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Author Topic: Ecumenical Councils  (Read 2377 times) Average Rating: 0
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ROCORthodox
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« on: August 14, 2006, 06:05:58 PM »

Two questions about Ecumenical Councils:

Are they considered infallible?

Is it truly possible to condemn a man for heresy after his death?
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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2006, 06:15:01 PM »

I don't believe that fallible men could possibly declare something infallible, or verify the infallibility of it even if they did declare it infallible.
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« Reply #2 on: August 14, 2006, 06:25:50 PM »

Are they considered infallible?

I don't think we can say they were fallible or infallible: however they were the right thing for the Church.

In terms of teaching the Councils did not innovate but they stated the Truth that has always existed, that is they confessed Christ.ÂÂ  In terms of canons, these are how we apply the Faith in our daily lives and these were what the Church deems correct.

You must remember that when the Councils were called, people didn't just say "we're going to have an Ecumenical Council" - it is only with the agreement of all of God's people (the laity too) that a Council is thought of as having defined the Faith.ÂÂ  For an example of a council taking place where the bishops agreed on something but the people wouldn't accept it, so it was not adopted, read the life of St Mark of Ephesus.

Ax
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ROCORthodox
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« Reply #3 on: August 14, 2006, 06:31:51 PM »

I don't believe that fallible men could possibly declare something infallible, or verify the infallibility of it even if they did declare it infallible.

This is where I get a bit confused. ÂÂ Is it not said that the Holy Spirit is present at these Councils? If so, then I would expect all Councils through out the ages to be in complete agreement making it impossible for one to overturn another's conclusions.ÂÂ  I don't have much knowledge in this area.

The reason I ask is I am doing a bit of research on Origen and Evagrius of Pontus whom - it is said - were allegedly condemned after their deaths. ÂÂ A man by the name of Abbot George Burke says that Saint Basil the Great, Saint Gregory the Theologian and Saint John Chrysostom all looked upon Origen with great respect. ÂÂ Also the same person is claiming that Evagritus of Pontus - who was also condenmed - is responsible for much of the mystical and ascetical EO thought via his works "Praktikos" and "Chapters on Prayer". ÂÂ  Abbot George Burke ÂÂ claims that Evagritus' works were reassigned to a fictional "Saint Nilus of Sinai".ÂÂ  Does anyone know if there is any truth to these claims?

I was able to find this bit on Evagritus' condemnation on wikipedia:

Accusations of Heresy
Evagrius was a staunch supporter of Origen (c. 185-250 A.D.), and further developed certain esoteric speculations regarding the pre-existence of human souls, the final state of believers, and certain teachings about the natures of God and Christ. Origen and his followers (including Evagrius) were declared heretical by several successive ecumenical councils, beginning with Second Council of Constantinople (553 A.D.). This decision was subsequently overturned.

I don't get the overturned part if the man was condemned for heresy.ÂÂ  
« Last Edit: August 14, 2006, 06:53:14 PM by ROCORthodox » Logged
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« Reply #4 on: August 14, 2006, 06:35:13 PM »

I don't think we can say they were fallible or infallible: however they were the right thing for the Church.

In terms of teaching the Councils did not innovate but they stated the Truth that has always existed, that is they confessed Christ.ÂÂ  In terms of canons, these are how we apply the Faith in our daily lives and these were what the Church deems correct.

You must remember that when the Councils were called, people didn't just say "we're going to have an Ecumenical Council" - it is only with the agreement of all of God's people (the laity too) that a Council is thought of as having defined the Faith.ÂÂ  For an example of a council taking place where the bishops agreed on something but the people wouldn't accept it, so it was not adopted, read the life of St Mark of Ephesus.

Ax

Ah! Thank you for your post.  I will ponder your comments as I study this topic.
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« Reply #5 on: August 14, 2006, 07:28:32 PM »

The rules for playing American Football are determined by the NFL. No one could possibly say that the NFL rules are "wrong", since there is no other body which can determine the NFL rules. In the same way, no one can define the dogmas of the Church other than the Church, so in this sense, arguments about "fallible" and "infallible" make no sense.
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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #6 on: August 14, 2006, 07:52:45 PM »

Quote
This is where I get a bit confused.  Is it not said that the Holy Spirit is present at these Councils? If so, then I would expect all Councils through out the ages to be in complete agreement making it impossible for one to overturn another's conclusions.  I don't have much knowledge in this area.

Well, I think I would agree with your assessment. Many people might add though that you can't just take a Council as a whole, but different parts are accepted differently. Opinionated comments might give a good idea of the context of a Council, for example, but wouldn't be given any particular weight (e.g., the Fathers at the 4th Council celebrating Leo). Canons might be seen as expressing a certain universal truth, but in the actual letter only be considered applicable to a certain context (e.g., the canons which forbid a Christian to visit a Jewish doctor). And then there are documents which are meant to speak of doctrinal matters, which might be given more weight than everything else. The problem is that no Council in the ancient Church was considered Ecumenical (let alone infallible) ahead of time, or while it was taking place. It is only in hindsight that the ancient councils were called Ecumenical. The terminology used at the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea, for example, was debated for decades after the Council took place. It was not as though the 1st Council happened and then every issue that it dealt with was suddenly fixed.

Origen was indeed condemned after his death (at the 5th Ecumenical Council), though I don't recall about Evagrius offhand. The Saints that Abbot George mentions did indeed think highly of Origen, they even compiled a book of his writings, which you can read online. There have been a few discussions on Origen in the last year, you might be able to find these threads using the search engine.
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« Reply #7 on: August 14, 2006, 09:04:32 PM »

I wonder if the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) would be considered to be infallible then or even the Bible?
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« Reply #8 on: August 14, 2006, 10:23:31 PM »

+ Irini nem ehmot,

When it comes to the Bible, I had raised the issue in another forum on another site.  Due to there being certain 'inconsistencies' but not outright contradictions, it had been suggested to view the Bible as authoritative but not infallible.

Please pray for me.
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« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2006, 06:40:57 AM »

Anyone care to actually offer a definition for the concept of infallibility being discussed?
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« Reply #10 on: August 15, 2006, 07:19:51 AM »

Is this a trick question? Smiley

Wary though I am that you are about to pounce on me (ÂÂ  Grin ), I will attempt to give a definition: infallibility speaks of the impossibility of making an error or affirming an untruth. Of course, I don't think for a second that the term has any validity outside of theory, because there is absolutely no way for a fallible person (or people) to verify whether something is infallible. At best, you would have to take it on faith, but then that would sort of destroy the whole point of infallibility.

Some people try to solve this issue by making a distinction between inerrant and infallible. They would say that inerrant speaks of the inability to make an error, while infallibility speaks of the inability to speak untruth. While I think this makes things a bit easier to swallow in some cases (e.g., saying that the Bible is infallible but not inerrant), in the end I think it still remains only helpful in theory. You show me a man who claims to know with certainty that something is infallible, and I am sure that he either 1) is full of it, 2) really is infallible, or 3) is saying what he says based on faith. Since I don't think anyone is infallible (2), and since there wouldn't be much to talk about if he's full of it (1), that only leaves the last option (3), but again, if you have faith that something is true, then why would it need to be infallibly proven, and how would you do that anyway without going right back to faith?
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« Reply #11 on: August 15, 2006, 09:04:33 AM »

Is this a trick question? Smiley

Wary though I am that you are about to pounce on me (ÂÂ  Grin ), I will attempt to give a definition: infallibility speaks of the impossibility of making an error or affirming an untruth. Of course, I don't think for a second that the term has any validity outside of theory, because there is absolutely no way for a fallible person (or people) to verify whether something is infallible. At best, you would have to take it on faith, but then that would sort of destroy the whole point of infallibility.

Some people try to solve this issue by making a distinction between inerrant and infallible. They would say that inerrant speaks of the inability to make an error, while infallibility speaks of the inability to speak untruth. While I think this makes things a bit easier to swallow in some cases (e.g., saying that the Bible is infallible but not inerrant), in the end I think it still remains only helpful in theory. You show me a man who claims to know with certainty that something is infallible, and I am sure that he either 1) is full of it, 2) really is infallible, or 3) is saying what he says based on faith. Since I don't think anyone is infallible (2), and since there wouldn't be much to talk about if he's full of it (1), that only leaves the last option (3), but again, if you have faith that something is true, then why would it need to be infallibly proven, and how would you do that anyway without going right back to faith?

Sharp observations.  I have rattled this around in my head as well but then I have to find a way to factor what the NT says about faith. 

Hbr 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

This verse says faith is linked with evidence.  Hope backed up by substance.
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« Reply #12 on: August 15, 2006, 05:19:01 PM »

If an Ecumenical Council were infallible, its fruits would not be division and persecution of fellow Christians.
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« Reply #13 on: August 15, 2006, 05:30:11 PM »

Quote
If an Ecumenical Council were infallible, its fruits would not be division and persecution of fellow Christians.

Could that argument also be used to disprove that there is a god?  Grin
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« Reply #14 on: August 15, 2006, 07:39:57 PM »

Could that argument also be used to disprove that there is a god?ÂÂ  Grin

God is infallible, human beings are not.
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« Reply #15 on: August 15, 2006, 08:42:47 PM »

Hbr 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
This verse says faith is linked with evidence.  Hope backed up by substance.
An alternate reading for this verse (The New Jerusalem Bible) is:
"Only faith can quarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen."
I read this to mean that faith "proves" the existence of realities that are unseen, such that "evidence" is linked to faith not faith linked to evidence.  So, infallibility is linked to faith (option 3 of Asteriktos' post).
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« Reply #16 on: August 15, 2006, 10:18:18 PM »

Matthew,

Quote
God is infallible, human beings are not. 

I'm not sure what that has to do with the point that I made? Smiley Your statement was that:

"If an Ecumenical Council were infallible, its fruits would not be division and persecution of fellow Christians."

My question to you was, what happens when we extend this idea to God? So, to use your terminology:

"If God were infallible, his fruits would not be division and persecution of fellow Christians."

The implied point is, of course, that people and Christians do argue over God, to the point of killing each other, and thus since these are bad fruits, according to your idea God cannot therefore be infallible. I am not seriously saying this as some type of refutation of God, I meant it mostly as a joke. I was trying to illustrate that the idea doesn't really seem to work. I mean, why would something being infallible somehow make fallible men stop arguing with each other? That has been my point the entire thread, that fallible man wouldn't be effected by something/someone being infallible, even if that thing/person existed.
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