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Is infallibility an Orthodox concept?

Alveus Lacuna

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Does the concept of infallibility or any close equivalent appear throughout the history of Orthodoxy, or is it mainly limited to responses to the Latin church and its various Protestant children?

I always hear of a kind of locus of truth being around who or what the infallible source of authority is, be it pope or bible or council or whatever. But after years of being immersed in Orthodoxy it just seems like a strange and foreign concept, and when I hear certain Orthodox apologists refer to the seven ecumenical councils as our infallible source of doctrine, it just seems like a very odd way to respond to me.
 

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The Church can certainly be described as infallible in some ways as I understand it. Think of Christ the Teacher and his pronouncement that "my words shall never fail." His living Church, in time and eternity, is the deposit of such living and unfailing truth. "The Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you of all things." As a practical example, we hold the Symbol of Faith (the Creed) to be infallibly trustworthy for all Christians of all ages.
 

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Part of it revolves around the question: what does infallible mean? Is it a matter of knowledge and trust, or hope/faith and trust? (of course these can all work together, but it is also important that sometimes they don't) I would argue that all the things in the Scriptures and pre-Christian Jewish culture, was discussing the type of trust that leans towards faith and hope, that doesn't have to do with evidence in the head so much as evidence in the belly and heart. When the Old Testament says things like "Be still, and know that I am God," or "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God," it is talking about such things as it relates to daily life and dangerous enemies and having faith and placing your hope in God, and not reasoning and rational argumentation. The "evidence" God gives in the OT of his existence isn't really something you can have academic debates over, like what economic theory is best or when/where/how the native Americans initially spread throughout the Americas. Rather it is the stuff of burning bushes and manna from heaven and seas parting.

The atheist mentioned in the Psalms isn't condemned for being an atheist because he did 4 years of thorough analysis of all the philosophical reasons for the existence of God, but decided that the evidence was not sufficient to accept that 'hypothesis.' He is condemned because, for the Psalmist, someone who was an atheist simply didn't seek God, and didn't want to seek God, and was probably wicked (something mentioned in the atheist-related verses in the Psalms which was later repeated by Jesus, in part for example in the famous Jn. 3:16-21).

Atheists sometimes mention Judg. 1:19: "And the Lord was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron." For some people whose concept of infallibility rests in the rationality kind of trust, this seems like an absurd passage then--how can God be all-powerful and all the other omni-stuff and yet be thwarted by chariots of iron?  (so they say "aha aha!" as if in victory). But the rest of the chapter gives an indication of what the problem is: it is not that God is not strong enough, but rather that the humans are not faithful and consistent enough. The text says: "And the Lord said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand." And this resulted in quite a few victories, but there was a line in the sand, and at some point Jewish hope and reliance on God faltered.

Verse 19 is pretty much the turning point of the chapter. Before that is victory, victory, victory. Then verse 19 begins with "And the Lord was with Judah." Yet from that point on almost everything is about the mixed results the Jews got because they only do as they were supposed to do some of the time. Someone could (and probably has) written a five-volume work on this theme/type of story, because it's seen in the OT constantly: God promises, people agree to cooperate, God helps, people falter because they lack faith or become greedy or desire comfort or something else, so God leaves them to their own devices, which eventually ends up coming back to haunt the Jews.

Now, it would seem to me that this continued into the early Church. People did not trust God, as experienced in the Christian context, because of irrefutable proofs or some sort of infallibility based in evidence or authorities. If there was anything like infallibility, it was based in trust in God, experience and activity; the temptation to trust in a text, a custom or liturgy, or a person, as some kind of guarantee of God's favor or help was the same type of temptation that the OT had mentioned over and over. It's easy to simply trust X [Bible, Church Fathers, Pope] as being unable to err or mislead--it's great peace of mind. But the peace of mind God called us to is in him, and not in humans (at most it is through humans, but we cannot assume that). Trusting Moses was good, but putting your faith in him as though infallible was not. Trusting in victories God gave you, even land and such, was fine; but slacking off and thinking the land and stuff proved that God would be with you was to misunderstand. What we see are merely the instruments in the hands of God; if those instruments are separated from the hands of God then they are no longer properly/best guided by him, and are no longer a 'guarantee' of success.

Thus the Eastern view, then and now (more or less), of Peter and primacy and Roman infallibility: sure Rome has a primacy, it's a bulwark, it's the place you appeal to when others seem dreadfully wrong or lost, and so on. Until... it falls, falters, rebels, becomes lukewarm, or whatever. That is, until it wiggles its way out of the hand of God; the devil cannot take Christians from the hand of God, but that does not mean that God forces Christians to remain in his hand if they insist to be left go of. This happens with individuals, but is usually only really felt in a noticeable way when a whole lot of people get release like this. Then the people, as a group and as individuals, are no longer part of a visible manifestation of the spiritual cooperation of God and man. They become humans trying to do their best in seeking that which they want, with varying degrees of help, opposition, inspiration and rejection from God. In essence, Rome has primacy as long as she is faithful, and even is infallible (in a we-can-trust-them in our day-to-day-living sense, not a factually-correct-for-all-time-and-in-all-ways sense) as long as she is faithful. But this isn't how we often use the term infallible--or how it has come to be used, anyway. And if infallibility is going to indicate some kind of  perfection of things, then it seems like a term best left out.

But as for the part that things like faith, trust, human faults, etc., plays, conditional infallibility seems to me to be the only one that makes sense (lol, irony) anyway. There could be no such thing as infallibility in a vacuum. There is no such thing as something-infallible=end of discussion. There are always layers of stuffs (that is the precise theological term) between such theoretical infallibility and the people who populate the earth. A Protestant speaks of the infallible Epistle to the Ephesians, for example. But there are conditions: the translator/editors/etc. must not have warped the text to a harmful degree (they must be faithful to the original), and the person reading it must understand it correctly, whether interpreting it or 'being open to the Holy Spirit teaching you' (the reader must be faithful and spiritually ready). And there might be other conditions: perhaps a certain word means X, but they don't realize it and think it means Y; in that case the Protestant might say that the Holy Spirit would have to wait until the person learned the X meaning before God could truly open up to that reader the meaning.

Whatever may be true in theoretical systems, there's no such things as bare infallibility in practice. Whether we are speaking of the Pope/anti-Pope issue, or who decides (and how) what counts as an Ecumenical Council, or what sort of (supposedly infallible?) process is followed to decide which books are in the (infallible?) Bible, infallibility could never be alone. Assurance, even 'perfect assurance,' would always take place within personal experience, within human contexts (if we are discussing humans, and not, say, angels), and including all dangers for mistaken understandings, distortions and other problems that come with that.

So is that really infallibility? I think the term unhelpful, since it seems to not be taken in the above way by most people. If, along the lines of the above, a distinction between inerrant and infallible could be worked out and popularized, then maybe. Or perhaps  if it's just understood that that concept of infallibility is not about some kind of fixed, immutable thing, but rather something 'fixed' because, God, but which must have a second (or more) elements align properly with it (humans being the second element, and 'aligning' probably meaning a whole lot of stuffs) if it is to have some real-world relevance and concrete use.

Really, though, it seems more psychological than anything. We talk about assurance because that comforts us, or reassures us that we're on the right track, or aren't screwing things up royally. But infallibility or no--text, bishop, council, prophet, whatever--you can get to where you want to be only with trust/faith/hope in God. You can get there without a single letter of written Scripture, without ever having heard of Nicea, and without ever being told the Pope of Rome declared yada-yada-yada. Those things are helpful, and it's not that their reliability is meaningless, it's just that infallibility vs. non-infallibility probably doesn't, or maybe just shouldn't, have a lot to do with our getting to God. And if it does have a lot to do with things as they are for us, if we have a heavy reliance or need on that kind of visible authority or guarantee, maybe that's a bad thing and not a good thing?


(Sorry for the ramble)

tl;dr (is there such a thing as infallibility? is it an orthodox concept?)
maybe, maybe not; why does a person think it matters? and does the reason that they think it matters, matter?

whether there is or isn't, the focus has to be on God anyway
OR
trust in the examples of God working in the world (councils, etc.) is natural and good; reliance on those workings as though they are perfect is dangerous; near-complete reliance is antichrist

some would say they need to see/know of an infallible authority before placing/continuing their trust, but that's a methodological and practical dead end at best
 

Asteriktos

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Sorry if my wall bunches of text discouraged other posts. I also realise that the post didn't include much in the way of Fathers/theologians. So, fwiw here are two other things that come to mind...

Christ promised that "I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it" (Matt. 16:19), and this is about trust and above all faith, not correct knowledge. The response that St. Peter had given was from God (Matt. 16:17), it was "wisdom from above" (3:17), yet a literary stone's throw later St. Peter is being called a 'satan' (Matt. 16:21-23). To the extent that Peter's faith, beliefs, and statements were true and in line with God's will, they could be the foundation of the entire Church. Yet with one well-meaning misstep and he's rebuked as an adversary. I think there's a good reason seen here that there are so many different perspectives on the famous Peter/Church verses in Matt. 16. People often see this as an X vs. Y thing, where we have to decide what the correct interpretation is: is the rock Peter, Peter+confession, Peter+personal faith+confession, confession/truth alone, confession made in faith, or something else? It seems like it's all of them to some extent, because there can be no Church if any of those are missing. St. Ambrose is perhaps thinking along these lines when he says: "Your rock is your deed, your rock is your mind. Upon this rock your house is built. Your rock is your faith, and faith is the foundation of the Church. If you are a rock, you will be in the Church, because the Church is on a rock. If you are in the Church the gates of hell will not prevail against you" (Commentary in Luke) Yes the Church is a rock, yes the faith is a rock, but what good is that if you aren't in it, if you are acting wickedly, if you believe heretical things, and so on? Everything is intertwined together.

And more anecdotally, there is a 4th century Pope of Rome glorified as a saint by the Orthodox, but not by Catholics, by the name of Liberius. His story (partially recorded in Theodoret's Ecclesiastical History, 2.13-14) is an interesting look into the 4th century mixture of councils, politics, bishops, faith, and heresies. I don't think too much can be drawn from this one example, but it does seem to me to capture well the general tone/perspective of the church's teachings.
 

TheTrisagion

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I usually get bored with walls of text, but I thought that one was very good, Asteriktos.  :)
 

byhisgrace

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I have a question: If infallibility is not an Orthodox concept, then what did Christ mean when He said that whatever the Apostles bind/loose on Earth will be bound/loosed in heaven (Matthew 18:18)? What did Paul mean when he said that the Church is the Pillar and Foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15)? If the Church is fallible and thus vulnerable to make mistakes in determining doctrine, then wouldn't that render those verses to be mere exaggerations?

Thanks.
 

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byhisgrace said:
I have a question: If infallibility is not an Orthodox concept, then what did Christ mean when He said that whatever the Apostles bind/loose on Earth will be bound/loosed in heaven (Matthew 18:18)? What did Paul mean when he said that the Church is the Pillar and Foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15)? If the Church is fallible and thus vulnerable to make mistakes in determining doctrine, then wouldn't that render those verses to be mere exaggerations?

Thanks.
Can you explain what about "bind and loose" implies "infallibility" to you?
 

Alveus Lacuna

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Porter ODoran said:
byhisgrace said:
I have a question: If infallibility is not an Orthodox concept, then what did Christ mean when He said that whatever the Apostles bind/loose on Earth will be bound/loosed in heaven (Matthew 18:18)? What did Paul mean when he said that the Church is the Pillar and Foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15)? If the Church is fallible and thus vulnerable to make mistakes in determining doctrine, then wouldn't that render those verses to be mere exaggerations?

Thanks.
Can you explain what about "bind and loose" implies "infallibility" to you?
With my apostolic authority, I bind all raccoons!
 

byhisgrace

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Porter ODoran said:
byhisgrace said:
I have a question: If infallibility is not an Orthodox concept, then what did Christ mean when He said that whatever the Apostles bind/loose on Earth will be bound/loosed in heaven (Matthew 18:18)? What did Paul mean when he said that the Church is the Pillar and Foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15)? If the Church is fallible and thus vulnerable to make mistakes in determining doctrine, then wouldn't that render those verses to be mere exaggerations?

Thanks.
Can you explain what about "bind and loose" implies "infallibility" to you?

Because God cannot lie (and thus His Kingdom cannot lie), I would think that the phrase "whatever you bind on Earth shall be bound in heaven" would imply infallibility. In other words, Christ seems to imply that whenever the Apostles decide to bind something, God in His kingdom will do so as well.



The Jewish Encyclopedia seems to confirm this understanding (which is relevant, because Matthew wrote his Gospel primarily to a Jewish audience):

http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/3307-binding-and-loosing said:
Rabbinical term for "forbidding and permitting." The expression "asar" (to bind herself by a bond) is used in the Bible (Num. xxx. 3 et seq.) for a vow which prevents one from using a thing. It implies binding an object by a powerful spell in order to prevent its use (see Targ. to Ps. lviii. 6; Shab. 81b, for "magic spell"). The corresponding Aramean "shera" and Hebrew "hittir" (for loosing the prohibitive spell) have no parallel in the Bible.

The power of binding and loosing was always claimed by the Pharisees. Under Queen Alexandra, the Pharisees, says Josephus ("B J." i, 5, § 2), "became the administrators of all public affairs so as to be empowered to banish and readmit whom they pleased, as well as to loose and to bind." This does not mean that, as the learned men, they merely decided what, according to the Law, was forbidden or allowed, but that they possessed and exercised the power of tying or untying a thing by the spell of their divine authority, just as they could, by the power vested in them, pronounce and revoke an anathema upon a person. The various schools had the power "to bind and to loose"; that is, to forbid and to permit (Ḥag. 3b); and they could bind any day by declaring it a fast-day (Meg. Ta'an. xxii.; Ta'an. 12a; Yer. Ned. i. 36c, d). This power and authority, vested in the rabbinical body of each age or in the Sanhedrin (see Authority), received its ratification and final sanction from the celestial court of justice (Sifra, Emor, ix.; Mak. 23b).

In the New Testament.
In this sense Jesus, when appointing his disciples to be his successors, used the familiar formula (Matt. xvi. 19, xviii. 18). By these words he virtually invested them with the same authority as that which he found belonging to the scribes and Pharisees who "bind heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but will not move them with one of their fingers"; that is, "loose them," as they have the power to do (Matt. xxiii. 2-4). In the same sense, in the second epistle of Clement to James II. ("Clementine Homilies," Introduction), Peter is represented as having appointed Clement as his successor, saying: "I communicate to him the power of binding and loosing so that, with respect to everything which he shall ordain in the earth, it shall be decreed in the heavens; for he shall bind what ought to be bound and loose what ought to be loosed as knowing the rule of the church." Quite different from this Judaic and ancient view of the apostolic power of binding and loosing is the one expressed in John xx. 23, where Jesus is represented as having said to his disciples after they had received the Holy Spirit: "Whosesoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosesoever sins ye retain, they are retained." It is this view which, adopted by Tertullian and all the church fathers, invested the head of the Christian Church with the power to forgive sins, the "clavis ordinis," "the key-power of the Church."
 

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Thank you for explaining your thinking a little. Personally, I feel fairly sure that "binding and loosing" is not the same concept as infallibility.

The Jewish Encyclopedia is not really relevant to our Evangelists, no. If we look at "binding and loosing" (and in another Gospel it is put as "binding and forgiving" [Greek terms used about debts]) at face value, we notice that it is a practical concept, one with action inherent in it, one with, one would assume, frequent decision-making behind it. Further, if we look at the context, we see that whatever this activity is, it is a work that joins with the work of Heaven (synergeia).

While, on the other hand, "infallibility" tends to be used about passive and permanent perceptions by the Church of Heavenly truth.

Perhaps it is true that the concepts are coincidental in the character of the Church -- I don't think so, but I may be wrong -- but I really don't think that the concepts in any way imply each other, or certainly not that the "binding and loosing" scriptures can be proof-texts for "infallibility."


[Edited to add: Your Jewish source, which, as I said, is hardly relevant to our Gospel -- also contradicts itself. First saying Christian "binding and loosing" is forbidding and permitting, and then saying it is forgiving sins.]
 

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Yeah, you may be right. I did some research on both Chrysostom's and Origen's commentaries of Matthew 18. Seems that neither of them interpreted that verse the way I did. They interpreted that the power of binding and loosing is, more or less, the authority to discipline sinners, and decide whether to condemn or forgive them. This makes sense, in light of the immediate context of Matthew 18:18
 

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mcarmichael said:
Was that directed to the OP, or my comment above? (Most likely the former. Just want to make sure)
 

Mor Ephrem

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mcarmichael said:
Be careful.  As a non-Orthodox, your participation in this section is limited:

Faith Issues: Discussion and debate, no polemics.  This forum is for the discussion of issues pertaining to the Orthodox Faith (EO, OO, Old-Cal).  Discussion of topics by those of other faiths should be restricted in this area; this is especially true viz-a-viz their own faith (i.e. non-Orthodox faiths), on which they should only comment to correct misunderstandings or misstatements, not to further their agenda or dispute Orthodox teachings (they should go to the Free-For-All or the Private fora for that).

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php?action=rules
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One occasionally encounters Orthodox saying that ecumenical councils are infallible. Exactly what they mean isn't clear, but if one parallels it with the claims of Papal infallibility, it would seem they are saying that ecumenical councils are protected from teaching error. Of course, like the difficulty of defining an "ex cathedra" statement, the difficulties of defining what makes a council ecumenical renders this concept of infallibility rather useless.

So, while Orthodox may occasionally talk about infallibility, it does nothing to establish the certainty which they hope it will.
 

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Iconodule said:
One occasionally encounters Orthodox saying that ecumenical councils are infallible. Exactly what they mean isn't clear, but if one parallels it with the claims of Papal infallibility, it would seem they are saying that ecumenical councils are protected from teaching error. Of course, like the difficulty of defining an "ex cathedra" statement, the difficulties of defining what makes a council ecumenical renders this concept of infallibility rather useless.

So, while Orthodox may occasionally talk about infallibility, it does nothing to establish the certainty which they hope it will.
If you think you can't know if a Council can be ecumenical, then you're not really Orthodox, are you?
 

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Porter ODoran said:
If you think you can't know if a Council can be ecumenical
That's not what I said. The issue is how councils are recognized as ecumenical, what that means, and where infallibility fits into this. I think it's clear that the Orthodox Church does not automatically recognize any large, global meeting of bishops as ecumenical, even when such councils sometimes declare themselves to be such. Saying "ecumenical councils are infallible" seems to frame such councils as reliable institutional structures irrespective of their content or their reception by the Church. That, at least, is how Papal infallibility is intended. Or, if infallibility is accorded to a council only when it is recognized by the Church as ecumenical on the basis its orthodoxy, then how is infallibility a separate concept from truth? How does this concept move us along any closer to certainty than when we simply said, "This council teaches the truth?" And why is truth not enough for us, that we need to propose infallible institutions apart from the Body of Christ as a whole?
 

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Porter ODoran said:
Iconodule said:
One occasionally encounters Orthodox saying that ecumenical councils are infallible. Exactly what they mean isn't clear, but if one parallels it with the claims of Papal infallibility, it would seem they are saying that ecumenical councils are protected from teaching error. Of course, like the difficulty of defining an "ex cathedra" statement, the difficulties of defining what makes a council ecumenical renders this concept of infallibility rather useless.

So, while Orthodox may occasionally talk about infallibility, it does nothing to establish the certainty which they hope it will.
If you think you can't know if a Council can be ecumenical, then you're not really Orthodox, are you?
If you can't do history correctly, then you really don't know what you're talking about do you?

Large swathes of the Church rejected the Second Council of Nicaea, yet it is considered ecumenical. Eventually a large swath of the Church rejected the Council of Florence, yet it is NOT considered ecumenical. Square that circle or stop accusing people.
 

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Rohzek said:
NicholasMyra said:
If our access to infallible content is itself fallible, what good is infallibility?
Finally!
Not that I accept this statement on any terms, but it does seem analogous to if we asked scientists to give up the various scientific units of measurement, since, if men are fallible, why kid ourselves that fractions of inches are worse than angstroms?
 

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Rohzek said:
Porter ODoran said:
Iconodule said:
One occasionally encounters Orthodox saying that ecumenical councils are infallible. Exactly what they mean isn't clear, but if one parallels it with the claims of Papal infallibility, it would seem they are saying that ecumenical councils are protected from teaching error. Of course, like the difficulty of defining an "ex cathedra" statement, the difficulties of defining what makes a council ecumenical renders this concept of infallibility rather useless.

So, while Orthodox may occasionally talk about infallibility, it does nothing to establish the certainty which they hope it will.
If you think you can't know if a Council can be ecumenical, then you're not really Orthodox, are you?
If you can't do history correctly, then you really don't know what you're talking about do you?

Large swathes of the Church rejected the Second Council of Nicaea, yet it is considered ecumenical. Eventually a large swath of the Church rejected the Council of Florence, yet it is NOT considered ecumenical. Square that circle or stop accusing people.
Your examples serve rather to illustrate the Orthodox belief in Ecumenical Councils than to rebut it. Regardless, it is part of Orthodoxy to believe in the ecumenical truth of the three (or seven, or eight) Ecumenical Councils, and someone who rejects this is -- to repeat myself -- hardly Orthodox.
 

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Porter ODoran said:
Rohzek said:
Porter ODoran said:
Iconodule said:
One occasionally encounters Orthodox saying that ecumenical councils are infallible. Exactly what they mean isn't clear, but if one parallels it with the claims of Papal infallibility, it would seem they are saying that ecumenical councils are protected from teaching error. Of course, like the difficulty of defining an "ex cathedra" statement, the difficulties of defining what makes a council ecumenical renders this concept of infallibility rather useless.

So, while Orthodox may occasionally talk about infallibility, it does nothing to establish the certainty which they hope it will.
If you think you can't know if a Council can be ecumenical, then you're not really Orthodox, are you?
If you can't do history correctly, then you really don't know what you're talking about do you?

Large swathes of the Church rejected the Second Council of Nicaea, yet it is considered ecumenical. Eventually a large swath of the Church rejected the Council of Florence, yet it is NOT considered ecumenical. Square that circle or stop accusing people.
Your examples serve rather to illustrate the Orthodox belief in Ecumenical Councils than to rebut it. Regardless, it is part of Orthodoxy to believe in the ecumenical truth of the three (or seven, or eight) Ecumenical Councils, and someone who rejects this is -- to repeat myself -- hardly Orthodox.
Now you've changed the argument. Neither I nor Iconodule reject the 7 councils as ecumenical. What we openly question is whether there is an infallible criteria to determine what is or what is not ecumenical. I repeat my request: square the circle or stop accusing people.
 

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NicholasMyra said:
If our access to infallible content is itself fallible, what good is infallibility?
That's a good point
 

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Porter ODoran said:
Rohzek said:
NicholasMyra said:
If our access to infallible content is itself fallible, what good is infallibility?
Finally!
Not that I accept this statement on any terms, but it does seem analogous to if we asked scientists to give up the various scientific units of measurement, since, if men are fallible, why kid ourselves that fractions of inches are worse than angstroms?
There is a school of thought in mathematics that does exactly that.
 

mcarmichael

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byhisgrace said:
mcarmichael said:
Was that directed to the OP, or my comment above? (Most likely the former. Just want to make sure)
Towards the OP. I suppose there may be a philosophical argument for it (infallibility), but I always think of the feast of the Triumph of Orthodoxy. However, as Mor Ephrem noted, I am not a convert (yet!) My perspective may be off.
 

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Porter ODoran said:
Rohzek said:
Porter ODoran said:
Iconodule said:
One occasionally encounters Orthodox saying that ecumenical councils are infallible. Exactly what they mean isn't clear, but if one parallels it with the claims of Papal infallibility, it would seem they are saying that ecumenical councils are protected from teaching error. Of course, like the difficulty of defining an "ex cathedra" statement, the difficulties of defining what makes a council ecumenical renders this concept of infallibility rather useless.

So, while Orthodox may occasionally talk about infallibility, it does nothing to establish the certainty which they hope it will.
If you think you can't know if a Council can be ecumenical, then you're not really Orthodox, are you?
If you can't do history correctly, then you really don't know what you're talking about do you?

Large swathes of the Church rejected the Second Council of Nicaea, yet it is considered ecumenical. Eventually a large swath of the Church rejected the Council of Florence, yet it is NOT considered ecumenical. Square that circle or stop accusing people.
Your examples serve rather to illustrate the Orthodox belief in Ecumenical Councils than to rebut it. Regardless, it is part of Orthodoxy to believe in the ecumenical truth of the three (or seven, or eight) Ecumenical Councils, and someone who rejects this is -- to repeat myself -- hardly Orthodox.
Is it the ecumenical truth that is infallible or is it the "three (or seven, or eight," or whatever number the Holy and Great Council came up with) Ecumenical Councils that are infallible? People who accuse tend to believe it is the councils that are intrinsically infallible, not the ecumenical truth of the councils.
 

Porter ODoran

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Remnkemi said:
Porter ODoran said:
Rohzek said:
Porter ODoran said:
Iconodule said:
One occasionally encounters Orthodox saying that ecumenical councils are infallible. Exactly what they mean isn't clear, but if one parallels it with the claims of Papal infallibility, it would seem they are saying that ecumenical councils are protected from teaching error. Of course, like the difficulty of defining an "ex cathedra" statement, the difficulties of defining what makes a council ecumenical renders this concept of infallibility rather useless.

So, while Orthodox may occasionally talk about infallibility, it does nothing to establish the certainty which they hope it will.
If you think you can't know if a Council can be ecumenical, then you're not really Orthodox, are you?
If you can't do history correctly, then you really don't know what you're talking about do you?

Large swathes of the Church rejected the Second Council of Nicaea, yet it is considered ecumenical. Eventually a large swath of the Church rejected the Council of Florence, yet it is NOT considered ecumenical. Square that circle or stop accusing people.
Your examples serve rather to illustrate the Orthodox belief in Ecumenical Councils than to rebut it. Regardless, it is part of Orthodoxy to believe in the ecumenical truth of the three (or seven, or eight) Ecumenical Councils, and someone who rejects this is -- to repeat myself -- hardly Orthodox.
Is it the ecumenical truth that is infallible or is it the "three (or seven, or eight," or whatever number the Holy and Great Council came up with) Ecumenical Councils that are infallible? People who accuse tend to believe it is the councils that are intrinsically infallible, not the ecumenical truth of the councils.
And what would motivate the hairsplitting your post discusses?
 

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Porter ODoran said:
Remnkemi said:
Porter ODoran said:
Rohzek said:
Porter ODoran said:
Iconodule said:
One occasionally encounters Orthodox saying that ecumenical councils are infallible. Exactly what they mean isn't clear, but if one parallels it with the claims of Papal infallibility, it would seem they are saying that ecumenical councils are protected from teaching error. Of course, like the difficulty of defining an "ex cathedra" statement, the difficulties of defining what makes a council ecumenical renders this concept of infallibility rather useless.

So, while Orthodox may occasionally talk about infallibility, it does nothing to establish the certainty which they hope it will.
If you think you can't know if a Council can be ecumenical, then you're not really Orthodox, are you?
If you can't do history correctly, then you really don't know what you're talking about do you?

Large swathes of the Church rejected the Second Council of Nicaea, yet it is considered ecumenical. Eventually a large swath of the Church rejected the Council of Florence, yet it is NOT considered ecumenical. Square that circle or stop accusing people.
Your examples serve rather to illustrate the Orthodox belief in Ecumenical Councils than to rebut it. Regardless, it is part of Orthodoxy to believe in the ecumenical truth of the three (or seven, or eight) Ecumenical Councils, and someone who rejects this is -- to repeat myself -- hardly Orthodox.
Is it the ecumenical truth that is infallible or is it the "three (or seven, or eight," or whatever number the Holy and Great Council came up with) Ecumenical Councils that are infallible? People who accuse tend to believe it is the councils that are intrinsically infallible, not the ecumenical truth of the councils.
And what would motivate the hairsplitting your post discusses?
Why would that be the first question you ask? Are you just looking for reasons to discredit someone's character instead of addressing the points and arguments of your opponents?
 

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I have also seen some people argue that ecumenicity is not a theological descriptor, but a political one (the ecumene was the Byzantine empire, which no longer exists in any case).

I suspect the only way a council could be called ecumenical today would be if a global organization such as the UN were involved, which doesn't seem likely unless the UN decided such a council was in the interests of world peace or something, which could conceivably happen if it was believed holding one would stop a war. The Russia/Ukraine situation for example; I could see why the UN might want Strelkov and Dugin's ideas of "Orthodox Jihad" officially declared heretical, for instance, and would try to get sympathetic bishops to hold a council to accomplish this. It's unlikely but not impossible.

Some people mention the Acts council to argue that the concept of an ecumenical council existed before Nicea, but that council was rather sui generis in that 1. it occurred when Christianity was still illegal, 2. the apostles themselves were involved and its outcome was described in scripture, and 3. it is never actually numbered as an ecumenical council (if it was, then would it be the "zeroth"?)
 

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The salient part of the Councils to the Orthodox believer is not the precise mode of their universality but their irrefragable truth. Christian universality is one important indicator of truth, but precisely how it manifests is not what is important. For a good discussion of what a Truth-filled Council might look like today, see the first part of Met. Hierotheos's musings on the recent Council, courtesy of translator Fr. Heers.
 

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Porter ODoran said:
Remnkemi said:
Porter ODoran said:
Rohzek said:
Porter ODoran said:
Iconodule said:
One occasionally encounters Orthodox saying that ecumenical councils are infallible. Exactly what they mean isn't clear, but if one parallels it with the claims of Papal infallibility, it would seem they are saying that ecumenical councils are protected from teaching error. Of course, like the difficulty of defining an "ex cathedra" statement, the difficulties of defining what makes a council ecumenical renders this concept of infallibility rather useless.

So, while Orthodox may occasionally talk about infallibility, it does nothing to establish the certainty which they hope it will.
If you think you can't know if a Council can be ecumenical, then you're not really Orthodox, are you?
If you can't do history correctly, then you really don't know what you're talking about do you?

Large swathes of the Church rejected the Second Council of Nicaea, yet it is considered ecumenical. Eventually a large swath of the Church rejected the Council of Florence, yet it is NOT considered ecumenical. Square that circle or stop accusing people.
Your examples serve rather to illustrate the Orthodox belief in Ecumenical Councils than to rebut it. Regardless, it is part of Orthodoxy to believe in the ecumenical truth of the three (or seven, or eight) Ecumenical Councils, and someone who rejects this is -- to repeat myself -- hardly Orthodox.
Is it the ecumenical truth that is infallible or is it the "three (or seven, or eight," or whatever number the Holy and Great Council came up with) Ecumenical Councils that are infallible? People who accuse tend to believe it is the councils that are intrinsically infallible, not the ecumenical truth of the councils.
And what would motivate the hairsplitting your post discusses?
Because it goes to the heart of OP's question.

Because one can find the infallible truth declared in a council, for example in a specific defense of theology or condemnation of a heresy, yet also find conflicting customs or lack of universality in the same council, for example refuting or failing to ratify specific canons that illustrate local customs or local beliefs. If one says there is irrefutable truth in an ecumenical council and assigns that infallibility to the entire council, yet there is some form of serious disagreement or lack of universality, then the question of infallibility as an Orthodox concept is called into question.
 
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