I discovered the fundamentalist Christian website Pulpit & Pen a year or two ago, when they were hating on Karen Swallow Prior for failing to meet its high standards. They are an excitable lot, the P&P writers. One of them who participated in the attack on KSP later repented, and resigned from P&P, saying:
Unless you’ve been living under a social media rock the last week or so, you’ve no doubt been made aware of the conflict between Pulpit & Pen and Dr. Karen Swallow Prior. As of the time of this publishing, a resolution seems nowhere in sight and the entire ordeal has served nothing more than to fracture the body of Christ greatly. Regretfully, I had a hand in promulgating this conflict by taking part in a podcast at Pulpit & Pen without having researched the facts myself first.
To be clear, I disagree with Dr. Prior’s approach to evangelism in some areas. However, I was out of line to opine the way I did before making myself one-hundred percent clear on the facts of the situation. For that error, I publicly repent and apologize to Dr. Prior and ask her forgiveness for the uncharitable treatment she received from me personally and the ramifications that may have stemmed from my public comments.
He later added:
In the time that has passed since publishing this public apology, as I have grown in my sanctification and reflected on my actions as part of the Pulpit & Pen blog, it has become apparent that I must more clearly and vociferously renounce any association with or subtle endorsement of Pulpit & Pen. I can no longer in good Christian conscience recommend including that ministry to fellow believers. While many of the issues P&P raises are valid, many others are not; and even more attack the brethren unnecessarily and often in unfounded ways. I pray that our Savior may open the eyes of those contributing to come to repentance as He so graciously did for me.
If you take from these statements the idea that P&P writers shoot their mouths off maliciously without knowing what they’re talking about, you’d be correct. Today, the website turns its Eye of Sauron on Orthodox Christianity, which it describes as a “cult.” Jeff Maples of the site went to Hank Hanegraaf’s new Greek Orthodox parish looking for abomination. Lo and behold, he found a-plenty. Excerpts:
Saturday, April 15, known as Holy Saturday in the Orthodox tradition, I along with a couple of friends went to visit St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, NC–the church that Hanegraaff was recently chrismated in. The service began at 11:30 pm, and was still going strong showing no signs of slowing down when we decided to leave at around 2:00 am. While we hoped to have the opportunity to confront Hanegraaff in person, being that we all had to get up early the next morning to worship the living God on Easter morning, we decided to call it a night early.
These knotheads didn’t even realize that they were at the Paschal liturgy. What lovely Christian men, though, to have gone to the holiest church service of the year with the intention of getting up in the face of a new convert. The report is actually pretty funny, if you see it in a certain light, because it reveals profound ignorance. I would not expect a fundamentalist Christian to agree with Orthodox theology and worship, but this is beyond absurd:
1.) I have sat through many Catholic masses. I was married in a Catholic church, and I can definitely say I’ve “been there done that.” But I’ve never sat through anything so long and tedious as the Greek Orthodox mass. Perhaps being a special Saturday night “resurrection service,” this wasn’t the norm, but it was excruciatingly long. 2 1/2 hours in and no sign of slowing down.
2.) The cliche, “bells and smells” is actually a true reality. The burning of incense and ringing of bells was a noxious combination. It reminded me of being in a college dorm smoking weed and blowing the smoke through toilet paper rolls stuffed with dryer sheets.
3.) The liturgy was vain and repetitious. Literally, the same ritualistic prayers and chanting were sung over and over. Every prayer included an invocation of Mary and the Saints.
4.) While there was actually quite a bit of Scripture reading, there was absolutely no teaching. In fact, the vast majority of Scripture reading was sung in the eerie Byzantine chant. You’d really have to pay attention and try to listen really hard to even understand what they were reading or reciting.
5.) The facility was adorned, literally, wall to wall, floor to ceiling in graven images of the saints. The images were painted in such a way that the expressions on their faces were devoid of any emotion. They looked like lifeless figures just floating around in space.
6.) The enthusiasm of the clergy and participants in the service was extremely low. Those participating in the rituals walked around with lifeless expressions on their faces. The entire ritual was empty and dead.
7.) There is obviously little to no pursuit of holiness in this church. Several times during the service, the ushers and deacons could be seen stepping out to take smoke breaks. Many of the women and even some of the younger girls were dressed less than modestly.
8.) Repeatedly, the chanting and liturgy included a summons to God to perform certain acts. It was clear that they believe that God works through and is dependent upon these rituals to activate the work of the Holy Spirit.
9.) The Greek and Eastern Orthodox church is clearly a lifeless church. There was absolutely no gospel in this service. A lost person could not walk into this church and walk out a changed man. It was literally a Pagan practice. Like a seance. Pure witchcraft was going on in this place. In this religion, salvation doesn’t come through Christ’s imputed righteousness and substitutionary atonement on the cross, it comes through these dead rituals that they believe ontologically changes them into divine beings. It was truly one of the most wicked experiences I’ve ever seen.
Pure witchcraft! More:
This is what Hank Hanegraaff has apostatized to. He knows the Bible, he has taught it his entire life. He now rejects it. The bible clearly teaches against the wickedness and error found within the manmade traditions and doctrines of demons in the Orthodox church. It would have been easy for one to let their guard down and become entranced by the production. While in the West it is likely less common for practitioners of the religion to take it that seriously, it’s easy to see how those who do take it seriously could achieve an altered state of mind which would in effect by a spiritual experience for those truly seeking it. After my experience at this church, not only do I fully stand by what I have written, but it is even more clear now that this religion is not of God and should be avoided.
A Catholic reader who sent the link to me writes:
I am reminded of the community in the early stages of Babette’s Feast, trying so, so hard to hate the glories they were tasting.
True. Again, I would not expect a fundamentalist to cotton to Orthodox worship, but this poor knothead did not even understand what he was observing. If you’re going to criticize a thing, you should at least trouble yourself to understand what it is you’re criticizing. The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, which Jeff Maples observed, is a highly complex liturgy of ancient origin, having been perfected at the Hagia Sophia in the late fifth century. You can read the text of the liturgy here, but it is impossible to attend a single liturgy and understand everything that is going on unless someone is there to explain it to you. This liturgy has been the standard worship service for Orthodox churches the world over for 1,500 years. Orthodoxy is the second-largest Christian body in the world, behind Roman Catholicism. Yet a young American fundamentalist attends a single Orthodox service, and confidently declares that Orthodox Christianity is a cult, and its worship service is “witchcraft”.
Let me say it again for the sake of clarity: I have no particular problem with Christians who examine what the Orthodox Church teaches, and who conclude that it is wrong. But this Jeff Maples piece sounds like it was written by the equivalent of a rusticated banjo picker who wanders into a performance of Aïda and storms out fuming that that ain’t real music.
Being old doesn’t make a thing correct, but it’s worth considering that Orthodox Christians were worshiping God using that liturgy when Jeff Maples’s and my ancestors in northern Europe were still worshiping trees.