Do you need to become an Oriental Orthodox Christian to be saved?

Based off what I've read it seems that the Oriental Orthodox Church doesn't claim that you need to convert to Oriental Orthodoxy if you are Eastern Orthodox to be saved.

Is my understanding correct, or do you need to become Oriental Orthodox to be saved?

If you don't need to be Oriental Orthodox to be saved then why become Oriental Orthodox instead of Eastern Orthodox?

I am not Orthodox but I'm looking into Orthodoxy.
I'm sorry if what I'm saying is offensive, I just can't find a clear answer.


  • I'm not sure where what you read, but Oriental Orthodoxy teaches that it is the One True Church. Now, this doesn't mean that none of the people found in other churches are not saved, but it does mean that it is obligatory upon oneself to join the True Church and to become Orthodox. The teaching of "no salvation outside the Church" is explicitly found as early as St Cyprian of Carthage. As of recent times, Metropolitan Bishoy (who was secretary of the Holy Synod under Pope Shenouda) said something to this affect too, so it is not a new teaching, nor a forgotten one.

    If you are part of the Latin church, the Byzantine church, or one of the Protestant traditions, I can happily tell you that we'd be delighted to see you come home and into the fullness of the Truth. Also, the whole logic behind the strict-sounding phrase of "no salvation outside the Church" isn't meant to be legalistic. Simply put: if we must worship God in truth, then we must follow the truth, and when we find the truth we must accept it. That's what conversion is. So may God bless you on your journey and may you one day call the Church your own.
  • Very well said @Dioscoros.
  • hi, daniel s, welcome (sorry, was busy 'IRL (in real life)' last 2 days and didn't log in!)

    i partially agree (sorry, brothers!), but want to add that we are all on a spiritual journey, and God will guide you in your journey too (if you ask Him to).
    the concept of being 'saved' as a binary 'saved' / 'not saved' point in time, is not quite orthodox.

    13 yrs ago, i was protestant, but even then, i wasn't sure how to understand the concept of salvation, as there was this dilemma in the protestant churches discussion whether or not you can 'loose' your 'salvation' (i never did agree strongly with one camp against the other).

    now let me describe salvation as a treasure. 
    a treasure is something you can accumulate. if you have a treasure, you can still add more to it and you can still call it a treasure, not 2 or 3 treasures. 
    this is because the concept of treasure is not something you easily quantify, nor is it something that is either 'present' or 'absent'.
    you can accumulate it as you go through life.

    this is why saint paul says; 'work out your own salvation in fear and trembling' 
    (philippians 2:12)
    not 'tick the box and you are sorted'.

    we understand salvation as a process that takes our whole lives.
    we are saved (through repentance, faith and baptism).
    we are continually being saved (through our faith demonstrated by our works and by accepting God's work in our lives).
    we will (by the grace of God) be saved at the end of our lives, if we continue in the faith we have received.

    so, now i have explained how we don't say; 'we are saved, sorted, box ticked',
    we also can't say; 'join us, then you will be saved, sorted, box ticked'!

    in conclusion (of this half of the post), salvation is not something you fully 'have' until the end of your life comes, so it is not something you 'lose' or 'can't lose'.

    i know i wrote a lot already, but stay with me, this is very important!

    so you asked about the different churches.
    now, i believe there are some protestants who are better Christians than i am.
    however, to receive the abundant grace that God gives in the sacrements (confession, baptism, chrismation (holy oil), Holy Communion etc.) you have to actually believe in them and take steps to access them.

    which means, basically joining a catholic or orthodox church.
    now the one you join depends partly on the situation you are in (eg. maybe the orthodox church down the road from you is about to split from having arrogant leaders and grumpy people in it and maybe the catholic church is full of Godly people who can help you better on your journey). then it also partly depends on what God Himself is doing in your life at the moment, which is certainly way above my pay grade (i am a church servant - so i get to deliver talks occasionally, but God has spared me by making me female, so i don't get to be ordained - yay!)

    now before my fellow tasbeha brothers start excommunicating me (only half joking here), i want to say that i believe the orthodox churches are closer to the mark than the catholic ones generally. however in some countries, being orthodox just means you get married and buried in church and not much in between, so we can't generalise too much.

    which brings me to actually answering the question you are asking (i know, i used to be annoyed that protestant questions take so long to answer, but we have to define what we mean by certain words that do NOT mean the same in both churches).
    do you choose the oriental orthodox church, or the eastern orthodox church?

    here, some people are going to write me off, but i'll say it anyway - 
    it doesn't matter.

    i have spent 100's of hours looking in to this, literally.
    but basically the split between us in 451 was stupid. it was politically motivated, and most orthodox church leaders have agreed in the last 50 years that we all (OO and EO) believe the same things.
    at least 80% of Christians from both sides agree that they are all orthodox too (the other 20% are the ones that spend a lot of time on the internet - so you get a very skewed picture by just reading on line). 

    i have a friend who is from a similar background as me, and each of us looked into the orthodox churches separately and alone (no family support) and each of us spent many hours fasting and praying about it and reading and going to church, and (to cut 2 very long and beautiful stories short), he joined EO and I joined OO, then we 'met' online, then we met in real life (i took my (protestant) husband and we met in a church - always good to stay safe!) and then we kept in touch, then we both moved house, and now the church where he is (EO) is close enough to me to visit a couple of times a year.

    our struggles, our conclusions, our beliefs were THE SAME (up until several years ago when he got a lovely job from God that was above my pay grade).
    the only difference is that i go online occasionally, and he doesn't any more as he is a priest and is very busy IRL!

    if God gives me the thing i pray for all the time, and if i see unity between the churches before i die (middle aged now, time is ticking!) then we both hope to take Holy Communion together as the things that separate us can all be sorted out with the right time, will and prayers.

    so to summarise a very long answer - 
    God loves you.
    He has plans for you.
    we can't guess what they are but our God will give you all you need to 'work out your salvation with fear and trembling'.
  • @mabsoota I really like how you took the time to explain our view of salvation, and how salvation is not a "switch" like some of the Protestant traditions try to explicate it.

    In essence, we believe that the sense of being "saved" or "not saved" ultimately comes into picture after the Judgement. The saved go to heaven and the damned go to hell. These are points I failed to make in my initial comment. I appreciate that you added this.

    As for what you said regarding the Chalcedonians, namely:

    "but basically the split between us in 451 was stupid. it was politically motivated, and most orthodox church leaders have agreed in the last 50 years that we all (OO and EO) believe the same things.
    at least 80% of Christians from both sides agree that they are all orthodox too (the other 20% are the ones that spend a lot of time on the internet - so you get a very skewed picture by just reading on line)."

    This is technically not correct. I'd encourage you to study the topic by reading The Council of Chalcedon Reexamined by Fr VC Samuel, therein you'll find that the split was not really even at 451, it was actually around 518 and was finalized in 536.

    We really shouldn't be saying that Our Fathers were wrong, or even "stupid" for not accepting the communion of Chalcedonians, Eutycheans, Julianists, or any other non-Orthodox group. Also, it should be understood that while the Byzantines and the Orthodox believe the same things at the lay level, this does not mean that 1) those hierarchs who are devoted to their heretical fathers such as Leo of Rome or John of Damascus believe the same things or 2) that the Chalcedonian faith is not Nestorian. In fact, if you read the Joint Agreements, the Byzantines admit fundamentally anti-Chalcedonian points, such as that the natures can only be distinct in theory and not in reality, and that the original interpretation of Chalcedon until 553 was Nestorian. If it seems to you that these opinions are only found online, I'd recommend that you read fathers like St Severus, Fr VC Samuel, Pope Shenouda, Met Bishoy, etc., as well as the Orthodox liturgical prayers which condemn the Chalcedonians.

    Also, if the suspicion is that we misunderstood the heretics the whole time (maybe the Arians would even be added to this list, if we want to consider the ramifications of what this means), then I'd encourage you to specifically look at the Synaxarion entries for Sts Acacius of Constantinople, and St Anthimus of Constantinople respectively. Both of these men were fiercely Chalcedonian patriarchs of Constantinople, and they both encountered a conversion of heart where they repented of their heresy, anathematized Chalcedon and the Tome of Leo, and joined the Orthodox communion. Rome broke communion from St Acacius when he lived, and Justinian together with Rome held a council to condemn St Anthimus when he lived. What did these patriarchs have to gain in loosing everything? The True Faith. If you'd like, I can send you the correspondence between St Acacius of Constantinople and St Peter of Alexandria, it's a very moving set of letters and it's striking to see what extent of repentance St Acacius underwent.

    Pray for me, as I know I am not better than any of the non-Orthodox I write about due to my sins, that God will have mercy on me.

    I pray that you and your friend are doing well and continue to do well by the grace of God...
  • hi dioscorus - i like yr name by the way :)

    our fathers were not stupid.
    it was our stupid enemy who made them disagree. 
    the fact that lovely orthodox Christians ended up splitting was stupid.
    eg. if i have a stupid argument with my friend, i don't mean that he / she is stupid, just that we both failed to ensure we sorted it out.

    i am aware i was oversimplifying the issue, i have read around it very widely (though not yet that book that you recomment, which i know is the best and least biased account of it).

    but politics was definitely involved, both church politics and the political aims of the various roman emperors.

    also i agree that the EO understand something a bit differently now then they did at the time. i believe they are now fully orthodox.
    i believe we can all agree with the later understanding of the ideas expressed at chalcedon.

    i was not saying that our OO fathers were wrong to disagree with some of the initial ideas at chalcedon. saint severus is one of my favourite saints, and i have taught his life story to some kids in the church.

    i don't agree though that our liturgical prayers 'condemn the chalcedonians' (i understand the 3 main liturgies in english and in arabic). they condemn the idea of totally separating out the natures of Jesus Christ, and so do most modern EO clergy and laity.

    i agree with you about saint acacius (usually written akakios in translations from arabic), he did change his mind.

    i had to look up Saint Anthimus - so can't comment further on him.

    (sorry, i don't know how to stop the font and formatting changing when i copy and paste!)

    please do send me a personal message with the other details if you like, and we can discuss it privately.

    i have spoken about these issues with several clergy (both EO and OO), and there are more people realising that the story looks a little different after you examine it carefully from both sides. there are really a lot of chilled people who we can discuss this with face to face.
    but i used to go on another forum (which was actually not run by EO or OO but by a group who split with EO) and there were lots of people ranting about this, and they included plenty of links to other really polemical websites and blogs.
    happily my internet broke down for several months and i was saved!
  • @mabsoota thank you, I appreciate it.

    As for what you're saying about the Chalcedonian schism involving politics, there is some truth to this, but to avoid scandalizing people, we should specify that:
    1. The political affairs were not the reason for the schism, heresy committed by the Chalcedonians caused it, and the Chalcedonians used politics to try to usher forth their heresy.
    2. That on the Orthodox side, politics was not a driving factor. After all, the whole point about Sts Acacius (I spell it this way since all of the renderings of his name I've seen are such) and Anthimus that I brought up is that they were not merely strict Chalcedonians who converted, but patriarchs of Constantinople. If politics between Constantinople and Alexandria was the driving force behind the schism, then it would make literally no sense for these two saints to give up all political interests in pursuit of the true faith. Indeed, in one of the letters to and from Sts Acacius and Peter, they affirm that for St Acacius to come into union, he must understand that he's anathematizing all of the so-called "fathers" who embraced the Chalcedonian errors. It was never a misunderstanding from the Orthodox side.

    Now, you mentioned that the three liturgies that are operative in the Orthodox church of Alexandria (Basilian, Gregorian, and Cyrilene) do not contain anathemas against the Chalcedonians. I never claimed that they did. Anathemas against the heretics are included in various liturgical prayers surrounding those three liturgies. Everyday the Church prays the morning doxology to begin matins, wherein we pray "Our father the confessor, Abba Dioscoros, defended the faith, against the heretics," these heretics are the Chalcedonians.

    So, if you look at the antiphonary of Pope St Dioscoros, you will see many anathemas, such as "Everyone who writes in this impure Tome, may they be, an anathema," or "O you who becomes as a double-edged sword that cuts every tongue that says two natures," there are various others in there that are to the same affect. I also recommend you look at the doxology of St Samuel the Confessor for some of the same. Also, remember that for us, the Synaxarium readings are liturgical as well, and therein you will find many statements to the same affect.

    It's not just our church, but all of the Orthodox churches which have anathematized the Chalcedonians:

    “Anathema to the impudent Nestorius, and to Leo of Rome, the wicked infidel, and to the Synod of Chalcedon, and to Paul of Samosata with them. Anathema to Ibas of Edessa with Marcion and Acacius (of Seleucia-Ctesiphon), the wicked infidel, and to Julian the Phantasiast and to Barsauma who is of Nisibis. Anathema to Arius, and Eunomius (of Cyzicus), and Eutyches, and Apollonarius, and Theodore with Bardasian, and anyone who agrees to their contemptible faiths.” - Beth Gazo, Syriac Orthodox Church

    "With these promises of yours, which you made before God for the sake of the true faith, keep them unfalsified unto the end, knowing that outside of this, no one can please God. You are to reject and anathematize all those who in whatever time are or will be against the true faith. Especially, Valentinus, Marcion, Mani, Barsaumo, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinarius, Eutyches, the Synousiasts, Paulinists, Julian the phantasiast and his heresy. In addition to these, Paul of Samosata, Diodore, Theodore, Nestorius, Ibas of Edessa, the Synod of Chalcedon and the wicked tome of Leo. And all those who had confessed and continue to confess two natures, or they confess Christ in two natures after the union." - Rite of the Ritual Clothing of the Monks, Syriac Orthodox Church

    "I profess the orthodox faith and I confess the Holy Trinity: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; and the incarnation of Christ our God; and I anathematize all the ranks of heretics; Arius, Macedon, and Nestor, and all the ranks of Diophysites." - Rite of the Calling to the Priesthood, Armenian Orthodox Church

    "Do you anathematize Eutyches [...]; and the Aphthardocetae [...] and Leo and his "Tome," which he wrote for personal glory and not for the sake of truth, and thus schismed from the Church?" - ibid

    In fact, the Ethiopian Church has explicitly made clear that they will never take down their anathemas against the heretics:

    "... to lift the anathemas imposed in the past upon those Chalcedonian Fathers and to accept them as saints would dishonor those Oriental Orthodox Church Fathers who condemned the Chalcedonians...  Since these anathemas have been observed for about 1500 years by our Holy Fathers as inscribed in our liturgical texts and hymnody, they shall not be lifted..." - Archbishop Yesehaq. (1997). The Ethiopian Tewahedo Church. Winston-Derek Pub

    So it is clear that the Church has universally anathematized the Chalcedonians liturgically speaking. Now, from a non-liturgical point of view, it's clear that our Church has also condemned them by personal writings. St Severus successfully refuted the foolish John the Grammarian, who invented the Christology which the neochalcedonians subscribe to nowadays. Interestingly, when one reads what the neochalcedonians wrote in their defense, they already define terms in the same way we do, which shows their malice all the more for not confessing the Cappadocian Christology which Ephesus made dogmatic.

    Indeed, the story is not "different after you examine it carefully from both sides," because even before Chalcedon, it was clear that Flavian of Constantinople and Leo of Rome, with their conspirators such as Theodoret, were heretics. In fact, Eutyches was condemned at 448 Constantinople for not anathematizing everyone who speaks of "one nature," to which he responded "how can I anathematize my own fathers [St Cyril and St Athanasius]?"

    While I can agree with you in large part, in that I'd say that the Byzantines are a lot closer to Orthodoxy since they only accept Chalcedon in name only, there are still problems. One of the reasons they have not become Orthodox yet is because they haven't let go of the Tome of Leo. They can't pretend to serve two masters, or else they're involved in the same contradiction as Nestorius.

    All I'm trying to say ultimately speaking, is that it's important for us all to be as clear as possible with regards to what we mean, so that people don't think we're saying something contrary to what we really mean.

    God bless you,
  • The Lord Jesus Christ was born of a virgin mother Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph. He was conceived without sin, and he lived a perfect life. He died on the cross at Calvary's hillside, where he shed his blood for our sins. He rose from the dead three days later, ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father
  • Chalcedonianism is not in itself Orthodox, so I don't really understand why the question would be asked as though we need to prove why we exist or else why won't people just become 'Eastern Orthodox' instead. Rather, the Chalcedonians just trample the same old ground over and over, apparently hoping that if they just repeat that, no, really, they accepted Chalcedon because it was in line with St. Cyril and St. Athanasius, we will accept that it is actually so, as if by magic. I will not name names, but I have had (friendly) exchanges with priests of the Eastern Orthodox Church in private where they wanted to know if I had found what was un-Orthodox about the Tome of Leo yet (the implication being that we separated in 451/506/518 without having a clear justification as to why, I guess?), or had any new objections to it. I reiterated that the same objections still stand, because the Tome itself is so sloppy. And sloppy is really a nice way to put it.

    By this point we are dealing with a people who have a completely different narrative of the basic history of the separation (and even many things from before that, like the Trisagion). The same priest answered my question in return (why we are still considered by them as 'heretics' and why they still anathematize our holy Orthodox fathers if at the subsequent council they had in 538 they actually admitted the 'One Nature' formula of our common father HH St. Cyril as acceptable and Orthodox) by saying something about HH St. Dioscorus having authored a heretical creed together with the hated Eutyches. I asked him to produce it (as we can darn well produce the very confession accepted by the fathers of the troubled second council of Ephesus in 449 from the same Eutyches, for example), and he said that it has been lost to history.

    Well isn't that convenient.

    Chalcedonianism is not at all convincing in its appeal to its own Orthodoxy, but if we are to take their objection to our existence seriously, then we'll have to conclude that even with the worst reading of history, we would be the only heretical body ever formed out of the strict adherence to the Christology of fathers considered Orthodox by all (Nestorians excepted given their ridiculous hatred of HH St. Cyril, but it shouldn't bother the Chalcedonians to leave them out, if the Tome does not actually provide them succor). I think that would give me pause, if I was looking into the Eastern Orthodox Church with an eye towards converting to it.
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