Are Russian Orthodox Catholic Or Protestant?

Are Russian Orthodox Catholic or Protestant?

The rise and fall of the Soviet Union has produced many states which exist in squalid conditions. People try to leave these awful places, and they do so by traveling to countries in the Western World.

And when they leave, these emigrants bring their religions with them. So when Russians leave Russia, they bring their country’s religion to their new home, and they form communities of the faithful there.

And the religion of Russia is Russian Orthodoxy, so Russian Orthodoxy spreads by this manner.

Now, people who are not Russian Orthodox will encounter it sporadically, and they begin to wonder what sort of belief system it is. It appears to be a type of Christianity, but the Russian Orthodox are unlike the Christians in the countries they visit, so people struggle to contend with the belief system.

This then leads the un-Orthodox viewer to wonder is the Russian Orthodox are Catholic or Protestant.

The Russian Orthodox are neither Catholic nor Protestant. They are part of the Eastern Orthodox church. This is a third form of Christianity. The Orthodox retain what Jesus taught and what the Church Fathers kept. It remains constant and often looks like an ancient form of Christianity.

So the question of whether Russian Orthodoxy is Catholic or Protestant can really only be answered by explaining what Eastern Orthodoxy is.

What Is Eastern Orthodoxy?

Jesus was real, He founded a church, He chose people to lead that church, and He showed them how to worship properly.

Now, in the time which has passed ever since Christ’s ascension and the deaths of the first Christians, many factions of people calling themselves Christians have arisen. These factions have added, subtracted, reinterpreted, and changed many aspects of what the first Christians held.

The Orthodox are unique in their rejection of these changes. The Eastern Orthodox have retained what was given at the beginning with little deviation since the time of Christ. They retain this constancy because Jesus, being God, must have taught correctly, and this means that changes to His teachings are not needed. The things which Jesus taught do not need to be revised.

So the Eastern Orthodox are the people who retain the practices of the first Christians. In this way, they are different form Catholics who have added many strange things tot he religion. The Orthodox also differ form the Protestants who prefer to interpret the Bible in ways that suit their interests and produce novel teachings by this method.

Nothing new. Nothing novel. Constancy throughout the years is the aim of the Orthodox.

Where Did It Come From?

Christianity is 2,000 years old. That’s the reason why our calendar holds that the year is 2020.

Now, the first Christians had a single church. That church existed for a thousand years. Then it split in two.

When the church split, it divided into a western half and an eastern half. The westerners called themselves the Roman Catholic Church. The easterners called themselves the Eastern Orthodox Church.

Each church claims to be the one true church which Jesus founded, yet only one can possess this role.

So if Eastern Orthodoxy is the church which Jesus founded, then it came from Jesus. If, however, the Roman Catholic Church is the church which Christ founded, then Eastern Orthodoxy is slightly younger than 1,000 years.

The Most Famous Orthodox Cathedral

Most people have seen an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and not realized what they were looking at.

Are Russian Orthodox Catholic or Protestant?

Do you recognize this image? Most people, I think, have seen this at some point or other. Although they often misidentify what they see.

This is St. Basil’s Cathedral. It is one of the most famous Eastern Orthodox churches in the world. Many people who see it often misidentify it as the Kremlin. Many Russian Orthodox churches are constructed using the same architectural style.

How Do the Eastern Orthodox Approach the Bible?

The Bible was written by humans who used human brains to write it. These people were divinely inspired, but the Bible is still the product of human minds.

Now, the humans who wrote the Bible had an understanding of what they were writing. That understanding is the correct understanding because those humans were divinely inspired.

Now, what does that mean in practice?

Well… The Book of Matthew was written by Matthew, so the verses contained therein mean what Matthew meant for them to mean. The same schema is true for the other gospels, books, and letters of the Bible.

Therefore, there is a correct way to understand each book of the Bible, and there is only one correct understanding of each one.

So if a person reads the Book of Luke and produces an interpretation that is different from what Luke had intended, then that interpretation is wrong.

The Bible means what the people who wrote it meant for it to mean.

How Does It Develop?

The Eastern Orthodox church almost never changes. It retains a constancy in its practices across time and space.

It is for this reason that the church doe snot really go through what people would call development. Instead, it retains what the early Christians knew, ministers to Eastern Orthodox Christian communities, and spreads as the Orthodox do.

Now, this resistance to change has led many people to criticize the church.

Sometimes they say that contemporary morals are changing and that the church should change to accommodate them. Other people say that the Orthodox refusal to change hinders the religion’s ability to respond to new theological issues. And others assert that the teachings which the church fathers had held were wrong and should be discarded or reformed.

Now, the Orthodox would respond to these criticisms in the following ways.

Addressing the “Morals are changing” Criticism

First, the fact that contemporary morals are changing does not mean that the church should also change to accommodate them.

This is because there is only one God, He does not change, and the morals which are derived from obedience to Him are as unchanging as He is. When contemporary morals change, they are either becoming more like those espoused by the church or less like them.

In the first case, the church does not need to change because the world is changing to become like it.

And the church should not change in the second case because the contemporary movement away from the morals taught by the church is a bad thing that is not to be reproduced.

Addressing the “The Orthodox can’t solve new problems” Criticism

Now, the assertion that the Orthodox struggle to address new theological problems is true. But this does not mean that the Orthodox should change. The reason why the Orthodox should not change in order to address new problems is as follows:

A new problem presents a question that may be answered. And a person who encounters the problem may respond in one of three ways: He can provide a right answer, he can provide a wrong answer, or he can ignore the problem altogether and refuse to give an answer.

If he provides a wrong answer, then it would have been better not to answer the question at all.

However, if he provides the right answer, then there is likely to be some uncertainty within that answer. The answer could be incomplete, or it could be expressed in an imperfect way, or it might interact with other knowledge in some way that produces unfortunate consequences.

Now, whatever the case may be, every answer, even if it is right, introduces uncertainty into the religion on account of these factors. And if enough uncertainty is introduced by people who insist on answering questions, then the value of all religious knowledge is compromised by this propagation of error.

So the Orthodox try to only answer those questions which may be answered with certainty. This allows them to maintain the integrity of religious knowledge.

Addressing the “The Church Fathers were wrong” Criticism

Now, the third criticism, that the church fathers were wrong, may be true. It is for this reason that sources other than the fathers are used to understand the faith and to moderate their teachings. Moreover, the likelihood that any Christian today would possess a greater understanding of Christ and His will than that of, say, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, or Peter is very low.

Where Do Orthodox Christians Live?

When you see maps that show the Christian diasporas around the world, you usually see that Christians are found in: (1) the Americas, (2) Western Europe, (3) Southern Africa, and (4) Other places.

The Orthodox live in other places. This includes Russia and the rest of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, Greece, Ethiopia, and more or less any Christian community found within countries rules by Muslims.

Most of the Orthodox live in eastern Europe, and Russia possesses the greatest number of Orthodox Christians of any country in the world.

The National Churches

The Eastern Orthodox Church does not have a singular head as the Roman Catholic church does. It lacks a pope. In this regard, it is like the Protestant sects.

Instead, the Eastern Orthodox church contains sixteen churches that are self-governing and which profess the same faith. These churches are divided along national lines, and they take names such as: The Greek Orthodox Church, The Russian Orthodox Church, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, and so on. In this way, national identity is often strongly tied to religion. This has been a source of both comfort and conflict for the Orthodox over the centuries.

Tag: Are Russian Orthodox Catholic or Protestant?

Gene Botkin

Gene is the director of the Theosis Christian Project. He studied physics and military science before founding the Project. Gene is currently pursuing his doctorate in systems engineering at an engineering college in the Ozarks. The Theosis Christian Project is his attempt to expand Holy Orthodoxy in America.

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