With around 2.8 billion adherents in the world today, Christianity, as a religion and way of life has evolved throughout the centuries, since its beginning in Judea in the 1st century CE. Today, it has branched itself into several denominations based on differences in traditions, beliefs, and practices, with further sub-denominations which has widened the diversity of the religion.
Broadly, Christianity can be classified into Orthodox Christianity and all other forms of Christianity. These forms of Christianity include the Roman Catholic church and the Protestants church which have several sub-branches. Even when Orthodox Christianity and Western Christianity, do share some common beliefs, however, key theological and political differences continue to exist, which was also a major contributing factor to the Great Schism of 1054.
In this article, we will try to understand some key differences between the form of Christianity practiced widely today and Orthodox Christianity, which believes itself to be the most “true” and “accurate” representation of the original form of Christianity as followed by Jesus and its first-century followers.
Christianity Vs Orthodox Christianity
Christianity is divided into three primary categories, i.e., the Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants. Each category is further subdivided based on certain theological, cultural, or traditional beliefs. The uniqueness of each sect lies in their varied practices and traditions, for instance, different forms of worship, which include liturgical, non-liturgical, formal, and informal worship in Christianity, in general, and sacraments, chrismation, and healing, etc. among the Orthodox Christians.
On the other hand, Orthodox Christians, with more than 200 million followers in the world today, consider the beauty of their practice inherent in the fact that they most accurately represent the true image and idea of Christianity. This distinguishes them from other forms of Christianity with an altogether different way of life and worship. Other factors based on which Orthodox Christians can be distinguished are the allowance of married priests and an all-male priesthood.
Difference Between Christianity and Orthodox Christianity in Tabular Form
|Parameters of Comparison||Christianity||Orthodox Christianity|
|Meaning||Includes the Catholic Church, Anglo-Catholic, Protestant traditions, and the Orthodox Church.||Oldest of all churches and has guided the Christian life for many centuries. Also known as “Byzantine Christianity” due to Roman influences.|
|Origin||Judea in the present-day Middle East.||Took shape with influences of the Roman Empire.|
|No. of followers||More than 2 billion followers worldwide (including Orthodox Christians.)||Around 250 million.|
|Branches||Three main branches: Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant.||15 self-governing (autocephalous) churches among Eastern Orthodox, with Oriental Orthodox having their churches.|
|Salvation||Salvation cannot be “earned” but only possible through faith in Jesus.||Can be achieved both through faith and diligently leading a holy life. (Similar to Catholics)|
|Hierarchy of the Church||His Holiness, The Pope, Supreme pastor of the Roman Catholic Church, patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, priests, and deacons||Bishop, metropolitan, archbishop, and patriarch (lowest to highest).|
|The Holy Spirit||Believe the “Holy Spirit” as proceeding from the “Father” and the “Son”||Believe God, the Father as the source of the Holy Spirit and not the Son.|
|Position of Pope/ authority||Catholics consider the pope as Christ’s representative on Earth||No figure of a pope, instead Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is the leading authority.|
|Papal infallibility||View Pope as infallible in doctrinal matters and incapable of making any mistakes.||Reject the notion of Papal supremacy, like Protestants.|
|Icons & Statues||Only used by Catholics and Orthodox, not Protestants.||Consider icons as “windows to heaven” and allows connection with the Divine.|
|Celibacy||Being celibate is mandatory for priests.||Optional to remain celibate.|
|Practices||Protestants (Baptism and Eucharist); while Catholics and Orthodox recognize seven other sacraments.||Includes the seven holy sacraments: baptism, chrismation, eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, matrimony, and Holy orders.|
|Language||Latin||Koine Greek and Church Slavonic|
|Festivals||Main festivals include Advent, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, etc.||Major festivals include Orthodox Christian Easter/ Pascha; Palm Sunday, Pentecost, etc.|
|Practice of purgatory||Repentant souls can be cleansed and purified before entering heaven.||The idea of purification of sinful souls does not exist.|
|Christmas Day||Celebrated on 25th December based on the Gregorian calendar.||Celebrated either on January 6 or January 7, following the Julian calendar.|
|Idea of “the human fall”||Due to ignorance and suffering, human nature is inclined to sin and weakened in its powers.||Believe in the potential to experience God, as humans were created “in His image,” and therefore do not see human nature as “evil.”|
What Is Christianity?
The practice of Christianity centers around the belief in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ or Jesus of Nazareth and has more than 2 billion followers around the world. Since its beginnings in the first century, religion has undergone several changes through its interaction with various people, cultures, and traditions, which led to further classification into multiple sects and sub-sects. This has further diversified and complicated the understanding of religion and remains a subject of discussion now.
Types Of Christianity
The form of Christianity that is widely practiced today is divided into the following three categories:
The Roman Catholic Church is recognized as the world’s largest Christian body having more than a billion members. The followers of the Catholic tradition believe themselves as the only true church and the universality of their ideas, beliefs, and understanding of the Christian idea. The infallibility of the church and the Pope due to the revered status accorded is a widely believed idea along with several others.
Protestants are categorized into three groups, namely, Historic protestants (16th century), Anglicans, and Independent Christians. Theseparation of Protestants from Catholics can be considered a result of the differences in beliefs and doctrines. It is one of the most diverse groups and one of the main beliefs includes the significance attached to the Holy scripture, wherein the Bible is viewed as an authoritative scripture.
Orthodox or Eastern Orthodox
One of the oldest traditions in the world, the members of the Orthodox Church recognize three primary creeds, which respond to and deal with any non-orthodox beliefs by refuting them. These are- the Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Orthodox Christianity is distinguished for the uniqueness and originality of its practices and beliefs, which are considered closest to those practiced by Jesus and his disciples in the first century.
What Is Orthodox Christianity?
Derived from the Greek word, “orthos” meaning “right” and “doxa” meaning “belief,” Orthodox Christianity or Eastern Orthodox Christianity originated as a result of the Great Schism. Its members believe themselves to be the most “true” and “accurate” representation of the original form of Christianity, closest to the one practiced by Jesus and his followers. It is one of the most important differences between the two sects, as members of Eastern orthodoxy do not disregard the existence of other forms of Christianity, however, their view and understanding is unaffected by any externalities with a constant effort to remain as close as possible to the New Testament. For them, this is where the beauty of the practice lies, even when they are criticised as “anti-progressive.”
It would be relevant to note that not all Orthodox churches are Eastern Orthodox, as Oriental Orthodox are considered different from Eastern Orthodox based on some primary theological differences and few other Orthodox churches not being in communion with others. In the initial years, the development of Orthodox traditions merged with and deeply influenced by the Christianity of the Roman Empire which has an important role to play in the shape of Orthodox Christianity today.
Difference Between Christianity and Orthodox Christianity in Points
- Christianity can be broadly categorized into – Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox. Whe, Orthodox Christians are divided into mainly two groups: Eastern Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox.
- The Pope as a representative of Christ himself is accorded high respect and is a figure of authority in Catholic beliefs, whereas the figure of the Pope does not exist in Orthodox beliefs and is instead headed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.
- The infallibility of the Pope is a central aspect of the Catholic church where he is not considered wrong in doctrinal aspects. This is in sharp contrast to the Orthodox beliefs, which consider man as fallible and capable of making errors, also applicable to their Patriarch and Archbishops.
- The practice of celibacy is another significant point of difference, as the Orthodox Church recognizes married priests with the institution of marriage being optional. On the other hand, Catholic practices mandatorily require priests to be celibate.
- Icons are worshipped and revered as a “gateway to heaven” by Orthodox practitioners whereas Protestants do not believe in icon worship.
- Latin is the main language used in the Catholic church whereas Koine Greek and Church Slavonic is widely used in Orthodox traditions.
- The major festivals celebrated by Orthodox Christians includeAdvent, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, etc. while Orthodox Christian Easter/ Pascha; Palm Sunday, Pentecost, etc. are some of the main Christian festivals.
- Another main difference is in the Orthodox belief, the Julian calendar is followed, according to which, Christmas is celebrated on the 6th or 7th of January. In contrast, as followed by “mainstream” Christianity, the day is celebrated on the 25th of December worldwide.
- The practice of Purgation or the purification of sinful souls in Orthodox Christians does not exist with no mid-way between Hell and Heaven. On the other hand, Christianity allows the repentance and purification of sinful souls.
- The seven Holy sacraments in Orthodox belief include Baptism, Eucharist, Chrismation, Penance, Anointing the sick, Matrimony, and the Holy Orders, whereasProtestants recognize only Baptism and Eucharist (Lord's Supper) while Catholics and Orthodox recognize seven other sacraments.
- The hierarchy of the clergy in the Christian Church is divided intoHis Holiness, The Pope, the Supreme pastor of the Roman Catholic Church, patriarchs, archbishops, bishops, priests, and deacons, while Orthodox Church includes the Bishop, metropolitan, archbishop, and patriarch.
As we discussed above, members of both denominations can be differentiated from each other on factors like theological differences, beliefs in the worship of icons, organization, and practices of the church, etc. However, the sects are united by their belief in the supremacy of Christ and the ideals and purity of the religion continue to serve as a guiding light to millions of people around the world. Their shared belief revolves around the understanding of Jesus Christ as the Saviour along with a common belief in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.