Sunday, April 29, 2007

Faith and Works, Paul and James

Much is made in the literature/blogs/podcasts of Evangelical converts to Orthodoxy about how faith alone does not save, but faith and works does. This catch phrase is usually accompanied by a pseudo "counterattack" of the Evangelical prooftext of Eph. 2:8-9 --
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast."
-- with corresponding prooftexts from the second chapter of St. James' epistle (vv. 14, 17, 20, and 26, in particular). The resulting fights (for that is what they usually are; few discussions of this topic seldom ascend into the realm of true, civil, reasoned argumentation) rarely amount to anything more than people taking these two supposedly opposing sides and beating each other over the head with the aforementioned prooftexts. My problem with this scenario isn't even in the use of prooftexts (at least not primarily, though I do find the practice abhorrent--context should always be provided, elaboration always made); rather, the problem I have with this technique is how it takes two great saints of our Church and makes them appear to be "versus" one another. My friend and fellow blogger Alan asked me if I would elaborate on the idea that, while both serious Evangelicals and serious Orthodox would agree that it is impossible for apostles of the Lord to be divided dogmatically, differences lie in our understanding of where exactly they harmonize in their doctrine (I agreed to go into that in this post, in the comments). So, without further ado, I shall attempt (that being the key word here) to set forth the Orthodox position on the insanely broad topic of the harmony of Ss. Paul and James in regard to faith and works in our salvation.

I would posit, first of all, that our central point of reference for this topic should be from the third chapter of St. Paul's letter to the Philippians. He opens this chapter with warnings against those who would have the Jewish Christians follow the observance of the Mosaic Law in order to be in good standing before God. He outlines his own credentials within his pre-Christian, Jewish life, then states the following:
"But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (vv. 7-14).
This passage will be referenced in several places in order to clarify the Orthodox position on the role of "faith" and "works" within the works of St. Paul and St. James. Suffice it to say that we believe that both Ss. Paul and James confess that
  1. faith in Christ is absolutely necessary for our salvation,
  2. the objective establishment of the reality of our salvation rests solely and squarely in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ,
  3. the subjective application of that reality to individuals requires effort, within the context of that faith, for as long as God grants the person life, and
  4. the ultimate state of the believer is not assumed to be one of salvation, as the believer's striving within the grace of God is not yet finished.
The context of St. Paul's epistle to the Christian Hebrews living in Rome is one of contrasting those who seek to be made right before God by the fulfilling of the Mosaic Law with those who seek to be made right before God, or justified, through faith in Christ Jesus. As St. Paul told the Philippians, "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ," and again, "Yet indeed I also count all things [in pre-Christian Judaism] loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ, and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith" (3:7-9). The writer of the epistle to the Hebrews--we attribute the epistle to St. Paul along with Romans, so it works out consistently for my purposes here--clearly states that the Mosaic Law is inferior in every way to the coming of the New Adam, Christ (3:5-6). Christ has fulfilled the Old Law in Himself and has brought it to a whole new level of reality; thus, to go back to the old ways--i.e., following the Mosaic Law before the coming of Christ--would be to shun all that was done to usher in this new Kingdom, this new life. St. Paul, then, is dealing with the question of whether works done outside of union with Christ will save you. It is clear that St. Paul believes that, without union with Christ through faith in Him, no man will be saved. Yet, it would be a mistake to say that St. Paul subscribes to "easy believe-ism," or a salvation apart from working out your salvation (Phil. 2:12) in any way.

We are told to "make every effort to enter into the rest" God has prepared for us (Heb. 4:11), or "lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of [us]," as St. Paul told the Philippians, yet while all this is done with the understanding that the grace of God undergirds, surrounds, and permeates all things at all times, we must, within the context of this grace made available to us apart from anything we might have tried to do to deserve it, beat our bodies and make them our slaves so that we will not become disqualified after beginning our life in Christ (1 Cor. 9:27). Again, St. Paul makes his goal knowing Christ "and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead." He states that, in his quest to share in the sufferings of Christ and thus apply them to himself towards the reward of the future resurrection, he does not consider himself to "have already attained, or...have apprehended" the objective reality that was established, unshakably, by Christ, but he presses on towards the goal of that union with God. We would say, then, as Orthodox, that St. Paul was not so much preaching against works of any kind as being efficacious in helping us journey further into our salvation, but rather against works apart from union with and faith in Christ Jesus. Such works apart from Christ, in his estimation, were the very works outlined in the Old Testament Law, which had been made null and void, useless to save since the coming of grace in the person of Christ.

This idea--that men must work within the context of their faith in order to perfect it--is perfectly consonant, then, with St. James' injunction that "faith without works is dead." In the context outlined above, where Christ laid the groundwork for our salvation in His crucified, buried and risen flesh, and we then "fill up in [our] flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church" (Col. 1:24), we see that not only is St. James telling us that by our works we will be justified and seen to be holy in the eyes of those around us (an important part of being a light in this world, cf. Matt. 5:16), but that only such a faith that is active will be salvific for the person who has said faith. Indeed, St. James asks rhetorically if faith, apart from any works, will be enough to save the person who claims the faith (2:14). Obviously, St. James says that no man will be justified by faith alone (v. 24), and that faith is made perfect through the works a man does (v. 22). It is not, therefore, a foregone conclusion to St. James that everyone who professes faith in Christ will automatically perform the works appropriate to such faith. There is no direct link between "those who profess faith in Christ" and "those who actually do what is required of them by God." Many may agree with this at first, but this declaration of St. James would have much to say to those who profess to know with assurance, based on their current profession of faith in Christ, that their eternal destiny is secure. Indeed, our Lord showed through the parable of the two sons of the vine dresser (Matt. 21:28-31) that our initial reaction to something can be misleading, for the end result of our response may be totally contrary to said response. Thus, St. James says, we are only fully justified when we act on what we say we believe--otherwise we only have the theology of demons: assent without deeds. This, both Ss. Paul and James affirm, is why it is absolutely essential to "press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me." Christ has laid the groundwork of our salvation out by taking our flesh upon Himself, dying in that flesh, being buried and rising again in that same flesh. The potential to be saved is something no one can take away from us; God's rest spoken of in Hebrews 4 has been forever established, and the apprehension of our race by Christ's victory spoken of in Philippians 3 is now unshakable. Yet it is not enough for that to happen; we must strive to enter the rest, and press on to apprehend the reality which Christ has already made available (but not necessarily actualized) for us.

Let us rejoice, then, in the sure knowledge that heaven has been made available to us, that our path to return to the House of the Father has been cleared, and the doors have been flung open for us. However, "since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of [us] seem to have come short of it." The reality is there, and only by trusting in the steadfastness of that reality fashioned for us by God will we ever be saved, yet an indispensable part of participating in that salvation is our continual response to the grace that makes it so possible. The response is hard, and we are given grace to help in time of need, so that, somehow, we may attain on the last Day to the resurrection of the righteous dead to life everlasting.

(For a more comprehensive analysis of the Orthodox view of asceticism in salvation--one that incorporates the entire New Testament, see Fr. Georges Florovsky's lengthy but excellent essay, "The Ascetic Ideal and the New Testament: Reflections on the Critique of the Theology of the Reformation")

78 comments:

orthodox said...

I'm still working out these details in my own mind, but I've noticed something among protestants which I find amusing. If a protestant says "you must believe in justification by faith alone", I quote James without comment. Inevitably they will then say "but you're taking it out of context!". And yet I havn't even commented on the verse, discussed its context or how I understand it. For a protestant, merely to quote James seems to be a red flag to the bull. I find this interesting.

Rhology said...

Previous convos had left me thinking we were a bit closer together on this subject than we actually are.

Thanks for the longer clarification, and well-typed!

And $0.46 says that "orthodox" linked to you from my blog. You can thank me later. :-)

Benjamin said...

Thank you for your thoughts, sir.

I think that one of the overriding mistakes of the Reformation was that the Reformers read Paul and then assumed that the Roman Catholic Church and first century Judaism were the exact same thing. In doing so Paul was read as preaching against any good work, whereas in reality he was writing specifically against the keeping of the Mosaic Law - especially and most importantly in the act of circumcision

There is, of course, no doubt that Paul would agree that no man can earn his salvation - with or without circumcision. But at the same time, Paul again and again commends the churches to strive for that very same salvation. It is a mystery and it cannot be explained fully or classified in a neat theological system: we are told to rejoice in that God has saved us and we are also told to strive towards that very same salvation. It is a hard thing to understand let alone to preach correctly. That's why the Apostolic preaching of Christ in Acts was not about theological systems of imputed righteousness or merited righteousness or how guilty people can gain a sense of confidence. Rather it was: "Jesus Christ is Lord and God has raised him from the dead". The Apostles seemed to assume that upon receiving this message and then entering into the eucharistic community all the details of salvation would get worked out in time, not in analyzing but in doing, in experiencing, and to submitting to the authority of the preaching of the gospel. We must come to terms with the great paradoxes of Scripture: Jesus as Man and God, justice and mercy, grace and striving, freedom and sovereignty, etc.

Furthermore, those who often promote a "Faith alone" type theology seem to totally neglect the Jesus of the gospels. It is as if his parables about reward and eternal life do not somehow apply to the baptized Christian. Instead, Jesus is read through a very specific and restrictive reading of Paul - the views are not harmonized but one takes precedence and castigates the other.

One of these parables, of course, greatly summarizes this entire arguments. Jesus mentions to his disciples that after all the work they do they have no other right but to say that they are still but unworthy servants. This, I think, is our plight. God has graced us to become his children and slaves to Christ and though we must act in loving obedient response we must always understand our unworthiness. Because in our unworthiness we find our salvation.

Rhology said...

Eph 2:8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;

9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.

==========
I'd like your response to this, if you don't mind.
It looks like you're saying that the "not by works" in Eph 2:9 is equivalent to works of the OT Law, correct?
If so, what is the difference between those works and the works that God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them of v. 10?

Thanks!

(Word verification: dnvralma
Definition - a Mormon who lives in the capital of Colorado.)

David Bryan said...

Certainly...

"Eph 2:8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;"

IOW: Christ has recreated our nature through an act of sovreign grace; nothing we could do could ever do this, as we were bound to death. We therefore must rely completely on Christ's recreative work for any salvation to happen in our lives.

"9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."

IOW: There's no way we could recreate a dead nature, being dead ourselves, so God, being life, had to lay this foundation of our salvation for us. We cannot boast that heaven has been opened for us, for we were bound to death and could not bestow life on ourselves.

"10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them."

IOW: Now, however, since Christ has recreated human nature in Himself, we are very much His workmanship, our restoration to the potentiality of Eden--ofgrowth into the likeness of God--having been (re)created in Christ. Now, however, we must walk in the works worthy of that calling, or else forfeit said calling. (Nothing is said about how we will or must walk in them; it is merely the potential that we are given, the opportunity to realize obedience to Christ.)

David Bryan said...

I feel like I only partially answered your questions, so...

"It looks like you're saying that the 'not by works' in Eph 2:9 is equivalent to works of the OT Law, correct?"

-- In that context, yeah. Could be any type of works that are not done with faith in Christ as the basis.

"If so, what is the difference between those works and the works that God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them of v. 10?"

I'm pretty sure this was answered roundaboutly in the above post, but...the OT Law was an imperfect tutorial, meant to "tide us over" until Christ came, Who revealed the perfect law of Love which we were to fulfill -- love as I have loved you, be ye perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect, etc -- and such a law of love can only be fulfilled in the heart of one transfigured, united to Christ in an ever-working faith.

Benjamin said...

2:11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands-- 2:12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 2:13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ. 2:14 For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility, 2:15 by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 2:16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end.

Yes, if we keep this verse in its context, it appears that Paul is writing it to speak about the inclusion of Gentiles into the one People Israel, and that it has very much to do with circumcision.
We need to be nuanced here, because I do not disagree with what you are trying to say. I do not believe that if you asked Paul "Can man be saved by his good, virtuous 'Christian' actions?" that he would say "Yes." Of course he wouldn’t!. But - and here is the nuance – I don't believe that this was the main concern of his letters to the Galatians and the Romans. I believe his concern was "Who are the people of God?" rather than "How do I get into heaven?" - though I would not for a moment lessen to importance of the latter question. Paul preaches again and again that we are saved by an action of Christ not by our own actions. But he also seems to speak both of a past salvation and a salvation in the future, that final redemption when the Judge comes and the dead are raised. And we have many passages which make it seem like Paul himself was concerned that his churches would end up in the number of the redeemed on that great day, that there was ample chance they would not. Thus Paul is in line with James, and both in line with Jesus (which, by the way, I'd like to hear your thoughts on my comment about the lack of grappling with the words of Christ on these matters).
I think Jesus explained this best himself in his parable of the talents. We are given a "talent" by God’s grace alone. It is God's love, his salvation, our sonship. We, however, are asked to do something with it. Because in doing something with it we show that we love God. When he comes again he will only invite those that have loved him into his wedding banquet, those that have lived a life of gratefulness towards the talent they were given. Those that have done nothing with it are expressly and explicitly condemned. And we must remember that their talent was not deficient - they received the same talent, the same grace, the same salvation as the others. They just did not love it, they did not "love his appearing", so to speak.

Rhology said...

Gentlemen,

Getting down to business...
I'll just note the stuff where we differ or which I question to cut length; that's the sad nature of such discussions. :-)

BRYAN: We cannot boast that heaven has been opened for us

RHOLOGY: I don't see how you can avoid having a basis for boasting since your position necessitates that you contribute qualitatively thru doing stuff to your salvation.

BRYAN: we must walk in the works worthy of that calling, or else forfeit said calling. (Nothing is said about how we will or must walk in them; it is merely the potential that we are given, the opportunity to realize obedience to Christ.)

RHOLOGY: A bald assertion, and against the evidence; there is a ton of biblical support for NOT being able to forfeit one's justification.
Rather, we must walk in good works, or:
1) certainly forfeit our heavenly rewards
2) legitimately put our justification in doubt; nobody has certain knowledge that they are adopted of God. It is only by continuing in the godly life that we know we are indeed His children.


BRYAN: (Eph 2:9 means) Could be any type of works that are not done with faith in Christ as the basis.

RHOLOGY: This is the meat of my question. On what textual basis do you claim that the works by which one cannot be saved are "the fulfilling of the Mosaic Law with those who seek to be made right before God" (as you said in your post)?
And then on what textual basis are the works that God prepared beforehand different from those works that don't save us?
It sounds like they're what we would call "good works" before and after, and if they are, then ISTM your position is defeated.


BRYAN: such a law of love can only be fulfilled in the heart of one transfigured, united to Christ in an ever-working faith.

RHOLOGY: Agreed, but that's not the question. (Oops, I agreed w/ sthg! ;-) )




BENJAMIN: In doing so Paul was read as preaching against any good work,

RHOLOGY: No, no - Paul is preaching against thinking that you can contribute any good work to your justification. There's a big difference.

BENJAMIN: That's why the Apostolic preaching of Christ in Acts was not about theological systems of imputed righteousness or merited righteousness

RHOLOGY: Right, those issues were more fully fleshed out in his epistles.

BENJAMIN: It is as if his parables about reward and eternal life do not somehow apply to the baptized Christian.

RHOLOGY: You'll never hear me say that.

BENJAMIN: Instead, Jesus is read through a very specific and restrictive reading of Paul

RHOLOGY: Well, says you.

BENJAMIN: if we keep this verse in its context, it appears that Paul is writing it to speak about the inclusion of Gentiles into the one People Israel, and that it has very much to do with circumcision.

RHOLOGY: That's AFTER the verses in question, and that is of course part of the context, but the preceding 7 verses deal explicitly w/ man in general's deadness in sin and God's mercy in making salvation available.

BENJAMIN: I do not believe that if you asked Paul "Can man be saved by his good, virtuous 'Christian' actions?" that he would say "Yes."

RHOLOGY: Would he say "yes" to this question:
"Can man be saved by his faith and good, virtuous 'Christian' actions?"


BENJAMIN: I don't believe that this was the main concern of his letters to the Galatians and the Romans. I believe his concern was "Who are the people of God?" rather than "How do I get into heaven?"

RHOLOGY: Those are not very far off in relationship. The people of God = those who go to Heaven (among other things), right?

BENJAMIN: Paul preaches again and again that we are saved by an action of Christ not by our own actions.

RHOLOGY: This makes no sense to me, sorry. You are here arguing against sola fide, but this sounds Reformation-al.

BENJAMIN: But he also seems to speak both of a past salvation and a salvation in the future

RHOLOGY: A better way to say it would be:
1) Our past salvation from the power of sin (justification)
2) Our current salvation from the performing of sin (sanctification)
3) Our future salvation from the presence of sin (glorification)

Cutesy, alliterative, I know; it gets the point across though.

BENJAMIN: Paul himself was concerned that his churches would end up in the number of the redeemed on that great day, that there was ample chance they would not.

RHOLOGY: Of course - there are false brethren and liars who claim to love Christ in churches.

BENJAMIN: Thus Paul is in line with James

RHOLOGY: I dunno; it doesn't seem we're talking on the same level here. :-( of course Paul is on the same level w/ James - Paul deals very often w/ what one might call the forensic and spiritual aspects of justification and fleshes out that doctrine very fully while James deals w/ actions and the justification of the man in his own eyes (ie, answering the question "Is my faith real/alive?") and before others'.
Which is a summary of my blogpost on the same subject.

BENJAMIN: We are given a "talent" by God’s grace alone. It is God's love, his salvation, our sonship.

RHOLOGY: Note that the good servants got *rewards*, did they not?
The wicked lazy servant was thrown out into darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. One might well imagine the regret and agony experienced by those who, when before God's throne, are shown how they neglected/misused the grace of God while on earth. I don't necessarily believe that adopted children of God will never have to face that judgment. The final and eternal destination is heaven and it is irrevocable upon justification but this judgment will come before that eternal state.

Jesus often talks about the alternatives of acting in unbelief and disobedience, etc. If you care to bring up some specific examples, we can discuss them. Off the top of my head I seem to recall that some (ie, the P of the Talents) deal w/ "servants" who either get a reward for their actions or don't, and others (ie, the Wedding Banquet) deal w/ the invitation to salvation, which some refuse and are excluded from salvation.
It's a mistake to say something like:
BENJAMIN: the words of Christ on these matters

RHOLOGY: Christ said a lot of things, so yeah, more specificity is needed.

BENJAMIN: And we must remember that their talent was not deficient - they received the same talent, the same grace, the same salvation as the others.
RHOLOGY: Actually, in one of the 2 parables commonly called "the P of the Talents", 1 servant started w/ 5 talents, one w/ 2, and the other w/ 1.

BENJAMIN: God has graced us to become his children and slaves to Christ and though we must act in loving obedient response we must always understand our unworthiness.

RHOLOGY: So, can you contribute anything to your right standing before God or not?

Benjamin said...

I actually feel kind of sheepish continuing this conversation, as their are millions upon millions of these all over the internet - Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox and the like - but, as I am having a hard time resisting involvement in a polite argument, I'll continue!

"RHOLOGY: So, can you contribute anything to your right standing before God or not?"

Absolutely not. However, by certain actions I can freely choose to forfeit this right standing. I do not believe that Christ will raise me into righteousness on that final day against my own will.

"RHOLOGY: Actually, in one of the 2 parables commonly called "the P of the Talents", 1 servant started w/ 5 talents, one w/ 2, and the other w/ 1"

Yes, but my point still stands unless we interpret this as meaning that one person receives more of God's love and salvation than the other.

"Of course - there are false brethren and liars who claim to love Christ in churches."

But when Paul questions his own salvation are we still to assume that only liars and false Christians need be watchful and cautious?

"RHOLOGY: This makes no sense to me, sorry. You are here arguing against sola fide, but this sounds Reformation-al."

This is an incorrect statement. The statement is neither Catholic nor Orthodox nor Reformational- it is biblical. And all three of the named above would agree to the statement. Where we would differ is in how much man's freedom is involved in this process and the exact mechanics of it.

On another note, as I've read through our various discussion I find that we are using certain words differently (I know that sounds obivous enough, but hear me out). You equate "saved" with "justified". When you do so you interpret both as eternal and irrevocable. David and I equate "justified" as salvation as well, but it is not irrevocable. It is essential but it also requires a willingness to be sanctified; it does not assure that sanctification. One can remove himself from the covenant, so to speak. One can cut himself off as Hebrews warns, as Paul warns the Corinthians and the Gentile Christians in the book of Romans (wild shoots and engrafting, etc.), and as Jesus warns those who are likened to branches. He warns the disciples that branches that are in the vine and do not bear fruit are cut off. How one could be "in the vine" without actually being a Christian confounds me. And if the one in the vine, ie, in Christ, is warned in such a way it is wise to heed the warning.

EYTYXOΣ said...

Okay, I'll jump in with my half-formed opinions and where angels fear to tread, and hope I don't take this off on too far a tangent.

It seems to me that we have different meanings of "the Gospel" (το ευαγγελιον) going on. In Paul we see the Gospel identified with access by faith for Gentiles into the Abrahamic covenant. Also, the Gospel nearly becomes equated with Christ Himself - Paul preaches Christ and Him crucified, and says the mystery (το μυστεριον) now revealed is Christ in you, the hope of glory, and in 1 Corinthians 15, the Gospel is summarized as Christ's death, burial and resurrection.

When we backtrack to the Gospels, though, we see that Jesus's first message was, "Repent, and believe in the Gospel," and His "good news" seemed to be that the Kingdom of God was imminent. He preached the rules of the inbreaking Kingdom (i.e., the Gospel) and invited all to enter in, for the time was at hand.

To go back to Paul vs. James, we have them both using the same Old Testament verse ("And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.") to support different conclusions (indeed, what seem to be opposite conclusions). Compare Romans 4 with James 2. I know that one can work hard to make them comport with each other, but it does take some work, IMO.

To go back to Jesus, I have yet to find that verse where Jesus said, "Oh, by the way, after I've died for your sins and risen from the dead, all those things I told you that you were to do in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven, be My friend, receive eternal life, save your soul, etc. - well, those won't matter anymore. All you'll have to do is believe that you're a sinner and that I died for your sins and that I rose from the dead, and, voila!, you'll have done all that I've asked of you in order to enter My Kingdom. My blood will wash away and replace all those 'works' that I told My disciples to do."

Okay, I'm maybe being a bit sarcastic, but that is the impression I've gotten over the years in my Evangelical/Charismatic Protestant circles and associations. I.e., if we do anything to achieve anything from God or to please God, it's "works" and counteracts or negates the Cross. If it's not Christ in me doing it, or Christ doing it as me, rather than me myself doing it, then it's all dung (σκυβαλα), and it's even offensive to God.

A friend once said that he experienced a paradigm shift when instead of interpreting the Gospels through the Epistles (primarily Paul's, as he and his pastors used to do all his life as an Evangelical Protestant), he began interpreting the Epistles through the Gospels.

I've more laid out problems and questions here than come up with answers, but just because in our minds and the way we analyze things we think that grace has to be opposed to works doesn't mean that is in fact how things are.

And now I'll let y'all straighten me out. :^)

Benjamin said...

By the way, I would heartily recommend that all involved with this little conversation read the Florovsky link that David posted. What he says he says well.

Rhology said...

hey all,

Read most of the Florovsky essay. I found his "proofs" for asceticism quite lacking, but that's beside the point.
Here are my thoughts:


-Florovsky doesn't even interact w/ the standard Reformed texts related to this topic in Romans: 3:28, all of chap 4, 5:1, most of chap 8, 11:6. He mistakes the Reformed perspective on 12:1.

-He makes the same mistake you guys do for 1 Cor 9:24-27, assuming 1) that this is related to one's standing before God, not one's heavenly reward, and 2) that man can "freely" choose to leave Christ once in Christ.

-He eisegetes 1 Cor 11:28, forcefully imposing the idea of damnation upon the text.

-He says:
(In 2 Cor 5) St. Paul uses language which, when used by others, distresses sorely many scholars working from the Reformation perspective — he uses the notion of "pleasing God"...

I guess those "scholars" can speak for themselves, but I don't see why they should be bothered.


Anyway, yeah, this subject is discussed all the time elsewhere. 'Course, that's probably true of ANY topic.

BENJAMIN: "by certain actions I can freely choose to forfeit this right standing."
RHOLOGY: How does that line up w/ John 10:27-29?

27"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;
28and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.
29"My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. "

I'm going thru the "grid" of the Gospels here. :-P

Christ's sheep cannot be snatched away from Him.
"But they can walk away of their own accord!"
It says they will never perish - if they walk away and never come back, they would perish, right?


BENJAMIN: "unless we interpret this as meaning that one person receives more of God's love and salvation than the other"
RHOLOGY: I was just saying that each of these Ps address different ideas.

BENJAMIN: "But when Paul questions his own salvation are we still to assume that only liars and false Christians need be watchful and cautious?"
RHOLOGY: It's precisely to guard against being found to be a liar/false brother that we must examine ourselves.

BENJAMIN: "You equate 'saved' with 'justified'."
RHOLOGY: I just Ctrl+F'd this post and I don't see where I did that.
Only in my careless moments (or when hanging out w/ fellow Evs) do I phase between "saved" and "justified," b/c in that context everyone knows what I mean.
But I've tried to be careful in this forum, and I even put out that 3-pt. list of biblical salvation. So I think this is unfounded.

BENJAMIN: "David and I equate "justified" as salvation as well, but it is not irrevocable."
RHOLOGY: OK.

BENJAMIN: "It is essential but it also requires a willingness to be sanctified; it does not assure that sanctification."
RHOLOGY: I agree that it does not necessarily guarantee a great deal of sanctification, but the real living faith will have the willingness, yes.
Yet the Scripture is clear that the true believers WILL BE sanctified, though one could argue that's less important than justification.
Florovsky, BTW, deals clumsily w/ this topic in his essay IMO.

BENJAMIN: "One can cut himself off as Hebrews warns"
RHOLOGY: Where?

BENJAMIN: "Paul warns the Corinthians"
RHOLOGY: In 1 Cor 9? I dealt w/ that, and we need to remember to come to texts like these remembering Jesus' words in John 10.

BENJAMIN: "and the Gentile Christians in the book of Romans (wild shoots and engrafting, etc."
RHOLOGY: It doesn't say that anyone WILL BE. It says DON'T BE.
"But why say that unless it were possible?"
To warn against self-deception and false faith - "examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith"

BENJAMIN: "He warns the disciples that branches that are in the vine and do not bear fruit are cut off."
RHOLOGY: That's in John 15, only 5 chapters after He tells us that His sheep will never perish.
To make a case you would need to bring evidence how Jesus is discussing damnation here rather than, say, punishment in this life, removal from life (ie, "premature" death at the hands of the Lord à la 1 Cor 11).

BENJAMIN: "How one could be "in the vine" without actually being a Christian confounds me. "
RHOLOGY: Then it will also hopefully prove to be difficult to envision that in regards to sheep in John 10.

EYTYXOΣ: "To go back to Paul vs. James, we have them both using the same Old Testament verse (on Abraham)"
RHOLOGY: Note, however, that Rom 4 discusses Ab's justification by faith when he believed God, and James discusses it in the context of his sacrificing Isaac, which came many years after. Which takes us right into my point.

EYTYXOΣ: "Compare Romans 4 with James 2. I know that one can work hard to make them comport with each other, but it does take some work, IMO."
RHOLOGY: Only if you reject sola fide is it impossible.

EYTYXOΣ: "if we do anything to achieve anything from God or to please God, it's "works" and counteracts or negates the Cross."
RHOLOGY: You have misunderstood. The blasphemy is thinking you can do anythg to contribute to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for your justification. As Rom 11:6 says:
"6But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace."

Peace,
ALAN

EYTYXOΣ said...

Rhology: -He makes the same mistake you guys do for 1 Cor 9:24-27, assuming 1) that this is related to one's standing before God, not one's heavenly reward, and 2) that man can "freely" choose to leave Christ once in Christ.

I haven't read the (long) Florovsky article, but I do know that in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, the threat/fear/perception that Paul is operating under is that he might be considered adokimos (αδοκιμος).

(This post also allows me to correct my earlier misspelling of μυστηριον.) ;^)

It seems that one time when I looked up all the other times St. Paul used this word, it was with reference to lost people.

EYTYXOΣ said...

EYTYXOΣ: "if we do anything to achieve anything from God or to please God, it's "works" and counteracts or negates the Cross."
RHOLOGY: You have misunderstood. The blasphemy is thinking you can do anythg to contribute to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for your justification. As Rom 11:6 says: "6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace."


I have not misunderstood. Maybe the people that have taught this have misunderstood what Paul is saying, or misunderstand the things you've studied or been taught, but this was indeed what pastors and teachers I've had, read or sat under have clearly taught.

And ... is to believe thus or teach thus a "blasphemy" or a "heresy"?

EYTYXOΣ said...

St. John Chrysostom, one of Calvin's favorite Church Fathers, on 1 Corinthians 9:27:

... Ver. 27. “But I buffet my body, and bring it into bondage lest by any means, after that I have preached to others, I myself should be rejected.”

Here he implies that they are subject to the lust of the belly and give up the reins to it, and under a pretence of perfection fulfil their own greediness; a thought which before also he was travailing to express, when he said, “meats for the belly, and the belly for meats.” (1 Cor. vi. 13.) For since both fornication is caused by luxury, and it also brought forth idolatry, he naturally oftentimes inveighs against this disease; and pointing out how great things he suffered for the Gospel, he sets this also down among them. “As I went,” saith he, “beyond the commands, and this when it was no light matter for me:” (“for we endure all things,” it is said,) “so also here I submit to much labor in order to live soberly. Stubborn as appetite is and the tyranny of the belly, nevertheless I bridle it and give not myself up to the passion, but endure all labor not to be drawn aside by it.”

“For do not, I pray you, suppose that by taking things easily I arrive at this desirable result. For it is a race and a manifold struggle, and a tyrannical nature continually rising up against me and seeking to free itself. But I bear not with it but keep it down, and bring it into subjection with many struggles.” Now this he saith that none may despairingly withdraw from the conflicts in behalf of virtue because the undertaking is laborious. Wherefore he saith, “I buffet and bring into bondage.” He said not, “I kill:” nor, “I punish” for the flesh is not to be hated, but, “I buffet and bring into bondage;” which is the part of a master not of an enemy, of a teacher not of a foe, of a gymnastic master not of an adversary.

“Lest by any means, having preached to others, I myself should be a rejected.”

Now if Paul feared this who had taught so many, and feared it after his preaching and becoming an angel and undertaking the leadership of the whole world; what can we say?

For, “think not,” saith he, “because ye have believed, that this is sufficient for your salvation: since if to me neither preaching nor 133teaching nor bringing over innumerable persons, is enough for salvation unless I exhibit my own conduct also unblameable, much less to you.”

[3.] Then he comes to other illustrations again. And as above he alleged the examples of the Apostles and those of common custom and those of the priests, and his own, so also here having set forth those of the Olympic games and those of his own course, he again proceeds to the histories of the Old Testament. And because what he has to say will be somewhat unpleasing he makes his exhortation general, and discourses not only concerning the subject before him, but also generally concerning all the evils among the Corinthians. And in the case of the heathen games, “Know ye not?” saith he: but here,

Chap. x. ver. 1. “For I would not, brethren, have you ignorant.”

Now this he said, implying that they were not very well instructed in these things. And what is this which thou wouldest not have us ignorant of? ...

John said...

Hi, guys...interesting dialog going on here. I'm not about to wade into it. First, I'm not very good as this sort of thing, and second, it seems that with this subject in particular, both sides end up talking past the other. I do want to make an observation, though.

The viewpoint expressed by David Bryan, Benjamin and EYTYXOΣ, is not something I had to learn and accept when I became Orthodox. I already believed it in my Protestant days. There were some hurdles I had to overcome in becoming Orthodox, but this wasn't one of them. In fact, this was very much our understanding in the Church of Christ. And these discussions are the same ones we had with our "once-saved, always-saved" Baptist co-religionists (though I don't think any CoCer every quoted Florovsky ;). A Baptist coworker still tries to periodically engage me in fruitless contention with this question.

My point is that, over time, I have come to realize how absolutely essential this viewpoint is to evangelicals. Every bit of scripture must pass through this presuppositional prism. Everything rises or falls for evangelicals on this one issue. It is as if ever they were to abandon the proposition, or even retreat ever so slightly, then the whole edifice will collapse.

Just my observation from 25 years as an active Protestant....

"Florovsky doesn't even interact w/ the standard Reformed texts..."

Man, now there's a damning indictment ;)

(and David Bryan--keep an eye on my son at St. B)

David Bryan said...

"RHOLOGY: I don't see how you can avoid having a basis for boasting since your position necessitates that you contribute qualitatively thru doing stuff to your salvation."

Well, if you're unwilling to at least acknowledge the ramifications of "what is grace" and what is works" as seen from our point of view, as that quote manifests -- namely, that the ground of our salvation is the sacrifice of Christ and is the sole source of benefit that any work done in faith in Him might yield -- then I guess there's no point in continuing to talk past one another.

"RHOLOGY: there is a ton of biblical support for NOT being able to forfeit one's justification."

We would disagree, as would every Christian of note between (so you would claim) the Scriptures and (so we would claim) the Reformation...not that that post-biblical fathers would (ultimately) matter to you, not being Scripture and all, but the fact that around 1400 years of Church history completely and collectively missed out on the so-called articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae and with one voice confessed the opposite gives us pause as to the "obviousness" of that interpretation. Just to say.

"RHOLOGY: This is the meat of my question. On what textual basis do you claim that the works by which one cannot be saved are "the fulfilling of the Mosaic Law with those who seek to be made right before God" (as you said in your post)?"

To the first Q, Rom. 8:3. The law was weak in that it was carried out by death-bound mortals offerring death-infected animals. The life that was in the blood was actually death, not united to the One Who would condemn sin in the flesh.

"RHOLOGY: And then on what textual basis are the works that God prepared beforehand different from those works that don't save us?"

To this Q, the verses following the first (vv. 4-5, together with 13). We cannot fulfill the law of Christ -- putting to death the old man -- through the insufficient Mosaic Law which was apart from Christ, but if by the grace of God we fulfill the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus -- working through grace to put to death the deeds of the body, as St. Paul said -- we shall live.

Two different laws. Two different sets of works. Two different results.

"RHOLOGY:It doesn't say that anyone WILL BE [cut off]. It says DON'T BE...To warn against self-deception and false faith - 'examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith.'"

It most certainly does say that some will be. Read Rom. 11:20-23. You stand, but still must fear, for God may not spare you, either. You'll have goodness from God if you continue in His goodness...otherwise you -- who have already been grafted in, WILL BE CUT OFF.

To us, it's quite clear:

*St. Paul feared becoming cast aside or rejected by Christ after preaching to others.

*St. James knows that faith without works will not save the person who professes said "faith."

*St. Paul says in Rom. 4 that Abraham's faith was useless without the seal of circumcision. Useless, ultimately, both to him and anyone else.

*Those who stand must take heed lest they fall.

*Warnings are there for a reason.

Attempting to isolate a moment in time without incorporating the rest of one's life as a continuing part of that process is, to use your phrase, the most blatant example of "self-deception and false faith" -- not to mention false confidence -- I know of.

Yet seeing how it is, as John said, the prism through which you have decided to see all things, I don't see how there's anything else I can say to dissuade you. May the Lord have mercy on us all.

Forgive me, a sinner.

David Bryan said...

And John...will do, good buddy. ;-)

Rhology said...

So...
You didn't touch John 10:25-28.
Do you believe it to be extraneous to the discussion?
If so, why?
If not, when you get a chance, could you interact w/ it?

Peace,
ALAN

EYTYXOΣ said...

BENJAMIN: "and the Gentile Christians in the book of Romans (wild shoots and engrafting, etc."

RHOLOGY: It doesn't say that anyone WILL BE. It says DON'T BE.

"But why say that unless it were possible?"

To warn against self-deception and false faith - "examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith"

- - -

?? RHOLOGY:?? How can you say this? (unless I'm misunderstanding you)

(And why bring 2 Corinthians 13:5 into the discussion of Romans 11? Romans 11 can stand on its own.)

The text - i.e., Romans 11:22 - clearly says: "Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God's kindness, IF you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also WILL BE cut off." (NASB) The Greek is:

ιδε ουν χρηστοτητα και αποτομιαν θεου: επι μεν τους πεσοντας αποτομια, επι δε σε χρηστοτης θεου, εαν επιμενης τη χρηστοτητι, επει και συ εκκοπηση.

(Iota subscript does not display in the lowercase Symbol font at greekbible.com)

That "εκκοπηση" (the final eta should have a iota subscript) is a future passive, and would be translated as (are you ready?): "you (singular) will be cut off." Zerwick translates επει as "(sometimes) otherwise (i.e., if you do not)." Thus:

"... otherwise (i.e., if you do not continue/remain in His kindness) EVEN YOU will be cut off."

Interestingly, the και συ is grammatically unnecessary; Paul could have simply written επει εκκοπηση ("otherwise (you)-will-be-cut-off"), since the verb contains the person and number in its ending (Greek is an inflected language). The και ("also, even") adds emphasis, and adding the personal pronoun συ adds further emphasis, i.e., "otherwise EVEN YOU will be cut off."

(Note that in the immediately preceding clause Paul simply wrote εαν επιμενης (i.e., "if (you)-continue"), and not εαν συ επιμενης (i.e., "if YOU continue"), which he could have written.)

It's not just the New American Standard Bible or my fairly literal Greek translation. Look at these:

New International Version (NIV)
22 Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.

Amplified Bible (AMP)
22 Then note and appreciate the gracious kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's gracious kindness to you--provided you continue in His grace and abide in His kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off (pruned away).

New King James Version (NKJV)
22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.

English Standard Version (ESV)
22 Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.

Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)
22 Therefore, consider God's kindness and severity: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness toward you—if you remain in His kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.

NET Bible
11:22 Notice therefore the kindness and harshness of God – harshness toward those who have fallen, but15 God’s kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness;16 otherwise you also will be cut off.
15tn Greek emphasizes the contrast between these two clauses more than can be easily expressed in English.
16tn Grk "if you continue in (the) kindness."

EYTYXOΣ said...

"articulus stantis et cadentis ecclesiae"

Police Chief Brody: "You're gonna need a bigger articulus."

Rhology said...

EYTYXOΣ,

I thank you for all that, and for your contribution to this discussion.

I don't see, however, how citing a bunch of verses that warn us against falling away is relevant now.
I've already tried to say two things in regard to such warnings (and I don't always express myself well, so bear w/ me):

1) Negative: These verses don't say YOU WILL BE CUT OFF. They say "***IF*** you do such and such you will..."
You (ie, EO-dox) then have to assume that that will really literally occur in space-time. There is no explicit example of someone who was really justified and then got de-justified.

2) Positive: These verses warn us against proving to be liars and false brethren upon examination by the Lord.

And again, I'd like to ask someone(s) to deal w/ what I cited out of John 10.

EYTYXOΣ said...

1) Negative: These verses don't say YOU WILL BE CUT OFF. They say "***IF*** you do such and such you will..."
You (ie, EO-dox) then have to assume that that will really literally occur in space-time. There is no explicit example of someone who was really justified and then got de-justified.


How about all the Israelites who fell in the wilderness because of their unbelief/disobedience? One could maybe argue that because they were under the "Old" covenant this isn't a proper "New" Covenant example of someone becoming "de-justified," but St. Paul seems to have no problem equating Christians with the Israelites in Romans 11, 1 Corinthians 10, and several chapters of Hebrews (whether or not St. Paul was the author), using the Israelites as the example of what would happen to Christians (i.e., "justified" people) if they don't maintain the conditions of the covenant into which they were baptized and sealed.

Revelation 3:5: "He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels."

Matthew 10:32: "Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven."

Denying Christ by word (confessing) or deed (overcoming) seems to put one in danger of having one's name erased from the book of life, and it indeed seems that one can have one's name erased from the book of life.

Craciun Lucian said...

Dear Rho-Logy,

You're constantly asking everyone about the Orthodox interpretation of JOHN 10. The answer to that is quite clear: just go to the following link:

http://ccel.org/fathers.html

... and download the Golden-Mouth's commentary on that specific book of Scripture. His commentaries are normative in the entire Christian Orthodox world; all our priests study Scripture from there while in Seminary. His work "On The Priesthood" is also normative for all Orthodox Priests everywhere.

Hope this helps a bit.

Benjamin said...

"and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand."

From my understanding of this text, we are being told that no one can take someone from God's hand, from the sheep-fold (in this context). I completely agree. However, we are not told here that no one can choose to leave to sheep fold. What we have is an argument for the power and love and safety and life found in God - a power which no "thief" or devil can overcome. God redeems a people out of Egypt and they are untouchable if they stay in the shelter of his commandments but some do not and they are condemned. God builds up a nation for His people and they are untouchable if they follow his law – which they do not (despite the prophets’ warnings) and many are sent to die in exile. But when the people of God hold fast to him then the promises of Romans 8 pour in indeed we rejoice that “nothing can separate us from the love of God”.

And I would have to agree with the others above when this argument comes down to one simple question: Do we read the Scriptures as the Reformers do or do we read the Scriptures as the rest of the Christian people have done and still do? I chose the latter, thus the difference! All theology can be summed up in the question asked of Jesus: "How do you read?" We read in our tradition you read in yours. May God be merciful to us both.

I believe that in Scripture there is as much evidence for the finality and assurance of salvation as their is for the hope and striving and "unknown" of salvation. Some accept the paradox and preach both while others choose one paradigm and shove the rest of Scripture through that paradigm. But to do so is to mutilate the text. To do so is to lose the narrative content of Scripture, the beautiful multi-faceted teaching of Scripture and to make a book of systematic theology out of it – which it is not. We often don't let it say what it says. For example: Jesus and Paul gives ample warning about falling away. The most obvious, most direct interpretation of this is that it should be taken seriously. The interpretation that you set forth requires that the audience hearing the exhortation already have some knowledge that “Paul really doesn’t mean what it sounds likes he means”. It is as if Paul were saying publicly: “Some Christians will fall away” but then saying privately, to the “enlightened” that they just “really don’t have to worry about that, wink wink”. It is disingenuous.

Rhology said...

Hi all,

Nice of you to fill in while Bryan is not around! But he has things to do that are actually important. ;-)

Craciun Lucian, I read the relevant section in the Chrysostom Homily on John 10; thanks for the reference!
It unfortunately served to strengthen the stereotype that many (note: many does not equal all) (note: I said stereotype, not conclusion) Church Fathers either did not deal w/ certain biblical psgs related to certain distinctively Reformed doctrines or dealt w/ them badly.
I will paste the relevant section here.


Ver. 26 . “But,” He saith, “I told you, and ye [1] believe not, because ye are not of My sheep.” [1]

“For I on My part have fulfilled all that it behooved a Shepherd to do, and if ye follow Me not, it is not because I am not a Shepherd, but because ye are not My sheep.”

Ver. 27–30 . “For My sheep hear My voice, [1] and follow Me; and I give unto them eternal life [1] ; neither can [1] any man pluck them out of My hand. The Father, [1] which gave them Me, is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I and the Father are One.”

Observe how in renouncing He exciteth them to follow Him. “Ye hear Me not,” He saith, “for neither are ye sheep, but they who follow, these are of the flock.” This He said, that they might strive to become sheep. Then by mentioning what they should obtain, He maketh these men jealous, so as to rouse them, and cause them to desire such things.

“What then? Is it through the power of the Father that no man plucketh them away, and hast thou no strength, but art too weak to guard them?” By no means. And in order that thou mayest learn that the expression, “The Father which gave them to Me,” is used on their account, that they might not again call Him an enemy of God, therefore, after asserting that, “No man plucketh them out of My hand,” He proceedeth to show, that His hand and the Father’s is One. Since had not this been so, it would have been natural for Him to say, “The Father which gave them to Me is greater than all, and no man can 222 pluck them out of My hand.” But He said not so, but, “out of My Father’s hand.” Then that thou mayest not suppose that He indeed is weak, but that the sheep are in safety through the power of the Father, He addeth, “I and the Father are One.” As though He had said “I did not assert that on account of the Father no man plucketh them away, as though I were too weak to keep the sheep. For I and the Father are One.” Speaking here with reference to Power, for concerning this was all His discourse; and if the power [1] be the same, it is clear that the Essence is also. And when the Jews used ten thousand means, plotting and casting men out of their synagogues, He telleth them that all their contrivances are useless and vain; “For the sheep are in My Father’s hand”; as the Prophet saith, “Upon My hand I have pictured thy walls.” ( Isa. xlix. 16 .) Then to show that the hand is One, He sometimes saith that it is His own, sometimes the Father’s. But when thou hearest the word “hand,” do not understand anything material, but the power, the authority. Again, if it was on this account that no one could pluck away the sheep, because the Father gave Him power, it would have been superfluous to say what follows, “I and the Father are One.” Since were He inferior to Him, this would have been a very daring saying, for it declares nothing else than an equality of power; of which the Jews were conscious, and took up stones to cast at Him. ( Ver. 31 .) Yet not even so did He remove this opinion and suspicion; though if their suspicion were erroneous, He ought to have set them right, and to have said, “Wherefore do ye these things? I spake not thus to testify that my power and the Father’s are equal”; but now He doth quite the contrary, and confirmeth their suspicion, and clencheth it, and that too when they were exasperated. For He maketh no excuse for what had been said, as though it had been said ill, but rebuketh them for not entertaining a right opinion concerning Him...



BENJAMIN: From my understanding of this text, we are being told that no one can take someone from God's hand (emph. added)
RHOLOGY: Just a quick note - this is personal interpretation from a confessing Eastern Orthodox. Just saying.
And I agree as far as this goes.

BENJAMIN: What we have is an argument for the power and love and safety and life found in God - a power which no "thief" or devil can overcome.
RHOLOGY: Right.


BENJAMIN: God redeems a people out of Egypt and they are untouchable if they stay in the shelter of his commandments
RHOLOGY: Right, and the truth is that the truly redeemed WILL DO SO.


BENJAMIN: but some do not and they are condemned.
RHOLOGY: This is begging the question, but you're only 1/4 of the way thru your post, so that's OK. ;-)


BENJAMIN: God builds up a nation for His people and they are untouchable if they follow his law – which they do not (despite the prophets’ warnings) and many are sent to die in exile.
RHOLOGY: Just b/c people are mbrs of the visible nation doesn't mean they really have faith; that's the point of large swathes of the Epistle to the Hebrews.


BENJAMIN: But when the people of God hold fast to him then the promises of Romans 8 pour in indeed we rejoice that “nothing can separate us from the love of God”.
RHOLOGY: So...if we don't do anythg to separate ourselves from God then God doesn't separate us from Him? That's enough to elicit a big fat "Thanks God, I guess" from me.


BENJAMIN: Do we read the Scriptures as the Reformers do or do we read the Scriptures as the rest of the Christian people have done and still do?
RHOLOGY: Well, as you said above, you're reading them as a fallen human using personal interpretation.
I prefer to read them as the apostles meant them.
"But Rhology, you're NOT doing so!"
Yeah? How will we know?
Grammar and context.
Bravo, that's what I'm trying to get you to look at.
But you don't agree w/ the Ch Fathers.
John Chrysostom didn't even deal w/ the relevant portions of the text in question in his Homily on John.
It goes against what the Church has always taught.
What does? This psg? I'm only too happy to stick w/ Jesus over "the Church".

Look, this is a conversation-killer. Let's please stay away from such statements in the future.


BENJAMIN: We read in our tradition you read in yours. May God be merciful to us both.
RHOLOGY: Since we're supposed to seek God's Word in order to judge our traditions, until proven wrong I'm confident I'm not as you describe me.

BENJAMIN: However, we are not told here that no one can choose to leave to sheep fold.
RHOLOGY: OK, here's the big rub.
In fact, I anticipated (in my own mind) you saying this; it's the stock objection. But that's why I tried to head you off at the pass.
Here's what I said:

RHOLOGY: Christ's sheep cannot be snatched away from Him.
"But they can walk away of their own accord!"
It says they will never perish - if they walk away and never come back, they would perish, right?


So, do you have an answer to my original answer? It says they will never perish.

Moving on...

EYTYXOΣ: How about all the Israelites who fell in the wilderness because of their unbelief/disobedience?
RHOLOGY: As mentioned above, Hebrews makes it clear that not all of them believed; in fact, they fell BECAUSE OF their unbelief.

EYTYXOΣ: Paul seems to have no problem equating Christians with the Israelites in Romans 11, 1 Corinthians 10, and several chapters of Hebrews
RHOLOGY: True, but that doesn't address my answer.

EYTYXOΣ: Rev 3:5
RHOLOGY: Yes. As Romans 8:29-30 tells us, those who are justified are those who are glorified by God.

EYTYXOΣ: Matt 10:32
RHOLOGY: I would fully expect unbelievers to deny Christ before men.


Craciun Lucian: You're constantly asking everyone about the Orthodox interpretation of JOHN 10.
RHOLOGY: Yes, b/c I knew when I cited it that it defeats your position.


Peace,
ALAN

EYTYXOΣ said...

Between this thread and this one at Rhoblogy:

http://rhoblogy.blogspot.com/2007/05/sawing-off-limb-hes-sitting-on.html

I was wondering: David Bryan and Alan - are you two like friends or something? I.e., did you go to school together and/or grow up together? You know, are you like Napoleon and Pedro?

'Cause sometimes it's hard to tell in these exchanges if it's friendly banter or real argumentation. But Alan's blog lists David's blog under "Friends' Blogs."

So, are you two like buds or something?

Or do you both approach each other with swords drawn and teeth and claws bared? :D

(Just messin' with ya - sort of.)

Rhology said...

Yeah, we go back a long time, actually. We met in high school in 1994 or so.

...

Dang, that was a long time ago.

Anyway, we were both in the Christian activity club there and in fact led it a year each. He was Bapti-costal and I was charis-Methodist. That was before we each knew better. ;-)

--friendly banter or real argumentation.
>>I'd call it real argumentation, but we've both learned the hard way how cutting we can be when we're not careful (I'd say I've had to learn more than he and I don't know if I have yet).
But sometimes it's friendlier than other times, like when I have real questions about EO-dox practice and beliefs about Issue X.
On the blog, though, perversely, it's more business than pleasure. :-D

EYTYXOΣ said...

Alan:

Well, since you live in Norman, OK, and David lives in Fort Worth, TX, and I live between Denton, TX and Dallas, TX - maybe the next time you come down to see the Wooten threesome (soon to be foursome) you could visit St. Barbara's and I could drop over, too, and after church we could get together ... kind of like Martin Luther and John Calvin would do their theologizing over a pint or two (although I think David would prefer a shot of primo Tequila).

What sayeth thou?

(And if Charles Johnson joined us - an ex-Evangelical convert to EO as well, and a former "young gun" in Tommy Nelson's program at Denton Bible Church, and currently a philosophy major at Thomas Moore College (?) here - it would make for interesting conversation, I'm sure. You can read my story on the link to my blog.)

Lucian said...

Dear Rho,

I understand that the reason why You've made continuos refference to it was for the sake of making Your point for/in the debate ... there's really no point in "playin' smart" (with me, or with anyone else for this matter).

As an answer to Your repeated question I showed You the M.O. to which You should heed when speaking to the Orthodox (asking them something [anything], to be more precise) : LOOK IT UP IN THE FATHERS.

If the Fathers are unaware of the question under discussion then this could only mean one thing ... since they usually take into consideration every aspect of a certain situation (for instance, certain heretics were saying "The Magi sequence shows us that astrology is OK"), the Golden-Mouth goes to GREAT LENGTH to infirm them (just for a little stupidity like this). Basil, in his work On The Holy Spirit refutes every little thing that even common sense would from the very start refute ... so ...

SO, ... if You're "searchin' for somethin'" (as the sog says) and can't find it in the Fathers (neither affirmed as a bulwark of Orthodoxy, nor refuted as heresy) ... then that certain something that You were inquiring didn't exist at the time of the Fathers. [Do You, by the way, believe in an evolution of Dogma?]

-----

Eutichos, did You get the e-mail I've sent You the other day? (Sorry for being "so dam' pushy", but I'm really desperate here ... )

David Bryan said...

True; we do go waaaaaay back. Almost half my life.

And it has moved from private email correspondence to public blogbashing, huh? ;-) Kidding -- I think we feel a freedom, to a point, to be very up front and blunt with each other, but even we've had to back off from discussion because it got too heated and we too sarcastic.

Regardless, we always seem to get along fanTAStically in person (seriously, when we get going with our sense of humor, I think our wives get a little scared). I'd love for all of us to get together whenever we could...

Re: John 10:25-28: There are two things in vv. 27-28 that I note.

1) Our never perishing is contingent upon Christ's giving us eternal life. IOW, as long as we follow Christ, He is faithful to give us eternal life.

2) As long, then, as we follow Him--endure to the end, as it were--we will never perish, and nothing can snatch us out of His hand. It's all one big AND phrase, with each thing going together: My sheep hear My voice, AND I know them, AND they follow Me, AND I give them eternal life, AND they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand." Take any of that away, and the scenario makes no sense anymore.

IOW: No follow, no eternal life; follow, then no snatch.

I sound like I'm talking to Hope here; forgive me.

EYTYXOΣ said...

Eutichos, did You get the e-mail I've sent You the other day? (Sorry for being "so dam' pushy", but I'm really desperate here ... )

mayo 04, 2007 2:40 PM


I don't know if I did. Resend it, if you don't mind. waterandspirit@yahoo.com

Sorry if I got it and failed to respond. What was it about?

Rhology said...

Hey all,

Lucian: there's really no point in "playin' smart" (with me, or with anyone else for this matter).

RHOLOGY: My apologies. I'm really trying to be as polite as I can.


David Bryan: waaaaaay back. Almost half my life.
RHOLOGY: Yeah, scary, huh?

David Bryan: No follow, no eternal life; follow, then no snatch.
RHOLOGY: That's awesome!
But, ¿don't you talk to her in Spanish?
Pues, no seguir, no vida eterna. Seguir, no hacerse robar.

Or algo like that.


My wkdn began 4 minutes ago, so I'll probably see y'all on Monday. Outta town 'till then.

Peace,
ALAN

Lucian said...

Eutichos,

I think I'm gonna say it here, since chances are that You'll revisit this page: It's about my EXTREMELY LOOONG comment posted here:

http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2007/01/29/before-photios-giving-philosophical-content-to-theological-terms/#comments

It's the one dated January 31st, 2007, at 9:20 PM. (It's really HUGE, so You can't miss it). Any answer, direction, or suggestion regarding the issues and problems addressed and discussed there will be very deeply appreciated. Thank You.

[As I've said in my e-mail (which I've stupidly entitled "help.", so You must've most probably deleted it as spam, or something), I'm asking You for help since I have a hunch that You probably dealt with similar issues in Your journey from Judaism to Christianity, several decades ago ... it's a long-shot, I know, but it's still better than nothing]. Thanks.

EYTYXOΣ said...

Lucian:

I don't think I can help you. My Jewish upbringing was not really religious. It was not because I realized that "Jesus is the Messiah!" that I became a Christian. My Bible study and reading really didn't start until after I became a Christian.

Your questions about the Trinity and theophanies are probably beyond my philosophical and theological talents.

One comment. You write:

This flesh that Adam and Eva became was called Cain, and Eva said of him : “I have gotten a man [Adam] from the LORD”.
Adam + Eva = Cain.
(I have on my computer Easton’s Bible Dictionary and the Hebrew Transliterared Old Testament, so it was easy for me to verify this).


and

Ooops, sorry, I’ve forgotten a little equation just a little bit above : Cain = Adam. (So, in the like manner that all of these three distinct persons are but “one flesh”, being all three of them called Adam, without being confounded with the one Adam, so the three distinct Persons of the Trinity are but One God, each of Them being called God , without being confounded with God, i.e. the Father).

Actually, Eve refers to Cain as an "ish" and not as an "adam." See Genesis 4:1 in the Hebrew text.

As for proofs of the Trinity, I thought of one today, which is:

As far as I know, One and Three are the only prime numbers which, when the digits of any multiple of those numbers are added together, the sum of those digits yields a number that is also a multiple of those prime numbers. Now for One that's a given, but what I mean for Three is that if you take any multiple of Three - e.g., 1071 - and add the digits together - i.e., 1 + 0 + 7 + 1 - you get a multiple of Three (in this case 9). Thus, One and Three are special, unique numbers.

(That, and the popularity of three-part jokes, e.g., A priest, a rabbi and a minister walk into a bar....) ;^)

(Of course now we'll have to add an imam, which confounds the Trinity, but Islam is like that, isn't it?)

Lucian said...

Eutichos,

It's all right, as I said, it was a long-shot anyway, so ...
Thanks anyway.

EYTYXOΣ said...

Benedict Seraphim (Clifton Healy) partly addresses this in his latest post on his journey to Orthodoxy here

4. Encountering Living Orthodoxy, September 2003 to the Sunday of Orthodoxy (25 February 2007)

St. Maximus and Soteriology

Having completed the Father Seraphim biography and the collection of his letters over the Christmas 2003 holidays, 2004 opened with some light popular reading, and soon my family’s first solid exposure to Great Lent in the Orthodox Church. I worshiped at my first Bridegroom Matins service, and experienced some of the most profound and moving services during the Triduum. Although I had attended my first Pascha service the previous year, 2004 was the first for us as a family. It was an amazing and wonderful experience.

Spring gave way to summer, and in June of that year we totaled our car. But the Lord watched over us, and kept us all safe. One of our parishioners, Patricia, helped us get back home that day. A generous gift, our insurance settlement, and a most blessed timing, meant we were without a vehicle of our own only for a couple of brief weeks. We were able to get a good, safe and dependable vehicle.

The rest of 2004 was pretty mundane, in terms of Orthodoxy and our home. Which was good for us. We began to see how normal life as an Orthodox looked, and I was given yet more time to ensure that my conversion to Orthodoxy was genuine and without romanticism.

The year 2005, however, brought for me a new set of important theological developments. Perhaps one of the best things, in terms of my growth in understanding of Orthodoxy, to come out of the beginning of the year, was a post on the Church’s Tradition. That led to a series of exchanges between me and Kevin on the Tradition of the Church (the links to all of the posts are summarized in this final post). And that set of exchanges led then to a later series of posts, which, after the exchanges got underway, I called a soteriology diablog between various interblogolocutors.

The reason why this exchange was so transformative for me is that it led, through a personal recommendation from Perry Robinson, to a reading of Joseph Farrell’s Free Choice in Saint Maximos the Confessor, as well as Farrell’s translation of St. Maximos’ dialogue with Pyrrhus. In fact, I was so taken with Farrell’s book, I read it twice, once in April and then again in September.

It was the examination of the gnomic will of the human person that really opened up soteriology for me. I’d been working on an incomplete seminar paper on free will, and so this issue was fresh in my mind. Too, I was wrestling with the tension between “working out your salvation” and “saved by grace.” This was not a new struggle. I had faced it in my fourth year of Bible college. I had been raised with an almost semi-Pelagian understanding of salvation, that at times bordered on legalism. In college I grew to better understand grace. But this led, for a time, to a bit of antinomianism. The pendulum swung back to a more moderate spot, but encountering the Orthodox notion of struggle reawakened the tension and how to understand it.

St. Maximos gave me a mechanism and a schema by which I could understand the libertarian nature of human free will, and its ascetical nature of struggle and virtue. (Not all libertarian accounts of free will understand, let alone try to incorporate, the askesis of struggle and virtue in the deliberative will—Robert Kane is a notable and welcome exception.) It was that conceptual change that helped me to better grasp the Orthodox understanding of salvation, and St. Paul’s admonition to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”

It became clear to me that it was the habitual action, the continuous struggle, the life of the repentance that was, indeed, the point. It wasn’t a juridical declaration from God on high. It was, rather, the union with God that God fashions from our freely willed ascetical struggles in choosing that union, that love. It wasn’t that my struggle somehow earned God’s favor. It wasn’t that my efforts somehow merited grace. It was, rather, that in the struggle, in the effort, God in love freely energizes in me the infinite goods of his grace to not only do but become by his grace that which he is by his nature.

Gone was my semi-Pelagian, Restoration Movement understanding. It now made sense to me how it is that the Orthodox Church is, in some ways, the most ascetically demanding of Christian bodies, and the one place where I have come to know grace, to come finally to realize that God is, indeed, the lover of mankind. Not a God of wrath and judgment, but the God who is love, and who in love, extends his divine goods toward me that I might not merely know about him, but know him in my very being, insofar as my being can contain the tiniest sliver of that sort of knowing.

And once this development had worked its wonder and grace in me, the second major development was on its way.

[Next: The Summer of True Philosophia]

Unfortunately, the Farrell book is out of print. I want a copy!!

Benjamin said...

By the way, it would be interesting to look into Ezekial 34, a passage that would have immediately come to mind to the crowd listening to his words in the relevant sections of John 8 and 9. It is all about Shepherding and Sheep and contains both a guarantee of protection to those of God's fold and the threat of separation and judgement to those that are in God's fold. It helps to read the whole thing and, by the way, isn't the Apostle John's Gospel just a wonderful thing: scripture saturated with scripture.

Rhology said...

Hi everyone,

Hope you had a good wknd as I did.
From the top...

EYTYXOΣ: is to believe thus or teach thus a "blasphemy" or a "heresy"?
RHOLOGY: Blasphemy, certainly. To take what God alone does and ascribe it to men? You tell me.

RHOLOGY: there is a ton of biblical support for NOT being able to forfeit one's justification."
David Bryan: We would disagree, as would every Christian of note between (so you would claim) the Scriptures and (so we would claim) the Reformation
RHOLOGY: You don't believe everythg "the Fathers" taught either.
And you're right - I hold the Scriptures higher than they, unashamedly.

David Bryan: with one voice confessed the opposite gives us pause as to the "obviousness" of that interpretation.
RHOLOGY: I was recently referred to John Chrysostom, who didn't even deal w/ the issue in his Homily on the Gospel of John (as admitted by another poster here in the combox). Since he didn't comment on the psg, why should all this "w/ one voice" stuff make a lot of difference?
(That was rhetorical; it takes us a bit far afield. Respond if you like - you are welcome to the last word. I won't follow it further.)


RHOLOGY: On what textual basis do you claim that the works by which one cannot be saved are "the fulfilling of the Mosaic Law with those who seek to be made right before God" (as you said in your post)?"
David Bryan: To the first Q, Rom. 8:3. The law was weak in that it was carried out by death-bound mortals offerring death-infected animals. The life that was in the blood was actually death, not united to the One Who would condemn sin in the flesh.
RHOLOGY: I was asking what in the Ephesians text would lead you to distinguish between the two "works". Importing info about the Law doesn't do a whole lot for me. I know what your position is - you already stated it. I am asking you to give evidence from the text.

RHOLOGY: And then on what textual basis are the works that God prepared beforehand different from those works that don't save us?"
David Bryan: To this Q, the verses following the first (vv. 4-5, together with 13). We cannot fulfill the law of Christ -- putting to death the old man -- through the insufficient Mosaic Law which was apart from Christ, but if by the grace of God we fulfill the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus -- working through grace to put to death the deeds of the body, as St. Paul said -- we shall live.
RHOLOGY: That doesn't answer the meat of my question. I think you are saying that works are necessary for justification. Paul yet says that APART from works we have that, but we have justification IN ORDER THAT we may carry out works. But b/c of your commitment to traditions you insist on injecting works into the requirements for justification (or "salvation" as Paul puts it in Eph 2).
He says "saved, apart from works, that no man may boast...created in Christ Jesus for good works..."
The same works for which we are created in Christ Jesus are those apart from which we are saved.


David Bryan: Two different laws. Two different sets of works. Two different results.
RHOLOGY: See, you're just asserting that w/o textual justification (ha, get it?) for it.

EYTYXOΣ : Let's get together...What sayeth thou?
RHOLOGY: It's possible...I'd have to convince my wife that it would be a good use of our time in the Dallas area to get together and talk theology. ;-) (And we're a threesome too - our 1st daughter is a beautiful 4-month old.)


David Bryan: Re: John 10:25-28: 1) Our never perishing is contingent upon Christ's giving us eternal life. IOW, as long as we follow Christ, He is faithful to give us eternal life.
RHOLOGY: Exactly. And Christ gives eternal life to "the sheep."
But wait - if they are sheep, that means they came to Christ and are no longer wolves (or goats, one might easily say), and "they will never perish;" "no one can snatch them out of My hand."
It seems that your position would have to be that the "sheep" are those who have died in Christ, since their salvation is secure (since you yourself have said that our salvation is contingent upon sthg or some things until our death - nothing is 100% certain until we die). (BTW, I know I said that no one can be 100% sure that they have been justified by God [thus the admonitions to examine ourselves] but God knows and counts us justified. But your position does not allow for a justification to take place at a moment in time during one's lifetime [correct me if I'm wrong].)
Given that, why would Jesus say "all those who die in Christ will never be snatched out of My hand"? Isn't that kind of obvious?
Given that, why would Jesus say "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me"?
Given that, why would Jesus say "but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock"? How can "My flock" and "not My flock" be distinguished during a person's lifetime in such a way that it would be useful for Jesus to call His opponents "not My flock"?


David Bryan: 2) As long, then, as we follow Him--endure to the end, as it were--we will never perish, and nothing can snatch us out of His hand.
RHOLOGY: So Jesus is saying "if you endure to the end, you can be fully confident that Satan's temptations will never get to you"?

David Bryan: My sheep hear My voice, AND I know them, AND they follow Me, AND I give them eternal life, AND they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand."
RHOLOGY: Which describes my position exactly. But not yours - they are already sheep.


Benjamin: it would be interesting to look into Ezekial 34
RHOLOGY: I did. Where did you see the "threat of separation and judgment to those that in God's fold"?


Peace,
ALAN

EYTYXOΣ said...

Rhology: The blasphemy is thinking you can do anythg to contribute to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ for your justification.

EYTYXOΣ: And ... is to believe thus or teach thus a "blasphemy" or a "heresy"?

RHOLOGY: Blasphemy, certainly. To take what God alone does and ascribe it to men? You tell me.


I think I'll opt for "heresy" being a more proper appellation in the context in which you discuss this.

blas·phe·my(blsf-m)
n. pl. blas·phe·mies
1. a. A contemptuous or profane act, utterance, or writing concerning God or a sacred entity. b. The act of claiming for oneself the attributes and rights of God.
2. An irreverent or impious act, attitude, or utterance in regard to something considered inviolable or sacrosanct.

her·e·sy(hr-s)
n. pl. her·e·sies
1. a. An opinion or a doctrine at variance with established religious beliefs, especially dissension from or denial of Roman Catholic dogma by a professed believer or baptized church member. b. Adherence to such dissenting opinion or doctrine.
2. a. A controversial or unorthodox opinion or doctrine, as in politics, philosophy, or science. b. Adherence to such controversial or unorthodox opinion.

Lucian said...

RHOLOGY: I was recently referred to John Chrysostom, who didn't even deal w/ the issue in his Homily on the Gospel of John (as admitted by another poster here in the combox). Since he didn't comment on the psg, why should all this "w/ one voice" stuff make a lot of difference?

And why didn't he deal with it while lavishly commenting upon the respective verses? (Just a question).

Rhology said...

Blasphemy: The act of claiming for oneself the attributes and rights of God.

That's what I meant.

Heresy? Are you guys heretics? I dunno...certainly heterodox.

--And why didn't he (John Chrysostom) deal with it while lavishly commenting upon the respective verses?
>>I would ask him, not me. :-)

It very possibly didn't cross his mind to comment on it from that angle.
And I'm going to assume you meant "surrounding" when you said "respective." If you really meant "respective", then I'd ask you to reread the text I pasted. He hardly even mentions vv.27-28.

The problem is, he didn't really deal w/ the implications of the psg in question AT ALL.
And that's the funny thing about your constant appeal to "the Fathers." If I bought a commentary on the Gospel of John at Mardel and the commentator blew past the obvious implications of a given psg w/o even dealing w/ it, I'd consider that a strike against it.
Now take the same commentary and make it older. Does its age necessarily make it a better commentary? The answer is obvious.

At minimum, the point is that Chrysostom is not going to help us much here either way.

Rhology said...

BTW, David Bryan, you made a throwaway comment:
We would disagree, as would every Christian of note between (so you would claim) the Scriptures and (so we would claim) the Reformation...

Just a thought for you:

"Jerome develops the same distinction, stating that, while the Devil and the impious who have denied God will be tortured without remission, those who have trusted in Christ, even if they have sinned and fallen away, will eventually be saved." (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines [San Francisco, California: HarperCollins Publishers, 1978], p. 484)

EYTYXOΣ said...

Rhology said...

Blasphemy: The act of claiming for oneself the attributes and rights of God.

That's what I meant.

Heresy? Are you guys heretics? I dunno...certainly heterodox.


I still disagree with your choice of blasphemy for the theology I enunciated that I was taught. It's heresy, not blasphemy.

Lucian said...

>>I would ask him, not me. :-)

Then just go ahead and ask him. (Mark 12:27).

Benjamin said...

17"As for you, My flock, thus says the Lord GOD, 'Behold, I will judge between one sheep and another, between the rams and the male goats.

18'Is it too slight a thing for you that you should feed in the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pastures? Or that you should drink of the clear waters, that you must foul the rest with your feet?

As for My flock, they must eat what you tread down with your feet and drink what you foul with your feet!'"

Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them, "Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. "

-Rhob, it was these verses I was mentioning. The Lord declares, in the verses before these, that he will take charge of the sheep and be their shepherd. But then he goes on to say that he will judge between the sheep he has chosen, separating one from the other. I would imagine that the ultimate hermenuetic of this passage lies in Mathew 25, as Christ takes these words and reaffirms them in the Gospel narrative.

EYTYXOΣ said...

I would imagine that the ultimate hermenuetic of this passage lies in Mathew 25, as Christ takes these words and reaffirms them in the Gospel narrative.

To be provocative, I think that Matthew 25:31 ff. might actually be the hermeneutic for Joel 3 (Joel 4 in the Hebrew MT and the LXX). After all, in Matthew 25 it's a judgment of how the gentiles/nations (ethnos) treat Christ's "brethren," which could mean either how the nations treated the Jews or more probably how the non-Christians of the world treated Christ's followers and disciples/apostles.

Rhology said...

Lucian: Just call up Chrysostom and ask him!

Oh, that's a great idea. I think I'll pass, thanks.

Benjamin: he goes on to say that he will judge between the sheep he has chosen, separating one from the other.

And that fits fully w/in my theology. God will judge between the sheep (notice they are sheep, not goats, for example, in Ezek 34) in order to distinguish each person's level of reward.
And Matt 25 clarifies and provides a foundation for St Jerome's belief - the sheep go to heaven and the goats to hell. You go "baa baa" because you are a sheep, not in order to become a sheep.

Lucian said...

I think I'll pass.

Okay; have it Your way.

Rhology said...

Not into Deuteronomy, huh?

Lucian said...

Not into Mark, huh?

Lucian said...

Seriously, now, forget the whole James vs. Paul thing ... it's old & boring ... let's make an entire new "Mark vs. Moses" series (when Jesus meets His Father) ;))

Benjamin said...

Rhob,

We have somewhat gotten off track from the original intent of the post, if the original intent was how one synthesizes (or fails to synthesize) the writings of Paul with the writings of James. We've entered a sub-category, perhaps it is more of a "why we synthesize this way" rather than a "how this is synthesized", which is more of what David was attempting, methinks.

At any rate, the conversation is not lacking in value, but all these things can go on absurdly.

An interesting question we could ask here is: what is at stake if either side is wrong? The Orthodox would say that we are saved by God's grace and by continuing in that grace by "actively remaining passive" (to steal a phrase), and that there is a real chance a person could not continue in the grace. Does that leave us without assurance? Well, we certainly are sure that God loves us, has died for us, has forgiven our sins and at all times in all places is doing everything to bring about our redemption on that last day. But ultimately the book of Judgment is his book and we do not know what the last letter is.

And I imagine you would say much of the same thing, save for the fact that those who have truly received that grace will continue on, no matter what, thus giving us a peak into the book

Regardless of the “why”, we both believe that all Christians must strive for sanctification, or holiness. Do you think our two theological understandings of just what sanctification means for the day of judgment undermines one camp’s holiness if they turn out to be misinformed?

I'd be curious to know if you believe that -in viewing the possibility of "falling away" as something that applies to true believers-the Orthodox have not received the Gospel and been converted to Christ.

The bigger question then is this: what, to you is the Gospel? Is "justification by faith through grace plus nothing" or is it "Jesus is Lord and God raised him from the dead; believe on him for eternal life". For me the former is more of a "how" understanding about the Gospel and the latter is the actual Gospel itself. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on this.

Forgive me for sounding too ecumenical or wishy-washy, my beliefs on areas we disagree on are sincere and I believe them to come from sound biblical teaching, both ancient and new. I think there are a lot of of huge questions that we’d perhaps disagree on, questions that are absolutely foundational to our interpretation of Scripture: Such as the nature the old testament, the nature of the church, the nature of the Gospels – their authorship, context and ecclesiological dimensions, and, of course, the nature of authority. I find that in talking about the “same thing” we can easily come to realize that we have two different vocabularies lodged in our paradigms. All this being said, my questions above are really trying to find out how serious you find this disagreement of ours to be? It is a matter of anathema or agnosticism, or something else?

Benjamin said...

and forgive for for addressing you as rhob - for some reason I type your screenname as that when it is clearly not correct! No harm intended

Rhology said...

Hi Benjamin,

No prob on the handle. Just call me "Rho" or "Rhology" or "Alan" as you like. "Rhoblogy" is a feeble attempt to pun "blog" into "Rhology".

True, we're a bit off the original subject, but I've seen far worse digressions, as you probably have. :-)

Anyway, what is at stake is indeed the very heart of the Gospel, and I don't see any good reason to conclude anythg other than that, biblically, the question is a question of anathema, of rendering grace null.
Galatians 1:8 anathematises them who would preach a different Gospel, even if they were an angel from heaven (or presumably, a saint).
Romans 11:6 warns us not to nullify grace - add works to it and you have done so. And you have done so.

I might be quicker than many to throw around the word "heretic" and "condemned by God", and yet for some reason I hesitate when related to EOx and RCs. But there is no doubt in my mind that the system to which you ascribe ultimate authority (the EOx church) as a whole lacks the Gospel, as does Rome.
If your system lacks the Gospel, I think you can figure out what that means for your destiny. It does and I hope you will.
That said, I hold out hope for certain unidentified individuals w/in the aforementioned systems who hold to enough biblical truth despite the systematic teachings that they can know the Gospel. Unfortunately, though I cannot know anyone's heart, one who defends those systems displays a much more detailed understanding and thus are in a much more dangerous situation.

The Gospel: "Jesus is Lord and God raised him from the dead; by His undeserved favor we can have eternal life through faith alone in Him."

Hope that helps.

Peace,
ALAN

(Word verification: ogsuc
Very nice.)

Benjamin said...

Alan,

Your said: The Gospel: "Jesus is Lord and God raised him from the dead; by His undeserved favor we can have eternal life through faith alone in Him."

I would hesitate on your last sentence, not first and foremost because of its content but because it does not derive directly from a passage of the Scriptures. As we both know (it is repeatedly annoyingly by Catholics and Protestants), the words "faith alone" only appear in James and therein they have a different meaning then the one construed here.

I thank you for answering my question clearly and seriously. I appreciate your forthrightness. It is hard to hold a conversation that doesn't get into the rut of speaking past each other - isn't it?

A couple thoughts/nuances

-You've called the system to which I ascribe ultimate authority the Orthodox Church. Let me nuance this. I ascribe authority to God, as written down in the Scriptures and faithfully interpreted by the Church, which is his body, indwelt by his Spirit. Too often we Orthodox have used cheap Catholic apologetics, easily ripped off in order to rib our Protestant opponents, blathering on rather mindlessly about the authority of the Church without considering the full testimony of the Fathers. The Orthodox tradition is the correct interpretation of God's Word - in dogma and practice; it is nothing without that Word. And we Orthodox have been scandalously mindless of that Word in many ways, especially recently. I praise God for such things as the Orthodox Center for the Advancement of Biblical Studies (http://www.ocabs.org/) and, especially for Fr. John Behr, whose “The Mystery of Christ” is one of the clearest most inspiring expositions of Scripture, Canon and Apostolic Tradition that I’ve read. You should read it some time Alan, even just for kicks. I’ll buy you one.

-Returning to the definition of the “Gospel”, I do not see in the apostolic preaching of the book of acts a very clear exposition of justification by faith. This was not the Gospel. This was not the message that cut like swords to the hearts of those that killed Christ. It is only later that this is preached to the churches, the churches that have already received the gospel, in order to keep them from falling away. It was Paul’s way of coming to terms with just how significant the Gospel, i.e., the life, death and resurrection of Christ was, and one what affects it had on Jews and Gentiles. I do not know if you are familiar with the writings of Bishop NT Wright of England, as well as the “New Perspective” theology that is taking place and causing a stir, but some of it rings these bells.

Also it is interesting to note the difference in how you and I “view” eachother as Christians. I believe that you know the Gospel and believe it – the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. And I believe that you sincerely seem to be devoting your life to it. And I am grateful for your love of the Scriptures and hopeful for your soul. I do believe your view of salvation is deficient and your understanding of the Gospel is not complete, but the Christ of the Scriptures seems rather unconcerned with the tidiness of those he saves. Of course, there are many in my Church (let’s say, many on Mt. Athos), who would assume that there is no grace outside of the Orthodox Church and thus you are very likely damned. Who knows? Let God be true and every man a liar.

David Bryan said...

Benjamin,

Well said! Amen to this last one.

All,

Rest assured that, even in my business this week, I have been keeping up with your conversation. It's been civil and stimulating. Good for y'all.

Alan,

Three things.

NUMBER ONE
Regarding Chrysostom’s commentary: you say he “hardly even mentions vv.27-28,” when in fact he sets up the scenario from the scene -- being His sheep and following Him -- followed by never being plucked out of his hand (a point repeated over and over). It seems to us that he dealt with the passage in its entirety just fine. The problem is, I think, that you have projected what you feel to be the “obvious implications of a given psg” -- i.e., the “never perishing” clause being an unavoidable reference to Calvin’s Perseverance doctrine -- onto said passage, and when St. John does not frame his commentary around such implications -- and why would he, since, in our view, such implications would be totally unheard of to him? -- you accuse him of “not dealing with the passage.” This kind of argumentation, while it may serve to further your conviction on what the interpretation of said passage is, does nothing to convince us, since you’ve taken your “obvious” implications, which were decided on a priori, as a given accepted by all and run with it.

NUMBER TWO
Regarding the Ephesian text: you asked what in the Ephesians text would lead me to distinguish between the works of the Law and good works in Christ. If you go down to verses 14-16, you’ll see that the Mosaic Law, mentioned specifically for its powerlessness to bring these Gentile Ephesians to salvation, is alone cited as a set of “works”; if we are to connect the “works” of verse nine with anything, this seems to be the only possibility. These works, then are opposed to the blood of Christ, which destroys the enmity of Jew and Gentile, reconciling all men to God. The tenth verse, then, is interesting with this context given, for the phrase “good works that we should walk in” stands in contrast to what I would think a Calvinist rendition would read, namely thus: “good works that we will walk in.” The walking looks to me like a post-faith condition rather than a presupposition.

NUMBER THREE
Regarding St. Jerome’s supposed support for sola fide: it’s first of all interesting that your quote mentions his support for the purgatorial nature of the afterlife between our departure from this life and the Last Judgement. But that’s neither here nor there. I’ve read St. Jerome’s Against Jovinianus, and the context of the work makes this quote quite interesting: “For it is not accordant with the
righteousness of God to forget good works, and the fact that you have ministered and do minister to the Saints for His name's sake, and to remember sins only. The Apostle James also, knowing that the baptized can be tempted, and fall of their own free choice, says: [Quotes James 1:12-16]. God created us with free will, and we are not forced by necessity either to virtue or to vice. Otherwise, if there be necessity, there is no crown. As in good works it is God who brings them to perfection, for it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that pitieth and gives us help that we may be able to reach the goal.”

Notice that the “crown of life” St. Jerome references in St. James’ epistle is NOT a mere heavenly reward for sanctification that is distinct from justification, but rather something that, if not attained due to yielding to temptation, ends in nothing short of death -- the falling of a baptized Christian mentioned by St. Jerome.

EYTYXOΣ said...

David Bryan wrote:
"... God created us with free will, and we are not forced by necessity either to virtue or to vice. Otherwise, if there be necessity, there is no crown. As in good works it is God who brings them to perfection, for it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that pitieth and gives us help that we may be able to reach the goal."

Notice that the "crown of life" St. Jerome references in St. James’ epistle is NOT a mere heavenly reward for sanctification that is distinct from justification, but rather something that, if not attained due to yielding to temptation, ends in nothing short of death -- the falling of a baptized Christian mentioned by St. Jerome.


Zerwick describes "the crown of life" as an epexegetical (appositional?) genitive; i.e., "the crown which is life." I.e., the crown is not something that caps a life of obedience to the Lord; rather, it is that eternal life itself.

Rhology said...

Hey guys,

Benjamin,

My statement of the Gospel is a composite of many, many psgs of Scr, not "a verse," so there you go.
The companion and prequel to this post was at my blog on the "faith alone" of James, just FYI.

Ruts stink.

The proof that your ultimate authority is the EOC has been seen in at least 2 things here:
1) You do not hold to sola fide and cite, among other things, the Ep of James for support
2) You said "...Scriptures and faithfully interpreted by the Church". The Scr are for the teaching of the Ch - if the Ch is over the Scr, she cannot be corrected by them.

Hmm, I was on another blog today (one Father Stephen) and he also mentioned Fr John Behr. That's cool.

A fine exposition of justification by faith is Romans 4, where Ab is said to have been credited righteousness "apart from works," as:

2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3For what does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness." 4Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5And to the one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works...

And I'd just have to disagree - it is precisely b/c this that IS the Gospel. It cuts to the heart precisely it is contrary to man's system, which says you can DO enough to make it before God, you can make yourself good enough or you can help get there. "If Abraham was justified by works, he has sthg to boast about", remember?

NT Wright - familiar w/ him, yes. A fan, not really. NPP on Paul is fraught w/ problems.

It doesn't give me alot of pleasure to throw around anathemas, but Paul himself told the Galatians, who added a work to the Gospel, that those who add to it are anathema. I, then, can hardly conclude otherwise. But I remain hopeful for your soul; it is disheartening to me to think of my friend David Bryan to whom Paul says, "Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?" (Gal 3:3). And further,

4You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness. (Gal 4:4-5).

As for those in Athos, they have their reward. It is interesting to me that you who believe you can identify the One True Church based partially on its incredible unity part w/ those learned monks on sthg so important as the Gospel.

Peace,
ALAN

Rhology said...

David Bryan,

Good to see you back. You have been missed, but I am very well aware that life goes on outside the blogosphere; it might be an exaggeration to call this convo your 8th priority.

And I really do appreciate the "civil and stimulating" comment. I am trying to get better than I've been in the past.

(Your) NUMBER ONE:

I pasted the relevant section of Chrysostom's Homily on John in this comment.
In Chrys' comment on vv 27-30, he deals w/ the following pts, ISTM:
1) that Christ was encouraging the hearers to become sheep, to make them jealous
2) that the hand of the Father and that of Christ are one and the same, that Christ's hand is no less powerful than the Father's
3) the "Hand" is power and authority, not based on material
4) this psg is in particular reference to Christ's power, identity, Deity

I'm cool w/ all that and I'm sure you are too. But what I meant was that Chrys doesn't comment on the "they shall never perish" in regards to the subject of our convo here today. And that's understandable - I believe you when you say that he would possibly have never heard of such an idea as the Perseverance of the Saints. Given that, his commentary (to which I was referred, I remind you, by an EO poster here) is not of great help to us today for this convo.
And if they're not "obvious" implications, then I'd be interested in knowing how:
1) one can enter thru Christ and be saved (v. 9),
2) follow His voice (v.8, 16, 27),
3) be in the fold (v. 16),
4) know he is Christ's (v. 14) and be in spiritual union w/ Him as He is w/ the Father (v.15),
5) follow Christ (v.27), and
6) perish (even though v. 28 says they won't) b/c they turned away.

"But Alan, they aren't, strictly speaking, sheep until they die."

Then how could they be said to "follow Christ" and "hear His voice" and "believe"? And furthermore, if one is a sheep only when one dies, what good is it to say that the Thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy and that the sheep can't be plucked out of Christ's hand? Is it simply an assurance that we won't be stolen away while in eternity?

NUMBER TWO:

I didn't see any "works" in Eph 2:14-16. I saw the Mosaic Law mentioned, ordinances, and Christ doing stuff (works). But I might be missing your point.
I'll be honest - from the text I don't see any conditional language for the works of v.9 that would compel me to your pt, but it doesn't seem completely ruled out either.
Even if "works" did appear in vv14-16, why would we connect them to v.9 when "works" appears much closer in the chapter and w/in the same thought in v. 8?
This seems to be turning into more and more contorting and strenuous attempts to make this psg say sthg that would align w/ your tradition. It's a dangerous game.

NUMBER THREE:
If the context of Jerome mentions the "purgatorial nature of the afterlife" (I'll have to check my _ECD_ when I get a second), then wouldn't that mean that he agrees w/ neither of us?
If so, wouldn't that be a harsher blow (not a defeater, I'm just talking relatively here) against your position rather than mine?
I guess JND Kelly mistook Jerome, then? And if such an authority as Kelly estimates Jerome's position as he did, then why should I accept your one-man, personal interpretation of Jerome here?
Finally, whether Jerome thought "crown" referred to eternal life rather than further rewards in heaven doesn't make a lot of diff to me.

If nobody gets to this before the wknd, I hope everyone has a good and safe one!

Peace,
ALAN

Benjamin said...

Gentlemen,

I'd love to stay. I am particulary interested in discussing if the Gospel as "justification" is biblically defensible, etc. But, as I'm to be married in 6.5 days I think my hands are too full. God bless you all. Pray for me.

-Ben

David Bryan said...

Ben,

God bless, and congratulations. God grant y'all two many years.

Alan,

"I am trying to get better than I've been in the past."

-- I've noticed.

NUMBER ONE:

"Given that [St. John would possibly have never heard of such an idea as the Perseverance of the Saints], his commentary (to which I was referred, I remind you, by an EO poster here) is not of great help to us today for this convo."

Well, true, it doesn't address the specific part of the verse you brought up.

"I'd be interested in knowing how:
one can enter thru Christ and be saved (v. 9),"

By being baptized into His death and resurrection and following His commandments for the rest of one's life.

"follow His voice (v.8, 16, 27),"

See aforementioned commands.

"be in the fold (v. 16),"

By being a member of His Church and living out the spiritual life with the rest of the εκκλησια.

"Know he is Christ's (v. 14) and be in spiritual union w/ Him as He is w/ the Father (v.15),"

Understanding the grace that has been give to him, along with the reality of his remaining sinfulness, and participating in a life-long ascetic endeavor to "be perfect, even as [his] heavenly Father is perfect."

"follow Christ (v.27), and perish (even though v. 28 says they won't) b/c they turned away."

Again, they perish because they turn away, which they're free to do at any time. For them to perish in spite of faithfully following Christ would be unthinkable, and that's what Christ is speaking out against. Those who are sheep are thus because they follow His commandments IN FAITH.

Your comment, then--"But Alan, they aren't, strictly speaking, sheep until they die"--is putting words in my mouth. These are parables. Metaphors. Don't take them too far. You can start out a "sheep" and end up a "goat" if you do not endure to the end, for only there is found salvation.

"And furthermore, if one is a sheep only when one dies--"

--again, one is not, but that's setting up the next quote of yours--

"--what good is it to say that the Thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy and that the sheep can't be plucked out of Christ's hand? Is it simply an assurance that we won't be stolen away while in eternity?"

No, that is an excellent reminder of Christ's acknowledgement that Satan does come to steal, kill, and destroy, but as long as we remain faithful to Christ (again, by cooperating with the grace made freely available to us apart from anything we've done) we don't have to worry about Satan's influence. We do, however, still have to deal with our own tendency to stray.

NUMBER TWO:

"I didn't see any "works" in Eph 2:14-16. I saw the Mosaic Law mentioned, ordinances, and Christ doing stuff (works). But I might be missing your point."

You are...you asked originally where I saw the "works" in vs. 8 that were unable to save. Vs. 15 specifically mentions the works of the Law as unable to save, as opposed to the blood of Christ. Again, this for us is the laying of the foundation of a renewed creation (Creation in Christ Jesus -- vs. 10), the resurrected and glorified Christ being the foundation for our potential partaking of His divinity through our humanity, which has been united to His glorified and risen humanity.

"This seems to be turning into more and more contorting and strenuous attempts to make this psg say sthg that would align w/ your tradition. It's a dangerous game."

How funny -- I was just thinking the same thing about you...

NUMBER THREE:
"If the context of Jerome mentions the "purgatorial nature of the afterlife" (I'll have to check my _ECD_ when I get a second), then wouldn't that mean that he agrees w/ neither of us?"

No--we believe the time between repose and judgement is purgatorIAL, but not PurgatorY as the Latins would state it.

"And if such an authority as Kelly estimates Jerome's position as he did, then why should I accept your one-man, personal interpretation of Jerome here?"

Y'don't have to...read the work via the link for yourself, I s'pose...

"Finally, whether Jerome thought "crown" referred to eternal life rather than further rewards in heaven doesn't make a lot of diff to me."

OK. But life only received through enduring temptation seems quite unlike sola fide.

Rhology said...

Benjamin,

Wow, you stayed longer than maybe I would've! May your wedding and first weeks of marriage be blessed. It's pretty good. Pretty good. I think you'll like it.

Rhology said...

Howdy,

ONE:

Obviously I don't agree w/ you about how you describe the "being a sheep" in John 10, but that's not the most central question.
The sheep will not perish.
You said they perish because they turn away, which they're free to do at any time but you're importing that into the text from elsewhere. B/c you have to.
For your objection to stand, you'd have to posit a different definition of "sheep" than I think is the best one. That's why I mentioned dead person=sheep. That's also why I put in my italicised imaginary objection - not b/c I thought you would say it, but b/c I thought someone might be thinking it.

You said:
You can start out a "sheep" and end up a "goat" if you do not endure to the end, for only there is found salvation.

How do you figure that?
1st of all, everyone starts a goat.
Some become sheep. Christ says they won't perish.


TWO:

Why do you import the "works" from v. 15 (even though "works" don't appear in v. 15 either) into 8-9?
The point of 8-10 is: you have been saved apart from works so you can go do works. You say the 1st works is of a different nature than the 2nd. I don't understand how that is textually supportable.
And then you went on to a long sentence about foundation, creation, renewal, potential partaking of His divinity, etc, but it's an add-on to the question at hand.

THREE:

You said:
Y'don't have to (accept my personal interp of Jerome)...read the work via the link for yourself, I s'pose...

Hold on a sec - you're telling ME, a private individual, to read and interpret Jerome for myself? Am I even capable of doing that correctly?


Peace,
ALAN

Lucian said...

Take a closer look at 1 Corinthians 7:19; Galatians 5:6; Titus 1:13-16 and 3:8,9.

Tell me what You see there.

(I suppose You already went over Ephesians 2:8-10; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Titus 2:14).

EYTYXOΣ said...

Alan said:
How do you figure that?
1st of all, everyone starts a goat.
Some become sheep. Christ says they won't perish.


Yes, I clearly remember this passage:
13 Then little evil totally-depraved-by-original-sin children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. And the disciples rebuked those who brought them. 14 And Jesus said, "Don't let those little lost children of wrath come to me, for I was hungry and they gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and they gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and they did not invite me in, I needed clothes and they did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and they did not look after me. For the kingdom of heaven does not belong to such as these." 15 And shooing them away, he went on from there.

Rhology said...

Oh good, then you'll also remember this psg (which is much closer to the Eph 2:8-10 psg in question):

Eph 2:1And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,

2in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.

3Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

EYTYXOΣ said...

Paul was writing to adults in his Ephesians Epistle. Would he consider young children as being dead in their trespasses and sins and walking according to the devil in their futile entire behavior? I guess it depends on one's soteriology and anthropology. Jesus, though, does not seem to regard children as being such.

Rhology said...

On what basis do you say that "Jesus, though, does not seem to regard children as being such"?

Rhology said...

And yes, he would apply that to children. I don't recall seeing "And you adults were dead in your trespasses and sins, but not your kids" in that Epistle.

EYTYXOΣ said...

No he wouldn't.

You do your eisegeting and I'll do mine. ;^)

(I'm on the road and don't have time to write lengthily, esp. since it's a public hotel PC.)

Rhology said...

Ah, I understand - hotel PCs are not the best environment for such a discussion, that's for sure.

When you get a chance, I'd like to know why you answered that way.

Peace,
ALAN

David Bryan said...

"Howdy"

--Howdoo.

ONE:

"The sheep will not perish. You said they perish because they turn away, which they're free to do at any time but you're importing that into the text from elsewhere. B/c you have to."

I could argue that you're importing the idea into the passage that they're NOT free to turn away at any time because YOU have to, especially in the light of Romans 11 and elsewhere. So where does that leave us?

"1st of all, everyone starts a goat. Some become sheep. Christ says they won't perish."

Well, OK, but, (1) how does that affect your idea of "babies go right to heaven" if, in fact, they're automatically goats and children of wrath? Furthermore, how do you back that up from Scripture? (2) Christ says that THOSE WHO FOLLOW HIM won't perish. Are we MADE to follow Christ? Or do we choose to?

TWO:

"The point of 8-10 is: you have been saved apart from works so you can go do works. You say the 1st works is of a different nature than the 2nd."

And in the immediate context of the original Jewish audience, I believe the pre-Christ works to be those of the law of Moses, the latter the law of the Spirit of Life in Christ Jesus in Romans 8. This could, I admit, apply to ANY attempt to work out our salvation apart from Christ. So I'll back off from the insistence on works of the Law.

Regardless, I'd ask why, if our salvation is a done deal in its individual application, did St. Paul still fear disqualification/being a castaway and tell others to work out their salvation w/fear and trembling? Was it because he felt those good works he had been created in Christ Jesus to do were not a "given" and he had to labor to cooperate with Christ for the sake of his own salvation? We would say this.

Also, however, is this question: what is the benefit of knowing God will eventually CAUSE you to CHOOSE these good works when you have no real way of knowing whether or not you even WILL be one of those people? What is the REAL comfort in any of that?

THREE:

"Hold on a sec - you're telling ME, a private individual, to read and interpret Jerome for myself? Am I even capable of doing that correctly?"

Maybe...if you come to believe the same as that which has been believed always, everywhere, and by all (with the rare exception made, as in the case of the canon of Scripure), then we'd say you've interpreted that correctly.

Regardless, if you can come up with another meaning for the passage based on the context of the work as a whole, then we've got a reason to continue this point...

David Bryan said...

Shoot, forgot something...

The "and they follow me" clause in Jn. 10:27 -- και ακολουθουσιν μοι -- clearly has "they" as the inflected subject on the verb "follow," with "μοι" being the objective pronoun, "me" (hey, EYTYXOΣ: how'm I doin', profe? ;-))

How do you get by the obvious transitivity of the verb in this verse? How can this be anything but a part we play in our own "never perishing"?

EYTYXOΣ said...

Jesus said that He is the Light of the World. One thing we know about light is that it can at times best be described as a particle, and at other times best be described as a wave. It exhibits characteristics of either or both, depending on what you are trying to measure. So I will derive a conclusion from this that whether believers are eternally secure or are contingently saved depends on whether you are measuring salvation in terms of it being a wave (one continuous flow from salvation to salvation) or a particle (steps along the way that may or may not have an assured outcome connected with the initial salvation act).

- Professor Irwin Corey ;^)

Rhology said...

Howdoodle,


ONE:
You said:
you're importing the idea into the passage that they're NOT free to turn away at any time because YOU have to, especially in the light of Romans 11 and elsewhere.

You may not have meant to express this, but you have just made the equivalent of an admission that my position accords w/ Scripture - since I "have to" import another psg from the Scr into my understanding. I'll go on record saying that I do so w/ pride.
I contrast that w/ the way that you have to import "The Church's Understanding"® into this text; suddenly it's possible that the sheep CAN perish.

(1) how does that affect your idea of "babies go right to heaven" if, in fact, they're automatically goats and children of wrath?

Given the devastating grief I have experienced due to my wife's miscarriage of our 1st child, I must say I hope that she went straight to the glorious presence of Jesus and will meet me there.
Biblically, I'm not married to the idea that babies do go straight to heaven. John Macarthur wrote a fine book on the subject (Safe In the Arms of God) and it gives me hope...but I remain merely 80-85% convinced (if I may say it that way).
I don't believe this is relevant to our discussion here, but the argument usually goes - God applies the atonement of Christ to those who die before the age of acctability and so they are saved.

Furthermore, how do you back that up from Scripture?

That they are children of wrath? Ephesians 2:1-3. Romans 3.
That babies go directly to heaven? Maybe we can talk about that some other time.

(2) Christ says that THOSE WHO FOLLOW HIM won't perish. Are we MADE to follow Christ? Or do we choose to?

Right, those who follow Him won't perish, I agree 100%. Problem is, they are already sheep and they know their Shepherd's voice. Unbelievers don't know the Shepherd's voice. "My sheep" are a real category into which some real, living people fit. They know the voice of the Shepherd, follow Him, can't be plucked away, and won't perish (presumably b/c their salvation is eternal, as 1 Peter 1 tells us).
I wouldn't say we are made (as in, "forced" or "coerced" or sthg) to follow Christ. There is an element of human choice in the matter.
More on point, maybe this will prove helpful in considering how it goes down in relation to being a goat and later a sheep:

-While a goat, you are a slave to sin, your fleshly lusts, the Devil, etc (Rom 6, etc).
-The Holy Spirit acts in conviction on you and (however it happens) you begin to believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, begin to have an accurate belief about God and Jesus, and confess that Jesus is Lord. Thus you become a sheep.
-Now you are a sheep, a slave to righteousness (again, Rom 6).
-You know the Shepherd's voice, and you are more free than you were before, when you were a slave to sin. Thus the nature of your freedom is not to have a greater quantity of actions available to you to choose from, but a BETTER QUALITY of actions -- righteous actions, that please God and lead to freedom of the soul out of the bondage of sin.
-Now, precisely because you are far freer than ever before, you won't turn away from the voice of the Shepherd.

This is a diff definition of what we usually think of as "freedom" but I think it is far biblical-er.
Does that make sense?

You said:
How can this be anything but a part we play in our own "never perishing"?

I'm afraid the grammatical point is partially lost on me, but I invite you to explain how the part I might play in never perishing could in fact lead me to perish.


TWO:
You said:
This could, I admit, apply to ANY attempt to work out our salvation apart from Christ. So I'll back off from the insistence on works of the Law.

OK, I was hoping you would. I just don't think it's sustainable from the text. You have to go all the way to v. 15 to find anythg related to The OT Law and there it doesn't even say "works" or anything like that.
The point I'm trying to make is this:

1) There are works apart from which we are saved by faith
2) These same works are the same works God created for us to work in Christ Jesus (ie, now that we're saved)
3) You say we are not saved by faith alone

The disjunction between 2 and 3 is what endangers you to a great extent, and I fear for that.

You said:
why, if our salvation is a done deal in its individual application, did St. Paul still fear disqualification/being a castaway and tell others to work out their salvation w/fear and trembling?

1) To warn against self-deception and false faith - "examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith"
2) To warn (as in 1 Cor 3 & 9) against losing your heavenly reward, which IS on the basis of works, giving up blessings to which you are otherwise entitled, sacrifice, etc.

I would add briefly that the "work out your salvation" is followed by "for it is God Who works in you". That, I'm sure you would agree, is the proper order. But I believe your position robs God of glory He wills for Himself in saving people by His grace through faith, unadorned by anythg we might do.

You said:
Was it because he felt those good works he had been created in Christ Jesus to do were not a "given" and he had to labor to cooperate with Christ for the sake of his own salvation?

Replace "for the sake of his own salvation" w/ "to prove his salvation true and increase his reward" and I'd agree and then you're there! You have a position that is faithful to Pauline and, um, Jamesine doctrine both. And I have never seen an alternative make sense.

You said:
what is the benefit of knowing God will eventually CAUSE you to CHOOSE these good works when you have no real way of knowing whether or not you even WILL be one of those people? What is the REAL comfort in any of that?

There's a diff between being infallibly certain of my own salvation and being reasonably/sufficiently sure, as the NT makes plain.
And given all those warnings about disqualification and checking yourself in the NT, I wouldn't say that "comfort" is a biblically supportable goal or idea.

THREE:
Fundamentally, it looks like you're saying that, if I read Jerome and agree w/ EOC, then I'm right. This raises all sorts of epistemological questions, but they're not for here.
I concede THREE. :-)

EYTYXOΣ said:
Light-wave vs particle, compared to salvation

Clever, yes, but please forgive me for not seeing how it's relevant. False analogies can be drawn all the heck over the place to "express" biblical ideas. Some examples would be (as David Bryan groans): the Trinity as egg (shell, yolk, and white), the Trinity as H2O (ice, water, steam), the Trinity as sun (light, heat, and, um, the actual sun), the Trinity as a gooey cherry pie cut into three equal slices...



Peace,
ALAN

EYTYXOΣ said...

I was being somewhat facetious, as my signature was supposed to indicate. ;^)

But ... since we're on the topic of quanta (as well as one's eternal state), I'll leave you with this ditty:

The story of Schroedinger's cat (an epic poem)
07-May-1982


Dear Cecil:

Cecil, you're my final hope
Of finding out the true Straight Dope
For I have been reading of Schroedinger's cat
But none of my cats are at all like that.
This unusual animal (so it is said)
Is simultaneously live and dead!
What I don't understand is just why he
Can't be one or other, unquestionably.
My future now hangs in between eigenstates.
In one I'm enlightened, the other I ain't.
If you understand, Cecil, then show me the way
And rescue my psyche from quantum decay.
But if this queer thing has perplexed even you,
Then I will and won't see you in Schroedinger's zoo.
--Randy F., Chicago


Dear Randy:

Schroedinger, Erwin! Professor of physics!
Wrote daring equations! Confounded his critics!
(Not bad, eh? Don't worry. This part of the verse
Starts off pretty good, but it gets a lot worse.)
Win saw that the theory that Newton'd invented
By Einstein's discov'ries had been badly dented.
What now? wailed his colleagues. Said Erwin, "Don't panic,
No grease monkey I, but a quantum mechanic.
Consider electrons. Now, these teeny articles
Are sometimes like waves, and then sometimes like particles.
If that's not confusing, the nuclear dance
Of electrons and suchlike is governed by chance!
No sweat, though--my theory permits us to judge
Where some of 'em is and the rest of 'em was."
Not everyone bought this. It threatened to wreck
The comforting linkage of cause and effect.
E'en Einstein had doubts, and so Schroedinger tried
To tell him what quantum mechanics implied.
Said Win to Al, "Brother, suppose we've a cat,
And inside a tube we have put that cat at--
Along with a solitaire deck and some Fritos,
A bottle of Night Train, a couple mosquitoes
(Or something else rhyming) and, oh, if you got 'em,
One vial prussic acid, one decaying ottom
Or atom--whatever--but when it emits,
A trigger device blasts the vial into bits
Which snuffs our poor kitty. The odds of this crime
Are 50 to 50 per hour each time.
The cylinder's sealed. The hour's passed away. Is
Our pussy still purring--or pushing up daisies?
Now, you'd say the cat either lives or it don't
But quantum mechanics is stubborn and won't.
Statistically speaking, the cat (goes the joke),
Is half a cat breathing and half a cat croaked.
To some this may seem a ridiculous split,
But quantum mechanics must answer, "Tough @#&!
We may not know much, but one thing's fo' sho':
There's things in the cosmos that we cannot know.
Shine light on electrons--you'll cause them to swerve.
The act of observing disturbs the observed--
Which ruins your test. But then if there's no testing
To see if a particle's moving or resting
Why try to conjecture? Pure useless endeavor!
We know probability--certainty, never.'
The effect of this notion? I very much fear
'Twill make doubtful all things that were formerly clear.
Till soon the cat doctors will say in reports,
"We've just flipped a coin and we've learned he's a corpse."'
So saith Herr Erwin. Quoth Albert, "You're nuts.
God doesn't play dice with the universe, putz.
I'll prove it!" he said, and the Lord knows he tried--
In vain--until fin'ly he more or less died.
Win spoke at the funeral: "Listen, dear friends,
Sweet Al was my buddy. I must make amends.
Though he doubted my theory, I'll say of this saint:
Ten-to-one he's in heaven--but five bucks says he ain't."

--CECIL ADAMS

Rhology said...

Oh my gosh. That is AWESOME. Quick, Batman, to the Bat-email!