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Orthodox Church : Eastern Orthodoxy


ChristianAberrational, Heretical, Heterodox, Suborthodox or Unorthodox Orthodox Catholic Church

Also known as: Orthodox Church; Greek Orthodox Church; Eastern Orthodoxy


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Note: this page was added on May 29, 2001. Like most entries in Apologetics Index, it is not yet finished. Additional material will be added soon.

Eastern Orthodoxy is the large body of Christians who follow the faith and practices that were defined by the first seven ecumenical councils. The word orthodox (''right believing'') has traditionally been used, in the Greek-speaking Christian world, to designate communities, or individuals, who preserved the true faith (as defined by those councils), as opposed to those who were declared heretical. The official designation of the church in Eastern Orthodox liturgical or canonical texts is ''the Orthodox Catholic Church.'' Because of the historical links of Eastern Orthodoxy with the Eastern Roman Empire and Byzantium (Constantinople), however, in English usage it is referred to as the ''Eastern'' or ''Greek Orthodox'' Church. These terms are sometimes misleading, especially when applied to Russian or Slavic churches and to the Orthodox communities in western Europe and America. It should also be noted that there are Monophysitic churches (holding that after Incarnation Jesus had only a divine, and not a human and divine, nature) that have adopted the term orthodox as part of their names.
Eastern Orthodox, Encyclopedia Britannica

Difference between 0rthodox and orthodox

Note the distinction between ''Orthodox'' (with a capital O) and ''orthodox'' (spelled with a capital O only at the beginning of a sentence):

Orthodox Christianity: Generically the term orthodox refers to traditional, conservative forms of Christianity, upholding the traditional Christian beliefs about God as a Trinity and about Jesus Christ as taught in the church's early creeds. In this sense orthodox Christianity includes conservative Roman Catholics, and Protestant, evangelical Christianity, and is opposed both to liberal Christianity within Christian denominations and to the teachings of the cults. More specifically, the term Orthodox (with a capital O; or, Eastern Orthodox) refers to the state churches of Eastern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean who split with Roman Catholicism of the West largely over the issue of papal authority.
Index of Cults and Religions, Watchman Fellowship

Variety among Orthodox Churches

In Becoming Orthodox, Peter Gillquist asserts, ''The Orthodox church...miraculously carries today the same faith and life of the Church of the New Testament.''6 The presupposition behind this statement is that the Orthodox church is a unified body that speaks with one voice. In fact, Orthodoxy is not a monolithic bloc that shares a unified tradition and church life. The phrase ''Eastern Orthodoxy,'' commonly used to describe the Orthodox faith, actually refers to the dominant churches of Eastern Europe. In a broad sense, the Eastern tradition comprises all the Christian churches that separated at an early stage from the Western tradition (Rome) in order to follow one of the ancient patriarchies (Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, and Constantinople).

During the twentieth century, these churches not only have spread throughout all continents, but also have penetrated many cultures that have not been traditionally associated with the Eastern tradition. Generally speaking, these churches can be grouped into one of the following:
  1. . The Orthodox churches in the Middle East. These belong to the most ancient oriental ecclesiastical units, and they include the Patriarchies of Constantinople (modern Istanbul), Alexandria (Egypt), Antioch (Syria and Lebanon), Jerusalem (Jordan and the occupied territories), the Armenian Catholicossates of Etchmiadzin (former Soviet Republic) and Cilicia (Lebanon), the Coptic Orthodox church (Egypt), and the Syrian Orthodox church (Syria, Beirut, and India). 7

  2. . The Orthodox Churches in Central and Eastern Europe. Both culturally and theologically, these churches follow closely the Byzantine (Constantinopolitan) tradition. Generally known as ''Eastern Orthodoxy,'' they include the autonomous churches of Russia, Romania, Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Albania, and Sinai.8

  3. . The Orthodox Diaspora. Organized outside the traditional Orthodox countries, these ecclesiastical communities are found in Western Europe, North and South America, Africa, Japan, China, and Australia.
These churches have significant theological, ecclesiastical, and cultural differences among themselves. For example, the fifth-century Monophysite controversy over whether Christ has two natures or one separated the Byzantine church from the ancient Eastern churches. Furthermore, the Eastern churches disagree on the date for Easter and the legitimacy of church hierarchy and sacraments. As a result of such differences, the Eastern churches have parallel ecclesiastical structures not only in the same country but even in the same city, thus disregarding the rule of one bishop in one city.

Culturally, in addition to differing local liturgical traditions, the link between church and nation that became characteristic of Eastern Orthodoxy led to the founding of churches on ethnic principles. Most of the churches understand themselves as the real protector of their individual nations, people, and cultures. Despite political benefits, the church-nation relationship raises questions regarding the universality and the unity of the church, particularly in times of political or military tension between nations supported by sister Orthodox churches.

Despite triumphalistic claims of Orthodox apologists that they embody the true apostolic faith, in reality there is a cluster of conflicting traditions, theologies, and ecclesiastical structures. Protestant evangelicals in America who were eager to embrace the Orthodox faith soon discovered that Orthodox churches in America are divided. In fact, their liturgies are spoken in their national languages and they are hesitant to welcome outsiders.9 For example, Frank Schaeffer, a passionate promoter of Orthodoxy, concluded that one side of the Orthodox church in America is a ''sort of social-ethnic club,'' infected with nominalism, materialism, ethnic pride, exclusivism, and indifference to the sacraments.10

Names of Orthodox Churches

What is the proper name for the Orthodox Church? One sees so many, and of such different variety!

It must be understood first of all that names like Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Serbian Orthodox, Romanian Orthodox, etc. are all names for one and the same Church with one and the same faith and practice. Of course within these churches there are cultural differences which do not touch the essence of the faith as such.

Sometimes the Orthodox Church is also called the Eastern Orthodox Church, or the Oriental Church, or the Christian Church of the East, or the Orthodox Catholic Church, or the Graeco-Russian Church. But once more, these are all different names for the same Church.

Care must be exercised not to confuse the Orthodox Church with the Eastern Christian Churches in union with the See of Rome: the so-called Uniates, or Byzantine or Greek Catholics. And also there is the distinction to be made between the Orthodox and the so-called Oriental Orthodox or Lesser Eastern Churches such as the Coptic Church, the Ethiopian, Syrian, Armenian, Indian, and other churches which are very close to the Orthodox Church but not part of it.

In America it must be noticed that the new autocephalous (self-governing) Church which used to be the Russian Orthodox Church of America is now simply called the Orthodox Church in America.


Christian An Evangelical Appraisal An interview with Harold O. J. Brown
Christian Eastern Orthodoxy Collection of articles in the the Spring, 1997 issue of Christian History 
Christian Eastern Orthodoxy Task Force Report This indepth report examines the differences between Orthodox teachings and those of evangelical Protestantism.
Christian Searching For The True Apostolic Church: What Evangelicals Should Know about Eastern Orthodoxy, by Paul Negrut, Christian Research Journal, Winter 1998.
Christian What the Orthodox believe Four key differences between the Orthodox and Protestants, by Daniel B. Clendenin


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Secular Eastern Orthodox Extensive entry in the Encyclopedia Britannica
Secular Orthodox Eastern Church Entry in the Columbia Encyclopedia
Christian Eastern Orthodoxy Task Force Report - Summary This summary to the full report provides a good overview of the differences between Orthodox teachings and those of evangelical Protestantism.
Christian An Overview of Eastern Orthodoxy From the International School of Theology

See Also


The mission of the Evangelical Orthodox Church is to promote the authentic and sacred teaching of the historical and undivided Holy Catholic Orthodox Church. To proclaim the christian faith based upon the Holy Scriptures and Holy Tradition. To affirm the belief in the infallibility of the seven Ecumenical Counsels and practise of the seven Sacraments or Mysteries of the Body of Christ. To spread the spirituality and experience of hesychasm and Orthodox Theology, healing, and theosis.

ChristianAberrational, Heretical, Heterodox, Suborthodox or Unorthodox Russian Orthodox Church (Pro) Official site of the Moscow Patriarchate
ChristianAberrational, Heretical, Heterodox, Suborthodox or Unorthodox Southwest Institute for Orthodox Studies (Pro)
The Southwest Institute for Orthodox Studies is an independent Orthodox Christian ministry that exists in order to help Orthodox Christians identify the beliefs and practices of cults and alternative religions, and to effectively evangelize the members of such groups. Our experience and expertise in studying and evangelizing new religions, as well as studying non-Orthodox churches and denominations, will facilitate the witness of the Orthodox community to these diverse and growing groups.

About this page:
Orthodox Church : Orthodox Catholic Church : Eastern Orthodoxy
First posted: May 29, 2001
Last Updated: May 29, 2001
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