Ten Things You Should Know About Eastern Orthodoxy

Dr. Sam Storms: (original source here)

News broke this past week that Hank Hannegraaf, of the Bible Answer Man radio program, was chrismated on Palm Sunday at Saint Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Yet another man devoted to the Eastern Orthodox faith is Rod Dreher, who has been much in the news of late because of his best-selling book, The Benedict Option. So who are the Eastern Orthodox and what is it precisely that they believe?

There are @ 6 million people in the U.S. who identify with the Orthodox faith, and @ 200-215 million worldwide (70 million of whom are in Russia alone), all of whom are gathered into one of the 13 autocephalous or “self-governing” Orthodox churches throughout the world. The head of each autocephalous church is called a Patriarch. The Patriarch of Constantinople is given greater honor but has no authority to interfere with the affairs of the other 12 Orthodox communions. “All bishops share equally in the apostolic succession, all have the same sacramental powers, all are divinely appointed teachers of the faith” (Timothy Ware, The Orthodox Church [hereafter TOC], new edition [New York: Penguin Books, 1997], 27).

Although these many autocephalous churches are independent, they maintain (so they assert) complete agreement on matters of doctrine and are in sacramental communion with each other.

Before I describe ten of the more important beliefs of Eastern Orthodoxy, a brief history of the Church should be noted. Continue reading

How Is Eastern Orthodoxy Different?

Article: How Is Eastern Orthodoxy Different? by Dr. D. Trent Hyatt (original source here)

One sunny day in the late 1990s I was walking with friends near the center of Kiev, Ukraine, when I heard some chanting. I looked around and saw a small demonstration taking place. There were, perhaps, about 100 people marching in the street carrying a few placards. The man carrying the placard at the head of the marchers was dressed in the distinctive clothing of an Orthodox priest.1 On his placard was the claim that the Orthodox Church was the “one, holy, catholic, and apostolic” church. Now, I was raised a Protestant and had personally placed my faith in Christ as a result of an evangelistic message given by a Protestant on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley while I was a student there. So, upon hearing the claim of the demonstrators, I immediately sensed a challenge in their claim. How could they claim something so exclusive?

Eastern Orthodoxy is indeed present in most parts of the world today, but is to a great many in the West little known and even less understood. In fact, the Orthodox Churches found in most countries of the West are immigrant churches, that is, churches started by immigrants from the countries of Eastern Europe (Greek, Russian, Armenian, Romanian, Ukrainian, Serbian, etc.). These churches may recruit new members through conversion of Protestants or Roman Catholics, but the majority of their flocks are descended from these ethnic groups. Of course, marriage to a member of an Orthodox Church is one of the more common ways for people outside of the traditional ethnic communities to become Orthodox. This was humorously depicted in the wildly popular film My Big Fat Greek Wedding. However, since the 1980s a small but growing number of evangelicals have become Orthodox. Some of these have become part of the various national Orthodox churches, such as the Greek Orthodox or Russian Orthodox Churches, but most seem to have become part of the Evangelical Orthodox Church, which became associated with the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. Some have also become part of the Orthodox Church in America, which began as a result of Russian Orthodox missionaries to Alaska in 1794.

How many people belong to the Orthodox Church in all its various expressions? The best estimates put the number between 200 and 300 million worldwide, depending on the way “members” is defined. In any case, the size of the Orthodox community would make it third behind the Roman Catholics and the Protestants in the Christian tradition. Among those who are active members in Orthodox Churches there are many who are sincere and devout in their Christian faith. This essay, though written from the perspective of an evangelical Protestant, is not intended to simply discredit the faith of all Orthodox believers. Yet, in the spirit of 1 Thessalonians 5:21, I want to “examine everything carefully” and “hold fast to that which is good.”2

Other than their exclusive claims to being the one true church, to which I will return later, what are the distinctive views of the Eastern Orthodox? I will attempt to survey their most important beliefs and practices by examining the following questions.

What is the highest authority in their tradition?
What is their view of creation?
What is their view of Christ?
What is their teaching on how one is saved, and what role do the “sacraments” play in their teaching on salvation?
How do they worship (including what an Orthodox Church service looks like)?
What is the justification for seeing orthodoxy as the one true church?

Authority

The Orthodox, like Protestants and Catholics, regard the Bible as the inspired Word of God. But like the Catholics, the Orthodox Bible contains a few books not found in the Hebrew Scriptures (that is, books called the Apocrypha [Maccabees, Judith, Tobit, etc.] and written between the close of the Old Testament and the writing of the New Testament). Continue reading

Understanding Eastern Orthodoxy

The Eastern Orthodox Church

Article by Paul Negrut at the CRI website (original source here)

The Eastern Orthodox Church- SYNOPSIS

Recent years have witnessed a surge of Western Christians joining the Orthodox Church. With its emphasis on mystical union with God, its rich history, and its beautiful icons (sacred images) and liturgies, Orthodoxy appeals to those who long for a deeper sense of wonder in their worship and faith. Yet behind the appeal lie some hard realities. The Orthodox world is not monolithic, and one cannot become Orthodox in general. The Orthodox tradition is not entirely apostolic, and consequently the claim to represent the true church of Christ is triumphalistic. Orthodoxy follows a different theological paradigm; for example, within Orthodoxy the doctrine of salvation has a different meaning than within Catholicism or Protestantism. Protestant evangelicals who have joined the Orthodox church often display an inadequate understanding of the faith they have embraced.

In 1987, some 2,000 laypersons and clergy from 17 churches, including Lutherans, Pentecostals, Baptists, Independents, and others, embraced the Orthodox faith.1 These new converts explained that the day they joined the Orthodox church was the glorious end of a long journey to find the true church of Christ. In the foreword to Peter Gillquist’s book, Becoming Orthodox, Bishop Maximos Agiorgoussis argued, The researchers had no difficulty in realizing thatthe only body which meets the criteria of the Church founded by Christ, the Church of apostolic tradition, faith and practice, is today’s Holy Orthodox Church of Christ.2

Metropolitan Philip Saliba, head of the Antiochian Orthodox Churches of North America, hailed the event as having historic significance: Not in your lifetime, not in my lifetime, have we ever witnessed such a mass conversion to Holy Orthodoxy. Then he added, Last week I said to evangelicals, ‘Welcome home!’ Today I am saying, ‘Come home, America! Come home to the faith of Peter and Paul.’3

Another speaker proclaimed, Our fathers embraced this Orthodox Christian faith and brought it to America. Now it’s our turn to bring America — and the West — to Orthodox Christianity.4 Since 1987 many others have followed the Eastern trail. Some well-known apologists of this new trend are urging the Orthodox to mount a crusade to win America to Christ.5 Reading such claims, one cannot avoid asking if such statements are based on solid historical and theological arguments or if this movement is yet another religious diversion.

The Eastern Orthodox Church- ORTHODOX FAITH OR FAITHS?

In Becoming Orthodox, Peter Gillquist asserts, The Orthodox churchmiraculously carries today the same faith and life of the Church of the New Testament.6 The presupposition behind this statement is that the Orthodox church is a unified body that speaks with one voice. In fact, Orthodoxy is not a monolithic bloc that shares a unified tradition and church life. The phrase Eastern Orthodoxy, commonly used to describe the Orthodox faith, actually refers to the dominant churches of Eastern Europe. In a broad sense, the Eastern tradition comprises all the Christian churches that separated at an early stage from the Western tradition (Rome) in order to follow one of the ancient patriarchies (Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople).

During the twentieth century, these churches not only have spread throughout all continents, but also have penetrated many cultures that have not been traditionally associated with the Eastern tradition. Generally speaking, these churches can be grouped into one of the following:

1.The Orthodox churches in the Middle East. These belong to the most ancient oriental ecclesiastical units, and they include the Patriarchies of Constantinople (modern Istanbul), Alexandria (Egypt), Antioch (Syria and Lebanon), Jerusalem (Jordan and the occupied territories), the Armenian Catholicossates of Etchmiadzin (former Soviet Republic) and Cilicia (Lebanon), the Coptic Orthodox church (Egypt), and the Syrian Orthodox church (Syria, Beirut, and India).7

2.The Orthodox Churches in Central and Eastern Europe. Both culturally and theologically, these churches follow closely the Byzantine (Constantinopolitan) tradition. Generally known as Eastern Orthodoxy, they include the autonomous churches of Russia, Romania, Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Albania, and Sinai.8

3.The Orthodox Diaspora. Organized outside the traditional Orthodox countries, these ecclesiastical communities are found in Western Europe, North and South America, Africa, Japan, China, and Australia.

These churches have significant theological, ecclesiastical, and cultural differences among themselves. For example, the fifth-century Monophysite controversy over whether Christ has two natures or one separated the Byzantine church from the ancient Eastern churches. Furthermore, the Eastern churches disagree on the date for Easter and the legitimacy of church hierarchy and sacraments. As a result of such differences, the Eastern churches have parallel ecclesiastical structures not only in the same country but even in the same city, thus disregarding the rule of one bishop in one city. Continue reading

Hank Hanegraaff’s Conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy

Dr. James White: A two hour program today playing nearly 50 minutes worth of comments (ok, at 1.2x speed!) by Hank Hanegraaff relating to his conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy and asking the simple question: can an Eastern Orthodox believer function as the Bible Answer Man? Important issues to be sure!

Eastern Orthodoxy

Eastern Orthodoxy: A tradition in Christianity that claims to represent the one true Church of Christ. Though many would see the Eastern Orthodox church as simply “Catholicism without a Pope,” the Orthodox would reject such a simplified identification. Not only do they not have a living infallible authority, such as a Pope, they approach theology from a more mystical, and less rationalistic perspective. Their theology primarily comes from the first seven ecumenical councils as, according to the Orthodox, these councils represent a perfect representation of the Christian faith.

The seven ecumenical councils are:

(1) The Council of Nicea (325 AD) – which affirmed the full deity of Christ in opposition to the heretic Arius. It is this council that produced the Nicene Creed.

(2) The Council of Constantinople (381 AD) – which affirmed the full deity of the Holy Spirit articulated at Nicea) and went further in terms of the doctrine of the Trinity: God is one in essence and three in person. Continue reading