Light from the Christian East:
to the Orthodox Tradition
James R. PAYTON
On the meaning of orthodox in the West and in the East:
“For both Western and Eastern Christianity, the word orthodox is reserved for what is especially prized in Christian faith and practice. The term itself is a combination of two Greek words: orthos, meaning ‘upright’ or ‘proper’, and doxa, which means both ‘opinion’ and ‘glory’.
In Western Christianity, the term orthodox is used for right opinion. This Western Christian usage intends both solid teaching and doctrinal precision. Consequently, orthodox is also used to identify groups and individuals known for their concern to maintain strict doctrinal positions. In Western Christianity, orhtodox focuses on doctrinal precision; the term is rarely used with other significations.
Orthodoxy picks up on the other meanings of the Greek words that are combined in the term. In Eastern Christianity, orthodox is used for that which gives proper glory to God. The Eastern Christian usage includes solicitude regarding true teaching, but that is not the paramount concern; teaching is a necessary ingredient, but is not itself the focus. Eastern Christianity uses orthodox to describe a style of life and worship that is faithful to the Christian message. Such faithfulness-which requires but is not limited to concerns for truthful teaching-gives ‘proper glory’ to God.”
On ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ theology.
The author has great pages on that, pp.72-78. Here is just one sentence that stuck me:
“The God to whom we relate is with us, but He is always beyond us and our understanding.”
On the Creator and the Creation
“The terse affirmations made in Genesis 1-2 do not amount to explanations or even descriptions, from an Orthodox perspective; they confront us with the declaration that all that is, came from God. In presenting the entire universe as God’s creative handiwork, Orthodoxy excludes all thought of an evolutionary process operating outside of God, to be sure.
Equally, it precludes any arrogant claim to comprehend from the first chapters of Genesis how God brought everything into existence. What Scripture presents is the declaration that God made all that is, without any attempt to clarify how all came into being. The opening chapters of Genesis present what must be wondered at, not what can be fathomed. They offer stimulation for common praise by all those who believe in Him, not material with which we should browbeat fellow believers whose ideas about the way in which God may have accomplished that work differ from ours.”
All of creation is made for communion with God
“Is it not spiritually challenging and theologically stimulating to think, with Orthodoxy, that turning to God is more than a religious option for creation, human beings included? How might it change our attitudes-in verbal witness to the Gospel message, in addressing contemporary social and ethical problems, in responding to the needs of others and in numerous other regards-to begin our thoughts with the conviction that we and all the rest of creation are made for communion with God.”