The Eastern Orthodox form of Christianity and the Roman Catholic form of Christianity as said to differ on many fundamental issues. Most individuals, in attempting to distinguish between Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, immediately just cite that the differences are in the Pope or Purgatory or even sometimes the filioque. Historically, however, the differences are far more numerous and quite profound. The first fundamental difference between these two religions is on the issue of the fall of man. Roman Catholicism teaches that all humanity is liable for their “original sin” and that all men are born with “original sin”.
The implications of Adam and Eve’s banishment from the Garden of Eden in the Roman Catholic Faith are that man is born with original sin and nothing more, unlike the beliefs of the Eastern Orthodox, who believe that when Adam sinned against God, he introduced death into the world. The fall of Adam or the fall of man in the view of the Eastern Orthodox form of Christianity signifies the mortality of man and that death highlights the passions in man such as anger, hate, lust and greed which are borne out of the realization of death.
Roman Catholicism ignores the Orthodox conception of man as slave to death and instead believes that man’s passions are manipulated by the devil. Another fundamental difference between Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholicism is on the issue regarding the interpretations of canons. In the Roman Catholic faith, canons are rules or guides for governing The Roman Catholic Church. The Roman Catholic Church also continually evolves these canons by introducing new ones or revising them to suit the needs of the changing times and cultures.
The Eastern Orthodox does not regard these canons as laws, which regulate human relationships or secure human rights. The Orthodoxy views canons as the means of forging the “new man” or “new creature” through obedience. Canons are trainings in virtue that are meant to produce holiness. While the Roman Catholic Church, as previously mentioned, currently updates the canons and discards the old ones, the Eastern Orthodox Church Orthodoxy never discards the old ones because of their belief that those cannons were also inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Arguably, the most important fundamental difference between the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic forms of Christianity is in the manner of knowing the existence of God. The Eastern Orthodox faith believes that man’s knowledge of God is intrinsic in his nature. Man is born with the knowledge of God because it is inherent in human nature and that is how man knows that God truly exists. This belief also holds that man’s knowledge of God is fixed in nature and man cannot know anything more about the truths of God unless God chooses to reveal this to man.
This belief is contrary to the Roman Catholic belief that God’s existence is constantly known, felt and verified by an examination of the other things that God has created in this world. Human reason, as the Roman Catholic Church believes, is capable of knowing and proving the existence of God. Man is capable of beholding the essence of God with his intellect and with the assistance of grace.
The Eastern Orthodox Church therefore believes that God’s existence is already known to man by his nature while the Roman Catholic Church establishes the existence of God through man’s use of reason. These Three (3) fundamental differences, fall of man, canons and proof of God’s existence, differentiate what seem to be similar if not identical branches of Christianity. But as many have said, it really does not matter how you worship and revere God in so much as you follow the truths in life such as charity, love, peace and respect for all of mankind.