Eastern Orthodox Denomination Q&A

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Eastern Orthodox Denomination Q&A

Postby John Chrysostom » Thu Feb 09, 2012 5:18 pm

I was raised Plymouth Brethren, and have attended Presbyterian and non-denominational reformed churches over the years. When I went to college I stopped going to church and didn't go for about two years. When I started looking again I found Eastern Orthodoxy.

This is a quote many Eastern Orthodox churches use to briefly explain who we are: We are Orthodox , but not Jewish. We are Catholic, but not Roman. We are evangelical--rooted in the Scriptures and preaching the good news of Jesus Christ-- but are not Protestant. We are not non-denominational we are pre-denominational. We believe that we are the ancient Church, worshiping and believing in the faith given to us by the Apostles once and for always and handed down over the past 2,000 years.

This is a slightly more expanded version of what I said: http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/ourfaith7052#

And this is the website of the parish I attend now: http://www.stmaryorthodox.org/

Fire away with any question.
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Re: Eastern Orthodox Denomination Q&A

Postby ric » Thu Feb 09, 2012 5:48 pm

Why exactly did you choose Eastern Orthodox?
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Re: Eastern Orthodox Denomination Q&A

Postby John Chrysostom » Thu Feb 09, 2012 5:57 pm

Well I was looking for a new church home after college, I wasn't very happy in the reformed denomination I had attended so I was looking elsewhere. A friend of mine who was already Orthodox gave me a book to read called "Facing East" by Fredrica Matthews-Green. The book is written by the wife of an Episcopalian priest who converted to Orthodoxy. I was drawn initially to the focus on communion, or the Eucharist, and the history of the Orthodox Church. After reading the book I attended a service at the parish I go to now, as soon as I walked in the door I was awed by the beauty of it, the iconography and the singing. For the first time I felt like I had experienced God. I felt like I had experienced heaven on earth and it was like coming home and now I feel that every time I go to church.
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Re: Eastern Orthodox Denomination Q&A

Postby ric » Thu Feb 09, 2012 6:42 pm

So, what are the biggest differences between Orthodoxy and Catholicism?
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Re: Eastern Orthodox Denomination Q&A

Postby John Chrysostom » Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:04 pm

Well the first and biggest would be the Pope. Eastern Orthodox does have a hierarchy but no one person is the supreme ruler of the Church. Most countries that have Orthodox populations have what's called a synod of bishops, essentially all of the bishops in a country. This synod deals with ecclesiastical issues and guide the Orthodox Church in that country. We share the same faith and beliefs but the flavor, for lack of a better term, varies from country to country; most often in style of music and hymnography.

We also have a different canon of Scripture having 78 books in the Bible versus the Catholics 71 and the Protestants 66.

On the doctrines of original sin and substitutionary atonement we would disagree with both the Catholic and Protestant view on both of those.

On a specifically Catholic doctrine we do not believe in the immaculate conception of Mary.

Our priests unlike Catholic ones can be married.

One of the biggest doctrines during the Schism of the East and West was the Filioque. The part of the Nicean Creed that says "And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father." Was later changed by the West to say "And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son." The Protestants left the change in during the Reformation. The Eastern Church kept the original.

There are many other differences, if there are any specific practices or doctrines you may ask me about them specifically.
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Re: Eastern Orthodox Denomination Q&A

Postby ric » Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:11 pm

So, what is the view of your church on substitutionary atonement and original sin?
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Re: Eastern Orthodox Denomination Q&A

Postby John Chrysostom » Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:20 pm

Well that's a rather complicated answer, the short answer is that we don't believe in them.

We do not believe that we are guilty of Adam's original sin, through Adam's sin judgement entered the world and creation and man were corrupted but we are not totally depraved. Our inherent nature is good, corrupted but good.

As for substitutionary atonement we look to the teachings of the Early Church and do not find this belief. It did not come about until Anselm of Canterbury in 1100. I would ask you a counter question of what do you believe substitutionary atonement to be? To Orthodox it seems that this doctrine makes out God to be this angry God whose wrath must be sated. I know that isn't how other people see it but I've never heard a good explanation.
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Re: Eastern Orthodox Denomination Q&A

Postby ric » Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:39 pm

Ayn Rand wrote:I would ask you a counter question of what do you believe substitutionary atonement to be? To Orthodox it seems that this doctrine makes out God to be this angry God whose wrath must be sated. I know that isn't how other people see it but I've never heard a good explanation.
1 Peter 2:24 “He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.” What do you believe this verse to mean? I believe it to mean that Jesus took our sins upon himself and died on the cross so that we could be saved; in essence, he was our substitute.

So, if we are basically good, why do we have to take the blame for Adam's sin?
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Re: Eastern Orthodox Denomination Q&A

Postby John Chrysostom » Thu Feb 09, 2012 7:52 pm

To me it means that Christ died so that we might live and He rose from the dead so that we might live eternally. I don't see any of the legal terms that traditionally come with substitutionary atonement. Does your understanding of substitutionary atonement include such legal terms?

I said that we were made inherently good but have been corrupted, I don't think that means taking the guilt or blame for Adam's sin.
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Re: Eastern Orthodox Denomination Q&A

Postby King Butter Turtle » Fri Feb 10, 2012 12:37 am

If you don't mind my asking, what reformed denomination did you (used to) attend?
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Re: Eastern Orthodox Denomination Q&A

Postby American Eagle » Fri Feb 10, 2012 2:17 am

Since the Church is obviously Christ's bride, why then is your church called St. Mary Orthodox Church?
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Re: Eastern Orthodox Denomination Q&A

Postby John Chrysostom » Fri Feb 10, 2012 8:50 am

KBT: I was raised Plymouth Brethren: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plymouth_Brethren I attended several Presbyterian churches, and several non-denominational churches that were also reformed. Oh and when I lived in Germany we went to a Baptist church for a year and a half.

Cato: Well the full name of our church is actually Protection of the Holy Mother of God Orthodox Church but we call it St. Marys for short. But I don't see what the Church being the bride of Christ has to do with our name. We believe that we are the bride of Christ, if that's what you're wondering. If I may ask what is the name of your church?

Edit: Let me just say this, we're not some sect of Eastern Orthodoxy that worships Mary if that's what you're getting at, any more than any church named after a town is worshiping that town.
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Re: Eastern Orthodox Denomination Q&A

Postby American Eagle » Fri Feb 10, 2012 5:07 pm

Ayn Rand wrote:If I may ask what is the name of your church?
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Ayn Rand wrote:Edit: Let me just say this, we're not some sect of Eastern Orthodoxy that worships Mary if that's what you're getting at, any more than any church named after a town is worshiping that town.
That is remotely close to what I was aiming for.

What is your view of Mary, then? Is she holy? Just a human?
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Re: Eastern Orthodox Denomination Q&A

Postby John Chrysostom » Fri Feb 10, 2012 5:14 pm

Mary is a human just like you and me. She is to be called blessed because Scripture tells us to do so in Luke 1:46-48 “My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed." In our hymnography we call Mary the Theotokos which means God-bearer or Mother of God, because that is what she is.
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Re: Eastern Orthodox Denomination Q&A

Postby ric » Fri Feb 10, 2012 11:08 pm

Ayn Rand wrote:To me it means that Christ died so that we might live and He rose from the dead so that we might live eternally. I don't see any of the legal terms that traditionally come with substitutionary atonement. Does your understanding of substitutionary atonement include such legal terms?

I said that we were made inherently good but have been corrupted, I don't think that means taking the guilt or blame for Adam's sin.
Ok, that seems to me to be basically substitutionary atonement in the most basic terms. "Christ died so we might live" doesn't really make sense to me, so naturally I take that to mean "Christ died in our place." To me, it doesn't make God seem angry or wrathful at all. It makes him seem just, yet gracious.
So, would you say you agree with this? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atonement_ ... ristianity
I don't really understand that. If you agree with that view, could you maybe expound on it a bit more?

Are we not taking the blame for Adam's sin? Were we not banished from Paradise?

Good corrupted is evil. How could we be corrupted yet still inherently good?

Btw, I really know nothing about the different views on all of these subjects, so this is really just a learning experience for me. Don't take it wrongly if I seem somewhat ignorant at times, because, well, I am. :P
Last edited by ric on Sat Feb 11, 2012 10:47 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Eastern Orthodox Denomination Q&A

Postby John Chrysostom » Fri Feb 10, 2012 11:33 pm

See I never understood the legal terms used to explain Christ's death. Christ died so that we might live does. If Christ was dying to fulfill a legal obligation that cheapens the Resurrection for me, because the Resurrection becomes some what unnecessary since the "fine" has already been paid on the cross. Christ didn't rise from the dead just because it would be nice for Him to be alive He did it to show that we too can. We still have to die but because Christ died and then rose we who are dead will be made alive in Him.

I agree with the section that says what Eastern Orthodox believe. We do not believe that Christ died to appease God or to avert God's wrath but to transform our human nature. As St. Athanasius said "God became man so that men might become gods" Now we don't mean that in the same way Mormons do, C.S. Lewis explained it so much better than I ever could.
C.S. Lewis wrote:The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were ‘gods’ and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him – for we can prevent Him, if we choose – He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.

This is the doctrine of Theosis and is one of the key doctrines of Orthodoxy and one of the big differences between Eastern and Western Christianity in my mind.

By inherently good I mean that the good is there to redeem, we as humans were created perfectly, when Adam sinned we were corrupted but the good is still there. To say that we are guilty of Adam's sin to me is like saying that a baby whose mother did drugs while pregnant with him is guilty of the mothers sin because the baby has to live with the consequences of his mothers actions. We need to distinguish between living with the consequences and being guilty of sin. At the judgement seat we will not be judged for the sins of Adam, we will be judged for our own sins.
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Re: Eastern Orthodox Denomination Q&A

Postby ric » Sat Feb 11, 2012 11:01 am

Ok, this Theosis seems reasonable to me. I might even agree with it, if I understood it better. I just don't see how Christ dying then resurrecting makes us more like God. I don't see the logical connection. I'm sure there is one, but what is it.
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Re: Eastern Orthodox Denomination Q&A

Postby John Chrysostom » Sat Feb 11, 2012 11:09 am

It in of itself does not make us more like God. It opens the way for the transformation of our human nature to be more like God, so that one day we may participate in His divine nature. Because Christ was fully man and He died and rose again and fully participated in the divine nature so too can we, we are commanded to be perfect just as Christ was perfect and so too attain Theosis.

This is an excellent article on the topic of Theosis: http://www.antiochian.org/content/theos ... ine-nature
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Re: Eastern Orthodox Denomination Q&A

Postby ric » Sat Feb 11, 2012 3:33 pm

Hmmm, I guess you've won my over. :-

I don't entirely understand though. If the Holy Spirit is at work in you, why does it matter whether you call it "making us more like Christ" or "making us into the likeness of Christ"?
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Re: Eastern Orthodox Denomination Q&A

Postby John Chrysostom » Sat Feb 11, 2012 4:01 pm

I think it's not an either or in that situation. We will become mirrors reflecting back the likeness of God's nature but at the same time by virtue of perfectly reflecting God's nature we become more like Him too.
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