I Do the Works of Him Who Sent Me

I had an interesting catechism class today. We were discussing an overview of the 7 Councils and the nature of the Christological heresies they dealt with. One of the class members said, “So, when I was taught that I was saved by grace alone and that NOTHING I do that is good is of “me” but solely of God, and MY works were all evil…is that like Eutychianism? (Which teaches that Christ’s human nature was absorbed by His divine nature.)” I thought about the Scripture where Jesus says, “I came to do the works of Him Who sent Me”. If we affirm the Christology of the Councils, it seems there is a big question that poses to an evangelical: If Jesus was fully God and fully man, which “Jesus” did the works? If His full humanity participated in doing “the works of Him (God)” freely and with a full human will as affirmed by the 6th Council, doesn’t that impact the doctrine of “grace alone”? Does the doctrine indeed smack of Eutychianism?

54 Responses to I Do the Works of Him Who Sent Me

  1. Lucian says:

    Well, as I said, You can find it in Maxim Martyr, Ambigua, Part I (to Thomas), chapter 5 (on the Epistle of Dionysus, bishop of Athens, to Gaius the monk), for instance.

    For through His power He made the natural passions (weaknesses) acts of His will, not as they are in our case efects of natural necessity. For contrary to our case, He showed the passional element, found in us by nature, moved in Himself by the freedom of will.

    For by nature He was free from natural necessity, not being subject to the law of birth proper to us.

  2. Lucian, I’d love to see some quotes on this. My understanding is that the condemnation of Aphthartodocetism by both Calcedonians and non-Calcedonians alike implies that Christ was subject to necessity in some fashion. Severus of Antioch, when combating Julian on this point, takes great pains to demonstrate that Julian confuses the power (energon/energy) of God with the state of glorification post-resurrection. Namely, when Christ suspends necessity (a la walking on water) he does so with the divine energies that are available to all people and that these miracles are not dependent upon Christ assuming an incorrupted flesh. Thus, when Christ suspends necessity he does so using a power common to all mankind. Severus’ point is that if it is not done using the same energies that we receive with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit vis-à-vis the Holy Mysteries, than what power do the apostles posses to “do even greater things than these” and with what power do we possess to overcome temptation?

    I think the most telling point in this regard is “Jesus wept.” If Christ has not wept out of necessity of deep sorrow, then he knows nothing of our sufferings. Anyone who weeps intentionally upon hearing the death of a close friend is a charlatan and knows nothing of friendship. I think the same goes for sweating drops of blood. If Christ only wills these things (not human qua human) then did he only appear to suffer on the cross? When he said “I thirst” did he only will to thirst?

    I’m definitely willing to see specific patristic points against this view. But I really can’t help but think that there is a latent docetism here in the same way that there is in aphthartodocetism.

    As I said in my very second post on this thread, the “root” if it were of the vast majority of heresies is that we think it irrational (alogikos) that the theologos would be actually united to human weakness. This is precisely why the cross is folly to mankind, but to us the power of God.

  3. Lucian says:

    Yes, Tap, You understood perfectly: Christ didn’t lack what it took to be eventually tempted by it (given the right set of circumstances), but He resisted it indirectly, by succesfully fighting off those temptations which ultimately lead to it.

    And I have to make a few clarifying observations myself:

    Yes, Ioannis is right when he says that Christ had no temptations from within (because it is the Fathers who say this), but the problem is that he does not know what “from within” means (it means, as I said above, the complacency or coquetting or the discourse of the intellect with the passion: but Christ was very brusque and abrupt in His dealing with the devil)

    And no, to my knwoledge and recollection Nathaniel McCallum is not right when he says that Christ was subject to necessity. [It is actually the Fathers (Maxim Martyr?) that say that He did indeed will to feel human weaknesses and temptations, such as hunger, thirst, etc].

    And Ioannis is also wrong when he makes no difference between Christ being willing to let Himself be tempted by various passions, and Christ being willing to actually engage IN those passions (i.e., succumbing to temptation).

    OK, I think I said all that there was to be said…

  4. Perry/Ioannis, I do think it helpful to realize that there are two definitions of “natural” in play.

    The first is the way “natural” is used in Athanasius, which is to say that only God is natural since he is unoriginate. We, since we are created, are “unnatural” since our life depends entirely on the grace of God. When we reject God, we reject the source of our life and return to our “natural” state: non-existence.

    They second uses “natural” to imply the design or intention of God. In this sense death is not natural at all since God has designed us for eternal life in Him.

    We must clearly affirm death as natural in the first sense, but reject it in the second sense. I hope that adds some clarity.

  5. Ioannis,
    I don’t know if we disagree about original sin or not since I don’t know what you believe about it. If you take a classical Protestant view or the Catholic view, then yes, we do disagree.

    I am familiar with the material from Chrysostom, but the real issue here is what Maximus teaches. I think the two can be harmonized as Maximus’ position is more nuanced than Chrysostom.

    When you say that when they speak about the sinlessness of the flesh of Christ that they mean the absence of original sin, this doesn’t move the ball down the field since I don’t know what you mean by the term “original sin.” Many different concepts can be represented by that term. On the one hand you say that its not personal guilt, but then you write that the absence of original sin is the absence of actual sins since they are personal. But that misses my position entirely since I affirm that there is no personal sinful act that occurs in Christ.
    No, death is not natural. First because that is Pelagianism. Second because if it were true, our first parents would die apart from sin. Contingency just implies the potential for annihilation, but not that it is natural in so far as it constitutes our nature as a natural telos..

    If death were natural, then God is the cause of it in so far as he makes it a constituent of our nature. Death came as a consequence of sin and God permitted it as a way to limit evil in the world. But none of that implies that death is natural or of the essence of being human.

    No, there is no opposition between God and creation, otherwise there would need to be a mediator neither fully divine nor fully human to act as a go between-in short Arianism. God’s access to creation is direct. And while we are created we become uncreated in theosis through the divine energies by grace. If there were an opposition, theosis would be impossible, not to mention the incarnation.
    Difference doesn’t imply that things are contrary.
    I think God can use or bring about good from evil acts of intentions, but not evil qua evil since evil has no logos or form. I don’t think God requires evil ends to bring about goods since God has no opposite to make such means necessary. The devil had the rule over death, but now Christ holds the authority over death by virtue of his victory over it. Rev 1:18.
    I am not sure why it would be problematic for corrupt dispositions to be faulted for being corrupt. But it doesn’t follow that Jesus is a sinner, since Jesus never commits a sinful act. I don’t think you are clear on the difference between a disposition as a state and an act as the execution of an intention, a la a decision.

    On your view it is hard for me to see how Jesus could touch sinful people since it seems as if doing so would contaminate him, as if God is not pure and powerful enough to handle it.

    You ask which is more serious, an internal temptation or an external one from the devil, but since both come from the devil, one mediatly and the other immediately this is a false dichotomy.

    I am not sure what you mean when you say that baptism frees us from the consequence of original sin. Please explain.

    Since God is omnipresent, I am not sure what you mean by evil being “outside of him.” Second, even in the incarnation the issue isn’t internal or external, but personal choice or not. Being internal would only be problematic if internal was tantamount to the personal, but its not.

    As for the Cross, Paul I think makes it sufficiently clear that the breaking of the powers of darkness was done in the flesh of Christ and not external to it. Rom 8:3. And strictly speaking, it is not a mere communication of terms, but a communication of properties or energies of energies from one nature to the other. Another problem here is that the intellect is not the person so that if a thought occurs in me, it doesn’t follow that I blameworthy for it necessarily. If I entertain it and engage it, then yes, but if I dispel it, and reject it then no.
    I don’t think it follows that Christ died due to inherited corruption or that he would have given his divine power and given that said corruption is not natural to humanity. On the other hand, if you think that death is natural then I can’t see how you can escape that problem.

    I believe the whole life of Christ is purging and recapitulating human nature.

    Lastly, all of the passions are per se and of themselves blameless or more precisely, uncorrupt. It is only their ordering and origentation that is corrupt along with the lack of divine power.

  6. trvalentine says:

    From /The Orthodox Way/ by Kallistos Ware (p. 75):

    ‘… this notion of salvation as sharing implies — although many have been reluctant to say this openly — that Christ assumed not just unfallen but /fallen/ human nature. As the Epistle to the Hebrews insists (and in all the New Testament there is no Christological text more important this this): “We do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but he was in all points tempted exactly as we are, yet without sinning” (4:15). Christ lives out his life on earth under the conditions of the fall. He is not himself a sinful person, but in his solidarity with fallen man he accepts to the full the consequences of Adam’s sin. He accepts to the full not only the physical consequences, such as weariness, bodily pain, and eventually separation of body and soul in death. He accepts also the moral consequences, the loneliness, the alienation, the inward conflict. It may seem a bold thing to ascribe all this to the living God, but a consistent doctrine of the Incarnation requires nothing less.’

  7. Tap says:

    Lucian, after re-reading it, again, i think your reading is right. I think perhaps i was arguing a point that MG was making although you yourself might not have been.

    The argument that he Christ had these desires. I think St. Cassian’s point in relating Serapion is that, He was subject to it being that he took on our nature but never actually experienced.

    Is that a fair reading now or is your point the same as MG’s?

  8. Actually, I also ought to mention that Aphthartodocetism teaches that Christ did not assume hunger, thirst, etc out of necessity but by choice. So even Julian of Halicarnassus will testify to the fact that choosing weakness in the face of temptation is not a sin since it was done with the intention of healing the weakness. In condemning Aphthartodocetism we state that Christ felt hunger, thirst, etc as a consequence of his assuming human nature, but irregardless of the will. This is precisely what Lucian, Perry and I are arguing about lust (among other things). Namely, Christ had such inner temptations but did not will them. Instead, He overcame them; and in overcoming them, He healed them for us.

  9. Ioannis,

    I think the fundamental thing I have difficulty with in your argument is that it seems to lack the distinction between nature and will. Namely, that if Christ willed to assume a nature which includes tendency to sin that he is then either bound to commit such acts or that he is culpable in the act of assuming such a nature.

    The first is clearly wrong (as I think we both agree): natures do not sin nor predestine persons to sin. However, it is this fact that I think makes the second assertion equally problematic: since the assumption of a nature which has tendency to sin does not *cause* one to sin, the act of assuming such a nature cannot be in and of itself sinful.

    To rebut this you quote the prohibition on tempting God. This still confuses natures and persons. Natures do not sin. Christ does not will to be tempted but to endure temptation. To say that they are equal is to suggest that Christ cannot assume *any* weakness since he knows it will tempt God. Therefore, for Christ to fast in the wilderness, is to sin since he willingly assumes hunger and then is tempted to turn the stones into bread. Or even worse, in the garden, when Christ wills not to die he is tempting God. The end result of this is at least aphthartodocetism and, implicitly, the requirement that since Christ cannot assume any weakness, he cannot assume any humanity at all (I know you aren’t suggesting this, but I think this is the logic of your argument).

    On the other hand, if Christ has not assumed a tendency to sin, and has not gone through inner temptation, then by what mechanism is the inner temptation healed? The only mechanism of healing that we know is that Christ assumes without sin. It is precisely this problem that the Immaculate Conception tries to solve (healing a portion of the human condition without the incarnation so that Christ doesn’t assume it). It also forces Roman Catholics to say that Mary was incorruptible and is hence assumed into heaven alive. The oddity of this should be plain: What can be more bizarre than Mary being incorruptible but Christ being corruptible?

    All of these mental gymnastics are simply avoided if we just say that Christ assumed a tendency to sin but did not sin, healing the tendency in the process.

  10. Lucian says:

    For He had no experience of the fiery darts of carnal lust, which in our case arise even against our will, from the constitution of our natures, but He took upon Him something like *this*, by sharing in our nature. For as He truly fulfilled every function which belongs to us, and bore all human infirmities, He has consequently been considered to have been subject to *this* feeling (singular) also, that He might appear through these infirmities to bear in His own flesh the state even of *this* fault and sin.

    Clearer now?

  11. Tap says:

    Lucian, you are reading into the text, you added “[lust]” as if it is the definition of what the Abbot means when he says “Feelings Also.” If you read the Context of Serapion leading up to the particular chapter you would see that when he mentions “feelinga” he means What ioaniss aptly called “innocent passions such as, thirst, getting tired, sadness, death. He’s at pains to distinguish it from Lust or any other such carnal desires.

  12. Lucian says:


    why say “what was not assumed could not have been healed” when what was actually assumed was in no need of healing? And how can one vanquish something with which one can’t even fight, since it lacks in itself a “fighting ground”? Christ was temptable, but never succumbed to any temptation: that’s our redemption in a nutshell.

    (Temptation from inside means when You do a certain sin so many times, it grows into a habbit [passion] and becomes a part of you [the Desert Fathers]; but what’s meant here by this expression is Christ’s possibility of being tempted — which He obviously possessed in His human nature: not in the divine one, since divinity is dispassionate; He shared in our weakness [Isaiah 53:4; Matthew 8:17; 1 Corinthians 15:43; 2 Corinthians 13:4]).

    This is Spinal “Tap”, 🙂

    the reason He did not GET to experience those fiery darts is because He resisted the first temptation, the one leading to gluttony, which was instilled by hunger, and not because He lacked the power (energy) common to all men (males); here’s the same text again, but with different sections highlightened:

    For as He truly fulfilled every function which belongs to us, and bore all human infirmities, He has consequently been considered to have been subject to this feeling also [lust], that He might appear through these infirmities to bear in His own flesh the state even of this fault and sin.

    Nor could He who had [previosuly] vanquished gluttony be tempted by fornication, which has superfluity and gluttony as its roots.

    But as he [the devil] was overthrown in the first encounter [hunger] he was not able to bring upon Him the second infirmity [lust] which had shot up as from the root of the first fault.

    As Luke the evangelist says, the devil showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time and promised them to Him, may be taken of the feeling of covetousness, because after His victory over gluttony, he did not venture to tempt Him to fornication, but passed on to covetousness, which he knew to be the root of all evils, and when again vanquished in this, he did not dare attack Him with any of those sins which follow, which, as he knew full well, spring from this as a root and source.

  13. MG says:

    Ioannis and Tap–

    8. The fact that Maximus says Christ’s free choice was incorruptible does not mean he was without corrupt passions in his human nature. After all, he could be (and in fact is) referring to the Agent or Person of the Logos, who had the power to choose between alternatives. Saying “his free choice was incorruptible” can be taken to mean that He (the divine person of the Son) was unable to use his natural powers in any way other than a perfectly good way.

    Even if the “goal” of the passions is not death, if their ending or result is death, then surely they are not something good that humanity has, right?

    9. As Perry pointed out, mutability of free choice is twofold. One meaning is the gnomic will and its employment. This is something Christ cannot assume because it is personal, not natural. It is not a spiritual consequence of the fall, but the condition under which the fall was possible. There needs to be an argument given that Maximus is talking about the other kind of mutability of free choice–the possession of corrupt desires and their personal employment in sinful choices. Otherwise this text does not count against my read.

    What is the corruption Christ assumed?

    Do you think that the words “sin” and “corruption” can be used to describe the natural passions?

    Also, which desire do you think Adam acted on when he chose to commit the transgression?

  14. Tap says:

    Ioannis here’s more witness to what you’ve been saying all along from St. John Cassian. Read the full link below.

    “FOR it was right that He who was in possession of the perfect image and likeness of God should be Himself tempted through those passions, through which Adam also was tempted while he still retained the image of God unbroken, that is, through gluttony, vainglory, pride; and not through those in which he was by his own fault entangled and involved after the transgression of the commandment, when the image and likeness of God was marred…”

    Nor could He who had vanquished gluttony be tempted by fornication, which springs from superfluity and gluttony as its root, with which even the first Adam would not have been destroyed unless before its birth he had been deceived by the wiles of the devil and fallen a victim to passion. And therefore the Son of God is not said absolutely to have come “in the flesh of sin,” but “in the likeness of the flesh of sin,” because though His was true flesh and He ate and drank and slept, and truly received the prints of the nails, there was in Him no true sin inherited from the fall, but only what was something like it. For He had no experience of the fiery darts of carnal lust, which in our case arise even against our will, from the constitution of our natures, but He took upon Him something like this, by sharing in our nature. For as He truly fulfilled every function which belongs to us, and bore all human infirmities, He has consequently been considered to have been subject to this feeling also, that He might appear through these infirmities to bear in His own flesh the state even of this fault and sin. Lastly the devil only tempted Him to those sins, by which he had deceived the first Adam, inferring that He as man would similarly be deceived in other matters if he found that He was overcome by those temptations by which he had overthrown His predecessor. But as he was overthrown in the first encounter he was not able to bring upon Him the second infirmity which had shot up as from the root of the first fault.”

  15. ioannis says:


    The following is from the Homilies of John Chrysostom on Hebrews:

    “«For we have not an High Priest, who cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.» He is not (he means) ignorant of what concerns us, as many of the High Priests, who know not those in tribulations, nor that there is tribulation at any time. For in the case of men it is impossible that one should know the affliction of the afflicted who has not had experience, and gone through the actual sensations. Our High Priest endured all things. Therefore He endured first and then ascended, that He might be able to sympathize with us.
    But was «in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.» Observe how both above he has used the word «in like manner,» and here «after the likeness.» (Hebrews 2:14) That is, He was persecuted, was spit upon, was accused, was mocked at, was falsely informed against, was driven out, at last was crucified.
    «After our likeness, without sin.» In these words another thing also is suggested, that it is possible even for one in afflictions to go through them without sin. So that when he says also «in the likeness of flesh» (Romans 8:3), he means not that He took on Him [merely] «the likeness of flesh,» but «flesh.» Why then did he say «in the likeness»? Because he was speaking about «sinful flesh»: for it was «like» our flesh, since in nature it was the same with us, but in sin no longer the same.”

  16. Lucian says:


    Here’s from St. Paul:

    Hebrews 4:15  For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

    And here’s from the Acatist of our Lord Jesus Christ:

    Lord Jesus Christ, our God, Who seeks into Your creature, to Whom the passions and weaknesses of our human nature are shown, and Who knows the strength of our enemy, You Yourself cover us from his evil, for his power is mighty yet our nature is impassioned, and our strength is weakened. You, then, O Good One, Who knows our weakness, Who also bears our weakness’ burden, guard us from the disturbance of our thoughts and from the flood of passions, and make us worthy of this Holy service of Yours, least that we, in our mudied passions, should perchance forsake its sweetness and to find ourselves shamelessly and fearlessly standing in front of You. But, Lord, our most-sweet Jesus, mercy us and redeem us, Amen.

  17. ioannis says:

    Perry Robinson,

    I think that we do not disagree on the nature of original sin. I do not believe that it is a personal guilt or anything like that. I just believe that, whatever it is, it was not inherited by Christ. That’s what the Fathers and the 4th E.C. mean, in my opinion, when they say that Jesus was like us in all things sin excepted. See, for instance John Chrysostom “For sinful flesh it was not that Christ had, but like indeed to our sinful flesh, yet sinless, and in nature the same with us. And so even from this it is plain that by nature the flesh was not evil.” Since the person is divine, when they speak about sinlessness of flesh they mean the absence of original sin because the actual sins and the engagements in evil thoughts are all personal. What is left to be identified with that sin which is excluded by the Fathers from the human nature of Christ is the mere occurence of evil dispositions.

    Death is natural. We are from earth and we come from “non-beingness”. But we were made for life and for incorruption. For that reason our natural will, given by God, is directed naturally toward life. God did not cause and did not want our death. It was our fall that caused it. And after that fall death came into the world so that sin will not live for ever. Therefore death is natural and we do not want to die naturally. None of them is opposed to God. Christ’s human nature wants naturally to live but God wants Him to die for our salvation, therefore it is not death what God wants but our life. Where exactly do you see the problems? There is an opposition between God and creation. God is uncreated, we are created. But nothing natural is opposed to God in the manner that the evil is opposed to good. If death is evil then God uses evil means for good ends. Is God a Jesuit? The devil has the kingdom of death as he is the lord of this world. Is this world evil? By the way, I do not believe that evil means can serve good causes. The assumption of inner tendencies toward evil could serve, for me, only evil ends.

    Besides, if you say that the Logos assumed “dispositions toward evil” on His own free will that means that He assumed a human nature which tempts the person of Logos which is divine violating thus the commandment which speaks against tempting God. In such a case Jesus is a sinner. But Jesus said to Satan that He keeps that Commandement. Therefore there are no temptations from inside.

    Christ is sympathetic to us because He faced temptations as we do although they were not from inside. He was tempted many a times with greater temptations than we. Which, for instance, temptation is graver, the one which comes from an inward evil tendency or that which comes from the devil himself? Besides, He gave us the baptism where we are getting freed from the consequences of the original sin.

    Christ came into contact with the evilness that there was outside of Him and in this world, not in order to secure his impeccability but in order to save us. I did not understand your point about the Cross. He was tempted there as well. Wasn’t that a temptation from outside? Yes, it is true that the human natures were united without confusion. But, following the communication of their idioms principle, would we ever say that God makes evil thoughts? My worries though are not that the divine nature gets contaminated or mutable but that the evil is saved. “What is not assumed is not healed, and what is united to God is saved” according to St. Gregory.

    If you believe that the spiritual state of the human nature of Christ was not different from that of the pre-fall Adam, then you agree that Christ’s human nature was not in the same spiritual state with that of post-fall Adam. At any rate, can the body which lives with the spiritual consequences of the original sin be in the same spiritual state with the body where the fullness of divinity dwells?

    If Christ died because of something that He inherited from Theotokos, then He did not die for us and for our sins. Do you imply that He was purged of that at a certain point of His life? If yes, when, where and from whom?

    I apologise for writing “we believe”. The truth is that I wanted to draw you into agreeing with me. I am sorry.

  18. But also, unless we wish to say the Incarnation is not grace, and that the human Christ reaching out to us is not grace, this in no way affects sola gratia.

  19. Missed all the comments, but yes. When we Protestants say “righteousness is merely divine and not human” or “human righteousness is not before God but only before men” we are, rather explicitly, denying the Incarnation, twice. Once because Christ’s righteousness is before the Father, and is human; and once because our righteousness is before the Son of the Theotokos, who is God. We definitely need to learn not to do this.

    Something similar is happening when we talk about God’s inward regeneration being necessarily prior to the Sacraments. Christ saves, and Christ, the Man saves. It is not a denial of Christ alone to say we are saved through the Sacraments, unless we also claim the Sacraments are not Christ.

  20. Tap says:

    @MG i looked at the text that you linked to on you site, and i don’t see where St. Maximus says that “Christ was troubled by evil desires and thoughts like we are.” You seem to be reading much more into Maximus that he is actually saying. Ioannis is pretty much right on this although he’s wrong on the Theotokos as well, but that no the subject of this thread.

  21. Ioannis,

    I do not take your disagreements as tirades. So feel free to disagree here.

    I am familiar with what John says. But I am also familiar with St. Maximus says and it should be noted that John takes Maximus to be the model to follow.

    While there is a difference between the moral (personal) and the natural, it is also true that the latter can be caused and inherited from the former.

    As for your comments to MG. I don’t think we agree on the nature of original sin so while saying Christ had it in and its attending problems might be problematic for one view it may not be so for another. Rome and Protestants certainly think in one way or another that there is a kind of collective guilt inherited or imputed to us since we are all in one way or another in Adam sinning. So the question isn’t about the inheritance of the personal act. To inherit corruption on our view is one thing, to inherit some kind of guilt is something altogether different. One doesn’t entail the other on our view.

    If some of the natural passions lead to death, then we will have to endorse this thesis of Pelagianism that death is natural. Second, that death and human nature is opposed to God since according to Scripture, God doesn’t create death. If Christ’s humanity is impeccable in the way you gloss then you will have something naturally good opposed to the divine will, setting up an intrinsic opposition between God and creation. This raises more problems in my judgment than it solves.

    If Christ does not struggle against inward disordered passions, which are intrinsically in and of themselves blameless but misdirected and hence corrupt, how then can he said to be sympathetic with us as Hebrews indicates? So on the contrary, what I find crucial for salvation is that Christ actually overcame and fought against such things at their innermost depths of our nature.

    Evil isn’t ”around” anywhere. The evil is in the use and not in the nature, strictly speaking. Secondly, if you wish to press the Pauline language about light and darkness and a lack of relation between the two, I am not sure how that is going to fit with either a Catholic or Protestant gloss on Predestination and grace. The two natures indwell the one divine person. Are we to say that the divine person never came into contact with evil, sin and corruption in order to secure his impeccability? What are we to make of the Cross then, but nothing at all? Rather, wouldn’t it be better to say and to think that he takes them in hand and cures us? The two natures while in the one divine person are not mixed or confused, though the humanity of Christ does receive divine energies through the hypostatic union and is so deified through the process of recapitulation. So there is no possibility of a corruption of the divinity of Christ, unless God is too weak to overcome sin in the first place.

    As for the tenth commandment, does it mean the mere occurrence of a disposition or what we might call the wish or the engagement of the desire by the person?

    How can Christ assume the sick body if there is nothing in that makes it sick? As for sin, that depends, do you mean in terms of corruption or in terms of a specific act, as the scriptures distinguish the two.

    While it is true that God is omnipotent, it is also true that human nature could only be healed through assumption and from the inside out, on pain of contravening the divine will in creation and also obliterating human nature altogether. Consequently, God took up human nature as it was in its fallen state since it was the only way to do it. It is not a matter of raw power, but of means of employing that power. Here you seem to confuse the two matters by asking who was more powerful than God to impose influences against His Will?
    And it doesn’t follow that if I take on some defect in order to bring about some good, namely to get rid of the defect that I approve of the defect per se. I just approve that it is the means to do so. Here you confuse means with end.

    When you speak of original sin, which view of original sin are you endorsing in terms of its historical advocates? Augustine? Thomas? Calvin?

    Christ’s free choice is incorruptible because he is a divine person using the human power of choice and not because said nature determined his hypostasis to make such a choice.

    I think when Maximus speaks of the mutability of our choice he means two things, first the gnomic employment of the will and second the fallen employment qua gnomie. That is relative to the hypostasis enhypostacized in the nature and so given that Christ is a divine person, isn’t applicable to Christ.
    I am not sure what you mean when you state that Christ’s humanity was in a greater spiritual state than pre-fall Adam. Did not the Spirit indwell Adam or no? As for your parting question, which is easier to answer, your question or the ones I pose, How can God touch a sinner and not become contaminated? How can God be ignorant? How can God die? You seem worried that God is mutable and it is only due to some metaphysical distance that keeps this from happening. Or that God is too weak to take sin head on. I am not accusing you, but your worries seem to turn on this line of thought.

    No, life is not an evil thing. But most traditions and most people’s intuitions think that for Christ to choose to preserve his life would be an evil thing, which is why they relegate the express of “not my will” to a desire and go to such lengths of subsuming a divine person to determinism to secure his impeccability. This is true across Protestant and Catholic lines.

    Sure, it’s a choice relative to the divine hypostasis to assume a corrupted state, but its also a choice to suffer the evil of an unjust death too and lots of other things. I don’t think I wrote anything that would license the implication that the eternal Son is passive at the incarnation.

    Its true that Mary is purified at the annunciation, but then we have to explain why she died, which is also Orthodox teaching. If only sinners die, why did Mary die? This is why Rome is quite silent on the matter. We affirm she died. If the Theotokos was completely purified from ancestral sin, why did she die? Its not called the Dormition because she takes a nap. Consequently, this clarifies the line you deployed against the Immaculate Conception. Further, even before the annunciation there is a purification through the Law and through the generations proceeding her. She is the product of that purification of the Law down through the ages so that Christ is the end or telos of the Law.

    And when you say “we believe” what do you mean “we?” To whom do you refer?

  22. ioannis says:

    Perry Robinson,

    I can see nowhere the evil dispositions in the first paragraph of your comment. Is life an evil thing? Is it a sin when someone naturally wills something which is good and given from God?

    I agree, dispositions are states but isn’t that a personal choice when the person of Logos chooses to assume evil inclinations? The person of Logos is not passive at the Incarnation. He assumes the human nature, not the human nature Him. The humanity of Christ, as you know, has not its own distinct person.

    As about Mary, we rather believe, on the contrary, that because God inhabited her, Theotokos’ intellect was freed from every evil inclination at the moment of Christ’s Assumption. That’s the most prevalent Orthodox response, from what I know, to the Immaculate Conception doctrine. She was born with the original sin but she was liberated from it at the Annunciation.

  23. ioannis says:

    MG and Perry Robinson,

    My thanks first to Perry Robinson for his own response. I hope I do not abuse your hospitality with my tirades.

    I would like please to refer you both to three chapters of the third book of St Damascene’s “Exact exposition of the Orthodox Faith” which sums up the faith of the Fathers because I think that they answer with authority almost all of the issues raised in our discussion. Here is a link I found:


    The first one is the chapter titled “Concerning the natural and innocent passions” (Book 3 Chapter XX). I would like you, please, to read it. St John speaks there about the thoughts of Christ, His relation with Adam etc. It’s the text I had in mind yesterday when writing my response.

    The second chapter I would like to refer you to is the “Concerning His growth” (chapter XXII) where he explains what we mean by “growth” and what was the state of Christ’s human nature at the moment of the conception.

    The third is the “Concerning Corruption and Destruction” one (chapter XXVIII). There we see that when the Fathers use the word “corruption” for Christ they never use it in the moral and spiritual sense but always in the natural, biological and physical sense. That applies also to the passages cited from Athanasius and Maximus.

    Some thoughts more specifically on MG’s arguments:

    1. If we accept that, it would be like saying that Christ inherited the original/ancestral sin. Because what else is the original sin if not that propensity to sin? But when the Fathers say that Christ was exactly like us in nature but without the sin (because sin is unnatural), they mean exactly that He was without that propensity because we believe that nobody, not even us, inherit the actual sin of Adam or any guilt from our ancestor’s transgression. The fact that even that inner state is called “sin” and not only our actual sins we can see it in Romans 7:17 “But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me”.

    Aren’t some blameless passions part of the biological process which leads to our death? Isn’t getting older part of our corruption? That’s why they called corruption. Perhaps there is also a translation issue involved here. Let’s take for instance the word “apthartodocetism” whose first part (apthartos) can be rendered as “incorruptible”. The Greek word does not carry the double meaning of the English word.

    2. I would agree that those temptations are either personal or unnatural. That I would leave it open for now. What I find crucial for our salvation is that Christ did not possess that kind of temptations no matter if they are personal or unnatural.

    3. I am not sure that I understood the whole idea. But let’s grant all those things you described, the pre-volitional drive of our natural powers etc. The problem for me appears when we add the word “evil”. How do we know that a tendency, a drive, an energy or whatever is directed toward evil if not because the evil is somewhere around there? But the thing is “What communion hath light with darkness?” and also “God is light and in him is no darkness at all”. What we are to make then of the mutual indwelling of the two natures of Christ? Did the human nature of Christ darken the divine one? Does God save man or man condemns God?

    4. The first creation started with a person, Adam. The new one started with a person as well. Who is the second Adam? “The first man [is] of the earth, earthy: the second man [is] the Lord from heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:47) . The Christians already leave in the new creation even before their biological death. “Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creature” 2 Corinthians 5:17

    Yes, there was something progressive in the human nature of Christ for the economy of our salvation as John Damascene describes it, but it is not about Jesus’ purity. What do you mean by “incapable of any temptation” and why you say so?

    5. Even the tenth commandment of the old law says: “Neither shall you desire…etc”. In the supplications for the departed, the Church prays for forgiveness for all sins committed whether “by action, by word or by mind”.

    6. That’s the problem. After the transgression our ancestors were exiled from Paradise so that they will not eat from the tree of life and make the sin live for ever and become eternal. How can we now say that the Life itself assumed that sin? Christ assumed the sick body (our fallen nature) but not the sickness in it. He came to save and cure the sick body not to save the disease.

    The Logos of God assumed nothing without His will. Who was more powerful than God to impose on Him influences against His will? In that case He is not god. And if Logos assumed the evil influences of His own will, then God desires evil and knows evil.

    7. That’s the original sin. We all inherit it apart from Christ.

    8. Exactly, Christ’s free choice was incorruptible unlike ours.

    I think that when Maximus says here the “end” he means the “ending” not the “goal”.

    9. I do not think that what I say is in disagreement with Maximus who says, in my opinion, that Christ assumed the corruption (as we understand it when we speak about Christ) of human nature but He did not assume the mutabiliy of our free choice, that is He did not assume the unnatural spiritual consequences of our fall.

    Christ’s human nature was in a greater spiritual state than that of Adam before his fall. Adam was just in Paradise. The human nature of Christ was united with God. How we can say that the human nature which is united with God in a personal union is in the same spiritual state with a man who has to leave Paradise because of his sin?

  24. Ioannis,

    Christ’s humanity isn’t divinized completely at the incarnation. It is a process of personal recapitulation which takes place in stages, otherwise the transfiguration makes the resurrection pointless. And Christ did will to avoid death.

    I think we need to clarify a bit here. Desires are dispositions which one can have without any personal choosing action. If there are corrupted desires in Christ’s humanity doesn’t follow that Christ makes some choice personally. Dispositions are states and not actions.

    If corrupted desires are personal then lust would not be common to all men, but it is. The way the lust is instantiated or brought about differs because of the hypostases that will it, but the desire is the same across the board.

    As for thoughts, part of the problem is that most moderns think of the mind or intellect or soul as the person, but this is not the view of Maximus or other Fathers. Rather the intellect is a power used by the person. It is perfectly possible for the intellect of Christ to be corrupted from the assumption from the theotokos without Christ being peccaable. It seems to me that you are thinking of thoughts and their occurrence in a strictly personal way.

  25. MG says:


    No need to apologize for writing a lot. Personally, I prefer thorough responses to omitting something important.

    1. I would agree that there is not a new nature post fall, and Adam pre-fall was corruptible. Do you think that human beings inherit, post-fall, a tendency to sin? Or do we just have natural, blameless passions? If it is just natural blameless passions, then why is it called corruption and sin?

    2. It seems there are two different ways you can be tempted from inside. The first is being tempted in virtue of past bad actions one has personally done, which create a personal disposition toward wrongdoing. The second is being tempted in virtue of states (thoughts, images, desires) intrinsic to one’s soul that are not the result of past bad actions one has personally done. Temptations of the second kind are brought about by the inherited inherent tendency towards sin that gets introduced like a disease into human nature at the fall. In order for it to become a personal tendency to sin (the first kind of temptation from inside), there would have to be voluntary consent to the existence of these thoughts. Of course Christ can’t have the first kind, because it is not even possible for Him to do wrong actions. We could even call the second kind “internal” and distinguish it from the first kind which can be called “innermost” temptations. Internal temptations (the second kind) are within the soul, but not the person; innermost temptations, though, would be within the person, due to personal consent to what is happening within the soul.

    Bearing this in mind, I would ask the following: when you speak of “internal temptations”, would you say all internal temptations are what I call “innermost” (of the first kind explained above, affecting the person)?

    3. There is no faculty of “evil thoughts and desires”. Thus Christ did not will to actualize a “faculties of evil thought and desire”. He actualized his intellect and had thoughts and actualized appetite and had desires. Apart from the specific ways He actualized these faculties through free choice, though, there was the pre-particularized energizing of his human nature—something that is pointed out by Demetrios Batrellos’ analysis of the text of the sixth Council in his book The Byzantine Christ. There is a sense in which the natural powers of the body and soul energize prior to the particular way that they are made to energize by a person. They have a pre-volitional drive toward activity, before being particularized/used/actualized by the person as agent. It is possible to locate evil thoughts and desires as one aspect in this pre-volitional drive—a drive that never gets particularized as particular sinful actions, but only as specific perfect human actions by the person of the Logos. Given the above, would this explain how Christ could be sinless, even if He had a tendency toward evil, and experienced evil thoughts and desires?

    4. You asked “How do we have a new creation in Christ if Christ is tempted from inside which is a symptom of the old world?” Wouldn’t natural blameless passions and death be symptoms of the old world too? I’d also point out that on this understanding of Christ’s humanity, it becomes fixed in incorruptibility after the resurrection. So the resurrection inaugurates the new creation which was like a seed in Christ’s incarnation and birth.

    Also the fact that Christ’s humanity was divinized from the very moment of His conception did not mean he did not inherit corruption. After all, there was something progressive that had to happen to Christ’s humanity throughout his life, recapitulating each stage of human life in himself, and deifying it. If there was nothing progressive that had to happen to Christ through his living a human life, then He would be incapable of any kind of temptation at any point in his life. So being deified at birth does not preclude temptation; why think it precludes having corrupt tendencies?

    5. Does anyone who experiences the desire to do something evil sin? Does lustful desire make us guilty? I thought the Fathers taught that not the mere possession of evil desire, but consenting to it personally, is what makes a man guilty.

    6. Christ would have to assume evil thoughts and desires because they are intrinsic (as a sickness to the body) to the human nature (body and soul) that needs to be made incorruptible and immortal by His recapitulation. It was not unreasonable because the Reasoner never consented to the unreasonable influences on Him. The devil found nothing in Christ because the Person of Christ is sinless, not because his nature didn’t have bad tendencies. Is this adequate, as at least a possible explanation?

    7. I don’t see what’s wrong with saying that the inherited evil thoughts and desires are an aspect of human nature’s energies prior to the free actualization of the human will by the Person of Christ. Surely there are some urgings/movements/activities of our nature that come prior to our personal actualization of the energies in free acts? Surely we have some thoughts prior to our choice to think a specific way? While it is true that someone taught us to turn our thoughts in an evil direction, it seems hard to deny that there is an inherited corruption within human nature that gives us a prior propensity to obey the devil even before he makes suggestions—a propensity that we would not have if the fall hadn’t happened.

    8. How would you interpret this quote by St. Maximus: “Because his free choice was incorruptible, he rectified our nature’s liability to passions and turned the end of our nature’s passibility—which is death—into the beginning of our natural transformation into incorruption.” If Maximus is talking about natural, good passions (acting on which is blameless) then why does he say that their end is death? Don’t the natural passions have life as their end?

    9. Similarly, Maximus says “Neither did he assume nor become my sin. Rather, he became the “sin I caused”; in other words, he assumed the corruption of human nature that was a consequence of the mutability of my free choice.” You seem to be denying that Christ assumed the corruption of human nature. How would you interpret the fact that Maximus says “he assumed the corruption of human nature”?

  26. ioannis says:

    MG and Nathaniel,

    Thank you for your explanations and views but I still disagree with you. I think that when we say that Christ assumed our fallen nature we mean that He assumed all those elements of our nature that we call “innocent passions” (such as, thirst, getting tired, sadness, death etc. which are characteristic of our fallen nature.) That rejects the heresy of apthartodocetism altogether because that heresy says that Christ assumed an incorruptible body without the innocent passions. (By the way the corruptible body of Christ remained incorruptible in the tomb not by nature but by God “Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption” Acts 13:35).

    When we speak about pre-fallen and fallen nature we do not imply two natures but one nature in two different states. Although Adam before the fall was corruptible (that is possible to get corrupt and possible not to get corrupt – if he was made incorruptible he would never have died, as Athanasius says in Nathaniel’s quote man was created “for incorruption”) he was not experiencing death and the other natural innocent passions that appeared after the fall as condemnation of his transgression. That’s why Athanasius writes “though they were by nature subject to corruption, the grace of their union with the Word made them capable of escaping from the natural law…” Therefore the death is natural but it was not part of our pre-fallen nature/state of nature. The death is post-fallen. That’s the difference between pre-fallen and fallen in terms of nature.

    The “tendency toward sin” is unnatural although it is also a consequence of the fall and the death which accompanied the fall. It comes from the Devil. That tendency is common, it applies to all human beings apart from Christ who was ontologically sinless, not, let’s say, morally. He was not battling against evil desires and thoughts as men do. Christ was tempted only from outside, when for instance He went to the desert and fasted, as opposed to the human persons who are tempted from inside. In that Christ was like Adam in his pre-fallen state, who, being made good, he had no evil thoughts and desires, that’s why he was also tempted from outside, from the snake. That similarity between Jesus and Adam illustrates very well, in my opinion, the fact that in Christ we have a New Creation. How do we have a new creation in Christ if Christ is tempted from inside which is a symptom of the old world?

    Furthermore, the human nature of Christ was divinized from the very moment of His conception due to its union with His divine nature. That’s why, although the human nature of Christ had all those innocent passions described above, however, as Maximus says, Christ wanted to feel hunger and felt hungry, Christ wanted to die and died and so on, in sort, He did nothing without His will. If Christ wanted it, He would have avoided death. Could we ever say then that Christ wanted to make evil thoughts and He willed feel evil desires? And if yes, where is then the sinlessness of Him who said that “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”? In such a case He did not die for our sins but, to speak blasphemy, for his own. Where is His holiness? He does not sanctify but He is in need of sanctification.

    Besides, why would Christ assume evil thoughts and desires? Of course they are not (to be) saved in His Kingship and they are even useless in that temporal world. What He was supposed to do with them? Christ assumed our innocent passions (which are called innocent because they are not imputed on us – it is not a sin to feel hungry or drinking, or dying etc.) not in order to abolish them but in order to cure them and to make us able to make a good use of them so that they do not turn into condemnable ones. But is there any way that we can claim that we can use the evil thoughts in a good manner? We want us to be purged of the evil thoughts not to purge, to speak nonsense, the evil thoughts from “evilness”. What we want is our evil thoughts and desires to disappear so that we become pure like Christ who said “the ruler of the world is coming, and he has nothing IN Me”. Christ had no reason to assume evil thoughts. Did Christ, the Logos of God, do anything unreasonable?

    Lastly, I would say that maybe all those evil thoughts and desires are personal and of individual character. That’s why men think different evils in different ways. We, as persons, make the thoughts, not our nature. Otherwise, if neither the persons nor the nature make those thoughts, then who makes them? The tendencies do not make thoughts. We have a natural faculty of thinking but not a faculty of thinking evil. Someone taught us to turn it into evil directions.

    I apologise for writing too much. I do not know if they make any sense at all.

  27. Nathaniel, thanks so much — I’m really enjoying those papers. I’ll be checking out Bradshaw’s book sometime too.

  28. Steve,

    There is one divine hypostasis of the Son who acts according to each nature and hence two activities or energies. They are always directed towards a divine good, but they do not always have the same object, as say in the Passion, where Christ simultaneously wills to preserve his life and go to the Cross.

  29. momojin,

    Dr. David Bradshaw, professor of Philosophy at Univ. of Kentucky. His argument on synergy is found primarily in his work “Aristotle East and West”, however, a short summary of the scriptural analysis that he does can be found here: http://www.uky.edu/~dbradsh/

    Look on pages 5-6 of “The Concept of the Divine Energies.”

  30. ioannis, it would seem to me that Christ inheriting a tendency to sin would be part and parcel of the rejection of the heresy of aphthartodocetism. Such a view would, I think, require that through personal sin our “tendency to sin” would become “passion for sin.” This seems to be the thrust of Athanasius:

    This, then, was the plight of men. God had not only made them out of nothing, but had also graciously bestowed on them His own life by the grace of the Word. Then, turning from eternal things to things corruptible, by counsel of the devil, they had become the cause of their own corruption in death; for, as I said before, though they were by nature subject to corruption, the grace of their union with the Word made them capable of escaping from the natural law, provided that they retained the beauty of innocence with which they were created. That is to say, the presence of the Word with them shielded them even from natural corruption, as also Wisdom says: God created man for incorruption and as an image of His own eternity; but by envy of the devil death entered into the world.” When this happened, men began to die, and corruption ran riot among them and held sway over them to an even more than natural degree, because it was the penalty of which God had forewarned them for transgressing the commandment. Indeed, they had in their sinning surpassed all limits; for, having invented wickedness in the beginning and so involved themselves in death and corruption, they had gone on gradually from bad to worse, not stopping at any one kind of evil, but continually, as with insatiable appetite, devising new kinds of sins.

    I’m really not sure on this though. I’d really like to hear some thoughts from Maximus.

  31. MG says:


    Perhaps I was not being clear. Tell me what you think of this:

    By natural I do not mean “appropriate to nature, definitive of what it means to be human” but “intrinsic to nature, internal to human nature in both body and soul”. I was not saying it is human to sin, or tend towards sin, or have misdirected actions. I meant that the corruption that Christ took on was not intrinsic to his person. Rather there was a misdirection (corruption) of the activities of his body and soul (his human nature). The fall did not fundamentally change what it means to be human, but misdirected (corrupted) much of what humans share in common (the natural energies of body and soul). So Christ was troubled by evil desires and thoughts like we are because of our corrupt humanity (not just like Adam was, pre-fall). He never misused his human natural will, and as such never personally appropriated the corruption that dwelt in his nature. The Logos never committed sin, which is technically personal, not natural. If by sin is meant “corruption” (as I think St. Paul uses it in 2 Cor 5:21, and Rom 8:3, and some other phrases about Christ “bearing sin” etc.) and “sinful” means “corrupt” then we can say Christ’s nature is sinful. But if by sin is meant anything else, such as “guilt” or “culpable way of acting, initiated by a person’s specific choice” then no, Christ does not have a sinful human nature (nor does anyone). Natures are not guilty, people are. And this is because natures do not initiate the choices for which we are praiseworthy or blameworthy.

    Does that help? I think I’m trying to say the same thing as you (namely that Christ had a fallen human nature).

  32. Nathaniel,

    I’m not familiar with Bradshaw. Could you be more specific as to what you’re referring to? I’m curious.


    Would you say that sola fide, rather than sola gratia, implies Eutychianism? Also, is sola gratia incompatible with orthodoxy, or was Augustine correct to endorse it?

  33. ioannis says:


    I had not heard it before and I do not think that Maximus’ text support the idea that Christ “inherited in his humanity the same natural tendency toward sin that we have”.

    Does everyone agree that Christ’s human nature had a natural tendency toward sin? Besides I think that every tendency toward sin is unnatural. Had Christ’s human nature anything unnatural?

  34. s-p says:

    Hi Perry, Good call on the distinction between sola gratia and monergism (another distinction possibly lost on some and indeed on the catechumen). Can you elaborate on “one person but two acts”?

  35. A couple of points of clarification. While there is only one person who acts, there are two acts.

    Second, sola gratia doesn’t imply eutychianism. I think the catachumen is confusing sola gratia with monergism. Augustine for example includes our activity in justification as well as endorsing sola gratia.

    Canadian, this isn’t my post but Steve’s.


    On the one hand if we aren’t to use Christology as a grid because it is a unique event, then we aren’t entitled to do so for other things. Second, it isn’t clear to me that its analogy per se but something else, more like a program.

    If you report that it doesn’t make sense to you, I can’t contravene your own experience, unless you give me the reasons for thinking so.

    It does make sense to me when it is applied to Scripture and to anthropology. In fact, different views of inspiration were in many important cases a product of different Christologies, such as with theodore of mopsuestia with his adoptionistic christology.

    With dyothelitism, I think the case while unique can and does have application in other areas for the simple reason that Christ is the font of the race so that something true of him with respec to the relation of humanity and divinity or nature and grace is also true of us. Grace does not obliterate nature in the incarnation and so it doesn’t do so with us since the truth is established that what God creates isn’t opposed to him per se. And I don’t need to affirm, nor would I wish to, that humans are of one essence with God in order to make that point stick. If the divine will overides and determines our own, why doesn’t it do so in the incarnation for example? What could one appeal to other than the relation of person and nature, and the relation between the two natures in Christ?

    With Jesus Christ, we have a unique delineation of the divine and human, in being and will. Neither I nor any other Christian is homoousion with God.

  36. Agreed. I misread your post and I apologize for that fact. As I pointed out “which Jesus” is poorly worded. The underlying question being asked is which will or energy. A perhaps more erudite version of this same question is “By whose energy am I made righteous: mine or God’s?” The answer is clearly both according to classical Christological anthropology. Bradshaw points this out in Paul’s use of synergon. Eutychianism is, as the catechuman adroitly observed, closely related to this problem. Eutychius’ problem is merely a confused reading of Cyril in which the human nature of Christ is absorbed in the divine. Monoenergism/monothelitism are far more sophisticated versions of the same heresy. Both seek to remove the human cause in the redemptive work of the *one* Christ. The monergism at hand, found throughout the protestant churches, has (explicitly) this same concern: to minimize human activity in the work of salvation. The end result of this line of reasoning is the queitist movement.

  37. trvalentine says:


    My response was not a confusion of person, nature and energy because the question was ‘which Jesus’. There is but *one* — that is what St Cyril of Alexandria endeavoured to get Nestorius to understand.

    IF the question had been which will chose to do a particular work, that would have been different. But that wasn’t the question.


  38. s-p says:

    Nathaniel, A couple of folks in the class actually intuitively connected the dots on the monergism/dyothelite issue as it relates to human free will and synergy as we continued the discussion of the monophysite and monothelite heresies.

  39. I of course am not intending to suggest that the nature does the work (as s-p points out). Merely trying to point out that the question “Which ‘Jesus’ did the works?” although badly phrased is actually highlighting the fact that the monergism emphasized by Protestants is not congruous with dyothelite dogma.

  40. trvalentine,

    Actually, your response is a confusion of person, nature and energy. You are recommending monoenergism which is condemned at the third council of Constantinople. You are suggesting that the energy of activity of Christ properly belongs to his person. The council rules that the energies and wills of Christ are plural, properly belonging to His nature. The Orthodox teaching is thus that the activities of Christ are worked fully according to both his human and divine natures as a divine/human synergy. It is precisely this divine/human synergy which allows us to partake in the divine life and be redeemed. Thus, to believe that one is ‘saved by grace alone and that NOTHING I do that is good is of “me” but solely of God’ is a proper Christological heresy.

  41. s-p says:

    Indeed, Thomas. Therein lies the crux of the matter for most evangelicals: their doctrines of salvation do not reflect a proper Christology nor Trinity. In a sense it is a “trick question” because “persons” do works, not “natures”. I would venture to say if you posed that question to most evangelicals they would go down the rabbit hole and try to unravel “which Jesus” rather than simply saying, “Persons do good works, and persons sin, not natures.” But it does then necessitate a discussion of how we define human nature, God’s essence/energies and grace, and the interaction of the two in regard to how we view “salvation”. You win the cigar.

  42. trvalentine says:

    [quote]If Jesus was fully God and fully man, which “Jesus” did the works?[/quote]
    The question is based upon a confusion of nature and person. There was only one Person who ‘did the works’.

  43. jnorm888 says:

    What is not touched is not healed.


  44. MG says:


    You asked

    “Where is it in Scripture that Christ carried Adam’s sin, until He was on the cross?”

    What do you make of 2 Corinthians 5:21, where Paul says that Christ became sin? Does Christ *become* sin (become “missing the mark”, constituted as morally misdirected) or does he merely get declared guilty of our sins? It might be objected that this otherwise plausible read conflicts with saying that Christ is without sin. But for an answer to this objection, see St. Maximus’ exegesis of that text here: http://wellofquestions.wordpress.com/2009/04/10/st-maximus-on-the-corruption-of-christs-humanity/

    Maximus points out that Christ was not personally a sinner, because he did not and could not perform sinful actions, even though he inherited in his humanity the same natural tendency toward sin that we have.

    What do you think it means to say “he bore our infirmities”? Is this just talking about physical sickness?

    When Paul says that Christ took on the likeness of sinful flesh, (Rom 8:3) how closely does Christ’s flesh resemble our sinful flesh? Is his flesh just similar to ours? Or does he have the same humanity as us (see Phil 2:7 where the word for “likeness” is used to mean being fully human)?

  45. ioannis says:

    Yes, it is very interesting the association of sola gratia with Eutychianism. Thank you for sharing. I will think further about it.

    Here are some thoughts.

    The catechumen asked: “If Jesus was fully God and fully man, which “Jesus” did the works?” Which “Jesus” died?

    Is it something good and a work of faith to get baptised and receive the Holy Spirit or not? Who takes the decision to do so?

    Besides Christ adds to the quote “…while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work”. What’s the meaning in speaking about those works of man if they can be only evil ones?

    Christ assumed out fallen human nature. There is no such thing as “sinful human nature” becaue sin is unnatural.

    I would also say that, strangely, the “what is not assumed is not healed” is rather redemptive anthropology applied to incarnational semantics than vice vesrsa. I am not sure what comes first.

  46. Canadian says:

    Isn’t it true that Christ assumed fallen human nature but not a sinful human nature? Human nature is fallen but not sinful. Every ounce of humanity in Christ including his human will was received from Mary, a fallen person. Christ had to receive his free will from Mary who has the same human nature as us. The ancient Councils declared that we are consubstantial with Christ according to his humanity.

    Perry, please clarify for me. Your post seems to be rightly directed at “faith alone” but would synergism between the human and the divine (whether in Christ or in us) be opposed to “grace alone”. Is grace not just the life of God himself enabling and energising whatever is good. Christ was said to be full of grace and truth. Why would it not be correct to attribute all things good, even those done freely by us, ultimately to His grace? The Reformed oppose grace and works vehemently, but need we do the same?

  47. s-p says:

    Kevin, While I agree that Christ incarnate is an unrepeatable and unique event, I don’t see that “incarnational semantics” cannot be applied to redemptive theology. It seems that most of early Church patristics is precisely about that. “What is not assumed is not healed” is exactly incarnational semantics specifically applied to redemptive anthropology. I think the catechumen’s question was indeed a legitimate connection of two dots: What is the relationship of deity to humanity, and is it possible for deity and humanity to retain their respective properties yet interact in a way that one is not subsumed by the other. If we take the language of modern evangelical pop-soteriology seriously then this is indeed a talking point since many modern evangelicals in the pews don’t have much background in Trinitarian and Incarnational theology. I think it would be a new idea to a lot of evangelicals that our views of salvation need to be informed by Trinity and Incarnation, not the nature of Christ defined by our soteriology.

  48. Carl says:

    The Protestant problem is taking “for all have fallen” too literally. It’s a quote from a Psalm, ie. poetry, included in the NT to make a larger point. If you take it literally “all” should include both Christ and angels and everything else that can fall. If we take it metaphorically, it means that in general people fall, but it doesn’t claim that this is an intrinsic fact about human nature. In fact, since Christ is the second Adam, that is the true embodiment of human nature, human nature is actually not to fall but to be redeemed.

  49. Kevin, your point is the same as MzEllen’s. Namely, Christ is human in a different way than *we* are human. While it is true that we are not homoousian with the Father, we are homoousian with Christ. If this is not true, than we cannot be “in Christ” and our salvation is forfeit. This is specifically why nearly all of the NT authors take great pains to argue explicitly against docetism. It is this base heresy, that God cannot be united to humanity, which underlies all of the ancient heresies (including iconoclasm). But Christ God became passable from the moment of his conception. He knew hunger, thirst and even temptation (is this not what the 40 days in the wilderness are all about [and here is at least one NT scripture MzEllen]). In Christ’s knowing our frailty even unto death, our nature has been united to God in Christ.

    MzEllen, you should probably familiarize yourself with Aphthartodocetism, the heresy that Christ was not subject to corruption but chose death on the cross out of a free will (which we lacked). It seems to be the closest historical teaching to what you are suggesting.

  50. Kevin Davis says:

    I don’t see why we have to take the unique event of the Incarnation and the unique person of the Incarnation, and then apply Incarnational semantics to other issues which are not this event/person. This doesn’t make any sense when it is applied to the doctrine of scripture, nor does it make any sense when it is applied to redemptive anthropology. This tactic manages to score points as a rhetorical ploy but doesn’t actually illumine anything. With Jesus Christ, we have a unique delineation of the divine and human, in being and will. Neither I nor any other Christian is homoousion with God.

  51. MzEllen says:

    Where is it in Scripture that Christ carried Adam’s sin, until He was on the cross?

  52. Sorry MzEllen, that just doesn’t fly. If Christ has not assumed the ancestral curse then we are not saved at all. What is not assumed is not redeemed.

  53. MzEllen says:

    The difference between Christ’s will and our will is that His is not touched by Adam’s sin.

    Trying to understand how one Person (Jesus) had two natures (fully God and fully human) is like trying to understand the Trinity.

    Just trust and go with it.

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