Once More to Eastern Orthodoxy

I haven’t weighed in yet on the current discussions regarding men going East, mostly because I haven’t really had much to say on the matter. What’s done is done. I do have this to say, however:

Comparing the problems in Lutheranism with those in Orthodoxy is like comparing apples and oranges. There is nothing wrong or deficient in the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church as confessed in the Book of Concord. I know that men in the Greek Orthodox Church would disagree, and they are welcome to do so. The Missouri Synod is a tale of rebel pastors and congregations who refuse to confess, practice, and teach Evangelical Lutheran doctrine.

From a Lutheran standpoint, there are serious deficiencies in Eastern Orthodoxy and the doctrine that is practiced and confessed in her liturgy, deficiencies which preclude fellowship (and have since the time of the Reformation when the Wittenberg theologians were rejected by Jeremias, the Patriarch of Constantinople). We all know the usual examples: invocation of the saints; elevation of Mary to almost divine status by various prayers; Scripture being only the chief part of Holy Tradition, refusal to accept the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed simply because it is a “innovation,” denial of the Scriptural teaching of forensic justification.

The current problems in the LC-MS do not have their source in our doctrine. The Lutheran Church does not (officially) teach lay-ministry, lay-consecration, open communion, irreverent worship, etc. Those who teach and practice such things do so contrary to the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Those in the Orthodox Church who invoke the saints, who ascribe to Mary various traits and characteristics that should only be ascribed to God, and who see justification as a process of theosis rather than an imputed, forensic righteounsess based on a change in God’s attitude toward man through the cross, are only being who they are–Eastern Orthodox.

My point is simply this: I believe that the Lutheran Church, if she is to be judged by her Confessional Doctrine, is in line with the Scriptures and the ancient Church. That is why I am a Lutheran pastor. It appalls me that many pastors and people in the LC-MS want to confess and practice something other than what is confessed in the Book of Concord. It is one thing to see a deficiency in the Lutheran doctrine (as men like Fenton and Hogg do) and to follow one’s conscience which may lead them away from the Lutheran Church. It is quite another to believe firmly in the doctrine confessed by the Lutheran Reformers, and at the same time to lament the ways in which that doctrine is being ignored by those who claim to be sons of the Reformation. As long as the Book of Concord exists, I will remain a Lutheran. Of course, that is like saying that as long as the Scriptures exist, I will remain a Lutheran, since the Book of Concord is a true and faithful exposition of the Scriptures. My prayer is that the Lord will reform the church where she needs to be reformed, and bolster it where it needs to be strengthened. It is, after all, His Church, and He will do what seems best to Him.


About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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3 Responses to Once More to Eastern Orthodoxy

  1. Anonymous says:

    Dear Paul–
    Enlightening post! I have often heard of pastor’s leaving the Mo-Synod to go to the Orthodox church, but have never really understood the reasoning. This laid it out in a clear way. I completely agree with your reasoning to remain in the LCMS, as well. The doctrine of the Mo-Synod remains faithful–it is just being distorted by so many churches and Pastors. Unfortunately, what makes it difficult, is that the watering down of the doctrine and practice is ‘ok’d’ from some of the LCMS leadership. And the churches and pastors who wish to remain faithful to the Lutheran doctrine are sometimes looked down upon as being rigid, unloving, and boring. Frustrating.
    Anyhow, thanks for the insight.

  2. ptmccain says:

    Well said.

    At least, finally, Fenton came out openly and said what he has believed for quite a long time: the Book of Concord is wrong.

  3. Lawrence says:

    So… if the Book of Concord is wrong, then the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed are all wrong too?

    Many use Pr. Fenton’s example to seek changing their denominational affiliations as a way to solve their faith identity problems.

    This is also why encouraging faithful orthodox Lutherans to abandon LCMS right now is a bad idea. If everyone abandons it virtually guarantees the LCMS will fail.

    Unless kicked or forced out, I think we should stay and fight this one through to the end. If we don’t, then whatever we get afterward is just going to be more of the same of what we have now.

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