Reformed and Russian Orthodox

An interesting twist. A recent post “Horton on Emerging Church” starts with Emerging Church getting spanked by the Reformed folk, who are usually upset that the elements of church they thought they got rid of during the Reformation are re-appearing among the younger generation. But then, 30 comments into the conversation, an Orthodox believer (hi Joe!) comes on the comments and suggests strongly that Emerging Church are just faddish and are not going deep enough into the traditions and relics of the Orthodox/Catholic traditions . . . ie, the ones that the Reformed people tried to destroy with crowbars and bonfires.

Maybe they are both right?? Really . .. you cannot win these arguments. But I thought i would make this post in case anyone wanted to bring the conversation over here to these comments.


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • joeturner says:

    Hello, I’m a different Joe (just to add to the confusion).
    I’d like to continue this discussion because I think it has implications for the way the emerging church in general and Andrew’s vision interacts with everyone else.
    Clearly we are treading on a few toes. And I’d agree that we should not look to deliberately upset the applecart.
    But – lets be frank here – the rest of christianity parted company with Orthodox believers 1500 years ago. The anglican church – often seen as a bastian of fuddy-duddyness in the UK – could be considered to be a ‘fad’ compared to Orthodoxy.
    So, when is a fad not a fad? When is it just trying a few new things, being creative, thinking outside of the box – and when is it leaving the tradition of faith?
    I guess part of the answer is that we need both. We need some anchor to hang our faith onto. But manna gets stale in the morning, and I would argue that the church constantly needs to be revaluating, rejiggging and rethinking. This is the way of God in my opinion.
    ‘Fad’ implies to me an effort where you just do to jump onto a bandwaggon, something that potentially makes you look groovy, but like last year’s pop chart sounds a bit tired before very long.
    I don’t know enough about the emerging church or TSK to know if these are people who are blown back and forth by the latest thing. But they seem to me to be a people who are catching a wind of discontent, a wind of a new discipleship, a wind of a people who need this christianity to mean something solid and real otherwise we might as well just forget it.
    And to be honest, I’m interested in where it goes. If its a fad, then we can all thank God for the stability of the Orthodox church when it dies. If it isn’t a fad, then we can sit in wonder at the new thing that God has done.
    I’m going with it not being a fad. I’m going with this being a movement which will change the world.

  • andrew jones says:

    Thanks J
    I am grateful for the Orthodox traditions and look forward to learning more from them.
    And for those of us Protestants (i hate that name) who are dumpster-diving in the traditionals of medieval Christianity, the Orthodox folk are usually the first to get upset
    After all, we are taking away some things (prayers, pilgrimages) but leaving behind other things that we deem less important, or even damaging- and that can be insulting.
    So Joe does have a point. We are picky.
    But the dominant metaphor for my ecclesiolgy is Biblical, not historical. My anchors lie in the promise to Abraham and the cross and the meal in which Jesus said “Do this, in remembrance of me”.
    Church history didnt start as recent as they would have us believe. The Old Testament is bursting with life for me and has so much to teach me about community and worship. New Testament also.Obviously.
    And my brothers and sisters down thru the ages, who also followed the way of Jesus – many were monks and Fathers and Abbots and Abbesses and Saints – i respect them and stand on their shoulders.
    As for faddishness – when Jesus does something on a large scale, everyone follows. All of Jerusalem was turned upside down. All the people of Athens . . . All the Ephesians . . everyone was talking about . . .
    if we follow Jesus and do what he tells us, we should expect that people will follow and things that at first seemed dumb and lame will become fads. Isnt that a result of a people movement?
    Or am i too tired to write out a coherent thought?

  • I am a Protestant who converted to Orthodoxy, and back to Protestantism. I have gleaned a great deal of riches during my soujourn in the Orthodox Church, and my hope/prayer is for others in Protestantism to discover those riches too. I hope the Emerging Church doesn’t just content itself with importing a few icons, candles and incense. Theologically there are many riches to be discovered too, as Eastern and Western Christianity have very different approaches to theology. For example, Orthodox theology knows nothing of “original sin” and has a much higher view of human kind than Western theology.
    One has to be careful, however, when importing things from Orthodoxy, the church is such a monolithic structure, that if you pick one thing, you may end up inadvertantly pulling along a dozen other things that are linked to it in some theological or liturgical manner.

  • joe says:

    Sorry it took me so long to find this. I looked in my Monastic files under “m” for modern, but found it under “f” between faux and fad.
    It’s a piece that columnist Jim Naughton wrote for the Washington Post (April 16, 2000). I’ll only post some highlights here.
    Emergents please take special note of Naughton’s observations on the beginnings and endings of the “trend story cycle,” a cycle in which Emergents (2005)find themselves.
    by Jim Naughton
    Seems like you can’t throw a stone these days without hitting a monk.
    That’s because monks are hot.
    So monasticism is chic. How did it happen?
    Two words: incredible foresight.
    By retreating from society and devoting themselves to silence and prayer, those wily monastics placed themselves in the ideal situation to benefit from the current boom in “SPIRITUALITY,” a word with as many definitions as there are definers.
    Granted, the monks began their retreat in the dying days of the [Western] Roman Empire, so they were a bit ahead of the curve. But now, as Americans yearn for an escape from the daily routine of getting and spending (to refresh themselves for further periods of getting and spending) monks and things monkish are in demand.
    I pray that the monks will strike while the iron is hot. Their first priority should be a restructuring of monastic economies which, at present, are tied rather too tightly to the fruitcake market.
    Toward this end, I can envision a network of Spiritual Spas springing up at monasteries around the country. Say goodbye to dough and dried dates, Brother. Say hello to your new career as a PST (personal spiritual trainer).
    As a business proposition, the Spiritual Spa (registered trademark symbol) enjoys several distinct advantages. First, overhead is minimal. You charge people a lot of money to come and sleep on thin mattresses in bare rooms, eat a meager diet and engage in intensive manual labor. And the clients not only put up with this, they seek it. Second the work force is exceedingly stable. In fact, monks take a vow of stability. They promise to remain at their monastery for life. As the Black Flag ads used to say, the monks “check in, but they don’t check out.”
    But if the monks want to cash in, they are going to have to move fast.
    Because once the “trend story” cycle begins, it can only be stopped by the exercise of common sense or an act of God. First, the slick magazines [or blogs – joe] arouse our insecurity by alerting us that a movement is taking place – a movement we will miss out on unless we buy something now. Then newspapers will begin to ask critical questions such as: Is the story we helped create based on reality? And finally, one of the television “newsmagazines” will smuggle a hidden camera into a cloister under the cowl of a renegade monk.
    This will be the downfall of monastic chic. Our undercover correspondent will discover that monasteries are not the spiritual aeries we imagine them to be. He’ll show us monks engaging in esoteric practices as floor scrubbing. He’ll point out that the guys spend much of their time en communio, which is Latin for “in each others’ faces.” Worst of all, he may figure out that monks aim not to escape the ordinary tasks and arduous interactions, but to beatify them. And once the secret gets out, it will blow the whole monastic fad back to the Dark Ages.
    I’m just hoping that doesn’t happen until the IPO.
    One last thing, dear Emergents: You can’t build a a monastery much less a Church on “conversation.” Even over 1500 years ago this was true.
    A brother came to Abba Theodore [of Pherme] and began to CONVERSE with him about things which he had never yet put into practice. So the old man said to him, “You have not yet found a ship nor put your cargo aboard it and before you have sailed, you have already arrived at the city.”
    Keepin’ it real,

  • joe says:

    G’day Bruce!
    re: “One has to be careful, however, when importing things from Orthodoxy, the church is such a monolithic structure, that if you pick one thing, you may end up inadvertantly pulling along a dozen other things that are linked to it in some theological or liturgical manner.”
    I like your warning however, and if I might, I would like to expand on it a bit.
    Brian McLaren and his followers like to talk about the “treasure” that the Orthodox possess, a “treasure” that Emergents are encouraged to sweep out of Orthodox coffers to use as they see fit. However, they don’t understand (yet!) that the treasure of the Orthodox Church sweeps ups its TRUE FINDERS and carries THEM away!

  • joe says:

    G’day Bruce!
    re: “…Orthodox theology knows nothing of ‘original sin'”
    Hmmmm, pretty strong words. Perhaps you might consider “gleaning” a few more “riches” from the Church that you left?
    For example:
    The development of the doctrines concerning the Trinity and the incarnation, as it took place during the first eight centuries of Christian history, was related to the concept of man’s participation in divine life.
    The Greek Fathers of the church always implied that the phrase found in the biblical story of the creation of man (Gen. 1:26), according to “the image and likeness of God,” meant that man is not an autonomous being and that his ultimate nature is defined by his relation to God, his “prototype.”
    In paradise Adam and Eve were called to participate in God’s life and to find in him the natural growth of their humanity “from glory to glory.” To be “in God” is, therefore, the natural state of man.
    This doctrine is particularly important in connection with the Fathers’ view of human freedom. For theologians such as Gregory of Nyssa (4th century) and Maximus the Confessor (7th century) man is truly free only when he is in communion with God; otherwise he is only a slave to his body or to “the world,” over which, originally and by God’s command, he was destined to rule.
    Thus, the concept of sin implies separation from God and the reduction of man to a separate and autonomous existence, in which he is deprived of both his natural glory and his freedom. He becomes an element subject to cosmic determinism, and the image of God is thus blurred within him.
    Freedom in God, as enjoyed by Adam, implied the possibility of falling away from God. This is the unfortunate choice made by man, which led Adam to a subhuman and unnatural existence. The most unnatural aspect of his new state was death. In this perspective, “original sin” is understood not so much as a state of guilt inherited from Adam but as an unnatural condition of human life that ends in death.
    Mortality is what each man now inherits at his birth and this is what leads him to struggle for existence, to self-affirmation at the expense of others, and ultimately to subjection to the laws of animal life. The “prince of this world” (i.e., Satan), who is also the “murderer from the beginning,” has dominion over man. From this vicious circle of death and sin, man is understood to be liberated by the death and Resurrection of Christ, which is actualized in Baptism and the sacramental life in the church.
    The general framework of this understanding of the God-man relationship is clearly different from the view that became dominant in the Christian West–i.e., the view that conceived of “nature” as distinct from “grace” and that understood original sin as an inherited guilt rather than as a deprivation of freedom.
    In the East, man is regarded as fully man when he participates in God; in the West, man’s nature is believed to be autonomous, sin is viewed as a punishable crime, and grace is understood to grant forgiveness. Hence, in the West, the aim of the Christian is justification, but in the East, it is rather communion with God and deification. [aka becoming Christ-like …joe]
    In the West, the church is viewed in terms of mediation (for the bestowing of grace) and authority (for guaranteeing security in doctrine); in the East, the church is regarded as a communion in which God and man meet once again and a personal experience of divine life becomes possible.
    Catch ya on the rebound!

  • joe says:

    re: “But the dominant metaphor for my ecclesiolgy is Biblical, not historical.”
    But dominant Biblical metaphor for ecclesiology is historical!
    “…Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” 1 Timothy 3:15
    Did St. Paul say, “Bible, the pillar and ground of the truth?”
    He said “Church”: Early, Ancient and Extant, a 2000 year old historical presence.
    Which Came First, the Church of the New Testament?

  • joe says:

    Which Came First, the Church OR the New Testament?

  • David says:

    do we need to make such a clear distinction between church and NT? we could argue forever which came first, if NT is Word of God and God is eternal… after all it isn’t the leather-bound NIV/KJV that we are arguing about right? It’s the words, and even the ideas (whoops a little platonic there) behind them. i think what andrew is saying is that his ecclesiology is based on the Biblical texts, but we all need to check our interpretations of those texts against history…
    all that to say, maybe an important part of this discussion should be why the reformers rejected some of the things they did. likely they over-reacted, but shouldn’t that be a caution for us before we jump into the things they (some at least) agonized about giving up?

  • joe says:

    re: ” we could argue forever which came first, if NT is Word of God and God is eternal… after all it isn’t the leather-bound NIV/KJV that we are arguing about right? It’s the words, and even the ideas (whoops a little platonic there) behind them.”
    The Fathers did not understand theology as a theoretical or speculative science, but as a positive science in all respects. This is why the patristic understanding of Biblical inspiration is similar to the inspiration of writings in the field of the positive sciences.
    Scientific manuals are inspired by the observations of specialists. For example, the astronomer records what he observes by means of the instruments at his disposal. Because of his training in the use of his instruments, he is inspired by the heavenly bodies, and sees things invisible to the naked eye. The same is true of all the positive sciences.
    However, books about science can never replace scientific observations. These writings are not the observations themselves, but about these observations.
    This holds true even when photographic and acoustical equipment is used. This equipment does not replace observations, but simply aids in the observations and their recordings. Scientists cannot be replaced by the books they write, nor by the instruments they invent and use.
    The same is true of the Orthodox understanding of the Bible and the writings of the Fathers. Neither the Bible nor the writings of the Fathers are revelation or the word of God. They are about the revelation and about the word of God.
    Revelation is the appearance of God to the prophets, apostles, and saints. The Bible and the writings of the Fathers are about these appearances, but not the appearances themselves.
    This is why it is the prophet, apostle, and saint who sees God, and not those who simply read about their experiences of glorification. It is obvious that neither a book about glorification nor one who reads such a book can never replace the prophet, apostle, or saint who has the experience of glorification.
    The writings of scientists are accompanied by a tradition of interpretation, headed by successor scientists, who, by training and experience, know what their colleagues mean by the language used, and how to repeat the observations described. So it is in the Bible and the writings of the Fathers.
    Only those who have the same experience of glorification as their prophetic, apostolic, and patristic predecessors can understand what the Biblical and Patristic writings are saying about glorification and the spiritual stages leading to it. Those who have reached glorification know how they were guided there, as well as how to guide others, and they are the guarantors of the transmission of this same tradition.
    This is the heart of the Orthodox understanding of tradition and apostolic succession which sets it apart from the Latin and Protestant traditions… (Fr. John Romanides)
    Orthodox Christians do not confuse the Word of God (the Logos of the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 1) and the Holy Scriptures (the Bible) as many Protestants are wont to do.
    Orthodox Christianity has been and always will be the applied science of Salvation.

  • andrew jones says:

    thanks for all the thoughts
    it occured to me that you might not have actually been reading what the new monasteries are all about or what kinds of vows and practises are going on in the emerging church – maybe you have never visited one of the urban monasteries that. so . .i just posted another blog thought with links to monastic vows that some of us are taking and other groups that are creating urban and online monasteries.
    if you took a look around some of the links, you might be surprised of how much we have appreciated from earlier monastic efforts, and also how much is very unique to our new media world.
    In my training as a missionary over the past 25 years, I have often studied the great Jesuit monks and others who have carved the way. The current interest in the monastic is high, but it is not unprecedented or new. Just because i am occasionally associated with the emerging church, please dont assume I am jumping on a fad. If the “emergent” name gets shot down, I will continue doing what i have been doing for 25 years.
    anyway, happy reading, and feel free to come back and post your response.

  • xphiles says:

    Tomb, Candy Store, or Something Else?

    Andrew Jones has gotten a little smack laid down on his blog of late.

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