A Critical Analysis of Eastern Orthodox Beliefs

In way of introduction, I have been forming my Christian beliefs, in some cases based on other’s views, in others personal study, for now some 20+ years. Recently, I have explored some of the beliefs and doctrines of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and, surprisingly perhaps, have found substantial overlap with my own. I say surprisingly, because I have never experienced any teaching of the Orthodox Church, a Church who claims its beliefs to be the authentic beliefs of the very earliest Christians. I would characterize my own beliefs as still shackled in some ways to traditional Western Christian doctrines (e.g., a “Platonized” or perhaps “Epicurean” brand of God vs “Emmanuel”, God with us; going to heaven or hell, but little if any mention of living the Christian life; Christianity as put on once a week but discarded the remainder of the week, etc.). But through my study, I have gradually been concluding that some fairly large pieces of Western Christian belief are not Biblical (i.e. not what the Bible authors actually teach), in the pure sense of that term, and so have been looking at other faith traditions to see if I find more Biblical authenticity in them than what I have grown up being taught. This piece, then, is intended to be a somewhat more thorough investigation of what the Orthodox believe in comparison to my current beliefs, from which I hope to learn and grow in my faith. (It helps me to learn and remember if, when studying a subject, I write down what I find more or less as I find it.)

What is the Christian’s Calling?

There are three polar opposite popular opinions these days as to what it is the Christian is called to do. The first is that the Christian calling is to do essentially nothing. This is the view held, in whole or in part, by the vast majority of those who identify with the Reformed Church tradition, convicted as they are by the doctrine of God’s Grace. These folks’ understanding is that God is in complete control of the outcome of society, and so they are at best incidental to His Sovereign decision. Some who hold this opinion share it only up to a point, insisting that spreading the Gospel of Christ is the true Christian calling, which they read as applying to themselves in Mat 28:19-20. The other opinion is that Christians should “work” for the righting of society’s wrongs, be they racism, child trafficking, spousal abuse, drug abuse, or,…fill in your favorite societal pathology. This opinion also includes climate-related causes, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, tree planting, trash clean-up, etc. These people are persuaded not so much by Biblical commissions but rather by their well-founded belief in the advent of the “New Heavens and New Earth” at the Eschaton. If there’s going to be a “New Earth”, they reason, then they should be about its preservation until that day. What these popular opinions seem to fail to appreciate is what Jesus actually called us to do . Let’s unpack what they’re missing.

Searching for a Consistent Biblical God

I wonder how many people have been thrown off of their inevitable search for God by what they perceive as not just the inconsistency of the characterization of God in the Bible’s Old Testament compared to His portrayal in the New, but by His seemingly severe, some would say immoral, characterization in the Old Testament. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could find and describe one, integrated, consistent whole of the Divine Nature across the entire Bible? Imagine being able to perceive God’s essential God-ness through a new lens, and so enable others to see beyond their personal prejudices. Looking for such a God is the task of this piece.

Biblical Narrative As a Mosaic

Most of us read the Bible as at most a narrative of the history of God’s people, culminated by some revolutionary stuff in the New Testament. And, it certainly, on one level, is that. But few of us read the Bible carefully enough or deeply enough to see its deeper construction as an intricate weaving of individual, but connected, narratives that all create a larger meta-narrative.

The “X-Files” of the Tanakh

There is some very strange stuff going on, semantically, in the Tanakh – the Old Testament. Our English translations hide much of it, allowing us to blithely assume that unclear verses are either just poorly translated or, perhaps, intended to be purposefully obscure. But, what if their obscurity/ambiguity reveals some much deeper meaning than simply the literal texts in which they appear? And, if there is a deeper meaning, what could it be, and what is it likely to be?

Israel as Metaphor

Those familiar with the Jewish Bible -- the Tanakh -- or what Christians call the Old Testament, have puzzled for centuries over the meaning of the failed history of the Israelites, culminating in the destruction of their Temple and Jerusalem in 70AD, and their destruction or banishment from their homeland in 136 AD following the Bar Kokhba revolt.  What exactly does it mean that God chose the Israelites from all the peoples of the world, led them, gave them a homeland and, for a time at least, heaped blessings on them only to have them nearly universally turn their backs on Him and His prescriptions for living?  And what can we learn from their experience?

Christianity in the Age of ‘Whatever?’

Lots of people write blogs.  Very few people actually read them. So why this one? Recently I’ve been absolutely stunned by the power of the delusion our society is suffering regarding truth, good and evil.  In this perverse worldview, people who elect to strap on explosives and detonate them, or fire automatic weapons at unsuspecting … Continue reading Christianity in the Age of ‘Whatever?’