The Historic Church: An Orthodox View of Christian History

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Eastern liturgies went through development in the fourth and fifth centuries. They became stabilized in the sixth century, and by the eight century were so fixed that they have not changed even today. One of the striking characteristics of Orthodox worship is its near total integration with its theology.

It is this blending of theology and worship that gives Orthodoxy its thoroughly liturgical character.


From the Orthodox Christian perspective, Western Christianity exhibits a breach or rupture between theology and liturgical experience. In Orthodox Christianity they are a single, inseparable act. Participate in the liturgical cycle of the Orthodox Church and you will hear and see its theology, through its text, chant, hymnography and iconography. Saint Irenaeus said where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church. Orthodox Christians must not therefore presume to pass judgment on non-Orthodox Christians or their communities, think or speak triumphalistically about the Orthodox Church, but rather strive to live out their faith without compromise, in humility and repentance.

Our entire hope is Jesus Christ.

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We receive and will receive everything through him. But we also have our part to play! First, there is the following of God's will, that is, the commandments. Christ himself tells us: "He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me.

Great Schism (1054)

Second, through the communion of the holy mysteries of the body and blood of Christ, through which Christ the Lord abides. And third, through persevering prayer, as the Apostle Paul teaches: "But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life" Jude: Eastern Orthodox theologians contend that Western Christian doctrines of sin and salvation have been overly dominated by legal, juridical and forensic language and categories.

While we affirm the use of legal metaphors by Saint Paul, the eastern church fathers contend legal concepts should not dominate as they have in the West , but should be balanced among the many other biblical metaphors used to describe the redemptive work of Christ. An example of how far removed the Christian East and West are in this area is the fact that the doctrine of justification by faith how guilty people can stand before a just God or Judge , which is so prevalent in the West, is almost entirely absent in the East!

Eastern theology does not focus so much on guilt, as on mortality i. We tend to see the work of Christ more in therapeutic, healing, renewal, or rescue terms than on exclusively or primarily juridical, legal, forensic terms. A person becomes the perfect image of God by discovering his or her likeness to God, which is the perfection of the nature common to all human beings. The faith-works divide, especially in the Protestant West, reflects a decisive and Orthodox believe regretful innovation in Christian theology beginning in the 16th century.

The faith-works dichotomy does not exist biblically, or in the eastern Christian spiritual tradition. Orthodox theology and spirituality therefore emphasize a balance between faith and works. Since "…without faith it is impossible to please Him" Heb. It is on the basis of our faith and our works that we will be judged! Have right belief "ortho-doxy" and good works! Whoever has these two has certain hope of eternal salvation.

Orthodox History - The Society for Orthodox Christian History in the Americas

As Scripture says: "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone. Elsewhere St. Paul says the same thing: "…having faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck" 1 Tim. Orthodox Christianity and the early Church teaches that the Lord will come once and for all after the tribulation Matthew 29 - On that day everyone will receive eternal and perfect payment for their deeds. In fact, the 5th Ecumenical Council of the Universal Church specifically rejected the idea of a "thousand year reign" as a heresy! These heterodox teachings supposedly came through a dream someone had in the 18TH century and were subsequently promulgated by the Scofield Bible translators and adopted by certain Protestant Evangelical groups later.

No Scripture makes mention of a temporal punishment that cleanses souls after death. In fact, the opinion of Origen was condemned because of this by the Church at the Second Council of Constantinople. The soul can receive no sacraments after death; and if it were to make satisfaction for its sins, it would have to perform a part of the sacrament of holy Penance, which would be contrary to the orthodox teaching.

History of Eastern Christianity

Jesus Christ founded His Church through the Apostles. By the grace received from God at Pentecost, the Apostles established the Church throughout the ancient world. Paul founded the Church of Antioch; St. Peter and St. James, the Church of Jerusalem; St. Andrew the Church of Constantinople; St. Mark, the Church of Alexandria; St. Paul, the Church of Rome. For one thousand years the Church was one East and West , unbroken and undivided! After the Great Schism of A. They all speak of the same Orthodox Christian life and faith. They come from the same apostolic and patristic sources of the early Church.

Frankly, it is barely possible to fully understand the Bible without understanding the historic, ecclesiastic, liturgical and theological context of the early Church. The canon was compiled from myriad ancient text sources, many of which were spurious or even heretical.

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As we affirm, the Bible was given to the historic Church. When the young Church was getting underway, God poured out His Holy Spirit on the Apostles and their followers, giving them spiritual gifts to build up the Church and to serve each other. Among the specific gifts of the Spirit mentioned in the New Testament are apostleship, prophecy, evangelism, pastoring, teaching, healing, helps, administrations, knowledge, wisdom, tongues, and interpretation of tongues.

Roman Catholics, however, see it from the opposite perspective, namely that the Orthodox Church broke communion with the Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church placed itself outside of this fellowship when it broke off communion with us in the 11th century.

This is a very brief outline; a thorough treatment of the issue would fill volumes, and there are many resources readily available should you wish to research the history of this further. This changed in the s, when both churches independently began dialogue with the Oriental Orthodox churches and resolved many of the ancient Christological disputes. The Schism of between the churches of the East and the West was the culmination of a gradual process of estrangement that began in the first centuries of the Christian era and continued through the Middle Ages.

Linguistic and cultural differences, as well as political events, contributed to the estrangement. From the 4th to the 11th century, Constantinople now Istanbul , the centre of Eastern Christianity, was also the capital of the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire , while Rome , after the barbarian invasions, fell under the influence of the Holy Roman Empire of the West, a political rival. In the West theology remained under the influence of St.

Augustine of Hippo — , while in the East doctrinal thought was shaped by the Greek Fathers. Theological differences could have been settled if the two areas had not simultaneously developed different concepts of church authority. The growth of Roman primacy, based on the concept of the apostolic origin of the church of Rome , was incompatible with the Eastern idea that the importance of certain local churches—Rome, Alexandria, Antioch, and, later, Constantinople—could be determined only by their numerical and political significance.

For the East, the highest authority in settling doctrinal disputes was the ecumenical council. Missionary expansion toward Asia and emigration toward the West, however, have helped to maintain the importance of Orthodoxy worldwide. The number of autocephalous churches has varied in history. These titles are strictly honorary.

The order of precedence in which the autocephalous churches are listed does not reflect their actual influence or numerical importance.