Eastern Orthodox Churches

Religions, Cults & Worldviews: Valuable Answers for Valid Questions.

The Orthodox Church is not a Protestant Church at all. It began as simple a geo-political region of the existing worldwide church (latin term “catholic” not to be confused with “Roman Catholic”). The Orthodox Church became its own distinct

What do the Greek, Russian Orthodox Believe?

entity as a result of the following events which occurred over the course of about 700+ years:

A. Early Schisms – Nestorian, Non-Chalcedonian
1. Nestorian Christology
2. Non-Chalcedonians – Egypt, Syria, Armenia, Mesopotamia
a. Christ unified in His nature and subsequent person.
b. Ecthesis – Monothelitist compromise for Christianity
i. Sergius – Patriarch of Constantinople
ii. Severinus, John IV – Popes condemning Ecthesis
iii. Heraclius – Eastern Emperor promoting Ecthesis
B. Empire Division – separate authorities of state and of church
1. Diocletian – 280 AD divided empire into East and West (see map)
C. Cultural Division – c.f. when the Gospel was taken to the “Greeks”
1. Languages – Latin v Greek
2. Customs – Rome = legal mindset; Greece = philosophical mindset
3. Challenges – Muslims capture Mediterranean; Barbarians capture Italy, Europe
D. Council of Chalcedon
1. Constantinople declared equal to Rome – highly opposed – reversed
2. Leo – fought for the primacy of Roman papacy – term “Pope” came into use as
designator of papal primacy.
E. Iconoclastic Controversy – icon = image; clast = destroy (see icon pics)
1. Eastern Emp. Leo III – 730 AD declared veneration of icons illegal, destroying
them and attacking Bishops and Arch Bishops who supported icons
2. West – Pope Gregory III – Synod – condemned iconoclasts and sent an envoy to
excommunicate them. They were arrested by Byzantine authorities
3. Irene – mother of East. Emp. Constantine VI asked Pope Hadrian I to convene a
council in 787 to address the issue – (7th ecumenical council) where the practice of iconoclasm was officially condemned.
4. Orthodox churches everywhere celebrate iconoclastic defeat 1st Sunday of Lent
F. Papal Primacy vs Power of the State – 860 – 870 AD
1. Ignatius – Patriarch of Constantinople – Confronted Caesar Barda, the uncle of
Eastern Emperor Michael III and was removed from the patriarchy by him.
2. Photius – relative of Michael was appointed to the post and this appointment
was opposed by Pope Nicholas I . Officially deposed at 8th ecumenical council and this was accepted even by the Eastern Orthodox
3. Pope Nicholas I deposed Photius and reinstated Ignatius. Photius then moved to
have the Pope excommunicated based on the grounds of the filioque, papal primacy, and the Bulgarian jurisdiction.
4. Basil the Macedonian, the new Byzantine emperor deposed Photius yet again
in an effort to curry alliance with the Latin pope and Western Emperor
5. Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne, a Frankish King, as Emperor in 800 AD –
considered an “intruder” by the East, he was not accepted by Byzantine and the appointment was considered an insult to them

G. Filioque – Latin for “and the Son” – originally to defend consubstantiality of Jesus w/ Father
1. Tertullian – 216 AD The Spirit proceeds from the Father THROUGH the Son as
“fruit is the third from the root of a tree” Against Praxeas, 4:1
2. Taught by St. Augustine of Hippo in 408: “if the Son has of the Father whatever He
has, then certainly He has of the Father, that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from Him.” – On the Trinity, XV:26,47
3. Spanish Church council of Toledo 587 added filioque to the creed first
4. Charlemagne petitioned Pope Leo III to add filioque and was soundly refused.
5. Added to Nicene Creed by Pope Benedict VIII 1024 AD but did not appear in
official liturgy for several years

II. The Great Schism
A. Pope Leo IX – Pope of Catholic Church – fought against Normans in 1052 taken captive
1. Suppressed Greek liturgy in his domain
2. Sent legate Cardinal Humbert to give evidence from Constantine’s “donatio” that Rome held primal papacy. It was refused by Celularius
3. Cardinal Humbert laid Papal Bull of Excommunication on altar of Hagia Sophia
B. Michael Cerularius – Archbishop of Constantinople
1. Suppressed Latin liturgy in his domain
2. Refused Popes envoy demanding his recognition of the supremacy of Rome
3. Excommunicated Humbert from the Eastern Church (Leo IX was already dead)

III. Final Nail(s) in the Coffin
A. Massacre of the Latins – 1182 Constantinople orthodox populace killed or sold the
Latin population into slavery to the Turks
1. Latin widow of Eastern Emperor Manuel I, ruled as regent and was hated
2. Andronikos Komnenos “liberated” Constantinople and the celebration turned to
violence against the Latins – murders of young, old, clergy commenced.
B. 4th Great Crusade – 1202-1204 1. Pope Innocent III – wanted to free Jerusalem from Saladin’s rule
2. Began as a “commercial” venture to repay dept to Venetians by killing Muslims
3. Innocent III forbade violence by the Crusaders against their Christian brothers
4. Desecrated Hagia Sophia – something even the Muslims would not do.

IV. Orthodox Expansion – 863 Cyril and Methodius evangelize the Slavs A. Moravian – Cyrillic alphabet invented to create written Slavic language (still used today)
B. Bulgarian – 864 – Khan Boris adopts Orthodox faith and the Bulgarian nation follows
C. Russian – 988 – Prince Volodymyr (Vladimir) of Kievan Rus accepts Orthodox faith –
• 1794 Sent missionaries to Alaska, established first Orthodox Church in N America
* 125 million Russian Orthodox today
D. Armenian Orthodox – Armenia adopted Christianity as its state religion in 301 AD
1. Claims apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus as its founders (not St. Gregory)
2. St Gregory The Illuminator evangelized Armenia in 301 AD – 1st patriarch
3. Persecutions in Armenia 110, 230, & 287 are reported by Tertullian & Eusebius

E. Greek Orthodox – name “Greek” coined circa 10th century under nationalism vs Islam
• continues to be “primary” see of Orthodox faith – 18 million today
F. Serbian Orthodox – 870 AD – possibly by missionaries sent by Cyril and Methodius
• 11.5 million Serbian Orthodox today

Eastern Orthodox – Eastern Byzantine empire – began forming alongside the “Roman Church” with the division of the Roman empire into east and west. The Eastern church – primarily Greek and North African, spoke a different language, enjoyed a different culture, and eventually held to a different governance ecclesiology over time. The emphasis of the primacy of see of Rome and its Bishop as possessing chief papal authority (Pope) the Eastern Orthodox church had already begun to operate independently of Rome. The final spark occurred with the addition of the filioque (from the Son) to the Nicene creed which led to sharp criticism of the Roman Church with Patriarch Michael Cerularius accusing Pope Leo IX of overstepping his authority. The Pope was incensed and sent Cardinal Humbert to deliver a Papal Bull excommunicating Cerularius. Cerularius in turn, excommunicated Cardinal Humbert, AND Pope Leo IX who sent him. Both East and West churches emerged separate and distinct and have not rejoined since. This has come to be known as the “Great Schism” of 1054 AD. However it should be called the Great Schism of the 3rd – 11th centuries!

What is the world view that you already hold? This test is designed to allow you to think in generalities to determine an identifiable view of the world, how it works, how it applies to us, the people in it, and how we relate to them, and they to us. There are no wrong answers and similar to an enneagram test, the more honest you are, the more accurate the results. Have fun!

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Eastern Orthodox Church (Greek Church)

– Founded via Great Schism – 1054 A.D.

The Eastern Orthodox Church is not a Protestant Church at all. It began as simple a geo-political region of the existing worldwide (catholic) church (latin term “catholic” not to be confused with “Roman Catholic”).

Although just considered the “eastern” entity of the worldwide Christian faith, the Eastern Church would undertake a different approach to the expansion of Christianity than that of the Western Roman Church. Instead of appointing Kings and Queens and entangling itself in the affairs of European Empires, the Eastern church would send out missionaries to carry the Gospel. The most notable commission took place in 863 AD with the sending of Cyril and Methodius to evangelize the Slavs of eastern Europe and here are just a few of the results that followed on from their journeys to the Slavic nations:
    1. Moravian Orthodox – Cyril had difficulty communicating and translating the Scriptures to the Slavs particularly as they had no written language whatsoever. Cyril then invented a language and alphabet for them. This became known as the “Cyrillic” alphabet which is still in use today!

    1. Bulgarian Orthodox – 864 AD – Khan Boris, the leader of Bulgaria, adopts Orthodox faith for his kingdom and the Bulgarian nation follows suit. This isn’t a “Biblical” conversion to Christ as one cannot be “legislated” into the Kingdom but rather, it initiated an environment where preaching of the Scriptures was welcomed.

    1. Russian Orthodox – 988 AD – Is perhaps the most famous and numerous of all the churches established from the preaching of Cyril and Methods. Prince Volodymyr (Vladimir) of Kievan Rus is reportedly converted and accepts the Orthodox faith – which at this point was decidedly different in liturgy from the Roman Catholic liturgy but not yet officially separate. This group would continue in its missionary efforts most notably in 1794 when the Russian Orthodox Church sent missionaries to Alaska in the New World and established the first Orthodox Church in all of North America. Today there are nearly 125 million Russian Orthodox adherents or participants.

    1. Greek Orthodox – name “Greek” coined circa 10th century under nationalism vs Islam. Greece continues to be the “primary” see of the Orthodox faith today with nearly 18 million Greek Orthodox Church adherents or participants today.

  1. Serbian Orthodox was established approximately 870 AD possibly by missionaries sent by Cyril and Methodius. There are nearly 11.5 million Serbian Orthodox today.
Nearly 200 years after Cyril and Methodius were sent to evangelise the Slavic nations, the Eastern Orthodox Church became its own distinct entity, apart from the Western Roman Church, which itself took on the moniker of “Roman Catholic Church”. This distinction into two Christian groups massive in size, came, not in an instant in 1054 as some suppose but rather, as a result of the following events which occurred over the course of about 750+ years:

    1. Language Differences: The Eastern church spoke Greek, the western church spoke Latin which made for an inescapable division in communication from the start.

    1. Early Schisms: Nestorian, Non-Chalcedonian, etc. demonstrated to the Eastern church that there was something wrong with the influence and authority being commandeered and exerted by the Western Roman Church over all who disagreed with their extra-Biblical doctrines.

    1. Political Division of the Roman Empire: Prior to Diocletian’s decree in 280 AD to divide the massive Roman empire into an East and West, there were clear and obvious separate authorities of state and of church. This political division would add further to the language differences already straining the relationship between the primary church Sees of Antioch, Alexandria, and Rome

    1. Methodological World View Differences: The Greek approach to conduct and approach is one of a philosophical “betterment of man and correcting of mind”. Greeks placed an emphasis on proper thought leading to proper behaviour. The Roman approach to life is one of an authoritarian correction of behaviour and betterment of society by bringing man into line. Romans placed an emphasis on strong authority in order to command proper behaviour from its citizenry

    1. Difference of External Challenges: The Romans were challenged (and eventually overcome) by Germanic Nomads known as Barbarians, Goths, and Visigoth tribes of Europe. The Greeks were not threatened by this group but were more threatened by the Muslims nearly 200 years later. A threat which wouldn’t affect the Roman empire until well after it fell in the 5th century.

    1. East West Authority Dispute of the Council of Chalcedon: The Roman Emperor declared Constantinople of the east to be of equal importance and authority to Rome in the west. This was highly opposed by the Roman church contingency and the decision was reversed. This left a very bad taste in the mouths of the Eastern church as it became clear that Rome was attempting to usurp the current authority of the church and claim itself as the pre-eminent authority over the church. Note: this is in direct opposition to the teaching of Jesus who said we are not to seek to be in power over one another but if one seeks to first he must be servant of all. He is not to “lord his authority” over others as the gentile pagans do.

      1. At this same council, Leo I, who was the current Bishop of Rome , argued for the primacy of the Roman see and subsequently the Bishop of Rome as the primal Bishopric or “papacy”. It is believed that the term “Pope” was, for the first time, used as a descriptive title to describe the primary papacy of the church, which was established for the Bishop of Rome by the Bishop of Rome! This was unequivocally a grab for power that wouldn’t be wrested from Rome until the Reformation over a thousand years later.

    1. East West Dispute over the Iconoclastic (image destroyer) Controversy: In the early 8th century, there arose a bit of a “mini” reformation to rid the church of the worship of paintings, statues and pictures of holy images and so-called saints and even of the Lord Himself. This was an horrific practice that slipped into the church by way of pagan influence in the western and eventually eastern churches. The weak argument “for” icon veneration was that these pictures and images supposedly provided a “window” to worship God, a tangible representation of who God is to “help” the worshipper. This is decidedly against Scripture whereby Almighty God declared “Thou shalt not make unto thyself any graven images whether of things in heaven above nor on earth below, nor shall you bow down to them nor worship them. This icon worship is still practiced today in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches as many bow down to statues of Mary and of Peter, kissing their feet and even lighting candles to them. The Catholics even went so far as to change the reading of the Ten Commandments whereby the above commandment was removed and replaced with another reading altogether.

      1. In the East, the Eastern Emperor Leo III in 730 AD declared veneration (worship) of icons illegal and set about destroying them even attacking Bishops and Arch Bishops who supported icons veneration. These that supported and carried out Leo III’s command were called “Iconoclasts” which means “image destroyers”.

      1. In the West, Pope Gregory III held a Synod where he condemned the iconoclasts and sent an envoy to excommunicate them from “the Church”. This envoy was arrested by Byzantine (eastern) authorities and this clash of religious authority would cause an even greater rift to develop between east and west. Even though many in the east were, themselves, against iconoclasts. This controversy would be the first altercation between the two big bullies of the religious playground and forever the question would reside in the mind of both eastern and western churches would remain: who is in charge here?

      1. Finally, Irene, the mother of Eastern Emperor Constantine VI asked Pope Hadrian I to convene a council in 787 to address this issue – (7th ecumenical council) where the practice of iconoclasm was officially condemned and icon worship would forever be etched in the ecclesiology (church practice) of both the Western Roman Church and the Eastern Church. In fact, Orthodox churches everywhere today celebrate the iconoclastic defeat on the first Sunday of Lent and statues of dead saints and Mary are prayed to and kissed and have candles burnt to them.

    1. East vs West Papal Primacy and East vs West Power of the State 800 – 870 AD: This series of squabbles and confrontations between church and state authorities based on geographic lines of east and west would be the deep seated rift of nearly 500 years bubbling up to the surface, where they would never submerge again.

      1. In 800 Pope Leo III took it upon himself to crown Charlemagne, a Frankish King, as Emperor of the “Holy Roman Empire” which was nothing more than the Western European empire as Rome was weak, useless, and in shambles politically at this time. Charlemagne was considered an “intruder” by the East, he was not accepted by the Byzantine authorities as the appointment was considered an insult to them and a violation of ecumenical authority. This was the pinnacle and peak of Roman Papal power – for the first time, a so-called “head of church” appointing a “head of state”.

      1. Several decades later, Ignatius the Patriarch of Constantinople in the East, confronted Caesar Barda, the uncle of Eastern Emperor Michael III, over his behaviour, and was thereafter removed from the patriarchy by Barda who, outside of obvious nepotism, shouldn’t have had the authority to appoint or oppose anyone, much less the eastern head of state.

      1. Photius, a relative of Eastern Emperor Michael III, was appointed to Ignatius’ post after being removed. This appointment was opposed by Western Church Pope Nicholas I who believed that appointing and removing Patriarchs was not the place of an Eastern Emperor (or his relatives) and so Nicholas had Photius officially deposed at the 8th ecumenical council which, in itself wasn’t much of a controversy as it was heartily accepted even by the Eastern Church who agreed that Emperor Michael should not have removed one of their officials.

      1. Pope Nicholas I, after the 8th Ecumenical Council, reinstated Ignatius as Patriarch of Constantinople in the Eastern Church. Photius then moved to have Pope Nicholas I excommunicated based on the grounds of the filioque (more about what this means in a moment), papal primacy, and the Bulgarian jurisdiction.

      1. Now, Basil the Macedonian replaced Michael III as the new Byzantine emperor and deposed Photius yet again in an effort to curry alliance with the Latin pope and Western Emperor which wouldn’t have been a bad thing for east west relations but it did cross the line of heads of state appointing and deposing heads of church – which was the bad thing.

    1. The Filioque: An addition to the Nicene Creed of 325 AD by the Western Roman Church whereby the Holy Spirit (Third Person of the Trinity) is said to proceed from the Father AND the Son. For 700 years prior to this, the Nicene creed (which was universally agreed that it could not be changed as it properly defined orthodoxy in Christian belief) stated that the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father only. The etymology of the word filioque is Latin for “and the Son” which are the exact added words to the Nicene Creed. This clause was added with the intent to defend consubstantiality of Jesus the Son (2nd Person of the Trinity) with the Father (1st Person of the Trinity). Ultimately, the filioque can be perfectly defended by Scripture so there isn’t much damage done there. However, the fact that the Western Pope and Church took it upon themselves to “add” doctrine of supposed orthodoxy to the settled Nicene Creed acted as the final usurping of church authority which ignited a powder keg known as “The Great Schism” in 1054 AD

      1. The understood doctrine which originally constituted the Holy Spirit’s procession was best articulated by Tertullian in 216 AD when he stated that the Spirit proceeds from the Father THROUGH the Son as “fruit is the third from the root of a tree” Tertullian, Against Praxeas, 4:1

      1. Augustine of Hippo began to teach contrary to the Tertullian doctrine in 408 AD with a very early understanding of the filioque doctrine, he states: “If the Son has of the Father whatever He has, then certainly He has of the Father, that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from Him.” – Augustine, On the Trinity, XV:26,47

      1. The Western church already began to add the filioque to their ecclesiology and their version of the Nicene Creed long before the Roman Church did. The Spanish Church council of Toledo added the filioque to the creed in 587 and began to read it in liturgy with “and the Son”

      1. Even heads of state began to enter the fray which, to their credit, the Roman church didn’t cave. Charlemagne himself petitioned Pope Leo III to add the filioque and was soundly refused. Why the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire required this is uncertain.

      1. Even though the actual “Great Schism” didn’t occur until 1054 AD, The thread had long before snapped when the filioque was officially added by the Roman Church to the Nicene Creed by Pope Benedict VIII in 1024 AD. Part of the delayed explosion was due to the fact that this addition did not appear in official Roman liturgy for several years. Ultimately it would be 30 years before the true effect of this spark would be felt, when in one sour exchange we will see a Pope excommunicate an Arch Bishop and an Arch Bishop excommunicate a Pope and two massive denominations would emerge as separate Christian entities as a result.

  1. The Great Schism
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Roman Catholic Church

Pope Leo IX of the Western Roman Church – fought against the Normans in 1052 and was taken captive
    1. Prior to this, he suppressed Greek liturgy in his domain which didn’t sit well with the Eastern Church.

    1. He sent legate Cardinal Humbert (not the nicest and humblest of fellows) to Michael Cerlarius, the Archbishop (highest ranking leader) of the Eastern Church to give him supposed “evidence” from Constantine’s “donatio” which supposedly carried Constantine’s appointment of Rome as the primary See and its Bishop with primal papacy. This document was proven (even by the Roman Church) to be a forgery and a fake. Even if it were not a fake, Rome could not use it to claim primary “anything” as a head of state was not given the authority on earth bind/loose foundational doctrine for the church. This was given to the Apostles as they planted churches and were used by the Holy Spirit to compose Scripture. This authority was never given to a head of state no matter how big his empire happened to be.

    1. Needless to say, the Donatio was rightfully refused by Cerularius and Pope Leo IX officially blew his top.

    1. Pope Leo IX sent Cardinal Humbert back to Cerularius to deliver a Papal Bull of Excommunication. Thereby excommunicating the highest authority of the Eastern Church and those that followed him from the Western Roman Church. Humbert laid this Papal Bull of Excommunication directly on the altar of Hagia Sophia (like the Vatican of the Eastern Church – see photo at top of page) as a blatant disregard for the Eastern Church’s leader, Cathedral, and followers. With one obnoxious act that followed nearly 800 years of obnoxious acts by the Roman Church – they effectively cut their numbers in half and a new denomination was born.

    1. Crime Against The Eastern Church – Roughly 20 years after the Massacre of the Latins by the East, the Roman Pope was still commissioning “Crusades” by his church which is now referred to as the “Roman Catholic Church”. These were decidedly unbiblical and to this day, true Christians are blamed for this heretical practice from an apostate church.
      1. The 4th Crusade which took place 1202-1204 AD was especially evil and bloody:
      2. Pope Innocent III of the Roman Catholic Church called for this crusade out of his desire to supposedly free Jerusalem from the Muslim Saladin’s rule. This decree completely ignored Jesus’ stern warning to the Apostle Peter that “He who lives by the sword will die by the sword” and again “Love your enemy, bless them, and do not curse them”. This Pope resorted to carnal methods to carry out a worldly conquest of a city that God Himself will liberate and establish at the conclusion of the 7 year tribulation He describes in Revelation.

      1. Innocent III’s Crusade began as a “commercial” venture to repay a massive Debt to the Venetians of Rome by way of killing Muslims and allowing the Venetian ships to capture booty for themselves. It didn’t turn out quite as it was designed.

      1. If something were to go wrong (and it did) and no conflict or invasion of Jerusalem were to take place (and it didn’t) Innocent III forbade his Crusading Venetian mercenaries from carrying out violence against their Christian “brothers”. They found no opportunity to invade and loot the Muslims of Jerusalem, they instead chose to ignore Pope Innocent’s commands and, having the massacre of the Latins, still fresh in memory, they instead chose to sack, loot, pillage, and rape Constantinople.

    1. These Venetian members of the apostate Roman Catholic Church behaved like savage beasts, raping Christian women, robbing and murdering Christian men, and ultimately desecrated the Hagia Sophia – something even the Muslims would not do. This was written about by Eastern Orthodox clergy who were eyewitnesses to this horror.
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Eastern Orthodox Church

Michael Cerularius – Archbishop of Constantinople occupied the highest level of religious authority in the East
    1. He suppressed western Latin liturgy in his domain and encouraged his parishes to only conduct services in the Eastern/Greek liturgy. This was one of the external manifestations of an internal East-West struggle that had taken place for nearly 800 years.

    1. Cerularius did the unspeakable for his time: He refused the Roman Pope’s envoy which carried the “Donatio” demanding the Archbishop of Constantinople’s recognition of the supremacy of Rome. This was an affront to the self-important Roman Bishop’s self-appointed primacy.

  1. In an act of “tit for tat”, Cerularius excommunicated Humbert and his envoy from the Eastern Church along with the dead Pope Leo IX. Both sides ultimately excommunicated each other giving full evidence to the world that the Biblical church that Jesus established was not evident in either the Western Roman Church nor the Eastern Greek Church. The real church would continue on, far removed from this carnal conflict of pride.

Crime Against The Western Church – Although there were efforts at reconciliation between east and west and continual attempts at diplomacy, a few incidents would cauterise the wounds on both sides and make a rejoining of East-West impossible.

A. The East struck the first blow with an incident which lives in historic infamy: The Massacre of the Latins took place in 1182 when the Constantinople populace who now identified themselves as the Eastern Orthodox Church (The “true” Church) killed or sold the Latin population of the city into slavery to the Turks. Ironically, it is these same Turks that would be the downfall of the Eastern Church nearly 300 years earlier.
    1. The widow of Eastern Emperor Manuel I was Latin (Roman). A nationality/culture that was by now, hated by the Eastern citizenry. She ruled as regent this was a thorn in the side of the people

  1. Andronikos Komnenos used violence and described his actions as “liberating” Constantinople from the Latins, He held a celebration and the people carried out murders of young, old, and Latin clergy.

Key Liturgy and Doctrine of Eastern Orthodox Denominations

Apostolic Succession

This is an important part of Orthodox belief and to them, ensures continuity with the church that Christ founded – however, there isn’t an idea of “Apostolic Succession” of any kind in Scripture. The importance of Apostolic Succession is that the Eastern churches believe that the Apostles were given the authority to forgive sins on earth as intermediaries and administer the sacraments. They believe that without Apostolic Succession there are no Sacraments and without sacraments there is no operation of the Holy Spirit and without the operation of the Holy Spirit there is no church. Again, this developed along with sacerdotalism in the 5th-7th century as a decidedly non-Biblical belief system and was rightly and thoroughly rejected by the Reformers of the 16th century.

Bible – Composition of

Recognises 39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament books, but also a collection of books not found in the original Hebrew Bible. These are known as Deuterocanonicals i.e. a second canon of scripture. Known as “apocrypha” to Biblical Christianity

Clergy – Qualification for

Priests and Bishops must be male, but deaconesses are permitted, though the order is dormant. Priests and deacons may marry before ordination but not after. Bishops, on the other hand, must be celibate.

Eucharist – Significance of

Commonly termed the ‘Mystic Supper’ or ‘Divine Liturgy’ – This makes present Christ’s sacrifice and therefore forgiveness of sins is obtained through it. It is also an encounter with the Risen Christ.

Eucharist – Presence of Christ in

During the Eucharist, the Priest calls down the Holy Spirit (in Greek: epiklesis) upon the gifts (the bread and the wine). They then change into the actual body and blood of Christ. The precise way in which this happens is a divine mystery according to Greek clergy. This process is identical to the Roman Catholic view of “transubstantiation” whereby the bread and wine is supposedly “literally” changed into the actual flesh and blood of Jesus. Many post-reformation Christians consider this to be one of the most blasphemous aberrations of Scripture which found its way into both East and West Churches in the high middle ages.

Eucharist – Distribution of

The consecrated elements can only be received by members. Orthodox policy is to have communion in both kinds (i.e. both the bread and wine are given to those present).

Holy Spirit

The third person of the Trinity, proceeding from the Father alone as in the original Nicene Creed. The Father sends the Spirit at the intercession of the Son. The Son is therefore an agent only in the procession of the Spirit.

Marriage and Divorce

Marriage is a mystical union between a man and a woman. Divorce is generally only allowed in cases of adultery, though there are exceptions. There aren’t rituals of “ostracising” as in some denominations but there is a general expectation to abide by the Church’s view of Scripture on this topic.

Mary – Assumption and Immaculate conception of

The Assumption is accepted and it is agreed that Mary experienced physical death, but the Immaculate conception is rejected. Orthodox belief is that the guilt of original sin is not transmitted from one generation to the next, thus obviating the need for Mary to be sinless.

Mary – Position of

Mary is venerated as Theotokos (Greek: ‘God-bearer’). By this is meant that the son she bore was God in human form. She is prayed to as an intercessor as in Roman Catholic theology as she is first amongst the saints and ‘ever-virgin’. All such concepts of Mary were developed outside of Scripture.

Pope – Authority of

As the Bishop of Rome, he has a primacy of honour when Orthodox, not of jurisdiction. At present, his primacy is not effective as the papacy needs to be reformed in accordance with Orthodoxy. His authority is thus no greater or lesser than any of his fellow Bishops in the church.

Pope – Infallibility of

Papal Infallibility is rejected. The Holy Spirit acts to guide the church into truth through (for example) ecumenical councils. This Orthodoxy recognises the first seven ecumenical councils (325-787) as being infallible.


An intermediate state between earth and heaven is recognised, but cleansing and purification occur in this life, not the next. This is more in keeping with the Biblical account whereby Jesus declared on the cross “It is finished!” to signify that the work of redeeming the sins of mankind (those who put their trust in Him) was finished and no further redeeming process e.g. purgatory is necessary.


There are at least seven Sacraments (known as ‘Mysteries’ among the Eastern Orthodox): Baptism, Chrismation, Eucharist, Holy Orders, Holy Unction, Marriage (Holy Matrimony) and Penance (Confession). The list is not fixed. It is believed that these sacraments are necessary for the Holy Spirit to work in the church and for the very existence of church but this is a false belief dating back to the 4th and 5th centuries and having been rightly rejected (for the most part) by the Reformers of the 16th century.

Sacraments – Effect of

The Mysteries convey grace to those who participate in them worthily. This is nearly an identical view to the Roman Catholic sacraments – with a few slight variations on extreme unction and of course, drastic difference on Holy Orders (Priesthood)


A special group of holy people, who are venerated. They may act as intercessors between God and Man and may be invoked in prayer. This is an identical form of worship of the dead as the Roman Catholic Church although both refer to the process as “veneration” even though they are trusting in dead humans to fulfil and answer prayer.


Salvation is “faith working through love” and should be seen as a life long process. The Ultimate aim of every Orthodox Christian is to obtain Theosis or union with God. This is done through living a holy life and seeking to draw closer to God. This is an aberration of what is found in Scripture: Ephesians 2:8,9 For it is by grace you are saved through faith and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God. Not by works lest any man should boast.”
Scripture tells us that Salvation is immediate by way of Justification but the process of Sanctification – being made more like Christ is the lifelong process.

Scripture – Importance of

There is one source of divine revelation to Eastern Orthodox: Tradition. Scripture forms the oral part, and the writings of saints, decisions of ecumenical councils etc. are also part of it. * It is this position toward Scripture that allows for so many unbiblical doctrines to creep into the Eastern Orthodox theology. Jesus condemned the heresy of the Pharisees whereby they nullified the Word of God by their traditions. Adhering to God’s holy revelation in Scripture enables Christians to remain in communion with the One true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.

Worship and Liturgy

The ‘Divine Liturgy’ is the centre of Orthodox spirituality. Worship is usually in the vernacular of the local parish, though Greek is also used and integrated into the liturgy as well. The overall appearance of worship and liturgy would be most like that found in the Roman Catholic church – with a heavy dependence on ritual and tradition as opposed to the Bible itself as the determining factor for liturgy.
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