The Evangelical Calvinist

"The world was made so that Christ might be born."-David Fergusson

If I Was Going to Convert . . .

. . . It would be to the Eastern Orthodox and not the Roman Catholic. Why? For one thing the EO don’t hold to the filioque, as much of the Western church does. For another reason, and I think this to be a legitimate reason at some level; EO has a certain aesthetic beauty about her that the Roman Catholic church doesn’t have (this might be as shallow as picking a favorite football time because you like their uniforms; but I don’t think so). The EO, at least the Greek Orthodox have liturgy in Greek; which is cool. I think the EO make better sense of the Episcopacy than does the Papal system. I like how the EO know their Patristic Fathers. Thomas Torrance liked Eastern Orthodoxy. They have a more personalist understanding of a doctrine of God (more Trinitarian) than does the Western church (although Lewis Ayres has done a lot to squash the oversimplification of this).

But this is only if I was going to convert. How about you, which way would you go; if you had to make this choice?


Written by Bobby Grow

September 10, 2011 at 9:45 pm

10 Responses

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  1. If it was a choice between EO and RC it would be EO hands down. I have found I like certain theological formulations from the EO better than the Western Augustinian position. Original sin is one such issue. And I agree with the reasons you mentioned.

    I recently attended a wedding done in a EO church and it was very different. The liturgy was full of the gospel and glorifying the Trinity. It was the celebration of God coming to us in Christ as exemplified in marriage rather than the celebration of human love. Human love was not left out, but was focal point. Instead Christ’s love for us was the example from which we understand human matrimony. I enjoyed it. The one thing that bothered me was the reading of scripture was done in a lyrical melodious style and ultimately, I found that to distract from hearing the Word meaningfully. It was too liturgical at that point.

    Now my question would be is there a charismatic EO and what are they like? 😉


    Jon Sellers

    September 10, 2011 at 10:58 pm

  2. The gothic and romanesque art/architecture of the high middle ages is the most magnificent, God-honoring, Christ-exemplifying beauty by human hands to ever grace this planet.

    So, yeah, my aesthetic tastes line-up with the West, not the East. Frankly, I find much EO ecclesial art to be crowded and gaudy, like much of the Baroque art in the West which signaled the downfall of Roman Catholic art until the Protestants took it back up in the 19th century as a part of the neo-gothic romanticism movement.

    As for the Petrine office, I still think Hans Urs von Balthasar’s The Office of Peter gives a convincing rationale for the papacy, once you accept certain other Catholic principles regarding episcopacy, unity, the sacraments, doctrinal development, etc. There’s no doubt that the Eastern episcopacy today better represents the early centuries of the Church — better than either Rome or Protestantism, but I don’t think the “early church” (as if there were such a thing as a monolithic “early church”) should be normative for all generations.


    Kevin Davis

    September 11, 2011 at 12:03 pm

  3. @ Jon,

    One of the reasons the services (including the readings) are chanted is because it aids the memory. The early church inherited this practice from the Synagogue. Song is much easier to remember than reading.

    This would really be helpful in periods where the church didn’t have the Scriptures available for everyone (i.e. pre-printing press, persecutions like the Roman, Islamic and Communist) and small children could learn the Scriptures and the Creed akin to the way we learn our ABCs.

    Here are some links to a couple of great articles on this subject. Not trying to convince you to change your opinion, just offering some reasons why it’s done. You can also find great chant from various traditions there as well:



    September 11, 2011 at 1:03 pm

  4. @Jon,

    Thank you. I agree there is a beauty reflected in the EO that is admirable. I think one thing that bothers (and at the same time I somewhat like) is that the liturgy (at the Greek Orthodox) is done in Greek; it, then, is not understandable for non-Greek speakers. I also don’t like folks don’t bring their own Bible’s to service; in fact they think it is weird and have questioned me about why I bring mine when I have visited.

    Do you mind elaborating a bit on the issue that you have with the Augustinian reading of Original Sin?


    Your response doesn’t surprise; I think you’ve made your feelings on the Roman Catholic art clear at your blog at least once or twice as I recall.

    I haven’t read Balthasar’s The Office of Peter; is it lengthy?


    Bobby Grow

    September 12, 2011 at 4:27 pm

  5. Yeah, it’s been a while since I wrote on aesthetics…or anything for that matter. I’m not sure how much blogging, if any, I’ll be doing in the future. We’ll see.

    The The Office of Peter is about 300 pages, and probably the most important RC ecclesiology written since Vatican II. Interestingly, von Balthasar begins the book by saying that this monograph is not intended for Protestants or even Eastern Orthodox readers but, rather, for fellow Roman Catholics who are confused about the doctrine. As such, he doesn’t deal directly with the Eastern or Protestant alternatives and, instead, just fleshes out the RC understanding in detail and with elegance.


    Kevin Davis

    September 14, 2011 at 12:27 pm

  6. Kevin,

    I understand on the blogging thing; esp. if you’re going to be in school and working. Priorities, although I hope you blog every now and then still!

    Balthasar’s book sounds interesting; maybe someday this Protestant will give it a read, thanks for sharing more about it! I hope to continue to hear from you!!


    Bobby Grow

    September 14, 2011 at 9:38 pm

  7. Bobby, I know this post is a little old, but I was wondering around here, and thinking about some things we’ve been talking about lately, and noticed what Jon said about ‘origional sin’ and then you asked him to elaborate, but he didn’t. Well I don’t want to speak for Jon, but I have also been pondering what the EO say about orgional sin and what Torrance says about Chist assuming our fallen humanity.

    The EO understand origional sin to be ‘ancestral sin’. They see us inheriting a corrupted human nature, do to Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden. The origional sin of our ancestral partents caused our humanity to become corrupt, and since we are decendants of them, we share that corruption. They however do not agree with the Augustinain assumption that we inherit Adam’s guilt.

    They would say that we are only ‘guilty’ of the sins we commit, yet because of the human nature that we inherit from Adam that has been corrupted, we will inevitably commit sin. WWe commit sins, and are guilty of them, because we have a humanity that has been turned so that we are inclined to do so.

    I feel like this position may help in our understanding of Christ assuming our ‘fallen humanity’ because the problem with humanity is not that they are ‘guilty’ necessarily, but that they have ‘fallen’, firstly, out of right relationship with God, and therefor into a state of corruption that leads to sin and death. This vicious cycle can only be broke if we can obstain from sin, and then death would have no hold over us, yet because we are human, we cannot, because we are too defensles against the corruption. Though Christ being God, becomes man, yet He is still God, and therefor able to live out His Sonship in our humanity, and dying in it, and by doing so death has no power over Him because He did not sin, ans so the power of sin and death are broken.

    I was really just rambling on here, thinking as I typed, what do you think?


    Cody Lee

    October 5, 2011 at 6:12 pm

  8. Cody, I was thinking of this post as well in regard to the other posts about Christ assuming our fallen humanity. I didn’t come back to answer Bobby’s question becuase I wanted to do some more reading on it, but didn’t get to that sufficiently so I have not put forth a response.
    One article I want to read is this one by Romanides.

    I don’t at the moment know how the EO view would deal with the question of how the Fall and corruption of sin effects the nature of man ontologically. Maybe Romanides deals with that maybe not. I hope to read it this week.


    Jon Sellers

    October 5, 2011 at 9:12 pm

  9. Cody,

    You’ve brought up some interesting points; I’ll have to get back to you on them. I don’t have anything to say just off the top on this one. I understand the basic contours of EO theology (even spent time studying specifically in the past), but I need to refresh myself with the basics of their teachings before I comment further on how helpful it might be for us and our purposes as Reformed Protestants. I think Myk’s book on Theosis is the best treatment we’re going to find on a constructive engagement of EO and Reformed theology.


    Bobby Grow

    October 6, 2011 at 7:37 pm

  10. Cody the inherited guilt thing is not so simple – the Church ultimately teaches vicarious repentance. You see this very strongly in various saints and of course in the homilies of Zosima in Brothers Karamazov. All of that points to Christ as the model for us – the New Adam – who bore the sins of the world.



    September 19, 2012 at 7:10 am

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