Orthodox Beliefs F.A.Q.

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The list of questions and answers below are offered in order to assist in an understanding about what Orthodox Christians believe, not necessarily to convince you of them. Convincing is a matter of the heart and is left to the inner working of the Holy Spirit through one’s personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

 You use imagery (icons) and even kiss them - Why isn't this considered idolatry?

In Orthodox Christianity, icons are never worshipped, but those who are depicted in them are honored or venerated.

The Second Commandment says, “You shall not make for yourself any carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth” (Exod. 20: 4, 5). The warning here is that we are not to make images of things which are limited to heaven and therefore unseen, and we never bow down to or worship created, earthly things such as the golden calf. But does this condemn all imagery in worship? The Bible speaks for itself, and the answer is “no”. Just five chapters later, in Exodus 25, God gives His own blueprint for the tabernacle. Specifically in verses 19 and 20, He commands images of cherubim above the mercy seat. True imagery is not condemned in Scripture, but false imagery. Also, God promises to meet and speak with us through this imagery (see Exod. 25:22).

In Exodus 26:1, Israel was commanded in no uncertain terms to sew “artistic designs of cherubim” in the tabernacle curtains. Are these images? Yes. In fact, they are Old Testaments icons. And they are images that God commanded to be made.

From the very beginning the Church has made images of heavenly things brought to earth: Christ Himself, the cross (Gal. 6:14), and the saints of God (Heb. 11 and 12). It is important to note: Worship is reserved only for the Holy Trinity. But we do honor the great men and women of the faith by remembering them in the Church via visual aids, called icons or “windows to heaven”.

 Why do you honor the saints? Isn't Christ enough for you?

The Scriptures themselves call us to honor other Christians, both the living and departed.”] In Acts 28:10, St. Luke writes, “they honored us (the Apostolic band) in many ways.” The biblical injunction concerning Mary, “All generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48), is an example of how we are to honor the saints for all time (see also Heb. 11:4-40).

We are to honor all believers and true authorities, not just departed ones. This is why St. Paul exhorts us to honor one another (1 Timothy 5:17), and why Saint Peter tells husbands to honor their wives (1 Peter 3:7). We are never to seek honor for ourselves, but by loving, respecting, and honoring others we also honor Christ who made them in His image.

In Orthodox Christian worship, we see pictures or icons of the believers of history all around us. This is, in part, how we honor our forerunners in the faith. In Hebrews 12:22-24 we read that when we worship we are joining with the heavenly throng to praise and worship God. We come to join “an innumerable company of angels,” “the general assembly and Church of the first-born who are registered in heaven” and “the spirits of just men made perfect.” And as “in spirit and in truth” we join these angelic and redeemed heros of the faith, we do give them proper honor as the Scripture teaches. These saints of old are not dead, but alive in Christ forever.