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This subject seems to be a focal point in some discussions.

What makes a council ecumenical, and how has this developed over the past 2 millenium?

To be honest, I have absolutely no idea what the answer to these questions are.

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Reception, and nothing else. When the teachings of a particular council are accepted by the entire world, then it becomes ecumenical, and not before. No extrinsic set of criteria can, a priori, do so--just as no extrinsic set of criteria can, a priori, make a particular statement of the Bishop of Rome "infallible".

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Then how can we say that Ephesus and Chalcedon are ecumenical? In statistical terms they were most certainly not accepted by the "entire world."

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As I said before, Father, while the Church of the East and the Oriental Orthodox Churches may not have received the formulations of Ephesos or Chalcedon, they most certainly profess the faith taught by both Ephesos and Chalcedon (and the subsequent three Ecumenical Councils as well). The failure to resolve the Christological controversy in the first millennium is largely the result of historical accident (the Islamic conquest) and secular matters (the ongoing struggle for survival between Byzantium and the Muslim world), but for which, efforts to reach an acceptable common formula would have succeeded. Through the common Christological statements reached between the Chalcedonian Churches and those we can call "pre-Chalcedonian", we have managed to overcome differences in expression to arrive at agreement on the substance of faith.

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This still begs the question of "when is something received by the whole world"? For centuries the split of these Churches was understood as actually having a different faith. While it may have been received, it certainly was not apparent for many centuries. So we still have the problem of universal acceptance since the first councils were understood as ecumenical assuming the Oriental Orthodox had rejected it. What we recognize today, was quite a bit different 1,000 years ago. Therefore, how could that definition had applied? The logic doesn't add up.

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For centuries the split of these Churches was understood as actually having a different faith.

This was due to the failure of all involved to see beyond their own culturally and historically conditioned modes of theological expression, and a refusal to consider that there might be more than one way to express a divine mystery--in short, a belief that one's own theological expressions and usage are normative will invariably lead to conflict and schism. Gregory VII Hildebrand was right when he said, "Diversity is the mother of heresy"--just not in the way he intended.

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For argument sake, if say, the Orthodox receive the western councils in a thousand years from now, do they become ecumenical then or were they always ecumenical without us truly knowing if we come to understand that the only matter was just the formulation, but not the faith?

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Just for argument's sake: The Church of Rome did not receive the First Council of Constantinople until the Council of Ephesus in 431. During that fifty year hiatus, was the Council of Constantinople ecumenical or not?

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Originally Posted by StuartK
Just for argument's sake: The Church of Rome did not receive the First Council of Constantinople until the Council of Ephesus in 431. During that fifty year hiatus, was the Council of Constantinople ecumenical or not?
Correction: Constantinople was not accepted until 451 A.D. at the Council of Chalcedon. Both Rome and Alexandria - partners in crime grin - did not accept Constantinople for 80 years.

And no, it was not ecumenical until then.

Blessings

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Dear all,

In this thread, I propose we make a distinction between a Council's ecumenicity from it's infallibility.

Brother Stuart is correct that reception is what makes a Council ecumenical. But reception has no bearing on the infalliblity of a Council, because Truth is not determined by consensus.

Blessings

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Originally Posted by mardukm
Brother Stuart is correct that reception is what makes a Council ecumenical.
OK, i think we can all agree that that has been the universal understanding. However, has it been limited to that criteria only?
What of certain canons that were never ratified by the Pope? I know there are certain ones, but I admit i have not studied this particular subject in detail.

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But reception has no bearing on the infalliblity of a Council, because Truth is not determined by consensus.
If I am not mistaken, reception is the same as the sense of the faithful in which the Spirit guides the entire Church of all the faithful.


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Last edited by danman916; 10/01/10 03:15 PM.
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Originally Posted by StuartK
This was due to the failure of all involved to see beyond their own culturally and historically conditioned modes of theological expression, and a refusal to consider that there might be more than one way to express a divine mystery--in short, a belief that one's own theological expressions and usage are normative will invariably lead to conflict and schism. Gregory VII Hildebrand was right when he said, "Diversity is the mother of heresy"--just not in the way he intended.

This still does not answer the question of how the Church can determine whether or not something has been universally received. It seems that this becomes, then, a barrier to being able to declare whether or not a council is ecumenical since, at the time, no one would have affirmed what you said.

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Originally Posted by StuartK
Reception, and nothing else. When the teachings of a particular council are accepted by the entire world, then it becomes ecumenical, and not before.
Applying this, list the ecumenical councils.

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