Book Plunge: An Outline of Orthodox Dogmatic Patristics

What do I think of Romanides’s work published by the Orthodox Research Institute? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

A warning about this book. This one is deep. The average person will not understand it. If you want a book on Orthodoxy that is friendly to the average reader, this isn’t the one. This is not said in an insulting sense as such could be said about several Protestant and Catholic books. It’s just said because it’s true.

Yet going through, there was not much in theology that I had a problem with. It’s one reason I don’t understand it when people say they move to Catholicism or Orthodoxy because of the theology. The theology is still very much the same.

It’s when we get into more secondary issues that I start having problems as those secondary issues can often at times appear to be primary issues. This is something that makes this different from many other denominational issues. Orthodox and Catholics both set themselves up as the true church and everyone else is in some lesser position, although I have some reason to be concerned some Orthodox do see those on the outside as not even Christians.

Mainly, this happens when it comes to Scriptural interpretation. Romanides will tell us about a divine council that gives the interpretation of Scripture and one should not try to think they can interpret apart from that guidance. Unfortunately, no backing is given for this other than the assertion that this council comes from the apostles. How one can know this is unknown.

This is one of my problems when tradition is put on the same level as Scripture. Which tradition? How can we know? The Orthodox claim the wisdom of the apostles lies in this divine council. The Catholics claim it lies in the magisterium. Both of them claim this on the basis of tradition and both say the other is wrong on the basis of tradition. How could we choose which one?

What about a Protestant like myself? We go with the one source everyone agrees comes from the apostles, the Scripture. I don’t buy into any idea that I need this other group before I can understand the Scripture and I don’t accept such in Protestantism either. Anyone willing to do the work of study can have a good understanding of the text. Of course, this won’t be an infallible understanding, but it’s dangerous to really think one’s understanding cannot be wrong anyway.

This isn’t to say that I think the Orthodox are wrong on everything that is a secondary matter. Of course not. I am quite friendly to their idea of heaven and hell in the sense that God’s presence is a joy to believers and a torture to those who are not. I also am entirely open to the idea of the church not just being invisible but visible as well. I think that people should be able to look at us in all our traditions and see Jesus.

Again, while there are things I do like, when it comes to issues such as the treatment of Mary and the saints or the reliability of tradition, I am highly unpersuaded. In fairness, Romanides’s probably did not write this book for someone like myself but for those in the fold of Orthodoxy already. Still, if future reading doesn’t make better arguments, I will continue to be unconvinced and see such things as the traditions of men but not rooted in Christ or Scripture.

In Christ,
Nick Peters