There is no salvation without Christ, but Phanar hierarch claims otherwise

Archbishop Elpidophoros. Collage: UOJ

Phanar claims that Orthodoxy is only "one of the myriads of paths" to God, and if you disagree, you are "surrounded by boulders of prejudices." We analyze if it is so.

Archbishop Elpidophoros, the head of the largest structure of the Church of Constantinople, the Archdiocese in the United States, actually rejected Christ and the entire host of martyrs. At the same time, Phanar calls on all Orthodox Christians to follow them and, on top of that, demands submission from all Local Churches, justifying this by the “canonical order” of the Church. Now the resistance to the papal claims of Phanar is becoming nothing more than the confession of Christ and Orthodoxy. Why? We will sort it out in the article.

Speaking at the International Summit on Religious Freedom in New York on July 15, 2021, the head of the Archdiocese of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the United States, Archbishop Elpidophoros (Lambriniadis), said that all religions are "the myriads of paths that lead to the same destination." So that the quote does not seem taken out of context, here is the text of the entire phrase: “When you elevate one religion above all others, it is as if you decide there is only one path leading to the top of the mountain. The truth is you simply cannot see the myriads of paths that lead to the same destination, because you are surrounded by boulders of prejudice that obscure your view."

Are all religions equal for the Patriarchate of Constantinople?

This is not a slip of the tongue or just a poor figure of speech, but a long-standing and consistent point of view of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. On October 19, 2020, during his participation in an ecumenical prayer service organized by the Catholic community of St. Egidius in Rome, Patriarch Bartholomew declared that other religions are "the wealth of the sons of God."

The same idea was expressed by Athenagoras (Spyrou), one of the most ardent ecumenists on the patriarchal throne of Constantinople. He said literally the following about heresies: “But I don't see them (heresies) anywhere! I see only truths, partial, truncated, sometimes out of place and claiming to catch and contain an inexhaustible secret ...”

The famous American missionary and writer Hieromonk Seraphim (Rose) wrote in his book Orthodoxy and the Religion of the Future: “The Greek episcopate of the Americas officially declared at the 19th Congress of Clergy and Laity (Athens, July 1968): ‘We are confident that the ecumenical movement, although Christian in origin, should become the movement of all religions in the pursuit of unity’."

This theory, according to which all religions lead their followers to the same destination, is called the "syncretic theory of religion". It is quite widespread among both philosophers and religious leaders. For example, renowned American theologian and New Testament scholar Marcus Joel Borg said, "I find it incredible that the Lord of the entire universe would decide to reveal himself to only one single religion." 1984 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Mpilo Tutu stated, "No religion can claim to have all the truth about the mysteries [of faith]." One of the statements of Hinduism says, "Giotto mos, totto pos", which means: all religions are just different paths leading to the same goal. There is a similar maxim in Buddhism.

However, Christianity asserts the exact opposite and does it very clearly and unequivocally.

"No one comes to the Father except through Me"

The entire New Testament affirms the idea that there is no salvation without Christ. Here are just the most basic quotes.

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Blessed Augustine, commenting on this passage in the book of Acts, writes: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2: 5), “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). So, without this faith, i.e. the faith in one mediator between God and people – the man Jesus Christ, without faith in His resurrection, which God has determined for everyone, in which in any case it is impossible to truly believe without His incarnation and death – this means the Christian truth does not doubt that without faith in the incarnation, death and resurrection of Christ, the ancient saints, although they were holy, could not be purified from sin and justified by the grace of God.

“I am the way and the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14: 6). In practice, our contemporary Saint Luke of Crimea writes: “These words of the Lord Jesus Christ are extremely important: they denounce all those who think that they believe in God, but do not believe in Christ. There are many people who reject the Gospel, consider it to be a collection of inaccurate narratives, do not believe in miracles, do not believe in the Divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, but say that they believe in God. They, who do not believe in Christ, do not believe in His Divinity, are denounced by the Lord Jesus Christ with these words: ‘No one comes to the Father except through Me’. Consequently, to come to the Father, to enter into communion with the Father, to pray so that the Lord will hear, is possible only through His Son, through the Lord Jesus Christ."

There are no other "myriads of paths that lead to the same destination", as Archbishop Elpidophoros claims. There is only a path to salvation and a path to destruction.

Just as there cannot be two truths, there cannot be two lives, so there cannot be two paths. The Lord speaks about this very clearly. There are no other "myriads of paths that lead to the same destination", as Archbishop Elpidophoros claims, they merely do not exist. There is only a path to salvation and a path to destruction. The Savior speaks of this in the following passage quoted here:

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” (John 3:18). Saint Cyril of Alexandria says, “The guilt of unbelief is heavy and great, since He is the Son and the Only Begotten; for the more faith the One to whom the offense is inflicted deserves, the more the one who dishonors will be condemned for the gravest transgression. The unbeliever, he says, has already been condemned, as having given himself due punishment by knowing that he is rejecting the Liberator from judgment." In the same chapter of his Gospel, the Apostle John the Theologian states, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them” (John 3:36).

The following words of Holy Scripture directly excommunicate from the Church not only those who do not believe in Christ, but also who do not love Him (though one is not possible without the other): “If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let this person be cursed! Come, Lord” (1 Cor. 16:22). Saint Theophan the Recluse writes: “If someone does not love the Lord, then it is a direct sign that he is not in union with Him; and if he is not in union with Him, then he is alien to Christianity, alien to the body of the Church, self-excommunicated from Her, although he bears the name of a Christian; thus he is anathematized and therefore excommunicated from the body of the Church."

Is it possible to love the Lord Jesus Christ and assert that besides faith in Him, there are also “myriads of paths” leading to the same destination? The question is rhetorical. The Lord Himself said: “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Matthew 12:30). The holy righteous John of Kronstadt asserted that not only representatives of other religions go against Christ, but also confessions that call themselves Christian, but have fallen away from the One Church, also squander the wealth of Christ: “The words of our Savior Jesus Christ are true: ‘Whoever is not with Me is against me’. Catholics, Lutherans and Reformed have fallen away from the Church of Christ – they are not our fellow thinkers, they are hostile toward us, they strongly persecute us to death, oppress in every possible way for our faith, ridicule it and us and cause us all sorts of trouble, especially in the main populated areas; they clearly go against Christ and His Church, do not venerate the life-giving Cross, holy icons, holy relics, do not observe fasts, convert salvific dogmas of faith. They are not with us, against us and against Christ. Convert them, Lord, to your true Church and save them!"

The statement that it is possible to come to God in a way other than Christ is tantamount to the statement about the futility of His passions and death on the Cross.

Was the suffering of the martyrs pointless?

The statement that it is possible to come to God in any other way than Christ is tantamount to the statement about the futility of His passions and death on the Cross. Moreover, this is already a blasphemy against God. This is the most palpable denial of Christ. It is also a renunciation of the entire host of Christ's martyrs of all times, who chose to go through incredible suffering but did not sacrifice to idols. After all, if, according to Archbishop Elpidophoros, all religions lead to the same destination, then the suffering of the martyrs is pointless and meaningless.

To imagine this more clearly, let us recall the martyrdom of the saints Vera, Nadezhda, Lubov and their mother Sophia. It is impossible to read without a shudder what torments the executioners subjected these girls to. However, their holy mother not only watched the torment of her children, but also strengthened them so that they could endure everything and not deny the Lord. It turns out that all this could have been avoided, and nothing bad would have happened if they had sacrificed to idols, because idolatry, according to Archbishop Elpidophoros, is also one of the "paths" leading to the same destination. And their firm conviction that only Christ is "... the way and the truth and the life ..." (John 14: 6) is, in the opinion of the head of the American Archdiocese, “boulders of prejudice that obscure your view."

Where does the “first without equal” lead the flock?

In 2014, Archbishop Elpidophoros formulated the concept of Phanar, whereby the Patriarch of Constantinople is not only the first in honor among all Orthodox bishops, but “the first without equals,” a hierarch with special and exclusive powers. The quintessence of this theory is the following words: “The primacy of the Archbishop of Constantinople, as we have already said, has nothing to do with diptychs, merely expressing a hierarchical order (which the Moscow Patriarchate, in contradictory definitions, recognizes de jure to some extent, but in fact denies). If we talk about the source of primacy, then such a source is the very personality of the Archbishop of Constantinople, who as a bishop is the first ‘among equals’, but as an Archbishop of Constantinople and, accordingly, the Ecumenical Patriarch, is the first without equals (primus sine paribus)." 

In 2018, speaking at the Synaxis of the Episcopate of the Church of Constantinople, Patriarch Bartholomew said, “The Ecumenical Patriarchate is responsible for the establishment of ecclesiastical and canonical order, since only he has the canonical privilege, as well as the prayer and blessing of the Church and Ecumenical Councils, to fulfill this supreme and exclusive duties. If the Ecumenical Patriarchate renounces its responsibility and leaves the inter-Orthodox scene, then the Local Churches will act ‘like sheep without a shepherd’ (Matthew 9:36), spending energy on church initiatives that mix up the humility of faith and the arrogance of authority.” The head of Phanar also stated that the Patriarchate of Constantinople embodies the "Ethos of Orthodoxy", i.e. its essence. But is the “Ethos of Orthodoxy” compatible with the recognition that one can come to God also along the paths of other religions? Obviously not.

On June 11, 2021, the head of Phanar announced that the Patriarchate of Constantinople has "special duties and privileges" among the Local Orthodox Churches, and that he does not intend to make any concessions regarding these "privileges and duties". He also stated that he would not allow for “the alienation of blessed ecclesiology, as it is described in the texts of our history,” and also would not allow for “condescension, oikonomia, courtesy, some benevolent concessions ... which, unfortunately, some of the my predecessors recourse to, dreaming of unity but being far from the true and ancient ecclesiology." This "true ecclesiology", according to Patriarch Bartholomew, consists in the fact that the Patriarchate of Constantinople occupies a dominant position in all of Orthodoxy and can dictate its will to everyone else.

However, this concept of primacy, firstly, is alien to the Gospel, for as Christ said, “... whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave” (Matthew 20: 26-27). Secondly, it is alien to church tradition and history, which is exemplified by the history of the severance of the Latins from the Church. The attempt to establish the primacy of the Roman See in the whole Church was one of the main reasons that in 1054 Patriarch Michael Kerullarios of Constantinople excommunicated the Latins from the Church, and this decision was then approved by all Local Churches. Today, the Patriarchate of Constantinople has already embarked on this slippery path.

The refusal of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to obey the unlawful orders from Istanbul is a confession of the Orthodox faith and the confirmation of the true Gospel dogmas.

But apart from inconsistency with the Gospel and the tradition of the Church, the Phanar's striving for supremacy is also dangerous because those who recognize this supremacy will inevitably have to follow Phanar along the path of unification with Catholics, which has already been repeatedly stated by the leadership of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, as well as ways of recognizing all religions in general as such that lead to one and the same God, which – let us reiterate it – is an actual renunciation of Christ.

Therefore, the disagreement of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to obey the unlawful orders from Istanbul is a confession of the Orthodox faith and the confirmation of the true Gospel dogmas. This confession acquires special significance today, on the eve of the announced visit of Patriarch Bartholomew to Ukraine, on Independence Day. The UOC protests against this visit not only because Phanar legalized the Ukrainian schismatics, but also because it has deviated from the Truth and is misleading its followers to adopt the doctrines being incompatible with Orthodoxy.

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