Orthodoxy as True Belief or Worship
Christian traditions compared
Key Facts and Ideas
This section brings together in one analysis the various comparisons of Orthodoxy and other Christian traditions on this site. An understanding of these comparative studies would serve as a useful preparation for this synthesis.
Orthodoxy means "true belief / worship." Orthodoxy maintains that she has kept the truth unsullied and free from distortion and error from the beginning, which in Orthodox terms means "from Adam" but more especially in the history of the New Covenant Church Community, from Pentecost. The Venn diagram above shows how this works out in practice. Orthodoxy is represented by the red circle, Roman Catholicism by the blue ellipse and Protestantism by the yellow ellipse.
Both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism are held to have departed from the truth or distorted it in some measure which is why these traditions are shown as ellipses rather than circles. You will note that these ellipses extend beyond Orthodoxy into areas of belief and practice that are not shared by Orthodoxy [RC, P].
Historically speaking, Orthodoxy says that these areas, although separate from one another, at least share in common the feature that they exist ONLY by virtue of their mutual separation from Orthodox truth in the Second Millennium west. Roman Catholicism took one route (the horizontal axis), Protestantism reacted against that, but by virtue of its own faulty ideas inherited from Roman Catholicism, merely created another right-angled distortion along the vertical axis. Each ellipse depends on the other. For example, the rise of a centralised monarchical papacy took Roman Catholicism further way from the symmetrical wholeness of Orthodoxy on authority but this merely prompted the rise of individualism with Protestantism based on the ascendancy of personal conscience.
More positively, each ellipse shares an area [O(RC), O(P)] with Orthodoxy, albeit not with each other to the same extent or in quite the same way, (watertight distinctions are not possible). Examples in the O(RC) overlap concern similar if not identical, yet reconcilable beliefs and practices concerning the Sacraments, the Communion of Saints, the Church and Tradition. Examples in the O(P) overlap concern similar if not identical yet reconcilable beliefs and practices concerning the experience of God and personal faith.
Most positively of all we have the central region [O(RCP]. This commonality concerns beliefs and practices shared by all Trinitarian Christians and might include (amongst many others) the confession of Jesus Christ as Lord and God, the Trinity and the Love of the Creator God for his world. Although these beliefs do diverge in certain important respects; for example, in the difference between Orthodoxy and other Christians traditions on original sin, nonetheless it is important to affirm this common inheritance amongst Christians. The ecumenical task is to see this central region grow larger by degrees so that we may return to the former position when the red circle covered most (if not all) of the churches in Orthodoxy.
Finally what of the areas only emphasised or covered by Orthodoxy [O]? Sometimes non-Orthodox Christians claim that these are Orthodox specialities and have no bearing on the rest of the Christian world. They say, for example, that the veneration of icons and the doctrine of theosis (deification) lay no claim upon them having no precedence in their own traditions. The Orthodox dispute this conclusion. For example, eye witness accounts of St. Augustine of Canterbury's mission to the English was inaugurated by a procession to King Ethelbert of Kent with an icon of the Saviour especially brought from Rome for this purpose. The ancient pre-Reformation English churches show (and in some notable cases retain) the chancel screen with images of the saints which originally functioned as an iconostasis. The doctrine of deification is also present in the ascetical practices of the Celtic and Saxon Orthodox saints, albeit not using precisely the same language. These matters cannot be incidental to the west in the recovery of its own Orthodox tradition. They are vital to that recovery in our view.
Orthodoxy includes in a seamless whole all the apostolic characteristics of other churches but she excludes those novel elements without precedence in ecumenical Tradition and which she holds to have sundered the Church in the west after the Great Schism.
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