Read about the “Into Orthodoxy” series here.
I am Orthodox because:
- I like not being expected to believe that non-Christians will necessarily spend eternity burning in hell;
- Orthodoxy teaches that salvation does not come automatically to all self-professing Christians who recite a magical incantation of faith, but is the result of a lifelong commitment to spiritual struggle;
- I am drawn to the aesthetics of the Orthodox Church, which, to some people, may seem like a trivial reason. But the sights, sounds, and smells of Orthodoxy have been instrumental in creating in me a spiritual mindset;
- I soon came to believe that sola scriptura (i.e., the Protestant teaching that that the Bible, alone, is authoritative for the faith and practice of the believer) is a false doctrine. First of all, the Bible itself doesn’t teach sola scriptura (thus, this doctrine is self-contradictory – see here). Second, St. Paul tells us that the Church (and not the Bible) is the “pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). Third, this approach begs the following question: if God wished to communicate Truth through one medium, alone, why would He choose one that was inaccessible to most people? Most early Christians were illiterate and without personal copies of the Scriptures (see here). Lastly, this approach is ignorant of how Christian truth was taught in the early years of Christianity, when the New Testament, as we now know it, did not even exist (see here). It was not until 367 that the 27 books that comprise the New Testament cannon were first identified (by St. Athanasius). How, then, was the faith taught throughout the first several centuries of Christianity? It was taught through the Church – particularly the Fathers and Saints who experienced theosis (or glorification, as it is called in the West) – which predated the New Testament. It was the Church who authored and recognized the inspiration of the books of the Christian Bible, and it is the Church (not isolated individuals guided by the Holy Spirit) that has the final authority in interpreting it.
- My faith affirms the possibility – to which the lives of the saints attest – that the spiritual struggler will ultimately reach a stage at which he mystically encounters God and is liberated from all fear and doubt.
Amir Azarvan is a political science lecturer at Kennesaw State University, and is the editor of the Eastern Light, which offers diverse Orthodox perspectives on a variety of social, political, theological, and cultural issues.