Class 43: Faith Comes First, Session 2. Ecclesiology
Listen to the podcast of this talk at https://www.spreaker.com/user/youngfaithradio/osc-43
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2. Response to Class 42. Style: It will probably vary. Reminder: the notes are just an outline. You have to listen to the talk.
3. A happy moment that illustrates an important truth: Our unity in the Church is diachronic – it is unity not only with those of our time but of all times and in eternity.
4. Review: Surviving the Great Apostasy. Church, Family, Society. Faith (the Church) comes first. Goals for this section:
A. Give enough background on ecclesiology and Church history to make the present situation if not clear, then at least somewhat comprehensible to everyone.
B. Give an apologia for where I am.
C. Confirm my fellow True Orthodox in their convictions.
D. Get the “World” Orthodox and inquirers thinking about these things, while providing resources for them to learn more.
Topics for this class: Ecclesiology – study of the Church. Also, some reflections on discernment.
I. Ecclesiology: The Church, the Saving Confession of Faith, Union with the Bishop
A. You are here because, probably, you have already thought through a lot of this. I am going to summarize some main points from Scripture and Holy Tradition, try to offer some insight based on these, and refer you to some reading.
B. My goal is not to cover every aspect of ecclesiology, but to make four main points related to the Church and our theme of Faith Comes First:
1. Making the true confession of faith ontologically changes people. Denying the confession of faith also ontologically changes people.
2. One must have the correct and saving confession of Faith to be in the Church.
3. People who deny the confession of Faith and are therefore not in the Church cannot be bishops or priests.
4. To be in the Church one must be united in the Holy Mysteries to a bishop and his clergy who themselves have the saving confession of Faith and are in the Church.
Confession of Faith and ontological status
A handy saying: Homology (homologia) begets ontology (ontologia). Your confession of faith changes you into something new. Denying your confession of faith changes you back into what you used to be (or something worse!) What you are depends on what you publicly confess to believe.
Mark 16, Matthew 28: The great commission. Make disciples —-> baptize (Matt 28). Those who believe —> and are baptized —> will be saved; those who do not believe will be damned. (Mark 16).
To be Orthodox with a big O unto salvation, you have to be orthodox with a little o. That doesn’t mean that every single layman has to understand all of the Church’s theology intellectually, but it certainly means that he cannot stubbornly deny Her doctrine. This applies, obviously, even more strictly to a bishop or a priest.
To be in the Church, you have to have the true confession of Faith.
Matthew 16: The Lord builds His Church on Peter’s confession of faith.
St. Maximus the Confessor: The primary criterion for the status of membership in the Church is the “correct and saving confession of the Faith” (see On the Life and Contest of Our Holy Father Maximos the Confessor, section 24, Patrologia Graeca, volume 90, column 93D, quoted in The True Orthodox Church and Heresy of Ecumenism – http://hotca.org/pdf/TrueOrthodoxOppositionEcumenism.pdf
People who deny the confession of Faith and are therefore not in the Church cannot be bishops or priests.
This should be self-evident, but apparently some people have such a mechanical or superficial idea of the Church’s hierarchy that it is not self-evident to everyone. So, let us turn to St. Gregory Palamas: “Those who do not belong to the Truth do not belong to the Church of Christ either; and the more so if they speak falsely of themselves by calling themselves, or calling each other, holy pastors and hierarchs; [for it has been instilled in us that] Christianity is not characterized by persons, but by the truth and exactitude of Faith.” (see “Refutation of the Letter of Patriarch Ignatios of Antioch,” section 3, in Panagiotes K. Chrestou [ed.] The Works of St. Gregory Palamas, Volume II., quoted in The True Orthodox Church and the Heresy of Ecumenism). The entire history of the Church testifies to this. This is not rocket science.
To be in the Church one must be united in the Holy Mysteries to a bishop and his clergy who themselves have the saving confession of Faith and are in the Church.
Nearly anyone listening to this talk probably already believes this. If you are not convinced of this, go to the sources: Check out Bishop Lightfoot’s Apostolic Fathers for the testimony of the very earliest successors of the Holy Apostles as to the existence of the threefold priesthood of bishop, presbyter, and deacon, the necessity of being in union with the bishop, that unity is in the Holy Mysteries, etc. Read especially St. Ignatius of Antioch’s letters and St. Clement of Rome. Go to the third century and read St. Cyprian of Carthage “On the Unity of the Church.” You will get the picture!
Regarding schism: The terms “heresy” and “schism.” Orthodoxy of faith is is not enough; you must also be in the unity of the Church. Some remarks on this:
i. Distinction between the organism and the organization: though not separate, they are distinct. Prots say they are separate, RC’s say they are the same. O: not separate but distinct. See OSC Class
ii. Main charge today against the True Orthodox is that they are schismatics. A brief response – more detailed response will be in later talks.
II. Reflections on Discernment
As we go along, we have to remember that logic is not enough. You have to pray for discernment, and you have to use some common sense. Don’t get weird.
a. Spectrum: The World <———–The Church———>Sects and Cults
b. The “fragrance of Orthodoxy” – You have to be praying and leading the Orthodox life, so that both your discursive intellect and spiritual intellect are functioning properly, and so that your heart has the right sentiments and your will the strength to do what mind and heart say.
c. Don’t get frantic. The Lord wants your salvation more than you do.
To read the Holy Fathers online, you can go to newadvent.org: http://newadvent.org/fathers/ Also, for the Apostolic Fathers in particular, Bishop Lightfoot’s translation is a classic. Of course, there are also the three famous ANF and NPNF series from Eerdmans.
To do a quick primer on ecclesiology: Go to Fr. Michael Pomazansky’s Orthodox Dogmatic Theology, chapter 7, “The Church of Christ.” Available from St. Herman Press. Also online at http://www.intratext.com/X/ENG0824.HTM
“Christianity or the Church” by New Hieromartyr Hilarion Troitsky: http://orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/sthilarion_church.aspx
In closing: Let us have the good zeal and love one another. Discerning good zeal vs. bitter zeal or zeal “not according to understanding.” i. Always confess vanity. ii. Ask forgiveness if you go over the line. iii. But you can’t wait till your perfect before you fight for the Faith.
Let us prefer nothing whatever to Christ; and may He bring us all together to life eternal. Amen. (cf. Rule of St. Benedict, end of Chapter 72).