Bishop Alexander of the Russian Orthodox church
Contents: Characteristics of the true Church. The Orthodox Church. Roman Catholicism. Rome and Russia. Protestantism. Lutheranism and its Evolution. Calvinism, the Reformed Church, and Presbyterianism. Anglicanism. Conclusion.
Today’s numerous churches and various sectarian cults make it difficult for many to understand which of these is the true Church and whether, indeed, there exists one true Church in our time. Perhaps, some think, the original Apostolic Church gradually disintegrated, and now only fragments exist of her former spiritual richness, blessedness, and truth. With this view of the Church, some consider that she can be reconstructed from existing Christian denominations by means of agreement and mutual compromises. This point of view is notable in the contemporary ecumenical movement, which does not consider any one church to be the true Church. Perhaps, others think, the Church never actually had anything in common with the formal established churches but always consisted of the faithful believers belonging to the various church groups. This latter belief, advanced by contemporary Protestant believers, is reflected in the teaching of those who call it the “invisible church.” Finally, for many Christians it is unclear that there need be any church at all if man is saved through his faith.
All these contradictions and, in reality, false concepts about the Church flow from a misunderstanding of the central teachings of Christ on man’s salvation. When we read the Gospels and the epistles, it becomes clear that, in the words of Christ, man cannot save his own soul individually and independently but rather in unison with other Christians who comprise the blessed kingdom of God on earth. Indeed, in its battle against the Church, the kingdom of evil, governed by the power of darkness, works in a unity of which the Savior reminded us, saying, “If Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?” (Matt. 12:26).
In addition, despite the diversity of contemporary thought on the Church, the majority of righteous Christians agree with the view that in the apostles’ time there existed one Church of Christ as a single community of the saved. The book of the Acts of the Apostles testifies to the existence of the Church in Jerusalem when, on the fiftieth day after the Resurrection of our Savior, the Holy Spirit, in the form of flaming tongues, descended on the apostles. From that day on, the Christian faith spread quickly to various parts of the Roman Empire. As a result of the dispersion of the faithful, there developed Christian communities, called churches, in cities and towns. In their daily life, because of the great distances between them, these congregations were more or less isolated. However, they considered themselves part of the organization of the one, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church. They were united in one faith, in a single source of enlightenment, and steeped in the blessed sacraments: Baptism, Holy Communion, and the laying on of hands. Originally, these blessed sacraments were performed by the apostles. However, soon after, helpers were needed, and among the members of the Christian congregations, the apostles selected worthy candidates chosen to be bishops, priests, and deacons. The apostles instructed the bishops in their responsibility to follow pure Christian teaching, to teach the faithful to live piously, and to ordain new bishops, priests, and deacons. Thus, the Church, during the first century, like a tree, constantly grew and spread its branches over various countries, enriched by spiritual experiences, religious literature, church services, and, later, by church choirs, the architecture of the churches, and ecclesiastical arts, but always preserving the essence of the true Church of Christ.
The Gospels and Epistles did not appear right away or even simultaneously. For many decades after the establishment of the Church, the source of teaching was not the Holy Scriptures as we have them today, but the oral preaching that the apostles themselves called “the Tradition,” that is, the true religious teaching. In the Church it has always had the deciding significance in the question of what was right and what was not. Whenever something arose that was not in agreement with apostolic teaching — be it with regard to faith, administration of the Sacraments, or Church organization — it was recognized as false and rejected. Continuing the apostolic Tradition, bishops of the early Church laboriously checked all the Christian manuscripts and gradually collected the works of the apostles, the Gospels and Epistles, into one complete set, which is called the New Testament, and together with the books of the Old Testament, comprises the Holy Bible we have today. This process of compilation was completed in the third century. Books that were claimed to be apostolic but were subject to debate and were not in complete agreement with the apostolic tradition were rejected as false or “apocryphal.” In this manner, it was apostolic Tradition that had the overriding significance in determining which books would be included in the New Testament — the written treasure of the Church. Today, Christians of all denominations use the New Testament — often arbitrarily, without reverence, not realizing that it is the property of the true Church — a treasure carefully collected by it. It is important to remember that “the Bible came out of the Church; the Church did not come out of the Bible.”
Thanks to those writers who came before us, disciples of the holy apostles who wrote commentaries, we know many valuable details about the life and faith of the first century Christian era. At that time, the faith in the existence of the one Holy, Apostolic Church was universal. It is natural that the Church then had its own visible expression — in the “suppers of love” (liturgies) and other services, in its bishops and priests, in the prayers and church singing, in the canons (the apostolic rules), regulating life and the relations among different church communities, and in all the manifestations of the life of Christian societies. Thus it must be recognized that the teaching about an “invisible” church or one lacking any order or authority is new and false.
Having agreed with the fact of the existence of a single real Church in the first centuries of Christianity, is it possible to find a historic moment when the Church was broken up and ceased to exist? The honest answer ought to be — no! The fact of the matter is that deviations from the purity of apostolic teaching — heresies — started to crop up even during apostolic time. The Gnostic teachings, which added elements of pagan philosophy to the Christian faith, proved to be particularly dynamic then. In their epistles, the apostles warned Christians against these teachings and maintained that adherents to these sects had turned away from the true Faith. The apostles behaved toward heretics as toward dry branches that had dropped away from the tree of the Church. In like manner, the successors of the apostles, the bishops of the early centuries, also did not acknowledge as competent those who had deviated from the apostolic Faith and excommunicated from the Church persistent adherents of these teachings, following the admonition of the Apostle Paul: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:8)
Thus, in the first century of Christianity the question about the unity of the Church was clear: the Church is a single spiritual family of believers, bringing from apostolic times the true teaching, the only sacraments, and the unbroken succession of grace, transferred from bishop to bishop. For the successors of the apostles there was no doubt that the Church is completely necessary for salvation. She safeguards and proclaims the pure teaching of Christ, she sanctifies believers and leads them to salvation. Using figurative comparisons of Holy Scripture, the Church in the first centuries of Christianity thought of itself as the guarded “fold” in which the Good Shepherd, Christ, protects His sheep from the “wolf,” the devil. The Church was the vine from which believers, like branches, received spiritual strength necessary for Christian living and good works. The Church understood itself as the Body of Christ, in which each believer, like a physical member, must work for the benefit of all. The Church was like Noah’s Ark, in which believers sailed over the sea of life and reached the harbor of the Kingdom of Heaven. The Church resembled a high mountain, rising above human delusions, and leading its travelers towards heaven, to commune with God, the angels, and the saints.
In the early centuries of Christianity, to believe in Christ meant to believe also in that which He accomplished on this earth, the means which He gave believers for their salvation, which cannot be abused or taken away by the devil. The prophets of the Old Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ, and His apostles definitely taught about the existence of the Church until the end times of the world. “And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed . . . it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever,” an angel foretold to the prophet Daniel (Dan. 2:44). And the Lord promised the Apostle Peter: “Upon this rock (of faith) I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).
In like manner, if we believe in the promise of Our Savior, we must recognize the existence of His Church in our times and until the end of the world. We have not yet indicated where the true Church is but only expressed the principle precept that she must exist in her sacred, whole, and real nature. Fragmented, injured, evaporated — she is not the Church.
So where is she? In what signs can she be found amidst the numerous contemporary Christian faiths?
First of all, the true Church must support the undamaged pure Christian teaching, preached by the apostles. In offering truth to people, which consists in the coming of the Son of God to this earth, Jesus said before His crucifixion and suffering, “to this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice” (John 18:37). The Apostle Paul, teaching his disciple Timothy how to perform his pastoral duties, writes in conclusion, “that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). With regret, we must admit that in the teaching of contemporary Christians there is much discord. In principle it is necessary to agree that not all can teach truth. If, for example, one church insists that communion is the Body and Blood of Christ, and another that it is not, then it is impossible that both are right? Or, if one church believes in the reality of spiritual power of the sign of the cross, and another rejects this power, apparently one of them has strayed. The true Church must be that one which does not disagree in the faith of the Church of the early Christians. When a person objectively compares the teaching of contemporary Christian churches (as we will further discuss), he must come to the conclusion, that only the Orthodox Church confesses the true Faith of the ancient, apostolic Church.
Another sign by which we can find the true Church is in the blessing or power of God, with which the called Church enlightens and strengthens the believers. Another blessing is an invisible strength. It, however, exists in the outward realm which can be observed by its existence or absence; it is an apostolic continuity. From the time of the apostles, blessings were given to the believers in the sacrament of Baptism, Holy Communion, the laying of the hands (anointing the clergy), and others. Those who accomplished these Sacraments were at first the apostles, then the episcopate and clergy. The right to perform the Sacraments of the laying of the hands was passed on exclusively by apostolic succession, since the apostles selected bishops, priests and deacons. Apostolic succession is like a sacred fire, from which one candle lights the others. If the fire is extinguished or the apostolic chain of succession is broken, then there are no true spiritual leaders or valid Sacraments. The means of salvation for the believers are lost. This is the reason that ever since the apostles’ time, the rite of apostolic succession was always faithfully observed, such that the bishops passed the succession on to deserving bishops. Thus, the laying of the hands comes from the first apostles. The bishops who fall into heresy or behave unfittingly were deposed and lost the right to perform the Sacraments and to participate in the consecration of new bishops.
In our time, only a few churches exist in which this apostolic succession presents no disbelief. The Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic Church and several non-orthodox eastern churches such as the Coptic Church. Modern “Christian” denominations, in principle, reject the necessity of succession of the apostles and clergy. Thus, for this reason alone, they reject the Church of the first century and cannot be called the true Church.
Of course, the spiritually sensitive person needs no outward proof of God’s infinite Grace, since he experiences the warmth and peaceful relationship which he receives from the Sacraments and worship in the Orthodox Church. Christians must differentiate God’s Grace from the harmful spiritualism of ecstasy, which is artificially evoked by sectarians, such as the “Pentecostals” at their prayer meetings. Signs of true blessing consist of peace of soul, love towards God and one’s neighbor, kindness, faithfulness, patience, gentleness and other similar fruits of the Spirit named by the Apostle Paul in his epistle to the Galatians (5:22-26).
Another sign of the true Church is seen in her suffering. If people find it difficult to determine which Church is the true one, the devil, her adversary, understands this well enough. He despises the Church and attempts to destroy her. Familiarizing ourselves with the history of the Church, we see in truth that her history is written with tears and blood of her martyrs for their faith. At first, this persecution was started by the Jewish high priests and scribes during the time of the apostles. Then came three hundred years of persecution by the Roman emperors and governors. After them, the sword was raised against the Church by the Arab Muslims, then the invasion of Latin Crusaders from the west. They ripped apart the physical strength of Byzantium to such a degree that the stronghold of Orthodoxy could not withstand the attack of the Turks in the 14th and 15th centuries. Finally, atheistic communists inflicted their cruelty, destroying more Christians than all the past enemies of the Faith combined had done. But herein is the miracle: the blood of the martyrs becomes the seed for new Christians, and, as Christ promised, the gates of hell cannot destroy the Church.
Finally, a correct comparison is an easy way to distinguish the Church of Christ from false teachings. The true Church must continue to exist from the time of the apostles. It is not necessary to delve into all the details of the development and dissemination of all of the other forms of “Christianity.” Suffice to say that when some church appears in the 16th or another such century, but does not originate at the time of the apostles, it cannot be the true Church. Thus, it is proper to express a protest when other denominations consider themselves the Church of Christ, having their origin in Luther, his followers, or some other sectarian. Such denominations include the Lutherans, Calvinists, Presbyterians, and later, the Baptists, Adventists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Pentecostals and others like them. These denominations were not established by Christ and His apostles, but by false prophets: Luther, Calvin, the founders of the Church of England, Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, and other latter day “prophets.”
The real purpose of this brochure is to acquaint the Orthodox reader with the historical development of the major contemporary “Christian” faiths and the content of their teaching, so that he might see how they differ from one holy and apostolic Church established by Christ. At the time of “Christological disputes,” from the 4th to the 8th centuries, several heretical groups broke away from the Church. They included the Arians, Macedonians, Nestorians, Monophysites and Monothelites, iconoclasts, and others. Their teachings were condemned by the seven Ecumenical Councils, and their heresies, while very dangerous, have often taken new and “modern” forms in various sects, denominations, cults, and the “new age movement.” We will not discuss all of these early heresies here, but will examine the current “religions” claiming to be Christian. First, though, let us examine the true Church.
Studying the history of Christianity, we are convinced that the appearance of the Orthodox Church definitely arises from the time of the apostles. The Church, small at first, like the example of the mustard seed used by the Savior, grew gradually into a mighty tree, spreading its branches over the entire world. Even in the first century, we find Christian congregations in almost all the cities in the Roman empire: in the Holy Land, Syria, Armenia, Asia Minor, Hellene, Macedonia, Italy, Galea, Egypt, North Africa, Spain, Britannia, and even beyond the empire, in far away Arabia, India and Scythia. By the end of the first century, Christian congregations were most often headed by bishops, who were the bearers of the bounty of the apostolic blessings. The bishops also directed congregations which were smaller than in the larger neighboring towns and cities. As early as the second century, bishops of large regions were called metropolitans and were responsible for the bishops in their regions. The metropolitan had the responsibility to meet regularly with the bishops to discuss religious and administrative matters.
In addition to regional episcopal sees in the Roman Empire, there were the imperial dioceses. In major centers of government there developed centers for the more widespread Church organizations, later to be named patriarchates. In the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which assembled in Thessalonica in 451 A.D., boundaries were drawn for the five patriarchal sees: Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem (which was not assigned administrative duties but was recognized for its spiritual significance).
With the passage of time and effects of various historical events, patriarchal regions lessened or grew in size. Great changes were brought about as the result of the attacking German nation on Europe (at the end of the 4th century) pressure from Persia, and the attack of Arabs on the eastern region of the Byzantine Empire (middle of the 7th century). In the middle of the 9th century noticeable movement is seen towards acceptance of Christianity by the Slavic nations. In the enlightenment of Bulgaria and Moravia, the monks Cyril and Methodius were especially industrious. From Bulgaria the Christian religion advanced towards Serbia. A great contribution was performed by Saints Cyril and Methodius in their creation of the Slavic alphabet, and in translations from the Greek to the Slavic language selected books of worship and devotion, and Books of the Holy Scripture. Their work prepared Russia for Christianity.
On the northern coast of the Black Sea there existed Christian congregations already at the end of the first century. Massive demands by the Christian Slavic tribes occupying Russia led to the baptism of Russia. In 988, during the reign of the Grand Prince Vladimir, the population of Kiev population was baptized in the Dniper River.
From Kiev, the Orthodox Faith spread to other parts of Russia. The greatness of the Russian Orthodox Church before the revolution can be judged by the following facts: in Russia there were 1,098 monasteries with more than 90,000 monks and nuns. In addition to the Patriarch of Moscow, there were six metropolitans, 136 bishops, 48,000 priests, and 15,000 deacons serving 60,000 churches and chapels. For the instruction of the seminarians there were four religious academies, 57 seminaries, and 185 spiritual institutions. Great quantities of bibles, various prayer books, religious literature, and liturgical texts were printed.
Beginning with the middle of the 18th century, through the labor of St. Herman of Alaska and other Orthodox Russian missionaries, Orthodoxy spread to Alaska, where many Aleutians were baptized. Orthodoxy spread in North America both through the immigration of Orthodox people from Greece and the Slavic nations and through conversion. (There are now more than three million Orthodox Christians in the United States).
Unfortunately, in time, Russia did not treasure her spiritual riches but began to delight in the western ideas. By 1918, attacks were intensified on the Church by atheists in their merciless attempt to destroy all the clergy, the faithful, and the churches. This could be seen in the light of the Book of Revelation, in which great tribulations were foretold for the Christian Faith before the end of the world.
At present, the organization of the Orthodox Church consists of churches centered in Constantinople (with a great number of believers in Europe, North and South America headed by the patriarchal clergy in Istanbul, Turkey); Alexandria (Egypt); Antioch (with its capital in Damascus, Syria); Jerusalem; Russia; Georgia; Serbia; Rumania; Bulgaria; Greece; Albania; Poland; Czechoslovakia; Latvia; and the “Orthodox Church in America.” The Finnish and Japanese Orthodox Churches are autonomous. After World War I there developed a great number of Orthodox Greek and Russian congregations (of the Russian Church Abroad) in almost all parts of the world. The total number of Orthodox Christians in the world is now estimated at about 130,000,000.
The naming of the Church as “Orthodox” occurred during the period of religious dispute from the 4th century to the 6th century when it became necessary to differentiate the true Church from heresies (initiated by Arias, Nestorius, and others who also called themselves Christians but were outside the Church). The word orthodoxy is translated from the Greek words ortho (right) and doxa (glory), meaning right glory. Other names given to the Church were Catholic, which means “whole” or “all encompassing,” meaning that in the Church resides all the Truth and that the Church calls everyone all over the world to salvation, regardless of their nationality or social status. In the translation of the Nicene Creed (the “Symbol of Faith”) from Greek to Slavic, the word “catholic” was translated as “universal.”
In the Orthodox Church, established national churches — for example, those in Jerusalem, Russia, and Serbia — are often headed by patriarchs, and sometimes by archbishops or metropolitans. To discuss religious matters concerning the Church, the patriarch or metropolitan calls a conference with the bishops. Matters of concern to the whole Orthodox include questions regarding faith (dogma) and the canons (Church laws). These are discussed in the Ecumenical Councils, of which there have been seven. These were attended by delegates from all the Orthodox patriarchates and autocephalous (autonomous) Orthodox churches. Representatives from each patriarchate, including both episcopal, priestly, and lay delegates are sent. In this manner, the system in the Orthodoxy neither unilateral nor democratic but universal.
The teaching of the Orthodox Church in condensed form took shape in the Symbol of Faith, which was established at the first and second Ecumenical Councils in 325 and 381 (in the cities of Nicea and Constantinople). This Symbol of Faith was in turn developed from the ancient creeds, developed during the apostolic period. In summing up the Orthodox teaching, we believe in one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit — the Trinity one and indivisible. The Father is before all time; the Son of God is begotten of the Father before all ages; and the Holy Spirit proceeds from God the Father from all eternity. We believe in One God, worshipped in the Trinity, eternal, almighty and all-knowing; that of His own Will He created all that exists out of nothing: first, the realm of the angels, invisible to us, and then our visible and material world. God also created people, breathed into us eternal souls, imprinted in our hearts his benevolent law, and gave us free will. He created us to be eternally blessed in communion with Him. We believe that God is eternally just and righteous in His mercy. He governs the entire universe and the life of each one of us, and without His will nothing can be accomplished.
When our first parents disobeyed God’s word, He did not reject them permanently, but through the prophets began to disclose His plan of salvation, promising to send the Messiah, Christ. When the world was ripe for accepting the true faith, the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, came down to earth, to save us sinners. He taught us how to believe and live righteously. He died on the Cross for our salvation and with His precious blood washed away our sins. On the third day He rose from the dead and began our own resurrection and eternal blessed life in heaven. We believe that on the fiftieth day after His resurrection the Lord Jesus Christ sent the Holy Spirit to the apostles, who even now are present in the Church, supporting her in spirit and truth. We believe that one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is empowered with invincible power against evil even until the end of the world. We believe that the Holy Spirit, through the Sacraments of Baptism, confession, Holy Communion, the laying on of hands and the other Sacraments, purifies and enlightens believers, giving them strength to live a Christian life. We believe that the Lord Jesus Christ will come again a second time upon this earth, at which time there will be the resurrection of the dead and a final judgment, in which every person will be judged according to his deeds. After the judgment, eternal life will begin; for the righteous, eternal bliss in communion with God, for the devil and sinners eternal suffering in hell.
We admit that for salvation it is not enough to have faith alone, but it is necessary to live in accordance with faith. For this reason, we admit to the necessity of fulfilling the ten commandments given by God to the Prophet Moses, and the Beatitudes in the Gospel given to us by the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt. 5:3-12). These laws command us to love God and our neighbor and even to love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-45).
These laws of love place Christian Faith in a moral position above other religions, and from that point of view the Church is the only true path to peace among the nations. Without a sincere love for our neighbor and without forgiveness, wars and total annihilation are inevitable. The Lord Jesus Christ teaches us all to forgive in a remarkable prayer, the “Our Father,” when we pray, “and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” In His sermons the Lord teaches faithfulness, gentleness, patience, and justice towards others. Among His sermons one which stands out is the “sermon of the talents” which calls us to develop within ourselves all the gifts given by the Lord, our abilities and talents. True faith must constantly develop inner growth and produce good deeds, because “faith without works is dead” (James 2:6).
Christians must not be materialistic, that is, they must behave dispassionately towards material blessings, not use them for selfish purposes, but rather to meet basic necessities and to help others who are less fortunate. Pride, arrogance, selfishness and egoism are loathsome in the sight of God.
The Orthodox Church teaches that each person was created by God with a free will and is therefore responsible for his own behavior. God loves us and has mercy on us sinners. He helps us with every good thing, especially if we call on Him. He promised us: “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7). Earnest prayer enlightens reason, helps overcome temptation, and assist us to live according to God’s commandments. Prayer helps us to enliven our spiritual abilities which become the main purpose for our life on earth.
When the Orthodox Christian experiences misfortune or illness, he must not blame God, but remember that the Lord permits us to suffer for our spiritual benefit, for cleansing from sins and the strength to do good deeds. In troubled times, we must pray to the Heavenly Father, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
We Orthodox Christians honor the saints: the Virgin Mary, prophets, apostles, martyrs, righteous monks and nuns, and other righteous servants of God. After their death the holy ones do not sever their ties to us; they pass on to the heavenly Church, the Church triumphant. There, before the throne of God, they intercede for us, as for their younger brothers and sisters and help us to reach the kingdom of God. For us Russians, we cherish the memory of the apostolic Princess Olga and her grandson, Prince Vladimir, Saints Boris and Gleb, the Righteous Sergius of Radonezh, Saints Anthony and Theodosius of the Kiev caves, Saint Seraphim of Sarov, Saint John of Kronstadt and many others, including the new Russian martyrs of the 20th century. Likewise, other Orthodox nations have given us many great saints, and all Orthodox Christians venerate all these saints.
Worship in the Orthodox Church is performed according to the order established over the centuries. The most important worship service is the Divine Liturgy. In a specific part of the service the sacrament of Holy Communion is consecrated, and the faithful receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the form of bread and wine and mysteriously commune with Him. As the Lord said, “Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:54). Before partaking of Communion the faithful confess their sins to God through a priest in order to commune worthily and with a pure heart, as commanded by the Apostle Paul and the Church’s teaching.
Days of fasting exist to aid Christians in overcoming their love of pleasure, their sins, and their spiritual indolence. From the days of the apostles, fasting has always been the rule on Wednesdays and Fridays (to commemorate our Savior’s suffering), before the celebration of the Lord’s birth (Christmas), and especially before the feast of Pascha. This period is called the Great Fast. During fasts, one is not permitted to consume meat or dairy products or engage in frivolity, but should devote time to prayer and reading spiritually profitable literature. The Orthodox faith also calls for almsgiving which includes caring for one’s family, the elderly, orphans, widows, the sick and the poor. It also requires refraining from criticizing anyone, as the Lord Jesus Himself commanded, “judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matt. 7:1). The purpose of our life is constant striving towards righteousness: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48).
Now we will proceed to examine the other “churches.” The existence of Christian denominations in the western countries originated from the Lutheran movement, which in its time developed out of protest against the abuses of the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, we will examine the Roman Catholic Church to continue our overview of the churches.
After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 78 A.D., the Christian Church of Jerusalem temporarily ceased to exist, and the Roman congregation and the administration of its bishops advanced to the forefront.
Basing their actions on the central location of Rome as the imperial city and on the fact that Rome was the seat of many first century apostles, the Roman bishops began as early as the third century to advance their leadership position in the Church. The bishops of the eastern provinces of the Roman empire disagreed with this attempt of the Roman hierarchy to assert its preeminence or supremacy.
We have already discussed the church administration and the various ranks of church leadership in cities and regions of the widespread Roman empire, starting from the second and third centuries. Ireneus of Lyon was considered the leader of Gaul, Cyprian of Carthage was another church leader, and Bishops Mauritania and Numedia of Alexandria guided the churches in Egypt. Ephesus became the seat of the churches in Asia Minor, as Rome was the seat of the churches in the Italian peninsula and Gaul. Following the establishment of Ecumenical Councils, such churches emerged as leaders in their regions, possessing both ecclesiastical and secular power. This did not create a conflict among them, nor detract from their equality, and matters regarding all the churches were decided by all the Church representatives in the Ecumenical Councils.
The thirty-fourth apostolic rule states, “bishops of all churches are required to be the first, as the head, and nothing is to be decided without their consent: each one to do only that which concerns his area and region which is his responsibility. But the head does not decide without the consent of the rest. This preserves solidarity. Blessed be God the Lord, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.” In this rule was expressed the main principles guiding the Councils.
In general, apostolic rules and rules of the ancient councils did not allow independence of the head bishop, and especially not absolutism of the Church. Decisions on religious and canonical matters were the responsibility of the Councils of bishops, regionally, or when necessity demanded, at an Ecumenical Council.
Furthermore, political situations resulted in a continually growing influence of the bishops of Rome (the popes). Attacks of barbarians in the 4th century and the resulting emigration of European people contributed to this. Such barbaric attacks advanced across ancient Roman provinces, washing away signs of Christianity. In the midst of the newly created governments, Rome stepped forth as the standard bearer of the apostolic faith and heritage. The high authority of Roman bishops also controlled religious matters from 4th to the 8th centuries in the Byzantine Empire, where the bishops of Rome were considered the defenders of Orthodoxy. Thus, gradually the bishops of Rome considered themselves called to govern the entire Christian world. A new push towards strengthening this despotic attitude of the Roman popes was in a decree issued during the 4th century by the Emperor Gracianus, acclaiming the person of the Roman pope (a title carried by the Roman and Alexandrian bishops meaning “father”). As early as the 5th century, Pope Innocent declared, “nothing can be decided without the assembly of the Roman Council and especially in regards to faith, all bishops must defer to the Apostle Peter, who is the head of the Roman bishops.” In the 7th century, Pope Araphon demanded that all the churches accept the rule of the Roman church, claiming its institution by the words of Apostle Peter. In the 8th century, Pope Stephan wrote, “I am the Apostle Peter, by the will of God through the merciful calling of Christ, Son of the living God, in charge of all His power to be the light of the whole world.”
All these grandiose claims of the popes were not at first taken seriously by the eastern bishops and did not divide the Church. All were bound by one faith, Sacraments and the awareness of belonging to the one Holy, Apostolic Church. But, unfortunately for the Christian world, this union was shattered by the Roman bishops in the 11th century and the centuries following. The separation of the Roman Church deepened when new dogmas appeared. First, the Roman church changed the Creed of Faith, adding the words “and the Son” after the words indicating that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. This addition to the Creed is referred to as “filioque” and represents a profound departure from the earliest apostolic theology of the Church. In short, is incorrect and lacks any historical or dogmatic support. Next, they developed new and alien doctrines including a system of “papal indulgences,” which provided absolution from sin through payment of money to the church. This was followed by other strange teachings such as the “immaculate conception” of the Virgin Mary and the so-called “infallibility” of the Pope. In so doing, they departed further and further from the true Church, and they distorted the very nature of the Church.
For justification of their leadership, the Roman popes refer to the words of the Savior spoken to Apostle Peter, “thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18) The holy fathers of the Church always understood these words to mean that the Church is built on the faith in Christ which the Apostle Peter confessed, not on Peter personally. The apostles did not consider the Apostle Peter to be their head, and in the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem in 51 A.D., the Apostle James presided. With regard to the authority of the Apostle Peter, he performed the laying of hands in many cities, not only in Rome, but in Alexandria, Antioch and others. Why did not the bishops in those cities consider themselves as supreme rulers of the Church? If Peter were the supreme head of the Church, his successors could also be said to be the bishops of these cities. Moreover, the Roman Church’s first bishop was Linus, not St. Peter, and Linus ruled as bishop when St. Peter was in Rome. Deeper research into this question leads us to one honest conclusion: the teaching that St. Peter was the head of the Church was a creation of Roman popes produced by their thirst for power and their straying from the true Faith. This teaching was not established by the early Church.
The arrogant claims to supremacy of the bishop of Rome, along with the false teaching that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son, brought division between the Orthodox Churches of the East and the western Roman Church. The official separation occurred the year 1054 A.D., when the Roman Cardinal Humbert placed on the altar of St. Sophia in Constantinople the papal decree declaring a curse on all who do not agree with the Roman Church.
Religious and secular life in the Europe of the 11th century were closely intertwined. Secular government and the ability to declare war were not supposed to be within the powers of a bishop, yet the popes of Rome developed and consolidated such secular powers and influence. Pope Pius IX declared a mandate that all Catholics accept the Roman pope’s rule of their secular affairs. At the decree of the pope, whole nations, taking sword in hand, advanced towards those whom the pope named his enemies. In the 13th century, the pope not only crowned the kings, but allowed disputes between princes, and by his power was able to declare or conclude wars. Furthermore, he had the power to crown kings and emperors or have them removed and their supporters exiled, and he exercised other such far-reaching political powers.
In their battle for power the popes were tireless and used many occasions to remind others of their supremacy and infallibility. Thus, Pope Benedict VIII in 1302 wrote in his papal bull, “we announce that the holy apostolic clergy and Rome’s high priest are responsible for the whole world, and the high priest is the direct descendent of the Apostle Peter, prince of the apostles, representative of Christ on earth, head of the entire Church and father and teacher of all Christians.” Similar words can be found in the declaration of the Council of 1870, which finally canonized the “infallibility” dogma and the heresy of the “immaculate conception.” In the articles on canonical truth, published in 1917, Pope Benedict XV wrote, “The Roman high priest is inheritor of the first holy Peter, and not only has the honor of being first but has all the highest power of advocacy over the entire Church.” This extreme arrogance of the Roman bishops gradually widened the chasm between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Church. One must remember, in spite of this growing schism, that before the 11th century, the Orthodox Church was in communion with right-believing Roman bishops who cherished the canonical principles established by the apostles regarding the independence of the regional churches. In fact, the Orthodox Church venerates several of the early bishops of Rome, such as St. Leo, as saints.
Nevertheless, in the battle for secular power over the world, the later Roman bishops engaged in disputes with the learned teachers, since a sword in the hands of “representatives” of the gentle Savior was not becoming, and deeply affected the image of the bishops’ service. Many representatives of the Church and independent nations began to be aware of that. The 14th century was the beginning of the religious and moral downfall of the popes. Their power became more secular than ever, with intrigues, courtly vanity, and avarice. The people began to be disgruntled under the despotic oppression of those representing the pope. A German historian writes, “The clergy behave disrespectfully towards the teaching of catechism, they ignore the Gospel and writings of the Holy Fathers, they are silent about faith, good works and other blessings, they do not speak of the worthiness of our Savior and His miracles . . . and these people hold the highest position in the Church which calls them to be pastors of souls!”
The results were soon evident. In the beginning of the 16th century, Protestantism was born, which came about as a protest against the Roman popes and was partly due to the criminal inquisitions and tortures committed by the Roman church, and the selling of papal indulgences. And before long, Protestantism itself fragmented into various sects.
For Russians it is important to examine the mutual relationship between Russia and Rome during the history of the past 1,000 years. Already at the dawn of Russia’s baptism (at the end of 10th century), the Roman pope sent emissaries to Korsun to persuade Prince Vladimir not to embrace the Orthodox Church. Emissaries were sent to Kiev with the same purpose. The pope tried to influence them through the kings of Poland and Czechoslovakia and likewise attempted to manipulate the assembly of Slavic and European princes. In response to the Tartar invasion of Russia, the pope sent armed Swedes and Venetians. Meeting defeat in battle against the Russian armies led by Prince Alexander Nevsky, the pope offered his help to battle the Tartars. He received this response, “God is not found in human strength but in truth.” And the Pope answered with armed attacks in the 13th century and again in the “Times of Trouble” from 1605 to 1612.
The advance of Rome in opposition to Orthodoxy has been uninterrupted over the entire history of Russia. Poland was declared by the pope as missionary territory for the Roman church. In our century, from 1919 to 1929, Roman Catholics took possession of 43% of the Orthodox Churches there. During the first quarter of our century, a new organ of the Roman Church became known as the “Eastern Rite.” Through adopting the external forms of worship of the Orthodox Church, the “Eastern Rite” attempted to seduce Orthodox Christians away from their Church.
How many times the merciless Catholics insisted that “the Lord will sweep with a steel broom the Orthodox east for the purpose of empowering the Catholic Church.” In 1926 and 1928 the eastern Catholic emissary traveled to Moscow again to make contact with and convert the Marxist internationalists. The Jesuit priest Scwheiger insisted that the Bolsheviks were well prepared to receive the Catholic missionaries, and that the long-suffering Russian people were hostages of the Roman preachers’ efforts. The facts reveal that the aggressive behavior of the Vatican towards Orthodoxy has not let up to this day.
1. Catholicism created new dogmas in conflict with the apostolic teachings and the seven Ecumenical Councils. The most serious deviations from the truth are the Latin dogmas of the procession of the Holy Spirit “from the Son,” of the supremacy and infallibility of the Roman Pope, and of the “immaculate conception” of the Mother of God (the claim that the Mother of God was conceived without sin).
2. In opposition to the apostolic tradition, catholic priests must adhere to celibacy.
3. Sacramental distortions: the Sacrament of Communion is not performed according to the apostolic Tradition. Instead of bread and wine, wafers are administered — worshippers are excluded from the wine, which is reserved for the clergy. Thus, the laity are denied the Blood of Christ. Also, the Sacrament of Baptism is performed by the sprinkling of water rather than by immersion as was the Tradition.
4. The Orthodox Church does not recognize “purgatory” (a place between heaven and hell, where the deceased are permitted to atone for their sins). She likewise does not accept the incorrect practice of indulgences, the merciless inquisitions and torture carried out by the Catholic Church, nor the conversion of Orthodox Christians to Catholicism.
Martin Luther, an educated catholic monk and a man with an active conscience, was still in his youth in the year 1510 A.D., when he became aware of the widespread dissolution of the pope’s court and Roman clergy. This greatly affected his theological views and shook his former faith in the clergy of the Roman Church.
In 1516 he saw how financial support for building St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome was acquired through the widespread practice of papal indulgences, which provide for the forgiveness of sins through the payment of money, and moreover, not only the forgiveness of sins committed in the past, but of future sins. Luther spoke out against this blasphemous profiteering. To his spiritual charges he explained that to be free from punishment for sins, one must have an inner change of heart, forgive others, and ask for the forgiveness of God and those one has sinned against. Disputes arose between Luther and the Dominican monk Tetzel. The latter threatened, by the power of his office, to have Luther and his followers burned to death. In response, Luther, in the year 1517, nailed to the door of the Wittenberg Church his 95 theses, in which he disclosed his views on confession, justification through faith, and against the sale of indulgences. The dispute lasted several years following Luther’s rejection of the pope’s authority, for which he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. Only the defense of friends in powerful secular circles saved Luther from death. He was supported in Germany by many priests, professors, students, knights and princes. A schism thus began between Rome and the first “Protestants” as Luther and his followers separated from the Roman Catholic Church.
The movement towards purging the church from papal decrees and abuses did not have its boundaries in Germany. Zwingli and Calvin, continuing with reforms, went even beyond Luther in their teachings on morals and sacraments. Calvin’s main teaching was on predestination, whereby God predestined some people from the beginning to salvation and others to eternal damnation. This teaching in reality rejects the Christian necessity for spiritual striving, faithfulness, and good works.
In the beginning the preaching of Luther and Calvin centered on the person of Jesus Christ: “There is no other way; Christ is the only Way and Truth. Without Him it is impossible to find God . . . Only in the incarnation of Christ can God be known, since by sending His Son to earth God disclosed to us His will and His heart.”
In the Lutheran Small Catechism it is written, “Luther is a dear and blessed teacher of the Holy Scriptures, reforming God’s Church through restoration of Christian purity and proper presentation of the sacraments.”
But this battle for purification of the Church combined non-religious elements, embattled with papal political, economic and personal events. But in rejecting Rome, Luther also rejected the need for apostolic connection and succession. Luther failed to unite with Orthodoxy, though he was at least partially aware of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Placing before him the project of restoring church teaching to its apostolic purity, Luther and his followers were unable to resolve their dilemma; many centuries divided them from the first century Christians, and they did not have the living spiritual experiences nor the wisdom and creativity of the fathers and ancient teachers of the Church. Medieval scholastic education presented Christianity in a slanted light. The single source of discourse for them was the individual, personal point of view, and thus, distortion set in from the beginning.
The Orthodox Church rejected the tradition of traitors as well as the arrogant papal bulls of Rome, which were alien to the Word of God. In failing to return to the true Church, Protestants completely fell away from the apostolic Tradition, rejected the spiritual experiences of the holy fathers of the Church, and ignored the Ecumenical Councils. This left them the Holy Scriptures as their only guidance in the faith; and they interpreted these scriptures arbitrarily.
Lacking the foundation of living Church Tradition and lacking the Grace of the Sacraments became the main sources of straying from the true for the Protestants. In the Orthodox understanding, the Word of God is revealed in the Bible, the Gospels and Holy Tradition, revealed to the Church by the Holy Spirit. “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle,” instructed the Apostle Paul (2 Thes. 2:15). And the Apostle John writes, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” (John 21:25) “Not all was revealed by the apostles through their letters and much was not written, but both are worthy of the Faith. That is why we consider Tradition and Faith worthy,” wrote St. John Chrysostom. Likewise, many Church fathers taught about Tradition: St. Basil the Great, St. Ireneus of Lyon, Blessed Augustine and other saints of the first century.
In principle, the legacy of Protestantism is a rejection of the apostolic tradition. They accepted as tradition “the canon of the Holy Scripture,” confessing primary Christian dogmas: the Trinity, the nativity of God’s Son, and the three ancient symbols of faith (Creeds) in which these dogmas are recorded. Rejecting the authority of the ancient teachers of the Church, they reinforced the authority of the new German theologians; Luther, Calvin and others.
Lutherans believe that salvation and forgiveness of sin were accomplished by the Son of God on Calvary, and not by our works, but through faith alone. The gift of God’s Grace is dependent completely on God and His will. God’s Grace affects the person, influencing him to faith in Christ, and this becomes the single condition for salvation, since only through Christ can man become righteous. The significance of this faith is that the person never doubts in receiving the Grace of God. Through faith, the person becomes righteous in the sight of God, and a justified child of God because of Christ.
This is, in short, the teaching of justification through faith, which is the basis and source of all the Protestant dogmas. The Holy Scripture does not give us reason to accept the teaching of Lutherans; this concept has elements of deviation from the Christian origin. This dogma contradicts the Word of God and is the source of misinterpretation of the words of the holy apostles. Luther accepted in a literal sense the words of the Apostle Paul, “Man is justified by faith alone, not by works,” and again, “Man is not justified by works but by faith in Jesus Christ,” (Epistle to the Galatians). The Apostle Paul, through these words, did not reject good deeds, but was against the deceitful self-confidence of the Jewish teachers, who believed that salvation was earned by outward deeds in keeping the law of Moses: circumcision, observing the Sabbath, the washing of hands, and other Judaic laws. The Apostle Paul also writes in his letter to the Romans that at the Last Judgment, God will judge man by his works: “You call Father Him who impartially judges each according to his work.” The Apostle John writes, “My children, let us love one another, not with words but with deeds.” And the Apostle James writes, “What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and hath not works? Can faith save him? . . . For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:14, 26) Christ Himself said that even the infidel can believe, but this belief is insufficient for salvation, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21)
Rejecting the deviation of the Roman Catholic church teaching, Luther himself fell into deviation, since he rejected not only the theology of the clergy and Sacraments, but also the apostolic teaching of the Church. Luther said that the true faith is found in the Church where the Word of God is pure and the sacraments are administered correctly. But where are the criteria for purity of God’s Word and rightful administration of the Sacraments, when Luther himself rejected the spiritual experiences of the ancient Church and rejected Tradition and the decrees of the seven Ecumenical Councils, replacing them with his own independent thoughts?
“Spiritual calling is the right of all Christians,” said Luther, “we are all priests, that is, all are children of Christ who is our High Priest. We have no need for any other priest but only Christ, because each of us was selected by God Himself . . . all of us at baptism became priests.” According to Luther, anyone in church can preach the Word of God and administer the Sacraments. Pastors and administrators are responsible for organization. They are selected by the congregation from the members who are willing to learn the process. From the selected elders, the laying of hands is performed by the clergy. Here, there is no apostolic continuity and spiritual clergy, but only the administrative assignment for the duties of the preacher. This affirmation deviates from the method and understanding of the role of the clergy in the traditional Church and is incorrect, since Jesus Christ and the apostles never assigned any church organization.
In reality, during the forty days after Christ’s resurrection, the Lord spoke with the apostles about the “Kingdom of God” (Acts of the Apostles), that is, the organized Church, which is the congregation of the believers. Only to the apostles did he give the commission to administer the Sacraments and teach the Faith: “And Jesus came and spoke unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” (Matt. 28:18-20) Likewise, concerning the right to lead people towards salvation, it is written, “as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit.” (John 20:21-22) The apostles themselves witness that not the congregation of believers, but the Lord Himself called them to apostolic ministry for Him, “not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father. (Gal. 1:1)
The apostles flourished and by succession passed on the gift and structure of the Church, which was established by the Lord Himself, themselves performed the laying on of hands, consecrating their successors, the bishops and clergy.
The teaching of Luther on justification through faith influenced changes as regards the Sacraments, which the Lutherans hold only as symbolic in meaning, considering their power as originating in the personal faith of those who worship and claiming that in one’s faith one is justified. The Lutherans retained only two Sacraments, and even those two only in outward form, namely, Baptism and Holy Communion. However, their teaching regarding these Sacraments is original and alien to the ancient Church Tradition.
The result is incorrect worship and a kind of arrogance in communication with God during their church services and, in particular, during the presentation of the Sacraments.
Protestants became alienated from a living brotherhood in communion with God and from the life of the world to come through their rejection of prayers to the saints for help and protection and of prayers for the dead. The reason for this rejection is strictly rational: why bother to pray for the dead if God’s judgment of them cannot be changed, especially since Christ redeemed them in the sight of God? This teaching leads to moral passivism.
Protestantism, in its widespread liberal forms, rejected the value of church experience in favor of one’s own personal suffering and self-righteous experience. If that is correct, then why is God’s mercy and power needed? If “my salvation is complete and accomplished” where is the need to pick up one’s cross daily and follow Christ, and what need to we have even of His Resurrection?
In its early years, Protestantism suffered in the flaw in Luther’s teaching on the Son of God and our salvation through Him. Where has this led? In our time, 80 percent of pastors in Hamburg reject the Godhead of Jesus Christ, so far has their “church” strayed. In recent times, they have also embraced all manner of immorality as permissible.
In fairness, it must be noted that the Lutheran church has evolved, and now sometimes a voice is heard saying among them saying, “we have no Church!” A growing interest in Orthodoxy is noted among many Lutherans who continue to thirst for the Truth.
Thus, from the its inception, the Lutheran movement rejected the values of the living Church’s experience: Holy Tradition, devotion to the Virgin Mary and the saints, prayers for the dead, the administrative structure of the Church, the Sacraments, icons, and the Sign of the Cross. Rather, they have considered faith alone adequate to inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. This Lutheran deviation from Christianity creates a chasm between themselves and the true Faith, the Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.
Calvin led the reform in Switzerland, and his teaching spread to the southwestern Germany and Holland (the Reformed Church), to France (the Huguenots), and to Scotland, England, and North America under the name of Presbyterianism. Calvin added to Luther’s creed, teaching the concept of “predestination.” To some extent, Luther’s teachings preserved the unique position of Christianity, and Luther speaks nothing of Judaism. In Calvinism, elements of Judaism and paganism are so obvious that it is difficult to consider Calvinism Christian. “Divine predestination,” according to Calvin, is the idea that God had eternally called some people to salvation, and others to eternal damnation, independent of their will. Predestination to eternal salvation consists of a small group of people selected by God, through the power of his comprehensible decision, apart from their choice. On the other hand, no effort is possible to save those who are predestined to eternal damnation. Good or evil deeds serve for the fulfillment of predestination and merely fulfill what has already been decided. If this notion is true, for what purpose did Jesus Christ so thoroughly teach us how to live and strive to advance in the narrow way? What is the meaning of prayer, confession, and correction of our ways?
Calvinism consists of a single statement from the writing of Apostle Paul (in Romans Chapter 9) taken out of context from the entire text — a fragment — and this is the basis for Calvin’s teaching of predestination. The true meaning of this passage can be understood only in connection with the meaning of the entire chapter, in which the apostle states that justification is not the property of the Jewish people. “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel, neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children of Abraham . . .” (Rom. 9:6-7). Here the apostle speaks against the Jews, who considered the gentiles rejected by God, and exclusively themselves the children of the Kingdom of Heaven (by the creation and the law of Moses). The apostle contends that the saving grace of God permeates all people, and God calls to salvation not only the Jews but also the gentiles. The teaching of Calvin is influenced in part by Judaism, which holds that only the elect of God are predestined to salvation and the rest doomed to damnation. However, the Word of God teaches that, “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4); and “the Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
The teaching of Calvin contradicts the understanding of the Holiness of God. In connection with this understanding it appears that God is guilty of cruelty and of playing favorites, electing from eternity some to salvation and others to damnation. There is pagan influence in this teaching of destiny. Calvin thus brings an indifferent attitude towards good and evil deeds, rejecting man’s freedom of will, and considering sin natural and unavoidable. According to this thinking, no battle may be fought effectively against sin, because prayer and repentance are useless. Calvin rejects the precepts of Christianity and considers the Sacraments merely symbolic, teaching that the transubstantiation of the Body and Blood of Christ is not a reality.
In Scotland, Calvinism (Presbyterianism) became the accepted faith of the governmental parliament in 1592. Presbyterians, under the name of “Puritans” requested of the King of England the freedom to worship in their faith. Eventually, they began to emigrate, first to Holland and then to the American colonies, to escape the authorities in England.
Rejecting such symbols as the Cross, the Sign of the Cross during baptism, and other outwardly Traditional Christian practices, they forged a sect which was quite new. Further, the structure of Presbyterianism consists of a church congregation who elect their own clergy. The role of bishop is nonexistent. Worship consists of listening to prayers created by the presbyters, a sermon, and the singing of psalms. Communion was served on one long table, weddings were held at home, and prayers for the dead were also read at home. There are no icons, and both the Creed and the traditional liturgical prayers are changed.
The Anglican faith is a combination of Catholic, Lutheran and Calvinistic doctrines. In England, several centuries before the Reformation, there arose opposition to the despotism of the Roman Catholic Church, primarily concerning national, economic and religious matters. The English were irate over the constant interference of the Roman bishops in the interior affairs of England; the abnormal ties Rome had with England’s secular and political affairs; the financial drain caused by the huge church taxes to support Rome; the undisciplined Roman clergy; and so forth. The impetus for severance from Rome came from King Henry VIII when the pope did not grant him a church divorce from his wife, Catherine of Arragon.
At first, no obvious church reform took place, except that King Henry declared himself head of the Church, closed many monasteries, and changed the system of “tithing,” which previously was a church tax paid directly to Rome. Later, under the influence of Protestants surging into England, the king assigned a review of all the teaching of the churches apart from Rome. In 1536, the elected Parliament issued the “Ten Members on Religious Dogma,” a mixture of Protestant and catholic doctrines. In 1552, a 42-article document appeared, presenting a new confession of faith., After this, “Small Catechism” appeared. In it are described many rituals--the blessing of water, the ringing of church bells--which were superstitious in nature.
At this time, during the reign of Edward VII, these rules were reviewed, and the 42 articles were formally accepted and published concerning the English faith. Thus was established the Anglican (Episcopalian) Church of England.
A religious battle occurred soon after in 1559 with the Queen publishing a new confession of faith made up of 39 articles affecting both clergy and laymen. In this decree there were dogmas in agreement with Orthodoxy: one God in three Persons, the Son of God, rejection of purgatory and individualism, and a rejection of the pope as head of the Church. Worship was to be performed in English not Latin. But this worship retained the delusion concerning the descent of the Holy Spirit “and from the Son.” From the Lutherans they accepted the delusion of justification by faith and rejected the seven Ecumenical Councils as well as reverence for icons and holy relics. In the Church of England, the King of England is, to this day, the head of the church. Further, the 25th Article on confession rejects the Sacrament of confession.
The Orthodox Church cannot agree with this creed, and there is no hope to change the views of the Anglican Church, because she is dependent on the Parliament, among whom many Masons are included, people of the Jewish faith and even atheists. The English Parliament, in regards to religious matters, has the decisive word in church affairs. The King is the head of the Church of England and makes a declaration at his coronation, “I denounce and sincerely promise, before God, that the sacrament of communion is not transubstantiation of the Body and Blood of Christ, before or after the blessing of the sacred gifts, by whomever it is performed, and I believe that recognition and worship of the Virgin Mary and saints, and the sacrificial liturgy is alien to Protestant teaching.” In 1927 and again in 1928, the Parliament twice rejected the prayer book of their spiritual leaders and the House of Lords, because it included the role of the Holy Spirit and also the administration of sacraments for those who were ill.
In the first part, we disclosed that the true Church can be only one. She must, uninterruptedly, emanate from the apostolic Church, cherishing the purity of its faith, and apostolic succession of benevolent spirituality in the clergy. The faithful receive spiritual blessings in the sacraments of the Church, especially in Holy Communion which is, indeed, the Body and Blood of Christ. The Orthodox Church supports these teachings and always has. We briefly examined the foundational apostolic teachings which have remained unchanged in the Orthodox Church, and we examined the various spiritual delusions, born of pride, that have led many to depart from the true Church in a continuous process of fragmentation and increasing error.
Later, we will acquaint the reader with the history of the spread of the Roman Catholic Church, which was, at first, the western branch of the one Church of Christ. The advance of the power-hungry Roman bishops in the 11th century brought about the division between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. Convinced of their infallibility, the Roman bishops gradually permitted new and alien ideas into their church’s teaching and the administration of the Sacraments. The retreat of the Roman Catholic Church from the purity of the apostolic faith gave birth in its turn the Protestant movement, which consists in our time of a multitude of sects. We discussed the origins and beliefs of a few of them, namely, Lutheranism, the Reformed Church, Calvinism, and Anglicanism.
In the second part of this series, we will examine the Baptists, Quakers, Pentecostals, the contemporary “gift of tongues,” Methodists, Mennonites, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Christian Science sect, “Contemporary Humanism,” the pseudo-religious communities and cults, heretics and sects in Russia, Unitarians and “Eastern Rite Catholics,” Judaism, Muslims, Buddhism and atheism. In conclusion, we will examine the present research on those groups.
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