As Iron Sharpens Iron

An ongoing and online discussion between: an Orthodox informed Ecumaniac without a denominational home, an ordained Baptist youth pastor with an open mind, a Calvinist worship leader/seminarian with a staggering vocabulary and ability to make a point, and a cradle Catholic with a love/hate relationship to Rome.

Monday, January 31, 2005

Calvinism vs. Orthodoxy

I would like to think that we are saying the same thing, and in some sense I think we are, but there is a serious rift in the perception of Original Sin in the west and in the East. You say:

What we inherit from Adam is death, both physical and spiritual, and a propensity toward sin. That is what I think the "sin nature" is. Do we HAVE to sin? No, Jesus never did, and He was fully human. Will we sin? Yes, we will all sin, and in fact, in God's eyes, have all sinned.


First, do you think that Jesus "inherited" original sin? Is that part of being entirely human? And if he did, how was he, as Westernly conceived, the pure sacrifice?

Second, Calvinism maintains that not only are we corrupted and broken, but "so corrupted is the 'damned mass' of the human race that its members no longer have the power to avoid sin." We have no choice in the matter. Further, when God gives his grace, we have no choice but to accept it. Total Depravity, as Calvin concieved it, logically leads to double-predestination. I think we would both agree that is an abomination darn close to, if not entirely, heretical.

The difference is our positions is, I think, in emPHAsis. Let me ask you this, before I continue. What is Original Sin?

Original Sin response

When refering to original sin, Calvin talked about "total depravity." For many, that idea has come to mean that there is nothing good in man. However, that's not what Calvin himself meant. He was saying that every part of man is touched by sin. It's the idea of a broken mirror. We are created in God's image and therefore, to reflect the majesty and glory of God. When Adam and Eve sinned, it broke the mirror for all of us. We still bear the image of God, it's just broken and we reflect it poorly. I believe that is why people who have no knowledge of Christ can still do noble, selfless things.

What we inherit from Adam is death, both physical and spiritual, and a propensity toward sin. That is what I think the "sin nature" is. Do we HAVE to sin? No, Jesus never did, and He was fully human. Will we sin? Yes, we will all sin, and in fact, in God's eyes, have all sinned.

And this is of great importance, because it goes to the heart of what we believe about Christ's sacrifice. Catholics and Protestants believe that God is appeasing Himself by the death of Himself so he won't be offended by our presence. The Orthodox is like ... like Aslan and the Table. Because Christ was not guilty of our sinS (highlight the plural), and He died for them in our place, everything was reversed and death was defeated by death.

You say, "...He (Christ) dies for them (our sins) in our place..." and I say, "Jesus paid the penalty for our sins." I think we are saying and believe the same thing. The whole idea of the Old Testament sacrificial system is that something must die for our sins.

Hebrews 9:18-26 (see especially vs. 22)
18That is why blood was required under the first covenant as a proof of death. 19For after Moses had given the people all of God's laws, he took the blood of calves and goats, along with water, and sprinkled both the book of God's laws and all the people, using branches of hyssop bushes and scarlet wool. 20Then he said, "This blood confirms the covenant God has made with you."[d] 21And in the same way, he sprinkled blood on the sacred tent and on everything used for worship. 22In fact, we can say that according to the law of Moses, nearly everything was purified by sprinkling with blood. Without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.

23That is why the earthly tent and everything in it--which were copies of things in heaven--had to be purified by the blood of animals. But the real things in heaven had to be purified with far better sacrifices than the blood of animals.

24For Christ has entered into heaven itself to appear now before God as our Advocate.[e] He did not go into the earthly place of worship, for that was merely a copy of the real Temple in heaven. 25Nor did he enter heaven to offer himself again and again, like the earthly high priest who enters the Most Holy Place year after year to offer the blood of an animal. 26If that had been necessary, he would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But no! He came once for all time, at the end of the age, to remove the power of sin forever by his sacrificial death for us.


The penalty for sin is death and Jesus paid the penalty for all mankind for all time.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Clarification

In class we are studying triangulation, or using several sources of information to get a more precise reading on a topic or problem. The ancient Church did this too. All the bishops would get together and, with the direction of the Holy Spirit, triangulate on a topic and come to a consensus. It is that consensus to which I submit when I say I submit to Tradition. No need to respond, I'm just letting you know ...

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Original Sin

This is my fourth try to write this. We can agree that God created the Earth and that man was once in a right relationship with Him. Then, Adam ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The important question becomes, "What does that mean for us today?" Evangelicals, as I understand it, believe that means there is a "strike" against all of us when we are conceived, because Adam has passed on his sin nature to all of his children. It's kind of like a cosmic mark against us. This meshes with the Roman Catholic position ala St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Anselm.

Luther said that Original Sin is:
I. Ignorance of God
II. separation from God
III. Having no direction or purpose

I can agree with that one. However, as I understand the Orthodox position, they believe that Original Sin is more like ... like we are still in the image of God, but the image is marred. There is a hymn, the Evlogitaria of the Dead, sung at Orthodox funerals which has the following lines:
An image am I of your ineffable glory
Though bearing marks of offenses.

and
Of old Thou hast created me from nothing and honoured me with Thy divine image;
but when I disobeyed Thy commandment,
Thou hast returned me to the earth whence I was taken:
lead me back again to Thy likeness, refashioning my ancient beauty.

We are not all bad. We are only broken and mangled and marred. The only thing we inherit from Adam is a bad father, not bad seed. And death. We get death too. But death is both God's blessing as well as His curse. It is a curse because mankind was not created to experience death but to live forever. It is a blessing because death, however painful, stops separation from God dead in its tracks (without death, man would live in a state of separation for eternity).

And this is of great importance, because it goes to the heart of what we believe about Christ's sacrifice. Catholics and Protestants believe that God is appeasing Himself by the death of Himself so he won't be offended by our presence. The Orthodox is like ... like Aslan and the Table. Because Christ was not guilty of our sinS (highlight the plural), and He died for them in our place, everything was reversed and death was defeated by death.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Your thoughts?

Genesis

Okay, let's talk about Genesis and original sin. I'll let you go first.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Final Parry and New Topic

If you aren't Orthodox, then argue from your own position.
Fair enough. My position is close to that of the Anglicans. They have a three-legged approach which includes Scripture, Tradition and Reason. I, with the Orthodox, place Scripture in the context of Tradition, but I can't divorce my own reason from the equation. However, I don't place my Reason on par with Tradition although it was Reason (and, I hope, the Holy Spirit) which led me to submit, for the most part, to Tradition.
The problem with that argument is that the writings of the church Fathers are open to interpretation themselves.
Good point. When I say Tradition, I'm not talking about this or that Father of the Church. I'm talking about them all together, the councils usually. Even Scripture occasionally seems to contradict itself (as in the writings of St. Paul and St. James on works and faith). The key is to take them as a unified whole, not as separate voices.

I don't know if we've arrived at a middle ground. I think these two viewpoints are mutually exclusive. I remember, though, reading an article by a Roman Catholic regarding Ecumenical discussions. He said that, invariably, the first issue to come up is what we've been discussing. The root issue, he said is the fidelity of God in transmitting Truth to His people. Evangelicals believe it is done through Scripture, the RCC through Scripture interpreted ex cathedra by the Holy Father and the Orthodox through Holy Tradition. Ultimately, though, we can agree that God has things He means for us to Know.

Mooooooving on......what do you want to do next? Genesis and Original Sin? Mary and Saints? Whether or not God hates figs?

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

One Final Stab

Okay, let me make two points here and move on. I'll respond to the greek lesson when I have a chance to study it a little.

First, although you admit to arguing from an Orthodox position, you also admit to not being Orthodox. If you aren't Orthodox, then argue from your own position. The problem I see with all your arguments is that you claim to be accepting the authority of the church when in fact you don't accept the authority of any church, except the church of 1600 years ago. This leads to my second point...

Second, although you claim to accept what the early church says on a given subject. The problem with that argument is that the writings of the church Fathers are open to interpretation themselves. I have read articles which quote the church fathers supporting opposite viewpoints on a given subject. How do we know what the correct interpretation is? By what the church today says is the correct interpretation, I would assume. But you don't accept the authority of any church because you don't agree with all of any church's doctrine, which leads us back to the fact that you are guilty of the very thing you're accusing most protestants of.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Interpretation

Well, since you're apparently never going to post again, I will. I recently discovered that a verse on which the Western doctrine of Original Sin is largely based was severely misinterpreted.

Rom 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

But the Greek says:

"...kai houtos eis pantas anthropous ho thanatos dielthen eph'ho (thanato)
pantes hemarton."

NOT "death came to all men because all sinned" (NIV)

BUT "because of death all have sinned" (Greek text)

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kai houtos eis pantas anthropous ho thanatos dielthen eph'ho (thanato) pantes hemarton
-"because of which" (death), or "on the basis of which" (death), or "for which (death) all have sinned."

http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/inquirers/frjr_sin.aspx
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If such an egregious error can occur in so pivotal a verse, how can we trust any translation? And if we can't trust any translation, how can we say "Sola Scriptura"?