TSERKOVNOST::An Eastern Orthodox Resource Centre

The Orthodox Church &
the Christians of the Reformation

An Introduction to Orthodox Christianity
for Lutherans, Reformed, & Anglicans

Compiled by Ephrem Hugh Bensusan, L.Th.


From the beginning of the Christian era, there has been, and there remains, One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, built by our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ, founded upon His Apostles; a Church that will endure to the end of the ages, and against whom the gates of Hades shall not prevail; a Church that is the pillar and ground of truth. This Holy Church is the Ark of Salvation. It is exists and continues in this world, under the headship of Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, through an Apostolic Succession of bishops that is both physical and spiritual, rooted not in mere organisational form, but in the adherence to the true doctrine and praxis which was once for all delivered to the Saints.

The Holy Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs in 1848 spoke thus: “For our faith, brethren, is not of men nor by man, but by revelation of Jesus Christ, which the divine Apostles preached, the holy Ecumenical Councils confirmed, the greatest and wisest teachers of the world handed down in succession, and the shed blood of the holy martyrs ratified. Let us hold fast to the confession which we have received unadulterated from such men, turning away from every novelty as a suggestion of the devil.”

At divers times, various communities have embraced error and cut themselves off from the Church, maintaining, in their pride that their heresy, schism, or unlawful assembly constitutes the real Church. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, addressing this issue in the Fourth Century, said, “And if ever you are sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the Lord's House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord), nor merely where the church is, but where is the Catholic Church” (Cat. Lect. XVIII).

Among these faith communities were the sundry forms of Gnosticism, Montanists, Arians Sabellians, Novationists, Donatists, and many other heresies and schisms that have long since disappeared. Others, like the Nestorians and Monophysites, remain to this day.

And over a period of centuries the venerable Church of Rome turned from the path of truth, claiming universal jurisdiction over the entire Church, and inventing manifold teachings which our Fathers had not known. Following in this course, she ultimately cut herself off from the larger body of the Church. The Great Schism is often dated from the year 1054, when Papal Legates excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople; certainly the Schism was sealed by 1204, when the Western Crusaders turned aside to sack that great city, and establish their own Latin Patriarchate there.

Centuries later, pious, God-fearing men in the West, chafing under the bit of Papal tyranny, rightly recognising that Old Rome had introduced heresies and innovations destructive to true faith, shutting up the gates of the Kingdom of God in the face of the people of Europe, attempted to restore the purity of Christian faith, appealing to the Scriptures, and even to the Holy Fathers of Orthodoxy, but in a context divorced from the Living Tradition of the Orthodox, Catholic, Eastern Church.

In the East, Holy Tradition, which includes the Scriptures, and is structured by and guided by the Holy Spirit in accordance with the Scriptures, is the vehicle for the transmission of the Faith to each succeeding generation. In the West, under the Papacy, Tradition had become a parallel authority, often contradictory to the Scriptures. Men like Luther, Calvin, Chemnitz, Melanchthon, Knox, and Cranmer, tried to reform Latin Catholicism in accord with the Scriptures, but they did so with the mind of Sixteenth Century Europeans whose tradition had been cut off from the Church for hundreds of years.

As a Pastor in the Lutheran Church of Sweden recently put it:

Under Roman Catholicism, the popes took away Tradition from us. They made the definition of Tradition their property, and used it to promulgate excesses which were in direct conflict with Scripture. Western tradition became "papal encyclikas". So when Luther reacted against the errors of medieval Catholicism, he had no tradition to appeal to. All he had was Scripture. Hence the focus on this as the sole reliable source of doctrine. Orthodox, on the other hand, have never had Tradition stolen from them, appropriated by a dictator-style church Boss.

Try to see it from their point. The reformers had been born and raised under the papal system, they had experienced the Roman church in all its glory and all its depravity. Then came the discovery of the Bible and the dichotomies between it and catholicism. Debates followed, positions became polarized as they always do when both parties feel that essentials are being attacked. When the Lutherans were exposed to Orthodoxy, they had already determined that any appeal to Tradition was a trap designed to modify Biblical teaching according to later church ideas, which were suspect. Luther was like a drowning man, pushed off the Roman ship. He finds a flotation device (the Bible) and clings desperately to it. When the ship of Orthodoxy passes, he does not dare climb onboard for fear of losing that which saved him.

(Pastor Åke Eldberg, Orthodox-Lutheran_Dialogue Forum, Messages 1352 & 1358. 12 December 2004)

The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century led to the proliferation of Protestant faith communities, each claiming strict adherence to the Scriptures, but divided from each other by a multitude of both doctrinal and practical concerns, each doing what is right in its own eyes, according to its own understanding of the Scriptures. This situation has not changed, despite the best efforts of Ecumenists of all stripes to mimimise doctrinal considerations and unite on the basis of a vaguely defined “brotherhood of all believers.”

In the mid 1990's, I was a Ruling Elder and Licenced Preacher in a small, Confessional, Reformed Presbyterian denomination in the American South. Being a Calvinist, I read the works of the Reformers and their successors; I read and learned the Reformed Confessions; I preached the Gospel according to the Reformed Faith. As time went on, I read the Holy Fathers of Orthodoxy–after all, Calvin, for instance, quoted copiously from them. I expected the Fathers to be, in essence, Calvinists before Calvin.

What I found shocked me – rather than finding the Fathers to be Reformed, I found them to be more like the Orthodox whose services I had visited in the past, and whose contemporary theologians I had read. Most of all, I found them all to affirm the ecclesiological view with which I began this introduction.

This did not, of course, happen in a vacuum. It had not been long since Frank Schaeffer, the son of one of the most beloved Reformed theologians of the Twentieth Century, had converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. This high-profile move was a scandal to many of us. Many Reformed proceeded to examine the teachings of the Orthodox in order to figure out why he did this.

Another influence at that time was the “Tyler” faction of Christian Reconstructionists – Gary North, Ray Sutton, David Chilton, and James B. Jordan, among others. These men also turned to the Fathers, arriving at a more Catholic understanding of the Faith. Most of them soon left Presbyterianism for the Reformed Episcopal Church. Many of their disciples went even farther, turning either to the Pope or to Orthodoxy. I was one of these.

It was a search for truth that led me to Reformed theology years ago, and it was the same desire to find the truth that led me past Reformed theology and into the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ. I did not convert because the Reformed Faith was wrong, but rather because it was incomplete, and became inadequate for me once I came face-to-face with the Church that Christ has built.

The collection of articles and links below is designed as an introduction to the Orthodox Faith for Lutherans, Reformed, and Anglicans – the children of the Magisterial Reformation. Others, like Baptists, Wesleyans, Anabaptists and so on might find them useful as well, but those groups are not the focus here.

I assume that those who come here are believers in Christ, and are such that seek the real truth of Scripture, and thus I exhort you--read these essays and challenge your presuppositions. And most importantly, pay a visit to an Orthodox Parish, for, as our Holy Fathers teach, the truth is not simply understood with the mind, but is experienced with the whole being and in the context of the true worship of the One Triune God.

May the Lord God guide you in spirit and truth as you search diligently to see if these things be so.

Ephrem Hugh Bensusan, L.Th.
Director, Tserkovnost::An Eastern Orthodox Resource Centre
12/25 February 2005 :: Commemoration of St. Meletios, Archbishop of Antioch

Table of Contents

Part I: General Introduction

Part II: Una Sancta

The Orthodox Church
A Brief Overview
The Orthodox Church: An Introduction
excerpts from The Orthodox Church, by Bishop Kallistos (Ware), edited by P. Barnes
by Fr. John Behr
An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith
by St. John of Damascus
The Longer Catechism of the Orthodox, Catholic, Eastern Church
or, the Catechism of St. Philaret, Metropolitan of Moscow
A Protestant Examines Orthodoxy
by Daniel Clendenin


The Church is One
by Alexei Khomiakov
Christianity or the Church?
by Archbishop St. Ilarion (Troitsky) the New-Martyr of Russia
The Unity of the Catholic Church
by St. Cyprian of Carthage
The Ecclesiology of St. Ignatius of Antioch
by Fr. John Romanides
The Church is Visible and One: A Critique of Protestant Ecclesiology Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader
by Patrick Barnes
Is There An Invisible Church?
by Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky

Part III: Scripture, Tradition & Authority

Part IV: Sin & Salvation, Grace & Freedom

Sola Scriptura: An Orthodox Examination of the Protestant Teaching
by Fr. John Whiteford
The Emergence of the New Testament Canon
by Reader Daniel Lieuwen
Which Came First: The Church or the New Testament?
by Fr. James Bernstein
Paradosis and its Noetic Base: Towards a Spiritual Statment of Tradition in Orthodox Thought
by Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna
General Rules for Distinguishing the Truth from Error and Preserving the Faith
from the Commonitory of St. Vincent of Lerins


The Ascetic Ideal and the New Testament: Reflections on the Theology of the New Testament
by Fr. Georges Florovsky
The Dogma of Redemption Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader
by Dr. Vladimir Moss
Original Sin According to St. Paul
by Fr. John Romanides
Concerning Free Will and Predestination
by St. John of Damascus
On Predestination
by Bishop Elias Minatios
Dialogue on Free Will and Determinism
by Deacon Fr. John Whiteford
St. Gregory Palamas and the Tradition of the Fathers
by Fr. Georges Florovsky
Salvation by Christ
by Carmen Fragapane

Part V: Liturgy - Mysteries - Icons

Part VI: The Communion of Saints

Introduction to the Divine Liturgy
by Fr. George Mastrantonis
In Defence of Icons
by St. John of Damascus
Is Venerating Icons Idolatry?
by Timothy Copple
Presumptuous Propositions
by Timothy Copple & Patrick Barnes


Veneration of the Virgin Mary
By Protopresbyter Michael Polsky
An Orthodox View of the Virgin Mary
by the editors of Orthodox Tradition
A Homily on the Dormition of Our Supremely Pure Lady Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary
by St. Gregory Palamas
The Place of Holy Relics in the Orthodox Church
by St. Justin of Chelije

Part VII: Historiography

Part VIII: Philosophy

Franks, Romans, Feudalism, and Doctrine
by Fr. John Romanides
Orthodox & Lutherans in the Sixteenth Century
from Sir Steven Runciman's The Great Church in Captivity
Selected Excerpts from the Three Answers
of Patriarch Jeremiah II to the Lutherans
The Myth of the "Calvinist Patriarch"
by Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna


The Transformation of Hellenistic Thought on the Cosmos and Man in the Greek Fathers
by Fr. Gregory Telepneff and Bishop (now Archbishop) Chrysostomos, from The Patristic and Byzantine Review, 1990, IX:2&3
Is Orthodoxy Neo-Platonic?
by Dr. Thomas Mether

Part IX: Spirituality & Praxis

Part X: The Orthodox & Other Christians

Orthodox Spirituality
by Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos
Orthodox Spirituality
by Fr. George Metallinos
Orthodox Spirituality: A Living Tradition Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader
by Bishop Photii of Triaditza
The Illness and Cure of the Soul in the Orthodox Tradition
by Metropolitan Hierotheos (Vlachos) of Nafpaktos
The Struggle with Passions
by I.M. Kontzevitch. Chapter 2 of The Acquisition of the Holy Spirit in Ancient Russia.
Introduction to Humility
by Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna


The Non-Orthodox: The Orthodox Teaching on Christians Outside of the Church Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader
by Patrick Barnes
Basic Principles of the Russian Orthodox Church's Attitude to the Non-Orthodox
Official Position of the Moscow Patriarchate

Further Resources

Orthodox Christian Dogmatics Requires Adobe Acrobat Reader
by Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky

Subscribe to Orthodox-Lutheran_Dialogue
Powered by groups.yahoo.com
Subscribe to Orthodox-Reformed_Dialogue
Powered by groups.yahoo.com


I would like to extend thanks to Reader Patrick Barnes of the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad, webmaster of the Orthodox Christian Information Center, and the Rev. Dr. Reed Best of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, General Assembly, whose input and friendship over the years have been vital to the development of this anthology.

Special thanks is also due to the late Fr. Thomas Davis of St. Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church in Lynnwood, Washington, Fr. Serafim Gascoigne of Holy Protection of the Theotokos Orthodox Church (Patriarchate of Jerusalem) in Seattle, Washington, and Archbishop Chrysostomos of Etna, Bishop Auxentios of Photiki, Archimandrite Akakios, and the brotherhood of the Monastery of St. Gregory Palamas in Etna, California, all of whom, in both their lives and words, have been my fathers in the Holy Orthodox Faith.

© 1998-2005 TSERKOVNOST::An Eastern Orthodox Resource Centre
Director :: Ephrem Hugh Bensusan, L.Th.

Hosting provided by OcalaHost.net