Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Similarities between Eastern Orthodoxy and the Emergent Church

A Facebook friend of mine is an acquaintance from my days on the orthodoxchristianity.net forums, and is now an EO priest.  He had made a joke about turning a church over which he has some kind of influence (maybe it's in his parish or something [if indeed "parish" is the right word for EOC], I'm not sure) into an Emergent church, and then said "...or not, LOL" or something to that effect.  I commented that there seem to me to be numerous similarities I've noticed over the years between EOC and the Emergent church.  He asked me to PM him a rundown of them, and I paste my response here:


Howdy,

Just a few ways off the top of my head.
For one thing, EC (ie, Emergent Church, as opposed to EOC) patterns itself after more mystical theologians, with prayers such as hesychastic prayers, centering oneself, controlling one's breathing, seeking the contemplative part of worship, etc. Use of icons, incense, candles.

EC puts a strong emphasis on community and the voices of the community, which is very similar to the way EOC recognises post facto out of all little-t tradition the big-S Sacred big-A Apostolic big-T Tradition that it acknowledges as authoritative and normative for the church.

Following that, EC has a strong errantist streak wherein the Bible is not held to be without error. It ends up being subservient to traditions from within the church (or "the community" as ECs like to say). Same as in EOC, and quite different from evangelicals or Reformed.

In many EC congregations/communities, the Eucharist is a big central deal. (I actually wish that my own SBC church would make the Eucharist a bigger more central deal and am about to teach to that effect in my Sunday School class; I've asked the elders to do so but not really seen much change.) In EOC, of course, the Eucharist is also fairly central to worship.

There's a strong streak of political liberalism and Social Gospel-type orientation toward action in both EC and EOC.

Similarly, since EC is basically (theological) liberalism 2.0, 'salvation' is not viewed as getting right with a God Whose Law has been gravely transgressed and trampled on by sinful men, but rather it's growing this world towards a fair and just society in which God is honored thru everyone living out the love of Jesus in everything all the time. This is far more similar to theosis than to a Reformed/evangelical understanding of justification+transformation/regeneration -> sanctification -> glorification.

Hope that helps!

26 comments:

Viisaus said...

EOs used to be very dependent on emperors and Czars to uphold their religion. When they no longer have Constantines or Justinians to back them up, they become rather disoriented.

A bit like Anglicanism plunged into aimless liberalism after the British crown and empire lost their prestige, I think EOs will keep drifting into liberalism as they cannot any longer function properly as state churches.

This drift will nonetheless be disguised by heavy mysticism.


Also, militant trad-EOs like to complain about the ecumenical tendencies of mainstream EOs.

Check out the links of this page, with their telling pictures and all - lots of documentation:

http://www.trueorthodoxy.org/heretics_world_orthodoxy.shtml

For example, see this one about the current Patriarch of Constantinople:

http://www.trueorthodoxy.org/heretics_world_orthodoxy_bartholomew.shtml

Lvka said...

There were also Protestants who tried to adopt icons into their private spiritual life... it just didn't work... because the understanding is simply not there, in their religious system.

The same with you and the Eucharist: it's just a symbol, reminding us of Christ's love and suffering for us... but a good ol' two-hour sermon can do that even better, and you Bible-believing Baptists have them every Sunday... so why the need? ... Oh, yeah, I forgot: 'cause Jesus said so... what a quirky/quaint fellow, that Jesus guy... what strange ideas He had! Hmmm...

Rhology said...

Good points, as always, Viisaus. Thanks.

Rhology said...

Lvka,
Riiiiiiiigggggghhhhht. Just 'cause Jesus said something, that's not even close to enough reason to do something.

Lvka said...

It is, but it makes little sense in your theological system.

Joel said...

Actually, I wonder what you think of the traditionally Reformed (i.e. derived from Calvin via Scotland and the Dutch - in a word, postmillenial) attitude towards the societal impact of the gospel? Trinity seems pretty committed to certain social issues, at least if Ronnie's sermons are any indication, but Baptists in general tend towards a less involved, premil perspective.

This is one of the difficulties I see in dismissing the Emergent-ish crowd - I can see when the social-impact thing is carried way out of proportion, but I am not entirely settled as to where it ought to be ideally.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Similarities between Eastern Orthodoxy and the Emergent Church"

They both start with the letter "E"?

John said...

"hesychastic prayers, centering oneself, controlling one's breathing"

These are a long way from being central to EOC.

"EC puts a strong emphasis on community and the voices of the community, which is very similar to the way EOC recognises post facto out of all little-t tradition the big-S Sacred big-A Apostolic big-T Tradition that it acknowledges as authoritative and normative for the church."

Too stupid to comment on.

"EC has a strong errantist streak"

Is David the "strong errantist streak"? Or do you have more?

"There's a strong streak of political liberalism..."

I had to look up political liberalism to make sure I know what you're talking about...

"Political and social theory that supports representative government, freedom of the press, speech, and worship, the abolition of class privileges, the use of state resources to protect the welfare of the individual, and international free trade."

Now let me see, does that sound like Czarist Russia or the Byzantine Empire?

"Social Gospel-type orientation"

Decided to look this one up as well:

"The movement applied Christian ethics to social problems"

How astonishing, a church applying Christian ethics to probems. You mean there are churches not doing that?

"but rather it's growing this world towards a fair and just society in which God is honored thru everyone living out the love of Jesus in everything all the time. This is far more similar to theosis "

Ok, where is theosis said to have ANYTHING to do with growing the world into a fair and just society? Quotes please.

Viisaus said...

"Now let me see, does that sound like Czarist Russia or the Byzantine Empire?"

John, back in the 17th century the Anglican church was also not known for its liberalism. Yet today it is notorious about it.

Likewise, it is more than possible that EO churches will continue to degenerate the same way once so highly Tory-conservative Church of England did.

And if the post-Vatican II Roman church could become a grotesque parody of its former authoritarian self, so can you.

In America in particular, EO ethnics have largely supported Democrats, like Hispanic Catholics also do.

Viisaus said...

In the eyes of these old-school EOs, the current mainstream Eastern patriarchates have become little better than Uniate outfits - the Ulster Orangemen could not be more concerned of "creeping Popery" than they are:

http://www.trueorthodoxy.org/heretics_world_orthodoxy_ep_bishops.shtml


"Above: Chrysanthos, the Metropolitan of Lemesou (Cyprus) together with a Melkite Papist priest, performs the 'marriage' of Pantelhs Crestos Solwmhs and Noijwa Steir of Lebanon in the Church of the Holy Trinity in Lemesou.

Apostolic Canon 45: "Let any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon that merely joins in prayer with heretics be suspended, but if he has permitted them to perform any service as Clergymen, let him be deposed (sc. from office)."

One may wonder how these bishops would explain joint Uniate-'Orthodox' services and marriages like the one seen above to their flocks. Or, perhaps, the flock has already understood the meaning of the fact that from the mid-60's onward the Pope has been regarded as first primate of the Church and his name has been commemorated at every Liturgy in the Phanar? After all, that was all that was required of the first 'Orthodox' Uniates at the Union Council of Lyons in 1274. Such events, then, are nothing unexpected then, since it is just one Uniate serving with another, one Uniate marrying another. But if you want Orthodoxy, if you want salvation, you will not find it with bishops like these."

Lvka said...

The Head of the Church of England is the King (or Queen) of England.

The Head of the Church of Rome is the Bishop of Rome.

The Head of the Orthodox Church of a given country has never been the ruler, or even Patriarch, of that particular country. (eg, Romanians in Transylvania remained Orthodox in spite of endless centuries of Hungarian oppression; heretical Patriarchs have been deposed by their synods; etc).

You're also forgetting that such theological liberalism exists in many other denominations (than the Anglican one) as well.

John said...

"John, back in the 17th century the Anglican church was also not known for its liberalism. Yet today it is notorious about it."

I haven't seen Rhology argue that EO has changed particularly since the 17th century. He seems to level his objections at things that could apply to any century. But if you want to, well we await the evidence.

"Likewise, it is more than possible that EO churches will continue to degenerate the same way once so highly Tory-conservative Church of England did. "

Continue to? First tell us how it has started to, with hard facts.

"In America in particular EO ethnics have largely supported Democrats, like Hispanic Catholics also do."

Yah, unsurprising since Democrats only exist in America.

And "born again" protestants do as well.. In your rush to polemics, you seem to be politicising needlessly.

Rhology said...

Joel,

As Ronnie says, "The world is going to go to Hell, from bad to worse, until the end, but that doesn't mean that OUR CORNER OF IT has to as well". I think that'd probably sum up his view on it.
I don't know if it's fair to say it's less involved, though - one would have to judge that based on degree of actual involvement, not what one thinks is most justifiable or the most obvious logical conclusion. The premill guy has just as much recognition of Christ's command to be a light in the world and preach the Gospel as the postmill guy does. The postmill guy could of course (wrongly) say that the premill guy has no call to go be a light in the world, since it's going to pot anyway. The premill guy could (also wrongly) respond that the postmill has no call to do so either b/c God is going to take care of the details, since it's all Calvinistically planned out and what happens happens.
They both commit the same error, but from their respective angles.
I've read several books critical of EC and they do recognise that EC is helpful in that they focus on social issues, and that's a good thing to bolster. Unfortunately, most all EC-ers do so at the expense of the Gospel. That cannot be tolerated.



John,
Yes, I have more errantists in EOC.
Your definition of political liberalism is wrong. They support socialistic gov't, freedom of the press as long as you don't dissent from the socialistic oligarchy a la China, Cuba, USSR, class privileges become restricted to Party members, the use of state resources to give handouts and keep ppl dependent on the gov't while squelching other, richer ppl's welfare, and the opposite of free trade - command economy. In short, you got it completely wrong.

The main rip on "Social Gospel" is that most of its proponents focus on THIS WORLD rather than on the eternal, questions of eternal life and sin, and the Gospel. that describes both of you to a T.

As for theosis, I'd love to see your argument for how doing good works in Jesus' name can equal NOT helping the world grow into a more fair and just society. Go for it.


"In America in particular EO ethnics have largely supported Democrats, like Hispanic Catholics also do."
Yah, unsurprising since Democrats only exist in America.


Wow, a dense non-answer from John. What a surprise.
Yes, John, Americabn "Democrats" only exist in the USA, but there's this other little political party called the Republicans...
And tu quoque argument.


Lvka,
Tu quoque argument also.

John said...

" I have more errantists in EOC. "

Whatever that means.

"Your definition of political liberalism is wrong. "

I got mine from a dictionary. Where'd you get yours?

"They support socialistic gov't"

From the Wikipedia article on liberals: "they support free trade and market economy". Doesn't sound too socialist.

"freedom of the press as long as you don't dissent from the socialistic oligarchy".

That's not liberalism. If you've go folks like that, don't label them liberals, because they aren't liberal. They are anti-liberal.

"class privileges become restricted to Party members"

From the wiki: "emphasized the importance of free markets and civil liberties".

That's not liberalism either. You seem to be labelling black to be white and vice-versa. Just because you are mislabeling some group of folks there, doesn't make the label right.

We've go a Liberal party here, and it is pretty much the equivalent of the Republican party.

"In short, you got it completely wrong. "

Prove it. As far as I see, every dictionary and every encyclopaedia is against you.

"The main rip on "Social Gospel" is that most of its proponents focus on THIS WORLD rather than on the eternal, questions of eternal life and sin, and the Gospel. that describes both of you to a T."

Theosis is not a concept that focuses on improving society. You don't find anybody preaching that we must go and solve some problem in society because of theosis. Theosis is all about the Gospel, it is never divorced from that context. As I understand it, social gospel is characterised by preachers ignoring theology to preach on doing good, divorced from the theological context. That's completely different to theosis.

"As for theosis, I'd love to see your argument for how doing good works in Jesus' name can equal NOT helping the world grow into a more fair and just society. Go for it."

Uh, because theosis and doing good works are not the same thing, any more than regeneration and good works are the same thing in your theology. Theosis is attaining union with God. It's restoration of the inner self. These things result in good works, but good works is not theosis, any more than justification is good works in your system, but rather results in good works.

Rhology said...

Oh boy! From wikipedia! I'm so impressed.
I don't know if you live in the USA; what I am expressing is left-wing politics in the USA, which is what I'm referring to. But "liberal" can mean other things in diff parts of the world.
You say "We have a Liberal party here", which means I'm guessing that you live in the UK. Please revise your understanding of what I am saying when I say "liberal" - it means "left-wing". So hopefully that'll help you understand.


Theosis is not a concept that focuses on improving society.

Yes, I know that. I challenge you to show me how one can do good works w/o having a positive effect on society.


Theosis is all about the Gospel, it is never divorced from that context

When "the Gospel" means "doing good works and obeying the law of God", you have a serious, serious screwup. You need to read Galatians.


Theosis is attaining union with God

Thru works.



It's restoration of the inner self

Thru works.

Jnorm888 said...

Rhology,


What was your name on Orthodoxchristianity.net?










Christ is Risen!

Rhology said...

Rho

Jnorm888 said...

Rhology,


You are still the same in many ways, but you changed in that you didn't believe in the ULI of TULIP back then.






Christ is Risen!

Lucian said...

What was "tu quoque" in my argument?

Rhology said...

JNorm,
Yes, that's right. John 6:45 leapt off the page and hit me square between the eyes about 13 months ago. So I'm a recent Calvinist.



Lucian/Lvka,

You're also forgetting that such theological liberalism exists in many other denominations (than the Anglican one) as well.

That is the tu quoque.

John said...

Well, it's a pity you had to say I got it "completely wrong" instead of saying "some folks over here have got left wing and liberal all muddled up, my bad".

I don't see the argument that Orthodoxy is somehow left wing. Firstly, the inclinations of people in a particular country is nothing to do with the religion. Secondly, Orthodoxy has not historically been any friend of left wing regimes. Thirdly since I referenced an article that most self identified "born again" Christians voted Obama, I don't see the argument that Orthodox are any more left wing than the general population.

As for Galatians, Paul's summary of the situation in that book is "the only thing that matters is faith working through love". If we are focusing on the things that Paul describes as the only thing that matters, then so much the worse for your theology if you disagree.

Rhology said...

Secondly, Orthodoxy has not historically been any friend of left wing regimes.

Actually, quite a lot of EO turned collaborationist with the Soviet gov't.
And EO priests have given invocatory prayers at at least the last one or two Democratic Nat'l Conventions here in the US.



I referenced an article that most self identified "born again" Christians voted Obama

More tu quoque? When will you learn to stay away from logical fallacies?



Galatians

And what does Paul mean in Gal 1:8-10?

John said...

"quite a lot of EO turned collaborationist with the Soviet gov't"

define collaborationist.

"EO priests have given invocatory prayers at at least the last one or two Democratic Nat'l Conventions here in the US. "

Wow, big historical record.

"More tu quoque?"

It's not a logical fallacy to point out that EO are no more left or right than average. If you're going to point the finger and say "left", don't you think you need a reference point for centre?

Anonymous said...

USSR Anti-Religious Campaign: thousands of EO were murdered by the soviets and Rhology broke the 9th commandment

Viisaus said...

"USSR Anti-Religious Campaign: thousands of EO were murdered by the soviets and Rhology broke the 9th commandment"

Rhoblogy was telling the ugly truth and you were being innocently ignorant.

For very many EOs sold out as well. You should not read only about those few who resisted unto blood, but also about the majority that did not.

And we can easily find even militant-EO sources to prove this point:

"The church that Stalin built"

http://www.romanitas.ru/eng/THE%20BATTLE%20FOR%20THE%20RUSSIAN%20ORTHODOX%20CHURCH.htm

"KGB Agents in Cassocks"

http://www.romanitas.ru/eng/THE%20ORTHODOX%20CHURCH%20AT%20THE%20END%20OF%20THE%20MILLENIUM.htm

Viisaus said...

"A third, still more evil fruit was the church cult of Stalin, probably the greatest persecutor of the Church in the whole of Church history, who was portrayed as "the new Constantine", the "wise, God-established", "God-given Supreme Leader". Thus on the occasion of his birthday in 1949, all the bishops of the patriarchate addressed him in words so lying and idolatrous that, in the opinion of a group of patriarchal clergy and laity, "Without the slightest hesitation, we can call this address the most shameful document ever composed in the name of the Church in the whole history of the existence of Christianity and still more in the thousand-year history of Christianity in Rus'."

Even when Stalin died in March, 1953, the patriarchate could not restrain its devotion. Thus "Patriarch" Alexis called him "the great builder of the people's happiness His death has been taken with deep grief by the whole of the Russian Orthodox Church, which will never forget his benevolent attitude towards the needs of the Church. His radiant memory will never be erased from our hearts. Our Church intones 'eternal memory' to him with a special feeling of unceasing love.""

http://www.monasterypress.com/sergianism.html