Teaching of the Orthodox Faith

(part 1)

 I.                   The Fall and Its Consequences:

A.    Humankind is created in the “image” and “likeness” of God

 i.      Image denotes our potential to be “God-like” and likeness is the extent to which ones’ potential is realized. I mage denotes everything that speratres us from animals. Ability to reason, self-determination, creativity, our perception of right or wrong.

Image = immediate revelation, appearance, or representation of God. (Yannaras, Elements of Faith). Three mmain attributes of being in God’s image - Rationality, Free will and Dominion

God’s breath makes humans living souls – it means that you transmit to the other your breath, something very inwardly yours, your own self-consciousness or your spirit. (Yannaras, Elements of Faith)

  ii.      Humanity has free-will (autexousia, self-determination) and authority over all things on earth- including the human person.

B.     The Fall

Mankind is created and placed in Paradise and all the fruit ad [plants in paradise are offered to man by God “for food” (Gen 1:29). Man lives and exists only in a direct relationship with the world…he is the one who employs the world directly as nourishment, takes itinto himself and makes it his body. (Yannaras, Elements of Faith).


The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Gen 2:9,17)

a.)     Expresses the possibility for man to realize his existence not as an event of communion and relationship with God but from his own created nature alone.

b.)     This tree is not included in the “blessing” offered by God.

c.)     The eating of this fruit constitutes not fellowship with God but to realize life not in a relationship with God (the Other) but now draw existence from himself. Humanity changes from a person to an individual.

d.)    Good and Evil are not used a moral terms but mean Life or Death

12Therefore, even as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and thus death passed to all men, on account of which all have sinned— 13(for until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not reckoned where there is no law. 14But death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who did not sin in the likeness of Adam’s transgression, who is a type of the coming One.   [Rom. 5:12-14]

            C.) Ancestral Sin ( Original Sin)

Catholicism – Original sin teaches that the conditions inherited from the fall are transmitted through the act of procreation. Each new born child is an inheritor of the guilt of Adam and thus an object of God’s wrath and judgment, deserving punishment.

Original sin is the privation of sanctifying grace in consequence of the sin of Adam. (Catholic Encyclopedia)

Orthodox Church – consequences of the ancestral sin

1.      A sense of nakedness (Gen 3:7) - the image of God is now “perverted” (but not destroyed) when life ceases to have love in view it is and now individual need and pleasure become the goal. “Love does not know shame (Isaac the Syrian).”

2.      Guilt and an attempt at personal justification. God becomes “other.” Each blames the other, Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the snake – self-justification results. We do not inherit the Adam’s guilt but the consequences of his sin.

3.      Spiritual death – God responds by sending His Son to reestablish our relationship with God- this is salvation.

4.      A real loss of our potential to realize our God-likness.

5.      A distortion and darkening of our intelligence, creativity, our sense of God, our ability to discern between good and evil, an inability to consistently do what is good and avoid evil.

II. The Virgin Mary

1.      Doctrine of Immaculate Conception/Catholicism – 1854 Pope Pius IX .  From the first moment of her existence, she was preserved by God from the lack of sanctifying grace that afflicts mankind, and that she was instead filled with divine grace.

2.      The Orthodox Church sees her purity was not due to her nature but her state- her attitude toward sin and her personal victory over it. Thedogma of Immaculate Conception is not necessary in Orthodoxy because ancestral sin is not seen the same way.

a.)    Ever-Virgin- Before, during and after – brothers of the Lord were cousins or children of Joseph from a previous marriage.

b.)    Theotokos- (God-bearer, or Mother of God) in 431, Third Ecumenical Council gave her this distinction because Christ was God, truly divine.

c.)    Platytera- “More Spacious than the Heavens” - bridge between heaven and earth.                                                                 

III.     The Incarnation – The Nativity of Christ: December 25“The Son of God becomes what we are (human) so that we might be deified (St. Irenaeos).”

IV The Ecumenical Councils

1. First Ecumencal Council held in Nicea, Asia Minor in 325. Under Emperor Constantine the Great. 318 Bishops were present.

The Arian Controversy

Arius denied the divinity of Christ. If Jesus was born, then there was time when He did not exist. The Council declared Arius' teaching a heresy, unacceptable to the Church and decreed that Christ is God. He is of the same essence "homoousios" with God the Father.

The Creed

The first part of the seven articles of the Creed were ratified at the First Ecumenical Council. The text reads as follows:

"Ibelieve in one God. The Father Almighty. Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of Light; true God of true God; begotten not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and became man. And He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered, and was buried. And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; whose Kingdom shall have no end."

2.      The Second Ecumenical Council held in Constantinople in 381. Under Emperor Theodosius the Great. 150 Bishops were present.

The Macedonian Controversy

Macedonius, somewhat like Arius, was misinterpreting Church's teaching on the Holy Spirit. He taught that the Holy Spirit was not a person ("hypostasis"), but simply a power ("dynamic") of God. Therefore the Spirit was inferior to the Father and the Son. The Council condemned Macedonius' teaching and defined the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. The Council decreed that there was one God in three persons ("hypostases"): Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Creed

The holy fathers of the Council added five articles to the Creed. They read as follows:

"And (We believe) in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father: who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified: who spoke by the prophets. In one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen."

3. The Third Ecumencial Council held in Ephesus, Asia Minor in 431 under Emperor Theodosius II (grandson of Theodosius the Great). 200 Bishops were present.

The Nestorian Controversy

It concerned the nature of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. Nestorius taught that the Virgin Mary gave birth to a man, Jesus Christ, not God, the "Logos" ("The Word,” Son of God). The Logos only dwelled in Christ, as in a Temple (Christ, therefore, was only Theophoros: The "Bearer of God". Consequently, Virgin Mary should be called "Christotokos," Mother of Christ and not "Theotokos, "Mother of God." Hence, the name, "Christological controversies.”

Nestorianism over emphasized the human nature of Christ at the expense of the divine. The Council denounced Nestorius' teaching as erroneous. Our Lord Jesus Christ is one person, not two separate "people": the Man, Jesus Christ and the Son of God, Logos. The Council decreed that Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Logos), is complete God and complete man, with a rational soul and body. The Virgin Mary is "Theotokos" because she gave birth not to man but to God who became man. The union of the two natures of Christ took place in such a fashion that one did not disturb the other.

The Creed

The Council declared the text of the "Creed" decreed at the First and Second Ecumenical Councils to be complete and forbade any change (addition or deletion).

4. The Fourth Ecumencal Council held in Chalcedon, near Constantinople, 451. Under Emperor Marcian. 630 Bishops were present.

Monophysite Controversies

The Council was concerned, once again, with the nature of Jesus Christ. The teaching arose that Christ's human nature (less perfect) dissolved itself in His divine nature (more perfect). Thus, in reality, Christ had only one nature, the Divine. Hence, the term: Monophysites ("mono," one and "physis," "nature.") Monophysitism overemphasized the divine nature of Christ, at the expense of the human.


The Council condemned Monophysitism and proclaimed that Christ has two complete natures: the divine and the human, as defined by previous Councils. These two natures function without confusion, are not divided nor separate (against Nestorius), and at no time did they undergo any change (against Eutyches: Monophysites).

5.      The 5th Ecumencial Council held in Constantinople in 553. Under Emperor Justinian the Great. 165 Bishops were present.

Nestorian and Eutychian Controversies

The Council was called in hope of putting an end to the Nestorian and the Eutychian (Monophysite controversies). The Council confirmed Church's teaching regarding the two natures of Christ (human and divine) and condemned certain writings with Nestorian learnings. Emperor Justinian himself confessed his Orthodox faith in a form of the famous Church hymn "Only begotten Son and Word of God" which is sung during the Divine Liturgy.