Rhology, in my final statement: Also sounds alot like Reformed Baptists - visible unity which faces occasional division. Does David display any recognition of this fairly-obvious fact?
John, commenter: Its not clear to our side how disputes within Reformed baptists could show "who are approved may become evident'. When we resolve disputes it does in fact tell us something because we recognise the one unity. (sic) (source)
What could this possibly mean? It is amazing how Sola Ecclesia-ists like John don't get it. Is John a cradle EO who has simply never troubled himself to peer with any degree of depth into the way Sola Scripturists live and do church? Has he never read any blog like Al Mohler's blog? Kevin DeYoung's blog? Green Baggins? TeamPyro? Bueller?
What about Josh Harris' books about the church? 9Marks books? John MacArthur's books? What about catechist resources such as the Westminster Shorter Catechism? Even the Baptist Faith and Message 2000? Maybe my pastor's book on church discipline would be a good place to start. ANYthing, really.
Or perhaps John is a convert who turned to EOC b/c he saw the illusion of greener grass on the other side. He never saw the way that people who really for real believe the Scripture operate to find out just who is approved, but he figured that those guys in EOC who talk a good line about never having problems with unity, never fighting amongst themselves or going into schism over a tiny little issue like what calendar one uses or whether one uses leavened or unleavened bread in the Eucharist, never squabbling over church land or finances. None of that - all that stuff is restricted to the Protestant world. Those idiots, those guys who just split and call each other heretics at the drop of a hat!
See, the EO has to choose which way he wants to take the objection. If he wants to make it "Eastern Orthodoxy vs Protestantism", he's making a category mistake, comparing one church to hundreds. Of course that one church is going to look better, just as if I compared United Methodist unity to that of Rome, the Copts, Maronites, Eastern Orthodoxy, Nestorians, etc.
If he wants to make it "Eastern Orthodoxy vs Reformed Baptists", then how does his church come out a clear victor in the unity department? Again, visible unity which faces occasional division, just like EOC. If he wants to make it "Sola Scriptura churches vs non-Sola Scriptura churches"... never mind, he doesn't want to do that.
So, how is it actually done? Read the Bible with understanding, interpret it properly, and subject any and all teaching, tradition, action, etc, to it. To help with boiling it all down to bite-size chunks, the easier to examine and keep all in one place, use helpful documents like catechisms, confessions of faith, etc (which you subject to the Scripture at all times, if there's a question). To quote John from above, when we resolve disputes it does in fact tell us something because we recognise the one unity - the unity is SPIRITUAL, in the Gospel, and that spiritual unity is imperfectly but still substantially represented and reflected in the visible church.
The objector might challenge us that the Scripture is insufficiently clear for this. Why? B/c of the "33000 denominations" problem. Fail. What he really means is that he doesn't understand the role of the Scripture and the role of the church. If the Scr is unclear, then so is any other text. Why single out the Scripture for your challenges of insufficient clarity? I've read some church writers from the 2nd and 3rd centuries - they're LESS clear than the Scripture most of the time. I've read some John Cassian, read some John Damascene, some other stuff here and there. Why are they magically easier to understand and more conducive to unity among believers than God-inspired Scripture? I certainly didn't think they were.
The answer, of course, is not that when God breathes something out, it's automagically obscure and beyond understanding. The answer is that the Scripture convicts our EO friends of sin and disobedience, and instead of facing up to that fact, they throw out the "it's unclear!" smokescreen.