By: Jay Dyer
St. Athanasius Uses theosis, the Theotokos, the Real Presence and the Single Subject Argument to Refute the Same Errors Calvinists and Evangelicals Preach:
Prior to the battle of St. Cyril of Alexandria with Nestorius at the Council of Ephesus (431), St. Cyril’s predecessor on the throne of the Patriarchate of Alexandria, St. Athanasius, had already defended the Theotokos and the Orthodox doctrine of a single personal subject or Hypostasis in the Incarnational economy–the divine Person of the Word. On top of that, he also defended this, like St. Cyril, by an appeal to the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, for example. Here, St. Athanasius rebukes the Proto-Nestorians and, by extension, their modern day re-incarnation, Calvinists. So, we now officially have five well-known Calvinists who have made pro-Nestorian statements which are common in prominent Protestants such as A.A. Hodge, Charles Hodge, Louis Berkhof, R.J. Rushdoony, John W. Robbins, and many more.
In this muddled and blasphemous scheme, in order to preserve their presuppositions regarding the “penal substitution” view of the Atonement, they profess that Christ on the Cross was the subject of God’s eternal indignation and wrath. This was the only way the “debt” of sin (which is infinite and eternal) could be paid, was by the infinite perfection of one Divine Person paying off our IMF level spiritual debt, due to his infinite righteousness. The absurdity of this view, which unravels the entire Reformation project in a couple easy blows is missed by its confessors due to their failure to be instructed in biblical, Orthodox and conciliar Triadology and Christology. As the below will demonstrate, the faulty quasi-Nestorian reading of Chalcedon which treats the Incarnation as a bizarre, cosmic addition problem where divine nature + human nature = newly produced hybrid Divine-Human Person Jesus, is erroneous. The Cyrillic interpretation, later confirmed Ecumenically, is grounded in the single subject being the eternal Logos, and with will being a property of Nature, not Person.
Falling on either side of this stupid doctrine, Protestants will allege Jesus suffered this eternal indignation either as a man, in his human nature, meaning the subject of that suffering was actually a separate human subject or hypostasis (Jesus of Nazareth) or that he suffered this indignation as the very Son of God, the Logos, and for a time, the Trinity was split. The immediate, profound and shocking sinking feeling you feel right now as a reformed person reading this is a good sign – it means you are realizing the blasphemy involved in saying the Father willed to damn the Son, and thereby for some brief span of time split the Trinity itself, with one Person no longer being in the eternal divine Communion (John 17:1-3). Not only is that impossible, it completely refutes the entire reformation project, almost in its entirety, as “penal substitution” debt payment dogma is arguably up there with the other “solas.” This dumb dogma also makes will a property of Person as a result of the Father willing something contrary to the Son (damning Him!), leading to the whole train of heresies condemned from Ephesus to Nicaea II, and especially Monothelistism (which is based on will being Hypostatic).
To add more fuel to this fire (which by the grace of God will burn up the works of these blasphemers like an explosion from a Michael Bay film), the notion that the single Divine Person present for all of those actions “merited” His righteousness is also as Nestorian as it is stupid. If Christ is a single divine Person, He possessed the fullness of life, holiness, righteousness and deity from all eternity and thereby deified the impersonal, sinless human nature He assumed. The righteousness Christ possessed is a divine energy, an energy proper to the divine nature from which it proceeds. When “power went out from Him” to heal the crowds, as the Gospels record, that was no perfect human merit that caused those miracles, it was the divine power itself. Likewise, when he shone with the divine light on Mt. Tabor that was no created human merit, it was the Divine Light itself (Mt. 17). Thus, to maintain this retardation Calvinism and Protestantism must fall back on created grace, which St. Gregory Palamas demonstrated was Arianism, and by extension, atheism.
Consider St. Athanasius’ Letter, and note how Arianism shared its presuppositions with the later Nestorianism:
Letter 61 to Maximus. (Written about 371 a.d.)
To our beloved and most truly longed-for son, Maximus , philosopher, Athanasius greeting in the Lord.
Having read the letter now come from you, I approve your piety: but, marvelling at the rashness of those ‘who understand neither what they say nor whereof they confidently affirm 1 Timothy 1:7,’ I had really decided to say nothing. For to reply upon matters which are so plain and which are clearer than light, is simply to give an excuse for shamelessness to such lawless men. And this we have learned from the Saviour. For when Pilate had washed his hands, and acquiesced in the false accusation of the Jews of that day, the Lord answered him no more, but rather warned his wife in a dream, so that He that was being judged might be believed to be God not in word, but in power.
While after vouchsafing Caiaphas no reply to his folly, He Himself by his promise brought all over to knowledge. Accordingly for some time I delayed, and have reluctantly yielded to your zeal for the truth, in view of the argumentativeness of men without shame. And I have dictated nothing beyond what your letter contains, in order that the adversary may from henceforth be convinced on the points to which he has objected, and may ‘keep his tongue from evil and his lips that they speak no guile .’ And would that they would no longer join the Jews who passed by of old in reproaching Him that hung upon the Tree: ‘If you be the Son of God save Yourself Matthew 27:40; Luke 28:37.’ But if even after this they will not give in, yet do you remember the apostolic injunction, and ‘a man that is heretical after a first and second admonition refuse, knowing that such an one is perverted and sins being self-condemned Titus 3:10-11.’ For if they are Gentiles, or of the Judaisers, who are thus daring, let them, as Jews, think the Cross of Christ a stumbling-block, or as Gentiles, foolishness 1 Corinthians 1:23 . But if they pretend to be Christians let them learn that the crucified Christ is at once Lord of Glory, and the Power of God and Wisdom of God.
2. But if they are in doubt whether He is God at all, let them reverence Thomas, who handled the Crucified and pronounced Him Lord and God John 20:28 . Or let them fear the Lord Himself, who said, after washing the feet of the disciples: ‘You call Me Lord and Master , and you say well, for so I am.’ But in the same body in which He was when he washed their feet, He also carried up our sins to the Tree 1 Peter 2:24 . And He was witnessed to as Master of Creation, in that the Sun withdrew his beams and the earth trembled and the rocks were rent, and the executioners recognised that the Crucified was truly Son of God. For the Body they beheld was not that of some man, but of God, being in which, even when being crucified, He raised the dead. Accordingly it is no good venture of theirs to say that the Word of God came into a certain holy man; for this was true of each of the prophets and of the other saints, and on that assumption He would clearly be born and die in the case of each one of them. But this is not so, far be the thought. But once for all ‘at the consummation of the ages Hebrews 9:26, to put away sin’ ‘the Word was made flesh John 1:14 ‘ and proceeded forth from Mary the Virgin, Man after our likeness, as also He said to the Jews, ‘Wherefore do you seek to kill Me, a man that has told you the truth ?’ And we are deified not by partaking of the body of some man, but by receiving the Body of the Word Himself.
3. And at this also I am much surprised, how they have ventured to entertain such an idea as that the Word became man in consequence of His Nature. For if this were so, the commemoration of Mary would be superfluous. For neither does Nature know of a Virgin bearing apart from a man. Whence by the good pleasure of the Father, being true God, and Word and Wisdom of the Father by nature, He became man in the body for our salvation, in order that having somewhat to offer for us He might save us all, ‘as many as through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage. ‘ For it was not some man that gave Himself up for us; since every man is under sentence of death, according to what was said to all in Adam, ‘earth you are and unto earth you shall return. ‘ Nor yet was it any other of the creatures, since every creature is liable to change. But the Word Himself offered His own Body on our behalf that our faith and hope might not be in man, but that we might have our faith in God the Word Himself. Why, even now that He is become man we behold His Glory, ‘glory as of one only-begotten of His Father— full of grace and truth. ‘ For what He endured by means of the Body, He magnified as God. And while He hungered in the flesh, as God He fed the hungry. And if anyone is offended by reason of the bodily conditions, let him believe by reason of what God works. For humanly He enquires where Lazarus is laid, but raises him up divinely. Let none then laugh, calling Him a child, and citing His age, His growth, His eating, drinking and suffering, lest while denying what is proper for the body, he deny utterly also His sojourn among us. And just as He has not become Man in consequence of His nature, in like manner it was consistent that when He had taken a body He should exhibit what was proper to it, lest the imaginary theory of Manichæus should prevail. Again it was consistent that when He went about in the body, He should not hide what belonged to the Godhead, lest he of Samosata should find an excuse to call Him man, as distinct in person from God the Word.
4. Let then the unbelievers perceive this, and learn that while as a Babe He lay in a manger, He subjected the Magi and was worshipped by them; and while as a Child He came down to Egypt, He brought to nought the hand-made objects of its idolatry : and crucified in the flesh, He raised the dead long since turned to corruption. And it has been made plain to all that not for His own sake but for ours He underwent all things, that we by His sufferings might put on freedom from suffering and incorruption 1 Corinthians 15:53, and abide unto life eternal.
5. This then I have concisely dictated, following, as I said above, the lines of your own letter, without working out any point any further but only mentioning what relates to the Holy Cross in order that the despisers may be taught better upon the points where they were offended, and may worship the Crucified. But do you thoroughly persuade the unbelievers; perhaps somehow they may come from ignorance to knowledge, and believe aright. And even though what your own letter contains is sufficient, yet it is as well to have added what I have for the sake of reminder in view of contentious persons; not so much in order that being refuted in their venturesome statements they may be put to shame, as that being reminded they may not forget the truth. For let what was confessed by the Fathers at Nicæa prevail. For it is correct, and enough to overthrow every heresy however impious, and especially that of the Arians which speaks against the Word of God, and as a logical consequence profanes His Holy Spirit. Greet all who hold aright. All that are with us greet you.
For those conversant in both Roman Catholic and classical Protestant theology, what comes to the fore here is the different starting point – a distinct ordo theologiae characterized Orthodoxy. As we have seen in many articles, Western theology starts with a generic idea of some spiritual “nature” with a supposed list of “communicable and incommunicable attributes” of God, presumed to be qualities in some degree of God’s radically simple essence. This is clear in Augustine, Aquinas, Denzinger, Berkhof, Hodge, Reymond, Dabney and the various Western confessions. Not only is this standard Western theology, creative attempts by a handful of theologians and theologian wannabes in blogland who finally grasp the significance of the distinction between essence and energies, find themselves engaged in mental gymnastics worthy to merit a starring role in the reboot of Gymkata.
The source of all this gobbledygook was outlined long ago in St. John of Damascus’ famous dictum that all heresies arise from a confusion of nature and Person in God and man, and thus all the multifarious nefarious implications that flow therefrom. The implications then flow out into Christology and soteriology, determining the rest of the “system,” as hard and cold as if Bill Gates himself programmed it into the Calvinist software. It should be obvious to all our soteriology has to match up with our Christology and Triadology, yet for Western theology “god” is known by ratiocination first, as an “object of faith,” with the “attributes” tacked on like a grocery list of necessary divine ingredients.
The most strained example of this is the first volume of Aquinas’ Summa Contra Gentiles, which spends hundreds of pages attempting to prove that Muslims, Jews and Christians all agree on a generic super-essential Monad named ‘First Cause.’ Isn’t it lovely? First Cause thinks you and has a thouhtful thinky thinking for your life, if only you submit to its eternal thought. For this in the know, this is titled the analogia entis, and is the subject of many past article critiques, so we won’t belabor that point here. For Protestants, the stupidity hovers right around the same nuclear retard level, as they seek to resolve the question of knowing what God is by analogia fide, or the idea that their hacked up (false) canon of Scripture is the only source of knowing about their celestial psychopath bean counter god. You know, the one who created infants for reprobation for eternal damnation when they aren’t elected, but are tortured endlessly for “his” glory – paging Anton LaVey!
Eastern Orthodox theology does not begin with asanine 17th century polemics about penal states of “justification” (as does the West). The starting place for theology is the Biblical doctrine of the Trinity and Incarnation as exemplified and correctly exposited at the Ecumenical Councils of the first 1,000 years: All theologizing then flows from this. This is the reason for the vast difference in Trinitarian theologies between the two and why both Rome and Protestantism have lost the correct doctrine of the Holy Spirit (See here). The West’s universal acceptance of the Augustinian filioque and its incoherent second millennia of imbalance (The Holy Spirit is stupidly confused with an energy proper to all three, “love”) is abundant proof of this. The filioque is also based on the doctrine of absolute divine simplicity, with all Names and attributes dissolving into the amorphous and unknowable Mega-essence, from when cometh atheism. There are exactly 0 Western theologians accept the Cappadocian/Ecumenical theology on this matter, showing how enslaved their entire project is to Augustinian assumptions and not the Church as Orthodox Oikumene.
When St. Athanasius debated with the Arians, his Discourses Against the Arians make it clear the way theology is done is to ground it on its Christological/soteriological implications. In the West as a whole, including Calvinism and Thomism in particular, there are numerous absurdities that arise from these presuppositional starting points, and the starting point and common ground between these two kissing cousins is a faulty Triadology and Christology.
Calvinism, for example, professes that man in his state of innocence in Eden was placed in a “covenant of works” where his “nature” was righteous and could potentially “merit” a secure salvation or immortality for his seed. When Adam sinned, he became inherently corrupt, with all of the motions of his heart, noesis and acts being in some degree tainted by evil, to use the language of the Westminster Confession. Evil is thus determinatly necessary and thus some real, ontological aspect of man’s nature, post-Fall. The image of God was therefore lost to the degree that man’s heart produces only evil.
So a “new man” had to come and fulfill this “covenant of works,” and reverse the determinate power of evil passed on through natural conception. This “man” is Jesus of Nazareth, who in time and space perfectly kept all the laws of Moses, and thus “meritted perfect righteousness” from the Father as a human subject (Nestorian). Our debt and sin have provoked the hatred of God for the human race, which is our *natural state* (which God creates, and immediately hates – Manichaeanism) and this infinite wrath is imputed to Christ, while the legal state He earned is imputed to us, they argue. There is no Calvinist theologian who has ever proposed that this imputed state – something clearly created – is a divine energy. There is no Calvinist theologian who has ever proposed that Christ’s humanity was deified by divine energy. But these doctrines are the teaching of Scripture and the 6th Ecumenical Council on the two wills and energies of Christ, and are thus subject to the damning critique I gave in the opening paragraphs.
Thus, what we have is a rabidly Nestorian system where a human subject or hypostasis keeps the “covenant of works” and merits a created legal state, which is quite obviously NOT a real theosis. It is a moral conjunction theory of both the Incarnation and our salvation – word-for-word Nestorianism, as the Letters of St. Cyril Against Nestorius make clear.
The Arians, as mentioned above, were proto-Nestorians and differed little in their heresy from Nestorius. In their view, Jesus of Nazareth was a holy man, a creature damned and rejected by the Father at the Cross. Arians thereby realized what Calvinists don’t, that it’s senseless, stupid and blasphemous to say that God damns Himself. In response, they imagined a polytheistic scheme where the righteous dude ‘Jesus’ achieves apotheosis as a man-god hybrid who underwent the rejection of his heavenly Father. Nestorius, by slight contrast, taught Jesus was a human person/personal subject who, through being a totally righteous dude, achieved a gracious, moral union with the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity and it was this man who suffered and died. As mentioned above, Calvinists usually opt for saying the humanity of Christ was damned – that human subject who meritted the righteousness and suffers under the “infinite wrath” as the Larger Catechism says. Thus, Calvinism is merely a variation on the Arian and Nestorian views. What all of these heterodox views have in common is that Jesus of Nazareth is not a divine Person. The Orthodox view of Scripture and the Councils, repeated oft and in every liturgy is the sole subject of all the Incarnate actions is the Logos. There’s no one else there.
If this Ecumenical Dogma were admitted, it would follow there is no sense at all in which a human person or subject can be present there, “meritting righteousness” because “Jesus” is a divine Person and is righteousness. His humanity can only receve participation in the divine energies as communicated from the energy of His divine Person. His humanity never participates in the divine ousia, as that would be pantheism. His humanity is also never separated from or cut off from the divinity, but is voluntarily deified/raised by the divine energy. Calvinists often ignorantly object to this language, but to do so would mean His humanity was not raised from the dead. Look at Mt. Tabor (the Transfiguration in Mt. 17) – what does one see? One sees the diivne energy and power (not the essence of God and not a created light) blasting through the veil of His humanity. Only the Eastern view makes sense of this and always has, and all other views are heterodox by necessity. This has already been codified and dogmatized and is the existential experience of Orthodoxy in her Orthopraxy – there is no creative Calvinist or Romanist way to integrate these distinctives into the “infallible” directives of Denzinger or the endless and equally worthless infinity of Protestant “theological texts.”
Jesus must be consubstantial with us for all aspects of our humanity to be raised/saved. If He lacks a human will, our wills are not healed. If He lacks a human soul, our souls are not healed. He must be fully human, and (as many Calvinists deny) thereby He assumed our lowly, mortal, created state. He assumed our nature sinless, but bereft of divine life precisely to communicate to humanity His glory and eternal life – that He assumed our state, though without sin or a gnomic will is the Gospel. Calvinists and Lutherans object to this because of the false assumption that human nature is now inherently evil, if it is in a fallen state. The source of evil is the in the action and energy of the will against the good – and in that alone. However, we know nothing God creates is inherently evil – God still creates human nature as well as holding it and all of reality in being (Col. 1), showing there is no substantial or ontological existence predicated of evil. St. Athanasius writes in On the Incarnation, 20:
“The body, then, as sharing the same nature with all, for it was a human body, though by an unparalleled miracle it was formed of a virgin only, yet being mortal, was to die also, conformably to its peers. But by virtue of the union of the Word with it, it was no longer subject to corruption according to its own nature, but by reason of the Word that had come to dwell in it it was placed out of the reach of corruption. 5. And so it was that two marvels came to pass at once, that the death of all was accomplished in the Lord’s body, and that death and corruption were wholly done away by reason of the Word that was united with it. For there was need of death, and death must needs be suffered on behalf of all, that the debt owing from all might be paid. 6. Whence, as I said before, the Word, since it was not possible for Him to die, as He was immortal, took to Himself a body such as could die, that He might offer it as His own in the stead of all, and as suffering, through His union with it, on behalf of all,
Bring to nought Him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and might deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.
Calvinists often say that His humanity was therefore “unfallen,” but if this is so, why did He suffer and die? Here Calvinism verges on docetism, the sect which taught the suffering and death of Christ were phantasms and that He possessed flesh was “heavenly,” “unfallen flesh.” Calvinism (and by extension classical Protestants in general) once again partake of heresy, but this time it’s gnostic. I don’t think this should be surprising, given Calvinism grants “evil” some kind of determinate being in foolishly claiming evil is our natural state. Nature is determined in Calvinism and thus our nature is determinately evil: the result is human persons frozen in their determined evil nature, which God creates and then hates (?) because, just as with Christ and in the Godhead, nature and Person are isomorphically identified in heterodoxy, because they all start with absolute divine simplicity. Hebrews says He was tempted in every way as we, yet without sin. Bizarrely, Calvinist think temptations themselves are sin. Thus, the text proves both He assumed our flesh, though without sin, since temptation is a result of the fall, and that temptation, or possessing passions is not itself sin.
In Calvinism, the only reason man’s redemption requires a human covenantal head as representative is simply because God wills it. Calvinism is synonymous with theological voluntarism, the heresy that equates the divine will with the divine essence, making all of reality a Platonic reflection of the divine ideas – something explicitly stated by many Calvinists, and especially amongst Puritans (read Stephen Charnock on this for instance). God’s will is thus not bound by anything in Calvinism/theological voluntarism because it is the divine essence – in strict identification. Setting aside the retarded Neoplatonic schema this is all moulded from, God cancelling out God’s infinite wrath is thus not only senseless, but makes the Incarnation a pointless afterthought.
Calvinism and Protestantism are not only predicated on heterodox foundations foreign to orthodox Christology, but is even worse, operating as a Neoplatonic, docetic and Nestorian approach degrades Jesus into a human subject in order to salvage its bizarre Pelagian “covenant of works” doctrine and the conversely bizarre imputation of sin/penal substitution doctrines. This is precisely Calvinists are triggered like Trigglypuff at the sound of “Theotokos,” devoid of any semblance of a clue what that word actually means. Mary as “Mother of God” they stupidly think means she caused His divinity, something so stupid not even New Agers would espouse. The term is a guardian term that vanquishes all heresies because it confirms the Person she gave birth to is a single divine Person.
Calvinists who reject this reject it precisely (and often explicitly) on the same grounds as Nestorius. The Word became flesh – The Word – already a Person, did not assume a human Person. He did not change into man. He did not change man into the divine nature. He assumed human nature and redeemed it by rescuing from the power of death by conferring upon it His divine life – theosis. This universal recapitulation of all of human nature in the Universal God Man is precisely why all human beings will be resurrected: There is no other basis for resurrection that union with Christ (a question sure to puzzle most Protestants and Roman Catholics). By contrast, in the Calvinist and Augustinian schemes, Christ is not in any sense connected to the human nature of the non-elect. Why, then, are the non-elect raised from the dead? Is resurrection a natural phenomenon, as Pelagius taught? Of course not, but if this glaring error were to be honestly confronted, the whole system caves.
As mentioned, the classical scholastic version of the doctrine of the filioque is undeniable proof the West followed Augustine’s doctrine of Absolute divine simplicity to its logical conclusions. Filioquism is predicated on the notion that the locus of action in the Godhead is not personal, but impersonal, holding the Spirit eternally proceeds from a *relation* of two Persons (Father and Son), then being subordinated to an impersonal, essential operation/attribute, “love.” The “love” between the Father and Son is supposed to produce a Person, yet not only is this nonsensical and subordinationist, it already presupposes what it is trying to show: the “love” (which *is* the Spirit) between Father and Son produces the Holy Spirit.
Did you catch that? The Holy Spirit produces Himself, and is simultaneously said to do so because He comes from the Father and Son, because a Person is identified with an energy (love). What Person does the love of the Spirit and Father produce? What Person does the love of the Spirit and the Son produce? This is ludicrous but once again demonstrates the error of confusing Nature and Person in God, which is yet another manifestation of absolute divine simplicity. Remember the dictum of Orthodoxy, as St. John of Damascus noted and as St Gregory of Nyssa proved in refuting Eunomius, “the heretics (modalists) say nature and person are the same in God.” There is not a single Calvinist or Protestant sect that has ever rejected absolute divine simplicity or the Filioque, yet here is clear heresy that results.
One of the clearest ways to distinguish the Protestant, and particularly the Calvinist, anthropology and soteriology is to again examine the way it views pre-lapsarian man. As we mentioned, man in the garden was not in need of any grace, but was placed by God under a so-called “covenant of works,” (Westminster Confession of Faith, Ch. 7:2) and since man failed in this covenant he was given another, the so-called “covenant of grace.”
The flaws are manifold, not the least of which pertain to christology and soteriology as a whole: the Logos assumed human nature. In fact, the reformed Calvinistic view is actually a Pelagian view of pre-lapsarian man, the Calvinist and the Pelagian differing only in how they see the results of the fall. For Pelagius, as well as for the Calvinist, man had no need of “grace” in the garden. This notion is so blockheaded it’s difficult to even respond to, but it’s an outworking of their doctrine of the “legal status” God supposedly views His creations under, with Adam functioning perfectly well as a natural man so long as he is viewed as “just” by God and his nature remains unfallen.
“Grace” then enters the scheme as a juridical pronouncement of status based on the created human merit work of the Nestorian Jesus to come, who satisfies divine wrath through his endurance of eternal indignation on the Cross and in “hell” – but it’s only grace if you believe in this Nestorian Calvinist Jesus, which is then only obtained by the rational assent of the individual who has been caused by God to have this faith, where his human will and energy and its natural opposition to God (Manichaeanism) has been overcome by divine grace (Augustinism). This monergism (mon-energism) and monothelitism is predicated on the faulty assumption of man’s nature being necessarily in dialectical tension with the divine. In fact, the train of thought in this regard runs directly from Monothelitism to Calvinism in the explicit rejection of all notions of synergism, with both presupposing the natural dialectical opposition between divine operation and human nature and will.
When man fell in this view, he thus became “totally depraved,” his entire nature being destroyed (as with Luther), or becoming entirely enslaved to the passions (as with Calvin). Nature itself was lost because it was identified with grace and placed man in a “naturally evil state,” as every Calvinist intones ad nauseam. As a result, instead of the Son of God deifying human nature by His Incarnation, we have once an Arian-human JesusDudeBro who fulfills the “covenant of works,” whereupon because of His merits, the celestial psychopath bean counter is able to impute “perfect righteousness” to the heavenly IMF bank accounts of the elect. Certainly the Calvinists depart from Pelagius concerning the effects of the Fall, where Pelagius made death a strictly natural phenomenon. For the Calvinist, human nature was lost because, nature is identified with grace, and nature is identified with grace because being made in the image of an absolutely simple essence (in this heterodox view), all of the attributes are the essence.
The problems don’t end here for our sour puss prairie muffins. First, how is it Calvinists reject merit, yet hold to the very concept of a gracious merit in the covenant of works with Adam? Surely God was under no constraints to give man any benefits in the garden. On the contrary, all our works are your gifts, as Augustine says and even this does not exclude synergy.
Second, what did man lose when he fell, if nature is grace? Was God under obligation to give man anything? Not in the Calvinist view, since God is sovereign. So what was lost? Prior to the fall, it has to be admitted that what man had was communion with God, which is nothing other than the life of God, the Holy Spirit. Expulsion from the garden meant loss of communion with the Triune God, but communion with God is grace and life, so the contradictions are becoming endless. God freely, out of His bountiful goodness granted man life and light and communion with Him in the garden and the sin of Adam cut them off from that grace. Once this is admitted, the faux theological nonsense construct of a “covenant of works” is manifest. Spiritual death ensued, but man did not cease to be just that: man. He could not lose his nature anymore than an angel who fell could lose his angelic nature.
Matter and human nature can never lose their natural, inherent goodness: When God created the world, including man and the angels, He said, “it is good.” It cannot and will never be inherently evil. Its precisely the heresy of Manichaeanism that is revived in Calvinism, a dualistic view that said matter was crude, inherently evil and in dialectical opposition to the good. Two eternal principles are thus locked in ageless conflict: matter and darkness opposed to light and thought. For the Manichee, man is, by birth, a garbage juice smoothie – poetic beauty rivaled only by the likes of Calvin and Luther.
In Orthodoxy, evil is a movement away from the good by an act of will. When Lucifer rebelled, he lost the grace and deifying power of God that was his source of true goodness, elevating his angelic nature to untold heights. When he fell, he retained his nature (angelic), but it became corrupted due to an evil-turned will. Let’s be clear– even the will itself is not evil inherently, but becomes a source of evil when it turns from the greatest good, God, and retreats into the non-being of losing God’s deifying life and light. Likewise, when man fell, he lost the light, life, love and communion of God through the Holy Spirit. The grace of God’s very own life was lost and what remained was a fallen, corrupted nature. That fallen nature now tended towards sin, its passions out of whack and no longer subject to the rule of the law of God and reason, yet that nature could not be entirely lost or destroyed since man still retained the image of God, even after the fall. This point is key, and Scripture confirms it when Noah is told following the Flood that murder would be punished with death – because murder is an attack on the image of God in man (Gen. 9:6).
Man left the garden and retained his nature, but it was just that-only nature. It no longer had the life of God and the enemy, death and sin reigned. It still had its natural life, and if Calvinist thought about it, they would admit this principle, since they are opposed to abortion. Clearly the man in the womb is ‘alive’ and derives his dignity from being the image of God. Sin and death, however, reign through Ancestral Sin (Rom. 5:17) and in our actual sins (James 1:15) when we consent to the passions, the tendency we have inherited to rebel against God by loving naturally good passions, such as sex or food, in an undue measure, and not for God’s sake. St. James explicates our view that the body’s passions are out of accord with reason as a result of the Fall, and not the Calvinist view of the desires themselves being evil.
Thus, as many fathers say, sin consists simply in an inordinate love of creatures. Rather than ruling the passions of, say, the stomach, the gluttonous man puts his belly above his health and God. He seeks the immediate pleasures of the palate and, as one priest said, all of us fallen creatures are addicts of pleasure (note how St. John speaks in 1 John 2: 15-16). None of these pleasures are necessarily evil in themselves, except when they are indulged in, in an inordinate manner or taken out of their proper context. Sin is thus an act of the will whereby we transgress the command of God (1 John 3:4): it is not and cannot be an active state of being, and it is not natural, nor is it’s corollary, death – both are unnatural. St. Paul in Ephesians 2:3, for example, does not state nature itself is evil, but that by the means of natural birth we are under the power of death and corruption, where sin rules us.
Calvinists and their Protestant relations lyingly or ignorantly professes to believe in the definitions of the first several councils as they relate to the Trinity and the Incarnation. They will claim to believe what Ss. Athanasius, Cyril, Leo, Augustine and the Cappadocians believed, but as is now becoming an every day occurrence due to the Internet, they are left bereft and bankrupt when presented the actual teaching of the fathers and councils, especially regarding the devastating problems in Calvinist and Western Nous-free anthropology, especially as it relates to the Incarnation and pre-lapsarian man.
Christ assumed a mortal nature, with all of its weaknesses, except for sin. If Christ did not assume a our mortal state, then our nature is not rescued. Death still reigns and we are in our sins. Thankfully, He was God and united Himself to our lowly, fallen bodies that we can rejoice that we are raised with Him and united to His transfigured, deified humanity. There is no such thing as a sin-nature in Calvinist parlance because will is a property of human nature – all humans have a faculty of a will, but the will is not and cannot be determined, as it is natural property, but its mode is always hypostatic. We know this because its standard, historic Trinitarian Orthodoxy there is only one will in the Trinity, because there is only one nature. Will is not a property of Person, or hypostasis – we profess two wills and two energies in Christ because of two natures, human and divine (as per the 6th Ecumenical Council). That He assumed our creaturely nature is demonstrated by the fact that death is a result of the Fall, and Jesus’ death on the Cross with His attendant sufferings shows He assumed our lowly state, yet death could not hold Him (Ps. 16), because He is the Lord of life.
Christ assumed our weakness; He bore our stripes in His own body, humbling Himself to accept our own weak, lowly bodies, in order that they might be raised to light, life and immortality, yet without ever sinning (Phil. 2:6-7, 3:21). Who deliver us from these bodies of death? Christ Jesus will, because He assumed our weakness and made it eternal and godlike-He had deified us! (2 Peter 1:4). Therefore, because there is one will in the Trinity, there cannot be any division as imagined by the Protestant, in Nestorian fashion, where the Father hates the Son and damns Him (in the crucifixion) for the sins of the elect. This is an absolute Trinitarian impossibility. If they share the same will, always united, there can never be a division between the Son and the Father, and its just because Christ is a divine Person and not a human person that we cannot ascribe any actions of the Incarnate Son to some dude receiving God’s hatred and wrath.
St. John of Damascus’ On the Orthodox Faith contains excellent sections combatting Monothelitism that make these very points. Orthodox theology has always begun with Christology, and worked out the soteriology therefrom. Thus it is crucial to see Christ’s two wills in the Incarnation as the pattern for our synergy and the deifying of our fallen will by His divine energy. This is the teaching of the Fifth and Sixth Ecumenical Councils:
The “Definition of Faith” of the Sixth Ecumenical Council (680) states:
“For it was right that the flesh should be moved but subject to the divine will, according to the most wise Athanasius. For as his flesh is called and is the flesh of God the Word, so also the natural will of his flesh is called and is the proper will of God the Word, as he himself says: “I came down from heaven, not that I might do mine own will but the will of the Father which sent me!” where he calls his own will the will of his flesh, inasmuch as his flesh was also his own. For as his most holy and immaculate animated flesh was not destroyed because it was deified but continued in its own state and nature, so also his human will, although deified, was not suppressed, but was rather preserved according to the saying of Gregory Theologus (St. Gregory of Nazianzus): “His will [i.e., the Saviour’s] is not contrary to God but altogether deified.”
So, if you deny human free will, you must deny Christ a free will. If you do so, and replace it with the divine will, you are Monothelite. Or, from the vantage point of determinism, if there is no genuine free will after the fall, then Christ’s human will is determined – monothelitism. If He doesn’t share the same nature as us, then as the Fathers say, what is not assumed is not healed. If He didn’t assume a mortal, yet not inherently evil nature, then our nature is not deified. But note that the councils sees his mentioning of His own will in conformity with the Father’s (and there is only one divine will), as biblical proof that even after the fall, human will retains its own natural energy. In us, apart from grace, its merely natural–this is why St. Paul calls the man without the Spirit of God the “natural man” – God and His Word are foolishness – he cannot, in a merely natural state, believe or understand divine things. The Holy Spirit must move in synergy with man’s free will to believe these mysteries, yet never in conversion does man lose his will as this would be to lose a fundamental faculty of his nature. And again, in the ultimate paradigm is Jesus Himself in Whom the human will was elevated-deified, to ever be in conformity with the divine.
“Man, then, was thus snared by the assault of the arch-fiend, and broke his Creator’s command, and was stripped of grace and put off his confidence with God, and covered himself with the asperities of a toilsome life (for this is the meaning of the fig-leaves ); and was clothed about with death, that is, mortality and the grossness of flesh (for this is what the garment of skins signifies); and was banished from Paradise by God’s just judgment, and condemned to death, and made subject to corruption. Yet, notwithstanding all this, in His pity, God, Who gave him his being, and Who in His graciousness bestowed on him a life of happiness, did not disregard man.”
St. Cyril of Alexandria, arguing against the Nestorian position, writes in his On the Unity of Christ:
“If it is true that whatever is by adoption or grace must always be in the likeness of that which is by nature and truth, then how can we be sons by adoption in reference to him who is truly the Son, if he stand alongside those who have the sonship by grace?…”
[the opponent asks]
B. In that case we must refuse to think or say that a man has been conjoined to God the Word so as to have fellowship in his dignity and enjoy the sonship in the order of grace; is that right?
A. Entirely so. The mind of the holy scrriptures does not admit anything like this [Nestorianism]…We follow the mind of the divinely inspired writers, and for this reason we say that the one who participated in flesh and blood is not the one who had flesh and blood as his proper nature, and could not be otherwise, but rather one who did not have this kind of existence but was of a different nature to us…
For whatever is not a natural property, but is given by someone else as an external addition, is not the property of the one who receives it, but of the one who bestows it.” (pgs. 81, 90, 91).
St. Cyril goes on to speak in these terms in several places in this work, showing that Nestorius errs in making a subsistent man to be united to the Son by grace and not by nature. But that’s what Christians are; sons by grace, while Jesus is a Son by nature. So what do we get from this? The very foundation of the nature/grace distinction is that is is not an opposition, but a harmony. The Incarnation itself is the ground and just as in Christ the two natures are not in contrast or opposition, so in us in theosis they are not in opposition, but good grace raises an already good nature by synergy and harmony.
St. Cyril wrote in his anathemas against Nestorius that makeup part of the corpus of Ephesus an able refutation and anathema of Calvinism by extension:
“Proclaiming the death, according to the flesh, of the Only-begotten Son of God, that is Jesus Christ, confessing his resurrection from the dead, and his ascension into heaven, we offer the Unbloody Sacrifice in the churches, and so go on to the mystical thanksgivings, and are sanctified, having received his Holy Flesh and the Precious Blood of Christ the Saviour of us all. And not as common flesh do we receive it; God forbid: nor as of a man sanctified and associated with the Word according to the unity of worth, or as having a divine indwelling, but as truly the Life-giving and very flesh of the Word himself. For he is the Life according to his nature as God, and when he became united to his Flesh, he made it also to be Life-giving, as also he said to us: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his Blood. For we must not think that it is flesh of a man like us (for how can the flesh of man be life-giving by its own nature?) but as having become truly the very own of him who for us both became and was called Son of Man.”