Saturday, January 26, 2008

Old Whine in New Bottles

This new book looks like a real doozy. Here's the blurb:
Scholar, theologian, apologist, and pastor, Dr. Robert A. Morey, defines, documents, and refutes the group of religions that go by the name "Eastern Orthodoxy," in his latest book Is Eastern Orthodoxy Christian? With a title that intentionally begs the question, the book serves as a helpful resource for Christian apologists and evangelists that desire to defend the faith and win the lost for Christ. Dr. Morey's many years of intense academic research and personal interviews with Eastern Orthodox theologians and followers have become the basis for the subjects addressed in this 200 page book. With six short chapters, two comprehensive appendixes, and hundreds of footnotes, Is Eastern Orthodoxy Christian? by Dr. Robert Morey will be among the top picks for 2008.

"Eastern Orthodoxy" is a group of religions? Interesting. Hey, but it's got hundreds of footnotes, so it can't be all bad.

Let's look at some of Dr. Morey's other choice assertions:

On Hellenization:
With an extensive section on the Hellenization of Eastern Orthodoxy, Dr. Morey provides documented proof that is beyond refutation that from its beginning, Eastern Orthodox theology was molded and shaped by pagan doctrines and rituals.

On Theosis:
"The historical origins of the doctrine, experience, and techniques of deification have been traced back by Orthodox scholars to the ancient Eastern mysticism found in Hinduism and Buddhism. This is well-documented and beyond refutation."
On Iconography:
"The connection between the pre-Christian pagan doctrine of deification and icon/relic worship in Eastern Orthodoxy is obvious. When the pagans took over the Orthodox Church, they brought their belief in apotheosis and their worship of icons/relics with them. The icon worship practiced today in every Orthodox Church was originally practiced by pagans before Jesus was born."

And then there is this in the insightful review by Stephen Mascasil from (Dr Morey's own website):
One advantage in purchasing multiple copies of the book is because, usually, Protestant converts to Eastern Orthodoxy like to read, and read a lot. So, this book acts like a big fat tract that will get read, and as I mentioned earlier, perhaps by God's sovereign grace He'll save some.

Now, who is this "scholar, theologian, apologist, and pastor"? According to Wikipedia, the erudite Dr Morey "claims to have a Doctor of Philosophy in Islamic Studies from the unaccredited Louisiana Baptist University" and "and a Doctor of Divinity, usually an honorary degree bestowed upon someone who has made distinguished contributions to the field of religion, from Faith Theological Seminary in Gujranwala, Pakistan, but there is some controversy over whether this degree was bestowed (and later rescinded) with the proper authority." Having received such stellar unaccredited degrees, he judged himself capable of bestowing unaccredited degrees of his own by becoming the founder, executive officer, and primary faculty member (one wonders whether he has any employees) of the unaccredited California Biblical University and Seminary (University and Seminary, mind you), a distance education school (or, in the vernacular, a diploma mill).

A little bit of Googling brings one to the official web page of the Pakistan Christian Post, where an article entitled "Facts about Robert A. Morey" begins with these words:
Robert A. Morey, treacherous thief, malicious person, third rate scholar, self appointed bishop, who is misleading the Christians and Pakistani Christians living in North America and with his spite, malice he has corrupted the Christianity.

There is no doubt in my mind that Robert Morey is an Insane Monster misleading the Christians of North America.

And that's just the beginning.

I have to admit that I'm rather glad that the estimable Dr Morey (aka Insane Monster) has written this book. For one thing, it shows that many Evangelicals are running scared from Orthodoxy. Such a book would not have been necessary a few years ago. (Not that it's necessary now.) Second, his book looks so atrocious, and so easily refuted, that its not likely to convince any honest Evangelical with its case against Orthodoxy, which seems a few draughts short of air-tight. Finally, it's encouraging that our scholar has recycled only the most patently moronic of anti-Orthodox criticisms, all of which have been answered long ago. He is truly standing on the shoulders of midgets.


Anonymous said...

Bravo, Felix! Excellent sleuthing! And good points in closing.

Maximus Daniel said...

This reminds me of a recent 75 page production by someone of the Southern Baptist convention on aiding people in witnessing to Eastern Orthodox. It was to say rather bluntly, absurd.

Felix Culpa said...

Dr Morey's claims certainly are absurd, but few to none of them are his own. Such arguments can be made with a straight face only by one with absolutely no knowledge of Church history, and I'm afraid that's a common affliction among many Evangelicals and Fundamentalist Christians.

Jenni Lynn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Felix Culpa said...

Jenni: Your comments are entirely well taken. Have a look a post or two down to read 'We Are All Uncanonical Now,' where Fr Alexander writes:

"We teach our children to be "proud" of Orthodoxy, we constantly congratulate ourselves about all kinds of historic events and achievements, our church publications distill an almost unbearable triumphalism and optimism, yet, if we were true to the spirit of our faith we ought to repent in "sackcloth and ashes," we ought to cry day and night about the sad, the tragical state of our Church."

If we do act like Scribes and Pharisees -- and we often certainly do -- it is to our own condemnation.

Our sense of tradition is indeed tightly bound up with the faith handed down by the Apostles. Think, for instance, of St Paul's words in I Corinthians (15:1-5):

“Now I would remind you, brethren, in what terms I preached to you the Gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast – unless you believed in vain. For I delivered [paredoka - lit., "traditioned"] to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died according with the scriptures, that He was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve."

THAT is what we mean by Tradition - that is, the continuation of the Apostolic witness to Christ's Passion and Resurrection - and not ethnic custom or Phariasical assurance that keeping to the letter of the law will be sufficient to save us.

God alone is Judge, and our Lord Himself told us that there will be great surprises at the Last Judgment -- which will be an open trial!

Jenni Lynn said...

Thank you for your response, Felix. (I deleted my comment in fear that it would sound too much like an accusation) I appreciated your gracious tone. Eastern Orthodox Christians such as yourself bear good witness to the 'living tradition of the dead'.

Felix Culpa said...

No worries, Jenni.

I have to admit that I've never much cared for the late Dr Pelikan's adage that "Tradition is the living faith of the dead; traditionalist is the dead faith of the living."

I'd much prefer to say that Tradition is the living faith of the living!

Into the Light said...

"Tradition is the living faith of the living!" Yes, as long as we know that the "dead" are still living! I think the point of Pelikan, if I remember the context correctly, was simply that the reposed do not cease to influence our living faith.

Nice blog by the way! I'm looking forward to perusing your offerings. Maximus Daniel, who posted earlier, pointed me to your blog; he also pointed me to some YouTube videos correcting some of the misconceptions of a Baptist teacher. Go to YouTube and type in "allsaintsmonastery" and you'll find the series.

Glad to find your blog!
Thomas Kevin

Felix Culpa said...

Thanks for your kind words, Thomas. That much-cited comment by Dr Pelikan comes, if I'm not mistaken, from his 1983 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, published in book form under the title "The Vindication of Tradition." In context, he intended his words to be more apophatic than cataphatic, so to speak: he was essentially criticizing "traditionalist" movements.

Thanks for the video suggestion; I haven't seen them, but I have read Archbishop Lazar's printed remarks on the Baptist Manifesto.

Felix Culpa said...

Thomas: I've linked to your blog on my webography.

uno extranjero y peregrino said...

Felix, just for the record "Jenni-Lynn" is actually my wife's account, not my own. She didn't understand why you wrote to her on her blog... haha.

Thanks again for the comments.

Aaron Taylor said...

On the subject of Pelikan's remark about tradition, Fr Andrew of St Michael's Skete in New Mexico had a great rejoinder. He said that if we understand traditionalism properly, 'Pelikan's aphorism, while losing none of its cuteness, does lose most of its validity.' And you're quite right about the context of the quote, Felix.