About attitude to the UNORTHODOX


“One Lord, one faith, one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5).
“Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners (1 Corinthians 15:33).

The first of God’s ten Commandments says “I am the LORD thy God… thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2,3). That is why, we, Ancient-Orthodox Christians, have faith in One and Only God. We believe that the One God established One and Only Church, for Christ did not say “I will build my churches” but He said “I will build my church” (Matthews 16:18). And just as there may not be for us another True God but a Triune God, there may not be for us another True Church but the Orthodox Church, as the Apostle said: “One Lord, one faith” (Ephesians 4:5). Thus, we have faith and profess that there is only One True God, only one true faith in Him and only one Church established and headed by Him in which we live as we boldly believe about us.
The knowledge about True God was given to the man initially. And the Devil decided to tear the man away from this very truth. He put into the ears of Eve the first heresy in the mankind history via the serpent. Wishing to lead away our forefathers from True God to other, false gods the Devil resorted to insidiousness having placed his wily nets through the cunning serpent: “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, we may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5).
Thus, the man’s heart became the battlefield for God’s truth and the Devil’s lie and the man failed to remain strong in the faith… Thus, the Devil stepped on the path of war against the humanity constantly leading men away from the path of salvation into the path of diabolic convictions, devising for the man various false gods, false life values and goals.
We may read in the Scriptures several times about deviations of God’s people from their Heavenly Master: “And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim: and they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger. (Judges 2:11,12); “And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the LORD, and served not him.” (Judges 10:6).
And if the Devil failed to make the people completely forsake the faith in True God, the Devil tried to entrap man in the net of religious syncretism [1] and eclecticism [2] whereby God’s Truth is mixed up with lies and whereby ungodly habits and convictions penetrated from unfaithful and perverted heathenish people in the true faith of God’s people, sometimes fully obscuring the path of the Truth: “For so it was, that the children of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, which had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods, and walked in the statutes of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made… So these nations feared the LORD, and served their graven images, both their children, and their children's children: as did their fathers, so do they unto this day.” (2 Kings 17: 7,8,41). And even some of the righteous ones were drawn in the ungodly paths allowing worship of the Creator of times to be combined with shameful worship of idols: “For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father. Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods. (1 Kings 11:4-8).
And several times God brought misfortunes upon His people for their betrayal of the faith so that the afflictions brought unto them would convince them that they had no defence and hope from false gods. So God the Almighty says: “I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bands of your yoke, and made you go upright. But if ye will not hearken unto me, and will not do all these commandments; and if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant: I also will do this unto you; I will even appoint over you terror, consumption, and the burning ague, that shall consume the eyes, and cause sorrow of heart: and ye shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. And I will set my face against you, and ye shall be slain before your enemies: they that hate you shall reign over you; and ye shall flee when none pursueth you. And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass: and your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits. And if ye walk contrary unto me, and will not hearken unto me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins. I will also send wild beasts among you, which shall rob you of your children, and destroy your cattle, and make you few in number; and your high ways shall be desolate. And if ye will not be reformed by me by these things, but will walk contrary unto me; then will I also walk contrary unto you, and will punish you yet seven times for your sins. And I will bring a sword upon you, that shall avenge the quarrel of my covenant: and when ye are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you; and ye shall be delivered into the hand of the enemy. And when I have broken the staff of your bread, ten women shall bake your bread in one oven, and they shall deliver you your bread again by weight: and ye shall eat, and not be satisfied. And if ye will not for all this hearken unto me, but walk contrary unto me; then I will walk contrary unto you also in fury; and I, even I, will chastise you seven times for your sins. And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat. And I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images, and cast your carcases upon the carcases of your idols, and my soul shall abhor you. And I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation, and I will not smell the savour of your sweet odours. And I will bring the land into desolation: and your enemies which dwell therein shall be astonished at it. And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste… And upon them that are left alive of you I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies; and the sound of a shaken leaf shall chase them; and they shall flee, as fleeing from a sword; and they shall fall when none pursueth. And ye shall have no power to stand before your enemies. And ye shall perish among the heathen, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. And they that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity in your enemies' lands; and also in the iniquities of their fathers shall they pine away with them. (Leviticus 26:13-39).
Nevertheless, God did not immediately punish them for their perfidy but patiently weathered their iniquities due to His unlimited love to the fallen men. He called the men to repentance several times by sending through His pleasers the warning about forthcoming misfortunes for the sins of the backslidden and showing the path to the peace with Himself: “Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, and by all the seers, saying, turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments and my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” (2 King 17:13); “Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?” (Ezekiel 18:23); “O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.” (Jeremiah 18:6-10).
But if insolent men blinded with mischief and various superstitions did not wish to repent but persisted in their wickedness reaching forth their impure arms to the messengers of God of whom we read “others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;” (Hebrews 11:35-37).
Although, undoubtedly, there were others who despite their totally backslidden endeavoured to keep the faith in purity, without any contamination of idolatry: “God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? How he maketh intercession to God against Israel saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.” (Romans 11:2-4).
Following the example of these righteous men and the call of God’s prophets many men and even nations came to repentance and turned to God.
Thus, the Israelites heard the accusing call of Micah and turned to God: “Micah the Morasthite prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and spake to all the people of Judah, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Zion shall be plowed like a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of a forest. Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all Judah put him at all to death? Did he not fear the LORD, and besought the LORD, and the LORD repented him of the evil which he had pronounced against them?” (Jeremiah 26:18,19).
Likewise, the preaching of Jonah brought the people of Nineveh to repentance: “So Jonah arose, and went unto Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceeding great city of three days' journey. And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.” (Jonah 3:3-10);
And God not only undid the people’s pending misfortunes but immediately removed from them any sorrows which had afflicted them and made their lives safe for them to observe His promises: “And the covenant that I have made with you ye shall not forget; neither shall ye fear other gods. But the LORD your God ye shall fear; and he shall deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.” (2 King 17:38-39).
However, brief moments of the triumph of devoutness in the men’s hearts were intervened with large periods of moral relapse and retreat from the True Faith. The humanity lived century after century in this spiritual wavering each time fallen pray to Satan.
But when the saving light of Christ’s Advent shone on the humanity engrossed in the darkness and the shadow of death and all the prophecies about Christ were accomplished and He established His Church on the foundation of the true and right faith in Him, then the enemy of the human race started sending Christians lots of manifold heresies.
Saint Cyprian of Carthage writes that it was the Devil who “invented heresies and schisms, whereby he might subvert the faith, might corrupt the truth, might divide the unity. Those whom he cannot keep in the darkness of the old way, he circumvents and deceives by the error of a new way. He snatches men from the Church itself; and while they seem to themselves to have already approached to the light, and to have escaped the night of the world, he pours over them again, in their unconsciousness, new darkness; so that, although they do not stand firm with the Gospel of Christ, and with the observation and law of Christ, they still call themselves Christians, and, walking in darkness, they think that they have the light, while the adversary is flattering and deceiving, who, according to the apostle’s word, transforms himself into an “angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:14), and equips his ministers as if they were the “ministers of righteousness” (ibid.), who maintain night instead of day, death for salvation, despair under the offer of hope, perfidy under the pretext of faith, antichrist under the name of Christ; so that, while they feign things like the truth, they make void the truth by their subtlety.” [3]. That is why not all stood firm in the Truth but even in the days of the Apostles there were those who failed by joining in communication with heretics – perverters of Christ’s teaching: “And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write… thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.” (Revelation 2:12-16). And the Apostle Saint Paul mentions the names of the first heretics who denied the upright conscience and accordingly were totally shipwrecked in departing from the faith: “Of whom is Hymenaeus and Alexander; whom I have delivered unto Satan, that they may learn not to blaspheme.” (1 Timothy 1:20).
But in the course of time the number of those struggling with the Church of Christ increased and God provided in the Church field numerous labourers - defenders of the faith. Just as numerous stars, the multitude of holy fathers shone in the spiritual sky fighting with the darkness of various and fine-spun delusions, identifying and exposing diabolic lies and protecting the faithful ones from the deadly snares of all conceivable heresies.
Here are just few of precious spiritual gems of holy fathers’ teachings calling on every Christian to stand firm in the Orthodox faith and avoid any heretical ‘false wisdoms”:
“Therefore, brethren, let us take our stand on the rock of the faith, and on the tradition of the Church, neither removing the boundaries laid down by our holy fathers of old, nor listening to those who would introduce innovation and destroy the economy of the holy Catholic and Apostolic Church of God.” (St John Damascene).
“The points touching the Faith, where to deviate a little is to commit a sin unto death and even smallest disregard of the tradition leads to full oblivion of the Faith dogmas” (St. Photius the Great).
 "No man can find salvation except in the Church. One can have honour, one can have sacraments, one can sing alleluia, one can answer amen, one can have faith in the Name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and preach it too, but never can one find salvation except in the Orthodox Catholic Church." (St. Augustine of Hippo).
Since the influence of heresy is so dangerous, vile and perilous, the holy fathers taught Christians the rule not to have any communication in prayer with heretics, not to visit liturgies, not to allow them to attend Orthodox prayer, not to organize any special prayer meetings together with them:
“Let any Bishop, or Presbyter, or Deacon that merely joins in prayer with heretics be suspended, but if he has permitted them to perform any service as Clergymen, let him be deposed” (the 45th Canon of Holy Apostles);
“If anyone pray in company with one who has been excommunicated, he shall be excommunicated himself” (the 10th Canon of Holy Apostles);
“If any Clergyman, or Layman, enter a synagogue of Jews, or of heretics, to pray, let him be both deposed and excommunicated” (the 65th Canon of Holy Apostles);
“No one shall join in prayers with heretics or schismatics” (XXXIII Canon of the Council of Laodicea);
“If anyone among the Bishops, or Presbyters, or Deacons, or anyone of the Canon, should appear to be communing with those who have been excluded from communion, he too is to be excluded from communion, on the ground of seemingly confusing the Canon of the Church” (II Canon of the Council of Antioch);
“Question 9: Whether a Clergyman ought to pray when Arians or other heretics are present, or it does not matter, at a time when he himself is making the prayer, that is to say, the offering? Answer: In the divine anaphora, or offering, the Deacon addresses before the embrace the congregation, saying: “Those of ye who are not in communion, Take a walk.” There ought not, therefore, to be any persons present such as those mentioned, unless they promise to repent and to leave the heresy.” (Canonical answers of Timothy of Alexandria);
“If any Christian conveys oil to a temple of heathen, or to a synagogue of Jews, in their festivals, or lights lamps for them, let him be excommunicated” (the 71st Canon of Holy Apostles);
“The temple of heathen may be entered only when there is a need and only as a simple house and only when a cross is set in the centre, one may sign here; but it is prohibited to enter the altar, to burn cense, to light lamps or candles” (the 46th Canon of St. Nicephorus the Confessor);
“Question 3. About temples fouled by priests who communicate with heathen and occupied by them: may one enter them for prayer and for singing psalms? Answer. One shall not enter such temples for the said goals for it is written: behold, your house is left unto you desolate (Matthew 23:38). Truly it is said that as heresy is introduced, the guardian angle of those places flies away, as Basil the Great said; and such temple becomes a simple house. A psalm singer says he shall not enter the temple of heathen. And the Apostle says: And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? (2 Corinthians 6:16)” (St. Theodore the Studite)[4];
“Question 5. About holy relics: may one enter their reliquaries and pray and bow if they are occupied by foul priests? Answer. For the above reasons the canon disallows to enter such reliquaries for it is written: Conscience, I say, not thine own, but of the other: for why is my liberty judged of another man's conscience? (1 Corinthians 10:29); - only if needed, only to honour the holy relics one may enter (St. Theodore the Studite)[5].
The reason for compiling the said Church canons is self-evident since a joint prayer envisages joint appeal to God but it is impossible to pray together for those who have the Orthodox faith in the Holy Trinity with those who fear other gods. Neither are we allowed to pray with those who, though, have faith in the Triune God but turn away from and do not wish to follow other religious dogmas and Orthodox traditions which were handed down to us by God through Holy Apostles and Holy Fathers. For the Holy Scripture says: “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination” (Proverbs 28:9); “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD” (Proverbs 15:8). So why, joining in the prayer with those whose sacrifice is not pleasing to God, should we also make our prayer unpleasant to Him”? It will never be so!
 But not only by joint prayer but also by close friendly communication any man may absorb other people’s opinions and habits including immoral and ungodly ones for it is said: “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33). Hence, holy fathers on behalf of Ecumenical Councils call on Christians to avoid close relations with people leading an improper life and moreover with those who favour opinions contrary to those of the Orthodox faith:
“It is not lawful to receive portions sent from the feasts of Jews or heretics, nor to feast together with them.”; “It is not lawful to feast together with the heathen, and to be partakers of their godlessness” (the 37th and 39th Canons of the Council of Laodicea);
“The members of the Church are not allowed to meet in the cemeteries, nor attend the so-called martyries of any of the heretics, for prayer or service; but such as so do, if they be communicants, shall be excommunicated for a time; but if they repent and confess that they have sinned they shall be received” (the 9th Canon of the Council of Laodicea);
“No Christian shall forsake the martyrs of Christ, and turn to false martyrs, that is, to those of the heretics, or those who formerly were heretics; for they are aliens from God. Let those, therefore, who go after them, be anathema” (the 34th Canon of the Council of Laodicea);
“The members of the Church shall not indiscriminately marry their children to heretics” (the 10th Canon of the Council of Laodicea);
“It is riot lawful to make marriages with all sorts of heretics, nor to give our sons and daughters to them; but rather to take of them, if they promise to become Christians” (the 31st Canon of the Council of Laodicea);
“Let no Orthodox man be allowed to contract a marriage with a heretical woman, nor moreover let any Orthodox woman be married to a heretical man. But if it should be discovered that any such thing is done by any one of the Christians, no matter who, let the marriage be deemed void, and let the lawless marriage tie be dissolved. For it is not right to mix things immiscible, nor to let a wolf get tangled up with a sheep, and the lot of sinners get tangled up with the portion of Christ. If, therefore, anyone violates the rules we have made let him be excommunicated” (the 72nd Canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Council);
“It is unlawful to receive the eulogiae of heretics, for they are rather alogiai, than eulogiae” (the 32nd Canon of the Council of Laodicea);
“As for baptizing, when there is no Orthodox church and when we asked where to seal, instruct and baptize, and who shall be parents and godparents?” – Answer: “One shall neither enter the church occupied by heretics nor, moreover, commit the above said. But if there is no church one shall enter the purest part of the house and shall baptize on consecrated altar or table. Godparents shall be those who have no relation to heretics, just as the parents shall not be related to heretics” (St. Theodore the Studite)[6];
“If anyone reads to the public in churches the books of impious writers bearing false inscriptions and purporting to be holy, to the injury of laity and clergy, let him be deposed” (the 60th Canon of Holy Apostles);
“With regard to the falsely compiled martyr-lists fabricated by the enemies of the truth, as if with an intention to dishonour the Martyrs of Christ and to lead those paying attention to it into disbelief, we command that it must not be read publicly even in the churches, but that these things must be consigned to fire. As for those who accept them and recognize them as veridical, or those who bestow any attention upon them as true, we anathematize such persons” (the 63rd Canon of the Sixth Ecumenical Council);
“All boyish whimwhams and mad bacchanalia, the false writings that have been brought forth against the venerable icons, must be turned in to the Bishopric of Constantinople to be put away together with the rest of heretical books. If, on the other hand, anyone should be found hiding these, if he be a Bishop, a Presbyter, or a Deacon, let him be deposed from office; but if he be a layman or a monk, let him be excommunicated” (the 9th Canon of the Seventh Ecumenical Council).
Thus, the holy fathers ban us from visiting services in unorthodox churches even for the reason of remoteness of the Orthodox church, burn candles there, celebrate their feasts set to honour their gods or those people who are considered saints by them. We are banned from visiting the places honoured by the unorthodox and from paying homage to their relics. We are banned from marrying the unorthodox until they accept the Orthodox faith. We are banned from appointing them godparents while baptising Orthodox children. We are banned from reading and distributing books which contain their opinions contrary to the Orthodox faith.
However, if the attitude to the unorthodox is so strict, Christians should be absolutely banned from communicating with them, moreover, should we hate them? No, and never!
Every man on the earth is created by God, He loves all, He came to this world for the sake of all, He shed His Immaculate blood on the Cross of Golgotha for the sins of all. And if God loves every man, so we should love every man without distinction for nationality, faith or social position. Christ said: “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45). So we should make good, godly acts both for every man and together with every man. We should stay away from fallacies, godless convictions and non-Christian ways of life and try to free all the men who have strayed away from them.
No encouragement of vice is allowed since through our silence and, moreover, participation in ungodly acts we create the reason for the people who have gone astray to think that their false convictions and ways of life are quite godly. And by doing so we shall not save them from the darkness of fallacies, on the contrary, we shall only further confirm them on their erroneous and perilous path. Let us pay heed to what Maximus the Confessor, the holy advocate of the Orthodox faith, says about it: “I write these things not wishing to cause distress to the heretics or to rejoice in their ill treatment—God forbid; but, rather, rejoicing and being gladdened at their return. For what is more pleasing to the Faithful than to see the scattered children of God gathered again as one? Neither do I exhort you to place harshness above the love of men. May I not be so mad! I beseech you to do and to carry out good to all men with care and assiduity, becoming all things to all men, as the need of each is shown to you; I want and pray you to be wholly harsh and implacable with the heretics only in regard to cooperating with them or in any way whatever supporting their deranged belief. For I reckon it misanthropy and a departure from Divine love to lend support to error, that those previously seized by it might be even more greatly corrupted”.
John Chrysostom, the Holy Master of the Church, echoes the Godly Maximus “Ought we not despise even enemies and pagans? We ought, yet not them but their teaching, not the man but his vicious life and perverted will. A man is God’s act and superstition is devil’s act. Thus, do not mix up that of God and that of devil. Jews blamed, pursued and insulted Christ and spoke much evil about Him, but did Paul hate them, the one who loved Christ more than anybody? No, on the contrary, he loved them and did his best for them; he said “my heart's desire and prayer to God” about them “that they might be saved” (Romans 10:1); and also «for I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ” for them (Romans 9:3)… If we start hating the ungodly and the malfeasant, then, further on, we shall hate sinners too; and taking this path, little by little, we shall separate ourselves from the greater part of the brethren, or, even, from all of them since there is nobody without sin. If we ought to hate the enemies of God, then we ought to hate not only the ungodly ones but sinners too; thus, we shall become worse then beasts turning away from everybody and filling ourselves with pride as Pharisee does[7]. “But what do you say if he is evil and vicious? Listen what Christ says "Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1). Do what is pleasing to God. But what I say? Even if we see a pagan in trouble, we ought to do him kind and to all men in trouble, moreover, to a faithful layman. Listen what Paul commands: «let us do good to everyone and especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10). I’m not aware of where (the opposite opinion) comes from and how this (disgusting) habit has become stronger with us. Who is looking for only the monks, who wants to do good only to them and yet make difference between them and says: if he is unworthy, if he is not righteous, if he does not make the sign of the Cross, I shall not help him, - such takes away the major part of the alms and also destroys the rest in the course of time; on the contrary, that alms is true when it is given to sinners or the guilty; the alms pardons not those who are righteous but those who sinned … we learn to care about everybody equally and do good not only to those who are in the household of faith and think about everybody. So you do when you see somebody in need, do not study anything about him; he has the right for help only because he suffers. If you help the donkey when you see it dying and do not ask who his master is, even more you should not ask about the man who his master is; God is, even if he is pagan or a Jew. Even if he is unorthodox, yet he needs help. If you were allowed to study and judge you could say so, but now the very trouble does not allow you to study. If one ought not to judge the living and to study others’ acts, moreover one ought not to study the acts of the needy[8].
And if we ought to love any man and perform kind deeds to every man, then, a part of these kind acts should be the prayer for every man, and if he is unorthodox, the stronger our prayer should be so that he might return from the perilous path to the Church of Christ.
St, John Chrysostom writes: “We ought not to hate but to give alms; if you hate how you can return the one who has gone astray, how you would pray for the unorthodox? And we should pray for him, listen what Paul says: “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men” (1 Timothy 2:1); but at that time not all were faithful as everybody knows. Further on: “For kings and for all that are in authority” (verse 2); but they were ungodly and malfeasant, as is also known. Then, showing the reason for the prayer, he adds:“ For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (verses 3-4)»[9].
We read the words of venerable Nikon Montenegrin in the “Bok of Cyril” about the same. “If we ought to pray about the pagan, it is evident that we ought to pray about the heretics and in general about all people we ought to pray and not drive them away. Christ died for the pagan too, whereas you do not want to pray for them! And so Reverend Theodore Studite commands about the same. We shall care not only about ourselves but pray about the world, pardoning and benevolent to all: to those whose life is perverted, who is drowned in heresies, who is fallen into spiritual deception, who is obsessed by idolatry. And just about all people as the Apostle commanded us saying “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men” (1 Timothy 2:1). As for the heretics we ought to pray about the living ones, while we ought not to pray about the dead heretics – this law is by set holy fathers”. [10].
Following this teaching of the holy fathers the Church of Christ unceasingly prays “for the peace in the entire world and calls on God “strengthen the aged; give courage to the faint hearted; reunite those separated; bring back those in error and unite them to Your Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church”; “prevent schism in the Church; pacify the raging of the heathen. Quickly stop the uprisings of heresies by the power of Your Holy Spirit. Receive us all into Your kingdom. Declare us to be sons and daughters of the light and of the day.” [11].
We should bring to the world the saving light of Christ’ teaching through this Evangelic path, by personal example of our life: sincere prayer, spiritual counsel and our kind deeds.
Neither force nor violence is allowed in the issues of the faith. God wishes that people should bring the worthy fruit of repentance and conscientiously, sincerely turn to the True God. At Ecumenical Councils the holy fathers banned all force in the issues of the faith “Then when all things had been considered and treated of which seem to conduce to the advantage of the church, the Spirit of God suggesting and admonishing us, we determined to act leniently and pacifically with the before-mentioned men, although they were cut off from the unity of the Lord’s body by an unruly dissent... “that perchance,” as the Apostle says, when we have corrected them with gentleness, “God should grant them repentance for the acknowledging of the truth”, and that they might be snatched out of the snares of the devil, who are led captive of him at his will (2 Timothy 2, 25)” (the Council of Carthage, the 77th Canon).
Having suffered persecution, inhuman for cruelty and unprecedented for length, for loyalty to the faith in Christ the Ancient-Orthodox Church itself has no wish to be among the persecutors and condemns any religious extremism, any violence in the issues of the faith and justification of such violence as no violence may put in the human heart pure convictions and sincere faith but only “with the heart man believeth unto righteousness” (Romans 10:10).
But at the same time we are unable to remain silent about our faith in the truth and the exclusivity of the Orthodox Christianity “for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (Luke 6:45) and “and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10).
We may not only be silent about our faith but should not be silent for our Lord Jesus Christ told us “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32, 33).
And not only we should not keep silent about the Christian Faith but we have no right to keep silent, on the contrary, we are obliged to speak openly about it, preach it to every man both by word and our virtuous life as our Saviour and God declared “What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops (Matthew 10:27); “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you (Matthew 28:19,20); “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
Nowadays, it is of special importance to understand the right way and follow the above said for especially now the devil struggles for the humanity not only through increased godlessness but through omnipresent propaganda of immoral way of life: lasciviousness, ambition, pride, greed for money and other vices. Disguising this ungodliness with deceitful words about fictitious personal freedom and substituting the notion of the free moral choice with permissiveness of vice.
And one of the most regrettable disasters of the current times is incredibly increased and still increasing dissidence and perverted convictions of those who have faith in Christ as Our Lord.
God bequeathed the world to us through his Disciples, commanded us to hold dear the unity and strive for Him as He Himself prayed to his Heavenly Father saying “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are… Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;  that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17: 11,20,21).
Thus, dissidence in the faith is not pleasing to God and we should strive to overcome such dissidence and achieve the total unity bequeathed to us by God and peace in Christ. But this is where the devil awaits the faithful by putting in their minds the defected aspiration for just formal unity and not the true spiritual unity based on the Evangelic teaching. Such peace is not pleasing to God for unity with dissidents and those who fell away from the Orthodox unity without their correction and return to the Church from which the fell away is equal to reconciliation with the one who is guilty of their falling away from the Orthodox, with the very one who put haughty and blasphemous thoughts in the minds of their ancestors and leaders – with the devil. Not without reason the Church severed its link of the Church unity with heretics, and not without reason ceased considering them brothers in faith, therefore, correction of this situation and achievement of the desired unity, without doubt, is possible only through resorting to the remedy of the original cause of divisions. The sanctified Gregory the Theologian writes “You shall not think that I confirm that we shall value any peace. For I know that there is wonderful dissidence and most perilous oneness; we ought to love good peace having good purpose and uniting us with God[12].
Exactly, that is why our pious ancestors strove not for mechanical union with those who fell away from the Church unity but truly wished to return them to the Church through gentle persuasion, patient explanation and meticulous denunciation of those wrong convictions which divided the brethren who used to be united and tore away from the unity with the Orthodox Church those who were carried away by unorthodox thoughts.
We may find in the 80th Canon of the Council of Carthage an example of how to make a dialogue with dissidents, how it should be organised and what goals and tasks is should have “That a legation be sent to the Donatists for the sake of making peace. It further seemed good, that when these things were done, legates should be sent from our number to those of the Donatists whom they hold as bishops, or to the people, for the sake of preaching peace and unity, without which Christian salvation cannot be attained; and that these legates should direct the attention of all to the fact that they have no just objection to urge against the Catholic Church.”
Thus, we should go out to the external ones and with love admonish them to return to the unity by showing them the injustice of their deviation from the Orthodox faith. And this is the only way to achieve the complete unity in the unified Church. But if we search for the unity without agreement in the issues of the faith or at the cost of theological compromises, then it will be merely the illusion of the unity, self-delusion leading to absolute religious indifference and, finally, to godlessness.
Yet, nowadays many of those who name themselves Christians take this very path. The wish for the unity, anxiety about growing internal divisions cause many people in the entire world to seek for paths of communication and spiritual unity with each other, but, alas, this procedure has taken the wrong way from the very outset. We have already said that the only right way for such unity is the return of those who acknowledge Christ as Lord to patristic understanding of Christianity. However, instead of returning to the spiritual origins the theological thought free from any boundaries went still further away from the Orthodox teaching by adding new false convictions to the old ones.
The teaching on the Church of Christ has suffered a major universal deformation.
In 1838 the theologian of the Anglican Church William Palmer wrote the Treatise of the Church of Christ. Evidently, wishing to explain to himself the fact of the existence of multiple religious communities having no communication with each other this protestant theologian formulated the so-called theory of branches according to which all communities in the world acknowledging Christ as their Lord and Saviour are equally significant, equally salvific and equally beneficial parts of the united Church of Christ and all divisions between them are of only formal, seeming nature. It is also stated that as every confession is just a branch of the total Church tree, naturally, none of them, taken separately, possesses God’s Truth in full but only all confessions, taken together. This statement leads to the conclusion that as there is no visible unity and agreement between the confessions in the issues of religious dogmas, then, there is no Church as such in its essence; it has yet to be built by all confessions having united together.
The falseness of this theory is evident for the Scripture says that Christ is “the head of the body, the church” (Colossians 1:18) and “Is Christ divided?” (1 Corinthians 1:13). No, but “one faith” (Ephesians 4:5) and “the church is subject unto Christ” (Ephesians 5:24), it is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15) and “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). That is why the Church never divided and cannot divide, just as Christ, the Head of the Church, can never divide. The Church unity is the unity in faith and not in an unlimited multitude of controversial opinions. Thus, over the course of history, when Christianity was baffled by various heresies it was not the Church which divided for the reason of dissidence in faith but those who did not wish to accept and follow the Orthodox faith safeguarded by the Church fell away from it.
However, despite disagreement of the aforementioned theory of branches with the Holy Scriptures, this ecclesiological heresy quickly spread in the world having united numerous religious confessions which, one way or another, call themselves Christian.
As an alternative position other theologians put forward the idea about not non-equivalence of confessions but about confessions being variously distanced from the Church in proportion to dogmatic differences from the Orthodox teaching accumulated by them. But speaking about existence of just only one right faith, at the same time, these theologians admit that the confessions with the damaged faith, however, administer beneficial and salvific sacraments. If it is really so, and the Holy Spirit did not forsake the heretics who fell away from the Orthodox teaching and who were condemned for it, then, despite all theological errors, all these heretical confessions also live in the Church of Christ as only the Church provides salvation and beneficial liturgical life, only in the Church the Holy Spirit lives. Hence, the protestant theory of branches, despite its visible negation, was re-stated in another, disguised format, therefore, more perilous for the soul.
So, we see that the above theologian’s concepts are actually not different from each other as both of them dilute the criteria to identify the Church of Christ for as the dogmatic differences have no value and effect on a man’s salvation and as the heretics have the Eucharist, a bloodless sacrifice is made, subsequently, they have full communication with Christ and their wrong convictions in no way distanced them from this godly communication.
The first of them is the protestant theory of branches which, in its essence, is the heresy of religious syncretism as it admits that various theologian opinions of numerous separate Christian confessions enjoying some part of the truth are only all together have complete knowledge of God. Thus, numerous theological wrong convictions are mixed up, merged and united in the new faith which is alien to the Orthodox faith.
The second theory of the seemingly divided Church is the heresy of religious eclecticism, as on the one hand, confirming the true nature and exclusivity of the Orthodoxy; on the other hand, it admits the presence of salvific and benevolent life in the unorthodoxy, therefore, artificially, mechanically uniting communities with various theological opinions in one church.
These agitations and wanderings of theological thought are reflected in the new theological term “heterodoxy”. This term has the idea that the communities which fell away from the Church, nonetheless, did not fall away from serving God but glorify Him too. This statement by itself is untrue, as wrong convictions of those who fell away are not just some marginal issues but are immediately related to the ecclesiastical doctrine, to the faith in God, i.e. the heretics have a different faith in God, not the one He taught us through His Holy Disciples and Apostles. Any distortion of the truth which, in our opinion, is the orthodox patristic dogma, may not be pleasing to God but is insulting Him, and this insult is blasphemy and not glorification. God may be glorified only in the right way and the notion of the Orthodoxy originates from here. What glorification may be different from the right one? Only the wrong one, therefore, ungodly “He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination” (Proverbs 28:9). No doubt, all communities which fell away from the Church think about themselves that they glorify God while the Orthodox Christians may not and should not consider godly the offerings and praises of those who fell away from the Church unity. Thus, from the point of view of the orthodox faith, any heresy is not some “heterodoxy” but is the unorthodoxy which, in its essence, is a wrong faith.
Yet, our opponents justify themselves saying that “The wind bloweth where it listeth” (John 3:8), that, allegedly, nobody may order the Holy Spirit to stop acting in this or that society and that the court of human Councils has no authority over God’s Spirit. Yes, it is truly so, but why the unorthodoxy are so sure that the Holy Spirit blows in their communities? What evidence do they have that their path is pleasing to God? The Scripture testifies about the faithful ones that “God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-15). So, God Himself through His Holy Apostle testifies that the Holy Spirit lives among the faithful ones and the faithful ones are those who were brought to the faith by the sermon of Holy Apostles and who invariably keep the faith received from Them. That is why those who do not keep the Apostles’ faith, evidently, may not speak about themselves that they have God’s Spirit. And only those who invariably try to follow the Apostles’ gospel have the boldness to speak about themselves as Saint Paul said “I think also that I have the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 7:40). Similarly the Apostle Saint Jude admonishes the Christians and testifies “But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, "In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires." These are the men who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit. But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit.” (Jude 1:17-20). Thus, those who divided themselves from the Apostles’ faith are soulful and not spiritual people and the Holy Spirit does not act in their prayers.
That is why the unity with the unorthodox based on religious syncretism and religious eclecticism being the forms of perilous dual faith, spiritual fornication defying the first commandment of the law of God is inadmissible “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). The Scripture wording also rightly testifies about such false unity “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 16:25).
We also consider as such ways to death the aforementioned theologian’s concepts stated in the spirit of religious syncretism and eclecticism, therefore, disagreeing and incompatible with the Orthodox dogma on the Church and with the patristic definition of heresy as a dangerous, non-benevolent and non-salvific unorthodoxy “because the origin of separation arose through schism, and those who had apostatized from the Church had no longer on them the grace of the Holy Spirit, for it ceased to be imparted when the continuity was broken.  The first separatists had received their ordination from the Fathers, and possessed the spiritual gift by the laying on of their hands.  But they who were broken off had become laymen, and, because they are no longer able to confer on others that grace of the Holy Spirit from which they themselves are fallen away, they had no authority either to baptize or to ordain.” (St. Basil the Great)[13]; “They [heretics] became so mad that they forfeited the gifts of the Holy Spirit and lost God’s heritage, that is the former truth of the faith” (St. Jerome of Stridonium) [14]; “They have repeatedly excommunicated themselves … Additionally, they have been cut off and stripped of priesthood by the council. What Mysteries, then, can they perform? And what spirit descends on those whom they ordain?” (St. Maximus the Confessor)[15]; “Let you not be seduced by meetings of heretics because baptism for them is not illumination; they accept baptism by body and are not illuminated by soul. Just like Simon [the Magician] was baptised and not illuminated; they are just the same” (St. John Chrysostom)[16].
So, we too, not wishing to “remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set” (Proverbs 22:28), after them condemn all unsuitable heretical “false wisdoms” and perilous dual faith, anathematising on both religious syncretism adding up to the Orthodox teaching various theologian wrong convictions and heresies and religious eclecticism artificially uniting the Orthodoxy with the unorthodoxy through acknowledgement of the communities which fell away from the Church unity as non-alien to benevolent life and the fate of the saved ones.
Yet, we do not pronounce the final judgment on anybody as the judgment is entirely in God’s hands. We care only about meticulous retention and safeguard of the Orthodox faith; therefore we excommunicate anybody whose thinking is contrary to the Orthodox faith. At the same time we consider it our duty to preach peace in Christ to all people on the earth and promote return to the Orthodox faith of all people who were torn away by force or by their own will.
We give positive assessment that nowadays many nations and religious persons of the world having become aware of and having admitted the non-exclusivity, imperfection and, subsequently, untruth of their religious convictions take the path of the spiritual search. The Ancient-Orthodox Church welcomes such spiritual search and unambiguously agrees with such people in search of assessment of their religious convictions. We also believe that all men’s convictions are imperfect and do not contain the undamaged Truth. Thank God, the humanity has finally opened their eyes to the fact that their religious views are imperfect and damaged. Thank God, that the religious feeling of people may no longer be satisfied with their previous convictions and people want to fathom another path, a more perfect path leading to God of Whom they are not yet aware! We say positively “of Whom they are not aware” as they admit the inadequacy and the falsehood of their previous views about God. That is why we address to them the words of Holy Apostle Paul “perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you” (Acts 17:22-23).
Finally, since the humanity has recognised the imperfection of its path, let it turn the eyes to the perfection of the holy faith, the Orthodox faith and that in this faith, as Christ said, “they also may be one” (John 17:21)!

The city of Moscow
23 April (6 May) 2010
For the memory of the Glorious
Martyr Saint St. George the Victorious

ALEXANDER, the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia
Priest and Representative of His Eminence Joseph, the Bishop of Belorussia and the Ukraine ALEXANDER (RAZUVANOV)
Eminent SERGIY, the Bishop of Siberia
Eminent SAVIN, the Bishop of Lower Volga
Priest and Representative of His Eminence Jacob, the Bishop of Sion and Western Europe GEORGIY (NOVIKOV)
Eminent VASILIY, the Bishop of Upper Volga


[1] Religious syncretism (from Greek συγκρητισμός — amalgamation, merging) — the amalgamation of different religions into unified religious system.
[2] Religious eclecticism (from Greek εκλέγω “choosing”) — Inorganic, purely external amalgamation of religious convictions, teachings which are internally incompatible and contradictory.
[3] About the Church Unity // Creations. Moscow: Pilgrim, 1999. page 234.
[4] Venerable St. Theodore the Studite. Epistles. Book 2. Moscow, 2003. Pages 191-198.