Dear Berean Christian Bible Study Resources,
You make some interesting points in your article, however your Orthodox Christians sources although labeled Orthodox are not official statements of any Orthodox Church or Father of the Church. "We worship the saints, their holy relics and their icons only because He dwells in them. Thus, the creatures that are sanctified by God are venerated and worshipped because of their relation to Him and on account of Him. This has always been the teaching of the Church: "The worship of the icon is directed to the prototype." this statement is not accurate to Orthodox Christian beliefs. You should instead quote one of the Fathers of the Church or one of the Seven Ecumenical Councils if you want an understanding of iconography in Orthodox Tradition not some calendar that was not meant to be quoted as Orthodox faith. This is unfair to us.
I find it interesting that you point out iconography was not part of the New Testament Christianity, however in fact it was begun by St. Luke the Evangelist (as well as Christ himself with the Mandylion which was given to the King Avgar of Edessa also the early Roman Christians in the catacombs had iconography.) Protestants love to quote his Gospel but reject all of his work outside his Gospel including his iconography, this seems selective and hypocritical. Protestants are so quick to say "where is it in the Bible" and you call us idolaters. But where does it say anywhere in the Bible "Sola Scriptura" or if it is not written in the Bible it is false or "not correct". I would call Sola Scriptura and Protestants the true idolaters because they worship a book--the Bible, Orthodox Christians do not worship the Bible or belief IN the Bible, they worship and believe IN the Resurrected Christ and Lord and God. Orthodox worship services are full of Bible references and Biblical readings including the Pauline epistles, Gospels, Old Testament Prophesies, Psalms and wisdom literature. The only book not quoted in formal Orthodox worship is the Book of Revelation, although it is part of personal Bible study and contemplation. Moreover you Protestants would not have a Bible to quote from if it were not for the Orthodox Christians (including Church Fathers and Ecumenical Councils) who decided which books belonged and which were Apocryphal and did not belong in the Canon of the New Testament. You trusted us to tell which books of Bible should be part of your "sola scriptura" yet you reject the Tradition which gave it to you and preserved it for you intact. Again hypocritical and selective. However, Protestant teachers have twisted and even added words to the New Testament to justify their rejection of the Orthodox Church and Holy Tradition (especially the book of James) which gave you the Bible to begin with. You have done this as well with your "explanations" ( I would call them misunderstandings) of Mat. 25:34, Jn. 5:29, Rom. 2:6-13, 2 Cor. 5:10, James 2:14-26, Rev. 20:12. It is funny that the Orthodox Church has been using these Scripture lessons for 2000 years to explain the dependency between salvation and good Christian works (not works of the Jewish Law which St. Paul was referring to about justification by faith and not works) and all of sudden the Berean Christian Bible Study Resources is enlightened to the "truth" and is the storehouse of Biblical knowledge.
You have twisted Scripture to make yourselves (not Christ) the Judge and Jury and to say "I am saved today", however salvation comes from the Just Judge on the Second Coming, not from a priest or minister or born again Christian. A Jew or Muslim can do good Christian works, but not have faith, still their judgment is up to Christ not humanity, at the same time a Christian can say "I am saved, I accept Jesus as my personal saviour" but be in the private life a child molester, fornicator and adulterer. This would only be fooling themselves to think that the Just Judge would just overlook these things because I believe in Christ as my Savior. Where is repentance? Is not this what St. John the Baptist warned before the coming of the public ministry of Christ? Everything the Orthodox Church teaches and advocates comes from the example of Christ himself in the Scriptures and Holy Tradition. Nothing is just made up because it sounds good or seems logical, it comes from following the example of the one we follow and worship ALONE, God the Son Incarnate in Jesus Christ, along with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
Once more the Protestants have done us a great injustice by dismissing one thousand five hundred years of UNBROKEN Orthodox Christian worship, theology and writings of Church Fathers. We are the only Church in the world were a member could "go back in a time machine", 500, 1000, 1700 years back, enter a Christian Church in Greece and know exactly what was going on, it would be essentially the very same thing they see each and every Sunday. The notion that after Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles and the New Testament Christians and they all of sudden left the Orthodox Church until the appearance of Martin Luther, Calvin and the Protestant Reformation in which all of sudden the "truth" was revealed is ignorant of history and insulting to someone with intelligence. This is why some many intelligent and well known Evangelical Protestant, Protestant, Episcopal and Roman Catholic leaders and ministers have converted to Orthodox Christianity in recent years including Timothy Ware (Oxford Professor now known as Bishop Kallistos), Frank Shaeffer (son of Protestant giant Francis Shaeffer), Jaroslav Pelikan, Fr. Patrick Reardon, and Fr. Peter Guillquist to name only a few. Whole Protestant Churches are coming home to true New Testament Biblical Orthodoxy a new pops up each month. The Orthodox Church were the original Protestants who were against the legalistic and scriptural abuses of the Roman Catholic Church and the Pope of Rome who broke away from the other original Patriarchates of Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople.
Your article's sources were poor and insult the knowledge of anyone who has more than a high school education. However maybe it is the ignorant multitudes of Protestants who know nothing of true Orthodox Christianity or correct Christian history who were your target audience, certainly not any Orthodox Christian. I would be surprised if you were to publish on your website an Orthodox Christian response to your inaccurate article, however miracles never cease.
In Christ's abiding love,
Rev. Father John Ketchum
Associate Pastor St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church, Des Plaines, IL
(Sorry but Jesus taught to call no one by the title "father" in a religous sense since we have but one Father in heaven Matt 23:9) As you wish I will publish your letter and link it to my orthodox page. You accuse me of not understanding the Orthodox position, yet hypocritically you have also misrepresented my position and that of Protestants in general with for example your ignorant accusation that we are idolaters. You say furthermore that my position is "a Christian can say "I am saved, I accept Jesus as my personal saviour" but be in the private life a child molester, fornicator and adulterer. " Apparently you hadn't done your research. I suggest you yourself spend some time and read the web site and see how you have blatantly misrepresented my position. Then again I can't really expect much from someone who goes by the elitist titles "Father, Rev".
The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources
If you can call the Orthodox idolotors for what you call "worshipping icons", (we would refer to it as veneration), then the Orthodox can call Protestants idolotors for sola scriptura and worshipping the Bible as the only source of Christian truth, if you deny the fact you and Protestants worship the Bible, tell me what is on top of the altar table in any mainline Protestant Church?
And the title of Father comes from ordination and 8 years of college education, you would not criticize a doctor after 8 years to be called "Dr." or would you. Actually presbyter is the correct title, based in Scripture, as James 5:14 calls them presbyters of the church (or elders which is really an incorrect translation)
P.S. Steve if you are so proud of your work, why did you not sign the bottom of your paper?
In Christ's abiding love,
Fr. John Ketchum
In responding to your statement that Protestants worship the Bible, you've given no substantive evidence to your allegation. The only basis that you've given is that some "mainline" Protestant institutional churches have an "altar" with the Bible on it. First of all I'm not a "mainline" Protestant and don't advocate just laying out a Bible for show. The Bible was meant to be read and applied, and furthermore the "Jesus" I believe in is the Jesus of the Bible, not the Jesus some religious sects make up, whether such Christians be Protestant, Orthodox or Catholic. But I don't think that simply laying out a Bible on a table proves that such people worship the Bible. (Or is that what your ordination and 8 years of college education taught you?)
Furthermore if you're upset at what the Jesus of the Bible says in Matthew 23:9, then maybe you should read the study guide at http://www.bcbsr.com/survey/sgosp8.html But while I view Orthodox as idolaters in that they make things with their hands in the image of God and then bow down to those things, which is contrary to God's explicit command just as Matt 23:9 is explicit, it seems you don't have an equivalent basis to accuse me of idolatry. Are you saying that applying the Word of God to life is idolatry?
You say, "you Protestants would not have a Bible to quote from if it were not for the Orthodox Christians (including Church Fathers and Ecumenical Councils) who decided which books belonged and which were Apocryphal and did not belong in the Canon of the New Testament. You trusted us to tell which books of Bible should be part of your "sola scriptura" yet you reject the Tradition which gave it to you and preserved it for you intact. Again hypocritical and selective." But didn't we get much of the Bible from the Jews? And didn't the Jews crucify Christ? What you reckon "orthodox" in the first century is not what "orthodox" is now. It has evolved into a corrupt institution much as the Jewish state had in Jesus' time. Jesus was reckoned as a rebel or need I say "Protestant". He was reckoned contemptuously and so also Judaism in that respect is not unlike Orthodox elitism today and through much of its history. And concerning "tradition" didn't Jesus say to the Jews, "why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?" Matt 15:3, or "nullify the Word of God" Matt 15:6
As for your objection that the sources I quoted do not represent your Orthodox faith, Father Nicholas Jonas, an Orthodox priest, disagrees with you. For he testifies of the sources saying, "I know very well the sources you quoted and I believe them with all my heart and soul." I suggest maybe you Orthodox should get together and argue among yourselves until you come to some consensus as to what the Orthodox faith is and get back to me.