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Old 06-10-2014, 06:50 AM   #38
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Awareness, thank you for your comments and questions. They help me dig up and ponder more than I usually do.

Originally Posted by awareness View Post
Actually, isn't God pretty forgiving of sin, if we have a heart for Him? Consider David ... for just one example ... or King Manasseh, for an extreme example.
You are right. God is merciful but I am still a sinner. And I am sorry to say that but quite often I don’t have a heart for Him. St. John Chrysostom reminds us: "Certainly it is sinful to fall, but it is devilish to remain fallen". So I sin and repent, then sin and repent again, and so on without end. I know it's my own fault but it's also the fallen nature of humanity.

In the EO, sin is viewed as a sickness or a disease which hinders our way to Theosis (Union with God). Sin makes us to be out of communion with God. Christ is our healer. Salvation is not just about sins being forgiven. And it’s not just about liberation from death and Hades. It’s an on-going process. The ultimate destination is to attain the likeness of God (which is the true purpose of our creation). St Cyril of Alexandria says that salvation is a restoration to the condition God originally gave to mankind. Salvation cannot be earned, being a free gift from God. Its acquisition, however, requires man's cooperation with God, because God will not violate the free will of man. No matter where our errors, our trials, our tribulations may lead us, we must always pick ourselves up and continue our spiritual journey towards Christ.

All God wants from us is that we work with Him, in 'synergy', or co-operation. Ascetically working on ourselves with His help, we can acquire His grace and be saved by His mercy. Those who deny the need for such ascetic struggle, because they imagine that they have already been 'saved', dwell in the deepest spiritual delusion.

Man's personal efforts alone are insufficient for his salvation - but they are necessary, for without them, God's Grace will not begin to work out the matter of his salvation. Thus, man's salvation is worked out simultaneously through the action of God's saving Grace, and through the personal efforts of man himself.

Originally Posted by awareness View Post
So that's why when Christian missionaries bring the good news to the primitives the first thing they need to bring is the bad news, that, they are fallen. Seems counter-intuitive, to say the least.
If everything is fine with humanity, then why do we need Christ? In Genesis 1:26, God says "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." What happened with His image and likeness then? Why does the Holy Bible describes man's nature as being corrupted? Wasn't it thanks to the fall of man?

Romans 3:23
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Psalms 51:5
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.

Ephesians 5:8
for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light.

Ecclesiastes 7:20
Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.

Genesis 6:5
Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Romans 3:10
As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;

1 John 1:10
If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Originally Posted by awareness View Post

And some moderns say that, we're just human primates ... and so we can't help it -- what do you expect from animals? -- And that we've evolved pretty damn good, from our more primitive days. Of course that's debatable. Whatever. The world looks pretty damn crazy to me ... including the Christians ... even born-againers. There's no doubt we're in bad need of somekind of divine intervention.
I'll share an excerpt form Fr Andrew Phillips article "TOWARDS AN ORTHODOX VIEW OF CREATION AND EVOLUTION":

The Creation of Man

We note that in the Book of Genesis, as in scientific evolutionary theories, Evolution proceeds from the lower to the higher, from plants to animals to men. Man is the crown of creation because he is made 'in our image, after our likeness' (Gen. 1, 26), that is man resembles God the Holy Trinity. He is different from all else because God breathes life into him, that is, He endows him with 'a living soul' (Gen. 2, 7). As regards the creation of the human body, this is made from 'the dust of the ground' (Gen. 2, 7). We now understand this to mean the various chemical elements, hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus etc, which make up the human body's chemical composition and which are also found in the earth.

Now, there are many resemblances between the human body and the bodies of animals, especially those of the higher animals. Thus, both humans and such animals have four limbs, a head, two eyes, a nose, a mouth, ears, the same number of internal organs, a heart, a liver, two lungs and two kidneys, a stomach, a bladder, intestines, reproductive organs etc. But why ever should this mean that man is evolved from animals, as atheist evolutionists claim? All this means is that both the human body and the bodies of animals were designed by the same Maker. Surely the resemblances are rather proof of the existence of a Higher Being, Who is our Creator?

What interests us much more than resemblance is the difference between men and animals - the existence of the eternal and immortal soul among men, but not among animals. The 'breath of life' that God put into man is in fact the kiss of eternal life. Man is not destined for death, like the rest of Creation. And what is the outward sign of the existence of the soul and man's resemblance to God? It is the fact that human-beings are capable of speech, in other words, they possess to some small degree the Word of God, the sign of divine origin and divine destiny. Man is different from all else in the visible creation, the animals do not speak, except, occasionally, by imitation. This reflection of man's divine origin can even be seen in the phrase homo sapiens. Man is 'sapiens, i.e, wise, in that he reflects the Wisdom of God. Thus, in image and likeness he reflects the Word and the Wisdom of God.

Originally Posted by awareness View Post
You paint with a very broad brush. Sounds like Lee to me, concerning Christians.
If you name another religion where God sent His only begotten Son to save humankind, then I'll agree. In Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc there is no God who sacrifices His Son for the sins of mankind. Only in the Bible you may find next verses:

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

1 John 4:9
This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

Originally Posted by awareness View Post
I prefer Original Blessings.
Thanks for the info. I have never heard of Matthew Fox. So I checked him out with Amazon and wiki. I don't buy his ideas. The problem is that the concept of original sin was first alluded to in the 2nd century by Irenaeus, then developed by St Augustine. And Fox's concept was born in the 20th century. I also checked some articles about Fox. And I must say his teachings sound too controversial and remind me a “feel good” New Age religion.

As I said earlier, EO doesn't accept St Agustin's concept of the original sin and hereditary guilt. We rather call it ancestral sin, which is the inclination to sin. "Most orthodox theologians reject the idea of original guilt… Men automatically inherit Adam’s corruption and mortality, but not his guilt; they are only guilty insofar as by their own free will they imitate Adam". (Kallistos Ware "The Orthodox Church")

Baptism washes away the corruption of the ancestral sin, and it washes away the guilt of all sins previously committed by the one being baptized. Nevertheless, the seeds of sin - sinful habits and desires toward sin - remain in one and are overcome by means of life-long moral struggle (man's efforts in cooperation with God's Grace). For, as we already know, God's Kingdom is acquired by effort, and only those who use effort attain it. Other holy mysteries of the Church - repentance, Holy Communion, anointing and various prayers and divine services are moments and means of the consecrating of a Christian. According to the measure of his faith, a Christian receives divine Grace in them, which facilitates his salvation. Without this Grace, according to apostolic teaching, we not only cannot do good, but we cannot even wish to do it (Phil. 2:13).

Originally Posted by awareness View Post
This sounds a whole lot like : We're not fallen. We've developed a fallen system.
We may call it anyhow but the fact is that humankind has an inclination to sin. And it's only Jesus Christ can wash us clean from our sins. If everything were fine, people would always live in communion with God and had no idea about what sin was.

Originally Posted by awareness View Post
Just how was this "deliberative will" instilled into you and I?
I don't know how this "deliberative will" was instilled into you and me. I believe it's less important then the choices we make.

"In fact, under the Western rubric of original sin, eternal destinies are decided by God alone in his inscrutable decrees. The logical entailment is as stark as it is intuitively horrifying: God creates some persons for heaven and some persons for hell.

Orthodoxy, however, avoids these problems altogether, by understanding that all that God creates is good, including human nature and free will. Though postlapsarian humans are born with original sin, this original sin is the capacity for corruption and mortality that is part of unredeemed human nature. Though human nature has been compromised by Adam’s fall, that nature in no way necessitates that we sin. That humans do sin, then, is not directly a result of their fallen human nature, but is rather the direct result of the failure of their deliberative will.

That is to say, as a result of deliberation humans take an apparent good for a real good, and mistakenly choose the apparent good. Free will, then, does not necessitate a relation of opposition, but only a deliberation among multiple goods. In a fallen world, apparent goods ultimately entail sin, since they are a rejection of the real good. But in the eschaton all goods will be real, and there will be no need for deliberation. So, in orthodoxy, free will is good, but the deliberative use of that will can be either good or evil–the use being completely up to the person so willing.

Christ, however, did not need the deliberative will. Like all humans, he had a human nature and a human will, and like all humans, his will was free to choose among different acts. The difference however, which results from his mode of existence as the incarnate God-man, is that Christ’s human nature and will were deified in the union with his divine nature and will and he had no need to deliberate between apparent and real goods. His personal choice to act made use of his human will such that he always chose the real goods available to him. Unlike Adam and unlike humans prior to the eschaton, in his Person, Christ was fixed in virtue: all his thoughts and acts were good. His divine nature had deified his human nature. But like Christ, regenerated humans in the eschaton will be fixed in virtue, we will be deified through our hypostatic union with God in Christ. Thus all our willing will be according to our natures, which natures are divinized, and our wills will freely choose among multiple goods, about which there will be no need of deliberation.

In other words, in Orthodoxy, the deliberative will is the mode of willing peculiar to the un-deified mode of existence unique to humans prior to the eschaton. Such a deliberative mode of willing is not, in itself, evil, since it was the mode of willing given to Adam in the garden, and through which mode Adam, had he so chosen freely, would have been fixed in virtue and been deified in Christ. Indeed, it is precisely this use of the deliberative will prior to the eschaton which fixes either in virtue or in vice, the humans who make use of it. This explains both why it is possible to fall away from God after regeneration and why it is possible to reach a point in which repentance is no longer possible; i. e., why humans choose hell and remain fixed in that choice for all eternity.

Thus, in Orthodoxy, the cause of sin is properly placed not in God, for all his gifts are good, but in the creatures He has created who use that good gift to reject God, not for another objective evil but for another apparent good. It is also places the responsibility for our personal eternal destinies in our hands, for all our accumulated choices arising from our countless deliberative moments in this life, are ultimately our own authorship of our character and and fate".
Originally Posted by awareness View Post
But isn't it a good thing that we die? and each generation dies? We're already crowding this plant. Can you imagine if all generations never died? We be standing shoulder to shoulder, and stacked up to the moon.
Surely, it's a good thing. We don't want to live a sinful life for all eternity, turning our planet into a garbage dump. But that is not God's original plan for mankind.

The effects of man's fall were both physical and moral. On the physical level human beings became subject to pain and disease, to the debility and bodily disintegration of old age. Woman's joy in bringing forth new life became mixed with the pangs of childbirth (Gen. 3:16). None of this was part of God's initial plan for humanity. In consequence of the fall, men and women also became subject to the separation of soul and body in physical death. Yet physical death should be seen, not primarily as a punishment, but as a means of release provided by a loving God. In his mercy God did not wish men to go on living indefinitely in a fallen world, caught for ever in the vicious circle of their own devising; and so he provided a way of escape. For death is not the end of life but the beginning of its renewal. We look, beyond physical death, to the future reunion of body and soul at the general resurrection on the Last Day. In separating our body and soul at death, therefore, God is acting like the potter: when the vessel upon his wheel has become marred and twisted, he breaks the clay in pieces so as to fashion it anew (compare Jer. 18:1- 6). This is emphasised in the Orthodox funeral service:

Of old thou hast created me from nothing, And honoured me with thy divine image; But when I disobeyed thy commandment, Thou hast returned me to the earth whence I was taken.
Lead me back again to thy likeness, Refashioning my ancient beauty.

On the moral level, in consequence of the fall, human beings became subject to frustration, boredom, depression. Work, which was intended to be a source of joy for man and a means of communion with God, had now to be performed for the most part unwillingly, 'in the sweat of the face' (Gen. 3:19). Nor was this all. Man became subject to inward alienation: weakened in will, divided against himself, he became his own enemy and executioner. As St Paul puts it, 'I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells nothing good. I am able to choose with my will, but how I am actually to carry out what is good I do not know. For the good which I choose I do not do; but the evil which I do not choose, that I do... O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me?' (Rom. 7:18,19,24). Here St Paul is not just saying that there is a conflict within us between good and evil. He is saying that, all too often, we find ourselves morally paralysed: we sincerely desire to choose the good, but we find ourselves caught in a situation where all our choices result in evil. And each of us knows from personal experience exactly what St Paul means. St Paul, however, is careful to say: 'I know that in my flesh dwells nothing good'. Our ascetic warfare is against the flesh, not against the body as such. 'Flesh' is not the same as 'body'. The term flesh, as used in the passage just quoted, signifies whatever within us is sinful and opposed to God; thus it is not only the body but the soul in fallen man that has become fleshly and carnal. We are to hate the flesh, but we are not to hate the body, which is God's handiwork and the temple of the Holy Spirit. Ascetic self-denial is thus a fight against the flesh, but it is a fight not against but for the body. As Fr Sergei Bulgakov used to say, 'Kill the flesh, in order to acquire a body.' Asceticism is not self-enslavement, but the way to freedom.
Originally Posted by awareness View Post
So EO is still hanging onto ancient teachings and practices of the Bronze and Iron age? Not my cup of tea. All the early Christians, in fact all the world, back then, were absent of science. It's not possible, in these modern days of science, to live like they lived back then. We're literate. While 90% back then were completely illiterate. Ya can't be on the web and deny science.
Early Bronze Age I: 3150 -- 2900 BCE
Late Bronze Age II: 1400 -- 1200 BCE
Iron Age I: 1200 -- 1000 BCE
Iron Age II: 1000 -- 586 BCE

A chronology of Jesus typically has the date of the start of his ministry estimated at around AD 27–29 and the end in the range AD 30–36.

The Eastern Orthodox Church doesn't hang onto teachings and practices of the Bronze and Iron but onto the Holy Bible and ancient teachings and practices of Christ, Apostles, and the Church Fathers. The Orthodox Church is the one Church founded by Jesus Christ and his apostles, begun at the day of Pentecost with the descent of the Holy Spirit in the year 33 A.D.

The EO church doesn't deny science. She doesn’t rely on it. There are a number of great scientists who were Eastern Orthodox:

Alexander Friedmann – Discovered the expanding universe solution to the Einstein field equations.
Sergei Korolev – Designed the R-7 rocket which launched the Space Age on October 4, 1957.
Dmitri Mendeleev – Noted chemist. He formulated the Periodic Law, created his own version of the periodic table of elements.
Ivan Pavlov – (Remember Pavlov's dogs?)

Orthodox theology exists outside of the limited scope of scientific inquiry as well as the speculative arguments and rational categories of Western philosophy. Science and Western philosophy are concerned with the knowledge of the rational mind, but theology is concerned with gnosis, the knowledge of the heart (nous), the spiritual intellect. Science and philosophy are based on humanly-derived principles and theories. Orthodox theology is rooted in divine revelation. Philosophy and science deal with concepts. Orthodox theology is a Mystery beyond concept. Scientific study and philosophy are limited to the creation. Theology involves experiencing the Uncreated. In the West, a "theologian" is an educated scholar who knows about religious beliefs, ideas, and practices. In the Orthodox Church, a theologian is one who acquires divine knowledge in the heart through humility, repentance, and prayer.

While scientific understanding of the creation and technology have progressed through the centuries, the dogma of the Orthodox Church does not change or develop. Scientific theories and Western philosophical ideas are adaptable and constantly change in light of new evidence and ideas, but theology is unalterable. This is why the same theological experience is expressed through the writings of the Fathers of the Orthodox Church from the 1st century to the 21st century. (Remember that the dogma of the Church is not just a collection of philosophical propositions to be rationally accepted, but boundaries to keep us on the path of authentic theological experience, which is the Way of personal knowledge, healing, and transformation.)

In an article published in Christian Bioethics (Oxford Journals/Oxford University Press), Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos (Greece) wrote,

As Christians, particularly as Orthodox Christians, we are certainly not opposed to research and progress. Nor do we want the Western conflict between the Christian faith and science to be repeated. To avoid this, science itself ought to set limits and conditions for research, and theology should be occupied with giving meaning to human life and guiding people toward putting right their relationships with themselves, their fellow human beings, creation, and God. The aim of science is to improve human life, and the aim of theology is to help human beings acquire existential peace, freedom, and knowledge of themselves and God. When both sides stay within these boundaries, there can be no conflict between theology and science.
We can have the most advanced science but it won’t help man to restore communion with God. That’s why man still need faith. The entire faith of the Church is built on the fact that “God is the Lord and has revealed Himself unto us.” It’s not through science, but through Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit, man comes to living communion with God the Father Himself. There is no other meaning and purpose to the Church and to life itself.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
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