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 a unilateral change in the creed that Rome previously agreed not to change, Papal infallibility, the universal jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome (the Pope), the immaculate conception, the essence and energies of God (see St. Gregory Palamas vs. Barlaam), a celibate priesthood in the RCC, purgatory, indulgences, crusaders, 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
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.
CONDEMNING – 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 to market themselves to 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.
CHRISTIAN CULTURE FOCUSED – If you start dropping names like Rob Bell, Michael W Smith, TD Jakes, 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.
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