Reply To: [Orthodoxy] Ecumenical Councils

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#5130
Anonymous
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Scott,

[quote:1vdbuxqs]EO’s seems to harp on the “develping doctrine” issue, so I’m wondering if there is a way to educate myself of the difference in “development”….. I’m looking for some Councils (that bind the entire EO Church) that have happened in the last 600 years or so.[/quote:1vdbuxqs]

While I think I understand what you’re asking, the question is phrasing things in a way which I think (upon reflection) no Orthodox Christian could credibly accept.

The age of the Imperial Councils does not coincide with the revelation of the Church of the New Testament (which was aprox. 30 A.D.), but began only in 325 A.D. That they were [i:1vdbuxqs]Imperial[/i:1vdbuxqs] synods is quite clear; they were sponsored and required the approval of the Emperor. This is not of course what made them authoritative – that was the mutual consent of the Church and their confirmation with time. However, it is certainly the manner of their origin and organization. And in large part, it is why there have not been any for quite some time.

Obviously, with it’s power (both temporal and ecclessiastical – at least within it’s own communion) and resources, the Popes could take that role as “Emperor” for westerners. Indeed, this was part of the seed of the Latin schism – when the [i:1vdbuxqs]western portion[/i:1vdbuxqs] of the Roman Empire collapsed in the fifth century (it’s a mistake to say the [i:1vdbuxqs]entire[/i:1vdbuxqs] Empire fell then – this betrays an incredible ignorance of the reality that the Emperor and supreme senate had moved to [b:1vdbuxqs]Constantinople[/b:1vdbuxqs] some centuries earlier), the Popes were the only ones of sufficient prestige and organizational capacity to hold the various Christian peoples together through a period of tremendous chaos and misery. While that was a lofty service, it also got the Popes used to lots of power (both secular and religious) over both common men and princes. In later centuries, this would be taken for a [i:1vdbuxqs]dogma[/i:1vdbuxqs], with grotesque manifestations like the “two swords” theory in which the Pope is not only the head of the Church, but even over kings in temporal affairs (read the Papal Bull [i:1vdbuxqs]Unum Sanctum[/i:1vdbuxqs][/url:1vdbuxqs] of Pope Boniface VIII for a clear, and disturbing, summary of these teaching.)

Thus, obviously pseudo-Emperor Popes, could very well marshal pseudo-Ecumenical Councils. Indeed, while given a baptized/spiritual meaning, the origin of the word “Ecumene” as used by the Romans, refered to the whole of the Empire, which was as far as they were concerened, “the civilized world”. Thus, you also had the Patriarch of the Capital (New Rome, aka. Constantinople) called the “Ecumenical Patriarch”, and the “Ecumenical Librarian”, etc. etc.

[quote:1vdbuxqs]These Pan-Orthodox Councils and local Synods are authorized by whom?[/quote:1vdbuxqs]

Ultimatly, by their signatories and more significantly, time – the Church assimilates them into Her life, recognizing in them what is Her own. It’s the same thing which happened with the Holy Scriptures. Thus, why you had in much of Western Christendom a situation where people for a century scarcely had heard of the Council of Nicea, let alone were able to say that it spoke for them.

The idea of these Councils issuing clearly infallible edicts in the [i:1vdbuxqs]sense[/i:1vdbuxqs] that Roman Catholics have, is anachronistic and involves a caricture of ecclessiastical authority which history does not bear out.

[quote:1vdbuxqs]What gives local Churches authority to bind doctrine/denounce heresy?….what I mean is, Ecumenical Councils are “the norm”, the way that the Orthodox faith operated for at least 900 years… what changed?[/quote:1vdbuxqs]

You protest folks thinking you were asking “leading questions”, but I think it’s clear this is what you’re up to. Which is ok, btw… rhetorical questions are asked to get people thinking, and draw them towards your own position.

As for local Councils, it’s the same principle, but on a much smaller scale – and the fact is, there are small councils which have been accepted on a much broader scale – this is reflected in the books of what you guys would call “canon law” used in the East, or more clearly even, this is reflected in Ecumenical Councils themselves which cited older Local Councils as authorities. And why? Not out of some kind of legal positivism, but ultimatly, because they were true. [b:1vdbuxqs]Truth[/b:1vdbuxqs] is the ultimate criterion.

[quote:1vdbuxqs]What gives local Churches authority to bind doctrine/denounce heresy?….what I mean is, Ecumenical Councils are “the norm”, the way that the Orthodox faith operated for at least 900 years… what changed?[/quote:1vdbuxqs]

The Imperial age came, and it went – thus, the Ecumenical Councils as we knew them once, came and went. This says nothing of the Church though, coming and going, or the possibility of finding some other way to organize an “Ecumenical” Synod should the need arise and circumstances permit. You have to remember, much like the centuries before the legalization of Christianity under St.Constantine (Edict of Milan, 313 A.D.), in the centuries after the fall of Constantinople and the Imperial Throne, the Church has existed for most of that time in a situation of persecution – whether it be at the hands of Germano-Latin aggression, the Muslims, or the Communists. In neither the old age of persecutions, or the latter, were there “Ecumenical/Imperial” Synods.