What Eastern Orthodox Christians Believe

Central tenets of Eastern Orthodox Christians, based on the questions in the Belief-O-Matic quiz.

CopticOrthodox

04/28/2012 03:35:54 AM

Oh, and on the topic of homosexuality (before someone comments saying that we are homophobic or such), yes we are against homosexuality - not the homosexual. I'll explain. Homosexuality, as proclaimed in the Bible, is a sin - and as is also stated in the Bible, all sins are weighed equally in the sights of God. Scenario 1: A homosexual walks into a church and says "I'm homosexual and proud, and you need to be fine with that". They then expect to be able to partake in the Eucharist (which you should not be able to take if you have not repented) - but do not understand why they are being discriminated against. Scenario 2: An impulsive liar walks into a church and says "I'm a liar and I'm proud, and you need to be fine with that". They then expect to be able to partake in the Eucharist - but do not understand why they are being discriminated against. Now read the first scenario again, keeping in mind that homosexuality is viewed as any other type sin. We do not condemn the person (everyone sins, their sins may be more initially apparent than mine, but might as well be one and the same. I have done as much wrong as they have, and am in not position to be able to judge them [John 8:7 "Let his who is without sin cast the first stone"]. Hopefully this helps you to understand the conservative Christian standpoint on this matter, it's controversial, I know, and it can hurt a lot too, but God's word cannot be compromised for popular or modern views.

CopticOrthodox

04/28/2012 03:19:13 AM

First thing's first: we are NOT conservative Protestants (as @orthopriest suggested), nor are we Catholics without a pope (@wolflord). The Protestants emerged as the result of a popular movement led by Martin Luther against a corrupt Catholic church. I might add that I labelled that church corrupt, as the current Catholic church doesn't believe in many of the questionable things that had arisen at the time. Orthodoxy and Catholicism split far earlier as a result of a political conflict. The Orthodox church is FAR more different to the Protestant church than the Catholic church. That said, there are still many fundamental differences between Catholics and the Orthodox. @wolflord - for your information, most (not all, but most) Orthodox churches do have a Pope - the difference being that we do NOT, unlike Catholics, believe that the Pope is perfect, and thus cannot make a mistake. You must also understand that almost all splits in the Orthodox church are because of political or cultural differences, rather than doctrinal differences. Another difference between Orthodox and Catholic is the belief in Purgatory - Orthodox Christians do not believe in Purgatory, they believe that judgement at death is absolute. You cannot win your way out of Purgatory, or repent sins you didn't repent before death. Orthodox Christians do believe in Saints - not as being godly beings to worship - but as human examples of one who was sinful but gained approval from God - an example we can follow, and one who may intercede for us by remembering us in their prayers to God. (Catholics also believe in saints, but to a slightly different effect). Another difference (and what I would see as a mistake, or as left out from the above explanation) is that yes, abortion is not encouraged, but should one need to abort a baby for fear of her own health, if the baby is the result of rape, or in other exceptional circumstances, then the mother will not be condemned or frowned upon for her decision. IVF and contraception - two things that Catholics are strongly against, but the Orthodox church sees no reason to be against. Contraception is an effective means to abstain from having a baby (abstinence is expected, so contraception is fine within wedlock). If a woman cannot have a baby, then there is not reason for her to not look for alternative means to have a baby (it is not "messing with God's plan", nor is it killing that which God has made, seeing as the embryo is simply, at the stage of disposal, a cell - it has not yet formed into a little human).

fatheraustin

05/18/2010 10:19:10 PM

Concluding commentary on beliefnet's synopsis of Orthodox belief... The synopsis' section on suffering is correct. The section on morality is mostly correct; Orthodox social mores are rooted in Patristic teaching and Christian Tradition, and are thus in line with historical values. When it comes to marriage and divorce, it would be more correct to say that divorce is condemned, and remarriage is especially discouraged... but that for centuries now, there has been widespread tolerance of such practices in very rare cases. Orthodox Christianity has always looked to the ideal of celibacy, and declares this lifestyle to be the highest possible earthly life - the "angelic life." Marriage is blessed, however, and is a sacrament with the full support of the Church. Yet, even within marriage, the high ideals of continence and celibacy exert a pull in many ways. One such way, for instance, is the manner in which monogamy has always been the Patristic precept for marriages - and, in Patristic thought, monogamy does not simply mean being faithful to one *living* spouse, but to one spouse, *period* - i.e., even if a spouse dies, the Patristic counsel is to accept this as the will of God, and not to remarry. Concessions are certainly permitted, though, even in Patristic thought - especially in the case of very young persons who lose a spouse. But it remains discouraged, traditionally. The services of the Church saw the first marriage as sacramental and joyful, but subsequent marriages - even in the case of the death of a spouse - were preceded by penitence, contrite prayers and the omission of the crowning ceremony (for one or both spouses, depending upon whether they were still virginal). Departing to greater or lesser degrees from precedent, the services used for such marriages came to be used for remarriages after a divorce and the crowning ceremony came to be retained even when the rubrics technically forbade it. The canons of the Pedalion do not seem to consider the possibility of remarriage after divorce, but only treat of remarriages after the death of a spouse. Yet, some jurisdictions have their own by-laws and canons regarding the grounds, upon which divorce can be permitted. So, the whole issue of divorce is complex and involves many considerations. No matter what, however, divorce is not lightly permitted in traditional Orthodox practice, and remarriage thereafter is strongly discouraged, though sometimes allowed. Therefore, the Orthodox position on whether this is essentially a tolerated abuse, or essentially a licit economy (an "economy" is when pastoral considerations prompt a different application of traditional practice, without violating any fixed principle), is understandably complex and does not admit of any pat conclusions. What is clear, is that at the present time, divorce and remarriage is permitted under specific and dire circumstances.

fatheraustin

05/18/2010 10:18:14 PM

Further commentary upon beliefnet's synopsis of Christian belief: In regards to salvation, beliefnet's synopsis is largely correct, but some modifications are helpful. First, Orthodox Christians believe that we are saved by being united to Christ, Who healed our nature, overthrew the sentence against us by enduring it Himself and shedding His blood on the Cross without being guilty, and finally raising our nature up from corruption. Being joined to Him, we are capable to participate in His victory as members of His glorified Body. Union with Christ begins with faith in Him (just as our parents act on our behalf and supply our needs, physically, our godparents can do this spiritually, if we are baptized as infants... but, we must obviously make this faith our own when we are old enough). Past this, it presupposes a life of fidelity to His Body - the One True Church - and Her Holy Tradition and Mysteries. I would also modify some of what Orthopriest says below about salvation: in the first place, it should be pointed out that the Lutheran-Orthodox agreement is not accepted by all Orthodox Churches. And, while one can give a generous interpretation to the statement, "good works... are not a means to salvation," the fact is that this is not wholly accurate. Orthodoxy confesses that good works *are* a means towards salvation... but, with the import qualification that good works cannot *merit* salvation. St. Paul tells us to "work out our salvation with fear and trembling," indicating that our work is indeed a mean, by which we attain unto salvation. However, good works are a means to salvation only insofar as they are one of the ways, by which we lay hold of God's grace and allow the Christian Faith to work through us, from the inside out. We do not teach that these works merit, in and of themselves, salvation (and doubtless that is the intent of the imprecisely-worded Orthodox-Lutheran agreement), but in mere terms, we would have to say that in some sense works are indeed a means to salvation... not as meriting it of themselves, but as being means of cooperating with God's grace, which is precisely what saves us. We are saved by grace, through faith. We cooperate in grace and live out our faith, by our deeds. Incidentally, the precise understanding of "a work," theologically and scripturally speaking, is "performing some action, which we think will guarantee us (ultimate) salvation." This is the meaning of "He that worketh not, but trusts in Him that justifies the ungodly," shall be saved. The man who does good deeds expecting salvation in exchange is trying to be saved by works. Therefore, to "accept Jesus as one's Saviour" is the "work" par excellence, since it expects ultimate salvation in exchange for a spiritual action. Orthodoxy teaches that we must indeed do good works - of which "accepting Jesus" is but one of many - but we must never believe that any of these works can merit or obtain for us a guaranteed salvation. We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, trusting in the grace of God to save us beyond our merit.

fatheraustin

05/18/2010 10:11:09 PM

Further commentary on beliefnet's synopsis of Orthodox belief... In regards to "Why evil," beliefnet's synopsis may or may not be right, depending upon what is meant by its terms! Actual Orthodox teaching is not that different from St. Augustine's teaching on Original Sin, when both St. Augustine and Orthodox theology are properly understood (which seems to rarely happen, nowadays!). In brief, the Fathers teach that the Fall brought both natural and unnatural effects upon humanity. Our nature was damaged, but insofar as the nature remains nature, it is still good... though, a lesser good than it was originally created to be. From this weakened nature spring only the *natural passions,* which Christ also shared in His Incarnation, healing its weakness and elevating into unto a new, super-celestial dignity. The natural passions are not themselves the genesis of our sins, as certain theologians like Fr. John Romanides and (ex-) Fr. Michael Azkoul have erroneously claimed in their quest against "Augustinianism." Natural passions are things like mortality, suffering pain, hunger, thirst, etc. Romanides and Azkoul have put forth the notion (unfortunately popular) that these are the basis of human sin. But, Christ had all these passions and was himself mortal and subject to suffering. Sin does not come from these things. Rather, in addition to the natural passions, the Fathers teach us that an unnatural principle predating upon human nature - which the Greek Fathers call "diaphthoros" (corruption) and the Latin Fathers call "concupiscence" - has infected human nature *as a foreign principle,* and this leads men to sin. Christ did not have this, since He was conceived asexually (the Fathers do teach that corruption is transmitted via sexual procreation to each new generation - yes, ALL the Fathers, not just Augustine!). Thus, Christ received what was natural to us, even in our fallen state, but did not receive the unnatural principle of sin, which He did not need to assume since it is not part of nature, period, let alone of human nature. Concupiscence is the real engine of human sin, therefore, and our fallen nature is a willing accomplice. The devils exacerbate these, to be sure, but we are ultimately responsible for our sins. The demons' power over us is broken at our baptism, though many Christians become their slaves again; repentance and confession drive them away once more. Also, they will even attempt to assault those filled with the Spirit, but those filled with the Spirit have every reason to be victorious against them.

fatheraustin

05/18/2010 10:03:17 PM

Continued commentary on beliefnet's synopsis of Orthodoxy... In regards to the afterlife, beliefnet's synopsis is mostly correct. It is erroneous, however, where it states that purification is restricted to those who have only failed to do good deeds. The Orthodox Church teaches that there is no further opportunity for repentance in the next life... i.e., a man who dies unrepentant does not have an opportunity to change and repent there. However, the man who dies repentant, but without showing the full fruits of repentance before death, may yet find healing by virtue of his repentant state at death. This is true, whether his only failing was a lack of good works, or whether he has even died with a charge of lesser sins, which he regrets, but of which he did not have time to fully repent. He is saved by Christ's grace in such an event, obviously, but he may have to undergo a "warm bath," as C.S. Lewis put it(!), before he is fit for paradise.

fatheraustin

05/18/2010 10:01:42 PM

Continuing commentary on belifnet's synopsis of Orthodox belief... When it comes to science and religion, people should be aware that the Orthodox Fathers, contrary to popular opinion amongst many of today's Orthodox Christians and teaching with great unanimity (St. Augustine being the only real exception), *specifically* discount the possibiity that the days of Genesis are really long ages of creation and they *specifically* teach that the creation happened more or less as Genesis relates. Furthermore, the broad implications and core assumptions of Orthodox theology and Darwinism, each give a fairly clear picture of total incompatability with the other. Still, one should be aware that in contemporary Orthodoxy, there are attempts to discount the Patristic Tradition as "unscientific" and therefore unauthoritative on this topic. Therefore, I would not want to give the false impression that the Orthodox Church has sorted out the differeces of opinion emerging amongst different segments of the modern faithful, with an official ruling on one side or the other. It is true that Orthodoxy has no desire to "create tension between science and religion," but Orthodoxy recognizes that a large part of the humanist agenda over the past century or so, has been a concerted attempt to discredit and marginalize religion. Having attained a position of power, we do not think scientists are exempt from the temptations of disinformation and thought policing, that always tempt the mighty. We do not desire a hostile relationship with science, therefore, but we note that the reasons for dissent from Darwinism, Man-Made Climate Change, Global Catastrophism, etc., are many even on scientific grounds, to say nothing of the Holy Tradition. The Fathers had direct knowledge of the cosmos and of natural phenomena, through their contemplative illumination. We reject the idea that empirical science is the only or the best form of accurate knowledge of the cosmos. In fact, discursive reasoning is a product of the Fall, and is a limited tool only fit for limited minds. The mind of the Saint at prayer, is a deiform mind conformed to the eternity of his Father, Whom he contemplates. Such a mind clearly perceives absolute truth without intermediation. This is why the Fathers are more definitive for us, than modern scientists. We follow their traditions on all important points, even when science would seem to contradict them.

fatheraustin

05/18/2010 09:58:40 PM

Obviously beliefnet can't give an exhaustive theological treatment of every religion it summarizes! However, as an Orthodox cleric, I'm glad to take the time to "fill out" the above with some clarifications, corrections and extrapolations. I'll do it in two or three posts. Readers should be well aware that Orthodoxy in the "diaspora" has both innovative and traditional adherents; what I am going to outline is the traditional Orthodox approach - many others would take a different stand, while claiming to remain within Orthodox boundaries. So, there's your grain of salt! Though, lest anyone should consider me to be some kind of narrow "Old Calendar" Orthodox (i.e., the Orthodox equivalent of Catholicism's SSPX), I'll state that I'm in the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America... probably the most modernist of all American jurisdictions, OCA excepted. The precisely theological elements - The Trinity, one God in Three Persons, of which only the Second Person, Christ, has a corporeal existence through the Incarnation - are correct.

orthopriest

01/11/2010 01:02:19 PM

Please note the above article is wrong on a few points. Although the orthodox believe that works are important they do NOT believe you are "saved by works" or by "faith in Christ and works" rather by a living or real faith in christ (ie one that will produce good works). Eastern Orthodox are not "roman catholics without a pope". They are more like conservative anglicans (ie like cs lewis who was an admirer of the orthodox). Important: The orthodox had several meetings with Lutherans and Evangelical Lutheran council. They have an agreed statement of how one is saved which is available free online which BOTH Lutherans and Eastern Orthodox agree on. Here is the quote from their joint statements: "Lutherans and Orthodox both understand good works as the fruits and manifestations of the believer's faith and not as a means of salvation." quote is located at http://www.helsinki.fi/~risaarin/lutortjointtext.html (scroll down to "C. SALVATION: GRACE, JUSTIFICATION AND SYNERGY" paragraph 5 --last line) This is not to say orthodox are lutherans or protestants either. We Orthodox consider both Protestant, Roman Catholic and Anglicans as brethern in Christ and though we have differences Orthodox are in agreement with all the major beliefs of historic Christianity. Please remember this is the church that created many of the oldest historic creeds of Christianity in the first place and under the guidance of eastern bishops put together the new testament (under the guidance of the Holy Ghost) . I agree with pbash66 below for more info go to www.oca.org especially questions and answers. Orthodox Church of America is one of the churches in the International Communion of Orthodox Churches (which includes Russian, Ukrainian, Greek, Antiocian, Japanese etc and every other Orthodox in communion with the patriarch of constantinople--note the patriarch is not a 'Pope' he cannot issue statements of God he is more like an arch bishop). God bless you in Christ.

pbash66

05/27/2009 02:30:06 PM

wolflord, There are several differences between Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christianity. For a more in depth description of "what Orthodox believe", I would recommend the following link to the Orthodox Church in American website: http://www.oca.org/OCorthfaith.asp?SID=2 Glory to God for all things!

wolflord

11/07/2008 02:23:03 PM

It is nearly identical to what Catholics believe, the only REAL difference seems to be the Pope. Interesting.....

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