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Do Christians have an old nature?


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#21 Aidan Kimel

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Posted 10 April 2011 - 09:51 PM

Fr. Alvin,

In a nutshell, my husband is not a Calvinist in any way, shape or form. He doesn't subscribe to the TULIP, doesn't believe in imputed righteousness, nor the Calvinist rendering of predestination.

In the conversation with my priest, my husband was bending over backwards to explain what he meant by old nature. He redefined the term in several ways, i.e.: passions, the flesh, old man, etc. With that said, I realize that it isn't natures that sin per se, but persons.

Honestly, I think my husband (I'll include myself here too) is just trying to get a grasp on the following from an Orthodox perspective:

1. What does it mean to be human and how is our humanness/humanity effected by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit?
2. How is the battle against the passions of the flesh waged and how are we victorious in this battle?.
3. What role does the mind play in this ascetic struggle?
4. What role does the heart play in this ascetic struggle?
5. What role does the will play in this ascetic struggle?
6. How does one know if they are living according to the flesh?
7. How does one know if they are living according to the spirit?
8. How does one gauge whether or not they are making progress or failing in the ascetic struggle?
9. What role does the Church play in helping us to succeed in the ascetic struggle?

I'm sure I have more questions but these are good for a start.


I am tempted to simply answer "yes" to all of your questions. :)

Question #1 is an interesting question. #2-#7 can only be answered by a life of prayer and ascetical struggle. All other answers are silly. #8 is easy: the sacramental and ascetical life of the Church.

#22 Kosta

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Posted 10 April 2011 - 10:06 PM

Baptism is what opens the individual to theosis and this is the path to perfection. In spiritual warfare the demons try even harder to knock down the pious christian, it gives them a thrill to see us sin moreso than a person of no faith. This is why we fast, this is why ascetism is emphasized, by self- denial we tame the passions of the flesh.

In the icon of the ladder of divine ascent some people are pulled down by demons, but the goal is not to be concerned with being knocked down but to strive to reach the next step upwards. In my copy of the ladder of divine ascent there is a copy in the intro of a homily delivered by Metropolitan Philaret, here is an excerpt:

"...As a christian gradually ascends the force of spiritual and ascetic labors lifts on high...Now if a christian, who is ascending upon this ladder of spiritual perfection by his struggles and ascetic labors, ceases from his works and ascetic toil, his soul will not remain in its former condition; but like a stone it will fall to the earth. More and more quickly will it drop until, finally , if the man does not come to his senses, it will cast him down into the very abyss of hell"

Paul is trying to get the ephesians back on track, theosis puts away the old man which is your former condition, bbut you may return to that condition once you stop striving. The ephesians fell back to earth and and the Holy Spirit given to them at baptism lied dormant. As Paul reminded Timothy, "Hence i remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a Spirit of timidity bbut a spirit of power and love and self control (2Tim1.6-7)

#23 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 10 April 2011 - 11:27 PM

Ok. I was just listening Fr. Thomas Hopko and he said, "You can't even overcome your own fallen will by your own power." - "With God All Things are Possible" on Speaking the Truth in Love.

So it seems this fallen will is part of our old man, a result of the sin of Adam. Yes?

#24 Paul Cowan

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 01:50 AM

Even St. Paul had to endure a thorn in his flesh. If God would not remove it even from him, why for us? If we have no struggles to win the race; what good is the prize? How much joy does an athlete get when he gives the competition his all and wins? versus the athlete whose competetitor abdicates the competition and the prize is just handed over to the "winner".

I prefer to HOPEFULLY hear our Lord say "well done good and faithful servant, enter into the kingdom prepared for you" rather than the other greeting.

Paul

#25 Archimandrite Irenei

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 02:39 AM

Dear Darlene and others,

I suspect Father Alvin is likely correct in identifying a gap of understanding in vocabulary across different religious cultures (whether or not one subscribes to a specific western confession). 'Old nature' is a heavily loaded term, and can be quite distinct from (and in some cases diametrically opposed to) 'old man'; and while Orthodoxy most definitively speaks of a struggle against 'the old man' (taken from the Scriptures), and even of 'our nature fallen in sin', this is done in an entirely different context than the chiefly western concept of a 'fallen nature' or 'old nature', which are concepts the Church rather emphatically rejects.

The idea that there are two distinct natural realities (physeis, 'natures') is expressly rejected in an Orthodox understanding. There is only one human nature (physis) which God has fashioned, and none of the machinations of human sin is able either to thwart the creation of this reality or bring about the 'creation' or existence of another. Only God is creator; even sin and evil are not 'creations' and have no 'nature' as such - they are but perversions of that which God has fashioned, through its misuse and severance from the will of God. The same is true of our human nature, which is always that physis created by God, and which has evil and corrupt dimensions only through its misuse, etc. Yet no amount of sin or misuse can create of it a different nature. So there is no ability in Orthodox thought of speaking of an 'old nature', if by this we mean some element of humanness that is fallen, corrupt, etc., at the natural level -- whether former or current.

The preference in our Orthodox writings to speak of the 'old man' emphasises this: the 'old man' is not a different man, but the same man as he formerly lived his life. Similarly, our hymnography and ascetical writings speaks very often of our nature having 'fallen in sin' -- not of a 'fallen nature', as some kind of independent reality, but as our one and only human nature having stumbled, fallen down, become abased. When Scripture and we speak of 'putting off the old man', we are not speaking of casting away some different nature, but of casting away a mode of living-out our true nature that has held it bound and shackled to sin.

INXC, Hieromonk Irenei

#26 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 04:24 AM

Dear Darlene and others,

I suspect Father Alvin is likely correct in identifying a gap of understanding in vocabulary across different religious cultures (whether or not one subscribes to a specific western confession). 'Old nature' is a heavily loaded term, and can be quite distinct from (and in some cases diametrically opposed to) 'old man'; and while Orthodoxy most definitively speaks of a struggle against 'the old man' (taken from the Scriptures), and even of 'our nature fallen in sin', this is done in an entirely different context than the chiefly western concept of a 'fallen nature' or 'old nature', which are concepts the Church rather emphatically rejects.

The idea that there are two distinct natural realities (physeis, 'natures') is expressly rejected in an Orthodox understanding. There is only one human nature (physis) which God has fashioned, and none of the machinations of human sin is able either to thwart the creation of this reality or bring about the 'creation' or existence of another. Only God is creator; even sin and evil are not 'creations' and have no 'nature' as such - they are but perversions of that which God has fashioned, through its misuse and severance from the will of God. The same is true of our human nature, which is always that physis created by God, and which has evil and corrupt dimensions only through its misuse, etc. Yet no amount of sin or misuse can create of it a different nature. So there is no ability in Orthodox thought of speaking of an 'old nature', if by this we mean some element of humanness that is fallen, corrupt, etc., at the natural level -- whether former or current.

The preference in our Orthodox writings to speak of the 'old man' emphasises this: the 'old man' is not a different man, but the same man as he formerly lived his life. Similarly, our hymnography and ascetical writings speaks very often of our nature having 'fallen in sin' -- not of a 'fallen nature', as some kind of independent reality, but as our one and only human nature having stumbled, fallen down, become abased. When Scripture and we speak of 'putting off the old man', we are not speaking of casting away some different nature, but of casting away a mode of living-out our true nature that has held it bound and shackled to sin.

INXC, Hieromonk Irenei


"I think I can, I think I can, I think I can" said the little choo choo train. I'm really trying to get this, but I think I must be thick-headed. Please point me to a good book, or article, etc. that simply explains this whole idea in palatable, baby-step terms. I have no doubt that I've been influenced by the Protestant way of thinking, but after 30 some years it's hard to break a habit, or in this case, a mindset.

Now I'm scratching my head wondering just what it is that I've been battling all these years if it isn't my old nature which btw, I consider to be the old man.

#27 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 04:48 AM

After reading the writing by Elder Joseph that Christina posted, I'm left wondering just what is the noetic will and the nous? I've read a few things and heard others try to explain it, but again, it didn't get through to me. :-(

This entire subject of resisting the passions, the ascetic struggle, putting off the old man, etc. concerns me greatly. Here's one reason why. This past March 27th was one year since I had been received into the Orthodox Church. For that one year, it was as if I were on Cloud Nine, growing in my faith, growing in love, peace, patience, joy, almost as if surrounded by a host of angels. Even my nonOrthodox husband said he had noticed a change in me for the better. However, since that day (March 27th), which was two weeks ago, I have been experiencing an onslaught of horrific passions and temptations to the point where I have become ill. (My skin has broken out in eczema, I have been nauseated, anxious, depressed, worried, emotional, troubled, dizzy, the list goes on.) I feel as though I am going to lose this battle and backslide altogether and become more wicked than I was even before I knew Christ. I feel as though I'm falling and I don't know how to stop it. I have never experienced anything quite like this with such intensity.

#28 Kosta

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 06:00 AM

The spiritual struggle is sometimes the most difficult during great lent and this is not due to coincidence. Ask your spiritual Father if you can read the ladder by John Climacus.

http://orthodoxwiki....f_Divine_Ascent

#29 Christina M.

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 11:15 AM

Dear Darlene,
'Nous' is a tough word to translate, and it can mean different things in different contexts. I think the easiest way to understand it when you're reading (if you want to keep it simple) is just to substitute the word "soul" for "nous" most of the time, and other times you might have to substitute it with the word "heart". Neither of these two words capture the entire definition of the "nous", but at least you can get by like that. For example, in the writing I posted earlier, where he said: "then the nous is freed from the passions", it works fine just to say "then the soul is freed from the passions." When he says "he noetically sees the truth," you could sufficiently substitute it like this: "he sees the truth with his soul" or "he sees the truth with his heart (which is the center of the soul)."

You don't have to completely understand the definition of "nous" to make spiritual progress. There's a humorous story of a holy elder on Mount Athos who was simple and illiterate, so he never read any spiritual books. He was in such a high spiritual state that he was having divine visions (theoria) frequently when he was praying during vigil at night. One day he heard a monk talking about the "nous", and he got curious. He went up to his spiritual father and asked him: "What is the nous?" He was over 70 years old at the time! So you see he became holy without ever knowing the definition of the nous.

I'm sorry to hear that you are having eczema and other problems. Eczema can cause a ton of stress to someone's life (depending on how bad it is), and it can make all the other problems much more difficult to handle.

#30 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 14 April 2011 - 07:27 PM

Darlene, has your husband consulted the original Greek? While I'm certainly not one to ever claim that Greek is inherently superior from a liturgetic perspective, when one is looking at a translation (and all English language Bibles are translations), it can be informative to look at the original language when there is difficulty understanding. No matter what your personal tastes might claim, the word used in the Greek is "anthropos", which means "man". Thus, the Epistle calls on us to put off the "old man", not the "old nature". Your husband, even though he might not be a Calvinist, outright, has been badly led astray by Evangelicalism. He still is making unwarranted presumptions. In Ephesians, we are taught to get rid of the "old man", and put in the "new man", not that we are purged of our former "nature" and given a new "nature".




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