We aren’t saying what Augustine said

In East-West discussions on original and actual sin, it’s sometimes assumed that the West holds to Augustine’s view.  Augustine worked off of the following translation of Romans 5:12,

in quo omnes peccaverunt

which is translated,

“in whom all sinned.”

Eastern Orthodox correctly point out that is wrong.  The Greek reads

eph ho pantes hemarton

Hoekema suggests the idiom eph ho should be translated “because” or “since.”  We still have the problem of identifying the connection between our pre-temporal sinning in Adam and Adam’s sin; nevertheless, Scripture seems to affirm it.  The problem remaining is that those who haven’t yet lived are said “to have sinned.”

Christ in Eastern Thought: Damascene (8)

Defines nature as “a species which can’t be divided into other species” (154, quoting PG 94, col. 593).

Hypostasis: existence by itself (155).

“The Word has the initiative in the work of the Incarnation, and it is evident that the theory of enhypostasis while asserting and underlying Christ’s humanity, shows in an unequivocal way the primordial greatness of the divinity” (156).  No one will accuse John of Damascus of being a monothelite; in fact, his statement appears to be a restatement of the instrumentalization thesis.   Calvinists never say that Christ’s divinity overrides his humanity, or that the Holy Spirit mechanistically does so.  But if Calvinists are to be accused of monothelitism because the divine nature has precedence over the human nature, then the charge must also extend to John of Damascus.

Jesus’s hypostasis:  “constitutes or represents, in a sense, the whole of mankind” (160).  Reformed would say that Jesus represents the whole of mankind, but on covenantal not metaphysical grounds.

original sin: “Sin is not in nature but in the free choice” (162).  “The Greek Fathers conceived original sin as first of all hereditary mortality that mainatined mankind under the devil’s control” (162-163).  The consequence of the sin is that the soul submitted to the body.

John goes on to state that Christ only assumed the incorruptible passions like hunger and death, and not the passions leading to sin.  Interestingly, this isn’t that far removed from the Reformed contention that sin is accidental to the human nature and not a positive principle (cf Charles Hodge).

Christ in Eastern Thought: Desert Spirituality (6)

Theme:  Spirituality and soteriology are tied together.  Further tying these two are three sub-themes:  doctrine of the imago dei, rejection of original sin, and deification (114).

Meyendorff begins with this interesting concession:  “There is no patrum consensus for a complete exegesis of Genesis 1:26-27) (114).   Another point where Orthodox Bridge is wrong.

“Image implies a participation in the divine nature” (114).  Commenting on Cyril, Meyendorff says “It appears from this passage that the proper dignity of human nature, as conceived by God and realized by Adam, consists of going beyond itself and receiving illuminating grace” (115).  This is the Eastern version of the Latin donum superadditum.

On freedom:  “The original existence of man presupposed a free participation in God through the intermediary of the superior elements of the human composite, essentially the intellect” (116; cf. McCormack essay and comments on Damascene).

Sin, for Cyril, is conceived as an illness (117).

A Thought:  If salvation is simply participation, does this mean that salvation is in some sense an arising upward of the inner man?  How does this square with the extra nos that comes by preaching?  Further, how does it escape Feuerbach’s critique?

Prayer: principal means of liberating the mind.  “This liberation implies for Evagrius a dematerialization…a prelude to the immaterial gnosis” (121).

Meyendorff is aware that desert spirituality, which seem a communion in the Archetype, borders on semi-Pelagianism.  He assures us this is not the case, for this is a real communion between image and archetype (125).  Perhaps, but if this paradigm is seen to be nonbiblical and neo-Platonic, then it is in trouble.

Rather than shying away from this neo-Platonic language, Meyendorff embraces it:  “All things exist by participation in the Only Existing One, but man has a particular way in which he participates in God, different from that of other beings. He communicates with him freely, for he carries in himself the image of the Creator.  Deification is precisely this free and conscious participation in the divine life” (128-129).

Turretin on Original Sin

Some notes and a brief summary:

Those who deny original sin have to explain why death is prevalent even among infants and imbeciles.   Romans says the wages of sin is death.   If the curse of death is universal, it necessarily follows that the wages of sin is universal.  Yet, how can they be held accountable for sin before the giving of the law (Romans 5:12-13)? Only something like the Covenant of Works can really answer this question.  Yes, the curse of death is imputed to us (as our Eastern friends tell us).   Yes, death is the enemy.  But as Paul makes clear, how can their be death without the wages of sin?

Incidentally, we deny that sin is a substance. It is a moral quality in the soul, but it is not the soul.

Responding to Orthodox Bridge, Part One

A few years ago the admin at Orthodox Bridge wrote a piece against Calvinism titled “Plucking the Tulip.”   I decided to respond to it.  This will be both an easy and hard endeavor.  It will be hard in the sense that it is time-consuming (I think the essay is about 20 pages).  It will be easy because the author offers almost no arguments whatsoever.  We’ll begin

Clarifying our Terms

The title of our paper begins our problems.  Arakaki identifies Calvinism with TULIP with Predestination.  In doing so he is operating off of the severely challenged “Calvin vs. the Calvinists” Paradigm.  This paradigm states in its various forms that Reformed theology is a decretal theology centered around the doctrine of Predestination.  The work of Richard A Muller has effectively buried this thesis (Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, vo. 1, Christ and the Decree).

Is there an official Reformed position?

Arakaki appears to go back and forth on this point.  He begins by saying, “The Canons of Dort represent the Dutch Reformed Church’s affirmation of predestination in the face of the Remonstrant movement” (1).  While he is correct in that the Canons of Dordt is an official document of Continental Reformed Churches, he is woefully in error in identifying predestination as the defining feature of Reformed theology.  However, in a footnote he says, “Unlike Lutheranism with its Formula of Concord, the Reformed tradition has no confessional statement with a similar normative stature (Pelikan 1984:236).”  I was stunned when I read this.  Does he not realize that the 3 Forms of Unity are ecclesiastically binding upon Dutch and German Reformed Churches?   He says above that the Canons of Dort represent the Church’s teaching.  Did he forget that he just said that?  Does he not realize that the Westminster Standards not only are binding upon Anglo-American Reformed Churches, but when interpreted in the light of the Solemn League and Covenant, are binding upon the kingdoms of England, Ireland, and Scotland?  If he cannot get these most basic points established, what hope does the reader have that he will be able to seriously represent the intricacies of Reformed Theology?  I noted throughout this paper that he has an over-reliance on Pelikan.

Total Depravity

In one sense my rebuttal is already complete.  Arakaki thinks that the Reformed faith is predestination is TULIP.  By rebutting him along these lines I give credence to his flawed analysis, such that it is.  I suppose it can’t be helped.  He notes,

The Scots Confession took the extreme position that the Fall eradicated the divine image from human nature: “By this transgression, generally known as original sin, the image of God was utterly defaced in man, and he and his children became by nature hostile to God, slaves to Satan, and servants to sin.” (The Book of Confession 3.03; italics added)

I have two problems with this.   First, why is he quoting the Scots Confession instead of the Westminster Confession, since the latter is officially binding?  Second, he thinks that defaced = eradicated.  It does not.  It means “marred.”  Further, he gives no extended discussion from more thorough Reformed sources.   I will.  Charles Hodge, in glossing original sin and nature, writes, “Although original sin corrupts our whole nature, yet the essence or substance of the soul is one thing, and original sin another…Original sin is said to be an accidens quod non per se subsistit, sed in aliqua substantia est, et ab ea discerni potest (II: 229, 230, quoting the Formula of Concord).   The following page is a more or less accurate summary of what Calvin and others believed on the Fall of man.  He notes,

Another reading of Genesis can be found in Irenaeus of Lyons, widely regarded as the leading Church Father of the second century. Irenaeus believed Adam and Eve were not created as fully mature beings, but as infants or children who would grow into perfection (Against the Heretics 4.38.1-2; ANF Vol. I,p. 521)
One may legitimately ask, though, why Irenaeus’ reading is to be preferred to Augustine’s?  Irenaeus doesn’t offer anything resembling a logical argument, nor does Arakaki.  There is nothing here for me to rebut because there is no logical argument. Arakaki continues,
One of the key aspects of the doctrine of total depravity is the belief that the Fall deprived humanity of any capacity for free will rendering them incapable of desiring to do good or to believe in God.
Yet this is not what the Reformed believe.  We believe in liberum arbitrium, free choice, which is a more accurate rendering than “free will.”  As Richard Muller notes, “[T]he faculty of will (voluntas) is free and that the bondage into which humanity has fallen is not a bondage of the faculty of will as such” (Muller 1995, 176).  What has been lost, or rather limited, is the freedom of choice particularly to salvation.  Further, Will is distinct from intellect (intellectus) [330].  The intellect is that which knows objects, and the will is that which has a desire for them.  The next page in Arakaki’s paper is a litany of quotes from the Church fathers on free will.  Since I have already demonstrated the Reformed position on free will, and that Arakaki’s charges miss it, I see no point in responding to these patristic citations.
Arakaki continues,
Thus, Calvin’s belief in total depravity was based upon a narrow theological perspective. His failure to draw upon the patristic consensus and his almost exclusive reliance on Augustine resulted in a soteriology peculiar to Protestantism
I couldn’t help but chuckle at this since Orthodoxy has its own narrowness.  Lossky, anybody?  Arakaki mentions the “patristic consensus.”  This will figure later into his argument on Scripture, but I will cut it off at the ford.   The Eastern Orthodox have yet to give a coherent, non-circular definition of the patristic consensus. In any case, the most devastating analysis of the so-called patristic consensus can be seen here.
Conclusion
This will end the first part of my rebuttal.  I think I have demonstrated that the author has not read the Reformed sources, does not show an adequate understanding of official Reformed documents, and offers little in way of an actual analysis and critique.

Jonathan Edwards and the Metaphysics of sin

Crisp advances Edwardsian discussion and clarifies a number of key points that are often overlooked by some pietistic or literary readings of Edwards.  He argues that Edwards (hereafter JE) doctrine of sin is internally coherent but sometimes externally inconsistent with some venues of Reformed theology.  This isn’t anything new since Dabney and Hodge said the same thing about JE.

Concerning the divine decrees Crisp argues that JE was a supralapsarian w/regard to the elect, but infralap w/regard to the reprobate.   Crisp says this formulation won’t do given Edwards use of ultimate and last ends.

Further complicating Edwards’ doctrine of sin is his commitment to philosophical occasionalism, the view that God is the sole causal agent of creation at each moment (even leading to the extreme implication that God re-creates at each instant).  While this helps JE on the imputation of Adam’s sin, it does make God the direct author of evil.  Older Reformed theology wisely made the distinction between proximate and ultimate causes, assigning to God the latter.  W/regard to Edwards there is no distinction since they are one and the same.

We see his occasionalism again in his doctrine of the imputation of Adam’s sin.  Far from being a legal fiction, on JE’s account imputation is very real:  Adam and his posterity share the exact same identity since they both constitute the same identity in the mind of God (I think Crisp calls this view “Perdurantism.”  Perry Miller actually gives a better reading of Edwards on this point, but they both come to the same conclusion).  Unfortunately for JE, he can’t call this imputation.  There is no “other” to whom one can impute.

Crisp is not dismissive of JE’s attempts, though. He notes how JE sought to work through the most difficult aspects of Reformed theology with the best philosophical tools available.  While not always successful, he never opted for the easy, cliche answer (something all to common in institutions today).

My problem with the book, besides its sinfully hideous price (curse thee, University System), is that Crisp never seems to really deal with the rhetorical tu quoque force of JE’s counter-claim.  True, that’s technically a fallacy, but if the other side–Arminianism, or more specifically non-Calvinism–can’t offer an argument to get out of the same boat, or even worse, sinks the ship, then who are they to accuse JE?  Unless one is going to opt for an open theism route, it appears the critic of JE must explain that God created a world in which the majority will go to hell and there ain’t a thing God can do about it.  Not even vindicating God from the theodicy at hand, such a view ends up with an even weaker god!  As Samuel Rutherford jested, such a god can “only dance as free will pipeth.”  The negation of JE’s god, therefore, must explain why he limited his sovereignty in such a way that the majority of humanity suffers evil then rots in hell.  Crisp hints at such a rebuttal, but it takes him 30 pages to suggest it.

Doctrine of Corporate Person Defended

One of the newer weapons in the arsenal of some convert apologists is the “person-nature” distinction.  It basically argues that the person is the “who” that does the action.  The nature is the “what.”  On the most basic level it is a fine distinction.  One has to use it in Trinitarian theology.  Person isn’t nature, otherwise the Trinity falls apart.  Many Easterners, however, use this distinction as an architectonic template for all of theology.  Admittedly, it is quite attractive.  The most cogent defense of it is by Joseph Farrell (see the one on Babylon’s Banksters, Part Six–roughly 25 minutes into it).  In short, it goes like this:

  • The doctrine of the corporate person (by that he means something akin what the West teaches about all of man’s representation in Adam) confuses the person nature distinction.  It is defined by a group of persons who unite into one larger group of “person” by their respectivefunctions.
  • Obviously, this is the foundation for the medieval notion of the corporation.
  • Directly tied to Western conception of original sin.
  • The cash-value aspect of this is that I can’t be responsible for what another person does.

There is much wisdom in the above and the West certainly took the idea of the corporate person in extremely deleterious ways.  However, to say that it isn’t “biblical” or that it is “unfair” goes too far.  Let’s look at some texts.  I am deliberately leaving off Romans 5:12.  In 2 Samuel 21 David is being punished for Saul’s sin against the Gibeonites.  On a surface level at least, this is the clearest rebuttal to the idea that Federal Representation is unbiblical and unjust.  In 1 Corinthians 12:14-20, we see something akin to the body being defined by the functions of the members.  Granted, it’s not a 1:1 correlation of the corporate person.

While those who reject Federal Headship in Romans 5:12 can still do so on some exegetical grounds, I hope the above texts remove the objection that the idea of Federal Headship is unjust.  One man’s actions, so we see, can represent another’s.