For nearly 1,000 years, the Eastern Orthodox Church has remained separated from the Catholic church. While there are more than 1.2 million Orthodox Christians in the United States, many Catholics and Protestants simply aren't familiar with Orthodox beliefs and practices. This often leads to misunderstandings about core doctrines, such as whether or not Eastern Orthodox believe Jesus is the savior.
Son of God
In Eastern Orthodox belief, Jesus Christ is God's son, but he is also God. He is the second person of the Trinity. Orthodox Christians accept the ancient articulation of the Trinity as expressed in the Nicene Creed. The Creed describes Jesus as "Light of Light; true God of true God; begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father." Like most Catholics and Protestants, Eastern Orthodox believe Jesus died as a sacrifice for humanity's sins and that without Jesus a person cannot be saved from sin and eternal hell.
Eastern Orthodox Christians believe salvation begins and ends with Jesus Christ. God became human and suffered on the cross in order to break through the wall of sin separating God and humanity. Salvation, ultimately, means being united with God and participating in God's divine nature. That salvation comes on the day of Christ's judgement. Christians' bodies will raise from the dead transfigured and transformed, just as Christ's body raised from the dead.
Salvation isn't the same as conversion in Eastern Orthodoxy. Conversion is only the beginning point of salvation, that moment when a human being begins to spiritually commune with God. Orthodox Christians believe salvation encompasses the entire Christian life and culminates on the day of judgement.
Faith that Works
Faith is an essential component of God's redemptive work in Eastern Orthodoxy. This isn't a simply faith that gives intellectual ascent to certain doctrines, although that is one component of faith. This is a faith that is inseparable from good works. Orthodox Christians describe this as "faith working through love." Orthodox Christians don't believe that a person can be saved by doing good works. Rather, Christ's suffering makes it possible for human beings to have this kind of faith.
Eastern Orthodox Christians believe the Church is integral to salvation. Jesus Christ founded the Church as the vehicle through which he expresses his divine revelation. The Church is where faithful Christians are taught and made holy. All of Christ's saving work is contained within the Church's ministry. The Church provides opportunity for saints and sinners to repent, be forgiven of sin and participate in the divine sacraments. Through the ministry of the Church and its sacraments, Christians become more and more united with God and are prepared for the final day of salvation.
- Orthodox Church in America: The Symbol of Faith
- Patheos Library: Eastern Orthodox - Afterlife and Salvation
- Self-Ruled Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America: Salvation
- Syrian Orthodox Resources: Faith Working through Love
- Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America: The Fundamental Teachings of the Eastern Orthodox Church
- Hartford Institute for Religion Research: How many Eastern Orthodox are there in the USA?
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