Response to Jay Dyer’s Critique of Protestantism

Jay Dyer recently released a video claiming to refute Protestantism from an Eastern Orthodox perspective. The video contains numerous errors and distortions which I feel it is necessary to point out, especially given the popularity of Eastern Orthodoxy on the dissident right. (To see another critique of Eastern Orthodoxy that I put out a few years ago, go here.)

Dyer makes it clear in the video that his goal is not to offer Biblical proof texts to counter Protestantism, but rather to undermine the Protestant understanding of the Bible, thereby rendering Protestant apologetics impossible. His main argument is as follows: the Biblical canon was determined by Church councils, but Protestants deny that the ancient Church councils possessed infallible authority, so therefore Protestants have no right to claim the Bible as an infallible authority. This argument is deeply flawed, for the books of the Bible were understood to be the infallible word of God before any Church councils were held. When Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans it was already divine Scripture. Paul knew that the epistle was divine Scripture, and the Roman church that received the epistle recognized it as divine Scripture. This was all done before a council declared the epistle to be canonical. Therefore approval by a Church council cannot be a defining feature of Scripture. The only way to account for the immediate recognition of Scriptural books by the original audience of the faithful is by the self-authenticating nature of Scripture itself.

The self-authenticating nature of Scripture is the fundamental belief of Protestantism, but Dyer strangely does not even acknowledge this argument. Instead he simply points out alleged Protestant embarrassment about the fact that the Biblical canon was derived from the ancient church councils. Throughout the video Dyer mentions how well-read he is on theological subjects, so it is hard to believe that he has not encountered this argument before. The most obvious conclusion is that he simply avoided the argument because the Eastern Orthodox do not have a coherent response to it.

The Eastern Orthodox maintain that their church never has (and never could) err in matters of faith. When it is objected that numerous Church Fathers contradicted each other, or that numerous local councils held views now rejected by the church as a whole, the Eastern Orthodox reply that only the Ecumenical Councils are truly infallible and that local councils are liable to error. This is the position that Dyer maintains. This position, however, is untenable, for over the years local church councils have made decisions that that would create enormous controversy, if not schism, in the Orthodox Church today. For example, the Council of Elvira, a local Spanish council in the early 4th century, condemned the use of images in church. If a local synod in the Eastern Orthodox Church reached such a conclusion today, it would immediately be declared heretical and be excommunicated. Even more significant in this respect is the history of the filioque clause in the Nicene Creed. The Eastern Orthodox hold that the filioque clause is a fundamental error in theology and christology. The rejection of the filioque from the creed is now a defining feature of Eastern Orthodoxy. And yet, for over 500 years before the Great Schism between the Greek and Latin Churches, the filioque was regularly used in the West and affirmed by local councils! If the filioque is fundamentally unorthodox, how did churches in the West publicly affirm it without being anathematized? Clearly the faith of the Eastern Orthodox Church has changed. There was a time when the Eastern Orthodox Church was in communion with churches that accepted the filioque and condemned the use of images, while today this would never happen. Furthermore, if local councils can make errors in matters of faith and not be corrected by Ecumenical Councils until centuries later (if ever), how can one claim that the Church as a whole is incapable of errors in matters of faith?

Finally, it is necessary to ask some questions about a curious statement Dyer made when explaining the differences between Eastern and Western Christianity. In Protestantism it is clear that Scripture is the final arbiter of all theological questions, while in Roman Catholicism the Pope has authority in these matters. But in Eastern Orthodoxy the exact location of theological authority is left a bit fuzzy. Dyer acknowledges this and states that in Eastern Orthodoxy there is no objective, public standard that can determine matters of faith. As Dyer puts it, the Eastern Orthodox do not engage in “dialectics,” which presumably means that they are comfortable with their illogical account of infallibility and authority. This statement by Dyer brings up a number of questions. How is he defining “dialectics”? Has he used “dialectics” in his criticism of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism, while denying that such criticism can legitimately be used against his own church? Simply put, saying “we don’t do dialectics” is not a valid defense.

Comments

  1. Paul

    At Sunday preceding Christmas I visited a ROman Catholic church . I desired to hear a sermon or homily of the Christmas story and not a panegyric of Joseph or Samson or the great king and father of Jesus of Nazareth delivered from the Baptist church.

    It is much like the Episcopal or Lutheran until Maria .. Of course the sermon was about the Luke song of the annunciation .Mary is always supreme since she is also named and believed “eternal virgin, ‘ A goddess or paradoxical Mother of God.

    Have read European literature and she is always deified . It is clear that the church of ROme is not a church of CHrist nor could be. I know nothing about the Eastern church except they are becoming more popular today.

    Catholic church I feel was reinvented after counter reformation. But central control is always bad., be it protestant or the corrupt original church.

    I observed in this Roman church that no one but myself possessed a Bible. This may be the reason the Catholic and Reform church can never reconcile. Yet the protestant must defer to the doctrine of the center controlled church or the interpretation of the pastor , which requires no testimony nor discernment. Therefore, why read scripture?

    It appears to become a comparison of errors . It is hard to listen to lies or shameless false testimony. The futility of searching for a true church may cause disillusionment with all.

    Church or Christendom must divide not unify . The great commission is to be one in spirit, doctrine and confession . It must be blind conformity or compelled from central power. Church and the politic have much in common and are doubtlessly of the same unholy, unconverted, defiant spirit .

  2. Roger u

    I’m against denominations. I believe all the faithful in a given location (ie a town or neighborhood) should gather together in one place for worship. Theology and doctrine are not the path to salvation, faith is, and we should be able to discuss scripture, theology and doctrine with each other without fighting or storming off to start our own church.

    No church is perfect and anything that divides what God has joined is sin.

    1. Hans Gygax

      That will hopefully be the case once we build Christian communities that are dependent on each other (rather than the big grid system); however, presently it appears it’s difficult to find anyone faithful to the teaching of Christ anywhere near.

      It’s not really possible to have a local church of members who are all desiring to head in different directions. God has a specific task for each church, which demonstrates the body of Christ not all having the same function in each member. I am okay with believing each church can even represent a different part of the body.

      1. Roger u

        I just feel like separate worship services is somehow wrong; I feel like all local believers should be able to put differences aside to pray and sing together just for a little while once a week.

        You are right, of course, without actual communities it’s going to always be impossible to have a community church. But a man can dream!

        1. Hans Gygax

          It’s a good dream to have. I have a long-term vision of re-establishing the local community.

          Of course, a church, by definition, is much more than just a weekly gathering to worship. So a true church will be involved in various aspects of the community and ministry together. Having a consistent and similar vision among the members is vital to working together on projects.

          At Faithful Nation Ministries we definitely don’t agree 100 % on doctrine, but we have a similar vision and can work together despite minor theological differences.

          But I don’t see us being able to work together in the same manner with people that have a vision that is radically different than ours. I think a lot of what our ministry is about contradicts those who believe Christ is returning at any moment. Most of those people are not interested in trying to change culture and society and place it under Christ’s feet. So working together with them would be pretty impossible.

  3. Paul

    Churches are polarized by a sparse, modest few or magnitude of wealthy great gatherings. There are many reasons. But it may be as was foreseen by the Lord that all who are not gathered in my spirit will be scattered.

    The few , who do arrive must listen and agree, or be indifferent. There may be the solitary rebel, given current appellation of potential terrorist , a profane baptism by one of our loving sentinels of liberty . He or she will find it impossible to tolerate the palaver or phylactery emanating from the pulpit.

    Most are in these categories and it is a long tradition, not always without blessing. Many Americans used to work hard and help or do small works in their church before missions to foreign lands and billionaire evangelists made church or Christian duty into foreign or domestic policy or self enrichment .

    But the times have reduced people to be used by a concealed agenda for hidden purposes . Less than vermin they have been insulted and reviled . Once named a consumer now they are degraded to sexless , godless ” person ” or goy toward the ultimate goal of soulless machine.

    There were a few dissenters , who were isolated and slandered . But none today.

    The church must earn self respect again from Heaven through sacrifice . Nothing is saved without blood . The church and men are constrained by spider web threads and their obedience to the voice they are chains. Every neologism now is atavistic and a blasphemy to heaven or insult to respectable people.

    Alone one can do nothing. Many with the same purpose can do wonders . But for mammon ; never for Christ or God’s plan . First man must repent and convert (become perfected) . The church is too much of the world and today the new doctrine , one can have mammon and Kingdom of Heaven too! Ye need not be born again . These are the churches with many.

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