In a recent article at Orthodox Christian Theology, Craig Truglia wrote that a strong case can be made for defeating the so-called heresy of apokatastasis by invoking the doctrine of conciliar fundamentalism. He had written the article in response to Fr. Kimel’s recent article over at Eclectic Orthodoxy. Truglia defines conciliar fundamentalism as the view that not just the canons and the formal definitiones (professions of faith by the whole council with their names undersigned) are dogmatically binding to all Orthodox, but also that all of the acta and minutes of the councils are dogmatically binding as well. Truglia then uses this doctrine for interpreting the ecumenical councils to make the case that because universalism in all of its forms is condemned by certain individuals in the minutes of the Second Council of Nicaea (787) (which itself is a dubious claim, but I will set that issue aside), then one is dogmatically obligated to condemn universalism as a heresy. For now, I will mostly set aside the issue of apokatastasis or universalism (which Truglia himself shows very little patience, charity, or interest in understanding as one can tell from his horrid and confused review of David Bentley Hart’s book – for example not once does he mention divine transcendence in his review) and focus mostly on conciliar fundamentalism. Let me say, in no uncertain terms, conciliar fundamentalism is self-defeating and undoes the Orthodox faith. It also breeds schism and heresy, and is documented as having accomplished just that.
I will start with three interconnected examples – the Council of Chalcedon (451), the Second Council of Constantinople (553), and St. Columbanus of Bobbio (d. 615). The Council of Chalcedon defined Christ as both fully human and fully God – one person with two natures. During this council, three men were upheld as having a correct faith – Theodore of Mopsuestia, who died in communion with the Church, Theodoret of Cyrus, and Ibas of Edessa. Theodoret and Ibas were both rehabilitated into the Church at Chalcedon. These three men would later become known as the Three Chapters. Fast-forward to Constantinople (553) and all three of these men were condemned as heretics (the person of Theodore and select writings of both Theodoret and Ibas to be precise), essentially undoing parts of what had been done at Chalcedon. This denouncement of these three men precipitated the Three Chapters Controversy, which resulted in numerous churches in Italy, such as the Patriarchate of Aquileia, going into schism from the Orthodox Church. The Aquileian schismatics’ primary objection to II Constantinople was that by accepting it, Chalcedon was therefore rejected in toto, including its doctrinal definition and its condemnations. They believed that condemning a dead man who died in communion with the church for heresy, namely Theodore, was unheard of. But the major rub lay in the condemnations of Theodoret and Ibas, whom Chalcedon rehabilitated (Meyendorff, pp. 310-315). In short, these critics were conciliar fundamentalists. According to the schismatics, by undoing some of the procedural work done in the minutes of Chalcedon at II Constantinople, the bishops at Constantinople condemned the whole council of Chalcedon. In short, minutes or acta, definitiones, and canons all held the same status for these schismatics, whereas obviously those who upheld the truth of the Fifth Ecumenical Council did not hold to this doctrine of conciliar fundamentalism.
St. Columbanus of Bobbio enters into this controversy in 612, having recently left the Kingdom of the Franks for Italy. Columbanus was an Irish monk who had already accused St. Gregory of Rome earlier of heresy. When he arrived at Italy, he got caught up in the Aquileian Schism fairly quickly, although probably did not enter into schism himself. He then wrote a letter to Pope Boniface IV of Rome accusing him of undermining Chalcedon with his condemnation of the aforementioned three men (Epistle 5). In short, by casting doubt on some of the proceedings or rulings of Chalcedon, Rome had effectively renounced all of the council and its dogmatic content. It is useful to quote the historian Tommaso Leso here:
It has been convincingly suggested that in order to prove that somebody had rejected the authority of a council, it was customary to state that the individual in question approved what the council had condemned. It has been persuasively argued that Columbanus employed this very polemical tool in his fifth letter, as Nicetius of Trier had done, on the same question, some decades earlier. Nicetius was accusing the pope and the council of being unfaithful to Chalcedon. This had been the main accusation thrown by the schismatics at the pope through the decades: the Holy See, by condemning the Three Chapters which had been approved at the Council of Chalcedon, had betrayed the council.
– Tommaso Leso, “Columbanus in Europe,” pp. 380
Needless to say, the calls for a new synod that Columbanus asks for in that same letter are left unheeded. Both men soon died, and the schism would only be resolved at the end of the century.
The lessons of this history are notable in the context of Truglia’s arguments. Conciliar fundamentalists used the doctrine of conciliar fundamentalism to reject the Fifth Ecumenical Council – that SAME COUNCIL that Truglia wants to bolster and clarify through his quotations of the minutes from the Second Council of Nicaea. The irony should not be lost on anyone. Furthermore, this doctrine of conciliar fundamentalism then led to schism with the Orthodox Church! How can a doctrine be good and true if it leads people to leave Orthodoxy? It is madness! There is more I could say at length or even rhetorically ask, like, “Where are the minutes of the First Council of Nicaea? If acta are just as dogmatically binding as canons and definitiones, then surely they would have been better preserved!” In any case, conciliar fundamentalism leads to schism and Orthodox would do well to avoid it.
Truglia has recently doubled down on his position. It is not an impressive rebuttal, as he does not address the historical problem of the Aquileian Schism. And just for the record, the Barlaamites protested reading the minutes of the council. The position I and others have advocated is quite different. The acts are informative, but are not binding like canons or definitiones. Fr. Matthew Kirby in the comments of Eclectic Orthodoxy summarizes some other problems with the idea:
I have no further interest in the matter. This is my final word on it.
Bibliography & Further Reading
Tommaso Leso, “Columbanus in Europe: The Evidence from the Epistulae,” Early Medieval Europe 21, no. 4 (2013): pp. 358-389
John Meyendorf, Imperial Unity & Christian Divisions: The Church 450 – 680 AD (Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1989)
GSM Walker, Sancti Columbani opera (Dublin: The Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1957)
Ok, I think my comment is too long and isn’t even processing (as awaiting moderation) for that reason. So I’m gonna do it in two bits:
I had a look at the article you mentioned alleging ostensible liturgical references to apotocastasis-I assume the word is meant here to refer to its universalist sense- i.e. the idea that every human being will be saved, that their salvation is guaranteed by the mode in which Christ worked redemption, and that their salvation is a necessary consequence of divine Goodness. I have to say, I found the piece to be extremely unimpressive. Without fail, every liturgical reference was to the resurrection of all mankind- yet the universality of the bodily resurrection and its dependence on the resurrection of Christ is disputed by no educated participant in this debate- recognizing, of course, that there are plenty of people who just don’t know what they are talking about. But the logic of the tradition here turns on the Christological question: the divine Word is consubstantial with the entire human race, as mankind has one nature. As such, His recapitulation of the cosmos in the economy of redemption and glorification entails an objective transfiguration of every member of the human family in the resurrection of the dead. What is meant by “salvation” is the harmony that the individuated mode of willing according to hypostasis does or doesn’t have with their nature- the latter being inexorably made a participant in the uncreated glory which is its archetype.
It is of course easy to cite liturgical texts that refer to the universal import of Christ’s redemptive accomplishment- but to do so in the context of attempting to demonstrate the presence of universalism (in the controversial sense of that word- it is “universal” in some sense, but not in others) raises the question of whether the author of the piece has really understood the question at hand.
To add to what was said above, I think the idea that Ecumenical Councils and only Ecumenical Councils are normative is very difficult to sustain. Why would St. Cyril issue anathemas to Nestorius *prior* to the Third Council? Was Arian Christology a legitimate theological opinion prior to Nicea? Was there *any* normative tradition of the church prior to the First Ecumenical Council? If an EC is the only capacity in which the church can speak in a normative capacity, then it follows that there existed no normative judgment whatsoever prior to Nicea. Yet the Ante-Nicene Fathers, not to mention scores of church councils prior to 325, all seemed to presume that there were such judgments.
My personal opinion is that the great majority of the human family will be saved, and that damnation qua damnation probably entails the cessation of anything that meaningfully might be described as conscious experience at a certain point. Glorification is the transfiguration of time into an infinitely quick motion. It is signified by heat, which is physically correlative with the motion of things (I find this just delightful as it reflects the detailed symbolic correspondence of Creation with the tradition) at an atomic level. Damnation is death in the fullest sense. It entails the total self-fragmentation of a human being such that contact with divine splendor brings about a complete stillness. Insofar as the power/capacity of conscious experience is a feature of operation, this means that while the damnation is eternal, it is not eternal in a way that entails the continued experience of quality from one moment to the next. I am not at all insensitive to the great difficulty, from a moral perspective, of “eternal damnation” in the sense of eternal conscious torment.
The traditional perspective (I’ve read my Ramelli and I am of the strong opinion that she seriously misrepresents almost all of the ancient sources she cites- not on purpose, but because as a classicist she simply does not understand the highly technical metaphysical logic within which these fathers were working- she makes the same mistake that Jersak makes, seeing passages about the universal resurrection as if they were about universalism- sometimes the very passages she cites, when read contextually, explicitly contradict her argument) has a definitive philosophical logic to it, and I think when one sees its logic its consequence mitigates against the idea that the damned will experience an endless sequence of excruciatingly horrific moments. Goodness is what it is regardless of whether we like it or recognize it. But such an idea does indeed strike me as difficult to reconcile with the God who has made Himself known in Jesus Christ, Old and New Testaments alike.
By tradition, the Emperor Trajan was saved in the end- through the intercession of the Church. This is a man who not only knew of Christianity, but actively recommended to Pliny that known Christians, if they refuse to blaspheme Christ, be executed. By the same token, Lot- who the night prior had recommended that the citizens of Sodom rape his daughter instead of his guests- was considered sufficiently decent that he was physically dragged out of the city by angels. This is particularly notable because the fire which burns Sodom is read by Jude as representative of the eternal fire which damns the wicked (it is the fire of divine glory), a connection which is warranted by the textual links the story of Sodom has with the story of the flood. The first judgment by water, the last by fire. Yet at the end of Genesis when there is another judgment by fire- the seven year famine- it is not a remnant which is saved, but all nations. Those who still work with the expectation of an ultimate defeat of Christianity have missed the structure of the biblical messianic hope. Genesis is written as a series of concentric circles which anticipate the whole story of cosmic history with degrees of increasing specificity.
I have a terrible habit of simply going on and on, but I will leave it here. We might learn something from the Mormons who do their genealogies and systematically work through them for the sake of ultimate salvation. I don’t think their temples actually are effective unto that end, but perhaps we should be systematically praying for our forefathers too, that those who need prayer might by those prayers cross over unto the realms of the blessed. I have an article on this concept and its roots in liturgical and biblical theology here:
This is my only comment (sorry that it’s split into parts) on the thread, so you don’t have to worry that a response is going to provoke an increasingly long and frustrating series of comments. But if it’s something you’d like to talk about further, feel free to shoot me an email at email@example.com .
Thanks for contributing to this very important discussion. If you remember, please have my name (Seraphim) commemorated in the Sunday Divine Liturgy and remember me in your daily prayers.
Hi Serro, many thanks for your in-depth comments. I have an approval system in place, so any time that a new username is used, the commenter has to go through the process again – which is that one comment must be approved before others are given the go-ahead automatically. I will now reply very briefly. It’s a common refrain here and I feel a bit bad about it, but I don’t have much time these days.
With regards to your point about the liturgy, you make a good point about needing to be cautious in reading bodily resurrection as universal salvation. I know full well that many people who believe in eternal damnation accept the idea that all humans will be resurrected from the dead and then judged as eternally saved or eternally damned. That caution being noted, not all of the arguments about universalism being present in the liturgy can be dismissed on those grounds – at least not to my mind.
To the second point concerning the idea that only the Ecumenical Councils are normative in the Orthodox tradition, I don’t think anyone here is proposing that – even conciliar fundamentalists. My position is similar to that of Met. Kallistos Ware, which I discuss in a bit more detail here (particularly quoted in points 3 and 4): https://shamelessorthodoxy.com/2021/01/21/orthodoxy-universal-salvation-are-the-two-compatible/
To your third point about eternal damnation not entailing eternal conscious torment (ECT) but rather as a sort of unexperienced one, I do find this view of an eternal hell intuitively more palatable and morally superior to ECT. It reminds me a little bit about St. Prosper of Aquitaine’s view on hell in his poem, De ingratis – though that poem is clearly from an Augustinian perspective. He says, in short, that hell is just eternal ignorance and, as the saying goes, ignorance is bliss.
In terms of Ramelli, I do not entirely follow what you mean about her classics perspective. That being said, I do know that some universalists, though praising her work, hold some reservations for some of the arguments she makes in that book. DBH comes to mind. But I think that is to be expected for such a long and all-encompassing book.
Again, many thanks for your enlightening comments.
I know I said I wouldn’t comment again, but I’m just interested in St. Prosper’s poem that you mention- do you have a link to that? I have enough Latin that I could trudge through it with a bit of hard work if it’s only in the original.
The poem is called De ingratis. If I recall correctly, the best edition also has an English facing translation. It is from 1962 and published by Catholic University Press.
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If you don’t believe me with regards to DBH’s arguments, I encourage you to read the book for yourself. DBH actually calls arguments like the one you cited by Augustine “stupid and foolish,” and unable to actually explain the problem of evil. I obviously disagree with him on this, as I agree with you that God allowing evil for the purpose of some ultimate good is indeed the biblical and patristic teaching, however this just goes to show how unreliable DBH’s philosophical speculations are concerning these matters.
Furthermore, I never meant to imply that we know *absolutely nothing* and have no reasonable foundation for believing in an eternal hell, and in fact you yourself stated what this reason is “Hell is eternal, for people are not forced to choose God!” You claim that this argument is “not really a philosophical understanding in the same way as these other mysteries,” but why? Because you don’t find it compelling? Well, as I mentioned above, DBH doesn’t find your philosophical solution to the problem of evil compelling, but does that make it wrong? Just because you personally are not satisified with this philosophical understanding of hell, i.e. that hell exists because it is really possible for someone to choose eternal separation from God, this doesn’t make it an invalid argument. As has been pointed out many times, the Devil himself had full and perfect knowledge of God, and yet freely chose eternal separation from Him. How exactly is this possible? Well, we’re not exactly sure, just as we’re not *exactly* sure how the Trinity is possible, or how evil is possible, but we are assurred that these are indeed possible from the witness of the Church. So also when it comes to how or why God would allow sinners to choose eternal separation from Himself, we may not know exactly why or how this is the case, but we are nonetheless assurred that this is the only way to ensure that we are actually able to freely choose God.
Moreover, you state that you don’t know where this teaching comes from, however it comes from the Scriptures and the Fathers. Adam and Eve were given a real choice in the Garden of Eden, and they were punished with death for the choice they made, because God refused to force them into choosing Himself. Read any patristic commentary on Genesis, and the Fathers speak as with one voice that this is an image of our own lives, where we are given the free will to choose either eternal bliss with God, or eternal torment with Satan (read especially St. Maximus, who wrote the most about free will and its consequences).
Moreover, the form of death that Adam and Eve were subject to, was simply a temporal manifestation of the eternal death that the wicked will suffer at the end of time. The idea of “the goats being separated from the sheep” at the Last Judgement was not an innovation of our Lord, but is present throughout the Old Testament, specifically in Leviticus 16. Here, we are given an outline for how the priests are to sereve the Day of Atonement, and on this day there are two goats: one is marked for sacrifice, the other is marked for destruction.
The first goat has blood sprinkled on him “seven times” and is thus cleansed from the iniquity of Israel. This is an image of the righteous in Christ, who are given “the seven-eyed Spirit” on their foreheads (which is imagery from Zechariah to designate the High Priest, who wore seven gems on his head) and cleansed over with the Blood of the Lamb who is slain from before the foundation of the world, and all of this happens in the Book of Revelation’s description of the Final Judgement, which itself is the ultimate fulfillment of the Day of Atonement.
The second goat, who is marked for destruction, instead of bearing the seven sprinklings of blood on his head to be cleansed of sin, is rather having “all the transgressions in all their [Israel’s] sins put upon his head.” For this reason, the goat is sent into the wilderness, which is the dwelling place of Satan (hence why Christ meets Satan in the wilderness), where he will be consumed by unclean birds (which are types of fallen angels, see Revelation 18:2; Isaiah 34:8-15). This is an image of the wicked at the final judgement: they retain the guilt of their sin, and as such are banished to the dwelling place of the devil, where they will be consumed by him and his angels, and this is why they will hear the word of the Lord as “Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). This will then fulfill the prophecy of Genesis 3 when Satan was condemned to “eat dust all the days of his life,” because dust in this context is dead humans (“from dust you were taken… to dust you shall return”), and so Satan will spend all eternity eating the humans who have joined themselves to him in death. This is why traditional Orthodox icons will depict the damned as being literally consumed by the Serpent, because this is in fact what will happen.
We know that this connection is real precisely because, as mentioned above, the book of Revelation is the fulfillment of the Day of Atonement: Christ is the High Priest who makes a double ascent to the Father’s throne, first for the sins of the world, and second to bring us with Him to heaven. Once here, the righteous are sprinkled with the blood of Christ, which has been mingled with the blood of the saints, and they are cleansed of their sins and sealed with the mark of the Lamb on their foreheads, which gives them access to eternal Life in the New Jerusalem. The wicked, however, are given the mark of the beast on their foreheads and are raised to “the second death,” which is the eternal manifestation of the first death: the eternal separation of will and nature, the wicked will eternally will against their own glorified nature, and thus will experience glorification as torment.
This is the vision of Scripture on the fate of the wicked after the Final Judgement, any and all attempts of universalists to square this circle are just nonsensical in my opinion.
I don’t want this discussion to get harsh or overly long, so I will make short and simple statements and ask short and simple questions.
1. DBH isn’t infallible, nor do I (or Alura!) take him to be. I agree with Augustine, and also find DBH’s arguments for universalism convincing. Yet, I also think the eternity of Hell is a pious tradition that has helped make many brilliant saints who personified God’s love. Alura would agree with this too, but I think she (he?) would also agree that it is one tradition that should be clarified by the Church in the coming years.
2. Can you tell me where the Fathers say that Adam and Eve, or Satan, had a perfect understanding of God before their respective falls?
3. I have not seen a coherent model where someone can reject the greatest good, God, without any sort of impediment to our reasoning or ethical skills, such as ignorance or insanity, already placed upon us. No one ever wills something for the sake of its badness, and always for its goodness. if anyone was right next to God with no restraints on us- everyone would accept Him freely. To say otherwise seems to be a square circle to me. And to say that God will eternally punish someone for acts of finite responsibility seems just as much a square circle.
This all still seems like an issue that needs to be resolved with a pan-Orthodox synod.
1.) I understand that you don’t think DBH is infallible, I was simply using him as an example of someone who did not find the Augustinian theodicy valid. As to whether the Church needs to “clarify” this, what more clarification are you looking for? The condemnation of universal salvation is considered a valid appendix to the 5th Ecumenical Council by all of the post-concilliar canonical literature, we liturgucally proclaim this anathema every year on the Sunday of Orthodoxy (see my previous conversations with Alura concerning the Synodikon), our services for funerals and the Last Judgement contain explicit references to and images of the eternality of hell, and our modern saints have consistently taught us this doctrine. With all of this considered, I think the Church has already addressed this issue at length, and there really is no need for further discussion aboout it. The only ones who are “confused” are a few misinformed clergy and laity.
2.) You ask for patristic support of the idea that the Devil sinned with perfect knowledge, I can do you one better, the Scriptures confirm this:
“**You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.** You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: carnelian, chrysolite and emerald, topaz, onyx and jasper, lapis lazuli, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. **You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.** Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and **you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor.** So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings to feast their eyes on you.” (Ezekiel 28:12-17)
A few things to note here, first this is in fact talking about Satan as I demonstrate in an article on my website called “The Lord’s First Angel (Part 1).” Second, it says that the devil was full of wisdom, perfect in beauty, blameless from the day he was created, and he sinned of his own accord through pride. I really don’t know any other way you can read this, other than as saying that the devil sinned through his own free will despite being a perfected creature.
Among the Fathers who support this you obviously have St. Augustine who wrote that the angels were eternally fixed after their first movement of will (which he believed happened instantly upon their creation), St. John Climacus who wrote that the demons fell because they freely chose indulge their prideful passions, even St. Gregory of Nyssa who wrote that angels fell “by an act of will.”
And the most explicit represenative of this view would be St. John of Damascus who wrote:
“Lucifer was not made wicked in nature but was good, and made for good ends, and received from his Creator no trace whatever of evil in himself. But he did not sustain the brightness and the honor which the Creator had bestowed on him. Of his free choice, he was changed from what was in harmony to what was at variance with his nature, and became roused against God; thus, he was the first to depart from good and become evil.”
Likewise St. Dionysus the Areopgite (one of the foremost authorities in the Church on angels) wrote:
“If they are called evil, it is not in respect of their being, since they own their origin to the Good and were the recipients of a good being, but rather because being is lacking to them by virtue of the inability, as Scripture puts it, ‘to keep their first place.’ For I ask you, in what way are the demons evil except in the fact that they have put an end to the habit and the activity of divine good things? Their evil consists in the lack of angelic virtues!…If they are declared evil, the reason lies in them, their move away from what befits them….What has happened to them is that they have fallen away from the complete goodness granted to them….The are called evil because of the deprivation, the abandonment, the rejection of the virtues which are appropriate to them.”
And that this is an image of Adam and Eve’s own sin, I’d recommend reading St. Maximus’ “The Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ” where he explicates this view in depth.
3.) Just because you don’t find the previous argumentation convincing, doesn’t make it invalid. The exact nature of sin is a mystery, hence why St. Paul calls it “the mystery of lawlessness” (2 Thess 2:7). No amount of philosophical sophitry can get around this. I’m currently writing an article on universalism wherein I go over all of this more in depth, and so I’ll send it to you when it’s done.
Sin is an act of the will, but the cause of that act is not some kind of longing we have for the bad. Even when we sin, we always seek the goodness within bad actions, and choose according to what seems the greatest good to us at that moment. It is instead some form of ignorance or insanity that causes this within us. Any being who knows God is the highest good in both a perfect intellectual and spiritual way will always freely will the good, which is God’s will. This is what happens to us in Heaven, and why one can’t sin there but still has perfect free will.
It would be incoherent for Satan to have perfect exposure to God, perfect understanding of Him, and no insanity or ignorance whatsoever, and yet still freely choose to reject Him. The quotes don’t say that Satan had this perfect exposure. (It was still VERY good, clearly, which is why he’s so culpable for his sins.) There is no coherent way to square this circle of sin other than to claim that it’s a mystery, but none of the mysteries of the Church contradict. We cannot fully understand them with our human perceptions, but none of them contradict, like how we cannot comprehend the infinite despite infinity being fully coherent. The Trinity explicitly does not contradict due to a distinction between persons and essence. The Incarnation does not contradict. The resurrection doesn’t contradict. Christology does not contradict. In fact, the whole problem with the ancient heresies, like Arianism, is that they contradict other known facts, such as Christ liberating us from death. This is why the Fathers rejected them.
If I were trying to defend abortion or gay marriage, sophistry would be an appropriate claim. But it isn’t sophistry to ask you to explain a contradiction.
You write: “It is instead some form of ignorance or insanity that causes this within us. Any being who knows God is the highest good in both a perfect intellectual and spiritual way will always freely will the good, which is God’s will” but I want to know, where are you getting this idea from? Where in the Scriptures or Tradition of the Church is it asserted that any and all sin is the result of ignorance or insanity? According to this mode of thinking, we wouldn’t be responsible for any sin that we commit, because we would just be able to blame it on our corrupted natures and leave it at that. I implore you to just read the Bible itself and especially Fathers like St. Maximus and St. John of Damascus to see what God says about sin, He is very clear that it originiates from man’s free will, not from ignorance or insanity. In fact, both ignorance and insanity are the result of sin, not its cause.
When you say “It would be incoherent for Satan to have perfect exposure to God, perfect understanding of Him, and no insanity or ignorance whatsoever, and yet still freely choose to reject Him,” I once again have to ask where you’re getting this idea from. Is it from the Scriptures? The Fathers? The writings of the Saints? The liturgical tradition of the Church? Or is it coming from a liberal philosopher?
I am new to Orthodoxy, so I haven’t read the philosophical treatises of the Eastern Fathers. However, the idea that we choose based on the greatest good we see in the choices we have is based in Aristotle, and I would hedge my bets that many of the Eastern Fathers inspired by him would agree- St. Maximus and St. John both being among them. If I were a betting man, I’d say they certainly bring up this exact principle from Aristotle somewhere. But I’m no theologian, just a catechumen.
Furthermore, sin is an act of the will… but it must be based partially in ignorance or delusion, the latter being a much better word than insanity was. Else it’s just incoherent. This naturally follows from any reasonable understanding of basic ethics. But this doesn’t mean we aren’t culpable to the extent that the decision does use our free will, in whatever finite capacity it does. People can still be sinful and evil. But if you want to say that God will damn people for eternity for acts that are inherently finite, committed in ignorance/delusion, and when He could easily make it so that all are eventually saved, then that God is not just. Many saints, in my view, have slightly missed the mark in this regard. They were still deeply holy and intelligent men, and there is still time for the Church to develop its views on this more completely. This could be, and hopefully is, a very early period in the Church.
If any of this is wrong, then I await the day that all of the clergy who agree- and there are many- are deposed. Otherwise, the approach you’re taking is leading you into contradiction, not an acceptance of the mysteries of our faith, which you call contradictory despite them not being anything of the sort. In this same vein, one finds all of the people taking this same approaching ending up in completely different areas: publicly slandering clergy and ministries, accusing each other of pride, and sometimes even in their own jurisdictions, claiming to be the only Church left unscathed from modernism.
I don’t have anything else to say. Christ keep you.
Pseudo-Dionysius basically recapitulates Aristotle on that point if I recall correctly.
In your initial comment, you claimed that sin is always the result of ignorance or insanity, and that was the claim I was replying to. As to whether we always choose based on the greatest good we see, this is indeed true. I would even agree that all sin is based partially on delusion, including Satan’s, but what of it? Satan was so caught up in his pride that he decided to sin against God despite knowing full well the consequences, and because of this one act he is punished eternally, “all the days of your life” per Genesis 3. Likewise, when we humans sin, it is partially the fault of our corrupted nature, however, as you rightly recognized, we are still fully culpable for the sins we commit. Just speaking for me personally, I know full well what the potential consequences of my sins may be, and yet I’m not perfect and I still sin. I don’t just blame this all on my fallenness, but I have to take ownership of these sins and repent of them.
The same is true of Adam. St. Paul says that Eve was decieved, but Adam was not, and this means that Adam sinned against God with full knowledge, and as such comitted a far worse sin than his wife, thereby deserving his punisgment. As our Lord says: “That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But the one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” (Luke 12:47-48). I fail to see how your logic, that God could just prevent ignorance/delusion, would allow for God to even push sins in a finite manner. I mean if corruption is always the source of sin, and God apparently created humans corrupted, then why punish them at all?
Your assertion that it is “unjust” for God to eternally punish finite sins is just that, an assertion. Why is this unjust? Prophet Job’s friends thought that it was unjust for God to allow an innocent man like Job to suffer, and these friends were condemned for belieiving this. Is not God the arbiter of what is just and what is not? Who appointed you as the eternal Judge?
Lastly, your gaslighting claims that imply I’m some kind of fundementalist are just laughable, especially coming from someone who’s not even Orthodox. If it were up to me, ya, any clergy who support universalism would be condemned, but it’s not up to me now is it? There are many clergy who support homosexual unions, pre-marital sex, contraception, and a whole host of other heresies, should we then bring these topics to the discussion table because we haven’t seen widespread condemnations and depositions?
Since I’m not here to win a polemical debate and we’ve started talking past each other a bit, I thank you for the dialogue and bid you goodnight. Please pray for me. Both you and Alura will be in my prayers.
God bless you,
My article against universalism has just been released, see https://ancientinsights.wordpress.com/2020/09/18/why-im-not-a-universalist/
I know you said that you’re done discussing this, however I just have one thing I was wondering about. You wrote that “These three men [Theodore, Theodoret, and Ibas] would later become known as the Three Chapters. Fast-forward to Constantinople (553) and all three of these men were condemned as heretics, essentially undoing parts of what had been done at Chalcedon,” however I don’t think this is true.
At Chalcedon, it is only Theodoret and Ibas who were rehabilitated as persons, due to their condemnation of Nestorius, Theodore is not directly mentioned (to my knowledge, correct me if I’m wrong), but rather the approval of him is only implied because of how highly the latter two spoke of him in other writings.
And so at II Constantiople, it was only the person of Theodore who was condemned, Theodoret and Ibas remained untouched as regards their status in the Church, and they were not condemned as heretics, but rather only certain writings attributed to them were condemned. And even at that, most people saw these writings as being forged in their name, or being written before their recantation of heresy, and so this is why the 5th Council did not contradict the 4th Council.
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A slightly quick and dirty answer: As I understand it off the cuff, Ibas was rehabilitated at Chalcedon with the Letter to Mari being read aloud for all to hear. In the letter of course was high praise for Theodore of Mopsuestia, at least as I can recall right now. Ibas was cleared of heresy. Then at II Constantinople, that very same letter was condemned. True, there was a post facto attempt by hardcore defenders of Chalcedon to declare that Ibas was only rehabilitated due to his denunciation of Nestorius. The problem with that theory is the fact that there are still bishops on record as declaring the letter Orthodox at Chalcedon. As Price documents in his introduction to the translation on pp. 93, St. Justinian declared that even in such a case, the expressions of these bishops on record do not express a general consensus. And here, St. Justinian appears to be reiterating my original point – that the minutes themselves cannot be treated as the same as the canons or definitiones. That Aquileian schismatics ignored his wise words only led to their schism.
Richard Price, trans., The Acts of the Council of Constantinople of 553 (Liverpool University Press, 2009).
As for your general contention that only the person of Theodore was condemned, while the select writings of the others were condemned, I accept as true. I am not sure why I wrote the post the way I did as Meyendorff is quite clear on this, whom I used as my main reference. I will revise it in the morning. Many thanks!
The issue of Ibas’ Letter to Maris isn’t one I’m extensively well read on, but from what I gather, the only problematic aspect of the letter would be when it affirms Theodore of Mopseuestia as a great teacher and when it condemns St. Cyril. As bad as both of these sound, it should be noted that the letter also condemns Nestorius as a heretic, and so most likely the fathers listening to the letter were not totally familiar with how nestorian Theodore was, given that in the same token of praising him, Ibas condemns Nestorius.
Moreover on the point of Cyril, the Council of Chalcedon at this point had just finished declaring “Peter has spoken through Leo… Cyril so taught. Eternal be the memory of Cyril. Leo and Cyril taught the same thing, this is the true faith!” And this itself wasn’t stated right after Chalcedon had meticulously assessed St. Leo’s Tome to ensure that it was congruent with St. Cyril writings, and after they had affirmed Ephesus I (and thus also the 12 anathemas of Cyril), as well as Cyril’s Second Letter to Nestorius, and Cyril’s Reunion Formula. And so it *would* be a little strange if, after all of that, Ibas’ “condemnation” of Cyril was just accepted unquestioned by the fathers there. It’s much more likely, in my opinion, that since Ibas had written that letter before his ascension to the episcopacy, and because in the same letter Ibas basically says that St. Cyril cleared himself of heresy, that nobody at Chalcedon saw it fundamentally contradicting the essence of the Council. It was only in the aftermath of the Council that the Church had to condemn the letter because of how divisive it had turned out to be.
And so I don’t really think this instance “disproves” the binding nature of a Council’s acta, but rather shows that the way that these acta are interpreted can be re-clarified by another Ecumenical Council. St. Justinian very clearly believed that the acts of the Council were binding, which is why he and the 5th Council itself went to such lengths to show why what they were doing did not actually contradict the essence of Chalcedon, given most of the affirmations of St. Cyril personally took place in the acts themselves.
I don’t want to stick to long on this subject here, so this will likely be my last reply. I’m sorry I keep doing this to you and I don’t mean anything personal by it.
The Letter of Ibas seems pretty straightforward to me. In the letter itself, Ibas praises the theology of Theodore of Mopsuestia as entirely Orthodox. Now, while, as I understand it, there is current scholarly debate as to whether or not this claim is true, the consensus reached at II Constantinople was that it was not true. Meyendorff, for whatever it is worth, thought that Theodore’s Christology was unorthodox, especially given that sixth-century Nestorians looked to Theodore, not Nestorius from whom they got their name. In that same letter, Ibas also casts aspersions on St. Cyril’s Twelve Chapters, while also raising issues about the legal proceedings for the trials of Nestorius. I am not really concerned about legal proceedings. What I am concerned about is the fact that Cyril and his theology is viewed with suspicion, to say the least, while Theodore and his theology is praised as quite perfect. True enough, in this same letter, Ibas declares an Orthodox Christology. Nonetheless, that does not negate the confusion. And one of the chief concerns of II Constantinople was to clarify proper Christology. Ibas doesn’t say that the 12 Chapters of Cyril were cleared. In fact, he casts aspersions on them. He only says that Cyril later reconciled.
There were a lot of other problems with this letter, and Price summarizes them below:
“What is one to make of this episode? His reinstatement was inevitable, once the rejection of the decrees of the Second Council of Ephesus had left the compromise worked out by Photius in possession of the field. But the Letter to Mari must have been found acutely embarrassing by the bishops who professed unreserved admiration for Cyril, and the questions it raised about the status of the Twelve Chapters were not ones they wished to address. Why then was it singled out for praise by the Roman representatives and Maximus of Antioch? Why did Anatolius speak of Ibas’ vindication by ‘all the accompanying material’? The Roman Church took no interest in Cyril’s Twelve Chapters, but Leo’s representatives had been keen to stress that the teaching of Leo and that of Cyril were in perfect harmony, while both Anatolius and Maximus were firm Cyrillians and hostile to what we call the ‘Antiochene school.’ We must suppose that they wished to scotch the issue. If they had left the matter open, other bishops might have raised it; but after the three senior bishops had made it clear that the Letter to Mari was not to be used against Ibas, their colleagues were inhibited from mentioning it. Striking is the judgement by Juvenal of Jerusalem that followed: a committed Cyrillian, he described Ibas as a repentant heretic who had to be treated with leniency because of his age, but even he felt it improper to question the orthodoxy of the letter.”
In short, there were those on record as praising the orthodoxy of the letter.
Turning to Justinian, in his edict he says, “However, those in search of the truth ought also to attend to the fact that often at councils some things are said by some of those found at them out of partiality or disagreement or ignorance, but no one attends to what is said individually by a few, but only to what is decreed by all by common consent; for if one were to choose to attend to such disagreement in the way they do, each council will be found refuting itself.” As Price notes, “There reference is to the two bishops who, in voting to restore Ibas, cited the Letter to Mari the Persian as evidence of his orthodoxy. But since one of them was the senior papal representative and none of the other bishops expressed dissent, their verdicts, as Pelagius pointed out, could not be dismissed so easily.” In short, Justinian is inveighing against conciliar fundamentalism on this point, saying it is self-refuting.
At any rate, this is post has been long enough. My apologies.
Thanks again for the response, I’ll try to keep my response as brief as I can so you don’t have to mull over it for too long haha.
Basically I’ll say this, the Council of Constantinople II’s argument was summarized well in session one, when they stated:
“Moreover we exhort you to examine the writing of Theodoret and the supposed letter of Ibas, in which the incarnation of the Word is denied, the expression Mother of God and the holy Synod of Ephesus rejected, Cyril called a heretic, and Theodore and Nestorius defended and praised. And as they say that the Council of Chalcedon has received this letter, you must compare the declarations of this Council relating to the faith with the contents of the impious letter.”
What I gather from this is they’re saying that 1.) we don’t know if the Letter to Maris that they had at the Council was actually the same letter written by Ibas (although I would disagree with them on this point), and 2.) they say that even if the letter really is authentic, it so clearly violates the faith of the council, that no honest reader could think that Chalcedon actually approved the letter.
And I think this latter interpretation is actually correct. In the quote you give from Price, he clearly spells out that the bishops who stated that the letter was orthodox, themselves were staunch Cyrillians and were hostile to the Antiochene school, and so, from a purely historical perspective, it really doesn’t make sense that they would accept this letter. And so this would be in congruence with Const. II, in saying that the letter so clearly contradicts the spirit of Chalcedon and those there, that it would not have been approved.
Moreover, Pope Vigilius makes the argument that the letter which was said to be orthodox at Chalcedon was not the letter to Maris, but rather the letter of the Eddesan bishops defending Ibas, which was read immediately after the letter to Maris at Chalcedon.
Regardless of what you think of Vigilius argument, the clear consensus of Const. II is that Ibas’ letter was never actually approved by Chalcedon, but it was just the opinion of a few bishops. I don’t think that this really disproves concilliar fundamentalism though, because the point about this doctrine is that we treat everything in councils as though they are infallible, until absolutely proven otherwise. Much the same way you’d treat the fathers’ works
I know this is a late response, but I think these ideas are important and worth discussing. I hope my pride doesn’t shine forth here, and some kind of need to be right. Christ keep both of us.
However, as someone who used to be very traditionalist as both a Catholic and an Orthodox catechumen, I’ve come to find the approach taken by people who believe in eternal damnation (I refrain from calling them infernalists) to be unconvincing. DBH is not right about everything, but I have never seen a genuine philosophical argument for eternal damnation that was fully coherent. I have dropped the subject when talking to friends who disagree in earnest. As I’ve mentioned before, my priest believes an eternal Hell to be true, and I trust him very much. He is a deeply holy man. Eternal Hell, contrary to DBH, is clearly a pious tradition. Anyone who says St. Seraphim of Sarov was evil for believing in eternal Hell would be absurd.
But when it comes to citing the Church Fathers alone, we can see demonstrably that this makes people go in many different directions. There are people like Jay Dyer who essentially view other people, like Craig Truglia, as profoundly prideful for mere disagreements. There are others, like Joseph Suaiden and the “True Orthodox” who view themselves as the only correct ones, and even go so far as to call 99% of Orthodox “graceless” for not leaving their clergy behind, because they are “heretics” and “modernists.” To do this, they essentially all have the same argument: simply following (their interpretation of) the Fathers. But I haven’t seen a philosophical, reasonable argument against universalism that stands on its own merits. The Church Fathers are not good by merit of their being the Fathers. Rather, their arguments are reasonable and provable by philosophy alone. As I’ve said elsewhere, St. Athanasius’ arguments for the divinity of Christ are reasonable. If he had just said, “The Fathers agree, so I do too,” I don’t think we’d regard him as the defeater of Arianism. The arguments for universalism not only are valid, but very convincing. Many Orthodox scholars, and even prominent clergy like Met. Ware, Archbishop Alexander of Dallas, and Met. Hilarion, have entertained the idea, and not been remotely condemned or deposed.
Perhaps I don’t have any actual questions for you, but I’d like to hear your understanding of this problem in Orthodox debates today. May both of us be saved!
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Well quite simply, I don’t find DBH’s philosophical arguments very convincing in this matter, and in fact I think his reasoning contradicts his previous work on the problem of evil. Years ago, he wrote an excellent book called “Doors of the Sea: Where was God in the Tsunami?” Wherein he goes over his take on the problem of evil and how this is compatible with an all-good God. The conclusion that DBH ultimately comes to is twofold 1.) God and His ways are, by definition, incomprehensible, and so we categorically cannot come to fully understand the reasons why evil exists; and 2.) if evil did not exist, then creation would not be anything more than a mere tautological extension of God’s own self.
I think these arguments can very well be applied to the concept of hell because, just because we personally may find this difficult or even impossible to reconcile with our own conceptions of justice, God is not bound by what we personally think is just or fair (this is in fact the entire point of the Book of Job). God’s reasons for allowing or actively doing certain things are so far beyond our comprehension, that relying on our own philosophical wisdom to juxtapose ourselves to the traditional teachings of the Church is just nonsensical, and just quite frankly secularistic. I mean why did God create humans in the first place and allow us to suffer to the extent He does? Why did God kill all life on earth in a flood? Why did God order the execution of even women and children during the siege of Jericho? We can get hints and clues as to why God did these things, however we will never be able to fully comprehend them, unless it’s specially revealed to us.
Moreover, you accuse me and others of following our own interpretation of the fathers’ consent and arriving at different or dangerous conclusions, however this argument is just silly, and does not at all invalidate the consensus patram, which is a dogma that has been affirmed by many Ecumenical and pan-Orthodox Synods, as well as the Holy Scriptures I would argue. If it did, then we would have to say even philosophical reasoning itself is an invalid means of truth, given how vastly divergent (and often anti-Christian) views emerge from people who seek philosophical reasoning first, and then after the fact try to string together some fathers and bible passages to make their conclusions appear authentic. This is what the Roman Catholics and Protestants largely have done, in addition to other heretical and schismatic groups.
At the end of the day, if the Scriptures, Councils, Fathers, and recent Saints all seem to unanimously hold a doctrine (with only one or two exceptions) then this is dogmatic, regardless of how philosophically coherent you personally find it. There are many people who are not convinced by the philosophical arguments for the Trinity, and for this reason alone remain outside the Church, all because they value their own intellectual satisfaction above their spiritual well-being. I find it ironic that people like Fr. Kimel will be the first to appeal to God’s ineffability and unintelligibility to justify belief in the Trinity, however they’ll completely dismiss this very same argumentation when it’s applied to a doctrine like eternal hell. The Fathers’ themselves were careful to point out that, by providing a philosophical foundation for the Trinity, they were not meaning to actually explain It in Its fullness or comprehend It, and they go so far as to say that nobody could ever arrive at the Trinitarian doctrine through reason alone, but this had to have been divinely revealed. It’s not that we just haven’t philosophically thought hard enough about how God can be both ultimately one and ultimately three without being divided, but rather it’s the case that comprehending this is categorically removed from our mode of understanding.
I think likewise with the doctrine of eternal hell: we can provide a basic philosophical foundation for it, however we will never be able to fully comprehend why God does this or how exactly it’s compatible with our philosophical musings about justice, precisely because any attempt to do so would be an attempt to comprehend the Mind of God, which we apriori rule out as a possibility when we posit that God is beyond being, beyond intelligibility, beyond comprehension, etc. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord.” (Isaiah 55:8)
I couldn’t respond at your most recent comment, so please excuse me for placing this next comment up here.
I do agree that DBH is perhaps being inconsistent, assuming there isn’t some nuance we’re missing. This is not to say you’re lying or didn’t “get it,” but I would personally be surprised if DBH’s final conclusion was that God’s ways are fully inscrutable, and that a fully good creation would just be God. I bring this up because St. Augustine seemed to solve the problem of evil quite a while ago, with his idea that God, in His providence, can allow for there to be goods that are better by their nature for coming from evil. We cannot know why God allows individual evils yet, but we can know why He permits evil in general.
In this same way, we can understand other things with the use of reason, to a limited extent. We can understand why the Arians were wrong with the perfect arguments of St. Athanasius. We can understand the incarnation to an extent with the beautiful understanding of St. Symeon the New Theologian. And, we can even understand the Trinity, as well as the essence and energies, in a lower way, by use of many theologians’ great works; three persons in one essence.
But I cannot understand at all why Hell would be eternal. By no means do I think this question is settled definitively, either. Many saints and Fathers have believed in an eternal Hell. This is the truth. Yet as far as I know, there is no analogy to St. Athanasius or St. Symeon that I have seen in regards to the question of Hell. The fifth ecumenical council does condemn Origen’s metaphysics, that I can admit. It does not outline a reasoning for the existence of an eternal Hell, however, at least as far as my non-scholarly mind has seen. This is not to say we could fully understand it, but it’s a bit odd that we can have a rudimentary understanding of every other mystery of our faith except for why Hell is eternal. My priest told me that, of course Hell is eternal, for people are not forced to choose God! I don’t know where this idea came from, though, and it’s not really a philosophical understanding in the same way as these other mysteries.
The consensus patrum point was made to say that, even when we are discussing the Fathers, we must use reason to understand them. Otherwise, we end up with the same problem as with sola scriptura: people go in their own directions and accuse the people who disagree with them of idiocy. This is why the Church defines these questions with reasonable arguments, no? Reason is needed for these things, and to say that we have no understanding at all on God’s ways is to actually invalidate rather than affirm the consensus patrum, as well as the great works of those like St. Athanasius and St. Symeon, just to name a couple of amazing theologians. Yet, by no means am I saying that we can rely on reason alone to bring us to any truth. If we must shut off our minds to understand an eternal Hell, then I don’t see it very highly.
Sorry I think my reply got split up from this thread, see my comment at the top of this forum,
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Thank you for writing this! I was very confused by Craig’s post, and especially his conversation with you in the comments. He claimed you were shifting when you clearly were not; your argument remained fully consistent.
I have found that he has been not only thoroughly rude and uncharitable, but that he also solely approves comments that make him look good. I left one a while back on his original review of TASBS saying that he needed to have more tact when addressing this issue, and he never put it up nor acknowledged it in any way. Yet, he did put up the comment by a universalist calling him stupid, then use it as an opportunity to let his commenters call universalists “insufferable pricks.” He clearly has an agenda to push, and he’s not even good at hiding the fact. When he makes a post, you know what his conclusion will be, like with the worst of the Catholic philosophers.
Moreover, your points about him holding to a way of looking at the faith that has led to schism blends well with what you were saying about him disregarding the modern clergy, like Met. Kallistos Ware. Not only has his attitude led to schism in the past, but Craig has shown himself to be fully capable of consulting with clergy outside of the Church. Deacon Joseph Suaiden, who commonly is seen in the combox of his blog, is a “True Orthodox” clergyman who regards all of Orthodoxy as fallen and graceless. I should know- I nearly joined the True Orthodox myself. Craig will respect him far more than he respects Fr. Kimel, who he publicly accused of lying on Kimel’s own blog before acting like the good guy. Craig’s attitude led to schism before, and it will do so again and again. Craig calls these vapid accusations, when they are clearly majorly substantial and important.
Now, my personal position on Hell is that it is eternal. That’s what my priest, and the spiritual elders I listen to, say, and I will listen to them. However, I’m unwilling to tolerate arguments made that it is fundamentally heretical when even the archbishop in my own synod, the OCA, has called Origen a saint. I’m especially unwilling to tolerate it when the arguments are made by people who have shown their hand at how against the idea they are, who clearly have an agenda to push, and who don’t even engage with the arguments they are trying to disprove. Craig certainly hasn’t- he’s still caught in the false idea that it compromises free will.
Your post here, a sane rejoinder to him, was thoroughly needed.
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Thank you for the supportive comment. I appreciate it.
I cannot speak to Craig’s approval methods for comments. However, he does indeed have a record of being rude and uncharitable. It was only recently that I found that Deacon Joseph Suaiden is in schism. In that sense, it is surprising that Craig strikes a very different tone with the deacon than with Fr. Kimel who is in communion with the Orthodox Church. In another sense, it is not surprising to me. I remember – this was years ago now so perhaps Deacon Suaiden has changed – that Deacon Suaiden came to be admin of an Orthodox apologetics group on Facebook. He acted with extreme haughtiness and lacked charity, much more than the average apologist. As they say, birds of a feather flock together.
His near-recent video on Archbishop Alexander of Dallas’ letter concerning Fr. Peter Heers and Covid-19 was extremely shameful and shows more results of his rudeness and lack of charity. He comes in with the often holier-than-thou attitude of condemning both sides as out of order, so that he – a mere laymen – can lecture the world with his own wisdom. He claims the archbishop’s letter is too mean, too out of order. Has he ever read an episcopal letter before? The letter reads just like an episcopal letter from a sixth-century Latin bishop – strong, clear, stern, and concern for the flock, all of which are qualities one would want in a bishop. I myself have commented recklessly before on the higher ups, see my post on the Patriarch of Moscow. It was probably not wise, but it was years ago and I see no point in taking it down now. Let it stand as a monument to my own actions. None of this is to say there aren’t times when a laymen may or should speak out. But we’re in the middle of a global pandemic, and Craig’s commentary on the matter undermines the episcopacy and the holy synods during these trying times. Such actions speak of a lack of wisdom on his part.
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Agreed on all counts.
I do have a question that Craig was asking you, though. The letter affirming eternal Hell (by St. Justinian, or was it St. Sophronius?) was clearly part of the minutes of the council. That much is clear. But what of things like the Tome of St. Leo, which were received just as well? Was the Tome a definitio or a canon, or was it too a minute? I ask this in good faith and curiosity. I imagine that there was a definitio by a council that the Tome was correct, showing it was infallible, unlike the letter on damnation and retribution, which was not defined. I could be wrong- I lack the intelligence and patience to read the council thoroughly.
Also, once again about Craig, his behavior is simply frustrating. Pretty much everyone outside of a small circle of Orthodox lay theologians and Orthotwitter agrees that his tact needs some updating. In fact, as someone who’s part of that circle to a small extent, even many people there tend to view a lot of these very smart and capable people as being a bit too zealous, as part of their youth. Craig recently moderated a debate on monophysitism that appeared quite biased, too. This is not to say that monophysitism is correct, but his polemical tone very much soured the debate, in my perspective. I actually tend to lean conservative and agree with the majority of what these apologists say, but I agree that they really need to work on tone and humility- or at least not be so deeply sensitive while pretending to be stoic and manly. Then again, pride is certainly something I struggle with too.
This is a quick off the hip answer to your Chalcedon question, but as I understand it, the horos proclaimed at the end of the fifth session more or less declared Cyril and Leo to be the authoritative encapsulation of the faith while providing a brief summary of the two. It was then signed by hundreds. That’s how it went according to John Meyendorff in Imperial Unity and Christian Divisions: The Church AD 450-680 on pp. 177-178.
Jeremy, I forgot to ask earlier, but which archbishop do you refer to here in your original comment? And is the archbishop’s comment on record somewhere? I ask just out of curiosity.
It is Archbishop Alexander of Dallas. See about 26 minutes in. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUVH19ll2BQ
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While I agree that the act of the Filioque’s addition to the creed can be considered an abuse (despite my thinking it can be accommodated in the event of a reunion), it nonetheless was addressed by the Eastern Church pretty much as soon as it was discovered, being condemned at the Council of Constantinople +879, in addition to being condemned by the prior popes who had discovered it as well (Leo III I believe, and obviously John VIII who approved the +879 Council). The section of the Synodikon that we are discussing, on the other hand, is (as far as I know) known by every Orthodox Patriarchate, and yet none have come out against it. I would say that your very reference of the Filioque being a corruption of the liturgy aids my point: wherever historic liturgical corruptions have occurred, they have been addressed and dealt with by the Church upon their discovery by one of the Patriarchates. That this has not happened to the Synodikon most certainly lends itself to my position that it is free from error. The reason why we take liturgical corruptions so seriously is because, as Seraphim Hamilton points out in his article, the liturgy is the primary means of the Tradition’s transmission, and so to suggest that it can actively transmit and perpetuate and error, is (in my view) completely without a basis.
As to my understanding of the Synodikon’s text, my point about the last sentence was that **it explicitly affirms eternal suffering as a reality by stating that heretics will be subject to it**, who exactly those heretics are is beside the point, the point is that the authors of this anathema did not intend for it to allow for the possibility of a non-eternal hell, even if you alter the teaching to affirm an eternal heaven: If the authors were really just condemning one form of apokatastasis and not all forms of it, then they wouldn’t have used eternal damnation as a threat against heretics who deny eternal damnation.
As for your saying that “I under no circumstances, believe the professing of Hell as eternal to be heretical” I really don’t know how you can believe that. If you take Hart’s arguments seriously, then belief in an eternal hell should be heretical. If Hart is correct, then it really does contradict the core of the Gospel message and must be destroyed. The problem is that a disagreement over an eternal vs non-eternal hell isn’t the same as a disagreement over how many angels can fit on a pin head, precisely because, depending on your belief, your understanding of the Gospel message radically changes: if hell is eternal, then evangelization is urgent because souls can be lost forever. If hell isn’t eternal, however, then it’s not as urgent, and we don’t need to *absolutely* fear for people’s salvation, because we know everyone will be saved in the end. I realize that apokatastasis affirms hell’s existence and that you wouldn’t desire anyone to go there and so could use that as a motivation for evangelism, but I think it should be obvious that the worry and fear associated with damnation is almost completely done away with when its eternity is removed.
As for saints who support apokatastasis, the number is very limited, and entirely limited to before the second millennium. Every single post-first millennium saint who has ever spoken on this issue has condemned the notion that all will be saved, and this is why people like Hart can only ever talk about St. Gregory of Nyssa or Origen, or others, because they’re all he has. You can make a stronger case for the inadmissibility of divorce and remarriage from the church fathers than you can for the apokatastasis, and obviously that’s not enough to prove a dogmatic point. As for the hymnography of the Church supporting universal salvation, I just don’t see it. Just to point out a few examples of the authors’ misreadings:
“Thou are the One, O Christ, who grants resurrection to all.”
This does not support apokatastasis, because the Scriptures do in fact teach that all will be raised from the dead. Christ has redeemed all humanity, so every human who has ever lived will be raised from the dead, the just and the unjust alike. The catch though is that some are raised to eternal life, and some are raised to eternal death, and this eternal death is called by St. John “the second death” which only the righteous shall avoid: ‘Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and if any one’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.’ (Revelation 20:14-15)
St. John states that, after the resurrection, if your name is not in the book of life, then you will experience “the second death” precisely by being thrown into the lake of fire, which our Lord says is “eternal” and “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matthew 25:41). This is another reason why the eternity of hell is not contingent upon the translation of one word, but rather is thematically woven into the Gospel story, and indeed the entire biblical story from Genesis to Revelation: death for all, resurrection for some. This is seen with the story of the Flood, the Conquest of Jericho, and many more instances.
“bestowed resurrection upon the fallen race of man. For He is the Savior of all, the Resurrection, the Life and the God of all.”
The same logic from above is applicable: Christ has saved us all, and because of this He will raise us all from the dead on the last day. Our experience of this resurrection, however, will be dependent on our internal spiritual state. And similar statements can be made about all of the quotes given throughout the article you cited, but my comment is already long enough.
While we’re on the topic of hymnography, what about the hymns from the Sunday of the Last Judgement? To cite a few:
“The books will be opened and the works of all men laid bare:
The vale of tears will echo with gnashing of teeth;
The sinners will mourn in vain, as they depart to eternal damnation.”
“The righteous will rejoice, as they receive their reward,
But the wicked will depart to eternal fire with wailing and horror.”
“Think, my soul of the fearful examination before the Judge;
in trembling, prepare your defense!
Lest you be condemned to the eternal bonds.”
“What shall we do, who are already condemned by our many sins,
As we hear christ call the righteous to his father’s kingdom,
And send the wicked to eternal damnation?”
As for the Synod of Orange, I have no problem with accepting this as authoritative, but the thing is that the Synod of Carthage was the one accepted by Nicaea II, and not Orange, and so this is why it isn’t cited as much, despite my thinking that it could be. As my article demonstrates, and as you seem to concur, there are sources of dogmatic authority in the Church that go beyond the Ecumenical Councils, and when we consult these sources, whether they be liturgycal (Synodikon the case for apokatastasis is not tenable
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The Synod of Orange is under no circumstances compatible with Orthodoxy. Carthage, however, is compatible. There are clear differences between the two local synods, but that’s a discussion for another time.
Also, you betray a misunderstanding of apokatastasis by stating that it implies that missionary activity is not as imperative under it as it is under the belief of eternal damnation. Not even a fraction of a second of Hell is acceptable under any circumstances whatsoever. No one who maintains apokatastasis would profess otherwise, as far as I am aware. Hell is irrational, horrifying, and excruciating. No fleeting pleasures or comforts of sin could ever compensate for even the briefest of moments in Hell, lest God’s majesty be impugned. Furthermore, your attempt to force a fight in the arena of heresy accusations will not goad me here. I’ve stated my reasons clear enough – venerable authorities on both sides have made their case. Whatever their inconsistencies or whatnot, making one out to be heretical is just rhetorical rent-seeking.
As for the following statement: “As to my understanding of the Synodikon’s text, my point about the last sentence was that **it explicitly affirms eternal suffering as a reality by stating that heretics will be subject to it**, who exactly those heretics are is beside the point, the point is that the authors of this anathema did not intend for it to allow for the possibility of a non-eternal hell, even if you alter the teaching to affirm an eternal heaven: If the authors were really just condemning one form of apokatastasis and not all forms of it, then they wouldn’t have used eternal damnation as a threat against heretics who deny eternal damnation.”
I find the above hermeneutics that you’ve applied, that is ripping the statement straight out of its historical context, especially when it is explicated to a specific individual in history, to be entirely unacceptable. Because of our drastically different interpretive methods, I doubt we can build a bridge towards one another on this point. We should be content to wave happily to one another across the channel.
Your address towards my filioque point only bolsters my argument and undermines yours. You have just yet to realize it.
And for the record, Leo III did not condemn the filioque, at least not as you have portrayed it. If I recall correctly, he affirmed Rome’s non-usage of it with silver plates. That said, he still nonetheless affirmed its doctrinal rectitude with the Frankish Church, and in a fashion that I regard as far more suspect than St. Augustine’s. You cannot claim him as some clear opponent of the clause. Furthermore, Rome’s acceptance of 879 was qualified, last I checked.
As for your answer to the link I shared, some of your points are interesting and worth considering. That said, the evidence presented regarding the saving of all seems fairly clear to me – Christ saves all. Unless you are prepared to invoke St. Augustine of Hippo and say that “all” only means the predestined or the saints, then I don’t see how you can get around this part. Furthermore, I would be interested to see the Greek terms employed from which “eternal” is translated. Lastly, you make mention of the whole narrative, but haven’t addressed a similar point made by Hart himself, which is partly why I find his arguments so compelling. I’m not asking you to address it here, but since you brought it up, I just thought it worth mentioning and reminding you that universalists also think in narratives too. They don’t just willy nilly poop out visions of candy land and rainbows.
As for your invocation of Revelation, the resurrection, and so forth and so forth, check the comments section of the linked post ( https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2020/06/17/let-every-mortal-leap-for-joy-apocatastatic-hymnody-in-orthodox-worship/ ) as many of your claims are already addressed.
I am also interested in what you make of the so-called Latin Captivity? It isn’t related to liturgy, as far as I am aware, but it does pertain to some crucial sectors of the Church.
On the general point, however, we do indeed seem to concur – there are sources of dogmatic authority outside the ecumenical councils. This discussion has been quite long, so I will just give you the last word.
Y’know, we’ve had these back and forths before and I really don’t like engaging in long comment debates either; do you have a different means of contact that would be better? Perhaps a voice chat or something to avoid so much typing and reading.
Shoot me an email.
Good observations. I’ve noticed the samw problems with conciliar fundamentalism as well (s has Price in his works on the councils.)
When are you going to write about DBH and his critics on apokatastasis?
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Thank you for the comment!
As for DBH et al., I have no idea. I think the issue of II Constantinople has already been handled quite well by Fr. Kimel’s extensive article: https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2020/05/31/did-the-fifth-ecumenical-council-condemn-universal-salvation/
I don’t think there is really any need to address the objection regarding II Nicaea either, as Fr. Kimel has also adequately addressed that subject in another blog post: https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2020/06/06/divine-retribution-hell-and-the-development-of-dogma/
The only thing that has yet to be extensively addressed is the Synodikon, which correctly understood is not even on the same level as the ecumenical councils. So arguing it is moot, strictly speaking, imo. Some critics would like to use it as evidence for arguing in favor of an eternal hell, which is fine, but an even smaller subset want the Synodikon to have the binding authority of an ecumenical council. The latter idea is so far out there I am not even sure where to begin. It is like saying, “St. Augustine said Hell was eternal. Nail in the coffin. He is binding.” Hardly so. And none of that even touches upon the issue of John Italos, whose condemnation inspired the relevant passages of the Synodikon. Those who’ve invoked the Synodikon have yet to either quote it in the original Greek, nor have they bothered contextualizing this particular passage for a document that was itself constantly updated over the centuries. I thought about contextualizing the passage by looking into the Italos case, but there is nothing I can do regarding the Greek part. There is a book on Italos, which I’ve been meaning to read, by Lowell Clucas, but I just can’t find the time. The 11th century is sort of outside my comfort zone, especially in the Greek East.
Others have invoked arguments pertaining to free will and have accused DBH of a type of predestinarianism, but his book, properly read, already addresses that argument. I am not sure I can add anything that would be convincing or hasn’t already been said.
I strongly disagree with your belief that severe corruptions can enter the liturgical life of the Church, however I would like to see your opinion on my recent article wherein I argue that Ecumenical Councils do not serve as the only dogmatically binding authority in the Church: https://ancientinsights.wordpress.com/2020/07/13/a-note-on-ecumenical-councils-and-modern-orthodoxy/
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Well, let’s not good too ahead of ourselves here. I never called the Synodikon an error. I only raised the issue that the case – the John Italos case – behind the passage of concern has never been discussed and I think further clarifying and contextualizing the case and the passage would go a long way. I am only suspicious of the interpretation of the Synodikon passage. All that being said, even if their interpretation turns out to be correct, which I suspect it is not, I’m not too sure I agree with your assessment that corruptions cannot enter the liturgical life the Church. What would you make of the Latin Orthodox churches, some of which made use of either a modified Nicene Creed or a different creed entirely? Were they not Orthodox nonetheless, in some cases for centuries, before schism?
To just clarify on the Italos point, the passage in question links the belief of a non-eternal Hell with a non-eternal Heaven. They then add a followup point of what is properly theologoumenon – eternal Hell. I don’t see how this must necessarily be understood as some sort of blanket condemnation of apokatastasis. Nonetheless, the binding nature of the Synodikon is quite limited, I would argue, mostly because a large number of its passages are derived from local, often obscure synods (not all of them of course). In short, its a quick and dirty document – an invaluable starter pack for the laity, you might say. Those are my general thoughts on the matter, at least for now. Like I mentioned to Michael above, I am not fully familiar with the matter and don’t have much time on my hands.
As for your article, I rather liked it when I read it some days ago. It sort of feeds into my belief that I’ve been mulling over, which is that if the Church can have 300 years before the First Ecumenical Council, then why would it be surprising that no more would happen after 787? That is to say, ecumenical councils appear to belong to a certain time, place, and context in which the Roman Empire still existed. Now we have other methods, many of which coexisted alongside the imperial Christian period, that will help us ascertain doctrine when need be.
Sorry if multiple copies of my comment are being sent, I can’t actually tell if the site is pushing them through or not
No worries. They got caught in the spam filter for some reason. Not sure why. I’ve approved it now.
I wouldn’t necessarily call the Filioque a corruption of the liturgy, indeed I agree with the thesis you’ve laid out in previous posts that, in the event of a united church, the Latin churches should be allowed to retain their usage of the Filioque in singing the creed, so long as they affirm the Orthodox position on the doctrine as it was laid out at the Synod of Blachernae. The issue at the time of the schism was that the Latin churches accused the Eastern churches of removing the Filioque from the creed, a position they quickly abandoned (to their credit) but which nonetheless set the tone for Eastern attitudes towards the actual liturgical saying of the Filioque.
As for whether the Synodikon is misinterpreted, I really don’t think it’s ambiguous:
“To those who teach] that there is an end to the torment or a restoration again of creation and of human affairs, meaning by such teachings that the Kingdom of Heaven is entirely perishable and fleeting, whereas the Kingdom of Heaven is eternal and indissoluble as Christ our God Himself taught and delivered to us, and as we have ascertained from the entire Old and New Testaments, that the torment is unending and the Kingdom everlasting, to them who by such teachings both destroy themselves and become agents of eternal condemnation to others, Anathema! Anathema! Anathema!”
Making the case that this anathema leaves open the possibility that there is a non-eternal hell (so long as the eternity of heaven is affirmed) is a bit difficult when the last sentence states that those who teach this doctrine are themselves becoming subject to the very eternal condemnation that they deny exists. I don’t see any other reading of this text personally, and I’ve even been told directly by Fr. Kimel that the Synodikon is in error (according to his personal reading).
I would say the binding nature of the Synodikon stretches far beyond what you insinuate, precisely because you’re essentially saying is that, because something is stated at an “obscure local synod,” it has no possibility of being dogmatically binding, when we know this isn’t true. This is why I asked your thoughts on my article, because I think it undermines your point. Your entire case rests on the idea that the only dogmatically binding teachings of Orthodoxy lie in the decrees of the ecumenical councils, however, as my article points out, there are many cases in Church history where this hasn’t happened: Donatism is a heresy because it was condemned by the “obscure local” Synod of Arles in 314, likewise with Pelagianism being condemned at the local 419 Synod of Carthage, and so on.
But I must say, the predominant reason I take issue with your position, is because if you accept that horrible errors can so deeply enter not just the liturgy, but even the writings of every saint who lived after the 7th century, then I don’t know how you can remain Orthodox. If DBH is correct about an eternal hell, that it’s not just a “valid but incorrect opinion” but rather it’s a “horrid moral error” then I don’t see how you could tolerate every traditional source of authority in the Church (the liturgy, iconography, writings of the saints) being wrong about such an important topic.
I’d highly recommend checking out this article as well, to understand just how important the liturgy is in continuing and maintaining apostolic tradition, and so we cannot tolerate its corruption with heresies: https://kabane52.tumblr.com/post/182972967760/the-liturgical-transmission-of-tradition-in-the
Thank you for the reply. I will have to get back to you on Kabane’s piece, as it is quite long and will take me some time. That said, fair enough about the filioque. But do realize that such instances were an abuse and signified stubbornness against superiors. It might be forgiven now given the age of the abuse, but at the time it was impermissible. And just to clarify my position on the filioque, I do not advocate the filioque as articulated in the Catholic creeds. It must be the per filium formula, not the filioque formula, in all languages. This would establish clarity and prevent heretical interpretations.
Also, I just disagree with your understanding of the passage of the Synodikon. The phrase, “to them who by such teachings both destroy themselves and become agents of eternal condemnation to others” refers to those who teach heaven and hell are both fleeting. As for the affirmation within the passage of eternal hell, this I don’t currently deny (again, we’re operating with very little context here). What I deny is that it is the only permissible belief. For the record, I under no circumstances, believe the professing of Hell as eternal to be heretical. I disagree with it, but it is clearly a pious tradition no matter how counter-intuitive I may find it to be. I’m not as judgmental as Prof. Hart is on those who hold to it. That said, I also believe apokatastasis to be a pious tradition as well with numerous saints and church fathers backing it up. And furthermore, let it be said, as has been explicated on Fr. Kimel’s blog, there are numerous aspects and passages within the current Eastern liturgies that lend themselves to or affirm apokatastasis. See this post here, for instance, by Prof. Brad Jarsak: https://afkimel.wordpress.com/2020/06/17/let-every-mortal-leap-for-joy-apocatastatic-hymnody-in-orthodox-worship/
As for your invocation of local councils, what you refer to is true. But do realize that other local synods clearly are not in keeping with Orthodoxy, such as the Synod of Orange in 526, which became widely regarded in the Latin West as binding over the centuries. I worry you might be going too far in the other direction.
I suppose to just sum it up, I am just a bit circumspect about corruptions not being able to be introduced into the liturgies, more than you at least. I could be wrong. Nevertheless, I do not regard eternal hell as being a heretical doctrine just as much as I don’t regard apokatastasis, at least as taught by St. Gregory of Nyssa as being heretical. I regard both as pious traditions within the Body of Christ.
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