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Theosis and its relation to the oldest lie in the book...


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#41 Brian Mickelsen

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Posted 28 November 2009 - 09:10 PM

No, I dont remember that scene from the movie Paul but I see your point.

I have never really worried about how the Trinity was constituted - to tell you the truth. I formed and opinion and that was fine with me. I was and am more concerned with what I must do to be saved etc., than I am /was with what constituted the nature of God.

As far as the Trinity goes, and your definition...

Our definition of the Trinity is this
God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit are totally undivided and never without. The Holy Spirit does not "join" them together as they are never separated and never can be. They are all 3; one. There is never a time when one is without the other two.


... I disagree with the joining part, but really have no disagreements with the concept of the three being together all the time.

Since Mr. Blaydoe thinks that some my misconception's may arise from that opinion - I am willing to talk about it.

As far as theosis is concerned and the "Lie" of the supposed Divinization of the Morman's etc. I still don't see how that fits together.

Would not divinization/theosis of the Orthodox faith be the same Divinization of the Mormon faith?

Irregardless of the fine points or differences in the doctrine of both groups, the basic result of both doctrines is divinization.

Now is this Divinization equal to attaining Godhood? That may be where the difference between the two doctrinal stances lies. But these are just differences in terminology - is there not a difference between the two divizination processes that is substantial. Do the Orthodox believers expect to become divine in the same way as the Mormons do?

Please don't be offended by the implication, I know the answer is "no" but how do the two notions of Divinization differ?

After finding out how the end results differ - then the process of Theosis etc. will become clearer.

Just as the Journey to Christlikeness May differ from the morman understanding of the journey to Godhood.

Brian

#42 Brian Mickelsen

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Posted 28 November 2009 - 09:17 PM

In particular - I still don't understand this post.


Just a point of clarification on the quotation from St Athanasius:


No, it isn't! This is purely a convention of interpretation, to comfort those who grow uneasy with the implication. But the Theos in the second part is unequivocally God Himself -- and indeed, the to draw a formal distinction between 'God' (God proper) and 'god' (god-like) in this phrase, is to utterly miss St Athanasius' whole point, which is that man is grafted into God through the incarnation.

Deification is not about becoming 'godly' or 'god-like'; it is about being drawn into communion with God Himself.

INXC, Dcn Matthew



Brian

#43 M.C. Steenberg

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Posted 28 November 2009 - 11:06 PM

Dear Brian, dear others,

Owen is quite right. Even if well intentioned, intellectual theorising about deification will never yield a result. It can be discussed to a certain useful degree, so long as certain common realities of Christian experience are shared; but beyond this, it simply becomes a series of abstractions and the fruit of one's own will. And the same is true, and to a far greater extent, if these truths are not shared. Realities such as God in Trinity, the Son's union with the Father, the nature of salvation, etc., are not things that can be got to by a process of will: they are given by God. The Church ensures this. And without them, the discussion of deification has no grounding.

Here is the way to understand the Orthodox doctrine of deification:

1. Become Orthodox.
2. Pray, worship, fast within the embrace of the Church. Live a life of spiritual obedience.
3. Experience a deified life - in the shared life of the saints, in the Eucharistic communion, in the gradual transformation of the heart

If the goal of a discussion of deification does not take as its aim the progress toward or along this route, it has little hope of bearing any fruit. So we must ask ourselves: do we discuss these matters for such reasons? If so, let the discussion carry forward, with God's blessing. But if for any other reason, we have no hope of our words bearing fruit.

INXC, Dcn Matthew

#44 Paul Cowan

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Posted 28 November 2009 - 11:28 PM

Fr. Dcn.

My dyxlecia got the best of me on that post. I saw "Become Orthodox" as "Become Priest".

The 'pr' for priest from 'pr' for pray and the 'st' for priest from 'st' from fast; both of these words from the line below. I was shocked and disheartened until I realized what I was reading. So much for the public school system and my speed reading. At least now there is a chance for my pitiful self. Not so if I had to first become a priest. Whew.

Paul

#45 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 29 November 2009 - 12:32 AM

Here are some basic "thought" questions. I am not challenging and not expecting an answer, just throwing some things out there to think about.

God is Trinity. I think we have all agreed to this. Bearing that in mind:

1. The Son is not "made". He is continually "begotten" of the Father. The Holy Spirit continually "proceeds" from the Father (and some say, "through the Son", but not from the Son). Did the Father exist "before" the Son and the Holy Spirit?

2. If the Father "made" the Son "lower than the angels", then how can the Son still be part of the Trinity? How can the Trinity exist?

3. Could it be that the terms "son of man" and "lower than the angels" are misunderstood? Are you and I not "sons of man"? If the Divine Jesus takes human form while retaining His Divinity (wrapped in the flesh like bait on the hook), is He not taking the FORM of a servant, appearing "lower than the angels"?

5. Is being God and man mutually exclusive? Do you think that Jesus cannot be both at the same time?

6. If the Son has never actually divided from the Father, why would there any need for Him to be re-united to Him?

7. Is not "theosis" the degree to which we "put on Christ" and in cooperation with the Holy Spirit, renewed the "likeness" to Christ that we lost in the Fall?

8. For Christ to have to "undergo" theosis, it would mean that He was somehow severed from the Trinity. How can there be a Trinity with a sundered Son?

To get back to the original question, the "lie" is that we can become "God" on our own, without God's will. "Theosis" is what is supposed to happen, acting in accordance with God's will and not contrary to it. The father of lies takes Truth and twists it. He does not eliminate it, he merely bends it in a direction that takes us away from where we are supposed to be. The key is we can't get there from here, without God. The lie is that we can.

Or so it seems to this bear of little brain
Herman the Pooh who really needs a nap after this one

#46 Anna Stickles

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Posted 29 November 2009 - 12:40 AM

If Jesus relationship is related to the stone cut from the mountain in Danial 2 then Jesus was not asking for equality with the Father, but to again be a part of the Father as He was before He came to earth.

Heb 1:3 The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.

Orthodox understanding of the Trinity is that Jesus was never separated from the Father, just as the sun is never separated from the light it emits, even if that light travels thousands of miles into space, it is still one continuous 'sunbeam' connected to its source. Even while here on earth, having taken on human form and having been made a little lower then the angels, He did not cease to be still upholding and sustaining the universe. His humanity is something added to His divinity, He did not cease in any way to be what He was before in becoming man.

In particular - I still don't understand this post.

man is grafted into God through the incarnation.
Deification is not about becoming 'godly' or 'god-like'; it is about being drawn into communion with God Himself.

Brian


John 15
4Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5"I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

In the Orthodox understanding of theosis, there is a certain underlying understanding of human nature lying at it's heart. Human nature only finds fulfillment in it's union with God. Apart from God we are nothing. We are not immortal in and of ourselves, rather when separated from God, decay and death sets in. We are not righteous, or loving, or virtuous in any way by nature, rather only in union with God do these things become part of us because they are part of His character and being.

Only in union with Him do we become like Him. We take on His characteristics so to speak.

Christ did not have to undergo theosis, because the Incarnation is God joining Himself to human nature (Philip 2:5-8). Theosis itself is man coming into communion with God. The Incarnation is what makes theosis possible.

If we postulate that Christ, when he became a man, was separated from the Father, then we have no solution to the Fall. There is no rejoining of human and divine, there is no healing to the separation from God that happened at the Fall.

Also, Brian, if your view of Christ is accepted then one has to deny the basic principle that "the LORD is one." (Duet 6:24) In a situation where Christ is less then or separate from the Father, we have two gods not one.

The basic Orthodox creed to describe the Trinity is "three persons, one in essence, undivided". To make Christ less then the Father is to deny that they are one in essence, to make Christ separate is to say they are divided.

This is why people were wondering if you believe in the Trinity. What they were really asking is do you believe in this understanding of the Trinity, but I don't think that was made real clear in earlier posts.

#47 Owen Jones

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Posted 29 November 2009 - 01:37 PM

One does not strive toward theosis as the goal. One does not use a definition of theosis as one's starting point in this striving. One strives toward obedience. Theosis is the result...I say this as an expert on disobedience...

#48 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 29 November 2009 - 02:09 PM

Anna Stickles wrote:


If we postulate that Christ, when he became a man, was separated from the Father, then we have no solution to the Fall. There is no rejoining of human and divine, there is no healing to the separation from God that happened at the Fall.


It may also help to keep in mind that there has been a gradual drift away from an Orthodox understanding of the Incarnation during the past centuries. This has been partly conscious but also partly a reflection of a cultural transformation since the renaissance.

Basically what this understanding of the Incarnation amounts to is the belief that the Son of God does purposefully distance Himself from the Father at the Incarnation. This is partly the result of how human and created nature is sinful. But it is also as a sign of the self-humiliation of the Son away from the Father and towards humanity; of the 'solidarity' of Christ with weak humanity. In other words this 'laying aside' or 'covering over' to some extent of His divinity is taken as the very sign of His kenosis, of His love for mankind.

Why I bring this up is because some of us who were raised in non-Orthodoxy may well remember this teaching about Christ. It wasn't hidden. And again it was supposed to explain the very basis of how the Incarnation was significant at least to its own humanist eyes. For in reality that is what this understanding of the Incarnation is since it focuses on Christ's incarnation mainly as a moral act; ie Christ acts as the good man, our model.

It is thus no accident that this understanding provided the foundation of the shift from a Patristic understanding of Christ's Nativity to later humanistic understandings of this feast.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#49 Owen

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Posted 29 November 2009 - 02:49 PM

The problem with any non-Patristic understanding of the Incarnation (taken as a whole from the conception of Christ in the Virgin Mary to the Ascension and sitting down at the right hand of the Father) is that such an understaneding cannot make sense of the theophanies of Christ's baptism in the Jordan and the Transfiguration on Mt. Tabor; for the Uncreated Light seen in those eventsis something Christ always had with Him.

#50 Anna Stickles

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Posted 29 November 2009 - 09:56 PM


Basically what this understanding of the Incarnation amounts to is the belief that the Son of God does purposefully distance Himself from the Father at the Incarnation. This is partly the result of how human and created nature is sinful. But it is also as a sign of the self-humiliation of the Son away from the Father and towards humanity; of the 'solidarity' of Christ with weak humanity. In other words this 'laying aside' or 'covering over' to some extent of His divinity is taken as the very sign of His kenosis, of His love for mankind.

In Christ- Fr Raphael


Before starting to read more widely in the patrisitcs I could say with Brian I never really worried about how the Trinity was constituted. However, looking back at what was involved in what I believed, I would say that the idea of Christ's kenosis I absorbed from the Protestant tradition is what you say here. Christ laying aside some of His powers and glory, giving up the beauty of heaven, giving up some or all of the intimacy and union in His relationship with the Father, etc.

Rereading Philip 2:5-8

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross!


with more of an Orthodox mindset, I notice that the emphasis in these verses is not what Christ gives up, it focuses on what He takes on - servanthood, human likeness (human condition), obedience (really a struggle for obedience due to taking on a body. Obedience before the incarnation was not a struggle), and suffering. And yet He takes these on while still being in very nature God.

What is an Orthodox view of Christ's kenosis? Obviously it goes beyond a moral act of selflessness, and involves the power of God to raise up humanity, but I think there are still things that are not sliding into place.

I think that there are very practical issues here for our salvation also. If our attitude is to be the same as Jesus Christ.... then it is important for us to see what the Son was doing... otherwise we end up imitating something Christ is not, rather then striving toward a true image of who Christ is and what He is doing.

#51 Olga

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 07:20 AM

This is but one snippet from Anna's post:

Even while here on earth, having taken on human form and having been made a little lower then the angels, He did not cease to be still upholding and sustaining the universe. His humanity is something added to His divinity, He did not cease in any way to be what He was before in becoming man.


This teaching can be distilled further. Here's a magnificat verse from ode 9 of the canon for the feast of the Meeting of the Lord; the "old man" referred to is Righteous Symeon, who, with awe and joy at the fulfilment of the prophecy he had received many years before, took the Christ-child in his arms when He was presented in the Temple:

It is not the old man who holds Me, but I uphold him; for he begs Me to let him depart.

A major theme of the Vigil service of this feast is the divine humanity of this Child. A look at the hymnody of this feast, and, indeed, of the other major feasts of the Lord should leave one in no doubt as to the equality of God the Son with His Father.

#52 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 03:13 PM

Anna Stickles wrote:

What is an Orthodox view of Christ's kenosis? Obviously it goes beyond a moral act of selflessness, and involves the power of God to raise up humanity, but I think there are still things that are not sliding into place.


I believe that this is taken up by the continual use of the word 'condescension' by the Fathers. This means the adoption of humanity in its fullness by Christ save for sin. The word though also implies a certain mercy & humbling by Christ towards mankind as part of God's pre-eternal providence through the Incarnation for our sake.

Condescension however does not mean the laying aside by Christ of His divinity at the Incarnation. As the service texts for Nativity make clear, Christ comes in humility in taking on the human condition. But simultaneously the glory of His divinity shines through this very same 'taking on' of our humanity.

This is why regardless of the variety of traditions in regards to the manner of the divine/human unity of Christ (eg Alexandrian, Antiochian, Latin) there was always with the Fathers a universal emphasis on the continuity of the divinity of the Incarnate Christ.

In Christ- Fr Raphael

#53 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 05:19 PM

What is an Orthodox view of Christ's kenosis? Obviously it goes beyond a moral act of selflessness, and involves the power of God to raise up humanity, but I think there are still things that are not sliding into place.


I think we might be underestimating the power of Christ’s “moral act of selflessness,” perhaps because we are still thinking of His example in Western terms, as mere model of good behavior and not as a revelation about God and man — perhaps also because, with the West, we are not putting the Incarnation into historical perspective and are therefore missing what it meant “in the fullness of time” — both at that time and for all time.

Please forgive the length of the following. It’s an excerpt from the final chapter of a book I am finishing on salvation, which seems especially relevant to the issue at hand:

Christianity is a historical religion, a faith based on actual historical events, and yet none of these [Western] doctrines of divine atonement for human sin makes any attempt to explain the Gospel of Christ within its historical context. They all regard Christ’s saving work as a cosmic event, without reference to the hopelessness of the ancients, the failure of their philosophy, or the work of early Christian apologists in relating the Incarnation to the predicament of their day.

Before the preaching of the Gospel, the ancients felt entrapped both within and without by forces beyond their control. Externally, they were subjects of fate, pawns to the unseen, unknowable, unsympathetic powers of the universe; internally, they were slaves to the body, dominated by its desires, persecuted by its passions, and frighted by its fears. The leading philosophies of the era were of little comfort. Platonism held out only the slightest hope that through supreme effort a man might eventually escape the slavery of the body, though perhaps only after many incarnations, while Stoicism sought only relief from perplexity and strife through hopeless resignation to whatever happens — and if that failed, suicide. Neither of these alternatives provided much support for enduring pain and death for the sake of goodness and truth. Neither, in fact, provided much sense of what goodness and truth are and mean to mortal men.

In contrast, early Christian apologists confidently proclaimed the optimism of natural goodness and freedom of will. St. Ignatius, martyred in 107, writes in his epistle to the Magnesians, “If anyone is truly religious, he is a man of God; but if he is irreligious, he is a man of the devil, made such, not by nature, but by his own choice.” St. Justin the Philosopher, martyred in 166, writes that “unless the human race have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions, of whatever kind they be.” St. Irenaeus writes around 180: “But if some had been made by nature bad, and others good, these latter would not be deserving of praise for being good, for they were created that way. Nor would the former be reprehensible, for that is how they were made. However, all men are of the same nature. They are all able to hold fast and to do what is good. On the other hand, they have the power to cast good from them and not to do it.” Clement of Alexandria writes around 195, “It is by one’s own fault that he does not choose what is best. God is free of blame.” Tertullian writes around 210, “As to fortune, it is man’s freedom of will.” Origen writes around 245, “The Scriptures. . . emphasize the freedom of the will. They condemn those who sin, and approve those who do right. . . . For it is not the nature in us that is the cause of the evil; rather, it is the voluntary choice that works evil.” Likewise all true teachers of the Gospel have maintained in every age that man is not bad by nature or doomed by fate, but free to sin or not sin.

The choice to sin, however, carries consequences. In choosing to sin, man turns his back on God, willfully separating himself from his source of light and life, the objective Other to whom he owes his being. Thus separated, man withers and dies. Thus separated, man can no longer see things rightly and often mistakes evil for good. He loses sight of spiritual reality and is left with only the material reality of the five senses, which can only tell him of his own pain and pleasure. The free-willing man who wishes not to sin must therefore struggle against his senses to do good. The Apostle Paul speaks of this struggle as a conflict between the flesh and the spirit pitting his mind against his members: “I delight in the law of God after the inward man, but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” (Romans 7:22-24) In contrast, the free-willing man who wishes to sin relies solely on his senses to direct him and acts against his higher nature to obtain what he wrongly thinks is good. He lives in fear of pain and death and strives against his brother to escape them, inflicting upon his brother the pain and death he himself fears. He makes a habit of his bad behavior, accustoming himself to his errors while ignoring other options, thereby becoming a slave to sin. Then, feeling that he has no choice but to sin, he blames nature, fate, his fellow man, or God.

But God is not to blame, for God has made man good. God indeed has made man very good. (Gen. 1:31) Man alone has made a mess of things. Man alone is responsible for his fallen situation and sinful condition — the anti-natural consequences of his freely chosen isolation.

The empirical proof of this is Jesus Christ. Only in Christ does man again catch a glimpse of God and of his own true nature. For Christ was fully human, sharing with us the same human nature and enduring like us the needs and desires of both mind and body, knowing pain and pleasure as well as joy and fear. He was a man in all respects like us, with one exception: He was not estranged from God. In Him, one personal instance of human being kept its proper place next to God and so became all that it was meant to be — sinless, immortal, and divine. Nothing human held Him back. Nothing that we are by nature — and therefore cannot help but be — kept Him from living perfectly and sinlessly. What is more, nothing Christ did is beyond human nature when the person bearing that nature it is likewise one with God.

In uniting divine nature with human nature, Christ reconciles God with man — divinity with humanity — actually in Himself and potentially in every man. For every man who so chooses can regain a knowledge of God through the preaching of the Gospel and the sharing of Christian communion. Only with that knowledge can any one of us become what we were meant by nature to be, for by nature we were meant to live with God and like God. Thus we may say with St. Maximus the Confessor that Christ “reestablished human nature in conformity with itself,” this time with a fuller knowledge of God informed by the revelation of God’s own self-giving nature, a glory withheld from all the saints who came before Christ. For only after the Incarnation could the living and the dead know the self-giving God; only then could the faithful patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament be “made perfect.” (Heb. 11:40) “For in no other way,” St. Irenaeus writes, “could we have learned the things of God, unless our Master, existing as the Word, had become man. For no other being had the power of revealing to us the things of the Father, except His own proper Word.”

The revelation is both theological and anthropological: Man is shown a sight of the self-giving God, who does not demand sacrifice but gives of Himself not only to redeem the world, but also to create and perfect it; at the same time, man is shown a sight of a truly holy and Godlike man — man as he is meant to be.

For the revelation to work, Christ had to be both fully God and fully man. He had to be fully God for God to be revealed as self-giving; He had to be fully man for man to be revealed as capable of God-likeness. If Christ were not fully God, God would still appear to man as a distant deity who demands obedience and requires propitiation; if He were not fully man, man would still appear incapable of holiness and not called to Godlike self-giving. For this reason, the Church has jealously guarded both Christ’s divinity and Christ’s humanity, as any compromise on either point would cripple the Christian Gospel:

1. If Christ is not God, then God is an unknowable Other who demands of us what he himself does not do.
2. If Christ is not God, then goodness is purely arbitrary — a mere matter of obedience to God’s arbitrary will.
3. If Christ is not God, then God himself is not good because he obeys no one, humbles himself before no one, gives of himself to no one.
4. If Christ is not God, then to be godlike is to be aloof, imperious, and unloving.

Many gods men have worshiped are just such gods — distant, unknowable, inhuman, arbitrary, handing down laws for men to obey, demanding sacrifice but never demonstrating it. The Allah of Islam is such a god. He is utterly unlike man. He deals with man only through his prophet, who passes on his edicts. What Allah wants from us is not love for each other or imitation of him; what Allah wants from us is submission. The word Islam means just that — submission. Allah doesn’t set an example for us to follow; he creates creatures and expects them to suffer and die for him, but he never returns the favor. That’s the god you get if Christ is not God.

Equally important to the ancients was the man you get if Christ is not man. The more pious, more moral, more philosophical pagans were greatly tempted to despise material existence, embarrassed as they were by the body’s irrational impulses and physical weakness. Their piety, morality, and reason could have been forces for good in the world, but their contempt for the material inclined them toward a fatalistic detachment from the world and a selfish focus on their own spiritual escape. At the same time, less pious, less moral, less philosophical pagans believed that goodness was for the gods and that man could hardly resist much less be blamed for doing what comes naturally to the body. To both, it therefore mattered whether Christ was also fully man:

1. If Christ is not man, then man can blame human nature, human genetics, human hormones, human frailty, human disease, or the human predicament for his sinfulness, as people today very often do.
2. If Christ is not man, then man can still complain that human weakness makes following Christ’s example impossible and “what would Jesus do” irrelevant.
3. If Christ is not man, then man is but a beast, barely above other beasts despite his superior intelligence and hardly worthy of divine adoption as a co-heir with Christ.
4. If Christ is not man, then His Resurrection was just what we might expect from God, but not something we should expect for man.

Other religions have their avatars. Even the gods of the Greeks and Romans were said to sometimes walk about in human guise. But no mere appearance of a god in human guise can reveal anything about what it means to actually be human or inspire in humans a life that we can fairly call divine. In all such religions, there remains a great divide between the spiritual and the material, with dispassionate divinity on one side and passionate humanity on the other. Only the Incarnation of Christ bridges that divide, revealing that neither the body nor human nature nor the material world are unfit habitations for God. Christ’s demonstration of divine approval sanctifies human nature and the material world in the minds of men, preparing them for salvation not, says St. Irenaeus, “by a casting away of the flesh, but by the impartation of the Spirit.”

That’s the best answer I can give at the moment to the question of salvation and theosis. Your thoughts are welcome.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick

#54 Anna Stickles

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 09:28 PM

Dn Patrick
You asked for my thoughts, but I am afraid that there is a lot in this that does not really seem to reflect the Orthodoxy that I have been learning in my study of the fathers.

But God is not to blame, for God has made man good. God indeed has made man very good. () Man alone has made a mess of things. Man alone is responsible for his fallen situation and sinful condition — the anti-natural consequences of his freely chosen isolation.


While it is true that God is not to blame, the fathers do not blame man alone, but rather Satan is given a significant part in the Fall. This is something that particularly struck me when I started reading some of the fathers because this was new to me.

"From then on (after the Fall) the irrational element became imbedded in the soul, developed with the soul, and, as it happened at the very beginning gave every appearance of being an essential element of the soul. .... We are in danger of attributing irrationality to God ... if we say that irrationality is natural to the soul. Now the impulse to sin proceeds from the Devil and since all sin is irrational, the irrational therefore proceeds from the Devil whence comes sin." (Tertullian, On The Soul, 16.1)

"Besides the evil that mars the soul as a result of the machinations of the Devil, still another evil has previously affected it, and this is in a certain sense natural to it, since it flows from its origin. As we have said, the corruption of nature is second nature, one which has its own god and father, namely the author of all corruption. (41.1)"


Consider the subtlety of what Tertullian is saying here about 'natural goodness'. Taking your statements in the context offered in your post, what Tertullian means by 'natural goodness' is not the same as what you are implying when you say

In contrast, early Christian apologists confidently proclaimed the optimism of natural goodness and freedom of will.


It seems to me that your presentation borders on a Pelagian optimism and does not really make clear the dire straights we are in after the Fall. Your presentation does not seem to take into consideration the weakening of human will that happened due to our separation from God, nor the 'poison' that entered into human nature as St Gregory Palamas explains more in detail below.

In the beginning, there was one who rose up against us: the author of evil, the serpent, who dragged us into the abyss. Many reasons impelled him to rise up against us, and there are many ways by which he enslaved our nature: envy, rivalry, hatred, injustice, treachery, slyness, etc. In addition to all this, he also has within him the power of bringing death, which he himself engendered, being the first to fall away from true life.

The author of evil was jealous of Adam, when he saw him being led from earth to Heaven, from which he was justly cast down. Filled with envy, he pounced upon Adam with a terrible ferocity, and even wished to clothe him with the garb of death. Envy is not only the begetter of hatred, but also of murder, which this truly man-hating serpent brought about in us. For he wanted to be master over the earth-born for the ruin of that which was created in the image and likeness of God. Since he was not bold enough to make a face to face attack, he resorted to cunning and deceit. This truly terrible and malicious plotter pretended to be a friend and useful adviser by assuming the physical form of a serpent, and stealthily took their position. By his God-opposing advice, he instills in man his own death-bearing power, like a venomous poison.

What seems clear here then is that while man is responsible for freely giving into the Devil's promptings, and thus voluntarily falling into sin, it is not man alone who has made a mess of things. Satan helped cause the mess in the first place and the Devil continues to perpetuate and make worse the mess in accordance with man's voluntary enslavement to Satan's will. As St Paul says, "You are a slave to that which you obey."

For every man who so chooses can regain a knowledge of God through the preaching of the Gospel and the sharing of Christian communion. Only with that knowledge can any one of us become what we were meant by nature to be, for by nature we were meant to live with God and like God.


In this quote you again seem to be implying a freedom of will that we do not have, and also a solution to the Fall that is not patristic.

I am not sure what you mean here by "Christian communion" but if what is meant is Christians in fellowship with one another then this is false. Hopefully what you mean here is communion with God through/within the sacramental reality of the Church. We are not a source of life for each other, and ultimately it is Life, not simply teaching and encouragement that we need.
Maybe I am misunderstanding you, but you seem to be implying that we can regain our unfallen nature simply through preaching and study. Nowhere do the fathers teach that we regain a knowledge of God through the preaching of the Gospel. Rather a true and saving knowledge of God comes through spiritual struggle and ascesis. As St Gregory says in the next paragraph after the one I quoted above.

If Adam had been sufficiently strong to keep the divine commandment, then he would have shown himself the vanquisher of his enemy, and withstood his deathly attack. But since he voluntarily gave in to sin, he was defeated and was made a sinner. Since he is the root of our race, he has produced us as death-bearing shoots. So, it was necessary for us, if he were to fight back against his defeat and to claim victory, to rid himself of the death-bearing venomous poison in his soul and body, and to absorb life, eternal and indestructible life.


As St Gregory says, the only way to get rid of the poison is struggle against Satan's machinations and the forces of death and sin that have so thoroughly infected us. Through ascetical struggle, step by step, the mind is cleared of it's darkness, of the effects of this poison, in a way that mere preaching cannot do. Step by step, our will regains its strength such that those who reach a high level of spiritual maturity attain a state where their will, in accordance with the degree of their union with God, is stronger then Satan and he no longer has the power to hold them captive. The immature or carnal Christian is still a puppet and not free at all, and even the moderately spiritual Christian is often overcome and pulled into sin.

To repeat, the Christian message is that we need far more then merely a moral example or knowledge in the form of words for our salvation - we need a Life-Giver. St Gregory goes on to explain the Incarnation, not in terms of a moral revelation or an empirical proof, but as a life-restoring reality. It is only through the Incarnation that we gain the power to enter into the struggle to cast off our voluntary enslavement.

It was necessary for us to have a new root for our race, a new Adam, not just one Who would be sinless and invincible, but one Who also would be able to forgive sins and set free from punishment those subject to it. And not only would He have life in Himself, but also the capacity to restore to life, so that He could grant to those who cleave to Him and are related to Him by race both life and the forgiveness of their sins, restoring to life not only those who came after Him, but also those who already had died before Him. Therefore, St Paul, that great trumpet of the Holy Spirit, exclaims, "the first man Adam was made a living soul, the last Adam was made a quickening spirit" (1 Cor. 15:45).

Except for God, there is no one who is without sin, or life-creating, or able to remit sin. Therefore, the new Adam must be not only Man, but also God. He is at the same time life, wisdom, truth, love, and mercy, and every other good thing, so that He might renew the old Adam and restore him to life through mercy, wisdom and righteousness. These are the opposites of the things which the author of evil used to bring about our aging and death.

As the slayer of mankind raised himself against us with envy and hatred, so the Source of life was lifted up [on the Cross] because of His immeasurable goodness and love for mankind. He intensely desired the salvation of His creature, i.e., that His creature would be restored by Himself. In contrast to this, the author of evil wanted to bring God's creature to ruin, and thereby put mankind under his own power, and tyrannically to afflict us. And just as he achieved the conquest and the fall of mankind by means of injustice and cunning, by deceit and his trickery, so has the Liberator brought about the defeat of the author of evil, and the restoration of His own creature with truth, justice and wisdom.

It was a deed of perfect justice that our nature, which was voluntarily enslaved and struck down, should again enter the struggle for victory and cast off its voluntary enslavement. Therefore, God deigned to receive our nature from us, hypostatically uniting with it in a marvelous way. (DISCOURSE ON THE FEAST OF THE ENTRY OF OUR MOST PURE LADY THEOTOKOS INTO THE HOLY OF HOLIES by Saint Gregory Palamas, Archbishop of Thessalonica


Fr Raphael mentioned that it is not Orthodox to focus on Christ's incarnation mainly as a moral act; But neither is it Orthodox to focus on the Incarnation as a moral revelation. For the Fathers, the Incarnation is far more then an empirical revelation of God's selflessness and love, which seems to be the main point you are trying to make here.

Edited by Father David Moser, 30 November 2009 - 09:42 PM.
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#55 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 30 November 2009 - 11:07 PM

Thank you, Anna, for letting me try this on you. I do indeed think you misunderstand me, much in the way that St. Augustine misunderstood St. John Cassian, the "semipelagian." By "Christian communion," I mean THE Christian communion, which is the Church, the Body of Christ, through which we received through the Holy Spirit the mystical power and grace necessary for our salvation, first of all in the partaking of the Body and Blood.

But we are not saved only by ascetic struggle and mysteries we cannot understand; we are also saved by revelation, by real wisdom, indeed by Wisdom — that is, Christ, Who is Life, as you say, but also Light. It is Christ who reveals to us the loving and giving character of the Father, being the "express image of his person." (Heb. 1:3) We should not therefore diminish that Image by dismissing it as "merely a moral example." It is a revelation of immense proportion, but for the revelation to work we must believe that Christ was both God and man, and not merely a good man.

The problem with the West is that it pins so much of our salvation on the "substitionary sacrifice" that the only way to view the rest of Christ's life is as mere moral example, "mere" because in Western soteriology our salvation is accomplished by the sacrifice, not by the whole Incarnation.

Unfortunately, the Orthodox sometimes make a similar mistake, taking too literally the many poetic metaphors used by the Apostles and Fathers to impress upon us the significance of a great mystery. Thus one sometimes hears Orthodox pastors and writers giving an essentially platonic explanation of salvation, according to which Christ mystically fixes human nature by merely assuming it. If that's the case, why do we still need ascetic struggle? And wouldn't everyone then be saved?

What I have attempted to do, with difficulty, is get behind the metaphor and explain what can be explained. The result in no way contradicts anything of the fathers you have cited. It merely understands them in a different way. I think a different way is needed. I think we need to truly understand Christ and not just keep repeating patristic poetry about "poison" to ourselves.

I do believe there are very real devils, though I believe they possess only the power of temptation, which Adam could not resist because he had not yet seen how much God would do to save him. That knowledge is power indeed.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick

Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 01 December 2009 - 12:04 AM.


#56 David Lindblom

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Posted 19 December 2009 - 04:18 AM

Please forgive the length of the following. It’s an excerpt from the final chapter of a book I am finishing on salvation, which seems especially relevant to the issue at hand:


Well now, that's begging the question...when will this book be published? Have a title yet?

#57 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 19 December 2009 - 10:38 AM

I've noticed that Protestants call our Saviour 'Jesus' while we call Him 'Christ': that reflects something of the difference in thinking, perhaps.

#58 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 19 December 2009 - 01:49 PM

Well now, that's begging the question...when will this book be published? Have a title yet?


Sorry to be a tease, but I did want to try something out and Anna's response was very helpful. The working title is TRUTH OR TRIBE: An Uncompromising Contrast of the Christian Gospel and the Way of the World.

No publisher yet, and I won't begin for another month, so it won't likely be out for another year. This is my fifth book, by the way. My most recent book, EIGHT WAYS TO RUN THE COUNTRY, was published by Praeger in 2006.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick

Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 19 December 2009 - 02:29 PM.


#59 David Lindblom

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Posted 19 December 2009 - 06:45 PM

Sorry to be a tease, but I did want to try something out and Anna's response was very helpful. The working title is TRUTH OR TRIBE: An Uncompromising Contrast of the Christian Gospel and the Way of the World.

No publisher yet, and I won't begin for another month, so it won't likely be out for another year. This is my fifth book, by the way. My most recent book, EIGHT WAYS TO RUN THE COUNTRY, was published by Praeger in 2006.

In Christ, Dn. Patrick


Look forward to it. I did like your take on one aspect of Christ coming in the fullness of time and how it contrasts what the world was experiencing.

Off topic question, what does it mean to be a Father and a Deacon? That seems odd to me.

#60 Anna Stickles

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Posted 19 December 2009 - 07:13 PM

If that's the case, why do we still need ascetic struggle? And wouldn't everyone then be saved?

Sorry it's taken me awhile to get back to this, but I think that you are not understanding what the Fathers present in terms of the relation of the individual person to our human nature as a whole. Yes Christ assumed all of human nature but this doesn't guarantee the salvation of every individual because every individual still has their own freedom to participate in or reject what Christ did.

In freely accepting Christ we become fully human, we participate in that redeemed humanity. In closing ourselves off from Christ through agreeing with and accepting defensiveness, anger, and the other passions, we become, are becoming, something less then fully human. We are rejecting our own nature, and hence destroying ourselves as well as negatively effecting those around us on a spiritual level. You noted Orthodoxy does not have a substitutionary paradigm but what it does have is a participatory paradigm and we have to learn to look at our relation to God and ourselves this way to truly understand the Fathers.

BTW maybe I am being nitpicky and maybe not, but I think the scriptures say that we are saved by grace, not by revelation. Revelation is an indication of the presence of grace. Grace enlightens the mind. Ascetic struggle helps to develop in us the prerequisite disposition to receive grace. Grace is what brings about the restoration of our relation with the rest of humanity as well as the restoration with God.

by "resoration with humanity" I don't mean we are all externally at peace with each other, but I am refering to a restoration, a communion, on a more intimate and spiritual level. You can't just dismiss the mystics as writing "patristic poetry". They are speaking of real experiences where the barriers that we experience in our fallen state do not exist. Read some of the modern elders. It makes you realize we are mostly living in the 'old man' and how far short we ourselves are of living in the restoration that God offers us in Christ.




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