The Orthodox Reading of Scripture

The following quote is from the Christian history website maintained by Christianity Today (an evangelical source).  It describes the crucial teaching role of St. Irenaeus of Lyons, an early Bishop of the Church and later a martyr, and perhaps the most articulate spokesman of Orthodox theology in the 2nd century. The article discusses Irenaeus’ refutation of the Gnostic heretics, particularly their misuse of Scripture. It sheds light on how the Church rightly divides the Word of Truth.

As he wrote these words, Irenaeus had in mind Jesus’ warning in Matthew 7:15 about false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing but are inwardly ravenous wolves. The Gnostics sounded, and frequently acted, just like orthodox Christians. They read the Bible, used the Bible, and cited the Bible. But the way they understood the Bible, the way they put its pieces together, differed dramatically from the perspectives of Irenaeus, Pothinus, Polycarp, and John.

St_ Irenaeus of LyonIrenaeus believed there was an unbroken line of tradition from the apostles, to those they mentored, and eventually down to himself and other Christian leaders. The Gnostics interpreted the Scriptures according to their own tradition. “In doing so, however,” Irenaeus warned, “they disregard the order and connection of the Scriptures and … dismember and destroy the truth.” So while their biblical theology may at first appear to be the precious jewel of orthodoxy, it was actually an imitation in glass. Put together properly, Irenaeus said, the parts of Scripture were like a mosaic in which the gems or tiles form the portrait of a king. But the Gnostics rearranged the tiles into the form of a dog or fox.

As a pastor, then, Irenaeus wrote Against Heresies in order to describe the heresies that were threatening his congregation and to present the apostolic interpretation of the Scriptures. He revealed the cloaked deception for what it was and displayed the apostolic tradition as a saving reminder to the faithful.

What is clear in Irenaeus’ teaching is that there was what he called the “Apostolic Hypothesis,” a framework of basic doctrine by which Scripture (first the Old Testament, later the New) should be interpreted. This consensus fidelium, or rule of faith, guided the Church century after century into its life, continually enlivened by the Holy Spirit. Though expressed in different ways at different times, the central goal was always the same: that the Church would teach the same Christ as it had received, and proclaim the same salvation it had always known.

Now Irenaeus’ description of the process of interpretation is deeply insightful. He recognizes that Scripture can easily be broken into pieces (we do it all the time when we pull verses here and there). By itself this is not a problem. It’s how you put them back together that matters. Do you reassemble the portrait of a king? or do you make it look like a fox or a dog?

The answer goes to the heart of the matter. What is the matrix by which you seek to interpret Scripture and by what authority do you use it? Anyone who says he just reads the Scripture and that there is no matrix by which he interprets is deceiving himself and his listeners and not admitting that he has already accepted a matrix and on its basis he selects Scripture to fit his point. There really is no other way to read.

Orthodoxy has never denied this. Instead, like Irenaeus, it points to that which it has received. Irenaeus called it the “Apostolic Hypothesis.” It has also been called the “rule of faith,” and various other names. But if you have not accepted this “matrix” you cannot interpret Scripture in the form of the Apostles or their successors or the Church that Christ founded.

Others accept as their matrix a statement of faith written 1500 years later, constructed on a matrix invented by medieval scholastics who sought to reform the Church. They had no command from God, no conversation with the Apostles, nothing but their own ideas and rationality from which to construct new matrixes. From Germany Luther gave us his “salvation by grace through faith,” and read the Scriptures accordingly. Calvin gave us his matrix of the sovereignty of God. Neither could speak with authority or true assurance and neither would have succeeded in their reform had the state not conveniently enforced it with the sword (read the history). The Reformation never succeeded without the state’s cooperation and frequently suceeded by drastically destroying property and torturing its opposition. Not that this was not followed by a war from Catholic authorities. All of these things happened apart from Holy Orthodoxy. But the myth of a popular uprising cleansing the Church of false doctrine, fostered for years by Protestant historians is simply a fabrication.

More to the point of this post – the matrix of Protestant interpretation, though frequently seeking for something like the Apostolic Hyposthesis, in many places failed to adhere to that primitive standard.

For instance, the doctrine of predestination to damnation, discussed in an earlier article on the Pontificator Writes Again, is an excellent example of a modern (i.e. Reformation) doctrine that had never been accepted by the Orthodox Church as a proper reading of Scripture. Verses assembled to support this teaching are like the verses of Gnostics, gathered from a shattered mosaic. Instead of a king, they assemble the picture of a wolf.

God has not created any man and preordained him to perdition. To say that He has is heretical. This is not the faith of the Church. It is contrary to the Apostolic Hypothesis and how we have received the understanding of salvation. If a man is lost he has resisted the will of God, “For God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance…” (2 Peter 3:9). At the end of almost every Orthodox service, the words of dismissal affirm, “For He is a good God and loves mankind.”

This is fundamental to the Christian faith. Any other presentation of God, whether under the cloak of sovereignty or the like, is a distortion and falsification of the Christian religion. There is no God who wills the damnation of human beings. To proclaim otherwise is to proclaim another gospel.

The difficulty in proclaiming this, of course, is the number of well-meaning Christians who will want to quote various Scriptures affirming otherwise. Arius quoted Scripture as did the Gnostics. Either you stand with the Apostles or you do not. If you use the Scriptures in a manner that the Church has not used them, then you stand against the Apostles.

Christian doctrine is not a battle over the Scriptures. Sola Scriptura has not worked and never did. Such an approach simply leads to endless argument and confusion. Others may claim to use the “plain sense” of Scripture or some other 18th century rationalist construct. Such constructs are no more effective than other failed efforts of Sola Scriptura. Either we embrace the faith of the Apostles, once and for all delivered to the saints, or else we exile ourselves to confusion or, worse yet, to the false guidance of those who never sat in the seat of the Apostles.

The Synodicon of Orthodoxy is a proclamation issued at the 7th Ecumenical Council in the 8th century. A portion of that proclamation (which is proclaimed each year in Orthodox Churches on the First Sunday of Great Lent) reads:

As the Prophets beheld, as the Apostles have taught, as the Church has received, as the Teachers have dogmatized, as the Universe has agreed, as Grace has shown forth, as Truth has revealed, as false-hood has been dissolved, as Wisdom has presented, as Christ has awarded, let us declare, let us assert, let us preach in like manner Christ our true God and honor His Saints in words, in writings in thoughts, in deeds, in churches, in holy icons — worshiping Him as God and Lord and honoring them as His true servants.

This is the Faith of the Apostles. This is the Faith of our Fathers. This is the Faith of the Orthodox. This is the Faith which has established the universe!

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.





31 responses to “The Orthodox Reading of Scripture”

  1. Cheryl Avatar

    Thank you, Fr. Stephen,

    This post sums up so many of the reasons I love Orthodoxy. 🙂 It gives me such great joy. I grew up under a Calvinist “framework” and I often feel it almost destroyed my trust in God.

    I am meeting with my priest this week to discuss becoming a catechumen. I am so thankful for your blog and the conversations it’s started that have prompted me further on this journey.

    Please pray for me!


  2. Fr. Carlos Avatar

    This is a great article, thank you for the post.

  3. Dale Avatar

    Fr. Stephen, as an evangelical, protestant Christian, who has just recently stumbled upon this blog, I want to say how much I have quickly come to appreciate the passion and tenacity of your writing. I resonate with the sound and substantial references to a historic and orthodox faith you seem to consistently put forth.

    And, especially in this particular post, after recently hearing our pastor explain his support for the idea of “predestination toward damnation”. Your opposing characterization of God is much more suitable, I believe, to the whole of scripture, and the assembly of its tiles to present the picture of the King appropriately – mutually emphasizing sovereignty and overwhelming love, desiring that none should perish.

    Thank you. I am intrigued and look forward to hearing more/reading more of the Orthodox view.

  4. Paul Johnston Avatar
    Paul Johnston

    Father Stephen:
    This is a little bit of a tangent. But I am thinking through your posts of the last two weeks on knowing God along with today’s post. I am trying to get to the root difference, the tension I sense, in how I was taught to find God (as a child in fundamentalism and then as a college student in evangelicalism). So please excuse the clumsy wording of this question.

    Am I right in that the Orthodox Church historically points its people primarily to the Divine Liturgy and to ascetic prayer as the place where God is met, rather than to the study of Scripture and doctrine?

    Paul J

  5. Steve Avatar

    Yes, this makes sense.

    For the Church to affirm itself as an authentic and relevant voice in the 21st Century CE it must (at the very least) be able to work the same signs and wonders that the Apostles wrought (through the same faith and by the same Spirit). Even if, a spiritually “poor” Church will often come up with excuses, rather than actual manifestations of the blessed Kingdom.

    Signs and wonders tell us only that God is who He is. They tell us nothing about the inner state of those who “work” them. There may be sin deeply ingrained and it is here and in all things unclean that the root of heresy is found. The doctrinal splurge that follows (for want of a better term) is only a covering for rotten fruit.

    God is merciful (always) and if it is hype that people want, well, hype they will get.

    The hallmark of Jesus’ ministry was always in that he glorified The Father. Not the apostles, not himself, but God. And God glorified him back.

    This is why Jesus, yesterday, today and forever can speak through the unlearned and children (and through stones and walls) much more clearly than through the learned.

    Good article Father, thank you!

  6. jmgregory Avatar

    Father Stephen,

    I had just finished a blog post that was a continuation of my comments here from a few days ago, when I saw that you had just made another post on the same issues. Therefore I will the post the link in this thread rather than on your previous post:

  7. makarios Avatar

    Mmm, I’ve never been here before. Good, good article – very helpful. Thank you. I’ll be back.

  8. eamonn Avatar

    On the Right Side

    9:49 John answered, 165 “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop 166 him because he is not a disciple 167 along with us.” 9:50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you.”

  9. fatherstephen Avatar


    The Orthodox Church does not steer its people away from Scripture or Doctrine – but in terms of the everyday experience of the average believer – their most constant contact and nurturance will occur in the liturgy and in ascetic practice. The liturgical services of the Church are pretty much pure Scripture and doctrine – directing the heart to God in worship. What better study can there be – for actually coming to know God?

  10. J.D. Avatar


    You have covered the waterfront and covered it quite well with humility and passion. I will jump straight to the point regarding your thoughts on infant baptism as it was one of the biggest hurdles for me when I begin to feel a true pull toward Orthodoxy. Please don’t take this as an attempt to persuade or influence; I’m not that good. It wasn’t until I fully appreciated the grand idea of the grand family of God that I begin to appreciate having our infants in our midst as we always say, “Christ is in our midst”. When the Divine Liturgy begins and the priest helps usher all of us into the presence of God with all the faithful all over the world on earth and in heaven and for all time, I’m glad that all means all.

    I had the grace to serve a Church of Christ as a staff member for several years. I recall when a new member of ours called me to the hospital as it was determined that his new born son had no way to survive this life on this side of eternity. I went, it was hard, we prayed over a beautiful young infant boy and none of us could understand why he couldn’t stay with us because he looked perfectly normal. As I was leaving, the dad a relatively new member from a different church background put me in his crosshairs and fired, when he asked, “can you baptize him before he dies?” You know the terrible dilemma I was dealt that day.

    To this day I regret that I told him politely and sincerely that that was not our practice, as we all knew his son would be in heaven soon. He understood and graciously accepted my thoughts. Fortunately, the next day he found an Episcopal hospital chaplain who baptized his son. It wasn’t about salvation, he just wanted his son to be in the church while he lived on earth. About a year later I pulled him aside and I told him that I regretted my decision that day, and that I was really happy that he had found that Episcopal priest and that if confronted with the same dilemma every again I would respond differently.

    This story is not designed to illicit a sad response, but only to try in a feeble way to demonstrate what it means to be in the church, with all the saints, both dead and alive all over the world regardless of how we measure the journey. Now that I am Orthodox I know I will never face that situation again.

    Forgive the length especially if I became verbose.

    I would add that the Divine Liturgy is the culmination and the climax of the week of prayer, reading, fasting, wrestling, regretting and praising and never a time of overt evaluation.

    You’re a smart fellow, you will figure it out and perhaps some of the saints will be praying for you and even rapping on your heart. If you’ve never tried it, when you finish your prayers, invole the Holy Trinity and make the sign of the cross, it does something to you.

    God bless you

  11. fatherstephen Avatar


    Of course I do not mean to disparage the study and memorization of Scripture. However, what I refer to as the liturgies of the Church, I mean as her daily round of services which are available for reading in the home as well as their common life in the Church. Those services, with their appointed Scripture, would have the entire Psalter read every week, plus Gospel reading and Epistles each day. St. Seraphim of Sarov read one gospel each day. Indeed, during Holy Week, all four of the gospels (in their entirety) are read aloud in Church. No Church reads more Scripture than the Orthodox.

    As for daily personal usage – I do not mean to discourage it by my comments.

    However, it is worth remembering that for most of the history of the Church, individuals have not owned a copy of the Scriptures. That did not come until well after Gutenburg’s Printing Press in the 1500’s. Of course, one result of such massive printing of the Bible and its private usage has been the proliferation of heresies and private interpretations that are not at all salutary.

    In the course of the services of the Church – we hear Scripture (almost every word of the Church’s services is drawn from Scripture) arranged by meaning and doctrine for our salvation – without heresy or dubious interpretation. It is not meant to separate us from the reading of Scripture per se, but if rightly attended to, it will form our heart so that the reading of Scripture will be to our salvation and not to our destruction.

    Of course, 2 Timothy 2:15 (“rightly dividing the word of truth”) is a specific admonition from St. Paul, to St. Timothy (a bishop), and not necessarily an admonition to every reader (this is a common mistake made in protestant interpretation). There is a teaching authority in the Church and that authority does not rest on every believer, except inasmuch as the Holy Spirit indwells us all to keep us. Interestingly, in the prayer for Bishops in the Divine Liturgy, we pray that God will preserve them and help them to “rightly divide the word of Thy truth.” It does not forbid me as a priest or layman from reading the Scripture, but I do not have the authority to interpret it in a manner contrary to that taught by the Bishops of the Church (through the ages). I would not want such authority (it would just be chaos).

    Protestants are right to commend the study of Scripture, but they have too little regard for its dangers and the need for authority in its use.

    As a priest (and I also serve as the “Dean” for the region of Appalachia in my diocese) I serve in obedience to my bishop. There are some things for which I have authority and which, on a regular basis I am responsible for decisions concerning them – but there are many in which my happy role is simply to act in obedience. Of the two, I much prefer obedience. For anyone who actually has authority – if they do not prefer obedience to having authority – I would not trust them at all.

    By the same token – if a layman reads Scripture but has not adopted a heart of obedience – the reading of Scripture will more likely be for his/her destruction than salvation. We must be doers of the word and not hearers only.

    Just some thoughts on a subject about which we likely agree – but I thought I’d offer some words that I don’t hear spoken often enough. I have also re-posted an article on “rightly reading” that makes some simple suggestions about the Orthodox study of Scripture. Hope it’s helpful, or at least that it explains further my thoughts on this.

  12. Irenaeus of New York Avatar

    “Those, therefore, who desert the preaching of the Church, call in question the knowledge of the holy presbyters, not taking into consideration of how much greater consequence is a religious man, even in a private station, than a blasphemous and impudent sophist. Now, such are all the heretics, and those who imagine that they have hit upon something more beyond the truth, so that by following those things already mentioned, proceeding on their way variously, in harmoniously, and foolishly, not keeping always to the same opinions with regard to the same things, as blind men are led by the blind, they shall deservedly fall into the ditch of ignorance lying in their path, ever seeking and never finding out the truth. It behooves us, therefore, to avoid their doctrines, and to take careful heed lest we suffer any injury from them; but to flee to the Church, and be brought up in her bosom, and be nourished with the Lord’s Scriptures.”
    Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 5,20:2 (A.D. 180).

  13. Dana Ames Avatar
    Dana Ames

    Darlene, I left a comment for you on the Fascination thread.

    Orthodox doctrine is not something separate from all the daily services (the “hours”), not only the Divine Liturgy. In fact, when investigating Orthodoxy I made a point to be at the Vespers service before the major feasts- this is called a Vigil and is usually a combination of the Vespers and Matins services- because it is in the Vigil services that the scripture readings and allusions, and the poetry that is sung as the hymns of the feast, are all woven together and “present” the doctrine. That’s where you get the doctrine. It is hardly less like being in a classroom, but if you listen carefully it becomes pretty obvious. And you are participating in it, learning to know it from the inside rather than standing apart and evaluating it against some checklist; therefore, it becomes truly known.

    I’ve never heard more scripture read than in Orthodox services, and the more important the feast, the more scripture readings there are. Holy Saturday has 12 lengthy readings from the OT all prefiguring the Resurrection. The entire book of Acts is chanted/read through several times -out loud, as a public event, when anyone wandering in off the street could hear- between the end of the Holy Saturday services and the beginning of the Pascha services, usually over about 6 hours. I read somewhere that in the Divine Liturgy there are around 100 direct quotes from scripture or obvious scriptural allusions.

    Orthodoxy has had a scheme for daily bible reading for a very long time, but if you’re in church every Sunday and every feast day, you would hear essentially the whole New Testament (except for Revelation) over the course of a year. And being in church in worship gives the scripture its context.


  14. fatherstephen Avatar

    St. Irenaeus, always spot on.

  15. Irenaeus of New York Avatar

    “Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre- eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.”
    Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 3:3:2 (A.D. 180).

  16. Darlene Avatar

    “God has not created any man and preordained him to perdition.”

    Father, I do not think one can speak too strongly against this doctrine of Reformed Calvinism. Of course, the Calvinists will say that none of them know who the elect are and therefore they do not judge any individual. I often wondered, if this be the case, then how can the individual Calvinist even know that the faith which they have been given is saving faith? And how many of them wonder if it will be revealed in the end that they were not truly saved after all and therefore, that God never elected them to begin with? I sure used to struggle with these issues when I attended a Reformed church.

    Along the same lines, the faith of the Church never taught Once Saved Always Saved, the deadly sister of Calvinist predestination. If such were the case, many of the martyrs would never have shed their blood and died for the faith. Struggle, what struggle? Striving, what striving? Resisting the devil, what resistance? All of this is pointless, and the Scriptures exhorting us to “hold fast to what we have received” to “resist temptation” to “turn away from evil” to “examine ourselves” and the like, are of little to no consequence if Heaven is guaranteed regardless of the Christian’s behavior or conduct.

    Oh, and while I am on a roll :), those OSAS Christians I encountered recently who thought “church” was a man-made proposition….they claimed to be getting back to the basics by imitating the New Testament Church as portrayed in Acts. They claimed “Scripture Alone” as their guide for the reasons they left the churches, believed in OSAS, rejected the early councils and creeds, and a host of other things. Oddly enough, through THEIR understanding of Scripture, they do not agree with the Reformed Calvinists, the Church of Christ, the Lutherans, or the myriad of other Protestants. Let me tell ya though, they were very insistent and strenuously attempted to make a convert of me.

    Lord have mercy on each of us as we walk the narrow path that leads to life.


  17. Darlene Avatar


    I’m not sure if I understand your response to Paul correctly. However, I suspect you will know if my understanding is imprecise by my response.

    I think that reading Scripture is a MUST, a need for the Christian. Holy Scripture feeds our very souls, it livens our spirits, it enlightens our minds, it encourages us to press on in the faith. Its benefits can never be over-emphasized.

    You said, “but in terms of the everday experience of the average believer -their most constant contact and nurturance will occur in the liturgy and in ascetic practice.” I think it must be stressed that contact with the living God also and necessarily comes through that which is “God-breathed.” (Theopneusted) Scripture reading should not be something relegated to only the Liturgy and “special” circumstances. Furthermore, most Orthodox parishes in my area do not have Divine Liturgy everyday. In fact, many only have it twice per week. I think in this way, the RCC has it right in that the parishes have Mass everyday and some have Eucharistic Adoration on a regular basis.

    You said, “What better study can there be – for actually coming to know God?” Scripture exhorts us in many places that through “study” and meditation upon that which is God-breathed, we grow as His children and are strengthened to defend the faith. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” David said, “I have laid up Thy word in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.” and “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

    I cannot see any defense for placing the reading, studying, and meditation of Scripture to some lesser place of importance as if it belongs on the back burner.

    Prayer, worship, giving of our time, talents, and treasure, and reading of Scripture are all necessarity toward growth and maturity.

  18. Ryan McNamara Avatar
    Ryan McNamara

    As a former Roman Catholic, Irenaeus, I wish that the quote from your namesake were still true. The Apostolical Tradition was violated by both Pope Vigilius and Pope Honorius in the 6th century. Alas, the Holy Tradition had indeed been preserved continuously by many of Christianity’s greatest Saints (Pope St Leo, Pope St Gregory, the Pope martyrs in St Callixtus catacomb, etc) up to that era, and often beyond. The Canons of the Church had made deposing Vigilius and Honorius possible. It is my understanding that an elected Pope cannot be deposed today, regardless of any heresy, crime, or scandal. He can only be declared Anti-Pope after his death, and Sede Vacantes declared as a result.

  19. jamey w. bennett Avatar

    Father, forgive me for I am a great sinner and humble of mind. I have been trying to understand the concept of heresy, particularly as it relates to my Calvinist friends. I understand your positive statements about God loving mankind. But is there anywhere in Orthodoxy where a doctrine of predestination itself is specifically anathematized? If so, can you help point me in the right direction? I know some people who would affirm all your positive statements in this article but not your negative ones. Help me, please. Thank you.

  20. Darlene Avatar

    Thank you Father, for your response. I think I reacted too brusquely in my comments toward you. Forgive me.

    Yes, I realize what you are saying about the verse in II Tim. 2:15. Protestants often think of themselves as self-appointed Bereans. Speaking of which, what is the proper context of the Bereans who were more noble than the Jews in Thessalonica for having examined the scriptures? (Acts 17:11) The Protestant take on this is that every believer should be continually testing and examining what the pastor is teaching from the pulpit so that it is properly aligned with the true meaning in Scripture. Of course, this places each individual believer in the role of being a teacher, wouldn’t ya say?

  21. fatherstephen Avatar


    The council of Jerusalem 1672. I wrote on it recently.

  22. Irenaeus of New York Avatar

    Ryan McNamara,

    Catholics hold it to still be true, although there is dispute as to what that pre-eminent authority means in light of the tradition between East and West. Honorius and Vigilius were not anathematized for what they preached… but for staying silent in the face of heresy that overtook Sees of the East. The heresies were Monothelitism and Monophysitism which had overtaken the See of Constantinople respectively during their pontificates. Honorius remained silent but Vigilius actually corrected his behavior and sent out letters condemning the heresy. Both were still worthy of condemnation, but how is it you give Constantinople a pass in light of your criticism of apostolic tradition? I would not say someone should not be Orthodox because Patriarchs of Constantinople Eusebius, Macedonius, Eudoxius,Demophilus were aryans. Or Patriarchs of Constantinople Nestorius was Nestorian or Timothy I and Anthimius were Monophysites or Sergius I, Pyrrus and Paul II were Monothelites and that is just Constantinople. So if you are willing to forgive all those transgressions as a violation of apostolic tradition, you should be willing to forgive Rome for Honorius and Vigilius in remaining silent or even if they did go as far as their Constantinopolitan brothers.

    By the way, my quoting of St. Irenaeus was not meant to incite my Orthodox brothers on the topic of Rome, but rather to disprove the protestant contention that the early church was an invisible non-hierarchichal collection of individual believers. St Irenaeus of Lyons, France shows the church to be a visible Church with synodical and primatial structures.

  23. Mickbic Avatar

    I was delighted several years ago to read a book on Sola Scriptura from a Roman Catholic viewpoint. Have spent part of my childhood in a systematic memorization plan of the Scripture, I had no idea that Catholics could do a good exegesis of Scripture. My fathers mentors considered the Roman Catholic Church to be Babylon of Revelation chapter 17.

    I am a Unitarian Universalist and quite comfortable with that faith. I have also read Immanual Swedenborg’s book Heaven and Hell and feel it has a more humane view of the damnation of the lost than you would find elsewhere. Not that it does not need more work.

    From my reading of the book on Sola Scriptura I concluded that the three legged stool that formed the foundation of the Roman Catholic Chuch was Holy Scripture, Holy Tradition, and the magisterium. Protestantism may have a similiar foundation, but Holy Scripture gets overemphasized.

  24. Irenaeus of New York Avatar

    Mickbic said-
    My fathers mentors considered the Roman Catholic Church to be Babylon of Revelation chapter 17.

    When I was living in the southern USA, I was confronted with such accusations as you describe. I was also called a cannibal for believing the Lord is truly and substantially present in the Eucharist (as do Orthodox). Those kinds of polemics will never disappear because on the surface they are easy to digest, but once they are investigated… the real truth is revealed as to its folly. If you were delighted with that book you mentioned, you would be happy to know that everything Catholics believe is supported by scripture. For a concise reading by topic please visit

  25. Ryan McNamara Avatar
    Ryan McNamara

    Thank you for your post. I am sure that your intentions were good, and I am sorry that my hackles get raised so easily by this topic. Forgive me a sinner. (I deal with this in family reunions too…) That said:
    I give the See of Constantinople no pass for any heresy, crime, or scandal. Many have been rightly deposed, such as Honorius’ fellow Monothelite Sergius. But that’s just the point. Bishops still *can* be deposed, and have been even in the present day (Patriarch of Jerusalem had sold some property that he wasn’t supposed to in ~’05). I greatly admire Rome’s having a strong executive branch, and believe that it has helped the RCC’s “catholicity”. However, the centralization of power (especially, historically speaking, secular power) had led unfortunately to corruption, and a sense that the Bishops of Rome were above the very law that their great predecessors had set. The Ancient Canons ratified by the Ecumenical Councils are to a great extent the codification of Tradition – and many of them explained why and how bishops should be deposed(especially in the so-named Apostolic Canons). Forgiving Honorius and Vigilius is not the problem; its those who *weren’t* deposed subsequently – because Rome had changed/nullified so many of the canons – who create a bigger issue.
    I still love the Roman Catholic Church. It is a routine part of our prayer life in morning intercessions and Liturgy for the Holy Spirit to heal our Schism. The RCC has been blessed with many recent Pontiffs who have been unmatched in holiness, and free from the slightest inkling of corruption. Certainly Pope Benedict’s recent push toward the return to the Tridentine Mass is also a good sign that Tradition is actively celebrated. I sincerely hope and pray that both East and West will be able to put aside their differences and any personal pride, and come back to their common heritage as One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Besides, it will make things easier at those family reunions 🙂

    In Christ
    Ryan (Patrick)

  26. KOsta Avatar

    Great, thank you. I wonder if it could be rephrased to help Protestants step by step to realize the fulitily of their doctrine.

  27. […] paraphrase St. Irenaeus of Lyons, there is a way we can know whether the Kingdom of God has come to us. If Scripture, in […]

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  29. Arnold Avatar

    Two comments:
    1) The God of the Calvinists, who would create humans with the intent of consigning them to eternal torment, seems a perfect model of Descartes’s Evil Genius. Such a God is psychotic and eternity in its presence might well be no better than hell.
    2) Gustav Aulen claims in Christus Victor that Luther’s view of the Atonement is orthodox and that his successors in the Reformation distorted and even altered his writings to support their views. Any thoughts on that?

  30. fatherstephen Avatar

    I don’t know Luther well enough to comment intelligently. But I like Aulen’s scholarship and did a doctoral paper on his debate with a German scholar over the matter. There’s a fair amount of evidence to support Aulen’s point. For instance, I used Luther’s hymns as a basis for comparison. I found only two (I think it was) that had an image of the atonement that was not Christus Victor. Or it was something like that. Hymns may not be the best place to check things out, but it was the one bit of Luther that I could read in its entirety (a couple of volumes).

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