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Author Topic: Infallibility of the Scriptures: Could Catholicism be the only solution?  (Read 2068 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: July 24, 2012, 04:14:44 PM »

What is the basis for the church's belief that the new testament scriptures and the selection of books is infallible?

Please understand, I am not asking how do we know they were not altered. I am asking why we believe they are infallible.

The prophecies were spoken verbatim by the Lord to the prophets, so it makes sense that those are infallible. But if the apostles were bishops, and bishops are fallible, why do we beleive then that these writings are infallible. There were not spoken directly; but they were given under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Also, why do we beleive the selection of books is infallible? What is the basis for these 27 books. Why weren't other writings of the apostles included? Or why weren't some of these books excluded? Do we beleive in apostolic infallibility? If so, Paul was not one of the original apostles; if we can add apostles to the church, why are there no apostles today?

In the Catholic church, they use the infallibility of the pope doctrine to prove these things. And I have to admit, I do not see any other way it could be so. But given the caliber of this forum, I decided to bring my question here; I am confident I shall get some interesting answers.


Would we say that these books are not infallible. Are they simply "great" words, not "God's" words?
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« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2012, 04:22:20 PM »

What is the basis for the church's belief that the new testament scriptures and the selection of books is infallible?

Please understand, I am not asking how do we know they were not altered. I am asking why we believe they are infallible.

The prophecies were spoken verbatim by the Lord to the prophets, so it makes sense that those are infallible. But if the apostles were bishops, and bishops are fallible, why do we beleive then that these writings are infallible. There were not spoken directly; but they were given under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Also, why do we beleive the selection of books is infallible? What is the basis for these 27 books. Why weren't other writings of the apostles included? Or why weren't some of these books excluded? Do we beleive in apostolic infallibility? If so, Paul was not one of the original apostles; if we can add apostles to the church, why are there no apostles today?

In the Catholic church, they use the infallibility of the pope doctrine to prove these things. And I have to admit, I do not see any other way it could be so. But given the caliber of this forum, I decided to bring my question here; I am confident I shall get some interesting answers.


Would we say that these books are not infallible. Are they simply "great" words, not "God's" words?

Actually the canon of Scripture was codified at councils. The latest, in the Latin Church, was the Council of Trent which listed the official books of Scripture. This was in response to Protestants who contested, and still do, 7 books that are found in the Douay-Rheims Bible. To my knowledge, and I stand to be corrected, no pope has ever made any official statements of himself as to the official Canon.
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« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2012, 04:23:05 PM »

If the Bible were infallible, it would be God. God inspired the writing of the Bible, but the Bible is not God. Therefore, we do not believe it to be infallible.
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« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2012, 04:25:20 PM »


Actually the canon of Scripture was codified at councils. The latest, in the Latin Church, was the Council of Trent which listed the official books of Scripture. This was in response to Protestants who contested, and still do, 7 books that are found in the Douay-Rheims Bible. To my knowledge, and I stand to be corrected, no pope has ever made any official statements of himself as to the official Canon.

Are you saying then, that we beleive in infallibility of the ecumenical council?
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« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2012, 04:29:04 PM »

If the Bible were infallible, it would be God. God inspired the writing of the Bible, but the Bible is not God. Therefore, we do not believe it to be infallible.

But surely, if God says something, there will be no flaw in it. Are these books written "with the finger of God," or are they written by "holy men of God...moved by the Holy Spirit."
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« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2012, 04:40:42 PM »

In the Catholic church, they use the infallibility of the pope doctrine to prove these things.

I gladly admit that papacy would be rather nice thing to have. Too bad that it is unhistorical and unbiblical innovation. The only proper reason to convert to Catholicism would be cultural and that only if one happens to be a Westerner.
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« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2012, 04:47:32 PM »

If the Bible were infallible, it would be God. God inspired the writing of the Bible, but the Bible is not God. Therefore, we do not believe it to be infallible.

But surely, if God says something, there will be no flaw in it. Are these books written "with the finger of God," or are they written by "holy men of God...moved by the Holy Spirit."

The latter. It's not the Koran.
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« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2012, 04:52:49 PM »

If the Bible were infallible, it would be God. God inspired the writing of the Bible, but the Bible is not God. Therefore, we do not believe it to be infallible.

But surely, if God says something, there will be no flaw in it. Are these books written "with the finger of God," or are they written by "holy men of God...moved by the Holy Spirit."

The latter. It's not the Koran.

So then, are they imperfect? Are they not "word of the Lord"?

Consider this description:

"He gave Moses two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with finger of God" Ex 31:18
Are not these two tablets (and their description) in reference to the two testaments of the bible?

Consider the way they are quoted by the fathers. How can it be they are not infallible?
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« Reply #8 on: July 24, 2012, 04:55:33 PM »

Why does everything have to be this way or that way? Jesus Christ is the Word of God. If written testimony of Him were sufficient, He would not have become incarnate, we would not have sacraments, and He would not come again.
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« Reply #9 on: July 24, 2012, 04:57:31 PM »

Infallibility is not a Patristic concept.
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« Reply #10 on: July 24, 2012, 05:01:54 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

It is no surprise that you are coming to a Latin conclusion because like the Latins, you are thinking way to scholastically, not spiritually enough.  The Church is filled with Mysteries, which only God can explain.  The concept of Infallibility is a bit comical if you ask me, it tries to make the Holy Spirit a matter of reason, logic, mathematical precision.  That is silly and borderline anthropomorphic..  

The Bible is not infallible neither are the priests nor the Councils in the legalistic or scholastic sense, which is to say, that word for word, letter for letter, punctuation mark for punctuation mark the perfection of God.  The economy of the Holy Spirit is not so simple, it is a process, an event, a becoming, a verb.  That means that the Bible or the Councils become infallible in prayer, through a direct communion of the Holy Spirit.  The words, letters, and pages themselves are realistically no different than any other book, which is why they can be damaged, burned, scoffed, or disregarded.  If the words and writings themselves were infallible, they would also be indestructible.  They are paper, like we are flesh and blood.  It is the Holy Spirit behind and underlying the words which is infallible.  We connect with the Holy Spirit when we read and meditate and pray on the words, but it is the Holy Spirit that speaks to us, not necessarily the words themselves.  The doctrine of Scriptural Infallibility when taken in a fundamentalist perspective, assumes that the words are perfect, and we are not, so we readjust our lives to the perfect words.  The reality is the words were written, recorded, and transmitted by imperfect human hands, and so they rightfully and naturally reflect this same human imperfection.  The Economy of God is to act in synergy with our imperfections through His own inherent perfection.  So, again, God is perfect (infallible) and everything else is in a process of becoming infallible by Grace (i.e. synergy).  We get closer to God when we read and pray on the Bible, but the Bible is not perfect aside from God. We connect to the perfect God when we pray and meditate on the Scriptures.

stay blessed,
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« Reply #11 on: July 24, 2012, 05:28:26 PM »

Very interesting points, Selasi. I will need to think about them for a while.
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« Reply #12 on: July 24, 2012, 05:34:01 PM »

Infallibility is not a Patristic concept.

However Dogma certainly is. How then are we to come to a certainty regarding the Dogma we hold if it was not refined, defined or clarified by infallible sources such as councils, decrees and such?

Did not Our Lord found a Church in which we could be certain of the doctrine, dogmas which issue from it? This would include the canon of Scripture.

I would argue that Scripture is objectively infallible in the doctrines it teaches. What is not always infallible is man's interpretation. That is why we have The Church.
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« Reply #13 on: July 24, 2012, 06:19:28 PM »

Consider this description:

"He gave Moses two tablets of the testimony, tablets of stone, written with finger of God" Ex 31:18
Are not these two tablets (and their description) in reference to the two testaments of the bible?
That refers to the two tablets of the Law.

Regarding "infallibility", perhaps you should define the term for us as you understand it. My definition would be, "something you can appeal to which enables you to surrender your God-given faculties of reason and discernment in favor of an unreasonability beneath the beasts and plants."
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« Reply #14 on: July 24, 2012, 06:27:09 PM »

Infallibility is not a Patristic concept.

However Dogma certainly is.

Agreed. So why don't we discuss dogma in Patristic terms instead of trying to fit it into the non-patristic mold of 'infallibility'.
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« Reply #15 on: July 24, 2012, 08:16:53 PM »

Infallibility is not a Patristic concept.

However Dogma certainly is. How then are we to come to a certainty regarding the Dogma we hold if it was not refined, defined or clarified by infallible sources such as councils, decrees and such?

Did not Our Lord found a Church in which we could be certain of the doctrine, dogmas which issue from it? This would include the canon of Scripture.

I would argue that Scripture is objectively infallible in the doctrines it teaches. What is not always infallible is man's interpretation. That is why we have The Church.
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« Reply #16 on: July 25, 2012, 12:47:54 AM »

In the Catholic church, they use the infallibility of the pope doctrine to prove these things. And I have to admit, I do not see any other way it could be so. But given the caliber of this forum, I decided to bring my question here; I am confident I shall get some interesting answers. 

This is incorrect.  "Infallibility" a term derived in the Latin theological tradition to answer a particular problem set that vexed them and their theological problems (especially the fight against protestantism).  It is from God and is a function the fact that the church as a whole cannot "err in faith and morals". Infallibility in faith and morals is, in this perspective, a special charism for the bishops in union with rest of the church, in particular the pope as the head bishop of the church.   ref: Catechism of the Catholic Church

So the canon of scripture is not "unerring" because the Pope says so.   It is because God gave it to the church, the church as a whole has accepted it (and gave the final word in the councils - and yes, in this terminology  ecumenical councils are "infallible") and continues to accept them.   

Finally, Moses' tablets are again the tablets of Mosaic law, NOT the Old and New Testaments.  And what each book of the Bible purports to be is substantially different from what the Quran purports to be.  The Quran was ostensibly given to Mohammed in its exact form in visions over several years.  I don't believe this is paralleled in any book of the Bible - the books purport to be sermons (the Pauline letters & al.), eyewitness histories (Acts and the Gospels) broader histories (the Old Testament prophets), etc.  The closest is Isaiah and Revelation, but even here I believe there are differences, though I would defer to those with real familiarity with the Quran to discuss the differences.   
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« Reply #17 on: July 25, 2012, 03:28:01 AM »


Actually the canon of Scripture was codified at councils. The latest, in the Latin Church, was the Council of Trent which listed the official books of Scripture. This was in response to Protestants who contested, and still do, 7 books that are found in the Douay-Rheims Bible. To my knowledge, and I stand to be corrected, no pope has ever made any official statements of himself as to the official Canon.

Are you saying then, that we beleive in infallibility of the ecumenical council?

Yes, in terms of dogma agreed to and issued by an Ecumenical Synod, "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us..."

Eastern Orthodox theologians today hold that the dogma promulgated by the Ecumenical Synods (Councils) are infallible, (not so with the disciplinary canons issued by the Ecumenical Synods), once they are accepted by the church, and ratified by a subsequent Synod.  In fact, I think the issuance of what became infallible dogma, doctrine, was what confirmed the "ecumenical" status of the synod.  The canon of scripture was recognized by a local synod (I can't recall which) and later confirmed by the 1st Ecumenical Synod.

I'm not sure of this, but I think "infallibility" was not a subject discussed the Early Church Fathers and what I've written above was the Orthodox reaction to the Papal claims of "infallibility."
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« Reply #18 on: July 25, 2012, 07:04:21 AM »

The canon of scripture was recognized by a local synod (I can't recall which) and later confirmed by the 1st Ecumenical Synod.

I'm afraid it wasn't. There were multiple canons of Scripture recognized by multiple councils in the 4th and 5th centuries, which were confirmed by Trullo (2nd canon), but that doesn't really help much as that leaves us with multiple options.
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« Reply #19 on: July 25, 2012, 09:16:38 AM »

Well, aren't the Holy Scriptures "infallible" on matters of faith and practice? However, not necessarily on scientific and historical matters?

Also, what is the Orthodox view of supposed scientific insights in the Bible? I have heard some Protestants say that the Scriptures speak of Scientific matters that people at the time could not have possibly known. What is our view regarding this?
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« Reply #20 on: July 25, 2012, 09:30:27 AM »

Eastern Orthodox theologians today hold that the dogma promulgated by the Ecumenical Synods (Councils) are infallible,

Hmmm. This is another interesting view, Basil. It seems to agree with the verse that says "By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established."

But then it brings up a question. How many bishops are necessary for this council to be infallible? Are all of them needed? Surely, there may have been a bishop or two who was unable to attend each of the ecumenical councils.
Also, does this still apply after there has been a division in the Church (Catholics and Oriental Orthodox)?
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« Reply #21 on: July 25, 2012, 09:32:00 AM »

Well, aren't the Holy Scriptures infallible on matters of faith and practice?
Can we really say this?
The Old Testament was the imperfect revelation of God until the Trinity was fully revealed with the Theophany of the New Testament. The Old Testament is Scripture, yet it was the Old Law which is supplanted by the New Testament. Christ did come "not to destroy the Law, but to complete it," however what this means is something different to what it looks like on the surface. According to the Law of Moses, the woman caught in adultery should have been stoned to death. Yet Christ prevents it. Should He have literally fulfilled the Law of Moses since it is, as you say, "infallible on matters of faith and practice"?
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« Reply #22 on: July 25, 2012, 09:36:17 AM »

I'm only speculating here, but perhaps it's not that one or the other is infallible but taken together? One cannot contradict the other?
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« Reply #23 on: July 25, 2012, 09:38:04 AM »

Well, aren't the Holy Scriptures infallible on matters of faith and practice?
Can we really say this?
The Old Testament was the imperfect revelation of God until the Trinity was fully revealed with the Theophany of the New Testament. The Old Testament is Scripture, yet it was the Old Law which is supplanted by the New Testament. Christ did come "not to destroy the Law, but to complete it," however what this means is something different to what it looks like on the surface. According to the Law of Moses, the woman caught in adultery should have been stoned to death. Yet Christ prevents it. Should He have literally fulfilled the Law of Moses since it is, as you say, "infallible on matters of faith and practice"?
Well, for the record, I never said they were, I was asking aren't they considered as such. Nevertheless, thank you for the contribution. You made a good point.
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« Reply #24 on: July 25, 2012, 09:46:50 AM »

I'm only speculating here, but perhaps it's not that one or the other is infallible but taken together? One cannot contradict the other?
But we can't get away from the fact that they do contradict each other. For example, Moses permits divorce, Christ forbids it. Christ explains that Moses was making an "economia" because of our hard-heartedness, but He (Christ) now expects something different from us.
I think, the only "infallible" and "perfect" Truth for an Orthodox Christian is not a text, but a Person.
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« Reply #25 on: July 25, 2012, 09:57:11 AM »

Infallibility is not a Patristic concept.


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« Reply #26 on: July 25, 2012, 10:08:59 AM »

I'm only speculating here, but perhaps it's not that one or the other is infallible but taken together? One cannot contradict the other?
But we can't get away from the fact that they do contradict each other. For example, Moses permits divorce, Christ forbids it. Christ explains that Moses was making an "economia" because of our hard-heartedness, but He (Christ) now expects something different from us.I think, the only "infallible" and "perfect" Truth for an Orthodox Christian is not a text, but a Person.

Probably just quibbling, but I don't see that example as a contradiction, any more than the Beatitudes are a contradiction, for the reason you elucidate above.
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« Reply #27 on: July 25, 2012, 03:31:05 PM »

Also, what is the Orthodox view of supposed scientific insights in the Bible? I have heard some Protestants say that the Scriptures speak of Scientific matters that people at the time could not have possibly known. What is our view regarding this?
Do you guys think I should create a separate thread on this topic, so we can discuss it in more detail?
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« Reply #28 on: July 25, 2012, 04:30:26 PM »

Eastern Orthodox theologians today hold that the dogma promulgated by the Ecumenical Synods (Councils) are infallible,

Hmmm. This is another interesting view, Basil. It seems to agree with the verse that says "By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established."

But then it brings up a question. How many bishops are necessary for this council to be infallible? Are all of them needed? Surely, there may have been a bishop or two who was unable to attend each of the ecumenical councils.
Also, does this still apply after there has been a division in the Church (Catholics and Oriental Orthodox)?

The Church has not set a standard as to how many bishops need to participate in a Synod called for the whole of the Church, for it to be considered "Ecumenical."  The standard, I would say from what I've read and been told by clergy, is for it to have defined dogma based on scripture, which has been accepted by the greater church, and ratified by a subsequent Synod.

I would guess that yes, even though there have been divisions, the church can gather in synod and define dogma, but in the absence of any dogmatic controversies, it hasn't had to.  Necessarily, divisions would likely occur upon a Synod's recognition of the mind of the church, as some may chose to adhere to the false belief.  The church convened Ecumenical Synods after the division that occurred after the 4th Ecumenical Synod.
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« Reply #29 on: July 25, 2012, 08:29:36 PM »

Greetings in that Divine and Most Precious Name of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!

It is no surprise that you are coming to a Latin conclusion because like the Latins, you are thinking way to scholastically, not spiritually enough.  The Church is filled with Mysteries, which only God can explain.  The concept of Infallibility is a bit comical if you ask me, it tries to make the Holy Spirit a matter of reason, logic, mathematical precision.  That is silly and borderline anthropomorphic.. 

The Bible is not infallible neither are the priests nor the Councils in the legalistic or scholastic sense, which is to say, that word for word, letter for letter, punctuation mark for punctuation mark the perfection of God.  The economy of the Holy Spirit is not so simple, it is a process, an event, a becoming, a verb.  That means that the Bible or the Councils become infallible in prayer, through a direct communion of the Holy Spirit.  The words, letters, and pages themselves are realistically no different than any other book, which is why they can be damaged, burned, scoffed, or disregarded.  If the words and writings themselves were infallible, they would also be indestructible.  They are paper, like we are flesh and blood.  It is the Holy Spirit behind and underlying the words which is infallible.  We connect with the Holy Spirit when we read and meditate and pray on the words, but it is the Holy Spirit that speaks to us, not necessarily the words themselves.  The doctrine of Scriptural Infallibility when taken in a fundamentalist perspective, assumes that the words are perfect, and we are not, so we readjust our lives to the perfect words.  The reality is the words were written, recorded, and transmitted by imperfect human hands, and so they rightfully and naturally reflect this same human imperfection.  The Economy of God is to act in synergy with our imperfections through His own inherent perfection.  So, again, God is perfect (infallible) and everything else is in a process of becoming infallible by Grace (i.e. synergy).  We get closer to God when we read and pray on the Bible, but the Bible is not perfect aside from God. We connect to the perfect God when we pray and meditate on the Scriptures.

stay blessed,
habte selassie

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« Reply #30 on: July 25, 2012, 08:47:10 PM »

Perhaps someone should first define these two terms "infallible" and "inerrant."  And then apply them to Bible, ecumenical councils, and dogmatic definitions and see if one of both of them work. 
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« Reply #31 on: July 26, 2012, 04:06:53 PM »

By infallible, I mean that there can be no mistake in the commandments and stories written in the Bible. If we say they are not infallible, then we might suggest that St Paul made a mistake when he wrote "such and such." Perhaps, there are mistakes in the stories in the gospels. Perhaps Jesus is not really God, perhaps he never rose from the dead. Everything becomes contestable since the Bible is flawed. The Bible is reduced to a historical document. It is only trustworthy because of its historical significance, not because every word in it is perfect.

As far as this forum is concerned, there are only two solutions to this problem.

1. We declare the apostles infallible. As a consequence, all of the popes are infallible. Therefore, every punctuation mark in the Bible has significance. There is also significance to the number of verses/chapters. It is perfect. This is the Catholic view.

2. We say that the authority of the Bible is drawn from the holiness of the writers and not just their rank. (This is similar to what Selasi said.) Since what comes from the mouth of priests is God's word, and it is the written destiny of the Church that no priest shall arise who exceeds the apostles, the Bible (while perhaps not infallible punctuation for punctuation) exceeds the understanding of every mortal. So, it may not be perfect, but no person shall arise who will be able to see any mistake in it. It is based on the destiny of the church. In this case, there may still be significance to the punctuation and number of verses in the sense  that there is significance to everything a holy person says/does. I guess this is the Orthodox view?
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« Reply #32 on: July 26, 2012, 04:10:36 PM »

I did not mean for this thread to become a Catholic-Orthodox debate. Can we move it back to "Faith Issues." I don't think I'm gonna get any replies here. Embarrassed
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« Reply #33 on: July 26, 2012, 06:07:41 PM »

1. We declare the apostles infallible. As a consequence, all of the popes are infallible. Therefore, every punctuation mark in the Bible has significance. There is also significance to the number of verses/chapters. It is perfect. This is the Catholic view.

I don't think this is the Catholic view. For starters the verse/chapter divisions were a later invention. Second, not every pope is infallible all the time, but only under certain, probably rare circumstances (meaning to teach the Church and speaking ex cathedra). Whether the Bible is infallible or not probably differs from Catholic to Catholic, but I would expect that they are more comfortable with such language. As for everything having significance, you seem to be equating infallibility with importance, which is not necessarily the case. Just because I don't think the Bible is infallible that doesn't mean I don't think the text--all of it, every last word, even the ones put in later by copyists--is important and wonderful. As my patron Saint Justin Popovich said:

Quote
How should we read the Bible? Prayerfully and reverently, for in each word there is another drop of eternal truth, and all the words together make up the boundless ocean of the Eternal Truth.

The Bible is not a book but life; because its words are "spirit and life" (John 6:63). Therefore its words can be comprehended if we study them with the spirit of its spirit, and with the life of its life.

It is a book that must be read with life--by putting it into practice. One should first live it, and then understand it.

Here the words of the Saviour apply: "Whoever is willing to do it--will understand that this teaching is from God" (John 7:17). Do it, so that you may understand it. This is the fun­damental rule of Orthodox exegesis.

At first one usually reads the Bible quickly, and then more and more slowly, until finally he will begin to read not even word by word, because in each word he is discovering an everlasting truth and an ineffable mystery.

Regarding your statement of the Orthodox position, I think there is some accuracy to what you say, but lets not try to fit everything into a nice little box. People disagree on this issue, and there is a wide range of acceptable or tenable beliefs here. I just quoted an article of St. Justin, for example, giving you something from the article I thought was put perfectly. Yet other parts of the article I disagree with. And that's fine. Maybe he's right. Probably is. I'm willing to wait and see. But we don't have to be divisive about it in the meantime.

EDIT--Fixed a word, which completely changed what I had meant to say!

EDIT2--Forgot to give a link to the article I quoted!
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« Reply #34 on: July 27, 2012, 09:27:01 AM »

I did not mean for this thread to become a Catholic-Orthodox debate. Can we move it back to "Faith Issues." I don't think I'm gonna get any replies here. Embarrassed
If you wish to dispute the moderator's decision to move this thread here, please raise your concern to the moderator team via private message.
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« Reply #35 on: July 27, 2012, 09:50:12 PM »

What is the basis for the church's belief that the new testament scriptures and the selection of books is infallible? Please understand, I am not asking how do we know they were not altered. I am asking why we believe they are infallible. The prophecies were spoken verbatim by the Lord to the prophets, so it makes sense that those are infallible. But if the apostles were bishops, and bishops are fallible, why do we beleive then that these writings are infallible. There were not spoken directly; but they were given under inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Also, why do we beleive the selection of books is infallible? What is the basis for these 27 books. Why weren't other writings of the apostles included? Or why weren't some of these books excluded? Do we beleive in apostolic infallibility? If so, Paul was not one of the original apostles; if we can add apostles to the church, why are there no apostles today?

If the question is "How do we know that the Bible is the inspired Word of God?" then surely the answer must be something along the lines of, because that's what the Church believes and has always believed.  This belief enjoys fundamental status.  To deny it is to undo everything.  If the Bible is not the inspired Word of God, then we have no reliable access to the apostolic revelation. 

If the question is "How do we know that each of the books of the Bible truly belong in the canon of Holy Scripture and that no books have been mistakenly excluded?" then we we make an appeal to Church usage.  The present canon is sanctified, legitimated, and authorized by centuries of being read in the liturgies and offices of the Church.  I would think that the present canon enjoys something akin to infallible status.  It's difficult to contemplate any Orthodox Christian effectively challenging the inclusion of any specific book that is presently recognized as canonical. 

Quote
In the Catholic church, they use the infallibility of the pope doctrine to prove these things.

This is incorrect.  The Catholic Church does not rely on papal authority to justify the present canon.  I suppose that appeal might be made to the Council of Trent, but the simple fact is that the Catholic Church got along just fine for fifteen centuries without a conciliar definition on the canon of Scripture.  The canon used in the Catholic Church was established by centuries of use.  The Council of Trent only addressed the question of canon because the Reformation Churches were challenging the deutero-canonical books. 

For both Orthodoxy and Catholicism, the canon of Scripture is established by usage (presumably under the guidance and direction of the Holy Spirit).   



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« Reply #36 on: July 27, 2012, 10:01:59 PM »

To use infallibility when approaching the Holy Scriptures is not the right way of doing it. For something to be infallible it has to pass through a series of tests.
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« Reply #37 on: July 29, 2012, 07:01:24 PM »

If the question is "How do we know that the Bible is the inspired Word of God?" then surely the answer must be something along the lines of, because that's what the Church believes and has always believed.  

If the question is "How do we know that each of the books of the Bible truly belong in the canon of Holy Scripture and that no books have been mistakenly excluded?" then we we make an appeal to Church usage.  The present canon is sanctified, legitimated, and authorized by centuries of being read in the liturgies and offices of the Church.  I would think that the present canon enjoys something akin to infallible status.  

But Father, this seems to me to be suggesting some sort of infallibilty of the church. Perhaps you say it is an infallibility of whole synod, as opposed to just the pope. I do not see this view as very different from the Catholic papal infallibility.

Otherwise, can I not contest the bishops' decision. Can't I say 'these bishops are wrong, the bible is fake' and still remain an Orthodox Christian?
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« Reply #38 on: July 29, 2012, 08:41:33 PM »

No, I don' think so."loser."  Infallible or not (the discussion of "infallibility" has been discussed above in this topic), the Holy Scriptures are the basis of Orthodox theology.  They were officially determined "inspired books" essentially by the 1st Ecumenical Synod (Council).  "Inspiration in the opinion of many theologians is the special, specific, and unique operation of he Holy Spirit by which the Biblical authors were imbued,  And though their intellect and will are filled with it, the independence of the personality is retained, although raised and in a way transformed. so that it can partake of and work together with the Spirit in the divine task of authoring the books of the Bible.  Thus, God speaks through the Bible.*  (*Fr. Nicon D. Patrinacos, M.A., D.Phil. (Oxon), A Dictionary of Greek Orthodoxy, "Inspiration")  I've been taught that doctrine, the dogma of the church promulgated by the Ecumenical Synods, are articles of faith that must be believed by Orthodox Christians in order to attain salvation.  Some to the churches will ask a prospective convert to Orthodoxy, during the administration of the Sacrament (Mystery) of Holy Chrismation (Confirmation), if the candidate accepts the Scriptures and doctrine of the 7 Ecumenical Synods.  (Anyone in ROCOR who has the text may wish to post the inquiries as written in their texts.)
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« Reply #39 on: July 29, 2012, 09:13:24 PM »

But Father, this seems to me to be suggesting some sort of infallibilty of the church. Perhaps you say it is an infallibility of whole synod, as opposed to just the pope. I do not see this view as very different from the Catholic papal infallibility.

I have no problem affirming some form of infallibility for the Orthodox Church; indeed, it seems absolutely necessary if we are going to affirm, as I think we do and must, irreformable dogma.  After all, we are not Protestants. We do not believe that every baptized believer has the right and authority to exercise their private judgment and create their own Christian religion.  As Alexea Khomiakov wrote to the Anglican theologian William Palmer over a century and a half ago:

Quote
Many bishops and divines of your communion are and have been quite orthodox. But what of it? Their opinion is only an individual opinion, it is not the Faith of the Community. Ussher is almost a complete Calvinist; but yet he, no less than those bishops who give expression to Orthodox convictions, belongs to the Anglican Church. We may, and do, sympathise with the individuals; we cannot and dare not sympathise with a community which interpolates the Symbol and doubts her right to that interpolation, or which gives communion to those who declare the Bread and Wine of the High Sacrifice to be mere bread and wine, as well as to those who declare it to be the Body and Blood of Christ. This for an example — and I could find hundreds more — but I go further. Suppose an impossibility — suppose all the Anglicans be quite orthodox; suppose their Creed and Faith quite concordant with ours; the mode and process by which that creed is or has been attained is a Protestant one; a simple logical act of the understanding, by which the tradition and writings of the Fathers have been distilled to something very near Truth. If we admit this, all is lost, and Rationalism is the supreme judge of every question. Protestantism, most reverend sir, is the admission of an unknown [quantity] to be sought by reason; and that unknown [quantity] changes the whole equation to an unknown quantity, even though every other datum be as clear and as positive as possible. Do not, I pray, nourish the hope of finding Christian truth without stepping out of the former Protestant circle. It is an illogical hope; it is a remnant of that pride which thought itself able and wished to judge and decide by itself without the Spiritual Communion of heavenly grace and Christian love. Were you to find all the truth, you would have found nothing; for we alone can give you that without which all would be vain — the assurance of truth.

If infallibility is not an attribute of the Orthodox Church, then we are left only with opinions--and everyone has one.  Of course, we are not Roman Catholics either.  For one Orthodox presentation of ecclesial infallibility, see The Infallibility of the Church in Orthodox Theology by Stylianos Harkianakis.  

Quote
Otherwise, can I not contest the bishops' decision. Can't I say 'these bishops are wrong, the bible is fake' and still remain an Orthodox Christian?

If the Bible is fake, then why would you want to be an Orthodox Christian?  If the Bible is a fake, if its central claims are wrong, then why would or I believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, of one being with the Father?  Why would or should I believe that by his death and resurrection the salvation of the world has been accomplished?  Why would or should I believe that the Apostles have bequeathed to the Church the definitive revelation of God Almighty?    
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« Reply #40 on: July 29, 2012, 09:13:56 PM »

I would like to see a scholarly source that says the canon of Scripture was discussed at the first Ecumenical Council.
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« Reply #41 on: July 30, 2012, 12:24:23 PM »

Thank you, Father, (and others) for your excellent responses. I feel you have cleared up this matter for me. I will carefully consider your words.
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