13.2 Authority In The Orthodox Church

The preacher also needs to be able to prove that the Bible is indeed the inspired word of God. A read through Alan Hayward’s God’s Truth [which is also available in Russian and forthcoming in other Slavic languages] is essential. Even though Biblical inspiration is theoretically admitted by the Orthodox, the implications of it are not accepted. For if the Bible’s words are inspired, then we must be guided by what we read there above all. Contrast this with the Orthodox attitude to authority, quoted from a contemporary Orthodox website:

“If we have any instruction to offer, it must always rest on an understanding that no lesson, no bit of
knowledge about the Church, can be significant unless it first counsels the believer consciously to embrace the Orthodox Church as the True Church and her Holy Tradition as inspired and divinely established, whether that Holy Tradition be expressed in the basic dogma of Orthodox ecclesiastical primacy or something so seemingly insignificant as how we Cross ourselves. If by stating the truth we seem to divide, this is only because those who have deviated from or revile the truth are already separated from the spirit of Orthodoxy”.

The Orthodox argue that their churches have traditions which are inspired, and because they are the largest and most long established churches in their country, therefore they must be correct. To quote some relevant words from Ron Abel:

“It is relevant to show that there is no necessary connection between size and duration of a religious organization and the truth of its claims. Jesus said, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Mt. 7:13–14). Judaism and Buddhism are both older than Roman Catholicism [and, we might add, Orthodoxy] but this does not necessarily mean that their religious claims are true” (Wrested Scriptures).

One Orthodox website reminds readers: “Don't forget to play Orthodox music when reading the Fathers and the Church's prayers. Disks can be ordered from various booksellers”. This is the same mistake as Pentecostalism and many other religions; the Bible alone is not allowed to interpret itself. There has to be background influence to lead to truth. www.orlapubs.com is full of such Orthodox music. The same site makes the point that: “In vain will a newcomer to Orthodoxy look for a book on doctrinal theology that is really what many from other backgrounds will be looking for”. Thus truth cannot be defined; submission to the church is what is required. One can make the point: Orthodox believers generally don’t know what they believe. Nor do their priests preach it outside of their own country. Why not...if it is truly the good news that saves? The site continues: “Interestingly, conversion stories have nevertheless proved more compelling in practice for many seekers than have other writings; and lives of the Saints have inspired more seekers than many a theological treatise”. This sounds again like Evangelicalism in its weaker forms. We need to strike a balance; real life accounts of transformed lives do mean a lot to our contacts; but we mustn’t forget to point out that this transformation has come about because of what they have learnt and believed from the Bible.

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