I haven’t dealt with Orthodox Bridge in a while. But sometimes they come across a decent review or article that deserves outside notice. Their article highlights a number of weaknesses in the CREC, but does nothing to touch magisterial Protestantism.
I am glad they reviewed Leithart’s End of Protestantism. It shows the naievety of “everyone’s adopting liturgical CREC worship in the postmillennial glory.” However, I think there are some weak spots in Arakaki’s analysis.
Note: I am only dealing with his analysis of Leithart. As is always the case, Arakaki ends his article by saying, “Wouldn’t St Ignatius feel more at home in an Orthodox Church?” Even if that is true, who cares? That’s not a logical argument. Now onto the review:
RA: This future-oriented ecumenicism is not new. Gabriel Fackre – Andover Newton Theological School’s Samuel Abbott Professor of Christian Theology Emeritus – in an essay written in 1990 describes the United Church of Christ’s ecumenicism which anticipates Rev. Leithart’s future oriented vision of church unity.
Here is where I think Arakaki hits a weak point. First of all. The United Church of Christ is not Reformed. It is an apostate denomination that is quickly “dying the death.” But on to the substantial point:
RA: Pastor Leithart has an evolutionary understanding of the Church in which doctrine, practice, and worship evolve over time.
Maybe he does. I’m not sure, though. Is development the same as evolution? We don’t see an argument that it is. Ephesians 4 talks about the church “growing into the body of Christ.” That’s development language.
RA: One weakness of Protestantism has been its wholesale neglect of church history, especially the first 1,000 years.
This is false. I’ve refuted and rebutted these guys so often on this point that I give up.
RA: Readers of Leithart’s book should be aware of the high cost that comes with Leithart’s proposed solution: broken fellowship with the early Church.
2) So what?
RA: This is evident in his flat out refusal to subject the Protestant Reformation to critical scrutiny.
I’ll take RA’s word for it, not having read the book myself. But that charge is kind of ironic, since Orthodox Bridge has never subjected itself to scrutiny, nor will they, nor will they allow anyone like myself to do so.
RA: How many modern day Evangelicals and Protestants would be welcome at the Eucharist in Luther, Calvin, and Bucer’s church?
None would be welcome in Luther’s church, given our rejection of a corporeal, capernaitic eating of Christ. Calvin and Bucer? Probably quite a few, given the recent interest in Psalmody. But I wonder if Arakaki really wanted an answer, anyway.
RA: The discrepancy between Protestantism and early Christianity is something that Protestants must give account for.
We’ve done this so many times. I’m not going to answer the challenge, though, since doing so would grant that Arakaki’s church is identical to a given point in early church history. That is to be proven, not assumed.
RA: The future church which Pastor Leithart described with moving eloquence in Chapter 3 sounds much like the mild liberalism of the UCC in the 1950s and the 1960s. In line with the title of his book, Rev. Leithart calls for Protestant denominations and churches to “die,” that is, to cease to exist in their present forms in order for new forms to emerge.
This is probably a good point. It also shows one fatal weakness in Leithart’s analysis. Unless Leithart is going to base the unity on justification and the glory and sovereignty of God, then more and more CREC Turks will end up going Tiber/Constantinople.
RA: For those who grew up in the provincial sub-culture of Evangelicalism all this might sound daring but for those who grew up in mainline Protestantism this is familiar territory. Within a matter of a few decades the UCC’s inclusive ecumenism degenerated into radical liberalism.
Again, a very good point. However, the only people taking Leithart seriously are CREC members, and they are more likely to swing towards a cultic conservatism rather than liberalism.
RA: Many Evangelicals are unaware of how insulated they are. They hold in high esteem teachers and pastors for their “unique” and “brilliant” insights into Scripture not knowing that much has been borrowed from others. What seem to be bold and innovative teachings are often drawn from one of the early Church Fathers or, worse yet, a revived heresy. This is why knowledge of church history is so important for sound theology.
I am sorry. This is just silly. This might be true of Independent Fundamental Baptists, but not of anyone else.
RA: The Evangelical subculture in many ways is a closed off, provincial religious ghetto
To quote the greatest politician in American history: “Wrong, Wrong, Wrong!”
Arakaki ends by quoting the Fathers on unity. Well, I could respond but that assumes a lot of presuppositions (on both sides), and that brings us into questions about ontology and logic.
One thought on “Orthodox Bridge’s End of Protestantism”
I don’t know how OrthBridge can say that Leithart doesn’t challenge the Reformation to critique. In all of his articles of length that’s pretty much all that he does. In fact, that’s basically why a number of Reformed accuse him of. The guy was put on heresy trial for being a crypto-Catholic (ironically by someone who was a crypto-Catholic). It’s kind of irresponsible for him to do a book review if he doesn’t know this one of the drums the author beats ad nauseum.
Though I do think Leithart is not in the CREC boat, at least he is trying to distance himself. He is gaining a following among conservative Protestants and Anglicans. He had a tiff with Wilson over the book. Ironically, Wilson tried to posture himself as the spokesperson of the Reformation against Leithart’s irenicism towards Rome et al.