The Disease of Modern Preaching That Will Kill Its Power

By Scott M. Gibson, adapted from Preaching Points: 55 Tips for Improving Your Pulpit Ministry.

Charles Gore, formerly bishop of Worcester, Birmingham, and finally Oxford, wrote more than a century ago, “The disease of modern preaching is its search after popularity.” [Read more…]

3 Days, 21 Libraries, Thousands of Books

The Logos library expansion sale is a scholar’s dream, and it ends in three days.

It features 21 library expansions of four sizes each, so you can find just the right addition to your own library. [Read more…]

Massive Tomes. Bigger Savings.

Announcing the IVP sale: up to 30% off major collections this month only.

As we wrote in a different post, IVP is one of those names. Those names in biblical studies everyone knows. [Read more…]

One of the Greatest Apologists of Our Time, Norman Geisler, Dead at 86

This morning the great apologist Norman Geisler passed away. It was announced on his ministry page, but I saw the news from my colleague Scott Lindsey, who knew Dr. Geisler personally.

Scott has permitted me to share his reflection here, which reveals a side of Dr. Geisler many weren’t privileged to see. [Read more…]

84 Libraries on Sale—Here’s How to Choose the Right One(s)

Your perfect library is in there. Here’s how to find it. [Read more…]

Was $400, Now $100: Flash Sale on Boice Commentary Set

“Of all that I’ve seen, this commentary probably provides the best direct help for preaching on the Psalms. Boice has written a well-crafted, easily understood commentary that provides good historical background and thoughtful suggestions for illustration.”

— Minister’s Packet (April/May 1999), on the Psalms volume [Read more…]

What Is the Orthodox Faith? 9 Facts about the Orthodox Church

Until 1054, there was simply the Church. No Eastern Orthodox Church, no Roman Catholic Church, no Reformation, and no denominations. There were just two large branches of the same tree: the church in the West and the church in the East.

But in 1054, tension between the two came to a head in what is now known as the Great Schism—a split between the two that has yet to be mended. The result was two broad strands of Christianity: the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Here are nine facts about the Eastern Orthodox Church.

1. They split from the West for several reasons

On a basic level (whole books are written on these matters), the divisions between the East and West boiled down to doctrine, culture, and authority.

Though the schism is complex and any simple explanation is bound to miss much of the nuance, some of the primary issues related to:

  • Language differences (broadly speaking, Eastern churches used a Greek rite and sacred text while the church centered in Rome used a Latin rite and the Latin Vulgate)
  • The filioque clause, affirmed by the Western church as a part of the creed but denounced by the Council of Constantinople […]1
  • The use of unleavened bread in the Eucharist by Western churches
  • Ecclesiastical authority

The issue of ecclesiastical authority underlies and punctuates the specific doctrinal differences. In 553, John IV, Patriarch of Constantinople, adopted the title Ecumenical Patriarch. The pope objected to this title, arguing that it went beyond the authority and position afforded to the see of Constantinople. In 1054, Pope Leo IX sent a delegation led by Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida, to object to the current Patriarch of Constantinople Michael I Cerularius’ use of the title Ecumenical Patriarch and to insist (among other things) that he recognize the pope as the head of the Church (caput et mater ecclesiarum). Cerularius refused and in response Humbert excommunicated him. Cerularius in turn excommunicated Humbert and the rest of the papal legates (notably, though, not Leo IX himself).

It is worth noting that though 1054 is generally held to be the formal date of the schism, there were many subsequent events (such as the crusades) that drove the two sides further apart. Though there were further attempts at reunification (such as the Council of Florence), nothing has been successful.

In 1965, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople lifted the mutual excommunications. However, this was largely symbolic and didn’t resolve the original theological differences or the many doctrinal differences that had accumulated in the previous 1,000 years (especially the effects of scholasticism and the enlightenment on western theology).

2. The Orthodox Church affirms the Nicene Creed, but with one exception

The Orthodox Church affirms the Nicene Creed, but slightly different from the Western church. The Orthodox Creed does not include the phrase “and the son” (Latin filioque). With the filioque clause, this section in the creed reads:

I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord, the giver of life,

who proceedeth from the Father ⟨and the Son⟩.

Who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified.

Why was this phrase added, and why did the Eastern church object to it?

In an attempt to counter Arian claims that Christ was different from God the Father, a sixth-century church council in Toledo, Spain, added the word filioque to a creed describing the procession of the Holy Spirit. The creed affirmed that the Holy Spirit was sent by the Father and the Son (John 14:26). The Eastern church objected to this addition, arguing that it exceeded what the Bible said about the procession of the Spirit […].2

3. Orthodox means “straight teaching”

The word Orthodox literally means “straight teaching” or “straight worship,” being derived from two Greek words: orthos, meaning “straight,” and doxa, meaning “teach­ing” or “worship.” As the encroachments of false teaching and division multiplied in early Christian times, threatening to obscure the identity and purity of the Church, the term “Orthodox” quite logically came to be applied to it.

 

 

4. The Orthodox Church doesn’t have a pope

Whereas the head of the Roman Catholic Church, the bishop of Rome (the pope), resides in the Vatican, the Orthodox Church does not necessarily have one primary leader.

If there were one, though, it would be the Ecumenical Patriarch, the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Archbishop of Constantinople. He resides in Istanbul, Turkey, and is considered “primus inter pares (first among equals) among the heads of the several autocephalous churches that make up the Eastern Orthodox Church.”3

The current Ecumenical Patriarch is Bartholomew I of Constantinople.

5. Theosis is a major emphasis of the Orthodox Church

Théosis is becoming like God. It is “is the process of a worshiper becoming free of hamartía (“missing the mark”), being united with God, beginning in this life and later consummated in bodily resurrection. For Orthodox Christians, théōsis (see 2 Pet. 1:4) is salvation.”4

Athanasius, commenting 2 Peter 1:4, says that theosis is “becoming by grace what God is by nature.” In this way theosis is about more than sanctification; it is participating in the life of God and becoming more like him as we do.

6. The Orthodox Church highly values the Church Fathers

There is a strong sense in which the Orthodox Church sees themselves as the living continuation of the ideas of the Church Fathers, like St. John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, and Gregory of Nazianzus, known as “the three holy hierarchs.” St. John Chrysostom’s Easter homily, for example, is read in many Orthodox churches during the holiday.

7. Orthodox Churches are replete with iconography

Whereas Protestant churches are averse to iconography and images of God in worship, the Orthodox Church gives icons a prominent place in its worship.

The Greek Orthodox Church of America explains the presence of icon in their services this way:

An icon is a holy image which is the distinctive art form of the Orthodox Church. An icon may be a painting of wood, on canvas, a mosaic or a fresco. Occupying a very prominent place in Orthodox worship and theology, icons depict Christ Our Lord, Mary the Theotokos, the saints, and angels. They may also portray events from the Scriptures or the history of the Church, such as the Birth of Christ, the Resurrection, or Pentecost

The icon is not simply decorative, inspirational, or educational. Most importantly, it signifies the presence of the person depicted. The icon is like a window linking heaven and earth.5

8. Many Orthodox Churches lack pews or chairs; worshippers stand during the service.

First-time visitors to Orthodox churches are often surprised not to see pews or chairs in the nave. This is because most worshippers in this tradition stand during the service.

Rev. G. S. Debolsky explains that when the prophets saw visions of saints worshipping in heaven, the saints were standing (Isaiah 6:2; 1 Kings 22:19; Daniel 7:10; Apocalypse 7:11). Additionally, the saints in the Old Testament were said to be standing during their worship (2 Chronicles 5:12; 6:2; 20:5, 13; Nehemiah 8:7; 9:4, 5).6

In fact, it is technically forbidden to kneel on Sundays or during the Paschal season.

This tradition is a broader reflection of the Orthodox Church’s commitment to follow the Bible’s prescription for worship as closely as possible.

9. Orthodox priests can be married

The language is intentional here: “be married” versus “marry.” As Wesley Smith writes,

It is a misnomer to say that Orthodox priests can marry. They can be married, and indeed, most Orthodox priests are. But a priest can’t marry while a priest. If he wishes to have a family life, he must get hitched before he is ordained to the diaconate, the penultimate step before becoming a priest.7

In Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, it is the norm for bishops to be celibate.

There is much more to the Orthodox Church than these nine facts, of course. Explore our special Orthodox library packages in Logos, packed to the brim with enriching resources from the Orthodox tradition.

Explore Orthodox libraries in Logos.

Language, Divination, Friendship, More—9 Yale Resources Coming to Logos

A wonderful thing about scholars is they surface topics you didn’t even know existed, and then make them interesting.

Like how Israel’s geographic instability influenced its language.

In A Social History of Hebrew—one of nine books in the newest Yale collection coming to Logos—Schniedewind demonstrates how the Israelites’ long history of migration, war, exile, and other events is reflected in Hebrew’s linguistic evolution. [Read more…]

From the Heavenly Home of John G. Paton: ‘He Walked with God, Why May Not I?’

Recently I’ve started reading an autobiography that’s long been on my list: John G. Paton: The Autobiography of the Pioneer Missionary to the New Hebrides (Vanautu).

I first learned of it when I asked a Banner of Truth bookseller at a conference, “What’s the best book in your stack?” Without hesitation he pointed me to Paton’s autobiography.

Sometime later I saw a friend post about it online, and just a few months ago I heard a pastor say something like, “If you want an unforgettable image of a nurturing Christian home, read the beginning of ol’ Paton’s autobiography.”

So I bumped it up the list and I’m finally getting to it. And I’m underlining everywhere.

I happened to have it with me when I arrived at work this morning, and was sharing all this with a coworker, who encouraged me to post about it. And seeing as we’re so close to Father’s Day, now’s as fitting a time as ever to share my favorite two passages of the book so far.

Here is Paton describing the layout of their home and the spiritual disciplines that took place there. (Note that this book was published in the late 1800s. The author’s spelling is left intact.)

Our home consisted of a “but” and a “ben” and a “mid room,” or chamber, called the “closet.” The one end was my mother’s domain […]. The other end was my father’s workshop […]. The ‘closet’ was a very small apartment betwixt the other two, having room only for a bed, a little table and a chair, with a diminutive window shedding diminutive light on the scene. This was the Sanctuary of that cottage home.

Thither daily, and oftentimes a day, generally after each meal, we saw our father retire, and ‘shut to the door’; and we children got to understand by a sort of spiritual instinct (for the thing was too sacred to be talked about) that prayers were being poured out there for us, as of old by the High Priest within the veil in the Most Holy Place. We occasionally heard the pathetic echoes of a trembling voice pleading as if for life, and we learned to slip out and in past that door on tiptoe, not to disturb the holy colloquy. The outside world might not know, but we knew, whence came that happy light as of a newborn smile that always was dawning on my father’s face: it was a reflection from the Divine Presence, in the consciousness of which he lived.

Never, in temple or cathedral, on mountain or in glen, can I hope to feel that the Lord God is more near, more visibly walking and talking with men, than under that humble cottage roof of thatch and oaken wattles. Though everything else in religion were by some unthinkable catastrophe to be swept out of memory, or blotted from my understanding, my soul would wander back to those early scenes, and shut itself up once again in that Sanctuary Closet, and, hearing still the echoes of those cries to God, would hurl back all doubt with the victorious appeal, “He walked with God, why may not I?”

And then later…

And so began in his seventeenth year that blessed custom of Family Prayer, morning and evening, which my father practised probably without one single avoidable omission till he lay on his deathbed, seventy-seven years of age; when, even to the last day of his life, a portion of Scripture was read, and his voice was heard softly joining in the Psalm, and his lips breathed morning and evening Prayer—falling in sweet benediction on the heads of all his children, far away many of them over all the earth, but all meeting him there at the Throne of Grace. None of us can remember that any day ever passed unhallowed thus; no hurry for market, no rush to business, no arrival of friends or guests, no trouble or sorrow, no joy or excitement, ever prevent at least our kneeling around the family altar, while the High Priest led our prayers to God, and offered himself and his children there.

Fathers, may God strengthen you for your high calling of raising children in the Lord.

2 Ways Jesus Is the Word of God: Revelation and Logos

There are at least two senses in Scripture in which Jesus is the word of God. Though related, one has to do with the idea of revelation, and the other with the Greek word logos. [Read more…]