Monthly Archives: December 2016

The Orthodox Faith – Sources of Christian Doctrine

In ever society and every age we know of there has been religious faith. Scientists tell us that even prehistoric cave dwellers had faith, judging from their burial practices and art. Today faith exists in the most “primitive” societies and to the most modern. Widespread atheism is a modern phenomenon.
Of course, there have been and are a variety of religious beliefs. There is polytheism (believe in many gods), pantheism (belief that god and the universe are one) and monotheism (belief in one God). From a Christian perspective we can say that there are elements of truth in all these religions, although there are negative aspects, such as human sacrifice, slavery, etc.
How did people come to believe in God (or many gods)? Scripture teaches that there is a kind of natural knowledge of God, accessible to all people. In the first place, by looking at the harmony, complexity and grandeur of the universe people come to the belief that there is a creator who made the universe and governs it. Second, there is the conscience. All human beings know that there is something within them that helps them to determine what is right and wrong. This fact leads people to believe that there is a divine law-giver who gave them a conscience.
However, this kind of natural religion is rather vague and generic. People yearn for more knowledge of God. Fortunately, God has chosen to reveal himself to humanity.
Again, although there are elements of goodness and truth in all religions, God chose to reveal himself first to the Jewish people, then to the Christians. The record of God’s self-revelation to the Jews is found in the Old Testament. God revealed Himself through historical events such as the Exodus, the building and destruction of the Temple, and though the prophets, such as Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel and many others. God revealed that He is one, that there are no other gods. He is a God of justice and mercy, and he expects us to be just and merciful. He loves and guides the Jewish people.
So we can say that God’s first revelation came to the Jews. But God’s final revelation is through Christ. Jesus Christ teaches us more fully who God is. He teaches us that God loves all people and wants us to do the same. The Jews knew that God is the father of the Jewish people. Christ teaches us that God is the father of every human being. Second, Jesus Christ teaches that He is the “Son of God” in a unique sense.
Through His words and deeds, during His earthly ministry and, above all, through His resurrection, Christ taught his disciples, and us, that He is God. In addition, Christ spoke about sending the Holy Spirit. The apostles weren’t sure about His position and role until Pentecost (the descent of the Holy Spirit), when they came to recognize that the Holy Spirit is God also. So we can say that Christ taught us the doctrine of the Trinity (that God is one essence and three persons) and the Incarnation (that Jesus Christ is God and man).
It is natural that Jesus Christ was first called Rabbi (teacher) during his earthly ministry because people immediately grasped that He was a teacher. God had promised through the Old Testament prophets that when the Messiah comes all people would be “taught by God”’ (Isaiah 54:13). Christ fulfilled this prophecy through His earthly ministry. Therefore, we can say that Jesus Christ is more than a teacher, though teaching was as important part of His work. So again we can say with Isaiah, through Jesus Christ, we have been “taught by God”.

Fr. John

The Orthodox Faith – Introduction to a New Series of Articles

For the past year we’ve been looking at the article of the Creed, the fundamental statements of the Orthodox faith. We recall that the Creed was proclaimed at the Councils of Nicea (325AD) and Constantinople (381 AD). It is recited by a person about to be baptized (and by that person’s sponsor) and at the Divine Liturgy. The series of articles can be found on our website at   www.churchofourladyofkazan.org
Now we begin a new series of article based on the books “The Orthodox Faith” by Father (later Protopresbyter) Thomas Hopko. Father Hopko was a professor and later the dean of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary. There are four volumes in this series, the first of which was published in 1971. The four volumes are:
1. Doctrine – the fundamental beliefs of the Orthodox Church
2. Worship – the liturgical aspect of the Orthodox faiths
3. Bible and Church History – the story of the Orthodox Church beginning in the Old Testament and carried through up to the present day
4. Spirituality – prayer, fasting and repentance

These four books are often called The Rainbow Series because each volume was a different color as originally issued. Although these books are often seen as an introduction to the beliefs and practices of the Orthodox Church, they are useful also to lifelong Orthodox, especially converts and clergy.
Since these books were originally published in the 1970s, Fr. Tom thought they could use an update in design and content, so he started to work with Dr. David Ford, professor at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox Theological Seminary to revise the books. Fr. Tom and Dr. Ford were able to thoroughly revise Volume 3 (Church History) bringing the history of the church into the 21st century. However, due to the illness and death of Fr. Tom in March 2015, he was unable to revise the other volumes as he had planned. Nevertheless, a new edition has been published. It is available for purchase from SVS Press at www.svspress.com/the-orthodox-faith-four-volume-set/. In addition, the Department of Christian Education at the OCA has produced a series of questions and answers based on these books, which are useful for private study or group study of the volumes, or as a basis for meditation and reflection, as will be presented in the following articles. Just as with the series on the Creed, these articles will not simply be a list of facts but will invite the reader (and the author!) to greater reflection on what it means to profess and practice the Orthodox faith. The series may be found online at: www.oca.org/orthodoxy/the-orthodox-faith

Fr. John