I am passionately and unapologetically Protestant. Thus, it is quite concerning that Eastern Orthodoxy has made such a large impact in the USA. I am currently listening to a very well-written book entitled The Benedict Option, written by Rod Dreher. He is Eastern Orthodox. On top of that, the Bible Answer Man himself has made the transition to Eastern Orthodoxy. So, why is this happening?
I think there are a few reasons. Firstly, I think Evangelicalism is severely lacking in depth of tradition. Second, Evangelicalism does not preach its own doctrine. Thirdly, Eastern Orthodoxy communicates an invitation to deep, well-developed tradition. This is over against Roman Catholicism, which has largely left its own tradition. That is to say that Rome, in most Roman congregations, they are detached from their history throughout the centuries. What is left to turn to, then? Eastern Orthodoxy.
Evangelicalism is severely lacking in depth of tradition.
Evangelicalism is a relatively recent development. It is quite the phenomenon. It seeks to blend American, social Conservatism with the gospel. It has existed for only a few decades at this point. Protestantism, on the other hand, had roots in the 16th Century, and even earlier, American Christianity was largely influenced by this. So, Evangelicalism sought to blend Socially conservative politics and the Protestant religion. The result is that the gospel has been woefully watered down in an attempt to appeal to conservative voters. This is no tradition for young people to cling to.
Evangelicalism does not preach its own doctrine.
As previously stated, Evangelicalism draws from historic, Protestant doctrine. That is, Evangelicalism is technically built upon the Five Solae of the Reformation: Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), Sola Fide (Faith Alone), Solus Christus (Christ Alone), Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Soli Deo Gloria (For the Glory of God Alone). The problem is that it isn’t preached. What is preached is barely a motivational speech in most Evangelical churches. If these great truths of the Reformation were preached faithfully, we would see a massive resurgence of Evangelical gospel zeal. As it stands, however, we will continue to see people lost to Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism.
Eastern Orthodoxy communicates an invitation to deep, well-developed tradition.
I’ve made reference to this several times throughout my post. I’d like to explain now. When I say tradition, I mean that line of succession, and the length thereof, in any given church. So, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox trace their tradition back to the early centuries AD. Historic Protestantism does the same, however with less frequency. Evangelicalism has virtually no tradition as it has only existed for a very short amount of time. This is important because Evangelicalism’s attempts to draw in new converts are mostly superficial in nature. These include lock-ins, concerts, etc. This superficiality has driven people to look for something deeper. Tradition’s appeal is the idea that it represents a way of doing things our grandfathers’ grandfathers did. The history and formality of Eastern Orthodoxy make it very appealing to those looking for something deeper than Evangelicalism’s poor presentations.
Make no mistake, I am Protestant to the core. That does mean that Scripture is to decide all controversy, not tradition. However, tradition has its place. There is nothing inherently wrong with it, and I think there is a reason people are drawn to it.
“Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living. And, I suppose I should add, it is traditionalism that gives tradition such a bad name.”
I speak from my own standpoint. I can scarcely speak to the problems within Roman Catholicism other than what I have heard from Roman Catholics themselves. I speak from an Evangelical point of view because that is what I was raised in.
We need to lean into the tradition of the Reformation and avoid the mistakes of the Eastern Orthodox Church and Roman Catholicism. Let’s reclaim our heritage as sons of the Reformation! Because it is only by God’s grace that any of us have been drawn to that tradition. Soli Deo Gloria!