This verse clearly and directly states that Christians must stay together, speaking, thinking and believing the same things. Orthodoxy, which has held the Christian faithful together in one divine body for two millennia, is the perfect fulfillment of these instructions. In the Orthodox Church, the faithful conform their minds and will to the sacred teachings of the faith, and this brings perfect spiritual unity.
A fatal heresy, increasing in prevalence today, directly counters these instructions that St. Paul commands us to follow. This heresy appears not to divide the church, but rather unite it; it appears to be loving, accepting and good. But this is not the case - what it really does is undermine the foundations of the Church and tear it apart internally, allowing for innovations and changes in traditions and practice, putting physical unity above truth, and preparing for the antichrist. It is the heresy of ecumenism, a terrible and false teaching as deceitful and destructive as a wolf in sheep's clothing. Rather than attacking the Church though the open teaching of heresy, as did Arianism, Monophysitism and Iconoclasm, ecumenism poses a different and even more terrible assault to the church; it gathers power and a following while still appearing to remain in the bounds of the Church and adhere to her traditional dogmas. In accepting all beliefs, ecumenism divides the church, as we cannot be perfectly of one mind with those who believe false heresies ad have false ways of life.
The above verse from Corinthians explicitly teaches against the heresy of ecumenism and is an unshakable defense against it. We are told here to be not only of one body, which the ecumenists strive for by trying to bring all religions into communion with one another, but also to "be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgement." This means that we must think and believe the same way. Ecumenism attempts to join everyone together into one body, while their minds, their beliefs, and their practices remain dissimilar and contradictory. This is not unity! How can there be one body but different minds? This is impossible! Colossians 1:18 states, "And he is the head of the body, the church." In order to belong to this body of which Christ is the head, we must be of one body, believing the same things. For as a head cannot have multiple bodies, so we cannot differ in beliefs yet belong to the same head. Ecumenism tries to make one church, but yet it does not truly unite. It turns a blind eye to differences in fath, belief, doctrine, and practice, as if these things do not matter. On the contrary, these things are of the utmost importance! These things are the very basis and foundation of our lives; they are the Church. If we cast these things aside, what is left? All that is left is a shallow, hollow shell of what was formerly the fullness of the Church. If we cast these things aside, we are casting aside our own salvation.
It simply does not work to bring everything down to the lowest common denominator and say that the only criteria for being a Christian is that we all believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Or some will even go so far as to say that, if even this is not true of everyone, at least everyone believes in a god, and that's enough - it doesn't matter that some do not even believe in the Christian God. It is fine for Christians and Moslems and Jews and pagans all to join together; the important thing is simply that we all love each other. The differences do not matter; only the similarities. So the ecumenists argue. But this is not true! This is not the apostolic teaching. This is not the true faith. This is ecumenism! The apostles taught us to be of one mind and one body by believing, speaking, and doing all the same things that have been handed down to us ever since the first followers of Christ. We must be completely united in all our beliefs, being perfectly joined together in the same mind and judgement. To reduce the requirements for being a Christian to a mere statement of faith in a god, thus minimalizing Christianity, severs this unity that we are commanded to abide by.
There are, in essence, two levels of ecumenism. In the extreme case, the highest level of ecumenism even encompasses non-Christian faiths. Christians, Jews, Moslems, Hindus, American Indians…they all unite in worship. These religions do not even claim to worship the same God, and yet they serve together. Venerate both Christ and Buddha as God in one service?! This is impossible! There are appalling videos showing all these different faiths performing their religious ceremonies as part of one big inter-communal service. Then there are those who attempt to join together all Christian religions into one faith. They would be horrified at the idea of a service with Hindus and Christians celebrating together, yet they do not bat an eyelash at the idea of Orthodox celebrating with Roman Catholics, who with no authority broke off from the Church close to a thousand years ago.
It is tragic that Orthodoxy has not remained completely free of ecumenism. The ecumenistic spirit has permeated almost all of society, and even some jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church have adopted it. There are Orthodox involved in the World Council of Churches. When some Orthodox joined the WCC, they said it was in an effort to convert those of other faiths to Orthodoxy; however, this has not happened, and the faith of these ecumenistic Orthodox has been watered down. The ecumenical patriarch and the pope have prayed and worshipped side by side in services. There are Orthodox who fully consider the Roman Catholics our brothers and sisters in Christ. With this disregard for the importance of theology, practice is diminished, fasting is often not observed, and the rigor of the Christian life is rarely taught, and the list goes on and on. Much of this is done in the name of brotherly love, on the pretext of acceptance of all people as brothers and sisters in Christ, excluding no one and offering the same love and acceptance to all without discrimination due to theological differences -- but this is not so. It does not work this way. By being involved with those of other religions, and accepting their beliefs as alright if not true, Orthodoxy is weakened and the line between it, the true faith, and other religions blurred. Of course true Orthodoxy will always remain pure and unaltered, but the faithful can be weakened by seeing ecumenism spread like wild fire, gathering momentum and appearing to be good in the midst of all the destruction it leaves. We cannot even appear to accept other doctrines and faiths that differ from our own divinely revealed Orthodoxy! The word Orthodox means "true belief" (and, according to its Greek roots, "correct opinion") - we must not corrupt this true belief or correct opinion by mixing it with false beliefs and personal, human opinion.
If there is to be true spiritual unity, it must be within the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church: the Orthodox Church. While other religions weaken from attempting to please everybody and pass off theology as unimportant, Orthodoxy alone remains firm and unshaken, a rampart unyielding to the turmoil of the world, illustrating the way of the straight and narrow path. In Orthodoxy, we strive to conform our sinful human nature to the teachings and lifestyle of the Church, as opposed to the "suit-yourself" attitude many other religions have, in which people create their own set of beliefs that accommodate their lifestyle. Orthodoxy is that rock upon which Christ has built His Church. Let us cling to that holy rock and not allow for innovations to come into the Orthodox Church. We have been given so much in the Faith, and we must preserve it uncorrupted by modern practices and ways of thinking, such as minimalism and compromising our faith to the world. We must be in the world but not of the world, and this is done by remaining in the embrace of the Orthodox Church.
The saints and holy fathers of the ages past died rather than surrender their faith. Countless martyrs chose death over renouncing Christ in even the smallest way. We hear of martyrs who were told to sacrifice to idols and had burning coals placed in their hands - yet they held these hot coals until their hands burned off rather than throw them before the idols, thus sacrificing to them. Men, women, and even young children were tortured in diverse, cruel and unimaginable ways because they refused to renounce our Lord and Savior. Their stories fill us with awe for their supreme love and unwavering zeal for the faith. The holy fathers are shinning examples of how we ought to protect the faith. They fought and refuted the heresies of Arius, the Iconoclasts, Monophysites, and many others. At the First Council, St. Nicholas of Myra, filled with holy anger, struck the heretic Arius. St. John Chrysostom was exiled for teaching the truth. Many other saints and their heroic deeds for the sake of the church could be mntioned. How precious the faith was to these holy men and women! Let us imitate them as fully as we are able as we strive to hold fast to the Church, the same church for which they willingly gave their lives and sacrificed themselves, and not give way to the ecumenistic spirit that fills the world today.
If we are not of one mind, we are in direct disobedience to the Gospel, to the Church, and to Christ. To be of one mind, we must follow the teachings of and conform ourselves to the ancient Christian Church, the true Church of Christ, the Orthodox Church.
O Holy Lord Jesus Christ, help us to remain steadfast in the holy teachings of Thy church and disallow false ways of believing, thinking and living to corrupt and scatter Thy flock! Grant that we may preserve unsullied the pearl of great price given unto us, keeping it inviolate for all generations to come, through the prayers of Thy most pure Mother and of all the saints. Amen.
By Christina Holland.
This article appears in the Winter 1999 Issue of "Children of the Church", a Traditional Orthodox Youth's Newsletter. Yearly subscriptions are only $6.00 US, $8.00 Canadian. E-mail ChildrenOfTheChurch@rocor.org , or call 972 658-5433 and ask for Christina.
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