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Franky Schaeffer Hasn't Left Contemporary Christianity

Franky Schaeffer recently joined the Eastern Orthodox Church, and in an article entitled "Protestant Orphans" he explained some of his reasons for doing so. He complains that, "For years I could not have honestly said why I went to church, let alone what communion was for" and argues (quite aptly) that "Protestants had as much ritual, tradition, and liturgy as anyone else." This is quite true, but it presents us with a false dichotomy. There is no reason to prefer a disobedient Protestantism to a disobedient Eastern Orthodoxy, and, as classical Protestants, we don't.

Whenever Christians meet, they will follow certain traditions and rituals in their services of worship. Such traditions are inescapable because of how God created the world. Our only choice, therefore, is between Biblical traditions and traditions of men. We do not have the option of "no tradition." Schaeffer has confused this basic dichotomy, thinking of it rather as a choice between modern traditions of men and ancient traditions of men. What would we rather present to God, he argues, an ancient venerable tradition of worship or our modern evangelical treacle?

What this question amounts to is this: If someone wants to observe extra-Biblical traditions in worship, then it only makes sense to opt for a tradition that is ancient. Why abandon the Bible for a tradition that was established in the early 70's somewhere in Cleveland?

But for the classical Protestant, there is another question. Why abandon the Bible at all? The Reformation tradition of sola Scriptura does not stand for the rejection of tradition. It stands for the rejection of man-made traditions. This principle of worship is known as the Regulative Principle of Worship, i.e. "Whatever is not commanded for worship is forbidden." Schaeffer has left modern evangelicalism, which does not know what that principle is, for the Eastern Orthodox Church, which denies it.

In rejecting the man-made traditions of Eastern Orthodoxy, classical Protestantism does not do so because they are ancient, but rather because they are not ancient enough -- they do not go back to the eternal counsels of God revealed to us in Scripture.

If Schaeffer wants to argue that modern evangelicalism maintains its own manufactured traditions, and that those traditions are aesthetically pitiful to boot, we are right with him. And if he wants to say that the traditions of the ancient apostate communions are far less trendy, we'll buy that too. But when, as a consequence, he seeks to commend Eastern Orthodox worship as acceptable to God, we part company.

It is quite true that when the blessing of God is removed from a modern evangelical church, the results are immediate and pathetic. If the Spirit of God is not inhabiting the preaching of the Word, there is nothing left but bare walls. But when the Spirit is driven out of an Eastern Orthodox sanctuary by the smoke of candles and the veneration of saints, it will be about a millennium or two before anyone notices He has gone -- because even when He isn't there, the place still feels holy.

So Schaeffer's testimony makes this one thing abundantly clear. He has left mainstream evangelicalism, which prefers its modern traditions to the Word of God. He has joined himself to a church which prefers its ancient traditions to the Word of God. In terms of the basic issue at stake, Franky didn't leave contemporary Christianity at all.


Copyright © by Covenant Community Church of Orange County 1991
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