Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Self-inflicted wounds

Earlier this month, Perry Robinson did a post in which he attempted to show how Orthodoxy isn't vulnerable to the same authority-issues as Protestantism. Of course, since I myself am I card-carrying Protestant, I don't think our position is inherently problematic. It's only problematic if you think it's a problem, then propose an unstable compromise (a la Orthodoxy) which is prey to the same objections you found objectionable in the Protestant rule of faith.

I've now posted two replies to Robinson. However, above and beyond my own replies, it was quite revealing to watch the barroom brawl which broke out in the combox the moment he posted his "solution." It's a perfectly illustration of how a deceptively simply "solution" to the alleged problem of sola scriptura is fraught with its own uncertainties. Moreover, while sola Scriptura leaves us with some uncertainties, these are divinely-sanctioned uncertainties. That's quite different from the gratuitous uncertainties generated by a man-made rule of faith.

I'm going to reproduce most of the crossfire in his combox so that everyone can see for himself how elusive and unstable the Orthodox rule of faith really is. The response almost instantly devolved into a case of friendly fire, where various high-churchman were shooting one other right and left. Keep that in mind if you're under the misimpression that Orthodoxy slices through all the knotty problems imputed to Protestantism.


48 Responses to “Against Khomiakov”

Grail Seeker Says:
December 2, 2009 at 11:04 pm
Thanks, Perry. I’ve wrestled with this issue when considering Orthodoxy. I guess along the lines of your last paragraph, for there to be a new Ecumenical Council, would it have to be approved by the 5 sees? Would this be unrelated to Orthodox countries recovering Alexandria, Jerusalem, Constantinople/Istanbul, and Antioch?

Ariston Says:
December 2, 2009 at 11:29 pm
This is one of the best short-summaries on this topic I have seen.

trvalentine Says:
December 2, 2009 at 11:46 pm
Perry, there are many assertions here to which I could object, but I don’t have the time to pursue them all. For now, I’ll stick to one area of focus.

ISTM you dismiss the idea that a council requires reception by the faithful and make approval by East and West (i.e. the pope of Rome) the criterion for being deemed official. Is that a fair summary?

The problem with this is it doesn’t fit historical fact. Nicaea I took many years to be accepted. Constantinople I wasn’t accepted by the Roman pope. Ephesus I wasn’t accepted by the East as a whole. Ephesus II wasn’t accepted by the Roman pope. Chalcedon wasn’t accepted by the East as a whole. I think historical facts compel one to acknowledge that the decisions of an imperially sponsored synod of bishops have never been immediately accepted. There was always initial doubt and contention afterwards.


Fr. Andrew Says:
December 2, 2009 at 11:51 pm
I recently had a question on this same issue in an email. Here’s how I framed my answer:

You’ve actually hit on one of my minor soapboxes/rants within Orthodox circles, what I call “receptionism,” i.e., the idea that a particular council has to be “received” by the whole Church in order to be considered truly ecumenical. This begs two questions:

1. Since the councils were rejected by some Christians, how do we know that they’re not the real Church and those who received it aren’t outside the Church? (As with your example of Chalcedon.)

2. How long do we have to wait before we can say a council has been “received”?

I know a convert to Orthodoxy who later reverted to Roman Catholicism due precisely to this becoming quite maddening for him. (Of course, he later held a gun to his (now ex-)wife’s head, so he had deeper issues!)

The fathers at those councils nowhere in their texts indicate that they’re waiting for their rulings to be “received.” Indeed, the rulings were immediately written into Roman imperial law. Fr. John Romanides makes this point: “The current idea among many Orthodox that an Ecumenical Council becomes finally official when it is recognized by a subsequent Ecumenical Council has no basis in Roman Law. Each such Council became Roman law the moment when its minutes were signed on the spot by the participating Patriarchal and Metropolitan Synods and countersigned by the Emperor himself. Heretics and their heresies were condemned on the spot and not at a subsequent Ecumenical Council. Their Creeds and Horoi became Roman law on the spot. The Creed of 381 became the Orthodox Creed on the spot in 381 and not in 431 which simply repeated the Creed of 381 as did each subsequent Ecumenical Council.”

(From here: )

What’s underneath all this is the psychological need, borne of the so-called Enlightenment, for epistemological certainty about these things. The Latins want an absolute system centered in the Pope, so we answer it with an absolute system centered in “receptionism,” which is a decidedly slippery concept which turns out to be entirely impractical in actual use (much, I might add, like papal infallibility).

In the end, it really is a matter of faith. There is no rational, logical way to know for sure. What makes the Ecumenical Councils trustworthy is that they are true, not that they have been “received” by anyone (pope, populace, etc.). They conform to the Scriptures, to the rule of faith (regula fidei, a concept found most prominently in the writings of St. Irenaeus of Lyons)—in short, the tradition of the Church. Yes, it’s a nasty, messy business being in the middle of a doctrinal controversy, when everyone seems like he’s got the corner on what is true. But somehow, God sees us through.

In some sense, ecumenical councils are really not at the center of our faith—one was certainly perfectly Orthodox before 325 if one held to the faith of the Church. These ecumenical synods were extraordinary gatherings to deal with pastoral issues, not legislative bodies called together to create doctrinal and canonical legislation. Normally, church governance happens in local synods.

I know that this answer—namely, that all of this really is a matter of faith—will not satisfy those who want an airtight system granting epistemological certainty. Such folks would probably be better off becoming Latins. But, once they do, if they ever find out the dirty little secret about no one agreeing on when papal infallibility really is occurring, then they’ll likely drive themselves further and become Calvinists. And there, they can spend the rest of their lives certain of what they think they know but entirely unsure as to whether they’re among the elect!

I hope this helps, at least a little, in my decidedly non-ecumenical way.

Perry Robinson Says:
December 2, 2009 at 11:53 pm

In principle yes, but the situation now is different than in say the fourth century. We’d need a way to unite at some level prior to a council with Alexandria if they were to be included and if the Copts can be said to be a church or not. In any case,the point is that the pop usage of Khomiakov or something like it as *the* Orthodox view is mistaken.

Let me clarify. When I say the situation is different and such, I mean the “depends” is in terms of conversation or this discussion. I do not doubt that the Orthodox could have an ecumenical coucil tommorrow in principle. I do not think as things stand that the Coptic rejection of Chalcedon was justified. I also do not doubt that they are bound by it regardless. But that requires an analysis of that situation.

trvalentine Says:
December 3, 2009 at 12:12 am
Fr Andrew,

The problem with what strikes me as a more legalistic look at the synods is that Ephesus II was enshrined as imperial law but is now rejected. Heck, if not for a (horse) riding accident, it would have been more than a couple of years before a subsequent synod was gathered which overturned Ephesus II.


Fr. Andrew Says:
December 3, 2009 at 12:23 am

It seems to me that receptionism is no less legalistic, though (like papal infallibility) it’s so slippery that it’s useless in actual practice. It’s still an attempt to provide a rational formula for a phenomenon which seems to resist any such codifications.

I think Romanides’s main point is simply that the synods themselves had no idea that they had to be “received” before they were binding. That the emperor signed them did not make them trustworthy, but his signature (and that of the assembled fathers) certainly was an indication that they understood their decisions to be immediately in force.

Perry Robinson Says:
December 3, 2009 at 12:30 am

I don’t think that’s exactly what I had in mind. I don’t deny that there can be or has been a measure of reception on the part of the people. I deny that it’s a sufficient condition or the backstop for a council being ecumenical. It isn’t. It never was.

I think the extent of the council was determined by the Episcopal sees invited and represented. An open call seems significant in the patristic literature. Constantinople was normative in the East but not in the West for a while till the west accepted it at a later date. It became ecumenical at that point, though it wasn’t lacking normative force in the East prior to that point. That seems to explain best the data regarding its status and reception.

ITSM that Nicea was accepted at the time, but that for a long time people found ways to try and over throw it. It was ratified by all the requisite sees. 2nd Nicea seems to think it was normative from the time the ink was drying.

I am not clear on what you are referring to by Ephesus I and II. Can you clarify?

I am not concerned with acceptance outside of a certain scope since it obviously isn’t adequate at the level of each and every person. What seems canonically and historically to be important is invited sees participating, how they did so and then ratifying it. Contention afterwards isn’t sufficient to imply that the conditions for the council to be ecumenical and normative weren’t met. It might imply that one would have trouble knowing it, but that is a separate question. For my part, I don’t think the arguments that one couldn’t know it are good ones either. I don’t need to infallibly to know in order to know. I just need to know.

As for the Pope, as recognized by the bishops of my jurisdiction, the Pope will *resume* his place as first among equals when and if he becomes a member of the church again. His ratification then will be significant and not before. So when I speak of papal ratification I am either speaking in terms of pre-schism history or in terms of contemporary Catholic claims.

The relevant thought experiment would be to consider the council in Acts 15. Was it normative even though Judiazer’s dissented from it? Yes. It can be normative even if it is not recognized as such by certain individuals.

Basil Says:
December 3, 2009 at 12:31 am
I cannot comment on whether this concept, in fact, originates with Khomiakov. Nor can I comment on every thinker since Khomiakov who has espoused similar perspectives.

This argumentum is ad hominem. It makes no case whatsoever against the idea itself; it can only conclude that Khomiakov was not trained in the ways of doing theology that were current in 19th century Russia. Whether those methods were the best is a question that has occupied Orthodox thinkers (particularly in the Slavic tradition) for most of the twentieth century. Certainly, the Paris school thought not. They considered them to be too imitative of the Scholastic philosophy of Roman Catholicism. Bulgakov, Florovsky, Schmemann, and Meyendorff, etc., are not the only Orthodox tradition in the twentieth century, but they have influenced many of those who came after them. Not everyone thinks they are the best representatives of Orthodox theology, but many do.

My point is that an idea cannot be discredited by prooftexting the opponents of its purported originator.

Perry Robinson Says:
December 3, 2009 at 12:40 am
Fr. Andrew,

Needless to say, I am not a “receptionist.”

How we know which councils are normative turns on what makes them so. I need to have in hand the conditions for it to BE such and so before I can go out and find out if it is such and so. Consequently the fundamental issue is what are the conditions for it to BE ecumenical or normative. Fulfilling the conditions on knowledge then is a separate question, which I don’t think requires any more difficulty in meeting conditions than any other epistemological claim.

2. I think people in general have a need to know. What they do though is mistake infallibly knowing or having a specific psychological disposition with knowing. Certainty is a psychological disposition which is neither necessary nor sufficient for knowledge. Geocentrists 2,500 years ago were certain and were wrong and hence didn’t know what they thought they did.

I think the more important mistake is not in wanting an absolute authority, since God is, but rather that they think that having one reduces to having one person that counts as that authority. I don’t see why normative entails only one person who’s statements are such.

I think there is a way to know for sure, just like I think there is a way to know that Protestantism is false or Catholicism is. I don’t claim that it is easy, but difficulty and achievability are two different things.

You are correct regarding the church being Orthodox prior to 325. It was Catholic in A.D. 33 in the upper room with a handful of Jews. Catholic has nothing to do with how many continents one is on.

Perry Robinson Says:
December 3, 2009 at 12:45 am

I can understand how the argument can seem ad hominem, but it isn’t. I am not claiming the idea as such is false. What I am claiming is that the claim that the idea is THE Orthodox view is false. As such the texts I cited support that claim. I think there are other reasons, reasons given in those sources and the Fathers and councils of the Church for thinking that materially speaking, the idea is false. But I don’t need to do that to show that it isn’t some official teaching of Orthodoxy.

Basil Says:
December 3, 2009 at 12:54 am
I see. Well, all you really need for that claim is to quote all the authors who remind us that there is no official teaching on the subject.

trvalentine Says:
December 3, 2009 at 1:17 am

Are making a distinction between ‘ecumenical’ and ‘accepted’ in the sense of qualifying as official Church teaching?

If being official in the eyes of the empire is all that is meant by ‘ecumenical’ then we have several synods which are ecumenical but not accepted.

I think history demonstrates that Nicaea I was not widely accepted at first.

Ephesus I = 431, Ephesus II = 449

Constantinople I runs into big problems if you think simple invitation to all sufficient. Not only was the West not present, it was unknown to many *Eastern* bishops present at Chalcedon before it was raised in discussion.

I think you misunderstand my comments about the Roman pope (as opposed to the Alexandrian pope!). Since Old Rome was the only Apostolic See in the West, I read your requirement for acceptance by the West as the equivalent of acceptance by the Roman pope. Is there some way you envision a synod could have been accepted in the West apart from the Roman pope?

I don’t think it possible to produce a list of criteria as to what makes a particular synod ‘official’ Church teaching and have it apply to all the synods. Heck, there is disagreement today within Orthodoxy regarding an Eighth and Ninth Ecumenical Synod!


xpusostomos Says:
December 3, 2009 at 1:36 am
What is the exact quote saying that the pentarchy is the criteria?

Didn’t Alexandra break away in one of the councils resulting in the Coptic church, requiring the “Greek” patriarchate to be reconstructed? I’d like to see the situation laid out for all 7 councils before I could think about entertaining this theory.

Councils were signed into imperial law immediately? Seems irrelevant to me. If the emperor signs something into law, that is just him as a private Christian exercising his right to receive a particular teaching. Obviously the theory of reception does not advocate that everybody wait for everybody else to make up their mind, or else nobody would ever make up their mind!

Receptionism is no less legalistic? Only if you want try to micro-analyse it. As far as I see it is the most anti-legalistic, precisely because it defies micro-analysis.

Lucian Says:
December 3, 2009 at 3:23 am
Well, … it pretty much seems like such a non-issue, particularly since Orthodoxy is a revealed faith; a given. It basically all boils down to these three: antiquity, universality, and consensus: in other words, the expression of the cohesion of the mind of the church throughout space and time.

Arius’ teachings, at his time, constituted an easily-observable theological novum: a very tempting one, to be sure, but a novum nonetheless. It was also very interesting to see that the only five bishops of Arian persuasion attending Niceea had one thing in common: they were all the pupils of one man: my namesake: so Arianism was a local and new teaching: hardly something ancient and universal.

Monophysites and Nestorians are all Semites: there’s no distinction in their [kindred] languages between two diferent concepts: person and nature; they use the same word to denote both terms. — hence why there was no such heresy in the Latin-speaking West or in the Greek-speaking East. (Parshapa was borrowed from the Greek prosopon; it’s not a native word). — Again, we have a local, culturally-determined oddity or peculiarity: not something universal. (Nestorinism is even more local, since its teachings can be traced back to one man, and one man alone: Theodore of Mopsuestia).

But the Latin-speaking West had its own linguistical issue: *it* used, in its turn, one and the same word for two entirely-different concepts: the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father AND His sending into the world by the Son. — hence why neither the Greek-speaking East, nor the Semitic Orient, had any knowledge of such a [local and Western] teaching as the Filioque.

I guess that will have to suffice for now.

So in the case of Monophysism and Nestorianism, it’s two against one; and in the case of the Filioque we have once more the same ratio: two to one.

Craig Says:
December 3, 2009 at 5:03 am
I just wanted to point out that the filioque was known as early as the year 410 in Persia.

Perry Robinson Says:
December 3, 2009 at 5:13 am

Even earlier if you read Plotinus’ Enneads where he discusses the procession of Psuche from the One and Nous jointly.

In any case let’s try all to stay somewhere near the topic of the post.

Thanks for your support.

John Says:
December 3, 2009 at 6:16 am
I’d have to say that the Triablogue criticism of this is quite fair, and I’m normally a big critic of Triablogue. Appealing to 2nd Nicea is a woefully inadequate apologetic by itself.

trvalentine Says:
December 3, 2009 at 2:26 pm
I just came across an interesting statement by (Hieromonk, IIRC) Alexander Golitzin in ‘The Vision of God and the Form of Glory: More Reflections on the Anthropomorphic Controversy of AD 399′ which is particularly germane (CAPS added):

[begin quote]
The Anthropomorphic Controversy was played out against the background of the most important doctrinal development of the fourth century: the debate over the Nicene /homoousion/ and the latter’s emergence at CENTURY’S END as the OFFICIAL TEACHING of the imperial church.
[end quote]

ISTM Fr Alexander is saying that Nicaea I took several decades to *emerge* as the official teaching of the Church, i.e. it wasn’t official in 325.


Perry Robinson Says:
December 3, 2009 at 3:23 pm

Suppose he does claim it. Its a claim, not a demonstration. We need the latter and not the former.

trvalentine Says:
December 3, 2009 at 6:34 pm

How does one demonstrate that Nicaea I — or any other imperial synod — did not become the official teaching of the Church immediately upon promulgation?

I’ve already given examples of imperial synods (whose decisions were made the law of the empire) which were later overturned. How do you explain Ephesus II (in 449) or Hieria (in 754) as not being official teaching of the Church even though they were the law of the empire? Because they weren’t accepted in the West (by the Roman pope)? Then how do you explain Constantinople I which never received official approval in the West (by the Roman pope)?

I think Fr Andrew is correct, the acceptance of a particular synod as official teaching of the Church is ‘a phenomenon which seems to resist any such codifications.’


Andrea Elizabeth Says:
December 3, 2009 at 7:05 pm
Very interesting discussion.

I’m not sure how Solovyov is characterized as an Idealist. According to Wikipedia (which doesn’t have as much to say about Khomiakov),

“What prompted this radical change (returning to Orthodoxy) appears to be Solovyov’s (who may have inspired Dostoevsky’s Alyosha and Ivan in The Brothers Karamazov) disapproval of the Positivist movement.[2] In Solovyov’s The Crisis of Western Philosophy: Against the Positivists, he attempted to discredit the Positivists’ rejection of Aristotle’s essentialism or philosophical realism. In Against the Postivists, Solovyov took the position of intuitive noetic comprehension, noesis or insight stating consciousness, in being is integral (Russian term being sobornost) and has to have both phenomenon (validated by dianonia) and noumenon validated intuitively.[2] Positivism according to Solovyov only validates the phenomenon of an object denying the intuitive reality people experience as part of their consciousness.[2] Vladimir Solovyov was also known to be a very close friend and confidant of Fyodor Dostoevsky.”

Realism is supposed to be the opposite of Idealism, so I don’t see how Solovyov can be pinned with that.

Perry: “So the idea is that a council can only be ecumenical if the “whole church” assents to it. This is obviously problematic since no council could ever meet such conditions where every professing Christian agreed.”

“Whole Church” probably needs to be defined. All of the baptized, or as Romanides describes, those purified or at least being purified?

One of the ideas about sobornost, according to Wikipedia (forgive me), is,“Nikolai Lossky for example uses the term to explain what motive would be behind people working together for a common, historical or social goal, rather than pursuing the goal individualistically.”

This points to unity being achieved by unselfishness, and I would add a commitment to the truth, which God has promised to reveal to His Church.

Quote of Protopresbyter Winogradow: “Their whole training was entirely philosophical and generally humanistic, certainly not theological. The strictly theological methods of theological research were foreign and unknown to them.”

I wonder if this has to be so dialectically stated. Istm that such an opposition between human nature and divine nature isn’t necessary. I am interested in the idea of sobornost as pertaining to the common image of God in everyone: peasant, monarch or Bishop. Intuitive understanding of the ontological truth in beings who are enlivened by the energies of God cannot be dismissed, even though sin (of monarchs, peasants and Bishops) tends to obscure it.

Perry: “Pinpointing some of the problematic matter of Khomiakov, Harkianakis following Romanides, that it was the Idealistic view of the church as an organism to the exclusion of the idea of the church as the bringer of salvation that served to motivate Khomiakov’s erroneous ecclesiological views.”

Again I don’t understand the dialectical opposition between “the church as an organism” or body and “bringer of salvation”.

jnorm888 Says:
December 3, 2009 at 8:06 pm

What about a combination of the two views?

A combination of “Pentarchial ratification” and “Receptionism”.

I think Receptionism has it’s strengths and so, to toss it out the window completely would be unwise.


ZSDP Says:
December 3, 2009 at 8:39 pm
Andrea -

Realism and idealism are not always diametrically opposed in philosophers’ thought. Essences and Forms are, for Aristotle and Plato, real. They are, however, really existing ideal (i.e. intellectual, not physical) objects.

The article you quote from should make Solovyev’s Idealism clear in two ways. First, he is defending the existence of ideal objects against the positivists, who are famous for denying the real existence of ideal objects. Second, his defense rests on the theory of noumena (ideal objects) and phenomena (their sensible manifestations), which is German Idealism’s (especially Kant’s) bread and butter.

Furthermore, it is pretty clear that Solovyev’s (and Bulgakov’s) sophiology is heavily indebted to Schelling’s Naturphilosophie, which is, again, a fairly important moment in German Idealism.

ZSDP Says:
December 3, 2009 at 8:48 pm
Andrea -

Realism and idealism are not always diametrically opposed in philosophers’ thought. Essences and Forms are, for Aristotle and Plato, real. They are, however, really existing ideal (i.e. intellectual, not physical) objects.

The article you quote from should make Solovyev’s Idealism clear in two ways. First, he is defending the existence of ideal objects against the positivists, who are famous for denying the real existence of ideal objects. Second, his defense rests on the theory of noumena (ideal objects) and phenomena (their sensible manifestations), which is German Idealism’s (especially Kant’s) bread and butter.

Furthermore, it is pretty clear that Solovyev’s (and Bulgakov’s) sophiology is heavily indebted to Schelling’s Naturphilosophie, which is, again, a fairly important moment in German Idealism. It is this sophiological influence (which really finds its origins in a reading of Spinoza’s Ethics that glosses “God” as “Nature”) that led to viewing the Church as an Organism. To make a long story short, this ecclesiological view was rejected as the bastard offspring of sophiology. Or so I would assume.

Perry Robinson Says:
December 3, 2009 at 11:17 pm

You’re right about Schelling.

Perry Robinson Says:
December 3, 2009 at 11:37 pm

To clarify I am speaking of ecumenical in terms of being the teaching of the church. Whether this is co-extensive with imperial law at all times and points isn’t germane as I don’t think the imperium was the source of teaching or infallible. So I freely grant that there were imperially convoked and ratified councils that failed to be ecumenical in the theological sense that I am picking out or at least attempting to pick out.

As for the Synod of Bandits of Ephesus and other examples I think there are clear reasons for rejecting them. I am not claiming that pentarchal ratification is a single sufficient condition. It could be a jointly sufficient condition. If that is so, then if the Bandit Synod failed in other respects then that would explain why it was not theologically normative. The same goes for Hieria. I do in fact think that those other conditions were not met or violated and I don’t think it is hard to show that this is so.

What is significant that I tried to direct readers toward was the fact that first, here is an ecumenical council that spells out the conditions, at least some of the necessary conditions and it is incumbent on both Catholics and Orthodox to adhere to those judgments. I have yet to see a sustained discussion of these conditions as articulate at 2nd Nicea by Catholic theologians and how they are harmonized with Catholic theology regarding papal ratification. This doesn’t mean there isn’t one. I just haven’t seen it yet, which is just to say that I haven’t read everything.

Now if Rome adheres to it, then there is a prima facia problem or so it seems to me since Rome has had lots of councils without pentarchal ratification. And it isn’t open to simply say that those sees aren’t in communion with Rome and don’t have valid orders. First because Rome separates the validity of orders from the question of being in communion with the Roman see. Secondly, there are a handful of counter examples where persons were not in communion with Rome but participated in ecumenical councils that Rome participated in and accepted as such.

Whatever problems 2nd Nicea presents for the Orthodox it presents problems for Catholicism as well. It would be worthwhile to discuss them in both contexts because both sides are bound by it.

Perry Robinson Says:
December 3, 2009 at 11:39 pm

If i thought it was workable I would entertain it, but received by whom? What constitutes reception? And what kind of authority is required? And how could it possibly escape an infinite regress?

ZSDP Says:
December 4, 2009 at 1:15 am
Perry -

Of course I am.


Andrea Elizabeth Says:
December 4, 2009 at 4:18 am
Hello Z,

I didn’t catch that he was defending ideal objects rather than real or particular(?) objects. Are you saying that you believe “they are, however, really existing ideal objects”?

I realize that there is a chain of the history of ideas, but to me “organism” and “body” are how Orthodox frequently describe the Church, so that distinction was lost on me. I’ll probably get to reading Solovyov before I get to reading Schelling.

The underling faithful can’t rationalize their way into true teaching, but it does seem they are capable of experiencing a disruption when an erring Bishop tries to pass off wrong teaching, which is how I understand that iconoclasm and monothelitism, for examples, were defeated.

ZSDP Says:
December 4, 2009 at 9:01 am
Andrea -

I’m not sure I understand the confusion. He wasn’t defending “ideal objects rather than real or particular” ones—he was defending real ideal objects. An essence is, to put it crudely, a particular real ideal object. Before I go any further, am I heading the right direction?

Also, I certainly don’t mean to say that any Orthodox group has condemned calling the Church the Body. (That sure would make reading the Bible a little awkward!) The Russian synod’s condemnation (here I am thinking of sophiology in general, and Bulgakov in particular) was meant to pick out something rather precise, something which chose Organism over and against all other images of the Church delivered by Tradition.

Andrea Elizabeth Says:
December 4, 2009 at 1:10 pm
A real ideal, is that like a dream come true?

ZSDP Says:
December 4, 2009 at 7:21 pm
Though I love talking about dreams coming true, I’m pretty sure my wife is off the topic of this post.

Mr Tundra Man Says:
December 5, 2009 at 12:50 am
Perry wrote “The relevant thought experiment would be to consider the council in Acts 15.”

Yes it would be interesting – a good thread, perhaps.

Tap Says:
December 5, 2009 at 8:21 am

“Then how do you explain Constantinople I which never received official approval in the West (by the Roman pope)? ”

Anyways, It would seem also that the Pope did “sign off” on Constantinople I even, albeit indirectly. I mean when he signed off on the Chalcedonian decrees/canons (along with its affirmations of Constantinople I). The problem of This really isn’t a problem for Catholics.

The abstract phenomenon thesis by Fr. Andrew (bless his heart) doesn’t fly.

Thomas Says:
December 5, 2009 at 4:05 pm
If the question is /when/ did an Ecumenical (Imperial) Synod become the official teaching of the Church, then Constantinople I /is/ problematic because it did not receive official approval from Old Rome, Antioch, or Alexandria. Approval of a later Synod which favourably cites a previous synod doesn’t help.

I cannot think of a formula that can pinpoint /when/ an Ecumenical Synod became the official teaching of the Church that explains all the synods called by the Empire. There are too many variations. I suspect some form of ‘reception-ism’ would be required, but that would be as undefined as papal ‘infallibility’ is for the Latins.

William Tighe Says:
December 5, 2009 at 8:10 pm
Rome appears to have recognized the 381 Council of Constantinople as ecumenical only in 534, and that in a rather offhanded manner. Previous Popes, such as Leo, Gelasius and Hormisdas had insisted that there were three and only three councils which were universally binding, Nicaea, Ephesus and Chalcedon.

This is discussed in some detail in the relevant section of *The Church and the Papacy* (1944) by Trevor Gervase Jalland, an English Anglican church historian. The author seems to strive for scrupulous accuracy, although rather clearly he is well disposed to the papacy, at least durning the first milennium, and ill-disposed to post-Constantinian Eastern “symphonia.” His conclusion, giving his own judgment on the “papal claims” in the last few pages of the book, is, by contrast, rather unclear and even evasive.

William Tighe Says:
December 5, 2009 at 8:19 pm
Oh, and I might add that the 381 council wasn’t even a fully “eastern” council, as only bishops from the area running from Constantinople to Antioch were bidden to it. Patriarch Timothy of Alexandria turned up with some of his bishops after it began, but that was to pursue his vendetta against St. Gregory of Nazianzus, and they left after their attacks on his were rejected. In fact, it appears that the Patriarchate of Alexandria, both the Orthodox one and the “non-Chalcedonian” one (which seem only to have emerged as separate entities in the 560s) did not accept the “ecumenicity” of Constantinople I until a tsome point durning the Seventh Century.

There were western councils in Rome in 381 and 382. I understand that one of these (I can’t remember which one; perhaps both) accepted the creed formulated at Constantinople in 381, but rejected the canons of that council, particularly as regards the standing of Constantinople as a see.

Perry Robinson Says:
December 6, 2009 at 3:03 am
Dr Tighe,

Suppose there is nothing to nuance the facts you present. We are still left with an ecumenical council that requires patriachial ratifiation. So I am not sure how any of the above removes that fact.

Mr Tundra Man Says:
December 6, 2009 at 3:38 pm
Perry wrote “There is no council that I know of, even the Apostolic council in Acts 15 that didn’t result in some measure of dissent.”

IIRC, the council decided against eating things sacrificed to idols vv 28-29. Paul didn’t seem to agree with that being a real issue (1 Cor 8).

Thomas Says:
December 7, 2009 at 3:42 am
The objection that Orthodox ecclesiology is subject to the same problems as Protestant Christianity because there is no ultimate source of authority in the hierarchy of the Church, overlooks one extremely important difference: Protestant Christianity is based on individualism; Orthodox Christianity is quite communal in character.

The term ’sobornost’ is a good descriptor for the communal nature of Orthodoxy, but the word cannot be rendered as simply ‘catholic’ — its meaning is much, much richer.

Fr Dcn Patrick (Monk Patrick) Says:
December 7, 2009 at 9:32 am
Perhaps we should make a distinction between the rank of a council whether it is Ecumenical or local and whether it is an Orthodox Council.

I understand that it is Ecumenical because the Emperor called the Council for it to determine the faith of the Empire and symbolically for the world. This Council would ideally but not necessarily consist of representatives from all the churches and primarily from the five Patriarchs. It is Ecumenical immediately that the Emperor signs it into Law but this does not mean that it is orthodox. Thus, we can have a unorthodox ecumenical council.

Whether it is Orthodox is another matter and this depends on whether it is of God, i.e. inspired by the Holy Spirit. If so then the holy people of God, who have the Holy Spirit, will recognise it being from God and if it is not then the holy people will reject as false and seek to have it officially rejected. This happens with God’s help and within a fairly short space of time an Orthodox Council overturns the unorthodox Council, whereas Orthodox Councils stand the test of time. This is largely a matter of faith. Orthodox Councils are binding on all because they are from God. That is why the local councils, and even single Bishops, recognised by the Ecumenical Councils are also binding on the Church but they are not ecumenical councils because they were not called as such or lacked church-wide representation. The ecumenical council testifies that the local council indeed represents the faith and practice of the whole church and not only a local custom. Any these are my thoughts.

berenike Says:
December 8, 2009 at 10:20 pm
[re perpetual virginity of Our Lady post, Perry, you said somewhere that the Catholic teaching is that Our Lady didn't die. There's no consensus on this, in fact. If you look at Munificentissimus Deus, for example, you'll see that it's phrased to avoid saying anything on the subject.


a passerb-by]

Aglaios Says:
December 9, 2009 at 6:16 pm
I always have a very simple response to my Roman friends that hurl the line of “Protestant divisiveness” in the direction of Orthodoxy. I tell them something like: “Pick up a phone book, and look up and attend 10 of the nearest random Roman Catholic parishes; then find and attend 10 of the nearest Orthodox parishes… then come back and tell me where you saw true unity and sameness of faith, practice and worship.”

All they can do after such a comment is look down to the ground with little response… for they already know that most of the 10 nearest Roman parishes are drum-banging charismatic “church in the round” Novus Ordo hippi parishes, or some variation of 1960’s pop-Catholicism. They also already know that in the few Orthodox parishes they’ve ever stepped foot in, they saw pristine and beautiful heavenly worship.

For example, compare two major religious events that took place near in time over a year ago: 1. World Youth Day in Sydney and the Pope’s mass at the end.
2. The pan-Orthodox ‘Baptism of Russ’ anniversary celebrations in Kiev where the Patriarchs Bartholomew and Alexey con-celebrated with multiple hierarchs from around the world.

Go find pics and video of each, and then ask the question… which side is truly under the influence of Protestantism.

Matthew Yocum Says:
December 10, 2009 at 3:36 am
I stumbled upon this blog yesterday and Iike what I see. I did not really understand the flow of the comments because they are using a few terms that I am not familiar with and I don’t have time to carefully read them because of finals.

Was your conclusion that eccumenical councils are only valid if they are accepted by all five Sees and not by universal consenus?


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