Friday, September 05, 2008

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 03

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 03

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 third in what, Lord willing, will be a multi-part series.

Council of Trent (1545 to 1563) - Not Meaningfully Ecumenical

The Council of Trent is often viewed by its proponents as an ecumenical council. It does not deserve this distinction, for several reasons:

1) "The decrees were subscribed by two hundred and fifteen fathers of the council, consisting of four cardinal legates, two cardinals, three patriarchs, twenty-five archbishops, one hundred and sixty-seven bishops, seven abbots, seven generals of orders, and also by nineteen proxies for thirty-three absent prelates. The decrees were confirmed on 26 Jan., 1564, by Pius IV in the Bull "Benedictus Deus," and were accepted by Catholic countries, by some with reservations. " (source) Thus, the total number of bishops eventually signing onto the decrees may seem large, but was smaller than the number of bishops at Nicea (about 300 - some say as many as 318).

2) Obviously, the composition of the council varied over its nearly two decade existence. Nevertheless, Italian (the majority) and Spanish (the next largest group) bishops dominated the counsel. According to one report, the breakdown was:

187 Italian bishops
32 Spanish bishops
28 French bishops
2 German bishops

With only four nations represented, large segments of Christianity were clearly not represented at Trent.

3) Specifically, there was essentially no representation of the Reformed Churches at Trent. There were no Swiss, apparently a few Lutheran representatives during a middle portion of the council, and no English presbyters, though they were invited. Given the huge majority of Italian bishops, and the fact that matters were decided by vote, the Italians were able to control the decisions of the council.

4) Furthermore, Eastern Orthodoxy (and the Coptic churches, and the Ethiopic churches, etc.) was not represented. Thus, vast chunks of Christendom were not involved, and consequently - even to this day - the Eastern Orthodox do not regard Trent to be an ecumenical council.

In short, Trent was - in essence - a regional council of Italy. Its endorsement by the Bishop of Rome is no surprise, but ought not be deemed sufficient to convert it into an ecumenical council.

It must, however, be noted that Trent is considered by modern Catholicism to be an ecumenical council, despite these facts.



Lucian said...

Actually, among all the other 14 specifically Roman Catholic Councils, Trent was the only one to share some meaningful similarities with the Ecumenical ones: it was assembled when no other means to stop the ongoing crisis were left; and it actually responded to a true crisis within the Roman Catholic Church. (The reasons for holding the others escapes me).

Anonymous said...

As I go through this multi-part series, quite an eye opener for me, I was struck by something I read this morning from a book by a Swedish Theologian, Einar Billing, titled "Our Calling".

If I might, I would quote this portion as an antedote for counselors embodying councils at hallmark moments in history's story.

Each of us who have had the Lord "reveal" the "Father" to us and have had the "Father" reveal the Lord to us, I believe, will benefit by this insight of this dearly departed Saint as we all are coming to love the Thoughts of Francis Turretin as well:

pgs. 26-7:

....Instead he [Jesus] took each day, with its work and its evil, from the Father's hand, always being ready to venture onto new paths, even if they might seem to strike off in a direction different from the present one. To many these words will sound strange, probably even offensive. Yet it is the gospels themselves that picture him so, and especially that gospel--though the others show exactly the same figure--which most emphasizes his divine eminence. "The Son," this gospel quotes him as saying, "can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does, that the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son, and shows him all that he himself is doing" (John5:19-20). He had not received from the Father a program of action all at once complete. Rather, in daily prayer fellowship with the Father he received from the Father his work for each day. Day by day. The words just quoted are a part of Jesus' answer to the accusation of having violated the Sabbath commandment by healing the sick on the Sabbath day. In the fact that he had this day been brought into contact with the sick man, he saw a message from his Father. For him who was used to taking everything, piece by piece, from the Father's hand this was sufficient to indicate the Father's and his work for that day. Not even the ancient Sabbath commandment was able to make him defer action a single day. "My Father is working still, and I am working" (John 5:17).

With that insight from Einar Billing's book, "Our Calling", one can see how this humanity we are a part of, can easily want to rely upon "human" efforts instead of a daily walk with the Spirit of Christ as He, even now, goes about building the Holy Dwelling Places of the Most High in the hearts of many!

"Day by day", Einar wrote. Day by day, now I tote the yoke that's easy and the burden that is light!

Mat 11:28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Mat 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Mat 11:30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

Turretinfan said...


Notice that I did not criticize the reason for calling the council.