The (Eastern) orthodox church is a communion of churches distinct from Roman Catholicism and Protestantism. Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism became distinct in the "great schism" of 1054 AD. Unlike the Roman Catholic Church, the orthodox church has no single authority. The "orthodox" beliefs mentioned below have been taken from various orthodox sources.
The following is a critique of Orthodox Christianity. We begin by comparing some orthodox teachings with Biblical teachings on the same subject. The lack of agreement of the former with the latter refutes the orthodox claim of being the "original/ancient/true" faith.
Note the following:
The following are the orthodox "sacraments" or "mysteries".
Infants are baptized on the basis of the confession of faith of the godparents.
Salvation is by faith in Christ; it is not by doing good works. The Bible makes no provision for transferring the standing of the parents to the infant via baptism. Forgiveness of sins comes from the blood of Jesus (Ephesians 1:7), not baptism! The above is completely different from Biblical teaching on baptism
Eucharist (the Lord's Supper):
The bread and wine gets transformed into the body and blood of Jesus. It is a sacrifice for the remission of sins. The sacrifice of Christ is not being repeated, but made present again. Incredulous? God does this and it is outside "earthly logic".
Something that is past (32 AD) cannot be made present again. Not only is it outside "earthly logic", it is also outside "heavenly truth" contained in the Bible. See The Lord's Supper
When you confess your sins to a priest or monastic, your sins are forgiven.
Since both monasticism (see above) and the orthodox priesthood (see below) are against the Bible, so is "confession". Biblical confession of mere faults is to one another (James 5:16) and of sins is to God (1 John 1:9, Psalm 51:1, etc).
It is the holy mystery by which a baptized person is granted the gift of the Holy Spirit through anointing with oil. It is a personal participation in the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It is done shortly after baptism (that is, in infancy). Through chrismation, a person becomes part of the people of God. It is done by applying "holy oil" having 40 ingredients on specific body parts in the "sign of the Cross".
The Bible has no such practice. We see no oil, no forty ingredients, and no "sign of the cross"! You become part of God's people when you get saved by trusting Jesus Christ (something that infants can't do). When does the Holy Spirit begin to indwell in Christians?
Married life requires a special gift from the Holy Spirit, which is bestowed in the sacrament of Holy Matrimony.
Marriage is suitable not only for believers but even unbelievers who do not have the Holy Spirit. Jesus readily attended weddings (John 2:1-2) and godly influence will definitely help believers to be better spouses than pagans but the Bible does not prescribe any procedure for the wedding ceremony, so it is pure presumption to pontificate about some "gift from the Holy Spirit" bestowed during a wedding ceremony conducted by "priests".
It is unscriptural because the positions to which the person is ordained are absent in the Bible. For Biblical offices, the Bible only prescribes the laying of hands and prayer by other leaders (Acts 13:3).
Anointing with oil
The basic procedure is scriptural (James 5:14-15) but the orthodox church adds specific prayers and rituals.
In order to be saved, you need:-
The Orthodox do not see salvation in forensic, legal categories, but in medical terms.
We have access to God only by repentant faith in Jesus Christ. Works cannot save us; they are only a proof that our faith is genuine. The Bible does describe salvation in forensic/legal terms (see Romans 5:1 for example, where the word "justified" is a forensic term). In insisting on works for salvation, the orthodox reject God's way, and thus God has no option but to condemn them. Since orthodox Christianity differs from the Bible in this crucial aspect, Biblical Christians cannot accept the orthodox as fellow-Christians.
"But the soul of the deceased is aided by the prayers of the church, of all those who knew and loved him, and also by acts of charity carried out for his sake. By doing good deeds for the sake of those who are dead, we are, as it were, completing what they left undone, paying their debts and offering our own sacrifice to the Merciful Lord on their behalf" (The Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, No 10, 1976)
This is completely foreign to the Bible (Hebrews 9:27, Ephesians 2:8-9, Ephesians 1:7, etc).
The early Church called the Sacraments of the Church, Holy Mysteries. A mystery is the reality through which the invisible grace of God is effected in or conferred upon the souls of the faithful under a perceptible form (sanctified matter). Seven things are grouped together as "mysteries" or "sacraments" (as described above).
There is confusion and error on several counts:-
The orthodox use liturgy, candles, "icons" (pictures), etc. in their "worship".
All the above are absent in the New Testament. Icons specifically violate Biblical commands (Deuteronomy 4:15-18, Exodus 20:4-5). In Worship I explain why liturgy and candles are inappropriate for New Testament worship.
The Orthodox Church venerates Mary and other prominent Bible characters. Mary is called the "Mother of God". She was a "perpetual virgin".
The title "Mother of God" and the veneration that the orthodox give to Mary are absent from the Bible. God does not have a mother. Mary was the mother of Jesus. So if Jesus was God, why is it inappropriate to call Mary the mother of God? Because all the three persons of the Trinity, including the Son of God who came to earth as Jesus, existed since the beginning - long before Mary was even born. Mary did not carry the Father and the Holy Spirit in her womb! Mary was a virtuous woman and should be respected as such - there have been thousands of virtuous men and women since. God has not asked us to venerate them all. Nowhere in the New Testament are Christians asked to venerate Mary or other humans. Was Mary perpetual virgin?
"But the Jews of today have no hope of recovering their forefathers' way of life. In what prophet can they find proof that they will?...the temple would come to a final devastation and completely disappear...[Since Jewish attempts under Bar Kochba, etc to rebuild the temple have failed] Therefore there can be no dispute or question but that the Church has won the victory crown." Orthodox "church father" John Chrysostom, From Homilies Against the Jews, 4 and 5.
This doctrine is sometimes called Replacement Theology and it is contrary to what the Bible teaches
The following are some of the better known misdeeds of the Orthodox Church:-
These incidents illustrate a principle: the orthodox church has no conscience and no room for freedom of conscience. Wherever and whenever the orthodox church has had sufficient power, it has implemented this principle by ruthlessly persecuting those who disagree with her, including Biblical Christians. Unlike sexual abuse and financial misconduct, which orthodox apologists will evade as misdemeanor by deviants, persecution of those who disagree with orthodoxy is "official" policy. Biblical Christians fed up of persecution in Europe came to America. God blessed them and America became a center of freedom, prosperity, dignity, and innovation. Today, the Orthodox Church actively proselytizes in America – something it would never allow another faith to do in a country where it is dominant. Thus, the orthodox church is guilty of double standards (just like the Roman Catholic Church and propagandists for most religions).
Here is a summary of some of the points mentioned above.
|Doctrine||Bible ||Orthodoxy ||Hinduism |
|Can a dip in water take away sin?||No||Yes||Yes|
| Is it good/special to worship facing the East?||No||Yes||Yes|
|Is clergy distinct from laity?||No||Yes||Yes|
|Should clergy dress differently?||No||Yes||Yes|
|Does God have a mother?||No||Yes||Yes|
|Is asceticism good for spiritual development?||No||Yes||Yes|
|Is bowing before images of God good?||No||Yes||Yes|
|Do candles, incense, etc. have a place in worship?||No||Yes||Yes|
|Is grace imparted through stuff we eat?||No||Yes||Yes|
|Are works instrumental in justification?||No||Yes||Yes|
|Is it good to pray to good dead people?||No||Yes||Yes|
|Is there a religious calendar to be followed today?||No||Yes||Yes|
|Is there moral virtue in abstaining from sex with one's spouse?||No|| Yes || Yes |
Looking at this table, you may wonder whether there was some secret correspondence between orthodox clergy and Hindus in distant India. The explanation is more mundane: all pagan religions have a common origin in the Tower of Babel. I've used Hinduism for reference, but all pagan religions are similar. Thus, orthodox theology is similar to Greek/Roman paganism. So there we have the conclusion: Orthodox Christianity is not the "original Christian faith". It is the result of a drift: the amalgamation of paganism with Christianity. Such a drift is not surprising. Language, tradition, fashion, etc have an inherent tendency to drift. That's why God's written word is so precious.