Separate and apart?

I’m not that familiar with Orthodox Christian practices, but I can smell the musty stink of tradition having little to do with God’s plan for salvation. Watching a documentary on the former Yugoslavia, I was struck by the iconostasis that separates the priest from the congregation.

The church shown in the documentary was Greek Orthodox, and the iconostasis was a wall of beautiful icons on what appeared to be lacquered wood. The overall visual effect was stunning. The spiritual effect? Not so much.

The priest, and the Bible he used, were literally behind this symbolic wall. The priest comes out, with his censer, and does his thing for the congregants, standing in the nave of the church in front of the iconostasis. But Scripture remains behind, in an Orthodox Christian version of the ancient Temple’s Holy of Holies. As in, only the holiest of men (and better believe it’s men only) may enter.

Well, it’s difficult to change traditions that are many hundreds of years old, and which may very well echo the traditions of Solomon’s Temple from three millenia past. Difficult, but that’s one reason we had a Reformation: to put behind us the mumbo jumbo, the idolatry of a royal priesthood that required, in Biblical times, that one be a member of a particular tribe.

In modern times, in some churches, and, apparently, in some Orthodox churches, it is the priests who remain separate and apart from the believers. Behind a wall of graven images. As a Baptist, this all stinks of old-country superstition, of depriving the ordinary believer from what should be the true source of belief: not man-made barriers or traditions, but the Word of God as given to us in the Bible. Direct.

Simply put, the Bible isn’t a holy relic, friends. It’s the living Word, and, by the grace of God, accessible to us all in our own languages. Not something that only a priest may read.


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