Eastern Orthodox and Infallibility

How do the Eastern Orthodox Churches exercise infallibility?

How do members of the Orthodox Churches know which doctrines have been defined infallibly?


If you want to get into the real technical details of infallibility - your question is a bit like asking a dog how many chirps a can of coke makes. The question itself doesn’t quite work since infallibility is a Latin concept and is outside our experience.

Insofar as we can define “infallibility” in an agreeable manner - our doctrine is what has been defined as such by the Ecumenical Councils.

However all men are fallible, and we trust the Holy Spirit will lead us away from error.

It’s interesting to me that the Orthodox are always saying that ideas which seem simple to me are a Latin idea. How can simply telling the truth be a Latin idea? It seems to be basic to the idea of communicating at all. We talk and in doing so we either tell the truth or we tell a lie – or we’re babbling, I guess. In addition, many many eastern Fathers said that the Church can’t be wrong and must be believed. If you don’t want to call that infallibility, fine, but there is an obligation to believe the Church and the Church is guaranteed not to be wrong, and I don’t see why you would say that calling that “infallible” is so Latin when it’s just a name for this concept.

God works it out.


How did God work it out after Nicea?

It’s not simply telling the truth - it’s being incapable of telling a falsehood. That is a radicaly different thing. This concept is alien to Orthodoxy. We trust to The Traditions and God’s mercy. He knows our best intentions and guides us to The Truth. But that takes time. It takes consistent witness of The Church. Councils turn out to have been wrong, popes turn out to be heretics, the Bible doesn’t have a speaking voice to correct what people interpret.

The quotes you are reading from the Fathers may not be so obvious to us as they are to you. We often have very different perspectives and, after all, in English we’re dealing with translations of out-of-context quotations. I know that’s why one woman prefers Orthodox understandings - ours are rooted in the same language those Fathers spoke.

Infallibility is a Latin concept. We’re not concerned with whether or not our doctrines are infallible, we’re concerned with whether or not they’re consistently Traditional.


How does a member of the Greek Orthodox Church know what has and hasn’t been defined infallibly?

Or how would you phrase the question?

Doesn’t that sort of leave your theology frozen in time?

Doesn’t doctrine develop as we think about it more deeply?

The Orthodox are just as high on infallibility as are the Catholics but they go about it in a different platform. The Orthodox have doctrines and teachings that are unfamiliar with Rome yet they have the stamp of infallibility written in their code. The problem with Catholicism is their refusal to understand Orthodox concepts just as the Orthodox may also not try to understand Catholic concepts. This standoff prevents in my opinion any unity to exist. Why? Because in the truest sense we will not acknowledge the other until they acknowledge us. Be this may the two Churches have established their rules for conduct and how they both define infallibility. You will as a Catholic be blown away if you ever discover what keeps the Orthodox Church together. This is why Rome needed another form of model to define infallibility within their structure to secured her foundation from breaking apart. These two forms of infallibilities were determined to come into existence when the two Churches decided to go on their own separate ways. Without the whole Church coming together to determined doctrine and teachings this gap that had occurred within the Church was forced to implement certain infallible teachings so that further break ups would not endanger the Church to slip further into more separate Churches.

The Orthodox define infallibility from a different principal than Rome. This Orthodox principal needs to be praised for it was this principal that helped the Eastern Church to hold together their same faith for the past 2000 years. Incredible that the Eastern Church has this praise and it will be the advantage for all Christians to learn the Orthodox or Eastern principal for it is God’s great gift for all to see how it is done within His Eastern Church. The Eastern Church has developed a great catechism and teaching that is somewhat different than Rome yet it can be the strength for Rome if she will only learn about it. The strength for Rome is her Pope and the Papacy which governs and serves her. Since the unfortunate separation of East and West where East and West can no longer for the time being to discuss together doctrines and teachings to come forth, the Church of Rome had to go on her own. This had to force the Church of Rome to develop certain teachings for her Pope and for her magisterium to be the guardians of the faith since they no longer contact the East for help. Without this infallibility that Rome had to choose, the Western Church may have even split up more further than what happened in the Reformation.

Be this as it may it is very good that we the Orthodox have Rome in this world. Her inheritance to the Faith is remarkable and her saints can give to us much of our admiration and praise. Something very good is in Rome and despite the difficulties that separate us we need to look beyond this and see the wonderful presence of what Rome can give to us. Perhaps some incredible good will come from the unfortunate separation that had occurred from the past. This good may be all of this treasury of saints and teachings that both our Churches have accumulated and it would be interesting if we would have this same treasure if we did not go on our separate ways.

Does God change? Has His plan changed? Has His morality, teachings, expectations or nature changed?

Why would doctrine develop any more? We have all the information we need, and we can’t use human logic to ‘reason’ further developments because God may not follow the rational of human logic.

Note, theology is not teachings about contemporary problems like internet porn. How to deal with these issues is very simple when we just look at how we deal with similar problems. It’s not necessary to call everyone together to deal with that kind of stuff - we all can easily extrapolate a response based upon what has been received. You might not have been planning to pursue that route, but I’ve had to have that discussion with Roman Catholics before.

I’ll take this as, “No, doctrine doesn’t develop.” :stuck_out_tongue:

Baklava? :stuck_out_tongue:

Seriously, would you mind sharing this secret with the rest of us?


The Human Heart has not changed, we just have fancier toys to play with. What is to be gained by all the speculations and intellectual musings? As Rawb said, we have what we need. The Holy Spirit and the Eucharist…The Traditions, the Liturgy, the Hymnography, Prayers, the Lives of the Saints, Our Spiritual Fathers and Bishops who shepherd us…

What more do we need?

We know the Gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church.

However man is prone to error - so no man can be infallible.

It is not so much that the Church is infallible (we see it make relatively minor mistakes all the time), so much that it teaches the truth as it has been revealed by God.

If the Church (as a whole) teaches something (often liturgically) then it is the truth. Whether or not it is something we must believe in order to be saved is another matter (and by that I don’t mean picking and choosing, I mean some beliefs, i.e. the existence of God, play directly into salvation while others, whether or not the Theotokos was Assumed into heaven, do not. If you struggle with one and find you can’t believe it, you can’t truly call yourself Orthodox, if you struggle with the other, then that is simply your struggle).

It is hard under these circumstances to apply “infallible” to the teachings, since all teachings of the Church are equally true. It is just the level of importance that changes.

When you ask an Orthodox Christian these sorts of questions, you’ll often get vague answers. A favorite of many is “It’s a mystery”, an allusion to the Holy Mysteries (what Catholics call Sacraments).

The “how” isn’t very important in Orthodoxy, and the Church has always avoided getting into specifics. It is enough for us that it happens.

If you are asking what teachings of the Church must be accepted vs. those which are optional.

All should be accepted, but as I said in another post, if you struggle to believe those things not having to do with salvation (generally that which does not directly involve God in some way), then you’re fine, just as long as you aren’t denouncing those teachings of the Church.

Doesn’t that sort of leave your theology frozen in time?

Doesn’t doctrine develop as we think about it more deeply?

We have been given God’s final revelation. There is nothing to change.
Thinking about the revelation we have, and looking at it in new ways is fine, but it must always be consistent with Tradition.

Catholics agree. There will be no more public revelation. And doctrine does not change (which is not the same as saying that it does not develop as we understand revelation better).

Thinking about the revelation we have, and looking at it in new ways is fine, but it must always be consistent with Tradition.

Ah. Tradition.

Since doctrine cannot develop, the question I have concerning Tradition is this:

Is there a date before which everything that was known and taught as doctrine is considered Apostolic Tradition and after which everything is unacceptable development?

If so, what is the date?

If not, how do you know what Tradition is?

And how does something move from being theological speculation to sure Tradition? If this cannot occur, doesn’t that suggest that your theology is “frozen” after all? :shrug:

I do not know…so how?

Okay…when you say…“It is enough for us that it happens”…don’t you somehow have faith and trust that the HS is behind this…that the Church does not fall into error?

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