Scholars such as Father Richard Price and Father Nicholas Contas take for granted that the saints accorded near-Biblical authority to the acts of councils and writings of saints. Father Price has coined this “conciliar fundamentalism.” I have detailed that saints such as Athanasius and the proceedings of the councils themselves prove out that the Ecumenical Councils’ fathers believed that the minutes were likewise authoritative.
Universalists, liberals, and other types of heretics took issue with this admittedly extreme teaching of the saints. (Hey, don’t shoot the messenger!) Nevertheless, I figured it would be fun to point out that during the Council of Constantinople (1351), Saint Gregory Palamas amongst others took for granted that those who reject that the minutes of councils are inspired and binding to be heretics.
Apparently, the Barlaamites were hyper-rationalists seeking to contradict the traditional teaching of the Church as it pertains to the energy-essence distinction. Not surprisingly, our modernist and universalist heretics today share this characteristic in common. The following condemnation from the council would equally apply to them:
In what the dissenters [Barlaamites] said, they were not only continuing to fight against the saints individually, but already were attempting to overthrow and dissolve the holy sixth ecumenical council itself. That council had no other purpose; its whole subject concerned the two natural wills and the two natural energies in our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of this it was necessary to bring in the Acts of the council and to read them, and from these to proclaim the true faith; so they were set out in the midst. But as soon as they were brought forth the dissenters at once cried out, “Not the Acts of the council, but read the definition only.” But while the divine synod was uncertain what this outcry meant, and why they rejected and did not accept the Acts, those men still did not depart in any degree from the same futile evil opinion and their twisted attitude, not at all accepting the reading of the Acts. (par 12)
Interestingly, the Council calls “evil” those who assert that only the “definitions” of councils are authoritative. Ironically, but not coincidentally, this is exactly the position Father Kimel (a modernist and universalist) and his allies were expounding. The Council immediately continues:
At this, by the glorious command of our most clement emperor, a passage was read from the Synodikon which is customarily read on the ambo on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, which word for word is this: “On those who reject the words of the holy fathers, which were expressed at the confirmation of the correct doctrine of the Church of God, of Athanasius, Cyril, Ambrose, Amphilochius who spoke God’s words, Leo the most holy bishop of the elder Rome, and the rest, and in addition on those who did not embrace the Acts of the ecumenical councils, the fourth, that is, and the sixth, anathema… (par 12)
Apparently, the Synodikon itself condemns those who take the Barlaamite and Modernist position of the authority of councils as being only in their decrees as damnable. Not coincidentally, universalism itself is anathematized in the Synodikon as well. The Synodikon was approved by the Synod of 843 to reaffirm the ecumenical council of Nicea II.
On a side note, let’s revisit the idea I noted in my previous article on this subject pertaining to a sort of “Patristic Fundamentalism.” Later in the council, in Par 20 it speaks of “the inspired John of Damascus.” This phrase accords with Father Nicholas’ observation that the saints viewed other saints as inspired by the same Spirit that wrote the Scriptures. For example, Saint Maximus wrote the following about Saint Gregory Nazianzus:
Our blessed father Saint Gregory, being utterly purified by practical philosophy from all that habitually defiles human nature, and with his intellect thoroughly imbued with the qualities of the Holy Spirit (owing to his dedication to divine contemplations), through his true initiation into true knowledge, experienced the same things as the holy prophets, and with these words he enumerates for us the different forms of prophecy. (Ambiguum, 19:2)
Even if one is to “spiritualize” these words and render them as exaggeration, the obvious point would be that we are to honor the writings of the councils and saints as completely true and only with the utmost trepidation portray anything they convey in such a fashion as to call into doubt their authority and bring them into disrepute.
I will not belabor the point further. “Conciliar fundamentalism” is the Conciliar teaching of the Church and the saints. The rejection of this epistemology is the teaching of heretics. You choose, my dear reader, who’s boat you want to hitch yourself to.
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Dear Craig: Could you do a review of heterodox (non-Orthodox )Councils, especially Charlemagne’s Council of Aachen (809), the council of Lyons (1274), the Council of Florence (1444)?
Florence I sort of covered in the “what’s an ecumenical council” video.
“Interestingly, the Council calls ‘evil’ those who assert that only the “definitions” of councils are authoritative.”
Well, no, it calls their opinion evil. No human being is evil as we are created in the image and likeness of God, and we are united with Him through the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. We do evil things, but we are not evil. If we were, God would be evil.
I know that’s not the point of your article, but I just wanted to point that out. Otherwise, solid article.
Well, being that it anathematizes them, I’d say in common parlance I am being accurate 😉 Technically nothing God created is evil, but also it is reasonable to say that heretics and demons are “evil” even if their essence/nature (i.e. substance) is in fact good and it is only a twisted will that renders what they do evil.
So every word spoken by someone at a council is inspired and authoritative?
How would you address the fact that conciliar fundamentalism was used to reject the Fifth Ecumenical Council by the Aquileian schismatics?
Easy. They misused the fourth council as universalists mandhandle the Scriptures, fathers, and whatever they touch. Heretics and schismatics frequently misuse written authority. That would hardly be new. If you like, you can write an article about the alleged idiocy of palamas and the synodikon.
I got something much better.
It’s hard not to beat the non-sequitur which was your previous response, so I am sure it will be!