Doctrines and Philosophy
A creed refers to a statement or declaration of beliefs that are essential to the church. The Eastern tradition officially recognises the Nicene Creed, which contains twelve articles that summarise the core beliefs of the church. The Nicene Creed can be viewed here.
- Bible: The Bible is the main religious text of Eastern . It is often referred to as the ‘Sacred Scripture’, which reflects the belief that the text is divinely inspired and revealed by God. The Bible is a collection of different genres including historical chronicles and myths, , prophecy, laws, ethics, songs and poetry. The text is divided into two sections: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Eastern tradition follows the Greek canon of the Old Testament (known as the Septuagint), thereby accepting 46 books (seven additional books from the Hebrew canon used in Judaism and Protestant churches).
- The Gospels: A major part of the New Testament are the four Gospels, each believed to be passed down by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Gospels are considered to be especially important as the books detail the life story of Jesus Christ during his time on earth.
- Other texts: Eastern churches also place importance on works by canonised saints or patriarchs throughout history. The liturgies of these notable people may be read during certain parts of the year. Another common book is the Euchologion, which is the main liturgical text that contains the portions of religious services that are spoken by the clergy.
The Eastern tradition is , believing in the existence of one and only one God. An important component of Eastern is the understanding of God’s essence as transcendental, incomprehensible and unknowable. Although God’s essence is unknowable, God sends divine energies that spread through creation. These energies are known as God’s ‘grace’.
This difference between God’s essence and God’s energies manifests in Eastern doctrine in various ways. For example, Eastern follows an apophatic theology, which means that language and doctrine are not the focal points. Rather, emphasis tends to be on the mysterious nature of God through religious awe and personal experience of God as well as participating in God’s energies through rituals (such as venerating icons).
The Holy Trinity
Part of God’s unknowable essence is the sacred mystery of the Holy Trinity, which refers to the three forms of the one God. The Holy Trinity consists of God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ) and God the Holy Spirit (the presence of God). These are three manifestations of God, not three distinct gods.
In Christian theology, ‘grace’ is the free, unmerited gift from God that is necessary for salvation of the soul (Ephesians 2:8). God’s grace is available in both everyday ordinary life as well as during sacred rituals (such as the sacraments). Since grace is a gift from God, an individual can choose to either accept or reject it.
Theosis (Unity with God)
In Eastern , salvation is believed to involve uniting the human and the divine. The doctrine of theosis (unity with God) refers to an experience of the divine. The Eastern churches base this doctrine in several scriptures of the Bible. For instance, the creation narrative in Genesis 1:26 as well as other scriptures (such as John 17:20-21 and in 2 Peter 1:4). These verses refer to the relationship and unification between the divine God and humans as a way of salvation for the individual. According to the doctrine of theosis, the goal of Christian life is to participate in the divine nature, and achieve union between humans’ and God’s energies.
In Eastern , the Church is regarded as assisting and facilitating the communion between the individual and God through personal experience. The Church simultaneously continues and embodies the holy tradition through administering the sacraments, maintaining liturgical worship and being in spiritual union with God’s grace.
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