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When East Meets West

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A response to Bradley Nassif’s suggestions for Protestant and Orthodox communion.

Prospects for church fellowship between the Orthodox Church and churches with roots in the 16th century Reformation have been and continue to be distant at best. This is not a reason to despair. This makes dialogue, official or unofficial, all the more important, not least as a repentant and hopeful protest against divisions which we know are contrary to Christ’s will.

The deep scandal of Christian disunity is disobedience to Christ’s command: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34). Such love is not “tolerant” indifference to true doctrine and right practice but demands patient, persevering effort toward reconciliation with fellow Christians from whom we are estranged. The horror of our divisions lies less in the divisions themselves than in our long acceptance of them and the ensuing enmity or (worse) indifference of divided Christians toward one another. Persistent conversation about the faith, even with no prospect of immediate “results,” is one small but essential way for divided Christians to practice loving one another in imitation of the Savior without whose persistent love in the face of contradiction we would have no hope.

An Opening and an Invitation

Bradley Nassif’s article “The Reformation Viewed from the East” is a noteworthy example of an Orthodox theologian looking without rancor at a central Reformation teaching, sola fide, and putting the best construction on it. It is an opening and invitation into just the sort of conversation to which we are summoned by Christ’s command. Representatives of Reformation traditions would doubtless have much to say in response. But rather than pursue this particular conversation …

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Source: Christianity Today Magazine

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