Archive for the ‘Inconvenient’ Category

>An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 20

October 5, 2010

>An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 20

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the twentieth in the multi-part series.

The First Councils of Ephesus (A.D. 431) / Third Ecumenical Councils

That pluralization is not a typo. You may have heard of the first council of Ephesus, also called the Third Ecumenical Council. It was held in Ephesus in 431. What tends not to be mentioned is this:

Who Called the Council(s)?

If you guessed, “the pope,” or less anachronistically “the bishop of Rome,” you would be wrong. The person who called the council was Theodosius II. It was not initiated by “the Church” but by the state.

Was the Council Fair? And why do you keep pluralizing Council?

Again, if this is a Holy Council of the universal church, specially blessed by the Holy Spirit, one might expect that it would be a fair council. It was not – or at least it gives the strong appearance of being unfair. Cyril of Alexandria headed up one faction that responded to Theodosius II’s call for the council. He arrived in Ephesus in advance of his theological opponents. When he learned that they were several days away, he went ahead and opened the council. His opponents arrived four days later and convened their own council in Ephesus. Each side deposed the other side.

Who won?

In the short term, Cyril’s party won. There was a rift between the parties of the rival parties, but the rift between the parties was resolved. In the long term, his leading opponent (Nestorius) remains synonymous with division of Christ into two persons, whether or not Nestorius actually held that view. On the other hand, phrases attributed to Cyril, such as “one nature after the union,” were later condemned by Chalcedon (A.D. 451), vindicating the opposing party to some degree.

Eastern Orthodox historian Meyendorff agrees:

The Chalcedonian definition of 451—two natures united in one hypostasis, yet retaining in full their respective characteristics—was therefore a necessary correction of Cyril’s vocabulary. Permanent credit should be given to the Antiochians—especially to Theodoret—and to Leo of Rome for having shown the necessity of this correction, without which Cyrillian Christology could easily be, and actually was, interpreted in a Monophysite sense by Eutyches and his followers.

– John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes, 2nd rev. ed. (New York: Fordham University Press, 1983), p. 33.

How was the Rift Resolved?

The rift was resolved by the adoption (without the mechanism of a council) of the Formula of Union. This formula condemned Nestorius, but forced Cyril to back off from the stand taken in his Twelve Anathemas. It resulted in a tottering peace, and that peace fell apart after Cyril’s death (A.D. 444), arguably due to the ferocity of Dioscorus, one of the leaders among those who were in Cyril’s party.

Norman Russell, an historian who I believe is Anglican (I’m not sure), explains:

The ‘precise facts’, although Cyril does not say so, are that the Formulary of Reunion [433] was the best compromise that he could have secured in these circumstances. The repudiation of Ephesus by the Eastern bishops under the leadership of John of Antioch meant that the council would have failed unless the Easterners could have been persuaded to accede to it retrospectively. And the power diplomacy exercised by the imperial commissioner Aristolaus, backed up by the menacing presence of the magistrianos Maximus, made it clear to Cyril what the alternatives were: doctrinal agreement between Alexandria and Antioch or the setting aside of the Council with the possible restoration of Nestorius and the certain banishment of Cyril. It is no wonder that Cyril suffered bouts of nervous depression before an accord was finally signed. The gloss that he put on the phraseology of the Formulary in his letter to Eulogius was that the ‘two natures’ refers to the Word and the flesh, for neither becomes the other as a result of the Incarnation. But the ‘two natures’ in itself says nothing about the union. For this we need to refer to ‘one incarnate nature of the Son’. The ‘one nature’ from ‘two natures’ is analogous to the formation of a single human being from the two constituent natures of body and soul. The words ‘one’ and ‘two’ in Cyril’s usage refer to two different levels of reality.

Cyril returned to this argument in greater detail in his First Letter to Succensus. Succensus, one of Cyril’s allies, although bishop of Diocaesarea in the territory of John of Antioch, had asked Cyril ‘whether one should ever speak of two natures in respect of Christ’. In reply Cyril rehearses the teaching of Nestorius, which he claims was derived from Diodore of Tarsus. The ‘twoness’ for Nestorius, as Cyril understood it, consisted in a man being joined to the Word in a nominal sense, so that man and the Word enjoyed a deemed equality by honour or rank. The assigning of different sayings in the Gospels either to the humanity or to the divinity is symptomatic of such an approach. The correct doctrine, by contrast, is that Christ is the pre-eternal Word born of the Virgin. Cyril knows that he is accused of Apollinarianism for teaching this. A strict union is in danger of being seen as a merger [σύνχσις], mixture [σύνκρασις] or mingling [φυρμός]. Cyril rebuts the slander. What we affirm, he says, is that the Word from God the Father united to himself a body endowed with a soul without merger [ἀσυνχύτως], alteration [ἀτρέπτως] or change [ἀμεταβλήτως]. It is necessary to maintain the two natures (i.e., the composite elements, the divine and the human, that make up Christ) as well as the one nature (i.e., the single subject who is the Son — ‘the one incarnate nature of the Word’). If either is missing our Christology cannot be orthodox.

It would perhaps have prevented a great deal of subsequent misunderstanding if Cyril could have gone one step further and made his second meaning of physis explicitly equivalent to hypostatis. Cyril accepted the Cappadocian identity of ousia in three separate hypostaseis on the Trinitarian level. But it was not until Chalcedon that an analogous distinction was applied to Christology: two natures but one hypostatis or prosopon. The reason why Cyril could not take that step was his conviction that the mia physis formula had been sanctioned by Athanasius, the church father so far as Cyril was concerned, In fact the phrase ‘one incarnate nature of God the Word’ had been devised by Apollinarius, who had put it forward in the statement of faith he sent to the Emperor Jovian in 363. This statement had been reassigned to Athanasius by Apollinarius’ disciples after his condemnation. Cyril was completely taken in by the forgery. He first used the mia physis formula in his five-volume polemic against Nestorius, and again in his important dogmatic letters to Eulogius and Succensus. To him it was a useful phrase of irreproachable provenance which emphatically ruled out Nestorius’ loose ‘prosopic union’ once and for all.

Norman Russell, his chapter in The Theology of St Cyril of Alexandria: A Critical Appreciation (London: T & T Clark, 2003), pp. 238-240.

But Did Chalcedon Contradict Ephesus?

Canon 7 of the Council of Ephesus states: “These things having been read aloud, the holy Council then decreed that no one should be permitted to offer any different belief or faith, or in any case to write or compose any other, than the one defined by the Holy Fathers who convened in the city of Nicaea, with Holy Spirit.

Yet, quite famously, the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) did write and compose another creed than that of Nicaea. The modified creed is still called the “Nicene Creed,” but is more suitably referred to as as the “Nicene-Constantinoplean Creed” (such a mouthful, it is easy to see why the more imprecise description is popular).

This was also a vindication for those of the party that had convened a council with Nestorius. After all, one of Dioscorus’ attacks on them was that the Formula of Union was essentially a supplemental creed beyond that of Nicaea, yet Chalcedon felt free to come up with a new creed – one that largely adopted the views of the Formula of Union.

Have you left out a council?

Yes, I left out another council that met in A.D. 449 in Ephesus. This council condemned the author of the Formula of Union and vindicated Eutychius, rejecting the arguments from Leo I (of Rome), and exonerated Eutychius. This council was also called by Theodosius II. Nevertheless, it was overturned by the council of Chalcedon in 451.

What Explains the Reversal?

Well, God’s Providence is certainly one explanation. But another, more to-the-point explanation, is that in July 450 Theodosius II fell off his horse and died. His sister Pulcheria was closely allied with Leo of Rome, in contrast to Chrysaphius, who had been running imperial affairs under Theodosius II, and who was allied with Eutychius. Pulcheria called the council of Chalcedon in 451, after having Chrysaphius executed and Eutychius exiled. From a human standpoint, Pulcheria controlled the council, and the result was just as she wished: Dioscorus was condemned and exiled, and Leo’s “Tome” (previously rejected de facto at Ephesus II, A.D. 449) was given a prominent place.

Eastern Orthodox historian John A. McGuckin, who has a very high view of Cyril, would disagree with my assessment:

But this, nothing else, is what the Chalcedonian text teaches, at least when it is read apart from the Leonine Tome, which has too often been taken as its exegetical commentary, but rather should be taken out of the interpretive picture since the Chalcedonian symbol was more in the manner of a corrective of Leo than a substantiation of him. This can be seen nowhere more clearly than in the verbal form which drives that whole central clause containing the four adverbs qualifying ‘in two natures’. It is none other than ‘Gnorizomenon’: ‘made known to the intellect.’ Chalcedon, therefore, teaches that Christ is ‘made known (to the intellect) in two natures’. It does not simply teach that ‘Christ is in two natures’ as the Antiochene system had suggested. Those who do not recognize or understand the importance of the difference are those who have not followed the whole fifth century Christological debate, but this certainly did not include the bishops present at Chalcedon. And so, the Chalcedonian decree, at this critical juncture, is clearly and deliberately, a profession of Cyril’s understanding of the union and, again, largely on his terms. The ‘made known’ of Chalcedon is substantially the ‘notional scrutiny’ (oson men heken eis ennoian) of Cyril’s First Letter to Succensus. Even when Cyril’s terminology was felt to be in need of correction, or clarification, whether to placate the West, or to exclude a Eutyches or a Dioscorus, it was instinctively to Cyril that they turned to supply the correction.

– John A. McGuckin, St. Cyril of Alexandria: The Christological Controversy, Its History, Theology and Texts (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1994 ), p. 240.

-TurretinFan

Advertisements

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 19

September 23, 2008

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 19

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the nineteenth in the multi-part series.

Seventh Ecumenical Council (783) – Destroyed Patristic Writings Opposed to Icons

In mocking words, the council commanded that all writings opposed to icons be turned over to the Patriarch of Constantinople, whose job it was to prevent these writings from being read. This command was to be enforced by deposing clergy from office and excommunicating laymen and monks:

All boyish whimwhams and mad bacchanalia, the false writings that have been brought forth against the venerable icons, must be turned in to the Bishopric of Constantinople to be put away together with the rest of heretical books. If, on the other hand, anyone should be found hiding these, if he be a Bishop, a Presbyter, or a Deacon, let him be deposed from office; but if he be a layman or a monk, let him be excommunicated.

You will notice that, in theory, there was a sort of “heretical library” to be possessed by the Patriarch of Constantinople. In effect, however, the removal of iconoclastic books from circulation had the effect of destroying those books, especially since one would not expect the Patriarch to keep each copy of every book.

As almost a footnote, it is interesting to see that this prominent role was held by the Patriarch of Constantinople, not the Patriarch of Rome. There is, of course, a practical reason beyond the fact that the Bishop of Rome was not considered the head of the church in that day: the heart of the resistance to icons would be expected to come from the Eastern church, where just 30 years previously a similarly sized council had condemned icons as contrary to Scripture and Tradition.

Ultimately, though, this council’s decree creates an easy historical explanation for the dearth of writings from the Early Church Fathers against images of Christ: they were rounded up and ultimately destroyed by those who followed the so-called Seventh Ecumenical Council. But for this council, any silence in the Early Church Fathers on this topic would have been harder to explain.

-TurretinFan

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 18

September 22, 2008

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 18

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the eighteenth in what has become a multi-part series.

Fifth Lateran Council (1512-17) – Promotion of Religious Wars in 16th Century

It is widely held in Catholicism today that John Paul II acknowledged the religious wars of the past were a mistake. What is an inconvenient truth for such folks is that these wars were, even to at least the 16th century, promoted by the Roman church. Those who count there as being 21 ecumenical councils consider the Fifth Lateran Council to be the 18th Ecumenical Council.

The council decreed:

We decree, with the approval of the sacred council, that the said campaign against the infidels is to be undertaken and carried through. Zeal for the faith prompts us to this. It has been so often proposed and promised by us and our predecessor Julius in the sessions referred to, when the business of the council was being explained. On several occasions it was communicated to, and discussed with, spokesmen at our court representing kings and princes. Pope Nicholas V, our predecessor of pious memory, summoned a general expedition against the infidels after the disastrous fall of Constantinople in order to crush their fury and to avenge the wounds of Christ. Callistus III and Pius II, of happy memory our predecessors as Roman pontiffs, urged on by zeal for the faith, followed in the same path with skill and energy. During a subsequent period of three years, we imitated them by means of an authorisation from ourselves and our said brothers for imposing and exacting a tithe on the revenues of churches, monasteries and other benefices throughout the world and for doing each and every other thing that is necessary and customary in a campaign of this kind. We continually pour forth holy, humble and earnest prayers to almighty God that the campaign may have a happy outcome. We order the same to be done by all Christ’s faithful of either sex. We exhort Maximilian, the emperor-elect, and kings, princes and christian rulers, whose courage God bids us to rouse, beseeching them by the tender mercy of our God, Jesus Christ, and appealing to them by his fearful judgment to remember that they shall have to render an account of their defence and preservation — even by giving their lives — of the church itself, which has been redeemed by Christ’s blood, and to rise up in strength and power for the defence of the christian faith, as is incumbent on them as a personal and necessary duty, with all mutual hatred being set aside and quarrels and conflicts among themselves being committed to everlasting oblivion. At this time of such great need, let them offer with eagerness their ready assistance in keeping with their resources. We urge with paternal affection and ask them that, at least during the campaign, out of reverence for almighty God and for the apostolic see, they assure the unbroken observance of the peace into which they have entered, so that such an important good, which we hope and desire will be obtained with the help of the Lord’s right hand, may not be impeded by some interruption from discord and dissension.

What is interesting, however, is that it does not appear that any new crusade followed on this council’s proclamation. God had other ideas for Europe. Martin Luther in October of 1517 presented 95 theses, which are often identified as the starting point of the Protestant Reformation.

-TurretinFan

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 17

September 21, 2008

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 17

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the seventeenth in what has become a multi-part series.

Second Vatican Council (1962-65) – Freedom of Religion Promoted

You will recall that in a previous section, we noted that the “ecumenical” council Lateran IV canonized persecution of the Jews, even to the point of coercing them to prevent their reversion to Judaism if they once freely converted to Christianity. Vatican II contrarily declared:

2. This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

4. The freedom or immunity from coercion in matters religious which is the endowment of persons as individuals is also to be recognized as their right when they act in community. Religious communities are a requirement of the social nature both of man and of religion itself.

15. The fact is that men of the present day want to be able freely to profess their religion in private and in public. Indeed, religious freedom has already been declared to be a civil right in most constitutions, and it is solemnly recognized in international documents.(38) The further fact is that forms of government still exist under which, even though freedom of religious worship receives constitutional recognition, the powers of government are engaged in the effort to deter citizens from the profession of religion and to make life very difficult and dangerous for religious communities.

This council greets with joy the first of these two facts as among the signs of the times. With sorrow, however, it denounces the other fact, as only to be deplored. The council exhorts Catholics, and it directs a plea to all men, most carefully to consider how greatly necessary religious freedom is, especially in the present condition of the human family. All nations are coming into even closer unity. Men of different cultures and religions are being brought together in closer relationships. There is a growing consciousness of the personal responsibility that every man has. All this is evident. Consequently, in order that relationships of peace and harmony be established and maintained within the whole of mankind, it is necessary that religious freedom be everywhere provided with an effective constitutional guarantee and that respect be shown for the high duty and right of man freely to lead his religious life in society.

Frankly, it is hard to imagine a more clear example of a 180 degree change in position from 1215 to 1965 than on the issue of religious freedom. Who knows what a Roman bishop 750 years hence will do with Vatican II? It is an inconvenient truth that the canons and decrees of councils (even those designated “ecumenical”) cannot necessarily be counted on to represent the dogma of Rome, if she chooses to say something different at a later time.

-TurretinFan

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 16

September 21, 2008

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 16

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the sixteenth in what has become a multi-part series.

Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215) – Jews Officially Persecuted

I must immediately qualify this “persecution” claim, but noting that this is measuring the 4th Lateran Council by the standard of modern-day sensitivities, not by an objective standard.

Lateran IV forbade public offices to Jews, authorized “coercive action” to prevent reversion of “converted” Jews, required Jews and Muslims to wear distinctive clothing, required the Jews to tithe (and the like) on properties they acquired from Christians, and prohibited Jews and Muslims from public places during “Holy Week.” (Canons 67-70)

I think by modern standards, most (if not all) of those things would constitute persecution. This is an inconvenient truth for those who like to imagine that the Catholicism they practice today is the same as the “Catholic faith” practiced by the fathers of the Fourth Lateran Council, and yet who cannot stomach religious discrimination and persecution.

-TurretinFan

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 15

September 20, 2008

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 15

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the fifteenth in what has become a multi-part series.

Fourth Council of Constantinople (879-80) – Overturned “Eighth Ecumenical Council”

You will notice that I’ve called this council the “Fourth” in keeping with those who recognize only seven ecumenical councils, and oppose the 21-ers. The Eastern Orthodox view the earlier council as – in essence – voided by this later council, which restored Photius (who was deposed with his supporters by the “Eighth Ecumenical Council”).

This council is sometimes referred to (as it apparently referred to itself) as being an ecumenical council (and the eighth), but is not “officially” recognized as such by Eastern Orthodoxy today, though they may occasionally refer to it that way.

-TurretinFan

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 14

September 20, 2008

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 14

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the fourteenth in what has become a multi-part series.

Fourth Council of Constantinople (869-70) – Ecumenical Status a Later Fabrication

Those who claim there have been twenty-one ecumenical councils hold that a council held at Constantinople in 869-70 was the 8th such council. There are some rather obvious and severe problems with that theory.

First, there does not appear to be any identification of it as an ecumenical council prior to the era of the Great Schism;

Second, the Eastern Orthodox do not recognize it as ecumenical, although the council was held within the region (and at the political center of that region) that today is largely Eastern Orthodoxy.

The fairly obvious reason for this bickering was that the council was held to depose Photius, the patriarch of Constantinople, who had opposed Nicholas, the bishop of Rome. When it came to for the Great Schism, much cordiality between the church of Constantinople and the church of Rome became lost, and it became important for the Roman position that the deposition of Photius be given ecumenical weight.

Indeed, there is debate over whether Greeks corrupted the true text of the council or whether that was done by the Latins. In short, there was no shortage of divisiveness engendered by this council.

-TurretinFan

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 13

September 19, 2008

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 13

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the thirteenth in what has become a multi-part series.

Council of Jamnia (90) – 1st Century Council Rejects Apocrypha

The council of Jamnia was a Jewish council of the 1st Century that officially rejected the apocrypha as non-canonical. Now, these were not believing Jews, to be sure. Nevertheless, there is no valid basis for insisting that they opposed the Apocrypha for theological reasons relating to the person of Christ. Regardless of the motivation, however, the council is an inconvenient truth for those who wish to pretend that before the Reformers there was no opposition to the canon dogmatized by Trent in the 16th century.

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 12

September 13, 2008

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 12

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the twelfth in what has become a multi-part series.

Council of Constantinople (754) – Ecumenically Rejects Icons Prior to the Seventh So-Called Ecumenical Council

The so-called Seventh Ecumenical Council was held in Nicea in 787. According to some reports, 367 bishops were present. The Council of Constantinople of 754, however, was held about 33 years prior to that, although it apparently had only about 338 bishops present.

As noted in a previous section, though, the council of 754 declared itself to be ecumenical and apostolic:

Canon 19:

If anyone does not accept this our Holy and Ecumenical Seventh Synod, let him be anathema from the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, and from the seven holy Ecumenical Synods!

And from the closing:

The holy synod cried out: Thus we all believe, we all are of the same mind. We have all with one voice and voluntarily subscribed. This is the faith of the Apostles. Many years to the Emperors! They are the light of orthodoxy! Many years to the orthodox Emperors! God preserve your Empire! You have now more firmly proclaimed the inseparability of the two natures of Christ! You have banished all idolatry! You have destroyed the heresies of Germanus [of Constantinople], George and Mansur [mansour, John Damascene]. Anathema to Germanus, the double-minded, and worshipper of wood! Anathema to George, his associate, to the falsifier of the doctrine of the Fathers! Anathema to Mansur, who has an evil name and Saracen opinions! To the betrayer of Christ and the enemy of the Empire, to the teacher of impiety, the perverter of Scripture, Mansur, anathema! The Trinity has deposed these three!

(note that the parentheticals are not my own)

Of course, today many icondules do in fact reject the council of 754, deny that it was a valid council, and substitute the council of 787 for that of 754. Why they do that presents an interesting study in ecclesiology and epistemology, but the inconvenient truth is that a purportedly ecumenical council rejected the use of icons in worship before a purportedly ecumenical council affirmed the use of icons in worship.

-TurretinFan

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 11

September 13, 2008

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth – Part 11

Some folks seem to find relying on councils a comfort. For these folks, there are some inconvenient facts that they must face. This post is the eleventh in what has become a multi-part series.

Council of Constantinople (754) – Implicitly Denies the to-be-invented Doctrine of Transubstantiation

As one argument against images, the council of Constantinople of 754 (attended by 338 bishops) stated:

The only admissible figure of the humanity of Christ, however, is bread and wine in the holy Supper. This and no other form, this and no other type, has he chosen to represent his incarnation. Bread he ordered to be brought, but not a representation of the human form, so that idolatry might not arise. And as the body of Christ is made divine, so also this figure of the body of Christ, the bread, is made divine by the descent of the Holy Spirit; it becomes the divine body of Christ by the mediation of the priest who, separating the oblation from that which is common, sanctifies it.

And unanimously affirmed it, as it is reported:

The divine Kings Constantine and Leo said: Let the holy and ecumenical synod say, if with the consent of all the most holy bishops the definition just read has been set forth.

The holy synod cried out: Thus we all believe, we all are of the same mind. We have all with one voice and voluntarily subscribed. This is the faith of the Apostles. Many years to the Emperors! They are the light of orthodoxy! Many years to the orthodox Emperors! God preserve your Empire! You have now more firmly proclaimed the inseparability of the two natures of Christ! You have banished all idolatry! You have destroyed the heresies of Germanus [of Constantinople], George and Mansur [mansour, John Damascene]. Anathema to Germanus, the double-minded, and worshipper of wood! Anathema to George, his associate, to the falsifier of the doctrine of the Fathers! Anathema to Mansur, who has an evil name and Saracen opinions! To the betrayer of Christ and the enemy of the Empire, to the teacher of impiety, the perverter of Scripture, Mansur, anathema! The Trinity has deposed these three!

What’s even more inconvenient to those who maintain transubstantiation is that when a later council purported to overturn the decrees of this council, no mention is made of this argument. In other words, the council that tried to overturn this council did not argue that the bread and wine are not figures of Christ’s humanity, but instead focused on the alleged permissibility of other figures – representational figures that they supposed could be justified.

-TurretinFan


%d bloggers like this: