Thursday, October 3, 2013

Differences between East and West

Eastern and Western Christianity are different in many respects, including church buildings, services, worship. The explanation for this is the fact that they perceive Christianity from a different angle. These divergences can be explained below:
“1. In the West body and spirit are clearly distinguished, and there is a tendency to set them in opposition to each other; in the Christian East they are treated as interdependent parts of the same creation.
2. In the West the individual occupies the centre of attention; in the East he is always seen as a member of a community.

3. In the West mankind is the main object of redemption; in the East the whole cosmos is brought within its scope.
4. In the West Jesus Christ as the incarnate Saviour is the appointed channel of approach to God; in the East the emphasis is laid upon the Holy Trinity as the revelation of God’s true nature.
5. Finally, the West likes clear, precise formulae; it is logical and analytic, and has a strong tendency to distinguish between essential and non-essential elements in religion. The East treats religion more as a life than a doctrine; it mistrusts over-elaborate definitions, and is not interested in discriminating between more and less essential elements of Christianity. It believes that the Church and its sacraments are divine mysteries, intelligible and morally stimulating to those who partake of them; but that they will always evade analysis by logical reasoning, since this function cannot penetrate into the depths of the relations between God and man”[1].   

[1] Zernov, Nicolas, The Church of the Eastern Christians, (London, SPCK, 1946), p. 39-40


  1. I have to disagree with the first three examples completely and partially with the fourth.

    1. Though there has been a resurgence of the old heresies by those who tend to be less informed, Gnosticism is not practiced in the west.

    2. There is certainly those who place themselves in the centre but this holds true in both the East and the West. In the West, it is Christ who ought to be the centre of our lives.

    3. Doctrinally, the West believes likewise that the whole of creation is redeemed through Christ. Again, there are many who don't understand this.

    4. Yes we do view Jesus, the son of God, as the incarnate savior is the means at which we may approach God the Father. It is by his Holy Incarnation, death, Resurrection, and Ascension that we are able to come to Him directly rather than through the High Priest at the Temple. We do focus our worship and partitions to the Holy Trinity.

    1. Steven, I wonder at your sources. Do you see taught, believed, lived-out, do you live out, that Heaven is a far-removed realm of the Holy, and Earth is accursed? When a Christian dies, is he or she "up there," as in, "Heaven's gain, our loss," or do we recognise them as being, in Christ, closer to us than breathing? Do you see and experience worship as a participation in the same which occupies the saints and angels, which God showed to Moses and St. John?

      Personally, I think the very word, "Gnosticism" is a mistake. There were any number of sects in the early centuries of the Christian Era, with all kinds of beliefs. Certain Modern scholars decided to lump them all together under a word which, as it was used at the time, merely meant an informed person. When we deal with these sects, then, we need to address them according to which one we have in mind. Is it Mithra-ism, which initiated its followers by placing them in the blood pit under a bull being slaughtered, or Manichee-ism, which taught that only a few would be "saved," as eternally elected from all ages by a distant, divine, potentate, and all others would either be their servants or be destroyed with this whole corrupt world - again, as divinely and sovereignly decreed? The first we don't hear much about - bulls are, after all, fairly expensive. The second, however, was introduced into Western Christianity by 5th-c. bishop Augustine of Hippo, who had spend 15 of the 20 years before rising to that office as a 2nd-tier follower of that sect.

    2. I don't have a lot of time to respond right now. I used Gnosticism as the specific heresy mentioned in the first point by the author. That is that Spirit is the pure state and the flesh or corporal is accursed. Remember that the west was also involved in these Ecumenical Councils.

      My sources would be the early Church Doctors such as Saints Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, John Chrysostom, Basil the Great,The Roman Catechism. I also take from later theologians such as Karl Barth, G. K. Chesterton, N. T. Wright, and Alexander Schmemann.

      I believe that Heaven co exist with the universe and upon our death our souls begin the journey towards the ultimate goal of the resurrection of the body in the last days and in the world to come.

  2. It would probably be more appropriate to exercise the differences between Protestant and Catholic thought, than between East and West. Orthopraxy is the same in the world, no matter where it is practiced.

    I have to disagree with Steven. Gnosticism is definitely practiced in the west, not only as a religion, but in freemasonry, every day.

    I would have to disagree also with article three as it appears that you are comparing apples to apples. Jesus himself came and said that he was leading us to the Father, and that no one comes to the Father but through Me. I'm not sure how that can be misinterpreted. We, as Orthodox priests share in his ministry, his priesthood, not in the ministry of the Holy Trinity.

    Number five again, needs to be between protestant and catholic. That is a protestant viewpoint. We in the Western Orthodox Church realize they are divine mysteries and look at them exactly the same as our eastern counterpoints.

    1. You are correct. I should have differentiated between catholic and protestant. I am referring to catholic theology and orthodoxy. I am not familiar with what the Freemasons believe and practice so I can't speak for them.

  3. Steven, I wonder where you have been reading, to reach such conclusions. For #1, do you not see Western thought making a divide between Heaven and Earth as separate and, effectively, quite distant realms? Is there an awareness of the "departed" saints as being, in Christ, "closer than breathing," as He Himself is, and that, when celebrating the Divine Liturgy, we are literally both in Heaven and on Earth as we participate in that same worship which is occurring before the Lord, which both Moses and St. John witnessed?

    1. Again, I can't speak for most protestants or other sects such us Freemasonry, Mormon, etc... We do believe that heaven is a different place from the created universe but not necessarily distant. It intersects with our universe frequently. At the celebration of the mass we step out of space and time and are join with Christians of all time and places with Christ and the twelve in the room upstairs where Christ initiated the Eucharist.