Eastern Orthodox apologists’ bait and switch

New Warhorn Media post by John B. Carpenter:


This is all very interesting. Thank you for publishing it. Who wrote it?

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More here: Byzantine Iconoclasm - Wikipedia. There’s quite a story to this.

Having seen Catholic churches which were, like Athens, “full of idols”, I have always thought of icons in the same light. Most of us would.

The other thing which puzzles me about about evangelicals’ interest in Orthodoxy, is their view of the Trinity. With the Roman Church, it should be said, we affirm that the Hold Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son”. Orthodoxy denies that direct connection, from what I understand, but could someone put me right here?

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John Carpenter, pastor of Covenant Reformed Baptist Church, in Danville, VA.



The original Nicean Creed, reaffirmed at the Council of Constantinople in 381, did not have “and the Son” in its text. Moreover, Canon VII of the Council of Ephesus in 431 stipulated that if anyone departed from the affirmation of the Nicene Creed, he would be anathematized.

The phrase “and the Son” began to be offered in worship by some Latin churches to the vigorous objection by the Eastern Churches. Running parallel to this controversy was the increasing claims of ecclesiastical jurisdiction by the Bishop of Rome over the entire Church, another claim which was contested by the Eastern Churches.

In 1014, these two disputes “married” when to demonstrate his authority over all the churches, Pope Leo IX mandated “and the Son” be inserted into the Nicene Creed in the worship of all the Churches, East and West. The Eastern Churches anathematized Leo and all the Western Churches loyal to his ecclesiastical leadership.


Thank you for the background! Appreciated (and our formularies do matter).

Good article,

I see more and more people in some circles I run in tempted by EO. Usually it’s all externalism. To them to EO church appears to be the most conservative, traditional, pure church out there.


I’ve said this to our people here, but Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy lose their appeal pretty quickly when you see them in their native lands. Look at the Catholic Church in Latin countries like those in South America, and look at the Orthodox Church in Slavic countries like Eastern Europe. Both churches there aren’t trying to compete with Protestantism like they are in the US and the UK. The default understanding of Christian theological terminology in the English-speaking world is Protestant, so we’re tempted to read our meaning into their words. But that’s not what those churches mean. At all.

I get the theological or tradition-based appeal. But compare apples to apples, not the worst of our tradition with the best of theirs. The RCC and the EOC have plenty that’s pretty naff in their churches too.


Yes, it was a shock to the system for me to see Catholicism in more of its native element. The initial experience I had had, admittedly through some contact with a Catholic Charismatic group, was of something with statues and crucifixes and so on, but with a genuine commitment to the Bible as well. Then I travelled in the Czech Republic, and what I saw there was quite unlike any sort of Catholicism I’d seen before.


And maybe that can urge us as Protestants to knock off the naffness as well?

If we’re right, our doctrine and practices should show it.


If you were much of a traveler (internatoinal, that is), you’d see this in virtually every venue you visited. Today American Catholicism is mostly like liberal Protestantism with lots of liturgy. On the other hand, Mexican Catholicism - especially in the hinterlands, and in other parts of Central Ameria - is a weird blend of Roman ritual and pagan ritual. Pope Francis got into some hot water with Catholic Fundamenalists when he participated in a mass somewhere in South America (Brazil?) where an idol of Paca Mama (a kind of earth mother goddess) was part of the worship service.

Polish Catholicism? Back in the Eighties, atheists would attend mass in a Roman Church regularly because Roman religion and Polish national identity are so thoroughly mixed that the “best” way to poke the Communist government in the eye was to be faithful at mass!

Unlearned (untraveled, too) American evangelicals seem to think that the Roman Church is some sort of homogeneous monolith. Nope, nopety nope nope.


This is also true of Ethiopian Orthodoxy (which is just another branch of EO).

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Come again?

I have heard someone from an Eastern European country express bafflement that westerners seem to want to convert to EO. To her, the Orthodox Church is basically a byword for superstition and the worst kinds of corruption.

I think a lot of it is the idea of grabbing on to an “ancient” church without the baggage of having to be Catholic in America. Orthodoxy is kind of a blank slate that they can write on themselves.


“Naff” = “silly, lacking in style or good taste”. Aaron’s been in England too long! :smile:

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British English really shines in its insults and derogatory terminology. Probably says something about my character I find it so funny!

That’s probably the core of it. I went through an emergent phase long ago, and that ancient but blank slate aspect really appealed to me. God kept me from a lot of my own stupidity.

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I get the appeal. I really do.

I took my wife to vespers at the Orthodox Church in Bloomington when we lived there (not during my emergent phase). I thought it was pretty cool. All the chanting and censing (and standing) kinda freaked her out.

A lot of scripture and a lot of pretty decent prayers.


Thanks for this article.

I was married to an Alaskan Native man who was born and raised in the Russian Orthodox Church and we lived in the middle of an Antiochian Orthodox community–had priests living on all sides of us. The Antiochian Patriarchate is the one that Frankie Schaeffer joined (they loved holding him up as the poster child for protestant conversion–until he began attacking them like he attacked his parents’ faith).

The cradle Orthodox, from what I saw, were full of superstition and had no idea why they drank holy water or kissed the icons and the priests’ rings. They lived like heathens but went to church sometimes and believed in God and believed they were saved.

The converts lived more committed lives. But the ones I knew fit this pattern exactly as the article says:

That’s the first bait: the claim that the Eastern Orthodox have preserved the pristine worship of the early church. The Orthodox are attractive to evangelicals who are tired of the showmanship and the superficiality of some evangelical worship.

The converts I knew loved the idea that they were joining the ancient church and worshipping in the way “all people have worshipped at all times and in all places.” It’s a ridiculous claim, but they cling to it.

I had some sympathy for the converts, but could never understand their willingness to pray to the saints or to claim Mary as mediatrix and co-redemptrix. They would pray, “Oh, holy Theotokos, save us.” And when I’d ask them why they did it, they’d explain that they really think only Jesus can save but he couldn’t save without his immaculately conceived mother who gave him birth so she is a participant in our salvation, but, no, they do not think Mary can save.

I didn’t understand the conversions–who would trade Jesus Christ for saints? Who would trade their place at the throne of mercy for a place outside…where you ask saints to go in to the throne and plead your cause? I could not grasp why anyone would make that trade.

You say: Since the Word of God says not to bow before images, then when someone says it’s fine because, supposedly, his church inherited it, he says, from the early church, realize you’re being baited. They will switch to a hook of icons, incense, and rituals that are, in reality, the concoction of superficially converted pagans flooding into the church in the Middle Ages, bringing their pagan practices with them. Don’t bite on the bait. Stay with the Bible.

Exactly . They lift Holy Tradition to being above Holy Scripture. If you put Tradition and Scripture on equal ground then Tradition trumps Scripture every time. Because it interprets scripture. And so, they are able to get around the Bible where it says there is one mediator … the man Jesus Christ.

One friend of mine who converted–a Christian and Missionary Alliance pastor who had gone through a horrible divorce when his abusive wife had left him–told me praying to Mary was the sticking point for him for a long time. He couldn’t get over that one hurdle. So he kept praying and praying and praying, asking God to let him know if it was OK to pray to Mary, and … one night … she appeared to him and she told him she loved him and he was allowed to pray to her.

Oh, man! I felt so bad for the man. I said, “Why did you ask if you could pray to Mary? God had already told you that you aren’t allowed to pray to Mary. Why didn’t you believe what the Bible says?”

Every single convert has to give up sola Scriptura when he joins the Eastern Church. Or the Roman Church. And if we give that up then every man does what is right in his own eyes. That is an ancient worship practice … it’s just not a good one.


Bloomington’s All Saints Orthodox Christian Church you attended for vespers was home church to Peter Gillquist, and is now served by his son, Peter Jon Gillquist. It’s a parish of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese. Peter the father died in 2012 and the son continues to serve the church. My doc is a member of his parish.

Peter Sr. studied at Wheaton and Dallas, and was a regional director for Campus Crusade back in the seventies when, in 1973, he and a bunch of his Campus Crusaders started doing “home churches” around the country that would restore primitive Christianity. Just one more restorationist movement, actually.

In a few years, they decided to go Eastern and put together a denomination they called, first, the Christian World Liberation Front, then changing the name in 1979 to the Evangelical Orthodox Church. Wikipedia records that they got worried about apostolic succession and eventually went Antiochian.

Back in the day, all informed Evangelical leaders knew about Gillquist and weren’t bothered. It was viewed as another indication of the fruit of vacuous parachurch Evangelicalism. Those crossing the Tiber were much more worrisome, and personally, a number of my friends from seminary went that route, including Scott Hahn and Marcus Grodi.

My own judgment is that reformed men who convert to both Rome and EO do so from finding the smells and bells (the phrase my Dad used to refer to their aesthetics) as well as their ritual, formalism, and ridiculous claims of unity and authority very appealing after the know-nothingism of Navigators, Campus Crusade, and the InterVarsity of the last quarter of the twentieth century.

One more thing. As several of you have pointed out, the Roman Catholicism of North America bears not the slightest resemblance to anything south of our border in the Americas. I mention this remembering the anger with which my friend, David Howard, responded to Lars Gren, his brother-in-law, at our dining room table when I asked David’s sister (Lars’s wife), Elisabeth (also at the table) if she’d converted to Roman Catholicism? (Some of you will remember their brother, Tom Howard, had crossed the Tiber back in 1982 or so while teaching at Gordon College.)

No one at that table will forget his fury at his sister that moment, saying to her, “It was Roman Catholics who martyred Christians I worked with down in Columbia!!!” Fury is the word.



Very well said, dear sister; all that you wrote. I would add that they have to give up the Holy Spirit. One couple that converted to EO after they had been gone from the church I served for a while told me, when they returned for a visit, that they were tired of the different interpretations of Scripture by different voices within Evangelicalism, and that the good thing about being EO is that the church told them authoritatively what every text meant.

Lovingly and gently, I explained to them that they had grown weary of dependence upon Scripture and the Holy Spirit, exchanging it for the visible institutional authority of man.