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Are there any official sources of Orthodox teaching?

Discussion in 'St. Athanasius Chapel and Reference Library' started by samir, Apr 10, 2016.

  1. samir

    samir Well-Known Member

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    I've been having trouble finding the precise Orthodox teaching on some topics so I can compare them with RCC teaching. I looked at the thread on Orthodox Christian websites - references but I don't want to have to check multiple websites to get an idea of Orthodox teaching without ever knowing the exact teaching and all the necessary details.

    The reason it's necessary to know the precise details is because when I looked at Orthodox teaching related to purgatory and ancestral sin it doesn't seem any different than RCC teaching yet the Orthodox sites say the RCC teaching is heretical.

    If I want to know what the RCC teaches, I can go to the Catholic Encyclopedia which provides all the details and references to official teaching but I haven't found anything like that for Orthodox teaching. Does anything like that exist?

    Some examples of stuff I'd like to find the answers to all on one website with official references:

    Precise teaching on purification after death to see how it compares to RCC's teaching on purgatory. It needs to be precise so I can know what exactly is disputed and why Orthodox reject purgatory.

    Precise details of ancestral sin to see how it compares to original sin

    Baptism - who can properly administer it and what is the valid matter and form
     
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  2. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

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    yes, it's the services. we pray what we believe. our theology is in our services, so I would say go to Church and talk to the priest.

    St Mark of Ephesus' writings and his life. Metropolitan Heirotheos Vlachos tackles this issue as well in Life After Death.

    these are kinda scattered throughout the canons of the Councils, so you could get the Nicene Post Nicene Fathers volume on the Ecumenical councils and find them there. but lots of bookstores have these things, so another reason to go check out a service is to ask this to your local priest. he can one on one you like we cannot here, and hook you up with something that would help you better.

    the reason we don't have an official catechism is that our Faith can only be understood by being lived. we have many unofficial ones (recently one made by Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev), but Orthodoxy will never be reduced to a quick answer encyclopedia reference. you have to eat, smell, touch, hear, see, and actively live out our faith to understand it. and that understanding grows deeper as you continue on unto eternity.
     
  3. samir

    samir Well-Known Member

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    I was hoping for a central source. I'm not sure how attending an Orthodox service will tell me something like whether a layperson can perform a valid baptism. I heard some Orthodox churches teach things that contradict Orthodox teaching so how would I know which Orthodox church to trust? It would take awhile to look up multiple writings and even then I still wouldn't know if they were correct as Orthodox Christians don't agree on everything. If I consult two Orthodox sources and one says Orthodox believe in purgatory and the other says Orthodox reject it, how will I know which one is correct? I talked to an Orthodox priest but I can't be certain everything he said was correct because Roman priests I've talked to have told me things that contradict official Roman Catholic teaching.
     
  4. ArmyMatt

    ArmyMatt Regular Member Supporter

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    you do have one, it's the services.

    trust the saints and the services.

    the canons say that they can, but it must be followed up by chrismation of a priest. this was how early people missionized Alaska.

    I have yet to know of any Orthodox person who accepts Purgatory, but even if they did, our prayers and the saints show there is no such place. you cannot go wrong with the saints. since they are the ones who know God, they know correct teaching. and since it's participation in the services and the prayers that lead the saints to commune with God and come to know Him, that is why they are solid as far as information.

    well that doesn't mean that he was, it only means that the RC priests were. check what someone says with the Fathers and the services/prayers, and you will know what we think.
     
  5. Cappadocious

    Cappadocious Well-Known Member

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    The RCC teaching today is more similar to Orthodox teaching which is why they sound similar.

    But aside from nonsense like finding the true church and what you can trust etc why do you care?
     
  6. buzuxi02

    buzuxi02 Veteran

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    Nope. Official sources would be the Liturgy of the Church. Her texts for all the Divine Services, the Nicene Creed, dogmas of the ecumenical councils (most of the proceedings can be found on ccel.org), official prayers and hymns and simply the handed down 'phronema' of the Church. You also have canons, the theology of universally accepted icons, and so on.

    You wont find 'precise' codified teachings on this subject matter because they dont exist in 'precise' definitions. Precise teachings (an horos for example) would be dogmatic definitions from a universally recieved council. They clarify and define as best as possible the tradition of the Church when said tradition seems prone to misinterpretation in church circles.
    In Orthodoxy this deals mostly with Christological issues and even then only if the false understanding spreads far and wide. The 'horos' (definition) will clarify right belief over wrong belief, making the tradition more 'precise'. Also Orthodoxy has always relied on apophatic theology more so than in the west, where the west puts more emphasis on cataphatic theology. In other words we can say what God is not, whether a teaching is wrong but we wont go into the cataphatic sphere unless its absolutely neccesary to zero in on it.

    There are numerous canons, accepted canonical epistles and the custom of the Church when dealing with baptismal theology.
     
    Last edited: May 13, 2016
  7. samir

    samir Well-Known Member

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    Why do you think it's nonsense to want to know which church Jesus founded? That's the only reason I care.
     
  8. samir

    samir Well-Known Member

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    I studied purgatory and despite hearing some Orthodox Christians say otherwise, I came to the conclusion that the Orthodox church and most if not all Orthodox Christians believe in purgatory as Rome defines it. If there was a horos or universally received council that discussed purgatory in a clear and precise way like the first seven ecumenical councils then I would know for sure whether the Orthodox church rejected Rome's teaching on purgatory but I'm guessing there wasn't a council that discussed it (other than the Council of Florence where Orthodox representatives accepted Rome's teaching on purgatory).
     
  9. Cappadocious

    Cappadocious Well-Known Member

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    Because you will not find an answer to that question in apologetics, which is where you're asking it.

    Where is worship in spirit and truth? What is worship in spirit and truth? Corroborations of this or that historical factoid aren't going to help you with that question.
     
  10. buzuxi02

    buzuxi02 Veteran

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    Rome believes there are two fires. A temporal fire used for purgation where the soul experiences pains of various durations and intensities till it is cleansed of certain sins. Prayers of the dead can speed up the cleansing process but their salvation is assured regardless. They also believe in a second eternal fire of Gehenna reserved for the wicked after the second coming.

    Orthodoxy rejects any notion of a temporal fire of torture as the forgiveness mechanism God has chosen to cleanse away sins sins. We believe that forgiveness and punishment are mutually exclusive and cannot be used simultaneously. Foregiveness is freely letting go, punishment is vengeance to appease, thus either God will forgive your sins or He will punish but not both as these two things are polar opposites. Secondly Orthodoxy rejects tortures upon the soul apart from the body whose passions are tied to these sins, thus there can only be one eternal fire after the ressurection when the soul reunites with its body.
    Orthodoxy also believes you receive only a foretaste of what is to come not the fullness of bliss or eternal seperation, so there is no need for a temporal fire to 'graduate' into salvation. We have not been perfected yet nor damned without hope
    In the Roman Catholic doctrine, prayers for the dead are exclusively for those in purgatory (or in hell) that will eventually aid in their release unto heavenly salvation. (If they are punished in the purgatorial fire it doesnt really matter as they are assured of release, so its a moot point.)

    In Orthodoxy, prayers for the dead are not understood in such a way. Prayers for the dead can bring relief to souls imprisoned but does not guarantee their release, in other instances prayers for the dead can improve the situation of a sinful soul as the gospel teaches:
    Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Matt 12.32) Thus all kinds of sins will be forgiven in the age to come (except those against the Holy Spirit) but not through a torturous temporal fire.

    But heres the caveat, In Orthodoxy prayers for the dead really have nothing to do with aiding of sinners and releasing one from hell etc. For Rome this is the primary factor for prayers of the dead, so an innovation like purgatory fits into their self- understanding of whats on the other side of the grave, but not so in Orthodoxy.

    In Orthodoxy prayers for the dead is for the remembrance of our loved ones who have died in the faith. Hence the holier the person is the more prayers he will be commemorated with. Its based on the love of the deceased because Love alone endures forever. This is why i know of family members who commemorate deceased loved ones that have died over 50 years ago and make kolyva (wheat) for them as an offering to the church and congregation. Because this tradition from time immemorable echos what Paul taught:
    ..'But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?”
    36How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else... 42So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. 1Cor 15.35,42)

    When my family and I pray for my deceased grandparents and relatives, its not because we think they are in hell or in some purgatory but because they are members of the Church triumphant, whose perfection is not yet complete, thats why the church offers prayers on our behalf on two different continents.
     
    Last edited: May 14, 2016
  11. samir

    samir Well-Known Member

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    The truth came from Jesus so wherever it is must be somewhere that taught it since the 1st century.

    The truth isn't found in Protestantism because history shows the Protestant beliefs didn't originate until the 16th century and many contradict the teaching of all Christian churches for the first 1,500 years after Christ. So history does help answer the question of where the truth is found.
     
  12. Cappadocious

    Cappadocious Well-Known Member

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    But that has little real meaning for your life. So does worship in spirit and truth in the world we have today, involve living differently than other people do? Doing different things? What do you think it is?
     
  13. samir

    samir Well-Known Member

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    The truth greatly impacts how a person lives his life. I know many Protestants who sin regularly without much concern or remorse because their pastor told them once they were saved their salvation was guaranteed.

    I'd have to find the truth first before I can answer those questions. If some of the Baptist sects are right, then no it doesn't involve living any differently because I go to heaven regardless of how I live. If the RCC or OC teaches the truth, then yes I would need to live differently because mortal sin leads to hell.
     
  14. samir

    samir Well-Known Member

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    Most of the Orthodox objections to purgatory that I found were, like what you posted above, based on misconceptions regarding RC teaching. Perhaps a RC theologian believed in two fires but that has never been official RC teaching as far as I know. The greatest RC theologian, Thomas Aquinas, wrote "it is the same fire which torments the damned in hell and cleanses the just in Purgatory (Aquinas, ST, Appendix 2, Article 2)."

    According to the Catholic Encyclopedia's article on purgatory there are only two official RC teachings on purgatory which are:

    1. that some type of purification occurs in some people after death
    2. that prayers of those on earth are of benefit to them

    I'm sure the RCC agrees with Orthodoxy on that.

    The RCC can't agree with that because it contradicts scripture. When David sinned against the Lord, God forgave his sin but punished him at the same time:


    It looks like Orthodoxy agrees with RC teaching that there is a purification after death and that prayers can benefit them by bringing relief to their souls. As that is all the RCC has ever taught regarding purgatory, it appears Orthodoxy agrees with purgatory as Rome defines it.
     
  15. buzuxi02

    buzuxi02 Veteran

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    During the council of Florence this "fire" pre-occupied the proceedings. This was long after Aquinas in the 15th -century and was definately what they taught. That now is the temporal fire and after comes the eternal fire.
    Furthermore the RC brought up St. Gregory of Nyssa as teaching purgatory. The Orthodox rejected whatever it was that St. Gregory taught saying that even saints are not infallible. Basically the RC re-packaged the idea of universal restoration which Origen was known for and is found in some of Gregory's teachings.
    The other thing is Orthodoxy does not teach that tortures are a part of God's cleansing. Any pain, sorrow and gnashing of teeth is the natural will of man yearning for God, but this is counteracted by the frenzy the soul feels when it no longer has the body to act opon its sinful inclinations and passions.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2016
  16. samir

    samir Well-Known Member

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    The Catholic Encyclopedia says, "At the Council of Florence, Bessarion argued against the existence of real purgatorial fire, and the Greeks were assured that the Roman Church had never issued any dogmatic decree on this subject. (Article on Purgatory)"

    Can you quote what the council of Florence said and provide a source so I can confirm it? When I studied this, I couldn't find anywhere that the RCC ever taught a literal fire.
     
  17. buzuxi02

    buzuxi02 Veteran

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    The RC church has changed its teachings over the years. For example purgatory was originally and for centuries a torturous fire of the SAVED who had to undergo penance for minor infractions.
    Today many RC theologians teach it's a form of theosis. A process (possibly everlasting) towards deification. Usually in the modern understanding understanding pains and tortures through fire is downplayed.

    Think about this when the byzantine rite unia merged with the Latins in 1596, the edict issued was that purgatory shall not be discussed because it was to contentious.

    When I get off work I'll put up a few quotes on what the medieval Latin church taught about purgatory.
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2016
  18. buzuxi02

    buzuxi02 Veteran

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    Bessarion was part of the byzantine delegation originally arguing against union. After two years or so he got tired of the house arrest and switched allegiances. He attempted to persuade the greeks to accept the union, but his arguments were not convincing.

    All apostolic churches believe in some form of forgiveness of minor sins in the afterlife, yet all reject purgatory except for Rome. And all have prayers for the dead, yet in the practical life of both EO and OO it's never about releasing souls from torture or (speeding up their theosis).
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2016
  19. buzuxi02

    buzuxi02 Veteran

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    The above 2nd point would still be rejected using an Orthodox understanding. Orthodoxy teaches all may benefit from the prayers of the Church in various ways not just 'some' people which roman dogma categorize as those in the purgatorial fire.

    Much of the doctrine of purgatory was being formulated at Florence during the debates. The Orthodox party didnt arrive having any precise teaching on the life beyond the grave as they weren't expecting anything out of the ordinary over this subject. In fact purgatory seems to have become a sticking point by accident when Cardinal Julian Caesarian suggested they forego starting the discussion with papal primacy and talk about the purifying fire, "so that we too might be purified by the words about it". The Orthodox after listening to the latin doctrine held a private conference on how to respond to these latin traditions which they were unaware of.
    Remember that apophatic reasoning will tell you if something is not, it wont clarify what is, so The Orthodox put together a hasty response outlining certain objections. The Latin party did indeed speak of a temporal fire clarifying it was a fire of 'the present age'. Now the purgatorial fire is a critical aspect of purgatory 1 Cor 3.11-15 is the primary scriptural evidence they point to as fire being the central theme of those verses. Here is what Rome taught about purgatory:



      • "If they have died repentant for their sins and having love of God, but have not made satisfaction for things they have done or omitted by fruits worthy of penance, then their souls, after death, are cleansed by the punishment of Purgatory; also . . . the suffrages of the faithful still living are efficacious in bringing them relief from such punishment, namely the Sacrifice of the Mass, prayers and almsgiving and other works of piety which, in accordance with the designation of the Church, are customarily offered by the faithful for each other." Council of Florence (1438-1443)

      • "Among them is also the fire of purgatory, in which the souls of just men are cleansed by a temporary punishment, in order to be admitted into their eternal country, into which nothing defiled entereth. The truth of this doctrine, founded, as holy Councils declare,' on Scripture, and confirmed by Apostolic tradition, demands exposition from the pastor, all the more diligent and frequent, because we live in times when men endure not sound doctrine." Catechism of Council of Trent, The Creed - Article V, Different Abodes Called Hell Catholic Essentials - Purgatory
    You can find the same (but more sanitized wording) of this doctrine in pt 3, this is from the vatican's website, note this purifying fire exists before the final judgement making it a temporal fire apart from gehenna:

    1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
    1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.606 The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:607
    As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.608

    Catechism of the Catholic Church - I believe in life everlasting

    Now in the council of Trent held in the mid 16th century (session 25), affirmed the previous decrees on purgatory as taught in those previous councils (florence) only mentioning the prayers and alms and commemorations help to purify but no more punishments, it declares that any difficult discourse and any deep explanation of purgatory should be avoided and the topic of purgatory has many "uncertain" aspects which should not be made public:

    DECREE CONCERNING PURGATORY.
    Whereas the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has, from the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers, taught, in sacred councils, and very recently in this oecumenical Synod, that there is a Purgatory, and that the souls there detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, [Page 233] but principally by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar; the holy Synod enjoins on bishops that they diligently endeavour that the sound doctrine concerning Purgatory, transmitted by the holy Fathers and sacred councils, be believed, maintained, taught, and every where proclaimed by the faithful of Christ. But let the more difficult and subtle questions, and which tend not to edification, and from which for the most part there is no increase of piety, be excluded from popular discourses before the uneducated multitude. In like manner, such things as are uncertain, or which labour under an appearance of error, let them not allow to be made public and treated of. While those things which tend to a certain kind of curiosity or superstition, or which savour of filthy lucre, let them prohibit as scandals and stumbling-blocks of the faithful. But let the bishops take care, that the suffrages of the faithful who are living, to wit the sacrifices of masses, prayers, alms, and other works of piety, which have been wont to be performed by the faithful for the other faithful departed, be piously and devoutly performed, in accordance with the institutes of the church; and that whatsoever is due on their behalf, from the endowments of testators, or in other way, be discharged, not in a perfunctory manner, but diligently and accurately, by the priests and ministers of the church, and others who are bound to render this (service).

    CT25


    Here is an Orthodox response to purgatory and what actually occured in this pseodo-council:
    The Orthodox Response to the Latin Doctrine of Purgatory
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2016
  20. Cappadocious

    Cappadocious Well-Known Member

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    But if you didn't already have some intuition as to what it is, you would not desire it. So what do you already know?
     
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