Tuesday, October 05, 2010

An Inconvenient Conciliar Truth - Part 20

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

15 comments:

Fusion! said...

Hello Sir. I do hope you're doing good. I liked the post, and while my comments aren't entirely about what you wrote, they just might be. I was wondering if you could give me some insight. I'm on-line talking to an Eastern Orthdox Guy and he says that Augustine's views were not that popular amongst other Church Father's in his time. I said

Me: You can pull the "my Church Father can beat your Church Father"card. But keep in mind that none of them are perfect,

Him:That is why we look to what the Fathers believed in consensus rather than individually.

Me: and while their insight's are important Scripture is the final arbiter.

Him: Scripture is meaningless without an interpretive authority which is why it has always been understood within the context of the Church.

His point being that the Father's didn't hold to Augustine's views of original sin. Any ideas on how to respond?

Turretinfan said...

Augustine's views on original sin were not so popular among the Eastern fathers (Western fathers is another story). The expression "original sin" never caught on among the Easterners (to my knowledge), and many of them seem to have accepted only part of the doctrine (concupiscence inherited, but not guilt).

Because they didn't use the term, it's harder to count Eastern noses to see how many held to which view.

What I mean to say is that there are a few Eastern fathers who say things that suggest that children are completely innocent. But there seem to be many other Eastern fathers who never touch the subject. Furthermore, one doesn't see any sharp dissent in the East over the Western council of Orange that condemned Pelagius (or at least I haven't seen it).

But in brief, modern EOs generally have little use for Augustine - many even seem to treat him as borderline heretical. Conversely EOs tend to be much more fond of Origin than Roman Catholics are.

john said...

Canon 7 is only a church law that is made and can be changed by the church because law is a measure of the moral act, which is determined from the object, intention and circumstance of the act. A "different" creed is not against this canon because the canon can be understood to mean "different" as "contradictory" and not contrary or alternative. Evidently this is the way the church understood canon 7 to allow the later creed to be published.

JM

Turretinfan said...

That's a circular argument, John.

john said...

And your statement as per usual is not established in anything I have said.

JM

Turretinfan said...

Try to think it through ... your argument is basically that it can be legitimately changed because -- hey, after all, it was legitimately changed. But that begs the question - was the change legitimate or not, which is the question you were seeking to establish.

john said...

You have ignored the fact that I based my argument on the nature of the moral act having three sources in the object, intention and circumstance and as law is a measure of the moral act, it can change with a change in circumstance.

Evidently canon 7 of Ephesus doesn't apply to the new Constantinople creed because the object and intent of the new creed is the same as that of Nicea, therefore the new creed cannot be condemned by the canon.

Also, the circumstance of the new creed is different to that of Nicea. The difference is found in the wording of canon 7, whereby "any man" is condemned, but "any man" does not include the church, for the church is not a man, but the mystical body of Christ with the power to teach, govern and sanctify.


Canon 7 - "the holy Synod decreed that it is unlawful for any man to bring forward, or to write, or to compose a different Faith as a rival to that established by the holy Fathers assembled with the Holy Ghost in Nicæa. But those who shall dare to compose a different faith, or to introduce or offer it to persons desiring to turn to the acknowledgment of the truth, whether from Heathenism or from Judaism, or from any heresy whatsoever, shall be deposed, if they be bishops or clergymen; bishops from the episcopate and clergymen from the clergy; and if they be laymen, they shall be anathematized."

Further, there is nothing in the Constantinople creed that contradicts the Nicea creed and therefore the canon 7 does not apply where it means by the word, "different" = contradictory.

For these reasons canon 7 cannot be used as evidence for fallible ecumenical councils of Nicea, Ephesus and Constantinople.

JM

Turretinfan said...

"You have ignored the fact that ..."

Well, let's do something about that. At least on the next round you'll have to find a new accusation.

"... I based my argument on the nature of the moral act having three sources in the object, intention and circumstance and as law is a measure of the moral act, it can change with a change in circumstance."

The canon itself says "in any case." That, on its face, rules out the "change of circumstances" argument.

"Evidently canon 7 of Ephesus doesn't apply to the new Constantinople creed because the object and intent of the new creed is the same as that of Nicea, therefore the new creed cannot be condemned by the canon."

This is an argument that doesn't follow. If the original law said "under no circumstances add to [x]," and if a subsequently law is "[x] + something else," (we'll call this [y]) then the people who made the subsequent law violated the original law.

That's true even if the people who made the subsequent law provided a similar prohibition on adding to [y].

"Also, the circumstance of the new creed is different to that of Nicea."

See discussion above.

"The difference is found in the wording of canon 7, whereby "any man" is condemned, but "any man" does not include the church, for the church is not a man, but the mystical body of Christ with the power to teach, govern and sanctify."

a) That's not a difference in circumstance.

b) That isn't how the canon was interpreted against the Formula of Union (which was also an action of "the church").

c) The fact that something is an action of "the church," does not prevent it from also being the action of men.

"Further, there is nothing in the Constantinople creed that contradicts the Nicea creed and therefore the canon 7 does not apply where it means by the word, "different" = contradictory."

No, different means different.

"For these reasons canon 7 cannot be used as evidence for fallible ecumenical councils of Nicea, Ephesus and Constantinople."

See above.

-TurretinFan

john said...

"You have ignored the fact that ..."

Well, let's do something about that. At least on the next round you'll have to find a new accusation.

JM – No, you really did ignore the fact that. That was a fact I brought to your attention.

"... I based my argument on the nature of the moral act having three sources in the object, intention and circumstance and as law is a measure of the moral act, it can change with a change in circumstance."

The canon itself says "in any case." That, on its face, rules out the "change of circumstances" argument.

JM - "in any case." is contextualized by the authority giving the law, which is the church and the law stating “no man”. As the later creed in Constantinople is promulgated not by “no man”, but by the church, the change in circumstance of the law from “no man” (inferring no man outside of church authority), to the church, permits the change in the creed. If the Constantinople creed or a similar creed were published by a man acting outside church authority, the creed would have no authority and the canon 7 of Ephesus would come into effect. However as the creed was issued by the church, the canon is not in effect.

"Evidently canon 7 of Ephesus doesn't apply to the new Constantinople creed because the object and intent of the new creed is the same as that of Nicea, therefore the new creed cannot be condemned by the canon."

This is an argument that doesn't follow. If the original law said "under no circumstances add to [x]," and if a subsequently law is "[x] + something else," (we'll call this [y]) then the people who made the subsequent law violated the original law.

That's true even if the people who made the subsequent law provided a similar prohibition on adding to [y].

JM- The object and intention of the creed are the same for both the Nicea and Constantinople creeds. The formal object of the creed is the authority of God to reveal and the material object is the truths revealed by God. The intention of the creed is to make statements detailing the truths revealed for the faithful to know. As the object and intention do not change, then the creeds are the same according to object and intention, (which is the fundamental measure of a moral act and therefore the law) and therefore the reference to the words “different faith” in canon 7 is not breached. Conclusion – your reading in applying “compose a different Faith” to mean any variation in the creed is a misreading of the object and intention of canon 7, therefore your claim that the creeds of Nicea and Constantinople contradict canon 7 of Ephesus is in error.

"Also, the circumstance of the new creed is different to that of Nicea."

See discussion above.

JM – Answered above.

"The difference is found in the wording of canon 7, whereby "any man" is condemned, but "any man" does not include the church, for the church is not a man, but the mystical body of Christ with the power to teach, govern and sanctify."

tbc

john said...

a) That's not a difference in circumstance.

JM – The church has the authority and the “any man” outside the church does not, therefore the circumstance is different.

b) That isn't how the canon was interpreted against the Formula of Union (which was also an action of "the church").

JM – It seems the formula of union only made a statement below –

We will state briefly what we are convinced of and profess about
• the God-bearing virgin and
• the manner of the incarnation of the only begotten Son of God --
• not by way of addition but in the manner of a full statement, even as we have received and possess it from of old from
• the holy scriptures and from
• the tradition of the holy fathers,
• adding nothing at all to the creed put forward by the holy fathers at Nicaea.
For, as we have just said, that creed is sufficient both for the knowledge of godliness and for the repudiation of all heretical false teaching. We shall speak not presuming to approach the unapproachable; but we confess our own weakness and so shut out those who would reproach us for investigating things beyond the human mind.
We confess, then, our lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God perfect God and perfect man of a rational soul and a body, begotten before all ages from the Father in his godhead, the same in the last days, for us and for our salvation, born of Mary the virgin, according to his humanity, one and the same consubstantial with the Father in godhead and consubstantial with us in humanity, for a union of two natures took place. Therefore we confess one Christ, one Son, one Lord. According to this understanding of the unconfused union, we confess the holy virgin to be the mother of God because God the Word took flesh and became man and from his very conception united to himself the temple he took from her. As to the evangelical and apostolic expressions about the Lord, we know that theologians treat some in common as of one person and distinguish others as of two natures, and interpret the god-befitting ones in connexion with the godhead of Christ and the lowly ones with his humanity.

Is this what you are referring to?

c) The fact that something is an action of "the church," does not prevent it from also being the action of men.

JM – formally the action of the church is the action of the HS, which means when the church formally acts to bind the church on faith and morals, the church is acting through the powers it received from Christ to bind and loose. In this way the action of the church is not an action of men, because the action of the church necessarily involves the supernatural protection of the HS to keep her infallible and indefectible. This is a gift not given or promised to men outside the church and therefore your claim that "the church," does not prevent it from also being the action of men.” s in error.

tbc

Turretinfan said...

I've already answered most of your comments above. There remains one thing. You wrote: "The formal object of the creed is the authority of God to reveal and the material object is the truths revealed by God. The intention of the creed is to make statements detailing the truths revealed for the faithful to know."

Please identify where the council of Nicaea said this.

-TurretinFan

ChaferDTS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ChaferDTS said...

"formally the action of the church is the action of the HS, which means when the church formally acts to bind the church on faith and morals, the church is acting through the powers it received from Christ to bind and loose. In this way the action of the church is not an action of men, because the action of the church necessarily involves the supernatural protection of the HS to keep her infallible and indefectible. This is a gift not given or promised to men outside the church and therefore your claim that "the church," does not prevent it from also being the action of men."

Several errors are noted there. The power of binding and loosing is limited to the preaching of the Gospel and church disciple and not what we find in present day Roman Catholicism. You incorrectly claim without any proof that Church Councils are " infallible ". The Arian Councils that took place around the time of The Council of Nicea shows how claims for councils being infallible is flawed. The Arian Councils contradicted the Council of Nicea. Thus showing councils are fallible. You are reading back present day Roman Catholic concepts back to it which the people at that time were unaware or knew anything about. Your position demands from a logical stand point that those at Nicea were either prophets of God or had the prophetic gift since you claim they were infallible.

john said...

I've already answered most of your comments above. There remains one thing. You wrote: "The formal object of the creed is the authority of God to reveal and the material object is the truths revealed by God. The intention of the creed is to make statements detailing the truths revealed for the faithful to know."


JM -There remains the many answers to my recent answers that have answered your objections. If my objections and answers to your article remain unanswered, then your claim that canon 7 and the creeds of Nicea and Ephesus are contradictory has been answered.

Please identify where the council of Nicaea said this.

-TurretinFan

JM – Nicea didn’t say this and it is irrelevant because the church is an organic mystical body with the power to teach. Therefore, because Popes have highly recommended St Thomas Aquinas as the universal doctor of the church and the Councils of Trent used St Thomas’ works when formulating its doctrines, the notion of formal object regarding law is standard philosophy used to specify laws.

According to Thomism, there is a standard principle of specification which states – acts, habits and powers are specified by their formal object. Therefore as an act is specified from its formal object, then so too is the law. In the case of canon 7, the formal and material object of the creeds at Nicea and Constantinople did not change, so the law was not breached.

Therefore, when Nicea, or for that matter, any Council state a canon, that canon is specified according to its formal object and its value as a measure of a moral act has its source formally in the object and intention and accidentally in the circumstance of the act in which it measures. To deny this is to have a false understanding of the nature of law and the moral act and allows false conclusions regarding the meaning and application of the canons.

FT1-b) That isn't how the canon was interpreted against the Formula of Union (which was also an action of "the church").

JM1 – It seems the formula of union only made a statement below –

JM2- The formula of union doesn't say anything about the meaning of the canon so your objection is not based on the canon, but something not yet specified (probably an historical anachronism).

Your article has been answered in full and my explanations remain unanswered by you.

JM

Turretinfan said...

As now admitted by you, your whole objection hinges on imposing something from nearly a thousand years later on the canon.

Sorry, but that's not an objection that bothers me.