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Four or Seven Councils?

Discussion in 'Scripture,Tradition,Reason-Anglican & Old Catholic' started by everbecoming2007, Jun 26, 2019.

  1. everbecoming2007

    everbecoming2007 Well-Known Member

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    Is there any consensus on how many councils are accepted in Anglicanism? I always hear four or seven, or sometimes four and conditional acceptance of the latter three.

    It's not often mentioned, but there were schisms prior to 1054, and the only councils accepted by everyone as ecumenical (among churches who accept councils) are the first two as far as I remember.

    Of course, Anglicans may think of councils differently than the Orthodox and especially Catholics.
     
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  2. Albion

    Albion Facilitator

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    Four.

    But as you know, particular jurisdictions or factions may and do have their own ideas about that--Anglo-Catholics, for example.

    Yes. For us, the findings of the councils are affirmed...to the extent that they correctly reflect Scripture. Four are in that category. The other three are, arguably, not even Ecumenical Councils, since they were not representative of the universal church.

    But of course for some other communions, all of these are deemed to be infallible, period. And the Roman Church considers all of its general councils--over 20--to be, by definition, Ecumenical Councils.
     
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  3. Of the Kingdom

    Of the Kingdom Member

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    The fifth council (second council of constantinople) was highly controversial, so it is not surprising that many individuals doubt the validity of the last three councils. The Wikipedia articles do claim that the Anglican Communion acknowledges all seven as valid. There is likely to be some variance among Anglicans, of course.
     
  4. Albion

    Albion Facilitator

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    This is interesting. The Wikipedia article under "Anglican Communion" says that there is NO canonical statement that accepts them. And in apparent support of that conclusion, it goes on to say that the answer may come from representative individuals. It then quotes the affirmative views of two prominent figures on the religious scene, Bishop Chandler Holder Jones and William Tighe, Associate Professor of History at Muhlenberg College...

    neither of whom belongs to a church that is part of the Anglican Communion!
     
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2019
  5. Of the Kingdom

    Of the Kingdom Member

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    As a total outsider, with little knowledge of Anglicism, thanks for letting me stir the pot a little. I don't know if the 1559 Act of Supremacy should be counted as a "canonical statement", but it did weigh in on the matter, leaving it unclear of course, but clearly favoring the first four councils over the last three.

    According to Ecumenical council - Wikipedia,

    So it would seem that the answer varies among Anglicans, as you suggest. Those who agree with that provision of the Act of Supremacy presumably think the first four councils were reliable and the last three doubtful.
     
  6. Paidiske

    Paidiske Clara bonam audax Supporter

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    I recall a quote from Bishop Lancelot Andrewes:

    “One canon reduced to writing by God himself, two testaments, three creeds, four general councils, five centuries, and the series of Fathers in that period – the centuries that is, before Constantine, and two after, determine the boundary of our faith.”

    I'm sure people might well want to take issue with that statement on a number of grounds, but it's an interesting statement in that it benchmarks one school of thought at one point in history.
     
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  7. Albion

    Albion Facilitator

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    ...and it seems that I read that quote given by some priest or bishop fairly often even now, so I get the idea that if there is any unofficial answer, an answer that is more characteristic of Anglicans generally than any other, I would think that one is probably it.
     
  8. Paidiske

    Paidiske Clara bonam audax Supporter

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    Either that, or we all had to write essays on the Caroline Divines in seminary, and the quote stuck! ;)
     
  9. Shane R

    Shane R Priest Supporter

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    When I did the liturgical seminar for priests at the chancery, Archbishop Gordon stated that four are the Anglican norm - I think he cited Jeremy Taylor rather than Lancelot Andrewes. Anyhow, he also addressed the point of agreeing with the other three conditionally: which he does. For instance, many of our parishes display icons (Nicea II). But one of the reasons he cited for not joining the confederation now calling itself G4 (in the Anglican Continuum) is that they have adopted a seven councils affirmation as a standard for orthodoxy. Now, my experience is that most of these guys are kind of foggy on what the latter three councils affirmed except for the acceptance of icons, but they are binding them.o_O
     
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  10. A Shield of Turquoise

    A Shield of Turquoise New Member

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    I think it's fair to say that the general Anglican position has evolved on this. If we take the "Homily Against Peril of Idolatry" as a standard, then a straightforward rejection of Nicaea II and, indeed, all images in churches was the Church of England's position. But this changed at least as early as the time of King Charles I/ Archbishop Laud, with the introduction of crosses, candles, etc to the point that, today, some images are present in virtually all Anglican churches.
     
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  11. archer75

    archer75 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Sorry to poke my nose in here -- but didn't "Ecumenical" just mean (in its original sense) "connected to the empire" (i.e. not necessarily having anything to do with Christians outside the empire)? Is that so? And if so, when do we see the shift to the sense in which it's most often used today -- "universally valid, should be binding for everyone"?
     
  12. Paidiske

    Paidiske Clara bonam audax Supporter

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    I recall being taught that ecumenical originally meant pertaining to the (whole) household of faith. A quick google suggests that you're right and at some point this was conflated with the breadth of the Empire.

    I am not clear about when and how nuances of the term might have shifted.
     
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  13. A Shield of Turquoise

    A Shield of Turquoise New Member

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    Right, "ecumenical" was really a geo-political designation. As they were both state and church law, these councils were regarded as binding- but of course laws could be done in error and be overturned. Increasingly though the "ecumenical" label was invested with dogmatic significance, as if getting enough bishops into a room together, with the emperor's approval, could guarantee an orthodox result. The conciliarists/ gallicans in the West had this idea, and the Eastern Orthodox likewise posited a kind of conciliar infallibility as a counter to the claims of Papal supremacy.
     
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  14. everbecoming2007

    everbecoming2007 Well-Known Member

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    Interesting. Didn't Nicaea get challenged later on too? I have wondered how views on councils have changed. Some Catholics believe only the anathemas are binding in the infallible sense, but I know of no consensus.
     
  15. archer75

    archer75 Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Do you happen to know a source that discusses this?
     
  16. everbecoming2007

    everbecoming2007 Well-Known Member

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    I would like to know as well, although it's difficult for me to believe the church already "knew" or believed early on at Nicaea that these councils would be regarded by their own merit as potentially or actually infallible.

    The church had to convene a controversial council just to define what is taken for granted today. Such matters were not obvious or clear at that time, so it is not obvious to me that notions of infallibility were clear, either.

    Anglicanism gets a lot of flack for its breadth of theology which can at times leave much ambiguous or left to speculation for those who care to theorize. It also tends to live with and tolerate tensions. But isn't this approach merely an honest acceptance of how the church has always been?
     
  17. A Shield of Turquoise

    A Shield of Turquoise New Member

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    Certainly. There was a time after Nicaea where the Arians seemed to be running the show and Nicaea could well have been buried.

    I think it's safe to say that every council was challenged. The Second Council of Ephesus (449) was technically an "ecumenical council" until it was overturned at Chalcedon (451) and labeled a "robber council." Chalcedon in itself was (and still is) steadfastly rejected by a sizeable portion of the church and for a few decades (during the time of the Henotikon) it was basically treated as a dead letter by everyone except Rome.

    Another robber-council-formerly-known-as-ecumenical was the iconoclast council of Hieria (754). This council was imperial law until 787 and Irene's Nicaea II, which in its turn was overthrown by another iconoclast reign until the issue was finally put to rest by Empress Theodora's council in 843.

    Now I'm not saying councils should be disregarded- often they present important and hard-won formulations of the Christian faith. But I think there is sometimes an aura of infallibility invested in the phrase "ecumenical council" which is not justified by the history.
     
  18. A Shield of Turquoise

    A Shield of Turquoise New Member

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    Georges Florovsky's "Byzantine Fathers..." series is a very readable overview of the theology and church politics around and between the councils. Happily you can find it for free online.

    A very short but helpful work is this one by Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev: https://silouanthompson.net/wp-cont...e-Ecumenical-Councils-in-the-Early-Church.pdf
     
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