Consensus Patrum, Sources of Faith, etc.

PeterTheAleut

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LBK said:
Straightforward? How does this square with the dozens of pages of debate on various topics on this forum (the supremacy of Peter being but one), where scripture and patristic quotes are flung around like missiles, leading to misunderstandings and discord? If people would only care to take the time to consider what the liturgical and iconographic deposit teaches us, which, after all, is the summation, the distillation of Apostolic teaching, correct and unambiguous, and universal among all Orthodox, irrespective of location, culture or language.
But what of Fr. Anastasios's concern that even the liturgical and iconographic deposits need interpretation for us to understand from them what we are to understand?
 

LBK

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PeterTheAleut said:
LBK said:
Straightforward? How does this square with the dozens of pages of debate on various topics on this forum (the supremacy of Peter being but one), where scripture and patristic quotes are flung around like missiles, leading to misunderstandings and discord? If people would only care to take the time to consider what the liturgical and iconographic deposit teaches us, which, after all, is the summation, the distillation of Apostolic teaching, correct and unambiguous, and universal among all Orthodox, irrespective of location, culture or language.
But what of Fr. Anastasios's concern that even the liturgical and iconographic deposits need interpretation for us to understand from them what we are to understand?
How long is a piece of string, PtA? As an Orthodox priest, surely Fr Anastasios is capable of discerning true Orthodox doctrine, most notably from the consensus patrum which exists in the liturgical and iconographic deposit, and then transmitting this true doctrine to his flock? If I, as a common layman, have been able to show doctrinal errors in the notion of the supremacy of Peter (to name but one topic) through the resources which are available to every Orthodox Christian ....
 

Anastasios

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Dear LBK,

Thank you for responding to my query. I find the topic to be very interesting.

LBK said:
Fr Anastasios, you wrote:

When I was an Eastern Rite Roman Catholic, our parish did not alter the liturgical texts that we lifted from Orthodoxy when we schismed.  So I think we have to be real careful where we draw the line lest the Eastern Rite Roman Catholics turn your argument right back on you.

That's easy to refute, Father. The definitive sign of an Eastern Rite Catholic is liturgical commemoration of the Pope of Rome as Supreme Pontiff. Last time I checked, this is heresy in the Orthodox Church.
While I would agree with you that such commemoration is heretical, I don't believe you can deduce that just from the liturgical deposit; the main reason we know that Roman Catholics are heretics is because they were condemned by several councils and the Fathers wrote against their false doctrines.


You also wrote:

but please note that when I was an Eastern Rite Roman Catholic, it was taken for granted in those circles that the texts of the Feast of the Veneration of the Chains of St Peter on Jan 16 support papal claims of Peter being the first Apostle and they read in to these texts the seed of papal primacy. 

Please look at my post on the "Supremacy of Peter" thread, where I quote from the Orthodox Vigil for Apostle Andrew which refers to that apostle in identical terms to those which are used by those promoting papal supremacy (the emphases are mine):
Thank you for providing the texts, but I don't think they speak of it in identical terms. The last time I read these texts for the feast of the chains (which I don't have access to from an Orthodox source, so I am reticent to post what I see online in case it is tainted in some way), they clearly speak of Peter as being the Prince of the Apostles, First of the Apostles, Chief Apostle, etc.  We only know how to interpret these phrases in an Orthodox manner based on the writings of the Fathers and decisions of the Ecumenical Councils.

You also wrote:

Individual Fathers' quotes may be taken out of context, but it seems rather straightforward to discern the consensus of the Fathers based on a catholic reading of their works as a whole in context.

Straightforward? How does this square with the dozens of pages of debate on various topics on this forum (the supremacy of Peter being but one), where scripture and patristic quotes are flung around like missiles, leading to misunderstandings and discord?
As you know, this forum has members who are not Orthodox, members who are Orthodox who are educated well, people who are Orthodox but are unsure about the specifics of various points; etc.  In other words, we have a rather diverse group of people with differing levels of knowledge (I do not limit knowledge to intellectual of course). And this forum has a lot of adversarial threads where people who like to be difficult go round and round. Some people also like to see "room for opinion" where the issue has already been addressed at length by the Fathers.
I am speaking more in terms of discussions involving people who are experienced in living an Orthodox life and is well read in the Fathers, especially those who are men and women of prayer who are also well educated.  Those approaching the issue with the requisite training and in the proper mindset can discern the consensus of the Fathers.  For instance, St Gregory of Nyssa taught universal restoration--he was mistaken.  St Augustine taught predestination, and he was mistaken.  We can look at the writings of the Fathers and see if a majority of them taught the same thing, and especially see if a Council picked up on it.  This is, as you know, how the canons of St Basil became ecumenical; despite being of an individual Father, the Fathers of later councils recognized the catholicity of the writings and accepted them.  This a posteriori reception is what determines and confirms the consensus in my understanding.


If people would only care to take the time to consider what the liturgical and iconographic deposit teaches us, which, after all, is the summation, the distillation of Apostolic teaching, correct and unambiguous, and universal among all Orthodox, irrespective of location, culture or language.
LBK, I fully agree with you here!  And I appreciate you reminding us to look at the liturgy and iconography first. You are doing us a service by this.  But my objection is to reduce it to this alone.  When you challenged Pravoslav09 and me to produce evidence of heresy in the liturgical deposit and ended it by saying "after all, lex orandi, lex credendi" it suggests that one could be perfectly Orthodox if he prays the right hymns, even if he is preaching heresy from the puplit, in his Encyclicals, etc.  That is what I am trying to understand from your thesis.

Fr Paul Tarazi was my professor of Scripture at St Vladimir's Seminary.  He felt that Orthodox people do not take Scripture seriously, so he deliberately spoke in a reductionist manner about Scripture being the ONLY source of our faith, etc. ad nauseum.  He would come out with rather hyperbolically extreme phrases and ideas based off this.  While most of us understood his point was to get people to take Scripture seriously as the foremost and primary thing instead of immediately running to modern Russian theologians of Paris school, etc., it had a rather jarring, divisive effect in my opinion. His overstatements caused confusion and surprise amongst many students and I am not sure in the end it led to his goal being met.  The reason I bring this up is that while I completely agree with you that liturgy and iconography has a primacy as a summary of our faith, I don't think we can say that they are all that is needed to prove any given point.

in Christ,

Fr Anastasios
 

Anastasios

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As I decided to take a week off from posting, I will return to this thread next Monday to see if any replies were directed my way. Hope everyone has a fruitful start to the Fast.
 

LBK

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Irish Hermit said:
PeterTheAleut said:
But what do we make of LBK's apparent claim that if a church's liturgical deposit is sound, it doesn't matter how heretical everything else in the church is, the church has not fallen into heresy?
I am not sure that LBK has in fact claimed such.  You may be extrapolating incorrectly?
Irish Hermit is correct, PtA's extrapolation is indeed incorrect. At no stage have I ever restricted my view to only the liturgical and iconographic deposit. However, these are the most reliable, accessible and universal sources of correct doctrine.

Irish Hermit said:
As a general rule of thumb people who start off in schism do eventually end up in heresy also.

Looking at a Church which has been on all our minds the last few days thanks to the Apostasy thread.... If we take the example of the Russian Zarist Church (which may or may not be led by Bishop Diomid) it is a church group which has been in existence for only a few months.  Presumably it has not changed anything of the Orthodox theology or the liiturgical material which the bishop learnt from his theology studies in a Russian Orthodox seminary.  But the name of the Church is troubling and gives cause for concern - the Russian Zarist Church.  There has never been any Orthodox Church named for any Tsar or Emperor.  That name in itself indicates some overemphasis on the monarchy in the life of the Church and that may eventualy lead into some kind of heresy.
Irish Hermit touches on an often overlooked but very important point: A church in schism from canonical Orthodoxy has separated itself from its mother church, and by refusing to submit to the obedience of canonically-consecrated bishops, they are therefore "out of the loop", as it were. Deliberate separation such as this is indeed little different from the myriad protestant sects which base their existence on the notion of  "I don't agree with the decision of my church, so I'll set up one of my own."

An inviolable principle of the Orthodox Church is the responsibility of the episcopate, the shepherds and overseers of the Church, to "rightly divide the word of Your truth". If a priest proclaims heresy, or is disobedient to his bishop, then his bishop is obliged to correct him. If a bishop does the same, his fellow bishops likewise should move to correct him. It is a conciliar approach. If the errant cleric refuses to change his ways, then there may be cause for defrocking or other serious action. Schismatic groups, who are not part of the concilium of the mother Church from which they have broken away run the very real risk of not being able to properly maintaining the checks and balances required for preserving the integrity of the faith.

There are, in fact, examples of schismatic churches which have indeed proclaimed heresies, particularly as it relates to the new calendar. Adopting the new calendar is not an act of heresy. If it were, then no canonical communion between the canonical NC and OC churches would be possible. An irregularity, an anomaly, yes. Heresy, no, despite what they may try to say. Another notable example is that of the Matthewite old calendarist group, which proclaims that the image showing Christ, seated next to God the Father as an old man, with a dove hovering above them, is the proper and canonical icon of the Holy Trinity, and, moreover, proclaims that the icon generally attributed to St Andrei of Radonezh (Andrei Rublyev) is uncanonical. These infractions are but two examples of the result of lack of proper conciliar episcopal oversight which is an unfortunate result of schismatic behavior. A third example is the debasement of iconography to suit a particular ecclesiopolitical stance, such as the "icon" of the "Ark of Salvation" we have seen and discussed on the thread "Here's an Icon with Something for Everyone". As a learned friend once remarked: Such icons are classic examples of zealous enthusiasm for the sanctity of the Church, and a deep desire to proclaim its unique truth in the face of heresy, nonetheless completely ignoring the canonical traditions they mean to proclaim with such vigour.
 

ialmisry

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ialmisry said:
I'm going to repost something long (yeah, I know, suprise) but may not have the time to comment more.  I originally argued this against Sola Scriptura for the only source of the Faith.  I'll adapt it to the OP.....
Title of the thread confused the Consensus Patrum as a Source of Faith: the Consensus does not provide the Source of Faith, it reflects it.

There is only one soure of the Faith, Christ.  How that one source is transmitted, and how its transmition is verified, is what is at issue.

The Faith is transitted in the Holy Mysteries: as the Fathers say, Christ has passed into the Holy Mysteries, the signs of Christ's life within His Body, the Church.  When the Church acts as the Body of Christ, as a Body, in unity with her Head, then she speaks infallibly.  That is why the assent of the Faithful is needed, for instance, for the Ecumenicity of a Council.

There is, for no instance, no objective criteria on which to base the canon of the Bible.  Authorship by an Apostle does not determine the canon of the NT: St. Luke, strictly speaking, is not an Apostle-he does not include himself in the company of eyewitness and ministers of the Word from the beginning (Luke 1:2, cf. Acts 1:21-2). Yet there is no question of it being in the Orthodox canon.  St. Clement's first epistle (I'll leave aside the question of the second) which was reckoned as Scripture: after Clement received his doctrine directly from the Apostles, and not as an eyewitness of Christ, the same way  St. Luke received his doctrine.  Clement's epistles are approved by the Apostolic Canons (85), but yet St. Luke is canonized and St. Clement is not.  If an archaeologist dug up St. Paul's missing Epistles or when they dug up the Gospels that record Acts 20:35, or the Jesus seminar could prove that St. Thomas wrote the Gospel named after him, none were or would be accepted into the canon.  The Church has spoken.  Many Fathers and Churches deemed Reveltion spurious, but the Church accepted it into the canon, and even if textual criticism would able to prove that St. John did not write it, it would remain in the canon as the Church has received it as an expression of her Faith in the return of her Bridegroom.

And that is why the Bible is canonized: it is not that the Church collected documents that the Apostles wrote.  Rather, they looked at what the Faithful had produced in the bosom of the Church, recognized herself in it, and adopted it as her self revelation.  Sort of like when parents see themselves in their children, and leave them as their legacy.  The Bible is not like the America Constitution, which brought a new government into order which is derived from that constition: it is like the Canadian Constitution, which merely codifies the system of government in place.  When St. Paul refers to Christ's life, he is not teaching history. He is appealing to an audience who already knows His life. Case in point: St. Paul's account of the Mystical Supper predates all the Gospels' accounts of it.  But he is not telling the Corinthians nothing that they do not already know (I Corin. 11:23)  In fact the ongoing Great Canon of the DL helped shape the Gospels' account.

That is why Sola Scriptura doesn't work: it is like owning the manuel, but not owning the car.

St. Theophan deals with the issue of why we say prayers written by the saints.  It is not because they are a replacement for Scripture nor for our own words.  But as we do not know how to pray as we ought, we look to those who did.  The saints we know (because they have been glorified, and their words consecrated by the usage of the Church) had reached the stage where the Holy Spirit spoke within them at prayer.  In that state, they composed in human language their thoughts in that state.  Using these words as guideposts, we are trying to follow them into the state where the Holy Spirit gives utterance to our prayers.  As the lesson of the Samaritan woman shows: the Samaritans came because of what she told them, but they reached a point at which they believed from knowing Him for themselves (John 4:43).

So too the Liturgy: the Church gathered as the Body of Christ so that He made be in their midst have put that experience into words.  The Church as a whole has adopted the Liturgy as the public expression of that experience, hence the appeal of liturgical texts for dogma: lex credendi, lex orandi.  But in that order: we do not believe that Christ is in the Eucharist because the DL says so, rather because we believe so, and experience Him in the Eucharist, that the DL so says.

So too the Dogmatic Definitions of the Ecumenical Councils.  The Faith cannot be added too.  No development of doctrine, if it was not in the Apostles' preaching it cannot be in the Dogma of the Church.  When heresy infected the Body of Christ, the Body of Christ, as a Body, mustered its antibodies, the Fathers and developed an immunity, the Dogmatic Definitions, to the heresy.  They did not add to the Faith: as the body already has the antibody proteins but only puts them to work to form a defense against the foreign pathogen, so too the Fathers only erect from pre-existing materials a boundary marker which the Orthodox may not move.  The Fathers confessed the same Faith, but in different words to ensure it remained the same Faith.  The expression of Faith changes only so that the Faith can remain the same, something litrugists should keep in mind.

The iconography writes an icon only when he follows the canon the Church has laid down for the visual expression of her Faith. Otherwise he is a forger and a counterfeiter (like our deluded friend Lentz).  The icon is the expression of the Church, not personal agendas, and just like a counterfeiter tries to make his money look real but it has no value, so too the icongrapher who oversteps the Church's bounds.  That is why we appeal to the icons when we are asked about what we believe, because they are backed by the full Faith and Credit of the Church.

No Church Father is infallible: only Christ is infallible, and the Church's infallibility flows from her being His Body.  But that flows only when she acts as a Body, like in Ecumenical Council.  Any individual member cannot act infallibility, so why the claim of the alleged "visible head" to speak infallibly cannot be accepted.  So too, no one should expect every word of an individual Father to be infallible.  It is only in as much as they reflect the common Faith, between us and them and lived in the Church now, that they constitute the Consensus Patrum.  What they served, as I pointed out in my OP, as a witness between us and heretics, so when they claim that the Real Presence is an innovation, that we point to St. Ignatius etc.: they witenss to the Faith as we witness to the Faith.

Which is the point of my OP to the OP: merely extended Sola Scriptura to included Ecumenical Councils and certain Fathers misses the point.  These are not the source of Faith: they are witnesses, like the altar on the Jordan, to make sure we have kept the Faith.
 

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Fr. Anastasios said:
Dear LBK,

Thank you for responding to my query. I find the topic to be very interesting.

LBK said:
Fr Anastasios, you wrote:

When I was an Eastern Rite Roman Catholic, our parish did not alter the liturgical texts that we lifted from Orthodoxy when we schismed.  So I think we have to be real careful where we draw the line lest the Eastern Rite Roman Catholics turn your argument right back on you.

That's easy to refute, Father. The definitive sign of an Eastern Rite Catholic is liturgical commemoration of the Pope of Rome as Supreme Pontiff. Last time I checked, this is heresy in the Orthodox Church.
While I would agree with you that such commemoration is heretical, I don't believe you can deduce that just from the liturgical deposit; the main reason we know that Roman Catholics are heretics is because they were condemned by several councils and the Fathers wrote against their false doctrines.
No, actually it is heretical on the face of it.
First, Lord, remember our Father N. Pope of Rome, our Most Blessed Patriarch N., our Father and (Arch)bishop N.  Graciously bestow them to Your Holy Churches in peace, safty, honor, health, long life, rightly dispensing the word of Your truth.
http://www.melkite.org/PDF/LITURGY2009.pdf

Now, the (arch)bishop is there because the parish exists only antimens.  The Patriarch is there, because of the Church's canonical order, of the synod of the local Church having a primate.

But the mere mention of the pope of Rome, first of all, on the face of it is an intrusion of ultramontanism, the idea that someone is above the Local Church.  Both "Rome" and "Pope" point to that:if you are not in the Patriarchate of Rome, there is no reason to be commorating him over any other primate in the diptych.  And "Pope" breaks the Word "Call no one Father," the Orthodox not falling for the Protestant trap on denying to anyone (otherwise they could not Honor your father as the commandment says, and would have to condemn scripture 1 Cor. 4:15 where St. Paul claims to be their father), but neither the error of the Vatican in claiming the title the Father, arrogating the title "pope" "dad" only to himself. In fact, since I got this from the Melkite Web site, their is the problem that the Melkite patriarch claims, and is installed by Rome to be, the patriarch of Alexandria, upon whom was bestowed the title, long before Rome took it, of "Pope."  Yet the Vatican, because of the heresies of Vatican I, denies him this title, and it doesn't appear in their liturgy.

There is a dogmatic basis for the commemoration, and the liturgical commemoration of the Vatican breaks it, making it clear that it is heresy.


Fr. Anastasios said:
LBK said:
You also wrote:

but please note that when I was an Eastern Rite Roman Catholic, it was taken for granted in those circles that the texts of the Feast of the Veneration of the Chains of St Peter on Jan 16 support papal claims of Peter being the first Apostle and they read in to these texts the seed of papal primacy. 

Please look at my post on the "Supremacy of Peter" thread, where I quote from the Orthodox Vigil for Apostle Andrew which refers to that apostle in identical terms to those which are used by those promoting papal supremacy (the emphases are mine):
Thank you for providing the texts, but I don't think they speak of it in identical terms. The last time I read these texts for the feast of the chains (which I don't have access to from an Orthodox source, so I am reticent to post what I see online in case it is tainted in some way), they clearly speak of Peter as being the Prince of the Apostles, First of the Apostles, Chief Apostle, etc.  We only know how to interpret these phrases in an Orthodox manner based on the writings of the Fathers and decisions of the Ecumenical Councils.
Of course, the contrast between the WRO and the Vatican's "unions."  The WRO liturgics are made to correspond to the Orthodox Faith, explicitely so (so the epiclesis of Constantinople is inserted as the Vatican downplayed the epiclesis in favor of the words of institution: the insertion underlined the difference of the theology and assures the rest of the Orthodox that the WRO do not share such heretical notions).

Give you a case in point (it's political, but the point is not): It has been ordered that combatants in Afghanistan be read their Miranda rights.  The problem is, as was found out when that was done in Lebanon decades ago, although it may be translated into their language, being able to understand them ("Do you understand these rights?" is the final clause) presupposes some basic knowledge of American legal procedure very few in Afghanistan have (Islamic law really doesn't have a seperate category of a legal officer corresponding to attorney, everyone is more or less a jurist).  So too, the texts of the Chains of St. Peter: it can be in English, but if you don't have the Orthodox Faith, but the Ultramonanist Faith, you are going to get different things from exactly the same words.  You don't have the same context.

Protestants, the Vatican and the Orthodox say that they all believe in the Bible, but it is obvious that they all do not mean the same thing when they say that: for the Protestants it is the Constitution, for the Vatican is Civil Code, for the Orthodox it is Case Law.

Fr. Anastasios said:
LBK said:
You also wrote:

Individual Fathers' quotes may be taken out of context, but it seems rather straightforward to discern the consensus of the Fathers based on a catholic reading of their works as a whole in context.

Straightforward? How does this square with the dozens of pages of debate on various topics on this forum (the supremacy of Peter being but one), where scripture and patristic quotes are flung around like missiles, leading to misunderstandings and discord?
As you know, this forum has members who are not Orthodox, members who are Orthodox who are educated well, people who are Orthodox but are unsure about the specifics of various points; etc.  In other words, we have a rather diverse group of people with differing levels of knowledge (I do not limit knowledge to intellectual of course). And this forum has a lot of adversarial threads where people who like to be difficult go round and round. Some people also like to see "room for opinion" where the issue has already been addressed at length by the Fathers.
I am speaking more in terms of discussions involving people who are experienced in living an Orthodox life and is well read in the Fathers, especially those who are men and women of prayer who are also well educated.  Those approaching the issue with the requisite training and in the proper mindset can discern the consensus of the Fathers.  For instance, St Gregory of Nyssa taught universal restoration--he was mistaken.  St Augustine taught predestination, and he was mistaken.  We can look at the writings of the Fathers and see if a majority of them taught the same thing, and especially see if a Council picked up on it.  This is, as you know, how the canons of St Basil became ecumenical; despite being of an individual Father, the Fathers of later councils recognized the catholicity of the writings and accepted them.  This a posteriori reception is what determines and confirms the consensus in my understanding.
The question to these quotes: did the seed of the Father fall on the good soil of the Church and bear good fruit?  Or did it fall on stoney ground, and never put down roots in the Church? Or worse, did it put down roots and reveal itself when it bore its bad fruit to be a weed, that the Fathers had to uproot or otherwise prune?  By their fruits, you will know them.  Universal restoration never put down roots.  Predestination grew into the weed of Calvinism and other bad fruit.  Basil's canonical letter put down roots and bore good fruit which the Church fed the faithful.


Fr. Anastasios said:
LBK said:
If people would only care to take the time to consider what the liturgical and iconographic deposit teaches us, which, after all, is the summation, the distillation of Apostolic teaching, correct and unambiguous, and universal among all Orthodox, irrespective of location, culture or language.
LBK, I fully agree with you here!  And I appreciate you reminding us to look at the liturgy and iconography first. You are doing us a service by this.  But my objection is to reduce it to this alone.  When you challenged Pravoslav09 and me to produce evidence of heresy in the liturgical deposit and ended it by saying "after all, lex orandi, lex credendi" it suggests that one could be perfectly Orthodox if he prays the right hymns, even if he is preaching heresy from the puplit, in his Encyclicals, etc.  That is what I am trying to understand from your thesis.

Fr Paul Tarazi was my professor of Scripture at St Vladimir's Seminary.  He felt that Orthodox people do not take Scripture seriously, so he deliberately spoke in a reductionist manner about Scripture being the ONLY source of our faith, etc. ad nauseum.  He would come out with rather hyperbolically extreme phrases and ideas based off this.  While most of us understood his point was to get people to take Scripture seriously as the foremost and primary thing instead of immediately running to modern Russian theologians of Paris school, etc., it had a rather jarring, divisive effect in my opinion. His overstatements caused confusion and surprise amongst many students and I am not sure in the end it led to his goal being met.  The reason I bring this up is that while I completely agree with you that liturgy and iconography has a primacy as a summary of our faith, I don't think we can say that they are all that is needed to prove any given point.

in Christ,

Fr Anastasios
Yes, treating Tradition like Sola Scriptura doesn't solve the problem.
 
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