Catholics/Orthodox Christians are too Old Testament?

I’ve heard Protestant friends of mine talk about how Catholic and Orthodox Christians are too “Old Testament”. At first, I thought that was referring to their emphasis on works in regard to salvation and having engaged more with Catholic theology, I found out that this is actually a misunderstanding of both Catholic and Orthodox theology. Catholicism and Orthodoxy don’t believe that our works save us. They believe that Christ’s work in us saves us. “Faith in charity” is essentially what they believe. A “formed” faith. But alas, I found that this is not what my Protestant friends are saying when they say Catholic and Orthodox Christians are “too Old Testament”. They are actually saying something that I must state can only be repeated by a demonic influence. They are saying that Catholics and Orthodox Christians are “too ritualistic” and don’t emphasize Christianity the way it should be–as one’s own relationship with Jesus.

I find this odd because I also get Protestant friends insisting that a good way to “improve” the Church is by jumping back to our more ancient Jewish theological roots and dumping classical theism. Neither dumping classical theism or jumping back to our more ancient Jewish theological roots will actually “improve” the Church though. The Church has been primarily ritualistic from the beginning. Want an example? Read the Gospels. You’ll see that Jesus leaves us with two rituals–baptism and the eucharist. This is why Lutherans and Anglicans still maintain at the very least these two sacraments (some Lutherans and Anglicans affirm the same seven as the Catholics!). Really, it is the Evangelical movement in the Church that started going against this.

A major problem of course though with this Evangelical insistence to abandon orthodox liturgical practice and yet adhere to Jewish theological tradition is that we really don’t know what ancient Jewish theological tradition adhered to! Read the Gospels–you will find many sects of Judaism. Sadducees who rejected the resurrection, Essenes who were highly eschatological, Pharisees who were strict legalists, and Zealots who expected a militant Messiah to overthrow the Roman government. There is no consistent “ancient Judaism” and Christian theology for the most part competes with Jewish theology. We believe in the incarnation, that Jesus is the Messiah, the resurrection (Jews believe this too but not Sadducees), etc. We need not make our theology “more Jewish”. We have invented stories rather based on our own understandings of Old Testament theology. One thing we’ve read into in scriptures is the idea that prayer somehow changes God. For instance, Protestant theologian Roger E. Olson contends that prayer in fact does change God. This is in response to classical theism. I feel that if more Evangelicals adopted classical theology, that would actually be an improvement. In fact, many liberal Christians have started to adopt classical theism. But realistically, what do these Evangelicals want Catholics and Orthodox Christians to be? More Old Testament or less Old Testament?

About NE7

Melkite Greek Catholic. Watch out for ninjas and crazy church ladies. I know THE Crazy Church Lady is a ninja too.
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2 Responses to Catholics/Orthodox Christians are too Old Testament?

  1. Jim says:

    This drives me crazy!

    Every church, even the most hippest, coolest, evangelical church has LOTS of traditions and rituals. So it isn’t a question of ritual vs non-ritual. The question really is: Who has better rituals and traditions? In other words, whose traditions are more effective at helping Christ followers follow Christ more faithfully?

    Hint: If the table is missing, then your church is missing the point.

    • That is an excellent point. Another point I would make is that rituals are PART of a relationship. For instance, you meet someone, you hang out. That allows you to get to KNOW them. Without rituals, you can’t get to know them. And yes, the Orthodox/Catholic sacraments are FAR more effective at helping people follow Christ more effectively than these party churches.

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