Which Alternative is Evil?

“For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father.”

 John 10:17-18

44 Responses to Which Alternative is Evil?

  1. Lee,

    My choice of John 10 was based on what I think is apparent there, that Christ chooses between two alternatives, neither of which are evil. These alternatives are brought out later in other passages in Matthew’s gospel and earlier in John’s (6:38).

    I don’t think Christ was fearful for receiving the punishment for the sins of the world because I don’t think Christ suffered punishment. Strictly speaking I don’t think death is a punishment inflicted by God. As for the fear of death in Hebrews 2, see vv. 14-15

    “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

    In Romans 7, see v. 24. In the OT, did people have a relationship with God? Yes. Did they fear death? According to Heb 2 they did. Consequently the relationship with God is not the issue per se. The question is who has the power of death? The Patriarchs still had to wait till the victory of Christ when he led them free. (eph 4:8-10, 1 Pet 1:9-12, Heb 11:13)

    I don’t take propitiation to include the concept of imputation of righteousness. Of course I don’t take the biblical language to be speaking of imputing moral credit apart from the standing of the person. If I did, I would be Protestant. As for competent speakers of the Greek I would use people like Chrysostom, Basil, Athanasius, Cyril, etc.

    If you think that God’s justice doesn’t depend on creatures, why do you think someone has to get punished in your stead and your moral demerits transferred to this person and this person’s moral credit is transferred to you? Why can’t God be just and forgive without any retributive punishment? So yes, it seems like you affirm that God’s justice depends on external objects for its exercise.

    I don’t think Christ’s fulfillment of Ps 22 requires us to postulate a metaphysical separation in the Trinity. It simply requires Christ to undergo the fear of death in the face being handed over to unjust men. If you think that there is a metaphysical separation of the Trinity I can’t see how such a view wouldn’t be heretical by just about anyone’s standards. It implies Tri-theism.

    Your example doesn’t hold for the simple reason that all things are united via those passages to Christ and Christ is an eternal person so the relation is eternal and insoluble. If the Spirit’s indwelling is what you take to be deification a la 1 pet 1:4, do you think then that the Spirit is the divine nature?

  2. Lee,

    I had to read Synergy in Christ a couple of times, and now I’m reading more of St. Maximus’ writings that give me a bit more context. When I read Synergy again I’ll probably be surprised at how many gaps I still had the last time.

    I commented on “death is evil” in the “God and Death: A Non-Dialectical Relation” thread.

    It seems to me that the statement that unrepentant (I never brought up unchosen – we can leave that for another discussion!) people are evil and condemned to hell is simply Biblical: Romans 3:3-6.

    Even if you aren’t Calvinist and are in violent agreement : ) on free will, including Christ’s, my total depravity alarm goes off when you say some people are evil. That is a bit black and white for me. I am learning to see every person as being made in the image of God, yet covered by sin and ill. God provided the cure in Christ in His Church, so to the extent we freely comply with the cure, the healthier we become. In verse 6 St. Paul says he speaks as a man. It is my understanding that the Orthodox take the verses regarding wrath, punishment, and condemning to hell as anthropomorphisms, though some Orthodox see hell as a more literal place. The fact that He is thoroughly love and light is seen more literally. Hell is not seen as a place so much as someone being in misery in God’s presence and who seeks to withdraw. This is because he doesn’t want to face himself, nor die to his delusion.

    St. Justin Martyr refers to the baptized as the illumined in Ch. 65 of his first Apology. At our Church the newly baptized are still called the newly illumined when they receive their first Communion. This is because baptism into the Church comes right after a lifetime confession and absolution – out with the old – and their profession of faith, the original Nicene Creed, preparing them for the grace-filled Sacrament known as the tomb (death to the old life) and the womb (being born as a baby Christian). When I became Orthodox I decided to take the Church’s teachings on what the Bible says about baptism. Though there are still some Protestants, like the Anglicans and some Baptists who believe in the salvic nature of water baptism and interpret “Regeneration” in that way. Our Bishop does not believe rebaptism to be necessary for converts who have received a Trinitarian Baptism, but I’ve subjectively experienced more grace witnessing an Orthodox baptism than I felt at my own. Something happens. If you ever get wind of an Orthodox baptism in your area, you may want to attend. The prayers and the blessing of the waters are quite different.

    Christ united to all of humanity when He was Incarnated, and He raised our collective existence through His life, death, Resurrection and Ascension. All will be raised as a result, but we freely choose how much to participate in His life or our own man-made one with it’s unhealthy consequences.

    Yes, we can experience the Eschaton here and now. For the Life of the World: Sacraments and Orthodoxy by Alexander Schmemann explains this better than I can. It has to do with God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven.

    I agree with you about Spiritual maturity.

  3. Lee says:


    If that’s really what you were getting after when you wrote your post, then I think we’re in violent agreement (see my latest response to Andrea Elizabeth above concerning Christ being able to choose). But I still don’t understand your choice of John 10:17-18 as a basis for a discussion with the title you gave to the post…

    Did Christ fear death? He certainly didn’t look forward to it – but that could have been for many reasons besides a fear of death. And while He was staring at receiving punishment for the sins of the world, it seems to me that He could still operate under the principle of 1 John 4:17-19 since He knew that He wasn’t going to be consigned to eternal torment, but rather that He would be leading captivity captive, etc. during the interval between His death and resurrection. Where is there fear of death in Hebrews 2 and Romans 7? This could be another rabbit trail, but what about Matt 10:28? Again, does anyone have to fear death if they have a vibrant, saving relationship with the Living God? The process of physical death isn’t something to look forward to, but (1 John 4:17-19 again) the prospect of being transported into the presence of God is!! Why wasn’t that also true (in light of Hebrews 11) for the patriarchs?

    I didn’t say that propitiation is only the turning aside of God’s wrath – my understanding has always been that it carries the concept of imputing righteousness. I questioned your assertion that propitiation does not include the turning aside of God’s wrath. Who are you referring to in your reference to speakers of the Greek language? Absolutely – God’s justice doesn’t depend at all on creatures to be fulfilled. I’m not sure where the conflict is here.

    I’ll wait for you to respond to “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” first.

    How is Christ the audience for Romans 8? I don’t see how you get from contingent beings to God via Col 1:20. God is the operator in both passages. Things can be true for all created things and not for God. To take the simplest (and first) example, everything other than God had a beginning. Adam’s single act was considerably easier than living Christ’s life! And Adam’s one act resulted in a change in our DNA, if you will. I don’t claim to understand how there was a separation, but I do see a separation described in Scripture. Hmm. I don’t have a problem with the concept of being a partaker/partner/sharer in the Divine Nature seeing as I have the Paraklete abiding in me… I certainly didn’t intend to lay the heresy of Socinianism at the door of the Orthodox – my apologies if it read that way. I was just giving the Owen quote about hopping some context. He was addressing Socinus, but my tying the quote to this thread had to do with your similar statement about the lack of turning aside wrath. But I do like your “I think the Socinian shoe is on the other foot” 🙂

    So Orthodox theology is unstructured?

  4. Lee says:

    Andrea Elizabeth,

    I found Photios’ paper – I think it will be a while before I have anything cogent to say about it, though!

    Isn’t Perry asking us to classify something as evil?

    It seems to me that the statement that unrepentant (I never brought up unchosen – we can leave that for another discussion!) people are evil and condemned to hell is simply Biblical: Romans 3:3-6.

    Indeed – the thief on the cross was absolutely as close as possible to the baptism into Christ’s death which all believers participate in – but I was referring earlier to the sacrament of baptism, the picture of the former.

    I think we’re in perfect agreement on cleaning the house – on taking actual cleansing very seriously. Ro 8:13; 12:1-2; Phil 3:8-17; Hebrews 12:1-4, and all the verses I referenced before about knowing God’s will…

    I think we have the same basic divisions of salvation, you just use tenses to provide the distinctions that I use the terms for. But we part over praying for the departed, and the efficacy (salvific, I presume?) of baptism. I don’t understand your reference to the “newly illumined”. I believe the Bible says that you can be saved having not been baptized – that person will have missed out on a significant step of obedience and outward sign of their faith, but it isn’t baptism that saves them. While Mark 16:16 obviously emphasizes the significance of baptism, it doesn’t say that “he who does not believe and was not baptized will be condemned”… I’m curious as to the sense you mean that humanity has been saved – is all of humanity going to be in heaven?

    So… one can reach the eschaton while on earth? Or is it that one’s… synergistic “presence” (?) with Christ is already in the eschaton positionally, waiting for us to catch up when we are present with Him, and when all choices will indeed be good? (Sounds like quantum physics!) Spiritual liberty again – and basic maturity. However, in my experience as well as reading, it seems that those who are most mature see themselves more accurately in light of Scripture and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. They may well have the freedom to drink alcohol, dance a foxtrot, or smoke a cigar – but they see more clearly their pride, selfishness, covetousness, attachment to things on this earth, etc. Yet those of us who are less mature will look at such individuals and see nothing untoward in their life or character.

    If Christ couldn’t sin, and I would include the disobedience of not going to the cross as sin here, how could He be the perfect, spotless sacrificial Lamb of God? If He was spotless by some means other than choice, how does He represent the fulfillment of the law?

  5. 1 Cor. 15 says a lot about death. It is called the enemy, and that it came by man, but if death is evil, how could Christ participate in something evil? And why does St. Paul say he dies daily if dying is evil? A bitter, stinging consequence of sin, yes, but one that is overcome by death in Christ. It seems to me that death is a conquered, converted enemy by Christ’s resurrection, and thus the means to our reconciliation.

    It does appear that God can forgive people independently of Christ’s death, so that makes me think that there’s more to reconciliation and salvation/theosis than just being forgiven.

  6. Lee,

    The question is not whether Christ had a “choice” so much as whether the choice was “free.” Was Christ free or was he predestinated to choose one option over the other? It would seem that doing the act of his own “accord” would be sufficient to show that it was free, since it would exclude an external predestinating decree.

    I would think that since like things usually go together death being the consequences of sin, its wage, death would be rather bad. The NT speaks of death being associated with the devil both in actions as well as name. (Beelzebub) Moreover, why would Christ fear death if it weren’t something evil? Why would all of the patriarchs live under the reign of the devil and the fear of death if it weren’t so? Heb 2, and Romans 7.

    If propitiation simply means deferment of wrath we have two questions to consider. Why is it that perfectly competent speakers of the Greek language never thought it meant that in terms of a penal theory? Second, why do Kittel’s and other lexigraphical sources indicate that it denotes the “means of reconciliation?” God’s justice doesn’t depend on creatures to be fulfilled. This is why in the parables of the wicked servant for example the king freely forgives.

    If sin separated Christ from the Father how many persons were deity and how many gods were there at that point? Is sin stronger than God? I can’t see how such a position can be consistently Trinitarian.

    As for Romans 8, since all things are reconciled in Christ, and it is impossible for any thing to separate us from the love of God in Christ, then if it is true for contingent beings, so much the more for God. The Persons of the Trinity are inseparable. Consequently your position ends up being quite Socinian and historically Socinianism was based on Reformed theological principles of taking the union with God to be extrinsic. It was only a hop over to seeing the relation of Christ to the Father as being extrinsic as well and presto! 17th-18th century Arianism. Just think about it, why does Jesus need to be God in order for his singular acts to have sufficient causal scope? Adam’s actions did and he wasn’t God. So why can’t the actions of a perfect legal representative, a mere man, fufill the law for all? This is why the Reformed really can’t make sufficient sense out of the surface grammar of passages like 2 pet 1:4. So, I think the Socinian shoe is on the other foot. Moreover, it would be strange and anachronistic in the extreme to lay the heresy of Socinianism at the door of the Eastern Fathers simply because they denied a penal model.

    Something else to note is Owen’s scholastic language of “correlata.” This indicates that he is still thinking dialectically and so of an extrinsic necessity, theology must have such and so structure. Rome and Protestants are more alike than dissimilar.

  7. […] one leg October 14th, 2007 — Lee I’ve been involved in an interesting discussion here on Christ’s choices and choices in general. This post is in reply to Perry’s assertion […]

  8. Lee,

    I don’t think I’ve been consistent in my use of the words “choice” – a person’s decision, and “alternatives” – the multitude of things to choose from. Also I don’t think “obedience” has really been clarified here, in my mind anyway.

    I believe alternatives has been adequately represented as good things. (Photios’ paper on Synergy in Christ talks about God’s “energies” in good things) Everything God created was good, including self-preservation, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Some Orthodox theologians have taught that Adam and Eve would have eventually been mature enough to eat from it without the resultant fall. Classifying some objects/alternatives as evil seems like a Calvinist thing to do – the evil, unchosen people will be punished in hell because of the wrath of God.

    I do not think death is evil either. It could have been final because of A&E”s disobedience, but Christ, in obedient, synergistic cooperation with the Father and the Spirit, transformed it into a life-giving thing. ‘Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies….” And we are baptized into Christ’s death – speaking of which, the Thief on the Cross was crucified with Christ and was raised with Him – so how much closer to baptism can you be than that?

    So emerging from a Calvinist mindset, I’m interested in if there is a plurality of obedience to a plurality of good alternatives. You are right that when there is doubt in decision making, it is because there is sin present. I think the Orthodox belief about sin being present, is that if it dwells in one corner of the house, it will affect the whole house. So this is why we take actual, ot just positional, cleansing from sin so seriously and continuously ask for God’s mercy to reorient all of our being towards Christ through prayer, confession, repentance, and partaking of His body and blood. Also we doubt because we cannot know all the future effects of our decisions, unless we have a prophetic gift.

    Salvation is the state of being totally, literally purified – we don’t have the same divisions in salvation, sanctification and glorification. We (humanity) have been saved by Christ’s Incarnation, life, death, resurrection and ascension, are being saved by synergistic grace and struggle, and we will be saved when we “awake with His likeness” Psalm 17:15, 1 Cor 13:12. This is one reason we pray for the departed who were not yet free from sin when they died. Yet, we also believe in the efficacy of baptism – the are the “newly illumined”. Confession is renewing our baptismal cleansing. Can someone be “saved” who isn’t baptized? We don’t really comment on that but pray for them and entrust them to our merciful God. But we don’t say it doesn’t matter either.

    You talk about being led by the Spirit into obedience – mysterious obedience question – does He have one alternative in mind and all the rest would constitute a sinful choice if not chosen? Or, as we are purified from sin, are more options open to us? Perry and Photios make a distinction between now and in the eschaton – when we will be truly free to choose from numerous good alternatives. I think that in the timelessness of God, we can transcend the not yet in the now by purification from our sinful state. Btw, we believe our bodies are also purified in this process so we do not need to be delivered from our bodies, just the sin in them which originates in our souls. Thus it would be sin for a struggling alcoholic to have a drink, but for someone not tempted by it, they may drink. Hmmm – could Jesus have been wrongly tempted by death – did He have a choice in His dying to conquer it or to succumb to it…

    If Christ could have/would have chosen to save Himself from suffering, and not defeated sin and death for us, then I think that He wouldn’t have been the Father’s image, likeness, and expression of self-emptying love towards us. John 3:16.

  9. Lee says:


    I agree that Christ had a choice to die or not to die – I just don’t think that you can get to that conclusion from John 10:17-18. And it would appear that several people following this thread agree. I’m still waiting for something resembling an exegetical proof from you – right now it looks suspiciously like eisigesis. You have declared the passage to mean what you say it does, but that’s it. So, as I see it, you don’t even have your one verse.

    Why is death evil because it is the consequence of sin? It is the wage, or payment for sin.

    Christ’s death is a propitiation, but not as a deferment of wrath? I thought that was bound up in the very definition of the word? In the type of the sacrifice of Christ in the way the angel of death passed over the houses with the lamb’s blood on their door posts? God can freely forgive because His justice was satisfied. He is true to Himself!

    Death didn’t separate Christ from the Father – the sin of the world did. “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me?” And how can you apply Romans 8:38-39 to Christ when it is by Him that Romans 8:38-39 is possible? I’m afraid I don’t understand your reference to two deities and bitrinitarianism here.

    I don’t think the question about God “retributively killing people in the OT” was addressed to me, but what about the flood?

    Isaiah 34:1 Draw near, O nations, to hear; and listen, O peoples ! Let the earth and all it contains hear, and the world and all that springs from it.
    34:2 For the LORD’S indignation is against all the nations, And His wrath against all their armies; He has utterly destroyed them, He has given them over to slaughter.
    34:3 So their slain will be thrown out, And their corpses will give off their stench, And the mountains will be drenched with their blood.
    34:4 And all the host of heaven will wear away, And the sky will be rolled up like a scroll; All their hosts will also wither away As a leaf withers from the vine, Or as one withers from the fig tree.
    34:5 For My sword is satiated in heaven, Behold it shall descend for judgment upon Edom And upon the people whom I have devoted to destruction.
    34:6 The sword of the LORD is filled with blood, It is sated with fat, with the blood of lambs and goats, With the fat of the kidneys of rams . For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah And a great slaughter in the land of Edom .
    34:7 Wild oxen will also fall with them And young bulls with strong ones; Thus their land will be soaked with blood, And their dust become greasy with fat.
    34:8 For the LORD has a day of vengeance, A year of recompense for the cause of Zion.

    No, I can go nowhere to escape from God – Ps 139:7-8 – but that doesn’t mean He chooses to be where He sends the souls of those who choose to reject Him.

    I agree about the three persons working together – not sure what motivated that comment (related to your 2 deities and bitrinitarianism comment, perhaps?)

  10. Lee says:

    Andrea Elizabeth,

    I’ve only been reading Perry’s blog for a few weeks, and have only a passing acquaintance with Orthodoxy, so I’m also filling in some large gaps 🙂

    Well, the first point you address was really your question – “what constitutes a moral vs. immoral or evil choice?” I was providing an answer in Col. 3:17. The context for 1 Cor. 10:23 is spiritual liberty – thus, something “not profitable” would be exercising your spiritual liberty in front of a believer who does not have that liberty. I don’t see how that relates to the “plurality of goods” concept you reference. My (probably incorrect) understanding of “plurality of goods” is that there are multiple ways that events might unfold in history, based on choices we make, and all of them could be good in God’s eyes. I also don’t know what the phrase “God’s energies” means.

    I don’t think obedience is all that mysterious, actually. There are many passages which give a clear picture both of obedience and the result thereof: “If you abide in Me, and My words [and we have quite a lot of those] abide in you…”; 1 John 2:3-6; 1 Thess. 5:12-22; Phil. 4:4-7; James 1:21-27; Gal. 5:16-26…. [Incidentally, I’ve found that obedience and what God’s will is usually become very mysterious for a person (myself foremost – I’m not pointing a finger at you!) when there is a sin issue which needs to be, but hasn’t yet been, dealt with.] So, in my view, the Holy Spirit convicting the heart of the believer in light of Scripture would be the primary means for determining what is (or is not) to the glory of God – and then add in mature believers in your local church operating in light of Gal. 6:1-5 and Matt. 18, etc.

    Hmmm… Regarding suicide and the cross – it doesn’t matter how noble a person feels when committing suicide in order to spare their family disgrace, etc. – there’s a huge gulf in motive between that (which I see as selfish and cowardly, ultimately) and sacrificing one’s life for the sake of another. I’m not sure I understand the Orthodox position on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – the tree was what it was… was it good or evil in itself? I don’t think so… partaking of it when God said not to was disobedience (and, I guess you could call it suicide, in a way), though that disobedience was a complex one – what did Eve desire when she misremembered what God had told her and then believed the serpent’s lie? But back to the tree – I’m curious about the position you stated concerning A & E simply not being ready for the good of the tree (i.e., knowledge of good and evil) – when would they be ready, and would God change His mind concerning the proscription against partaking from the tree at that time?

    About Christ having “the least love” – and what does that mean to you?

    On “ever well-being” – I was simply trying to reflect back to you what I thought you were saying – not necessarily stating my position. I would also say that leaving this life to be in the presence of God would mean being filled with joy – the joy of being able to worship Christ forever at the right hand of the Father, the joy of knowing God as you are known by Him… But look at Hebrews 12:2 again – does it say Christ embraced the cross with joy? Or does it say that He endured the cross looking ahead to the joy that would result from it? I do believe He chose to endure the cross of His own free will, motivated by love (I keep seeing 1 John here – love and obedience intertwined, only in the context of the obedient and sacrificial love of the Son for the Father and on behalf of the Church, His body and bride) – and can only bow my head in awe at the fact that He did.

    Is love an attitude or a work? I think love goes together, like faith, with works – one does not exist without the other. And we’re in 1 John again 🙂 I know I don’t love God sufficiently at any given time for my own salvation – thank goodness it doesn’t depend on that!

    Do the Orthodox see 3 “stages” of salvation: (a) the point in “time” where you stand before God justified by the blood of the Lamb, positionally righteous before God while yet here on earth, (b) the maturing process you described whereby you are conformed to the image of the Son which starts after (a), and (c) the final step when you will be glorified in heaven, free from your sinful body? I would agree that becoming Christ like is not a matter of imitation, but a matter of the circumcision of the heart – the transforming of the mind – the motification of the flesh.

    I absolutely agree (hopefully I’ve made that clear here – again, 1 John!) – there is no faith without works, no appropriation of God’s grace without obedience. What I was getting at in my previous post was the event which makes it possible to have the relationship to begin with. The thief on the cross next to Jesus had no time for baptism, communion, works, or anything else – but he is worshipping Christ in heaven right now nonetheless. If one has time to demonstrate one’s faith through obedience (in whatever form that obedience takes), then one should do so – and in the process, “make every effort” and “work out” one’s salvation….

  11. At the very least, Christ’s choice is to die or not to die. Second, the passage seems to indicate the power to choose to die or not to die. Those seem like genuine alternatives to me. His choice to die isn’t determined by a subordination of the human power of choice to the divine.

    Calvinist’s and their ilk often gripe that there is no exegetical basis for libertarian freedom in human nature. Well, here is one passage and all I need is one. I have more, but one will do for now.

    If death is the consequence of sin, then it is evil regardless of how one perceives it. It is interesting that the subjective take on evil was exactly how the Manicheans and Pelagians both viewed death, whereas the Father’s viewed it as an evil. I believe that Christ’s death is a propitiation, a reconciliation, but not as a deferment of wrath. God can freely forgive for mercy triumphs over justice.

    If death nor anything else can separate us from the love of God, one wonders how there could be any separation between the Father and the Son. Such a notion strikes me as rather blasphemous. There was never a time when there were two deities nor when binitarianism was true.

    As for God killing people in the OT, is that true? Does God retributively kill people in the OT? I think the issue is more nuanced than that.

    And I don’t view death as eternal separation from God since it would either deny God’s omnipresence or it would imply conditional immortality/annihilationalism both of which I take to be false. Via modus tollens ergo…

    Christ himself says in John 2 that he will raise himself from the dead and Romans 8 says the Spirit did it as well. There isn’t any activity that the three persons are not working together in per John 5.

    Such are my thoughts.

  12. Lee,

    Thank you for your feedback and the chance to dig deeper in these areas. I am more of a student on this blog and some of the concepts you mention are new to me as well so I hope someone will fill in my gaps in understanding.

    in what sense do you propose that all things to be chosen are “equal”? But one answer to “what constitutes a moral vs. immoral or evil choice” would be to weigh that choice in light of Colossians 3:17.

    You sort of answered your own question I think – do “all” things for God’s glory. 1 Cor. 10: 23 says all things are good, but not all things are profitable. But a plurality of goods has also been explained on this blog in the context of God’s energies which emanate from Him and from which we can choose instead of one good choice and the rest are evil. I hesitate to clarify that and hope someone else will. I have a question though about what constitutes obedience as that seems to be a singular option. Your verse about doing all things for the glory of God comes to mind, and so are we free to do anything as long as we individually decide it’s for God’s glory? This seems to open the doors to delusion.

    Why do you think that Christ laying down His life was equivalent to suicide?

    I didn’t mean to make that direct an association, but saving someone with knowledge that you will be killed in the process – taking the bullet for ex – can be compared to suicide. Some people, sadly, think they are doing others a favor by killing themselves. Again it seems easy to rationalize our behavior and think that it is good when it isn’t – Adam and Eve did this as well. Wasn’t their disobedience suicide? ‘if you eat, you shall surely die’. Yet, Orthodox believe that the tree of knowledge of good and evil was a good, but one Adam and Eve weren’t ready for yet.

    Are you saying that if Christ didn’t lay down His life, that would mean he had the “least love”?

    Yes, I think so.

    Is your reference to “the eschaton” to the culmination of all things in the end times, or whenever a soul comes into the presence of God? If the latter, are you saying that the Orthodox believe that the more one loves in this life, the more one will enjoy the after life, and vice versa (no pun intended)? I may be way off, but it seems like you’re saying that salvation is works-based (or at least attitude-based) here…

    I believe that the Bible shows that a person is saved throughout all of the history of mankind in exactly the same way – through faith in a blood sacrifice. In the Old Testament, that blood sacrifice (and the law) pointed to the cross. After the cross, God’s plan for redemption is fully seen.

    It seems you are equating ever well-being with enjoyment. I would say being filled with joy. Christ even embraced the cross with joy, Hebrews 12:2. And is love an attitude? What I like about Perry’s question is that it makes us think about why Christ died for us. Did He have options? Was it a sort of coerced obedience (or else!) to God alone, or out of His own active love for us and freely choosing the best way to save us. I have sort of tangentally applied that to what are our choices about and hope that isn’t too far off topic.

    Is love an attitude or a work? I think the Orthodox are less likely to assume that they love God sufficiently at any given time for their own salvation. 1 John 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.

    We believe salvation is being conformed, a maturing process, into God’s image and likeness, and that Christ showed us what that is like. But to become Christ-like/love isn’t possible by imitation, but through communion which is accomplished by a life of living, breathing, bathing, eating, drinking and cooperating with Him in the Church, Christ’s holistic (mind, heart, soul, and spirit) Incarnated Body.

    We do not divide grace, faith and works from each other. In Hebrews 11, the Hall of Faith, it says that Abraham’s faith saved him, but wasn’t he also obedient? Would he have been called faithful/saved and started a great nation if he hadn’t left Ur?

  13. Lee says:

    MG – yes, that’s how I took Chrysostom.

    I’ll have to back off of my association of this passage with 1 John – there may be a link with respect to obedience indicating true relationship with the Father (earlier I should have said the symbiosis of love and obedience with true relationship – seen in 1 John 2:4-11, etc. ), but that was really an off-the-cuff analysis, and I shouldn’t have added that.

    Primarily, after more thought and reading of other passages, I see that phrase in light of what Chrysostom wrote, as well as the following passages:

    John 6:32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven.
    33 “For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.”
    34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.”
    35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will 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 certainly not 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 Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day.
    40 “For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.”


    John 17:24 “Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

    What did Jesus do which enabled the Father to give His own to Him and also raise them up? He died on the cross.

  14. Lee says:

    Andrea Elizabeth – I’m not sure where some of your questions are coming from – for example, in what sense do you propose that all things to be chosen are “equal”? But one answer to “what constitutes a moral vs. immoral or evil choice” would be to weigh that choice in light of Colossians 3:17.

    Why do you think that Christ laying down His life was equivalent to suicide?

    Are you saying that if Christ didn’t lay down His life, that would mean he had the “least love”?

    Is your reference to “the eschaton” to the culmination of all things in the end times, or whenever a soul comes into the presence of God? If the latter, are you saying that the Orthodox believe that the more one loves in this life, the more one will enjoy the after life, and vice versa (no pun intended)? I may be way off, but it seems like you’re saying that salvation is works-based (or at least attitude-based) here…

    I believe that the Bible shows that a person is saved throughout all of the history of mankind in exactly the same way – through faith in a blood sacrifice. In the Old Testament, that blood sacrifice (and the law) pointed to the cross. After the cross, God’s plan for redemption is fully seen.

  15. MG says:


    If “take it up again” means to rise from the dead, as Lee claims, then it seems that Christ isn’t choosing between dying and “taking it up again”. He is choosing to die and take it up again (rise from the dead). So I think it might not have made sense to highlight that part of the verse.

    But the other part of the verse, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” does seem to imply a contingency in Christ’s decision, and a possibility of having done otherwise. This seems to get at the point you were trying to make… but I have a funny feeling I’m missing something.

  16. MG says:


    Chrysostom’s comments are interesting, let me see if I can get it right what’s being said. Tell me if you think this is the right way to take Chrysostom and (irrespective of whether I interpreted him correctly) whether you think this makes sense Christologically.

    The “therefore” implies a condition, but not a condition under which the Father loves Jesus. Rather it is a condition under which those around Christ are able to recognize the Father’s love for him. This would safely dissolve the problem, because the Father’s love for the Son is not conditional. It is just that the Father’s love for Jesus is demonstrated (argument-language is being used and “therefore” means “it follows that”) by Jesus’ dying and rising.

    I hesitate to affirm this because it seems initially unlikely that the love of the *Father* would be demonstrated by Jesus dying; that more seems to demonstrate Jesus’ love. But it makes sense actually; it would be an action that would naturally lead a person to the conclusion that the Father loved Jesus. Furthermore, you pointed out that the Father was involved in raising Jesus from the dead. This would also demonstrate the Father’s love, because the Father wouldn’t raise Jesus from the dead if he did not love him.

  17. If all things to be chosen, such as whether to die or not to die are equal, then what constitutes a moral vs. immoral or evil choice?

    The decision to not die is a very strongly driven one, and a good one. The Church teaches that suicide is morally wrong. But Jesus said that greater love has no man than to give his life for his friends = John 15:13,

    Is having the greatest love morally right and having the least love morally evil? At least in the eschaton the greater the love someone has the more he will abide in well vs. ill ever-being. So I think it’s a choice of when you’re going to suffer = now or later.

    Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it. Luke 17:13

    So Jesus in choosing to loose His life made His life better as well as securing eternal life for us. I guess I’ve sort of bent back the other way = it is about greater or lesser, not so much good vs. evil. So God always chooses the greatest well-being and includes us in it in communion.

    But if He hadn’t, we’d all be snuffed out, wouldn’t we? And would His humanity have died and been snuffed out too? But God can’t die…. I really don’t see any alternative – He had to drink the cup and then be resurrected for self-preservation.

  18. Lee says:

    David – death is the enemy because it can seal the eternal separation from God of a soul. That does not make death evil.

    1 Corinthians 15 is all about the resurrection, addressing the lack of belief on the part of the Sadducees in resurrection from the dead, and the obvious problem such a belief posed for the message of the gospel and the promise of eternal life. Here death would prevent the fulfillment of that promise and would hence be an enemy – but that doesn’t make it evil. For non-believers, it is still the just wage for an unredeemed life.

    Here’s the passage from Acts:

    2:22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken[c] by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.

    (So here the Father loosed the pains/throes, not Christ.) This seems to be very similar to 1 Corinthians 15 – death is the enemy to be vanquished by the resurrection – the punishment and consequence of Christ bearing the sin of the world – but not evil in and of itself.

    MG – I really like Fr. Patrick’s comments and what he quoted from St. John Chrysostom. (Surprised?) But I’ll have to think some more about whether or not 1 John helps here at all.

    So… are we going to get back to my question about the choices Perry was talking about?

  19. MG says:


    If death is evil, why does God kill people in the OT? Does this make God the cause of evil?


    How does the “symbiosis” view you are talking about interpret Jesus’ statement?

  20. David Richards says:


    If death is “justice played out” and not evil, why is it called by the Apostle Paul an “enemy” (the “last enemy”) to “be destroyed” in 1 Corinthians 15? Why is Christ said in Acts 2 to conquer it, to “loose the throes of it” if death is indeed not evil?

  21. Lee says:

    This is all I have time for right now: death is the consequence of sin. People perceive it as evil because it terminates (or at least interrupts, depending on one’s views) relationships, because the means by which death overtakes us are frequently painful and frightening, because they are too attached to this world, etc., etc. Death is justice played out – not evil.

    Christ going to the cross in obedience as the only perfect sacrifice capable of making propitiation for all sin over all time was not evil, either. It was the consequence of Him taking on the sin of the world, and the separation that that act caused between Him and the Father.

    I do believe that Jesus had the freedom to not go to the cross, to not bear the sin of the world. If not, then a lot of Hebrews doesn’t make sense.

    I’m not sure yet how to view “For this reason the Father loves me” – it cannot be that He is saying that the Father’s love is conditional on His obedience – that makes no sense. I’m leaning in the direction of the symbiosis of love and obedience which John explicates in 1 John.

  22. This is a long comment but I want to put in St John Chrysostom on these verses to provide a Patristic understanding.

    Verse 17. “‘Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My
    life, that I might take it again.”
    What could be more full of humanity than this saying, if so be that on our
    account our Lord shall be beloved, because He dieth for us? What then?
    tell me, was He not beloved during the time before this; did the Father now
    begin to love Him, and were we the causes of His love? Seest thou how He
    used condescension? But what doth He here desire to prove? Because they
    said that He was alien from the Father, and a deceiver, and had come to
    ruin and destroy He telleth them, “This if nothing else would persuade Me
    to love you, namely, your being so beloved by the Father, that I also am
    beloved by Him, because I die for you.” Besides this He desireth also to
    prove that other point, that He came not to the action unwillingly, (for it
    unwillingly, how could what was done cause love?) and that this was
    especially known to the Father. And if He speaketh as a man, marvel not,
    for we have often mentioned the cause of this, and to say again the same
    things is superfluous and unpleasant.
    “I lay down My life, that I might take it again.”
    Verse 18. “No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have
    power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.”
    Because they often took counsel to kill Him, He telleth them, “Except I
    will, your labor is unavailing.” And by the first He proveth the second, by
    the Death, the Resurrection. For this is the strange and wonderful thing.
    Since both took place in a new way, and beyond ordinary custom. But let
    us give heed exactly to what He saith, “I have power to lay down My
    life.” And who hath not “power to lay down his life”? Since it is in the
    power of any that will, to kill himself. But He saith it not so, but how? “I
    have in such a way the power to lay it down, that no one can effect this
    against My will.” And this is a power not belonging to men; for we have
    no power to lay it down in any other way than by killing ourselves. And if
    we fall into the hands of men who plot against us, and have the power to
    kill us, we no longer are free to lay it down or not, but even against our
    will they take it from us. Now this was not the case with Christ, but even
    when others plotted against Him, He had power not to lay it down.
    Having therefore said that, “No man taketh it from Me,” He addeth, “I
    have power to lay down My life,” that is, “I alone can decide as to laying
    it down,” a thing which doth not rest with us, for many others also are
    able to take it from us. Now this He said not at first, (since the assertion
    would not have seemed credible,) but when He had received the testimony
    of facts, and when, having often plotted against Him, the), had been unable
    to lay hold on Him, (for He escaped from their hands ten thousand tithes,)
    He then saith, “No man taketh it from me.” But if this be true, that other
    point follows, that He came to death voluntarily. And if this be true, the
    next point is also certain, that He can “take it again” when He will. For if
    the dying was a greater thing than man could do, doubt no more about the
    other. Since the fact that He alone was able to let go His life, showeth that
    He was able by the same power to take it again. Seest thou how from the
    first He proved the second, and from His death showed that His
    Resurrection was indisputable?
    “This commandment have I received of My Father.”
    What commandment was this? To die for the world. Did He then wait first
    to hear, and then choose, and had He need of learning it? Who that had
    sense would assert this? But before when He said, “Therefore doth My
    Father love Me,” He showed that the first motion was voluntary, and
    removed all suspicion of opposition to the Father; so here when He saith
    that He received a commandment from the Father, He declared nothing
    save that, “this which I do seemeth good to Him,” in order that when they
    should slay Him, they might not think that they had slain Him as one
    deserted and given up by the Father, nor reproach Him with such
    reproaches as they did, “He saved others, himself he cannot save”; and, “If
    thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:42, 40);
    yet the very reason of His not coming down was, that He was the Son of
    Then test on hearing that, “I have received a command from the
    Father,” thou shouldest deem that the achievement doth not belong to
    Him, He hath said preventing the, “The good Shepherd layeth down His
    life for the sheep”; showing by this that the sheep were His, and that all
    which took place was His achievement, and that He needed no command.
    For had He needed a commandment, how could He have said, “I lay it
    down of Myself”? for He that layeth it down of Himself needeth no
    commandment. He also assigneth the cause for which He doeth this. And
    what is that? That He is the Shepherd, and the good Shepherd. Now the
    good Shepherd needeth no one to arouse him to his duty; and if this be the
    case with man, much more is it so with God. Wherefore Paul said, that
    “He emptied Himself.” (Philippians 2:7) So the “commandment” put here
    means nothing else, but to show His unanimity with the Father; and if He
    speaketh in so humble and human a way, the cause is the infirmity of His

    St John Chrysostom (Post-Nicene Fathers, Series 1 Vol. 14)

    Free will also means freedom to do as one wills, as God wills. God’s will is free in this sense also that no-one can prevent Him for exercising His will. It is not only a freedom of choice but of action. No other power forced Christ to act against His will. (One is only truly free if one shares God’s will because only His will is above any constraint. Opposing God’s will in the name of “freedom” leads one to bondage.)

    I consider choosing death as an end is an evil because God is life but Christ’s death was a doorway to life and a incomparably greater life (for humanity), so there was no evil in the choice because death was not an end. A choice to live is not evil, our natural will is to live, but His choice of life through death was obviously far better. In no way was Christ obliged to die for us, He did it willingly in one mind with the Father because He loves us. As Son of God He is of one will with the Father and He shares the freedom of the Father in that will. As man He submits willingly to the Father because He knows that in this will is the fullness of life and freedom. Just because there is an obvious choice does it mean that one is not free in this choice. The freedom is that no-one forces one to that choice against one’s will. Obedience is not being forced to do something against one’s will but freely accepting another’s will as one’s own.

  23. JKC says:

    I don’t think that Perry is saying “take up” refers to not going to the cross. It seems that you are putting the cart before the horse.

    What does Jesus mean when He says “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life”, and “I lay it down of my own accord”?

    Does Jesus have personal freedom? Did he freely participate in man’s redemption, or was he forced to lay down his life by the Father? Did Jesus have a real option?

  24. Lee,

    So just to be clear, death isn’t an evil and choosing to die isn’t evil then? Is it a good?

  25. Lee says:

    In my view, He could make both “choices” (to lay down and take up His life), and did make both choices. (I put choices in quotes because there doesn’t seem to be any reason why He wouldn’t choose to rise from the dead, given that He has the power to do so – the choice is displayed in the agony of Gethsemane.)

    I (still) think the sticking point here is the meaning of “take up” (or “take it again” in the translation you quote in your post). When I assert that Christ did take up His life, I mean that He participated in His resurrection. In the context of these verses, before the actual events of the cross, I believe Christ is saying that He has the power to rise from the dead.

    It seems that that is a different interpretation than you are putting on the phrase, however. It appears to me that you are saying that “take up” refers to not going to the cross, and that He is therefore saying “I can chose to lay down my life, or I can chose to not lay down my life”.

  26. Lee,

    Let me do a tell back and you tell me if I am mapping your thinking (or not). On your view, to lay down his life and to take it up again, it is neither the case that either one or both conjointly are choices that Christ made or could make?

  27. Lee says:

    But aren’t you asserting that the non-opposing choices are these:
    – to lay down His life, or
    – to not lay down His life?

    If so, what we’re saying is that these are not the choices, therefore while your argument may be valid (I’m not saying it is or isn’t here), you can’t base it on this passage.

  28. The choice isn’t between objects of opposing moral value and that is in part the point. Often people think that freedom requires options of opposing moral value and it doesn’t. Consequently to view free will as requiring either options of opposing moral value or lacking alternatives because it would require options of opposing moral value is a mistake. The Good is not simple.

    Some have written that it is impossible for Christ to change his mind, but I wonder, which mind or nous would that be, his human or divine intellect?

    As I noted previously, this passage clearly seems to indicate that Christ enjoys libertarian type freedom in his humanity and certainly in his divinity. This runs counter to a number of other theological positions.

  29. dslavich says:

    I think Lee makes a great point.

    I don’t see how it can be assumed that this verse in any way presents a choice between good and evil.

    Here Christ clearly delineates a direct connection between the laying down and the taking up of his life. The first part of the verse says that he lays down his life THAT he may take it up again. This clearly means that he lays down his life to rise again, referring to the Resurrection.

    That is his overwhelming power. To lay it down AND to take it up. Death could not hold him.

    That’s the point.

  30. Lee says:

    Also, looking at the usage of the word take (lambano) in the whole of the gospel of John, it overwhelmingly carries the connotation of receiving or taking (up) – not withholding.

    Disclaimer – I’m definitely not a Greek scholar…

  31. Lee says:

    Why the assumption that there’s a choice between good and evil here? Why can’t the “power to take it up again” refer to the resurrection? That’s the authority given to Christ by the Father. Why would He require the authority of the Father to withhold the sacrifice of laying down His life? That’s just simple disobedience.

    That’s how I’ve always understood this passage.

  32. Levi,

    Father Hopko says that Christ on the cross is God most revealed – humble, sacrificial, self-emptying, and open.

    Though I believe Christ had a “charge” to suffer and die for us and to disobey it, like has been said, would have been sinful, I believe His having “one essence with the Father”, the Source, supersedes that as He Passionately desired to save us of His own accord. Yet His obedience in suffering was a necessary hurdle to overcome, and by it Hebrews 2:10 says that He was perfected. Therefore He would not have been perfect had He turned it down and thus not been God.

    Also, since Christ was slain before the foundation of the world, to change His mind in the Garden doesn’t seem possible – tempting though it must have been.

    Lastly, the Orthodox God is merciful and compassionate. To say that God could, and the Calvinists would say justifiably, close Himself off from us and let us perish, seems more like their God of wrath than our God who is Love Incarnate, not willing that any should perish.

  33. JKC says:

    Can the Son desire to do something that is different then what the Father desires him to do, without that desire being sinful? In other words, how can the Son’s desire to not be crucified be considered non-sinful if we define free will as necessarily involving a choice between good and evil? If being crucified was good, then its opposite must be evil, and thus we have Jesus desiring to do an evil deed. This shows that we cannot define freewill as the choice between moral opposites, but between different goods. To get to the verses used, we read that Jesus was free to choose, or had the power to choose to lay down his life, implying the real ability to do otherwise. Yet, if we define freedom as necessarily involving the choice between moral opposites, or always involving evil, then the choice not to lay down His life has to be considered evil. If the choice to not lay down His life is evil, then we must say that Jesus was compelled to lay down his life for he cannot sin, and that negates everything He just said about Himself in these verses.

  34. Levi says:


    Do you not think God would have still been God if he had not saved us?

  35. Lucian says:

    Both are good. Christ chooses the best. Therefore, His was a true choice (So far: Maxim Martyr). But “to take it up again” means the resurrection. (So far: Pslam 3:5).

    Now that I’ve answered Your question, would You pretty, pretty please answer one of mine: Is there a difference between the Theophanies of the Holy Ghost and those of the pre-incarnational Angel of the Lord? If so, what would these possibly be? Thanks.

  36. Ben says:

    Preserving your own life can be evil, if you have a responsibility to care for others that can only be discharged by sacrificing your life. We call a man a coward if he runs when he sees his family threatened by danger, but applaud one who sacrifices himself for those he cares about … but did Jesus have that same responsibility for us?

    Hm. I always kind of assumed that God could have chosen, without sin, not to rescue mankind. But at the same time, I can sometimes get frustrated that God wouldn’t choose to save many people I know that are not Christian, especially if you could take it to the extreme of saying, “God predestined them to Hell,” which, like it or not, tends to be the implication of a deterministic Christian worldview.

    Even further removed, Christ’s act could be merely good because he served the Father, and the evil would then be to disobey the Father. That begs the question, of course, “Is it possible for the Son to disobey / rebel against the Father, seeing as they are homoousios?”

  37. Perry,

    It seems that your premise is that God given freedom is independently choosing from a bunch of goods and not just one, thus God’s will can encompass many alternate universes than the one we have been dealt thus far, and at any moment we can drastically impact the course of human events. Thus God’s Providence isn’t a particular story, but I’m not sure what it would be. Therefore it seems you are saying there was an alternate way for us to be saved, or that God would still have been God if He hadn’t saved us. Nor does God have a specific plan or singular good which He directly communicates to Christ or we humans who can choose to obey or disobey, which would be evil.

    In an eternal universe, which is eternal because of Christ’s Incarnation, death and resurrection, self-preservation seems moot. We have to choose between eternal ill-being and well-being. I’m not sure how many options are available in well-being. It seems that cross-carrying, however specifically planned or generally natural to our purified individual logos, is the only way to well-being.

  38. Visi,

    Here is what I am offering. Two options are both good. Obedience to the Father consequently can take the form of either of the two options. Consequently the choice to lay down his life is quite personal in an existential-ish sense. The generalization of the desire to preserve life is necessary since it is part of human nature willed also by God.

    Secondly, another lesson is that it seems like Jesus here has actionable libertarian type freedom, which is rather a diffiuclt pill to swallow on Calvinism or other similar models such as Thomism or Scotism.

  39. Visibilium says:


    I don’t think you can take Christ’s sacrifice and sew it into a generalization about the preservation of life. A more appropriate generalization would involve submitting to the Father’s will. Christ had second thoughts about dying when he was in Gethsemane, which is why he prayed so much. The evil option would be to rebel against the Father.

    Freedom is the capacity of choosing among alternatives. Does at least one alternative always have to be evil? I can conceive of situations in which no alternative is meritorious, but it appears that evil is always an option.

  40. Death Bredon says:

    Wow, this verse seems the deathknell to scholastic monergism on its one rationalistic temrs. Indeed, if God can submit to death without impugning his almighty dignity, then surely he can likewise devolve ontic, salvation conditioning freedom to is human creatures without infringing or detracting from his soveriegnty. If he couldn’t, then I WOULD be worried about the authenticity of his divinity (from a logical point of view).

    At every turn, the logical reading of the New Testament crunches the TULIPs and Thomistic (whether RC or Lutheran) Monergists. Synergism is the emprirically revealed soteriology and only Orthodoxy and Wesley through the Greek Fathers are on track.

  41. George says:

    My take – the choice Christ faced was to lay down His life, or to turn from the coming pain by embracing the life option. If I understand St. Maximus correctly, the overcoming of passibility in human nature involved not just confronting pleasure-related passions without failure, but overcoming the flip side of the same coin, passions related to fear.

    Since Jesus had (and has) a human nature in addition to the divine nature shared with the Trinity, He experienced fear when faced with the decision to lay down His life, and overcame that just as he overcame susceptibility to all passions.

    I have a hard time seeing this decision as a choice between objects of opposing moral value = it was more like a choice of whether to complete our salvation, as He had not yet assumed everything (fear associated with death, and human death itself). But not to have followed through would have been to work against “the charge I have received from my Father” – an unthinkable schism in the Trinity that would’ve been caused, I guess, by succumbing to the human nature He had condescended to take on. Would that have been sin, or an unassailable decision made by God that happened to be devastating to humanity?

    By the way, why does Jesus say in John 17:4, before He physically laid down His life, “I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do”?

  42. There are a lot of concepts that can be considered from that passage including the Monarchy of the Father, Christ’s free will, obedience, and independence, why God loves Him, as well as what is the nature of Christ’s alternatives.

    I see His alternatives as obedience or disobedience of His “charge” from the Father, not alternatives between two goods or a good or an evil in this passage. I read that He has the power to lay down His life and to take it up again, meaning afterward, not instead of.

    So to me the question is, is the Father’s love because of His servile obedience to His charge, or because of His willingness to sacrifice Himself – demonstrating union with the Father in having kenotic love for us in common. Either way, or maybe both, His sacrifice is voluntary and was the necessary way to conquer evil.

  43. No, that is not the question I am asking. People often assume that freedom requires a choice between objects of opposing moral value, good and evil. If that were so, which option here is the evil one?

    Or another way of asking the same thing is, is preserving one’s life an evil?

  44. Ben says:

    I am guessing you are asking … if this verse details “Why the Father loves [Christ]”, what is Christ doing, and what would be an evil alternative?

    1) What is Christ doing?
    Humbly sacrificing Himself for others, not in futility, but with the ability to make His sacrifice meaningful and return to life … He is not defeated, but takes the blow because the Father “gave Him this charge”.

    2) What’s the alternative?
    a) Martyr [complex]: He cannot make it meaningful, but throws His life away anyway
    b) Traitor: He chooses to take power for Himself, rather than sacrificing it for others
    c) Weak: He cannot defeat evil, and is defeated by it
    d) Maverick: He chooses His own path to redemption, rather than the Father’s

    a) and c) might not be evil, but they would not be admirable.

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