I confess to being an AFR junkie; it’s almost all I listen to on my iPod. I am particularly fond of Dr. Bradley Nassif. I may not respond with such vehemency as he has to the state of Orthodox clergy, but I do see -- and I'm not alone in this -- a need for increased awareness not only of the content of Scripture among the faithful, but of the central, saving message of the gospel.
I think the awareness of the need for this within the Church is (at least) several decades old; Father Alexander Schmemann wrote of his own awareness of it in the seventies. Father Tom Hopko states repeatedly that “it’s all about God,” and not anything else. So folks in the “upper eschelons” of the Church here in America are aware that, when folks don’t know the basic Bible Story characters in the OT, or don’t know any of the parables of Christ, then something is wrong.
Granted, in my time as a Southern Baptist growing up, I met my fair share of similarly disinterested youth (and adults!) who came on Sunday morning and little else (or, if the youth came more often, it was for social purposes only; they seemed bored to tears during the worship and “sermonette” time). So I don’t want to come across as too one-sided.
Ultimately, though, I think what folks in the West are dealing with is (surprise, surprise!) two different extremes. On the one hand, the Evangelical world that dominates our American (and, in particular, southern) culture is severely truncated in its gospel message. Redemption, according to this particular stripe of Christianity, is seen almost always as a forensic “statement of intention” on God’s part, and nothing more. The Son has changed the Father’s mind about us through a contract written in Blood, so we have an ironclad guarantee that moves the Father’s hand away from the gate to paradise so that we can be allowed — snow-covered dung though we still are — to enter heaven. The Father looks on us with favor instead of vindictive wrath now, and all sin (whether it actually is still present in our hearts post-profession of faith) is forgotten by God, and we are granted passage to heaven. This gospel message is preached, long, loud and strong by Evangelicals, though without my post-convert ramifications added, I’m sure.
On the other hand, we have the Orthodox, whose idea of salvation is a body/soul/spirit infusion of the very life of God into the believer, and is rooted not only in Calvary, but in the Manger, the Mount Tabor, the Empty Tomb, the Mount of Olives (Ascension). The entire advent of Christ thus brings man from ontological death to actual life through a life-long cooperation with divine grace. This idea is intertwined in every hymn, every fast, every Scripture reading, every sacrament, to such a degree that we have at our disposal the most thorough Bible commentary and study resource available to mankind. The simple message at the core of all of our often “over-byzantined” worship, however — that “Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first” — though it be prayed in every divine liturgy, is quite often missed, the forest of this glorious statement being looked over for love of all the trees (icons, vestment and chant styles, rubrics, ethnic social activities, language issues, and more).
What this leads to, then, is Evangelicals looking at us and saying, “I like the way I do it better than the way you don’t.” Hmm. Harsh, but perhaps something we need to keep in mind. As Father Tom states in his talk on the book of St. John’s Apocalypse, everything in our worship service is meant to point us to the revelation of Jesus Christ. That’s why the Gospel and the Eucharist are the two ways in which Christ is brought out to us in the Divine Liturgy; He is revealed in the Apocalypse as the Word of God (the Gospel) and as the Lamb of God (the Eucharist). St. Ignatius, I believe, stated that our teaching is in agreement with the Eucharist, and the Eucharist confirms our teaching (I may be misquoting this; if so, forgive me and, please, correct the quote in the comments, as I can't seem to google it at the moment). Both the didactic proclamation of the good news given through hearing the written Word of God through reading and worship, as well as the intimate, physical, sacramental acts that unify us — body, soul and spirit — to our Incarnate Lord are needed to bring us into a holistic union with Him. It’s not that the Orthodox Way has been tried and found wanting, but rather that it’s been found difficult and left untried.
This faith is, let me say again, much harder than what Evangelicalism teaches. This may seem overtly hostile to many devout Evangelicals, and I am aware of many Evangelical groups that stress holiness of life and struggle against what we Orthodox call "the passions," but I believe this to be in spite of their soteriology, not because of it. God will not “guarantee” or “make” good works come out of someone. No false comfort is given to someone in the Orthodox Church to make him think that “he’s already believed, so good works will, ultimately, come”; God will never override free will and, as such, we must never be haughty, but fear, as our God, the Consuming Fire, will appear, and those of us who’ve loved His appearing will be purified in glory, while those of us who did not conform ourselves to Christ in spite of the grace given to us — perhaps even through laziness or a false sense of security brought on by all this “I know that I’m saved!” talk — will wish the rocks to fall on us.
This is another facet of the Gospel that the Orthodox Church preaches, yet I thank God that Her saints bear witness that our God loves mankind more than anything else and, though He will not ever trespass our free will in order to monergistically “establish good works,” always wills that we (continually!) repent and (continually!) come to the knowledge of the Truth.