What Can Evangelicals and Orthodox Learn from One Another? [AUDIO]

Met. Timothy Ware: “We Orthodox have the fullness of the faith but we do not live it out. Our treasures remain hidden and we do not live up to what we should be doing…Orthodox Christians are nominal and formal in their faith.”

A lecture delivered at North Park University in Chicago in Feb of 2011 with His Eminence Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, Professor Emeritus in Eastern Orthodox Studies at Oxford University, and Bishop of Diokleia. Metropolitan Ka!istos is widely regarded as perhaps the world’s leading theologian of the Eastern Orthodox Church today .

Podcast courtesy of Ancient Faith Radio.

The Illumined Heart on Ancient Faith Radio with Kevin AllenThe following is a private interview with Illumined Heart guest host John Maddex.

Podcast courtesy of Ancient Faith Radio.


  1. I am wondering if “being born again” is a figure of speech or what does it really means.
    I do not know if His Eminence Metropolitan Kallistos Ware is aware that, in Russia, Evangelicals aren’t being welcome with open arms:

    Russian Orthodox and Evangelicals at Odds Spring 1999

    In a 1994 essay Andrei Kurayev, pro-rector of the Moscow Orthodox University, accused American Protestant missionaries of organizing the spiritual occupation of Russia. He wrote that one of the missions calls itself a “Crusade” and asked, “Against whom is it fighting? Against unbelief and lack of spirituality? Or are they once again opposed to Orthodoxy?” Missionary meetings he called “shows” where the Christian faith is “advertised like toothpaste.”4 Foreigners’ presumption that Russia is a vast spiritual wasteland, despite a millennium of Orthodox Christianity,5 is fueled by militant language which in turn reinforces hostility:

    “‘Russia is a Mission Field,” proclaims one Campus Crusade news release. “Yours in conquering the heartland of Russia with the irresistible love of Jesus,” ends a newsletter. These references are insensitive, uninformed, and easy to misconstrue.

    Evangelicals and Orthodox Together? March 12, 2009

    With the election of a new Russian Patriarch, Evangelicals are hoping for better relations with the Orthodox. Laws in Russia generally favor the Orthodox Church over any other religious group, and Evangelicals are particularly unwelcome in Russia by the Orthodox hierarchy, as they are often seen as trying to poach existing members of the Orthodox Church.
    With the election of a new Russian Patriarch, Evangelicals are hoping for better relations with the Orthodox. Laws in Russia generally favor the Orthodox Church over any other religious group, and Evangelicals are particularly unwelcome in Russia by the Orthodox hierarchy, as they are often seen as trying to poach existing members of the Orthodox Church.
    Perhaps if the Baptists, and Evangelicals in general, were willing to accept the Orthodox practice of Christianity as salvific, the heirarchy would be more open to ecumenical relations.

    On Evangelical Missionaries in Russia
    October 11, 2010

    Eastern Orthodox tend to emphasize the altar over the pulpit, the liturgy over the homily, the mystery of faith over its rational disputation, the priestly office of the clergy over the devotional tasks of the litany. Western Christians generally reverse these priorities – and sometimes accuse the Orthodox of idolatry, introversion, and invasion of the believer’s personal relationship with God.[There are vast differences in the theology of mission work here.] Western Evangelicals, in particular, assume that, in order to be saved, every person must make a personal, conscious commitment to Christ – to be born again, to convert. Any person who has not been born again, or who once reborn now leads a nominal life, is a legitimate object of evangelism – regardless of whether and where a person has been baptized.
    The Patriarch [of the Orthodox Church] is not only complaining about improper methods of evangelism – the bribery, blackmail, coercion, and material inducements used by some groups; the garish carnivals, billboards, and media blitzed used by others. The Patriarch is also complaining about the improper presence of missionaries – those who have not come to aid the Orthodox Church for its own souls on its own territory. The Patriarch takes seriously the statement of St. Paul, who wrote: “It is my ambition to bring the Gospel to places where the very name of Christ has not been heard, for I do not want to build on another man’s foundation” (Rom 15:20). “

  2. Orhtodox Christians, by and large, never have been — and probably never will be — strong supporters of evangelism. I believe that most Orthodox Christians believe — as I personally believe — that evangelism should not be imposed on others, especially if they already have a religion or are unyielding atheists.

    I can’t help but relate this topic to Jehovah’s Witnesses, who often go around neighborhoods, and ring people’s doorbells, and talk to people, so they can try to convert these people to their own religion. I really think that of evangelism, then, is an intrusion of a person’s private life.

    • I am having some audio issues, but I listened to most of Kevin Allen’s interview already…


      I would not exactly agree that “Orhtodox [sic] Christians, by and large, never have been — and probably never will be — strong supporters of evangelism”. Given that evangelism is announcing the Gospel, we do that at every Liturgy. However, if you mean we are not bent on forcing Orthodoxy on others, I would mostly agree with that.

      One of the everpresent struggles for Orthodox Christians is drawing the line between displaying our Faith in thoughts, words, and deeds for love of Christ and doing it out of love-less pride. Along those lines, however is the point of evangelism. It’s something that–when you combine Scripture, Church history, and our current post-modern society–leaves us with the temptations of trying to drag people to God kicking and screaming or abandoning everyone out of disapproval of their personally-held “truths”. Living in a fallen world leaves us with these sorts of options, but I think the Orthodox Church would stick firmly to the counsel of Saint Seraphim concerning “saving ourselves/seeking the Holy Spirit”.

      We cannot discredit preaching as though it opposes “living our faith”, but we need to be loving about it, and recognize that it involves as much listening as it does speaking. Proselytism and “stealing sheep” usually includes very little listening; dialalogue becomes very one-sided, and also quite negative in many instances. On the other hand, listening does not mean totally accepting. We can respect others enough to listen to their stories and beliefs, but we do not need to adhere to them for our actions to be considered “loving”. Such a notion would be absurd.

      Anyway, we can let God be the judge when it comes to unjust “evagelism” from others. For the time being, we as Orthodox Christians can focus our efforts on living the Faith in thought, word, and deed–no compartmentalism needed.

    • Michael Bauman :

      What, pray tell, is ‘one’s private life’? Everything we do, say and believe has an effect on everyone else. What is wrong with witnessing in word AND deed? Our communion with Jesus Christ is certainly deeply personal and intimate but not isolated and private.

      I’ve thought a time or too about making a big sign that says “Jesus forgives” and taking it with a comfortable chair and a cooler to a public park and just sit there all day and see what kind of conversation is sparked or greeting each Muslim I meet with Al’Masiah qam (Christ is risen).

      Privatism is simply not a Christian way of life. That does not mean we need to buttonhole, or ‘steal sheep’ or be obnoxious, but we are called to be witnesses to the work of Christ.

  3. The Evangelicals, as well as other Christians, use verses from the Scripture, taken completely out of context and interpreted improperly outside of Tradition. They attempt to provide justification for their false, man made, “Once saved, always saved” belief.

    The Tradition of the Church teaches to “expect temptation until your last breath.” That means doing a lifelong battle with one’s inner desires, drives, thoughts and attachments
    There is an icon known by the title The Ladder of Divine Ascent which depicts many people climbing a ladder; “at the top is Jesus Christ, prepared to receive the climbers into Heaven. Also shown are angels helping the climbers, and demons attempting to shoot with arrows or drag down the climbers, no matter how high up the ladder they may be. ”

    The Life of St. Anthony describes the saint’s struggle with temptations:

    But the devil, who hates and envies what is good, could not endure to see such a resolution in a youth, but endeavoured to carry out against him what he had been wont to effect against others. First of all he tried to lead him away from thediscipline, whispering to him the remembrance of his wealth, care for his sister, claims of kindred, love of money, love of glory, the various pleasures of the table and the other relaxations of life, and at last the difficulty of virtue and the labour of it; he suggested also the infirmity of the body and the length of the time. In a word he raised in his mind a great dust of debate, wishing to debar him from his settled purpose. But when the enemy saw himself to be too weak for Antony’s determination, and that he rather was conquered by the other’s firmness, overthrown by his great faith and falling through his constant prayers, then at length putting his trust in the weapons which are ‘in the navel of his belly’ and boasting in them— for they are his first snare for the young— he attacked the young man, disturbing him by night and harassing him by day, so that even the onlookers saw the struggle which was going on between them. The one would suggest foul thoughts and the other counter them with prayers: the one fire him with lust, the other, as one who seemed to blush, fortify his body with faith, prayers, and fasting. And the devil, unhappy wight, one night even took upon him the shape of a woman and imitated all her acts simply to beguile Antony. But he, his mind filled with Christ and the nobility inspired by Him, and considering the spirituality of the soul, quenched the coal of the other’s deceit. Again the enemy suggested the ease of pleasure. But he like a man filled with rage and grief turned his thoughts to the threatened fire and the gnawing worm, and setting these in array against his adversary, passed through the temptation unscathed. All this was a source of shame to his foe. For he, deeming himself like God, was now mocked by a young man; and he who boasted himself against flesh and blood was being put to flight by a man in the flesh. For theLord was working with Antony— the Lord who for our sake took flesh and gave the body victory over the devil, so that all who truly fight can say 1 Corinthians 15:10, ‘not I but the grace of God which was with me.’

    6. At last when the dragon could not even thus overthrow Antony, but saw himself thrust out of his heart, gnashing his teeth as it is written, and as it were beside himself, he appeared to Antony like a black boy, taking a visible shape in accordance with the colour of his mind. And cringing to him, as it were, he plied him with thoughts no longer, for guileful as he was, he had been worsted, but at last spoke in human voice and said, ‘Many I deceived, many I cast down; but now attacking you and your labours as I had many others, I proved weak.’ When Antony asked, Who are you who speakest thus with me? He answered with a lamentable voice, ‘I am the friend of whoredom, and have taken upon me incitements which lead to it against the young. I am called thespirit of lust. How many have I deceived who wished to live soberly, how many are the chaste whom by my incitements I have over-persuaded! I am he on account of whom also the prophet reproves those who have fallen, saying Hosea 4:12, “You have been caused to err by the spirit of whoredom.” For by me they have been tripped up. I am he who have so often troubled you and have so often been overthrown by you.’ But Antony having given thanks to the Lord, with good courage said to him, ‘You are very despicable then, for you are black-hearted and weak as a child. Henceforth I shall have no trouble from you, “for the Lord is my helper, and I shall look down on mine enemies.”‘ Having heard this, the black one straightway fled, shuddering at the words and dreading any longer even to come near the man.

    Are we to believe that the Evangelicals have succeeded to purify their hearts from passions? Even if it is so, there’s still room for improvement:

    Many times, in different contexts and studying the process of spiritual maturation from various aspects, we point out that there are three stages (levels) in the spiritual development of a person. The ascetical-hesychastic living Tradition names them as:

    * First stage – purification of the heart from passions
    * Second stage – illumination of the mind
    * Third stage – deification of man’s person.

    “Speaking the truth in love” means to speak with respect and gentleness. I lack the ability to speak properly, but I have to tell them, out of love and concern: stop listening to the devil whispering into your ears “you are saved”. Do not allow yourself to be deceived!

  4. Scott Pennington :

    “Perhaps if the Baptists, and Evangelicals in general, were willing to accept the Orthodox practice of Christianity as salvific, the heirarchy would be more open to ecumenical relations.”

    “I believe that most Orthodox Christians believe — as I personally believe — that evangelism should not be imposed on others, especially if they already have a religion or are unyielding atheists.”

    There is a fundamental problem in understanding here. The Orthodox Church, and only the Orthodox Church, is the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church” spoken of in the Creed. That is essential to our self understanding.

    Evangelicals tend to believe that we are heretics since we deviate from their understanding of what “orthodox” Christianity is. To them, we believe in what they call “works righteousness” as well as value Holy Tradition as a whole instead of only Scripture. They are largely right in their assessement of what we believe, wrong in whether it is unorthodox.

    The “born again” stuff and the “works righteousness” are what cause them to believe that we are not “saved” and in need of conversion. They are totally parochial in outlook. They take the norms of 20th century Protestantism and Western democracy as normative to the exclusion of almost 1900 years of Christian history, for 1500 of which there was no such thing as “protestantism”. Most of them probably do not even know that the non-denominational evangelicalism they espouse is of very recent origin. Protestant denominations, for the first several centuries of their existence, were generally closed communion, even as against other Protestants. It is watered down modern Americanist religion.

    There’s not a lot to talk about in terms of theology and ecclesiology. It may be advantageous to take them as political allies in the fight to restore the West to Christian values (as Russia does with Catholics at present). But in terms of religion, it’s a zero sum game.

    Moreover, there are problems from our perspective as well. “There is no salvation outside the Church.” This is a truism which has always been accepted by the Orthodox (as well as Catholics, from their own perspective). Now, it is true that “there are wolves within and sheep without”, so we may prefer to take the first proposition as referring to the institution of the Church rather than to individuals. Nonetheless, it is true to say that no one will be saved on the last day because of their adherence to Protestantism or Catholicism, but all who will be saved will be saved due to the degree of their adherence, to whatever degree of perfection they attain, to Orthodox Christianity. It don’t speak merely of outward observance and deeds but also, especially, of inward devotion.

    There is really no such thing as “Christianity” in the sense we normally speak of it. It’s a convenient misnomer. There is no “orthodox” Christianity apart from Orthodox Christianity.

    So, really, we should be as active in mission work as the Protestants because the salvation of human beings is at stake and these human beings have no assurance of salvation in Protestantism. This does not mean we have to use Protestant methods (or those of Jehovah’s witnesses), but it does mean that if we do not again become a missionary church, then to that extent we are simply not Orthodox.

    We don’t have a choice. Christ commanded it.

  5. Scott Pennington :

    BTW, judging from the above interview, Met. Kallistos’ views on Scripture and Tradition have changed dramatically over the last 14 years:

    From, The Orthodox Church, chapter 10, Holy Tradition, the Source of the Orthodox Faith:

    “Orthodox are always talking about Tradition. What do they mean by the word? A tradition is commonly understood to signify an opninon, belief or custom handed down from ancestors to posterity. Christian Traditioin, in that case, is the faith and practice of Jesus Christ imparted to the Apostles, and which since the Apostles’ time has been handed down from generation to generation in the Church. But to an Orhtodox Christian, Tradition means something more concrete and specific than this. It means the books of the Bible; it means the Creed; it means the decrees of Ecumenical Councils and the writings of the Fathers . . .”

    “Note that the Bible forms a part of Tradition. Sometimes Tradition is defined as the oral teaching of Christ, not recorded in writing by His immediate disciples. Not only non-Orthodox but many Orthodox writers have adopted this way of speaking, treating Scripture and Tradition as two different things, two distinct sources of the Christian faith. But in reality there is only one source, since Scripture exists within Tradition [italics in original]. To seperate and contrast the two is to impoverish the idea of both alike.”

    “Among the various elements of Tradition, a unique pre-eminence belongs to the Bible, to the Creed, to the doctrinal definitions of the Ecumenical Councils: these things the Orthodox accept as something absolute and unchanging, something which cannot be cancelled or revised.”

    “It is from the Church that the Bible ultimately derives its authority, for it was the Church which originally decided which books form a part of Holy Scripture; and it is the Church alone which can interpret Holy Scripture with authority.”

    “The doctrinal definitions of an Ecumenical Council are infallible. Thus in the eyes of the Orthodox Church, the statements of faith put out by the seven councils possess, along with the Bible, an abiding and irrevocable authority.”

    “The Orthodox Church is not as much given to making formal dogmatic definitions as is the Roman Catholic Church. But it would be false to conclude that because some belief has never been proclaimed as a dogma by Orthodoxy, it is therefore not a part of Orthodox Tradition, but merely a matter of private opinion. Certain doctrines, never formally defined, are yet held by the Church with an unmistakable inner conviction, an unruffled unanimity, which is just as binding as an explicit formulation. ‘Some things we have from written teaching,’ said St. Basil, ‘ others we have received from the Apostolic Tradition handed down to us in a mystery; and both these things have the same force for piety.’ This inner Tradition ‘handed down to us in a mystery; is preserved above all in the Church’s worship . . . [N]or is it merely the words of the services which are a part of Tradition; the various gestures and actions – immersion in the waters of Baptism, the different anointings with oil, the sign of the Cross, and so on – all have a special meaning, and all express in symbolical or dramatic form the truths of the faith.”

    “Such are the primary elements which from an outward point of view make up the Tradition of the Orthodox Church – Scripture, Councils, Fathers, Liturgy, Canons, Icons. These things are not to be separated and contrasted, for it is the same Holy Spirit which speaks through them all, and together they make up a single whole, each part being understood in the light of the rest.”

    Thus spaketh he in his 1997 edition of The Orthodox Church who is above referred to as being “widely regarded as perhaps the world’s leading theologian of the Eastern Orthodox Church today .”

    Of course, I have also heard Met. Kallistos in more recent years state that heterodox Christians are part of the “Body of Christ”, that we should study the question of women’s ordination, and that we should incorporate “higher criticism” into Orthodox biblical scholarship.

    Ecumenism does take its toll.

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