Bible Class Curricula - Denominational Doctrines (Part 1) - Lesson #2 - The Greek Orthodox Religion

  1. Introduction
    1. The Greek Orthodox religion claims 5 million adherents in the United States.
    2. Orthodoxy represents a split among differing Catholic thinkers.
  2. History of the Greek Orthodox Religion
    1. How did Orthodoxy begin? It began as a schism when Catholicism of the east and Catholicism of the west clashed. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America cites the following facts as contributing to the beginning of Orthodoxy:

      The West was concerned with the Passion of Christ and the sin of man, the East emphasized the Resurrection of Christ and the deification of man. While the West leaned toward a legalistic view of religion, the East espoused a more mystical theology. Since the Early Church was not monolithic, the two great traditions existed together for more than a thousand years until the Great Schism divided the Church. Today, Roman Catholics and Protestants are heirs to the Western tradition, and the Orthodox are heirs to the Eastern tradition.1

    2. When did Orthodoxy begin? On July 16, 1054 , Cardinal Humbert, the head of a papal delegation, sent excommunication of Cerularius for the removal of the filioque2 from the Creed; the practice of married clergy; and liturgical errors. The date of 1054 is the traditional date marking the beginning of the schism and the excommunication of Patriarch Michael Cerularius by papal legates.
    3. Where did the Orthodox religion begin? Constantinople.
    4. Where is the headquarters of the Orthodox religion? There is none.
    5. Who is the head of the Orthodox religion? Orthodoxy says, "Each Church is led by a synod of bishops. The president of the synod is known as the Patriarch, Archbishop, Metropolitan, or Catholicos. Among the various bishops, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople is accorded a "place of honor," and is regarded as "first among equals.""3
    6. What is their authority? The Orthodox Church has two sources of authority: Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition. Orthodoxy defines tradition as follows: "Holy Tradition, of which Holy Scripture is a part, includes the writings, teachings, Acts of the Apostles, saints, martyrs, and fathers of the Church, and her liturgical and sacramental traditions throughout the ages, the oral tradition of the early Church and the decisions of the Ecumenical Councils."4
  3. Scriptural Reasons Why I Cannot be a Part of Orthodoxy
    1. I cannot be a part of Orthodoxy because the Bible is not their only guide (Colossians 3:17; 2 Peter 1:3; Matthew 28:18). The Orthodox Church lists these nine sources as authoritative: Revelation, Tradition, Bible, The Liturgy, The Councils, The Fathers, The Saints, Canons, and Church Art.5
    2. Their belief in tradition is in conflict with what Jesus taught about manmade doctrine (Matthew 15:79; Revelation 22:1819; 1 Corinthians 4:6). The Orthodox religion claims:

      Holy Tradition is, therefore, that which is passed on and given over within the Church from the time of Christ’s apostles right down to the present day. … Holy tradition is … the total life and experience of the entire Church transferred from place to place and from generation to generation. Tradition is the very life of the Church itself as it is inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit.6

    3. The Orthodox religion puts trusts in the councils of men instead of the counsels of God (2 Timothy 3:1617; 2 Peter 1:19-21; Proverbs 28:26). Concerning this, those in Orthodoxy state:

      The dogmatic definitions [dogma refers to "official teachings"] and the canon laws of the ecumenical councils are understood to be inspired by God and to be expressive of His will for men. Thus, they are essential sources of Orthodox Christian doctrine.

      Seven councils are the most revered today. They are as follows:

      CouncilYearDoctrinal Result

      Nicea I325Formulated the First Part of the Creed, defining the divinity of the Son of God

      Constantinople I381Formulated the Second Part of the Creed, defining the divinity of the Holy Spirit

      Ephesus431Defined Christ as the Incarnate Word of God and Mary as theotokos

      Chalcedon451Defined Christ as Perfect God and Perfect Man in One Person

      Constantinople II553Reconfirmed the Doctrines of the Trinity and of Christ

      Constantinople III680Affirmed the true humanity of Jesus by insisting upon the reality of His human will and action

      Nicea II787Affirmed the propriety of icons as genuine expressions of the Christian Faith

    4. I cannot be a part of the Orthodox religion because of the religion’s exaltation of certain “saints.” Concerning these saints, those in Orthodoxy state, "The point has been rightly made that men can learn almost as much about the real meaning of Christianity from the legends of the saints produced within the tradition of the Church as from the authentic lives themselves."7 Jesus clearly taught that we are not to inappropriately honor or worship other humans (Matthew 4:10; Revelation 19:10; Philippians 2:5; 1 Peter 2:21ff.). [Question: What is the difference between the "legends" of the saints and their actual lives?]
    5. Orthodoxy is not a part of New Testament Christianity because of its icons, which are in essence idols. Concerning these icons, the Orthodox Church says, "The icon is Orthodoxy’s highest artistic achievement. It is a gospel proclamation, a doctrinal teaching and a spiritual inspiration in colors and lines."8 Much is said in the Bible about the worship of images (1 Corinthians 12:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 John 5:21). [Question: How is an icon like an idol?]
    6. Orthodox beliefs of theistic evolution are not in line with the biblical view of Creation. Concerning their belief in theistic evolution, those in Orthodoxy state, "God, however, did not create everything individually and all at once, so to speak. He created the first foundations of existence, and then over periods of time (perhaps millions of years, see 2 Peter 3:8)."9 The doctrine of seven literal days of creation, however, is clearly seen in the "morning and evening" language of Genesis 1 and Exodus 20:11. [Question: What is wrong with believing that God used evolution to create the world?]
    7. I cannot be a part of the Orthodox religion because of Orthodoxy’s belief in original sin (Matthew 18:15; Ecclesiastes 7:29; Ezekiel 28:15).
    8. Orthodoxy cannot be a part of New Testament Christianity because of its emphasis upon the “church building” as a fundamental part of the religious experience:

      The church building is patterned after the image of God’s Kingdom in the Book of Revelation. Before us is the altar table on which Christ is enthroned, both as the Word of God in the Gospels and as the Lamb of God in the eucharistic sacrifice. Around the table are the angels and saints, the servants of the Word and the Lamb who glorify him – and through him, God the Father – in the perpetual adoration inspired by the Holy Spirit. The faithful Christians on earth who already belong to that holy assembly – " … fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God … " (Ephesians 2:19) – enter into the eternal worship of God’s Kingdom in the Church. Thus, in Orthodox practice the vestibule symbolizes this world. The nave is the place of the Church understood as the assembly and people of God. The altar area, called the sanctuary or the holy place, stands for the Kingdom of God.10

Study Questions

  1. What factor(s) led to the formation of the Greek Orthodox denomination?
  2. When did this denomination begin? Who founded it? Where was it founded? Is all of this in accord with the beginning of the New Testament church?
  3. What is wrong with this group’s sources of authority?
  4. Do the Scriptures teach that the definitions and canon laws of ecumenical councils are inspired by God? Why would someone make this kind of statement?
  5. What is wrong with tradition being the life of the church?
  6. Can men learn as much from the "legends" of the saints as they can from the "lives" of the saints? What does the term legends imply?
  7. Is there anything wrong with having an icon? Discuss how this relates to people wearing crosses or having angel figurines in their houses.
  8. What does the Greek Orthodox denomination believe about creation? Do the Scriptures teach theistic evolution?
  9. Discuss Ezekiel 28:18 and original sin.
  10. Is a “church building” essential to New Testament Christianity? Is it sinful? At what point does it cross the line between expedient and sin?


  1. Online: (, retrieved on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 .
  2. The filioque is a heavily disputed part of the Nicene Creed that forms a divisive difference in particular between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. In the Orthodox tradition, the line in question reads, "We believe in the Holy Spirit … who proceeds from the Father," while in the Catholic tradition it reads, "We believe in the Holy Spirit … who proceeds from the Father and the Son." It is most often referred to as simply "filioque" or "the filioque."
  3. Online: (, retrieved on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 .
  4. Online: (, retrieved on Tuesday, March 25, 2014 .
  5. Thomas Hopko, The Orthodox Faith, Volume 1 (Doctrine), Online: (
  6. Online: (, retrieved on Wednesday, February 08, 2006 .
  7. Online: (, retrieved on February 08, 2006 .
  8. Online: (, retrieved on February 08, 2006 .
  9. Online: (, retrieved on February 08, 2006 .
  10. Online: (, retrieved on February 08, 2006 .
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