Do church shootings prove that prayer does not work?

The calls for increased gun control were repeated in the days following the mass murder at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas. Various individuals on Twitter drew the ire of Christians by asserting that more was needed than prayer. Things were said like, “If prayers were the answer 2 gun violence wouldn’t people at a church service be safe? Please make gun laws.” “They were praying when it happened. They don’t need our prayers. They need us to address gun violence”

Aside from the failure to realize that one can pray and address the causes and solutions to mass shootings these kinds of statements reveal a deeper misunderstanding of prayer. Wil Wheaton, known to Star Trek fans as Wesley Crusher, drew much hostility when he tweeted, “The murdered victims were in a church. If prayers did anything, they’d still be alive.” Does the failure of prayer to protect a church from a murderous maniac prove that prayer does not work?

The failure of prayer to stop tragedy from occurring shows that what is commonly understood as prayer does not work. In America prayer is viewed as a means of getting protection, healing, provision, security or guidance. God is seen as the celestial Santa Clause who gives the devout what they want when they ask Him. The God of most Americans answers prayers like the Jesus in the country song, “Jesus take the wheel.” When the car starts to slide off the road just ask Jesus to take control and He’ll keep you from harm.

The God of the Bible promises to answer prayer but He never promises to keep Christians from harm, suffering, difficulty or tragedy. God promises to answer prayer if it meets certain criteria. The prayers God answers are those that are in accord with the character and purpose of Jesus and are prayed by a child of God through the mediation of Jesus. God does not promise to answer the prayers of the unsaved nor will he hear prayers offered to saints, relatives, spirits or dead people. (John 14:13; 15:16; 16:23). God only answers prayers prayed in Jesus name and prayers that are according to His will. God will answer those prayers that are seeking His will and that are in keeping with the eternal purposes of God. (1 John 5:14-15)

God never promised to protect His children from every bad thing that could happen. God promised the opposite. “No man should be moved these afflictions, for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.” (1 Thesalonians 2:3) God is not working to protect His people from all bad situations. God is working through bad circumstances to perfect Christians. Biblical prayer claims the promises of God. God promises to make His children like Jesus and He uses every trouble to fulfill that promise in those who love Him.

Prayer is not a magic formula to make life better. Prayer does not protect from all bad circumstances. Prayer is a bowing of the person’s will before the perfect will of God. Prayer asks for Divine favor and trust God’s goodness in all things. God works through prayer to perfect His people.

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When did Christian’s start meeting on Sunday?

Why does the church meet on Sunday? In the Old Testament Saturday was the day set apart for the Lord. The Christian church was initially made up of Jews but within a few decades the majority of the church was Gentile. The Jewish way of thinking and living faded away, including the observance a Saturday Sabbath. The church met together on the first day of the week and treated Sunday as the Lord’s Day. Why did the church start to worship on Sunday instead of Saturday?

The New Testament indicates that the early church began meeting on Sunday from day one. The church began on a Sunday. The day of Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and thousands of Jews believed the gospel, was a Sunday. Pentecost Sunday was the beginning of the New Testament church.

Other New Testament passages indicate they church was in the habit of meeting on Sunday. In Acts 20:7 Paul met with the church in Ephesus. The meeting took place on the first day of the week, “when the disciples came together to break bread.” The custom of the church seems to have been to meet together on Sunday. In 1 Corinthians 16:1-2 Paul instructed the church in Corinth to be taking up a collection “upon the first day of the week.” This instruction makes the most sense if the church was in the habit of meeting on Sunday.

Church and Roman history reveal that the church was in the habit of meeting on Sunday very soon after the death of the apostles. Pliny was a governor in the Roman Empire in the early 100’s. He wrote a letter to the Emperor Trajan asking what to do about the Christians. In that letter he describes their meetings. “They asserted, however, that the sum and substance of their fault or error had been that they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god.” The early Christians met early in the morning on a certain day each week. Pliny does not say what day that was, but other historical references make clear that day was Sunday. In 150 AD Justin Martyr wrote in “Dialogue with Trypho a Jew”, “And on the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read.” “Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly.

The Didache, a series of teachings written to the churches late in the first century, says, “And on the Lord’s own day gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks.” Though this day is not specified in the letter, the church obviously knew what day was “the Lord’s day.” The epistle of Barnabas, a letter to Christians written around 100 AD, says, “Wherefore also we keep the eighth day for rejoicing, in the which also Jesus rose from the dead.” In the gospel of Peter, written sometime in the early second century (100-150AD), Sunday is called the Lord’s Day. “And at dawn upon the Lord’s day Mary Magdalen . . . took with her friends and came to the sepulchre where he was laid.”

The change of worship from Saturday to Sunday was something that began very early in the church. The New Testament does not give a definite command to worship on Sunday, but the pattern that unfolds in Scripture and the earliest church history is of the church observing Sunday to gather together in worship and instruction.

Is there any evidence outside the Bible that Jesus really existed?

Few historians or religious scholars today deny that Jesus was a real person. During the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries skeptics attempted to refute the historical reality of Jesus. Every so often a skeptic will pop up who insists Jesus did not really exist. They claim that apart from the Bible no ancient record mentions Jesus. Are there any extra-Biblical references to Jesus of Nazareth?

The oldest mention of Jesus, outside the Bible, was written in the early 90’s AD by a Jewish historian named Josephus. While discussing Pontius Pilate’s governorship of Jerusalem, Jospehus said, “About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one ought to call him a man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher of such people as accept the truth gladly. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. He was the Messiah. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. He appeared to them spending a third day restored to life, for the prophets of God had foretold these things and a thousand other marvels about him. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.”

The Roman historian Tacitus wrote in 109 AD about the fire in Rome during the reign of Nero. “Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judaea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.” Tacitus was not a friend of Christians but he affirmed without question the existence of Jesus and the fact of His execution during the reign of Pilate.

References to Jesus can also be found in other ancient sources from people who were opponents of Christianity. These include Jewish authors and Roman officials. They had no reason support Christian claims about Jesus. The existence of Jesus could not be denied. Extra-Biblical evidence for Jesus remains today and supports the teachings of the Bible.

Ancient history gives a few passing references to Jesus, but to really know who Jesus is and what He did one must read the gospels. The gospels are reliable accounts of Jesus. Two of the gospels were written by close companions of Jesus. At least two of the gospels were written within thirty years of Jesus death while many eyewitnesses of His life were still living. Jesus is real and the Bible’s teachings about Him can be trusted.

What is unlockrevelation.com?

It has happened again. Millions of homes across Michigan received bright, glossy, full color advertisements for a conference on Bible prophecy. The brochure promises a three day course on the end times followed by more studies in later weeks. The website promises to give the key to understand prophecy and to reveal secrets about coming world events. In less than a week the conferences will begin all across the state. Unfortunately the brochure and website give no information about the church or churches affiliated with the conference. The organization has carefully removed any specific information about the church affiliation of the sponsors. In those places the conference is being held at a church they have gone so far as to remove the full name of the church from the website.

A little digging reveals that Unlock Revelation is a conference sponsored by the Seventh Day Adventist Church. The area sponsors are pastors and members of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. The presenters are Seventh Day Adventists and the teachings will be Seventh Day Adventist doctrine.

The Seventh Day Adventist view of the end times is very similar to this author’s. Many within the Seventh Day Adventist church are genuinely born again Christians. Despite significant areas of correct doctrine the Seventh Day Adventist teaching is dangerous. The official doctrines of the Seventh Day Adventist church put it at odds with most of Protestant Christianity.

The Seventh Day Adventist church reveres Ellen G. White as a prophet of God. They do not believe her words or writings are Scripture. Her writings are from God and are “inspired counsel concerning spiritual personal religion and the conduct of (Seventh Day Adventist) work.” (Questions on Doctrine) Their belief about Ellen White’s prophecies contradicts the Biblical description of prophets. The prophet of God uttered Divine revelation- “thus saith the Lord”- that was always accurate and always authoritative. They never gave “counsel”. They commanded because it was the Word of God.

Seventh Day Adventism denies the eternal suffering of the lost. They teach that at the very end all the unsaved will be completely destroyed. This is a problem because it denies the clear teaching of the Bible. The Bible says the unsaved will be condemned to the Lake of Fire where “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night.” (Revelation 4:11)

Adventism teaches that the believer can lose his salvation and that Jesus is still active in atoning for the sin of believers. Instead of Jesus’ atonement being finished on the cross and being applied once for all time to those who believe Jesus is now in the temple of heaven active in atoning for the Christian’s sin. Ellen G. White said, “Christ (on the cross) had only completed one part of His work as our intercessor, to enter upon another portion of the work.” The atonement was not completed on the cross and will not be complete until after the day of judgment. Only those who “are abiding in Christ, keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus, and in Him, therefore, are ready for translation into His everlasting kingdom.” (www.adventist.org) “All who who hope to be saved by the merits of the blood of Christ should realize that they themselves have something to do in securing their salvation.” (Ellen White) According to Adventist theology, only the one who believes Jesus and is in obedience to Him is going to be saved. This is in clear contradiction to the plain words of Scripture. At salvation the believer is fully saved and his salvation is “kept by the power of God.” (1 Peter 1:5) Salvation is only by grace through faith and not at all of works. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

The Seventh Day Adventist church is not a reliable source of teaching about Scripture. Their errors make them a dangerous place to go searching for truth. Many in the movement are saved, and quite a few Seventh Day Adventists reject the errors of the denomination, but the official teachings of the church undermine the work of Christ, obscure the truths of salvation by grace through faith alone and hinder the believer’s confidence in the Word of God.

Should Christian’s Attend a Homosexual Wedding?

Homosexual marriage is an emotionally charged topic. The issue becomes even more difficult when someone you know and care about invites you to their same-sex marriage. Because a wedding invitation is usually received by those who are part of the lives of the people getting married, friends, family or neighbors, the invitation to a homosexual wedding creates many personal, emotional and relational dilemmas. Many Christians have been confronted with this question. Should Christian’s attend a homosexual wedding?

Marriage is clearly defined in the Bible. Marriage is not a social construct. People do not get married because the white, European churches decided marriage was a good idea. Marriage was created by God. Jesus said in Mark 10:6-8 that God created marriage in the Garden of Eden. God’s original work of creating male and female is not coincidental. He made them different to join them together in marriage. The two are made one flesh. The two, male and female, are joined together by God. Without two genders, male and female, there is no marriage. This is God’s idea.

The wedding functions as the public commitment to one another of the male and the female. In America the wedding serves a civil function by which the state recognizes a couple as joined together in matrimony. The civic function of the wedding is secondary to its moral function. Through the wedding the couple make known their commitment to one another. The solemnize their covenant before their friends, family and neighbors. The attenders at a wedding are not merely an audience, they act as witnesses to the oath.

For decades Christian wedding ceremonies have declared the importance of marriage. “Marriage is a sacred institution, the basis of human society, and should be held in high honor among men and women. We are assembled here in the presence of God, to join this man and this woman in holy marriage; which is instituted by God, regulated by His commandments and blessed by our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us therefore reverently remember that God has established and sanctified marriage for the welfare and happiness of mankind.”

Since marriage is God’s institution, designed and ordered by Him for the good of all mankind, every Christian should be a staunch defender of Biblical marriage. Every Christian should oppose that which perverts God’s original design for marriage. No Christian should give support, even thought it only be implied, to homosexual marriage or to any other marriage contrary to God’s design.

Attendance at a wedding is more than just watching. Attendance honors the couple and celebrates their union. Can a Christian really honor a “marriage” that perpetrates perversion? Can the child of God celebrate the union of a woman and woman? Attendance at a wedding communicates support for the couple and their marriage. How can a Christian give the appearance of support to that which he knows God’s Word condemns?

Christians often feel pressured to show love to the unsaved homosexual by attending the wedding. The accusation is that it is not loving to refuse to attend a wedding. The opposite is true. Love refuses give support or encouragement to sin. Proverbs 27:6 says, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Psalm 141:5 says, “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil.” The correction of the righteous friend is a boon to the soul of men. Though it is painful it is helpful. The words of Leviticus 19:17 are especially pertinent, “Thou shalt not hate they brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbor, and not suffer sin upon him.” Not rebuking a brother or neighbor for his sin is a silent hatred. The loving Christian will confront sin, not sit in silent, implicit approval of the sin.

The real issues at stake are the truth of God’s Word, the integrity of marriage and the eternal soul of others. Sometimes the most compassionate thing a Christian can do for another is refuse to have any part in his sin.

What is the Protestant Reformation?

October 31, 2017 is the five hundredth anniversary of one of the most significant events in church history. On October 31, 1517 day Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg protesting the sale and abuse of indulgences. Though he did not intend to start a revolution Luther’s actions are considered the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The Lutheran, Reformed, Presbyterian and Anglican churches came directly out of the reformation. From those churches sprang many more that have spread across the world.

The protestant reformation began as a protest against Roman Catholic errors that initially sought to bring reform to the Catholic church. When these reform efforts failed the reformers became leaders of protestant churches. The reformers boldly preached the Word of God and trained others to do the same. They rejected the authority of the Roman Catholic Church, the dogma of salvation through works and many other distinctly Catholic teachings. The reformation spread across Germany and Switzerland, into France, the Netherlands, England and Scotland. By the end of the 1500’s the Protestant church was fully established across much of Europe.

The roots of the Protestant Reformation can be found in the 14th and 15th centuries in men like John Huss and John Wycliffe who opposed the Roman Catholic Church. The 15th century brought an increased focus on the text of Scripture. Martin Luther studied the New Testament to learn how to become righteous. His reading of passages like Romans 1:17 and Galatians 2:16 led him to conclude that righteousness is received only through faith and that salvation is given only by the grace of God without any effort or merit on the part of the person.

At the same time Luther was protesting indulgences Ulrich Zwingli was leading a reformation movement in Zurich, Switzerland. He began to preach from Scripture, verse by verse, instead of following the church calendar. Soon his parishioners stopped observing Catholic rituals and in 1525 the city council of Zurich voted to abolish the Catholic mass. Ulrich Zwingli insisted that only those things taught in the Bible were to be practiced by Christians. He led his parishioners ot abandon many of the rituals and regulations that so influenced the lives of those living in Catholic Europe.

The Protestant Reformation sought to return to Biblical truth to find the answer to questions about the salvation of men and the authority of the church. The primary answers to these questions came to be summarized in five “only” statements. Salvation is only received through faith and not through any act of obedience or religious observance. Salvation is only by the grace of God not any works of men. Salvation only comes through Christ and there is no salvation in any one else. The only authority of the Christian life is the Word of God. God saves men for His glory and the Christian to live his life only for the glory of God.

What is Baptism?

Baptism is a ritual familiar to anyone who knows anything about Christianity. Various Christian groups have different beliefs about baptism. The major views can be broadly described as: the Catholic view which believes baptism brings the infant into the church and washes away the sin nature of the child; the Lutheran view believes that when the Word of God is joined with the water in baptism the Holy Spirit gives to the infant the gift of faith through which she is saved; the Reformed view sees baptism as setting apart the child of Christian parents into the community of faith, it is, like circumcision in the Old Testament, the visible sign that the person is a part of the people of God.

The Baptist teaching on baptism is unique in that baptism is limited only to those of an age to profess their salvation and it is always, and only, a response to having received salvation. Most baptists teach that the only proper way to be baptized is by immersion in water.

Christian baptism is unique to the church age. John the Baptist borrowed a Jewish idea of ritualistic cleansing, or washing, in water and used it as a testimony of repentance for those who were preparing for the coming Messiah. Jesus Himself was baptized by John and commanded His disciples to baptize others in His name. On the day of Pentecost the new converts to Christ followed His command and were baptized as a testimony of their conversion.

Baptism was to be a normal part of the ministry of Jesus’ disciples. “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Those who received the gospel were to be baptized. This kind of baptism is found throughout the book of Acts. In Acts 2 Peter instructed those who believed in Jesus to be baptized. In Acts 8 the Samaritans who believed were baptized, “But when they believed . . . the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” The Ethiopian eunuch was told he could be baptized, “If thou believest with all thine heart.” The consistent pattern of baptism in the book of Acts is that baptism follows believing. Baptism is viewed by the New Testament as the believers confession of faith.

Don’t the passages that talk about households being baptized prove that the disciples baptized adults and infants? None of the household passages mention the ages of the members of the household. The passages do not even describe the members of the household. Those who support infant baptism teach that these households included babies. There is nothing in the Bible that indicates whether this is true or not. Nothing can be proved the age of the people being baptized from the household passages.

Acts 16 describes the baptism of the household of the Philippian jailer. After telling the jailer he would be saved if he, “Believed on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ”, Paul preached the gospel to the jailers entire household. That same hour, they were all baptized. Baptism clearly followed the command to believe and the preaching of the gospel to all.

Baptism is the immersion in water of a new believer as a public testimony of his salvation. Baptism does not save. Baptism confesses of salvation received.

Why are most Evangelical Christian’s Republicans?

A popular complaint among theological and political liberals is that most evangelicals vote Republican. The most recent presidential election gave additional reason to complain with election day polls showing that 80% of white evangelicals voted for Mr. Trump. This bit of information is wielded in various ways but seems to be treated as proof evangelicals are bad people who don’t care about the poor, the marginalized, the environment or the rights of women.

The complaints against evangelicals continue for their supposed partnership with the Republican party. One cannot deny that many evangelical Christians vote for republican candidates. Some well-known evangelical leaders have been vocal supporters of the Republican National Convention. Evangelical voters are a significant part of the Republican party’s political base.

This should come as no surprise to those who understand what evangelicals, and other theological conservatives, believe about the Bible. Evangelicals are a segment of Christianity, mostly from Protestant denominations, who believe the Bible to be the Word of God and the authority over their lives. Evangelicals tend to read the Bible literally taking its claims and commands at face value. Evangelicals believe in the need to be born again and feel an obligation to tell others how to be saved.

The authority of the Bible over the life and thinking of the evangelical is at the root of why many refuse to vote for candidates from the democratic party. The Biblical moral standards are held in great esteem. As a result evangelicals generally hold conservative and traditional positions on the modern moral battlegrounds. People who take seriously the Bible’s command, “Ye must be born again” are also very likely to take seriously the Bible’s teachings regarding the value of human life and the evil of homosexuality. The Democratic party’s official platform promotes behavior that is contrary to the plain reading of the Bible. As a result, conservative evangelicals refuse to vote for those who oppose Biblical truths. While things like health care and income security may be important to many evangelicals, holding to Biblical positions about sexuality, marriage and human life takes precedence.

The simple fact is that many evangelicals vote for Republicans because they find themselves sharing values with the Republican candidates. Some evangelicals vote Republican because it seems to them to be the lesser of two evils. Instead of throwing away a vote by voting for a third party who has no chance to win they would rather cast their vote against a candidate who is for the promotion of evil. Many evangelicals may support other aspects of the official Democratic platform, but they cannot in good conscience vote for someone who officially supports things the Bible condemns.

It is not fair or legitimate to characterize evangelicals as white middle class individuals who vote for what will keep them in power or keep the world the way they remember it. Evangelicals can be found throughout all races and demographics. Many evangelicals vote based upon right and wrong, not to preserve or restore an idealized vision America.

It is not fair to say that being a Republican is part of what it means to be an evangelical. Conservative Christianity and Christianity in general is not defined by political affiliation. Christianity is not about establishing a political empire but proclaiming the gospel to the unsaved and calling men to trust Christ for salvation. While there are always some who seek power and control, many evangelicals are attempting to make the best choice they can to promote Biblical morals in this nation. No question about human behavior can be given a simple answer. Motives and habits are complex things, but many evangelicals are Republicans because they find Republican candidates align best with the moral values the evangelical holds most dear.

What about the miracles done by charismatic ministers?

The miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit were restricted to the era of the apostles. These gifts were given specifically for the confirmation of the the apostles as God’s messengers of His gospel. The miracles recorded in the New Testament were the Divine certification that Jesus is the promised Savior. Since that purpose has been accomplished the miraculous gifts are no longer in operation. Certain preachers claim to be able to perform miracles. Some evangelists and televangelists have ministries of healing. Others claim to be able to a variety of miracles. If there are no miraculous gifts today how do these individuals perform such feats?

The miraculous gifts were those spiritual gifts given to men enabling them to perform miracles as a regular and frequent part of their ministry. Mmiraculous gifting by its very nature requires the regular performance of miracles. If a miracle happened through the prayers of a person that does not mean the person has the gift of miracles. “Miraculous gifts” is not a reference to God’s healing of the sick, sunsets, the birth of babies or answered prayer. God still miraculously intervenes in the affairs of the world but He no longer gifts men to perform miracles.

Many of the healings performed by faith healers are of an entirely different quality than the healings of the Bible. The miraculous healings in the Bible included restoring the paralyzed to full strength and mobility, giving the blind normal vision, and healing completely those with gruesome or painful diseases like leprosy and epilepsy. Many modern day examples of healings claim to heal from pain, general ailments (as in, “I feel like I’m dying”), cancer and other vague or internal sicknesses. The claims of these kind of healings have been investigated and found to be temporary, untestable or just plain frauds.

A minority of those who claim to have the gift of healings have made Biblical-level claims to have the ability to raise the dead and heal the lame. Investigations into the claims of these ministries have authenticated none of the miracles and proven many to be be untrue. The reality of modern day miracle workers is no sound evidence has ever been given that proves their claims. The Biblical accounts of healing are of ailments with profound, visible physical effects which provide cases of clear, unmistakable and undisputable healings of people. Even the fiercest opponents of Jesus and the apostles could not deny the miracles they performed.

Possibly the most despicable teaching of many so-called miracle workers is any failures to heal is blamed on the sick person. If a person is not healed, then he did not have enough faith. Jesus and the apostles never blamed a misfired miracle on the one in need. The Bible does not teach that healing is dependent on the faith of the one being healed. The closest hint to this is found in Mark 9 where Jesus tells the father of a demon possessed child, “If thou believest, all things are possible.” The father responds, “Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” The father knew his faith was mixed with doubt. His faith was not full and complete, yet Jesus healed fully and completely. The same story recounts an earlier failure to heal the afflicted child. Jesus gives a rebuke for lack of faith, but the rebuke is not directed to the father or the child. The rebuke is directed to His disciples. The disciples were responsible for the failure to heal, not the ones seeking healing. Faith healers have no business blaming their failures upon their victims.

Like prophecies, tongues and Divine revelation the other miraculous gifts faded out with the apostles. The claims of modern day miracle workers are a poor imitation of the glorious power of God displayed through His apostles and prophets. Their healings are often nothing more than the effects of emotional manipulation that causes a person to briefly feel better without accomplishing any actual healing. At times they are willful frauds preying upon the desperation of hurting people.

What is Eastern Orthodoxy?

In April of this year the Bible Answer Man, Hank Hanegraaff, became a part of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Eastern Orthodoxy, and the other Orthodox Churches, are unfamiliar to many Americans. Eastern Orthodoxy rose in the eastern Roman Empire. As a result, it is most prominent in places like Russia, Eastern Africa and the Middle East. With 270 million adherents the Orthodox church is the third largest Christian group in the world.

Orthodox Churches trace back to the earliest major split in Roman Catholicism. Catholicism began to divide with the division of the Roman Empire in the late 400’s. Over the centuries differences in culture, language, ritual and leadership grew, further separating the east from the west. The divide was complete in 1054 when the Pope excommunicated the leading Archbishop and the Archbishop excommunicated the pope. Since then a few attempts have been made to repair the rift, but the two remain distinct churches. Orthodoxy bears strong resemblance to Roman Catholicism and yet retains significance differences.

Like Catholicism, the Orthodox Church believes tradition to share authority with the Bible. Orthodoxy believes the writings of the church fathers provide the authoritative interpretation of the Bible. Like Catholicism, the Orthodox church places great importance on participation in sacraments for salvation. Orthodoxy holds to seven sacraments, but replaces confirmation with chrismation.

The first sacrament of Eastern Orthodoxy is baptism. Baptism is always full immersion. The person being baptized receives salvation by his baptism. This begins the life in Christ but life in Christ must be nourished to remain. The ability to continue in salvation is received through chrismation. Chrismation immediately follows baptism. The priests anoints the baptized person with oil and makes the sign of the cross over him. This sacrament brings the Holy Spirit to indwell the person enabling him to “live the life of Christ.”

As with Catholicism, the most frequent and familiar sacrament is the Eucharist. By taking the bread and wine the individual receives the body and blood of Christ. The Eucharist provides spiritual nourishment to the receiver necessary for continued spiritual life.

The other sacraments observed by the Orthodox church are the sacraments of penance- much like the Catholic confessional, holy orders- ordaining to ministry, holy unction- anointing of the sick and prayer for healing, and marriage.

To western protestants one of the more confusing views of Orthodoxy is that of deification. Deification is the process of becoming more and more Godlike. This means something more than the Protestant idea of being imitators of God and something less than the Hindu doctrines of becoming one with the Divine. In Orthodoxy the Christian strives to enter more and more into union with the Divine nature. Through obedience the person enters into a greater mystical union with God and has a greater part in the perfection of God. By participating in the sacraments and religious rituals the person becomes more and more “like God”.

Unfortunately, like the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodoxy teaches a means of salvation that denies the grace of God. (Galatians 2:21) Salvation is accomplished by the person’s continual attendance to the sacraments and religious observances. The Bible is in clear opposition to the teachings of the Orthodox Church. No part of salvation is accomplished by the person. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” (Titus 3:5)