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By Chuck Collins
May 15, 2023

Have you ever wondered about the differences between Orthodoxy and Protestantism? Why can't we all just get along!

Eastern Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Jeremias II wrote a response (Epicrisis) on May 15, 1576 to a Lutheran theologian who proposed reunification of the two churches.

Could Lutherans (Protestants) and the Eastern Orthodox Church possibly come together sixty years after Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses to Wittenberg's door? Martin Crusius was Tubingen's Greek and Latin professor who wrote the Patriarch, and in his proposal he included a copy of the Augsburg Confession translated into Greek.

The Orthodox Patriarch studied the twenty-one points of the Augsburg Confession and wrote a response: "Epicrisis on the Confession of Augsburg."

While agreeing with some Lutheran positions, the Orthodox reject many others.

Largely, the disagreement was over the role of "tradition."

Orthodoxy holds that sacred tradition and the ecumenical councils stand beside Holy Scripture as separate and equal sources of authority. Protestants generally believe that the Bible is the uniquely inspired word of God and our authority by which all other authorities are judged.

Protestants reject any idea that the Bible is just one part of tradition, and therefore ultimately subordinate to the teaching of the church. Jeremias wrote, "Let no one undertake or think anything contrary to the decisions of the Holy Apostles and the Holy Synods. ... What communion would one have with us, who rejects the aforementioned canons and opposes the Apostles and shamelessly turns himself against the Holy Apostles? What part could he have with us?"

In their correspondence, the Patriarch also rejected the Lutheran view of predestination, he upheld the unbiblical practice of praying to the saints, supported the practice of venerating icons and praying for the dead, and insisted there were more sacraments than just Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

When Holy Scripture is not recognized as "containing all things necessary to salvation: so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man" (Article 6), then the door is open to all kinds of aberrations under the excuse of the "great tradition" which may or may not cede to the ultimate authority of God's uniquely inspired revelation.

When Jeremias saw that union was not possible, he ended the exchange of letters: "Go your own way, and do not write any more on doctrinal matters; and if you do write, write only for friendship sake."


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