Personal Opinion vs. Church Tradition/Authority ; Protestantism vs. Orthodoxy

edited July 2005 in Faith Issues
Over the recent weeks, I’ve engaged in a number of discussions with people on various controversial and difficult issues pertaining to matters of doctrine, morality, ecclesiology etc. Although I have disagreed with many, I have only been disappointed by some; that disappointment being in relation to their stubborn and unOrthodox approach to the matter. Although they claim to be Orthodox Christians, they do not speak or discuss like Orthodox Christians and their reluctance and resistance to conform or adapt their approach gives us very little reason to even accept any truth in their personal claim to Orthodoxy.

One of the fundamental differences between Orthodox Christianity and Protestantism is with regards to the Orthodox Church’s adherence and appeal to the Apostolic tradition as expounded by our Holy Fathers and as preserved by the Church which possesses ultimate authority by the Holy Spirit.

Discernment of, and faith in, doctrinal and moral truths is a matter of spiritual insight available only to those in communion with the Church and in union with the Holy Trinity; as such an intellectual or rational pursuit to come to truthful conclusions regarding such matters is futile.

Since the Protestant Reformation in the West however, a new and deceptive approach to discerning the eternal truths of God had arisen. According to this new approach, one’s individual conscience and private beliefs, become elevated over and above that of the Church’s authority - which is reduced to negligible-zero. Many Protestants replace the Church’s authority with Biblical authority (although the Bible is often left for the individual’s personal interpretation nonetheless.) Academic research into theological and Biblical analysis proliferates as scholars continue publishing their own opinions, each in conflict with the other according to their own personally biased presuppositions, yet each claiming objectivity and reason in support of their theories or ideologies. Theology is thus reduced to mere academic research as opposed to the expression of the Church's spiritual experience.

Individual conscience surely has its place in Orthodoxy (one might not be able to say the same for Roman Catholicism), however to employ personal reason according to individual conscience outside of the experience of the Church, and in neglect of the Church’s authority and Church tradition, is simply and bluntly a Protestant approach to Christianity.

St. Irenaeus states in his Against the Heresies, Book 3:

But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth...

It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything like what these [heretics] rave about... .

In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth.

Please feel free to share opinions of concordance or dissonance with what I have said - without getting personal. Thank you.



  • Thank you Iqbal very much for this excellent thread, we desperately needed in the last couple of weeks.

    Would you please kindly, let this thread stands on the top of the forum “ Coptic Orthodox Church “ and dose not move down by the influx of the threads. It should stands up for every new and, also, old members to get educated with the believe, dogma, tradition, Patristic and Biblical stands of the Coptic Church.

    I am very sorry for personal insults you face it lately, “ And indeed all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus, will be persecuted. “
    2 Timothy 3:12

    May God help you in this difficult but very important task for the glory of His Name.

  • Dear Iqbal. I would have to say I definitely agree with you (not that objective truth is contingent upon my "agreeing" with anything), but I would also like to say that the Fathers disagreed over many issues and that so-called "universal consensus" isn't quite as "universal" or "consented" as we would like to believe. Indeed, contrary to what many have supposed, there is actually quite little that has been "believed everywhere, by all people, and at all times". This is not Protestantism, it is simply an honest historical critique. Protestants critique history dishonestly or simply don't critique it at all (i.e. they pretend that Pentecost happened in the year 1517 and only among white, Northwestern Europeans at that....and that prior to that apparently all Christians went to hell).

    We obviously must respect what the Church Fathers have laid down and we must not "move boundary stones which our fathers have set before us." But this is not a call to stick our heads in the sand and become anti-intellectual. Such a call fails to take into account the amount of logic and reason which were used in conciliar deliberation. It seems that many pretend that the Ecumenical Councils were nothing but games of theological blackjack where whoever tallied up the most Patristic quotes won. In fact, this is not the case. It was because of reason and logic that the Athanasians "won over" the Arians in the 4th Century (i.e. only the Deity can deify humanity....only God can save mankind).
  • Dear Deano and rf_zachari,

    Please see your PM's in relation to the posts you had posted in this thread.

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