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Fundamentalist Embarrasses Self

Warlocks at work, claims American fundamentalist (YuG/Shutterstock [1])

I discovered the fundamentalist Christian website Pulpit & Pen a year or two ago, when they were hating on Karen Swallow Prior for failing to meet its high standards. They are an excitable lot, the P&P writers. One of them who participated in the attack on KSP later repented, and resigned from P&P [2], saying:

Unless you’ve been living under a social media rock the last week or so, you’ve no doubt been made aware of the conflict between Pulpit & Pen and Dr. Karen Swallow Prior. As of the time of this publishing, a resolution seems nowhere in sight and the entire ordeal has served nothing more than to fracture the body of Christ greatly. Regretfully, I had a hand in promulgating this conflict by taking part in a podcast at Pulpit & Pen without having researched the facts myself first.

To be clear, I disagree with Dr. Prior’s approach to evangelism in some areas. However, I was out of line to opine the way I did before making myself one-hundred percent clear on the facts of the situation. For that error, I publicly repent and apologize to Dr. Prior and ask her forgiveness for the uncharitable treatment she received from me personally and the ramifications that may have stemmed from my public comments.

He later added:

In the time that has passed since publishing this public apology, as I have grown in my sanctification and reflected on my actions as part of the Pulpit & Pen blog, it has become apparent that I must more clearly and vociferously renounce any association with or subtle endorsement of Pulpit & Pen. I can no longer in good Christian conscience recommend including that ministry to fellow believers. While many of the issues P&P raises are valid, many others are not; and even more attack the brethren unnecessarily and often in unfounded ways. I pray that our Savior may open the eyes of those contributing to come to repentance as He so graciously did for me.

If you take from these statements the idea that P&P writers shoot their mouths off maliciously without knowing what they’re talking about, you’d be correct. Today, the website turns its Eye of Sauron on Orthodox Christianity, [3] which it describes as a “cult.” Jeff Maples of the site went to Hank Hanegraaf’s new Greek Orthodox parish looking for abomination. Lo and behold, he found a-plenty. Excerpts:

Saturday, April 15, known as Holy Saturday in the Orthodox tradition, I along with a couple of friends went to visit St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, NC–the church that Hanegraaff was recently chrismated in. The service began at 11:30 pm, and was still going strong showing no signs of slowing down when we decided to leave at around 2:00 am. While we hoped to have the opportunity to confront Hanegraaff in person, being that we all had to get up early the next morning to worship the living God on Easter morning, we decided to call it a night early.

These knotheads didn’t even realize that they were at the Paschal liturgy. What lovely Christian men, though, to have gone to the holiest church service of the year with the intention of getting up in the face of a new convert. The report is actually pretty funny, if you see it in a certain light, because it reveals profound ignorance. I would not expect a fundamentalist Christian to agree with Orthodox theology and worship, but this is beyond absurd:

1.) I have sat through many Catholic masses. I was married in a Catholic church, and I can definitely say I’ve “been there done that.” But I’ve never sat through anything so long and tedious as the Greek Orthodox mass. Perhaps being a special Saturday night “resurrection service,” this wasn’t the norm, but it was excruciatingly long. 2 1/2 hours in and no sign of slowing down.

2.) The cliche, “bells and smells” is actually a true reality. The burning of incense and ringing of bells was a noxious combination. It reminded me of being in a college dorm smoking weed and blowing the smoke through toilet paper rolls stuffed with dryer sheets.

3.) The liturgy was vain and repetitious. Literally, the same ritualistic prayers and chanting were sung over and over. Every prayer included an invocation of Mary and the Saints.

4.) While there was actually quite a bit of Scripture reading, there was absolutely no teaching. In fact, the vast majority of Scripture reading was sung in the eerie Byzantine chant. You’d really have to pay attention and try to listen really hard to even understand what they were reading or reciting.

5.) The facility was adorned, literally, wall to wall, floor to ceiling in graven images of the saints. The images were painted in such a way that the expressions on their faces were devoid of any emotion. They looked like lifeless figures just floating around in space.

6.) The enthusiasm of the clergy and participants in the service was extremely low. Those participating in the rituals walked around with lifeless expressions on their faces. The entire ritual was empty and dead.

7.) There is obviously little to no pursuit of holiness in this church. Several times during the service, the ushers and deacons could be seen stepping out to take smoke breaks. Many of the women and even some of the younger girls were dressed less than modestly.

8.) Repeatedly, the chanting and liturgy included a summons to God to perform certain acts. It was clear that they believe that God works through and is dependent upon these rituals to activate the work of the Holy Spirit.

9.) The Greek and Eastern Orthodox church is clearly a lifeless church. There was absolutely no gospel in this service. A lost person could not walk into this church and walk out a changed man. It was literally a Pagan practice. Like a seance. Pure witchcraft was going on in this place. In this religion, salvation doesn’t come through Christ’s imputed righteousness and substitutionary atonement on the cross, it comes through these dead rituals that they believe ontologically changes them into divine beings. It was truly one of the most wicked experiences I’ve ever seen.

Pure witchcraft! More:

This is what Hank Hanegraaff has apostatized to. He knows the Bible, he has taught it his entire life. He now rejects it. The bible clearly teaches against the wickedness and error found within the manmade traditions and doctrines of demons in the Orthodox church. It would have been easy for one to let their guard down and become entranced by the production. While in the West it is likely less common for practitioners of the religion to take it that seriously, it’s easy to see how those who do take it seriously could achieve an altered state of mind which would in effect by a spiritual experience for those truly seeking it. After my experience at this church, not only do I fully stand by what I have written, but it is even more clear now that this religion is not of God and should be avoided.

A Catholic reader who sent the link to me writes:

I am reminded of the community in the early stages of Babette’s Feast, trying so, so hard to hate the glories they were tasting.

True. Again, I would not expect a fundamentalist to cotton to Orthodox worship, but this poor knothead did not even understand what he was observing. If you’re going to criticize a thing, you should at least trouble yourself to understand what it is you’re criticizing. The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom [4], which Jeff Maples observed, is a highly complex liturgy of ancient origin, having been perfected at the Hagia Sophia in the late fifth century. You can read the text of the liturgy here [5], but it is impossible to attend a single liturgy and understand everything that is going on unless someone is there to explain it to you. This liturgy has been the standard worship service for Orthodox churches the world over for 1,500 years. Orthodoxy is the second-largest Christian body in the world, behind Roman Catholicism. Yet a young American fundamentalist attends a single Orthodox service, and confidently declares that Orthodox Christianity is a cult, and its worship service is “witchcraft”.

Let me say it again for the sake of clarity: I have no particular problem with Christians who examine what the Orthodox Church teaches, and who conclude that it is wrong. But this Jeff Maples piece sounds like it was written by the equivalent of a rusticated banjo picker who wanders into a performance of Aïda and storms out fuming that that ain’t real music.

Being old doesn’t make a thing correct, but it’s worth considering that Orthodox Christians were worshiping God using that liturgy when Jeff Maples’s and my ancestors in northern Europe were still worshiping trees.


179 Comments (Open | Close)

179 Comments To "Fundamentalist Embarrasses Self"

#1 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On April 21, 2017 @ 4:17 pm

The greatest voice for the Devil in English literature is John Milton, English Protestant and one of Cromwell’s Jacobin apologists.

Anyone who thinks the Devil is the hero of Paradise Lost doesn’t understand Paradise Lost (or more to the point, can’t really get his mind into how a 17th century reader would have read Paradise Lost.)

It’s as dumb as the people who read, I dunno, The Merchant of Venice and think Shylock is the tragic hero.

#2 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On April 21, 2017 @ 4:23 pm

Meant to post earlier about the “inappropriately dressed” women in Orthodox Churches. Honestly, that’s just the way most Slavic women dress – it’s cultural. You can’t walk 10 feet in any major Russian/Ukrainian city without seeing a women in high heels and a tight, short skirt. They go to work, university or the market dressed like that. It just doesn’t occur to many of them to dress differently for church – even if priests post notices to the contrary.

My understanding is that this is well documented and the product of gender ratios in Russia / East Europe for the last couple generations.

Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union inherited a massively female-biased sex ratio after WWII (due to so many of the men having been killed in the war), and that picked up again in the 1980s and especially 1990s due to differential mortality. (Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union have relatively high rates of violent crime and alcohol-related mortality, both of which affect men overwhelmingly). In societies with female biased sex ratios, women tend to advertise / exercise their sexuality more overtly in order to compete for the smaller pool of men.

#3 Comment By TA On April 21, 2017 @ 4:40 pm

[NFR: Well, I firmly believe they have a right to be wrong. As long as they don’t mess with me and mine, more power to them. — RD]

Genuine question – do you see the 100 or so radio stations who dropped Hanegraaff due to his conversion as “right to be wrong” or “messing with me and mine”? Asking because I could see a logical case for either.

(i.e. “those people aren’t really Christian anyway, so what do I care who they put on the radio” vs. “we’re all part of the body of Christ and this infighting is hurtful to the Kingdom”)

[NFR: I don’t know enough about those radio stations or Hank Hanegraaff’s program to pass judgment. It could well be that they cannot accept a non-Protestant radio host. I can respect that in principle. Ancient Faith Radio, the Orthodox internet station, would almost certainly not continue to employ a host that left Orthodoxy, if there was any chance that the host would teach something heterodox. — RD]

#4 Comment By Tony D. On April 21, 2017 @ 5:02 pm

Huh. I was sure that comment claiming to be from the proprietor of an obscure sectarian Web site (I’ve only heard of it because Rod told us about it) was just a particularly on-target piece of satire. Now I can’t “unsee” my vision of veins popping out and spittle flying every which way. As a certain famous Tweeter might say, “Sad!”

#5 Comment By Jurist On April 21, 2017 @ 5:24 pm

Newp. Not content with doubling down, they’ve now, uh, “tripled” down. So much for Christian charity, I guess…


#6 Comment By Tony D. On April 21, 2017 @ 6:27 pm

I just don’t get it. Why the hell do these guys care what I believe? I certainly don’t care what they believe…

#7 Comment By dominic1955 On April 21, 2017 @ 7:07 pm

pullover sweater of some sort.I do not think full formal attire is required in church; but for sure one’s nicer clothes should be.”

Formal is white or black tie. Business suits are daily wear, as is business casual.

I lug dead bodies out of their houses in suits. I have zero sympathy for people who think shorts are appropriate Sunday wear because it’s hot. Daily Mass? At the least decent jeans and a button up or polo. Sunday should be at least a jacket or sweater over a dress shirt and tie.

#8 Comment By KD On April 21, 2017 @ 7:47 pm

Perhaps Mr. St Clare, if you familiarized yourself more deeply in English literature and literary criticism, you could be as dumb as William Blake:

The history of this is written in Paradise Lost, and the Governor or Reason is call’d Messiah. 15
And the original Archangel, or possessor of the command of the Heavenly Host, is call’d the Devil or Satan, and his children are call’d Sin and Death. 16
But in the Book of Job, Milton’s Messiah is called Satan. 17
For this history has been adopted by both parties. 18
It indeed appear’d to Reason as if Desire was cast out; but the Devil’s account is, that the Messiah fell, and formed a Heaven of what he stole from the Abyss. 19
This is shown in the Gospel, where he prays to the Father to send the Comforter, or Desire, that Reason may have Ideas to build on; the Jehovah of the Bible being no other than he who dwells in flaming fire. 20
Know that after Christ’s death, he became Jehovah. 21
But in Milton, the Father is Destiny, the Son a Ratio of the five senses, and the Holy-ghost Vacuum! 22
Note. The reason Milton wrote in fetters when he wrote of Angels and God, and at liberty when of Devils and Hell, is because he was a true Poet, and of the Devil’s party without knowing it.

#9 Comment By VikingLS On April 21, 2017 @ 10:44 pm

@JD Hall

And we want to thank you for bringing attention to us, as we will harvest many many of your former acolytes.

#10 Comment By pitchfork On April 22, 2017 @ 12:30 am

I’d bet dollars to donuts that these characters are big fans of the late Ian Paisley, the Northern Irish Protestant leader. It’s just uncanny how much they sound like that particular brand of nutty, more-radical-than-thou anti-Popery.

#11 Comment By JonF On April 22, 2017 @ 8:32 am

I just disagree with you strongly as what is appropriate for church. Business casual (khakis, polo shirts, pants suits for women…) should be fine.
But it’s silly to argue over how dressy one should be in church. The last reason anyone should be in church is to make a fashion statement about themselves. The point is just to go and praise the Lord– Jesus is not going to grade anyone on their labels. I doubt the widow he praised for sticking a few cheap coins in the offering plate was dolled up like an empress.
(Though sure, modesty should be a requirement precisely because one should not be seeking to stand out and attract attention.)

#12 Comment By mrscracker On April 22, 2017 @ 8:42 am

You know, Ian Paisley mellowed out quite a bit in his later years.
I have both Irish Catholic and Scotch Irish family.
Truthfully, the Scotch Irish have done a better job holding onto their values than the Catholic Irish. If you read the news from the North of Ireland, it’s the anti Papists who are keeping things traditional up there.
There’s a tremendously funny Irish film, “An Everlasting Piece” with Billy Connolly that takes on both sides during the Troubles. It’s one of my favorite movies.

#13 Comment By JonF On April 22, 2017 @ 8:48 am

Re: Pants, jacket and a tie are not formal wear.

Yes they are— for vast segments of the population. My truck driver father owned exactly one suit*, and wore it only to weddings and funerals. That was his “formal wear” and I take after him in this.
Fashion-wise we are an inflection point in history similar to the early 19th century when women’s dresses simplified (for a time) enormously, and outside the most formal occasions men adopted the long pants of the sans culottes and got rid of their knee britches and powdered wigs.

* After he died, having been in poor health for a long time, I had to buy a white shirt to bury him in– he had none left. That remains the eeriest thing I have ever done– buying clothes for a dead loved one.

#14 Comment By Ben in RI On April 22, 2017 @ 9:42 am

I wrote these folks, reminding them that the same Bible they utilize to condemn Catholics and Orthodox was officially assembled by those two Churches (of course, they were united long before the split in 1054).

No response as of yet. Pulpit and Pen seems to be an online version, and less vile, Westboro Baptist Church.

#15 Comment By Anne Gomes On April 22, 2017 @ 10:07 am

I read the Pulpit & Pen post about the Divine Liturgy, then ran across your article, trying to find out who these guys are.
Seems to be a real time, modern Jack Chick comic.
The only thing I disagree with you about is calling them ignorant. I’ve been searching for another, more profound term.
Maybe whited sepulchers would do.
Thank you.

#16 Comment By VikingLS On April 22, 2017 @ 10:59 am

Rod you (and some other people understand how this works better than I do) do they benefit from increased traffic to their blog, i.e. clicks?

[NFR: Probably not, at least not in any monetary sense. They don’t appear to have ads. — RD]

#17 Comment By Mark On April 22, 2017 @ 11:03 am

Rod, it is with sadness that I read this posting about the Pulpit and Pen and all the other comments. The reason is that I used to be a Fundamentalist and I see some of me in what that pastor wrote. But I never shut down my inquiring mind and asked many questions about my faith. This led me to become Greek Orthodox. That journey took me 25 years. I became Orthodox just a year before you!

I do find myself chuckling over the pastors experience. When I first heard the Creed in Greek said in unison I thought what demonic thing is taking place. Kissing icons, incense, bells, people moving around; it was all so disorienting! I would never have set foot in a Church like that! The only reason I did was I missed a lecture at the Greek Festival on iconography and was told another lecture was taking place on a Wednesday night. So I attended not knowing I enrolled in a catechism class! Two years later I, my wife, and our two girls were chrismated.

There is hope for the pastor like there was me! Our salvation is a life long journey way more than Fundamentalist once saved, always saved theology. By God’s grace I proclaim Κριστος Ανεστι! In faith I proclaim Kγρίε Ελέησον!

#18 Comment By pitchfork On April 22, 2017 @ 11:25 am

You know, Ian Paisley mellowed out quite a bit in his later years.
I have both Irish Catholic and Scotch Irish family.
Truthfully, the Scotch Irish have done a better job holding onto their values than the Catholic Irish. If you read the news from the North of Ireland, it’s the anti Papists who are keeping things traditional up there.”

Indeed. I’ve lived/worked in Ireland a lot over the past 15 years or so and you’re right about which group is maintaining its faith, especially in the North. However, I was blessed to live in one of the Irish speaking areas recently and the Catholic faith is alive and well there — regular attendance at daily masses and a packed house on Sunday and on Saturday evening.

By the by, I found a recent online interview with Mr. Hall and he seemed to be channeling the old Paisley — saying that he objected to Protestants debating Catholics because that presumes that Catholics are Christians, which in his view they are not. Wowee!, is all I can say.

#19 Comment By John Caldwell On April 22, 2017 @ 11:36 am

As a reformed preacher, in a Presbyterian denomination, who holds to the Westminster Confession, I find the P&P type response appalling, ignorant and in-Christian. Here’s my attempt to respond: needforcreed.wordpress.com/2017/04/14/dreher-hanagraaff-orthodox-catholic-reformed

#20 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On April 22, 2017 @ 12:53 pm

Yes they are— for vast segments of the population. My truck driver father owned exactly one suit*, and wore it only to weddings and funerals. That was his “formal wear” and I take after him in this.
Fashion-wise we are an inflection point in history similar to the early 19th century when women’s dresses simplified (for a time) enormously, and outside the most formal occasions men adopted the long pants of the sans culottes and got rid of their knee britches and powdered wigs.

Seconded. I think I own a couple ties but the last time I wore one was at a wedding three years ago.

No response as of yet. Pulpit and Pen seems to be an online version, and less vile, Westboro Baptist Church.

Actually they remind me more of people like James White or Doug Wilson: same combination of pomposity and lack of self awareness of how, well, subjective and idiosyncratic their interpretations of what they see as a “clear and perspicacious” text really are.

#21 Comment By Greg On April 22, 2017 @ 3:02 pm

” No wonder so many Orthodox Christians in Eastern Europe and Russia consider Evangelicalism to be a cult. I don’t believe it is, but one can certainly see how the Easterners would get that idea. — RD”

What do you think is the distinction between evangelicals, jehovah’s witnesses, mormons, etc – why would it be incorrect to consider them all different variants of the same thing? That was certainly Bloom’s take in the American Religion (his appraisal is admiring and positive, btw).

With all due respect, I think your view of evangelicalism lacks direct experience/exposure to the “inner life” of the evangelical mainstream. The P&P people certainly are extreme in their rhetoric and hostility and you will find folks that are willing to concede that there may be those who are incidentally “Christians” (albeit “spiritually dead”) in Roman Catholic or Orthodox parish, but the mainstream emphasis is on the need to convert and hence save them – which involves denouncing their former Faith. Orthodox are right to resist them and certainly justified in fearing their influence.

#22 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On April 22, 2017 @ 10:11 pm

Does KD have any reason to think that William Blake understands the mind and intent of Milton better than Milton himself, or to explain why and how Hector St. Clare understands Milton less well than Blake?

I was taught Pilgrim’s Progress in a public school in Headington, Oxford, England at the age of 8. (Public school, a my Presbyterian mother found out too late, connoted in England a school associated with the Church of England, and I duly experienced walking to the beautiful old stone parish church of St. Andrew’s for All Saints Day). As I recall, Hector is a lot closer to how it was taught, from the text itself, in old school Anglican classrooms.

#23 Comment By Rose Cross On April 22, 2017 @ 10:51 pm

You have no right to comment on MY religion. You didn’t even have the courage to wait and talk with the Priest and ask questions to find answers to what you are are clearly ignorant about.You just wanted to afford 20 minutes of your time to get a quick fix, so that you can tell everyone you went to church.Everything we do in the Orthodox church has sacred meaning , but you are to ignorant to ask a simple question. I feel sorry for you .The devil shows up in many different shapes and forms and convinces mindless empty people like you to judge and ridicule true love of Christ Jesus and you are the devils idiot puppet . Coming into an Orthodox church and asking for not one explanation . Shame on you for being an uneducated stupid idiot that lies to himself saying he is a writer !

[NFR: Um, are you talking to me? — RD]

#24 Comment By Siluan On April 23, 2017 @ 10:40 pm

Dear Pen and Pulpit editors: please call me back when you can boast ever one one-thousandth the number of martyrs for the name of Jesus Christ that we can.

#25 Comment By Hound of Ulster On April 25, 2017 @ 3:38 am

All I have to say to this is…


heretics gotta heretic 🙁

#26 Comment By Richard McEvoy On April 25, 2017 @ 3:57 am

Much atheism is clearly a natural outflow of St. Anselm’s theology. If you portray God as a monster, what else can you do, but reject Him?

#27 Comment By Northern Observer On April 25, 2017 @ 4:37 pm

I think Pen and Pulpit as defenders of fundamentalist Protestantism feel the hot breath of their flocks growing interests in Orthodoxy and traditional Catholicism. The lashing out at a convert reeks of fear.
My take is that Protestantism outside of third world Pentacontalism is coming to an end. Luthers great revolution is peetering out into mere politics and the political transformation of the Church. Be it the silly all embracing rainbow churches of the left or the stern literalist to the point of stupidity of the churches of the right. Politics is no substitute for worship and community if Christ and more and more Christians are coming to see this and are acting with their feet.

#28 Comment By Tim Dunkin On April 27, 2017 @ 4:03 pm

“I think Pen and Pulpit as defenders of fundamentalist Protestantism feel the hot breath of their flocks growing interests in Orthodoxy and traditional Catholicism. The lashing out at a convert reeks of fear.”

Unlikely, considering that Catholics and EOs lose roughly six times the number to Evangelical and fundamentalist Protestantism as vice versa.

That means that for every one Rod Dreher, there are six RCs and/or EOs trusting on Christ alone and being converted to the faith of the apostles, without all the ridiculous and extraneous add-ons.

[NFR: “The ridiculous and extraneous add-ons”. You sound like a man who woke up one day and decided to start walking down the sidewalk naked, and to look down on people who prefer trousers as unnatural. — RD]

#29 Comment By Johnny 16 On June 12, 2017 @ 11:21 pm

you would think had never seen an icon before, LOL