Archive for the ‘Human nature’ Category

Incarnation without the Fall in St. Irenaeus

July 27, 2011

In the Third Book of his tome Against Heresies, St. Irenaeus writes,

…Luke points out that the pedigree which traces the generation of our Lord back to Adam contains seventy-two generations, connecting the end with the beginning, and implying that it is He who has summed up in Himself all nations dispersed from Adam downwards, and all languages and generations of men, together with Adam himself. Hence also was Adam himself termed by Paul “the figure of Him that was to come,” because the Word, the Maker of all things, had formed beforehand for Himself the future dispensation of the human race, connected with the Son of God; God having predestined that the first man should be of an animal nature, with this view, that he might be saved by the spiritual One. For inasmuch as He had a pre-existence as a saving Being, it was necessary that what might be saved should also be called into existence, in order that the Being who saves should not exist in vain.


This is a rich and mysterious passage. Below, I will speculate that this selection teaches a variety of interesting doctrines, including the eternal generation of the Son (which some scholars think the Saint did not teach) and that the Incarnation would happen without the fall.[1] I recommend Perry’s post Cur Deus Homo as pre-reading. For a short summary of my analysis below, skip to the Conclusion and Why This Matters.  (more…)

Orthodox Christology, Gnosticism, and Gender Identity Disorders

September 14, 2010

I’ve had a few conversations recently about gender identity disorders and so have done a little thought on the issue and would like to articulate the beginnings of an Orthodox opinion on the subject.  First, I will present a bare-bones sketch of a position I’ve heard some Christians endorse.  The position goes something like this:

1) Both souls and bodies are gendered. (or are in some sense “sexual,” or perhaps the body is the bearer of sex, but the soul is the bearer of gender; I’ve heard all these)
2) Because of the fall, sometimes souls can be put into mis-matched bodies in terms of gender/sex.
3) A person in this situation ought to identify with his/her soulish gender and not the sex of his/her body.
4) The patient ought to be treated by bringing the body and outward image in as close as possible conformity with the gender of the person’s soul. (more…)

Could God save us from Annihilation without the Incarnation?

April 21, 2009

The following is a summary of a paper I wrote defending Athanasius’ view of the necessity of the incarnation. I argued that given certain definitions of God, humanity, and annihilation, it is not possible for God to save humanity from the post-mortem annihilation of the soul unless Christ becomes incarnate.

In his On the Incarnation, Saint Athanasius explains that part of the fallen human condition is the possibility that every human being will be annihilated. (more…)

Natural Consequences (5): Athanasius on the Law of Death

January 21, 2009

This post is an argument that Athanasius’ understanding of “the law of death” in his On the Incarnation is not that of God retributively punishing sinners for Adam’s transgression, and that Athanasius’ statements about how God could not “go back upon His word and that man, having transgressed, should not die” do not imply that God promised to impose capital punishment on humans.  I will also attempt to answer the question “who does Athansius think Christ pays the debt to on the cross?” (more…)

Romanides on Original (Ancestral) Sin

November 6, 2008

Romanides’ thesis is that the Fathers of the second and third centuries believed (contra Augustine) that the effect of Adam’s sin was to introduce death (constituted in the loss of divine grace) into the race of man. Through death Satan rules mankind and causes them to sin. Important in this is that 1. God is not the author of sin or death 2. Satan is no instrument of divine wrath 3. Death is no punishment inflicted by God but rather the natural consequence of our sin which came at the deceptive prompting of Satan, thus it actually makes sense for God to want to save us from death.

This is how:

“In the first place, the deprivation of divine grace impairs the mental powers of the newborn infant; thus, the mind of man has a tendency toward evil from the beginning. This tendency grows strong when the ruling force of corruption becomes perceptible in the body. Through the power of death and the devil, sin that reigns in man gives rise to fear and anxiety and to the general instinct of self-preservation or survival. Thus, Satan manipulates man’s fear and his desire for self-satisfaction, raising up sin in him, in other words, transgression against the divine will regarding unselfish love, and provoking man to stray from his original destiny. Since weakness is caused in the flesh by death, Satan moves man to countless passions and leads him to devious thoughts, actions, and selfish relations with God as well as with his fellow man. Sin reigns both in death and in the mortal body because ‘the sting of death is sin’”

The Ancestral Sin pg. 162

Pick Your Poison–Reason or Desire?

June 17, 2008

“Just because you want something to be a certain way doesn’t make it so”. Frequently naturalists accuse theists of “wishful thinking”, or even delusion, because they believe that there is a God, want for God to exist, and want to have union with God. It is true that there is no necessary causal connection between our desires for objects and the actual existence of those objects; the existence, strength, or frequency of the desire does not cause the object of that desire to exist. But this doesn’t mean that there isn’t any connection at all. Below I will argue that a dilemma emerges for naturalists who believe in darwinian evolution: either one should admit that the desire for God and immortality corresponds to something real, or one should relinquish the claim to believe in naturalistic evolution rationally. (more…)

St. Cyril of Alexandria on Justification as Deliverance

May 7, 2008

I remember me and Mark had a conversation at lunch back when he was still a Calvinist, but had rejected penal substitution. I asked him “hey, what do you think justification is, if not imputed righteousness?” and he responded with a puzzled look. He went on to say something like “I donno, but it had better be connected to Christus Victor atonement somehow.” At the time this seemed absurd. After all, justification is obviously a legal term, so how could it have anything to do with being freed from the devil’s power? Right? (more…)

Libertarianism, Introspection, Skepticism, and Freud

April 12, 2008

Over at the Secular Web, the Great Debate about theism and naturalism has been updated recently. Instead of posting something about the exchange between Collins and Smith on science and the cosmos, or between Schellenberg and Jordan on faith and doubt, I want to reflect on the discussion about consciousness and free will that was between Melnyk and Goetz and Taliaffero. I will do this with the intent of answering a Freudian objection to their argument for libertarian freewill. (more…)

An Argument Against Intellectual Cynicism

March 30, 2008

Recently I have met various people and read about various characters (particularly villains in The Brothers Karamazov) who are cynics. I think most people are cynics to some degree and in some way, and some kinds of cynicism in small doses can be alright. Its radical, widespread, or categorical cynicism that I think is damaging to human well-being. Consequently, I am inclined to wonder if there are any good arguments against certain of the more damaging kinds of cynicism. Below, I will give an argument against what I call “mild intellectual cynicism” and “extreme intellectual cynicism”. If successful these arguments will show that mild and extreme intellectual cynics should probably give up their brand of cynicism. (more…)

Conditional Election in the Incarnation

March 2, 2008

Defenders of unconditional election will generally deny that there are any examples of God choosing a person based on qualities internal to them in Scripture. Many of them will also assert that if God depends on human decisions (if He “waits on man to respond” as it is sometimes said) to accomplish salvation, then this robs God of his glory and sovereignty, because its really man’s choice that counts, not God’s.

Luke 1:28-30
“Hail Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God…”

If defenders of unconditional election are correct about these two ideas, then why does it seem that in Christ’s incarnate economy, the very foundation of our salvation, God elects Mary based on a faith that she chooses to have? Notice the lack of “God elected you to accept grace” language; rather, its “God elected you because you accepted grace”. And if God conditionally elected in something as great as the Incarnation, why not think God conditionally elects in personal election of believers unto salvation?


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