I am an Orthodox Christian who is also known as Irenaeus of Pensacola. I attend Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church in Pensacola, FL.
What is Interdoxy?
"Interdoxy" is a term that has been adopted by some Orthodox Christians to describe an online movement that, whether intentionally or not, disregards or outright ignores the authority and hierarchy of the Church. This movement contains (but is not limited to) self-proclaimed apologists, rogue clergy (and maybe even fake clergy in some cases), or unlearned people who claim to be an authority on Orthodox Christian theology.
The Eastern Orthodox Church and the Internet
The internet affords the Orthodox Church and Orthodox Christians everywhere great opportunities for outreach. There have been, for example, great online ministries that have been founded such as Ancient Faith Radio and official Orthodox Church websites such as The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the Orthodox Church in America. These websites have sources from qualified individuals and the ministries in which these individuals are participating in have the blessing of the bishops for that ministry's jurisdiction.
There are, however, individuals who are not accountable to any bishop or a priest at their local parish who post content online that may be harmful to Orthodox Christians and seekers of the Orthodox faith. While some of these individuals may share some good information, they often behave in a way that is not appropriate for Orthodox Christians. And as any Orthodox Christian knows, sharing information without the heart of bringing people to a greater relationship with Jesus Christ through the Orthodox Church is just as bad if not worse than sharing false information.
Challenges for the Eastern Orthodox Church in the Internet Age
One of the greatest difficulties for the Eastern Orthodox Church in regards to the internet is accountability. There are individuals who have started online ministries and are not accountable to a spiritual father. Some of these individuals are hostile toward the hierarchy of the Church that the Apostles set into place. For example, instead of trusting the Bishops with the handling of working toward unity with other ecclesiastical bodies such as the Roman Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox churches, these Orthodox Christians promote alarmism by saying that our bishops are conspiring to compromise on Orthodox values. Orthodox Christians should take care to avoid prematurely judging the efforts of our bishops. No matter what comes against the Church, we will not only withstand the attack of the Church, but our enemies will not be able to withstand our effort to overcome them (Matthew 16:17-19). Therefore, this alarmism is not justified. We should always be vigilant, but we should not raise alarm concerning things that we know little about.
Others in the interdox community quote church fathers out of context and use those church fathers to find justification for strange doctrines. Anyone who knows the Orthodox way of thinking knows that it is not enough for one church father to say something in order for it to be accepted, but rather, the Church relies on the consensus of the fathers. It should also be noted that Orthodox Christians that do not know Greek well enough to read the Church fathers (this includes myself) should be very careful about trying to develop theology or a lifestyle from the Church fathers without consulting someone who has been trained in the tradition of the Church. This is because any translation of any work involves interpreting what was originally meant by the author. Relying on these translations in isolation can lead to misunderstandings and even heresy.
Another unfortunate practice is promoting and/or participating in the idea that pastoring can be adequately done online. This is false. Every Orthodox Christian should be involved in their local parish, and any Orthodox Christian that has a ministry should be accountable to their spiritual father (preferably from your local parish). There are too many things that can be hidden from online, and there is a lack of accountability. There is also a big difference in being physically present for a sacrament. The Orthodox Church was never meant to be primarily an online community, and the internet in no way should replace any part of the ministry of the local parish.
Tips for Not Being Lead Astray by Sources on the Internet
As Orthodox Christians, we should be vigilant. If you see any online resource, investigate to see if the online resource has the endorsement of a local parish or a bishop. If this is unclear, contact the owner of the website and ask who they are accountable to. If the person is not accountable to a local parish or a bishop, their resources should be avoided.
Second, we, as English speaking Orthodox Christians, should be very careful about interpreting the Church fathers without proper supervision. It is okay for us to read the Church fathers, but we must keep in mind that a translation is always an interpretation of the original writing. And, unfortunately, some translations are not very good. Furthermore, there are still many resources in the Orthodox Church that are not available in English yet. Anyone who is not fluent in the original language of the writings of the Church fathers (usually Greek) is not qualified to teach directly from the Church fathers.
This does not mean that we are not qualified to teach at all, however. The best thing we can do is seek resources from qualified experts and academics who are endorsed by the Eastern Orthodox Church. This way, when we do talk about the Church fathers we are informed by people's resources who have the endorsement of the Church and the expertise to properly handle the writings of the Church fathers.
We should also remember that no one person, unless the person is given the blessing of the Orthodox Church to do so, has the authority to speak on behalf of the Eastern Orthodox Church. We should not presume that we are always correct in our teachings and must be willing to submit ourselves to the authority of those that the Holy Spirit has put into place to help guide those of us who are in the Church.
If any one Orthodox Christian or clergyman thinks they are qualified to pastor you online, they should be avoided. The early church fathers made it very clear that the Church is a physical entity. When we try to replace the ministry of the local parish and the Church's hierarchs with online activities and ministries, we are cutting ourselves off from the life of the Church. If you do not have a local parish, call an Archdiocese about having one started in your area. If they are unable to do so, ask them for advice about what you should do.
There are many things on the internet that is dangerous to Orthodox Christians, but there are also many opportunities for those who use the internet responsibly. We should always be diligent and ready to hold one another accountable in a fashion that is consistent with the tradition of the Church.
© 2021 Jason L Petersen