The Orthodox Church

The eastern churches are those called Orthodox. Orthodox comes from two Greek words orthe and doxa meaning, "True or correct belief." It is one of the names of the Eastern Church, implying that it alone has kept the true faith, unchanged, unaltered, and complete but any one can be orhodox. It is like the word catholic that has come to mean those in the Roman Church but any one can be and should be catholic as well as orthodox.

Although the Eastern Orthodox Church has kept a certain unity in faith and dogma, each national church is organized along autonomous lines and is said to be autocephalous "without head," no head outside the country where it is established and all equal among themselves. Eastern Christianity fostered a mystical devotion and a far more philosophical approach to Christian truth and in many ways in their charismatic form are superior to Western Christianity.

While Orthodoxy considers itself to be the true Catholic Church, it is not part of the Roman Catholic Church. The word Orthodoxy has the double meaning of right belief and right glory (or right worship). Orthodoxy has always attached great importance to the place of councils in the life of the Church. It believes that the council is the chief organ whereby God has chosen to guide His people. The Greek or Eastern Orthodox Church believes herself to be the "Una Sancta," the Church of undivided Christendom. This doctrine is of course absurd and those that hold to it are under a delusion but during the present century there has grown up a compelling and unprecedented desire in many of them for the visible unity of all Christians, and this has given rise to a new interest in the Orthodox Church.

Those that hold to the traditions of men in the Orthodox church say the only synods or councils that were truly ecumenical and valid were the first seven. The inability to trace the Holy Spirit in any other tradition than their own has hampered their progress of revelation. Through this division and because of those that look down on other branches of Christendom, many of them have been themselves rejected. To their loss, the Orthodox Church claims the word "catholic" exclusively. Both the Roman Catholic Church and all the Protestant denominations are considered heretical by the Eastern Church and the Orthodox churches always pray for their return to the Mother Church, the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

Constantine's new capital had exercised a decisive influence upon the development of Orthodox history. The removal of the seat of Government from Rome to Constantinople gave a preponderance to the Grecian districts of the empire, and the ecclesiastical determinations of the Greek church were extensively received. Greek Orthodox Christianity remained virtually untouched by the forces unleashed by the Reformation and subsequent Great Awakening. Of much greater significance to Eastern European Christianity than the Reformation was the establishment of the independence of the Russian Church by the creation of the patriarchy of Moscow in 1589 and the subsequent shifting of the center of gravity of Greek Orthodoxy from Constantinople to Moscow. Doctrinally the Greek Orthodox Church tended to restate its basic tenets in the light of the controversies caused by the rise of Protestantism. The Greek Orthodox church constitutes the third largest Christian body in the world.

Theologically, the Greek Orthodox Church recognizes Christ as its head. No Bishop or priest is considered infallible. All Bishops are equal, with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople considered "first" among equals. Apostolic tradition and the Bible are equally important. To their credit, it does not believe in private interpretation of the Bible.

The marks of the Church are the four specific and special characteristics which describe the true Church. They are Oneness, Holiness, Catholicity, and Apostolicity. That is, it is one, in faith and doctrine; it is holy, it has no heresy or error in it; it is catholic, that is, for all people, and all times; and it is Apostolic, it has Apostolic foundations and it has the Apostolic Succession. The Orthodox Church believes it is the only true Church which has kept all these distinctive marks.

Many do not have a problem with the issue of icons in the church, God cares more for what is on our hearts, not our walls. Just like the veneration of saints or relics, it is OK to venerate as long as it is not downright worship in which you bow down to them or offer incense. The icons tell a story not much differently than pictures on pages in a book.

Many among them affirm the Nicene Creed. This is a great step towards full spiritual and sacramental unity among others and in doing away with the Arian confusion and division of the past.

Organically they believe that they are the same congregation or ecclesia which was born at the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem on Pentecost, the direct continuation of the Church of the Apostolic Age. At length, however, opinions fluctuated considerably on points of doctrine; schisms and heresies divided the church; and rancor, violence, and even persecution followed in their train. To check these evils, councils were called and various creeds composed. They best represent the Ephesian church of the seven candlesticks of the Apocalypse. They hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans which marked the Roman Church. They do not put the Bishop as the head of the church like the pope, Jesus is at the head of the church. And they do not have the heirarchy of a pecking order which is prevalent even among the Protestants. They left their first love however, prompting many outside their fellowship to consider them as cold and sterile, the only one of the seven to be in danger of the light going out completely. By reducing the liturgy to mere formalism and ritual, historically, they denied the wisdom of the early mystics and quenched the power of the Holy Ghost. This is changing, once the Holy Spirit will lead those of the last day remnant to understand true unity, love for the universal church will follow and the exclusivism will crumble.

I think first of all that Jesus is the one true path and that path may indeed be narrow but I also believe there are many roads that lead to that one true path. Any road that leads to truth, God is there. I am often criticized for my eclecticism in that I will take truth from any source but I have seen enough falsehood from those who criticize me to recognize the difference and that makes me very orthodox. God has given me that but only because He first gave me His Holy Spirit to guide me as well as many of us here, and it is in this guidance that brings us into the right path.

Of course many are lost and going down the wrong path but if we are truly seeking, what matters most is the end result. I have been accused of flirting with New Age for my eclectic views when I don't even know what New Age is but if there is any spirituality that is sought after in any quarter, Jesus is still there. He is not in the ignorance that ignores another road someone may be on to lead him to the truth. The end result is Jesus in our hearts as well as our lives and wisdom is crying in the streets, it is not hidden, you can find it anywhere, if you are earnestly seeking after the truth. The path to salvation is found in the scripture that Jesus knows who are His and His sheep follow His voice. Some may hear His voice and know it is the truth without understanding all the fine points of orthodoxy or even agree with them.

Orthodoxy is something that the church has been far from nowadays. They have been spoon fed pabulum for so long that they have forgotten the essentials, so they have to tweak them to make them fit into their ignorance. They raise up their hands, walk down the aisle of the church and get saved, no sanctification, no repentance, no spirituality, baptized in water and not baptized in the spirit, just whitewashed and back into the world. This has been catastrophic to those that are earnestly seeking the truth. What of the genuine hearers who are subjected to the ignorance of the Christian church? Once they get turned off by the carnal church, they start getting turned off by spiritual Christians and the love grows cold. This results in disunity, fragmented fellowship, alienation and a barrier to sound teaching. Spiritual rebirth can happen all at once or it can happen in stages. Every case scenario is different for every case. The worst teachers want to teach us the way that they have been taught but this is how false tradition gets started. Each person starts a new life in a new way and we are all unique.

It has been said over and over that Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic or the Son of God. He is not just a prophet, He is not just a man, He is not just a God. He is all of those things and sits at the right hand of the Father. Jesus said this in John 16:27, "For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God." This is not so much to ask any one to accept, but I believe it must be accepted. Jesus died for us because He loved us. He loved His father and was obedient unto that death that gives us the grace to live a Christian life, for those who are truly being saved, it is the words that give us life. We know it's true because God Himself writes it into our hearts, this may be all the orthodoxy that we need.
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