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Author Topic: How is a Council "Ecumenical"?  (Read 10292 times) Average Rating: 0
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Doubting Thomas
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« on: July 25, 2003, 12:13:10 PM »

I was reading on the non-Chalcedonian forum about whether Eastern Orthodox can consider the Oriental churches "Orthodox".  The discussion raised a question I've thought about before, and that is how does one truly define an Ecumenical Council?  And a corollary to that is, how does one define the "Undivided Church"?

I've read before that for a Council to be considered "Ecumenical" that it has to be accepted by the Church, but isn't that somewhat subjective?  For instance, following the Council of Nicea (325) it seemed for a time that Arianism was in the ascendancy.  Since the Arians rejected Nicea, and were in the majority (I believe) at one point, how could the pro-Nicene orthodox KNOW that Nicea was OBJECTIVELY correct despite the fact that much of the church did not accept it?  Was there an external criteria (ie the "rule of faith" or Scripture itself) that the pro-Nicenes could point to and say, yes, Nicea is indeed correct before the church at-large accepted its decisions?

Likewise, how were the 3rd and 4th councils at Ephesus and Chalcedon considered "ecumecial" if large portions of the church did not accept them?  Who (or what) was the "referee", so to speak, that could ensure that those accepting those councils were right?  Were the divisions caused by more political reasons or by semantic misunderstanding?  Cannot the non-Chalcedonian churches claim that only the first 2 or 3 councils are truly "ecumenical" and they are indeed part of the "undivided church" (since after Ephesus and/or Chalcedon--and long before 1054--the church became divided)?  

I ask this because some would claim that outside the Orthodox church there is no salvation.    If that's he case, shouldn't there be a more objective way of defining the boundaries of the True Church?  For if the Ecumenical Councils (however many there actually are) only became authoritative and binding AFTER they were accepted by the Church (whatever that may be), how does escape from the charge of circular reasoning?

I hope I'm not being disrespectful and that my post was not confusing.  However, why should I not settle for a form of the "Branch Theory" if one cannot OBJECTIVELY locate that One Visible Ecclessiastic Body which is the True Church?  Huh
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« Reply #1 on: July 25, 2003, 01:27:14 PM »

You hit an area that IMO needs to be further defined.  I don't have an answer at this moment but two ways we know when a council is accepted are 1) if a future council mentions its acts during the session as authoratative and 2) if it enters the liturgical calendar naturally (i.e. from sponaneous development).

Here is an article, written by a RC who was sympathetic to the east, that discusses some of these issues:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/texts/Dvornik_whichcouncils.html

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« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2003, 01:41:53 PM »

Anastasios,

I appreciate your honest reply.  I guess I'm wondering how  Christians knew in which direction to turn in the period immediately after a Council.  Before a council became accepted and thus authoritative and binding, how did the average Christian determine which option (ie, Pro-Nicence v. Arius) was the Truth?  We know that both sides used Scripture in their arguements, so how did one know whose interpretation was the correct one?  If one says it's the Church that decides, how then is the Church defined without resorting to circular reasoning?  You've alluded to the Robber Synod in your essay on the Non-Chalcedon forum as not being "ecumenical".  Surely there was a REASON why this was rejected by the Church.  (I don't know much about that particular synod).   Thanks again for your reply...
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« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2003, 08:56:44 PM »

This is a very interesting thread, Doubting Thomas.  I'm glad you brought the subject up of what makes a Council "Ecumenical."  I have problems in this area myself, and I should certainly appreciate further clarification by those more knowledgable than myself.  Can the present Ecumenical Patriarch convoke a "Great and Holy Synod" and have it eventually received by the Eastern Orthodox Church at large as "Ecumenical?"  What if the Ecumenical Patriarch stacks the deck in his favor by appointing many additional bishops of long-defunct eparchies to his own Patriarchal Holy Synod as disproportionate voting members of such a "Great and Holy Synod?"  

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« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2003, 09:34:03 PM »

Hypo-Orthodox,
I know I'm not Orthodox, but from what I understand I don't believe that your scenario would necessarily happen.  Afterall, doesn't the CHURCH have to first ACCEPT the council for it to be "Ecumenical"?  Should the church at-large--which I guess includes the Bishops not involved in the "Great and Holy Synod"--recognize the Council's proceedings as a "stacked deck", I'd imagine this would appear to the Church contrived and not guided by the Holy Spirit.  (Again, I'm not Orthodox, so I'm just offering speculation based on what I've read)  

I guess that's the crux of my question--how are Christians held accountable to tje decision of an Ecumenical Council before it actually is considered and accepted as "ecumenical".  I again offer the example of Nicea (325) since for a while afterwards the majority of "Christendom" embraced Arianism rather than what was ultimately considered Orthodoxy.  How could the minority pro-Nicene Christians have known they were making the correct decision in affirming Nicea when: (1) the majority of the "church" rejected the Council (at that time) and (2) the Council's authority is based on it's reception by the church?   I guess I'm asking what served as the "rule", so to speak, in the interim between the Council's decree and its acceptance as being "Ecumenical"?

I'm sorry if I'm being repetive.  I'm personally convicted about the correctness of Nicea--and at least the next three councils for that matter.  As a Protestant, I've taken it for granted that those Councils are correct in that they reflect what the Bible teaches.  However, historically the Arians and other heretics (Gnostics, etc) claimed the Bible taught their false doctrines.  Today Mormons, JWs, and United Pentecostals (among many others!) belief the Bible proclaims their modern day Arian or Sabellian teachings.  I believe they are wrong, but I can argue Scripture back and forth with them all they long and not get anywhere.  Hence the flaw of "Sola Scriptura".

Perhaps the answer to my question is that the Church quided by the Holy Spirit was able to accept a Council as Ecumenical (and inspired) if the teaching of that Council lined up with the early Tradition expressed in early confessions and the regulum fidei ("rule of faith") AND in the Holy Scriptures interpreted by that Tradition.  I may be off base here (and "un-Orthodox") but perhaps it was in the same way the Church was able to determine (discover) what was in the Canon of Holy Scripture:  those books that lined up with the "canon" of Tradition handed down by the Apostles and summarized in the "rule of faith" and expressed in the earliest confessions were those books recognized by God's people as being "God-breathed".

Comments?
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« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2003, 08:36:41 AM »

DoubtingThomas<<Perhaps the answer to my question is that the Church quided by the Holy Spirit was able to accept a Council as Ecumenical (and inspired) if the teaching of that Council lined up with the early Tradition expressed in early confessions and the regulum fidei ("rule of faith") AND in the Holy Scriptures interpreted by that Tradition.  I may be off base here (and "un-Orthodox") but perhaps it was in the same way the Church was able to determine (discover) what was in the Canon of Holy Scripture:  those books that lined up with the "canon" of Tradition handed down by the Apostles and summarized in the "rule of faith" and expressed in the earliest confessions were those books recognized by God's people as being "God-breathed".>>

DoubtingThomas, I think you're much closer on the road to Orthodox thinking here than you imagine!   Smiley

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« Reply #6 on: July 26, 2003, 10:13:40 AM »

[OT]

Doubting Thomas,

Where are you located in Ga ?  I am in the Macon/Warner Robins area.

[/OT]
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« Reply #7 on: July 26, 2003, 10:35:03 AM »

I've not read the whole thread, but here's a summary answer (forgive me if I'm restating things, but I doubt that I am). An Ecumenical Council does not "find the truth," it only "confesses the truth". Councils are about discussing what the Church has always believed, what the tradition handed down to them teaches. Sometimes this is hard to see because, while the original deposit of faith is pure, time and corruption sometimes distort things. So in the Arian controversy, everyone agreed that "Jesus is God"--no one disputed that, it was obvious that everyone had always believed that, but the question was, "what did that mean?" Was Jesus the same as God (homoousion, consubstantial?) or was Jesus just a created being that was made god by grace (cf Ex. 7:1--though of course Jesus would have been much greater)?

The first ecumenical council was not convened to "look at all the evidence and decide which made the most sense," or "look at all the Scripture verses and see what they say". That would be like finding a football rule and history book and interpreting things as you went along, without ever having experienced the game. This, of course, would lead to certain failure, because such an approach would not have any experience of the "feel" or tone of the game: they would not understand the intangibles that cannot be written about in books, but which nonetheless make the game what it is. So with tradition, not everything got written down, and for the early Christians it was enough to say "Jesus is God" and basically understand that terminology. By the time of the first ecumenical council, that terminology, for many people, had to some extent lost it's meaning. So, the council did not convene to decide what to believe (as you might do at an Evenglical Bible Study--and I mean no offense here, I'm just trying to illustrate the difference), but came together to say "this here is what we have always taught, how do we make this clear to those are are unsure? in what way can we clarify without adding something?"

So, as to when the dogmatic/doctrinal aspects of a council need to be affirmed, the answer is: always. Before the council, during it, after it, and after the whole church has accepted it. Holding to true doctrine does not depend on the rest of the church (as during the Arian crisis, when most of the Church was to some degree unorthodox) "catching up" or accepting a certain wording. Christians are obligated to hold to the truth--to the faith delivered to them from the Apostles and Jesus Christ--even if there hasn't been an ecumenical council.

Looked at another way, a council's "authority" in a doctrinal sense comes from speaking the truth that has been believed by the fathers (e.g., the Scriptural authors). So, if it confesses and affirms this truth, it has authority, whether it has been "universally accepted" or not. Being ecumenical only means that everyone, everywhere is recognizing the truth stated at the council, that it was the truth believed from the beginning. This is normally given a more prominent status because "the whole Church," or the whole "mind of Christ" has accepted it as testifying to the truth, and so it is a more sure foundation stone than a local council might be (that has not been examined by the whole Church -- though local councils were sometimes affirmed by ones that later attained ecumenical status). However, in a practical situation, down at the grass roots level, for us laymen, this universal authority need not worry us too much. All that is important for us is truth. If the Church of Wherever or the People of Wherever have not accepted a council, that doesn't mean we must exercize caution and also reject the council for a time. If it's true, we should accept it, whether it's ecumenical or not. The criterion is truth: and Jesus Christ is the truth. If the council speaks truthfully of Jesus Christ, if it affirms truth, then it is more than worthy of our worthless recognition.  I hope I'm not rambling too much here Wink
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« Reply #8 on: July 26, 2003, 01:42:14 PM »

Paradosis,

Wow!  Great answer!  Shocked

While I've been posting on this thread, I've been reading RETRIEVING THE TRADITION AND RENEWING EVANGELICALISM by D.H. Williams.  (The author is a Baptist who for a time taught Patristics at Loyola in Chicago and is now at Baylor, I believe)  The shocking thing about this book is that here's a Baptist who basically debunks the whole "Constantinian fall" paradigm believed by a wide array of Protestansts while affirming the importance of the Church's Tradition in establishing the Christian faith.  I was reading the chapter regarding Councils and Creeds last night, and he affirmed roughly the same thing you said in your response.  That is, Creeds and Councils are authoritative because they line up with the Apostolic Faith that has been believed and practiced from the beginning as evidenced by the form of early baptismal confessions and by the "rule(s) of faith" as taught by early church fathers (ie Irenaeus, Tertullian, etc).  The same believers who for the three prior centuries were continuing in the Apostles' doctrine and were worshipping in the manner taught by the apostles, were also able the recognize by the Holy Spirit the truthfulness of the subsequent Creeds and Councils--even when they may have been in the minority in so doing.

(Is this the gist of what you're saying?)
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« Reply #9 on: July 26, 2003, 02:14:39 PM »

That's about it, yep Smiley

At Baylor now? Well that's cool, I use to have a (very religiously confused) friend who attended Baylor. He couldn't decide if he was a liberal Anglo-Catholic Anglican teacher or an Evangelical Baptist guy trying to not be noticed. He was a Philosophy/Religion major who thought Nietzsche was misunderstood and that Tillich was divine. *head still hurts from his conversations* lol  .. I hope this fellow (the author) was there while my friend still attended there.
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« Reply #10 on: July 26, 2003, 06:40:32 PM »


I would like to add something about the Arian crisis, if I may.

When one looks at the development of that crisis he can see its evolution in the pride, disobedience, and rebellion of Arius. Whatever happened later, however many misguided or politically-inspired bishops and others embraced Arianism, the whole thing began with Arius disobeying his bishop, Alexander. Then he disobeyed a whole council of Egyptian and Libyan bishops.

An episode that begins that way, with a teaching that is recognized by the Church as an innovation and rejected almost immediately, should be easily identified as an assault upon the faith.

Arius began his campaign by disobedience to his bishop and rebellion against the authority of the Church. An ecumenical council should never have been necessary. He should have repented when first counseled by Bishop Alexander and certainly by the time Alexander was joined in his judgment by a council of local bishops.

I guess what I am getting at is that it is usually possible to trace innovations and errors historically. They have a beginning that is not coterminous with the Apostles. They have authors whose names and stories are known.

Ecumenical councils simple reiterate and clarify what the Church has always believed, especially as it is reflected in the Divine Liturgy.
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« Reply #11 on: July 27, 2003, 03:21:49 AM »

As an example of a council that was not Ecumenical, could someone narrate that council (was it Trent?) where all but St. Mark of Ephesus (I think) signed that treaty with the RCC and then later, the faithful rejected those bishops, and spit on their hands when offering a blessing.  (I'm not a good writer, so I'm asking someone else)  Grin
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« Reply #12 on: July 27, 2003, 06:18:48 AM »

As an example of a council that was not Ecumenical, could someone narrate that council (was it Trent?) where all but St. Mark of Ephesus (I think) signed that treaty with the RCC and then later, the faithful rejected those bishops, and spit on their hands when offering a blessing.  (I'm not a good writer, so I'm asking someone else)  Grin

Trent was the "Counter-Reformation" Council strictly of the Roman Catholic Church.  You must be thinking of the RCC's "reunion Councils," such as Basel, Ferrara and Florence, Elisha.  None of these latter RCC councils have ever been received as "Ecumenical" in Eastern Orthodoxy, although I think the RCC holds them as such.  But then the Pope proclaims a council as "Ecumenical" for the RCC even before it convenes.

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« Reply #13 on: July 28, 2003, 07:46:28 AM »

As an example of a council that was not Ecumenical, could someone narrate that council (was it Trent?) where all but St. Mark of Ephesus (I think) signed that treaty with the RCC and then later, the faithful rejected those bishops, and spit on their hands when offering a blessing.  (I'm not a good writer, so I'm asking someone else)  Grin

That was the Council of Florence (1438? - ?). The Byzantines were so desperate for help against the Turks they would have agreed to just about anything (and did!). The Latins used that fact as leverage to get their way.

When those bishops returned from Italy they and what they had done were rejected by St. Mark and the rest of the Church. One of them, George Scholarius (if I remember his name rightly), was convinced by St. Mark that what had been done in Florence was wrong; he became one of the most vocal critics of that "council."
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« Reply #14 on: August 16, 2003, 02:32:06 AM »

There are nine Orthodox Ecumenical Synods, including the Photian and Palamite Synods.  

Why do some think there are only seven?

For 4.5 centuries, the Turks would not let people in the Balkan countries print religious boox.  They sent them to Venice for printing.  There the Latins excised the last two Synods and the Saints in question.  What they did to the Canons (which remain  that way in Greek and English) brough tears to St. Nikodimos the Hagiorite, who had edited them.  

Beware of misinformation!!!!!!! Sad(

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« Reply #15 on: August 16, 2003, 09:56:58 AM »

There are nine Orthodox Ecumenical Synods, including the Photian and Palamite Synods.  

Why do some think there are only seven?


I guess because every Orthodox source I've read on the matter, whether on the web or in a book, has affirmed only SEVEN as Ecumenical.  That's not to say that the others aren't considered authoritative--I've never seen more than seven listed as "ecumenical".
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« Reply #16 on: August 16, 2003, 10:12:30 AM »

You've given a very good answer, Thomas.  I agree with it.  

Yes, indeed there have been other councils and even local synods that have been accepted as authoratative throughout the Orthodox Church.  The Council in Trullo comes immediately to mind.  But the Orthodox Church is still known to this day as "The Church of the Seven Councils."

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« Reply #17 on: August 16, 2003, 12:58:38 PM »

There are nine Orthodox Ecumenical Synods, including the Photian and Palamite Synods.  

Why do some think there are only seven?

For 4.5 centuries, the Turks would not let people in the Balkan countries print religious boox.  They sent them to Venice for printing.  There the Latins excised the last two Synods and the Saints in question.  What they did to the Canons (which remain  that way in Greek and English) brough tears to St. Nikodimos the Hagiorite, who had edited them.  

Beware of misinformation!!!!!!! Sad(

Well, a council held in the 1300s (Palamite) cannot possibly be ecumenical, particularly if it rejects pre-1000 western positions. Trying to get a straight story on the so-called Photian Synod is difficult, but if I have the right one, it appears to not properly have been a synod at all, but rather an emmisary of two papal representatives.
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« Reply #18 on: August 16, 2003, 01:00:51 PM »

You've given a very good answer, Thomas.  I agree with it.  

Yes, indeed there have been other councils and even local synods that have been accepted as authoratative throughout the Orthodox Church.  The Council in Trullo comes immediately to mind.

Trullo has always been rejected as a council in the West. I think councils prior to 1000 would have to be recognized as ecumenical in the west too.
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« Reply #19 on: August 16, 2003, 01:28:08 PM »

Had the west fell away from the Church in 400CE would you also assert that the Second Ecumenical Council is not truly an Ecumenical one?
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« Reply #20 on: August 16, 2003, 02:57:37 PM »

The reason why one thinks that there ar seven Ecum Synods is because the Venetians censored out the 8th and 9th, since affirmed Orthodox doctrines attacked by the Latins.  They eliminated the related Saints from the printed Calendars.  The Orthodox had to send their books to Venice for printing when the Turks (4.5 centuries in the Balkans) forbade printing Christian books.  The Latins also inserted materials into the canons and made the editor of the Pedalion ("Rudder"), St. Nikodimos the Hagiorite, weep when he saw the result.  There are so far nine (not 7, not 10, not ll) Ecum Synods.  Some of them, e.g. the 9th,  held a numbr of sessions more than a year apart.  

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« Reply #21 on: February 03, 2004, 11:56:30 AM »

After some recent thinking on the topic (and reading the exchanges particularly between Linus and Subdeacon Peter) I've decided to resurrect this thread.

Much of the previous discussion on this thread has been about determining who's right in the Arian controversy.  This time, I'm specifically interested in how one KNOWS who was right in the Nestorian and "Monophysite" controversies in relation to the 3rd and 4th councils--without resorting to circular reasoning.  For example, how do we KNOW which church--the EO or the OO--got it right about Chalcedon?  What OBJECTIVE criteria does one use to determine which position is more in line with apostolic tradition?
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« Reply #22 on: February 03, 2004, 12:10:03 PM »

For example, how do we KNOW which church--the EO or the OO--got it right about Chalcedon?  What OBJECTIVE criteria does one use to determine which position is more in line with apostolic tradition?

An interesting question, one I hope is discussed further.  The discussions between Linus and Peter have gotten me thinking, and one thing I've noticed (and this isn't the first time I've noticed it) is that, when people discuss this issue, it seems to be  all based on personal perspective.  For instance, Linus' objections to the Oriental Orthodox, while I disagree with them, are faithful to the EO faith.  If Linus really believes in EOxy, then of course he would believe that his church is right.  But I know a few EO who converted to Oriental Orthodoxy after reading the history behind the division.  If the EO are right, then it seems to me there would be some objective way to determine this.  I would like to know what that is as well; who knows, you might convert me.  Tongue
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« Reply #23 on: February 03, 2004, 12:24:15 PM »

It depends what you mean - "who got it right?"

We must start with what is the substance of our belief about Christ, what our opinions are about Chalcedon are secondary because like all councils that was called to deal with the substance and content of belief not to merely create an historic criteria for orthodoxy.

Since the EO and the OO have the same confession - as I have personally shown in my own confession on this forum - the issue is not which communion was right in terms of Eutychianism or Nestorianism/Theodorism since both EO and OO repudiate and anathematise both those heresies. The questions should be, do we have the same substance of belief about Christ and then what were the confusing issues during the controversial period which led both sides to believe that the other was confessing heresy. The second is subsidiary to the first which is the primary issue. If I find an Assyrian confessing clearly the Orthodox doctrine of Christ then whether or not he considers Ephesus I to be ecumenical is secondary because by confessing the Orthodox faith about Christ - which is found in the substance of faith not in terminology - I must recognise him as a seperated brother and not as an adversary.

The OO synods have confessed that both the EO and OO have got it right in terms of the substance of belief and confess the same substance of belief:

"In the light of our Agreed Statement on Christology as well as of the above common affirmations, we have now clearly understood that both families have always loyally maintained the same authentic Orthodox Christological faith, and the unbroken continuity of the apostolic tradition, though they have used Christological terms in different ways. It is this common faith and continuous loyalty to the Apostolic Tradition that should be the basis for our unity and communion."

This is the wonder, which I personally find so frustrating when others will not rejoice over it, after 1500 years of separation and mistrust two ancient communions are found to confess the same things about Christ, whereas in my own Plymouth Brethren background there were 5 or 6 competing sects with different theologies after just 60 years of existence.

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« Reply #24 on: February 03, 2004, 12:53:48 PM »

Peter,

You bring up some very good points--and more questions.

I confess my knowledge of the historical circumstances around Ephesus and Chalcedon is scanty.  I also admit to being somewhat confused by the issues and the "players", so to speak, especially regarding Chalcedon, when reading about these Councils in Early Christian Doctrines by J.N.D. Kelly.  :-

If the separation over Chalcedon was largely over some semantic misunderstandings, then some type of "branch theory" of ecclesiology would seem to be the logical result.  Two potential problems with this: (1) How can the "Body of Christ" be divided? (2) A. If there is a "Branch Theory", does this mean that the RCC and the Protestant churches could also be "branches" within the true Church?  B. If not, how come?  C.  By what criteria can we determine legitimate branches from heretical splinterings?

(OTOH, if one wants to maintain that there is ONE True Church and that all other groups are schisms away from the Church, that brings us back to how does one KNOW which is the TRUE Church without resorting to circular reasoning?)

Again, my point is not to open a can of worms or to be difficult.  I'm just a dissatisfied Baptist on the journey to Orthodoxy, and therefore I'm curious about how to locate true epistemology and the correct ecclessiology given the ancient division between the EO and the OO.  On one hand, I certainly sympathize with your (Peter's) position. The way you've explained it indicates to me, at least, that the two (EO and OO) are expressing the same faith but in different words. On the other hand, I've generally regarded the first FOUR Ecumenical Councils as being correct, if for no other reason other than that's what I've been "taught".
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« Reply #25 on: February 03, 2004, 01:08:55 PM »

I am not convinced by the argument that it was merely semantics. It seems from my research that both sides understood the language of the other.  The problem seems to have been one of exclusion of certain formulas for fear of tending toward heresy. In other words, the Non-Chalcedonians feared that the Chalcedonian formula, to the exclusion of the Cyrillian language, tended towards Nestorianism and did not adequately prevent a Nestorian from agreeing with it as a formula. We know this was in fact true.

Likewise, the Chalcedonians feared that the Cyrillian formula (long in use by the Church) by itself did not adeqauetly prevent a Eutychian from agreeing with it. As such they believed the Chalcedonian formula and the Tome of Leo was necessary to avoid this.

Both sides were exclusive for legitimate concerns. Unfortunately they did not have the benefit that we have, that of hindsight. In hindsight, there is no evidence that the Non-Chalcedonians (I mean the major sees of Alexandria, Antiocj, etc... - not small splinter groups) EVER fell into the heresy of Monophysitism (or rather Eutychianism). And likewise, in hindsight, there is no evidence that the Chalcedonians ever really became Nestorians.

I don't see any problem with us admitting that today. If we insist that one side must yield to the other, there will absolutely never be reunion. I myself tend nowadays to be more pessimistic towards reunion for this reason.

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« Reply #26 on: February 03, 2004, 01:12:13 PM »

Raouf,

Good post.  I guess I need to read up on the relevent history...  Tongue

DT
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« Reply #27 on: February 03, 2004, 05:33:19 PM »

Raouf, yes a good post, but I think I am more positive because I do not believe that the majority of the EO or OO I know and correspond with are seeking the submission of either side.

DT, I think it is more important to know what the substance of the Orthodox faith is rather than which is the "approved history" of events. As is shown on other threads, the EO are not clear on whether there are 7, 8 or 9 ecumenical councils, yet they hang together because the content of the faith is the same. Since the OO do not reject the teachings of the latter EO councils - which have the position for us of local EO councils since they didn't invite us to participate - it does not seem to me to be necessary for a seeker to choose between two different faiths but rather to understand that their is one faith although the understanding of history is different. I would like to see a growing sense of self-reflection in both communions so that a shared, critical history can be described which understands and integrates both histories.

A good book to read - which I have re-published - is the important OO book by Fr V.C. Samuel - The Council of Chalcedon Re-Examined - available at Amazon and Barnes etc. Fr Samuel is, like Fr John Romanides of the EO, able to reflect upon events and criticise the OO position as well as the EO in a balanced and positive manner.

PT
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« Reply #28 on: February 03, 2004, 05:43:06 PM »

I should add that though I am committed to my own communion and Patriarchate and church and bishop, nevertheless I know that my bishop and I are glad to help any seeker to become Orthodox in the EO if that is most appropriate to their pilgrimage and the leading of the Holy Spirit. Though we have EO who have joined the BOC, including priests, and other EO who worship with us due to isolation from their own communities, nevertheless the EO are not the object of our evangelism since we consider them wholly Orthodox. I am always glad when correspondents of mine over the years start seeking after Orthodoxy and become Orthodox whatever jurisdiction in whichever communion they join.

I say this as a person who is completely devoted to St Severus of Antioch and who writes about the theology of my own communion.

PT
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« Reply #29 on: February 04, 2004, 09:06:24 AM »

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Raouf: I don't see any problem with us admitting that today. If we insist that one side must yield to the other, there will absolutely never be reunion. I myself tend nowadays to be more pessimistic towards reunion for this reason.

I think your pessimism is well founded, unless the sort of sentimental ecumenism rampant today is allowed to override actual theology.

I do not see how there can be a reunion unless the OO recognize that the EOC is the Church and had the authority to sit in ecumenical councils and render binding decisions.

If we reunite any other way, then the EO must admit that the Church can be divided and, consequently, that Christ Himself can be divided. We must admit that our ecumenical councils were nothing more than local synods without power over our "separated brethren," the OO.

We would also have to admit that Dioscorus, who sent St. Flavian to his death, is in fact a saint and that recognition of the sainthood of men like Pope St. Leo the Great is an option for some Christians.

To say that we have the same faith is only mostly true.

I pray for the reunion of all Christians in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

But such a reunion would be meaningless and in fact a victory for the Adversary if it involved false compromise and a glossing over of very real differences.
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« Reply #30 on: February 04, 2004, 09:09:25 AM »

You make me very sad Linus. Sad I do earnestly pray for your illumination.
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« Reply #31 on: February 04, 2004, 09:16:16 AM »

You make me very sad Linus. Sad I do earnestly pray for your illumination.

Sorry, Peter.

I will pray for you, too.

If one wants to get in out of the rain, he must actually enter the house.

Simply standing outside in the rain and proclaiming, "I am inside!", will not do.

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« Reply #32 on: February 04, 2004, 09:21:33 AM »

I appreciate that is your point of view. But since you still cannot confirm how many ecumenical councils it is necessary to confess I think you will find that your roof is leaking.

How many ecumenical councils are there? Not how many have you been taught, but how many are there. 7, 8 or 9.
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« Reply #33 on: February 04, 2004, 09:37:10 AM »

I appreciate that is your point of view. But since you still cannot confirm how many ecumenical councils it is necessary to confess I think you will find that your roof is leaking.

How many ecumenical councils are there? Not how many have you been taught, but how many are there. 7, 8 or 9.

There are certainly more than three.

The Church teaches that there are seven ecumenical councils.

Some highly-placed persons believe there are eigth or nine. That is their right.

But the Church does not require such a belief. When she does, I will defer to her wisdom and her teaching charism.

What will you do?

Reject 6 rather than merely 4?
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« Reply #34 on: February 04, 2004, 09:52:37 AM »

There are certainly more than three.

The Church teaches that there are seven ecumenical councils.

Some highly-placed persons believe there are eigth or nine. That is their right.

But the Church does not require such a belief. When she does, I will defer to her wisdom and her teaching charism.

What will you do?

Reject 6 rather than merely 4?

Again, as you mentioned in the thread above ("WorldView") this begs the question:  how does one identify the True Church?

If one states the Church is one that accepts the Ecumenical Councils, and then states that Ecumenical Councils are the ones which the entire Church accepts, that one is arguing in a circle.  This is true regardless of whatever number of councils are considered "Ecumenical".

There has to be way (hopefully!) to objectively determine where the "True Church" lies and thus which councils are truly "Ecumenical".  Otherwise, one is left with a type of "branch" theory or with uncertainty whether or not the church to which one belongs is the True One. :-
Can anyone think of a way out of this conundrum?
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« Reply #35 on: February 04, 2004, 11:12:39 AM »

In my opinion DT, the answer is to take the teachings of the 9 councils, which describe the content of the faith according to the EO, and compare it with the content of the teaching of the OO, and of the RC even.

If the content is the same then we are not dealing with branches that need to come together to reform the Church but we are dealing with seperated communities which have always been a feature of the Church save in the rosetinted world of some converts.

If we look at the Acacian Schism, the Photian Schism, the breach of communion after Ephesus I, the breach of communion after Constantinople II in the West. These were all resolved by an understanding that the substance of faith had remained the same.

When Pope Vigilius excommunicated Patriarch Mennas which one ceased to be a member of the Church? Certainly neither were later received as penitent heretics by the other. And when Vigilius' deacon broke communion with him over the Three Chapters which one ceased to be a member of the Church? Of course this deacon went on to be Pope Pelagius, but he was not received as a penitent heretic.

The church is filled with instances of breaches of communion. In fact my Dad and I would shake our heads in wonder at the fist fights which were and are regularly reported in the Orthodox press between Orthodox groups who were out of communion with each other.

Is ROCOR not part of the Church despite not being in communion with most of the local Churches? What of ROAC and the Milan Synod?

It seems to me that painting a picture of the wonderful unity of Orthodox Christians of all communities including my own is a deceit when in fact we are as human as all other communions and have constantly striven to conquer the weaknesses of our humanity.

When Rome excommunicated the East, as it often did, did that mean that there were suddenly two branches of the Church, or did it mean that the One Church was having to deal with its humanity.

Christ prayed in the garden that 'they may be One', nowhere do I recall that this is taken as a given, rather it has constantly been a requirement of all faithful christians to maintain that unity.

The Church is not rightly defined as being the church of any number of Councils, that is just polemics and an unhelpful shorthand. For 300 years there were no ecumenical councils and yet the fullness of the faith was maintained. The councils are important as being moments when the faith, which remains the same, is given some further definition and explication in the face of some challenge. They add nothing to the substance of the faith.

It is polemical shorthand to say that if a council is not accepted as ecumenical then its teaching is rejected. It takes away a consideration of what is really believed. Is someone more acceptable to God if he confesses 7 or 8 or 9 councils and yet doesn't know what any of them teach? or if he confesses 3 as being of universal authority but also accepts with conviction the substance of the full 9?

I suggest that an examination of the substance of faith will show that there is one Orthodox theology which has always been maintained by both communions, as many of the EO patriarchs and bishops have stated. Why would Pope Petros VII of Alexandria and Pope Shenouda III of Alexandria allow intercommunion of the families of mixed marriages if either were convinced that the other communion did not have the same faith? Likewise the Syrian and Antiochean patriarchs.

IMO the True Church is not found by polemics, that way leads to ROAC and other tiny splinter groups who are all the 'real' EO. The True Church is found by asking what it believes and then seeing who believes it, not asking who has the same understanding of every event in history.

As you have seen, Linus is not able to agree with his patriarchs and bishops about how many ecumenical councils there are, even within his one tradition. Starting there is obviously not the right place. And the councils do not make doctrine. If the faith we confess is not found in the 2nd century, the 3rd century, the 4th century etc then we have invented it.

We could perhaps start with the point at which a breach in the communion of the local churches took place, this was over the period of 100 years between 431 and 536 AD. We could ask what were the reasons why the two sides became separated? We could then ask if any of these reasons of necessity involve either party in heresy.

If they do not then we are dealing with two communions of local Orthodox Churches, one of which had several later councils which it chooses to call ecumenical, in exactly the same way that the RC does. The OO has also held councils the latest of which was in 1965 but it would not call them ecumenical because they are necessarily local councils of the OO communion. The EO remained the Imperial Church and this naturally affected the manner in which church affairs took place, were recorded and were imposed on the local churches within the Imperial authority.

As a side note I was reading last night the letters of a great interest of mine, St Columbanus. He wrote to Pope Boniface IV and he seems to know little of the 5th council. He seems inclined to believe that it was heretical and encourages the Pope to divest himself of even the impression of heresy by seeming to side with Vigilius, whom he suggests had failed to be vigilant.

Here is a contradiction for me. On the one hand I have a great affection of St Columbanus, an immense figure in the 7th century, but on the other hand he seems to explicitly both reject Constantinople II and show a clear ignorance of the issues. Is he a heretic? Of course the strict part of me cries out 'Yes!', but when I read the rest of his letters it is clear that his Christology is actually the same as mine. So what am I left with, clearly that there was a real lack of communication of the content of the various councils in the controversial period, even greater misunderstanding of what various figures had actually believed and yet a real commonality of the substance of faith. So St Columbanus rejects the 5th Council and Vigilius and yet confesses an Orthodox Christology. This is why I hesitate to trade polemical slogans.

It is not the number of councils which matters but the substance of faith which those councils intended to define and protect.

PT
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« Reply #36 on: February 04, 2004, 11:17:45 AM »

Upon further reading of some of the discussion in the Non-Chalcedonian section, it seems to me (and someone correct me if I'm wrong) that much of the disagreement between the EO and OO is what is meant by the following three terms: ousia, physis, and hypostasis.  It appears that EO tend to view 'ousia' and 'physis' as the same as opposed to 'hypostasis', while the OO tend to see 'physis' and 'hypostasis' as being roughly equivalent.  Is that about right?

If this is the case, what will it take to get the two sides to come to some "standardized" understanding of these terms so that unity can be achieved?  (Did not Constanople I clarify things for those who had been opposed to both Arianism and the term homoousios?)

IMO  (and again I'm not pretending to be familiar with all the relevent historical material regarding Ephesus, Chalcedon, the Tome of Leo, the Three Chapters, and Constantinople II) it seems that the EO use of the three terms mentioned above is more consistent with the way the terms were used in the first two Ecumenical Councils.  However, having read  doctrinal statements from both communions, it seems that both the EO and OO teach the same truths (though in slightly different words) about the Trinity and the Incarnation and thus have the same faith.
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« Reply #37 on: February 04, 2004, 11:36:47 AM »

PT,

Excellent post.  

How, then, would you differentiate the separation of communions within apostolic Christianity from the separation of Protestant denominations from Rome and from each other?

It can be argued that Orthodox, RC, and (most) Protestants accept the teachings (if not the wording) of (at least) the first four Councils.  Could this not be basis of considering Protestants as separated communions within the Apostolic Church?
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« Reply #38 on: February 04, 2004, 11:58:51 AM »


The Church teaches that there are seven ecumenical councils.

At the risk of being redundant here, the The Holy Orthodox Catholic Church of the East recognizes SEVEN Councils as being "ecumenically" (universally received) and affirmed (declared) as being "Oecumenical" (usually affirmed by a subsequent "Oecumenical" council which declares what has been recognized already).

Quote

Some highly-placed persons believe there are eigth or nine. That is their right.


The "Eighth Council" (879) and collection of councils (1341-1351), which are referred to as the "Nineth" council, have indeed been universally ("ecumenically") recognized by all Eastern Chalcedonian churches. These last two, while universally received, have not been "officially" affirmed by a subsequent Great Synod. The 8th (879) is problematic in some ways due to it's being accepted (despite papal participation) by the entire Chalcedonian communion of the day and then subjected to Latin influences as to it's universality. In fact, I am of the opinion that the west's treatment of this council in fact is the Great Schism de facto.
The so-named "9th council", while also universally accepted, has not been "officially" declared as "ecumenically" received. Who knows? Perhaps a future council will offically designate these already "universally agreed" councils as "Ecumenical", numbering schema aside.
Quote
But the Church does not require such a belief. When she does, I will defer to her wisdom and her teaching charism.

This is correct as to the "8th and 9th" councils. They are not required, but in fact ARE universally accepted by all Eastern Orthodox Churches.
Quote

What will you do?


I don't know about PT or Linus7, but Demetri will trust the Holy Spirit to guide the hierarchs of each communion  Smiley

Demetri
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« Reply #39 on: February 04, 2004, 12:24:45 PM »

How, then, would you differentiate the separation of communions within apostolic Christianity from the separation of Protestant denominations from Rome and from each other?

I think that it is necessary to ask what the substance of the faith of any group is. There is no problem using the 9 EO councils as the basis for this, although it would require a much wider analysis since the 9 councils do not cover everything or even most things.

Quote
It can be argued that Orthodox, RC, and (most) Protestants accept the teachings (if not the wording) of (at least) the first four Councils.  Could this not be basis of considering Protestants as separated communions within the Apostolic Church?

It is certainly the basis for engaging in dialogue, but it would be necessary to ask, I think, about a much wider range of doctrines as I mentioned, and spirituality. The first 4 councils do not mention icons, but the 7th does, it would seem to me that Orthodoxy must take a particular position on icons, even if there is a local variation in iconography from 'every square inch of wall covered' to 'a smaller number of icons that are definitely venerated'.

The trouble with using the councils polemically rather than as a beginning of discussion is that even the documents of the councils can be taken in different ways and require an eirenic approach to determine what the substance of the faith is. Take St Columbanus, as I have suggested he rejected the 5th council but he actually approves the Christology of the 5th council. Insisting that he accept the 5th council would simply have made him more convinced of its being heresy. But he didn't seem to know what it had actually stood for. So we would start, and we must start, with what we believe.

I can go through the 9 councils and list all the doctrinal teaching and show how it is consistent with that of my own Oriental Orthodoxy. There are places where explanation is required. But eirenics requires explanation while polemics leaves no space for explanation.

As for the terms ousia, physis and hypostasis. There is indeed a difference of use, but a difference of use does not necessitate a difference of meaning. The word 'suspenders' has different meanings in the US and UK, but it doesn't mean either use is wrong, just that explanation is necessary to prevent confusion.

I am entirely happy with the OO approach to Christology and find the writings of Severus of Antioch immensely stimulating and wholly Orthodox. There is a real depth to his though building solidly on that of St Cyril.

The way forward is to not assume we know what the other means, (and this is true of all dialogue, with the RC's and Assyrians as well) but ask. Polemics doesn't allow this, it assumes that everything is understood and only one position can ever be right.

PT
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« Reply #40 on: February 04, 2004, 12:46:23 PM »

The so-named "9th council", while also universally accepted, has not been "officially" declared as "ecumenically" received. Who knows? Perhaps a future council will offically designate these already "universally agreed" councils as "Ecumenical", numbering schema aside.This is correct as to the "8th and 9th" councils. They are not required, but in fact ARE universally accepted by all Eastern Orthodox Churches.

Hiya

I have a slight question/issue. I am not convinced that Ephesus I was not considered entirely ecumenical until Chalcedon. And likewise other councils.

I am sure that the concept of the reception of a council by the church is necessary as well but I find that some of the EO I correspond with sometimes say that Chalcedon WAS recieved by the whole church using the methodology of assuming that anyone who had a problem with it wasn't in the Church. This is a rather weak argument since in fact anyone can then have a council and call it ecumenical by declaring anyone who rejects it outside of those who count.

I believe that just as the OO must revisit these councils and see what can be stated about them, from our eirenic 21st century position, so the EO must look at them and see what was defective in them in the sense that they were unable to be received by many people in the controversial period.

We should never fear adding extra explanation. Both outr communions need to keep talking, explaining and listening.
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« Reply #41 on: February 04, 2004, 01:14:52 PM »

Hiya

I have a slight question/issue. I am not convinced that Ephesus I was not considered entirely ecumenical until Chalcedon. And likewise other councils.

I am sure that the concept of the reception of a council by the church is necessary as well but I find that some of the EO I correspond with sometimes say that Chalcedon WAS recieved by the whole church using the methodology of assuming that anyone who had a problem with it wasn't in the Church. This is a rather weak argument since in fact anyone can then have a council and call it ecumenical by declaring anyone who rejects it outside of those who count.

Please note, PT, my use of the word "usually". I am not sure I follow your stream of thought, however. It is quite possible that Chalcedon was received as you describe, but it the rest of your statement above does not seem to follow. "Anyone" cannot declare a council ecumenical, I don't think. An "ecumemical" council may be convened, but whether it's pronouncements are subsequently "ecumenically received and affirmed" are not guaranteed.
I don't want to "shoot from the hip" here any further without some more thought. I always get in trouble with quick responses Cheesy

Quote
I believe that just as the OO must revisit these councils and see what can be stated about them, from our eirenic 21st century position, so the EO must look at them and see what was defective in them in the sense that they were unable to be received by many people in the controversial period.

I am going to delay comment here to see if I get any input on my post today in the OO board.

Quote
We should never fear adding extra explanation. Both outr communions need to keep talking, explaining and listening.
PT


Agreed.

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« Reply #42 on: February 04, 2004, 01:49:30 PM »

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It can be argued that Orthodox, RC, and (most) Protestants accept the teachings (if not the wording) of (at least) the first four Councils.  Could this not be basis of considering Protestants as separated communions within the Apostolic Church?

No apostolic ministry, no Eucharist, no sale.
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« Reply #43 on: February 04, 2004, 02:01:52 PM »

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Aristokles: This is correct as to the "8th and 9th" councils. They are not required, but in fact ARE universally accepted by all Eastern Orthodox Churches.

It's funny, if that is indeed the case, that that is not more widely taught and/or publicized.

If you see my post over in the Other Forum on the "Biblical Worldview" thread, you will note that I quote several very Orthodox sources that acknowldege only seven ecumenical councils and do not even so much as mention an eighth or ninth.
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« Reply #44 on: February 04, 2004, 02:04:07 PM »

No apostolic ministry, no Eucharist, no sale.
Wel, ecumenist that I am, the flip side is that ecumenical councils are now impossible because all councils are now in reality local.

The obvious problem here is that "ecumenical" is being used as a synonym for "definitive". But it isn't a synonym; it's a precondition. The increasing failure of collegiality means that it is a precondition that can never be met again.
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