Pastoral Advice on Eastern Orthodoxy

Posted by David Gadbois

With the recent news that Hank Hanegraaff has been received as a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church, it might be helpful to post the report on Eastern Orthodoxy that Classis Southwest of the URCNA adopted as pastoral advice at the recent classis meeting.  The reader can download it here.  It deals with some of the major issues that have attracted former members of our churches to depart for Eastern Orthodoxy, and provides guidance for ministering to those considering Eastern Orthodoxy.  It includes a lengthy appendix by Dr. Robert Godfrey on the Roman Catholic Church, due to the fact that the essay contains material that overlaps with many of the major issues relating to Eastern Orthodoxy.

To briefly comment on Hanegraaff, from what I have read he was raised in the Christian Reformed Church as the son of a minister, but for some reason as an adult he drifted into broad evangelicalism as an amillenial, baptistic Arminian.  He never received seminary training, and was ordained by Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel.  Until he makes an explicit statement on the matter, it is difficult to speculate on what drew him to Eastern Orthodoxy.  I will say that it is unfortunate that he did not resign from the Christian Research Institute, or was not forced out, when he became an EO catechumen.

The temptations that Eastern Orthodoxy offers to evangelicals are surely stronger than the temptations that can be offered to Reformed believers attending solid confessional churches.  Nonetheless many of the temptations are the same; temptations such as the aesthetic appeal and what Dr. Scott Clark has termed the Illegitimate Quest for Certainty.  We shouldn’t be too proud, because recent history has shown that Reformed churches aren’t immune to having members who are seduced by such errors leave the faith.

I have heard reports that Reformed seminaries, even seminaries we would consider strongly confessional and of high educational standard, are not properly preparing ministers to deal with the modern apologetic claims of both Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy.  I’d be curious if that is the experience of others in the Green Baggins readership.  Perhaps that problem can be fingered as one of the root causes behind many of the recent apostasies to Rome and EO.



  1. April 14, 2017 at 2:11 am

    On a related matter, can you point me to any articles you’ve written against baptismal regeneration, and also the Reformed’s usage of sacramental language and union used in baptismal passages?

    I’ve been looking at both EO and Lutheranism as the baptism passages seem to speak efficaciously. Thanks.

  2. April 17, 2017 at 12:01 am

    […] Source […]

  3. gunnpalmer said,

    April 18, 2017 at 3:13 am

    I would not say evangelicals who ‘convert’ to Orthodoxy are apostates. They are able, with full conviction, to recite the Apostles and Nicene Creeds. Maybe some reservation with the Copts over their defective understanding of the Christ’s twofold nature.
    I have a dear friend, an Antiochian Orthodox priest, who is certainly not apostate. The trigger for him, once an evangelical Anglican vicar, was the decision to ordain women as deacons/priests.
    I think it would be useful to take soundings as to why evangelicals take the route to Orthodoxy or Catholicism.
    What I suspect may at least be part of the reason, is the loss of a full diet of Reformed worship. Too many services I have attended over the years have left out a prayer of confession and accompanying assurance of pardon. What has happened to the recitation of the Lords Prayer or one of the Creeds?
    Is there that sense in the dignity and seriousness of our meeting together as worship, of being lifted into the throne room of God, that consciousness of meeting our truly awesome holy God in the presence of the universal church of Christ gathered over the centuries of time from every nation? Is a high view of the Sacraments held that draws from the teaching of the early Reformers, and Calvin especially? Do we understand the graciousness of God in the sacraments, eg that in the Lord’s Supper we have set before us everything we need to know and experience in the Gospel?
    Or are what we do on Sundays just some sort of meeting with a light weight liturgy of mutual encouragement to one another, perhaps, hopefully, some decent preaching of the Word of God?

  4. Bob S said,

    April 23, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    Thanks for the heads up on this, DG. An interesting and helpful read (at least one typo, “last rights” p.2 fn.3). I had thought that after Frankie “the Firebrand” Schaeffer had converted in the late 80’s and a surge through the ’90’s that things had kind of cooled off for EO conversions, but evidently not.

    As further regards the temptation of the EO for reformed believers, it doesn’t help that the report makes scant mention of the regulative principle of worship (p.21) – i.e. the G&N consequences of the Second Commandment – which nips the common objection to the plain, simple and spiritual worship service.
    IOW we don’t worship the God who created a beautiful world through the use of beautiful things because he has not commanded us to do so . End of story. Christ is the final prophet, priest and king of his church and therefore the doctrine, worship and government of the same are not open to our helping things along no matter how reasonable it might seem to our imagination, sensibilities or aesthetics.
    Nor is it a mystery what the Bible says about icons, HC Q&A 98, Hab. 2:18,19, all straining of gnats about images and idols, latria and doulia aside.

    As re. the “papists without the pope” angle, I am not sure if the EO has as clearly contaminated/confounded the order of being with the order of knowledge; of ontology with epistemology, as Rome has, but we is no philosophy perfessor and have misplaced our beret.


  5. Andrew said,

    April 26, 2017 at 2:20 am

    As an ex-EO I can offer some advice based on my own experience.

    1. Become very familiar with the church fathers, especially the ante-nicene fathers. The EO incorrectly claim that there is a continuous, unchanging tradition from the earliest church fathers up until today. Be able to challenge this view by pointing out that local councils prior to nicea did things like banning the use of images in churches. Point out that Origen was highly respected in the east by recognized saints for hundreds of years before he was posthumously condemned (how could the church have been deceived for so long if the church, not scripture, is the ultimate authority?). Be able to show that Marian devotion developed slowly over time, and became more and more exaggerated.

    2. Be able to explain the insights of Van Til and Dooyweerd on the difference between the Biblical and the Hellenic worldviews, and be able to point out where the Hellenic worldview has permeated Eastern Orthodoxy.

    3. Make sure prospective converts to Eastern Orthodoxy understand what the church really believes. A lot of EO in America will say things like “we just use images so all of our senses are involved with worship”. They very seldom come out and say what the seventh ecumenical council actually says, that all those who don’t salute the holy images are anathema. Hold them to their own doctrinal statements. Likewise with the Marian devotion, EO will say something like “we just think Jesus would listen to his mother”, when in fact they have prayers in their services where they address the Virgin as their “savior”.

    4. Just hammer home how the Bible is a consistent, unchanging standard, while church tradition is not.

    I hope that helps, those were the main points that got me out of the EO church.

  6. Tom McClintock said,

    April 30, 2017 at 5:58 pm

    In paragraph 2 it speaks of Hank’s amillennialism, then says he was ordained by Chuck Smith. That combination seems unclear. I don’t think Hank was amill at the time of Smith’s ordination. Hank would have had to be a pre-trib premill for Chuck to have ever ordained him. It is my understanding that when Hank then moved to a preterist position ( he called it something else, but it was preterism) CC pretty much threw him under the bus.

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