Can Eastern Orthodox prove they’re the One True Church?

Eastern Orthodox adherents are very passionate about their faith. While that is all fine and good, there are a number of problems with that faith and their practices, and I have found the answers to these problems evasive, confusing, or non-existent. Since this church also claims to be the “One True Church,” it is disappointing to find its scholarship rather weak and misguided.

While there are a number of errors and practices of Orthodoxy that need to be addressed, I believe that foundational truths, those things on which the whole of this church should stand or fall, should be challenged first.

The first and ultimate question I have for Orthodox believers is, can they prove that Eastern Orthodoxy is the “One True Church” and that all others are outside the faith and apostate? While there a number of arguments that Orthodox believers postulate, none of these arguments, under scrutiny, hold water.

First, they state that they are the one true church because they hold the line of Apostolic succession. That is, since the “True Church” will consist of an unbroken line of Apostles from Peter and Paul until today, they claim that they are the True Church because their bishops are part of that unbroken line.

The first problem with this belief is that more than a dozen churches, Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant, also claim this line as proof that they are the one true church. In each of these churches they have a public listing of their unbroken line of bishops. Why then is the Orthodox right and them wrong?

The Orthodox claims the rightful line of Apostolic succession because they have not apostatized. And because the other churches have apostatized, they are not the True Church.

But how do we know that those other churches have apostatized and not the Orthodox Church? Because the Eastern Orthodox are the True Church, of course. They are the ones who have been given the Truth, and when others disagree with them, those other churches are wrong. And for the Orthodox, the Bible is not the final authority, the Church is. Therefore, what they say is the truth, is the truth. There is no higher authority or objective standard to which they appeal. Thus, when the church says that they are the True Church, it’s true, because they are the Final Authority, and they are the Final Authority because they are the True Church. This is a rather obvious tautological statement, and completely meaningless.

Can we appeal to the Bible? No. Not at all. As any non-Orthodox believer soon finds out, the Bible can only be rightly interpreted by the Eastern Orthodox believer, because they are in the Truth, and no one else is. Thus, any passage of scripture that we appeal to is rejected as a wrong interpretation. According to Orthodoxy, Scripture is not only interpreted and defined by them, they wrote it.

Can we then appeal to truth or logic? Again, no. For the Orthodox, truth can also only be interpreted by them. “Truth, to the Orthodox,” according to one official Eastern Orthodox web site, “is not a proposition or conclusion; Truth is a Person, a living experience accessible in the communion of the Church and expressed in the Scriptures, the councils, and the theology of the saints. Even the Ecumenical Councils needed to be received as normative by the body of the Church. Ultimately, there are signs that point to truth, but none of these signs is a substitute for a free and personal experience of truth, which is encountered in the sacramental community of the Church.” (emphasis mine). Again, truth is defined within the confines of the Orthodox Church.

However, we have to understand that the Orthodox know this “free and personal experience” of truth is true because “Truth is a Person,” namely the Holy Spirit. While we can agree that the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth (Jn. 16:13), the Orthodox believe that He works only in their lives, and gives them the truth by experience. Or as the Mormons would call it, a “burning in the bosom.” So if their experience were to tell the Church that God is dead, and the church all agreed, then God would then be dead, for the Holy Spirit has given them the truth.

To conclude, the Orthodox lay claim to the Holy Spirit, truth, the interpretation of the Scriptures, the final authority, and Apostolic succession, because they are the True Church. And they are the True Church because they lay claim to all these things. None of these are proofs, and many other churches also claim these same proofs as their own.

But the real confusion is how and why do intellectual and discerning Christians, even staunch Calvinists, leave the Protestant faith to follow Orthodoxy? While I am quite sure of my assessment of Eastern Orthodoxy, I honestly wonder if I am missing something. Why would any Christian follow Orthodoxy given their beliefs?

Thus I ask if anyone can give an answer. What makes the Eastern Orthodox Church the True Church? Where is the proof? What makes Orthodox claims true – which are the same baseless claims as many other churches – and those other church claims false?

There is one request I have for anyone who answers. Your answer cannot be that Orthodoxy is true because Protestants are false. Proving one person wrong does not prove you right. We can both be wrong, but we cannot both be right. The question is not whether or not Protestants, Catholics, Anglicans, or Mormons are false, the question is how is Orthodoxy right? And more specifically, prove that Orthodoxy is the True Church when many others make the same claim.

Dante Tremayne

Atheists Don’t Exist

I do not believe in the existence of atheists. No, this is not a play on words or a trick statement. Atheists don’t exist. By “atheist” I am referring to the ideal person who does not believe in the existence of God, not the person who labels themselves as an atheist. Clear as mud? All people who label themselves as “atheist” are not, by definition, atheists, because they all believe in the existence of God.

I know they believe in the existence of God by their irrational behavior. I am not referring to the inconsistency of their lives with their claims. For instance, the nonbeliever (I believe I will refer to our “atheist” friends by that term for the duration of this article) necessarily holds the belief that we are the result of time plus matter plus chance, merely evolving accidents, the product of random collisions of matter. Yet they wish to believe that these accidental collisions produce truth, fact, and a coherent understanding of the universe. They are an accident producing accidents. As C.S. Lewis said, “It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.” I am not referring to that irrational behavior, though I did enjoy pointing that out.

The irrational behavior I am referring to is the nonbeliever’s inability to admit when they have been defeated. Many nonbelievers are well educated people. They have done well to keep Theists on the hot seat. But when a well educated man — especially one schooled in logic — has his entire belief system completely dismantled and displayed as inconsistent and false, everybody else knows that this smart person knows he has been defeated. But he refuses to concede. He will not admit defeat. Instead, he retreats to his study to continue his search for one — just one — argument or proof that God does not exist. And he will repeat this over and over.

This irrational behavior is indicative of the real issue, and that is, that God exists, they know it, and they don’t like Him. If they admit He exists, then they have to bow the knee. Their rules no longer apply, God’s law does. That law of God that is written on the heart of every man is eating them alive, and they want very badly to make Him go away so that hopefully the guilt will go away as well. And so despite the evidences to prove the existence of God and the inconsistency of their own worldview, they continue to irrationally hold on to these beliefs.

To further my point, compare the debate over the existence of God to the debate over the existence of unicorns. I could just stop there, right? What debate? And who cares? What bearing does that have on my life? If an intelligent person were clearly shown that belief or non belief in unicorns were unfounded and false, and unicorns did or did not exist, then for them to continue to hold that belief would be an insult to their intelligence. If God were just some unicorn theory that had no real affect on a person’s life, as some nonbelievers claim, then why don’t they treat it as such? Why don’t they just shrug and go on?

Here is how this works, and how I know I’m right. When the believer is discussing the existence of God with a nonbeliever, ask them why they don’t like God. Every one of them will present a list. That list will ultimately consist of areas of God’s law and His character that interfere with the self-law of the nonbeliever. They don’t want a God to tell them what to do and not to do: don’t fornicate, don’t steal, love your neighbor, go to church. They will also likely present a number of misunderstandings about God and the Church. They don’t understand grace. God to them is one big meanie and that if they don’t follow all of His rules perfectly, all the time, God will have no mercy and fry them like Uzza. And most of the time, the list usually begins and ends with Christians being such big jerks, which is, unfortunately, one thing the nonbeliever got right. They don’t want to believe in God because they don’t want to end up like us.

Whatever the list of reasons, they are the subjective beliefs of the nonbeliever. Proofs for the existence of God don’t address a person’s subjective arguments, which is why most apologists don’t ever address them. For some reason it is beneath the apologist to talk to a nonbeliever like he is a human being and not a broken math equation. By all means, use truth, logic, evidences, and arguments. After all, we have truth on our side. But after you have handed their worldview back to them in a broken heap, and they break into irrational behavior, find out what their real problem is with God.

There are no atheists. If you were to find one real atheist, as G.K. Chesterton says, you will have found a madman.

Dante Tremayne