Hidden in Plain Sense

dispenRegardless of the tools and methods used in interpreting the Scriptures, the Fathers had a common assumption – they agreed that the truth was hidden behind the letter of the text. They believed that something was hidden and that it was God Himself who had done the hiding. There were a variety of methods employed for revealing what was hidden, some more concerned about the text itself than others.

Many modern believers and scholars see such methods (allegory, typology, etc.) as somehow suspect. Today, if there is something hidden behind the text – it is the historical event that gave rise to the text. Modern studies are almost all geared towards the discerning of the historical record. It is assumed by these studies that historical is the same thing as real, and therefore the same thing as true. And so we have all sorts of Jesus books: The Real Jesus, The Jesus Nobody Knows, etc. All of these works treat the Scriptures as material to be mined in order to reveal the truth about Jesus.

There is also a championing of the “plain sense” of Scripture by some. Occasionally this comes with great disdain for others who seem to be needlessly complicating the reading of God’s word. This plain sense reading is marked by a deeply democratic sense of humanity and its relationship with God. The argument is that since God has come to save every person, then He would surely have made His word available and accessible to each. Any assertions that obscure the meaning of Scripture (or make it unnecessarily complicated) are thus contrary to God’s plan of salvation.

It is interesting to note that among the plain-sense readers are those who subscribe to Dispensationalism, a belief that there are different periods in history and that God has spoken and acted in different ways according to those periods of time. The great common man’s resource for this reading is the Schofield Bible (J.I. Schofield’s annotated commentary edition of the King James Version). Dispensationalism is the home of the “Left Behind” Rapture teachings popular in Evangelical circles (as well as the source of modern Israel’s support within the Evangelical world – making it one of the few, perhaps the only, hermeneutical method influencing American foreign policy).

Though the method of Dispensationalism is a complicated pattern for reading, it remains quite accessible even to those with little formal education. It has the added advantage of providing explanations for all apparent contradictions within the Scriptures themselves. The violence expressed by the God of Israel contrasted with the virtual pacifism of Christ is relegated to different periods of time. Most alarming (for me) is the relegation of Christ’s commandments to a “kingdom period” rather than the present. The demands of forgiveness and radical generosity will some day be fulfilled, but not now (conveniently).

The democratization of interpretation dates back to the Protestant Reformation and its desire to overthrow the Catholic Church (or any Church) as the locus of teaching authority. If the Scripture is to be the source of authority, then it has to be universally available. If the Scriptures were to have a voice of their own, only their plain sense could speak to all.

It is necessary within this view to remove layers of mystery and hidden meanings. Meanings that are hidden and made known only to a few create a spiritual hierarchy and suggest that all believers are not spiritually equal. 

But, of course, democracy and the spiritual equality of all believers is not supported within the Scriptures themselves. They are assumptions of the modern period that force the Scriptures into a role they were never supposed to play. It is the Church that is called the “Pillar and Ground of Truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

The requirements of a plain sense of Scripture have also contributed to a “plain sense” of the world, the desacralization of reality that is a hallmark of modern secularism. The world has become a text, readable by all in its plain sense. And though tools such as microscopes and telescopes may be required to see the plain sense of all things, and though mathematical skills may be required to expound that plain sense, nevertheless, the world remains inert. It is a stable text without mystery.

Among the most important aspects of spiritual equality presumed in the plain sense reading, is that the inner state of the reader makes no difference. The reader does not need to change in order to see the plain sense. Seeing the truth is an objective experience, open to all, regardless of their inner state.

This, of course, is deeply contrary to the account within the Scriptures themselves. It is not only clear that not all of Christ’s hearers understand what He says to them, but that He purposefully obscures what He says:

And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says:’Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’ (Mat 13:10-15)

Even the disciples do not understand until after the resurrection (and it should be noted that it required a miracle):

Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. (Luk 24:44-45)

The disciples of Christ are given an understanding that does not automatically (or objectively) belong to all. This, of course, is highly undemocratic. This same hierarchical view persisted, as evidenced in the creation of the diaconal ministry:

Then the twelve summoned the multitude of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, seek out from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” (Act 6:2-4)

The Christian meaning of the Scriptures is hidden beneath their plain sense (though it certainly can agree with the plain sense). That meaning requires, even of Apostles, that they “give themselves continually to prayer and the ministry of the word.”

It is deeply worth noting, if only for the sake of honesty, that the notion of the “plain sense” of Scripture, open to all believers, is a modern fiction. It serves to underwrite a modern theory of democratic Christianity that has never been more than a notion ventured forward in argument – for even the staunchest Protestants admit some level of training for their ministers and repeatedly create hierarchies despite their best efforts to the contrary.

But it is also worth admitting, for the sake of our salvation, that the Scriptures are often opaque and refuse to yield their treasure. We need teachers and those who have given themselves “continually to prayer.” The work of the Fathers is a living testimony to treasures given to us by God. More than that, their transfigured lives are a revelation of the very work of salvation God means to accomplish within us.

It makes plain sense to acknowledge this.

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.



43 responses to “Hidden in Plain Sense”

  1. David P Avatar
    David P

    Why do you think God hides truth behind the scriptures rather than making it plain as Protestants suppose? (As a former evangelical, that notion is hard for me to swallow, even though I’m aware of the problems and hypocrisies of trying to isolate the “plain sense” of Scripture as the only one)

  2. fatherstephen Avatar

    God hides the truth behind and beneath the Scriptures in order to reveal it to you. But that revelation requires that you be changed. We are not saved by information, but by transformation – and that is His point. If plain sense was what would save us, then why does God hide Himself? Why not just come right out and show Himself? It’s the same thing. And it is vitally important.

    In truth, without the transformation, the truth would destroy you – just like seeing God.

  3. Dino Avatar

    A memorable aphorism:

    We are not saved by information, but by transformation


  4. MichaelPatrick Avatar

    I would think it worth considering what of me God should show himself to? My reason? My eyes? My feelings? My heart?

    Of course He will show himself to me without reserve when I offer my (real) self to Him. He never withholds. The problem is finding me and offering me because I am usually lost even to myself.

  5. fatherstephen Avatar

    Indeed. I would even go so far as to say that God is bombarding us with Himself every minute of the day. Relentlessly. Even that He is relentlessly revealing Himself to us in the Scriptures, etc. He’s “waiting” for us…but He has already shown up at the appointed place. It is we who haven’t shown up yet. And as we get there, we will see Him.

  6. Dino Avatar

    your earlier article on stillness also sheds some light on how God can be seen, felt, heard:

    The noise of our disordered desires and thoughts can never “hear” the word of the gospel. Christ’s word to the passions is His word to the storm: “Peace. Be still.”

  7. Chris Avatar

    Destroys the evangelical hermeneutical method. Awesome insights.

  8. David P Avatar
    David P

    That makes sense. So is the truth of Scripture really hidden, or are we just blinded to it? I may have just been picking up on the wrong connotation of “hidden” as sounding like God doesn’t want us to find it, or is intentionally making it harder.

  9. Karen Avatar

    Yes. Matthew 11:25-26 and 2 Corinthians 4:3-5 seem particularly relevant.

    David, I think you are right that it is “hidden” in the sense that we are blind to it (on some level willfully so), until such time as our will becomes disposed to the will of God as His Spirit works within our consciences and we are able to humble ourselves before God.

  10. MichaelPatrick Avatar

    I seems, too, that my real self (offered to God) must be my whole self. Any parts of me that might desire to perceive or receive Him are simply incapable of doing so. I am not me in parts. I must offer to Him my integrity, i.e., a whole person nothing withheld. This is very difficult but the gospel is uncompromising about restoring and saving us whole.

  11. MichaelPatrick Avatar

    David in the temple is a beautiful picture. He learned the Lord wanted him! Everything that that couldn’t stand God’s presence he banned from sight and then, when he entered the temple, he simply presented (offered) himself. He loved the Lord’s beauty.

    P.S. Sorry for the serial posts.

  12. Jeff Avatar

    Have you read any Rene Girard on Sacred violence to reconcile the old ( violent) and new ( pacifist) ?,

  13. fatherstephen Avatar

    I have not read Rene Girard

  14. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    It is an odd (and beautiful) paradox how God seems to simultaneously hide and reveal, bombard us with Himself and withhold Himself from us.

    It almost seems like a dance – a step forward, a step back and so on. When I was quite a bit younger, I would find it confusing and frightening that God could seem so very present one moment and so absent the next.

    I’m not say that it never confuses me now but I feel like I understand it more. God gives Himself and never really stops – but allows me to experience Him as absent (or myself as disconnected or whatever) because it is through that process that I come to understand more deeply how much I need Him.

    We know that we need Him when we are utterly lost in sin. But when He draws us up from that and gives us His gifts, we can easily become lost in the new sin of pride where we imagine that this is now our entitlement or accomplishment.

    So He allows us to feel His absence, that we might long for Him even more. We search, we struggle (the meaning of asceticism). Our struggle, of course, does not make God “appear” but it readies to encounter Him more deeply.

    And it would seem much the same with the Scriptures as they reveal Him. If the “plain sense reading” were true, one could simply read the book, know the truth and be saved. No longing, no searching, no struggling, no giving up of self.

    Very well put, Fr. Stephen – “we are not saved by information”. He leads us in the dance of transformation.

  15. mary benton Avatar
    mary benton

    Fr. Stephen,

    Could I e-mail you a question? (It is a bit personal to post publicly.) Please e-mail me if it is OK. If not, I will understand as I know you are very busy. Thanks.

  16. Leonard Nugent Avatar
    Leonard Nugent

    I think this fits in here

    Luke 10:21 New King James Version (NKJV)

    21 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.

  17. Dino Avatar

    I really liked the way you presented this ‘hiddeness’.
    It helps to comprehend and digest that God’s hiddeness is in proportion to our genuine “turning” towards Him only, and this is purely a corollary of two things we generally do not posses towards others (and therefore constantly and slanderously miscomprehend):

    His respect and love for us.

  18. MrsMutton Avatar

    Lately I have come to understand that democracy is *nowhere* supported in the Bible, and this post helps to clarify what I have only begun to grasp. I’m bookmarking this post – as others have noted, it destroys dispensationalism, but also explains beautifully why it’s a good idea to read Scriptural commentary by the Church Fathers as you sit down to read the Bible. Thank you, Father.

  19. davidp Avatar

    I am going through this by St Gregory the Great (540-604 ad). He writes on the book of Job…a historical, moral and allegorical look.



  20. Henry Avatar

    Since the early day of my walk, I have found it interesting that the Truth contained in the Bible is so simple and obvious it can be grasped at a deep level by a child. At the same time the riches contained in our Scriptures have never been exhausted by lifetime efforts by some of the greatest minds of the last 2,000 years.

    I have learned much from the gifted teachers who have crossed my path from time to time. We both owe a great debt of gratitude to one of these men. I have learned from the words and lives of my bothers and sisters in Christ. I have heard and received the Word of God directly in my heart.

    While the Scriptures can not be understood outside of the context of the Church and Jewish tradition that created them, I am thankful that all I needed to start my journey was a King James Bible and the Holy Ghost.

    P.S. I only mentioned King Jimmy because that is where I started; nothing more was implied.

  21. Karen Avatar

    Henry, thank God He indeed frequently speaks to us through the Scriptures. The problem I sometimes see in Christians who have a distorted understanding of the place and nature of the Scriptures seems to me to be the result of forgetting that the words of Scripture (in any translation) would profit us nothing without the “Holy Ghost” working in our hearts and in His Church. So, I would affirm the critical place of the “and the Holy Ghost” in your third paragraph. 🙂 The Holy Spirit works within the human heart and spirit convicting of the message of God’s Truth, even apart from acquaintance with the Holy Scriptures as such.

  22. fatherstephen Avatar

    And that teacher was the first person who demonstrated to me that there were treasures hidden in the Scriptures. He was not a plain sense teacher. He wonderfully looked for types, etc.

  23. fatherstephen Avatar

    email is fine.

  24. Henry Avatar

    Indeed, he is a wonderfully gifted teacher who looks deeply into the Word of God.

  25. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    The Bridegroom Matins Hymn comes to mind: “I behold the bridal chamber richly adorned for my Savior, but I have no wedding garment to worthily enter. Make radiant the garment of my soul. O giver of light and save me.”

    He is constantly drawing us into the chamber but we still need the wedding garment. It needs to be designed, fitted and kept clean.

    Who knows the mysteries of the bridal chamber: the deeply intimate and unique interpenetration of love and self-giving.

    Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.

  26. Amanda Avatar

    In a postmodern world in which God is dead but His morals are not the scriptures are not man’s source of life, but merely an authoritative reference or proof text.

  27. Christopher Avatar


    It is interesting you mention the Righteous Job, as his story was the first thing I thought of upon reading Fr. Stephens post. I can’t think of a “plain sense” reading for him, and I have tried. Back in the day’s of my misspent youth, I fancied myself persecuted as he was and looked for an answer through him. Yet I thank God that I was not allowed in so easily because it kept me coming back!

  28. TimOfTheNorth Avatar

    Forgive me if this is petty, but the “chronology” image included with the article is actually Mormon in origin (Jaredites & Lamanites, etc.). While there are some superficial (and perhaps deeper) similarities between the eschatological outlook of Mormonism and dispensationalism, I would hope that the two would not be confused in their fundamental theology!

    I am someone who was formed in the dictum of “if the plain sense makes the best sense, seek no other sense (for all else is nonsense).” But I could never quite get comfortable with this idea. It left too many gaps. Like putting a puzzle together with only half the pieces. And yet within Western Christianity there was a real problem of clericalism and scholasticism that deprived the common man of access to the scriptures. If the “plain sense” available to any man off the street is a false notion (as I agree), what keeps us from wandering into the other ditch of gnosticism (secret knowledge) and clericalism?

  29. Christopher Avatar

    ” And yet within Western Christianity there was a real problem of clericalism and scholasticism that deprived the common man of access to the scriptures.”

    Putting aside “clericalism” for a moment, does anyone have a link or source for the assertion made that the RC’s “deprived the common man of access to the scriptures”. I have never made a study of this but I have heard this assertion before. It has never really jibed with my general sense history, history of the printing press, general literacy in the middle ages, etc. But like many things, there could be a grain of truth in it…

  30. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Christopher, while not knowing for sure, I have a suspicion that the “keeping the common man from the Scriptures” is an ideological debating point.

    Kept from how? The RCC didn’t pass out free copies of the Holy Bible to everybody like some proto-Gideon’s? Were the Scriptures not read at every service? Just because it was in Latin?

    Given much of the time before the printing press, what was the common man to do with it anyway?

  31. fatherstephen Avatar

    Oops. Of course, I could blame having a wrong image on the impossible task of actually reading such charts. But thanks for the heads up. Got it corrected with a Dispensationalist chart (there are many).

  32. TimOfTheNorth Avatar

    Thanks, Fr. Stephen!

    Christopher and Michael, I agree that the historical lack of access to vernacular scriptures can become little more than a polemical stick with which Protestants beat the Roman Catholic church. That is not my intent here. Jerome’s Vulgate–ironically originally created to make the riches of holy scripture available to the common (vulgar) man–was largely the only form in which scripture was available in the West. This continued for 8 or 9 centuries, long past the fall of the Western Roman Empire and any sort of widespread comprehension of Latin. Even before the printing press and widespread literacy (and Wycliffe’s English translation appeared a century before Gutenberg), one can imagine the laity desiring to hear scripture read to them in a language they could understand! Certainly this seems to be a live issue within American Orthodoxy in regard to liturgical services…

    Was this “deprivation” intentional? I don’t know. Nevertheless, I think it’s fair to say that the effect was to decrease scriptural literacy and knowledge and to separate the church into separate classes of “those in the know” and “everybody else.”

    Bringing it back to Fr. Stephen’s article, perhaps the distinction needs to be made between “democratization of interpretation” (undesirable) and “democratization of access” (desirable.) I believe the medieval western church lacked both of these. Can we have the latter without the former?

  33. Alan Avatar

    Tim, you wrote, “…..the effect was to decrease spiritual literacy and knowledge and to separate the church into separate classes….”.

    Just a wild hunch here, but I strongly suspect that the people you’re refering to as having “decreased spiritual literacy” in fact had a superior spiritual literacy compared to those who attend my former Evangelical Church. Just my opinion.

    Secondly, to your comment about “separate classes”, in this same former church of mine, I believe that the pastor went to great lengths to create two separate classes of people: those who hung on every word, FB post, and tweet of his and who thought he was basically the greastest thing ever, and those who didn’t do all of that.

    Bottom line, there’s nothing new under the sun. The more things change the more they stay the same. So for these Protestant criticisms of the Romans, I laugh when I see these same traits in modern day evangelical churches. BTW, I’m not RC.

  34. TimOfTheNorth Avatar


    I am sorry to hear of your experience in your former church. This seems to bear out Fr. Stephen’s observation that Protestants “repeatedly create hierarchies despite their best efforts.” And please forgive me if I came across as critical of the Roman Catholic church (as if the current Evangelical mess was superior). That is not my intent in any way. Indeed, it is the Latin St. Jerome, who worked to make the scriptures commonly accessible, that I am applauding. (Saints Cyril and Methodius could stand in equally well, I suppose.) But I do think that the lack of a vernacular translation of the scriptures ultimately hinders the work of the Church.

    Perhaps what I am trying to articulate is a sacramental view of the scriptures. As with the other sacraments of the Church, the scriptures defy simple and straightforward exposition. They are mysteries and point to mysteries. And yet, like all the sacraments, they ought to be available to all who would humbly avail themselves of them. Learning another (dead) language or attending X years at seminary should not be a prerequisite to reading and mining them for their treasure. Submitting one’s interpretation to the mind of the Church, however, is. As far as I can see, this harmonizes with what Fr. Stephen is saying above. My point (if I have one in all this meandering) is that it is good for the scriptures to be read (and wrestled with) by everyone; it is not good for them to be privately interpreted by anyone.

  35. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman


    Equal access without equal interpretation?

    I don’t think so. There will always be those who have a greater access and those with less. For instance, I will never have access to anything other than English translations. I will always have to depend on the knowledge and love of those who know the Scripture in other languages.

    Even there I will have to depend on someone else (largely) to determine which English translation is the best (or least worrisome).

    Now, I have considerably more access than was common even 200 years ago but access alone is not sufficient. I still have to drink and more importantly–drink properly.

  36. Christopher Avatar


    I think I get your point about the vernacular. In fact, I used to make it quite a bit myself (in an Orthodox context). I don’t so much anymore and I think it is because the older and more experienced I get the more I see how the language used (either living or “dead” or “elitist”) has little correlation with a person or parishes actual spiritual progress and maturity. The parish where I came into Orthodox many years ago now was using at least 75% liturgical greek, more during Holy week when more of the old timers would show up. Yet, when I compare (to the extant that my own sins allows me to this with any sort of accuracy) this parish to my current one, which is a mission church which uses very updated english (annoyingly so as I still prefer the “thees and thous” of the Antiochians!), I see the same broad spectrum of sinners. In fact, given some of the more “progressive” views on abortion, women’s ordination, and other anthropological issues I have heard in my current parish I wonder if a little more broad spectrum conservatism might be in order, even if an unintended consequence is less concern shown for the use of the most up to date vernacular…

  37. Amanda Avatar


    In my Protestant background, I was taught that the Holy Spirit enabled interpretation and understanding of the scriptures. How does this differ from the “plain sense” understanding? Or does it?

    Thanks for another good read!

  38. fatherstephen Avatar

    Within certain strands of Protestantism, Pentecostalism, for example, there are those who actually expect something close to a whisper in their ear when they read the Scriptures. This can be dangerous and delusional. There is, though, the strong thought among many Protestants that the “Holy Spirit” guides them when they read. But it’s more or less a blanket statement, since they cannot describe how He does this, or, better yet, how He corrects them when they get it wrong. Every effort to avoid Tradition, it seems to me, fails, and that everyone relies on a Tradition whether they admit it or not (except for the extreme that I mentioned).

    The Restoration Movement, as I recall, holds to a Plain Sense without a lot of inspirational discussion. It had deep roots in Scottish School of Common Sense Philosophy. It doesn’t hold water – either as philosophy or as hermeneutics – it would seem. “Common Sense” is perhaps the most culturally biased form of sense.

  39. Reid Avatar

    Some years ago I had the opportunity to make a careful study of St. John Chrysostom’s homilies on Romans. I was, of course, struck by the beauty and insight of St. John’s exposition; and eventually I noticed two aspects of his exposition that seem to contribute greatly to its riches. First, he teaches from within the Tradition of the Church, which tells him what he _ought_ to find in the Scriptures. Second, he sees the Apostle Paul’s purpose in writing as being primarily pastoral rather than, say, academic. That is, St. John sees the Apostle’s words not as a declaration of abstract doctrine but as a wise and loving pastor’s attempts to care for his flock, strengthening the weak, encouraging the faint, healing the sick (e.g., by rebuking pride), confirming the healthy. His first concern is for the effect the words will produce in his hearers (transformation, not information, to tie in to that lovely phrase of Fr. Stephen’s).

    It makes me wonder whether the Lord’s purpose for both Scripture and the Creation itself is always pastoral, that He brought them into being not for us to gain correct information about them but for the saving effect they will have on us. If that is right, then I can readily see how it is the Church that knows how to apply this pastoral medicine (to borrow an image from St. Ignatius, I think) to each of us for our salvation.

  40. Drewster2000 Avatar


    The topic that stuck out in your conversation was put into words by Michael:

    “Equal access without equal interpretation?”

    If you would have asked my opinion of it yesterday I would have agreed with you, but after reading this discussion I don’t. Though it’s a common argument, all we have to do is look around us. Access to the Scriptures has never been greater and yet many copies of the Bible are doing nothing more than taking up valuable space.

    There is something about scarcity that makes things valuable. In my mind the peasants were much more eager to hear the Word read to them in pre-access times than congregants of today. In fact listeners are much more ready to stand in judgment of the pastor and his interpretation. Ready access seems to have had the effect of making us all the High Priest.

    Here’s a thought: as a father I give my children access to all the good things of life, but I have found that discernment is needed on my part; too much or the wrong kind of access can actually be harmful.

    While I agree with you that it seems like we could all have a Bible but then turn to the church for interpretation, but experience has shown me that this is a Utopian notion and it doesn’t work out that way in actual practice.

  41. fatherstephen Avatar

    The entire “access to the Scriptures” notion is simply modern. It is certainly post-printing press. The Church and the reading of the Scriptures in public made the Scriptures the most publicly accessible literature in all of Western history. But then, there comes the idea of each man with his own Bible. It’s fine, but don’t confuse it with something rooted in Christianity. It’s rooted in Protestant thought.

    It wasn’t just the liturgy that was in Latin in the West – all learned documents – including the law, etc. – were in Latin. Some of this was simply the thought left over from the Empire in which a common language was seen as a unifying force. The various “vulgar” languages, were not even always seen as languages. They were sometimes seen as dangerous culture forces that could destroy the unity of the Empire.

    But, of course, we live in the post-Nationalist age, where “nation” and “language” and “ethnic” all seem to go together and all seem like rights. But it’s a modern notion. And there’s not an absolute principle involved.

    That said, Orthodox translated the liturgy and Scriptures into various languages from the very earliest time (there was a Goth Church in Constantinople during the 5th century for example). But the unity of the Empire in the East was conceived differently than the unity in the West – where the papacy evolved in very a very controlling, centralized manner as well.

    But the Orthodox remain committed to the principle of the liturgy and Scriptures in the language of the people. But then it becomes a moving target. Slavonic and Koine are indeed “Russian” and “Greek” and have a historic place within those cultures. It is for those cultures to make their own decisions in these matters.

    As for America – we are quickly ceasing to be the Church “in diaspora” – and will in a very short time be quite Americanized in language. But it’s Orthodoxy. “Short time” might mean another generation or two.

  42. Drewster2000 Avatar

    Fr. Stephen,

    Even though my praise is probably redundant, I felt a need to thank you for this post. It captures my Dad perfectly in his view of the Scriptures and helps me understand better where he’s at.

    I still don’t know how to bridge that gap; maybe there isn’t a way. Maybe “plain sense” believers are a bit like the dwarves in the stable at Lewis’ Last Battle. But at least I better understand him and therefore am better able to love him – and love may be the only thing left strong enough to do the trick.

    So I will say thank you once more for the great work you do here.

  43. Sharon Avatar

    I found your article quite engaging and the comments far above my ‘pay-grade.’ Still, I have a thought from a Protestant perspective. My growth in understanding God’s Word is not dependent on someone else, I am responsible to seek God’s presence offered to me through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus alone. The Holy Spirit teaches me through the scriptures, the Godly counsel of others and the teaching/preaching of Godly men (or women.) But I am responsible to judge my understanding of His Word, the counsel and the teaching / preaching by the Scripture. Scripture supports scripture.

    If the scripture is read or taught out of context and/or without supporting scriptures it can be dangerously errant, and even lead me away from God and towards a worldly mindset.

    My responsibility to grow is dependant on my dedication and willingness to study, pray and pursue the things of God. Whether He gives me greater understanding or considers me more than He considers someone else is not part of the equation. At the risk of quoting out of context, I read in the gospel of John, chapter 21:

    …21So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, “Lord, and what about this man?” 22Jesus said to him, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” 23Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?”….

    So bottom line, I believe that the Lord speaks to me, perhaps even using a whisper in my ear. But boy I better be able to support that whisper with sound scripture that I have sought out and read, perhaps seek counsel from those I know and trust. I am confident that He is my God, and He chose me to be His.

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  1. Sts Peter and Paul in Salt Lake City (and its sister St Xenia in Payson, Utah) is also growing hugely–Our…

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