There are a number of things that have really discouraged me over the years within the Christian faith; things that I later found out to be modern in nature; Christians limiting how close one could get to the Church of the early fathers before barring them from leadership or fellowship. I have found that the path of leadership within these modern churches is filled with sinful compromise.
Many leaders in the modern church are the biggest liars I have ever seen! I have witnessed it and in some sense done it myself. It’s bred at ordination exams. These men lie about their beliefs in order to be ordained. It happens in the Evangelical faith as well as the Roman. I know right now that there are many Anglicans that are willing to lie their tails off in order to be ordained in the Roman ordinariate that they are now creating for Anglicans (these guys know that the Vatican II catechism speaks lies all over the place about Mary and about Islam).
As these people grow in the faith they will slam on the brakes if it means having to face rebuke or the loss of their leadership position. They will begin to learn the truths of the Ancient Church but will cease from embracing it fully in order to keep their flock or please their superiors. Of course they will philosophize their position of teaching within their mind, creating an apologetic, a defense for when they meet opposition. It’s really quite easy: they will take a hard turn toward rationalism in order to discredit the ancient faith. This is of course how liberalism manifests, and I would argue that liberalism began at the Reformation when men began to reject the mystical aspects of grace for scholastic constructs of rhetoric, notwithstanding Roman heresy that strayed from the early fathers; but more on that another time.
It’s never healthy to lie to yourself in order to remain “comfortable.” Some people – mainly men, but I have seen a number of women do this as well – would much rather become the popular prophet in their church affiliation than actually grow and arrive at a place of spirituality where they belong. What I mean by this is what I say frequently on this site, that Christianity is fragmented from the whole into a type of linked economy. The Church can be represented by a ladder where each denomination represents a rung in the ladder, from the least sacramental at the bottom to the most sacramental and apostolic on the top. One does not have to climb the entire ladder, of course. One can get to the top right away if they look past the disaster of much of modern history and see the “truth of the ancient.” But as modernity saturates western society through the years, more and more denominations are created…from breaking off of older denominations, thus creating these stepping-stone/rungs.
I have met a number of people that seek to climb this ladder by conversing with Christians that are on the “top rungs” and buying books from the top-rung churches, but they cease to make the move to the top, rather they hoard the information they have received in order to become a type of leader within the lower rung. Is this a noble thing to do? I often ask myself this question as I work out my own salvation. In fact, I have wrestled with that question far too often. Rather than just jumping right up to the Orthodox Church with my family, I chose to wrestle with God as Jacob wrestled, always insisting that God bless me for working so hard for Him but never really sitting back and listening to God as I should have. I kept seeking the theology of the more ancient churches and then relating it back to my family and those who I was leading in the Church. It was exciting in many ways. I could go on these theological journeys and return with a few beautiful jewels to share with my people. But it caught up to me several times.
It seems like each time I moved from one denomination to the next it was because I had feared my camp leaders catching me and saying “Hey, I know where you are getting those doctrines.” Sure, some have actually followed me on my path but the wrestling of this Prodigal Son has been way too harsh. Again, you could say that I have a hip out of joint from wrestling with God over all this. I knew it was happening. I knew I was wrestling with God each time I attempted to mesh theologies, but when you have this kind of prideful momentum it is hard to hear what God is really saying.
Some will say that it is perfectly godly for an Evangelical type to “borrow” from higher, older, denominations and churches. I disagree! You know who you are. I know some of these people personally and I know some that are popular theologians. I know of one extremely popular Anglican theologian who is constantly bringing back jewels from the Eastern Orthodox Church, rarely to give credit to them at all. I know people personally that have learned about the higher moral standards of the older more established churches such as the Eastern Orthodox and refuse to submit to them because they will lose their collar permanently (or may never get the collar they do not have but desire to have). This is sinful! God is not going to bless that kind of stubbornness. Come home! You will be blessed without the collar. Better to gain salvation than gain the whole world and lose your soul, right? Or maybe you will not lose your soul completely. Maybe you will just suffer all your life. Is that truly what you want?
What is really quite interesting about the fragmentation of Christianity is that it is so very western-driven, mainly by the supposed freedom fighters of modern America who insist on freedom to do whatever one pleases, including the capitalization of heresy, which is what modern Protestantism has come to: a big business for clergy. If there is a crack in an existing group, you had better believe that some cleaver weasel will cram him or herself into that crack and push until it opens up to a few other weasels to help begin another denomination, another rung in the already crowded ladder of western schism.
Am I wrong? Do I have my history and my theology wrong? Have I not come home by converting to Orthodoxy? I know that my moving from Anglicanism to Orthodoxy while actually explaining it as a part of growth may actually offend some, but so far I have heard no decent arguments at all. Character assassinations and name calling will always be the norm for this type of dialog. But I think there is one thing that you will notice: Eastern Orthodoxy is growing, and it is growing without your help. Maybe your crafty style of discipleship is being outmoded by the evangelistic momentum of Orthodoxy. Maybe your creative theological journeys to feed your family or church can finally come to an end and you can let your people finally get the medicine they need.