Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Condemnation of Arianism at Nicea (325)



The Arian heresy was decisively fought at the First Ecumenical Synod, which was summoned at Nicea in Bithynia in the summer of 325, at which Athanasius was present, accompanying his spiritual master Alexander of Alexandria. Although he was merely a deacon, Athanasius was active in the deliberations of the Synod.(16) His later successor, the resourceful Patriarch Cyril, relates that: Athanasius was so brilliant and celebrated and was admired by all even in that holy and great Synod, the one of Nicea, which was summoned in critical times. He did not yet hold the office of the bishop, but rather belonged to the class of the clerics, and yet, because of his sagacity and gentleness besides, and because of his exceedingly subtle and incomparable mind, he was at that time, taken as his companion by Alexander, the bishop of blessed memory. He was as close to the old man as a son is to his father, leader in everything helpful, and the one who showed the way right well in all things, which were to be done.(17)


Athanasius himself explains the argumentation of the Arians in his letter on the Synod of Nicea and the objections of the Fathers. The Arians put forward biblical words and phrases in order to cover up their particular viewpoint. The Fathers, however, stressed the meaning of the biblical data and did not hesitate to make use of literally non-biblical terms, just as the Arians did, in order to clear up the orthodox meaning of the former. Thus, the fathers clarified the biblical statement that The Son was From the Father, saying that, He was from the essence (being) of the Father, over against the Arian claim that, The Son was out of nothing and, therefore, a creature; and in order that the phrase From the essence might not imply division, the Fathers also added the term Co-essential (Homoousios) to the Father in order to specify the unity of the one and undivided Essence of the Father and the Son. The Great Athanasius was, through his writings, the defender and supporter, par excellence, of these dogmatic decrees of the Synod of Nicea, i.e. of the From the Essence and Co-essential.

Pages 196 - 197 from the book Saint Athanasius of Alexandria: Original Research and New Perspectives (Patristic Theological Library) by ProtoPresbyter George Dion. Dragas



Friday, October 19, 2012

St. Alexander’s Letter to Alexander of Constantinople



Patriarch/Pope Alexander of Alexandria from 313 A.D. to 328 A.D.

Most of the Theology of the original Nicene Creed can be seen in the works of Saint Alexander of Alexandria(most of which was probably written by Saint Athanasius on his behalf). Also, a form of numeric unity as seen in the Nicene-Constantinople-1 Creed can also be seen in his works when he stresses how the Father and Son are inseparable. In another work before the time of the council of Nicea, Saint Athanasius wrote on his behalf a letter that stressed the doctrine of perichoresis between Father and Son. Also, the idea of Will being a function of Nature can also be seen in some of his letters.


The link:
http://www.fourthcentury.com/index.php/urkunde-14


 The hypothesis that the Son came into being “out of nothing” is clearly impious: the Father must always be a father. He is always Father of a Son who is present, on account of whom he is called Father. Only if the Son is always present with him is he always a completed Father, lacking in nothing good. He could not, therefore beget his only Son in time, or in any interval of time, nor out of that which had no previous existence. (27.) Is it not then impious to say, “There was a time when the wisdom of God was not?” The very Wisdom who says, “I was by him as one brought up with him: I was daily his delight?” [Prov 8:30] Is it not also impious to say that at one time the power of God was not, or his Word, or anything else by which the Son is known, or the Father designated? To assert that the brightness of the Father’s glory [Heb 1:3] “once did not exist,” destroys also the original light of which it is the brightness. If there ever was a time in which the image of God [2 Cor 4:4] was not, it is plain that God, whose image he is, is not always. (28.) No, if the express image of God’s Person did not exist, then he was separated from the one of whom he is ever the express image. Hence it may be seen, that the sonship of our Savior has not even anything in common with the sonship of men. (29.) It has been shown that the nature of his existence cannot be expressed by language, and infinitely surpasses in excellence all things to which he has given being. So also his sonship, naturally partaking in his Father’s Divinity, is unspeakably different from the sonship of those who, by his appointment, have been adopted as sons. He is by nature unchangeable, perfect, and all-sufficient, whereas men are liable to change, and need his help. (30.) What further advance can be made by the wisdom of God [1 Cor 1:24]? What can the very Truth, or God the Word, add to itself? How can the Life or the True Light [John 14:6; 1:4, 9] be bettered in any way? And is it not still more contrary to nature to suppose that wisdom can be susceptible to folly? That the power of God can be united with weakness? That reason itself can be dimmed by unreasonableness, or that darkness can be mixed with the true light? Does not the Apostle say, “What communion has light with darkness? And what harmony has Christ with Belial?” [2 Cor 6:14-15] and Solomon, that “the way of a serpent upon a rock” [Prov 30:19] was “too wonderful” for the human mind to comprehend, which “rock,” according to St. Paul, is Christ [1 Cor 10:4]. Men and angels, however, who are his creatures, have received his blessing, enabling them to exercise themselves in virtue and in obedience to his commands, that thus they may avoid sin.



To read the rest please visit the link!



Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Beware of the Tri-Theists

Big ups to Maximus Scott for bringing this to my attention. The Tri-theists here were mainly the followers of the Monophysite John Philoponus :

As seen from HolyTrinityMission.org

 
During the period when the Monophysites were left somewhat undisturbed by the imperial arm, from 540 until about 570, personal disputes caused further factions. One faction was the Agnoetae — from αγνοέω. They were also known as Themistians, from the founder of their Monophysite faction, Themistius, a sixth century deacon of Alexandria and a student of Severus. Their basic position was in maintaining that the humanity of Christ was "ignorant." Another group, the Niobites, professed a belief in a distinction of natures after the union but refused to accept the expression "two natures" — the Niobites anathematized the entire Severian party.
A more serious schism was that of the Tritheists, also known as the Cononites from their leader Conon, one of the early associates of Jacob — they were also known as the Philoponists from John Philoponus (d.c. 565). According to the extant sources the origin of Tritheism occurred in a most casual way. In a meeting with the Chalcedonians John Philoponus allegedly asked: "If you speak about two natures, why do you not also speak of two hypostases since nature and hypostasis are identical?" The Chalcedonian response was that they would indeed do so "if we considered nature and hypostasis identical, but as a point of fact we distinguish between the two." The Chalcedonian reportedly continued by proposing that John Philoponus, if he held nature and hypostasis to be identical, should therefore speak of three natures in the Godhead. His reply allegedly was: "Then, we will do so." When the astonished Chalcedonian exclaimed that to do so would be to teach Tritheism, John reportedly replied that "in the Trinity I count as many natures, essences, and Godheads as I do hypostases."

Such a position may appear somewhat flippant and casual but it was a quite serious point by John Philoponus, who was not an ignorant monk but a sophisticated philosopher, a disciple of Ammonius of Hermias. He wrote works on Aristotle, works on Nichomachus of Gerosa, and at least two works on grammar. His works reflect an eclectic philosophical perspective which combines Aristotle, Plato, Stoic principles, and elements of Christian thought. Underlying his thought is a Stoic principle of considering fundamental matter as three dimensional. Pluralism was a cornerstone of his philosophical perspective.
In transferring his basic philosophical vision to the Trinity John Philoponus could easily affirm a Tritheism. It is interesting that in his philosophy he viewed created existence as a mere instrumentality of divine causation, a position which would make Monophysitism somewhat natural for him. In none of his works does he, however, explicitly affirm that there are three gods. John Philoponus was also extremely hostile toward the Roman see, attacking directly the primacy of Rome and explicitly calling Pope Leo the Great a Nestorian.
Underlying the thought of the Tritheists was the distinction between hypostasis and nature. Christ was one hypostasis, an indivisible hypostasis, which, though united with God the Father, must be distinguished from the hypostasis of the Father and the hypostasis of the Holy Spirit. But because of the interaction between hypostasis and nature and because of a certain "assimilation" between the two, the individual "natures" had also to be distinguished. The Cappadocian balance between the hypostasis and nature was compromised and the compromise implied a Tritheism. When this thought pattern was presented by a philosopher and ascetic such as John Philoponus, it attracted the attention of some leaders within the Monophysite movement.
Sergius, a Syrian from Telia who was ordained patriarch of Antioch in 557 by Theodosius, became enamored by the teaching. The early associates of Jacob, Conon and Eugenius, now working in Cilicia and Isauria fell under the influence of Tritheism. In Constantinople John Asconaghes — his name referred to his slippery type of shoes which in turn referred to his "slippery" character; that is, he was constantly slipping from one faction to another — accepted this interpretation of hypostasis and nature and, through him, an important convert was won from the imperial court: Anastasius, the grandson of Theodora.
For the next twenty years Anastasius was to be a personality to contend with. Michael the Syrian relates that Justinian had hoped to place Anastasius on the patriarchal throne of Alexandria (Chronicle
9, 30). Anastasius brought both money and a certain social prestige to the new faction. Very quickly this new faction had attracted to its cause another bishop, a significant event because this new bishop happened to be the third bishop in the new movement which now allowed them to ordain their own bishops. One of the sources claims that "all their disciples and followers — whoever joined them — they consecrated as bishops." They established new communities throughout the empire — in Africa, in Rome, in Greece, in Asia Minor, as well as in the traditionally non-Chalcedonian areas of Egypt and Syria. In Constantinople they also established themselves. Indeed, John of Ephesus relates how surprised he was at the number of persons from the court who attended the services of the new faction.

During all this Theodosius used persuasion and then excommunication with the new faction. Theodosius rejected any notion of separate natures. He excommunicated John Asconaghes and Patriarch Sergius. He had more difficulty with Conon and Eugenius, both of whom continued to reject and then accept again the position of the Tritheists throughout their lives. Anastasius had created a will that left an endowment to the new faction. He had a falling out with this new faction before his death but had not altered his will, the result of which was a financial source to perpetuate the new faction.

Attempts were made to reunite but nothing came of them ultimately. After mutual excommunication both parties appealed to the emperor. The task of judging two Monophysite groups was delegated to Patriarch John Scholasticus. He was to use the works of Severus, Theodosius, and Anthimus as the guide, the authoritative works from which to judge. The "trial" lasted for four days. Conon and Eugenius represented the Tritheists; Paul "the Black" and Jacob the "conservative" wing of the Monophysites. As could have been anticipated, the decision favored the "conservative" wing. Exile under escort was the decision for Conon and Eugenius. John of Ephesus relates that the head of the escort was the defrocked monk, Photius, the stepson of Belisarius, who was well-known for his cruelty. Indeed, it is related that he liked nothing more than to torture clergy.

This inner quarrel actually played into the hands of the Chalcedonians. The Tritheists had pushed the Monophysite position to an extremity and, in order to answer the Tritheists, the conservative Monophysites were forced to fall back to strictly Severian positions or to positions that pointed in the direction of Chalcedon. Michael the Syrian claims that thousands returned to the Chalcedonian hierarchy, for they believed it far more theologically sound to confess "two natures" rather than have anything to do with a theology that could fall into "three natures in the Trinity."

 To read the rest please visit the website.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Saint Basil the Great: LETTER XXXVIII (PDF)



Thanks to David for posting this on his blog. Saint Basil the Great gives a great explanation of his Person(particular) vs Nature(common) distinction.

Letter XXXVIII (PDF)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Saint Basil the Great: Letter CXXV (PDF)

A Cappadocian interpretation of the original Nicene Creed

The link:
http://archive.org/details/letterswithengli02basiuoft

Saint Athanasius: Selected works




Defence of the Nicene Definition

 
Defence Against the Arians


On the Incarnation of the Word

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

St. John Chrysostom on Grace and Free Will


The link:
http://orthodox-stl.org/grace_freewill.html


.

Proper Christology 101

As seen from the Orthodoxchristianity forum:

Quote
Quote:
"According to His Eminence (whom I just spoke with):

We can say that Christ's Hypostasis is a Divine Hypostasis that took on Humanity, and Christ's Prosopon is a Divine Prosopon that took on Humanity.  We cannot say that it is a Theanthropic Prosopon or Hypostasis, implying change in the immutable; nor can we say that they are only Divine, denying the Incarnation; but each statement must remain intact, that the Prosopon is a Divine Prosopon that took on Humanity, and that the Hypostasis is a Divine Hypostasis that took on Humanity; in both cases what Was was not changed, but still fully took on Humanity."
To know which retired Metropolitan said this, you will have to visit the link.

The Dyophysite Christology of Tertullian

There was a Christological debate back in his day (against the heretic Marcion and others). It was more of an external debate and not an internal one like some centuries(the 4th to 6th centuries) in the future. Because this was before the major Christological debates of later centuries we can see a few mistakes that Tertullian made. I can now see where Saint Leo probably got some of his ideas from. But yeah, Tertullian was a little loose in his language. Something that the feuds of later centuries would refine.

http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf03.v.vii.v.html 

 [As a side note: When Tertullian makes use of the term "NATURE", he means substance or Essence. I could be wrong, but I don't recall the Christian West having more than one meaning in regards to that term.]
quote:
"The Son of God was crucified; I am not ashamed because men must needs be ashamed of it. And the Son of God died; it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd. And He was buried, and rose again; the fact is certain, because it is impossible. But how will all this be true in Him, if He was not Himself true—if He really had not in Himself that which might be crucified, might die, might be buried, and might rise again? I mean this flesh suffused with blood, built up with bones, interwoven with nerves, entwined with veins, a flesh which knew how to be born, and how to die, human without doubt, as born of a human being. It will therefore be mortal in Christ, because Christ is man and the Son of man.

Else why is Christ man and the Son of man, if he has nothing of man, and nothing from man? Unless it be either that man is anything else than flesh, or man’s flesh comes from any other source than man, or Mary is anything else than a human being, or Marcion’s man is as Marcion’s god. Otherwise Christ could not be described as being man without flesh, nor the Son of man without any human parent; just as He is not God without the Spirit of God, nor the Son of God without having God for His father. Thus the nature

of the two substances displayed Him as man and God,—in one respect born, in the other unborn; in one respect fleshly, in the other spiritual; in one sense weak, in the other exceeding strong; in one sense dying, in the other living. This property of the two states—the divine and the human—is distinctly asserted with equal truth of both natures alike, with the same belief both in respect of the Spirit. and of the flesh. The powers of the Spirit, proved Him to be God, His sufferings attested the flesh of man. If His powers were not without the Spirit in like manner, were not His sufferings without the flesh. If His flesh with its sufferings was fictitious, for the same reason was the Spirit false with all its powers. Wherefore halve Christ with a lie?

He was wholly the truth. Believe me, He chose 526rather to be born, than in any part to pretend—and that indeed to His own detriment—that He was bearing about a flesh hardened without bones, solid without muscles, bloody without blood, clothed without the tunic of skin, hungry without appetite, eating without teeth, speaking without a tongue, so that His word was a phantom to the ears through an imaginary voice. A phantom, too, it was of course after the resurrection, when, showing His hands and His feet for the disciples to examine, He said, “Behold and see that it is I myself, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have;” without doubt, hands, and feet, and bones are not what a spirit possesses, but only the flesh."

You can read the whole thing at the link, but this should be good enough.




This Christological argument by Tertullian is against the heretical Valentinians (gnostics). And so some regions of the Church did talk about Christology before the 4th and 5th centuries.
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf03.v.ix.xxvii.html


quote:
"Now what Divine Person was born in it? The Word, and the Spirit which became incarnate with the Word by the will of the Father. The Word, therefore, is incarnate; and this must be the point of our inquiry: How the Word became flesh,—whether it was by having been transfigured, as it were, in the flesh, or by having really clothed Himself in flesh. Certainly it was by a real clothing of Himself in flesh. For the rest, we must needs believe God to be unchangeable, and incapable of form, as being eternal. But transfiguration is the destruction of that which previously existed.

For whatsoever is transfigured into some other thing ceases to be that which it had been, and begins to be that which it previously was not. God, however, neither ceases to be what He was, nor can He be any other thing than what He is. The Word is God, and “the Word of the Lord remaineth for ever,”—even by holding on unchangeably in His own proper form. Now, if He admits not of being transfigured, it must follow that He be understood in this sense to have become flesh, when He comes to be in the flesh, and is manifested, and is seen, and is handled by means of the flesh; since all the other points likewise require to be thus understood. For if the Word became flesh by a transfiguration and change of substance, it follows at once that Jesus must be a substance compounded of two substances—of flesh and spirit,—a kind of mixture, like electrum, composed of gold and silver; and it begins to be neither gold (that is to say, spirit) nor silver (that is to say, flesh),—the one being changed by the other, and a third substance produced.

Jesus, therefore, cannot at this rate be God for He has ceased to be the Word, which was made flesh; nor can He be Man incarnate for He is not properly flesh, and it was flesh which the Word became. Being compounded, therefore, of both, He actually is neither; He is rather some third substance, very different from either. But the truth is, we find that He is expressly set forth as both God and Man; the very psalm which we have quoted intimating (of the flesh), that “God became Man in the midst of it, He therefore established it by the will of the Father,”—certainly in all respects as the Son of God and the Son of Man, being God and Man, differing no doubt according to each substance in its own especial property, inasmuch as the Word is nothing else but God, and the flesh nothing else but Man. Thus does the apostle also teach respecting His two substances, saying, “who was made of the seed of David;” in which words He will be Man and Son of Man. “Who was declared to be the Son of God, according to the Spirit;”

in which words He will be God, and the Word—the Son of God. We see plainly the twofold state, which is not confounded, but conjoined in One Person—Jesus, God and Man. Concerning Christ, indeed, I defer what I have to say. (I remark here), that the property of each nature is so wholly preserved, that the Spirit on the one hand did all things in Jesus suitable to Itself, such as miracles, and mighty deeds, and wonders; and the Flesh, on the other hand, exhibited the affections which belong to it. It was hungry under the devil’s temptation, thirsty with the Samaritan woman, wept over Lazarus, was troubled even unto death, and at last actually died. If, however, it was only a tertium quid, some composite essence formed out of the Two substances, like the electrum (which we have mentioned), there would be no distinct proofs apparent of either nature. But by a transfer of functions, the Spirit would have done things to be done by the Flesh, and the Flesh such as are effected by the Spirit; or else such things as are suited neither to the Flesh nor to the Spirit, but confusedly of some third character.

Nay more, on this supposition, either the Word underwent death, or the flesh did not die, if so be the Word was converted into flesh; because either the flesh was immortal, or the Word was mortal. Forasmuch, however, as the two substances acted distinctly, each in its own character, there necessarily accrued to them severally their own operations, and their own issues. Learn then, together with Nicodemus, that “that which is born in the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit.”

Neither the flesh becomes Spirit, nor the Spirit flesh. In one Person they no doubt are well able to be co-existent. Of them Jesus consists—Man, of the flesh; of the Spirit, God—and the angel designated Him as “the Son of God,”

in respect of that nature, in which He was Spirit, reserving for the flesh the appellation “Son of Man.” In like manner, again, the apostle calls Him “the Mediator between God and Men,” and so affirmed His participation of both substances. Now, to end the matter, will you, who interpret the Son of God to be flesh, be so good as to show us what the Son of Man is? Will He then, I want to know, be the Spirit? But you insist upon it that the Father Himself is the Spirit, on the ground that “God is a Spirit,” just as if we did not read also that there is “the Spirit of God;” in the same manner as we find that as “the Word was God,” so also there is “the Word of God.” ""



To read the whole thing please go to the link



Elsewhere in his works, we see Tertullian advocating that the Logos had assumed it's own human soul as well as it's own human flesh. This long before the 4th century with the feud with Apollinaris, and so some regions of the church did talk about Christology long before the 4th and 5th centuries.

But in the quote above we see that Tertullian rejected the idea of the mixing(the confusion or changing of, an example would be the mixing of two colors to create a brand new third color) of Natures(essences). The compound Nature that he was fighting against was one in where the natures were either mixed to create some sort of hybrid 3rd nature, which would neither be divine nor human, but something else completely.

He is not fighting against the later Cyrillian interpretation of a compound Nature(Person, concrete Identity, Hypostasis....etc)

But he(Tertullian) is fighting against what we Orthodox Christians would call an Eutychian interpretation of "compound Nature". However, his dyophysitism is un-developed and thus has a couple problems with it. But the core essence of what we would later see in Chalcedon is obviously present in Tertullian some centuries earlier.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

How can Material Things Communicate the Things of the Spirit?

As seen from the book Common Ground: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity for the American Christian



How Can Material Things Communicate The Things of The Spirit?

God Acts Within His Creation

How can material things make us aware of the presence of God? This truth can only be grasped if we understand that matter is not inherently base or evil. The earth is no less good than the spiritual realm which He created (Genesis 1:25). There is no "better-worse" distinction between the material and spiritual world; both were created by God, both, both co-habit the other, and both reveal God's presence.(52) The world is not a "failed attempt" of God. To reject creation as an inferior product is to reject the Creator Who made it.(53)

The earth has consistently been involved in the things of the Spirit. In fact, the whole scheme of salvation has been clearly "incarnated" in time and matter.(54) Creation, Redemption, the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, Ascension, and Pentecost all took place within this material world. Not one of these events occurred purely in the "spiritual" realm.

The Scriptures make plain that if the material creation and the supernatural world did not have such an integral relationship with each other, the entire creation would collapse; "in Him all things hold together" (Colossians 1: 17). To pit objects we can smell, taste, and feel against those things that defy dimension is a contest that the Bible forbids. Matter and Spirit are not enemies; they are "relatives" which have both been fathered by the same Hand.

God created matter as well as spirit. God has created the entire world, and every ounce of matter belongs to Him....Therefore a certain tendency in religion which 'despises' material things, reducing religion to what is 'spiritual,' is wrong, non-Christian.(55)

As C.S. Lewis so aptly put it, "God likes matter; He invented it."


Redemption: The Restoration (Not The Obliteration) of The Material World

In the Last Day, the Lord will not discard His creation; it-like all those in Christ- will be restored and redeemed to its original "newness."

'Behold, I make all things new' [Revelations 21:5]. These were God's last words to us, and they only say at the end, and eternally, what was in His mind at the beginning, when He looked on the sacramental world of His creation and saw that it was good.(56)

In other words, Christ may make all things new, but he will not wipe out his creation in favor of a different creation. After Christ's return, it will be the same world, and we will still be human beings. The difference will be that God's redemptive presence within us and the world will be more fully revealed and experienced.(57)

Nothing in creation was meant to suffer death and to be thus imprisoned by corruption. Although the consequence of humanity's Fall has passed on to the world around us, sentencing it to the same curse (Romans 5:12), when Christ returns it will be a recipient of the same redemption we have inherited in Him (Romans 5:17-21).(58) Until that Day, man's call is to offer back creation to God. Such an offering is performed through the consecration of ourselves and all of creation to God. In this consecration, all matter acquires its spiritual meaning and is blessed.(59)

The crucial truth to be understood is that created matter is not inherently corrupt, nor is spirit inherently holy. Both have been personally made by the Lord for His glory. Both can be turned away from Him and thus corrupted. The spirit world cannot be distinguished from the material world on the basis of the one being more hallowed than the other:
... it must be remembered that corruption applies as much to the spiritual realm as to the material. The devils and damned souls in hell are, precisely, spirits in a state of corruption. Just as good food rots, and silver tarnishes, and our flesh sickens and decays, all of it because of evil, so the lordliest celestial spirits may rot and tarnish and decay into fiends in hell. It is the same process, the same fabric.(60)

The Spirituality of The Body

A negative view of creation often leads one to discount the physical nature of man. Many within the Evangelical-Fundamentalist stream believe that the real person is located only within the spirit or soul. This popular teaching continues by saying that the body is merely an "earth-suit," something God gave us so we could "get along" on the earth. The philosophy is often summarized, "We are a spirit, we have a soul, and we live in a body." The eternal reality of the person is confined to the spirit and soul, and the body will simply pass out of existence.(61)

Platonic philosophy supports such a non-matter view of man, but nowhere in the Scripture is this teaching supported.

The New Testament never uses 'spiritual (pneumatikos) in antithesis to the bodily (somatikos). There is no opposition between spirit and body, for there is even such a thing as a spiritual body (soma pneumatikon) (1 Corinthians 15:44).(62)

God created man as both spirit and matter from the very beginning. The body is not carnal; it just as spiritual (godly and holy) as our souls and spirits are.

Likewise, our true selves are not composed of two or three parts that can be studied in isolation. We are not parts (material + spiritual); we are whole beings (material inter-dwelling spiritual). Spirit and matter inseparably make up our entire identity; our bodies are an inherent part of our personhood. "The spiritual man does not have a body, but is a body. Man is 'bodily' a spiritual being, and is 'spiritually' a material being."(63)

As shocking as it may seem to some of us, the truth is that our bodies (not just our souls) will be with us for eternity. And our bodies-along with the created world-will be saved:

....even we groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body (Romans 8:23).(64)

On the Last Day our bodies will not be destroyed. Far from it! They will be cast in the very likeness of Christ's resurrected body(1 John 3:2; 1 Corinthians 15:42; Philippians 3:21). One day our flesh of corruption will be transformed, and it-along with all of "mattered-creation"-will experience full redemption (1 Corinthians 15:38-45).(65) Yes, it is true that our bodies will be glorified, and yet they will still be that same "seed" of flesh that we presently identify as our physical persons.








 Pages 209-212 from the book "Common Ground: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity For the American Christian" by Jordan Bajis, 2006 Light and Life publishing

Were the Pre-Nicene Church Fathers ""semi-Arians""?


                                       The answer is NO!



                         As seen from the book An Outline of Orthodox Patristic Dogmatics


Many modern theologians spoke about a Semi-Arianism of the first Church Fathers and authors. This, however, seems to be based on the fact that they did not understand their teaching and manner of thought. According to certain ancient theologians, we have the "spoken" and the "innate" Word (Logos). This distinction between these two senses of logos clearly indicates that in the perception of these more ancient theologians, there is a distinction between the natural and eternal existence of God and His Logos and their relation to the world and operation in it. Before the creation of the world out of nothing, God has had His innate logos eternally in Himself.

Through His creative operation (energy), God through the Logos produces created beings out of nothing, and for this purpose, the innate logos becomes spoken. So, to begin with, the Logos is potentially spoken, and afterwards, it becomes spoken actively. What, however, is particularly important is that, for the ancient authors, the innate Logos and the spoken Logos are not two hypostaseis, but one and the same being. The spoken and the innate Logos do not differ from each other. The same Logos becomes spoken having first been innate. On the contrary, Arius accepts an un-heard of doctrine of two Logoi and, as it appears, following Lucian, he adapts it to the views of Paul of Samosata.



page 19 from the book "An Outline of Orthodox Patristic Dogmatics" by Protopresbyter John Romanides, translated and edited by Protopresbyter George Dion. Dragas. 2004 Orthodox Theological Library
Saturday, August 25, 2012

Augustinian dualism, Protestantism, and heretical Christology


From the book Common Ground: An Introduction to Eastern Christianity for the American Christian

 Matter As "Unspiritual"

The influence of Augustine 

Evangelical-Fundamentalism is generally wary of the earthly being associated with the spiritual. As I have briefly mentioned, this attitude was inherited from the Reformers who, in their own way, adopted it from Rome's understanding of Augustine.(1) Let me refresh our memories. Augustine's theological system saw the world as being divided into two distinct parts: the world of the spirit, and the world of matter. The material world was understood as something that is always divorced, distinct, and separate from anything resident in God's realm, i.e., the invisible domain of the spirit.

In this spirit-matter division, Augustine has a great a great deal of similarity to Platonic philosophy.(2) Platonism saw the spiritual world as being the only real (or ideal) world; the material world was but an image or shadow of that reality. Augustine sympathized with this distinction. In fact, it was this division between matter and spirit that lay behind his understanding of a sacrament as "an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace." To Augustine, the reality of a sacrament was spiritual-something which was cloaked behind the material and "visible sign." Not only did this formula become a popular Roman Catholic definition, but it found its way into all the major Reformation catechisms as well.(3)

What then is sacramental grace, and how is it received? The Roman Catholicism of the Middle Ages answered that question by saying that grace was the "saving power" energizing the sacraments. The Reformers held a similar view, but most of them qualified this understanding by affirming that it was one's faith in what the elements represented, not the elements themselves, that communicated God's grace. In both contexts grace was not understood as "favor," its literal Biblical meaning. Grace was redefined by Augustinian-schooled scholastics as an "energy" able to bring the Christian alongside of God. The "Reformed" Augustine is little different from the "Catholic" Augustine. In both systems, grace is understood as a non-personal substance, not a direct, intimate communion of God with the believer. The reason for this deduction was clear: matter is matter and God is God, and never the two shall meet.(4)

The Chasm Between Matter and Spirit: The Evil of Flesh and Blood

In general, the various streams of Protestant Christianity have often flowed in sympathy with Augustine, Platonism, and pietism Humanism. Luther, himself a former Augustinian monk, clearly reflected an Augustinian dualism in his theological  treatises and Biblical exegesis.(5) Calvin was also heavily influenced by these schools of thought, having had the opportunity to study them seriously for years.(6) The Catholic-Reformer, Desiderius Erasmus (1469-1536), was another scholar who emphasized the Platonist spirit-earth dichotomy,(7) and his thinking made a significant impact on Anabaptist sacramental thinking.(8) Lastly, Zwingly, a man whose influence within Fundamentalism is still very much present, also demonstrated his allegiance to these philosophies and demonstrated it in his distrust of "outward things" in religion.(9)

As might be expected, these perspectives encouraged a very low view of human nature. While the spirit of an individual was pure, the tactile and sensible dimension of his personhood was ignoble and base. It was not just a person's "fleshliness" (i.e., carnal appetites) that was evil, but the body's very skin and bones as well! Zwingli clearly thought this way:

The actual origin of sin Zwingli ascribes to the contrariety of soul and body, the tension between spiritual aspiration and the down-drag of carnal appetite. Thus by the 'flesh' he means the 'fleshliness' of the actual physical body, so narrowing the sense in which St. Paul uses the word. Indeed it was characteristic of Zwingli always to distinquish sharply between man's true being. That the argument is more rationalist than biblical Zwingli himsels is frank enough to admit...(10)

Zwingli extended his dualistic thinking to the point of contradicting the Church's traditional teaching on the Incarnation. For example, he taught that Christ's humanity and divinity did not inter-dwell each other.(11) Instead of understanding Christ's human nature as participating in His divine nature, he saw the two natures as merely existing "side-by-side."

What consequence did this have on his view of the sacraments? Simply this: if divinity is distinct and does not co-inhabit the humanity given to Christ, how can any spiritual reality occupy "lesser" material symbols such as bread, wine, or water? The basic Platonist teaching is again emphasized: the material world is intrinsically incompatible with that which is spiritual.(13)

Zwingli's aversion to the marriage of matter and spirit was complemented and carried further by the South German Anabaptist, Menno Simons(1496-1561). Not only is this former Roman Catholic priest the "spiritual father" of most Mennonites today, but much of his thinking is still well received by many twentieth century Fundamentalists as well.(14) Simons was similar to Zwingli in his strong repugnance to the idea that divinity could co-reside within Christ's humanity. But unlike the Swiss Reformer, he did not divide Christ into two separate entities. Instead, he taught that Christ had only one nature-a divine one.

According to Simons, Christ's flesh was totally divine; not one speck of it was human.(15) This perspective seemed to address the problem left unanswered from the Augustinian interpretation of original sin he had once been taught. If, as this doctrine explained, it was impossible for man to escape from Adam's sin and guilt, how could a sinful woman (Mary) give birth to a sinless Man(Jesus)?(16) To answer this question, Simons cited John 6:63: "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing..."

In other words, Mary gave nothing of her humanity to Christ in the Incarnation; she was merely "a tube" through which Christ passed unaffected.(17)

'Jesus Christ is alone the Word of God, who himself became flesh through his divine power, and received nothing from the Virgin Mary; else she would not have have remained a virgin. He is alone the seed of the Spirit. Even as the water in the jars at the wedding of Cana became wine through divine power, and took unto itself no wine from the jars nor from any other wine. As the Bread from heaven, [Christ] fell from heaven and became himself a seed [corn], but received nothing from the earth.'(18)

Although Calvin clearly did not teach such an erroneous view of Christ, neither did he, in common with both Zwingli and Simons, hold a high place for the human body. He reserved honor only for "the spiritual side of man," and "considered the spirit-soul the exclusive bearer of the image of God and the essence of human personality to the disparagement of the body and its drives."(19) Once again, this this entire way of thinking was "plainly a direct result of Platonism as absorbed into medieval Augustinianism."(20)

In this view, sin has defaced God's image in humanity beyond all recognition, having been passed on from one generation to another through biological reproduction. Therefore, man as a product of human sex, must be depraved (i.e., the concept of total depravity) since nothing pure could naturally live in his "fallen-matter" flesh. This Platonic theme was continually emphasized in Reformation theology, and, though to a much lesser degree, in Anabaptist teaching as well.(21)

This leads us back to where we began. God, as the Supreme Good, stands at an eternal arm's length from anything "matter-like," either in creation or in humanity. The conclusion: anything material-in man or sacrament-has little real value.(22) Today, many Christians in the West would certainly not agree with the distorted perspectives of Christ's humanity some of the Reformers maintained, nor would they explain grace in such academic terms. However, the Augustinian and Platonic prejudice against creation, and the scholastic definition of grace, especially in respect to the sacraments, still has its proponents. 



 





from pages 199- 202 from the book "Common Ground: An introduction to Eastern Christianity for the American Christian" by Jordan Bajis
Friday, August 17, 2012

Heretical Christology 101


Dyophysitism is Orthodox Christology; however, there is a heretical form of Dyophysitism as advocated by Diodorus of Tarsus and Theodore of Mopsuestia. They laid the ground work for the heretical Christology of Nestorius. Below is a quote from a protestant German scholar from the 19th century. I may not agree with all of his biases in other places, but he articulated their Christology very well and so I wanted to share it here so that people will know why Nestorianism was saying something totally different from the Cappadocian Fathers (also Dyophysites) and Chalcedon.
The great teachers of the Antiochene school, at the end of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth centuries, not satisfied with all that had been done, thought themselves bound to strike out a new path, so as to define in an intelligible manner the union of the two natures. All their predecessors seemed to them to have preserved insufficiently the particular and inviolable character of each nature, and not to have given a sufficiently fundamental opposition to Apollinaris, but to have more or less given in to his views. And thus Apollinaris now found much more violent opponents in his own native country, Syria, than elsewhere, men of high reputation and great endowments, particularly Diodorus of Tarsus and Theodore afterwards Bishop of Mopsuestia in Cilicia.
Everything the heretic Apollinaris said wasn't wrong. And so there was no need to disagree with him on every point. He got the Identity right, he was wrong in saying Jesus didn't have a human soul. Also, there is nothing wrong in those before their time believing in a full communication of the attributes. There is also nothing wrong in believing in a real Incarnation.



 In the latter we behold the special representative and spokesman of. this school, who, further developing and rectifying the ideas of ' Diodorus, built up a new christological system. In opposition to Apollinaris, Theodore holds most decidedly that complete humanity and so also moral freedom must be 4 ascribed to the redeemer. In order, however, to keep at a ' distance from the notion of the mutability of Christ,—a theory which, however objectionable, seemed to be involved in that of His liberty,—Theodore did not allow the idea of liberty to result in that of liberty of choice, but went on to the idea of a higher, ethical liberty, "which consists in the unchangeable harmony of the human will with the divine, and ascribed to the human nature of Christ such a higher liberty, a kind of liberty which practically excluded all sin. So far he was right. But he further regarded the union of the divine and human in Christ only in the sense of ivoucrjai^, that is, indwelling, because to him the idea of Incarnation seemed to be identical with transmutation of the Logos into a man, and was therefore rejected by him as absurd.

"When, however, God dwells in any one, he thinks, He does not dwell in Him according to His nature, and so not by the expression of His power, but by His good pleasure (evSoKia). This indwelling is not alike in all the righteous, but its measure is determined by the measure of the divine evBoKui. But in no one did it take place in so high a degree as in Christ. In order to show mankind its future perfected condition, to which it was destined, God formed a man in a miraculous manner, in the womb of the Virgin, by the Holy Ghost ; and in the moment in which this man was formed, the Logos limited Himself with Him. After some time the Logos led the man to baptism, then to death, then raised Him again, took Him up into heaven, placed Him (by reason of His union with Himself) at the right hand of the Father, and from that time He (the man) is worshiped by all and will judge all.

What he just said here is very important when it comes to understanding why Theodore's Christology was different.


As every one who strives after righteousness progresses in union with God, so also it is with Christ. His union with the Logos had first begun with His conception and birth, and now increased gradually as moral union, wherein His humanity was constantly impelled, elevated, strengthened, and preserved from all aberrations by the indwelling Logos.' This moral union was confirmed and strengthened peculiarly in the temptations and at the passion of Christ, but it receives its perfection only after the death of Christ, when He has exchanged the state of humiliation for that of exaltation. If,|according to this theory, the union of the divine and human in Christ is placed on the same level with the union of the divine good-pleasure with every righteous man, yet the two are in the highest degree essentially different, and Christ can in no way be compared with men. On the contrary. He transcends all men (a) by His supernatural birth, and (b) by His sinlessness ; but (c) also in this respect, that it is not merely the evhoKia of God generally, but the Logos, and so God Himself, the second Person of the Trinity, who dwells in Him ; and {d) the Logos is so closely imited with the man in whom He dwells, that He has destined him to participate in all the honours which properly belong to the Logos alone.

 It is true that in this manner Theodore could maintain the two natures in their perfection, and fundamentally oppose all mingling of the two ; and he also explains that this is his aim, when he says, " Mingling is not suitable for the two natures ; there is a difference between the divine form and the form of a servant, between the temple which is adopted and Him who dwells therein, between Him who was dissolved in death and Him who raised Him, between Him who was made perfect through sufferings and Him who perfected Him, and so forth. This difference must be preserved: each nature remains indissoluble by itself, in its essence." But Theodore, and here / is his fundamental error, ntjt merely maintained the existence ) of two Natures in Christ, but of two persons, as, he says himself, no subsistence can be thought of as perfect without personality.

 As, however, he did not ignore the fact that the consciousness of the Church rejected such a double personality in Christ, he endeavored to get rid of the difficulty, and he repeatedly says expressly : " The two natures united together make only one Person, as man and wife are only one flesh. . . . If we consider the natures in their distinction, we should define the nature of the Logos as perfect and complete, and so also His Person, and again the nature and the person of the man as perfect and complete. If, on the other hand, we have regard to the union (avvdjieia), we say it is one Person."^ The very illustration of the union of man and wife shows that Theodore did not suppose a true union of the two natures in Christ, but that his notion was rather that of an external connection of the two.

The expression (xvvd^eia, moreover, which he selected here, instead of the term ei/wcrt?, which he elsewhere employs, being derived from a-vvaTrrco [to join together^], expresses only an external connection, a fixing together, and is therefore expressly rejected in later times by the doctors of the Church. And again, Theodore designates a merely external connection also in the phrase already quoted, to the effect that " the Logos dwells in the man assumed as in a temple." As a temple and the statue set up within it are one whole merely in outward appearance, so the Godhead and manhood in Christ appear only from without in their actuality as one Person, while they remain essentially two Persons."





All quotes are from pages 5 to 7 from the book "A HISTORY of the
COUNCILS OF THE CHURCH,
FROM THE ORIGINAL DOCUMENTS.
VOLUME III.
A.D. 431 TO A.D. 451"
BY THE RIGHT REV. CHARLES JOSEPH HEFELE, D.D
EDINBURGH: T. oc T. CLARK, 38 GEORGE STREET, 1883

Isaiah 53 in the Septuagint and the Atonement


God “Pleased to Punish?” Isaiah 53 in the Septuagint Aug15 by Vincent Martini

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

THE ASCETIC IDEAL AND THE NEW TESTAMENT


Christianity comes from the Middle East and so this should be obvious, but it's not to some who attack our asceticism.

THE ASCETIC IDEAL AND THE NEW TESTAMENT Reflections on the Critique of the Theology of the Reformation © F. George Florovsky

Salvation in Christianity by Father Daniel Sysoyev (Memory Eternal)


If you are unable to see the English sub-title then turn the Caption on.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Do Calvinists really accept the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Ecumenical Councils?


As seen from the book The Historic Church: An Orthodox View of Christian History


 Calvin’s Christology
Although Calvin claims to accept
Chalcedonian Christology, he so emphasizes the division between the human and divine natures of Christ that he falls into Nestorian-like beliefs. He shows definite Nestorian tendencies during his arguments against the Lutheran doctrine of the Eucharist. Calvin taught that the Faithful could not receive the actual body of Christ, because the human body of Christ, “is contained in heaven, where it was once received, and will remain until the judgment.”941

Thus, Calvin rejected the patristic doctrine of the “communication of attributes.” For this reason he did not teach the deification of the human nature of Christ through its union with the divine nature. The doctrine of the “communication of attributes,” and the deification of the human nature of Christ are both are essential elements of the Christology of the Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils.942 Rejection of these key doctrines, compromises the union between the human and divine natures of Christ and leads to a division between the two natures that is very close to the teachings of Nestorianism.

The defects in Calvin’s thought show the wisdom of the Fathers of the Fifth Council, Constantinople II in 553, which declared that Chalcedon must be understood in conformity with the teachings of St. Cyril of Alexandria. By denying the deification of the human nature of Christ, Calvin rejected the foundation of salvation which is the Incarnation and the deification of humanity through the deification of the human nature of Christ.

Although Calvin affirmed his belief in the Incarnation, it is clear that his teachings deprive the Incarnation of its real meaning because he denies the deification of the human nature of Christ.
For this reason, it is not surprising that some of Calvin’s heirs reject traditional Christology and teach that Jesus Christ was only an inspired man, an idea that is the essence of Nestorianism.[1] 



 [1], pages 290-291 by Archpriest John W. Morris (2011-07-15). The Historic Church: An Orthodox View of Christian History (290), (p. 291). AuthorHouse. Kindle Edition.


Sacrifice of Praise


As seen from the book The Historic Church: An Orthodox View of Christian History



 The Holy Eucharist
Like all Christians, Orthodox and Roman Catholics celebrate the Eucharist. The Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches teach that the bread and wine become the actual Body and Blood of Christ. Both East and West also consider the Eucharist a commemoration or remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. For this reason, both Churches describe the Eucharist as a “sacrifice of praise.” During his prayers, an Orthodox priest refers to the Divine Liturgy as a “liturgic and bloodless sacrifice.”544 During the Roman Catholic Mass, the priest says, “Pray, brethren, that our sacrifice may be acceptable to God, the Almighty Father.”545 Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians also believe that in the Eucharist Christ both offers and receives the sacrifice. During the Orthodox Liturgy, the priest prays, “thou thyself art he that offereth and is offered, that is accepteth and is “distributed.”546 [1]

and

The Orthodox Church rejects any effort to use the categories of science or philosophy to explain how the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. Instead, the Orthodox consider the Eucharist a mystery that cannot be explained according to human reason.

Through the Eucharist, the Faithful partake of the Body and Blood of Christ, which imparts grace and the forgiveness of sins. Because Orthodox Christians reject any effort to understand the Eucharist through human reason, they are content with the words of the Holy Scriptures. Christ said, “this is my body…this is my blood.”787 St. Paul wrote, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of

Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ.”788 Christ said, “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up the last day…he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.”789 Thus, those who receive Holy Communion are united to Christ.790 Nicholas Cabasilas taught those who partake of Holy Communion, “receive God Himself,” because “Christ infuses Himself into us and mingles Himself with us. He changes and transforms us into Himself.”791

Through Holy Communion, the believer receives deifying grace from God by partaking of the very life of God through the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. The Eucharist also defines and proclaims the reality of the Church. St. Paul wrote, “Because there is one bread, we who are Through Holy Communion, the believer receives deifying grace from God by partaking of the very life of God through the reception of the Body and Blood of Christ. The Eucharist also defines and proclaims the reality of the Church. St. Paul wrote, “Because there is one bread, we who are Masses offered, the greater the chance that God would grant their request.

There were priests whose sole ministry was saying Masses in return for a donation from those seeking some special favor from God. Some people left special endowments to pay for Masses for their release from purgatory.795 It is easy to see how this system can lead to misunderstandings and abuses. Orthodoxy and modern Roman Catholicism reject the crude folk religion that thought that every Mass is a new offering of Christ on the cross. However, Luther again went too far by rejecting the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist.
 All prayer is an un-bloody sacrifice offered to God. As the supreme act of prayer by the community, the Divine Liturgy is sacrifice of praise, thanksgiving and worship offered to God. The Divine Liturgy is not a new offering of Christ, but it is a commemoration of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.

St. Paul wrote, “For as often as you eat the bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”796 As the Apostle noted, the Jews became “partners in the altar” when they ate meat from the animal being offered.797 By partaking of the body and blood of Christ who offered Himself on the cross, the faithful become “partners” in the altar of Calvary.
Because it is a mystical participation in the worship of God in heaven, the Eucharist transcends time and space. For this reason, the faithful are mystically present when Christ offers Himself for the salvation of humanity through their participation in the Divine Liturgy. Christ is the true celebrant of the Eucharist. The priest is merely His representative.
Therefore, Christ offers Himself for the salvation of the Faithful at every Divine Liturgy. During the Byzantine Liturgy, the Priest prays, “thou thyself art he that offereth and is offered.”798 Finally, the Faithful offer themselves as a living sacrifice during the Eucharist. Thus, Luther and Protestantism goes to an extreme that robs the Eucharist of one of its most important meanings by failing to understand the sacrificial nature of the Divine Liturgy. [2]



[1] page 180, [2]pages 253-254 by Archpriest John W. Morris (2011-07-15). The Historic Church: An Orthodox View of Christian History (p. 180),(p. 254). AuthorHouse. Kindle Edition.




Saturday, August 4, 2012

Early Christian Eschatology


There were two views, one would later be declared heretical while the other Orthodox. Taken from the book ""Church History, Volume One: From Christ to Pre-Reformation: The Rise and Growth of the Church in Its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political Context"


V. Christian Hope
 Two patterns of eschatological hope emerged early in Christianity. From a certain strand of apocalyptic Judaism there developed a chiliastic eschatology. According to this view, all the deceased wait in the Hadean world for the coming of the earthly, temporary messianic kingdom, with the righteous and the unrighteous separated in different compartments.

Christian chiliasm placed the resurrection of the righteous (the first resurrection) at the time of Jesus Christ's return and the inauguration of his earthly rule from Jerusalem. Based on Revelation 20:3, this view fixed the length of this rule as 1,000 years, hence the designation millennium (Latin) or chiliasm (Greek). At the end of this period the remainder of human beings will be raised for judgement with the sub-sequent eternal separation in either heaven or hell.

Chiliasm was an integral part of the polemic against Marcion and the Gnostics in Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian. Irenaeus integrated the millennial kingdom into his whole theology by interpreting the millennium as a time in which resurrected bodies are accustomed to spiritual existence and prepared for the heavenly vision of God. Tertullian posited that the martyrs were an exception and did not have to wait in Hades for the resurrection as others did, but went directly to the presence of Jesus Christ. Other champions of chiliasm in early Christianity were Papias, Victorinus, and Lactantius.

An alternative, non-chiliastic, pattern of eschatology understood the future kingdom of God and Christ as heavenly, not earthly. According to this view, also derived from Jewish sources, the righteous dead are already in the kingdom of heaven (i.e., paradise) and there is no trace of an interim earthly kingdom.

In place of the ideas of the abode of the dead in Hades and an earthly millennium, this view embraced the belief in an intermediate stay by the righteous in the heavenly realm in the presence of Christ. Often there was expressed the conviction that Christ at his resurrection delivered the righteous dead of the Old Testament from Hades and took them with him to the intermediate heavenly realm.

This non-chiliastic form of the Christian hope interpreted Revelation 20:3-4 as referring (1) to the binding of Satan by the ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus; (2) the coming to life of those beheaded for the sake of Jesus as the resurrection of their souls at death in order to enter paradise with Christ; and (3) the thousand years as symbolic of this present interim rule of the faithful with Christ in the heavenly Jerusalem. At the second coming there will occur the resurrection of bodies and final judgment.

This non-chiliastic current of eschatological thought was widely pervasive in early Christianity and is represented in such writers as Hermas, Polycarp, the authors of the Epistle to Diognetus, Ascension of Isaiah, Apocalypse of Peter, Martydom of Polycarp, and Letter of the Churches of Vienne and Lyons, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Cyprian.

There is no evidence of Christian use of separate burial grounds in the early period. About 200 the Church in Rome acquired what became the nucleus of the catacomb of Callistus, but the shared use of the same tombs by pagans and Christians continued to be common into the fourth century. Christians followed the usual practices of society (these will be examined in the next chapter in connection with the development of the cult of the saints). They sometimes gave expression to their faith and hope by inscriptions, symbolic images, and paintings at their burial places.

Present in all forms of the orthodox eschatological hope was belief in the bodily resurrection, in contrast to Gnostic views of the resurrection of the soul only. Both Gnostic and orthodox non-chiliastics believed the righteous go immediately after death into the presence of God in heaven, but the non-orthodox did not link this belief with a further expectation of a resurrection of the body. Origen emphasized the "spiritual body," but most (perhaps in direct opposition to Gnosticism) emphasized a resurrection of the "flesh."

Apart from Origen, who entertained the possibility of universal salvation after a period of purification and education of souls in the after-life, those who spoke to the subject understood an ultimate division of humanity in heaven or hell. The expectation of eternal reward sustained Christian endurance in the face of persecution and other hardships.





Pages 157-159 from the book "Church History: Volume 1, from Christ to the Pre-Reformation, the rise and Growth of the Church in its Cultural, Intellectual, and Political context" by Everett Ferguson, copyright 2005 Zondervan
Friday, August 3, 2012

Kabane's walk through of Romans chapter 9


The True Beauty of Romans 9

Saturday, July 28, 2012

How a number of Early Christian witnesses, schismatics, heretics and church fathers interpreted Romans 8:28-30


From Richard's Orthodox Catholic Christianity Blog:


Diodore of Tarsus (circa 390)
This text [Romans 8:29-30] does not take away our free will. It uses the word foreknew before predestined. Now it is clear that foreknowledge does not by itself impose any particular behavior. What is said here would be clearer if we started from the end and worked backwards. Whom did God glorify? Those whom he justified. Whom did he predestine? Those whom he foreknew, who were called according to his plan, i.e., who demonstrated that they were worthy to be called by his plan and made conformable to Christ. (Romans (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. New Testament, volume 6. Edited by Thomas Oden. P 235)


Ambrosiaster (late 4th century)
Those whom God foreknew would believe in him he chose to receive the promises. But those who appear to believe yet do not persevere in the faith are not chosen by God, because whosever God chooses will persevere. (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. New Testament, volume 6. Edited by Thomas Oden. P 235)


Theodoret of Cyrus (circa 393 – 457)
Those whose intentions God foreknew he predestined from the beginning. Those who are predestined, he called, and those who were called, he justified by baptism. Those who were justified, he glorified, calling them children. To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become the children of God. Let no one say that God’s foreknowledge was the unilateral cause of these things. For it was not foreknowledge which justified people, but God knew what would happen to them, because he is God. (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture. New Testament, volume 6. Edited by Thomas Oden. P 237)


To read the rest please visit his blog
Friday, July 27, 2012

St. John of DAMASCUS and the issue of Predestination


BOOK TWO, Chapter 30: An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith


St Symeon the New Theologian and the issue of Predestination


Orthodox Predestination Long Before John Calvin (Part I)

Orthodox Predestination Long Before John Calvin (Part II)

Orthodox Predestination Long Before John Calvin (Part III)
 

The Concept of Predestination in the Christian Tradition

From the book Gratia et Certamen:The Relationship Between Grace and Free Will in the Discussion of Augustine with the So-Called Semipelagians

The Greek tradition, with its cosmic vision of salvation and its defence of human freedom against the different forms of gnosticism and fatalism, was rather homogeneous in offering an optimistic solution with regard to the problem of election/predestination. A peaceful coexistence of the belief in the universal salvation, and the seemingly impelling demands laid on man in order to partake of it, was taken for granted. If God, the Greek theologians would argue, has really saved the world in Christ, and if man, despite the fall, has really maintained the efficiency of his freedom in accord with the activity of grace, then salvation must depend on God and man alike. Damnation, by contrast, depends only on man's refusal of the offer of salvation.

From the point of view of the Eastern theological tradition, the problem at stake hinges essentially upon a twofold possibility: the decision of co-operating with God's saving activity, on one side, or the attachment to evil and the choice of siding with it, on the other. What stands out as an ultimately decisive element, is the role of man's free will. In fact, although in his bounty God has given to everyone the means to choose the good and obtain salvation, at the same time He has not deprived man of the possibility of choosing evil and becoming liable to punishment by his own accord. Rather than speculating about God's inscrutable intentions and decrees, the Greek theologians considered divine justice on the basis of its effects, or put another way, in strict connection with the divine foreknowledge of man's behavior. Their preoccupation to defend both the justice of God and the freedom of man brought them to an implicit agreement about the "condiitonal" character of predestination and grace as well as about the universality of God's salvific will. A few examples, however incomplete, will suffice to illustrate their general trend.

According to Justin, God would reward men on the basis of their good and virtuous lives which are foreseen by his prescience. Irenaeus echoes this view, affirming that through his foreknowledge, God is able to judge justly every man's future choices, abandoning to their unbelief all those He foreknows will not believe in him. Clement of Alexandria also speaks of those who are predestined as people whose justice has been foreknown by God since the beginning of the world. Likewise, commenting on Rom 8:28-30, Oreigen afforms that God predestines all those whom He foresees will lead a religious and pius existence (  ), giving themselves entirely to a life of virtue, to share in the image of his Son and in his knowledge. Divine predestination is, as it were, the effect of divine foreknowledge, whereas the latter is, in its turn, caused by man's freedom of behavior. Similarly, in John Chrysostom's commentary on the same passage (Rom 8:28-30), the gift of divine sonship (and man's predestination to it) is understood to depend upon God's foreknowledge of man's obediance. Even more boldly, Chrysostom interprets the expression secundum propostum ( ) of Rom 8:28 as relating not only to God's decree but also to man's will. Finally, while asking himself why not everyone will be saved, despite the fact that it is God's wish that all men be saved, he answers by pointing to man's personal responsibility. Since God does not impose his will on man, the latter can also decide, if he wishes, not to conform to it. God offers to all the necessary means to obtain salvation, and if some are not saved it is because they have not made proper use of such means. Worth noting also is Chrysostom's introduction of the twofold notion of God's "preceding" and "successive" will: whereas his preceding or first () will is concerned with the salvation of all men, his sucessive or second () will deals with those who have become bad and deserves death.  


There are some instances of this optimistic view being shared also in the Latin Church before Augustine. Hilary of Poitiers, for example, commenting on Ps 64:5 (Beatus quem elegisti et assumpsisti) affirms that, according to the gospel, the elect are not chosen arbitrarily, but upon the discernment of their merits. Ambrose, in his turn, while commenting on Mt 20:23 (Sedere autem ad dexteram meam uel sinistram non est meum dare uobis, sed quibus paratum est a Patre meo) asserts that God does not choose some people in preference to others, but simply rewards all men according to the foreknowledge of their merits. Ambrosiater speaks of two groups of people, respectively foreknown for their faith and for their unbelief or temporary belief. Jerome, opposing the uasa irae(Israel) to the uasa misericordiae (the new Israel, the Christians, issued from both the Jews and the Gentiles) says that the latter are saved on account of antecedent causes, viz. their having welcomed the Son of God, whereas the former, who have refused to recognize him, are destined to perish. Finally, Pelagius insists that God will never hinder the salvation of every person, because salvation is precisely what He himself wills for everybody. He clearly affirms that predestination is the same as foreknowledge, in that God already knows those who will believe and from whom his call will elicit a free and positive answer. In this sense, God does not make any distinction with regard to persons, and He offers his salvation to everybody. If there is a difference at all, it is only in the time in which the encounter between God's will and man's will happens.

Rather than looking for a solution to the problem of salvation in the sphere of divine decrees, the Greek and Latin theologians did not hesitate to express their conviction that the election or non-election of men is subordinated to God's foreknowledge with regard to either their meritorious act of faith, or their demerit. In other words, for both the Greek and Latin theologians, the key to interpret it, and the way to explain the Scriptural evidences that speak of both life and death, salvation and damnation in relation to God's agency as well as man's.


Pages 305 to 309 from the book Gratia et Certamen: The Relationship Between Grace and Free Will in the Discussion of Augustine with the So-Called Semipelagians by D. Ogliari, Leuven University Press 2003


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Love and Hate in Romans chapter 9

As seen from the Energetic Procession blog:

Quote
In regard to Romans 9, there are three things on should note: the matter of the love of God, the question of Providence in working out Salvation, and lastly, what is specifically meant by “predestination.” First, the matter of God’s love and God’s opprobrium. God’s love, as everyone will confess, is eternal, for after all, God is love. But His hatred is not, not unless, that is, you have fallen into what has been termed the Origenistic problematic. Origen, the brilliant second/third-century father was influenced by middle-Platonism, and was a contemporary of the founder of NeoPlatonism, Plotinus. He and Plotinus had the same teacher in Alexandria, Ammonius Saccas. The starting point for both Origen and Plotinus was the ineffable singular unity of God (for Plotinus, “The One,” in Greek, to hen, which is neuter in form). For Origen, the eternality and unity of God was primary, and all that God was, he was eternally. Thus He was both Eternally Father with the eternally-begotten Son. (He was the first theologian to use the term “the eternal generation of the Son.”) But this comes at a cost: if God is creator, He is eternally so, and creation becomes eternal. Origen, moreover, was hard pressed to distinguish the eternal act of creation from the eternal act of begetting, for were we to begin with the unity of God, how can we distinguish acts (though Origen did seek to do so). In respect to the love of God, it would seem, hate becomes systemic of the divine nature as well. Origen reasoned that for God to be all-powerful, there must be something against which his power stood; for him to be infinite, His infinity must be opposed to finitude. We can see in this a dialectic of opposition, which would then entail that his love, while having an eternal object of love (and for Christians love is an energy within the Trinity and ultimately among us creatures), this same must be true of his hate. Origen really doesn’t comment on this, and later theologians have seen that God’s hate is but the disposition of God toward that which is not of Him, namely, sin. (Origen’s thoughts on all of this is in his On first principles.)
But Origen’s theology in these matters was condemned by the Church. God’s hate, such as it is, is not eternal (and neither is creation), but a response of his justice and love toward the corruption of His creation. This can be seen at the beginning of Dante’s Divine Comedy, for when Dante enters Hell he reads “eternal love created me.” Thus the love and hate of Jacob and Esau cannot be linked to the eternal purposes of God, in that the hate of God, like God’s creation, are acts of God in His relationship to time.



To read the rest please visit Energetic Procession.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Overview of Romans



By Fr. Thomas Hopko

Part 1: Play Audio



Part 2: Play Audio



Christology and Recapitulation




from pages iii-x

Quote:
"At the center of St. Maximus' theological and christological universe is the doctrine of Recapitulation. It is this doctrine which forms the basis of all that the New Testament and the Fathers have to say in connection with the Incarnation. While the term "recapitulation" itself appears only twice in the New Testament, the concept itself occurs repeatedly; one has only to recognize its principles of operation in order to know when it is being applied. These may be categorized as fellows: 1) preeminence 2) repetition and recontextualization, 3) reversal, and 4) fulfillment.

The Confessor elegantly summarizes this doctrine and its principles of operation in compact sentence: "The One Logos is the many logoi, and the many logoi are the One Logos." In other words, in His Incarnation and enhominization, Jesus Christ possesses and is all the fulness of the universals common both to deity and humanity. In terms of the four principles enumerated above, then, this works itself out in a multitude of ways. In terms of preeminence, it means that Christ is both the presupposition, the method, the paradigm, and the summit of whatever might be said either about God or about man. God is truly, uniquely, ultimately and finally revealed in The Word Incarnate. And man, perfect humanity, is also only understood properly in its union with the Word. In Scriptural terms, Jesus Christ is the Alpha and Omega of all that can be said of God and man, and thus has the preeminence "in all things". Being thus preeminent in all things, Christ becomes the final context, the ultimate and perfect "recontextualization" and repetition, of the logoi, understood here as both the words of the Old Testament Scripture and the principles of nature: of creation as a whole and of man in particular. That is, not only are the typological themes of Scripture repeated in His Incarnate Economy from His conception to His Second Advent, but He also repeats all of the natural stages of humanity itself; Christ recapitulates and summarizes not only sacred history but the history of all of humanity as a whole, and the stages of life of each individual human being in particular. In doing so, He reverses the effects of the Fall. As the Second Adam, the entire drama of the Fall is replayed, this time to an opposite conclusion. Instead of a Fall into passions and corruption, mankind in Christ is raised and exalted. Deification and the spiritual life, in other words, are integral components and implications of the doctrine of Recapitulation. By thus repeating, and in some cases reversing, the typological themes of Holy Scripture and the natural laws and stages of humanity, Christ is not only preeminent in all things, but fulfills all Old Testament prophecy and expectation concerning His Coming, there being nothing more that canbe said about them outside of and without reference to Christ.

Consequently, the doctrine of the Recapitulation in Christ bears implications not only for the exegesis and interpretation of Scripture and the understanding of the Incarnation, but implies also a general basis on which to interpret human history and the whole created order and their principles of activity.

At this point, it would be helpful to survey how this doctrine is employed by other Fathers prior to St. Maximus before proceeding to his own use of it. The word 'recapitulation' means 'to collect several different things together under one head', or simply 'to summarize'. It occurs only twice in the New Testament, in Ephesians 1:10--"That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him"--and in Romans 13:9 -- "if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." It is significent that St. Paul uses this word so sparingly, and then only in contexts having to do either with christological affirmation or with counsels on living a Christian life. In other words, the doctrinal affirmations of Christology and the principles of the spiritual life go hand in hand, they cannot be divorced fromeach other. The doctrinal principles of Christology are not mere intellectual constructs which have no force or bearing on the conduct of life, nor are the counsels of a virtuous life in love ever fully apprehended apart from Christ. Love, the union of God and man in Christ and the love of man for God and his neighbor, are the essence of the doctrine. This union was to play an important role in St. Maximus' own theology, as we shall see.

St. Irenaeus of Lyons is the name most often associated with recapitulation. For him, the two natures of Christ along with their various properties, establish His preeminence in both heavenly and earthly things and thus Christ fulfills them in Himself, ie., fills them with Himself:

"He was invisible and became visible; incomprehensible and made comprehensible; impassible and made passible; the Word, and made man; consummating all things in himself. That, as in things above the heavens and in the spiritual and invisible world the Word of God is supreme, so in the visible and physical realm he may have pre-eminence, taking to himself the primacy and appointment himself the head of the Church, that he may 'draw all things to himself' (St. John 12:32) in due time.

Here not only is Christ's recapitulation taken to refer to His preeminence in deity and humanity, but, since His divine nature is spiritual and invisible, it also includes "the spiritual and invisible world", the world of the angels and also of man's soul and mind. And by the same token, for St. Irenaeus the fact that Christ's humanity is physical and part of the physical creation, all of "the physical realm" is also effected by His Incarnation. Thus, the "one Christ Jesus our Lord" came "in fulfillment of God's comprehensive design and consummates all things in himself." In other terms, as the Word Himself in conjunction with His everlasting Father created "all things visible and invisible", so His Incarnation effects all things visible and invisible.


The double entendre of the word 'effects' is intentional, for Christ's Incarnate Economy affects all invisible and visible things both in the sense of accomplishing and even causing them to be, as well as in the sense of influencing them. The Recapitulation consequently effects the very design of time and history itself, since it pertains to "the mystery which hath been hid from the generations" of the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Recapitulation is the christological basis, then, of a proper understanding of the history of creation and of humanity from its inception to its consummation:

He was incarnate and made Man; and then he summed up in himself the long line of the human race, procuring for us a comprehensive salvation, that we might recover in Christ what in Adam we lost, namely, the state of being in the image and likeness of God.


This constitutes the allegorical or typological basis on which Irenaeus and other Fathers read the Old Testament. On the basis of the Pauline precedent of the parallelism between them: Adam is fashioned of virgin untilled earth, Christ is born of the Virgin Mary. As the Fall occurred through a (fallen) angel, and the disobedience of Eve and Adam, so the restoration is effected not only by a repetition of these elements in the Annunciation by an angel, but by a reversal of disobedience by the obedience of Christ the Second Adam and Mary the Second Eve.

(This is) the back-reference from Mary to Eve, because what is joined together could not otherwise be put asunder than by inversion of the process by which those bonds of union had arisen; so that the former ties be cancelled by the latter, that the latter may set the former again liberty.


That is, in order for there to be a fulfillment of the Old Testament, their must be a repetition and recontextualization of its themes in the Life of Christ, and where necessary, a reversal of them. This presupposes certain principles in order for typological exegesis to take place. Types are like leitmotifs in music; they are repeated, and with each repetition, recontextualized, reaching their fulfillment in Christ.


Not only does this repetitional fulfillment of types occur in reference to the events of the Old Testament, but also in reference to the principles stages of human life itself, i.e., in reference to the observed phenomena of nature:

Therefore he passed through every stage of life, restoring to each age fellowship with God.......He sanctified each stage of life by [making possible] a likeness to himself. He came to save all through his own person: all, that is, who through him are re-born to God: infants, children, boys, young men and old.
Therefore he passed through every stage of life. He was made an infant for infants, sanctifying infancy; a child among children, sanctifying childhood, and setting an example of filial affection, of righteousness and of obedience; a young man among young men, becoming an example to them, and sanctifying them to the Lord.....And thus he came even to death, that he might be 'the first-born from the dead, having the pre-eminence among all [or in all things].'

But this recapitulation of humanity is not merely by repetition of its laws and stages, as the reference to Holy Baptism suggests. There is an ecclesiological and sacramental dimension in which it takes place.

With these principles of the doctrine in mind -- the preeminence of Christ in all things pertaining to deity and to humanity, and to the invisible and visible worlds, the repetition and fulfillment in His Incarnate Economy of the laws of human history, collective and individual, as well as of the repeated typology of the Old Testament -- we may now see how they operate in two other Fathers writing in entirely different times and for different purpose: St. Athanasius the Great of Alexandria, and St. Ambrose of Milan.

For St. Athanasius as for St. Irenaeus the Incarnation recapitulates all of humanity:

Through this union of the immortal Son of God with our human nature, all men were clothed with incorruption in the promise of the resurrection. For the solidarity of mankind is such that, by virtue of the Word's indwelling in a single human body, the corruption which goes with death has lost its power over all.


That is, in His human nature which is consubstantial with all men, the Son and Word effectively bestows incorruption, with a certain irresistible determination, on all of humanity.

In the rest of the created order, St. Athanasius like St. Irenaeus sees that the salient events of the Incarnation life of Christ have the result of effecting and filling all of Creation, being above by virtue of His coming down from heaven and His bodily Ascension and return there, being present in this world in virtue of His Incarnation in it, and below it in virtue of His Descent into Hades prior to the Resurrection:" The Self-revealing of the word is in every dimension--above, in creation; below, in the Incarnation; in the depth, in Hades; in the breath, throughout the world. All things have been filled with the knowledge of God." Thus thus the sensible world itself, in virtue of the Word becoming man, has been made the vehicle of the knowledge of the Word, because "He, as Man," centers "their senses on Himself."



.








from pages iii - x in the book "The Disputation with Pyrrhus of our Father among the Saints Maximus the Confessor: Translated from the Greek by Joseph P. Farrell
Friday, February 17, 2012

Redemption or Deification?



Why Did God Become Man? The Unconditionality of the Divine Incarnation by Panagiotes Nellas (†1986)


. quote:
 "4. The View of the Mystery of the Incarnation in Relation to
the Fall, and Its Significance.
Man’s temporal Fall, however, created two other impediments,
which in a tragically real way obstruct the outpouring of the Spirit and the full realization of salvation (or completion, recapitulation,
deification, or whatever we may call it). And these real impediments,
which exist within time, need to be dealt with in a way which is
equally real and temporal.

This is why the Son of Man comes
as a giant to run the course of our... nature and through
suffering to make His way to death, and to bind the strong
man and plunder his goods... and lead the erring sheep
back to the heavenly land,
as St. John of Damascus writes poetically.13
And, as the Divine Cabasilas says,
This is what happens, then. God makes His own the
struggle on behalf of men, for He is man. Man, being pure
from all sin, overcomes sin, for he is God (513B).

Thus we arrive at the postlapsarian, historical view of the mystery of the Divine Incarnation, and the postlapsarian application of
the passage of Cabasilas which we quoted at the beginning of the
theological section of our study.
We shall not concern ourselves in detail here with this postlapsarian view of the mystery of the Divine Incarnation—not because it does not bear on our subject, but for the sole reason that
space is limited.
For it is a truth just as fundamental as that previously stated that
man, broken, degraded, and enslaved to sin, the Devil, and death on
account of the Fall is in need of redemption. And he cannot achieve
redemption on his own. Man was obliged to “retrieve his defeat,”

Cabasilas says. But he was unable to win the battle.
Indeed, no human wisdom, strength, virtue, or righteousness
could overcome death, a boundary which, by historical standards, is
fundamental and decisive. On the other hand, God, Who could have destroyed sin, the
Devil, and death by a single thought did not do so, because that
would have been unjust; it was man, and not God, who had been
defeated, and man had to retrieve the situation.
It is at this point that Cabasilas sums up the second aspect of
the mystery of the Incarnation, that “God makes His own the struggle
on behalf of men, for He is man,” and its corollary: “Man, being pure
from all sin, overcomes sin, for he is God.”

Cabasilas dwells at length on this postlapsarian aspect of the
mystery, and in my book  Ἡ περὶ δικαιώσεως τοῦ ἀνθρώπου
διδασκαλία τοῦ Καβάσιλα [Cabasilas’ teaching on the justification of man] I expounded it in detail.
It would truly be a grave spiritual, pastoral, and also theological
error to ascribe a secondary importance to the reality of sin and the
need for redemption. From this standpoint, we would not have had
the right to treat the subject as we do here if we had not previously written an entire book on the Sin-Redemption dimension. Yet it
would be an equally grave error to limit salvation, that is, deification,
to redemption alone.

In the first case, Christianity would be transformed into an unrealistic mysticism; in the second, it would be degraded to a legalistic ethical system.
As a true theologian of the Catholic Church, Cabasilas took into
account both of these truths; and, in contrast to Anselm, who restricted Christianity and man to the Fall-Redemption polarity, he
gave this polarity the attention that it merits and, at the same time,
placed it in its proper context, at the same stroke giving man his
true scope.
After this crucially important observation, to which we ask the
reader to pay special attention, it is time to return to studying more
directly the problem that we posed at the outset, that of narrowing
the axis of the Divine Œconomy from Creation-Deification to FallRedemption.III. The Significance of Cabasil.



 
Quote:
"4. Overcoming the Fear of Sin as the Central Motive of Spiritual Life. Christ, the Beginning, Middle, and End of Spiritual
Life.
BUT Cabasilas’ correct answer to “Cur Deus homo?” also brings
the liberation of man from evil and sin. No matter how terrifying
evil may be, since it, and not Christ, is merely an episode and an
event, it proves, in the final analysis, insignificant. The understanding of man—of salvation, spiritual life, and so forth—is disjoined
from evil and joined to Christ.
Ascesis, charity, etc. are not the “good works” that will counterbalance our sins before God’s justice and in that way offer Him satisfaction.

God is not a “sadistic father” who takes satisfaction in torturing
his children. Ascesis is a vigorous struggle against evil. And man can
throw himself into this struggle much more easily, with hope and
joy, if his aim is to develop the seeds of godlikeness that he has within him, a longing for all the elements of his being to be united with
Christ, and not simply fear of sin.
The real sin, for Cabasilas, is for man to remain outside Christ,
to consider that he is sufficient on his own, i.e., autonomy. Adam’s
greatest sin, the sin that engendered all of the others, was that he
wanted to live with the life of his nature, to exist independently of
God. This led him to death.

Cabasilas is unambiguous on this point. If man is not alive with
the life of Christ, he is dead, even if he is a fine and good person socially or religiously, even if he formally observes the prescriptions
of the law. On the axis of  Fall-Redemption, justice and law are
dominant. On the axis of Creation-Deification, sin consists in making oneself autonomous, in self-sufficiency. And this, according to
the ascetic Fathers, was the greatest danger lurking even for the redeemed. The dominant figure on this axis is Christ.
Therefore, the ethos of Orthodox believers is not legalistic, but
theocentric. Any virtue in man has value to the extent that it is a
virtue of Christ, says Cabasilas. For only what is incorporated in
Christ and, consequently, spiritual (“born from above”) is able to sur-mount the biological boundaries of corruption and death. “In this
way the Saints are blessed, because of the blessed One Who is with them”
(613A).
The holiness of the saints is due to the fact that they have united
their will to the will of Christ. The wisdom of the truly wise, those
who uncover the truth by Divine inspiration, is due to their having
united their mind with the mind of Christ. “From themselves and
from human nature and effort there is nothing whatever... Rather, they
are holy because of the Holy One, righteous and wise because of the righteous and wise One Who abides with them” (613A).

For this reason, Cabasilas advises, “be merciful” not in a human
way “but as your Father is merciful.”
The faithful are called to love “in the love with which Paul ‘yearned
with the affection of Jesus Christ’” (Philippians 1:8), and to have the
love “with which the Son loved the Father,” and the peace that is not
human, but of Christ. For, as the birth is “Divine and preternatural,”
so also “the new life, its regime and philosophy, and all these things are
new and spiritual” (616A).

This Pauline Christocentricity which places Christ as the beginning, middle, and end of the world and of history is the core of Cabasilas’ work. This is the basis on which he gave a correct answer to
the question, “Cur Deus homo?,” confined the  Fall-Redemption
axis to its proper bounds and revealed the true breadth of the Divine Œconomy, which begins from Creation and reaches to Deification, that extension without end of created man within the uncreated God.
As has become evident from the few examples that we have been
able to give within the scope of this study, Cabasilas placed on this
axis all the realities of faith, spiritual life, and the Church, and revealed their true nature and their extraordinary transformative dynamism."





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