An Orthodox Vs. Reformed Perspective of The Church

This article – originally a paper, presented to the 1996 session of the Orthodox-Reformed dialogue – deals with the relation between the Churches today and the ‘Church of the Creed’.

More than the Roman Catholic tradition, the Orthodox tradition emphasizes the spiritual, mystical character of the Church. Its desire is not so much the “return” of other Christians to “the Orthodox Church” (as an institution) as their return to the undivided Tradition of the first centuries (as lived within the Orthodox Church). Reformed may feel at home with this position, insofar as they too plead in favour of return to the origin of Christianity. Only, to them (like to the Lutherans) this origin is to be found in the testimony of Scripture, to be distinguished from the Early Church Tradition. While Orthodox (and Roman Catholic) ecclesiology is ‘from above’, Reformed ecclesiology is ‘from below’: here, the Church is basically defined as “the congregation of the believers”. In its later development, the Reformed tradition shows a strong tendency of spiritualism (ecclesial docetism), drawing a sharp dividing-line between the “visible church” and the “invisible Church” (the “congregation of the elect”) and identifying the Church of the Creed with the latter, not with the former. The original Reformation, however, was different, aiming at renewal of the Church in its visibility…

Good thoughts!