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Fallen nature un-Patristic?


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#21 Owen Jones

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 03:30 PM

Man's animalic passions are part of the problem.  The Fathers recognize this.  But I think Orthodoxy goes a little bit beyond that.  There is indeed a corruption in human nature, or call it a dysfunction if you prefer to use modernist terminology.  There is much reference in the Fathers to ascetical exercises which restore the body/mind/soul complex to its proper (created) harmonious state of functioning.  Then it goes beyond that because Orthodoxy deals therapeutically with the problem of sin, through catharsis and teaching us how to live continuously in a state of repentance.  In so doing we are deified. 

 

The doctrine of deification is always, however, couched within limits -- spiritual perfection is always a progression, and always limited to the extent to which it is possible to attain perfection while still in a physical body.  Does this make us gnostic, with some kind of dualistic relationship between the physical and spiritual?  Heaven forbid! 

 

Also, there is the teaching on the nous.  Everyone is born with a soul, but the nous is something that has to be developed.  And some people are just more spiritually receptive and sensitive than others. Why is it that some are receptive and others -- good people in fact -- are not?  We don't know.   Then you have the problem of history, which seems to have a spiritual life of its own.  There are ages in which the vast majority of people become spiritually deadened.  So, what you have in Orthodoxy is a reticence to over define things.  Again, we rely on symbols and images to convey spiritual truths, because we recognize that you cannot nail the problems of evil, sin and death in purely propositional terms.  The images are employed to assist us in identifying who and what we are so that we are not deluded into thinking that our existence and our problems are unique to our selves.  And then we have a set of practical, healing protocols that are designed to change our very nature.   

 

I think this statement sums it up: 
 

If Orthodoxy is presented and provided like a Christianity
that does not heal (even though its chief role is healing), then how is it
different to a superstition?



 



#22 Anna Stickles

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 04:13 PM

OK, that makes sense. I suppose I just need to nail down the explanation for why sin is universal, if we are not actually born with it. The only explanation that makes sense is that since the first transgression affected our first parents, we are exposed to sin from our birth. Even if sin is not integral to our nature, it has been around since the Fall, and therefore has an effect on everyone as they grow up. Adam's sin darkened his mind, and that engendered more sin, which then affected the environment of Cain, and so on. Because sin is not innate, however, individuals can choose to resist this environment of sin, e.g. Abel.

 

Well we are born with sin as Psalm 50 says...  "in sins did my mother bear me".  But we are not born with a nature completely changed into something that has had all ability to be or know good stripped from it.  Sorry if I implied something different above.

 

Sin is universal because we all share the same nature, and while this nature was not completely changed into something different at the fall it has been seriously effected such that being separated from the source of life, we are experiencing  mortality/weakness/instability in the ability to be what we are created to be, and also are much more open to the damaging influences of Satan. These are things  which due to our weakened state,  we can do nothing about apart from God's grace revitalizing us and restoring within us His life, wisdom, love, light, and all the other aspects of His own image.

 

This is why we need to be partaking of the sacraments, because this is our participation in the humanity of Christ which is not effected by the Fall .... but our partaking is a cooperation of our will with His grace, pitted against deeply engrained habits of mind and heart.

 

St Theophan describes all these influences and the effect of grace.


Edited by Anna Stickles, 05 March 2013 - 04:27 PM.


#23 Anna Stickles

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 05:02 PM

Another thing that has helped me to connect with the universal nature of sin is to realize that we don't exist as individual, completely isolated instances of human nature. One often hears the modern elders talk about the fact that we are all connected.  Our thoughts and emotions are not isolated inside ourselves but effect the whole. 

 

Thus we hear things like St Seraphim saying if we attain peace thousands around us will be saved. Through our common nature this peace is communicated.  And Elder Thaddeus of Serbia and Elder Paisios of Athos warning people how our bad thoughts and feelings can create a bad atmosphere and negatively influence other people around us, and likewise our goodwill and and good thoughts can help not only ourselves but others improve.



#24 Lakis Papas

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 08:15 PM

OK, that makes sense. I suppose I just need to nail down the explanation for why sin is universal, if we are not actually born with it. The only explanation that makes sense is that since the first transgression affected our first parents, we are exposed to sin from our birth. Even if sin is not integral to our nature, it has been around since the Fall, and therefore has an effect on everyone as they grow up. Adam's sin darkened his mind, and that engendered more sin, which then affected the environment of Cain, and so on. Because sin is not innate, however, individuals can choose to resist this environment of sin, e.g. Abel.

 

 

Romans 7
 
Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives? For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.  So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.  Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another—to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.  For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.  But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.
 
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead.  I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.  And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death.  For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.  Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good.
 
Has then what is good become death to me? Certainly not! But sin, that it might appear sin, was producing death in me through what is good, so that sin through the commandment might become exceedingly sinful.  For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.  For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.  If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good.  But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.  For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.  For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.  Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
 
I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.  For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.  O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
 
So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.

Edited by Lakis Papas, 05 March 2013 - 08:16 PM.


#25 Edith M. Humphrey

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Posted 05 March 2013 - 08:49 PM

Jonathan, Romans 5, misread in the West (which read the Latin in quo as "in whom" instead of "in that") suggests that the reason we almost inevitably sin is that death (the process of death, corruption, not just the fact of it) is in the world, making its impact on all of us.  In that sense, the nature is fallen (as the fathers attest): this is not the same as saying that we have INHERITED guilt. To use what remains a helpful western term (in my mind), we have lost the "original justice" or balance in our natures--body at emnity with mind, mind with will, etc. etc., and so sin is the most likely result.  So, it's not just a matter of societal or parental influence (though the dissolution of social relations is part of death) but also of our own nature, how we work within, so to speak.  We are playing with half a deck :D and so are bound to lose.  But it is still WE who lose, not Adam, and then we are unjustly punished for his (and Eve's) primordial action.

 

Here is the verse at issue:

Romans 5:12

Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all humans because all sinned --

 

(Vulgate) Romans 5:12

propterea sicut per unum hominem in hunc mundum peccatum intravit et per peccatum mors et ita in omnes homines mors pertransiit in quo omnes peccaverunt

(The "in quo" was interpreted as "In whom" (i.e. in Adam all sinned)

 

But the Greek reads:

evfV w-| pa,ntej h[marton\  Eph ho--"because of which" all sinned. 

 

Notice the progression.  Sin comes into the world, death follows, and then death spread because all sin.

There is a corporate dimension to this, but the personal responsibility of each of us who sins is not obliterated, nor the justice of God.

 

Of course, it doesn't hinge all on one verse, but this reading of the Vulgate, coupled with Augustine's views on original sin, were influential to the extreme in the West, and made an impact on both Catholic and Protestant views of sin and the atonement.



#26 Jonathan Gress

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 12:47 AM

So do people think Fr Irinei Steenberg was perhaps a little careless in dismissing the idea of fallen nature? St Paul in Romans 5 certainly suggests that our propensity to sin is part of our inherited nature.



#27 Edith M. Humphrey

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 01:40 AM

My sense is that he was over-accentuating the distinction between East and West in this matter.  There is a difference, but it is more subtle than the distinction that you have cited from him. I recently did a bit of work on this, in writing a paper for OTSA on 2 Cor 5:21, and discovered that among contemporary Orthodox, Metropolitan Kallistos Ware  suggests a  way of understanding this that  is consonant with many of the ancient fathers: he, and many of them deliberately reject original guilt while understanding that Jesus lived, with us,  “under the conditions of the fall.” Typically, Eastern theologians show reluctance  to speak about anything as inherited from Adam/Eve except corruptibility and a context that favors transgression. 

 

And, now for a bit of speculation:

We might ask whether it makes sense to speak about "fallen nature" as a thing in itself.  Human nature, as originally created by God after the image of God, was to grow into the divine likeness. It bore the image of God and derived its reality and substance, plus its potential, from Him.  We use the phrase "fallen nature", but this may just be a  way of saying that the human race has undergone a kind of serious deficidt, or detour through sin and death, a deficit that if not resolved, will cause us to lose all.  Christ's taking on our all that we are, save for sin, rectifies the fallen situation; his taking on of our humanity also is the means by which we grow into the divine image, eventually coming to the complete state that God intended for us.  In this sense, our fallenness is a privation of what we are meant to be, not a nature or thing in itself.  And, it may be (this is sheer theologoumenon, as some of the above may be as well), that the Son was always meant to assume our human nature, in order to bring about our theosis, but that the means of his doing so would not have included suffering or crucifixion, had we not fallen.  I think. 



#28 Anna Stickles

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 03:32 AM

So do people think Fr Irinei Steenberg was perhaps a little careless in dismissing the idea of fallen nature? St Paul in Romans 5 certainly suggests that our propensity to sin is part of our inherited nature.

One can see the reference to our fallen nature in such sentences as this, "Yet, as a third characteristic, this same hymn stresses that the state of estrangement from the Father and His blessings is unnatural. ‘All to no purpose have I left my true home’. The true lot of human life is union with God: the departure into sin remains always and ever unnatural, counter to the authentic state of creation."  and also how he talks about our madness and how the exile is a captivity. All of this refers to the condition of our fallen nature.

 

However, he is focusing on the particular nature of our sinful condition as an exile, a separation from God.  He is not denying that we have a fallen nature, but rather asking us to look beyond the symptoms, the consequences of the fall  - our bad habits, and acceptance of sin as something normal or even good - to the real cause of our depravity - our prodigalness in relation to God. It is because we have left our true home that we suffer from a captivity to sin, not simply because of a change in nature that we have no control over.  

 

It provides a proper focus for the journey of Lent in that the purpose of our asceticism is not  to fix ourselves or change our condition, but rather our goal is to repent of how we have abandoned God and wasted his blessings, and turn our mind and heart toward going home and being reunited with our Father.


Edited by Anna Stickles, 06 March 2013 - 03:40 AM.


#29 Jonathan Gress

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 05:49 PM

That makes sense. "Fallen nature" is really a symptom, not a cause. If it were the cause, there wouldn't be anything we could do about it. If the cause is our prodigality, then we can easily fix that through repentance and confession.



#30 Anna Stickles

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 06:43 PM

That makes sense. "Fallen nature" is really a symptom, not a cause. If it were the cause, there wouldn't be anything we could do about it. If the cause is our prodigality, then we can easily fix that through repentance and confession.

Well as St Andrew's canon and many other Orthodox writings show us, I think repentance is not so easy. At least not the kind of repentance that genuinely brings about significant spiritual change in our disposition.   But, yes, if it were a matter of nature we would not have the personal responsibility to struggle toward a transformation. 



#31 Jonathan Gress

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 07:06 PM

Yes, I shouldn't have said "easy". Or it's something that should be easy: what's physically demanding about confessing your sins and repenting? As we all know, in fact psychologically it's extremely difficult.



#32 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 06 March 2013 - 07:44 PM

I think it worth mentioning that "we" don't "fix" anything. We can't do anything without Christ. What we do is allow Christ to fix us through a life lived in Him.



#33 Fabio Lins

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 06:06 PM

How far has fallen nature affected the natural world as well?

 

 I ask that because I'm under the impression that somehow Man's fall has affected the physical world as well. Just like we were created good but we've got the bruises of mortality - healed by Christ in His Resurrection - nature as well was created good and sharing on something of that original imortality and it lost it with us. Thus the universe itself would die if Jesus did not return before that. And thus the clear "enemity" of nature toward living beings. Nature is pretty much hostile towards life, which, to our knowledge exist just in the oceans and around the thin outer layer of one small planet. And yet, many of our own geological and climate changes could very rapidly extinguish life.

 

I call it the "Broken Nature" theory. Created good, but with cracks. Many phenomena rely on non-existant numbers (i for example) and it surely doesn't "behave" like one would expect Nature in Paradise. Part of the Second Coming would be precisely about recreating, or healing the universe towards a Paradisiac-like state.

 

Is that too far from the Fathers in your opinion?



#34 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 18 April 2013 - 06:28 PM

I think this is exactly in accord with the Patristic mindset and the teaching of the Church. We are not simply "saving" ourselves, we are participating in the act of reclaiming, of "saving" ALL of Creation as well!




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