Jesus is capable of guiding his Bride throughout the ages.”…I agree!! Love the mirror image, too. Thanks for sharing your personal thoughts. 🙂

  2. Greetings Jeremy. We met at SS Joseph and Andrew a few weeks ago. I found this series well written with very insightful thoughts. I also discovered many of these things in my own journey to Orthodoxy, however I came into it from a completely different set of circumstances. Perhaps, I could share with you sometime. Looking forward to reading more posts in the future. I have a blog as well, but I an not so disciplined with it, which I hope to remedy soon. Check it out if you want @ especially the entry describing my first Divine Liturgy. Lord have mercy and bless +++

    1. Hey Daniel, good to hear from you! I appreciate your feedback and I am more interested in hearing about your journey. We should get together some time.

      I will check out your blog as well. I hope to see you soon. Blessings!

  3. Hello, Jeremiah.

    First of all: sorry for my english. I’m a brazilian that learned it alone. If you find some mistakes on the orthography, you will know why.

    I think that the context here is a little different from the one that you find in your region. But in some aspects the things are the same, like the large amount of protestant congregations.

    By the second part of 2013, I met a group on the internet in which I found some friends that like to discuss about calvinism. Since then the necessity of understand that question grew up for me. I read some things and a strong argument that I found against it was the writings of the Church Fathers. I started to read them in the beginning of 2014.

    This series of posts (that I found today) has been my reflections in the last months (I mean that I am thinking about these things, especially on the relation between Scripture and Tradition). I am writing this comment to tell that it was a good reading. Maybe my journey is going to be the same as yours.

    Thanks. I will read more posts of your website.

    Willian Souza.
    Ribeirão Preto – São Paulo, Brazil.

    1. Thank you for sharing a bit of your background, Willian. The relationship between scripture and tradition is very misunderstood by most Protestants. I was the same way most of my life.

      When we understand that the Bible did not randomly piece itself together nor did it drop out of the sky from heaven, then we have to ask ourselves questions: who wrote these scriptures? Who preserved them over the years? Who canonized the Bible that we have today?

      If we think that a corrupt church did all of that, then it can seriously undermine the validity of the Bible. But if it was written, preserved, and canonized by a Church guided by the Holy Spirit, then that allows us freedom to accept the holy scriptures and utilize them together with holy tradition to grow closer to God. We also see that scripture supports tradition and tradition helps us understand scripture.

      I pray the Lord guides you in your journey toward Him and His Kingdom.

      1. Hello again, Father Jeremiah!

        Some weeks ago I was looking for this website with my comment to show it to my girlfriend (about to be my wife, actually) and didn’t found it. And now, because a friend requested an orthodox book I showed him some years ago, I found again the site among my bookmarks.

        I was sure it was the website I knew, although the display is a little different now. Then I found again the “My Journey” section. I thought the comment was there, and it wasn’t. But, looking again at the bookmarks, I found this series, that I also remember reading attentively, and…

        … it’s here! Seven years ago! Wow. Father, I’m really happy finding this.

        I would like to thank you so much for your articles here. They were an important part of my journey. I never forget that time when I knew almost nothing about Orthodoxy, when I was so confuse about what to think and to do, and didn’t know anyone who were Orthodox to talk about in Portuguese. But I could read websites, and God allowed me to find people online to start the journey, first in English, then in Portuguese.

        By now, me and my partner are going to an Orthodox Antiochian Church that is 2 hours and 20 minutes distant from our city by car, because there is no Church here in our city. Before that, we tried to go to the Catedral Church in Sao Paulo (the state’s capital city), and we went some times, but the road time was about 4 hours by bus (I mean, I’m counting just the time to get there, not the time to get back, that is the same). And before that even, we also made a catechumenate (does this word exist in English? Means to take a “course” about the faith) with a deacon from another jurisdiction in another city (Campinas). That church, by the time, was just a mission, and now the deacon is a father and they have liturgies every week! Glory to the Lord.

        So many things happened in these years… The most important to tell you in this new comment is that we are about to be baptized in the Church, and it probably will happen in this next January. I hope everything goes as God wants it to be.

        Father, thank you again, and specially for your prayers. It was good reading your words and knowing you were praying for me.

        Kyrie, eleison!

        1. Hello Willian, thank you for your comment. May God continue to bless your journey into the Orthodox Church!

  4. Hi Jeremiah

    You mention: ” he western Roman Catholic Church became corrupt doctrinally” . Could you please give me some examples apart from the “filioque” issue?

    1. Hi Aubrey, the filioque was at the center of the controversy. There may have been other lesser issues at hand that I don’t know about, but that was the big one. Many people don’t understand the full significance of it (myself included) and so we’re tempted to think “Is there some other way the RCC was corrupt?” But I think that is about like asking, “Aside from the errors regarding the divine nature of Christ, were there any other issues between the Arians and the other Christians?”

      The insertion of the filioque into the creed was a doctrinal mistake in that it in some ways subordinates the Holy Spirit to the Father and Son rather than showing the Father as the fountainhead of the eternal Trinity. Additionally, it shows a bad understanding of ecclesiology on the Roman bishop’s side. He viewed the other hierarchy in the world as his servants and seemed to think of them as disposable advisors and himself as the sole dictator of the body of Christ. That was never the way it was meant to be.

      These leanings of the RCC caused it to become more doctrinally corrupt as later teachings such as the immaculate conception, papal infallibility, and indulgences arose.

      Anyway, I’m not sure that actually helps you out any. I apologize for not knowing more than that.

    2. Hi Aubrey. Please check out the letter “A Reply to One Well Disposed Towards The Latin Church” by St Ambrose of Optina.

  5. “If I don’t like something about the church, then maybe it is me who needs to change”

    And if the church teaches the filioque, or immaculate conception, papal infallibility, and indulgences? What then?
    The church can and has become corrupted.
    And while these example are from the RCC, I am sure there are some from the EOx too. And these issues arose because the church is made of people, and people are susceptible to corruption. And this sentiment, this strict adherence to tradition is not unique to EOx, but is is RCC as well. And they too could exclaim this same sentiment in regards to the aforementioned issues.

    And the ever despised protestant reformation was simple a refusal to hold to “If I don’t like something about the church, then maybe it is me who needs to change”
    But rather hold to truth and scripture above all.
    And these men, in the early days went and sought out the EOx, and were not welcomed and simple told to “go back and sort it out with their bishops”

    And so the issue with the sentiment, is it makes the church infallible, and thus beyond criticism, reform, or accountability.

    So rather it is papal infallibility, or bishop infallibility. The church needs the holy fools to respond and challenge.
    Because at the end of the day, the life of a christian is to be found in Christ, of which the church is to help facilitate, but if it deviates, the christian should still follow Christ, and perhaps you aren’t always the one who needs to change…?

    1. Hi Eric, thank you for your comment. You’ve brought up several issues here. I’ll attempt to address some of them.

      I used to have a similar mindset to what you are expressing here, particularly that the church is made up of people and therefore it is corrupt.

      First, we must ask, “What is the church?” We can make up our own answer that serves our current theology, or we can look to the witness of the early church for the answer (which of course includes scripture).

      The scriptures are quite clear that the church is the body of Christ (Col 1:24), “the pillar and ground of truth” (1 Tim 3:15), and the “fullness of Him who fills all things.” (Eph 1:22-23) I’m assuming neither one of us thinks that God is a liar or that truth changes, so these scriptures must still be true today.

      When I came to this realization I decided I could no longer call the church corrupt because doing so is calling God and His truth corrupt. Now, what is corrupt though are groups who have broken away from the true church and established false doctrine, such as the RCC.

      You’ve mentioned a few of the corruptions in the RCC, and you’re right that the reformers were rebelling against corruption in a group that had broken away from the true church. But in rebelling against the corruption, they “threw out the baby with the bathwater,” as the saying goes. They invented new theology that was also inaccurate (things like sola fide, sola scriptura, etc).

      A group of Lutherans did contact Patriarch Jeremias II. They wrote theological letters back and forth for years. Patriarch Jeremias attempted to establish what they agreed upon as well as their disagreements. He then explained in a letter why the Orthodox theology was different. After years of exchanging letters and seeing that the Lutherans did not want to adopt Orthodox theology, Jeremias ended his correspondence.

      That time was a difficult one in the life of the church. The Orthodox Christians were living under a harsh Muslim rule and were just trying to survive. It is a wonder that the Patriarch kept the correspondence going for years given their living conditions. So, it is unfair to speak of the Patriarch as if he merely dismissed the Lutherans.

      Of course, that didn’t end all correspondence with Protestants. There is still some going on today, particularly between the Anglican church and the EO. Additionally, you and I are corresponding.

      You stated, “But rather hold to truth and scripture above all.” I had to ask myself, “What is the truth?” Christ is, as he himself proclaimed. Who upholds the truth? The church does, as scripture proclaims. Who wrote scripture? The church. Who best understands scripture? The church as a whole.

      I believe that the Eastern Orthodox Church is the upholder of the truth and wrote the scriptures we now possess. Of course, that does not mean that there are not corrupt people within Orthodoxy. Our Lord gave us the parable of the wheat and the tares. But what we see is that, over a period of time, these weeds are discovered and their teachings are uprooted. The test of time helps tremendously with keeping the Orthodox doctrine pure.

      Neither Christ nor his apostles ever taught that the church is an option that merely “is to help facilitate” the Christian life. I have seen in my own life a tremendous spiritual transformation by letting go of my pride and accepting the teachings of Christ, his apostles, and his church. For me, there is no life in Christ outside of his holy body.

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