Monday, December 11, 2006

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.

23 comments:

Weedon said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-11 @ 5:12:32 pm]

Wow. Great and insightful analysis. Thank you for dealing with the actual data, and not stereotypes!

Pontifications said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-12 @ 1:12:42 pm]

How different are the Western and Eastern understandings of original sin and are they truly incompatible, at least in a church-dividing way? Ephrem Hugh Bensusan does not think so; indeed, he is concerned about the caricature of Western understandings by his fellow Orthodox believers. See his most recent article “Ancestral Sin vs Original Sin.” May his tribe increase.

Benjamin Andersen said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-12 @ 2:12:17 pm]

Ephrem, again, thanks for your posts on this subject.

There are important differences between East and West, to be sure; but let us not add to the unhappy division by setting up new controversies. I'm afraid that this is what has been done by some modern Orthodox writers. In reaction to the so-called "pseudo-morphosis" of Orthodox theology in the "Western captivity", it seems to me that another "pseudo-morphosis" of Orthodox theology has taken place, as an extreme reaction to Western influences (or what's merely perceived as coming from the West, anyhow).

BTW, I have to admit that the anonymous comment at the end of the article on the Antiochian Archdiocese site was mine. :-)

Ephrem said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-12 @ 3:12:50 pm]

Christopher Orr has added an entry in this discussion on his blog Orrologion, citing the excellent and very eirenic work of Bishop Kallistos (Ware) of Diokleia on this topic.

benjamin said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-12 @ 3:12:55 pm]

Wonderful. Thank you.

Sarx: GenX@40 said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-12 @ 7:12:27 pm]

Ancestral vs. Original

An Interesting response to those who say east and west diverge on "Original Sin". I note the article is posted as a response to someone known to several readers of this blog, and perhaps a work equally known: Ancestral Versus Original Sin: An Overview with Implications for Psychotherapy by the Very Rev. Fr. Antony Hughes. I've not yet read it... But I'm looking forward to it: we need, more and more, to stop playing on our differences and instead, find our common faith.

NewTrollObserver said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-12 @ 9:12:08 pm]

What are the implications of all of this for the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which supposedly is based on Roman notions of original sin?

Ephrem replies: I address this question here, in my answer to comment #5.

Athanasios Boeker said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-12 @ 11:12:13 pm]

A very inspiring article. I would like to recomend to anyone interested in this subject the book Christus victor by Gustav Aulen and the article Dogma of Redemption by Vladamir Moss. I myself sense that the core problem is when one tries to stress one particular human concept for God (Anthropopathism/Anthropomorphism) whether it be wrath, justice or even love so far that it excludes the rest, and becomes the sole discriptive word for God.

WE as Orthodox should understand that apophatic theology eventually negates every human (cataphatic) concept about God that one could make, and it’s only when we put all of these human concepts together that we get a small glimpse at who God is. The biblical language is what it is, and it may need some explaining, but it cannot be explained away. -Athanasios Boeker

George said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-13 @ 1:12:56 am]

I would like to challenge the authority of Aulen’s book, which, rather than positing a chasm between East and West, posits a chasm between “Christ the victorious defeater of sin, death, and the devil” and “Christ the suffering victim who offered his own life as a sacrifice for our sins.” Reading the letter to the Hebrews, the “Against Heresies” of Irenaeus, and the “On the Incarnation” of Athanasius (not to mention the Lord’s prayer–”forgive us our debts”) is enough to show that the juridical model of sin is not in conflict with, but rather of a piece with the relational model, the illness model, etc. The Cross was atoning sacrifice and loving offering, Christ is victor and victim. There are differences of _emphasis_, but the only way to really have a “coldly juridical” model of the atonement is if one has a post-Enlightenment understanding of “justice”–the law of the ruler imposed on the people, or determined by society, so that “demanding” satisfaction is truly an arbitrary event not related to a crime. This is alien to the early Church which, rooted in a biblical vision of reality expounded often through categories from Greek philosophy, which both prevent this view. Rather, the category of “law” is something that reflects the fundamental relational order of the universe.

George said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-13 @ 1:12:53 am]

I might add that the post-Enlightenment notion of law is also alien to the medieval Western Church, including _especially_ Anselm and Thomas, who had very subtle reflections on the impassibility of God that would prevent them from conceiving of “wrath” as a state of divine “anger” that needs to be assuaged by someone takin’ a licking. That view didn’t come to prominence until Calvin, but even he is sometimes caricatured.

Perry Robinson said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-13 @ 1:12:40 am]

"Ephrem replies: You must have missed what I said in the comment to which I referred you, to wit, “Nobody at all, Eastern or Western, teaches that all men are personally guilty of Adam’s personal sin. Rather, we all believe that, in a judicial sense, humanity was declared guilty when our federal head, Adam, sinned, thus placing the entire race under the dominion of Satan.”"

This can't be correct. The Fifth Session of the Council of Trent, sec. 5 reads,

"If anyone denies, that, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted: or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away; but says that it is only raised, or not imputed, let him be anathama!"

Creeds of Christendom, vol 2, p. 87

Ephrem replies: Actually, Trent here doesn't address my point - that no one is held personally guilty for Adam's personal act. I do not deny that each person is guilty from conception of being a sinner. I hold that all are guilty, and that guilt is indeed transmitted as part of the body of original sin - it is just that the concept of guilt is far more than a simply judicial one. And it is a real, personal guilt belonging to each person.

This is what I see in Canon CXII (CX in Latin) of Carthage, which we Orthodox are bound to accept by its inclusion in Trullo:

"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."

It is interesting in this regard to consider the reply of Jeremias II to the Lutherans on the subject. He wrote:

"Your second article contains the assertion that every man is guilty of original sin. We also affirm that this is, indeed, the truth. The psalmist says in the 5oth Psalm: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me.” And the Lord says in the Gospels concerning the purging away of original sin: “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven.”"

The very noteworthy thing in this passage is that, in Article II, even in the expanded version of the Augustana to which Jeremias was responding, the word "guilt" appears not once. Jeremias is the one who introduces it.


It seems what you are proffering as what we "all" believe is the Protestant doctrine of Federalism grounded in Scotism. See McCoy's Fountainhead of Federalism: Heinrich Bullinger and the Covenantal Tradition

Ephrem replies: No, what I am saying that "what we all believe", in my estimation, lies at the root of Reformed Federal Covenantalism, a later development of the theme.

Kyle B. Housley said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-13 @ 5:12:56 am]

Excellent summation. My only question is if there is actually a good pathology of the "bad" idea of original sin in the west. It seems that there is an "original guilt" component to some Western theology that influences certain abuses in Protestantism.

I had initially been taken in by this characterization of the difference between Eastern and Western theories of original sin, but as my reading in the Fathers continued, as I read more "official" theology from Catholicism and Orthodoxy and as I critically examined the ideas, I decided that the idea was false at worst, grasping at semantic straws at best.

While I believe there are legitimate criticisms to be made of certain aspects of the Western theological tradition, such criticisms have a much narrower and far less drastic application than their proponents tend to give them. I noticed you live in Lexington and you've mentioned the Antiochian church in a few places here, so can I assume you're personally acquainted with David Bradshaw? I found his criticism in "Aristotle East & West" to be fascinating, even if I'm not sure I wholly agree.

Ephrem replies: Thank you for your excellent comments. I only recently moved to Lexington, so while I seem to recall being introduced once to Dr. Bradshaw, I don't know him personally. He also now attends an OCA parish (not because of any problem at the Antiochian parish, but because of family reasons), so I don't see him unless he makes an appearance at St. Andrew. I have not yet read his book, though it is on my list.

Perry Robinson said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-13 @ 11:12:04 am]

Since guilt attaches to person, who then sinned in order to make me guilty? I did not sin prior to conception and certainly wasn't able to till much later. That is, if you deny that Augustine, Trent, the Reformed, or the Lutherans teach that we are guilty for Adam's transgression, then what act are we in fact guilty for? Is nature guilty or are persons guilty?
If guilt is personal and not natural, and I do not inherit a person, how can I inherit guilt?

Ephrem replies: Guilt can only attach to person. But it goes beyond the visible commission of sinful acts; it is a stateor attitude of the heart, and what we are actually guilty of from conception is that state or attitude. Likewise, it goes far beyond simple forensics - guilt is imputed to us because we are really guilty since we are conceived in iniquity - our attitude is rebellion from the beginning, even though we be in an embryonic body that really can't do a whole lot, if any, visible sinning. I would consider in this context Rom. 9:10-14.

Also, if you are questioning the justice of the imputation itself, I might point out the words of Bishop Hilarion of Vienna:

"From a rational point of view, to punish the entire human race for Adam’s sin is an injustice. But not a single Christian dogma has ever been fully comprehended by reason. Religion within the bounds of reason is not religion but naked rationalism, for religion is supra-rational, supra-logical. The doctrine of original sin is disclosed in the light of divine revelation and acquires meaning with reference to the dogma of the atonement of humanity through the New Adam, Christ: ‘…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. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous… so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Rom.5:18-21)."


Putting aside the fact that Carthage is from a Latin translation and the fact that often Latin and Greek texts do not always agree and so we’d have to examine both, I don’t think Carthage as you have cited it lends your claims much support. You need to show that they had the specific idea of guilt in mind. Simply mentioning a term doesn’t show a continuity of usage form newer usages to older usages. Such is the word-concept fallacy. I admit that children are baptized for the *result* of generation may be removed, but that doesn’t imply that what is in them through generation is a collective personal guilt.

As for Jeremias, we’d need to look at the texts in question, as I have often found Catholic and Protestant translations, specifically older ones to be somewhat anachronistic. Moreover, Protestants were not beyond editing texts to make Rome look bad, so the textual reliability of these texts being delivered to Charles by the Lutherans is a significant question. In fact, it is probably the case here as the page you cite makes clear by denoting significant variations in the manuscripts, differences of no small import. It seems irratonal to put so much weight on unreliable manuscripts.

Ephrem replies: The translation was from the Orthodox Fr. George Mastrantionis, who also makes no indication he thinks the Replies of Jeremias II have been altered or are in any way in question as to provenance.

In any case, I am not sure why any Orthodox should take Jeremias statements as normative. Beyond that, the question is, what does *he* mean by saying that one is guilty for original sin? Does he mean that there is moral blame that is transmitted through generation or does he mean that they suffer as a result of Adam’s transgression? So likewise, when it says that children are born "sinners by nature." Well, does that imply a “sinful nature” or does it imply an altered and weakened state? Everyone uses the Pauline language but what they mean by it is often not always obvious. Simply tossing out the texts doesn’t amount to an analysis of them.

Ephrem replies: No, it doesn't. It would be my inclination to interpret them in concord with the Maximian tradition that assigns the act of willing to person rather than nature, and defines guilt in terms of the document in question, the Greek translation of the Augustana, that he had before him:

"They also teach that, after the transgression of Adam­ the first-formed, all men from father and mother are born sinners by nature, that is, without fear of God, without trust in Him, but with concupiscence and disorder, and that they are clothed in innate worthlessness and wretchedness. In consent and in accordance with the opinion and teaching of the holy Fathers and all the orthodox and pious in the Church, they state that the innate worthlessness and wretchedness of­ ­­human nature is the liability and subjection to eternal damnation for all men, through the transgression of the first-formed, in which every man by nature is born a child of the wrath of God, subject to and under the power of eternal death; moreover, they teach that the corruption of human nature is implanted in everyone from Adam, and it comprises the deprivation or the deficiency of original justice, and of integrity or of obedience, and concupiscence.

"This deficiency is a terrible blindness, and ignorance of God, an obscuring or overshadowing of divine illumination and knowledge of God, which would have radiated in human nature were it still undamaged and unstumbled, and it is a distortion of rectitude: that is, a corruption of the unchangeable and uninterrupted obedience, and of the undis­guised and unmixed and unsurpassed love of God, and of things similar to these impressed by God on the untarnished human nature before the fall. They say that this affliction or wickedness of the corrupted human nature is truly sin, sentencing to eternal death all men up to the present who have not been born again through baptism and the Holy Spirit.

"Thinking and teaching in this way, they condemn the so-called Pelagians and the others, moreover, who, to the dishonour of the redemption and the good works of Christ, deny that wretchedness and worthlessness from birth is sin, and they contend and say that man by his own powers of the soul can fulfil the law of God and be justified before Him."

As to why his statements should be taken as normative, I am a bit bewildered. I was simply using them as representative of Orthodox thought in the mid-to-late 1500s.


The way you phrased the statement concerning our federal head is not in fact what we all believe since federalism is a distinctly protestant doctrine relying on a nominalist view about taxonomies. It is true that Reformed Federalism has some roots in prior views, but such is the case for just about every view under the sun and it doesn't imply that federalism is either the same as earlier views or that it preserves the truths of earlier views unaltered.

Ephrem replies: Perhaps my use of a Reformed phrasing has misled you. I was giving it Orthodox content, with Adam as the First Man, and head as well as representative of the race, not only nominally but ontologically.

We are not "declared guilty" as in the Protestant view of IMPUTATION which either mediately or immediately brings about corruption and a loss of the imago dei. This view of imputation implies that men of themselves are capable of pleasing God prior to the imputation of GUILT-Pelagianism. Moreover, the construct of Federalism is an extrinsic relationship, which is certainly not what Augustine had in mind nor any of the Easterners. In fact, this is the Reformed and Lutherans who are pre-lapsarian Pelagians because they identify nature with grace so that in the fall all value of nature is lost, resulting in total depravity. What consitutes Pelagianism is not the idea of free will being retained after the fall, but the identification of nature and grace.

Ephrem replies: I will not argue against the correctness of what you say with regard to the particular interpretation of Protestant teaching you have given. I would rather, argue that your interpretation is itself largely a caricature in that it does not take into account of the richness and variety of the (still inadequate, but not wholly erroneous) Protestant positions.

I am not "guilty" because Adam was my representative and I thus sinned "in Adam." Again, such a view is based late medieval nominalism. Augustine's view of a collective personal guilt is based on the late platonic notion of the Universal Soul of which individuals are temporary manifestations.

Ephrem replies: No, you are guilty because you are a sinner from conception because of the corruption that Adam introduced into all humanity, infecting each person, but in such a way that makes us each morally culpable, "being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil."

As to the second part - prove it from his writings. There can be no doubt that Augustine was unduly influenced by Neoplatonism, particularly in his identification of simplicity as the Divine Essence. But I have never seen any indication in anything he has written that he believed each individual to be a temporary avatar of the oversoul.


If sin and guilt go together, what are we to make of Hebrews 4:15 and the teaching of Maximus the Confessor that Christ inherits our corruption?

Ephrem replies: That's easy. We affirm, with the Scripture and St. Maximos, that guilt can only be assigned to persons since it is a result of the action of the gnomic will in disobedience to God.

Albert Foster said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-13 @ 6:12:06 pm]

It is worth noting that the author ignores the reality that the Roman Church did not adopt the Augustinian view for about 1000 years. It came in the same period as many of the other excesses that brought about the Protestant Reformation. The reason for this remarkable gap needs to be explored.

Steve Golay said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-13 @ 10:12:41 pm]

If only Monica was NOT such a good and godly mother we would have been spared her son!

Just kidding.

West or East Augustine is now ours. Our chore, with Western or Eastern ears, is to listen to him. He is a great gift. Never understood (even as an Orthodox) the Eastern hostility towards him. The West has never insisted (with few excpetions) that his writings be taken whole and unquestioning. That’s not the way the West works - or writes. I found that tendency more among the Orthodox (especially with monastic writings such as Theophan or Cassian).

Steve Golay said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-13 @ 10:12:11 pm]

Nice to read something from Fr. Hughes. My wife and I were received in the Orthodox Church when he was pastor in Orinda, CA. We have never heard the Divine Liturgy sung with such beauty.

Rev. Anthony Forte said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-14 @ 9:12:48 am]

Perry Robinson writes:
“Ephrem replies: You must have missed what I said in the comment to which I referred you, to wit, “Nobody at all, Eastern or Western, teaches that all men are personally guilty of Adam’s personal sin. Rather, we all believe that, in a judicial sense, humanity was declared guilty when our federal head, Adam, sinned, thus placing the entire race under the dominion of Satan.””

This can’t be correct. The Fifth Session of the Council of Trent, sec. 5 reads,

“If anyone denies, that, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted: or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away; but says that it is only raised, or not imputed, let him be anathama!”
————————
Here is perhaps the source of the misunderstanding of the Catholic teaching of Original Sin. The term that is rendered as “guilt” in the quote above from the Council of Trent is not the Latin “culpa” but “reatum.” While this is a common translation it is misleading. “Reatum” does not mean guilt or personal culpability but rather it is a technical legal term describing the legal status of one charged or convicted of a crime. The Catechism of the Catholic Church speaks of a “fallen state.” Both the Council of Trent and the Catechism describe this reatum/fallen state as the loss of holiness and justice. As has been noted above, the Catechism explicitly denies that Original Sin has the nature of personal culpability; refuting the charge made by some Orthodox.

David said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-14 @ 1:12:20 pm]

"A couple of citations may be of use to demonstrate the real dichotomy between 'Original Sin' and 'Ancestral Sin'." [EHB - remainder of quotation snipped due to the fact that I address it, from its source, here. The person making the comment had no comment other than the repetition of the quotation.]

FrJohn said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-15 @ 1:12:28 am]

Ephrem,

Just ran across this (and related) posts, and I want to say “bravo!” The points you’re making a really important. Fortunately, you’re not alone. I pray that our polemics would get better, relying less on a false interpretation of “The West” and more on the kind of thing the quote from II Cor in your sidebar lauds.

Fr Lev said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-15 @ 4:12:11 am]

I believe there are a number of mistakes in the original post. I can't address them all at once, but I wish to make a general comment about the tone of the piece and then attempt to clarify one of the mistakes (in my opinion).

Ephrem replies: As Norris, the Sternwood butler, replied to Philip Marlowe in the cinematic version of The Big Sleep, "I make many mistakes." :-)

First, I find the tone of the original post unedifying in that demeans the author's perceived opponents, attributes to them unworthy motives, and suggests that any distortions of Western teaching they might be guilty of could well be intentional misrepresentation. This is uncharitable, of course, but it is also an illegitimate way to argue -- it has the flavor of either the genetic fallacy or the ad hominem fallacy. The motives and character of Fr John Romanides, Dr. Alexander Kalomiros, and Professor Christo Yannaras are not the issue; one should attend to the truth or falsity of their premises and whether their inferences are valid.

Ephrem replies: I think this is an unwarranted perception. I do not call into question the motives or character of either Fr. John Romanides or Professor Christos Yannaras. Where I disagree with them, I state so, interacting with the content of what they have said. In the case of Dr. Kalomiros, I do, however, think character and motive is an issue, due to the nature of what he has written (which largely consists of invective against the West and against all other Orthodox Christians outside of his particular Old Calendarist movement - his ecclesiastical position eventually was so strict that, eventually, even the more extreme Old Calendarists thought him fanatical).

One specific misunderstanding I want to address is the author's attack on Dr. Kalomiros' understanding of the Hebrew tsedaqah, which is usually rendered as 'justice.' The latter writer understands it thusly in his _The River of Fire_:

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)"

Mr. Bensusan dismisses this as a 'very bizarre and unsubstantiated assertion,' referes to the author as a 'fanatic,' and then offers this understanding as 'perhaps the prime example of the semi-Marcionite position of which I have spoken.' Mr. Bensusan then lists some meanings from a dictionary and judges that Dr. Kalomiros' understanding of tsedaqah 'is entirely out of the field.' One might infer from this that Dr. Kalomiros made all this up. However, had Mr. Bensusan looked at the footnote to the parapgraph in question, he would have learned where Dr. Kalomiros found the purported meaning -- not in an Orthodox writer, much less one animated by an anti-Western bias or a semi-Marcionite attitude to the Old Testament, but rather from a distinguished Jesuit biblical scholar, Fr Stanislas Lyonnet. One can find the English translation of the relevant article as 'Pauline Soteriology' in _Introduction to the New Testament_, A. Robert and A. Feuillet, eds., Desclee, 1965, pp. 820-865. In section V of the article, Fr Lyonnet makes the points about tsedaqah and its use by St Paul as Dr. Kalomiros gives in his piece. Fr Lyonnet gives a careful citation of numerous instances of the relevant terms in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin translation, to support his position that the kind of justice at work here is a _justitia salvifica_. Fr Lyonnet writes that 'God is "just" inasmuch as He acts in conformity with the obligation He has freely assumed of granting Anraham's inheritance to His people.' He shows that St Paul's use of this in Romans was not an innovation but was faithful to the Jewish scriptures, and supports this theological understanding with St Thomas Aquinas.

In short, this was not a case of sloppy scholarship on the part of Dr. Kalomiros.

Ephrem replies: I disagree wholeheartedly, and, with all due respect, Father, it is evident to me that it is you who have misunderstood. I am not denying that the tsedaqa of God is a justitia salvifica, or calling into question at all the fine insights of Fr. Lyonnet. I am categorically denying that tsedaqa can be translated "the divine energy which accomplishes man’s salvation". I think you assume too much regarding the presuppositional matrix of what I have said, as though I am advocating some kind of Byzantine Rite Protestantism with a concomitant minor Eastern rewrite of the Westminster Standards at the helm, while not reading Kalomiros carefully enough to see that he is, indeed, a semi-Marcionite with respect, not just to the OT, but to the character of God as, in the phrase of St. Irenaeus, merely good.

If you really want to see the real direction of my thinking on this issue, Lossky's Orthodox Theology: An Introduction is a good place to start.

Fr. Georges Florovsky said, "Independence from the West must not degenerate into an alienation which simply becomes opposed to the West. For a complete break with the West does not give true and authentic liberation. Presently Orthodoxy can and must no longer circumvent or hush up the issue. This however, means that Orthodoxy must encounter the West creatively and spiritually. " I will not deny that Romanides and Yannaras do this to a large extent. But the real difficulty I am addressing is that, instead of such creative and spiritual encounter, I see out there a pop-Orthodoxy that is more concerned with degrading the West by understanding their ideas and concerns in only superficial, simplistic, and yes, misrepresentative ways, a real semi-Marcionite position that wishes, like Liberal Protestantism, to dismiss or explain away all that seems "unworthy of God", a failure to deal with the fact that we have often expressed ourselves in very similar ways to the West on issues like Original Sin and Atonement, and an evangelistic approach that does not rely on the dynamic interaction and deep thought of men like Florovsky and Lossky, but rather ends up in a tragic reduction of the beautiful, full-orbed paradigm that is characteristic of Orthodoxy at its best in favour of trite catch-phrases, glib cliches, and what certainly appears to Western Christians as an insulting arrogance that fails to engage them where they are.

Aquinos said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-15 @ 2:12:04 pm]

The only relevant issue seems to be whether we are born condemned to death or not. I think we agree that all human beings, other than Jesus Christ who is the author of life himself and “who gave himself up for the life of the world,” are so born, including the Mother of God. All die in Adam and all rise in Christ.

Fr Lev said...

[Originally posted 2006-12-17 @ 7:12:35 pm]

I believe that Dr. Kalomiros’ ‘definition’ faithfullyly conveys Fr Lyonnet’s discussion of tsedaqah, and I commend his article to you. While I do find some of the rhetoric used by Fr John Romanides and the good doctor to be unhelpful as well as uncharitable, I don’t think it is an adequate reply to either attack their motives or do injustice to their positions, even if one disagrees with them. I inferred nothing about your ‘presuppositional matrix’ or your motives; thus far I have simply argued that you seriously misrepresented the legitimacy of Dr. Kalomiros’ understanding of tsedaqah. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and I think that Fr John and Dr Kalomiros weren’t always wrong, either.

Citing a few Western texts that don’t seem to teach the notion of inherited guilt does not address the texts that do. St Augustine’s teaching that unbaptized children merit and receive eternal damnation because they are guilty of Adam’s sin is not easily discounted. While Aquinas may have been the best Western theologian, Augustine has certainly been the most influential. The worst parts of Western theology are still with us, as when one reads John Piper’s explanation of the Passion of Christ: “God had to spend His wrath on Jesus.” Where I think Fr John and Dr. Kalomiros went wrong was in supposing that the worst parts of Western theology were still the dominant teaching in Catholicism and mainstream Protestantism; they clearly are not. But it is also fair to say that much of the positive change in the West has been due in no small part to the recovery of the witness of the East.

For the record, I am generally very much in agreement with Lossky, although some in the West thought him anti-Western because of his vigorous position on the filioque. And I very much like Yannaras, whom you describe as anti-Western. I think he is very anti-Augustinian (and rightly so), but the Dominican theologian Aidan Nichols has written about how open Yannaras is to the West. For my own part, I find St Thomas Aquinas to be a deeply patristic and, for the most part, ‘Orthodox’ theologian!

Anonymous said...

St Augustine’s teaching that unbaptized children merit and receive eternal damnation because they are guilty of Adam’s sin is not easily discounted.

Well, it was easily discounted by the Catholic Church, which has never held this view, much less dogmatized it. :)