Can Protestantism and Eastern Christianity even be said to be the same religion? I find so many glaring differences in approach to faith and relationships with the Divine that it's hard to imagine they're anything but wildly different worldviews united in name only. Take for example:
>Protestant deemphasis on ritual and sanctified religious buildings
The argument I see in favor of this is that you don't need ornate rituals and decorations in order to be in the presence of God, since He is with you all the time, but I feel like reducing a relationship with the divine to just a simple idea that is always "there" misses the point on what experiencing God is truly supposed to feel like. Yes, it is true that His presence is universal, but humans aren't wired to bask in it all the time the time unless there are powerful sensual reminders of His holiness. If you stop, right now, and say "God is right here with me," you might get a *little* bit of comfort from that, but you can't really grasp what that actually entails by trying to rationalise it alone. It's no secret that even non-believers often find holy rituals and churches immaculately designed to welcome His presence uplifting and spiritual. Trying to live through the mundane life with the idea that God is watching your back all the time usually doesn't have the same powerful reminder that He REALLY has your back all the time that you get from attending divine services.
>Once you are saved you always have His grace, and your relationship with Him should be about living life according to the Bible and submitting to His will.
Now I understand the comforting universal appeal of such a world-view, but honestly it misses the point of what a relationship with God is ACTUALLY trying to achieve, and comes off to me as too superficially contractual. A lot of devout, sincere Protestants go through life always trying to have a relationship with God, but the actual impact it has on how they operate and their ability to overcome adversity might never actually change for the better. On the other hand, Eastern theology is always about coming ever closer to God and gaining revelation through His energies, in a process that never ends until death and will always challenge even the most life-long devotee. It's not a coincidence that early Christianity was called "the Way," since that implies a continuous, unending journey that one must make the utmost effort to walk, rather than a simple contractual obligation to accept Christ as your Lord and then have him act as a simple mediator in your mind whenever doubt arises.
Now, despite all this, I'm not claiming that there's not profound things in Protestantism that many people can and do benefit from, and I know that these are just generalisations since a lot of Protestant sects don't even subscribe to these beliefs. Plus I'm not discount the countless genuine spiritual revelations that many Protestant faithful have had which have led them to live sanctified lives of faith, but I'd wager these are the exception, not the rule, and that most Protestants go through their whole spiritual life without ever truly experiencing the depth and profoundness of what the Christian Way can lead to.
What are your thoughts on this /his/? Are there any Protestants who'd like to refute some of my claims? I'm open to any and all (polite) discussion!
We don't deny it's true that we are material creatures, attuned to the material. We do not (except in the most stupid and debased forms of Protestantism) neglect the importance of tradition, church, and even art. We do de-emphasize the ultimate importance of these things purely in themselves, and I think this is a good thing.
For the Protestant there is, as in all spiritual paths, a risk to the soul in using material images, namely, the temptation to (whether explicitly or implicitly) over-exalt the material to the point that it obscures the spiritual, committing a kind of idolatry. I wouldn't say that it's impossible to be a good Catholic or Orthodox and still maintain healthy spiritual practice, but I would say that it's got risks even with the best intentions and the Protestant does well to err on the side of caution in this respect. If we give up a little extra richness this side of heaven, it's better than accidentally becoming a pious idolater. The Vale of Tears is a risky place, and it's best to proceed with caution.
For all that, however, the Protestant thrives on sanctifying ordinary and private life, the inner life of the individual believer. It is there, in the salvation of the individual, that the encounter with God first occurs (corporate goods flow from this). Hence the Protestant emphasis on private devotion and the sanctification of our innermost selves, which balances our de-emphasis on merely external signs. The emphasis on reading scripture for oneself, at its best, is to facilitate just this kind of encounter, which cannot be mistaken for a merely sociological phenomenon. In my own case, I can say that I truly do see ordinary life lit up with rays from Heaven, even as I can see that it will all pass away and I hope for something better.
Interesting that you call it "contractual." The Protestant emphasis on faith as the only gateway to salvation is precisely an effort to free our practice from some sort of crude economic exchange of virtue for reward. Once we are assured of our salvation, we aim to act out of love of God, and to give effect to the new, eternal life which has been kindled within us.The best Protestants are always against their guard against complacency, and never are Protestants urged to be satisfied with mere belief.
Protestantism my dear Watson is a life denying religion. It's theological origins presuppose that you do nothing given God has done it all for you. It's the very definition of Sola Fide itself. It sees the human being as Totally Depraved that it cannot even respond or turn to God. The so called "relationship" with God in Protestantism is nothing more than the relationship between a puppet and a puppeteer
That depends on how you define religion. If you mean both subscribe to Christ being God and salvation being only through him, then they are the same religion. If you mean anything deeper than that, then they aren't.