More on the Manichaean Gnosis of Luther and Calvin
April 10, 2010 Leave a comment
Still trudging through the voluminous Books Against Eunomius by St. Gregory of Nyssa, there is a literally a treasure trove of lucid argumentation and points that can be applied to many modern errors, especially as they are found in “reformation Christianity.” Almost every other page finds St. Gregory refuting some error found in Luther and his heirs. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the Manichaean error often attributed to Luther and the reformed, who believe that human nature has itself become evil. This has been repeated ad nauseam by reformed friends and others I have debated, such as Turretinfan.
In their view, nature was good until the Fall, after which, it became alienated from God and totally depraved. Corruption, for them, is equivalent to evil itself, and evil is given a reality–evil becomes created being. Most of them would not affirm that God created evil as some kind of entity, but they hold that after the Fall, both angels (that fell) and men are now evil, inherently. Their very being–to its very core, is evil by nature. So, evil is given a substantial reality, and is in fact identified with God’s creation. Some Protestants may want to demur here, and insist that it’s not God’s creation, but how is it that nature “is evil,” with the is of identity, given that God is the author of nature?
Again, Luther argued in The Bondage of the Will that humanity had lost its capability for free will. Calvin said the human will could will nothing good before God, whatever “civil righteousness” might be performed. The point that these reformed guys still aren’t getting is that evil is not a thing: it is not a substance. Turretinfan tried to come up with some argument that I treated human nature as a “thing,” when this is his failure to understand enhypostatized–that human and divine nature only exists in the mode of persons. But this doesn’t make nature the same as or necessitate collapsing it into person as the reformed do, all day long.
We read in Genesis that God said all He made was good, but even after Eden, all that comes to be does so by virtue of God’s Logos, as we read in Colossians 1:
“16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”
Does evil consist or subsist in Christ? Does He hold evil “in being,” if in fact evil has being? Christ is the antithesis of evil–He cannot create it and give it being. All that has being, He has given being, and it is good. But the Calvinist-Lutheran does just this when he makes evil a thing–namely, human nature. It is Christ who creates in the womb a conceived human hypostasis, with a human nature, not Lucifer. It is total Manichaeanism to attribute to evil an ever-existing subsistence, antithetical to God. Yet, this is what they do. Even if the reformed/Lutheran tries to dodge this by saying that he is not Manichaean because evil, for him, began at a point in time, rather than being an eternal principle as the Manichaeans said, he’s fumbled even worse than they, since he has allowed an opposite principle to God to attain an attribute of God–namely, eternal existence! This is because the reformed/Lutheran will argue that the wicked will forever be rebelling, cursing and hating God, even in torments. Ergo, evil remains forever “in existence.”
St. Gregory of Nyssa analyzes of Eunomius’ denial of the Trinity on the basis of Manichaeanism as well. Eunomius argues that if the Father alone has the divine power and will and is identified solely by the term “ungenerate,” then the Son must be an opposing principle. This applies to my discussion because of the reformed insistence that Jesus is either a divine Person who damns his own humanity, or that the Father damns His own Son, thus splitting the Trinity. In other words, the arguments I made about the judicial, imputational view of the crucifixion being Nestorian or polytheistic, are here applied by St. Gregory to the ontological Trinity and shown to be Manichaean, in opposing the Father to the Son. It’s another way of cutting the same argument: If the Divine Person of the Son is damned by the Father, we have now two principles, since the Son must become evil, as they say, making evil again have being (the little bit I’m adding to the argument). In this ridiculous blasphemy, since evil has being, Jesus now must become evil for us to be righteous! But the very reason the reformed said He couldn’t assume fallen human nature was because “nature is evil,” yet now, they will have him become sin and evil–literally. God must become evil! This view is awful and absurd, and I’m ashamed I ever held it–God have mercy.
St. Gregory of Nyssa:
35. Proof that the Anomœan teaching tends to Manichæism.
We hear our Lord saying. I and My Father are one, and we are taught in that utterance the dependence of our Lord on a cause, and yet the absolute identity of the Son’s and the Father’s nature; we do not let our idea about them be melted down into One Person, but we keep distinct the properties of the Persons, while, on the other hand, not dividing in the Persons the oneness of their substance; and so the supposition of two diverse principles in the category of Cause is avoided, and there is no loophole for the Manichæan heresy to enter. For the created and the uncreate are as diametrically opposed to each other as their names are; and so if the two are to be ranked as First Causes, the mischief of Manichæism will thus under cover be brought into the Church. I say this, because my zeal against our antagonists makes me scrutinize their doctrine very closely. Now I think that none would deny that we were bringing this scrutiny very near the truth, when we said, that if the created be possessed of equal power with the uncreate, there will be some sort of antagonism between these things of diverse nature, and as long as neither of them fails in power, the two will be brought into a certain state of mutual discord for we must perforce allow that will corresponds with, and is intimately joined to nature; and that if two things are unlike in nature, they will be so also in will. But when power is adequate in both, neither will flag in the gratification of its wish; and if the power of each is thus equal to its wish, the primacy will become a doubtful point with the two: and it will end in a drawn battle from the inexhaustibleness of their powers. Thus will the Manichæan heresy creep in, two opposite principles appearing with counter claims in the category of Cause, parted and opposed by reason of difference both in nature and in will. They will find, therefore, that assertion of diminution (in the Divine being) is the beginning of Manichæism; for their teaching organizes a discord within that being, which comes to two leading principles, as our account of it has shown; namely the created and the uncreated.
But perhaps most will blame this as too strong a reductio ad absurdum, and will wish that we had not put it down at all along with our other objections. Be it so; we will not contradict them. It was not our impulse, but our adversaries themselves, that forced us to carry our argument into such minuteness of results. But if it is not right to argue thus, it was more fitting still that our opponents’ teaching, which gave occasion to such a refutation, should never have been heard. There is only one way of suppressing the answer to bad teaching, and that is, to take away the subject-matter to which a reply has to be made. But what would give me most pleasure would be to advise those, who are thus disposed, to divest themselves a little of the spirit of rivalry, and not be such exceedingly zealous combatants on behalf of the private opinions with which they have become possessed, and convinced that the race is for their (spiritual) life, to attend to its interests only, and to yield the victory to Truth. If, then, one were to cease from this ambitious strife, and look straight into the actual question before us, he would very soon discover the flagrant absurdity of this teaching.
For let us assume as granted what the system of our opponents demands, that the having no generation is Being, and in like manner again that generation is admitted into Being. If, then, one were to follow out carefully these statements in all their meaning, even this way the Manichæan heresy will be reconstructed seeing that the Manichees are wont to take as an axiom the oppositions of good and bad, light and darkness, and all such naturally antagonistic things. I think that any who will not be satisfied with a superficial view of the matter will be convinced that I say true. Let us look at it thus. Every subject has certain inherent characteristics, by means of which the specialty of that underlying nature is known. This is so, whether we are investigating the animal kingdom, or any other. The tree and the animal are not known by the same marks; nor do the characteristics of man extend in the animal kingdom to the brutes; nor, again, do the same symptoms indicate life and death; in every case, without exception, as we have said, the distinction of subjects resists any effort to confuse them and run one into another; the marks upon each thing which we observe cannot be communicated so as to destroy that distinction. Let us follow this out in examining our opponents’ position. They say that the state of having no generation is Being; and they likewise make the having generation Being. But just as a man and a stone have not the same marks (in defining the essence of the animate and that of the inanimate you would not give the same account of each), so they must certainly grant that one who is non-generated is to be known by different signs to the generated. Let us then survey those peculiar qualities of the non-generated Deity, which the Holy Scriptures teach us can be mentioned and thought of, without doing Him an irreverence.