Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Fallacy Of Believing That Christ Died On The Cross To Appease The Father's Wrath

Matthew 5:43 ¶Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Why We Baptize Infants Of Believing Parents

Because God is a Trinity, not a Monad.

1. Man and woman are one:

Genesis 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

2. Father and Son are one:

John 10:30 I and my Father are one.

3. Mankind is in God's image, the family being the icon of the Trinity:

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him: male and female created he them.

4. Hence why, in conclusion (since children are one flesh with their parents, and wives one flesh with their husbands) the members of a family or household are received communally, and not individually, into the Church:

(See: Acts 16:15; Acts 16:31-34; Acts 18:8; 1 Corinthians 1:16; Hebrews 11:7; 1 Peter 3:20).

When parents entered into covenant with God, they brought their children with them. This was a law in the Hebrew Church. When a proselyte was received into membership, he could not enter without bringing his children with him. -- Easton's Bible Dictionary.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Why "Activists" Will Lose Their Souls, Even Though Sinners Might Be Saved

Because the former makes repentance impossible, since nobody repents for things that are not sins.

(I do not repent of the fact that I have dark hair, for instance).

Isaiah 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

Luke 18:13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Rose, By Any Other Name...

...or a short history of Western Christian thought, from Shakespeare to Orwell:

Unlike their sinful Protestant and Orthodox counterparts, Catholics don't get a divorce... they get an annulment.

Unlike their unregenerate and totally-depraved Catholic and Orthodox counterparts, Protestants don't sin... they "backslide ".

Psalm 141:4 Incline not my heart to evil words; to make excuses in sins.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Works Righteousness

Saint Augustine In His Middle Years

Still left room open for the role of free will as seen in his work "On the Spirit and the Letter"(around the year 412 A.D.) I tend to agree with Saint Augustine in his middle years! I disagree with what he said about the will later in life.

The word prevent simply means "to precede". He is talking about how grace not only precedes our works, but also our faith. Eventhough we have a different understanding of what grace means (uncreated vs created) as a Pan-enthiest (Essence vs Energies distinction), I will have to agree, for we believe God's Energies to be Everywhere and permeating everything, and so it would be impossible for our will to exist somewhere where the Divine Energies are not. Where could we will where God's Energies are not already present? And so for us, it's really simultaneous. Also, to assume that we can will somewhere where God is not already Present is to plant the seeds of either Deism or Agnosticism.

I forgot when, but Augustine had a personal revelation one day while reading Saint Cyprian. Cyprian quoted 1st Corinthians 4:7 in passing while talking about something else and this caused Saint Augustine to change his mind about faith not being merit. This also caused him to miss-interpret Ephesians chapter 2 verse 8 as well, for he was the first to call the word "faith" the gift of God in that passage. In his middle years he seemed to have still believed in free will, but his later works seem to support some form of determinism. But his personal revelation....some years before he wrote this, set him on the track of eventually getting rid of free will altogether.

"On the Spirit and the Letter"(around the year 412 A.D.)
Chapter 57
Quote:"it surely follows that it is God who both works in man the willing to believe, and in all things prevents us with His mercy. To yield our consent, indeed, to God's summons, or to withhold it, is (as I have said) the function of our own will. And this not only does not invalidate what is said, "For what do you have that you did not receive?" 1 Corinthians 4:7 but it really confirms it. For the soul cannot receive and possess these gifts, which are here referred to, except by yielding its consent."

The early Augustine, back when he was a strong advocate of free will:

Of Two Souls Chapter 10 verse 14 (around the 391 A.D.)
"For every one also who does a thing unwillingly is compelled, and every one who is compelled, if he does a thing, does it only unwillingly. It follows that he that is willing is free from compulsion, even if any one thinks himself compelled. And in this manner every one who willingly does a thing is not compelled, and whoever is not compelled, either does it willingly or not at all. Since nature itself proclaims these things in all men whom we can interrogate without absurdity, from the boy even to the old man, from literary sport even to the throne of the wise, why then should I not have seen that in the definition of will should be put, "no one compelling," which now as if with greater experience most cautiously I have done. But if this is everywhere manifest, and promptly occurs to all not by instruction but by nature, what is there left that seems obscure, unless perchance it be concealed from some one, that when we wish for something, we will, and our mind is moved towards it, and we either have it or do not have it, and if we have it we will to retain it, if we have it not, to acquire it? Wherefore everyone who wills, wills either not to lose something or to obtain it. Hence if all these things are clearer than day, as they are, nor are they given to my conception alone, but by the liberality of truth itself to the whole human race, why could I not have said even at that time: Will is a movement of the mind, no one compelling, either for not losing or for obtaining something?"

The Late Augustine becoming deterministic
Enchiridion(The Handbook on Faith, Hope and Love) chapter 98 (around the year 421 A.D.)
"And, moreover, who will be so foolish and blasphemous as to say that God cannot change the evil wills of men, whichever, whenever, and wheresoever He chooses, and direct them to what is good? But when He does this He does it of mercy; when He does it not, it is of justice that He does it not for "-->He has mercy on whom He will have mercy, and whom He will He hardens."-->13-1279--> And when the apostle said this, he was illustrating the grace of God,"

The late Augustine in talking about how he changed his mind:

(he wrote this letter because the semi-pelagians......Saint John Cassian, Saint vincent of lerins, and a group of monks at Gaul[modern day Spain and France] were all attacking him. He called the semi-pelagians of his day erroring brethren or something like that because he once believed like they did)

On the Predestination of the Saints (Book I) chapter 7 (around the year 428 A.D.)
"It was not thus that that pious and humble teacher thought—I speak of the most blessed Cyprian—when he said "-->that we must boast in nothing, since nothing is our own."-->15-3432--> And in order to show this, he appealed to the apostle as a witness, where he said, "-->For what have you that you have not received? And if you have received it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?"--> 1 Corinthians 4:7 And it was chiefly by this testimony that I myself also was convinced when I was in a similar error, thinking that faith whereby we believe in God is not God's gift, but that it is in us from ourselves, and that by it we obtain the gifts of God, whereby we may live temperately and righteously and piously in this world. For I did not think that faith was preceded by God's grace, so that by its means would be given to us what we might profitably ask, except that we could not believe if the proclamation of the truth did not precede; but that we should consent when the gospel was preached to us I thought was our own doing, and came to us from ourselves. And this my error is sufficiently indicated in some small works of mine written before my episcopate. Among these is that which you have mentioned in your letters15-3434--> wherein is an exposition of certain propositions from the Epistle to the Romans."

Late Platonism, determinism and the Late Saint Augustine

Eventhough I don't really like this book because the author was too critical of christianity while somewhat sympathetic with various forms of gnosticism, I did find good nuggets here and there.
"St. Augustine(354-430) was, for the time being,
the last in this chain of development. With his Manichean past stretching over
almost ten years, he had acquired personal experience of the gnostic heresy, and
had reflected on its dangers and value*. He appropriated this heritage most
clearly in the impressive historical review of the two "realms" (civitates), the
devil's or that of the wicked (civitas diaboli or impiorum,) and God's (civitas
Dei), and thus shaped the Christian historical metaphysics of the Middle Ages.
Other aspects of his teaching, too, cannot be understood without this heritage
which is linked closely with the related late Platonic, such as the famous faith
in predestination (grace and election)
, the role of the soul as being in the image of God and thus an immortal element and, above all, the concept of original sin. This latter is the result of man's fall from the divine original state brought about by his own guilt. Its position in Augustine's teaching is an echo of the Manichean idea of the fateful "mixture" of light and darkness, spirit and matter,which necessarily determines human existence. One has attributed to St. Augustine, because of his turning away from Manichean Gnosis and because of his overcoming the problems raised by it, a decisive importance in the final acceptance of the ancient understanding of the cosmos as a good creation of God in opposition to the gnostic hostility to the world. " [1]

This is the second time I noticed someone link Saint Augustine's belief in predestination with neoplatonism. Perry was the first to tell me about Plotinus and Augustine in regards to determinism, as seen here:
"On another point, the reasoning trying to show
that moral responsibility and freedom are compatible with determinism in
Augustine mirrors exactly what the Pagan Plotinus in his Enneads wrote nearly
two centuries prior to Augustine. The soul that falls is determined to do so,
but chooses freely to fall nonetheless and is therefore responsible. This is
significant since Augustine's dying words were quotes from Plotinus'

and now Kurt Rudolph seems to be saying something similar, and so, I have to find out what late Platonic thought really taught about the issue of determinism.

What some others had to say about it in passing:

FromA critique of Plotinian Neoplatonism in quoting the Reformed scholar and presuppositionalist Cornelius Van Til in his work A Christian Theory of Knowledge (1969)
"In complete contrast to this approach of Plotinus stands that of Augustine. To be sure, as noted, Augustine makes many a concession to the apostate point of view of logic. But at bottom his commitment is to the idea that man is the creature of God rather than participant in the being of God. In spite of his many concessions to the Greek paideia his main principle, as best expressed in his latest works, is that sovereign God gives or withholds his grace to sinners according to his good pleasure. Therefore if those who operate from a Plotinian point of view charge him with determinism Augustine, following Paul, simply responds: "Who art thou O man that contendest with God." The judge of the whole earth will do right. Man, the creature, become the sinner, must admit mystery, but the mystery that he admits does not, as in the case of Plotinus, envelop God.

Still consonant with the basic contrast between Plotinus and Augustine on the question of the final point of reference and also consonant with the difference between them on the question of logic is their difference with respect to the philosophy of fact.

For Plotinus the world of space-time factuality exists by Chance. His principle of individuation is that of pure contingency and irrationality. Over against this purely contingent and and purely irrational principle of individuality is the idea of Augustine that God, having created all things, having sent Christ to redeem the world, directs all things to the end appointed for them by himself. In spite of all the concessions that he makes to the Plotinian principle, especially in his earlier works, it is none the less true of Augustine that his basic commitment, best expressed in his later writings, is that the facts of reality are what they are, ultimately, by virtue of the all-encompassing plan of God.

Christ is Risen!

[1] page 370, from the book "GNOSIS:The Nature & History of Gnosticism" by Kurt Rudolph, and translation edited by Robert McLachlan Wilson 1984/1987 HarperSanFrancisco / HarperCollins publishers

In the chapter "A Plotinian vehicle for a Manichaen notion":
The link: (pages 85 to 87 and on page 13 he mentions his use of Plotinus in writing against Manichaenism as well)
Augustine, Manichaeism and the Good by Kam-Lun E. Lee

A Short Exposition of Romans Chapter 9

This is a short exposition of Romans chapter 9

All scriptures came from BibleGateway

Romans 9:10-13
""10Not only that, but Rebekah's children had one and the same father, our
father Isaac. 11Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or
bad—in order that God's purpose in election might stand: 12not by works but by
him who calls—she was told, "The older will serve the younger." 13Just as it is
written: "Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated."

Who does God love? God already told us!!!
Psalm 103:17
"But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD's love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children's children-"

Also keep in mind that God's love and compassion is universal:
Psalm 145:8-9
"The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made."

Is Faith a work?

Romans chapter 3:27-28
"27Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. 28For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law."

and Romans chapter 4
"1What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. 3What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." 4Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. 5However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness."

Not to mention the last few verses of Romans chapter 9
"30What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; 31but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. 32Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works."

According to SAINT PAUL, Faith is not a work!!! Also since God is love, and has compassion on everything He has made (Psalms 145:9) we know that whenever a text says God "hates" a person we have to look at it in context of God's Omni-Benevolence.

So through God's Foreknowledge He called Jacob before the foundation of the World.

God is Omniscient so He knew Jacob would believe in the promise inheritance.

Romans chapter 8 shows us the process of that event.
""29For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.""

God's foreknowledge precedes both His predestination and calling.

For those that would like to make "Foreknowledge" a "fore-loving" assume that this has nothing to do with the actions of a person, but they assume wrong. To love someone implies action. It implies loving something about that person.

Acts chapter 26:4-5
"The Jews all know the way I have lived ever since I was a child, from the beginning of my life in my own country, and also in Jerusalem. 5They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee.

The Jews knew Paul. To know someone implies to know things about that person. Or else you can't know them. Knowing implies action and moral agents are animated beings not mannequins.

Also if one tries to make "Foreknowledge" = "predestination" then I would say that such a thing in Romans chapter 8 would be tautology(redundant language)

It would make the text read like this:
""29For those God predestined he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers."

It's obvious the text makes a distinction between the two words.

A look at Augustine, Chrysostom, and Theodore in regards to this passage.


"Therefore God did not choose anyone's works (which he himself will give) by
foreknowledge, but by foreknowledge he chose faith. He chose the one whom he
knew in advance would believe in him, and to him he has given the Holy Spirit,
so that by doing good works he may attain everlasting life." Belief is our work,
but good deeds belong to him who gives the Holy Spirit to believers."

Augustine on Romans as quoted from the Ancient Christian commentary on scripture, N.T. volume 6 Romans, edited by Gerold Bray page 251


"God does not have to wait, as we do, to see which one will turn out good and
which one will turn out bad. He knew this in advance and decided accordingly."

Saint John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans....as quoted from the Ancient Christian commentary on scripture volume 6, edited by Gerold Bray and Thomas C. Oden page 250


"Thus God chose Isaac and rejected Ishmael and the children of Keturah. So also
he chose Jacob over Esau, even though both were formed together in the womb. Why
be surprised then, if God does the same thing nowadays, by accepting those of
you who believe and rejecting those who have not seen the light?"

Theodoret of Cyr: interpretation of the letter to the Romans....as quoted by Ancient christian commentary on scripture edited by Gerold Bray and Thomas C. Oden page 253

Romans 9:14
"14What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15For he says to
Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on
whom I have compassion."

The scripture tells us who God likes to have mercy and compassion on so it's no hidden secret that nobody knows.

Psalm 103:13
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

Psalm 25:14
The LORD confides in those who fear him; he makes his covenant known to them.

Psalm 18:27
You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.

Proverbs 28:13
He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.

Isaiah 55:7
Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.


Romans chapter 3:21-22
"21But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. 22This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."

God’s choice is not based on human merit, but on His mercy and inscrutable purposes.
Faith is not a merit, Humbleness is not a merit, fear is not a merit and repentance is not a merit. or else faith wouldn't be faith.....it would be a work.....and we know Paul made a contrast between "faith" and "works". God's purpose was to save those who believe in His Son. That was His choice!

Romans 9:16
16It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's

Paul speaks elswhere about us doing stuff and how that relates to what God does.

1 Corinthians 3:5-7
"5Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? 6I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. 7So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.

So as you see Romans 9:16 affirms our free will!!! It doesn't say we can't will or somehow not able to will.......NO!!! It just shows that our desire and effort in and of itself doesn't make us citizens of ISRAEL!!! NO!!! It takes God's mercy!

John says the samething in John 1:12-13
"12Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God."

SEE!!! Our willing alone will not make us born again!!! This verse is not saying we are not able to will, not able to make human decisions nor the husband not able to will......verse twelve shows us willing!!!

This verse is saying the samething 1st Corinth is saying!!! It's saying that it is God who brings the increase!!! It is God who makes us born again!!! It is not saying we are not able to plant!!! It is not saying we are not able to water!!! It is just saying that despite what we do it is what God does that matters!!! It is God who makes us grow!!!

It is God who makes us Citizens of ISRAEL because it is God who makes us born again!!! And how are we Born Again / Born from Above / Born a new? Simple! Baptismal Regeneration!

Titus 3:5
he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

John 3:3-5
In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again. "How can a man be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked. "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!"5Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit.

Acts 22:16
And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.'

Short testimony of a couple Church Fathers about water Baptism
This meaneth, that we indeed descend into the water full of sins and defilement, but come up, bearing fruit in our heart, having the fear [of God] and trust in Jesus in our spirit.

"As many as are persuaded and believe that what we teach and say is true, and undertake to be able to live accordingly, are instructed to pray and to entreat God with fasting, for the remission of their sins that are past, we praying and fasting with them. Then they are brought by us where there is water, and are regenerated in the same manner in which we were ourselves regenerated. For, in the name of God, the Father and Lord of the universe, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water. For Christ also said, "Except ye be born again, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."

Evidence in the Nicene Creed about the Grace of water Baptism:
The Nicene Creed
The Symbol of Faith of Orthodox Christians

I Confess one Baptism for the remission of sins.

So it is not that free will doesn't exist...it's just without God in the mix our free will is nothing!!!

Thus sayeth the scripture!!!

Psalm 127:1
"Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain."

It doesn't depend on the builders labor nor the watchers standing guard but on God's mercy. Thus the same is true with Romans 9:16

A look at what Saints Augustine and Jerome said about this passage
"Paul does not take away the freedom of the will but says that our
will is not sufficient unless God helps us, making us compassionate so that we
might do good works by the gift of the Holy Spirit.....We cannot will unless we
are called, and when we will after our calling neither our will nor our striving
is enough unless God gives strength to our striving and leads us where he calls.
It is therefore clear that it is not by willing nor by striving but by the mercy
of God that we do good works, even though our will (which by itself can do
nothing) is also present."
Augustine on Romans from the book Ancient Christian commentary on scripture: New Testament VI Romans edited by Gerald Bray & Thomas C. Oden page 256

Man's Will and Running
"It is clear from this passage that the willing and running are ours,
but the fulfillment of our willing and running belongs to the mercy of God. So
it is that free will is preserved as far as our willing and running is concerned
and that everything depends on the power of God as far as the fulfillment of our
willing and running is concerned."
Jerome in the work "Against the Pelagians" 1.5 as quoted in the book Ancient Christian Commentary on scripture New Testament VI Romans page 256 edited by Gerald Bray & Thomas C. Oden

Romans 9:17
17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "I raised you up for this very
purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be
proclaimed in all the earth." 18Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have
mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

This is a form of Prevenient GRACE for God was proclaiming His name thoughout the whole Earth. The more people can know of the God of Abraham the more they are able to fear God.

Thus sayeth the scriptures!!!

Psalm 33:8
"Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the people of the world revere him."

Psalm 102:15
"The nations will fear the name of the LORD, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory"

Psalm 76:12
"He breaks the spirit of rulers; he is feared by the kings of the earth."

Psalm 79:6
"Pour out your wrath on the nations that do not acknowledge you, on the kingdoms that do not call on your name;"

As seen in Psalms 103:13 and 25:14 God makes Himself known to those who fear Him. He also has compassion on those who fear Him as well.

Now in regards to Pharaoh being raised up by God. I will say that we all are raised up by God.

Hebrews chapter 6:7-8 shows us being rasied like crops.

God rasies all
7For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; 8 but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.

Hebrews chapter 4:13 shows how everything is seen by God

God sees all
"13Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account."

And Psalms 33:15 shows how God's Providential hand molds the hearts of "all men".

God molds all
"15 he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do."

Pharaoh had no excuse as seen in Romans chapter 1
"20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened."

God gave Pharaoh up to uncleanness as seen in Romans chapter 1
"24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves,"

God gave Pharaoh over as seen in Romans chapter 1
"28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting;"

Thus, God has Mercy on the humble and Hardens the proud as seen in Psalms 18:27
"You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty."

Romans 9:19-21
19One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who
resists his will?" 20But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is
formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' " 21Does not
the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for
noble purposes and some for common use?

The whole chapter of Jeremiah 18 talks about God being the Potter. God being the Potter doesn't negate conditions. Infact, it includes them.

Jeremiah 18
"5 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 6 “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” says the LORD. “Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel! 7 The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, 8 if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. 9 And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, 10 if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it. 11 “Now therefore, speak to the men of Judah and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: “Behold, I am fashioning a disaster and devising a plan against you. Return now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good.”’”

God being the Potter and us being the clay does not have to mean an unconditional bending to the will of God. As seen from Jeremiah chapter 18 we are freely bent to His will through conditions.

As also seen in 2nd Timothy 2:20-21
20In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble. 21If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.

Lets look at what Saints Augustine and Chrysostom had to say about this passage
"Having given his conclusion [in the last verse] Paul plays devil's
advocate by asking a rhetorical question........He responds to this question in
a sensible way so that we might understand that the basic rewards of faith and
of unbelief are made plain only to spiritual people and not to those who live
according to the earthly man. Likewise with the way God in his foreknowledge
elects those who will believe and condemns unbelievers. He neither elects the
ones because of their works nor condemns the other because of theirs, but he
grants to the faith of the ones the ability to do good works and hardens the
unbelief of the others by deserting them, so that they do evil. This
understanding, as I have said, is given only to spiritual people and is very
different from the wisdom of the flesh. Thus Paul counters his inquirer so that
he may understand that he first must put away the man of clay in order to be
worthy to investigate these things by the Spirit."
Augustine on Romans from the book Ancient Christian commentary on scripture: New Testament VI Romans edited by Gerald Bray page 259

"We read in Exodus[10:1] that Pharaoh's heart was hardened, so that he
was not moved even by clear signs. Therefore, because Pharaoh did not obey the
commands of God he was punished. No one can say that this hardness of heart came
upon Pharaoh undeservedly; it came by the judgment of God who was giving him
just punishment for his unbelief. Nor should it be thought that Pharaoh did not
obey because he could not, on the ground that his heart had already been
hardened. On the contrary, Pharaoh had deserved his hardness of heart by his
earlier unbelief. For in those whom God has chosen it is not works but faith
which is the beginning of merit, so that they might do good works by the gift of
God. And in those whom he condemns unbelief and unfaithfulness are the beginning
of punishment, so that by that very punishment they are permitted to do what is
Augustine on Romans from the book Ancient Christian commentary on scripture: New Testament VI Romans edited by Gerald Bray page 257

The Faithful freely yield to the Potter's Hands.

"Paul says this in order not to do away with free will but
rather to show to what extent we ought to obey God. We should be as little
inclined to call God to account as a piece of clay is. We ought to abstain not
only from complaining or questioning but from even speaking or thinking about it
at all, and instead we should become like that lifeless matter which follows the
Potter's hands and lets itself be shaped in whatever the Potter wills."

John Chrysostom, "Homilies on Romans" 16Ancient Christian Commentary on scripture New Testament VI Romans page 260 edited by Gerald Bray

Romans chapter 9:22-24
22What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore
with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction.23What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles

Pharough's heart was hardened through God's great patience!!! HE turns people over to their nature after patiently waiting for them to repent....He does this through great long suffering.

Origen maybe a little long winded in talking about the issue in De Principiis (Book III). But what he says is very necessary and insightful:

10. But since we acknowledge the God who spoke by Moses to be not only just, but also good, let us carefully inquire how it is in keeping with the character of a just and good Deity to have hardened the heart of Pharaoh. And let us see whether, following the example of the Apostle Paul, we are able to solve the difficulty by help of some parallel instances: if we can show, e.g., that by one and the same act God has pity upon one individual, but hardens another; not purposing or desiring that he who is hardened should be so, but because, in the manifestation of His goodness and patience, the heart of those who treat His kindness and forbearance with contempt and insolence is hardened by the punishment of their crimes being delayed; while those, on the other hand, who make His goodness and patience the occasion of their repentance and reformation, obtain compassion. To show more clearly, however, what we mean, let us take the illustration employed by the Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Hebrews, where he says, "For the earth, which drinks in the rain that comes oft upon it, and brings forth herbs meet for them by whom it is dressed, will receive blessing from God; but that which bears thorns and briers is rejected, and is near unto cursing, whose end is to be burned." Now from those words of Paul which we have quoted, it is clearly shown that by one and the same act on the part of God— that, viz., by which He sends rain upon the earth— one portion of the ground, when carefully cultivated, brings forth good fruits; while another, neglected and uncared for, produces thorns and thistles. And if one, speaking as it were in the person of the rain, were to say, "It is I, the rain, that have made the good fruits, and it is I that have caused the thorns and thistles to grow," however hard the statement might appear, it would nevertheless be true; for unless the rain had fallen, neither fruits, nor thorns, nor thistles would have sprung up, whereas by the coming of the rain the earth gave birth to both. Now, although it is due to the beneficial action of the rain that the earth has produced herbs of both kinds, it is not to the rain that the diversity of the herbs is properly to be ascribed; but on those will justly rest the blame for the bad seed, who, although they might have turned up the ground by frequent ploughing, and have broken the clods by repeated harrowing, and have extirpated all useless and noxious weeds, and have cleared and prepared the fields for the coming showers by all the labour and toil which cultivation demands, have nevertheless neglected to do this, and who will accordingly reap briers and thorns, the most appropriate fruit of their sloth. And the consequence therefore is, that while the rain falls in kindness and impartiality equally upon the whole earth, yet, by one and the same operation of the rain, that soil which is cultivated yields with a blessing useful fruits to the diligent and careful cultivators, while that which has become hardened through the neglect of the husbandman brings forth only thorns and thistles. Let us therefore view those signs and miracles which were done by God, as the showers furnished by Him from above; and the purpose and desires of men, as the cultivated and uncultivated soil, which is of one and the same nature indeed, as is every soil compared with another, but not in one and the same state of cultivation. From which it follows that every one's will, if untrained, and fierce, and barbarous, is either hardened by the miracles and wonders of God, growing more savage and thorny than ever, or it becomes more pliant, and yields itself up with the whole mind to obedience, if it be cleared from vice and subjected to training.

11. But, to establish the point more clearly, it will not be superfluous to employ another illustration, as if, e.g., one were to say that it is the sun which hardens and liquefies, although liquefying and hardening are things of an opposite nature. Now it is not incorrect to say that the sun, by one and the same power of its heat, melts wax indeed, but dries up and hardens mud: not that its power operates one way upon mud, and in another way upon wax; but that the qualities of mud and wax are different, although according to nature they are one thing, both being from the earth. In this way, then, one and the same working upon the part of God, which was administered by Moses in signs and wonders, made manifest the hardness of Pharaoh, which he had conceived in the intensity of his wickedness but exhibited the obedience of those other Egyptians who were intermingled with the Israelites, and who are recorded to have quitted Egypt at the same time with the Hebrews."

And last but not least God's calling is for both Jews and gentiles.

Related links on the issue:
This is taken from the podcast Pilgrims from Paradise by Matthew Gallatin's commentary on Romans chapter 9

Origen on Pharaoh, his hard heart, free will, and Romans chapter 9

Kyrie, Eleison!: Romans 9 Expounded by St. John Chrysostom


The Flow of Election in Romans Chapter 9

I once heard a Calvinist say that the context of election found in Romans chapter 9 is found in Romans chapter 8. However, this person believed in double unconditional election. I agree that Romans chapter 8 helps with the context of Romans chapter 9 since historically the Bible didn't have chapters and verses. A proper understanding of Romans chapter 8:29 as well as 8:17 would show that election is conditional.

"28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified."


"17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if
indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together."

From this we know that God's Predestination preceeds God's calling according to His purpose. We also know that God's foreknowledge preceeds His Predestination. And from verse 17 we know that we are joint heirs with Christ "if" we suffer with Him.

SO why do Unconditional Electionists make it seem as if God's purpose in election is arbitrary and unknown?

Romans 9:11

"10 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man,
even by our father Isaac 11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having
done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might
stand, not of works but of Him who calls),
12 it was said to her, “The older
shall serve the younger.” 13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I
have hated.”"

Did Paul write Romans 9:10-12 independently of Romans chapter 8? If Romans chapter 8 speaks of conditional election then why would Paul talk of unconditional election in chapter 9?

Also Calvinists like to pull a fast one in regards to Jacob and Esau. They make it seem as if faith is a work when Paul never says such a thing. Paul makes a distinction between Faith and works. In Romans 9:30-33

"30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue
righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;
31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of
righteousness. 32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by
the works of the law.
For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. 33 As it is

“ Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense,
And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.”"

Surely Faith is not a work/merit and we can insert what Paul said in Romans chapters 8:28-29 and 9:30-33 into the Jacob and Esau situation.

The only reason why people of today believe in unconditional election is because Augustine changed his mind about the issue in his later years. If it wasn't for him then the doctrine of "unconditional election" would not exist.

Related links on the issue:
This is taken from the podcast Pilgrims from Paradise by Matthew Gallatin's commentary on Romans chapter 9

Origen on Pharaoh, his hard heart, free will, and Romans chapter 9

Kyrie, Eleison!: Romans 9 Expounded by St. John Chrysostom

The Council of Carthage and the Doctrine of Original Sin

Eventhough the Council of Carthage was a local North African Council it became Universal when the decrees were added to the 6th ecumenical Council. One of the Canons of that council affirmed the Council of Carthage, and the Council of Carthage Affirmed not only a Canon of Scripture but also the Doctrine of Original sin.

It must be made known that Eastern Christianity differs from Western Christianity when it comes to the "Understanding" of what Original sin means. It also must be known that both the Augustinians as well as the Semi-Pelagians were at that council to combat the Pelagians. And as we know, the Augustinians and the Semi-pelagians had a different understanding about the condition of man.

Some Eastern Orthodox scholars have called the eastern christian understanding "ancestral sin". The reason why I mentioned this is because John Cassian came from the East to the West, and he as well as his followers were both at the council. So His understanding about the doctrine of Original sin would have been an Eastern One.

The Basic difference between the two views depends on how one reads Romans chapter 5:12

The Rev. Antony Hughes shows the difference when he said:

"The piety and devotion of Augustine is largely unquestioned by Orthodox
theologians, but his conclusions on the Atonement are (Romanides, 2002).
Augustine, by his own admission, did not properly learn to read Greek and this
was a liability for him. He seems to have relied mostly on Latin translations of
Greek texts (Augustine, 1956a, p. 9). His misinterpretation of a key scriptural
reference, Romans 5:12, is a case in point (Meyendorff, 1979). In Latin the
Greek idiom eph ho which means because of was translated as in whom. Saying that
all have sinned in Adam is quite different than saying that all sinned because
of him. Augustine believed and taught that all humanity has sinned in Adam
(Meyendorff, 1979, p. 144). The result is that guilt replaces death as the
ancestral inheritance (Augustine, 1956b) Therefore the term original sin conveys
the belief that Adam and Eve’s sin is the first and universal transgression in
which all humanity participates"

HE also writes:

"Ancestral sin has a specific meaning. The Greek word for sin in this case,
amartema, refers to an individual act indicating that the Eastern Fathers
assigned full responsibility for the sin in the Garden to Adam and Eve alone.
The word amartia, the more familiar term for sin which literally means “missing
the mark”, is used to refer to the condition common to all humanity (Romanides,
2002). The Eastern Church, unlike its Western counterpart, never speaks of guilt
being passed from Adam and Eve to their progeny, as did Augustine. Instead, it
is posited that each person bears the guilt of his or her own sin. The question
becomes, “What then is the inheritance of humanity from Adam and Eve if it is
not guilt?” The Orthodox Fathers answer as one: death. (I Corinthians 15:21)
“Man is born with the parasitic power of death within him,” writes Fr.
Romanides (2002, p. 161). Our nature, teaches Cyril of Alexandria, became
“diseased…through the sin of one” (Migne, 1857-1866a). It is not guilt that is
passed on, for the Orthodox fathers; it is a condition, a disease."

This is the basic difference between East and west in regards to the doctrine of Original sin.

We believe mankind inherited death, as well as the tendency/propensity to sin from Adam and Eve.

We do not believe we inherited their guilt. And it is because of this that alot of Orthodox don't like to use the term "original sin".

I kind of think we have to because of the Council of Carthage. We are linked to that Council through the decrees of the 6th ecumenical council. So it would be best to just say our interpretation of the term "original sin" is different from the western interpretation.

Our interpreation is one of "Ancestral sin"
Thursday, August 26, 2010

Every Thing You Always Wanted To Know About Me * But Were Afraid To Ask

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Fool Hath Said In His Heart: "There Is No Pope !"

Saint Peter became a rock of faith in Matthew 16:18... and a stone of stumbling in Matthew 16:23. What changed? The words coming out of his mouth. In the former, he confessed Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the living God... whereas in the latter, he committed a blunder, albeit a well-meaning one. This shows us that the Pope's quality of being a true rock of faith is conditioned, and not unconditioned, as official Roman Catholic teaching upholds.

The dogma of Papal Infallibility bears thus an uncanny resemblance to the Calvinist doctrines of Unconditional Election and Perseverance of the Saints : only that in this case, it's Unconditional Infallibility and Perseverance of the Pope.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Why the Filioque is False

Because Eve was taken from Adam's side:

she was neither begotten by him 1, nor generated by him and his son.

1 since Catholic Scholasticism maintains that if the Spirit were from the Father alone (as the Son also is), there would be no difference between the former's procession and the latter's generation.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


- God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.

- You keep using that phrase. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Friday, August 20, 2010

About The Information Available Here On This Site

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Talmudic Icons

Not much later, at about the time the Dura Synagogue came into being, the Palestinian Talmud records the grudging recognition of Jewish art ( Abodah Zarah 48d ): “In the days of Rabbi Jochanan, men began to paint pictures on the walls, and he did not hinder them”, and “In the days of Rabbi Abun, men began to make designs of mosaics and he did not hinder them.” ( Abodah Zarah 42b ). To the above passages, we add still another, Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Leviticus 26:1. This Aramaic translation first paraphrases the prohibition against making idols and graven images and such figures in stone as men bow down to. Then the text makes an exception: “But a stone column carved with images and likeness you may make upon the premises of your sanctuaries, but not to worship them.” At last we hear the correct application of the second commandment.

Jacob Milgrom, “The Dura Synagogue and Visual Midrash,”

Scriptures for the Modern World, ed. Paul R. Cheesman and C. Wilfred Griggs
(Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1984), 29–60.

Unconditional Election

Luther have I loved, but Calvin have I hated.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Exegeting Ephesians 2:8-10

This text is one of the most critical texts for defending the Protestant doctrine of Sola Fide, that is, salvation by grace, through faith, alone. It reads as follows:

(Ephesians 2:8-10) For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Thus, let us take this passage one piece at a time. The Orthodox Catholic doctrine of salvation is that salvation comes by grace alone, but this grace is appropriated by both lifelong faith (initiated in the mystery of Baptism), and also works done by the grace of God. Works done apart from the grace of God (often called works of the law), are absolutely worthless, and are a "filthy rag" as Isaiah the prophet says.

For by grace you have been saved

Our salvation comes by grace. Many protestant commentators focus on the faith in Ephesians 2 to demonstrate Sola Fide. St. Paul is focusing on the grace, and that is where our focus should be as well.

through faith.

What is the meaning of "through faith"? Most lay readers see the faith here as our faith, which we exercise to appropriate the saving grace of God. Actually, this is likely not the intended meaning. We must view Paul's doctrine of salvation as a client-patron relationship. In such a relationship, the patron would exercise an act of favor towards the client, and the client would be expected to respond positively. Upon positive response, the patron would exercise greater favor towards the client, and the client would again be expected to respond positively. Contingent upon this relationship was the pistis of the patron. That is, the patron must be trustworthy. Thus, St. Paul is saying that we have been saved by grace, through God's faithfulness. While faith is certainly one of the positive responses we give to God our patron, this is not what is in view here.

And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

The client could not take or demand anything from the patron. It was given freely, out of the goodness and mercy of the patron. It was completely and totally his gift. This does not exclude works (or positive feedback in a patronal context), but necessarily includes them, for a client-patron relationship is unquestionably synergistic, to the chagrin of Calvinists everywhere.

not a result of works

How then can I say that works are a part of salvation? It is important to understand what type of works Paul is discussing here. Note the contrast:

v.8 by grace we have been saved...

v.9 not a result of works...

The works of Ephesians 2:9 are specifically contrasted with the grace of Ephesians 2:8. That is, St. Paul is teaching that works done apart from the grace of God are absolutely non-salvific. In the context of a client-patron relationship, doing works apart from grace would be akin to responding positively to the patron and saying "See? Look how positively I responded! More favor please!". A work must be done by and in view of God's grace.

so that no one may boast.

Because it is only out of the goodness and mercy of God that He responds to our works done by grace with favor, no boasting may be made, because all salvation is the work of God.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works

Note the subtle contrast between this and v.9. Why does Paul refute works and then say "for we are..." The "for" here suggests that this is the logical conclusion. This is because we are not saved by works done apart from grace, but by good works. The good works of Ephesians 2:10 are specifically contrasted with the works done apart from grace of Ephesians 2:9. Again, the flow of the argument:

v.8 by grace we have been saved...

v.9 not a result of works...

v.10 For we are...created in Christ Jesus for good works...
which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

The patron, in providing us with grace, prepares us for a response of gratitude and good works. Thus, if we choose to walk in them, by the power of the grace provided, the Lord provides more grace.

Thus, Ephesians 2:8-10 is far from an exposition on Sola Fide. Rather, it teaches the great and transformative power of God's grace, which takes us and transforms us into His likeness throughout our lives, but only if we respond to His grace with works done by grace.

More Unanswered Questions

Why must we suddenly abandon what we knew and believed simply because a man 600 years later claims prophethood without engaging in meaningful exegesis?

Why must we suddenly abandon what we knew and believed simply because a man 1,500 years later claims to be a "Reformer"? Is it probably because he was "engaging in [a more] meaningful exegesis" than the 'meaningless exegesis' of the fifteen centuries of Fathers, Saints, and Martyrs that have gone before him?...

So Islam is begun by a message from a supposed angel that presents a new gospel that does not come from the Church, and one that preaches against what is taught in the New Testament. [...] As Paul warns, even demons can appear as "angels of light" to deceive mankind.

...but if instead of "angels of light " we have 'men of flesh and blood', then I guess it's AOK, right?...

Ephesians 2:8 and "The Gift of God"

As seen from Ancient Christian Defense:

Calvinists tend to use Eph 2:8 to prove that faith is the gift of God. I believe Faith to be a gift, I just know that one can't use this passage to prove it. I also believe that one has the ability to accept or reject gifts. For some reason some feel as if gifts can't be rejected. But anyway, the error that Eph 2:8 is talking about faith as being the gift of God first came from Augustine when he said:

"And he says that a man is justified by faith and not by works, because
faith itself is first given, from which may be obtained other things which are
specially characterized as works, in which a man may live righteously. For he
himself also says, "By grace you are saved through faith; and this not of
yourselves; but it is the gift of God," Ephesians 2:8 —that is to say, "And in
saying 'through faith,' even faith itself is not of yourselves, but is God's
gift." "Not of works," he says, "lest any man should be lifted up.""

chapter 12 of (Book I) "On the Predestination of the Saints"

I thought it was interesting that John Calvin disagreed with this interpretation when he said:

""But it is still more absurd to overlook the apostle's inference, lest any
man should boast. Some room must always remain for man's boasting, so long as,
independently of grace, merits are of any avail. Paul's doctrine is overthrown,
unless the whole praise is rendered to God alone and to his mercy. And here we
must advert to a very common error in the interpretation of this passage. Many
persons restrict the word gift to faith alone. But Paul is only repeating in
other words the former sentiment. His meaning is, not that faith is the gift of
God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift
of God."

From John Calvin's Commentary on the book of Ephesians.

This is what Norman Geisler had to say about Eph 2:8

"In addition, however plausible this interpretation may seem in English, it is
very clear from the Greek that Ephesians 2:8-9 is not referring to faith as a
gift from God. For the "that" (touto) is neuter in form and cannot refer to
"faith" (pistis), which is feminine. The antecedent of "it is the gift of God"
is the salvation by grace through faith (v.9). Commenting on this passage, the
great New Testament Greek scholar A. T. Robertson noted: "Grace' is God's part,
'faith' ours. And that [it] (kai touto) is neuter, not feminine taute, and so
refers not to pistis [faith] or to charis [grace] (feminine also), but to the
act of being saved by grace conditioned on faith on our part."

some have argued that a pronoun may agree in sense, but not in form, with its
antecedent, this view is refuted by Gregory Sapaugh, who notes that "if Paul
wanted to refer to pistis ('faith'), he could have written the feminine taute,
instead of the neuter, touto, and his meaning would have been clear." But he did
not. Rather, by the "that" (touto) Paul refers to the whole process of
"salvation by grace through faith." Sapaugh notes that "this position is further
supported by the parallelism between ouk hymon ('and this not of yourself') in
2:8 and and ouk ex ergon ('not of works') in 2:9. The latter phrase would not be
meaningful if it referred to pisteos ('faith'). Instead, it clearly means
salvation is 'not of works.'"

From the book "Chosen but free: second
edition" by Norman Geisler pages 189-190

This is what Joseph Dongell had to say about Eph 2:8

"If faith is not our doing but God's gift, then the well-known features of
calvinism fall into place. Those who "have faith" have been given faith by God,
and those who don't have not given faith by God. By this view, faith becomes a
function of divine causation operating according to the individual electing will
of God.

But the terms (faith, this, it) that seem so clearly linked in
English are not so neatly connected in Greek. The English ear depends largely on
word order for making sense of language, and so automatically presumes that this
(which "is not from yourselves") must obviously refer back to faith, since faith
immediately precedes this in the word order of the text. But Greek, being an
inflected language, actually depends on "tags" that are attached to words for
guiding the reader. If our writer had desired readers to connect faith directly
to this, these two words should have matched each other as grammatically
feminine. We find, however, that this, being neuter in gender, likely points us
back several words earlier- to the idea of salvation expressed by the verb.
Accordingly, we should read the text with a different line of connections as
follows: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this
[salvation is] not from yourself, [this salvation] is the gift of God."

Many Calvinists fear that any retreat from the conviction that God
causes faith will make salvation a human accomplishment. If faith is something
we do, then salvation rests on our deeds and no longer on God's grace. If faith
is viewed as our part in the process of salvation, then salvation must be viewed
as a cooperative affair, and we should then describe ourselves as self-saviors
in part.
But the flaw in this Calvinist fear lies in its improper
understanding of the nature of faith itself. The Bible itself does not describe
faith as a work that accomplishes a taske, or as a deed that establishes merit,
or as a lever that forces God to act. Instead, we find that genuine faith is
something quite different. As Paul's treatment of Abraham shows, the patriarch's
faith had no power over God, earned no merit before God and stood as the polar
opposite to honorific deeds. Abraham believed God, and righteousness was
"credited" to him, not paid to him. God alone justified Abraham freely on the
basis of Abraham's faith (Rom 4:1-6). Since by its very nature faith confesses
the complete lack of human merit and human power, it subtracts nothing from the
Savior's grace or glory. By its very nature, faith points away from all human
status and looks to God alone for rescue and restoration."

From the
book "Why I am not a Calvinist" by Jerry L. Walls & Joseph R. Dongell pages
77 & 78

Adam Clark said:

"Verse 8. For by grace are ye saved, through faith] As ye are now brought into a
state of salvation, your sins being all blotted out, and you made partakers of
the Holy Spirit; and, having a hope full of immortality, you must not attribute
this to any works or merit of yours; for when this Gospel reached you, you were
all found dead in trespasses and dead in sins; therefore it was God's free mercy
to you, manifested through Christ, in whom ye were commanded to believe; and,
having believed by the power of the Holy Spirit, ye received, and were sealed
by, the Holy Spirit of promise; so that this salvation is in no sense of
yourselves, but is the free gift of God; and not of any kind of works; so that
no man can boast as having wrought out his own salvation, or even contributed
any thing towards it. By grace arc ye saved, through faith in Christ. This is a
true doctrine, and continues to be essential to the salvation of man to the end
of the world.

But whether are we to understand, faith or salvation as
being the gift of God? This question is answered by the Greek text: th gar
cariti este seswsmenoi dia thv pistewv? kai touto ouk ex umwn? qeou to dwron,
ouk ex ergwn? ina mh tiv kauchshtai
? "By this grace ye are saved through faith;
and THIS (touto, this salvation) not of you; it is the gift of God, not of
works: so that no one can boast."The relative touto, this, which is in the
neuter gender, cannot stand for pistiv, faith, which is the feminine; but it has
the whole sentence that goes before for its antecedent." But it may be asked: Is
not faith the gift of God? Yes, as to the grace by which it is produced; but the
grace or power to believe, and the act of believing, are two different things.
Without the grace or power to believe no man ever did or can believe; but with
that power the act of faith is a man's own. God never believes for any man, no
more than he repents for him: the penitent, through this grace enabling him,
believes for himself: nor does he believe necessarily, or impulsively when he
has that power; the power to believe may be present long before it is exercised,
else, why the solemn warnings with which we meet every where in the word of God,
and threatenings against those who do not believe? Is not this a proof that such
persons have the power but do not use it? They believe not, and therefore are
not established. This, therefore, is the true state of the case: God gives the
power, man uses the power thus given, and brings glory to God: without the power
no man can believe; with it, any man may."

Adam Clark's Commentary to
the Ephesians

This is what Saint John Chrysostom had to say about Eph chapter 2

"Again Christ is introduced, and it is a matter well worthy of our belief,
because if the firstfruits live, so do we also. He has quickened both Him and
us. Do you see that all this is said of Christ incarnate?......Those who were
dead, those who were children of wrath, those He has quickened. Do you behold
'the hope of his calling? ....Do you behold the glory of his inheritance?.....As
yet not one is actually raised, excepting that inasmuch as the Head has risen,
we also are raised....Truly there is need of the Spirit and of revelation, in
order to understand the depth of these mysteries. And then so you may have no
distrust about the matter, observe what he adds further....was faith then, you
will say, enough to save us? No, but God he says, has required this, lest He
should save us, barren and without work at all. His expression is that faith
saves, but it is because God so wills it that faith saves....'We are His
workmanship.' He here alludes to the regeneration which is in reality a second
creation. We have been brought from non-existence into being. As to what we were
before, that is, the old man, we are dead."

From the Eastern
Orthodox Lectionary & Commentary called "The Bible and the Holy Fathers"
compiled and Edited by Johanna Manley & Foreword by Bishop Kallistos Ware,
pages 489-490

It should be clear that the gift spoken of in Eph 2:8 is mainly talking about the word "Salvation". It is talking about "yee are saved". It is talking about being a New Creation or Regeneration itself. In some scholarly circles they claim that the gift is talking about everything in the preceding clause.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Orthodox Christian Doctrine of Salvation

Since the Protestant Rebellion, there has been a heated debate within Christendom over the doctrine of salvation. For two thousand years, the Orthodox Catholic Church taught that salvation is a lifelong process, initiated through the blood of Christ in Holy Baptism, nurtured through faith and good works, and consummated at the Last Judgment. Protestants, on the other hand, believe that salvation is a one time event, based on the imputed righteousness of Christ that is received solely through faith. In favor of the Protestant position, Protestants cite passages of Holy Scripture such as Romans 3:28, which teaches that we are justified by “faith apart from works of the law.” Orthodox Christians cite passages like James 2:24, which says that we are “justified by works and not by faith alone.” In order to resolve this apparent contradiction, we must examine the whole of the New Testament. We must begin with the death of Christ, for that is the very ground of salvation.

Even here, there is a large dispute. Orthodox Christians believe that Jesus Christ died not to satisfy the wrath of a furious Father, but to loose the bonds of death and make union with Christ possible. Furthermore, this is accomplished not only through the Cross, but through the whole of the incarnation. St. Athanasius said that God became man so that man may become [like] God. This doctrine, called theosis, is taught in several passages of the Bible. For example, St. Peter teaches in 2 Peter 1:4 that we are to be “partakers of the divine nature.” St. Paul teaches in Romans 8:29 that we are to be “conformed to the image of His Son”. The Cross is the culmination of Christ’s saving work. St. Peter explains the purpose of the Cross in Acts 2:24, saying, “God raised [Jesus] up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.” The purpose of the Cross is the destruction of death. Death could never hold the author of life, who is God. As St. Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 15:21, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.”

By participating in the life giving death and resurrection of Christ, our sins are forgiven. In support of the position that Christ died to satisfy the wrath of a vengeful Father, Protestants often cite Romans 3:25, where Paul says , “God put forward [Jesus] as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.” The key word is “propitiation”, which would mean that Christ propitiated the wrath of the Father at Calvary. However, the most recent scholarship has demonstrated that this is in fact not the proper translation. (Finlan 39) The proper translation of the word “hilasterion” is rather, mercy seat. God puts forward Jesus Christ as a mercy seat. Thus, to receive forgiveness, one participates in this mercy seat. This is precisely what the Orthodox Church teaches.

As we can see, the main function of the Cross is union with Christ. This union is theosis, which is salvation. The first act that unites an individual with Christ Jesus is Holy Baptism. Baptism is not simply a symbol, but rather is the washing of regeneration, as St. Paul says in Titus 3:5. The new birth of the Christian life is baptism. Jesus Christ says in John 3:5 that one cannot enter the kingdom of God unless one is born of “water and the Spirit.” The church fathers understood the water here to be the waters of Holy Baptism, through which the Holy Ghost works. It truly does wash away all sins prior to baptism. In Acts 22:16, St. Paul tells people to “rise, be baptized and wash away your sins”. St. Peter tells everyone in Acts 2:38 to be “baptized for the remission of your sins.” Baptism washes away sins because baptism unites one to Christ. St. Paul says in Colossians 2:12 that we have been “buried with [Christ] in baptism.” He reiterates this thought in Romans 6:4, where he states that, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” He states in Galatians 3:27 that “As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” St. Peter seals the point by pointing out in 1 Peter 3:21 that “baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you.”

In addition to baptism, which unites Christians with Christ, the sacrament of Holy Chrismation seals them with the gift of the Holy Ghost. St. Luke tells us in Acts of the Apostles that for the initial mysteries to be complete, one must not only be baptized, but also chrismated. He records in Acts 8:14-17 that, “when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit.” St. Paul also mentions the formula of baptism and chrismation when he writes in Titus 3:5, “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” The washing of regeneration, obviously, is baptism. In accord with the events in Acts 8, chrismation is the renewal of the Holy Spirit.

As we see, the initial union with Christ is in Holy Baptism. However, theosis is a lifelong process. As St. Paul writes in Philippians 2:12, we are to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” The key sacrament which brings us closer into union with Christ is the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. The Eucharist is the central sacrament of Christian unity. In order to understand this, it is important to understand the Church as the body of Christ. This is mentioned in the Lord Jesus’ revelation to St. Paul. Paul had been persecuting the Church. Jesus then asks Him in Acts 9:4, “Why are you persecuting me?” This makes perfect sense when it is understood that Christ’s Church is the body of Christ. St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:27, “you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” How is the Church made into the body of Christ? St. Paul answers this question in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17. He says, “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” Paul thus teaches that the Church is made into the body of Christ by the partaking of the true body of Christ. In order for one to be truly united with Christ through the Holy Eucharist, it must be the true flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. This is why Jesus says in John 6:55 that “my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” This is why He declared at the Last Supper that the bread was His body and that the wine was His blood.

As we have seen, one is united to Christ initially at baptism, sealed with the Holy Ghost at chrismation, and grows closer to Christ through the receipt of His body and blood. The question remains, however, how is one absolved of sins committed after baptism? One cannot be rebaptized, for baptism happens only once. The solution was given to us by Christ Jesus. For serious sins, the sacrament of confession is necessary. In John 20:23, Jesus says to His apostles, “If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.” Thus, the apostles had the authority to absolve sins. Obviously, today, the apostles are dead. Thus, for their apostolic authority to remain with us, they must have left us with successors. It is apparent that they did. In Acts 1:20, they ordain a successor in place of Judas, saying “Let another take his bishopric.” We understand from the Fathers of the Church that this line of succession continued perpetually in the bishops of the Church. St. Irenaeus of Lyons, for example, enumerates all of Peter’s successors in the bishops of Rome up to Irenaeus’ own day. The bishops then delegate presbyters to shepherd local parishes. The presbyters, known as priests, also have this authority to absolve sins, by virtue of their delegation by the bishop.

In light of these biblical doctrines, what can we say on the controversial subject of faith and works? It is quite evident that works play a key role in our salvation. For example, St. James says in James 2:24 that we are “justified by works and not by faith alone.” St. Paul says in Philippians 2:12 to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” He also says in Romans 2:6 that God will render to each one “according to his works.” At the same time, Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9 that we are “saved by grace through faith, not of yourselves, not of works, lest any man should boast.” How are we to reconcile these two apparently contradictory views in Scripture?

We must first understand that grace, and grace alone, is the foundation of our justification. No man can come to God unless God first draws Him. However, God draws all men to Himself, for Jesus says in John 12:32, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” Works can play no part in “persuading” God to save us. The first move is made by God, and no work intrudes on the basis of justification. This is why St. Paul says in Romans 11:6, “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”

In light of this, we can now examine Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 2. When Paul says that we are saved by grace through faith, this is absolutely true. It is grace alone which saves us. When St. Paul says faith here, he is not actually referring to our faith in God. Rather, he is referring to God’s trustworthiness in fulfilling the covenant. He next declares that it is not our works which save us. It is important to understand that he is contrasting works with grace. St. Paul reiterates what he taught in Romans 11, namely, that no work can form the basis for justification. A work apart from grace is a dead work. In the very next verse, however, St. Paul states that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Paul is contrasting dead works, that is, works apart from grace, with living works, that is, works done by grace. This is made clear when he tells us in Romans 8:13 that “if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Works that contribute to justification are works done by the Spirit, that is, by the grace of the Holy Trinity.

In light of this, Paul’s teaching that we are justified apart from works of the law becomes perfectly understandable. We cannot work within the system of law. We can never obligate God to repay us with glorification. Rather, we must work within a system of grace, understanding that all good works we do are done by the grace of God. We must “work out our salvation with fear and trembling.” However, as Paul says in the next verse, we may do this because, “ it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”





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