From the beginning of the Christian era, there has been, and there remains, One Holy
Catholic and Apostolic Church, built by our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ,
founded upon His Apostles; a Church that will endure to the end of the ages, and against
whom the gates of Hades shall not prevail; a Church that is the pillar and ground of
truth. This Holy Church is the Ark of Salvation. It is exists and continues in this world,
under the headship of Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, through an Apostolic
Succession of bishops that is both physical and spiritual, rooted not in mere
organisational form, but in the adherence to the true doctrine and praxis which was
once for all delivered to the Saints.
The Holy Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs in 1848 spoke thus: “For our faith,
brethren, is not of men nor by man, but by revelation of Jesus Christ, which the divine
Apostles preached, the holy Ecumenical Councils confirmed, the greatest and wisest
teachers of the world handed down in succession, and the shed blood of the holy martyrs
ratified. Let us hold fast to the confession which we have received unadulterated from
such men, turning away from every novelty as a suggestion of the devil.”
At divers times, various communities have embraced error and cut themselves off from
the Church, maintaining, in their pride that their heresy, schism, or unlawful assembly
constitutes the real Church. St. Cyril of Jerusalem, addressing this issue in the Fourth
Century, said, “And if ever you are sojourning in cities, inquire not simply where the
Lord's House is (for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens
houses of the Lord), nor merely where the church is, but where is the Catholic Church”
(Cat. Lect. XVIII).
Among these faith communities were the sundry forms of Gnosticism, Montanists,
Arians Sabellians, Novationists, Donatists, and many other heresies and schisms that
have long since disappeared. Others, like the Nestorians and Monophysites, remain to
And over a period of centuries the venerable Church of Rome turned from the path of
truth, claiming universal jurisdiction over the entire Church, and inventing manifold
teachings which our Fathers had not known. Following in this course, she ultimately cut
herself off from the larger body of the Church. The Great Schism is often dated from the
year 1054, when Papal Legates excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople;
certainly the Schism was sealed by 1204, when the Western Crusaders turned aside to
sack that great city, and establish their own Latin Patriarchate there.
Centuries later, pious, God-fearing men in the West, chafing under the bit of Papal
tyranny, rightly recognising that Old Rome had introduced heresies and innovations
destructive to true faith, shutting up the gates of the Kingdom of God in the face of the
people of Europe, attempted to restore the purity of Christian faith, appealing to the
Scriptures, and even to the Holy Fathers of Orthodoxy, but in a context divorced from
the Living Tradition of the Orthodox, Catholic, Eastern Church.
In the East, Holy Tradition, which includes the Scriptures, and is structured by and
guided by the Holy Spirit in accordance with the Scriptures, is the vehicle for the
transmission of the Faith to each succeeding generation. In the West, under the Papacy,
Tradition had become a parallel authority, often contradictory to the Scriptures. Men
like Luther, Calvin, Chemnitz, Melanchthon, Knox, and Cranmer, tried to reform Latin
Catholicism in accord with the Scriptures, but they did so with the mind of Sixteenth
Century Europeans whose tradition had been cut off from the Church for hundreds of
As a Pastor in the Lutheran Church of Sweden recently put it:
Under Roman Catholicism, the popes took away Tradition from us. They
made the definition of Tradition their property, and used it to
promulgate excesses which were in direct conflict with Scripture.
Western tradition became "papal encyclikas". So when Luther reacted
against the errors of medieval Catholicism, he had no tradition to
appeal to. All he had was Scripture. Hence the focus on this as the sole
reliable source of doctrine. Orthodox, on the other hand, have never had
Tradition stolen from them, appropriated by a dictator-style church
Try to see it from their point. The reformers had been born and raised
under the papal system, they had experienced the Roman church in all its
glory and all its depravity. Then came the discovery of the Bible and
the dichotomies between it and catholicism. Debates followed, positions
became polarized as they always do when both parties feel that
essentials are being attacked. When the Lutherans were exposed to
Orthodoxy, they had already determined that any appeal to Tradition was
a trap designed to modify Biblical teaching according to later church
ideas, which were suspect. Luther was like a drowning man, pushed off
the Roman ship. He finds a flotation device (the Bible) and clings
desperately to it. When the ship of Orthodoxy passes, he does not dare
climb onboard for fear of losing that which saved him.
(Pastor Åke Eldberg, Orthodox-Lutheran_Dialogue Forum, Messages 1352 &
1358. 12 December 2004)
The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century led to the proliferation of Protestant faith
communities, each claiming strict adherence to the Scriptures, but divided from each
other by a multitude of both doctrinal and practical concerns, each doing what is right in
its own eyes, according to its own understanding of the Scriptures. This situation has
not changed, despite the best efforts of Ecumenists of all stripes to mimimise doctrinal
considerations and unite on the basis of a vaguely defined “brotherhood of all believers.”
In the mid 1990's, I was a Ruling Elder and Licenced Preacher in a small, Confessional,
Reformed Presbyterian denomination in the American South. Being a Calvinist, I read
the works of the Reformers and their successors; I read and learned the Reformed
Confessions; I preached the Gospel according to the Reformed Faith. As time went on, I
read the Holy Fathers of Orthodoxy–after all, Calvin, for instance, quoted copiously
from them. I expected the Fathers to be, in essence, Calvinists before Calvin.
What I found shocked me – rather than finding the Fathers to be Reformed, I found
them to be more like the Orthodox whose services I had visited in the past, and whose
contemporary theologians I had read. Most of all, I found them all to affirm the
ecclesiological view with which I began this introduction.
This did not, of course, happen in a vacuum. It had not been long since Frank Schaeffer,
the son of one of the most beloved Reformed theologians of the Twentieth Century, had
converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. This high-profile move was a scandal to many of us.
Many Reformed proceeded to examine the teachings of the Orthodox in order to figure
out why he did this.
Another influence at that time was the “Tyler” faction of Christian Reconstructionists –
Gary North, Ray Sutton, David Chilton, and James B. Jordan, among others. These men
also turned to the Fathers, arriving at a more Catholic understanding of the Faith. Most
of them soon left Presbyterianism for the Reformed Episcopal Church. Many of their
disciples went even farther, turning either to the Pope or to Orthodoxy. I was one of
It was a search for truth that led me to Reformed theology years ago, and it was the
same desire to find the truth that led me past Reformed theology and into the One,
Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ. I did not convert because the
Reformed Faith was wrong, but rather because it was incomplete, and became
inadequate for me once I came face-to-face with the Church that Christ has built.
The collection of articles and links below is designed as an introduction to the Orthodox
Faith for Lutherans, Reformed, and Anglicans – the children of the Magisterial
Reformation. Others, like Baptists, Wesleyans, Anabaptists and so on might find them
useful as well, but those groups are not the focus here.
I assume that those who come here are believers in Christ, and are such that seek the
real truth of Scripture, and thus I exhort you--read these essays and challenge your
presuppositions. And most importantly, pay a visit to an Orthodox Parish, for, as our
Holy Fathers teach, the truth is not simply understood with the mind, but is experienced
with the whole being and in the context of the true worship of the One Triune God.
May the Lord God guide you in spirit and truth as you search diligently to see if these
things be so.
Ephrem Hugh Bensusan, L.Th.
Director, Tserkovnost::An Eastern Orthodox Resource Centre
12/25 February 2005 :: Commemoration of St. Meletios, Archbishop of Antioch