Needless to say, the design intrigued me—particularly since it was a church. We had become good friends with the pastor of the congregation we attended, and when he told us he was taking a vacation and wanted to visit a unique church in
I can’t recall whether it was in preparation for our visit or afterwards, but during that same Autumn of 1983 I began reading The Orthodox Church by Bishop Kallistos Ware. As I read, I was immediately struck by a number of things, most notably the straight-forward unapologetic yet irenic tone.
As a history major, I appreciated the link to the apostles. I was pleased with the statement that infants were communed—something I had wondered about since I was 13 years old. I was intrigued to find several familiar critiques to Roman Catholicism. I had recently begun reading about Lutheran liturgics, and so was pleased to see that emphasis. But most of all, I noticed several commonalities to Lutheran doctrine and, at the same time, several commonalities to Roman Catholic practices that I had been taught were wrong (invocation of saints, bishops, “other” sacraments, etc.). This especially piqued my interest since I wondered how a church could get doctrine right in so many places, but wrong in some practices; but these “errors” I dismissed in typical Lutheran fashion as “accretions to purity” and “barnacles on the church.” Of course, I was troubled by what I perceived to be a synergistic approach to justification (i.e., the process of regeneration and conversion). And holding, as I did, to the unLutheran doctrine of the total depravity of man, I was put off by the description of free will and original sin. Finally, I was most intrigued to see that certain Lutheran theologians had corresponded early on with the Orthodox and that, according to Ware, Patriarch Jeremiah’s response in this correspondence was considered akin to our confessional documents.
Overall, however, my visit and reading proved to be quite positive and led me to several conclusions: (a) the Orthodox were not Roman Catholic; (b) the Orthodox had much in common with the Faith I knew; and therefore (c) the Orthodox Church and its teachings were worth considering and studying.