The Heresy of Calvinism. I

About a year ago, his Beatitude Metropolitan Jonah addressed the meeting of the ACNA at which he delineated a number of things that must be jettisoned were real ecumenical dialogue to occur between the Orthodox and this newest iteration of Anglicanism. Among the eschewed was what his Beatitude called “the heresy of Calvinism.” That very weekend, while attending a reception for my nephew John and his new bride Becca, her father, a minster of the Reformed Episcopal Church, and a friend of mine from some years back (more than twenty: we had attended seminary together, we both served as clergy in the PCA parish in Allentown, PA), accosted me wanting to know what was heretical about Calvinism. The following post(s) is my reply.

This, like any essay on some historical ism, immediately demands an explanation of what exactly that ism entails. The matter becomes more urgent when certain people wish to rearrange categories at one time more-or-less settled, and with these disputes I shall have little to say. By “these” I mean the suppliants of the erstwhile Bishop Thomas Durham (aka N. T. Wright) and his putative new readings of Paul, and the tentacles of such readings that have ensnared contemporary Reformed circles under the sobriquet of Federal Vision. To be just, federal vision predates N. T. Durham’s musings by decades, many tracing it back to the disquiet surrounding Norm Shepherd at Westminster Seminary in the early 80s. I remember at the time thinking Shepherd’s stance odd, and later in the decade, having fallen in with a circle sympathetic to Shepherd (the aforementioned PCA parish in Allentown) due to some sacramental and ecclesiological affectations on my part, I found Shepherd more to my newly acquired taste. It is all now too easy to see such readings’ incoherence and inconsistency, both with the Westminster Standards, and with Calvin (though I do not equate the two), and like the Finns with Luther, all seemingly suffering from a case of ‘deification envy’. Thus for them, claims to be “Calvinist” at best must come with the obscene caveat “Calvinism better-informed.” All the arguments about Federal Vision and its accouterments I shall leave to one side, for they do not concern the basic Orthodox critiques: perhaps they are of great weight, but not to the basic problems as the Orthodox see them, for they concern matters “after the fact”. That is, they don’t address the questions of predestination, satisfaction theories of the atonement, and human union with Christ based upon human nature’s redemption through union with the Incarnate Logos. Thus, whether one wishes to sail on R. C. Sproul’s end of the Reformed boat, or on Jim Jordan’s, it is all of apiece for the Orthodox.

The essential problems of Calvinism arise from one source, namely the confusion of nature and person, and these problems so engendered array themselves against Patristic thought (and thus Orthodoxy): to wit, the will of God is coterminous with the Divine nature so as to confuse agent and end (this arises from the Calvinist adoption of certain Augustinian categories); that which is natural is determined (and thus the will is not free); difference entails opposition; Christ’s righteousness is not that of a divine Person, and is not what we unite to; and correlative to this, Christ’s consubstantiality with our nature does not heal it; death is a curse or a punishment; sin as personal becomes a consequent of it being natural; and finally, the virtues are not natural things. These items concerned the fathers in various ways, and they weave in and out of the Christological controversies, as well as the controversies with the Gnostics and the Arians. I will defend the Orthodox counter propositions, which could very well, of course, necessitate several posts.

Calvinism as a species of Augustinianism accepts in full the West’s later developed Augustinian Trinitarianism. This entails, of course, the enormity of the filioque, but for our purposes it also entails a reading of Augustine that sees the unity of the Trinity as arising from the single nature, and not flowing from the monarchy of the Father (a position that St. Augustine himself contradicted, even in De Trinitate). Consequently, the attributes of the divine nature in the Reformed mind become determinative of the actions and relations of the Persons of the Holy Trinity. One need only look at the Westminster Standards’ chapter on the Trinity which begins with two fulsome statements on God in general, delineating His attributes, and only then gives a brief aside that this one God exists as three Persons. Compare this with St. John of Damascus, who begins with a discussion of the powers and names of God, but then makes clear that he is not speaking of the one divine nature, a God-in-general, but of the Father.

What has this to do with Calvinism? First, for Calvin and the Reformed (a fantasia on a theme from Augustine if you would) and then all who sail in them, because the one divine nature is the defining element of ‘what’ God is, the first basic principle of this deity is its unity: God is not made of parts or composed, for then God becomes contingent (could God be God without justice?). Consequently the divine nature in the Reformed theological order means the coalescing of all attributes by the great metaphysical category of being. Augustine himself writes “So also the Trinity itself is as great as each several person therein. For where truth itself is magnitude, that is not more great which is not more true: since in regard to the essence of truth, to be true is the same as to be, and to be is the same as to be great; therefore to be great is the same as to be true [De Trinitate 8.1.2. Sic et ipsa trinitas tam magnum est quam unaquaeque ibi persona; non enim ibi maior est quae uerior non est ubi est ipsa ueritas magnitudo quia in essentia ueritatis hoc est uerum esse quod est esse, et hoc est esse quod est magnum esse; hoc ergo magnum esse quod uerum esse.].” And, “since in this simplicity, to be wise is not other than to be, therefore wisdom is there the same as essence [De Trinitate 7.1.2 Et quia in illa simplicitate non est aliud sapere quam esse, eadem ibi sapientia quae essentia.].” Consequently, the so-called attributes cannot but be identical to the divine essence and with each other, and as well determinative for the inner life of the Trinity, in that the unity of the Trinity is predicated not on the personal, but on the natural: “the divinity, …the Godhead itself…is the unity of the Trinity [De Trinitate 1.8.15 [Christus] conuersum iri postea in ipsam diuinitatem uel, ut certius expresserim, deitatem, quae non est creatura sed est unitas trinitatis incorporea et incommutabilis, et sibimet consubstantialis et coaeterna natura.].” Augustine saw that this could lead to dire results (are the persons products of the attributes?).

Thus it should not be marveled that for St. Augustine, God’s predestination can be none other than his foreknowledge: hoc enim propositum ad praescientiam et ad praedestinationem Dei pertinet (Epistolae ad Romanos inchoata Expositio 8:28-30). Thus whatever “attributes” we predicate of God cannot be actually differentiated from one another, however much we may wish to distinguish them. For both Aquinas and Calvin, as good Augustinians, the will of God is not other than His essence, and so follows Aquinas’s notion of God as actus purus. The divine nature, as one person put it, has become an enormous metaphysical equals sign: God’s justice is God’s mercy is God’s goodness is God’s love. Further, what God wills, since the will cannot be a part of God (as God has no parts), but resides within the divine nature, what He wills He wills eternally. I don’t know that we can here ignore the questions surrounding the eternality of creation (whose origins we see within Origen, who held a similar order of theology to Augustine, and who both borrowed generously from later middle- and Neoplatonism), but I shall hold that in abeyance, and take as coherent (for the moment) the assertion that what is willed is distinct from the will. Now, this distinction Orthodoxy embraces: creation is not eternal, and while God wills that all men everywhere be saved, they are not. But for a Calvinist this must lead to a sundering of God’s will, the creation of the poorly thought-out distinction between God’s permissive and absolute will, a shabby distortion of the medieval distinction between God’s ordained power and His absolute power, a distinction Calvin himself rejected. Such distinctions can only be admitted as verbal at best, and not real, for within God are no distinctions. In this theology, predestination is inescapable.

Orthodoxy, however, does not hold to such Theology. For the Orthodox God is a relative term, and the divine nature a relative thing, for it is held by all three Persons of the Trinity, and is as well known by all of creation. Instead for the Orthodox, we see the absolute as residing with the Father, that is, with the unbegotten. As St. Gregory Nazianzenus asserted in his theological orations, deity is not the absolute term, for it is relative: who is God the God of? Of everyone and everything. But when we speak of the monarch, the sole principle, we speak of the Father: of whom is He begotten? Of no one. Thus, unbegotten, the Father is, is the Monarch. This monarchy is seen in the eternal generation of the Son and the eternal procession of the Holy Spirit. Relationship here is by origin, the Father retaining the Divine Monarchy. Thus what we predicate of God we see as arising from what He has revealed to us (for even as Trinity God is ineffable), and thus the attributes we give to God we do so in seeing his dealings within the Trinity, and his dealings with creation.

Further, in the Divine Trinity we see God’s glory, power, and goodness descend to us creatures in infinite manners. St. Paul speaks about the various glories of God’s creation in I Cor. 15. And so with the will of God. Will is natural and not personal. Thus the will resides in the divine nature, and thus the three Persons will the same things. Note, God’s will wills a multitude of things, and effects numerous realities. Some of these are products of God’s will that are eternal (the Father willing to love the Son), and some of these actions of the will have temporal and not eternal realities (rocks are not eternal). For the Orthodox, God wills according to His Word and His words, and thus while simple, in that God has not many wills, his will has numerous ends, and thus the will is at once both simple and not. Were the will simple analogous to the manner in which Plotinus spoke of simplicity, coterminous with the divine nature (a nature with which we identify all perfections), and not finding a goal outside of itself (for how could a will that wills only the good as a simple will, will anything other than itself, and thus make all of creation only an emanation or extension of the divine nature?), then we are left with the eternal creations of Origen. Yet both Calvin and Peter Martyr Vermigli, whose Commonplace on predestination was so formative on English Protestantism, affirmed that the will of God was coterminus and identifiable with his nature: “Just as predestination is the purpose or the will of God, and the same will of God is the first cause of all things and is one and the same with the essence of God; there fore it is impossible that is should have a cause (PMV in his Commonplace on predestination);” and “When the question is asked, says this holy man (Augustine), why God acts so, the answer is: because He willed. If you go on to enquire why He so willed, the reply should be: You ask for something greater and higher than the will of God itself, and this cannot be found. Let human temerity, then, be repressed, not asking for what is not, lest perhaps it do not find what is. Augustine here speaks the truth, and I fully subscribe to it (Calvin, On the Eternal Predestination of God. VIII.4).” For the Orthodox, the perfections and infinite words of God, which we also call, after the Holy Fathers, His eternal energies (His glory, love, goodness, et cetera) are also the proper ends of God’s will.

Consequently, what the Orthodox deem the predestinations of God have to do with the eternal things concerning God. (St. Maximus spoke of those eternal things peri Theou around or concerning God: whether we translate peri as around or concerning they amount to the same thing.) When St. Paul says we are predestined unto good works, he is not saying we are predestined to act well or goodly, but that the goal for which we were created as creatures to enjoy God is to participate in the eternal good things around/concerning God, i.e., the multiplicity of goods, the logoi, that are the abundance of the life of God. I shall stop here.


  1. You’ve got some latin, some history, some names. That’s all you have.

    In the rush to deny Christ by attacking Calvinism, you’ve only exposed yourself as hating Christ.

    You have basically made a functional god out of the pretense that the Word of God is the same as human speech and Satan’s speech. Your arguments in support of your beliefs only work if there is no such thing as God as Word/ Creating Speech/ Logos.

    What you have done is actually the unforgivable sin: compare the Word of God to the speech of demons by default on the premise that there is only speech in total reality and it can’t create anything. The Pharisees did the same:

    Mark 3:22-30 And the scribes who had come down from Jerusalem said, He has Beelzebub, and, By the prince of the demons he casts out demons. And having called them to him , he said to them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan? And if a kingdom has become divided against itself, that kingdom cannot subsist. And if a house has become divided against itself, that house cannot subsist. And if Satan rise up against himself, and is divided, he cannot subsist, but has an end. But no one can, having entered into his house, plunder the goods of the strong man unless he first bind the strong man , and then he will plunder his house. Verily I say unto you, that all sins shall be forgiven to the sons of men, and all the injurious speeches with which they may speak injuriously; but whosoever shall speak injuriously against the Holy Spirit, to eternity has no forgiveness; but lies under the guilt of an everlasting sin; –because they said, He has an unclean spirit.

    You are essentially saying that the speech of unclean spirits IS the speech of God and can’t create anything, can’t ‘interfere with men’s choices’, etc in order to say men have free will as appearing to have made a total environment in which that will could be free by denying the power of the Word of God.

    All you supposed subtly about smaller minds than yours mixing up predestination with something else is just smoke and mirrors to hide your own unforgivable sin that you essential have as your god and doctrinal filter on all matters.

    The unforgivable sin is unforgivable to you as a creature. That is why you must be born again and be another creature in Jesus Christ. It is not at all the case that identical creatures will be in heaven and the lake of fire, or that they will ‘earn’ their respective places by self-willed actions. New creatures in Jesus Christ are and will be in heaven and non-new creatures –those who deny the power of the Word of God– will be in the lake of fire.

    All your religionism and the public piety you think you do means nothing.

    1John 5:10-13 He that believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself; he that does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the witness which God has witnessed concerning his Son. And this is the witness, that God has given to us eternal life; and this life is in his Son. He that has the Son has life: he that has not the Son of God has not life. These things have I written to you that ye may know that ye have eternal life who believe on the name of the Son of God.

    How can you believe the witness that the Word of God gave when you deny the Word of God is any different from Satan’s speech in order to simply keep saying to yourself, as those demons in you keep doing: “I’ve got free will!” ?

    You basically have no Christ at all. You only have the same speech in which another liar will say the doctrines of Buddhism, shamanism, Jainism or animism or any other pagan system of soul entrapment.

    Jesus IS The Christ ( and only Christ ) as the Word of God made flesh. He is not just a name called ‘Jesus Christ’.

    1John 2:22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? *He* is the antichrist who denies the Father and the Son.


    In the Name of Jesus Christ, Amen


  2. LOL at the above comment, and well done on the first part of this discussion, Perry.

    Lord have mercy.



  3. Because our discussion on Bryan Cross’ Blog were off topic and thus had to cease, and since you’re discussing Calvinism now, I’d like to bring up the issue of the 1672 Council of Jerusalem (Confession of Dositheos) again to hopefully get some things straight.

    From what I see, the Orthodox condemned Calvinism at this pan-Orthodox Council, but in these days there seems to be doubt (by at least some) as to whether this council was/is even binding in any way. One of the main “objections” seems to me is that it sounds too “Latin” in its teaching. But truth is independent of how “Latin” something sounds. Either the Council taught orthodoxy or it taught heresy.

    Here is what you said over on the other blog that I didn’t get a chance to comment on:
    “As for the Confession of Dositheos, it sounds Catholic because it was composed under direct Jesuit influence. There are a number of questions that are relevant. Did the Eastern Church using Latin terminology mean the same thing as those terms meant in the West? Are such terms to be understood within the context of pre-established Orthodox theological structures or in Latin structures? What is the normative standing of the Confession since its production among the Orthodox? Is it on a par with Nicea, Ephesus and Chalcedon or no? What did the East have to say about such matters prior to it and after it? More to the point, if as Catholic writers often allege that the Orthodox have no magisterium, then the Confession can’t represent normative Orthodox teaching. If it can’t, then citing it can’t support your position or not as far as I am able to see.”

    I would not focus on “terminology” as much as would on the concepts being conveyed, because it isn’t just about whether a specific term was used. For example, the Council does affirm the term “Transubstantiation” as well the distinction between substance and accidents, yet on the other hand, the Council doesn’t use the term “purgatory” while affirming the same concepts Catholics believe regarding Purgatory. So the term need not be present for the concept to be.

    As for the acceptance of the Council, from what I’ve read it was widely accepted as a Pan-Orthodox council, signed by all Patriarchs. I’d doubt it was on par with a Nicea or Chalcedon in terms of ‘importance’, but that’s simply because these were more historic and foundational for Christendom. In regards to Truth, it is on par with all major Councils in so far as their goal is to lay down principle truths of the Faith in midst of conflict/heresy.


  4. Perry,

    Stop trusting your public pieties, and trust instead the consubstnatial Trinity. If you baptize yourself with your own works you are merely engendering slavery, for creatures are slaves, and you are a creature. Rather be baptized in the name of the Father and His consubstantial Son, and the Life Giving Spirit, for then you shall be free and made to converse with God as a god. Like clarityreview said. /sarcasm.

    Do you get spam like that often just for being Orthodox?

    But seriously, I would appreciate a explanation of the difference between your and the Western view of simplicity.


  5. Nick,

    I don’t know what to think of Dositheus personally, and I’m no hierarch, but it sure seems to say some un-patristic things. In keeping with the rule of St. Vincent, I’m inclined to think that its not the infallible, immutable teaching of the Fathers, especially on the subject of infant damnation:

    “And since infants are men, and as such need salvation, needing salvation they need also Baptism. And those that are not regenerated, since they have not received the remission of hereditary sin, are, of necessity, subject to eternal punishment, and consequently cannot without Baptism be saved. So that even infants should, of necessity, be baptized. Moreover, infants are saved, as is said in Matthew; {Matthew 19:12} but he that is not baptized is not saved.”


  6. Yes, but what about the Creed:

    “One baptism for the remission of sins”?

    Is it just “one baptism” with no remission of sins if infants are involved?

    Also, how does one define “un-Patristic”? Does this term refer to something the Fathers never directly discussed, or does it refer to something that is thought to be contrary to what they held in some way? And, much as I hate to bring this up here, how legitimate is it to speak of a “consensus of the Fathers”? I don’t buy all of Newman’s argument for doctrinal development, but he did have a point here:

    “Now it should be clearly understood what it is which must be shown by those who would prove it. Of course the doctrine of our Lord’s divinity itself partly implies and partly recommends the doctrine of the Trinity; but implication and suggestion belong to another class of arguments which has not yet come into consideration. Moreover the statements of a particular father or doctor may certainly be of a most important character; but one divine is not equal to a Catena. We must have a whole doctrine stated by a whole Church. The Catholic Truth in question is made up of a number of separate propositions, each of which, if maintained to the exclusion of the rest, is a heresy. In order then to prove that all the Ante-nicene writers taught the dogma of the Holy Trinity, it is not enough to prove that each still has gone far enough to be only a {15} heretic—not enough to prove that one has held that the Son is God, (for so did the Sabellian, so did the Macedonian), and another that the Father is not the Son, (for so did the Arian), and another that the Son is equal to the Father, (for so did the Tritheist), and another that there is but One God, (for so did the Unitarian),—not enough that many attached in some sense a Threefold Power to the idea of the Almighty, (for so did almost all the heresies that ever existed, and could not but do so, if they accepted the New Testament at all); but we must show that all these statements at once, and others too, are laid down by as many separate testimonies as may fairly be taken to constitute a “consensus of doctors.” It is true indeed that the subsequent profession of the doctrine in the Universal Church creates a presumption that it was held even before it was professed; and it is fair to interpret the early Fathers by the later. This is true, and admits of application to certain other doctrines besides that of the Blessed Trinity in Unity; but there is as little room for such antecedent probabilities as for the argument from suggestions and intimations in the precise and imperative Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus, as it is commonly understood by English divines, and is by them used against the later Church and the see of Rome. What we have a right to ask, if we are bound to act upon Vincent’s rule in regard to the Trinitarian dogma, is a sufficient number of Ante-nicene statements, each distinctly anticipating the Athanasian Creed. Now let us look at the leading facts of the case, in appealing to which I must not be supposed to be ascribing any heresy to the holy men whose words have not always been sufficiently full or exact to preclude the imputation. First, the Creeds of that early day make no mention in {16} their letter of the Catholic doctrine at all. They make mention indeed of a Three; but that there is any mystery in the doctrine, that the Three are One, that They are coequal, coeternal, all increate, all omnipotent, all incomprehensible, is not stated, and never could be gathered from them. Of course we believe that they imply it, or rather intend it. God forbid we should do otherwise! But nothing in the mere letter of those documents leads to that belief. To give a deeper meaning to their letter, we must interpret them by the times which came after. Again, the six great Bishops and Saints of the Ante-nicene Church were St. Irenaeus, St. Hippolytus, St. Cyprian, St. Gregory Thaumaturgus, St. Dionysius of Alexandria, and St. Methodius. Of these, St. Dionysius is accused by St. Basil of having sown the first seeds of Arianism [Note 6]; and St. Gregory is allowed by the same learned Father to have used language concerning our Lord, which he only defends on the plea of an economical object in the writer [Note 7]. St. Hippolytus speaks as if he were ignorant of {17} our Lord’s Eternal Sonship [Note 8]; St. Methodius speaks incorrectly at least upon the Incarnation [Note 9]; and St. Cyprian does not treat of theology at all. Such is the incompleteness of the extant teaching of these true saints, and, in their day, faithful witnesses of the Eternal Son. Again, Athenagoras, St. Clement, Tertullian, and the two SS. Dionysii would appear to be the only writers whose language is at any time exact and systematic enough to remind us of the Athanasian Creed. If we limit our view of the teaching of the Fathers by what they expressly state, St. Ignatius may be considered as a Patripassian, St. Justin arianizes, and St. Hippolytus is a Photinian. Again, there are three great theological authors of the Ante-nicene centuries, Tertullian, Origen, and, we may add, Eusebius, though he lived some way into the fourth. Tertullian is heterodox on the doctrine of our Lord’s divinity [Note 10], and, indeed, ultimately fell altogether into heresy or schism; Origen is, at the very least, suspected, and must be defended and explained rather than cited as a witness of orthodoxy; and Eusebius was a Semi-Arian. Moreover, It may be questioned whether any Ante-nicene {18} father distinctly affirms either the numerical Unity or the Coequality of the Three Persons; except perhaps the heterodox Tertullian, and that chiefly in a work written after he had become a Montanist [Note 11]: yet to satisfy the Anti-roman use of Quod semper, &c., surely we ought not to be left for these great articles of doctrine to the testimony of a later age. Let it not be for a moment supposed that I impugn the orthodoxy of the early divines, or the cogency of their testimony among fair inquirers; but I am trying them by {19} that unfair interpretation of Vincentius, which is necessary in order to make him available against the Church of Rome. And now, as to the positive evidence which those Fathers offer in behalf of the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity, it has been drawn out by Dr. Burton and seems to fall under two heads. One is the general ascription of glory to the Three Persons together, both by fathers and churches, and that on continuous tradition and from the earliest times. Under the second fall certain distinct statements of particular fathers; thus we find the word “Trinity” used by St. Theophilus, St. Clement, St. Hippolytus, Tertullian, St. Cyprian, Origen, St. Methodius; and the Divine Circumincessio, the most distinctive portion of the Catholic doctrine, and the unity of power, or again, of substance, are declared with more or less distinctness by Athenagoras, St. Irenæus, St. Clement, Tertullian, St. Hippolytus, Origen, and the two SS. Dionysii. This is pretty much the whole of the evidence. Perhaps it will be said we ought to take the Ante-nicene Fathers as a whole, and interpret one of them by another. This is to assume that they are all of one school, which of course they are, but which in controversy is a point to be proved; but it is even doubtful whether, on the whole, such a procedure would strengthen the argument. For instance, as to the second head of the positive evidence noted by Dr. Burton, Tertullian is the most formal and elaborate of these Fathers in his statements of the Catholic doctrine. “It would hardly be possible,” says Dr. Burton, after quoting a passage, “for Athanasius himself, or the compiler of the Athanasian Creed, to have delivered the doctrine of the Trinity in stronger terms than these.” [Note 14] Yet Tertullian must be considered heterodox on the {20} doctrine of our Lord’s eternal generation [Note 15]. If then we are to argue from his instance to that of the other Fathers, we shall be driven to the conclusion that even the most exact statements are worth nothing more than their letter, are a warrant for nothing beyond themselves, and are consistent with heterodoxy where they do not expressly protest against it.”


  7. Christianclarity,

    You make no arguments but mainly bald assertions laced with insults. If you wish to comment here, you need to make arguments. Further comments like the one above will be deleted.


  8. Nick,

    The Sixth council condemns Calvinism or rather some of its key principles adequately whatever one tinks of Jersalem 1672.

    You’ll have to excuse me for being brief, but I just drove 19 hours yesterday from Ammaraillo, TX to OC, Cal.


  9. MG and Drew,

    In the service of baptism the priest prays “That this water may be for him (her – the baptized one) a laver of Regeneration unto the remission of sins….” whether he baptizes an infant or an adult.

    That infants are baptised for the remission of sins is also in the canons of the Synod of Carthage (419) which was ratified by the Quinisext Council of Trullo. Therefore I believe that Patriarch Dositheus is absolutely Orthodox in what he wrote about infant baptisn and he could have written exactly the same things even without any Jesuit influence.

    Although I hold as well many reservations about the concept of hereditary sin, maybe there are other parts of Dositheus’ Confession which are more indicative of a possible Jesuit influence such as when he expresses the idea that not all men should be allowed to read the Scripture.


  10. Perry.

    You said, “We both served as clergy in the PCA Church in Allentown.”

    Well, although I seldom comment here {you folks are out of my league :)}, that statement jumped right out at me. I lived just around the corner from a PCA church in Allentown at one time. Allentown was my home for nearly two decades. Are you originally from Allentown? I attended the United Wesleyan College and later Kutztown University.

    On my journey away from protestant evangelicalism I had considered attending that PCA church because they were trying to get back to their roots by having some semblance of liturgy. They still kneel during various parts of the service, which I find unusual for Presbyterians in this day and age. They also practice confession of sin corporately similar to the Lutherans.

    However, I could not submit to Calvin’s teachings on the doctrine of reprobation. Nor could I recognize the doctrine of imputed righteousness in historical Christianity prior to the Reformation. The 5 points of TULIP fell to the ground the more I familiarized myself with the Fathers and the history of the Church. Needless to say, I could not become a Calvinist, even though I attended a Reformed Baptist church for nearly a decade.

    The Lord saw fit to lead me to the One, Holy, Orthodox, Catholic Church instead.


  11. Great to see this brought up as a topic.

    I did a paper for school on Calvinism which can be accessed here:

    In it, I was hoping to find a smoking gun of Calvin’s belief in monophysitism, which would fit logically with his monophysitic theory of salvation, i.e. one divine will supercedes/destroys the human.

    Anyone out there find anything on this?


  12. I shall respond to some of these posts later this evening, but as this is but the second time I have posted an article for Perry I can understand everyone thinking its Perry.

    First to Christianclarity (who some call “Tim”); you forgot to tell me, while you were farting in my general direction, that my mother was a hamster and my father smelled of elderberries. To reiterate what Perry said, you have made no argument, just assertions, and since you seemed to disdain Latin, here is some more: “Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur (let him that readeth understand – – or just google it).”

    Darlene: yes, the PCA in Allentown. My time there in many ways was beneficial, but in many ways it was like being a test rat for the CIA: “we can’t have an Hallelujah after the Gospel, the service is already 90 minutes (that was with a 40 minute sermon – – and you know which one had to go)”; “we’ll knell on Sundays ’cause we don’t have any other time to do it”). Where are you these days?

    Aaron, shall be treating this in a subsequent post.



  13. Cyril,

    I am living in the Poconos. I attend Holy Trinity Orthodox Church in Stroudsburg. My husband and I are looking to move back to the Allentown area – most of our friends and family live there and there is little to no community here in the Poconos and everything is a distance to drive.

    When did you become Orthodox and what were the major reasons that convinced you? Is/was your family Calvinists, and if so, how did they react when you became an Orthodox Christian? My close Calvinist friend of many years told me I would be worshipping a different Jesus. Another friend (not Calvinist but Pentecostal – attends Times Square Church) said the Orthodox worship a “false Christ,” because of our beliefs/teachings on the Eucharist. Another close friend of ours who is a die-hard Calvinist attended Fr. Andrew Damick’s presentation on the Orthodox Chrisitan faith. At the end of the last presentation, our friend began challenging Fr. Damick openly and a rather lively discurse between the two of them ensued. Father did a good job of defending Orthodoxy, but nonetheless, our Calvinist friend left very angry. But, we’re still friends.


  14. Darlene, we have met. I was at the first three of those talks at St. Paul’s, but was not there when your friend decided to challenge Fr. Andrew (Nancy Sabol from St Nic’s Rus told me about it). I’m that handsome rogue of a college prof that sat in the back (the one with the goatee that looks like an unmade bed, and not the one with the cane). Direct your Calvinist friend here, as we’d be happy to take up where Fr. Andrew left off (if I may be so bold). Was that your husband who was with you?

    As for why I became Orthodox, it all had to do with why I made the leap from Presbyterianism to Orthodoxy without going that well-traveled route of Canterbury, but that is a topic for another post.

    As for my family, my brothers, most of whom are some form or another of Prot minsters, seemed rather indifferent about it, though my more fundamentalist parents, particularly my mom, were a bit aghast. My mom went with me to Liturgy about a year before she reposed and was quite taken with my priest, and seemed to “get it”.

    My real problem was with that liturgical hothouse in Allentown, whose chief minister told my wife that my soul was in danger of hell, and that she was not to follow me to Orthodoxy on peril of her own soul. There were so many libels thrown at our faith that would make Timothy of Christianclarity above seem downright ecumenical (Judas is a saint to the Orthodox, we are, of course, idolaters, we accept another Gospel, etc.). My teenage daughter, on the other hand, loves the Orthodox church, and has a wonderful sense of what icons are and are not: when she was about five she looked up at the Pantokrator icon and whispered “Dad, I think Jesus is behind that icon looking at me.”


  15. Cyril,

    The man sitting next to me (to my left) was my husband. Our Calvinist friend was sitting to my right. I’m still trying to place you. Are you the professor who attended the Orthodoxy/Heterodoxy Presentations last Fall and spoke up quite a bit?

    As far as the unkind treatment we may receive from others, even those who bear the name of Christian, we must follow our Lord’s admonition to love even our enemies. Is this not how our Christian love is put to the test and how God is glorified? What good is it if we love those who love us when even sinners do the same? I know it is much easier to say than to actually put into practice. But we must love all those who speak every kind of evil against us as our Lord Jesus did when He hung upon the cross of Calvary beseeching His Father, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” And we are called to imitate Him in the same way.

    I recall that there was a time when I, too, told many people they weren’t saved just because they hadn’t said the Sinners Prayer or couldn’t remember an exact date when they were born-again. I would debate with other Christians believing I had the “true” interpretation of the Bible and most other Christians were “Laodiceans.” Therefore, it is especially necessary for me to demonstrate mercy toward others, even those who act in a similar fashion as I once did.


  16. Matthew N. Petersen,

    It has to do with Monergism and Synergism in Christology. If we use Christology as our grid in regards to predestination, then you will understand why the 5th and 6th councils are being referenced. Does Christ have one Energy or two?
    And if two is Christ’s human energy active or passive?

    At least this is what I’m seeing at the moment.



  17. Darlene, I am bald, broad of shoulder (but not too narrow in the hip), and did not speak up too much in the other sessions. I sat behind you at these past sessions.

    Matthew, Calvin can be all things to all men, I am afraid. You have to realize that he had very little as far as formal training in theology (as opposed to say either Luther or Vermigli. He began as a humanist, that is studying law at both Orleans and Bourges, and proceeded MA, which means he was trained in Greek and Latin (though he wrote only in Latin and French). He could use both Aristotle and Plato with an ease equal to his use of the late medieval termists and nominalists. He clearly was voluntarist (as can be seen in just the short quote above). On some points he is a monergist and is akin to the monothelitists. At other places he comes across very much as a Nestorian, especially when he is arguing about the Eucharist. Look especially at how these guys used Theodoret of Cyr. The other entry I had on here dealt with Peter Martyr Vermigli and his bald use of Theodoret and his inability (PMV’s) to say that God suffered or to admit theopaschism. I think the entry might have gotten deleted when Perry and I were trying to get me an ability to post on here. I shall look. Also, I shall get into this more fully when I make the next post.


  18. Darlene, right after I converted I spoke with the local Ukrainian priest (Fr. Basil from Northampton) who asked me what the pastor said when I told him I was going to start attending the local OCA parish. I told him he asked me what I thought I would find there. “And what did you answer,” Fr. Basil asked? “I told him I thought I would find a lot of cold, dead, nominal Christians.” Fr. Basil looked at me, stuck his hand out and said “Brother, you’ve got a chance!” We laughed. He then told me in relation to all of this that God had given me a great grace, a gift for the working out of my salvation. I always think about that if ever I have dark thoughts.


  19. The other place we Protestants can verge on Nestorianism is Mariology. We (at least Calvinists) have a tendency to say that Mary is not literally theotokos, literally she is only the mother of the humanity of God, but she can be called theotokos through a metonymy.

    I have been often told that to honor Mary as “sustainer of the sustainer of all” or “rock that doth refresh those thirsting for life” or “[one] from whom floweth milk and honey” etc. is monophysite and heretical. (She does not sustain the sustainer of all, but only his human nature, she does not refresh those thirsting for life for only the humanity of God flows from her, and milk and honey do not flow from her, for properly it is God and not God’s humanity which is the promised rest.) But of course, whatever one thinks of Marian prayers, the Akathist Hymn is not monophysite.

    Moreover, the language employed to speak of further children often, at best, verges on Nestorianism. For instance, “Mary was further blessed with more children” treats Christ as a finite good which can be added to. Which language is only sensible if Christ is a human person.


  20. Cyril,

    I met Fr. Basil at St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church at one of Fr. Damick’s talks. We sat at the same table. All I can say is, what a kind and gentle man.


  21. Matthew,

    If I understand correctly, Nestorianism errs by saying that there are two persons in Christ, the Divine and Human; and Monophysitism errs by saying there is only one nature in Chris, a mixture of Divine and Human.

    I do not know where the prayers you quote come from, so there may be something unOrthodox in them. Catholic and Orthodox mariology do differ. But in a literal sense, Mary did sustain the Sustainer of all. In trying to obtain an Orthodox mind, one has to try to get around the idea that Christ is one person, and Mary is the mother of that one person. Christ is the sustainer of all and Mary sustained Him. We also have to break down the barrier between the physical and the spiritual. Did Mary sustain only part of Christ? Only his physical body? It is mind-boggling to try to understand the nature of His Incarnation. He was a baby needing not only physical sustenance, but also an emotional, at least, bond with his mother. I haven’t really found much on the psychology of Jesus, and how affected his divine nature was by his human nature, but humans need their mother for more than just food. Christ needed to be raised by her, though how much of His divinity sustained her through this is very difficult to parse out. This is what “apocryphal” works try to do I suppose. But I think the problem lies in trying to parse it out in the first place. Mary had/has a maternal relationship with Christ, not just His humanity.

    I can comfortably say that Mary refreshes those thirsting for life through her prayers. We ex-Protestants want to add that God (Christ, the Father, and/or the Spirit?) is the source of her desire to pray for us and the life she is petitioning for. This singular consideration sort of makes her prayers unnecessary in my mind. Or at least puts them on the same level of asking anyone to pray for us because God is the same source no matter who does the asking. It is her unique relation as the Mother of Christ though that makes her the first among Saints and I suppose a different kind of intercessor. If she is the closest created person to the Trinity, for indeed no one else has been blessed to bear God in the flesh, then she is the one who most partakes of the Divine Nature by grace as is described in II Peter 1:4. Then she has also become god like St. Athanasius describes, ‘God became man so that man can become god”. And we marvel.


  22. If I could think about if my statement, “Mary had/has a maternal relationship with Christ, not just His humanity”, is Monophysite or Nestorian a bit more. It almost seems better to call her Christotokos to keep the distinction between her part in the Son’s Incarnation distinct from saying she’s the mother of the pre-eternal God. I believe the Fathers insisted upon The Mother of God to keep from erring the other way and splitting Christ’s Incarnate person in two. Trusting them as I do, I cannot say that they elevated her too much by saying she is God’s mother. It must be important to emphasize her relationship with the Divine Person, which is why I suppose we have more in common with the non-Chalcedonian Coptic Church than the Calvinists.


  23. Andrea,

    Does a divine person suffer and die? If so, then Mary is Theotokos and rightly so.

    The Akathis hymn is not monophysite, but it says such things for a variety of reasons. First, it brings together supposedly opposite things “Unwedded bride”, to show their reconciliation in the incarnation.

    Second, Mary’s free action is part of God’s redeeming work and so in a very precise sense called say the “co-cause” of salvation.

    The question is whether we participate in divine activity or not.


  24. Though I’m surprised you don’t recognize the Akathist hymn. And I think I would say Mary refreshes those thirsting for life by pouring forth Her Son unto the World. (The present tense is used for the same sort of reason it is when we say “Today he is hung from the Cross who hung the world…”)


  25. Perry,
    Could you help me out a little on “the divine person suffering and dying?” I know we aren’t saying “death is the cessation of all being,” but I am having trouble wrapping my head around it.


    (this is Jacob A, btw)


  26. Matthew,

    I wonder if my difficulty with this issue is part of why I’m not that familiar with the Akathist hymn. I’m not used to extolling the wider virtues of Orthodox Saints as much as the more “Christ-centered” parts of my prayer book with their shorter tributes to her. But if we are to believe what Christ came to do, then we have to believe that union with Christ can be demonstrated in real humans.

    I think traditional Orthodox probably mean more by pouring forth than just her birthgiving, which as you say, continues to refresh us. There are various layers to her veneration.


  27. Perry,

    “Does a divine person suffer and die? If so, then Mary is Theotokos and rightly so.”

    And I’ve had exactly the same trouble with that. It stretches my ex-Protestant mind to think that God died, and not just Christ’s humanity. My mind wants to think that His Divinity descended into Hades while His Humanity was in the tomb. But I have to receive the dogma that His divine person with both natures died. I’d rather believe that He is so united, but it still makes me wonder (in the awed sense).

    As to the question of whether we participate in divine activity or not, if our human nature is an energy, one of the logoi, of the Trinity, then we do. I’m supposing it was potential energy before it was given to Adam and realized energy when Christ assumed it. The other puzzling thing is that with a human nature comes a free will, immature though it is, which can choose to act according to its nature or not.

    Then if we distinguish between divine activity and divine nature, we see that we cannot participate in God’s essence, but in His activities which for us are potentially given through His image. And it is helpful to remember that God is not separated or distanced from His activities, even though He remains distinct, which keeps us from being pantheistic.


  28. Andrea,

    A couple of notes:

    First, the Akathist hymn is one of the most famous Orthodox hymns. The Marian hymn of Marian hymns if you will. And if we remember that all its praises are a gloss of “Theotokos”, it is very Christocentric. As indeed very clear from the hymn itself. If you’re not familiar with it, I’d highly recommend it.

    Second, God descended into Hades according to His humanity, and God was placed into the Tomb according to His Humanity. The issue is one of spirit/soul and body, not of divinity and humanity.

    Finally, the trouble with the terminology you learned above–the one you said you learned from the Calvinists and which gives you troubles–is that it isn’t Creedal, and is indeed, through a subtle change, almost a denial of Chalcedon. We are not to believe that the humanity of God was born of Mary, or that the humanity of God died on the Cross; rather that God was born of Mary, according to His humanity, and that God died on the Cross, according to His humanity. But the One born and the One Who Died is not the humanity of Christ, but God the Word. Indeed, if we wish to say that Mary is not literally theotokos, as some Protestants would have, we must then conclude that she is literally the mother of no one–for the humanity of God is not a person.

    Moreover, when Protestants–some do, but not all–insist that Mary is not literally theotokos, they either 1) embrace Nestorianism 2) quibble over terminology uselessly, or 3) introduce a new Arianism or Subordinationism in which the Logos, and indeed all the Persons, are less than theos (God). The reason is as follows:

    I could grant that theos ought literally refer to the divinity, not to the Second Person. But if that is the case, though Mary is not literally theotokos, she is literally logotokos–the Mother of the Word. (To deny that she is literally the logotokos is Nestorian.) But then either the fact that she is not literally theotokos is merely terminological, and thus a quibble if used to object to Marian honor; or logotokos implies something less than theotokos. But logotokos is only less than theotokos if logos is less than theos. And so though the Charbydis of Nestorianism is avoided, a Scylla of a new Arianism–this time with divinity being the true God rather than the Father–devours us. For we have again claimed, as Arius insisted, that logos is less than theos.


  29. Of course, I suppose one could, as a joke, accept that Mary is only the mother of God’s humanity. For God’s humanity is our humanity, and so to claim that Mary is the mother of God’s humanity is to claim Mary is the mother of humanity. Which, though nonsensical, is rather more praise of Mary than Protestants would–or should!–admit. More than they should because it treats Mary as glorified independent of Christ, and hence falls into the troubles with Catholic Mariology which nonsensically exalts Mary and exalts Christ, rather than exalting Mary in and through exalting Christ.

    But I suppose next time someone raises that objection to me, I will tell them “If you want to adopt such Catholic Mariology by calling her the mother of humanity, fine; but I shall remain orthodox, and exalt her in with and through Christ.”

    (As an aside, I have wondered if the fundamental Western flaw is a Mariological one which the Protestants rejected, but only by denying Mariology rather than by finding the true Mariology, and that all the other Protestant objections at the time were objections to symptoms of the one Mariological error, though there may have been Eucharistic errors too regarding the equating of the Cup and Bread.)


  30. Matthew,

    Thanks for your suggestion and clarifications.

    The Akathist is beautiful, and I see that it is Mary’s relationship to Christ that is the cause of our hope and salvation. However, this statement is harder for me to discern, “Rejoice, Thou Who didst enlighten the initiates of the Trinity!” I don’t know who the initiates are.

    God did these things “according to his humanity” is helpful.

    Yes, it is easy to misunderstand “Theotokos” as the mother of “God in general”. Emphasizing that she is the mother of the Word puts the Akathist in perspective too in that the Incarnation reveals God, or should I say the Trinity, or the Father, which supports a Monarchy of the Father pov.


  31. And about “spirit/soul, and body”, do we say that God the Word assumed a human spirit/soul and that He didn’t have one/them before, as He didn’t have a created body before? I’m wondering in somewhat of a relation to His having two wills.


  32. The 5th council gives thee official view/interpretation of the 4th council(Chalcedon)

    Also one of the ways to overcome Nestorianism/Calvinism is to focus on the Person instead of the Natures.

    One of the ways to do this is to say:

    God Incarnate died on the Cross.

    Some say that Nestorianism also believed that Christ only had one will, and so they too can fall into some form of “Monoenergism”.

    I hope this helps!



  33. First,

    Sorry about that last post, I was extremely tired, and it wasn’t entirely coherent.


    Regarding “Rejoice, Thou Who didst enlighten the initiates of the Trinity!”: I think that passage can be taken in two complimentary ways. First, it is through the Incarnation that we learn that God is indeed Triune rather than merely One. As the Cappodocians are fond of saying, in the Old Covenant we knew the One God, and the Son was hinted at, but in the New Testemant, Christ and the Father are revealed and the Spirit is hinted at. (Now in the Church the Spirit reveals Himself fully.) Thus the Theotokos enlightens the Christians into the mystery of the Trinity by preaching the Word into the world.

    But secondly and more profoundly, the initiates of the Trinity are the Christians. And the Theotokos is a light (source) which shines forth the Uncreated Light Himself, namely, God the Word.

    Regarding your second post: as Greg said, yes. In Himself nothing can be predicated of God properly, not even existence or divinity. God so fully transcends our words that they come infinitely below that which He is. There’s a nice passage in Nyssa or St. Gregory the Theologian to this aspect, but I can’t seem to find it online right now. Maybe I’ll put it up later.


  34. JNorm, those lectures do look apropos. Thanks.


    I hope I’m not belaboring the point, but (and I do want to listen to the lectures. I wish I’d known about them before my drive to and from Liturgy today. I believe the human will is a function of the soul, so His human mode of willing would be located there, but His divine mode would be beyond that somehow, if we speak of everything divine being beyond our conception. Further, if there is no such thing as an undivine energy (sin would be a disruption I suppose), then graced human/created modes are a different kind of logoi than divine/uncreated modes, like of willing. We can, however, participate in the energies of His will, such as seeking the same objectives, just not the mode. Not my will, but Thine be done.

    When I think of humans participating in uncreated divine activities, I think of uncreated grace activating and enlivening matter, and I must include invisible things like the mind and the soul. It’s easier to think of invisible, spiritual things such as the fruits of the Spirit as uncreated, and that we need to place ourselves in their way, as it were, such as through baptism. But would that mean that created, physical matter, dust iow, isn’t a divine energy? If life is an energy, then I think even dust participates in it as its molecules and atoms are not static. Life is everywhere. But dust does have a beginning, and so that manifestation seems to exist in the eternal realm of foreknowledge and God’s eternal potential of creating the heavens and the earth in time. How things created in time, such as humans and Christ’s Incarnation, can affect eternity is beyond me, and I fear I’ll have to use that as a cop-out for the time being.

    Please forgive any trespasses in the above.


  35. Matthew, Just saw your last. Good words. Even though the Incarnation is challenging to understand, speaking of it and extolling the Theotokos’ part in it is music to my eyes.


  36. It’s as if the Calvinists miss the purpose of predestination, ie, to be conformed into the image of His Son. Instead of focusing on the goal, they focus on the process or the details of how the process supposedly works.


  37. May i ask a question?

    Exactly what heresies would modern Calvinist Reformed Christians be labled as holding?


  38. Cranmer,

    1.)Their view or views(both Zwingly and Calvin) of the Eucharist

    2.)Their view of water Baptism

    3.) The view of god creating evil (as seen by Gordan Clark, Jay Adams, R.C. Sproul Jr, and Vincent Cheung)

    4.) A form of Nestorianism

    5.) A form of Monoenergism/Monothelitism

    6.) Sola historical grammatical method



  39. Cranmer, the subject of the next post will be about the atonement, what it is, and what “one Lord Jesus Christ” entails in that regard; i.e., why limited atonement is itself not merely a heresy, but a perversity. And to add one more, the denial of freewill.


  40. Jnorm,

    To be fair, there is no beast of sola historical grammatical method. The two ideas of sola scriptura and the historical-grammatical method, as distinguished from the historical-criticl method, are not the same things.


  41. Thanks, that helps and hurts! But you are right in your responses. I feel that Anglicanism and Calvinism is just what Newman said, “A paper Ecclesiology….and a voiceless mother”. My problem isnt that Calvinism is wrong, my problem is whether I go East or West and why? It really dos all boil down to 1054 A.D. doesnt it?


  42. The problem that most of us reared in Western theology have is that we start thinking about God in terms of nature (substance, essence). The Fathers, however, begin with Person as does the Orthodox understanding of the Incarnation. God is not a “nature” so much as a Person (three Persons to be exact, sharing one nature). So to think about God is to think about Person. Christ, in His Person, unites the two natures – divine and human – , without admixture and without division. So, the Blessed Virgin gave birth to the Second Person of the Trinity. No, she is not the eternal progenitor, but that is already understood. He is eternally begotten of the Father. But He BECAME man. He did not simply take a human nature as a suit over His divinity – He BECAME man and forever unites the human and the divine IN HIS PERSON. As the Council of Chalcedon stated: “This one and the same Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son [of God] must be confessed to be in two natures, without mixture and without change, without separation and without division”. You simply cannot speak about “Jesus in His humanity” or “Jesus in His Divinity” without approaching Nestoriansim. Jesus IS the Theanthropos and the Virgin is the Theotokos!


  43. Andrea and Matthew,

    Concerning the Theotokos, I’m wondering whether it might be better for those just coming to Orthodoxy if we were to use the expression “Mother of God the Word” instead of just “Mother of God.” Prots and ex-Prots (like myself) sometimes are troubled by the latter expression, thinking that the Orthodox believe Mary is the Mother of God the Father. We should not put a stumbling-block in their way to coming to the fullness of the Orthodox true faith.


  44. Perry,

    I was using “sola” in the sense of “only or alone”. I wasn’t talking about the protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura. Just the style of hermeneutic of the ancient Antiochian school and Theodor Mopsuestia. Which is the only style the Calvinists I personally know want to use.

    I tend to use the word “Sola” for alot of things. Like “Sola Augustine”, “Sola Thomas Aquinas”, “Sola private judgment”……..etc.

    Some use the word “Sola” against me by saying such things like “Sola ecclesia”, and so that’s the context of my use of “Sola grammatical historical method”.

    You might know alot of Calvinists that believe the same passage of Scripture to have multiple senses, but I don’t. All the Calvinists I know strictly adhere to the idea that every passage of Scripture has one sense and one sense only.

    Well wait, Dr. Peter Enns believes in multiple senses, but most Calvinists I know of in person as well as online don’t.

    But yes I agree, sola scriptura is a different thesis than the grammatical-historical method.



  45. Ok, If Calvinism is heresy- as defined by the early fathers- how come Calvin uoted so many of the Fathers in his instituts and did not pick up on this?


  46. Jnorm,

    Then what do you say to those Calvinists who favor the Redemptive-Historical Method over the Grammatical-Historical Method or the Critical-Historical Method?

    I try not to go by what people I personally know say, but by representative sources and normative texts in a given tradition. Otherwise, you leave yourself vulnerable to the fallacy of anecdotal evidence. It would be helpful to look over a history of Calvinistic interpretation prior to making an argument that is styled as a kind of silver bullet.


  47. Cranmer,

    Here is one reason he didn’t. Because he was working with corrupted manuscripts for example in the case of John of Damascus in Latin.

    Another is that he discarded any views that didn’t fit with his already firmly held views on providence.


  48. Robert,

    Orthodoxy in my experience is a mix of firm immovabity and gentle acceptance of where a person is at. The Church will not change her dogmatic pronouncements to make folks more comfortable so we can’t promise that a newcomer won’t here the more lofty prayers like, “Most Holy Theotokos, save us!”. If a person is uncomfortable with that, I believe Fr Hopko recommends a wait and see attitude. Meanwhile, the person can pray plenty of other prayers. The attributions most repeated in the services are “Who without defilement gavest birth to God the Word” and “Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the Fruit of thy womb for thou hast born the Savior of our souls.”


  49. Hi Cranmer,

    You wrote, “OK, If Calvinism is heresy – as defined by the early fathers – how come Calvin quoted so many of the Fathers in his Institutes and did not pick up on this?”

    Just as the early Gnostics, Arians and Nestorians often quoted the OT and the writings of the Apostles, so too the Reformers could refer to the writings of the Early Fathers. Neither the former nor the latter, however, submitted to the authority of Christ passed down through the Apostles to the true Church. The Early Fathers often wrote that the heretics had no right to interpret Scripture because they were outside the Church.

    I think, though, Calvin was trying very hard to be Orthodox, thinking about all the issues involved, reading and quoting the Early Fathers… but that’s not the same as actually forsaking one’s own thoughts and ways, and submitting to the authority of the Church by joining it: sort of like a man sleeping with a woman but not willing to make the commitment of marrying her. Familiarity breeds… contempt.

    We have to realize, however, that he and the other Reformers were reacting against the evils of Papism that was on their doorsteps – a very “real and present danger” to them – whereas Orthodoxy was a distant dream, both in space as well as in time. The centers of Orthodoxy were thousands of miles away, and in those days it would have meant weeks or months of travel to actually experience Orthodox life and worship. So we must “cut them some slack” in this matter.

    Even today, for most Western Protestants, Orthodoxy is something distant and foreign, a “strange sort of Roman Catholicism.” My old friends and relatives, nearly all who are “born again” Evangelicals, have the same preconceived ideas about Orthodoxy. That’s what I thought too, even though I majored in Russian history in college and lived for 17 years in Russia. It wasn’t until the last few years there that I realized just the opposite is true: Roman Catholicism is a strange form of Orthodoxy, a distortion of the real deal.

    “Orthodoxy” means “true worship and belief” – so it doesn’t matter what I believe, what my friends and relatives believe, or what John Calvin believed: that does not change the Truth. Truth remains true whether or not people – even great thinkers – believe it to be true. When we approach Orthodoxy from the Western mindset of the “autonomous human mind” which thinks its decisions determine what is true, we are indulging in heresy, because the word heresy means “to decide for oneself.”

    Dr. Robert Hosken


  50. Robert,

    The fact that the Reformers were reacting to various abuses of the papacy doesn’t remove the fact that the Reformers in their reaction were seriously wrong. It is not an all or nothing deal in the context. So it is not as if the Papacy was all wrong and then the Reformers did their best, but dog gone it, they goofed, but hey kids, thanks for trying your darndest. Humanism had quite a lot to do with the Reformers protest.


  51. Cranmer,

    There are all sorts of reasons why this occurred, and I shall give but two. Others may latch onto other reasons.

    First, the prism of sola fide was so strong, growing out of the late medieval Augustinian and Lutheran reaction to the Pelagianism of those like Occam and Gabriel Biel, that it had to assume a passive existence, even as it did in Luther and Zwingli, and thus in Calvin: faith was something that was a gift, and not ours at all, though we exercised it. We were totally unable. There was a book pub’d in the 17th Cent by a Puritan named John Gill entitled The Cause of God and Truth which sought to establish the five heads of Doctrine of Drodt (the five points) through the Fathers. Thus everything became read through sola fide. This was first done by Luther at Leipzig in 1519. Johann Eck had back Doktor Ludder into a corner, and concluded that were Luther’s doctrine of sola fide correct, there would be no need for prayers for the dead. Luther agreed that there was no such need. Eck then shot back “What do you do with Maccabees?” Luther responded that he did not accept them as canonical. I know of nowhere that Luther had ever said this before, but simply latched onto Jerome for the sake of saving his doctrine. In short, Luther’s sola fide became the new canon of what was and was not scripture. Predestination as understood by both Luther and Calvin was tied at the hip with their notions of predestination.

    The second is something Perry alluded to above: “Humanism had quite a lot to do with the Reformers protest.” Now, Humanism, as a renaissance motif, I love dearly (rhetoric, baby, that’s the game!), but it also carries with it a conceit: given the right archaeology, history, and a knowledge of a word or terms genealogy, and I can understand the text. Humanism as a curriculum became the philosopher’s stone of texts. The Reformers, and this is analogous to Robert Hosken’s point above, were men (and this is C. S. Lewis’s analogy) who watched the dance ball from the corners and against the walls, and never got out on the floor to dance. Only those who are dancing really know what the ball is. Only the community of the catholic world knows what the Scriptures say. But the Reformers cut themselves off even from the vestiges of it that were Rome. Consequently, Calvin could look at the Fathers all he wanted, and saw what he saw (and often saw things he didn’t like, but that was OK, because the Fathers weren’t sacred writ) because his prisms allowed him to do so.

    Often in life people will read what you write and have no idea what you are saying, and often impute things to you quite other than what you yourself meant. Hang around blogdom a while and this will become completely evident. Why, just say something mildly questioning of Calvin (or even implying that some may have reason to doubt)over at StandFirm and you will be branded a bastard heretic worse than Servetus and duly stripped of all posting rights. You won’t even get to check your private messages anymore. Not that I am bitter, mind you.



  52. Cyril,

    Just a quick one. Eck’s riposte to Luther concerning the value of prayers of the dead was made in the context of purgatory. It bears no relevance to the Reformation’s debate with the EO. Besides, not all Anglicans (i.e. Protestants of the Cranmerian branch of the Reformed Churches) reject prayers for the faithful departed as inconsistent with justification by faith alone. Not only is it preserved intact, albeit purged of medieval accretions, in the liturgical tradition of the Prayer-book but is also a theological recognition of the progressive character or incompleteness of the kingdom of heaven from this side of the eschaton.


  53. Robert,

    But the early Reformers did know about the Orthodox Church. They presented Patriarch Jeremias of Constantinople with their Augsburg Confession, which exchange remarkably resembles today’s debates. They were firmly set on a course and all they wanted was a stamp of approval, not critique.

    A Calvinist would say this all was God’s will. Though Orthodox believe in human free will, they do acknowledge God’s providence in some way. This makes me wonder how to deal with it. If the Orthodox Church is the true Church, why would He allow the west to be cut off from it for so long? Because they freely rejected it and were geographically able to thus raise their children in ignorance? Because God can still work with partly-right Christians? Because the Orthodox had something to learn from them?

    I think I believe in all three. I leave a bit of room for the hypothesis that maybe the Orthodox take things for granted a bit and may need some shaking up every now and then. It’s hard to be right and maintain a humble, seeking attitude. I don’t know, I wasn’t there and am not that good of a scholar.


  54. Thanks Cyril, that was helpful. I must say though, when it comes to East or West there is something very comforting in knowing that there is a visible center of unity found in Rome. Granted, it is not without its problems, but I think the Eastern Church is WAY to ethno-centered (which I believe is heretical) and not very unified from my view. However, I could be wrong and do not say that as an attack, just an observation. I am niether Greek nor Russian, and therefore feel very out of place if you know what I mean.

    I am most certainly looking for truth and discovered long ago that Reformational patrimony is no patrimony at all. Anglicanism is dead in the water despite those trying to revive the “ideal” of Anglicanism which is usually just thier fantasy or illusion of what it once was from the books they have read, the reality is far from it!

    Why has not the EO Church had any more counsils? Why does Irenaeus in book 3 of Against Heresies aknowledge that the Church (in the east) looked to Rome for finallity, or the final word in local Church disputes? Was this not a tradition set from the start?

    Just wondering….



  55. Jason,

    My point merely was that sola fide became their prison, the article on which “the church rises or falls,” and that it was through this prism they saw everything. It became their regula fidei. This was not a comment about how future Prots saw it. I know theologically strict Lutherans who now pray for the dead (the bishop of the Free Synod in Sweden remembers my father).



  56. Phylitism, or ethno-centrism as you termed it, is indeed a heresy, though there are all sorts of variations on this. The OCA church I started attending had the august title St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, but I think only about five or so of this 300+ members were actual Russians, the rest were from Ukraine, Belarus, etc. They took the name to distinguish themselves from their Ukrainian, uniate past (ironically, the Rus of the area were uniates). I think what you have experienced is simply that people brought how their experience of the Divine Liturgy with them to the new World. Rome did this as well, only Rome has now altered that and opened a Pandora’s box which they have repeatedly sought either to justify or close (while getting all the evils back in) depending with whom you speak. What you have observed is to a greater or lesser degree true in about 50% of the parishes. St. Nics definitely was not this way: every liturgy they did maybe one thing (a litany and the Lord’s prayer, the litany of the catechumen’s, etc) in old Slavonic, but the rest was in English. Some weeks everything was in English. At two of the three Antiohcian parishes in my area, you would think they are convert central. The one that isn’t and is still more Syrian than not, nonetheless still does the Divine Liturgy in English. ROCOR, or what used to be that, will have also a mix: its large Hermitage of the Holy Cross in WV is an English monastery.

    As for Rome, I think she has a primacy, but I don’t see this as a universal right of jurisdiction so that she can depose another bishop under another archbishop’s jurisdiction: I think he has the right to declare such a heretic, and even to break communion (e.g., Accacius). A real transformation occurred in Rome from the pontificate of Nicholas I (d. 867) to that of Gregory VII and the other Gregorians (1049-1122), and all subsequent teaching has merely been a modification of this. Find a copy of Karl F. Morrison’s Tradition and Authority in the Western Church and also Walter Ullmann’s The Growth of Papal Government in the Middle Ages.


  57. Thank you, I will look for those books.

    I do have another question, If an Anglican priest were to convert to the EOC, would they accept their orders or would they re-ordain them as Rome does?

    Also, does the EOC view the Anglican Eucharist as valid?


  58. Cranmer,
    Checkout Luke Rivington’s detailed analysis of the Council’s of Ephesus and Chalcedon, see if that jibes with the Universal Juridiction. You can get a copy of the pdf file here LINK

    Now, Cyril has said some things that i would normally contest, but he puts the sentences in ambiguous terms that its not clear what exactly he is saying for example:

    ‘Calvinism as a species of Augustinianism accepts in full the West’s later developed Augustinian Trinitarianism. This entails, of course, the enormity of the filioque, but for our purposes it also entails a reading of Augustine that sees the unity of the Trinity as arising from the single nature, and not flowing from the monarchy of the Father (a position that St. Augustine himself contradicted, even in De Trinitate).’

    For example he does not say here if he means that Calvinism entails a misreading of Augustine trinatarianism, or whether its a correct reading of Augustine given that Augustine as it were, contradicted the problematic postion. Obviously i can’t tell Cyril how to write his posts, but the syntax is confusing.


  59. James,

    I thought the passage clear enough: Cism accepted the later Augustinian Trinitarianism of the middle ages, that the one essence is the source of the unity of the Trinity. Augustine at once both rejected this (the root of divinity was the Father) and toyed with the idea through his abundant but at times seemingly poorly thought-out analogies in De Trinitate.

    By the way, loved you “Rebel without a Cause.”


  60. Cyril,

    As you well know, the practice of modern-day Lutheran who dub themselves as ‘evangelical catholics’ in praying for the dead is inconsistent with Luther’s stance. It’s no big deal for me although I’m Lutheran in the vast majority of areas, but it is vis-a-vis Lutheranism. Thus, prayers for the dead is allowable for me as a classical Anglican, but as a confessional Lutheran I’d oppose the practice for the sake of confessional integrity.

    And yes, sola fide and sola Scriptura are indeed the regula fidei for Protestants. They are both co-relates and you’re right that they cannot be separated anymore than the both elements of scripture, i.e. divine and human can be placed in a dialectical relationship. The dialectics apply to Law and Gospel – God’s two-way of speaking via the one and the same mode of oral Word.

    Sola fide and sola scriptura is a unity simply because it is not we sinners who exegete the Word, but the Word which interpret us. Thus, the proclamation of Word always presupposes and implies that hearer is incorporated into the narrative. There is no free-will here. When God the Son speaks, one either listens and shut up or flee from Him. One is never placed in a position of free-will with the respect to God. It is the logoi which determines the kinesis of the sinner, not the other way round, i.e. the free-will determining the actualisation of the logoi. Free-will is helpless before the onslaught of logismoi. The person must rescued from the outside, extra nos. Jesus came to bind the strong man and ransack his house. He came to defeat Satan. Free-will plays no part in this. Christus victor means the victory of Jesus on the Cross is now repeated in the baptised, repeated not re-emerge anew but extended here and now.


  61. “Ransack” is a good way to describe the Calvinist description of what Christ does. So is another word that starts with an r.

    We mostly have ignored the first commentor, who sounds a lot like a relative of mine, but since Jason knows and uses our words, it seems a contrast is warranted. For Orthodox the hearer is not annihilated. The hearer is loved and dare I say persuaded. There’s a big difference.


  62. Cyril, that James Dean in Rebel without a Cause , was an imposter, lol.

    “Later Augustinian Trinitarinism of the Middle Ages” is too generic a phrase, and ambiguous at best. If i said: “Calvinism accepted the Later Augustinian soteriology of the Middle Ages.” it is a sort of nonsensical statement, because Calvinist/Lutheran soteriology is a distortion of Augustine’s. Unless the word “Augustinian” is now an adjective for whatever i don’t like in protestant theology.


  63. “They believe Scripture to have only one sense. We believe Scripture to have multiple senses.”

    Not sure I follow this point. Let me try this hermeneutically. I read a particular pericope in the Gospels about Jesus doing something particular. It has a historical meaning and application to the person it was spoken of/to. I then examine this and see how it applies to my audience.

    When Jesus says “you trust Abraham to save you”, I look at my congregation which has people who are 2nd and 3rd generation Christians and tell them they aren’t saved by grandma’s faith. They have to believe themselves.

    Isn’t that multiple senses? Those things spoken in the OT were for the example of the church that we should not fall into disbelief and perish. Multiple senses. Don’t Calvinsts have the same view?

    What am I missing? Is this like the gate passage in Psalm which is taken to apply to Mary? If so, I find such application to be an unreliable way of approaching Scripture. Something in Scripture may have multiple senses but it doesn’t have every sense that a person wants to invent for the passage.


  64. Jason,

    With respect to your first two paragraphs, thank you: Q.E.D.

    As to the last, well, you certainly are using some very un-Lutheran categories to defend Luther’s (though not Melanchthon’s) doctrine. This comes up in a subsequent post, and I beg your patience for my answer. Threads do have a life of their own, don’t they?


    As to your analogy about Augustinian soteriology, well, no one admits that such a monolith existed, so it seems a rather poor straw man (even for argument’s sake). But the late medieval theologians all accepted Augustine’s teaching on divine simplicity: it was the basis of their Trinitarian ruminations. Their differences revolved around how to maintain it whether in accepting or rejecting the psychological terminology – – was it analogical or in some way univocal – – as statements about how simplicity relates to itself. This tenacity about simplicity occurred whether in denying the psychological explanations (as did the Dominicans, who saw the nature as the source of the Son’s and the Spirit’s deity), or in affirming it (as did the Franciscans, although when the later ones such as Holcot and Occam used them, they did so only as a means through fideistic affirmations of Je ne sais quoi). On top of that (or I should say because of it), none of them denied Augustine’s teaching on the filioque, and were far more wedded to the doctrine than he was. Some, like Anselm, certainly went far beyond him. So, if we wish to say they fell from Augustine by adopting his speculation as an article of faith, well then, I would agree that they weren’t very good Austinites. Even those who broke from what has been termed the essentialist model of the Latin West, and here I am thinking specifically of Nicholas Cusanus and his own idiomatic take on the Trinity, still employed the “Lover, Beloved, and Love” terminology. I would commend to you a book I have only just picked up, but have gone through it rather quickly, Russell Friedman, Medieval Tinitarian Thought from Aquinas to Ockham.


  65. Andrea,

    The sinner has to be annihilated because person is bound to nature, and so becomes false human rather than true human. Instead of reflecting the image of God, the sinner reflects sinful nature so that the person *is* the sinful nature. This is why the Son came to die. This is why in Baptism, we die. This is the meaning of rebirth, regeneration, to be born again by water and Spirit. Baptism is God’s recreative energy in restoring humanity, not only by immortalising the flesh, but the whole person. The logoi is precisely the predestination of unique, singular, unrepeatable persons so that as the one Logos who is the many logoi, Jesus incorporates persons into Him and so recapitulates them as His logoi. He then, as Ephesians 1 and 2 say, ‘releases’ them back into this world in conformity with the logoi, working in, with and through them. Thus, true free will is in this world, and horizontal and in relation to humanity only. Union and communion with God is defined by faith, not free-will. Divine energies which deifies us cannot but draws us into the trinitarian life. Otherwise, energies are created, not uncreated. That is to say, every ‘particle, ‘portion’ of the divine energies are every bit divine and thus total and complete so that once you are deified, you *are* deified. If we deny this, how can uphold that Jesus Christ in His humanity is every bit present in the bread and wine, or is Jesus Christ present only in the loaf but ‘half-present’ in the mossel??? If the Lord’s Supper is the ‘medicine of immortality’ as it surely is, then the divine energies present in the humanity of Jesus communicated to us in His Person represents total deification, truly and really.

    And as for word, ‘ransack,’ Matthew 12:29 says …

    “Or else how can one enter into a strong man’s house, and spoil his goods, except he first bind the strong man? and then he will spoil his house.”

    ‘Ransack’ is just another equivalent term.


  66. Doug Gilliland,

    What is the context of this passage?

    Hosea 11:1-2
    “”When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. As they called them, so they went from them: they sacrificed unto Baalim, and burned incense to graven images.”

    1.) The people of Old Testament Israel in bondage/slavery to Pharaoh, and how God called Moses to free His people?

    2.) The Nation of Israel in general, and how they always had a tendency to backslide?

    3.) Jesus

    4.) All the above

    When you look at some of the Old Testament prophecies and when you look at how some modern nonbelieving jews interpret / exegete the text then you will see that they will say that such passages refer to either the individual prophet or king of the book, or the people and Nation of Israel in general. They will not say that such passages are talking about Christ.

    If Scripture only has one sense and one sense only……the natural sense…..and if you are using the historical grammatical method then what must you say about the Hosea passage?

    It is my personal belief….with the help of Dr. Peter Harrison’s book “The Bible, Protestantism, and the rise of Natural Science” that the one sense natural reading of scripture helped lead to the atheistic and secular world we have today.



  67. Jason,

    It seems the term “nature” underwent some specification during the time of the Church Fathers. When the Bible says sin nature, I do not believe it means the same thing as Christological “human nature”. The latter encompasses everything humanity is, but the former talks about our tendency to sin. This tendency isn’t all we are. I used to believe it was and I wondered even then how it is that “non-Christians” can love their children. Was their love different? I now don’t think so. Love is an uncreated energy that all can participate in. Prioritizing the object of our affection in a Christian context requires life in the Orthodox Church to reach its fully intended telos, deification.

    Humanity whether baptized or not is immortal. All will be raised, but not all will live eternally “well”. Baptism is personal in that a person dies to one’s own sinful choices and either dedicates onesself or is dedicated in the case of infants to choosing life in Christ. They die to independent, horizontal life and are raised united to Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. One retains their human nature, but achieves remission of sins and becomes newly illumined (St. Justin’s Apology)by the grace of the Spirit in the Church. If their human nature is changed from false to true then why do people still sin?

    If the person’s will isn’t involved in this process, I don’t see how God is working with them, but just in and through.

    Oliver Cromwell considered all of his “horizontal” actions to be the determined will of God just because they happened. As Calvinists like to say, his God was more powerful than yours.

    Now I see why Cyril said solo fide is a prison prism. Faith in your view is an act of God in a person, it is not their own or even assisted belief (as it would be in “I believe, help Thou my unbelief”, which it would be good to pray in regards to the Theotokos, btw).

    So how can faith be personal and not be an uncreated, irresistible, divine-only energy? I think we usually hear grace in that context, but we believe grace is resistible, otherwise of course people wouldn’t reject Christ. I believe we place faith, assisted by grace, more in the realm of the will to receive Christ, as well as to affirm in word and deed what we have received.

    Human nature is divine, evidenced in one way that it was placed in Christ’s person in the Incarnation. Sin is a foreign deviation. Persons however are created and their individual faith begins in time.

    The Eucharist is a bit different and less defined than typical energies/essence teachings of the relationship between God and humans, so I think I’ll leave it at that. We do not ascribe to perseverance of the Saints or once saved, always saved, but I still leave some room for deification being permanent, but not completely so in this life. A person can be pretty advanced in heavenly gifts and still fall, but if they worked through their tendency to fall and become healed of their susceptibility to certain temptations, and walk in that habit for a while, I think they are much less likely to fall into it again, but we must always be careful. Still I think if they do fall into again, they didn’t go far enough in their healing to begin with.

    Christ did defeat or trampled down (words we use instead of ransacked) sin and death in his person, but you are equating that to defeating inhuman, sinful nature, as well as horizontal activities, which I’ve already dealt with. We must personally choose to partake of His freely available grace in the life of the Church.


  68. Andrea,

    Since your last post is quite long, no doubt reflecting your passion and knowledge of EO theology (like Perry and others here), I take the liberty to respond in bits and pieces. On post-Fall natural love by the unregenerate, yes, love is always motivated by the ‘principle’ of sin. In other words, outward conformity is not matched by inward conformity. It always fall short of the glory, i.e. energies of God. As St James says, the violation of one law violates the entire law which is summed up by loving God with your entire being and loving the neighbour as yourself. Reformation theology, at least Lutheran theology (yes, Reformed theology can be extreme on both sides of their theological spectrum) distinguish between two types of love emanating from the two persons (i.e. the Old and New Adam) within the one person. The two loves in turn operate differently in two different environments, i.e. the two kingdoms. Thus, there are two righteousness in operation, the one divine and the other human. Both cannot be mixed up nor to be sure, separated. Parental love for their children is an example of human righteousness so that non-Christians can according to this type of righteousness love and do good. But in the sight of God, there is none that doeth good, no not one. All our *righteousness* are like filthy rags.


  69. Actually, the scriptures do not use the term “sin nature” or “sinful nature”. In fact, the term is not even found in the KJV. It is found multiple times in the NIV (just one of a myriad of reasons to avoid it) and is used to translate “sarx” (“flesh”).


  70. Andrea,

    Sinful nature never meant that ontologically speaking, human nature morphed into un-human nature (whatever that means, beastly or otherwise). But relationally, i.e. the human’s *relations* to other humans and in the human’s relations to God, the human is indeed less than human because of pride, self-centredness, curved into oneself, the divine ambition to be a god, be like God. The purpose of the Incarnation was precisely to counter such divine ambition … God became man so that the human can truly be human. God came down so that man need not go up. This is why in the Lord’s Supper, Jesus who now sits at the right hand of the Father and thus transcends time and space comes to us in the same unbounded humanity in time and space where the inter-twining and overlapping between the two aeons and kingdoms is revealed. We do not cross the breach because Jesus Himself has restored the breach. If Jesus has restored the breach, then we do not progress towards God; it is God who advances towards us. Baptism which is postulated on the death-resurrection of Jesus precisely demosntrates deification is not a progress but an ‘event’ in which nature is destroyed so as to be re-created .. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”


  71. Cranmer,

    As to your question about Anglican orders. The answer is that they would be ordained by the Orthodox Church. Whatever the Anglican argument for the validity of orders was, it is now over given that Canterbury ordains women to the lower orders and now will ordain them to the episcopate.


  72. Jesus did not come to open the way for humanity with His Incarnation. He came to *concretely* recapitulate, not typologically but really all things, both visible and invisible (in mirroring the works of God the Father Almighty) and thus became the paradigm and summit, the Alpha and Omega. Just as God the Father created ex nihilo, likewise the Son in His Incarnation recapitulates by re-creating ex nihilo. To be deified is to be made completely new because the recapitulation is no repair job, but the creative power and energies of God which is shared by Father as the principal source of predestination as energy, the Son secondary source and the Holy Spirit as the agent who proceeds from the Father through the Son.


  73. James Dean,

    Rivington’s work reflects the 19th and early 20th century reading of Ephesus and Chalcedon regarding the papacy. For a text at the time that didn’t take that reading, readers should pick up Edward Denny’s, Papalism and should read it together with Rivington’s work.

    Rivingston’s work is now a historicl piece since the evidence shows that the older reading was wrong. Leo’s Tome at Chalcedon didn’t function as a final judgment and shibboleth. It was subject to to the judgment of the council as to its orthodoxy, particularly Cyril’s teaching. Gray’s, The Defense of Chalcedon in the East, establishes this quite decisively.

    It is true that the Reformers ae not pure Augustinians in some key respects. Theirs is an Ockhamized and Humanized Augustinianism. That said, Rome’s position isn’t isomorphic with Augustine’s theology either.


  74. Jason and all,

    I do love Orthodoxy and very much appreciate the education I’ve received here for the last few years. I also appreciate the owners letting me comment and ask questions, though I get the feeling they prefer when I do the latter. I have always loved the truth and think about it in the context of being accessible to all. I forget about male/female roles when I’m listening, thinking about, and talking about theology. It’s only a few hours later when I start to worry if I’ve crossed some boundary, and then I can get paranoid, or maybe not. In other forums I’ve talked about this worry and people usually say the internet is not Church so a woman talking about theology is not the same as the Biblical prohibition against teaching a man. For the record I would be uncomfortable with female deacons, though I think there is some historical precedent. Perhaps gender roles are too confused for them in this day and age. As far as reading in Church, when I’m in the choir I am usually too tired (not to mention nervous) to add that in and need to save my strength. Men are stronger. I have enjoyed and been blessed from time to time to hear a woman reading some of the prayers, but I don’t know if we need female ordained Readers. This is all beyond the scope of this conversation, but since I do worry and since Perry mentioned female ordination I would like to clear the air.


    The way you are dividing human and divine is too schizophrenic (meaning multipersonality disorder) for me. At this point I am trying to think about these things in a more united way for my own healing. I have to just let the words in the services about the setting aright of fallen divisions wash over and soak in. I also think learning the Orthodox terminology, such as is done here, is part of that setting aright. And again, I thank the contributors for spending the time teaching it both didactically and through debate. I will say that it is taught that Christ does not annihilate our passions. They are to be synergistically redirected towards Him instead.


  75. And about Christ raising us to heaven, even now, in the services the Priest also proclaims,

    “It is proper and right to sing to You, bless You, praise You, thank You and worship You in all places of Your dominion; for You are God ineffable, beyond comprehension, invisible, beyond understanding, existing forever and always the same; You and Your only begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit. You brought us into being out of nothing, and when we fell, You raised us up again. You did not cease doing everything until You led us to heaven and granted us Your kingdom to come. For all these things we thank You and Your only begotten Son and Your Holy Spirit; for all things that we know and do not know, for blessings seen and unseen that have been bestowed upon us. We also thank You for this liturgy which You are pleased to accept from our hands, even though You are surrounded by thousands of Archangels and tens of thousands of Angels, by the Cherubim and Seraphim, six-winged, many-eyed, soaring with their wings,”


  76. Jason,

    You adhere to a monothelite and monoenergist position that seeks to incorporate certain parts of Orthodox Christology and Triadology into a Reformation context. I get it. But this blog does not exist for you to repeatedly assert as much, often without argument, or propagate such views across a vareity of posts. If you wish to make an argument, then do so, but the continued assertion of your views over and over again simply isn’t welcome. You have your own blog upon which you are free to pontificate your views.

    That said,

    FYI, logoi is plural for logos. You write that it is the logos that determines the motion of the sinner, but the problem is that sin has no logos. Second, if you take the relationship between person and nature to be deterministic, you’ll need to actually show that one determines the other. So far, I haven’t seen a reason to think that this is so. Second, to say that freedom is “helpless” in the face of the power of the logos ignores the fact that freedom is part of the logos of human nature. Here the Manicheanism of your position is clear. Better Lutheran theologians actually anticipated the position that you are advancing and rejected it. (John Gerhard for example.)

    Jesus coming to bind the strong man refers to the devil, not human agents since he came to set captives free, not obliterate them. Your Jesus is a terminator, not a liberator. As Wesley said to Whitfield, “Your god is my devil.”

    To argue that the sinner has to be annihilation because the person is bound to nature doesn’t follow. Being bound can be taken in a number of ways. We’d need to know that it was the right kind of binding relationship such that what was true of one was necessarily true of the other. But there are good reasons for thinking that just because something is true of one, it isn’t necessarily true of the other.

    You think there is a sinful nature because you think either that God is evil and has a logos for an evil nature or God is inept since human choice can over ride and thwart the divine will as to the imago dei. But as scripture indicates, God hates nothing that he has created and so, evil is not something God has created. To say further that the person is the sinful nature obviously confuses person and nature. It is hard to see how yours is a world that has room for personhood.It also gets the notion of the logoi wrong. There isn’t a logos for each person, but for each nature. If the former were the case, we’d be back at the predestinarianism of Molinism.

    Your remarks on the eucharist unfortuately give support to transubstantiation not to mention an Apollinarian Christology.

    To claim that there are two righteousness in operation and cannot be mixed is just assert a Lutheran position. But we already knew that that position is monothelite and so inconsistent with the profession of fidelity to the teaching of councils 4-6. On the contrary sine human nature has a divine logos, its righteousness per se isn’t in opposition to the divine and so the claim that they cannot be “mixed” presupposes an athropological pelagianism where human nature is of itself sealed off from the divine.

    While it is true that the terms you employ aren’t in Scripture, their conceptual content is uncontroversially present. Such is not the case with terms like “sinful nature” which means that you’d need to present a case that such concepts are taught in Scripture. So simply mentioning that Scripture does not contain those other terms doesn’t make the point that such terms that you employ are scriptural and permissable for Christian usage.

    If as you say that human nature “morphed” into an unhuman nature, not only does it insult divine providence as inept but it leaves unexplained how there is anything to corrupt. If human nature is changed per se, then there is nothing of human nature to corrupt, but rather human nature has ceased to be human altogether and the devil is victorious since no seed of the woman would be possible, entailing an Apollinarian Christology-Christ’s humanity must come from somewhere else than the Theotokos.

    The desire to be deified isn’t per se improper to humans. Rather it was the personal desire of our first parents to be deified apart from the means, habituation, that was evil. Evil is in the use of the natural and not the nature itself.


  77. Cyril,

    As to your analogy about Augustinian soteriology, well, no one admits that such a monolith existed, so it seems a rather poor straw man (even for argument’s sake). But the late medieval theologians all accepted Augustine’s teaching on divine simplicity: it was the basis of their Trinitarian ruminations. Their differences revolved around how to maintain it whether in accepting or rejecting the psychological terminology – – was it analogical or in some way univocal – – as statements about how simplicity relates to itself. This tenacity about simplicity occurred whether in denying the psychological explanations (as did the Dominicans, who saw the nature as the source of the Son’s and the Spirit’s deity), or in affirming it (as did the Franciscans, although when the later ones such as Holcot and Occam used them, they did so only as a means through fideistic affirmations of Je ne sais quoi). On top of that (or I should say because of it), none of them denied Augustine’s teaching on the filioque, and were far more wedded to the doctrine than he was. Some, like Anselm, certainly went far beyond him

    You write as if Augustine invented Divine Simplicity, when a whole bunch of Eastern Father teach just as much. The question is whether Essence is the same or truly distinct from Act in God.

    i’m not sure what you mean by ” On top of that (or I should say because of it), none of them denied Augustine’s teaching on the filioque.” Seriously your syntax is strange and in your explanations, one ambiguity follows a non-sequitor it seems. When you say: “and were far more wedded to the doctrine than he was.” Its as if the filioque here again is something Augustine invented , rather than a western patristric tradition, and then you say this. “Some, like Anselm, certainly went far beyond him.So, if we wish to say they fell from Augustine by adopting his speculation as an article of faith, well then, I would agree that they weren’t very good Augutinites.”???

    Even those who broke from what has been termed the essentialist model of the Latin West, and here I am thinking specifically of Nicholas Cusanus and his own idiomatic take on the Trinity, still employed the “Lover, Beloved, and Love” terminology. I would commend to you a book I have only just picked up, but have gone through it rather quickly, Russell Friedman, Medieval Tinitarian Thought from Aquinas to Ockham.

    The so called “esentialist model” is nothing but a De Regnon myth. See Michel Barnes’ De Regnon Reconsidered , David Hart’s ,“The Mirror of the Infinite…” and Lewis Ayres, Remember That you are Catholic

    Both Gregory of Nyssa and Palamas use the Language of love, so that is neither here nor there. You can even find Palamas Copying parts of Augustine’s De Trinitate into his own work. Check out Reinhard Flogaus’, Palamas and Barlaam Revisited and his,Inspiration Exploitation Distortion: The Use of Saint Augustine in the Hesychast Controversy,


  78. Cyril,

    Not sure what you mean by defending Luther using un-Lutheran categories in the “first two paragraphs.” Did you mean that I was defending Luther’s rejection of prayers of the dead as inconsistent with sola fide? It goes without saying that the case of Luther’s dispute with Eck on the canonicity of the Apocrypha which you highlighted bears witness to this. But as I was highlighting, this does not mean that *all* Protestants exclude prayers for the dead as in the case of Anglicans (not referring to Anglo-Papists, of course). And both Lutherans and Anglicans do not reject the use of the Apocrypha for readings in examples of piety, so long these do not contradict scripture.

    Unless of course you were referring to the use of EO categories to defend Luther, which is nothing alien in the first place. Luther was a staunch Chalcedonian and the only difference was that he was consistent in his application of the personal union to salvation on the same basis as the patristics that in Jesus, the person is the work, and the work is the person.


  79. Perry,

    That’s the thing though. You assert that my position is monothelite and monoenergist, but your alternative is Nestorianism. Worst still, the ultimate implication of your understanding of the Passion at Gethsemane is that Jesus *stumbled* at the Father’s will. This is simply because to will anything other than the Father’s will is to *oppose* that will and hence tear apart the Trinity and personal union, and causing Jesus to *sin* in the first place. This also exemplifies the *imperfection* of Jesus in carrying out the Father’s will. But Jesus said He came (precisely) to do the Father’s will (and nothing else). What happened at the Garden was not an exercise of the will in opposite direction, but *temptation.* Anything that deviates from the original mission of Jesus is temptation.

    We know this is so because right after His Baptism, Jesus was led to be wilderness to be tempted. If preserving His life is good, then why did Jesus not turn the stone into bread so as to satisfy His hunger which is a basic human need and thus a good? And why did Our Lord instead of gently responding to the Apostle Peter’s emotional insistence that death should need not happen instead denounce the attitude with the following …

    “But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.”

    If preserving His own life was a good, why the above?


  80. Perry,

    What then is the monothelite and monoenergistic position? We all know that it’s simply the confusion of person and nature, that is confusion of the will as natural faculty and the exercise of that will. Both heresies share the same root error. But to insist as Maximus did is to commit split vision with respect to person (Nestorianism – the language bordering on the Word that assumes and the Man that is assumed; or even a type Adoptionism), and ironically commit the error of person and nature (=energy) for the Son did not assume a human person, but human *nature* and thus there was only One Person acting according to both natures in concert. So that when the Person in his human nature really and truly hungered, and thus wills to and energises towards eating and drinking, the divine will is not passive but act in concert or concord so that it is in a sense even *subordinated* to the human will for not only is the Creator is creature, but the creature is Creator since Jesus is God-man. Hence, there is no possibility at any time for both wills to act independently of one another because natural wills don’t do anything. Persons actualise them. Jesus was indeed truly and really tempted, and yet in all respects He did not sin because He did not succumb.


  81. Jason Loh,

    The modern Assyrian Church of the East doesn’t embrace the 5th and 6th councils. They only embrace the 1st, 2nd, and 4th councils.

    So how are the Eastern Orthodox Nestorian if we embrace all 7 councils?


    Liked by 1 person

  82. Andrea,

    Actually it is not me who is dividing the divine and human. I don’t believe that dyothelism implies the possibility of the hypostatic employment of two wills by and within the same person, especially when applied to none other than God Himself. To do so as per Maximus is indeed to make God to be a schizophrenic. The implication of the Maximian gloss on the Passion at Gethsemane is that not only did Jesus failed to recapitulate the human will to be re-oriented towards God, but in failing so to do, He ended up willing in the opposition direction, contrary to the Father’s will. This implies that Jesus failed in his task as the New Adam to reverse the Fall as occured in the Garden of Eden where both the Old Adam ended up willing out of step with the divine will. This necessarily implies a less than perfect exercise of the human will by the divine person, which in turn calls into question the Son’s unity in the Trinity.

    Pastorally, if Jesus initially willing to preserve His life in opposition to the Father’s will was good, then is it a good that Christians willed to preserve their will in opposition to the confession of their faith? Why did Jesus say that He who denies me, him I will deny?


  83. Perry,

    The logoi as you say are blueprints, predestinations, and they also embody the divine presence in creation (but obviously not identical to it). Such energies flow from divine freedom. Divine freedom presupposes aseity (thus deity=aseity) and therefore the trinity are self-sufficient in Themselves. On top of that, deity=aseity=sovereignty. Thus, the logoi which are divine cannot be determined by the free-choice of the human (sinner) for that imply that God is less than free, less than self-sufficient and less than sovereign.


  84. Jnorm,

    Obviously the canonical Orthodox disavow Nestorianism, but the implication of your theology with particular reference to a dyothelite understanding is Nestorian.


  85. Andrea,

    The idea that women are not supposed to discuss theology openly over the Internet is simply wrong. Discussion is not proclamation. Only the male gender who alone is capable of sacramentally imaging Christ qualifies for the ministerial priesthood which ordained for the purpose of proclaiming the Gospel in Word and Sacraments. And I believe women should cover their heads, although I don’t see it as compulsory.


  86. Jason,

    Pastorally, if Jesus initially willing to preserve His life in opposition to the Father’s will was good, then is it a good that Christians willed to preserve their will in opposition to the confession of their faith? Why did Jesus say that He who denies me, him I will deny?

    I don’t know enough of St. Maximus to address whether you are working with him accurately, but this paragraph is no good logically. Yes, those who denied Christ willed something good when they willed to preserve their own life. It is impossible not to will something good, because evil does not exist. Rather they choose a lesser good which did not preserve their life, to the exclusion of a greater good which alone could preserve their life. That is, they preferred this life to Christ. But there was nothing sinful in the will’s inclination to preserve itself. Indeed, Hebrews 5 says that Christ prayed that he be delivered, and was heard. That is, the proper response to the desire to preserve your life is not to fight to keep it alive, but to trust Him who can resurrect the body. As indeed, the martyrs did.


  87. James,
    While I don’t presume to speak for Cyril:

    I don’t think anyone here is denying that the Eastern Fathers spoke of divine simplicity. Of course they did. What they are denying is that the East spoke of *absolute* divine simplicity. In other words, as St Basil notes in Letters 234, they are denying an “=” sign between God’s essence and God’s actions.


  88. And are you really advocating a monothelite position? But then there is no salvation for the human logos for the human logos has a will.

    Anyway, no, free will cannot override the logos. Hence Adam’s choice did not change the logos, and the human logos is still what it was. Adam changed it’s tropos, but not the logos itself. And sin does not have a logos, for sin does not exist.

    It’s not common a Reformed gets to take a Lutheran to task on free will, but here it is. Next I’ll be schooling you for your Nestorianism and for your being a Sacramentarian.

    Perry and Cyril,

    It is worth noting that whatever theology the Reformed may have (though I’m not entirely convinced) the Book of Common Prayer definitely does not treat divinity as the true God–as you say Westminster does (and as it does seem to)–but consistently uses “God” to refer to the Father.


  89. Matthew,

    If you hold to a Maximian understanding, then you would have to disavow a Protestant (Reformation) understanding of salvation. Are you willing to do that? I know you are ‘more’ orthodox in your christology (and triadology) than your Reformed counterparts, but are you seriously considering rejecting monergism too?


  90. ***If you hold to a Maximian understanding, then you would have to disavow a Protestant (Reformation) understanding of salvation.***

    I’m not speakng for Matthew, and I know I have stayed out of this debate for the most part, but your comment is insightful, and I wish more Protestants woudl face up to it.

    Speaking as a “formerizing” Protestant (neologism justified–I am a Protestant who is in the process of giving up Reformdom), once I read St maximus and understood the debate, I knew Protestatn soteriology was contradicting the Councils.

    I dropped monergism and reformation soteriology en toto.


  91. Ahh, I see. You are saying that the mode of willing was changed, but not the will itself … Yes, I agree with you.


  92. James Dean,

    Thanks for you response, sorry to be so long in getting back to it (and I am really sorry that you are not “that” James Dean – – you do at least comb your hair like him, don’t you?). First, I know my prose can be thick at times, especially when I have no time to revise, but on some of this I am not quite sure what you are missing.

    You wrote “You write as if Augustine invented Divine Simplicity.” No, I wrote, “But the late medieval theologians all accepted Augustine’s teaching on divine simplicity.” That is, they did not accept the Greek Father’s teaching on it; they accepted Augustine’s. That’s why I wrote “Augustine’s teaching”. Clearer?

    As to the filioque,, I have yet to learn that it was not Augustine who invented it: the term appears in both Tertullian and Ambrose, though not in Victorinus or Hilary. But both of the former are not referring to God in se, but to the economy of the Spirit. Hilary used per filium, but again, his language is very imprecise. Siecienski devotes some pages to all of these writers and I commend his recent work on the filioque to you. I would note that E.S. does Hilary a disservice in ascribing to him the doctrine that the one essence is the source of the Trinity, when in fact in De synodiis Hilary calls this an error: “Est praeterea error his tertius, ut cum unius substantiae Pater et Filius esse dicatur, significari existimetur substantia prior, quam inter se duo pares habeant.” Siecienski’s discussion of Victorinus is very good on his use of Plotinus, and Augustine’s own appropriation of him which he seemingly took from Victorinus. So, that’s the rub: I don’t accept that the filioque was a “western patristic tradition.” Augustine himself at the end of De Trinitate says that his musings were just that, and not binding dogma, let alone the defense of a tradition.

    You wondered why I said Anselm inter alios weren’t good Austinites (and please, be careful in citing me, not “Augutinites.”) its because Anselm says flatly in De processione that “Pater est Deus de deo.” Did Augustine ever say this? Would he have? This is why I said that they fell from Augustine’s teaching, since for Augustine it wasn’t dogma.

    You wrote: “The so called “esentialist model” is nothing but a De Regnon myth. See Michel Barnes’ De Regnon Reconsidered , David Hart’s ,“The Mirror of the Infinite…” and Lewis Ayres, Remember That you are Catholic” And, “Both Gregory of Nyssa and Palamas use the Language of love, so that is neither here nor there. You can even find Palamas Copying parts of Augustine’s De Trinitate into his own work. Check out Reinhard Flogaus’, Palamas and Barlaam Revisited and his, “Inspiration Exploitation Distortion: The Use of Saint Augustine in the Hesychast Controversy”

    That Barnes article on de Regnon is wonderful. In the article(for those of you who are unfamiliar with this piece) Barnes highlights the debate that occurred in France following the 1892 publication of de Regnon’s Etudes de théologie positive sur la sainté Trinité. It is de Regnon who gives us the modern essentialist/personalist dialectic that has driven a good bit of the work and the polemic on the Trinity both by the Orthodox and the Latins (in the original French version of Lossky’s Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church he cites de Regnon I believe 52 times). Fifty years subsequent to de Regnon, French Augustinians (Paissac, Malet, inter alios), in their critique of de Regnon asserted that Augustine had the personalist Trinitarianism, and that the Greek formula X from X (light from light, true God from true God) was essentialist. Barnes however, notes that this critique was itself insufficient for it disregarded Augustine’s exegesis of I Cor. 1.24 (Christ the Wisdom and Power of God). To see how Barnes expands on this one should pick up his monograph The Power of God: Dunamis in Gregory of Nyssa’s Trinitarian Theology (in which he also defends the personalism of the Gregory). So, dear James, I have read Michel Barnes, and this is why I wrote “the so called “essentialist model” since I find the term lacking in its precision. Did I need to put extra, extra quotes there: kind of like double secret probation? I realize my prose can be thick at times, so I don’t think it needs help to be so. That’s why I put it in quotes.

    Next, I have no problem with using Lover, Beloved, and Love, as long as we see them as analogies. The problem comes when we follow an ordo theologiae which inserts properties between the Divine Nature and the Divine Persons: is the Spirit then a product of the shared property of love (Barnes notes that this problem itself concerned those wary French Augustinians), instead of going from Person to property to Divine Nature. To begin with the One and move to the Three is fine, as long as we don’t interpose properties as determinative of Persons. Gregory of Nazianzenus himself said in Oratio 41 “No sooner do I conceive of the one than I am illumined by the splendor of the Three; no sooner do I distinguish them than I am carried back to the once. When I think of any one of the three, I think of Him as the whole and my eyes are filled, and the greater part of what I am thinking escapes me.”

    Lastly, it is the ordo theologiae that gives me pause in the dispute between East and West, and why I think that Pr. Ayres work, as insightful as it is, falls on this one point. For Augustine’s heirs the one nature is still the unity of the Trinity, and there are passages in De Trinitate that are explicitly clear on this point. This is why the properties of the deity become coterminus with the nature, and absolute divine simplicity reigns supreme. I have to tell you , I am an ecumeniac (though, sadly my father was not an ecumeniac before me), and I would love to be in communion with Benedict XVI, and perhaps we are feeling our way to a rapprochement on some levels, but ADS is still the elephant in the room.

    Into the breach,


  93. Matthew,

    I have done preciously little with the BCP and its use of “God” as a referent to the Father. I don’t doubt you, I have just not ever paid that close attention. To me this is nice, but I am one who does not believe that Anglicanism has any theology of its own. You will find many Amens to that, including at one time a certain Anglican priest (whose name we dare not speak) who once maintained to me that Anglican theology was drawn from the uncorrupted medieval Church, Cranmer and Jewel be damned (and which of course implied that the church did later become corrupt and thus the justification for Elz I’s actions). Others, such as Pr. Torrance Kirby of McGill University (a Tory greater than which cannot be thought), see that the C of E gets its theology wholly from Zurich. I am of course far more inclined to Pr. Kirby than to the former “he who must not be named.”


  94. Obviously the Anglican priest who is not named does not deserve the name Anglican or the office of priest. But it’s surprising that the renowned Hooker scholar Torrance Kirby can say that Anglicanism repristinates Zwinglian theology en toto. After all, Hooker was Reformed with a Thomistic bent in anthropology.


  95. To him Hooker is at least late second generation Church of England (Cranmer first, Jewel second). Nonetheless, Hooker follows Vermigli in his Eucharistic theology, Bullinger in his federal theology, and Zurich en toto as regards Erastianism and notions of adiaphora. Torrance about two years ago pub’d a book entitled The Zurich Connection on the C of E’s dependence in the 1560s and 1570s on Zurich.


  96. To add to what Matthew said,

    Up till now I thought that saying Christ willed the good of preserving his life in Gethsemane was a logical deduction, but here I find this explanation in St. Maximus,

    “Since the God of all hath Himself become man without change, it follows that the same One not only willed appropriately as God in His Godhead, but also willed appropriately as Man in His humanity. For the things that exist came to be out of nothing, and have therefore a power that impels them to hold fast to existence, and not to non-existence, which power is simultaneously an inclination towards that which naturally maintains them in existence, and a drawing back from things destructive to their existence. Consequently, the super-essential Word, by virtue of His humanity, had of His humanity this self-preserving power which clings to existence. […] He exhibited the inclination to cling to existence in the natural and innocent use He made of a great many things, and the drawing back at the time of the Passion, when He drew back from voluntary death. […] Those natural things of the will are present in Him, but not exactly in the same manner as they are in us. Thus, He truly was afraid, but not as we are, but in a mode surpassing us.” (The Disputation with Pyrrhus)


  97. Thanks for the quote, but it does not explain how two contradictory energies as actualisation can be simultaneously present in one *divine* person? That Jesus experienced fear and anguish is *not* to be denied, but that he went so far as to willed, i.e. determined to preserve His life not only goes against the sense of scripture but defies the doctrinal intent behind the Chalcedonian Definition. Cyril of Alexandria would have been truly baffled how Maximus could have come up with such a solution. Cyril was credited for having coined the theological phrase, “One Nature of the Incarnate,” which expresses the indissoluble *unity* between the two natures.


  98. That means that for Cyril, the personal union precisely means that the two wills and energies always act as one person. Thus, the divine will cannot be allowed to ‘trump’ the human will anymore can the human will ‘trump’ the divine will. Both are in *harmony* with each other. Jesus reverses and recapitulates the Fall by overcoming the fear and hesitation he experienced, not by choosing in opposition to the Father’s will. Thus, instead of Jesus/New Adam as the Sacramentum and Exemplum who triumphed over temptation where the Old Adam had failed, Jesus ends up, in the Maximian gloss, as initially willing the opposite and then only subsequently will in conformity with the Father’s will. That is, instead of Jesus *concretely* recapitulating the Fall and restoring union with the Father through and in union with His will, Jesus ends up being an *example* of free choice.


  99. Cranmer,

    If you permit me the intervention, the ethno-phyletism is synodically condemned by the Orthodox Chruch in 1872.

    The were more Councils, either Panorthodox and of ecumenical status or local, after the 7th E.C. such as those of 880, 1351, 1666 etc. which are as binding as the previous ones.

    Ireaneus was the man who reprimanded Pope Victor for his intention to excommunicate the Churches of Minor Asia for their refusal to conform their ecclesiastical practices with those of Rome. In Book 3 of Against Heresies he did not claim what you wrote. He rather deals with the unauthorised meetings taking place in Rome and he says that all Christians of Rome (not the Christians everywhere as it is mistranslated) should agree with the Church of Rome irrispective of where they come from and that because the Christians of Minor Asia who were living in Rome they were used to consecrating their own Eucharist.


  100. Jason Loh,

    Your argument that what happened in the Garden of Gethsemane was a temptation does not make sense. So, what you say is that whereas after Baptism Christ is tempted from without by the devil, then after three years He is tempted from within and devil speaks even with His own voice! That means that progressivelly, according to your claim, the devil took possession of Jesus!

    The martyrs who prefer to die than denying their faith they do not will death but what they will is life, the true life in Christ. If what they wanted was death that would mean that they were committing suicide and that would be problematic.


  101. Ioannis,

    To insist that any distraction from the divine mission to go to the Cross is not a temptation, but a good defies the meaning of the word. Jesus came to suffer and lay down his life for his many; He came to serve, not to be served. Furthermore, to be tempted is not equivalent to falling into temptation. Jesus was without sin and at the same time was vulnerable or susceptible to being tempted, from without and from *within.* If not then how is Jesus completely human? The difference between the Old Adam (the historical figure and humanity in him) and the New Adam is that whereas for the former, falling into temptation is natural; the latter falling into temptation was an impossibility because of the divine hypostasis. Besides, to insist that Jesus was completely immune to inward temptation makes a mockery of the mortal flesh which the Son assumes in the Incarnation. It is from within the mortal flesh that concupiscence or appettites tending towards sinful gratification emerges.


  102. Ioannis,

    Martyrs prefer death than disavowing Jesus as their Lord. Thus, they would not be committing suicide, since in *this* context, they are *free* to choose. Furthermore, the goal of the act of willing is simply death/nihilism. To be *forced* between the two alternatives of death and life on the basis of confessing Christ or not is precisely to confess Jesus Christ and so to *die* for the sake of that confession of faith, and thus for a “higher reason.” Death is not goal but the means. Hence, in suicide, one makes a deliberate and “direct” choice to die. But in the case martyrdom, one makes a deliberate but “indirect” choice to die. Or else, Jesus would be committing suicide according to your logic.


  103. Jason,

    The fact that Christ in His humanity didn’t want to suffer and die shows us that He realized the full extent of what that suffering would be. To not need a moment to get Himself ready for it would diminish the fact that God suffered and died. We can get the idea from martyrs joyfully enduring their deaths, and indeed the Bible says that Jesus joyfully suffered for us and despised the pain, but this is not because they were masochists. To deny the extent of the pain they suffered and how they had to overcome their aversion to pain and death, as described in Hebrews 11:37,38, would lessen their sacrifice, and the reality of their experience. Christ in His humanity overcame this aversion as is described in Matthew 26.

    Willing two things does not make one schizophrenic, opposition to Christ’s human nature would. One has to prioritize in such a situation, and Christ obviously chose to take the cup of suffering for our salvation. And we need to realize that it was difficult for Him. God suffered. If it was not difficult, then how could He have compassion for our sufferings?

    My “Orthodox New Testament”, translated and published by Holy Apostles Convent in Buena Vista, Co, also provides this from St. John of Damascus,

    “When He said, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; however, not as I will, but as thou wilt,’ is it not clear to all that He said this as a lesson to us to ask help in our trials only from God, and to prefer God’s will to our own, and as a proof that He did actually appropriate to Himself the attributes of our nature, and that He did in truth possess two wills, natural, indeed, and corresponding with His natures but yet in no wise opposed to one another? ‘Father’ implies that He is of the same essence, but ‘if it is possible’ does not mean that He was in ignorance (for what is impossible to God?), but serves to teach us to prefer God’s will to our own. For that alone is impossible which is against God’s will and permission. ‘However, not as I will but as Thou wilt,’ for inasmuch as He is God, He is identical with the Father, while inasmuch as He is Man, He manifests the natural will of mankind. For it is this that naturally seeks escape from death.”


  104. Also, our salvation in Christ was a process. He was perfected by His obedience as Hebrews also says. He assumed in His earthly life every bit of our human experience. If the martyrs were able to joyfully and unwaveringly face their deaths, it is because Christ, at great cost, conquered death by His Passion.

    Here’s another quote from St. Maximus,

    What do you suppose the prayer indicates? Dread or courage? The highest agreement of His human will with the divine will or its utmost separation from it?…. The sentence, ‘However, not as I will, but as Thou wilt,’ excludes all opposition, and demonstrates the union of the human will of the Savior with the divine will of the Father, since the whole Word has united Himself essentially to the entirety of human nature, and has deified it in its entirety by uniting Himself essentially to it….Since He had become what we are for our sakes, He spoke these words in a manner fitting to His humanity, to God the Father, because He, Who was by nature God, has as Man a faculty of will wholly in accord with the Father’s will. Wherefore, according to both natures from which, in which, and of which His hypostasis was constituted, He was made known as desiring and effecting our salvation. On the one hand as consenting to it with the Father and the Spirit; on the other hand, the human as becoming obedient unto death, to the Father, even the death of the Cross, Himself bringing to pass the great mystery of the oeconomy towards us by means of the flesh.”


  105. Mr. Loh,

    When we speak of harmony we must be speaking of things which are distinct, as in music theory parallel motion is only harmony in specific situations (3rds and 6ths shift between major and minor and thus create parallel motion that is not really parallel.)

    You have confused the concept of unity and the concept of harmony: unity means oneness, but does not specify ‘in what manner’ as for example the ‘united states’ of America are not a single state but fifty several states which become one through a federal government.

    Harmony means co-operation, but does not specify ‘in what manner’. In music, harmony indicates that the sounds being produced by multiple voices work together rather than against one another, but does not specify what they are working for. As an example, the open fourth is considered dissonant in 16th-century counterpoint, but in Byzantine style music it is treated as stable.

    Dissonance is the concept of ‘sound against sound’ whereas consonance is the concept of ‘sound with sound’. Additionally I think you are confusing ‘harmony’ with ‘dissonance’; harmony may contain both consonance and dissonance, but in the end it must add up to a whole, a complete musical idea, and ‘stable’ intervals such as triad-stacks are not the only valid harmonies, unless the music does nothing and there is no melody or rhythm.

    In the case of music which moves, triads are not the only harmonious intervals, and as such in order to preserve the harmony, dissonances arise as the natural motions of various vocal or chordal lines contradict each other, but (the harmony) is preserved in a higher unity of the wholeness of the musical idea that transcends mere consonance and dissonance.

    Maximus seems to be saying that while there is dissonance in the wills (the human wanting to preserve life, the divine wanting to save all mankind) they still are harmonious because they are unified in what is higher than their difference: goodness.

    As in a song, it is usual that the deepest motion (the root) determines what is better for the music. As such in western music the first real dissonance to enter is the ‘suspension’, in which a vocal line ‘insists’ on its position, only to be drawn downward (humbled) by the motion of the root (which may last measures and measures if need be) into consonance. The ultimate result of this dissonance is harmonious and good.


  106. Jason,

    First, regarding synergy/monergy:

    If monergy means that whatever we do it must come from God, I’m quite monergistic. And I don’t know that anyone can really deny it.

    But if you mean that the Spirit does not so energize human persons that they can actually respond to Christ, actually speak the Word to Christ, actually pursue Christ, actually be formidable to Christ, actually be refreshment to Christ, you seem again to be talking heresy.

    First, and most obviously, Mary is Theotokos. God choose to learn from and actually respond to the Theotokos. Christ is not merely a word spoken to men, he is, in a very real, though limited sense, a Word spoken by man. May I direct you again to the Akathist hymn.

    Or again, does the Spirit confirm our nature, or destroy it? At least with lesser natures, the Spirit confirms them. “You send forth your Spirit: they are created. You renew the face of the ground.” Are we to suppose that the Spirit creates the lesser natures, but when it comes to us, he must obliterate?

    And the right word is obliterate. That man naturally has free will is clear, if for no other reason than that he chose to sin.

    But anyway, you don’t deny man has free will “Of Free Will they teach that man’s will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness, and to work things subject to reason.” Augsburg XVIII

    And so the Spirit does not obliterate our will, but confirms it, and raises it to contemplate the Word. Indeed He makes us alive, and gives power to our will.

    And in the power of the Spirit we can and do actively respond to Christ and actively love Christ.

    Finally, the Song of Songs is quite clear that we can refresh Christ, that we can comfort Him, and that we are formidable to Him.

    I think there is some confusion on the word “nature” though, and particularly “human nature”.

    On the one hand, “nature” can mean the created class or genus of a thing. Thus Christ not only shared, but shares our human nature. This is the sense that St. Maximos uses nature.

    But it can also mean the ordinary way of things. We can, without real difficulty, say “he was unnaturally kind.” It is in this sense that St. Paul can say “we were by nature (phusis) children of wrath.” In this sense, Christ shared, but no longer shares our human nature. I believe St. Maximos would, in his technical vocabulary, use “tropos” here rather than phusis or logos. (Though there are even here different levels, as for instance, the difference between the unconverted, the converted and the Resurrected Christian are all differences of nature, in this sense.)

    In the second sense, prior to the Incarnation, men are not capable of initiating movement toward God. We are so trapped by flesh that we look not to God, nor can we know Him, but instead look to gratify the lusts of the flesh.

    Given the Incarnation, men are capable of moving toward God, as often happened during the Incarnation, and as again often happens when men are drawn to saints. But they are not capable of giving birth to themselves. They cannot draw the Spirit down upon them. They are incapable of rising above flesh.

    But given the new birth, as indeed the Solid Decleration seems to concede, men are capable, by nature, of willing good, of pursuing good, of being refreshment for the Word (as the Song of Song testifies) even for the Theotokos, of forming the Word.

    It is, I believe this sense that the Reformers are chiefly concerned.

    But in the first sense, we are, by the power of the Spirit, quite capable of cooperating with the God. And no fall into sin can change this fact.


  107. Will is probably used in two senses as well. Christ willingly submitted his will to the Divine, and not unwillingly–with “willingly” and “unwillingly” referring to the human will. He did not will what he would will, but willed what His father wills He will. (The interplay between the subjunctive and indicative forms of the verb “will” is key to this sentence.) Thus though the human will was inclined to flee death and seek salvation in the flesh, yet the human will willed to find salvation in the Resurrection. Thus precisely, Christ was tempted to sin, but did not sin. For temptations touch the will and not only the flesh.


  108. We could say that Christ chose not to will what his will naturally (in the second sense above) would have willed. Or perhaps, that Christ chose not to will in accord with the fallen tropos of will which finds its ends and salvation in the flesh, but rather personally transcended that tropos and willingly submitted his will to the Father, seeking His salvation only in Him.


  109. Jason Loh,

    I think that we do not disagree.

    What you call “temptation” in the Garden is nothing else but the natural will which is naturally directed towards life and produces a natural and blameless fear for death which however functions as a temptation and it can make simple men like us, if we do not make a proper use of that blameless fear, to succumb to commit a certain sin. Do you agree with that?

    By the way the father of the phrase “one nature of Logos incarnate” is Apollinarius but Cyril, who appropriated it unknowingly, uses the words nature and hypostasis interchangeably and in saying nature he means hypostasis.


  110. Matthew,

    A couple of impressions:

    The Augsburg quote only allows horizontal freedom, and you also added freedom to sin.

    But what about freedom to choose God? It seems you are saying that any contemplation of God is made possible by the Spirit. I don’t see any ability of the human will to do this in your explanation, even if it is just in wanting to contemplate Him.

    If we are formidable to Christ, shouldn’t we also be formidable to the Spirit? Otherwise it sounds like subordination of the Son.

    And regarding pre-Incarnational man, what about the OT righteous in Hebrews?

    I don’t think Christ’s human will was fallen. He never had a gnomic will. Rather His will to live could be seen as willing for deliverance as he was the previous time when they were going to stone him and he walked through the crowd. God delivered him that time, and it wasn’t giving into sin. I was personally relieved when that happened and I don’t think it’s a sin to be so.


  111. Andrea,

    I was responding to a particular Protestant doctrine that says that we do not affect our salvation in any way. I sketched out to what degree I think this can be true, and how it would be wrong to take it. I quoted Augsburg to prove that man naturally has a free will, with the next premise being that the Spirit does not destroy the nature, but establishes it; and thus, the Spirit does not destroy our free will, but transfixes it and divinizes it. Thus by the power of the Spirit, the regenerate are able to actively choose the good; to actually freely give to Christ rather than merely passively receiving from Christ.

    For a Protestant, the idea that salvation begins with God and not from us is very important. So I also sketched how this is true. As St. Gregory of Nyssa says (On the Making of Man), we were created loving the good, but we chose to find our good in matter rather in God. And thus we were enslaved to the flesh and unable to raise ourselves to contemplate Divinity. to this end Christ was manifested in the flesh, to free us from the bonds of flesh, and raise us back to God.

    You are correct that the Hebrews could also love God. But only because their Law was a prefiguring of Christ. And indeed, as St. Paul says, the Law enslaves. Though when understood correctly the Law gives life, it is nevertheless a temporary slavery or subjugation, as when an heir is subjugated to a salve for his education.

    Regarding formidable: I was actually quoting a commentary on the Song of Songs, and probably should have chosen a different word. Rightly understood, the Song is a love poem between Christ and the Church. It is by the power of the Spirit that the Church is made a fit lover to Christ, one to whom Christ can say “avert your eyes for they have overcome me” or call “bright as the sun, fair as the moon, terrible as an army with banners.” I’m not sure how this relates to the interrelation of the three Persons, but it is Christ who is the Husband of the Church, not the Spirit.

    I think you have a good point in your last paragraph, but I think the difference is mostly terminological. Christ willed to live and to be delivered. And indeed we know this will was good, because he was delivered. (Hebrews 5:7) But though he was tempted to seek the means to deliverance according to the fallen tropos of human nature through the flesh; yet contrary to the flesh, He trusted God to deliver Him.


  112. Cyril,

    No worries about the prose, if you’re used to writing that way, that fine, i’m only complaining about it, because i’m trying to read what you’re saying charitably, so that i don’t attack something you have meant.

    Anyways, I don’t disagree with everything you said in you last reply, so i’ll address a few things

    No, I wrote, “But the late medieval theologians all accepted Augustine’s teaching on divine simplicity.” That is, they did not accept the Greek Father’s teaching on it; they accepted Augustine’s. That’s why I wrote “Augustine’s teaching”. Clearer?

    Again Augustine does not own it. Cyril of Alexandria in his Dialogues on the Trinity acknowledges that the the divine is simple and exists above all composition and says “his will is nothing other than he himself. Its not hard to find some words in Gregory of Nyssa that are compatible with this statement.

    As to the filioque,, I have yet to learn that it was not Augustine who invented it: the term appears in both Tertullian and Ambrose, though not in Victorinus or Hilary. But both of the former are not referring to God in se, but to the economy of the Spirit. Hilary used per filium, but again, his language is very imprecise. Siecienski devotes some pages to all of these writers and I commend his recent work on the filioque to you.

    First you say you have yet to learn and then you write the opposite, by listing people who’ve used the filioque, not sure what you’re trying to do here. lol. If a “Father” as early as Tertulian is using it, does it sound in any plausible way like an invention of Augustine’s? St. Epiphanius obviously doesn’t use the latin term, but teaches something identical to the Latin use. You name sake Cyril of Alexandria uses language that is compatible with both the Latin from & Greek through. Since you’ve recommend Scienceki’s book, I’ll probably try to get it now. I would recommend this work by E.B. Pusey online:On the Clause “and the Son”

    So, that’s the rub: I don’t accept that the filioque was a “western patristic tradition.” Augustine himself at the end of De Trinitate says that his musings were just that, and not binding dogma, let alone the defense of a tradition.

    You don’t accept that its a western tradition, because you don’t want to accept it, despite clear evidence to the contrary. If Pope Leo I, Jerome, Augustine and Hillary, & Tertullian are using it, What else do you need.

    You wondered why I said Anselm inter alios weren’t good Austinites (and please, be careful in citing me, not “Augutinites.”)

    Actually i thought you meant Augustinites and i thought you misspelled it, was trying to correct the spelling in my reply, but i was typing so fast that i myself misspelled it. No harm no foul.

    its because Anselm says flatly in De processione that “Pater est Deus de deo.” Did Augustine ever say this? Would he have? This is why I said that they fell from Augustine’s teaching, since for Augustine it wasn’t dogma.

    He didn’t fall from anything. Truth is if you read Anselm charitably, and in context, when he says Father is God from God, you’ll see that its no difference from what Gregory of Nyssa intimates when he says (Contra Eunomius Bk II-4Contra Eunomius Bk II-4): “…For without the Son the Father has neither existence nor name, …”
    Point being that if you fishing for some sort of heresy you’ll find it in any of the Fathers.

    Next, I have no problem with using Lover, Beloved, and Love, as long as we see them as analogies.

    You’re the one who brought it up

    The problem comes when we follow an ordo theologiae which inserts properties between the Divine Nature and the Divine Persons:

    Unless i’m misunderstanding you, inserting propeties between nature and person is to destroys divine simplicity, so i’m not sure how that is even an Augustianian deduction.

    Lastly, it is the ordo theologiae that gives me pause in the dispute between East and West, and why I think that Pr. Ayres work, as insightful as it is, falls on this one point. For Augustine’s heirs the one nature is still the unity of the Trinity, and there are passages in De Trinitate that are explicitly clear on this point. This is why the properties of the deity become coterminus with the nature, and absolute divine simplicity reigns supreme. I have to tell you , I am an ecumeniac (though, sadly my father was not an ecumeniac before me), and I would love to be in communion with Benedict XVI, and perhaps we are feeling our way to a rapprochement on some levels, but ADS is still the elephant in the room.

    With this last paragraphs you’ve moved back into ambiguities bro. When you say “For Augustine’s heirs the one nature is still the unity of the Trinity.” I’m not sure why you bring that up, what’s wrong with that?. I thought your main problem was that about a percieved latin essentiallism, i.e essence was prior to the persons. Which you took the time in your reply with quite a good summary of the myth of the east-west dialectic, and now you’re back to it again?


  113. Matthew,

    I appreciate your reading of the Bible, the Fathers and some of the prayers of the Church. You are the third (Jason is the second) Protestant I’ve talked to online who likes to use St. Maximus in particular in an integrative, authoritative way with Protestant theology. It makes it pretty confusing because most Sola Scriptura Protestants spend more time criticizing the early Church rather than half-adopting her teachings.

    Orthodox believe you have to take the Fathers teachings in the exact context that they not only taught in, but worshiped in. You’re use is a little more subtle than Jason’s but it’s still sounds like the same message of the Calvinist type of regeneration that must occur before a fallen person can lift their eyes to God. Then you quote St. Gregory in the same paragraph detailing what is important to Protestants. St. Gregory was not a Protestant. I haven’t read the passage you are referring to, but your method seems to begin from a Protestant perspective and then read Orthodox teachings in that light. It all starts with presuppositions. In a way I think that Protestants and possible ex-Protestants like me can take the Fathers and read them in an individualistic way just like they read Scriptures, looking for proof-texts. But the difference is that I want to know how it all fits with the one true, continuous, undivided Orthodox Church, not my own presuppositions. In conversation iron sharpens iron, and I pray that someone more orthodox than me will correct where I stray back into my individualistic instead of conciliar past. Regarding your paraphrase, the way I’ve heard the Orthodox explain it is that when we seek God with a submissive heart, He runs to us like the Prodigal’s father and embraces that desire and provides a home and sustenance for it. Song of Solomon can be read that way too, though sometimes the Bridegroom can be hard to get. That makes the reunion more sweet. When I thought about this from a Calvinist perspective I though that when the Prodigal ‘came to his senses’ it must have been the Spirit, but that’s not what the passage said. I think a person is capable of coming to the end of their rope and realizing they blew it and to remember God. He then comes to help us get out of the mud.

    Regarding the law, Christ came to fulfill it. The passages about that don’t have to be read so dialectically. Protestantism is all about divide and compartmentalize. Orthodoxy is about fulfilling and uniting.

    And about the last paragraph, the Bible doesn’t say that Jesus was tempted in the Garden. He had an honest conversation with His Father, and told the disciples to watch with him so that they were not tempted. What I wonder about with that passage, now that I’ve come to understand it better from an Orthodox perspective, is if Jesus was God, why He needed so many sleepless nights of prayer. I suppose this points to the Trinity being about communicative relationship, even when it is sinless, between the Three Persons, into which we are invited.


  114. Andrea,

    I think of it as being stuck in a pit; you can desire freedom and seek the good, but unless someone pulls you out of the pit you will not be able to attain it. Humanity’s ‘imprisonment’ to sin I think is much like this; which is why the metaphor is used.

    Monergism in this sense is a philosophy or system applied to a series of facts – like a man made theory of theology. It goes from the reality that all comes from God and that we ought to give all of the credit to him, and that there is none good besides God, uses a scripture from Paul like you were doing a mathematical proof, and concludes that man actually lacks the capability of goodness because of the fall. It vastly simplifies things, granted, but it is not warranted.

    However, if there is none good but God, any good or desire for good in man comes from God – but what aside from sin does not? If the naturally created is good, which comes from God, then it is clear that any good man does comes from God ultimately, whether immediately by the prompting or energy of the spirit, or naturally by the way we’re made by Him. I think when you lose the Energies/Essence distinction, the energies of God which fill all creation cannot *be* God and therefore can’t truly *be* good. What they are outside of the one in whom we live, breathe and have our being I don’t know.

    Just a thought.


  115. Andrea Elizabeth,

    Nor do I believe that Christ was really tempted but only in the sense of Hebrews 2:15 “And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

    Our natural fear of death can work either as an obstacle or as a contributor to our salvation depending on the manner that we use it.

    What do you think?


  116. Right, River.

    I think total depravity is such an exaggeration, and so unfortunately widespread that we almost need Joel Olsteen and Barney to help us get over it, “You’re special, special, everyone is special…”

    Human nature is good and virtuous as God made it. St. Maximus also talks about everyone desiring good, but with their gnomic wills, we make mistakes as Adam did. He desired the good of being like God (like Perry said earlier), but immaturely chose a self-defeating shortcut. “Mistake” may be too weak a word, but TD is so much too strong that the opposite is needed to put it in perspective. The fall was catastrophic, but what it did was divide our good faculties and thus weakened them so that without help we cannot do the good we want to do. Yet there have always been good men around like Enoch and Moses to inspire us to try. I think God even shows us non-Christians like Gandhi and Benjamin Franklin (his ideas about virtue and morality) to show us that man can, and wants to strive towards goodness.

    Yes all is from God in the sense you describe, as is our free will and consciences. We have the God-given tools and choice to seek to right our hypostaseses by choosing baby steps with the hand of God to guide us, or to say no, against our nature.


  117. “Our natural fear of death can work either as an obstacle or as a contributor to our salvation depending on the manner that we use it.”


    Yes, not only manner, but what view towards our telos? What life do we want, the fountain of youth, happiness and long life on this earth (plastic surgery and excessive life support and selfish, sinful choices) or the eternal blessed fountain of immortality in Christ which is obtained through painful, death-defying struggle against the passions and taking up our cross. If we choose the former, we have our reward in full for the relatively short time it lasts.


  118. Wow, my inbox is bursting at the seams with all these responses (over 133) since I last looked. I’m kind of bummed out that nobody really picked up on the Confession of Dositheos issue which I brought up in the first few comments.


  119. Cyril,

    Btw i took you word for it, b/c i hadn’t read Anselm in a while. In the very next paragraph of that work, he denies the meaning which you seem to be ascribing to him. he says:

    But the Father cannot be from God because of the aforementioned opposition. For God the Father can be from God only either from the Father(i.e his very self), or from the the Son of from the Holy Spirit, or two of them or all three. The Father cannot be from his very self, since one originating from another, and the other from whom the first originate cannot be the same.


  120. Jason Loh,

    You keep asserting that my position is Nestorian, but with no argument. I’ve in fact given reasons for thinking that your position is monothelite. The human will is determined by the divine, that there is a replacement of the human hypostasis, that there is only one operation or energy and so forth. Much of what you have written maps on to key points held by monothelites and monoenergists such as Sergius, Pyrrhus and Honorius.

    And yet you’ve given no reasons for thinking that Maximus’ position as ratified by the 6th council is Nestorian. And this is what I’ve complained about in my previous remarks. If it keeps up, I’ll just remove comments that merely assert points without argument. As for the point, if Maximus’ view is Nestorian, then the Reformation which claims to subscribe to the teaching of the 6th council is either Nestorian or inconsistent.

    Asserting that there is some implication that Jesus “stumbled” whatever that could mean ethically, is no proof that it is so.

    And you assert that to will anything other than that which is willed by the Trinity is to will in opposition to. But again, this is a straw man. That just isn’t my position. So again, you’ve asserted a position without argument and created a straw man.
    Materially, it isn’t merely the Father’s will, but the will of the Trinity. Your framing of the issue betrays a monothelite view of thinking of the will as hypostatic-the Father’s will vs. the Son’s. But that just isn’t my view. On my view the willing is Trinitarian. Second, since the Trinity also wills the preservation of human life, your naked claim that to will otherwise is to will contrary to would imply that there is opposition in the Trinity. A most unwelcome consequence.

    Further, if to will otherwise is to will in sin, then to desire otherwise is desire in sin. Hence your view that Jesus merely desired to save his life is sin. Hence your own position is self refuting.
    As for the questions on the temptation, they are questions. If you are ignorant and do not know the answers to your questions, I can inform you, but if you wish to make an argument, you’ll need to do something else other than ask questions, like actually MAKE an argument.

    Preserving one’s life and preserving one’s life in a specific mode are not the same. To do so under the influence of and to the end that the devil set forth would be sin. But since Christ’s human desire and will to preserve his life isn’t sinful. This is why he refrained from eating in the temptation.
    As for denouncing Peter, instead of asking a question, why not go read first what Maximus says? Second, the answer that sufficed above suffices here. To will to preserve human life is not the same as all modes in which that is willed. Your implied argument here equates Peter whom we know was a sinner’s mode of willing with Christ’s, whom we know was not a sinner. And so it presupposes a false Christology.

    The monothelite position is not simply a conflation of person and nature. Lots of positions do that which are more than monothelitism. Arianism is monothelite, but Arianism isn’t isomorphic with monothelitism.
    Again as to the charge of Nestorianism it is an empty and unsupported claim. At best it is supported by a straw man. Maximus is clear that there is only one person doing the acting. To claim that willing in two different natural powers of will splits the person assumes that the person is the will or that the will is hypostatic. But that is something that Maximus denies over and over again. Hence your objection only goes through as a straw man. It is just not Maximus’ position.

    Second on your view, Christ did assume human persons which is why on your view Christ “replaces” the human person.

    Your charge of the subordination of the divine will to the human borders on incoherence and is clearly fallacious. It doesn’t follow that if the eternal Son wills to eat, is sleepy and such that the divine will is passive with respect to it. It is possible that Christ using his divine power of choice wills that this is so as well. Or it is possible that the divine will doesn’t will those things, but a lack of willing X is not tantamount to willing not-X. In any case, acting together doesn’t imply acting as a subordinated power.

    I don’t claim that either of the powers of choice act independently of each other since I deny that the powers of choice perform acts. They can’t act in concert or independently since the person using them does the acting. It is akin to confusing having a reason for doing X and deciding to do X. Reasons aren’t causes, decisions are executions of reasons.
    The problem in part is that you confuse acting differently with acting independently because you assume that to will otherwise is to will in opposition to. And that will lead us to a necessary creation real fast. To will to create then would be in opposition to willing not to create, rendering the latter evil. Therefore it is necessary for God to create on pain of denying divine goodness.
    On the contrary to your view, in subordinating the use of the human power of choice to the use of the divine power of choice, you divide Christ since now one and the same person is subordinated and subject to necessity, making Christ a human and divine hypostasis. And so we are right back to the Reformed Nestorianism.

    Further, as far as Cyril is concerned, the death of Christ, as well as the other passions are uniquely had by Christ since his experience of them is active rather than with us passive. Like to an Idealist epistemology where the mind reaches out and grasps the things it knows rather than passively receiving information, Christ’s suffering is a laying hold of hunger, thirst, sleep and death. Consequently your charge of the subordinating the divine to the human will in passivity turns on a failure to understand the nature of Christ’s experience due to being a divine hypostasis.

    You write that for Cyril the personal union means that the two wills and energies always act as one person. But this is a mistake since the wills do not do the acting but are in act or in actualization since it is the person doing the acting by means of them. The natural powers of choice are not executioners of intentions, the person is.

    I don’t deny that the two wills are in harmony with each other at all times. Rather I affirm it and they are in harmony in the good. But that does not imply that there is no willing otherwise. It would only do so if the good were simple.

    You write that the divine doesn’t trump the human, but it certainly does on your gloss, since the human will is circumscribed by divine determination. What else could trumping be?

    Again you allege that on Maximus’ gloss Jesus wills in oppoisition, but again, with no proof. You assume the monothelite position that to will otherwise is to will contrary to, which implies that Christ cannot have two wills and two energies. So again, your monothelitism is apparent.

    Second, Jesus is no mere example of free choice for Maximus. This again, as I argued elsewhere, and you ignored there, is a straw man. Christ’s use of the natural power of choice recapitulates the natural will for all men leading to their resurrection. The only way this could be true is if the relation were intrinsic and not extrinsic as you claim. Second, Maximus explicitly denies your view of an extrinsic relation. At this point, I’ve responded now to these same objections with no significant engagement of them by you. If you post this again without engaging the arguments, you are merely here to propagate your views and such your remarks will just be deleted without warning. There is no point of my writing pages of the same argument over and over again with no engagement by you, especially since this now a carry over from another post.

    You write that the two contradictory energies can be present in one divine person, but we don’t take them to be contradictory. So again, this is a straw man. I think the shoe is on the other foot since Christ is both ignorant and omniscient in one person. If you take knowledge and ignorance to be contradictory, can you explain how they exist in one divine person or how a divine person can be ignorant?

    As for Cyril’s bafflement, that is an undemonstrated claim on your part. Cyril was one of Maximus’ chief source for dyothelitism.

    Your remarks on asiety miss the mark since aseity along with simplicity is an energy, per John of Damascus. Second, your argument that the divine logoi cannot be determined by human choice since the former is grounded in divine aseity is mistaken. First because human nature and freedom is a logos also and freedom is a constituent of it. Hence your view presupposes a view of the relation of nature and grace that is rejected by the Orthodox. Hence the argument is a straw man.

    Your claim to Andrea that to have two uses of willing by one divine person makes God schizophrenic presupposes the monothelite view that the will is hypostatic and that to will otherwise is to will contrary to. This is why you always place the question in terms of the Father’s will and the Son’s will, betraying the idea that will is hypostatic.
    Second, Adam didn’t will to preserve his life. Rather he willed theosis apart from the appropriate means. He willed instant gratification.

    You argue that if Jesus willed in opposition to the Father, then we’d be stuck with the conclusion that Christians should will to preserve their life in the face of persecution. But this doesn’t follow for a few reasons. Jesus doesn’t will to preserve his life in opposition to the will of the Trinity. So this is a straw man again. Second, at the time, human nature wasn’t oriented through recapitulation to go through death, but away from death since death entailed annihilation as a consequence, contrary to the divine will. Now it leads to resurrection in harmony with the divine will.

    Please take the warnings I’ve given you above seriously.


  121. Perry,

    Second, at the time, human nature wasn’t oriented through recapitulation to go through death, but away from death since death entailed annihilation as a consequence, contrary to the divine will.

    Could you elaborate the pre-resurrection annihilation? What do you mean by this?


  122. Also, what do you make of the miaphysites? I suppose it’s off topic, but they speak of the one nature of the Incarnate Christ, but use mia rather than mono to clarify that they mean one composite thing, like man is composite, consisting of a reasonable soul and body. And in their liturgy they say “the life-giving body that your only-begotten Son, our Lord, God and Saviour Jesus Christ took from our lady, the lady of us all, the holy Theotokos Saint May. He made it one with his divinity without mingling, without confusion and without alteration.”

    And if they are orthodox, in what sense would they believe in two energies?

    (Again, this is a little off topic, and if you don’t have time for it, that’s ok.)


  123. Andrea,

    You may be right about me reading myself into the fathers–we all do to some degree–what do you take the Protestant view of regeneration to be, and what do you think the proper view is?


  124. James, thanks for pointing that out, but it gets to what said: the whole matter St. Anselm’s argument and his refutation of this that he wants to maintain in the paragraph you cite, depends om his use of relationships of opposition, the only way he can describe simplicity relating to itself. But Orthodox reject the notion that relationship entails opposition (just as difference does not, unless you are a postmodernist, a feminist, or both). This falls out of his notion that dialectic of opposition defines the relations of the Trinity, as opposed to relationships of origin. Once this falls away, the very thing he wishes to use to argue against deus de deo, is all he is left with.

    Besides, he gives the game away at the beginning of the text when he says “Supraditca vero relationis oppositio, quae ex hoc nascitur, quia supradictis duobus modis deus est de deo, prohibet patrem et filium et spirtum sanctum de invicem dici, et propria singulorum aliis attribui.” i.e., properties peculiar to the Persons cannot be shared.

    But this is getting far afield from the thread, and I need to say something about Dositheos for Nick, finish the second of these posts, and also finish something I have been working on for over a week (more than I had bargained for). I might save our father in God Dositheos for a subsequent post (my apologies, Nick).


  125. Matthew,

    I don’t believe all Protestants believe in selective regeneration as Calvinists do. Wesleyan Arminians apparently believe in Prevenient grace, but it is given to all.

    This is pretty much how I’ve heard Calvinistic regeneration explained,

    In this view a person is so against God that the Holy Spirit must come in uninvited to the person’s heart so that they can irresistibly see the light and seek God. Dr. McMahon uses the interchange with Nicodemus to describe the process of being born again of the water and the Spirit. He says water is the physical birth then acknowledges that some believe it refers to baptism, but that this stretches things.

    We believe a person is born by water and the Spirit at baptism, “for the remission of sins and life everlasting”.

    Interesting that Nicodemus already knew God was with Jesus before he was “born again”.

    2The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.


  126. I thought you might be reacting to something like that, and I also thought that was probably what you thought (roughly) I meant.

    But my first reaction to that tract is to retch. If nothing else, he has sorely misrepresented the Greek. (Though of course, you aren’t to blame for thinking I meant something like that. Most Reformed nowadays do mean something like that by rebirth.)

    But such nonsense represents a rather drastic falling away from the Reformers’ doctrines–and indeed very nearly amounts to a denial of the Incarnation.

    Thus the service for Baptism in Book of Common Prayer says:

    “We call upon thee for this Infant, that he, coming to thy holy Baptism, may receive remission of his sins by spiritual regeneration.”

    (Among other references to baptism as the new birth.)

    And Luther’s small catechism says:

    “But with the word of God [the water] is a baptism, that is, a gracious water of life and a washing of regeneration in the Holy Ghost, as St. Paul says, Titus, chapter three: By the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ, our Savior, that, being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying.”

    And I won’t waste time by quoting it, but here is Luther’s baptism hymn.

    And in my church, when a child is baptized, we chant “As many as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. Allelujah!”

    And the pastor reads Luther’s prayer:

    Almighty and eternal God, who through the flood, according to your righteous judgment, condemned the unfaithful world, and according to your great mercy, saved faithful Noah, even eight persons, and has drowned hard-hearted Pharaoh with all his army in the Red Sea, and has led your people Israel dry through it, thereby prefiguring this bath of your holy baptism, and through the baptism of your dear child, our Lord Jesus Christ, has sanctified and set apart the Jordan and all water for a saving flood, and an ample washing away of sins: we pray that through your same infinite mercy you would graciously look down upon this your child, and bless him with a right faith in the spirit, so that through this saving flood all that was born in him from Adam and all which he has added thereto might be drowned and submerged; and that he may be separated from the unfaithful, and preserved in the holy ark of Christendom dry and safe, and may be ever fervent in spirit and joyful in hope to serve your name, so that he with all the faithful may be worthy to inherit your promise of eternal life, through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

    But again, though that is the position of the Reformers, it is rather a minority position today.

    Of course, no Protestant would say that there is automatic benefit from baptism, but that it must be accompanied by faith. But I think the Orthodox would say something similar, though the idiom may be different. Would you not say that if someone remains in his vices and sins after baptism and his heart is in no way affected, that he is no better off with than without the water? Thus St. Gregory of Nyssa:

    But if, when the bath has been applied to the body, the soul has not cleansed itself from the stains of its passions and affections, but the life after initiation keeps on a level with the uninitiate life, then, though it may be a bold thing to say, yet I will say it and will not shrink; in these cases the water is but water, for the gift of the Holy Ghost in no ways appears in him who is thus baptismally born.

    The Reformation concern is 1) The Spirit must come to the individual. Without the Spirit Christ does not save–as for instance Judas was not saved, though he supped with Christ. And 2) The Word which is Baptism is authoritative–like say Gandalf’s word to Saruman that he had not finished with him was. God’s Word is not idly out there waiting for us to come to it and make it ours, rather it is active and Spiritbearing, and does not return void. Rather, like in Ezekiel’s vision, it gives life to the dead bones, not whether they will or no, but precisely because they cannot will as they ought, being dead.


  127. I’ll be out a good part of tomorrow, but I didn’t want to leave this hanging.


    Thanks for being such a good sport.

    However 🙂 Infant baptism is a bit different since the baby isn’t making a decision on their own. Still the parents and godparents are, and as we know parents are responsible to raise their children in a spiritually nourishing environment. It is nice that Lutherans have similar baptismal prayers, but I wouldn’t know enough to nitpick on that point. The issue of recognized sacraments sort of comes up, but most Orthodox don’t rebaptize anyone as long as their baptism was Trinitarian, so that is moot.

    I wouldn’t go quite so far as St. Gregory firstly because we may not be aware of some sins or still struggle with some sins after baptism, but he does talk about improvement, and if one is communing rightly there should be at least that. Secondly, sort of like Communion, I wouldn’t say baptism would have no effect even for a blatant sinner. I think it might make them worse, as in how one can become ill from communing unworthily. Or perhaps the person would have been worse off without it, we can’t know.

    Regarding the Spirit coming to the individual, I agree, but I would say He is available to all to respond to and to welcome Him. “Behold I stand at the door and knock[He doesn’t barge in]. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door…”

    Regarding words over dead bones, I agree words are effective, and there will be a general resurrection. How individual owners of said bones receive them, even if someone else is praying for them, and how well they will eternally live once reunited with their bones depends somewhat on the individual and the mercy of God. Again, your explanations seem pretty subtle about the Irresitibility of the Spirit.


  128. Matthew,

    In your easrlier post, you chided Lutheranism for its belief in free-will, thus implying that the Reformed and the Lutheran *differ* on free-will with respect to *salvation.* And you also quoted from the Augsburg Confession on free-will which explicitly states that free-will pertains only to civil righteousness, that is in the sphere of the left-hand kingdom. Now since the same Confession declares in Article IV that: [M]en cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, there is no free-will at all in salvation as justification. How is this comparably similar to Eastern Othodox synergism in salvation as deification?

    Secondly, you quote Hebrews 5:7 to prove that Jesus *willed* deliverance from death. The verse says: “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared.” Now, where does it says that Jesus willed his own deliverance? Instead, the verse says that Jesus offered up prayers, i.e. *submitted* to the One who can save Him from death. Notice the difference here: That is between humanly willing to live which is opposite to the Father’s will (foreknowledge and predestination) for Jesus to die on the Cross, and humanly submitting to the same will of the Father. God delivered Jesus not by sparing His life as He had initially wished *if* it were possible, but by putting Him to death and *raising* Him.


  129. Matthew,

    By accepting the extreme dyothelite gloss ala Maximus and others after him, you undercut your profession of monergism ala Calvinism.


  130. Matthew,

    Monergism and synergism in salvation is incompatible, unless you distinguish between justification and sanctification. Thus, I assume you would want to affirm the former as monergistic, and the latter as synergistic. Be that as it may, Lutherans distinguish between free-will with respect to spiritual and civil righteousnesses. There is no free-will not only with respect to justification but also sanctification (although following Luther I do not distinguish the both – justification=sanctification).


  131. Matthew,

    Re does the Spirit confirm nature or destroy it? As a Calvinist, what should be your position? As a Lutheran, the answer is that the Spirit destroy nature because of total depravity. Salvation is not a matter of peeling off the painted skin off the wall, but a regeneration, rebirth, to be born again. Sin is not taken from the person, but the person is taken from the sin. This is what Baptism is all about. You even cited Ezekiel and the valley of dry bones. Precisely.


  132. And man has free-will since he is able to choose to sin? Yes, but is he able to choose good (in the sight of God? Again as a Calvinist, are you saying that man can do good in the sight of God?


  133. Matthew,

    You highlighted the different meaning of ‘nature’ with respect to human nature. Yes, it is indeed important to distinguish, but not separate. If we are bu nature under the wrath of God, then it is precisely because our nature is sinful. This means we cannot separate human nature from sinful nature (although we distinguish between ontology and harmiotology but both come under theological anthropology). Original sin permeate human nature *through* the person and in turn sinful person and depraved nature permeate each other in a kind of perichoresis. The person is wholly derived by propagation (Traducianism), or else how can the person be born *mortal* in the first place? The purpose of the Incarnation is as you know to unbound the nexus and fill human nature with divine energies by re-creating a new human nature which is none other the Christ’s own human nature (our new human nature=Christ’s own human nature).


  134. Can the Christian love God truly and pleasingly? Yes, but only because he or she is *in* Christ. The Christian is never apart from Christ, whatever he/she does is always in conjunction with Christ’s own love, etc. since his/her righteousness is Christ’s own righteousness. Any other view is unProtestant.


  135. Matthew,

    The Reformers did not share the same concern as Maximus, John Damascene, Palamas, etc. Their theological anthropology are at odds with EO. The Reformers believed in bound will (I am sure you’re familiar with Luther’s Bondage of the Will) and predestination (Calvin’s Eternal Predestination of God). This is why the blessed Patriarch Cyril Lukaris’s confession of faith was condemned subsequently by the EO.


  136. Jason,

    You’re conflating the two senses of nature. If the Spirit destroys human nature, in the technical sense, Christ is no longer a man, and no men are saved. But that’s not what you meant. You mean that the current mode of living–what comes natural to us–must be destroyed. And this is true. Flesh and blood shall not inherit the kingdom of heaven.

    But if you mean “nature” in the other sense, Perry is quite correct that you are monophysite, not a Cyrilian miaphysite. For the miaphysite says there is one composite nature.

    Here’s the Helvetic Confession:

    OF WHAT KIND ARE THE POWERS OF THE REGENERATE, AND IN WHAT WAY THEIR WILLS ARE FREE. Finally, we must see whether the regenerate have free wills, and to what extent. In regeneration the understanding is illumined by the Holy Spirit in order that it many understand both the mysteries and the will of God. And the will itself is not only changed by the Spirit, but it is also equipped with faculties so that it wills and is able to do the good of its own accord (Rom. 8:1ff.). Unless we grant this, we will deny Christian liberty and introduce a legal bondage. But the prophet has God saying: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts” (Jer. 31:33; Ezek. 36:26f.). The Lord also says in the Gospel: “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). Paul also writes to the Philippians: “It has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Phil. 1:29). Again: “I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (v. 6). Also: “God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (ch. 2:13).

    THE REGENERATE WORK NOT ONLY PASSIVELY BUT ACTIVELY. However, in this connection we teach that there are two things to be observed: First, that the regenerate, in choosing and doing good, work not only passively but actively. For they are moved by God that they may do themselves what they do. For Augustine rightly adduces the saying that “God is said to be our helper. But no one can be helped unless he does something.” The Manichaeans robbed man of all activity and made him like a stone or a block of wood.

    But it wasn’t quite accurate when I said I was Reformed. I am a member of a Reformed Church (CREC) but I don’t know exactly how Reformed or not I am. Must I lay on the Procrustrian bed of denominational doctrines?

    Yes, of course that verse proves Jesus willed to be free from death. Do you generally pray for things you do not will?

    And indeed we know that he prayed in accord with God’s will, for he was heard, and delivered from death. “Death hath no more dominion over Him.”

    He did not act to free Himself from death by trusting his own flesh, but by trusting God who would raise Him from the dead. The difference is not between willing death and willing deliverance from death, the difference is between the means of achieving deliverance from death. Christ was tempted to seek the good which was deliverance from death through the flesh, but instead sought deliverance from death through the Resurrection. Either way he was willing and indeed seeking deliverance from death.

    You should perhaps do some research on the difference between willing an end and willing the means to the end.

    Augsburg says that the unregenerate, who only live in the visible kingdom, only have free will in the visible kingdom. It does not speak to the free will of those who are regenerate.

    I added a new level that I don’t find the confessions directly addressing, the will of those who have in some way heard the Word, but have not yet been regenerated. The Word Himself is now part of the visible kingdom. And so if they have free will in the visible kingdom they have free will, at least in a sense, with respect to the Word. Though the disciples could not will their regeneration, for they did not have any idea what it was, yet they willed to be with Christ.

    But I also reiterated that the Word is an effective imperative Word. Christ commands us to act, and we do so, because his commands are authoritative.

    I don’t know if this is mono or mia or dya energistic. Surely the human faculties of sight and hearing are not passive when the word is spoken!

    This has to do with the humility of God. God lowered Himself into our flesh that He might speak to our flesh. As such He has given us the ability, in a sense, to spit in his face–as the Roman soldiers did–or to forsake family and follow Him.

    And all this prior to Pentecost.

    I’m rambling. Forgive.

    I’m not sure if your position has any resemblance to the Eastern position. Would you say it is heretical to say the Church’s is arrayed for marriage in the righteousness of the saints? Must I say instead that the Church is arrayed for marriage in the righteousness of Christ?


  137. I missed the last couple of posts. You agreed that we must distinguish the two uses of nature, and then completely failed to do so.

    You said:

    Can the Christian love God truly and pleasingly? Yes, but only because he or she is *in* Christ. The Christian is never apart from Christ, whatever he/she does is always in conjunction with Christ’s own love, etc. since his/her righteousness is Christ’s own righteousness. Any other view is unProtestant.

    Indeed, it’s unChristian. It is only in the Spirit that we shall see Christ. No one disputes that. Except perhaps the Dali Lama.

    Yes, of course man can do good in the sight of God. It is beyond dispute that humanity can–for God is well pleased by the actions of the Incarnate Word.

    It is also beyond dispute that human persons can, for indeed, they formed the Word Incarnate. The Word is actually from the Theotokos. By her human actions, the Theotokos drowns Pharoah, for the salvation of the World, by the Spirit, pours from her.

    Can we do good that will earn God’s condescension? No, of course not. No one would say we can. We’d even despise such posturing when it comes to human lovers.

    And anyway, this is entirely different from doing good in the sight of God. When he does good, does he do it behind God’s back?


  138. Matthew,

    You’re right. I did not mean that human nature per se has to be destroyed but *sinful* human nature. On free-will, the Helvetic Confession does not say about free-will existing in the unregenerate. So, there is no compatibility with the EO view. And desiring deliverance from death is different from willing. The The Maximian gloss insists that Jesus went further than merely wishing or desiring, but exercised the natural human will in His personal manner, which is why this will is opposite to the divine will in conformity with the Father’s will. Since Jesus is one person, this tears the Trinity apart.


  139. Matthew,

    I’m indeed puzzled as to how you can maintain that man can do good in the sight of God and still be Reformed or a classical Protestant for that matter. I think that you’re moving closer to the EO position already.


  140. Ioannis,

    I agree with your last post directed towards me. And I agree that fear of death is natural only if by natural I mean that proper to *sinful* human nature. This is so as death did not exist prior to sin. Sin came first, and then only death. And thus where I disagree is that fear of death is a *good.* Fear of death is a good only if is in the context of this world of temporal existence, i.e. human-human relations. But fear of death cannot be good in the sight of God. For God said that the day thou eatest of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt surely die. St Paul says that the wages of sin *is* death. So, fear of death is contrary to the intention of God’s “punishment” for sin, for its implies avoidance of “punishment.” Indeed, Adam and Eve avoided the presence of God after eating the forbidden fruit, and so avoided the Lord and Giver of life. Indeed, as you quote from Hebrews 2:15, Jesus came to deliver us who through fear of death were all in our lifetime subject to bondage. Jesus precisely came to die, not avoid death so that our fear of death is vanquished through our dying with Him on the Cross.


  141. Perry,

    The Reformation, which subscribes to the sixth council, obviously has a different gloss on the Maximian one. As per the sixth council, I hold that there are two different energies/operations, but only one hypostasis to actualise or move the energies/operations. Two energies/operations rooted in *nature* cannot be actual, but only potential (i.e. capacity). Only persons can manifest or actualise the energies/operations concretely. The energies/operations are the means by which the personal mode of willing (i.e. motion) is exercised towards the object/end (telos) of the choice.

    However, in contrast to the intention of the sixth council, if Jesus as per the Maximian gloss initially willed two different outcomes, then this imply that there is no communication of properties. After all apart from the fear of death, sexual desire is also good. We know that Jesus never had a such a desire since to do so would be to fall into temptation. Although Jesus was never an eunuch physically (and sexually), He was in every other respect an eunuch (for the sake of the kingdom of God). Since the lack of sexual desires has to be rooted not in human nature per se but in his divine person, thus there has to be a communicatio idiomatum which ensured that certain instrinsic human characteristics such as sexual instincts had to be absent from Jesus. Why not applicable to the instinct of self-preservation too? Since ultimately, it is not the human nature which dies, but the person. After all, it is not the human nature per se which experiences fear of death, but the person. And Jesus as the divine person is determined to lay down His life, i.e. go through death. So, how can it be that Jesus as God who has no sexual desire *willed* in His human nature to avoid death? Otherwise, how do we avoid the implication that behind the willing of Jesus to avoid death is the God the Son Himself willing to avoid death? Hence, the example of sexual desire shows, I think, there are *limits* to which one can apply the entire human instincts in all its complexity to Jesus. I say limits, not off-limits. In other words, it’s the person which determines and defines the enhypostatisation of the human nature, not the other way round. And furthermore, the whole range of human experience in its complexity and depth is not end, but means by which salvation is achieved. Just as the Saviour is His work, and His work is the Saviour, likewise the human-ness of Jesus the Saviour must be salvific or soteric. Otherwise, we tear person (as Incarnate God) from the work (God the Saviour).


  142. I have finally, thank the Good Lord, got for myself Free Choice. I hope it arrives safely in Malaysia. The only other book I have yet to get is the Mystagogy. Then this will complete my collection of Farrell’s work. And I look forward to the future posts on limited atonement and so on.

    The reason why I harp on the Maximian gloss on the Passion more than anything else is because it is at the heart of the Maximian understanding of free choice and that I believe that this aspect is a wrong understanding of christology.


  143. Jason Loh,

    What gloss do you think the 6th council was based on? It most certainly wasn’t based on the Reformation. It’s spiritually and intellectually dishonest to embrace the 6th council while at the same time rejecting Saint Maximus’s view!

    Why do you think it’s right to re-interpret the 6th council in light of the Reformation?

    This is like re-interpreting Nicea/Constantinople 1 in the areas of “One Baptism for the forgiveness of sins” and “One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”

    There are some protestant groups that re-interpret these things to mean something totally different than what the people at those councils meant. As well as the common belief of the time meant.

    You may not like Saint Maximus’s view, but it’s dishonest to accept the 6th council without it.



  144. JNorm,

    Good point, which is why I did say I reject the doctrinal intent behind the sixth council which means that I and the Reformation accept the principles outlined there whilst rejecting the application of those same principles.


  145. Jason lo,

    Also in my dealings with Calvinists (which is limited, and thus may not always be accurate for the Reformed faith is not a monolith and it has alot of different competing schools of thought)

    But in my dealings and arguments with them….both now as well as in my Arminian protestant days. I have noticed that they never seem to bring free will back after the fall.

    Now I am saying this for in the western Augustinian tradition, you have the idea of “total inability” in where the later protestant traditions turned into total depravity/radical depravity (yes some protestants use this term, and no I’m not gonna name who for I am not presently looking at my sources on my blog or elsewhere. I am only saying this just in case someone asks)…….etc. in where free will is either destroyed, annihilated (terms John Wesley and James Arminius used. I am only saying this because someone might try and correct me in saying that no protestant ever used these terms when talking about this issue. So in order to prevent that from happening I am saying this) or lost(something alot of Calvinists say. I already know the Reformed cliche that fallen people have a will…’s just only a will to choose according to their fallen natures! I am only saying this to prevent someone from telling me this common cliche)

    Ok now that that’s out the way, let me say what I really wanna say. 2nd Orange seems to advocate a moderate/semi-Augustinian idea that brings “free will” back after water Baptism. It seems to advocate a form of synergy after water Baptism.

    And so the western tradition didn’t totally eradicate the idea of free will and synergy.

    However, the Reformed Protestant tradition seems to have done just that! They keep people stuck in some kind of deterministic scheme.

    In the Arminian protestant traditions you have the classical Arminian that seem to advocate particular prevenient grace in order to bring free will back. In Wesleyan Arminianism you have universal prevenient grace that brings free will back.

    There is a tendency for Arminians from the Holiness movement, the Pentecostal movement, and Word of Faith movement to deny total inability / total depravity / radical depravity all together, and so they have no need for a prevenient grace teaching in order to bring free will back.

    In Reformed protestantism you have the hard determinists (I know some will deny that Reformed protestantism has hard determinists within it’s ranks, but I personally know high Calvinists that reject compatibilism, and I don’t know any other way to describe them, and so I am using the term hard determinist) who deny any concept of free will whatsoever, and you have the soft determinists (Compatibilism) that will use the term free will, but they sometimes shy away from it because they don’t want to be associated or confused with those who believe in Libertarian freedom.

    I can’t talk about Lutherans for I really don’t know that much about them when it comes to this issue. All I know is that Luther believed in the bondage of the will, and the Calvinists (I know) call Phillip Melanchthon a semi-pelagian heretic! That’s all I know.

    But back to the Calvinists!

    This is what I see and I could be wrong about this:

    Before the fall:
    Adam and Eve had libertarian freedom of the will

    After the Fall:
    Adam and Eve could only choose evil in their fallen state/nature (I don’t like to use the term nature, but I see this term used alot in books, english bibles, articles online…….etc)

    After Regeneration: (nonBaptismal sense the non Anglican Reformed reject Baptismal Regeneration)
    Either hard determinism or soft determinism are options for those that have a changed nature…….libertarian freedom of the will isn’t even an option for Calvinists! They are not allowed to believe in it!

    In Heaven:
    They seem to reject the idea of Free Will even in Heaven.

    This is why to me it seems as if they never bring free will back.

    I could be wrong about this but this is what it seems like.



  146. JNorm,

    I think it’s right to re-interpret the 6th council because the dyothelism as propounded there is “extreme”, verging on Nestorianism. Of course, I’m not the only one making the accusation. Maximus had already been accused of Nestorianism in his time, and scholars such Demetrios Bathrellos labelled Maximus as a NEO-Chalcedonian.


  147. Jason Lo,

    In Calvinism I have noticed some more things.

    The Calvinists I know that I call hard determinists reject synergy in the area of Sanctification, and so they believe in monergism straight through… know…..both in Justification as well as in Sanctification.

    The Calvinists I know that are Compatibilists believe in monergism in Justification, but synergism in Sanctification…..well at least to a point. They ultimately switch back to some form of monergism because of P.O.T.S.



  148. Jason Lo,

    I know of some OO’s that like Saint Maximus the confessor. And some OO’s can almost say what we say, and so maybe the problem isn’t Saint Maximus.

    Why not point the finger at you Reformed teachings as being the problem?



  149. JNorm,

    Yes, the Reformed are not monolithic although it goes without saying they share the same theological presuppositions. But usually the Reformed would view free-will in symmetrical or in equal terms, that is their idea of free-will applies irrespective of whether it is in relation to God or fellow human.


  150. JNorm,

    You are right about the Calvinists, some of whom hold to monergism all the way through and some who hold to some form of synergism in sanctification. On the other hand, confessional Lutherans hold to monergism all the way through whilst holding that free will exists really and truly in this world, here and now.


  151. Matt,

    Regarding baptism and those who do not benefit from it, seemingly:

    1. It is never better that someone was not baptized. From what I have read and understand from scripture and the fathers it is different than communion. Baptism is for the remission of sins. If a person by their own will adds on sins afterwards, what forgiveness is there for them? But we have repentance. Thus the sacrament of penance/confession/repentance is sometimes called ‘second baptism’.

    2. The action of a baptism is described in some places as a ‘seed’ and my experience in life has been just that. This is to say, that the regeneration offered nowhere says that it is instant (to my knowledge) but we assume that because of the literal metaphor (the washing.) I have never known someone who immediately stopped sinning permanently after baptism, but then, I don’t know the hearts of men. However, usually after Chrismation (the completion of baptism) one is in a different state which lasts for awhile – a gift of God no doubt – and usually the first communion is different than the rest. It is probable that two things happen – one the immediate remission of sins, and then two, the continual action of the Spirit from within (the seed growing) to re-order the person so that they are fixed in virtue.

    This is all just to say that Baptism is rightly called a ‘mystery’ because it involves a power that is beyond our understanding. Athanasius himself suggests that the act itself done the right way is granted some kind of power by God; and to some this seems like superstition (a form of determinism.) However, there appears to be an element of this in everything, which is to say, not that we are commanding a power or being bound by one, but that God is offering a gift and providing a way for us to accept it. It’s a condescension to our need, just like the power of the name ‘Jesus’.

    Anyway, I hope that helps out, I’m sure the other guys here can put more oomph into an explanation.


  152. Jason Loh,

    So basically what you are saying is, the Reformed don’t believe in free will for god either since they don’t believe in it for man. Is this what you are saying?

    If so, then what you are saying is that the Reformed either believe in hard or soft determinism for god.

    Is this what you were trying to say?

    Lord have mercy!


  153. jnorm,

    Actually, I have heard this argument (determinism for God) coming from both some Reformed that I’ve known and from those who are agnostic who are influenced by them (Deist descendents.) My thought on this, and I am no scholar, is that once you are okay with determinism for men, determinism for God isn’t so much of a problem either. I remember some contemporary Orthodox thinkers saying that you can’t have a proper theology without a proper anthropology and vice versa.


  154. Jason,

    What is indisputable is that salvation is the fruit of a human person.

    We also have evidence of people in the gospel choosing Jesus, and Jesus being impressed with their works. Like for instance the Roman Centurion.

    We also have the witness of God seeing Cornelius’ works “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.”


  155. Jason Loh,

    The term Neo-Chalcedonian, which does not originate with Bathrellos, is used in exactly the opposite sense that you’re taking it. That is, it refers to a tradition of reading Chalcedon through Cyril that answers some of Severus of Antioch’s more plausible critiques of Chalcedon and the Tome of Leo and emphasizes more stridently that the one hypostasis of God the Word suffered on the cross. That is, a normal criticism of this line of thinking is not that it’s semi-Nestorian, but that it harmonizes more with the miaphysite readings of Cyril at the expense of the Tome, which can be read as Nestorianizing (as it presumably was by some Syrians like Ibas of Edessa and Theodoret of Cyrrhus).

    Classical Nestorianism is firmly monothelite and actually works quite well with Reformed soteriological positions…. your arguments would make more sense if you accepted that Christological position, I think.


  156. Matthew,

    Yes, you’re right about the examples of OT figures and Cornelius. But is your interpretation consistent with Reformed theology? Perhaps, you are seriously contemplating abandoning the Reformed Faith, including most prominently the concept of justification by faith, as inconsistent with scripture, tradition and so on. OK.

    Having said this, does the example of Cornelius show forth free-will as exercised properly? Firstly, St Peter openly proclaimed that God is *no* respecter of persons. To respect means to honour, to accord due recognition based on the stature or status of a person. Respect implies a sense of obligation, moral or otherwise. If God had indeed “respected” Cornelius, then free-will would come into the picture. But God is no *respecter* of persons, no not one. This is why the Jews whom Cornelius looked up highly because as the favoured race, they had oracles of God, the covenants, the tabernacle, etc. should have been highly acclaimed by God. But no such thing, God is *no* respecter of *persons.* This is why Cornelius who was not circumcised and therefore, unclean was not despised by God. Was it because free-will towards God was the decisive reason, so that not being a Jew could be overlooked? No, it was because whosover believeth on Jesus shall have remission of sins. And *immediately* the Holy Ghost fell on them and St Peter *responded* by calling for *baptism*. Here we have faith, Holy Spirit and water baptism. Not free-will.

    But did free-will play a part in preparing Cornelius for salvation? Not at all. God is no respecter of persons. There is no one way of salvation for the Jews, and one way of salvation for the Gentiles. Therefore, “in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with Him” cannot be understood in the pre-Incarnation sense in light of the *Incarnation*, i.e. what Jesus in His Body and Blood had done on the Cross. Thus, he who fear him must necessarily mean he who fear the Son, not God-in-general and “worketh righteousness” must necessarily mean “to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” So, no, apart from Christ, there is none that doeth good, no not one.

    “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.” (Psalm 2)


  157. Samn,

    Yes, thank you for sharing. But I’m puzzled when you say that classical Nestorianism is firmly monothelite. That’s actually an inaccuracy. Does it work well with Reformed soteriology? In terms of Nestorianism, no. In terms of Monothelitism, yes, because man is spiritually dead.


  158. JNorm,

    Well, some Reformed don’t believe in free-will in any shape or form. Some do, following the Lutherans in distinguishing spiritual and earthly realms. But the more philosophically-inclined would tend towards a systematic denial of free will and opt for hard determinism.


  159. Matthew,

    You would respond that doesn’t “working out our salvation with fear and trembling” imply free-will? Is salvation the divine energies in, from and with the Incarnate God Himself united to us in His humanity or created grace? If the former, how do we work out the One Who is not only Gift but *Giver*? Can the creature “work out” the Creator? The verse here say nothing about striving towards God, but simply working *out* our salvation (as a given, that is).


  160. Matthew,

    I’m going through St. Gregory’s On the Making of Man and do not find total depravity. Here’s an excerpt:

    “6. But the other impulse is greater, as the tendency of sin is heavy and downward; for the ruling element of our soul is more inclined to be dragged downwards by the weight of the irrational nature than is the heavy and earthy element to be exalted by the loftiness of the intellect; hence the misery that encompasses us often causes the Divine gift to be forgotten, and spreads the passions of the flesh, like some ugly mask, over the beauty of the image.

    7. Those, therefore, are in some sense excusable, who do not admit, when they look upon such cases, that the Divine form is there; yet we may behold the Divine image in men by the medium of those who have ordered their lives aright. For if the man who is subject to passion, and carnal, makes it incredible that man was adorned, as it were, with Divine beauty, surely the man of lofty virtue and pure from pollution will confirm you in the better conception of human nature.

    8. For instance (for it is better to make our argument clear by an illustration), one of those noted for wickedness—some Jechoniah, say, or some other of evil memory—has obliterated the beauty of his nature by the pollution of wickedness; yet in Moses and in men like him the form of the image was kept pure. Now where the beauty of the form has not been obscured, there is made plain the faithfulness of the saying that man is an image of God.

    9. It may be, however, that some one feels 68shame at the fact that our life, like that of the brutes, is sustained by food, and for this reason deems man unworthy of being supposed to have been framed in the image of God; but he may expect that freedom from this function will one day be bestowed upon our nature in the life we look for; for, as the Apostle says, “the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink16681668 Rom. xiv. 17.;” and the Lord declared that “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God16691669 S. Matt. iv. 4.” Further, as the resurrection holds forth to us a life equal with the angels, and with the angels there is no food, there is sufficient ground for believing that man, who will live in like fashion with the angels, will be released from such a function.”

    I agree with his descriptions of the weight of sin and how it can be overcome. The mystery of grace at work in that is not described either here or in the case of the men who seek God. No matter what, it is given to man to seek God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, which need to be united in Christ.

    I do find some of his hierarchical categorizing Platonic though. The manner of beasts is not as depraved as St. Gregory makes it sound. Even Christ in His resurrected body ate and drank. The fall caused a certain necessity that deification can make unnecessary, but that is not to say human activities that are now associated with survival did not have a place in pre-fall existence. Plants were created to bear fruit before the fall. I think he’s going to describe what a prefall reason for male and female could have been pretty soon, but I’m already wary of some Platonic categories of that as well.
    The above comes a little more than halfway through:


  161. My dear Cranmer, burn not thine hand in the flames!! We have yet to obtain the second post!!


  162. Jason,

    All the Nestorian creedal statements I’ve worked with in Syriac and Arabic affirm one will and the single, divine will is part of the locus of unity (‘moral union’) of the two hypostases of Christ.

    Nestorianism (and when I say Nestorianism, I mean more the classical theology of the Church of the East than just that of Nestorius, who, along with Theodore of Mopsuestia and Diodore of Tarsus was authoritative for them) is compatible with Reformed thought because, in addition to its monothelitism and monergism, it’s the only Christological position that allows for limited atonement (though to my knowledge they never had such a dogma). That is, for classical Nestorians, the Word did not unite with human nature, but only with a specific human being, the man Jesus Christ, who then died on the Cross for all mankind.

    Of course, the fact that this is frightfully bad theology wasn’t lost on anyone who came into contact with it, and by the 8th century we find all their important spiritual writers like Sahdona (who converted to either Orthodoxy or Jacobitism), John of Dalyatha (condemned by their church for heresy) and Isaac of Nineveh distancing themselves from it…


  163. Andrea,

    I’m not sure about “total depravity”. I’m not even quite sure what it means. I take Nyssa to be meaning that we are imprisoned in the body. I’ll look when I get home for more precision.

    The sections I had in mind are here and following.

    This section, and the surrounding ones in his Catechism are also relevant.

    (Regarding the reason for male and female prior to the fall: He says it was so that after the fall there could be children.)


  164. Jason,

    We are absolutely correct to say that nothing we can do can draw God down from heaven. We cannot ascend up into heaven through good works and draw Him down. We cannot descend down into the depths through great suffering and raise Him up. He comes to us because He loves us, not because we manipulated Him.

    There is literally nothing we can do to draw God down to us. For two reasons: First, aside from his condescension we cannot even know goodness, at least not fully. But second, God is not a patient, and he suffers no change from loving us.

    Indeed, it is an insult to God to pretend we can draw Him down with out goodness. Such attempts assume that He does not love us, and must be manipulated into loving us.

    Moreover, so long as we are attempting to be good enough to get Him to love us, we are refusing to accept his love, and thus remain at enmity with him.

    Thus the only thing that saves us is faith. He tells us in his Word, in His Baptism, in His saints, in His Eucharist, that he does love us, and is saving us. Our response to this must be one of belief and acceptance. Thus faith alone makes one a worthy recipient of Baptism. Faith alone (and baptism) makes one a worthy recipient of the Eucharist.

    The preceding analysis refers to how we receive God’s condescension. We receiving it by receiving it, not by making ourselves good enough to receive it.

    But God is not remote. “Christ is in our midst!” And given God’s condescension, we can and do respond to it.

    So “did free-will play a part in preparing Cornelius for salvation?” Yes, and surely. God Himself exercised His human free will to trust God who raises the dead.–For the promise to Abraham’s Seed that He would be heir to the world did not come by the law, but by faith. And this is why it depends on faith, for the Law is Hagar, the bondwoman; but that freedom might be given to us all as sons, and not slaves. As it is written “So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.”–that is by the promise. In the presence of the God who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist, He freely trusted–against hope He freely trusted in hope–that the One who Promised might make Him father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, “His name shall be called everlasting father”. And being not weak in faith, He considered not his own Body now dead, He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God, And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.—for Christ too was justified by faith alone, and this faith St. Peter commends as an example.

    Did the free will of a human person play a part in preparing Cornelius for salvation? Again, yes and surely. For a Divine Person is the fruit of a human person (Luke 1:42). Indeed Salvation itself pours forth from a human person, for Salvation is Christ.

    But I suppose your question really is, did Cornelius’ free will play a part in preparing Cornelius for salvation. And here we must be more subtle than the simple word “salvation” permits. Did Cornelius’ free will prepare the way for God selecting the nation of Israel, and being present in her? Surely not! For Cornelius lived nearly two thousand years after God selected Abraham, and a thousand and a half after Israel was anointed as a priestly people.

    But did Cornelius’ free will play a part in preparing Cornelius for baptism? Surely, yes. For he was a God-fearing gentile. He worshiped the God who brought Israel up out of Egypt, and though not under the Law, he was a doer of the Law, and hence was justified. As indeed the verse I quoted (which was before his baptism) shows.

    So can our free will prepare us for baptism? In a very real sense, yes. No, we cannot draw God down, no we cannot make ourselves worthy recipients of baptism by doing good works. But we can respond to the actions of the Church. Thus C. S. Lewis says of his conversion, that it was both completely free, and completely constrained. (Surprised by Joy)

    Are there human energies that save us? Say rather that aside from human energies we cannot be saved. Is the Blood of Christ not human? Is the Theotokos—apart from whom there is no salvation—not human?


  165. Matthew,

    When I mentioned Platonic hierarchical categories I was referring to how St. Gregory sometimes seems inclined to put differences in the category of best, better, and good. But he doesn’t go as far as Plato in my mind because he balances it out with his talking about unity of many goods. So in this light I think he has a pretty balanced view of the unity of soul and body, and does not wish escape from the “inferior” body. He describes the physical resurrection in great detail in the last few pages of “On the Making of Man”, and how necessary the soul and body are to each other. And in the catechism link you provide he says,

    “But since the human being is a twofold creature, compounded of soul and body, it is necessary that the saved should lay hold of the Author of the new life through both their component parts.” He then describes the Eucharist.

    What I find curious is his elevation of reason as a person’s highest faculty, and likewise his exalting the brain over the heart. Some in explaining the Jesus Prayer say that the heart is higher.

    Total Depravity entails that neither a human will nor a human heart will seek after God without the Spirit overcoming them monergistically. Your closest statement to this was when you talked about the dry bones and how the Spirit alone in revives them. Then when you talked about free will, you seem to state that a human person is capable of seeking God.

    One thing about Orthodoxy that is hard to get used to, is to see how many component parts work together. We don’t say grace alone, or faith alone, or works alone. These are three legs on the same horse, as it were. St. James explains it better. You later talk about a human having faith, and say he can respond to God, and that he (Cornelius)is capable of being justified by doing the law.

    If we can’t draw God down to us, where does that put prayer? When we say the name of Jesus, we somehow make Him more present. He’s everywhere present through the Holy Spirit, but praying draws more grace “down” to us, and God is not separated from His grace.

    I don’t think loving and becoming more like Jesus in word, thought, and deed makes Him love us more, but it is salvation to us just the same.

    As a former nurse, I’m curious what you meant by “God is not a patient”.


  166. Andrea,

    I’m not exactly sure if he actually exalts the mind above the heart, or if that is a translation issue. We wondered about that too when we read it. I emailed someone about a place where one of the Gregory’s said “In my opinion it will be discovered when that within us which is godlike and divine, I mean our mind and reason, shall have mingled with its Like, and the image shall have ascended to the Archetype, of which it has now the desire.” And was told he probably did not mean reason in the modern sense, but nous or logos.

    In my statements about bringing God down I mean we cannot make initial contact with God. Any contact we have with God is consequent on prior contact He has with us. The passage I have in mind is Romans 10:6-8. God will draw near to us if we draw near to Him, but we are only able to draw near to him in prayer, as opposed to say drawing near to Baal in prayer, because He has come down to us. Abraham did not first draw near to God, and then have God draw near to him, God called him while he was still an idolater (Joshua 24:2). But then being called, Abraham drew near to God, and thus God drew near to him.

    But there’s also a second sense that we cannot draw God down. We can understand it better under the following analogy: Some wives, for Israel is described as a wife, get it into their heads that their husband does not love them–though indeed he does–and that they need to be good enough for him. Maybe then need to learn more skills before their husband will accept them, maybe they need to forsake this or that, and then their husband will come to love them, etc. And so they go about trying to live up to their husband, trying to get him to love her.

    But that isn’t the right way around. Yes, she should become beautiful, but they should become beautiful precisely because her husband loves her. Her beauty doesn’t make him love, rather his love makes her beautiful. But, of course, synergistically, not monergistically. It is not the case that we clothe ourselves with virtue that God may love us (as some Catholic thought at the time of the Reformation said); rather God loves and we together clothe ourselves with virtue.

    I didn’t mean God isn’t a patient in the medical sense, OED 1a “A person receiving or (in later use) registered to receive medical treatment, esp. at a particular establishment or from a particular practitioner; a person staying in a hospital for medical treatment.” But in the philosophical sense, OED 4a “A person who or thing which undergoes some action, or to which something is done; a (passive) recipient. Chiefly in contrast with agent.”


  167. I think I would say something like neither a human will nor a human heart will seek after God without the Spirit enabling them to act synergistically. Though I have some reservations even about that (related to the Incarnation, and about coming to Baptism, reservations I voiced above). Though it is fine as is, it could be interpreted wrongly.


  168. There is not a human energy, independent of a divine energy reaching out to a divine energy. If this is what we mean by synergy, synergy is bad. Rather there is a human together with a divine reaching out to a human together with a divine.


  169. Drew,

    Regarding one baptism for remission of sins…

    First of all, that is precisely what Chrysostom seems to say. If remission of sins is understood in terms of the removal of guilt, then he thinks that it doesn’t apply to infants. Or at least it isn’t initially received. Perhaps he thinks of it as something activated later in the life of a Christian. So everyone is baptized for the sake of remission of sins, but not everyone benefits from that remission immediately.

    Second, if sin is understood in a wider sense as encompassing any corruptions in human nature (which is a use of “sin” we often find in Scripture and the Fathers) then we can see baptism as remitting/diminishing the corruptions/sins of human nature—as giving grace a firm and permanent hold in the soul and body. And in this sense Chrysostom and the other Fathers would surely all agree that baptism remits the sins (corruption, not guilt) of infants. It makes accessible in human nature a grace that can later be fully actualized by the free choice to be a virtuous person.

    And insofar as this is the view of many Fathers, they think that an infant doesn’t get damned if he or she dies before baptism (or after). They may lack some of the spiritual benefits of baptism in terms of its ability to confer or actualize divine power. And this may make post-mortem struggle for virtue (if such a thing is real—that’s an issue where I’m not sure I see consensus pro or con) more difficult. But that’s not the same as the idea of infant damnation by a long shot.

    Regarding the definition of “patristic”…At the very least, I would say there is not a consensus of those Fathers who speak about the subject of infants post-mortem and come down on the side in favor of infant damnation, pre or post baptism. It is not the unanimous, near-unanimous, or majority view of such Fathers that all unbaptized babies go to permanent eternal damnation in hell. And with many of the Fathers who don’t explicitly speak on this subject, their expressed views on other issues conflict with the idea of infant damnation. If in order to be authoritative, a council just rearticulates or reaffirms the truth of something that the Fathers always taught, then this seems like a problem for any council that teaches the inescapable, permanent eternal damnation of an infant post-mortem.

    Regarding Newman’s quote, I think he expects too much Nicene language of pre-Nicene Fathers. Though he isn’t directly guilty of the usual explicit word=concept fallacy, he does seem to commit a modified version of it in the text you referenced. For he assumes that the primary or perhaps only way that we could acquire sufficient evidence that these Fathers taught the Nicene doctrine is by means of Nicene language. In the absence of such Nicene language Newman doesn’t out-and-out butcher these Fathers by committing the normal word=concept fallacy and assuming that they therefore don’t teach the doctrine; but he does assume based on the lack of strong Nicene language that we can’t give strong enough arguments that they teach the doctrine to satisfy the rule of St. Vincent. And upon looking at several of the texts he alleges to be too unclear to support a consensus of Fathers on the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, I can’t help but think Newman was wrong.

    For instance, with St. Hippolytus, if we look at what are alleged to be the authentic writings (as distinct from the pseudo-Hippollytan corpus) then we can find a passage where he says that part of the meaning of Jesus’ Sonship is that Jesus was only-begotten before the Incarnation. That sounds close enough to affirming eternal generation to me. Its certainly closer to affirming it than any alternative explanation.

    And with St. Dionysius of Alexandria, I think Newman is just kinda unfair. St. Vincent’s rule doesn’t say that we should adhere to “that which has been believed everywhere, at all times, by all Christian teachers at every point in their lives”. At the very worst, Dionysius witnesses to the true faith and the constant teaching of the Orthodox pre-Nicene doctrine of the Trinity by his submission to Dionysius of Rome in the controversy over his teaching. His willingness to acknowledge as Orthodox what we now call the Orthodox doctrine when push came to shove witnesses both to his own Orthodoxy and the consensus in favor of the teaching.

    So I’m not convinced by Newman’s argument here.


  170. Matthew,

    Regarding St. Gregory of Nyssa’s categorization of the mind, I found this statement from Ch. 11 very interesting,

    “4. For if, while the archetype transcends comprehension, the nature of the image were comprehended, the contrary character of the attributes we behold in them would prove the defect of the image; but since the nature of our mind, which is the likeness of the Creator evades our knowledge, it has an accurate resemblance to the superior nature, figuring by its own unknowableness the incomprehensible Nature.”

    His descriptions of anatomy and physiology are sometimes a little primitive, but I think they are surprisingly sophisticated for how long ago they were written. I was similarly surprised with all the detailed descriptions in Homer’s Iliad. His general reason for bodies is interesting to (from Ch. 9:

    “Now since the mind is a thing intelligible and incorporeal, its grace would have been incommunicable and isolated, if its motion were not manifested by some contrivance.”

    He specifically describes how the senses affect the mind, that the body is not only made for communication from within to without, but vice versa as well.

    Up to this point he is speaking universally about mankind and not distinguishing between men and women. Then in Ch. 16 he points out, like you say, that the difference between male and female was created because of God’s foreknowledge of the fall. In 17 he further speculates that people would need sensory reasons to procreate, which in 17 he calls “irrational” and “animal” and that if man hadn’t fallen, we would have multiplied like the angels.

    I take issue with this in that Genesis explains that before the fall Eve was created because among the animals there was not found a helper suitable for him. It was not good for him to live alone. In furthering St. Gregory’s case about man being in the image of God, I think we can say that God’s Trinitarian nature can also be an archetype of Adam’s needing (even if there is no necessity in God the Father) to dwell in plurality.

    In addition, I believe the varied natures of creation display the many energies of God materially. He gives different creatures different aspects of Himself. Does not God wish to gather his chicks like a hen? This Scripture is often used to point out God’s feminine side. I think he even displays different things in other animals like through the amazing vision of a hawk, the smelling capabilities of a bloodhound, the nocturnal vigil of an owl, and I think one could go on and on about each created thing. The many exist to communicate the nature of the one God.

    “Irrational” and “brute” to me are Hellenistic categories. But as we know from his writings about his sister St. Macrina, he does (thankfully) respect that women also have a rational nature made in the image of God just as men. Overall he talks about how bodies and souls are united, and even if he thinks the differences between male and female bodies are irrational, I think a broader reading of his logic in “On the Making of Man” will allow that the mind and reason can be communicated to and from both male and female persons.

    As to beauty, is a flower beautiful just for the sake of a bee, or just because a bee loves it? Or could it also be because God is beautiful.


  171. I don’t have anything to contribute to this discussion, but I just wanted to say how much I’ve appreciated finding a blog like this (not that I am even much of a lurker, but I check it out every once in awhile). I am a graduate student in “analytic” (not that I think there is much to this term) philosophy, who has been investigating Orthodoxy for quite awhile, but I have often been turned off by what seems a popular disdain for strenuous thinking in the Church. Thanks for showing me that there may be a place for someone like me in Orthodoxy.


  172. Andrea,


    I think one of my favorite parts was his discussion of why hands are one of the cheif parts of our rationality–we have hands so we can bring our food to our mouths, rather than having to have to bring our mouth to our food, which allows us not have a snout like a dog, but rather to have a mouth well suited for speaking.

    I think I agree with your concerns, though one really can’t fault Gregory for living prior to Dante and Wordsworth.

    You may like this quote from George MacDonald (though it’s in a different idiom than the Orthodox one). And anyway, I’ve enjoyed the exchange:

    The very element in which the mind of Wordsworth lived and moved was a
    Christian pantheism. Allow me to explain the word. The poets of the Old
    Testament speak of everything as being the work of God’s hand:–We are
    the “work of his hand;” “The world was made by him.” But in the New
    Testament there is a higher form used to express the relation in which
    we stand to him–“We are his offspring;” not the work of his hand, but
    the children that came forth from his heart. Our own poet Goldsmith,
    with the high instinct of genius, speaks of God as having “loved us into
    being.” Now I think this is not only true with regard to man, but true
    likewise with regard to the world in which we live. This world is not
    merely a thing which God hath made, subjecting it to laws; but it is an
    expression of the thought, the feeling, the heart of God himself. And so
    it must be; because, if man be the child of God, would he not feel to be
    out of his element if he lived in a world which came, not from the heart
    of God, but only from his hand? This Christian pantheism, this belief
    that God is in everything, and showing himself in everything, has been
    much brought to the light by the poets of the past generation, and has
    its influence still, I hope, upon the poets of the present. We are not
    satisfied that the world should be a proof and varying indication of the
    intellect of God. That was how Paley viewed it. He taught us to believe
    there is a God from the mechanism of the world. But, allowing all the
    argument to be quite correct, what does it prove? A mechanical God, and
    nothing more.

    Let us go further; and, looking at beauty, believe that God is the first
    of artists; that he has put beauty into nature, knowing how it will
    affect us, and intending that it should so affect us; that he has
    embodied his own grand thoughts thus that we might see them and be glad.
    Then, let us go further still, and believe that whatever we feel in the
    highest moments of truth shining through beauty, whatever comes to our
    souls as a power of life, is meant to be seen and felt by us, and to be
    regarded not as the work of his hand, but as the flowing forth of his
    heart, the flowing forth of his love of us, making us blessed in the
    union of his heart and ours.


  173. MG,

    I don’t necessarily have a problem with Crysostom’s interpretation, if that’s what he meant. My contention is that the entire phrase “one baptism for the remission of sins” must mean something regardless of who is being baptized. That it may cover different kinds/stages of sin seems fair enough; what I find worrisome is a tendency to to bracket the prepositional clause so that there will be classes to which “baptism” will apply without any need for remission of sins. Such a class would seem to fall outside the class of those in need of redemption.

    Western luminaries like Augustine and Aquinas did not teach that unbaptized children are among the damned (though this has certain been misunderstood throughout history). See Aquinas:

    “Although unbaptized children are separated from God as regards the union of glory, they are not utterly separated from Him: in fact they are united to Him by their share of natural goods, and so will also be able to rejoice in Him by their natural knowledge and love” (ST Suppl. Q. 1, art. 2, ad 5).

    As far as consensus goes, I just don’t know that its all that useful. Although I don’t buy all of Newman’s arguments either, personally having a pretty decent familiarity with the ante-Nicene Fathers (prior to having ever read or heard of Newman) has led me to believe that he had a good point. For one thing, we don’t really know what the consensus of the bishops was in any particular age. We know what certain leading bishops said on various occasions (and that they were not averse to changing their minds or their public statements when the situation called for it). There were hundreds of bishops to think about it, yet we only know what a handful of them explicitly thought and wrote. I happen to agree that the body of teaching that emerged successively was true and authentic. But I don’t think it arrived there by way of deferrence to a prior consensus. The other problem with consensus is that in just about every other area of life, the consensus is often wrong. What one age thinks is firmly established fact might be viewed as nonsense by a later age. What explicit guarantee do we have that a very narrowly defined consensus of only those bishops whom we already deem to be “orthodox” will be a certain guide in matters of faith, as opposed to other methods, such as biblical exegesis or an infallible magisterium?


  174. OK… dying to read the SECOND post now!!

    Also, I am wondering, Cyril, how your conversation went with “becca’s” father after he accosted you?



  175. Patience please. It will be up I hope by this weekend, but I do have other things I am working on: an essay on Hooker for a conference in October, inter alia.

    As for Becca’s father, I told him I would write him about it, though I don’t know if this got to him, as I had asked my nephew, a member of the REC to pass it along to him. I don’t know if he did, as I don’t have his email address. I shall give him a nudge, and we shall see.



  176. Since this is comment 203, I don’t really expect any response/interaction. However, I wanted to point out that you have not actually critiqued Calvinism. You quoted Augustine at some length, but Augustine is neither Calvin, nor is he Reformed. Then in the following paragraph you ascribe ADS to both Aquinas and Calvin, yet you only expound upon Aquinas’s view, and there is not a word from Calvin to be found. Only at the very end of this decently-long essay do you actually quote Calvin, and I daresay that had you not already implied that Calvinism simply equals Augustinianism (and to a certain extent Thomism), that quote alone doesn’t even come close to proving your points.

    In fact, Calvin did not simply ascribe to ADS. Calvin did in fact ground the unity of God in the Father, not in some abstract principle of “divinity” or “essence.” And Calvin did in fact affirm a genuine differentiation of the divine attributes (not a merely formal distinction existing only in our minds). For more detail on this, see Richard Muller’s “Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics” Volume 3.


  177. Dear Mr. Nilsen,

    Well, I said that Calvinism was a species of Austin’s doctrine, and if you wish, here, you can take it from someone you might think has better bona fides than I do: “The system of doctrine taught by Calvin is just the Augustinianism common to the whole body of the Reformers—for the Reformation was, as from the spiritual point of view a great revival of Augustinianism. And this Augustinianism is taught by him not as an independent discovery of his own, but fundamentally as he learned it from Luther.” [B. B. Warfield,Calvin and Augustine (Philly: P & R, 1956), p.22].

    As to divine simplicity, do you know French? Here, this is from Calvin’s sermons on Job (the 88th). I apologize that I don’t have my English trans with me, it is in my university office (Banner of Truth trans some of them, so I don’t know if it is in there. If you have access to EEBO through your college you can look it up as I think Hawkins pub’d all Calvin’s sermons in 1574), thus, you will have to trust my translation.

    Et de fait, quand ces docteurs Sorboniques disent, que Dieu a une puissance absoluë, c’est un blaspheme diabolique qui a esté forgé aux enfers : car il ne faut point que cela entre au cerveau de l’homme fidele. Il faut donc dire que Dieu a une puissance infinie, laquelle toutes fois est la regle de toute iustice: car c’est deschirer Dieu par pieces, quand nous le voudrons faire puissant, et qu’il ne sera plus iuste. Vrai est que sa iustice ne nous sera pas tousiours patente, mais elle ne laissera pas d’estre tousiours en son entier. Il ne faut point que nous mesurions la iustice de Dieu selon nostre apprehension (car ce seroit la restreindre par trop): mais tant y a qu’il nous faut avoir ce poinct resolu, que la puissance de Dieu ne se peut separer de sa iustice, d’autant que Dieu ne se peut desmembrer.

    [Which being translated meaneth: And in fact, when these Sorbonnist doctors say that God has an absolute power this is a diabolic blasphemy which has been forged in hell: this should never enter into a faithful man’s head. It is thus necessary to say that God has an infinite power, which all times is the rule of any justice: because we cannot tear God into parts, were we to make him powerful, without at the same time making him just. Certainly His justice will not always be obvious to us, but it will not leave us entirely nor be wholly unapparent. It’s not needed that we measure God’s justice by our understanding (since that is an immodest restraint): but much more it is necessary for us to resolve that the power from God cannot be separated from His justice, for God cannot be torn apart.]

    Finally, Mullerem appelasti ad Mullerem ibis! (Acts 25: 12 revised): “Thus, Calvin can insist that ‘though to our apprehension the will of God is manifold, yet he does not in himself will opposites, but, according to his manifold wisdom, transcends our senses until such time as it shall be given us to know who he mysteriously wills what now seems adverse to his will.’ (We note here an underlying acceptance of the concept of divine simplicity – a concept available from the father but enunciated with clarity only by the scholastics.) [NB that is Muller’s parenthetical comment, not mine.] …. although Calvin can, if pressed, accept the Augustinian qualification that the permission of God must be understood as a ‘willing’ rather than an ‘unwilling’ permission. In a sense, therefore, Calvin’s assault on the distinction occurs within the bounds of rather traditional constructions – constructions that he shared with many medieval theologians. [Muller, Unaccommodated Calvin (Oxford: OUP, 200), pp. 47-48.]


  178. Cyril,

    Thanks for the response!

    I don’t deny that Calvin affirmed simplicity in the sense that God cannot be “torn apart”, but so did all the Fathers, right? All the orthodox have affirmed that God is simple, and necessarily so, because He is spirit and therefore non-composite. What I object to is the assertion that Calvin and the Reformed Orthodox simply inherited ADS and denied the reality of any distinctions whatsoever in God. Certainly some in the Reformed tradition have done just that, but not the majority, and not Calvin (so far as I can see from my limited research).

    I have also never understood the Orthodox view of the genesis of the doctrine of Predestination. Perhaps for Augustine God HAD to predestine everything because of some other philosophical presuppositions, but I have never seen that as the primary foundation of the doctrine of Predestination in Reformed theologians. The primary foundation is always their interpretation of Scripture, especially what they believed Scripture taught about the radical fallenness of man and his inability to choose God apart from God’s monergistic working. Even David Bradshaw admitted that many in the West held to Predestination based upon Scriptural grounds rather than Augustinian philosophy.

    In any case, I suppose my only point is that I often find myself agreeing with Orthodox critiques of Augustine or Aquinas, but that never does anything to refute my Reformed theology (especially when, from my point of view, Orthodoxy simply replaces one set of philosophical presuppositions with another, rather than dealing primarily with Scripture).

    Thanks again for the interaction!


  179. David, when I held to predestination, I didn’t do so because of any deep philosophical notion about God’s will being coterminus with His essence, but because I believed scripture taught it. This really doesn’t get to what I was addressing in the post. More anon.



  180. Mr. Nilson, when you said, “especially when, from my point of view, Orthodoxy simply replaces one set of philosophical presuppositions with another, rather than dealing primarily with Scripture”, were you suggesting that the Orthodox fathers weren’t dealing primarily with Scripture? Or perhaps that “Orthodoxy” doesn’t deal primarily with Scripture? In either case you are profoundly wrong, and I encourage you to investigate whether or not this is true. A long familiarity with Protestant thinking has convinced me that this kind of move is almost habitual: just suggest that your opponents may argue however they please, but claim for yourself that your case is more scriptural. That implies an identification of your position with that of the Bible. None of the Orthodox Church’s dogmatic positions can be compartmentalized as being more philosophical than Biblical the way you suggest. The Orthodox Church’s effort has always been to do justice to the what God has revealed, whether transmitted orally or in writing. And let us not forget that she’s always possessed the Scriptures in her own native tongue.


  181. But of course, if would be rather odd if the Anglican owned “in exile”, or if Perry’d left off the article so he said “Anglican is in exile.” So you’d probably better look under the post “Anglicans in exile.”


  182. Thanks Cyril I will give that a try. Any publications in print that any of you know about?

    Matthew – you had too much of that blueberry coconut ice cream. LOL. As a non-Orthodox what is your take on ADS?


  183. Jason Loh,

    You’ll have to excuse my tardiness in getting back to you and others on this thread. The blog automatically closes comments after a certain number of days. I’ve opened it back up because I wanted to post my comments but didn’t have the time. I was travelling for a number of days and then when I got home, my phone was knocked out by a thunderstorm. Then our power went out the next day.

    With respect to Heb 5:7 I think you place too much emphasis on whether Christ willed deliverance from death or not. Even on your own gloss he desired it. If he did so, then on your gloss he desired something contrary to the divine will and hence sinned. The only other option is to make his desire good and then the divine will as contrary to it evil. In such a way is Gnosticism established, either as human nature intrinsically evil or the creator of the world is evil. Either counts as a theological “epic fail.”

    More directly the verse doesn’t need to say explicitly that Christ willed his deliverance. The passage strongly suggests he prayed for it. Certainly there is a volitional element in his prayer. If not, then praying to the Father who had the power to deliver him is out of place in the passage.

    As for submission, the Orthodox view agrees that in his human power of choice the divine person submitted to the divine will. But submission doesn’t mean in subordination to as to imply something less. Paul speaks of wives being in subjection and submission to their husbands, but surely wives are not unequal to their husbands since women are made in the imago dei. Likewise Paul speaks of the Son being in subjection to the Father and yet the Son is not subordinated to the Father or unequal to him. Here it is plain that your dialectical framing of Heb 5 implies Arianism as well as misogyny.

    Again, you assume that willing otherwise is to will contrary to, but this is the point at issue and without an argument is question begging. Here is another counter-example. For God to will to create is not contrary to willing not to create or not willing to create. Second, you mention foreknowledge and predestination in terms of the Father’s will. First, it is the divine will that all three persons share. Here you assume that the will is hypostatic, another mark of monothelitism. Second, foreknowledge isn’t isomorphic with predestination. God knows things he doesn’t will-his own existence, possible but unactual states of affairs, sin per se, etc. God knowing that Christ dies on the Cross isn’t tantamount to predestinating the divine person of the Son to die. Besides, such a view is impossible since there is no intervening relation of will between the Father and the Son. That is what homoousious means, if it means anything.

    I think Acts makes it clear that the Father doesn’t put Jesus to death. The Romans and Jewish leadership did so. This is the point of Peter’s remark, “Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead…” 4:10. This is the repeated theme in Acts. Whom you crucified, God vindicated from your unjust judgment. God overturns the unjust sentence by resurrection.
    You remark that Maximus’ view is “extreme” dyothelitism. But there is no reason to take it as “extreme” except that it is incompatible with Reformation theology. That all by itself isn’t sufficient to take it as such. Second, there is no obvious inference from the extremity of a position to it being false. So designating it as “extreme” is argumentatively vacuous and is rhetorical fluff. Maximus’ position was upheld at the Sixth council, at the very least by the inclusion of canons he personally wrote at the previous Lateran synod.

    On to nature and grace. A denial of total depravity, (which doctrine even Augustine didn’t maintain) doesn’t imply a “peeling off” the sin from human nature. That is, one can deny total depravity and maintain that the removal of sin as inherent to human nature and praxis is an intrinsic process. You assume again that it is an all or nothing deal with sin being constitutive of human nature or being a mere label. That is a product of late medieval Nominalism and so reflective of your implicit philosophical commitments. But I see no sufficient reason to have those commitments and I think there are other ways to divvy things up. If there are other ways, then it doesn’t follow that a denial of total depravity makes sin less severe.

    By regeneration you mean not a generating anew, but a replacement of human nature as such. This is why you have to speak of the human hypostasis being replaced.

    As for human nature being an object of wrath, this would only follow if a few things were true. First, sin would have to have a nature and hence a logos. It would have to have been a divine predestination in God. But in God there is no darkness at all and sin has no logos. This is why evil is so abhorrent. As Lewis said, in evil we are fish out of water. For your anthropology, since sin is a constituent of the imago dei it is hard to see why it is an existential problem. Further, as Wisdom makes clear, God hates nothing that he has made. “For thou lovest all the things that are, and abhorrest nothing which thou hast made: for never wouldest thou have made any thing, if thou hadst hated it.” Wis. 11:24. (just a note, this passage is included in some collects of the BCP) Consequently God does not have wrath towards human nature per se or in and of itself. And this is born out in Paul’s usage of physis in Eph 2 which refers to habituation and not nature per se. Just peruse some lexical sources.

    You assert to Matthew that the purpose of the incarnation was to make a metaphysically new nature. That is, to fundamentally alter the imago dei. But on the Orthodox view, sin can’t thwart the divine will and so can’t intrinsically alter the imago dei. Consequently, one can only hold that righteousness was constitutive of human nature and lost at the fall by denying divine sovereignty.

    To try to rescue your view by stating that the destruction of human nature in salvation is only sinful human nature fails since you’ve made sin a constituent of it. Secondly, the restoration of righteousness to human nature wouldn’t license the language of destruction or annihilation that you employ. It would only do so if one made sin constitutive of the imago dei.

    You allege that Maximus’ teaching “tears the Trinity apart” since Maximus maintains that Christ wills to preserve his life. But this is a straw man. Maximus denies that to will otherwise is to will contrary to. Second, Maximus affirms that the Trinity also wills the perseverance of human life. Consequently to will to save his life is also to will what the Holy Triad also wills. Hence it is impossible for Jesus willing to preserve his life is in opposition to the Trinity. You could assert that God doesn’t will the preservation of human life, but then that will be a significant capitulation to Gnosticism and a rejection of the Scriptural portrait of God. Your bald and unsupported accusation against Maximus and the teaching of the Sixth council falls flat.
    If the fear of death is natural only relative to our fallen state then not only would Jesus not have had it on your view, but God’s threatening it as a punishment prior to the fall would have had no force. Second it doesn’t follow that merely because sin came first and then death that the fear of death could not exist prior to sin. The fear of something can exist prior to its actualization. If the fear of death cannot be a good in the sight of God, then why did God use it as a deterrent to sinning? At the least it was an instrumental good prior to the fall.

    The fear of death doesn’t imply the fear of punishment in a vindictive sense, but only in the sense of an unwanted consequence. The fear of death is natural since survival is a constituent of the logos of humanity, the imago dei. This is why all men naturally per se fear death and why Christ did as well. It is why all men will their survival and why all men wish for an after life. A genuine natural desire has a natural and real object. If the fear of death were not a blameless desire, then death and a desire for it would be natural to humanity, even in sin, but its not. Here the Pelagian implications of your view of death as natural are apparent. Ironic how Lutheranism implies Pelagianism.

    You write that the Reformation to the Sixth council has a different gloss than Mximus’ teaching. That would be true if the Reformers or their successors gave any significant gloss to the council’s teaching. One can look in vain for any serious interpretation given to the teaching of the council, let alone one that also has widespread purchase in those traditions. Usually sources give it lip service rather make an attempt to understand the teaching of the council on its own terms or situate it within Reformation theology.

    Second, given that Maximus wrote some of the canons of the council and the theology of Sophronius and Maximus was vindicated at the council, the only possible grounds an alternative gloss has than the one I’ve given is one found in either the council itself or the teaching of Maximus or Sophronius. If you reject the doctrinal intent of the council then you reject the council simpliciter. To think that one could legitimately give an interpretation to the council that is opposed to its intended and established meaning would be akin to an Arian saying that they accept the council of Nicea, but reject its theological intent and supply their own Arian interpretation.

    I don’t deny that there are two energies and one person who brings them about. Hence I agree that only the person actualizes the potency of the respective natures and what this means is that the fulfillment of our salvation is willed in a human way by a divine person, which runs directly contrary to Lutheran and Reformed Christologies and Soteriologies.
    Your position is more than this though and actually collapses into monoenergism since on your view the divine will subordinates and predestines the human, which is a species of monoenergism that was condemned. Such a view turns on Nestorian and Monophysite presuppositions as Samn! so ably demonstrated.

    You claim that Maximus’ view implies that there is no communication of properties, but the Lutheran view implies no communication of properties since as Chemnitz says all of the divine attributes are one and the same thing. There are no properties in the plural to communicate. Hence it is not possible to maintain the communicatio idiomatum on the Lutheran view due to its subscription to the western gloss on divine simplicity. So even if your claim were true, the Lutheran view fairs no better. That’s sufficient for a rebuttal.

    As for a refutation, your conclusion would only follow if the fear of death was not a blameless passion and intrinsic to the imago dei. If it is, as I maintain and so does Maximus, then a fear of death and a willing to preserve one’s life wouldn’t be at odds with the communicatio idiomatum. This is so since both would be natural, the fear of death/preservation of life and the divine power since both would have their root in the divine nature.
    You mention sexual desire and it is true that Jesus never willed to have sex, but the sexual desire as natural is not the same breed of cat as the will for survival. Ever being and sexual activity just are on different metaphysical levels. The former is maintained in the eschaton and the latter is not since there is no marriage in heaven. The comparison therefore is not apt. Sexual desire and activity is natural to humanity like the gnomic will is natural. It is inherent for a certain stage of human development. Like Wittgenstein’s Ladder, when you get to the top of the ladder, you don’t need it anymore and kick it away. Further, Jesus’ conception is seedless and so is unlike any other conception being the seed of the woman. The lack of sexual desire could easily be rooted there as well. Hence your reasoning on the lack of sexual desire being rooted in the divine person is a cognitive misfire.
    Second, to have a sexual desire doesn’t of itself imply temptation. A desire isn’t of itself sin, but how it is engaged by the person. Hence one can “endure” temptation without sinning. (James 1:12) Second, Jesus is not drawn away by such a desire because as a divine person he cannot be enticed by it as James indicates is a necessary condition for sinning. (James 1:13-15) Hence even if Jesus had corrupted desires at the level of nature in taking up our corrupt nature, it in no way would imply sinning on his part. As James makes clear, having a desire doesn’t amount to a sinful act.

    A communication of divine properties wouldn’t eliminate the sexual desire, unless the sexual desire per se was sinful. If so, then God is evil since he is the one who gave it to humanity.

    If such a communication were applicable to the desire to survive, then your own gloss that Jesus was expressing a human desire is rendered inexplicable since there would be no such desire. It is a fact in search of an in principled precluded explanation. Furthermore, it would entail a denial that God willed the ever being of humanity or render the divine will contradictory and inept, just as Satan wished to show.
    Since God is beyond necessity, Jesus qua divine person is not determined to go to the Cross. We don’t avoid the implication that God the Son, who is the one and only person that is the person of Jesus willed humanly to avoid death. Rather we embrace it just as we embrace the death of God and that a divine person was born of a woman, an unwedded bride. The same is true with respect to Christ’s ignorance. On your gloss we will have to deny the text that indicates that the divine person of Christ was ignorant (Mk 13:32). The problem is that you assume that ignorance and knowledge are opposites, with one good and the other bad so that it is not possible not only for God to have both, but to have ignorance in his human intellect which is in the divine person and which the divine person uses.

    The reason why you think there are such limits is because of your implicit docetism which results from seeing humanity and divinity as dialectically related-opposites. But God has no opposite and so grace is not opposed to nature. The Christ you offer is a hobbled human and so not fully human. I grant that the divine person determines the enhypostinization, but it is also true that there is a genuine enhominization of the divine person as well. Otherwise there is no hypostatic union. Even Lutherans like Chemnitz were sharp enough to see that this is so.

    Your mentioning of the work of Christ seems to me to mean little given its implicit Pelagianism. Christ climbs the ladder of merit instead of us, is still Pelagianism.

    In your reply to JNorm, you write that you reject the doctrinal intent of the sixth council. Of course you are free to do so, but this just picks out one horn of the dilemma that I’ve constructed. Six you reject what your confessional standards and representative theologians adhere to in name, you fall under the condemnation of your own tradition. Just try letting your ecclesiastical authorities know that you reject the teaching of the sixth council and watch what happens. Furthermore, your position entails not only the teaching of council six, but five and four. Your position prima facia runs afoul of Chalcedon where it declares “but rather the property of each nature being preserved. Second, rejecting the doctrinal intent of the sixth council and reinterpreting or rather altering it to make it consistent with Reformation theology is a bit like an Arian professing adherence to Nicea while rejecting its doctrinal intent.

    As for Bathrellos, he isn’t the first to use the term of Neo-Chalcedonian. It is a standard term and refers to the way of interpreting Chalcedon in line with the teaching Cyril. Samn! already made this point with sufficient clarity. But if you reject Neo-Chalcedonian reading, your options are to embrace monophysitism (also a rejection of Cyril) or reject Cyril and hence embrace Nestorianism. Further, a good many fathers between Chalcedon and the sixth council are also Neo-Chalcedonian and you’ll need to reject their teaching as well, which increases the condemnation from your own tradition since they proclaim fidelity to their teaching as well. Hence you are only showing the implications of the dilemma that I posed and how serious it is for the Reformation traditions.

    As far as your argument relating to God is no respecter of persons, it turns on the faulty assumption that God’s activity of conferring grace in line with human activity is on the basis of favor, but it isn’t. One could hold that human activity is a necessary but non-meritorious condition.

    Furthermore, God is not inconsistent so that the question is whether God gave free will in the first place. If he did, then being a non-respecter of persons simply isn’t the reason why God doesn’t overturn Cornelius’ will. It has to do with divine consistency.

    To say that Cornelius’ free will was the decisive reason is ambiguous and misguided. God’s action is the decisive reason which undergirds Cornelius’ activity in sending his Son into the world. Cornelius’ free activity is a necessary but not a sufficient condition and so can’t be decisive. It is only “decisive” in so far as it is a necessary condition, but that hardly seems problematic in and of itself.

    As for the falling of the Spirit, this was after said persons had faith. Nowhere does it imply that faith was purely the effect of the divine will working on human nature.

    As for your charge against Samn! that Nestorianism wasn’t Monothelite, this is in fact false. Nestorianism was monothelite and monoenergist, just like Severian monophysitism. As Romanidies makes clear,

    “When the Nestorians stated that there is in Christ one energy and one will, they did not hold that the created nature and created will in Christ were abolished. They one energy and will of the Nestorians relates to the person of the union in Christ of the two natures, which is the result of the union of two persons and hypostaseis.” An Outline of Orthodox Patristic Dogmatics, 71.

    Likewise, Hovorun,

    “In conclusion, the Antiochian tradition, associated with the names of Theodore of Mopsuestia and Nestorius, considered the single activity and will of Christ as aspects of the common prosopon, which in turn was an exposure and revelation of the two natures. Activity and will, together with the prosopon constituted a common manifestation of the two natures, which do not appear separately, but always together. Therefore, the prosopon, the will and the energia were single.” Will, Action and Freedom: Christological Controversies in the Seventh Century, 14.
    Samn! was correct in his gloss of Nestorianism as monothelite.

    As for your proposed dilemma to Matthew about working out our salvation in fear and trembling, it turns on the assumption that human nature is also not a divine energy and that said energy was over run in the fall. Neither of which are assumptions an Orthodox position would grant and so your dilemma begs the question.


  184. Great blog. I recently left the Reformed church and am in limbo (no pun) between Eastern Orthodoxy, and the Roman Catholic Church. I feel as though I will end up Orthodox in the end, because I reject Thomism so far, and accept the Eastern views of the distinctions between essence and energies.

    I am still a little confused as to how Thomism is linked to Calvinistic errors of nature and person, but I understand that Calvinist profess in many places Nestorianism. Their views of Mary, the bread and wine, and God damning God on the cross all seem to be either Arian or Nestorian. That is clear as day to me.

    One more thing, I noticed in one of your other blog posts that you were out here in Southern California at one time, and had dealt with Horton and the Westminster crowd. I along with you have had to deal with their students (my former pastors). But, just asking them simple questions about nature and person, they all shut me out, and tried to close me off from discussion with other laymen, demonizing my character, in order that what I had to say would be doubted, rather than them having to address the ecumenical councils they profess to hold.

    Anyways, great blog, I will now be a constant reader.


  185. “I am still a little confused as to how Thomism is linked to Calvinistic errors of nature and person, but I understand that Calvinist profess in many places Nestorianism. Their views of Mary, the bread and wine, and God damning God on the cross all seem to be either Arian or Nestorian. That is clear as day to me.”

    Unfortunately it is not so clear to Calvinists. And I know of no confessional Reformed person who “professes” Nestorianism (in fact, that would be a contradiction).


  186. “Unfortunately it is not so clear to Calvinists. And I know of no confessional Reformed person who “professes” Nestorianism (in fact, that would be a contradiction).”

    Reformed theology professes that God poured His wrath out on Christ. This is either Nestorian, or Arian, seeing that the trinity is 3 persons, one nature, will being property of nature. So, one will in the Godhead. If reformed theology would only clarify how it is possible that Christ can be damned by the father, and still retain one will in the Godhead. If reformed theology wants to uphold the proper understanding of the Trinity, and profess 3 persons and one will, then what they need to explains is how God pouring His wrath out on Christ is possible when taking into considerations the Incarnation. The second person in the Trinity took on human nature, Jesus was not a human person. Nestorianism is the heresy of introducing two personal subjects into Incarnate Christ. There is only one person in the Incarnation, and that is the Son that took on human nature.

    With that all being said, who did God damn on the cross? The Son? If so, then reformed theology professes multiple wills in the Godhead, and are Arian. If you say Christ, they you are introducing two personal subjects into the Godhead, which is Nestorian. This is why reformers confuse nature and grace. Will is property of nature, since their are 3 Persons in the trinity, one nature. If will was property of person, then there would be 3 wills in the Godhead.

    That is just the one area where reformers are Nestorian. Reformers profess Mary to be Christokos, and not Theotokos. This is Nestorianism. That is professing two personal subjects into the Incarnation. Jesus cannot be separated from the Son, or you are adding another personal subject. Mary is Theotokos, and not Christokos.

    Also, reformers view of nature is faulty, seeing that they profess sin to be in nature, which is wrong, since sin is an act of the will, and not a state of being. Nature is being, sin is operation. Also, if we have a totally depraved nature, then the Incarnation becomes impossible since Christ assumed our human nature. Did Jesus have a will in bondage? The ecumenical councils profess that Christ took on our nature, to raise and deify our nature, not cover it. This also makes reformers fall into the error of monothelitism, since they cannot profess that Christ has a fully human will, not made willing by His divine will. that is the error of monergism, and is condemned in the early church.

    That is why reformers profess Nestorianism, and I also added a little more to the bag I guess.


  187. my above statement is a little rough. Let me fix a few of my statements.

    “With that all being said, who did God damn on the cross? The Son? If so, then reformed theology professes multiple wills in the Godhead, and are Arian. If you say Christ, they you are introducing two personal subjects into the Godhead, which is Nestorian.”

    I meant **Them you are introducing two personal subjects into the Incarnation, which is Nestorian.

    “this is why reformers confuse nature and grace.”

    **This is why reformers confuse nature and person**


  188. wow…I can’t believe I messed up the word *then in my correction post…you get the point lol


  189. Castleman, yes it is clear. 🙂

    I have a question for anyone here – what does all this practically mean? So one has it all figured out correctly to the last minutae – but to what end? I am not arguing for some sort of utilitarianism.


  190. David Nilsen,

    You are right, but what you suggest is an absurdity. I know of no Mormon who denies being a Christian.

    Castleman however is pointing to a glaring inconsistency in reformed theology.

    I see your interest in New Media technologies. You most definitely wouldn’t like the Ochlophobist

    Just some thoughts.



  191. Robert,

    If by utilitarianism you mean that things run smoother, in a more unified way if people agree, then I don’t think that is a good enough motivator for “right believing”. Maybe that’s all Constantine had in mind when he sought to unify the faith by calling the first Ecumenical Council, I don’t know. There is deeper significance in a holistic view of the Church being the Body of Christ and the Pillar and Ground of Truth. Knowing who Christ is, as has been revealed to the Church, contributes to communing with Him in spirit and in truth. This is one reason we practice asceticism, so that we can purify our senses to see Christ as he truly is, in communion with the rest of his body.


  192. Robert,

    You asked to what end. For my part, the end is helping people get past views that burden them and cause them harm. For me it was liberating to be set free of problems and views. It was a great relief to find a way out.

    For the record, I don’t have it all figured out and nailed down. I still learn plenty, but I converted based on the core solution to these kinds of problems and worked out the rest as I go.


  193. David Nilsen,

    It is true that in the main Confessional Calvinists will not openly profess Nestorianism.

    What you do find is a few things. First you find pleas for Nestorius, thathe was misunderstood, that he wasn’t so wrong, etc.

    You also find essentially the Nestorian position articulated over and over again, by major Reformed theologians from Calvin up to and through the period of Reformed Scholasticism. Just look at Muller’s treatment of Calvin and the concept of the person of the mediator. The persona mediatoris is the product of the union such that “Christ” is a human and divine person. Muller says ironically that this view is superior to the Chalcedonian view in that it doesn’t entail all of the metaphysical baggage that Chalcedon does. Muller is unfortunately wrong on that point since he mistakes a different metaphysical view for a non-metaphysical one. In anyc ase, its all layed out fairly clearly in the first chapter of “Christ and the Decree.” Read it for yourself.

    So it is really irrelevant that the Reformed do not openly profess Nestorianism. Nestorius never explicitly taugt a two subject Christology either but he was theologically culpable for it nonetheless.


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