The Eastern Orthodox Church and Protestantism

About 10 years ago Biola University commissioned some of their staff to compile a report with regard to the differences between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the distinctives of Biola.  There are two versions:  the 82 page task force report and the 8 page synopsis of the report.  Both are down-loadable in PDF:

Summary of the Task Force Report:  Eastern Orthodox Teachings in Comparison with the Doctrinal Position of Biola University

Task Force Report:  Eastern Orthodox Teachings in Comparison with the Doctrinal Position of Biola University

The report focuses on the following issues:

  1. The Doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone
  2. The Doctrine of the New Birth Through the Instrumentality of the Word of God
  3. The Teaching that the Reception of Christ as Savior and Lord is Sufficient for Eternal Life
  4. Scripture and Tradition;  sola Scriptura
  5. The Church and its hierarchy
  6. The exclusivity of the Orthodox Church
  7. The canonization of saints
  8. Prayers for the dead
  9. Various Beliefs about Mary
  10. The veneration of icons
  11. The denial of guilt in original sin

Here is an LA Times article from the time period that highlights the impetus behind the reports.

Here are some interesting articles published in Christianity Today from about the same time period:

Why I’m Not Orthodox, by by Daniel B. Clendenin
Higher Education: Universities Question Orthodox Conversions, by Scott A. Swanson

Here is a link to What Orthodox Christians Believe?

So why my sudden interest in the Orthodox Church?

Friends are a part of the Orthodox Church and a recent discussion led to the discovery of this controversy at Biola of which I was previously unaware.  One of the professors whose presence at Biola spurred the initial report, John Mark Reynolds, is still a professor at Biola.  In light of the report and the tradition that Biola comes out of, this is truly a remarkable ecumenical statement.  If it is possible at Biola for an outspoken and influential professor to maintain his Eastern Orthodoxy and remain at Biola, discussion, dialog and some measure of true fellowship must be possible anywhere.  I am sure that there are alum’s and trustees who are not at all excited.  The Scriptorium, a blog authored  by the Torrey Institute at Biola (with a disclaimer) and John Mark Reynolds even has a link to the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Diocese of North America (Biola quasi plugging the EO?).

I have found that many American Christians are ignorant of the Orthodox Church and these are some good introductory kinds of articles for your perusal.  Dialog is good. What are your thoughts?


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  • RG

    “If it is possible at Biola for an outspoken and influential professor to maintain his Eastern Orthodoxy and remain at Biola, discussion, dialog and some measure of true fellowship must be possible anywhere.”

    Best quote of the month. Love it.

  • G man

    RG. It is a wonderful quote and true in many cases. However not this one. I have come to know one of the individuals involved in this case. Not John Mark. The truth of the matter is that BIOLA cleared the air by stating that all parties involved agreed on several matters that were in question. The main being the idea of Justification. Bottom line is…. it ended up being symantics, as John Mark does not hold the traditional Evangelical definition of Justification. Truth be told it was things like political correctness, John Mark’s popularity, possible litigation, and BIOLA’S perception in the community that saved them. Had they been able, those ‘hatchet jobs’ would have gotten rid of all involved faster than Caiaphas wanted Christ done in.

  • stevebag

    So why is he teaching there?

    Really G-man? Caiaphas and Christ? Nothing more than manipulative overstatement and ad hominem.

    There is no doubt in my mind that the discussion regarding professors teaching at an Evangelical, Bible-believing Institution considered all the ramifications surrounding the continued employment of an individual who does not hold to their doctrinal statement. As it should be.

    Is the criticism that the University was not inclusive enough? The University in my opinion has more to lose from its constituents and supporters than the bad PR that comes from a lawsuit or appearances. So maybe there is more to the story than your source is letting on. I don’t know, I am only looking on from a distance.

    He is teaching there because his options for teaching at the college level in the US do not include teaching at an Orthodox institution. He is left with the options of a secular private institution, a Protestant/Roman Catholic private institution, or a secular public institution. For whatever reason, Biola appeals to John Mark Reynolds. Maybe it is because there are fertile Christian minds to influence, the goal of all who have the teaching gift. God bless him for using his gift.

    Maybe even more important, the influence and spread of the gospel in America has come through Protestant and Catholic influence, not Orthodox. In this instance, in this nation, God has used the Protestant arm of His kingdom to bring about the message and presence. Is it possible that the monolith of Orthodoxy should begin to recognize and affirm that movement of God (and other legitimate and full expressions) and evolve with regard to the movement of God and the authority and scope of the church? Let’s hope so.

    Could the scenario be reversed? I mean could I teach at an Orthodox university while holding varying opinions about justification, sola Scriptura, the Eucharist, the veneration of icons, etc.? I don’t think so.

  • Every Christian college has certain ‘distinctives’, things they are known for. They set the tone and flavor of the school. Students, and their families, know that if they send their child to Oral Roberts, The Masters, or Azusa Pacific that certain doctrinal stands, codes of conduct etc. are a given. While I would not want my sons attending some of these schools I would defend to the end each University’s right to hire faculty that reflects their doctrine, values, and distinctives. I think all private colleges should be free in their hiring practices to hire faculty that will preserve the things that make that college distinctive. That is why they are a ‘private’ college and not public.

    Biola is and Evangelical school coming out of a Protestant movement. Seems entirely reasonable for Biola to evaluate and question professors whose theology differs so significantly from their own and reasonable that people who have supported the college over the years should express a desire for an explanation. I’m still confused as to how someone with an Orthodox theology was able to sign the Biola doctrinal statement in the first place.

    So I would have to agree with Roy…great quote.

  • anon

    Steve – you might want to research pre revolutionary missionary efforts especially among northern native populations by Orthodox missionaries.

    Yes, it is a necessary position for anyone that holds to ancient, classical Christianity that American evangelicalism is a blend of heresy and parachristian beliefs. But do you have evidence that no Orthodox institutions employ protestants or Roman Catholics?