Are the Terms "Christian" and "Orthodox" Accurate For Our
by Archbishop Averky of Blessed Memory
Until recently , the concepts and terms "Christian" and
"Orthodox" were unambiguous and meaningful. Now, however, we are living through
times so terrible, so filled with falsehood and deception, that such concepts and terms no
longer convey what is significant when used without further clarification. They do not
reflect the essence of things, but have become little more than deceptive labels.
Many societies and organizations now call themselves "Christian" although
there is nothing Christian in them, insofar as they reject the principal dogma of
Christianitythe divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, as do several of the newest
sects, to which the very spirit of true Christianity, which follows so naturally and
logically from the teaching of the Gospels, is generally quite foreign.
Of late, the term "Orthodox" also has ceased in large measure to express what
it should, for even those who in fact have apostatized from true Orthodoxy and become
traitors to the Orthodox Faith and Church continue to call themselves
Such are all the innovators, who reject the true spirit of Orthodoxy, all those who
have started down the path of mutual relations with the enemies of Orthodoxy, who
propagandize for common prayer and even liturgical communion with those who do not belong
to the Holy Orthodox Church. Such are the "renovationists"  and contemporary
"neo-renovationists", the "neo-Orthodox" (as some of them openly style
themselves!), who are clamoring about how essential it is to "renew the Orthodox
Church", about some sort of "reforms in Orthodoxy", which allegedly has
become "set in its ways" and "moribund". They harp on such things
instead of focusing their prayerful attention on the truly essential renewal of their own
souls and the fundamental reform of their own sinful nature with its passions and desires.
They insistently proclaim union with heretics, with non-Orthodox, and even with
non-Christians. They proclaim "the union of all",
but without the unity of spirit and truth which alone makes such union possible.
Such, for example, in our days are the Ecumenical Patriarchs of Constantinople, who in
the past recognized the "Living Church" in Soviet Russia as legal and now
recognize the Pope of Rome as the "head of the whole Christian Church", and even
admit the papist Latins to Holy Communion without their first being united to the Holy
Such are all those who actively participate in the so-called Ecumenical Movement, which
is striving so blatantly to create some sort of new pseudo-church out of all the
denominations now existing.
Such, too, are those many others who are not completely faithful to our Lord and Savior
and His Holy Church, but serve His vicious enemies or please them in one way or another by
helping them to realize their anti-Christian goals in a world which has turned away from
Who will dare to deny us our lawful right not to recognize such people as Orthodox, even
though they may persist in using that name and in bearing various high ranks and titles?
From church history we know that there have been not a few heretics and even
heresiarchs of high rank who were solemnly condemned by the Universal Church and removed
from their offices.
But what do we see today?
This, sadly, is an age of unlimited concessions and sly collaboration, when even the
most scandalous heretical actions or statements disturb hardly anyone. Very few react to
this manifest apostasy from Orthodoxy as they should, and as for condemning these new
heretics and apostatesthere is no point in even thinking about it. Today everything
is permitted for everyone and nothing is prohibited for anyone, except in cases where
someone is personally hurt, offended and insulted when their own folly is pointed out. Oh,
in such cases, this is unforgivable! Then threats make their appearance, based on those
forgotten canons, which otherwise are "obsolete, outdated and unacceptable" in
our advanced, progressive age!
This is the kind of moral disintegration, of real spiritual monstrosity, that faces us.
The truth is readily ignored and brazenly flouted, while evil, just as readily,
celebrates its triumphant victory and gloatingly mocks the truth which it has overthrown
and trampled upon.
Is it possible to reconcile one's conscience to this contemporary situation?
Can one close one's eyes to all these lies and falsehoods and calmly act as if one saw
Only individuals whose consciences are burned out or completely lost can do so! That is
why it is more than strange to hear some, imagining themselves to be Orthodox, call the
Russian Church Outside of Russia, "Old Believer", "schismatic",
"Black Hundredist",  "retrograde", "obscurantist", and so
on, simply because we will not walk in step with these times
and dare not to apostatize in anything from Christ's Gospel and the original teaching of
the Holy Church, and therefore consider it an obligation of conscience to condemn this
clear and obvious evil of contemporary life which has already penetrated into the Church.
In fact, it is not we who are schismatic, but all those who follow the spirit of these
times and by that act cut themselves off from the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic
Church, apostatizing from the apostolic faith, from the faith of the Fathers, from the
Orthodox faith, which established the whole world
These people are obviously
hurtling over the precipice of apostasyinto the abyss of perdition, together
with the whole contemporary world, burying themselves in their apostasy from the
Do you hear the Apostle's divinely inspired words, modernists, attempting to distort
Christ's Gospel and becoming so readily and zealously "conformed to this world",
evil and alluring as it is?
We readily accept your indictment that we are "old believers", considering it
an honor to our traditionalism; but how does your Christian conscience get on with your
innovating, which overthrows essentially the ancient, true faith and Christ's unchanging
Was it not the Apostle who warned all Christians:
"Be ye not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your
mind, that ye may prove what is the good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God"
We are "old believers", but not schismatics, for we have never cut ourselves off from the true Church of Christ.
We are in union with our Head, Christ the Savior, with His holy Disciples and Apostles,
with the Apostolic Fathers, with the great Fathers and Teachers of the Church, and with
the great luminaries and pillars of the faith and piety of our Fatherland, Holy Russia.
But you are in union with some sort of innovating, self-appointed teachers, whom you
advertise everywhere so unlawfully and obstinately, disparaging and at times even daring
to criticize the genuine luminaries of our Holy Church, who have pleased God and been
glorified in many ascetic struggles of piety and miracles throughout the course of her two
thousand year history.
This being the case, which of us is really the schismatic?
Of course it is not those in the spirit of traditional Orthodoxy, but those who have
apostatized from the true faith of Christ and rejected the genuine spirit of Christian
piety; even though all the contemporary patriarchs, who have altered our age-old,
patristic Orthodoxy, may be on the latter's side, as well as the majority of contemporary,
Indeed, Christ the Savior did not promise eternal salvation to the majority, but, quite
to the contrary, He promised it to His "little flock", which will remain
faithful to Him to the end, in the day of His Glorious and Terrible Second Coming, when He
will come "to judge the living and the dead."
"Fear not, little flock," He said, painting the frightening picture of the
last times of apostasy from God and persecution of the Faith before our mind's eye,
"For it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the Kingdom" (Lk. 12:32).
This is why all we have said above prompts us to re-examine the terminology that has
been accepted up to the present. It is insufficient in our time to say only
"Christian"now it is necessary to qualify this by saying
"true-Christian". Similarly it is insufficient to say
"Orthodox"it is essential to emphasize that one is not referring to an
innovating modernist "Orthodox", but to a true Orthodox.
All genuine zealots of the true faith, serving Christ the Savior alone, have already
begun to do this, both those in our Fatherland, enslaved by ferocious enemies of God,
where zealots depart into the catacombs like the ancient Christians, as well as in Greece,
our brother nation, where the "Old Calendarists" not only refuse to accept the
new calendar, but also reject all innovations of any kind. They have a special veneration
for that champion of Holy Orthodoxy, St. Mark, Metropolitan of
Ephesus, thanks to whose steadfastness the impious Union of Florence with papal Rome
in 1439 failed. 
In our firm stand for the true Faith and Church it is essential only to avoid
everything personalpride and self-exaltation, which inevitably lead to new errors,
and eventually even to a fall; we have already witnessed this in several cases. It is not
ourselves we should praise, but the pure and immaculate Faith of Christ. No fanaticism is
admissable here because it is capable of blinding the spiritual eyes of such who are
"zealous not according to knowledge". Rather than confirming one in the Faith,
this blind fanaticism can sometimes lead one away from it.
It is important to know and to remember that a true Orthodox Christian is not someone
who justs accepts the dogmas of Orthodoxy formally, but a person who, as our great Russian
hierarch St. Tikhon of Zadonsk taught so beautifully, thinks in an Orthodox way, feels in
an Orthodox way, and lives in an Orthodox way, incarnating the spirit of Orthodoxy in his
life. This spiritascetic and world-renouncing, as is clearly set forth in the Word
of God and the teachings of the Holy Fathersis most sharply and boldly denied by the
modernists, the "neo-Orthodox", who want in everything to keep in step with the
spirit of this world lying in evil, whose prince, in the words of the Lord Himself, is
none other than the devil (Jn. 12:31). Thus it is not God Whom they desire to please, but
the "prince of this world", the devil; and thereby they cease to be true
Orthodox Christians, even if they call themselves such.
If we consider all this more seriously and deeply, then we will see that this is
precisely the case and that modernism with its innovations is leading us away from Christ
and His true Church.
Let us be horrified at how rapidly apostasy has proceeded, although the modernists do
not see it or feel it, inasmuch as they themselves are taking an active part in it.
And so let us not fear to remain in the minorityfar from all their high-sounding
titles and ranks. Let us always remember that even Caiaphas was a high priest of the true
God, and to what depths he sankto the horrible sin of deicide!
While living in this world which has apostatized from God, let us strive not for
specious human glory and cheap popularity, which will not save us, but only to be within
Christ's "little flock".
Let us be True Orthodox Christians, not modernists!
1. The name for members of the "Living Church" movement, sponsored by
the Bolsheviks in the 1920's (Trans.).
2. Literally, "black hundreders": the "black hundreds" were
a patriotic, anti-revolutionary organization in pre-revolutionary Russia. Popular slander
equates them with the irresponsible mobs that carried out pogroms. In fact the black
hundreds were Church-sponsored and opposed to any sort of brutality.
3. It is noteworthy that both the Catacomb Church in the USSR
("Tikhonites") and the Greek Old Calendarists, between whom there can hardly be
any communication, have begun to call themselves "True Orthodox Christians".
From Orthodox Life, Vol. 25, No. 3 (May-June, 1975), pp. 4-8.