A Brief Evaluation Of Eastern Orthodox Theology -- By: Fred Moritz

Journal: Maranatha Baptist Theological Journal
Volume: MBTJ 04:1 (Spring 2014)
Article: A Brief Evaluation Of Eastern Orthodox Theology
Author: Fred Moritz

A Brief Evaluation Of
Eastern Orthodox Theology

Fred Moritz1

A study of Orthodox Theology is important in our day for at least two reasons. First, in recent years several western Protestant theologians have left their communions and become Orthodox. Second, the Emergent movement shows an attraction to elements of Orthodoxy.

The Orthodox churches represent a specific tradition in theology. The Eastern Orthodox tradition developed in the countries around the Mediterranean in the eastern regions of the old Roman Empire.2 By the fifth century there were five major “sees” or centers of Christianity in the post-apostolic world: Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Constantinople, and Rome. Over time, the Bishop of Rome amassed more power and influence, and by the time of Gregory the Great (590-604) the papacy was identifiable.

The seeds for the division between the eastern and western traditions of Christendom were sown about this time. The standard date given for this division is 1054. Eastern Orthodox historian Aristeides Papadakis calls that date “inaccurate.”3 Papadakis points out that the “Great Schism” between east and west was “a prolonged process stretching over centuries.”4 The unifying factor between the

various regions over the first centuries of church history was the “faith and authority of the seven ecumenical councils.”5 Papadakis lists several factors that contributed to the schism. They were:

1. The transfer of the Roman capital to Byzantium (Constantinople, now Istanbul) created jealousy and friction. “But if Constantinople, the ‘New Rome’ became the setting for this new civilization, it also became the unrivaled center of Orthodox Christianity.”6

2. The rise and conquests of Islam drove a physical wedge between the two regions.

3. The coronation of Charlemagne (800) further divided the two regions. “For the East, the West was acting as if the Roman Empire, with its legitimate emperor in Constantinople, had ceased to exist. The Byzantine Empire's claims to world sovereignty were being ignored.”7

4. The primacy of the Bishop of Rome was a basic issue. “Rome began to interpret her primacy in terms of sovereignty, as a God-given right invol...

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