This is a great, short synopsis on the authoritative documents of the Orthodox Church.
Dedicated to J
In its essence, the term “Magisterium” simply means teaching authority in the Church. As such, I do not divorce the concept of “Magisterium” from Holy Tradition, but rather I view these terms as essentially synonymous within the Orthodox paradigm. And so my goal in this short article is to try and formulate all of the “organs of infallibility” that exist within the Orthodox Church, which constitute our Holy Tradition. What I write here is not absolute or definitive, as I am a mere layman with no teaching authority of my own, but I nonetheless will try my best to faithfully represent the Orthodox Faith on this very important matter.
Extraordinary Conciliar Magisterium
The first organ of infallibility/source of Tradition that we must consider within Orthodoxy is what I’ve called (borrowing from Roman Catholic terminology) the extraordinary conciliar magisterium. This magisterium would include all of the official decrees…
View original post 1,047 more words
Of the four you list, how would you rank them in order of importance and immutability? Let me ask in other ways: Which of the four is the least malleable from generation to generation? Which is least at risk to being capriciously modified or interpreted? If you were to overlay them in a Venn diagram, which of the four would have the most space aligned with others? Which would have the least?
All are immutable, the difference is in exegesis/hermeneutic.
Given the degree to which canons are ignored or rejected (bishops not being elected by communicants in their diocese, bishops not dying in their dioceses, bishops being transferred, just to name a few), the data would suggest that your declaration is mostly aspirational – a worthy aspiration for sure. But do you have data to support your position? The use of economia to justify the variance between canons and adherence to them tells me that canons carry a degree of mutability that makes them more at risk to capricious misuse than, say, public prayer. That’s what I am saying. Who would get away now with destroying icons in the Orthodox church, for example, or saying Jesus is not the second person of the Trinity?
The flexibility in the following of canons is allowed by the final canon of Trullo. As for “data,” the proof is in the pudding. This is how the Church actually operates. We interpret everything through a living conciousness, which is the Church’s interprative authority. It is not bound in any single person, but it is maintained by God Himself by His Spirit in His people operating according to the proper ecclesiastical hierarchy.
People want nuts and bolts. But read Photius (and soon Palamas’ whose work on the Holy Spirit will be published soon in English) and how they treat the Latin Fathers. They presume them to be absolutely correct, interpreting anything aberrant as a “forgery” or misunderstood. When theoretically incorrect, one is supposed to pretend the aberration does not even exist, something Photius calls “covering the nakedness of our fathers.” And so, anyone actually imbibing in the Church’s teachings immediately knows when and how to employ this hermeneutic. It makes no sense to those who doubt the Scriptures, councils, hagiographies, and fathers. There is an obvious consensus taught by all of these things, broad agreed upon teaching. It is only those who are seeking to ignore the obvious, looking for “Exceptions” and “technicalities,” that miss the forest from the trees.
Craig, your writing about Photius’ statement, “covering the nakedness of our fathers,” has been helpful for me as an Orthodox hermeneutic for the ancient fathers.
Along those lines, I’ve heard it said that the fathers at the time of Nicaea II believed the statements of universalism in St. Gregory were interpolations. Such a belief would contextualize their glorification of Gregory as “the father of fathers.”
Do you know of any textual evidence showing they believed those universalist statements to be forgeries? If we could show that, it would shut down some of the silly statements made nowadays about our father Gregory. Thanks.
Owen, good points. Historically I believe that Epiphanius as well as Gregory Nazianzus were not forged. The internal details are far too consistent over the body of their works. In either event, I think Greg N is not a universalist (or extremely unlikely so)–something I have covered in detail. Epiphanius was clearly against icons…but a curious case could be made that this actually serves as very strong evidence in favor of icon veneration.
But, the hermeneutic stays the same spiritually, because we never presume the saints are wrong in Orthodoxy. Most historians think all the saints are wrong, which is an opposite extreme which often also leads to bad history too. I try to take a middle road. I use a textually critical approach, but I don’t let it affect my theology. So, I can draw two separate conclusions pertaining two different fields of studies. I do not believe in “double truth theory” so ultimately, I will weigh in on the side of theology and admit either the limitations of history, or begrudgingly, admit where the nakedness of a father has been uncovered. But I do not delight in this.
As far as my new understanding of Trinitarian-Monopatrist Niceno-Constantinopolitan Chalcedonian One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church apostolic tradition goes, the final word in the NT Orthodox Church is the Bible in Orthodox Tradition with at bare minimum the Synodical nature of the Church in 7 ecumenical Councils, 325-787, the consensus Patrum mind of the Church Fathers collectively in the Vincentian Canon, “Always, everywhere, and with by everyone”, and the axiom of blessed Augustine of Hippo, “In essentials unity, in uncertainties freedom, in all things love”; it is best for Greek Orthodox not to use Latin terms as “magisterium”, for this smacks of Papism, it seems to me. When we come into Russian Orthodoxy, we must adopt new non-Latin, Hellenized and Slavic, Romanian concepts and the other liturgical languages of early Orthodoxy, Aramaic, Syriac, Georgian, Armenian before the Monophysite schism, Ethiopic, Arabic before the Monophysite schism, the Old Latin before Papism; I am not an expert on Russian Orthodoxy, but that is what I believe and think, so far, as a theologoumenon: I do not decide dogma for other Orthodox Christians; only the bishops, priests, deacons, and professional praying theologians and saints, monks and nuns, and holy fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters in Christ, God-bearing elders, by their life example teach us doctrine better than our Western adopting Eastern Orthodox textbook concepts. Orthodoxy is a new life in Christ, not a system of systematic theology doctrines based on a Bible based ideology based on a Holy Text, the Bible. The Bible is Orthodox, but it is not about hearers of the Word only; we must begin to live Orthodoxy. As it is, I do not do enough ascetic discipline: my body is weak, though my mind willing to believe Orthodox traditions. As it is, I greatly need Christ’s mercy. I have been sinful.
It is more of a condescension to people trying to square our beliefs vis a vis RCs than an actual term we should be employing.
How is your approach here not gnostic? “anyone actually imbibing in the Church’s teachings immediately knows” and “There is an obvious consensus”. How does one know? Where is this obvious consensus? For if you answer anything other than “What is publicly prayed and therefore transparent, accessible and available for all”, then you introduce an interpretative facility that is above and beyond the purely transmissive and engagement facility of a eucharistic community, whose purpose is to help each other live The Way of Christ – Holy Orthodoxy. The development of this interpretative facility into one that is the sole purview of clerics, especially bishops, has undermined the sensus fidelium and led to much that has harmed the Church. Look around you, East and West. What do you see?
I see St Vincent de Lerins who perceived the consensus of mostly everyone, not quibbling over a few. If we are honest with outrselves, we do not have major crises over what is true and what is not after 2,000 years of history and saints weighing in on all different sorts of situations.
That consensus is apparent primarily through the public prayer life of the Church. Which is why I asked you to rank the four. You put them on equal footing, but I would say your appeal to St. Vincent actually supports the primacy of the corporate prayer life of the Church as the summit of theology, and all the others stand or fall the degree to which they re-enforce that which is prayed, by all, everywhere.
I reposted an article that nicely divided between these things 🙂 The issue is ultimately everything is reconciled with everything else–including the Scriptures. The consistent, agreed upon threads with universal agreement are the truth.