Donovan Nagel Donovan Nagel

How Fr. Josiah Trenham Obliterated My Protestant Worldview

  • Written by Donovan

I’ve been disillusioned with Protestant Evangelicalism for quite some time now.

I mentioned a while back that I find it incredibly difficult to sit in a blacked out, rock concert “worship” service (I usually have to go outside to contemplate and get sunlight until it’s over).

That’s only part of it.

There are so many other issues I could write volumes on:

  • Vacuous preaching that is too focused on self-enrichment
  • Lack of reverent fear of God
  • Cultural appeasement
  • Theology derived from personal opinions and experiences
  • Frankly dangerous eschatology
  • Capitulation to hostile government (I refer to church closures and impositions on worship, Communion, etc.)
  • Infrequent Communion (once a month if we’re lucky?)
  • Individual churches behaving like business “brands” with little to no oversight or accountability
  • Everything being about the “show” - the performances, the atmosphere, the emotion-hyping experience being central to the church’s mission

I could go on.

This past year has ended what little patience I had left.

I’ve seen (and personally experienced) fear and despair in our society, and spiritual isolation more than any other time in my Christian life. Death in the world is rampant.

Yet the Protestant Evangelical churches have been AWOL.

In March 2020, churches shut their doors due to government mandate and commenced “online services”.

In contrast with the churches of the Middle Ages that stayed wide open at the center of town while plagues ravaged the European continent, our churches were locked up.

Need God? Visit our website.

Unlike the brave men and women of God who risked contracting plagues, leprosy and more throughout history to save souls, our spiritual leaders were at home in their pyjamas (CONFESSION: I am also guilty).

For a few weeks, this was excusable - nobody knew what was going on.

We had a new and terrifying world thrust upon us and I think for most believers, we trusted the government to be a benevolent force and expected life to return to normal in a few weeks.

Of course, it never did return to normal but has only become far more tyrannical.

I’ll tell you the truth:

Many Protestant Evangelical churches were happy with the change.

“Church” for them was already heading in this direction - impersonal online streaming or “digital church”.

Church at home in your PJ’s.

This was already the trajectory of many Protestant Evangelical churches long before COVID.

To give you an example: Hillsong campuses are cinemas.

You go behind a curtain and watch a big movie screen (beamed direct from Sydney) and then scan your tithe at the pay stations as you walk out.

No human contact necessary.

That was the direction “church” was heading before COVID hit the scene.

COVID just gave us the excuse we needed to make ‘socially-distanced church’ permanent.

Eastern Orthodoxy and Fr. Josiah Trenham

Despite having studied church history in seminary and living for extended periods in countries where Orthodoxy is dominant (Egypt, Russia and Georgia), I admit that I’ve never understood it.

I never tried to understand it.

It always gave me the impression of being a dark, more depressing version of Roman Catholicism.

Well... my opinion has begun to dramatically shift.

Fr. Josiah Trenham, an Orthodox priest in Southern California who was raised Reformed, then converted to Orthodoxy, may have actually shattered my misconceptions and helped rescue my faith.

A brilliant man of God who I found by accident.

His incredible explanation on the Reformation/s and how it led Protestant Evangelicalism to become the theological dumpster fire that it is today has been eye-opening.

I’m still processing it all.

It had never properly occurred to me that in an entire year of church history in seminary, we looked at the New Testament church, then glossed over 1,500 years of church history, only to spend the majority of the time talking about the Reformation and Anabaptists.

The Holy Spirit took a vacation for 1,500 years! 🤣

There is so much more to go into.

I’ll expand on where I’m at theologically and everything else in my next post (there’s just so much to cover). But for now, I highly recommend this interview that I’ve embedded below.

This interview was done to promote Fr. Josiah’s book on the Reformation called Rock and Sand (which I’ve recently ordered and can’t wait to devour).

Part 1:

Part 2:

One thing is certain - believers need to be part of a church - The Church - that has stood the test of time more than ever.

Shaky, theologically baseless denominations that are here one minute, gone the next, are just not going to provide the stability and substance that believers need in the coming awful days.

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Donovan Nagel
Christian, husband, dad, entrepreneur, linguist, theologian and clown world survivalist.
"Put not your trust in princes, in mortal man, who cannot save."
- Psalm 146:3