Category Archives: Protestantism

Evangelism on a City Bus – Russian Orthodox

“I don’t read the Bible, I’m Orthodox.”

You don’t expect to actually hear those words. Everyone knows it’s true, but it’s never said. Certainly not as a means of identification.

Orthodox Bible

On the bus home from a seminar the other day, Nansi had a Russian study Bible on her lap. The man sitting across from her, a Jehovah’s Witness, engaged with us – easy enough when someone is carrying a Bible! You can read the story of that encounter here.

There had been four of us sitting in tight quarters, like a restaurant booth without the table. Sitting next to the Jehovah’s Witness was a woman, who I initially thought was with him. After he left the bus, since she had heard the entire conversation, I asked if she read the Bible. Immediately she answered, “I don’t read the Bible, I’m Orthodox.”

[“Я Библию не читаю, я Православная.”]

In response I asked, “Are Orthodox not allowed to read the Bible?”

After an awkward pause, ignoring the question, she said “that guy’s not normal,” referring to the Jehovah’s Witness.

Below is the rest of our conversation:

“I come from a different branch of Christianity, and I don’t really understand Orthodoxy. What is most important in Orthodoxy?”

“To be a good person.”

“That’s only possible with God’s strength.”

“Sometimes I feel that way.”

“I know you might think that I’m also from a cult, we work with the Baptists. We can’t be good people on our own. You can’t be a good person. I can’t be a good person. My natural self does not seek the things of God. It’s only when God resurrects me, though Jesus Christ, that I can live.”

“Why are you here, in Pskov?”

“My wife and I moved here because we want to help people. We have some friends from the area who recommended it.”

“My priest told me not to help people unless they want to be helped. I’m old, I’m in my 60s, I’m tired of people, I don’t want to spend any time with them. People don’t have the same values today, they’re only interested in money.”

“Were you a Christian in the Soviet times?”

“I never thought of it that way. I sang in the choir at church. I was a schoolteacher and they threatened to fire me because of my church going.”

Orthodox WomanAt first we thought she was angry when she asked us why we were here. I think she was just generally confused, didn’t understand why we would come. Admittedly, it doesn’t make much worldly sense.

A standard, nominal Orthodox Christian, who never goes to church, would also say it’s important to be a good person. It’s enlightening, however, to hear that from someone who is a regular part of the church’s life.

She thinks the Jehovah’s Witness is in a cult, and he thinks she’s an unbeliever, but both of them are trying to earn their salvation. I hope she gives up. I hope she stops trying to rely on her own strength.

She knows who we are, and she knows where we meet, but the cultural baggage against Protestants is so strong that very few self-identified Orthodox are willing to engage.

Less than 10% of Russians have any connection to any church. Most Russians are Orthodox only by ethnic identification. To them all Protestants are “Baptists,” and they’ve been taught that Baptists are Western traitors who practice child sacrifice. Seriously. Most believe the first accusation, and some the second.

This is one of our greatest strengths as foreign missionaries in Russia. We’re not Russian. It’s ok for us to be Protestant – I’m not a traitor for being one. Russians can engage with us as a cross-cultural dialogue, not a negotiation with an enemy. The problem is, we don’t even have the Bible as a common foundation.

Do you have any experience in theological communication with Orthodox? Let me know in the comments!

Read part 1: Evangelism on a City Bus – Jehovah’s Witness

The Apostle Paul was a Motivational Speaker?

Marcus Borg: The Heart of Christianity - Rediscovering A Life Of Faith

Follow me on Twitter @OwenPaun

“When Paul resolved to ‘preach nothing but Christ and Christ crucified,’ this is centrally what he meant: the cross as a symbol of the process of personal transformation at the heart of the Christian life.” – Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity

Earlier in the book, Borg has made clear that he believes substitutionary atonement is an incorrect understanding of the cross – that it was only invented in the 11th century. He also believes that there is no actual process of being ‘born again’ – that all people are always in a relationship with God.

It would appear, then, that the Apostle Paul was a traveling motivational speaker – urging people to be better versions of themselves. I have trouble believing that such a message would have set off the dynamic and rapid growth of early Christianity.

Marcus Borg and Christian Pluralism

Marcus Borg: The Heart of Christianity - Rediscovering A Life Of Faith

Follow me on Twitter @OwenPaun

“God is also known in other ways and other religions, I am convinced, but to be Christian is to be centered in the God of the Bible.” – Marcus Borg, The Heart of Christianity

Since the Bible describes an exclusive God, I don’t understand how Christian pluralists deal with texts like John 14:6

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Are passages such as this discarded as counterfeit sayings of Jesus?

Were Puritans So Dour?

The Puritans

We’ve all been taught that the Puritans were a dark, dismal bunch.  Our teachers lied to us:

Contrary to popular impression, the Puritan was no ascetic.  If he continually warned against the vanity of the creatures as misused by fallen man, he never praised hair shirts or dry crusts.  He liked good food, good drink and homely comforts; and while he laughed at mosquitoes, he found it a real hardship to drink water when the beer ran out.

The Puritan Family:  Religion and Domestic Relations in 17th Century New England, Edmund Morgan.

John Owen

John Owen, probably the greatest Puritan theologian, would walk through Oxford ‘hair powdered, cambric band with large costly band strings, velvet jacket, breeches set round at knees with ribbons pointed, and Spanish leather boots with cambric tops.’

The Unquenchable Flame:  Discovereing the Heart of the Reformation, Michael Reeves

Charles Spurgeon on John Wesley

Charles Spurgeon and John Wesley were famous leaders in opposing camps of Protestant Christianity.  Spurgeon was a dedicated Calvinist, and Wesley an Arminian who provided the foundation for the Methodist and Holiness movements.

Given the hostility that too often exists between these groups and their followers, it is refreshing to see what Charles Spurgeon had to say about a saint with whom he disagreed on some major issues.

Charles Spurgeon

Most atrocious things have been spoken about the character and spiritual condition of John Wesley, the modern prince of Arminians. I can only say concerning him that, while I detest many of the doctrines which he preached, yet for the man himself I have a reverence second to no Wesleyan; and if there were wanted two apostles to be added to the number of the twelve, I do not believe that there could be found two men more fit to be so added than George Whitefield and John Wesley.

The character of John Wesley stands beyond all imputation for self-sacrifice, zeal, holiness, and communion with God; he lived far above the ordinary level of common Christians, and was one “of whom the world was not worthy.”

You can read the full essay “In Defense of Calvinism,” from which this excerpt was taken.

On Love for our Fellow Man

I was walking across a bridge one day and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said:

Golden Gate in the Clouds

“Stop! Don’t do it!”
“Why shouldn’t I?” he said.
“Well, there is so much to live for.”
“Like what?”
“Well, are you religious?”
He said yes.
I said, “Me too! Are you Christian?”
“Me too! Are you Lutheran, Catholic or Protestant?”
“Me too! Are you Episcopalian or Baptist?”
“Wow, me too! Are you Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord?”
“Baptist Church of the Lord.”
“Me too! Are you Original Baptist Church of the Lord or are you Reformed Baptist Church of the Lord?”
“Reformed Baptist Church of the Lord.”
“Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of the Lord, reformation of 1879, or are you Reformed Baptist Church of the Lord, reformation of 1915?”
He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of the Lord, reformation of 1879.”
I said, “Die, heretic,” and pushed him off.

Emo Philips, via Homebrewed Theology.

Limited Atonement … in Rap – “He Tried”

I never thought I’d hear any song, let alone a rap song, about Limited Atonement:

“I may be called Antinomian or Calvinist for preaching a limited atonement; but I had rather believe a limited atonement that is efficacious for all men for whom it was intended, than a universal atonement that is not efficacious for anybody, except the will of man be joined with it.”

– C.H. Spurgeon

Hat Tip: Lane Chaplin

If Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians was Published in Christianity Today


Dear Christianity Today:

In response to Paul D. Apostle’s article about the Galatian church in your January issue, I have to say how appalled I am by the unchristian tone of this hit piece. Why the negativity? Has he been to the Galatian church recently? I happen to know some of the people at that church, and they are the most loving, caring people I’ve ever met.

Phyllis Snodgrass; Ann Arbor, MI

Dear CT:

I’ve seen other dubious articles by Paul Apostle in the past, and frankly I’m surprised you felt that his recurrent criticisms of the Church deserved to be printed in your magazine. Mr. Apostle for many years now has had a penchant for thinking he has a right to “mark” certain Christian teachers who don’t agree with his biblical position. Certainly I commend him for desiring to stay faithful to God’s word, but I think he errs in being so dogmatic about his views to the point where he feels free to openly attack his brethren. His attitude makes it difficult to fully unify the Church, and gives credence to the opposition’s view that Christians are judgmental, arrogant people who never show God’s love.

Ken Groener; San Diego, CA

Continue reading “If Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians was Published in Christianity Today

Warren waver on Prop 8 stuns leaders

This is what happens when you try to please two masters, the world and God:

Mr. Warren told CNN’s Larry King on Monday that he “never once even gave an endorsement” of the proposition, which said marriage in the state could only involve one man and one woman.

What Mr. Warren said he did do was send out a video to his 22,000-member church explaining his position the week before Proposition 8 went before state voters on Nov. 4.

“Now let me say this really clearly: We support Proposition 8,” he said on the video, “and if you believe what the Bible says about marriage, you need to support Proposition 8. I never support a candidate, but on moral issues, I come out very clear.”

Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, said his denial is “absolutely baffling.”

“Whether he supports Proposition 8 now, after the fact, is overshadowed by the bizarre claim that he did not say what the evidence so clearly proves he said.”

Warren waver on Prop 8 stuns leaders – Washington Times.