Saturday, December 23, 2006

Items of Interest - Week of the Holy Forefathers 2006

Thoughts on Orthodox-Roman Relations Part III · Part IV By Metropolitan Anthony Bashir (+1966), Syrian Antiochian Archdiocese of North America.

The Historical Problem of Christmas By Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon. Just where did Matthew and Luke find the historical material that fills the first two chapters of each of those Gospels?

The Untold Story of Kosovo Negotiations By Srdja Trifkovic. The untold news is that Kosovo will not become independent.

The New Inquisition Gary DeMar on the Torquemadas of the secular scientific community.

Evolution is a Joke Gary DeMar speaks to Darwinism’s reliance on spontaneous generation.

Dining With Scrooge by Gary North. Dickens understood that Fezziwig had the right approach.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Ancestral Sin - Quotations From Orthodox Holy Fathers and Contemporary Authors

“This is because Adam, when he ate from the tree which God had forbidden him to eat of, suffered the death of his soul as soon as he transgressed, but that of the body only many years later. Christ therefore first raised up, vivified, and deified the soul which had suffered first the punishment of death, and then, to the body condemned by the ancient judgment to return to the earth in death, He granted the reception of incorruptibility through the Resurrection.” (St. Symeon the New Theologian, On the Mystical Life, Ethical Discourses 1, SVS Press, Volume 1, Page 33)

“God willed from the very beginning to make His own good ours as well. He bestowed free will on the first created couple, our ancestors, and through them on us. This was in order that, not from sorrow or necessity, but as moved by a favorable disposition they should follow His commandment and do it with joy. Thus they would be accounted as having acquired the virtues by their own efforts, in order to offer them up as their gift to the Master and so progressively be led up by them to the perfect image and likeness of God, and approach the Unapproachable without suffering bodily death or the danger of being consumed by His fire, and one by one, generation upon generation, draw near to Him. But since the first couple submitted first to the will of the enemy and became transgressors of God’s commandment, they not only fell away from the greater hope, which is to say, from entering into the Light itself which neither fades nor has an evening, but were changed as well into corruption and death. They fell into lightless darkness and, becoming slaves to the prince of the dark and ruled over by him, they entered through sin into the darkness of death. Later we, too, who were born of them stooped to the will of this tyrant and were enslaved. This did not happen by compulsion, as is shown clearly by those who lived before the Law and under the Law and were found as well-pleasing because they dedicated their own will to the Master, and not to the devil.” (St. Symeon the New Theologian, On the Mystical Life, Ethical Discourses 10, SVS Press, Volume 1, Pages 143-144)

“Partaking of the fruit, he was entirely deprived of all those good and heavenly things and was lowered to the impassioned sensations of earthly and visible creatures. And, to repeat myself, he became deaf, blind, insensible in relation to that from which he had fallen. At once become mortal, corruptible and irrational, he became like the beasts which are without intelligence, in accordance with the prophet who cried: `He is become like the beasts without intellect and is like them.’” (St. Symeon the New Theologian, On the Mystical Life, Ethical Discourses 13, SVS Press, Volume 2, Pages 165-166)

“To such ignorance of God and His divine commandments were they brought down who were begotten of dust from the man of dust, that the honor which they ought to have rendered to God they gave instead to this visible creation, and not just to earth and sky and sun, moon and stars, fire and water and the rest, but they even made gods of those shameful passions themselves which ought not even to be imagined, let alone practiced, and which God has forbidden them…by which the whole race of mankind was and is enslaved, by which the devil has made and makes us his slaves and subject to his control. Whence, even if there were someone among those thousands and tens of thousands who had not stooped to these shameful ordinances and precepts, since he, too, because of his descent from the seed of those who had sinned, was yet a slave of the tyrant, death, he would also be given over to its corruption and sent without mercy to hell. There was no one, you see, who was able to save and redeem him. For this very reason, therefore, God the Word Who had made us had pity on us and came down.” (St. Symeon the New Theologian, On the Mystical Life, Ethical Discourses 13, SVS Press, Volume 2, Page 167)

“For since Adam’s transgression we are all subject to the passions because of our constant association with them. We do not gladly pursue goodness, nor do we long for the knowledge of God, nor do we do good our of love, as the dispassionate do; instead we cling to our passions and our vices and do not aspire at all to do what is good unless constrained by fear of punishment. And this is the case with those who receive God’s word with faith and purpose. The rest of us do not even aspire to this extent, but we regard the afflictions of this life and the punishments to come as of no account and are wholeheartedly enslaved to our passions.” (St. Peter of Damaskos, “A Treasury of Divine Knowledge”, Book 1, Introduction, Philokalia 3:77, Translated from the Greek by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, Kallistos Ware, Faber & Faber)

“Consider the wisdom and power of the Creator and how He has produced such multiple states of being simply by summoning them into existence, St. Gregory the Theologian says that God conceived first the angelic powers and then the states sequent to them. As St. Isaac says, on passing spiritually beyond the threshold—that is to say, beyond the veil of the temple—one becomes immaterial. The outer part of the temple represents this world; the veil or the threshold represents the firmament of heaven; the holy of holies represents the supracosmic realm where the bodiless and immaterial powers ceaselessly hymn God and intercede for us, as St. Athanasios the Great says…As St. Kosmas the Hymnographer says, `When the first man tasted the tree, he was commixed with corruption: cast out ignobly from life and with a body subject to corruption, he passed on this punishment to all mankind. But we, the earth-born, restored through the wood of the Cross, cry aloud: Blessed art Thou and praised above all for ever.” (St. Peter of Damaskos, Seventh Stage of Contemplation, Philokalia, Volume 3, Page 142, Translated from the Greek and Edited By: G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, Kallistos Ware, Faber & Faber)

“When, using the woman as his accomplice, the devil deceived Adam, he divested him of the glory that enveloped him. Thus Adam found himself naked and perceived his disfigurement, of which he had been unaware until that moment since he had delighted his mind with celestial beauty. After his transgression, on the other hand, his thoughts became base and material, and the simplicity and goodness of his mind were intertwined with evil worldly concerns. The closing of paradise, and the placing of the cherubim with the burning sword to prevent his entrance, must be regarded as actual events; but they are also realities encountered inwardly be each soul. A veil of darkness—the fire of the worldly spirit—surrounds the heart, preventing the intellect from communing with God, and the soul from praying, believing and loving the Lord as it desires to do.” (St. Makarios of Egypt, “Patient Endurance and Discrimination”, 37, Philokalia 3:300, Translated from the Greek by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, Kallistos Ware, Faber & Faber)

“The ancestral sin is that man withdrew from God, lost divine grace, and this resulted in blindness, darkness and death of the nous. We can say more accurately that `the fall of man or the state of having inherited sin is: a) the failure of his noetic power to function soundly or even to function at all, b) the confusion of this power with the functions of the brain and of the body in general, and c) its resulting subjection to mental anguish and to the surrounding conditions. Every person has experience of the fall or his own noetic power to varying degrees, as he is exposed to an environment in which this power is not functioning or is below par… Malfunctioning of the noetic power results in bad relations between man and God and between people. It also results in the individual’s making use of both God and fallen man to fortify his personal safety and happiness. This loss of the grace of God deadened man’s nous; his whole nature sickened, and he handed this sickness on to his descendants as well. In Orthodox teaching this is how we understand the inheritance of sin. The Fathers interpret St. Paul’s `as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners’ (Rom. 5, 19) not in legal terms but `medically’. That is to say, human nature became sick. St. Cyril of Alexandria interprets the situation thus: `After Adam fell by sin and sank into corruption, at once impure pleasures rushed in, and the law of the jungle sprang up in our members. So nature became sick with sin through the disobedience of one, Adam. Then the many became sinners, not as fellow transgressors with Adam, for they did not even exist, but as being of that nature which had fallen under the law of sin…Human nature in Adam became sick through the corruption of disobedience, and thus the passions entered into it.’ In another place the same Father uses the image of the root. Death came to the whole human race by Adam, `just as when the root of a plant is injured, all the young shoots that come from it must whither.’ St. Gregory Palamas says characteristically: `The nous which has rebelled against God becomes either bestial or demonic and, after having rebelled against the laws of nature, lusts after what belongs to others…’ Through the `rite of birth in God’, holy baptism, man’s nous is illuminated, freed from slavery to sin and the devil, and is united to God. That is why baptism is called illumination.” (”Orthodox Psychotherapy—The Science of the Fathers”, Pages 36-37, Metropolitan of Nafpaktos Hierotheos Vlachos, Birth of the Theotokos Monastery, 1997)

“Fr. Harakas, just what is Original Sin? You are certainly entitled to ask. Few teachings of the Church have been subject to so many misinterpretations. Some churches and religious traditions understand the meaning of Original Sin as inherited guilt, others as social disorder, others as sexual intercourse, and so on. In his book Original Sin (To Propatorikon Amartema), Fr. John Romanides explains the Eastern Orthodox position. Original Sin is the condition in which humanity finds itself as separated from true and full communion with God. As a consequence, our human nature is distorted. Our mind is darkened; our will weakened, our desires rampant; our judgment impaired; our relationships with others in constant tension. In short, we are in a condition which is disturbed and distorted. It is a condition which calls for redemption since we cannot remove ourselves from it by our own effort. The Church proclaims that it is Christ who has redeemed us from Original Sin through His death and resurrection. Through Baptism, we are freed from the determining power of this condition of separatedness from God. As a result of our membership in the Church we are given the potential of restoring our proper relationship to God, our neighbor and our own selves.” (Father Stanley S. Harakas, “The Orthodox Church: 455 Questions and Answers”, Pages 238-239, Light and Life Publishing Co., 1987)

“And they `delight’ indeed `in the law of God after the inner man,’ which soars above all visible things and ever strives to be united to God alone, but they `see another law in their members,’ i.e., implanted in their natural human condition, which `resisting the law of their mind,’ brings their thoughts into captivity to the forcible law of sin, compelling them to forsake that chief good and submit to earthly notions, which though they may appear necessary and useful when they are taken up in the interests of some religious want, yet when they are set against that good which fascinates the gaze of all the saints, are seen by them to be bad and such as should be avoided, because by them in some way or other and for a short time they are drawn away from the joy of that perfect bliss. For the law of sin is really what the fall of its first father brought on mankind by that fault of his, against which there was uttered this sentence by the most just Judge: `Cursed is the ground in thy works; thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee, and in the sweat of thy brow shalt thou eat bread.’ This, I say, is the law, implanted in the members of all mortals, which resists the law of our mind and keeps it back from the vision of God, and which, as the earth is cursed in our works after the knowledge of good and evil, begins to produce the thorns and thistles of thoughts, by the sharp pricks of which the natural seeds of virtues are choked, so that without the sweat of our brow we cannot eat our bread which `cometh down from heaven,’ and which `strengtheneth man’s heart.’ The whole human race in general therefore is without exception subject to this law…Of this also: `But we know that the law is spiritual,’ etc. And this law the Apostle also calls spiritual saying: `But we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.’ For this law is spiritual which bids us eat in the sweat of our brow that `true bread which cometh down from heaven’ but that sale under sin makes us carnal. What, I ask, or whose is that sin? Doubtless Adam’s, by whose fall and, if I may so say, ruinous transaction and fraudulent bargain we were sold. For when he was led astray by the persuasion of the serpent he brought all his descendants under the yoke of perpetual bondage, as they were alienated by taking the forbidden food. For this custom is generally observed between the buyer and seller, that one who wants to make himself over to the power of another, receives from his buyer a price for the loss of his liberty, and his consignment to perpetual slavery. And we can very plainly see that this took place between Adam and the serpent. For by eating of the forbidden tree he received from the serpent the price of his liberty, and gave up his natural freedom and chose to give himself up to perpetual slavery to him from whom he had obtained the deadly price of the forbidden fruit; and thenceforth he was bound by this condition and not without reason subjected all the offspring of his posterity to perpetual service to him whose slave he had become. For what can any marriage in slavery produce but slaves? What then? Did that cunning and crafty buyer take away the rights of ownership from the true and lawful lord? Not so. For neither did he overcome all God’s property by the craft of a single act of deception so that the true lord lost his rights of ownership, who though the buyer himself was a rebel and a renegade, yet oppressed him with the yoke of slavery; but because the Creator had endowed all reasonable creatures with free will, he would not restore to their natural liberty against their will those who contrary to right had sold themselves by the sin of greedy lust. Since anything that is contrary to goodness and fairness is abhorrent to Him who is the Author of justice and piety. For it would have been wrong for Him to have recalled the blessing of freedom granted, unfair for Him to have by His power oppressed man who was free, and by taking him captive, not to have allowed him to exercise the prerogative of the freedom he had received, as He was reserving his salvation for future ages, that in due season the fulness of the appointed time might be fulfilled. For it was right that his offspring should remain under the ancient conditions for so long a time, until by the price of His own blood the grace of the Lord redeemed them from their original chains and set them free in the primeval state of liberty, though He was able even then to save them, but would not, because equity forbade Him to break the terms of His own decree… Of this also: `But I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing.’ Because then the original curse of God has made us carnal and condemned us to thorns and thistles, and our father has sold us by that unhappy bargain so that we cannot do the good that we would, while we are torn away from the recollection of God Most High and forced to think on what belongs to human weakness, while burning with the love of purity, we are often even against our will troubled by natural desires, which we would rather know nothing about; we know that in our flesh there dwelleth no good thing viz., the perpetual and lasting peace of this meditation of which we have spoken; but there is brought about in our case that miserable and wretched divorce, that when with the mind we want to serve the law of God, since we never want to remove our gaze from the Divine brightness, yet surrounded as we are by carnal darkness we are forced by a kind of law of sin to tear ourselves away from the good which we know, as we fall away from that lofty height of mind to earthly cares and thoughts, to which the law of sin, i.e., the sentence of God, which the first delinquent received, has not without reason condemned us. And hence it is that the blessed Apostle, though he openly admits that he and all saints are bound by the constraint of this sin, yet boldly asserts that none of them will be condemned for this, saying: `There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus: for the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath set me free from the law of sin and death,’ i.e., the grace of Christ day by day frees all his saints from this law of sin and death, under which they are constantly reluctantly obliged to come, whenever they pray to the Lord for the forgiveness of their trespasses. You see then that it was in the person not of sinners but of those who are really saints and perfect, that the blessed Apostle gave utterance to this saying: `For I do not the good that I would, but the evil which I hate, that I do;’ and: `I see another law in my members resisting the law of my mind and bringing me captive to the law of sin which is in my members.’ (St. John Cassian, Third Conference of Abbot Theonas, Chapters 11-13, NPNF II 11:525-527)

“Terror of this kind we experience only when through disobedience we estrange ourselves from the life I am about to describe. This was the fate of Adam when he violated God’s commandments: associating with the serpent and trusting him, he was sated by him with the fruits of deceit (cf. Gen. 3:1-6), and thus wretchedly plunged himself and all those who came after him into the pit of death, darkness and corruption.” (Nikiphoros the Monk, “On Watchfulness and the Guarding of the Heart”, Philokalia 4:194, Translated from the Greek by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, Kallistos Ware, Faber & Faber)

“You cannot be or become spiritually intelligent in the way that is natural to man in his pre-fallen state unless you first attain purity and freedom from corruption. For our purity has been overlaid by a state of sense-dominated mindlessness, and our original incorruption by the corruption of the flesh. Only those who through their purity have become saints are spiritually intelligent in the way that is natural to man in his pre-fallen state. Mere skill in reasoning does not make a person’s intelligence pure, for since the fall our intelligence has been corrupted by evil thoughts.” (St. Gregory of Sinai, “On Commandments and Doctrines, Warnings and Promises; on Thoughts, Passions and Virtues, and also on Stillness and Prayer: One Hundred and Thirty Seven Texts”, 1-2, Philokalia 4:212, Translated from the Greek by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, Kallistos Ware, Faber & Faber)

“As the separation of the soul from the body is the death of the body, so the separation of God from the soul is the death of the soul. And this death of the soul is the true death. This is made clear by the commandment given in paradise, when God said to Adam, `On whatever day you eat from the forbidden tree you will certainly die’ (cf. Gen. 2:17). And it was indeed Adam’s soul that died by becoming through his transgression separated from God; for bodily he continued to live after that time, even for nine hundred and thirty years (cf. Gen. 5:5). The death, however, that befell the soul because of the transgression not only crippled the soul and made man accursed; it also rendered the body itself subject to fatigue, suffering and corruptibility, and finally handed it over to death. For it was after the dying of his inner self brought about by the transgression that the earthly Adam heard the words, `Earth will be cursed because of what you do, it will produce thorns and thistles for you.’…Thus the violation of God’s commandment is the cause of all types of death, both of soul and body, whether in the present life or in that endless chastisement. And death, properly speaking, is this: for the soul to be unharnessed from divine grace and to be yoked to sin. This death, for those who have their wits, is truly dreadful and something to be avoided. This, for those who think aright, is more terrible than the chastisement of Gehenna…As the death of the soul is authentic death, so the life of the soul is authentic life. Life of the soul is union with God, as life of the body is union with the soul. As the soul was separated from God and died in consequence of the violation of the commandment, so by obedience to the commandment it is again united to God and is quickened…The death of the soul through transgression and sin, is then, followed by the death of the body and by its dissolution in the earth and its conversion into dust; and this bodily death is followed in its turn by the soul’s banishment to Hades.” (St. Gregory Palamas, “Topics on Natural and Theological Science”, Chapters 9-14, Philokalia 4:296-297, Translated from the Greek by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, Kallistos Ware, Faber & Faber)

“After our forefather’s transgression in paradise through the tree, we suffered the death of our soul—which is the separation of the soul from God—prior to our bodily death; yet although we cast away our divine likeness, we did not lose our divine image.” (St. Gregory Palamas, “Topics on Natural and Theological Science”, Chapter 39, Philokalia 4:363, Translated from the Greek by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, Kallistos Ware, Faber & Faber)

“Hence—whether out of love for Him who wants us to live (for why would God have created us as living creatures if He did not especially want us to live?), or because we recognize that He knows what is for our profit better than we do (and how could He who grants us knowledge and is the Lord of knowledge not know this incomparably better than we do?), or out of fear for His almighty power—we ought not to have been misled, lured and persuaded at that time into rejecting God’s commandment and counsel; and the same now holds good with regard to those saving commandments and counsels which we later received. Just as now those who do not choose courageously to resist sin, and who set the divine commandments at nought, end up—if they do not renew their souls through repentance—by following a path that leads to inner and eternal death, so our two primal ancestors, by not resisting those who persuaded them to disobey, violated the commandment. Because of this the sentence previously proclaimed to them by Him who judges justly immediately took effect, so that as soon as they ate of the tree they died.” (St. Gregory Palamas, “Topics on Natural and Theological Science”, Chapter 48, Philokalia 4:368, Translated from the Greek by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, Kallistos Ware, Faber & Faber)

“Through the fall our nature was stripped of this divine illumination and resplendence.” (St. Gregory Palamas, “Topics on Natural and Theological Science”, Chapter 66, Philokalia 4:376, Translated from the Greek by G.E.H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, Kallistos Ware, Faber & Faber)

“Before Christ we all shared the same ancestral curse and condemnation poured out on all of us from our single Forefather, as if it had sprung from the root of the human race and was the common lot of our nature. Each person’s individual action attracted either reproof or praise from God, but no one could do anything about the shared curse and condemnation, or the evil inheritance that has been passed down to him and through him would pass to his descendants. But Christ came, setting human nature free and changing the common curse into a shared blessing. He took upon Himself our guilty nature from the most pure Virgin and united it, new and unmixed with the old seed, to His Divine Person. He rendered it guiltless and righteous, so that all His spiritual descendants would remain outside the ancestral curse and condemnation. How so? He shares His grace with each one of us as a person, and each receives forgiveness of his sins from Him. For He did not receive from us a human person, but assumed our human nature and renewed it by uniting it with His own Person. His wish was to save us all completely and for our sake He bowed the heavens and came down. When by His deeds, words and Sufferings He had pointed out all the ways of salvation, He went up to heaven again, drawing after Him those who trusted Him. His aim was to grant perfect redemption not just to the nature which He had assumed from us in inseparable union, but to each one of those who believed in Him. This He has done and continues to do, reconciling each of us through Himself to the Father, bringing each one back to obedience and thoroughly healing our disobedience. To this end, He established Holy Baptism and gave us saving laws.” (St. Gregory Palamas, “Homily 5, On the Meeting of Our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ”, 1-2, Volume 1, Pages 52-52, St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press)

“Lack of self-control is actually an evil both ancient and modern, though it did not precede its antidote, fasting. By means of our Forefathers’ self-indulgence in paradise and their contempt for the fast already in existence there, death entered the world. Sin reigned and brought in the condemnation of our nature from Adam until Christ.” (St. Gregory Palamas, “Homily 6, To Encourage Fasting”, 16, Volume 1, Page 73, St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press)

“Man, indeed, can readily accept the evil one. Death has its grip on the children of Adam and their thoughts are imprisoned in darkness. And when you hear mention made of tombs, do not at once think only of visible ones. For your heart is a tomb and a sepulcher. When the prince of evil and his angels have built their nest there and have built roads and highways on which the powers of Satan walk about inside you mind and in your thoughts, then, really, are you not a hell and a sepulcher and a tomb dead to God.” (St. Macarius, “The Fifty Spiritual Homilies”, Homily 11, “Pseudo-Macarius, the Fifty Spiritual Homilies and the Great Letter”, Page 95, Classics of Western Spirituality, Paulist Press)

“Adam, when he transgressed the commandment, lost two things. First he lost the pure possession of his nature, so lovely, created according to the image and likeness of God. Second, he lost the very image itself in which was laid up for him, according to God’s promise, the full heavenly inheritance. Take the example of a coin bearing the image of the king. If it were mixed with a false alloy and lost its gold content, the image also would lose its value. Such, indeed, happened to Adam. A very great richness and inheritance was prepared for him. It was as though there were a large estate and it possessed many sources of income. It had a fruitful vineyard; there were fertile fields, flocks, gold and silver. Such was the vessel of Adam before his disobedience like a very valuable estate. When, however, he entertained evil intentions and thoughts, he lost God. We nevertheless do not say that he was totally lost and was blotted out of existence and died. He died as far as his relationship with God was concerned, but in his nature, however, he still lives. For look, the whole world still walks on the earth and carries on its business. But God’s eyes see their very minds and thoughts and, as it were, he disregards them and has no communion with them, because nothing that they think is pleasing to God.” (St. Macarius, “The Fifty Spiritual Homilies”, Homily 12, “Pseudo-Macarius, the Fifty Spiritual Homilies and the Great Letter”, Pages 97-98, Classics of Western Spirituality, Paulist Press)

“In that day, when Adam fell, God came walking in the garden. He wept, so to speak, seeing Adam and he said: `After such good things, what evils you have chosen! After such glory, what shame you now bear! What darkness are you now! What ugly form you are! What corruption! From such light, what darkness has covered you!’ When Adam fell and was dead in the eyes of God, the Creator wept over him. The angels, all the powers, the heavens, the earth and all creatures bewailed his death and fall. For they saw him, who had been given to them as their king, now become a servant of an opposing and evil power. Therefore, darkness became the garment of his soul, a bitter and evil darkness, for he was made a subject of the prince of darkness. This was the person who was wounded by robbers and left half dead as he `was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho’ (Lk 10:30). For Lazarus also, whom the Lord raised up, exuded so fetid an odor that no one could approach his tomb, as a symbol of Adam whose soul exuded such a great stench and was full of blackness and darkness. But you, when you hear about Adam and the wounded traveler and Lazarus, do not let your mind wander as it were into the mountains, but remain within your soul, because you also carry the same wounds, the same smell, the same darkness. We are all his sons of that dark race and we all inherit the same stench. Therefore, the passion that he suffered, all of us, who are of Adam’s seed, suffer also. For such a suffering has hit us, as Isaiah says: `It’s not a wound, nor a bruise, nor an inflamed sore. It is impossible to apply a soothing salve or oil or to make bandages” (Is 1:6). Thus we were wounded with an incurable wound. Only the Lord could heal it. For this he came in his own person because no one of the ancients nor the Law itself nor the prophets were able to heal it. He alone, when he came, healed that sore, the incurable sore of the soul.” (St. Macarius, “The Fifty Spiritual Homilies”, Homily 30, “Pseudo-Macarius, the Fifty Spiritual Homilies and the Great Letter”, Pages 192-193, Classics of Western Spirituality, Paulist Press)

“The real death takes place interiorly in the heart. It lies hidden. The interior man perishes.” (St. Macarius, “The Fifty Spiritual Homilies”, Homily 15, “Pseudo-Macarius, the Fifty Spiritual Homilies and the Great Letter”, Page 123, Classics of Western Spirituality, Paulist Press)

“The reign of darkness, the evil prince, after humanity at the beginning was taken captive, surrounded and clothed the soul as if it were a human form with the vestiture of the power of darkness. `And they made him king and they clothed him with regal garments and from head to foot he would walk in royal robes.’ So likewise he clothed the soul and all its substance with sin. That evil prince corrupted it completely, not sparing any of its members from its slavery, not its thoughts, neither the mind nor the body, but he clothed it with the purple of darkness. Just as the whole body suffers and not merely one part alone, so also the entire soul was subjected to the passions of evil and sin. The prince of evil thus clothed the whole soul, which is the chief member and part of humanity, with his own wickedness, that is, with sin. And so the entire body fell a victim to passion and corruption.” (St. Macarius the Great, “The Fifty Spiritual Homilies”, Homily 2, “Pseudo-Macarius, the Fifty Spiritual Homilies and the Great Letter”, Pages 44-45, Classics of Western Spirituality, Paulist Press)

“Man, then, was thus snared by the assault of the arch-fiend, and broke his Creator’s command, and was stripped of grace and put off his confidence with God, and covered himself with the asperities of a toilsome life (for this is the meaning of the fig-leaves); and was clothed about with death, that is, mortality and the grossness of flesh (for this is what the garment of skins signifies); and was banished from Paradise by God’s just judgment, and condemned to death, and made subject to corruption.” (St. John of Damascus, “Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith”, Book 3, Chapter 1, NPNF II 9:45)

“We were freed by holy baptism from ancestral sin [progonikh `amartia].” (St. Maximus the Confessor, Ascet.44, PG 90:956, quoted in: “The Christian Tradition—A History of the Development of Doctrine”, Volume 2 [”The Spirit of Eastern Christendom”], Page 182, Jaroslav Pelikan, Chicago University Press, 1977)

Jaroslav Pelikan writes concerning Maximus’ concept of Ancestral Sin vis-à-vis Augustine’s: “…which sounds very much like the Augustinian doctrine of a sinfulness passed on from Adam to his descendants for all generations. Human nature lost `the grace of impassibility and became sin.’ In other passages, too, Maximus spoke of sin and the fall in an apparently Augustinian fashion. But Maximus’ doctrine, while referring of course to the sin of Adam, did not have in it the idea of the transmission of sin through physical conception and birth. Rather, Maximus saw Adam not as the individual from whom all subsequent human beings sprang by lineal descent, but as the entire human race embodied in one concrete but universal person. In spite of the superficial parallels between the two, therefore, Augustine’s doctrine of man and Maximus’ doctrine were really quite different. Photius recognized that the church fathers had had a twofold anthropology, one praising and the other reviling human nature. In the Eastern tradition this did not lead to the Western view of sin through the fall of Adam, but to a view of death through the fall of Adam, a death that each man merited through his own sin. Thus the hardening of Pharaoh, which Augustine had interpreted as at one and the same time a result of the secret predestination of God and an act of Pharaoh’s own free will, was to Photius a proof that `God, who never does violence to the power of free will, permitted [Pharaoh] to be carried away by his own will when he refused to change his behavior on the basis of better counsel.’ No less striking was the contrast between the Augustinian tradition and the Greek tradition in the understanding of grace and salvation. An epitome of the contrast is the formula of Maximus: `Our salvation finally depends on our own will.’ For `one could not conceive a system of thought more different from Western Augustinianism; and yet Maximus is in no way a Pelagian.’ This is because the dichotomy represented by the antithesis between Pelagianism and Augustinianism was not part of Maximus’ thought. Instead, `his doctrine of salvation is based on the idea of participation and of communion that excludes neither grace nor freedom but supposes their union and collaboration, which were re-established once and for all in the incarnate Word and his two wills.’” (”The Christian Tradition—A History of the Development of Doctrine”, Volume 2 [”The Spirit of Eastern Christendom”], Pages 182-183, Jaroslav Pelikan, Chicago University Press, 1977)

“Following the canonical laws of the Fathers, we decree concerning infants, as often as they are found without trusty witnesses who say that they are undoubtedly baptized; and as often as they are themselves unable on account of their age to answer satisfactorily in respect to the initiatory mystery given to them; that they ought without any offence to be baptized, lest such a doubt might deprive them of the sanctification of such a purification.” (Quinisext Canon 84, NPNF II 14:402)

“The first man, through eating from the tree, went to dwell in corruption: condemned to shameful banishment from life, he fell prey to bodily corruption, which he transmitted to all our kind like some pollution from disease. But the inhabitants of the earth, finding restoration in the wood of the Cross, cry aloud: Blessed art Thou and praised above all, O our God and the God of our Fathers. The breaking of the law of God came through disobedience, and the untimely partaking of the fruit of the tree brought death to mortal men.” (Matins of The Universal Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Canon—Canticle 7, “The Festal Menaion”, Page 149, Mother Mary and Kallistos Ware, St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press)

“Today the death that came to man through eating of the tree, is made of no effect through the Cross. For the curse of our mother Eve that fell on all mankind is destroyed by the fruit of the pure Mother of God, whom all the powers of heaven magnify.” (Matins of The Universal Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Canon—Canticle 9, “The Festal Menaion”, Page 151, Mother Mary and Kallistos Ware, St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press)

“Jesus, hearken unto me who was conceived in iniquity. Jesus, cleanase me who was born in sin.” (The Akathist Hymn to Jesus Christ, Eta [Ikos 3], “A Prayer Book for Orthodox Christians”, Page 202, Holy Transfiguration Monastery, 1987)

“Come my wretched soul, and weep today over thine acts, remembering how once thou wast stripped naked in Eden and cast out from delight and unending joy. In thine abundant compassion and mercy, O Fashioner of the creation and Maker of all, Thou hast taken me from the dust and given me life, commanding me to sing Thy praises with Thine angels. In the wealth of Thy goodness, O Creator and Lord, Thou hast planted in Eden the sweetness of Paradise, and bidden me to take my delight in fair and pleasing fruits that never pass away. Woe to thee, my wretched soul! Thou hast received authority from God to take thy pleasure in the joys of Eden, but He commanded thee not to eat of the fruit of knowledge. Why hast thou transgressed the law of God.” (Matins of Forgiveness Sunday, Canon—Canticle 1, “The Lenten Triodion”, Page 171, Mother Maria and Kallistos Ware, St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press)

“The effects of man’s fall were both physical and moral. On the physical level human beings became subject to pain and disease, to the debility and bodily disintegration of old age. Woman’s joy in bringing forth new life became mixed with the pangs of childbirth (Gen. 3:16). None of this was part of God’s initial plan for humanity. In consequence of the fall, men and women also became subject to the separation of soul and body in physical death. Yet physical death should be seen, not primarily as a punishment, but as a means of release provided by a loving God. In his mercy God did not wish men to go on living indefinitely in a fallen world, caught for ever in the vicious circle of their own devising; and so he provided a way of escape. For death is not the end of life but the beginning of its renewal…On the moral level, in consequence of the fall human beings became subject to frustration, boredom, depression. Work, which was intended to be a source of joy for man and a means of communion with God, had now to be performed for the most part unwillingly, `in the sweat of the face’ (Gen. 3:19). Nor was this all. Man became subject to inward alienation: weakened in will, divided against himself, he became his own enemy and executioner…The Orthodox tradition, without minimizing the effects of the fall, does not however believe that it resulted in a `total depravity’, such as the Calvinists assert in their more pessimistic moments. The divine image in man was obscured but not obliterated. His free choice has been restricted in its exercise but not destroyed. Even in a fallen world man is still capable of generous self-sacrifice and loving compassion. Even in a fallen world man still retains some knowledge of God and can enter by grace into communion with him. There are many saints in the pages of the Old Testament, men and women such as Abraham and Sarah, Joseph and Moses, Elijah and Jeremiah; and outside the Chosen People of Israel there are figures such as Socrates who not only taught the truth but lived it. Yet it remains true that humans sin—the original sin of Adam, compounded by the personal sins of each succeeding generation—has set a gulf between God and man such that man by his own efforts could not bridge.” (”The Orthodox Way”, Pages 77-80, Archimandrite Kallistos Ware, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1986)

compiled by Stephen Gagnon of the Evangelical-Orthodox Forum

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Nicholas Cabasilas on Satisfaction

“The commission of sin involves injury to God Himself… there is need of virtue great than is found in man to be able to cancel the indictment. For the lowest it is particularly easy to commit an injury against Him who is greatest. Yet it is impossible for him to compensate for this insolence by any honour… He, then, who seeks to cancel the indictment against himself must restore the honour to Him who has been insulted and pay more than he owes, partly by way of restitution, partly by adding compensation…. [Jesus] alone, then, was able to render all the honour that is due to that Father and make satisfaction for that which had been taken away. The former he achieved by His life, the latter by His death. The death which He died upon the cross to the Father’s glory He brought to outweigh the injury which we had committed; in addition He most abundantly made amends for the debt of honour which we owed for our sins.”

from The Life in Christ IV:4

Monday, December 18, 2006

Peter Boyle’s Final Repose

On 12 December, the great character-actor and former Catholic monk Peter Boyle died of cancer in New York City. Today would have been his 71st birthday.

This all reminded me of what was, in my opinion, the greatest role of his career: Clyde Bruckman, in episode 03X04 of The X-Files, Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose, in which he played a life-insurance salesman cursed with the psychic “gift” of being able to see the future death of anyone he came into contact with.

The entire episode can be viewed online. The script is available here, and an excellent review here.

Which (Western) Theologian Am I?

I took one of these silly quizzes, Which Theologian Are You? (which should have been titled, Which Western Theologian.., since it entirely excludes the East; or maybe even something else - the only non-Protestants in the list are Augustine and Anselm).

My results were:

You scored as Karl Barth. The daddy of 20th Century theology. You perceive liberal theology to be a disaster and so you insist that the revelation of Christ, not human experience, should be the starting point for all theology.

Karl Barth




Martin Luther


John Calvin




Jürgen Moltmann


Friedrich Schleiermacher


Charles Finney


Jonathan Edwards


Paul Tillich


Barth doesn’t come as a great surprise, considering the paucity and nature of the options. Nor is it at all surprising that Tillich, Jimmy Carter’s “favorite theologian”, came out on the bottom. I was initially dismayed that Moltmann and Schleiermacher were so close to the middle, but on further reflection, I realised that I dislike them about equally (though less than Edwards), and they did tie, after all.

Vladyka Seraphim, the retired Bishop of Hentai, also took this quiz - his results and insightful commentary can be found here.

In honour of Karl Barth though, I will repeat one of, in my estimation, the most important things he said:

For the history of Jesus Christ, whose content is the covenant between God and humankind, is the beginning as well as the end and goal of all things.


Saturday, December 16, 2006

Items of Interest - 27th Week After Pentecost 2006

Thoughts on Orthodox-Roman Relations Part I · Part II
By Metropolitan Anthony Bashir (+1966), Syrian Antiochian Archdiocese of North America.

Everybody knows that Christmas is really just a warmed-over Celebration of the Feast of the Sol Invictus
Or do they? Mark Shea says “The fact is, our records of a tradition associating Jesus’ birth with December 25 are decades older than any records concerning a pagan feast on that day.”

The Logos and the Tao
The philosophy of Lao-Tzu as Preparatio Evangelica.

Allende: The Untold Story
By Humberto Fontova. Pinochet’s “democratic” predecessor was a Stalinist tyrant in waiting.

The Dictator and Double-Standards
by Jacob Laskin. “In a just world, Pinochet would be remembered as an unjust man who spared his country from an infinitely worse fate. That he will instead go down as a dictator of unrivalled malignity is more of a testament to the petty prejudices of the political Left than an accurate reflection of the historical record.”

The Dawkins Delusion
Now that Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould have been committed—in their estimation at least—to the nothingness, the world has been “given” (by whom?) another Prophet of Scientism…

The Fall Into Liberal Protestantism
Raymond J. Keating on defining Liberal Protestantism.

Islam Gets Concessions; Infidels Get Conquered
by Raymond Ibrahim. What they capture, they keep. When they lose, they complain to the U.N.

Jeane Kirkpatrick, RIP
Ben Johnson eulogises America’s Iron Lady.

Why Things Were the Way They Were
by Gary DeMar. “Because Christians took their faith seriously and applied it beyond the church doors and the Sunday school hour.”

The Final Victim of the Blacklist
Richard Schickel reviews Gerald Horne’s The Final Victim of the Blacklist: John Howard Lawson, Dean of the Hollywood Ten.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Original Sin: The West-Haters Strike Back

My recent essay, Original and Ancestral Sin: A False Dichotomy, has received, interestingly, more attention than anything else I've ever written. The bulk of it has been quite positive. It was inevitable, though, that a certain set of convert-Orthodox, the segment that, whether from a very superficial mindset in general or from a desperation to justify their conversion by maximising East-West difference by any means possible, would respond with rabid tirades that put on display their knee-jerk hatred of anything "Western", as well as their propensity to simply assert when they ought to argue. These responses have been quite illustrative, in that they show how the anti-Occidentalists, like the Leftists in the Democratic Party, try to portray themselves as "more compassionate" and "more loving", make their specious "Your God is mean; our God is nice - come worship the nice God" evangelistic pleas, and then boil over with vitriol when challenged. The first volley came, in an online forum in which Orthodox and Evangelicals interact, from one D.R., who wrote:
Nah, I blame Barlaam of Calabria. It is God's will that everyone beholds the uncreated light. Satans great lie is that we cannot. The Palamite Councils officially condemned the epistemology represented by Barlaam. When I look at western theology I see nothing but Barlaamism.
He then followed up with this, following the idea that, if you can't really make an argument against someone's writing, attack his credentials:
In final analysis I must ask, since you speak with such great authority and knowledge. 1. Are you an Orthodox Priest or Bishop? 2. Do speak with the blessing representing the mind of the Church? 3. Do have a graduate education from an Orthodox Seminary? If not, do you at least have a Ph.D in Patristics or Historical theology...and if so, what was your specialty? 4. In consideration of these questions, How can you have such confidence that you are correctly representing the mind of the Church? Are you somehow a greater intellect and spiritual authority that you feel at liberty to disagree with these great men. 5. No matter how you wish to represent "Your" preferent version of things. The fact is the Eastern Orthodox Church absolutely does not share a common epistemology with the Western churches.
The second volley was from T.V., who wrote:
Anyone who wants to know the Orthodox teaching regarding Ancestral Sin would do far better reading Dr. Alexander Kalomiros' _River of Fire_ than reading the piece of utterly unedifying piece of logorrhoea which started this thread. To cut to the core of the issue: it is extremely commonplace amongst Protestants (though, because Protestantism is 'all over the map' on any Christian teaching one might imagine, it is impossible to categorically state Protestants believe any particular thing) to view God as a 'Mean God'. Just read Jonathan Edwards' _Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God_. Listen to what Protestants typically say. For instance, during the drama of trying to save the miners trapped in the West Virginia (USA) coal mine about a year ago, the daughter of the Baptist pastor said that if it was God's will that the coal miners die, they were praying to be able to accept it. That's the 'Mean God' view -- a view wholly incompatible with the Orthodox understanding of God. Even the _Baltimore Catechism_ cited in that utterly unedifying piece of logorrhoea teaches that God took away gifts previously given to Adam and Eve -- IOW, it teaches that God is an 'Indian Giver'. Again, a view wholly incompatible with the Orthodox understanding of God. The Western Christian view of 'Original Sin' is very different than the Orthodox Christian view of 'Ancestral Sin'. No amount of obfuscation is going to alter that fact.
Then, T.R. followed up with something that is, at least, an some measure of attempt at an argument:
A couple of citations may be of use to demonstrate the real dichotomy between ‘Original Sin’ and ‘Ancestral Sin’. The first is from the venerable and recently reposed Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, a scholar of the highest rank and esteem. >>>BEGIN QUOTE>>> In a famous and controversial passage of _On Nature and Grace_, one of the most important treatises that he devoted to the defense of the doctrine of original sin, Augustine had listed the great saints of the Old and New Testaments, who had nevertheless been sinners. Then he continued: “We must make an exception of the holy Virgin Mary, concerning whom I wish to raise no question when it touches the subject of sins, out of honor to the Lord. For from him we know what abundance of grace for overcoming sin in every particular [_ad vincendum omni ex parte peccatum_] was conferred upon her who had the merit to conceive and bear him who undoubtedly had no sin” When he made such a statement, Augustine was being MORE FAITHFUL TO THE GREEK TRADITION IN HIS DOCTRINE OF MARY THAN HE WAS IN HIS DOCTRINE OF HUMAN NATURE. As suggested in chapter 6, THE EAST AND THE WEST TOOK SIGNIFICANTLY DIVERGENT DIRECTIONS in their handling of the distinction between nature and grace — perhaps MORE DIVERGENT FROM EACH OTHER THAN WERE, for example, THOMAS AQUINAS AND MARTIN LUTHER. In spite of these differences between Augustine’s theory of original sin and the definitions of “ancestral sin” [_propatrikon hamartema_]” in the Greek fathers, however, they were agreed about the Theotokos, as this quotation from _On Nature and Grace_ indicated. < <<>>BEGIN QUOTE>>> [The tenets of their heresy, to summarize, are these: They say that men fall not by their reasoning but by their nature. They do not mean the nature in which Adam subsisted when he was first created (for they say this was the good creation of a good God), but that which he later inherited on account of sin, having exchanged good for evil and the immortal for the mortal by his own evil action. Therefore, [they say], having first been good by nature, men became evil, and it is by nature and not by choice that men acquire sin. Secondly, they go on to say that not even children, not even newborns, are exempt from sin. This is so, according to them, because nature subsists in sin on account of Adam’s transgression, and the sinful nature, as they would call it, extends to the entire race which comes from him.] Thus we see that the doctrine of Original Sin, a cornerstone of Western theology, was viewed as a “sickness” and a “heresy” by one of the East’s most important theologians. That Photios does not mention Augustine in his condemnation of this doctrine, which he rightly states was common in the West, indicates that he really knew very little about the North African saint and that what mention of him there is in his work is mere name-dropping. It is unmistakable that the doctrine Photios attacks is identical to that of Augustine, right down to the conclusion that even newborn babies are guilty of Adam’s sin. It is all the more remarkable how vehemently Photios attacks the Western view of sin given that the authority he cites in favor of his own views is Theodore of Mopsuestia, a Nestorian regarded as a heretic by the Orthodox Church. The Nestorian Schism, dating back to the Council of Ephesus in 431, was, in Photios’s time, the longest-standing division among Christians, yet Photios still believed that a Nestorian was better than a “heretic” who believed in Original Sin.
In regard to the quotation from Jaroslav Pelikan, it must be said that I have never posited that there are no differences at all between East and West regarding Original Sin; only that the differences are really not so great, and should certainly not be presented in the misrepresentative, hyperbolic, and generally exaggerated form that has become customary of late. But then, this quotation really only applies to St. Augustine, who, admittedly, said a number of rather bizarre things on a number of topics. (I don't mean, of course, that what he said in the passage quoted by Pelikan is bizarre.) Certain peculiarities of St. Augustine's teaching on Original Sin are not necessarily characteristic of the West as a whole. The passage in question does not examine anything more than the Saint's alleged inconsistency in his view of the sinlessness of the Virgin vis-a-vis his teaching on Nature and Grace, and, despite noting the "differences between Augustine’s theory of original sin and the definitions of “ancestral sin” [_propatrikon hamartema_]” in the Greek fathers", does not warrant (and was not, if I recall correctly, intended to posit) any hard division between the views of East and West in general. The second quotation, from Christopher Livanos' doctoral dissertation, begins with a citation from St. Photios the Great who calls "heresy" the idea that human nature itself has become sinful because of Adam's transgression. It is. Human nature was not fundamentally changed into evil by the fall - if it were, how could the nature assumed by the hypostasis of the Logos been sinless? The true doctrine, propounded by both East and West, is that all sin is of hypostatic provenance, not natural origin. A nature cannot sin - only a person can. Sin is rooted in the gnomic, not the natural, will. Sin has introduced corruption to each person descended from Adam, but it is not part of the physis of man. If St. Photios means, by saying "Secondly, they go on to say that not even children, not even newborns, are exempt from sin. This is so, according to them, because nature subsists in sin on account of Adam’s transgression, and the sinful nature, as they would call it, extends to the entire race which comes from him" he is in contradiction to the 112th Canon of Carthage*, which all Orthodox are bound to accept, since it is given oecumenical acceptance in Trullo, and this also makes his reliance on Theodore (who was not a Nestorian - he died before the controversy broke - but was the decisive influence in Nestorius' formulation, and an advocate for the Pelagian cause) somewhat suspect, and out of line with the general thought of the East which I have documented elsewhere. But if he is speaking on a deeper level, not denying the sinfulness of infants, but rather the basis for the sinfulness of infants, I cannot disagree. Not having either the source document or Dr. Livanos' dissertation at hand, I cannot really make an educated determination, and hesitate to say anything more in this context. A significant thing occurred on this email forum in the wake of D.R. and T.V.'s vehement condemnations of my essay. A (persumably Evangelical) woman thought it rather bad form for D.R. to jump straight to questioning credentials rather than interacting with content. Both D.R. and T.V. turned on her forthwith, and we should consider her reply, with which I close, most enlightening with regard to our behaviour both before and toward other Christians:
Personally, I have a lot more respect for a chimney sweep who speaks sense than for an archbishop who waffles garbage, no matter how many carpets are rolled out in front of him...[U]nfortunately I'm quite fed up with orthodoxy. When I first joined this forum a few years ago I was very interested in orthodoxy, after reading books by Father Alexander Schmemann and Kallistos Ware. But most orthodox people I met, including on this forum, came across as rather arrogant and exclusive. I find it rather funny that they want to evangelise by opposing the 'mean God' of evangelicals, but that love of which they speak I have not seen displayed much. But I see a lot of bowing, hand kissing, and carpet rolling.
It makes me wonder if the "niceness" of one's God-concept bears an inversely proportional relation to one's own personal level of "meanness". * CANON CXII of Carthage That infants are baptized for the remission of sins. LIKEWISE it seemed good that whosoever denies that infants newly from their mother’s wombs should be baptized, or says that baptism is for remission of sins, but that they derive from Adam no original sin, which needs to be removed by the laver of regeneration, from whence the conclusion follows, that in them the form of baptism for the remission of sins, is to be understood as false and not true, let him be anathema. For no otherwise can be understood what the Apostle says, “By one man sin is come into the world, and death through sin, and so death passed upon all men in that all have sinned,” than the Catholic Church everywhere diffused has always understood it. For on account of this rule of faith (regulam fidei) even infants, who could have committed as yet no sin themselves, therefore are truly baptized for the remission of sins, in order that what in them is the result of generation may be cleansed by regeneration.

Monday, December 11, 2006

17th Century Orthodox Confessions - A Rejoinder to Christopher Orr

In a recent post on Orrologion, Christopher Orr wrote the following:
There are some in Orthodoxy that seek to give greater weight to those documents in Orthodoxy that can be read as being more "western" than one is normally used to hearing in the Orthodox Church. This is an unfortunate, but well-intentioned and interesting, misunderstanding of authority and witness in Orthodox doctrine and practice.
He goes on to post a quotation from Bishop Kallistos (Ware), one which is certainly worthy of all approbation. The relevant portion of this quotation is:
In the 17th century, as a counterpart to the various "confessions" of the Reformation, there appeared several "Orthodox confessions," endorsed by local councils but, in fact, associated with individual authors (e.g., Metrophanes Critopoulos, 1625; Peter Mogila, 1638; Dositheos of Jerusalem, 1672). None of these confessions would be recognized today as having anything but historical importance. (Emphasis Orr's) When expressing the beliefs of his church, the Orthodox theologian, rather than seeking literal conformity with any of these particular confessions, will rather look for consistency with Scripture and tradition, as it has been expressed in the ancient councils, the early Fathers, and the uninterrupted life of the liturgy. He will not shy away from new formulations if consistency and continuity of tradition are preserved.
I must say that I have never come across anyone in the Orthodox Church who uses these documents in the way that, say, a Presbyterian uses the Westminster Standards. I, however, have referred to these confessions from time to time. Just so that there is no confusion in the matter, I feel compelled to say that I have done so not because of any "unfortunate, but well-intentioned and interesting, misunderstanding of authority and witness in Orthodox doctrine and practice", but rather as a witness to the historical fact that certain teachings that Christopher characterises as "more 'western' than one is normally used to hearing in the Orthodox Church" were once normal fare therein. Of course, I have never restricted my historical examination of these issues - namely Original Sin and Substitutionary Atonement - to the Confessio Dosithei and the Confession of Peter Mohyla. I have documented my argument that such doctrines have been part and parcel of Orthodox dogmatics from the Ante-Nicene Fathers to current works from Orthodox scholars who do not buy into the semi-Marcionite consensus of a certain segment of American and European Orthodox scholars who militate against said teachings. The unfortunate thing, in my book, is the popularity of the Our-God-is-Nicer-than-Your-God apologetic which is so often presented as authentic Orthodoxy in our day.

Ancestral vs. Original Sin: A False Dichotomy

In the current debate over the Orthodox view of Original Sin, one popular entry is Ancestral Versus Original Sin: An Overview with Implications for Psychotherapy by the Very Rev. Fr. Antony Hughes, rector of St. Mary's Antiochian Orthodox Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The essay was written in early 2005 at the request of one of the editors of The Journal of Psychology and Christianity, a publication of the Christian Association for Psychological Studies, in order to provide an explanation of the alleged differences in the Eastern and Western doctrines of Original Sin and their bearing on pastoral practice. My purpose in this response is to take on several of what I consider to be the defects of Fr. Antony's presentation, and to demonstrate the falsity of his artificial dichotomy between Ancestral and Original Sin. I do so not to defend Western Christianity, though I often feel compelled to since that tradition is so deeply misrepresented. Rather, what I find to be of great concern is the jettisoning of concepts that have, for the entirety of Church history, been part and parcel of Orthodox teaching, in favour of the innovations of a few recent thinkers who have been deeply influenced in significant (though certainly not in all) ways by postmodernism and Protestant Liberalism. The straightforward purpose of Ancestral Versus Original Sin (hereafter AvOS) is succinctly laid out in the Abstract of the paper:
The differences between the doctrine of Ancestral Sin—as understood in the church of the first two centuries and the present-day Orthodox Church—and the doctrine of Original Sin—developed by Augustine and his heirs in the Western Christian traditions—is explored. The impact of these two formulations on pastoral practice is investigated. It is suggested that the doctrine of ancestral sin naturally leads to a focus on human death and Divine compassion as the inheritance from Adam, while the doctrine of original sin shifts the center of attention to human guilt and Divine wrath. It is further posited that the approach of the ancient church points to a more therapeutic than juridical approach to pastoral care and counseling.
After a brief introductory anecdote, the relevance of which is to establish the point that "Love, in fact, is the heart and soul of the theology of the early Church Fathers and of the Orthodox Church", Fr. Antony continues:
The Fathers of the Church—East and West—in the early centuries shared the same perspective: humanity longs for liberation from the tyranny of death, sin, corruption and the devil which is only possible through the Life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Only the compassionate advent of God in the flesh could accomplish our salvation, because only He could conquer these enemies of humanity. It is impossible for Orthodoxy to imagine life outside the all-encompassing love and grace of the God who came Himself to rescue His fallen creation. Theology is, for the Fathers of the Orthodox Church, all about love.
Certainly, no Christian, Eastern or Western, can disagree with this. It is the central truth of the Christian faith. But then the subtle attack on the West, and the not-so-subtle attack on St. Augustine of Hippo begins:
As pervasive as the term original sin has become, it may come as a surprise to some that it was unknown in both the Eastern and Western Church until Augustine (c. 354-430). The concept may have arisen in the writings of Tertullian, but the expression seems to have appeared first in Augustine’s works. Prior to this the theologians of the early church used different terminology indicating a contrasting way of thinking about the fall, its effects and God’s response to it. The phrase the Greek Fathers used to describe the tragedy in the Garden was ancestral sin.
This is demonstrably untrue. In fact, when consulting the standard English-language Patristic anthology, the term original sin is used in Lactantius, Victorinius, Cyril of Jerusalem, and the pseudepigraphal Gospel of Nicodemus, all before Augustine and the Canons of Carthage, while the term ancestral sin occurs not once in the entire series of books, which covers the first eight centuries of Church History. Now, to be fair, it must be said the the Greek terms equivalent to the Latin peccato originali - progoniki amartia and to propatorikon amartima, terms which are useful, indeed, in showing that there is a difference between the personal act of the First Man, and the condition engendered thereby, are better translated as Ancestral Sin. The problem, however, lies in this: the sharp distinction between Original and Ancestral is not a historical distincitive of Orthodox teaching. The difference in having two Greek terms simply resolves the possible ambiguity of there being only one term in Latin (and English, for that matter). It is, at the same time, noteworthy that Fr. George Mastrantonis uses the terms Ancestral Sin and Original Sin interchangeably. The difficulty involved with Fr. Anthony's (or, I should say, Fr. John Romanides', on whom he relies) reassignment of meaning in the two English terms is that it is misleading, and turns into an untrue criticism of Western Christian thought by making use of that very ambiguity. AvOS continues:
Ancestral sin has a specific meaning. The Greek word for sin in this case, amartema, refers to an individual act indicating that the Eastern Fathers assigned full responsibility for the sin in the Garden to Adam and Eve alone. The word amartia, the more familiar term for sin which literally means “missing the mark”, is used to refer to the condition common to all humanity (Romanides, 2002). The Eastern Church, unlike its Western counterpart, never speaks of guilt being passed from Adam and Eve to their progeny, as did Augustine. Instead, it is posited that each person bears the guilt of his or her own sin. The question becomes, “What then is the inheritance of humanity from Adam and Eve if it is not guilt?” The Orthodox Fathers answer as one: death. (I Corinthians 15:21) “Man is born with the parasitic power of death within him,” writes Fr. Romanides (2002, p. 161). Our nature, teaches Cyril of Alexandria, became “diseased…through the sin of one” (Migne, 1857-1866a). It is not guilt that is passed on, for the Orthodox fathers; it is a condition, a disease.
The most common slander of the West made by Orthodox is that Western Christianity is committed to the notion that all mankind is condemned on the basis that the personal guilt of Adam for his personal act of transgression is transmitted to his progeny, rather than the condition of alienation from God, a corrupt heart, a propensity to act sinfully, and mortality. Once again, this is demonstrably untrue. The Roman Catholic Baltimore Catechism says:
56. What happened to Adam and Eve on account of their sin? On account of their sin Adam and Eve lost sanctifying grace, the right to heaven, and their special gifts; they became subject to death, to suffering, and to a strong inclination to evil, and they were driven from the Garden of Paradise. In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken; for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return. (Genesis 3:19) 57. What has happened to us on account of the sin of Adam? On account of the sin of Adam, we, his descendants, come into the world deprived of sanctifying grace and inherit his punishment, as we would have inherited his gifts had he been obedient to God. But, by the envy of the devil, death came into the world. (Wisdom 2:24) 58. What is this sin in us called? This sin in us is called original. 59. Why is this sin called original? This sin is called original because it comes down to us through our origin, or descent, from Adam. Therefore as through one man sin entered into the world and through sin death, and thus death has passed unto all men because all have sinned. (Romans 5:12) 60. What are the chief punishments of Adam which we inherit through original sin? The chief punishments of Adam which we inherit through original sin are: death, suffering, ignorance, and a strong inclination to sin. 61. Is God unjust in punishing us on account of the sin of Adam? God is not unjust in punishing us on account of the sin of Adam, because original sin does not take away from us anything to which we have a strict right as human beings, but only the free gifts which God in His goodness would have bestowed on us if Adam had not sinned.
The more recent Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
III. ORIGINAL SIN Freedom put to the test 396 God created man in his image and established him in his friendship. A spiritual creature, man can live this friendship only in free submission to God. The prohibition against eating "of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" spells this out: "for in the day that you eat of it, you shall die." The "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" symbolically evokes the insurmountable limits that man, being a creature, must freely recognize and respect with trust. Man is dependent on his Creator, and subject to the laws of creation and to the moral norms that govern the use of freedom. Man's first sin 397 Man, tempted by the devil, let his trust in his Creator die in his heart and, abusing his freedom, disobeyed God's command. This is what man's first sin consisted of. All subsequent sin would be disobedience toward God and lack of trust in his goodness. 398 In that sin man preferred himself to God and by that very act scorned him. He chose himself over and against God, against the requirements of his creaturely status and therefore against his own good. Constituted in a state of holiness, man was destined to be fully "divinized" by God in glory. Seduced by the devil, he wanted to "be like God", but "without God, before God, and not in accordance with God". 399 Scripture portrays the tragic consequences of this first disobedience. Adam and Eve immediately lose the grace of original holiness. They become afraid of the God of whom they have conceived a distorted image - that of a God jealous of his prerogatives. 400 The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul's spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination. Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man. Because of man, creation is now subject "to its bondage to decay". Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will "return to the ground", for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history. 401 After that first sin, the world is virtually inundated by sin There is Cain's murder of his brother Abel and the universal corruption which follows in the wake of sin. Likewise, sin frequently manifests itself in the history of Israel, especially as infidelity to the God of the Covenant and as transgression of the Law of Moses. And even after Christ's atonement, sin raises its head in countless ways among Christians. Scripture and the Church's Tradition continually recall the presence and universality of sin in man's history: What Revelation makes known to us is confirmed by our own experience. For when man looks into his own heart he finds that he is drawn towards what is wrong and sunk in many evils which cannot come from his good creator. Often refusing to acknowledge God as his source, man has also upset the relationship which should link him to his last end, and at the same time he has broken the right order that should reign within himself as well as between himself and other men and all creatures. The consequences of Adam's sin for humanity 402 All men are implicated in Adam's sin, as St. Paul affirms: "By one man's disobedience many (that is, all men) were made sinners": "sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned." The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ. "Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men." 403 Following St. Paul, the Church has always taught that the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination towards evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adam's sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a sin which is the "death of the soul". Because of this certainty of faith, the Church baptizes for the remission of sins even tiny infants who have not committed personal sin. 404 How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants? The whole human race is in Adam "as one body of one man". By this "unity of the human race" all men are implicated in Adam's sin, as all are implicated in Christ's justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called "sin" only in an analogical sense: it is a sin "contracted" and not "committed" - a state and not an act. 405 Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence". Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ's grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle. 406 The Church's teaching on the transmission of original sin was articulated more precisely in the fifth century, especially under the impulse of St. Augustine's reflections against Pelagianism, and in the sixteenth century, in opposition to the Protestant Reformation. Pelagius held that man could, by the natural power of free will and without the necessary help of God's grace, lead a morally good life; he thus reduced the influence of Adam's fault to bad example. The first Protestant reformers, on the contrary, taught that original sin has radically perverted man and destroyed his freedom; they identified the sin inherited by each man with the tendency to evil (concupiscentia), which would be insurmountable. The Church pronounced on the meaning of the data of Revelation on original sin especially at the second Council of Orange (529)296 and at the Council of Trent (1546). A hard battle. . . 407 The doctrine of original sin, closely connected with that of redemption by Christ, provides lucid discernment of man's situation and activity in the world. By our first parents' sin, the devil has acquired a certain domination over man, even though man remains free. Original sin entails "captivity under the power of him who thenceforth had the power of death, that is, the devil". Ignorance of the fact that man has a wounded nature inclined to evil gives rise to serious errors in the areas of education, politics, social action and morals. 408 The consequences of original sin and of all men's personal sins put the world as a whole in the sinful condition aptly described in St. John's expression, "the sin of the world". This expression can also refer to the negative influence exerted on people by communal situations and social structures that are the fruit of men's sins. 409 This dramatic situation of "the whole world [which] is in the power of the evil one" makes man's life a battle: The whole of man's history has been the story of dour combat with the powers of evil, stretching, so our Lord tells us, from the very dawn of history until the last day. Finding himself in the midst of the battlefield man has to struggle to do what is right, and it is at great cost to himself, and aided by God's grace, that he succeeds in achieving his own inner integrity.
The Lutheran Augsburg Confession says:
Article II: Of Original Sin. Also they [the Lutheran Churches] teach that since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Ghost. They condemn the Pelagians and others who deny that original depravity is sin, and who, to obscure the glory of Christ's merit and benefits, argue that man can be justified before God by his own strength and reason.
The Reformed Belgic Confession says:
Article 15: Of Original Sin. We believe that, through the disobedience of Adam, original sin is extended to all mankind; which is a corruption of the whole nature, and an hereditary disease, wherewith infants themselves are infected even in their mother's womb, and which produceth in man all sorts of sin, being in him as a root thereof; and therefore is so vile and abominable in the sight of God, that it is sufficient to condemn all mankind. Nor is it by any means abolished or done away by baptism; since sin always issues forth from this woeful source, as water from a fountain; notwithstanding it is not imputed to the children of God unto condemnation, but by his grace and mercy is forgiven them. Not that they should rest securely in sin, but that a sense of this corruption should make believers often to sigh, desiring to be delivered from this body of death. Wherefore we reject the error of the Pelagians, who assert that sin proceeds only from imitation.
The Reformed Heidelberg Catechism says:
Question 7. Whence then proceeds this depravity of human nature? Answer. From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, in Paradise; hence our nature is become so corrupt, that we are all conceived and born in sin.
The Presbyterian Westminster Confession of Faith says:
CHAPTER VI. Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment thereof. I. Our first parents, begin seduced by the subtilty and temptations of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. This their sin God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory. II. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. III. They being the root of mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity, descending from them by original generation. IV. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions. V. This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin. VI. Every sin, both original and actual, being a transgression of the righteous law of God, and contrary thereunto, doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal.
The Anglican Articles of Religion say:
IX. Of Original or Birth-Sin. Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam, (as the Pelagians do vainly talk;) but it is the fault and corruption of the Nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam; whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation. And this infection of nature doth remain, yea in them that are regenerated; whereby the lust of the flesh, called in Greek, phronema sarkos, (which some do expound the wisdom, some sensuality, some the affection, some the desire, of the flesh), is not subject to the Law of God. And although there is no condemnation for them that believe and are baptized; yet the Apostle doth confess, that concupiscence and lust hath of itself the nature of sin.
The Methodist Confession of Faith says:
Article VII—Sin and Free Will We believe man is fallen from righteousness and, apart from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, is destitute of holiness and inclined to evil. Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God. In his own strength, without divine grace, man cannot do good works pleasing and acceptable to God. We believe, however, man influenced and empowered by the Holy Spirit is responsible in freedom to exercise his will for good.
The purpose of this long recital of Western creeds is to establish that, despite the popular presentation by Orthodox of the aforementioned incorrect characterisation of Western teaching, the reality is that the Western confessions, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, say nothing about inheriting the personal guilt of Adam's personal act of sin, but rather concentrate on the effects of that sin, which are transmitted to the entire race of man, which forms an ontological unity with Adam - something we Orthodox also teach. The one document that discusses imputation of guilt, the Westminster Confession, does so in the context of the ontological corruption of mankind, not simply as an unconnected act of transgression by the federal head of the race. In other words, the basis of imputation is not an unjust transfer of guilt-by-association, but a reality rooted in the effect of one man's sin on the whole race. At the same time, it should be pointed out that the language of the Orthodox in this regard has, historically, been much the same. I will not add to the length of this article by appending the supporting data - I have already published it in other posts on this site:
In summary, both Eastern and Western Christianity can agree with Fr. Alexander Golubov, who writes:
It can be said that while we have not inherited the guilt of Adam’s personal sin, because his sin is also of a generic nature, and because the entire human race is possessed of an essential, ontological unity, we participate in it by virtue of our participation in the human race. “The imparting of Original Sin by means of natural heredity should be understood in terms of the unity of the entire human nature, and of the homoousiotitos [i.e., coessentiality, consubstantiality] of all men, who, connected by nature, constitute one mystic whole. Inasmuch as human nature is indeed unique and unbreakable, the imparting of sin from the first-born to the entire human race descended from him is rendered explicable: ‘Explicitly, as from the root, the sickness proceeded to the rest of the tree, Adam being the root who had suffered corruption’” [St. Cyril of Alexandria].
After a largely unobjectionable discourse on the nature of salvation, AvOS continues with a section subtitled Augustine's Legacy, a discussion largely not about original sin, except for a description of the well known fact that the Latin text of Scripture at Romans 5:12 reads in quo (in whom) rather than the Greek eph ho (for, or because), which led this Father to speak of how all sinned in Adam. Rather, this section consists of a caricature of the development of Western Christian thought, making an argument that has become characteristic of Orthodox evangelism in the past several decades - one that distills down to "Your God is mean; our God is nice. Come worship the nice God." This is not the place for a long discussion of what I call the semi-Marcionite impulse in contemporary Orthodoxy, and its opposition to and reinterpretation of everything in the Scriptures and the Fathers that has to do with God's justice, wrath, etc., out of a presumed need to protect His goodness and lovingkindness from other aspects of His self-revelation. But it is necessary to address a couple of things in Fr. Antony's presentation. The first is the reinterpretation of the word justice, and its equivalents in Greek and Hebrew. Fr. Antony writes:
The Roman idea of justice found prominence in Augustinian and later Western theology. The idea that Adam and Eve offended God’s infinite justice and honor made of death God’s method of retribution (Romanides, 2002). But this idea of justice deviates from Biblical thought. Kalomiros (1980) explains the meaning of justice in the original Greek of the New Testament: The Greek word dikaiosuni ‘justice’, is a translation of the Hebrew word tsedaka. The word means ‘the divine energy which accomplishes man’s salvation.’ It is parallel and almost synonymous with the word hesed which means ‘mercy’, ‘compassion’, ‘love’, and to the word emeth which means ‘fidelity’, ‘truth’. This is entirely different from the juridical understanding of ‘justice’. (p. 31)
A scholar of Fr. Antony's calibre should know better than to follow Alexander Kalomiros' very bizarre and unsubstantiated assertion here. The source of the quotation is The River of Fire, a talk that the fanatic Old Calendarist medical doctor gave in Seattle in 1980, and which enjoys great popularity as an exposition of Orthodox teaching on soteriology. It is, in reality, a vicious anti-Western diatribe full of untruthful accusations, and constitutes what is perhaps the prime example of the semi-Marcionite position of which I have spoken. Kalomiros' definition of the Hebrew word צדקה (tsedaqah) - ‘the divine energy which accomplishes man’s salvation’ - cannot be found in any lexicon or dictionary. Instead, what one will find if one looks is this:
צדקה tsedâqâh Brown-Driver-Briggs Definition: 1) justice, righteousness 1a) righteousness (in government) 1a1) of judge, ruler, king 1a2) of law 1a3) of Davidic king Messiah 1b) righteousness (of God’s attribute) 1c) righteousness (in a case or cause) 1d) righteousness, truthfulness 1e) righteousness (as ethically right) 1f) righteousness (as vindicated), justification, salvation 1f1) of God 1f2) prosperity (of people) 1g) righteous acts Part of Speech: noun feminine
The literal meaning of the word is "straight", as opposed to "crooked". It is true that צדקה is also, at least in modern Hebrew, the word used to mean "charity", as in giving to the poor - and such should, indeed, enter into an expanded understanding of its meaning. But Kalomiros' definition, which is repeated here in AvOS, is entirely out of the field. The second problem in this portion of the presentation is evident in the following paragraph:
The image of an angry, vengeful God haunts the West where a basic insecurity and guilt seem to exist. Many appear to hold that sickness, suffering and death are God’s will. Why? I suspect one reason is that down deep the belief persists that God is still angry and must be appeased. Yes, sickness, suffering and death come and when they do God’s grace is able to transform them into life-bearing trials, but are they God’s will? Does God punish us when the mood strikes, when our behavior displeases Him or for no reason at all? Are the ills that afflict creation on account of God? For example, could the loving Father really be said to enjoy the sufferings of His Son or of the damned in hell (Yannaras, 1984)? Freud rebelled against these ideas calling the God inherent in them the sadistic Father (Yannaras, 1984, p. 153). Could it be as Yannaras, Clement and Kalomiris propose that modern atheism is a healthy rebellion against a terrorist deity (Clement, 2000)? Kalomiros (1980) writes that there are no atheists, just people who hate the God in whom they have been taught to believe.
This attack on Western Christianity is a straw man. The Western churches have no conception of God like the one described here - that God is angry and vengeful in a manner that makes him the enemy, rather than the lover, of mankind. Even in the most common example used to demonstrate that such is the Western view, Jonathan Edward's Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God, the whole point is that God does indeed love mankind and is graciously offering salvation to the recalcitrant and sinful race, and staving off their final destruction so that we may repent. I have shown this in another essay. Rather, the view that God is a "sadistic terrorist deity" comes from unbelievers like those who St. Paul describes: "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen." It is noteworthy that this text is part of the Scriptures of the Orthodox Church, as are the words of Jesus Christ: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him". Fr. Antony's implication that God does not have any wrath is clearly contradicted by the words of the Apostle Paul. Certainly we recognise that all of God's punishments or chastisements are not rooted in some kind of uncontrollable temper, but rather in the love of God who arranges all things for our salvation; but it is requisite that we take into account all of what God has revealed about Himself, not just the parts we like. Fr. Anthony's description also makes the mistake of not discerning the shades of meaning inherent in the Western usage of the phrase "the will of God," which can refer to a number of things that includes events He permits even though they are not part of what one might say He "desires". The idea of "the will of God" is something that should never be addressed in a simplictic or superficial manner. It is unfortunate that, in this type of writing, Orthodox Christian teaching is not allowed to stand on its own merits, but resort is made to misrepresentation both of Orthodoxy and of other faith-communities, and the Holy Faith is defined in simple opposition to "bad" Catholicism and Protestantism. The next section of Fr. Antony's paper is Pastoral Practice East and West, and once again, we are faced with another false dichotomy:
In simple terms, we can say that the Eastern Church tends towards a therapeutic model which sees sin as illness, while the Western Church tends towards a juridical model seeing sin as moral failure. For the former the Church is the hospital of souls... For the latter, whether the Church is viewed as essential, important or arbitrary, the model of sin as moral failing rests on divine election and adherence to moral, ethical codes as both the cure for sin and guarantor of fidelity. Whether ecclesial authority or individual conscience imposes the code the result is the same.
There is no need to address this - the author is making an oversimplification that is necessarily misleading, and does not recognise that Western Christianity also considers the Church to be "the hospital of souls," with adherence to the commandments as a necessary part of healing. This kind of thinking, derides and disposes with the standards of Christian behaviour and ethics that have always been held up both in East and West in favour of a nebulous "restoration of life to the fullness of freedom and love"(the quotation is from Christos Yannaras). To be fair, it must be said that Fr. Antony qualifies these statements, saying, "Admittedly, the idea of salvation as process is not absent in the West. (One can call to mind the Western mystics and the Wesleyan movement as examples.)" But this ignores that virtually all of Western Christianity views salvation as a process. The great failing of this final portion of the article is that, with regard to the West, it makes the accusation that the process of salvation is seen only in conformity to an external code of behaviour, and with regard to the East, that it is rooted in compassion and freedom of growth through the sacraments, downplaying obedience to Christ's commands. A very telling excerpt is this:
Yannaras writes that the message of the Church for humanity wounded and degraded by the ‘terrorist God of juridical ethics’ is precisely this: “what God really asks of man is neither individual feats nor works of merit, but a cry of trust and love from the depths” (Yannaras, 1984, p. 47). The cry comes from the depth of our need to the unfathomable depth of God’s love; the Prodigal Son crying out, “I want to go home” to the Father who, seeing his advance from a distance, runs to meet him. (Luke 15:11-32)
The article concludes with another paragraph that, once again, all Christians would affirm:
As we have seen, for the early Church Fathers and the Orthodox Church the Atonement is much more than a divine exercise in jurisprudence; it is the event of the life, death and resurrection of the Son of God that sets us free from the Ancestral Sin and its effects. Our slavery to death, sin, corruption and the devil are destroyed through the Cross and Resurrection and our hopeless adventure in autonomy is revealed to be what it is: a dead end. Salvation is much more than a verdict from above; it is an endless process of transformation from autonomy to communion, a gradual ascent from glory to glory as we take up once again our original vocation now fulfilled in Christ. The way to the Tree of Life at long last revealed to be the Cross is reopened and its fruit, the Body and Blood of God, offered to all. The goal is far greater than a change in behavior; we are meant to become divine.
The tragic thing here is that, in order to make his case, Fr. Antony has, as have Romanides, Kalomiros, and Yannaras before him, resorted to a misrepresentation of the West - that it is almost purely juridical in its understanding of salvation, and has a conception of God that is essentially a bloodthirsty monster demanding blind obedience, or else - and a misrepresentation of the East, putting forth the innovative new understandings of issues like Original Sin and Atonement that are common both to the anti-Western Orthodox tendencies of Romanides, Kalomiros, and, to some extent, Yannaras, as well as to the Liberal Protestantism of the WCC, while also unconsciously downgrading obedience to the commandments to a secondary position, falling in behind a concept of "seeking God in freedom" which has no real ethical content, but sounds better than obedience - something which is, historically, a hallmark of Orthodox teaching. In the final analysis, I have written many words here, and perhaps it is best to end with the first comment made about AvOS when it was posted on the Antiochian Archdiocese website, which was much more succinct:
Sigh. Same old tired East / West stereotypes. Blame Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, etc. ad nauseam.