How can you articulate the core difference between Eastern Orthodoxy and the theology of the West? Original sin is, of course, critical to the discussion. But there is something deeper, which I have often termed mysticism. I wonder if the difference is really as simple as what we mean by “faith.”

Rod Dreher at The American Conservative (“Do You Really Want To Be Orthodox?”) shared a letter by the Orthodox nun Mother Thekla, in which she encourages the convert to the East not to embrace any knowing beyond faith. Crucial is the definition of faith which follows:

Faith means accepting the Truth without proof. Faith and knowledge are the ultimate contradiction –and the ultimate absorption into each other.

The classic Western definition of faith is nearly the opposite: Faith is notitia, fiducia, et assensus (knowledge, trust, and assent). In my understanding of Christianity, we do not accept the Truth without proof. That is the point of the eyewitness testimony of the Apostles. I suspect Mother Thekla’s definition—accepting something without proof—is what most people today, Orthodox, Protestant, and others, mean by “faith.”