The Faith of the Armenian Church is transmitted through the church’s Holy Tradition, i.e., the ongoing life of the church from the time of Christ to our times. The Bible, liturgy and worship, writings of the church fathers, church councils, saints, canons, religious art and rituals–organically linked together–formulate the Holy Tradition of the Church. This Faith is articulated in the Creed of the Armenian Church which in turn defines the church’s raison d’etre and sets the parameters of its modus operandi.
The Armenian Church professes her faith in the context of her worship. Theologically, whatever the church believes, the church prays. Therefore, the Armenian Church’s worship and liturgy constitute a prime source for teaching her faith. History, i.e., Tradition, on the other hand, defines and formulates the “articles of faith” and transmits them from generation to generation.
The Faith of the Armenian Church is transmitted through the church’s Holy Tradition, i.e., the ongoing life of the church from the time of Christ to our times.
The Armenian Church believes in One God, the Father Almighty who is the Creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible & invisible. Humanity (male and female) is created in the image and likeness of God, and as such is a special creature. However, because of the Fall of man, sin entered the world.
The Church believes in Jesus Christ, “the only begotten Son of God who came down from heaven, was incarnate, was born of the Virgin Mary, by the Holy Spirit. He became man, was crucified for us and suffered and was buried. He rose again from the dead on the third day and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father. He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead.
The Armenian Church believes in the Holy Spirit – uncreated and perfect, who proceeds from the Fatherâ€“ and together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified. The Holy Spirit spoke to the prophets and apostles and descended into the Jordan, witnessing Christ’s Baptism.
The Armenian Church is One, Holy, Apostolic, Catholic, Church. She believes in one Baptism with repentance for the remission and forgiveness of sins. On judgment day, Christ will call all men and women who have repented to eternal life in His Heavenly Kingdom, which has no end. Christ overcame the power of death with His own and gave salvation to all mankind. The dogmas of the Armenian Church are based on these “articles of faith”.
The Armenian Church belongs to the Orthodox family of churches, known as the Oriental Orthodox, or Non-Chalcedonian, Churches, i.e., the Armenian, Coptic, Syrian, Ethiopian and Indian Malabar churches. Generally, Christianity is divided mainly between Eastern and Western churches. The relationship between Byzantium (East) and Rome (West) deteriorated gradually. In the ninth century a schism between the Byzantine Church and the Church of Rome started to shape during the time of Patriarch Photius. Then in 1054, anathemas were declared by both sides (Patriarch Michael and Cardinal Humbert), which lasted for centuries. By 1204, when the Crusaders captured Constantinople, the schism had became final. In 1965, following the Vatican II Council, the anathemas were lifted by both sides in a spirit of ecumenism and understanding among the churches.
The main theological differences and disagreements between the Eastern (including the Armenians) and the Church of Rome (Catholics) are in the following issues:
Filioque: according to the teachings of the Church of Rome, the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity, proceeds from the Father and the Son, while the Orthodox teach that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father only; Papal Supremacy: the Roman Catholics consider the Pope the “Vicar of Christ”, while the Orthodox churches consider him only as “first in honor” and in pastoral diakonia.
Papal Infallibility: The Catholics follow a “monarchical” model of ecclesial polity, while the Orthodox follow a “conciliar” model, i.e., church councils determine church dogma, canons and policies.
There are also other minor differences among these two branches of churches, such as the rules of fasting; unleavened bread at Eucharist (West); manner of conferring confirmation; celibacy of clergy; divorce (not sanctioned in Roman Catholicism); purgatory (East doesn’t teach it); West has “scholastic” approach, East has “mystical” approach to theological issues.
The main difference between the Byzantine tradition, also known as Chalcedonian churches, and the Armenian Church, (together with other non-Chalcedonian churches) has been on the issue of Christology, i.e., the dogma related to Christ’s Divine and Human natures. Abp. A. Keshishian writes, “the Christology of the Armenian Church is fundamentally in line with the Alexandrian Theological School. In fact, the Cyrillian formula of ‘One Nature of the Incarnate Word’ consititutes the foundation stone of her Christology. [It should be noted that] first, ‘One Nature’ is never interpreted in the Armenian Christology as a numerical one, but always a united one. This point is of crucial importance [for the Armenian Church] particularly in its anti-Eutychian and anti-Chalcedonian aspects. Second the term ‘nature’ (ousia, in Armeian bnut’iun) is used in Armenian theological literature in three different senses: (a) as essence, an abstract notion, (b) as substance, a concrete reality, (c) as person. In the context of anti-Chalcedonian Christology ‘one nature’ is used in a sense of ‘one person’ composed of two natures.”
The Christological controversy continued for centuries, often becoming a matter of political influence and expediency. However, in 1990, the theologians and official representatives of both Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches–after years of dialogue and consultations–agreed in a formal statement that their theological understanding, especially their Christology, is “orthodox.” The statement called for unity and communion among the Eastern and Oriental Churches and as such, the document was sent to the respective leaders of the participating churches for formal approval.
While the overwhelming majority of Armenians are members of the Armenian Church (also known as the “Mother Church”), a number of Armenians belong to the Armenian Catholic and Protestant (Evangelical) churches.