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Author Topic: The Function of Councils  (Read 1806 times) Average Rating: 0
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Ghazar
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« on: November 08, 2004, 08:57:17 PM »

Dear Brethren,

As promised, I finally have available the article I mentioned to some on this forum.  It is a very thought provoking essay entitled:

"Problems of Consensus in Christology:  The Function of Councils"
by Archbishop Tiran Nersoyan of the Armenian Orthodox Church

I'm interested in hearing from those from both families of Orthodox who would like to comment on it.  Otherwise it is there when and if interested.  It is on my page on Chalcedon:

http://www.geocities.com/derghazar/chalcedon.html
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Rev. Sub-Deacon Ghazaros Der-Ghazarian,
Holy Apostolic Orthodox Church of Armenia, Eastern Diocese USA
The Armenian Orthodox Evangelization Mission: www.looys.net
Antonious Nikolas
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« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2004, 06:47:05 PM »

I was not aware that this was your webpage!  I read this article months ago, and in fact, I saved it to my hard drive.  It kind of begs the question: If it weren't for the obstinance of the Roman delegation, do you think that the two Eastern parties could have worked things out?  Of course, one then has to consider the politics of Pulcheria and Marcian...
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Ghazar
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« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2004, 10:01:25 PM »

Dear Antonios,

Actually that was not the article I was presenting for the forum.  I should've explained better, sorry.  If you scroll down to the bottom and look for the hyperlink:  "Problems of Consensus in Christology:  The Function of Councils," you will find Archbishop Tiran's essay there.  Many use the Councils as justification for our continued seperation.  Archbishop Tiran argues that this is a result of a misuderstanding of the functions of Councils in the Eastern Christian understanding.  This is what I wanted to present for everyone's consideration.

Thanks for allowing me to explain,
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« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2004, 09:48:59 AM »

Dear Ghazaros,

Sorry that I misunderstood!  It seems I read your initial post too hastily.  I will read Archbishop Tiran's article and get back to you.
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« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2004, 10:41:38 AM »

don't jus get back to him, get back back to him here, would you please?
thanks.
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« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2004, 12:40:49 PM »

You got it mourad!
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« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2004, 03:36:54 PM »

Sorry it has taken me so long to reply here, fellas!  I guess I've had a lot on my plate lately.  Anyway here goes my not-so-in-depth-analysis.  More of a reaction paper, really...

All quotes from Archbishop Tiran will appear in italics.

Such propositions are necessarily dated inasmuch as they are couched in the language of a given point in time.

I'd be interested to know how far we can carry this logic.  I'd hate to give  any "wiggle room" to those who would wish to re-interpret some of the more crucial elements of the Faith.  The doctrine of the Holy Trinity comes to mind.

The criteria by which councils have been judged generally acceptable have not been constant or uniform...How free should it be from external pressures?

Yes, this is most certainly the case.  I do not wish to open a can of worms, but this is indeed a crucial issue.  It seems to me that at various times secular rulers were able to push their own agendas on certain councils, and exerted considerable influence upon them.  

Other councils, which met all of the legitmate criteria usually associated with the gathering of such synods, were delegitimized as soon as the Emperor who called and favored them had passed on.  The participants in such councils were later slandered and demonized.  I'm thinking of Ephesus II (AD 449) here.

As yet because of our human infirmities it is not always possible to determine with reasonable certainty the claim of an individual council to authenticity. Therefore we should not be tempted to think that councils are some kind of supernatural intrusions into the life of the Church, having an authority over and above their normal historical role within the context of the events surrounding them.

I would certainly agree with this.  So often, people tend to think of the Fathers as disembodied spirits, free from human prejudice or weakness.  My own beloved patron and guardian St. Nicholas went as far as to punch Arius in the mouth!  At least I don't get it from anywhere strange... Wink

Divergence of opinions within a council has often mirrored disagreements on matters of doctrinal interpretation within the Church as a whole. But whereas the resolution of differences of views within a council can be brought about expeditiously by counting votes, or sometimes by other means, the same cannot be said about resolving differences in the Church scattered throughout the world. Consequently, impatient majorities have often resorted to the easy way of branding the minority as heretics, claiming and reserving the Holy Spirit to themselves and consigning the minority to the Devil by the logician's rule of the excluded middle. And then they have called upon the secular authorities to exorcize the Devil by other methods of persuasion. These methods, which can hardly be squared with the belief in the operation of the Holy Spirit in the Church, have mostly been counterproductive.

This is very true, and I'm glad that someone besides Fr. V.C. Samuel has had the guts to point this out.  And I loved this quote, which could have just have easily have come from one of the Miaphysite bishops of Egypt or Syria who were contemporary with H.H. Nerses IV:

Writes Nerses IV, the Armenian Catholicos in the latter part of the twelfth century, addressing himself to the Emperor of Constantinople:

The cause of our running away from you is that you have been pulling down our churches, destroying our altars, smashing the signs of Christ, harassing our clergy, spreading slanders in a way even the enemies of Christ would not do, even though we live close to them. Such behaviour will not only fail to unify the divided, but it will divide those who are united. For human nature loves contrariness. And men are drawn to the execution of commands not so much By violence as by humility and love.


This helps one to understand that none of the historic councils of the Church took place in a vacuum.  I often wonder if we would have been able to find some theological common ground and bring about a reconciliation if it weren't for the heavy-handed tactics of the Empire.  Of course, from what I understand, we had some bullies on our side too, but we didn't have the power to persecute people on the same scale as the Imperials.  As Bishop Tiran states so eloquently:

Pegging down orthodoxy to the authority of councils and to the fixity of theological propositions issued by them, and judging orthodoxy or otherwise of a section of the Church on the basis of its acceptance or rejection, as the case may be, has failed to produce unity in the Church, and most probably will continue to do so. This is because the fixity of the stance of a council in history, and its image formed in the context of events surrounding it, make agreement on its evaluation extremely difficult.

On the other hand, when we take a council dealing with doctrinal matters as a teaching organ rather than a legislative organ of the Church, and focus our attention on the insights contained in its expositions, then the desired consensus will be possible to produce inasmuch as the teaching of the council will be amenable to new understandings and interpretations. In other words, when we seek broad agreements on the affirmations of our faith and consider the councils as corroborative authorities rather than originative and determinative, then our goal of unity will be better served.

This is the key!!!  It is the DOCTRINES which were confirmed at the councils which are important.  If we agree upon them, then there is a chance for unity.  If it is a matter of forcing people to enshrine councils which called for or led to the persecution of their theological ancestors, whom they justifiably feel were fully Orthodox, then this is another matter.  Bishop Tiran goes on to demonstrate how the Liturgical and Sacramental Life of the Church were not destroyed by the use of Miaphysite or Dyophysite christological terminology on either side, and also explores the very real concerns behind the dispute on both sides.  After reading this last section, one can see how both sides were genuinely concerned that the understanding of the other side in some way precluded (at least theoretically) the miracle of Our Salvation.

One little criticism: I did not like the quotations from Protestant theologians.  To me, this skates a little too close to endorsing their theology.
« Last Edit: November 15, 2004, 03:49:21 PM by Antonious Nikolas » Logged

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Ghazar
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« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2004, 07:40:02 PM »

Dear Nicholas,

Your review was much more than I expected.  Thanks for such an insightful and thought-provoking response!  I think you have offered some very valuable and complimentary insights to Abp. Tiran's essay.  I found all of yours points very agreeable, thank you.  I glad you found the essay to be a worthwhile read and hope others will benefit from it too.
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Rev. Sub-Deacon Ghazaros Der-Ghazarian,
Holy Apostolic Orthodox Church of Armenia, Eastern Diocese USA
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Antonious Nikolas
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« Reply #8 on: November 16, 2004, 09:48:06 AM »

Thank you, Ghazaros, for posting the link to the essay and for your kind words.  I have always admired the scholars of the Armenian Church, particularly the late Catholicos H.H. Karekin I.  (Quick Question: Was he the only one to be Catholicos of both Cilicia and Etchmiadzin or were there others?)
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« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2004, 01:42:30 PM »

Dear Ghazaros,

I just wanted to add my gratitude for making this article available. I thought it was simply excellent!

In Christ,
Raouf
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Ghazar
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« Reply #10 on: November 22, 2004, 05:59:38 PM »

Dear Antonious,

I've never heard of any other Catholicos to first serve as Catholicos of Cilicia and then later to go on to become Catholicos of Holy Etchmiadzeen.  Karekin I is the only one I know of.  He was an exceptional man as a theologian and prelate.

Thanks again.

Dear Raouf,

Thank you for your response on the article.  I'm glad you enjoyed it.
« Last Edit: November 22, 2004, 06:00:30 PM by Ghazaros » Logged

Trusting in Christ's Inextinguishable Light,
Rev. Sub-Deacon Ghazaros Der-Ghazarian,
Holy Apostolic Orthodox Church of Armenia, Eastern Diocese USA
The Armenian Orthodox Evangelization Mission: www.looys.net
Tags: ecumenical councils Armenian Church 
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