There have been some councils, the decisions of which were later reversed by some latter councils. Thus, if your position on a particular matter that was being considered at those councils was too strong, you could easily be excommunicated from the Church as a heretic between those two councils, while you would be just fine after the second one, or the other way around. The most recent example that comes to my mind is probably the incumbent Pope's decision to condone contraceptives. So, the question is: How can common believers be sure that the Church's decisions are correct and not erroneous? Has this matter ever been discussed in history?

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    Your example on contraception doesn't actually involve Councils, I think. Do you have an example where a Council's position has been reversed by another? May 1, 2012 at 7:19
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    First, define "the Church" ;p The very fact that schisms, branches, sects, splits etc exist is because different believers can't agree on certain points, whether of doctrine or of management. As such, when two (or more) opposing and mutually exclusive views exist, it is logically certain that one (or more, indeed possibly all) is (are) incorrect. May 1, 2012 at 7:34
  • @Andrew - You are right. Well, then the best example could probably be the council of Hieria in 754 a.d. and the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 a.d., both of which appropriated their titles as Seventh Ecumenical Council. The first council forbade the use of icons, and the second one reversed that decree.
    – brilliant
    May 1, 2012 at 10:04
  • @Marc - It's really hard for me to define the Church here. Perhaps, the definition would be a group of people calling themselves Christians, the leaders of which were holdings such councils. Thus, my main target here is the Roman Catholic Church and the East Orthodox Church.
    – brilliant
    May 1, 2012 at 10:07
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    It's unclear to me what is really being asked here. It sounds like "How can we know the truth?" which is far too big of a question to answer on this site. If you're asking about church disciplinary issues when a member disagrees with current church policy which is later changed (or something), then I think you'll need to be much more specific about which church group you're asking about.
    – Flimzy
    May 1, 2012 at 22:49

3 Answers 3


The simple answer is know your Bible. God has given us His Word to guide us. The church, being filled with sinful men, is going to err and has erred. But God's word is 'settled in the heavens', is perfect, is truth (John 17:17). So the primary source for truth must be God's words and not men's words.

It is however difficult sometimes to go against the church and her teaching. The leaders of any given church have usually studied the Bible a lot more than the average Christian. But we must also remember that God guides His children into truth, so study your Bible, know it, and then ask God for His Holy Spirit to guide you in all truth.


The 2012 world-wide General Conference of the United Methodist Church is going on right now in Tampa, Florida, USA. This conference is held every 4 years to determine the guidelines and direction of the United Methodist Church.

The only thing you can do as a common member is to pray that the delegates are guided by God and God's will, rather than the earthly desires of a majority of delegates. You can also pray to God for his confirmation that the decision you're concerned about was made in accordance with his will.

The only other thing you can do is find a church more in line with what you believe to be the will of God.


One can not be sure the Church's decisions are correct. There must be some standard each individual uses to judge the Church's decisions.

Jesus said simply:

Mark 22:37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

If a Christian feels like the Church he is attending is violating Jesus's commandment, then they must decide for themselves to follow their Church or follow Christ.

  • While not necessarily wrong, this issue has more facets than this so from a practical standpoint don't think this wholly answers the question. Without engaging other New Testament council on the subject, this point alone is likely to misslead.
    – Caleb
    May 1, 2012 at 12:53
  • There's a fun an interestingly subtle line between "personal view" and "heresy" May 1, 2012 at 13:28
  • But is it not the root issue? His question is pretty broad.
    – Hammer
    May 1, 2012 at 14:12

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