Some reading may have heard that the Russia invasion of Ukraine relates to the religion in these two countries. They might consider it a religious war. I will go back to give perspective on this issue and then dovetail with something from the last few days.
No one has more authority than God. In fact, God possesses all authority and any group has authority only because of God. To say that you have authority means that you function for God and even speak for God. People who want to stay in good standing with God will do what God's authority says. It's like God telling them. Disobeying this authority, since it is from God, is disobeying God. This could also relate to someone's eternal destiny, this often going along with the authority claim.
The true church authorized by Jesus Christ, the only church, is local only. Jesus started it in Jerusalem in the first century during His earthly life as seen in Matthew 16:18 and 18:15-17. The New Testament book of Acts records that first church reproduced other assemblies with scripture as their sole authority. The Lord Jesus Christ gave the true church authority, autonomy, with Him as the Head of each true church (Eph 1:22, 5:23, Col 1:18).
A true church has authority. It is serious enough that Jesus says the church looses and binds (Matthew 16:9, 18:18). It makes authoritative declarations as to whether someone is in the church or out. If someone is loosed, the true church regards him as unsaved. When the church sends someone out of the church, 1 Corinthians 5 says the church delivers this person unto Satan (5:5). These are true or real occurrences. They aren't games being played. It's very serious.
In the fourth century AD a counterfeit church arose in Rome. It claimed Christ's authority through a bogus claim of Petrine successionism (Petrine Theory). This spurious organization with the influence of Roman Emperor Constantine turned the church into a state church, the Roman Catholic Church, Catholic meaning universal. One could place the date at 313AD with the Edict of Milan, 325 with the Council of Nicea, 337 with the baptism of Constantine, or 380 with the Edict of Thessalonica. This institution, which preached a false gospel, claimed an authority it did not possess.
Nevertheless, for purposes of rule, Constantine split the empire into East and West in 330AD and the empire divided after the death of Theodosius I in 395AD. Roman Catholicism was still unified until it split into two in 1054, the Great Schism. The Orthodox Church (called Eastern Orthodox) formed from the division. The schism much related to authority, as the Eastern Church rejected the infallibility and unique authority of the Pope.
The authority of Eastern Orthodoxy describes itself a fellowship of self-headed churches, the term "autocephalous." Orthodox churches recognize the preeminence of Constantinople, called the primacy of the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople. This means Constantinople is a first among equals. The Orthodox hold that God's authority passes down directly to Orthodox bishops and clergy through the laying on of hands. They consider this apostolic succession and each Orthodox. Each bishop has a territory, called a "see," that he governs.
Roman Catholicism invented its own authority by procuring a non-existent apostleship. Eastern Orthodox then appropriated it as its own. It's difficult to estimate, but stats say 1.3 billion Roman Catholics and 220 million Orthodox in the world, top two of Christendom in numbers. Neither of them possess authority. When they talk about authority, it's not true. They say they have it. They don't. Yet, if a religious organization says it is from God, we shouldn't be surprised when it acts like they have authority.
Of all the autocephalous churches of the Orthodox by far the largest is the Russian Orthodox with over 100 million. It is known as the Moscow Patriarchate. This Orthodox church started when the early, original Russian prince, Vladimir I, was baptized by the Patriarchy of Constantinople in 988. The center of Russian Orthodoxy was Kiev. It remained under Constantinople authority until 1488, when it moved to Kiev as an autocephalous church. The Russian Orthodox Church moved then to Moscow in 1686 when the region of Kiev came under authority of the Tsars there.
I zoom forward to the period after the Soviet Union. The atheistic Soviet Empire swallowed religions. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian Orthodox Church emerged again. Alexy Ridiger first became Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1990. This continued under Patriarch Kirill in 2009, who remains in that position.
Not only did and does the Roman Catholic Church not have authority, but it operates with a corrupt system of interpretation of scripture. The Eastern Orthodox and its autocephalous churches continued that system of allegorization or spiritualization of the Bible. These denominations within Christendom rationalized themselves with an eschatological and ecclesiological program called amillennialism.
According to amillennialism, the kingdom of God exists on earth in the present age in a universal church, a kind of spiritualized nation Israel. In the Old Testament passages about Israel, someone can read in the Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox Church. They then function like a nation that authoritatively enforces the precepts of the Bible as seen through the lens of church authority. This explains a Christian holy war fought on behalf of the church.
Amillennialism says there is no literal millennium where Christ comes to rule for a thousands years on the earth. The "a" of amillennialism means "no," as in "no millennium. This view allowed for a state church that functioned like a kingdom.
An inquisition that tortures or puts to death heretics also comes from authority allowed by an amillennial eschatology. The church does the work of God by punishing sinners and implementing what God said.
In 2018 the Patriarch of Constantinople, the foremost of the autocephalous churches, gave autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox. This formed a Ukrainian Orthodox Church, taking the jurisdiction of the Ukraine, the region of original Russia and the initial Russian Orthodox Church from the Patriarch of Moscow. Not all of the Orthodox Churches operate under the authority of the Ukrainian Patriarch but under the Moscow Patriarch, who now is Patriarch Kirill.
The Associated Press reported that just this week Kirill came out in support of the invasion of Ukraine by saying the following:
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, leader of Russia’s dominant religious group, has sent his strongest signal yet justifying his country’s invasion of Ukraine — describing the conflict as part of a struggle against sin and pressure from liberal foreigners to hold “gay parades” as the price of admission to their ranks.
Kirill, a longtime ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, had already refrained from criticizing the Russian invasion – alienating many in the Ukrainian Orthodox churches who had previously stayed loyal to the Moscow patriarch during a schism in their country. Several of these former loyalists are now snubbing Kirill in their public prayers, with some demanding independence from the Moscow church even as their country’s political independence is imperiled.
Kirill, in a sermon delivered Sunday before the start of Orthodox Lent, echoed Putin’s unfounded claims that Ukraine was engaged in the “extermination” of Russian loyalists in Donbas, the breakaway eastern region of Ukraine held since 2014 by two Russian-backed separatist groups. [He] focused virtually all of his talk about the war on Donbas — with no mention of Russia’s widespread invasion and its bombardment of civilian targets.
Kirill on Sunday depicted the war in spiritual terms.
“We have entered into a struggle that has not a physical, but a metaphysical significance,” he said.
He contended that some of the Donbas separatists were suffering for their “fundamental rejection of the so-called values that are offered today by those who claim world power.”
He claimed that this unnamed world power is posing a “test for the loyalty” of countries by demanding they hold gay pride parades to join a global club of nations with its own ideas of freedom and “excess consumption.”
God holds all authority. When He looked down on Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19, he saw the corrupt lifestyles. This included homosexual or same sex activity. God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Within the nation Israel, God expected punishment of death upon such behavior in Leviticus 18 and 20.
The fall of communism in Russia left a vacuum of authority the Russian Orthodox Church filled. Putin had become antagonistic to communism. The Russian Orthodox Church filled that void in harmony with his nationalistic thinking. This mirrors such a historical figure as Henry VIII in England in his role in the Anglican Church. He put many opponents to death. This arose from a belief held called "the divine right of Kings." Henry was also the head of the state church in England, which like the Russian Orthodox, borrowed from the amillennialism of Roman Catholicism.
Putin may rationalize his acts according to an Eastern worldview. He sees the corruption, decline, and decay of the West. The West in hypocritic fashion commits its own barbaric acts by murdering its own children through abortion. Putin sees a Ukraine following in the trajectory of the West with its gay parades and then its separation from the state religion of Russia. Kirill expresses this. Many Russians still dwell in the Ukraine both ethnically but also religiously. They still submit to the Moscow Patriarchy.
I'm not saying I support Putin's position, just that this is a matter of authority. God is still on the throne. He's not ruling through the Russian Orthodox, but its strong adherents at least admit that God rules in some manner. They follow a historical position without a biblical basis. This is not inferior to those who do not give acquiescence in any way to God's authority, even if they see themselves as having superior values.
RECOGNITION OF AUTHORITY
God reigns. Authority exists. The United States and Western nations reject Divine authority. They face consequences for their rebellion.
The Orthodox do not possess genuine Divine authority, but many of them recognize it exists. Indications of belief in Divine authority appear all over historical monuments of the United States. It is seen in the founding documents. Statements like "In God we trust" evince these foundations. Even if a nation stops acknowledging the authority of God, it is still subject to His reign.