Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Of Protestants and Sermons

I've changed the title of my blog to reflect my ongoing fascination and thinking about the Eastern Orthodox Christian faith.

I may have mentioned that I preached at our current church a couple of weeks ago. Our church is a evangelical protestant inter-denominational church. Lately, I have been more and more uncomfortable with the "choose your own faith" attitude that I encounter in all protestant churches. Not that these are particularly dishonorable or arrogant people. This is just a consequence of the reformation. Sola scriptura sold us down the river, so to speak. Now there are no rules. The more that our churches try to set hermeneutical/theological guidelines the more arbitrary it all seems.
For me that is the beauty of the Orthodox Church. Nothing is arbitrary. This is truly the historic faith of the New Testament and the early church fathers. It's scary how much this changes the way I read Scriptures and notice the text-wrestling I was doing before to make it read like it should if my conclusions are true. Then I realize that I NEVER believed in the final authority of the Scripture. I believed in the authority of MY INTERPRETATION of Scripture. I was willing to fight and argue with fellow believers who didn't read this text or that text the same as I did, when the odds are we were both wrong.

For the past two years I have been wondering about the communal nature of truth-knowing and I have wondered (sometimes aloud to myself) what a church would look like that practiced truth-finding/knowing in that way. In the process I became enamored with the spiritual practices of the Orthodox Church. I listened to the Divine Liturgy in Greek a few times a week long before I ever stepped foot in a real live Orthodox church. I started to explore the nature of that faith, realizing that they have always had a communal truth-knowing process.
For ten centuries the church was one and ruled by councils of Bishops. The statements of the councils were then received by the people.

Why would I long for communal truth?
I recognize the all-too likely possibility of error when I read the Scriptures by myself or you do. This is evident by the fact that we all come together and have vastly different readings of the Scriptures. This should definitely not be true when it comes to the all-important ideas of Scripture. Those shouldn't be left to interpretation. If many of us come together, depending on the Holy Spirit, then we're guaranteed that He will guide us (His Church) into all truth. As I've found out, this process leaves a lot of questions unanswered, which is a problem for us western thinkers- we want everything answered. Sometimes we even make things up just to have answer. The Orthodox faith has a lot of mystery where the Scriptures are silent or where the Fathers were not in unanimous agreement.

And from this argument it's a long way down. Once you've lost the idea/importance of personal interpretations of Scripure you lose the do-it-yourself religion of the west, and there's nothing left but to the run to Bride of Christ, where She may be found on this planet.

And I have found that Bride waiting patiently in the Orthodox Church.

1 comment:

Stacy said...

This is truly fascinating stuff, Levi. I must say that as I have been looking at my own walk and body of believers, I'm amazed that he emphasis placed on personal scripture reading, better known as "quiet times". I've often wondered how the early church did these all important quiet times when individuals did not have bibles.

This idea of communal truth-seeking and finding has been heavy on my heart lately as I think about the small group environment I'm in. We come together every week with our own versions of what a passage means and we never reach a consensus, and we seem to be ok with that. Then we move right into the "application section" and we each say what we are going to do to apply it this week and each person's answer depends on their interpretation and we have 5 people living out principles that probably do not even exist in the passage at all. How is that what God intended?

This really became apparent to me when I read Velvet Elvis. He spends a whole chapter on the idea of communal interpretation. He also explained about the yokes that the rabbis would establish, and the concept of binding and loosing. Interestingly enough, the concept of binding and loosing only exists in a communal context.

Thanks for your comments. It affirms me to know that I'm not the only weirdo out there thinking on these things.