Recently I was asked, “why do you refer to the Eastern Orthodox Church as a denomination and former State Church?”
When I refer to the Eastern Orthodox denomination as such I honestly mean no disrespect. I am trying to deal honestly with history as I have come to understand it and help others to understand the development of the denomination over time. One simply has to look at the Russian or Greek Orthodox Churches to find evidence of this. Both Eastern Orthodox Church bodies were tied to the secular State and influenced by the State.
Unfortunately, faith in a Church hierarchy can create blinders to the truth and many Orthodox Christians fail to see what seems obvious to others. In Philip Jenkins book on the First World War titled The Great and Holy War he explains;
“The Orthodox church operated in intimate alliance with the imperial authorities, from which it drew its power and wealth. From the time of Peter the Great, in the 1700’s, the church’s ancient patriarchate ceased to function, leaving the church as a virtual arm of the government. It was supervised by a Holy Synod appointed by the Tsar and under the authority of a cabinet-level imperial official.”
“For many Orthodox thinkers, moreover, rival Christian churches, Catholic and Protestant, were only in the most technical sense fellow believers or brothers, and as such they deserved little more political consideration than did Muslims or Jews.”
“The causes of the monarchy, empire, and church were all one, and they merged into a messianic vision of the Tsarists regime…”
Many examples can be found throughout history where the Eastern Orthodox Church worked hand in hand with the State to accomplish the States goals. I have already detailed how that played out in the Controversy Over Images. The State continuously waged a war for the use of Icons until the Church relented and this happened only after murdering their opponents and replacing the Patriarch with a layman.
Even today Russian President Vladimir Putin is using the Eastern Orthodox Church to rally neo-nationalism while the Orthodox Church receives benefits from the government. After much reading on the matter, using secular and Christian sources, I have to concluded that Eastern Orthodoxy is a former State Church that carries a lot of historical baggage linked with Byzantine and other political intrigue. This often affected doctrine and relations even if the outward ritual and ceremony remained the same. If Putin has his way the Eastern Orthodox might become a State Church once again.
Yours in the Lord,