by Chris Banescu –
Christianity is not just a “religion.” The Christian Faith embodies the most important truths of this life and all human existence which God first revealed to Moses and the other Old Testament prophets. The fullness of that truth was then completely made manifest in the birth, life, teachings, miracles, crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. “It is the fulfillment of all religions in their search for divine truth and human meaning as inspired by God’s law written on human hearts,” explains Fr. Thomas Hopko.
Our God is the God of the whole universe and all life. His laws and wisdom govern all creation and all matter, seen and unseen. This is why Saint John the Theologian so powerfully declared a truth that shook the very foundations of the world: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it” (John 1:1-5).
The Scriptures embody the most important principles and lessons needed for us to live in full communion with God and other human beings, and ultimately become faithful stewards of our world. The Christian faith is the complete manual for our minds and spirits which allows us to become truly human, creatures in harmony with our Creator. Through faith and love for God, evidenced in actively working to follow His Word and do His will, we move towards the divinity that Christ has by His nature and ultimately towards eternal life. This is how humanity can discover truth, find real happiness, and live life to the fullest. “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
The writings of Fr. Thomas Hopko offer further illumination on why, in the Orthodox view, the Christian Faith is much more than just another “religion.” Christianity embodies and proclaims timeless wisdom that reflect and confirm the reality of God’s truth and laws which live in our hearts and are made manifest throughout the whole universe.
“In the Orthodox view, Christian Faith is not a “religion” (except in the conventional everyday use of the word). It is the fulfillment of all religions in their search for divine truth and human meaning as inspired by God’s law written on human hearts. In this understanding, God’s Gospel in Jesus is the end of all religions as human constructions, however good and inevitable they are in their desire to deal with life’s mysteries and to comprehend the ways of God (or the gods) and creatures in a demon-riddled, death-bound world.”
“Christian faith and life, as witnessed in apostolic Scripture and the lives and teachings of the saints, belongs to a “new creation” (Gal 6:15 ; 2 Cor 6:17). It does not belong to “this age” whose “form is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31). It is “from above” and leads always to what is “beyond.” It is not from human beings, and it transcends human history. It is not contrary to nature and reason, but surpasses their limitations. It discloses the original nature and purposes of things, reveals their ultimate destiny, and illumines human minds and hearts to “the knowledge of the truth” about God and all things in Him. As such, Christian faith and life is God’s gift of divine truth, light, wisdom, and power given to creatures as completely and perfectly as is now possible within the conditions of the corrupted cosmos.”
“When Christians understand Christ’s Gospel to be but one of humankind’s many religions, even the first, best, and greatest, the Gospel ceases to be what it is. It becomes but another product of sinful humanity in its fallen form: good, true, and beautiful in many ways, yet incomplete and dangerously deceptive. As such, it is inevitably deformed into an ideological mythology, or mythological ideology, employed to promote and defend the “merely human” and, inevitable, sinful persons and societies that use it for this deplorable purpose. This is so whether this Christian religion is fundamentalist and sectarian, or whether it is relativistic and inclusive, seeing itself as no better or worse, and essentially no different from any other.”
Christianity declares that man was created to be immortal and live in communion with God and in harmony with all of creation. Despite our rebellion and temporary separation from the Creator, we retain in our hearts and minds the imprint of the divine and the desire to discover truth, to discern meaning, and to find God. “God designed the human machine to run on Himself. He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other. That is why it is just not good asking God to make us happy in our own way without bothering about religion [Christianity]. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing,” proclaimed C.S. Lewis.