I’ve been asked questions about Orthodoxy ever since I began attending an Orthodox church. After I began this blog, old friends and even family members have popped into the comments section to inquire about my new faith.
I was going back through some emails as I prepared to return to posting after far too long a layoff, and found questions about Orthodoxy from the perspective of a Pentecostal. I thought I would share it – and my answer – for any inquirers out there.
Please understand that my answers are from my own limited knowledge, and aren’t the teaching of the Church. I’ve also edited the original slightly for clarity.
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Is what I’m posting next a fair (although understandably not all-inclusive) representation?
“Orthodox Christianity and Christianity in general believe in the Oneness of God yet in Three Persons but their goals are slightly different. The Orthodox Church believes that eternal life is the chief goal while the non-orthodox is to enjoy God forever and to glorify Him.
Orthodoxy and Catholicism are closely related in their means of salvation through the Sacraments and through the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord while non-orthodox believers hold that it is through faith we are saved apart from any works and that it is through Christ’s death and resurrection.
As far as confessing sins, the Orthodox are similar to the Catholics in that they confess their sins through intercession with the clergy and this absolves them from sins. One difference here is that Catholic’s confess mortal sins to a priest and venial sins straight to God while Protestants confess all sins to God through Jesus Christ. Their Intercessor is Jesus Christ Himself and they pray to God the Father through Him and this absolves them from all their sins.”
From the reading, it sounds as if this was written by a Protestant trying to explain Orthodoxy to other Protestants. I’m still very early in my journey, but I’ll do my best:
The Orthodox Church is the original church begun by Jesus and carried on by His apostles. I know every church says that, but it’s important to understand some history to get to the bottom of it.
Orthodoxy maintains an unbroken apostolic succession since the time of the Apostles. In 1054, divisions between the churches of the Eastern and Western Roman Empire became too great, and what is now called the Roman Catholic church broke away. In the 1500s, the Reformers attempted to call the Catholic Church back from its errors, and even discussed reunion with the Orthodox church. The thousands of denominations of Protestant churches are the descendants of those original Reformers.
Okay, enough history; to your questions.
Orthodox Christians hold to the Nicene Creed, and profess God exists in three persons; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In terms of a chief goal, it is to glorify God through worship. I’m not sure there’s a difference in “eternal life” and “enjoy God and glorify Him.” We do focus less on a personal, experiential relationship with God, and more on partaking of His spirit through the Church. If I’m doing a poor job of explaining, I’ll try to clarify.
Orthodoxy and Catholicism are related in that the Church in Rome was once in union with us. They fell into errors, such as the infallibility of the Pope, and are not in communion with us, but it is the hope of all Orthodox Christians that Rome – and indeed all Christians – will one day return home.
That does not mean that we think we’re the only place God can be found. We don’t condemn Baptists or Lutherans or anyone. It’s been said, “We know where God is; we cannot say where He is not.” There is Truth to be found in all Christian fellowships, but the fullness of Christ is found in the Orthodox (which means “right belief,” by the way) Church.
Orthodoxy does reject Sola Scriptura, the doctrine that the Scriptures alone are all we need for salvation. The scriptures were written decades after Jesus’ death, and were the result of oral tradition by the Apostles and their successors. As such, the Orthodox Church places Holy Tradition on par with Scripture, because it is from the tradition that scripture was born.
“My Church Wrote Your Bible”was how I saw someone put it…
There is no single “saved” event in Orthodoxy. Salvation is a process, in which both we and Christ participate, through the Sacraments, works, faith, prayer, study, and on and on.
Confession is something we should be doing daily to God. Our prayers should always be prayers of repentance. We do believe, however, that Confession is a gift God gave us. Anyone can see that having accountability when dealing with our struggles is of great use. When we confess to our priest, we are not seeking his absolution. He is merely a witness and a tool that God uses for our help. We confess our sins before God in the presence of a witness, who through the mercy of God expresses to us His forgiveness.
We don’t worry too much about what “level” of sin we’ve committed. All sin is bad, and we must strive not to sin.
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I’d encourage my readers – especially those from a non-Orthodox background – to leave comments or questions below, or send me an email. This place is, after all, a conversation, not a sermon.