Regarding “Orthodoxy’s Unintentional Calvinism” by Craig Truglia, Orthodox Christian Theology: A Response by Scott Robert Harrington.


Before I decided to become an Orthodox catechumen, I was already aware that Orthodox were what we in Reformed circles call “Arminians.” In short, they exalt the existence of “free will” and emphasize that God cannot convert people that do no want to convert, nor make them really do anything directly.

While I have written articles on the topic of trying to reconcile the positions theologically, this is not what I am going to gun for here. Rather, I just wanted to quote a few Orthodox resources that say some really “Calvinist” sounding stuff for the sake of promoting mutual understanding of our positions.

Perhaps, we may realize that we should spend less time calling each other heretics and more time listening to what the other side is trying to communicate in different words. We may find that we share much more common ground than we may think.

Saint Innocent of Alaska’s Quotation of John 6:44

[M]an’s conversion to the path of faith and truth depends entirely upon God. “No one can come to me”, said the Savior, “unless the Father who sent Me draws him to Me” [Jn 6:44]. Therefore if, according to his inscrutable judgments, the Lord does not wish for a given person or nation to be converted to Jesus Christ, even the most capable, most gifted, most zealous of workers will not succeed in his task. (Quote forwarded to me by a dear reader.)

Father Arseny Overrides a Guard’s Free Will in the Gulag

Suddenly a man ran out of the barracks–he was about 25 years of age and tried to find his place in line. He did not have the time to get in place before the supervisors started kicking him with their boots…I was standing with Father Arseny and suddenly saw that he took a step out of the line, made the sign of the cross, blessed the supervisor who was hitting the young man and said in a clear voice, ‘In the Name of the Lord, I am ordering you to stop! Stop this!”–and having blessed everybody with a wide sign of the cross he returned to his place in the line. The supervisor stopped the beating immediately.

Later I asked the man who was next to me in the line, ‘Did you see what Piotr Andreyevich (Father Arseny) did when they beat up the young man?’

‘Did what? He was standing as still as a statue.’

All this impressed me enormously; I saw the power that God gave this man–Father Arseny. Could it be hypnosis, I thought and the answer came to me: ‘No, of course it could not be hypnosis. Father Arseny does not do all this for himself, but only for the sake of others.’ (Father Arseny 1893-1973: Priest, Prisoner, Spiritual Father, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1994, p. 71)

Prayer of the Optina Elders

Grant unto me, O Lord, that with peace of mind I may face all that this new day is to bring.

Grant unto me to dedicate myself completely to Thy Holy Will.

For every hour of this day, instruct and support me in all things.

Whatsoever tidings I may receive during the day, do Thou teach me to accept tranquilly, in the firm conviction that all eventualities fulfill Thy Holy Will.

Govern Thou my thoughts and feelings in all I do and say.

When things unforeseen occur , let me not forget that all cometh down from Thee.

Teach me to behave sincerely and rationally toward every member of my family, that I may bring confusion and sorrow to none.

Bestow upon me, my Lord, strength to endure the fatigue of the day, and to bear my part in all its passing events.

Guide Thou my will and teach me to pray, to believe, to hope, to suffer, to forgive, and to love.


Saint Paisios Prays For Humility

“One day while walking to church he [Saint Paisios] prayed may humble him and ‘crush’ his heart. Then he stepped inside the sanctuary to assist the priest with the service…when the priest was about to offer him communion, for no reason whatsoever, he unleashed a virulent attack on poor old Paisios. He told him that he was a nuisance and that he was fed up seeing him in the sanctuary Sunday after Sunday. Old Paisios was flabbergasted, not knowing what to make of it. Then he remembered what he prayed for on his way to church. After the liturgy the priest approached him full of apologies and remorse for his outburst…’I just don’t know what came over me,’ he complained.” (Kyriacos C. Markies, The Mountain of Silence: The Search for Orthodox Spirituality. Image, 2001: p. 60).


The preceding is an incomplete list that I plan to update as I come across quotations and prayers in my reading.

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7 thoughts on “Orthodoxy’s Unintentional Calvinism”

  1. Craig,
    There is no Calvinism whatsoever in Eastern Orthodoxy (Greek/Russian/Serbian, etc.), whether intentional, or unintentional. If one converts to Holy Orthodoxy, one must leave behind all the heterodoxy of the West/Protestant [Calvinist, etc.]/and Catholic)].

      1. Craig,

        God may choose to override free will in certain circumstances, but the teaching of the Church is clear: we are endowed with free will and it is the synergy between God and man that achieves salvation. Those who are saved are saved because they responded to God’s grace and those who are damned are damned because they did not respond to God’s grace.

        1) St. Innocent is absolutely correct in saying that no person or nation can come to God unless he draws them to himself. We Orthodox do not reject that God’s grace is absolutely necessary for right faith. However, if St. Innocent was teaching an Calvinist single-predestination , then we would have to reject it because it does not agree with the Confession of Dositheus, which was accepted by the Church’s hierarchy, or with any of the other Church Fathers

        2) In the case of the guard and Father Arseny, that could very well have been God overriding free will. This does not mean that God took away the guard’s freedom with regards to eternal salvation

        3) The Optina prayer does not teach that man does not contribute to his own salvation. It is a prayer for God’s grace to increase in influence.

        4) St. Paisios’ experience is the same as case 2.

        Most importantly, if you are going to be Orthodox, be Orthodox. Do not spread condemned teachings that are contrary to the apostolic tradition. “No one can serve two masters”.

      2. I think that the common ground which lies between Christians of ALL traditions and theology is the MORAL ground and the realm of thought, word, and deed called “SIN” (human nature is dominated, before conversion to Christ, by “the natural man” (the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of GOD), the “old man”, “original sin” (Tertullian, Augustine), the “ancestral sin” (John Samuel Romanides); all men, usually, struggle between vice and virtue, with in Christ a struggle to obtain virtue, and overcome, by spiritual struggle, podvig, in prayer, prelest (self–deception) and logismoi (flooding thoughts, bad or good); in the Augustinian worldview, the natural human beings are preoccupied with sex, sexual sins; this is the same, whether one is virtuous in sexuality, or sinful; even the best of virtuous men, if they are not sexually sinful, have sins in other areas of fallen man, like pride, envy, lack of humility, greed, acedia, and so on. if one was therefore raised Calvinist, it will be natural to accuse Eastern Orthodoxy, without epistemological or metaphysical justification, of having unconscious or unintentional Calvinist tendencies or doctrines. Nothing could at all be any further away from the truth. There is absolutely no common ground between Eastern Orthodoxy and Calvinism, between Light and darkness, between Christ and Charlemagne (and Calvin is the Charlemagne of Switzerland). Orthodoxy believes in Providence not in Predestination, and Orthodoxy’s doctrine of Predestination (Conditional Election) is Orthodox. To its very core, Calvinism is Antinomian and Lawless and Legalist, and amounts to the Sinful Calvinist Dogma of Unconditional Reprobation (God makes people sin and become Atheists and Sinners). Thus, in Calvinism, it is God’s will that most people sin and do not believe in God and do not do God’s will. In Calvinism, God forces people to hate God and to sin. No free will. Westminster Confession of Faith’s empty rhetoric about human free will is hypocrisy and double-talk (doublemindedness). God bless you Craig. Happy February 2019.

      3. No. Father Arseny was Orthodox, not Calvinist. There is no Calvinism in Father Arseny. Remember the Freudian defense mechanism we can learn even from agnostic secular psychology. Calling Orthodoxy unintentionally Calvinist is a psychological weakness called projection. One projects one’s own weakness Calvinism onto the innocent EO Eastern Orthodox. God bless you.

      4. Sounds like a little chippy on your should there, brother. No one said Orthodoxy was Calvinist, rather, that Orthodoxy affirms some of the things that we accuse the Calvinist for being wrong for affirming.

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