Orthodoxy in the World: Teachings (A)

This is the 9th blog in this introductory series to the Orthodox Faith.   The First blog is The First blog is Orthodoxy in the World & Light to the World.   The previous  blog is Orthodoxy in the World: 18th-20th Centuries.

The very heart of Orthodoxy centers on the answer to the question, “Who is Jesus of Nazareth?”   Answering that question was the main point of the debates that consumed the Church throughout the age of the Councils.  But before answering that question, we need to set the background for understanding the question’s import.   First, we will look at the question posed to God in the Psalms,  “What are humans that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” (Ps 8:5, NAB).   Then, we will look at the Orthodox understanding of God, before returning to the question about  Jesus Christ.

 The key to understanding humanity for Eastern Orthodox is found in Genesis 1-3.  In this scripture that we learn several key factors about humans:

1)   Humans are not God, but rather are created by God and were to serve as intermediaries between God and the rest of creation.   The Orthodox see a clear hierarchy in the Bible:   God, then humans, then the rest of creation.    Angels are seen as occupying a “place” closer to God and serve as God’s messengers to humanity.  However, humans still occupy a place of unique favor in God’s eyes and plan. 

2)   Humans, male and female, are created in the image and likeness of God.   While the Patristic writers of Christianity’s first 8 Centuries debated the exact implication of humans being in God’s image, they all accepted this as a key to understanding humanity.    Humans are given free will and creativity by God.    Humans are loved by God and are capable of loving others.    Humans can think, have a natural relationship to God, and are created as good and to be good.   Humans are tripartite beings (body, spirit and soul), not a duality.    Humans are not merely physical and spiritual.   Part of being human is a soul, the very place where the Spirit of God interfaces with the physical part of humanity.   Thus there is no absolute separation between the spiritual and physical or between humanity and divinity.  The natural condition for humans is to be in communion with God.   Humans are not created as individuals, but rather are relational beings – always in relationship to God, to each other, and to the rest of the created order.  The relationship to God is not limited by what humans believe, for God has placed His image in each person.

Next:  Orthodoxy in the World:  Teachings (B)