An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
So here I sit, alone, at Hopkins International Airport in Cleveland Ohio. The reunion is over and I am on my anxious way home. But enslaved to the airline’s schedule and possibly God’s awesome Midwest weather – I sit and wait…alone. Save the tasty little (20oz actually..hehehe) Pale Ale called “The Burning River” (named in honor of the Cleveland’s illustrious "fire hazard" river, the Cuyahoga.) courtesy of the Great Lakes Brewing Company (and my “blow” money). Not bad at all…hoppy enough on my tongue to be an IPA and so I can imagine what this Brewery has done with their “Commodore Perry IPA” which is sadly not in season I guess. (Oh, though, to get home to my sweet old friend La Conner.)
If you have ever traveled alone, you know what this time is like…I think. When I am alone in an airport or on an airplane, I find myself to be in a sort of hyper reflective mood. Sometimes it is very internalized (e.g. where am I? Where am I going? What am I doing with my life?), sometimes it is externalized and experiential (e.g. What have I gleaned from these past few days? Can I remember everyone I met? Will I stay in touch with them?) and, of course, sometimes it is a mix of both.
To no small extent I feel as if these great big airplanes I have been flying on, have transported me back in time, and not just to my own time – for yes, I can see many old and familiar landmarks of my youth, I experience the lovely little ritual of lightening bugs dancing about as we come to the setting of the sun, and I witness a massive thunderstorm being born in the distance and almost overtaking us before we can finish shucking the corn in the field for dinner – but also into a past utterly unknown to me. In a way, I can see the future “Bohunk” coal miners, braving the north atlantic in search of a better life, and settling in the northeast of America, eventually carving out an existence that has made for most of their descendants a life undreamed of by those left in the “old country.”
I have many thoughts in regards to what I have experienced….but as the time approaches for me to see about getting to my gate – for what will likely be a thunderstorm dodging adventure – I will simply say this for now:
As I gave my presentation concerning all that I have learned about our immigrant parents, grandparents, or great grandparents: Anna “Baba” Oleksa and Janos “Dzedo” Sisak, I paused for a brief moment to look at the 100+ people who were seated in front of me. It occurred to me that the two people from whom we all descended (or married a descendant of) have touched each and everyone of us in someway – even my own children! Whatever good they did for their children, whatever wisdom they offered, whatever joy and love they showed and – sadly – whatever grief they gave their children remained still in that room. Generations to come may well be blessed or cursed to have descended from them.
My (and your) Parenthood will LITERALLY change the lives of hundred, thousands, even millions of people. What is the most important job on earth? Frankly, Mother Theresa cannot touch the wonders that may be worked by a devoted and loving parent…it’s just that we die before we could ever see the full and glorious fruit we can bring forth – simply by loving and giving ourselves to the lives of our children. So, James, you wanna make a difference in this world? BE A DAMN GOOD DAD!
I hope and pray that when hundreds of my descendants are gathered in reunion, that they will be able to speaking lovingly and graciously of my wife and me…but it is our responsibility to make that happen. Saving the world begins (and in fact may end) in my home.
I'm off to Ohio this evening (actually very early tomorrow) in order to attend my Sisak (Sysak, Sziszak etc etc) family reunion. I hope to share and learn much. And while I may be able to blog some, I cannot be sure at this point, but will no doubt have much to say upon my return in the middle of next week.
The love of it, it is said - and written, is the root of all evil. Well I love it...although not so much money per se, for I am all too willing to part with it, but rather the STUFF that money buys.
When I was approached with the opportunity to participate in a "class" on financial management I was EXTREMELY apprehensive - if for no other reason than the fact that I had to lay down cash in order to take the class and I really didn't see myself gaining some cool STUFF out of the deal. Plus, I guess, I just don't like to spend too much time thinking about money. One might consider that that last sentence there could be indicative of some sort of holiness (you know, sorta likes monks who we all assume don't like to talk about money)...but alas my reasoning for not liking to think about money is becaus I do a piss poor job of managing it.
These days it seems most people want to blame some external for their financial woes, whether that be the government, some crook, "the man", or the all too common "unforeseen circumstance." But, true confessions here: virtually without exception, my financial woes are a direct result of my sinful behavior. Only I (me and myself) choose to give into the pressure to "keep up with the Jones'" or to spend money I really do not have...because I am an idolator of STUFF!
While the presenter, one Dave Ramsey, is cheesy and "smells" like an evangelical and while once in a great while he'll say something that remotely makes my old "health and wealth gospel" ears cringe - he is by no means a proponent of "name it and claim it" or that inherent in Christ's salvific work is our fiscal well being. Far from it in fact...I think I just have these presuppositions that Christians shouldn't talk about being smart with their money. (Naw we should be stupid and continue giving it over to the ridiculously wealthy lenders as opposed to perhaps actually building wealth and doing real good with it!)
Much of what he says is down to earth and sprinkled with proverbs and such which surprisingly have a lot to say about money...one of my favorites being Proverbs 22:7:
The rich ruleth over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.
As I said, when I first started this course I thought: "Oh geez, this is just one of those guys who is making HIS wealth vai my money." Well, I was wrong. This is nothing at all like a "get rich quick" scam...rather it is about waking our stupid American butts up and realizing how we are being WILLINGLY taken for a ride by lenders, marketers, banks, and our "must have it now" culture. There are some frightening statistics in Ramsey's book about the borrowing habits of Americans today! (*raising hand* "Guilty as charged!")
When I was humble enough to admit that my finances were a mess (AND that I am to blame), then Dave Ramsey's cheesiness began to disappear and I began to see that he is really teaching me things that I should have learned LONG before I got a credit card at 18 years old. We have found that by applying a small number of the tools and methodologies he recommends that my wife and I really are already experiencing "financial peace" even though we are a long way from being where we need to be. We are working the problem instead of hoping it will magically just go away.
Indeed we have a long way to go (before we reach the goal of being debt-free, but for the first time in my life I believe that I am shining a bright light into a very scary and ugly problem that was in dire need of my attention, but that was easier to ignore. Facing the ugliness (like in confession) is really the beginning of healing. I'd say, unless you are really on top of your financial situation, you ought not make any judgements about Mr. Ransey's program. As for me...well I need the help.
As I think more and more about what I am learning in the class, I believe I can see how clearly this fits into my life as an Orthodox Christian, who in each and every confession has had to admit that he mishandles his money, spends it selfishlessly, spends more than he earns, and consequently is all too frequently unable to give (whether to the Church or to otrher charities) as he should.
It'd sure be nice to scratch those off my list. I feel like its possible.
OK, so I flung poo at Star Wars...and I still have not changed my mind. Now the world is going nuts about the new Harry Potter book and even many a blogging friend of mine are presently anxiously awaiting its arrival (an initial printing of over 10 million copies!) - some even promising to have it read in a single evening! (How on earth is THAT accomplaished???)
I've not read the books...but I've seen the movies and I pretty much yawned my way through it. I did like the music. But given that NOTHING in the movies have moved me (pun intended) and it seems that even the biggest book fans don't outright hold the films in disdain...anyone want to try and convince me why I should put down The Wine Dark Sea in favor of a tale about a boy wizard?
Somone, put me into the POP loop, will ya?
By the way Clifton, I was sorted in Gryffindor, and I guess I am very happy about that...but really did ANY Orthodox Christian answer this question differently than me?
Q4 Which of these subjects do you like best ? -Charms -Herbology -Transfiguration -Potions
And unfortunately I could not "fill in the blank" to this one:
Q2 What means would you prefer to use to stop an attacker ? -Turn them into a toad -Cast a Full-Body Bind Charm -Use Devil's Snare weed to entangle them -Throw a vial of Shrinking Potion onto them
My answer: "Throw a 900lb broadside of iron into 'em, then go straight at 'em and board 'em in the smoke!"
...at a monastery, you might be an Orthodox Christian.
Speaking of which, and older girl who went last week came back with THE COOLEST T-Shirt ever designed. Hope my daughter gets one. I'll try and get pics of it.
My daughter Kelsey apparently has the makings of an evangelist. She has a friend and neighbor with whom she rides the bus who has no religious background at all. At some point Kelsey took up the habit of telling this little girl "God stories" and it seems the little girl was/is infatuated by them and is constantly asking Kelsey to tell her more.
Well eventually this little process reached the point that when this little girl's birthday came, Kelsey was INSISTANT that her present be an icon and a Bible. Well, Kelsey's mom and I were a little apprehensive because it just seemed a little odd for little girls (2nd grade by the way) to be doing this sort of thing - at least not without some sort of coaching from home. And we certainly wanted to rid anyone of the potential impression that we were teaching our kids to evangelize their friends! Anyway, we talked to Kelsey's friend's mom and told her that her daughter had apparently told Kelsey that she wanted these gifts and so we asked for permission to give them. Her mom graciously agreed.
After the party, the little girl stopped my daughter and whispered enthusiastically to her: "Thank you for getting me JUST what I wanted."
Now it seems the little girl will be joining my kids for Vacation Church School (yes, we do "Church" school - NOT "Bible" school...a distinction I always find amusing and you would too if you knew how converty our Parish is) and on top of this, her parents are seeking to learn more about the Orthodox Faith as well! (Whether this is just to better understand what their daughter is going to be indoctrinated with or not is irrelevant I think.)
I wonder if maybe this is the way evangelism is supposed to happen...let our kids do it? Or certainly let our kids' example speak to us. Because I am certain that in my little girl's heart there was no sense of needing to prove her suppositions about God and His Church to be true...rather she just started letting "God stories" that were overflowing, spill out onto a friend.
Ok so more than a few and my way pretty much sucks. But speaking of regrets, I expect and hope that a particular judge in Becker County, Minnesota is presently VERY much regretting ever letting THIS piece of work receive bail. Whether he could have known the risk or not...I'd be feeling pretty low.
Duncan was an advocate for sex-offender's rights and frequently argued that there is no basis for believing that previous offenders will reoffend. Ummm...yeah...right. Sardonic.
I cannot imagine what this poor little girl is going to have to wrestle with for the rest of her life. This man has wounded this child's soul...and all others who have such a perverted appetite do the same to countless others: many we never hear about.
Still think there is no ugly evil in the world, Mr. Brin. I see an Orc in the face of Mr. Duncan.
Oh yes...hand me a sword and a horse and I will ride out.
Millstones are coming to mind for some reason...were I more enlightened I might be able to see Duncan as a victim of sin himself and perhaps muster some overarching sense of compassion for al of mankind...but never (God help me) if it were my kids and frankly anytime I see stories like this I can't help but place myself in the victim's parents' shoes. A common parental happening...or is it just me?
Here is a case where I support capital punishment...society simply cannot afford to offer these people mercy - even if they pay $15,000 for it. Which is apparently the going rate for four human lives and the soul of a child.
Rade (who at this point is no longer in Serbia) posted this interesting (albeit old) article to the LOG.
It is somewhat haunting to me because in no small way it sums up my adult lifetime of arguments with my beloved atheist, who has always been a big sci-fi fan, but has always held fantasy in disdain.
Brin in this article argues (methinks he dost protest too much) that Tolkien's fantasy was a powerful salvo in the growing growing rift and intellectual war between the Romantic movement and the Enlightenment Movement.
I have a lot to say and have even found myself taking notes and jotting down numerous thoughts. In a nutshell, I count myself to be firmly entrenched in the Romantic camp (though my wife may disagree), but this does not mean I am an enemy of progress - rather I am an enemy of some forms of progress and some particular notions of progress.
One all too common one is that we have a tendency to hold the past under a veil of enlightened criticism such that we utterly fail to come to grips with the fact that our ancestors might teach us anything. We stand in moral and intellectual judgment, to the point where kids today routinely ask: Why study history? Why listen to Great Grandma tell sotries about her life? BOOOOOOORRRRRRING! In a sense, we send oursleves out into the ocean of life without a chart - figuring that we can make better charts from our own wisdom and experiences - since the old charts are OBVIOUSLY flawed.
Another notion is that progress is always a good thing. As a river rafter and a driftboat fisherman, I can tell you that progressing unprepared into a class 4 rapid can be pretty stinking dangerous.
Orthodox bloggers (including me) are often known to show a certain disdain for the enlightenment (and it really cracks me up to hear Brin singing the praises of the Reformation - what the snot does he know about it????), but to be fair lets keep in mind that as I type here I am bathing in numerous - and GOOD - luxuries given to me by the enlightenment. I mean, who doesn't like modern medicine as compared to unanesthetized skull drilling to let the demons out?
You've no doubt heard the old adage: Wherever you go, there you are. On a human-wide scale, I think this is a point that Brin is missing. Sure we have all these great democratic forms of government, and modern medicine, and greater freedoms etc...but we still have good old fashioned romantic and sinful people. Maybe with some genetic tinkering we can tone sin down...but I suspect by this time we'll have forgotten what sin is.
We have democracy, but we also have corruption. Don't get me wrong, I'd much rather have what we have today than the fuedal system of say 500 years ago...BUT....Brin twice challenges us to name some ruler who was in essence a good person who looked out for his people like a father (or something to this effect.)Basically he asks us to show him a righteous despot. It is an impossible task, I think - and Brin knows it. NOT because there could not have possibly have ever been such a King or Queen, but because the criteria for proof of a benevolant dictator is simply not possible. And frankly his notion that we cannot historically reinvision the Nazi's because the holocaust deniers cannot provide enough evidence is patently absurd. If the Romantic Kings and Queens of old generated false stories of their enemies, does he really imagine that we cannot and yet get away with it? (This is precisely why I refuse to say that GW Bush was lying...becuase if he was lying about WMD's, do you think we would have ever found out? Think about it...surely some of the advanced special forces could have planted PLENTY of evidence for the regulars to find.) And besides, if there were evil Nazis in 1940, why not other evil groups in 1204 or 1453? (hehehehe - random examples, I assure you)
There is too much cynicism in Brin...for my part I give the benefit of the doubt to those saintly rulers of the Chruch. There are good people and there are bad people in the world...and no doubt there were good kings and there were bad kings. (And of course, like most of us: a profound mixture of both good and bad). Which leads me on to the next point...
Our children get enough preaching about moral ambiguity. It is all but rammed down their throats at school and in the media (God between us and evil!). And this is precisely WHY we need grand epics like Tolkien's LOTR. Because whether Brin wishes to admit it or not, there is evil in the world! Often it is in my own heart (and therefore in the quest of combatting evil...well here lies the closest enemy to pound into oblivion: offer no quarter!), but it is also often found in ideologies and religions and governments and in the selfish desires of others.
Orcs and Trolls and Goblins and Sauron look ugly, because evil is ugly if you have the eyes to see it so. While Brin sees this as simplistic...to my daughter (with whom I am reading LOTR) it is a reminder that evil makes us ugly...amen. Furthermore, LOTR teaches us that there is some good in the world and that it is worth fighting for. (Didn't Samwise say precisely this in the movie? LOL!) And, by the way, just as an "IN YOUR FACE", the Army of the Dead were pretty stinking ugly and yet they did good...neyner neyner neyner!
Well, I am greatly encouraged by the success of the film series...it gives me hope for our society in that they have perhaps not completely bought into the idea that believing in good and evil automatically rates you as being unsophisticated and unenlightened.
Christianity, is in many ways an amazing and true fantasy. Consider that many of the progressive attacks laid against Tolkien, may also be laid out upon our Lord, our Chruch, and our Scriptures. And I'll take a "The Princess Bride" over some lofty independant morally ambiguous film in the drop of a hat...to do otherwise is simply inconceivable!
Mr. Brin can sit back in the Hornburg and fashion HIS fantasies for the future, while I'll ride out and face the reckless hate with Aragorn and Theodan! I still think we have stuff to learn from the fantastic past.
As we all know, the Orthodox veneration of the saints, and most specifically the Theotokos is a big stumbling block to many who are looking into the Church coming from a Protestant background. Mary, to them, is really no different than anyone else and this is neccesarily so.
It is, I suspect, and enlightenment age apendage that evolved insisting that not only are "all men created equal" but that they also REMAIN so forever. But this is a notion of politics and philosophy, not Christianity. Jesus seemed to have no qualms about ranking people and even said that the greatest man ever on earth was St. John the Baptist - who might perhaps have had a few more words mentioned about him in the New Testament than Mary, the Mother of God, did.
The angelic proclamation that the Theotokos is "blessed among women" was always taken by me to essentially mean that she was LUCKY. Like winning a lottery except that I would not even grant that she picked the numbers right. God needed a body and he asked to borrow hers...that's all...no big deal...nothing special about her...she's just blessed: LUCKY.
I recalled this old notion of mine while singing during Matins yesterday:
"Blessed art thou O Lord, teach me...blessed art thou O Master, make me to understand..."
I guess it never occurred to me to wonder about God playing - and winning - a great cosmic lotto. Whose schools do you suppose benefitted from those proceeds?
1. I'm quite a cynical jerk, for I always assumed that the story told in this short film was just a stupid Christian urban legend. I'm less than happy with my cynical self on this point.
2. Amazing and encouraging that a film like this could take the grand prize.
3. This is way better than Michael Moore's attempt at convincing me that I should play the odds and leave me front door unlocked at night. Ahhh...but I am a mere slave to the terror inspiring media...not to mention the level 2 sex offended who lives down the cul de sac.
Evil exists...ask Shasta. I'll not endorse Moore as a sociologist, no thanks, my doors shall remained locked...and in the meantime I'm gonna try and be a less cynical person. Memory Eternal Rachel...as well as Shasta's brothers and mother.
Many thanks to Herman for directing me to THIS account of St. Lazar's seeking and receiving answers in regards to his choice. For those who do not know the story, let me very briefly say that Tsar Lazar was facing a much larger Turkish invasion force when an Angel came to him and offered him victory if he were to chose an earthly kingdom and attack now...BUT if he were to chose the heavenly kingdom he should build a church and then attack later at which time he and his army would be crushed.
Later as he stood (barely) as a severly wounded captive of the Turkish forces we are told he received the vision recounted via the link above. There are a lot of gems in this account, which I've not yet finished, but here is something interesting an Angel tells St. Lazar:
"With regard to their perception of reality men are divided into three groups. The first group looks only with physical eyes at physical things, and thinks that they are seeing reality. They are the truly blind ones. They live in the complete darkness of ignorance, shaded by the dark shadow of created things. "The second group are those who go beyond the eyes with their human intellect, striving to grasp the meaning of the things, and in the process they trust only in their eyes and their intellect. And these people see nothing as they should, but only perceive a mystery of beings and objects that is incomprehensible to them. They maintain that an imperceptible world exists beyond all the perceptible world — and this is the culmination of their knowledge. Therefore they live in a tormenting twilight of dancing shadows, which hide the truth from them like a motley curtain. "But the third group does not give much credence to their eyes or to their intellect, but rather with childlike simplicity they accept revelation from the holy heavens, just as you have today. These revelations quench their thirst for earthly kingdoms and dominions, and create an insatiable hunger and thirst for the kingdom of heaven. Such are called 'the children of light.' It has been granted to them to see mysteries and, seeing, to walk the true way in earthly life. Not even they always and continuously see, as we heavenly inhabitants do, but only now and then, according to the will and grace of divine Providence. "In this third group was also found, in his earthly life, this amazing glorified saint of yours, the holy prophet Amos, together with the other prophets, clairvoyants, apostles, saints and righteous. And so you too, O glorious prince, are numbered in the ranks of these sanctified lovers of God."
The Strait of Juan de Fuca is that stretch of water which leads from the Pacific Ocean into Puget Sound and bordered by Washington's Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island. See Here.
Named for the person purported to have discovered the inlet in 1596, as it turns out the assumption that this gentleman would have been Spanish is in fact dead wrong. While he was sailing under the Spanish Flag, Juan de Fuca's real name was Apostolos Valerianos, and you guessed it: he was Greek. And so we could arguably say that the first european to reach as far north as British Columbia might well have been Orthodox.
Lately I have been receiving emails from a muslim gentleman who is bent on trying to show (I think) that the New Testament does not support the classic Christian understanding of the Divinity of Christ nor the Trinity. He generally does so in true protestant fashion by tossing together masses of prooftexts and a brief examination of the dreaded "original greek" (i.e. the great conversation ender...the trump card as it were.) He is apparently email a host of Christians he just happened to find online in order to foster a discussion group of somesort.
Anyway, I offer here my reply - some of which may not quite make sense because I will not reproduce his original email. By the way...why don't the mormons give spam a try? I mean, they come directly to my front door...why not my email box? I can imagine some frightened young mormon missionary trying to get out of going door to door by suggesting this...hehehe...
Anyway...my response to the Muslim with a Protestant approach:
Hello Mohammed et al.
A couple of things I might mention. First that I do not believe I would fit into the context - the underlying presumption concerning where authority comes from in the Christian (or Islamic) faith. Everything you are doing here assumes that the sole authority on matters of faith and doctrine proceeds soley from Scripture (Sola Scriptura), which is of course a well know doctrinal tenet of Protestantism and I suspect also for most muslims in regard to the Quaran.
It would be worth noting that presently there are around 35,000+ Protestant sects - all claiming to be "Bible-Based" - but believing different things about the Christian faith. Now of course in most cases the differences are minor...but not minor enough to prevent further schism and seperation from one another. The same is true in the Muslim faith where we see Sunnis, Shi'ites, and Sufis (and very likely further divisions therein). But under the banner of "Christian" there are a number of fairly large groups who espouse a Christology that would very likely fit better with the Muslim understanding of who Jesus is than the more traditional (and in my humble opinion the more TRUE) undertsanding of Christ being wholly God and wholly man and one of the Holy Trinity.
As for myself, I have played the prooftext game for ages with such groups and it has never produced much fruit. They are ultimately convinced by their interpretation and I am convinced of mine...comparable to the division we see in Islam over the issue of terrorism, clearly some say that Allah permits (perhaps even encourages) it while others say it is forbidden. So you can prooftext, you can exegete, and you can delve into the declension of Greek words, but you cannot easily escape your presuppositions.
The hermenuetic problem is context...and by that I do not mean an attempt at a scholarly understanding of who was writing to who and at what time etc...rather I mean something bigger: a sort of living context.
And so when you say you hope to:
2) Study the Bible from my own perspective consider to Islamic background to find if all Christian's understanding of Bible is correct
I would ask: Well, WHICH Christian's understanding will you be trying to determine the correctness of? It is the very process of coming to any conclusion about interpretive correctness that I believe is foundationally erroneous. While this is not to say that it is impossible, rather it is more impossible to prove to your intellectual opponent that your interpretation is correct.
And furthermore when you say you will:
3) Study the Bible text and compare it with principles (such as Ten Commandments), various verses and meanings to find if there is any wrong text in it. (Changing in text or wrong translations ...)
4) Show the Muslims that the belief of Christians could be only from their understanding of Bible and not the Bible itself
I would offer: So, in the end you will approach the New Testament texts with the foundation of Islam, while those Christians will approach with their own presuppositions. You may be able to gain some debate points from one another, but my experience (and indeed supported by the very fact that there are thousands of Bible believing denominations) has been that this approach will be unlikely to convince either of the firmly entrenched to give up their ground.
I think a more interesting starting point would be to look for that “living context” into which the New Testament fits quite organically. It is a curiouys thing to me that a Muslim might remotely consider the 27 books of the New Testament to be authoritative – even if wrongly interpretted by Christians. For we must remember than an affirmation of these 27 books as being authoritive neccesitates that we also ascribe authority to the late 4th century Church that finally said that these – and ONLY these- 27 books were to comprise the New Testament.
The New Testament did not evolve in a vaccuum, and neither is it the product of one man’s revelation (ala the original Muhammed and the Quaran). Rather it is a community book, born of a community, witnesses by a community, and indeed is itself a record of the revelation given to that community. And equally important, it was sanctioned by a community. It is NOT the “Word of God”….for Jesus is the Word of God.
For all of this, I noticed that you really did not address my point in response to your original email, which was to say that your study of the translated word “begotten” is unnescesary. The Creed of Nicea clearly defines what the term means and furthermore what the Christian faith teaches about Jesus – as handed down by Christ himself and his Holy Apostles (e.g. St. Paul who exhorts us to “hold fast to the traditions (paradosis) that I have handed down to you, whether by word or epistle”) The Creed says:
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, Begotten of the Father before all ages, Light of Light, True God of True God, Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made
The New Testament, the Creed, the Councils, the Liturgies, the prayers, the lives of the Saints…that is to say: The Church herself is the LIVING context. All of these and more a part of what we Orthodox call Holy Tradition. Pull one portion out (e.g. the New Testament) and you will inevitably end up with error and divisions…a brief glance at the “Churches” section of your local phone book will affirm this.
So, it seems you will be attempting to study the New Testment outside of it natural environment and thus I cannot hold much faith in the conclusions that will arise. Like observing an animal in a zoo, we cannot expect to understand how the creature lives its normal and natural life by watching it play with an Xbox controller given to it by a joking zookeeper.
So…it seems to me your intent is to engage Protestants and not so much me, an Orthodox Christian. In that quest, I wish you Godspeed.