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|Protopresbyter Michael Pomazansky|
Orthodox dogmatic theology
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A. The sources of Christian doctrine
The concern of the Church for the purity of Christian teaching.
From the first days of her existence, the Holy Church of Christ has ceaselessly been concerned
that her children, her members, should stand firm in the pure truth.
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth,” writes the holy Apostle,
John the Theologian (3 John 4). “I have written briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the
true grace of God wherein ye stand,” says the holy Apostle Peter in concluding his catholic epistle
(1 Peter 5:12). (“Catholic,” meaning “universal,” is the name applied to the New Testament Epistles (those of
James, Peter, Jude, and John) which were addressed, not to individuals or local churches (as are all the Epistles of St.
Paul), but to the whole Church or to believers in general.)
The holy Apostle Paul relates concerning himself that, having preached for fourteen years,
he went to Jerusalem by revelation with Barnabas and Titus, and there he offered — especially to
the most renowned citizens — the gospel which he preached, “lest by any means I should run, or
had run, in vain” (Gal. 2:2). “Instruct us in Thy path, that we may walk in Thy Truth” — is the
first petition in the priestly prayers (the Prayers at Lamplighting. The “Prayers at Lamplighting” are the silent
prayers read by the priest before the Royal Doors while Psalm 103 is being read aloud by the Reader.) in the first
Divine Service of the daily cycle, Vespers.
The true path of faith which has always been carefully preserved in the history of the
Church, from of old was called straight, right, in Greek, orthos — that is, “orthodoxy.” In the
Psalter — from which, as we know from the history of the Christian Divine services, the Church
has been inseparable from the first moment of her existence — we find such phrases as the following
— “my foot hath stood in uprightness” (Ps. 25:10); “from before Thy face let my judgment
come forth” (Ps. 16:2); “praise is meet for the upright” (Ps. 32:1); and there are others.
The Apostle Paul instructs Timothy to present himself before God “a workman that needeth not
to be ashamed, rightly dividing (that is, rightly cutting with a chisel, from the Greek orthotomounta)
the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). In early Christian literature there is constant mention
of the keeping of “the rule of faith,” the “rule of truth” The very term “orthodoxy” was widely
used even in the epoch before the Ecumenical Councils, then in the terminology of the Ecumenical
Councils themselves, and in the Fathers of the Church both of the East and of the West.
Side by side with the straight, or right, path of faith there have always been those who
thought differently (heterodoxountes, or “heterodox,” in the expression of St. Ignatius the Godbearer),
a world of greater or lesser errors among Christians, and sometimes even whole incorrect
systems which attempted to burst into the midst of Orthodox Christians. As a result of the quest
for truth there occurred divisions among Christians.
Becoming acquainted with the history of the Church, and likewise observing the contemporary
world, we see that the errors which war against Orthodox Truth have appeared and do appear
a) under the influence of other religions, b) under the influence of philosophy, and c) through the
weakness and inclinations of fallen human nature, which seeks the rights and justifications of
these weaknesses and inclinations.
Errors take root and become obstinate most frequently because of the pride of those who
defend them, because of intellectual pride.