Orthodoxy and Calvinism represent two major divisions within Christianity. Orthodox Christians are members of the various Eastern Orthodox Churches who trace their lineage to the churches established by St. Paul. Calvinist Christians trace their teachings to the teachings of John Calvin, a French-Swiss theologian who was prominent in the early Protestant Reformation. Calvinist denominations include Reformed and Presbyterian Churches. Many other Christian denominations are influenced by Calvinism to varying degrees.
Calvinism teaches that Adam and Eve's original sin caused total depravity in mankind to the point that people are incapable of choosing God's ways. According to Calvinism, when Adam sinned, all of his progeny became guilty of sin. The Orthodox reject this view of original sin, believing instead that the only direct effect of Adam's sin on his progeny is that people lost immortality. They believe that all people retain their ability to choose to obey or disobey God, but that the ancestral sin of Adam and other forefathers has set a poor example which people tend to follow apart from God's grace.
Calvinism teaches that God chose those whom He would save and those who would be damned before the beginning of time. This is called the doctrine of election or predestination, and is based largely on Romans 8:29 through 30. Calvinists believe that only those who are specifically called by God are capable of responding positively to that call. Orthodox Christians believe that God's grace is available to all through the hearing of the Gospel. In the Orthodox way of thinking, God elects those who are to be saved or damned based on their repentance, or turning from sin to Christ, and obedience to God's word.
Calvinism teaches that Jesus' death was sufficient to pay for everyone's sins, but that it only provided atonement, or payment for forgiveness and reconciliation, for those who are predestined to be saved. This doctrine is known as "limited atonement." Orthodox Christians do not view atonement in the same manner that Calvinists -- or other Protestants and Catholics -- do. In the Orthodox view, atonement is the experiential restoration of the union with God, rather than a payment which was made to satisfy the wrath of God.
Calvinism teaches that grace is unmerited favor, and that those who are called are incapable of resisting God's saving grace, just as those who are reprobate are incapable of receiving it. In their view, the external Gospel message is offered to all who hear it, but God has predetermined who will and won't receive the grace needed to respond to that calling. In the Orthodox view, people have the choice to receive or to resist God's grace. Orthodox Christians view grace as the extension of God's energies which allows people to partake in God's nature and to become increasingly godly through the process they call theosis, or deification.
Calvinism teaches that it is impossible for a person who has been called by God's grace and received God's grace to fall away from faith. This teaching is often expressed as "once saved, always saved." Orthodox Christians believe that man's ultimate destiny is a mystery, and that no one can know with certainty whether he is saved or not. Orthodox Christians tend to view salvation as a process which culminates at people's eventual resurrection, rather than as a single conversion experience.
Icons and Veneration
Orthodox Christians venerate saints, who are often depicted in two-dimensional images -- often carvings -- known as icons, which Orthodox Christians venerate. Orthodox Christians regularly ask the saints to pray for them in their liturgies, though they make a distinction between veneration and actual worship. Calvinists does not generally recognize that distinction, believing that using icons in worship amounts to idolatry. While most Calvinists allow for religious artwork, they do not ascribe sacredness to that artwork. Calvinists regard saints as good examples, but maintain that there is only one mediator between God and man -- Jesus Christ -- and that He alone is to be venerated.
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