Interview: The Orthodox Church Is More Evangelical Than You Think

Interview with Lausanne-affiliated expert discusses who is in the church, the propriety of proselytism, and the example given by Billy Graham in Russia and Romania.

Are evangelicals and Orthodox allies in the faith?

While both confess the Nicene Creed, Orthodoxy’s smaller population in America remains obscure to most US believers, especially when compared with Catholics. Many think of Orthodoxy as a nominal religion with empty cathedrals in Eastern Europe and Russia.

Yet there is also an awareness of not-insignificant numbers of evangelical conversion to Orthodoxy, drawn by its ancient roots and sacramental practice.

Bradley Nassif knows both words. Raised in Kansas, where his Lebanese immigrant grandparents helped establish St. Mary’s Antiochian Orthodox Church, his spiritual transformation came through his local congregation, a Billy Graham sermon, and participation in a high school Bible study. But though he remained in his church of origin, he became an academic director at Fuller Seminary and is now professor of New Testament and Orthodox-Protestant dialogue at the California-based Antiochian House of Studies.

Oxford University professor John McGuckin said that Nassif, a leader in the Lausanne-Orthodox Initiative (LOI), is “the leading world expert” on Orthodox-Evangelical dialogue. CT talked with Nassif about his 2021 book, The Evangelical Theology of the Orthodox Church.

You have said, “I am Orthodox, and therefore evangelical.” How does Orthodoxy address the general markers of evangelical faith?

Eastern Orthodoxy embraces the classic Bebbington quadrilateral of biblicism, crucicentrism, conversionism, and activism, but transcends it through a maximalist vision of the Incarnation in its liturgical, sacramental, and spiritual life. The gospel permeates the church—not only about Jesus dying for our sins and the need for personal faith but including …

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