Obedience and Authority in Eastern Orthodox Church


#1

I am still a little confused about obedience and authority in the Orthodox Church. I understand that the Orthodox Church looks to councils for authority and has a hierarchy similar to that of the Catholic Church (without the Pope of course). But what I still don’t understand is what level of obedience is required for Eastern Orthodox followers to remain in the Church. In the Catholic Church, it’s very clear because you have certain doctrines that require the full assent of faith and are considered to be infallible and others that do not. Because the Catholic Church claims to be infallible on certain teachings, it’s easy to see how and why they would require obedience to those issues.

Because the Orthodox Church does not believe in Church infallibility and does not have an infallible Pope, I don’t understand how it can ask its followers to unequivocally do specific things that were not addressed in the Bible directly or in a council. Further, even if something was in a council, I don’t understand how the Orthodox Church requires its members to assent to these certain doctrines unequivocally because they don’t believe those doctrines possess infallibility anyway.

I guess the overall question I am asking is: Does the Orthodox Church believe all of its teachings are infallible teachings that must be followed or do they believe that their teachings are as close to infallible as you can get that should be followed but aren’t completely required?


#2

I guess I am having trouble understanding how a church can say “You MUST do these things” when they don’t teach that those things they require their followers to do are infallible. Shouldn’t it always be “You SHOULD do these things, we BELIEVE you must do these things, but we can never be completely sure”?


#3

I don’t think in general infallibility is a requirement for obedience. The catholic concept is that when the Pope speaks ex cathedra, that it is in fact the holy Spirit speaking through him, hence the infallibility, hence the requirement that it be adhered to.
When the orthodox teach a doctrine, they are simply saying this is what we believe…

The business of “believe this or else” is foreign to orthodox.

OC members, please correct me if I am wrong.


#4

Yes, I think we are mixing up some concepts here, at least in relation to what seems to be the initial question: what drives obedience in the Orthodox Churches if there is no central authority?

The answer, quite simply, is that all are bound to obedience to the Church, subject to the guidance, teachings and authority of their own bishop. There may be instances where Synods of Hierarchs and Ecumenical Councils make certain judgments and determinations to which all subject to the participating (or ratifying) bishops would be bound, but ordinary authority is with the local bishop alone in normal circumstances.

So, in Orthodoxy, if the bishop says one must do certain things to remain faithfully bound to the Church, then a member is expected to be obedient to this, given the bishop’s rightful authority.

It is the communion between the Churches governed by individual bishops that binds the Orthodox to each other, as opposed to a common allegiance to Rome (or any other central figure). One might fairly say that they are bound first by Christ in and through the Holy Eucharist, as opposed to being bound together via institutional means.


#5

Thank you very much for the posts…I really do appreciate it…I think I get the difference now. I disagree with separating authority from infallibility in this particular instance only, but that isn’t really important for the purposes of this thread. At any rate, I think I see the difference. Orthodox are called to be obedient to their bishops because that is the system originally established and Catholics are called to be obedient to the Church at large because that is the system they believe was established by the apostles, and they accept this teaching because of Church infallibility. Correct?


#6

exactly. Your answer was much better than mine. Well put.


#7

Also, I think my original response may have given an inaccurate impression, where I said “the concept of ‘believe this or else is foreign’ to the OC.”

I didn’t mean for that to imply that you can pick which of their beliefs you like and still remain in good standing. I don’t think you can.
ByzCath is exactly right when he says those issues of authority lie with each bishop.

My answer seems to have been more confusing than helpful!!


#8

RKO, I knew what you meant and I think it was pretty clear! Whatever confusion was there, you cleared up.


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