You’ve gotta snag there on your sweater

One of the most recent and frequent topics of discussion lately with family members and friends about Orthodoxy has been how it stacks up to Protestant theology–namely in the areas of salvation, eternal security, etc.

I have long contested that, with rare exception, Protestant theologies will unravel themselves with just the slightest tugging on the loose ends.

Apparently, I am not alone in my philosophy. Right on time, this month’s edition of Christianity today features an interview with Ben Witherington III entitled “The Problem with Evangelical Theologies.”

The general gist of the article seems to be that these “distinctives” different denominations and positions like Calvinism and Arminism claim do not own up to their exegetical weaknesses, and he says “Part of the problem is the temptation to form our theology almost independently of doing our own exegesis. We run to the biblical text to shore up or find proof texts for what we already believe.”


In my own journey to Orthodoxy, I started tugging on some of those loose ends. As a Calvinist, they were particularly easy to find. Don’t get me wrong, however. I found it extremely difficult, and painful.

It’s interesting to see a Protestant theologian with the, ahem, guts to at least admit some of these things deserve a second look. For far too often, evangelical Protestant Christianity has glossed over these scratches in their theological disks with something between “God said. I believe it. And that settles it for me.” and Calvin’s Institutes.

Witherington’s solution? Even better…

“We have to remember that those who wrote the Bible were not late-Western Christians suffering from post-Enlightenment psychoses…Some of the Antiochian fathers would be good — (St.) Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory Nazianzus, for example. But if there’s one person who seems to be in touch with the original Greek and rhetorical ethos of the New Testament and especially (St.) Paul, that would be (St.) John Chrysostom…In contrast to the Latin Fathers, like Augustine, he is very much in touch with the living language of the Greek text. He is able to resonate with it, to pick up the rhetorical signals, the cultural signals, and understand the trajectory of the theology and ethics being taught.”

Thanks, Ben. It’s almost enough to cause me to want to overlook last month’s edition of CT, which said that some Eastern Orthodox priests in Europe consider themselves to be Christians. Heh. Imagine that.

(And, apparently, this interview caused my grandmother to write Dr. Witherington a letter, because doggone it, she needs some answers.)


Author: Rebecca

Orthodox Christian. Journalist. SAR K9 handler. All three of those are deeply related.

3 thoughts on “You’ve gotta snag there on your sweater”

  1. It is interesting to see how it begins to unravel. And, I was never a Protestant, either.

    Do you think your Grandmother is moving towards Orthodoxy?

  2. Bec,

    It interests me that CT (a magazine which has published my writing twice) is finally
    dropping names like Chrysostom…
    If people start taking it seriously, it could put them out of business.

    On a different note, I did not know we had so much in common in musical tastes. Dylan and V. Morrison are two of my favorites. If you like them, you should definitely check out Bruce Cockburn and Nick Drake–I can tell you more if you like.

    Keep up the blogging Matthew

  3. Bec,
    I had sort of noticed the same thing (about the tendency to unravel) without even much of a Protestant background to go on. I’m very sorry how many well-intentioned Sunday School teachers have made kids like me think we must be agnostics or atheists because we ask questions they don’t have answers for.

    It would all just be catty and supercilious of us Orthodox to say, except that you can’t help noticing that these are the guys who represent American Christianity. We Orthodox just don’t have the numbers, and the RC Church is too crippled by the recent scandal. So what most Americans think of as “Christian” is actually only a noisy part of the picture. That has me kind of concerned.

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