The Eastern Orthodox make a great deal of noise about their supposed “unity”.
Let’s examine their claim.
In order to have any actual unity, a denomination or tradition must have, at a bare minimum, unity of doctrine. Do the EO have unity of doctrine?
In a word: No.
Ask five EO the following questions and see how many different answers you get:
- How does the Atonement work?
- What are ‘aerial toll houses’?
- What is original sin?
- Is human nature fundamentally good?
- What is the essence–energies distinction?
- What is the nature of Hell?
In asking these questions, you will find more than a few different answers among the EO, which is to say that the EO are far from unified on doctrine.
Absent doctrinal unity, it is completely incoherent to contend that a denomination or tradition has any meaningful unity. Doctrinal unity is the fundamental foundation, the absolutely necessary baseline for any sort of unity.
Unity in practice is meaningless where unity in doctrine is absent.
Worse still, ask the EO if they have a confession of faith, a catechism, or any universally accepted writing on their doctrine. You’ll find they have none of these.
Yes, some EO will contend the Nicene Creed or various councils are their confession of faith, but the former is accepted by all Christians and the latter are also largely accepted by all Christians (some exceptions may apply, e.g., the Second Council of Nicaea). The EO are distinct — where is the confession that details such distinction?
As for catechisms, the EO will point to various catechisms produced by national churches under the EO umbrella, but none of these is universally accepted within EO. What is the use of, e.g., Philaret of Moscow’s “Longer Catechism” if some EO accept it and some EO reject it? It isn’t a statement of EO if it isn’t universal.
It is, essentially, impossible to pin down precisely what the EO believe on any number of central issues (see, e.g., the list of questions, supra). The EO do not even have consistency within their own body, and yet they advance that they are in agreement with the historical Church — a logical impossibility.
The supposed unity of the EO is all show and no substance. The various churches that exist under the general umbrella of “Eastern Orthodoxy” do not agree with one another, preach and teach different doctrine, and are one only nominally. Worse, even within a single church there is lack of unity on doctrine.
And all this is to say nothing of the various heresies openly tolerated within EO (e.g., universalism). The name “Eastern Orthodox” is practically as ironic as “Baptist”.The latter denigrate the very Sacrament from which they take their name; the former are anything but orthodox. “Eastern Heterodoxy” would be a more accurate term.
Is this to say that the EO are not Christians? No, there are undoubtedly many true Christians within the EO tradition. However, EO itself is openly heterodox. We may hope that felicitous consistency will save many who follow EO, but it would be better far if they abandoned their heterodoxy and rejoined the one true orthodox Church.