Kallistos Ware and the Fall of the Incarnate Christ

“The unassumed is the unhealed, but what is united with God is also being saved” (Ep. 101.5). With this one sentence St Gregory the Theologian overthrew the fourth-century heresy taught by Apollinarius. We may speculate all we want on the unity of the God-Man, but soteriology must ultimately norm all our speculations. The redemption received through baptism, Gregory declares, depends upon a genuine incarnation of God. If the divine Son did not assume a complete human nature (body, mind, and spirit), then he has not acted to save us, and there is no gospel to be preached and no healing to experience. So insightful and decisive was this response, the Nazianzen has ever since been the first one to whom the Church turns when any teaching arises that threatens the full humanity of Christ. “What has not been assumed has not been healed.”

During the past century an increasing number of theologians have spoken of the divine Son as assuming fallen human nature in the Incarnation. Metropolitan Kallistos Ware has eloquently expressed this understanding in his book The Orthodox Way:

Christ shares to the full in what we are, and so he makes it possible for us to share in what he is, in his divine life and glory. He became what we are, so as to make us what he is. … Christ’s riches are his eternal glory; Christ’s poverty is his complete self-identification with our fallen human condition. …

This notion of salvation as sharing implies—although many have been reluctant to say this openly—that Christ assumed not just unfallen but fallen human nature. As the Epistle to the Hebrews insists (and in all the New Testament there is no Christological text more important than this): “We do not have a high priest who cannot be touched with the felling of our infirmities; but he was in all points tempted exactly as we are, yet without sinning” (4:15). Christ lives out his life on earth under the conditions of the fall. He is not himself a sinful person, but in his solidarity with fallen man he accepts to the full the consequences of Adam’s sin. He accepts to the full not only the physical consequences, such as weariness, bodily pain, and eventually the separation of body and soul in death. He accepts also the moral consequences, the loneliness, the alienation, the inward conflict. It may seem a bold thing to ascribe all this to the living God, but a consistent doctrine of the Incarnation requires nothing less. If Christ had merely assumed unfallen human nature, living out his earthly life in the situation of Adam in Paradise, then he would not have been touched with the feeling of our infirmities, nor would he have been tempted in everything exactly as we are. And in that case he would not be our Saviour.

St Paul goes so far as to write, “God made him who knew no sin to be sin for our sake” (2 Cor. 5:21). We are not to think here solely in terms of some juridical transaction, whereby Christ, himself guiltless, somehow has our guilt “imputed” to him in an exterior manner. Much more is involved than this. Christ save us by experiencing from within, as one of us, all that we suffer inwardly through living in a sinful world. (pp. 74-76)

When I read The Orthodox Way back in the late 80s or early 90s, I did not give the above passage a second thought. My reading of the Reformed theologian Thomas F. Torrance, as well as the Anglican theologian Thomas Smail, had prepared me for the claim that in Jesus Christ the divine Son united himself to postlapsarian human nature. It just didn’t seem terribly controversial, unless one was committed to the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. In his two most recent books, Fr Patrick Henry Reardon, Orthodox biblical scholar and polymath, has reiterated the fallenness claim. Commenting on the 8th chapter of St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, with its remarkable statement that God sent “his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom 8:3), Reardon writes:

According to St. Paul, that is to say, the flesh assumed by the Son of God was identical to our own. Becoming like us (en homoiomati), He took on “the flesh of sin”—sarx hamartias. In view of the New Testament’s insistence that Christ was sinless—and that death, consequently, had no hold on Him—Paul’s description of the Incarnation in this text of Romans seems unusually bold. It is valuable for its clear assertion that the Son, in the Incarnation, assumed our humanity with the weaknesses and disadvantages of its fallen state. (Reclaiming the Atonement, p. 106; also see The Jesus We Missed)

Underlying the contention that in the Incarnation God assumed fallen human nature is the conviction that “salvation must reach the point of human need. Only if Christ is fully and completely a man as we are, can we men share in what he has done for us” (Ware, p. 73). The assumption of sinless, prelapsarian humanity would have missed the whole soteriological point. We do not live with Adam in the Garden. We have been expelled from Paradise and the angelic sword bars the way of our return. We are trapped in a world in which evil and death rule and sin is inevitable. “We are each of us,” states Ware, “conditioned by the solidarity of the human race in its accumulated wrong-doing and wrong-thinking, and hence wrong-being” (p. 62). To rescue us from this wrong-being, God graciously chose to become our companion in our fallen world: “God saves us by identifying himself with us, by knowing our human experience from the inside” (p. 78). The eternal Creator kenotically unites himself, not only to the fullness of human life, but to the fullness of human death.

God knows our temptations, because he has experienced them; God knows our sufferings, because he has experienced them; God knows our alienation, desolation, and death, because he has experienced them. God knows the human condition from the existential inside; and his knowing, avers Ware, is our salvation: “Totally, unreservedly, he identifies himself with all man’s anguish and alienation. He assumed it into himself, and by assuming it he healed it. There was no other way he could heal it, except by making it his own” (p. 80). One hears echoes of the Prophet Isaiah:

Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. (Isa 53:4-5)

The evangelical power of the Metropolitan’s presentation of incarnate solidarity is undeniable; but there’s something missing. It is unclear how and why God’s existential knowing of the human condition heals the human condition. Ware’s argument would be strengthened by explicit elaboration of the vicarious dimension of Christ’s salvific work, culminating in the resurrection. Perhaps St Gregory of Nyssa can suggest a way forward: “Although Christ took our filth upon himself, nevertheless he is not himself defiled by the pollution, but in his own self he cleanses the filth, for it says, the light shone in the darkness, but the darkness did not overpower it” (Adv. Apol. 26). The Son becomes Man in order to purify, regenerate, and deify human nature. This is the salvation that Christ has brought us.

A question remains: What is a fallen human nature? In his discussion of original sin, Ware identifies the consequences of the Fall. On the physical level man becomes subject to pain, disease and the disintegration of old age, culminating in the terrible separation of soul and body that is death. On the moral level man becomes subject to disordered passions, frustration, boredom, depression, toil, guilt, and a divided will. All of these consequences I understand, but they do not constitute human nature, at least not in the strict sense. If you ask me what a dog is, I will list the essential properties that together make up doghood, i.e., those attributes without which a dog would not be a dog. When we speak of human fallenness, however, we cannot be speaking of an essential property (or collection of essential properties). A human being need not be a sinner in order to be a human being—indeed, quite the opposite. All orthodox Christians affirm an ontological continuity between prelapsarian and postlapsarian humanity. The Fall did not result in man’s degeneration into a totally different kind of created being. The children of Adam belong to the race of Adam, albeit now living under non-optimal conditions with specific inherited handicaps.

If fallenness is not an essential property of human being, perhaps it is accurately described as an accidental  property—i.e., a property that does not constitute humanity but is rather acquired, like blue eyes or an alcoholic disposition. Oliver Crisp advances this suggestion in his essay “Did Christ Have a Fallen Human Nature?” If we accept this as a working hypothesis, our next step is to name the specific accidental properties that characterize fallen existence. Once having done that, we can then ask, When God became Man, did he assume one or more accidental properties characteristic of humanity’s fallen mode of existence? Was Jesus mortal? Did he know the kind of temptation that we sinners know every day of our lives? Did he suffer from concupiscence? Did he experience genuine interior conflict and fear of death?

And here the controversy begins. Until two years ago or so, I was blithely ignorant of serious controversy within Orthodoxy regarding the nature of Christ’s human nature. But then I was directed to the massive book by Fr Emmanuel Hatzidakis, Jesus: Fallen? Hatzidakis argues that Ware & Company have grievously departed from the Orthodox faith by their assertion that God in Christ joined himself to fallen human nature: “This, we submit, is a novel, erroneous and dangerous teaching, not supported by any Father of the Church” (p. 509).

Oh my. We need to explore the matter a bit further.

(Go to “John Meyendorff and God’s Assumption of Human Nature”)

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51 Responses to Kallistos Ware and the Fall of the Incarnate Christ

  1. Michael Bauman says:

    Not only did He assume fallen human nature, He became sin for our sake.
    2 Cor 5

    Christianity is a radical statement of God’s love for us and the rest of the Creation.

    That is why we are allowed to hope that all things will he made new.

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    • Tony says:

      Except, Christ did not assume our fallen nature. Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, and perfect God and perfect Man even at His incarnation. Any weaknesses He assumed was because He voluntarily and willfully allowed Himself to experience via love and condensation, but the human nature He assumed from the Virgin was perfect and not essentially corruptable. If He grew older or felt hunger, it was only because He allowed it and not because He it was according to His perfect and deifying flesh.

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  2. Tony says:

    Fr Emmanuel Hatzidakis’ book mentioned above is a treasure trove of information and Patristic quotes on the matter and it is clear that he is absolutely correct. Christ did not assume the post-lapsarian human nature, otherwise Jesus died on the cross to save Himself as well as humanity. Rather. Christ is completely sinless, and any blameless passions He had (such as hunger, pain, etc) was because He voluntarily allowed Himself to experience them and NOT because it was essential to His incarnate flesh. The idea proposed by Met. Kallistos Ware and others is indeed an novel idea starting from Protestant theologians only in the last two centuries. A close study of the Fathers of the Church contradicts these modernist claims.

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    • lucashatt says:

      I’m a protestant have only heard of the idea of Christ entering into fallen humanity through Catholic and Eastern theology.

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      • Tony says:

        I am a cradle Orthodox and learned about it as well, likely from reading the same contemporary Orthodox Christian. Not all Protestants believe Christ assumed postlapsarian human nature, which is why you may have not have heard it prior to reading these Orthodox books. But I suggest you read the book mentioned above, and you will become convinced in what the Patristic teaching is.

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        • lucashatt says:

          I’ll have to take a look.

          The reason I’ve never heard of the “fallen nature” incarnation before reading Catholic and Eastern theologians is because within Calvinistic theology, after the fall, the human nature is nearly eradicated, totally depraved, and as many theologians communicate (whether purposefully or not) is evil. In the past I’ve understand the human nature to be in itself evil, which is problematic and sounds awfully manichean.

          After reading about the nature/grace distinction from Catholic theologians, I realized that the fall means literally that: a fall from something above the human nature, but which affected the human nature in such a manner that creates disorder and corruption. The Eastern theologians speak in more biblical terms, but the argument is the same: humanity fell from the divine life, and the goal is theosis. Christ entered into the fallen human nature to fill it with his own life.

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          • Tony says:

            The argument is nuanced and gets complicated, which is why I would recommend that book to you called “Jesus: Fallen?” as the author does an excellent job at demonstrating what the Churh Fathers taught using many quotes from Patristic sources.

            Until fairly recently, I too thought Christ had assumed postlapsarian human nature, but on further investigation, it seems this teaching coming out of Orthodox circles is actually not in tune with the Patristic teachings.

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      • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

        lucashatt, Kelly Kapic’s article “The Son’s Assumption of a Human Nature” is a good introduction to this topic from a Protestant perspective.

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  3. lucashatt says:

    It seems that complete solidarity, as you say, is necessary for at-one-ment. Also, that the fallen human nature is not sinful as such but is deprived of divine life which was its end. Christ entered into the deprived nature and sanctified it.

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    • Tony says:

      Human nature (as it was created to be and exemplified by prelapsarian Adam) is not sinful. But our fallen human condition is in sin, which is why the Psalmist says ‘in sin my mother conceived me’ and why we must be baptized. Christ, the Second Adam, did not need salvation. He never lacked in anything unless He willfully allowed it. He was without sin, and always has been. Out of love, He allowed Himself to feel the effects of the Fall (what are called the blameless passions), but this was completely voluntary and not because His deifying human flesh and nature lacked something or needed to be healed. It was not Christ, the Incarnate Word Who needed healing and salvation, but men.

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  4. makonagasawa says:

    Thanks Father Kimel for the discussion. Hatzidakis argues his position from a concern about the ‘communication of attributes’ (communicatio idiomatum), p.253 – 257. However, there are passages from Athanasius which he does not seem to cover or explore. Here’s one:

    ‘…the Lord who supplies the grace has become a man like us, He on the other hand, the Savior, humbled Himself in taking ‘our body of humiliation’ [Philippians 3:21], and took a servant’s form, putting on that flesh which was enslaved to sin. And He indeed has gained nothing from us for His own promotion…’ (Discourses Against the Arians 1.43)

    Athanasius also makes statements about how the ‘infirm’ human nature of Christ did not transfer its property of being infirm ‘upwards’ to his person. In his first Discourse Against the Arians 1.60 (and also 2.47), Athanasius forcefully and clearly delineates between who ‘He is’ as ‘Son and Wisdom and Radiance and Image of the Father’ and what ‘He is become’ in ‘a second sense’ as ‘flesh’ and ‘man’:

    ‘Moreover the words ‘He is become surety’ denote the pledge in our behalf which He has provided. For as, being the ‘Word,’ He ‘became flesh [John 1:14]’ and ‘become’ we ascribe to the flesh, for it is originated and created, so do we here the expression ‘He is become,’ expounding it according to a second sense, viz. because He has become man. And let these contentious men know, that they fail in this their perverse purpose; let them know that Paul does not signify that His essence has become, knowing, as he did, that He is Son and Wisdom and Radiance and Image of the Father…’

    Athanasius goes on to quote Paul’s very important statement in Romans 8:3 that the Son came in the likeness of sinful flesh. The reason why Athanasius delineates who Jesus ‘is’ in ‘his essence’ in comparison with who he ‘has become’ seems to help his audience understand in what sense Jesus came in the likeness of sinful flesh. ‘In the likeness of’ for Athanasius did not mean a superficial resemblance, but the real substance. Jesus ‘is’ the Son of God who ‘became’ sinful flesh. This passage shows Athanasius’ care to designate that the sinful condition of Jesus’ human nature initially did not mean that Jesus in his person was sinful. In the case of Jesus, all the properties of his human ‘nature’ did not necessarily transfer ‘upward’ to his ‘person.’

    So it seems to me that Athanasius says communicatio idiomatum simply does not work the way Hatzidakis fears it does. The attributes of Christ’s human nature which were temporary – infirm, corrupted by sin, mortal, cursed – cannot be said to describe his person. Instead, the person of Christ, empowered by his divine nature and in the power of the Holy Spirit, acted ‘downward’ upon, and yet also within, his ‘infirm’ human nature through his life, death, and resurrection, to deify it and make it deifying to other human beings. Those particular fallen, but temporary, attributes of his human nature were healed by him as a person as he ‘grew in stature,’ as Luke says (Lk.2:52), and TF Torrance notes, using the term proekopten from the domain of metalworking where a smith hammers a metal forward with blows. In effect, Athanasius curtails the communicatio idiomatum and says it does not apply in this way because Jesus had not yet brought his human nature to its full resting place. The properties are not passive qualities of passive natures. Thus, within the person of Jesus, Jesus’ divine nature was strengthening his human nature to carry out its human vocation of presenting itself cleansed and purified to God, circumcised of heart (Dt.10:16; 30:6).

    And the references to the Sinai covenant and Israel’s experience of their own human nature are important here. If Jesus took on prelapsarian human nature, then how was God really faithful to His covenant with Israel to be and do for them what they could not be and do for themselves? That is, to return their human nature back to God, as one of them, circumcised of heart, i.e. purified and cleansed? It is as if God never really needed to work in partnership with Israel, and could have bypassed that stage altogether. Hence, given that God did in fact partner with Israel, saying that Jesus took on prelapsarian human nature opens us up to the charge of arbitrariness when it comes to God’s character.

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    • Tom says:

      Makonagasawa: The attributes of Christ’s human nature which were temporary – infirm, corrupted by sin, mortal, cursed – cannot be said to describe his person.

      Tom: This is especially difficult to accept. That the attributes of one nature should (say, the human) not be attributed to the other nature (in the case, the divine) is one thing. But to say there are attributes of the Son’s human nature which are not ‘his’, i.e., not the Son’s, i.e., not attributes ‘of the Son’ (because the nature is his) which is all it means to say they don’t “describe his person,” seem to undermine the gospel itself. Are you sure this is what you meant to say–viz., that there are attributes of the Son’s human nature which do not describe (or are not attributable to) the Son?

      Tom

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      • makonagasawa says:

        If God designed us to not simply be human beings, but human becomings, then the same must have been true for Jesus of Nazareth. Therefore, we cannot fully employ the communicatio idiomatum at just any point in the earthly life of Jesus – if only for the fact that Jesus’s human nature could not be both ‘developing’ and yet also ‘fully developed’ merely by virtue of being connected to his divine nature or located within his divine personhood as the eternal Son. In fact, God’s divine nature itself must be defined as that which, in relation to us, patiently respects the development of human nature in every human person. The principle of communicatio idiomatum cannot simply refer to human nature as if it were a static quality. It must be employed in the context of Jesus’ human development, where Jesus resisted the corruption of sin throughout, brought his human nature to its full resting place as a conduit of ever-brightening transfigured glory by the Holy Spirit at the right hand of the Father. This is the logic Athanasius and the Cappadocians retained from Irenaeus’ view of a developmental humanity, which the later Latin theologians Hilary of Poitiers and John Cassian misunderstood, although unfortunately Hatzidakis, p.254 – 255 celebrates them.

        As Irenaeus of Lyons saw, the very definition of human nature involves a developmental process in the divine-human partnership: ‘For as God is always the same, humanity, rooted in God, always progresses toward God.’ (Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies 3.8.3; 4.11.2; notably, Matthew Craig Steenberg, Of God and Man: Theology as Anthropology from Irenaeus to Athanasius (New York, NY: T&T Clark, 2009) and Khaled Anatolios, Athanasius: The Coherence of His Thought (London, Routledge, 2005), p.4 (‘my position is that Athanasius’ vision is markedly Irenaean in this regard’) and p.20 – 25 demonstrate that Athanasius’ theological anthropology is either dependent on, or otherwise identical with, that of Irenaeus.)

        In terms of the biblical narrative, God made human beings to be guided by His word and presence (by the Spirit), and thus internalize His word and presence (by the Spirit) more deeply into themselves by growing in stature, bringing forth life, deepening in trust, and receiving into themselves the deeper divine life God offered in the tree of life. Put in the terms of the technical theological vocabulary of the Nicene period, what else is human nature except that which must be progressively filled by, and work in partnership with, God’s divine nature? And what is fallen human nature but human nature which additionally has to overcome the corruption of sin in partnership with God’s divine nature?

        This fits the unbroken pattern of divine-human partnership in the Hebrew Scriptures and Israel’s experience of covenant relationship with God. God always worked in concert and cooperation with human partners, which is arguably what is required from Genesis 1, when God made human beings in His image to represent Him on the earth. And, not insignificantly, the patristic authors perceived the theophanies in the Hebrew Bible to be appearances, not of the Father or the undifferentiated Godhead, but of the Logos, or the pre-incarnate Christ. (Justin Martyr, First Apology 62 – 63; Dialogue with Trypho 61, 126; Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies 4.14.2; 4.20.1 – 4.22.2; Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching 45, 46; Fragment 53; Tertullian of Carthage, Against Praxeas 14 – 16; Melito of Sardis, On the Passover 60, 69, 96; etc.) When they read in Scripture, ‘The word of the Lord came to…’ (e.g. Gen.15:1, 4; 1 Sam.15:10; 2 Sam.7:4; 24:11; 1 Ki.16:1; Isa.38:4; Jer.1:2; Ezk.1:3; Hos.1:1; Jon.1:1), they believed it was the Word of God that appeared or spoke. Thus, in their view, God the Son appeared to Abraham and Sarah (Gen.15, 18), calling for their faith-filled partnership in the supernatural birth of Isaac. God the Son called to Moses from the burning bush (Ex.3), calling for Moses’ partnership in the deliverance of Israel. And so on. This was the widespread understanding in the early church. So if God the Son acted in this pattern of divine-human partnership before his incarnation, to ‘profit’ people, as Athanasius puts it when he cites these examples (Discourses Against the Arians 2.68), would that pattern extend even into the divine-human partnership in the person of Jesus of Nazareth? Why would it not? For human nature is not a static quantity, but dynamic and developmental, and dependent upon the Spirit of God and Word of God. The prior definitions of ‘human nature’ and its relation to ‘divine nature’ require that even in the hypostatic union of the two natures, the pattern of partnership undertaken by the Logos was maintained with respect to his own human nature when he first inhabited it.

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        • makonagasawa says:

          Also, are attributes of human nature communicated to the human person in a direct way even for us? It seems to me that different adjectives are required when speaking of natures vs. persons. Corrupted and mortal are attributes of our human nature. Guilty is an attribute of a human person who has taken a sinful action. Otherwise, wouldn’t Hatzidakis have to collapse the Orthodox doctrine of ancestral sin (we inherit the corrupted human nature of Adam and Eve) into the Catholic doctrine of original sin (we inherit the personal guilt of Adam and Eve)? For if natures transfer their properties to persons in the way that Hatzidakis claims, we must say that this quite significant difference between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic has been a centuries-long misunderstanding without actual substantial difference, no?

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          • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

            A quick correction: I do not of a single well-known contemporary Catholic theologian who believes that original sin consists of the transfer of Adam’s guilt to human beings, as if God holds human beings morally responsible for Adam’s disobedience. Rather, Catholics teach that original sin consists of the deprivation of sanctifying grace that characterizes our lives from the moment of conception. It is this deprivation that is referred to by the unfortunate phrase “sin of nature.” (Also see my article “The Ecumenical Stain of Original Sin.)

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          • makonagasawa says:

            Thanks for the correction!

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        • Tom says:

          Thank you Makonagasawa.

          I completely agree that Christ’s human nature is essentially defined by the same developmental stages as any other human being. No disagreement there.

          So when you ask “What else is human nature except that which must be progressively filled by, and work in partnership with, God’s divine nature?” I totally affirm what the question assumes. Human nature is, essentially speaking, this sort of ‘becoming’. Christ is fully human in this sense. Maybe I’m not following you, but I would not agree that Christ is additionally “fallen” in the sense your second question describes when you ask “And what is fallen human nature but human nature which additionally has to overcome the corruption of sin in partnership with God’s divine nature?” I do think there is a “struggle” to “overcome” which is definitive of human nature essentially (the existential struggle to come to terms with the natural limitations of finitude and, yes, mortality), but I associate this struggle with human nature per se as God-given (thus, prelapsarian) and not unique to postlapsarian existence.

          I haven’t read Hatzidakis, so to the extent your points relate to specific claims he’s made, I can’t engage. My suspicion had to do with your saying there are attributes of Christ’s human nature which are not to be attributed to the Son as their subject. I’m not Orthodox, but I’d be surprised if Orthodoxy would agree that the Son is the subject only of *some* attributes of his own human nature. I’m not sure how one would even attempt to go about dissociating any feature of the Son’s human nature from the Son as their personal subject. In Christ, God is a zygote, God is a fetus, God is born, suffers hunger, is in pain, is ignorant, and dies. Which attributes of his human experience would you suggest we *not* attribute to the Son as subject?

          Sorry if I’ve misunderstood you.

          Tom

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          • makonagasawa says:

            Thanks Tom. I think the attributes of Jesus’ human experience which I would suggest we not attribute to the Son as personal subject are: curse (Gal.3:13), sin (2 Cor.5:21), sinful flesh (Rom.8:3 and Jn.1:14 where sarx is read as human nature in its postlapsarian form, a la Rom.7:21). Various patristic authors drew together Jn.1:14, Gal.3:13, 2 Cor.5:21, and Rom.8:3 as mutually interpreting explanations of the incarnation, which I find fascinating. They include Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Athanasius, Ambrose, Gregory of Nazianzus, John Chrysostom. Athanasius attests to one more attribute which was apparently in circulation at the time: infirm, apparently referencing Isa.53:5 and Mt.8:17, and with fairly clear intent to describe his humanity from his incarnation. They preface all of these attributes with the phrase, “he became”, and Irenaeus and Athanasius are at pains to distinguish between the “he is” and the “he became.” Admittedly, I’m reading late fourth century terms about person and nature back into those statements, but I think it’s a fairly reasonable reading. If that is fair to do, then it seems like some patristic authors were reluctant to attribute those particular aspects to Jesus’ personhood, although they were insistent on applying it to his human nature. I’m not Orthodox either, and I’m happy to become more educated on this, but if Jesus assumed prelapsarian humanity, then why would we refer to his humanity as cursed, sinful, and infirm?

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          • Tom says:

            Attributes of a nature not attributable to that nature’s hypostasis is not a plausibly Orthodox view as far as I know. But I don’t want to represent Orthodoxy on this. There are Orthodox folks here who I should think would be happy to establish Orthodoxy’s belief in the necessary attribution to every hypostasis of that hypostasis’ nature in full.

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          • apophaticallyspeaking says:

            Natural vs gnomic will is how the church undivided settled the matter. Maximus and John of Damascus are the two fathers known for their exposition on this issue, most especially the former.

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          • makonagasawa says:

            Thanks for mentioning Maximus the Confessor and John of Damascus. Paul Blowers has written an article about the inconsistencies in Maximus’ and John’s use of the concept of the gnomic will. I’ve saved that article to my own website, here: http://nagasawafamily.org/article-Paul-Blowers-Maximus-&-John-of-Damascus-on-Gnomic-Will-in-Christ.pdf. I think this inconsistency exposes a problem. The framework that seems to be in place behind their use of terms about the human will is a privation theory of the fall, and a privation theory of evil. It seems to be one of the sources of the disagreement, here as well as with Hatzidakis. For the idea that the Son’s assumption of human nature instantly remedies whatever is wrong with human nature necessarily flows from that assertion about the fall: human nature was deprived of God’s grace before, so the conception of Jesus in the womb instantly rectified human nature, rather than the progressive view that Jesus’ lifelong obedience unto death and resurrection was how he did that.

            I think we have to revisit the privation theory itself. Does it provides adequate answers about theodicy, christology, and a few other theological topics? I think this is why TF Torrance revisits Athanasius, although it’s my impression that he needed to also more deeply explain Gregory of Nazianzus and his link to Maximus.

            Athanasius’ use of the word corruption for the fall, and evil, suggests to me that the concept of disorder is preferable to that of privation. I also think that this squares well with Athanasius’ concern to present human nature as developmental (can we say that God is developing and also developed in reference to the same object – the Son’s humanity?), as well as his concern to distinguish between the adjectives that we apply to Jesus’ human nature and Jesus’ person. According to Edward T. Oakes, Infinity Dwindled to Infancy, it seems like Martin Luther was the first person to say, “Jesus was the greatest sinner.” Yet something about that strikes me as strange. Tom, it does seem like the patristic writers – perhaps Gregory of Nyssa most of all – consistently distinguished between the idea that Jesus took on sinful humanity, and yet was without sin as a person.

            An interesting text to consider is Hebrews 4:15. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. If he was tempted in all things as we are, but without a fallen human nature (because he negated the privation at conception, as per the privation theory), then was he really tempted as we are? Does this affect the relevance of Jesus to ourselves pastorally?

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          • apophaticallyspeaking says:

            Mako,

            A few thoughts, alas all too brief due to time constraints.

            To start, I suppose ‘inconsistency’ is one way to characterize Maximus’ position, but the broad consensus is (and Blower does acknowledge this as well) that his theology about the meaning of the will and gnome in Christ developed out of necessity due to the later controversy that presented itself. To read a retraction and inconsistency into this is quite a stretch, at any rate his later writings on the gnomic will is more conclusive and germane that his earlier works. Another thought – it seems to me we need to see the objection that Blower raises through to its logical conclusion – an absurdity but let’s put it out there – Christ could not have redeemed humanity if He had not in person experienced sin. Why stop with the gnomic will?

            I am not quite sure how to reply to the rest of your comments as I don’t follow how you come to the conclusions that you draw. How do you understand Maximus’ position to be “a privation theory of the fall, and a privation theory of evil” (what do you mean by this?), and furthermore how do you posit that this relates to the incarnationally-instant or otherwise gradual redemption (both problematic in their own right, I see neither as an orthodox position) of human nature in Christ? Does corruption necessarily mean disorder, and why (and how) would disorder be preferable to privation?

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          • makonagasawa says:

            Good question. Perhaps I’m missing something, and I’m happy to be corrected, but privation theory explains original sin as the inherited condition of privation of God’s sanctifying grace, and therefore human nature is deprived of its “original holiness and justice… wounded in the natural powers proper to it… and inclined to sin” (for Catholics; Catechism 405). Possibly understood equivalently, privation as “loss of God’s sustaining grace and estrangement from his glory, on account of which we inherit a propensity, a tendency towards committing what is sinful.” (for Orthodox; Hatzidakis, p.57-58). Understood in this way, Jesus’ conception is seen as the point at which God overcame the alienation of human nature from himself, since he united divine and human natures. One question raised by

            I think that speaking of original sin in terms of inheriting a disordered human nature could be a fair description – and perhaps not entirely mutually exclusive with privation theory – for a few reasons. First is that the disciplines of neuroscience and epigenetics can provide us with an analogue (not an exhaustive description) to whatever we think happened internally to human beings at the fall and onwards. I don’t want to reduce corruption to being only physical, but to the extent that our brains, genetics, and bodies are impacted by our parents and their experiences, I think it important to inquire as to whether it is in part physical, or manifests itself in part physically.

            Second, I think we are encouraged by the narrative of Genesis to think not only of alienation from God / the tree of life, but also of something intruding into human nature (the motif of eating), as connected to believing a lie and taking into one’s self the desire to define good and evil from within one’s self rather than from God. But this develops further because Cain, by sinning, further corrupts himself – as shown by his unique alienation from the land. The narrative of Genesis 2 – 4 suggests that the degree of corruption (possibly identical with privation) can vary based on our own choices.

            Third, in relation to Jesus, is it possible that Jesus assumed a disordered human nature in order to progressively order it and heal it by never sinning, and share it? That’s my current understanding. In relation to the patristic explanations about Christ’s humanity, I find them to be mixed. I think, from Irenaeus to Maximus, various tendencies intervened to shape the discourse: heresies of course, but also a growing distance from Judaism, accompanied by varying views of sex, emotions and pathos. Some of which might be important to discuss. So in relation to your question about Maximus, and why I would stop at the gnomic will, if I’m understanding your question correctly, I think it’s because if “the unassumed is the unhealed,” then wouldn’t Christ need to make contact with our human will as it is, to heal it from within? It’s not that Jesus needs to commit sin personally. If Jesus did not make contact with our human will as it is, then how could he have healed our gnomic will?

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  5. Tom says:

    Great! Another book I’ll have to buy (Fr Emmanuel’s). Looks good.

    I’m guessing I’d be on Fr Emmanuel’s side on this question, That the Son lives in a post-lapsarian world is obvious. But that hunger, fatigue, physical pain, or even mortality are per se ‘fallen/sinful/ states of being? I don’t see how. A fallen nature is a nature that suffers privation of some kind or other relative to its God-given telos. Even the human longing for companionship (loneliness?). Adam experiences this prior to the Fall. So to my ears to say the Son possessed a fallen human nature is to say his humanity stood in need of the very redemption we suppose his humanity to be.

    Tom

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Question, Tom: If the eternal Son has assumed prelapsarian human nature, then what is he healing by assuming it?

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      • Tom says:

        Fr Aidan: If the eternal Son has assumed prelapsarian human nature, then what is he healing by assuming it?

        Tom: I’m a passionate ‘Incarnation-anyway’ proponent. I don’t reduce the purpose and mission of the Incarnation to exigencies of postlapsarian humanity. Permit me a speculation to clarify. Had humankind never fallen, we’d still need the Incarnation (to assume and perfect human nature and thereby bring creation to its intended telos). Grace isn’t a postlapsarian divine strategy to “fix what’s wrong” with our nature (though the damage of privation is addressed). Prelapsarian nature requires the grace of Incarnation for its perfection as well. So for example when Gregory says, “What is not assumed is not healed,” he’s expressing (whether or not he intended to, I don’t know) what is true of prelapsarian nature as well as postlapsarian. True, he expresses it in postlapsarian terms of our needing “healing” from sin’s effects. But that’s contextual, not metaphysical. Seen in this light, the ‘postlapsarian’ (fallen, damaged, privated perspective of fallen human beings) context doesn’t define what Christ’s humanity “had” to be. The natural, God-given, prelapsarian nature does that.

        But this is only possible, I admit, if there is not “essential” difference between pre- and postlapsarian human nature. And that’s my view as well. Postlapsarian human beings are not “essentially” different than prelapsarian human beings. “Essentially” speaking nothing is different. Sin is a privation of nature, not an essential reconstituting of that nature. After all, if it’s privation, by definition it can’t be all-consuming of nature (essentially). Postlapsarian human nature remains transcendentally grounded in the divine logoi which invariantly constitute the possibilities for human being as such (pre- and postlapsarian). There’s no “essential” difference there. When we fall, we cannot fall out of that. And it’s that which mediates the healing of Christ’s Incarnate humanity.

        If we wanna talk the ‘existential’ how, then I suppose healing is experienced as we appropriate/participate in Christ’s humanity by choosing to embrace it as our own, by celebrating it in community, and by increasingly identifying with it over and against every false self (and the Philokalia can help us there). Well, that’s my take anyway.

        Tom

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        • Tom says:

          …if there is *no* “essential” difference between…

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        • Tom says:

          Fr Aidan, permit me a comment on something I said: “Seen in this light, the ‘postlapsarian’ (fallen, damaged, privated perspective of fallen human beings) context doesn’t define what Christ’s humanity ‘had’ to be. The natural, God-given, prelapsarian nature does that.”

          What I mean to say is that human nature’s prelapsarian need for the grace of Incarnation is more fundamental and essential to our nature than is our sinfulness (i.e., our sinfulness is accidental, but finitude’s dependence upon the sustaining and perfecting grace of Incarnation is permanent and irreducible).

          So, in a sense I want to affirm as carefully as I can, we do not need Christ more because of our sin. We don’t need him any less, but we don’t require the grace of Incarnation any more. In other words, address the essential need of our nature (as finite, in its dependence upon grace, as nothing apart from the surrender of ourselves to God in faith, all of which define us essentially-naturally apart from any contagion of sin) and our healing from sin is follow from that. This as opposed to the opposite understanding (which I’m hearing here) which seems to be: address the infection and privation of our sinfulness, fix that, and the other more essential needs of our nature (needs that are metaphysically antecedent to our need of saving “from sin’s damage”) will follow. I think this gets it precisely backwards.

          Tom

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        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          “Postlapsarian human nature remains transcendentally grounded in the divine logoi which invariantly constitute the possibilities for human being as such (pre- and postlapsarian).”

          I have no idea what that means. 🙂

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        • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

          I am not finding helpful your invocation of what you called the “Incarnation anyway” position. It seems to be side-stepping the soteriological concerns that are driving Met Kallistos’s construal of the atonement. My guess is that he would agree with you on both (a) the eternal intent of God to become incarnate and (b) the insistence that human nature is not essentially altered by the Fall. Yet still he thinks it desirable to speak of Christ assuming fallen human nature. Perhaps this is not the most accurate way to express the matter, but it does seem to me that he’s getting at something important.

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  6. Peter Abdelmalak says:

    Father bless! 🙂

    I am a regular reader of this blog but I have never posted before. However I am posting here just because this is an issue which came to my attention quite a while ago. I always love your insights and the many insights of those who comment here as well.

    I do wonder if Fr. Emmanuel is just missing the point here. In fact, I wonder if modern dialogue is missing the point because the conversation is happening using modern (I daresay western) notions that ultimately have ties that go back to the question of original sin. If original sin is truly not an authentic part of Orthodox theology and tradition, and I wholeheartedly believe it is not, then this conversation is likely not starting off on the right foot by discussing “pre-lapsarian” and “post-lapsarian” states. I feel this is particularly true when it comes to the question of the locus of this “change”. As you said, father, is this something ontological? As though our nature was changing perhaps? Or is it an accidental property? I am more inclined to believe that pre- and post-lapsarian states are not useful idiom for Orthodox thought.

    My humble opinion (I am no scholar by any means so forgive me if I am incorrect and speak too boldly) is that it is axiomatic for the fathers that the human is by nature contingent and thus, being so, we are, according to nature, mortal and corruptible. I think this is summed up quite succinctly by St. Severus of Antioch (I am an Oriental Orthodox btw!),

    “Man is by nature mortal, because he came into being from nothing. If however, he had continued to maintain his vision of God, he would have transcended the natural corruptibility and remained incorruptible” St. Severus of Antioch, La Polemique Antijulianiste I, p 30. Tran: Samuels, V. C. The Council of Chalcedon Re-examined: A Historical and Theological Survey. (1977). p 213.

    I do not believe the point worth belabouring but this is very true of the theology of St. Athanasius who states,

    “For transgression of the commandment was turning them back to their natural state, so that just as they have had their being out of nothing, so also, as might be expected, they might look for corruption into nothing in the course of time. For if, out of a former normal state of non-existence, they were called into being by the Presence and loving-kindness of the Word, it followed naturally that when men were without the knowledge of God and were turned back to what was not (for what is evil is not, but what is good, is), they should, since they derive their being from God who IS, be everlastingly bereft even of being; in other words, that they should be disintegrated and abide in death and corruption. For man is by nature mortal, inasmuch as he is made out of what is not; but by reason of his likeness to Him that is (and if he still preserved this likeness by keeping Him in his knowledge) he would put off his natural corruption, and remain incorrupt; as Wisdom says: “The taking heed to His laws is the assurance of immortality;” but being incorrupt, he would live henceforth as God, to which I suppose the divine Scripture refers, when it says: ‘I have said ye are gods, and ye are all sons of the most Highest; but ye die like men, and fall as one of the princes.’ For God has not only made us out of nothing; but He gave us freely, by the Grace of the Word, a life in correspondence with God. But men, having rejected things eternal, and, by counsel of the devil, turned to the things of corruption, became the cause of their own corruption in death, being, as I said before, by nature corruptible, but destined, by the grace following from partaking of the Word, to have escaped their natural state, had they remained good. For because of the Word dwelling with them, even their natural corruption did not come near them, as Wisdom also says: “God made man for incorruption, and as an image of His own eternity; but by envy of the devil death came into the world.” But when this was come to pass, men began to die, while corruption thence-forward prevailed against them.” On The Incarnation, 4-5.

    The identical stance on this issue by both Eastern and Oriental Orthodox is borne out through the comments of the great Fr. John Meyendorff who states,

    “Julian of Halicarnassus’ discussion on Aphthartodocetism and his condemnation not only by the Byzantine Orthodox Church but also by the moderate Monophysites illustrates, as has been pointed out several times, that the Christian East ignored, as a whole, the doctrine of original sin “of nature.” Because Julian shared this conception of original sin, implying the corruption of human nature itself as a consequence of Adam’s transgression, he wanted to shield Christ from it. But Severus answered him by calling him a Manichee and by denying vigorously the doctrine of original sin as a transmission of guilt. It is rather a natural mortality transmitted from generation to generation, as a consequence of the separation between God and man after the sin of Adam.” Christ in Eastern Christian Thought, p88.

    It seems to me that it might be the case that this fall or this lapse is perhaps best characterized as a fall from Divine communion. Not only this but this fall then becomes marred by mortality and corruptibility. With the break in Divine communion and the departure of the Spirit we begin to seek that which is closer to us, as St. Athanasius describes in Contra Gentes, most notably the body and its pleasures and we begin to satiate ourselves on these things as though they were our God. Our elevation required our reunion our re-grafting into the life of the Divine, the Triune God. But enough of my ranting, I just feel the pre- and post-lapsarian talk misses the point. I must admit that I have yet to read Fr. Emmanuel’s book but his central thesis seems also to be in great contradiction with the passage posted by the above and other including,

    “We say that the Only-begotten God, having by His own agency brought all things into being, by Himself has full power over all things, while the nature of man is also one of the things that were made by Him: and that when this had fallen away to evil, and come to be in the destruction of death, He by His own agency drew it up once more to immortal life, by means of the Man in whom He tabernacled, taking to Himself humanity in completeness, and that He mingled His life-giving power with our mortal and perishable nature, and changed, by the combination with Himself, our deadness to living grace and power. And this we declare to be the mystery of the Lord according to the flesh, that He Who is immutable came to be in that which is mutable, to the end that altering it for the better, and changing it from the worse, He might abolish the evil which is mingled with our mutable condition, destroying the evil in Himself. For “our God is a consuming fire,” by whom all the material of wickedness is done away. This is our statement. St. Gregory of Nyssa, Book 5 Against Eunomius Chapter 4, Page 342,3 of NPNF Volume 5.

    “Man then is a creature rational, but composite, of soul that is and of this perishable and earthly flesh. And when it had been made by God, and was brought into being, not having of its own nature incorruption and imperishableness (for these things appertain essentially to God Alone), it was sealed with the spirit of life, by participation with the Divinity gaining the good that is above nature (for He breathed, it says, into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul). But when he was being punished for his transgressions, then with justice hearing Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return, he was bared of the grace; the breath of life, that is the Spirit of Him Who says I am the Life, departed from the earthy body and the creature falls |109 into death, through the flesh alone, the soul being kept in immortality, since to the flesh too alone was it said, Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return. It needed therefore that that in us which was specially imperilled, should with the greater zeal be restored, and by intertwining again with Life That is by Nature be recalled to immortality: it needed that at length the sentence. Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return should be relaxed, the fallen body being united ineffably to the Word That quickeneth all things. For it needed that becoming His Flesh, it should partake of the immortality that is from Him. For it were a thing most absurd, that fire should have the power of infusing into wood the perceptible quality of its inherent power and of all but transfashioning into itself the things wherein it is by participation, and that we should not fully hold that the Word of God Which is over all, would in-work in the flesh His own Good, that is Life.

    For this reason specially I suppose it was that the holy Evangelist, indicating the creature specially from the part affected, says that the Word of God became Flesh, that so we might see at once the wound and the medicine, the sick and the Physician, that which had fallen unto death and Him Who raised it unto life, that which was overcome of corruption and Him Who chased away the corruption, that which was holden of death and Him Who is superior to death, that which was bereft of life and the Giver of life. But he says not that the Word came into flesh but that It was made Flesh, that you may not suppose that He came to it as in the case of the Prophets or other of the Saints by participation, but did Himself become actual Flesh, that is man: for so we just now said. Wherefore He is also God by Nature in Flesh and with Flesh, as having it His own, and conceived of as being Other than it, and worshipped in it and with it, according to what is written in the prophet Isaiah, Men of stature shall come over unto thee and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, for God is in thee, and there is no God |110 beside thee. Lo they say that God is in Him, not severing the Flesh from the Word; and again they affirm that there is none other God save He, uniting to the Word that which He bears about Him, as His very own, that is the temple of the Virgin: for He is One Christ of Both.” St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on The Gospel of John, Book 1 on Chapter 1:14.

    “Man remained mortal and corruptible as before, liable to the condition proper to their nature. But now the Word having become man and having made His own what pertains to the flesh, no longer do these things [death and corruption] touch the body, because of the Word who has come in it, but they are destroyed by Him, and henceforth men no longer remain sinners and dead according to their proper condition, but having risen according to the Word’s power, they abide ever immortal and incorruptible. When also, whereas the flesh is born of Mary Bearer of God, He Himself is said to have been born, who furnishes to other an origin of being; in order that He may transfer our origin into Himself, and we may no longer, as mere earth, return to earth, but as being knit into the Word from heaven, may be carried to heaven by Him. Therefore in like manner not without reason has He transferred to Himself the other conditions of the body also; that we, no longer as being men, but as being proper to the Word, may have a share in eternal life. For no longer according to our former origin in Adam do we die; but from no on our origin and all infirmity of flesh being transferred to the Word, we rise from the earth.” St. Athanasius, 3rd Discourse Against The Arians, XXVI.

    “So He united man with God and wrought a communion of God and man, we being unable to have any participation in incorruptibility if it were not for His coming to us, for incorruptibility, whilst being invisible, benefited us nothing: so He became visible, that we might, in all ways, obtain a participation in incorruptibility. And because we are all implicated in the first-formation of Adam, we were bound to death through the disobedience, it was fitting, therefore, by means of the obedience of the One, who on our account became man, to be loosed from death. Since death reigned over the flesh, it as necessary that, abolished through flesh, it release man from its oppression. So the Word became flesh that by means of the flesh which sin had mastered and seized and dominated, by this, it might be abolished and no longer be in us.” St. Irenaeus of Lyons, Demonstration of The Apostolic Preaching, 31. SVS Press.

    – Here it seems essential that in the same vessel that had fallen or lapsed or was ill or whatever expression may be used, it was that vessel, that humanity common to all of us which had to regain the mastery over sin.

    “If, then, the sojourn of the Lord in flesh has never taken place, the Redeemer paid not the fine to death on our behalf, nor through Himself destroyed death’s reign. For if what was reigned over by death was not that which was assumed by the Lord, death would not have ceased working his own ends, nor would the sufferings of the God-bearing flesh have been made our gain; He would not have killed sin in the flesh: we who had died in Adam should not have been made alive in Christ; the fallen to pieces would not have been framed again; the shattered would not have been set up again; that which by the serpent’s trick had been estranged from God would never have been made once more His own. All these gifts are undone by those that assert that it was with a heavenly body that the Lord came among us. And if the God-bearing flesh was not ordained to be assumed of the lump of Adam, what need was there of the Holy Virgin?… Hence it is evident that our Lord assumed the natural condition [of man] to establish His real incarnation, and not by way of semblance of incantation, and that all the affections derived from evil that besmirch the purity of our life, He rejected as unworthy of His unsullied Godhead. It is on this account that He is said to have been “made in the likeness of flesh of sin;” not, as these men hold, in likeness of flesh, but of flesh of sin. It follows that He took our flesh with its natural afflictions, but “did no sin.” Just as the death which is in the flesh, transmitted to us through Adam, was swallowed up by the Godhead, so was the sin taken away by the righteousness which is in Christ Jesus, so that in the resurrection we receive back the flesh neither liable to death nor subject to sin. These, brethren, are the mysteries of the Church; these are the traditions of the Fathers.”

    It seems, in my humble opinion, that Christ comes to reunite man to God, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” and I am not sure that the lapsarian descriptors are the best way to communicate this. Moreover, I am extremely wary of conversation which leads to thought of differentiation between our humanity and Christ. Whether in actuality, in theoria, etc, this seems to be a dangerous route and wholly unbiblical. If Adam is everyman and the forefather of us all, then it seems St. Paul, in describing Christ as the last or ultimate Adam, is communicating a notion very different from the thesis put forward by Fr. Emmanuel.

    I ask your prayers, father, and all those posting here :).

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Greetings, Peter. I am presently re-reading Fr John Meyendorff’s lengthy essay on christology, “Christ’s Humanity.” I hope to devote the next article in the series to his views on this very interesting question.

      Thank you for these helpful patristic citations.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      I also want to express my agreement with you that one’s understanding of original directly impacts how one understands the phrase “fallen human nature.” All one needs to do is to read the Oliver Quick essay cited in my article. One will be immediately struck by the difference between the Reformed understanding of original sin and both Orthodox and Catholic understandings. As Quick points out, within a scholastic Reformed context the claim that Christ assumed a fallen human nature would seem to automatically mean that Christ is a sinner. Clearly Met Kallistos does NOT intend to suggest that.

      One of the problems in discussing this issue is definitional. It’s never quite clear what people are both sides of the issue are asserting or criticizing. As a result they often end up talking past each other.

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    • apophaticallyspeaking says:

      Traditionally the church has situated the difference between Christ’s human nature and our human nature in that of the will. St Maximos’ exposition on the natural vs. the gnomic will provides by far the most insight into this issue. He situates the difference in the will, not passibility, weakness, pathos, and the like.

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    • Fr Aidan Kimel says:

      Peter, do you have any other quotations from Severus on humanity’s natural mortality? Have any of his writings that discuss this been translated into English?

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      • Peter Abdelmalak says:

        Fr. Aidan,

        There are certain collections of the works of St. Severus which have been translated into english, this includes some of his letters (the collection of his letters are available online in the translation by E.W. Brooks), his correspondence with Sergius the Grammarian which have been translated by Iain R. Torrance in his masterful study Christology After Chalcedon. Some of the hymns of St. Severus are available in an english translation as part of the Patrologia Orientalis.

        Robert Hespel has done a work on Severus’ engagement with Julian of Halicarnassus regarding the natural corruptibility of the humanity of the Logos Incarnate as opposed to Julian’s view that Christ’s humanity was always incorruptible. This work, Le Polemique Antijulianiste appears to be a landmark study in that regard but is unavailable to non-french readers like me :P. Lebon similarly has done a translation and study of Severus’ Ad Nephalium into french.

        However to fill the gap there came the PhD thesis of Yonatan Moss titled, In Corruption: Severus of Antioch on the Body of Christ published in 2013. His book, a reworking of his PhD thesis, has recently made it to press: Incorruptible Bodies: Christology, Society, and Authority in Late Antiquity (Christianity in Late Antiquity). My reading of his PhD thesis was that this was a fantastic study of St. Severus of Antioch’s attitude towards both the body of Christ as well as the body the Church, the Eucharistic body, and the corpus of the fathers as to their “corruptibility” or “incorruptibility”. This PhD thesis also included the first english translation of Severus’ important work, “Against Felicissimus”.

        There may be a couple of others that escape my attention but Pauline Allen’s Monograph on Severus (part of The Early Church Fathers series) may fill any gaps. I will give another reply with some passages of Severus which I have encountered on this topic.

        Asking your prayers,
        Peter

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        • Peter Abdelmalak says:

          Dear Fr. Aidan,

          “Man is by nature mortal, because he came into being from nothing. If however, he had continued to maintain his vision of God, he would have transcended the natural corruptibility and remained incorruptible.” St. Severus of Antioch, La Polemique Antijulianiste, pg 51. Tran: Samuels, V. C. The Council of Chalcedon Re-examined: A Historical and Theological Survey. (1977).

          “Again, if the first man had kept the commandment, and not gone astray after sin through the serpent’s deceitfulness, and lost the grace of immortality, having voluntarily drawn death upon himself, then creation itself also would have continued, acquiring for its own self the grace of immortality from God: for in accordance with the condition in which we are for whose sake it came into being its parts also pass away.” St. Severus of Antioch, Letter 27. Severus (of Antioch), and Athanasius (of Nisibis). The sixth book of the Select letters of Severus, patriarch of Antioch. Ed. Ernest Walter Brooks. Gregg International, 1969.

          “The sin of those who engendered us, viz. the sin of Adam and Eve, is not naturally mixed with our substance, as the evil and impious opinion of the Messalians, in other words the Manichees, claims, but because they (Adam and Eve) had lost the grace of immortality the judgement and the sentence reach down to us, when, following a natural disposition, we are born mortal insofar as we are born of mortal parents, but not sinners insofar as we are of sinful parents. For it is not true that sin is a nature and that it naturally passes from parents to their children.” St. Severus of Antioch, Julien d’Halicarnasse et sa controverse avec Severe d’Antioche sur L’incorruptibilitie du corps du Christ (Louvain 1924), Trans: Meyendorff, John. Christ in Eastern Christian Thought, Pg 227.

          “Because He assumed a mortal and corruptible body which, for this reason, was liable to suffer, along with the flesh he made his own its passions as well, While the flesh was suffering, it is affirmed that the Word Himself suffered. In this way we confess that He was crucified, and that He died. When the flesh endured the suffering, the Word was not there by himself.” St. Severus of Antioch, La Polemique Anti-julianiste. Trans: Samuel, V.C. The Council of Chalcedon Re- examined. Pg 376.

          “The first Adam, while he was mortal, knew Eve, his wife; and he became the father of us mortal children, who have been born of him. But the second Adam… assumed passible flesh, which was united healingly to Himself without blemish and sin. He left it to remain passible and mortal, in order that he might dissolve the dominion of death by words of justice, and not by power befitting God.” Ibid, p234.

          A passage of St. Severus where he is quoting St. Cyril, “Here again the quotation, which is inspired by God, of Cyril, who says as follows in the Treatise of address to the God-fearing emperor Theodosius: ‘Is it not then already known-for it is not unknown to anyone at all- that the Only-Begotten became like us, that is, fully man, in order that He might set free our earthly body from intrusive corruption, imparting his own life to it, in the economy through the union. But He made the human soul His own that He might show it superior to sin, and he imparted to it the firmness and unchangeableness of his own nature, as dye in the fleece… For Christ (was) the first man on earth who ‘did not sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth’. and again after a little, ‘But it is marvellous and there is no-one to whom it is not stupefying, that a body, which is corruptible by nature, should revive; for it belonged to the incorruptible Word. And again the soul, having obtained a combination like this (with him) and union, descended into Sheol using the power and authority appropriate to God, and appeared to the spirits there.’ And again he seals up the things said in the Treatise by adding this: ‘(There is) one Lord Jesus Christ, and through Him the Father created everything. Therefore he is both Creator as God, and Life-Giver as Life, and He is composed so as to become one in the middle from human properties and from those which are above man. For He is mediator between God and man, according to the Scriptures: for He is God by nature and not without with the flesh; while truly man, and not mere (man) like us, but he is he whom he was, even though he became flesh, for it is written ‘Jesus Christ) yesterday and today, the same forever.”Torrance, Iain (1998) [1988]. Christology after Chalcedon. Cambridge: Canterbury Press. pp 158-159. Letter 1 of St. Severus to Sergius the Grammarian.

          From Against Felicissimus as mentioned is translated in the PhD thesis by Yonatan Moss,
          “For, by its nature the body was mortal and corruptible and it was innately prone to dissolve back into the elemnts out of which it was composed. The body was not susceptible, however, to the operation of death, for man was not initially made to be subjected to death’s snares. Rather, he was made to be elevated above nature-to be immortal. He was to be preserved immortal, for everlasting life, by the Divine grace and will. For the natural state of things which demands that composites become decomposed cannot withstand the will of God. By the will and grace of God, this evil was not to have any effect on humans. Rather, mortality was to be swallowed up by life and nature was to be drawn up to Divine grace. But the beginning of sin and transgression realized the body’s potential for mortality and corruption. And henceforward death, which dissolves composite things in actual reality, made its beginning; while the soul, due to transgression, necessarily suffered separation from God. And the disturbing commotion of the passions-by which the body is known and on account of which it is called ‘corruptible’ consumed the soul as well. They come into being and grow by means of the passions of nature. It is thus clear that it was the transgression that first initiated the condemnation to corruption and death; and it was not the fact that Adam’s body had been composite (which made it innately prone to dissolve back into the elements of which it was composed). For it is not difficult for God, the maker of all, to remove corruption from the life of one who is overcome by corruption, like nature itself-and to preserve him for everlasting life.” Moss, Y. (2013). In Corruption: Severus of Antioch on the Body of Christ. unpublished doctoral dissertation, Yale University, New Haven. p81 footnote. However the full work comes in Appendix 3 of this same thesis.

          There is another interesting passage from St. Shenoute the Archimandrite which I thought you might find interesting, father:
          “Consider the pattern of humankind, through whom many things have (indeed) perished, or (consider) of what sort human likeness (eine) is. (When you do so) you will understand that, as for the likeness humankind took on when he sinned, along with the shame which resulted, the Lord came to dwell in that likeness for our sake when he became human (xm ptrefrrwme) (fo. 7rb), in order to bring humankind to its originary state (ar,h) and sinlessness, and to the initial beauty of the soul before it became unclean. Thus he made the soul clean and perfected humanity(afjek prwme).” Shenoute, When the Word Says,fos. 7ra–7rb (Depuydt, Catalogue, 148). Davis, S. J. (2008). Coptic Christology in practice: incarnation and divine participation in late antique and medieval Egypt. Oxford University Press, USA.

          Asking your prayers
          Peter

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  7. Tom says:

    Just a suggestion. Remove descriptions of human nature as “fallen” or “unfallen.” And for the moment, leave aside the pre- vs postlapsarian distinction. Let’s just describe the kinds of human experience we wish to attribute to Jesus.

    All the developmental stages of human life (gestation, birth, adolescence, adulthood, etc.)
    Ignorance
    Physical location and limitations
    Physical and psychological pain, alienation (Met Ware)
    Fatigue, weariness (Met Ware), loneliness (Met Ware)
    Hunger
    Mortality (death)
    The experience of temptation (Heb 4.15)
    Inward conflict (Met Ware)
    Bodily pain (Met Ware)

    These seem to be the experiences which define Jesus’ “fallen” human nature (for those who take that view). And I’ve inserted Met Ware’s descriptions.

    I don’t see any Christian denying that Christ experienced these things. They are the human experience of the Logos. He took the human journey in a fallen context defined by deep social, religious, spiritual, and political dysfunctions and depravities. He knows what we experience in the world of our experience. Obviously, he cannot know what’s it’s like to feel guilt for personal sin, to experience a sense of condemnation or shame before God, to be possessed of demons, or any number of experiences or dysfunctions characteristic of spiritual death.

    So the debate Fr Aidan refers to between those who say Jesus assumed a “fallen” human nature and those who say he did not would seem to reduce to a disagreement over whether or not the above human experiences are best described as “fallen” (“postlapsarian”) or “unfallen” (“prelapsarian”). But both sides agree Jesus was not a sinful human being in spite of these experiences and both agree the human life these experiences comprise are the Incarnate means by which God saves, redeems, and divinizes human beings.

    Those who say Jesus’ human nature was not “fallen” (as I prefer) are not suggesting Jesus never got tired, hungry, or fatigued, or that he was never tempted and wasn’t mortal, or that his life isn’t the locus of God’s salvation. And those who prefer to argue these experiences describe a “fallen” nature (as odd as that sounds to me) don’t mean to suggest Jesus was sinful. So I’m not seeing what’s at stake in this debate provided the experiences and their saving relevance are granted. (I do, however, think Mako’s claim that the Logos is not the subject of all Jesus’ experiences is not recognizably Christian.)

    My own sense is that hunger, fatigue, loneliness (which, however we read the narrative, Adam experienced prior to the Fall—no helper was found for Adam and “is not good for man to be alone”), mortality, bodily pain (if you held you hand in a fire), and being tempted are essentially prelapsarian human experiences given our finitude. Some of them are undeniably so.

    What’s extremely important to me in this discussion is the proper relating of the grace of Incarnation to human nature as such (thus prelapsarian), and with that the recognition that humanity doesn’t start needing the grace of Incarnation after the Fall.

    Tom

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    • makonagasawa says:

      Tom, perhaps I didn’t understand the scope of your question, so for that I apologize. I would not deny that the Logos is the subject of all the human *experiences* of Jesus. So, for instance, I’d be happy to say that God was a zygote, a fetus, and so on, all the way up to “Mary is the mother of God.” I am speaking retrospectively, from where we sit today, looking backward historically at Jesus’ earthly life. And I’m asking whether we need to distinguish between permanent properties of human nature per se (e.g. finite, bodily, etc.) vs. temporary properties that are simply part of human experience (e.g. was a fetus) vs. what we are discussing now, which is (potentially) the temporary, fallen property of struggling against temptation from within sinful flesh, and bearing it to its death, successfully and faithfully.

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  8. Mary Lanser says:

    Just an aside: As a Catholic I was always taught that the Immaculate Conception had nothing to do with the human nature of the Incarnate. There was, in other words, no theological necessity for the teaching of the Immaculate Conception. That it was a gratuitous gift from God whose resulting state was similar to the state that we enter upon Baptism with our newly illumined nous and strengthened will and memory. We all, including the Immaculate Conception, suffer, die and corrupt. I don’t seek to take this wonderful thread off on a tangent. I don’t offer this as argument. Just something to consider as we think these things through.

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    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      Hoping not to be inappropriately tangential, I would say “no theological necessity for the teaching of the Immaculate Conception” sounds correct (as far as I know). Did anyone in Church history (until fairly recently) understand the Theotokos to be personally sinful after her birth? The discussion as I have encountered it, was one of whether she was rendered Immaculate in utero but after conception (which, e.g., has been understood of St. John the Baptist – I am not sure how widely/universally), or whether her Saving/being rendered Immaculate could be/was simultaneous with her conception. Any Marian Immaculate Conception has (universally?) been understood as a natural Immaculate Conception – i.e., not occurring absent contribution of St. Joachim.

      Whether Marian natural Immaculate Conception or Marian natural maculate conception and Immaculate Birth were contended, the Son taking flesh from one free of actual personal sin was always contended. But the Immaculate Flesh of the Son was taken/received of the actually Immaculata in a human-fatherlessly-other-than-natural Immaculate Conception of His Own which did not depend on a prior Marian natural Immaculate Conception.

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  9. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    As others have already suggested above, is not a shared orthodox starting point a radical continuity of the Divinely-Filially-Enhypostatized Human Nature with absolutely every instance of humanly-enhypostatized human nature (to use Chalcedonian language), whatever else that implies?

    Is there not equally a shared orthodox perception that Unfallen (which proved Prelapsarian) human nature would have needed and so awaited a perfection beyond simple indefinite continuity in its initial Unfallenness/Immaculacy?

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    • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

      There seems (as far as I know) a wide spectrum of Patristic speculations concerning the characteristics of humanly-enhypostatized human nature in its initial Unfallenness/Immaculacy, which, however, share a perception of its susceptibility to sin. (Are there any that contend it was insusceptible to deadly injury? Or devoid of some sort of experienced metabolic need of nourishment?)

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