18 March 2009

What to Make of This?

"My daughter just had a child. Holding him, I thought, "It is so difficult to believe that an infant's heart is sinful." Many teach this, but not Orthodoxy. We do not believe that we are totally depraved, as many Protestants do. Nor do we believe we are born with the guilt of sin, as the Romans teach. Instead, we are born in innocence and our heart is pure. To be sure, we all sin. Yet some, as did our Lady the Birthgiver-of-God, continue in purity of heart the rest of their lives, as blameless. Mary was as human as we are, yet morally pure throughout her life. We are all born in the same condition and we have the choice to keep our hearts pure and directed towards God, or to sin and rebel against the purity of a loving heart. Our lives become a continual struggle to conform our hearts to purity and holiness. Recognize this, and we are on our way to becoming Orthodox."

A friend recently pointed out these shocking words. They come from here:

Ukrainian Orthodox

And are on page 16. Yes, the Ukrainian Orthodox are canonical. And they tolerate, if not actually teach, that "we are born in innocence and our heart is pure." One of my parishioners attended a Baptism in an Orthodox Church (OCA) where the priest hammered home the same point: we are not baptizing this baby because it is a sinner!

Striking the difference between this blatant Pelagianism and the piece I've been working through by St. Augustine called *On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins.* Striking too how anyone who was once Lutheran can embrace this, let alone pray Psalm 51 anymore.

156 comments:

123 said...

Perhaps we need a working definition of pelagianism and 'semi-pelagianism' here.

The Orthodox view is that we are born into 'sins', i.e., a sinful and fallen world rather than into a personal state of sin. We are not born having sinned, personally.

There are also differences between being in a state of imperfection that is not personal sin/transgression, a state of spiritual infancy and 'will-lessness' and committing actual, personal sins.

What's really being gotten at is that our nature is not corrupt for it is good together with the idea that only we ourselves are responsible for our sins and no one or no thing (our nature) else.

It is very easy to be offended when holding others to one's own terminology and definitions. Even within Orthodoxy, a phrase like "For the birth of God makes both natures new" is offense-giving, potentially, unless one were to know it comes from the Lenten Triodion and is therefore not calling into question the immutability of the divine nature. St. Maximos Confessor wrote a whole treatise on similarly 'difficult' passages in St. Gregory the Theologian, which, if written by any other person would have been highly suspect.

William Weedon said...

"What's really being gotten at is that our nature is not corrupt for it is good together with the idea that only we ourselves are responsible for our sins and no one or no thing (our nature) else."

And there's the rub...

For our nature is corrupted from conception. I do not have to teach a child to be selfish; it arrives already understanding that all too well. Eph 2:1-3 teaches us that we are BY NATURE children of wrath, dead in trespasses and sins.

Scott Larkins said...

This shouldn't come as a shock at all. The Orthodox are pelagian to the core. The primary reason I lost interest in the East.

123 said...

I should note that Christ is referred to as the Savior of His mother, too. While she may be without a certain kind of personal sin, this was not absenting her from other things that 'miss the mark' such as physical corruption, death, lack of knowledge, perfection, etc.

Death is the great 'missing the mark' for Orthodoxy, as is our lack of union with Christ. Whatever the 'sinlessness' of the Theotokos, she was 'sinful' and 'lacking' in her mortality (we believe she truly, definitely died) and not fully united with Christ prior to her death (and reunion with her body - resurrection by her Son).

As Fr. Florovksy noted, such dogmas were pondered in the heart of the Christian community and not shouted from the rooftops. These are great mysteries that fallen ones such as I cannot hope to attain to understanding by experience or vision.

An important question to ask when thinking of the Theotokos is what we believe 'changes' about the bread and wine as elements in their consecration. Are they forever 'different' than they were before? What of the chalice and paten? Are they different after holding the Body and Blood? What of the actual Cross of Christ, His tomb, the crown of thorns, etc.? Were they different or just the same stuff as they were before except 'historically important'? There is something different about the Theotokos after she took into herself the fullness of the Godhead, bodily; after her flesh became the flesh of God Himself (remember, there was no mingling of a physical father's DNA - He is all her, physically and genetically). This will affect a person, as would have her upbringing in the Temple the daughter of a promise and prayer, brought up in an environment of prayer, etc.

123 said...

I believe Mueller, at least, goes to some pains to point out that Lutherans do not believe human nature itself to be changed into something other than that which God called 'good'. However, it is covered in muck and 'corrupted' in some sense whereby humans are never experienced as the 'good' nature God originally created and preserved, but as corrupt 'by nature'.

Orthodox would read 'by nature' in Ephesians 2:3 in the same way 'divine nature' is read in Peter - as examples of a more loose, pre-Nicene dogmatic terminology.

Systematics are nice, but they can't be read back into history.

William Weedon said...

Christopher,

You know that Lutherans believe and teach that even after the fall, Lutherans confess that God remains the creator and preserver of human nature, but since the fall there is inhering in this nature a corruption both all pervasive and horrible and beyond the ability of any man to separate from the nature itself, unless that man is the God-man Himself.

As to "loose" language, I'll stick with the language the Holy Spirit inspired!

123 said...

You are more than welcome to accept the error of Wauwatosa :) and prefer the bare language of the Holy Spirit while ignoring the doctrine of the Fathers. The language is loose only insofar as Nicea through Chalcedon defined with greater terminological clarity and rigor what a term like ousia does and does not mean. I think you would grant that we do not become partakers, literally, of the divine nature itself. Perhaps you would not. It is an easy slide into nuda Scriptura from sola Scriptura, even with a quia subscription to the Book of Concord.

My point was exactly what you repeated. The human nature God created is preserve as good, and yet there is something that has inhered to that good nature. Lutherans, it seems to me, preserve this distinction while getting as close as practically possible to agreeing with Calvinists about total depravity. Orthodoxy does not go that far, but that is a far cry from pelagianism, properly (rather than hyperbolically) defined - we actually sing hymns regularly that anathematize Pelagius and his teaching by name after all.

William Weedon said...

Lutherans use the language of total corruption, not depravity. A slight difference, perhaps, but I like to stay with the language of the Symbols. If you are able to say that "we are born in innocence and our heart is pure" you are lying to yourself, my friend. You are denying a fundamental truth which the Holy Spirit teaches in Scripture about your fallen condition.

123 said...

It's a little sad to see you sounding less like the consensus of the Fathers. 'Twas to be expected.

I feel a patristic cite-off a brewin'. I'm guessing you will quote a lot of Augustine, Ambrose and Chrysologus. :)

Dcn. Carlos Miranda said...

For better or for worse in the physical realm the one holy catholic church is torn asunder. The divide began with the great schism of 1054 as a result of the conflict between Constantine IX and the Pope Leo IX, and went on to its next level in the 1530’s with the Augsburg confession in Germany and the Act of supremacy in England with King Henry the VIII and archbishop Cranmer. Nevertheless, it should be noted that the driving force underneath the two schisms was different. The first was primarily over polity, while the second was primarily over doctrine. The method employed by the second group was that of re-builders of the original edifice of Christianity; it was a mid-stream correction to the poor navigation of 1500 years. None would argue that the freedom taken to themselves by many of these re-builders actually de-formed the church rather than re-formed it. However, some of the reformers did do a good job in this reformation by pulling from the finest of the church Fathers and councils and building upon their concepts. Herein lies the distinction between the orthodox and the reformation churches, the orthodox have never made a mid-stream correction. They have indeed retained much which is ancient and good, even great, but there are various places where they have gone beyond what is written, to the point where they oppose what is written in the “Word,” and this doctrine is just one of them. The Orthodox Church needs a reformation, but then again, don’t we all.

William Weedon said...

Fr. Carlos,

There are Orthodox who would agree with you and Orthodox who would castigate your suggestion.

Christopher,

LOL! Well, perhaps. But what I am most concerned with is that this statement is simply FALSE. It is the very basis on which Pelagius made his arguments and I can't believe you don't see that.

123 said...

I can't believe you don't see your over-reliance on the thought and presuppositions of a single Father - Augustine - and tradition among many traditions - the Latin West.

I have got to finish my post on Easts (plural) vs. West (singular).

I believe Pelagius added the idea that we have the ability to save ourselves. Orthodox would not agree with this. Innocence is different than being saved, perfect, divinized, etc.

My spiritual father once said that the Orthodox teach that Adam and Eve were created as spiritual children at dawn, and by noon they had fallen. They were not grown up, they had no understanding or knowledge, they were duped not knowing any better. They were innocent, but not able; they were guileless, but not 'finished'. They were at the beginning of what would have ended in the Incarnation, and from there eternal growth in knowledge of and union with God. Christ came to offer this and also to save the world itself, and then also to save us from our tendency to sin, from death and the power of the devil.

Trying to see our own assumptions or paradigms is like trying to see the back of our heads - it can only be done with much help or in others.

William Weedon said...

Is Cyril of Alexandria a Western father?


"We then say, that in many things we all of us offend, and that no man is pure from uncleanness, even though his life upon earth be but one day. Let us ask then of God mercy; which if we do, Christ will justify us; by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father, be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, unto ages of ages. Amen." - Homily 120 on Luke 18 - St. Cyril of Alexandria

For the whole nature of man became guilty in the person of him who was first formed; but now it is wholly justified again in Christ. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 42 on St. Luke

Was Origen?

And if you like to hear what other saints also have felt in regard to physical birth, listen to David when he says, I was conceived, so it runs, in iniquity and in sin my mother hath borne me, proving that every soul which is born in the flesh is tainted with the stain of iniquity and sin.  This is the reason for that saying which we have already quoted above, No man is clean from sin, not even if his life be one day long. To these, as a further point, may be added an enquiry into the reason for which, while the church's baptism is given for the remission of sin, it is the custom of the church that baptism be administered even to infants. Certainly, if there were nothing in infants that required remission and called for lenient treatment, the grace of baptism would seem unnecessary.  (R.B. Tollinton, Selections From The Commentaries And Homilies of Origen, 1929, p. 211)

Brian P Westgate said...

The wages of sin is death. Babies sadly die. Case closed.
Oh, Pastor Weedon, fear not, you are not from that place known to her locals as 'Tosa.

William Weedon said...

Thanks, Brian. Amen!

Chris Jones said...

All I can say is that what you quoted is not what I was taught.

It is true that the Orthodox do not teach total depravity nor "original guilt" (i.e. the baby is not guilty of Adam's sin). However, the child is born in bondage to Satan through the power of the fear of death (Hb 2.15), and even though not "guilty" either of Adam's sin or of personal sin which has not yet occurred, nevertheless stands in need of a Saviour due to that bondage. Bondage which will soon enough result in actual, personal sin.

Those who accuse the Orthodox of Pelagianism understand neither Orthodoxy nor Pelagianism. Pelagianism teaches that we can, if we will, justify ourselves before God on our own, apart from grace; but the Orthodox Church says "To those who reject the grace of redemption preached by the Gospel as the only means of our justification before God, Anathema!"

I think the Synodikon of Orthodoxy is a bit more authoritative than whoever that Ukrainian fellow is.

William Weedon said...

Thank you, Chris. Though Pelagius did begin with the exact assumption of a state of innocence. It is my sincere hope that such a statement could be corrected, for it surely is a very dangerous error.

Anonymous said...

Yes, that's the Orthodox teaching: that is the teaching of the Fathers whom You love to quote so much.

William Weedon said...

So will the real Orthodox please stand up?

Chris Orr basically defends the article; Chris Jones (former Orthodox, now Lutheran) rejects it; Lucian defends it - and insists it is Patristic (now that's a hoot!).

So who is correctly representing the Orthodox point of view?

Anonymous said...

Yes, of course a newborn baby is innocent. They can't walk or talk yet!

Without that jocularity, however, It doesn't take long at all to see how quickly the "self" takes over as a child grows. It's there from the very beginning. From sin comes sins.

The Protoevangelium of James with its teaching about Mary in the temple is an apocryphal account not binding on Lutherans.

I, too, will take my stand with the Holy Spirit. The Fathers are not infallible.

Christine

123 said...

With all due respect to my friend Mr Jones, I would stick with the Orthodox on this one, not the formerly Orthodox.

"The wages of [Adam's] sin is death", as with my own.

Just like there can be wide and narrow definitions of justification in Lutheran theology and its reading of the Bible, so, too, can there be nuance in the theological language of other Christians as they read the Bible.

Past Elder said...

God bless us, ain't it great to have a broad consensus so we don't have to grope around such fundamental questions?

William Weedon said...

But it is not "nuance" to say that a child is born innocent and to say that a child is born corrupted by sin from birth. If St. Cyril can confess that no man is pure from uncleanness even if his life on earth be but a day, how can the Orthodox allow people to teach that human life is innocent at birth?

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

"We believe, teach, and confess that there is a distinction between man's nature, not only as he was originally created by God pure and holy and without sin, but also as we have it [that nature] now after the Fall, namely, between the nature [itself], which even after the Fall is and remains a creature of God, and original sin, and that this distinction is as great as the distinction between a work of God and a work of the devil." FC, Epitome

123 said...

We inherit from Adam is not personal guilt, but a fallen nature that is subject to death and tends toward sin, weak, heavy. Thus, we are all in need of salvation, even the Theotokos who was without personal sin. So, none of us is pure from the uncleanness of mortality and corruption, from weakness and the heaviness of our fallen nature. That is a different thing than personal sin, however, at least in the Orthodox understanding of things.

There is a difference between perfection, sinlessness and innocence.

Cha said...

Well, I think that the Orthodox teach that all humans are created by God in the image of God.

Don't Lutherans believe this, too? (I did even when I was a Lutheran!)

Are you saying that God himself is sinful then?

Anonymous said...

Of course Lutherans believe that all human beings are created in God's image. As Scripture says, "As in Adam all die so in Adam all will be made alive" at the Parousia.

But that doesn't mean all will enter God's Kingdom.

Scripture is also very clear that God is holy, untouched by sin and incapable of sinning. God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness. Not so for His human creation since the Fall.

Christine

Cha said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cha said...

oops. trying again:

My point had nothing to do with who will enter God's kingdom or not.

Anonymous said...

My point had nothing to do with who will enter God's kingdom or not.

It did insofar as the fact that because all men are created in the image of God all will be raised at the last day.

You posed the question.

Christine

Chris Jones said...

I was looking for that quote from the Formula, but Fr Gregory beat me to it. We're not that far apart on this issue, folks.

I think Mr Burns (the author of the quoted article) goes too far when he says "we are born in innocence and our heart is pure." It is true that we are "born in innocence" in that we are not personally guilty of the sin of Adam. But to say that "our heart is pure" is to ignore the damage to our nature that was done by the Fall. The heart is not changed from something good into something evil by the Fall; but it is damaged and made incapable of doing and being what it was intended for.

We all can see the effects of the Fall; indeed, the doctrine of original sin is the one Christian teaching that one can see without recourse to revelation, just by observing the behavior of human beings and reflecting on what is in one's own heart. But East and West have different ways of accounting for it. It seems to me that the West, following Augustine, casts the matter in terms of personal guilt and innocence, reward and punishment. For the East, the central fact that explains original sin is our bondage to Satan through the fear of death. That is why the East sees no need to attribute personal guilt to an infant, nor to countenance the idea that human nature is itself evil. He who is in bondage to Satan through death (even though he be an infant) is incapable of saving himself, irrespective of his personal status of "guilty" or "innocent."

For me the single most important verse of Scripture for the doctrine of original sin is Hebrews 2.15. Any explanation of original sin which does not take account of it is simply out of court.

Fr. Jon M. Ellingworth said...

Chris Jones wrote: For me the single most important verse of Scripture for the doctrine of original sin is Hebrews 2.15.

If the issue is sin, then should we not go to passages where sin is actually addressed, e.g. Psalm 51:5? Sin is something real, it is "taken away" by the Lamb of God. Death is a result, a "wage" of sin; likewise the "fear of death" is a result of sin. Yes, fear of death can cause men to live their lives in bondage to Satan -- fear of pysical harm to the body is a powerful temptation that many succomb to. But the issue is original "sin", not the fear of death.

Cha said...

"It did insofar as the fact that because all men are created in the image of God all will be raised at the last day."

I did not say this - you drew an incorrect conclusion to my statement. God, who created all in His image gave to humankind free will. All created in God's image have the freedom to accept or reject Christ. This is where the question of salvation comes into play, but I did not address it at all - and would not address it.

Anonymous said...

Okay. Let's back up.

Well, I think that the Orthodox teach that all humans are created by God in the image of God.

Don't Lutherans believe this, too? (I did even when I was a Lutheran!)


The short answer: Yes, Lutherans believe that all humans are created in the image of God.

Christine

Cha said...

"The short answer: Yes, Lutherans believe that all humans are created in the image of God."

I knew that. :-)

Chris Jones said...

Pr Ellingworth,

"sin is something real"

Is there anyone in this discussion who is suggesting that sin is not real? Certainly not I.

"Death is a result, a "wage" of sin; likewise the "fear of death" is a result of sin."

Yes, death is a result of sin. But sin and death are mutually interrelated: sin causes death, and death causes sin. I would not suggest neglecting the passages where (as you say) "sin is actually addressed." But my experience is that many people concentrate on passages like Ps 51.5 and neglect the teaching of Hb. 2.15 -- that is, they focus on personal guilt (even to the point of allowing themselves to believe that personal guilt can be, and is, inherited from Adam, which makes a mockery of the word "personal") to the total exclusion of our bondage to Satan. That -- our bondage to Satan -- is a quite important spiritual fact about our fallen condition.

I wonder what you make of the last phrase of Ro 5.12 (εφ ω παντες ημαρτον): what is the antecedent of the relative pronoun ω? Is it ενος ανθρωπου at the beginning of the verse, or ο θανατος, the closest masculine singular noun to the masculine singular pronoun? And, if Scripture interprets Scripture, how does the teaching of Hb 2.15 suggest we read εφ ω παντες ημαρτον? As Augustine did, reading it as "in Adam all have sinned"; or reading it as "because of death all have sinned"?

Sin and death: it's a two-way street. Quite a bind Satan had us in. First he led our first parents to sin, imposing death on the whole human race. Then because of death we could not do other than to sin, and because of sin we continued to be subject to death. He had us coming and going.

Until, of course, Hell "took a dead body, and met God face to face."

123 said...

...our heart is pure...

Heart is also one of those pesky words that can have multiple meanings from very precise to very broad - like logos and its cognates.

It's probably worth noting that heart is often equated with nous. It is also often meant as the central nexus of the entire person - body, mind, soul and spirit. This is different than what is often meant by heart in the average religious conversation - even highly learned, non-Orthodox or non-patristic ones.

The heart is also most strikingly described by St. Makarios of Egypt in these two ways:

"The heart itself is but a small vessel, yet dragons are there, and there are also lions; there are poisonous beasts and all the treasures of evil. But there too is God, the angels, the life and the kingdom, the light and the apostles, the heavenly cities and the treasuries of grace—all things are there."

and,

"When you hear that Christ descended into hell in order to deliver the souls dwelling there, do not think that what happens now is very different. The heart is a tomb and there our thoughts and our intellect are buried, imprisoned in heavy darkness. And so Christ comes to the souls in hell that call upon him, descending, that is to say, into the depths of the heart; and there he commands death to release the imprisoned souls that call upon him, for he has power to deliver us. Then, lifting up the heavy stone that oppresses the soul, and opening the tomb, he resurrects us--for we were truly dead--and releases our imprisoned soul from its lightless prison."

I think often heart is simply used as a metaphor for our 'rap sheet' of good and bad, our actions, thoughts, words done and undone, our intentions, etc.

Fr. Jon M. Ellingworth said...

Chris Jones wrote: But my experience is that many people concentrate on passages like Ps 51.5 and neglect the teaching of Hb. 2.15 -- that is, they focus on personal guilt (even to the point of allowing themselves to believe that personal guilt can be, and is, inherited from Adam, which makes a mockery of the word "personal") to the total exclusion of our bondage to Satan.

Granted, bondage to Satan should not be excluded, but we have “inherited” Adam’s guilt and that guilt is “personal” in the fullest sense. It may not be an “actual” sin, but it earns death just the same.

I reiterate that death is a result of sin and a cause of temptation to sin, but only a temptation. I think that Hebrews 11 gives a fine litany of saints who did not succumb to the temptation of death to sin.

Regarding Romans 5:12, I cannot understand the passage in any other way than did Augustine.
Sin and death are not a “two-way street” or a double-bind, but a one-way street – sin separates us from God (which is as bad as it gets), death is but an exclamation point on that.

Anonymous said...

Well, since both me and Orr are Orrthodox, I would say we. As for Chris 'Indiana' Jones, what can I say? Lutherans are Lutherans, and Orthodox are Orthodox.

123 said...

we have “inherited” Adam’s guilt and that guilt is “personal” in the fullest sense. It may not be an “actual” sin, but it earns death just the same.

There are any number of studies contrasting the Orthodox view of what is normatively referred to as 'ancestral sin' or the 'first sin' and Western views of 'original sin'. It is a vast a difficult corpus that includes some who point out more affinities than are often touted in internet dialogue. If you look up Romanides' "The Ancestral Sin" and read those in and outside of the Orthodox communion who jousted with his ideas, you will get a good overview of the Orthodox position. I believe "Orthodox Readings of Augustine" (SVS Press) does a little of this.

Another helpful exercise if one is interested in exploring this concept in Orthodoxy is to search for any and all mentions of 'Adam', the 'Garden', etc. in the liturgical texts of the Orthodox Church.

Anonymous said...

search for any and all mentions of 'Adam', the 'Garden', etc. in the liturgical texts of the Orthodox Church.

Better yet: search the Scriptures (John 5:39).

Mark 10:13
 ¶And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them: and his disciples rightly rebuked those that brought them, for they erred gravely by bringing those filled with the original sin of Adam near the all-pure Master. 14  And when Jesus saw it, he was much pleased, and said unto them, Suffer not the little children to come unto me, but forbid them: for of no such sort is the kingdom of God. 15  Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as [=while] a little child, he shall not enter therein, because though he has not sinned yet, it does not follow that he's rid of the genetically inherited guilt of original sin. 16  And he took them up in his arms, holding them by the neck, put his hands upon them, grabbing them by the hair, and cursed them.

Luke 10:21
 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast revealed these things from the wise and prudent teachers of Lutheranism and Calvinism, who started the pure and pristine Protestant Reformation, and hast hid them unto those wretched, sinful babes, infected with the guilt of original sin: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight
.


Yep: that's preaching the Gospel, brother! [BTW, why does Your Gospel beign with Romans, and not with the Gospels?]

Fr. Jon M. Ellingworth said...

Lucian: You know not the Scriptures or the power therein.

God bless you, enlightened one.

Anonymous said...

It's true, I was enlightened.

William Weedon said...

Goodness - away for the day and look at all this!

Lutherans have always been clear that Adam's guilt is not imputed to us, but that we are involved in it; original sin is not some other person's sin being charged to our account, but it is the corruption that permeates all human nature conceived in the ordinary way from the fall and in which we are all actively involved.

We sing it like this:

In Adam we have all been one
One huge rebellious man
We all have fled that evening voice
That sought us as we ran.

We fled Thee and in losing Thee
We lost our brother too
Each singly sought and claimed his own
Each man his brother slew.

Scott Larkins said...

"Lutherans are Lutherans, and Orthodox are Orthodox." Indeed.

You start with a different problem you end up with a different solution.

A different Gospel.

Sadly a different Religion.

Anonymous said...

You start with a different problem you end up with a different solution.

A different Gospel.

Sadly a different Religion.


We, and the Fathers before us: the ones You like to quote so much.

Anonymous said...

... the ones Father Weedon likes to quote so much ... sorry for the mix up ... in any case, You can't have it both ways: if You're the heirs and children of the Fathers, then act, speak, and think like them; otherwise I honestly see no point to it ...

Anonymous said...

Father Weedon,

the moralistic exemplification of Original Sin is not the Orthodox one either [not that that's what You're saying that it is] because death has reigned from Adam to us even unto those that did not sin after Adam's fashion [which statement is understood to mean precisely death because of inherited guilt in the Augustinian tradition]. -- Sorry for the third comment in a row...

Anonymous said...

This is from the Solid Declaration on Original Sin, and I believe it pins down the subjectivity of original sin to every individual regardless of age. About this I would also add that although it does not say anything expressly polemic against the Orthodox statements, it clearly distances the Lutheran church from any understanding that removes corruption from the locus of human nature. Human nature in every human subject naturally born after the fall is something quite different and is enslaved in this unrighteous condition apart from Christ.

26] In the same manner this doctrine must also be guarded on the other side against Manichean errors. Accordingly, the following and similar erroneous doctrines are rejected, namely: that now, since the Fall, human nature is in the beginning created pure and good, and that afterwards original sin from without is infused and mingled with the nature by Satan (as something essential), as poison is mingled with wine [that in the beginning human nature was created by God pure and good, but that now, since the Fall, original sin, etc. ].

27] For although in Adam and Eve the nature was originally created pure, good, and holy, nevertheless sin did not enter their nature through the Fall in the way fanatically taught by the Manicheans, as though Satan had created or made some evil substance, and mingled it with their nature. But since man, by the seduction of Satan through the Fall, has lost his concreated hereditary righteousness according to God's judgment and sentence, as a punishment, human nature, as has been said above, is so perverted and corrupted by this deprivation or deficiency, want, and injury, which has been caused by Satan, that at present the nature is transmitted, together with this defect and corruption [propagated in a hereditary way], to all men, who are conceived and born in a natural way from father and mother. 28] For since the Fall human nature is not at first created pure and good, and only afterward corrupted by original sin, but in the first moment of our conception the seed from which man is formed is sinful and corrupt. Moreover, original sin is not something by itself, existing independently in, or apart from, the nature of the corrupt man, as it neither is the real essence, body, or soul of the corrupt man, or the man himself. 29] Nor can and should original sin and the nature of man corrupted thereby be so distinguished as though the nature were pure, good, holy, and uncorrupted before God, while original sin alone which dwells therein were evil.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Dear Anonymous,

The point of the Solid Declaration is to say that there is no temporal gap between conception and sinfulness; the citation I made from the Epitome earlier demonstrates that for Lutheranism there *is* a logical gap between createdness, even now, and fallenness. The problem that the FC is addressing arises precisely because the west understands the fall primarily in terms of sin. (That understanding also leads to the Roman doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary.)


The east, and most pre-Augustinian western fathers, understand the fall primarily in terms of death. Sin, then, is understood as a personal choice. If you want to know how an Orthodox thinks about the fall, ask if we think kids are conceived and born mortal.

The difference between the two paradigms, western and eastern, reminds me of the difference between the Ptolemaic and Copernican views of the universe. The Ptolemaic view can account for all the motions of the heavens--but it does so using sophisticated reasonings like "retrograde motions." The Copernican view covers the same turf, but explains the appearances more simply and clearly.

The Lutheran logical/temporal distinction in FC, and the Roman doctrine of the Immaculate Conception are two of the more elegant 'retrograde motion' moves needed by the western view.

The eastern view requires no such moves.

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

William Weedon said...

And, Fr. Gregory, the Orthodox view apparently permits one to dispense without censure of the Biblical teaching that those natures created by God are corrupted by sin by from the get-go. It explains much, I agree, about Orthodoxy. "We were by nature children of wrath."

Anonymous said...

those natures created by God are corrupted by sin by from the get-go.

This corruption of our nature by sin from the get-go bears the name `death`. Natures don't sin. People do. The confusion of nature with personhood lies at the very heart of each heresy.

Chris Jones said...

Fr Weedon,

Looking at what one is permitted to "dispense with without censure" is not a measure by which I should like our Church body to measured; perhaps we should not measure others that way, either.

It would be more instructive to look at what the Church's lex orandi has to say on the matter, than to condemn a Church for something a layman writes "without censure."

Also, what Lucian said.

William Weedon said...

"We were by nature children of wrath."

"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity and in sin did my mother conceive me."

"That the intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."

"The Lord looks down from heaven to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; they have become corrupt; there is none who does good."

"For as by one man's disobedience the many were made SINNERS, so by the one man's obedience, the many will be made righteous."

Your argument is not with Lutherans; your argument is with the Holy Spirit who inspired the Sacred Scriptures for us to hear and heed for our salvation.

William Weedon said...

Dear Chris,

But the Orthodox in this discussion have suggested that your representation is not what they recognize AS Orthodox?

I have *in my nature* a fountain of corruption that breaks forth into the actual sins of my life. The actual sins I can, by God's grace alone, mitigate and control to a certain extent, but the wretched fountain of misery I carry with me to the grave when - by the wonderful mercy of God - I will finally be relieved of it. This is what St. Paul laments in Romans 7, no?

This is not a discussion about the metaphysics of nature verses person; this is about the fact that apparently among our Orthodox brothers a human being is not sinful - there is no fount of selfish desires - from birth!

However, I will note that not only Chris Jones, but also the Patriarch Jeremias AGREED with the Lutherans that a child was born in sin and, I believe, cited Psalm 51 as proof of it! Again, will the real Orthodox stand up? Is it Chris Jones and Jeremias or are victims of a Western captivity unenlightened yet by the wisdom of a Romanides?

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Many years ago, a large, rogue dog brought into my yard a pink, dead animal about the size of a cocker spaniel. There were hooves on its feet, but no fur. I at first took it to be a deer the dog must have skinned. But what a deer! What a deformed, monster of a deer! It's head wasn't slender, but bulging, and the nose was fat. It took me several minutes to recognize the truth: this was the body, not of a skinned deer, but of a fetal calf. Once I realized this, the corpse looked quite normal.

It's that way with Orthodox and Lutheran theology. Take an item of Orthodox teaching and try grafting it into a Lutheran body, and the result will range from strange to horrifying. It may even appear Pelagian.

But seen in the context of the rest of Orthodox theology, the scandal disappears. It is not in the least strange or monstrous or in the least Pelagian, nor even semi-Pelagian. To suppose Orthodoxy is Pelagian is be a very large misunderstanding.

As Christopher Orr said, we still today anathematize Pelagius, by name, in liturgy, annually. (Maybe more than annually, but that's all I know of.)

William Weedon said...

Ah, dear Anastasia, you may anathematize him by name, but if you teach that a child is born innocent and does not carry in itself from conception the very fountain of all actual sins by its original sin, the corruption of its nature, you are teaching what Pelagius taught.

Chris Jones said...

the wretched fountain of misery I carry with me to the grave when - by the wonderful mercy of God - I will finally be relieved of it

I thought it was in baptism -- not at our own death -- that we were cleansed from original sin. It is not our death, but the death of Christ, that sets us free. Are we "baptized into his death" only when we go through physical death ourselves?

This is not a discussion about the metaphysics of nature verses person; this is about the fact that apparently among our Orthodox brothers a human being is not sinful - there is no fount of selfish desires - from birth!

But it is indeed a discussion about the distinction between nature and person. When you speak of "a human being" you are speaking of both human nature and a human person, and when you confuse the two you will (at best) not be understood, or (at worst) fall into error.

There are two distinct assertions in what you wrote. First, that "a human being is not sinful," and second, that "there is no 'fount of sinful desires'." In your thought, those two assertions are equivalent; but they are not, and the reason that you think that they are is that you are confusing person and nature.

It is true that, at birth, a human person is not sinful, because he has had no opportunity to commit sin by the operation of his personal, deliberative will. But it is not true that there is no "fount of sinful desires" in the human nature of the human being at birth -- because he shares that human nature with all of us, and that nature has within it the corruption which makes it inevitable that we should sin. (Though that corruption is an infection in our nature, but distinct from the nature itself, as the Formula wisely teaches.)

Chris Jones said...

Fr Weedon,

I see that we cross-posted; your latest comment to Anastasia permits me to make my point much more succinctly.

if you teach that a child is born innocent and does not carry in itself from conception the very fountain of all actual sins by its original sin, the corruption of its nature

Again, the confusion of nature and person. A child is born personally innocent; but he does carry in itself (that is, in its nature) the fount of actual sins.

In sum: the human person: innocent before the commission of actual sin; human nature: has corruption within it from birth because of the Fall.

William Weedon said...

Chris,

Don't you confess with the Augustana that "Concupiscence is a disease and original vice that is truly sin. It damns and brings eternal death on those who are not born anew through Baptism and the Holy Spirit."?

Schmemann, in his little book on Baptism, accurately notes that Baptism is sin's forgiveness, not its removal, and it introduces the sword of Christ into our lives. The final removal of the fountain of original sin - which in Baptism is forgiven and which by the grace of Baptism one is given strength to fight and keep from breaking out into actual sin - is one of which we are truly relieved when the work of our Baptism is completed by our death.

William Weedon said...

Chris,

Why was the Virgin Birth necessary?

123 said...

Patriarch Jeremias was not trying to write a systematic theology, and was trying to simply figure out what these odd fights in the West were all about, so I think we can forgive him for not parsing every phrase as carefully as we know he perhaps should have given greater experience of the Reformation and its issues. That period of time was also the height of 'western captivity' where you would hear Protestant arguments used against the Catholics, and Catholic arguments against the Protestants; the Orthodox were just fighting for survival, literally (except in Russia).

I think many are allowing themselves the lovely feeling of righteous indignancy rather than simply trying to understand what were are all even talking about. I will take as a given we disagree, but I think we are allowing ourselves to 'demonize' the other side through a misunderstanding of terms.

For instance, the following (minimally) should be defined before proceeding with this conversation:

- sin
- perfection
- salvation
- pelagianism
- semi-pelagianism
- antinomianism
- corruption (and 'fountain of')
- death
- depravity
- nature
- inherence
- born in sin/sins (Ps 50)

I hope this points to the fact that this is a topic worthy of far deeper thought and reflection, and far less reaction. This are big concepts. They encompass vast terrains that include quite many an assumption and certain ways of looking at and reading the 'obvious meaning' of a passage of Scripture or the Fathers.

The conversation is getting a little like that old Daily Show routine "The Two Steves" where Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell just yell Yes! and No! at each other to much hilarity and no understanding.

But, it feels so good to be 'right'...

To paraphrase former President Clinton after the 2004 election at an event where President Bush II and Sen. Kerry were in attendance:

'"It bothers me when Christians get as divided as they are," he said. "I once said to a friend of mine after I heard all these terrible things. I said, you know, am I the only Christian who believes these other churches and clergy are filled with good people, who believe they both love Jesus Christ and just see the world, the Bible and history differently?"'

And this isn't an argument that it's all the same and doesn't matter, that's it's all dead words.

Cha said...

But it is an argument that no one's going to win, though some will feel like they have. And worse, they might feel like winning is what is REALLY important here.

Chris Jones said...

Fr Weedon,

Don't you confess with the Augustana ...

I don't know that I do; I'm not sure that I understand what it means well enough to confess it.

Why was the Virgin Birth necessary?

I don't know that the Virgin Birth was "necessary"; there is no necessity in God. The Virgin Birth did not happen because it was "necessary," but on account of the loving condescension and dispensation of God.

There is a certain logical necessity to the Virgin Birth, because if Jesus is the Son of God, He could have had no human father. But that has nothing to do with original sin.

I am not entirely sure what you are driving at.

Anonymous said...

Father Weedon,

all the verses You've quoted are from the Scripture. And there are Patristical commentaries on those verses. (Just like for the rest of Holy Writ). So, how about offering a Patristic quote of the day on those verses?

William Weedon said...

Where to begin?

Christopher Orr, I think I have a fairly good grasp of what the Orthodox teach, but this is one area where I've never been terribly comfortable with their answers because they sound like "no" and "yes" at the same time. I don't think it requires going into all that you listed out.

C-, this is not about being right and feeling good about being right - for it doesn't make me feel the least bit good that Orthodoxy would tolerate the teaching that a child is innocent from birth. It is about a very real difference between Lutherans and Orthodox that should not be glossed over. I think I would be right in saying that for the Orthodox, a person is a sinner because he sins; for a Lutheran a person sins because he is a sinner. Krauth has a wonderful section on this very point in which he cites Bonaventura:

"Sin is wrought in three ways: When person corrupts nature, as was done by Adam and Eve. When nature corrupts person, as in the propagation of original sin. When person corrupts person, as in actual sin."

Chris Jones, you don't know what the Augustana means on Article II? I don't think that's particularly a difficult article to understand. It teaches that the corruption that inheres in human nature from the fall is itself damnable sin, a cancer that produces the actual sin of our lives. Lutherans specifically reject identifying the corruption with the nature, but we also reject minimizing the corruption as though it were merely a non-sinful inclination or weakness or worse yet mere mortality.

I asked about the Virgin conception because one of the teachings of our Church is that the Holy Spirit wrought a cleansing of this corruption from the mass of human nature that was taken from the blessed Virgin. She is a Virgin not merely that her Son's Father might be the heavenly Father but also that her Son's human nature might not inherit the corruption in which all since Adam have been born.

By the bye, I certainly reject that necessity can be laid upon God, but do note that our Lord does not hesitate to use "necessary" for his Passion and Paschal victory and nor do the Fathers hesitate to use such language. In a Christmas homily St. Basil taught that the virginity of Mary was "necessary" before the birth, but not afterwards.

Lucian, if you go back and read the patristic quotes I've been supplying for several days you might find that I've actually supplied what you requested.

And speaking of the Fathers, how do the Orthodox answer the teaching of St. Cyril of Alexandria that a human being, even though only a day old, is still unclean or that human nature became guilty in Adam's fall? As a Lutheran, I confess that I believe exactly that.

Fearsome Pirate said...

For most have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...

I think Baptists are much more consistent. Those who have no sin do not need to be baptized. Though they deny the real efficacy of baptism, they at least recognize that everything the Scriptures say about baptism has to do with dying to sin, with having sin washed away, and so on.

Pr Weedon, you need to realize the Fathers only count when you're citing them in support of Orthodoxy. "Consensus of the Fathers" is a shorthand for "Eastern Orthodoxy." So the only way to understand the Fathers is to first agree with everything the modern Orthodox church teaches (unless two Orthodox churches are at loggerheads...then you simply ignore the contradiction) and find ways to interpret the Fathers in a way that supports that. Thus, if you cite a Father or other Orthodox theologian against Orthodoxy, you are either interpreting him incorrectly, or that's one of the quotes that lies outside of the "90% of the Fathers were 85% Orthodox" set.

Anonymous said...

for a Lutheran a person sins because he is a sinner.

For an Orthodox, a person sins because he is a mortal. (1 Corinthians 15:56).


Fearsome Comrade,

the Swedes are neither communists (though being socialists), nor do they have a president: and they're living better then the Americans do

Fearsome Pirate, do You agree with the Fathers of the Seventh Council?

123 said...

I think I have a fairly good grasp of what the Orthodox teach... they sound like "no" and "yes" at the same time.

I would suggest this shows you perhaps don't have strong a grasp as you think. While Lutherans have spent a great deal of time boiling down various religious concepts to quite precise formulations, this has not been done by the Orthodox apart from particular areas (e.g., triadology and the filioque, christology, prayer). I would suggest that a Lutheran is often looking for a book answer similar in form (not substance) to what he is used to theology 'looking like'. This results in not seeing what is said in a way very much like Anastasia's analogy.

Orthodox definitions on things I mentioned are more likely to be multifaceted images rather than a mathematically precise definition. So, answering 'blue' to a question you are expecting a 'yes' or 'no' on can be confusing - as confusing as trying to answer 'yes' or 'no' when the more natural answer would be 'blue'.

This isn't to claim that one is better than the other, but to merely point out a fact. I wish Orthodox were far more 'precise', too, but I grew up in a Lutheran church where theology is like BMW engineering.

Fearsome Comrade,

"Consensus of the Fathers" may be many things and it may not be Eastern Orthodoxy, but my reading of them and Church history agrees with Newman: whatever it is, it isn't Protestantism. You may find something else, and indignantly so.

William Weedon said...

But Christopher, this matter IS dogmatically defined by the whole Church in the rejection of Pelagianism. Pelagius taught exactly that a human being was born innocent. Thus Augustine answers this:

Whence they are compelled to class baptized infants in the number of believers, and to assent to the authority of the Holy Universal Church, which does not account those unworthy of the name of believers, to whom the righteousness of Christ could be, according to them, of no use except as believers. As, therefore, by the answer of those, through whose agency they are born again, the Spirit of righteousness transfers to them that faith which, of their own will, they could not yet have; so the sinful flesh of those, through whose agency they are born, transfers to them that injury, which they have not yet contracted in their own life. And even as the Spirit of life regenerates them in Christ as believers, so also the body of death had generated them in Adam as sinners. The one generation is carnal, the other Spiritual; the one makes children of the flesh, the other children of the Spirit; the one children of death, the other children of the resurrection; the one the children of the world, the other the children of God; the one children of wrath, the other children of mercy; and thus the one binds them under original sin, the other liberates them from the bond of every sin. (On Merit and the Forgiveness of Sins)

123 said...

Augustine is not the dogmatic definition of the Church. What does the Church as a whole define as the error of Pelagius? I only ask because I'm sure you have readier access to it than I. I do not think it gets as specific as you presume.

William Weedon said...

Oh, and on the Newman you love to quote - if by Protestant he means those who deny the true presence of Christ's body and blood and the efficacy of the Word of Absolution and the divine institution of the Office of the Ministry, then by all means. But I'm not sure that's what he means, and that's why Cardinal Manning was perhaps more honest when he simply said: "We will overcome history with dogma." He knew that the historical argument did not favor Rome.

William Weedon said...

Christopher,

In May of 418 the Council of Carthage issued the decree: "Anyone who denies that newborn infants are to be baptized or who says that they are baptized for the remission of sins but not bear anything of original sin from Adam which is expiated by the washing of regeneration, so that as a consequence the form of baptism 'for the remission of sins' is understood not to be true but false in their case - let him be anathema."

Canon I of Ephesus says that anyone who adopts the teaching of Celestius has already severed himself from communion with the catholic church. Celestius taught, among other things, that infants were not baptized because they were sinners, yet the Nicene Creed teaches one baptism FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS and it is given in the Church also to infants.

Fearsome Pirate said...

"Consensus of the Fathers" may be many things and it may not be Eastern Orthodoxy, but my reading of them and Church history agrees with Newman: whatever it is, it isn't Protestantism.

I don't try to distill some kind of narrative out of church history and decide which church is its real continuation, since everyone finds the story he wants to find. It's often shocking to converts to discover Newman wasn't the first to do this--Schaff had done it already, but he had (surprise) discovered that the Reformed church was the apotheosis of church history. But wait! Krauth found that the Lutheran church is the true fulfillment of church history! Hold on! It's the Orthodox! And now the Catholics! And even the Baptists!

The 19th century question, "What is the meaning of history?" was inspired by Hegel. It's the wrong question, as the way it is answered says more about who is answering the question than it does about the truth.

Anonymous said...

I think I have a fairly good grasp of what the Orthodox teach, but this is one area where I've never been terribly comfortable with their answers because they sound like "no" and "yes" at the same time.

Might I suggest that it's because you do not grasp the theological importance of the distinction between person and nature?

I don't remember where it is exactly (maybe somebody here does) but St John of Damascus says that all heresies arise from a confusion of person and nature.

William Weedon said...

You may suggest it, Andrew, but I do understand the distinction. What I disagree with is that nature cannot be corrupted by sin. See Bonaventura's quote above.

William Weedon said...

P.S. Andrew, you are a recent Orthodox convert. Were you taught that infants, though baptized, do not need remission of sins, or were you taught that even little babies need remission of sins and so are baptized into Christ?

Anonymous said...

What I disagree with is that nature cannot be corrupted by sin.

And who told You that our nature wasn't corrupted by sin?

Anonymous said...

Origen:

Infants are baptized for the remission of sins. What sins? Whenever have they sinned? In fact, of course, never. And yet: 'No one is free from defilement.' (Job 14:4) But defilement is only put away by the mystery of baptism. That is the reason why infants too are baptized.

Pr Weedon,

The above quotation is worth pondering.

That being said, this issue is something that I need to look further into. I do not have a sufficient answer for you, yet. I see the (Augustinian) logic: baptism is for the remission of sins, infants are baptized, therefore infants are sinners. It is compelling. And yet, I am also committed to the notion that sin is a personal act, not natural. For how can natures, which don't do anything, be sinful? To assert that natures do things is Nestorian, which is unacceptable.

Also, what might be interesting for you is to take a look at what St John Chrysostom (whom I know you love) has to say about 'by nature children of wrath'. From what I remember of his commentary, he says that one may be 'under wrath' by inheriting the effect of Adam's sin, death itself, and thus be naturally mortal and yet not personally culpable for any sin.

I'll have to get back to you.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps anyone interested in an Orthodox view of what Pelagianism is should take a few minutes to read this.

Anonymous said...

We then say, that in many things we all of us offend, and that no man is pure from uncleanness, even though his life upon earth be but one day. Let us ask then of God mercy; which if we do, Christ will justify us; by Whom and with Whom, to God the Father, be praise and dominion, with the Holy Spirit, unto ages of ages. Amen. - Homily 120 on Luke 18 - St. Cyril of Alexandria

This passage can be understood similarly to Origen's understanding of man's 'defilement'. Thus it does not necessitate an Augustinian view of Original Sin.

For the whole nature of man became guilty in the person of him who was first formed; but now it is wholly justified again in Christ. -- St. Cyril of Alexandria, Homily 42 on St. Luke

This is interesting. The question for me is this: what does Cyril understand by 'guilty'? The homily cannot be found online, so I'll have to make a trip to the library to look it up in its context. I'm guessing (and I most certainly could be wrong) that he means that human nature became subject to death. That is the guilt that is incurred upon human nature, and therefore Adam's progeny. If I am correct, he follows in suit with John Chrysostom and Athanasius (particularly Athanasius' understanding of the 'law of death').

And if I am correct, then for Cyril 'justification' means 'given life'. That is what the Son of God accomplishes in his assumption of human nature: He destroys him who holds the power of death, and quickens human nature by His life-giving energies.

William Weedon said...

Andrew,

You can read the entirety of the sermon here:

http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/cyril_on_luke_04_sermons_39_46.htm#SERMON%20XLII

He certainly references death, but also sin, curse, disobedience and so on.

John Hogg said...

"But it is not "nuance" to say that a child is born innocent and to say that a child is born corrupted by sin from birth. If St. Cyril can confess that no man is pure from uncleanness even if his life on earth be but a day, how can the Orthodox allow people to teach that human life is innocent at birth?"

The problem isn't on the Orthodox side. The problem is a confusion of terms and ideas on your part.

Infants are innocent inasmuch as they are not guilty of having committed any particular sin.

That doesn't mean that they have no need of a savior or that they are born free from corruption. By reason of the human race being consubstantial, and the infant being born into the human community, the infant is born into a state of corruption and subjugation to death. The infant is also born with a tendency to sin, even without having yet committed any sin.

You're confusing innocence with lack of corruption. They're not the same thing.

If you sell yourself and your family into slavery, your children will be born slaves, even though they weren't the ones doing the selling.

We are all of us born as spiritual Ishmaels, as sons of the slave woman. It is through our baptism and incorporation into Christ's body that we are spiritually reborn as members of the Israel of God, and delivered from our ancient slavery.

In the spirit of the Fast and in the knowledge of what is really behind all of this, may I suggest that you refrain from posting inflammatory material or posts attacking those outside of your own confession, or indeed, those inside of it, until at least after the Lord's resurrection?

This isn't an academic game. The way in which we live our lives impacts the faith that we have in us and vice versa. What spiritual profit is to be gained by seeking after controversy and deriding others, even if your accusations were justified, during a time of spiritual preparation for the Lord's Pascha?

Grace and peace, and blessed Lent,
Sbn. John

John Hogg said...

"However, I will note that not only Chris Jones, but also the Patriarch Jeremias AGREED with the Lutherans that a child was born in sin and, I believe, cited Psalm 51 as proof of it!"

Certainly, children are born in sin, but not born having sinned. There's a difference.

As part of the human community, we are born inheriting the same state of bondage to the Devil and to Death that is common to all mankind since the Fall. That is different than saying that we have somehow already committed sin at the time of our conception or birth.

Psalm 50 does not teach that I had already committed a sin at the time of my conception.

Grace and peace,
Sbn. John

John Hogg said...

BTW, for what it's worth, although the words nature and essence are sometimes used interchangeably or imprecisely, there's nothing actually wrong, from an Orthodox perspective, with saying that we partake of the divine nature through Grace.

According to St. Gregory Palamas, the divine nature includes the divine Essence, the Three Divine Hypostases, and the divine energies.

We are made partakers of the divine nature through God's uncreated grace.

Nowhere do the Scriptures teach that we ever become partakers of God's essence. In fact, they teach quite the opposite.

Grace and peace,
Sbn. John

John Hogg said...

"And speaking of the Fathers, how do the Orthodox answer the teaching of St. Cyril of Alexandria that a human being, even though only a day old, is still unclean or that human nature became guilty in Adam's fall? As a Lutheran, I confess that I believe exactly that."

We don't "answer it." We accept it. Chris Jones is right. You are confusing person and nature. Children are born innocent in that they are not guilty of any particular sin. That doesn't mean that they are not in born in bondage to sin, death, and the devil.

Grace and peace,
Sbn John

Daniel said...

This has been an illuminating discussion thread no doubt inspired by Pastor Weedon"s personal Lenten journey this year. His desire to protect the Christian faith is to be commended.

One practical question related to this discussion is the heart-wrenching situation of the untimely death of infants. What response do we have for a mother whose infant died before baptism?
The approach to this question (especially on the part of a Pastor) reveals alot about the theology held by the one needing to provide comfort for the grieving.

Also, what do the liturgical funeral rites of these respective traditions (Lutheran, Orthodox, or any other) provide regarding dealing with such a tragedy? Any first hand experiences out there?

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Adam's guilt is imputed to us, just as Christ's righteousness is imputed to us, credited to our account through faith. Yes--we are guilty for Adam's sin, for "In Adam we all die." So also "In Christ we shall all be made alive."

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Children are born with the inclination to sin, which we call concupiscence. The will and desire to sin is present within them from conception, though they may not have committed any actual/outward sins.

William Weedon said...

John,

I've long noticed in discussion with certain Orthodox that the problem is NEVER on the Orthodox side. There is the assumption of an institutional and developmental infallibility that makes whatever the current position of Orthodoxy is on a given topic the standard by which all else is judged. That's worth some Lenten pondering all by itself...

Daniel,

Thank you for the kindness of applying the 8th commandment. Lutherans do not say of a child who dies before it can reach Baptism that it is certainly lost (Augustine, by the way, did, though he argued it was the lightest possible damnation!). Rather:

"The mere fact that Christ has wrought His work provides a sufficient remedy, if it be applied, to save every human creature from the effects of original sin. Let not this great fact be forgotten. Let it never be left out of the account in looking at the mystery of original sin, that there is an ample arrangement by which the redemption of every human creature from the results of original sin could be effected; that there is no lack in God's provision for saving every one of our race from its results. "Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the grace of God, tasted death for EVERY MAN." It is not the doctrine of our Church that any creature has ever been or ever will be lost purely on account of original sin. For while it supposes that original sin, if UNARRESTED, would bring death, and it supposes it to be arrested, certainly and ordinarily, by the Holy Spirit, through the divine means rightly received, and throws no obstacle in the way of our hearty faith that, in the case of infants dying without the means, the Holy Ghost, in His own blessed way, directly and extraordinary, may make the change that delivers the child from the power of indwelling sin.... God's own appointments limit us, they do not limit Him..." Conservative Reformation, pp. 429, 431

The liturgical expression of this is in our special funeral rite for the unbaptized child:

"Beloved in the Lord, when God in His will for us allows our anticipation of joy to be changed into disappointment and grief, we turn to Him for comfort in the midst of our sadness. He calls us by the Gospel to a faith that will withstand such sad times of testing. Though we may not have in this life answers to the questions we ask, by the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, we know that God is our loving Father, our Brother in suffering and death, and the Comforter who even now brings peace to our grief-stricken hearts.

While alive and in the womb, this child was brought and commended to Christ in our prayers. We should not doubt that these prayers have been heard, for we have God's own kind and comforting promises that such prayers in the name of Jesus Christ are heard by Him.

In love God has blessed His people with the washing of Holy Baptism, through which He gives rebirth in the Holy Spirit to us and to our children. When death comes before Baptism, we trust in His mercy that by His grace He has received this child to Himself for the sake of the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

We take comfort in the confident hope that this child will be raised to life with Christ in the resurrection on the Last Day. The Lord grant that we remain steadfast in His Word and faith until we all come to the joys of life everlasting; for the sake of His dear Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord." (Lutheran Service Book Agenda, p. 132)

John Hogg said...

So, you deliberately post an attack on someone else's faith during the middle of the Fast, never notice that you're talking about two different things, and then when it's pointed out by several people, instead of responding to the issue and somehow trying to demonstrate from the Scriptures how those two issues are as connected as you're making them, you instead just respond by sarcastically saying the equivalent of saying, "So you couldn't be wrong, could you?"

You're confusing person and nature and the effects of sin with its commission.

Infants are innocent because they haven't committed any sin yet. If you think that they have, what sin did they commit?

That doesn't mean that they're not corrupt, subject to death, and in slavery to the devil.

The joining of the two concepts needs some explanation or justification. It can't just be assumed.

Really, what do you hope to accomplish by making a post like this during Lent? Is there some spiritual benefit you hope to gain for yourself or others by starting a controversial discussion that's been dealt with many times before? Is this an academic issue for you? I'm honestly confused why you would do this, especially given past history.

Grace and peace,
Sbn John

John Hogg said...

"Yes--we are guilty for Adam's sin, for "In Adam we all die." So also "In Christ we shall all be made alive.""

That's joining two concepts without providing a link for them. Do you see that?

Yes, in Adam we all die. All of us are born in bondage to sin and death. That doesn't make us guilty for having committed some certain specific sin.

This has more to do with death and life than with guilt and innocence.

It's a jump to get from "In Adam, we all die" to "these babies are guilty of committing sins."

Grace and peace,
Sbn. John

William Weedon said...

John,

When false teaching is put forward, even in the fast, it should be countered; especially in the fast.

I do not see how I am guilty of misinterpreting the statement originally made, for it was NOT that "this child is guilty of actual sin" but "that this child's heart is sinful." And "many teach this, but not Orthodoxy." It was NEVER about actual sin, but from the get go about the sinful state of the human heart from birth. Let me say it again: You did not first become sinful by your sinning; but you sinned because you already were sinful.

I'm not speaking about the consequence of mortality but of being born alienated from the life of God. This is something human beings all share by nature - and thus they are born dying. This is the teaching of the Holy Church because it is the teaching of the Word of God as cited in the many passages listed above. We are born sinful.

The initial quote to which I was replying said the opposite and claimed that for Orthodoxy. I've heard Orthodox speak both ways, and so I asked if there would be any correction of this "an infant's heart is not sinful" talk. So far, I've not heard it.

William Weedon said...

John,

Just noticing your reply to Pr. Beisel: you again attribute to US what we never said. No one has said that the infants are guilty of committing sins; we have said that the infants are sinful. Did you read the Bonaventura quoted above???

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

If one takes the initial post and quote at face value, if one looks simply at the words of the statement concerning infants by the Orthodox teacher, one should be able to see that it is contrary to what Scripture says: Ps. 51:5 "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me." We don't know if an infant has committed any actual sins or not, but we believe that the will and desire to sin (concupiscence) is also sin, which condemns to eternal death and damnation. It seems that the statements of the Orthodox often don't mean the same thing as the actual words that are written.

Anonymous said...

When nature corrupts person, as in the propagation of original sin.

What exactly constitutes this "propagation of original sin", and what exactly is "original sin"? (I did notice the quote, just that none of the three views seemed at first to be similar to the Orthodox one).

In any case, as I've explained above (and as any other Orthodox here has already stated repeatedly) we are not born sinful but mortal, and "the sting of death is sin" (1 Corinthians 15:56), and thus "the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Genesis 8:21). That's what David also meant by "I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me" (Psalms 51:5).

Our first parents became mortal (lost the chance at immortality) by trangressing against the commandment and not repenting when faced with their sin by God, because "the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23).

Sin --> Death --> and, again, Sin: that's the vicious cycle, the deadly vortex, which Christ came to break, and from which He freed us.

St. Athanasius says the same think in his "On the Incarnation", that even if we were to have repented, that meant only cesation of sin, but not of the inclination towards it: that's why the Incarnation, Death and Resurrection of Christ was necessary. That's what St. Paul means when he says "there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me" (2 Corinthians 12:7).

And no, inclination towards sin, or temptation, is not the same as sinning, just like fighting a battle is not the same as being beaten (You might win Yourself a crown actually: 1 Corinthians 9:24-25; 2 Timothy 4:7-8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 2:10).

Anonymous said...

Adam's guilt is imputed to us

Pr Beisel,

I could be wrong, but think I remember Pr Weedon saying that this is actually not the Lutheran position, but is instead a Reformed error.

By the way, just out of curiosity, do you believe that the righteousness that is imputed to us by which we are justified is created or uncreated?

Also, have you ever thought to consider the affect that nominalism might have had on the schema of imputation? The relationship between the two sounds awfully suspicious.

William Weedon said...

Krauth:

"Whatever, therefore, may be the relation of imputation to original sin, our Church holds it to be an impious opinion, that our misery and liability are *merely* the results of imputation. The primary point is, that we do actually participate, in our nature, in the corruption wrought by the fall." (CR, p. 378)

William Weedon said...

Lucian,

"Original sin is that vitiation of human nature arising from the fall of our first parents, accidental (in the theological sense), propagated by human conception, proper and real in all men, whereby they are destitute of the power of rightly knowing and worshipping God, and are constantly impelled to sin, and exposed to eternal death."

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Thanks for the Krauth quote. I was shooting from the hip, and I appreciate the correction. I certainly do agree that it is more than simple imputation, that we do in fact participate in it.

Anonymous said...

That sounds about right.

John Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

You (ie Lutherans) did indeed say that the children are not just sinful, but guilty of sin. Pr. Biesel said that.

"It was NEVER about actual sin, but from the get go about the sinful state of the human heart from birth."

Sure it was about actual sin. You said that it was false teaching to claim that the child is innocent. The child is innocent of committing sin until they actually commit it. That doesn't mean that they're free from death or corruption, or anything like that. You're making the jump from the one to the other.

We are born and conceived in sin, in bondage to death and the devil, inclined to sin, etc. That doesn't mean that we are guilty of something. We don't have to be. Ishmael was still born as the son of a slavewoman and treated as such. "The son of the slavewoman shall not inherit with the son of the promise."

"...especially during the fast..."

No, the fast is the time to worry about the false teaching in your own heart rather than looking for sins and failings in everyone else. Reread the Great Canon.

Grace and peace,
Sbn John

William Weedon said...

John,

Good advice. You might want to take it!

John Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

"Good advice. You might want to take it!"

If that is your answer, than your concern is neither about about false teaching (to which a response has been supplied) nor is it controlling the passions and increase in the knowledge of Christ. What, then, is the point of this conversation?

I honestly ask out of continued love for you as a person.

Grace and peace,
Sbn John

William Weedon said...

John,

The response to the charge of false teaching obviously seems adequate to you; I find it wholly inadequate. The point of this conversation was originally to obtain an answer to the question: Is this what Orthodox truly teach? I had honestly hoped to hear (as I heard from a friend here) that it was NOT true Orthodox teaching at all. Chris Jones also said that. But the Orthodox disagreed with him.

So I have learned what I wanted to learn: Orthodox (at least those inhabiting this board) apparently DO teach that children are not sinful at birth, but innocent.

Historically that was exactly what Pelagius taught and for which St. Augustine condemned him and this false teaching became the fountain from which his other errors rose. You argue that you liturgically condemn Pelagius in your divine liturgy. What is the good of that if you teach what he taught?

John, it gives me no pleasure and only grief to have read the defense provided of the original article.

Finally, the last time you posted on this board you said some pretty terrible things, John, and they certainly sounded as though they were written in the heat of passion. I can't read your contributions to this thread without remembering what you said then about us. If you examine your previous posting in the spirit of the Great Canon you might find something that requires attention.

William Gleason said...

If this isn’t too late, and I must confess great humility in a conversation that is quoting many Fathers I have not read sufficiently or at all, but...who says, or how do we know that infants are innocent of actual sins? I guess I can imagine an infant, even in the womb, committing sinful thoughts and actions. Maybe there is a definition of sin here that I am unaware of or erroneously laboring under. Someone above pointed out that some clear definitions are needed. I would agree with that.

William Weedon said...

Pr. Gleason,

I think the usual use of the term "actual sin" involves a deliberative act, and the general thought is that an infant is incapable of such deliberation. Certainly, though, a child is still sinful from the womb in that it comes into this world placing itself at the center. Just watch a tiny child not get what it wants immediately and you can see it shake with rage, no? I think it was Chesterton who observed that original sin is the only Christian dogma that can be empirically demonstrated and yet it is still disbelieved.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

As I pointed out in my initial post on this thread, there is a sense in which Lutherans, too, are committed to the notion that children are conceived and born innocent.

"We believe, teach, and confess that there is a distinction between man's nature, not only as he was originally created by God pure and holy and without sin, but also as we have it [that nature] now after the Fall, namely, between the nature [itself], which even after the Fall is and remains a creature of God, and original sin, and that this distinction is as great as the distinction between a work of God and a work of the devil." FC, Epitome

Read the words: "the nature itself...even after the Fall is and remains a creature of God."

Lutheranism, as the rest of the west, parses the priority of sin and death differently than does the Orthodox Church. Till now, no Orthodox has accused you of being Manichean (though if you continue on insisting on some sense of inherited guilt we may begin suspecting that the rejection of Flacius was merely pro forma). It is not fitting that you should accuse us of being Pelagian. Good scholars from your own side, like Dr. Al Collver, will testify that Augustine introduced a _novum_ with respect to the Fall.

Pelagianism was a big problem in the west because (1)the west gave priority to sin, not death, as the chief inheritance from the Fall. Augustine, at least, had a quasi-legitimate reason for his _novum_; he didn't understand Greek and relied on a mistranslation of Rom. 5:12; (2) the west had a notion of merit that never found place in the east. Hence we can speak of human freedom (and, I would argue, *must* speak of human freedom in these determinist-dominated days) without ascribing any merit to human freedom or in any way diminishing the glory of Christ.

We reject any notion that fallen human beings can redeem themselves. Nor have we ever adopted the notion of merit.

On a side note, I find it interesting that you disallow mere imputation of Adam's guilt, but require a genuine participation. May I take it that, given the analogy between our relationship to Adam and to Christ, you likewise reject the 'mere imputation' of Christ's righteousness commonly known as forensic justification, in favor of a genuine participation in Christ?

The unworthy priest,

Fr. Gregory Hogg

Anonymous said...

Is the righteousness that is imputed to the believer created or uncreated?

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

They would say it's uncreated, Andrew. That's why it's imputed, not imparted--because they don't distinguish essence and energies.

William Weedon said...

Fr. Gregory,

The Pelagian position is that the infant is born innocent and needs no forgiveness; if the shoe fits...

The idea that the notion of merit plays no place in the East is one I've not quite swallowed; I mean, if you look in the little brown Antiochian Service Book on page 16 and 17, the prayer of parents for their children concludes:

"direct them in the way of salvation, for the merits of thy Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ, and the intercessions of his Holy Mother and thy blessed saints."

So there is some sense of merit in the East somewhere, no?

About the fact that the imputation of righteousness is not merely forensic, you know Lutheranism too well to know that it was ever taught that it was merely forensic. This is God's speaking and so it accomplishes what it says: "Thy Strong Word bespeaks us righteous, Bright with Thine own holiness!" Luther's "grace and the gift in grace." But you surely remember all that.

Anonymous said...

Pr Weedon,

If God's righteousness is actually imparted to the believer, and God's righteousness is identical with His essence, then it follows that God's essence is imparted to the believer.

Do you believe this?

William Weedon said...

P.S. As for it being a novum in Augustine, he argues (of course) for it being anything but, citing earlier fathers. I believe that Pelikan in *The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition* says that St. Augustine learned from St. Ambrose that the virginal conception was a key to the sinlessness of Christ - so that his taking up of human nature would be a sinless human nature, one "not conceived in iniquity or born in sin."

William Weedon said...

Andrew,

When you last tried to raise that as a big issue, Father Brian (an OCA priest) gave you an answer. Do you recall what he said?

Anonymous said...

Translated: to hell with syllogisms.

Not a very satisfactory answer, in my opinion, for it does not accurately represent the argumentation of the Fathers, which -- when leveled against the chief heresiarchs of the Church -- was precisely a rejection of divine simplicity as understood in a neoplatonic sense. Realize too that an unqualified divine simplicity was the starting philosophical presupposition for heretics. And thus the affirmation of an unqualified divine simplicity, especially as one who claims to be patristically sensitive, ought not to sit well with you.

In short, if your premises lead you to an absurd conclusion, check your premises. Origen held to some nutty premises, and they led him to some nutty conclusions. The Fathers responded to Origenism not by asserting that God can do whatever He wishes because He's God, but by checking His premises and refuting them.

William Weedon said...

No, not to hell with syllogisms, but a recognition that what God wills and promises, He can bring about though it is beyond our understanding. He did this already with the Incarnation, which was Fr. Jaye's point, and He can do this also with the believer in a way that we cannot attempt to describe or understand; it suffices to know that He knows how to unite Himself to us and we to Him without violating His divine simplicity and without making us essential partakers of His divine nature and without resorting to Plotinus for help.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

I would humbly request all Orthodox to cease commenting on this thread...and perhaps on Rev. Weedon's blog. Can further discussion have any profit?

William Weedon said...

Father Gregory,

You are certainly free not to comment or visit the blog anymore (in fact, I'm always surprised to read from you here - since I thought you washed your hands of me years ago); but I hope my many Orthodox friends feel no compunction to follow your request. We will not always agree, but we have had many a good discussion, and I think we have learned from each other. I have learned in this discussion something that I did not know about Orthodoxy, though it made me sad to learn it.

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Rev. Weedon,

You have learned nothing of Orthodoxy, but you have taught much about yourself. And it is sad.

William Weedon said...

It is true, alas, that I am a sad sinner, Father. And such I have been from my conception. My prayer and hope is that in His Son's blood my sins have been forgiven and will be forgiven on the last day, and that His Spirit continue to give me grace to die to the sin in my life and to rise to a new life with the Risen One. I pray the same for you.

Anonymous said...

If I may, one more comment and then I will bow out:

Pr Weedon, you do not understand the patristic response to the Origenist Problematic. Origen understood the simplicity of the deity to comprise the identity of essence, will, and activity, which forced him to accept absurd conclusions: one being that God's will to create was identical with His essence, and therefore He was not free to create but instead was bound be necessity, for whatever is had by God essentially is had necessarily.

The patristic response to the Origenist Problematic was not that God was God and that He could accomplish whatever He pleased in a manner 'beyond our understanding' despite an unqualified divine simplicity; no, it was a wholesale rejection of divine simplicity understood as the identity of essence, will, and activity. They affirmed, rather, that there are real categorical distinctions in God.

By the way, with this in mind, go back and study the 16th century Christological debates -- the dialectic between Reformed Nestorianism and Lutheran Eutychianism -- and see the problems that an unqualified notion of divine simplicity leads you to.

In fact, with this in mind, look at all the debates within the history of Western theology and see the fruit of an unqualified divine simplicity. Believing such a doctrine is a road to nowhere.

With that, I'm out.

William Weedon said...

Lutherans are not Eutychian. Nor does asserting divine simplicity led necessarily to what you imagine: "This does not imply that the distinction between the attributes exists only in the human mind or in the Divine revelation as it accommodates itself to the human mind. The distinction is a real one, since the relations which they express are different. God's knowledge cannot, e.g., be identified with His will: for the knowledge includes some things which the will excludes. Sin is an object of God's knowledge, but not of God's will." Jacobs, p. 36.

Make sure, Andrew, you're not rejecting a phantom that has no reality.

John Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

"Seek peace, and pursue it" - Psalm 33:14

I think that if we think about what we're both saying, we're not actually as far apart as it may seem. Let's try to find the common ground here.

We are not teaching Pelagianism. Far from it. Pelagios taught that man can save himself, apart from divine grace. He taught that man is free from the effects of Adam's sin and that he has free choice to save himself without reference to Christ's saving passion.

We do not believe that. All of us believe that children are born "in sins" and "in iniquities" in the sense that as children of Adam and members of the common human community, we are born into a spiritual Mt. Hagar. We are born in bondage to death and the devil and sin, and quickly begin to commit actual sins.

We cannot ever save ourselves without Christ's grace and His saving passion. Even the Theotokos confesses God to be her Savior.

All of that we affirm. At the same time, we say that newborns are infants. What do we man by that? We mean that, while born into sin, they themselves have not yet committed any sin and are not guilty of it. They are innocent, but still spiritual slaves whose minds quickly follow in the same bondage as that of their parents.

Is that really that different than what you're saying? You have said that you don't believe that Adam's guilt is imparted to children. When you talk about the sinfulness of the child, are you not talking about the same spiritual bondage that we're talking about?

If you don't believe that the child has committed an actual sin or is guilty for Adam's sin, and if you affirm that human nature, as created by God, is good, although after the fall we are in bondage and subject to corruption, then we are saying pretty much the same thing.

I think a lot of the problem in this conversation has been talking past each other.

As to my previous comment on your blog from a month or so ago... I had intended to clarify that, but it seemed to me at the time that the clarification would probably only prolong the conversation and cause more spiritual harm than good to myself and others, so I thought it best to just let sleeping dogs lie. Now that things have cooled off a bit, I'll try to explain where my comment was coming from.

First, I'd like to apologize for the way it sounded. When I read it afterward, I realized that it sounded much more harsh than I meant it to. It wasn't written in anger, but sadness. When I said "your Word has no flesh" that was a specific response to Pr. Frog (was that his name?) when he commented that the Church was an eschatological reality that didn't concretely exist in the present, or something to that effect. Inasmuch as the Church is Christ's body, denying the existence of the Church in the present seemed to me to disincarnate Christ in the present. The way that I phrased it was too short and lacking in explanation, and as a result, sounded very harsh, and I am sorry for that.

The second part, "your Christianity has no virtue" was because of the anonymous nature of the posts, and the freedom with which anonymous attacks and belittling caricatures were being made against others. It saddened me, not so much to see criticisms of Orthodoxy or anything like that, but precisely seeing how the Truth was being discussed in an abstract sense, without seemingly paying attention to or caring about the people on the other side of the discussion as individual human persons. Pr. Frog's posts were witty and sharp, but seemed more like an academic attempt to be right, rather than a Christian way of approaching dialogue.

While I wrote in sadness, my conclusion of Pr. Frog's motivations and methods was way too judgmental and unwarranted, and for that I am sorry. I do think that it's important to dialogue in a way that recognizes the fundamental Christ-ness of the other person.

A priest that I know once told a college group that Christianity isn't about being right, it's about being made alive by Christ through grace, and that it's very possible to debate theology and be technically correct on every point, but to lose your soul in the process. May God forgive us all and keep us from such a fate.

God grant us all his peace.

In Christ,
Sbn John

John Hogg said...

By the way, for what it's worth, the Eastern fathers saw a spiritual kinship between Pelagianism and Nestorianism.

It's worth noting that, although Nestorios made a big deal about persecuting most heretics (Arians, etc) to try to show his Orthodoxy, he received the Pelagians back into communion, although they had already been condemned and excommunicated.

Not directly relevant, but still interesting to ponder on :-)

Grace and peace,
Sbn. John

Anonymous said...

The host of this blog responds with humility and kindness to the guests who are less than charitable toward him. How does Pr. Weedon have the heart to show such patience and kindness?

All I know is that I want more of what Weedon has.

Rev. Tom Fast

Daniel said...

From "The Great Book of Needs", Vol.III, p. 158 (which is the Orthdodox Book of Liturgical Rites): "For an unbaptized infant, however, the Burial Service is not sung (meaning not performed)as he/she is not cleansed of original sin. Concerning the future lot of infants who die unbaptized, St Gregory the Theologian says that they will be neither glorified nor punished by the Righteous Judge, as unsealed (referring to Chrismation) and yet not wicked, but persons who have suffered rather than done wrong. For not everyone who is not bad enough to be punished is good enough to be honored; just as not everyone who is not good enough to be honored is bad enough to be punished."

The Antiochian practise normally is to do what is called a "Trisagon Service" both in church and at the grave (and at the funeral home if needed)for the child. This is a general service of prayer which includes intercessions such as that the departed be given rest "in a place of brightness, a verdure, a place of repose whence all sickness, sorrow and sighing have fled away".

Regarding praxis, it is noteworthy that the Orthodox hold the line that Christian funeral rites are only for those who have received grace objectively in the Sacrament of Baptism. This is difficult to do in such sorrowful circumstances, but does preserve the uniqueness and certainty of God working through His Holy Mysteries.

Nevertheless in such situations the grieved are not left without consolation. The Trisagion Prayers (found in the Antiochian Service Book, pgs. 183-186) commend the departed to God "who descended into Hades, and loosed the bonds of those who were there; Thyself give rest also to the soul of Thy servant". Thus in a general way prayers are offered up Christ "who hath dominion over the living and the dead".

John Hogg said...

A hymn from evening prayers tonight:

"My nature, held by corruption and by death, hath He saved from out of death and corruption. For unto death He Himself hath submitted, wherefore, O Virgin, do thou make request of Him, who is in truth thy Lord and Son, to redeem me from the enemy's wickedness."

Grace and peace,
Sbn John

Anonymous said...

I would humbly request all Orthodox to cease commenting on this thread...and perhaps on Rev. Weedon's blog. Can further discussion have any profit?

Which will probably make this Lutheran break out in a Te Deum.

(with apologies to Pastor Weedon, who is far more gracious than I ever hope to be).

Christine

Anonymous said...

I know I said I was gonna bow out (sorry Christine), but I must say, that is a remarkable gem by Jacobs. I have never read anything like it from a Western dogmatic text on the doctrine of God. For my money, that qualifies as a bona fide rejection of absolute divine simplicity. From what I remember, not even Chemnitz (in his Two Natures) is willing to grant as much.

Can Jacobs' stuff on the doctrine of God be found online?

Anonymous said...

If Lutherans are willing to reject absolute divine simplicity, then why retain filioqueism, which was argued for based on the assumption of an unqualified simple divinity?

I know it's enshrined in the confessions, but all Lutherans (at least in principle) would say that the confessions are not irrevisable, right?

I apologize for hijacking this comment box, but the doctrine of God is an issue that is very important to me. So please bear with me.

Anonymous said...

Chemnitz:

But we have already replied to this objection by pointing out that an essential or natural communication of the divine attributes does not take place; but just as the divine essence is communicated to the assumed nature by the personal union, so also its attributes are communicated to the assumed nature by the dispensation of the union, as we have explained at length.

The 'divine essence is communicated to the assume human nature'? I don't think you'd find any Father saying such a thing.

Chemnitz again:

The Scholastics and the other learned men have rightly said that the essential attributes of the Deity are nothing more than the absolute essence of God, since they are one and the same thing. The essence of God considered by itself is undivided, and thus also the essential attributes taken by themselves in an absolute sense are not distinct from one another; for God is not wise in one respect, powerful in another, and just in a third respect. Nor is one quality in God His power, another His wisdom, another life, but the one undivided, irreducible, divine essence is power itself, wisdom itself, life itself.

Here Chemnitz is at variance with Jacobs, at least from what you quoted of Jacobs. Chemnitz is affirming the scholastic doctrine of absolute divine simplicity.

It is precisely for this reason that the Reformed accused the Lutherans of Eutychianism. If you affirm the communication of God's essence to the human nature, that's Eutychianizing. I know that Chemnitz tries to escape the force of their arguments, but because he's beholden to the unqualified divine simplicity of scholasticism, he ends up shooting himself in the foot.

So who is the authority, Chemnitz or Jacobs?

Anonymous said...

Fr Gregory, that deduction from the Epitome seems easy to refute. Perhaps there is some skewed manner in my presenting my case, but I believe you're attempting to take this one phrase "after the fall" from the Epitome against the whole of the rest of Lutheran teaching on original sin, or else imply that if it does not leave room for innocence, then we are contradicting ourselves and nugatory in our thinking. These are grave accusations, of course, even if only hinted and implied.


Concerning the framing of the Epitome

1) God created the nature, the devil did not create our naturality.

2) the devil corrupted the nature, God did not corrupt the nature.

3) the words "after the fall" imply that the fact that (a) we still have a nature and (b) having a nature, in itself, is not a bad thing (c) presumably and particularly, if that nature leads you to trust God, fear him, and love him above all things, that would make the nature exceptionally righteous.

Consequently, I see no deviance from the rest of the Confessions here, because they are allowing for a distinction which fills the picture into the doctrine of creation and the teaching of the fall. I do not find an inherent weakness in the Lutheran teaching in this place, but rather another way of cementing the whole edifice around the work of God and distinguishing that against the work of the devil.

If you understand the tendency in nature as a part of the issue, and not simply the guilt of some action, then this is a worthy and fitting point to make: that before our fall into sin, God created a nature in us that would have a tendency that was originally righteous. Afterwards that tendency became corrupt. Satan, therefore, did not invent our nature, and God did not corrupt it. From this point of view, I do not find your argument about our commitment to allowing innocence persuasive. Because, neither can I allow that Satan, himself, has corrupted our nature in such a way that he would permit or tolerate infants to enjoy some state of freedom before he enslaves them.

Past Elder said...

Great Judas at Knossos, the phrase "Byzantine maze" must have been coined after a discussion with Orthodox theologians. The Minotaur is safe, Theseus stands down, Daedalus designs shopping malls and suburban subdivisions.

William Weedon said...

Andrew,

I don't think Jacobs is online, but it is very worth the purchase price (Repristination Press). He also distinguishes, by the way, between the natural will and the free will of God. Significantly, he begins his discussion with the assertion that the first thing we must say about God is that He is person, "three persons in one absolute personality."

The Lutheran Symbols reject and condemn as contrary to God's Word:

1. God and man in Christ are not one person. But the Son of God is one and the Son of another as Nestorius raved.

2. The divine and human natures have been mingled with each other into one essence, and the human nature has been changed into Deity, as Eutyches fanatically asserted.

On the contrary, they confess (and we with them):

In Christ two natures exist and remain unchanged and unconfused in their natural essence and properties. Yet there is only one person consisting of both natures. Therefore, that which is an attribute of only one nature is attributed not to the nature alone, as separate. It is attributed to the entire person, who is at the same time God and man.

And

For the human nature, and no other creature in heaven or on earth, is capable of receiving God's omnipotence in such a way that it would become in itself an almighty essence, or have in and by itself almighty properties. *Then the human nature in Christ would be denied and would be entirely converted into deity. Such teaching is contrary to our Christian faith and also to the teaching of all the prophets and apostles.*

Krauth puts it succinctly: God became man, but Godhead does not become humanity. A man is God - but humanity does not become deity. (CR, p. 479)

John,

Thank you - both for the tone and the explanation. I ask your forgiveness for taking your words harsher than you intended them. Yet if you knew Pr. Frog you would realize that your characterization of him does not accord with reality. He is a kind and gentle man, who happens to be rather frustrated with the fall out of Orthodox telling his members that they are not church.

About whether we are actually closer to one another on the matter of original sin and the corrupted human nature, I think we are still quite distinct from each other in that we teach that the human being from and through conception (saving our Blessed Lord) is already born in an objective state of sin and rebellion. It's not so much that we're innocent but sold to slavery by another's sin, but that we are actually born in rebellion against the Blessed Creator and we have no need of anyone to teach us this rebellion - we manifest it from our first breath. I think there is a fundamental difference here between East and West.

By the bye, I do not at all mean to imply that the East adopts all of Pelagius' teachings - for manifestly it does not. I do mean, however, to say that it seems to me that it is willing to allow a fundamental aspect of his teaching to stand: the innocence of human life from birth - that it becomes sinful by sinning, rather than that it sins because it is already sinful.

Is that a fair assessment of the disagreement? Also, it seems to me that when you use the word corruption, the focus is upon the fact that your body is falling apart, deathward bound. When we use corruption we mean that the body is dying because the soul is corrupted, born a rebel, and this corruption subsists inside of God's good creation, yet permeates and spoils it from head to toe, from mind to heart.

William Weedon said...

P.S. I do recognize that there will be a difference of approach due to the place of sin vs. death in either system; but if I were to put in death language, it would be this:

Every child is born dead, in that he is separated in spirit from the God of life, and not merely separated, but also hostile to Him; actively willing whatever it desires rather than willing to submit to the will of Another.

Rev. Thomas C. Messer, SSP said...

Rev. Tom Fast wrote:

"The host of this blog responds with humility and kindness to the guests who are less than charitable toward him. How does Pr. Weedon have the heart to show such patience and kindness?

All I know is that I want more of what Weedon has."

Amen to that, Tom! I am always blown away by Weedon's patience and kindness, which he combines with a zeal and steadfastness in a way that results in standing firm, but with genuine love and concern for those who stand elsewhere. He is a true blessing to Christ's Church and an example we'd all do well to follow. So, with you, I confess that I, too, want more of what Weedon has.

William Weedon said...

Tom and Thomas,

You guys really just need to spend time living with me - it would quickly disabuse you of your opinions on my character. :) But I thank you for the kindness of the comments, nonetheless. God's peace!

Anonymous said...

Frankly, Pr. Weedon, my comment about your character---which is entirely accurate and we all know it, and the fact you don't know it only makes you all the more endearing----is really about AC IV and the righteousness of faith. I don't really want to spell that out because I wish to avoid controversy. I firmly believe there is a deep theological reason why you are able to take to heart criticisms of your person so readily and not respond with counter-accusations by which you would put others down. It has to do with sola fide, imo.

I'll conclude by saying that I love being an Augsburg Catholic. I swear I do. And thank you for not only faithfully confessing the faith, but living it out, as well.

You gotta great blog, too. It's fun and highly instructive to read the comments which come from so many different perspectives.

Rev. Tom Fast

Anonymous said...

Pr. Weedon,

Your original post is shocking. Not because the author says an infant's heart is innocent, but because a Lutheran has no way to know what the author's talking about. It's sad you declined Christopher Orr's offer to define terms, because that's really what's needed when you label the opposite side something nasty (blatant Pelagianism) in public (your blog) and then receive the expected defense.

It's interesting that the Lutherans here claim the Holy Spirit and the Scriptures for themselves, and deny it to the Orthodox. YOu of all people, Pr. Weedon, should know that when the Lutherans and Orthodox look at terms like "sin" or "death" or "innocence" or "guilt" in the Bible, and anywhere outward from there, that they read and hear totally different things.

But with all your experience, you know this, though all your readers may not. You know how hard it is for Lutherans to conceive of the Fall and all its consequences in any way different than what the Augustinian West has provided, since all their other enemies are Western and deal in similar readings of Scripture (not identical). So all that has happened here is a showing off how the Orthodox don't match up with Lutheran expectations.

The Scriptures are not a collection of proof texts. However, both the Scriptures and Fathers are being used like that here. But some of the most important ones have been left out. I mean, who starts with Psalm 50/51 or Romans 5:12? Start where God started. "In the day that you eat of it, you shall die." Not, "In the day you eat of it you shall be made a sinner." What did God mean by His words? Whatever came next and resulted from that original sin. Romans 5:17, "For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ." And in 1Co. 15:55-56, "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law." These agree with the Greek reading of the Greek of 5:12 (vs. the Latin/Augustinian reading). The reason you see Pelagianism in the wrong place is because you do not see the Scriptures in the right place.

William Weedon said...

Anon,

I deny that "proof texts" are being used here; and I do not think that Orthodox and Lutheran mean *totally* different things by all those terms, though they may accent different aspects of those terms due to their differing dogmatic schemata.

"In the day you eat it, you shall die." Did Satan tell the truth or did our God? For they did not drop dead in a physical sense at all. They began dying, true enough, but that is not what He said. So "death" here must mean something other than physical death. It means the death that is the creature cut off from communion with the Creator. It means spiritual death which leads to bodily death and when the spiritual death is unarrested to eternal death.

Acolyte4236 said...

Let me see if I can add some light to the discussion here.

Pelagius’ principle error from which his others flowed was the idea of “natural grace.” For Pelagius nature was grace so that humans were created intrinsically righteous. Because of this, he thought that human nature could not be corrupted or become lacking in divine power. All then it required was an extrinsic or external help. Grace for Pelagius was external to human nature and came to it from the outside. This is why he considered the Law of Moses a “grace.” Pelagius was a theologian of forensic grace par excellance.

For Augustine, grace or righteousness was added to nature at creation. Consequently the debate with the Pelagians turned on this fundamental point, whether grace was added to nature or whether nature was naturally graced or righteous.

It is easy to see then why for Pelagius children were innocent since he identified personal properties with natural ones. To be innocent meant the same thing for Pelagius to be uncorrupt. Pelagius has a legitimate concern, namely implying that human choices can alter what the divine will has willed, namely that human nature be a certain way. But because he has confused logos and tropos or person and nature, he can’t sufficiently distinguish between a natural power per se and its personal employment or even a natural power per se that retains all of what it is even though it lacks all of the power it originally possessed.

Ironically, Augustine too falls into the mistake of conflating person and nature but from different sources. Augustine never renounces the Platonic concept of a cosmic soul or a cosmic life power. He recognizes that he can’t justify it from Scripture but he retains the belief till his dying day. For Augustine then all human life is summed up in an archetypal person, Adam and so the guilt accruing to that one person accrues to all lives in him. Augustine is sensitive to the problem of conflating person and nature and speaks of the guilt as analogous, which is just to essentially recognize the problem, that there is no logical space between logos and tropos. This also has application to his speculative endorsement of the Filioque, namely that there is a property that the Father and the Son share, which is neither of the essence nor of the respective hypostases. In any case, this is why Augustine has an obvious problem in his argument with the arch-Pelagian Julian in explaining the transmission of libido either in creationism, traducianism, or some other option. Between them Augustine never decides.

Another problem here is the word “sin.” Sin can be taken in two general senses. Either in a narrow sense of a personal act which is the proper basis for the ascription of moral blame and guilt or in a wide sense in terms of corruption, death, disordered state.

A key passage is 2 Cor 5:21. God made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin. Christ partakes of sin qua humanity in the wide sense but not in the narrow sense since as a divine person he commits no sinful acts. This is why Hebrews indicates that Christ is truly tempted by our passions or carnal desires and is the basis for his sympathy with our condition. (Hebrews 4:15)

Consequently, when the Orthodox speak of children at conception forward being sinful and innocent the above needs to be kept in mind. Related to nature, they are sinful in a wide sense of sin in terms of inheriting a corrupted and disordered state. Their nature qua nature is still good, but it lacks the requisite divine power to enable the person to control the passions. Even though they can will the good, they cannot accomplish it. (Rom 7:18-19) So it is not that people cannot naturally will the good, but rather that all their shots at the target, the glory of God, fall short. Even when they will the good,they fall short of divine glory. Consequently Pelagianism is precluded in Orthodox theology.

When the Orthodox speak of a child being pure, purity here needs to be understood in terms of a narrow sense. If a child were a sinner in the narrow sense, it would imply either that the child existed prior to embodiment (Origen) or one can be guilty for acts one never committed (Augustinianism) such that guilt is a quasi personal/natural property. Further, purity here needs to be understood in terms of personal innocence since the person has just come into existence while at the same time recognizing a natural corruption. Purity does not imply righteousness as for us Adam was created good and pure but lacking personal righteousness. This is not what the Pelagians had in mind when they speak of children being innocent for the Pelagians could not and did not distinguish between natural and personal. For a child to be innocent for the Pelagians meant the same thing as their being uncorrupt or naturally graced or existing as a graced nature. So for the Orthodox to say that a child needs no forgiveness is not to say that they need no divine power and cleansing from corruption or sin in the wide sense. This is again a distinction the Pelagians could not make.

To be fair, the Pelagian shoe is on the other foot. The Reformers generally imbibed the Pelagian anthropology through the neo-semi-pelagianism of the Ockhamists. For the Reformed and the Lutherans hold quite distinctly the Pelagian position regarding nature and grace against Augustine. You can see this in the Lutheran tradition in say the works of John Gerhard, Loci Theologici 4, Locus 9. sec. 2, 4, & 9. The pre-lapsarian anthropology of Lutheranism is Pelagian and this is why they need to emphasize sin to the degree that they have. What good is it if you condemn the results of Pelagius’ error if you teach his fundamental mistake? If the shoe fits….

So the Orthodox are not Pelagian. In fact, Orthodoxy condemned Pelagianism at the council of Ephesus.

To ask what is the real Orthodox position is a tad unfair. To hold each layman and clergy to the high standard of being perfectly informed, artciulate and have sufficient grasp of every point of theology is rather unfair, especially in light of the fact that practically 2/3 of LCMS membership thinks that they can merit heaven if they are good enough people per Barna polls. To get different expressions, some more or less adequate from various members is not tantamount to examining representative and carefully crafted formal theological documents.

Arguing from child psychology is inadequate since it is compatible with the Orthodox view that persons being innocent though subsist in a corrupted and disordered nature and through that weakness sin.

As for Eph 2, since all natures are created by God and hence qua nature good, it can’t mean that sin is a substance, via Wisdom 11:24. Given Paul’s language of being dead in transpasses, in activities, this probably refers to habituation and disposition and not nature properly speaking, unless one wishes to endorse some kind of Manichean anthropology.

As for schisms, there is no schism in the church but only from the church. Christ’s body is one since as Augustine noted, Christ and his church are one Christ. To say that the Orthodox need a reforming, a new form, is to say that humans have corrupted Christ, which is impossible. It could only be possible if we assume a defective Christology and ecclesiology where Christ is a creature or the church visible is merely human and lacks divine power. Given Lutheran Eucharistic theology, the latter seems rather odd.

Cyril’s Greek is notorious for being quite sophisticated, making it very difficult for even experienced translators. To put that much weight on one quote from a translation seems weak. Furthermore, Cyril is probably, as was pointed out, is following Athanasius and Paul’s usage of condemnation in terms of breaking as in say Romans 8:3.

Origen is not a father but a witness and his works like say Tertullian should be used with caution. His voice should not be used alone to establish a point. Origen’s point in the cited portion is that souls pre-existed and sinned in that pre-existence. I hardly think that is a point Lutherans wish to support unless they are considering a mve to Utah.

As for the citation from Lutheran dogmatic sources above, I noticed this gem. “…has lost his concreated hereditary righteousness…” Here is the theology of Rome of created grace in the mouth of the Lutherans. From the Orthodox point of view, why do we need a created righteousness, that is a created intermediary between us and God? Why can’t we have God’s actual righteousness? Moreover, you can see the Platonism in the notion of a inherited moral state in terms of common cosmic life-power.

If one wishes to cite Romans 5, why not cite v. 18? The vindication of life comes to all men. Which is why all men are raised, even the wicked. Christ gives life to all, which is why the wicked persist eternally. And Paul’s language of being “made” sinners” and “made” righteous doesn’t exactly line up well with an imputed alien righteousness but rather with being made a new creature.

And as for 1 Cor 15, all men dying in Adam and raised in Christ will include the wicked since the wicked are raised by Christ at the general resurrection. If they aren’t united to Christ qua nature, then on what non-Christological basis are they raised?

Patriarch Jeremias isn’t the pope and while a representative source, his word isn’t the last, anymore than Luther’s is for Lutherans-que Melancthon. There’s nothing in the Patriarch’s correspondence that indicates that he takes children to be guilty so that this is no support of the contention.

Krauth’s citation of Bonaventure is irrelevant. Bonaventure says lots of things that Lutherans don’t accept any more than the Orthodox. Appealingto Catholic scholasticism is out of place for both parties.

To say that we sin because we were already sinful is capable of an Orthodox understanding if we speak of sin in the narrow sense and then in the wide sense. If not, it is a conflation of person and nature. To speak of an infant’s heart, that can be with respect to nature qua nature, the natural will as yet unemployed by the infant person or the nature relative to corruption. It depends specifically on what one means.

To speak of libido carnalis or concupiscence as a will to sin rests on a confusion. The will is a natural faculty and as such is good. To speak of a will to sin conflates carte blanche that natural power with the personal employment as well as the natural power with the lack of adequate divine power to effectively will good things. This confusion was brought into the theology by Augustine’s Platonic anthropology as I noted above. To speak of the “innocence of human life from birth” is to fall into the same error. Human life is not uncorrupted as transmitted by parents to children, even though the person of the child lacks guilt.

As to divine simplicity, to say that God knows how to do something without violating simplicity is not a vindication against an objection to the doctrine of simplicity. Rather it is admit that there is not an answer on hand. Any objection could be met in this way. Further, there is no scriptural source for this doctrine and so it is a part of Rome's philosophical natural theology still held to by confessional reformation bodies contrary to sola scriptura.

The citation from Jacobs won’t help. Among the classical reformation traditions, simplicity is usually cashed out following Aquinas or Scotus. This is true for both the Reformed and the Lutherans. Jacobs is following a Scotistic gloss which makes a formal or definitional distinction but still endorses a simplicity of act. Consequently since they (knowledge, will, etc.) are still identical qua act even if not qua form, the problem raised still persists, though it is not as apparent.

Secondly, Jacob’s confusion regarding personhood is typical of 19th century Trinitarian/Unitarian debates. (See Dixon’s Nice Hot Disputes) To speak of one “absolute personality” is problematic to say the least.

I can understand why Lutherans have sought for ammunition given the small exodus from Lutheranism to Orthodoxy. But picking out quotes here and there really isn't helpful because it isn't a manifestion of trying to understand the tradition from the inside out. External criticisms of this kind may keep the faithful in, but it will leave Orthodoxy untouched.

Daniel said...

Pastors Beisel and Weedon,

Earlier I posted questions and information about the untimely death of infants, and the liturgial rites of the respective traditions dealing with such a tragedy.

I did this because in my mind the debate on this thread is crystalized in our approach to pastoral care for the little ones and their families of whom we have been discussing in theological language.

Below are two of your quotes:

Pastor Biesel:

"We don't know if an infant has committed any actual sins or not, but we believe that the will and desire to sin (concupiscence) is also sin, which condemns to eternal death and damnation. It seems that the statements of the Orthodox often don't mean the same thing as the actual words that are written".

And Pastor Weedon,

"It's not so much that we're innocent but sold to slavery by another's sin, but that we are actually born in rebellion against the Blessed Creator and we have no need of anyone to teach us this rebellion - we manifest it from our first breath. I think there is a fundamental difference here between East and West".

My sincere question (really wanting to know where you are coming from, and not trying to trip you up on your every word) is given such language regarding infants, that they are "in rebellion against the Blessed Creator" and that the infant, possessing concupiscience is condemned to "eternal death and damnation" (I think I have interpreted the last quote rightly); do you believe that infants are conceived and/or born condemned to hell? For if concupiscience and rebellion are dispositions of the infant, then would not the little one be a "child of wrath"? And if you do not believe these infants are condemned to everlasting punishment, can you see how some might interpret those statements that way?

In contrast the Orthodox view of infants was well stated at the top of this thread by Christopher Orr:
"There are also differences between being in a state of imperfection that is not personal sin/transgression, a state of spiritual infancy and 'will-lessness' and committing actual, personal sins".

Thus it is possible that the baby is whining not because he "thinks that he is the center of the universe" (I do understand the humor if taken as a joke- I am a Father several times over), but because he is desiring comfort and nourishment.

Past Elder said...

What? No Manichees?

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Daniel: yes. Which is why we tell parents not to wait three months after they are born to have them baptized; and why we pray for the children in utero, that God would in his mercy allow this child to be brought to the saving waters of baptism; and why we tell expecting mothers to come to church, where the Holy Spirit can work saving faith through the Word of Christ in the hearts of those unborn infants, etc.

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Dear anon,

You say: "Start where God started. "In the day that you eat of it, you shall die." Not, "In the day you eat of it you shall be made a sinner."

It was man's disobedience (eating the forbidden fruit) that led to his death. So, death "spread to all men" because "all sinned." Think about that for a second. If death is the direct result of sin, (notice it doesn't just say that Adam sinned, but all sinned) then the very fact that infants die in utero must indicate that they sinned. Paul says: "In Adam all die because ALL sinned." That infant sinned "in Adam."

William Weedon said...

Dear Dan,

I thought, though, that I pointed out somewhere up in this obscenely long thread that our Church does NOT hold that simply because a child dies prior to receiving the washing of regeneration it is necessarily lost; rather, we grant that God may indeed have a way of changing that little rebel heart and bringing the child into His kingdom that has not been disclosed to us. He has certainly revealed His WILL to bring all such into His kingdom and we pray for such little ones from their conception that they may finally be brought to the Kingdom (usually and ordinarily through Holy Baptism) and we rely upon a merciful God answering that prayer.

Dear Acolyte,

See my comments above. Yes, we understand the Orthodox syllogism that the Church cannot err; in part we agree with it, what we disagree with it is the definition of "Church" and therefore we can go round and round - which at the close of Lent I've not got time or inclination to do. And finally, I weary beyond words, my friend, of the belief that when a Lutheran cites a father it is invariably citing a snippet out of context; whereas when an Orthodox cites a father, there's the evidence that Orthodoxy is the true faith. I will merely ask all our readers to do what I have ever encouraged: read the fathers for yourself and decide if the citations provided are out of context.

Past Elder said...

Pastor has hit on an important point, and it concerns not only the case of unbaptised infants.

Which is, among the many other things that sola scripura does not mean, it does not mean that Scripture is God's revealed truth about everything about him, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About God.

We know the means God has given to us; we do not know nor does he say these are all his means. Patristics and theology itself are not faithful to their purpose when they try to lay down more than has been said, nor in speculating about what has not been revealed help in the effort to be about what has been.

Acolyte4236 said...

Rev Weedon,

I don’t believe I argued from or in a syllogistic form. I gave a Christological argument. We disagree about the church because we have different Christologies and Triadologies. And that is what I pointed out.

You seem to think that there is special pleading going on with respect to patristic citations. You need to do more than claim and complain about it. You’d need to give an actual argument demonstrating that this is in fact so. Otherwise the comments do not move the ball down the argumentative field. Don't be suprised when you get accused of spoo-texrting when you toss out a passage without any linguistic analysis or historical contextualization.

In my experience, most Lutherans and Reformed cite the fathers as found in their loci or systematic texts. These citations have been passed down from public debates and other reformation primary source material. They are usually found in polemical works rather than a thorough read through of the primary sources or say a modern patristic monograph. This is one reason why I either don’t find their deployment persuasive or I think they are out of context because in most cases I have read the primary texts all the way through and many of the reformation works that cite them. And some citations have been shown by modern scholarship to have been taken out of context, particularly with respect to sola fide for example. So it is hardly implausible that this is the case now. It is also the case that the Reformers were often reading through Lain translations that were not reliable, as was the case with the Latin translation of John of Damascus, which led Calvin into Nestorianism. (Inst. Bk 2, 14. 1-5 where he speaks of the persona of Christ composed OUT of two natures.)

In any case, none of the comments above touch my putting the shoe on the other foot with respect to Reformation adherence to Pelagian pre-lapsarian anthropology. And if you are complaining about Lent and discussing the matter, what in all fairness did you expect? I mean, when other participants chided you for doing so during Lent you dismissed them in terms of an obligation to confront false teaching. Why is it now that the shoe is on the other foot that you cry Lent!? I mean I too by the Gospel have an obligation to confront the false teaching of Pelagianism put forward by the Reformers. This is clearly a case of special pleading.

Daniel said...

Pastor Weedon,

This has been a long thread, but I thank you for this blog and its ability to enable us to clarify our beliefs: "As iron sharpens iron", the Proverb says.

I noticed that your answer to where unbaptized (or at least unregenerate) infants go differed from Pastor Biesel. His response to whether they are eternal damned is a simple, "Yes"; whereas yours is (if I am reading you right)"not necessarily".

The latter response begs the question of what might distinguish a one week-old infant from being received into the Kingdom vs. another? Or are all infants who die prematurely received into the Kingdom of God? And if so, why? You have given the "how", but not the "why".

Finally, on December 28th the Lutheran Calendar observes the Feast of the Holy INNOCENTS. Why are they called "innocent"? I know that in a past posting of yours you posited that these little ones are remembered as innocent because they were circumcised under the Old Covenant.

But is that the real reason for this appellation? Is the main thrust of this Feast Day a remembrance of circumcised martyrs who just so happen to have been infants? If that were the case why are no other martyrs remembered as being "innocent".

Also does not the adjective in this Feast Day describing them as "holy" cover their being "set apart" in circumcision as children of God. Why the adjective before the adjectival noun?

It is indeed customary to speak of God's people (whether made so by circumcision in the OT or baptism in the NT) as being "holy"; but I do not believe that it has been customary in the Christian Tradition to describe our being brought into a saving union with God as making us "Innocent ones". For these two terms (namely holy and innocent) to refer to the same thing seems a bit redundant.

But if it is remembered as a day on which OT Covenant Hebrew children were slain at such a tender innocent age that they had committed no acts worthy of being killed in such a brutal, random fashion; then this Feast Day makes good sense.

Finally this debate over paedo-innocence reminds me of the hesitancy on the part of some pastors (and others) to allow that some people are "innocent" in a divorce. Those who apply this description obviously mean that some who are wrongfully handed a bill of divorcement have not committed any act (such as adultry)deserving [albeit by concession] of such a fate.

Notice regarding divorce the focus on innocence as describing an action (both on the part of the one who severs a marriage through adultry for instance, and on behalf of the one whose inaction with respect to something triggering the divorce earns for them the description of being the "innocent party".


Peace in Christ.

William Weedon said...

Acolyte,

For myself I can say that the overwhelming majority of the citations I offer from the Fathers come from my personal reading. I read some in them almost every day and have done so for a number of years. That reading has only confirmed me in my belief that the Fathers say very much that is congruent with the Lutheran Confession of the Christian faith.

I do not believe that Lutherans have a different Christology from the Orthodox, nor a Triadology that is different from that of the West in the early centuries - it is fundamentally that of St. Augustine and of the entire West which was never church divisive.

I don't have time - because I am pastor with a flock to shepherd - to respond in the sort of detail you seem to think I ought. I will say again: let the readers of this blog read the Fathers themselves and see what they discover. St. John Chrysostom on the many texts on justification is absolutely priceless - and it's hard to tell if it's Blessed Martin Luther of St. John at some points. Even to the dreaded "alone!"

Daniel,

I have no problem with saying they were innocent in the civil sense of the word: they'd done nothing at all warranting their horrific execution. But before God they were not "innocent" save as they were under the covenant and so embraced by grace. Before the bar of His justice there is none righteous but the Righteous One and those who by His gift are righteous in Him.

Daniel said...

Thank you for your patience, and response. I will give you the last word on this one from my end.

Anonymous said...

Pr. Beisel, you said, "it doesn't just say that Adam sinned, but all sinned) then the very fact that infants die in utero must indicate that they sinned. Paul says: "In Adam all die because ALL sinned." That infant sinned "in Adam.""

I see you missed my point, since you are quoting Rom. 5:12. [BTW, don't put quotes around something that's a paraphrase; it's misleading.] Someone mentioned this issue above too. The East claims your exegesis is incorrect. Try reading the exegetical argument made by Meyendorff in "Byzantine Theology" about this passage. He does it better than I ever could.

Pr. Weedon, you said, "I do not think that Orthodox and Lutheran mean *totally* different things by all those terms," and then you said "So "death" here must mean..."

Thank you, Pr. Weedon, for proving my point that you should have taken Christopher up on his offer to define terms. Here you are defining terms all by yourself, while shutting out the Orthodox from defining their own terms. This isn't dialog. It's just a chance to trap the Orthodox in a Lutheran-made box and beat them up. Things used to work differently on your blog. It's one thing to believe in Lutheranism, but another to do what you are doing. I can't believe Lutherans are applauding you for this sort of thing. I'm not sticking around for this. Have your fun. Bye.

Past Elder said...

Great Judas in snowshoes, what was Jesus thinking, calling fishermen with a government official and a terrorist thrown in, to go into the world baptising and teaching, with so much of this broad consensus in need of explanation by scholars and a raft of guys in funny clothes.

Anonymous said...

This isn't dialog. It's just a chance to trap the Orthodox in a Lutheran-made box and beat them up.

As if anyone is forced to come here!

Lutherans defending Lutheran teaching on a Lutheran blog! Unmoeglich!

Glad I don't spend my time on Orthodox blogs looking to get "beat up."

Christine

William Weedon said...

Dear Anon,

Sorry to have given you that impression. This blog author has no desire whatever to beat up on Orthodox or Roman Catholics or even Baptists - though I disagree with them theologically. I love them as my sisters and brothers in the Savior, whose sins have been washed away by the same blood of the same Lamb of God and with whom I fervently hope and pray we will celebrate to all eternity the gift of forgiveness and life as we behold the glory of the Blessed Trinity.

Anonymous said...

Hi there, Father Weedon! :-)

Regarding the Geat Canon: humility does not consists in bowing our heads down to heresy. [So both sides have nothing to be sorry for, except if someone did not do it in the spirit of meekness, as St. Paul instructs us in Gal. 6:1]

The point of this conversation was originally to obtain an answer to the question: Is this what Orthodox truly teach?

Well, You had Your answer then.

Historically that was exactly what Pelagius taught and for which St. Augustine condemned him

The question is not for what did St. Augustine condemn him, but for what did the Church condemn him. The problem is not where blessed Augustine perceives there to be an error, but where the Fathers find fault with his teachings.

you said some pretty terrible things, John, and they certainly sounded as though they were written in the heat of passion.

...like most of Luther's writings, You mean? ;-)

St. Augustine learned from St. Ambrose that the virginal conception was a key to the sinlessness of Christ - so that his taking up of human nature would be a sinless human nature, one "not conceived in iniquity or born in sin."

St. Augustine learned from St. Ambrose many things which the blessed doctor never taught. You have to read the Fathers in their own right, and stop seeeing them through an Augustinian lense.

I have learned in this discussion something that I did not know about Orthodoxy, though it made me sad to learn it.

Hey, I've never found out about us not believing in Original Sin until a few yrs ago myself... :-) But when I did, all things fell into place.

Regarding the Holy Innocents: Your re-interrpetation of the word is very sweet, and very a-Patristical and un-Traditional. :-)

what was Jesus thinking, calling fishermen with a government official and a terrorist thrown in, to go into the world baptising and teaching

I don't know... What was Jesus thinking when He said: "let the children come to me and stop them not, for to some like these is the kingdom of heaven; verily I say unto you, unless you're not like these little ones, you cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven"? Hmmm? :-\