Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

The Orthodox Church traces the line of continuity from Jesus Christ and the Apostles to the Eastern Orthodox Church today. Adherence to the ancient Christian Tradition is what both distinguishes and joins Orthodoxy to other Christian communities. As a hierarchical and sacramental Church, it is in closest agreement on critical points of dogma with the Roman Catholic Church: the Trinitarian God, Jesus Christ as true God and true man, and the Eucharist as the true body and blood of Christ. The Tradition also, however, points up departures that have arisen.

The Orthodox Church has kept its creed intact. It has not experienced a scholastic revolution and it has not undergone a Reformation and Counter-Reformation. It has not added the Filioque and doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and Purgatory to the Apostolic teaching. Its organization is based not on a doctrine of papal supremacy but on a collegial assembly of bishops. The Orthodox accord the pope a primacy, but one that would act always in cooperation with the other bishops.

The Orthodox Church and Christians in the West are only recently rediscovering each other. At first Christianity in the West may have seemed to the Orthodox too rationalistic and monarchical; to the West, Orthodoxy has seemed too mystical, too amorphous, expressing its doctrine more in the context of worship than systematically and academically, as the West has done. Both communities of Christians are learning from each other. The Orthodox Church has preserved the patristic and monastic heritage that many Christians seek to rediscover. Similarly, the beauty of its liturgies and the doctrinal fidelity of its icons have become sources of renewed inspiration in the West. Christians in the West have made great application of scholarship, particularly in the cooperative efforts of philosophy and science and the interaction with an increasingly secularized society. From these developments Orthodoxy can learn. Timothy Ware considers the Orthodox Church as the elder brother preserving the family’s legacy but grateful to its younger brothers for helping it understand that legacy. To a “divided and bewildered Christendom” it offers a faith preserved intact and also living.