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 ).
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 bad 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 2) 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. 26:12 [LXX-25:10]); "from before Thy facelet my judgment
come forth" (Ps. 17:2 [LXX-16:2]); "praise is meet for the
upright" (Ps. 33:1 [LXX-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. ). 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 God-bearer), 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
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