Saturday, May 27, 2006

Authority is HUGE! HUGE!

A contributor to the blog and I continue to discuss Orthodoxy and in keeping with the spirit of Orthodoxy, I do not claim the right to interpret the scripture independently of the traditional teaching of the Church. I will leave that up to the individuals who have felt some intellectual affinity with one of the 25,000- plus denominations that the protestant paradigm has produced. I prefer to present the questions that "ruined my religion" and trust the sincerity and dogma-free intellect of the seeker to find the truth.
The blogger has very quickly and clearly summed up the core dilemma in finding true doctrine with this following statement:

"I think the crux of our differences are really going to be around the idea that tradition is authoritative (if that is what the Orthodox believe, which I think it is). And that is a HUGE subject. While I definitely feel that tradition should be considered and respected, I also know that man is fallen, and fallen man makes mistakes. I don't see the scriptures describing the church and its traditions as an infallible, incorruptible entity. Rather I see the opposite: discord, disagreements among the church leaders, and a great hope for the day "When the Perfect comes" a day "when we will no longer see as through a mirror dimly, but we shall see face to face." And that is the Parousia (second coming) of Christ."

Blogger, your adequate statement encompasses several questions. But first let's define"tradition". The orthodox view of tradition and therefore the historic view is:
"an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action and behavior; the handing down of information, beliefs and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction."

1. While I might resist your usage of the word "feel" in relation to seeking ascertainable truth, I would have to ask: to what extent will you "consider and respect tradition"? Moreover, if men are so sinful, why would you consider or respect tradition at all? Doesn't this paradigm, which extends out of the western philosophies of the Reformation, remove the existence of any certainties? The idea being that the visible Church became so evil and tainted that it needed to be reformed and, although Martin Luther and his associates gave it a good try, we will only really ever see through the mirror brightly at the end of the age? So, there is truth out there somewhere but we will never be able to find it? Does this paradigm not present a hopeless, dismal estate and does it not fly in the face of "the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth"? The question is, How does the Holy Spirit lead us into all truth? millions of individual's private interpretations or through the Body of Christ as a visible entity via the preserved tradition of the Apostles.

2. Are we talking about men or the Church and are they one in the same? You point out very well that men are"fallen" and "make mistakes". Jesus endured having to pray alone in the garden while the Apostles slept, and how about that rock-of-a-man Peter who denied even knowing him. One might suggest that Jesus himself made a mistake in choosing such fallen creatures. But, alas, could it be that Jesus wasn't deterred from leaving these mere men in charge- not as individuals, but as a body of men, and that He gave them "authority"?
"So now I say to you: You are Peter and on this rock will I build my church (ekklesia). And the gates of the underworld can never overpower it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of Heaven: whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:18-19)
" 'As the Father sent me, so am I sending you.' After saying this he breathed on them and said: Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone's sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone's sins, they are retained" (John 20: 21-23)

3. What is the definition of "Church"? You have pointed out well the sinful propensity and untrustworthiness of the nature of men, but haven't you confused "men" with the "Church"? Men are individuals. The Church is a body-the Body of Christ. It has been so for over 2000 years. Herein lies the conflict of paradigms. One views the Church as being made up of millions of individuals who are connected mystically, each having the right to biblical interpretation and being a mystical priest unto themselves. In this paradigm, this Church will somehow, someway, unite all of these individual thinkers and make them one purified bride before Christ returns. This paradigm seems an impossibility, viewing the reality of the divisions today in the Protestant world. So, others choose a third view, taking up a "unity of the Church only when Jesus returns" attitude. In the Historic paradigm, the Church catholic (meaning universal) has always accepted that Christ's prayer that the Church be ONE has been preserved and fulfilled now in the visible, unbroken, orthodox body of Christ that is still here preserving the original doctrines and teaching of the Apostles for over 2000 years.

A great Catholic theologian once said, "To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant." History shows the visible church in action even after the Apostles died up to the present day. There was only one Church for 1054 years with the same faith and the same doctrine. Then there was one Church in schism- those in the east and the one in the west. We see the leaders of the Church-the Bishops, meeting together in seven councils. We have their writings. We know what flocks they pastored and in what region or city. We know their names. As each Bishop died, he was replaced by the laying on of hands as the Apostles taught (See the replacing of Judas with Matthias and the scriptural phrase "let another his office (bishopry) take". Why did they have to replace Judas?)

4. So, is the Church "infallible and incorruptible" and can this idea be found in scripture? I present to you a qualified yes. The Church "yes", individuals within the Church, "no". I was once asked what I thought was the pillar and foundation of all truth. My answer was a very typical Protestant one, "the scriptures", until I discovered the zinger: "..the Church of the living God, pillar and support of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:14-16). So, it is the Church that contains and preserves the truth. It is the truth that is infallible and incorruptible and the visible Church has been given the authority by Jesus to "bind and loose the truth." Binding and loosing is a term referring to the practice of the rabbis and teachers of the law in Jesus day. It describes their role of authority to interpret the scriptures and to discipline by it. The Church has always practiced and taught that this rabbinical term used by Jesus, established two things:
1) The Church was given the authority to grant entrance to the Kingdom of God through the Christian community. One is "bound" (condemned to) or "loosed" (absolved from) excommunication. (Study what the "keys" represent, who holds the keys, and to whom Christ gave them. The "keys" are an Old Testament termed used by Jesus to illustrate the function of the Church Leaders. See Is. 22:22 for an allegory of the authority of the keys. Opening and closing the doors of the king's palace was one of the functions of the Egyptian Chief Minister. He physically wore the keys of the king's palace on his shoulder as a visible sign of his authority.)
2) In Doctrinal ('knowledge or system of belief') or jurisdictional ('the power, right, and authority to interpret and apply the law') matters, the Church has always assumed the authority to determine whether an opinion is "bound" (forbidden) or "loosed" (allowed).

5. Can one find men, women, priests, and even Bishops who were "fallen" and made "mistakes"? With certainty, history documents the internal struggle of the Church in that regard. That is the very reason for the Seven Ecumenical Councils! To make a unified stand against heresies in the Church and to, with the authority and one voice of the Body, define doctrines and practices faithful to the Apostles' teachings. One of those Councils gave us the canon of scriptures that we call the Bible. If we believe that the Bible is the infallible word of God ( I assume you do) and knowing that these mere men are the ones who decided what would be included and what wouldn't, then why is it difficult to believe they also have the authority to interpret the same Bible? Which came first, the Bible or the Church? Would it surprise you to know that there was no "Bible" as we know it until the year 397 A.D? The undisputed Bishops of the Church at the Council of Carthedge met in North Africa giving us the full list of New and Old Testament Books. It was the Church itself who proclaimed and preserved the Teachings (Traditions) of the Apostles both by letter and by word. The Church preceded the Bible. The Church proclaimed the Bible. The Church preserved the Bible. They didn't make it up, they preserved it as the authoritative Pillar and unshakable Foundation, and "the gates of the underworld have not overpowered it." How were they able to do this? Because they had AUTHORITY to.

So where is this same Church today? The underworld has assaulted, but hasn't overpowered the Church. A quick history summary: In 1054 the Bishop of Rome (west) asserting an unprecedented claim of sole supreme authority over all of the Church and its Bishops (east), broke the 1000 year old unity. For 600-plus years after that, the Church of Rome through its Bishops, continued to have their own councils and make decisions regarding doctrines and traditions apart from the rest of the Bishops in the east. Then came the "Reformers". It is from these excesses and new independent doctrines and practices that the Reformation sprang. The Reformation was in many ways warranted, but in rebelling against the fallen, fallible, and corruptible individual Church leaders in the west, the Reformers went the wrong way! Rather than returning to the sanctified authority of the unbroken, unified "Church of the Living God" abiding in the east, they rebuffed all corporate authority and replaced it with individualism and autonomy. In essence they replaced the idea of one authoritative pope with the idea that everyone is his own authority-every individual is a priest, or his own pope and the invisible church was born. I have illustrated this point by highlighting just how far the culture of the individualized invisible church has strayed from the Church of the Apostles. Look at this brief list of some of the founders of the over 25,000 Protester churches all claiming to have the correct truth. You can study further each one's vastly differing doctrines:
1905 - Alliance - Albert Benjamin Simpson
1693 - Amish - Jakob Amman
1519 - Anabaptist - Grebel (after Ulrich Zwingli)
1534 - Anglican (Church of England) - King Henry VIII
1914 - Assemblies of God - 300 preachers in Arkansas
1605 - Baptist - John Smythe
1708 - Brethren (split from anabaptists) - Alexander Mack
1536 - Calvinists - John Calvin
1969 - Children of God - David �Mo� Berg
1857 - Christian Reformed - Gysbert Haan
1879 - Christian Science - Mary Baker Eddy
1920 - Church of God - Joseph Marsh
1907 - Church of God in Christ - Charles Mason
1560 - Church of Scotland (presbyterian) - John Knox
1620 - Episcopalians - Samuel Seabury
1950 - Evangelical Free - E A. Halleen
1918 - Foursquare - Aimee Semple McPherson
1528 - Hutterite - Jakob Hutter
1979 - International Church of Christ (Boston Movement) - Kip McKean
1852 - Jehovah's Witness - Charles Taze Russell
1517 - Lutheran (split from catholic) - Martin Luther
1653 - Mennonite - Menno Simons
1744 - Methodist (split from C of England) - J and C Wesley
1727 - Moravian - Count Zinendorf
1830 - Mormon - Joseph Smith
1954 - Moonies - Sun Myung Moon
1895 - Nazarene - Phineas F Bresee
1900 - Pentecostal - C F. Parham (methodist)
1560 - Presbyterian (calvinism) - John Knox
1570 - Puritans - T Cartwright
1647 - Quaker - George Fox
1628 - Reformed - Jonas Michaelius
1865 - Salvation Army - William Booth, M Jones
1954 - Scientology - Ron L. Hubbard
1846 - Seventh-day Adventist - Ellen G. White
1741 - Shakers - Ann Lee
1794 - Unitarian - Joseph Priestley
1457 - United Brethren (moravians) - Huss
1934 - Worldwide Church of God - Herbert W. Armstrong

So authority is huge. Where is the authority? Is it in the individual or in the original undivided Body of Christ? The answer to these questions determine what you will believe about doctrine, worship, tradition, as well as your world view.

To illustrate this "huge subject" as you so correctly call it, I have included below, the names of all of the Bishops of my Church all the way back to Peter and Paul. Keep in mind that this is just the line of succession from the original Orthodox Christian Church of Antioch. You can also find similar lists of the Bishops of the Church of Jerusalem, Constantinople, Alexandria, and the other original, unbroken, unified "Sees" still preserving the unaltered faith the Apostles. All of the current Bishops are still in communion with one another today. I would be interested to know, as you peruse this succession, which of these Bishops fell into corruption, "discord" and "disagreement", as you say, to the extent that the Apostles' true faith and doctrine was adulterated and lost until the time of the Parousia. I would also be interest to know where, in any of the Seven Ecumenical Councils, have you determined that the Church, as a Body, became fallible and corrupt and forfeited its authority. We do still have the notes or "minutes", if you will, of those Councils, documenting what they discussed and what was decided. Several of the following names were present a one or more of the Seven Councils.
My Pastors:
Primates of the Apostolic See of Antioch (Orthodox Succession)
1 45-53 The Episcopacy of St. Peter, the Apostle, in Antioch.
2 53 The Episcopacy of Eudoius in Antioch.
3 68 The Episcopacy of St. Ignatius (d. 107) in Antioch.
4 100 The Episcopacy of Heros in Antioch.
5 127 The Episcopacy of Cornelius in Antioch.
6 151 The Episcopacy of Heros II in Antioch.
7 169 The Episcopacy of Theophilus (d. 181/182) in Antioch.
8 188 The Episcopacy of Maximianus (d. 190/191) in Antioch.
9 191-212 The Episcopacy of Serapion in Antioch.
10 212-218 The Episcopacy of Aslipiades in Antioch.
11 218-231 The Episcopacy of Philetus in Antioch.
12 232 The Episcopacy of Zebinus (a.k.a. Zenobius) in Antioch.
13 240 The Episcopacy of St. Babylas in Antioch.
14 253 The Episcopacy of Fabius in Antioch.
15 256 The Episcopacy of Demetrian in Antioch.
16 263 The Episcopacy of Amphilochius in Antioch.
17 267 The Episcopacy of Paul of Samosata in Antioch.
18 270 The Episcopacy of Dmonus in Antioch.
19 273 The Episcopacy of Timaeus in Antioch.
20 277 The Episcopacy of Cyril in Antioch.
21 299 The Episcopacy of Tyrannion in Antioch.
22 308 The Episcopacy of Vitalius in Antioch.
23 314 The Episcopacy of Philogonius in Antioch.
24 324 The Episcopacy of Paulinus in Antioch.
25 325 The Episcopacy of Eustathius in Antioch.
26 332 The Episcopacy of Paulinus in Antioch.
27 332 The Episcopacy of Eulalius (5 months) in Antioch.
28 333 The Episcopacy of Euphronius in Antioch.
29 334 The Episcopacy of Placentius in Antioch.
30 341 The Episcopacy of Stephanus in Antioch.
31 345 The Episcopacy of Leontius in Antioch.
32 350 The Episcopacy of Eudoxius in Antioch.
33 354 The Episcopacy of Meletius in Antioch.
34 354 The Episcopacy of Eudoxius in Antioch.
35 357 The Episcopacy of Annias (a.k.a. Ammianus) in Antioch.
36 360 The Episcopacy of Eudozius in Antioch.
37 370 The Episcopacy of Dorotheus in Antioch.
38 371 The Episcopacy of Paulinus in Antioch.
39 376 The Episcopacy of Vitalius in Antioch.
40 384 The Episcopacy of Flavian in Antioch.
41 404 The Episcopacy of Porphyrius in Antioch.
42 408 The Episcopacy of Alexander in Antioch.
43 418 The Episcopacy of Theodotus in Antioch.
44 427 The Episcopacy of John in Antioch.
45 443 The Episcopacy of Domnus II in Antioch.
46 450 The Episcopacy of Maximus in Antioch.
See elevated to dignity of a Patriarchate by the Council of Chalcedon in 451
47 459 The Patriarchate of Basil in Antioch.
48 459 The Patriarchate of Acacius in Antioch.
49 461 The Patriarchate of Martyrius in Antioch.
50 465 The Patriarchate of Peter the Fuller in Antioch.
51 466 The Patriarchate of Julian in Antioch.
52 474 The Patriarchate of Peter the Fuller in Antioch.
53 475 The Patriarchate of John II in Antioch.
54 490 The Patriarchate of Stephen II in Antioch.
55 493 The Patriarchate of Stephen III in Antioch.
56 495 The Patriarchate of Callandion in Antioch.
57 495 The Patriarchate of John Codonatus in Antioch.
58 497 The Patriarchate of Palladius in Antioch.
59 505 The Patriarchate of Flavian II in Antioch.
60 513 The Patriarchate of Severus in Antioch.
61 518 The Patriarchate of Paul II in Antioch.
62 521 The Patriarchate of Euphrasius in Antioch.
63 526 The Patriarchate of Ephraim in Antioch.
64 546 The Patriarchate of Domnus III in Antioch.
65 561 The Patriarchate of Anastasius the Sinaite in Antioch.
66 571 The Patriarchate of Gregory in Antioch.
67 594 The Patriarchate of Anastasius the Sinaite in Antioch.
68 599 The Patriarchate of Anastasius II in Antioch.
69 610 The Patriarchate of Gregory II, in Antioch.
70 620 The Patriarchate of Anastasius III in Antioch.
71 628 The Patriarchate of Macedonius in Antioch.
72 640 The Patriarchate of George in Antioch.
73 656 The Patriarchate of Macarius in Antioch.
74 681 The Patriarchate of Theophanes in Antioch.
75 687 The Patriarchate of Sebastian in Antioch.
76 690 The Patriarchate of George II in Antioch.
77 695 The Patriarchate of Alexander in Antioch.
78 742 The Patriarchate of Stephen IV in Antioch.
79 748 The Patriarchate of Theophylact in Antioch.
80 767 The Patriarchate of Theodore in Antioch.
81 797 The Patriarchate of John IV in Antioch.
82 810 The Patriarchate of Job in Antioch.
83 826 The Patriarchate of Nicholas in Antioch.
84 834 The Patriarchate of Simeon in Antioch.
85 840 The Patriarchate of Elias in Antioch.
86 852 The Patriarchate of Theodosius in Antioch.
87 860 The Patriarchate of Nicholas II in Antioch.
88 879 The Patriarchate of Michael in Antioch.
89 890 The Patriarchate of Zacharias in Antioch.
90 902 The Patriarchate of George III in Antioch.
91 917 The Patriarchate of Job II in Antioch.
92 939 The Patriarchate of Eustratius in Antioch.
93 960 The Patriarchate of Christopher in Antioch.
94 966 The Patriarchate of Theodorus II in Antioch.
95 977 The Patriarchate of Agapius in Antioch.
96 995 The Patriarchate of John IV in Antioch.
97 1000 The Patriarchate of Nicholas III in Antioch.
98 1003 The Patriarchate of Elias II in Antioch.
99 1010 The Patriarchate of George Lascaris in Antioch.
100 1015 The Patriarchate of Macarius the Virtuous in Antioch.
101 1023 The Patriarchate of Eleutherius in Antioch.
102 1028 The Patriarchate of Peter III in Antioch.
103 1051 The Patriarchate of John VI in Antioch.
104 1062 The Patriarchate of Aemilian in Antioch.
105 1075 The Patriarchate of Theodosius II in Antioch.
106 1084 The Patriarchate of Nicephorus in Antioch.
107 1090 The Patriarchate of John VII in Antioch.
108 1155 The Patriarchate of John IX in Antioch.
109 1159 The Patriarchate of Euthymius in Antioch.
110 1164 The Patriarchate of Macarius in Antioch.
111 1166 The Patriarchate of Athanasius in Antioch.
112 1180 The Patriarchate of Theodosius III in Antioch.
113 1182 The Patriarchate of Elias III in Antioch.
114 1184 The Patriarchate of Christopher II in Antioch.
115 1185 The Patriarchate of Theodore IV (Balsamon) in exile in Constantinople.
116 1199 The Patriarchate of Joachim in exile in Constantinople.
117 1219 The Patriarchate of Dorotheus in exile in Constantinople.
118 1245 The Patriarchate of Simeon II in exile in Constantinople.
119 1268 The Patriarchate of Euthymius II in exile in Constantinople.
120 1269 The Patriarchate of Theodosius IV in Antioch.
121 1276 The Patriarchate of Theodosius V in Antioch.
122 1285 The Patriarchate of Arsenius in Antioch.
123 1293 The Patriarchate of Dionysius in Antioch.
124 1308 The Patriarchate of Mark in Antioch.
Patriarchal See transferred to Damascus in 1342
125 1342 The Patriarchate of Ignatius II in Damascus.
127 1386 The Patriarchate of Pachomius in Damascus.
128 1393 The Patriarchate of Nilus in Damascus.
129 1401 The Patriarchate of Michael III in Damascus.
130 1410 The Patriarchate of Pachomius II in Damascus.
131 1411 The Patriarchate of Joachim II in Damascus.
132 1426 The Patriarchate of Mark III in Damascus.
133 1436 The Patriarchate of Dorotheus II in Damascus.
134 1454 The Patriarchate of Michael IV in Damascus.
135 1476 The Patriarchate of Mark IV in Damascus.
136 1476 The Patriarchate of Joachim III in Damascus.
137 1483 The Patriarchate of Gregory III in Damascus.
139 1497-1523 The Patriarchate of Dorotheus III in Damascus.
140 1523-1541 The Patriarchate of Michael V in Damascus.
141 1541-1543 The Patriarchate of Dorotheus IV in Damascus.
142 1543-1576 The Patriarchate of Joachim IV (Ibn Juma) in Damascus.
143 1577-1581 The Patriarchate of Michael VI (Sabbagh) in Damascus.
144 1581-1592 The Patriarchate of Joachim V in Damascus.
145 1593-1604 The Patriarchate of Joachim VI in Damascus.
146 1604-1611 The Patriarchate of Dorotheus V in Damascus.
147 1611-1619 The Patriarchate of Athanasius III (Dabbas) in Damascus.
148 1619-1631 The Patriarchate of Ignatius III (Attiyah) in Damascus.
149 1635-1636 The Patriarchate of Euthymius III in Damascus.
150 1636-1648 The Patriarchate of Euthymius IV in Damascus.
151 1648-1672 The Patriarchate of Michael III (Zaim) in Damascus.
152 1674-1684 The Patriarchate of Neophytos I in Damascus.
153 1686-1694 The Patriarchate of Athanasius IV (Dabbas) in Damascus.
154 1694-1720 The Patriarchate of Cyril III (Zaim) in Damascus.
155 1720-1724 The Patriarchate of Athanasius IV (Dabbas) in Damascus.
Separation of the Melkites. The Greek Patriarchs
156 1724-1766 The Patriarchate of Sylvester I in Damascus.
157 1766-1767 The Patriarchate of Philemon I in Damascus.
158 1767-1791 The Patriarchate of Daniel I in Damascus.
159 1792-1813 The Patriarchate of Euthymius I in Damascus.
160 1813-1823 The Patriarchate of Seraphim I in Damascus.
161 1843-1859 The Patriarchate of Methodius I in Damascus.
162 1850-1885 The Patriarchate of Hierotheos I in Damascus.
163 1885-1891 The Patriarchate of Gerasimos I in Damascus.
164 1892-1898 The Patriarchate of Spyridon I in Damascus.
Restoration of the Arab Patriarchs
165 1899-1906 The Patriarchate of Meletius II (Doumani) in Damascus.
166 1906-1928 The Patriarchate of Gregory IV(Haddad) in Damascus.
167 1928-1958 The Patriarchate of Alexander III (Tahan) in Damascus.
168 1958-1970 The Patriarchate of Theodosius VI (Abourjaily) in Damascus.
169 1970-1979 The Patriarchate of Elias IV (Muawad) in Damascus.
170 1979- The Patriarchate of Ignatius IV (Hazim, 1921- ) in Damascus.

This is referred to as Apostolic Succession. It is documented, verifiable, cohesive evidence that the Orthodox Church is the original and still existing Church of the living God preserving truth for all times. Compare this with the origins of the new and foreign denominations with their myriads of varying, evolving doctrines and practices. Authority is Huge! Huge!

Definition of Orthodox: "right teaching" or "conforming to established doctrine"

NOTE: Used alone, the word "Orthodox" in this post is used as an adjective not a noun. Thus, orthodox Christianity is Christianity that comforms to the established doctrine of the Apostles.
Eastern Orthodox commonly refers to the orthodox churches who have their origin in the geographical east. Those Eastern Orthodox Churches established in the west through mission efforts are called "eastern" because they are in communion with one of the Eastern Patriarchs.

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