*Below is Pastor Andrew’s teaching outline from Sunday evening’s church history study, not a word for word manuscript. This is meant as aid in seeing the thought and direction of the lesson.

As Empire:

Capital- Constantinople

-Originally Byzantium, thus the Byzantine Empire

-Original remnant of the Eastern Roman Empire

-Thus, claimed to be the true Rome

-The name is a modern invention

As an empire state they would spend much of the middle ages at war.

The faith was now connected to military growth and conquest in the East (Also we will see in the west)

-Eastern orthodoxy would move further east with the conversion of Russia.

-By 1025 It was the Largest empire on the face of the Earth.

As the Church


-Very little has changed in Eastern Orthodoxy worship over the last 1500 years.

-Still claim to be the historic faith, not just theologically but in corporate worship.


-No Structured Seating

-No centralized Pulpit

-No Instruments

-No statues

-Center is on the table and the communion of the saints

-The walls are filled with art depicting the saints of old, meant to draw the congregation into worship with Angels in Heaven.

-Theses icons reveal the truth that when we come to the throne of God in worship we are not alone. All the saints of old and the heavenly assembly join with us. We approach the throne as one as we worship.

-This is especially true of the Dome and the relative artwork found within.

-The table is set behind a screen near the center of the worship space. originally a white/plain screen was used but over the years it has become filled with iconography. Known now as the iconostasis.

-Communion was taken by the congregation from a spoon with the elements mixed. Elements were supplied by the congregants and all remaining pieces would be served separately at the conclusion of the service.

-Much of the singing was done in a call and response formula between two choirs or the choir and the people.

-Many hymns were written and sung by the Orthodox church.

-A high focus is placed on the table and personal devotion, displayed in community.

Monasticism & Mysticism

-Monasteries remained a key fixture within the Eastern church.

-Many of the church’s leading theologians and writers were monks by trade. Also, the clergy would most often originate and come from these groups, though not exclusively.

-All Eastern Monks followed the structurally commands laid out by Basil the Great in the 4th & 5th Century.

-Within Monastic thought in the middle ages is the birth of Mystic Christianity.

-Not all of these teachings are bad or wrong. The ultimate purpose we see in the Christian mystics is a desire for holiness and the knowledge of God centered on His word and Living out the faith.

John of the Ladder (Also known as Climacus)

-Wrote Ladder of Divine Ascent in the 7th century

-His works were guides by which monks would grow in the faith. Each element signifying a step on a ladder.

-The mystic faith was one of moving forward while remaining still

-Much of the mystics’ writings are rehashing other people’s works from the past and synthesizing them into a means of moving closer to God through mediation on His word, Prayer, and action.

-The Ladder though does have a focus on suffering as the ultimate means of divine joy.

Maximus the Confessor

Desire to be one with the divine

-His writings covered every aspect of monastic life

-He was a strong defender of Chalcedonian Orthodoxy (A defense of which would lead to his own persecution)

-Strongly influenced by Pseudo-Dionysius’s work (Dionysius the Areopagite)

-Focus on the Image bearing nature of humanity. To put off sinful flesh to become like the divine one step at a time.

-The Logos “Word made Flesh” is the pinnacle image of all of God’s work

-The Mystics view of Christianity were “gods through grace”

-Personal devotion daily would find weekly culmination in the Eucharist

Theological Controversy

Iconoclastic Controversy (726-843)

-Throughout the East beginning in the 5th century icons had grown in prominence and use. For many they began to hold places of divine power and strengthen.

-Following the volcanic eruption that devastated the Santorini archipelago and continued defeats at the hands of the Islamic Arabs. it was deemed that Icons were to blame and that they needed to be removed from the church and her people.

Emperor Leo began in 726 enacting new laws for the removal and destruction of icons throughout the empire known as iconoclasts.

-This reveled the split that existed within the cultural elements of the church between the Greek & Roman world and the Judaesitic backgrounds of the church.

-The question became how we view the second commandment. The east rejected a renumbering of the commandments and stated simply that icons are not statues to be worshipped, by images to lead us into and aid in worship.

Iconoclasts argued that the only true worship we see, and experience comes throughout the liturgy and corporate worship. Since no blessings are achieved from the icons they are at best irrelevant and should be removed.

Iconophiles on the other hand pointed to the fact that all of life is worship and that at any moment God can interact with his creation and lead is people to praise and icons are a means of that work.

-Icons became central in people’s homes as much as in the church

-During the ups and downs of the controversy much was preserved because of the personal nature of icons.

-John of Damascus’s writings on the topic would be the ultimate voice and lay out a theology that would remain to the present:

-Icons were not worshipped they were venerated

-They allow us to see God has he has revealed himself to us. They make known the unknowable

-In Christ God became visible.

-When the church “worships” using an icon, they are giving it adoration or honor like a man, such as a bishop or emperor. They are not to give it the Adoration due only to God.

-His defense was one based on language and emotion:

-Latreia was due to God alone

-proskynesis could be offered to man or object

-This distinction would win the day.

-Key to understand is that Icons were two dimensional painted images, they were not statues. Statues were strictly forbidden as they could lead to idolatry.

-In time veneration of Icons was would move from being permissible to obligatory.

Filioque Controversy

The single greatest controversy to rock the church. Would eventually lead to the great schism.

Photius the Great (820-895)

-Patriarch of Constantinople

-Claimed to be the wisest man of the middle ages for his unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

-He began as a civil servant before being appointed as the Patriarch of Constantinople. A position he did not wish to take.

-Within 6 days he went from Layman in the church to Patriarch. A move that angered many within the empire and the former Patriarch Ignatius (who was recently deposed)

-The Western pope Nicholas I was asked to assist in healing the factions in Constantinople.

-He sought to use this as an opportunity to assert Rome’s dominance over Constantinople

-Unfortunately, he was outflanked by Photius who persuaded Nicholas representative to support His claim without the aid of Nicholas. A move which infuriated him, forcing his hand to declare Ignatius the true Patriarch and deposing his own representatives.

-His words would be ignored in the East, further angering him.

These two men would square off not in military wars but in their missionary efforts to win over the Bulgarians.

-Each group sent many monks and priest to win overt the people and ultimately the king. When the Eastern church refused to give him his own state church he reached out to Rome.

-The Nicene Creed ultimately would be the focus of their theological and missionary anger.

-In 809 the Western church affirmed the addition of the Filioque statement into the Nicene Creed: Thus, saying the Holy Spirit proceeds from the father and the son. Not just the Father. (The practiced is said to have begun in the 6th century Spain)

Photius in 867 took the controversy head on Denouncing the Western Church and Rome for their acceptance of a heretical idea. This was an invention placed upon the church apart from a council. He also went on to denounce the many other practices that had begun to grow in the West that diverged from the orthodox practices (such as priestly celibacy).

-He would call his own council for the purpose of Excommunicating Pope Nicholas

-Unfortunately for him the Emperor was assassinated and replaced by Basil I who quickly removed Photius from the Patriarch after being denied communion over the assassination of the Previous Emperor. Photius would be imprisoned in a monastery.

Ignatius was restored, a new council called, and relations restored with Rome.

-However, Photius’ work “Interpretation of the Mystery” would continue to be read throughout the empire.

-In it he claimed the West destroyed the unity of the Trinity: Eastern Thought the Father was the fountain from which the Son and Spirit derive their Goodness apart from His fatherless. For them to derive from both Father and Son was to say His divinity was derived from both, thus making them 2 distinct sources of divinity.

John 15:26 ESV

“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.

-The differences stem from difference in how one approaches understanding the mystery of the trinity: from the Personhood of God vs from the Nature of God.

-For the west the division would mean that the Son was not Equal to the Father in essence if he was not a source of the spirits work.

So: “Three Persons in one essence” Verses “One Essence in three persons”

-The debate would rage on especially after Photius returned to the Patriarchy following Ignatius death in 877. Calling a council in 879 reinstating his previous rulings. as the empire slowly drifted into madness, he assumed the throne as well, until he would be removed from both by Basils Son Leo in 886 following Basils death. His removal would mark the end of the Controversy for the moment,


1 comment

  1. Beautifully done, Andrew. I have never heard anyone that was completely accurate on the experience of Eastern Orthodoxy until your discussion. This theology is ingrained from birth AND lived.

    Afharisto, Andrew, for a true explanation.


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