SHEPHERD TO SHEEP
THE EASTERN ORTHODOX CHURCH
Most people see Christianity as made up of Catholic and Protestant sects. But there is another branch of Christianity that contains 300 million adherents. It is called the Eastern Orthodox Church. Most of these believers live in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the Caucasus and the Middle East but also have churches in most countries and in almost every major city.
In 1054 the Great Schism occurred where there was a break of communion between what are now the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches centered in Constantinople and Rome respectively. The Orthodox Church claims to have kept the faith through the church councils while the Roman Catholic Church has strayed into heresy with the development of the papacy and supremacy over all other churches.
The Eastern Orthodox Church is not a single church but rather a family of 13 self-governing bodies such as the Greek Orthodox Church, Russian Orthodox Church, etc. They are united in their understanding of the sacraments, doctrine, liturgy, and church government, but each administers its own affairs.
The head of each Orthodox church is called a “patriarch.” The patriarch of Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey) is considered the universal patriarch. He is the nearest thing to a counterpart to the Pope in the Roman Catholic Church. He holds special honor, but he has no power to interfere with the 12 other Orthodox communions.
Orthodox believers affirm the Trinity, the Bible as the Word of God, Jesus as God the Son, and many other biblical doctrines. However, in doctrine, they have much more in common with Roman Catholics than they do with Protestant Christians.
The doctrine of justification by faith is for the most part missing from the teaching of the Orthodox Church. Rather, Orthodoxy emphasizes theosis (literally, “divinization”), the ongoing process by which Christians become more and more like Christ. But Orthodox tradition fails to understand that “divinization” is the progressive result of salvation, not a condition for salvation. Other Orthodox distinctives that conflict with the Scriptures include: The equal authority of church tradition and Scripture; the perpetual virginity of Mary; prayer for the dead; baptism of infants; the possibility of receiving salvation after death; a person may lose their salvation; prayer to saints (especially Mary); use of icons as an aid to worship.
Keep in mind: Salvation is not a gradual process: (Eph 2:8) For by grace you HAVE BEEN SAVED through faith… Sanctification is a gradual process: (1 Thes 5:23) Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely… Scripture supersedes church tradition: (Mark 7:9) He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.