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Author Topic: Criteria for an ecumenical council?  (Read 11479 times) Average Rating: 0
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Evlogitos
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« on: April 27, 2008, 06:42:38 PM »

Christos Anesti!

In recent debates with those of other faiths, I've come across a very interesting question to which I confess I have no distinct and authoritative answer:

By what criteria do we Orthodox authoritatively, objectively, and externally judge whether a given council was ecumenical or not?

If you sit down and think hard about it, it's a much more difficult question than it appears at first blush. We can dismiss standards such as "convocation by the Emperor" or "lots of bishops" as immediately ludicrous on their face. Even the more reasonable alternatives, however, have severe problems:

1. Suppose we say, "ratification by a subsequent council." This raises issues:

-I'm fairly sure there have been heretical councils subsequently ratified by other heretical councils. yet we don't count those as ecumenical.
-Is this a question of "oomph," or can any piddly local council basically create ecumenical councils by fiat? If it's "oomph" that counts, how do we determine whether it's sufficient, without running into the infinite causes dilemma?


2. Suppose we say, "participation by the Pentarchy." This raises issues:

-Does this mean that, since the Great Schism, Orthodoxy has lost its ability to hold new Ecumenical Councils? This would have serious implications as to Orthodoxy's catholicity.
-What of the First Ecumenical Council? Constantinople wasn't even a big-name see at the time.
-What of the Second Ecumenical Council? The Bishop of Rome was not present.
-What of the Ignatian council of 869? What of the Council of Florence? Both had at least ostensible participation by all the Patriarchates.


3. Suppose we say, "ratification by the Pentarchy." This raises issues:

-Again, does this mean Orthodoxy is stripped of the ability to hold new Ecumenical Councils?
-Again, what of the Ignatian council, and Florence, where the Pentarchy apparently ratified 'em, but we Orthodox reject them?
-More importantly, what of Chalcedon and the other councils we do accept that weren't ratified by the whole Pentarchy?
-Especially, what of Chalceon canon 28, which was rejected by Pope St. Leo the Great, a move apparently accepted as legitimate by St. Anatolius?


4. Suppose we say, "ratification by the laity." This raises issues:

-How many need to ratify a given council? 51%? 66%? 75%? 90%? How can we know what proportion is right? How can we measure whether this consensus exists? Within what length of time should it come to a proper degree of laity acceptance?
-What of all the times when heresy plagued the Church to such extent that probably a majority of the laity were in heresy? (I'm thinking specifically of Maximus the Confessor, and "Athanasius against the world.")
-What makes an ecumenical council necessary at all, under this scheme? If majority rules, and Truth always wins out over the centuries, then why not just leave it to the body of the faithful?


5. Suppose we say, "ratification by the bishop of Rome." This raises issues:

-Why are we still Orthodox, then? Tongue
-What of the Photian council of 879, which was apparently ratified by Rome and then deratified? Does this mean the foundations of the Faith are subject to repeal on the whim of one man?
-If true, why was the papacy's vote so frequently ignored (Chalcedon canon 28) or outright opposed (St. Cyprian)?
-Again, it seems this would obviate the need for an ecumenical council except for informational and diplomatic purposes, if the papacy were able to decree authoritatively what was and wasn't true doctrine.
-On the face, it does seem, however, that this rule is the easiest to fit into the majority of historical circumstances.


(My gut inclines me to say that it's a combination of 2, 3, and 4, on something of a sliding scale, but while this answer seems to me the most logically tenable, it is by no means particularly satisfying.)

Finally, I would be extremely interested to see any authoritative documentation--that is, in the canons or Church Fathers--as to what constitutes a valid ecumenical council. It seems to me that 20/20 hindsight and subjective private judgment is not a wise or solid foundation for something so incredibly vital to Orthodox ecclesiology.

(In particular, Orthodox blogger Perry Robinson wrote: With 2nd nicea, the documents in question actually LIST the conditions for a legitimate council and it seems quite strange that they do not list papal ratification and even stranger that NO ONE IS MENTIONING THEM AT ALL, even though it is the one place in an ecumenical council recognised by ALL that discusses and lays down the criteria in question. After a fairly thorough reading of the Seventh Ecumenical Council, I am unable to determine where he gets this. But this'd be just what I'm looking for. Any thoughts?)

Christ is in our midst!

Pax,

--Seraphim
« Last Edit: April 27, 2008, 06:46:23 PM by Evlogitos » Logged
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« Reply #1 on: April 27, 2008, 06:57:17 PM »

This is also something I have wrestled with.
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« Reply #2 on: April 27, 2008, 07:50:24 PM »

A great thread to read for information on this subject:

How is a Council "Ecumenical"?
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Evlogitos
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« Reply #3 on: April 27, 2008, 08:18:05 PM »

Peter,

Thank you for your reply. I read that thread thoroughly, prior to starting this one. Unfortunately, there is nothing in that thread that in any way addresses the question I am raising. The closest to a definitive answer was given by Linus7:

Quote
To be declared ecumenical, a council must be accepted by the whole Church, even if that process takes hundreds of years.

The problem is that this is a totally subjective and relativistic view that ignores history and forces a very pat and skewed definition of "whole Church."

The Oriental Orthodox, numbering in the tens of millions, to this day do not accept Chalcedon as an ecumenical council. Why do they not count as part of the "whole Church?"

The Roman Catholics, which outnumber the Orthodox on the order of perhaps four or five to one, do not accept the Photian or Palamite councils as ecumenical, and the Orthodox do not accept Florence, Vatican I-II, et al., as being ecumenical. Who here counts as the "whole Church," and why?

The timing is also utterly arbitrary. What if, a thousand years from now, 99% of those who purport to be Orthodox deny the existence of the Holy Spirit? Is this a doctrine "accepted by the whole Church" over "hundreds of years," or a dangerous capitulation to heresy that must be fought to the death by every true Christian?

+++

Anastasios proposed another formula:

Quote
[T]wo 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).

1) Already addressed under "ratification by a future council," above.

2) Enters whose liturgical calendar? That of the Copts? The Russians? The Latins? What does "from spontaneous development" mean? Ephesus II is on the OO liturgical calendar, but not the EO. Chalcedon is on the EO liturgical calendar, but not the OO. Which council is accepted, authoritative, and Truthful, and how can we tell externally? It seems to me that this is merely a dressed-up version of the "ratification by the laity" argument, addressed above.

+++

The other alternative was posited by Asteriktos:

Quote
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).

The criterion of some indefinite "Truth" is unacceptably amorphous. Catholics reject certain Orthodox councils because they do not confess and affirm purported "Truth," and vice versa. To quote Pilate, what is Truth? How can we tell, externally?

This criterion is so subjective as to reduce everything to a Protestant-style swearing contest.

+++

Equally importantly, what is the patristic and/or canonical basis for any of these opinions?
« Last Edit: April 27, 2008, 08:20:48 PM by Evlogitos » Logged
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« Reply #4 on: April 27, 2008, 09:42:44 PM »

Xristos anesti!

The most definitive and accurate and practical and sure description of what "ecumenicity" is today is when a group that considers themselves the True Church agree together on what is binding.  It's only ecumenical within that group.  That's all that matters.  So, it would seem that there is an element of preconceived "Truths" that is involved. 

So one has to ask, what are these "truths?"  If the unified group can agree on a set of truths altogether, then that should be the criteria of a "truth."  But as for conciliar acceptance, one also has to ask, "Well, the faith is one thing, but what about the canons and the anathemas?  Do we have to accept ALL of them?"  Within any group, canons have been done away with or ignored or abrogated time after time.  Can we say the same for anathemas?  Theoretically, one of Nicea's canons say "YES!"  And even gives the requirement that bishops must meet once a year to see if previous councils have dealt with certain persons "unjustly" or lead to a "wrong decision."  But then again, it has been said that this particular canon has been impractical for the very fact that bishops tend to become very emotional about certain things that were done in the past (how true this is today).

Then there's another question.  Does the council define truth or does truth define the council?  According again to the divisions we have in Christianity, it seems to be the latter.  We're not a democratic system, where the majority rules the minority (otherwise, I would venture to think that we all should be Catholics).

This leads to another question.  If truth is so important, why stress that we SHOULD know and SHOULD accept a certain ecumenical council?  It's one thing to study history for an appreciation for what you believe today.  It's another thing to accept history's decisions for what you believe today.  That almost seems to tell me that the ecumenical council is PART of the faith, that it's just as important to remember the name "Nicea" as it is to confess Christ as TRUE God from TRUE God, perhaps even more important, affirming the former idea that councils define truth.  If such is the case, those "pious" and "righteous" and "faithful" who don't know history end up becoming heretics.  Is that right?

Even within Eastern Orthodox, one cannot agree on the NUMBER of ecumenical councils.  There's a consensus on the first seven, but there's disagreements (and even some divisions) on the "eighth" and "ninth" (even though the faith of these councils seem to be believed by everyone in the Eastern Orthodox, as well as those divided from them).

The only logical thing in my mind seems to be that anything that is man-made is subject to change (numbers, the names of councils, the bishops that lead them, etc.), whereas anything that is considered Divine Truth from the unchangeable God should never be touched.  So perhaps, the more important question is INDEED what is truth?

God bless.
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« Reply #5 on: April 27, 2008, 10:30:45 PM »

In truth, He is risen! Interesting thoughts, minasoliman.

Quote
The most definitive and accurate and practical and sure description of what "ecumenicity" is today is when a group that considers themselves the True Church agree together on what is binding.  It's only ecumenical within that group.  That's all that matters.  So, it would seem that there is an element of preconceived "Truths" that is involved.

Obviously. But it doesn't strike at the heart of the issue. What makes Rome's "ecumenicity" less or more preferable than Constantinople's, or Egypt's? Is a sensible, thoughtful, reasonable man just going to have to hold his nose and pick one, subsequently living in a perpetual state of total uncertainty that he has settled at the point of the Truth?

My difficulty is that I don't even see that Orthodoxy has a remotely internally consistent criterion for ecumenicity. For example, Rome can simply point to the Pope and say "whatever he's agreed with historically is okay, whatever he hasn't is not." Obviously, there are legitimate issues to raise with this approach, but it is definite, it is settled, and it is at least a prima facie acceptable epistemological basis. On the other side, not only is there no apparent agreement within Orthodoxy as to what the standard should be; none of the proposed standards work. Tongue

Quote
So one has to ask, what are these "truths?"  If the unified group can agree on a set of truths altogether, then that should be the criteria of a "truth."  But as for conciliar acceptance, one also has to ask, "Well, the faith is one thing, but what about the canons and the anathemas?  Do we have to accept ALL of them?"  Within any group, canons have been done away with or ignored or abrogated time after time.

Agreed. The Council of Trullo is extremely instructive in this regard. Yet at least I do know that as an Orthodox Christian, the canons are universally an aspect of my praxis. My question is, how do I know that? Wink

Quote
Can we say the same for anathemas?  Theoretically, one of Nicea's canons say "YES!"  And even gives the requirement that bishops must meet once a year to see if previous councils have dealt with certain persons "unjustly" or lead to a "wrong decision."  But then again, it has been said that this particular canon has been impractical for the very fact that bishops tend to become very emotional about certain things that were done in the past (how true this is today).

Then there's another question.  Does the council define truth or does truth define the council?  According again to the divisions we have in Christianity, it seems to be the latter.  We're not a democratic system, where the majority rules the minority (otherwise, I would venture to think that we all should be Catholics).

Quite correct. Truth is Truth, and democratic opinion doesn't change it (another reason why "ratification by the whole Church" doesn't work as a principle of ecumenicity). However, it is promised that the Holy Spirit would lead us into Truth, that we should know the Truth, that the Church is pillar and foundation of the Truth, and that God is never the author of confusion.

This tells me that the Truth is objectively knowable. Since Truth isn't a matter of opinion, and it is repeatedly promised to us by God, I conclude that the Truth is at least partially scientific and/or reasonable in nature. Take gravity, for example. I can externally deduce its presence by the fact that objects fall. Its effect is not subject to my whim or opinion. If someone disputes the existence of gravity, I can simply push him over, and my case is won.  Grin

Obviously, the lines are drawn much more finely and indistinctly when it comes to spiritual Truth. However, it is inconceivable to me that a faith purporting itself to be Truth would be unreasonable, or internally inconsistent. I left Protestantism precisely because I realized its rule of faith was self-contradictory and could not truly lead to knowledge of God. Orthodoxy I have found to be almost perfectly consistent with its internal premises, except for this one potential glaring hole.

Quote
This leads to another question.  If truth is so important, why stress that we SHOULD know and SHOULD accept a certain ecumenical council?  It's one thing to study history for an appreciation for what you believe today.  It's another thing to accept history's decisions for what you believe today.  That almost seems to tell me that the ecumenical council is PART of the faith, that it's just as important to remember the name "Nicea" as it is to confess Christ as TRUE God from TRUE God, perhaps even more important, affirming the former idea that councils define truth.  If such is the case, those "pious" and "righteous" and "faithful" who don't know history end up becoming heretics.  Is that right?

The ignorant pious are excused their ignorance. This does not make their ignorance acceptable.

My grandmother is a very pious--if totally unintellectual--Roman Catholic. However, she is a universalist; she believes that nobody will ever inherit eternal condemnation. Do I believe God has abandoned her for holding this view? Of course not. Do I believe her view is in accord with the Truth of the matter? Equally, no. I believe The Spiritual Meadow of John Moschus recounts several stories regarding "dueling Eucharists" between the catholics and the Severians wherein the Lord miraculously revealed to some pious Severians that they'd got it wrong.

So in that sense, yes, the Councils are part and parcel of the True Faith, in that they give us a boundary by which to know whether we are in accord with the Faith delivered once for all unto the Saints. That is why we commemorate the Councils at various times of the year during the Liturgy (most notably, the Sunday of Orthodoxy).

Quote
Even within Eastern Orthodox, one cannot agree on the NUMBER of ecumenical councils.  There's a consensus on the first seven, but there's disagreements (and even some divisions) on the "eighth" and "ninth" (even though the faith of these councils seem to be believed by everyone in the Eastern Orthodox, as well as those divided from them).

The only reason this is up for debate is, again, because seemingly none of the Orthodox know what constitutes an ecumenical council. Combined with Catholic influence that there were only seven, along with having two that, while of ecumenical impact, might not qualify as ecumenical in and of themselves (depending on your definition), and you have the debate.

Quote
The only logical thing in my mind seems to be that anything that is man-made is subject to change (numbers, the names of councils, the bishops that lead them, etc.), whereas anything that is considered Divine Truth from the unchangeable God should never be touched.  So perhaps, the more important question is INDEED what is truth?

That can be debated 'til the cows come home. The truly more important question is by what means we may recognize Truth. But I sense we do drift off-topic. Wink Again, to reiterate the original point: All the Orthodox agree that they have held certain things called ecumenical councils, which are confessed to speak infallibly and authoritatively for the whole Faith. But what is an ecumenical council? By what means may we distinguish it from a local council, or a false/heretical council? I'm not necessarily looking for an answer that someone from another faith would automatically accept; I'm just looking for a definition that is internally and historically reasonable and consistent.

Pax,

Seraphim
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« Reply #6 on: April 27, 2008, 11:03:35 PM »

To be perfectly honest, "Ecumenical" seems to have been first and foremost a political term and not a theological one.  Only the Patriarch of New Rome (Constantinople, the capital of the Empire) has been the "Ecumenical Patriarch," even when Old Rome was still in the Empire.  We do try and theologize the term, but "Ecumenical" was really a title bestowed by the Emperor of the Ecumene or to show that something had honor/precedence/binding status amongst the Ecumene.

So what's an Ecumenical Council?  One that has been called and ratified by the Emperor, and never subsequently overturned by him or the Church.

Why am I not worried by this?  Because there are decisions of councils not called Ecumenical which have been adopted as binding by the Church, including Endemousa Synods of the post-Imperial period and the Apostolic Synod in Jerusalem of the pre-Imperial period.  Being called "Ecumenical" is not the end-all or be-all of authority or authenticity, although we seem to get hung up on that point.

If you're looking for criteria for the title "Ecumenical" that fit within the framework of the different historical and synodal Churches (i.e. Rome, EO, and OO, as you imply in your questions above), then the only councils that fit the bill (and, thus, the only councils which you can study for similarities and trends) are the first 3, since they're the only ones we can all agree are Ecumenical.
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« Reply #7 on: April 27, 2008, 11:04:50 PM »

As others have said a council is ecumenical when the 'oikomene' accepts it as such. Another words when the conscience of the universal Church embraces it as such, and this can take time. If the Chutrch in time rejects the council it becomes known as a robber synod.
As far as the non-chalcedon, this issue is only raised because ecumenism has blurred what the councils declared. The ecumenical council severed ties, anotherwords anathemized(cast out) those that rejected the council as schismatics and heterodox. The non-chalcedon did not want to leave but had to, since the council declared their leaders outside of the Church. There was attempts at reconcilliation after the council of Chalcedon but nothing came of it.

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« Reply #8 on: April 27, 2008, 11:39:55 PM »

cleveland, that's a really excellent and thought-provoking reply. Smiley My only questions would be:

A. Why, then, is an ecumenical council considered binding, authoritative, and infallible, over the whole Church?

B. Since ecumenical councils ostensibly clarify the Truth, doesn't this standard, then, basically make the Truth subject to judicial review? For us EO, was Ephesus II "ecumenical" and therefore infallibly binding upon the conscience of true believers, 'til Chalcedon came around? Was Hieria "ecumenical" until Nicea II came around, thus making it heretical to venerate icons for a few years? Was Constantinople 869 "ecumenical" until Constantinople 879 came around, thus making papal supremacy dogmatic for ten years?

//+++\\

buzuxi,

A. How can we externally perceive "the conscience of the universal Church?" During the periods in history where the majority was Arian/Nestorian/Eutychian/etc., how would an observer have perceived where the conscience of the universal Church lay? Or are you saying that someone in, say, St. Maximus' day had no way of knowing what was true and what was heresy? This seems like far too subjective and amorphous a standard. The Catholics would say the conscience of the universal Church has rejected absolute conciliarity in favour of a monarchial papacy. How would you disprove them?

B. How much time can it take? Again, if you time "the conscience of the universal Church" to St. Maximus' day, monothelitism should have been dogma; if you'd dated it three hundred years later, you would have gotten quite a different result. What if a majority of the Church, in time, rejects the Sixth Ecumenical Council and reembraces monothelitism? Would you regard the Sixth Council as a robber synod, or would you stand alone like St. Maximus, and most importantly, why?


See, it seems to me that if the ecumenical councils are infallible and reflect the Truth absolutely, then the standard must be objective and not mutable. To say "unless the Church rejects it" opens the door wide for arbitrary overturning of the foundations of the Faith, unless there is some objective, precise, and external standard as to why the Church rejects it (e.g., "the Pope didn't ratify it," or "not everyone from the Pentarchy was there," etc.). This permits us to say, "these councils are binding upon our conscience, these are false and spurious and heretical, and this upcoming council will only have universal authority if X criterion is met."

Pax,

Seraphim
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« Reply #9 on: April 28, 2008, 12:11:40 AM »

The conscience of the Church is the truth, but those truths have to be clarified and made clear, thats where the ecumenical council comes in. That which was always believed since the beginning. Anyone can err but the Church cannot. This doesnt mean that everyone is expelled as a heretic right away, theres a grace period, but finally controverys die down and the truth prevails. 
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« Reply #10 on: April 28, 2008, 12:40:27 AM »

But see, that still doesn't make it internally consistent by any external standard.

A Catholic will say the conscience of the Church, and thus the Truth, is that Constantinople 869 was the Eighth Ecumenical Council, which affirmed papal prerogatives and supremacy and deposed Photius. They'll say that a majority of Christianity agrees that this is so, and that the East agreed to the same in 869 and also at Florence, only reneging because the Eastern laity heretically clung to nationalism over Christian unity.

An Orthodox will say the conscience of the Church, and thus the Truth, is that Constantinople 879 is the Eighth Ecumenical Council, which affirmed the non-Filioque Creed and Orthodox-style conciliarity, and reinstated Photius. They'll point to the fact that all Orthodox believe this, commemorating St. Photius, and they'll dismiss 869 and Florence on grounds that they didn't represent the conscience of the Church, since the Eastern laity eventually rejected them.

An Assyrian will say the conscience of the Church, and thus the Truth, is that neither is a valid ecumenical council, and will point to the vast spread of the Assyrian Church at its height (all the way to China and beyond), the amount of persecution they've suffered, etc., as proof that they represent the conscience of the Church more than the Orthodox or Catholics.

So in the end, we have a swearing contest between the Catholics, the Orthodox, and the Assyrians. The Catholics say "we have the conscience of the Church," and the Orthodox and Assyrians say "no, we do!" It's one's word against the other, and since the Catholics are a lot bigger and have a more visible and clearly consistent principle of unity (the Pope), they're going to win that argument more often than not. The problem is that "conscience of the Church" is completely subjective, and requires you to presuppose a given doctrine as Truth before you can go follow it to its present-day form.

Compare this with, for example, "representation or ratification by the Pentarchy." If one could make this view reasonably consistent with history (BIG if--ignore reality for a moment to let the hypothetical play out), it would be a measurable principle by which one could judge, internally consistent with the Eastern Orthodox doctrine, that 879 was the Eighth Council, and that the Catholics have had no valid ecumenical councils since the Schism. On the apologetics front, one could plausibly argue that, because the Catholics and the OO were one among five, they logically have the weaker case as to their retaining the Truth in the Schism. Of course, then the Catholics and OO could and would present their own principles of authority as being historically or logically more tenable, but the fact would remain that the Eastern Orthodox would have an internally consistent principle of absolute authority.
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« Reply #11 on: April 28, 2008, 12:49:06 AM »

Those councils which the papacy acknowledge but we dont, is proof that they are not ecumenical, if they were ecumenical the oikomene would have accepted them. The 7 Ecumenical councils are accepted by all 5 Patriarchates and the Autocephalous Church of Cyprus. It cannot be ecumenical if only a small portion of the church accepts them and this before the schism. The same with chalcedon, the entire church accepted it, all 5 patriarchates and the autocephalous church of cyprus.
While some in Orthodox consinder the 8th and 9th council, this is not official, nor ever will be, since ecumenical councils deal with Christological controversies. They maybe pan-orthodox councils but not ecumenical. The 8th council simply reaffirmed what the third and fourth council taught that no revision can be made to the Creed.
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« Reply #12 on: April 28, 2008, 12:59:03 AM »

Those councils which the papacy acknowledge but we dont, is proof that they are not ecumenical, if they were ecumenical the oikomene would have accepted them. The 7 Ecumenical councils are accepted by all 5 Patriarchates and the Autocephalous Church of Cyprus. It cannot be ecumenical if only a small portion of the church accepts them and this before the schism. The same with chalcedon, the entire church accepted it, all 5 patriarchates and the autocephalous church of cyprus.
While some in Orthodox consinder the 8th and 9th council, this is not official, nor ever will be, since ecumenical councils deal with Christological controversies. They maybe pan-orthodox councils but not ecumenical. The 8th council simply reaffirmed what the third and fourth council taught that no revision can be made to the Creed.
But then are you not presenting as axiomatic the very premises that Evlogitos is questioning?  How do you prove the truth of your [foundational] axioms without continuing to resort to those axioms?  Is this not circular reasoning?
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« Reply #13 on: April 28, 2008, 01:11:39 AM »

(Thank you, Peter. Much more concise than what I've got. Smiley)

buzuxi:

So the Palamite councils, we which acknowledge, but the papacy does not, are not ecumenical in character or binding on the faithful?

Are you saying that neither Rome nor the Eastern Orthodox have the power to hold ecumenical councils anymore? Doesn't this have serious implications for the catholicity of the Church?

At the time of Nicea (or shortly thereafter), Arians were in the majority, IIRC. Why didn't this majority Arianism cancel out the Nicene Creed?

The Oriental Orthodox do not accept Chalcedon or any subsequent councils. Doesn't this prove these councils aren't ecumenical?

The Second Ecumenical Council was not approved by Rome until Chalcedon. Was the Second Council not ecumenical until Rome signed off on it? Why or why not?

The West never accepted the Quinisext Council, while in the East it is considered as having ecumenical force. Why?

The councils of 869 and 879 are mutually exclusive. They can't both be right. Neither one is accepted by the oikomene. How are we to discern which one is true and which one is not?

In each of the seven ecumenical councils, did all five patriarchs affirmatively sign off on each one? I'm pretty sure history won't bear that out... Chalcedon comes to mind.

(As a random aside, why is the Church of Cyprus so vitally important to your considerations? Tongue)
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« Reply #14 on: April 28, 2008, 01:17:00 AM »

My point is that a council becomes ecumenical when the 'oikomene' accepts it. The council of Constantinople 381 a.d. was only meant as an eastern-wide council binding in the east only, but at Chalcedon- Rome accepted it as well, and it became ecumenical.
The non-chalcedon churches accept Constantinople 381 as ecumenical also, but only because it was already accepted along with the rest of the eastern churches in 381 a.d., not because rome accepted it at Chalcedon for whom that council has no bearing for the miaphysites.
The Ecumenical Councils dealt with christological issues which ravaged in one time or another in the Roman Empire. The Orthodox Church is the only church which remained in that empire, all others falling away centuries before the collapse in 1453.  The conscience of that Church declares 7 Ecumenical councils accepted by all apostolic Churches and hence all of Christianity within that empire.

It is silly to bring up robber synods which were forgotten within 100 years after they took place. Only the truly ecumenical councils survive because following a council, eminent Saints and Church Fathers arise who are led by the Holy Spirit which illumine the people further thru their writings on said controversies. This is what put down the arian factions, they rages in the west for 50 years after Nicea, but once the advent of the Cappadocian Father arrived on the scene, the arians along with the pneumatochians didnt stand a chance.  



 
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« Reply #15 on: April 28, 2008, 01:22:34 AM »

"History is written by the victor" / "wait a few centuries, then poll the people" seems like an awfully cynical principle by which to judge doctrine, as well as a bit too ex post factoUndecided

Not to mention it doesn't give us any reason to accept Photius as legitimate Patriarch rather than an heretic.

Not to mention it doesn't tell us why Eastern Orthodoxy has the stronger claim on the Truth vis a vis the Catholics or OO.

Not to mention it emasculates Eastern Orthodoxy as being a catholic Church.
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« Reply #16 on: April 28, 2008, 01:24:13 AM »

The church can hold a council, and it can become ecumenical. We have many binding pan-Orthodox councils in our history but not neccesarily regarded as ecumenical. The palamite councils are one of these, some do believe it is ecumenical, these were actually a series of councils held over a span of about 10 years. It can indeed be officially recieved some day as ecumenical if the entire Orthodox world is moved to accept it as such. While im not up on what was taught there, it does seem to have touched on things deemed as Christological. The so called 8th council would be a hard sell, it took place before the schism and didnt truly deal with any christological heresy.
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« Reply #17 on: April 28, 2008, 01:27:13 AM »

"History is written by the victor" / "wait a few centuries, then poll the people" seems like an awfully cynical principle by which to judge doctrine, as well as a bit too ex post factoUndecided

Not to mention it doesn't give us any reason to accept Photius as legitimate Patriarch rather than an heretic.

Not to mention it doesn't tell us why Eastern Orthodoxy has the stronger claim on the Truth vis a vis the Catholics or OO.

Not to mention it emasculates Eastern Orthodoxy as being a catholic Church.


From what is presented i do believe it has the upper hand. The council of Chalcedon is the largest most documented council in history with over 630 bishops in attendance. The other councils you will have to refer to the historical situations surrounding them.
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« Reply #18 on: April 28, 2008, 01:42:46 AM »

Again:

1. It doesn't provide the faithful with any standard to judge at the time a council takes place whether it expresses the Truth or not.

2. Hieria and Ephesus II were both sufficiently large to have designs on ecumenicity. Ephesus II was comparable in size to Constantinople I and II, and Hieria was bigger than any council before it except for Chalcedon. Is the only thing making them invalid the fact that later councils changed their minds? Or is there some objective criterion we can use to measure? Catholics would say the Pope didn't sign off on Hieria or Ephesus II, and therefore they couldn't be ecumenical. It's a nice, pat answer, and it's internally consistent. What can we say?

3. It still doesn't tell us why Eastern Orthodoxy has the stronger claim on the Truth vis a vis the Catholics, Assyrians, or OO. A lot of folks rejected Chalcedon outright for example; and why should we assume that the OO were condemned at Chalcedon and went into schism, rather than saying the EO were condemned at Ephesus II and went into schism? Also, in sheer terms of bishops, the Catholics have held several vastly more impressive councils.

4. It still doesn't give us any reason to accept 879 over 869, and thus gives us no reason on the one hand to accept Photius as a saint, or on the other hand to deny papal supremacy. The historical situation for each is about equal.

With all due respect, I think this is going to start going around in circles. I simply don't think your model of Church authority is sufficiently clear or consistent to work. As such, unless you introduce some compelling and logical premises, and/or citations to canons or Fathers who agree with your position, I'll wait patiently for someone else to chime in with an alternative point of view.

Peace,

Seraphim
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« Reply #19 on: April 28, 2008, 01:58:50 AM »

When the Arians took control over the east, the people still called Mary the Theotokos. In fact a term which spread in popularity during the arian seige.

Those other councils regardless of how large were not accepted by most. If there were the Saints and Fathers would have defended them as right doctrine.

Who rejected Chalcedon? The entire universal church accepted it, this is one council which was ecumenical from the beginning. There has always been an Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria, and chalcedon was accepted by all the apostolic churches. Same cant be said for EphesusII. Chalcedon presented the teaching of the Antiochan school and synthesized it with the Alexandrian school, In the council of Ephesus only the Alexandrian school was presented and Antioch wasnt even present there.

As far as those other councils, they are not ecumenical, did not deal with christological heresies and prove the Orthodox point, once you read the history behind them.
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« Reply #20 on: April 28, 2008, 02:24:32 AM »


Who rejected Chalcedon? The entire universal church accepted it, this is one council which was ecumenical from the beginning. There has always been an Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria, and chalcedon was accepted by all the apostolic churches. Same cant be said for EphesusII. Chalcedon presented the teaching of the Antiochan school and synthesized it with the Alexandrian school, In the council of Ephesus only the Alexandrian school was presented and Antioch wasnt even present there.


You realize of course that this paragraph would be contradicted by an OO.  For example, our guys would say the entire universal Church rejected Chalcedon.  They would also say that there has always been an Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria who has always rejected Chalcedon, so you can't say it was accepted by all apostolic churches, etc.  And of course there have been EO's who have agreed with the OO's that Chalcedon was not a good synthesis of the Antiochian and Alexandrian schools, which is why Constantinople II had to be called.

I don't want to get polemical here, and I know you don't either, but both sides do have to be represented.  I suppose that to go into this further, though, we would have to go to the private forum.

I agree with Evlogitos that what makes a council ecumenical is not such a clear issue.
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« Reply #21 on: April 28, 2008, 02:29:33 AM »

By the way, Evlogitos, welcome to the forum!
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« Reply #22 on: April 28, 2008, 02:35:01 AM »

When the Arians took control over the east, the people still called Mary the Theotokos. In fact a term which spread in popularity during the arian seige.

Those other councils regardless of how large were not accepted by most. If there were the Saints and Fathers would have defended them as right doctrine.

Who rejected Chalcedon? The entire universal church accepted it, this is one council which was ecumenical from the beginning. There has always been an Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria, and chalcedon was accepted by all the apostolic churches. Same cant be said for EphesusII. Chalcedon presented the teaching of the Antiochan school and synthesized it with the Alexandrian school, In the council of Ephesus only the Alexandrian school was presented and Antioch wasnt even present there.

As far as those other councils, they are not ecumenical, did not deal with christological heresies and prove the Orthodox point, once you read the history behind them.
But do you not see how your circular reasoning (from Evlogitos's perspective) does nothing to answer Evlogitos's question?  You've done nothing but present as fundamental the reasoning that Evlogitos has questioned many times.  Do you somehow not understand what he/she is really asking?
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« Reply #23 on: April 28, 2008, 02:40:02 AM »

The Alexandrian patriarchate and her laity were split over this. But one patriarchate doesnt make a church and definately not one that was divided internally over this.
Likewise Ephesus in 431 a.d. was not a good representation of the Belief of the universal church only of Alexandria. Thats why Chalcedon had to be called. In Ephesus 431 because of political motivation that council started before the Antiochan delegates had time to arrive and present there views.
 St Cyril and and John of Antioch reconciled in the formula of reunion. Cyril acknowledged the antiochan usage of 2 natures of Christ and John appeased the Alexandrian School by affirming the title of Theotokos as appropriate christology (something Nestorius never did).  And yes there was the fifth council meant to reconcile but it never did.  

  
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« Reply #24 on: April 28, 2008, 02:42:17 AM »

But do you not see how your circular reasoning (from Evlogitos's perspective) does nothing to answer Evlogitos's question?  You've done nothing but present as fundamental the reasoning that Evlogitos has questioned many times.  Do you somehow not understand what he/she is really asking?

i guess so because to me its pretty straightforward. Is he looking for a detailed outline on what constitutes an ecumenical council by some ancient source, if so he wont find one.
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« Reply #25 on: April 28, 2008, 02:48:20 AM »

The Alexandrian patriarchate and her laity were split over this. But one patriarchate doesnt make a church and definately not one that was divided internally over this.
Likewise Ephesus in 431 a.d. was not a good representation of the Belief of the universal church only of Alexandria. Thats why Chalcedon had to be called. In Ephesus 431 because of political motivation that council started before the Antiochan delegates had time to arrive and present there views.
 St Cyril and and John of Antioch reconciled in the formula of reunion. Cyril acknowledged the antiochan usage of 2 natures of Christ and appeased the Alexandrian School when John of Antioch affirmed the title of Theotokos as appropriate christologically (something Nestorius never did).  And yes there was the fifth council meant to reconcile but it never did. 
I don't see your argument for why Chalcedon specifically should be embraced as Ecumenical offering any answers to the OP, especially since you haven't yet left the rut of your circular reasoning; therefore, I don't see this argument as appropriate for this thread.  If you want to argue for the Ecumenicity of the Council of Chalcedon, please start or find another thread, maybe in the Private EO-OO discussion board, for this.  Thank you.
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« Reply #26 on: April 28, 2008, 02:53:40 AM »

i guess so because to me its pretty straightforward. Is he looking for a detailed outline on what constitutes an ecumenical council by some ancient source, if so he wont find one.
Straightforward to you, maybe, but obviously not to Evlogitos, whose question is the reason for this thread.
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« Reply #27 on: April 28, 2008, 06:29:37 AM »

cleveland, that's a really excellent and thought-provoking reply. Smiley My only questions would be:

A. Why, then, is an ecumenical council considered binding, authoritative, and infallible, over the whole Church?

B. Since ecumenical councils ostensibly clarify the Truth, doesn't this standard, then, basically make the Truth subject to judicial review? For us EO, was Ephesus II "ecumenical" and therefore infallibly binding upon the conscience of true believers, 'til Chalcedon came around? Was Hieria "ecumenical" until Nicea II came around, thus making it heretical to venerate icons for a few years? Was Constantinople 869 "ecumenical" until Constantinople 879 came around, thus making papal supremacy dogmatic for ten years? 

Seraphim,

A) Because (1) at one time the whole Church was in the Empire; (2) even when it wasn't, the Emperor of the Romans was still seen as Christ's co-ruler on Earth and the majority of the Church was still in the Empire.

B) Just because a council was thought to be "Ecumenical" at one point and then was later rejected doesn't mean the process is arbitrary.  The movement and work of the Spirit within the entire Church is often characterized by slow and deliberate responses to crisis moments.  One must remember that (a) synods often declared themselves Ecumenical or of that same status, regardless of whether they would later be seen as such, and (b) communication was quite poor back then compared to today's standards, thus making response time to such "robber"-type synods slow.  But the Holy Spirit does indeed work within the Church (if we don't believe that, we've got no business being in the Church, and certainly will have to defend what is indefensible before the Judgment seat), and has led to the overturning by various entities of those synods that were called and presided over in error.  When humans made mistakes, the Spirit stirred someone to help us correct them (the image of St. Gregory Palamas fighting on his own against his enemies is reminiscent of some of the prophets of the Old Covenant who were in very similar positions viz a viz a sinful Israel).

In fact, I suppose that if one were to argue that the process of determining which council is binding on the Church is arbitrary and not guided by the Spirit, then one would probably have to argue the same about Ancient Israel and the various events in her history.
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« Reply #28 on: April 28, 2008, 02:56:07 PM »

(Peter: I am indeed a "he." Appreciate the discretion, though. laugh)

buzuxi:

Quote
Is he looking for a detailed outline on what constitutes an ecumenical council by some ancient source, if so he wont find one.

Ideally, that's what I'd like to find. Doesn't have to be detailed, though. Just has to state the basic premises for ecumenicity of a council.

If your statement is true, I'm a bit perturbed, because, for example, the Roman Catholics can argue papal ratification as the criterion for ecumenicity, from history (typically St. Anatolius to Pope St. Leo saying that "the whole force" of Chalcedon is subject to Pope St. Leo's approval).


cleveland:

Quote
A) Because (1) at one time the whole Church was in the Empire; (2) even when it wasn't, the Emperor of the Romans was still seen as Christ's co-ruler on Earth and the majority of the Church was still in the Empire.

1. Is (2) documentably the opinion of the Church Fathers living outside the Empire?

2. Doesn't this play precisely into the old accusation of Orthodox caesaropapism?

3. Why would imperial convocation assure the charism of inerrancy?

4. Again, how is this a workable historical criterion? How would a well-meaning but doctrinally unsure Eastern Orthodox layman have looked at Constantinople I in 381 and said "this council represents the Truth; I must adhere to it"? How could the same guy have looked at Ephesus II in 449, or Hieria in 754, and said "you know, these councils don't represent the inerrant Truth"?

Quote
B) Just because a council was thought to be "Ecumenical" at one point and then was later rejected doesn't mean the process is arbitrary.

My problem with this is that it adopts the principle that there are times when the fullness of the Truth is no longer externally discernible, which would seem to me to deny the work of the Spirit in being with the Church and preserving her from error, as opposed to God being author of confusion. It slashes our ability to perceive the Truth down to "prevailing opinion."

Again, what if, three hundred years down the road, in order to reunite with the OO, we decide to reject Chalcedon as Ecumenical? Does that mean that eighteen hundred years of Eastern Orthodox Christology was wrong the whole time and is subject to judicial review? At what point do we fix a council's ecumenicity? Why do we not look at one of the pro-Arian surges in the 4th century and say "Nicea was thought to be 'ecumenical' at one point, but was later rejected," instead of looking at Constantinople I and saying this is proof Nicea was confirmed?

Quote
The movement and work of the Spirit within the entire Church is often characterized by slow and deliberate responses to crisis moments.  One must remember that (a) synods often declared themselves Ecumenical or of that same status, regardless of whether they would later be seen as such, and (b) communication was quite poor back then compared to today's standards, thus making response time to such "robber"-type synods slow.

Exactly. So, without looking forward hundreds of years from a council to see the history written by the victor, how can we tell whether a synod declaring itself ecumenical in fact is, or not?

Quote
But the Holy Spirit does indeed work within the Church (if we don't believe that, we've got no business being in the Church, and certainly will have to defend what is indefensible before the Judgment seat), and has led to the overturning by various entities of those synods that were called and presided over in error.

But do we simply have to bury our heads in the sand and take it on blind faith that the Spirit is with us in fullness, rather than with [insert name of alternative communion]? This seems waaaay too Protestant an attitude to take.

We Orthodox believe that the Holy Spirit, via the synod of 879, led the Church to reject the synod of 869 that deposed Photius and affirmed the supremacy of Rome. We also believe that the Holy Spirit led the Church to reject the Council of Florence.

The Roman Catholics believe that the Holy Spirit led the Church just the opposite way--that time and the consensus of the faithful vindicated 869, and rejected 879. They also believe the Holy Spirit authorized Florence as ecumenically binding, and that the Orthodox laity schismatically prevented its acceptance in the East.

The Roman Catholics have a criterion by which they judge: the Pope. Love him or loathe him, he is at least a consistent principle of authority on the face of things. We, seemingly, do not have any such criterion. So why should an honest seeker, looking for the authority of the true Church, go with the Orthodox, which can't even tell you how they know to accept/reject what they accept/reject, rather than the Catholics, who have an historically consistent standard by which their claims may be judged?

Quote
When humans made mistakes, the Spirit stirred someone to help us correct them (the image of St. Gregory Palamas fighting on his own against his enemies is reminiscent of some of the prophets of the Old Covenant who were in very similar positions viz a viz a sinful Israel).

The difference is that sinful Israel wasn't preaching a variant of Judaism that was heretical. This made an internally consistent principle of authority quite easy to adopt: if you accepted the major premise of monotheism, you would always have ended up on the side of the prophets (and hence the Truth). This would have been the "common thread" separating the prophets from the idolaters.

So what is the common thread that separates the Eastern Orthodox from, say, the Catholics, without by logical necessity forcing us to adopt councils we in fact reject?

Quote
In fact, I suppose that if one were to argue that the process of determining which council is binding on the Church is arbitrary and not guided by the Spirit, then one would probably have to argue the same about Ancient Israel and the various events in her history.

I don't care if the process is arbitrary; I care if the process is consistent.

Using "ratification by the Pentarchy" as an example, the criterion is completely arbitrary. It is admitted fact that the Pentarchy qua Pentarchy didn't even formally exist for decades after the First Ecumenical Council, and that the Fathers never spell out that the Pentarchy has to be involved for a council to be ecumenical. However, if this proposition is internally consistent--in other words, if the Pentarchy did indeed ratify every single Ecumenical Council accepted by the Orthodox, and every single council considered a latrocinium by the Orthodox did not have Pentarchical ratification--then I would be willing to accept this as a legitimate internal principle of authority.

Of course, that proposition is not internally consistent, since the Pentarchy signed off on councils not accepted by the Orthodox, and not all the Pentarchy signed off on councils the Orthodox accept. But for illustration purposes, that's the type of thing I'm talking about. I'm looking for the external, objective criterion/criteria that distinguish(es) the councils the Orthodox accept from those they do not. The accusation that Orthodoxy schizophrenically lacks an identifiable criterion for teaching authority is a very serious one, and thus far I have not seen anything that refutes it.
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« Reply #29 on: April 28, 2008, 03:05:29 PM »

If you look at the ones of the past they were "Christological" in nature.

The western mindset likes to point to a lifeless mechanical method as the reason for councils, but the Church isn't a machine. She is an Organism. She is dynamic.

 I gave up in trying to find a one size fits all "rule" for this thing.




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« Reply #30 on: April 28, 2008, 03:23:27 PM »

Quote
If you look at the ones of the past they were "Christological" in nature.

1. What authoritative source says ecumenical councils must be Christological in nature? To conclude that (1) because the seven councils universally accepted by the Eastern Orthodox were Christological (2) therefore all valid ecumenical councils are Christological is a classic example of the logical fallacy of composition.

2. Constantinople 879 was not inherently Christological in nature (being primarily about Photius and episcopal jurisdiction), yet the Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs (1848), among other authoritative sources, unequivocally calls it the "Eighth Ecumenical Council."

Quote
The western mindset likes to point to a lifeless mechanical method as the reason for councils, but the Church isn't a machine. She is an Organism. She is dynamic.

And yet organisms also operate according to externally discernible principles. When a human being walks, we can tell he is walking, rather than falling, by observing the consistency and nature of nerve inputs, the manner in which his muscles and connective tissue are flexing, etc. The present answer, however, is basically "well, the human being started at point X, and after a certain period of time, we find him at point Y. Therefore, we conclude he walked there." The problem is that, while this is perhaps not an unreasonable conclusion, there is no reason to accept it over assertions that the human being jumped/flew/crawled/rolled/fell to point Y, particularly when these other assertions have internally consistent criteria by which they arrive at their respective conclusions.

I fully accept that the Church is a dynamic organism. What I want to know is the principles by which it can be known where she is moving. Smiley

Quote
I gave up in trying to find a one size fits all "rule" for this thing.

It is admirable that you apparently have found security in your beliefs. Perhaps I am made of weaker stuff, but I don't know if I could just stick my head in the sand and "take it on faith" if there were another equally reasonable explanation that was actually testable.
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« Reply #31 on: April 28, 2008, 04:30:11 PM »

Seraphim,

We do indeed have our one consistent standard, and it's the Church.  For you that may be too vague or broad, but that's it.  There was no magical feeling after any of the authoritative councils that "this was it," or whatnot - instead, the declarations of the councils had to withstand the tests of the Church, the Body of Christ.

1. Is (2) documentably the opinion of the Church Fathers living outside the Empire?

Not to be argumentative, but you've got to understand that during the era of the Ecumenical Councils there weren't any Church Fathers outside the Empire.

2. Doesn't this play precisely into the old accusation of Orthodox caesaropapism?

I'm not looking to argue that point - you may if you want to.  I was just giving an honest evaluation based on historical study and observation.

3. Why would imperial convocation assure the charism of inerrancy?

It doesn't - that's not the point.  Councils that are called "Ecumenical" are called so because of Imperial Convocation.  However, councils that are authoritative are authoritative because the Church has determined them to be so - there are councils not called "Ecumenical" that are authoritative.  I think people assume "Ecumenical" means "universally authoritative," when it doesn't.  It happens that the councils we call Ecumenical are indeed "universally authoritative."

4. Again, how is this a workable historical criterion? How would a well-meaning but doctrinally unsure Eastern Orthodox layman have looked at Constantinople I in 381 and said "this council represents the Truth; I must adhere to it"? How could the same guy have looked at Ephesus II in 449, or Hieria in 754, and said "you know, these councils don't represent the inerrant Truth"?

Well, not to overgeneralize, but the unique thing about the Orthodox Laymen of the Empire is that they were pretty well educated about what was going on - most were not "doctrinally unsure," and those who were generally followed the opinion of a mob of people who were "doctrinally sure."  The reason why we have synods overturned by complaint of the Laity is that the Laity knew exactly what was debated, what was decided, and why it was wrong.

My problem with this is that it adopts the principle that there are times when the fullness of the Truth is no longer externally discernible, which would seem to me to deny the work of the Spirit in being with the Church and preserving her from error, as opposed to God being author of confusion. It slashes our ability to perceive the Truth down to "prevailing opinion."

In order to be a Christian you must be able to live with temporary uncertainty over the outcome of the battle; the Spirit is working and always will be working, but that doesn't mean that it manifests itself with a "bang" (like St. Spyridon and the miracle of the brick, or St. Euphymia's intervention at Chalcedon from within the casket).  Often the Spirit has indeed worked, and it takes the Church a while to realize that fact.

Again, what if, three hundred years down the road, in order to reunite with the OO, we decide to reject Chalcedon as Ecumenical? Does that mean that eighteen hundred years of Eastern Orthodox Christology was wrong the whole time and is subject to judicial review? At what point do we fix a council's ecumenicity? Why do we not look at one of the pro-Arian surges in the 4th century and say "Nicea was thought to be 'ecumenical' at one point, but was later rejected," instead of looking at Constantinople I and saying this is proof Nicea was confirmed?

What if's don't help here, dude.  First, if the modern Church were to reject Chalcedon in its reunion with the Coptic/OO Churches, it would also be rejecting the ratification of said council by the 5th, 6th, Quintisext, and 7th Synods, as well as the 8th, Endemousa, etc.  Second, the EO are not going to reject Chalcedon - we've never even hinted at it, and we've had 1500 years to think over it.

Exactly. So, without looking forward hundreds of years from a council to see the history written by the victor, how can we tell whether a synod declaring itself ecumenical in fact is, or not?

But do we simply have to bury our heads in the sand and take it on blind faith that the Spirit is with us in fullness, rather than with [insert name of alternative communion]? This seems waaaay too Protestant an attitude to take.

We Orthodox believe that the Holy Spirit, via the synod of 879, led the Church to reject the synod of 869 that deposed Photius and affirmed the supremacy of Rome. We also believe that the Holy Spirit led the Church to reject the Council of Florence.

The Roman Catholics believe that the Holy Spirit led the Church just the opposite way--that time and the consensus of the faithful vindicated 869, and rejected 879. They also believe the Holy Spirit authorized Florence as ecumenically binding, and that the Orthodox laity schismatically prevented its acceptance in the East.

The Roman Catholics have a criterion by which they judge: the Pope. Love him or loathe him, he is at least a consistent principle of authority on the face of things. We, seemingly, do not have any such criterion. So why should an honest seeker, looking for the authority of the true Church, go with the Orthodox, which can't even tell you how they know to accept/reject what they accept/reject, rather than the Catholics, who have an historically consistent standard by which their claims may be judged?

The difference is that sinful Israel wasn't preaching a variant of Judaism that was heretical. This made an internally consistent principle of authority quite easy to adopt: if you accepted the major premise of monotheism, you would always have ended up on the side of the prophets (and hence the Truth). This would have been the "common thread" separating the prophets from the idolaters.

So what is the common thread that separates the Eastern Orthodox from, say, the Catholics, without by logical necessity forcing us to adopt councils we in fact reject?

I don't care if the process is arbitrary; I care if the process is consistent.

Using "ratification by the Pentarchy" as an example, the criterion is completely arbitrary. It is admitted fact that the Pentarchy qua Pentarchy didn't even formally exist for decades after the First Ecumenical Council, and that the Fathers never spell out that the Pentarchy has to be involved for a council to be ecumenical. However, if this proposition is internally consistent--in other words, if the Pentarchy did indeed ratify every single Ecumenical Council accepted by the Orthodox, and every single council considered a latrocinium by the Orthodox did not have Pentarchical ratification--then I would be willing to accept this as a legitimate internal principle of authority.

Of course, that proposition is not internally consistent, since the Pentarchy signed off on councils not accepted by the Orthodox, and not all the Pentarchy signed off on councils the Orthodox accept. But for illustration purposes, that's the type of thing I'm talking about. I'm looking for the external, objective criterion/criteria that distinguish(es) the councils the Orthodox accept from those they do not. The accusation that Orthodoxy schizophrenically lacks an identifiable criterion for teaching authority is a very serious one, and thus far I have not seen anything that refutes it.

*Sigh*  We've got a lot of work to do, and I'm too tired to continue right now.  I need a nap - it's been a long Holy Week, and this week is going to be no better.
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« Reply #32 on: April 28, 2008, 05:38:25 PM »

Quote
We do indeed have our one consistent standard, and it's the Church.  For you that may be too vague or broad, but that's it.  There was no magical feeling after any of the authoritative councils that "this was it," or whatnot - instead, the declarations of the councils had to withstand the tests of the Church, the Body of Christ.

It seems this answer begs the question, though. It provides us with absolutely no reason not to follow the Oriental Orthodox or the Roman Catholics or the Assyrians, save the presupposition of Eastern Orthodoxy uber alles.

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Not to be argumentative, but you've got to understand that during the era of the Ecumenical Councils there weren't any Church Fathers outside the Empire.

This is monstrously false. Such a luminary as John of Damascus, for example, lived his whole life under the Muslims of Umayyad Empire. You surely must be also aware that Rome was under the sway of the Ostrogoths by 480 A.D.

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However, councils that are authoritative are authoritative because the Church has determined them to be so - there are councils not called "Ecumenical" that are authoritative.

How does this ecclesiology logically exclude the claims of Rome or the Oriental Orthodox?

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Well, not to overgeneralize, but the unique thing about the Orthodox Laymen of the Empire is that they were pretty well educated about what was going on - most were not "doctrinally unsure," and those who were generally followed the opinion of a mob of people who were "doctrinally sure."  The reason why we have synods overturned by complaint of the Laity is that the Laity knew exactly what was debated, what was decided, and why it was wrong.

This seems quite presuppositional in nature, and I'm not sure how you can prove it's historically borne out (although I'll gladly give a fair shake to whatever historical documentation you can provide). The Desert Fathers and John Moschus are replete with stories of pious, intelligent, and sincere heretics who were persuaded to join the catholic Church via the testimony of the saints--obviously, reasonable and informed people differed in opinion. And why didn't we overturn Chalcedon based on the complaints of the laity in Palestine, Syria, and Egypt?

With Florence, in particular, I am completely unconvinced that the laity rejection was based on coolly calculated evaluations of legitimate theological questions, rather than mere rabid anti-Latin popular sentiment.

Quote
In order to be a Christian you must be able to live with temporary uncertainty over the outcome of the battle; the Spirit is working and always will be working, but that doesn't mean that it manifests itself with a "bang" (like St. Spyridon and the miracle of the brick, or St. Euphymia's intervention at Chalcedon from within the casket).  Often the Spirit has indeed worked, and it takes the Church a while to realize that fact.

Temporary uncertainty is acceptable. Permanent uncertainty is not. So how much uncertainty can we reasonably expect, before we start to question the soundness of the method?

Quote
What if's don't help here, dude.  First, if the modern Church were to reject Chalcedon in its reunion with the Coptic/OO Churches, it would also be rejecting the ratification of said council by the 5th, 6th, Quintisext, and 7th Synods, as well as the 8th, Endemousa, etc.  Second, the EO are not going to reject Chalcedon - we've never even hinted at it, and we've had 1500 years to think over it.

Obviously, I'm doing a reductio ad absurdum to demonstrate that the principle of "judicial review" for matters of Faith is logically untenable. Either certain councils reflect eternal and immutable Truth and are binding from their outset... or they don't, and aren't. No two ways about it. So what remains is to look for internally consistent defining characteristics by which we can recognize eternal and immutable Truth when it smacks us in the face. Wink

Since the Orthodox deny papal supremacy/infallibility, it seems to me that the visible principle of authority is (with various permutations and specifics) either the conciliar episcopacy, the laity, or both.

The problem with the conciliar episcopacy is that Florence, Chalcedon, Constantinople I, Ephesus II, and 869 suggest that the principle of authority is something else/more.

The problem with the laity is that Nicea I, Constantinople I, and Chalcedon suggest the principle of authority is something else/more.

I'm thus inclined to believe, if it's anything, it's a combination of the two. I'm just not quite sure how one can shoehorn it together to remain consistent.
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« Reply #33 on: April 28, 2008, 05:51:12 PM »

Since I can't nap...

Monstrously false?  The statement is on its face false, but not in essence (at least not in the context in which its being used).  Let's face it - it doesn't matter that the Ostrogoths ruled Italy - they were Romans who still acknowledged the Roman Emperor, even if they weren't ruled by him per se.  The only time when they rebelled against him was with the crowning of Charlemagne.  Same deal with those who were overrun by the Moslems - they weren't ruled by leaders they acknowledged as having a right to lead, and instead looked to the Roman Empire, so there still isn't a question about authority of the Emperor, especially dealing with Church matters.

Since the Orthodox deny papal supremacy/infallibility, it seems to me that the visible principle of authority is (with various permutations and specifics) either the conciliar episcopacy, the laity, or both. 

Ahhhh!  You've discovered the answer right before your eyes - the conciliar episcopacy + the laity = the Church.

I'm still too tired to debate right now.  I'm going to keep trying to rest, and hopefully will continue this tomorrow.
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« Reply #34 on: April 28, 2008, 06:05:35 PM »

I dunno, considering St. John of Damascus was even a government official under the Umayyads, I'm not sure the reasoning holds absolutely true. In addition, the later folks who oftentimes ruled Rome (esp. the Franks, shortly before the Seventh Ecumenical Council) were often outright hostile to the East Romans.

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Ahhhh!  You've discovered the answer right before your eyes - the conciliar episcopacy + the laity = the Church.

Well, if you read the OP, I suggested that this was the only possible tenable external measure I could conceive, although the details are a bit wonky. Tongue Is there any support in the Fathers for specifically a conjunction of the episcopacy and the laity as a guarantee of the Truth?
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« Reply #35 on: April 28, 2008, 10:40:34 PM »

Evlogitos,

Xristos anesti!

On the question of ignorance, I feel compelled to answer that there's a difference between the type of ignorance you portray in the example of your mother and the type of ignorance I'm talking about that frankly exists within what SEEMS to me to be the majority of practicing Orthodox Christians.  I met a Greek Orthodox who loves to go to church and pray but never heard of the seven ecumenical councils.  It was interesting for me being an OO to know more about his history than he did.  But he still believed in the dogmas of the Church.  He is by no means a "universalist," accepting Orthodoxy (albeit sometimes he felt growing up that only Greek Orthodoxy was the only true Church if you know what I mean) from his infancy.

There are however many people who are ignorant of dogma, let alone history.  For these people, I lay no judgment.  Some indeed are pious as I'm sure your mother is.  I'm not talking however about these people, but about those existent, many even quite smart and intellectual and well read, seem to be ignorant about Church history.  It turned something that seemed so important to me into a fact that I'm just a history geek, that I have different interests than my fellow Orthodox, and I have a deep-seated appreciation for history.  But I cannot turn history into dogma.  History changes over time.  At some point, history will become overwhelming to learn (if it's not overwhelming already).

So, I'm contending with the idea that what is first and foremost the most important are the truths of the Church.  You mentioned about truth being something you can derive from yourself.  I'm beginning to see that as a truth within itself, that you can with both prayer and learning that you can achieve such truth.  I feel that we should stress history and the Bible and traditions in a way suitable for an appreciation, not as a dogmatic or compulsory ideal/way of life.  May I add that history can be a means to bring people to the truth, just as the Bible can be another means, and then for others the evangelism of certain members of the Church Herself.

Now, I also have to concede that there is an authority ordained by Christ, i.e. the Apostolic authority.  And we should also understand that there is a bi-partite nature of such authority, a divine nature, i.e. the grace of the Holy Spirit working in us, and the human nature, which can make mistakes.  But as long as they are bound to the divine truth as Christ has given, it's just history in the making for more of an appreciation of what the Church goes through for the changing world to keep Truth and the Way consistent and unchanging as it should be.

So, to answer the OP before I feel like I've gotten off a tangent.  What's the criteria?  The criteria for me seems to change as the Holy Spirit continually guides the Apostolic authority to continually keep that Truth.  At one point in Jerusalem, you had the Apostles and Disciples themselves assemble together, and the ultimate authority rested in the bishop of Jerusalem.  Then, we had an empire, and we included the emperor in the binding of the councils (something that I personally have not been very fond of, especially since I believe it's precisely this criteria that leads to divisions).  Theoretically, nowadays, for the EO's, this authority seems to stand in the EP, and thus a different criteria (a more worthy criteria in my opinion instead of including a lay politician).  A hundred years from now, the criteria may continue to change and adapt to a new system of authority, perhaps may even include a reconciliation with bodies like the OO.

One more thing.  You allude to the Assyrians.  They too interest me, since they had a sizable portion of Christianity outside the Roman empire.  In fact, if "ecumenicity" really means "worldwide acceptance," one can argue that the first two ecumenical councils did not truly receive ecumenicity until the year 411 AD, when some sort of Roman Christian envoy was sent to the Assyrian Church authorities, who when reviewing the councils for the FIRST TIME accepted their decisions and dogmas as their own.  It would seem to me to be a shame that it took the Roman empire that long, just 20 years before a third empirical council would be convened in order to say to the Assyrians, "Oh, and by the way, you guys too, we totally forgot about you, ummm...We have these two councils that already took place.  What do you think?"

In addition, to Ephesus II, might I add we OO's have an Ephesus III that was documented to have at least 500 bishops and empirical approval.  I don't think "numbers of bishops" is a good criteria for ecumenicity as Buzuxi seems to argue.

God bless.
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« Reply #36 on: April 29, 2008, 12:26:17 AM »

Khristos Anesti. PiKhristos Aftonf.

Disclaimer: As i've suggested a number of times lately, I have developed a natural repulsion to all forms of polemical debate, no less debate on the issue of Chalcedon. My only intention in this post is to demonstrate the futility of the present discussion. Any seemingly polemical comments/remarks are made strictly to promote this end, and no other.

I think the issues raised by Evlogitos have been hashed out quite a bit over the net. Discussion/debate on the matters in question reach a dead-end because such discussion/debate inevitably involves importing presuppositions which are, in essence, at the heart of that which is being questioned in the first place. To be more specific, the general question of which Councils are ecumenical/authoritative/Spirit-inspired, is necessarily bound up with the even more controversial general question of "where and who constitutes the Church"? Allow me to demonstrate:

Cleveland says:

So what's an Ecumenical Council?  One that has been called and ratified by the Emperor, and never subsequently overturned by him or the Church.

Okay, that is all well and good, but the question then arises: by which objective standard do we determine an imperially convoked council that has or has not been overturned by the Church? Your answer to this question lies in your next post and proves the very point I made above regarding the circular nature of such discussions/debates:

[That] one consistent standard...[is] the Church.  For you that may be too vague or broad, but that's it.

Okay, so essentially, the standard by which we determine whether or not the Church has approved/overturned an imperially convoked council, and hence whether a Council is authoritative/ecumenical, is whether or not the Church has approved/overturned that imperially convoked council...Hmmm.

Quote
There was no magical feeling after any of the authoritative councils that "this was it," or whatnot - instead, the declarations of the councils had to withstand the tests of the Church, the Body of Christ.


And some councils withstood the tests of certain bodies claiming to represent the Church, the Body of Christ, yet failed the tests of others who similarly claimed to represent the Church, the Body of Christ. Back to square one we go.

Quote
In order to be a Christian you must be able to live with temporary uncertainty over the outcome of the battle; the Spirit is working and always will be working, but that doesn't mean that it manifests itself with a "bang" (like St. Spyridon and the miracle of the brick, or St. Euphymia's intervention at Chalcedon from within the casket).  Often the Spirit has indeed worked, and it takes the Church a while to realize that fact.

Okay, and who determines when and how the Spirit operates (whether with a "bang"* or otherwise)? Let me guess, the Church, right?! Agreed. Back to square one. Again, we continue to fail to get at the heart of what Evlogitos is inquiring--not because we're stupid, nor because we don't want to give him the answers he wants, but simply because his inquiries demand a level of objectivity neither of us are capable of offering.

Quote
Second, the EO are not going to reject Chalcedon - we've never even hinted at it, and we've had 1500 years to think over it.

And the OO have similarly had no more or less the same amount of time to think over the idea of Chalcedon and, at times, under a lot more pressure to compromise our position than the EO ever were, and we've never hinted at the idea of accepting it.** In saying that, I anticipate the frustration of Evlogitos who is probably thinking, "well you can't both be right?!" And back to square one we go.

*Btw, you, or others, maybe be interested to know that according to the latest research the earliest accounts of "bangs" with implications as to the legitimacy of Chalcedon are found in anti-Chalcedonian hagiographical literature. Which "bangs" legitimately testify to the work and relevation of God? You should know the answer by now: back to square one.
**I recently read a very basic general introduction to Ethiopian Orthodoxy produced and approved by the Holy Synod (entitled, 'The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church Faith, Order of Worship and Ecumenical Relations' which in fact explicitly stated (in the "ecumenical relations" chapter) that it would and could never entertain the idea of betraying the last 1500 years of the Church's position on the matter of Chalcedon, as much as it took a positive attitude to the Agreed Statements of the Joint Commission. In this sense I can completely empathise with those EO who express similar sentiments. I imagine Evlogitos will fail to join our empathy party, and in the end, can we really blame him?
« Last Edit: April 29, 2008, 12:31:40 AM by EkhristosAnesti » Logged

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« Reply #37 on: April 29, 2008, 02:27:26 AM »

minasoliman,

Regarding knowledge and ignorance and their relation to the scope of Truth: God is, in some ways, a communist. "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." The Gospel, at its core, truly is beautifully simple; it can be summed up in five words: "repent, love, and obey God." This is why the ascetics of the Thebaid, though unlearned and unlettered, often outshone even the likes of Abba Arsenios. Smiley It is we fallible humans who complicate things by trying to reduce or categorize God.

At the same time, on a certain level we must fight fire with fire. The complicated messes into which we get ourselves oftentimes require complicated men inspired by God to help get us out of them. Thus, according to the measure of the gifts given us by God, we should seek both simplicity and intricacy. I believe this is the meaning of the Lord's saying, "be ye wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."

You are right in that criteria do change over time. We must, therefore, seek to classify and clarify in order to avoid inaccuracy. For example, while the Council of Jerusalem was indeed the first catholic council of the Church, we inevitably call Nicea the First Ecumenical Council. The two were, in form and classification, very different beasts. However, while the mechanics may change, it is my belief that the essence stays the same. As such, our goal should be to identify the underlying essence behind the authority of the Church, and then attempt to perceive how it manifests itself under different circumstances.

As to the Assyrians, the work they did must never be forgotten. Although they did have an admittedly wonky Christology, their missionary zeal was nothing short of amazing, spreading the influence of the Nestorian church across Asia even as far as Japan. Very interesting folks, indeed...

EkhristosAnesti:

You make some really excellent points, in an engagingly dry tone. Thank you for your commentary.

I do think, however, that perhaps you misunderstand me slightly, which causes you to be a bit more cynical than perhaps circumstances merit. I am not looking for polemic. I am all too well aware of the turbulent circumstances surrounding the various schisms in history, and I bear no illusions that proving one "right" over the other may be a completely futile effort, especially when doctrinally there's a strong chance that both parties are different sides of the same coin and the divisions occurred based more on politics than God.

What I'm looking for is simply internal consistency, no more and no less. History and study can judge the relative strengths of the various internal rules, but all I'm looking for is a rule that works for the Eastern Orthodox (although I'm not above dipping into slightly different matters as well, as seen).

In other words:

324AD ''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''''' 2008 A.D.
|A-----EVENT1-----EVENT2-----EVENT3------EVENT4-----EVENT5-----EVENT6-----ET AL.-->---B|

I'm looking for a set of reasonable assumptions, presuppositions, propositions, and/or principles (at this point, it doesn't matter whether they're apparently arbitrary) whereby I can start at point A, judge the impacts and truth/falsity of the various events along the way--councils, in this case--and end up at point B in communion with the Eastern Orthodox.

I'll illustrate from the Roman Catholic perspective. We start at point A.

PROPOSITION: No council claiming universal authority is binding upon the whole Church without the ratification of the Bishop of Rome.

So, we trundle along and hit Nicea I. The Pope ratifies it. Ding!

We go further along. We hit Constantinople I. The Pope isn't even represented. Honk! Oh, but wait, later on he approves it. Ding!

Then comes Ephesus I. The legates arrive late, but Pope St. Celestine signs off on it. Ding! Out go the Assyrians.

As we continue on our journey, we hit Ephesus II. The Pope is excommunicated, which makes him kinda cranky about approving it. Honk! No Oriental Orthodoxy for us!

Fast-forward to the Ignatian and Photian councils. Well, the Pope gave the thumbs up to the Ignatian council of 869, but it was subsequently overturned by the Photian council of 879. History muddles us up a bit here, 'cause the Pope apparently voted for the Photian council before he voted against it--*snicker*--but right now he rejects it, so, honk! That puts us out of the scope of Orthodoxy. And so on, 'til we arrive in 2008, comfortably Catholic. Note that this is based on externally measurable facts to land us in this part of the ballpark. A proposition like "the Truth always wins out" can be wiggled around to apply to anybody's claims, unless you beg the question so severely that you basically start in 324AD with a full Orthodox catechism. But anyway, hopefully you see the principle I'm illustrating here. "Papal ratification" is an historically measurable rule that works historically to land us in the Roman Catholic yard.

Now, obviously there is tremendous room to debate the theological validity of such a rule of authority, and even some wiggle room to question whether it's a good explanation of history in light of the RCC's claims. (Broadening the scope of things, I think, e.g., there's a magnificent case to be made that papal infallibility is a ludicrous claim that can clearly be demonstrated to be a doctrinal innovation.) However, applied internally, in a vacuum, this rule arrives at the end result with a minimum degree of fuss and muss.

So, the question: what internal rule of authority suffices to line the ducks of Eastern Orthodoxy up, so that I can trek across history carrying these propositions on my back, and end up where I am right now?

Food for thought!  angel

Shalom,

Seraphim
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« Reply #38 on: April 29, 2008, 03:15:25 AM »

The bishop of Rome did not have to ratify a council to be ecumenical. This is best illustrated in the the condemnation of Pope Vigilius at the 5th ecumenical council for refusing to condemn the "three chapters".  At this council the Pope sent a declaration knwn as the Constitutum which by todays roman standard is an "ex-cathedra" statement. It read in part:
"We ordain and decree that it be permitted to no one belonging to any ecclesiatical order or office to write or bring forward or compose or teach anything contrary to the contents of this Constitutum in regard to the Three Chapters. And if anything has been done said  or written by anyone anywhere about the Three Chapters contrary to what we here assert and decree... this in all ways we refute by the authority of the Apostolic See inwhich by the grace of God we preside..."

Included in this decree were 61 anathames against the emperor and the council.    The Council on the other hand declared ,"We therefore Anathematize...those who have written or do write in defense of them(three chapters)....  Pope Vigilus name was then dropped from the diptychs.  He repented 6 months later claiming "the devil mislead" him.   

So any argument that a bishop of Rome must ratify a council flys in the face of those very same councils.

I dont think you will find that definate answer that you are looking for. The only thing I can say is that councils are ecumenical only inasmuch that they teach accurately the christological truths handed down thru  Holy Tadition by the Curch Fathers and are of universal importance that there influence are not limited to local regions (but many times there influence tends to grow).
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« Reply #39 on: April 29, 2008, 04:08:50 AM »

Just FYI, Vigilius doesn't really count as an example, because he did eventually ratify the Council and stuck with it.

Also FYI, while to the Orthodox eye Vigilius may seem to be proclaiming heresy ex cathedra, there also is a solid and reasonable argument on the other side as to why, while he was certainly a pretty weak pope, Vigilius did not actually authoritatively endorse heresy in such manner as to be problematic to the RCC. It's a balancing act which the individual will have to judge on his own. This is part of what I was talking about when I said "[there's] even some wiggle room to question whether [papal ratification]'s a good explanation of history in light of the RCC's claims." It is incontestable, however, that on the main, papal ratification works internally as a principle of authority, and it seems pretty hypocritical to me that the Orthodox would go after this principle while adopting absolutely no internal principle of authority of their own. Don't throw stones in glass houses, and all that.

Quote
The only thing I can say is that councils are ecumenical only inasmuch that they teach accurately the christological truths handed down thru  Holy Tadition by the Curch Fathers

Again, this begs the question. Why is Cyril Alexandrinus an accurate teacher of Christological truth, while Nestorius is not? If Tradition could only be reasonably argued one way, we wouldn't have four ancient Churches which all differ with one another on fairly big stuff. Unless I have a means for rightly dividing the word of Truth, I can't arrive at a firm conclusion. Nestorius was anathematized by Ephesus, but if I don't know whether or not I should accept Ephesus, how do I have a solid basis for rejecting Nestorius? Without a visible principle of teaching authority in the Church, the Faith becomes so subjective that I might as well go back to being Protestant.
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« Reply #40 on: April 29, 2008, 04:38:22 AM »

If you think that the 5th council was only recieved as ecumenical after Pope Vigilius repented and accepted it (which would beg the question why that council had the nerve to anathematize Pope Vigilius in the first place) then you should become Roman Catholic. On the other hand, if you think only the first 2 councils are binding since all ancient apostolic churches in existence all hold to the first two, not to mention these councils formulated a Creed not definitions, then you have no choice but to join an Assyrian Church.
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Evlogitos
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« Reply #41 on: April 29, 2008, 04:52:15 AM »

Exactly, which is why it's so imperative to have a rule by which to judge history. Hence why I'm flabbergasted that Orthodoxy hasn't developed anything consistent in this area.
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« Reply #42 on: April 29, 2008, 05:12:44 AM »

Wait a sec,  are you suggesting that we should formulate some "lie" to be used as criteria? Of course if you visit orthodoxwiki under the heading "Ecumenical Councils", you will see that the slavic theologian Alexis Khomiakov attempted to outline a theory on what the criteria is (rejected by John Romanides).  The papal claim that whatever the pope ratifies as ecumenical, becomes ecumenical, is a modern innovation and flat out lie.  If the council teaches the truth and is embraced by the inhabited world (originally only meant for thse in the roman empire ) they are ecumenical, and this embrace originates thru the influence of the Saints and Fathers who come before and after these councils.
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« Reply #43 on: April 29, 2008, 08:29:03 AM »

EA,

I've got no problem at the moment with the circular nature of the argument viz a viz EO-OO: my observations were based on what few principles are historically consistent between the various "Ecumenical" councils.  You should note, however, that (in the context of this argument) I have separated the concepts of "Ecumenical" title and Universally Authoritative nature, simply because they don't coincide 1:1 (i.e. Ecumenical Councils are a subset of Authoritative Councils).  ISTM that the OP is really asking about standards for Authoritative councils, or at least that's got to be the POV from the EO side, since for us there are other synods that are binding on the Church.  Of course, for the RC's the argument is moot since they put all their major synods post Nicea II on the list of Ecumenical Councils.
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Evlogitos
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« Reply #44 on: April 29, 2008, 10:29:29 AM »

Quote
Wait a sec,  are you suggesting that we should formulate some "lie" to be used as criteria?

I am neither suggesting nor recommending deceit; I merely suggest that it is imperative to identify what common threads run through the councils the Orthodox accept, to the exclusion of those they do not. Otherwise, it is difficult to rebut an opponent who claims the Orthodox have no consistent teaching authority, but arbitrarily accept and reject those councils convenient to them.

Quote
Of course if you visit orthodoxwiki under the heading "Ecumenical Councils", you will see that the slavic theologian Alexis Khomiakov attempted to outline a theory on what the criteria is (rejected by John Romanides).

Fr. John is dead right on this one. Khomiakov's theory is basically #4 on my original post, with all attendant difficulties.

Quote
The papal claim that whatever the pope ratifies as ecumenical, becomes ecumenical, is a modern innovation and flat out lie.

That may well be the case, and there are legitimate and powerful argument against a pro-papal view of the Faith. However, the flat-out fact remains that, within a narrow margin of error, every council accepted as ecumenical by both Rome and Constantinople has been ratified by the Pope. Now, without additional theological and historical evidence, the assertion "all ecumenical councils through 1054 were ratified by the Pope, therefore, papal ratification is indispensible" is a classic example of the fallacy of composition. However, the suggested proposition is indeed a common thread running through every single ecumenical council, and is neither so subjective as to be externally historically unverifiable, nor blatantly incompatible with history as every Orthodox proposition has been thus far... which is why I'm looking for a solid and workable Orthodox proposition. Wink

Quote
If the council teaches the truth and is embraced by the inhabited world (originally only meant for thse in the roman empire ) they are ecumenical, and this embrace originates thru the influence of the Saints and Fathers who come before and after these councils.

The problem being that "the truth" is not an historically measurable standard, and that particularly the Third and Fourth Councils were not embraced by significant portions of the inhabited world. How much embrace is needed to ecumenize a council? How do we know?
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