Today I will continue responding to Gandalf's letter/response to my recent series on NT Wright where I severely criticized Wright for corrupting the Gospel by denying penal substitutionary atonement. I know Wright says he affirms it, but if you read the series you will see how this is standard practice for Wright to affirm something when he is really only affirming his own redefining of critical biblical truths.
The second point of Gandalf's letter I wish to respond to is the following:
You know probably that Eastern Orthodox christians as one example do not believe (according to their churches doctrine) in Penal Substitutionary Atonement, imputation etc. are they all damned?
I will cut to the chase and then expand upon that. Gandalf, anyone who is practising and believing in accordance with Eastern Orthodox teaching is trusting a false gospel and will be damned. Not because of their inability to correctly formulate the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement, but because they are trusting in a religious system rather than Christ's finished work on the cross.
I am not saying there are no genuine Christians in the Eastern Orthodox movement, but I am saying that any genuine born again Christian attending an Eastern Orthodox congregation is saved in spite of (and not by virtue of) Eastern Orthodox "theology". Any true Christian identifying himself as Eastern Orthodox would run for the hills if he understood the gospel they teach.
Here is a list of MAJOR problems with Eastern Orthodoxy that are completely alien to historic biblical Christianity:
1. Eastern Orthodoxy believes baptism is the initiator of the salvation experience.
2. Eastern Orthodoxy believes salvation is a gradual, life-long process by which Christians become more and more like Christ. (As you can see, salvation hinging on baptism and a lifelong process leaves no room for Jesus' demand to repent and believe the Gospel, the need to be born again).
3. Eastern Orthodoxy argues that the Holy Scriptures (as interpreted and defined by church teaching in the first seven ecumenical councils) along with Holy Tradition are of equal value and importance. They elevate human tradition to the same level as the Divinely Inspired Scriptures.
4. Veneration of icons and a mystical form of meditative prayer is commonly incorporated into their religious rituals.
5. The Eucharist is the center of worship in the Orthodox Church. Eastern Orthodoxy teaches that during the Eucharist, believers partake mystically of Christ's body and blood and through it receive his life and strength.
Do you see heretical problems with this religious system Gandalf? I'm not talking about variations in eschatology here - these are teachings that advocate another way of salvation and hence another Gospel. And as Paul tells us in Galatians 1:8-9, that is a damnable offense.
Eastern Orthodox's denial of penal substitutionary atonement and imputed righteousness forces them to embrace a gospel that requires baptism to initiate salvation and then a gradual lifelong process to complete it.
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