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Western Christian Grammar for Students of Orthodoxy

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Written by Basil on 12/22/2005 9:27 PM. Filed under:

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When I was learning Latin, there was a great book to which I still turn when I can’t remember what kind of thing a past perfect participle is: English Grammar for Students of Latin. What it did was help me get a handle on Latin grammar by showing me similar constructions in English, even when there wasn’t always an exact equivalent.

Brochures comparing Orthodoxy to non-Orthodox groups do the same thing. Everyone comes in speaking their own spiritual grammar; learning the faith is like learning a new grammar. Sometimes there are equivalents, and sometimes an entirely foreign construction needs to be learned. Not every language text uses pictograms. If that learning style worked universally, then every language text likely would, because that’s what would sell books the best.

Assuming everyone is an atheist is a quick way to be labelled as patronizing.

Protestants do, indeed, define themselves against each other. An article someone at work shared with me argued that the “born again movement” was a heresy and that God does not love everyone. Now, I knew from the moment I started reading it that it was mostly Calvinist garbage, but when he started mentioning “the Arminian heresy” and spending most of his energy refuting it, I was certain. Arminians (that is, Wesleyans of all sorts — Methodists, Nazarenes, Wesleyans, Salvationists) do the same thing to Reformers (Presbyterians and Baptists, mostly); they just don’t always call each other by name. When someone is arguing over the formula “once saved, always saved,” this is exactly what they’re doing. Just without names.

I agree that comparison isn’t always helpful. Jordan Bajis’ book took comparison to Western Christianity to the extreme, and I find it to be impossible to read as a result of its polemicism. But others find it to be the best thing they’ve ever read. I think everyone’s learning style is going to be different; as long as they get the grammar right, who cares?

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3 Responses to “Western Christian Grammar for Students of Orthodoxy”

  1. James Says:

    As has been pointed out to me recently, words are very important. My high school French teacher said that a person will never truly know French if he keeps thinking in terms of “fenêtre means window.” I think all too often people come into Orthodoxy with the same sort of “this means that” way of thinking. That’s why I don’t personally like the thing that has been appearing on the net and in bulletins lately. I feel it gives the person an easy way to merely bathe Protestant words and ideas into “Orthodoxical buzz words.” Instead of, “This means that, it’s this doesn’t mean that. You remember when a certain priest told us how we don’t believe what the Roman Catholics do about the Dormition, and we didn’t know what he was talking about? I don’t care what we don’t believe, just what we do believe.

  2. Basil Says:

    Those words were Orthodox before they attained their non-Orthodox meanings, I should remind you.

    Why do I never see you in church anymore? Every time I’m in town, you decide to take a holiday from right worship. I’m beginning to feel hurt.

  3. James Says:

    It’s not you Basil, I can assure you of that. I just feel that I am more comfortable in a more diverse community (cradles, converts, etc. — yes all buzzwords I know 😉 ). Anyway, I’ve been attending another Orthodox parish lately.