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March 14, 2006


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With such things, especially when it comes to something like receiving converts, the de-centralization of Orthodox theology comes to the forefront.

That service (no, I didn't read it) comes as the culmination of a relationship between the priest and his catechumen. It can be different for every individual. For example, the Eritrians at home have a different reception when they become Orthodox than would a Roman Catholic. They refute different things. Most priests, in fact, make the catechumen list the beliefs of the group he is leaving and compare them to Orthodox beliefs. At my home parish, we currently have 4 catechumens. One is a Buddhist, one a Jehovah's Witness, and two Protestants. We all have different things we need to work through on our paths. Those are the things we refute.

Oh, and a pet peeve of mine (only because it creates unnecessary misunderstanding) is the whole numbering of the sacraments. It's history is understood as an attempt to make Orthodox theology understandable to Roman Catholics. Protestants who reject sacraments outright are will only confuse Orthodox with Catholics when they hear that Orthodox enumerate their sacraments to seven...;-)...

Benjamin Andersen

I'm not sure if these renunciations are even in use anymore, at least in American Orthodoxy. I could be wrong. I have been told that the Hapgood Service Book, while still kept in print by the Antiochian Archdiocese, is barely used, if at all, in most parishes.

I do find it interesting that the Hapgood Service Book rite of reception does not include renunciations for Anglicans (hmm ... I wonder if Mrs. Hapgood herself had anything to do with that?) ;-)

Benjamin Andersen

Oh, and by the way, Roman Catholics were not the first to number the sacraments. Plenty of Easterners over the centuries (even before the Latins settled on seven) tried their hand at that, coming up with quite a few different lists of varying number and content. In other words, the mystical East could be just as scholastic as the West at times (and in many cases, the West took cues from Eastern scholastics such as S. John Damascene).

Chris Jones

I should clarify that the phrase "seven sacraments" in the third bullet-point of my post was my shorthand for what the service-book says. The service-book does not say "seven sacraments"; it says that it is an error not to "accept as Sacraments Chrismation, Marriage, Anointing with Oil, and the Priesthood itself". These four, together with the three commonly accepted by Lutherans (Baptism, the Eucharist, and Holy Absolution) correspond to the Roman Catholic seven.

Neither Lutheranism nor Orthodoxy formally defines a specific number of sacraments, and in speaking specifically of seven, I was letting brevity trump accuracy. My apologies.


We Lutherans DO number them, we just can't decide whether the number is two or three.

(In other words, Lutheran scholastics can debate whether absolution is or is not a sacrament because it does not have a visible sign like water or bread/wine.)

One of the little bits of difference that makes Lutheranism "breathable."

Lynn Gazis-Sax

Given that I hold no firm beliefs on how creeds should be worded or how the nature of sacraments ought to be construed, I guess it would be easy for me to convert to Orthodoxy :-). (Seriously, I suppose there must be a different set of things for Quakers to renounce - besides the small matter of being way outside of apostolic succession.)

Christopher Orr

Benjamin Anderson is correct that the renunciations I posted on my blog are not widely used today. The Hapgood book is generally seen as a good resource, good notes, and an example of how services were held in Russian parish life in America in the early 20th Century. It is not an "American Typikon" or the standard service book of the Church in America, etc. So, it hold no final authority anymore than any local act of a local church, which is generally binding only on that local church or diocese.

I thought it most useful as a testimony as to how the Russian Church of that time understood Lutheranism, what most of the Lutherans of that day were teaching and stating were the differences with Orthodoxy, and what it thought most important to counter, at that time. Perhaps the state churches of Germany and Scandinavia were less "confessional" thus explaining the lack of certain doctrines.

Erica is also right that these renunciations are tailored to the background of the one converting. There are Roman Catholic, Reformed, Armenian, and totally non-Christian renunciations. So, these are more like guideline and recommendations on how to renounce, not the rules.

Thanks for posting them Chris. Perhaps others could begin a listing on where we agree and where we disagree.

Perry Robinson

There are renunciations for Anglicans. I know, I was chrismated coming from Anglicanism.

As to Chris' comments, I think the affirmation of free will and a rejection of sola fide is implicit in the convert's comments to accept all of the teachings of the Orthodox Church.

Chris Jones


All manner of things are "implicit" in the convert's commitment to accept all of the Church's teachings; but the specific renunciations in the service of reception are what the Church explicitly says the differences are. As such, I think that what is and is not included there is significant. Particularly, in this case, because for Lutherans, justification by faith alone is what is distinctively Lutheran. For a Lutheran to become Orthodox without explicitly renouncing that which is most distinctively Lutheran is quite curious.

Christopher Orr

I think most confessional Lutherans would admit that even this most distinct of Lutheran doctrines was not necessarily front and center with the state churches of Germany and Scandinavia in the early part of the 20th Century (when the rite was compiled). The Hapgood book isn't necessarily authoritative in every aspect beyond being a relatively true witness to practice in the Russian diocese of North America at that time. As someone pointed out, there isn't a listing of renunciations for Anglicans. By your line of reasoning one could say that was because Orthodoxy viewed Anglicans as being fully Orthodox already. This is not the case, nor was it then (with some haziness involved over St. Raphael of Brooklyn's pastoral allowance for the sacraments in remote locations, which he rescinded rather quickly when he learned more about the Episcopalians). The non-Orthodox character of the Anglicans is implicit, but explicitly there is no difference? Methinks not. What of the Anabaptists and every other Protestant group that bills itself as being so different than every other Protestant group?

T.M. Porter

I was Chrismated by my bishop, and all he asked was: "Do renounce all your former heresies?" To which I responded: "Yes." Pretty simple I guess. I come from a low-church evangelical background.

Benjamin Andersen

Perry - I meant that Hapgood (an Episcopalian) included no renunciations for Anglicans; not that no such renunciations exist in any book. But I would be interested in the content of your renunciation.


None of these for the most part, to my knowledge are lutheran.

1. while the lutherans affirm the filoque, I'm of the opinion that there isn't as big a divide of east and west on this issue, and that the problem could be fixed by mondifying the creed to say, "I believe in the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father through the Son..."

2. the numbering of the sacraments is heavily dependent on what one defines as "sacrament". And in the confessions we are told not to make too much of the issue (ie how many there are).

3. I have been told by someone up in Missouri (I am LCMS), that lutherans do believe in apostolic succession, the difference between Lutheranism and Rome on this issue, is that the former claims that Christ ordained the general priesthood, and therefore, all priests bear the right to ordain others, while the latter contends that a bishop must be present.

3. Consubstantiation can even be said to contradict the confessions insomuch as the confessions reject philosophical means by which to understand what is essentially a mystery. Their problem with transubstantiation was not that it contradicted Scripture per se, at least in my read of the confessions, but that it was based in part on philosophy, I find it hard that the same group of people would then accept consubstantiation.

4. The confessions nowhere rejects prayers for the dead, in fact it states just the opposite. As for prayers to the saints, I still waver on that.

2 and 4 I really question (as coming from a ahem...orthodox-Orthodox), as I thought the Orthodox essentially held the lutheran position on this ie that they did not number the sacraments, and that the presence of Christ's body and blood in the Eucharist should be left to the realm of mystery.

Whoever thought up this list, really needs to read the confessions. I'm not saying it's their fault. You ask any average lutheran, they'd probably tell you that lutherans adhere to two sacraments, reject apostolic succession and prayers for the dead, and believe in consubstatiation. It's really sad to see the differences between what alot of everyday lutherans believe and what the confessions actually say. It's misguiding.


I was chrismated after the service from Hapgood - all converts at St. Anthony's Tulsa are (and I would guess any of the older parishes with a foundation dating back to the earlier 20th c.) The important thing to remember about the renunciations (which we did) - is that they are also alongside the items which one must ascribe to fully. It isn't merely a 'I give up these few items', but the embracing of the Apostolic Faith. If one can't agree with the 'I believe..'s of the Chrismation service, they're probably not ready to convert yet.

Chris Burgwald

Chris, at HWS, you stated that the Orthodox see no need for purgatory. Maybe the EO don't call it that, but AFAIK, they do -- or at one point did -- affirm that there is a "cleansing" which occurs after death.

Is my "AFAIK" wrong?

Chris Burgwald

One more item, Chris: converts to Catholicism are not required to repudiate a list of previously held doctrines, either.

Bob Waters

Gee. It's not necessary to repudiate the doctrine of original sin or justification by grace, for Christ's sake, through faith in order to join a church body whose basic theology repudiates them. I guess we might as well all run out and become Orthodox, eh?

Perhaps you can figure out a way to reconcile prayer for the dead with justification by grace, but I can't.

One repudiates the doctrine of original sin and of justification by grace alone, through faith alone by the mere act of becoming Orthodox, and thereby declaring oneself to be one in faith with a confession which denies them!

Bob Waters

One more thought: it might cast some light on your question to reflect that to Orthodoxy, justification is an alien concept. It doesn't share the judicial "take" on the Faith Western Christianity shares, whether Roman, Reformed, or Lutheran. Patriarch Jeremias II did explicitly reject the Lutheran doctrine of justification during his famous dialog with the Tubingen theologians.

For Orthodoxy, the human dilemma is not sin, but death. Theosis, not forgiveness, is the goal. Now, the argument has been made that Luther's doctrine of justification, with its emphasis on the Mystical Union of the believer with Christ, has some similarities to theosis, or divinization. But the fact remains that they're two different answers to two entirely different questions.

So one is not asked to repudiate the Lutheran answer to the doctrine of justification. One is merely asked to affirm a belief system which treats the entire question as irrelevant- and substitutes a process which, however the end result may resemble the Mystical Union, emphatically takes place by faith and works, and not by faith alone.

Essentially, you're in the position of a person holding a conversation with someone who doesn't speak a word of English, who jumps to the conclusion that you have no
insurmountable disagreements with that person because, not speaking the same language, you don't contradict each other.
Buy into Orthodoxy, and you buy into its thelogical world- and that world is entirely alien to the sola gratia.


The Orthodox Church is fascinating. I've been interested in it, and aside from some differences in doctrine, I actually think they're more on track than Roman Catholics are (though Roman Catholics are more on track than most Protestants are).

As a Confessional Lutheran,
1. I must say that I'm not as sure about their usage of the Sacraments vs. ours. I know the definitions for the Lutheran Sacraments alone.

2. While it is amazing what many Orthodox believe, outsiders need to be careful of saying that "all Orthodox believe etc." because only doctrine which is universal in all Orthodoxy must be decided upon by ecumenical councils. Individual Patriarchate doctrine is decided upon in each patriarchate, but the individual still has enormous freedom of choice for belief. It is still possible from what I've gathered to accept the Lutheran attitude towards Grace, Predestination, Justification, etc.

3. Prayers to/for the dead and even asking departed saints for their intercessory prayers are not strictly forbidden in Lutheranism. What is denied in Lutheranism are that prayers for the dead change the state of grace of the dead (Orthodox have a different concept of sin, grace, etc. for their MAIN beliefs), and the nature of the invocation of the saints being as in the Roman Catholic Church where a saint has merits that they earned and can give to you and that they are also mediators to God (i.e. Mary as Comediatrix). A careful look at how the subject is treated in the Confessions shows that it is relegated to an open question, but the reformers go on to give their own opinions on the subject which is primarily against the Roman Catholic view on the saints, which due to the start of the Reformation as a result of the Cult of Saints, is what is being denied. If it were denied explicitly by Scripture and the Confessions, those who are pastors and laypeople who practice it but do not push it on people as required would be excommunicated without hesitation....thankfully, as a member of the LCMS, I can still hold this belief as still following the Confessions and Scripture.

4. As for the fillioque, the question is still somewhat open. The more ecumenical approach would be to ammend it to say "the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son," or to simply take it out, not because it is false, but because it needlessly divides East and West. Indeed, in the Vatican there are two saucers which state the Nicene Creed WITHOUT the fillioque and when services are held in St. Peter's it is left out. However, from who I've talked with, it seems that the question is not the dual procession in TIME, but in Eternity....apparently Christ had the ability while on earth to give the Holy Spirit by breathing on His disciples and it processed from Him. However, a commonly cited passage to affirm only Paternal procession is "all things proceed from the Father" in the Gospel of St. John, but this passage does not inherently deny the procession from the Son....it simply says everything proceeds from the Father.

I think that ecumenism between the Orthodox and Lutheran (Confessional) churches could bring about tremendous agreement and learning, and ultimately fellowship. However, I think this would involve cleaving about 80% of Lutherans from the synods.....because it seems so few are confessional.

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