Fr. Ernesto continues his insights into Conciliarism with some thoughts about truth in relationship to knowing God’s Will. This is especially helpful as a window into one Orthodox priest’s views today. Much of what he says is accurate for the rest of Christianity, and challenges some contrary views held by others within the larger Church Triumphant.
Thursday, September 23, 2010 by Fr. Ernesto Obregon
Yesterday I said:
But, this does not answer the deeper question. How do we know what is truth if our perception of truth is influenced by our culture? And, what mechanisms did God put in place to ensure that the truth would indeed be passed on?
Right up front, I need to tell you that part of the answer is faith. But, that is an accurate statement not only for Christians, but also for every human being on earth. Ultimately, all of us have things that we do not know with certainty, but we have the certainty that reality does form a logical whole. Even though Christians (not just Orthodox, but all Christians) state that our God is not fully knowable, and many–but not all–Orthodox make the claim that our God is fully unknowable, yet we would all still say that reality does exist and is not merely the perception of individuals who are influenced by many factors. More than that, we would say that reality makes sense even if we cannot know all of reality.
OK, now back to less philosophical statements! In the Old Testament, God used patriarchs and prophets–and others, including an ass–to speak truth in his name to the people. He had a most interesting way of confirming who was speaking truth. If you did not listen to the correct prophet–for there were false prophets–you were likely to get sent into exile, or suffer a plague, or some other rather physical confirmation of his word. However, we are not talking about the Old Testament, but about the New. In the New Testament, he used some similar means, but also brought in some other means of confirming truth.
God continued to confirm his word with acts of power in the New Testament. Among some of the recorded acts were the death of Ananias and Sapphira, the striking dumb of a person who opposed Saint Paul, etc. But, rather quickly God began to use another method that was indeed different than what had gone on before, and that was the Ecumenical Council. The first Ecumenical Council is actually recorded in Acts 15, although we do not call it the first one. What was interesting is that rather than a statement coming out of an Apostle, the apostles and elders from all over Christianity are called in. They all have the chance to speak before a decision is made, then the decision is announced by the head of the Church in Jerusalem, who is Saint James–notice that it is NOT Saint Peter, so much for Roman claims. It is what is called a conciliar system of listening to God, for at the end they said that it seemed good not only to them, but also to the Holy Spirit. That is, they were convinced that they were speaking not only as a human body, but as the Body of Christ.
But, remember that I have been writing about culture. One of the ways for God to ensure that truth is reached in partnership with him is to ensure that there are representatives from many cultures, peoples, tribes, and languages, which is what was present already (in part) in Acts 15. That is, if our culture twists our understandings in a certain direction, there is every possibility that a member from another culture may have his/her understanding twisted in a different direction that will cancel out our twist. When there are people from various cultures, the deformations in our theologies that are cause by culture tend to cancel out and leave us open to accurately hearing from God.
This is what happened in the Council of Jerusalem and the Seven Ecumenical Councils. People met from various cultures and were able to hear God accurately. In fact, they were able to hear God so accurately that subsequent Christian cultures have ended up agreeing with six of the seven councils. The Seventh Ecumenical Council has to do with icons and holy images as well as several other matters. I am convinced that Protestants need to repent of their refusal to accept that council, but that is another post. But, let me make a stronger argument. I think that there is a reason why the Orthodox have never ended up having another Ecumenical Council (despite the few Orthodox that try to claim that some council or other is really an ecumenical council). Without formal doctrine on the issue, I am convinced that there is a Spiritual understanding within Orthodoxy that unless a Council includes those multicultural delegates, it may not be truly an Ecumenical Council. But, what does that say about Roman Catholicism?
===MORE TO COME===