Many people look at the world around us and believe that there must be a God. Usually this is an intuitive response to the beauty of the world: a magnificent sunset, a stream proceeding endlessly to a green horizon, a starry sky of diamonds against the black velvet of night — experiences that leave us speechless, sure that someone must be responsible for it all. Sometimes, these experiences are coupled with a philosophical investigation of the idea of God’s existence, and one of the many proofs for God’s existence adds further support to belief.
However, we cannot induce from these things what kind of creator God is. Is he good or bad? For us or against us? In the end, we cannot even know that God is a creator separate from what we see around us. As proof, one need only look at the vast multiplicity of religions in the world. So many people, searching for the reasons for their lives. If one were to judge truth in religious belief from this multiplicity of religions, one would be tempted to conclude that truth in religion was an illusion — all religious beliefs are equally fantastic and unbelievable.
The only way we could know for certain anything about God is if he told us himself. He would need to reveal himself to us. Christians believe that this is exactly what has happened. The name for Christian Scripture is the Bible; it records God’s revelation to us. Beginning with our first parents — given the names Adam and Eve in Scripture — God has patiently revealed himself little by little. Everything has been done “in the fulness of time”: when human society was ready and the moment was right for the fulfillment of his plan.
In a comment on my post A Charge to Keep I Have, Pete asks,
This discussion seems to be… yet another argument about whether the Orthodox church is the only true church…. Does every issue have to become this? I’m not asking from a position of cynicism (yet)—I sincerely want to know whether it?s possible to have real dialogue… about other issues without reference to the Orthodox/“Heterodox? issue.
Karl brings it down to the real issue in response:
[A]ll truth claims eventually come to their core: by what authority does one claim that [X] is true? In regards to Orthodox vs Heterodox discussions of ANYTHING, [the] issue must at some point touch on the Authority Issue. Otherwise we just shout Scripture verses, or philosophical syllogisms, or whatnot back and forth totally befuddled as to why the other person ?just doesn?t get it.?
From our POV, this is a waste of time. We might as well get to the real issue: How do you know that what you believe is true?
The New Testament Scriptures testify to the life of Jesus Christ, whom Orthodox Christians believe to be God. The Orthodox believe that the Incarnation of God is the ultimate authority for all questions. “Incarnation” is a word from Latin meaning “enfleshment.” For Orthodox Christians, Jesus Christ was not merely a man, but God enfleshed as a man.
None of the books of the Bible were written by Jesus. There is no evidence, in fact, that he was even interested in leaving any teachings or instructions in writing at all. His actions — as recorded by the writers of the gospels, the books of the Bible that describe his life — seem to indicate that he was more interested in forming a community of which he is the head. Christians call this community the Church.
Just before his ascent into heaven, Jesus left his authority with a group of twelve hand-picked men called Apostles. These men had lived with Jesus for three years and were intimately familiar with his teachings. In addition, on Pentecost they were filled with the Holy Spirit, who enabled them to recall and teach what they had learned with power and authority. The Holy Spirit also brought them together and constituted them into a new reality, the Church, which Orthodox Christians believe is one with Jesus Christ, its head and founder.
This is why St. Paul considers the Church to be “the pillar and foundation of the truth.”