IM Book Review: Your Church Is Too Small (2)

By Chaplain Mike

Although the church of Jesus Christ is found in many different places, she is one true church, not many. After all, there are many rays of sunlight, but only one sun. A tree has many boughs, each slightly different from others, but all drawing their strength from one source. Many streams may flow down a hillside, but they all originate from the same spring. In exactly the same way each local congregation belongs to the one true church.

Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, 3rd Century

Friend of Internet Monk, John H. Armstrong, president of ACT 3, is an adjunct professor of evangelism at Wheaton College Graduate School, author and editor of numerous books, with over twenty years of pastoral experience. Here is the second  of three reviews of John’s passionate and provocative new book, Your Church Is Too Small.

The middle section of “Your Church” focuses on the present and restoring unity in the church today.

First, John Armstrong recommends that the Apostles’ Creed, the earliest summary of Christian faith in the post-apostolic era, can help us with this task.

We find no other document in early church history, apart from the Bible, that served a greater purpose in uniting Christians in their common faith. The creed was confessed in one’s baptism, affirmed regularly by the whole gathered church, and openly used to express the kind of essential Christianity that united believers. (p.79)

Everyone must interpret the Bible. And rarely does quoting Bible verses alone create unity. We need a summary like the Apostles’ Creed, which offers a time-tested statement of the true, orthodox faith. It represents “The Great Tradition” of the church, the kerygma and early tradition of the apostles, which created unity in the church before the canon of Scripture was recognized.

Unfortunately, we live today in an era produced by a millennium of sectarianism. Sectarianism champions ideological approaches that think in terms of theological systems of almost mathematical certainty which go beyond simple summaries like the Apostles’ Creed.

Armstrong argues against sectarianism and for a spirit of “catholic diversity”—not a post-modern relativism which denies the reality of truth or any sense of certainty—but a humble recognition that we human beings are limited and sinful, that our perceptions of truth are often wanting, that any “systems” we create will contain inherent flaws. We can learn from each other, our different traditions, and respect various ways of “knowing” that lead us beyond mere intellectual definitions into personal relationship with God through Christ.

If, however, we cling to our ideological and sectarian commitments:

The result is a virtual loss of the biblical tradition of wisdom. In this setting, knowledge is pursued not to draw our souls into the love of Christ but to get answers to questions posed by our ideology. (p.98)

Secondly, a spirit of catholic diversity will not only lead us to rethink our ideological approaches to truth, it will also change our thinking about the church. When we hear the word “church” it is common to think either in terms of a local congregation or of the “universal” church—the church everywhere and throughout history.  However, there is a third way to imagine the church.

The N.T. speaks of the “Church” that exists in multiple forms throughout a city or region. In any particular place, there may be many “churches” of various denominations and types, but they are all part of God’s “Church” in that area. Any individual congregation may view itself as one part of a larger whole rather than as the sole local expression of the church, autonomous, self-existing, and self-sustaining. This change is perception alone could be beneficial in achieving a deeper sense of unity among us.

Third, recognizing that the church is part of the bigger reality of God’s Kingdom can help us move beyond our narrow sectarianism into unity with other Christians. A Kingdom vision takes us beyond a narrow parochialism into the flow of what God is doing throughout the world and even on a cosmic level. His plan is not merely to rescue individuals from sin and death, not merely to create local communities of faith, but to redeem his entire creation!

Finally, John Armstrong argues that we must recapture a positive meaning for the concept of tradition in the church today. In contrast to the last few hundred years of evangelicalism, which has stressed “no creed but Christ,” “the Bible alone,” an abhorrence of “godless tradition,” and a separatistic and schismatic style of building churches and movements on the strong personalities of charismatic leaders, the author points to the ancient-future approach of paleo-orthodox theologian Thomas Oden, who stresses the consensual doctrinal unity of Christianity’s great traditions—the Roman church, the Eastern church, the churches of the Reformation, and the Anabaptist churches—as a basis for a “post-denominational, flexible, and deeply rooted ancient faith,” a true orthodoxy that embraces “what has been believed everywhere, always, and by all” (Vincent of Lerins).

34 thoughts on “IM Book Review: Your Church Is Too Small (2)

  1. Our church hosted Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson about 3 years ago for a series of lectures and discussions. His emphasis on the importance of creedal Christianity is very compelling. In “The Creed: What Christians Believe and Why it Matters” he makes strong arguments for the unifying nature of creedal tradition. However his discussion centers mostly on the Nicene Creed rather than the Apostles Creed.


  2. Heh, I knew that someone would mention charismatic Catholics! Yep, I know that they exist– Peter Kreeft, I believe, is one, and I love his writings and spirit! 🙂

    I guess the point that I meant to make is, even with the liturgical/discipline-related diversity in the Catholic Church (which is VERY good and valuable), there are always points at which Rome can step in and say, “Ok, no more of that, because that is just CRAZY” (although not in those words)! Personally, I am glad for that ecclesial authority, even though I am not currently a Catholic.


  3. EOA: “So, what is your creed?”

    ANCP: “We have no creed but the Bible.”

    That’s the point where I’d ask ANCP how that differs from Wahabi Islam other than quoting different Holy Books. That’s the risk of a “Faith of the Book”; it’s all too easy for The Holy Book to become The Party Line.


  4. By the way, BishopN> T. Wright said on Saturday at Wheaton that though we cannot come to the same communion table there are two things that all Christian churches say that we can do together and these are huge: (1) Study the Bible together; (2) Pray together. Before you say this is nothing think again. Studying the Holy Scriptures and prayer are powerful and every Christian Church agrees on this point. What if we sought to unleash these two practices in every practical, personal and corporate way that we could? Hmmmm. I cannot help but think we would see some significant changes. I often ask: “Who knows what the Lord might do?” Yes, who knows?

    Ah, here we go! I’m ashamed to admit it, but my focus was so much on Eucharist and Orders and whatnot that I completely forgot those simple points (leave it to N.T. Wright to put things in focus)! So, yeah, we can take the first steps in those little ways and see what God does. And I, for one, will make the commitment to give the brothers from other communions and points of view more of a benefit of the doubt.


  5. I believe that the problem you describe is the same one noted by CS Lewis in writing Mere Christianity. He submitted his manuscript to four clergymen of four different churches and waited for an answer. He got the replies and noted that there was some contention between various respondents.

    Whether one deems this fortunate or unfortunate, Christianity is not a democracy where we vote for those things we’d like (or believe are needed) and stake our claim at that point; or is it?. Luther and Calvin tried to come to an agreement on the fundamentals needed for salvation in an attempt to bridge the differences between them. Luther and Calvin failed to arrive at an agreement and their followers haven’t been able to arrive at that destination either. At this point we are talking about two people, Luther and Calvin, who recognized Mary as the epitomy of humanity, a glory to the human race. Their followers haven’t been up that steep hill for a long time. CS Lewis described this as well. There are those who see Mary as the Mother of God and those who hold that too much Mary is idolatry.

    Those of us who have moved to a Church which recognizes authority (eg, RC, EO, etc) have arrived at the position where we understand that this is not a voting issue. Those of us in Churches where the authority is not so easily recognized, where it is individualistic or congregational, will defacto make their own decisions, or will vote if they are interested.

    That voting decision is why we are where we are now. There maybe compelling arguments for a return to some type of Mere Christianity position, but since I am in one of those Churches where there is authority, I won’t be voting. I gave that up when I left where I was at to go to the place I am in now.


  6. Chaplain Mike is doing a great job of getting the essential points of my message to you who are reading his irenic and well-done posts. The problem here is that no reviewer or author can say everything at once and in a few words. Most of the comments made would be answered by the book, though clearly not all of them as there are no easy answers to some very complex issues. We do not share a common eucharist and we have to grieve that and admit it. It should be noted that serious Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant scholars have endorsed this book as a “way” forward in our present divided state even though I cannot commune in some of their contexts/churches. This is not a “scholar’s argument” about how to make the church visibly one in all ways but rather a serious, accessible and very readable book for all kinds of people who see the problems we face and want to think about how we can begin to obey John 13:34-35 and John 17:20-23 and then do something in genuine humility and faith to show our love for Christ and one another. Unity in diversity is a key to all of this for sure. My argument is not new but it is not the typical one that most of us have heard for the past 50 years.

    When the book was released we had a celebration in Wheaton at the Graham Center. Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant scholars, priests/ministers alike, discussed my book in a healthy and robust way on the same platform. This in itself is a start. If we can converse in love the people of God can “see” that we are trying to address our problems and together we are seeking for real life solutions. Again, this is a small step I know but it is better, in my estimation, than doing nothing while we continue to say, “This cannot work.” It is somewhat like counseling a couple who are near divorce. They say to me, “This cannot work.” They are right so long as they hold that line. Faith and love says, “Who knows what might work if we take the first step in a new direction?”

    At the end of the day I embrace Lesslie Newbigin’s Household of Faith (book) concept. For those who want to go deeper into what I believe to be the best 20th century thinking on this issue of mission and ecumenism read him. Thankfully this book is back in print from Wipf & Stock. Newbigin labored an entire life for what I now openly labor for and teach in my new book Your Church Is Too Small.

    I had lunch with Scott Hahn on Saturday. It was a totally enjoyable time of friendship. Scott cannot track with my thesis (no surprise there) but he is still not dismissive of the idea in actual practice. This says to me, “We have a ways to go but we have to take the first one or two steps and see what happens over time.” Nothing worth doing will happen over night. I will not live to see what I believe will come in the next 50 to 100 years. Most evangelicals are only taking steps toward further schism. My desire is to reverse this process inside the post-evangelical wilderness, as our friend Michael Spencer called our own time in modern church history.

    By the way, BishopN> T. Wright said on Saturday at Wheaton that though we cannot come to the same communion table there are two things that all Christian churches say that we can do together and these are huge: (1) Study the Bible together; (2) Pray together. Before you say this is nothing think again. Studying the Holy Scriptures and prayer are powerful and every Christian Church agrees on this point. What if we sought to unleash these two practices in every practical, personal and corporate way that we could? Hmmmm. I cannot help but think we would see some significant changes. I often ask: “Who knows what the Lord might do?” Yes, who knows?

    While I labor for practical expressions of unity every day now I also welcome the various regional and global macro-dialogues for visible unity with all my heart and soul. (Consider the efforts of Pope John Paul II and the Orthodox patriarch alone.) No matter how we understand the way we actually got here, and what was true of us before we broke up, or who sinned and why they did, we are divided. We have to acknowledge this fact. And then we must seek to get beyond theoria to praxis at some hopeful point. Our love of debate about the concept of the church is actually a part of the problem. We can and must hold to conscience but why do we find it so hard to listen to the other and learn and consider where we have failed in this process? This book makes a concerted effort to show us how to proceed as part three will show. Chaplain Mike will likely mention in his third installment.

    Once again, thanks Mike for writing and for each of you who has responded to these posts. I hope some of you will read the book and see if I have offered a genuinely appealing and Christ-centered thesis that might help us move forward, even if it is a fresh and small way, by taking a trajectory that powerfully moves us away from our inherently schismatic position(s).


  7. I’m all for the Apostle’s Creed. If there’s a better statement of the fundamentals of the Christian faith, I’d sure like to hear it. But I honestly doubt that this or any other creed will ever serve as an effective rallying point from which to re-unite a global Christianity that is growing more diverse by the day. And I don’t see such unity resulting from a top-down effort in which denominational leaders sit down at some worldwide interfaith council and hammer out a one-size-fits-all version of the faith for mass consumption. There still exists too much competition for human resources (and the financial resources and cultural influence they represent) between the various institutional camps for them all to just stop promoting themselves as either the only or the best version of the church. There is just too much at stake and, seemingly, too much to lose.
    However, I do see some hope in the kind of unity that emerges from the bottom up — the kind of unity that forms between individual Christians of different denomination stripes crossing denominational lines to form close, Christ-centered friendships. And if such friendships can get beyond the initial phase of trying to convert the other, then love and the desire to preserve the friendship will prompt both parties to expand their views and beliefs beyond narrow denominational restrictions and definitions. And both will begin to find common ground and creative ways in which to support and encourage each other in their individual walks of faith. If such friendships should then grow into larger groups of denominationally diverse individuals who start to get together regularly in Christ-centered gatherings, then you’re likely to get much more freedom of discussion and produce even broader perceptions of what the church is and what it could be in the future.
    Denominational hardliners at the top rely on mass confirmation of their narrow and exclusive positions from those below. However, if increasing numbers of those below can no longer in good conscience buy into these narrow and exclusive positions — based on an unwillingness to demonize and seperate themselves from people they love and know to be genuine followers of Christ — then eventually there will be either a change of guard at the top or a mass exodus out of that denomination. And if the denominational and institutional emperors of Christianity finally get the hint that they’re not wearing any clothes and that the people are no longer willing to overlook their nakedness, then the church just might discover a new kind of unity — a unity that encourages free speech rather than limiting it, seeks to preserve the old while encouraging exploration into new frontiers, and embraces diversity as potentially good and God-inspired.


  8. Maybe not to the extremes of charismatic practice, but there are a lot of Charismatic Catholics! My mom was part of the Charismatic Catholic scene in the early 70’s and I’ve been to some local services that are part of that.


  9. I dig those concepts, Patrick. As an Anglican, I do see myself as part of that togetherness, even if we can’t agree on how much authority Peter gets over other bishops or on exactly what happens to the elements at the Eucharist.

    As Lancelot Andrewes (Anglican cleric in the early days of the English Reformation) put it, we have “One canon reduced to writing by God himself, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries, and the series of fathers in that period — the centuries, that is, before Constantine, and two after, determine the boundary of our faith.”

    While we may disagree with what happens after that “boundary,” there’s a really good starting point if you ask me! And believe me, I don’t think there was necessarily an apostasy or anything after those five centuries. But, we’d be doing well to be able to talk from that common point.


  10. That’s exactly right, Obed– the Catholic Church has unity in doctrine and dogma (which would include accepting apostolic succession, i.e. the Pope and Magisterium, and belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist) and at least some degree of diversity in liturgy and practices. Even with the latter, though, obviously, there are limits– no one in any Catholic Church would go to the far extremes of charismatic practice that are found in some Protestant churches.

    Patrick, I hear you about there being many “former Catholics” in Catholic Churches. I’m convinced that some Protestants with a great love for Church history are more historically “Catholic” in belief than many Catholics!


  11. “Show me” is not limited to the people of Oklahoma.

    That would be Missouri, methinks. 😉


  12. I think Communion is communion; to unpack what I mean: the Eucharist, for Catholics, is the fullest participation in the Divine Life, whether you feel anything special when you eat and drink of it or not. But when we celebrate the Communion every week, we’re celebrating it with the Eastern Orthodox, the Coptics, the Romans, that new Anglican group, the African churches, and everybody else who believes and receives it for its’ sacramental constitution.

    So, to be ‘in communion’ with Rome is nothing more than to desire and to truly share Holy Communion with your brothers and sisters in the church of Romans, and the succession of that church’s presbyters and bishops all the way up until you’re sharing it with the various folks on this blog today. Our various Rites are just Tradition flowering in different soil, but our Traditions must be how a Catholic, Roman or Orthodox or etc., lives and learns his faith.

    You don’t have to be ‘one of us’ Romish Popists in order to be one with us, and that’s why all this delicate theology is being done with some Lutherans and Anglicans and Orthodox – we want, at the end of the day, to be together somehow. God bless it and bring us all somewhere less aimless than we’ve been.

    You know, I’ve learned more about Jesus from Michael Spencer than my last 500 Sundays; but at the end of it, my church is full of former-Catholics and I wish it were full of former Protestants…


  13. Ah, OK… We just haven’t gotten to that part yet 🙂

    It’s kinda funny. I’ve done enough homework to recognize that the two main Creeds formed in different eras and different theological climates. But ever since I was a barely-literate child flipping through the BCP at my grandmother’s church, they were a package deal to me. What’s really funny is that they’re not physically close together in the Prayer Book! How did I mentally attach them to one another so inseparably at so young an age?


  14. Heh, I was a bit rambly and unclear, so your clarification is most welcome. From my understanding, the unifying factor is that the different Rites are in communion with the See of Rome, which implies a unity of dogma and doctrine. Diversity in discipline, liturgy, and other non-doctrinal/dogmatic practices is the what makes them different Rites, correct?

    How I see this potentially applying to a greater ecumenism and little-c catholicity is that by all of us being “in communion” with the Creeds, we can all affirm each other as members of Christ’s body, work together toward the advancement of the gospel, etc. The question is whether that form of catholicity is sufficient in light of the fact that there are certain areas where we can never be in full communion with each other this side of eternity (some of which are BIG issues)?


  15. Even though Oden is a Methodist I do recommend his systematic theology as a good introduction for beginners.

    Wow, I never thought I would agree with the Chaplain.


  16. but one of the distinctives of the movement it comes from is an aversion to creeds because they’re allegely divisive.

    An Eastern Orthodox acquaintance (EOA) of mine told me of a conversation he once had with a anti-creedal/non-Creedal Protestant (ANCP):

    EOA: “So, what is your creed?”

    ANCP: “We have no creed but the Bible.”

    EOA: “Okay, that’s the first point of your creed. What’s the second point?”

    Since credo simply means “I believe,” a church’s or individual’s statement of faith IS their creed, semantics notwithstanding. 🙂


  17. I’m enjoying these reviews and I think this book just made my must read list.

    The church I’m currently attending has a lot to commend it, but one of the distinctives of the movement it comes from is an aversion to creeds because they’re allegely divisive. I have a difficult time with this position as I’ve always considered the Apostles’ and Nicene creeds as foundational and unifying. I grew up reciting the Apostles Creed in unity amongst a large and quite diverse community of missionaries. It’s nice to see a work that employs the creeds to that end and thinks broadly and deeply about what the church is.

    On a separate note, thanks Chaplain Mike for continuing faithfully the spirit and intent of this IM. At the risk of echoing so many others, let me say that it continues to be a place of encouragement and learning for me in my journey. May God bless you and continue to grant you the strength and wisdom to sustain this work.


  18. Actually, you made the point, partially, about married priests, in your above “reply” to your first comment. I have to read more slowly and carefully! 🙂


  19. Obed,

    You are correct, in part, about the different “rites” within the Catholic Church– but I’m not sure that I would say they are even “close to sub-denominations.” Eastern (Byzantine, Maronite, etc.) Catholics are definitely considered to be part of the worldwide Catholic Church. They are in communion with the Pope. Roman and Eastern Catholics are different expressions, to a degree, of the same worldwide Catholic Church.

    In fact, many Roman (Roman rite) Catholics now attend Mass at Eastern Catholic parishes, because the liturgy is closer there to the “pre-Vatican II” Latin Mass than one currently finds in many Roman Catholic parishes.

    It is true that there is much greater diversity allowed (in terms of liturgy and certain “discipline-related” practices, not in terms of dogmatic doctrine) in the Catholic Church than many non-Catholics realize. For example, while in the Roman rite of the Church, one must be celibate to be a priest, in the Eastern rite, married men can be ordained.

    However, even in the Eastern rite, one cannot be ordained first and then marry later. Celibacy is a discipline, though, not a dogmatic doctrine. There may well be married Roman Catholic priests at some point in the future. The most “conservative” informed Catholics know this to be possible. There can never be women Catholic priests, because that is a matter of Catholic theology. The priest represents Christ, a male, to the congregation. Not perfectly (as we have seen all too well recently) but truly, within the understanding of the Catholic Church.


  20. I’d recommend Oden’s Classic Christianity (the reprinting of his volumes of theology into one volume) as a good place to start. His goal was to identify and expound a clear Christian theology according to the “consensual orthodoxy” that can be derived by comparing the teachings of the main branches of Christianity.


  21. St Cyprian is recognized as a bishop in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches, which also recognize him as a martyr. I don’t believe the quote given at the beginning of this thread would have been understood by Cyprian in the way it is cast here. There was a commonality of belief, not withstanding the subtle differences in liturgy and hymnody. All the oars were pulling in the same direction for the orthodox, and the others, Donatists, Pelagians, et al were judged based on their beliefs.

    Unity in the essentials, liberty in the non-essentials, and love in all things is one of the translations of a statement by St Augustine. Where is the unity in the essentials? I read the thread and did not see it.

    The Apostles Creed was generated before the canons of Scripture were determined. For those who believe that anything coming from the early Church is fraught with error – or at least peril – it won’t find a home. “Show me” is not limited to the people of Oklahoma.

    If Jesus permitted the Church to fail, early, late or repeatedly in history, then the formulas and creeds coming from the early post-apostolic Church are insufficient. One cannot use one Council to justify a position, and then deny another Council to justify a position. Either the Councils were (and are) addressing valid concerns validly, or they were not. For those into scripture alone, the Councils are not sufficient, or even usable.

    That argument goes back to what is scripture. Who defined scripture? If the Councils that defined and then re-ratified what is and what is not scripture are not to be trusted, how can one know what scripture is? Sixty six books or 73 books? A burning in the bosom? An argument about history? If Luther rediscovered the Gospel in the 1500s (or Joseph Smith discovered the golden plates in the 1800s), who is to say what scripture is?

    If the Church failed early and often and miserably, when Luther rediscovered the Gospels in the 1500s, or when Joseph Smith discovered the golden plates in the 1800s, it would appear that God was gone a long time. The gates of hell did prevail under those circumstances.

    Tradition was meant to inform scripture, and scripture to inform tradition. What did the apostles believe? What did their immediate followers believe? Has there been development in our understanding of what scripture means? Was there an authority to make the decision when there was a conflict about what was to be believed or what something meant? When the Church Fathers wrote about something, and were consistent among themselves, did it indicate a shared belief which might be held as true?

    Unfortunately the beginning of the thread does not address those issues. Is unity important? Yes, if John 17 is to be believed. Did God deliver us the Truth in the Person of Jesus? Yes, He did. How is it then that we have so many competing truths which negate each other? Did God fail to tell us the Truth? Did He hide it? Did He say something that we don’t like or want to agree with? To paraphrase Genesis, did God really say that? That statement – did God really say that? – is the issue. Unity can be achieved around the truth, but only if the truth is believed. At that point we have unity in the essentials, liberty in the non-essentials, and love in all things, but not before.


  22. I’m definitely keen on reading this book. Very useful material.

    I think if more American Christian sectarians could come to realize they often play more by the rules of post-modernism and post-Enlightenment thinking than more ancient, mystical, exuberant, mythically grounded, and creedally united Christian approaches it could go a long way to healing the rifts Armstrong is highlighting. I also think, were it more self-aware, the American church could relate more compassionately to the post-modern world knowing how much it’s self-expression has in common with “it’s enemy.”


  23. Heh, that’s a shame, ‘cuz it’s a simple translation problem. I personally like the ’79 BCP version “descended to the dead” because it’s more faithful to the Greek idea expressed in the Creed. Besides, this is an idea expressed in 1 Peter 3:19-20 and 4:6 and some other places. It’s not like it was something invented by “those dang Papists.”


  24. 2) While my following statements reflect unity within large denominational communions rather than a more universal unity, I think there may be a lesson for wider ecumenical efforts.

    Something I’ve learned about the RCC is that within the Church is several “rites” that are almost like sub-denominations. In these different rites are some different practices while maintaining an essential unity. For example, the Eastern Rite Catholics follow the Eastern Orthodox patterns of liturgy and permit their priests to marry. The Anglican Rite Catholics follow liturgy inspired by the BCP and occasionally have married priests.

    Similarly, within the Anglican Communion, each national Provence has their own particular practices and liturgies that reflect their culture while maintaining an essential Anglican unity (though, there are some conflicts right now… besides the point). And each Provence has their own college of bishops that runs their national church. But there are also international conferences where each Provence can send bishops and primates to represent them in discussing matters that pertain to the whole Communion, without weakening the independence of each Provence.

    All that is to say that we have some examples of diversity in unity to work with, if we can just expand them in a more ecumenical way.


  25. I like! My reactions/responses follow in the same order as the above four points.

    1) I find it interesting that Armstrong sees the Apostles’ Creed as the unifying baseline rather than the Nicene Creed or both creeds. The point where I find this interesting is that the Apostles’ creed says “I believe in . . . the holy catholic Church” whereas the Nicene Creed says “We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church” (both quotes are from the translation used in the 1979 BCP). Perhaps the simpler Apostles’ Creed can be a more widely accepted baseline because it’s not as deep as the more complex Nicene Creed in terms of theology (I, of course, advocate both Creeds).

    2) [See the response to this post… it was too long]

    3) This reminds me of what I’ve been learning about the concept of Christus Victor. I’ve been thinking about the idea of God sending Jesus not only to save “the elect” individuals but as a divine rescue mission for the whole of creation. That’s really neat to me.

    4) I totally agree. Tradition is always with us, even among folks who claim to have none. Let’s at least be honest enough to see that it’s there. Maybe then we could purge some unorthodox or heretical traditions and come to a more unified place.


  26. I must add, as well, that I hadn’t checked in here in quite a while. I am saddened to see that Mike has passed on, as I had enjoyed following his journey. Memory eternal Mike!


  27. Of course, St. Cyprian notes that the boughs are “slightly” different. It is this model that the Orthodox Church has held to. There are slight differences in praxis, liturgical customs, chanting styles, and the like, including leadership (different bishops) but whether you are in a Russian, Serbian, Antiochian, or Greek Orthodox Church, you are very clear that you are in the same Church confessing the same faith. It is hard to believe, as a good example, that when reading the exchange between the Lutheran scholars from Tubingen and the Patriarch of Constantinople (or simliarly between the Patriarch of Jerusalem and the non-juring bishops of England), that there is any reasonable similarity between the faiths being discussed.

    The Apostle’s creed, as well, is hardly a common point between all those calling themselves Christian (I exclude here groups such as Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons). I can’t remember how many internet “debates” I’ve been involved in over the whole notion of Christ descending into hell (or hades, or the abode of the dead or…).


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