Orthodox Christians comprise a third stream of Christianity alongside Catholicism and Protestantism. Orthodox believers, whether they're American Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox or some other denomination, all assent to the same belief system. While they share many beliefs with other Christians, there are also beliefs that are unique to the Orthodox faith.
Orthodox and Catholic Christianity represent the oldest variations of the faith. Christianity in the East centered around Constantinople, which is modern-day Istanbul. These beliefs can be traced back through the Eastern Fathers such as Athanasius, Basil and John Chrysostom. Geographic and cultural differences led to practices and beliefs that differed from those in the Western church, which was centered in Rome. In 1066 differences in belief regarding the doctrine of the Holy Spirit led to a final schism between East and West.
American, Greek and other Orthodox Christians recognize two primary sources of belief. They believe the church itself is the guardian and source of correct belief. The traditions passed down within the Orthodox faith through the ages form the cord doctrines. Orthodox Christians also recognize the scriptures as a source of belief, although scripture must be understood in the context of the church in order to be interpreted correctly.
Orthodox Christians share many beliefs with other Christians, particularly those expressed in the Nicene Creed. These include the belief that God is a trinity: He is one God comprised of three persons with the same essence. Orthodox Christians teach that Jesus was both human and divine. They accept the biblical story that describes the life, death and resurrection of Christ.
Unlike Protestants, Orthodox Christians believe that scripture is subservient to the church's traditions. They also believe that good works play an essential role in salvation from sin and hell, while Protestants believe salvation is by faith alone. Orthodox churches teach that the Virgin Mary was sinless and that she plays a role in salvation as well.
Orthodox Christianity differs from Roman Catholicism in several areas, too. Roman Catholics believe that the pope, the Bishop of Rome, has authority over the other bishops. Orthodox Christians believe that bishops are all equals. Orthodox also omit the phrase "and the Son" from the Nicene Creed when referring to the procession of the Holy Spirit, unlike Catholics.
Worship and practice are integral to Orthodox belief. Orthodox Christians recite the Nicene Creed during their worship services. The seven sacraments of baptism, Chrismation or confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, marriage, holy orders and the anointing of the sick are the means via which God provides grace to human beings. The Eucharist is especially significant for Orthodox Christians, as they believe it is the core component of a worship service.
- Early Christians: The Fathers of the Church
- Greek Orthodox Archidiocese of America: The Fundamental Teachings of the Eastern Orthodox Church
- Orthodox Church in America: The Nicene Creed
- Catholic Answers: Eastern Orthdoxy
- Orthodox Christian Information Center: Orthodoxy and Western Christianity: For Reformed Protestants
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