Saturday, September 13, 2008

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 11

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.



Ben Douglass said...

I don't see how this passage contradicts transubstantiation. If you are referring to the statement on the danger of idolatry arising, I would take that as a reference to the danger of people worshipping the Eucharistic elements prior to the Consecration.

Turretinfan said...

Hi Ben,

The passage contradicts transubstantiation by stating (at least implicitly) that the Eucharist is not Christ himself, but an icon of Christ.

The concern by this council was against idolatry via likeness iconography (not through picturing Christ's flesh and blood with bread and wine).


Turretinfan said...

O had also written: "the argument was self-evidently a bad one. To acknowledge the bread and wine as an icon, but then say it is the only one is special pleading. If to have something which represents a person, a divine person no less, is not idolatry, then why should a painting be? If eating the image is not veneration, why should touching it?"

a) Whatever its problems may be, "special pleading" is not one of them. In fact, asserting that because there is one legitimate icon there must be other legitimate icons is special pleading.

b) In fact, the argument is factually correct: the only icon of Christ that is authorized by Christ is the Eucharist.

c) There's nothing wrong with touching the Eucharist, and one has to touch it to eat it (at least with one's mouth).

d) The problem with a painting is not only that it is unauthorized by God (which would be a sufficient reason to reject it) but also because it purports to be a likeness, whereas the bread and wine is a non-likeness icon.

Incidentally, this is why the use of "amber light" iconography is much less heinous than icons that portray the Holy Spirit as a man.


Rhology said...

Mansur [mansour, John Damascene]

The Council anathematised John Damascene? *THE* John Damascene, aka John of Damascus?

Didn't know that...

Turretinfan said...


The bracketed parenthetical was not mine ... I'm not sure how accurate it is.