Some Similarities and Differences Between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Continuing Church of God

Is there an alternative to the Roman Catholic Church that actually teaches original Christianity? Might it be the Eastern Orthodox Church or Continuing Church of God. Which is the real Church of God?

By COGwriter

Most people in the West know very little about the doctrines of the Eastern Orthodox (sometimes improperly spelled Orthadox) Church. This church is also sometimes known as the Greek Orthodox or simply the Orthodox Church (which is how this article will normally refer to it as). It has many branches and affiliates, many of which are not Greek.

There are probably two main reasons that Westerners know very little about the Orthodox Church.

The first is that there are relatively few members of any Orthodox Church in the West (there are about 1,000,000 in the USA) as Russia actually seems to have the most members. However, the Orthodox Church is quite large. News accounts have claimed that, in total, there are over 200,000,000 Orthodox believers (Stacy M. Orthodox Leader Celebrates Epiphany. Associated Press as cited in Washington Post On line, 01/06/06).

The second reason is that it seems less into doctrinal literature production (especially in English) than many churches in its size range. Timothy Ware, an Orthodox bishop, seemed to confirm this as he wrote,

The Orthodox Church is not as much given to making formal dogmatic definitions as is the Roman Catholic Church (Ware T. The Orthodox Church. Penguin Books, London, 1997, p. 204).

Also notice the following from a priest:

The Eastern Churches have no teaching authority corresponding to the Catholic magisterium. Therefore they have no official catechism or statement of their fundamental beliefs binding on all members of Eastern Churches (Ryland R. The Eastern Doctrine of the Catholic Church, as cited in Cleenewerck L. His Broken Body: Understanding and Healing the Schism Between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches (An Orthodox Perspective). Euclid University Consortium Press, Washington (DC), 2007, p. 95).

This article will attempt to highlight some of the major similarities and dissimilarities between the Orthodox Church and the real Church of God (COG)--and some of what these differences mean.

For purposes of this paper, the Churches of God (COG) are defined as groups holding to the basic teachings of the pre-1986/Tkach Worldwide Church of God (WCG), and specifically the Continuing Church of God (CCOG) which is the specific Church that this writer endorses.

The Bible (Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 10:32; 11:16,22; ;15:9; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:4; 1 Timothy 3:5,15) and history (Polycarp's Letter to the Philippians; The Martyrdom of Polycarp) show that the true church often used the term "Church of God" as part of its name.

The Orthodox Churches are defined as those groups who have ties to the largest groups who claim to be the successors to four of the five "sees." (Note: Various members of Orthodox churches do not agree with the positions of leaders and writers on various points in this article--but the quotes in this article are accurate and do represent the views of their writers and often the majority of Orthodox. Unlike the Church of Rome, the Orthodox really do not have the equivalent of a detailed universally accepted "catechism"--though they have many generally accepted doctrines and positions.)

Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, wrote:

Whoever believes that Orthodoxy has the truth does not fear dialogue, because truth has never been endangered by dialogue. (Bartholomew I. Patriarchal and Synodal Encyclical on the Sunday of Orthodoxy. Prot. No. 213, February 21, 2010. http://www.ec-patr.org/docdisplay.php?lang=en&id=1168&tla=en)

The Orthodox correctly teach:

Christianity, if true, has nothing to fear from honest inquiry (Ware, p.201).

Since both the Orthodox and the COG consider that there is true Christianity, documenting the beliefs of both groups should assist any pursing honest inquiry. And will tend to possibly increase dialogue. Many will be surprised by the documented positions in this article.

Similarities

There are more similarities between both groups than most members of both groups seem to realize.

Adam

Both the Orthdox and COG agree that God offered Adam a choice, but he made the wrong one.

Orthodox:

God gave Adam free will -- the power to choose between good and evil -- and therefore it rested with Adam either to accept the vocation set before him or to refuse it. He refused it. Instead of continuing along the path marked out for him by God, he turned aside and disobeyed God..By turning away from God, who is immortality and life, humans put themselves in a state that was contrary to nature...Orthodox do not say as Calvin said, that humans after the fall were utterly depraved and incapable of good desires....Most Orthodox theologians reject the idea of 'original guilt', put forth by Augustine and still accepted (albeit in mitigated form) by the Roman Catholic Church...Humans (Orthodox usually teach)...are only guilty in so far as by their own free choice they imitate Adam...Orthodox have never held (as Augustine and many others in the west have done) that unbaptized babies, because tainted with original guilt, are consigned by a just God to the everlasting flames (Ware, pp.222-224).

Church of God:

The first human, Adam, was created with the potential of qualifying to replace Satan, the former Lucifer, on earth's throne, restoring the GOVERNMENT OF GOD. But it was necessary that he resist, and reject Satan's "GET" way, which was the foundation of Satan's evil government, and choose GOD'S WAY of his law--the way of LOVE (GIVE), the basis of God's government!...But God offered to him immortal LIFE through this symbolic tree of LIFE. God did not urge or compel him to take it--he merely made it freely accessible...Adam disobeyed God and sinned deliberately. But even though he was not deceived in this original temptation, his deliberate disobedience of God's explicit command cut him off from God, producing a state of mental perversion and opening his mind to the deceptions of Satan. From that moment, Adam and all his children after him were receptive to the sway of Satan...Adam chose a different kind of knowledge--he took TO HIMSELF the knowledge of good as well as evil (Armstrong HW. Mystery of the Ages, Chapter 3).

Like the Orthodox, the CCOG also does not consign babies to torment.

Against the Evangelical Protestant Teaching of Born Again

Both agree that the idea that one is "born-again" now for instant salvation is not an accurate portrayal of what the Bible teaches.

Orthodox:

Frank Schaeffer...calls the standard evangelical doctrine a "false bill of goods." "The simplistic 'born-again' formula for instant painless 'salvation' is not only a misunderstanding, I believe it is a heresy. It contradicts the teaching of Christ in regard to the narrow, hard, ascetic, difficult way of salvation." (Clendenin D.B. ed. Eastern Orthodox Theology, 2nd ed. Baker Academic, 2003, p. 268).

Church of God:

THE MEANING OF "BORN AGAIN" With a physical human birth, there must first be "begettal" (by the male), and "conception" (by the female). With a spiritual birth, there must first be a spiritual begettal and conception. Then, after a period of "spiritual gestation" or spiritual growth (2 Peter 3:18), true Christians will someday experience a literal spiritual "birth," thereby becoming immortal children of God. We will literally be born again at the resurrection as Christ Himself was, "declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead" (Romans 1:4). (Official Statement of Fundamental Beliefs. LCG, 2004).

The Dictionary of the Bible and Religion explains in the article "Regeneration" that the rite of infant baptism, practiced not only by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, but by many Protestant churches as well, "is historically known as baptismal regeneration and rests on the belief that the sacrament, when performed aright, has the power to confer what it signifies, namely regeneration or new birth of the child to God’s family." Churches that view infant baptism as a sacrament believe that the ceremony itself confers regeneration, and that the baptized person at that point enters into the Kingdom of God. Evangelicals would argue that the individual must first make his own personal profession of faith, after which he is "born again" and is, from that moment on, in the Kingdom...Those who view "born again" as a matter of sacrament and those who view it as personal experience do agree on one point. Both viewpoints assume that Christians are already born again at this present time...Just as new life is imparted in the process of human birth—with a begettal, a period of growth and development and then a coming forth into the world—so also is new life imparted in the process of salvation. We are begotten, we grow and develop as Christians, and then we enter into the Kingdom of God. The "when" of salvation is the resurrection from the dead, when we will finally inherit the Kingdom of God as spirit-born sons of God. Christ said in Luke 20:36 that we will be the "children of God, being children of the resurrection" (NRSV)...To equate the biblical "born again" with conversion, or an emotional experience at baptism, is to miss the entire point that salvation is a process! Salvation begins with our receiving God’s Holy Spirit after baptism and thus becoming a partaker "of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4). Christians then grow in grace and knowledge throughout the rest of their physical lives. The salvation process will culminate at the resurrection with the Christian’s full arrival into the glorious Kingdom of God as a fully glorified, Spirit-born son of God. Truly, God is "bringing many sons to glory" (Hebrews 2:10)! (Ogwyn J. What Do You Mean "Born-Again"? Tomorrow's World. Jan-Feb 2003).

While neither group agrees with the evangelical teachings, they do not agree with each other much on this point.

What they do seem to agree on though, is that being born-again is more than the simple acceptance of Jesus as Savior and that those who receive the Holy Spirit are in the process of becoming saved.

An article with biblical and historical information would be Born Again: A Question of Semantics?

New Testament Church Started in Jerusalem on Pentecost

Both groups believe that the Christian Church started in Jerusalem on the Pentecost after the crucifixion.

Orthodox:

So the history of the Christian Church beings, with the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles at Jerusalem during the feast of Pentecost...Before long the members of the Jerusalem Church were scattered by persecution (Ware, p.12).

Church of God:

What had happened to the Church that was established through an outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost in 31AD? Where was Christ and what was He doing during this time? In the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation, we find messages that Jesus Christ recorded for the seven churches of Asia Minor. In chapter one, the Apostle John saw a vision of the glorified Christ standing in the midst of seven golden lampstands. These seven lampstands represent the Church of God in its entirety throughout time (Revelation 1:12–20) (Ogwyn J. God's Church Through the Ages. Booklet, 2004).

John The Apostle Went to Ephesus

Both groups agree that John the Apostle went to Ephesus.

Orthodox:

John, "According to tradition, he went to Asia Minor and settled in Ephesus" (Matrantonis, George. The Twelve Apostles. Copyright: © 1990-1996 Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article7065.asp 07/05/05 ).

Church of God:

The Apostle John died in Ephesus at the end of the first century (Ogwyn J. God's Church Through the Ages. LCG Booklet, 2004).

John Was Not Subservient to Roman Leaders

Both groups agree that John the Apostle was not under the authority of any Roman bishop.

Orthodox:

The Eastern Orthodox perspective is that the other Churches had no idea that they were supposed to obey the Bishop of Rome. In the case of Polycarp, a man ordained by the Apostle John as Bishop of Smyrna, we find that Anicet (Bishop of Rome) was unable to convince him to adopt the mainline custom. Only a few years later, we see Victor (Bishop of Rome) unable to force a change on the Asiatic Churches. Why? Because no one there recognized Rome’s authority to do so. This, in the Orthodox mind, is important because these Churches were essential witnesses of the Apostles’ teachings. It is likely that John, Philip and Andrew had ministered in the area. The memory of St. John was exceptionally strong among these bishops. Had they heard anything about a Petrine succession of plenary authority in Rome? No. And yet, the Beloved Apostle was alive for at least twenty years after Peter’s martyrdom in Rome. Was John under the authority of Peter’s successor in Rome? This conclusion, which is unavoidable according to Rome’s ecclesiology, is one that the East cannot accept (Cleenewerck, p. 259).

Church of God:

Paul once noted that it was "James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars" (Galatians 2:9) of the Church in Jerusalem (Cephas is the Aramaic word for Peter).

Certainly Peter was an important and pre-eminent apostle, however, once James and Peter were killed, this only left one pillar, the Apostle John, who moved to Ephesus. 

Is it logical that if any one was to be the leader to succeed Peter it would be John? 

Is it logical that the one who wrote the last books of the Bible would be the primary leader of the church until he died?...

Therefore, it is no surprise since John outlived Peter and all the other original apostles that any church leadership succession would have transferred to him.  Recall that even the Catholics admit that John guided churches from Ephesus.  It would seem illogical that since most Catholics claim to have had four 'bishops of Rome’ (after Peter) before John died, that John, an original apostle, would be subservient to them.

This is especially true since none of those early “Bishops of Rome”claim to have held the position of apostle (or even bishop!)--a bishop is essentially an elder who is a pastor or overseer (compare Acts 20 vss. 17 and 28)...

Thus, it does not seem biblically reasonable that a local elder in Rome ruled the true Church at a higher level than a prominent apostle ordained by Jesus and noted to be a pillar by Paul.  It is illogical to believe that there were, as are claimed, four “Bishops of Rome” (Linus, Cletus/Anacletus, Clement, and Evaristus) who were in charge of the entire Christian church and above the Apostle John in authority.  Yet, those who accept “apostolic succession” via Rome must believe this (Thiel B.  The Beginning and the End of the Christian Church Era: An Alternative View of Church History by One Who Actually Believes the Bible.  Nazarene Books, in press 2013.  www.nazarenebooks.com).

It may be of interest to note that even Roman Catholic scholars admit that there is no evidence that the early leaders in Rome (such as Linus, Cletus, etc.) were actually even of the rank of bishop (see What Do Roman Catholic Scholars Actually Teach About Early Church History? ). It makes no sense that the last of the original Apostles would be subservient to them.

Polycarp Was A Successor to the Apostles

Both groups agree that Polycarp was a successor to the original apostles.

Orthodox:

...early bishops include James, Polycarp... (A Timeline of Church History: Tracing the birth and continuity of the Orthodox Church from Pentecost to present, 3rd edition printed in Canada. Concilliar Press, Ben Lomond (CA), 1996).

Christianity spread far and wide throughout the known world, but the Good News of Christ aroused intense opposition, and the first three centuries of the Church were characterized by sporadic, but bloody, persecutions. Church tradition is full of the lives of these early martyrs for the faith, and one cannot but admire the courage and perseverance of these heroes who willingly gave up their lives rather than denounce Christ. Among these were...Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, burned at the stake when over eighty years old (from "These Truths We Hold - The Holy Orthodox Church: Her Life and Teachings." Compiled and Edited by A Monk of St. Tikhon's Monastery. Copyright 1986 by the St. Tikhon's Seminary Press, South Canaan, Pennsylvania 18459).

As a sharer of the ways and a successor to the throne of the Apostles, O inspired of God, thou foundest discipline to be a means of ascent to divine vision. Wherefore, having rightly divided the word of truth, thou didst also contest for the Faith even unto blood, O Hieromartyr Polycarp...This apostolic and prophetic man, and model of faith and truth, was a disciple of John the Evangelist (Polycarp the Holy Martyr & Bishop of Smyrna. Greek Archdiocese of America. http://www.goarch.org/en/chapel/saints.asp?contentid=439 8/27/05).

From a book written by an Orthodox archpriest,

You've got Polycarp...He was Bishop of Smyrna by about 100 A.D. Early writers like Irenaeus tell us he was the spiritual son of the Apostle John (Gillquist PE. Becoming Orthodox. Wolgemuth & Hyatt, Brentwood (TN), 1989, p.39).

Church of God:

The Apostle John is believed to have lived as late as 100/102 A.D. Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John. Polycarp became the bishop of Smyrna from apostolic anointing. He led the Churches of God in at least the Asia Minor area for decades in the second century.

Around 155 A.D., Polycarp went to Rome to fight against various heresies that were there.

Polycarp himself lived until his was martyred around 156 A.D. The Church of Rome and Eastern Orthodox consider him to be a saint, but as this article will help prove, he held doctrines much more consistent with the Continuing Church of God. Polycarp was not a traditional Greco-Roman leader, but a Church of God leader.

Polycarp is also unique among any claimed to be a direct successor to any of the apostles:

The Continuing Church of God also specifically traces its history from the original apostles like Peter, Paul, and John through through their faithful descendants like Polycarp, Polycrates, and certain other known early leaders/bishops in Asia Minor until the early third century, certain known leaders/bishops until around 135 A.D. in Jerusalem, and until around 211 A.D. leaders/bishops in Antioch like Serapion. (Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God viewed 08/11/13)

The Original and True Church

Both the Orthodox Church and the COG teach that they are the original and true Church:

Orthodox:

...be Orthodox. We wish to make that choice available and to urge people to become part of this original Church of Jesus Christ. Repeatedly, in the Book of Revelation, Jesus says, 'He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches' (Gillquist, p.182).

The Orthodox claim one of its strongest point is

...its determination to remain loyal to the past, its sense of living continuity with the church of ancient times...Orthodoxy, believing that the Church on earth has remained and must remain visibly one, also believes itself to be that one visible Church. This is a bold claim...The Orthodox believe that they are the true church...Claiming as it does to be the one true Church, the Orthodox Church believes... (Ware, pp.203, 246-247).

Church of God:

BIBLICAL NAME OF THE CHURCH

The predominant biblical name of the true Church in the New Testament is “Church of God.” Variants of this expression are clearly stated singular and plural forms in twelve different places in the New Testament (Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 10:32; 11:16,22; ;15:9; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:13; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; 2 Thessalonians 1:4; 1 Timothy 3:5,15).  Throughout Christian history, the true church has normally used a version of the expression “Church of God” (or Church of Christ, cf. Romans 16:16) though often with another term, like a geographic region (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:2) or another word, with it (1 Timothy 3:15). Jesus said that Christians would be kept in His Father’s name (John 17:12), which most often is simply “God” in the New Testament, hence “Church of God.” The most faithful Church of God in the end times in the Book of Revelation is the Philadelphian one, but since only a remnant of that is left, the term Philadelphia remnant Church of God is an appropriate description of the portion of the Church of God that holds fast to Philadelphia era teachings. Since the true Church of God has continued from the time of the original apostles, the name Continuing Church of God helps convey that. (Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God viewed 08/11/13)

There is at least one important difference in this similarity. The Orthodox Church teaches the same visible organization (though their other literature suggests a collection of what appears to be semi-autonomous groups) is the true Church. The COG teaches that the Bible shows that the Church will be in the wilderness for a time (and also sometimes be forced to move locations), hence it will not always be clearly visible to historians.

It should be noted that neither the Orthodox Church or those of the Philadelphia remnant of the Church of God believe that their respective members are the only ones part of the Church. However, my understanding is that the Orthodox Church believes there are probably thousands of times more actual Christians alive today than those in real COG believe that there are.

The Ten Commandments

Both groups believe that Christians should keep the ten commandments and both group number them the same.

Orthodox:

In the early third century, Clement of Alexandria listed most of the ten commandments (for some unknown reason, he left out two commandments-- 3. cursing and 9. false witness):

The first commandment of the Decalogue shows that there is one only Sovereign God...

The second word intimated that men ought not to take and confer the august power of God (which is the name, for this alone were many even yet capable of learning), and transfer His title to things created and vain, which human artificers have made...

And the fourth word is that which intimates that the world was created by God, and that He gave us the seventh day as a rest, on account of the trouble that there is in life. For God is incapable of weariness, and suffering, and want. But we who bear flesh need rest. The seventh day, therefore, is proclaimed a rest...

Now the fifth in order is the command on the honour of father and mother...

Then follows the command about murder...

This is followed by the command respecting adultery...

And after this is the command respecting theft...

And the tenth is the command respecting all lusts (Clement of Alexandria. Stromata, Book VI).

Orthodox priest George Mastrantonis wrote:

The Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue (deca, ten; logos, word), constitute the ethical code by which the human race is guided, on the one hand, to believe in the true God, and, on the other hand to sustain the godly society in the attainment and application of God's will on earth. The Ten Commandments were kept undefiled and handed down to us as a treasure and monument of Christian civilization. The Christian Church has embodied the Ten Commandments as a basic moral code of, discipline toward God and toward men.

The First Commandment

"I am the Lord thy God.... Thou shalt have no other gods before me."

"And God spoke all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me." Ex. 20:1-3...

The Second Commandment

"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images... Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them."

"Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me: And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments." Ex. 20:4-6...

The Third Commandment

"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain."

"Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." Ex. 20:7...

The Fourth Commandment

"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy."

"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son nor thy daughter, thy man servant, nor thy maid servant, nor thy cattle. nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it." Ex. 20:8-11...

The Fifth Commandment

"Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long."

"Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee." Ex. 20:12.

The Sixth Commandment

"Thou shalt not kill." Ex. 20:13...

The Seventh Commandment

"Thou shalt not commit adultery" Ex. 20:14...

The Eighth Commandment

"Thou shalt not steal." Ex. 20:15...

The Ninth Commandment

"Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." Ex. 20:16...

The Tenth Commandment

"Thou shalt not covet they neighbor's house."

"Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, not his manservant, not his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor's." Ex. 20:17.

(Mastrantonis, G. The Ten Commandments. Copyright:  © 1990-1996 Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article7115.asp 05/14/07).

Church of God:

In the early second century, Polycarp wrote:

But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, falsewitness; "not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing," or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing (Polycarp. Letter to the Philippians, Chapter II. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1as edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885).

Notice also:

The Ten Commandments were observed by the apostolic and true post-apostolic Christians–and in the order that the Church of God claims they are in. (Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God viewed 08/11/13)

In the 21st century, an article by Dr. Thiel states:

Jesus taught all of the ten commandments.

Notice that He tends to state or imply that keeping each shows love or that breaking any is evil...

Commandment 1 "You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment" (Matthew 22:37). "And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment" (Mark 12:30).

Commandment 2 "God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth" (John 4:24). "Nevertheless, I have a few things against you, because you allow...My servants to...eat things sacrificed to idols..Now to you I say...who have not known the depths of Satan, as they say, I will put on you no other burden" (Revelation 2:20,24).

Commandment 3 "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts...blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man" (Matthew 15:19-20). "...blasphemy...All these evil things come from within and defile a man" (Mark 7:22-23).

Commandment 4 "Therefore, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath" (Matthew 12:11-12). "The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath...Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?" (Luke 6:5,9). "'Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?'...And they could not answer Him regarding these things" (Luke 14:3,6). "are you angry with Me because I made a man completely well on the Sabbath?" (John 7:23).

Commandment 5 "For God commanded, saying, 'Honor your father and your mother'" (Matthew 15:4). "Honor your father and your mother" (Matthew 19:19). "Honor your father and your mother" (Mark 7:10). "Honor your father and your mother" (Mark 10:19). "You know the commandments:...Honor your father and your mother" (Luke 18:20).

Commandment 6 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment'. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment" (Matthew 5:21-22). Similarly John wrote, " He who does not love his brother abides in death. Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you no that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" (I John 3:14-15). "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders...These are the things which defile a man" (Matthew 15:19-20). "You shall not murder" (Matthew 19:18). "...murders...All these evil things come from within and defile a man" (Mark 7:21,23).

Commandment 7 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not commit adultery'. But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:27-28). "But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery" (Matthew 5:32). "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts...adulteries" (Matthew 15:19-20). "...adulteries, fornications...All these evil things come from within and defile a man" (Mark 7:21,23).

Commandment 8 "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts...thefts...These are the things which defile a man" (Matthew 15:19-20). "...thefts...All these evil things come from within and defile a man" (Mark 7:22-23).

Commandment 9 "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts...false witness...These are the things which defile a man" (Matthew 15:19-20). "For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God" (John 3:20-21). "...deceit...All these evil things come from within and defile a man" (Mark 7:22-23).

Commandment 10 "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts...These are the things which defile a man" (Matthew 15:19-20). "...covetousness...All these evil things come from within and defile a man" (Mark 7:22-23).

Notice how Jesus tied evil thoughts with breaking several of the commandments.

Remember, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). (Thiel B. The Ten Commandments Reflect Love, Breaking them is Evil viewed 08/11/13)

The two groups observe the same list, thus they disagree with the Roman Catholics and the Lutherans who accept Augustine's change to combine the first two commandments and to divide the tenth into two (this is discussed in the article Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Church of God?).

Homosexuality Is a Sin

Even in the 21st century, leaders of both groups are not afraid to call acts of homosexuality a sin.

Orthodox:

The following is from an interview by Spiegel with then Metropolitan Kyrill (a metropolitan is type of high ranking bishop) who is also the now the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church (he was its foreign minister during the following interview):

SPIEGEL: ... but not everyone says: Thou shall not be gay. Why should people have to conceal their homosexuality?

Kyrill: The Bible calls it a sin. But we do not condemn these people. The church is opposed to these people being persecuted or offended. But why should sin be propagated? The gay parade is a blatant display of sodomy. In that case, we might as well promote other sins, as has long been the case on television. This degenerates public morality. It is the church's job to call a sin a sin. Otherwise it no longer serves a purpose. Unfortunately, the tendency in today's world is to champion the freedom of choice, while freedom from evil is virtually forgotten.

Church of God:

Notice also the following:

9 The look on their countenance witnesses against them, And they declare their sin as Sodom; They do not hide it. Woe to their soul! For they have brought evil upon themselves. (Isaiah 3:9)

13 The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate.  (Proverbs 8:13)

18 Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.  (Proverbs 16:18)

49 Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy. 50 And they were haughty and committed abomination before Me; therefore I took them away as I saw fit. (Ezekiel 16:49-50)

So the Bible shows that Sodom was destroyed for many things including its pride and the committing of abominations. Homosexuality is an abomination and a sin. (Thiel B. The Bible Condemns Homosexuality viewed 08/11/13)

Length of Services

Both groups have services that tend to be about two hours (though sometimes they go longer).

Orthodox:

Certainly Orthodox functions tend to be more prolonged than their Western counterparts...It is perfectly possible to celebrate the Byzantine liturgy, and to preach a short sermon, in an hour and a quarter...In 1943 the patriarch of Constantinople ruled...the Sunday liturgy should not last over an hour and a half...a normal Russian parish...lasts no more than two hours" (Clendenin D.B. ed. Eastern Orthodox Theology, 2nd ed. Baker Academic, 2003, pp. 19, 20).

Church of God:

In the Church of God, Sabbath services usually last about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Scripture: The Book

Both groups claim to accept the writings of the Bible and teach that they should be "People of the Book".

Orthodox:

"The Bible is the supreme expression of God's revelation to the human race, and Christians must always be 'People of the Book' (Ware, p.199).

Church of God:

THE HOLY BIBLE

The Holy Bible is the inspired Word of God. As commonly divided, it is a collection of 66 books, with 39 from the Hebrew scriptures (The Old Testament Canon) and 27 from the Greek Scriptures (The New Testament Canon). Scripture is inspired in thought and word and contains knowledge of what is needed for salvation (2 Timothy 3:15-17; Matthew 4:4; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Scripture is truth (John 17:17) and is infallible and inerrant in its original manuscripts (John 10:35). (Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God)

Christians need to be 'people of the book' and not accept traditions of men that contradict it (Thiel B. Continuing Church of God, 08/11/13).

Passover is Based Upon a Lunar Calendar

Orthodox:

Montreal's Eastern Orthodox Christian community - Greeks, Ukrainians, Russians, Serbians, Armenians and Romanians - is observing Holy Week...There are 11 major Orthodox churches in Montreal, serving about 100,000 people. The differences among them are ethnic or linguistic, not theological.

The spiritual focus today is one of quiet mourning, solemn meditation and strict fasting, recalling Jesus's entombment.

Pascha, or Easter, will be celebrated after midnight tonight.

The two Christian communities - Orthodox and Western rite - observe Easter vigils on different dates because they follow different calendars.

Orthodox churches rely on lunar cycles to fix the date for Easter. The rest of the Christian world accepts the Gregorian calendar introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.

(Eastern Orthodox faithful celebrate Easter tomorrow. The Gazette, Montreal - April 26, 2008. http://www.canada.com/montrealgazette/news/story.html?id=db21a78e-edc1-408d-bbd8-3ea9aa570086).

Church of God:

Passover service is to begin shortly after sunset on the 14th of the month of Abib or Nisan, and is in the Spring of the year. It based upon a lunar, not Roman, calendar.

Jesus kept the correct date that is in the Book of Exodus (12:6) and showed by His example that many Jews of His day observed it on the wrong day as some observed it on the 15th and not the 14th (and some did both, as some few still do today). Christians should accept Jesus' date of the 14th as accurate. (Thiel B. Passover and the Early Church viewed 08/11/13)

Because of this similarity of using the biblical month/lunar calendar, the Continuing Church of God and the Orthodox normally observe Passover (which the Orthodox normally call Pascha) close to (but almost never actually on) the same date (both groups can differ from the Roman Catholic Church by about a month).

Purgatory

Both groups reject the Roman Catholic idea of purgatory.

Orthodox:

"Today most if not all Orthodox theologians reject the idea of Purgatory" (Ware, p.255).

We do not accept a third place, a purgatory, by any means, since neither Scripture nor the holy Fathers have taught us any such thing (cited in Cleenewerck, p. 355).

Disavowing a belief in the Western "Purgatory," our Church believes that a change is possible during this intermediate state and stage (Aghiorgoussis, Maximos. The Dogmatic Tradition of the Orthodox Church. Copyright:  © 1990-1996. http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article8038.asp 08/18/07).

Church of God:

The original true Church of God has never taught the doctrine of purgatory, but has instead taught the apocatastasis’ teaching that salvation would be offered to all. 

We in the Continuing Church of God believe:

20 Our God is the God of salvation (Psalms 68:20).

In the 21st century, the Continuing Church of God continues to teach against purgatory and does promote the apocatastasis’ teaching that salvation would be offered to all who ever lived (Thiel B. Did the Early Church Teach Purgatory? viewed 08/11/13).

For more details on this subject, please see the article Did the Early Church Teach Purgatory?

Neither Teach an "Immortal Soul"

Although there are differences, both groups teach that the soul, of itself, is not immortal.

Orthodox:

To this day, the funeral services of the Orthodox are very clear: we “fall asleep” and go to Abraham’s bosom / hades / paradise. It is a place of rest of repose in the Holy Spirit with an anticipation of the glory or judgment… Orthodox believe that the soul is not absolutely or substantially immortal – the great Greek theologian Zizioulas makes that very clear and he is the head of the Ecumenical dialogue for the Orthodox.  However, the “souls of the righteous are in the hands of God” (Wisdom) and are sustained by God. We would also argue that the soul/spirit has awareness (as God grants) and not total loss of awareness (Cleenewerck L.  Rest of the History Book, Email to Bob Thiel, December 17, 2009).

Church of God:

Polycrates of Ephesus in the late second century wrote and told the Roman Bishop Victor:

Why need I mention the bishop and martyr Sagaris who fell asleep in Laodicea, or the blessed Papirius, or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead? (Eusebius. Church History, Book V, Chapter 24. Translated by Arthur Cushman McGiffert. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two, Volume 1. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1890. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

For in Asia also great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again on the last day, at the coming of the Lord, when he shall come with glory from heaven and shall seek out all the saints. Among these are Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who sleeps in Hierapolis, and his two aged virgin daughters, and another daughter who lived in the Holy Spirit and now rests at Ephesus; and moreover John, who was both a witness and a teacher, who reclined upon the bosom of the Lord, and being a priest wore the sacerdotal plate. He also sleeps at Ephesus (Eusebius. Church History, Book III, Chapter 31. Translated by Arthur Cushman McGiffert. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Series Two, Volume 1. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1890. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

In more modern times:

...Satan's first lie that man is an immortal soul (Armstrong HW. Mystery of the Ages, 1985).

The human spirit of itself cannot see, hear, think or know. The only real LIFE, inherent and self-containing, lies in the Holy Spirit of God, united with the human spirit…At death, "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it" (Eccl. 12:7).  The spirit is the depository of memory and character. The spirit is like a mold. It retains even the human form and shape of the deceased, so that in the resurrection to judgment those who have died shall look as they did in life, retain whatever character they established in life, remember everything that was stored in their memory. But in the meantime, in death, there is no consciousness--they "know not any thing" (Eccl. 9:5)…We shall inherit the kingdom at Christ's coming. The dead in Christ shall be resurrected, rising first--changed to Spirit immortality (Armstrong HW. Mystery of the Ages, 1985).

Death is equated to sleep in the Bible. Although many do not seem to understand this, the simple truth is that the Old and New Testaments reveal that human souls will perish and that eternal life (immortality) is something that God wants to give.

This concept is confirmed by early Christian writers of both the first and second centuries. And even later by Athanasius and some others. Those who teach otherwise simply do not teach the original Christianity as shown in the Bible. They, as even some of them acknowledge, are following the teachings of heretics and pagan Greek philosophers.

True early Christians did not believe that humans possessed immortality.

When we die we essentially go to sleep in the grave and await resurrection (see also What Did Early Christians Understand About the Resurrection?). That has long been the historical position of the Church of God and remains the position of the Continuing Church of God. (Thiel B. Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality? viewed 08/11/13)

The early church taught against the idea of the immortality of the soul. It did not teach awareness, but like Jesus (John 11:11,14) and Paul (Ephesians 5:14) it taught death was like sleep. For more details, see Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality? and What Did Early Christians Understand About the Resurrection?

What Happens After Death for Those Who are Neither Saints Nor Incorrigibly Wicked?

Both groups seem to agree that God has a plan that does not require those not now saved to suffer eternally.

Orthodox:

Though many within the Orthodox movement do not agree with the idea that God will call others in the future, as shown here some of their leaders have and some still do.

Clement of Alexandria wrote:

He destroys no one but grants salvation to all...

He indeed saves all. But [He saves] some by converting them through punishments. However, those who follow voluntarily [He saves] with dignity and honor (Clement of Alexandria. Cited in Bercot DW. The Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs. Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody (MA), 1998, p. 591).

Bishop Timothy Ware (who is now called Bishop Kallistos) wrote:

"What exactly is the condition of souls in the period between death and the Resurrection of the Body at the Last Day? Here Orthodox teaching is not entirely clear...The majority would be inclined to say that the faithful departed do not suffer at all. Another school holds that perhaps they suffer, but if so, their suffering is of a purificatory but not an expiratory character. Yet a third group would prefer to leave the whole question entirely open: let us avoid detailed formulation about the life after death" (Ware, p.255).

"There is no terrorism in the Orthodox doctrine of God...several of the Fathers have none the less believed that in the end all will be reconciled to God. It is heretical to say that all must be saved, for this is to deny free will; but it is a legitimate hope that all may be saved. Until the Last Day come, we must not despair of anyone's salvation, but must long and pray for the reconciliation of all without exception" (Ware, p. 262).

Andreas Andreopoulos wrote:

Gregory does not accept the restoration of all and the subsequent forgiveness of all as an inescapable necessity. Nobody will be saved without going through repentance, cleansing and forgiveness, and his view of the apokatastasis is merely the belief that everyone will be able to see truth as it is at the end, and everyone will be given the chance to repent...The restoration of all however, a valid possibility according to the Church, although not a doctrine, has a special place in the hopes of saints who pray for the redemption of their enemies, and it expresses our hope for the charity of God. Possibly the honorable silence expresses this hope, which in spite of the danger of determinism, becomes almost a certainty in this light: If even one human being is able to forgive and pray for the salvation of the entire cosmos, wouldn't God's providence find a way to make it happen? (Andreopoulos A. Eschatology and final restoration (apokatastasis) in Origen, Gregory of Nyssa and Maximos the Confessor. Theandros an Online Journal of Orthodox Christian Theology and Practice, Volume 1, number 3, Spring 2004. http://www.theandros.com/restoration.html viewed 06/08/09)

Archpriest George Florovsky observed:

St. Gregory of Nyssa anticipated a kind of universal conversion of souls in the afterlife, when the Truth of God will be revealed and manifested with compelling evidence...

God respects human freedom, as St. Irenaeus once said...The Last Judgment remains a mystery.

(Florovsky G. The last things and the last events. Originally written no later than 1979. Missionary Leaflet # E95h Holy Protection Russian Orthodox Church. Los Angeles. Editor: Bishop Alexander (Mileant) http://www.fatheralexander.org/booklets/english/last_events_florovsky_e.htm#n3 viewed 06/07/09).

(Orthodox escatology remains a mystery to the Orthodox as they tend to admit that they do not understand much of it.)

Origen wrote:

"Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world," whether the world here is to be taken intellectually of the Church, and the taking away of sin is limited to the Church. In that case what are we to make of the saying of the same disciple with regard to the Saviour, as the propitiation for sin? "If any man sin," we read, "we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for our sins only, but for the sins of the whole world?" Paul's dictum appears to me to be to the same effect, when he says, "Who is the Saviour of all men, especially of the faithful" (Origen. Commentary on the Gospel of John, Book VI, Chapter 38).

Thus Origen is teaching [correctly in the view of the Church of God and probably the Orthodox] that Christ died for all and not just those currently in the church.

The Greek Orthodox priest George Mastrantonis has noted that Origen was:

"the first great theologian in Alexandria" (Mastrantonis G. Fasting from Iniquities and Foods. Greek Orthodox Diocese of America. http://www.goarch.org/en/special/lent/articles/lent_fasting_from_iniquities.asp 12/01/05).

Thus, it is possible that Origen's writings may have had some influence upon the position that Timothy Ware took. Specifically, noted historian K.S. Latourette observed this about Origen:

Origen taught that ultimately all the spirits who have fallen away from God will be restored to full harmony with Him. This can come about only with their cooperation, for they have freedom to accept or reject the redemption wrought in Christ. Before full restoration they will suffer punishment, but that punishment is intended to be educative, to purge them from the imperfections brought by their sin. After the end of the present age and its world another age will come, so Origen believed, in which have been born again will continue to grow and the unrepentant will be given further opportunity for repentance (Latourette K.S. A History of Christianity, Volume 1, Beginnings to 1500. Harper Collins, San Francisco, 1975, p.151).

While we in the CCOG would not word it quite that way, this does support the idea that God has a plan that will give the unrepentant an opportunity for salvation after this present age. More information can be found in the article Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God Differs from Protestantism.

Church of God:

The Last Great Day helps picture that all who ever lived will have an opportunity for salvation–an opportunity most will accept (John 7:37-39; Romans 11:25-26; Ezekiel 37:11-14; Hebrews 9:27-28). The New Testament name comes from the Apostle John who wrote, “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38). (Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God viewed 08/11/13)

An article of related interest may be Universal Salvation? There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis.

Jesus was the LORD/YHWH of the Old Testament

Orthodox:

Orthodox and patristic tradition insists...that the Angel-Messenger of YHWH is the preincarnate Logos...the Word is revealed to other minds as such (Lord and Savior)... (Cleenewerck, p. 337).

Church of God:

The Apostle Paul makes clear that Jesus was God in the Old Testament as well as the New:

1 Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. 5 But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. (1 Corinthians 10:1-5)

7 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 1:7).

9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9) (Thiel B. Jesus: The Son of God and Saviour viewed 08/11/13)

This is another area that these two groups agree more with each other than most Protestants.

A Physical Resurrection

Orthodox:

It important to note that Greek Christian theology strongly retained the Hebrew emphasis on the functional unity of soul and body with its emphasis on the resurrection of the body. The Creed of 381 confesses “the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come” as the basic Christian hope (Cleenewerk, p. 352).

Church of God:

Even in Jesus' day, there were religious leaders who did not believe that the Bible truly taught a physical resurrection:

The same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection (Matthew 22:23).

But look at what Jesus said to them:

Jesus answered and said to them, "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven. But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, 'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matthew 22:29-32).

Hence, Jesus confirmed the idea that Jewish leaders, just from the Old Testament, should have understood that there would be a physical resurrection. (Thiel B. What Did Early Christians Understand About the Resurrection? viewed 08/11/13)

However, there seems to have been a shift in understanding here with the Church of God not changing on the resurrection (see What Did Early Christians Understand About the Resurrection?) nor the age to come (see Hope of Salvation: How the Continuing Church of God differ from most Protestants), yet the Orthodox have some differences among themselves in these areas.

Prophecy: Church to Flee and Hide Because the the Great Tribulation

Orthodox:

Irenaeus of Lyon is considered to have been a saint by the Orthodox. He wrote:

And then he points out the time that his tyranny shall last, during which the saints shall be put to flight, they who offer a pure sacrifice unto God: "And in the midst of the week," he says, "the sacrifice and the libation shall be taken away, and the abomination of desolation [shall be brought] into the temple: even unto the consummation of the time shall the desolation be complete."Now three years and six months constitute the half-week. (Irenaeus. Against Heresies (Book V, Chapter 25, Verse 4)

Now, that the promises were not announced to the prophets and the fathers alone, but to the Churches united to these from the nations, whom also the Spirit terms "the islands" (both because they are established in the midst of turbulence, suffer the storm of blasphemies, exist as a harbour of safety to those in peril, and are the refuge of those who love the height [of heaven], and strive to avoid Bythus, that is, the depth of error) (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book V, Chapter 34, Verse 3. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

The Orthodox theologian and saint Cyril of Jerusalem taught in the fourth century:

Antichrist shall reign for three years and a half only. We speak not from apocryphal books, but from Daniel ; for he says, And they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and half a time. A time is the one year in which his coming shall for a while have increase; and the times are the remaining two years of iniquity , making up the sum of the three years; and the half a time is the six months. And again in another place Daniel says the same thing, And he sware by Him that lives for ever that it shall be for a time , and times, and half a time. And some peradventure have referred what follows also to this; namely , a thousand two hundred and ninety days ; and this, Blessed is he that endures and comes to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days . For this cause we must hide ourselves and flee (Cyril of Jerusalem. Catechetical Lecture 15. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310115.htm viewed 12/27/08).

Church of God:

Beginning in Revelation 12:7, we enter the end-time sequence of events. A final war in heaven results in Satan’s expulsion. Knowing that he has only a short time left (v. 12), he launches the final end-time persecution of the true Church, which results in the Great Tribulation. In Revelation 12:14, we learn that the woman—the Church— is then “given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness to her place, where she is nourished for a time and times and half a time, from the presence of the serpent.” Clearly, the Church is taken to a place where God will supernaturally nourish and protect it during the final three-and-a-half year period before Christ’s return. This ties in with Revelation 3:10, in which Christ promises the Church at Philadelphia that He would protect it from the “hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world.”...

In three specific references, the Bible seems to associate Petra with God's end-time place of protection for His people, but these scriptures are all somewhat vague and can be understood in more than one way. If these verses do not refer to Petra, though, it would seem that God really has not given us any indication of the location where He will nourish His people during the final three-and-a half year period....(Isaiah 42:11-13)...Isaiah 33...verse 10...(v.14)...(vv.14-16)...Another reference is Isaiah 16. Here God tells the Moabites, who rule the area of Sela or Petra (v.1), to shield His outcasts...While the details of how and where God will protect His people are fascinating, we must all keep in mind that in the ultimate sense our protection does not come from any place--it come from God (Ogwyn, John. Is There a Real Place of Safety? LCN. July-August 2001; pp.5-6).

The quotation above includes some of the scriptures that Irenaeus seemed to be referring to. It is not clear, however, if in modern times, most of the Orthodox hold to the views of their saints like Irenaeus or Cyril on this as prophecy tends to not be included in most of the Orthodox writings I have seen. Those interested in more about this may wish to read the article There is a Place of Safety for the Philadelphians. Why it May Be Petra.

Might Apparitions Claiming to Be Mary Be Used to Deceive?

Though I have not seen it appear in top level official sources, both the Orthodox Church and the COG seem to believe that apparitions claiming to be Mary may be used to deceive people to get them to join a future ecumenical church.

Orthodox:

"Mother goddesses" known in the ancient world were not just confined to the Near East and Mediterranean but are universal. The Kogi Indians, among whom we lived in Columbia, worship a spirit called Nabuba, the "Ancient Mother." When Roman Catholics missionaries attempted to evangelize the Kogi int he last century, they used a not-uncommon strategy for drawing pagan peoples into Rome's fold: rather than explaining the differences between the pagan mysthology and Christian truth, they found "equivalences," Christ, under this syncretistic view, corresponds to the Kogi Sejukukui (a trickster god who faked his own death by hiding in a cave), while Nabuba is said to be the Virgin Mary. This confusion has led the Kogis to call their pagan temples "cansamaria," a corruption of "casa de Maria" (house of Mary).

Given these Roman Catholic "evangelistic methods" of more than a century ago, it is it any wonder that contemporary "apparitions" of Mary are invariably accompanied by ecumenistic messages promoting the idea that all religions are equally valid and Orthodox Christianity is but one "path" among many? A recent issse of Orthodox Traidition (1966) contains the account of Matushka (wife of a Russian Orthodox priest) Katherine Swanson's trip to Medjugorje, Croatia, to investigate the most famous of the recent cases of appartions of Mary in the Roman Catholic world. In it she recounts a telling episode:

Our guide took our group for an audience with the "seers." During this audience, a pilgrim asked one of the children the following questions: "Does the Virgin say that the Catholic Church is the true church?" The response given by the child provides clear evidence of the ecumenical content and religious relativism which, oddly enough, increasingly mark the "revelations" at Medjugorje: "Our Blessed Mother says that all religions are equally pleasing to God."

The Life magazine article, then, is yet another contribution to this line of thought. Given the idea that all paths are equally valid, then all "Marys" are equally valid, too. The author describes several of the Marys of our times: Miearculous Mary (such as at Medjugorje), Mediator Mary (Who, as the author quotes Fr. Andrew Greeley saying, lets people into Heaven through the "back door"), (Editors notes: the Orthodox Church of course never taught about the "back door", and of course one only prays that this is a matter of a figure of speech, but let us not dwell on the "back door", but the gates of Paradise, the Kingdom of our God). Mediator Mary of the feminists, and Mother Mary. This last one, Mother Mary, is the role which the author considers the most appealing to non-Catholics: "The emotional need for her is so irresitible to a troubled world that people without an obvious link to the Virgin are being drawn to her. It is known that Muslins revere Mary as a pure and holy saint...Interdenominational Marian prayer groups are springing up throughtout the world. Many Protestants, even some who still reject notions of a supernatural Virgin, miss Mary."

To which Mary are Muslims and Protestants being drawn? The Protestant Reformation rejected the distorted view of Mary which had developed in the West since the Schism of 1054, and which would ultimately result in the Roman Church's proclamation of their dogma of the Immaculate Conception. But Protestantism did not just reject the Western view of Mary; it ignored Her altogether, in effect denying Her role in the Incarnation and, consequently, the part She plays in our salvation. As Rome began to see her more and more as a "goddess," a fourth Hypostasis of the Trinity, as it were, the Protestants reacted by down playing Her position and refusing to honor Her at all, this in spite of the Gospel words:"All Generations Shall Call Me Blessed."

Today, as heterodox Christians become more and more ecumenist and work toward creating a "One World Church," the search has begun for a Mary of universal recognition, one who will appeal not only to those who bear the name Christian, but apprently to Muslims and others as well, just as attempts are likewise being made to identify the "new Christ" with the Muslim concept of their coming Mahdi and with the Messiah still awaited by the Jews. This, of course, will be no Christ at all but the antichrist.

(Jackson P. ORTHODOX LIFE., No. I, 1997., Brotherhood of Saint Job of Pochaev at Holy Trinity Monastery, Jordanville, N.Y. pp. 18-22.  http://fr-d-serfes.org/orthodox/theotokos.htm viewed 05/11/09)

Church of God:

The reality is that it is likely that false apparitions, claiming to be "Mary" may be among the signs and lying wonders that the Bible warns are coming (2 Thessalonians 2:9) (Thiel B., Ph.D. Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Apparitions. www.cogwriter.com/Mary-Mother-of-Jesus.htm (c) 2008/2009/2011)

The late Dibar Apartian, a then top level evangelist told me in 2008 that he agrees with my assessment here, as have others. Hence, it appears that within the Orthodox Church and the Church of God there is concern that one or more apparitions claiming to Mary will likely be used to try to persuade people to accept a modified Catholic religion. More on this can be found in the article Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Apparitions.

Baptism By Immersion

Though they differ in who they will baptize, both the Orthodox Church and LCG practice baptism by immersion.

Orthodox:

"Even though some Orthodox clergy have grown careless about observing the proper practice, there is no doubt about the true Orthodox teaching: immersion is essential...Baptism signifies a mystical burial and resurrection with Christ (Romans vi, 4-5 and Colossians ii, 12)" (Ware, p. 278) .

Church of God:

Baptism is with water (cf. John 3:23). The Greek word bapto literally means “cover wholly with fluid.” The full immersion at baptism helps picture our total surrender to God (Romans 6:3-13). The New Testament shows that the Holy Spirit was given to the baptized through the laying on of the hands of Christ’s ministers, such as apostles or elders (Acts 8:17; 9:17; 19:6; 2 Timothy 1:6). (Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God viewed 08/11/13)

An article of related interest may be Baptism and the Early Church.

Becoming God

Both groups teach that in God's plan, He intends to truly make the saved part of the God family.

Orthodox:

...so that if he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as reward from Him immortality, and should become God... (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XXVII. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

"St. Athanasius summed up the purpose of the Incarnation by saying, 'God became human that we might made God' " (Ware, p.21).

"...we are God's 'offspring' (Acts xvii, 28), His kin...we will become 'like' God, we will acquire divine likeness; In the words of John Damascene...To acquire the likeness is to be deified, it is to become a 'second god', a god by grace'. 'I said, you are gods, and all of you sons of the Most High' (Psalm lxxxi, 6; cf John x, 34-35)" (Ware, p. 219).

"Such, according to the teaching of the Orthodox Church, is the final goal at which every Christian must attain: to become god, to obtain theosis, 'deification' or 'divinization'. For Orthodoxy our salvation and redemption mean our deification...deification is not something reserved for a select few initiates, but is something intended for all alike. The Orthodox Church believes this is the normal goal of every Christian without exception. Certainly we shall only be deified on the Last Day; but for each of us the process of divinization must begin here and now in this present life" (Ware, p.231,236).

The Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople recently taught:

"The church fathers were primarily pastors, not philosophers," he said. "They were concerned first with reforming the human heart and transforming society, not with refining concepts or resolving controversies."

The patriarch said that at the center of their pastoral work was a recognition that humanity is "called to know and to become God," the call to holiness which the Orthodox term "deification." (Pope, Orthodox patriarch meet privately, pray together.CNS News - March 6, 2008. http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0801277.htm).

Church of God:

"'Will true Christians literally become God at the resurrection? That is, literal members of the God family, born into that family at the resurrection? In other words, born sons of God, lessor in rank than the Father and the Son. Is God's purpose to reproduce himself?' ANSWER. Yes, God is now reproducing himself in the process called spiritual salvation" (McNair, Raymond. Personal Correspondence. GCG, September 27, 1995; p:4).

HUMANKIND’S DESTINY

The Bible shows that Jesus became human (Philippians 2:7) so that humans could become His brethren in the family of God (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 3:14-19). Jesus Himself prayed, “And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me” (John 17:22-23). An article of related interested may be Deification: Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God? (Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God viewed 08/11/13)

Hence both groups teach deification of the saved. Although both groups consider that Theophilus of Antioch was probably a faithful leader (and the Antiochian Orthodox Church traces their claimed "apostolic succession" through him) Theophilus had many teachings that differ greatly from those of the Orthodox Church but are the same or similar to those of the true Church of God--please see the article Theophilus of Antioch. An article of related doctrinal interest may include Deification: Did the Early Church Teach That Christians Would Become God?.

Melito

Both groups consider that Melito was a faithful early Christian leader.

Orthodox:

"St. Melito of Sardis" (The Immortal Dies http://www.orthodox.clara.net/melito.htm, 10/05/05).

"St. Melito of Sardis in Lydia" (Serbian Orthodox Cathedral Bulletin, May 8, 2005).

Church of God:

"Melito of Sardis was a Quartodeciman, and those in the true Church (the Church of God) are also Quartodecimans" (Reynolds, R. COG minister. Clearwater, Florida, 20051021).

Bishop Melito of Sardis was a Christian saint and Church of God leader. Melito is one of several early leaders who demonstrate that there is sufficient historical evidence to conclude that there were professing Christians that claimed descent from the apostles and that refused to accept the authority of Rome. And Melito (like Polycarp, Thraseas, Sagaris, Apollinaris, and Papirius) specifically held the doctrines and teachings that are now held by the truest Church, the Continuing Church of God. Doctrines that were eventually not held by the Catholic, Orthodox, and even Protestant Churches. (Thiel B. Melito of Sardis viewed 08/11/13)

Both CCOG and the Orthodox tend to look favorably on Melito of Sardis (though they disagree about his possible authorship concerning a document involving Mary--we in the CCOG would agree with this statement from "The Catholic Encyclopedia", "the book De Transitu Virginis, {is} falsely ascribed to St. Melito of Sardis"). But while both groups believe he was a faithful leader, the Orthodox hold to many teachings that differ from those of Melito--for additional documentation, please see the article Melito of Sardis.

Birth Control and Abortion

Orthodox:

"Many Orthodox theologians and spiritual fathers consider that the responsible use of contraception within marriage is not in itself sinful. In their view, the question of how many children a couple should have, and at what intervals, is best decided by the partners themselves...Abortion on the other hand is unambiguously condemned in Orthodox moral teaching. We do not have the right to destroy human life" (Ware, p.296).

"the view of the Orthodox Church on the issue of contraception. Because of the lack of a full understanding of the implications of the biology of reproduction, earlier writers tended to identify abortion with contraception. However, of late a new view has taken hold among Orthodox writers and thinkers on this topic, which permits the use of certain contraceptive practices within marriage for the purpose of spacing children, enhancing the expression of marital love, and protecting health" (Harakis S. The Stand of the Orthodox Church on Controversial Issues. http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article7101.asp 8/20/05 also cited in Cleenewerck, pp. 392-393, though he spelled it the writer's name as Harakas).

Here is a longer Orthodox writing on this subject:

It should be noted, however, that most Orthodox Churches tolerate a wider range of birth-control options, as long as three conditions are met:

(1) The method is non-abortive...
(2) The motive must be responsibility, not selfishness...
(3) A blessing should be obtained...

Bishop Kallistos...wrote {in} 1993

Concerning contraceptives and other forms of birth control, differing opinions exist within the Orthodox Church. In the past birth control was in general strongly condemned, but today a less strict view is coming to prevail, not only in the west but in traditional Orthodox countries. Many Orthodox theologians and spiritual fathers consider that the responsible use of contraception within marriage is not in itself sinful. In their view, the question of how many children a couple should have, and at what intervals, is best decided by the partners themselves, according to the guidance of their own consciences.

As long as the term contraception means ‘non-abortive’ methods of birth-control, this statement is accurate. (Cleenewerck, pp. 396,397-398).

Church of God:

"To prevent having children and producing a family would be a direct violation of God’s command, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” But to plan a family in an intelligent manner, as to the time of the first arrival, and the time-spacing of other children—that is a different matter. Nothing in the Bible forbids this. Much in the Bible, in principle, supports it!" (Armstrong HW. Missing Dimension in Sex).

The "Apostles' Creed" Was Changed

The leadership within both groups admit that what is commonly called "the apostles' creed" is not original and was changed in the fourth century.

Orthodox:

What is generally considered to be the first "apostles' creed" was believed to have probably been put together as early as the middle of the second century and that was reported in the fourth century Orthodox Bishop Marcellus of Anycra:

“I believe in God the Father Almighty. And in Jesus Christ His only (begotten) Son our Lord, who was born of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary; crucified under Pontius Pilate, and buried; the third day He rose from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father, from thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And in the Holy Ghost; the holy Church; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; (the life everlasting).” (Orr J. The Apostle's Creed. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Vol. 1. Original by 1923. Kindle Version viewed 07/21/11)

The current creed used by most of the Orthodox was produced in the fourth century according to an Orthodox priest who wrote:

The Nicene Creed, which was formulated at the Councils of Nicaea in 325 and of Constantinople in 381, has been recognized since then as the authoritative expression of the fundamental beliefs of the Orthodox Church. The Creed is often referred to as the “Symbol of Faith.” (Fitzgerald T.  Teachings of the Orthodox Church.  Copyright @2006 Saint Mary Romanian Orthodox Church)

At the Council of Florence (1438-45), Marcus Eugenicus (Patriarch of Ephesus) said:

We do not possess and have never seen this creed of the Apostles. If it had ever existed, the book of Acts would have spoken of it in its description in the first apostolic synod in Jerusalem, to which you appeal. (Kelly JND. Early Christian Creeds, 3, revised, reprint. Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006, p. 4)

And since there is not a version of what is (or are) commonly called the Apostles' Creed in the Book of Acts or any of the rest of the New Testament, there simply is not an original Apostles' Creed that came from the apostles.

Yet, despite its late arrival and lack of originality, several members of the Eastern/Greek Orthodox attempted to claim that the Nicene one was "original" in emails to me in July 2011. This seems to be, perhaps, that because the Nicene Creed later had the filioque clause added by the Church of Rome, which was a factor in the "Great Schism" of 1054, that they asssumed their creed was actually original. More information on the creed can be found in the article What Was the Original Apostles' Creed? What is the Nicene Creed?

Church of God:

As noted historian Will Durant wrote:

"Christianity did not destroy paganism; it adopted it. The Greek mind, dying, came to a transmigrated life in the theology and liturgy of the Church; the Greek language, having reigned for centuries over philosophy, became the vehicle of Christian literature and ritual; the Greek mysteries passed down into the impressive mystery of the Mass. Other pagan cultures contributed to the syncretist result. From Egypt came the ideas of a divine trinity… and a personal immortality of reward and punishment; from Egypt the adoration of the Mother and Child, and the mystic theosophy that made Neoplatonism and Gnosticism, and obscured the Christian creed; there, too, Christian monasticism would find its exemplars and its source. From Phrygia came the worship of the Great Mother; from Syria the resurrection drama of Adonis; from Thrace, perhaps, the cult of Dionysus, the dying and saving god.… The Mithraic ritual so closely resembled the eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass that Christian fathers charged the Devil with inventing these similarities to mislead frail minds. Christianity was the last great creation of the ancient pagan world.… [The Eucharist] was a conception long sanctified by time; the pagan mind needed no schooling to receive it; by embodying the 'mystery of the Mass,' Christianity became the last and greatest of the mystery religions" (The Story of Civilization, Vol. 5, Durant, pp. 595, 599).

Notice some information about the earliest known creed:

The Apostles’ Creed is the oldest creed, and lies at the basis of most others. Though not, as the long-current legend of its origin affirmed, the direct work of the Apostles, it has its roots in apostolic times, and embodies, with much fidelity, apostolic teaching...

The creed exists in two forms — a shorter and a longer; the former, known as the Old Roman Form, going back certainly as early as the middle of the 2nd century (about 140 AD), the latter, the enlarged form, in its present shape, of much later date...

We have it in both its Greek and Latin forms (the Greek being probably the original). The Latin form is given by Rufinus about 390 AD...The Greek form is preserved by Marcellus, of Ancyra,in the 4th century. The old shorter form of the creed long maintained itself. We find it in England, e.g. up to nearly the time of the Norman Conquest (in 8th or 9th century manuscripts in British Museum)...

We have accounts given us of its contents (besides the Old Roman Form) in Irenaeus, Tertullian, Novatian, Origen, etc.; and they show substantial unity with a certain freedom of form in expression. But the form in the Roman church came gradually to be the recognized type.

(Orr J. The Apostle's Creed. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Vol. 1. Original by 1923. Kindle Version viewed 07/21/11)

Notice that the above refers to the oldest creed as the old Roman Form.  It should be mentioned that specific creeds are not part of Irenaeus' or the early writer's documents--but there are statements in the early creeds that may have come from them as well as a few more directly from the Bible. Whether it was “Roman” or not can be debated as its statements seem to come from either the Bible or writings of those who were NOT based in Rome such as the Irenaeus of Lyons, Tertullian of Carthage, Novatian the “antipope,” Marcellus of Ancyra, and Origen of Alexandria (its origins really do not seem to be from Rome). But what is clear is that the creed that most hold to was changed and did not come directly from the Apostles (and parts of it actually contradict apostolic and biblical teachings). (Thiel B. What Was the Original Apostles' Creed? What is the Nicene Creed? viewed 08/11/13)

So the position of both the Church of God and the Orthodox is that the creed was changed. If there was an "original" creed used by the apostles (and other than what in the Bible, there is no early evidence that there was), it would have been closer to the version that Marcellus reported. More information on the creed can be found in the article What Was the Original Apostles' Creed? What is the Nicene Creed?

Papal Authority

Both groups deny the Vatican's view of papal authority.

Orthodox:

"The Orthodox Church does not accept the doctrine of Papal authority set forth in the Vatican Council of 1870, and taught today in the Roman Catholic Church" (Ware, p.27).

Church of God:

"Victor of Rome sought to intimidate the churches of Asia Minor into conforming to the Roman Easter practice. Polycrates wrote Victor:

     "We therefore observe the genuine day [Passover]; neither adding thereto nor taking therefrom. For in Asia great lights have fallen asleep, which shall rise again in the day of the Lord’s appearing, in which he will come with glory from heaven, and will raise up all the saints; Philip, one of the twelve apostles, who sleeps in Hierapolis… John, who rested upon the bosom of our Lord… Polycarp of Smyrna…or Melito, the Eunuch who lived altogether in the Holy Spirit, and who lies in Sardis, awaiting the episcopate from heaven, when he shall rise from the dead? All these observed the fourteenth day of the Passover according to the gospel deviating in no respect, but following the rule of faith… and my relatives always observed the day when the people threw away the leaven [Abib 14]. I, therefore, brethren, am now 65 years in the Lord, who having conferred with the brethren throughout the world, and having studied the whole of the sacred Scriptures, am not at all alarmed at those things with which I am threatened, to intimidate me. For they who are greater than I, have said, ‘We ought to obey God rather than men’" (Eusebius, Church History, xxiv). (Ogwyn J. GCA)

As history shows, from the Apostle John to Polycarp to Polycrates to present, those in the Church of God have never accepted the authority of the Bishop of Rome (called pope since the late 4th century) to establish doctrine--especially as some papal pronouncements contradict scripture.

Married Clergy

Orthodox:

Thus Orthodox tradition and practice honour and respect the celibacy of priests and praise their service in the body of the Church; at the same time, they honour and respect the married clergy since, they too, serve the same sacrament of the Church and salvation. The Orthodox Church thus accepts these two forms of service equally and leaves the choice of which it is to be to the individual member, in accordance with his own vocation and particular charisms. For pastoral reasons however, the Church has favoured the institution of celibacy for the order of bishops, and these are chosen exclusively from the celibate priesthood (Damaskinos Papandreou, Orthodox Metropolitan of Switzerland. The Orthodox Churches and Priestly Celibacy. http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/articles/misc/damaskinos_celibacy.htm viewed 02/04/08).

Church of God:

The genuine Church of God does not require celibacy for the ministry and it is not necessary for advancement. Most of its elders/presbyters, regional pastors, and evangelists are married. While both the Continuing Church of God and the Eastern Orthodox Churches allow their elders/presbyters to be married, the Orthodox do not allow this any more for their bishops (an article of related interest would include Was Celibacy Required for Early Bishops or Presbyters?).

No Immaculate Conception

Both groups deny the Catholic dogma of Mary's alleged "immaculate conception."

Orthodox:

The Orthodox Church does not accept the Catholic dogma of 1854--the dogma of the immaculate conception of the Virgin, in the sense that she was exempt at birth from original sin . This would separate her from the human race and she would have been unable to transmit to her Son real humanity (Clendenin p. 67).

Even though some Orthodox seem to have distanced themselves from it, in their Patriarchal Encyclical of 1895 declared:

XIII. The one holy, catholic and apostolic Church of the seven Ecumenical Councils teaches that the supernatural incarnation of the only-begotten Son and Word of God, of the Holy Ghost and the Virgin Mary, is alone pure and immaculate; but the Papal Church scarcely forty years ago again made an innovation by laying down a novel dogma concerning the immaculate conception of the Mother of God and ever-Virgin Mary, which was unknown to the ancient Church (and strongly opposed at different times even by the more distinguished among the Papal theologians). (As cited in Cleenewerck L. His Broken Body: Understanding and Healing the Schism Between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches (An Orthodox Perspective). Euclid University Consortium Press, Washington (DC), 2007, p. 400)

Church of God:

Basically, scripture only says that she was a virgin UNTIL Jesus was born. All real Christians believe that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived inside of her by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35) and that she remained a virgin until some time after Jesus was born (Matthew 1:25; 13:55-56).

Apparently, the earliest claim as to Mary's so-called perpetual virginity comes from a false document known as the Protoevangelium of James (McNally, p. 73). Why is it false?

This "gospel" falsely claims to have been written by James in Jerusalem and in the first century (The Protoevangelium of James.  Translated by Alexander Walker. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 8. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0847.htm>). It states that a midwife checked, and found, intact proof of Mary's viginity shortly after Jesus was born. The claims of its authorship and date of writing are both being claims scholars realize are false (The Infancy Gospel Of James; Alternate title: The Protovangelion.  Geoff Trowbridge's Introduction. http://www.maplenet.net/~trowbridge/infjames.htm viewed 08/13/11; Kirby, Peter. "Infancy Gospel of James." Early Christian Writings. 2011. 13 Aug. 2011 http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/infancyjames.html; Reid, George. "Apocrypha." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 17 Aug. 2011 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01601a.htm>). 

Thus, this perpetual virginity teaching seems to have started from false sources...

Understand that the Bible never refers to Mary’s "Immaculate Conception"—the doctrine that she was born without sin—nor that she led a sinless life. Actually the Bible contradicts that as, other than Jesus (Hebrews 4:15), "all have sinned" (Romans 3:23), and this includes Jesus' mother Mary...The Continuing Church of God teaches that Mary was born like everyone else and did sin (the Bible teaches that all have sinned, Romans 3:23, except Jesus, Hebrews 4;15). The Bible gives no indication that Mary's conception was somehow different than others. (Thiel B. Origin of the Marian Dogmas viewed 08/11/13).

So, the Orthodox and the CCOG agree on that there was no immaculate conception of Mary and the idea that she was "ever-Virgin Mary" "was unknown to the ancient Church."

But this subject is a little tricky--though both groups deny the "Immaculate Conception" doctrine. The Orthodox (see Mary below) believe that Mary was not exempt from "original sin", a concept that those in the COG deny, while the truly faithful teach that sin only Jesus did not sin (Hebrews 4:15)--Mary did sin (Romans 3:23), a concept that the Orthodox tend to deny.

Ash Wednesday

Neither the Continuing Church of God nor the Eastern Orthodox Church observes the Roman Catholic holiday of Ash Wednesday, which it developed in the early portion of the Middle Ages. For details, including quotes see Is Lent a Christian Holiday?.

Dissimilarities

Although there are similarities, there are a tremendous amount of dissimilarities between the Orthodox Church and those of the Church of God as the Orthodox have accepted many doctrines that the original Church of God did not. Those who are willing to believe the Bible should be able to quickly determine which group is truly the most faithful.

Head Coverings for Overseers/Bishops/Patriarchs?

Orthodox:

The Rheims New Testament (used by Catholics, including some English-speaking Orthodox) in 1 Corinthians 11 teaches:

3. And I will have you know, that the head of every man, is Christ: and the head of the woman, is the man: and the head of Christ, is God. 4. Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered: dishonorest his head.

The Catholic Encyclopedia notes:

In the Orthodox Greek Rite (the other Greek Rites need not here be considered) a liturgical head-covering was not worn until the sixteenth century. Before this only the Patriarch of Alexandria, who wore one as early as the tenth century, made use of a head-covering, and his was only a simple cap (Braun J. Transcribed by William Stuart French, Jr. Mitre. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. Published 1911. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, October 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

All the Orthodox patriarchs I have ever seen photographs of were wearing head coverings of some type. And they seem to pray wearing them, thus they seem to ignore the early biblical practices and thus biblically appear to be dishonoring Christ. And while some try to tie the wearing of mitres to the Old Testament (and the Apostle John may have had some type of Levitical role prior to becoming a disciple of Jesus, and hence may have worn a mitre prior), the reality is that if the Orthodox did not adopt them until the 10th or 16th century, it obviously was not an original practice--or if it were an original practice, then they did not follow it for most of the time of their existence as a church.

Church of God:

Church of God leaders follow the teachings of the Bible, including 1 Corinthians 11:3-4. They do not pray or conduct church services wearing hats, mitres, or other head coverings. However, just like the Bible allowed the priests in the Old Testament to have beards (e.g. Leviticus 21:1-5; Psalm 133:22), church leaders can have beards or other facial coverings (though in modern times few do).

Those Orthodox male leaders wearing head coverings would appear to be dishonoring their head, who is supposed to be Christ. Hence, it may be that they are disqualifying themselves as true ministers of Christ by their head coverings.

Therefore, just seeing the appearance of any Orthodox bishop/patriarch should show people that the genuine Church of God is more faithful than the Orthodox Church to the Bible and early traditions of the Church. An article of related interest may be What Were the Early Duties and Dress of Elders/Pastors?.

Pope

Orthodox:

"Orthodox believe that among the five Patriarchs a special place belongs to the Pope...Orthodoxy does not deny the Holy and Apostolic See a primacy of honour, together with the right (under certain circumstances) to hear appeals from all parts of Christendom. Note that we have used the word 'primacy', not 'supremacy' " (Ware, p.27).

Church of God:

"By the terms of Justinian’s decree, however, the bishops of Rome (now called popes) held the reins of power and were thus the real riders sitting astride the imperial Beast in the West. It is important to note at this point a significant difference between the Beast described in Revelation 13 and the one described in Revelation 17. The Beast of Revelation 13 corresponds to what Daniel saw in Daniel 7. John described a creature that began in Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon and continued on to his day. Out of the seventh head, the Roman Empire, would arise ten kingdoms. Daniel 7 explained that the first three of those ten horns would be "plucked out." However, the Beast of Revelation 17 is different. It is a creature ridden by the woman, unlike the earlier description. The Beast in Revelation 17 is the one "that was and is not" (v. 11)—the Roman Empire after the deadly wound is healed. This is what history has ironically and misleadingly labeled the "Holy" Roman Empire, dominated by the Church of Rome, which has continued from 554 ad through various revivals to modern times" (Ogwyn J. The Beast of Revelation: Myth, Metaphor or Soon Coming Reality? Booklet).

Perhaps it should be mentioned here that some within the Orthodox church hold a position on the Roman Catholic Pope more similar to the COG position than the one listed above from the Orthodox. And that is that many Orthodox believe that the "Roman See" has changed doctrines from those of the early church, hence should not be looked at as a faithful successor to the apostles.

However, recent events have strongly suggested that much of the Orthodox leadership (Russian Orthodox possibly excepted) seems determined to enter into more unify with the Catholics with some type of acknowledgement of papal primacy (see 11/16/07 news item Orthodox Closer to Accepting Papal Authority).

Icons

While the early church condemned all idols and icons, the Orthodox now have a different view. Before getting to it, perhaps a quote from the Bible would be helpful here:

28... For we are also His offspring.' 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man's devising. (Acts 17:28-29, NKJV)

29 Being therefore the offspring of God, we must not suppose the divinity to be like unto gold, or silver, or stone, the graving of art, and device of man. 30 And God indeed having winked at the times of this ignorance, now declareth unto men, that all should every where do penance. (Acts 17:29-30, Douay-Rheims)

21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. (1 John 5:21, NKJV)

21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. (1 John 5:21, Douay-Rheims)

Notice that both Protestant and Catholic translations of scripture declare that God is not to be portrayed with gold or silver. While some Orthodox have claimed that because Jesus came in the flesh, that icons representing Him must be okay, the scriptures cited above were written after Jesus was crucified.

Orthodox:

"...one will not find in the early Church any clear exposition of the current Eastern Orthodox theology of icons" (Cleenewerck L. His Broken Body: Understanding and Healing the Schism Between the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches (An Orthodox Perspective). Euclid University Consortium Press, Washington (DC), 2007, p. 43)

"...within Christianity itself there had always existed a 'puritan' outlook, which condemned icons because it saw in all images a latent idolatry...The final victory of the Holy Images in 843 is known as 'the Triumph of Orthodoxy'...One of the distinctive features of Orthodoxy is the place which it assigns to icons. An Orthodox church today is filled with them...An Orthodox prostrates himself before these icons, he kisses them and burns candles in front of them...Because icons are only symbols, Orthodox do not worship them, but reverence or venerate them...icons form a part of Holy Tradition...The Iconoclasts, by repudiating all representations of God, failed to take to full account the Incarnation" (Ware, pp. 31-33).

The first Sunday in Lent, commemorating the definitive restoration of holy ikons in 843 at the end of the iconoclast controversy, is known as the 'Sunday of Orthodoxy' or the 'Triumph of Orthodoxy' (The Philokalia, Volume 4: The Complete Text; Compiled by St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain & St. Markarios of Corinth. G.E.H. Palmer (Translator), Philip Sherrard (Translator), Kallistos Ware (Translator). Faber & Faber, January 31, 1999, p. 287).

"The Orthodox Church uses icons for veneration with the understanding that the respect is paid not to the material icon but to the person represented "in spirit and truth"...The Seventh Ecumenical Council (787 and 843) decreed the use of icons, following in the main the teaching of St. John of Damascus" (Litsas FK. A Dictionary of Orthodox Terminology - Part 2. http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article9152.asp 8/27/05) .

Icons are absolutely central to Orthodoxy, distinguishing it from both Catholicism and Protestantism. In the Orthodox calendar, the first Sunday of Lent celebrates the Triumph of Orthodoxy, a commemoration of the final triumph of icons in the long and bitter battle with the iconoclasts (literally, "image-smashers") on March 11, 843. Included in this liturgy is an anathema on all those who reject icons.

Timothy Kallistos Ware..."In every Orthodox church the sanctuary is divided from the rest of the interior by the iconostasis, a solid screen, usually of wood, covered with icons...Orthodox churches are full of icons...When Orthodox people enter a church, their first action will be to buy a candle, cross themselves, kiss the icon, and light a candle in front of it...(Clendenin, pp. 17,18)

the church, through the voice of its councils and its hierarchs, ordains that icons be painted as they were formerly painted by the holy iconographers" (Clendenin, p. 50).

The Orthodox Church has a book called The Synaxarion which contains stories, handed down through some type of tradition, about early church leaders. The Synaxarion seems to have been composed between the ninth and eleventh centuries and apparently was motivated by the Orthodox devotion to icons:

The iconoclast heresy of the eighth and ninth centuries was directed against veneration of saints as well as against their holy images and, in general, opposed the presence of any intermediary between ourselves and God. The Orthodox reacted by attaching even more importance to veneration of the saints. Once the heresy was overthrown, they covered the walls of the churches with icons, were zealous in writing long lives of the heroes of Orthodoxy and completed the calendar and the Church service. The holy hymnographers of the Monastery of the Stoudion, Saint Theodore, Saint Joseph and others, ordered our Church services in the form they have retained ever since. After the sixth ode of the Matins canon, because of the number of hymns, the reading of the lives of the saints of the day was restricted to brief notices, called the Synaxarion, as a vestige of the practice of the first liturgical assemblies. From the ninth to the eleventh century, the compilation of the short notices that appear in the Synaxarion was completed (Hieromonk Makarios of Simonos Petra, Mount Athos. Introduction to The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church. From Volume One of The Synaxarion: The Lives of the Saints of the Orthodox Church. Published by the Holy Convent of the Annunciation of Our Lady, Ormylia (Chalkidike, Greece), 1998. From http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/general/synaxarion_intro.aspx 03/31/06).

Perhaps it should be mentioned that the earliest “portraits” of the Apostles Peter, Paul, Andrew, and John that have been found date from the late fourth/early fifth century according modern researchers such as Professor Fabrizio Bisconti, the head of archaeology for Rome's numerous catacombs (Oldest portraits of Christ's apostles found.  Reuters, June 23, 2010.  http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/06/23/2934293.htm?section=justin viewed 06/23/10). Despite this fact, notice the following from Eastern Orthodox scholar Leonid Ouspensky:

The Orthodox church has never accepted the paintings of icons according to the imagination of the artist or from a living model, which would signify a conscious and total break from the prototype.  The name which the icon bears would then no longer correspond to the person represented, and this would be a flagrant lie which the church could not tolerate…The ancient iconographers knew the faces of the saints as well as they knew those of their close relatives.  They painted them from memory or by using a sketch of portrait...all kinds of accounts, and particularly sketches…were preserved on icons. (Ouspensky L.  Theology of the Icons.  Translated by Anthony Gythiel and Elizabth Meyendorf, 1992. As cited in Clendenin, p. 48)

But theological scholar Daniel Clendenin commented that at least part of the above was false as well as made other related comments:

This general rule has frequently been broken or abused in the past few centuries. (Clendenin D.B. ed. Eastern Orthodox Theology, 2nd ed. Baker Academic, 2003, p. 48)

Icons are absolutely central to Orthodoxy, distinguishing it from both Catholicism and Protestantism. In the Orthodox calendar, the first Sunday of Lent celebrates the Triumph of Orthodoxy, a commemoration of the final triumph of icons in the long and bitter battle with the iconoclasts (literally, "image-smashers") on March 11, 843. Included in this liturgy is an anathema on all those who reject icons. This is no archaic, dusty doctrine, either. Recently I worshiped at an Orthodox church in Palo Alto on this celebration of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. In his homily, Father Vladimir explained the history and theology of icons, adding that the heresy of iconoclasm was alive and well...

Icons are not merely sacred art. Rather, they are a source of revelation. According to the Second Ecumenical Council of Nicea in 787, icons are of equal benefit as Scripture in presenting the gospel message. What Scripture proclaims by word, the icon proclaims by color. Thus, when an Orthodox believer once asked why his church did not do more doctrinal teaching, his priest responded, "Icons teach us all that we need to know." Icons are, quite literally, a "theology in color." (Clendenin D. Why I'm Not Orthodox. January 6, 1997. Copyright © 1997 Christianity Today)

Church of God:

The Old Testament condemns idols, even if they are supposedly directly to the true God. The Old Testament condemns even the possession of icons.

The truth is that New Testament also condemns idols. Notice, according to Protestant and Catholic translations, what Jesus Himself taught:

24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth (John 4:24, NKJV).

24 God is a spirit; and they that adore him, must adore him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:24, Douay-Rheims)

And the truth is that God does not want to be represented by things made by man. Furthermore, the truth is that since no one knows what Jesus (or God the Father, either) looks like--all ICONIC REPRESENTATIONS OF GOD ARE NOT SPIRIT and are not true.

The early church is warned not to associate with any "Christian" who is involved with idolatry; and pictures of Jesus were not endorsed by even early Greco-Roman leaders, despite the fact that Jesus walked the earth. The New Testament warns that idolaters are considered to be heathen and will be judged as such (please see the article Hope of Salvation).

The church writers of the second century, even the unfaithful ones, wrote against idols and idolatry. Because of Constantine and Helena, images started to become popular, but then not as they now are within the Greco-Roman faiths.

It was only in the ninth century that the Roman Church accepted idols once and for all, and even the scholars of that church admit that it was not a practice of early Christians. And even then, there were those who remained faithful and opposed such reprehensible practices.

Various writings, biblical and non-biblical, warn about images associated with the Beast and Antichrist. This seems to specifically include crosses and other idols. The Bible warns Christians repeatedly against the use of images and idols. The Continuing Church of God is repeating this warning.

Furthermore, there is no evidence that any who professed Christ had idols/icons, such as what are seen in the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, or even endorsed by them in the second century. Thus, the early church was always against the use of idols and icons.

And the true Church of God still is. (Thiel B. What Did the Early Church Teach About Idols and Icons? viewed 08/11/13)

The Bible and some considered as early saints and/or "fathers" by the Orthodox condemned idols. This is documented in an article titled What Did the Early Church Teach About Idols and Icons? We in the Church of God do not believe that icons are needed for the gospel message, nor are they at a level related to scripture.

Perhaps I should add that when I spoke to an Eastern Orthodox scholar and priest about this on July 8, 2009, he clearly admitted to me that there was no veneration of icons by Christians in the second century. He (correctly) stated that the acceptance of icons was essentially a slow development. My response was to the effect of, "The Orthodox claim to be the original faith that has not been corrupted by changes that Rome and others adopted. Obviously the adoption of icons, Easter Sunday, anti-millenarianism, etc. were changes. Hence, the Orthodox should look into the practices and beliefs of the faithful in the true early second century church, which are the beliefs and practices of the genuine Church of God."

Mary

Orthodox:

"...we are called by God in no uncertain terms to bless the Mother of our God. We cannot get around that point in scripture...Can Mary really save us? Yes...(Gillquist, pp.115,120).

"...Orthodox honour Mary...because she is Panagia, All-Holy. Among all God's creatures, she is the supreme example of synergy or co-operation between the purpose of the deity and human freedom" (Ware, p.258).

Based mainly on looking a Hebrew scriptures translated as "until" (and the New Testament was written in Greek), an Orthodox archpriest writes this, "...the word until in Matthew 1:25 does not mean that Joseph and Mary began a sexual union after Christ was born. Such as teaching is found nowhere in Scripture and is contrary to the consistent voice of the entire early Church...Mary and Joseph had no sexual union whatsoever, before or after the birth of Christ" (Gillquist, pp.117-118).

Sergius Bulgakov ..."The Orthodox Church venerates the Virgin Mary...We ceaselessly pray to her to intercede for us. Love and veneration of the Virgin is the soul of Orthodox piety...Orthodoxy does not admit in the all-pure Virgin any individual sin...Living in heaven in a state of glory the Virgin remains the mother of the human race for which she prays and intercedes" (Clendenin, pp. 66,67).

Church of God:

The Bible teaches:

5 For there is one God, and one mediator of God and men, the man Christ Jesus: 6 Who gave himself a redemption for all, a testimony in due times.(1 Timothy 2:5-6, DRB)

The biblical fact that there is ONE mediator, who is Jesus, means that there is not another, like Mary. This historically has been the teaching in the true Church of God (and this was also confirmed, for example, in 1705 via William Gibson, September 8, 1705; Cited in Dugger AN, Dodd CO, pp. 275-277).

The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma states in its section about Mary being the Mediatrix, “Express scriptural proofs are lacking” (Ott, p. 214).

Thus, Catholics who do not wish to deviate from what the Bible teaches would do well not to promote non-biblical titles and attributes to Mary.  Furthermore, the Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma teaches:

The mystical interpretation…became prominent in the West in the late Middle Ages...Express testimonies, though few in number, to Mary’s position as mediatrix of grace are found since the eighth century. (Ott, p. 214)

Notice that calling Mary the mediatrix of grace was not from the Bible, was espoused by few, and that no one really started promoting it until the 8th century.  Surely this shows that it WAS NOT a belief of the early church.  The fact that Lúcia de Fatima wanted it promoted surely shows that she was not keeping with the teachings of the Bible nor the practices of the early church. (More on the apparitions can be found in the article Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Apparitions.)

While the Bible states that all should considered that Mary is blessed, nowhere in the Bible, nor the writings of those considered to be early (prior to the third century) "Church Fathers" do we see veneration for Mary. (Thiel B. Origin of the Marian Dogmas viewed 08/11/13)

Perhaps it should be pointed out that since the first resurrection has not yet occurred (Revelation 20:5) that we in the COG do not believe that it is possible for Mary (or anyone who died other than Jesus) to hear anyone's prayers. Since the Bible teaches that other than Jesus (Hebrews 4:15), "all have sinned" (Romans 3:23), those of us in the real COG cannot accept that Mary was without sin.

Furthermore, since the Bible shows that Eve was the mother of all humans (Genesis 3:20), we do not accept that Mary could properly have that title. However, while it is true that the Bible called Mary "blessed" and we in the real COG agree that Mary was blessed, the Bible calls many others "blessed" as well--but never says to worship nor highly venerate those that are blessed. For additional information about Mary, please see the article Mary, the Mother of Jesus and the Apparitions.

Tradition

Orthodox:

"While the Bible is treasured as a valuable written record of God's revelation, it does not contain wholly that revelation. The Bible is viewed as only one expression of God's revelation in the on-going life of His people. Scripture is part of the treasure of Faith which is known as Tradition. Tradition means that which is "handed on" from one generation to another. In addition to the witness of Faith in the Scripture, the Orthodox Christian Faith is celebrated in the Eucharist, taught by the Fathers, glorified by the Saints, expressed in prayers, hymns, and icons; defended by the seven Ecumenical Councils; embodied in the Nicene Creed, manifested in social concern; and, by the power of the Holy Spirit, it is lived in every local Orthodox parish" (Fitzgerald T. Teachings of the Orthodox Church. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article7062.asp 8/21/05).

"Orthodox are always talking about Tradition...It means the books of the Bible; it means the Creed; it means the decrees of the Ecumenical Councils and the writings of the Fathers; it means the Canon, the Service, Books, the Holy Icons -- in fact the whole system of doctrine, Church government, worship, spirituality and art which Orthodoxy has articulated over the ages...Note the the Bible forms a part of Tradition. Sometimes Tradition is defined as the oral teachings of Christ, not recorded in writing by His immediate disciples. Not only non-Orthodox but many Orthodox writers have adopted this way of speaking, treating Scripture and Tradition as two different things, two distinct sources of Christian faith. But in reality there is only one source as Scripture exists within Tradition. To separate and contrast the two is to impoverish the idea of both alike...Among the various elements of Tradition, a unique pre-eminence belongs to the Bible, to the Creed, to the doctrinal definitions of the Ecumenical Councils: these things the Orthodox accept as something absolute and unchanging, something which cannot be cancelled or revised. The other parts of Tradition do not have quite the same authority" (Ware, pp. 196-197).

Yet it also acknowledges,

"Jesus said in the Matthew passage that the tradition of men produced hypocrisy and even vain worship" (Gillquist, p.67).

But also teaches,

"Tradition is there not just to preserve the Bible but to interpret it" (Gillquist, p.76).

Church of God:

Paul wrote to Timothy,

...you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

It should be noted that Paul referred to the scriptures as "Holy" (hieros in the Greek, meaning sacred) a term never used in the Bible to refer to tradition. (There is another Greek term, hagios, that is also translated as "holy" in the Bible that possibly can also mean sacred. It is also used to denote scriptures as holy {Romans 1:2} as well as what God's prophets taught {Luke 1:70; Acts 3:21; 2 Peter 3:2; Revelation 22:6}--which was written down in scripture (e.g. John 10:35; Acts 13:40-41; Acts 28:25-27; Romans 16:26; 2 Peter 1:20; Revelation 22:7,18-19}.)

Notice that Paul makes it clear that doctrine comes from the scriptures and that the scriptures themselves are there so "that the man of God may be complete."

Note that tradition is not needed for the man of God to be complete nor needed to be "thoroughly equipped for every good work".

Also note that the Holy Scriptures themselves, and not tradition, are able to make one "wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus". Thus, perhaps the most dogmatic issues in the Bible CAN be determined from the Bible WITHOUT tradition.

Paul also taught,

Preach the word! (2 Timothy 4:2)

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17).

Notice that hearing (and even faith) comes from the word of God, not traditions.

Paul also taught that his oral teachings do not contradict his letters,

Let such a person consider this, that what we are in word by letters when we are absent, such we will also be in deed when we are present (2 Corinthians 10:11).

It is also important to note that Peter refers to Paul's letters as scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16).

When Paul taught (even though he did learn some things directly from Jesus) he normally based his teachings on the scriptures,

Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures (Acts 17:2).

It is interesting to note that Paul also taught,

Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand (2 Corinthians 1:24).

This suggests that he was teaching that his (or any other apostles) oral teachings do not have dominion over scripture.

Paul also warned about tradition

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ (Colossians 2:8).

This warning from Paul seems to be saying that traditions that are "not according to Christ" may deceive some and that Christians need to be on guard against it. While some traditions can have value, traditions that contradict biblical instruction cannot be considered "according to Christ".

Paul also warned that there are:

...are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

While Paul and the other apostles at first seemed to think that Christ would return in their lifetimes, they later realized that they would not live that long (Paul mentioned his impending death in 2 Timothy 4:6). It should be noted that as he was nearing the end of his life, Paul (and also Peter) decided that the teachings, as found in the books and parchments, needed to be brought together (2 Timothy 4:13) for the apparent purpose of clarifying which teachings were scriptural and which were not as important. He, shortly before his death, apparently felt that there was now a need for more than simply a combination of letters and oral teachings...

Look at what Polycrates wrote to Victor, who was then Bishop of Rome:

...I, therefore, brethren, who have lived sixty-five years in the Lord, and have met with the brethren throughout the world, and have gone through every Holy Scripture, am not affrighted by terrifying words. For those greater than I have said ' We ought to obey God rather than man'...I...always governed my life by the Lord Jesus" (Eusebius. Church History. Book V, Chapter 25)...

The Bible itself is clear it is that the word of God that is truth and that God sanctifies, sets apart, those who live by the truth:

17 Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth. 18 As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth (John 17:16-18).

When Jesus was on earth (as previously mentioned) He cited the word of God for the truth and specifically taught against relying on the anti-scriptural traditions that the religious leaders of His day were what God really wanted. It is those that are set apart by the living by the truth as shown in the word of God--this is never said of those who rely on tradition...

The Bible is clear that in the end-times, it is needed for all to have a "love of the truth, that they might be saved" (2 Thessalonians 2:10-11). And only traditions and teachings in accordance with the truth are acceptable to God.

Did you realize that the Bible itself also tells of a time after the resurrection that people will admit that they had been deceived by traditions that they inherited from their fathers? Notice what God's prophet Jeremiah was inspired to write:

From the ends of the earth and say, "Surely our fathers have inherited lies, Worthlessness and unprofitable things." Will a man make gods for himself, Which are not gods? "

Therefore behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know My hand and My might; And they shall know that My name is the LORD (Jeremiah 16:19-21).

Thus the time will come, and it has not yet come, that the vast majority of those whose religion is based upon traditions that contradict the Bible will realize that they have inherited lies. (Thiel B. Tradition and Scripture: From the Bible and Church Writings viewed 08/11/13)

Even some who the Orthodox consider to have been early saints (such as Melito and Irenaeus) condemned tradition when it conflicts with scripture.

Furthermore, the Bible warns that eventually those who accepted the traditions of idols will realize that they have inherited lies. Notice what God's prophet Jeremiah was inspired to write:

From the ends of the earth and say, "Surely our fathers have inherited lies, Worthlessness and unprofitable things." Will a man make gods for himself, Which are not gods? "

Therefore behold, I will this once cause them to know, I will cause them to know My hand and My might; And they shall know that My name is the LORD (Jeremiah 16:19-21).

Thus the time will come, and it has not yet come, that the vast majority of those whose religion is based upon traditions that contradict the Bible will realize that they have inherited lies. Once they realize that, God will then cause them to know Him.

Do you want to wait until then to know God or do you want to know God now?

We in the Church of God believe that Scripture itself provides the answers about reliance on tradition.

Three articles of related interest may include Tradition and Scripture, Universal Salvation? There Are Hundreds of Verses in the Bible Supporting the Doctrine of True Apocatastasis, and Hope of Salvation: How the Genuine Church of God differs from most Protestants.

Church Services

Orthodox:

"St. Justin Martyr describes the liturgical worship of the Church, centered on the Eucharist" (A Timeline of Church History: Tracing the birth and continuity of the Orthodox Church from Pentecost to present).

Essentially quoting, Jack Sparks, Ph.D., an Orthodox archpriest writes,

"...what early Christian worship was like. The source most always considered first is the record of St. Justin Martyr (in his First Apology), written around 150 A.D., where he put down on paper for the emperor, the pattern of Christian worship. it looked like this:

"SYNAXIS: * Greeting and response * Hymns interspersed with * Readings from Scripture *, the "Apostles' Memoirs" * The Homily * Dismissal of those not in the Church

"EUCHARIST * Intercessory Prayers * Offertory -- of bread and wine * Consecration of Gifts * Communion * Giving of Thanks * Benediction...

...there were essentially two orders of worship in the early Church that went together to form one basic liturgy. The first part was called the synaxis, which simply means 'meeting'. It was patterned after the synagogue worship of the Jews in the years that immediately preceded Christ. It would make sense for the Jewish converts to Christ to retain their basic forms of prayers, hymn singing, Scripture reading, and homily. The second part of the early Christian liturgy was the Eucharist, that is 'the thanksgiving'. It's that part of the worship that leads up to and including the taking of communion" (Gillquist, pp.36-37).

From Justin himself:

"And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, as long as time permits; then, when the reader has ceased, the president verbally instructs, and exhorts to the imitation of these good things. Then we all rise together and pray, and, as we before said, when our prayer is ended, bread and wine and water are brought, and the president in like manner offers prayers and thanksgivings, according to his ability, and the people assent, saying Amen; and there is a distribution to each, and a participation of that over which thanks have been given, and to those who are absent a portion is sent by the deacons. And they who are well to do, and willing, give what each thinks fit; and what is collected is deposited with the president" (Justin Martyr. The First Apology. Chapter LXII).

From Orthodox writers:

"In Orthodox services, Mary is often mentioned, and on each occasion she is usually given her full title: 'Our All-Holy, immaculate, most blessed and glorified Lady, Mother of God and ever-Virgin Mary' " (Ware, p.257).

Timothy (Kallistos) Ware ..."In the Orthodox church today, as in the early church, all services are sung or chanted...singing is unaccompanied and instrumental music is not found, except among certain Orthodox in America...An Orthodox normally stands during church services...Canon 20 of the first ecumenical council forbids all kneeling on Sunday" (Clendenin, pp. 15,16).

"Prayers address to the Virgin occupy a large place in the Orthodox service" (Clendenin, p. 67).

Here is what a former Protestant, now an Orthodox archpriest, wrote about his (and his friends) first visit to an Orthodox church service, "culturally the service seemed worlds removed from us. By the time the Bishop arrived we were overflowing with more questions. "Why do they pray, 'Lord have mercy' so often?" "Tell us about the priest's vestments." "What do all the candles on that stand mean?" "Is there incense in every service?" Being familiar with evangelical Protestantism himself, the Bishop understood our culture shock. We believed the basic doctrines on this ancient faith, but the rubrics of worship simply were not in the history books" (Gillquist, pp. 137-138).

Interestingly, even to this day, the Orthodox consider Saturday and Sunday festive days, different from other ones:

In the tradition of our Church, Saturday like Sunday is considered a festal day. Even during the Great Lent the rules of fasting are relaxed on Saturdays and Sundays (Calivas A. The Great and Holy Saturday. Copyright: 2002-2003 Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America).

It perhaps should be noted that contrary to Justin's practices, the Passover/Pascha services mentioned in the New Testament were not weekly events, nor did they involve the distribution of water (i.e. Luke 22:14-20). It should also be mentioned that the historical records do show that in Asia Minor and elsewhere, many Orthodox kept the Saturday Sabbath for centuries after Justin (please see The Sabbath in the Early Church and Abroad), thus it is no surprise that the Orthodox still retain a tradition that the Sabbath is different from the other days of the week. The Roman Catholics insisted on Saturday fasting

Perhaps this would be a good place to mention that it was the Sabbath-practices by the Orthodox which was one of the reasons that caused its schism from the Roman Catholic Church in 1054 A.D.

In the fifth century, the historian Socrates noted:

For although almost all churches throughout the world celebrate the sacred mysteries on the sabbath of every week, yet the Christians of Alexandria and at Rome, on account of some ancient tradition, have ceased to do this. The Egyptians in the neighborhood of Alexandria, and the inhabitants of Thebais, hold their religious assemblies on the sabbath, but do not participate of the mysteries in the manner usual among Christians in general (Socrates Scholasticus. Ecclesiastical History, Book V, Chapter XXII. Excerpted from Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Second Series, Volume 2. Edited by Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. American Edition, 1890. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

Rome actually fasted on the Sabbath. Notice the reason, according Victorinus, bishop of Pettau wrote (circa 304) as to the reason those associated with Rome fasted:

On the seventh day…we are accustomed to fast rigourously…We must fast even on Friday in order that we not appear to observe the Sabbath with the Jews (Cited in Bacchiocchi S. Anti-Judaism and the Origin of Sunday, p. 74).

Augustine noted:

I believe that the Apostle Paul did all these things honestly, and without dissimulation; and yet if any one now leave Judaism and become a Christian, I neither compel nor permit him to imitate Paul's example (Augustine. Letter 82 From Augustine to Jerome (A.D. 405), Chapter 2 verse 15).

Augustine was a major force in coming up with "purgatory" and notice that he forbade Jewish converts from following Paul's example (the Bible shows that Apostle Paul kept the seventh-day Sabbath in Asia Minor; see also Acts 13:14), even though the Apostle Paul clearly taught, "I urge you, imitate me" (1 Corinthians 4:16). However this was not the case in Asia Minor as many continued to observe the Sabbath:

R.L. Odom has persuasively brought out that the Roman insistence on making the Sabbath a day of fast contributed greatly to the historic break between the Eastern and Western Christian Church which occurred in A.D. 1054 (Cited in Bacchiocchi Anti-Judaism and the Origin of Sunday, p. 67).

The polemic work Against the Calumnities of the Greeks of Cardinal Humbert of Rome, provides additional evidence in this regard. The Cardinal argues that the Latins in no way resemble the Jews in their observance of the Sabbath, since on that day they "do all sorts of work, even as in the preceding five days and fast [on the Sabbath]. ..." He proceeds then to show the Greeks that they are the ones who judaize since they observe the Sabbath in an identical manner of the Jews...the document date (ca. A.D. 1054)...the lengthy quotation from "the most blessed Pope Sylvester" (A. D. 314-355)...Cardinal Humbert cites to dissuade the Greeks from the observance of the Sabbath (Cited in Bacchiocchi Anti-Judaism and the Origin of Sunday, pp. 74-75).

Or in other words, the Roman Catholics were upset that the Orthodox (the Greeks) considered the Sabbath a festal and not a fast day and that this is one of the reasons why they separated from each other.

While the Orthodox tend to point to 1054, the Romans tend to have a mixed view:

In an attempt to quell the disturbance, the pope sent a three-man delegation, led by Cardinal Humbert, to visit Patriarch Cerularius, but matters worsened. The legates presented the patriarch with the pope’s reply to his charges. Both sides managed to infuriate each other over diplomatic courtesies, and when the smoke cleared, a serious rift had developed. This was not, however, the actual break between the two communions. It’s a popular myth that the schism dates to the year 1054 and that the pope and the patriarch excommunicated each other at that time, but they did not.

Orthodox bishop Kallistos Ware (formerly Timothy Ware) writes, "The choice of Cardinal Humbert was unfortunate, for both he and Cerularius were men of stiff and intransigent temper. . . . After [an initial, unfriendly encounter] the patriarch refused to have further dealings with the legates. Eventually Humbert lost patience, and laid a bull of excommunication against Cerularius on the altar of the Church of the Holy Wisdom. . . . Cerularius and his synod retaliated by anathematizing Humbert (but not the Roman Church as such)" (The Orthodox Church, 67).

The New Catholic Encyclopedia says, "The consummation of the schism is generally dated from the year 1054, when this unfortunate sequence of events took place. This conclusion, however, is not correct, because in the bull composed by Humbert, only Patriarch Cerularius was excommunicated. The validity of the bull is questioned because Pope Leo IX was already dead at that time. On the other side, the Byzantine synod excommunicated only the legates and abstained from any attack on the pope or the Latin Church."

There was no single event that marked the schism, but rather a sliding into and out of schism during a period of several centuries, punctuated with temporary reconciliations. The East’s final break with Rome did not come until the 1450s (Catholic Answers.  Eastern Orthodoxy. NIHIL OBSTAT: Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004 . IMPRIMATUR: +Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004 http://www.catholic.com/library/Eastern_Orthodoxy.asp viewed 02/01/08)

Notice that Cardinal Humbert was sent to Constantinople, but made matters worse. However, it partially was because of his position in his "Against the Calumnities of the Greeks" paper that the Orthodox found Carindal Humbert so offensive--and part of why Cardinal Humbert was upset was because the Orthodox refused to change Saturday into a fast day (the Latin Church finally got rid of that itself in the Middle Ages--even though Cardinal Humbert was insistent about it in 1054).

How many Orthodox realize that offenses related to Saturday observance were a major factor in "the Great Schism"?

Perhaps if the Orthodox would study more into their history they will realize that the faithful in Asia Minor (including the Apostles Paul and John) did keep the seventh-day Sabbath and so should they.

Church of God:

Typically services begin with 2-3 hymns (normally biblical Psalms, often accompanied with a piano), followed by a 15 minute short scripture-based sermon, followed by a hymn and any announcements, followed by a scripture-based sermon (usually between 1 - 1 1/2 hours long), followed by a hymn and a closing prayer. Offerings are not collected in normal services. People sit through services, but stand during hymns. No "Eucharist" is offered, as the CCOG keeps the Lord's Passover as an annual, not weekly, event. CCOG services, like those with Jesus, the apostles, and early true Christians, are held on Saturday.

No prayers to dead saints (including Mary) are offered in real COG services, nor is there evidence that they were originally offered prior to the third century.

People almost never sit in any portion of most Orthodox services (though they do more often in the USA than elsewhere). In the COG nearly everyone sits.

It should be noted that while the New Testament shows songs were sung, it never suggests that services were either sung or chanted, nor are there any biblical prohibitions to kneeling.

Eucharist/Lord's Passover

Orthodox:

"the Eucharist is offered. This sacrament is performed by a bishop or a presbyter using leavened (never unleavened) bread... (Clendenin, p. 28).

Church of God:

Passover helps picture the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who scripture shows who came to be the“Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus observed Passover (Matthew 26:18; Mark 14:14; Luke 2:41-42; 22:15), died on Passover (Luke 22:15), and was sacrificed for us as “indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus made changes to the Passover including adding the symbols of unleavened bread and wine (Matthew 26:17,26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26) as well as the cleansing practice of footwashing (John 13:1-17).

The Days of Unleavened Bread, which come immediately after Passover, picture being cleansed from sin by the acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus (cf. 2 Peter 1:9-11). They also picture that the leaven of hypocrisy, malice, and wickness need to be purged (Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 5:6-13). The Apostle Paul was inspired to write,
“Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:8). (Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God viewed 08/11/13)

There is no indication in the biblical text that leavened bread was ever used, which is why those in the CCOG uses unleavened, and never leavened, bread (see also Marcus, the Marcosians, & Mithraism: Developers of the Eucharist?). Why the Orthodox would intentionally use leavened bread in violation of the practice of Jesus and Paul is unclear to this writer--especially since early Christians, including leaders recognized by the Orthodox kept the Days of Unleavened Bread (for details, please see Should Christians Keep the Days of Unleavened Bread?).

Who and What is God?

Although early leaders that the Orthodox considers to be saints taught that only the Father and Son are God, the Orthodox moved away from its historical position because of various councils. Up until the late 4th century, most Orthodox held a "Semi-Arian" (otherwise known as binitarian) view of the Godhead.

Orthodox:

...there is none other called God by the Scriptures except the Father of all, and the Son, and those who possess the adoption (Irenaeus. Adversus haereses, Book IV, Preface, Verse 4. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 1. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

"the councils defined once and for all the Church's teaching upon the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith -- the Trinity and the Incarnation. All Christians agree in regarding these things as 'mysteries' which lie beyond human understanding and language...the first two, held in the fourth century...formulated the doctrine of the Trinity...The work of Nicea was taken up by the second Ecumenical Council, held in Constantinople in 381. This council expanded and adapted the Nicene Creed, developing in particular that teaching upon the Holy Spirit, whom it affirmed to be God even as the Father and the Son are God" (Ware, p.20,21-22).

"By the 4th century a polarity developed between the Eastern and Western Christians in their respective understandings of the Trinity. In the West God was understood primarily in terms of one essence (the Trinity of Persons being conceived as an irrational truth found in revelation); in the East the tri-personality of God was understood as the primary fact of Christian experience. For most of the Greek Fathers, it was not the Trinity that needed theological proof but rather God's essential unity. The Cappadocian Fathers (Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Basil of Caesarea) were even accused of being tri-theists because of the personalistic emphasis of their conception of God as one essence in three hypostases (the Greek term hypostasis was the equivalent of the Latin substantia and designated a concrete reality). For Greek theologians, this terminology was intended to designate the concrete New Testamental revelation of the Son and the Spirit, as distinct from the Father" (Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren. Basic Doctrines: Holy Trinity. http://www.kosovo.com/doctrine1.html#Holy%20Spirit 8/20/05).

"It was the supreme achievement of St. Athanasius of Alexandria to draw out the full implications of the key word in the Nicene Creed: homoousios, one in essence or substance, consubstantial. Complementary to his work was that of the three Cappadocian Fathers, Saints...(died 394). While Athanasius emphasized the unity of God -- Father and Son are one in essence (ousia) - the Cappadocians stressed God's threeness: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three persons (hypostasis)...Never before or since has the Church possessed four theologians of such stature within a single generation" (Ware, p.23).

"Orthodoxy professes its faith in a simple trinity...If we speak of a simple Trinity, this self-contradictory expression means the distinctions...God is unknowable about what he is" (Clendenin D.B. ed. Eastern Orthodox Theology, 2nd ed. Baker Academic, 2003, pp. 175,177).

Here is another important semi-Arian bishop according to The Catholic Encyclopedia:

St. Cyril of Jerusalem Bishop of Jerusalem and Doctor of the Church, born about 315; died probably 18 March, 386… He appeared at the Council of Seleucia in 359, in which the Semi-Arian party was triumphant… He belonged to the Semi-Arian, or Homoean party, and is content to declare that the Son is "in all things like the Father". (Chapman, John. St. Cyril of Jerusalem. The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 4. Nihil Obstat. Remy Lafort, Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1908. 3 Feb. 2010 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04595b.htm>)

If someone could be a Greco-Roman “saint”, “Doctor of the Church”, "Patriarche of Jerusalem", and be semi-Arian in the 4th century, then it should be illogical for any to conclude that trinitarianism was a “foundational belief” of the even the Orthodox churches prior to that century. Furthermore, most of the Bishops/Patriarchs of Antioch were either Arian or semi-Arian until the Council of Constantinople.

Gregory of Cappadocia was semi-Arian, and although many of the Orthodox no longer count him as legitimate successor, he was appointed, and ruled, as the Bishop of Alexandria. And those that do not accept him (and even those that do) normally accept that Athanasius was a legitmate successor, even though Athanasius taught his opponents “ought to be held in universal hatred” (Jones W. The history of the Christian church: from the birth of Christ to the eighteenth century, including the very interesting account of the Waldenses and Albigenses, Volume 1, 3rd edition. R.W. Pomeroy, 1832. Original from the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Digitized, Mar 13, 2008, p. 177).  This is not the sign of a real Christian leader as by stating what he did, Athanasius was being unfaithful to what Jesus taught about opponents (Matthew 5:44).

Most of the bishops of Antioch in the 4th century were either Arian or semi-Arian until the Council of Constantinople (Patriarchs of Antioch. Chronological List.  Syriac Orthodox Resources. http://sor.cua.edu/Patriarchate/PatriarchsChronList.html viewed 04/12/10. The preceding list identified seven “successors” as Arian, but failed to mention that several others were semi-Arian).  Gregory of Cappadocia was semi-Arian, and although many of the Orthodox no longer count him as legitimate successor, he was the Bishop of Alexandria (Gibbon, p. 496).

Thus, into the middle of the fourth century, many major leaders of all of the "Orthodox Sees" endorsed Semi-Arian, non-trinitarian positions (and both churches trace their so-called apostolic succession through them).

Church of God:

THE GODHEAD

The Father and Son comprise the Godhead (Romans 1:20; Colossians 2:9) and work through the Holy Spirit. Scripture shows that God is one eternal divine Family consisting of two, God the Father and the Word, at this time (Genesis 1:26; Ephesians 2:19; 3:14-15; John 1:1,14), with faithful children to be added (Hebrews 2:10-11, 1 John 3:1-2; Ephesians 3:14-15) to become as Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29), who is God (John 1:1-3,14, 20:28-29; Colossians 2:9). The Holy Spirit is not a separate being in the theological sense and is given to those after those who have properly repented and been baptized (Acts 2:38-39). The early original Christians had what has been called a “binitarian” view of the Godhead. (Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God viewed 08/11/13)

Perhaps some additional information from Roman Catholic sources needs to be mentioned here. The Catholic Encyclopedia article on Semi-Arianism states,

Semiarians and Semiarianism A name frequently given to the conservative majority in the East in the fourth century...showing that the very name of father implies a son of like substance...rejected the Divinity of the Holy Ghost...

It is critical to understand that the expression the conservative majority in the East in the fourth century is clearly referring mainly to those who are now known as the Eastern Orthodox--the Orthodox Church (there were also some Church of God members in that area who held that position then)! Both the Church of God and the Eastern Orthodox held a remarkably similar view of the Godhead until at least the late 4th century, but the Orthodox changed.

Although Catholic writers have had many definitions of "Semi-Arians" (most of which disagree with the Church of God position), one that somewhat defines the binitarian view taken in this article would possibly be this one from Epiphanius in the mid-4th Century,

Semi-Arians...hold the truly orthodox view of the Son, that he was forever with the Father...but has been begotten without beginning and not in time...But all of these blaspheme the Holy Spirit, and do not count him in the Godhead with the Father and the Son (Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 1,1 and 1,3. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp.471-472).

While early church writers (called Fathers by the Orthodox) specifically called the Father and the Son God, it was the heretic Valentinus who developed the idea of God existing as three hypostasis. Note what a bishop named Marcellus of Ancyra wrote on the nature of God around the middle of the fourth century,

Now with the heresy of the Ariomaniacs, which has corrupted the Church of God...These then teach three hypostases, just as Valentinus the heresiarch first invented in the book entitled by him 'On the Three Natures'.  For he was the first to invent three hypostases and three persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he is discovered to have filched this from Hermes and Plato." (Source: Logan A. Marcellus of Ancyra (Pseudo-Anthimus), 'On the Holy Church': Text, Translation and Commentary. Verses 8-9.  Journal of Theological Studies, NS, Volume 51, Pt. 1, April 2000, p.95 ).

What is most amazing to me is that the Orthodox frequently claim to have the teachings of the "early Fathers", yet on the nature of God they have ignored the plain teachings of the "early Fathers" such as Ignatius, Polycarp, Melito, and Irenaeus--all of whom held to a binitarian (a type of Semi-Arian position) of the Godhead.

More information on the Godhead can be found in the article Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings from Before the Beginning which documents the historical truth of the nature of God and some heretical doctrines on that subject.

The Holy Spirit

Because of the Council of Constantinople in 381, the Orthodox moved away from the majority view that the Holy Spirit is the power of God to one that it was a third person of a trinity.

Orthodox:

"Since the Council of Constantinople (381), which condemned the Pneumatomachians ("fighters against the Spirit"), no one in the Orthodox East has ever denied that the Spirit is not only a "gift" but also the giver--i.e., that he is the third Person of the holy Trinity" (Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren. Basic Doctrines: Holy Spirit. http://www.kosovo.com/doctrine1.html#Holy%20Spirit 8/20/05).

"Roman Catholic and Orthodox theologians agree in recognizing a certain anonymity characterizes the Third Person of the Holy Trinity. While the names Father and Son denote very clear personal distinctions, are in no sense interchangeable, and cannot in any case refer to the common nature of the two hypostases, the name Holy Spirit does not have that advantage. Indeed, we say that God is Spirit, meaning by that the common nature as much as any one of the persons. We say that he is holy...Taken in itself, the term Holy Spirit thus might be applied, not to a personal distinction...In that sense, Thomas Aquinas was right in saying that...the name Holy Spirit has been given to him...we find an image of the economy of the Third Person rather than an image of his hypostatic character: we find the procession of a divine force or spirit which accomplishes sanctification. We reach a paradoxical conclusions: all that we know about the Holy Spirit refers to his economy; all that we do not know makes us venerate him as a person" (Clendenin D.B. ed. Eastern Orthodox Theology, 2nd ed. Baker Academic, 2003, pp. 165-166).

Macedonius began to deny the Divinity of the Holy Spirit in the Trinity , Eustathius said: 'I can neither admit that the Holy Spirit is God, nor can I dare affirm him to be a creature.' For this reason those who hold the homoousion of the Son call these heretics 'Pneumatomachi.' (Socrates Scholasticus. Church History , Book II, Chapter 45. Copyright © 2008 by Kevin Knight)

I would like to add that there is NO evidence that I have come across that indicates that Macedonius ever considered that the Holy Spirit was God. The fact is that the majority of Greco-Roman bishops prior to the late 4th century held a Semi-Arian view of the Godhead, hence this seems to have been the ORIGINAL DOCTRINE OF THE ORTHODOX! Not merely something that changed in the 4th century.

Notice what The Catholic Encyclopedia reported:

Towards the middle of the fourth century, Macedonius, Bishop of Constantinople, and, after him a number of Semi-Arians, while apparently admitting the Divinity of the Word, denied that of the Holy Ghost. (Forget J. Transcribed by W.S. French, Jr. Holy Ghost. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Macedonius, bishop of Constantinople in the middle of the 4th century, denied that the Holy Ghost was equal in essence and dignity to God the Father. The Council of Alexandria in 363 declared this bishop and his adherents, the Pneumatomachists (Beach F.C. The Americana: A Universal Reference Library, Comprising the Arts and Sciences, Literature, History, Biography, Geography, Commerce, Etc., of the World. Published by Scientific American compiling department, 1912 Item notes: v.10 Original from the University of California Digitized May 8, 2008).

Macedonius... denied the Divinity of the Holy Ghost, and was made Bishop of Constantinople A. D. 342 or 343 (Chrystal James. Authoritative Christianity: The First Ecumenical Council ... which was Held A.D. at Nicaea in Bithynia. Published by J. Chrystal, 1891 Item notes: v.1 Original from the New York Public Library Digitized Jul 11, 2006, p. 316).

So, the Patriarche of Constantinople, Macedonius (342-346, 351-360 A.D.), denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit. Clearly then, this is something that the Orthodox Church has truly changed. If you are Orthodox, are you aware of this?

It should probably be added that despite this fact, one modern Orthodox scholar has made the following false claim:

The Holy Trinity is the ultimate basis and source of the Church’s existence and, as such, the Church is in the image and likeness of God ( Dragas G, Priest. Orthodox Ecclesiology in Outline: The Church of the Triune God. From the Greek Orthodox Theological Review, 26-3, 1981. http://orthodoxinfo.com/general/dragas.aspx viewed 06/07/09).

The fact that the early Church in Asia Minor (and elsewhere) did NOT hold to a trinitarian view of the Godhead, should alert modern Orthodox members that they are holding to the practices of the original true Church.

Church of God:

Holy Spirit was not referred to as God or as a person by any early true Christians...The Holy Spirit is inherent in the Father and the Son, and emanates from Them throughout the entire universe (1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 139:7; Jeremiah 23:24)...The Holy Spirit is not a separate being in the theological sense and is given to those after those who have properly repented and been baptized (Acts 2:38-39). The early original Christians had what has been called a “binitarian” view of the Godhead. (Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God viewed 08/11/13)

According to historian Epiphanius, who wrote about the time of the Council of Constantinople, Pneumatomachians were those who did not accept that the Holy Spirit was a separate person--this is something that those in the COG would agree with--it is also what the vast majority of the Greco-Orthodox believed into the fourth century until a Council ruled differently.

We in the real COG do not believe that we are "fighters against the Spirit." Throughout history, our critics have called us a variety of names and have defined us in ways that are inaccurate. But the fact is that those "early Fathers" who wrote about the Holy Spirit did not consider it to be the third person of any trinity. (More information on the Holy Spirit can be found in the article Did Early Christians Think the Holy Spirit Was A Separate Person in a Trinity?).

Prayers for the Dead

Orthodox:

"In God and in His Church there is no division between the living and the departed...Therefore just as Orthodox Christians here on earth pray for one another and ask for one another's prayers, so they pray for the faithful departed and ask the faithful departed to pray for them...Orthodox are convinced that Christians here on earth have a duty to pray for the departed, and they are confident that the departed are helped by such prayers" (Ware, pp.254-255).

"Reverence for the saints in closely bound up with the veneration of icons. These are placed by Orthodox not only in their churches, but in each room of their homes, and even in cars and buses...At Baptism an Orthodox is given the name of a saint, as a symbol of her or his entry into the unity of the Church...Orthodox have a special devotion to the saint whose name they bear; usually keeping an icon of their patron saint in their room and daily ask for his or her intercessions. The festival of their patron saint they keep as their Name Day...An Orthodox Christian invokes in prayers not only the saints but the angels, and in particular her of his guardian angel. The angels 'fence us around with their intercessions and shelter us under their protecting wings of immaterial glory'...The Mother of God. Among the saints a special position belongs to the Blessed Virgin Mary" (Ware, pp.256-257).

Church of God: The CCOG agrees with certain Protestant reformers and also rejects prayers for the dead as tehy not only lack a scriptural foundation, the common practice of his was basically absorbed from paganism.

No prayers to dead saints are offered in CCOG services, nor is there evidence that they were originally offered prior to the third century. However prayers to heal and comfort those living are offered (though normally privately).

Worship Calendar

Orthodox:

"One of the major characteristics of the Byzantine liturgical tradition is the wealth and variety of hymnodical texts marking the various cycles of the liturgical year. A special liturgical book contains the hymns for each of the main cycles. The daily cycle includes the offices of Hesperinos (Vespers), Apodeipnon (Compline), the midnight prayer, Orthros (Matins), and the four canonical "hours"--i.e., offices to be said at the "First" (6:00 AM), "Third" (9:00 AM), "Sixth" (12:00 noon), and "Ninth" (3:00 PM) hours. The liturgical book covering the daily cycle is called the Horologion ("The Book of Hours"). The Paschal (Easter) cycle is centered on the "Feast of Feasts"--i.e., of Christ's Resurrection; it includes the period of Great Fast (Lent), preceded by three Sundays of preparation and the period of 50 days following Easter. The hymns of the Lenten period are found in the Triodion (Three Odes), and those of the Easter season in the Pentekostarion (called the "Flowery Triodion"). The weekly cycle is the continuation of the Resurrection cycle found in the Triodion and the Pentekostarion; each week following the Sunday after Pentecost (50 days after Easter) possesses its own musical tone, or mode, in accordance with which all the hymns of the week are sung. There are eight tones whose composition is traditionally attributed to St. John of Damascus (8th century). Each week is centered around Sunday, the day of Christ's Resurrection. The Easter and weekly cycles clearly dominate all offices of the entire year and illustrate the absolute centrality of the Resurrection in the Eastern understanding of the Christian message. The date of Easter, set at the Council of Nicaea (325), is the first Sunday after the full moon following the spring equinox" (Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren. Worship and Sacraments. http://www.kosovo.com/doctrine3.html#Sacraments 8/20/05).

"In 190, the issue of Easter is in its agenda and a Synod is held, via the Eparch of Narkissos" (The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem. The Church of Jerusalem. http://www.jerusalem-patriarchate.org/en/home/homefr.htm 01/20/06).

"Orthodox Answers" reported the following Q&A:

QUESTION:

11/30/2008: Is it the Orthodox view that Sabbath has been transferred to Sunday? What is the Orthodox view on Sabbath?

ANSWER:

The Orthodox believe that Sabbath is Saturday (to this day, the Greek word for Saturday is pronounced 'sabbado' - as is the case in many other languages). Hence, Saturday is the old Sabbath and Sunday is the Lord's Day or the Day of Resurrection. In the Orthodox tradition, Saturday always has the feastly character of the Jewish sabbath; it is never a strict fasting day. Moreover, it has always been the liturgical practice to serve Divine Liturgy both on Sabbath and the Lord's Day, and this remains the case in Orthodox monasteries. However, Christians are not under the Law and they are not subjects of the Old Creation. The old Sabbath was the seal of the old creation, whereas Sunday is seal of the New Creation, the first or eighth day. For this reason, Gentile Christians have never been bound by Sabbatical laws on the old Sabbath. (Cleenewerck L, editor. Orthodox Answers: Sabbath. http://www.orthodoxanswers.org/details.asp?ID=10 viewed 06/13/09)

The Orthodox Church reports this brief explanation in one of its timelines:

193 A.D. - Council of Rome, presided over by Bishop Victor, condemns the celebration of Pascha on Nisan 14, and addresses a letter to Polycrates of Ephesus and the Churches in Asia.

193 A.D. - Council of Ephesus, presided over by Bishop Polycrates, and attended by several bishops throughout Asia, reject the authority of Victor of Rome, and keep the Asian paschal tradition (Markou, Stavros L. K. An Orthodox Christian Historical Timeline. Copyright © 2003 OrthodoxFaith.com).

Although it appears that the Orthodox Church officially began to accept Easter around 190 A.D. (as it, as a Sunday holiday, originated in Rome a few decades earlier, though the churches in Asia Minor did not accept the change from Passover on the 14th of Nisan), those in Asia Minor (where it claims apostolic succession) did not accept the Roman change.  Yet, the Orthodox Church officially made the change, based not on the Bible, but on a church council/synod.

Church of God:

THE SABBATH, MILLENNIUM, AND THE HOLY DAYS

The Sabbath is on the seventh day (Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 20:8-11; Hebrews 4:4,9), The Bible shows that Jesus Christ (Luke 4:16; 6:6; 13:10; Mark 6:2), the original apostles (Acts 17:2; 18:4), and those trying to be faithful in the early Church (Acts 17:2-4) observed God’s commanded Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11; Hebrews 4:9). Jesus declared that He was the “Lord of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:28); then in that sense, the real “Lord’s day” is the Sabbath which falls on the seventh day of the week. The Sabbath has long been a sign between God and His people (Exodus 31:13). Speaking of the seventh day (Hebrews 4:4), the New Testament teaches that there remains “a Sabbath-rest the people of God” (Hebrews 4:9, NIV). The Sabbath also helps picture the millennial reign of Jesus (Hebrews 4:1-4; 2 Peter 3:8; Revelation 20:4-6).

The Bible teaches that this millennial kingdom will be wonderful (Isaiah 2; 9; 11:1-10; 35:1-9;  Ezekiel 34:21-29, Micah 4:1-4; Acts 3:19-21) and that the saints will then reign with Jesus (Revelation 20:4-6).   Satan the devil will be banished during this time (Revelation 20:1-6), and it is a time of rest and abundance.

The Sabbath itself is observed weekly from sunset on the day commonly called Friday until sunset on the day commonly called Saturday.

Though at least part of how they observed them changed from how the children of Israel observed them, the early Christians observed the festivals and holy days listed in the Hebrew scriptures in Leviticus 23, but with a New Testament understanding.

Passover helps picture the sacrifice of Jesus Christ who scripture shows who came to be the“Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). Jesus observed Passover (Matthew 26:18; Mark 14:14; Luke 2:41-42; 22:15), died on Passover (Luke 22:15), and was sacrificed for us as “indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus made changes to the Passover including adding the symbols of unleavened bread and wine (Matthew 26:17, 26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26) as well as the cleansing practice of footwashing (John 13:1-17).

The Days of Unleavened Bread, which come immediately after Passover, picture being cleansed from sin by the acceptance of the sacrifice of Jesus (cf. 2 Peter 1:9-11). They also picture that the leaven of hypocrisy, malice, and wickness need to be purged (Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 5:6-13). The Apostle Paul was inspired to write,
“Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth”
(1 Corinthians 5:8).

Pentecost, described in the Hebrew scriptures as “the Feast of Harvest, the firstfruits” (Exodus 23:16), pictures the start of the New Testament Church (Acts 2:1-4). Pentecost also helps picture that Christians are a type of firstfruits of God’s harvest (Romans 8:23; 11:16; 1 Corinthians 15:20-23; James 1:18), though “the laborers are few” (Matthew 9:37-38). “These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” (Revelation 14:4-5).

The Feast of Trumpets helps picture the blowing of the seven trumpets in the Book of Revelation (Revelation 8,9,11:15-18), including “the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:52) “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first” (1 Thessalonians 4:16).  Every seven years, a year of land-rest and debt release begins with this day (Leviticus 25:1-7; Deuteronomy 15:7-11).

The Day of Atonement, called “the Fast” in the New Testament (Acts 27:9), helps show our own weaknesses and need to be closer to God (Isaiah 58:5,11).  It also helps picture that Satan has a role in the sins of humankind and that he will be bound for one-thousand years (Revelation 20:1-3; cf. Leviticus 16:20-26; Isaiah 14:12-16).

The Feast of Tabernacles, which shows a time of abundance, helps picture the millennial reign (Revelation 20:4-5) of Jesus Christ and His saints on the earth (Zechariah 14; Matthew 9:37-38; 13:1-30; Luke 12:32; John 7:6-14; Acts 17:31; Revelation 5:10, 12:9). This future paradise, following the near total destruction that humanity will have brought upon itself through its activities and the Great Tribulation and Day of the Lord (Matthew 24:21-31), will help show humanity the advantages of God’s way of life.  Every seven years, the law is to be read during this festival (Deuteronomy 31:10-13).

The Last Great Day helps picture that all who ever lived will have an opportunity for salvation–an opportunity most will accept (John 7:37-39; Romans 11:25-26; Ezekiel 37:11-14; Hebrews 9:27-28). The New Testament name comes from the Apostle John who wrote, “On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. 38 He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” (John 7:37-38).

History provides references that the early followers of Christ, such as Polycarp, observed the Sabbath on the seventh day and the other biblical holy days and festivals.

By observing the days that the Bible enjoins, Christians can come to understand more deeply God’s plan of salvation, and some of the steps taken toward salvation.  The biblical festivals show that Christ was truly sacrificed (1 Corinthians 5:7) and Christians are to live without the leaven of hypocrisy, malice, and wickness (Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 5:6-13). The biblical festivals also help show that while some are predestined to be called in this Church Age (Ephesians 1:4-12; Acts 2:1-47), there is an age to come (Acts 3:21; Matthew 12:32), and the destiny of all others is to be presented an opportunity for salvation on the Last Great Day (John 7:37-38; 12:47-48; Romans 10:11-21). (Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God viewed 08/11/13)

The original worship calendar for early Christians was essentially the same one used by the Jews and the Church of God.

It is important to note that the Greek term Κυριακή DID NOT mean Sunday in classical nor koine Greek, even though it does in modern Greek. The second century expression that Justin Martyr used, that has been translated as "on the day called Sunday”, was the classic Greek expression ῾Ηλίου λεγομένη ἡμέρᾳ (which literally means "Helios said day"). And he was the first known writer associated with Christianity to use that expression. Of course, the modern and classic Greek term for Sabbath, meant Saturday, then and now. The reality as those considered as "Fathers" and saints by the Orthodox Church did keep Passover on the 14th of Nisan and did not observe Lent.

An article of related interest may be Is There "An Annual Worship Calendar" In the Bible?

Involvement in Secular Politics

Orthodox:

"The official Church strongly prefers that its laity be involved in government and politics, and embody Christian values to the extent possible given the governmental and political systems in force. This approach avoids the evils of a theocratic system, while encouraging a more general lay involvement in the embodiment of the ideal of the Kingdom of Heaven in Church-State relationships" (Harakis S. The Stand of the Orthodox Church on Controversial Issues. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. http://www.goarch.org/en/our faith/articles/article7101.asp 8/20/05).

Church of God:

The Apostle Paul taught “we are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 6:20). The Apostle Peter taught that God’s people were “a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out” (1 Peter 2:9). The Bible also teaches that this world has been deceived by Satan the devil (Revelation 12:9) and that God’s people need to be separate from the world (John 15:19; 2 Corinthians 6:14-17; Revelation 18:4). Thus, historically, the Church of God has taught that its members not participate in secular juries and secular politics. However, Christians are expected to listen to (and pray for, 1 Timothy 2:1-3) governmental authorities (1 Peter 2:13-17) and pay their taxes (Matthew 22:17-21), yet if there is a conflict between the laws of men and the laws of God, “We must obey God rather than any human authority” (Acts 5:29, NLT). (Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God viewed 08/11/13)

While the Bible shows that the prophet Daniel and others were goverment officials, the New Testament makes it clear that Jesus' kingdom is "not of this world" (John 18:36). Hence while COG members can work for the government, including in leadership positions, having them run for political office seems contrary to the way of life that Jesus taught.

Military Service

Orthodox:

Justin (Martyr) taught around 150 A.D.:

For from Jerusalem there went out into the world, men, twelve in number, and these illiterate, of no ability in speaking: but by the power of God they proclaimed to every race of men that they were sent by Christ to teach to all the word of God; and we who formerly used to murder one another do not only now refrain from making war upon our enemies, but also, that we may not lie nor deceive our examiners, willingly die confessing Christ (Justin. First Apology, Chapter 39).

O unreasoning men! understanding not what has been proved by all these passages, that two advents of Christ have been announced: the one, in which He is set forth as suffering, inglorious, dishonoured, and crucified; but the other, in which He shall come from heaven with glory, when the man of apostasy, who speaks strange things against the Most High, shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us the Christians, who, having learned the true worship of God from the law, and the word which went forth from Jerusalem by means of the apostles of Jesus, have fled for safety to the God of Jacob and God of Israel; and we who were filled with war, and mutual slaughter, and every wickedness, have each through the whole earth changed our warlike weapons,--our swords into ploughshares, and our spears into implements of tillage,--and we cultivate piety, righteousness, philanthropy, faith, and hope, which we have from the Father Himself through Him who was crucified; and sitting each under his vine (Dialogue, Chapter 110).

The Orthodox consider Justin a saint, yet seem to no longer agree with him on military service:

"The Church fosters obedience to just laws, and even to unjust ones for the sake of the greater good. To this category belongs the fostering of appropriate ethnic and cultural identification, the support of military service, and the defense of the nation" (Harakis S. The Stand of the Orthodox Church on Controversial Issues. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. http://www.goarch.org/en/our faith/articles/article7101.asp 8/20/05).

"Eustathius was succeeded by Erius, a priest, and semi-Arian...Erius also condemned fasts, stated feasts, prayers for the dead, and the celebration of Easter; he urged a purer morality and a stricter observance of the Sabbath. He had many followers, whose numbers were augmented by one of Paul of Samosota, from whom they were called Paulicians. Notwithstanding the opposition of the prelates, who invoked the secular arm to prevent the defection of their spiritual subjects, the tenets of this sect struck deep root in Armenia and many of its eastern provinces, and finally the great body of Christians in the former country, withdrew from the Episcopal communion, and publicly espoused the sentiments of the Paulicians...The bishops of Syria, Pontus, and Cappadocia, complained of the defection of their spiritual flocks...induced the Grecian emperors to commence, and continue for nearly two centuries, the most terrible persecutions against the Paulicians" (Davis, Tamar. A General History of the Sabbatarian Churches. 1851; Reprinted 1995 by Commonwealth Publishing, Salt Lake City, pp. 20-23).

Those who influenced the Grecian emperors would have been associated with what is now called the Eastern Orthodox Church.

"The Orthodox, as have all religions, berated other confessions and denominations. But Orthodoxy was always benign - no "jihad", no bloodshed, no forced conversions and no mass expulsions - perhaps with the exception of the forcible treatment of the Bogomils. It was all about power and money, of course. Bishops and archbishops did not hesitate to co-opt the Ottoman administration against their adversaries" (Sam Vaknin Ph.D. The Crescent and the Cross - Religion and Community in the Balkans - The Communities of God American Chronicle - March 30, 2007 http://www.americanchronicle.com/articles/viewArticle.asp?articleID=23116).

Notice that the Orthodox claim to have not caused bloodshed, forced conversions, or mass expulsions of any group, except what they did to the Bogomils (but that particular quote forgot to mention what they had done to the Paulicians earlier). I cannot comment on how they treated others, but obviously, some of them felt mistreating people that were associated with the true Church of God was acceptable. This is sad, but consistent with what happened to true Christians in the Pergamos and Thyatira eras of the true Church. Perhaps it should also be noted that the Orthodox Church was also involved in the Crusades--and the Arab peoples still consider this to have been persecution (see also the article The Arab World in Prophecy).

Church of God:

Melito wrote around 170 A.D., that if a leader is just, then God provides peace:

My opinion is this: that in `this' way a kingdom may be governed in peace-when the sovereign is acquainted with the God of truth, and is withheld by fear of Him from doing wrong to those who are his subjects, and judges everything with equity, as one who knows that he himself also will be judged before God; while, at the same time, those who are under his rule are withheld by the fear of God from doing wrong to their sovereign, and are restrained by the same fear from doing wrong to one another. By this knowledge of God and fear of Him all evil may be removed from the realm. For, if the sovereign abstain from doing wrong to those who are under his rule, and they abstain from doing wrong to him and to each other, it is evident that the whole country will dwell in peace. Many blessings, too, will be enjoyed there, because amongst them all the name of God will be glorified. For what blessing is greater than this, that a sovereign should deliver the people that are under his rule from error, and by this good deed render himself pleasing to God? For from error arise all those evils from which kingdoms suffer; but the greatest of all errors is this: when a man is ignorant of God, and in God's stead worships that which is not God. (Melito. Translation by Roberts and Donaldson. A DISCOURSE WHICH WAS IN THE PRESENCE OF ANTONINUS CAESAR, AND HE EXHORTED THE SAID CAESAR TO ACQUAINT HIMSELF WITH GOD, AND SHOWED TO HIM THE WAY OF TRUTH. Online version copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/melito.html 11/18/06).

Here is the official CCOG position:

Jesus taught, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). John the Baptist taught, “Do violence to no man” (Luke 3:14, KJV). Historically, those of the Church of God have considered military service as wrong for its members. From Revolutionary War times to the Civil War and to present, countries like the United States have tended to have had provisions to exempt Church of God members and congregants from military participation because of conscientious objections. Early Christians did not participate in military warfare nor watch violent sports. (Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God viewed 08/11/13)

The Orthodox may wish to ask themselves who they can endorse warfare when early second century writers (some of which they venerate) such as Justin, Tatian, Melito, and Athenagoras taught against it.

The biblically-based article Military Service and the Church of God provides more information as to why true Christians would not kill people in military conflict. And it contains what early writers wrote against early Christians participating in the military (and even explains when and apparently how Greco-Romans changed on this point).

Differing Bibles

Orthodox:

The original position among many of the old Greco-Roman leaders was that the so-called deuterocanoconical books should not be accepted. Notice, that in the following, Jerome (late 4th early 5th century) took specifically stated that the churches condemned the Septuagint additions to the Book of Daniel which are now in the Old Testament of both the Catholics and the Orthodox:

In reference to Daniel...I also told the reader that the version read in the Christian churches was not that of the Septuagint translators but that of Theodotion. It is true, I said that the Septuagint version was in this book very different from the original, and that it was condemned by the right judgment of the churches of Christ...I repeat what the Jews say against the Story of Susanna and the Hymn of the Three Children, and the fables of Bel and the Dragon, which are not contained in the Hebrew Bible (Jerome. Apology Against Rufinus, Book II, Chapter 33).

Perhaps it should be noted that Origen and Athanasius also dismissed the legitimacy of the "deuterocanoconical books" (Reid G. Canon of the Old Testament. Transcribed by Ernie Stefanik. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Copyright © 1908 by Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

However, over a thousand years after Jerome died, the Orthodox took a different position:

"The Orthodox Church has the same New Testament as the rest of Christendom. As its authoritative text for the Old Testament, it uses the ancient Greek Septuagint. When this differs from the original Hebrew (which happens quite often), Orthodox believe that the changes in the Septuagint were made under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and are to be accepted as part of God's continuing revelation...The Hebrew version of the New Testament contains thirty-none books. The Septuagint contains in addition ten further books not present in the Hebrew, which are known in the Orthodox Church as the 'Deutero-Canonical Books'. These were declared by the Councils of Jassy (1641) and Jerusalem (1672) to be 'genuine parts of Scripture'; most Orthodox scholars...consider that the Deutero-Canonical Books, although part of the Bible, stand at a lower footing than the rest of scripture" (Ware, p.200).

Church of God:

THE HOLY BIBLE

The Holy Bible is the inspired Word of God. As commonly divided, it is a collection of 66 books, with 39 from the Hebrew scriptures (The Old Testament Canon) and 27 from the Greek Scriptures (The New Testament Canon). (Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God viewed 08/11/13)

Hence those in the CCOG do not accept the so-called deuterocanonical books, that even the Orthodox Church admits, are not on the same level as the scripture proper.

It should be noted that when Melito, a saint according to the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, listed the books he considered were the whole of the Old Testament, he did not list any of the deuterocanonical books (more information can be found in the article on The Old Testament Canon).

Baptism of Infants?

Orthodox:

"We would emphasize again that it is through baptism that we receive explicit, complete, and utter remission of original sin...In order for the sacrament of baptism to be considered valid, it is necessary that the person being baptized be immersed and raised up raise three times in water...Through our repentance God forgives the sins we have committed after baptism, provided we have frankly repented of them, and have confessed them before the bishop or priest. Thus penance, the sacrament of repentance, is character as a second baptism" (Clendenin D.B. ed. Eastern Orthodox Theology, 2nd ed. Baker Academic, 2003, pp. 24,28).

The term "original sin" is not found in the Bible, but appears to be why some baptize infants. Perhaps I should also mention that there is no biblical statement that indicates a triple immersion and raising is required.

Notice what Eastern Orthodox Archbishop Gregory Nazianzen taught in the fourth century:

Be it so, some will say, in the case of those who ask for Baptism; what have you to say about those who are still children, and conscious neither of the loss nor of the grace? Are we to baptize them too? Certainly, if any danger presses...But in respect of others I give my advice to wait till the end of the third year, or a little more or less, when they may be able to listen and to answer something about the Sacrament; that, even though they do not perfectly understand it, yet at any rate they may know the outlines; and then to sanctify them in soul and body with the great sacrament of our consecration (Oration 40: The Oration on Holy Baptism, Chapter XXVIII. Preached at Constantinople Jan. 6, 381).

In other words, unless some child was about to die, even into the late fourth century, baptism of infants and small children was not a universal practice, nor requirement. And actually what was still advocated is that the person (even if a small child) should be able to "be able to listen and to answer something about" baptism.

Notice also:

"I myself must admit that I did not always feel comfortable about the Orthodox Church baptizing infants. I asked myself several other questions as well: "How can an infant 'believe and be baptized'?" "Where in Scripture does it show an infant being baptized?" "Is not the baptizing of infants the reason why the contemporary Orthodox Church has a need for renewal and re-evangelization?"...Certainly if there were a taint of sin upon each who is born in this world, there would be a need for every person to be cleansed from this impurity before leaving the temporal life. The Bible's "sacramental theology" states that there is such a need since "... through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men."  (Romans 5:12)...How are these young ones saved from the sin they have received from Adam's race? They are saved through the regenerative power of baptism and the faith of the Church (i.e. the Christian faithful)...Tertulian (160 230 A.D.), was the only one who questioned infant baptism" (Bajis J. Infant Baptism. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. http://www.goarch.org/en/our faith/articles/article7067.asp 8/21/05).

This statement about sin from Adam's race appears to be in conflict with the first teaching above on Adam. Tertullian was perhaps the first whose writing survived to question it, but it should be noted that there is no example of an infant being baptized in the Bible.

Church of God:

Baptism of Christians was by immersion and did not include infants..Accepting the message of Jesus leads to “repentance from dead works and of faith toward God” (Hebrews 6:1), baptism “in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), and the “laying on of hands” (Hebrews 6:2; cf. Acts 8:14-17) so “you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). (Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God viewed 08/11/13)

Peter stated, "Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38). The CCOG accepts this order, while the Orthodox consider repentance a second baptism. The CCOG only baptizes adults and does not accept infant baptism as valid. No writings prior to the third century seem to endorse infant baptism. The practice of the original church can be found in an article titled Baptism and the Early Church.

However, perhaps it should be mentioned that the Bible does enjoin the fact that infants/toddlers can be prayed for and blest. Notice what Jesus said and did:

"Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it." 16 And He took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them (Mark 10:14-16).

And that is the practice of the Church of God. We ask for God's protection and blessing of our children. The ceremony is typically referred to as "the blessing of the little children" and the minister(s) lays hands upon the child and prays.

Sacraments?

Orthodox:

"Not only do the Sacraments disclose and reveal God to us, but also they serve to make us receptive to God. All the Sacraments affect our personal relationship to God and to one another...The Sacraments of the Orthodox Church are composed of prayers, hymns, scripture lessons, gestures and processions (Fitzgerald T. The Sacraments. Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. http://www.goarch.org/en/our faith/articles/article7105.asp 8/21/05).

"By its theological richness, spiritual significance, and variety, the worship of the Orthodox Church represents one of the most significant factors in this church's continuity and identity....Contemporary Orthodox catechisms and textbooks all affirm that the church recognizes seven mysteria, or "sacraments": Baptism, chrismation, Communion, holy orders, penance, anointing of the sick (the "extreme unction" of the medieval West), and marriage. Neither the liturgical book called Euchologion (prayer book), which contains the texts of the sacraments, nor the patristic tradition, however, formally limits the number of sacraments; they do not distinguish clearly between the "sacraments" and such acts as the blessing of water on Epiphany day or the burial service or the service for the tonsuring of a monk that in the West are called sacramentalia. In fact, no council recognized by the Orthodox Church ever defined the number of sacraments; it is only through the "Orthodox confessions" of the 17th century directed against the Reformation that the number seven has been generally accepted. The underlying sacramental theology of the Orthodox Church is based, however, on the notion that the ecclesiastical community is the unique mysterion, of which the various sacraments or sacramentalia are the normal expressions." (Serbian Orthodox Diocese of Raska and Prizren. Worship and Sacraments. http://www.kosovo.com/doctrine3.html#Sacraments 8/20/05).

"The early Church was sacramental. She confessed with one voice the sacraments" (Gillquist, p. 49).

"The sacraments are seven in number, and include baptism, chrismation, Holy Easter, repentance, ordination, and holy unction...We see then, first of all, that the priest, as performer of the sacrament, is simply the instrument of the invisible and actual celebrant, the Lord himself...The Orthodox church accepts the above-mentioned seven sacraments, which were known from antiquity in the Orthodox East" (Clendenin, pp. 22,23).

Church of God: We in the CCOG do not tend to use the term sacraments (that term is not found in any literally translated version of the Bible).

The CCOG does baptize (but adults, and only after repentance), anoint the sick, keep the Holy Days, observe Passover, and endorse marriage. Although we do not have holy orders, we do have positions of ordained spiritual leadership in accordance with scripture (but we do not refer to those leaders as 'father', 'reverend', or similar terms that the Orthodox use, but do use biblical terms like deacon, elder, pastor, evangelist, overseer, prophet, and bishop).

It should be noted that the duties of the early presbyters involved leading the church and were not sacramental. This is documented in the article What Were the Early Duties of Elders/Pastors? None of the so-called "early Fathers" of the church (prior to the third century) even used the term "sacraments" as it is now often used.

Nowhere in the Bible do we find Easter as now practiced by the Orthodox, nor are most of the liturgies associated with most of the other Orthodox sacraments found in the Bible. Neither are most documented in the second century church either. It is important to realize that the true Church kept Passover and not Easter Sunday until the Romans changed it--and that this was especially true in Asia Minor--one the main areas that the Orthodox claim apostolic succession from.

Millennium (Chiliaism)

Orthodox:

Originally, those the Orthodox considered to be saints taught the millennium. Notice two:

Justin Martyr:

But I and others, who are right-minded Christians on all points, are assured that there will be a resurrection of the dead, and a thousand years in Jerusalem, which will then be built, adorned, and enlarged, the prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah and others declare.

For Isaiah spake thus concerning this space of a thousand years: 'For there shall be the new heaven and the new earth, and the former shall not be remembered, or come into their heart; but they shall find joy and gladness in it, which things I create'...For as Adam was told that in the day he ate of the tree he would die, we know that he did not complete a thousand years. We have perceived, moreover, that the expression, 'The day of the Lord is as a thousand years,' is connected with this subject. And further, there was a certain man with us, whose name was John, one of the apostles of Christ, who prophesied, by a revelation that was made to him, that those who believed in our Christ would dwell a thousand years in Jerusalem; and that thereafter the general, and, in short, the eternal resurrection and judgment of all men would likewise take place (Dialogue. Chapters 80-81).

Bishop Ambrose of Milan:

The seventh trumpet, then, seems to signify the sabbath of the week, which is reckoned not only in days and years and periods (for which reason the number of the jubilee is sacred), but includes also the seventieth year, when the people returned to Jerusalem, who had remained seventy years in captivity. In hundreds also and in thousands the observation of the sacred number is by no means passed over, for not without a meaning did the Lord say: "I have left the seven thousand men, who have not bent their knees before Baal." Therefore the shadow of the future rest is figured in time in the days, months, and years of this world, and therefore the children of Israel are commanded by Moses, that in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, a rest should be established for all at the "memorial of the trumpets;" and that no servile work should be done, but a sacrifice be offered to God, because that at the end of the week, as it were the sabbath of the world, spiritual and not bodily work is required of us (Ambrose of Milan. Book II. On the Belief in the Resurrection, verse 108).

Orthodox Answers had the following in a Q&A (note, this is the complete response there):

QUESTION:

11/22/2008: If Irenaeus and other early Fathers believed in the Millennium on earth and taught this doctrine, why is this not taught by the Orthodox Church (since its position is amillenialism).

ANSWER:

It is true that St. Irenaeus and other early Christian Father believed and taught that the 1000 years of Revelation 20 would be fulfilled in an early kingdom. (http://www.orthodoxanswers.org/details.asp?ID=4 viewed 06/13/09)

Yet, this teaching changed amongst many Orthodox.

CHILIASM: Chiliasm, from the Greek word meaning "1000," is a belief based on Revelation 20:2-7. In its classical form (which interprets the Revelation 20 verses verbatim), Chiliasm teaches that Satan will be bound by Christ for 1000 years, at which time Jesus and the Saints will reign on earth, and after which, Satan will be finally defeated and the Eternal Kingdom of God will be inaugurated. In modern times, Chiliasm has been "boiled down" to the teaching that the world will end after one thousand years (or a number of years that is a multiple of one thousand). Though some Ancient Church Fathers of the first three centuries AD had Chiliast leanings, the Orthodox Church formally denounced Chiliasm at the Second Ecumenical Council, in 381 (Orthodox Christian Beliefs and Practices. © 2006-2007 Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada. http://www.uocc.ca/en-ca/faith/beliefs/ 08/18/07).

In other words, Orthodox Church scholars know that early Christian leaders, which it calls, "Ancient Church Fathers" taught chiliasm (called millenarianism in Latin), yet it CHANGED that teaching AND CONDEMNED it in a church council.

However, there are millennial beliefs are found within Russian and American Orthodoxy:

Marat Shterin, an expert in Russian religion at Kings College London, said, says: "The Russian Orthodox Church tends to be quite anti-sectarian, but on this occasion there seems to be a degree of understanding that while this manifestation of millenarian beliefs - belief that we live in 'the end time' - is extreme, some the group's views are shared by many within the Church."

He says that millenarian beliefs are fairly widespread in Russian Orthodoxy, both within the formal structures of the Church and outside it (Waiting for Armageddon. BBC - Nov 21, 2007. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7101727.stm).

Dr. Helen Tzima Otto: Those 'happy ones', therefore, who shall manage to persevere into the 1335th day will enter into the Sabbath of the Elect, promised on this planet during the Millennium (Tzima Otto H. The Great Monarch and WWIII in Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Scriptural Prophecies. The Verenika Press, Rock Hill (SC), 2000, p. 450).

Dr. Otto is not the only American Orthodox who holds that view as I have found the acceptance of a future millennium amongst other American Orthdox.

Church of God:

The Bible teaches that this millennial kingdom will be wonderful (Isaiah 2; 9; 11:1-10; 35:1-9;  Ezekiel 34:21-29, Micah 4:1-4; Acts 3:19-21) and that the saints will then reign with Jesus (Revelation 20:4-6).   Satan the devil will be banished during this time (Revelation 20:1-6), and it is a time of rest and abundance. (Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God viewed 08/11/13)

It needs to be understood that many people that the Orthodox considers to have been saints and/or "early Fathers" such as the Apostle John (late 1st century), Papias (early 2nd century), Justin Martyr (middle 2nd century), Melito (middle 2nd century), Irenaeus (late 2nd century), Hippolytus (early 3rd century), and Ambrose (4th century) all believed and taught a millennial reign that most indicated came after six, one thousand year, days.

It appears that the first to object to the millennial teaching were those such as Marcion and various Gnostics later branded as heretics/apostates by both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. But sadly, later (around the end of the fourth/early fifth century) many in the Greco-Roman Churches adopted an anti-millennialist view.

However, there are still those who are Orthodox that do hold to a millennial view (and not just within the Russian Orthodox community). More on the millennium and who taught it can be found in the article Did The Early Church Teach Millenarianism?

John Chyrsostom: Saint or Apostate?

Orthodox:

Our father among the saints John Chrysostom (347-407), Archbishop of Constantinople, was a notable Christian bishop and preacher from the fourth and fifth centuries in Syria and Constantinople. He is famous for eloquence in public speaking and his denunciation of abuse of authority in the Church and in the Roman Empire of the time. He had notable ascetic sensibilities. After his death he was named Chrysostom, which comes from the Greek Χρυσόστομος, "golden-mouthed." The Orthodox Church honors him as a saint (feast day, November 13) and counts him among the Three Holy Hierarchs (feast day, January 30), together with Saints Basil the Great and Gregory the Theologian. He is also recognized by the Roman Catholic Church, which considers him a saint and Doctor of the Church, and the Church of England, both of whom commemorate him on September 13. His relics were stolen from Constantinople by Crusaders in 1204 (commemorated on January 27) and brought to Rome, but were returned on November 27, 2004, by Pope John Paul II...

He was then ordained a deacon in 381 by St. Meletius of Antioch, and was ordained a presbyter in 386 by Bishop Flavian I of Antioch...

Chrysostom wrote of the Jews and of Judaizers in eight homilies Adversus Judaeos (against the Judaizers).[1] At the time he delivered these sermons, Chrysostom was a tonsured reader and had not yet been ordained a priest or bishop... Robert L. Wilken contends that applying the modern label of Anti-Semitism onto St. John Chrysostom is anachronistic...

Modern influence

Whatever the original intent of Chrysostom, his writings have been circulated by many groups in an attempt to foster anti-Semitism or opposition to Christianity. One of the groups to use him thus were the Nazis during World War II. They used St. John's writings to try to convince Christians in Germany and Austria that the Jews deserved to be exterminated.

Additionally, Orthodox Christians throughout the world participate in St. John's Divine Liturgy nearly every week and hear his famous Paschal Homily at every Pascha. (http://orthodoxwiki.org/John_Chrysostom viewed 08/11/13)

Archbishop of Constantinople John Chrysostom admitted Christmas was not part of his church's tradition in a sermon:

We may take it as certain that the feast of Christ’s Nativity was kept in Rome on 25 December…It was introduced by St. John Chrysostum into Constantinople and definitively adopted in 395 (Thurston. H. Transcribed by Rick McCarty. Christian Calendar. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume III. Published 1908. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, November 1, 1908. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

St. Chrysostom in a Christmas sermon, delivered at Antioch in the year 386, says, " it is not ten years since this day [Christmas Day on December 25] was clearly known to us, but it has been familiar from the beginning to those who dwell in the West." "The Romans who have celebrated it for a long time, and from ancient tradition, and have transmitted the knowledge of it to us." (Addis WE, Arnold T. A Catholic Dictionary: Containing Some Account of the Doctrine, Discipline, Rites, Ceremonies, Councils, and Religious Orders of the Catholic Church. Benziger Brothers, 1893. Original from Columbia University, Digitized Sep 15, 2009, p. 178)

His claim that Rome or the West knew it from the beginning is blatantly false. The knowledge of December 25th does not come from any ancient actual Christian tradition.

As pretty much everyone who has looked into the history of Christmas knows, December 25th was selected because it was the birthday of the sun-god Mithras--it was not an original practice of true Christians in Rome or any part of the West. John Chrysostom should have known that and taught against it.

Since Christmas was not originally kept on December 25th by the Eastern Orthodox in Constantinople, it should be obvious that this was a CHANGE to the practices there and that change did not come from the Bible (for additional details, see also What Does the Catholic Church Teach About Christmas and the Holy Days?).

Church of God:

It should be noted that the basic reason that John Chrysostom preached against the holy days was due to antisemitism. In demonstrates this in his Homily Against the Jews (of which there are at least eight antisemitic homilies) as he calls the Jews by a variety of names. Here are a few of his statements:

But do not be surprised that I called the Jews pitiable. They really are pitiable and miserable (I:II:1).

So the godlessness of the Jews and the pagans is on a par. But the Jews practice a deceit which is more dangerous (I:VI:4).

Do you see that demons dwell in their souls and that these demons are more dangerous than the ones of old? (I:VI:7).

Since it is against the Jews that I wish to draw up my battle line, let me extend my instruction further. Let me show that, by fasting now, the Jews dishonor the law and trample underfoot God's commands because they are always doing everything contrary to his decrees. When God wished them to fast, they got fat and flabby (VI:IV:2).

Indeed, the fasting of the Jews, which is more disgraceful than any drunkenness, is over and gone (VIII:I:5).

But the facts are that the Holy Days were kept by Jesus, the New Testament Church, and those faithful to their teachings. And the other fact is that no where in the Bible do we see hatred against the Jews. Jesus taught we were to love our neighbor (and most the of "neighbors" He was then talking to were Jewish)...antisemites have frequently used John Chrysotom's writings to try to prove that Jews should be exterminated. The fruits of John Chrysostom's life are not good.

John Chrysostom was not a real Christian, but an hate-mongering apostate who believed in hate and tradition over the love and truths taught in the Bible.

Yet, he is still honored by the Roman, Eastern Orthodox, and Anglican Catholics. He is so honored by the Eastern Orthodox that his painting is in what seems to be the main administrative building of the offices of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. (Thiel B. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople and Antisemite viewed 08/11/13)

More on him can be found in the article John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople and Antisemite.

The Church of the Seven Councils vs. One of the Seven Churches of Revelation 2 & 3

Orthodox:

"Constantine summoned the first General or Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church at Nicea in 325... Orthodox often call themselves 'the Church of the Seven Councils'...Nicea was the first of the seven general councils; and these...occupy a central position in the history of Orthodoxy...next to the Bible, it is the seven councils which the Orthodox Church takes as its standard and guide" (Ware, pp.19,35).

"Why are the Seven Ecumenical Councils so important? Because they point out what the Church universally held to be the true teaching concerning the Person of of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity" (Gillquist, p. 102).

"It is interesting that the Book of Revelation--although it is accepted as part of the scriptural canon--is never read during public worship" (Clendenin D.B. ed. Eastern Orthodox Theology, 2nd ed. Baker Academic, 2003, p. 81).

It may be of interest to note that a Roman Catholic scholar and historian basically has admitted that the 4th century Nazarene Christians held Christian doctrines, but that their real problem was that they would not accept most of the decisions of the Councils of Greco-Roman churches:

...the Nazarenes did not differ much in faith from the gentile Christians...

St. Epiphanius, speaking of the Nazarenes...they observed the Sabbath, and they celebrated Easter on the 14th...

They live in the city of Boroea (Aleppo), in Coelo-Syria, in the Decapolis near Pella and in Batanea in the place they call Cochabe and in Hebrew Kocabe. There name Nazarene comes from Nazareth "which today is a village in which the house of Joseph (Jesus) was educated".

...they observe the Sabbath, but have no animal sacrifices...

St. Jerome, writing..."Nazarenes. They believe in Christ, Son of God, born of the Virgin..."

In conclusion, regarding the Nazarenes, both St. Epiphanius and St. Jerome have nothing to condemn them for except the observance of customs forbidden by the Councils (Bagatti, Bellarmino.  Translated by Eugene Hoade.  The Church from the Circumcision.  Nihil obstat: Marcus Adinolfi. Imprimi potest: Herminius Roncari. Imprimatur: +Albertus Gori, die 26 Junii 1970.  Franciscan Printing Press, Jerusalem, pp.31,34,35).

And since those councils basically wanted to enforce Sunday instead of the biblical Sabbath, Easter Sunday as a replacement for the biblical Passover, and define Catholics as those that believe in a certain type of trinity (a concept that was only held by second century heretics such as Valentinus), it should be clear to all that the "Nazarenes", therefore were faithful to the earliest teachings of the true Church. It was the Councils that often made changes (the early church was not trinitarian--for proof, please see the article Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning). We in the Church of God trace our history through groups like the Nazarenes.

It should also be noted that an 8th Ecumenical Council is expected per Orthodox St. Neilos the Myrrh-Gusher (Tzima Otto, p. 111).

This 8th conference will likely grant the Orthodox certain doctrinal compromises from the Church of Rome (they too are looking for an ecumenical council), but will ultimately result in the destruction from God's judgment. Also, the fact that this synod is expected to "pacify the contentions of the heretics" suggests that the Orthodox will have to commit doctrinal compromise as well (see also the section on the Ecumenical Movement in this paper).

Church of God:

Jesus taught that the true church would be a “little flock” (Luke 12:32), hated by the world (Matthew 10:22), and persecuted (Matthew 10:23). He also taught only a few would find the way to eternal life in this age (Matthew 7:14; 20:16). The Apostle Jude indicates that the number of saints was relatively small (Jude 14), while the Apostle Paul called the small group a “remnant” (Romans 11:5)...

The Bible further shows that the true church could not remain headquartered in any single continuing city throughout centuries of its history (Hebrews 13:14; cf. Matthew 10:23), hence understanding the truth about the churches of Revelation two and three and how the Church of God itself has continued helps identify the true Church of God in its various locations. (Statement of Beliefs of the Continuing Church of God viewed 08/11/13)

One point that should be made here is that the Orthodox Church essentially believes that there were five patriarchs, including Rome which it now considers to be a little bit heretical (but usually only a little). Currently there seem to be about five main Orthodox patriarchs (Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, Jerusalem, Russian) which (with the possible exception of the Russian one) do claim a list of successors that claim at least one of the original apostles. However, the Patriarch of Constantinople (an area in Asia Minor, now Turkey) is essentially recognized as having pre-eminence over all of them (except perhaps Russian, which appears to be the largest).

It is recognized that there are various parts/branches of the true Church, but the most faithful in the Continuing Church of God best represent the remnant of the Philadelphia portion of the Church that the Apostle John wrote about.

Furthermore, it should be noted that there actually is no contemporaneous proof of the validity of the earliest portions of the lists of apostolic successors claimed by the Orthodox Churches of Alexander, Antioch, Constantinople, and Jerusalem. This is discussed in detail in the article titled Apostolic Succession.

The CCOG essentially teaches that since there are seven semi-consecutive Churches with different characteristics in Revelation 2 & 3, that there could not be one continuous organization. Another important differences is that the Orthodox Church teaches that the Council of Nicea was a very good thing, while the CCOG has the opposite view of that Council. It is astounding that the Orthodox are taught much about the councils and relatively little about the Book of Revelation--people of the Book should know the Book of Revelation.

Perhaps I should mention that as far as I have been able to tell, the official Orthodox position on the Book of Revelation, which they call the Apocalypse is that within Orthodoxy there is "No dogmatic interpretation" (REVELATION UNVEILED UNDERSTANDING THE BOOK OF “THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST WHICH HE HAS GIVEN TO HIS SERVANT JOHN”. ST INNOCENT PUBLIC LECTURES Sponsored by Russ Jones, DDS, Powerpoint p. 11) and has not been normally read in Orthodox Church services.

The following are articles on each of the seven Churches of Revelation:

The Ephesus Church Era predominant from 31 A.D. to circa 135 A.D.
The Smyrna Church Era predominant circa 135 A.D. to circa 450 A.D.
The Pergamos Church Era predominant circa 450 A.D. to circa 1050 A.D.
The Thyatira Church Era predominant circa 1050 A.D. to circa 1600 A.D.
The Sardis Church Era predominant circa 1600 A.D. to circa 1933 A.D.
The Philadelphia Church Era predominant circa 1933 A.D. to 1986 A.D.
The Laodicean Church Era predominant circa 1986 A.D. to present

Ecumenical Movement

The Orthodox are moving towards ecumenical unity with the Church of Rome. We in the Continuing Church of God oppose such unity and have repeatedly warned against it.

Orthodox:

Notice the following report related to Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople:

Patriarch of Constantinople’s new encyclical defends Catholic-Orthodox dialogue

Istanbul, Turkey, Feb 20, 2010 / 06:14 pm (CNA).- Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople’s newest encyclical encourages dialogue between the Orthodox Church and other Christian churches and laments those who are “unacceptably fanatical” in challenging such dialogue…“They disseminate false rumors that union between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox Churches is imminent, while they know well that the differences discussed in these theological dialogues remain numerous and require lengthy debate; moreover, union is not decided by theological commissions but by Church Synods,” Bartholomew wrotehttp://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/patriarch_of_constantinoples_new_encyclical_defends_catholic-orthodox_dialogue/

Patriarch Bartholomew stated that it would take a Church synod in 2010. Notice what came out in an announcement in 2014:

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Patriarchs of the world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians ended a rare summit in Istanbul on Sunday…

Twelve heads of autonomous Orthodox churches, the second-largest family of Christian churches, also agreed to hold a summit of bishops, or ecumenical council, in 2016, which will be the first in over 1,200 years…

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who will meet Roman Catholicism’s Pope Francis in Jerusalem in May, is the senior-most Orthodox leader, but his Istanbul-based church is tiny, with none of the resources the large Russian church enjoys.

Despite the prestige of his post, he has no authority over other churches, unlike the power the pope has in Catholicism, the world’s largest church with 1.2 billion members.

The communique stressed that all decisions at the council would be taken by consensus, a position the Russians strongly defended in preparations for the meeting.

The 2016 council will be held in Hagia Irene, a Byzantine church building in the outer courtyard of the Ottoman sultans’ Topkapi Palace. Now a museum, it has not been used as a church since the Muslim conquest of Constantinople in 1453.

Orthodox Christianity links 14 independent churches, based in Eastern Europe, Russia and the Middle East.  (Afanasieva D, Heneghan T. Orthodox Patriarchs urge peace in Ukraine, agree on council! Ecumenical News, March 10, 2014. http://www.ecumenicalnews.com/article/orthodox-patriarchs-urge-peace-in-ukraine-agree-on-council-22801)

The above ecumenical synod is dangerous, but also consistent with the following Orthodox prophecy:

Saint Neilos the Myrrh-Gusher (died 1592): During that time the Eighth and last Ecumenical Synod will take place, which will satisfy the contentions of the heretics…(Tzima Otto, H.  The Great Monarch and WWIII in Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Scriptural Prophecies.  Verenikia Press, Rock Hill (SC), 2000, p. 111).

By satisfying “heretics,” clearly this council compromises and changes the religion, which will be called “Catholic.”  If the proposed 2016 council does this, the end is nearer than most people think that it is.

Some Orthodox look forward to this, but also expect an antipope near then:

Helen Tzima Otto (20th century): We have been told time and time again through the prophets that the Great Monarch and Papa Angelorum…will convene the 8th Ecumenical Council, which will reunify all Christians…The Emperor will spend three years waging wars against the non-Christian nations…{later will be} the end time schism of the Roman Catholic Church of the End Times and the rise of an antipope. (Tzima Otto, pp. xxv, 103, 122)

Apparently the “non-Christian nations” will be those that do not desire to be part of the ecumenical church that is to form.

Not all Orthodox favor ecumenical unity: Notice what two Greek bishops wrote to Pope Francis in 2014:

From the outset we must clarify that we Orthodox, not taking part in the politicallycorrect spirit of western and especially ecumenist “Christianity,” do not refer to those religious communities who have, sadly, been separated from the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Orthodox Church as “Churches.” But, following the example of our Holy Fathers throughout the ages, refer to them as heretics, and you, Your Excellency, and your followers, we denominate as “Papists” and your heresy as “Papism.”…

We unceasingly pray that our Lord Jesus Christ gather together the deluded “Pope” and his followers, through repentance and the renunciation of your delusion and heresy, into the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, Orthodox Church and to assume as an Orthodox Pope, according to seniority of honor of the Pentarchy and in agreement with the Divine and Holy Canons, the Chairmanship of honor of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches as “primus inter pares.”

An additional reason, which shows the timeliness and importance of our present Episcopal epistle, are the intrigues in the realm of the modern heretical Ecumenical Movement with its ecumenist theological dialogues between Orthodox and Papists, where the representatives from the Orthodox side, animated unfortunately by the panheretical spirit of inter-Christian and inter-religious syncretistic ecumenism, and employing the false ecumenist love, a “love” without true love and unity in the Orthodox faith, deceive you, Your Excellency, claiming that Papism is a so called “Church,” and moreover a “sister Church,” with valid Mysteries (Sacraments), Baptism, the Priesthood and Grace, that Papism and Orthodoxy make up the so-called, “two lungs,” with which the Church of Christ breaths, that you, the heretical “Pope,” are a canonical bishop, successor of the Apostle Peter and Vicar of Christ on earth, who possess the Apostolically, Scripturally and Patristically groundless and non-existent “Petrine” primacy of power over all the Church, and the blasphemous “Papal Infallibility,” instead of the true primacy of honor (διά τό εἶναι τήν Ρώμην πρωτεύουσα) as is commanded by the Holy Canons of the undivided Church of the first millennium to which the Orthodox Pope of Rome and Patriarch of the West is entitled, doctrines that are totally unknown and without foundation or witness in the general Tradition of the Catholic Orthodox Church of the first ten centuries and of the eight Holy Ecumenical Councils, doctrines which are a clear blasphemy against the All-Holy Spirit and which show your theological departure and the satanic pride of which you are possessed. Clear proof of the absurdity of the Orthodox Ecumenists is that, while they attribute to you ecclesiastical titles, you who are obviously heretical and erroneous in belief, they do not dare, even though it would be in keeping with their declarations, to come into sacramental communion with you, because they know from that moment they will immediately lose their own ecclesiastical identity. Does this not make up the most blatant proof of the false doctrines of Ecumenism? (+ Andrew of Dryinoupolis, Pogoniani and Konitsa plus + Seraphim of Piraeus and Faliro. Letter to Francis. HOLY AUTOCEPHALOUS ORTHODOX CATHOLIC CHURCH OF GREECE. April 10, 2014. http://cdn.romfea.gr/images/stories/photos/2014/4/romfea1/spiti/Epistle%20to%20Pope%20Francis%20I.pdf viewed 04/20/2014)

Yet the ecumenical movement is moving forward.

Church of God:

Despite biblical and other warnings, Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew seem determined to help fulfill prophecies that warn against what they are trying to do.  Such unity will be dangerous for both the Church of Rome and the Eastern Orthodox.  Signs and lying wonders may be a deceptive factor in this occurrence (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:9)...

The Bible shows that an ecumenical unity for the world is coming our of Europe (cf. Revelation 13:3-4,8; Daniel 11:35-38) and it will not be faithful to the early and true apostolic traditions or sacred scripture. Ecumenical unity will be a disaster for the world (cf. Revelation 13, 17, & 18). Catholics and Protestants will find such unity with the Eastern Orthodox especially disturbing if they understood the plan of the Orthodox in this area.  The faithful ecumenical unity that the Bible foretells occurs AFTER the return of Jesus Christ:

10 “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” says the Lord. 11 “Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you. 12 And the Lord will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem. 13 Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for He is aroused from His holy habitation!” (Zechariah 2:10-13)...

The reality is that the drive towards ecumenical unity between the Catholics of Rome, the Greek/Eastern Orthodox, and various Protestants is happening. The pace seems to be picking up.  If the eighth ecumenical council fulfills Orthodox prophecy it will not end well for the Catholics, Anglicans, Orthodox, or various Protestants.

Sadly, the ecumenical agenda will temporarily succeed. Those who truly believe the Bible will have no part of it.

(Thiel B. Orthodox agree to eighth ecumenical council: If Orthodox prophecy is correct on it, this council marks a major step towards the end!)

Zechariah 2:6-7 also warns against what the Church of Rome, many Protestants, and many Orthodox are working on. This is something to be avoided and not encouraged. The Orthodox may be surprised to learn that Vatican representatives have already expressed a willingness to change many doctrines if the Orthodox will support the Pope--I was personally told this when I visited the offices of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople once (see Why Should American Catholics Should Fear Unity with the Orthodox?).

Antioch vs. Asia Minor

Similar to Rome, the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch claims Peter as its first Patriarch. Similar to the Orthodox, the most faithful in the COG believe that while Peter did have a pre-eminent role, the location of his death should not be considered to have made that location important. The most faithful in the COG believe that since the Bible lists Apostles as the highest office under Christ, that after Peter's death, whatever pre-eminence that Peter may have had would have been passed on to a surviving apostle, such as John.

Orthodox:

"Apostles Paul and Barnabas set up the Antioch see in 42 A.D. It was then acceded for eight years (43 - 53 A.D.) by Saint Peter as its first prelate who proceeded to establish other churches. However, there are well documented historical views that Saint Peter established the Antioch see with the help of Apostles Paul and Barnabas" (Historical Overview. Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. http://antiochpat.org/english/sitefiles/viewcontent.php?content=%241%24Fqww80sV%24LJtl/mpIsne5lz0mZ5kCy0_
%241%24cY2fEC.3%242X4rjsf3DqIjEbC53bz6R/_%241%24Fqww80sV%24LJtl/mpIsne5lz0mZ5kCy0b56a92baa
0ee987eb7f7e4a179b60efb&id=1&cat=%241%24DdKoSQCb%24FO96gT8jCFwnHPxW4LNZj1_%241%24p
CxQHS8F%24GHaBW0fpsqpxYoSn4BE0M/_%241%24DdKoSQCb%24FO96gT8jCFwnHPxW4LNZj150102e
124822220aaa78a8e3b2ccba34&catid=3&contentname=Historical%20Overview&catname=Other%20Contents 8/21/05).

Church of God:

"Polycarp (ca. 69–155AD) had been a personal disciple of the Apostle John and was one of the few church leaders of his day to hold fast to the Truth...Polycrates was the successor of Polycarp who was himself a disciple of the Apostle John...In the second and third chapters of the book of Revelation, we find messages that Jesus Christ recorded for the seven churches of Asia Minor. In chapter one, the Apostle John saw a vision of the glorified Christ standing in the midst of seven golden lampstands. These seven lampstands represent the Church of God in its entirety throughout time (Revelation 1:12–20)..When we look at the context of the book of Revelation, we must recognize that it is primarily intended as a prophecy. Revelation 1:1 shows that the book’s purpose is to show to God’s servants things that would soon begin to happen. Thus the seven churches should primarily be understood as representing the entire history of God’s Church in seven successive church eras. The first church to be addressed in Revelation 2 is the Church at Ephesus. This church characterized the Apostolic Era..The Church at Smyrna is the second of the seven Revelation churches to be addressed...The Apostle John died in Ephesus at the end of the first century. The next faithful leader in Asia Minor...was Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna" (Ogwyn J. God's Church Through the Ages. Booklet, 2004).

The Church of God tends to look to Asia Minor for more of the early leadership than the Syrian Orthodox tend to. While there were faithful Christians in Antioch, a major leadership (and apparent doctrinal) change seemed to have occurred in the early third century. Hence any succession from Antioch should not be considered as apostolic.

While the Continuing Church of God believes that after Peter, leadership passed to John as the surviving Apostle (Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome), the Catholics feel leadership was passed to Linus (please see article What Does Rome Teach About Early Church History?), and the Orthodox believe that several apostles passed the leadership to several main groups whose leaders they consider to be patriarchs (The CCOG, however, does accept that other apostles could have passed on leadership to Christians in various parts of the world--only that Asia Minor seemed to be the pre-eminent location of the true second century church).

One major difference here is that while the CCOG traces its history from John to Polycarp through Polycrates (as well as other apostles), the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch (like the Syriac portion, see Appendix A) essentially claims Peter and Paul, then Evodius, then Ignatius, were their leaders. However much later, apparently in the third century, they were followed by leaders that clearly were sympathetic to the Roman Catholic Church in their orientation.

It may be of interest to note that in the third century, the Roman Catholic Bishop (along with other Italian bishops) got to select the person considered to be the 17th bishop of Antioch (see Eusebius. Church History, Book VII, Chapter 30).

Apostolic Succession

The following is covered in detail in the article Apostolic Succession. Only a few brief comments will be included here about the four areas that the Eastern Orthodox claim apostolic succession from.

1. Euodius of Antioch. There are at least two "orthodox" churches that claim apostolic succession from Antioch. Both the Eastern Orthodox (or Rum Orthodox) Church of Antioch (apparently also called the Antiochian Orthodox) and the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch claim that Euodius (also spelled Evodius) was the successor to the Apostle Peter.

Yet they have differing dates. The Syriac Church claims from Euodius led from 67-68 A.D., while the time period claimed by the Eastern Orthodox Church is earlier and longer. Some scholars have stated that Ignatius succeeded Peter and not Euodius/Evodius. For documented details, please click Apostolic Succession: Euodius of Antioch.

2. Anianus of Alexandria. The Orthodox Church of Alexandria claims that Mark was an apostle and that he passed on the succession to Anianus. However the Bible never refers to Mark as an apostle, nor could he have even been in Alexandria for much of the time period he is claimed to have led. Furthermore, Eusebius (4th century historian) noted that gnostic allegorizing "believers" were in Alexandria from as far back as the first century, so if there was an Anianus, he made have been a pre-gnostic. In Alexandria, much compromise occurred, and it is even possible that the heretic Marcus is in the succession list. For documented details, please click Apostolic Succession: Anianus of Alexandria.

3. Stachys and Constantinople. The Orthodox Church of Constantinople claims that the Apostle Andrew founded it, and that his successor was Stachys from 38-64 A.D.. The official website of that church states that Stachys was one of the Seventy Apostles of the Lord and that the Apostle Andrew appointed him first bishop of the city of Byzantium, which three centuries later was renamed. However, the Bible does not mention Stachys, nor the names of the 70 sent out by Jesus, nor are any group of 70 ever referred to in the Bible as apostles (see Luke 10:1-17). Furthermore, it claims that Onesimus succeeded Stachys for a period of time that contradicts the biblical account. And although this church claims "apostolic succession" and most Orthodox consider that it was one of the five original "Apostolic sees", Orthodox scholars actually admit that it had little standing prior to the fourth century (and it was given its importance, by the way, by the sun-worshiping Emperor Constantine) and that a big part of why it is important is because of the seven churches of Asia Minor (none of which are near Constantinople). Furthermore, the Bishop of Constantinople did not accept the trinity in the mid-4th century. There was much doctrinal change in this region. More information can be found by clicking, Apostolic Succession: Stachys and Constantinople.

4. Symeon in Jerusalem. Symeon was apparently a Jewish Christian leader. Not much is known about him, other than he probably was faithful to apostolic teachings as Epiphanius records that the church in Jerusalem observed the Passover on the 14th of Nisan until the last of the Jewish bishops left (circa 135 A.D.). Thus, any true successor here would have been expected to continue that practice, yet none after 130/135 A.D. have. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that the "shortest-lived Apostolic Church is that of Jerusalem. In 130 the Holy City was destroyed by Hadrian". There are also some alleged major date gaps for some of the claimed earliest bishops there. Furthermore, in 135 major doctrinal compromise occurred there. For documented details, please click Apostolic Succession: Symeon in Jerusalem.

Realize that not one of the four listed successors in these four "patriarchates" has any contemporaneous proof that they actually did succeed any of the apostles. And even if any (or all) of the four mentioned above as original successors of the apostles in the those cities were true Christians, those who now CLAIM to have succeeded them hold doctrines quite different than the original apostles held. Thus, any claims to physical apostolic succession have been made irrelevant by doctrinal and other compromises, therefore no one of these particular churches are the spiritual successor of the apostles.

And although the current Pope Benedict acts otherwise, the traditional approved position of the Church of Rome is that the Orthodox do not have apostolic succession (proof is contained in quotes from the Romans in the article Apostolic Succession). Furthermore, the other official Roman position is that even if they did, they lost it:

Regarding the Greek Church, it is sufficient to note that it lost Apostlic succession by withdrawing from the jurisdiction of the lawful successors of St. Peter in the See of Rome. (O'Reilly, Thomas. "Apostolicity." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 24 Aug. 2008 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01648b.htm>).

The Greek Church, embracing all the Eastern Churches involved in the schism of Photius and Michael Caerularius, and the Russian Church can lay no claim to Apostolic succession either direct or indirect, i.e. through Rome, because they are, by their own fact and will, separated from the Roman Communion. (Wilhelm, Joseph. "Apostolic Succession." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 1. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. 15 Sept. 2009 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01641a.htm>)

But much more importantly, according to Jesus, no city, including Jerusalem could remain the successor to the apostles throughout history. Recall what Jesus said:

And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes (Matthew 10:22-23).

The above passage from Jesus would suggest that the true leadership of the church would have to move reasonably often (not just once or twice). The Apostle Paul was also clear about this:

For we have not here a permanent city: but we seek that which is to come (Hebrews 13:14).

Hence any claim of apostolic succession for 1000-2000 years from the same city should be viewed as basically impossible from what Jesus taught.

Church of God Early Leaders

Although we in the Churches of God do not view the following list the same way that those in the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox churches view theirs (we believe that we are the spiritual descendants of the apostles and this is not dependent upon a bishop to bishop transfer, but a true holding of teachings in a little flock--Luke 12:32--that never completely died out), the following list (which mainly has dates based upon Roman Catholic accepted sources) gives a listing of apparently faithful leaders of the church from the first through third centuries. The dates listed are when they died, not the entire time they were leaders:

Peter/Paul/James through death circa 64-68 (mainly oversaw churches from Asia Minor and Jerusalem, though Paul was imprisoned in Rome)
John through death circa 95-100
(oversaw churches from Ephesus of Asia Minor)
Polycarp through death circa 155-156 (oversaw churches from Smyrna of Asia Minor)
Thraseas through death circa 160
(oversaw the churches from Eumenia, but died in Smyrna)
Sagaris through death circa 166-167
(died in Laodicea of Asia Minor)
Papirius through death circa 170
(oversaw churches from Smyrna of Asia Minor)
Melito through death circa 177-180
(oversaw churches from Sardis of Asia Minor)
Possibly Polycrates ancestors through circa 185
(oversaw churches from Ephesus of Asia Minor)
* Polycrates through death circa 200
(oversaw churches from Ephesus of Asia Minor)
*Apollonius of Ephesus through death circa 210 (oversaw churches from Ephesus of Asia Minor).
*Camerius of Smyrna through death circa 220 (possibly oversaw churches from Smyrna of Asia Minor).

* Note: History concerning Apollonius is not totally clear, but indications are that he was most likely in the true church (the 210 date came from The Catholic Encyclopedia). There is basically no information about Camerius of Smyrna, other than he is listed as bishop of Smyrna in sources like The Catholic Encyclopedia and the questionable book The Life of Polycarp. After Polycrates and Apollonius, the official history (with Eusebius the main writer) says almost nothing about the true church in Ephesus, though a compromised church from there develops importance in the fourth century. Around 250 Eudaemon of Smyrna apostatized under the persecution of Decius--around that time there was a major separation of those who professed Christ (Socrates Scholasticus. Church History, Book V, Chapter 19)--and this, combined with selective reporting of history (and the destruction of documents) is probably why we can no longer identify COG accepted leaders by name after the first part of the third century.

Hence, there is an 'alternate' listing of leaders in a spiritual succession from the apostles that most people are unfamiliar with (many of the beliefs, as well as more information on the true second/third/fourth century church can be found in the article The Smyrna Church Era).

It should be noted that the idea that what became known as Roman/Orthodox/Traditional Christianity gaining prominence by the third century is not simply a view held by those in Continuing Church of God, but is held by a variety of theologians and historians.

Here is some of what Bart Ehrman has written:

...traditional Christianity...is the form of Christianity that began to thrive at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth centuries (Ehrman B. From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity. The Teaching Company, Chantilly (VA), 2004, p. 28).

Thus, what is considered to be traditional Christianity developed in the third and fourth centuries, NOT the second century. NOT the century when the last of any true direct apostolic successors could have lived into. And it is only the real COG that practices anything close to second century Christianity.

Miscellaneous

There are probably hundreds of similarities and dissimilarities this article has not covered. But several of the ones covered are significant.

For example, the Orthodox belief that there will not be terroristic treatment for those who died that are not saints or incorrigibly wicked, as well as its position on being deified, is so close to the COG position, that I believe this suggests that these groups had some commonality until probably the third or fourth centuries.

What appears obviously to have happened is that those that are in the Orthodox Church were those in Asia Minor who decided to go along with the Council of Nicea (and the subsequent Councils), while those in the Church of God were among those that did not accept the decisions of that or any subsequent Catholic/Orthodox Council as authoritative of itself. The fact that the Council of Nicea declared Sunday to be the day of worship, instead of the seventh day Sabbath AND declared that Passover was to be observed on a Sunday and not on Nisan 14 as Polycarp and Polycrates declared they learned from the Apostles and the Gospel (see Eusebius' Church History) forced those who were faithful to the Gospel and those particular teachings to be separate from the predominant Church.

Several decades after the Council of Nicea, there was a small Council of Laodicea. In 364 A.D. the Council of Laodicea declared,

"CANON XXIX. CHRISTIANS must not judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honouring the Lord's Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ. " (THE COMPLETE CANONS OF THE SYNOD OF LAODICEA IN PHRYGIA PACATIANA).

Although this was not one of the seven major councils, since it occurred in Asia Minor, it (like the Council of Nicea) forced Sabbath-keepers (like those in the Church of God) to flee to the wilderness or otherwise keep a low profile. And although some Church of God beliefs apparently stayed with the Orthodox Church (which was still mainly called Catholic at that time), over time the Orthodox apparently lost more and more of the beliefs and practices of the Church of God that the truly faithful still retain.

Does the Orthodox Prove that It is in Error?

One major problem that the Orthodox Church has is that several of its positions box it into a corner and show that it cannot be the continuance of the true Church that began on the Day of Pentecost in the Book of Acts. And a lot of that has to do with its positions on saints and the Councils.

Justin Martyr

Since the Orthodox Church claims Justin Martyr as a saint as well as the one who first described the type of liturgical church service that the Orthodox have, it would be logical that it accept Justin's position on idolatry, but it does not. Here is some of what Justin wrote on that subject:

And neither do we honour with many sacrifices and garlands of flowers such deities as men have formed and set in shrines and called gods; since we see that these are soulless and dead, and have not the form of God (for we do not consider that God has such a form as some say that they imitate to His honour), but have the names and forms of those wicked demons which have appeared. For why need we tell you who already know, into what forms the craftsmen, carving and cutting, casting and hammering, fashion the materials? And often out of vessels of dishonour, by merely changing the form, and making an image of the requisite shape, they make what they call a god; which we consider not only senseless, but to be even insulting to God, who, having ineffable glory and form, thus gets His name attached to things that are corruptible, and require constant service" (Justin. The First Apology. Chapter IX). 

What sober-minded man, then, will not acknowledge that we are not atheists, worshipping as we do the Maker of this universe, and declaring, as we have been taught, that He has no need of streams of blood and libations and incense; whom we praise to the utmost of our power by the exercise of prayer and thanksgiving for all things wherewith we are supplied (Justin. The First Apology. Chapter XIII).

Note that Justin denounced idols, shrines, and incense and also understand that the Orthodox Church embraces all of them. Hence the Orthodox are not faithful to that portion of Justin's teaching. Also recall one decision related to the Seventh Council, "The final victory of the Holy Images in 843 is known as 'the Triumph of Orthodoxy'" (Ware).

Thus it was not until eight centuries after the Church began that all the Catholic and Orthodox Churches accepted idols/icons/images. Therefore, it is inconceivable that this could have been the position of the original New Testament Church (it is also inconceivable because the last living of the original apostles, John, warned against idols in his last writings).

Furthermore, Justin also taught,

For I choose to follow not men or men's doctrines, but God and the doctrines [delivered] by Him. For if you have fallen in with some who are called Christians, but who do not admit this [truth], and venture to blaspheme the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob; who say there is no resurrection of the dead, and that their souls, when they die, are taken to heaven; do not imagine that they are Christians (Dialogue. Chapter 80).

While those in the COG would agree that souls die (Ezekiel 18:4) and are not taken to heaven upon death (Job:14:14; John 3:13), some of those in the Orthodox churches would seem to disagree with Justin here. Justin is clearly stating that those who believe that souls are taken to heaven when they die are not Christians. Therefore, it is surprising that many in the Orthodox churches would consider Justin to be a saint, since he teaches that those who believe they go to heaven upon death cannot be.

Polycarp and Passover

The Orthodox Church claims Polycarp as a faithful saint (as shown earlier) and the successor to the Apostles,

As a sharer of the ways and a successor to the throne of the Apostles, O inspired of God, thou foundest discipline to be a means of ascent to divine vision. Wherefore, having rightly divided the word of truth, thou didst also contest for the Faith even unto blood, O Hieromartyr Polycarp...This apostolic and prophetic man, and model of faith and truth, was a disciple of John the Evangelist (Polycarp the Holy Martyr & Bishop of Smyrna. Greek Archdiocese of America. http://www.goarch.org/en/chapel/saints.asp?contentid=439 8/27/05).

Its position on Polycarp causes the Orthodox Church a major problem.

Why?

Because like the current COG, Polycarp kept the Passover on the 14th of Nisan and refused to accept the position of the then Bishop of Rome to change it to a Sunday to honor the resurrection. Yet, the Orthodox Church endorses Easter Sunday--a position that the early church in Asia refused to accept (as Polycrates previous testimony shows). Now the other amazing thing is that even though the Orthodox still refer to Easter as Pascha, which is the Greek form of the Hebrew word for Passover, they do not observe Pascha as the memorial of Christ's crucifixion, but instead as to His resurrection.

This is even more amazing because the New Testament clearly states, "For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast" (1 Corinthians 5:7-8). And that Christ specifically taught, "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer" (Luke 22:15). Christ also taught how it was to be kept by Christians (Luke 22:19-21).

And Paul did as well,

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

It is important to note that this occurred AT NIGHT. That NIGHT was the Passover (Luke 22:15). And that the Christian PASSOVER ceremony was to be kept in remembrance of Christ (Luke 22:19-21; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). There was nothing in the New Testament that enjoins the celebration of the resurrection, nor anything to suggest that the Passover be changed from the 14th of Nisan to some Easter Sunday morning.

Anyway, Polycarp (whom the Orthodox and Catholics consider to be a saint) refused to go along with the change of the date of Passover. This was continued by Melito (another saint according to the Orthodox and Catholic religions) and Polycrates, who also continued to keep the Days of Unleavened Bread.

Yet, as the Catholic Epiphanius wrote in the mid-4th Century,

...the emperor...convened a council of 318 bishops...in the city of Nicea...They passed certain ecclesiastical canons at the council besides, and at the same time decreed in regard to the Passover that there must be one unanimous concord on the celebration of God's holy and supremely excellent day. For it was variously observed by people...(Epiphanius. The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, Books II and III (Sects 47-80), De Fide). Section VI, Verses 1,1 and 1,3. Translated by Frank Williams. EJ Brill, New York, 1994, pp.471-472).

In other words, until the first Council (of the Seven that the Orthodox treasure), there were those that would not accept that Passover should be changed to Sunday. Also it is important to note that the Council knew that PASSOVER was "God's holy and supremely excellent day". Yet, this same Council apparently, and improperly, endorsed a Sunday Passover to be a time to celebrate the resurrection, and not the death, of Christ, in complete defiance to the scriptures as well as to how the early Church kept it.

Also, Polycarp of Smyrna taught that the body and soul were to be resurrected, hence he taught against the immortality of the soul doctrine:

I bless you for because you have considered me worthy of this day and hour, that I might receive a place among the number of martyrs in the cup of your Christ, to the resurrection to eternal life, both of soul and of body, in the incorruptibility of the Holy Spirit (The Martyrdom of Polycarp, 14:2. In Holmes M.W. The Apostolic Fathers, Greek Texts and English Translations. Baker Books, Grand Rapids (MI), 2004, p.239).

It is perhaps of interest to note that while the Orthodox hold that the church in Northern Asia minor (now in the city of Istanbul) should be considered to have the highest honor among its churches, it recognizes no church near its level as deriving from Polycarp.

The doctrine of the immortality of the soul appears to have originated within pagan religions (see Do You Practice Mithraism?). It was a doctrine amongst followers of the sun-god Mithra, like Emperor Constantine, and seemed to make its way into the Greco-Roman churches after Constantine (see Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality?).

Polycarp and the Sabbath

According to the letter The Martyrdom of Polycarp by the Smyrnaeans, "on the day of the preparation, at the hour of dinner, there came out pursuers and horsemen" and the Polycarp was killed "on the day of the great Sabbath" .

Noted scholar Kirsopp Lake states, “Polycarp's martyrdom was on Saturday.” The use of these two expressions ("day of the preparation" and "the day of the great Sabbath" strongly indicates that those in Polycarp's area of Smyrna (an area of Asia Minor not part of Israel, hence a Gentile filled area) were still keeping the Sabbath in the latter portion of the 2nd century were still keeping the Sabbath and the Holy Days, around 156 A.D. (approximately when Polycarp was killed). The COG keeps Saturday to this day (it is important to note that the term Κυριακή DID NOT mean Sunday in classic Greek, even though it does in modern Greek).

Sabbath-keeping in Asia Minor was still going on to at least 364 A.D. or else the Eastern Church would not have convened a Council in Laodicea to excommunicate any who rested on the seventh day.

This still did not stop all Sabbath keeping as Sozomen reported in the mid-5th Century,

“The people of Constantinople, and almost everywhere, assemble together on the Sabbath, as well as on the first day of the week, which custom is never observed at Rome or at Alexandria.”

This suggests that Sabbath keeping by Christians continued in parts of Asia Minor in defiance of these Council decisions. And that it was still condoned by the Orthodox Church in Constantinople until at least the fifth century (and is still somewhat allowed even today). Perhaps it should be mentioned that Sabbath-keeping was also condoned by the Russian Orthodox Church as late as the sixteenth century (please see the article Russia and the Sabbath).

Yet the Orthodox Church mainly keeps Sunday (while also allowing Saturday).

And why Sunday?

Well, the final reason was because Constantine was a sun-worshipper and he decided that on Sunday is the day all should rest and even made legislation to enforce it (more details can be found in the article on Europa). This caused many, who were considered to be heretics now, to flee for their lives--but apparently those that kept Saturday AND Sunday were tolerated. But prior to this, as documented history of the second Century shows (some of this is in the article on Justin Martyr), it was the heretical gnostics who first taught against the seventh day (Saturday) Sabbath and in favor of the eighth day--which they interpreted was also the first day of the week--the day in English that we call Sunday.

The Orthodox admit that it was the Council of Constantinople (381) that declared the Holy Spirit to be the third person of the trinity, whereas the Bible and the early church leaders (including Polycarp and many that the Orthodox now claim in their apostolic succession lists) were clearly binitarian. That is why it took a Council to change the belief that was still prevalent even among those no longer in the Church of God.

Melito Again

Sometime after Polycarp was killed, Melito became the prominent Bishop (pastor) in Asia Minor. The Catholic Encyclopedia notes, “St. Melito Bishop of Sardis, prominent ecclesiastical writer in the latter half of the second century. Melito…had been one of the great authorities in the Church of Asia who held the Quartodeciman theory.”

Melito taught that there would be a literal millennial reign of Christ. Melito was the first Christian to list the Books of the Old Testament--and he listed none of the extra, so-called deuterocanonical books that the Orthodox use today. Melito kept Passover on the 14th of Nisan, instead of on a Sunday as the Orthodox now do.

Speaking of millenarianism, even The Catholic Encyclopedia notes,

“a large number of Christians of the post-Apostolic era, particularly in Asia Minor, yielded so far to Jewish apocalyptic as to put a literal meaning into these descriptions of St. John's Apocalypse… A witness for the continued belief in millenarianism in the province of Asia is St. Melito, Bishop of Sardes in the second century.”

Furthermore, Melito apparently held a binitarian view as his writings specifically teach that the Father and the Son are God, but indicates that the Holy Spirit was simply used by God.

Notice that Melito taught against the use of idols, taught against placing the teachings of fathers (tradition) above that of the Bible as he wrote,

Again, there are persons who say: Whatsoever our fathers have bequeathed to us, that we reverence. Therefore, of course, it is, that those whose fathers have bequeathed them poverty strive to become rich! and those whose fathers did not instruct them, desire to be instructed, and to learn that which their fathers knew not! And why, forsooth, do the children of the blind see, and the children of the lame walk? Nay, it is not well for a man to follow his predecessors, if they be those whose course was evil; but rather that we should turn from that path of theirs, lest that which befell our predecessors should bring disaster upon us also. Wherefore, inquire whether thy father's course was good: and, if so, do thou also follow in his steps; but, if thy father's course was very evil, let thine be good, and so let it be with thy children after thee. Be grieved also for thy father because his course is evil, so long as thy grief may avail to help him. But, as for thy children, speak to them thus: There is a God, the Father of all, who never came into being, neither was ever made, and by whose will all things subsist...And then shall those who have not known God, and those who have made them idols, bemoan themselves, when they shall see those idols of theirs being burnt up, together with themselves, and nothing shall be found to help them" (Melito. Translation by Roberts and Donaldson. A DISCOURSE WHICH WAS IN THE PRESENCE OF ANTONINUS CAESAR, AND HE EXHORTED THE SAID CAESAR TO ACQUAINT HIMSELF WITH GOD, AND SHOWED TO HIM THE WAY OF TRUTH. Online version copyright © 2001 Peter Kirby. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/melito.html).

All of those positions are held by the COG, yet all appear to be in conflict to positions now held by the Orthodox Church.

All of these positions of Melito are documented in the article Melito of Sardis. Yet, the Orthodox Church claims that Melito of Sardis is a saint. If Melito was a faithful saint, and the Orthodox Church holds many contrary doctrines to those held by him (as well as Polycarp), then who is truly being orthodox, the Eastern Orthodox Church or the real Church of God?

Theophilus of Antioch

Eastern Orthodox consider Theophilus of Antioch to have been a saint. And more than that, the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch (as well as the Syriac Church) consider that Theophilus was one in a line of successors of Peter for the legitimacy of that Church.

Theophilus, however, held positions that appear to differ from the current teachings of the Orthodox Church on at least two points: idols and immortality. He also taught about the Sabbath.

Here is only a small fraction of what Theophilus wrote about idols:

We have shown from their own histories, which they have compiled, that the names of those who are called gods, are found to be the names of men who lived among them, as we have shown above. And to this day their images are daily fashioned, idols, "the works of men's hands." And these the mass of foolish men serve, whilst they reject the maker and fashioner of all things and the nourisher of all breath of life, giving credit to vain doctrines through the deceitfulness of the senseless tradition received from their fathers...

The divine law, then, not only forbids the worshipping of idols, but also of the heavenly bodies, the sun, the moon, or the other stars; yea, not heaven, nor earth, nor the sea, nor fountains, nor rivers, must be worshipped (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapters XXXIV,XXXV. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume II. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

And concerning piety He says, "Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I am the LORD thy God" ...Of this divine law, then, Moses, who also was God's servant (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book III, Chapter IX. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Is not the traditional veneration of icons of "saints" made by men a violation of what Theophilus warned against? Yet, the Orthodox do this all the time.

Even The Catholic Encyclopedia notes:

Long before the outbreak in the eighth century there were isolated cases of persons who feared the ever-growing cult of images and saw in it danger of a return to the old idolatry. We need hardly quote in this connection the invectives of the Apostolic Fathers against idols (Athenagoras "Legatio Pro Christ.", xv-xvii; Theophilus, "Ad Autolycum" II; Minucius Felix, "Octavius", xxvii; Arnobius, "Disp. adv. Gentes"; Tertullian, "De Idololatria", I; Cyprian, "De idolorum vanitate"), in which they denounce not only the worship but even the manufacture and possession of such images. These texts all regard idols, that is, images made to be adored (Fortescue A. Transcribed by Tomas Hancil. Veneration of Images. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. Copyright © 1910 by Robert Appleton Company. Online Edition Copyright © 2003 by K. Knight. Nihil Obstat, June 1, 1910. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York).

Here is some of what Theophilus wrote about immortality:

When thou shalt have put off the mortal, and put on incorruption, then shall thou see God worthily. For God will raise thy flesh immortal with thy soul; and then, having become immortal, thou shalt see the Immortal, if now you believe on Him; and then you shall know that you have. spoken unjustly against Him (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 1, Chapter VI. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

For if He had made him immortal from the beginning, He would have made him God...so that if he should incline to the things of immortality, keeping the commandment of God, he should receive as reward from Him immortality, and should become God...For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapter XXVII. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Theophilus basically argues that humans are not immortal, but become God when they are immortal (a related article of interest may be Did Early Christians Believe that Humans Possessed Immortality?). While that is the COG teaching, this is not a position held that way by the Orthodox Church, even though they consider Theophilus to be part of their link to the apostles!

Theophilus taught the following about the Saturday Sabbath:

And on the sixth day God finished His works which He made, and rested on the seventh day from all His works which He made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because in it He rested from all His works which God began to create...Moreover, [they spoke] concerning the seventh day, which all men acknowledge; but the most know not that what among the Hebrews is called the "Sabbath," is translated into Greek the "Seventh" (ebdomas), a name which is adopted by every nation, although they know not the reason of the appellation. (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 2, Chapters XI, XII. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2004 by K. Knight).

Let's briefly compare something from Origen of Alexandria with something from Theophilus.

The Bible many times records that God is angry (e.g. Deuteronomy 1:34,37;3:29, etc.). And while most of those of us in the “literalist” camps believe that God actually does get angry, scholars like the third century Origen did not believe that. Origen, for example, wrote:

But when we read either in the Old Testament or in the New of the anger of God, we do not take such expressions literally, but seek in them a spiritual meaning, that we may think of God as He deserves to be thought of (Origen. De Principiis, Book II, Chapter IV, Verse 4. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 4. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885. Online Edition Copyright © 2005 by K. Knight).

And while there may be a spiritual meaning, there clearly is a literal meaning. Now contrast this with what Theophilus of Antioch wrote c. 180 A.D. and it becomes clear that there were major differences in scriptural interpretation between Antioch and Alexandria (which were similar to the differences between Asia Minor and Rome):

if I call Him Fire, I but mention His anger. You will say, then, to me, “Is God angry?” Yes; He is angry with those who act wickedly, but He is good, and kind, and merciful, to those who love and fear Him (Theophilus of Antioch. To Autolycus, Book 1, Chapter III. Translated by Marcus Dods, A.M. Excerpted from Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 2. Edited by Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson. American Edition, 1885, p. 90).

Since both Origen and Theophilus disagree, who is right?

Origen who is considered to be an important teacher according to Pope Benedict and the Orthodox Church or Theophilus of Antioch who is considered to be a saint by the Catholics/Orthodox and a successor of the apostles in Antioch?

If we are to rely on the Bible for doctrine, we should be able to see that Theophilus is the one who is clearly correct here. Therefore, those who praise or follow Origen when he deviates from scripture would clearly be of the camp that deviated from proper principles of biblical interpretation at an early date.

Hence, since Theophilus is considered to be a true Christian leader and saint by the Orthodox, yet his teachings agree with those in the real COG, it should be clear to the Orthodox that the CCOG is the most faithful to the teachings and practices of the original true Church.

Also it should be noted that early leaders in Antioch, such as Evodius through Theophilus, and even through Serapion (also spelled Seraphion) held positions closer to those in the CCOG than they did to what the Orthodox Churches now teach. And even Jerome condemned the extra books that the Orthodox adopted over 1,000 years later as authoritative.

Great Monarch and Unity with the Vatican?

There have been a lot of efforts recently to try to create unity between the Orthodox and the Roman Churches.

Notice portions of a letter posted on December 5, 2007 at zenit.org (a pro-Vatican news source) from the Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I (whose “official title” is His All Holiness, Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch):

Today, then, it is our obligation more than ever to reclaim the Christian roots of Europe and the spiritual, sacramental and doctrinal unity that it enjoyed prior to the schism of our two Churches. The re-evangelization of our peoples is “today, more so than ever before, timely and necessary, even within traditional Christian lands,” as we admitted and confessed in common here exactly one year ago.

Thus, we believe that Western and Eastern Europe must cease regarding themselves as foreign to one another. Contact among Christians of the Latin tradition and the Orthodox faith may be rendered most productive for both sides...

Elder Rome has the foremost St. Peter as its apostle and patron. New Rome, Constantinople, has the brother of St. Peter, the first-called of the apostles, Andrew. Both invite us to the fraternal unity that they shared with each other and that can only be acquired when the cross becomes our point of reference and experience of approach.

Let us, therefore, beseech these two brothers and greatest of apostles that they may grant peace to the world and lead everyone to unity. (Bartholomew I's Letter to Vatican Delegation. Zenit. December 5, 2007 http://www.zenit.org/article-21198?l=english).

The Patriarch of Constantinople is generally considered the first among equals within the Eastern Orthodox “sees.” Even if this unity with the Romans occur, individually the Orthodox Must Reject Unity with the Roman Catholics as unifying will make them part of the final end time Babylon (according to both biblical and Roman Catholic prophecy).

Pope John Paul II (the pontiff prior to Pope Benedict XVI) stated that the Roman and Orthodox Catholics are two lungs of the same body:

By rediscovering the great cultural treasures of the Christian East, in a new dialogue of communion, we will also allow Christian witness to breathe at this level, with two "lungs", making our rightful contribution to humanity's future (Pope John Paul II. CHRISTIANITY HAS DEEPLY MARKED CULTURE OF PEOPLES. Angelus, 1 September 1996. Taken from: L'Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, 4 September 1996, "L'Osservatore Romano is the newspaper of the Holy See". http://www.ewtn.com/library/PAPALDOC/JP960901.HTM viewed 11/16/07).

At least some of the Orthodox leadership apparently agreed that they were and are one of the lungs as the Orthodox Metropolitan John of Pergamon stated to John Paul II:

As Your Holiness has aptly put it some years ago, East and West are the two lungs by which the Church breaths; their unity is essential to the healthy life of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church (Speeches of Pope John Paul II and Metropolitan John of Pergamon. Made in private audience following a Mass to celebrate the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. Rome, 28 June 1998. http://www.orthodoxresearchinstitute.org/articles/ecumenical/john_pergamon_john_paul2.htm viewed 11/16/07).

On the unification issue, nearly all of the American and South African Orthodox members I have had contact with oppose unity with Rome.  Yet, much of the Orthodox clergy in other areas seem to support it. 

The Patriarch has gone so far as to refer to those that oppose unity with Rome as "unacceptably fanatical" (see Bartholomew I Patriarch of Constantinople Opposes Those Who Warn Against Catholic Unity).

Does he not realize that according to Roman Catholic leaders "Union with the Catholic Church is the goal of ecumenism" (Cardinal Levada Explains Ecumenism. Zenit, March 9, 2010). The Vatican interprets ecumenical unity as other groups (like the Orthodox) becoming subservient to the pope. Period. The fact that the Vatican has shown willingness to compromise doctrinally for that to occur (see Why Should American Catholics Should Fear Unity with the Orthodox?), does not mean that Rome will consider that the Orthodox should not be dominated by its end-time pontiffs.

Some of the Orthodox actually seem to be looking forward to unity under the Roman Catholic "Great Monarch" (the one the Bible seems to warn will be the final King of the North). Notice the following by an Orthodox scholar as well as by an old writing:

St. Methodius (4th century). "A day will come when the enemies of Christ will boast of having conquered the whole world {perhaps Moslems?}. They will say: 'Christians cannot escape now!' But a Great King will arise to fight the enemies of God. He will defeat them, and peace will be given to the world, and the Church will be freed from her anxieties." (Dupont, Yves. Catholic Prophecy: The Coming Chastisement. TAN Books, Rockford (IL), 1973, p.13)

Pseudo-Methodius (7th century): This new Muslim invasion will be a punishment without limit and mercy…In France, people of Christians will fight and kill them…At that same time the Muslims will be killed and they will know the tribulation…The Lord will give them to the powers of the Christians whose empire will be elevated above all empires…The Roman King (Great Monarch) will show a great indignation against those who will have denied Christ in Egypt or in Arabia (Araujo, Fabio R. Selected Prophecies and Prophets. BookSurge LLC, Charlestown (SC), 2007, pp. 101,103).

Dr. H. Tzima Otto (20th century): We have been told time and again through the prophets that the Great Monarch and the Papa Angelicum ( a legitimate successor of John Paul II) will convene the 8th ecumenical conference, which will reunify all Christians...Although the choice evidence on the Great Monarch belongs to the prophetic patrimony of the Greeks, never and nowhere in the Oracles have I seen the least hint that the Emperor of the Romans and Greeks will also be an Orthodox Christian, and/or Greek by birth. On the contrary!...a Roman Catholic...the Great Monarch...is none other than the future Emperor of the Romans and the Greeks (Tzima Otto H. The Great Monarch and WWIII in Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Scriptural Prophecies. The Verenika Press, Rock Hill (SC), 2000, pp. xxv,5,14).

Apocalypse of Daniel from Constantinople (800 A.D.): And the Lord will raise up a king of the Romans...And the rulers of the Romans will gather together in Byzantium. Then even the priests of the Romans and the bishops and the abbots who are found will bear weapons of war...And the King of the Romans will subdue every adversary (ibid, pp. 105,106)

Orthodox should reject the idea that they should follow a Roman Catholic leader, who with a Bishop of Rome, will intend to rule the world after they convene some type of conference. Some Greek Orthodox have apparently insisted that the "king" they are waiting for will be Greek and profess the Orthodox (ibid, pp. 34-35), not Roman Catholic faith. And while I do not believe that such a leader will arise, I do agree with those of the Orthodox community that they should not merge and accept more authority from the Bishop of Rome--this will be a major mistake for the Orthodox who ultimately make such a compromise.

Note the following claim about the Great Monarch:

Dr. Helen Tzima Otto (20th century): the Great Monarch...never and nowhere in the Oracles have I seen the least hint that the Emperor of the Romans and Greeks will also be an Orthodox Christian, and/or Greek by birth. Of course, all Roman Catholic sources which have references to him present him matter-of-factly as a Roman Catholic. On the other hand, nowhere in the Orthodox evidence will there be found the slightess hint of his being an Orthodox Christian...

THE GREAT MONARCH IN PROPHECY...Apoc. chap. 19...a vision of the Great Monarch, who riding a white horse, will eventually be saluted as Emperor (King of Kings and Lord of Lords)...Apoc. 19:12 specifies that this rider on a white hore has on his head many diadems...Verse 16 specifies that 'King of Kings and Lord of Lords' is imprinted on his tunic and on his thigh...The two-edged sword, issuing from his mouth, is the Word of God...coming back to Apoc. 19:11-16, we realize that the imagery refers more closely to the Great Monarch (ibid, pp. 5, 428,431-432.)

However, Jesus is the Word of God:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1,14).

And the Apocalypse clearly shows that it is Jesus who is the King of King and Lord of Lords:

14 These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful. (Revelation 17:14)

16 And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:16)

Perhaps it is Jesus holds that position:

"Jesus Christ. The King of kings and Lord of lords, revealed in Revelation 19"(Ames R. The Middle East in Prophecy, LCG booklet).

We in the genuine Church of God do not in any way believe that a coming ecumenical militaristic "Catholic" monarch is worthy of that title.

Those Orthodox that will accept a Roman "Great Monarch" and believe that he is the "King of King and Lord of Lords" will be taking a false and blasphemous position.

The Orthodox should remember that Roman Catholic scholars have long often written (until recently as it is no longer 'politically correct') that the various "sees" of the Orthodox never really had Apostolic succession (see article Apostolic Succession).

Furthermore, notice the following Catholic-approved writing, by a now deceased priest:

The Greek Church once brilliant with many saints produced no more saints after the schism...learned Greeks fled to western Europe bringing with them the culture of the decadent schismatic church and caused a partial return to paganism in the Renaissance period...The final result of the Greek Schism appears in Communism, which is a complete return to unbelief and barbarism (Kramer H.B. L. The Book of Destiny.  Nihil Obstat: J.S. Considine, O.P., Censor Deputatus.  Imprimatur: +Joseph M. Mueller, Bishop of Sioux City, Iowa, January 26, 1956.  Reprint TAN Books, Rockford (IL), p. 205).

Notice also what a Roman Catholic saint, "St. Bridget of Sweden" (died 1373) declared:

Let the Greeks know that their empire, their kingdoms, their dominions, shall never be secure or in settled peace, but will always be in subjection by their enemies, from whom they shall have to suffer most grievous hardships and constant distresses: until, with true humilityand good will, they shall have submitted themselves to the Church of Rome and to her faith, conforming themselves entirely to the holy rites and ordinances of that Church (Culleton, R. Gerald.  The Prophets and Our Times. Nihil Obstat: L. Arvin.  Imprimatur: Philip G. Scher, Bishop of Monterey-Fresno, November 15, 1941.  Reprint 1974, TAN Books, Rockford (IL), p. 154).

Notice what Pope Boniface VIII included in 1302 in what is known as the bull Unam Sanctum:

...if the Greeks or others say that they are not committed to Peter and his successors, they necessarily confess that they are not Christ’s sheep...(Bettenson H, ed., Documents of the Christian Church. London: Oxford University Press, 1943, pp. 126-127).

Perhaps I should mention that a Roman Catholic priest has warned that future unity will be at the cost of Catholics compromising with the Orthodox (and the Protestants) and that this will happen under the reign of an antipope (who may be the Anti-Christ, see Some Doctrines of Antichrist):

Priest Paul Kramer “The errors of Orthodoxy and of Protestantism will be embraced by that false church, it will be an ecumenical church because the Anti-Pope will be recognized by the world — not by the faithful, but by the world — by the secular world and the secular governments. The Anti-Pope will be recognized as the legitimate Pope of the "church," and the legitimate head of the Vatican State. That "church" will be united with all the false religions...In that motley ecumenical union will be the established religion of the so-called civilized world. This is how we will get into the time of great persecution such as the world has never seen. (Kramer P. The Imminent Chastisement for Not Fulfilling Our Lady’s Request. An edited transcript of a speech given at the Ambassadors of Jesus and Mary Seminar in Glendale, California, September 24, 2004.THE FATIMA CRUSADER Issue 80, Summer 2005, pp. 32-45 http://www.fatimacrusader.com/cr80/cr80pg32.asp viewed 4/15/08).

Three additional articles of related interest might include Orthodox Must Reject Unity with the Roman Catholics, Catholic Prophecies: Do They Mirror, Highlight, or Contradict Biblical Prophecies?, and Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Continuing Church of God?

The Orthodox, individually, will need to avoid being swept up in the ecumenical movement which is certain to come to pass.

The Russians, I should add, have been more cautious about unity with Rome than Constantinople has--for more information please see Appendix C below.

Some Orthodox Comments About This Article

Throughout the years, there have been some comments I have received from Eastern Orthodox supporters about this article. Basically, most are unaware of a lot of the information here, they tend to agree with the quotes I provide, but are normally unwilling to accept the conclusions.

Interestingly, a website called OrthodoxChristianity.net had the following comments (posted and viewed on July 3, 2012):

cogwriter.com - Needs serious consideration?

What in the world is this?

"Some Similarities and Differences Between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Living Church of God":
http://www.cogwriter.com/orthodox.htm

Good lord that's alot of information.

Quote

Orthodox Answers had the following in a Q&A (note, this is the complete response there):

    QUESTION:

    11/22/2008: If Irenaeus and other early Fathers believed in the Millennium on earth and taught this doctrine, why is this not taught by the Orthodox Church (since its position is amillenialism).

    ANSWER:

    It is true that St. Irenaeus and other early Christian Father believed and taught that the 1000 years of Revelation 20 would be fulfilled in an early kingdom. (http://www.orthodoxanswers.org/details.asp?ID=4 viewed 06/13/09)

Yet, this teaching changed amongst many Orthodox.

    CHILIASM: Chiliasm, from the Greek word meaning "1000," is a belief based on Revelation 20:2-7. In its classical form (which interprets the Revelation 20 verses verbatim), Chiliasm teaches that Satan will be bound by Christ for 1000 years, at which time Jesus and the Saints will reign on earth, and after which, Satan will be finally defeated and the Eternal Kingdom of God will be inaugurated. In modern times, Chiliasm has been "boiled down" to the teaching that the world will end after one thousand years (or a number of years that is a multiple of one thousand). Though some Ancient Church Fathers of the first three centuries AD had Chiliast leanings, the Orthodox Church formally denounced Chiliasm at the Second Ecumenical Council, in 381 (Orthodox Christian Beliefs and Practices. © 2006-2007 Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada. http://www.uocc.ca/en-ca/faith/beliefs/ 08/18/07).

In other words, Orthodox Church scholars know that early Christian leaders, which it calls, "Ancient Church Fathers" taught chiliasm (called millenarianism in Latin), yet it CHANGED that teaching AND CONDEMNED it in a church council.

(quote should fit in with the rules of the site)

Now that caught my attention.

"Almost none who profess Christianity hold to all of those beliefs..."
http://www.cogwriter.com/earlychristianity.htm

Here's an article on the Church of Ephesus:
http://www.cogwriter.com/ephesuschurch.htm

Really well sourced stuff...There's no way one man wrote all of this...

Good scholarship does not equal sound doctrine.

The reality is that I did personally put all this information together--and more. While two of the posters on that page also essentially called me names (which I have not quoted above) and disagreed with my conclusions, if Eastern Orthodox members are truly interested in the truth, then perhaps they will connect the dots and realize that this article is factually correct (exclusive of my typos and other flaws).

Good scholarship does help lead to sound doctrine--especially when it is biblically-based.

Conclusion

The fact that the Orthodox Church considers that it is the Church of the Seven Councils, while the COG believes it is represented by the Seven Churches of Revelation 2 & 3 is such a fundamental difference that it accounts for many of the differences between these two groups who claim to represent the True Church.

The Orthodox suggest that they are the true church because they both claim successions of bishops from several cities from the time of the apostles to present. They seem to not understand that the Book of Revelation shows that there would be a succession of churches in different locations. Furthermore, Jesus also prophesied this Himself in the Book of Matthew:

And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes (Matthew 10:22-23).

Jesus seems to be prophesying that it would not be possible that the headquarters of the true church could permanently remain in any one city for hundreds or nearly two thousand years. These statements from Jesus would suggest that only a church whose headquarters moved relatively often could possibly be the true church. And that is consistent with the messages in Revelation 2 & 3. Hence this would seem to rule out the main Orthodox churches as the true successor as they claim to have been in the same cities (Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople, and Jerusalem) for nearly two thousand years (plus the Orthodox actually have no proof of their claims for their earliest bishops--this and more information can be found in the article Apostolic Succession).

The Orthodox also claim to continue the teachings of the "early Church Fathers", but as this article has documented, often the Orthodox changed its positions away from those it recognizes as early saints and/or "Fathers" (specifically Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Polycarp, Melito, Serapion, and Theophilus--and others, such as Macedonius, Bishop of Constantinople). History records that leaders who held (or were claimed to hold) all of the "Orthodox Sees" at one time or the other were not Trinitarians. Cannot the Orthodox see that they have changed many basic doctines and are not as faithful as the Church of God on many doctrinal matters?

Now, it is amazing to this writer that many in the two groups agree so much on deification, potential problems with apparitions claiming to be Mary, and the ultimate fate of those that are neither saints nor incorrigibly wicked. This is amazing because the Catholic and Protestant worlds have long indicated that those particular beliefs held by those of us in the real COG were "unorthodox"--while we in the real COG claim that we are the only ones that are truly orthodox as we accepted no known actual heresy.

It seems apparent that those who decided that Rome/Alexandria should be looked at as the place of leadership, separated from those who placed more confidence in the teachings from the Bible that had been passed down from Christ to the apostles, through Polycarp and Melito, and those that remained faithful to those teachings (please see the article Location of the Early Church: Another Look at Ephesus, Smyrna, and Rome).

Sadly, those who choose to become Orthodox (as well as those who remain so today) simply do not practice the faith the same way as Polycarp, Melito, or Theophilus, three people that the Orthodox still consider to have been faithful saints. It was specifically the first of the Seven Ecumenical Councils that tossed aside the Quartodeciman teachings of Polycarp, Melito, and others. Perhaps it should also be noted that others considered to part of the apostolic succession for the Orthodox Church of Antioch, such as Serapion (spelled Seraphion by most Greeks) also held doctrinal positions that differ from those now held by the Eastern Orthodox churches.

Thus, one of the main differences between the real COG and the Orthodox Church is that the Orthodox changed their beliefs because of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, while those in the Church of God often had to flee for their lives because of the governmental interpretation of those Councils--Constantine specifically decreed death for those that did not accept parts of the First Council's outcome (see Latourette K.S. A History of Christianity, Volume 1, Beginnings to 1500. Harper Collins, San Francisco, 1975, p.157).

But the most important difference is that the CCOG has remained faithful to the Bible for its teachings. Jesus made it clear that His disciples would abide, not change, His word:

31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." (John 8:30-32)

Do you want to follow the truth? Do you want to affiliate with the church that has always abided in Christ's word without significant doctrinal changes?

And while the Church of God believes that early traditions can have some value, it simply does not believe that tradition from any source is proper authority to contradict the teachings of the Holy Book (that was also the position of Irenaeus, a saint and "early father" according to the Orthodox). But the Orthodox seem to believe that relying on the traditions and teachings of the early "fathers" insures that they have not changed apostolic Christianity. However, since the Orthodox Church does not agree with some of the traditions and teachings of its earliest "Fathers" nor the Bible itself, then it truly is not the church that did not change.

Thus, there an alternative to the Roman Catholic Church that actually teaches original Christianity and it is the Continuing Church of God.

If you consider yourself Orthodox, you may wish ask yourself if you should be relying on the Bible or changed tradition that is in conflict with it? Which would the true God most expect of His true followers?

"He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" (Revelation 3:22).

Thiel B. Ph.D. Some Similarities and Differences Between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Continuing Church of God. www.cogwriter.com/orthodox.htm (c) 2006/2007/2008/2009/2010/2011/2012/2013/2014 0910 edition

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Appendix A

Antioch vs. Asia Minor II

Syrian Orthodox Church:

"The Syriac Orthodox Church is one of the most ancient Christian Churches tracing its roots to the Church of Antioch. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts of the Apostles 11:26). Apostle Peter is believed to have established a church in Antioch in AD 37, the remnants of which are still in Antakya (the modern name of Antioch), Turkey. After the martyrdom of Apostle Peter, he was succeeded by St. Euodius and St. Ignatius Noorono as shepherds of the flock in Antioch and in the writings of St. Ignatius we find the evolution of the ecclesiastical order of bishops—ordained successors of the Apostles in whom continued the spiritual authorities vested by our Lord in the Apostles. The bishophric of Antioch was recognized in the ecumenical Synod of Nicea (AD 325) as one of the Patriarchates of Christendom (along with that of Alexandria and Rome). It produced a line of succession beginning with Apostle Peter which continues to this day in the Syriac Orthodox Church...The Church of Antioch played a significant role in the early history of Christianity. It played a prominent role in the first three Synods held at Nicea (325) , Constantinople (381), and Ephesus (431), shaping the formulation and early interpretation of Christian doctrines. In AD 451, the Council of Chalcedon and its Christological position resulted in a schism that divided the faithful under the Apostolic See of Antioch into two—one today known as the `idto suryoyto treeysath shubho (Syrian or Syriac Orthodox Church) and the other the Eastern Orthodox (or Rum Orthodox) Church of Antioch. The latter had the support of the Byzantinian Emperor Justinian who convened the Council of Chalcedon. The years that followed resulted in a struggle over the Apostolic See, with bishops of both persuasions assuming the position of Patriarch of Antioch. In 518, Patriarch St. Severus was exiled from Antioch. The seat of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch moved to different monasteries including Qartmin, Qenneshrin (Chalkis, near Aleppo), Malatya, and Amid (Diyarbakir), and finally settled in 1293 in Dayro d-Mor Hananyo (also known as Kurkmo Dayro in Syriac and Deir Zafaran in Arabic) in Mardin. It remained at this monastery until 1933 when the political circumstances forced its migration to Homs, Syria, and later to Damascus in 1959...Another center of the Syriac Orthodox emerged in former Persian territory, that of the so-called Easterners (Syr. Madnehoyo)...The last of the Maphryonos passed away in 1848 and the position became defunct" (History of the Church. St. John the Baptist Syriac Orthodox Church, Vila Parl, Il, http://www.syrianorthodoxchurch.org/chicago/our_history.asp 1/07/06).

It should be noted that the Eastern Orthodox Church seems to basically recognize the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and not the Syriac one. It should be noted that both groups claim close to the same patriarch list up to 512 A.D. (see article titled Timelines). It perhaps should also be noted that the "great schism" between the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics occurred in 1054 A.D.

Greek Orthodox Patriarche of Antioch:

The Antiochian Orthodox Church is one of the five churches that comprised the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church before the Great Schism, and today is one of the autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Churches. It claims to be the sole legitimate successor to the Christian community founded in Antioch by the Apostle St. Peter. Its North American branch is self-ruled, although the Holy Synod of Antioch still exercises authority over it. The seat of the patriarchate was formerly Antioch, in what is now Turkey, but is now Damascus, Syria, on the "Street called Straight." The claim is disputed by the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch, part of Oriental Orthodoxy; the schism between the two occurred over the christology of the Council of Chalcedon. The Syrian Catholic Church, in communion with the Roman Catholic Church, also claims to hold the patriarchate. The patriarchate is represented in North America by the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America (Antiochian Orthodox Church. http://www.answers.com/main/ntquery;jsessionid=1ln3sd6sbwg7r?method=4&dsid=2222&dekey=Antiochian+Orthodox+Church&gwp=8&curtab=2222_1&sbid=lc01b&linktext=Orthodox%20Church%20of%20Antioch 1/7/06 ).

One major difference with the COG here is that while the COG traces much of its early history from Peter & Paul to John to Polycarp through Polycrates, the Greek and Syrian Orthodox Churches of Antioch essentially claim Paul and Peter, then Ignatius, then sometime after Serapion, leaders that were Roman Catholic in their orientation. I believe that the leader of Antioch after Serapion, Asclepiades, was NOT a faithful leader or in the true Church (please see the article on The Smyrna Church Era).

It should be noted that leaders in Antioch, such as Ignatius, Theophilus, and Serapion actually held many Church of God views that the Orthodox no longer hold.

A listing of the early leaders of the Syriac Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, and the Church of God can also be found in the article titled Timelines.

Appendix B

BELIEFS OF THE EARLY CHURCH

While scholars have a variety of opinions, this appendix itself will simply mention some of the following beliefs held by true Christians in the second century, with highly documented articles primarily based on the Bible and early historical writings:

Baptism was by immersion and did not include infants.
The complete Bible with the proper Old Testament and New Testament was relied on by the true Church in Asia Minor.
A Binitarian view was obviously held by the apostolic and post-apostolic true Christian leaders.
Birthdays were not celebrated by early Christians.
Celibacy for Bishops/Presbyters/Elders was not a requirement.
Christmas was not observed by any professing Christ prior to the third century, or ever by those holding to early teachings.
Duties of Elders/Pastors were pastoral and theological, not predominantly sacramental.
Easter was not observed by the apostolic church.
The Fall Holy Days were observed by true early Christians.
The Holy Spirit was not referred to as a separate God or as a person by any early true Christians.
Hymns were mainly psalms, not praises to Christ.
Idols were taught against, including the use of the cross.
Immortality of the soul or humans was not taught.
Jesus was considered to be God by the true Christians.
The Kingdom of God was preached.
Lent was not observed by early Christians.
Military Service was not allowed for true early Christians.
Millenarianism (a literal thousand year reign of Christ on Earth) was taught by the early Christians.
Monasticism was unheard of in the early Christian church.
Passover was kept on the 14th of Nisan by apostolic and second Century Christians in Asia Minor.
Pentecost was kept on the same day that the Jews observed it by all professing Christians.
The Resurrection of the dead was taught by all early Christians
The Sabbath was observed on Saturday by the apostolic and post-apostolic Church.
A Six Thousand Year Plan for humankind followed by a 1000 year millenium was believed by the apostolic and true post-apostolic Christians, as well as others.
Sunday was not observed by the apostolic and true post-apostolic Christians.
Tradition had some impact on the second century Christians but was never supposed to supercede the Bible.
The Trinity was not a word used to describe the Godhead by the apostolic or second century Christians.

Almost none who profess Christianity hold to all of those beliefs.

It is the Philadelphia remnant of the Church of God, represented by the Continuing Church of God (which happens to also be a "little flock" as well as "remnant") that agrees with all the positions above, that were part of "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).

Appendix C

RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH

The Russian Orthodox, even though they seem to have the most members, is not considered to be one of the main leaders of the Orthodox as the Orthodox church there is of a much later origin and no one seems to claim that it was founded by one of the apostles or their immediate successors. While it has many of the same beliefs as the other Orthodox churches, it does not always act as they do and teach everything the same as the others do.

Interestingly, as late as the sixteenth century, the Russian Orthodox Church tolerated sabbath observance (please see the news article Russia and the Sabbath, which also has a link to other information on the Russian Orthodox Church). It is also interesting that the Russian Orthodox, while earlier indicating a desire for more closeness with Rome, may be distancing itself as the following three articles show:

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Vatican, which has been accused of aggressively seeking souls in Russia and some other countries, said Friday it has every right to spread its message and accept converts but that non-Catholics must never be forced to embrace the faith...

With the fall of Communism and subsequent end to bars on religious practice across Eastern Europe, the Russian Orthodox Church has accused Catholics of improperly seeking converts in traditionally Orthodox areas — a claim the Vatican has always rejected (Vatican Defends Right to Spread Message. Associated Press - Dec 14, 2007).

MOSCOW, Russia – It is better for Orthodox believers not to pray with those of other denominations, Rev Vsevolod Chaplin, deputy chief of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, told the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta in its ‘Religion’ supplement.

Stressing that this was “his own private opinion,” Fr Vsevolod said that “visiting Protestant and Catholic churches, taking part in religious functions by other confessions or praying before relics considered holy by all Christians are acceptable. But it is better for Orthodox to avoid praying in public or private with the faithful of other confessions.”

He noted that he personally has never prayed with representatives of other denominations; Russian Orthodox delegates to the World Council of Churches (WCC) also have never prayed with others.

For the archpriest when it comes to inter-confessional dialogue “nowadays no one speaks seriously about reunification being near. Almost all of Russia is against such prayers” (Moscow Patriarchate says no to ecumenical prayers. AsiaNews - March 5, 2008).

(Also, please see the 11/16/07 news item Orthodox Closer to Accepting Papal Authority).

Furthermore, as reported earlier above, millennial beliefs seem more prevalent within the Russian Orthodox community than in other Orthodox communities.

Here are some statements of interest by then Metropolitan Kyrill (more commonly now spelled Kirill) who was foreign minister of the Russian Orthodox Church:

Less than 20 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, the number of churches has quadrupled, we now have twice as many dioceses, and the number of monasteries has grown by a factor of 32 -- to 700 -- today. Fifteen thousand young people are studying theology. On the other hand, even though 80 percent of newborns are baptized in Russia, only 60 percent of Russians call themselves Orthodox Christians, and less than 10 percent attend church regularly -- even fewer in some provinces...

We, as the Orthodox Church, are opposed to all attempts to establish a unipolar world. It would constitute the introduction of a forced entity that would level the differences among religions, cultures and civilizations (The Bible Calls it a Sin'. Spiegel. Interview was conducted by Martin Doerry, Christian Neef and Matthias Schepp in Moscow. January 10, 2008. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/0,1518,527618,00.html).

I hope and pray that the Russian Orthodox will still oppose "a unipolar world" when the European Beast power arises. An article of possibly related interest may include Russia: Its Origins and Prophesied Future.

Notice that the Russian Orthodox have had severe concerns about even having the Pope visit:

The Limits Of The Vatican-Minsk Friendship

Radio Free Europe - June 25, 2008

Last week, the Vatican's secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, paid a five-day visit to Belarus. The visit was remarkable for at least two reasons. First, occasions on which high-ranking state officials travel to Minsk have become extremely rare. In fact, President Alyaksandr Lukashenka has failed to host a single senior European official, or pay a formal visit to any country west of Belarus, since November 1996...

the Russian Orthodox Church. Its head, Patriarch Aleksy II, regularly accuses the Roman Catholic Church of poaching Orthodox believers in Russia and other post-Soviet countries. Russia has never encouraged a papal visit to its territory; even if Benedict were to travel only to Minsk, it might be too close for the taste of the Moscow Patriarchate. (Moscow was clearly displeased by Pope John Paul's visit to Ukraine in 2001.)

The Belarusian Exarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church appears acutely aware of Moscow's point of view. "There is no possibility for the pope to visit Belarus, and never will be," Father Alyaksey Shynkevich from the Belarusian Exarchate told journalists during Bertone's visit. "This is the common position of the Russian Orthodox Church. This is not the prerogative of our metropolitan. This is the prerogative of the Holy Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Aleksy and the synod of the Russian Orthodox Church."

So while a papal visit to Belarus seems unlikely, Lukashenka risks nothing in extending such an invitation. If the pontiff fails to accept, the Belarusian leader can always turn to the sour relations between the Vatican and Moscow for a ready explanation.     http://www.rferl.org/featuresarticle/2008/06/667cce95-464e-47e8-8ffc-d29b69645b04.html

Also notice the following statements:

Likely Moscow patriarch stresses differences with Catholic belief

Moscow, Jan 23, 2009 / 07:03 am (CNA).- An Orthodox prelate considered to be the most likely successor of Patriarch of Moscow Alexy II has said that while Orthodox Christianity shares similarities with Catholicism, there are a “great number of differences” on which “there is no room for compromise.”

Metropolitan Kirill, Patriarchal Locum Tenens of Moscow, made the remarks in an interview recently published by Argumenty i Fakty (Arguments and Facts), SIR reports.

Discussing relations with other Christian confessions, Metropolitan Kirill said: “unfortunately, differences in religious doctrines and practices have increased between orthodoxy and other confessions.”

“With some Protestant communities, such as the Lutheran Church of Sweden and the Episcopal Church of the United States, we have come to a complete break, due to the official recognition of homosexual relations,” he continued.

While noting that the social positions of Orthodox Christianity and the Catholic Church are “more close,” the metropolitan said, “nevertheless, we have be accountable for a great number of differences in doctrine and practice between the Orthodox and the Catholic Churches and, in this regard, there is no room for compromise.” http://catholicnewsagency.com/new.php?n=14865

So, at least back then, it appeared that many of the Russian Orthodox did not want unity with the Vatican.

On January 27, 2009, I posted that I believed that the Russian Orthodox would be a bit distant, but ultimately to a degree at least, cooperate with the Church of Rome (see New Russian Orthodox Patriarch). Interestingly, the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill has sometimes sounded “ecumenical” and cooperative since the Fall of 2009. Metropolitan Kirill was once so opposed to unity with the Vatican, that a few days prior to his election to his current position in January 2009, he publicly stated “there is no room for compromise” with the Vatican (see Russian Orthodox Leader Urges No Compromise With Catholics). However, by mid-November 2009, he apparently changed his mind (Cooper R. Russian Orthodox and Catholic church may end 950-year rift. Telegraph, November 13, 2009).

Sadly, since taking office, Patriarch Kirill and his followers have sometimes taken steps to get into closer unity with Rome and others. Plus he has been fairly involved in Russian politics and was a factor in Vladimir Putin's "re-election" to the Russian presidency in 2012:

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has taken a day off from "commitments of government," according to his spokesman. And religious leaders have formally endorsed the candidacy.

Hosted by the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill – who described the Putin era a "miracle" - the event has brought to the monastery of St. Daniel in Moscow, representatives of both the so-called 'traditional religions' (Orthodox, Buddhist, Muslim and Jews) and non (Catholics, Armenians and other Christian denominations). Kirill "blessed" the political ambitions of the Prime Minister, calling him the "candidate who certainly has the best chance to turn his candidacy into a real office."

The patriarch, who supported the demands for change expressed by the protesters who took to the streets against electoral fraud in December, urging the authorities to listen to the people - then thanked Putin for the "crucial role" played in moving the country out of crisis of the 1990s. Kirill then defined the last 12 years a "miracle" for the Church in Russia. Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was president from 2000 to 2008, when he was appointed prime minister by the current head of the Kremlin, Dmitri Medvedev. (Achmatova A. Kirill and religious leaders "bless" Putin’s candidacy. February 13, 2012. http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Kirill-and-religious-leaders-bless-Putin%25E2%2580%2599s-candidacy-23956.html viewed 05/06/12)

Some are displeased with the support of Putin by the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church:

Critics of Russian Orthodox Church say it’s sold its soul to Putin

May 13, 2012…Kirill himself is a focus of the growing opposition to the church.

The patriarch’s reputation has been tarnished by a pair of scandals involving a $38,832 Breguet watch he was seen wearing and a court case in which he sought $630,000 from a cancer-stricken neighbor — despite his monastic vows not to have any worldly possessions while serving the church.

And just as Putin is supported by gangs of youth thugs who intimidate his opponents, the church enjoys the backing of its own roaming enforcers of orthodoxy — tacitly approved of by church leaders…

Political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky said the church has turned into the Kremlin’s “Salvation Ministry,” obediently approving Kremlin policies and slamming Western democracy as concepts alien to Russian traditions — all the while enjoying hefty government donations and tax immunity.

“The church inherited its full loyalty to the existing government from Soviet times,” Belkovsky said.  http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2018204136_russiachurch14.html

Despite the political nature of the Russian Orthodox Patriarch, whatever arrangements he may temporarily make with the Vatican in the future will not last per Daniel 11:44 and other scriptures--for more details, please see Russia: Its Origins and Prophesied Future. But temporary cooperation with Rome seems prophesied (cf. Revelation 13 and 17).

And it seems that the Russian Orthodox want to be involved with changing the spiritual direction of Europe and probably Rome. A top cleric of the Russian Orthodox Church, Vsevolod Chaplin (who has been and still may be its official spokesman), made the news for some bold comments:

West has betrayed Christianity, Russia will save it – Orthodox Church official

14 May 2012

Our Orthodox civilization may not be that large, but today it has a key role in the world as it knows how to find a way to a better life for the whole world and especially Europe,”Chaplin said on Monday during a videoconference between Moscow, Kiev and Minsk. The West has betrayed the ideals of Christianity, which Emperors Constantine and Justinian merged with Roman law, Chaplin says. In his opinion, the Europe, which was based on these principles, no longer exists.

Bearing this in mind, the Eastern Christian civilization should not follow in the steps of either the “weak-willed West” or the “intellectually weak East, ” he says.  http://rt.com/politics/christianity-russia-orthodox-church-205/

Although Vsevolod Chaplin has some points about not following “the weak-willed West” or the “intellectually weak East,” the Russian Orthodox has its own issues and is not promoting biblically-based Christianity.  It should also be noted that Emperors Constantine and Justinian were murderous and compromising leaders and did not hold to the values that Jesus established for His Church (see also Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare?).  Emperor Constantine himself was a follower of the sun-god Mithras and attempted to blend that religion in with the Greco-Roman one (see also Do You Practice Mithraism?).  The Catholic scholar Aiken noted that “Mithraism was first and foremost a military cult” (Aiken C.F., Mithraism, p. 255).

But this type of talk suggests that the Russian Orthodox Church expects to be involved with Europe--which, in turn, suggests some type of deal with the Vatican. This will prove to be a mistake. All who are Russian Orthodox Must Reject Unity with the Roman Catholics for their own sakes.

Perhaps it should be mentioned because of the tensions between Russia and Ukraine, there are religious pressures as well. Notice the following:

September 8, 2014

Putin 'possessed by Satan,' says head of Ukrainian Orthodox Church

Peter Kenny and Henri Rose Cimatu

The head of Ukraine's Orthodox Church has accused President Vladimir Putin of being possessed by Satan while the Dalai Lama in a less strident critique accused the Russian leader of being "self-centered."

Patriarch Filaret, who heads the Ukraine Orthodox Church, compared Putin to Cain in the Bible, the son of Adam and Eve who killed his brother, while not naming the Russian president by name.

"With great regret I have to say now publicly that among the rulers of this world upon the fact of baptism, belonging to the Orthodox Church, appeared a real new Cain - not by name, but by deeds," he said.

"These matters indicate that the above mentioned governor as the first in the history fratricide Cain, came under the action of Satan."

The statement was published on the church's website in Russian, Ukrainian and English.

"He calls himself a brother to the Ukrainian people, but in fact according to his deeds, he really became the new Cain, shedding the brotherly blood and entangling the whole world with lies," said the patriarch. http://www.ecumenicalnews.com/article/putin-possessed-by-satan-says-head-of-ukrainian-orthodox-church-26343

Statement of the Patriarch of Kyiv and All Rus-Ukraine Filaret

And Cain said to Abel his brother: [let’s go to the field]. And when they were in the field, Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? He said: I do not know; Am I my brother's keeper?

Genesis 4: 8-9

Dear brothers and sisters, all people of good will!

With great regret I have to say now publicly that among the rulers of this world upon the fact of baptism, belonging to the Orthodox Church, appeared a real new Cain - not by name, but by deeds.

These matters indicate that the abovementioned governor as the first in the history fratricide Cain, came under the action of Satan.

From the Holy Scriptures, we know that two great sins, murder and lie are in close unity with each other, as the ruler and the inspiratior of both is the devil. Therefore, anyone who indulges in these sins, according to the Savior, has the devil as his father, "your father is the devil; and you want to fulfill the lusts of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies "(John 8:44).

"From everyone to whom much is given, much will be required, and who has been entrusted with more will be asked" - says the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 12:48). A lot of power was given into the hands of the abovementioned ruler, but both the world and we are witnessing the fact that he drew this power not on good deeds, but on evil.

It was at his behest that the media in his country day and night in many languages ??spread cynical lie about Ukraine, sow enmity against the Ukrainian people, and against our desire to be independent and build our own sovereign state, they provoke bloodshed and murder in the Donbass.

He says outright and blatant lies: organizing and sending killers mercenaries to our country, speaks of "internal conflict", to which he allegedly is not involved; sending to Ukraine his troops, he publicly states that these forces are not present there. At the time when in Ukraine the perished soldiers, defenders of the Fatherland are buried as heroes, the soldiers of his country, who died in the Donbas, are buried secretly, carefully concealing the truth about the circumstances of their death.

This ruler is cynically lying, saying that his country is not a party to the conflict in Ukraine - although he did everything in order to foment the conflict and maintain it.

Numerous victims are the consequence of his actions. In recent months, soldiers are killed every day and volunteers, who protect Ukraine from the aggressor, which loves to call himself our brother. The fighting affects millions of civilians and tens of thousands are forced to flee from war, hundreds were killed. Cities and villages of the Donbass turn into ruins.

Seeing this, and as the Patriarch, being responsible before God for the Orthodox Ukrainian people, I affirm that the greatest blame for all this lies on the abovementioned governor. In his will and power is to immediately stop the bloodshed and death, but it is for the sake of his pride he continues to multiply evil. He calls himself a brother to the Ukrainian people, but in fact according to his deeds, he really became the new Cain, shedding the brotherly blood and entangling the whole world with lies.

His lie is misleading some people, and they think that in fact this ruler protects traditional spiritual and moral values ??from the ravages of globalization. http://cerkva.info/en/messages/5417-new-kain.html

So, while the Russian Orthodox (and the Vatican, see Vatican credits Russia’s Putin for ‘defending Christianity’ and confirms a meeting and Moscow Patriarchate pleased Putin to meet Vatican, while Vatican works many sides for its ecumenical plans and Russia’s Putin and Pope Francis both kiss Marian icon) seem to believe that Vladimir Putin is a positive religious leader, the Ukrainian Orthodox leader suggests he is more like Cain or the devil. Politics has long affected the Orthodox churches.

The following is a listing of Orthodox Churches as reported by the Russian Orthodox Church:

The Orthodox Church

Autocephalous and Autonomous Churches (* Of the five original Apostolic Sees with Rome)
The Church of Constantinople *
The Church of Alexandria *
The Church of Antioch *
The Church of Jerusalem *
The Church of Russia
The Church of Ukraine
The Church of Serbia
The Church of Romania
The Russian Orthodox Church in America
The Church of Sinai
The Church of Bulgaria
The Church of Georgia
The Church of Cyprus
The Church of Greece
The Church of Poland
The Church of Albania
The Church of the Czech and Slovak Republics
The Church of Japan
The Church of Finland

Churches of Ill-defined Status
Orthodox Church in America

(Source: http://russianorthodox.org/OrthodoxChurches.html#pje 01/20/06)

It may be of interest to note that although all the above churches consider that Polycarp and Melito were faithful saints, that none of them include them in any of their successor lists as far as I have been able to determine.

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