Thursday, January 20, 2022

The Value of the Protest


From Catholic Answers:

Reformation, the, the usual term for the religious movement which made its appearance in Western Europe in the sixteenth century, and which, while ostensibly aiming at an internal renewal of the Church, really led to a great revolt against it, and an abandonment of the principal Christian beliefs.

From Ancient Faith Ministries:

As an Orthodox Christian, it would be easy for me figuratively to peer over the wall between East and West and condescendingly cast a glance over at the “egg that Rome laid.” …Why, therefore, should we pay much mind to schisms from schism, now many times removed?

That Roman Catholics and Protestants are “two sides of the same coin” has become axiomatic in many Orthodox treatments of Western Christianity

Not to belabor the point, but only to set the table properly: regular readers know that I value much in each of the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant traditions.  I also do not appreciate the stone-throwing by some against the other, as all of these traditions have plenty of vulnerable glass houses.

What has been clear over the last two years is that it is primarily in Protestant Churches where there has been any meaningful pushback to the draconian and evil Covid policies against the Church specifically and the population more broadly.  The institutional leadership of Catholic, and, from what I have seen, Orthodox, Christianity has all followed government dictates to the letter.

Yes, I know that there are a handful of exceptions in both traditions.  They have notoriety by their rarity, and certainly are not supported at all institutionally. 

Sure, many Protestant churches have also followed the government line, but many haven’t.  Here one can find a list of churches who have signed a declaration, “The Church Must Gather.”  You will note, out of hundreds of churches, only two have the word “Orthodox” in the title, and none have the word “Catholic.”  (Yes, I know this isn’t the most scientific way to identify the traditions, but it will have to do).

Meanwhile, there are fifty with the word Baptist, several Presbyterian, Pentecostal, and Reformed.  Many that include the word Harvest, Grace, or Assembly.  Being a Canadian initiative (where the dictates are even more draconian than in the United States), the churches are mostly in Canada, but not all.  (I believe in some, if not all, Canadian provinces, one now needs to be fully jabbed to attend church service.)

Recently a new fight has come to the fore, based on a new law passed in Canada.  The bill is C-4, “An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy).”  From the preamble:

Whereas conversion therapy causes harm to society because, among other things, it is based on and propagates myths and stereotypes about sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression, including the myth that heterosexuality, cisgender gender identity, and gender expression that conforms to the sex assigned to a person at birth are to be preferred over other sexual orientations, gender identities and gender expressions;

“Myth” is used in the above to mean an unproved or false collective belief that is used to justify a social institution.  Of course, there are healthy reasons for myths to survive – for centuries, even millennia:

Far from being merely fantastic or cultish, myths are a treasure of realities… Myths have continued to capture the imaginations and the soul of man for thousands of years because they depict and reveal behavior and problems common to all human beings.

…myths reveal eternal truths about the nature of man and his quests in life.  They reflect attitudes and feelings that are common to all men, in any time.

We have reached a point in society where the most obvious, scientifically self-evident “myth” is now considered a false collective belief.  Understand: it is a “myth” that acting according to the sex “assigned” at birth is preferred over other “orientations.” 

The Canadian bill was passed without dissent – unanimously.

Several pastors, including some who have recently been imprisoned in Canada for keeping their churches open in defiance of government health orders, explained to Fox News that they believe the scope of the new law could open the door to religious persecution.

An initiative was started in Canada, by the same group that began “The Church Must Gather.”

On the first Lord’s day after the Bill C-4 comes into effect (January 16th, 2022), please publicly preach a sermon that specifically proclaims the Biblical truth that homosexuality and transgenderism are serious sins condemned by the law of God that exclude a sinner from salvation without repentance.

Apparently, the initiative was quite successful; more than 4000 pastors in North America preached just such a sermon this past Sunday.  The initiative gained momentum in the United States due to the efforts of John MacArthur – the same John MacArthur who was one of the highest profile clergymen to fight the state’s corrupt closing and masking of churches.

Now, John MacArthur might represent the exact opposite of what an Orthodox or Catholic Christian views as proper worship – totally focused on expository Biblical teaching.  Sola Scriptura to the max.  Sunday morning is like sitting in a university lecture hall. 

Say whatever you will about this, but why is it that thousands of Protestants such as MacArthur are speaking out, while Catholic and Orthodox leaders are, at best, silent, and at worst, complicit?


Returning to the call to arms at the Canadian site:

Consider also the words of Martin Luther: “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at the moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Where the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved. And to be steady on all the battlefields besides is merely flight and disgrace if he flinches at that point.”

Christendom, in its broadest sense, could really use a Martin Luther today.  I know that there are many Catholic and Orthodox Christians who, deep down in their hearts, agree.


  1. Martin Luther is the reason we're in this mess.

    1. Luther is the reason that Catholic and Orthodox leaders aren't protesting Covid and Bill C-4?

  2. ... why is it that thousands of Protestants such as MacArthur are speaking out, while Catholic and Orthodox leaders are, at best, silent, and at worst, complicit?

    I suppose I could lob grenades at Constantine and Justinian, and their collaborators, for making the mess of the Church they did before there was Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant. That’s too easy and simplistic. At the same time, it is a precedent that warrants consideration.

    A “silent” and “complicit” Orthodox Church, in my observation, comes from their collective experiences under Ottoman, Muslim, Turk, and Communist oppression. It’s a matter of survival. We can argue the theology of the Sermon on the Mount all day, but those doctrines and those theological and historical perspectives drive the Orthodox to comply, to a point. In the background, and the underground, there is a sharp disagreement among the Orthodox, and it cuts worldwide, nationwide, clergy-wide and parish-wide. The fact that the global Orthodox church has bigger fish to fry in Ukraine, Egypt, Russia, and Europe drops the priority of covid protest down a few notches.

    The Roman Catholic Church is more of an enigma, to me, in that the obvious splits among the Cardinals, and between many Cardinals and the Pope, has them acting as a house-divided. Some local rogues are protesting, but they do not have the blessing of the Vatican or the local archdiocese. Yet, nor do they have the condemnation of the bishops. My brother in the RC says it’s a mess; even his parish is divided with equal numbers of maskers and never-maskers. The bottom line for the RC is no coherent, consistent response caused by infighting results in “silence” and “complicity.”

    In other words, the Emperors have both Churches right where they want them, docile and compliant.

    Most Protestants don’t have such history, and the baggage that comes along with it, so they have nothing to lose, institutionally speaking. (sidebar: This makes me wonder why American Evangelicals clamor for government power and influence… it didn’t get the RC or the EOC anywhere but what we see now. /sidebar)

    I will close with my thought that Christendom needs less Luther and more Tolstoy. The Sermon on the Mount does provide a protest plan, but it looks way different than most of us would like. Anyways…

    Good thoughts, thanks BM.

    1. Justin, thank you for these thoughtful comments.

      One other thought on the Orthodox Church: the ideal governance model in Orthodoxy is the Christian emperor, even to preside over the Church. Perhaps such behavior cannot be shaken even when the "emperor" is pagan.

  3. Lutheranism/Protestantism is a double-edged sword. Because the individual conscience is the sole authority in that system (i.e., no bishops, binding traditions, etc., to restrain a man), there can be swift reactions against bad policies, as with the initiative against C-4 that was mentioned. The downside is that other individuals can go on to decide that their conscience tells them that LGBT ideology is blessed by God based on how they read the Scriptures; and because the individual is the final authority, no one has any ground on which to stand to gainsay them. And so we end up with situations like we have in Canada, the uS, and the rest of the West in which governments must suppress traditional Christian teaching in order to allow the LGBT individuals to live according to their consciences.

    If the Orthodox are slower to act, in addition to what Miner said above, it may also be because we are taught to mistrust our passions and thoughts (because of the damage of the Fall and its effect on our ability to think rightly), to not act immediately on them; to find an experienced father or mother in the spiritual life before whom we can lay our thoughts so they may be tested for rightness or wrongness; from whom we get guidance before making important decisions; etc.

    We must not be too hard on Martin Luther; as Ivan Kireevsky wrote in his illuminating essay ‘On the Nature of European Culture and on Its Relationship to Russian Culture’, the Protestants with their individual rebelliousness were simply copying what they saw in the rebelliousness of the bishop/Pope of Rome against the conciliar, Apostolic tradition of the Orthodox Church (On Spiritual Unity, p. 203).

    Let us also be careful about lionizing Pastor MacArthur, who once taught the heresy of adoptionism in his Commentary on Galatians (Father Josiah Trenham, Rock and Sand, p. 250). Heresies about Christ and the Holy Trinity can kill a soul just as much as heresies about human sexuality.

    Dr Vladimir Moss has a good essay on Luther and the fall of the West. Here is a little bit from it:

    ‘Luther’s reported words – “Here I stand, so help me God, I can do no other” – represent the essence of his creed and of his revolutionary challenge to the whole of Western Christendom. For by placing his individual conscience above every authority, whether secular or ecclesiastical, he undermined all authority, replacing it with the most individualist kind of anarchism. Of course, he also appealed to Scripture, to the Word of God. But this was a diversion: by making every unaided individual believer the interpreter of Scripture, he effectively undermined scriptural authority also. Scripture, the written word of God, was only a seeming authority, a fig-leaf to hide the real authority, the believer’s self-will. The only authority left was the naked ego…
    ‘This is what we may call Protestant rationalism; it was born in the soil of Catholic rationalism, which consisted in placing the mind of one man, the Pope, above the Catholic consciousness of the Church, the Mind of Christ. Protestantism rejected Papism, but did not reject its underlying principle. Thus instead of placing the mind of one man above the Church, it placed the mind of every man, every believer, above it. As Luther himself declared: “In matters of faith each Christian is for himself Pope and Church.”[2] And so Protestantism, as New Hieromartyr Archbishop Hilarion (Troitsky) put it, “placed a papal tiara on every German professor and, with its countless number of popes, completely destroyed the concept of the Church, substituting faith with the reason of each separate personality.”[3]
    ‘As Frank Furedi writes, “His defiant stand, would eventually provide legitimation for disobeying all forms of authority….’


    1. Walt, you have illuminated both the value and the corruption of institutions. There is value in institutions, for consistency and guarding tradition and teaching.

      Unfortunately, institutions are ripe for corruption (hence, the West received Luther). Perhaps the most corrupt institution that I have witnessed firsthand was in the Orthodox Church and Diocese that I attended for many years. Far more than in any Protestant church I have witnessed, and far more than any corporate experience.

      As to MacArthur, one need not be perfect to offer an example. If institutional Christianity (Roman Catholic especially, given its prominence in the West, and Orthodox) had taken stands similar to what MacArthur and thousands of Protestant clergy had done, we would be living in a much healthier world today.

      And, of course, I recognize many Protestant clergy are equally guilty.

    2. BM,

      I agree with you that there are good and bad people in every place.

      I have benefitted mightily over the years from Protestant and Roman Catholic people and institutions, from my childhood Southern Baptist pastors and Sunday School teachers on up to the writings of Russell Kirk, Edmund Burke, de Maistre, Tolkien, and others. Likewise, I am quite scandalized by the actions of some Orthodox, like Archbishop Elpidophoros marching with BLM protestors.

      I am happy to acknowledge all of that, but doing so doesn’t get us any closer to understanding or resolving the larger problems of the West – Why has the West undergone a continual distortion and decomposition for the last 1,000 years, with no end in sight to that process? Why does she no longer produce the holy, wonderworking saints – the pinnacle of humanity – she once did, during her first 1,000 years, the kind of holy ones that the Orthodox Church continues to give birth to, even in the dark years of the 20th century, men like Sts Nektarios of Aegina and John of Kronstadt? For a life of the wonderful St John:

      It must be because the West has taken up into her bosom some harmful teachings, which if she does not repudiate and reject utterly, she will continue to slide into the abyss.

      St Justin Popovich (+1979) is a great teacher on this subject, so I will link to a couple of his essays on the fall of the West for folks to read if they wish rather than continue to write my own ignorant words:

      ‘Papism as the Oldest Protestantism’

      ‘Reflections on the Infallibility of European Man’

      On the subject of why disasters have befallen the Orthodox (Muslim Turks, Communists, and so on), St Justin gives us an answer in the Papism essay:

      ‘Contemporary atheistic social humanism—ideologically and methodologically—is in everything a fruit and an invention of pseudo-Christian Europe, wed with our own sinfulness. They ask us: how did it arrive on the soil of Orthodoxy? It is God trying the endurance of the righteous, visiting the children for the sins of their fathers, and announcing the strength of His Church by taking it through fire and water. Because, according to the words of the wise-in-God Macarius of Egypt, that is the only path of true Christianity: "Wherever the Holy Spirit is, there follows, like a shadow, persecution and battle... It is necessary that the truth be persecuted." What are, on the other hand, the fruits of the God-Man society?—Saints, Martyrs, and Confessors. That is its goal, that is its meaning and design, that is the proof of its indestructible strength. Not books and libraries, systems and cities—all things that are here today and gone tomorrow. The various pseudo-Christian humanisms fill the world with books, while Orthodoxy fills it with the hallowed. Thousands and hundreds of thousands, even millions of martyrs and newly martyred, fallen for the Orthodox faith—there is the fruit of God-Man society. Thus does the famous Francois Mauriac, a Roman Catholic, on the dark horizon of the contemporary world, with each day more and more pushed into the darkness of born-in-Europe, soul-losing homo-idolatry, see only one bright spot, that gives hope for the future of this world: the bathed in the blood of the martyred and newly-martyred faith. The Orthodox faith.’

      If the Orthodox cause people to turn away from the O’x Ch., we will pay a heavy price, both in this life and in the age to come. But that does not diminish the truth of what the O’x Church is, despite the failings of some of her members, and what the West has become without her.

    3. “Why has the West undergone a continual distortion and decomposition for the last 1,000 years, with no end in sight to that process?”

      Walt, you see that this is a question I am exploring, and am not afraid to consider it from the Orthodox view. I will likely spend more time with Strickland than I have spent or will spend with any other author.

      Yet, I am deciding that I am being somewhat unfair. What was the cultural situation of the Eastern Roman Empire during the 1000 years until the fall of Constantinople? Clearly some sort of failure also occurred here, yet without the negative features (as described by Strickland) that afflicted the Western Church. To that end, I will begin review this Eastern history…once I make sufficient progress on the couple of books currently being examined.

      From your cite of St Justin:

      “It is God trying the endurance of the righteous, visiting the children for the sins of their fathers, and announcing the strength of His Church by taking it through fire and water. Because, according to the words of the wise-in-God Macarius of Egypt, that is the only path of true Christianity: "Wherever the Holy Spirit is, there follows, like a shadow, persecution and battle... It is necessary that the truth be persecuted."”

      One, of course, could apply these words to the West of today. In other words, no clarification is offered by this observation. We will see how many “God-men” arise during this time. Which, of course, brings me back to my observation of where we find men standing up against the tyranny of covid and the Canadian Bill C-4. There are extremely few to be found in the Orthodox tradition, and equally sparse in the Catholic.

    4. Walt, I will add: I see Orthodoxy playing a healing role in the West, as the West has taken science and nominalism to an extreme, becoming scientism and a monopolizing rationalism.

      Orthodoxy offers the proper antidote to this, but I suspect that it, too, can be corrupted by extremes. Perhaps one reason why Constantinople fell and why communism found its most fruitful soil in Orthodox lands.

    5. BM,

      I think with regard to Constantinople and Russia, you will find that the problem lies not with the Orthodox Church but with the character of those two peoples. The Greeks, as they admit themselves, are very prone to faction and even betrayal. This, and God’s withdrawal of His Grace for their attempted unions with the Roman Catholics at Lyons and Florence, contributed to their downfall.

      Russians have a great desire for justice (I believe Fr Andrew said that once at his blog ), which made them, along with their own apostasy (per St Justin, St John of Kronstadt, St John of Shanghai and San Francisco, and others), accepting of the allure of Communism.

      The difference between them and the West is that the Greeks and Russians didn’t abandon Orthodoxy after their cataclysms. The West, however, disobeying the Apostle Paul’s express command not to accept another Gospel (Gal 1:6-9), created some of her own. But here again, the habits of peoples come into play. The old Roman West, as Kireevsky noted in the essay cited earlier, is strongly attracted to rationality and reason, to outward forms over inner substance/inward life. Because that tendency grew too strong, it led to a rupture with the Orthodox.

      The matter of a people’s habits also explains why Ireland was attracted to Pelagianism (i.e., man can save himself without God’s assistance; the Irish see goodness and beauty in most everything); why the Egyptians, who have a strong inclination to otherworldliness, rejected the 4th Ecumenical Council and emphasize one divine nature, will, etc., in Christ.

      The same sort of thing was at work in the West in the time of Charlemagne; in order to set himself up as Emperor of the Romans, he declared the 7th Ecumenical Council was in error on the veneration of icons; the Romans of Constantinople were thus merely ‘heretical Greeks’; and he could claim the title of Roman Emperor for himself. Fr John Romanides goes into more detain on that:

      Your words about the Orthodox presence in the West, that she could play a ‘healing role’, are well-chosen, and exactly what the West needs. In order to correct one-sidedness towards national exclusiveness or rationalism, etc., mankind needs spiritual healing. And it is not for nothing that the Orthodox Church is called a ‘spiritual hospital’:

      Short essay:

      Talks by Fr Josiah Trenham:

      Regaining the therapeutic method of the Orthodox Church would greatly help the West:

      And hopefully the Orthodox will learn something from the West in being quicker to act when necessary, though the Orthodox can act decisively when roused sufficiently, as proven in Montenegro, where hundreds of thousands gathered continually in the streets to protest when the gov’t attempted confiscate Church property through a shameful law in 2020:

      We pray that with God’s help, other tyrannical measures will be next.

    6. “…you will find that the problem lies not with the Orthodox Church but with the character of those two peoples.”

      Walt, it seems clear that within any manifestation of Christianity, man falls short. This is true in the Protestant world just as it is true is the Catholic world, and, as we have been discussing, the Orthodox world. None of these traditions have proven able to overcome man’s flaws in any broad, societal, degree.

      Just as I see that Orthodoxy can play a healing role in the West for the reasons mentioned, I also see the Catholic notion of a natural law ethic (which would not have been developed without leaning on rationality and reason) also playing such a role and a Protestant focus on teaching the Bible (which would not have been developed without Sola Scriptura) playing such a role. Each tradition, in its best manifestation, can bring much healing.

      Unfortunately, instead of these best manifestations, the more common picture is that of the Orthodox under the state, the Catholic social justice bordering on communism, and the Protestant worship of the military and the state of Israel.

    7. I have heard the Catholic Church called the church of Peter, the Eastern Orthodox Church the church of John, and the Protestants the church of Paul. I think this is a good place to start if you seek ecumenism without false irenics.

    8. Hmmm. First I hear of this. Interesting.

    9. This entire comment thread is particularly good by all involved and possibly deserves it's own write-up.

    10. Nick, from my first exchange with Walt on this thread, I have had a similar thought. I will go back and review the thread; if I feel I can do it justice via editing a bit and trying to pull out the main points of the exchange, I will put it together and post it.

  4. "why is it that thousands of Protestants such as MacArthur are speaking out, while Catholic and Orthodox leaders are, at best, silent, and at worst, complicit?"

    What I find interesting, in light of your point, is that it is the 'Novus Ordo' Catholics who are most likely to fall in line with the Covid nonsense (and abortion, gun control, socialism, etc.) and these Catholics lean much more heavily towards Protestant liturgy and ways of life. It is the traditional Catholics, led by Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano and SSPX who have been speaking out about the worldwide Covid regime. Online lay shepherds like Taylor Marshall ("Infiltration") and Michael Matt of The Remnant, who've loudly opposed the Covid regime, also cater to the traditional Catholic audience.

    But there is no denying that Catholics are a big part of the problem. And I say that as one myself. The Pope, the US Bishops, almost every Catholic in political office (Biden, Pelosi, Fauci, AOC, etc.). There has been an infiltration among the top levels of the Catholic Church. This is what Leftists do and why almost any large, centralized authority structure is a liability. But given the history of Christendom and the rise of the state upon its splintering, I wonder if it is a necessary liability.

    I sure wish we had more of the Holy Spirit guiding our Christian leaders.

    1. ATL, I may have mentioned before...but here goes: what I have seen, partly anecdotally and partly via data, is that it is the traditional strains of Christianity that are drawing adherents, and the liberalizing strains that are losing.

      The Orthodox Church, the TLM and SSPX Catholic parishes, and culturally conservative Protestant denominations that are successful in today's world lacking meaning and objective truth.

      People want a firm foundation, something reliable.

    2. Rodney Stark makes a similar observation in his book "The Triumph of Christianity." I hope both of you are right.

      "...people do not flock to faiths that ask the least of them, but to those that credibly offer the most religious rewards for the sacrifices required to qualify. This has been demonstrated again and again. For a variety of reasons, various Christian churches have greatly reduced what they ask of their members, both in terms of beliefs and morality, and this always has been followed by a rapid decline in their membership and a lack of commitment on the part of those who stay." - Stark

    3. In the Protestant world, I recall reading that the PCA (culturally and doctrinally conservative and according to Scripture) is smaller but growing while the PCUSA (the opposite) is larger but shrinking.

      People can get higher quality mush from every other institution in society. The churches that differentiate themselves from this are the only churches with something to offer - their unique selling proposition, if you will.