Christianity after the Eleventh Century

The schism between the Eastern and the Western Churches (1054)

The history of Christianity over the past 2000 years has been very complex and diverse. People in the Church, due to their human nature, sometimes act against Christian values. The most regrettable fact in the history of Christianity took place on July 16, 1054, at the Constantinople council, when the papal legates placed on the throne of the St Sofia church a bull anathematising the Constantinople patriarch and the whole Eastern Church.

The reasons behind this move were many, but the major ones were the attempts of Roman bishops to gain dominance over the whole church, as well as the controversial Filioque issue. This move started a process of alienation, which gradually grew into mutual hatred. Later on there emerged further rifts within the Western church. All the attempts for reconciliation were futile because there was no warmth or sincerity at either side. The two unions (1274 - Lion and 1440 - Florence) could hardly achieve anything because they were driven by political motivation.

Today there are favourable conditions for friendly Christian relations between the two churches. As a result a theological dialogue was started several years ago aiming at overcoming the differences in faith.

The Reformation (16th century)

Following the 1054 schism the Roman Catholic Church took the path of absolutism. Gradually it engrossed the life of the western Christians. Several governments attempted to change this, and so did individuals such as John Wycliffe (+1324) in England, Jan Hus (+1415) in Bohemia and Savonarola (+1497) in Italy. The three of them struggled for piety and purity in faith, against the innovations in the theological sciences and the moral decay within the church. Regardless of the efforts of the Inquisition to suppress all attempts for reforms, the number of nonconformists increased.

Martin Luther (1483-1546) was the spokesman of discontent in Germany. Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531) did the same in German Switzerland, and later on John Calvin (1509-1564) in French Switzerland. This was the beginning of the Reformation.

The Reformation brought major changes to the religious life in the West. The outcome was the formation of Lutheranism and the movement for Reformation, which remained in history under the common name of Protestantism.


Similarities and differences between Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Protestants.

A/ Similarities

The three movements share their faith in the one God and in Jesus Christ as incarnated Son of God and a Saviour of mankind from sin and death. They also believe in the trinity of God and accept the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Symbol of Faith.

B/ Differences

This subject is more complex. There are Christian issues over which the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics disagree with the Protestants; there are issues over which the Catholics and the Protestants disagree with the Orthodox; and there are issues over which the Orthodox and the Protestants disagree with the Catholics

B.1./The Orthodox and the Roman Catholics acknowledge seven sacraments, pray for the dead, pray to the saints, venerate relics and icons, cross themselves, acknowledge the Holy Scripture and the Holy Tradition. Protestants acknowledge two sacraments (Baptism and the Eucharist) and only the Holy Scripture. They reject the Holy Tradition and everything else mentioned above in B.1.

B.2./ Despite the major differences between Catholics and Protestants there are points where they are unanimous. These include Filioque and the use the so-called Apostles' creed. The Orthodox reject both the Filioque and the Apostles' creed.

B.3./ The Orthodox and the Protestants do not acknowledge the innovations of the Roman Catholic Church: Virgin Mary's immaculate conception, Virgin Mary's corporal ascension, and the leadership of the Pope - which is extremely important for the Roman Catholics.

Sects based on Protestantism

The Reformation lead to decentralisation of the church management and to individual interpretation and perception of the word of God. This in turn became a prerequisite for the separation of large and small groups from the churches formed during the period of the Reformation, Lutheranean, Reformative and Anglican.

Initially the number of these sects was small but since mid-19th century it has been increasing at an incredibly rapid pace. There are believed to be some 2000 such religious communities existing at present. Some have many followers while some have only a few members. Some tend to be more rationalist and some are inclined towards mysticism. The number of the mystic communities has bees steadily on the rise since the middle of the 20th century. There are many and different charismatic movements.

Until late 1989 there used to be 5 church communities based on Protestantism in Bulgaria: Congregationalists, Methodists, Baptists, Adventists and the Pentecost Church. There were 4 non-Christian formations: Spiritists, Theosophists, Dunovists and Tolstoyists (excluding Judaism and Islam, which have been existing in Bulgaria for centuries).

A large number of new Christian and non-Christian communities have penetrated Bulgaria over the last ten years. There are more than 30 ones that are officially registered at present, and there are many more that are not registered at all. Some of them are quite aggressive and employ unfair means of propaganda. The Orthodox Church is the main target of their attacks. They attract young people of weak faith. They disregard the spiritual and cultural values our nation has cherished for centuries. Their activities rely to a great extent on the financial aid they receive from abroad.


The Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed

The persecution of Christians, which lasted for nearly three centuries, subsided in the beginning of the 4th century. That was the time when the Arian heresy started spreading within the church, and it turned out to be very dangerous for the Christian religious life. Aryanism denied the trinity of God and the redeeming life of Jesus Christ. The Church managed to offset this heresy in time.

The first ecumenical council in Nicaea, Asia Minor, produced a small creed of seven articles and an unfinished eighth one.

Aryanism gave rise to the Macedonian heresy, which rejected the divinity of the third face of the Holy Trinity - the Holy Spirit.

The second ecumenical council took place in Constantinople. It made up a new creed, which remained in history as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Symbol of Faith. It is called Niceno-Constantinopolitan because the priests at the council took the seven articles conceived in Nicaea and rewrote them so that they were more precise in theological and stylistic terms. They finalised the eighth article (concerning the Holy Spirit) and formulated four new articles. The whole text of the Symbol is divided into 12 articles.

This is the full text of the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed:

  1. We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
  2. We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages, true God of true God, Light of Light, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. By him all things were made.
  3. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man.
  4. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried.
  5. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures;
  6. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
  7. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
  8. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets.
  9. I believe in one holy Catholic and Apostolic church.
  10. I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
  11. I look for the resurrection of the dead,
  12. And the life of the world to come. Amen.

The divine revelations that have been materialised in the Symbol of faith concern: God's oneness in essence and trinity in appearance; the meaning of incarnation; the pains on the cross, the death, the resurrection and the ascension of Jesus Christ; His second Advent and His kingdom; the Holy Spirit; the sacraments; the resurrection of the dead and the eternal life.

There are three important elements in the symbol of faith: 1.religious, 2.confessional, and 3.eschatological.

The element of faith, to be found it articles 1 to 9, is to be perceived through a person's heart and soul.

The element of confession is in the 10th article. Confession is to be expressed outwardly, through the mouth.

The eschatological element is described in the 11th and 12th articles. It is a natural conclusion to or result of the above two elements. These three elements are tightly interrelated.

The symbol of faith is a precious legacy from the ancient times. Over the last 16 centuries the Orthodoxy has preserved it in its original form, without modifying a word or a letter. It now offers the creed to the Orthodox Christians in this very original form.