Becoming Orthodox: A Journey to the Ancient Christian Faith. By Peter E. Gillquist. Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Publishers, Inc., 1989. 185 pp. Paper, $9.95.
Gillquist and a number of other former Campus Crusade leaders started churches and then a denomination called the Evangelical Orthodox Church. Later the whole denomination, some two thousand people spread throughout the U.S. and Canada, Joined the Antiochian Orthodox Church. This book tells that story.
Gillquist’s purpose in telling this story is clearly promotional. He wishes to draw evangelical Christians into the Antiochian Orthodox Church. He does this by attempting to prove that the only true church today is the Orthodox Church.
It is fascinating to see the reasoning Gillquist employs. Here are some of his arguments: (1) The only way to interpret the Scriptures properly is to listen to church tradition. Tradition interprets Scripture for us (pp. 76, 102). (2) The Reformation was misguided. Neither Roman Catholicism nor Protestantism is correct (pp. 60–61). (3) The Apostles taught orally things which were not placed in Scripture. Many of those teachings have been the source of true apostolic doctrine.
Note that these arguments eliminate the Scriptures as a basis for determining truth. Tradition interprets the Scriptures, not the other way around.
The author accepts and attempts to persuade evangelicals to accept a number of non-evangelical doctrines. These include: (1) Mary is the Mother of the Church (p. 115), the Mother of God (p. 112), and the Queen who sits at the side of Jesus Christ the King (p. 112). (2) Mary remained a virgin her whole life and had no children other than Jesus (pp. 116ff.). (3) Mary did not die. She was translated directly to heaven like Enoch and Elijah (p. 119). (4) Mary and all of the saints intercede before Christ for us (p. 112). (5) Mary can save us (pp. 120–21). (6) Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are sacraments; they are necessary for one to obtain and keep eternal life (pp. 49–50; 110). (7) Crossing oneself, that is, making the sign of the cross on the forehead and upper torso, is powerful, effective, and biblical (pp. 123–31). (8) To be a part of any church other than an Orthodox Church is to depart from the faith (p. 152). (9) Pastors are priests and should be called “Father” (pp. 97–106)—contra Matt 23:9.
Most grievous of all is the author’s view of the Gospel. He argues that one is saved-at least initially-by committing his or her life fully to Christ (pp. 12, 23, 24, 109) and by submitting to water baptism (pp. 49, 110). To maintain this salvation one must regularly partake of the Eucharist, or Lord’s Supper (pp. 49–50). Only once in the entire book is faith in Christ maintained as a condition of salvation (p. 120). Where faith in Christ fits in is never made clear. Evidently to be saved and stay saved one must commit his life to Christ, believe in Christ, be baptized, and then regularly partake of communion. Assurance of salvation is never discussed in the book-probably because under such a system there can be no assurance—contra 1 John 5:13.
My mother is 100% Serbian. I was christened as a baby by a Serbian Orthodox priest. I have been in Serbian Orthodox Churches on many occasions. I have been to many Saint’s Day (Slava) celebrations. I even attended a Serbian Orthodox summer camp and served as an altar boy. While there is a special place in my heart for Orthodox people, I know that most people in the Orthodox Churches, like most in the Roman Catholic Church, are not trusting in Christ alone for salvation and hence are unsaved. My heart’s desire for them is that they would come to simple faith in Christ alone-not faith in Christ plus commitment, baptism, the Lord’s Supper, good works, etc.
I would recommend this book highly to, all who are engaged actively in Christian ministry: pastors, educators, deacons, elders, Sunday School teachers, youth workers, etc. Reading this look will help you understand the mindset of people from the Orthodox Church-and, to a large extent, people from the Roman Catholic Church, since they are in agreement on most of what they believe.
Unless discussed with a mature, Bible-taught believer, I do not recommend this book for new or untaught Christians.
Like the author, this reviewer used to be on the staff of Campus Crusade. Unlike the author, I have been traveling in the opposite direction: whereas Gillquist started out as a Protestant and has ended up an Orthodox priest, I was christened into the Orthodox Church and am now happy to be the Executive Director of an evangelical Protestant ministry and an elder in a local church.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical
Society Roanoke, TX