If you’ve been raised in the western world, chances are pretty good that you are completely unaware of 600 to 1,000 years of Christianity, even if you’ve gone to seminary. In the same way that conservatives don’t like to talk about our racist history, the western evangelical church doesn’t like to acknowledge that a different Christianity once existed (and still does, but it’s largely ignored). The reason that it’s ignored is because early Christian history not only disagrees with western theology, it undermines it.
What we know as Eastern Orthodoxy is the continuation of traditions that began before Constantine made Christianity legal, before Augustine perverted the gospel, and before the enlightenment created the western mindset, and before the reformers reformed anything. The Eastern Church was never reformed; it didn’t need to be. While not perfect, by any means, the Eastern Church avoided the western pitfalls such as Augustine, Cartesian philosophy and the errors of the Roman Catholic Church, and certainly has avoided Christian fundamentalism. I believe there are many things we can learn from the Eastern Church without becoming Orthodox, although they frown upon that concept.
Several years ago I began studying a bit about Augustine, clearly the inspiration for both Luther (who was an Augustinian monk) and John Calvin. What I found was that Augustine had some very strange ideas about the nature of good and evil that predated his conversion to Christianity, and seemed to be continually plagued by his very worldly past. I believe these things contributed to his concept of original sin (not an early Christian belief) which in turn spawned doctrines of the total depravity of man, penal substitutionary atonement, eternal damnation, and more. Good stuff, right?
The main reason that he got away with these teachings is that he wrote in Latin, which the Church leadership didn’t read; they were a Greek-speaking Church. It wasn’t until long after that they discovered his ideas, which they have rejected. As a result, Augustine is not considered a saint in the Orthodox Church, although he is respected as having been a Bishop.
I have been writing what someday might be a book, tentatively titled Unboxing God. I’ll be posting tidbits here from time to time.