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Did you ever consider this?

April 24, 2012

I have been having an exchange with Drake Shelton over at Green Baggins blog recently, and though I have found it somewhat pointless, I can’t help but wonder how many times I have to hear the same type of thoughts coming from the reformed before I lose my marbles. It is as if they cannot see that their way of thinking is really arrogant, and, if I may say so myself, leaves little room for fallibility. In Rome there is only one pope who claims to be infallible, but in Protestantism, everyone is a pope. It seems as though a reformation defender will always try to convince me that I need to weigh the facts about Orthodoxy before I commit, as if they have, and I just am a liar, or out of mind. However, they reveal something about themselves when doing this.

Take for instance James White’s post, where he gives people who are considering converting to Rome some things that they should think about before converting here

Then recently, Drake Shelton writes something similar with me in mind:

“I hope you return to the Reformed Faith. As a convert to the anchoretic movement, did you consider all that this entails before you left? Did you consider that your churches were already given centuries of playtime and they left their countries in a master-serf state of economic and politic scandal that gave rise to the Russian communist rejection of Christianity in the 20 th century? Did you consider that God destroyed your great cities with Muslim invasions due to your idolatry? Have you traced the influence of the welfare state known as monasticism through the centuries of Christianity? The best that can be said of the monastic system, which is at the heart of your religion, is that after its Church failed to reform Rome and establish a Christian Civilization, God judged it for its decadence and the monasteries housed the little literature that would later be used to keep the master class literate enough to keep some semblance of civilization afloat through the dark ages (Rome was still connected to you at this point). That’s not too great of a resume man. The Protestant Reformation is the golden age of human history. I have yet to find a convert to the Anchoretic Churches who understands this. You need to come to grips with something. You are going to have to go back to some kind of master-serf- divine right of kings system of civilization, which was popular in Orthodox Christian Russia, and completely deny the human rights that came out of the Protestant Glorious Revolution and the English Bill of Rights. Your monasticism is going to commit you to a hard core socialist view of economics- you may even start to dabble in Sir Thomas Moore’s (Later Jesuit system) Communist trash but either way its bleak man. Are you seriously prepared to do this?”

I wonder, do these people, when receiving new followers into their system of thought, run down a similar list to make sure these people understand why they left their last church, or former system of thought? Nope. I know, that if I were to tell them I agree with them, and am converting back, they would just say that I have made the right choice. I know that my old church would teach some classes for a month or two, then set up a date to receive the new converts, without ever questioning if they understood the good and bad things about reformed theology, or, even understood the good arguments place against reformed theology. What they are saying when they do this, is that they don’t need to know what other people think, because they are correct. They are popes, who have been taught by the Holy Spirit. They are not fallible. I have actually heard of a respected reformed teacher saying before a debate against some well known Roman Catholics, that he didn’t need to read any literature on Roman Catholicism, because reformed theology is correct. This is the same thing these two above me are saying.

However, let me set something straight. When I first started agreeing with Orthodoxy, I met someone who is now a very close friend, and a well respected Orthodox thinker, and told him that I was going to pursue Orthodoxy. He told me right off the bat, that I needed to read more, and sit for 3 years before making a commitment. He told me that the fact that I left reformed theology after agreeing with it, requires that I examine myself if I actually believed that it was wrong – after all – I was also confessing that I was wrong all of those years as well, so it makes sense that I reflect on why I made such a mistake. Later I met with who is now my priest, and told him about my past, and he told me that we had to wait a year, and during that year, we had to visit all of the different orthodox churches we could find, so that we see the good and the bad in Orthodoxy, because the church does the same with us. He also told me that 3 years was the requirement in the early church, and it is a good path to take, in order to make sure I understand what I am getting involved with.

It is interesting, because in Orthodoxy, I have yet to see the church play the infallible game against other traditions. Orthodoxy usually treats people’s choices with respect, and understands that these situations, especially in today’s world are very hard.

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10 Comments
  1. Costrowski permalink

    Eric,
    The arrogance is somewhat “understandable” once you realize that anyone who’s Reformed is interiorly illuminated by the Holy Spirit and anyone who is not, is not. Moreover, according to Calvin, the Reformed guy cannot question his own Reformed presuppositions because that means that he may not be “saved” after all. So here we have the two essential ingredients for the arrogance that so many Catholics, Orthodox, and protestants see in the Reformed.
    1. interior divine illumination
    2. refusal to question Reformed presuppositions.

  2. Eric Castleman permalink

    “according to Calvin, the Reformed guy cannot question his own Reformed presuppositions because that means that he may not be “saved” after all.”

    Great point! I find it so interesting, now that I am out of the reformed faith, how objective and honest I can be about other peoples convictions. I still get the cult/brainwashed zombie conversations with the reformed. Total Depravity, election etc soaked thinking, while not considering anything I say. “You don’t believe in total depravity, because you are totally depraved”

    • Costrowski permalink

      I think Dr. Philip Carey had some good insights on this matter. The quote will be rather long, but I think it’s worth it.

      “The only way you could know you will persevere in faith to the end of your life is if you could know you are predestined to be saved. Augustine thought it obvious that no one knows this, but Calvin disagreed. This is what is profound and new about Calvin’s doctrine of predestination, which in other respects (as Calvin rightly argued) differs little from Augustine’s—and therefore from Aquinas’ or Luther’s. Calvin teaches that believers can and should know they are predestined for salvation, which means they can and should know they will persevere in faith to the end, which means they can and should know they are eternally saved, now, already in this life—not just saved in hope, as Augustine describes the effect of baptism: saved in spe but not yet in re, in hope but not yet in reality. Augustine says explicitly: we are “not yet saved.” We are still on the road to eternal salvation, and we don’t get there until after this life.

      So how can Calvin teach otherwise? This is where reflective faith comes in as an essential element in Calvin’s theology. He makes a distinction between temporary faith and true saving faith, which of course is faith that perseveres, and he thinks we can and should know if we have true faith. (The people with temporary faith may just be mistaken about the status of their faith, which of course is a rather terrifying possibility). I have no idea why he thinks he can get away with this. The agonies of conscience it leads to strike me as utterly unbearable and pernicious. How am I supposed to make this distinction between temporary and true faith? Where am I supposed to look?

      Disastrously, I am supposed to look inward. After all, even the unregenerate can do outward good works. So what the mainstream Calvinist tradition does is direct our attention to the fact—and of course it is a fact—that true faith bears fruits in sanctification of the heart. So if you are a good Calvinist, you are supposed to notice this—notice that you’re getting more inwardly sanctified, which gives you assurance of faith, i.e. assurance that you really do have true faith. I have to say, this strikes me as a disastrous theological and pastoral move. The result is: I am supposed to believe I am inwardly holy and righteous. Instead of looking at myself and finding a sinner—for as Luther rightly says, even the righteous man sins in all his good works—and thus being driven in repentance to take hold once again of the Gospel alone as the sole assurance of my salvation, I am supposed to look at my own heart and see something reassuring: I’ve made real spiritual progress, I’m becoming more inwardly holy and righteous.

      I do not see how anyone can do this without becoming self-righteous, in a distinctively Protestant way—claiming no righteousness of your own, of course, but comforted by how powerfully the Holy Spirit is working in you, ready to boast of how transformed your inner life is because of God working in your life, and so on. Isn’t this the very essence of what Luther meant by Schwärmerei, fanaticism? It is, I think, the main reason why the very word “righteous” has come to have a bad odor, being virtually indistinguishable nowadays from the word “self-righteous.”

  3. Canadian permalink

    Ah, my buddy Drake 🙂
    I interacted with him alot last year on his blog and on Facebook (before I ditched it).
    He brought up the Muslim persecution of Orthodox Christians for their iconography, I answered that the repeated persecution of the his Covenanters must then have been God’s judgement as well.
    As for his assertion that communist Russia came out of a church who had plenty of “playtime” to influence its culture, then we could point to Godless Scotland, or how about American and Canadian pornography production and homosexual infatuation in spite of lots of “playtime” the Reformed and evangelicals have had.
    His idea that Socialist economics is necessary for Orthodoxy is akin to us saying gay rights and a womans freedom to choose are the direct descendants of Protestant borne bills of rights and freedoms.
    Eric, he is fighting for his life to stay out of Orthodoxy having embraced much that is specifically Orthodox and not protestant or Reformed. He recently closed his eyes to his disputes with the Covenanted church about several incompatible differences and went back. I think it is driving him crazy inside.

    • Costrowski permalink

      Canadian,
      As abrasive and ‘out there’ as Drake can be, I actually give him far more respect than someone like TF. Drake at least seems to have a grasp of the issues even if his conclusions are weird. I can’t say the same for TF.

      • Canadian permalink

        Absolutely. You present an argument to him and he will deal directly with it and not dismiss it. His conclusions may be inconsistent but he does not generally avoid questions. He has read more Orthodox material than most Orthodox by a long way. I enjoyed my interaction with him, but it can get exasperating and exhausting. I quite like him, though. He does challenge you to think and know your stuff.

      • Costrowski permalink

        I see that relations between Drake and Perry have become very bitter. From the little that I’ve read of their exchanges I can say that I don’t blame Perry for not wanting to deal with Drake’s abrasiveness anymore. Do any of you guys know where (which blog articles) this started?

  4. Eric Castleman permalink

    It has been over the span of a year or so. Drake constantly gets personal, and on top of that, he does shotgun apologetics, by throwing out a million odd arguments at once. Perry then has to spend the whole day responded to a massive amount of absurd ideas, all the while Drake is calling him an idiot. I think that Perry weighs the importance of converting Drake, vs the time it takes. Perry would rather convert pastors and professors, who create bigger ripple effects, and who deal with the subject matter honestly.

  5. Wise priests.

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