The Orthodox Faith
For St Paul Orthodox Youth Society - Brisbane
By Fr. John Abdel-Karim
1 - Christian religion and other religions
Religion is the relationship and communication of man with God. By its very nature, the spirit of man turns towards God, Who is his origin and his last and final goal. Between man and God there exists a strong mystical bond, in just the way a bond exists between a child and his father or his mother. God loves man constantly, always and forever, and man in his natural state seeks God's love and offers to Him his obedience. Man wants to do God's will.
This is the natural state of things. And this is the way things were before the disobedience and fall of man. After that disobedience and fall this relationship of man to God weakened. Now a special kind of warmth and cultivation is needed from the side of God. And so religion, which is natural to man, requires cultivation-- cultivation by God, because it is God Who knows how to and is able to perform this cultivation correctly--in order to bring fallen man back to the high position he formerly held and the level that is properly his. Unfortunately, man frequently puts himself and his own actions in the way and becomes an obstacle to God's work.
Man must have good will and be receptive to the actions and gifts of God. When man puts himself in the way with his ego and pride, he spoils things. The natural tendency of man to love God and to accept His gifts is suppressed and almost erased. He himself becomes the creator of a distorted religion in which truth is mixed with deception. And so we have the phenomenon of there being so many religions, religions made by man and, because they are man-made, not perfect.
This is the major difference between the Christian religion and other religions. The other religions begin from man and go towards God. The Christian religion begins from God and descends to man. In the other religions man tries to find God. In Christianity, God becomes God-man and reveals Himself to man. Since no one can know God as well as God knows Himself, when God reveals Himself we have the real truth and not deception. What we should do, then, is to accept the truth that God offers us.
But even in this respect, unfortunately, man frequently puts himself in the way. He is taught and he teaches things that are not divinely revealed. He becomes a heretic. This designation belongs to those who either create doctrines and teachings that are not found in divine revelation or who reject the doctrines and teachings that are found in it. For example, in the first case we have the Roman Catholics with their doctrine of the infallibility of the Pope. In the second case we have the Protestants, who teach that Holy Communion is not the real Body and Blood of Christ but symbolizes the Body and Blood of Christ even though Christ Himself said, "This is my Body" and "This is my Blood."
We said above that religion is natural to man. We may say that it is a universal phenomenon. Plutarch says, "When you travel you find unwalled cities, uncultivated, without a King, without palaces, without money, without even a need or currency, without a number of theatres or athletic stadiums. But no one sees a town or a city without a Holy Temple or without God."
Let us pray to the Lord
Lord Jesus Christ, Who became man and revealed Yourself as God and Who revealed Your Father and Your Holy Spirit to us sinners, think not of our sins nor those of any man. Send Your Holy Spirit as a life-creating dew to touch and to open all of our hearts for us to accept Your Divine Revelation and to live the natural life of religion. Make us worship You correctly, make our soul seek You, our heart beat for You, our breath praise You. The bad, make good. The distorters have them accept the truth. The proud and egotistical make humble and sensible so that they too may accept Your Divine Revelation.