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Did Christ have a fallen human nature?


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#41 Peter Farrington

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 08:34 PM

Hi Matt

On that topic, and I also would like to get back to it, I agree with you.

The fact of being tempted is not sin, otherwise our Lord sinned in being tempted, yet it is clear from the description of His temptation that He never gave any room to the tempter.

We can also find many accounts from the Fathers of those who faced up to temptation and resisted manfully (and womanfully) not giving any room for temptation to find any place in the heart to take root.

I have been thinking about this on and off for the last few days, and in my own daily prayers from the Coptic Orthodox tradition we pray at every Hour, for those things

'...which we have committed willingly and those things which we have committed unwilling, those things which we have committed knowingly and those things which we have committed unknowingly, the hidden and the manifest.'

I have been thinking that in Christ He is always mindful, always recollected, or centred. There is no sense of sinning unthinkingly as I often do. He always knows what He is doing.

Whereas I will unthinkingly snap at some family member, He is never out of control because all of His faculties are ordered properly.

Back to the original topic, which I have also been thinking about. The Word does not take our broken humanity and dwell in it without deifying it, but this deification is a progressive process which comes to completion in the resurrection. But it began even at the Annunciation, and at the moment when the Word took the flesh which He created for Himself in the womb of the Ever-Virgin Mary.

So this does not mean that His humanity remains in the same entirely broken condition as our own, even though the humanity which He united to Himself is entirely that broken humanity.

Julian was wrong in a theological sense because he proposed that the Word united to Himself a humanity which was not broken and was not in need of healing.

But I believe that we would also be wrong to consider that the Word was bound by our infirmity in taking our humanity. Rather from the first moment of His incarnation He began to transform and renew and redeem our humanity, without it ceasing to be what it is, but rather making it what it was created to be.

I like the passage in the 6th council which says:

... his human will follows and that not as resisting and reluctant, but rather as subject to his divine and omnipotent will. For it was right that the flesh should be moved but subject to the divine will, according to the most wise Athanasius. For as his flesh is called and is the flesh of God the Word, so also the natural will of his flesh is called and is the proper will of God the Word, as he himself says: “I came down from heaven, not that I might do mine own will but the will of the Father which sent me!” where he calls his own will the will of his flesh, inasmuch as his flesh was also his own. For as his most holy and immaculate animated flesh was not destroyed because it was deified but continued in its own state and nature (ὄρῳ τε καὶ λόγῳ), so also his human will, although deified, was not suppressed, but was rather preserved according to the saying of Gregory Theologus: “His will [i.e., the Saviour’s] is not contrary to God but altogether deified.”


So our broken humanity was united to the Word but in being united began to be deified, and that deification is our own salvation.

Did Christ unite Himself to our broken humanity? Yes, He did. But did it remain broken when it became the own humanity of the Word? No, it began to be deified and renewed.

Peter

#42 John Charmley

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Posted 16 March 2007 - 10:04 PM

Dear Nina,

His nature was wholly human and wholly divine; ours, on the other hand, is wholly human and 'fallen', which may be why we all, from time to time, find ourselves reading these posts and finding in them things which it may be doubted that the writer intended.

I have read the last few exchanges between yourself and Peter with mounting sorrow, since I hope I might be pardoned if I say that both of you bring to this forum a refreshing forthrightness along with a fund of wisdom and knowledge, and I am sure I am far from alone in learning much from you both.


Pray, both of you, forgive my interference, but love for you both prompts it; you both bring so much here and even if my clumsy words just makes me a lightning-rod for your righteous wrath, I felt a need to do so. That there should be (what I see as) such misunderstanding between two such great souls, is simply a sign that whatever we write about the fallen nature (or as most of us agree, otherwise) of Our Lord, we remain firmly of one nature and in sore need of His transforming presence.

Forgive me if I have caused offence - sometimes one does without meaning to.

In Christ,

John

#43 M. Markewich

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 09:05 PM

I'm sorry about allowing the last thread to get off topic, but now, since my questions still remain, I am going to post the last on-topic post I had in the former thread.

If you were tempted by the girl then you have sinned. A person who is perfectly free from sin is not even tempted and so scripture says about God that He is neither tempted nor tempts anyone. This was perfect dispassion that the monastics strived for. So that they could not distinguish between gold and stone, a man and a woman, or praise and contempt.

There are different levels of temptation, from the external to the mind to the heart to the actual action or sin itself.

With Christ the temptation was external, never internal.

I thought I had just provided an example of external temptation, though. My example said the demons push me to think about it, but I don't allow it to take ground in my mind. The demons (or at least, the devil himself) tried to tempt Christ similarly into becoming an earthly king. I honestly just don't see the difference.

Actually, as St Maximus and the fathers teach man is born with an inherent inclination towards sin (the gnomic will) that is he inherits a predisposition for sin. However, for a child this could not be accounted for sin since it is only the potential for such which a person does not realise until they reach an age of reason and accountability.

So, if the inclination to sin is actually sinful itself, and we have it from the moment we are conceived, wouldn't God be making something that wasn't "very good", and the fetus would already be a sinner, but God is just not going to hold him/her accountable yet? And if we Orthodox hold this view of the inclination to sin, then aren't we really in agreement with the Roman Catholics, who say we are all born guilty, but popular belief says that babies will be going to Heaven anyway, since thy have not reached an age of accountability?

Also, doesn't this cause a problem if you believe Mary was morally pure from birth, since Mary also reached an age of accountability and therefore her inclination to sin would have been realized?

#44 John Charmley

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Posted 23 March 2007 - 10:51 PM

Dear Matt,

I suspect we may end up in the same place as last time, although I hope not.

Wiser heads than mine will meditate upon gnomic wills, and upon the nature of Christian anthropology, but I should like, if I may, to approach it first through the writings of St. Isaac the Syrian, and then through Tertullian; trying to keep my views out of it because they are of no account, but to record what two of the Fathers have written on this theme.

St. Isaac writes that our human person is created as a temple of God; the indwelling of God within this temple was most fully realised, of course, by Jesus Christ. The clear implication is that Human nature has the potential for accommodating the fullness of the Divinity.

God does not impose sinful passions upon our nature, they are, in that sense, unnatural and the results of the Fall; indeed they are its sign. It is these sinful passions which we are to abjure, and in healing our fallen nature, the Incarnation restores us to the our original nature. That nature has its passions, virtuous ones for union with God and to know Him and to be obedient to His will.

Of the sinful passions the Saint writes:

These are the causes of sin: wine, women, riches and robust health of body. Not that by their nature these things are sins, but rather nature readily inclines towards the sinful passions on their account, and for this reason man must guard against them with great care. [St. Isaac, Works I/5, 41-42)


Justin Martyr, in his Dialogue with Trypho chapter 23, writes:

that, according to the will of God, Jesus Christ the Son of God has been born without sin, of a virgin sprung from the stock of Abraham.

Tertullian, in his Treatise on the Soul chapter 41 affirms:

For God alone is without sin; and the only man without sin is Christ, since Christ is also God.

In the same Father's On the Flesh of Christ Chapter 16, we read:

We maintain, moreover, that what has been abolished in Christ is not
carnem peccati, “sinful flesh,” but peccatum carnis, “sin in the flesh,” —
not the material thing, but its condition; not the substance, but its flaw;
and (this we aver) on the authority of the apostle, who says, “He
abolished sin in the flesh.” Now in another sentence he says that Christ
was “in the likeness of sinful flesh,” not, however, as if He had taken on
Him “the likeness of the flesh,” in the sense of a semblance of body
instead of its reality; but he means us to understand likeness to the flesh
which sinned, because the flesh of Christ, which committed no sin itself,
resembled that which had sinned, — resembled it in its nature, but not in
the corruption it received from Adam; whence we also affirm that there
was in Christ the same flesh as that whose nature in man is sinful. In the
flesh, therefore, we say that sin has been abolished, because in Christ that
same flesh is maintained without sin, which in man was not maintained
without sin. Now, it would not contribute to the purpose of Christ’s
abolishing sin in the flesh, if He did not abolish it in that flesh in which
was the nature of sin, nor (would it conduce) to His glory. For surely it
would have been no strange thing if He had removed the stain of sin in
some better flesh, and one which should possess a different, even a sinless,
nature! Then, you say, if He took our flesh, Christ’s was a sinful one. Do
not, however, fetter with mystery a sense which is quite intelligible. For in
putting on our flesh, He made it His own; in making it His own, He made
it sinless. A word of caution, however, must be addressed to all who
refuse to believe that our flesh was in Christ on the ground that it came not
of the seed of a human father, let them remember that Adam himself
received this flesh of ours without the seed of a human father. As earth
was converted into this flesh of ours without the seed of a human father,
so also was it quite possible for the Son of God to take to Himself’ the
substance of the selfsame flesh, without a human father’s agency.


I apologise for the length of the last quotation, but it is so spot on this theme that it seemed to demand citation in full.

I hope that these patristic sources will help us stay on theme - and on message, as it were, given the purpose of this site.

In Christ,

John

#45 Athanasius Abdullah

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Posted 24 March 2007 - 04:24 AM

Dear Matt,

I would have to contend with Mourad's reading of Maximus the Confessor just as I previously contended with his reading of Severus of Antioch (which did not seem to be based on any solid primary, or even secondary evidence).

In his Disputation With Pyrrhus, Maximus the Confessor explicitly denies the idea that the gnomic will is inherent to human nature (and is explicitly quoted to that effect in J. Farrell's, The Disputation With Pyrrhus of Our Father Among the Saints Maximus the Confessor pp. 31-32). This forms the primary anthropological premise to his Christological conclusion concerning why and how Christ was able to be fully man and yet at the same time sinless.

In XC
Athanasius

#46 Mourad Mankarios

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Posted 24 March 2007 - 05:20 AM

Dear Matt,

I would have to contend with Mourad's reading of Maximus the Confessor just as I previously contended with his reading of Severus of Antioch (which did not seem to be based on any solid primary, or even secondary evidence).

In his Disputation With Pyrrhus, Maximus the Confessor explicitly denies the idea that the gnomic will is inherent to human nature (and is explicitly quoted to that effect in J. Farrell's, The Disputation With Pyrrhus of Our Father Among the Saints Maximus the Confessor pp. 31-32). This forms the primary anthropological premise to his Christological conclusion concerning why and how Christ was able to be fully man and yet at the same time sinless.

In XC
Athanasius



These are really two completely different statements, that is, to say anthropologically that the gnomic will is inherent to human nature, that is, as naturally created by God prior to the fall and that it has become inherited and inherent to human nature post the fall are two statements not contradictory. St Maximus is stating that while all humans inherit the gnomic will it is not natural to them but foreign - a contagion which humanity seeks to eliminate through its theosis.

As such I too would agree with St Maximus as stated above that the gnomic will is not inherent to the true essential human nature as created by God. All St Maximus is trying to do by establishing the such is that Christ was not lacking in His human nature by not possessing a gnomic will as all humans born naturally do. If anything his premise does support an inherited gnomic will that although foreign has become common to all human beings post the fall.

Dear Matt,

According to Orthodoxy man is born with a moral or spiritual disease just as a person can be born with a physical disease which however in no way reflects as a defect in God but rather this is due to sin. God's creation is perfect therefore, however sin has marred His creation and man's longing is for that original perfect creation which he was once established in.

Hence while man, according to Orthodoxy, is born with such a spiritual ailment which is his inclination towards sin he is not born with the guilt of sin, and hence the difference between Orthodoxy and Catholicisim. Therefore a child has no guilt only an inclination which is yet to be realised. The inclination itself cannot be sin until it is realised. That is, when I, in a particular situation, am inclined towards sin then it would be accounted as sin. A child, however, does not have any rational faculty to be aware of any such inclination. Therefore, spiritually, he is completely pure and without sin until such may occur.

WIth regards to St Mary and sin, this is an extremely controversial and difficult subject and there are a variety of opinions. St John Chrysostom would insist that she did sin. However, all of Orthodoxy would agree that she is the most pure and most venerated. Purity in such case therefore is more of a relative term rather than an absolute term something which is usually ascribed to God alone.

#47 Athanasius Abdullah

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Posted 24 March 2007 - 06:26 AM

Dear Mourad,

These are really two completely different statements, that is, to say anthropologically that the gnomic will is inherent to human nature, that is, as naturally created by God prior to the fall and that it has become inherited and inherent to human nature post the fall are two statements not contradictory. St Maximus is stating that while all humans inherit the gnomic will it is not natural to them but foreign - a contagion which humanity seeks to eliminate through its theosis.


You’ve missed the entire point; when Maximus the Confessor denies that the gnomic will is not inherent to human nature, he does not have in mind any ontological distinction between pre-fall and post-fall human nature so as to warrant his being interpreted to mean a) that the gnomic will is not inherent to human nature only in the sense that it is not part of the “original design” of human nature, as opposed to his being interpreted to mean b) that its not inherent to human nature according to the fact that it is not a property of nature per se. It seems to me that you’re falsely reading your own presuppositions into his anthropology. If you can provide me with concrete evidence substantiating your belief that such presuppositions were held by St. Maximus himself, then we may have a basis to proceed on to further discussion, but until then one would have to reject your interpretation as being fundamentally eisegetical in nature.

In his Disputation With Pyrrhus, St. Maximus the Confessor explains that the basis behind the Lord Christ’s not having assumed a gnomic will, is not because He assumed human nature in its original pre-fall condition (as if such a distinct ontological category of human nature ever existed in the first place), but rather because the gnomic will is a “mode of the will’s employment” rather than a type of natural will. Maximus the Confessor explicitly states (and I refer you to pp. 31-32 of Farrell’s book which I referred to in the previous post) that the gnomic will is rightfully ascribed to us, not because we have a post-fall humanity of which the gnomic will has naturally become part of as a consequence of the fall, but rather because of the corrupt exercise of the hypostatic mode of employment of our natural will. I strongly encourage you to borrow and read J. Farrell’s book.

St. Severus of Antioch dispenses further wisdom on the matter by explaining that the cause of offences is not the nature with which we are born, but rather the influences of the world (being ruled by satan and the evil forces) on our mode of willing and hence ultimately upon our internal cognizance of our inherently good nature. Sinful nature is neither nature with sin inherent to it, nor nature with sinful inclinations inherent to it, which is why St. Severus could explicitly assert that the Lord Christ “took our sinful nature, yet without sin”. Sinful nature is nature that, being subject to the corruption of this world, is prone (though not by necessity or compulsion) to being realised by the self so actualising such a nature as being sinful. Sin and its inclinations become “second nature” ; they seem so much a part of us that we regard them as such, and speak of them as such, but insofar as ontological reality is concerned they are in fact not.

You are Coptic Orthodox, are you not? I would ask you to read St. Severus (who, as you would be aware, is one of our Churches highest and most respected authorities) and St. Maximus side by side—you will find that they illuminate one other quite well insofar as the issues in question are concerned. Note that I am not telling you to read one’s anthropology/Christology into the other—that would certainly be academically dishonest, and that is certainly not what I have done (I am not even Eastern Orthodox so what interest would I have to try and bring Maximus in line with Severus?), I am only encouraging the exercise I have recommend insofar as it may give you wider perspective to consider as I fear that your reading is being governed by a rather narrow reading.

In XC
Athanasius

#48 John Charmley

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Posted 24 March 2007 - 10:10 AM

Dear Matt, dear Mourad, Dear Athanasius,

I'm sorry Tertullian didn't help get us out of what is, again, proving the cul de sac of St. Maximus and 'gnomic will'.

From the point of view of Orthodox soteriology the Saviour has to be sinless - if He is carrying sin, He cannot save us. The point of the quotations from St. Isaac was to try to highlight his view (which is Orthodox teaching, I thought) that since we are made in God's image our original nature is also sinless and has the potential to accommodate the divinity; it is to restore us to this state that the Incarnation took place. Our nature has not changed, it is marred, damaged, but the damage is redeemable - and He redeems us.

To quote from one of Pope Shenouda's works, The Life of Repentance and Purity (1990):

There is no one without sin, not even if his life was only one day
on earth. For we all sin and need repentance. Therefore, repentance becomes a daily work, since we sin everyday. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8).


Pope Shenouda and Pope Paul VI declared on 10 May 1973 that:

In accordance with our apostolic traditions transmitted to our Churches and preserved therein, and in conformity with the early three ecumenical councils, we confess one faith in the One Triune God, the divinity of the Only Begotten Son of God, the Second Person of the, Holy Trinity, the Word of God, the effulgence of His glory and the express image of His substance, who for us was incarnate, assuming for Himself a real body with a rational soul, and who shared with us our humanity but without sin. We confess that our
Lord and God and Saviour and King of us all, Jesus Christ, is perfect God with respect to His Divinity, perfect man with respect to His humanity. In Him His divinity is united with His humanity in a real, perfect union without mingling, without commixtion,without confusion, without alteration, without division, without separation. His divinity did not separate from His humanity for an instant, not for the twinkling of an eye. He who is God eternal and invisible became visible in the flesh, and took upon Himself the form of a servant. In Him are preserved all the properties of the divinity and all the properties of the humanity, together in a real, perfect, indivisible and inseparable union.


As St. Paul tells us in Hebrews 4:15:

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

As St. John (1 John 3:5) says:

5 And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.


It seems pretty clear that Orthodox teaching is that He was without sin. The how and the why lie in the mystery of the Incarnation. But I do think we need to get beyond St. Maximus and 'gnomic wills' if we are to see the bigger picture. I may, of course, be missing the whole point, and if so, please accept my apologies.

I shall leave us with one of the Fractional Prayers from the Liturgy of St. Basil:

Who grew little by little, according to the form of men,
yet He, alone, without sin


In Christ,

John

#49 Mourad Mankarios

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Posted 24 March 2007 - 12:05 PM

Dear Mourad,

You’ve missed the entire point; when Maximus the Confessor denies that the gnomic will is not inherent to human nature, he does not have in mind any ontological distinction between pre-fall and post-fall human nature so as to warrant his being interpreted to mean a) that the gnomic will is not inherent to human nature only in the sense that it is not part of the “original design” of human nature, as opposed to his being interpreted to mean b) that its not inherent to human nature according to the fact that it is not a property of nature per se. It seems to me that you’re falsely reading your own presuppositions into his anthropology. If you can provide me with concrete evidence substantiating your belief that such presuppositions were held by St. Maximus himself, then we may have a basis to proceed on to further discussion, but until then one would have to reject your interpretation as being fundamentally eisegetical in nature.


I would agree with both (a) and (b) here. However, why would this be a question for St Maximus if the gnomic will was not believed to have become inherent to human nature post fall. If this was not the case then He would not have had to argue the validity of Christ's not having a gnomic will but since this was the case he found himself in a position where he would rightly have to justify how Christ could provide salvation and yet not possess a gnomic will which was believed to be common to all of humanity.

In his Disputation With Pyrrhus, St. Maximus the Confessor explains that the basis behind the Lord Christ’s not having assumed a gnomic will, is not because He assumed human nature in its original pre-fall condition (as if such a distinct ontological category of human nature ever existed in the first place), but rather because the gnomic will is a “mode of the will’s employment” rather than a type of natural will. Maximus the Confessor explicitly states (and I refer you to pp. 31-32 of Farrell’s book which I referred to in the previous post) that the gnomic will is rightfully ascribed to us, not because we have a post-fall humanity of which the gnomic will has naturally become part of as a consequence of the fall, but rather because of the corrupt exercise of the hypostatic mode of employment of our natural will. I strongly encourage you to borrow and read J. Farrell’s book.


I think we can both agree here that the gnomic will is definitely not a type of natural will but rather the mode of operation of one's natural will which however became inherent to post-fall humanity.

Thanks for the reference...I'll try to get my hands on it, although I could imagine it might be a bit tough.

St. Severus of Antioch dispenses further wisdom on the matter by explaining that the cause of offences is not the nature with which we are born, but rather the influences of the world (being ruled by satan and the evil forces) on our mode of willing and hence ultimately upon our internal cognizance of our inherently good nature. Sinful nature is neither nature with sin inherent to it, nor nature with sinful inclinations inherent to it, which is why St. Severus could explicitly assert that the Lord Christ “took our sinful nature, yet without sin”. Sinful nature is nature that, being subject to the corruption of this world, is prone (though not by necessity or compulsion) to being realised by the self so actualising such a nature as being sinful. Sin and its inclinations become “second nature” ; they seem so much a part of us that we regard them as such, and speak of them as such, but insofar as ontological reality is concerned they are in fact not.


I think I can agree with such a notion of sinful nature. But it seems now firstly that you are suggesting that St Severus is saying that there is a distinction between pre-fall humanity and post-fall sinful human nature and secondly that such a sinful nature is inherited.

Obviously this could not be read into St Maximus since for him sinful nature was a reference to the gnomic will and this for him was absent in Christ.

Therefore there can really be no correlation between the two but if anything somewhat of a contrast.

You are Coptic Orthodox, are you not? I would ask you to read St. Severus (who, as you would be aware, is one of our Churches highest and most respected authorities) and St. Maximus side by side—you will find that they illuminate one other quite well insofar as the issues in question are concerned. Note that I am not telling you to read one’s anthropology/Christology into the other—that would certainly be academically dishonest, and that is certainly not what I have done (I am not even Eastern Orthodox so what interest would I have to try and bring Maximus in line with Severus?), I am only encouraging the exercise I have recommend insofar as it may give you wider perspective to consider as I fear that your reading is being governed by a rather narrow reading.


I think this would be quite an exercise to read all of St Severus as well as St Maximus, especially considering that their thoughts on certain areas of dogma have not been categorised. However, I do believe that in another thread I was able to find many quotes attributed to St Maximus from the Philokalia suggesting that there is some form of spiritual ailment, an inherent stain on man's soul, an ontological distortion of man's being which man comes to acquire post-fall as the "gnomic will", that is his ontologically distorted hypostatic mode of operation and which the incarnation serves to correct.

#50 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 24 March 2007 - 04:42 PM

I think there is some confusion in terms here. If man is ontologically or inherently sinful then he is sinful by nature. In which case the purpose of Christ's Incarnation is to go against nature rather than transforming it. This is a serious distortion of the Patristic understanding of what salvation means.

St Maximos' point centers precisely on the question of how in Christ human nature is transformed rather than ontologically changed. Of course St Maximos was dealing specifically with the question of monothelitism. But the point for him was that Christ can have a fully operable human will without this overturning the integrity of human nature since the human will is not inherently confused, sinful or 'gnomic'.

Lest we ourselves unintentionally fall into greater confusion let's also keep in mind that what the 'gnomic will' refers to must not be confused with man's inherent limitedness.

The first unequivocally refers to one of only many symptoms of the Fall. Man presently is sinfully confused about what is proper for him. Man though also has a natural limitedness which is not sinful; he is after all not omniscient as God is. This difference is absolutely crucial.

After all isn't this one of the points of Christ's not knowing 'the Hour'? Or next week on Lazarus Saturday we hear:

O strange and marvellous wonder! Although He knew the answer, yet as if ignorant the Maker of all asked, 'Where does he lie, whom ye lament? Where is Lazarus buried, whom I shall shortly raise up for your sake, alive from the dead?' (1st tropar, Ode 3, canon sung at Compline)


This doesn't mean that Christ has adopted the sinful mode of human knowing with its confusion. Rather it means that Christ fully accepts a human limitation on knowledge which is inherent to us. Within Him human knowledge is transfigured to Divine purpose.

For us of course knowledge is both inherently limited & sinfully confused. Our will & ability to know is severely afflicted by the results of the Fall. But this goes for all affects of the Fall. The inclination towards sin or the ancestral sin is already fully sinful- it is not innocent. This inclination is the attraction we have towards sin which in itself is sinful. And because of this we do have a degree of guilt.

We shouldn't draw such a sharp dividing line between how eastern or western Fathers described this because both are addressing the issue of how sin is fundamental to us & its affects. The western & eastern Fathers both share a fundamental view of Christ's redemption of that sin even if they express themselves differently or stress different sides of this issue. Whether we think of it in terms of how we suffer the cosmic effects of sin or the cosmos suffers from our having personally sinned does not change that these two perspectives are not contradictory. Really they are complementary. They both stress that through the Fall something fundamental in nature has been distorted, that this has universal effects and that only through Christ could this be healed.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#51 M. Markewich

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Posted 25 March 2007 - 01:05 AM

Thank you everyone; all of your responses have been very helpful for me.

Hello John,

It seems pretty clear that Orthodox teaching is that He was without sin. The how and the why lie in the mystery of the Incarnation. But I do think we need to get beyond St. Maximus and 'gnomic wills' if we are to see the bigger picture. I may, of course, be missing the whole point, and if so, please accept my apologies.

Actually, the discussion about the gnomic will is exactly what I am wondering about. If Christ assumed who we are, but left out certain aspects (such as the gnomic will) that we are born with, then how was He fully tempted like us but without sin? Knowing if the gnomic will is inherited in birth or is learned after birth will clear up the question for me. Right now I find Athanasius' example to make the most sense (and it is a view I've held for a long time already, and I always thought it was mainstream Orthodox thought).

Hello, Father Raphael,

For us of course knowledge is both inherently limited & sinfully confused. Our will & ability to know is severely afflicted by the results of the Fall. But this goes for all affects of the Fall. The inclination towards sin or the ancestral sin is already fully sinful- it is not innocent. This inclination is the attraction we have towards sin which in itself is sinful. And because of this we do have a degree of guilt.

Are you saying that our sinful confusion, then, is learned after birth? I feel like things are becoming more clear for me now.

#52 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 25 March 2007 - 01:16 AM

Hello, Father Raphael,

Are you saying that our sinful confusion, then, is learned after birth? I feel like things are becoming more clear for me now.


No- because we are born with a sinful nature. This is the ancestral sin, the legacy of the Fall on all of us.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#53 John Charmley

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Posted 25 March 2007 - 06:43 AM

Dear Matt,

As I understand it, 'gnomic will' is what human nature is attracted to by inclination; our marred human nature is unable to distinguish between sin and God's will. In its unmarred state, in the Incarnate Word, human nature recognises the will of God as its sole objective.

Or so it would seem.

In Christ,


John

#54 John Charmley

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 06:56 AM

Dear Matt,

I was struck by this, from St. John 6:35-40

35 And Jesus said to them, I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. 40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.


St. Cyril's reading of this is to the point of this discussion, and was that it showed that Our Lord's human nature was uncorrupted by sin since it did God's will - as unfallen human nature would always will to do. In this, the Saint follows in the Alexandrian tradition going back to St. Clement, a summary of which follows.

According to St. Athanasius, Adam, had a pure mind that was not enslaved to carnal lusts, so he could reflect God with his pure soul. We are free, but because our minds are involved in evil desires and materialism we are in need of God's grace to make our minds free so that we can enjoy communion with God with pure hearts.

According to St. Clement of Alexandria, the fault of Adam and Eve consisted in the fact that, using their volition wrongly, they indulged in the pleasures of sexual intercourse before God gave them leave; their sin was in disobeying God, of course, not in the sexual act itself, which is not inherently sinful. As a result, their will and rationality were weakened and they became a prey to sinful passions. He says: 'The first man played in Paradise, at liberty, since he was the child of God. Then he fell, through pleasure ... and was led astray through his desires... How great the power of pleasure! Man was free, in his innocence, and then found himself bound by his sins.'

St. Clement accepts the historicity of Adam, but he also regards him as symbolizing mankind as a whole. All men, he teaches have a spark of the divine in them and are free to obey or disobey God's Law, but all, except the Incarnate Logos, are sinners. His teaching seems to be, that through our physical descent from Adam and Eve, we inherit, not indeed their own guilt and curse, but a disordered sensuality which entails the dominance of the irrational element in our nature, and a lack of knowledge, for sin is due to ignorance.

The necessity for a dyothelite theology seems to have followed from the dyophysite tendencies in the Chalcedonian Christology, and seems not to have been so great an issue among the Oriental Orthodox. Accepting, as the Oriental Orthodox always have, the two natures of Our Lord, both perfectly human and perfectly divine, unmixed, even for the twinkling of an eye, they do not speak of them as two after union. The attempt by the Patriarch Sergius to achieve reunion through what has been called a 'monenergist' Christology, drew close enough to the non-Chalcedonian position to satisfy some of those who could not accept Chalcedon, but was insufficiently close to meet with universal approbation.

At which point, in all humility, a Non-Chalcedonian should clear off and leave the field to those whose tradition has produced some great thinkers on this problem.



In Christ,

John

#55 M. Markewich

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 08:24 PM

Dear John, I appreciate your explanation. Today in my World of the 20th Century lecture I was thinking about this issue while going over Soviet Russia. I thought, would I call God unfair if He had me born in the Soviet Union instead of America? Of course not; it's not His fault mankind had enslaved itself there. And if I were a Soviet subject, and I met an American, who was born free, would I consider him a non-human because he had it easier? No. It seems like I am complaining because Christ looks like an American to my Soviet eyes, since I am born inherently without freedom now. But through Christ, and following Him, I can learn this freedom and make it a part of myself. Although I still feel somewhat bothered by this doctrine, I can see why it makes sense.

#56 John Charmley

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Posted 27 March 2007 - 10:17 PM

Dear Matt,

A good analogy. In Christ we are all free, since in Him, and through Him, we can realise our true self - the self made in the image of God which, when truly free, will follow His will because in it is perfect freedom.

As we are told in John 8:29-36:

29 And He who sent Me is with Me. The Father has not left Me alone, for I always do those things that please Him.
30 As He spoke these words, many believed in Him.
31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.
32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
33 They answered Him, We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, `You will be made free'?
34 Jesus answered them, Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.
35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.
36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

As St. Paul told us, in Romans 6:22-23:

22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We are called to accept that gift, to repent, to amendment of life, and to the perfect freedom that is found only in Him: the Truth will make us free; He is the Truth. What He assumed, He healed, by the act of assuming it. Wholly Human, He was what we can become, and what we were before the fall; wholly divine, He shows us God and His love for us.

In the face of such love, all we can do is to be humble, be grateful, and, in true repentance, follow His way.

It is we who have the fallen human nature; it is Him who redeems it. He who was rich made Himself poor for our sake. As the hymn by Isaac Watts, which I have cited before, concludes:

Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.


The rest is silence.

In Christ,

John

#57 M. Markewich

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Posted 28 March 2007 - 12:59 AM

Thank you again for your response, John. It has helped me feel more firm in this belief.

It is we who have the fallen human nature; it is Him who redeems it. He who was rich made Himself poor for our sake. As the hymn by Isaac Watts, which I have cited before, concludes:

Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Isn't that called The Wondrous Cross? I like that song, too.

#58 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 05 March 2010 - 12:36 AM

I thought I would resurrect this excellent thread. It is well worth reading, if you have not read it before.

I've been wondering about what it means when we say that in the Incarnation the Son assumes a "fallen" human nature. Today I came across a lengthy citation from the Scottish theologian, Thomas F. Torrance. I thought I would post it here and elicit responses. Is Torrance faithfully representing the views of the Fathers (or at least some of them), or is his view at least consistent with the views of the Fathers (or at least some of them)? As some of you may know, Torrance was a big fan of Athanasius and Cyril of Alexandria.

"The crucial factor here is the meaning of the ‘human nature’ of Christ. There is no doubt at all that by ‘human nature’ the fathers wanted to stress the actuality of Christ’s union with us in our true humanity, that Christ was human in all points exactly like us, yet without sin. And that is right as far as it goes, for Christ was fully human like ourselves, coming into and living in our mode of existence, and sharing in it to the full within a span of temporal life on earth between birth and death, and in the unity of a rational soul and body. But the Chalcedonian statement does not say that this human nature of Christ was human nature ‘under the servitude of sin’ as Athanasius insisted; it does not say that it was corrupt human nature taken from our fallen creation, where human nature is determined and perverted by sin, and where it is under the accusation and judgment of holy God.

“But that is all essential, for ‘the unassumed is the unhealed’, as Gregory Nazianzen expressed it, and it is with and within the humanity he assumed from us that the incarnate Son is one with the Father. Therefore the hypostatic union cannot be separated from the act of saving assumption of our fallen human nature, from the living sanctification of our humanity, through the condemnation of sin in the flesh, and through rendering from within it perfect obedience to the Father. In short, if we think of Christ as assuming neutral and perfect humanity, then the doctrine of the hypostatic union may well be stated statically. But if it is our fallen humanity that he sinlessly assumed, in order to heal and sanctify it, not only through the act of assumption, but through a life of perfect obedience and a death in sacrifice, then we cannot state the doctrine of the hypostatic union statically but must state it dynamically, in terms of the whole course of Christ’s life and obedience, from his birth to his resurrection.

“For many people the difficulty with Chalcedonian christology is this, that when it speaks of ‘the human nature’ of Christ, it seems to be speaking of some neutral human nature which we know in some way from our general knowledge of humanity, even though we nowhere have any actual experience of such neutral human nature. Here then, there appears to be a twofold difficulty. It appears to define the human nature of Jesus in terms of some general conception of human nature, and then to think of Christ’s human nature as perfect, or at least neutral, and to that extent unlike our actual human nature. Now if Christ’s human nature is perfect, and further, if Christ is the Word become man, the new Adam, then we cannot define Christ’s human nature in terms of some general idea of human nature we have already conceived, for it is the human nature of Christ alone that is the norm and criterion of all true human nature. The same mistake appears to be present in the Chalcedonian concept of the divine nature of Christ, for it too is defined in terms of some general concept of divine nature, which somehow we have already formed in our minds, whereas if Christ is the Son of God become man, then it is the divine nature of Christ which must be our only norm and criterion for the understanding of divine nature. It is not surprising therefore that the Chalcedonian christology, in spite of its intention, should always tend towards a form of dyophysitism, tempting correction in the form of being counterbalanced by a new monophysitism.”

Thomas F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ (Robert T. walker, ed.; Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic and Paternoster, 2008): 201-2.


Thanks!

#59 Grace Singh

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Posted 05 March 2010 - 01:45 AM

this is really a new branch of theological discussion for me, but i have learned a lot by pouring over this thread. would any of the below ideas be on par with Orthodox thought, or are they deviating from what the Fathers have established as Orthodox and definate about Christ?

as to our Lord's assuming humanity, could it be said that as humans have always had the capacity to feel pain and grow tired and be tempted (but that these weaknesses were only manifest through and after the fall), that Christ assumed our pre-fall humanity, but in the context and for the sake of fallen beings? to say that Christ chose to suffer as a Man, trial by trial, as an earlier poster noted sounds like a facsimilie of human suffering and experience, not an actual human experience. the Lord Jesus Christ chose to become a Man and take on flesh, to truly suffer the natural consequences of living in a fallen world, to be subject to things like hatred, thirst, hunger, pain, and grief in a real way, as a Man, while still being God. in other words, once in the world He was subject to the things the world would throw at Him, while still being Master of that world, and its Creator at every given moment.

pre-fall humanity was still tempted, but temptation in and of itself did not cause the fall. it was that temptation giving birth to sin, something that did not happen in our Lord Christ.

#60 Owen

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Posted 05 March 2010 - 01:47 AM

Christ had an unfallen human nature (this is what His being without sin means); He is the Second Adam, who completed the tasks the First Adam failed to complete. His unfallenness sanctified the waters when He was baptized, and trod down Death and liberated those in Hades when He died; it also gave us the possibility of union with God in a renovated body when He ascended to Heaven, deifying the flesh He had assumed.




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