But the mention of these two points includes everything that can be said about the achievements of this Church. To add that it has disseminated a certain amount of culture would involve pitching our standard of culture very low. In comparison with Islam, too, it is no longer so successful in doing what it has done in the past and still does in regard to polytheism. The missions of the Russian Church are still overthrowing polytheism even to-day; but large territories have been lost to Islam, and the Church has not recovered them. Islam has extended its victories as far as the Adriatic and in the direction of Bosnia. It has won over numerous Albanian and Slav tribes which were once Christian. It shows itself to be at least a match for the Church, although we must not forget that in the heart of its dominions there are Christian nations who have maintained their creed.
Our second question was, What are the characteristics of this Church? The answer is not easy; for as it presents itself to the spectator this Church is a highly complex structure. The feelings, the superstitions, the learning, and the devotional philosophy of hundreds, nay, of thousands of years, are built into it. But, further; no one can look at this Church from outside, with its forms of worship, its solemn ritual, the number of its ceremonies, its relics, pictures, priests, monks, and the philosophy of its mysteries, and then compare it on the one hand with the Church of the first century, and on the other with the Hellenic cults in the age of Neoplatonism, without arriving at the conclusion that it belongs not to the former but to the latter. It takes the form, not of a Christian product in Greek dress, but of a Greek product in Christian dress. It would have done battle with the Christians of the first century just as it did battle with the worship of Magna Mater and Zeus Soter. There are innumerable features of this Church which are counted as sacred as the Gospel, and towards which not even a tendency existed in primitive Christianity. Of the whole performance of the chief religious service, nay, even of many of the dogmas, the same thing may, in the last resort, be said: if certain words, like Christ, etc, are omitted, there is nothing left to recall the original element. In its external form as a whole this Church is nothing more than a continuation of the history of Greek religion under the alien influence of Christianity, parallel to the many other alien influences which have affected it. We might also describe it as the natural product of the union between Hellenism, itself already in a state of oriental decay, and Christian teaching; it is the transformation which history effects in a religion by “natural” means, and, as was here the case, was bound to effect between the third and the sixth century. In this sense it is a natural religion. The conception admits of a double meaning. It is generally understood as an abstract term covering all the elementary feelings and processes traceable in every religion. Whether there are any such elements, or, on the other hand, whether they are sufficiently stable and articulate to be followed as a whole, admits, however, of a doubt. The conception “natural religion” may be better applied to the growth which a religion produces when the “natural” forces of history have ceased playing on it. At bottom these forces are everywhere the same, although differing in the way in which they are mounted. They mould religion until it answers their purpose; not by expelling what is sacred, venerable, and so on, but by assigning it the place and allowing it the scope which they consider right. They immerse everything in a uniform medium,—that medium which, like the air, is the first condition of their “natural” existence. In this sense, then, the Greek Church is a natural religion; no prophet, no reformer, no genius, has arisen in its history since the third century to disturb the ordinary process by which a religion becomes naturalised into common history. The process attained its completion in the sixth century and asserted itself victoriously against severe assaults in the eighth and ninth. The Church has since been at rest, and no further essential, nay, not even any unessential, change has taken place in the condition which it then reached. Since then, apparently, the nations belonging to this Church have undergone nothing to make it seem intolerable to them and to call for any reform in it. They still continue, then, in this “natural” religion of the sixth century.