My friend Duncan posted the following video on Facebook this evening. It’s worth watching, whatever your theological background; it’s especially worth watching if you’ve no familiarity with Eastern Orthodoxy.
I have a very deep respect and appreciation for Eastern Orthodoxy, although I do have some disagreements with various points. (Of course, to the Eastern Orthodox, my issues don’t matter.) I have just finished reading Three Views of Eastern Orthodoxy and Evangelicalism, in which a number of theologians discuss various differences in approach. I have perhaps more disagreements with evangelicalism than I do with Eastern Orthodoxy; as I’ve remarked before, I tend often to side with Luther, who tends to be somewhere in the middle of these two camps. This is not because I was raised Lutheran (I don’t think, anyway), but because Luther just seems to echo what Paul appears to say.
So, while I do agree with much that is said in the video, the Orthodox position on cooperative salvation – our work being added to the work of Christ – is something I have an issue with. I do agree that we were saved 2,000 years ago, that I am currently being saved (Luther seemed to agree with the Orthodox understanding of theosis or deification), and that at the final judgment I will be saved. Again, this is simply an echo of Paul.
My problem with the Orthodox view comes from 2 main sources: Paul, and Jesus. And yes, these are pretty good sources. The Orthodox view of cooperative salvation seems to beg Paul’s rhetorical question in Galatians 3:3: “Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” Paul seems to be clearly saying in this letter that to add any human effort to the work of Christ is to lose the Gospel completely.
To this, add the words of Jesus in John 10:27-29:
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.
I do believe that we are to continue in good works; that is the work of the Spirit in us. I just don’t believe that this contributes at all to our salvation, and in fact, can be as dangerous as Peter’s reverting to kosher food. That’s not me, that’s Paul. I’m guessing that there is an Orthodox interpretation of Galatians, and I would be very interested in seeing it.
Without further commentary, here’s the video. Again, I do agree with most of it, and very much appreciate the spirit in which this is presented: