A Summary of the Basic Beliefs of Orthodox Christianity

by Timothy Peckinpaugh

Orthodox Christianity began to break with Western Christian tradition during the seventh Ecumenical Council in the year 787, and completely split with the church in 1054 during the Great Schism, in which they rejected the authority of the papacy. Beliefs about the origin of the Holy Spirit's origins created the faction that separated the two. The Orthodox tradition shares similar core beliefs with Roman Catholics and Protestants, though some worship practices differ.

Jesus and Original Sin

Like other Christian denominations, Orthodox Christianity believes in the divine nature of Jesus Christ. They believe Jesus came to Earth, was ritualistically executed to atone for sin and that he rose from the dead. While Jesus' crucifixion atoned for sin, Orthodox Christianity holds different beliefs about the concept of original sin than other denominations, which believe humans are automatically born sinful because of the actions of Adam and Eve. Orthodox Christians do not believe that humans are guilty because of Adam and Eve's actions, yet they still suffer the consequences, chiefly death, because of them. Jesus' atonement serves to repair the damage people's own sins create in their relationship with God.

The Trinity

Orthodox Christians believe in the Trinity; God consists of God the father, Jesus the son and the Holy Spirit, and yet, these three parts are the same as each other. However, one of the main differences of belief between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church centers on ideas about the Holy Spirit. The Roman Catholic Church argues that the Holy Spirit derives from both God the Father and from Jesus, while the Orthodox Church believes it derives exclusively from the God the Father. The Holy Spirit is God's force here on Earth, and Orthodox Christians celebrate it during the Pentecost.

Text and Practices

The Bible that Orthodox Christians follow is similar to the Bible of other Christian denominations, which comprises two parts: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Jewish Torah makes up the first five books of the Old Testament. Orthodox Churches do not use the Hebrew Old Testament, but follow the Septuagint, an ancient Jewish Text in Greek. Prayer occurs multiple times daily. Their worship rites include baptism, chrismation, in which they place a holy oil called chrism on a person in the sign of the cross, taking in the Eucharist, or the divine liturgy, which is the symbolic bread and wine that Jesus gave to his followers to symbolize his body and confession of sins for absolution. Orthodox Christians use icons, art depicting religious figures and saints, to assist in prayer.

Beliefs on Death and the Afterlife

Orthodox Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is the force by which God communicates with people, and promises them rewards in the afterlife if they live devoutly in this one. They see this life as a temporary trial for the life to come.Death came to the world because of original sin; Adam and Eve brought it into the world, so all people must experience it.Those who believed in the faith will be allowed to enter Heaven, which they believe to be a state of paradise where people live in the presence of God. Those who rejected the faith will be subject to eternal torture in Hell, and live outside of God's presence.

About the Author

A resident of Riverside, California, Timothy Peckinpaugh began writing in 2006 for U.S. History Publishers, based in Temecula, California. He graduated magna cum laude from the University of California, Riverside, with a bachelor's degree in English.

Photo Credits

  • Photos.com/Photos.com/Getty Images