In the course of this life, we are faced with choices. Each time we are confronted by truth, there are choices to be made. We learn about Christ in the Gospel, we must make a choice. We find out that the Ancient Christian Church exists, we must make a choice. We find out that the Christian Church, founded by Jesus on the testimony of the Apostles, teaches the Apostles’ doctrine and it is different from what we were taught at whatever religious group we have been part of, we have a choice to make.
We do not have the luxury of creating our own doctrine. We do not change the teachings of the Church to conform to society. We accept the teachings of the Church as they are delivered to us. We do not use the Church and her teachings for our convenience like a cafeteria, picking out what we like and leaving what is difficult or that we don’t like.
The differences between the Church and new religions are not superficial. It is often a matter of substance not simply style. The word “Orthodox” is a compound Greek word that means correct teaching. The correct way to teach anything, a skill, for instance, is the orthodox way to teach that skill. With the Orthodox Church we have the original Church, built by Jesus on the foundation of the testimony of the Apostles. So for this discussion we will be looking at the Orthodox Church and the Heterodox churches. The heterodox, multitude of teachings, are born out of some other point than the original Church.
For this discussion the heterodox religions will be differentiated from the Orthodox Christian Church. The Christian Church was founded on the testimony of the Apostles that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus said he would build his Church on that testimony and that the gates of Hades would not prevail against it.
In 1054ad the Roman pope (archbishop) separated his local churches from the majority of the Christian Church in a Great Schism that left the Easter Church and creating what we know of as the Roman Catholic Church. The heresy that Rome committed in this action began a long road of heresies that brought about the reformers in the 1500s.
Martin Luther, a German friar and monk, being distressed by the heresies involving the sale of indulgences (permission to sin) by his Roman Bishops rebelled. He ultimately translated the New Testament into German so that his followers did not need a teacher to read it to them in Latin and tell them of its content. The translation process was clearly corrupted but I’ll deal with that in the future because that one event would take an entire article.
The Protestant Reformation was predicated on the belief that the entire Ancient Church had fallen into apostasy simply because the reformers were either ignorant of the Eastern Church or they presumed the Eastern Church was identical to the Roman Church. For that belief to be true, for the Church to have descended into apostasy, the promise of Jesus, “I will build my Church and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it” would have to be false. Since Jesus is God, proven by his life, death and resurrection, He cannot lie. So the basic belief that the Church needed to be reformed was false invalidating the Reformation and its foundational doctrines.
The doctrines created and put forth by Martin Luther, known as the Three Solae, were the foundation of the Protestant Reformation. They were Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, and Sola Gratia which meant Scripture Alone, Faith Alone, and Grace Alone. These doctrines were not original in the Church and Luther built his movement on them. The other Reformers also adopted these doctrines and to this day, 500 years later, the Protestant religions continue to teach these misleading large groups of people and building other teachings on top of them.
Scripture Alone means simply that only what the individual finds in the Bible is valid for doctrine. This is misleading because the reality is that it is “only what I find and interpret from scripture” is valid. This makes the individual the final arbiter of truth. It also brings about an attitude that allows the individual to judge religious groups by his own personal interpretation of the Bible. This was evident even at the beginning of the Reformation. Huldrych Zwingli and Martin Luther disagreed on what the scriptures taught concerning the Eucharist. Luther read the scriptures and saw the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist, that the elements were mysteriously transformed by God into the Body and Blood of Christ. Zwingli however, read the same scriptures and rejected the interpretation by Luther and saw Communion as a simple memorial service in the church.
The idea of Scripture Alone also makes it impossible for the true history of the Church from 33-386ad to be understood. While the writings that finally made up the New Testament were in existence, there were many others also passed around in the local churches. The doctrine of the Church, however, was passed down from the Apostles to the Bishops in an unbroken line of succession. If the Church had been dependent on Scripture she would not have been able to overcome the persecution of the first three centuries and still evangelize the world.
In the Church, doctrine was not created by the bishops or the people, it was passed down by the Apostles. Historically the Church followed “The Apostles Doctrine” and so no new doctrine was necessary after the Apostles completed their service to God in the Church.
So what value is there in our choice of religion? In a previous article, we looked at the fact that God will save those whom HE chooses, and we cannot presume to declare who will be saved and who will not be saved. We know that salvation is the end result when we are saved from Hell in the final judgement. So why should I be in the Ancient Church? Why can I not choose to be in a church where I am “comfortable” where the music makes me “feel God” and where I enjoy the people?
Once we have seen the truth and know that the Ancient Christian Church exists, we are responsible to that truth; Not to man, but to God. Once we were ignorant of our own sin, but then someone came along and told us the truth. We learned that we had fallen short of God’s plan and at that point we were responsible for that knowledge. To ignore the facts once we learn them makes us responsible to God for those facts. Millions of people are completely ignorant about the Orthodox Christian Church, but not you. You know that the Church exists.
“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?” Hebrews 2:1-4 NKJV
You can believe anything in this world, the world is filled with religions. There are tens-of-thousands of religions that call themselves “Christian” and they range from the simple to the extremely complicated. There are community churches where many common songs are sung, and a person preaches whatever is important to them at the time. There are churches with catchy names, preachers with catchy titles and tag lines for their sermons each time they speak. There are churches that the preacher has no title, he is just called “pastor” or “minister” and others where there are husband and wife teams that are called “pastors” or even where they’re called “Doctor” but really what value is the choice?
Some will say, “I feel the Spirit when I go to that church” or “They minister to me at that church” but what are we saying? We are saying that I’m following my feelings. I get excited when I’m there because the music makes me happy. It reminds me of happy times, I’m reminded of how God loves me or something else. Does this have value? Is the way I feel what matters?
This church has a youth group and it keeps my teenagers occupied and they talk about God. They want to go there, there is good influence for the kids etc. etc. but what value is there in this if what the children learn only makes them want to hang out with a different group? Are they changed in their attitudes at home? Are the different? Or are they simply emotionally moved and that wears off they’re the same person with the same focus?
Does it matter what church I choose? If God will, in His sovereign action, choose who He saves and who He rejects, does it matter what religion I choose?
To ask that is similar to the question St. Paul asked to the Romans. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” Romans 6:1 NKJV
If God chooses in the final judgement, why does it matter where I go to church?
What God are you serving? There’s a point that we must ask ourselves what God we serve. Doesn’t everyone worship the same God? They use the same words.
Many religions use the same words, they often pray the same kinds of prayers, but they often mean very different things. One religion talks about the “Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” but they teach that the Father is a flesh and bone, created being that has attained to be a god. That same religion talks of the Son also as a created being of flesh and bone and that the Son is truly the physical brother of Lucifer. That religion speaks of the Holy Spirit as simply a wind, an affect of God’s presence.
The Ancient Christian Church, the Orthodox Christian Church teaches the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, One God, as Jesus and the Apostles taught. The first Council of the Church in 325ad was called because there was a well known preacher that preached Jesus was a created being. The Greek words that were at the heart of that controversy were homoousios and homoiousios. This might seem confusing but really it’s the difference between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit being the same substance – homoousios or just similar substance – homoiousios. Many heresies grew up in the Church over how to understand God. Many people that call themselves Christians today bristle at the thought of calling Jesus God. They don’t mind the term “Son of God” but to understand that there is only one God as in: ““Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one!” Deuteronomy 6:4 NKJV and connect it to Jesus saying: “I and My Father are one.” John 10:30 NKJV and Jesus using the word that indicated he was one in essence and being with the Father, is difficult.
If the church I go to has the wrong God, no matter what else they say, having the wrong God matters. If the religion that I have chosen has the wrong God in the beginning, all the good that the religion does is really for nothing. They can have social welfare efforts that they fund, they can have food pantries, they can have magnificent places of worship, all meaningless, all vanity if their God is really just another god of their own design.
Many people who call themselves Christian have told me, “The God I believe in won’t send anyone to hell” or something like that. As if just judgement is somehow wrong and judging God by human standards is somehow correct. This would indicate that the god they worship is a god of their own design and making.
The Orthodox Christian Church is not some denomination, some sect, that has divided from others during the Reformation, it is the original Church, founded and built by Jesus on the testimony of the Apostles and the one Church that even through centuries of persecution has not been defeated by the gates of Hades. She has endured from the first century and while she has had forces from inside and outside trying to destroy her, she is still here, preaching the truth. She has resisted the forces of heresy in the attempts to rob Jesus of his divinity, demote the Holy Spirit to some lesser force, the heresies of Gnosticism and Nestorianism even the heresies of the modern day with Moralistic Therapeudic Deism becoming the latest. The message of the Orthodox (right teaching) Christian Church remains constant.
The choice of religion is not simply a choice between white bread and wheat bread. They are not equals. The choice of religion, once we have heard of the truth, becomes the choice of an adult. Choosing for instance, to study the scriptures guided by our own vain imaginations, hoping to “get it right” or studying the scriptures guided by the Fathers of the Church who wrote to us many books to guide us. The Fathers’ sermons were written for us to learn from. Reading the scriptures guided by the Fathers gives us greater understanding.
Choose your religion wisely, seek the narrow path, seek the narrow gate where you take up your own cross and follow Jesus. Find the truth of the Gospel where you can be baptized into Christ and put on Christ, where you can die to sin daily, where you seek a life where you are crucified daily to the passions and sin that can delay you and seek the fulfillment in serving the God who created you. The Only True Living God who created all things visible and invisible.