The Synod of Jerusalem (different than the biblical “Council of Jerusalem”) was an Eastern Orthodox council which was convened in 1672 to deal with the influences of Reformed theology (particularly that of Calvin) on the Orthodox Church. While this council is not without its modern Orthodox retractors, it was at the time thought to be a definitive and dogmatic pronouncement of the Orthodox faith. It was the Eastern Orthodox “Council of Trent.” From this Synod came the Confession of Dositheus.

Let me give you a brief overview of the Orthodox faith concerning Predestination according to this council.

Having affirmed their commitment to the authority of the church as being equal to that of Scripture (“Wherefore, the witness also of the Catholic [Orthodox] Church is, we believe, not of inferior authority to that of the Divine Scriptures”), the statement then proceeds to give an Eastern Orthodox understanding of Predestination:

“We believe the most good God to have from eternity predestinated unto glory those whom He has chosen, and to have consigned unto condemnation those whom He has rejected; but not so that He would justify the one, and consign and condemn the other without cause.”

The key here is that while believing in predestination, they do not believe that it is “without cause.” The agent of the cause is not God’s sovereign will, as is the case in the “unconditional predestination” of Calvinists, but in man’s free will.

“But since He foreknew the one would make a right use of their free-will, and the other a wrong, He predestinated the one, or condemned the other.”

Man’s “right use” of their own freedom is the boundary line which ultimately decides the predestination and fate of the individual. Here, there is no difference between the Orthodox, Arminian, and Catholic understanding of predestination. 

All Christian traditions have rejected Pelagianism. Therefore, they don’t believe that we are born neutral, like Adam in the Garden. Every Christian tradition believes in what is called “inherited sin.” Inherited sin is the “infection” of sin that is part of our nature. We sin because we are sinners (or corrupted). It is who we are. In this we inherit death. While the Orthodox have always rejected the concept of “imputed sin” (i.e. we are condemned for Adam’s sin), they accept that we are born with a debilitating sinful nature that makes us unable to willfully choose God without divine assistance. Therefore, in order for one to make “right use of their free-will” there must be some type of “mediating” grace that makes the person able to choose God. In this vain, the confession goes on:

“And we understand the use of free-will thus, that the Divine and illuminating grace, and which we call preventing [or, prevenient] grace, being, as a light to those in darkness, by the Divine goodness imparted to all, to those that are willing to obey this — for it is of use only to the willing, not to the unwilling — and co-operate with it, in what it requires as necessary to salvation, there is consequently granted particular grace.”

Notice, the Orthodox church, like Arminians and Catholics, must explain the genesis of belief in a fallen, broken, will-tainted world. While Catholics and Orthodox do not see this corruption as radical as Protestants (hence the often levied charge of semi-Pelagianism) and do not call it “total” depravity, they nonetheless recognize that we need help. This genesis of our faith comes by way of “illuminating” or “preventing” grace. This grace goes before salvation and is given universally. It is the grace that enables or helps a person to believe. Once the person believes, they are then among the predestined (so long as they persevere in their belief). More from the confession on this point:

“This grace co-operates with us, and enables us, and makes us to persevere in the love of God, that is to say, in performing those good things that God would have us to do, and which His preventing grace admonishes us that we should do, justifies us, and makes us predestinated.”

For those who do not respond or co-operate with God’s grace:

“But those who will not obey, and co-operate with grace; and, therefore, will not observe those things that God would have us perform, and that abuse in the service of Satan the free-will, which they have received of God to perform voluntarily what is good, are consigned to eternal condemnation.”

Concerning a rejection of salvation by faith alone, the Protestant’s central distinctive doctrine, this Orthodox confession here is very clear:

“We believe a man to be not simply justified through faith alone, but through faith which works through love, that is to say, through faith and works. But [the idea] that faith can fulfill the function of a hand that lays hold on the righteousness which is in Christ, and can then apply it unto us for salvation, we know to be far from all Orthodoxy. For faith so understood would be possible in all, and so none could miss salvation, which is obviously false. But on the contrary, we rather believe that it is not the correlative of faith, but the faith which is in us, justifies through works, with Christ.”

Most specifically, the confession clearly condemns all the Reformed assigning them to be among the “most wicked heretics”:

“But to say, as the most wicked heretics do and as is contained in the Chapter [of Cyril’s’ Confession] to which this answers — that God, in predestinating, or condemning, did not consider in any way the works of those predestinated, or condemned, we know to be profane and impious.”

Reformed Protestants believe that man is depraved and unable to co-operate with God in any way. The solution for Reformed Protestants is not an appeal to an “enabling” grace, but to a saving grace. This grace does not merely come to the aid of man, but completely regenerates the elect. While Reformed protestants believe in previenient grace, we don’t believe that its purpose is to aid all men or to make choosing God universally possible. We don’t believe that God’s predestination is based on foreseen faith, but on God’s sovereign mysterious choice. God’s saving grace comes only to the elect and does not regard their actions, good or evil. The Reformed Protestant’s major complaint concerning previenient or “enabling” grace is not that it does not make sense, but that it is unbiblical.

It is interesting how an essential aspect of the soteriology (doctrine of salvation) of Catholics, Arminians, and Orthodox all rest on the doctrine previenient grace. In my opinion it is the Achilles heel of their entire system. Without previenient grace, they would be forced to become Pelagians or Calvinists. I would choose the latter!

Again, while the Confession of Dositheus is not necessarily universally accepted among the Orthodox, I think it accurately represents the Orthodox attitude toward depravity, predestination, and faith. Hope you found it interesting.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    55 replies to "An Eastern Orthodox View of Predestination"

    • jmp

      Michael,
      I found this very interesting, as my prayer partner of 14 years is Greek Orthodox. The differences in our confessions rarely come up. Even though we come from different doctrines, we come together over our love for Christ and His authority. Thanks for the article.

    • […] C. Michael Patton writes: […]

    • William Birch

      God’s saving grace comes only to the elect and does not regard their actions, good or evil. The Reformed Protestant’s major complaint concerning previenient or “enabling” grace is not that it does not make sense, but that it is unbiblical.

      Unbiblical or not commensurate with Calvinistic presuppositions? The difference is paramount. Since prevenient grace is grace which precedes, as stated in such places as Ephesians 2:8, Romans 2:4 and John 6:44 et al., then are you being fair in calling it “unbiblical”?

      Also, how is it that any semblance of the so-called “doctrines of grace” are missing from the first four hundred years of Church history (prior to Augustine)? Did first- and second-century believers cease devoting themselves to the apostles’ (allegedly Calvinistic) teachings (Acts 2:42)? Such issues are treated on my post tomorrow. I look forward to reading comments on this subject.

      God bless.

    • Luke

      The Achilles heel of reformed soteriology is total depravity, but complete inability and a unilateral divine action is not only unbiblical but anti-biblical. It is interesting how any soteriological argument with Calvinists always comes down to total depravity. The entire system rests on this one belief. Take it away and all the dominos fall down. Without it they would be forced to become Pelagians or Arminians…I would choose the latter!

      Prevenient grace is dripping off every page of Scripture, CMP. Just because nobody can quote a proof-text that defines it doesn’t mean it’s not there. Like free will, it’s assumed on every page. The term and concept is just a way to make sense of what’s obviously there. Please don’t act like Calvinists are “strictly biblical” and aren’t guilty of this. The system of TULIP is all that needs to be mentioned to refute that.

    • William Birch

      In light of Luke’s comments, which I am not trying to refute (so please, no one take it as such), Arminius held to Total Depravity and Total Inability and still maintained that neither Scripture nor the doctrine of Depravity necessitated either Unconditional Election or the theory that regeneration precedes faith:

      “In this state, the Free Will of man towards the True Good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent and . . . weakened; but it is also . . . imprisoned, destroyed, and lost: And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace” (Works, 2:192).

      In another place he states: “Besides, even true and living faith in Christ precedes regeneration strictly taken” (Works, 2:498), to which Scripture also attests (cf. Col. 2:13).

      I think the issue of Grace here regards irresistibility or resistibility. Arminius affirms the absolute necessity of God’s “grace” (or work through the Holy Spirit), but believed that it was not irresistible (cf. Acts 7:51; 2 Cor. 6:1 et al.).

    • drwayman

      Just a bit about Armianism.

      The crux of Arminian theology is NOT prevenient grace. Arminian theology centers around the character of God. We believe that if you get the character of God from a plenary Biblical perspective, then many of the things that Calvinist’s defend (for example, sovereignty) will fall into place, congruent with God’s Word.

      Hence, one of the differences is the belief in the irresistibility of God’s prevenient grace. Arminians believes that God’s character is distorted with the belief that God irresistibly brings people to Him. I fear that many Christians emphasize God’s justice, sovereignty, etc at the expense of some of His other characteristics such as love, compassion, etc.

    • jc_freak

      Michael: To say Arminian theology is based upon prevenient grace is like saying that Calvinist theology is based on unconditional election! So… Yeah, not really disagreeing with you.

      Where I do disagree with you is that prevenient grace is more consistant with divine revelation than unconditional election, not to mention limited atonement, perserverance of the saints, absolute meticulous predestination of all things, and irresistable grace.

    • jc_freak

      Luke and drwayman:

      I think a helpful distinction is distinctive doctrine verses core doctrine, which might help to talk about the importance of the doctrines you mentioned. I wrote an essay on it here.

      To summarize, a core doctrine is a doctrine that lies at the center of the theology: that which the theological system is founded upon. For Calvinism that would be God’s sovereignty and humanity’s inability to save themselves. For Arminianism, that would be the character of God, and the responsibility of humanity for sin. However, just because these doctrines are core doesn’t mean that they are unique to the systeme. Indeed, all of the doctrines i just mentioned are believed by both parties.

      A distinctive doctrine is a doctrine that is unique to a particular perspective and thus identifies it. The primary distinctive doctrine of Augustinianism, and thus Calvinism, is unconditional election. For Semiaugustinianism, and thus Arminianism, it is prevenient grace.

      To Luke, I would also like to add that I agree with Billy. Total Depravity and Total Inability are aspects of Arminian theology. Without them, you are not truly Arminian.

    • Rick

      “The Reformed Protestant’s major complaint concerning previenient or “enabling” grace is not that it does not make sense, but that it is unbiblical.”

      As is already being seen by some good comments/responses, did you really want to go there?

    • Lisa Colón DeLay

      When I read Calvin’s Institutes, I was quite surprised to read that Calvin would probably fall in the range of being a 2.5 point Calvinist. A lot of generalities, assumptions of the unknown, and over simplifications are a must to agree with the TULIP points.

      I do have a question for the Calvinists out there that I’ve considered, and I’d love to have some feedback about. I would deeply appreciate your help.

      If one takes away the story of Adam and Eve (say it wasn’t included in the Bible, or it was understood to be making a point to the Hebrews about why women (and their off spring tend to not like snakes,) or what have you– what is another way to understand “original sin”?

      It is important to note that Augustine, was of great inspiration to the Reformers and the doctrine that were cemented as concrete. Augustine the man who fathered an illegitimate child, and could not stay away from prostitutes, for the greater part of his life. He was a man consumed with lust, and his personal battled with concupiscence enough that it overshadowed much of his thoughts. It led him to think, much in Greek and gnostic fashion, in dualistic terms… such as, “Our bodies are material and therefore sinful. So too, therefore sex. period.” The (his) Immaculate Conception doctrine relies on his understanding of Original Sin, and sexual relationships (even between heterosexual married couples) is part and parcel of a fallen, fully depraved nature. So, of course, he arrives at the notion that Mary was pure enough to be the God-bearer, because of the [assumed] fact that her parents, by a miracle, did not lust as they conceived her.

      This is weighty stuff with many presuppositions that influences the now famous 5 points. But none of it gives us too satisfying an answer to why.

      I’d like to hear your thoughts, everyone. I hope they include more than scripture proofs pried from their greater context.

      (I’d appreciate reading your comments as posted at my blog site: (click my name to get there) Or posted at *both* places -parchment and pen and at my blog mini-post.

      thank you!

    • Luke

      jc freak,

      Thanks for the words. I don’t make the claim to be Arminian. Anthropologically I would probably be closer to Eastern Orthodox. To be quite honest, as Lisa says above, I don’t see any other way around Augustine being Gnostic in his anthropology, and his background (Manichean) confirms that this was a part of his thinking. If Arminians have an Augistinian anthropology (which I take to be synonymous with total depravity), then I believe they are flirting with Gnosticism.

      Granted, I don’t think humans can “save themselves.” I know of no Christian who says such a ridiculous thing. However, when I read about or have heard “total depravity” taught about, I have always been left scratching my head. For one thing, it has to be completely read into Genesis 3. For another, it’s not emphasized in the slightest in Scripture. It’s tough to get from a belief where all humans need God and have sinned to all humans from the moment of conception are dirty little balls of sin infected with a sinful nature from the DNA of the sperm of man. This just sounds kind of silly, and I have a tough time seeing how it’s not Gnostic (body bad, spirit good).

      All humans are separated from God, the true source of life, as a result of sin in the world, and are thus like cut flowers. We all need grace and salvation which is impossible apart from Christ. Sin and humanity are two separate entities; they are not one and the same thing. If this makes me un-Arminian, then so be it. It’s probably closer to Orthodoxy, and in my opinion more faithful to what the Bible (including Paul in Romans 5) teaches.

    • wm tanksley

      Luke, “total depravity” doesn’t mean that humans are balls of sin, nor does it mean “body bad spirit good” (on the contrary!). Total depravity means that every part of man is deprived of ability to believe in God by sin. “Every part” includes the spirit, of course. Total depravity means that there is nothing within us, in any of our parts or abilities, that gives us the power to seek God.

      The closest anlogue is the Eastern Orthodox concept of the gnomic will and human man’s lack of a natural will. Because man lacks a knowledge of His greatest good (God), he must use gnomic will to guess at a greatest good, which is usually not God. This lack is a depravity, and because it’s not made up in any other part of man, the depravity is total.

      Also, you say “sin and humans are two separate entities”. Sin is not an entity. Yes, to sin is not necessary to be human, as is shown by Christ and by the ressurected ones of whom He is the firstfruit.

      -Wm

    • wm tanksley

      Prevenient grace is dripping off every page of Scripture, CMP. Just because nobody can quote a proof-text that defines it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

      Do you believe that prevenient grace is given to all humans? If God denies it to anyone, why?

      -Wm

    • […] C. Michael Patton has a post about prevenient grace and Eastern Orthodoxy. He writes: It is interesting how an essential aspect […]

    • Isaac

      No Orthodox worth his salt would deny the authority of this Council or the Orthodoxy of the Confession of Dositheos, btw. Some might complain that its theological language borrowed heavily from the West, but it has been accepted and assented to by the Orthodox Church worldwide.

    • C Michael Patton

      Except that they may reject the canon as proclaimed here?

    • […] adamant that Calvinism must be rebuked. (You can read Patton’s commentary on this document, here) Dositheus, by the mercy of God, Patriarch of Jerusalem, to those that ask and inquire concerning […]

    • Lucian

      Total depravity means that every part of man is deprived of ability to believe in God by sin.

      The ability to fulfill God’s will and actually follow Christ, not the ability to wish for and desire one’s salvation: the latter does not materialize itself unless by the grace of God; and is instilled in us by the inner voice of our own conscience, itself a gift of God, and by the hearing of the Gospel, another gift of God. At first, it’s powerless, but if we continue in it and do not let go, despite our innitial inability to put it into practice, God will not leave us deserted and unaided, and -out of His great love for us- will show His mercy and strengthen the ones desperately crying out to Him for help.

    • MG

      Isaac,

      If we are evaluating Dosethius by the standard of the consensus of the Fathers, do you think it fits with or diverges from the Fathers’ view on infant damnation? When I read the Confession, it sure sounds like its teaching that unbaptized infants are damned. Thus its hard for me to see how it is not diverging from their teaching (Irenaeus, Chrysostom, the Cappadocians, and numerous other important Fathers would disagree with the idea that unbaptized infants are damned).

      And I think Mr. Patton’s point about the canon is worth considering too.

    • MG

      Mr. Patton,

      What do you take to be the Orthodox understanding of prevenient grace?

    • Perry Robinson

      CMP,

      Actually it is a mistake to say that there is no difference relative to foreknowledge between the Catholic, Othodox and Arminian positions.

      First, Catholicism is committed to the falsity of the teaching of predestination based on foreseen merit or activity. This is clearly spelled out in Aquinas, Scotus and plenty of other Catholic theologians and concilar statements. Aquinas is quite clear for example that God predestines because he loves some people more than others. ( ST, Ia. Q. 23, a. 3.) So lumping Rome in with Arminians is a mistake. Nor will it help to appeal to Molinism as a theological option since Molinism is circumstantial predestarianism and isn’t compatible with the libertarian conditions on free will. Rome is as predestinarian (and monergistic) as Calvinism or Lutheranism.

      There are other substantial differences between the positions that are lumped together. Arminians and Catholics affirm that God is the efficient and final cause of creatures, but they deny that God is the formal cause of creatures, whereas the Orthodox affirm all three. This is important because when Arminians affirm that under the influence of (prevenient) grace human nature is capable of moving itself to faith they do so on the basis of a view of nature that is more in line with the Catholic conception, even though Catholicism is predestinarian and Arminianism is not. The fault line then is on the nature of and the relation between nature and grace and this motivates the Arminian/Calvinist argument. The Reformed are worried about nature as something apart from grace doing anything meritorious. To exclude that option they go so far as to preclude nature having the power to even participate in grace under the influence of grace. Human activityin justification is precluded altogether.

      For the Orthodox the worry is not there because human nature is of grace in the first place because God is the formal cause of creatures. Human nature then retains its natural powers…

    • Perry Robinson

      CMP,

      For the Orthodox the worry is not there because human nature is of grace in the first place because God is the formal cause of creatures. Human nature then retains its natural powers after the fall, just not to the full degree of efficacy as prior to it. The bulb is still a bulb and still burns, just not as brightly. The theological virtues then are not supernatural in that they are infused into nature but rather are natural things produced according to the plan and telos of human nature and so are appropriate to it. Grace is not external to nature since human nature is not an autonomously existing and analogically related thing to God in the first thing. Human nature is an eternal logos, energy or activity in God that is deity and this is why human choices could never alter it per se or causeit to loose any of its essential constituents.

      And this brings us to the Reformed view, which is actually Pelagian, for Pelagianism was a thesis about the relation of nature to grace, of which salvation by eternal aid only was a consequence. Pelagianism was the thesis that nature was grace and that righteousness was intrinsic to and a constituent of nature. Hence the Reformed view of total depravity depends on a Pelagian anthropology. This is why the Reformed must view the divine image as lost or as losing some of its intrinsic constituents. Otherwise they’d be stuck with full blown Pelagianism after the fall. But the Covenant of Works enjoined on Adam prior to the fall is pure Pelagianism.

    • Perry Robinson

      CMP,
      What distinguishes the Orthodox view from the Pelagian view is that the Pelagians took Adam to be virtuous from creation and hence made no distinction between image and likeness. Rather since they took nature to be grace, they conflated these two. That is, they made no distinction between natural goodness and acquired goodness. Or another way to put it is that they failed to distinguish between natural goodness and personal goodness. This is why Augustine’s key point against the Pelagians was that grace was added to nature. From an Orthodox point of view, we distinguish not so much between nature and grace, but between the potentiality of the imago dei (image) and its actualization (likeness) and that the latter cannot be attained apart from divine power. This explains why it is possible for persons to have the beginnings of faith without monergistic regeneration yet that the fullness of faith in love that pleases God cannot be had apart from divine aid. As Paul says, the good he wishes to do, but cannot accomplish and as James says, the works make faith living as the soul makes the body live. Hence the Orthodox distinguish between human activity and meritorious human activity.

      A few other points. Strictly speaking, not for Augustine and not for the Orthodox is there such a thing as a sinful nature. Sin has no logos or nature. Our human nature is corrupted in that it lacks the requisite degree of divine power to function fully and appropriately, but the nature itself remains intact. If it didn’t, it would overturn God’s sovereign will since human choice could then thwart what God had determined human nature to be. It is only on the Reformed view where the image is lost in terms of loosing some of its essential constituents that talk of a “sinful nature” makes sense.

    • Perry Robinson

      CMP,

      What distinguishes the Orthodox view from the Pelagian view is that the Pelagians took Adam to be virtuous from creation and hence made no distinction between image and likeness. Rather since they took nature to be grace, they conflated these two. That is, they made no distinction between natural goodness and acquired goodness. Or another way to put it is that they failed to distinguish between natural goodness and personal goodness. This is why Augustine’s key point against the Pelagians was that grace was added to nature. From an Orthodox point of view, we distinguish not so much between nature and grace, but between the potentiality of the imago dei (image) and its actualization (likeness) and that the latter cannot be attained apart from divine power. This explains why it is possible for persons to have the beginnings of faith without monergistic regeneration yet that the fullness of faith in love that pleases God cannot be had apart from divine aid. As Paul says, the good he wishes to do, but cannot accomplish and as James says, the works make faith living as the soul makes the body live. Hence the Orthodox distinguish between human activity and meritorious human activity.

      A few other points. Strictly speaking, not for Augustine and not for the Orthodox is there such a thing as a sinful nature. Sin has no logos or nature. Our human nature is corrupted in that it lacks the requisite degree of divine power to function fully and appropriately, but the nature itself remains intact. If it didn’t, it would overturn God’s sovereign will since human choice could then thwart what God had determined human nature to be. It is only on the Reformed view where the image is lost in terms of loosing some of its essential constituents that talk of a “sinful nature” makes sense.

    • Perry Robinson

      CMP,
      Since the human will and its freedom is also of grace since creation ex nihilo is of grace, both efficiently and formally, grace in terms of achieving divine likeness of theosis is always co-operating, otherwise, grace would be opposed to grace. Divine aid doesn’t extinguish or override human nature. So again, the fault line is the Pelagian thesis of the Reformed that in the pre-lapsarian condition, nature is grace or that righteousness is a constituent of the imago dei.

      Semi-Pelagianism is the thesis that human nature of its own powers can move itself to the first meritorious act of salvation apart from grace. It is not the thesis of synergism and for a few reasons. First because Augustine was a synergist with respect to justification, that is, he included human activity to produce merit or a pleasing state of the soul, under the influence of grace. This is why he distinguished between operating and co-operating grace. The idea that we co-operate with grace is not the idea that human nature is autonomous in relation to grace, either in the first act of salvation or any subsequent act.

    • Perry Robinson

      CMP,

      As for the condemnation of sola fide, this harkens back to our discussion some months ago when you claimed on the basis of Bradley Nassif’s remarks that the Orthodox endorse the thesis of Sola Fide. I conversed with Nassif on this point and it was clear that not only were you mistaken, but Nassif didn’t know what Sola Fide was and had confused it with the thesis of Sola Gratia.

      The problem with the Reformed view of “saving grace” is that it entails a monothelitism in Christology since the divine will determines the human will in Christ resulting in monothelitism/monoenergism. Since the latter is to be rejected, the former which implies it is also false. The intersection point of humanity and divinity in terms of will is not between God and humanity in general, but the divine and the human in Christ. Reformed theology is mistakenly anthropocentric in its structuring of theology.

    • Perry Robinson

      Wm. Tanksley,

      Total depravity means that the imago dei has lost some of its instrinsic constituents and been intrinsically altered.

      As for the gnomic will, I think your gloss is mistaken. Man never lacks a natural will because the natural will refers to the natural power of choice. The gnomic will refers to a mode or a way of willing, that is, gnomically. To do so is a way a person uses their natural power of choice and it is such a way as yet unfixed or aligned with the natural good telos of their nature. To will gnomically is in part due to ignorance, since creatures confuse real with apparent goods. The gnomic will is not morally blameworthy since it is a product of creation. And so it is not part or a consequence of the fall. Gnomic willing turns on the distinction between logos and tropos, or nature and person. Adam therefore at creation willed gnomically because he was not yet righteous, but only innocent.

      • John Clare

        “Total Depravity” can mean different things and it is necessary to grasp this before we can discuss it. It can mean that human nature is everywhere as bad as it can be, or nowhere as good as it could be. If the latter, then it becomes more acceptable as a human condition.

    • Bobby Grow

      I think Perry’s points are well taken. I would like to add one more wrinkle to this that Perry has spoken to, and that is a Reformed theosis. Really all I have time for at the moment is to quote a fellow that I’m currently studying with, Myk Habets. This is from his published PhD diss on Theosis in the Theology of Thomas Torrance (p. 32). It reflects somewhat of a mediating view between the “Reformed” and the “Greek Orthodox”; Myk says of Torrance’s anthropology:

      If humanity is created to know God and to revel in the joy of this knowledge brings (worship), then theosis is the attainment of that knowledge and the joyous communion it creates. The problem with this is, of course, the fact that humanity has fallen. Any discussion of humanity created in the imago Dei must deal with the fact of the Fall and its consequences. For Torrance, the Fall of humanity resulted in total depravity, in Calvinistic fashion. Total depravity does not entail, according to Torrance’s reading of Reformed theology, a thorough ontological break in humanity’s relation with God, but it does mean the essential relation in which true human nature is grounded has been perverted and turned into its opposite, something which only makes sense in a relational-teleological understanding of the imago Dei. Sin is properly of the mind and drags humanity into an active rebellion against God. It is only by the grace of God that human beings still exist at all. The imago Dei is not destroyed by the Fall but ‘continues to have over man as a destiny which he can realise no longer, and as a judgment upon his actual state of perversity’. As a consequence, Torrance follows Barth and Calvin in maintaining that the imago Dei can now only be found in Jesus Christ, not in the creature properly speaking. He writes, ‘ . . . justification by grace alone declares in no uncertain terms that fallen man is utterly destitute of justitia originalis or imago dei. It must be imputed by…

    • Bobby Grow

      continued quote above

      . . . free grace’.

      There are tensions within Torrance’s anthropology (as in Calvin’s). On the one hand he argues the imago is an inherent rationality within all humans. On the other hand he argues the imago no longer remains in the creature after the Fall as creatures are utterly depraved. The sole existence of the imago Dei is found in Christ and in those in communion with him. For sure this communion is only possible through the incarnate Son and by the Holy Spirit, but the inherent capacity for communion with God is there nontheless. How do we account for this tension? Our options are, as I see it, twofold: first, Torrance is inconsistent, or second, there is a deeper explanation. It is my conviction that Torrance is so influcenced by Calvin’s anthropology that he adopts his ‘perspectival approach’, to use Engel’s words. From the perspective of traditionally conceived explanations of the imago Dei in substantial terms, the imago Dei has been obliterated in fallen creatures. And yet, from a christological perspective the imago is present, incipiently, as all humans have a capacity for God because the incarnation proleptically conditions creation. Outside of a saving relationship with Christ this avails them the condemnation of God. Savingly reconciled to Christ his Imago becomes theirs through the Holy Spirit. In this way Christ alone naturally possess the imago Dei, he shares this realised imago with creatures by grace, and those not in Christ ‘make more out of the imago dei than they ought’ as they ‘continue to sin against the Word and Law of God’. (Habets, p.32-3)

    • Bobby Grow

      continued from above

      So, for the Reformed view that Torrance offers (according to Myk):

      1) Creation has always been conditioned by redemption (proleptically/eschatologically).

      2) Nature and grace our both grounded in the hypostatic union of the eternal Word particularized for us in the Man, Jesus of Nazareth.

      3) Grace then is not in conflict or seen to be perfecting nature, instead it is ‘personalising’ by the Son through the Spirit.

      4) Man’s imago dei is broken in the ‘Fall’ (Reformed), but capacity for God is proleptically maintained through the grace of God’s Imago as grounded in the ‘nature’ of the Son and so ‘realised’ in the externalisation of the antecedent life of God in the hypostatic union of God and man in the Incarnate person of Jesus.

      5) This allows for the relation of nature and grace, but seen in personalising (not created) terms so that humanity becomes who they were intended to be (eschatologically/redemptively) not by nature but fully by the grace extended to them in the enhypostatic humanity of the Son for them.

      I should end on 5 points, it’s fitting.

      In agreement with Perry, though, I find it troubling to hear Patton say that Calvinists don’t believe in cooperative salvation. In fact (see Richard Muller on created grace in his Theological Latin Dictionary) Classic Calvinists clearly appropriate the Thomist/Aristotelian notion of substance metaphysics and the attendant implications of grace as a quality that god imparts by the Holy Spirit to the elect by which they are enabled to cooperate with God by upholding the conditions of the covenant of works (albeit through enabling or Aquinas’ operative grace mediated by Christ). I think Patton fails to engage some of the issues that Torrance ably reifies in ways that are both personal and Trinitarian in re. to predestination/election nature/grace etc.

    • wm tanksley

      The Reformed are worried about nature as something apart from grace doing anything meritorious. To exclude that option they go so far as to preclude nature having the power to even participate in grace under the influence of grace. Human activity in justification is precluded altogether.

      That’s accurate, but the Reformed differ from the Roman Catholics in making a distinction between justification (which is entirely imputed, not merited) and sanctification (which follows regeneration). Sanctification is the process which conforms us to the image of the Son. (Hmm, does this sanctification bear any parallel to the Eastern Orthodox ‘theosis’?)

      Anyhow, although the Reformed allow no human activity in justification, human desire and activity is intrinsic to sanctification, even though it all originates in God’s work and not man’s. And sanctification is essential to salvation.

      -Wm

    • C Michael Patton

      I might nuance that a bit…

      The reformed understanding of justification, while monergistic, does not necessarily say that the human will is not involved. It is that God regenerates the human will so that it does, thought a restored relationship, according to its new nature—accept God. Sanctification follows suit. Both are monergistic, but neither goes without human instrumental activity.

      “It is God who is at work in you both to will and do his good pleasure.”

    • Bobby Grow

      What classical Reformed theology is missing is a robust vicarious humanity of Christ wherein we respond out of Jesus ‘Yes’ to the Father on our behalf; thus the point on a ‘personalising’ of the person instead of speaking about grace and cooperation in instrumentalist terms which is to imply that the ‘humanity’ that Jesus assumed was just “instrumental” (determined by creation); thus fitting into a docetic understanding of both the Incarnation and salvation nexus.

      Are you sure you want to use the language of “instrumental” CMP?

    • wm tanksley

      This is why the Reformed must view the divine image as lost or as losing some of its intrinsic constituents. Otherwise they’d be stuck with full blown Pelagianism after the fall. But the Covenant of Works enjoined on Adam prior to the fall is pure Pelagianism.

      The following includes my speculations in an attempt to shape questions so that I may learn:

      One of my confusions here is the strength of your claims about the divine image. I wasn’t aware that any Reformed professed to know what the divine image was; and you say that not only they all know what it is, but they dissect it in order to profess that part of it is lost. I’m trying to figure that out, and my best guess is that you’re using the EO definition of the image of God (with which I’m not familiar) to discuss Reformed categories that the Reformed don’t necessarily assign to the image of God. (I can’t totally dismiss the possibility that I’m simply inexcusably ignorant, but the Reformed uniformly deny that Total Depravity means that any part is destroyed, while you claim that it does mean that.)

      With that said, I admit that your last claim sounds plausible to me. I think the closest the Reformed come to escaping this is by pointing out that man actually failed to fulfill this covenant; Pelagius claimed that man could actually fulfill it. This does suggest that the superlapsarian order is least Pelagian, since only it affirms no logical possibility of man gaining sanctification by his own efforts. (What do you think about that?)

      -Wm

    • C Michael Patton

      Bobby, I have no clue what you just said. But yes, I did use the term instrumental. 🙂

      But how I used it has no relation to docetism. Not sure how you built a bridge there!

      Seems like we have a serious case of the East and West language issues where boats are sailing right passed each other. I really think that this discussion, as I have seen it thus far, is pretty counterproductive until terms are defined.

    • wm tanksley

      Seems like we have a serious case of the East and West language issues where boats are sailing right passed each other.

      From my admittedly limited reading, this has been a persistent problem since the original Latin/Greek divide.

      Doesn’t the modern Coptic church claim that this is exactly the problem with mono/miaphysitism? And this (it’s widely conceded) was the actual problem with Nestorius himself (although some of his followers actually were Nestorian heretics, Nestorius himself almost certainly wasn’t).

      -Wm

    • Bobby Grow

      CMP,
      Actually what you’ve said or what system you work out of does presuppose some christological problems. I’m writing this from my phone so I’ll be back later. I’ll just say though that if you ground election in impersonal decrees vs Christ then you have an instrumentalist view that sees Jesus’ humanity as a means to a salvific end, and once that end is met his humanity becomes incosequential. Anyway, I’ll be back . . . You haven’t read TF Torrance have you?

    • wm tanksley

      Bobby Grow, I’d like to hear more; I’m not understanding right now.

      I’ll just say though that if you ground election in impersonal decrees

      The decree of God the Father is not impersonal.

      -Wm

    • Bobby Grow

      WM,

      In what way is it personal?

      CMP,

      I think I won’t try to develop the premises of what I said earlier any further. It’s going to require defining and presenting a whole bunch of new lexica and grammar that won’t be easy to do in the combox here.

      I’ll just say that I’m speaking, in qualified ways, from Barth’s and TF Torrance’s critique of the classical construal of the “absolute decrees” and their impact upon a doctrine of God and then subsequently on theories of salvation. I’m just, really, wanting to alert you to the fact that you haven’t covered all of the available ground in your post and that in fact you’ve actually over-looked a very substantial reframing of the ‘Reformed’ approach to articulating a doctrine of God and salvation.

      I think you should read Torrance’s “Christian Doctrine of God” and “Scottish Theology” for your next offering in this realm. My humble suggestion 🙂 .

    • wm tanksley

      Bobby, in that the decree is God the Father’s decree, and is maintained by His meticulous sovereignty.

      -Wm

    • Pery Robinson

      Wm. Tanksley,

      To some extent it isn’t true that Rome doesn’t make a distinction between justification and sanctification. That would be true if we assume the Reformation way of divvying those things up, but that would be question begging. Rome does distinguish but the real issue is what grounds the declaration. Rome doesn’t deny that it is legal but only that it is ungrounded in the agent to whom it is applied.

      Also, while Rome affirms, along with Augustine that subsequent justification is merited, it is merited by and through Christ’s power.

      For the Orthodox side Rome, along with the Reformers fail to map on to the patristic doctrine of theosis since what deification amounts to is the production of either created effects in the soul or at best the divine essence as an inhering accident, which from the Orthodox side amounts to no real theosis, particularly with respect to the material body.

      The worry the Orthodox have about the Reformed leaving out human activity in justification would be that of a kind of soteriological docetism.

    • Pery Robinson

      Wm. Tanksley,

      The Reformed seem to claim to know quite a bit about the imago dei and the same is true for the Lutherans. Any perusal of Reformed systematic theological texts will give you the run down on how they view the imago dei.

      I am not using the Orthodox view of the imago dei, but trying to express how the Reformed understand it as best I can, based on my own reading from when I was Reformed and even when I was no longer so.

      What the Reformed deny is that human nature in terms of faculties is annihilated in the fall, but they affirm that an intrinsic constituent, namely righteousness, was lost. This is found among the first generation Reformers, their successors, the Puritans and then the Dutch as well.

      The Reformed hold out the logical possibility that Adam could have fulfilled the covenant of works. It is not something that was not within Adam’s natural power.

    • Jason Homey

      How do we reconcile a purely conditional predestination based simply upon Divine foreknowledge of actual futures contingent on the free wills of creatures , with the view that the Divine Ideas by which “all things have been determined and are created by the supersubstantial God” (Dionysius the Aeropagite) are ‘volitional thoughts’ of God, having their ‘place’, not in the Essence, but in the Energies, of God (V. Lossky, The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, pp. 94,95)? For, it would seem to me that this ‘dynamic’/’intentional’ view of the Divine Ideas leaves just as little room as what Calvinism does for the notion of ‘possible worlds’ and ‘conditional futures’ not contingent upon the Divine Will. What am I missing here?

      God bless,

      Jason

    • Perry Robinson

      Jason,

      We need to separate Augustine and later Latin scholastic gloss on Dionysius from Dionysius. For the latter, the energies that are logoi are like classes or sets. They relate to the nature of objects, but persons and natures aren’t the same things. The logos of my nature doesn’t determine how I personally use it. Hence the distinciton in Maximus (amng others) btween logos and tropos, between nature and the personal use of it. this harckens back to the older Platonic distinciton between possession and use in the Theatatus.

    • […] View of Predestination" Parchment and Pen by C. Michael Patton, October 17th, 2010 http:// An Eastern Orthodox View of Predestination | Parchment and Pen "On Predestination" From the Writings of Bishop Elias Minatios http:// […]

    • Pete again

      “Seems like we have a serious case of the East and West language issues where boats are sailing right passed each other. I really think that this discussion, as I have seen it thus far, is pretty counterproductive until terms are defined.”

      Amen!

      CMP, maybe we should put any “Orthodox vs. Protestant beliefs” analysis or articles on hold until every P&P editor/contributor reads “Light from the Christian East” by Rev. Payton, a Reformed Pastor who did NOT convert to Orthodoxy.

      “Salvation”, “Grace”, etc…yes, we use the same words, but their meanings can be worlds apart.

    • […] AN EASTERN ORTHODOX VIEW OF PREDESTINATION […]

    • […] AN EASTERN ORTHODOX VIEW OF PREDESTINATION […]

    • Fr Michael Azkoul

      St Basil the Great said that the difference between Orthodoxy and the heterodox is the doctrine of God. The former consider God to be “beyond being” (hence, rational knowledge). The latter think of God as “being” — Supreme Being.” What follows doctrinally from this distinction? Is it possible to be heretical and a member of the Church?

    • wm tanksley

      Fr. Azkoul, what did he mean by “heterodox”? I’ve usually seen the word used to imply not heresy, but a “different teaching” (the literal meaning of the word). Did you mean to bridge the gap between quoting him as saying “heterodox” and asking a question about “heresy”?

      I’d say that heterodox laypeople can go to my church with me (I’m a layman), but heretical ones must be confronted as soon as possible in hopes that they will repent.

      I don’t recognize that quote from Basil, but it looks like he’s addressing a specific heretical doctrine, not heresy in general. I’m not sure which one it is; it certainly doesn’t apply to all of the gnostics, for example.

    • Pete again

      Heterodoxy, as opposed to Orthodoxy, is the belief in something other (hetera doksa or ετέρα δόξα) than the Orthodox Christian faith. In some senses, it is synonymous with heresy in that it is a departure from Orthodoxy, but it is distinct in that heresy by definition technically includes a specific choice to embrace and teach heterodox doctrine, usually accompanied by a formal anathema (condemnation) from a synod.

      In the Roman Catholic tradition, heterodoxy is simply teaching which is considered questionable but not truly against the church. The Roman Catholics consider the Orthodox to be heterodox.

      Heterodoxy may also be used to refer to all Christian confessions which are not the Orthodox Church.

    • James-the-lesser

      Luke, I think you gave an excellent defence of your faith which is very similar to mine with some exceptions of course; like for instance, the church’s magisterium being on equal par with scripture. They are there to correctly interpret scripture not elevate themselves to a correpondending level. The folly of which is well demonstrated by your statement that, “While this council is not without its modern Orthodox retractors, it was at the time thought to be a definitive and dogmatic pronouncement of the Orthodox faith.”

      None-the-less, however, the article does demonstrate, in my opinion, that we are very much alike indeed, with the exception mentioned. Incidentally, I am a traditional Pentecostalist and in good standing with my denomination .

    • Fr Michael Azkoul

      Before any judgment is made about the Orthodox attitude toward predestination, he had better understand the difference between the theology of those who advocate it and the theology of the Orthodox who reject it. Those raised in the Augustino-Thomist tradition may be surprised.

    • Gospel for Orthodox

      Can anyone direct me to any apologetic sources online or in published form against the Eastern Orthodox church? Thank you.

      gospelfororthodox.org

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