Mother Hubbard's Cupboard

A look into the mind of one of the most random, crazy people in all the land.

My Photo
Location: East Peoria, Illinois, United States

A Lutheran seminarian eagerly awaiting the return of Our Lord. Soli Deo Gloria!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Eastern Orthodoxy Comments: Reloaded

Scripture of the Day:
Old Testament - Genesis 39:1-23
New Testament - The Gospel According to St. Mark 10:13-31
Psalms: Morning - Psalm 38
Evening - Psalm 126 and 102

Icon of the Day: St. Augustine - "Doctor of Grace" (I know that today is not his feast day, but he factors heavily in the discussion with Eastern Orthodoxy that I have had with several people.)

Grace, mercy, and peace! As many readers here will know there has been a recent discussion with two of my best friends who are Orthodox over what I had written in the "Sola fide.....really?" post. The contention is that my statement concerning the Eastern Orthodox doctrine of salvation included works in the final equation. While the debate was never over whether the faith we have or even the works God prepares for us are a result of grace, it was over how God sees us justified when we are judged (if indeed this is the initial disagreement). For starters, the Orthodox position as I have rediscovered it is OFFICIALLY the same as the Lutheran view....salvation is achieved by faith intimately tied to works which flow from salvation....the source of which is grace (getting something you don't deserve). The Lutheran view is split apart into different categories so that what St. Paul exposited in his Epistles could be better understood without being taken and twisted into heretical and damaging practices. We believe faith is a free gift of grace and that this faith justifies you (makes you righteous before God the Father) and that INTIMATELY tied to this and flowing FROM the grace and faith is works of charity which is the progress of our sanctification. We even disagree that faith will not be given to the unrepentent! We might disagree with the terms "synergy" or "monergy" in this regard, but either way, our soteriology is almost identical overall.

However, disagreement still abounds, particularly in the area of the fall of man from grace. First of all, I don't even know anymore what the Orthodox church teaches on the subject as it is akin to nailing Jell-O to the wall! Bishop Kalistos Ware states in "The Orthodox Church (2 ed.):" The image of God is distorted by sin, but never destroyed; in the words of a hymn sung by Orthodox at the Funeral Service: ' I am the image of Your inexpressible glory, even though I bear the wonds of sin.' And because we still retain the image of God, we still retain free will, although sin RESTRICTS ITS SCOPE (emphasis mine). Even after the fall, God 'takes not away from humans the power to will - to will to obey or not to obey Him'." So you might think they teach that the human nature is tainted....and while Father Matusiak uses this metaphor with "tarnished silver" which Christ came to polish, he even says blatantly (I mean almost verbatim)that humanity is "inherently good." You might think he is simply a parish priest who is incorrect on this issue (kind of a major point for even a parish priest to be wrong about), but this man is the Orthodox Church in America's head press people (I believe that was his position).

My understanding of the Orthodox view of the Fall and how it has affected humanity is thus:
1. The image of God was tainted/distorted but not destroyed or removed.
2. Man's communion with God was severed by the effects of Adam's disobedience.
3. Man still has free will to choose good actions, but is unable to come to God because of the barrier of sin.

Bishop Ware states: "Many western Christians used to believe that whatever a person does in the fallen and unredeemed state, since it is tainted by original guilt, cannot possibly be pleasing to God." I should start by stating that this point of Bishop Ware's is correct to a point, but he does NOT address something inherent in the action of those who are still fallen and without Christ, and that is that any action, even good is done not for the glory of God, but usually for their own glory or for the remediation of their guilt at seeing suffering of people they can help. Who being fallen says to themselves when helping to give to charity, "I hope this glorifies God?" Father Matusiak said in the radio interview that Christ is our ultimate model......well, yes he is........and he is also our victorious king, because as was stated by another caller, "if Christ's sacrifice was part of the model of his life only....what example did the sacrificed bull show the ancient Israelites?" The answer is that Christ demonstrated not just the consequences but the just punishment for sin. He graciously took our place, and this is the point of the substitionary atonement model. Scripture? Yes: Romans 3:21-26, 1 John 2:2 ("sin sacrifices" are spoken of in Leviticus and needed the shedding of blood from a clean animal).

But you might think, this wasn't the focus of the first post, and you would be right. But what I'm trying to show here is that to focus only on the Christus Victor model undermines the central idea of man as INHERENTLY or "BY NATURE sinful and unclean." Bishop Ware does not deny that the Substitutionary Atonement model is held by the Orthodox, merely that it is not emphasized. He says that the Orthodox do not "feel less happy about compositions of the later Middle Ages such as 'Stabat Mater'" which focus on Christ's human suffering. In this regard, Lutherans don't overemphasize either model, but fully embrace both! For to emphsize Christus Victor is to emphasize Christ's divinity over his humanity and to emphasize the Substitutionary Atonement model is to emphasize Christ's humanity over his divinity. God the Son became limited (though not sinful) man and died in man's place, went through life with men and experienced our triumphs and tragedies, and ultimately took his earthly throne atop a tree to not only reunite man with God, but to take our place as suffering and dying because of the tree in Eden.

Why does the Substitutionary Atonement Model show that man is inherently sinful and evil? Well, it makes sense out of Christ's suffering and the writer of Hebrews words that "Christ having been offered once to bear the sins of many..." (9:28). I was challenged to find a Scripture passage which states that man's image has been destroyed. This is perhaps an unfair question, as was my comment, for we do not know FOR SURE what God's image really is.

Some Biblical Passages Supporting Total Depravity:
-In Genesis 8:21, God states that man's heart is evil from its youth.
-Ecclesiastes 9:3 states, "Also, the hearts of the children of man are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead."
-Ephesians 2:3 states that "in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind."
-James 5:17: "Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. "

St. Augustine said in Chapter 58 of "On Nature and Grace": "Observe also what remark he adds, by which he thinks that his position is confirmed: "-->No will,"--> says he, "-->can take away that which is proved to be inseparably implanted in nature."--> Whence then comes that utterance: "-->So then you cannot do the things that you would?"--> Galatians 5:17 Whence also this: "-->For what good I would, that I do not; but what evil I hate, that do I?"-->Romans 7:15 Where is that capacity which is proved to be inseparably implanted in nature? See, it is human beings who do not what they will; and it is about not sinning, certainly, that he was treating,—not about not flying, because it was men not birds, that formed his subject. Behold, it is man who does not the good which he would, but does the evil which he would not: "-->to will is present with him, but how to perform that which is good is not present."-->Romans 7:18 Where is the capacity which is proved to be inseparably implanted in nature? For whomsoever the apostle represents by himself, if he does not speak these things of his own self, he certainly represents a man by himself. By our author, however, it is maintained that our human nature actually possesses an inseparable capacity of not at all sinning. Such a statement, however, even when made by a man who knows not the effect of his words (but this ignorance is hardly attributable to the man who suggests these statements for unwary though God-fearing men), causes the grace of Christ to be "-->made of none effect,"-->15-1268--> since it is pretended that human nature is sufficient for its own holiness and justification."

This discussion can continue, but the fact remains that there seems to be a correlation in traditions between emphasis of a view of the atonement based on Scripture and the view of the fall of man. Let us reason together!

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son +, and to the Holy Spirit! Amen.


Blogger Brian said...

Are we totally depraved or utterly depraved?

Sadly, I heard a dutch reformed church split over that issue. I don't really get what the two mean, mostly because I don't care.

But let's be straight, we're depraved, and you hit the nail on the head.

I'm going to a presbyterian seminary next year. I'm keeping up to date on your theology rants!

10:21 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home