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[The Creation of the Chicken]

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.
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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Protestants in Bulgaria

Well cancer likes to spread, so why not sow the reformational/oncological seeds that have been so beneficial to Christian unity in the west, in the east too?

I received an email this morning from a gentlemen in Bulgaria who says he needs help in gathering resources because they have found themselves debating with Lutherans and other protestant missionaries. Apparently, these missionaries are actually claiming that St. James was not a christian, that he was a unbaptized Jew and so (I suppose) the Orthdoox cannot appeal to it in their debate on "Sola Fide."

I'd heard that in some older German Bibles you cannot find the book of St. James.

This is my old post that prompted the gentlemen to contact me.

I sent a few links to him and am going to go home tonight to run through some of my books at home. I am sending out a blogwide appeal to assist: if you know of some resources: particularly surrounding Luther's opinion of Jews and St. James, please post or reference them in the comments here.

I get really irritable hearing about protestant missionaries in traditionally Orthodox countries...c'mon guys can't you find a country that isn't already predominantly christian? Try the Middle East...don't worry, odds are probably in your favor that you won't get killed if you manage to get in.

...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 9:20 AM [+]
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9 comments


9 Comments:

I call it tourist evangelism. I can only assume that there are no heathens in their own neighborhoods. I like your observation that they are there to spread the theology that caused so much unity in the west!

By Blogger Minor Clergy, at 9:57 AM  

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James,

I share (strongly) your antipathy to missionary work by Protestants (or anyone else) in traditionally Orthodox areas (unless, of course, it is undertaken in cooperation with the canonical Orthodox Church). But, even understanding the basis for your anger, I find your rhetoric needlessly harsh and, frankly, offensive.

Is it really necessary to refer to Lutheranism as a cancer? I will grant you that, from an Orthodox point of view, it seems to be less than a full expression of the faith. But for all of our faults we are Christians, and therefore your brothers. Can you not say "brothers, let us show you a more excellent way" rather than that we are a cancer simply to be excised?

And can you not find better ways to defend against the Protestant incursion than by collecting ad hominem attacks against Luther? If you need to attack the reputation of another Christian in order to shore up the loyalty of the Bulgarian faithful, then the local Orthodox Church has a real problem, of which the inroads made by Protestant missionaries is only a symptom.

Let me be clear: the Church of Bulgaria is the canonical Apostolic Church in that country. For Protestants to operate in that country apart from the canonical Church is a breach of Christian discipline and an offense against Christian charity (Let nothing pertaining to the Church be done apart from the bishop). As a Lutheran, I am ashamed that Lutherans are involved in this (I hope they are not from my synod). But there is no call for the Orthodox themselves also to offend against charity in return.

By Blogger Chris Jones, at 10:36 AM  

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Chris...my apology: I don't think I said "Lutheranism" is a cancer...but if I did, let me clarify: I meant that Protestantism is a cancer...and now let me further clarify the analogy:

Cancer grows, it divides, it mutates, and it expands endlessly...rather like...well you get my point.

And since I think endlessly growing, mutating, and dividing is as bad for the Body of Christ as it is for the human body, I thought the analogy was a good one, though I suppose it could be taken further than I intended. But, the analogy was made because the LAST thing we need is to import such division (cancer) into a realm where we still see some semblance of Church unity.

No personal offense was intended to Lutherans. It is a theological or ecclesiological point, not a personal one I think. Keep in mind, as I noted, it wasn't JUST Lutherans they are bumping up against over there.

I don't know specifically why my new Bulgarian friend was particulary interested in Luther's opinion of Jews (perhaps it has some bearing on the debate they are having with the folks out there? Neither of us know the details, I am simply relaying the info they asked for) but certainly Luther's opinion of St. James' epistle is PROFOUNDLY relevant, no? And more to the point, why HIS opinion on the canonicity of the epistle ought to be noted at all by anyone is a foundational question as well. (i.e. Why did Luther feel he had the authority to dump it or at least give it much less precedence.)

As the founder of Lutheranism, his thoughts on matters seems important to me...at least where they have theological implications. And his purported anti-semitism might.

I really appreciate and commend you for your concern about evangelism in traditionally Orthodox countries, it is an opinion I do not think is often held or understood in many protestant circles.

One could be tempted to say that the Orthodox people of Bulgaria ought to be "offended" by the protestant sense of need to "evangelize" there, but I'd rather say they ought to just meet them with the Orthodox truth when they arrive - rather than be offended.

By Blogger fdj, at 12:13 PM  

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James,

Apology accepted. Thank you.

I wouldn't call Luther the "founder" of Lutheranism, since his intention was to reform the existing Church, not to found a new one. But whatever his intention, the result was a distinct communion within Christianity, of which Luther, then, is arguably the founder.

But he is not the founder if that means "everything Luther wrote is binding for Lutherans". This is clearly not the case. Only the Lutheran Confessions have dogmatic standing for Lutherans. Luther's writings are important, particularly as they provide context for, and help us to understand, the content of the Lutheran Confessions (just as the writings of Fathers such as Athanasius and the Cappadocians give context for the decrees of the Councils, but don't themselves have the dogmatic force of the conciliar decrees).

In particular, Luther's ill-advised remarks about the epistle of James have no particular standing among Lutherans. There is no official Lutheran statement of the canon of the New Testament, so the canon inherited from the historic Western Church must be regarded as binding for us. James, like any other epistle, is read by Lutherans in public worship. Thus it is, by definition, canonical.

By Blogger Chris Jones, at 12:56 PM  

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Chris, et al

But he is not the founder if that means "everything Luther wrote is binding for Lutherans"That is an excellent point.

I am trying to get more details to see exactly what points are being made and or contested. Thus far my emails to Bulgaria have bounced back...working on it.

By Blogger fdj, at 2:26 PM  

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"Luther's ill-advised remarks about the epistle of James have no particular standing among Lutherans...."

True. But I've always suspected that Luther's antipathy toward James might have resulted in the Lutheran knee-jerk reaction to the patristic understanding of synergy (Chris: remember the conversations with Josh and Erich recently and in the past?)

By Blogger Karl, at 3:47 PM  

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Karl,

The cause of Lutherans' reaction to synergy is not Luther's antipathy to James in particular, but the centrality in Lutheran theological thought of Luther's key theological insight of justification by faith alone. Luther himself, I think, cannot be accused of rejecting the patristic notion of synergy, because the Western Church of his time had lost the "patristic mind" to such an extent that the patristic teaching on synergy had simply not been handed down to him.

In its place was a system of works and merit in which the works of the believer had come to be regarded as distinct and separate from the activity (????????) of God. This was a "synergy" in which there was plenty of ???????? on the part of the believer, but precious little idea of performing those works ??? ????.

Under these circumstances Luther's radical emphasis on faith was, I think, necessary. Faith, understood as a relationship of trust and utter dependence on Christ (and its corollary, utter lack of independence and trust in oneself), is the necessary foundation for true synergy to take place. Before the orthodox idea of synergy could be restored, the false synergy of the mediaeval West had to be destroyed.

By Blogger Chris Jones, at 4:32 PM  

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My apologies for the unreadable characters (at least in my browser) in my last comment. The offending paragraph (with the Greek transliterated) should read as follows:

In its place was a system of works and merit in which the works of the believer had come to be regarded as distinct and separate from the activity (energeia) of God. This was a "synergy" in which there was plenty of energeia on the part of the believer, but precious little idea of performing those works syn theou.

By Blogger Chris Jones, at 6:04 PM  

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Where in Bulgaria are they? I'm only a couple hour drive from the border... (heh heh heh)

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12:15 AM  

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