October 24, 2017

Liturgical Gangstas 11: Be Perfect? What?

UPDATE: Alan Creech has added his answer.

Welcome to IM’s popular feature, “The Liturgical Gangstas,” a panel discussion among different liturgical traditions represented in the Internet Monk audience.

Who are the Gangstas?

Father Ernesto Obregon is an Eastern Orthodox priest.
Rev. Peter Vance Matthews is an Anglican priest and founding pastor of an AMIA congregation.
Dr. Wyman Richardson is a pastor of a First Baptist Church (SBC) and director of Walking Together Ministries, a resource on church discipline.
Alan Creech is a Roman Catholic with background in the Emerging church and spiritual direction. (Alan’s not a priest. If he is, his wife and kids need to know.)
Rev. Matthew Johnson is a United Methodist pastor.
Rev. William Cwirla is a Lutheran pastor (LCMS) and one of the hosts of The God Whisperers, which is a podcast nearly as good as Internet Monk Radio.

Here’s this week’s question: How do you interpret Matthew 5:48 within a larger picture of the Gospel and the Christian life? (48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.)

Father Ernesto/Orthodox: Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?”‘ then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”

Abba Abraham told of a man of Scetis who was a scribe and did not eat bread. A brother came to beg him to copy a book. The old man whose spirit was engaged in contemplation, wrote, omitting some phrases and with no punctuation. The brother, taking the book and wishing to punctuate it, noticed that words were missing. So he said to the old man, “Abba, there are some phrases missing.” The old man said to him, “Go, and practise first that which is written, then come back and I will write the rest.”

Amma Theodora also said that neither asceticism, nor vigils nor any kind of suffering are able to save, only true humility can do that. There was an anchorite who was able to banish the demons; and he asked them, “What makes you go away?” “Is it fasting?” They replied, “We do not eat or drink.” “Is it vigils?” They replied, “We do not sleep.” “Is it separation from the world?” “We live in the deserts.” “What power sends you away then?” They said, “Nothing can overcome us, but only humility.” “Do you see how humility is victorious over the demons?”

Abba Joseph said, “If you will, you can become all flame.” The command to be perfect is one that Our Lord expected we would obey and follow. That is why St. Paul said, “For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” And again, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, . . . I myself should become disqualified.”

Notice that St. Peter echoes Jesus’ call to perfection and gives an outline of how to get there. “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

But, the best understanding of the call to Christian perfection is found in the various collections of the sayings of the Desert Fathers. Like Jesus, and many Middle Eastern teachers, they tended to speak in stories and sayings and demonstrations rather than in logical theological language. Go to the Greeks for theological writings, but go to the Desert Fathers for wisdom. And, to grow towards perfection, one must go to the Desert Fathers. In the Desert Fathers, one finds a group of people, men and women, who had an uncanny appreciation of just how sinful we are and how deep that sin goes. They were unremitting and scathing in their analysis of the depths of our sin, even when we think that we are behaving correctly. Not one of them is ever recorded as saying that they have become perfect. As you can see from the quote from Amma Theodora, they were also unswervingly clear that none of their ascetical practices would get them one step closer to God, in and of themselves. To be accepted by God is a total free gift that is merely received in humility. And, as Amma Theodora says, it is that humility and obedience that the demons most fear, because, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus . . . He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

At the same time, like St. Peter and St. Paul, the Desert Fathers were overwhelmingly clear that the person who is not striving to grow in Christ, and is not practicing self-denial, as a voluntary choice in obedience to the commandments of God, is in as much danger of losing what they have as the man who was given only one talent in the Parable of the Talents. Self-control, self-disciplining of your body and mind, is one of the steps in the process that both St. Peter and St. Paul outline if we wish to grow towards perfection. When we do this, we imitate Christ, of whom the Book of Hebrews says, “though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him. . . .” In part this is why Abba Abraham only copied parts of the book that the scribe requested. You see, there are many truths of the Christian life which will not be understandable nor will they open for us unless we are willing to add virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, etc., to our faith. Do you wish to know our Lord better and to understand His Word better? Learn to discipline your body and bring it under subjection. As St. James says, even the demons have intellectual knowledge. But, wisdom and true knowledge only come to those who discipline themselves.

Finally, an overwhelming theme throughout both Scripture and the Desert Fathers, and one that I have not had time to cover, is the help of the Holy Spirit. And, not only the help of the Holy Spirit, but also the help of the angels of God, and of your fellow saints. It is clear that the Helper is the only possible way in which we can grow correctly into the image of Christ. Without the Holy Spirit, there is no hope of growth. To quote Luther, “. . . the Spirit and the gifts are ours, thru him who with us sideth. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever.”

And, so I counsel you. Many of you have plenty of intellectual knowledge already. It is time to seek wisdom and, yes, perfection. As Abba Joseph said, “If you will, you can become all flame.”

Matthew Johnson/United Methodist: This question was an opportunity to pull out my old seminary files to find the assignment I wrote for a class in Matthew’s Gospel in 1999. The question was “What is the meaning of Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:48?” My initial thought was not to spend a whole lot of time on the exegesis part – except to set up my understanding of what Jesus is saying – but instead spend a little more space on how that plays out in the Gospel and in Christian life. That didn’t really happen, though. I’m one of those annoying people who often tells too much of the back story of what could be a very brief narrative so I apologize in advance.

I am an heir of John Wesley and this passage is one of the central texts in our theological heritage of Christian Perfection which I’ve written about in a previous Liturgical Gangsta’s post. The best way I can describe this doctrine is with a post I wrote last year called Humanity as Sanctification (hey, it’s either this or several more paragraphs of explanation). I’m not the best writer in the world but if I could sum up what I was trying to say in that post is that sanctification (and ultimately Christian Perfection) is bound up in the saving work of Jesus Christ which not only secures an imperishable, undefiled, and unfading inheritance kept in heaven for us (1 Pet 1:3ff) but it also undoes the effects of the fall by transforming us by the Holy Spirit into people who are images of Jesus Christ, the God-Man. This is the Gospel I preach: that Jesus Christ died on the cross to atone for our sins so that by his blood we are free from the guilt and punishment of sin (justification) and the power of sin (sanctification) and that through the resurrection Jesus is making all things new and will make us new (glorification). All of this is by grace through faith in the one who loved us and gave himself up for us.

With that lengthy introduction in mind, Matthew 5:48 is before us. I spent a few hours on that assignment about ten years ago and the fruit of that study was that perfection and it’s other meanings (completeness and maturity) are what God is. God is perfect. God is complete. God is mature. Why does this sentence of Jesus arise where it does? It seems a little out of place in the context of this passage. It comes out of nowhere. Earlier in Chapter 5, Jesus tells his audience that unless their righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees and scribes, none of them will enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus then begins to reinterpret the laws and rules of the Jews in a such a way that the Pharisees themselves cannot even fulfill them, thereby rendering the scribes and Pharisees unrighteous. “You have heard that it was said,” begins the smaller passages and Jesus tells them, “But I say to you,” as a follow up. A person is faithful to God’s covenant if they don’t murder someone, but Jesus says that you are unfaithful to that covenant if you are angry with someone! Who can live under such an interpretation? What? I can’t even ogle an attractive woman without being guilty of adultery? Lord have mercy!

Finally, Jesus tells the audience that they must love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them. “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?” He then says, “Therefore, you must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” This is the Gospel! The heavenly Father loved his enemies and sent the Son for those who persecuted him with their sinful acts. Paul writes in Romans 5 “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” How can this be anything but good news? Jesus would preach the Sermon on the Mount and then demonstrate it completely in his death and resurrection.

I think that’s where this passage falls in the larger picture of the Gospel, but what about Christian life? If we want to follow Jesus we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus. God is remaking people who trust Jesus with the Holy Spirit. I have no natural inclination to love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me. I want to see them get what they deserve but that is not the cross-saturated, self-denying life Jesus is calling me to live. So where in life can I possibly love my enemies? By remembering that Jesus loved me when I was his enemy, by earnestly praying that God will give me love and compassion for my enemies, that God will help me mean the prayer, “Not my will but yours be done,” and that God would bring that person to full salvation and bless the socks off of him.

This is one of those real world Gospel passages that my flesh resists at every turn but the man that Jesus saved is aware deep inside that this is how I want to live in the face of adversity and persecution. May the completeness and perfection of God’s salvation bring me to a maturity of Christian life in which Jesus is magnified above all else. I am thankful to Jesus every day that there seems to be a little less of me and a whole lot more of him present in my heart through the completing and perfecting work of the Holy Spirit.

Peter Vance Matthews/Anglican: Peter is a holy man.

Peter is working on being the perfect Anglican.

Which probably means things we don’t want to talk about.

I’ll bail him out, but I may need contributions from the audience.

Alan Creech/Roman Catholic:
Opening one’s self to God in order to be fully transformed – really and truly – into the Image of Christ – in some sense, “seeking perfection,” is NOT the same as “perfectionISM.” Not even close. The term perfectionism is probably not even one that should be used in a Christian context. It could be, I suppose, but that’s not what we’re really talking about when we say something about people who want to seek perfection through their own efforts. That’s not perfectionism. Perfectionism is a neurotic disorder toward having to have everything around one and about one BE “perfect” or you can’t handle it mentally or emotionally. It has nothing to do with trying to be a good person for the sake of God rewarding us for being “perfect.” The the Scripture in question, I’m thinkin’, has nothing to do with either.

And to say that someone who is trying to explain that the whole business of God in Jesus is about us actually becoming different kinds of beings – becoming like Jesus – is not talking about “the good news” – i.e., The Gospel, is a bit high on the horse. I might be tempted to say that a version of the Gospel that says what God wants to do for us in Jesus is merely to apply a fond feeling toward us through thinking of His Son and not of us, leaving us unchanged, yet forgiven and filthy, certainly might seem “good” to some, but – and then I would stop myself and realize that yes, that sort of is PART of the good news, the Gospel of Christ, but not the whole. Our Salvation is more than being forgiven little dirty, broken children of disobedient Adam. Of course that’s how it starts. We’re all broken. We’re all dirty. We’re all unworthy, etc., etc., etc. But God – But God wants more for us than that.

God wants us to be like Him. He wants to be like our Brother, Jesus – the FIRSTborn of many siblings, not the ONLY born. He wants to be transformed from glory to glory into the Image of Whom we gaze upon – the Lord of Glory (2 Cor. 3:18). And Who does the transforming? Us? Nonsense and foolishness. And if any Catholic says that, they are foolish. We cannot transform ourselves into the image of anything better than what we are when He found us wallowing in the muck. Even any action tending toward the good, toward God, that “we” do, is only a response to Grace empowering us to act. Even as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling, it is always Him who acts in us to do anything good (Phil. 2:12-13) – drawing us toward Him, closer inward – and the deeper we go, the more we are made new.

Here’s a great quote that helps to flesh out what I’m trying to say…

“Jesus not only teaches us the Christian life, He creates it in our souls by the action of the Holy Spirit. Our life in Him is not a matter of mere ethical goodwill. It is not a mere moral perfection. It is an entirely new spiritual reality, an inner transformation.”

“The Divine Spirit purifies the image of God in my soul by faith. He cures my spiritual blindness, opens my eyes to the things of God. He takes possession of my will so that I no longer remain the captive of my own passions and compulsions, but am able to act in the fruitful tranquility of spiritual freedom. In gradually teaching me charity He perfects the likeness of God in my soul by conforming me to Christ. For my union with Christ is much more than an imitation of His virtues as they are described in the Gospel: it must be a union created in me by the transforming action of His own Spirit.”
–Thomas Merton

See, this is what I’m talking about. When Matthew records this phrase, “be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect,” I believe he’s talking about our being like God, not just acting in a morally perfect way. Not just practicing virtues, but having the “stuff” that makes up our personhood transformed into different kinds of “stuff” – the God kind of stuff that it originally was. Now, people who are made of “God-stuff” will naturally act like God. So, no need for excessive moralism or any kind of over scrupulous perfectionism. Being like God is something He has to accomplish in us. Of course we have response-ability, the ability to respond to the Grace He gives us, but even that is a gift. We can choose to put ourselves in the way of God’s Life, in the stream of His transforming Presence, and as much as we do this, is as much as we will be transformed into His Image.

The Matthew 5 Scripture is much like another familiar Scripture – Ephesians 5:1 – “So be imitators of God, as beloved children.” Imitate God? What the? How are we supposed to do that? I have always thought that the second little piece of that verse was key – “as beloved children.” We are His children. We are not simply being called on as strangers to look upon some impersonal God figure Who is all good and imitate that goodness. We are being called on to imitate our Father, as His children. He has given us His Life. We are once again of His kind, a part of His family. He has enabled us, by His very Presence within us, to “imitate” Him – to be like Him, to be “perfect as He is perfect.” None of this, again, has anything to do with God requiring some kind of mistakeless perfections out of us before He will accept us as His children, or love us, or anything like that. It is Him, loving us, re-making us into the children He created us to be in the first place.

Wyman Richardson/Southern Baptist: Man I wish I was a Dispensationalist, then I wouldn’t have to answer this question. (ok, just funnin’!)

Probably no other sentence in Scripture (with the possible exception of “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”) has been subjected to the intense and ruthless acts of butchery that this verse has been subjected to. It has been used to bolster a stifling perfectionist legalism on the one hand and, on the other hand, has “died the death of a thousand qualifications” at the hands of preachers and laypeople who wittle it down to mean almost nothing. To be sure, it is a hard word and a difficult word.

I believe it means what it says. “We must be perfect” as God is perfect. We must. As if the preceding words of Jesus’ sermon (in which he shows that all of us are culpable of the most heinous sins not because we’ve necessarily done them with our hands but because we’ve done them with our hearts) weren’t devestating enough, He moves onto this amazing statement: “You must be perfect.”

I think the verse is God-exalting. It is only secondarily about man. It is about God, first. Barth’s warnings that one day anthropology would eclipse theology in the churches has proven true, and so it’s easy to reduce this verse to being mainly about moral betterment. But it’s not. It’s about the nature of God: that God is absolutely holy and, as such, true communion with Him likewise entails perfection.

And then it is a statement about man. I do agree with those who say it creates despair, though I loath the reductionist approaches to the Sermon on the Mount that make it say that God was only trying to create a crisis moment here and not that the teachings have a specific content and application to life. Nonetheless, they do create despair.

It’s interesting to me how many people, myself included, love that wonderful little soundbite from Augustine’s Confessions about our hearts being restless until they find their rest in Thee. That’s beautiful, but that’s terrifying. How am I to rest in the presence of a Holy and perfect God?

So this much seems to me to be true from Scripture: (1) God is holy. (2) Man must be holy to stand before Him. (3) But no man, including God’s people, are perfect before God in the living of their lives. (see 1 John for instance)

I stand by those three assertions, so they lead me to a fourth: (4) Outside of an alien righteousness being imputed to me, I am condemned.

So the question is, does God impute an alien righteousness to me? Does the word of God teach this?

This morning I preached on Lot. Frankly, his behavior through most of Genesis 19 is absurd and pitiful. And yet Peter in 2 Peter calls him “righteous.” The same, of course, with Abraham who’s faith was counted to him as righteousness.

So I ask, “What’s going on here? How are the unholy called holy and the unrighteous called righteous?” And then I see 2 Corinthians 5:21 where Christ becomes sin for me so that I might become the righteousness of God.

This is breathtaking to me. If anybody says I’m playing games with words or creating a legal fiction here, I’ll say balderdash! (Try it.)

The heart of the gospel is that the perfect Son of God dies in my stead, for my sins, so that, through faith, by grace, I can be clothed in His righteousness and perfection. And this clothing is a living clothing that every day through the ministry of the Holy Spirit fits me a bit better as I grow in grace towards the reality that has already been proclaimed over me.

So what does Matthew 5:48 mean? It means just what it says. It means that I must be perfect just as God is perfect. And am I? I am proclaimed so by and through the blood of the perfect Lamb who intercedes for me. I am growing towards this positional declaration in the reality of my life, though I am far from home. But I know that if I sin I have a perfect advocate with the Father and that when I come home, the reality will match the proclamation, and I’ll give glory to the Perfect one who saved me.

So the statement creates a crisis, but it’s a crisis that drives me to glorious hope and awe at the amazing grace of a loving God.

William Cwirla/Lutheran: First a few notes about Mt 5:28 itself. The verb is a future indicative, not an imperative, though the future indicative can have imperative force. It can be heard descriptively (“You will be perfect…”) or prescriptively (“You shall be perfect….”). The same is true of the Ten Commandments, by the way, in both Hebrew and Greek (LXX)! The adjective translated “perfect” “teleios” means whole, complete, undivided, unblemished (TDNT) (eg, see the LXX 1 Kings 8:61;11:4 of the undivided heart). Jesus says to the rich young ruler, “If you would be teleios….” (Mt 19:21). Finally, this passage has its parallel in the Torah at Lev 19:2 “You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy.”

Mt 5:48 is part of a greater literary unit called the “Sermon on the Mount” (ch 5-7) in which Jesus appears as the giver of the new Torah, hearkening back to Moses on his mountain. Yet Jesus is a completely different covenant mediator than was Moses. Where Moses began with commandments, Jesus begins with beatitudes, blessings (5:1-12). Moses went up to God, but Jesus, as the Son of God incarnate, comes down to the people. No one could come up to Moses’ mountain, lest he die, but with Jesus, even the crowds are invited to listen in.

Mt. 5:48 is the last verse of a section that begins at 5:17. Jesus has not come to abolish the Torah and the Prophets (ie the Tanach, the written Scriptures), but to fulfill them. In this section (5:17-48), Jesus challenges the rabbinic tradition (Talmud) of the scribes and Pharisees who had codified the Torah into 613 positive and negative commandments in an attempt to establish a righteousness by works. The apostle Paul would later expand on this in his letter to the Romans wherein he argues that the Torah is properly interpreted as a Torah of faith in the promise and not a Torah of works, that a man is justified before God by faith apart from the works of the Torah. The foundation of Paul’s teaching of forensic justification lies here in the Sermon on the Mount.

The rabbinic tradition, in its attempt to establish a righteousness of works, failed to deliver the goods. “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (5:20). The Pharisees played with the Law of God as though it were a toy poodle; Jesus unleashes a Doberman with fangs. He expounds the Law on his own authority over and against the tradition (“You have heard it said…but I say to you”), much to the delight of the crowds who were accustomed to their teachers credentialing themselves by their rabbinic succession to Moses. Jesus speaks out of His own authority.

Jesus delivers the proper understanding of the Law contained in the Torah. Not only does the Law judge the action, as the rabbinic tradition held, it also judges the attitude and orientation of the heart. Therefore, hatred of one’s brother in the heart is the same as murder (5:21-22); a lustful look the same as adultery (5:28). No one is left unscathed; no one can be justified by the Law. Anyone who would justify himself by his works under the Law, will be found wanting, as was the rich young ruler (Mt. 19:21). You might say that Jesus uses the Law to beat the religion out of the religious, or more gently, as a pedagogue to lead His hearers to Himself (Gal 3:23-25). If you think you can ascend the ladder of holiness to God by your commandment-keeping, think again. If anyone nearly did it, it was the scribes and the Pharisees, and they fell far short.

The righteousness God seeks is whole, complete, unblemished, teleios. This is not possible in ourselves, born as we are in sin. It is only possible in Jesus Christ, who came to fulfill the Torah by His active obedience, keeping every iota and dot (5:18) and His passive obedience, becoming sin for us and suffering the consequences of our sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). In the sweet swap of our sin for Jesus’ righteousness, received through faith (that is, trust in the promise of Jesus’ blood), we have a righteousness that does indeed exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees, a righteousness that comes through faith and not through the works of the Torah.

So back to our verse. “Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.” As commandment, this is fulfilled in Christ who loved God and loved His neighbor wholly and completely as the unblemished Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is teleios for us all. As gift and promise, Christ’s perfection is granted us as we are found in Him through baptismal faith. “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ” (Gal 3:27). We are indeed perfect (in Christ), even as our Father in heaven is perfect.

Comments

  1. Giovanni, methinks you shouldn’t take anything I said there too seriously – except, yes, “cheeeldren, don’t fight.” There is a place for talking out real issues. I’m thinkin’ this is not the place.

    Now, if I felt like gettin’ my Wiseguy gander up and start wackin’ people, I could paint the floor red, but I’ve lost the taste for blood these days. And seriously, I think I’m watchin’ too much Sopranos lately. 🙂

    Peace.

  2. Giovanni says:

    That final episode did make me mad Alan, there better be a movie coming soon.

  3. I actually JUST saw that the other day – I’m a recent fan – a movie would be cool.

  4. Sorry, Alan. I didn’t mean to do the ganging up thing. I was just trying to separate two issues (the “horrible thing” and the “straw man”) that seemed to be blended in the above conversation. I only brought up the Protestant agreement on “horrible” just to point out the irony of the critique of the critique. I’ll join the group hug and duck the kisses.

    But Giovanni, there’s no real back door agreement on transubstantiation or on supererogation. Perhaps some similarities on the former doctrine, but none at all on the latter.

    Peace.

  5. I have posted a much more complex post–warning heavy philosophy–on the whole issue of theology and overlaps at http://www.orthocuban.com/2009/05/on-theology-and-set-theory/

  6. Rev Cwirla, God bless you for reminding us that we can’t polish the buttons on our robe of righteousness. We’ll only tarnish them! We can just wear it, admire it, “brag on it”! God help us from going into the desert to contemplate it. We should instead, in the highways and the hedges where we live, advertise this glorious robe, and tell everyone where to get one. I suspect THAT”LL bring a smile to the Father.

  7. Giovanni says:

    Mome, if there was any “real” back door agreement on Transubstantiation then it wouldnt be the back door.

    And there is more than “some similarities” from the Orthodox, there is at least two local councils that even though they do not endorse the definition, they do everything but.

    Still I don’t expect the Orthodox to adopt anything until they actualy come to a general council and as you well know we are not there yet.

    Same thing for the western addition to the Creed. Again the Orthodox object not because they think its bad theology but because it was added without a council. Which I can understand and of course are right about. They should not be obligated to add anything they have not agreed to.

    As far as supererogation I need to do further reading on it, but from the light research I have made it seems yet another one of those terms that Protestants seem attach to their imaginary, work based salvation theory of the Catholic Church.

  8. OK, in that case, then I meant to say there is no back door at all.

    In Orthodoxy, the statements of even a general council can be rejected. Witness the “robber council” of Ephesus. No council is authoritative until it has the ratification of acceptance by the Church at large, which itself is something of an amorphous process.

    As for the filioque, it’s too complex a topic to discuss here, but the primary reason for objecting to it is not because it wasn’t added with a council, but because of its trinitarian implications.

    Peace.

  9. Giovanni says:

    In that case Mome we are back at square one, I say “tomato” and you say “tomato” and yet we don’t mean what you think we mean.

    As for an Ecumenical Council as both accepted by the East and the West like I said we are ways away from that. So I guess we will continue to call each councils “local.”

    As far as the “robber council” well yeah, but that revolved very interesting circumstances that are not likely to ever repeat them selves.

  10. To point No. 1: I’m not sure about that. Maybe. To begin with, there has been some divergence on the whole concept of “substance,” which surely toys with any attempt at agreement about the use of the word “transubstantiation.”

    Point No. 2: Yes. Though I think the Orthodox haven’t make a particular effort to classify any or most of the Roman councils after 1054.

    Point No. 3: Indeed. It was the first that came to mind, and it has the coolest nickname. There are better examples, though. Florence would be one.

  11. Giovanni says:

    1. Again this is one of those things that will not be resolved until all parties meet in a real “substantial” way 😉 (Get it?) Meaning beyond the nice words and PR stuff.

    2. I think that depends on the individual Orthodox Churches.

    3. Agreed.

  12. “substantial” I like that. 🙂

  13. “substantial” I like that too. I just don’t know what it means. Our individual (denominational) cultural blinders make it really hard to actually have a common definition of terms.

    It reminds me of the tower of Babel.

  14. Giovanni says:

    Not so much for me, it is more like a different way to view at the same thing. And yet discrive it precisely the way it means to us.

    When the East discrives the Eucharist they don’t try to rationalize it they simply call for what it is a Holy Mystery.

    The West defines the the Eucharist when it descrives it and over indulges on the analysis of the Sacrament.

    Yet the East and West both agree on what it is which is the real presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.