22 May 2007

On Adjectival Christians

It seems more common, and more necessary, to modify most Protestants with one or more adjectives. For example, it is not uncommon to modify the word "Episcopal" with the words "high" or "low" or "broad" or "conservative" or some such. Likewise, it is not uncommon to modify the word "Lutheran" with "liturgical" or "confessional" or "conservative"--or the corresponding pejoratives. The same is true of (and in) many other Protestant denominations.

To be sure, there are adjectival Orthodox. However, the adjectives generally denote ethnicity (Russian, Serbian, Greek) or rite (Byzantine or Western). One rarely, if ever, modifies Orthodox with "liturgical" or "conservative." To say it another way, the adjectives do not modify the distance one is perceived to be from his own tradition or from the Fidei Depositum.

Why this observation? It was prompted by my need to modify the word "Lutheran" in the previous brief obituary; and because, now that the school year is winding down and the teaching load lessening, I have occasion to think and write about such things.


Richard said...

Along similar lines, I remember my sense of palpable relief when I realized that the music discussion in Orthodoxy was not framed as "Contemporary vs. Traditional," but rather "Russian vs. Byzantine".

david+ said...

And since you are far too charitable to make such an observation, it must be said that there is now also the need to add the adjective "Christian" before certain denominations. For example, "he's a Christian, high church E'copalian."


Emily H. said...

Father, when I first read this post I was rather hurt. However I realized that the hurt is that what you wrote is truth. Using an adjective to describe your faith means that you think that you are outside the norm of your own faith. Where this eventually may lead a person's thinking, I don't know...

RPW said...

From your website:

Holy Incarnation Orthodox Church is a newly-formed Orthodox mission in Detroit, Michigan. Within the pre-schism Latin tradition, Holy Incarnation is a Western Rite parish. It is under the omophorion of Metropolitan PHILIP of the Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America, and the episcopal oversight of Bishop MARK of the diocese of Toledo & the Midwest. The parish uses The Mass according to the Rite of Saint Gregory approved by the Western Rite Vicariate of the Antiochian Archdiocese.

Wow...that's a mouthful compared to "confessional LCMS Lutheran" (and high-church, UAC, Christian or whatever else you want to add to it)

Fr John W Fenton said...

Thanks, RPW, for reading and commenting. And thanks for looking at the Holy Incarnation website.

It seems best that I highlight the following from the original post:

...the adjectives do not modify the distance one is perceived to be from his own tradition or from the Fidei Depositum.

Emily H. said...

Calling oneself a Byzantine Orthodox would be similiar to a Lutheran calling themselves a Divine Service One Lutheran. Sounds absurd, doesn't it?!

Using an adjective such as "liturgical", "confessional" ect. denotes not only a different method of worship but also a whole other way of thinking about the entire faith. One group is assumed to be "right" and one group is assumed to be "wrong". This degenerates into having separate bodies within the body of Christ. How can that be? (and I think I already know the Orthodox answer to that but perhaps you will humor me, Father)

I had a post on my own blog concerning yours and intended it to be an honest and introspective discussion amongst fellow Lutherans. I apologize that it has also bled over into your blog. Thank you for being a gracious, albiet unwitting, host.