For many Protestants, Orthodoxy is an unsettling mix—a culturally foreign faith that at times feels very Protestant.

Harold O. J. Brown, professor of theology Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, has been fascinated with Orthodoxy since his graduate school days, when he studied Irenaeus and other early church fathers. He is a member of Evangelical Free Church and a leading commentator on theology and society. He has written a number of books, including, Heresies: The Image of Christ in the Mirror of Heresy and Orthodoxy from the Apostles to the Present (Baker, 1988). He talked with Christian History about his views on Orthodoxy.

What about Orthodoxy do you appreciate most?

The Orthodox have a tremendous sense of the continuity of the people of God, that is, tradition. Also, they have a deep respect for Scripture; their services are primarily Scripture verses added one to another. And, of course, there is the beauty and majesty of Orthodox services.

Not as well-known is the freedom allowed in Orthodoxy. Though it retains a great many traditions, it doesn't make non-scriptural matters mandatory. For example, in 1951 the Roman Catholic Church decreed the Assumption of the Virgin Mary to be a doctrine necessary to believe for salvation. The Orthodox have for centuries celebrated this belief (that Mary was assumed body and soul into heaven at the end of her life) in their Feast of the Dormition ("falling asleep") of Mary. But they have never made it mandatory to believe.

What does strong tradition and liturgy give the Orthodox?

Stability. I have an Orthodox friend who teaches at a well-known seminary. While studying at Harvard Divinity School, he became intellectually skeptical about the truth of the gospel. ...

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