At The Edge of Tradition – More Notes from the Edge

15There are many things that we see in our lives to which the word “traditional” may be attached. It can refer to a style of dress or an understanding of relationships. In Church it may refer to the use of certain kinds of music or a sytle of worship. Many years ago, pastoring my first parish as an Episcopal priest, I had a young couple who were Roman Catholics, who had come to the Church as inquirers. One of their first statements and complaints to me was that the service in my parish was not “traditional” enough. I was slightly puzzled. My eleven o’clock service was a choral Eucharist, about as traditionally “high church” as Anglicans get. I was also aware that the surrounding Catholic Churches were all pretty contemporary in their worship. I should add that the couple was in their early twenties.

They explained away my confusion. By “traditional” they meant: “where are the guitars?” “In the eye of the beholder,” is all I could think.

The same can be said of the contemporary use of the word “traditional” or other phrases such as “ancient,” etc. I know there are experiments out there to bring a more “traditional” style of worship into Evangelicalism (and here “traditional” means, I believe, “liturgical”). In many places an increased emphasis on the Eucharist as the primary service of worship on Sundays is also part of the package.

On the one hand, these efforts can hardly be faulted from an Orthodox point of view. The more people explore the “tradition,” the more likely they are to confront the faith – which was, after all, “once and for all ‘traditioned’ to the saints,” for that is the meaning of Jude 1:3. But on the other hand, there is a danger in confusing the outward trappings of “tradition” with “Tradition” itself. For what was once and for all delivered to the saints, was not so much questions of liturgy and incense (although all of these ritual and liturgical elements of Orthodoxy do carry with them the content of Tradition – they are not electives), rather the faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints was and is indeed the content of the faith – the living union between the true and living God and man. That faith truly reveals to us and makes accessible to us the true and living God, and it also reveals to us and makes accessible what it is to be a truly living human being. The content of the Christian faith, the living Tradition, is the truth of both God and man, and the truth of our salvation through union with God in Christ.

The content of the Tradition is not a set of ideas – but a reality – God with us.

And this is the problem that always accompanies attempts to reach that reality through reform. It is not our reformation that is the problem in the first place. We cannot reform ourselves into union with Christ. We can submit ourselves to union with Christ and not much else. We can cooperate with union with Christ.

Invariably, the great stumbling block faced by various attempts to “recreate” or “rediscover” the “early Church,” is that the “early Church,” is not an historical reality. It is a present reality – not simply as the “early Church” (this is not a Biblical phrase anyway). The present reality is the same as the “early Church”: it is the Body of Christ, the Pillar and Ground of Truth, the true and living Way. It never ceased nor was overcome by the gates of Hell. It has lived and thrived in enough places to have picked up many languages, many customs, but always the same faith.

This always comes as a stumbling block, I believe, because the existence of the Orthodox Church stands as a stark witness to the True and Living God – not the idea of a God – but God. In my own conversion, I was utterly shocked by this fact. I had read about Orthodoxy for years. I agreed with it for years. I would have even readily agreed for years to everything the Orthodox Church said of itself, and yet I remained outside. When, at last, my family and I were actually received into the Church, I was staggered by the reality of God. I know that sounds strange (since I had been an ordained Anglican priest for 18 years prior to that) but such was the case. There was no longer any question about discussing God, or refining the tradition, or even debating how all of it was to be applied. I was now in the thick of things and God was reigning down in canon, text, Bishop, sacrament, penance, sight, sound, rubrics (which I could not begin to fathom at first) – everything!

Thus, I surprised friends constantly in my first year or so of Orthodoxy when they asked me what was the most important thing about my conversion. My constant reply (to this day) was: the existence of God.

This, somehow, is the content that sets the Tradition apart from all discussions of appropriating tradition, etc. You do not appropriate something whose content is God. You are Baptized into it. You are Chrismated into it. You are absolved for ever having lived apart from it. You are fed it on a spoon. You are splashed with it. But you cannot appropriate it. To paraphrase: Your life’s to small to appropriate God.

Thus many in our time stand at the edge of Tradition. I have written that it is all really about Being – and it is. Thus it is worth going over the edge, to cross from thinking about God, to being plunged into the heart of it all. Frighteningly, it will come complete with Bishops whom you like and whom you despise – with stories of contemporary saints – and encounters with contemporary sinners. No different than this living Tradition in any other century. No different than this living Tradition in any other century. No different than this living Tradition in any other century. What else can a man do?

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.





59 responses to “At The Edge of Tradition – More Notes from the Edge”

  1. fatherstephen Avatar

    Photo: Patriarch Kyrill of Moscow and Metropolitan Jonah of All America and Canada. They are pictured together in Moscow this past Spring. I am with Met. Jonah this week in Atlanta, GA.

  2. asiaticus Avatar

    “The content of the Tradition is not a set of ideas – but a reality – God with us.”

    strong food-thought. Immanuel-God with us. Revelation of the Son confirmed in the constant dwelling of the Spirit over and in the Church. Something of which Rome is deprived. Reading something like that in Fr Dumitru Staniloae “Theology and the Church”.

    and this is so to the point:

    “This, somehow, is the content that sets the Tradition apart from all discussions of appropriating tradition, etc. You do not appropriate something whose content is God. You are Baptized into it. You are Chrismated into it. You are absolved for ever having lived apart from it. You are fed it on a spoon. You are splashed with it. But you cannot appropriate it. To paraphrase: Your life’s to small to appropriate God.”

    Some like Richard de St-Victor, Aquinas and the Schoolmen have vainly tried to appropriate Tradition by subordinating it to the scrutiny of our fallen reason and to equally faillible philosophical systems.

    The content of Tradition is God.

    Thanks for these sobering thoughts.

  3. marsha Avatar

    Perhaps you could collect some blog posts into another book titled “Notes From The Edge?”

    We cannot reform ourselves into union with Christ. We can submit ourselves to union with Christ and not much else.

    Thanks for that reminder. I need it.

  4. Stephen Avatar

    The second to last sentence is repeated three times in this post. I am guessing this is not a poetic device of some sort? Are not certain things repeated three times in some Hebrew poetry to drive a point home?

  5. John Avatar

    How does the Orthodox teaching on church tradition differ from the Jews tradition/oral law, which was condemned by Jesus? You are aware of the Matthew 15 text: He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? (Matthew 15:3 NKJV)

  6. fatherstephen Avatar

    The content of Tradition in Orthodox Christianity is nothing other than the living presence of the Spirit. Protestants always quote Matt. 15, but do not know the Scripture. Try reading 2 Thess. 2:15 “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.”

    Do a word study on the Greek paradosis or paradidomi which is the word correctly translated “tradition” to “hand over or hand down”. The New Testament itself is Tradition. I did not write it – it was handed down to me by the Apostles of the Church.

    St. Paul uses the word for tradition when he says, “That which I received I also delivered (traditioned) unto you, how that our Lord Jesus Christ, in the night in which He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks and broken it, said, “Take, eat, This is my body…” etc.

    This, it seems to me differs greatly from the “traditions” that Jesus condemned.

    However, the Protestant hermeneutic, forged in the 16th century battles with the Roman Catholic Church, placed blinders on itself and does not see many parts of Scripture. The New Testament teaching on Tradition is just such a blind spot.

  7. Jesse Avatar

    That last comment answers a question I’ve had for a while – thanks.

  8. Meskerem Avatar

    Amen Father, this hits a lot of points for me. My favorite;

    “… I believe, because the existence of the Orthodox Church stands as a stark witness to the True and Living God – not the idea of a God – but God…”

  9. Karl Avatar

    Iam both drawn toward Orthodoxy and repelled from it by Tradition. I ahve tired of the Protestant need to figure everything out for myself. Protestant Christianity is a buffet of young traditions and my time at an evangelical seminary put it under a brighter light. Just about every class was taught from the view of another denomination and just about every doctrine was optional. It was up to each of us to decide “with the help of the holy spirit” what was right. No matter that the Holy Spirit apparently led many of us in different directions. I find it humorous that many even used the language “the tradition that I come from” when discussing differences in class. I like that in orthodoxy I would be able to set that all aside and accept the tradition handed down from the apostles and that I can trust hat this is the most ancient of Christian traditions.
    Yet at the same time when and where does this tradition end? For instance does the metropolitan have to look like an emperor? Is that apostolic? Things have developed that can’t be denied. Do we really just accept it all because the church as a whole has historically accepted it? Does that mean that the Holy Spirit brought about? How do we know going forward if the church is still following the Spirit? For evangelicals scripture is the guide but a lot of good that has done.
    I listened to an interview with Met. Jonah today and was very encouraged and inspired by him but he also sounded a bit like a reformer.
    I am stepping closer to the edge momet by moment.

  10. Matthew Redard Avatar
    Matthew Redard

    And brother Gregory to the left and behind His Beatitude!

  11. fatherstephen Avatar


    If Metropolitan Jonah is a reformer, it is a reformation of the heart and a constantly pointing us to Christ. I’ve spent a fair amount of time with him and would not describe him as a reformer in a theological or liturgical sense. He’s quite Russian in most of his practice (that’s sort of an “inside” Orthodox observation, forgive me) and a true monastic.

    The nature and character of Orthodoxy is especially to be found in its ecclesiology that requires a mutual submission and love – a communion of heart and mind. That this communion has existed across 2 millennia, and its many cultures and empires is, I think, an example of a living tradition. There certainly are things (such as the development of vestments, etc.) that have their place in history. They are more than remnants of past cultures, though. The ability to identify a priest as a priest (wearing a cassock, etc.) is important, I believe. That is a conclusion from my experience. The vesting for liturgy also has a very important place. It is certainly true that these things could be done differently – but what they achieve spiritually would still need to be done in some way. Like language. We could use any number of languages, but you can’t just make one up.

  12. fatherstephen Avatar


    He has a wonderful, quiet presence!

  13. John Avatar

    How could the tradition in 2 Thessalonians 2 refer to material that had not at that time been taught? The text refers to tradition that had been taught. Would not this be the teaching of the apostles and other inspired writers of the New Testament? Should not the 1 Corinthians 11 passage be understood in the same manner? How could these two passages have anything whatsoever to do with writings that were yet in the future? How are they relevant to a discussion of church tradition after the close of the New Testament?

  14. Yudhie Avatar

    “Thus it is worth going over the edge, to cross from thinking about God, to being plunged into the heart of it all” Amen!

    Thanks Father for sharing this powerful testimony. Indeed, Glory to God!

    Father bless,


  15. Ryan McNamara Avatar
    Ryan McNamara

    We appreciate your comments, but disagree. Matthew 15 happens to be the Gospel reading of the day! Father Stephen can do a much better job than I can though at explaining the difference between the (t)raditions of men and the (T)radition of the Church. Wonderful article, Father!

  16. fatherstephen Avatar

    In the writings beyond the NT such as the Apostolic Fathers, they continued to view Tradition as the NT viewed Tradition. You are assuming that the Apostles had a Protestant view of the Bible, which they did not. It’s a mistake to read the 16th century back into the first. Read their context instead of imposing assumptions about the “Bible” on the New Testament and early Church. The Orthodox, who are the same people whom God used to give us the canon of Scripture in the first place, still remember how they have always read Scripture. They are not a modern movement but simply the same continuous Church that uses Scripture in the same continuous way.

    St. Basil, writing in the 4th century, spoke quite specifically about unwritten Apostolic Tradition and held it to be authoritative (as did the rest of the Church). He cited the sign of the cross as an example. He used it as an example of something about which there would have been no argument. There are many other such things.

    I would suggest Fr. John Behr’s book on The Mystery of Christ, in which he looks at the writings of St. Irenaeus (2nd century). In Irenaeus’ treatment of Scripture and the role of the “Apostolic Hypothesis” (which is essentially something like an outline of the faith – but in the form of a Tradition) he makes it clear that only the use of the Apostolic Tradition makes it possible to read Scripture correctly and that it is what separates the Orthodox reading of the Word from that of heretics.

    There are a number of examples in the NT that represent fragments of early “Creeds” generally that would have been used at Baptism and for the teaching of the faith. The opening verses of 1 Corinthians 15 are just such an example. It too uses the formula, “What I received I delivered (traditioned)” and St. Paul recounts the most primitive recitation of the resurrection. But it begins with a creedal form.

    Of course, since many Protestants do not have a creed, they wouldn’t recognize one even when it occurs in Scripture. It is like many things. Having separated themselves from Holy Tradition, they do not see things that are obvious and they think they see other things that are not there.

    Everyone reads through some sort of Tradition. Evangelicals have a tradition, they just don’t call it that. There is some “teacher” whom various people follow, and they see his matrix of thought in the pages of Scripture. But such matrixes are without authority and do not represent the apostolic deposit of faith – only various systems invented by men. Fortunately, the text of Scripture itself can help prevent some errors – though not all. The Arians quoted Scripture, as did all the early heretics. The Apostolic Tradition, including proper historic succession in ordination, teaching and communion, was one of those marks looked for in the early Church.

    The Christian Church is not something to be reinvented. It is the gift of God. It is not the following of a book, though we believe the Scriptures to be the Word of God. But it is of the Church that Scripture says it is the “pillar and ground of truth.” There are other such statements. The exaltation of Scripture as something apart from and over the Church is itself, not Scriptural. They are not separate. The Epistles are letters to the Church, while St. Paul says that the Corinthians are “my epistle, written on the fleshy tables of the heart.”

    Those who actually knew the Apostles treated Tradition in the same manner in which the Orthodox Church does. That seems sufficient explanation.

  17. […] I do like that phrase, coining the present as “at the edge of Tradition.” […]

  18. […] I do like that phrase, coining the present as “at the edge of Tradition.” […]

  19. David Avatar

    For myself, I speak in a very limited experience. There appear to me only two paths for a Protestant unlearning sola scriptura. I was not strong enough to follow the better path. But I would say that considering yourself an agnostic (knowing nothing of God and having no opinion) and attending Orthodox services to “get to know” God by experience, I believe would be the best way.

    For me, I was left noodling around in ancient texts armed with the wrong tools. I had to dig in the dust (that’s what these texts were to me when I started) until I had no choice but to confront the people behind the texts. When I did that I found I could not stand to gaze on my Bible any longer knowing that I only took those who compiled, authorized and preserved the Bible half at their word.

    They gathered those texts and said, “these agree with Tradition” and so called them canon. How can I look at the canon and say it meant something other than what it was chosen for meaning?

    This is a lesser way for all the obvious reasons, but there are some secret reasons it is also lesser. Those are between my spiritual father and myself.

  20. John Avatar

    Thank you for your response. Respectfully, I am not assuming anything. I am simply attempting to read the text with an open mind, seeking truth.

    To quote the patristics from the 300’s, or even the 100’s, is irrelevant. It would seem to be begging the question. Is there a passage in the NT that authorizes using teaching beyond the NT as authoritative? Can it be shown, from the NT, that the tradition to which it refers is something beyond NT texts?

    What is your understanding of “perfect/complete” in 2 Timothy 3.17? What is your understanding of “once for all” in Jude 3?

    Thank you.

  21. dale Avatar

    Father Bless! (and forgive if I speak in error)

    John’s comments ring very close to my experience for years. It was how I discounted the Roman Catholics for years (sadly I didn’t know enough of Orthodoxy to even bother discounting it). For the life of me I could not understand why so many people would follow rules and rituals that were not part of the early church (to me this meant explicitly described in the new testament). Only once I started really wrestling with what Truth was, after realizing every denomination I had been part of disagreed on many of the fundamental issues, did I start looking at the early church fathers to get their opinion. What I realized is that the church fathers never added anything to the faith, although they did add certain “tools” to help with the preservation of the original faith such as creeds, expounded liturgies new styles of vestments etc. These are helpful tools for those trying to grow in Christ not anything to change the faith they preach.

    What really hit me was the realization that the major writings always seemed in reponse to an change in the faith. the creeds were to correct from a new heresy, fathers wrote of the sacrament of baptism when some church tried to alter their practice etc. following this line it can be relatively safely assumed that if the early church fathers didn’t write extensively about a subject it was because it was already agreed upon by all and did not require restatement. This is likely why many issues are not clearly written in the new testament because it was simply the faith taught by the apostles.

    what i am trying to say, not very eloquently, is that the faith of the fathers in 100 and 300 is what the new testament speaks of because the fathers only taught the faith that was taught by Peter, Paul, James i.e. the life of Christ.

    If this is completely incoherent and unhelpful, please feel free to remove it, Father Stephen but I felt compelled to add my voice as I feel empathy for the struggle John is going through. It was a difficult struggle being a protestant seeking the Truth of Orthodoxy but attempting to hold on to my protestantism. The peace that can be found once stepping over the edge into Orthodoxy has finally felt like I found home.

    Lord have mercy!

  22. Evan Avatar


    I don’t know if this will help, but the interpretation of scripture by individuals will only lead to debate and conflict, silly when you think about it ie using my current understanding and 21st century worldview to interpret a text written over nearly two millenia ago in a hellenistic cultural mileu, and in an other lanugage and on my own expect ot get it right from a translation, this is nigh impossible. I peronally think its a dead end just look at the thousands of Protestant groups which now exist many of which believe they and only them correctly interpret scripture.

  23. Wonders for Oyarsa Avatar

    Hi John,

    Two questions that may (or may not) be helpful:

    1. Why, for you, is the New Testament authoritative?

    2. The churches in the first century did not have the New Testament. Some of them may have had some of the canonical epistles (plus many others), but none of them likely had the New Testament as they had it. Where do you suppose these churches looked for guidance on matters where you look to the New Testament?

  24. fatherstephen Avatar


    First, I’m not sure there is anything in the NT that “authorizes” the NT. It’s authorization, if you will, is itself an Apostolic Tradition. When the NT says Scripture, it clearly means the OT. But the Church understands the NT as Scripture and authoritative. But you cannot posit the NT as prior to the Church. The verse from 2 Thessalonians, clearly sees a function for Tradition, and there is no reason to read that (from the text) that assumes that these “traditions” are somehow superceded by a text that is yet to come. They are traditions (of word or epistle).

    2 Timothy is clearly a reference to the OT – the NT does not come to be described as “Scripture” until well into the 2nd century (not that its authority is weakened by that). I think perfect and complete refer to spiritual maturity and not to any sense that “now you have all the information you need there will be no use for tradition.”

    The notion of the “complete” NT is a very modern idea – an interpretation put forward within fundamentalist protestantism that is simply novel in the Christian interpretation of Scripture. Thus in 1 Corinthians 13 “when that which is perfect shall come” clearly refers to the fulfillment of the eschaton, not the completion of the NT.

    In Jude, once and for all, is the Apostolic deposit of faith, which certainly includes Scripture, but is also the whole life of the Church, including its Tradition (which is not an addition of later information). The doctrine of the Trinity, for instance, is not a development, but a vocalization of what the Church always believed and of the Apostolic foundation, even if the Apostles would not have put it in terms of ousia and hypostasis (just to use an example).

    Vestments and many things about the services are not necessarily thought of as “Tradition” in Orthodoxy. Tradition is the indwelling of the Church by the same Spirit that “raised Christ from the dead,” the “Spirit that leads us into all Truth.” There could be no reading of the Scripture and discernment of its meaning without that Spirit. Tradition is a way we describe the fact that we have the same faith that the Apostles have – and not simply a love a antiquity.

    We would say that Jude 3 refers to the “faith” once and for all delivered. The “faith” generally is not used in the NT as a synonym for Scripture but is indeed the deposit of the faith (which Jude indeed mentions in 17 and 18 of that “spoken” by the Apostles (which is certainly echoed particularly in St. Paul’s pastoral epistles). But there is no evidence that the readers of Jude would as yet have any knowledge of the letters to Timothy and Titus. But they, as did all the Churches, knew the words of the Apostles, which, of course, agree with the writings of the Apostles. That faith was once and for all delivered to the saints (the Church). It was not laying around to be reinvented in the 16th century or in later centuries, but is the one faith, the same faith, which has been preserved in the Orthodox Church (from whom came the martyrs, the fathers, and the single living witness of the Apostles). In the modern world they contributed more martyrs for the faith than in all centuries prior (added together). It’s saints do indeed earnestly contend for the faith and continue to hold fast to that which was once and for all delivered to them. That faith has not been changed nor altered. This cannot be said for Protestant Churches, unfortunately. Many engage in practices unknown as little as 40 years ago or even still more recent. Its theology is a constant moving target reflecting cultural winds and various theological “movements.”

    The letters of the NT, interestingly, with the sole exception of the letter to Rome (which, interestingly was in Greek like the other letters) were written to Churches’ whose address is still an Orthodox Church. Of course they are written to the whole Church – but who can claim to be in communion with those Churches and to share in the same Apostolic life which was and is theirs?

    But no where do any of the Apostles sit down to write a complete treatise on the Christian faith. They write letters very often for very specific purposes. It is the Apostolic Deposit, their “word” to the Churches, that gives us the matrix for reading their writings and interpreting them correctly.

    Forgive me if my tone is too argumentative. I am at a Church assembly this week and only have a limited time to read and respond for the blog. Brevity sometimes is the enemy of kindness – your questions are important, even classical in their form. And they are certainly worthy of conversation.

  25. dale Avatar

    Father Bless,

    you are much more eloquent than I.

    This whole issue was for me a huge struggle on my journey to Orthodoxy but once the protestant blinders fell away it seems as though it should have been so obvious. All other issues come into context once you realize that it is okay to trust the Church. I spent so many years in churches saying,” it is a good church except I disagree with this this and this”. Now I can say “it is a great Church but I do not yet fully understand this this and this.” and I can honestly say I leave Divine Liturgy with joy and anticipation that God is patiently working out my salvation and allowing my participation. As in Narnia I continue further up and further in and sometimes I wish I were not so out of shape.

  26. John Avatar

    Thank you for your detailed response.

    I am not positing the NT as prior to the church. The church was established in Acts 2.

    2 Timothy 3 – v 15 is surely the OT. V 16 surely could include the developing NT. Note ‘the Holy Scriptures’ vs ‘all/every Scripture.’ Is all/every of 16 limited to the reference in 15? I’m not so sure that it is. Also, if Scripture of v 16 excludes the NT, then it would appear that one could be ‘complete’ and practice ‘every good work’ (v 17) apart from the NT and apart from Christ, who is revealed in the NT. Why could v 16 not be a reference inclusive of the NT before the second century?

    It seems that the way you are interpreting indwelling of the Spirit comes pretty close to claiming inspiration for the patristics, a claim which I believe you are unwilling to make.

    Jude 3 – While in the vast majority of cases in the NT ‘faith’ means belief producing obedience (I imagine we would agree on that), I have always understood the Jude 3 reference to mean the gospel system of salvation by an obedient faith. You and I have somewhat different backgrounds, in that you’re Catholic and I’m not, so I’m not sure I’m hearing accurately what you are saying relative to your understanding of ‘the faith’ here. For instance, I am uncertain of exactly what you mean by ‘Apostolic Deposit.’ It seems that you are assuming that ‘the faith’ would include later tradition. I have yet to see any evidence from the NT text that later tradition should be accepted as authoritative. The fact that some of the patristics may have taught that is not sufficient proof. There must be a NT passage that demonstrates that what the NT meant by tradition was more than the teaching of the Apostles and the developing NT text.

    If you wish to continue our discussion by private email, you have my address from when I registered for comments. Either way is fine with me, it is your call. Thanks.

  27. Greg Avatar

    john: the Church reads the Old Testament with Christologic lenses first and foremost. This is what Christ revealed to the Apostles in the light of his crucifixion. The scriptures are scriptures because the bear witness to Him. When I ‘got’ that, it was a defining moment in understanding not just the modern Orthodox Church but early Christianity as well.

    The other thing to bear in mind: the Church was indwelt by the Spirit:. In this sense I understand all true theology to be inspired.

  28. George Patsourakos Avatar

    I believe that tradition in the Eastern Orthodox Church is of much more importance than it is in the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches. The fact that Orthodox Church services tend to be much longer than Catholic and Protestant services indicates that the Orthodox Church will not skip or minimize any part of the liturgical tradition that dates back to the time that Christ established His Church.

  29. fatherstephen Avatar


    On our backgrounds – I am a former Protestant so that I am familiar with a good bit of what you are saying (though I think our Protestant experiences are different). I am not a Roman Catholic, but Eastern Orthodox which has not been in communion with Rome for over a thousand years and has a very different history and understanding of many things. I would like to continue the conversation, though I’ll probably have to take it up next week.

  30. fatherstephen Avatar


    Yes, indeed. For Orthodox, Tradition especially means the continued living experience (not in the “California” sense of the word) of the life of Christ in the Church. Little changes because it is this Life that saves us. Many churches, including Rome, have mistakenly allowed modern culture to be a major factor in their worship life and in their spiritual discipline – something which introduces the poison of secularism into the life of the Christian. We are born into secularism by just being in modern culture. It is particularly inimical to the Christian life, I think. The articles I have written on the “One-Storey Universe” address this particularly.

  31. Benjamin Avatar

    Thought – provoking conversation. Fr. Stephen and John, please keep this conversation going on the blog so that we may all benefit.

    First: To be fair, the majority of Evangelical Protestants would not interpret 1 Corinthians 13 in the manner described above. (Certainly, some in the past have said this refers to the canon). Most, however, would agree with Fr. Stephen’s exegesis.

    Second: I believe I find myself in the same boat as Karl above, and I do not feel that his concerns have been adequately addressed. (Perhaps I simply missed the response.)

    Regarding “Traditional” practices of the church – “It is certainly true that these things could be done differently – but what they achieve spiritually would still need to be done in some way.”

    And later on – “Vestments and many things about the services are not necessarily thought of as “Tradition” in Orthodoxy. Tradition is the indwelling of the Church by the same Spirit that “raised Christ from the dead,” the “Spirit that leads us into all Truth.” There could be no reading of the Scripture and discernment of its meaning without that Spirit. Tradition is a way we describe the fact that we have the same faith that the Apostles have – and not simply a love a antiquity.”

    So, where is the line then between the Tradition and “traditional” practices that seem historically and culturally constrained? How does the incarnation inform praxis at this point? Christ entered into the culture to announce gospel and was not stained by the “poisons of secularism.” Should not the church (as the “body” of Christ) do the same?

    ***Be it noted that I have not yet read the “One-Story” articles yet. I go to do that now. Thank you Fr. Stephen for your blog and for humbly entertaining these questions from searching Protestants.

  32. […] This post, without any shadow of a doubt, really and truly describes the reality of the Faith. Granted, Father is talking about the Orthodox Church.  I would of course like to (and do) say that the Catholic Church also represents this reality, but there has been such a radical Hermeneutic of Discontinuity within our faith (mainly as a result of the “Spirit of Vatican II”, and not because of it) that I might have some doubts.  Now Catholics (some educated at Harvard Divinity School, perhaps) are trying laying claim to God and Divine mandate, like Protestants, without giving the least respect to Tradition-Bishops, doctrine, or any of those things that really make one Catholic.  We’ve abandoned the culture that encourages prayers of intercession to the Saints, or rosaries, or novenas, or visits to the Blessed Sacrament because a “modern American Catholic” is “too cultivated” to indulge in such acts of “18th Century religiosity.”  And what do they have to fear?  Its not like Hell, for these people, really exists.  I question whether God does as well (or whether God is the name they give to justify their social liberalism and acts of “justice”). […]

  33. Jesse Avatar

    I believe what originally led me to Orthodoxy (and I’m not there yet, not quite) and Tradition was realizing that the New Testament, to which I had attributed ALL
    authority, was itself a product of tradition. When I realized that the NT was finalized by the same people I had been raised to believe were in “apostasy” by about the time of Constantine, I was forced to make the choice of saying that the NT was a relatively worthless document (like much of contemporary biblical criticism) or of accepting a greater role for tradition. One could, of course, say that the NT document was the culmination and end of the Holy Spirit’s work, but that struck me as being blasphemous (what a relief after learning some more about Orthodoxy to realize that the Holy Spirit could still be alive and powerfully active in the Church!). After accepting that tradition should still be a part of the Christian’s life, it didn’t take long to realize that Baptists, Methodists, Lutherans, Anglicans, and even Roman Catholics didn’t have any more claim to it than the church of Christ did (yes, I’m from the church of Christ as well, John). Thank God that the Orthodox church was slowly entering into the picture, in a variety of ways (that I just now realized might be the work of grace). That is my journey, in a very very small nutshell.

  34. John Avatar

    Jesse: I am not having this discussion because I am considering converting. You need to remain in the church of Christ. Our goal is to restore Christianity as practiced in the NT. I think we have the framework correct. One always needs to work on improving their individual Christian life.

    I have yet to see anything offered which would justify human tradition beyond the NT. If this line of tradition were correct, the danger would be that once a divergence from the NT occurred – there would be no end to it. Should we trust our spiritual lives to a succession of men, or directly to God’s word? If this line of tradition is required, what about those who became Christians in Acts? Did they not know what they were doing?

    I hope to continue this discussion, and I will be the picture of courtesy. But, my intention is to lead a pursuit of truth for us all, and this intention should not be misread. May we all humbly bow before God, and Him only, as we seek to hear, believe, and obey His word.

  35. Alex Avatar


    God’s Word is not a book. It is a person – a man. He dwells in Christians, and they in Him. He, the Truth, the Way, and the Life, is a man, not a book. So yes, if you wish to follow Him, you must follow those in whom He dwells.

    The Christians in Acts had an idea of what they were doing – but did they not also hold council to resolve certain disputes not fully understood? What makes you think that nothing could possibly ever come up after the 1st council which would not need to be resolved?

    And what do you think that the Apostles at the Council of Jerusalem referenced? Do you think that they all sat around saying, man, too bad the NT hasn’t been written yet? Preposterous! They were guided by the Spirit of God. Do you think that this Spirit suddenly departed after the NT was completed? If so, then I have some bad news for you – you, and all the rest of us are doomed. After all, the NT does not present itself as its own canon – only the Church can do that, and it has.

    However, the Lord keeps His promise, and He has sent us the Comforter. Regarding your question about inspired ‘patristics’, do you think that the Fathers of the Church are given a different Holy Spirit than the writers of the NT?

    I would encourage you to investigate where the NT that you have so much respect for came from. The only reason that you can even speak of something called the New Testament, as a book, is that the Orthodox Church said so in council, many years after the Apostles fell asleep.

    Therefore, your statement about ‘restoring Christianity as practiced in the NT’ cuts off the branch on which it is sitting – since you assert that the Church which wrote and compiled the NT was in and of itself in spiritual darkness. What evidence outside of the NT do you have that New Testament Christianity is any different that what we claim it is?

  36. Karen Avatar

    Dear Father, bless!

    Alex, very good points. Given John’s last post where he is quite clear about his intentions, we are perhaps beating a dead horse here, though. Truth, wherever it is found, can perhaps only be recognized as such by “those who have ears to hear.” Even Jesus when He came in the flesh was not recognized by those most zealously searching the Scriptures (but with the wrong presuppositions and in prideful intent), because they erroneously thought they already knew the truth. Their false presuppositions blinded them to Christ in the flesh in His historic Incarnation as Man on earth, though He was their God, the very Word of God incarnate. Clearly, they had a different idea of “God” from their take on the Scriptures (a false “God” it would seem), so they didn’t recognize Him when He appeared among them. It seems to me, many are still blinded for similar reasons to His continuing Presence on earth in His Body (in faithfulness to His promise in Matthew that the gates of Hell would not prevail against this His Church), which has to be, by definition (if NT patterns are truly being followed), a tangible, historically identifiable community of believers having a discernible organic sacramental and dogmatic continuity from the first century on. The “Church of Christ” and related offshoots is a very recent religious affiliation tracing back to Campbellite (human) traditions. A close relative of mine spent more than twelve years in the “Boston Movement” with its cult-like pathological controlling culture (so alien to the Spirt of God, which is love), so I know a little of how destructive misguided zeal can become.

  37. Karen Avatar

    Forgive me. I should have clarified in my last post that the “Boston Movement” is an attempt at reform from within of the Church of Christ, hence another offshoot. Also, I mean no disrespect by my comments to any Christians who are not at this point Orthodox. When I was Protestant and Evangelical, I acted for many years out of prejudice and ignorance and rejected Orthodoxy without ever giving it a fair investigation (thinking of it as an Eastern version of Roman Catholicism). I was misinformed and I was ignorant, but I was also a sincere follower of Christ, and God had mercy on me. We are all, Orthodox or not, sinners being saved by the mercy and grace of God as we trust Christ as best we know to do.

  38. Darla Avatar

    Karen, thank you for your posts. We have some friends “concerned” about our conversion to Orthodoxy (which is just beginning, our conversion that is) and their past experience is with neighbors who were church of Christ. I hadn’t known what the stance of that denomination was and this thread helped clarify that.

  39. Stephen Avatar

    Thank you Alex and Karen, very good points. Succinct and to the point. I am always looking for different ways to explain things to family and friends who do not hold the Orthodox view of Scripture. I actually don’t know to many Protestants today that hold so tightly to the scripture that they believe that we should go back to the new testament times and that everything was perfect. Most I assume and suspect would believe that the Holy Spirit has guided the universal church through the ages and one can simply turn to the scriptures to find any answer to any problem. So the question becomes ;what has the Holy Spirit been doing all these years? If it was just about a logical argument, I believe Orthodoxy has a better explanation of Scripture and tradition, than any other that I have heard. It is coherent and for good reason, it is true. But ultimately Alex is right in that the Word is a person- Jesus Christ- and we can know this person in ways that transcend any book. He can be written in our hearts!

  40. J.D. Avatar

    I have spent over 60 years in the Church of Christ and was blessed in many ways and in other ways saw behavior that was embarrassing. But no one group has a monopoly on that. I converted about two months ago after four years of absorbing the ancient faith in many ways.
    One of the subtle things I realized regarding the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 was the obvious decision made regarding the Gentiles. The OT is chocked full of the notion that the Gentiles would one day be drawn in. It took the leadership of the church devoid of scripture to decide, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, what would be the best way to achieve this to the glory of God and to grace the church and bless the “nations”. When you get over to Acts 16 it says in essence they went town to town delivering this decision (dogma) with obvious authority. The description is not additional scripture it is simply the end game of the church extolling through its authority how this should happen.

    The Church of Christ has a lot of great people who love the Lord, but they got eaten up and eaten by western rationalization.

    God bless them all and God bless those of you who are on the journey from Churches of Christ. When you go from trying to “figure it all out” mentally, to wanting to be in holy communion with God and experiencing what truly is Holy Communion, you will never regret entering the journey to full maturation (theosis).

  41. Patrick Avatar


    You are quite clever at avoiding questions put to you while continuing with a line of questioning that stem from false presuppositions. Since you clearly come from a mindset that says “everything must be in the scriptures and if it isn’t in the scripture either implicitly or explicitly then it isn’t true” i.e. Sola Scriptura, then answer:

    1) Where does the NT claim this authority for itself? If you’re so convinced that NT has to qualify everything, why doesn’t it come out and make it clear that the NT writings are the final and only authority for the individual christian? Everything for you about the life of the Christian has to be in the scriptures alone yet the scriptures themselves do not say this. However, the scriptures do give the Church this authority.

    2) How do you trust the NT in the first place since it was canonized by the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church (which you consider false and apostate) in council almost 400 years after the start of the Church?

    3) How did people learn the faith and become christians without a formal NT to guide them during the 400 years when there was no formal NT? Even once the NT was finalized, how did average Christians get their hands on one since there was no printing press but had to be hand copied making them expensive.

    4) How is it that you follow the “tradition” of the “Church of Christ” yet reject tradition? Doesn’t the “Church of Christ” have a specific way of conducting church service every Sunday, a specific way you have of doing things, a specific order to follow every Sunday morning? Isn’t there a specific place where the pulpit sits and a specific time the sermon begins? Where does the NT give you specific directions of how to conduct your Sunday morning worship? It doesn’t. Therfore, doesn’t the “Church of Christ” have it’s own “tradition?” Did the Apostles pass on this unwritten tradition to you? Tell me, which “Church of Christ” father was around in the first century that has passed on the tradition to which you now hold? Or does the “Church of Christ” start over brand new every Sunday morning so as not to be seen as holding to tradition?

    Please, I would like to know.

  42. S.M. Avatar


    This is an important discussion to continue, but I would also recommend reading Fr. Peter Gillquist’s book Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith. (Ben Lomond: Conciliar Press, 1992). He began life as a Protestant, and with a group of other seekers went on a quest to recreate the ancient Christian church as practiced in the NT. He ended up with Orthodoxy, and explains how and why, Biblically, step by step. Check it out, it may provide some NT answers you didn’t know you were looking for.

    Fr. Stephen,

    Your blog continues to inspire me and provide answers I need. Thank you, and God bless.

  43. John Avatar

    I am heading out the door for the three-hour drive to Montgomery to help my oldest son move from his apartment into his first house. Since he is moving, I am not sure what the internet status will be. I appreciate your input regarding my comments and plan to comment further, but it may be a few days, perhaps Wednesday, before I do so. I have made a very brief post at my blog, if you want to look at it, relative to our comments.

    Have a good weekend.

  44. Darlene Avatar

    While I have never been a member of a Churches of Christ, I was once a member of a Christian sect that claimed the true interpretation of the Scriptures had been revealed to them. Hence, the name “The Church of Bible Understanding.”

    We separated ourselves from other Christians labeling them as the Church of Laodicea. The leader of this sect claimed he could “only have fellowship with the Apostles.” Those who left the sect were issued stern warnings that their souls were in jeopardy. If one joined another church they were told that they were “playing games” or “playing church.” Eventually the teachings became so twisted that even those who remained in the sect were told they were going to hell. The manner of worship (if one could call it that), or a better term would be “gathering together” would consist of people sitting on the floor cross-legged for hours, while group members would confess the wickedness of their deeds, how they had fallen short, and how unworthy of God’s love they were.

    I will not go into detail about the mental and emotional abuse that occurred there. The toxicity of the group was to such an extent that many who left gave up on the Christian faith altogether.

    The modus operandi of this sect (which eventually became a full-blown cult), was to claim they had the true method of interpreting the Holy Scriptures. From their point of view, the churches/church Christians were blind, for the most part. One of the tracts began by saying, “We are into what the churches should be doing but aren’t.” Self-righteousness abounded and the love of Christ was spoken of very little.

    How can so many claim the Scriptures to be their only guide and yet arrive at such opposing views? This was a nagging question for me as I tried to understand what the Lord expected of me. I believe the answer to this question is connected to Apostolic Succession and Tradition. When a church/denomination cuts itself off from the Church that was given authority to canonize the Scriptures, to proclaim the true doctrines of the faith and oppose heresy, to assemble in ecumenical councils to authoritatively teach the Christian faith…then such a separation risks reinventing the faith. As churches reinvent themselves (seems to be with an alarming increase these days), they drift further away from the Apostolic faith.

    Sola Scriptura does not work in practice. However, I can only attribute the faithfulness of Christians outside of the Orthodox Church to the mercy and grace of God. As an Orthodox priest told me not too long ago when I asked about the salvation of those Christians outside of the Orthodox Church, “We do not know where the Church is not.”


  45. jmgregory Avatar

    Darlene, I’m glad to hear you made your way out the cultic group you describe above. Just to avoid confusion, the Church of Christ claims an authoritative interpretation of scripture, but for the vast majority of its members there is no cultic spiritual abuse like what you have described. If such things do occur, they are no more widespread than what might occur in any other religious group.

    For my part, the threads started to unravel when I began to look at the history of the Restoration Movement (from which come the Churches of Christ, the independent Christian Churches, and the Disciples of Christ). It is said that Alexander Campbell, one of the primary founders of the movement, carried a copy of John Locke with him in his saddlebags, next to his bible. As you might imagine, he believed that scripture should be read in a very rationalistic way. This has produced one of the core tenets of CofC belief, which is that all men are capable of reading the scriptures the same way when they apply their reason. If we can use reason to agree on the true meaning of scripture, we can unite the Christians from all of the denominations into the one Church of Christ. The only hinderances to this process are the existing traditions, creeds, and biases that men (and women) bring with them when they read. Thus, creeds and traditions must be rejected outright. This is sola scriptura par excellence.

    The problem with this framework as it has turned out in practice is that men do not and can not read the scriptures alike. It is not possible to read the “plain” meaning of scripture, because it is not possible avoid the coloring of our reading that comes from our own experience. It is interpretation “all the way down.” The postmoderns among us would say, “well, duh,” but I think the Orthodox do a little better than that in pointing out that our reason is just as much a part of our fallen nature as, for instance, our emotions. That is not to say that reason is useless, but in practice it fails to be authoritative. Even within the Church of Christ, there are the mainstream, the non-institutionals, the one-cup non-Sunday school crowd, the progressives, and so on. All claim an authoritative reading of scripture based on reason.

    The mainstream churches of Christ themselves have changed dramatically over the last century, though from what I can gather, we have no idea of it. A Church of Christ 125 years ago would have been non-institutional, non-Sunday school, and had one-cup communion. It’s women wouldn’t have dared show up without their heads covered, and only the elderly and infirm would have dared pray while sitting in a pew. Everyone else would have been generally on their knees when praying, or occasionally standing. There would have been no located salaried “minister”. The preacher would have varied from week to week or month to month, as preachers were itenerant and focused primarily on evangelism and church planting. All of these practices were considered “scriptural” and based on a rational reading of scripture, just as today, we base our NON-practice of them on a rational reading of scripture. Clearly, something is wrong with our basis of authority.

    Once you reject the authoritativeness of a rationalistic reading of scripture, where do you go? Where do you get your authority? I haven’t fully figured that out yet, and this comment is long enough as it is. Suffice it to say that I can see three basic options, represented by three groups: the Charismatics, the Emergents, and the Orthodox. The Orthodox are by far the most appealing, but not without a few problems. Perhaps I can say more about that at a later time.

  46. jmgregory Avatar

    (Regarding the fourth paragraph above, I left one out. Throughout Tennessee/North Alabama, and elsewhere, we were staunch pacifists. That position has all but disappeared now.)

  47. Sea of Sin Avatar

    “Once you reject the authoritativeness of a rationalistic reading of scripture, where do you go? Where do you get your authority? I haven’t fully figured that out yet”

    Notice the inconsistency? Your ability to figure it out remains the ultimate authority.

  48. jmgregory Avatar

    Great point, SoS. What I really meant by that is, “I haven’t made a decision, yet,” but I thank you for pointing out the way in which the language we use dictates how we think about things.

  49. David Avatar

    jmgregory makes the best point that could be made for someone like myself, who finally ended his struggle and decided to obey the Church (though I make no claims to be good at obeying yet).

    There are no churches of Christ or Church of Christ or any other such thing. It doesn’t exist. Though you can find many buildings around the country with such labels on the front lawn.

    Rationalistic non-denominationalism is a philosophical idea. For a time, and within a certain group of naturally like-minded persons predisposed to the experiment it inspired a movement. This movement almost immediately fell off the tracks and has remained so ever sense.

    There is no “there” there. When someone says, you should come back to the church, I must admit that I have no idea what they are talking about.

    By this I mean no disrespect to John whom I have been having a polite private correspondance with for some weeks about these matters. I was John 3 years ago. Scorning him would be scorning myself. Anything I would say about his position should be taken as an accusation against myself.

    As for your current indecision jmgregory, I can say nothing of the Charismatics I don’t know them, perhaps God has touched them, but then who would know? The Emergents are either Unitarians that like poetry or a more hip version of the same problems the CoC had. That movement is in it’s own existential crisis right now (partly because external forces tried to make a single movement out of very diverse and chaotic processes).

    Again, no “there”, there. Then again, I know nothing. Except the Orthodox Church, problems or not, exists.

  50. fatherstephen Avatar


    Very excellent points – well made by someone who has real experience of these things. I think that the habit of rationalistic interpretation tends to look for another “rational scheme” or guarantees when leaving behind a rationalistic interpretation. Thus some will want to know how Orthodoxy guarantees its interpretation of Scripture. Interestingly, I think Orthodoxy would say, “We don’t, at least not in each individual case.” What we believe is that God has guaranteed the Church (though that guarantee has been quite messy across history). But we struggle to be faithful, to live a life of constant repentance and remembrance of God. The settled Tradition of the Church and the dynamic of her authentic life in Christ are more than sufficient to save us (both daily and eternally). Orthodoxy is always an invitation into a way of life and not an invitation to a rationalized existence. I have really enjoyed your comments. Please continue.

  51. Karen Avatar

    Darlene, as you have read in my comments, I have seen and seen those I love affected in ways closer than is comfortable by the phenomenon you describe in the sect you were a part of. The common denominator is the sinful need for human control and abuse of such power–all religions and all Christians whatever their affiliation may succomb to such a delusion and temptation (even Orthodox, God help us, for I have even heard accounts of this in the contemporary Orthodox scene in some splinter “ultra” Orthodox parishes out of Communion–for good reason it would seem–with mainstream Orthodoxy). May the Lord have mercy on you, strengthen you in the face of attack from former fellow members, and guide you as you seek His will for you.

    For all of us, I observe that there is nothing new under the sun, and the devil lacks originality in his tactics. I thank God for the protection that full Orthodoxy and and especially an “Orthodoxy of heart,” found by God’s grace even among non-Orthodox, offers from such abuse. I pray all may be empowered to flee such patterns and run full pelt into the merciful arms of God and especially as He has manifested Himself in His Church throughout all ages and in the Holy Fathers and in His Saints. It is not with no reason that the Apostle Paul commands in his pastoral epistles that those considered for positions of authority in the Church (Deacons and Elders/Priests/Bishops) must have for their qualifications authentic evidence of godly life and sound reputation with outsiders matching sound doctrinal belief and the ability to teach patiently and calmly in the face of error (which assumes the ability to correct in a spirit of love and respect).

  52. Darlene Avatar

    JM: The sect/cult I was in used a rational/reasonable method to interpret Holy Scripture as well. One of our favorite verses was, “Come now let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet they will be white as snow, though they are red as crimson, they shall become like wool.” Isaiah 1:18

    The leader claimed to be onto a pattern of interpretation that was already in the Bible if one cared to study and discover it. It involved using symbols and figurative language. In fact, the leader wondered why so many other Christians throughout the centuries had missed this method of interpretation and hadn’t caught on to it like him. He finally reasoned that he was uniquely called by God to interpret the Scriptures in this manner. Of course, this was the TRUE method of interpretation as compared to the way others understood the Scriptures.

    Needless to say, this unique calling bred a self-righteousness within us. We would be the wise virgins who had our lamps full of oil at His coming while the foolish virgins (all the other blind Christians who did not have TRUE interpretation) would be lost at His coming. Not surprisingly, many unorthodox teachings resulted from this erroneous framework, some which have a grasp on the hearts of many even till this day (even though they have been out of this cult for many years).

    By the grace of God and His mercy, I was set free from the shackles of such mind control. I praise and thank Jesus often for helping me escape, and even more, coming to know and appreciate His love.


  53. Darlene Avatar

    Thank you Karen, for your kind words and the encouragement you bring to myself and others here at “Glory to God For All Things.”

    In Christ’s Immeasurable Love,


  54. […] as well as some liturgical elements at our congregation have not been very successful. According to Father Stephen, the liturgical side of these attempts are misguided, and I’m somewhat inclined to agree with […]

  55. Sea of Sin Avatar


    “thank you for pointing out the way in which the language we use dictates how we think about things.”

    It may well be the other way around, namely, that the way we think affects our choice of words, the language we use.

    The question presently before you cannot be answered by reason. It is a question of the heart, your disposition to a Person. Truth is not a proposition, but a Living Person. He draws us closer to Himself, and we throw up objections – idols we have created and are loathe to let go.

  56. fatherstephen Avatar


    The only problem with the way we think affecting our language, is that you cannot think without language – at least normal cognitive thought. Got to have words to form the idea… or that’s what Wittgenstein said.

  57. jmgregory Avatar

    “The question presently before you cannot be answered by reason. It is a question of the heart, your disposition to a Person. Truth is not a proposition, but a Living Person. He draws us closer to Himself, and we throw up objections – idols we have created and are loathe to let go.”

    Of course you’re right. Clearly, more prayer is required. Then again, more prayer is always required.

  58. Sea of Sin Avatar

    Yes it appears the language/thought distinction is a non starter.

  59. Karen Avatar

    jmgregory, thanks for your many good thoughts for John. May God guide you in your search. I spent many years as a charismatic and have found value in some Emergent thought I have read, yet I have obviously found there to be no contest between those (which share all the same basic weaknesses as any other Protestant-based movement) and Orthodoxy. Orthodoxy puts well-tested feet on the viable aspect of the theory of those movements and has the antidote within itself to what is missing in them, that deficit which inevitably leads both to spiritual imbalance and corresponding excesses. Quite simply, I have found Orthodoxy alone to be the fullness of Christian faith (even if imperfectly practiced by its members). Its historical dogmatic and sacramental continuity with the Christian communities of the earliest centuries make it unique among the groups you mention. That alone should tell you something. 🙂

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