The Orthodox Mind
Now some might dispute the need for studying the Protestant way of thinking -- perhaps it might be OK for the purpose of winning converts, but why should those already Orthodox be bothered? The reason is simple: we live in a society that is thoroughly Protestant. Furthermore, the Protestant ethos is to be found even among many who have been Orthodox all their lives.
There is a Chinese proverb which says:"Know the enemy and know yourself, and in a thousand battles you will not see defeat" [These words were written over 2,000 years ago by the great Chinese military strategist, Sun Zi in his book which is usually called in English "The Art of War."]
The first duty of every Orthodox Christian is to "know yourself", in other words, to know the Orthodox Faith, as well as to be aware of our own strengths and weakness and to so walk in humility -- which is not a false humility, but is actually a very realistic appraisal of ourselves in comparison with the examples of the saints and in the light of God's standards of Holiness and Righteousness.
In addition to knowing ourselves, we must know the enemy -- the scriptures teach us in many places that we are to be vigilant and fully aware of Satan's devices.
To get a handle on the prevailing Protestant / Secular worldview, I would like to focus on four major characteristics that identify it and distinguish it from an Orthodox frame of reference.
A. Humanism/ Individualism/ Secularism
The first characteristic of the Protestant Worldview is that it is Humanistic.
Now for conservative Protestants this statement will come as quite a shock, and no doubt they would hotly dispute it -- but the statement is an historic truth as well as an observable fact. Protestantism was birthed out of and became the religious expression of the humanism of the Renaissance, and as Frank Schaeffer has put it: it has been the engine of the Secularization of Western Culture. Humanism is characterized by its idealization of individual autonomy and it promulgation of secularization. Church authority was rejected in favor of the subjective judgment of the individual. The idea of a Christian nation was replaced with the concept of separation of Church and state -- and for those who would argue that this was a later development, while it is true that Luther and Calvin saw no need for the separation of Church and State (because they were in power) the earliest Anabaptists championed this from the beginning.
What is amazing is how conservative Protestants have viewed humanism and secularization as a foreign invader that is completely at odds with their faith -- when in fact it is the fruit of their own intellectual wombs.
For example, every Western Christmas, you can hear Protestants loudly bemoaning the fact that Christ has been taken out of Christmas and replaced with Santa Claus -- but where did that come from? It was the English Puritans who opposed the idea of a religious calendar, and who opposed Christmas and all other holidays as "pagan" and so sought to replace those holidays with secular observances. It was these Puritans who invented Father Frost, and replaced the idea of going to Church on Christmas to celebrate Christ's birth with the family fun, games, gifts, and food observance that characterizes the common Protestant observance of Christmas. So in their quest to get rid of the "pagan" Christian calendar of feasts, it was in fact the Protestants who developed the truly pagan secular calendar that our culture has come to know and love.
The Protestant tendency toward individualism is also seen manifested in the Charismatic movement and in other pietistic circles in the form of emotionalism and an elevation of emotionalism. In contemporary denominational Protestantism, the worship services is not so much a service to God, but a service that meets the needs of the people. People look for the church that will best serve them, rather than a Church in which they can best serve God. If you take a look at the modern Protestant "Mega Churches" you'll find bowling alleys, swimming pools, Karate classes, singles groups that will help you find a date, youth groups that will entertain your kids -- what more could Madison Avenue have to offer?
The focus on entertainment can be seen in the layout of most modern Evangelical Churches -- they are set up like theaters. You can take you pick of a Church that offers Country Western Worship, Pop, Rock and Roll, or classical if you like. It's as easy as choosing a radio station. How alien this is to the Biblical view of worship in terms of Sacrifice, and service to God. You'll not find any of the Psalms talking about how the writer was entertained at the temple, or a focus on how his needs were met.
One need not look to hard in the Bible to see how foreign the concepts of Secularism, Humanism, and Individualism are to the minds of the Biblical writers.
There was no separation of Church and state in the OT. In fact the kings of Israel and Judah were judged by their defense of the Faith against pagan and heretical religious expressions. Repeatedly we read in the Scriptures, "such and such king did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, he pulled down the high places which the Lord had forbidden..." etc.
The worldview of the Bible is not man centered, but is clearly Theocentric. Individualism would have been a completely foreign concept -- a fact that even Protestant Biblical scholars do not hesitate to concede. In fact they point out that the Israelites had a concept of a corporate personality. Certainly they believed in individual responsibility, but it is clear that the Israelites viewed themselves as parts of their family unit, their clan, their tribe, and their nation -- and they recognized that God dealt with them not only as individuals but as groups.
The second chief characteristic of Protestantism is Modernism.
From the very beginning Protestantism has been marked by a complete contempt for ancient Christianity and Tradition. It must be conceded that Protestantism was not without justification in protesting the form of tradition that it was confronting -- because far from being faithful to Ancient Christianity, Papism was itself an innovation. But rather than return to the authentic Christianity of Orthodoxy, Protestantism sought to remedy the situation by ostensibly returning to the ancient purity of the Scriptures, but in reality it was simply replacing the arbitrariness of a single pope with democratic papism -- in which each individual was his own infallible pope -- receiving direct revelation from the Holy Spirit.
Protestants claimed that they held Scripture to be the only authority, and rejected the interpretations of the Fathers whenever they contradicted the Scriptures -- but in reality they were really placing their interpretations of the Scriptures above that of the Fathers, and in essence saying that when the Fathers contradict their individual interpretations -- their interpretations are to be taken as more authoritative.
In its fight against Romanism, Protestantism sought to discredit all the ancient wisdom of the Church. The previous period was termed pejoratively as "the dark ages." "New" became synonymous with "good"; "Newer" with better; and "New and Improved" as better still. "Change" is used almost like a magic amulet, that justifies whatever it is associated with. The ancient Christian view was that novelty and innovation were absolute proofs of error, but in Protestantism this was turned on its head to the point that innovation is to them proof of truth. While Protestants attacked (often with justification) the Roman Tradition for its post apostolic additions -- they developed new Traditions at a rate that would make any Papist's head spin.
At heart, Modernism is not really at war with the past nearly so much as it is at war with God.
Modernism is simply the lever with which Humanists and Secularists have sought to unseat God from His throne and place man in His stead.
The Secular Humanism that conservative Protestants view as their mortal enemy is simply a more highly developed form of Protestantism. The pietist Protestantism of the past has now outlived its usefulness for the Secularization process, and so has been discarded by the more advanced Protestant Secularists.
The Reformers rejected Tradition, and said that they only needed the Bible and their own reason as their guide. Later Protestants turned their knives on the Bible itself, whittling away at it until they now have only their own reason and sentimentality as their guide. More Primitive religious Protestants, having been spurned by Modernity has ever since been trying to catch up with the spirit of the age by becoming "relevant". To become "relevant" they have sought to further accommodate their religion to appeal to the broader culture. Today, even among conservative Evangelicals, it is Madison Avenue that determines their worship -- not any Scriptural mandates. There has been a continuous parade of fads that have swept this country as Protestants have tried to keep things entertaining and "new".
C. Arrogance/ Hubris/ Prelest
Closely associated with both Anthropocentric individualism and secularism, as well as Modernism, comes arrogance, hubris, and spiritual delusion (or prelest). This is most clearly seen when one examines Protestant Biblical scholarship.
When I was a student at Southern Nazarene University preparing to become a Protestant Minister, when I was taught how to study the Bible, we were not taught to consult sacred Tradition or the writings of the Fathers -- not even those fathers that knew the Apostles personally. We were told that the Church fathers were all allegorists, and that they really didn't have a clue as to what the Bible was really saying.
In fact, it became apparent to me that not even the Apostles followed Protestant principles of exegesis when interpreting the OT -- and indeed my liberal professors did not hesitate to point out when the Apostles had misinterpreted the OT. When I asked one of my professors if he thought that he understood the Bible better than the Apostles -- he without hesitation answered "Yes!"
More conservative Protestant scholars would explain this discrepancy between Apostolic exegesis and Protestant Exegesis by saying that the Apostles were inspired to find spiritual meaning in the OT that was beyond its actual meaning to the OT writers -- but that we must not interpret the OT like that because we are not so inspired.
The bottom line however, is that Protestant exegesis is clearly unbiblical, and those who advocate it must acknowledge, like my more honest professor did, that they do indeed think that they know the Bible better than those who wrote it.
More liberal Protestant scholars, such as Rudolph Bultmann claimed to know more about who Jesus was than Jesus himself knew. They claim to be able to distinguish what Jesus really said, from what he did not. In essence, 2,000 years after the fact -- they claim that only now has the Bible really been understood. The Early Church, the Fathers of the Ecumenical councils, etc. etc., they have all been fooled and deluded -- it took these clever modern Biblical scholars to unmask the Truth.
D. Reductionism / Empiricism
The fourth and final characteristic of Protestantism that I want to highlight is its reductionism, and its rationalistic and Empiricists assumptions.
Protestantism is reductionist in a number of ways. It has always sought to get back to the "primitive" NT Church, to discard any aspect of the faith that cannot be proven to have been in place in the NT. Protestants use the truncated OT canon of the Jews -- in fact if Luther had his way, he would have truncated the NT as well discarding James especially, along with a few other books that he didn't like.
Protestants have also sought to define the Christian Faith in terms of "essentials" -- i.e. what is the bare minimum that one must believe or do to be a Christian.
In essence, Protestants have always been marked by rationalism, and western rationalists have always sought to boil reality down to that which could serve as the firmest foundation upon which to build a sound rationalistic structure.
For example Descarte, using methodological doubt, found that he could doubt everything in the universe except his own existence --thus the famous line: I think, therefore I am. Upon this one sure basis -- his own existence -- he then proceeded to build his philosophical system.
The Reformers were at first content to view the Bible as the irreducible basis for their rationalism to be built upon, but later Protestants, like Descarte, using methodological doubt and the criterion of suspicion, began to examine the Bible to see what could be certainly known in it. Eventually, using their critical tools, there foundation of Sola Scriptura poured out of their hand like a handful of dust. Taken from its context within Holy Tradition, the Bible was a Castle built on thin air -- it didn't take long for it to come crashing down.
Modernists, in their arrogance have presumed to critically analyze the assumptions of all previous writers and philosophers -- but they have failed to critically assess their own underlying assumptions.
When I was a ministerial student, I was given the assignment of writing on the relationship between Empiricism and Biblical studies -- this turned out to be one of the most revelational studies I had ever conducted. The first amazing discovery I made was that there was almost nothing written on the subject. It became very clear that Empiricist and Positivist thought was a basic underlying assumption in Protestant Biblical studies, but I found nothing that directly examined the relationship between the two. Another discovery, which came as quite a shock to me at the time, was that the extreme rationalism and modernism that I personally rejected when I encountered it in the field of Biblical studies, was actually very much kin to the Humanistic assumptions that had always been present in Protestantism. What I came to realize was that the liberals were simply more consistently Protestant than I was as a conservative trying to hand on to some absolute truths.
Empiricism is based upon the assumption that the ultimate basis of knowledge is experience, or sense perception. Empiricism, as the term is most commonly used, does not refer to a specific philosophy, but rather to the most fundamental assumptions of the Modern Western worldview. Empiricism seeks to know what can be known with "certainty" and can be "verified" "scientifically."
The biggest assumption of the empirical worldview is that one can have a scientific method that operates without assumptions. That sounds ridiculous, but remember a worldview is a set of assumptions that we are usually unaware of. A further extension of the assumption that all knowledge is derived from experience is that reality is determined by what we can observe with our senses and can empirically test. The result of this belief [!] is that one must deny the possibility that one could know anything transcendent or supernatural--thus the reality of the transcendent and supernatural is denied. Empiricists do not produce evidence that falsifies transcendent reality, or miracles; rather their presuppositions, from the very outset, deny the possibility of such things.
Most conservative Protestants would object that they do not think this way at all. They believe in the Bible, and believe in the miracles of the Bible. Of course, if you are a Christian, then you could never accept all the conclusions of empiricism, but most Western Christians have adopted many of its assumptions -- to varying degrees. For example, a Christian could not have a worldview which denied the transcendent, but many hold a radical dualism in which the transcendent and the empirical realms are radically separate, seldom come into contact, and when they do, only on very limited scale.
A pure Empiricist sees only the empirical level as knowable or real.
A Christian cannot deny the transcendent level, because to be a Christian one must believe in God; but a Christian who operates with empirical assumptions is blinded to the middle level. It is primarily on the level of the supernatural that the transcendent and the empirical come into contact; but a Christian empiricist cannot have the transcendent messing up the empirical realm, and so he sees God as having little to do with everyday life in the real world. This worldview is largely responsible for the compartmentalization of religion in the life of so many Western Christians.
An Animist, on the other hand, is culturally blind to empirical reality.
If someone is sick, then it is an evil spirit at work. Everything is connected with the supernatural. By the same token, a Christian empiricist immediately credits the sickness to natural causes, and so is blind to any supernatural factors at work. An Orthodox worldview, on the other hand, takes both factors into account -- all sickness is not spirit related, but neither is all sickness caused by natural factors alone.
Despite the obvious problems of using Empirical assumptions in the presumably theological field of Biblical studies, Protestants have embraced methodologies grounded in Empiricist thinking without examining the inconsistency of doing so because they were in search of some air of scientific objectivity in what would be otherwise a subjective and individualistic endeavor -- which clearly lacked any claim to consistency.
The great fallacy in the this so called "scientific" approach to the Scriptures lies in the fallacious application of empirical assumptions to the study of history, Scripture, and theology. Empirical methods work reasonably well when they are correctly applied to natural sciences, but when they are applied where they cannot possibly work, such as in history (which cannot be repeated or experimented upon) they cannot produce either consistent or accurate results.
Scientist have yet to invent a telescope capable of peering into the spirit world, and yet many Protestant scholars assert that in the light of science the idea of the existence of demons or of the Devil has been disproved -- where is the scientific study that has proven this? Were the Devil to appear before an Empiricist with pitch fork in hand and clad in bright red underwear, it would be explained neatly in some manner that would easily comport to his worldview, for although such Empiricists pride themselves on their openness to the truth, they are blinded by their assumptions to such an extent that they cannot see anything that does not fit their version of reality.
If the methods of empiricism were consistently applied it would discredit all knowledge (including itself), but empiricism is permitted to be inconsistent by those who hold to it because "its ruthless mutilation of human experience lends it such a high reputation for scientific severity, that its prestige overrides the defectiveness of its own foundations." [Rev. Robert T. Osborn, "Faith as Personal Knowledge," Scottish Journal of Theology 28 (February 1975): 101-126.]
Conservative Protestants have happily been much less consistent in their rationalistic approach, and thus have preserved among themselves a reverence for the Scriptures and a belief in their inspiration -- never-the-less their approach (even among the most dogged Fundamentalists) is still essentially rooted in the same spirit of rationalism as the Liberals.
A prime example of this is to be found among Dispensational Fundamentalists, who hold to an elaborate theory which posits that at various stages in history God has dealt with man according to different "dispensations," such as the "Adamic dispensation," the "Noaic dispensation," the "Mosaic dispensation," the "Davidic dispensation," and so on it goes. Thus far, one can see that there is a degree of truth in this theory, but beyond these Old Testament dispensations they teach that currently we are under a different dispensation than were the Christians of the first Century, and so though miracles continued through the New Testament period, they now longer occur today.
Now this is very interesting, because (in addition to lacking any Scriptural basis) this theory allows Fundamentalists to affirm the miracles of the Bible, while at the same time allowing them to be Empiricists in their every day life. Thus, though the discussion of this approach may at first glance seem to be only of academic interest and far removed from the reality of dealing with the average Protestant, in fact even the average piously conservative Protestant laymen is not unaffected by this sort of rationalism.
The connections between the extreme conclusions that modern liberal Protestant scholars have come to, and the more conservative or Fundamentalist Protestants will not seem clear to many -- least of all to conservative Fundamentalists! Though these conservatives see themselves as being in almost complete opposition to Protestant liberalism, they none the less use essentially the same kinds of methods in their study of the Scriptures as do the liberals, and along with these methodologies come their underlying philosophical assumptions which the conservatives have unwittingly bought into.
Thus the difference between the liberals and the conservatives is not in reality a difference of basic assumptions, but rather a difference in how far they have taken them to their logical conclusions. Like the Gadarene swine, together they are rushing headlong toward the edge of a precipice -- though the liberals may have already gone over the edge, the conservatives are heading in the same direction, they just haven't gone as far. The Protestant denominations that today are ordaining homosexuals as ministers were just as conservative a hundred years ago, and the more conservative denominations are following the same path.
If Protestant exegesis were truly scientific, as it presents itself, its results would show consistency. If its methods were merely unbiased "technologies" (as many view them) then it would not matter who used them, they would work the same for everyone; but what do we find when we examine current status of Protestant biblical studies? In the estimation of the "experts" themselves, Protestant biblical scholarship is in a crisis. In fact this crisis is perhaps best illustrated by the admission of a recognized Protestant Old Testament scholar, Gerhad Hasel [in his survey of the history and current status of the discipline of Old Testament theology, Old Testament Theology: Issues in the Current Debate], that during the 1970's five new Old Testament theologies had been produced "but not one agrees in approach and method with any of the others." In fact it is amazing, considering the self proclaimed high standard of scholarship in Protestant biblical studies, that you can take your pick of limitless conclusions on almost any issue and find good scholarship to back it up. In other words, you can just about come to any conclusion that suits you on a particular issue, and you can find a Ph.D. who will advocate it. This is certainly not science in the same sense as mathematics or chemistry! What we are dealing with is a field of learning that presents itself as objective science, but which in fact is a pseudo- science, concealing a variety of competing philosophical and theological perspectives. It is pseudo-science because until scientist develop instruments capable of examining and understanding God, objective scientific theology or biblical interpretation is an impossibility. This is not to say that there is nothing that is genuinely scholarly or useful within it; but this is to say that camouflaged with these legitimate aspects of historical and linguistic learning, and hidden by the fog machines and mirrors of pseudo-science, we discover in reality that Protestant methods of biblical interpretation are both the product and the servant of Protestant theological and philosophical assumptions -- and like hoses they simply spew forth whatever is pumped into them.
With subjectivity that surpasses the most speculative Freudian psychoanalysts, Protestant scholars selectively choose the facts and evidence that suits their agenda and then proceed (with their conclusions essentially predetermined by their basic assumptions) to ply their methods to the Holy Scriptures; all the while thinking themselves dispassionate scientists. And since modern universities do not give out Ph.D.'s to those who merely pass on the unadulterated Truth, these scholars seek to out do each other by coming up with new outlandish theories. This is the very essence of heresy: novelty, arrogant personal opinion, and self deception.
Rather than discrediting ancient Patristic Christianity or Tradition, Protestantism has become the most vivid vindication of Tradition that the Church could have hoped for. Protestantism itself now stands thoroughly discredited. Twenty Three Thousand denominations after the Reformation, Protestants are becoming aware of the spiritual bankruptcy that constitutes denominational Christianity. I think that this is one of the biggest reasons for the influx of Protestants into the Church.
Note: Please gigglyshy do not open two topics for the same article, I removed the second one.
Edited by Yervant1, 10 February 2008 - 05:35 PM.