Long before the Son of God was born as man, God spoke to Moses and told him, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Ex 20:3). And elsewhere he orders him to tell His people: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord.” (Deut 6:4).
God addressed these words to His own selected people. He had given them their own land, with Jerusalem to become their capital city and “The city of the great King” (Ps 47:3).
Christ’s Incarnation established a new covenant which included those who in the past were not His people. In this manner the New Israel that was created was the Church. It is the Kingdom of God on earth, the “upper Jerusalem” which Christ talked frequently about. The foundations of this Kingdom cannot be broken or breached (Heb 12:8).
The “City of God” was established by the Resurrection of Christ. Man becomes a member of this victory of Christ, and retains his citizenship with his true and sincere Faith in Him. At those times the early Church did not have to deal with atheism.
During the Middle Ages (5th to 14th Centuries) there was confusion in the West about the Faith.
People wanted to understand the content of their Faith in view of the new way of thinking. A system of in-depth study of theology and philosophy, “scholasticism”, was created. Its main aim was to find answers to the problems presented by Faith, eg divine revelations and other Christian teachings. It was taught at all universities, and appeared to support the existence of God, but without connection to His Church. The end result was that history was distorted by “Relativism” (aligning of Christian dogmas and teachings to the ideas and concepts of the current society of the time). Now, rationalism replaced Faith, power replaced Divine grace, and vainglory replaced immortality.
As the “renaissance” (14th to 17th centuries), with its spectacular scientific advances was coming to an end, a new movement made its appearance, “romanticism”, which aimed to improve society and better the life of humankind. They believed that reason, objectivity, and rational analysis “falsify reality,” and leave little room for: human creativity, emotional life of the person, aesthetic experience, literature, etc. Unfortunately, it did not survive beyond the mid-19th century to pursue its objectives.
What was said so far refers to Western viewpoints regarding God and His relationship to man.
The Orthodox faithful, however, do not understand atheism only as a theoretical denial, or indifference to the existence of God. Instead, atheist in Greek means “one without Gοd”, that is “α = without”, “Θεός = God”. Thus an atheist is the person who does not belong to Him, which means he belongs to His adversary, the Devil. In fact, to be an atheist means for one NOT to be in a state of “Theosis” [be like God], which God decreed to be attained through His Church.
The attitude of “thinking” people in the 20th century can be viewed as being against the existence of God, as well as the teachings of the Church and the Bible, much to the despair of the remainder of the population of Western Europe. These thinking people are well known figures, eg Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Michael Bakunin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Friedrich Nietzsche, etc.
Each of them had their own ideas about God and the Church, albeit variously deviating from the true nature and purpose of both. Is there a name for these people? “Christian Atheists”? Perhaps for some.
There was optimism when, during the mid-20th century, the Ecumenical Movement for the re-union of the divided Christendom appeared. In spite of its original objectives, these were changed at about the end of the century. The group became involved in the distribution and even supply of weapons, the distribution of contraceptives in poor countries, as well as political activism. Its original objective having failed, it now tries to act as a catalyst for the unification of all humanity, independent of their religious principles.
For the faithful Orthodox, all the theological systems described so far, including the Ecumenical Movement, do not agree with the teachings of the Gospel. All these people who are fighting against God, the Apostles and the Church fathers, must realise that they are fighting against God’s scheme of salvation of humanity – which is His Church.
Looking for a new Christianity means searching for another God different from Him who was revealed in Jesus Christ. The other god is not a real god, and another church of Christ is not a real Church!
Source: Lychnos August-September 2021