What is the main difference between Protestantism and Orthodoxy?

October 13, 2021

In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit; One God, Amen.  


What is the main difference between Protestant and Orthodox theologies? In comparing both traditions, one can easily find numerous differences. However, these could be summed up into a handful of concepts. Today’s video focuses on potentially the most important distinction between both traditions.  


From a Protestant perspective, salvation is directly related to forgiveness of sins. This forgiveness transpired on the cross when Christ ransomed humanity. God the Father’s literal anger was poured on the Son rather than on us. This view of salvation is usually seen from a purely judicial perspective and therefore Protestant Christians are taught to believe in this act of forgiveness—the cross—and, as a result, they will find salvation. Some Protestant traditions will claim that this is all that is to be done to be saved; others, will say that, although Christians are saved by Grace, some works would naturally flow from that Grace as evidence of salvation. However, from the first centuries of Christendom Christians around the entire world viewed salvation a bit differently. The first century Church would agree that Christ died on our behalf, as a ransom, for the forgiveness of our sins. However, not because God the Father was literally angry. We view God’s anger and wrath in a very different way as explained in previous videos. Also, Orthodox Christians from the first centuries would agree that we are saved by Grace but without denying that we have a role to play in our own salvation. We act in synergy with God. But the crucial difference between the two traditions is that Orthodox Christians understood that this judicial aspect is only one facet of salvation.  


An additional crucial facet of salvation for Orthodox Christians, or all Apostolic Christians for that matter, is humanity’s recreation or the healing of the human condition. St. Athanasius of Alexandria, who fought the Arian heresy in the 4th century at the council of Nicea, says the following: “…for the first fact that you must grasp is this: the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word (the Logos or Son of God) Who made it in the beginning. There is thus no inconsistency between creation and salvation…” This is taken from St. Athanasius’ famous book ‘On the incarnation’ which CS Lewis read several times and praised its wisdom. It is in this light of human recreation that Orthodox Christians have practiced the mysteries from the beginning of Christendom. The purpose of the mysteries, or sacraments, is to continually give us access to this recreation which leads to sainthood when practiced piously. For instance, the early-century Christians saw leprosy in the Old Testament as a type of sin that is healed through water. For example, Naaman—the Syrian army commander – was healed from his leprosy when Elisha told him to dip in the Jordan seven times. His skin, representing his humanity, was then renewed. In Leviticus 14, we can also see the use of running water and blood as a part of the ritual of the cleansing of the healed leper— those were types of the water of baptism and the blood of Christ respectively. That is why in Romans 6, St. Paul mentions that our old man is crucified in baptism that the body of sin might be done away with. When the body of sin is done away with through baptism, which is a participation in the cross of Christ, our human condition is renewed. Similarly, Galatians 3:27 says: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” The image of Christ within us is recreated in baptism. That is also the reason Titus 3:5 says we are saved through the water of regeneration. We are recreated or regenerated through the water of baptism. John 3:5 also says that we must be born again through water and Spirit—through baptism. It is the same idea with the Eucharist. A couple of Old Testament types of the Eucharist are the Passover and the Manna. The Passover involved the killing of the one-year-old male lamb and the pouring of its blood on the door lintels. But the type didn’t stop there. The eating of the lamb was a compulsory portion of the ritual symbolizing the Eucharist. Similarly, the Manna was the magical bread which came down from heaven. The latter is the introduction used by Christ in his Eucharistic message found in John 6 where He ultimately says that His Body is food indeed and His blood is drink indeed—not a symbol. He says as well that “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.” This Eucharistic meal is designed for my personal recreation and yours that Christ may be formed in us. This concept of recreation of the human condition allows us to participate in the Kingdom of God here and now. Christianity is not only about enjoying heaven in the afterlife. It is about the here and now which naturally carries on to the afterlife. Understanding this additional facet of salvation will open our minds to a new deeper reading of Scripture and to find real healing in Christ. 

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