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Question 69

Hi, Father Christopher  You said that we can go to another church and pray but we must be aware that they don't pray to the same God as we do. To which God do other churches pray to?     



Answer to Question 69


We understand who God is by how he has revealed himself to mankind and through the relationship we have with him. When I say we don’t pray to the same God I mean that because our dogmas are different from other churches then our relationship with God is so different that it appears as though we worship different Gods. 


To give an example of what I mean let’s look at how the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church understand Adam’s original sin and Christ’s death on the Cross.  The Orthodox believe that when Adam sinned against God, he introduced death to the world. Death was the consequence of the original sin. We are not liable for Adam’s sin but since we are all born of the same human stock as Adam, we inherit the consequences of his sin which is death. Death means that man is no longer immortal as God created him, he has become mortal and the life of every human being comes to an end but also that death generates in us the passions (anger, hate, lust, greed, etc.), and brings disease and aging. 


The Roman Catholic church differs on what we inherit from Adam. Following Augustine of Hippo, the Latins teach that Adam and Eve sinned against God. The guilt of their sin has been inherited by every man, woman and child after them. All humanity is liable for their “original sin.” Whereas the Orthodox believes that we only inherit the consequences of original sin.  These two different approaches to the understanding of original sin determine how we understand Christ’s death on the Cross.


Following the holy Fathers, Orthodoxy teaches that Christ, on the Cross, gave “His life a ransom for many” as we are told by Matthew (Matt. 20:28) and “For even the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” according to Mark (Mark 10:45). The “ransom” is paid to the grave. As the Lord revealed to the Prophet Hosea, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave, I will redeem them from death.” (Hosea 13:14)


In a sense, He pays the ransom to the devil who has the keeper of the grave and holds the power of death (Heb. 2:14). The man Christ voluntarily gave Himself on the Cross. He died for all “a ransom for many”. But He rose from the dead in His crucified body. Death had no power to hold Him. It has no power over anyone. The human race is redeemed from the grave, from the devil. Free of the devil is to be free of death and sin. To be free of these, we become like God and may live with Him forever. 


Now according to Roman Catholic theology, God became man in order to satisfy the divine Justice which was offended by the sin of Adam. In other words, by his sin Adam offended the infinite God, God was angry with man and demanded that justice had to be paid. Since we are all guilty of original sin we are all liable to pay this debt of honour to God, but we did not have the power to make amends, for the “original sin” of Adam which passed to us, Only Christ, Who was God and man, could pay this “debt of honour.” He pays the debt owed by mankind to God by dying on the Cross. His death makes up for what Adam had done; the offence is removed. God is no longer angry with man. Thus, the Crucifixion has been understood by the Latins as Christ suffering punishment for the human race when, in truth, Christ suffered and died on the Cross to conquer the devil and destroy his power, to destroy death.


From what I have said above the differences could be interpreted as meaning that the two Churches worship a different God, we believe that God is love and can never be angry with mankind or wish to punish him because he makes mistakes. The Roman Catholic church’s understanding that God was angry and wanted justice for Adam’s error goes completely against the grain and portrays a God very different in his relationship to man than the God of love of the Orthodox church. 


I am not saying the Roman Catholic Church does not preach that God is love, they do, but they also preach that God has characteristics like anger and revenge. With these they put the fear of God into people so that through fear they could control the masses.  Now before you tell me that in the Old Testament God is often revealed as a cruel and harsh God, yes he is, but that was in an age before grace, where people did not understand between right and wrong and God is portrayed as a parent chastising his children to help them grow spiritually. That of course is another subject which we can leave for another time. The Christian faith is based on the teachings of the New Testament where God is revealed as a kind, compassionate and loving Father.