orthodoxy was challenged by several alternate theologies including multiple views of the Trinity and the nature of Christ. Different Christian religious orientations came to other conclusions about those elements, which have, in turn, become central parts of their . These differences began in the 5th century, when the Orthodox Church parted ways with the Catholic Church. The initial differences were linked to cultural differences more than differences in ideology. Western Europe was plunged into the Dark Ages and was plagued by political, cultural, and spiritual upheaval as Constantinople threatened Rome’s power in Europe. In Eastern Europe, Rome’s power was unchallenged, so that there was greater stability in the area. “The Great Schism, which arose from a great variety of reasons — some theological, but many cultural, linguistic, and political — really happened because the two churches grew apart” (Davies-Stofka, p.1). As a result, Christianity as practiced by a modern Protestant or Catholic may differ substantially from Christianity as practiced by a modern Orthodox Christian. In order to understand those differences, it is important to first explore the elements of Orthodox thought.
While it is impossible to condense an entire religion down to a set of elements, because Orthodoxy is often considered in contrast to Catholicism and Protestantism, it can be described in terms of how it approaches some of the major underpinnings of modern Christianity. First, the Orthodox Church takes a very rigid approach to the teachings of Christ; it believes that Christ’s teachings have not changed over time and should not be changed to fit in with changing social mores or values. This does not mean that Orthodox practices cannot be changed; cultural differences can be incorporated into the manner of worship, but not the subject of worship. Furthermore, there is no hierarchy of worship; This helps explain the second element of Orthodoxy, which is that Orthodoxy uses science to support the Bible, but does not allow for change in the Bible when it appears to be in conflict with science. In addition, Orthodoxy rejects attempts to bolster faith through philosophy and reason. Orthodoxy teaches that the knowledge of God is inherent in human beings and not the product of philosophy or human reason. Only through God’s speech can humans begin to understand more about God. Furthermore, Jesus is the means by which God has chosen to speak to man. Orthodoxy believes in the Trinity, which suggests that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all the same being, but also distinct. Christ voluntarily gave his life to save others, not to satisfy the debt that was originally incurred with Adam’s sin. The Orthodox Church believes that all of its bishops are the living icon of Christ and does not have a hierarchy among them. The Church believes that it is formed through the sacrament of the Eucharist. The Orthodox Church believes that Canons are guidelines for producing holiness, and though they do not have the power of law, they are also not changeable. The Church believes in the seven mysteries: the Eucharist, Baptism, Chrismation, Ordination, Penance, Marriage, and Holy Oil for the sick. The Orthodox Church believes in Mary as the virgin mother of God and her assumption, but does not believe that Mary was infallible from birth. The Orthodox Church believes in the religious significance of icons and that they are a necessary part of worship. Finally, the Orthodox Church believes in a period of purgatory in Hades before most souls go to Heaven at death.
The Orthodox Church faced several challenges as it developed. One of those challenges was Arianism. Arianism was based in the teachings of Arius. The focus of Arianism was the relationship of God to Jesus. Arius took the position that the Trinity did not exist as described in Orthodox theology. Instead of having always existed, Jesus was created by God. Therefore, rather than being equal to and part of God, Jesus is distinct from God. Therefore, Arianism does not recognize the Trinity. Although the Trinity is currently a well-accepted tenet of both the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, which were the churches that developed in the wake of the Arian conflict, it was a significant doctrinal dispute during its time period. Not only the leaders of the churches were involved in the conflict, but daily worshippers as well. It helped usher in an era of theological debates that paved the way for the eventual split between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.
Another movement to impact the development of the Orthodox Church was donatism. Donatism represents some of the influence of the East on the development of early Christianity. It developed in Africa as a result of a non-Christian governor who persecuted Christians. In order to avoid persecution, these Christians could nominally renounce their faith. The Donatists believed that those Christians who renounced their faith in order to avoid persecution were not truly faithful. The anti-Donatists believed that even those who had renounced their faith were capable of redemption. Eventually, the Donatist position would allow for some of the famous persecutions by the Catholic Church, although the Church, at the time of the Donatist dispute, officially took a non-Donatist position.
Manichaeism was not a Christian religion, but an independent religion that began to spread as the doctrinal differences between Orthodox and Catholic belief began to emerge in the Christian church. Manichaeism was focused on the idea of a struggle between good and evil. It was a gnostic religion and, in many ways, shaped the idea of religion as a process of acts rather than beliefs. Manichaeism may have influenced the development of doctrine, particularly St. Augustine’s doctrine, which some in the Orthodox Church view as a form of heresy. However, there is simply not sufficient historical information about Manichaeism to know whether it really did influence St. Augustine’s doctrine in a significant manner.
Davies-Stofka. “Eastern Orthodoxy: Beginnings.” Patheos Library. 2013. 1-2. Web. 7 May