Guest / Limited Access /

During my four years as a visiting professor at Moscow State University (1991-95) I often felt schizophrenic. There I was, a Protestant theologian teaching in the former Department of Scientific Atheism in the land where Eastern Orthodoxy had reigned for over 1,000 years. At one level, I was close in heart and mind to my Orthodox sisters and brothers in Christ; but on another level, I agreed with many of my atheist friends' criticisms of Russian Orthodoxy.

Suspicion and recrimination have often characterized relationships between Eastern Orthodoxy and Western Protestantism. Protestant theologian Adolf von Harnack once described the Orthodox church as "in her entire structure alien to the Gospel and a perversion of the Christian religion, its reduction to the level of pagan antiquity." Not to be outdone, the Orthodox could respond in kind. An Orthodox priest who lectured to standing-room-only crowds at Moscow State once described Orthodox theology to me as "music made in the conservatory," whereas he described Protestant theology as "music made in the honkytonk bars. Protestant Christianity," Andrei went on, "is a cheap, terrible substitute, and an Orthodox believer who knows his own faith will never go there."

Writing a book on Eastern Orthodoxy and working through the manuscript with my Russian students helped me to compare Orthodoxy and Protestant evangelicalism. But one insightful reader asked a penetrating question: "Your book does a fine job comparing the two traditions; why have you not converted to Orthodoxy?" It is a good question, one I will answer in due course.

Why be interested?

One need not travel overseas to encounter Eastern Orthodoxy. It merits our attention for several reasons. Not a few evangelicals in the ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only
South Africa: Pro-life Activists Deplore Liberal Abortion Law
TrendingNicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life
Nicole Cliffe: How God Messed Up My Happy Atheist Life
I had no untapped, unanswered yearnings. All was well in the state of Denmark. And then it wasn’t.
Editor's PickWhat It’s Like to Be Gay at Wheaton College
What It’s Like to Be Gay at Wheaton College
The evangelical university has received negative press on LGBT matters. My own experience paints a different picture.
Christianity Today
Why I'm Not Orthodox
hide thisJanuary 6 January 6

In the Magazine

January 6, 1997

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.