In discussing this I need to refer back to an earlier post of his on his personal blog, in which he discusses Peter Leithhart's "Too Catholic to be Catholic" criticism of closed communion of the Catholic Church. Orthodoxy of course is even more closed. Perhaps the center of all of this is in these words from Leithart:
Here’s the question I would ask to any Protestant considering a move: What are you saying about your past Christian experience by moving to Rome or Constantinople? Are you willing to start going to a Eucharistic table where your Protestant friends are no longer welcome? How is that different from Peter’s withdrawal from table fellowship with Gentiles? Are you willing to say that every faithful saint you have known is living a sub-Christian existence because they are not in churches that claim apostolic succession, no matter how fruitful their lives have been in faith, hope, and love? For myself, I would have to agree that my ordination is invalid, and that I have never presided over an actual Eucharist. To become Catholic, I would have to begin regarding my Protestant brothers as ambiguously situated “separated brothers,” rather than full brothers in the divine Brother, Jesus. To become Orthodox, I would likely have to go through the whole process of initiation again, as if I were never baptized. And what is that saying about all my Protestant brothers who have been “inadequately” baptized? Why should I distance myself from other Christians like that? I’m too catholic to do that.In these discussions I find myself in the same position, minus the ordination. Damick responds:
As for how becoming Orthodox or Catholic reflects on converts’ former religious experience, Leithart seems not to be aware of something that is amply available in nearly any convert story out there. Most converts do not, in fact, see their previous religious experiences as wholly devoid of grace, as being defined by unmitigated darkness, but rather as having been in some sense a propaideia—a preparation for receiving the fullness of the Christian faith, a preparation for which they are usually quite grateful. I know very few who look on their former communions as Leithart fears they should. Of course they will look on where they’ve converted to as being better, else they wouldn’t convert. But Leithart would have someone whose convictions run that way stay where he is!What I read in this is quite different. Yes, converts come up with these explanations for their past. The question is whether they are good explanations. The problem for someone who goes from being, say, a faithful Anglican to being a faithful Catholic is that a rationalization is practically demanded of him. The past has to be explained if it is to be talked about, and therefore there needs to be an explanation of the past that justifies the convert's former faithfulness. The other explanation, that the person was heretofore deluded by Satan into believing a false religion, is too dangerous to faith of any sort.
But if one's evangelical or Anglican or Lutheran churchgoing is a preparation for their Orthodoxy, then it would appear to follow that there is something providential in it. And this brings us back to the "who's a Christian" question, because in Damick's scheme the ersatz Christianity of the Protestants is only of merit if it leads on to Orthodoxy. But who can foretell such a thing? And I would note a subspecies of convert who is angry at his old church for its betrayals, and who indulges in the Cyprianite heresy in proclaiming that "there is no salvation outside the (that is, my present) Church." One can only get to this claim through a selective reading of the gospels, but be that as it may, often times these angry converts likewise take issue with their current church, and find some schism that rejects it, and so on through a serial Cyprianism of ever more questionable sects.
And it can work the other way. My sense of confirmation of where I am traces directly back the other weeks following Bishop Clark of the Episcopal Diocese of Delaware laying hands on me in my high school's chapel, and is so strong that I am not tempted by any church which rejects the reality of that confirmation. Why shouldn't the standards of that church prevail, rather than preferring my own taste for Eastern or Roman theology? If one is to believe in the reality of the Church, then why not be guided by the empirical reality that people of faith and grace are found without distinction to rite or hierarchy? I do not trust that the reasoning of theology is a good enough guide for this, or else the One True Theology would have won out centuries ago. Reason isn't unimportant, but it's also obviously inadequate to the task. One's intellectual taste in theology is nearly as questionable as one's taste in music or vestments.
Pre-modern churches are attractive if one is tired of fighting liturgy battles or listening to supposedly postmodern rationalized doubt. But that very attraction is a potential occasion for sin. My reaction to the theological problems of my denomination is to want to reform it, to bring it back to the virtues it had when I joined it, and to perfect those virtues. I cannot hide out in the Eastern or Roman churches because I am not willing to purchase human assurances of salvation at the cost of my integrity. And I think that converts between denominations should, as a rule, be silent about their old homes, because they are too prone to a kind of slander.