Cardinal Newman once famously remarked that, “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” Since converting to Eastern Orthodoxy, I’ve sometimes felt that to be deep in history is to cease to be EO, at least in the modern sense where the criteria for what constitutes “Orthodoxy” has devolved to include particular constructions of the East-West dichotomy that have reached such a-historical heights as to qualify as propaganda (wow, that was a long sentence). I became Orthodox while doing graduate work in history at King’s College London, and as an historian I was shocked to see how an overly-simplistic narrative propagated by people like Fr. John Romanides and his modern popularizers like Clark Carlton (both of whom, I am sure, were/are more pious than I am) has reached such canonical status so that to even question it (as I have HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE) is viewed as an act of impiety. Thankfully, I was catechized by a priest who was sufficiently well-read in the Holy Fathers to stand as a corrective to this type of bogus historiography. In fact, for a while our church community became a hotbed of Orthodox Thomism as we used ethical realism as a framework for healing relationships, contextualizing virtue and addressing sexual pathologies. Thank God for Aristotle! (My series of articles on Nominalism and Realism covers similar ground to the pastoral imperatives of Realism we were blessed to use in both its metaphysical and ethical dimensions).
That said, there are important theological differences and emphases between the East and the West, and it is possible to articulate these differences in an historically responsible way. I was reminded of this last year when I listened to a podcast where Hank Hanegraaff interviewed Dr. Nathan Jacobs on the sophistication of the early church fathers. Jacobs is extremely well-read in the fathers of both the West and the East and is able to explain their different orientations in way that is more helpful than what I have encountered anywhere else. If you are Eastern Orthodox and wanting to make converts, this podcast would be great to share with intelligent Protestant friends, especially those with a deep interest in theology.
You can listed to the podcast below. (And, by the way, this is not an invitation for those who hate Hank Hanegraaff to send me angry emails.)