The Existence of Many Faiths: Some Orthodox Thoughts

by Fr. Dimitri Dudko 

(Fr. Dimitri was a Russian Orthodox priest who reposed in Moscow, on June 28, 2004.  Born in 1922, he embraced the Christian faith at the age of 16.  After serving in the military during WWII, he entered seminary.  During his studies he was arrested for “anti-Soviet agitation” and sentenced to ten years of hard labor.  Released from prison, he then married, was ordained, and was subsequently harassed by civil authorities throughout his priestly ministry.  Nevertheless, he brought thousands to Christ living in an atheistic society.  Fr. Dimitri became known through his unique and powerful sermons, delivered in a Q & A format.  The following is a small portion of his words to a Moscow flock in 1973.  His thoughts herein are pastorally sensitive, and can prove helpful for anyone living in a pluralistic society, coming in close contact with people of many faiths.)

QUESTION: We have just one God; all men have just one.  So why are there so many faiths? Even among Christians there are various faiths:  Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, etc.  So which faith is the most correct?

ANSWER:  Yes, all of us have just one God, but we believe in Him in different ways.  This is because we are sinful and have gone astray.  When people go astray, they seek out their own path in various ways. But there’s only one way out:  to God.  That they seek God is good.  It’s bad when they don’t.  Every search of this sort has its own truth, and happy is the man who finds the surest way out, the truest faith.  This is great joy.

We can’t look down upon those of other faiths.  Anyone who grows conceited about his faith is faithless.  The believer who asked this question is respectful and loving towards others.

Atheists often try to reproach believers: “If you have so many faiths, it means there’s no God because everyone understands God in his own way.” But they don’t take into account the fact that when people are searching, they always go in various directions.  They come out on the true path only when they sense the approach of the One Whom they seek.  If we sense God as we should, then we’ll confess the true faith.   We have the good fortune of confessing the Orthodox faith.  We must rejoice in this and value our faith.  Anyone who doesn’t value his own faith is, in general, weak in his faith in God.  We must value our Orthodox faith.  For us it’s the most correct.  God will judge the others; we must think about ourselves. When there’s no longer sin and error among us, we’ll have one faith. But until then there will be many.  

All faiths indicate that we seek a way out, that we seek God, the source of life.  Only lack of faith fails to seek a way out, because in fact lack of faith is a way out. But that means to perish.  The atheist doesn’t understand that sin is the major unhappiness, and he perishes in this sin.  He seeks a way out, freedom not from sin, but from secondary causes: poverty, etc. But just because a person has been freed from poverty doesn’t mean he’ll be happy. Today we see that the most well-to-do people are becoming hooligans, profligates, drunks.  What happiness is there in this?  It’s perdition! Only God gives happiness.

Our faith is true when we live correctly.  You can confess any faith you want externally and still not know God as you should.  Let’s live as Christians should.  Then the faith we confess will be the most correct.   (Taken from “Our Hope,” published by SVS Press.)