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Re: [LutheransLookingEast] Re: Incarnation

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  • Christopher Orr
    I wonder that phrase came from. I wonder if it is an American Lutheranism or if it is found in the Book of Concord. I remember it word for word, so I wonder
    Message 1 of 33 , Jun 17, 2010
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      I wonder that phrase came from. I wonder if it is an American Lutheranism
      or if it is found in the Book of Concord. I remember it word for word, so I
      wonder if it was in the old Catechism book common to WELS and LCMS. It was
      in quotes on that congregation page, so it must have been common from

      Pastor Ellingworth's explanation of the confession of sins statement
      > that "we are sinful by nature" is absolutely accurate. It does not
      > mean "total depravity" or that man's nature has become sin or that
      > nothing good remains in man. Its intended meaning is that sin
      > corrupts nature, and from the corrupted nature man continues to sin.

      I know the explanation you and Pastor E give represents the teaching in the
      Book of Concord and Lutheran dogmatics, in general, but I wonder if your
      explanation is a corrective to a phrase that was intended to say something
      else. The words quoted simply don't bear the meaning on their own unless
      'nature' and 'sinful' are defined in very particular (and stretched) ways.

      By analogy, could we say that Jesus was "by nature" God and man, but that
      this doesn't mean he was naturally divine and human? Maybe it's a
      translation issue from wherever the phrase originated from.

      Regardless, since we aren't in the business of defining 'real Lutheranism'
      or in focusing on Lutheranism and its errors (except insofar as they relate
      to explaining Orthodoxy), we simply need to underline the fact that
      Lutheranism today (even within confessional Lutheranism) teaches both


      On Wed, Jun 16, 2010 at 9:44 PM, Benjamin Harju <benjamin.harju@...>wrote:

      > Pastor Ellingworth's explanation of the confession of sins statement
      > that "we are sinful by nature" is absolutely accurate. It does not
      > mean "total depravity" or that man's nature has become sin or that
      > nothing good remains in man. Its intended meaning is that sin
      > corrupts nature, and from the corrupted nature man continues to sin.
      > Now, having said this, there seem to be quite a few Lutherans running
      > around out there that think just the opposite. I myself, before my
      > conversion to Orthodoxy, participated in a protracted "discussion"
      > over this very thing. I was shocked to find so many Lutherans - even
      > from my own seminary class! - defending the idea that Lutheran
      > theology holds to Total Depravity, even citing Luther's bondage of the
      > will to prove their point. (I wish I had that reference, but here's
      > one in another of Luther's works: "<a
      > href="
      > http://beggarsallreformation.blogspot.com/2005/11/discussion-of-confession-confitendi.html
      > ">A
      > Discussion of Confession</a>," seventh part (1520).) For instance,
      > please refer to the following article that features the Issues, Etc.
      > logo at the top. <a
      > href="http://www.mtio.com/articles/aissar89.htm">
      > http://www.mtio.com/articles/aissar89.htm</a>.
      > In this article Calvin's doctrine of Total Depravity is identified,
      > and Luther (and the author) are both linked to this doctrine as being
      > in agreement. Also, just try doing a Google search and you will see
      > that the public opinion is that Luther and Calvin are in agreement:
      > Total Depravity. So it is not without merit that this opinion should
      > be discussed here as a Lutheran doctrine, whether or not you agree it
      > is properly a Lutheran doctrine. Pr. Ellingworth, we pointed out the
      > correct doctrine here; it sounds like your problem is with your fellow
      > Lutherans.
      > The problem at hand, Pr. Ellingworth, is that more and more the
      > Lutherans in America are unable to distinguish between the theology of
      > the Lutheran Symbols from the confessors of that era and the Calvinism
      > that has subtly crept in lately. This makes it really hard for
      > outsiders to fairly determine what theology they are dealing with or
      > should be dealing with. The Total Depravity issue is a case in point.
      > Another issue, which was pointed out to me by a good friend, is the
      > misconception among Lutherans - even those who assembled the LSB -
      > that Christ's Incarnation in and of itself is part of His humiliation.
      > Clearly His Incarnation is not part of His humiliation in Lutheran
      > theology, but that He took upon Himself "the full misery and
      > wretchedness which sin had brought upon fallen man" [Mueller, p.292].
      > I believe I was the one that claimed modern Lutheran theology trends
      > toward Calvinism. I stand by that statement, and with more reasons
      > than what I give here. It is not inappropriate to point out the move
      > of Lutheran theology away from its confessional roots into Calvinism.
      > I agree there is a definite Lutheran doctrine and confession, but I
      > also assert that said doctrine was not maintained past the time in
      > which the Confessions were written. That was my conviction as a
      > Lutheran. Having since left Lutheranism for Orthodoxy I can only
      > reiterate that conclusion as the fairest one left to give.
      > On 6/16/10, Benjamin Harju <benjamin.harju@...<benjamin.harju%40gmail.com>>
      > wrote:
      > > Timothy,
      > >
      > > What Oruaseht said is pretty much what I would say. If you want a
      > > good resource, I suggest reading Gustaf Wingren's "Man and the
      > > Incarnation." It is a good summary of St. Irenaeus' theology, and
      > > also that of the early Church. Of course, St. Irenaeus' chiliasm
      > > isn't to be accepted but the rest is a good place to start. Another
      > > good resource is "Ancestral Sin" by Fr. Romanides. Some Orthodox rely
      > > on it heavily, some not heavily, but either way it is a good place to
      > > begin.
      > >
      > > If you have other passages that seem to suggest sin is the root
      > > problem and death the result, please send them on out and we can talk
      > > about them.
      > >
      > > In Christ,
      > > Benjamin Harju
      > >
      > > On 6/16/10, Oruaseht <oruaseht@... <oruaseht%40yahoo.com>> wrote:
      > >> Timothy - I cannot speak on behalf of the Eastern Orthodox church and
      > >> won't
      > >> try to. But as a Lutheran Pastor looking East, studying and reading
      > about
      > >> her in books for years, I can offer a glimpse of my limited
      > understanding
      > >> on
      > >> this "inverse" relationship of sin & death.
      > >>
      > >> Like you, I also have understood the "cause & effect" relationship of
      > sin
      > >> and death. Sin happened, wrecked everything and death followed with it.
      > >> Seems clear enough from Romans 6. But then I was pointed to 1
      > Corinthians
      > >> 15:56 (ESV)
      > >> "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law."
      > >>
      > >> The sting of death is sin. If we recall what God's words were to Adam &
      > >> Eve
      > >> (Gen 2:17 ESV) they were: "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and
      > >> evil
      > >> you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely
      > >> die."
      > >>
      > >> When you eat of it you will surely die. Life will cease and indeed it
      > did
      > >> as
      > >> people rejected the Creator for the created. Relationship with God is
      > cut
      > >> off. This relationship must be healed and restored as mortality came and
      > >> abundant sin followed with it.
      > >>
      > >> In our Lutheran understanding, that is tremendously legal/courtroom
      > >> biased,
      > >> we understand the breaking of God's commandment "not to eat" in a
      > >> juridical
      > >> context. The Orthodox view, (what I understand of it at least), starts
      > >> out
      > >> more with the cessation of life vs. guilt and blame for breaking the
      > law.
      > >>
      > >> Both of these view points are the foundational starting points for all
      > >> other
      > >> doctrines and how both East and West understand salvation. For the East,
      > >> it
      > >> seems to be a return to life through the destruction of death and
      > >> liberation
      > >> from the bondage to sin. For the West, it seems to be an appeasement of
      > >> the
      > >> wrath of God and the demands of the law.
      > >>
      > >> I find that how we understand the garden is really programmatic of our
      > >> whole
      > >> "system" of theology. I hope this sheds some light on the differences.
      > >>
      > >>
      > >

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Benjamin Harju
      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
      Message 33 of 33 , Jun 21, 2010
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        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.

        In Christ,
        Benjamin Harju

        Oruaseht wrote:
        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
        this passage.

        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
        > depraved*?
        > 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
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