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Author Topic: One True Infallible Church?  (Read 1926 times) Average Rating: 0
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faithcmbs9
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« on: September 12, 2009, 04:10:09 PM »

Hi all,

I am currently a Lutheran, but am seriously considering switching to Orthodoxy. I have some misgivings though about the Orthodox understanding of the church. Specifically:

1) My understanding of the phrase "one holy, catholic, and apostolic church" in the Nicene Creed is that this refers to the church as the Body of Christ. Based on 1 Corinthians 12 (particularly 12:13) it seems to me that we are incorporated into the Body by the action of Holy Spirit through Baptism, and that therefore, anyone who is baptized in the name of Trinity belongs to the Body of Christ - that is, His Church. Likewise, in Mark 18:20, Jesus says "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." This seems to be contradictory to the claim that the Orthodox Church is the only "true" church. Can you provide clarification of the Orthodox viewpoint here? Biblical references would be helpful.

2) My understanding is that the Orthodox church considers itself to be infallible as a whole. No offense intended, but this comes across to me as sounding rather arrogant. Although the Holy Spirit is present within the church and is understood as the Body of Christ, this doesn't place the church on the level of God Himself. It seems to me that only God Himself is truly infallible. Again, can you provide further explanation of the Orthodox viewpoint here?

Thanks,
Christine

 
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« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2009, 05:45:25 PM »


1) My understanding of the phrase "one holy, catholic, and apostolic church" in the Nicene Creed is that this refers to the church as the Body of Christ. Based on 1 Corinthians 12 (particularly 12:13) it seems to me that we are incorporated into the Body by the action of Holy Spirit through Baptism, and that therefore, anyone who is baptized in the name of Trinity belongs to the Body of Christ - that is, His Church. Likewise, in Mark 18:20, Jesus says "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." This seems to be contradictory to the claim that the Orthodox Church is the only "true" church. Can you provide clarification of the Orthodox viewpoint here? Biblical references would be helpful.

I think part of the problem here is a misunderstanding of the Mystery of Baptism. While it is true that most Eastern Orthodox catechisms today list Baptism and Chrismation as two distinct Mysteries, I don't think this was traditionally the case. More so, Baptism and Chrismation were understood as two parts of one integrated Mystery, which also included exorcism and some other parts. There various parts were all understood together to constitute the one Mystery of Baptism. When converts are received into the EOC, they are administered the Mystery of Chrismation, with the intention of conveying the fullness of the Mystery of Baptism and healing whatever was infirm about it. It thus appears that while the EO are willing to take the other fundamental aspects of the Baptismal rite if they had proper form, that on the contrary we do not believe that these rites were necessarily with the grace of Orthodox Baptism. Heterodox Baptisms are thus understood to be "valid" in so far as they have the proper form of a particular aspect of the Baptismal rite, but on a level of the grace of the Orthodox Mysteries, they are not necessarily recognized as having the fullness of Baptism. Because of this differing understanding of Baptism, heterodox Christians are not regarded as being Baptized in the same sense as we are. They are thus not affirmed as necessarily being part of the Body of Christ. Thus, the EOC is the only body where it is understood that Baptism is fully conveyed, and thus the only body that is identified as the Body of Christ, and thus the only body identified as the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.


2) My understanding is that the Orthodox church considers itself to be infallible as a whole. No offense intended, but this comes across to me as sounding rather arrogant. Although the Holy Spirit is present within the church and is understood as the Body of Christ, this doesn't place the church on the level of God Himself. It seems to me that only God Himself is truly infallible. Again, can you provide further explanation of the Orthodox viewpoint here?

My understanding is that the idea that the Church is entirely incapable of choosing error is simply a particular stream of thought within the Church, not necessarily a dogma. And even if it is taken to be true, the only reason why this would be the case is because the naturally infallible One (God) is intervening to prevent the Church from erring. The Church is thus understood as not naturally infallible, but only so by the grace of God.
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faithcmbs9
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« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2009, 07:09:41 PM »

Hi deusveritasest,

Regarding Baptism and the church...this seems to me like circular logic. As you note, the Orthodox perspective is that the Orthodox Church is "the only body where it is understood that Baptism is fully conveyed, and thus the only body that is identified as the....Church", but then it is the Orthodox Church that in your view defines what the fullness of Baptism is. I don't see how you can use baptism to define the church and then use the church to define baptism. Isn't the church defined by the Trinity through action of the Holy Spirit, which then gives power to the church to properly define and administer baptism? And if the church is defined by the work of the Trinity through the Holy Spirit, then doesn't this encompass all churches and Christians which affirm the Nicene Creed in Baptism?

Thanks!
Christine
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« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2009, 02:28:37 AM »

Hi deusveritasest,

Regarding Baptism and the church...this seems to me like circular logic. As you note, the Orthodox perspective is that the Orthodox Church is "the only body where it is understood that Baptism is fully conveyed, and thus the only body that is identified as the....Church", but then it is the Orthodox Church that in your view defines what the fullness of Baptism is. I don't see how you can use baptism to define the church and then use the church to define baptism. Isn't the church defined by the Trinity through action of the Holy Spirit, which then gives power to the church to properly define and administer baptism? And if the church is defined by the work of the Trinity through the Holy Spirit, then doesn't this encompass all churches and Christians which affirm the Nicene Creed in Baptism?

Thanks!
Christine

You ask a fair and logical question. But you assert that "the church is defined by the Trinity through action of the Holy Spirit, which then gives power to the church to properly define and administer baptism." So I would respond to your good question by asking who defines the "Trinity" and the "Holy Spirit"? Protestants would answer that the Bible defines these terms. But then I would ask who determines the content and the interpretation of the Bible? Is it the Church or is it the individual? If it is the individual, then the Scriptures are subjected to subjectivity and relativism. But if it is the Church, then we can have confidence that 2,000 years of apostolic tradition is more trustworthy than our own subjective interpretations.

My point is that every worldview can be accused of ultimately relying upon circular reasoning, because all worldviews are predicated upon certain presuppositions. But I argue that with Orthodoxy we are at least trusting in something more transcendent than our own mortal logic and finite understanding. Christianity is a Faith, and we shall always have our critics. But those within the Church know its mystical grace and spiritual power in ways that are beyond the scope of human reason. Faith in Christ is not proved; it is only lived, experienced, and manifested through the humble works of devotion and surrender.

Peace to you in your spiritual journey.

Selam   
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« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2009, 09:56:46 AM »

I am currently a Lutheran, but am seriously considering switching to Orthodoxy. I have some misgivings though about the Orthodox understanding of the church.
Hello and God be with you in your journey!

1)What kind of "Jesus Christ" is this one? Is He the Orthodox one who ransomed us from death or the Catholic/Protestant who was killed by His Father in order to make Him [the Father] forgive our sins? The name's still the same. Jehovah Witnesses, Gnostics, New Agers, Mormons, Catholics, Protestants, Orthodox...they all believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who rose from the dead, yet their views on Him are so different. What we believe is that only the Orthodox Church knows the correct and true image of Christ. Of course, that doesn't mean that the rest are the devil, they're just not that correct.

2)Only the Ecumenical Synods are infallible and unchangeable. After all, they haven't taken any decisions, as far as I know, that could change in the future. The dogmas (decisions) are the very foundations of Christianity and the chances of finding someone who would disagree with those are not likely.
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« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2009, 10:04:51 AM »

I would respond to your good question by asking who defines the "Trinity" and the "Holy Spirit"? Protestants would answer that the Bible defines these terms.   

Whoa there. I don't know of any Protestants who believe that the Bible 'defines' the term 'Trinity'. The Trinity is an extra-Biblical doctrine; it's not mentioned in the Scriptures. Obviously you can argue that the three Persons of the Trinity are present in the Bible, and you can make observations about how they relate to one another, but this is not formalized as 'the Trinity', even in John's Gospel. Christine, I would like to know more about what the Lutherans believe about these issues (or, perhaps more usefully, what you believe). What do you see as being the relation between the Church and the Scriptures? And why? If we can discuss that, I have a feeling that some of these other issues might become clearer.

Good luck in your searching!

Liz
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« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2009, 10:26:00 AM »

I am currently a Lutheran, but am seriously considering switching to Orthodoxy. I have some misgivings though about the Orthodox understanding of the church.

2)Only the Ecumenical Synods are infallible and unchangeable. After all, they haven't taken any decisions, as far as I know, that could change in the future. The dogmas (decisions) are the very foundations of Christianity and the chances of finding someone who would disagree with those are not likely.

This is true only as far as Christological dogma are concerned. The Councils also made a whole slew of rules (canons) that do not rise to the level of infallibility and may not be applicable for all ages. Indeed, the Council at Trullo most famously changed the rule on married bishops. Today, the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Moscow are espousing separate interpretations of Canon 28. Incidentally, in the Russian tradition the councils are not infallible until they are accepted by the entire Church (hierarchy, lower clergy and laity).
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GammaRay
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« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2009, 10:33:15 AM »

Whoa there. I don't know of any Protestants who believe that the Bible 'defines' the term 'Trinity'. The Trinity is an extra-Biblical doctrine; it's not mentioned in the Scriptures. Obviously you can argue that the three Persons of the Trinity are present in the Bible, and you can make observations about how they relate to one another, but this is not formalized as 'the Trinity', even in John's Gospel.
Just because there's not some kind of meditating wizard saying "The LORD is three persons in one God! It's the Trinity! Thus spoke the great Brahma--wait, what?" doesn't mean that we must not apply practical theology. The three persons are obvious and so is the one God. It is just not stated straight-forward in the Bible, but, after all, what is? Wink
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« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2009, 10:51:43 AM »


2) My understanding is that the Orthodox church considers itself to be infallible as a whole. No offense intended, but this comes across to me as sounding rather arrogant. Although the Holy Spirit is present within the church and is understood as the Body of Christ, this doesn't place the church on the level of God Himself. It seems to me that only God Himself is truly infallible. Again, can you provide further explanation of the Orthodox viewpoint here?

It is hard to speak of an Orthodox understanding of "infallibility" with the precision of the Roman Catholics since the concept and the word does not exist in Slavonic nor in Greek. The Russian word commonly forced into use is nepogreshimost - but since that really carries the meaning of "impeccability" you can see how open to misinterpretation it is.

Can I also recommend a quick read of this message.
http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,23258.msg354564.html#msg354564

It is important not to take for granted that the Orthodox have the same understanding of "infallibility" as Western theological systems.
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« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2009, 10:59:06 AM »


2) My understanding is that the Orthodox church considers itself to be infallible as a whole. No offense intended, but this comes across to me as sounding rather arrogant. Although the Holy Spirit is present within the church and is understood as the Body of Christ, this doesn't place the church on the level of God Himself. It seems to me that only God Himself is truly infallible. Again, can you provide further explanation of the Orthodox viewpoint here?

If by infallible you mean totally correct and sinless, you would be correct, but I do not believe that most Orthodox would claim infallibility in that sense. Now, we do believe in the truth and permanency (infallibility) of the Christological dogmas of the Seven Ecumenical Councils; we do believe that the Orthodox Church is the Church of the New Testament that has been guided and preserved by the Holy Spirit throughout the ages; and we also believe that members of our Church are sinners who must work out their salvation within the Church.

One thing that you will find as you talk to Orthodox people will be contrasting frames of mind as different concepts are addressed. When Orthodox folks respond to your questions, they may frame their response around your terminology and concepts OR they may do so using the typical Orthodox approach of using much less precise language (for example, mysteries instead of  sacraments). You should also be aware that you will end up conversing with some converts to Orthodoxy who may be "super-Orthodox" in their zeal and hyper-critical of everything heterodox. Bottom line: Doctrinal definitions pale into insignificance when contrasted to the experience of worshiping in the Orthodox Church. May God bless you and help you find the right church congregation.
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« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2009, 11:00:02 AM »

2) My understanding is that the Orthodox church considers itself to be infallible as a whole. No offense intended, but this comes across to me as sounding rather arrogant. Although the Holy Spirit is present within the church and is understood as the Body of Christ, this doesn't place the church on the level of God Himself. It seems to me that only God Himself is truly infallible. Again, can you provide further explanation of the Orthodox viewpoint here?


Here is someone who expresses something of the Orthodox understanding more eloquently than I am able, Fr Georges Florovsky

http://www.plasticsusa.com/ortho/Florovski.htm

"....the conviction of the Orthodox Church that the "guardian" of tradition and piety is the whole people, i.e. the Body of Christ, in no wise lessens or limits the power of teaching given to the hierarchy. It only means that the power of teaching given to the hierarchy is one of the functions of the catholic completeness of the Church; it is the power of testifying, of expressing and speaking the faith and the experience of the Church, which have been preserved in the whole body.

The teaching of the hierarchy is, as it were, the mouthpiece of the Church. De omnium fidelium ore pendeamus, quia in omnem fidelem Spiritus Dei Spirat. [We depend upon the word of all the faithful, because the Spirit of God breathes in each of the faithful, St. Paulin. Nolan, epist. 23, 25, M.L. 61. col. 281]. Only to the hierarchy has it been given to teach "with authority."

The hierarchs have received this power to teach, not from the church-people but from the High Priest, Jesus Christ, in the Sacrament of Orders. But this teaching finds its limits in the expression of the whole Church. The Church is called to witness to this experience, which is an inexhaustible experience, a spiritual vision. A bishop of the Church, episcopus in ecclesia, must be a teacher. Only the bishop has received full power and authority to speak in the name of his flock. The latter receives the right of speaking through the bishop. But to do so the bishop must embrace his Church within himself; he must make manifest its experience and its faith. He must speak not from himself, but in the name of the Church, ex consensu ecclesiae. This is just the contrary of the Vatican formula: ex sese, non autem ex consensu ecclesiae. [From himself, not from the consensus of the Church].

It is not from his flock that the bishop receives full power to teach, but from Christ through the Apostolic Succession. But full power has been given to him to bear witness to the catholic experience of the body of the Church. He is limited by this experience, and therefore in questions of faith the people must judge concerning his teaching. The duty of obedience ceases when the bishop deviates from the catholic norm, and the people have the right to accuse and even to depose him."
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« Reply #11 on: September 13, 2009, 11:01:48 AM »

Whoa there. I don't know of any Protestants who believe that the Bible 'defines' the term 'Trinity'. The Trinity is an extra-Biblical doctrine; it's not mentioned in the Scriptures. Obviously you can argue that the three Persons of the Trinity are present in the Bible, and you can make observations about how they relate to one another, but this is not formalized as 'the Trinity', even in John's Gospel.
Just because there's not some kind of meditating wizard saying "The LORD is three persons in one God! It's the Trinity! Thus spoke the great Brahma--wait, what?" doesn't mean that we must not apply practical theology. The three persons are obvious and so is the one God. It is just not stated straight-forward in the Bible, but, after all, what is? Wink

Not so fast Gamma! There are plenty of things that are straight-forward in the Bible.
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« Reply #12 on: September 13, 2009, 12:26:29 PM »

Sorry, Gamma Ray. I agree of course; I was only keen to clarify, and I thought 'define' attributed rather more theology to the Scriptures than in overt.

As you were ...
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« Reply #13 on: September 13, 2009, 01:39:05 PM »

The doctrine of the Trinity in the protestant churches that I've encountered is presented merely as a solution to a theological dilemma.  It is usually not emphasized nor explained in detail.

On the contrary, for the Orthodox, how we relate to the Trinity and how we were made in the image thereof is the very purpose of our existence.

This doesn't adress any of your questions specifically, but for me it is an example of how the "fullness of truth" is expressed through Orthodoxy. Wheras the concept may be present in other belief systems, (such as Lutheranism) the seed of truth that is there isn't sufficiently cultivated to reach it's full potential.
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« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2009, 10:53:20 PM »

Hi all,

I am currently a Lutheran, but am seriously considering switching to Orthodoxy. I have some misgivings though about the Orthodox understanding of the church. Specifically:

1) My understanding of the phrase "one holy, catholic, and apostolic church" in the Nicene Creed is that this refers to the church as the Body of Christ. Based on 1 Corinthians 12 (particularly 12:13) it seems to me that we are incorporated into the Body by the action of Holy Spirit through Baptism, and that therefore, anyone who is baptized in the name of Trinity belongs to the Body of Christ - that is, His Church. Likewise, in Mark 18:20, Jesus says "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." This seems to be contradictory to the claim that the Orthodox Church is the only "true" church. Can you provide clarification of the Orthodox viewpoint here? Biblical references would be helpful.

2) My understanding is that the Orthodox church considers itself to be infallible as a whole. No offense intended, but this comes across to me as sounding rather arrogant. Although the Holy Spirit is present within the church and is understood as the Body of Christ, this doesn't place the church on the level of God Himself. It seems to me that only God Himself is truly infallible. Again, can you provide further explanation of the Orthodox viewpoint here?

Thanks,
Christine

 


#1) What did the signers of Constantinople I of 381 A.D. mean by the term "one holy, catholic, and apostolic church"?

Did they mean what you mean? Or did they have a different understanding?


#2) The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is infallble, and the Holy Spirit guides the Church into all truth.

1 John 2:27
"As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit—just as it has taught you, remain in him."


The word "you" is plural not singular and thus conciliar.......not individualistic.








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