History of the Ignored
As I mentioned in my previous post, I heard from reading church history books that there was something called the Orthodox Church. I didn’t have much interest in it though as many books passed it off as being insignificant, very ethnic (Greek, Russian, etc), and somewhat Roman Catholic.
As far as I know, the Orthodox Church never fought any great wars, never led crusades (in fact, they were the victims of one of the Roman Catholic Church’s crusades when some rogue Crusaders sacked the city of Constantinople), and they were relatively peaceful. From a historical standpoint, that is boring and not worthy of discussion.
A Rich Theology
What caught my attention was their deep theology. There are subtle differences between the theology of the east and the west. While logic is king in western theology thanks to folks such as Thomas Aquinas, the Eastern Church delights in paradoxes, mysteries, and mysticism.
In A Generous Orthodoxy, Brian McLaren shares the Eastern Orthodox explanation of Jesus. Where the western church focuses primarily on the death of Jesus satisfying a wrathful God, the Eastern Church celebrates the life and love of Jesus and his victory over death. While western churches teach the total depravity of man (that even at birth we are steeped in sin), the East focuses on man being made in God’s image, and though that image is tarnished, it is still present in every human being.
Wading into the waters of the East
After reading McLaren’s book, I decided I wanted to learn more about Orthodoxy. I read Kallistos Ware’s books The Orthodox Church and The Orthodox Way while also conversing with some Orthodox folks online. After a while, I realized the only thing left was to actually visit an Orthodox church and see what it was like. So, I had a difficult discussion with my non-denominational pastor letting him know why he wouldn’t see me at church anymore, or at least not for a while.
I still had so many questions including: Will they speak in English? Will it be too ceremonial? Do they even want visitors?
But my wife and I went for it and visited. It was definitely a shock for both of us. The service was half Greek, half English, and it was very ceremonial. For more on our first visit to an Eastern Orthodox Liturgy, check out this posting.