An oxymoron? I don’t think so. Frederica Mathewes-Green has published a new entry to the Holman Study Bible’s article/essay about Orthodoxy. While my exporations of (the) Orthodox Faith indicate that it is impossible (is that a cataphatic description or an apophatic assertion?) to “summarize” Orthodoxy, this may well be the most succinct and helpful presentation for those seeking to compare and contrast it with other systems that purport to be “orthodox.” The original is found here.
[Holman Study Bible, 2007]
Orthodox Entry for Chart of Comparative Religions
(see also, Definitions, below)
One God, creator of all, existing eternally in 1 essence and 3 Persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit). We are made for union with God (“partakers of the divine nature” 2 Pet 1:4), accomplished through his grace (Heb. 12:28 ) and the work of Jesus Christ.
Key Figures in History:
Jesus Christ, whose work brings salvation to the world (John 3:16 ) . Many humans also played roles in salvation history (Adam and Eve, the Virgin Mary, St. Paul, etc).
[I am concerned that the first sentence may be confusing when linked to the second sentence here. It doesn’t say as much, but if one were ignorant or a heretic or didn’t understand the “Person of Jesus Christ” which follows, one might construe this as saying that Jesus wasn’t human. Or am I reading too much into it?]
Person of Jesus Christ
The Incarnate Son of God (2nd person of the Trinity), one Person with two natures (fully God and fully man— John1:1,14, Heb. 2:14 ). He fulfills the OT Law and Prophets, and frees humanity from sin and death.
Work of Jesus Christ
Our salvation is accomplished by the entirety of his work, not Good Friday alone: incarnation, life, teachings, passion, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and second coming. Vanquishes the Evil One and frees us from sin and death. (2 Tim. 1:10)
Sources of Authority
Holy Scripture is of primary importance. Is interpreted in accord with the apostolic faith of the early church. From earliest pre-literate times, this faith is been [sic] passed on chiefly through worship, where Scripture is lifted up in light of early Christian writings, decisions of great Councils, lives of saints, etc. This cumulative guidance of the Holy Spirit through all ages is called “Holy Tradition.” (John 16:13, 2 Thes. 2:15).
Doctrine of Humanity
Humanity created in the Image and Likeness of God (Genesis 1:26-27). The “Image” remains intact in all humans, and gives eternal worth and value. Pursuit of the “Likeness” (Greek, the “Assimiliation”) was the original human vocation. It was lost through Adam and Eve’s disobedience, regained in Christ Jesus (I John 3:2).
The Basic Human Problem
Humanity suffers from illness of soul due to sin and self-love. Self-love separates us from God, who is selfless and unbounded love (1 John 4:8) . Humans search for God but often grasp idols instead, because the eyes of their hearts (Greek, “nous”) are blinded (Rom 1:21-23) . “Be transformed by the renewal of your nous” (Rom 12:2).
Solution to the Basic Human Problem:
Christ’s entire work (“economy”) provides forgiveness of sins, healing of the illness of the soul, and hope of resurrection. By grace the “eyes of the heart” are “enlightened” (Eph 1:18). Three general stages: purification (learning obedience and love) (Matt. 5:8) , illumination (healing of the nous) (Rom 12:2) , and “theosis” (assimilation, an ever-deepening union, by grace). (John 17:21-23)
Ethics (Value System)
All humans from conception to death bear the image of God and have equal worth and value. Love for God and neighbor form the basis of all ethics and morality. As we assimilate the presence of God through healing of hearts and nous, we are able to show his love to others through acts of charity, self-sacrifice, love of enemies, etc. (Luke 6:35, 1 John 4:21)
Life After Death
All will be bodily resurrected and judged by Jesus Christ at the Last Day (2 Cor. 5:10). Some patristic sources propose that all people will eternally experience the presence of God (Ps 139:8). Those who loved God will find joy in his warmth and light, those who loved darkness (Jn 3:19) will find the light unbearable, burning and torment (Heb 12:29).
Economy of Christ– A term that refers to Christ’s entire work, including his incarnation, life, teachings, miracles, Passion, suffering, crucifixion, death, three-day burial, resurrection, appearances, ascension, and future second coming.
Energy – A Greek term (energeia) used throughout the NT; the living presence and actions of God throughout Creation. Use of “works” or “working” in English translation is traditional, but falls short of the meaning. “God is energizing in you, both to will and to energize for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:12).
Essence – The immutable nature of God, in which created beings may not participate.
Grace – The “uncreated energies” of God, which flow from his unchanging essence. Not merely God’s favor, and not a created thing, but an encounter with God himself. Humans cannot experience God in his essence, but are continually experiencing his energies—life, love, etc.—bestowed by grace.
Holy Tradition – “The faith once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3), i.e., the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, both oral and written, and the expression of the life of the Holy Spirit within the Church throughout all generations, of which Scripture is a primary part.
Image and Likeness of God:
The “Image” is the good “basic equipment” with which humans are endowed by God. It gives humans, among other things, eternal value and a moral sense.
The “Likeness” is the original vocation given at Man’s creation: to assimilate the presence of God and bear his light. Not a static condition, but one deepening throughout eternity.
Nous – A Greek term used throughout the NT; a perceptive or receptive faculty, designed to enable us to hear the voice of God and experience Him directly in His energies, without mediation. Often translated as “mind,” e.g, “Be transformed by the renewal of your nous,” (Rom 12:2). Also called “the eyes of the heart” (Eph 1:18).
Salvation – Membership in heaven is given immediately to those who repent and believe (e.g., the Good Thief); for those who continue to have faith during earthly life after conversion, salvation fosters continual healing of the heart and soul, cleansing of the nous, forgiveness of sins, and participation in the life of God.
Stages of the spiritual life:
1. Purification – the first stage of the spiritual life, in which humility, obedience and love are learned.
2. Illumination – the second stage of spiritual progress. At Creation, Adam and Eve were at the stage of Illumination, and able to choose whether to continue toward theosis. Illumination involves the cure and cleansing of the nous, and acquisition of a clear perception of the created order.
3. Theosis – The third stage of spiritual progress, and goal of human life: assimilation to God. Continually deepening union with God through grace, including “theoria” (vision of God) and participation in the life of the world to come.
Trinity – God eternally existing in three persons, one essence. The Father is unoriginate, the Son is begotten of the Father from all eternity, the Spirit proceeds from the Father alone from all eternity. The Father bestows, from all eternity, his entire essence upon the Son and the Spirit.