- A Conservative Backlash
There is a tendency for Orthodox Churches to be very conservative in their acceptance of "human nature." This while many mainline Christian Churches are suffering the loss of membership because they are insisting that science and reason play a part in moral decisions. Many people want their church to be clear about what is right and wrong so they don't have to think...as long as nothing critizes their lifestyle. At the council of Jerusalem, Paul made it clear that Christianity is not about following the 613 laws of the Pharasies to become worthy.
- We all sin and are unworthy
We believe the Orthodox Church is the one continuing and historic Church established by Jesus Christ to minister to a sick world. We do not accept the western notion of guilt passed on from our parents called Original Sin. But we do believe in the sickness of the world which is called "prelest". The word comes from the same root as the English word planet which means a wandering star. All the people of the world are wandering. The Church provides the right way to become well, theosis. The Church offers the sacraments and the community that are necessary to find our way back to a holy union with God.
- We participate in Eternity now!
Largely do to the accidents of history that left the Western Church in control of much of secular affairs, it has adopted a general juridical outlook to its theology resulting in papal overdefinition even extending notions of time into eternity. Thus the biblical teaching of the particular individual judgement and the general judgement of all generated the notion of purgatory as a place to "wait around" from the particular judgement until the general judgement. And the notion of purgatory itself generating the further notion of indulgences as a way for the Church to supposedly lessen time in purgatory, for an offering of course.
The fundamental definitions of scripture and liturgical practice established by the concensus of seven eccumenical councils of the Church has left us a clear deposit of faith and tradition. The underlying Greek word for tradition is "paradosis" but in English translations it is often translated using different words which deemphasizes the idea of holy tradition, the passing-on of received truth.
Western churches have big steeples that point to God in the sky remote from us. Orthodox churches are usually dome-shaped instead and all of our Orthodox worship reminds us that we are participating in the eternal now in the presence of God and His saints. The Divine Liturgy with the Words of Institution ("This is My Body...") and the epiklesis (invocation of the Holy Spirit to change the gifts of bread and wine into the Body and Blood) are not a new or repeated sacrifice but a participation in the one eternal sacrifice.