For generations, countless thousands of Christians – both Catholic and Protestant – have sung with assurance the words of the hymn:
Faith of our fathers living still,
In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword.
The singers thus expressed their confident belief that their faith and their church were in fact true reflections of the faith and church of their fathers.
In recent years, as churches have altered their beliefs, their moral teachings and their worship, many Christians find themselves anxiously wondering sometimes whether the faith they hold is indeed the faith of their fathers. Have you found yourself ever wondering whether you belong to the true church which Christ Himself established?
If you are Protestant, you have to wonder–with nearly 30,000 existing Protestant denominations to choose from–whether the church you belong to is the one Christ had in mind when He said, “On this rock I will build my Church.” Notice: one church, one rock. Not many churches on the rocks!
If you are Catholic, you have been told that you belong to that one church built on the one rock. But with the many changes in belief, morals, and worship you have seen over recent decades in the Roman Catholic church, you might understandably wonder how stable and solid is the rock of faith on which your church claims to be built. The faith “once delivered to the saints” is not something that should be easily shaken or changeable.
The fact–as any honest seeker examining the history of Christian churches will discover – is that for the past thousand years, both Roman Catholics and Protestants have been tinkering with the “faith once delivered to the saints.” What both Catholics and Protestants have thought of as the faith of their fathers is not the faith of their earliest fathers – those closest in time and place and history to the apostles and fathers who walked and talked with Christ Himself and received from Him His true and authentic teaching and His commission to build one Church on that firm and unshakable foundation.
At one time, for about a thousand years, that one church flourished throughout the world, keeping intact the faith and worship delivered to it by Christ Himself. After that first millennium, the church in the west – known today as the Roman Catholic church – began to wander from the tradition and faith “once delivered to the saints,” inventing new teachings about the Holy Trinity, the structure of the church, the powers of the Bishop of Rome (the Pope), etc.
Four hundred years later, western Christians, disturbed by the changes wrought in the western church, protested these changes and sought to reform the church, bringing it back into line with the original one church of Christ. Instead, this movement of protest and reform (the Protestant Reformation) splintered into the nearly 30,000 denominational fragments which comprise Protestantism today.
So the question with which this article began is a real and burning one: Is the faith of our fathers still living? And if so, where can it be found?
When He founded His one church, our Lord Jesus Christ assured His followers that it would exist until His coming again, and that hell itself and all the powers of evil would never prevail against it. So we have the promise of Him who is Truth that His Church is still alive in the world–that the faith of our fathers is living still.
How then, given 30,000 varying Protestant choices and a Roman Catholic church that, for a thousand years, has wandered from its moorings as the true Church of Christ–how then, and where, is this one, true Church to be found?
That Church is alive and well–as it has been for two thousand years, and will be until Christ returns in glory at the end of the ages–and is known as the Orthodox Church. Orthodoxy means “right believing, right worshipping.” By calling itself Orthodox, the Church wishes to identify itself as the original Church which has steadfastly refused to change or abandon any of the teachings and beliefs given to it by Christ through His apostles. Historically, the Orthodox Church exists in unbroken continuity with the Church found in the pages of the New Testament, unlike the Roman Catholic church which separated itself from the Orthodox Church after a thousand years of co-existence, and the Protestant denominations which separated themselves both from the Roman church and from each other over differences of belief and observance.
The faith of your fathers–the Orthodox Church – is alive and well. If you have felt homeless and distressed in the ferment of the modern western churches, in the uncertainties of shifting worship – perhaps God is calling you home to His true Church, calling you home to the faith of your fathers–to Orthodoxy.
Don’t turn away from that invitation to come home to your Father’s house, to Christ’s true Church. To His first disciples He offered the invitation, “Come and see.” That invitation and offer He extends today to you–to return to the faith of your fathers. Come and see – and come home to Orthodoxy.
(copyright 1998, Christ the Savior Monastery)