Eastern Orthodoxy – Where’s the Pope?
May 24, 2012 6 Comments
Some may think that there’s no point in looking into the religion of Eastern Orthodoxy. A study shows that there are 6 million Orthodox churches in the United States alone (with a grand total of over 200 million believers worldwide). I wonder if many of you even know people that subscribe to the Eastern Orthodox religion. But with that many churches, you’d think they’d be everywhere. And maybe they are. So what is Eastern Orthodoxy, anyway? Isn’t just like Catholicism, just without the Pope?
The Orthodox Church doesn’t have a Pope, but instead they are headed by patriarchs, the archbishop, and the metropolitan. Orthodoxy believes there is to be only one visible church, and it believes itself to be that church. When it split from Rome back in 1054 as we studied last week, the east (Orthodoxy) claimed that the west had strayed into heresy.
Now up until this point, Christians have nothing to say against Orthodoxy. But here’s where we differ drastically. While we put Scripture as supreme authority over the church, Orthodoxy puts the church as over Scripture saying that Scripture itself is only part of a large tradition that makes for a complete organic whole – the “fullness of the Christian faith.” They also say that the Spirit of God living within the church is the authority instead of Rome or Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone). Remember that Scripture itself says that the Word is God. Orthodoxy says that the Bible is not set up over the church, it is something that lives and is understood within the church and that the Bible gets its authority from the church.
In regards to baptism, they believe a person is born again through baptism. It is administered to infants as well as adults (called the “bath of regeneration”). Protestants detest philosophy and see it as a defilement to the sacred sacrament. Baptism is meant only to proclaim your pre-existing faith, which you made a conscious decision about well beyond infancy. It it is a grave danger to let your children go through life believing they are saved because they had holy water sprinkled on their foreheads when they were infants.
As with Catholicism, confession of sins must be made with a priest, but here God is judge. The priest will occasionally give advice and a penance.
Orthodoxy emphasizes something called theosis. Theosis is going through the process of deification to attain salvation. There is no emphasis on paying for temporal punishment. No indulgences involved to expiate sins for living or dead. They pray for the dead because the soul is being strengthened by prayers offered, preparing him/her to be confident on Judgement Day. The saints, especially Mary have achieved deification. They are not mediators but intercessors. Praying to them is not worshiping by venerating them. Orthodoxy says theosis is not some kind of pantheism. We might become gods but we still have human nature.
Orthodoxy believers lay prostrate before icons, kissing them, burning candles in front of them. They say that the icon is not an idol but a symbol. Veneration is not toward picture but toward who is depicted.
Eastern Orthodoxy stresses deification above justification. According to them, the Fall was a disaster. But man is not bound by a totally corrupt and sinful nature. Mankind did not inherit guilt from Adam, instead we inherited death, mortality, and corruption. Man was not created for communion or fellowship with God. Instead we have to work toward that. When mankind fell in Adam, it was “departure from a path,” not a drastic plunge from a state of blessedness, as protestants and Catholics believe.
Eastern Orthodoxy says that the Fall is an impenetrable barrier between God and man, but the cross is not a substitute as a victory over sin and death. Instead, it is just a means to enable man to “become god, to obtain theosis (deification or divinitation).”
Eastern Orthodoxy fails to stress the nature of salvation as a free gift. This results in a failure to distinguish between justification as God’s free acceptance of unworthy sinners and sanctification as the process of becoming righteous, a process which involves human activity and effort. We believe the apostles were succeeded not by bishops or church Fathers but by Scripture only (Titus 1:1-4, Jude vv 3, 17).
Obviously, I was only able to skim the surface of this religion, but I hope it has helped believers to better understand what others believe, so we can have intelligent conversations with lost souls and specifically pray for those who subscribe to such beliefs. If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ and put your full faith, hope and trust in His death and resurrection alone, then I hope these brief discussions help to convince you of the truth as you engage in conversations I’m sure will take place below. Brothers and sisters, allow me to remind you to be gentle as doves while answering questions that others may post.