Off-the-Cuff: What about the Eastern Orthodox?

I was pointed at a blog post from a few days ago “Why Mormonism’s Claim is So Crazy to People.” The article is a very simple defense of the teaching of the Great Apostasy and a bit of pleading that the teachings of the LDS church don’t amount to an enormous fraud. I was asked to comment on it, and instead of getting into a back and forth with the author in his comment section, I just decided to start a new set of opinion posts I’m going to call “Off-the-Cuff.” In the words of Peter Pan: “Oh, the cleverness of me.”

So, for background go read “Why Mormonism’s Claim is So Crazy to People.”

First, why do LDS folks always seem to forget about the hundreds of millions of Christians that make up the Eastern Orthodox family of churches? I know Roman Catholicism is a bigger bogey-man, but come on! The Eastern Orthodox church has been around just as long; I’d actually argue it’s older. The Eastern Orthodox church claims, and can back it up pretty well, that their leaders have an unbroken line of apostolic succession. And, yet, they get absolutely no love. You can’t talk about anything like the Great Apostasy with any real, historical, credibility without dealing with the Eastern Orthodox churches. But, that has never stopped any well-meaning LDS folks. Heck, it doesn’t even stop well-meaning Protestants. So, the first huge weakness is that Mr. Trimble completely ignores a huge swath of ancient Christianity in order to make his points seem remotely valid.

Second, he doesn’t actually substantiate the claims of a Great Apostasy except to say “[t]he early Christian fathers witnessed the church fall into deep apostasy and they wrote about it.” I will commend Mr. Trimble for referring to the collected volumes of the Ante-Nicene, Nicene and Post-Nicene volumes; but, I think he may need to re-read more of those volumes before characterizing the writings the way he does. While, there was certainly in-fighting in some quarters of the church, the majority of the writings against apostasy and heresy looked a lot like the church fathers writing against teachings more resemblant of Mormonism than Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism or Protestantism. In fact, Tertullian, writing at least 100 years before the big, bad, Council of Nicea provides us with the oldest extant formulations of what was formalized in the councils as Trinitarian orthodoxy. Even the tritheism of Mormonism was dealt with in the Post-Nicene era in connection with the Monophysite controversies of the fifth century. And, all the early church fathers were concerned with maintaining apostolic teaching, which is why they worked very hard to identify the apostolic writings and make extensive use of them in the churches. So, the Great Apostasy, as taught by Mormonism lacks a great deal of historical veracity and the writings of the church fathers can hardly be said to support such a notion.

Third, there is a huge lack of clarity in regards to the issue of apostasy. Mr. Trimble operates from the assumption that there is no grey area with regards to apostasy. He, essentially says that either there must be one church, possessing all truth, without any error; or, the church is completely absent from the earth. This is a failure distinguish between essentials and non-essentials. Even after the Great Schism of 1054, the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches continued to each affirm the earlier ecumenical councils and they remained in substantial agreement about many things. Even Protestants, in the midst of the Reformation, recognized that not all that Rome affirmed was errant. And there is a really good reason for that: The Bible. Despite all the differences of opinion on all kinds of matters, the Word of God has been preserved in the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testament. Despite the Bible not being universally accessible for centuries, it was not lost or corrupted. The Bible has always served to organize God’s people. Some time people go beyond what Scripture teaches and invent such things as the papacy, infant baptism, purgatory or the Quorum of the Seventy, First Presidency, etc. But, God’s Word endures, and so the Church endures. The Church has from time to time been subject to error; but the Gospel has never utterly passed away because, just like in the Old Testament, God is powerful enough to defend His people and preserve a remnant for Himself. And, that remnant has always been rooted in God’s revealed Word.

But, the big question that this article begs is why would God allow a Great Apostasy? The Mormon response must be either: because God wanted to, or because God couldn’t stop it. In the first case I’d question the wisdom, charity and benevolence of God to not even attempt to preserve His church in any form. In the second case I would assert that such a God is unworthy of worship and lacks the basic abilities to be God in the first place. In either case, the LDS view of God is woefully deficient; and that’s assuming the Great Apostasy even happened, which is hard to argue historically. So, in the end I would conclude that Mormonism is a fraud, and a counterfeit Gospel. As a religion, Mormonism reveals itself to be Anti-Christian in its adoption of teachings that depart from the teachings of the Apostles and in its addition of a yoke of slavery to its adherents. It is, in the end, exactly the sort of “other gospel” that Paul warned the Galatians about and pronounced any who would bring such a counterfeit “anathema,” which means they are committing damnable error.

The people of God must always stand upon the Word of God, not upon men. There is still one Lord, one faith and one baptism; they simply aren’t mediated by merely one church, but by all the churches where the Gospel of salvation by grace, through faith in Christ alone is preached. And such a Gospel is missing from the Mormon church, revealing it to be a fraud and a monstrous one. And, no one should be surprised that such a monstrous fraud should be possible; for, as it is written: “false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect” (Matthew 24:24 ESV).