Within the context of the Orthodox Church(es)1, Orthodox theology sees itself as "theology of the fathers", as a true witness to "tradition" of faith which brings salvation. This position is strengthened by the intensified orthodox participation in the ecumenical and the intercultural dialogue since the political changes in Europe after 1989:
1) The new possibilities of public communication and free activity, both within the ecclesial community internally and on all levels of social and political life, have forced and go on to compell the Orthodox churches to quickly determine their identity. For this task, after a period of limited scientific theological research because of the political circumstances, they can hardly draw on arguments developed and proven in a contemporary context.
2) The experience of many Eastern European churches – especially the Russian Orthodox Church, which comprises by far the largest number of Orthodox Christians in Europe – with the persecution of Christians under communist regimes led to considering themselves as "martyr church". In this confidence, they often consider themselves superior to a Western, bourgeois Christianity that seems not to be faithful to its own tradition. So they are inclined to see in (post-) secular societies a new edition of a "godless" civilization that – following their own experience – is necessarily condemned to its decline.
3) Since the 1960s, a rather large number of foreign workers immigrated to Western countries and settled definitely, becoming part of the local societies. The orthodox Christians became full citizens of the new home countries, and the orthodox Churches found official recognition by the state in several countries (Austria, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Italy; in Switzerland, the attempt to be recognised by the state-church-law started in different cantons and actually meet several obstacles). The general question of how to be "Christian and citizen" of the modern secular world concerns the orthodox Christians in an especially dense manner, as there is a tension between their Christian life style and the secular cultural environment. For the second and third generation of these immigrants, this tension cannot be solved by nostalgia or be an internal split of personality.
1 Within this research project, „Orthodox Church(es)“ is understood in particular as the totality of the Byzantine churches - without neglecting the wider context of the Assyrian and Oriental Orthodox Churches as well as the Eastern Catholic Churches united with Rome.