Why I Cannot In Good Conscience Be A Protestant

by Tom Jagels

Adapted from Facebook conversations stemming from a status update regarding this issue in April 2011.

Classical and contemporary forms of Western Christianity, particularly and especially Protestantism, assert that God must punish sin in order to fulfil His perfect justice, and that if we are not damned, someone else must be punished and killed in our place. However, if a judge let a convicted murderer walk free simply because an innocent man volunteered to be executed instead, where is justice to be found in that? Haven’t two injustices been committed? What kind of earthly court would that ever fly in?

A number of Protestants will ask

“But didn’t Christ die on the Cross for the atonement of man’s sins? Do you not believe that was what it was for? If so, how does man receive forgiveness? Where does grace start?”

The first question is: “What is atonement?” If the question is do we believe that Christ died to satisfy the wrath of the Father against sinners, then our answer is a resounding no. Imputed righteousness and forensic justification are the principal Reformation doctrines of salvation that stem from the soteriology of Anselm, a papist Archbishop of Canterbury in the 11th century. Anselm held that man’s sin had infinitely offended God and that in order for God’s honour to be restored and His wrath against men to be averted, the balance had to be restored by a man suffering an infinite amount of shame.

Because men had offended an infinitely holy God, they could never assuage His wrath towards their sin. In Anselm’s view, Christ, as an innocent man dying for others, performed an act of high merit. Because Christ is God, Anselm reasoned, Christ generated infinite merits. Through the sacraments and acts of Christian virtue, men appropriated this merit so that it could balance the wrath of the Father towards their sin. Because sin is an infinite denigration of God’s honour and no normal man could pay an infinite penalty, Christ had to become incarnate and suffer as the God-man – that is, being shamed through the crucifixion on behalf of mankind. This was the first substantial step in the viewing of salvation in the West as a primarily legal and juridical affair.

This was taken a step further by the Reformers – if the death of Christ is to pay a legal debt on behalf of humanity to the Father, why would there be any need for sacraments, for any sort of cooperation with God in order for our salvation to be accomplished? Hence, they took it to its next logical step – rather than Christ suffering for us, as Anselm had posited, Christ instead suffered instead of us. God, in His wrathful indignation against humanity, was bound by necessity (a pagan Hellenistic concept, I might add) to punish sinners by tormenting them in hell, and so Christ as a perfect sacrifice was punished instead by having God’s wrath poured upon Him instead.

Now that Christ has paid the legal debt to God the Father, His perfect record can be imputed to us in exchange for our sinful records being imputed to Him (imputed righteousness) and because God has found a loophole in His own law, He can now “declare” the sinner righteous and judge him as being not guilty because Christ has taken the punishment due to him (forensic justification/penal substitution).

Orthodoxy rejects the models of both Anselm and the Reformers. There are two main issues that we take with it which stem from the legal theme that runs throughout them, and they are that they assume firstly that God is the primary antagonist when it comes to the situation that requires us to be saved, and secondly, that salvation is primarily an extrinsic process. To be fair, these really aren’t two separate issues because the latter proceeds directly from the former.

Protestant soteriology assumes that God is the one with the sticking problem, not us. We are sinful, and therefore God must punish us. God is bound to punish us, otherwise his perfect holiness and justice are violated. The problem, according to Protestants, is not that we as sinful and fallen human beings will experience the unfiltered presence of God as torment due to our internal conditions in the same way that those who possess diseased eyes writhe when exposed to the light of the sun, but that God by His very nature is bloodthirsty and needs to punish in order to be satisfied. Salvation in the eyes of Protestants, therefore, is not freedom from the bondage of sin and death, but rather it is deliverance from the hands of God Himself! As much as Protestants may protest otherwise with their rhetoric, they do not believe that we are saved from sin – they believe that we are saved from God!

This is where the link with a purely extrinsic model of salvation comes in. Because, according to Protestants, we are saved by Christ taking upon Himself the wrath of God and exchanging our imperfect records with His perfect one, the essence of salvation is something that occurs completely external to ourselves. Yes, I know that many Protestants have a notion of “sanctification” in which subsequent to regeneration the Christian will grow in holiness, but this is not seen as an essential part of the process of salvation itself. Rather, it is merely a “bonus” or “evidence” that one is truly saved. If man is saved only in an extrinsic fashion, then regardless of whether or not he actually becomes conformed to the image of God, that does not bear upon whether or not he is “saved”.

Rather, because God the Father is able to plug His ears and cover His eyes and pretend that you’re something that you actually are not (that is, perfect due to Christ’s blood covering your sins), you are saved because God pretends and legally declares that you are righteous, rather than because He has actually made you righteous through the redeeming of human nature by Christ’s incarnation, the breaking the bonds of Hades and death’s hold over humanity through His death and Resurrection, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the participation in the Mysteries of Christ.

In contrast, Orthodox Christianity holds that salvation without an essential intrinsic facet is completely useless. Because we believe that man is the primary antagonist in this narrative, not God, to simply “declare” us righteous would profit us nothing. What does it matter if God looks upon us and sees Christ if our own internal conditions make the very presence of God absolutely unbearable? Salvation is not something achieved through a legal process, but by the very healing our souls and our fallen natures through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Orthodoxy doesn’t claim that salvation is a legal affair, so we have no attachment to “justice” being served and have no problem with God not being “just” in legal terms (though I would contend that the justice spoken about in Christianity is not a legally orientated one).

As for the question regarding where one receives forgiveness from, the answer is fairly simple – by uniting our human nature with His divine nature in all things, Christ has bridged the gap between God and man. We can approach God in repentence (and remember the words of King David in Psalm 50 (51) where he writes “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.”) God doesn’t need sacrifice to forgive us. All we need to obtain forgiveness from God is to repent and turn to Him. The purpose of Christ’s death, from an Orthodox perspective, is not to soothe God’s anger against humanity, but to be a part of the greater overall plan to reconcile us to Him.

As for grace, the Orthodox Christian position is that Grace has always been present, as Grace is nothing more than the Uncreated Energies of God Himself, but that after the Fall mankind stopped participating in them (rather than the Western idea that God actively removed His sanctifying grace from mankind, which leads to the false teaching of inherited guilt). Salvation in Orthodox theology is not a one-time event, but a lifelong process of being conformed to the image of God. This is achieved through participating in the Uncreated Energies of God which are communicated to us through the Holy Mysteries of the Church, including the regenerating waters of Holy Baptism, the sealing of the gift of the Holy Spirit with Holy Chrism, the continuing struggling towards repentance in Holy Confession, the reception of Christ’s Body and Blood through the Holy Eucharist, the anointing of the sick via Extreme Unction, and, for some, the sanctifying lives that are brought about by Holy Matrimony and Holy Orders.

In the briefest terms possible, Orthodox Christians do not believe that Christ’s death was payment to God the Father for sin, but rather that Christ has redeemed human nature by participating in it. The Incarnation was necessary because Christ redeemed our human nature and reconciled it to God by uniting it with His divinity. St. Gregory the Theologian famously stated that

“That which is not assumed is not healed.”

St. Athanasius the Great claimed that through the Incarnation,

“God became man so that man might become deified.”

Both of these expound upon St. Peter’s words that we may become

“partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 2:14).

By Christ becoming incarnate, He has united the entire human experience with God. By entering into Hades, He has made death union with God rather than separation from Him, and in the words of St John Chrysostom, when Hades came upon earth and found heaven, when it came upon a corpse and found God, it was embittered and spat Him out. As the Golden-Mouthed saint concludes:

“Christ is risen, and you are overthrown! Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen! Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen, and life reigns! Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in a tomb! For Christ, being raised from the dead, has become the first-fruits of them that slept. To Him be glory and might unto ages of ages. Amen!”



  1. Ross S. Heckmann says:

    Thank you for your interesting & thought-provoking article. My response is three-fold: (1) the Eastern’s church’s emphasis on deification and the Western church’s emphasis on the forensic aspects of salvation, are complementary, not contradictory. See generally “Salvation in Christ: a Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue” (1992). (2) the idea that sanctification is an optional and/or secondary matter is a perversion of traditional Protestantism, which taught that transformation was an essential element of salvation. See James R. Payton, Jr., “Getting the Reformation Wrong” (2010) Chapter 5 “What the Reformers Meant by Sola Fide”; (3) a lower view of the sacraments is not an essential element of Protestantism, as evidenced by traditional Anglicanism & Lutheranism.

  2. Andy Stickland says:

    This article is indeed thorough yet I believe somewhat unfair to Protestants in its generalisation .Having been raised a Protestant I was never given the impression that i was escaping from a wrathful God by coming to Jesus (and so then escaping from God ) .
    Jesus spoke of Hell and punishment and although some Protestants and Catholics seek to put fear into people to come to Christ rather than preaching the Good News Jesus did say that there is a hell for those who reject Christ .
    Orthodoxy when properly taught is RIGHT yet much popular Orthodoxy slips into legalism, superstition ,and is far from truth .
    Many Protestants I know personally are more on the road to Orthodoxy (or hold to principles of Orthodoxy) than some cradle Orthodox ) and are most certainly those who OUR Lord and saviour will say at the Day Judgement “come enter into the joy of your Lord ,Good and faithful Servant .

    Yours In Christs service

    Andy Stickland

  3. It may be that this article presents other than classical Protestantism, but let’s face reality – contemporary protestantism and classical protestantism are not the same. Not even on paper.

    The reformers all believed in the Ever-Virginity of Mary, and so did all protestants… until modernism and German Enlightenment brought deconstruction of the faith. Yet today, not a single protestant believes, or would admit publicly, that Mary was Ever-Virgin.

  4. I agree with much of Orthodox teaching yet I myself still worship at a protestant church. My question still is though that the New Testament emphatically teaches that Jesus was a propitiation (particularly in Paul) for the sins of man. I agree that protestants over-emphasize the legal aspect of salvation, however, is it the orthodox position that Jesus died just so he could rise from the dead? Why did he have to suffer then? Confused protestant that I am,


  5. This is a wonderful article, and is something I, myself, have struggled to put succinctly in various conversations. Another great difficulty that this article hints at (but wasn’t focused on) is the difficulty many Westerners (more accurately, the non-Patristic) have in grasping this worldview. It is the worldview of theosis. It necessarily rejects Western (non-Patristic) dualism – both ontological and epistemological.

    I, myself, struggle with this dualism, as a child of the non-Patristic Protestant traditions. There are so many things that need to be explained in Orthodoxy – which is less than half the whole story as this represents only the “learned faith,” as Met. Hierotheos might say – that it becomes a tangled web of discussion that most brought up in a Western, dualistic, non-Patristic tradition simply see as absolutely alien. And, truth be told, it is.

    That is why amazing articles like this are great *starting* points for discussion.

    Of course, given that True Knowledge can only come through our participation in God’s Uncreated Energies (theosis), even discussions with someone as thorough and talented in condensing such difficult material into one page as Fr. John.

    the sinner,


  6. Chris,

    Here are some answers to that question from our sister website, Preachers Institute:

    The Term “Propitiation” in St. Paul
    by C.H. Dodd (a protestant!)

    Expiation, Blood and Atonement by Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon (former protestant)

    “Expiation” Not “Propitiation” by Fr. John Breck

    These short articles will answer your questions, and generate new ones, I’m sure!

  7. Can I address the issue of “propitiation” raised by Chris.

    With this word “propitiation” we are dealing with two completely different and non-overlapping concepts:
    1). the Biblical-Hebrew concept – as demonstrated on the Cross, and
    2) the post-Tertullian forensic concept.

    The use of the first is in the setting of Yom Kippur where the High Priest applied the blood to the Mercy Seat in the Most Holy Place. This blood did two and only two things:
    a) it was a replay of the blood applied to the lintels of the homes of the Jewish faithful in Egypt on that first Passover when the Angel of Death passed-over, so that so that their sin was “covered” by this blood and that they went from a “death-to-the-firstborn” situation to life and a future ahead of them.
    b) it was a “cleansing through washing” – to merge two concepts in play here: sanctification and theosis. So that humanity could become by grace what God is by nature – Divine.

    Neither had anything to do with a Law Court or an angered God towards His chosen ones. Instead, both were acts of Loving-kindness by a gracious God who loved His people.

    The use of the second was dreamed up by Tertullian of Carthage to try to make sense of the Cross in a Roman Law (jus) setting. Both Greeks and Romans had trouble understanding its Hebrew meaning, and so Tertullian tried to make it easy for them to grasp. Sadly, as pointed out in the main article, this had nothing in common with its Biblical antecedent insofar as it created a double miscarriage of justice in the handling of sin. Anselm only exacerbated the problem, and the 16th century reformers only creatively reinterpreted Anselm in their drive to eliminate the centrality of the Sacraments – particularly the Eucharist from the life of sanctification / theosis in the Church.

    Whilst whole tomes could be written on this, I hope that this thumbnail sketch assists.

  8. Christopher says:

    I like this article very much. There have been many about people saying orthodoxy is different, but not so much showing how it is different.

    I can tell it will bear re-reading from time to time. And many of the comments were good, too. And I will try to follow up with the links.

  9. John, thank you very much for bringing up the thing about Tertullian. I hadn’t thought about it. Perhaps it would be something I should delve into a little further before getting in Anselm’s soteriology in a slightly revised version of this article.

  10. Thanks Fr John for approving my first post.

    This one, and somewhat longer, enlarges on the first, and is dedicated to “Penal Substitution” – the primary soteriological model for Protestantism. I trust that its length will not preclude incorporation into this thread. Some groups mentioned here are Australian, but the principles are global for all Calvinists. Moore College is the sole Calvinist theological college for Sydney Diocese Anglicans.

    The Nicene Creed & Penal Substitution

    Most Protestant Evangelicals, including the Loyal Orange Lodge (LOL) / Anglican Church League (ACL) / Reformed Evangelical Protestant Association (REPA) Moore College clique simply cannot not think about the saving significance of the Cross and the Resurrection in terms of the depth of the Divine love, forgiveness, atonement and reconciliation they revealed. Or conceiving of the Cross and its meaning in any terms other than that of penal justice.

    Indeed, this particular theory tends to be promoted by Protestant Evangelicals as the central and exclusive essence of the Gospel. This idea is normally known as the “Penal Substitution” theory. It was erected on the forensic concept of justification invented in the Latin Carthage by Cyprian and Tertullian on the basis of Roman Law. It is an attempt to explain how salvation comes to the sinner in the context of a supposedly “retributive” Divine Justice.

    It goes something like this: since sin is “transgression of the law”, a “penalty” – a “retributive-punishment” for this transgression, must be “paid” to “satisfy” a “slighted”, “offended”, “vengeful” and “wrath-filled” God. And the “payment” of this “penalty” must be perfect in order to meet the standards of God’s justice. And this “penalty” can only be “paid” by a “perfect submission to punishment” for sin – which can only be supplied by the sinless Jesus.

    In short according to the logic of the theory, a type of legal-transaction and “transfer” occurs: Jesus agrees to take upon Himself the “punishment” for the sins of humanity in exchange for the sinner to receive the sinlessness of Jesus. This is so that the “satisfaction” of the Divine “penalty” for sin can be “paid” and that the sinner as a consequence can be legally sinless and hence be eligible to receive “salvation”, and hence be entitled to a place in heaven.

    Crudely put, in the context of a hypothetical conversation between the Father and the Son (the Father is here speaking to the Son):
    “You suffer a horrible fate and I’ll re-accept humanity back into heaven.”
    Indeed, in some ‘popular’ Protestant preaching, God is made to view the outrageous crime of Pontius Pilate and the Hellenised Sanhedrin (and its rent-a-crowd Jerusalem mob) as a “satisfaction” of His own alleged “need” to be “placated” for the sins of the world!

    This is the Calvinist “justicia Dei” – Jus > Justification etc.

    It has been criticised ever since its inception.

    There is only one thing wrong with this theory: it is un-Biblical, and was unknown in the undivided Church prior to the 1054 schism, and was unknown before Anselm. It is entirely a creature of the Latin Anselm in the twelfth-century Middle Ages articulated in his Curs Deus Homo (Why God Became Man). It was never popular in the Eastern Orthodox Churches, and has never received any support in any major Eastern Synod. It has enjoyed great popular appeal, however in the Latin West, and some theologians, such as Calvin even tried to “improve” upon it with another even more arbitrary and suspect theory of “Predestination”.

    Its depiction of God is both Biblically-offensive and contrary to Canonical-revelation. It projects God as rigidly and uncompromisingly cruel, punishing and vindictive. It gets worse in the Father’s demand that His “Only-Beloved” and innocent Son to “suffer” the “required-punishment” instead of the guilty sinner. It also questions the moral nature of supposed Divine “justice” thereby depicted which requires the punishment of the innocent on behalf of the guilty! Not only is it a double miscarriage of justice, it casts serious negative aspersions on the very Character of God Himself!

    Not surprisingly, it has non-Christian, Pagan origins! Some scholars – specialists in European pagan comparative religion, have identified its roots in the pagan Germanic custom of ‘Wergeld’, known to Anselm, whereby a compensation “penalty” had to be paid by a person convicted of homicide. That “penalty” could be paid by anyone, and once paid, it exempted the offender from further responsibility for the crime.

    Since serious Biblical Scholars quite properly make no mention of this “Penal Substitution” theory – because of its historical “novelty” dimensions, and because of the way it presented God; they are therefore a “liberal” in the eyes of Evangelical / Calvinist cliques who, blinded by their Latinised and heretical Calvinism (heretical since 1672), can see no other explanation.

    Even this is not the end of it. In fact, it is only the beginning! There are insuperable problems reconciling this “Penal Substitution” theory with the Nicene Creed! The original Greek text of the words ‘for us men and for our salvation…’ in the Creed reads (in the Latin script): di hemas tous anthropos kai dia ten hemeteran soterian’. Our key word here is the preposition di.

    Its use with the accusative indicates the reason why something exists or happens or results. By contrast, the idea of “Penal Substitution” requires the use of ‘anti’ to mean ’instead of’ in this clause of the Creed (and this is the only place in the Creed where it can be credibly used). In no natural sense can ‘dia’ be interpreted in an ‘anti’ manner! Thus the late Jaroslav Pelikan – one of the foremost Patristic Scholars of our day (and a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy), says:

    “Those closest to the Council of Nicea, chronologically and theologically, did not in fact take its formularies to be speaking about ‘vicarious atonement’, but went on employing an abundance of metaphors for the involvement of God the Father, Christ the Son, the human race, and the devil in the redemption transaction.”

    The Fathers of the Nine Ecumenical Councils were never casual in their linguistics; witness the controversy over and rejection of a single “i” in the Arian version of homoiousios of the Creed with respect to the Son against the Arians in the first two Councils! In their Liturgical Theology they were just as careful where they repeatedly referred to God (Father and Son and Holy Spirit) as the “lover of mankind” – explicitly contrary to any and all ideas and theology associated with ‘vicarious atonement’ and retributive justice.

    What the linguistics of the Nicene Creed, as understood historically and properly, are saying is that on the evidence of the Church’s associated Liturgical Theology, and its historical development – especially in the face of Cyprian and Tertullian, the “Penal Substitution” theory (described by Pelikan as ‘vicarious atonement’) was not only never approved by the Fathers of the Councils, but was both contemplated and emphatically rejected by these Fathers as contra-Scriptural, and hence in a very direct manner the theory is contrary to the official teaching of these Councils and the Creed itself.

    And where the Councils deal with matters directly connected with the Holy Trinity – where alone the Nine Ecumenical Councils are infallible, and whereas this “Penal Substitution” theory – as reflected in the Nicene Creed centrally concerns matters centrally affecting the Holy Trinity, its rejection by these Ecumenical Councils meets the infallible official definition of Canonical Heresy and is thus officially subject to Conciliar Anathema!

    This should severely alarm every Protestant Evangelical, not to mention every Calvinist! This clique, in defending the “Penal Substitution” theory in response as their concept of salvation are thus inescapably official heretics and under official canonical anathema! Not just in some minor way, but in a matter centrally concerning none other than the Holy Trinity!

    Now there is nothing wrong with a Legal Framework per se. It is inescapably involved in the Final Judgment at the Second Coming. But there, it does NOT *provide* salvation to the sinner – it is the *vindication* of the Holy Trinity before the whole Universe, and is a demonstration as to why the unrepentant sinner cannot inhabit heaven or live eternally.

    I trust that this assists.

  11. Status: catechumen :).

    This article has been my experience for the last 10 years. Reformed theology beats you to death with Gods wrath. The church i was at did not cease to harp on the subject (I do not exaggerate). Though they constantly hammered out Gods wrath and honor and these types of words there was an emptiness in their actions. A complete lack of genuine concern for anyone outside of their church.
    To what Andy stated i would like to say this my friend: Most mainstream (non-calvinist) protestant churches don’t ever teach what their statement of belief states. They have become more concerned about ensuring the seeker is comfortable at all costs rather than risking someone thinking they are bringing a guilt trip on them. Before my 10 years as a calvinist i spent 20 years in your standard baptist/pentecostal/methodist type of churches. I rarely heard their teachings on these subjects because they didnt want to risk emptying the pews. With the exception of their revivalist evangelists, you could count on them a couple times a year to come by and jack you up on these subjects.

    I told Father in my last catechism class that protestantism is the land of extremes and i can truly see at this moment in time a completeness of the christian faith in the orthodox church. Though nothing is perfect the orthodox church is as close as it gets. And no mom, its not a cult :).

  12. Randy Evans says:

    Much appreciate the article – well articulated. A sadness to me for our western culture is that “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” is so often touted in culture and schools as an excellent example of Christian preaching. I cannot read that sermon without feeling a disgust and nausea in my guts because of how it portrays the God of Christ and the scriptures. As Alexander Kalomiros states in “The River of Fire”: “But why do men hate God? They hate Him not only because their deeds are dark while God is light, but also because they consider Him as a menace, as an imminent and eternal danger, as an adversary in court, as an opponent at law, as a public prosecutor and an eternal persecutor. To them, God is no more the almighty physician who came to save them from illness and death, but rather a cruel judge and a vengeful inquisitor. . . The ‘God’ of the West is an offended and angry God, full of wrath for the disobedience of men, who desires in His destructive passion to torment all humanity unto eternity for their sins, unless He receives an infinite satisfaction for His offended pride.”
    Kalomiros can certainly be accused of hyperbole and generalization, but he hits the core of a very widespread and distorted view of who our God and Creator is. Satan, our adversary and the father of lies, seems ultimately to have only one goal: to portray the loving God of the universe as One who can’t be fully and completely trusted to love and save us from sin and death. So that when people believe the lies, they will turn to any and everything other than God for solace and salvation. Such alternatives to Truth include atheism, and the tragic notion that as long as they “hide in Christ,” God the Father won’t have to see them as they really are.

  13. Andy Evans says:

    Thank you Fr. Peck for your post. I have been trying to understand Eastern Orthodox theology for several months now. As a protestant, I appreciated your article, but would have found it more helpful had there been more biblical references along with their classical interpretation.

  14. Fr. John says:

    You’ll have to ask the author about that, Andy. I didn’t write it, I just published it.

  15. Andy Evans says:

    Fr. John,

    Yes sir, and I thank you for responding. But you agree with his post, isn’t that right? I am inclined toward the theology of the Eastern Orthodox church, but it would be very helpful to have scriptural references.

  16. To say “contemporary protestants believe________” is way too broad a brush. It’s like saying “contemporary Americans believe _______.” Though the language differs, what the article says is the Orthodox position is not far from what is normally taught in most protestant cirles…in my experience. I agree that the legal terms Paul uses, as well as the substitutionary terms are metaphors…but Paul is very comfortable with his metaphors.

  17. Romans 3:21-26 concludes with these words, “God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstarte his justice, because in his forbearancehe had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished- he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.
    Romans 5:9 adds…since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him.

    Though I agree with the general theme…salvation is about God restoring his creatures to glory; God is not looking to “get even” with those won’t cooperate. There is an element about justice in salvation. In some way, the death of Jesus allowed God to be “just” and “justifier.” I realized those are legal terms, and involve some level of metaphor…but they are inspired legal terms. I share the discomfort over the idea of “wrath” in 5:9, but it is still there.

  18. I do understand what you are saying, but I strongly disagree that is it ‘normally taught in most protestant circles.’ That, too, is too broad a brush, and frankly, not at all my experience from the last 30 years of being a protestants, and speaking to and with protestants.

  19. This is a fantastic article, it reveals the heart of protestantism and how far is from the biblical teachings. Orthodoxy is a continuation of the old testament and new testament without interruption.

  20. myth buster says:

    While St. Anselm’s teaching on vicarious atonement does mold Catholic belief on the matter, it is not the final word on Redemption. The Catholic understanding of mortal sin is that it is a willful rejection of divine love, which places us into a state of enmity with God. Sin then, is a pollution of human nature which poisons love, and without love, we cannot live in God. Sin is also addictive, like a drug, such that unrepentant venial sin makes it easier to commit mortal sin, and each mortal sin makes it easier to commit another mortal sin and harder to repent. The death and resurrection of Christ is thus simultaneously seen as a ransom of slaves, a reparation of all the damage done by sin by taking said damage onto Himself, an antidote to a deadly poison, and the font of love from which life comes.

    Therefore, the Protestant understanding of salvation as a merely legal process ought not be understood as the result of Catholic teaching, but as a caricature of it. This is doubly true of Calvinism, which though based on the sound doctrine that God knows His saints from eternity, perverts this teaching into a notion that God cause Adam to fall from grace and that He creates many people and angels to be damned, that He may receive glory by their damnation. The incoherence and futility of Calvinism is so obvious that it is rejected on its face by most Protestants.

    What I see then, looking at Catholics and Orthodox Christians, is two peoples separated by a common faith. It is a misunderstanding of terminology, rather than an actual doctrinal dispute, that puts us at odds. There are few, if any, points of Orthodox doctrine with which a faithful Catholic could disagree, and vice versa, but the the finer points of language (e.g. Dormition vs. Assumption of the Blessed Virgin or Transubstantiation vs. Transelementation) cause us to imagine disputes where none exist. Come, let us reason together, my brothers and sisters, and let us pray as our Lord did that we may be one. For the Church to be divided East against West is like Christ being cleaved in half head-to-foot.

  21. As a Traditionalist Roman Catholic who is learning more of the alleged heresies emitted in debates during Vatican II, I must remind all “sides” about one more element that is always left out in these discussions–God’s Commandment to pay the Liturgical Artists / Singers (Sons of Asaph) from the Tithes, “each according to need”, “or else the Worship Tent will be abandoned”. (Nehemiah 12).

    Because so many of you in your intensive theological debates, forgot to care for the Bach’s, Mozarts in your own midsts, (as if they are mere serfs next to the Priest), and omitted to teach your own congregations about the mortal sins of rampant “downloading” & pirating, and neglected to stop letting choirs be taken over by pro-choice heretics (akin to the heathen Tobias, who took over the Tithes for abominable purposes in Nehemiah 12), your own Liturgical Music went downhill, by turning it over to senseless Utopian volunteers de-valuing our rightful pay, which in turn caused God to “raise nations against you” (schisms, internecine warfare, world wars, Caliphate Cataphacts, etc.).

    Notice, in Nehemiah 13, the penalty for violation of these basic pay rights for Artists, was removal of the Priest from the clerical state. Eliashib and his sons were removed (by Governor Nehemiah), and replaced by those “more trustworthy”. Yet, whenever I show this passage to most Priests, they become either uncomfortable, or avoid, or one even took 4 years trying to get me fired! It appears, Artists have no say in their own parishes, and must suck up to tone-deaf lay staff with their “youth programs” and MBA’s, trying to “cut costs” on real musicians able to play and compose like Mozart, or Pallestrina. It seems that over-reliance on Utopian volunteers, has driven us out of a job, or forced us to be silent, afraid for our jobs as fellow ministers and sowers.

    The Parable of the Talents and of the Sowers, both are violated increasingly, over the ages, to the point that almost every parish seems stained with unclean hands, of people pirating, and aborting, yet claiming to be “saved” by God’s forgiveness, via Confession, or not. Missing from this, is the discussion of Atonement…you must each also atone to those you stole from, or damaged, or slandered…especially us Artists, who suffered increasing neglect and maltreatment over the centuries as cheap modernism by now has almost completely destroyed the older Traditional Arts. We have most priests now saying ‘Sing to the Mountains’ is no different than Bach’s ‘Ave Maria’, which is merely code language for saying, “We refuse to pay you what you’re worth”. i.e. Lording Over.

    It appears, mankind’s abuse and “lording over” God’s very own genius Liturgical Artists, has been going on even before Tertullian. Thusly, Satan has for eons attacked Tithing, as the means to destroy higher Music & Arts, whereby our own Priesthood forgot that Sons of Asaph were also Ordained, Annointed with Oils, and commanded to wear the Vestments, not be treated as lowly volunteers wearing gymn shoes and singing John Denver hippie guitar folk songs in the presence of Our Lord.

    While it is great that this Article points out the theological flaws of Protestantism, as well as its potential roots in Tertullian Catholicism, I believe that the roots go even deeper, even further back than Tertullian. It is the Pride of man, which fashions himself or herself “above” others, especially “lowly” Artists. You all pay your Priests, Plumbers, Doctors, Lawyers, but steal & pirate from your own Artists & Craftspersons, and deny basic livable wages even in your own Churches. Then you remain silent while rampant Piracy and abortion goes on in your own pews.

    The doctrine of Atonement, demands that you each atone for these abuses, and restore to us Artists, our homes and livelihoods lost, and also invoke Mt 18, Fraternal Correction, upon your own society still doing these many wrongs. Silence is not golden, you must all speak out loudly, especially to Congress, and your own Bishops, to end this ages-old abuse of God’s own Craftsmen and Composers. This global scandal of theivery, false witness, sins of omission, schism, and resultant genocide, which wer prophesied in Nehemiah 12, has to stop, because without the higher Liturgical Arts restored, our own Bach’s and Mozart’s re-employed in every town, and fellow Artists’s copyright defenses restored, God will not answer your prayers, and will continue to raise Nations and schisms against you. Per the Catechism, sins so serous that “cry out to Heaven” are few…next to denying God Himself, they include refusal of basic wages to the wage earner. In order for Sowers of Beauty to do their work, they must be paid, and supported by their own community, not attacked with innuendo’s and false accusations of “being selfish” merely for the artist asking to be paid a liveable wage for his/ her hard work.

    It is good-intentioned people in churches across the globe, who are doing the worst sins, acting like the Hindu Caste system (where artists are treated like dirt). Forgetting to obey the Commandments revealed in Nehemiah 12, 13, is directly related to several of the 10 Commandments–to keep the Sabbath Holy, namely by making sure it is not desecrated by sacriligious singing by people who were clearly not ordained nor trained properly to lead the worship music, and to avoid false witness (by attacking us artists whenever we merely ask for fair pay and support from the Tithes), and murder (whenever the lousy music you all implement, causes 4 billion+ people to leave the Church, making Conversion that much harder.

    Simply put, you must not rest on your laurels, smug and happy with your “2 billion believers”. Without the higher Music and Arts restored, you will never reach the other billions who aren’t converted yet, and will fail to internally convert even your own members, to be more concerned for one another than they are now. Music is not “optional” in the Liturgy…from the very beginning, it was an inseparable part of it. So why cut corners and cheapen it?

    Please atone, and help us Artists get back financially on our feet again, so that we in turn, can help you all, convert the rest of the world, as well as your own who are about to leave.

  22. The famous line that you will always hear is the “nothing unclear shall enter”. Do you actually believe that this dilemma could be solved by God knowingly allowing Himself to be tricked?! An analogy would be Jacob putting goatskin on himself to trick Isaac that he is Esau. God is all-knowing so faking your rap sheet is not going to fly.

  23. Mako Nagasawa says:

    John, I’d love more information on whether and how the Nicene Creed rules out penal substitution, per your comment on Sep 14, 2011. I can’t find the article by Australian Anglican bishop Carnley. Any other books or resources on that?

  24. Assuming “That which is not assumed is not healed,” then how do we get unguilty, if Christ doesn’t take on our guilt?

  25. Fr. John says:

    One does not heal guilt, one forgives it, because it is not our guilt that Christ took on, it was our sin. You are still thinking legalistically about redemption, not therapeutically which is the Orthodox way.


  1. […] the Orthodox view of sin and salvation, and how it differs from Western Christian explanations: Why I Cannot In Good Conscience Be A Protestant If you would like to see Scriptural support for the Orthodox view of atonement, let me know, and […]

  2. […] Another webpage which describes the Orthodox view of salvation and atonement: Why I Cannot in Good Conscience be a Protestant […]

  3. […] Another webpage which describes how these uncreated energies save us: Why I Cannot in Good Conscience be a Protestant […]

Leave a Reply