Vladimir Kozyreff (and others) have been arguing a position that the
Orthodox Church cannot have any compromise with untruth (he calls
this "sergianism"); that a Church that fails to keep purity of faith
loses Apostolic Succession and grace; that heresy cannot coexist with
true teaching in the Church.
In reality, the history of the Church proves the situation to be
otherwise. There were many renowned Saints of the Church who were
ordained by heretics. St. Tarasios of Constantinople stated that
fully half of the Fathers of the Sixth Ecumenical Council were
ordained by heretics.
A number of the Church Fathers wrote and taught outright heresies,
yet have not been condemned as being outside the Church. St. Gregory
of Nyssa taught the false doctrine of universal salvation, for
example. Several of the Church Fathers taught chiliasm.
And, we know from examples in the Church services that heretical
bishops sometimes received special signs from God. The most
significant example is the heretic Eudoxios, Patriarch of
Constantinople, an Arian heretic twice condemned by Councils both in
the East and the West. It was to this heretical bishop that the Lord
sent His Great Martyr Theodore the Tyro, in order to warn the bishop
and his flock of the plot to defile the faithful by tainting the food
in the markets with blood used in pagan sacrifices. This is
remembered by the Church every First Saturday of Great Lent. And the
Church services call the flock of this heretical bishop "the faithful flock."
How can this be?
How can the Church tolerate both true teaching and false teaching coeexisting?
The answer was given by Christ Himself, in His parable of the wheat
and the tares:
24Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of
heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
25But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the
wheat, and went his way.
26But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then
appeared the tares also.
27So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir,
didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
28He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said
unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
29But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up
also the wheat with them.
30Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of
harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the
tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat
into my barn.
So--the Church has tolerated some tares among its good wheat during
the entire time of its existense.
It is not Cyprianism that first invented the terms "ailing and well
members" of the Church. This was used by St. Tarasios to describe the
situation of the Church at the time of the iconoclastic heresy--and
also by St. Basil the Great to describe the sad state of the Church
during his time.
So--the final answer is that the Church can tolerate those within it
who bear false witness in times of persecution. They do not stain the
Church, and it does not lose grace because of this.
The wheat and the tares will coexist within it until the time of harvest.
With love in Christ,
Prot. Alexander Lebedeff
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