Friday, May 3, 2024

Offsite Post: ‘Moving beyond Southern Ecumenism’


While there remain some flinty, hardened Baptists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, and others here in Dixie, the general religious tendency among Southerners – owing to their innate hospitality and graciousness – is towards a form of Christian ecumenism, in which the Christian believer stands above all the various Christian traditions and partakes of what he likes from each of them.

But the unspoken assumption – that all of the so-called ‘branches of the tree of Christianity’ are equally valid, proclaiming the same message, only dressed up in slightly different outward clothing – is untenable.  A cursory look at some of the main dogmas of each will tell us that these are different creatures with different ends in mind.

Take salvation itself, for instance.  Both Roman Catholics and Protestants view this mainly through a legalistic, accounting lens:  Mankind has incurred a sin debt that must be paid in order to satisfy God.  Roman Catholics earn the credits to do this by doing various works – going to Mass, going on pilgrimage, helping the poor, etc.  When they do these things, the superabundance of merits that Christ earned by his life and death are transferred to their “accounts.”  When they have earned enough merits/credits, they are able to enter Heaven.  If they earn more than they need, they become saints.

Protestants take essentially the same structure, but instead of earning credits/merits by works, they receive all they need and more through faith alone in Christ’s atonement.  Their sin debt has been paid; they stand confidently before God; and they count every saved believer to be a saint at the moment of his conversion.  And because all believers receive a superabundance of Christ’s merits, it is impermissible to honor any of the saints in a special way.

The Orthodox do not accept this arrangement.  For them, salvation has to do with man’s deepest being.  At the moment of the Fall, human nature was damaged.  Christ’s mission was to heal the wounded nature of fallen man by uniting it to His own pure and holy divine nature (thus allowing us to receive from His divinity by uniting us to His human body), to make it whole again, not to cancel metaphysical debts, not to assuage the wrath of an “angry God.”  By being united with Christ in baptism, we are able to begin the process of that healing.  All of the devotional acts of an Orthodox believer – receiving the Holy Eucharist, prayers, fasting, prostrations, alms for the poor, spiritual reading, and so on – are toward that end:  healing the wounds of our nature so that we can be united to God, which was our goal from the beginning:  to become gods (Psalm 82:6), to acquire the “likeness” of God (Gen. 1:27), to be “partakers of the divine nature” (II Peter 1:4).  Those who have acquired the likeness of God in this life, through self-denial and love for God and neighbor, who are so full of the uncreated Grace of God that it overflows from their lives into the lives of others, manifesting in wonders and miracles – these are the Orthodox saints.

These kinds of theological differences reveal themselves in various ways within the world.  . . .

The rest is at


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð, unworthy though we are!

Anathema to the Union!

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