Written by Vladimir Moss


Seeker. What is Orthodoxy?

Orthodox. “Orthodoxy” means “right glory”, giving the right glory to God. For there is also a wrong glorification of God, a glorification in which He takes no pleasure. “Unto the sinner God hath said: Why declarest thou My statutes and takes up My covenant in they mouth?” (Psalm 49.17 (LXX)). Thus Orthodoxy is the giving of right glory to God through the right faith and right worship.

Seeker. Why is right faith necessary?

Orthodox. We cannot glorify that which we do not know, and right faith is the true knowledge of God. Those who do not have the right faith cannot glorify God rightly. To them the true believers say, not with arrogance but in humble recognition of the treasure they have received: “Ye know not what ye worship: we know what we worship” (John 4.22).

Seeker. What is the Orthodox Church?

Orthodox. The Orthodox Church is the Church which has Orthodoxy – “the faith once given to the saints”(Jude 9) and the “worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4.23) – that is, the worship of God the Father in the Son, Who is the Truth, and in the Holy Spirit, Who is the Spirit of truth. She is the Body of Christ, the Dwelling-place of the Holy Spirit, the Ark of salvation, the True Vine. By another definition She is the Church that is One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic – One in Her unity in faith and worship, Holy in Her sacraments and the multitude of holy men and women she has produced, Catholic in Her wholeness in each of Her constituent parts, Apostolic in Her origin and unbroken succession from the Apostles and in Her fidelity to the Apostolic teaching. St. Germanus of Constantinople defines the Church as “a divine house where the mystical living Sacrifice is celebrated,... and its precious stones are the divine dogmas taught by the Lord to His disciples.”

Seeker. What bigotry! What, then, are the other Churches – the Roman Catholic and the Protestant, for example?

Orthodox. They are branches that have been cut off from the True Vine in the course of the centuries. The Western Church was Orthodox for the first thousand years of Christian history. But in 1054, after a long period of decline, Rome broke away from the Orthodox East and introduced a whole series of heretical teachings: the infallibility and universal jurisdiction of the Pope, the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father and the Son (the Filioque), indulgences, purgatory, created grace, etc. The Protestants broke away from Rome in the sixteenth century, but did not return to Orthodoxy and the True Church. Instead, they introduced still more heresies, rejecting Tradition, the Sacraments, praying for the dead, the veneration of Saints, etc.

Seeker. But are there not good people among the other Churches?

Orthodox. “Someone came and said unto Him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And He said unto him, Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but One, that is, God. But I thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19.16-17).

Man in his present fallen state is not, and cannot be, good. “There is none that doeth good, no not one” (Psalm 13.4). Even the Apostles were called evil by the Lord (Luke 11.13). Man can become good only through union with the only Good One, God. And this union is possible only through keeping the commandments, of which the first is the command to repent and be baptized. Unless a man has repented and been baptized through the One Baptism of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, thereby receiving God’s goodness within himself, he cannot be said to be good in any real sense. For the “goodness” of the fallen, unbaptized man is not good in God’s eyes, but “filthy rags”, in the words of the Prophet Isaiah.

Seeker. So the Orthodox are good, and all the rest are bad? A pretty self-righteous religion, I should say, just the kind of pharisaical faith the Lord condemned!

Orthodox. No, we do not say that all the Orthodox are good, because it is a sad fact that many, very many Orthodox Christians do not use the goodness, the grace that is given to them in Holy Baptism to do truly good works. And their condemnation will be greater than those who have never received Baptism. “For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them” (II Peter 2.21). “For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgement, and a fury of fire which will consume the adversaries. A man who has violated the law of Moses dies without mercy at the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the Blood of the Covenant by which he was sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know Him Who said, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.’ And again: ‘The Lord will judge His people.’ It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10.26-31).

Seeker. What a bleak picture you paint! The unbaptized cannot do good, and those who sin after baptism are destined for even worse condemnation!

Orthodox. Not quite. Although we cannot be baptized again for the remission of sins, we can receive remission of sins in other ways: through prayer and tears, through fasting and almsgiving, above all through the sacraments of Confession and Holy Communion. God does not reject those who repent with all their heart. As David says: “A heart that is broken and humbled God will not despise” (Psalm 50.17).

Seeker. But is not such repentance possible for all men? Did not David repent in the Psalm you have cited, and receive forgiveness from God?

Orthodox. Yes, but salvation does not consist only in the forgiveness of sins, but also in acquiring holiness, that holiness “without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12.14), that holiness which is given only in the sacraments of the Church and which can be lost unless we conduct an unremitting ascetic struggle against sin. Moreover, original sin can only be remitted in the baptismal font.

Seeker. So not even David was saved?

Orthodox. Not even David was saved before the Coming of Christ. Even the Patriarch Jacob anticipated going to Hades (Sheol) after his death together with his righteous son Joseph: “I shall go mourning down to my son in Hades” (Genesis 37.35). For “all these [Old Testament righteous], though well attested by their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had foreseen something better for us [the New Testament Christians], that apart from us [outside the New Testament Church] they should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11.39-40).

Seeker. What is original sin?

Orthodox. A certain contagion that we receive by inheritance through our parents from Adam, who committed the original sin.

Seeker. How can we be responsible for Adam’s sin?

Orthodox. We are not responsible for it, but we are defiled by it.

Seeker. Even children?

Orthodox. Even children. For “even from the womb, sinners are estranged” (Psalm 57.3). And as Job says: “Who shall be pure from uncleanness? Not even one, even if his life should be but one day upon the earth” (Job 14.4 (LXX)).[1] Again, St. Gregory of Nyssa writes: “Evil was mixed with our nature from the beginning… through those who by their disobedience introduced the disease. Just as in the natural propagation of the species each animal engenders its like, so man is born from man, a being subject to passions from a being subject to passions, a sinner from a sinner. Thus sin takes its rise in us as we are born; it grows with us and keep us company till life’s term”.[2] That is why the Church has from the beginning practiced infant baptism “for the remission of sins”.

Seeker. It still seems unfair to me that anyone, let alone tiny children, should suffer for someone else’s sin.

Orthodox. God’s justice is not our justice. And remember: if it is unfair that we should suffer because of Adam’s sin, it is no less unfair that we should be redeemed because of Christ’s virtue. The two “injustices” are symmetrical and cancel each other out: “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Romans 5.19).

Seeker. So it is impossible to be good outside the Church, because sin and the roots of sin are extirpated only in the Church?

Orthodox. More than that: only in the Church can sin be known. For only to the Church has the will of God been made known in its fullness. And if we do not know what the will of God is, we cannot repent properly of our transgression of His will. The Church is the only hospital in which we receive both the correct diagnosis of the disease and complete healing from it.

Seeker. Alright. But how, then, are miracles done outside the Church, and even in non-Christian religions?

Orthodox. Miracles – if they are truly from God, and not from the evil one – are a proof, not (or not necessarily) of the goodness of the human miracle-worker, but of the mercy of God.

Seeker. So if a Catholic or an Anglican or a Hindu works a miracle, that is nothing, whereas if an Orthodox does it, it’s great!

Orthodox. I didn’t say that. What I said was that the working of a miracle, if it is of God, tells us first of all that God is merciful. Whether it also proves the goodness of the human miracle-worker (or of the recipient of the miracle) is quite another question, which requires careful examination.

I do not deny that true miracles can take place outside the Church. After all, God “maketh His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5.45). And when St. John forbade a man who was casting out demons in Christ’s name “because he followeth not us”, Christ did not approve of his action. “Forbid him not,” he said; “for there is no man which shall do a miracle in My name that can lightly speak evil of Me. For he that is not against us is on our side” (Mark 9.38-40).

On the other hand, the Lord also said: “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? And in Thy name cast out demons? And in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them: I never knew you, Depart from Me, ye workers of iniquity!” (Matthew 7.22-23). So it is possible to work a miracle in Christ’s name, and yet be an evil man. And God may work the miracle through the evil man, not in order to testify to the man’s (non-existent) goodness, but purely out of compassion for the miracle’s recipient. After all, Judas worked miracles – but St. John the Baptist, the greatest born of woman, worked no miracles…

Nor must we forget that Christian-looking miracles and prophecies can be done through the evil one. Thus a girl spoke the truth about the Apostle Paul, exhorting people to follow him – but she spoke through a pythonic spirit which Paul exorcised (Acts 16.16-18). I believe that the vast majority of miracles worked in pagan religions such as Hinduism are from the evil one; for “all the gods of the heathen are demons” (Psalm 95.5).

Seeker. If even miracle-workers can be of the evil one, who can be saved?

Orthodox. One must always distinguish between the possession of spiritual gifts and salvation. “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you;” said the Lord, “but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10.20). “If I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (I Corinthians 13.2).

Seeker. Ah now that’s where I agree with you! Love is the essential mark of the Christian. And I have to say that’s just what I find distinctly lacking in your exposition. Such pride to think that you Orthodox, and you alone, belong to the True Church! And such hatred to think that everyone except you is going to be damned!

Orthodox. But I didn’t say that!

Seeker. You did!

Orthodox. I said that the Church of Christ, by which I mean exclusively the Orthodox Church, is the only Ark of salvation. But I did not say that all those in the Ark will be saved, for they may cast themselves out of it by their evil deeds. And I did not say that those who are swimming towards the Ark but who were cut off from entering it before their death, cannot be saved. Who knows whether the Sovereign God, Who knows the hearts of all men, may not choose to stretch out His hand to those who, through ignorance or adverse circumstances, were not able to enter the Ark before the darkness of death descended upon them, but who in their hearts and minds were striving for the truth? “Charity hopeth all things” (I Corinthians 13.7).

Seeker. [ironically] How charitable of you! But this is more a pious hope than an article of faith for you, isn’t it?

Orthodox. Of course. From the point of dogmatic faith, we can and must assert that, as St. Cyprian of Carthage said, “there is no salvation outside the Church”.[3] For the Lord Himself says, with great emphasis: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, unless a man is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God” (John 3.5). And again: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, unless you eat of the Flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His Blood, you have no life in you” (John 6.53). And the Apostle Peter says: “If the righteous man is scarcely saved, where will the impious and sinner appear?” (I Peter 4.18).

Moreover, if we, arrogantly presuming to be more “merciful” than the All-Merciful Lord Himself, take it upon ourselves to “absolve” those living in false religions or heresies, we sin not only against dogmatic faith, but also against love. For then we make ourselves guilty of leading them further into error by giving them the false hope that they can stay in their falsehood without danger to their immortal souls. We take away from them the fear of God and the spur to search out the truth, which alone can save them.

Seeker. And yet you spoke earlier about “ignorance and adverse circumstances”. Surely God takes that into account!

Orthodox. Of course He does. But “taking into account” is not the same as “absolving of all guilt”. Remember the parable of the negligent servants: “That servant who knew His master’s will, but did not make ready or act according to His will, shall receive a severe beating. But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating” (Luke 12.47-48). In other words, ignorance of the Lord’s will and of His truth can mitigate His sentence, but it cannot remove it altogether.

Seeker. Why? Did not the same Lord say: “If ye were blind, ye would have no sin” (John 9.41)?

Orthodox. Because we are never totally blind. Being made in the image of God, we always have some access to that “Light that enlighteneth every man that cometh into the world” (John 1.9). Thus the Apostle Paul says plainly that pagans who do not believe in the One Creator of the universe are “without excuse”; “for what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature, namely, His eternal power and divinity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made” (Romans 1.19-20). God “did not leave Himself without witness” even among the pagans, “for He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14.17). Moreover, as the Wisdom of Solomon declares, any man with a conscience knows instinctively that the sacrifice of children is evil. That is why some of the greatest Christians, such as St. Barbara, rejected paganism even without the help of a Christian preacher.

The Holy Fathers say that every man has creation outside him and conscience within to lead him away from falsehood and towards the Church, which is the third great witness to the truth, “the pillar and ground of the truth”, as St. Paul calls it (I Timothy 3.15). Creation and conscience alone cannot reveal the whole truth to him; but if he follows that partial revelation which creation and conscience provide, God will help him to find the fullness of truth in the Church. Nor is there any situation in life, however remote from, and opposed to, the Church, from which the Lord, Who wishes that all be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth, cannot rescue the genuine seeker.

Seeker. But what if the pagan or the heretic has never met the truth in the Church, or has met only very sinful or ignorant representatives of the Church? Can he not then be said to be blind and ignorant, and therefore not sinning?

Orthodox. Everything depends on the nature and degree of the ignorance. There is voluntary ignorance and involuntary ignorance. If there were not such a thing as involuntary ignorance, the Lord would not have said on the Cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23.34). And His prayer was answered, for on the Day of Pentecost, Peter called on the Jews to repent, saying, “I know that you acted in ignorance” (Acts 3.17), after which thousands repented and were baptized. Again, the Apostle Paul “received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief” (I Timothy 1.13). But note that all these people responded to the truth when it was presented to them. This showed that their ignorance had been involuntary, and therefore excusable. On the other hand, there is a hardness of heart that refuses to respond to the signs God gives of His truth, the signs from without and the promptings from within. This is voluntary ignorance. People who are hardened in this way do not know the truth because they do not want to know it. This stubborn refusal to accept the truth is what the Lord calls “the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 12.32), which will not be forgiven in this world or the next.

Seeker. Why can it not be forgiven?

Orthodox. Because forgiveness is given only to the penitent, and penitence is a recognition of the truth about oneself. However, if a man refuses to face the truth, and actively fights against it in his soul, he cannot repent, and so cannot be forgiven. In fighting against truth, he is fighting against the Holy Spirit of truth, Who leads into all truth (John 16.13). It is possible for a man to be sincerely mistaken about Christ for a while, and this can be forgiven him, as it was forgiven to the Apostle Paul. But if such ignorance is compounded by a rejection of the promptings to truth placed in the soul by the Spirit of truth, there is no hope. So the pagan who stubbornly remains in His paganism in spite of the evidence of creation and conscience, and the heretic who stubbornly remains in his heresy in spite of the teaching of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, are both blaspheming against the Spirit of truth, and cannot be saved.

Seeker. So is there really no hope for the heretic?

Orthodox. While there is life there is hope. And there are many examples of people who have remained in heresy all their lives but have been converted to the truth just before their death. There is no hope only for those who do not love the truth. Such people the Lord will not lead to His truth, because they do not desire it. Rather, He will allow them to be deceived by the Antichrist “because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sendeth upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (II Thessalonians 2.10-12).

Seeker. Alright. But I am still not convinced that only your Church is the True Church. In fact, I am not happy with the concept of “the One True Church” in general. It smacks of bigotry and intolerance to me.

Orthodox. You know, tolerance is not a Christian virtue. Love is.

Seeker. You amaze me! Is not tolerance a form of love? And is not all hatred forbidden for the Christian?

Orthodox. No. The Lord our God is a zealous God, and He expects zeal from us – zeal for the good, and hatred for the evil. “Ye that love the Lord, see to it that ye hate evil” (Psalm 96.11). What He hates most of all is lukewarmness: “I know your works: ye are neither cold nor hot. Would that ye were cold or hot! So, because ye are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth… So be zealous and repent” (Revelation 3.15-16, 19). St. Gregory of Nyssa wrote: “The Lawgiver of our life has enjoined upon us one single hatred. I mean that of the serpent, for no other purpose has He bidden us exercise this faculty of hatred, but as a weapon against wickedness.”[4]

Seeker. But that still means we are not allowed to hate human beings. Are we not meant to hate the sin and love the sinner? This is the kind of teaching that leads to burning heretics at the stake!

Orthodox. No. Neither St. Gregory nor any other saint of the Orthodox Church that I know of advocated persecuting people for their religious convictions. Christian love abhors using violence as a means of persuading people for the simple reason that such “persuasion” may change the movement of a person’s body or tongue, but never of his heart. But it does not go to the other extreme and ceases trying to persuade them by reasoned argument. Nor, if they persist in their false teachings, does it hold back from protecting others from their influence! If we love the sinner and hate his sin, then we must do everything in our power both to deliver him from that sin and protect others from being contaminated by it.

Seeker. I think this is the kind of bigotry that comes from believing that one is in “the One True Church”. It is the source of religious persecution, the Inquisition, etc.

Orthodox. The cause of religious persecution is not the claim to possess the truth, which all rational people who have thought out their beliefs claim, but human passions.

Seeker. What about Ivan the Terrible? What about most of the Orthodox emperors? Did they not discriminate against heresy?

Orthodox. Ivan was excommunicated by the Church, and was rather a persecutor of the Orthodox than an instrument of their persecuting others. As for the emperors’ discriminating against heresy, I am all in favour of that. It is irrational to place truth and falsehood on an equal footing. St. Theodosius of the Kiev Caves, one of the greatest saints who ever lived, said that by honouring others’ faiths we dishonour our own. Do our schools give equal honour to the theories of Ptolemy and Newton? Of course not!

Seeker. But that’s different! There we’re talking about scientific facts!

Orthodox. I don’t see any difference in principle. Our principle is: speak the truth at all times, reject falsehood at all times. If scientists do that in their sphere, where there is no certainty and “facts” are constantly being disputed by later investigators, why should we not do it in the incomparably higher and more important sphere of religious faith, whose incontrovertible facts have been communicated to us by the Truth Himself? For as St. Paul says about the Gospel: “I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1.12).

Seeker. And if everyone claims to have received a revelation from God?

Orthodox. Then we must patiently investigate who is telling the truth and who has been deceived by “the father of lies”. Just as scientists have methods for comparing different hypotheses and determining which (if any) is the correct one, so do we Orthodox Christians have methods of determining what is truth and what is falsehood in the religious sphere. And just as scientists will never accept that there can be more than one true explanation of an empirical phenomenon, so we will never accept that there can be more than one religious truth.

Seeker. Cannot different religious faiths each reveal part of the truth?

Orthodox. No. The Truth is One, and has been revealed to us by the Truth Himself: “One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism” (Ephesians 4.4).

Seeker. So there is no truth at all in any of the non-Christian religions?

Orthodox. I didn’t say that. Satan likes to appear as an angel of light (II Corinthians 11.14); he “mixes truth with unrighteousness” (Romans 1.18). Thus with the bait of such fair-seeming ideals as “love”, “peace” and “freedom”, which correctly interpreted are indeed goods from God, he lures them into an abyss of falsehood. There is only one religion which contains “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth”. All the others, being parasitical on the One Truth, contain partial truths, but make even these partial truths false by association with falsehood, just as even a small dose of poison in a wholesome loaf makes the whole loaf poisonous.

Seeker. So there are partial truths in other religions, but no salvation?

Orthodox. Right. For as St. Peter said of Christ: “There is salvation in none other: for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4.12).

Seeker. What about the Muslims and the Jews? Do they not believe in the same God as we – the God of Abraham, their common ancestor?

Orthodox. The Lord said to the Jews: “If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham” (John 8.39). And St. Paul said: “Know ye therefore that they which are of the faith” – that is, the faith in Christ – “are the children of Abraham” (Galatians 3.7). The God of Abraham is the God of our Lord Jesus Christ; Abraham himself looked forward to the Coming of Christ in the flesh – “Abraham saw My day and was glad” (John 8.56).

Seeker. Alright. But do not the Jews and Muslims also believe in the God of the Old Testament, Jehovah, Who is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?

Orthodox. We believe that the great majority of the appearances of God in the Old Testament were appearances of the Son, not of God the Father. Contrary to the belief of the Jehovah’s witnesses, the “Jehovah” of the Old Testament is Christ Himself. Moses and Elijah appeared with Christ at the Transfiguration to show that it is He Who appeared to them in the cloud and the fire and the still, small voice; it is He Who is the God of the Law and the Prophets.

Seeker. But do not the Muslims believe in Christ after their fashion?

Orthodox. They believe that He is a prophet who is coming again to judge the world. But they do not believe in His Divinity, nor in His Cross and Resurrection – the central dogmas of our Faith. Remember that since God is a Trinity of Persons, it is impossible rightly to believe in One of the Persons and not in the Others. For “whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father” (I John 2.23).

Moreover, the Muslims believe in the false prophet Mohammed, who contradicts Christ’s teaching in many respects. For example, the Muslims say that a man can have four wives, but Christ – only one. If they truly believed in Christ, they would not follow Mohammed’s teaching instead of Christ’s.

Seeker. But the Jews are the chosen people, are they not?

Orthodox. They were the chosen people, but then God rejected them for their unbelief and scattered them across the face of the earth, choosing the believing Gentiles in their place.

Seeker. But the religion of the Old Testament was the true religion, was it not? And insofar as they practise that religion, they are true believers, are they not?

Orthodox. The religion of the Old Testament was a true foreshadowing of, and preparation for, the full revelation of the Truth in Jesus Christ. But once the fullness of the Truth has appeared, it is impious to remain with the shadow; indeed, to mistake the shadow of the Truth for the Truth Himself is a grievous delusion. In any case, the Jews do not practise the Old Testament religion.

Seeker. What are you talking about?! Of course they do!

Orthodox. Since the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D., it has been impossible for the Jews to practise the main commandment of their religion, which was to worship God with sacrifices in the Temple three times a year – at Pascha, Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles. Thus has the prophecy of the Prophet Hosea been fulfilled: “The children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince or sacrifice” (Hosea 3.4).

Seeker. What is their present religion then?

Orthodox. Not the religion of the Old Testament, but the religion of the Pharisees, which Christ rejected as being merely “the traditions of men”. Its relationship to the Old Testament is tenuous. Its real holy book is not the Holy Scriptures of the Old Testament, but the Talmud, a collection of the teachings of the Pharisees.

Seeker. And what does that teach?

Orthodox. The most extreme hatred of Christ and Christians. Not only does the Talmud deny the Divinity and Resurrection of Christ: it reviles Him as a sorcerer and a bastard, the son of a Roman soldier called Panthera and an unclean woman. Moreover, it teaches a double standard of morality: one for fellow Jews, quite another for the goyim, the Gentiles, who are not even accorded the dignity of fully human beings.

Seeker. But is this not anti-semitism?

Orthodox. Anti-semitism as a racist attitude of hatred for all Jews as such is of course contrary to the Christian Gospel. Nor can Christians approve of those cruelties that have been perpetrated against the Jews (not the discrimination against their teaching, but the physical violence against their persons) down the centuries. But this in no way implies that Christians must participate in the campaign of whitewashing the Jews that has been continuing for nearly a century in both religious and non-religious circles. As the Gospels clearly indicate, the Jews killed Christ and brought His Blood upon themselves and upon their children. Nor has their hatred of Christ and Christians lessened down the centuries: anti-semitism is in large measure the reaction of Christians and Gentiles to the anti-Gentilism and anti-Christianity of the Talmud, which approves of all manner of crimes against Gentiles.

Seeker. But must we not love the Jews, even if they are our enemies?

Orthodox. Indeed, we must love our enemies and pray for them, as Christ commanded. In particular, we must pray that they will be converted and return to Christ, as St. Paul prophesied would happen in the last times. “For if the casting away of them [the Jews] be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?” (Romans 11.15).

Seeker. What you say makes sense, but I have one fundamental objection to everything you say.

Orthodox. What is that?

Seeker. You claim that this is Orthodoxy, but I know that it is not.

Orthodox. What do you mean?

Seeker. Your hierarchs participate in the ecumenical movement, which is based on principles completely contrary to the Orthodoxy you preach.

Orthodox. Actually, my hierarchs do not participate in the ecumenical movement. However, your mistake is understandable, because those large organizations and patriarchates which are associated in the public eye with Orthodoxy, such as the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Moscow Patriarchate, do take part in the ecumenical movement and even pray with the leaders of other non-Christian religions. But we have no communion with them, because they have betrayed Orthodoxy.

Seeker. How can the leaders of Orthodoxy be said to have betrayed Orthodoxy?! It’s like saying that the Pope has betrayed Catholicism!

Orthodox. But he did! It was the Popes who in the second half of the eleventh century betrayed Orthodox Catholicism and the Orthodox Catholic Church, making it – or rather, that part of it which submitted to them – into something quite different: the Roman (pseudo-) Catholic Church. In the same way, in the twentieth century, it is the leaders of the official Orthodox Churches who have betrayed Orthodoxy, making it into something quite different: “World Orthodoxy” or “Ecumenist Orthodoxy”.

You must remember that just as “he is not a Jew who is one outwardly” (Romans 2.28), but only he who belongs to “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6.16), that is, the Church of Christ, so he is not an Orthodox Christian who is one outwardly, but only he who confesses his Orthodoxy in word and deed. Fortunately, there are still Orthodox Christians who are so in truth, and not merely in appearance, and who have separated from the prevailing apostasy. And these, however few they are or will become, remain that Church against which “the gates of hell will not prevail” (Matthew 16.18), and of whom the Lord of the Church said: “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom” (Luke 12.32).

Seeker. Well, I am relieved to hear that. For I was convinced by your words, but was beginning to think that nobody practised that truth which I have come to believe in. And now I ask you: when you have instructed me in the true faith, receive me into the Church through Holy Baptism.

Orthodox. If you believe what I have said, then you already have the true faith, dear brother! If you believe with all your heart that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that the Orthodox Church contains the fullness of the truth revealed by Him without any admixture of error, then there is nothing to prevent you from being baptized. And do not fear: however small the Church on earth becomes, the Church in heaven is growing all the time, until the very end of the world. For “you have come to Mount Zion and to the City of the Living God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable Angels in festal gathering, and to the Assembly of the Firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to a Judge Who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus, the Mediator of the New Covenant, and to the sprinkled Blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel…” (Hebrews 12.22-24).

May 21 / June 3, 2004; revised December 3/16, 2013.

[1] The Massoretic text says: “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.”

[2] St. Gregory of Nyssa, On the Beatitudes, 6, PG. 44, 1273.

[3] St. Cyprian of Carthage, On the Unity of the Church.

[4] St. Gregory of Nyssa, Letter XVII to Eustathia, Ambrosia and Basilissa.

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