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Infallibility of the Church


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#21 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 02:12 AM

Holy Scripture is Tradition written down. Holy Tradition is applied Scripture. It is not an "either/or" sort of thing. But it is only within the context of the Church that Holy Scripture has true meaning.



#22 Dimitris

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 05:43 AM

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

The Church is the source of the scripture, not the other way round.



#23 Kosta

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 08:14 AM

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?

 

 Quite simple, there's plenty of quotes from the Fathers of how there is no salvation outside the Church, reading the scriptures apart from the Church cannot save you. It becomes just a book like any other from the library, it cannot be understood correctly apart from its proper setting.

 

The canonical scriptures were those scriptures approved to be read publicly and outloud in the church. Canonical scripture are to be listened to during the liturgy and not neccesarily read. This is apparent and explained in every canon and list of the canonical books in the early church.

 

The Church has also approved of other scripture, worthy to be read( in accordance with the Church's interpretations when applicable) but is not to be utilized in the public worship of the Church; such as the book of Revelation and Tobit.  

 

Thus the Church sanctioned which scriptures should be preached and listened to in Church,  and sanctioned additional scriptures that can be read in non-worship settings. But more importantly the Church also Orthodoxily interprets them.

 

Secondly the scriptures are only the headlines. Its a non-exhaustive summary, thus the Divine Liturgy centered around the Eucharist is superior to scripture, baptism is superior to scripture, Chrismation is superior to scripture. Holy Unction is superior to scripture, Confession is superior to scripture.  And the great  Services of the Ressurection and Pascha are superior to scripture.

 

The Church can function without scriptures,  like places where the bible is banned, and in many places where entire villages are illiterate, the fullness of the Christian gospel is still preserved and experienced within the Church without anything lacking at all.

 

There is no salvific grace outside the Church, There is no mysteries outside the Church. And there is no sure benefit to reading the scriptures apart from the Church,

 

But within the Church you never even have to own a bible, you can close your ears and not listen to the scriptures even when in Church, just by properly preparing and participating in the Holy Eucharist you can be saved. Thats why we know with 100% certainty, that the deaf and blind, the mentally ill, the illiterate immigrant, the disabled person with brain damage,  still receves the fullness of God's salvic illuminating grace equally and even more so, than the theologian who studies scripture all day long.


Edited by Kosta, 01 March 2013 - 08:24 AM.


#24 Owen Jones

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 02:57 PM

One of the problems is what one means by "the truth."  The truth is something one lives.  It is not a body of facts and information, as important as they are.  The Bible is a collection of books of people witnessing to God's presence in their lives and in the world, as they have been blessed to be able to see it.  It expresses itself in a consistent way, that is not really like that of an ordinary history book.  which means that the most important "information" is symbolic representation of God's presence in a way that evokes that presence in the reader.  It has pre-imminence over other spiritual writings of the Church because of the authors being in a particular time and place, and recounting what they have seen and heard (revelation) regarding fundamental or foundational changes in mankind.  Because the Church represents both God and all of mankind, not just believers.  In the Orthodox way of understanding, the Bible does not exist apart from the Church, and is quite obviously dependent on the Church's interpretation of it (in addition to the Church's creation of it), because, also quite obviously, it is possible to interpret it wrongly, with the wrong spirit.  The Church as a doctrine of illumination which is clearly a prerequisite for proper understanding.  Not that any person cannot pick up the Bible and read it and gain from that, but it is equally possible that such a person, who is not illuminated, will get it wrong, and badly. 



#25 Lakis Papas

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 04:34 PM

It is considered by some the truth to be undeniable, permanent and that it should be compulsory mentally accepted by all.
 
However, Christ said "I am the Truth" and also said: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me". The Christian truth is different from the truth of classical scientific thought. For this, the truth of the Church is found in the saints. Because they truly denied themselves and took up their crosses and followed Christ.
 
So, eventually we meet the Truth, in a personal meeting with someone else who is the Truth.

Edited by Lakis Papas, 01 March 2013 - 04:35 PM.


#26 Anna Stickles

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 08:56 PM

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?

as to how that infallibility is expressed see Herman's post above (#8) 


 

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

 

If the root is corrupt how can the fruit be pure? Therefore if the Church is the source of Scripture then for the Scripture to be without blemish the Church as its source must be without blemish.   The Scripture's perfection reflects the perfection of the Apostles who wrote them, and their closeness to Christ.  There is not some mystical perfection or infallibility that exists in the Scriptures themselves apart from the grace that exists in the Church.

 

Christ says to the Pharisees in John 5  39 “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. 40 Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. "  and at the end of this book St John says, "31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

 

The whole concept of infallibility in the west has a theological content such that it was as if someone is saying "These are written so that there should be no intellectual errors about God."  But this is so far from the true theological purpose of Scripture....


Edited by Anna Stickles, 01 March 2013 - 08:59 PM.


#27 Owen Jones

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Posted 01 March 2013 - 11:58 PM

It's not just that Christ is the Truth, or Truth, but that the Way is Truth.  There is no Christ, no Truth, apart from the way. 



#28 Eric Todd

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 04:30 PM

 Quite simple, there's plenty of quotes from the Fathers of how there is no salvation outside the Church, reading the scriptures apart from the Church cannot save you. It becomes just a book like any other from the library, it cannot be understood correctly apart from its proper setting. The canonical scriptures were those scriptures approved to be read publicly and outloud in the church. Canonical scripture are to be listened to during the liturgy and not neccesarily read. This is apparent and explained in every canon and list of the canonical books in the early church. The Church has also approved of other scripture, worthy to be read( in accordance with the Church's interpretations when applicable) but is not to be utilized in the public worship of the Church; such as the book of Revelation and Tobit.   Thus the Church sanctioned which scriptures should be preached and listened to in Church,  and sanctioned additional scriptures that can be read in non-worship settings. But more importantly the Church also Orthodoxily interprets them. Secondly the scriptures are only the headlines. Its a non-exhaustive summary, thus the Divine Liturgy centered around the Eucharist is superior to scripture, baptism is superior to scripture, Chrismation is superior to scripture. Holy Unction is superior to scripture, Confession is superior to scripture.  And the great  Services of the Ressurection and Pascha are superior to scripture. The Church can function without scriptures,  like places where the bible is banned, and in many places where entire villages are illiterate, the fullness of the Christian gospel is still preserved and experienced within the Church without anything lacking at all. There is no salvific grace outside the Church, There is no mysteries outside the Church. And there is no sure benefit to reading the scriptures apart from the Church, But within the Church you never even have to own a bible, you can close your ears and not listen to the scriptures even when in Church, just by properly preparing and participating in the Holy Eucharist you can be saved. Thats why we know with 100% certainty, that the deaf and blind, the mentally ill, the illiterate immigrant, the disabled person with brain damage,  still receves the fullness of God's salvic illuminating grace equally and even more so, than the theologian who studies scripture all day long.


Thank you. That was very illuminating. I agree.

#29 Eric Todd

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 04:45 PM

as to how that infallibility is expressed see Herman's post above (#8)



If the root is corrupt how can the fruit be pure? Therefore if the Church is the source of Scripture then for the Scripture to be without blemish the Church as its source must be without blemish. The Scripture's perfection reflects the perfection of the Apostles who wrote them, and their closeness to Christ. There is not some mystical perfection or infallibility that exists in the Scriptures themselves apart from the grace that exists in the Church.

Christ says to the Pharisees in John 5 39 “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that testify on my behalf. 40 Yet you refuse to come to me to have life. " and at the end of this book St John says, "31 But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

The whole concept of infallibility in the west has a theological content such that it was as if someone is saying "These are written so that there should be no intellectual errors about God." But this is so far from the true theological purpose of Scripture....

Yes, but you have asserted that the Church has greater infallibility than Scripture. What does that mean? Where do you see that in Scripture or Patristics?

I am not even sure that the Church must be equally as infallible as Scripture. For example, I am definitely fallible. Yet I know that A is not not A. And that axiom is infallible, yet I am not. What gives?

Edited by Eric Todd, 02 March 2013 - 04:56 PM.


#30 Anna Stickles

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 05:48 PM

Eric,

I am not even sure that the Church must be equally as infallible as Scripture.

Is it important for the teachings of the Church on the Trinity, on the two natures of Christ, on the Divine economy of salvation, and also in her liturgical and practical life be trusted and accepted as equally as we trust and accept what is said in Scripture?



#31 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 07:13 PM

I do sometimes wonder what sort of catechesis some people have had.  The questions raised here sound like the questions a Protestant might ask.  A catechumen should be taught the meaning of that article in the Creed which says, 'One, Holy Catholic, and Apostolic Church'.  The 'Holy' adjective means that the Church's teaching of the Orthodox Christian faith is pure and, if we must use the word, infallible.  The Church is 'the pillar and ground of truth'; the truth it teaches is the unchanging teaching revealed by God.  As has already been indicated, the Church has furnished the world with the fulness of faith and truth through the canon of scripture, the sacraments, the definitions of the Ecumenical Councils, the holy icons, and the service books.  The statement, 'I am not even sure that the Church must be equally as infallible as Scripture' is, with respect, meaningless.  If what the word 'Holy' signifies is fully understood, what questions can remain?



#32 Anna Stickles

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 09:44 PM

It is important to remember too, when we talk about the theological context of infallibility we are talking about the divine authority and holiness resident in something.

 

We should not define fallibility as the presence of logical, scientific or historical inconsistency and error, and infallibility as the lack of this. (The wiki article on biblical infallibility addresses this a little, although like most of wiki leaves a lot to be desired.) This latter is more properly called the doctrine of the Biblical Inerrancy and has a lot of problemsIt  is a way of approaching Scripture which arose under the influence of nominalism and modern critical tendencies.  And when Herman mentions that the concept of infallibility itself is a heresy to be combated I am assuming he is referring either to this or to something like the Chicago statement of Biblical Inerrancy which clearly states that the Bible is of greater authority then the Church.

 

Anyway the point is that the main issue at stake that the Jerusalem synod was answering had to do with the authority of the Church as equal with Scripture because the Holy Spirit was at work in the formation of both. But we can also say that the Church is above Scripture because of the many reasons stated in the above posts.


Edited by Anna Stickles, 02 March 2013 - 09:53 PM.


#33 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 11:35 PM

I would not say that the Church is above scripture.  Scripture is part of the Church and all parts of the Body are necessary. As God the Word, Christ, is Head of the Church, the Holy Tradition of the Church – of which scripture is part - is the wellspring of God’s revelation, the living voice of the Church.  The Divine Voice of the Church consists in all those aspects of Holy Tradition which form the Church’s divine teaching.  And let us remember that the Church, as the Body of Christ, exists in heaven and on earth.  The holiness of the Church is not tainted by the sins of its members yet living on earth: on the contrary, its members are being saved by that holiness, by those therapeutic actions through which the Holy Spirit sanctifies its members on earth: they are holy, not because they are ‘good’ but because they partake of the deifying Holy Gifts.



 



#34 Eric Todd

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Posted 02 March 2013 - 11:53 PM

I do sometimes wonder what sort of catechesis some people have had. The questions raised here sound like the questions a Protestant might ask. A catechumen should be taught the meaning of that article in the Creed which says, 'One, Holy Catholic, and Apostolic Church'. The 'Holy' adjective means that the Church's teaching of the Orthodox Christian faith is pure and, if we must use the word, infallible. The Church is 'the pillar and ground of truth'; the truth it teaches is the unchanging teaching revealed by God. As has already been indicated, the Church has furnished the world with the fulness of faith and truth through the canon of scripture, the sacraments, the definitions of the Ecumenical Councils, the holy icons, and the service books. The statement, 'I am not even sure that the Church must be equally as infallible as Scripture' is, with respect, meaningless. If what the word 'Holy' signifies is fully understood, what questions can remain?

What do they teach them at these schools?

Since your assertions are so blazingly obvious that even a Catechumen should know them, perhaps you would not mind showing where in the First Council of Nicaea, or any subsequent ecumenical council, the word "holy" is equated with the word "infallible". Is there any Father from any period who understood the word "holy" to mean "infallible", especially with respect to the Church?

Also, since we speak of "holy Fathers", if you are correct in your understanding of the word holy, then they also must be considered infallible. Which holy Father do you consider infallible?

Edited by Eric Todd, 02 March 2013 - 11:56 PM.


#35 Eric Todd

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Posted 03 March 2013 - 12:07 AM

Eric,

Is it important for the teachings of the Church on the Trinity, on the two natures of Christ, on the Divine economy of salvation, and also in her liturgical and practical life be trusted and accepted as equally as we trust and accept what is said in Scripture?


And the NT Canon. I have no problem in accepting all these as true, even infallibly so. I just wonder if, logically, a formal authority, the Church, must be infallible in order for an material authority, Scripture, to be infallible. I am not asserting the Church is not infallible. Rather, I wonder if infallibility of the Church is a necessary condition for infallibility of Scripture.

Again, I can make infallible pronouncements as well, yet I am fallible

#36 Anna Stickles

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Posted 03 March 2013 - 12:52 AM

And the NT Canon. I have no problem in accepting all these as true, even infallibly so. I just wonder if, logically, a formal authority, the Church, must be infallible in order for an material authority, Scripture, to be infallible. I am not asserting the Church is not infallible. Rather, I wonder if infallibility of the Church is a necessary condition for infallibility of Scripture.

Again, I can make infallible pronouncements as well, yet I am fallible

You can make infallible pronouncements maybe by accident or because you are repeating what someone else has said,  but can you at all times in everything you say consciously and consistently communicate spiritual truth through your own knowledge and experience of it like the apostles could?  Like the saints can? 

 

Infallible in a theological sense does not simply mean a particular statement is true, but that it is authoritative and able to communicate the knowledge of God - not in the sense of accurate sentences about God but in the sense of communicating a real knowledge - the difference between actually knowing God vs simply knowing some fact about Him. 

 

About the word holy and the word infallible. See Kosta's post #16.


Edited by Anna Stickles, 03 March 2013 - 12:53 AM.


#37 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 03 March 2013 - 12:59 AM

You keep asking the wrong questions, though I'm not sure exactly what it is that you have a problem with.  Back in post #3, Herman explained that 'infallibility' is not a term the Orthodox Church uses much which is why your question is wrong, but you insist on sticking to the word.  Having said that, the Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs says the Church is infallible in her teaching which obviously includes the Ecumenical Councils.  St Paul's saying that the Church is 'the pillar and ground of truth' means the same thing. 

 

The Church (not 'I') considers the Fathers of the first Ecumenical Council to be holy and the decrees they issued to be the truth - 'infallible' if you like.  The Holy Church commemorates the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council on the seventh Sunday after Pascha.  They are celebrated in the hymns of the Church and in holy icons.  That is evidence enough, I would have thought, of their holiness.


Hymns of the Feast


Apolytikion
(Plagal of the Fourth Tone)

You are greatly glorified, O Christ our God, who established our Fathers as
luminaries upon the earth, and through them led us all to the true Faith. O
Most compassionate, glory to You.


Kontakion
(Plagal of the Fourth Tone)

The Church was strengthened into one faith through the preaching of the
Apostles and the doctrines of the Fathers. The Church is robed in truth woven
of the word of God from above. It teaches truth, and glorifies the great
mystery of faith.



 


Edited by Andreas Moran, 03 March 2013 - 01:01 AM.


#38 Eric Todd

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Posted 03 March 2013 - 07:44 AM

You keep asking the wrong questions, though I'm not sure exactly what it is that you have a problem with.  Back in post #3, Herman explained that 'infallibility' is not a term the Orthodox Church uses much which is why your question is wrong, but you insist on sticking to the word.  Having said that, the Encyclical of the Eastern Patriarchs says the Church is infallible in her teaching which obviously includes the Ecumenical Councils.  St Paul's saying that the Church is 'the pillar and ground of truth' means the same thing. 
 
The Church (not 'I') considers the Fathers of the first Ecumenical Council to be holy and the decrees they issued to be the truth - 'infallible' if you like.  The Holy Church commemorates the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council on the seventh Sunday after Pascha.  They are celebrated in the hymns of the Church and in holy icons.  That is evidence enough, I would have thought, of their holiness.
Hymns of the Feast
Apolytikion
(Plagal of the Fourth Tone)
You are greatly glorified, O Christ our God, who established our Fathers as
luminaries upon the earth, and through them led us all to the true Faith. O
Most compassionate, glory to You.

Kontakion
(Plagal of the Fourth Tone)
The Church was strengthened into one faith through the preaching of the
Apostles and the doctrines of the Fathers. The Church is robed in truth woven
of the word of God from above. It teaches truth, and glorifies the great
mystery of faith.


 

You seem to be avoiding my question. I don't have a problem with what you've written here and I appreciate what Herman has written.

I do have a problem with this statement:

"I do sometimes wonder what sort of catechesis some people have had. The questions raised here sound like the questions a Protestant might ask. A catechumen should be taught the meaning of that article in the Creed which says, 'One, Holy Catholic, and Apostolic Church'."

If your assertion--the Church is "infallible" because the Church is described as "holy" in the Nicene Creed--is so obviously true that it is "Protestant" to even question the idea, please catechise me with some evidence from the Councils and Fathers which equate "holy " with "infallible". I've never seen that.

Since even you are reluctant to use the word "infallible", why would you expect an Orthodox catechism to teach that "holy" in the Creed means "infallible"?

In the absence of such evidence, I think your dismissive tone is unfounded.

#39 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 03 March 2013 - 09:00 AM

Some contemporary Orthodox sources (eg the GOARCH web site) employ the word 'infallible' because it has a resonance with the western mind, but St Paul's saying 'pillar and ground of truth' is preferable, and a Greek book of catechesis such as that by Frangopoulos does not use the word 'infallible'.  I doubt any Ecumenical Council or early Church Father uses the word and I wonder what Greek word of the first centuries might be equivalent to 'infallible' which has only a medieval Latin etymology.  We may say that the Church has formulated the truth.  The truth is self-evidently perfect.  God led the Church into all truth and His truth is self-evidently holy.  Incidentally, everything I have posted is taken from sources: I make no assertions of my own.



#40 Anna Stickles

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Posted 03 March 2013 - 01:17 PM

If we understand that infallibility has as its basis inspiriation, (not scientific or logical knowledge) then one can see clearly the connection between holiness and purity and infallibility in something like St Gregory the Theologian's Oration 27  below are some samples from this oration.  It is a common theme in Orthodox spiritual literature that the theologian is the one who prays, the theologian is the one who has been purified from the passions and who has received "not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit" (1 Cor 2:10-13).


 

Discussion of theology is not for everyone, I tell you, not for everyone--it is no such inexpensive or effortless pursuit. Nor, I would add, is it for every occasion, or every audience; neither are all its aspects open to inquiry. It must be reserved for certain occasions, for certain audiences, and certain limits must be observed. It is not for all people, but only for those who have been tested and have found a sound footing in study, and, more importantly, have undergone, or at the very least are undergoing, purification of body and soul. For one who is not pure to lay hold of pure things is dangerous, just as it is for weak eyes to look at the sun's brightness. (§3)

 

...

How, I ask you, will such a discussion be interpreted by the man who subscribes to a creed of adulteries and infanticides, who worships the passions, who is incapable of conceiving of anything higher than the body, who fabricated his own gods only the other day, and gods at that distinguished by their utter vileness? What sort of construction will he put on it? Is he not certain to take it in a crude, obscene, material sense, as is his wont? Will he not appropriate your theology to defend his own gods and passions?

 

...

When I see the endless talkativeness that haunts us today, the instant sages and designated theologians, for whom simply willing to be wise is enough to make them so, I long for the philosophy that comes from above; I yearn for that "final lodging," to use Jeremiah's phrase, and I want only to be off by myself. For nothing seems so important to me as for a person to shut off his senses, to take his place outside the flesh and the world—not to fasten on human realities unless it is completely necessary, and so, in conversation with himself and with God, to live above the level of the visible, and always to bear the images of divine things within himself in their pure state, free from the stamp of what is inferior and changeable. In this way, one is—and one is always becoming—a spotless mirror of God and divine things, assimilating light to light, and adding clarity to indistinct beginnings, until we come to the source of the light that radiates in this world and lay hold of our blessed end, where mirrors are dissolved in true reality. One can scarcely achieve this, except either by training oneself in the discipline of philosophy (philosophy here means the sprititual struggle involved in the obtaining of wisdom and purity, not rational ruminations)  we for a long time, and so detaching the noble and luminous elements of the soul, little by little, from what is base and mingled with darkness, or else by obtaining God's mercy—or by a combination of the two; so, making it one's concern, as far as possible, to turn one's gaze upwards, one might gain mastery over the materiality that drags one downwards. But before one has elevated this materiality as far as possible, and has sufficiently purified one's ears and one's intelligence, I do not think it is safe either to accept a position of
spiritual leadership or to devote oneself to theology.


Edited by Anna Stickles, 03 March 2013 - 01:18 PM.





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