Re: [LutheransLookingEast] Incarnation
- Officially, Lutheranism teaches that human nature remains as it was in the
beginning, "good". However, at the same time it is seen as so encrusted
with sin that it is to all intents and purposes totally depraved. That is
my reading of Mueller in his "Christian Dogmatics", Pieper, too, I think.
Orthodoxy teaches that human nature remains as it was in the beginning,
sinless, but that it is now mortal and this makes us more prone to sin.
Christ assumed our mortality, but our nature has no sin inhering to it.
This mortality of the human nature in Christ allows for the temptation
without the automatic participation in sin via a doctrine of 'original sin'
whereby our nature is itself forensically guilty of Adam's sin. In
addition, the doctrine of the divine energies then teaches that our single,
common, shared human nature is in some senses healed through its union in
Jesus Christ with the divine nature. Humanity is different after the
Incarnation than it was before and that much more so following the
Resurrection to glory of our common human nature and its Ascension in Christ
to the right hand of the Father.
On Mon, Jun 14, 2010 at 11:16 AM, Oruaseht <oruaseht@...> wrote:
> Hi friends. At a recent pastor's retreat, we got into theological
> discussion about a variety of things (see the other post on the theology of
> glory). One of the other major things was Christ's incarnation and the
> assumption of humanity. I was trying to present the Orthodox approach with
> theosis & kenosis vs. Western penal atonement in the salvation paradigm. The
> main stumbling block here was Christ's assumption of humanity. I went with
> St. Gregory's "what isn't assumed isn't healed" to illustrate that Christ
> truly assumed humanity.
> To be clear, I wasn't trying to speak for Orthodoxy, as if I was teaching
> Orthodox theology or even somewhat qualified to do so. I was simply running
> theology past some bright Lutheran minds.
> My understanding is that Christ assumed humanity, the very same humanity
> that we have. The hang up here is that Lutheranism believes that sin is
> intrinsic to nature. So then Christ would be born sinful. But He's the
> sinless lamb of God. Uproar ensued, as well as ad hominem attack. It was
> less than edifying.
> The key to understanding the incarnation is then the difference in the
> Orthodox understanding of original guilt vs. original sin. How could Christ
> assume a humanity that isn't the same as everyone else's and yet be, as
> Hebrews 2:17 says, "like his brothers in every respect . . . to make
> propitiation for the sins of the people."?? If I am understanding the
> Orthodox stance here, it makes more sense because then Christ could be truly
> tempted. If He can't sin, then temptation is a bit of a sham. If someone
> could enlighten me further here, I would appreciate it.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- Regarding the Romans 5:12 comment from the Orthodox Study Bible:
How do you think this contradicts your previous post? The commentary
from the OSB says that 1) Adam and Eve sinned, 2) this introduced
death, 3) this death passed to all men [read death as
mortality/corrupting agent], 4) from this condition of
death/corruption all men sin. 5) All men bear guilt only for their
own sins, not Adam's sin.
Is this not what we've been saying is the Orthodox teaching? Death is
passed on, not original guilt, but the corruption of mortality which
finds its origin in Adam's original sin.
Regarding Fr. Meyendorff's work "Byzantine Theology" I have found an
online selection of excerpts from this work at
I include the following relevant portion here:
The scriptural text, which played a decisive role in the polemics
between Augustine and the Pelagians, is found in Romans 5:12 where
Paul speaking of Adam writes, "As sin came into the world through one
man and through sin and death, so death spreads to all men because all
men have sinned [eph ho pantes hemarton]" In this passage there is a
major issue of translation. The last four Greek words were translated
in Latin as in quo omnes peccaverunt ("in whom [i.e., in Adam] all men
have sinned"), and this translation was used in the West to justify
the doctrine of guilt inherited from Adam and spread to his
descendants. But such a meaning cannot be drawn from the original
Greek — the text read, of course, by the Byzantines. The form eph ho —
a contraction of epi with the relative pronoun ho — can be translated
as "because," a meaning accepted by most modern scholars of all
confessional backgrounds.22 Such a translation renders Paul’s thought
to mean that death, which is "the wages of sin" (Rm 6:23) for Adam, is
also the punishment applied to those who like him sin. It presupposed
a cosmic significance of the sin of Adam, but did not say that his
descendants are "guilty" as he was unless they also sinned as he did.
A number of Byzantine authors, including Photius, understood the eph
ho to mean "because" and saw nothing in the Pauline text beyond a
moral similarity between Adam and other sinners in death being the
normal retribution for sin. But there is also the consensus of the
majority of Eastern Fathers, who interpret Romans 5:12 in close
connection with 1 Corinthians 15:22 — between Adam and his descendants
there is a solidarity in death just as there is a solidarity in life
between the risen Lord and the baptized. This interpretation comes
obviously from the literal, grammatical meaning of Romans 5:12. Eph
ho, if it means "because," is a neuter pronoun; but it can also be
masculine referring to the immediately preceding substantive thanatos
("death"). The sentence then may have a meaning, which seems
improbable to a reader trained in Augustine, but which is indeed the
meaning which most Greek Fathers accepted: "As sin came into the world
through one man and death through sin, so death spread to all men; and
because of death, all men have sinned..."
Mortality, or "corruption," or simply death (understood in a
personalized sense), has indeed been viewed since Christian antiquity
as a cosmic disease, which holds humanity under its sway, both
spiritually and physically, and is controlled by the one who is "the
murderer from the beginning" (Jn 8:44). It is this death, which makes
sin inevitable and in this sense "corrupts" nature.
I hope this helps. Btw, the site linked above is well worth the time
to read it.
Further, a point in the Orthodox Study Bible says this on 5:12 -
" For Adam and Eve, sin came first, and this led to death. This death
then spread to all men. The rest of humanity inherits death, and then
in our mortal state, we all sin. Thus, all mankind suffers the
consequences of Adam's "original sin." However, the Orthodox Church
rejects any teaching that would assign guilt to all mankind for Adam's
sin. We indeed suffer the consequences of others' sins, but we carry
guilt only for our own sins. "
This basically contradicts what I originally posted (and by extension,
1 Cor 15:56) about how the Orthodox view the progression of sin/death
(or death/sin) in the Garden. However, maybe there is something I'm
missing. Perhaps the mind of the Church could further illuminate us on
On 6/21/10, Oruaseht <oruaseht@...> wrote:
> I agree that the next step in our discussion is a thorough study of the
> differences in Lutheran and Orthodox fallen/free will understanding.
> However, before that jump, I need to clarify some of my Confessional
> friend's comments here.
> In the FC, we have it said that God made and still makes people holy, pure,
> and sinless. Yet, people are so "thoroughly corrupted" by sin that for all
> intents and purposes, Lutherans believe in *total depravity* (true, a
> Calvinist distinction, but essentially, Lutherans believe it to be true -
> explanation of the third article Apostles' Creed in the Small Catechism). Is
> there then, within the Confessions, a contradiction, theological smudge on
> this issue? Or is what my friend said correct? Humanity on this side of
> heaven is a paradox of good and corruption that renders us *totally
> Is this just simply a concern about semantics (Lutherans using Calvinist
> terms, fogging the issue) or are the Confessions wrong?
> --- In LutheransLookingEast@yahoogroups.com, Benjamin Harju
> <benjamin.harju@...> wrote:
>> From what I learned and researched as a Lutheran, that's exactly spot
>> on. As far as Lutheran theology being fairly represented, that is as
>> fair as it gets. The issue in the Lutheran Confessions regarding
>> inherited sin is always corruption of what God made good. In the
>> context of our conversation here, though, the issue is not about man's
>> depravity, but his *total* depravity, a term that reflects Calvinistic
>> teachings. To say that the nature that is entirely corrupted is
>> actually Totally Depraved is to mix specific terminology from the
>> Calvinist camp into the Lutheran camp, which may confuse the issue.
>> Someone has hinted to me that the issue at hand - is Total Depravity
>> really a Lutheran doctrine? - lies in the area of the fallen will.
>> In Christ,
>> Benjamin Harju