March 23, 2004

As Far as the East is from the West

The comments on the Serbian Whirlwind post have gotten so long that I think the discussion needs to be routed into a new post.

Picking up on my last comment:

But the reality of the present world is that the days of national Church hegemony are over. Whether it is foreign missionaries or indigenous Evangelicals, the Orthodox Church is doing itself no favours by throwing up legal barriers or physical barriers against them.

Jan has raised a series of questions to be answered:

Is there an answer? Can friendly Westerners show up with media savvy and money and throw their weight in on the other side? Take large groups of Old Country seminarians to public relations school? Use Western influence to force their governments to make laws to enforce Western-style pluralism? Protest individual acts of persecution against religious minorities (Baptists? Mormons? Falun Gong?)? Slow down the world so that they can catch up?

I don't have a definitive answer. I think the first thing the Evangelicals can do is stop sending missionaries. If they want to train indigenous leaders in foreign schools, fine. If they want to go in and train leaders in-country, so to speak, and preach in Evangelical churches, fine. What I perceive gets the backs up of the Orthodox leaders is foreigners coming into predominately Orthodox countries and proselytising (or in the Evangelical view, converting) the Orthodox faithful.

I certainly think it wouldn't hurt for seminarians to have some public relations training. It wouldn't hurt for the clergy to do so as well. Or at least someone could ship in copies of How to Win Friends and Influence People.

I don't think that the key is forcing the government to make laws. The key is changing the attitude within the Church. I don't know that we can slow down the world for them to catch up. However, it will take time for them to get up to speed.

I wonder how much the Serbian Church is dependent upon money from its American faithful. If American Serbs cared enough, they could send their money with strings attached. To the extent that the Serbian government is dependent upon foreign aid from the US, pressure could be brought to bear on the Serbian government to pressure the Orthodox Church to get along with its Evangelical neighbours.

There has to be cooperation on both sides. The OC may have the upper hand because of numbers and power and is in a position to persecute, but both sides can be intractable. The OC considers the Evs heretics. Many of the Evs don't even consider the Orthodox to be Christians, because they haven't jumped through the necessary experiential hoops required by modern Ev theology. In Ev theology, in order to be born again, one must have had a consicous experience of being born again (and just to be safe, one should use this particular John 3 terminology).

But even if the Evs don't consider the Os to be Christians, the Os, recognising that the Evs are in fact Christians, have an obligation to treat the Evs as brethren, even if they are separated brethren.

Posted by david at March 23, 2004 09:51 PM | TrackBack

I've often wondered: would Evangelical theology have turned out as it did if its early advocates had been dealing with a proper translation? Those famous passages from John actually say one must be born FROM ABOVE (in the Greek)...seems a bit different than born again...

Posted by: s.f. danckaert at March 28, 2004 06:51 PM