Why I’m an Orthodox Christian, Or: How I can prove the Orthodox Church is the One Holy Catholic & Apostolic Church

Eventually I plan to do a fuller post on my “conversion story,” explaining how I “found” the Orthodox Church and the process that led me into it. I don’t have the time right now to do such a post, but nonetheless want to address part of that topic. This is partially a response to some comments by Seth and Rhology in our never-ending “discussion,” but their comments were just the impetus to write now about what I’ve been wanting to write about for a while.

I’m naturally a very skeptical person; I question everything — there’s hardly a thing I read or hear that I don’t source-check — and then source-check the sources. My incredulous nature has always been both a blessing and a curse for me. It’s always made it hard for me to trust people and it certainly made my journey to Christianity — and then Orthodoxy — a much longer one than it might have otherwise been. But, once I reach a conclusion, I tend to have a firm conviction that I’ve arrived at the truth, if for no other reason than that I’ve exhausted every possible objection I could raise to it.

So… Of course, I applied my principles as I learned about the Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church said it was the ancient Church, so I learned about the ancient Church, reading every bit of the source texts — even the Gnostics’ gibberish; the Orthodox Church said it had never changed the Faith in the last 2000 years, and everybody else has, so I read everything I could get my hands on about Church history — from every perspective possible; the Orthodox Church said it was the True Church — so I source-checked it. And, of course, you all know the conclusion I reached.

I want to share with everyone the three “methods” I used when I was “source-checking” the Church’s claims, and I hope they’ll help someone who reads this to make an informed decision, even if it’s not the one I made:

  1. First, I started in AD 33 with Pentecost and followed the Church to today. This involved reading lots of histories and pretty much all of the early Fathers and quite a bit of the later Fathers (and even the various heretics). The question that I kept asking myself the whole way through is “who is changing? who is innovating?” The reason this is important is because any departure, however slight, from the Faith of the Apostles is a betrayal of that Faith; it’s basically saying that the Apostles had things wrong or didn’t have everything, that Christ left them incomplete. And this is obviously wrong. Scripture tells us to “cling to the Faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 1:3) and so I knew that’s what I had to look for along the way: who is clinging, as Scripture commands us to do, and who is changing. And I followed that through to today. And I ended up in Moscow, Damascus, Alexandria, Bucharest, Sofia — in short, I ended up in the Orthodox Church.
  2. I then did the reverse; I started with today and worked my way back. I knew it was impossible to look at each and every individual Christian group and trace each individually back, as there are several thousand. So, what I decided to do was divide them into five umbrella groups:
    1. Orthodox Church
    2. Roman Catholic Church
    3. “Traditional” Protestantism (Lutherans, Anglicans, Presbyterians, etc.)
    4. “Low-church” Protestantism (Baptists, Pentecostals, “Evangelicals,” etc.)
    5. Restorationists (Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh-Day Adventists, etc.)
  3. Starting with these five basic “movements” in Christianity, I traced each back to their roots from today. I found the roots of the Restorationists in the 1700’s and 1800’s, mostly in America. I found the roots of the “Low-church” Protestants in the 1600’s and 1700’s in the Anabaptist movement and, in the case of the Pentecostals, in the early 1900’s in America. I found the roots of the “Traditional” Protestants in Germany with Martin Luther, England with King Henry VIII, and Switzerland with John Calvin. The Roman Catholic Church was a little harder, as I certainly find its roots in the ancient Church, but I also saw a single Patriarch, the Pope of Rome, split from the four other Patriarchs (Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Antioch) in 1054 to go and form his own Church, the Roman Catholic Church of today. And so it was only the Orthodox I was able to trace all the way back, through time, to the first century in Palestine with the 12 holy men called Apostles.

  4. And the third way I took was to take everything I had learned about what the ancient Christians believed and practiced, especially those of the first and second centuries, as they are the closest to the Apostles, and compared it with those five groups of Christians I gave above. I compared even the minutest details. I made columns in a notebook for each group and marked wherein they agreed or disagreed with the Christianity of the year 100 or so; early Christians fasted on Wednesdays and Fridays – check; early Christians believed in the Real Presence – check; early Christians Baptized via triple immersion – check; early Christians used incense in worship – check. And, when I had finished, I found only one “group” whose column was filled top to bottom with my little checks — the Orthodox Church.

So that’s a little bit about how I reached my conclusions. It’s not the full story by any means — as I said, I’ll share that when I have the time to tell it. Of course, there was a lot more prayer and tears involved than the dry mathematical equations I give above — not enough, but there was quite a bit of it. I don’t know if I’d recommend my methods to others — many people would probably get tired after a while; it’s a long, often mind-boggling process, and I’m sure many would find it a little too calculated for religious matters. I understand the objections to my methods, but that’s how I did it — and I’m certain that anyone who does the same will reach the exact same conclusion as I did.

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18 comments

  1. Good one. I was never so methodical as this. Funnily, I listened to various protestant vs Catholic debates, and I have all Websters books that Rhology is pushing. Slowly over time, despite the best efforts of those who were arguing against, I absorbed the mind of the Fathers, and found myself in the uncomfortable position that Webster is wrong – the Fathers were Orthodox.

  2. Rho:

    And I'm sure that you're the first person in 2000 years to have understood it completely; you probably understand it better than the ones who wrote it. Heaven is going to be an awful lonely place for you.

    It's probably a very prideful thing to do to “boast” about your own humility, but that's the difference between you and I. I'm willing to humbly say, along with the Ethiopian eunuch, “how can I understand it, unless someone guides me?” And I'm blessed to have the greatest guides of all time: the Holy Fathers of the Church. You, on the other hand, are a much smarter man than the rest of us, apparently, and can understand everything perfectly all on your own.

  3. I don't think I am. For Rhology, the final authority is: Rhology. Protestantism has indeed made a Pope of every Christian individually.

    Show me someone, anyone, in the early Church who believed the same as you do on essential matters of Faith — in fact, show me anyone before the 16th century or so whose ideas even closely resemble yours on essential matters of Faith.

  4. Paul, Jesus, Peter.

    And saying I'm my final authority is simple stupidity. Come now, you should act more reasonably than that. I am in submission to the Bible. To say I'm my final authority is to say that you are your own b/c you have to interpret statements from the church and CFs yourself.

  5. I am in submission to the Bible.

    You are in submission to your own understanding of the Bible, and stand apart from the Church established by Christ, and therefore in rebellion against Christ.

    Also, again:
    Show me someone, anyone, in the early Church who believed the same as you do on essential matters of Faith — in fact, show me anyone before the 16th century or so whose ideas even closely resemble yours on essential matters of Faith.

    Or admit that your beliefs are entire novel to you.

  6. You are in submission to your own understanding of the Church.
    Thus you could stand apart from the Church established by Christ, and therefore be in rebellion against Christ, and not even know it, if that's how you think personal interpretation goes.

    Seriously, you need to think this thru better.

  7. You are in submission to your own understanding of the Church.

    And thanks be to Christ that he provided us with a living voice, and so many of them, through his Church to correct me when my understanding is weak or begins to stray. A book can't do that.

    You know, you previously ridiculed my “rule of Faith” as being “scripture + tradition + infallible interpreter.” Come to think of it, though, you have the exact same rule of Faith.

    Scripture + tradition (Luther, Calvin, etc.) + infallible interpreter (yourself)!

  8. Rhology, it might help to keep in mind that many of us have been exactly where you are now. You are like a voice from our past, and we have already come to understand a few things that you have yet to grasp. One of these is that your argument that you follow or believe just the Bible, or only the Bible, we all know to be a deception and a lie. Sola Scriptura is a lie, for no one can read it outside of a context. That context is your own religious background, culture, and socialization. Until you realize this you will never be able to get outside of this illusion. You don't read the Bible objectively, you read it from the standpoint of your own Protestant background. Case in point – pit a Pentecostal vs. a Baptist and they come to the conclusion that the other simply doesn't read the Bible enough, and neither one concludes that their position has anything to do with their respective Protestant traditions. No one doubts your sincerity or zeal, but you need to use wisdom and realize that your perspective is not “pure Bible” against David's “tainted view because of adherence to Church Tradition.” Your positions are really the same, only it is the Orthodox Church Tradition vs. your Protestant church tradition. I think it is pretty clear to everyone else reading these posts that this is the case, only you seem to be unaware of your own position.

    – Jason

  9. I started with the bible too R., and then I had to deal with the fact that from scripture alone, I wasn't sure what it meant, when it came to the differing views that divide Christendom.

    Frankly, I find the Orthodox interpretations generally better on their own merits. Not really surprising since the people who had no prior theological commitments in a divided Christendom, are the people Orthodoxy listens to.

  10. Jason,

    Rhology, it might help to keep in mind that many of us have been exactly where you are now.

    You SAY you have been, but I almost never see my rule of faith properly represented. This thread is a great example.

    Sola Scriptura is a lie, for no one can read it outside of a context.

    See, this is precisely what I mean. What SS-ist who knows anythg would deny this statement? And yet here you act like it's the killshot.

    You don't read the Bible objectively, you read it from the standpoint of your own Protestant background.

    1) You don't read the Church Fathers or church statements objectively, you read it from the standpoint of your own EO convictions.
    2) Again, what SS-ist would deny this? That's why there's sthg called “exegesis”. I'd encourage you to look it up.

    In short, Jason, your objections are very shallow, as if you've never discussed this with any depth before. I'd encourage you to look at the recent convos between DavidW and me – you'll learn a few things. We've already gone way past this by now, he and I. Now if he'd just stop going back to the beginning, as if we'd never talked before!

    Peace,
    Rhology

  11. “You SAY you have been, but I almost never see my rule of faith properly represented. “

    YES! That's EXACTLY where we were, accusing people on this side of the fence of being incapable of accurately representing your side.

    Were you to ever convert, there would be people who are on your side now then accusing you of the same thing.

    “See, this is precisely what I mean. What SS-ist who knows anythg would deny this statement? And yet here you act like it's the killshot.”

    Maybe that's because he has seen more clearly how big a killshot it is. That happens when you start to take other faith traditions a bit more seriously, trying to REALLY understand them, and not just pepper them with old chestnuts. When you understand how other faith traditions make sense within their own world view, the contextual setting of scriptural interpretation becomes much more important in your thinking.

    “1) You don't read the Church Fathers or church statements objectively, you read it from the standpoint of your own EO convictions.”

    The point of this thread is some people who are saying that reading the Church Fathers with Protestant convictions eventually led them out of Protestantism.

    As far as I see it is self evident that the Church Fathers were not Protestants (I think you agree on this), but it is far from self-evident that they are not Eastern Orthodox.

  12. YES! That's EXACTLY where we were, accusing people on this side of the fence of being incapable of accurately representing your side.

    So get on with the CORRECT representations already. this statement just concretes your hypocrisy that much more.

  13. Rhology:

    You have an interesting style of arguing that is as much agressive bravado as it is anything with substance. Ironically you seem to accuse everyone else of this. You state that David and everyone else repeats the same arguments, but possibly it is that we are trying to reframe them since you never really address them so much as just dismiss them. You clearly don't really understand the Orthodox Church or have any inkling of an eastern mindset. Many of your arguments fall flat because you lack this basic fundamental, you don't understand your opponent. You would do better to learn and delve into Christian history to understand the development of your own ideas…and no, they aren't straight from the Bible but are more from Pietists and Puritans. I know that you will ignore all that, since you will confidently believe it is all unnecessary since you “just read the Bible.” You are the most unfortunate of people, since you are unable to understand the true nature of your ideas and unable to objectively examine what the others are trying to tell you. I think Proverbs refers to this person as the Fool.

  14. “So get on with the CORRECT representations already. this statement just concretes your hypocrisy that much more.”

    The trouble is, things that seemed like caricatures on one side of the fence, the people on the other side feel have more accuracy than the other side would care to admit.

    Take the whole faith versus works arguments. The trouble is, it is all built on completely different foundations. We don't see salvation as the same thing as you do, so all the theology of justification is talking at cross purposes.

  15. Hi David and Rhology,

    If you have the time here is an interesting statement for examination i gathered from my reading:

    “The church came before the Bible that we have in our hands today -And that church which came before the Bible was the Orthodox church.”

    If this statement is correct, i believe it bears much weight for this discussion.

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