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Infallibility of the Church


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#1 Eric Todd

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 09:52 PM

I was somewhat surprised to read the following from the Synod of Jerusalem:

"Wherefore, the witness also of the Catholic Church is, we believe, not of inferior authority to that of the Divine Scriptures. For one and the same Holy Spirit being the author of both, it is quite the same to be taught by the Scriptures and by the Catholic Church. Moreover, when any man speaks from himself he is liable to err, and to deceive, and be deceived; but the Catholic Church, as never having spoken, or speaking from herself, but from the Spirit of God — who being her teacher, she is ever unfailingly rich — it is impossible for her to in any wise err, or to at all deceive, or be deceived; but like the Divine Scriptures, is infallible, and has perpetual authority." The Confession of Dositheus, 1672

I understand this Synod was special, local and called to address an unusual situation (the publication by Patriarch Cyril of a Confession with Calvinist ideas).

My question: is the Church infallible? When? What conditions would need to be fulfilled to be able to conclude that the Church "like the Divine Scriptures, is infallible"?

Sorry ahead of time if this has been treated before. I didn't see any direct address of this topic.

#2 Lakis Papas

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Posted 21 February 2013 - 10:35 PM

Church = body of Christ



#3 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 12:39 AM

I understand that not everyone will agree, but I will continue to maintain that the very concept of "infallibility" is a non-sequitur, a one-word oxymoron. Whenever the term IS used, it is so heavily caveated and circumscribed that in the end, it really means nothing at all other than "authority not subject to appeal" (whether it is right or wrong makes no difference).

 

The Truth is the Truth. THAT is infallible. When I proclaim the Truth I am infallible. When I don't, I'm not! "Infallibility" is superfluous, like the redundant term "inerrant truth". What other kind of "truth" can there be?

 

Infallibility is a crutch. We have Holy Scripture. We have Holy Tradition. We have the Consensus Patrum. We have the Holy Spirit. What else do we need?



#4 Eric Todd

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 06:22 AM

I understand that not everyone will agree, but I will continue to maintain that the very concept of "infallibility" is a non-sequitur, a one-word oxymoron. Whenever the term IS used, it is so heavily caveated and circumscribed that in the end, it really means nothing at all other than "authority not subject to appeal" (whether it is right or wrong makes no difference).
 
The Truth is the Truth. THAT is infallible. When I proclaim the Truth I am infallible. When I don't, I'm not! "Infallibility" is superfluous, like the redundant term "inerrant truth". What other kind of "truth" can there be?
 
Infallibility is a crutch. We have Holy Scripture. We have Holy Tradition. We have the Consensus Patrum. We have the Holy Spirit. What else do we need?


I tend to agree. But the Synod of Jerusalem specifically said "infallible". Is the Church as reliably true as Scripture? When? Was this Synod infallible?

#5 Olga

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 06:32 AM

It would be useful to read the account of the synod quoted in the OP in the language it was originally written (Greek, perhaps?), to see what terminology was used.



#6 Kosta

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 07:58 AM

The Church just like the scriptures maybe infallible, but you need people to draw that infallibility out. Sometimes the peoples interpret the scriptures wrong or they may misunderstand the traditions and their origins. But over time the Church Catholic gets it right and preserves the Fath unadultered. 

 

The only reason the scriptures are infallible is because over time the Church weeded out the infallible scriptures from the false ones. If the foundation which is the Church is not infallible neither is the other things they proclaim as infallible.  In another thread we dabbled on how the majority of the very early christians considered the book of Enoch to be divinely inspired scripture. Its quoted in the NT, it was held in high esteem yet over time it was discarded. Likewise the book of Revelation was omitted from the early lists of canonical books, but as the chiliast heresy died out the Church slowly elevated it to its proper place.



#7 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 02:16 PM

I may be wrong, but 'scripture is infallible' is a meaningless expression to me.  Scripture is not evidence of God's revelation but is His revelation to us.  What needs to be right is the interpretation of scripture.



#8 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 04:16 PM

Context matters and affects the meaning. How the people using the original (probably Greek) word understood its meaning is important, regardless of the meaning connotated to it today.


In a real sense, the word can simply mean "not subject to discussion or arbitration". It is an unquestioned assumption. If you accept this, you are one of us. If you don't, then you aren't. In that sense, the Creed is "infallible" in that it defines what we believe. If you don't accept the Creed, you are not really an Orthodox Christian, it is not subject to debate.


The seven Ecumenical Councils are "infallible" in that the Church has accepted them to be definitive. If you don't agree (i.e. the non-Chalcedonians) then you are not "of the Church" (in the eyes of the "Chalcedonians"). The non-Chalcedonians would certainly counter-argue that they do not see Chalcedon as "infallible" because they do not accept it.


It is not something declared BECAUSE it is "infallible", it is infallible because competent authority declares it to be so. I maintain that we need a better word. "Infallible" sucks primarily because of the meaning it has taken on under Roman Catholic doctrine.


The idea that the office of the Pope, as the successor to Peter and supreme "Vicar of Christ" actually means that, under certain conditions, free will is violated. The Pope is not ALLOWED to be "wrong". Excuse me, but I think this is the very basic definition of "free will"; it is the "right" to be "wrong". In as much as we voluntarily conform our will to the will of Christ, we too are "infallible", but when we exercise our own will over that of Christ's, then we are very fallible indeed. When we remove the "voluntarily" we remove free will, at least in the understanding of my little fallible brain.

The Church is guided by several different factors working in symphonia, this is how the Holy Spirit works, given my again limited understanding. Holy Scripture as put into practice by Holy Tradition, as explained by the Consensus Patrum, as applied by the Bishops answering to each other, and as given the AMEN by the laity, keeps the Church on the correct path. No single office is "infallible". They all work in concert with each other. The oral Tradition guided the Church to decide which extant writings of the time constituted "Scripture", all subsequent writings are checked against what cmae before to ensure they "measure up" before they become accepted, and even then time does tell, as in the cases of the writings of Origen and Tertullian. Only once it is incorporated into our worship is where it truly becomes codified as "belief" (Lex orandi, lex credendi).

But I think it is impossible to point to any single aspect and "infallibly" say THIS IS INFALLIBLE. An honest assessment of history certainly shows otherwise. Different factors at different times worked to shape how the Church believes, as shown in the combating of the various heresies, iconoclasm, and the very concept of "infallibility"!


At least, that is my fallible understanding, your mileage may vary.

#9 Lakis Papas

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 05:59 PM

Synod of Jerusalem, (1672) convened by Dosítheos, patriarch of Jerusalem, in order to reject the Confession of Orthodox Faith (1629) http://www.crivoice....creedcyril.html, by Cyril Lucaris, which professed most of the major Calvinist doctrines. The book was attributed to Cyril Lucaris, the Patriarch of Constantinople, but Cyril himself verbally denied authorship.
 
 
In the "Confession of Cyril Lucaris" there were the following chapter that proclaimed:

We believe the Holy Scripture to be given by God, to have no other author but the Holy Spirit. This we ought undoubtedly to believe, for it is written. We have a more sure word of prophecy, to which you do well to take heed, as to light shining in a dark place. We believe the authority of the Holy Scripture to be above the authority of the Church. To be taught by the Holy Spirit is a far different thing from being taught by a man; for man may through ignorance err, deceive and be deceived, but the word of God neither deceives nor is deceived, nor can err, and is infallible and has eternal authority.

 

 
In order to provide proper answer to above article the Synod of Jerusalem issued the following statement:
 

Wherefore, the witness also of the Catholic Church is, we believe, not of inferior authority to that of the Divine Scriptures. For one and the same Holy Spirit being the author of both, it is quite the same to be taught by the Scriptures and by the Catholic Church. Moreover, when any man speaks from himself he is liable to err, and to deceive, and be deceived; but the Catholic Church, as never having spoken, or speaking from herself, but from the Spirit of God — who being her teacher, she is ever unfailingly rich — it is impossible for her to in any wise err, or to at all deceive, or be deceived; but like the Divine Scriptures, is infallible, and has perpetual authority"

 


Edited by Lakis Papas, 22 February 2013 - 06:00 PM.


#10 Anna Stickles

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 06:37 PM

The Truth is the Truth. THAT is infallible. When I proclaim the Truth I am infallible. When I don't, I'm not! "Infallibility" is superfluous, like the redundant term "inerrant truth". What other kind of "truth" can there be?

Church = body of Christ

For specifically these reasons, the Church is actually more "infallibly true" then Scripture - St Paul says, "When the perfect comes the imperfect will pass away."   The Scripture after all is just words pointing us to the truth, but the Church Herself is that reality being pointed to.

 

Justin Popovich says about the Church that it is a God-man organism.  This does not refer to the fact that in the Church, God and various individual men are in communion.  It means that first and foremost the Church is the God-man Jesus Christ, it is the God who is Love uniting Himself with all creation.  In this it is also the angels, the Theotokos, the saints in heaven who are incorruptible and not subject to any kind of change.

 

On earth we are part of the Church in as much as we confess, follow, and live, the Truth, the Way and the Life that already comprises the Church's essential being. In as much as we abandon these and fail/err/wander from the Truth we are in some sense outside the Church.  

 

In the West inerrancy is attributed either to scripture or the Pope - but this is to wrongly attribute inerrancy ( not wandering or erring) to a created reality subject to change, and which is not yet fully redeemed and made perfect.   But when we look at our Orthodox theology of the Eucharist and icons (which is closely connected to our ecclesiology) we see that the essence of the Church is to be found in the eternal, unchanging, and incorruptible reality in which that material reality finds its real meaning and existence.

 

"...the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ by his great mercy he has given us a new birth (in baptism)  into a living hope (the Church) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance (the Church) that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time." (I Peter 3-5)

 

There is a bit of a mystery here because the Church is both perfect and being perfected. It is both on earth and in heaven, But when we talk about the infallibility of the Church, we have to realize that we are talking about a sacramental, a heavenly reality.

 

This is a pretty poor explanation, but the book someone put up on the book review thread looks interesting.


Edited by Anna Stickles, 22 February 2013 - 06:42 PM.


#11 Lakis Papas

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 07:05 PM

There is a bit of a mystery here because the Church is both perfect and being perfected. It is both on earth and in heaven, But when we talk about the infallibility of the Church, we have to realize that we are talking about a sacramental, a heavenly reality.

 

 

Church is absolutely perfect, Church members are being perfected.

 

Being member of the Church is a mystery indeed, because we keep our human shortcomings which are being glorified.


Edited by Lakis Papas, 22 February 2013 - 07:06 PM.


#12 Eric Todd

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 09:33 PM

Context matters and affects the meaning. How the people using the original (probably Greek) word understood its meaning is important, regardless of the meaning connotated to it today.
In a real sense, the word can simply mean "not subject to discussion or arbitration". It is an unquestioned assumption. If you accept this, you are one of us. If you don't, then you aren't. In that sense, the Creed is "infallible" in that it defines what we believe. If you don't accept the Creed, you are not really an Orthodox Christian, it is not subject to debate.
The seven Ecumenical Councils are "infallible" in that the Church has accepted them to be definitive. If you don't agree (i.e. the non-Chalcedonians) then you are not "of the Church" (in the eyes of the "Chalcedonians"). The non-Chalcedonians would certainly counter-argue that they do not see Chalcedon as "infallible" because they do not accept it.
It is not something declared BECAUSE it is "infallible", it is infallible because competent authority declares it to be so. I maintain that we need a better word. "Infallible" sucks primarily because of the meaning it has taken on under Roman Catholic doctrine.
The idea that the office of the Pope, as the successor to Peter and supreme "Vicar of Christ" actually means that, under certain conditions, free will is violated. The Pope is not ALLOWED to be "wrong". Excuse me, but I think this is the very basic definition of "free will"; it is the "right" to be "wrong". In as much as we voluntarily conform our will to the will of Christ, we too are "infallible", but when we exercise our own will over that of Christ's, then we are very fallible indeed. When we remove the "voluntarily" we remove free will, at least in the understanding of my little fallible brain.
The Church is guided by several different factors working in symphonia, this is how the Holy Spirit works, given my again limited understanding. Holy Scripture as put into practice by Holy Tradition, as explained by the Consensus Patrum, as applied by the Bishops answering to each other, and as given the AMEN by the laity, keeps the Church on the correct path. No single office is "infallible". They all work in concert with each other. The oral Tradition guided the Church to decide which extant writings of the time constituted "Scripture", all subsequent writings are checked against what cmae before to ensure they "measure up" before they become accepted, and even then time does tell, as in the cases of the writings of Origen and Tertullian. Only once it is incorporated into our worship is where it truly becomes codified as "belief" (Lex orandi, lex credendi).
But I think it is impossible to point to any single aspect and "infallibly" say THIS IS INFALLIBLE. An honest assessment of history certainly shows otherwise. Different factors at different times worked to shape how the Church believes, as shown in the combating of the various heresies, iconoclasm, and the very concept of "infallibility"!
At least, that is my fallible understanding, your mileage may vary.


I get a lot of mileage out of that. Thank you.

#13 Eric Todd

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 09:38 PM

Synod of Jerusalem, (1672) convened by Dosítheos, patriarch of Jerusalem, in order to reject the Confession of Orthodox Faith (1629) http://www.crivoice....creedcyril.html, by Cyril Lucaris, which professed most of the major Calvinist doctrines. The book was attributed to Cyril Lucaris, the Patriarch of Constantinople, but Cyril himself verbally denied authorship.
 
 
In the "Confession of Cyril Lucaris" there were the following chapter that proclaimed:

 
In order to provide proper answer to article the Synod of Jerusalem issued the following statement:


You are right: the context matters. That helps a lot. I wonder, though, outside of this Synod, whether the Orthodox Church has declared itself "infallible"--in the Fathers, in other councils or in the hymnology.

#14 Eric Todd

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Posted 22 February 2013 - 09:44 PM

For specifically these reasons, the Church is actually more "infallibly true" then Scripture - St Paul says, "When the perfect comes the imperfect will pass away."   The Scripture after all is just words pointing us to the truth, but the Church Herself is that reality being pointed to.


This is a rather different perspective. Have you any evidence from the Fathers elevating the infallibility of the Church even above Scripture? How would that infallibility be expressed--ie through what media could we observe it? Or are you speaking more mystically here?

#15 Owen Jones

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 02:39 AM

If I am not mistaken, the Justinian Council declared it's statement to be infallible. 



#16 Kosta

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 04:22 AM

The Jerusalem council was primarily over western tendencies between the RC and Protestants. It intensionally used terminology borrowed from the west, as this council was meant to show what the eastern church believed to westerners in language they were familiar with.

In Orthodoxy, usually words like "perfect, unblemished, spotless, pillar of truth, would be the adjectives that describe the infallibility of the church.

Edited by Kosta, 23 February 2013 - 04:25 AM.


#17 Anna Stickles

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 07:54 PM

The Jerusalem council was primarily over western tendencies between the RC and Protestants. It intensionally used terminology borrowed from the west, as this council was meant to show what the eastern church believed to westerners in language they were familiar with.

In Orthodoxy, usually words like "perfect, unblemished, spotless, pillar of truth, would be the adjectives that describe the infallibility of the church.

Yes, infallible has too much an exclusively intellectual context to really be useful, It usually refers strictly to ideas or statements whereas what we are talking about here is being.



#18 Kosta

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 09:27 AM

This is a rather different perspective. Have you any evidence from the Fathers elevating the infallibility of the Church even above Scripture? How would that infallibility be expressed--ie through what media could we observe it? Or are you speaking more mystically here?

 

The Fathers tended to view scripture as one of the treasures of the Church and outside the Church it was just a book. Obviously the church is greater as its also the vehicle which transmits the sacraments. The Fathers could not fathom the scriptures as a seperate entity apart from the Church.  Obviously the scriptures cannot be greater than the institution that they belong to and apart from the Church they lose there prestige.  This is evident in just a small sampling of writings from the Fathers:

 

"The world is driven and tempest tossed by sins. God has given to it assemblies; we mean holy churches in which survive the doctrines of the truth." (Theophilus of Antioch)

 

For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God. And were the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and every kind of Grace." (Irenaeus)

 

"So we should flee to the Church, and be brought up in her bosom, and be nourished with the Lord's scriptures. For the church has been planted as a garden in this world". (Irenaeus)

 

"The pre-eminence of the Church is its oneness. It is the basis of union. In this, it surpasses all other things and has nothing like or equal to itself". (Clement of Alexandria)

 

"The catholic church is the plantation of God, it is His beloved vineyard. It contains those who have believed in His unerring religion...(Apostolic constitutions)

 

'Wherever it will be manifest that the true christian rule and faith are, there likewise will be the true scriptures and the correct exposition thereof- and allthe Christian traditions." (Tertullian 197ad referencing the catholic church)



#19 Eric Todd

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Posted 28 February 2013 - 10:17 PM

The Fathers tended to view scripture as one of the treasures of the Church and outside the Church it was just a book. Obviously the church is greater as its also the vehicle which transmits the sacraments. The Fathers could not fathom the scriptures as a seperate entity apart from the Church.  Obviously the scriptures cannot be greater than the institution that they belong to and apart from the Church they lose there prestige.  This is evident in just a small sampling of writings from the Fathers:
 
"The world is driven and tempest tossed by sins. God has given to it assemblies; we mean holy churches in which survive the doctrines of the truth." (Theophilus of Antioch)
 
For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God. And were the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and every kind of Grace." (Irenaeus)
 
"So we should flee to the Church, and be brought up in her bosom, and be nourished with the Lord's scriptures. For the church has been planted as a garden in this world". (Irenaeus)
 
"The pre-eminence of the Church is its oneness. It is the basis of union. In this, it surpasses all other things and has nothing like or equal to itself". (Clement of Alexandria)
 
"The catholic church is the plantation of God, it is His beloved vineyard. It contains those who have believed in His unerring religion...(Apostolic constitutions)
 
'Wherever it will be manifest that the true christian rule and faith are, there likewise will be the true scriptures and the correct exposition thereof- and allthe Christian traditions." (Tertullian 197ad referencing the catholic church)

These are some good quotes, but none elevates the Church's infallibility over that of Scripture.

If Scripture is true, how can the Church be more true or truer?

#20 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 28 February 2013 - 11:13 PM

I see no point in comparing the 'truth' of scripture with the 'truth' of the Church, but the fact remains that it was the Church which determined which books and epistles should comprise the canon of the New Testament.  If NT scripture is regarded as infallible, it says a great deal about what the Church was competent to do that it determined what was scripture and what was not.


Edited by Andreas Moran, 28 February 2013 - 11:13 PM.





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