As between “Eastern” and “Orthodox”, It Is Certainly One of Them
Eastern ‘Orthodoxy’ makes many and great claims. It claims to be the true Church; it claims to be the Ancient Faith; it claims to be Christianity devoid of modern corruptions and modernism. But are these claims true?
They are not.
Eastern ‘Orthodoxy’ is a false religion that masquerades as Christianity. Here are ten issues with EO. Any one of these issues would be sufficient warrant to reject the EO and their claims — together, the reader is left without excuse.
1. Rejection of the Filioque
The addition of the Filioque may not have been properly done from a procedural standpoint, but procedure and correctness of outcome are two very different things. Whether or not the Filioque is true is not a matter of the procedure used to add it to the Creed. We must look elsewhere for the truth of doctrine — and that somewhere else is Scripture.
”But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.”
— John 15:26
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
— Romans 8:9
And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
— Galatians 4:6
2. Arbitrary Acceptance and Rejection of Councils
The EO position (with regard to councils) would be more convincing if they were actually consistent, but they are not. Ask a handful of EO which councils they recognize and you will very likely receive a handful of different answers, because there is no universal agreement within EO with regard to which councils are true and binding and which are not. They justify this with a doctrine they created from whole cloth: Receptionism. Read the actual documents produced by the councils and you will not find Receptionism; the men producing those documents viewed them as binding on the churches — they did not view them as needing to be ‘received’ first.
And yet that is precisely what the EO now teach with regard to councils: They teach that the churches must ‘receive’ the writings of a council before they are binding, but, of course, there are no actual rules, here. How many churches must receive the documents? How much time may or must pass? May a single church exercise a veto? There are no answers from the EO. Further, some will already have noticed a serious conflict, a serious contradiction: If the councils are guided by the Spirit, then why must the churches decide whether or not to receive their writings? Does this mean councils are not guided but churches are? What if the churches disagree? It is all nonsense meant to conceal their real goal: Accepting only those councils they like.
3. Lack of a Confession
The arbitrary acceptance or rejection of the councils is similar to how the EO generally handle doctrine and theology. The EO have no confession; they have no catechism. If you ask the EO for a comprehensive treatment of what they believe, they will not be able to give you a definitive answer. At best, you will receive a handful of different answers — different subdivisions within the EO will have different documents they prefer. The Russians will give you one answer; the Greeks will give you another; and the OCA will give you yet another. Lutherans will hand you the Book of Concord; Anglicans will hand you the Book of Common Prayer; and even some Baptists will hand you a confession. The EO can hand you nothing with which all EO agree. Their supposed unity is a pernicious lie.
Related to their lack of a confession or a definitive statement of what they believe, the EO do not actually know what their own churches teach. This may actually be to their benefit, because their churches teach rank heresy. The EO churches hold to and teach Palamism. Palamism is a heresy — a polytheistic heresy. You may have heard the EO describe Palamism as the “essence–energies distinction”, and that is the core of it. You do not need to understate the details of Palamism (and it is likely better for your soul if you do not delve deeply into such evil), but the reason it is heresy is that it posits a real distinction between God’s “essence” and His “energies”.
For those not versed in philosophy: A real distinction between two things simply means that they are not identical (in fact, this is essentially just one of the laws of logic). Palamism posits that God’s essence (and do carefully note that God’s essence is God, God is His essence) is truly or really distinct from His energies. Palamism further claims that these “energies” are divine. Surely you can see the problem: If God’s essence is God and these “energies” are distinct from the essence but are still divine, then these energies are, necessarily, gods. Palamism is polytheistic.
Similar to the RC, the EO have a long history of and still show staunch support for monasticism. The problems with monasticism are, of course, well known — and some of them are notorious. It surely does not help matters that one of the best-known EO monastics in the West was a practicing homosexual who opened a monastery with a known pedophile. Of course, when it comes to monasticism, that is practically par for the course. Nevertheless, we cannot simply condemn monasticism as pernicious and destructive — if it is supported by Scripture. Monasticism is not, however, supported by Scripture. All of the arguments that supposedly support monasticism from Scripture rely on (fairly transparent) eisegesis. These are not new issues.
There have long been those in the church who attempt to form a general rule regarding celibacy from a virtually off-hand comment by Paul. Such men consistently forget that Christ says this is a hard teaching and not all may or can receive it; they also ignore Paul’s warning that it is better to marry than to burn (a warning that, incidentally, comes earlier in precisely the same chapter). Monasticism is built on two lies:
- the lie that celibacy should be a goal for all (or even simply for many) men and
- the lie that monasticism is a (spiritually) superior way of living.
Many other false doctrines end up flowing from monasticism (e.g., in Rome, supererogatory works, a ‘treasury of merit’, indulgences, Purgatory). Good trees do not bear bad fruit. The Church does not practice or condone monasticism; those ‘churches’ that practice monasticism are false.
6. Hesychastic ‘Prayer’
Related to (and largely flowing from) the issue of monasticism is the practice known as “hesychastic prayer”. In short, hesychastic ‘prayer’ is the very sort of vain repetition, meaningless babble, and piling up of words that Scripture condemns as being not true prayer. Worse still, some EO contend that the hesychast can attain (spiritual) insight via this mindless repetition — some even going so far as to contend that the hesychast can achieve a sort of enlightenment or transcendent state and see ‘the uncreated light of God’.
For those who are familiar with Eastern religious practices, this will undoubtedly sound familiar, for hesychastic ‘prayer’ is not prayer, but ecstatic medication. Many pagan religions (e.g., Ancient Greek paganism, Hinduism) have this practice — Christianity does not. Meditation in Christianity is not mindless repetition or a clearing or emptying of the mind, but a meditation on something — on the Word of God, on God’s mighty works, et cetera.
Hesychasm is, in essence, the monastic practice of the EO. Whatever else is done within the walls of EO monastic ‘communities’ (and particularly of those on Mt. Athos), it is hesychastic ‘prayer’ that is used to summon whatever it is they are worshipping as ‘uncreated light’. It is, in fact, Palamas whose writings brought attention to the practice of hesychasm: Barlaam (at the time, an EO priest) visited Mt. Athos and observed hesychastic ‘prayer’ among the monks; he was so incensed and revulsed by what he saw, that he wrote against the practice. Palamas wrote in defense of hesychasm (and, in the process, revealed many other EO errors). (It is worth noting that Barlaam eventually left the EO over these issues, as he could not reconcile them with actual Christian practices.)
If you wish to meditate, read the Psalms (perhaps aloud) — do not mindlessly repeat the same ‘prayer’ hundreds or even thousands of times.
Related to, but distinct from, the issue of Palamism, the EO have a significant anti-intellectual streak. In fact, this ties into many other EO problems. Few EO will actually give an earnest, serious answer to questions. Instead, you will be told ‘just attend the liturgy’ (depending on aesthetics), ‘just believe’ (a sort of ‘pure’ anti-intellectualism), ‘that’s Western’ (an admission that they do not understand the issue), ‘X says’ (an arbitrary and transparent appeal to authority), or similar. The great irony is that many EO will defend their false teachers (e.g., Palamas) who rely heavily on philosophy, but will simultaneously condemn any attempt to subject such teachers to even basic philosophical analysis. Palamas, of course, would not have received a passing grade in an introductory logic course in the philosophy department of even a middling Western university.
This is not to say that all truth or the totality of the faith must submit to human reason (that is the error of the Reformed); rather, this is to advance that some basic level of coherence must be maintained and that those who rely on philosophy may be fairly subjected to analysis under it. There are mysteries in the faith, but many (most) things are not mysteries — they may be examined and explained using reason. The EO, in their attempt to be ‘not Western’, have fallen of the left side of the horse — they are a mixture of irrational and arational. This leads directly into the core issue with EO theology and doctrine.
8. Denial of Penal Substitutionary Atonement
The EO deny the Gospel. There are no caveats needed here. The Gospel is: Christ crucified for sinners. The EO deny this. Certainly, the EO will say that Christ was crucified, but they will not be able to tell you why. Their error — their heresy — here is an outgrowth of many of their other issues (e.g, their desire to be ‘not Western’). The core of the Gospel — the Gospel itself — is Penal Substitutionary Atonement, which is to say that Christ took the place of sinners (He was a substitute) and suffered the punishment that was rightfully ours and that, by His suffering and death, atonement was made for our sins. Christians are not free to disagree on this; this is not a matter of opinion. This is the beating heart of the Gospel and the Christian’s only hope.
To deny PSA is to deny the Gospel is to deny Scripture is to deny Christ.
The EO will say that PSA is ‘Western’ or ‘too legalistic’, but their fight is with God, not with the West, for Scripture speaks in legal terms — the Law, the sentence against us, the penalty for sin, and God as Judge. Salvation is a legal matter — we are declared righteous (or not) in God’s courtroom. The Christian needs no further warrant to avoid EO as heresy.
9. Aesthetics in Place of Truth
If you ask an EO about EO, you will probably get some form of ‘just attend the liturgy’ as a response; this is because the EO rely on aesthetics, and not on truth. This is not to say that aesthetics — that beauty — does not matter; rather, this is to say that truth matters and a tradition that cannot answer questions is unworthy of belief. If you ask a Lutheran some question, he will be able to get you an answer or find another Lutheran who can. Many of those who are drawn into EO today are drawn by the aesthetics instead of by the truth. This is why they will tell you to attend a service instead of answering your questions: They want you invested in the tradition for (largely) irrelevant reasons before you start asking hard questions (if you ever do so) — so you will be less likely to leave when they cannot answer satisfactorily. Again: Aesthetics — and particularly beauty — is not irrelevant, but it is not a substitute for truth (and you actually need not sacrifice either). Some prostitutes are beautiful, but are they true?
10. Rampant Hypocrisy
We come, then, to the tenth and final issue with the EO: They are immense hypocrites. Interact with them and that truth is both immediately apparent and utterly inescapable. They will crow all day long about how humble the EO are without for even a second recognizing the irony. Their false humility is on a scale one would expect in a play or an opera, and yet it seems pervasive in their tradition. This is not to say that hypocrites cannot be right or that the arrogant are necessarily wrong; rather, it is to say that one can reasonably assess a tradition by the sort of men it attracts and particularly by the sort of men it produces. EO attracts and produces men who are ignorant, haughty, unlikable, and anti-social.
Again: Does a good tree produce bad fruit?
These are but the ten most salient problems with EO from the perspective of a Westerner in the modern era (although most of these issues have persisted over centuries). There are, of course, other problems, but how many worms does your apple need before you are unwilling to eat it? There are psychological reasons why EO appeals to a certain kind of ‘man’ living in the West today, but that is a discussion for another article. Suffice to say that EO is not Christian and anyone who truly holds EO doctrine has forsaken the faith. Do not sell your soul for incense, bells, chanting, and beards; you can buy two of those, grow one, and learn the other.
For added fun, ask them about the Council of Jerusalem (most of them supposedly accept it), then, once they have affirmed that they accept it, ask them why it banned the laity from reading Scripture:
Should the Divine Scriptures be read in the vulgar tongue [common language] by all Christians?
The councils are, of course, not binding on the churches, but the relevant fact here is that the EO do believe that councils are binding — the point is their utter hypocrisy (a recurring theme). ↩︎
It actually gets much worse and much more blatant. Palamas’ writings even speak of a ‘higher deity’ and a ‘lower deity’ — the polytheism is not subtle. ↩︎
1 Corinthians 7:2–4 »But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.« ↩︎
In essence, the Roman ‘church’ uses Purgatory as an excuse for the creation of these other doctrines, because the ‘surplus merits’ created by ‘supererogatory works’ are kept in a ‘treasury of merit’ controlled by the Roman ‘church’, and these can be distributed (including via indulgences). ↩︎
It is actually worse (and more parodic) than that: The EO teach neophytes to ‘stare at the navel’ and ‘concentrate the breathing’, contending that the intellect enters and leaves the body with the breath. This literal navel-gazing accompanied by heavy breathing is what the EO contend will enable one to see ‘the uncreated light of God’. ↩︎
Psalm 1:2 »[B]ut his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.«
Cf. Joshua 1:8: »This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.« ↩︎
Cf. Paul at the Areopagus. ↩︎
A good example of the ineptitude of the EO when it comes to philosophy is that they (particularly via Palamas) contend that there exists such a thing that is both 1) created and 2) without beginning. (If you do not see the problem with the foregoing, then EO may just be for you.) ↩︎
“A Protestant Learns about Greek Theology” Start at the time linked and watch through 21:40 or so.
In case you do not believe that this is the stance of the EO ‘church’, here is an article from the OCA: “Does God punish us?” ↩︎
Isaiah 33:22 »For the LORD is our judge; the LORD is our lawgiver;
the LORD is our king; he will save us.«
Cf. 2 Timothy 4:8 »Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.« ↩︎
EO converts (the convertodox) are also often physically weak. ↩︎
And Lutheranism still has chanting and bells — and your pastor may not object to incense (particularly if you buy it for him). ↩︎