Is it God who energizes?


No, we’re not talking Star Trek here…

This subject was brought to my attention through a blog called “Energetic Procession” in a post entitled: “St Gregory Palamas on Eunomios and more” the post ending something along these lines: “These things in Scripture are not pointing to who God is but to our synergy in salvation. It tells of our freedom of will because God is unchanging in willing all men to be saved but yet few are chosen.”

I asked a few questions, being that I don’t really know all that much about the Orthodox church – and I was told to read an article by a man named David Bradshaw. I want to focus on that article, and begin to interact with what was said (there are many things said, I am only focusing on one thing in this post). I am spending the time to do this because it is important for me to interact with Scripture and be convinced of what I believe, to grow deeper in my knowledge of God so that I may worship Him more fully and love Him more completely; and looking at other’s differing opinions is one way to do that.


On Philippians 2:12-13 Dr. Bradshaw writes:

The noun that is cognate to this verb, energeia, is the word from which we derive the term ‘energy.’ By the time of the New Testament it had in some contexts already acquired that meaning. Likewise, although energein normally means simply to act or to operate, in theological contexts such as this one it often has a further shade of meaning: that of acting in a way that itself imparts energy…This rendering helps bring out why for St. Paul there is no contradiction in urging the Philippians to do something that he also sees as the work of God…Giving this notion full weight, we could render the passage as follows: ‘it is God who energizes in you both to will and to energize of his good pleasure.’ This rendering helps bring out why for St. Paul there is no contradiction in urging the Philippians to do something that he also sees as the work of God. The peculiar nature of God’s activity is that it imparts the energy to do His will; yet this energy must be expressed or “worked out” (katergazesthe) in order to be effective.”1

 

The first thing that came into my mind when I read that Dr. Bradshaw suggests a translation of “energy” or “to energize” for the Greek word ἐνέργεια, was something that Oral Robert’s did in one of his books (as do many other Charismatics), translating δύναμις as “dynamite.”2 There are huge red flags going on in my mind when someone goes against the majority of accepted translation. The only times (five times) the word “energy” is used in BDAG is in the context of a human person lacking energy because they are exhausted or a loss of motivation. In the context, that makes sense – but if we indiscriminately use the word “energy” or “energize” it brings huge problems. Using the term as Dr. Bradshaw has suggested brings in modern concepts that frankly did not exist at the time of Paul’s writing. I believe his translation is hugely influenced by his Theological slant – something we should not have to do in order to prove our side. Let’s keep with Scripture – it is my goal, though I do fail, it is my goal.

 

Secondly, if we take Dr. Bradshaw’s translation and think about it, this is what it seems to imply if we buy it – God energizes us. Ok, that makes sense. God energizes us to do something – to will. Again, that makes sense – God supplies the energy, and I therefore have desire or the will to do what he wants. The concept here is God doing something so that I do something that he wants me to do. Going on, God supplies the energy for me to energize…wait…that doesn’t make sense. How do I energize? What does it mean for me to energize? If I say God does something causing me “to will” it makes sense because I actively then do something because he caused me to desire it. But if I say God does something causing me to energize it doesn’t make sense in English. Does it make sense to you? What does that mean? Maybe it’s just me, but it just doesn’t make sense nor is it parallel in thought to the infinitive that precedes it (θέλειν [“to will”]). But if we keep with the traditional translation “to do”, it make sense – God energizes me both to desire and to do.

 

The encouragement is this – work out your salvation – and lest you loose heart – remember, it is God who is at work in you both to desire and to do what he wants!

 

But if we make this a synergistic work, there is no encouragement – because God’s work is nothing unless I do something. God’s work has no effect on me unless I let it, and will I? I don’t know, probably not, or maybe I will. There is no assurance here, nor is there any reason for Paul to remind the Philippians that God is at work if God’s work doesn’t actually do something.

 

 

Father, I thank you for the great encouragement it is to me, that as I press on in my walk with you that it is You and You alone who began the work in me and You will complete it, You will cause me to desire the things you want and to do Your will. Thank you for this amazing gift, the gracious gift of salvation.”

1 David Bradshaw, “The Divine Glory and the Divine Energies,” Faith and Philosophy 23 no. 3 (July 2006): 283.

2 Oral Roberts, The Baptism with the Holy Spirit: And the Value of Speaking in Tongues Today (Tulsa, Okla, 1964), 6, 9.

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51 Responses to Is it God who energizes?

  1. Ben says:

    Two responses:

    1) Are you confident that the “energy” concept is a modern innovation? Though it can be merely rhetoric, the Orthodox folks seem convinced that their interpretations are the ones with a precedent.

    2) You say “if it’s synergistic, there’s no encouragement.” … why?

    I (kind of) believe in synergistic sanctification, but I still find comfort in the fact that God is working out my salvation alongside me, helping me and aiding me. That I must respond is a challenge, and helps me “share in the sufferings of Christ”, not a cause for fear (for if I do not fear doing what is wrong, I do not fear/reverence God). To my understanding, assuming that I could “let go and let God” as regards sanctification would be equivalent to “showing up to the feast without wedding clothes”. I know it gets more complicated as regards moral agency and responsibility, etc. … I’m just giving my reactions.

    An interesting post … I have to admit I find synergism as a concept very attractive. I would definitely benefit from hashing it out from an evangelical perspective (if that’s possible?).

    One other thing … is it possible to believe in synergism in sanctification, and still believe that “He is able to keep you from falling away”?

    Peace, brother.

  2. nathanwells says:

    I can’t totally interact (time is short!) – but I will on the word “energy”

    I grant the Greek word is there. But what I am saying is that it is a linguistic fallacy to assume word origins make for a good translation. Sure, we get our English word energy from ἐνέργεια but do they mean the same thing? I don’t think so, and even if the English word “energy” is used by the “fathers” we must understand what they mean by it and not put our “modern” meaning into the word.

    I submit that the word “to energize” is a very misleading translation for ἐνέργεια in our day.

  3. nathanwells says:

    And also, just so you know – I am looking into this because of what you said about my clarity paper, and that it would have been a good discussion rather than the Catholic Church :)
    So my side study is the Orthodox Church.

  4. Michael O. says:

    Nathan,

    Over at energeticprocession.com Dr. Bradshaw offered to send a copy of his essay ‘Diving Energies in the New Testament’ to anyone who emailed him requesting it (I took him up on the offer and he was quite happy to oblige). I think this essay will fill in some more of the meaning of energeia in Paul’s time, and in Paul’s usage, as well as some other questions.

    Also, I’m not sure why you are thinking God necessarily “energizes” us to do something other than that same energy, or why it’s either either logically or grammatically confusing to say God energizes us to energize -that is, carry out the energy- (especially when that’s how the Greek literally reads) any more than it is to say God acts so that we may act.

    Another thing to consider is why a non-synergistic view would be more encouraging or a more sensible interpretation of Phil. 2. On your view, Paul is telling the people to work for salvation, but since they are sinful and not dependable workers, it is an encouragement to say it is actually God (who is dependable) doing the work in us. However, this can be turned around to ask, if Paul is saying the working of our salvation depends solely on God, why would he bother telling US to work out OUR salvation with fear and trembling and that God works in us so that WE may act/do/energize (instead of just saying, sit back and let God do what He may)? This passage seems both sensible and encouraging to a synergist who hears Paul saying to work out your salvation (yes, you must really work, so take it seriously) but don’t worry, God has not left you alone in this, He is working in you to enable you to do this work with Him (God’s work does actually do something). Now, a monergist reading of this passage might make one think: great, the work of salvation depends wholly on God instead of the undependable sinner I am. But, if you are also not a universalist, and thus God must not work for the salvation of all people (if it all depends on God and yet not all are saved), then how can you know whether or not God will work out your salvation for you? It doesn’t seem a very encouraging position.

    I hope that’s helpful in thinking through some of this.

    In Xp,
    Michael

  5. nathanwells says:

    Thanks Michael, it is very helpful – I was hoping someone would respond who has a background in these ideas.

    As far as why I said “to energize” doesn’t make sense – I did not mean it in a theological way – I meant in the English language. I was addressing translation rather than solely theology. To me the sentence doesn’t make sense.

    What does it mean to “carry out the energy?” Again, that to me is not plain English (have you ever heard anyone ever say that?).

    You understand it possibly because you have been exposed to Orthodox teaching – I on the other hand have not – so more explanation is needed, in plain English.

    As far as synergism/monergism – this study alone is not enough to convince – nor did I write this thinking it would convince someone. Because really I do not believe this verse is not about being saved – it is written to believers.

    But, I am fully convinced that the Bible teaches I did no work, period. And that any work I do is done because the Spirit of Christ is in me. I cannot boast, nor can I say I somehow figured out that I needed God, because then I could boast about it, being that I was smarter than the person who never found salvation through Christ.

    Even if God did everything and only leaves believing up to me, why then would I believe? And if I did believe, does that make me better than someone who does not? I don’t know about you, but if faith is my work, I am sure I could find ways to boast about it.

    And to answer your question: “how can you know whether or not God will work out your salvation for you?”

    I know because He promised: “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”” (John 11:25-26)

    It is not based on my promise to God, but on His Word and His work. Everyone who believes, believes because they are chosen by God. Those who are not chosen never believe.

    “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44)

    I will try and get a hold of Dr. Bradshaws work that you mentioned – but like I said in my post – it’s not in the lexicons…and that makes it fishy.

    I do see how this verse encourages you – I appreciate the time you’ve taken to post a reply. If you have time, I would benefit from more interaction.

    May the Lord bless you and keep you,
    Nathan
    1 Cor. 15:19

  6. Michael O. says:

    It is more common in English to say “carry out the act” rather than “carry out the energy,” or “act” instead of “energize,” because in modern English we tend not to think of “energy” as along the lines of a personal action; but if we don’t impose what energy in modern English means onto what energeia meant in N.T. Greek I don’t think it is so puzzling. This is something Bradshaw and those at the energetic procession site are much more able to discuss, and I hope they prove helpful.

    I understand that Christ is the life of all who live and believe in Him, and that no one comes to Christ lest the Father draw Him, but if God does not choose to save everyone, how do you know you are chosen? Your answer seems to be: if I was never chosen, I would not believe; I do believe, so I must be chosen. Correct? Besides God’s choosing you being something to potentially boast about (I’m sure sinful me would find a way), I don’t know that it’s comforting that the presence of belief/faith in me is tremendous assurance God has chosen me. Aren’t there some who exhibit faith only to later fall away? Could that not happen to me? This led Calvin to distinguish between temporary faith which may fall away and saving faith that will not fall away but eternally persevere. But could I not be mistaken about the status of my own faith? Could I not apostatize and thus find that I never had saving faith all along (even though I looked to the temporary faith I had as assuring)? Does not the fact I continue to sin worry me that I’m infected with unbelief to some degree?

    Also, even if the notion that “I have faith God has saved me because I have faith God has saved me” is a legitimate circularity logically speaking, it seems odd in light of Paul’s encouragement that God is working in you in Phil. 2:12-13. If we want to be encouraged, we should look to this word that God is working in us, not look to whether or not we have faith that God is working in us. The object of our faith is not the faith itself, but the God in whom we have faith and who is our encouragement. Paul’s encouragement seems to be that we can trust the fact God is working in us (or at least trust the words of the Apostle that this is so), not that we should trust a faith already present in us (which encouragement on your view seems to depend on).

    I’m sorry if I focused more on synergism than energies as you might have liked. If I say much more about energies it will probably be more harmful than helpful. If you want some good spelling out of the patristic usage of “energy,” I would try Met. Zizioulas’ dogmatics lectures:
    http://www.oodegr.com/english/dogmatiki1/perieh.htm
    (You can skip the first section on dogmatics)

    God bless,
    Michael

  7. Lee says:

    Michael – it would seem that Jesus made the distinction in types of faith before Calvin – see the parable of the seed…

    Nathan – as I mentioned over in my post here (where I hope Photios will find my recent responses), I’ve been doing some more reading on Orthodoxy, and found that the “SIMPLICITY & THEODICY” post here (you’ll have to search for it) has a concise summary of the historical differences between the Orthodox church and the West, which has helped me to begin to get a grasp on the differences in perspective.

  8. Lee says:

    Whoops – I was conflating this article with the post I mentioned above… “SIMPLICITY & THEODICY” does indeed contain very useful background information, just not the historical timeline found in the “West Meets East” article.

  9. Lee says:

    Whoops – I was conflating this article with the post I mentioned above… “SIMPLICITY & THEODICY” does indeed contain very useful background information, just not the historical timeline found in the “West Meets East” article.

    (This may get posted twice – please erase one of them if that does happen!)

  10. Michael O. says:

    Lee,

    My critique is not based on whether or not there is a distinction in types of faith (temporary or saving). In fact, my position is that someone can have faith and then apostatize (as you seem to think is evidenced in the parable of the seed), so on this point we appear to agree. The point is that if one can have faith of any type and later fall away from Christ, how can anyone then look to their faith as an assurance they will always be faithful?

    On a less important note, in the parable of the seed, is Jesus is distinguishing between types of faith or between degrees of the same type of faith? I don’t think that is discernable from the parable alone. Either way it buttresses my point, namely, that there is seed or faith of some sort present, but if it might be snatched by the birds or scorched by the sun or choked by the thorns then why be encouraged by the mere presence of seed/faith?

    Michael

  11. Mark Krause says:

    Nathan,
    I understand your concern about the whole dunamis-dynamite thing. That’s a fair concern, but let me assure you, that is not the kind of thing going on with energia. Energia was a philosophical term developed by Aristotle to denote actuality as opposed with dunamis, which he used to mean potentiality. After Aristotle there is a long history if it’s use in hellenistic culture (not just philosophy). The word energia was appropriated in a specific way in the Christian tradition that was unique from the rest of hellenistic culture. Bradshaw outlines much of this in his book: “Aristotle East and West: Metaphysics and the Division of Christendom.” So all that to say, the energia-energy situation is not analagous to the the dunammis-dynamite situation.

  12. bon82 says:

    Back to Nathan’s: I don’t know, I don’t think that there is much difference between monergism and synergism as regards boasting. You say that you are convinced that monergism is the only view in the NT … is that an “economic” decision (like, “monergism is necessary because syngerism allows room for boasting” etc.) or an interpretive one (I have these passages that clearly show sanctification / justification are purely monergistic)?

  13. bon82 says:

    Oops, this is Ben, not Bonnie. My bad.

  14. Lee says:

    Whoops – I was conflating this article with the post I mentioned above… “SIMPLICITY & THEODICY” does indeed contain very useful background information, just not the historical timeline found in the “West Meets East” article.

    (I’ve tried to post this a couple of times, Nathan – I’m not sure why they aren’t showing up!)

    Michael – I wouldn’t say that one can look to their faith as an assurance that they will always be faithful. I would say look to God’s faithfulness: Phil 1:6, does my life reflect God’s continuing work? Gal 5:22-23, is there fruit in my life, the evidence of the presence and work of the Holy Spirit? I Jn 1:9, do I confess my sin and receive peace from God (not a peace of my own concoction)? Ro 8:13, do I, by the Spirit, put to death my sin? When I can see these and other evidences which Scripture enumerates, then I can be confident that I am building my house upon solid ground, that my heart is fertile and receptive to the Gospel, that I am working out my salvation, that I am pressing on to the goal….

  15. MG says:

    Nathan–

    You wrote:

    “But if I say God does something causing me to energize it doesn’t make sense in English. Does it make sense to you? What does that mean? Maybe it’s just me, but it just doesn’t make sense nor is it parallel in thought to the infinitive that precedes it (θέλειν [“to will”]). But if we keep with the traditional translation “to do”, it make sense – God energizes me both to desire and to do.”

    If energy means “Activity” then the translation you are using (“do”) is similar to what the Eastern Orthodox are saying (and their translation makes sense). However, there is a linguistic connotation present in the way the EO are translating this that is missed out by just using the language of “do”. Normally we don’t think of our activities as an extension of ourselves. We don’t claim that our activities are the way we make ourselves “actual”–the way we manifest ourselves in the world and to each other. But that’s what EO claims about energies/activities. And if Mark Krause’s comment above is correct, then this seems to be an additional element in how we understand Paul’s words that needs to be taken into account.

    “But if we make this a synergistic work, there is no encouragement – because God’s work is nothing unless I do something. God’s work has no effect on me unless I let it, and will I? I don’t know, probably not, or maybe I will. There is no assurance here, nor is there any reason for Paul to remind the Philippians that God is at work if God’s work doesn’t actually do something.”

    Why is it the case that if I have to do something, there is no encouragement? Isn’t it encouraging to know you are being given the resources to do something, even if you don’t actually follow through with it? Normally, knowing we have the resources available to do something is one of the chief factors in motivation. That doesn’t mean the motivation has to operate deterministically on us, though.

    Why do you say that God’s work doesn’t actually do anything if this is how salvation works? Surely God is doing *something*. Isn’t God’s act of “making it possible to accept salvation” a very important *something*?

  16. Michael O. says:

    Mark,

    Right on the money

  17. Lee says:

    (Nathan – you can just ignore my previous attempt from yesterday at posting this comment. I’ll stop trying to post links to FindArticles since WordPress’ spam filter keeps flagging them!)

    Michael – I wouldn’t say that one can look to their faith as an assurance that they will always be faithful. I would say look to God’s faithfulness: Phil 1:6, does my life reflect God’s continuing work? Gal 5:22-23, is there fruit in my life, the evidence of the presence and work of the Holy Spirit? I Jn 1:9, do I confess my sin and receive peace from God (not a peace of my own concoction)? Ro 8:13, do I, by the Spirit, put to death my sin? When I can see these and other evidences which Scripture enumerates, then I can be confident that I am building my house upon solid ground, that my heart is fertile and receptive to the Gospel, that I am working out my salvation, that I am pressing on to the goal….

  18. Nathan,

    I have been away for a few days and I have not had an opportunity to reply to your questions, although others have done so. I hope that you don’t mind a reply here as I though it would be easier for you to see.

    The reason for Gregory to make a distinction between the essence and energy is that, I think, is connected with a dispute about the light that was seen by the Apostles during the Transfiguration. Both sides say that the essence cannot be seen so one argued that the light was created but St Gregory argued that this is not so because it was the glory of the Lord and the Father and as such was not created but uncreated and divine. It could be seen because it was an energy of God and not the essence; without the distinction one would either see the essence, not possible, or it would be created and not the glory of the Lord or of His Kingdom.

    He uses the Greek word for work/energy because it best suited the needs and it was also used in Scripture and by other Fathers for similar reasons. This is not to place any particular meaning to the word, although it would be worth noting that translations of the Scriptures are quite influenced by theological perspective and words chosen reflect this bias. Since most translations in English of the Scriptures are not by Orthodox translators it is not surprising the the word “energy” is not used to translate the Greek but generally “work” is used. (Not that this is necessarily wrong but that one cannot trust the number of translators using the word without looking at other factors influencing the choice.)

    The “few are chosen” is from Matthew 20:16 or 22:14 referring to the fact that God desires all men to be saved (1 Tim 2:4) yet few are in fact so saved. This raises the question why not?

    The things in Scripture to which are being referred are those where God is said to relent (change His mind) or to be jealous or angry. God, however, does not change His mind or get angry or jealous.

    The reason for this terms is the it helps us to understand the consequences of our choices as if it were affecting another human because we could not comprehend these things if spoken in divine ways. Nevertheless, because God can be said to relent when we repent it means that our free choice/will and the way we use it is important to our salvation. God has already decided how to respond to us before all time and His response is “triggered” for ourselves by our choice. Thus, God says He will destroy someone but relents on repentance and pray. He was always going to do this if man chose repentance, if not He would continue through with His threat. It shows that man is truly free otherwise the Scriptures would be deceptive rather than written in a human perspective. God does not force us to be holy or saved but works with us to do so. We must freely accept God’s way for ourselves. We must accept God’s life as our own life. We must accept God’s holiness as our own holiness. We must accept God’s works as our works.

    Although our works in and of themselves are incapable of saving us, how can our works make us live as God lives, we must nevertheless own the works of God as our own. His works become our works. The willingness of each of us goes right to the end of the work not just the beginning. Thus, the work becomes completely ours by the time it is known that we are completely willing to accept it. The work is in reality all sourced from God and God’s and it is given to us by grace and not because we deserve it but because we also work the work it is our work also; it is not just God doing to to me and using me as a robot to do it but me freely doing it myself as my own work. This is the synergy. The work is both God’s and man’s. This is why the Scriptures say that man cannot be saved by the works of the Law, i.e. without God nor can faith without works, i.e without man, save one.

    Note: for Orthodox we are saved not because Christ completes a work of removing a penalty but because Christ completes a work enabling us to be united with Him and to share in the life of God, and becoming gods. This life must be freely accepted in completeness in synergy; God will not force His life on us because that would not be love.

    A Biblical God is used to refer not just to words used in the Bible regarding God but also to how the testimony of the Scriptures, taken in the correct perspective (not a forced perspective but one genuinely faithful to the Scripture), reveals God, as far as He can be revealed. So, in this case if we do not hold the distinction between essence and energies then our model of God could not fit the revelation of God in the Scriptures; it would be the model of another God, which we must reject. The “models” of God are important because to be united with God we must accept Him as He is and we must live as He does. If we don’t have any model then all sorts of fanciful ideas about Him could arise that are not true and could well lead to a false way of His life. Both these thus leading us away from accepting Him as He is and denying our salvation. That is why the Creeds were written and there was so much time spend in dealing with disputes over what for a Protestant are trivial matters but for Orthodox/Catholics are crucial to one’s salvation.

    I hope this helps a little.

  19. Michael O. says:

    Lee,

    Keep in mind that these questions are stemming from whether or not monergism produces assurance or is any more “encouraging” than synergism. So, if you need to look at anything YOU do as well as God does, then the assurance and encouragement are no greater than the synergist’s. However, if it’s the case that it is really God producing the “evidence” that we have salvation, and we can know that this is the case, then it may be that monergists can claim assurance and superior encouragement. But can we know that it is God producing the evidence? Can I know whether the faith I have is saving faith produced by God or temporary faith produced by me? If the unregenerate can do works of righteousness how can I know that any good works I do or any righteousness I see in myself are evidence of God’s work, or of having saving faith (I might yet be unregenerate)? How can I know I received peace from God and not a peace of my own concoction?

    When I said above, “keep in mind,” and then recapped the context of the discussion, I did so not because I thought you missed it, but rather, what I meant to get at was that in my previous comment I was assuming a monergist framework; that is, I was assuming that the assuring/encouraging faithfulness would be God’s and not mine. The problem is how to know it is God’s faithfulness present and not your own. So, if Nathan points to faith as assurance I ask how does he know it is faith from God and not temporary faith of his own? If you point to confessing your sins or to other fruits, I ask how do you know they are from God and not from you?

    Michael

  20. Michael O. says:

    I thought this was pertinent quote from a Protestant scholar on Calvin’s treatment of this dilemma:

    “How am I supposed to make this distinction between temporary and true faith? Where am I supposed to look? Disastrously, I am supposed to look inward. After all, even the unregenerate can do outward good works. So what the mainstream Calvinist tradition does is direct our attention to the fact—and of course it is a fact—that true faith bears fruits in sanctification of the heart. So if you are a good Calvinist, you are supposed to notice this—notice that you’re getting more inwardly sanctified, which gives you assurance of faith, i.e. assurance that you really do have true faith. I have to say, this strikes me as a disastrous theological and pastoral move. The result is: I am supposed to believe I am inwardly holy and righteous. Instead of looking at myself and finding a sinner—for as Luther rightly says, even the righteous man sins in all his good works—and thus being driven in repentance to take hold once again of the Gospel alone as the sole assurance of my salvation, I am supposed to look at my own heart and see something reassuring: I’ve made real spiritual progress, I’m becoming more inwardly holy and righteous. I do not see how anyone can do this without becoming self-righteous, in a distinctively Protestant way—claiming no righteousness of your own, of course, but comforted by how powerfully the Holy Spirit is working in you, ready to boast of how transformed your inner life is because of God working in your life, and so on. Isn’t this the very essence of what Luther meant by Schwärmerei, fanaticism? It is, I think, the main reason why the very word “righteous” has come to have a bad odor, being virtually indistinguishable nowadays from the word “selfrighteous.” (Just think about it: if you call someone “righteous” nowadays, you’re insulting them, no? I’m thinking: that’s because so many Protestants have worked so hard over the years to convince themselves that inwardly, they really are more righteous than their unregenerate neighbors.)”

    This is from Phillip Cary’s, “Sola Fide: Luther and Calvin” which can be found here: http://www.ctsfw.edu/events/symposia/papers/2007.php

  21. nathanwells says:

    I’ll be honest – I am confused.

    I will admit from the outset, there will be miscommunication since we are from different religious “cultures” – I say things and you misunderstand, I read what you say and either misunderstand or don’t understand.

    I am trying – and I don’t have an unlimited amount of time to spend on this, so my efforts are even more flawed.

    Anyways…

    I’ll just write on some things that hit me:

    Michael, you directed me to Met. Zizioulas’ dogmatics lectures where he says about Saint Gregory: “He [Saint Gregory] says that ‘energy’ is ‘that which is perceivable in other things'” (from: http://www.oodegr.com/english/dogmatiki1/D1b.htm)

    I am confused – this does not match what Dr. Bradshaw said nor does it match what you have been saying, at least in my understanding. Although this might have something to do with what Mark said about it having to do with “actuality”

    You also said, “Also, even if the notion that “I have faith God has saved me because I have faith God has saved me” is a legitimate circularity logically speaking, it seems odd in light of Paul’s encouragement that God is working in you in Phil. 2:12-13.”

    You are right, it is the fact that God is working in you. My answer did not seem to have that involved in it because you believe your faith is your own. Therefore you did not understand what I was saying. Rather I believe my faith is not my own, rather that through the Holy Spirit I was regenerated, I was made alive (Ephesians 2:5), and therefore produce the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). I can observe the fruit. That is one assurance. I also have the testimony of the Spirit, and internal witness, that I am a child of God (Romans 8:16). And so when I say I know I am saved because I have believed, I say that because I know I cannot believe by myself. Does that mean I never have to be concerned about my eternal state? No. Rather, I press on towards the goal, knowing that it is Christ in me that is my hope of glory – not myself. I am not saying that because I “prayed a prayer” that now I am secure. We are called to test ourselves to see whether or not we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5), anyone who says we need not is contrary to Scripture. As in Hebrews the call to test yourself is throughout the whole book – “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). An yet, the author makes it clear in chapter six verse four through six, that those who have been “enlightened” and have “tasted” and been made “partakers” who then fall away were never truly saved. For in verse nine he says, “But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way” (Heb 6:9), making it clear that those before were never actually saved – for the author is convinced of better things about his readers, those things that actually accompany salvation.

    I find encouragement because belief is a sign that God is at work in me, because no one can truly believe unless God caused that belief (1 Corinthians 12:3).

    Again, you said, “Keep in mind that these questions are stemming from whether or not monergism produces assurance or is any more “encouraging” than synergism.”

    My understanding of encouragement again goes back to my belief about man, and his sinful nature. I believe all men are spiritually dead and must be made alive by God resulting in their believing in Jesus Christ for salvation. So when you say that faith is partially up to you, I do not find any encouragement in that, because I know I will fail. But you don’t believe that, therefore you find encouragement in a synergistic work. I believe I am unable, you believe you are able. Therefore, because I believe I am unable to believe in God for salvation by myself (and as I will state later, I believe Scripture makes it evidently clear that I am unable), my only hope is in Jesus Christ and in his work, saving me completely without any ultimate source in and of myself. Yes, I do work, I do will, but it is only because of Christ in me, and my work is not my own, it is Christ’s and therefore he gets all the glory and praise.

    MG, might you explain what you mean by, “We don’t claim that our activities are the way we make ourselves “actual”–the way we manifest ourselves in the world and to each other.”?

    You also said, “Why is it the case that if I have to do something, there is no encouragement? Isn’t it encouraging to know you are being given the resources to do something, even if you don’t actually follow through with it?”

    Yes, that could be encouraging and I understand that it is encouraging for you (though it is not encouraging for me).

    You said, “Why do you say that God’s work doesn’t actually do anything if this is how salvation works?”

    First I will clarify – I said if someone believes in salvation by synergism then it makes God work nothing. I did not say that God’s work doesn’t do anything (I believe you understand, and were addressing my critique of the synergistic system).

    This goes down to something more basic – I believe that no one in and of himself does anything good. I also believe that no one seeks God in and of himself. The reason is because that is what the Bible says (Ps. 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Rom. 3:10-11). I desire to be Biblical, to base what I believe on the truth, for men are and have been shown to be liars, untrustworthy. God is true, his word is truth.
    This is how this flows out: if someone helps an old lady across the street it is an act of pure evil in the eyes of God if that person is not a child of God. I believe that is what the Bible teaches, and also how evil sin really is.

    To me, God making salvation possible means that it is up to me to figure out that I need him – to figure out that I need a Savior. Which means, ultimately the final work rests on me. You believe that God did everything to make salvation possible – but I do not believe that is what the Bible teaches.
    For you there is no question of fairness in your mind – because God is being fair – He does everything he can for everyone, but it really is up to the people.
    For you it is easy to see how God could send people to hell, because he offered salvation to them and they rejected it in and of themselves – therefore they deserve hell for sure! God was so loving and caring, and they just spit in his face. Makes sense. No questions necessary.

    Your belief is not the same as mine.
    This is why:
    “Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” (Romans 9:13-16)
    This relates to the “fairness” of God. God loved Jacob and hated Esau. In your belief there is no question about God’s fairness. But in the Bible there is – Paul anticipates the question – “Hey, it’s not fair to Esau that God only loved Jacob – God needs to show equal favor to everyone!”
    But this relates to justice – or “fairness”. Because truly, the “fair” thing for all of us would be hell. When God chooses to save someone, it is not justice that we get, it is mercy. Therefore God is perfectly fair in loving Jacob and hating Esau.

    Also: “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”” (Romans 9:18-19)

    This relates to your belief in that you perfectly understand why people go to hell, it is because God did everything possible to provide the possibility of salvation to them and they said they didn’t want it, they don’t desire God. So they go to hell, end of story.

    But that is not what the Bible says. The way that Paul states the reality is in such a way that he anticipates his readers questioning this: “If God has mercy on whoever he wants and also hardens people, therefore making sure that they go to hell – then why does God have any problem with us sinning? Isn’t he the one that caused it all? Isn’t his will the one ruling over ours? Why does he find any fault with us if it is in fact his own will that determines our own?”

    Why is this question in the Bible: “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”

    If I believed what you believe, I would never ask that question – do you ask that question?

    Paul gives an answer – and to be honest, it is not one that answers all the questions – he just puts a stop to the questions and says that God is doing all things for his own purposes – he is God, so he can do whatever he wants – AND there is great benefit to those who are his children – for in doing it this way he makes known the riches of his glory to us.

    Monk Patrick,

    I appreciate you taking the time to respond. Your post was very insightful and helpful. One of the main reasons I posted this was because I wanted to understand some of the inter-workings of Orthodox belief and why they focused on the things that they focus on. You rightly said: “…for Orthodox we are saved not because Christ completes a work of removing a penalty but because Christ completes a work enabling us to be united with Him and to share in the life of God, and becoming gods…That is why the Creeds were written and there was so much time spend in dealing with disputes over what for a Protestant are trivial matters but for Orthodox/Catholics are crucial to one’s salvation.” That helps me understand where you are coming from.

    You said, “God will not force His life on us because that would not be love.”

    I would only ask this: who defines love?

    I didn’t believe in God when I didn’t want to. God made me want him – he opened my eyes so I could see his beauty – and once my eyes were opened I cannot go somewhere else, as Peter said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life” (John 6:68).

    Even in the verse in question (Philippians 2:12-13), God causes us to desire him – and I welcome God changing my desires, because I know that what he desires is the best – it is way better than what I desire on my own.

    Does a dead person ask to be made alive? Is that divine rape? God raising people from the dead, I mean, he didn’t ask them did he? No, that is foolish. Raising someone from the dead, though against their will, or at least, not a synergistic work (it is monergistic), could not be called “unloving”.

    And so God does with us. “And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.” (Col 1:21-23)

    I was hostile in mind – I hated God, I was his enemy, I was dead, I was deaf. All those terms in the Bible lead to a monergistic work.

    “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word.” (Jn 8:43)

    Jesus says they “cannot hear” – what does that mean to you? How can a deaf man be made to hear? Does he have any part in that work? And if a deaf man is made to hear – can he reject that gift?

    “But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep.” (Jn 10:26)
    “He who is of God hears the words of God; for this reason you do not hear them, because you are not of God.” (Jn 8:47)

    That is all I have time for – again, I appreciate all of you interacting with me on this. I feel I have learned quite a bit. And I look forward to learning more in the future.

    “Father, I pray that you will teach me your word, do not allow me to only study for the sake of knowledge, but rather that I would study and become more enthralled with you, that I would worship you more fully because of understanding you better, and seeing my own helplessness more clearly. You word is amazing – it is so clear and you have taken such care in providing me with everything I need. Help me to be satisfied with you and you alone, and never to pursue thought apart from your word. For truly, you have the words of eternal life, where else can I go? I praise you Father, because of the work you have done in me through Christ – my I work, and therefore may others glorify you in heaven because they see the work is not my own, but is all yours.”

  22. Lee says:

    Michael, I know Nathan wasn’t responding to your questions to me, but it seems to me that they more than adequately respond and cover much (and more) that I would have written in answer to your questions. I would only add that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would never have sought God out had He not moved me first to seek Him, and that I can claim no credit even in my pursuit of holiness on a day-to-day basis because I would prefer to sit and wallow in my sin if He did not lift me up and give me wings upon which to soar.

    This is not troublesome to me – I recognize my sinful tendencies for what they are (though it often takes me a while to notice a given sin or sinful tendency). Rather, this is all the more to God’s glory because it is His work in me, and His work through me. To God be the glory.

    (BTW, I’m not familiar with Phillip Cary, and would have to read more of that paper. But reading what you quoted, it seems to me that he is either building up to some conclusion to reconcile the problem later on, or he seems to be missing something fundamental concerning assurance of salvation – I don’t know which from that quote….)

  23. nathanwells says:

    One more thing Monk Patrick,

    Is there somewhere I can read more about the Orthodox thought on becoming gods? (you said, “for Orthodox we are saved not because Christ completes a work of removing a penalty but because Christ completes a work enabling us to be united with Him and to share in the life of God, and becoming gods.”)

    Thanks,
    Nathan

  24. Ben says:

    Whoa, Nate. Did you happen to hit the comment size limit on that one? I was expecting at the very least a substantial Jonathan Edwards quote :)

    Lee: I’m not quite involved enough in this discussion to be sure, but it seems like you’re saying that … hm …

    “Synergism is incompatible with original sin / inability of man to follow God without being called.” Right?

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t see the Orthodox folks disagreeing with you there? Couldn’t we envision a situation like this:

    1) I am unable / unwilling to follow God
    2) God “calls” me
    3) The call works past original sin, and gives me a choice: do I bend the knee or resist?

    In this sense, we could say … Saul the Pharisee was unable and unwilling to follow Christ. God knocks him off his horse, changing his perspective. Paul can at this point either resist or bow before God. You could then extend that to say that God only does this with people who he foreknows as ones who will respond to him.

    Perhaps the “energizing” that was discussed could be God’s act of bestowing moral agency on a person who is trapped in a fallen state?

    Or, further (though I imagine this is not the Orthodox view), we could have a “sanctification-only” synergism, wherein regeneration restores moral agency to a person in a limited sense; thus, “Work out, for God works in you” could indicate a synergism of us having the option case-by-case to resist or respond to God’s work in our lives.

  25. Lee says:

    I wrote my previous comment and went to lunch – as I was leaving, I realized that my “This is not troublesome to me” statement might be misconstrued. I meant that it is not troublesome to me theologically, nor practically in the sense that I do not expect things to be otherwise (though I do confidently hope to see God working to bring me to greater maturity over time). With respect to my progress in the way at any given point in time, I pray as David prayed:

    Search me, O God, and know my heart;
    Try me, and know my anxieties;
    And see if there is any wicked way in me,
    And lead me in the way everlasting.

    I desire to have God’s attitude toward my sin within myself – that I hate it, that I strive to kill it at its root (in my heart), and that I always have the perspective that it is by Christ’s stripes that I am healed.

  26. nathanwells says:

    haha, sorry to disappoint ben ;)

  27. Nathan,

    Love is best defined in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8. Love unites us together in a perfect bond of unity. This bond of unity includes being of one mind with each other and it cannot fully take place if one is unwilling to be united to the other. Forcing one does not change one’s will; it must be given freely by oneself.

    It is agreed that “no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father.” (John 6:65). This does not do away with synergy but only reinforces God’s part (the main part) in the synergy; it does not negate that man must also accept to come to Christ. God initiating the process also does not prevent man’s participation in the process. Yes, God is first and foremost in the process but it is not done without man’s consent otherwise all men would be automatically saved because this is what God desires and who can resist His will?

    God having mercy on whom He wills is not to say that He arbitrarily chooses men nor removes freewill but that the reasons for His choice are within His infinite wisdom and His knowledge of our hearts. We are being presumptuous to question Him about this as if to judge Him in the matter. We must rather seek out our own salvation. We trust that He desires all to be saved and that He loves all equally. How this is manifest in individual cases may seem strange but we continue to trust that God is not working evil or working against His own desires. (See St John Chrysostom, more below.)

    When Christ says some are deaf, not of His flock, or not of God means that they have chosen to close their minds to Him and while in such a state they cannot hear him. This does not remove the potential for repentance at some other time but while remaining in the state of refusal they are not of God.

    God works all things for our salvation. Some respond easily, others later with more difficulty and hostility and others only after a major event but others still do not respond regardless of what God does, even if they have no hostility and even high regard, yet remain apathetic or unwilling to change from their own religious views (this state maybe nevertheless hostile from God’s point of view even if not intended by man). Even, after responding many do not persevere for various reasons (like the seed sown by the path). On the other hand some of the most hostile to Christ, e.g. Saul (St Paul), can become fervent followers of Him. This can only be explained by man’s choice because otherwise one must charge God, who doesn’t show any favouritism or arbitrariness, with evil. This free choice is what brings man to work synergistically with God.

    Raising the dead is not necessarily without consent. God still communicates with the the dead because their souls continue to live (cf Matt 22:32) and may well gain their consent to resurrect them. Even if this is not so, if God in some matters decides to force an issue this does not detract from the overall work of synergy in our salvation. It is in regards to our union with Him that our freedom of choice is most necessarily maintained and not in matter of life in this world as an end in itself.

    I strongly recommend reading St John Chrysostom’s commentary (late 4th Century) on the Scriptures to understand the Orthodox interpretation of the Bible; it will help to get another perspective on the texts that you quote. His writings can be found in the Post-Nicene Fathers Series published by Eerdmans but they can also be found freely online. It is worth the time invested. The Scriptures need to be read with a “key” of Faith and certain background understandings otherwise some verses may lead one astray because they can have a number of potential/contradictory meanings in isolation (the danger of arguing from/about “proof” texts). This does not mean a forced reading of the texts, or ignoring texts, but a reading that fits naturally with all the texts given the perspective from which it is read. (I came from a similar Protestant background to yourself and I was delighted to find that the Orthodox are just as committed to the Scripture and that they are very faithful to the Scripture in both its whole ambit and in its particulars. One is not forced to read the Scriptures in a particular way but some ways are better than others and the Fathers, going continually back to New Testament times, help us to see why this is.)

    Regarding becoming gods, you can start with the following Wikipedia link. Then continue to look at Theosis, which is the what the process is called, or deification. There are many books/articles on the matter but I cannot think of any in particular off the top of my head, sorry.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theosis

  28. Michael O. says:

    Nathan,

    Yes, energies are perceivable in other things. I’m not sure how anything I or Dr. Bradshaw said would would make you think otherwise, but I’m sure the more you read on the matter the clearer it will become.

    Forgive me for quoting you at length, but I’ll try to keep it brief afterwards. You said:

    “We are called to test ourselves to see whether or not we are in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5), anyone who says we need not is contrary to Scripture. As in Hebrews the call to test yourself is throughout the whole book – “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). An yet, the author makes it clear in chapter six verse four through six, that those who have been “enlightened” and have “tasted” and been made “partakers” who then fall away were never truly saved. For in verse nine he says, “But, beloved, we are convinced of better things concerning you, and things that accompany salvation, though we are speaking in this way” (Heb 6:9), making it clear that those before were never actually saved – for the author is convinced of better things about his readers, those things that actually accompany salvation.”

    Ok, so here’s the crux of the assurance matter: You say that those who have tasted, partook, been enlightened, etc, must test themselves to see whether or not they are in the faith and to be careful they will not fall away from Christ. Now, for you, if they do fall away from Christ that does not mean that God failed at the work He was doing in them; instead it means that whatever faith, works, appearances of righteousness, etc was in them who fell away, it was not actually the work of God, it was not actually saving faith that God produces, it was not actually the fruits of the Spirit, but something else which could fail and fall away.

    I understood when commenting earlier that you do not think the faith present in you is your own, but rather it is wholly and solely God’s doing. So, if you one day fell away from Christ (which I pray never happens) that would not mean God had failed, only that whatever faith you thought you had was not real faith that God produced, it was only something you mistook for God’s doing but was really your own invention. But that is not proof that you now know that you will never apostatize and therefore that you know *assuredly* you now have true faith produced by God and not some invention of your own that you mistake for faith. That is the issue: is it possible to know whether or not what you understand to be faith God has produced in you is not actually an invention of your own sinful self? If Scripture admonishes Christians to “test ourselves to see whether or not we are in the faith” then it seems it is possible to be mistaken about whether the faith we think we have is true faith, or if it is God’s work or our own. If this is the case, it does not mean monergism is wrong, it only means that monergists cannot boast of assurance. The same is the case with looking at fruits of the Spirit as assurance. Even the unregenerate often demonstrate peace, patience, love, etc, so just because I demonstrate them also that does not assure me I cannot possibly be among the unregenerate.

    I understand your anthropology and why you would be assured about salvation only if it is God who is solely responsible for it. I do not agree with it, but that is not what I am arguing. Instead, I’m asking if the things you look to for evidence (like the presence of faith, or fruits of the Spirit, etc) are things that we could potentially be mistaken about. If we might be mistaken about them, then monergists ought to reject assurance.

    There are other points to respond to but I think they would be a digression, and I understand that we both have limited time. I hope this was not too long, and I can appreciate if we have come as far as we can for now.

    Lee,

    Those were keen observations about what you can expect of Dr. Cary’s paper. His conclusion is that Luther, at his most consistent and most essential, rejects assurance, and that he was correct to do so. And I don’t think he’s missing anything fundamental in doing so. Then again I’ve been asking you and Nathan if I’m missing something fundamental regarding assurance, so perhaps I’m too dense to see it, but as of right now I can’t quite see how assurance is so . . . assured.

  29. Lee says:

    Michael,

    Thanks – I’m just now starting to look at Dr. Cary’s paper (that’s an interesting conclusion for a paper presented at the “30th Annual Symposium on the Lutheran Confession”!) I can understand why you classify Dr. Cary as a Protestant, but you can understand that I wouldn’t necessarily see eye-to-eye with him on quite a few issues seeing that he is an Anglican and I’m an evangelical… His alternatives to introspection (which, in his description, and despite his words, appears to be an exercise unenlightened by either the Holy Spirit or Scripture) are, after all, the Sacraments.

    Furthermore, I disagree with him (and Luther, it would seem) that something more than repentance is needed after one already stands justified before God (however long it took for that process to take place – I don’t believe that it is necessarily something that happens in our hearts and minds in a single instant, but that is another topic…), and that one must undergo conversion again and again as one is sanctified. To me, this runs against what is proscribed in Hebrews 6:1-2 – laying again the foundation of repentance, etc.

    With regard to both your (and Dr. Cary’s) questions about assurance, Jesus said:

    ESV John 10:1 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.”

    Because the sheep can hear and know the presence of the thief/robber, we know that Jesus is talking about earthly sheep rather than heavenly. Does that help?

    I fully acknowledge that it is possible to deceive oneself for a season concerning salvation as a whole, or to rationalize a sin or sins and speak peace to oneself as a believer when God is not the author of that peace. But I don’t believe it is possible to maintain either charade indefinitely. Verses such as the ones I referenced earlier as well as in this comment do indeed assure me of my salvation. I don’t believe that measuring one’s life by the Word need be all that subjective. To go with the passage from John 10, add Luke 24:32 where the 2 disciples’ hearts burned within them when they heard (but did not know it was) Jesus speaking to them on the road to Emmaus — only substitute the Holy Spirit for Jesus in the present day. As with the peace that only comes from a true conversion, does the peace I feel bear fruit in the area of a given sin or sinful tendency after I confess and repent of it? Believe me, my wife knows of it, even if I do not! [Initially ;-) ] Does this peace humble me? Am I making progress in the killing of this sin? (I wrote a couple of posts on my blog on speaking peace to myself starting here.)

    I’ve been delving into Orthodox theology for close to a month now, and while concepts and terms are definitely clearer to me than they were when I first strayed onto Energetic Processions, I don’t feel any closer to understanding how to get to, for instance, Theosis, from my reading of Scripture. I do sincerely appreciate, as Nathan said above, the time people such as yourself have taken to educate me on Orthodox theology.

  30. Lee says:

    Ben – well, I thought I was talking about assurance and synergism… but I’ve been known to not know what I’m talking about in the past ;-)

    If we do eventually take a step back down the conceptual ladder and discuss synergism vs. monergism, we can take up your points (or start another thread).

  31. Lee says:

    Michael – I have a long response to your post waiting for Nathan’s approval. (Because of a link to my own (WordPress) blog, no less!)

    On a different topic, I just noticed your statement above:

    Now, a monergist reading of this passage might make one think: great, the work of salvation depends wholly on God instead of the undependable sinner I am. But, if you are also not a universalist, and thus God must not work for the salvation of all people (if it all depends on God and yet not all are saved), then how can you know whether or not God will work out your salvation for you? It doesn’t seem a very encouraging position.

    I’m not sure what being a universalist has to do with your argument. Universalism doesn’t state that all will be saved – rather that Christ’s sacrifice covers all, in contrast to a limited view where He only died for the elect – a distinction which I’m sure you’re aware of. Or am I missing something?

  32. Joseph Patterson says:

    Nathan,
    It might help if you get a bigger picture of what the Orthodox Church believes. Intervarsity Press has recently published a good introduction to the Orthodox Church titled “Light From the Christian East” by James Payton. I pray this will help.

    Joseph

  33. Michael O. says:

    Lee,

    I’m not sure how John 10 answers the questions I was asking. That’s ok though. I guess that means we’ve pressed this as far as we can take it for now. I do appreciate your willingness (and Nathan’s) to discuss it with me, however.

    As far as finding theosis in Scripture you could take quotes like 2 Pet. 1:4 about becoming “partakers of divine nature” and so on, but offering a few lines to get you started I don’t think will really “get you started.” Instead, the more one learns what deification means the more one sees it everywhere in scripture, both explicitly and implicitly. I can’t think of a great book, essay, etc to start with (it’s been a long day), but perhaps you might try: http://fatherstephen.wordpress.com/
    Click on the category “Union with Christ.”

    Universalism is the idea that all will be saved or reconciled to God. Orthodox do not accept limited atonement and we are certainly not universalists. Universalism may be spoken of in the way you suggest, but that is not the primary usage.

  34. Lee says:

    Michael,

    I see Christ’s statement that His sheep hear and know His voice as a component of assurance because of the resonance of His voice (i.e., the Word, abetted and illuminated by the Holy Spirit) in the heart and mind of the believer. This will not happen for the non-believer, and this is not something that the believer produces in himself or herself.

    I’ve come to understand that the Orthodox see 2 Peter 1:4 in a very different light, and I understand it is a key (the key?) passage on theosis – and I’ve already been to Father Stephen’s blog ;-)

    Ah – I was thinking of universalism in the context of the protestant debate over limited atonement – certainly, universalism in the broader, “everyone will be saved” context is right out! If you’re up for one more response on this thread, do the Orthodox believe Christ effectively died for all – the sins of all mankind are covered – but only some will be saved?

  35. Michael O. says:

    I submitted this comment a little while ago but it is not showing up:

    Yes, Orthodox believe Christ effectively died for all and also that not all will be saved. Here it is necessary to properly distinguish nature and person. In the person of Christ, human nature has forever been united to divine nature. This is why as many as died in Adam are made alive in Christ (1 Cor. 15:22), why all are raised, why all persist eternally -there is no principle of life outside of God. However, how each human person spends that eternity depends on their personal orientation towards God.

  36. Lee says:

    This raises all sorts of questions in my mind, but I think we’ll leave that discussion for another time :-)

  37. Jason Loh says:

    Dear Bro. Nathan,

    Keep up the good work. I agree with you all the way that sanctification is as much by faith as justification is. This is the truth of Reformed teaching according to the Word of God. God is always the cause, we are are always the effect. If you are ever in Kuala Lumpur, let me know, maybe we can meet up. Keep up the good work in your ministry in Cambodia too. And thank you for your heart for the Cambodians. And may the Good Lord bless in your studies.

  38. Jason Loh says:

    “Yes, Orthodox believe Christ effectively died for all and also that not all will be saved. Here it is necessary to properly distinguish nature and person. In the person of Christ, human nature has forever been united to divine nature. This is why as many as died in Adam are made alive in Christ (1 Cor. 15:22), why all are raised, why all persist eternally -there is no principle of life outside of God. However, how each human person spends that eternity depends on their personal orientation towards God.”

    Dear Michael,

    The contrast between Adam and Christ is the contrast between spiritual death and spiritual life. The ‘life’ which exists in hell is not immortality, but spiritual death in an everlasting condition. Mere existence is not necessarily immortality, else Adam would have been immortal and hence the fall would not have happened.

    And just as all die spiritually in Adam, all shall be made spiritually alive in Christ — the difference is that human race in Christ is the true Israel. But in both cases, the Fall and the Cross happens wholly outside of the experience of the human race. Being in Adam is not by personal choice, likewise being in Christ is not by personal choice. Since physical death is a consequence of spiritual death, likewise it follows that spiritual death like physical death is irresistible.

    Hence, total depravity of the human nature, bondage of the human will to sin, person dependent on sinful nature, etc. The Cross was about Christ dying for persons because only persons can sin, and having reconciled these persons to the Father sent the Holy Spirit to reverse the presence of sin and its effects in human nature. The sequence is not nature first assumed by Christ consubstantial to humanity and then the gnomie, but Christ dying for persons first and human nature set free from bondage. Person always come first in the ordo … theology, soteriology, etc. So, I guess the protestant is more consistent than the Orthodox even though the Orthodox is right to insist on the primacy of Persons over Essence.

  39. Michael O. says:

    Jason,

    My last comment was not an apology meant to convince Protestant readers, I was only stating briefly what Orthodox believed on that point, because that’s what Lee asked me for.

    To respond a bit to what you said, I agree mere existence is not life/immortality, but I think that idea can live alongside the notion that one cannot exist eternally unless they have eternal life. God is life and their is no life outside of Him; so, properly speaking, there is no life that is not eternal life. One cannot exist eternally unless they have life: true life that is only in God (which is eternal). Without life in God we simply tend back towards the nihil from which we were created. So, I agree mere existence is not life/immortality (one could simply exist in death, dissolving toward annihilation), but it is not possible to exist eternally unless one has life from God -nothing is eternal apart from God.

    You wrote: “Since physical death is a consequence of spiritual death, likewise it follows that spiritual death like physical death is irresistible. Hence, total depravity of the human nature, bondage of the human will to sin, person dependent on sinful nature, etc.”

    The “Hence, total depravity . . .” line simply does not follow unless spiritual death means the same thing as total depravity, sinful nature, etc, but since that depends on a whole lot of argument that is not there (as well as the legitimacy of separating spiritual from physical death, and making one the cause of the other) I won’t say anything more on that point.

    You also said: “The sequence is not nature first assumed by Christ consubstantial to humanity and then the gnomie . . .”

    First, Christ did not assume a gnomie; Christ had no gnomic will. Second, in my previous comment to Lee I mentioned that unsaved persons still persist eternally because the nature these persons subsist in is united to God, who is life, no matter how much a human person might reject union with God. This is not a theologizing of nature before person, nor even a statement as to whether God healed human persons or human nature first. More to the point, do you reject that in the incarnation divine and human nature have been united in the person of Christ? If not, why do you think the fact that Christ first united with human nature instead of a human person or persons does not contradict the ordo?

  40. Jason Loh says:

    Dear Michael,

    Thank you for your post and lengthy explanation which I am sure reflect a love for Orthodox theology. Having said this, yes, I believe that the divine and human natures have been united in the Person of the Word. The human nature which Our Lord assumed was mortal, consubstantial with our flesh. Original sin (which is not accepted by the Orthodox) did not affect Him because the propagation and transmission is by the act of both parents and not one only, principally by the male side in embodying Adam.

    And I would say that the perpetuation of physical life is premised on the existence of spiritual life. I think this is quite obvious to us. And we agree that it is only in Christ that both converge and find its harmony (the absence of the dialectic). However, it is precisely the separation between person and nature in Orthodox thinking which I, as a Reformed, reject. If nature does not exist in the abstract, how can it be possible for the human nature of an individual as a member of the human race of Adam be united to Christ and yet his person can still be separate from Christ? Just as the Orthodox is right in pointing out that how can the divine nature exists in its own right, likewise.

    Furthermore, if human nature has been united to Christ, how is it that it can still suffer corruption in hell? If it suffers corruption in hell because of the person, how is it that that person can be not affected by human nature which has been united to Christ? After all according to Orthodoxy mortality is the cause of sinful nature. If that is the case, isn’t immortality the cause of a deified nature? If all are made alive in Christ, then nature should have been deified. And since, nature does not exists in the abtract but personalised in specific individuals, then how can these individuals or persons be also not deified?

    Besides, the parallelism between Adam and Christ was not about consubstantiality but surely must have been about union. After all, you and I are consubstantial. But we are united (i.e. in union) with Adam since he is our common ancestor and our human nature and persons are derived from him by lineal descent. Likewise, we are united (i.e. in union) with Christ (the Second Adam) since He recapitulates the role of Adam as our Head and our human nature and persons are deified in him. If we are in union with Christ apart from and inspite of us, then surely our eternal destiny has got nothing to do with our personal will, which brings me to this point. How can union with Christ take place without persons since the Incarnation was about establishing union and communion between persons, not nature. Can nature by itself be in communion with God? Can the divine nature or essence be directly in union and communion with us?

    And I’m sorry about my sloppy use of language about the gnomie. I had meant to refer to man’s and not Christ’s. By gnomie, I mean personal will. I believe Christ has a gnomic will (divine) and two natural wills (human and divine). The Reformed disagree with St. Maximus about Gethsemane. Christ did not will two opposites. He did not willed (gnomie) to save his life. He expressed doubt and uncertainty according to His human nature, but did not willed, i.e. choose to save his life. His human will was affected by the circumstances leading up to the Crucifixion, but it was impossible that it should have succumbed to temptation as there is only one personal will, the Divine.

  41. MG says:

    Nathan–

    You wrote:

    “MG, might you explain what you mean by, “We don’t claim that our activities are the way we make ourselves “actual”–the way we manifest ourselves in the world and to each other.”?”

    Response:

    Sure. Human beings meet each other and come into contact with each other. This can only happen if we are all present in the same realm of reality and able to interact with other things in that realm. In order to actually make ourselves present to each other, we have to do stuff. We meet each other as human beings at least in part through the activities of our bodies. Our bodily movements and the things that result from these movements (speech, non-verbal communication, etc.) are how we present ourselves in the world. We don’t usually think of things in these terms, but that’s whats going on. Our activities are the way we have relationships with each other.

    You wrote:

    “You also said, “Why is it the case that if I have to do something, there is no encouragement? Isn’t it encouraging to know you are being given the resources to do something, even if you don’t actually follow through with it?”

    Yes, that could be encouraging and I understand that it is encouraging for you (though it is not encouraging for me).”

    Response:

    I do not personally see why this would fail to be encouraging. If I’m in a desert with no water, about to die of thirst, and a man approaches me out of the kindness of his heart and offers me a drink, I would be encouraged very much–even if I did not in fact *have to* take the drink. Would this kind of situation be encouraging to you? If not, why not? If so, then it seems that in order for you to not consider the synergistic view of salvation encouraging, you need a disanalogy, either in what synergism holds (which seems to be similar to the situation I mentioned above) or what you think salvation entails (which seems to be similar to the situation I mentioned above). Could you explain how my desert scenario is different from our situation with God? Or why my desert scenario is different from a synergistic view of salvation?

    You wrote:

    “You said, “Why do you say that God’s work doesn’t actually do anything if this is how salvation works?”

    First I will clarify – I said if someone believes in salvation by synergism then it makes God work nothing. I did not say that God’s work doesn’t do anything (I believe you understand, and were addressing my critique of the synergistic system).

    This goes down to something more basic – I believe that no one in and of himself does anything good. I also believe that no one seeks God in and of himself. The reason is because that is what the Bible says (Ps. 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Rom. 3:10-11). I desire to be Biblical, to base what I believe on the truth, for men are and have been shown to be liars, untrustworthy. God is true, his word is truth.”

    Regarding your two psalms quotations, I think we need to qualify what the Psalmist is saying. After all, it isn’t true in the strictest sense that *no one* seeks God; your theology requires that those whom God calls do in fact seek Him. Does saying that no one seeks God imply that no one ever does anything at all to seek God, or maybe just that no one does it consistently or adequately to actually find Him? After all, Paul seems to imply (Acts 17:26-7) that all men do, in some sense, get the opportunity to search for God. Paul also seems to say that unsaved Gentiles do good (Rom. 2:14-5) in some sense. And speaking from the perspective of corporate fallen humankind, Paul says (Rom. 7:14-20) that “he” wants to try to do good, but simply cannot follow through with the actions because his corrupt desires get in the way. What do you make of these passages, in light of your own perspective about total depravity?

    You wrote:

    “This is how this flows out: if someone helps an old lady across the street it is an act of pure evil in the eyes of God if that person is not a child of God. I believe that is what the Bible teaches, and also how evil sin really is.”

    Response:

    Where do you see this taught specifically or in principle?

    You wrote:

    “To me, God making salvation possible means that it is up to me to figure out that I need him – to figure out that I need a Savior. Which means, ultimately the final work rests on me. You believe that God did everything to make salvation possible – but I do not believe that is what the Bible teaches.”

    Response:

    I do not find my belief that salvation has to be freely received to detract from the fact that it is freely given. Here’s a possible analogy that will hopefully illustrate the point:

    If God is revealing to you that you need a savior, and does everything necessary for your salvation, this can be equated to you being offered a gift on your birthday perhaps. But lets say that God still wants you to respond. This would be like your guest holding out a present for you to grasp, and saying “here, take this; you have not earned it, but I want you to perform the act of receiving it”. Lets say I take the gift by exercising free will to receive it.

    It is true that the ultimate decision to have the gift rested on me. But how is this meritorious or objectionable? How does this detract from the benefactor’s (God’s) glory? The mere opportunity to volitionally respond to something does not seem to imply merit; for there are many non-meritorious good volitional actions that human beings perform (like the act of receiving a gift from a person when it is being offered). Do you think that human action would be meritorious in this situation? If not, then why is this a bad analogy for our relationship with God? The third option is for you to show how my own view is incongruous with the gift-giving scenario; if none of these options work, then I think it can be established that a synergistic view of faith need not imply a theology of meritorious-earning of salvation.

    You wrote:

    “For you there is no question of fairness in your mind – because God is being fair – He does everything he can for everyone, but it really is up to the people.
    For you it is easy to see how God could send people to hell, because he offered salvation to them and they rejected it in and of themselves – therefore they deserve hell for sure! God was so loving and caring, and they just spit in his face. Makes sense. No questions necessary.

    Your belief is not the same as mine.
    This is why:
    “Just as it is written, “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” (Romans 9:13-16)
    This relates to the “fairness” of God. God loved Jacob and hated Esau. In your belief there is no question about God’s fairness. But in the Bible there is – Paul anticipates the question – “Hey, it’s not fair to Esau that God only loved Jacob – God needs to show equal favor to everyone!”
    But this relates to justice – or “fairness”. Because truly, the “fair” thing for all of us would be hell. When God chooses to save someone, it is not justice that we get, it is mercy. Therefore God is perfectly fair in loving Jacob and hating Esau.”

    Response:

    With respect to your arguments from Romans 9,

    1. Do you think that Paul is talking about the eternal destiny of Jacob and Esau? If so, why?

    2. When Paul says that God has mercy on who He has mercy, do you think that Paul is talking about the issue of the unfairness of God in saving some people and permitting the damnation of other people irrespective of their free will? If so, why?

    3. With respect to the next verse about how “it” does not depend on him who runs or him who wills but God who has mercy, what is “it” here? Is it salvation of individuals? If so, why do you think this?

    4. If we all deserve damnation, God may not be unjust for saving some and permitting others to go to hell; but would this be less loving than if God loved everyone and willed their salvation?

    You wrote:

    “Also: “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”” (Romans 9:18-19)

    This relates to your belief in that you perfectly understand why people go to hell, it is because God did everything possible to provide the possibility of salvation to them and they said they didn’t want it, they don’t desire God. So they go to hell, end of story.

    But that is not what the Bible says. The way that Paul states the reality is in such a way that he anticipates his readers questioning this: “If God has mercy on whoever he wants and also hardens people, therefore making sure that they go to hell – then why does God have any problem with us sinning? Isn’t he the one that caused it all? Isn’t his will the one ruling over ours? Why does he find any fault with us if it is in fact his own will that determines our own?”

    Why is this question in the Bible: “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?”

    If I believed what you believe, I would never ask that question – do you ask that question?”

    I wonder if the answer to the question need necessarily imply anything about personal salvation. I doubt that this is required; Paul seems to be rebuking irreverence, not necessarily implicitly agreeing with the person who is asking the question that God’s will is absolutely irresistible. Perhaps this question arose out of irreverence and included false assumptions, and Paul is just rebuking the irreverence. He need not be agreeing that God’s will is actually irresistible.

    Furthermore, the analogy that Paul proceeds to give (potter and clay) does not carry with it the implications about effectual calling that we might initially think. The OT passages that discuss this analogy of human relationship with God include Jeremiah 18 where it is clear that the potter-clay analogy does not imply the inability of the clay to resist the potter’s will; and it seems to also imply that the clay must respond to the potter’s will. I see no reason not to read back these kinds of background ideas into Paul’s thought in Romans 9.

    Even granting the irresistibility of God’s will, the question would be “with respect to what?” Is it in the salvation of an individual? Or is it perhaps in *salvation history*? If the latter, we don’t have any implications of unconditional election and reprobation.

    You wrote:

    “Paul gives an answer – and to be honest, it is not one that answers all the questions – he just puts a stop to the questions and says that God is doing all things for his own purposes – he is God, so he can do whatever he wants – AND there is great benefit to those who are his children – for in doing it this way he makes known the riches of his glory to us.”

    Response:

    Do you think that it is more glorious to save all or to save some? If you say, “to save some” I presume it is because then God will be able to display the full range of his attributes, including his justice. But why does God’s display of justice have to depend on the existence of sin that must be punished? Why can’t God show his justice without punishing?

    It seems wrath is only a good thing to have conditionally; it is only good to be angry if there is already something evil to be angry at. I cannot see why Romans 9 requires that we think God must display his wrath; it only requires that God did display his wrath in response to an evil that already existed–not that it was part of a pre-temporal decree about the eternal destinies of individuals.

    Much more can be said about Romans 9; I would be glad to discuss it with you at great length. After much research I have come to the conclusion that the arguments for the Calvinist interpretation are not particularly convincing. I am very interested in hearing what you have to say in response to my points and look forward to a continued, friendly discussion.

  42. Michael O. says:

    Jason,
    I am quite busy but am hoping to respond on Monday.

  43. Jason Loh says:

    Please take your time, Michael.

  44. Jason Loh says:

    MG,

    If God the Father is omniscient and immutable, He must therefore necessarily be immutably omniscient in His Being as the source and cause of the Logos by generation and the Spirit by spiration. Since the non-elect is foreknown to God, therefore, He must necessarily be wrathful at them from before the foundations of the world. The difference between pre-temporal and temporal-post-temporal is the display or manifestation of God’s wrath. After all, the display of mercy and justice are both energies emanating from the Trinity, i.e. display of the glory of the Trinity.

    And if mercy and justice are ‘attributes’ (i.e. ever-present display) of the glory of the Trinity, and if God’s glory is inevitable, efficacious, absolute and infallible since God cannot but glorify Himself in the Son (Logos) through the Spirit, it follows that mercy and justice which pursues the glory of the Trinity is irresistible. This is moreso as the logoi of the universe, including as present as rational principles in human beings pre-existed in the Logos from eternity. The glory of the Trinity is precisely the revelation of the Logos of the Father Who is the many logoi as the the many logoi is the One Logos.

    So, the hypostatic will of the Father is irresistible in respect of the individual logoi who inhere in or correspond to the specific persons who are objects of mercy and justice, as the rest of the created order. And the nature of the will is reflected in the inner life of the Trinity which is necessary: the generation of the Son by the Father is necessary; the spiration of the Spirit by the Father is necessary. The difference between existence of the triune Persons and the created order is in the nature, i.e. object qua object, and not the hypostatic will of the subject, i.e. God. So, therefore it is impossible for the Father to exists without the Son, but it is theoretically possible for the created order to disintegrate into nothingness, grounded no less in the creative will of God.

    For in Him, we move, live and have our being …

  45. Michael O. says:

    Jason,

    You said: “The human nature which Our Lord assumed was mortal, consubstantial with our flesh. Original sin (which is not accepted by the Orthodox) did not affect Him because the propagation and transmission is by the act of both parents and not one only, principally by the male side in embodying Adam.”

    Are you saying this is your position (if so, what’s the point?) or are you saying this is the Orthodox position (if so, you are confused)?

    You asked: “If nature does not exist in the abstract, how can it be possible for the human nature of an individual as a member of the human race of Adam be united to Christ and yet his person can still be separate from Christ?”

    If the person of Christ subsisted in human nature, united human and divine nature in His person, and human nature is one, then each human person will subsist in the one human nature that is united to divine nature. This is not treating human nature as abstract (it only exists in Christ, or you, or Joe, Jim and Bob). Also, just because something is true of human nature that does not mean human persons cannot hate it and war against it by doing what is unnatural, i.e., sinning. This is not to say that persons are separate from their nature but that they are not identical with it nor determined by it. Also, the person is not totally separate from Christ, but what it means for a nature to be united is not exactly the same as what it means for a person to be united. A nature can be united to something regardless of how “it” feels about the union; a total union with person, however, depends on willing participation of the person. What is the case when a person participates in something unwillingly? It seems then that the person both does participate and does not. The light of Christ has come into the world and shined on all persons, but some prefer darkness to light (a light shines on a person-a union of person and light; the person prefers light to darkness-a disunion with light and person). There is not a total separation but there is not a total union. So, I would say that because human nature is united to divine nature in Christ, no person can be totally separate from Him, yet persons in sinning show they can at the same time not be totally united.

    You asked: “if human nature has been united to Christ, how is it that it can still suffer corruption in hell?”

    I could be wrong about what Orthodox say here, but I would say human nature does not suffer corruption in hell. Just as humans on earth could barely stand the glory of God so in the eschaton God’s glory will be fire to those who hate Him and light to those who love Him, but His glory will not corrupt.

    You said: “according to Orthodoxy mortality is the cause of sinful nature. If that is the case, isn’t immortality the cause of a deified nature? If all are made alive in Christ, then nature should have been deified. And since, nature does not exists in the abtract but personalised in specific individuals, then how can these individuals or persons be also not deified?”

    No, according to Orthodoxy there is not even any such thing as sinful nature. It may be that because we die we (persons*) sin; but death does not cause the corruption of nature, rather it is the corruption of nature. The question, how is it that human nature can be deified and not all human persons be deified, I treated above when responding to your question about human nature being united to Christ and yet persons being separate.

    Some questions for your position: Did the uniting of human nature with divine nature in the person of Christ have any affect on human nature? If no, why not? If yes, then why are we are still totally depraved?
    Also, you are saying that if human nature is deified than all human persons should be deified. So, following the same reasoning you would say that if human nature is not deified, then no human persons should be deified. So, you seem to be stuck with the position that either all are deified or none are deified, yet you think that only some are deified. How do you reconcile that?

    Your 2nd to last paragraph I’m a bit confused about because my position is that each person must recapitulate the life of Christ in their own life, for while Christ took up what was universal (thus He was the 2nd Adam) the work was utterly unique (He died once for all), yet each unique person, from the moment they begin to exist, must themselves walk that recapitulated path (each must take up his cross) already trod for us … well, perhaps some of what I’ve said might cause you to ask the question differently (or perhaps it’s already answered), but if not, just re-ask it and I’ll try to answer it as is.

    You said: “And I’m sorry about my sloppy use of language about the gnomie. I had meant to refer to man’s and not Christ’s. By gnomie, I mean personal will. I believe Christ has a gnomic will (divine) and two natural wills (human and divine). The Reformed disagree with St. Maximus about Gethsemane. Christ did not will two opposites. He did not willed (gnomie) to save his life. He expressed doubt and uncertainty according to His human nature, but did not willed, i.e. choose to save his life. His human will was affected by the circumstances leading up to the Crucifixion, but it was impossible that it should have succumbed to temptation as there is only one personal will, the Divine.”

    Gnomic will, as St. Maximus uses it, is a mode of willing that uncreated persons cannot have; in fact, it is precisely because Christ does not have a gnomic will (as Max defines it) that He cannot sin. So, I think it would probably be helpful just to speak of “personal will” where you mean “personal will.”

    St. Maximus and Orthodox agree that Christ did not choose to save his life, but only chose to go to the Cross. Yet, Maximus distinguishes natural will, from objects of will, and mode of willing; so, each natural will offered up a different object of will (to save his life and to lay down his life), yet He “chose” (this is His “mode of willing”) only one of those objects.

  46. Mark Krause says:

    Michael, I must confess that I may be a little bit confused with how St. Maximus uses “gnomic will.” I was under the impression that Gnomic will means personal will and that Christ, as a person, had one. If that is incorrect, then could you maybe point me where in St. Maximus I can get a clearer view of what he is saying and could you maybe explain the difference between “gnomic will” and “personal will?” Thanks man.

  47. Michael O. says:

    Hi Mark,

    A couple good resources are Photios (Daniel) Jones’ paper, “Synergy in Christ” (which you can find on the energeticprocession site, or via google search) and Joseph Farrell’s translation of “Disputation with Pyrrhus of Our Father Among the Saints St. Maximus the Confessor.” Photios’ paper is excellent and will give you a fuller (and very lucid) treatment than I could give in a blog comment. Also, Farrell’s “Free Choice in St. Maximus the Confessor” has a good treatment on Gnomic Will on pgs. 120-130 (it’s hard to find but well worth getting).

    To try to keep it concise, I mentioned in my last comment that St. Maximus distinguished the natural faculty of will, the objects of will, and the personal mode of employment of the will. The gnomic will belongs to the last category (personal mode of willing), but is a subcategory of it. The idea is that persons in their mode of willing are to practice virtue until they, by habituation, become fused with their natural wills which move toward good. Once persons are “fused” with their natural wills, or “fixed” in virtue, they can no longer sin just like the saints in the eschaton. In this state, the saints see what is good and do it; they do not deliberate between real and apparent goods. However, before reaching such a state, human persons deliberate between real and apparent goods (thus gnomic will is sometimes translated “deliberative will”) and can possibly choose what is unnatural, i.e., sin. Because human persons are created they must become fixed in virtue, however, the Uncreated persons do not have a beginning from which they must then become fixed in virtue: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were/are always fixed in virtue and incapable of sin. The particular personal mode of willing St. Maximus calls the gnomic will -which involves deliberation and ignorance- is extinguished once persons become fixed in virtue, for once a person is fixed in virtue they no longer deliberate but see the good and do it. Therefore the gnomic will is not essential to personal will but is potentially temporary to the human personal mode of willing. So it is that Christ had no gnomic will yet lacked nothing essential to personal will. And because He was always fixed in virtue, being an Uncreated person not in need of “becoming” fixed in virtue, He was incapable of sinning and could only do the real goods (that is, He could not have had a gnomic will which deliberates between real and apparent goods, potentially choosing apparent goods-sinning). As St. Maximus says: “Thus, those who say that there is a gnomie in Christ, as this inquiry is demonstrating, are maintaining that he is a mere man, deliberating in a manner like unto us, having ignorance, doubt and opposition, since one only deliberates about something which is doubtful, not concerning what is free of doubt. By nature we have an appetite simply for what by nature is good, but we gain experience of the goal in a particular way, through inquiry and counsel. Because of this, then, the gnomic will is fitly ascribed to us, being a mode of the employment [of the will], and not a principle of nature, otherwise nature [itself] would change innumerable times. But the humanity of Christ does not simply subsist [in a manner] similar to us, but divinely, for He Who appeared in the flesh for our sakes was God. It is thus not possible to say that Christ had a gnomic will” (Disputation with Pyrrhus, PG 91:308C).

    I know this is a lot to take in, but hearing the same things explained more fully and said in slightly different ways in Photios’ paper and Farrell’s works should help flesh it out, and if you have questions please let me know. I hope this is helpful, or at least points you towards what will prove helpful.

    Michael

  48. Mark Krause says:

    Thanks a lot michael. That made a lot of sense and cleared up the matter pretty well for me. I definately get the distinction. I need to read Daniel’s paper for sure. I would LOVE to get a copy of Farrell’s book, but you know how that goes.

  49. Michael O. says:

    I’m glad that was helpful. There are two copies of Farrell’s “Disputation” available right now at half.com for $14 and $15 plus shipping if you’re interested (of course, the “Free Choice” work is nowhere to be found, as usual).

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