Re: [LutheransLookingEast] Re: Incarnation
- Pastor Ellingsworth, I'm the one who noted that the official teaching of the
Lutheran church is what you described. However, this is far from the common
understanding of the phrase "by nature sinful" in even devout, pious,
learned confessional Lutherans. Perhaps the phrase is more clear in Latin
or German, but in English your distinction appears to lack a difference.
While you, personally, and the seminary officially teaches that "sinful by
nature" means our nature is not sinful, but good, though corrupted it is
easy to see how Calvinism has accidentally snuck in.
I would also note that most would not say that God created sinful nature in
humanity, but that humanity corrupted its nature (in Adam) in such a way
that what had been good is now "by nature sinful". This preserves God from
being the creator or author of evil, while still confessing humanity is "by
nature sinful". I believe this is the context of all those Lutherans who
confess something slightly different on this score than either you or the
Book of Concord.
On Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 12:06 PM, Rev. Jon M. Ellingworth <
>[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
> That we are "sinful by nature" (as in the confession used in some liturgies
> in Lutheran churches) is NOT to say that human nature IS sin, but only that
> it is so thoroughly corrupted by sin (concupisence) that it cannot do
> anything of it's own volition that is not tainted by sin. I know you want
> characterize this as "Calvinism with the Lutheran footnote ignored outside
> of seminary", but it is really not the same thing at all.
> Lutherans are not in any way saying that God created sin or sinful
> creatures. Before the Fall, corruption came extra nos; after the Fall,
> corruption comes by means of descent from Adam. To say that "the nature is
> corrupted" is a very different thing than "the nature IS corruption".
> Further, we are not using words "nature", "essence", "substance", etc.
> consistently in this discussion.
> To confess "that we are by nature sinful and unclean" is NOT to say that
> human nature IS sin or sinful in essence / substance, but that it is so
> thoroughly corrupted by sin (which is not essential to the person)
> that.......(see first sentence). The force of this confession, rather, is
> that inherited sin is SIN, that we are accountable for it. That is what is
> being confessed, not some ontological statement about what our substance /
> essence consists of.
> Call it some quasi-Calvinism if you want. You're categorically wrong about
> that. But, this doctrine is fundamental in the divide between Lutheran,
> Orthodox, and, well, anybody else.
> "He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not
> the Church for his mother." - St. Cyprian of Carthage
> "O wondrous mystery! One is the Father of all, one also
> the Word of all,and the Holy Spirit is one and the same
> everywhere. And there is only one Virgin Mother;I love to
> call her the Church." - St. Clement of Alexandria
> Rev. Jon M. Ellingworth
> The Lutheran Church of Christ the King
> 14 Pine Drive Pawling, NY 12564
> Office 845.855.3169
> Home 845.855.2616
- 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