Been reading up on the Eastern Orthodox church. It has been recommended to me as being in line with the Lutheran theology I’ve already accepted, and as being a ‘Manly’ church that remains anchored to Scriptural principle despite cultural movements. Even the most conservative Lutheran churches I’ve been to seem to accept modern culture as the default standard of behavior from which they deviate here and there rather than as a deviation from the standard of Scripture. At the one church I’ve been to where the parishoners take fellowship seriously enough to seek and sanctify the scum of the earth (and what else is the church’s mission), a parishioner said, to the approval of all who listened, that the success of his marriage was entirely due to his submitting to his wife in all things. It was phrased as a joke, and given his age and therefore the culture he in which he grew up, I doubt it was true — in other words, I am saying that this congregation is likely to walk the walk, even when it doesn’t talk the talk — but, well, my personality type doesn’t sit well with even minor errors.
I’m never going be happy with the doctrine and practice of any place I go. Humans are sinful and prone to err, and churches are made of humans. Whether the church preaches the truth where I believe a lie, or the church preaches a lie where I believe the truth, in either case I shall at some point have to say “close enough”. And where a “close enough” church seeks the truth, and I also seek the truth, and iron sharpens iron, “close enough” is actually “spectacular”. And such is the case with my current church as far as I can tell.
This caveat out of the way, I will by no means stop reading up on theology, orthodox or not. The laws of physics intrigue me a little (I was handed some of my old report cards from the annual state test to make sure home-school was not an excuse for truancy. I was surprised to discover I scored highest in science, and higher in math than I remember). The laws of logic intrigue me quite a bit. But the laws of metaphysics intrigue me most of all. Theology is as close as one can come to wizardry without sacrificing wisdom (applied science is the second closest, with computer programming being the fastest and most cheapest form of science). So, I am in my copius free time (ha!) studying up on orthodox theology.
I have already investigated the Celtic churches. Those with a solid online presence seem to be little more than baptized nature-worship, though I have heard of Irish Monastics with a more solid foundation. My next project will likely be the Roman Catholics, though their spokespersons make me wince nearly every time I run into them.
The statements of the Orthodox Church in America has been quite intriguing. Their respect for church tradition seems very oldschool Catholic, but then you run into lines like this.
[Discussing the Holy Fathers, who are defined as those who have given us our traditions]
The writings of the Church Fathers are not infallible, and it has even been said that in any given one of them some things could be found which could be questioned in the light of the fullness of the Tradition of the Church. Nevertheless, taken as a whole, the writings of the Fathers which are built upon the biblical and liturgical foundations of Christian faith and life have great authority within the Orthodox Church and are primary sources for the discovery of the Church’s doctrine. [Emphasis mine]
It worries me that the standard to which the Church Fathers are held is “the fullness of the Tradition of the Church”, though the term has already been defined as including and founded upon the Scripture. But I find the fact that the Fathers are subject to examination, and that their writings are not held to be inerrant, to be quite encouraging.
Most of all, this makes explicit what most churches hold to implicit. Every church has its guiding lights over and above Scripture. The filter of interpretation, if you will. Which is as it must be: the only flawless interpreter of Scripture is God Himself, and until we no longer see through a glass darkly we shall be forced to either see very little, or to have things illuminated to us by those who have gone before. For Lutherans, Luther. For Methodists, Wesley. For Bible Belt Baptists, Dr. Dobson and various others. And so on.
There is no-one who is truly Sola Scriptura. We are all “Scripture through a lens built by our teachers”, even of those teachers are merely the parents who taught us English and the translators who brought the Scripture to us, or the teachers who taught us the language in which the Scripture is written. We can alter the lens. Make it cloudier or more clear. But only God himself can shatter it.
And what we can read makes it perfectly clear that He has not shattered it yet.
The Roman Catholics, to my limited knowledge, hold their guiding lights as infallible. The conservative Lutherans implicitly acknowledge their guiding light with busts and crests and many an attributed quotation, but seldom highlight how much authority they give to his words (and it tends to be a lot more than I’m comfortable with). The Baptists hardly bring the subject up at all. The Orthodox Church is the first I have run across to make it explicitly clear that they both give their designated authorities a great deal of authority indeed, but also allow for fallibility.
I personally give church fathers and saints and so forth very little authority, and vet every statement I come across. But look at what I’m doing there:. I am still allowing a fallible mortal have the last word: myself.
And I can easily be shown to lack the wisdom and insight of my elders in the faith.