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Fr. Andrew Damick Releases Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy

Conciliar Press has released Antiochian priest Fr. Andrew Damick's book, Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy. Birthed by the popular Ancient Faith Radio podcast with the same name, the book provides an overview of "the gamut of ancient heresies, modern Christian denominations, fringe groups, and major world religions, highlighting the main points of each faith." Fr. Andrew pastors the community of St. Paul Orthodox Church in Emmaus, Pennsylvania.

Recently we asked Fr. Andrew to reflect on his chosen topic, and to explain why he believed it was necessary to write about the differences between Orthodoxy and other faiths.

1. Fr. Andrew, what was your motivation for tackling this topic?

The impetus for putting together the original lectures which eventually led to this book was a direct question from a parishioner: How are the Orthodox different from other Christians? In doing the writing and in thinking about the topic, it became apparent to me that many of us, both inside and outside the Orthodox Church, often do not understand why doctrine matters. We often do not see why what we believe and what we do have a real, discernible effect not only on our lives here on earth, but also in the age to come.

I believe that we lack material that addresses the kinds of questions most people have about their own faiths and that the critical distance between the most elementary Sunday School material and what is being taught in seminaries is only seldom bridged. This work is an attempt to put up one of the columns for that bridge.

If we don't know Who God is, then we can't have a very good relationship with Him. That's the essential theme of this book.

2. In your opinion, do you see signs that heterodox points of view are creeping into the Church? Are we in danger of losing our Orthodoxy?

The Church as a theological reality has no problems like that, but individual members of the Church sometimes do stray from what the Church is. While "we" are not in danger of losing our Orthodoxy, I might be, and you might be. Both Christ and His Apostles warned us from the very beginning about heterodoxy, what St. Paul called "another Gospel." Just as morality, love and repentance require constant vigilance in order to be maintained in purity, Orthodox doctrine requires it as well. Indeed, in Orthodoxy, all are really the same thing, if we understand them correctly.

3. How can we teach our children to discern truth from error, while still maintaining a spirit of love and openness to the people in other denominations and religions?

The key is that we cannot understand the great gift of Orthodox Christianity as anything but a gift. We are not responsible for it. We can claim no credit for it. None of us dreamed it up in a moment of inspiration or brilliance. The man who finds the Pearl of Great price does not imagine for a moment that he is to be praised for such a thing.

Discerning truth from error is really about knowing the difference between that Pearl and costume jewelry. One does not have to be arrogant to see this difference or to try to show it to others. On the contrary, we know that someone who is cruel in how he holds up the Pearl has already let it slip from his grasp. He does not have it, either.

4. We are told that the way to recognize counterfeit money is to know the characteristics of legitimate currency so well that we can't be fooled. How does apply to the issue of Orthodoxy and heterodoxy?

It absolutely applies! Now, based on this, one might say that there is no need to study or understand the beliefs of heterodox communions, that we only need to know Orthodoxy, and there is some truth to that. Yet at the same time, a significant danger of this approach is that, when someone encounters heterodox teaching, it may be couched in Orthodox terminology and therefore be undetected, either as something that needs to be defended against or as the grounds for evangelism.

In either case, we have to know what those around us are teaching and what those teachings mean, both so that we can maintain Orthodoxy better in ourselves but also so that we can communicate it to them. Likewise, for those who are not Orthodox, it is of course most helpful when everyone is better able to communicate, to explain and define their terms, to tell their histories, to know the stories of their own religious groups, and so this book is designed to help with that project, too, even for people who may have no intention of embracing Orthodoxy.

But of course I hope they will.