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Dogma, Canons, and Opinions

Doubting Thomas

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As I continue to explore Orthodoxy, I turn again to the area of epistemology, specifically how does one know what is a required belief and what is just a pious opinion. I read with interest on the "Artificial Contraception" thread about various canons and whether or not they are still valid. Some would say the canons are time and situation specific, while others would say one "can't pick and choose; it's a package deal." Who is right? How does one know which canons represent dogmas that one must believe? How does one know the difference between dogma and widespread opinions? Can one know these things ahead of time? The Church is supposed to be an infallible authority, but how does the Church clearly communicate to the laity that doctrine from which there can be no deviation? There must be some set of core beliefs, for if all the various doctrines I've read about here are truly apart of some package deal, then many great Church Fathers should logically be outside the Church based on disagreement with some of these doctrines.

To me, this is a crucial issue. I've pretty much come to the point where I recognize both the historical and practical problems with Sola Scriptura, but I still wonder how dogmatic one can be about issues on which Scripture may be completely silent. I've read too many statements by the Fathers discussing the importance of finding support for teachings in the Scriptures to think we can dispense with them as a rule entirely. Where then does one find the definitive Orthodox teaching of Scripture, or even here are there certain areas (of Scripture) in which there is room for disagreement within Orthodoxy?
???
 

TomS

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DT,

If you have been reading the posts in the last week or two on this board, I think that you are aware that there are different levels of piety in Orthodox Praxis.

I would recommend that you find an Orthodox Church that you feel comfortable in and then follow the direction of the Priest in that Church.

 
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The Orthodox Church, the Church of Christ, possessing the Priesthood, the power of binding and loosening, "the keys" etc. (which are ultimatly held Personally, and essentially by Christ), governs the "rational sheep" who have come into Christ's flock. In particular, the fullness of this Priesthood (and all that comes with it) resides in the person of the Bishop (even the Presbyters do not have this fullness - for their ministry is dependent upon that of their ruling Bishop; as the Fathers taught, we are to receive the Bishop as Christ, the Presbyters as the Holy Apostles).

The Church has Her norms for all sorts of matters, including the establishment of set patters of feasting and fasting (both working towards the salvation of our souls.) However, it is given the pastors of souls (the Bishops, and by extension, the Presbyters they establish as elders amongst the faithful as extensions of their own ministry) to instruct and hold the faithful accountable to these norms.

I remember reading a story, written by a Priest who knew St.John of San Francisco as a child. The little boy was very zealous - he loved the Church, and even in childhood wanted to practice great feats of asceticism. Unfortunately, at times his zeal was excessive, in that other, greater goods were being ignored (and he was causing a great deal of worry for his parents.) So when his parents talked to St.John about this, he called the boy (who was an acolyte, and regularly assisted St.John in the Church) and informed him that by his excess in these regards, he was losing sight of greater goods (such as the great commandment of the Decalogue, listed even before the prohibition of against murder - honour your father and mother!). Given this, he asked his secretary to go to the local market to pick up some sausage, and told the boy to have a proper meal with it.

But the boy cried out "but Vladyka, it is Great Lent!" And this was certainly true. However, St.John, High Priest in Christ, and in possession of great wisdom and grace, knew that following the exactitude of the fast in this case would have done more harm than good. If anything, the child would not have learned the necessary humility St.John wanted to instill in him ASAP, had not something as lenient as this been ordered.

I know in my own experience (and this coming from a Bishop who has often been called an "extremist" and a "fanatic") that this kind of wise pastoral action still takes place. I know of one young man, who is waiting to be Baptized, who has in fact been told to observe something which is significantly less than what the rules of the Nativity Fast call for. Why? Because obviously this Bishop see's a greater good in this, for that particular soul.

Such pastoral direction, obviously, is different than self appointed exceptions, made by some people, who rather than admit they have sinned ("fallen short"), seek to justify their lapses (or outright defection from the fasts, as laid out upon the Church with a general force of authority) in all sorts of pious language, often confusing what they have personally chosen to do with the pastoral exceptions which are not for them to make (even in their own regard!)

Another important qualification - while it is true that Bishops (and to a degree, their Presbyters, or "Priests") have authority over the application of canonical norms in regard of their flock, this is not all that there needs to be said. For while they have the power to "bind and loose", they in no wise have the right (or ability!) to use this authority in such a way as to go outside of the teachings of the Church.

For example, it is a teaching of the Church that men are fallen, and without struggle (the ascetic "podvig" as Russian Christians would put it) they will not be able to save their souls (even with access to the Holy Mysteries and pious doctrine.) This was the motive for the Church generally insituting universal periods of fasting in the first place.

Given this, one has to be wary of any pastor who has made a point of governing the Church according to principles which are either at odds with those of the Church, or which heap scorn, and show utter indifference to these teachings. In doing such, even in small ways, they are acting in a heterodox manner, for their thought is outside of that of the Church.

Thus, in this case, one should be wary of any Priest who belittles fasting, or the need for struggle. Tell tale signs in our day (from what I've seen) seem to include innaccurate arguments like "the fasts are really only for monastics". Besides being completely untrue, it puts forth an even more devestating falsehood - that there is a fundamental difference between the vocation of the monk, and that of the layman. While you hear such ideas in heterodoxy, this is not Orthodox. All of us have the same goal, the same destiny, Bishop, Priest, Monk, or Layman. What differentiates the Monk from the layman, is not the goal, but the amount of time they have chosen to dedicate to the pursuing of this goal, and how radical they are willing to be in chasing after the Kingdom of God. This is why the Church teaches (as much as it might not suit our modern, egalitarian arrogance) that the vocation of the Monk is gold, while that of the married man is silver - neither is bad, neither is contranatural, but one is definately more "single minded" (or lends itself more readily to such) than the other.

To be told such things, is to receive advice which manifestly is opposed to the mind of the Church.

Seraphim
 

Linus7

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Please excuse me for saying it, but I think you are all missing the point of Doubting Thomas' post. He wasn't asking about fasting and whether or not it is optional or just for monks. He wasn't even asking about contraception, although he mentioned it in his post.

DT was asking how one can know what it is the Orthodox Church teaches on any particular issue.

I think that is a damned good question, if you will pardon my French.

We often read "the Church says this" or "the Church teaches that" (I've written it myself), but sometimes we see that said of mutually exclusive ideas.

How does one know what the Church teaches?

Ask the priest?

Priests disagree sometimes.

Ask the bishop?

Do they always agree?

Must one read all of the Fathers, the canons, and the Bible and try to build some sort of probable consensus for himself?

If one wants to know what the RCC teaches on a particular subject, it is fairly easy to pull out the CCC and look it up. If that proves unsatisfactory, one can send his question up the hierarchy all the way to the Vatican for an authoritative answer.

How does one find the truly Orthodox answer to any question?

I know I will get jumped on for this post, but I think I am simply clarifying Doubting Thomas' original post and attempting to cut through the fog so he can get a decent answer.

I am glad he asked the question, frankly, because this is something I have wondered about myself.

Am I wrong in my understanding of your original post, DT?



 

peterfarrington

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What issues are we talking about though? Are we talking about Christology? There's not much deviation there. Or the Trinity? Or the Holy Spirit? Or the veneration of saints? On 80% of stuff there is no problem whatsoever.

We are really left with issues like fasting, contraception, multi-jurisdictionalism etc etc. We do not have issues with the major issues of the Christian life.

There is no Encyclopaedia Orthodoxia with the right thing to believe in every situation. But it is only at the edges that the teaching of the Church is not very clear indeed.

What are the issues that Doubting Thomas is thinking of?

PT
 

Linus7

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peterfarrington said:
What issues are we talking about though? Are we talking about Christology? There's not much deviation there. Or the Trinity? Or the Holy Spirit? Or the veneration of saints? On 80% of stuff there is no problem whatsoever.

We are really left with issues like fasting, contraception, multi-jurisdictionalism etc etc. We do not have issues with the major issues of the Christian life.

There is no Encyclopaedia Orthodoxia with the right thing to believe in every situation. But it is only at the edges that the teaching of the Church is not very clear indeed.

What are the issues that Doubting Thomas is thinking of?

PT
Again, pardon me for saying it, but for a young couple contraception might be a much more pressing issue than whether or not our Lord had one or two wills.
 

peterfarrington

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Sure, but that's what I mean. We are not talking about a whole mess of disputed matters, just a few things really. The rest is pretty clear.

That's why I'm asking which issues it seems the Church does not speak clearly on. And I mean that as a genuine question not a poke in the eye. :)

PT
 

DerekMK

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Here is how I look at things....

Orthodoxy is a maximalistic faith (if that is a word!)

I am going to believe in everything the church teaches, even if it is "optional." Toll Houses may not be required to believe in for one's salvation, but if numerous saints believed in them why not? No has to believe in various miraculous apparitions and icons - but again why not? Sure there are cores of the faith that are the sina qua non to being Orthodox, but I think taking in everything one can is the best. It is these little "optional" beliefs that give sutble beauty and character to Orthodoxy.

 

peterfarrington

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I agree about the maximalism, but I find in myself I can be both believing and still not completely credulous. The idea of Toll Houses is something I can believe in as a concept but not need to defend as dogma. It's one of those things to be silent about and meditate on.

PT
 

DerekMK

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Toll houses are useful for number things...to help constantly remember death as the fathers say to...also I think it makes a good start when preparing for confession to go through the toll houses first. Saint Theophan the Recluse recomended that.
 

Linus7

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Nektarios: I am going to believe in everything the church teaches, even if it is "optional."
Great. Me too.

Doubting Thomas might be willing to say the same thing, as long as someone can point him to an authoritative source for what the Church actually teaches.
 

peterfarrington

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If it is optional then surely it is not something that the Church is dogmatic about and a certain reserve is called for.

Many Fathers have propounded theological opinions which the Church has neither received nor rejected. Surely there should be a measure of reflection and study in respect of these.

Maximalism of faith is entirely how we should live, but as Orthodox we are not called to be credulous, I have dealt with cyber-Orthodox before who say 'Oh it is written in the hagiography of such a saint that he had a dream about such and such so it must be Orthodox dogma'. That isn't how theology or praxis is developed in Orthodoxy.

If we aren't careful we end up proof-texting our faith from scattered references in obscure hagiographies and letters.

The authoritative teaching of what is required is completely clear. The rest is something we should reflect upon with humility rather than insist upon as dogma.

PT
 

Doubting Thomas

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I've been out of town for a few days. I appreciate the replies so far, but this post from Linus sums up what I had in mind:

Linus7 said:
Please excuse me for saying it, but I think you are all missing the point of Doubting Thomas' post. He wasn't asking about fasting and whether or not it is optional or just for monks. He wasn't even asking about contraception, although he mentioned it in his post.

DT was asking how one can know what it is the Orthodox Church teaches on any particular issue.
That's exactly what I was asking.

We often read "the Church says this" or "the Church teaches that" (I've written it myself), but sometimes we see that said of mutually exclusive ideas.

How does one know what the Church teaches?


How does one find the truly Orthodox answer to any question?

.

Am I wrong in my understanding of your original post, DT?

Nope, you were right on. These were the questions for which I was hoping to get answers. (Right now, though I have to go pick up the pizza :p ....)

 

peterfarrington

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Orthodoxy isn't primarily a system of ideas, it is primarily a community of faith. So it's hard to point to the Bumper Book of Orthodoxy as if that would have all the answers. It wouldn't have because Orthodoxy doesn't exist as a static system but as a dynamic mystical organism, the Body of Christ.

Of course that doesn't mean that there are no answers, there are answers to many questions that are always the same, but when it comes to praxis we rely much more on the dynamic relationships we have with priests and bishops than a static relationship with a book containing every canon ever proposed.

That's why I asked

What sort of questions?
If we are talking theology then generally the various statements and canons of the ecumenical councils, and fathers like St John of Damascus and his Exact Exposition, and the writings of St Cyril, St Athanasius, and the Cappadocian Fathers. These all teach the same things.

If we are talking about fasting, contraception, icon painting, how to enter a church, how to greet a priest, how to build a prayer life, etc etc then these do not have the same straightforward answers, or at least straightforward answers tend to be of the letter of the law not the spirit. For myself I have a great tendency to confuse having a book of canons, with keeping the canons, and confusing keeping the canons with being spiritual. For these questions we especially need relationships with spiritual people, priests and monks and nuns and bishops and even wise lay folk.

So again I need to ask, which questions?

PT
 

Doubting Thomas

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peterfarrington said:
Orthodoxy isn't primarily a system of ideas, it is primarily a community of faith. So it's hard to point to the Bumper Book of Orthodoxy as if that would have all the answers. It wouldn't have because Orthodoxy doesn't exist as a static system but as a dynamic mystical organism, the Body of Christ.

Of course that doesn't mean that there are no answers, there are answers to many questions that are always the same, but when it comes to praxis we rely much more on the dynamic relationships we have with priests and bishops than a static relationship with a book containing every canon ever proposed.
That sounds reasonable...and reassuring On the one hand, I want to be sure that dogmatic content of the Faith, especially in regard to God and Christ and how man is saved, has not changed. On the other, I want to know if the church I'm exploring is legalistic or not in its implementation of "praxis".

That's why I asked

What sort of questions?
I guess how one knows which are the dogmatic theological beliefs one is required versus: (1) what may be more the flexible (and perhaps situational) application of moral praxis, and (2) pious opinions such as "toll-houses" which may not be dogma. How does one objectively know the difference and who says?

If we are talking theology then generally the various statements and canons of the ecumenical councils, and fathers like St John of Damascus and his Exact Exposition, and the writings of St Cyril, St Athanasius, and the Cappadocian Fathers. These all teach the same things.
But don't even the Cappadocian Fathers occasionally disagree on some issues? For instance, was not Gregory of Nyssa a universalist of sorts?

It does seem that the canons and councils and creeds are more objective indicators of what one is to believe. OTOH, do not the ecumenical councils themselves derive their authority to an extent from their acceptance by the laity? For example, was not the council of Ephesus in 449 (the so-called "Robber Synod") rejected by the faithul despite having the external "trappings" of an ecumenical council? And are ALL the canons of the ecumenical council universally applicable or were some situational and how does one know which is which?

If we are talking about fasting, contraception, icon painting, how to enter a church, how to greet a priest, how to build a prayer life, etc etc then these do not have the same straightforward answers, or at least straightforward answers tend to be of the letter of the law not the spirit. For myself I have a great tendency to confuse having a book of canons, with keeping the canons, and confusing keeping the canons with being spiritual. For these questions we especially need relationships with spiritual people, priests and monks and nuns and bishops and even wise lay folk.
But again, some Orthodox believers on this forum maintain that contraception, for instance, is wrong PERIOD. Others disagree. Who is it that can say authoritatively which category it falls in? Perhaps I'm asking for too much, but if I'm supposed to be a "maximalist" I want to know all I'm supposed to believe, nothing more and nothing less. (Or is "maximalist" a nebulous concept with no definite boundaries?) I want to know how one can tell the difference between Apostolic Tradition and non-dogmatic "traditions" without resorting to circular reasoning.
 

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Doubting Thomas: It does seem that the canons and councils and creeds are more objective indicators of what one is to believe. OTOH, do not the ecumenical councils themselves derive their authority to an extent from their acceptance by the laity? For example, was not the council of Ephesus in 449 (the so-called "Robber Synod") rejected by the faithul despite having the external "trappings" of an ecumenical council?
What are the means for the faithful to reject the decisions of a council as quickly as the Latrocinium was rejected?

Did they all vote on it?

It was Pope St. Leo the Great who declared Ephesus 449 the "Robber Synod."

Here is an excerpt from the Council of Chalcedon:

Lucentius, the most reverend bishop having the place of the Apostolic See, said: Let him [Dioscorus] give a reason for his judgment. For he undertook to give sentence against one over whom he had no jurisdiction. And he dared to hold a synod without the authority of the Apostolic See, a thing which had never taken place nor can take place.

Evidently one of the problems with the Robber Synod was that it was held "without the authority of the Apostolic See" (Rome).

I know I am opening up a can of worms with this post, but it does seem to me that the prime earthly mover in rejecting Ephesus 449 was Pope St. Leo the Great, not the laity of the Church.



 

peterfarrington

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Well Ephesus 449 wasn't rejected so quickly. The Emperor wrote into the record that everything had been conducted there in devout and godly order. And in 473 AD, just 24 years after Ephesus, 700 bishops including all those of Asia Minor and the See of Jerusalem signed this statement:

"For we are satisfied with the doctrine and faith of the apostles and of the holy fathers, the three hundred and eighteen bishops; to which also the illustrious Council of the one hundred and fifty in the Royal City, and the two other holy Synods at Ephesus adhered, and which they confirmed."

Linus7 is correct that it was the animosity of Pope Leo which denigrated this council. He was miffed because it had been called, as were many other general councils, without his approval. Lucentius, the papal legate, merely reflects the growing un-Orthodox doctrine of papal supremacy which was influencing Rome especially under Leo.

Likewise, Doubting Thomas, Chalcedon was rejected by half of the Church, yet it gained authority because in the end the Emperor supported it after about 518 AD. And Chalcedon is still rejected by my own communion as an ecumenical, that is authoritative, event.

What does this mean? Does it mean utter confusion? Not at all. It merely reminds us that the Church is more than an organisation or institution and that all of its earthly life is to some extent provisional because it is a synergy between God and man.

Let us look at Chalcedon. It is rejected by my Oriental Orthodox communion and accepted by the Eastern Orthodox. But in fact if we take the time to consider what is taught and what is rejected it is the same. Even after 1500 years it is the same. Now if two communities separated by history for 1500 years still believe the same then it can't be too hard to discover what that truth is.

Must go to LOTR now. Will post more later.

PT

 

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peterfarrington said:
What does this mean? Does it mean utter confusion? Not at all. It merely reminds us that the Church is more than an organisation or institution and that all of its earthly life is to some extent provisional because it is a synergy between God and man.
Right. I have been saying this all along. But I am always getting dumped on because the "Church is Inafflible"

What is your response to that Peter?

 

peterfarrington

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Hi Tom,

I believe the Church is infallible in that it will not fail. I believe that it teaches the truth. But I am also convinced that it is fully and perfectly human while being the Body of Christ.

I think I believe that to consider any human event as infallible - meaning a priori unable to teach any error - is itself Eutychianism. Nor do I think I believe it is appropriate to consider any human document as having ultimate authority in itself.

Let me explain because this is in fact a topic I have been trying to study for some years.

We do not believe in a Koran, or in Joseph Smith's rose tinted spectacles. Our Scriptures, and our wider Tradition did not drop from heaven. There is no Bumper Book of Everything Orthodox.

Let us take the first phrase of the Nicaean Creed:

"I/We believe in One God"

Now this has a clear meaning for those of us within Orthodoxy, and indeed within traditional Christianity. Yet a Muslim could also confess a completely different faith using the same words. The words are provisional. They are not the Koran. Saying them over and over doesn't make the reality true unless the concept we have in mind is true when we use the words that stand as a symbol for what we mean.

Does it mean the Creed is useless? God forbid. But it does mean that it only has Orthodox meaning and Orthodox content within a community that has the Orthodox faith and life which the Creed stands to delimit. Human words and human events are always tempered with misundestanding, ambiguity and confusion. We see now as in a glass dimly.

That does not mean our Orthodox faith is not liable to understanding and description. I am clear what is true on all of the major doctrines. I am clear what the spiritual science of the Church is. I know when I should fast and I know why I should fast.

But I think I reject infallibility as an Orthodox concept because it seems rather to have developed as a result of the influence of Papal Infallibility and Biblical Infallibility.

What I prefer is the concept of truth. Truth has its own authority. In the terms of the human/divine synergy which is the life of the church, in the writings of the fathers, in the statements and canons of the smallest to the largest councils, we see the divine, but we should not fail to see the human.

Let me take the Tome of Leo. If I take the 'infallible' line then I guess I am stuck with confessing it as the greatest impiety, and you are stuck confessing it as without error and the most sublime truth. But if I seek to understand what is meant by even the controversial passages, and if I seek to understand what is understood by the modern EO in these difficult passages, and if an EO seeks to understand why certain passages seem controversial and where the language might have been ambiguous and provisional then we can discover that we have the same substantial and conceptual base for our Christology.

How does the 'infallible' church line cope with the fact that 700 bishops all sign a document swearing that without any duress and with their own free will they repudiate Nestorianism and the Tome and Chalcedon? And then they sign a document saying that they only signed the previous one under duress and really accept the Tome and Chalcedon? They were all lying in one document or the other. Many of the signatories had been at Chalcedon, they weren't Alexandrian bishops. Only a few bishops seemed to have principles and refused to sign either the first document, or in other cases the second document.

This teaches me that bishops are people too. They are influenced by circumstances, politics, misunderstandings, ignorance and prejeudices. It teaches me that church history is not black and white. It teaches me that I need to read widely round a situation to try and get a rounded and fair appreciation of circumstances.

With this in mind I can hold together both the EO and the OO points of view. I am completely convinced that the OO is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. But I am also able to see why and where and how the division between the OO and the EO took place. Where the misunderstandings happened on both sides. What the influences were that prevented reconciliation taking place.

The truth is infallible. And if I have said anything true in this post it has its own authority. But it is mixed with all of my own confusions and inadequacies. The documents of the first three councils also have the authority of the truth, but there are passages that can certainly be understood in a variety of manners. This is why other councils have been necessary to exclude wrong understandings. We do not have a Christian Koran.

If Chalcedon was perfect then why was Constantinople II necessary to exclude Nestorian interpretations of it? It doesn't mean that Chalcedon taught error, it means that Chalcedon was a human/divine event, not a Eutychian divine event subsuming the human. It means that like all human words it could be understood in one way, or another, or any number of other ways. And the fact of its provisionality is shown by the division which it caused in the Church.

I am not a liberal at all. I am probably as traditional as ROCOR from my own COP tradition. I am not a modernist revisionist. I can sniff out heresy if there is any in any EO poster I deal with. When my priest preaches I listen intently to his theology while benefitting from his spirituality. But I am becoming convinced that the modern search for a single locus of authority which is found among some Orthodox, either in words or in a person, is wrong and is not found in the Tradition.

This post exhibits all of the human fallibility which I am trying to contend is a feature of the provisionality of the Christian life this side of the veil of death, but do you get a sense of what I am trying to say? TomS, what is your response?

PT
 

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peterfarrington said:
This teaches me that bishops are people too. They are influenced by circumstances, politics, misunderstandings, ignorance and prejeudices.
And let's not forget "free will".

peterfarrington said:
It teaches me that church history is not black and white. It teaches me that I need to read widely round a situation to try and get a rounded and fair appreciation of circumstances.
Yep.

peterfarrington said:
TomS, what is your response?
I believe that even a superficial reading of Church history makes it quite clear that the Church is not infallible, and cannot be so while it exists/participates in this world and is administered by humans. Because in order for it to be perfect then "free will" must be removed from the equation. And if that has happened, then it is no longer about faith, but about slavery.

The Church is ONLY perfect and infallible when it is fully rejoined with Christ at the end of this age.

Yes, the Truth the Church teaches (i.e., such as the Faith as embodied in the Creed) is infallible, but the day to day operations of the church as administered by humans is not infallible.

 

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Hi TomS

I agree with what you say. But many folk don't even have a superficial reading of church history. Or accept only a one-sided history forged in polemical circumstances, not only in respect of EO/OO but even in terms of ROCIE/ROCOR/MP mythologising which is distinct both from real history and from Tradition.

PT
 

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peterfarrington said:
But I am becoming convinced that the modern search for a single locus of authority which is found among some Orthodox, either in words or in a person, is wrong and is not found in the Tradition.
Perhaps this is closest to an answer to my questions I'll get.
 

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Hiya

There really are answers to all of your questions, but depending on the question they may be more or less authoritative. Our Lord God does not reveal all of His secrets to men, we see in a glass darkly at the moment. Do we know how God made the world? Yet we believe with complete faith as entirely authoritative that He did.

Am I sure that my wife loves me? Yes indeed. But there is no book that can authoritatively prove to me that it is so. But neither is it a mere hope unfounded on any evidence.

PT
 

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peterfarrington said:
Hiya

There really are answers to all of your questions, but depending on the question they may be more or less authoritative. Our Lord God does not reveal all of His secrets to men, we see in a glass darkly at the moment. Do we know how God made the world? Yet we believe with complete faith as entirely authoritative that He did.

Am I sure that my wife loves me? Yes indeed. But there is no book that can authoritatively prove to me that it is so. But neither is it a mere hope unfounded on any evidence.

PT
Good points.
 

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Why did I become Orthodox?

Humanly speaking it was because, as someone with a deep love for history, I came to see, through some reading of the Apostolic Fathers especially, that there was a huge weight of evidence that showed that the early church wasn't how I'd been taught at all. In fact the mere existence of the writings of the Apostolic Fathers was a revelation to me.

Pretty soon I saw that there was a historical continuity between say the well documented 3rd century, through the 2nd century and back through the disciples of the Apostles. I found so much evidence which convinced me that if there was a coherent Christian theology in the 3rd century which self-consciously rooted itself in that of the 2nd and earlier centuries, then this was the theology I had to follow to. It took a little longer to connect that to a living Orthodox community in the 20th century, but I knew what I needed to conform myself to.

I'm not saying this at all to convert you. But I'm trying to express that it was not one book, although +Kallistos' The Orthodox Church was useful, but a weight of historical continuity which convinced me that this church was where the truth was at, rather than me adding doctrines slowly to a list of which ones I considered to be true. I needed to just soak up what that church taught rather than construct a set of doctrines and find a church which fit them.

Now as to how to conform to the Orthodox praxis and faith, well I find it a bit like programming. I program in PHP all the time as a freelance web developer, but I am not a code geek who knows absolutely everything about PHP. I learn what I need as the circumstances demand. And using the same technique I know enough of loads of languages to code and get paid for it.

You can't start by knowing everything, and you'll not be likely to know everything at the end, and even knowing in an academic sense, which I don't deprecate, is not the same as 'knowing'. But there is an important core which you can and should learn as part of a catechesis. St Cyril of Jerusalem had a programme he took his catechumens through. Read it at : - http://www.ccel.org/fathers2/NPNF2-07/TOC.htm. This was what he considered they needed to know.

For the rest we grow by reading, praying, asking, studying and obeying.

PT
 

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PT,

Thanks for the post. I'm being drawn to Orthodoxy for the same reason--historical continuity. In the past I would take my Baptist beliefs and then judge early Christians by whether or not they conformed to those beliefs. How arrogant of me! I still may subconsciously have that tendency to an extent, but at least now I don't believe the entire organized Church went into apostasy after the apostles died! (I supposed that the true Baptist-like Christians survived "underground" so to speak--the whole "Trail of Blood" theory of Baptist successionism.)

Looking at the evidence there seems to have an important interrelationship between Church, Tradition, and Scripture among the early Christians that has continued on in the historic Church through out the centuries. This is very appealing to me given the flaws of Sola Scriptura as an epistemological method. However, I guess I still have a tendency to want to have everything in a neat orderly package. Therefore I'm perplexed when I read of the "split" in AD 451 following Chalcedon wondering who is right and how one knows. Your approach to answering that seems to be a very reasonable one.

At any rate, I'm still on the road to Orthodoxy and hope to visit a (relatively) nearby parish next Sunday.
 

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peterfarrington said:
Well Ephesus 449 wasn't rejected so quickly. The Emperor wrote into the record that everything had been conducted there in devout and godly order. And in 473 AD, just 24 years after Ephesus, 700 bishops including all those of Asia Minor and the See of Jerusalem signed this statement:

"For we are satisfied with the doctrine and faith of the apostles and of the holy fathers, the three hundred and eighteen bishops; to which also the illustrious Council of the one hundred and fifty in the Royal City, and the two other holy Synods at Ephesus adhered, and which they confirmed."

Linus7 is correct that it was the animosity of Pope Leo which denigrated this council. He was miffed because it had been called, as were many other general councils, without his approval. Lucentius, the papal legate, merely reflects the growing un-Orthodox doctrine of papal supremacy which was influencing Rome especially under Leo.

Likewise, Doubting Thomas, Chalcedon was rejected by half of the Church, yet it gained authority because in the end the Emperor supported it after about 518 AD. And Chalcedon is still rejected by my own communion as an ecumenical, that is authoritative, event.

What does this mean? Does it mean utter confusion? Not at all. It merely reminds us that the Church is more than an organisation or institution and that all of its earthly life is to some extent provisional because it is a synergy between God and man.

Let us look at Chalcedon. It is rejected by my Oriental Orthodox communion and accepted by the Eastern Orthodox. But in fact if we take the time to consider what is taught and what is rejected it is the same. Even after 1500 years it is the same. Now if two communities separated by history for 1500 years still believe the same then it can't be too hard to discover what that truth is.

Must go to LOTR now. Will post more later.

PT
I don't have much time to post right now, and I have not visited this board for a couple of days now.

But your post, Peter, seems to me to reflect a most "unorthodox" view of the proceedings at Chalcedon and a very unhealthy disrespect for Pope St. Leo the Great.

If Lucentius' statement reflected some kind of growing Roman heterodoxy, then why did NONE of the bishops assembled at Chalcedon attempt to contradict him?

Why did they ALL proclaim that "Peter has spoken through Leo"?

What is the source and context of this quote?

"For we are satisfied with the doctrine and faith of the apostles and of the holy fathers, the three hundred and eighteen bishops; to which also the illustrious Council of the one hundred and fifty in the Royal City, and the two other holy Synods at Ephesus adhered, and which they confirmed."
How could Ephesus 449 have been approved by any Orthodox bishops, since it reinstated Eutyches and deposed (without the authority to do so) the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, Flavian (who was exiled and died a martyr as a result)?

Ephesus 449 was just what Pope St. Leo the Great named it: the Robber Synod.
 

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Hi Linus7

The quote comes from the Encyclical of Emperor Basiliscus in about 474 and was signed by about 500-700 bishops, most of them what would now be called Eastern Orthodox, including the entire synods of Asia Minor at Ephesus and those of the province of Jerusalem.

History is not black and white.

Eutyches was restored because he presented an Orthodox confession of faith. Is this not reasonable? On what basis was the heretic Theodoret restored at Chalcedon?

Ephesus 449 is not beyond criticism, as is Chalcedon, and Flavian. But are you aware that Ephesus 449 anathamatised the Three Chapters 100 years before the Eastern Orthodox? Were they wrong to do that? Were they wrong to restore a man who offered an Orthodox confession? And on what basis do you suggest that general councils could not depose bishops? Surely this happened all of the time.

PT
 

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peterfarrington said:
Hi Linus7

The quote comes from the Encyclical of Emperor Basiliscus in about 474 and was signed by about 500-700 bishops, most of them what would now be called Eastern Orthodox, including the entire synods of Asia Minor at Ephesus and those of the province of Jerusalem.

History is not black and white.

Eutyches was restored because he presented an Orthodox confession of faith. Is this not reasonable? On what basis was the heretic Theodoret restored at Chalcedon?

Ephesus 449 is not beyond criticism, as is Chalcedon, and Flavian. But are you aware that Ephesus 449 anathamatised the Three Chapters 100 years before the Eastern Orthodox? Were they wrong to do that? Were they wrong to restore a man who offered an Orthodox confession? And on what basis do you suggest that general councils could not depose bishops? Surely this happened all of the time.

PT
Well, as I understand it, Ephesus 449 was not a legitimate council. It and Dioscorus lacked the authority to depose the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, St. Flavian, who was condemned to prison, where he died.

I do not know about Eutyches' supposed Orthodox confession, since the Latrocinium was controlled by his allies, but he was ultimately exiled for his heretical ideas in 459.

If those assembled at Ephesus in 449 were right about the Three Chapters, that does not legitimize their council. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

I am not familiar with the encyclical to which you refer. Certainly it cannot be considered as EO endorsement and/or rehabilitation of the Latrocinium. You still have not supplied its historical context. Why did those bishops sign it?

The portion of the encyclical you quoted reads:

"For we are satisfied with the doctrine and faith of the apostles and of the holy fathers, the three hundred and eighteen bishops; to which also the illustrious Council of the one hundred and fifty in the Royal City, and the two other holy Synods at Ephesus adhered, and which they confirmed."

Are we certain that one of "the two other holy Synods at Ephesus" was Ephesus 449?

That does not seem likely, since Ephesus 449 had already been rejected by the Church and declared illegitimate at Chalcedon. Why would any Orthodox bishop - which in 474 included the bishops of the West - refer to the Latrocinium as "holy"?

Your statement -

"He [Pope St. Leo the Great] was miffed because it had been called, as were many other general councils, without his approval. Lucentius, the papal legate, merely reflects the growing un-Orthodox doctrine of papal supremacy which was influencing Rome especially under Leo" -

seems to me to be wholly unjustified and insufficiently respectful.

You assume the Pope held nothing more than a primacy of honor, so anything that seems to contradict that idea must therefore be unorthodox. Yet no bishop present at Chalcedon rose to contradict Lucentius, nor did any bishop contradict the other papal legate, Paschasinus, when he referred to the Pope as "head of all the churches."

Because of your assumptions you accuse a saint and doctor of the Church of fostering "the growing un-Orthodox doctrine of papal supremacy" and that saint's apparently innocent representative, Lucentius, of "reflecting" that growing heterodoxy.

Could it be that Lucentius and Paschasinus were right in what they said at Chalcedon, and that the Fathers assembled there offered no protest because they knew this?

Perhaps the authority exercised by St. Leo was not reflective of a growing Roman heterodoxy. Perhaps it reflects instead the incorrectness of the notion of a mere "primacy of honor".



 

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Linus7,
Your original argument, while initially not devoid of merit, is slowly taking on a priori overtones. What I seem to be getting by your insistence on what defined papal authority is that perhaps you have fallen into a trap of sorts. That trap being that the schism over papal authority began with Photios and ended with 1054. This is increasingly becoming clear as a WESTERN version and as such, meant to defend Rome's position. History belies this.
In fact, the schism began truly in the mid-fifth century with Chalcedon as the major event and the initial loss of the Oriental communion as a result. But this schism CONTINUED as a process as the newly emerging assertive papal claims proceeded (and their consequences better realized); continued through Photios; then to 1054. So, the period of Chalcedon does expose the first rumblings of papal assertions. Remember these events occurred a mere century or so from the time the Church became "official" and the arguments about church government seem to take on the mirrored aspect of the secular Roman state's governmental model and that model affecting the Church's attempts at definitions (yes, this is probably a protestant position against both RCC and Orthodoxy, but that does not make it untrue.)
For four or five centuries the Church has no real problem with the role of the See of Rome - primacy definitions were not acute arguments - and then suddenly there are problems? (Rome accepts Chalcedon as ecumenical, except for Canon 28 elevating Constantinople's status. Then accepts Canon 28 in 1215 after it installs a Latin in Constantinople. Give me a break...I don't buy it.)
"The Great Schism" is a myth - a revision- which I now see supports the very western positions that eventually saw the Church of Rome remove itself fully from the rest of the (Orthodox) Church. Communion may have been maintained, but the split had begun.

Demetri
 

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Linus7

I think I'll drop out here so that I don't become argumentative. You seem to only be willing to consider the historical description produced by post-Chalcedonian polemics, and I think you live with a rather idealistic understanding of church history.

I'll go do some study and more considered writing rather than just fire off shots here

God bless you
 

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+æ-ü+¦-â-ä+++¦+++«-é:
Your original argument, while initially not devoid of merit, is slowly taking on a priori overtones. What I seem to be getting by your insistence on what defined papal authority is that perhaps you have fallen into a trap of sorts. That trap being that the schism over papal authority began with Photios and ended with 1054. This is increasingly becoming clear as a WESTERN version and as such, meant to defend Rome's position. History belies this.
In fact, the schism began truly in the mid-fifth century with Chalcedon as the major event and the initial loss of the Oriental communion as a result.
Whoa!

So you agree with Peter that the statements of the two papal legates at Chalcedon - and the apparent acceptance of those statements by the bishops assembled there - reflects "the growing un-Orthodox doctrine of papal supremacy which was influencing Rome especially under Leo" ?

If that is the case I don't think it is me who has fallen into the trap.

I have never seen an Orthodox writer interpret the Holy ECUMENICAL Council of Chalcedon in such a way, which, last time I checked, remains one of the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Church.

It is perhaps also important to recall that it is Pope St. Leo the Great who remains a saint of the Orthodox Church, not Dioscorus of Alexandria or Eutyches.

I don't think my point of view is a priori at all. I read Church history for what it is. When I first began reading it, my assumptions were Protestant, and I expected to find Protestantism vindicated by it. Lately, when I read Church history, my assumptions are EO. I expected a mere primacy of honor for the bishops of Rome. If I see more than that, blame history, not my assumptions.

I think reading a growing heterodoxy and the precursor of the East-West Schism into the Tome of St. Leo and the statements of his legates at Chalcedon is dangerous and represents the real a priori reasoning.

If one begins with the assumption that the popes held nothing more than a primacy of honor, when he reads the remarks of Paschasinus and Lucentius at Chalcedon he might exclaim, "Aha! The beginnings of unorthodox papal supremacy!"

What of the alternative - that perhaps the bishops of Rome held something more than a mere primacy of honor?

+æ-ü+¦-â-ä+++¦+++«-é: But this schism CONTINUED as a process as the newly emerging assertive papal claims proceeded (and their consequences better realized); continued through Photios; then to 1054. So, the period of Chalcedon does expose the first rumblings of papal assertions. Remember these events occurred a mere century or so from the time the Church became "official" and the arguments about church government seem to take on the mirrored aspect of the secular Roman state's governmental model and that model affecting the Church's attempts at definitions (yes, this is probably a protestant position against both RCC and Orthodoxy, but that does not make it untrue.)
For four or five centuries the Church has no real problem with the role of the See of Rome - primacy definitions were not acute arguments - and then suddenly there are problems? (Rome accepts Chalcedon as ecumenical, except for Canon 28 elevating Constantinople's status. Then accepts Canon 28 in 1215 after it installs a Latin in Constantinople. Give me a break...I don't buy it.)
"The Great Schism" is a myth - a revision- which I now see supports the very western positions that eventually saw the Church of Rome remove itself fully from the rest of the (Orthodox) Church. Communion may have been maintained, but the split had begun.

Demetri
I think you are making a mistake to see the roots of heterodoxy in a 5th century council acclaimed by the Church as holy and ecumenical.

Remember, the statements made by the two papal legates were received without protest by the Fathers assembled there, and St. Leo's Tome was acclaimed as the voice of St. Peter.



 

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peterfarrington: The quote comes from the Encyclical of Emperor Basiliscus in about 474 and was signed by about 500-700 bishops, most of them what would now be called Eastern Orthodox, including the entire synods of Asia Minor at Ephesus and those of the province of Jerusalem.
I did a little checking on the Emperor Basiliscus and his encyclical called The Encyclion.

He was a usurper who briefly overthrew the lawful Emperor Zeno. According to Warren Treadgold's A Concise History of Byzantium, Basiliscus "offended most Constantinopolitans by favoring Monophysitism" (p. 54). Basiliscus held the throne for twenty months.

Besides the quote from his Encyclion that you provided, that document also said this:

"We decree that all the bishops of the world shall anathematize, and give to the flames, the Tome of Leo and all that was done at Chalcedon in the matter of faith."

As Emperor, Basiliscus managed to pressure a large number of Eastern bishops to sign The Encyclion.

Although he condemned Eutyches, Basiliscus approved of Ephesus 449.

His actions were the precursors to the Acacian Schism, which occurred after the rightful Emperor Zeno regained the throne in 476.

The actions of Basiliscus were reminiscent of the policies of the Arianizing emperors of the previous century, who held synods with loads of compliant bishops and almost managed to subvert Nicea and the Symbol of Faith.

Obviously, an imperial letter such as The Encyclion, even when signed by hundreds of seemingly Orthodox bishops, cannot be regarded as superseding the authority of an ecumenical council of the Church, such as Chalcedon.

 

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My point was the 700 bishops signed it swearing that they were not under any pressure to do so.

Many of them then swore that they had been pressurised.

They were lying on one occasion.

Would you anathamatise Chalcedon? Why did they? They were bishops and you are a lay person.

Under Zeno they then signed another encyclical which set aside Chalcedon, the Henotikon.

Why would they do that under the 'lawful' Emperor as well as under Basiliscus? It is also highly problematic to speak of lawful and usurping Emperors. They were all, by this time, usurpers of one sort or another. That is how the succession worked.

Let me quote from Fr John Romanides, a conservative, ultra-Orthodox theologian:

"Here we are faced with a Pope Leo who knowingly or willfully or unknowingly supported a heretical and yet unrepentant Theodoret of Cyrus. Theodoret was allowed by unknown means to quietly manifest his " repentance" for the first time, even though attending the Council only as an accuser, by becoming a member of the committee which was appointed to examine the Tome of Leo to see if it indeed agrees with the Twelve Chapters of St. Cyril."

"It is important to note that Theodoret's profession of the faith of Cyril and the Third Ecumenical Council at session VIII of the Council of Chalcedon was accompanied by much hesitation on his part and Episcopal cries of " Nestorian" against him. This is a clear proof that had Dioscoros accepted to appear before the Council and face Theodoret his accuser, he would have certainly been cleared in his fight against this Nestorian enemy of Cyril. He would have been found at least doctrinally, if not canonically, excusable for his excommunication of Leo for his support of this Nestorian. Dioscoros and his bishops excommunicated Leo upon approaching Chalcedon and learning that the legates of Pope Leo were insisting that Theodoret must participate as a member of the Council. Leo insisted upon this in spite of the fact that Theodoret had never yet accepted the Third Ecumenical Council, the Twelve Chapters of Cyril, the condemnation of Nestorius, nor the re-conciliation of 433 between John of Antioch and Cyril of Alexandria. It seems that the Chalcedonian Orthodox must let these facts sink into their heads and take them seriously."

"The question is now raised whether there were substantial grounds for Dioscoros' excommunication of Leo of Rome. It would further seem possible to argue that this excommunication was somewhat like that of Cyril's excommunication of Nestorius when the latter refused to subscribe to the Twelve Chapters. Cyril did this with the full support of the Pope Celestine of Rome. But in the case before us in 451 we have Pope Leo of Rome himself who is being excommunicated by Pope Dioscoros of Alexandria. The reason behind this is the simple fact that Pope Leo was in reality repudiating His predecessor's support of Cyril's Twelve Chapters by supporting a fanatic enemy of Cyril and his Twelve Chapters."

"The realization of the implications about Leo's support for Theodoret are interesting indeed in view of those who support Franco-Latin Papal theories about the magisterium of their medieval papacy"

I would be interested in your comments on Fr John Romanides', of blessed memory. comments, since I find myself in agreement with him, as an Eastern Orthodox theologian of great repute - he is I mean, not me.
 

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Linus7 said:
If that is the case I don't think it is me who has fallen into the trap.

I have never seen an Orthodox writer interpret the Holy ECUMENICAL Council of Chalcedon in such a way, which, last time I checked, remains one of the Seven Ecumenical Councils of the Church.

It is perhaps also important to recall that it is Pope St. Leo the Great who remains a saint of the Orthodox Church, not Dioscorus of Alexandria or Eutyches.
I don't remember my comment involving the Tome of Leo at all.

If one begins with the assumption that the popes held nothing more than a primacy of honor, when he reads the remarks of Paschasinus and Lucentius at Chalcedon he might exclaim, "Aha! The beginnings of unorthodox papal supremacy!"

What of the alternative - that perhaps the bishops of Rome held something more than a mere primacy of honor?
As I've said before, you and I do not disagree here. But you do bring up an interesting point: How was one to tell at THAT time that these actions, which would result in ever-increasing papal excess, had begun here?

I think you are making a mistake to see the roots of heterodoxy in a 5th century council acclaimed by the Church as holy and ecumenical.

Remember, the statements made by the two papal legates were received without protest by the Fathers assembled there, and St. Leo's Tome was acclaimed as the voice of St. Peter.
You persist in seeking black/white definitions and to deny that political influences marked Chalcedon. I am not arguing the Tome or the Church's acceptance of it as part of the Ecumenical Fourth Council. BUT I am arguing that Rome accepted Chalcedon EXCEPT where it did not want to; specifically Canon 28. So, how ecumenically canonical was Rome being? It only recogized that canon 764 years later when it was in its interest to do so (apparently). SO, YES, I do see the seeds of schism sprouting here.

Demetri
 

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If I can also add to Fr John Romanides comments which you may wish to remark upon, since I do not think it could be said that he is disrespectful to the council or Leo, just truthful.

What of the fact that the heretical letter of Ibas, which was condemned at Constantinople II in 553 was accepted as orthodox by the papal legates acting on the authority of Leo, and was considered as Orthodox by parts of the West until as late as 700 AD.

The Roman legates said:

"Having read the papers we realize that the decision of the bishops with reference to Ibas had been irresponsibly given. After reading his letter we know that he is Orthodox".

The legates therefore chose to consider the opinion of Ephesus 449 as irresponsible with regard to Ibas because Rome considered the letter of Ibas to be Orthodox.

Yet at Ephesus in 449 the bishops had said, when the letter was read,

"These things defile the hearing. They befit the pagans"

and this is what Constantinople 553 says,

"When, therefore, we saw that the followers of Nestorius were attempting to introduce their impiety into the church of God through the impious Theodore, who was bishop of Mopsuestia, and through his impious writings; and moreover through those things which Theodoret impiously wrote, and through the wicked epistle which is said to have been written by Ibas to Maris the Persian, moved by all these sights we rose up for the correction of what was going on, and assembled in this royal city called thither by the will of God and the bidding of the most religious Emperor."

and

"In the third place the letter which is said to have been written by Ibas to Maris the Persian, was brought forward for examination, and we found that it, too, should be read. When it was read immediately its impiety was manifest to all. "

and

"IF anyone shall defend that letter which Ibas is said to have written to Maris the Persian, in which he denies that the Word of God incarnate of Mary, the Holy Mother of God and ever-virgin, was made man, but says that a mere man was born of her, whom he styles a Temple, as though the Word of God was one Person and the man another person; in which letter also he reprehends St. Cyril as a heretic, when he teaches the right faith of Christians, and charges him with writing things like to the wicked Apollinaris. In addition to this he vituperates the First Holy Council of Ephesus, affirming that it deposed Nestorius without discrimination and without examination. The aforesaid impious epistle styles the XII. Chapters of Cyril of blessed memory, impious and contrary to the right faith and defends Theodore and Nestorius and their impious teachings and writings. If anyone therefore shall defend the aforementioned epistle and shall not anathematize it and those who defend it and say that it is right or that a part of it is right, or if anyone shall defend those who have written or shall write in its favour, or in defence of the impieties which are contained in it, as well as those who shall presume to defend it or the impieties which it contains in the name of the Holy Fathers or of the Holy Synod of Chalcedon, and shall remain in these offences unto the end: let him be anathema."

So this is saying that the papal legates are anathema, and indeed most of the Western church because they all defended the letter of Ibas, more than that they declared it Orthodox and insisted that Chalcedon received it as Orthodox.

How are the papal legates at Chalcedon not heretical for declaring a document Orthodox that had already been condemned in 449 as heretical, and was declared obviously heretical in 553.

 

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peterfarrington:
My point was the 700 bishops signed it swearing that they were not under any pressure to do so.

Many of them then swore that they had been pressurised.

They were lying on one occasion.
Which brings up an interesting question: how does one reconcile the statements of one set of hundreds of bishops with the contradictory statements of another set of hundreds of bishops?

This question goes right to the root of the issue of authority in the Church.

All of the leading bishops of the Eastern Church signed the Formula of Hormisdas in 519 under the Emperor Justin, thus ending the Acacian Schism.

Here it is:

"The first condition of salvation is to keep the norm of the true faith and in no way to deviate from the established doctrine of the Fathers. For it is impossible that the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, who said, 'Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church," (Mt. 16:18), should not be verified. And their truth has been proved by the course of history, for in the Apostolic See the Catholic religion has always been kept unsullied. From this hope and faith we by no means desire to be separated and, following the doctrine of the Fathers, we declare anathema all heresies, and, especially, the heretic Nestorius, former bishop of Constantinople, who was condemned by the Council of Ephesus, by Blessed Celestine, bishop of Rome, and by the venerable Cyril, bishop of Alexandria. We likewise condemn and declare to be anathema Eutyches and Dioscoros of Alexandria, who were condemned in the holy Council of Chalcedon, which we follow and endorse. This Council followed the holy Council of Nicaea and preached the apostolic faith. And we condemn the assassin Timothy, surnamed Aelurus and also Peter of Alexandria, his disciple and follower in everything. We also declare anathema their helper and follower Acacius of Constantinople, a bishop once condemned by the Apostolic See, and all those who remain in contact and company with them. Because this Acacius joined himself to their communion, he deserved to receive a judgment of condemnation similar to theirs. Furthermore, we condemn Peter of Antioch with all his followers together with the followers of all those mentioned above.
Following, as we have said before, the Apostolic See in all things and proclaiming all its decisions, we endorse and approve all the letters which Pope St. Leo wrote concerning the Christian religion. And so I hope I may deserve to be associated with you in the one communion which the Apostolic See proclaims, in which the whole, true, and perfect security of the Christian religion resides. I promise that from now on those who are separated from the communion of the Catholic Church, that is, who are not in agreement with the Apostolic See, will not have their names read during the sacred mysteries. But if I attempt even the least deviation from my profession, I admit that, according to my own declaration, I am an accomplice to those whom I have condemned. I have signed this, my profession, with my own hand, and I have directed it to you, Hormisdas, the holy and venerable pope of Rome."


Among those who signed this document were the Emperor Justin and John, the Patriarch of Constantinople.

Whether or not one agrees with the Formula of Hormisdas or The Encyclion of Basiliscus, the point is that those two documents were mutually contradictory and exclusive of one another.

Yet, at their respective times, they were signed by the leaders of the Eastern Church!

What gives?

How does the average believer know whom to believe?

We also know that, under the Arianizing emperors of the 4th century, a number of Post Nicene Arian synods were held to which numerous bishops subscribed. A couple of those synods condemned and exiled St. Athanasius and a number of other men now regarded as Orthodox saints.

peterfarrington: Would you anathamatise Chalcedon? Why did they? They were bishops and you are a lay person.
No, I would not.

I suspect they signed Basiliscus' Encyclion under imperial pressure and perhaps through the desire to restore the "Monophysites" to communion.

Bishops have done a lot of things they should not.

What does that do to Eucharistic Ecclesiology?

How does the average believer know to which bishops he should listen?

peterfarrington: Under Zeno they then signed another encyclical which set aside Chalcedon, the Henotikon.
Exactly, which was the cause of the Acacian Schism, the schism ended by the Formula of Hormisdas I quoted above.

Seemingly Orthodox bishops signed Basiliscus' Encyclion and Acacius' Henotikon, both of which contradicted the Council of Chalcedon.

Orthodox bishops signed The Formula of Hormisdas, in turn contradicting The Encyclion and the Henotikon and reaffirming Chalcedon.

So, with whom does ecclesiastical authority reside?

With the signatories of the most recent Church documents, even when they contradict earlier ones?

peterfarringtom: Why would they do that under the 'lawful' Emperor as well as under Basiliscus? It is also highly problematic to speak of lawful and usurping Emperors. They were all, by this time, usurpers of one sort or another. That is how the succession worked.
The language of the Henotikon was less extreme than that of Basiliscus' Encyclion. It did not actually condemn or anathematize Chalcedon but left judgment of that Council up to the individual ( an interesting sort of proto-Protestant idea).

I agree that whether or not Basiliscus was a usurper macht nichts. The lawful Emperor Zeno was almost as wrongheaded with his endorsement of Acacius' Henotikon.


peterfarrington: Let me quote from Fr John Romanides, a conservative, ultra-Orthodox theologian:

"Here we are faced with a Pope Leo who knowingly or willfully or unknowingly supported a heretical and yet unrepentant Theodoret of Cyrus. Theodoret was allowed by unknown means to quietly manifest his " repentance" for the first time, even though attending the Council only as an accuser, by becoming a member of the committee which was appointed to examine the Tome of Leo to see if it indeed agrees with the Twelve Chapters of St. Cyril."

"It is important to note that Theodoret's profession of the faith of Cyril and the Third Ecumenical Council at session VIII of the Council of Chalcedon was accompanied by much hesitation on his part and Episcopal cries of " Nestorian" against him. This is a clear proof that had Dioscoros accepted to appear before the Council and face Theodoret his accuser, he would have certainly been cleared in his fight against this Nestorian enemy of Cyril. He would have been found at least doctrinally, if not canonically, excusable for his excommunication of Leo for his support of this Nestorian. Dioscoros and his bishops excommunicated Leo upon approaching Chalcedon and learning that the legates of Pope Leo were insisting that Theodoret must participate as a member of the Council. Leo insisted upon this in spite of the fact that Theodoret had never yet accepted the Third Ecumenical Council, the Twelve Chapters of Cyril, the condemnation of Nestorius, nor the re-conciliation of 433 between John of Antioch and Cyril of Alexandria. It seems that the Chalcedonian Orthodox must let these facts sink into their heads and take them seriously."

"The question is now raised whether there were substantial grounds for Dioscoros' excommunication of Leo of Rome. It would further seem possible to argue that this excommunication was somewhat like that of Cyril's excommunication of Nestorius when the latter refused to subscribe to the Twelve Chapters. Cyril did this with the full support of the Pope Celestine of Rome. But in the case before us in 451 we have Pope Leo of Rome himself who is being excommunicated by Pope Dioscoros of Alexandria. The reason behind this is the simple fact that Pope Leo was in reality repudiating His predecessor's support of Cyril's Twelve Chapters by supporting a fanatic enemy of Cyril and his Twelve Chapters."

"The realization of the implications about Leo's support for Theodoret are interesting indeed in view of those who support Franco-Latin Papal theories about the magisterium of their medieval papacy"

I would be interested in your comments on Fr John Romanides', of blessed memory. comments, since I find myself in agreement with him, as an Eastern Orthodox theologian of great repute - he is I mean, not me.
Romanides' analysis contradicts what I have read about Theodoret in Volume 1 of Jaroslav Pelikan's The Christian Tradition. According to him, Theodoret crafted a "compromise document" which stated " a union of two natures has taken place, and therefore we confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord" (p. 263). Pelikan says this document was signed by St. Cyril himself.

Remember that Theodoret anathematized Nestorius at Chalcedon.

It is seems to me that Romanides' comments reflect anachronistic thinking.

Theodoret of Cyrrhus died in 466.

The "Three Chapters" were not condemned until almost one hundred years later, in 553, at the Council of Constantinople.

It is true that Theodoret was probably at least a semi-Nestorian prior to 451, but, according to the article on him in The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (p. 1360), he abandoned Nestorianism after Chalcedon.

I am not defending Theodoret of Cyrrhus. The attack on St. Cyril in some of his writings was incorrect and unjustified.

But I don't see the actions of Pope St. Leo the Great as "supporting a fanatic enemy of Cyril and his Twelve Chapters."

Remember that, according to Pelikan - one of the foremost scholars on Church history and doctrine - Theodoret and St. Cyril reached an accord through a document written by Theodoret himself.

If Theodoret was at one time a "fanatic enemy" of St. Cyril, it does not seem that he remained one all his life.

I would rather not get side-tracked into a discussion of Theodoret of Cyrrhus.

I would rather stay focused on the subject of authority in the Church and how one knows what it is the Church actually teaches, since that is the actual topic of this thread.

 

peterfarrington

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Pelikan is wrong if he taught that Theodoret and Cyril ever reached agreement, and surely Fr John Romanides is as great a scholar as Pelikan and has the advantage of writing from within the Orthodox tradition.

When St Cyril died Theodoret wrote a congratulatory letter to Leo taking great pleasure in his death and saying that a heavy stone should be put on his grave to prevent him coming back.

Theodoret spent much of his life writing against St Cyril whom he considered a heretic. Yet Leo of Rome was in constant contact with him and Theodoret appears to have been in communion with him.

You have been happy to criticise Ephesus 449 but you seem unwilling to allow any criticism of Leo or Chalcedon. Why was Ibas' heretical letter considered Orthodox by the papal legates? Why was the heretic Theodoret placed on the commission to draw up a new statement of faith even before he had very reluctantly anathematised Nestorius?

The Three Chapters were first condemned in 449, it was the Chalcedonians under the influence of the papal legates which un-condemned them for 100 years.

How can this be? If the writings were so obviously blasphemous in 449 and 553?

Are you saying that Fr John Romanides is wrong to say the things he does about Leo? He says that Chalcedon is the beginning of what became the full blown doctrine of papal supremacy. And are you saying that Fr John is wrong to say that Leo was worthy of censure and that excommunication was an understandable response to his support for an open heretic? Theodoret refused to anathematise Nestorius for 20 years and had been deposed for heresy in 449. Why was the Pope such a good friend to him?
 
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