Many people interpreting the character of Christianity see it as one of the numerous philosophies and religions known from antiquity. Certainly Christianity is not a philosophy in the sense that prevails today. Philosophy sets up a system of thought which in most cases bears no relationship to life.

The main difference between Christianity and philosophy is that the latter is human thinking, while Christianity is a revelation of God. It is not a discovery by man but a revelation by God Himself to man. It was impossible for human logic to find the truths of Christianity. Where the human word was powerless, there came the divine-human Word, or Christ the Godman, the Word of God.

This divine revelation was formulated in the philosophical terms of the time, but again it must be emphasised that it is not a philosophy. The garments of the divine- human Word are taken from the philosophy of that time.

“Behold the Lord, the Lord of Hosts, takes away from Jerusalem and from Judah… the mighty man and the soldier, the judge and the prophet, the diviner…”, observes: “He seems here to be calling a diviner a person who is capable of conjecturing the future through profound intelligence and experience of things. Divining and prophesying are indeed two different things: the prophet, setting self aside, speaks under divine inspiration; the diviner for his part starts from what has already happened, puts his own intelligence to work and foresees many future events, as an intelligent person normally does. But the difference between them is great: it is the distance that separates human intelligence from divine grace”.

St. John Chrysostom, interpreting Isaiah 3,1

So speculation (or philosophy) is one thing, and prophecy, or the word of the prophet who theologises, is another. The former is a human activity while the latter is a revelation of the Holy Spirit. In the patristic writings, and especially in the teaching of
St. Maximus, philosophy is referred to as the beginning of the spiritual life. However, he used the term ‘practical philosophy’ to mean cleansing the heart from passions, which really is the first stage of the soul’s journey towards God.

Yet Christianity cannot be regarded as a religion, at least not as religion presents itself today. God is usually visualised as dwelling in heaven and directing human history from there: He is extremely exacting, seeking satisfaction from man, who has fallen to earth in his sickness and weakness. There is a wall of separation between God and man. This has to be surmounted by man, and religion is a very effective help. Various religious rites are employed for this purpose.

Christianity is something higher than these interpretations and theories; it cannot be contained within the usual conception and definition of religion given in the “natural” religions. God is not the Absolute Thou, but a living Person Who is in organic communion with man. Moreover Christianity does not simply transfer the problem to the future or await the delight of the kingdom of heaven after history and after the end of time. In Christianity the future is lived in the present and the kingdom of God begins in this life. According to the patristic interpretation, the kingdom of God is the grace of the Triune God, it is vision of the uncreated Light.

We Orthodox are not waiting for the end of history and the end of time, but through living in Christ we are running to meet the end of history and thus already living the life expected after the Second Coming. St. Symeon the New Theologian says that he who has seen the uncreated light and united with God is not awaiting the Second Coming of the Lord but living it. So the eternal embraces us at every moment of time. Therefore past, present and future are essentially lived in one unbroken unity. This is so called condensed time.

Thus Orthodoxy cannot be characterised as the opium of the people’, precisely because it does not postpone the problem. It offers life, transforms biological life, sanctifies and transforms societies. Where Orthodoxy is lived in the right way and in the Holy Spirit, it is a communion of God and men, of heavenly and earthly, of the living and the dead. In this communion all the problems which present themselves in our life are truly resolved.

Source: Archimandrite Hierotheos S. Vlachos – Orthodox Psychotherapy (The Science of the Fathers)