Why is the Eastern Orthodox Church false?


#1

So the question is, “Why is the Eastern Orthodox Church False”? This is what the RCC states, at least on the most basic of levels, so why is this true? I am a Protestant who is very much interested in the idea of Holy Tradition, and an organic Church, however I feel that the Orthodox position is stronger than the Roman Catholic Position, in several aspects, but mainly that the Early Church always decided important issues by council involving popular vote (or so I have heard), well there was certainly no popular vote about the Bishop of Rome getting to be infallible, or that the Vatican was the source of all distinguishment of truth. For that matter the RCC views the Anglican Church as false because it broke off and decided (however weakly) that it had a valid link to the Apostles, so why shouldn’t we view the RCC as a false Church that had broken off from the main Church?

I would really like strong arguments for the Catholic position, and also why the Eastern Orthodox Church is wrong.

Thanks all, John!


#2

First of all the Eastern Orthodox Church is not false as such but merely schismatic from the Catholic Church. The main reason is that the Bishop of Rome was always the head of the Catholic Church and always had the power in Church law to remove and replace Eastern Patriarchs (though this ability was often blocked by the Byzantine Emperor) and thus breaking from the Pope was splitting from the Catholic Church (the Bishop of Rome described as the source of sacerdotal union by St Cyprian of Carthage in the middle of the 3rd century for example). Also the same Eastern Patriarchs that split from the Catholic Church were quite often in heresy historically speaking and had to be brought back by the Pope and also they were quite often puppets of the Byzantine Emperor.

As for Councils being the deciding factor mostly it was a Council in union with the Pope as many councils of bishops (who were always the people with a vote in councils, it was never a popular vote) backed things like Arianism/Monothelitism etc. but weren’t ratified by the Pope. In fact the Patriarch of Constantinople usurped a lot of power outside of his established boundaries of Asia, Pontus and Thrace by claiming authority over the whole Balkans, the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem and even southern Italy and Sicily and calling himself equal to the Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch, this all being given to him by the Emperor not Council.

Papal Infallibility was voted for by a Council, albeit a more recent one, though there were early mentions of Papal Infallibility and pronouncements made, even in the third century, possibly earlier, though admittedly it was less specific.

While the Eastern Orthodox have undeniably kept Church practice the same more than the Catholic Church since the split they have changed their views on doctrine and morality by stopping believing in Original Sin and Purgatory (both voted for in the Synod of Jerusalem) and allowing contraception. Furthermore they insist everyone uses the Byzantine Rite which is ridiculous as it is only one of the original Rites still uses in the Catholic Church and more recently created than the Latin, Syrian and Coptic Rites.

Also unlike the Catholic Church (with the Pope) they have nothing unique to say they are the one true Church, as opposed to the Catholic, Oriental Orthodox or Assyrian Churches, so that claim doesn’t make as much sense, whereas a claim to be part of the true Church would


#3

In the Catholic Church Mt 16:18-19 is a reality. In the EO Church, Mt 16:18-19 has no meaning. “First among equals” is a meaningless phrase.

Besides, which Church looks more like the universal Church?


#4

JMBNH,

Thank you for your resonse, I am not Orthodox, but I will try to respond so as to keep this thread going. I believe the Orthodox would say that it is true that the Bishop of Roman did always hold a seat of primacy, but that he was still considered only first among equals. I am not so knowledgable about this history but if I am correct, the RCC broke from the EO largely over the authority of the Pope and the filioque clause (which the RCC was wrong about the filioque clause). The RCC was the minority and the EO was the majority.

I think this is somewhat unfair and not honest. The EO can say that they held the majority of Bishops throughout history.

VociMike,

I believe that the EO Church believes that the RCC has twisted that Scripture, and that the Latin translation is majorly to blame (again I am not Orthodox so I won’t pretend I can speak for them in any real way). For that matter, there are many ways to interpret such a verse. And it does not have to be that there would always be a certain Bishop in Rome who were tied directly with Peter. Rather it could have been a temporaneous statement, or it could be that it was the faith of Peter. I believe the EO states that Rome was given primacy because it was the Old capital of the Christian world, and Constantinople was “secondary” because it was the new capital, but that neither were infallible, or the main power in the Church.

This being said, Paul rebuked Peter to his face and proved him wrong. How could it be that the primary infallible member of the Church should be rebuked and proven wrong by Paul, who claimed to be “the least of the Apostles”?

Also, it is not fair to say, “Who looks more like the Universal Church” It could just as well be said, “Who looks more like the original Church?” Or “Who looks less corrupted?” These are value statements and each persons answer will be subjective.


#5

Also, I should note that JMBNH is right, that the RCC views the EO as Schismatic and not necessarily “false” as we view it today. The EO also views the RCC as schismatic.

However, both believe that they are the fullness of the Truth and the other is deficient.


#6

John 214,

Unfortunately some of the Greeks say that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father alone. While Scripture does not say in explicit words that the Holy Spirit proceeds form the Son as it says the Son proceeds from the Father, nevertheless the teaching of the Church has a sound Scriptural basis. The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of Jesus, the Spirit of the Son. This means He is breathed or spirated by the Son. The Holy Spirit receives from the Son, but the only thing He could receive is the divine nature. Jesus tells the Apostles He will send them the Holy Spirit, but the Son could not send the Holy Spirit on a temporal mission unless the Holy Spirit eternally proceeded from Him. For, since the Holy Spirit is God, the divine will concerning a temporal mission could not be intimated to Him unless the divine substance be eternally communicated to Him. Finally, the Second Council of Lyons says: “the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son . . . as from one principle . . . and by one spiration.”

It is an article of faith that the Holy Spirit is not generated; He “proceeds.” The generative capacity of the divine nature is completed by the generation of an infinite Son.


#7

The Orthodox Church is not a false Church but a separated Church.


#8

The rebuke was over behavior, not teaching. The Catholic Church has never claimed that the pope is without sin, any more than the Eastern Orthodox claim that those bishops who attended the infallible Councils were without sin. To require the pope to be without sin would also require every bishop to be without sin.

Also, it is not fair to say, “Who looks more like the Universal Church” It could just as well be said, “Who looks more like the original Church?” Or “Who looks less corrupted?” These are value statements and each persons answer will be subjective.

It’s not a question of fair or unfair. I’m simply noting that the Catholic Church is not a regional, ethnic Church like the branches of the Eastern Orthodox Church appear to be.


#9

Tomster,

Nonetheless, it was a later addition to the Nicene Creed, it does not necessarily mean that the RCC is wrong, so I will give you that.

VociMike,

I am sorry, this is just not true.

When I saw that they were not acting in line with the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, "You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs? (Galatians 2:14)

It is clear that Peter was not just “behaving” wrongly, but that he was “forcing” gentiles to follow Jewish customs, which is not in line with the truth of the gospel.

But this is your perspective, the EO would say that while there are regional differences, the Church itself is united in doctrine, faith, and liturgy. Just as the Protestants claim unity in the truth of God’s Word, despite denominational differences. But unity is valueless if it is not qualified by the truth, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses have unity as well.


#10

So what universal doctrine of the Church was Peter falsely teaching and requiring that all Christians believe for their salvation? For anything less does not fall under the blanket of infallibility.


#11

John 214,

Granted, it was a later addition to the Creed. However, the legitimacy of such an addition in the first place, on the authority of, say, a local council may well be questioned . But there can be no doubt concerning its lawfulness since its approval by the supreme magisterium of the Church. Nor have the Orthodox any reason for saying that such an addition contravenes the decree of the Council of Ephesus forbidding anyone to “compose another faith than that one which was defined by the holy Fathers who were gathered together with the Holy Spirit at Nicaea.” The Council’s intention was to anathematise any contradictory formula. It had nothing to say against legitimate additions to the Creeds or against clearer statements of the unchanging Faith.

Just some further clarification, that’s all.


#12

VociMike,

You only said that the rebuke was over behavior not teaching. Paul says in the verse before that due to Peter’s hypocrisy he was leading all the other Christians into hypocrisy as well.

Tomster,

Your clarification is noted.


#13

John214,

Is your mind as made up on this question as it appears? Do you see any merit in the Catholic position?


#14

So we’re agreed that this case does not come under that mantle of papal infallibility.

BTW, what is “hypocrisy” but behavior that is in opposition to what one knows and preaches to be true?


#15

That’s debatable, not now it doesn’t. I think at the time of the East-West Schism the two were probably fairly similar in numbers (thanks to the Chalcedon split and the Muslims), as this was after the Germans converted but before many Russians had. I may be wrong here though as I don’t know the exact stats at the time of the schism. However, numbers alone doesn’t work as there were many schisms when the Pope was indisbutably on the side of the Catholic/Orthodox faith and the East with most of the Bishops wasn’t, e.g. semi-Arianism, the Acacian schism, iconoclasm etc. Though I doa gree that my point may be unfair as the Orthodox may view themselves as the true Church for different reasons that are less dogmatic and more philosophical (or something similar?)


#16

I was too busy to adress this earlier. Here is the passage:

For before certain men came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party.
And with him the rest of the Jews acted insincerely, so that even Barnabas was carried away by their insincerity.
But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

I have highlighted the actions of Peter which are being condemned. They are exactly that, actions, not teachings. He and the other Jews were acting insincerely, not in accord with their beliefs. They were being hypocrites. But it is not possible to claim from this passage that Peter was teaching anything, much less teaching infallibly something that the entire Church was required to believe.

Notice that Paul does not say they were mistaken, but that they were insincere and not straightforward. Thus it is unmistakable that Paul is accusing them not of misunderstanding the faith, but of not acting in accordance with their correct understanding of the faith.


#17

VociMike,

Your point is well taken. And no my mind is not nearly as made up as I portray it as being. I am merely trying to push the thread to get strong arguments and to make sure. I’d rather be certain than left doubting on some points but relatively sure. I thank you for your responses.

JMBNH,

Thank you for posting as well and clarifying. I am very interested in what happened at the Great Schism, and so I find it interesting what you have said.


#18

What do you make of this statement, which would seem to place the Great Schism on the error of the RCC.

“It was the fusion of the filioque controversy with the rise of papal power that created the great crisis of 1054. The “reform” papacy of the eleventh century established itself on the right of the pope, as apostolic heir of Peter, to absolute power over all Christian people and institutions. Such claims had been rejected by the early church councils. To Eastern patriarchs Christ’s charge to Peter in Matt. 16:18 - 19 was shared by all the apostles and their spiritual heirs, the bishops. In 1054 Pope Leo IX (1048 - 54) sent a delegation headed by Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida to discuss the problems between the papacy and Constantinople. Disaster followed. The Patriarch of Constantinople. Michael Cerularius, rejected both papal claims and the filioque. The Western legates accused Constantinople of having altered the Nicene Creed. In the end, Cardinal Humbert deposited a Bull of Excommunication against Michael Cerularius on the altar of the Hagia Sophia, and the Great Schism was official.”

And,

“…it had been agreed in the fourth century that no change in the wording of the creed, except by conciliar consent, was possible.”

Taken from mb-soft.com/believe/txc/gschism.htm


#19

While I admit to not knowing enough about the filioque argument to enter the debate here I will bring up something more about the Papal claims that should make them more connected to the early Church.

If you imagine the Catholic Church to be just the Roman Catholic Church then yes the Pope would have more authority over all of it than over the east of the ancient Church. But when you take into account that the Roman Catholic Church is just one of 23 Churches making up the Catholic Church and that the other 22 elect their own leader (Patriarch in 6 of them, Major Archbishop in 4, not sure about the others) who then seeks full communion with the Pope and has the authority to appoint Bishops within his own Church (though ultimately is answerable to the Pope) you’ll realise that this is very much like the early Church (the Pope really did have as strong a control over the Western Church early on). Papal decrees are binding on the other 22 Churches as well, but that happened in the early Church even before Councils as well on different issues (Sunday worship, date of Easter, Baptism being valid even by heretics if Trinitarian with water, and after the first and maybe second Council the Biblical canon)


#20

JMBNH,

It is agreed that the Pope did have a central and significant position in the Early Church, however, it seems that if the excerpt I posted is true, then the Pope would have gone directly against the established tradition.

As far as I have been able to tell, there is only one way that the RCC and EO can reunite, and that is if one of them admits they were wrong. Logically speaking, one or both must be wrong, and I am just trying to find out what is true. It is hard, because both sides seem to be nearly irreconciablly biased, and both seem overly willing to reinterpret history as fits their case. Nonetheless, there must be one single answer to this and I am going to give it my best shot at finding this answer.


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