Alternative Perspective of the Eastern Orthodox Church

I am taking a class on the survey of church history. One of the assignments is to read a book (selected from several options provided in the syllabus) and write a book critique. I selected Daniel B. Clendenin’s Eastern Orthodox Theology: A Contemporary Reader because I know next to nothing about Eastern Orthodox churches. I once asked someone in my local community about the Greek Orthodox church on “church row,” and the person told me that orthodox churches are “very different,” but I didn’t know what the person meant.

In this class, I learned that about a thousand years ago, the church split into two, with the Western church becoming what we know today as the Roman Catholic church and the Eastern church becoming what we know today as the Eastern Orthodox church. So, I was fascinated to learn about the beliefs of a large segment of Christians whose influences were completely separate from the Roman Catholic church (and, by extension, Protestantism) for a millennium. Considering the Orthodox church came from the same root as my United Methodist Church but grew in a different direction a thousand years ago, I thought it would be interesting to consider the Eastern Orthodox perspective on the same Bible that I follow.

I am only about a quarter of the way through the book, but I have already been challenged by some of what I read, which I plan to discuss in this blog series. For the rest of this blog entry, I’ll simply mention some of the big picture differences that I have found interesting. The Eastern Orthodox church incorporates icons into its worship services, which are used as a visual aid in helping the congregation see past the material world and into the spiritual world. Orthodoxy also places much emphasis on divine beauty. Another big difference is that the emphasis is much less on doctrine (what they believe) and much more on how they worship. Considering the basis for the numerous Protestant denominations is differences in what they believe in relation to particular aspects of the faith, it’s interesting to read about a segment of Christianity that focuses on worship over doctrine.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cover of Eastern Orthodox Theology: A Contemporary ReaderCourtesy Amazon.]