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Creating An Infinite Number Of Christian Faiths
By Michael S. Bauml

Following the crucifixion and resurrection of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, there was One Christian Church and One Christian Faith. This faith was taught and spread by the apostles who were filled with the Holy Spirit and sent by Christ himself. They were men who actually spoke with him, ate with him, touched him, and learned from him.

Many men in their arrogance and ego throughout history have decided that they knew better and strayed from the teachings of Christ and His Church. One of the earliest examples of this was the Arian Heresy. Arius thought the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were materially separate from each other, and that the Father created the Son. The church fought this heresy and eventually stamped it out. Many more heresies followed, and time and time again it was the church as a whole with the guidance of the Holy Spirit that kept the unity of the faith and the true path. The Great Schism between the east and the west, the splitting off of the Protestant Faith by Martin Luther, the formation of the Anglican Church due to disputes with Rome, and the further fragmentation of the Protestant faith are all examples of individuals who put themselves above the unity of the faith and the body of the church, and in effect created a slightly different version of the Christian Faith.

Related to this is the doctrine of sola scriptura, which basically states that every teaching in Christian theology (everything pertaining to "faith and practice") must be able to be derived from Scripture alone. A necessarily corollary of the doctrine of sola scriptura is, therefore, the idea of an absolute right of private judgment in the interpretation of the Scriptures. Each person has the final prerogative to decide for himself what the correct interpretation of a given passage of Scripture means, irrespective of what anyone-or everyone-else says. This allows for individuals to disagree concerning scripture and in essence each one creates a slightly different Christian Faith. This is a primarily a Protestant doctrine. The Orthodox Faith teaches that it is both scripture and Holy Tradition that guides our faith. It is the church that teaches us how to interpret the scriptures as Orthodox. Yet how many of us have read the scriptures completely and have taken the time to learn the teaching of the church concerning them? How many of us are truly Bible scholars and understand the differences between the different translations? I was once told in a Bible study class that the hardest part of teaching the Bible was getting the class to read the textbook. Yet we still are vain enough to interpret the scriptures to our own advantage (many times incorrectly), and once again we are creating a slightly different Christian Faith.

Many Orthodox Christians take pride in the fact that Orthodoxy is the one true faith. Let us beware this sin of pride, as it is the faith that is true and not most of us. Many Orthodox Christians practice the faith "cafeteria style". We pick and choose those parts of the faith that appeal to us and ignore those that we do not like. Fasting is for Monks so we ignore it or give it a token effort. We decide the service is too long so we decide to come a little later to change the length of the service to suit ourselves. We are to love one another, yet we harbor anger and feel justified in it. We believe in the commandment, "Thou shall not kill," yet we support capital punishment. The examples go on and on. Each time we stray from the teachings of the church we in effect create our own version of the faith, and to make matters worse, we change our minds back and forth on the issues. On and on it goes until we are creating an infinite number of faiths.

The issue of the fragmentation of the Christian faith is an extremely complicated one. I am no where near qualified to propose a solution, yet I know that I long for a time when all Christianity will be joined together in unity and in one faith. I believe that any quest for unity must begin with prayer. First, let us pray for the unity of all Christians. Second, we must learn humility and submit ourselves to following the teachings of the church and the holy fathers. How can we even begin to think that we know better than those who were with Christ, than the saints that devoted their entire lives to the service of God, than the martyrs that gave their lives for Him? Third, we must learn all we can about Christ and the teachings of the church, so that we may follow them and be unified as Orthodox Christians. If we do not do this, we will continue to create our own versions of the faith, and the disunity will continue.

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