What Orthodoxy Isn’t

This is meant to be a fun and informative followup post to What Orthodoxy Is.  It seemed appropriate to also do an “isn’t” post.

Roman Catholic – For about a thousand years, the RCC and the Eastern Orthodox were one Church; however, they split in the year 1054. Entire books have been written on the differences between Eastern and Western theology.  Some of it is a matter of differing customs; in other areas there are radically different beliefs and interpretations of Apostolic Tradition.  Some differences include unilaterally changing the Creed, Papal infallibility, the universal jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome (the Pope), the immaculate conception, the essence and energies of God (look up St. Gregory Palamas vs. Barlaam), a celibate priesthood in the RCC, purgatory, indulgences, crusades, a legal understanding of salvation in the West vs. a relational understanding in the East, etc.  For more information on why a union between East and West is not likely, see this video by Fr. Thomas Hopko:

Click here if the above video player isn’t working: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_Y-e3RyF9s

Idolatrous – the Orthodox do not worship Mary nor any other saint.  They simply believe that when a saint dies, they join Jesus in interceding for the Church.  The Orthodox petition the saints for prayer similar to the way a Christian asks others to pray for him or her.  We do not believe the saints have anything (powers, abilities, or even existence) outside of the life that they share in Christ Himself.  We do believe, however, there is a special grace that comes from union with the Church Triumphant (those in Paradise) and the Church Militant (those still in the flesh).  So why limit oneself to receiving partial grace and partial assistance?

New – the Orthodox Church is as old as the Christian faith.  Most people who study church history are able to acknowledge that.  In fact, a local Methodist Church brought their kids over for a “field trip” to the parish I attend and told the kids that we are the original church.  If you want to see a “New Testament style church service” then join us any Sunday.  Prepare yourself though; it may not look how you thought it would.

Entertaining – I struggled with this at first.  I was accustomed to a fun and entertaining Sunday morning concert from growing up in large charismatic churches.  Getting used to the liturgical, God-focused worship of the Orthodox took me a few months, but now I want nothing else.

ikonostas from orthodox.esCondemning – Many of the prayers that I hear during services and that I read during private devotionals say again and again that God is the “Lover of mankind.”  I so wish I’d grown up hearing that.

Political – According to the Pew Research Center, the Orthodox are one of the least politically active groups of Christians in America.  From what I have seen, their focus is on the Kingdom of God and transforming the individual, not through politics, but through the power of God.  We’re also an extremely small minority in this country, so no political parties have bothered targeting us.

Stuffy/Dead – To the outsider, the liturgy is foreign and ceremonial.  A non-spontaneous style of worship seems to be a very dead or stuffy form of Christianity for those who come from a more charismatic background.  But even “spontaneous” churches usually have traditions: many of the same people will sing or pray, many of the songs are the same, many of the prayers are worded similarly week-by-week.  I’m not ridiculing them, but it is important that people recognize that they create their own traditions, whether or not they think of themselves as spontaneous.  It is human nature to do so.

cs lewis smoking a cigarChristian culture focused – If you start dropping names like Rob Bell, Hill Song United, Max Lucado, or any other popular author, speaker, musician or pastor, you are likely to get some blank looks from the cradle Orthodox, with perhaps one exception being CS Lewis – many Orthodox appreciate his writings.  Of course, those who have entered into Orthodoxy from another Christian background  (such as myself) will have more knowledge of these Protestant celebrities.


What took you by surprise when you first started checking out Orthodoxy?

7 thoughts on “What Orthodoxy Isn’t

  1. also an enlightening summary. I can’t say I’ve personally considered the orthodox church to be “stuffy” or “dead.” It’s just different from what I’m used to. And you’re right; “protestants” have their traditions, too. I love a lot of the orthodox theology and perspective. I just feel that I relate more to the “protestant packaging.”

    1. I’ve been to services that have felt stuffy, but it may have just been me more than those conducting the service. I also understand what you mean about the Protestant packaging, and I certainly do not think all of that is meaningless. There are some very beautiful traditions outside of the Orthodox Church. And I love many of the hymns sung in non-Orthodox churches as well.

  2. I’m an Oriental Orthodox and i totally agree with the author. There may be other appealing variants of Christian faith but Orthodoxy is the true Apostolic faith. I think the Oriental and Eastern churches should continue their efforts to Unity. It was already jointly stated by the Church leaders that difference between us lies only in wordings and our faith is of one essence.

    1. I too would like to see the Oriental, Coptic, and Eastern Orthodox churches become completely unified. The differences in our faith, from what I have heard as well, are differences in wording. With the Coptic Church, politics played a large part in their separation 1500 years ago.

      Thank you for dropping by, brother Abraham.

  3. Jeremiah, your quotes of Pope Pius X & Pope Pius XI do not seem to be actual quotes by them. In searching the internet for the quotes, only two sites come up in Google for the first, your site and another anti-Catholic site. The second quote has many pages, but is disappointing. I am looking for the document in which these quotes are found, yet as is typical with those who criticize the Catholic Church, there is no reference or better yet, link to the document that contains the alleged statement. I would urge you to locate the source reference for the quotes or simply to remove them since it does not serve truth or honesty to repeat unsubstantiated quotations. Thank you.

    1. Andy, thank you for the feedback. I believe truth and honesty are of the utmost importance as well, and some time next week when I’m traveling a bit less, I will look into the quotes and remove them if I can’t find any acceptable documentation. They seemed consistent with theology I have read from Roman Catholics, so I posted them here. But I will look into a bit more.

      1. Thanks. I figured you would value these and so figured you may have just posted them uncritically. Most of these kinds of things are posted online which source is not even Catholic, many times anti-Catholic. It is unfair and contradicts both truth and honesty to continue propagating any ideas like this that these Popes might not have even said or written. If they did say or write them, references will give people a chance to evaluate their own words in context. As anyone who loves truth knows, text without a context is a pretext for something or other. God bless.

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