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In regard to depravity, or original sin, the Greek fathers agree in teaching that it is an inherited corruption or disorder of human nature, but not of the nature of sin proper, or guilt. Says Justin, (Dial. c. Tryph., c. 124:) “All men deserve to die, because they have sinned as Adam," (duoiws tý 'Adàu.) Of the imputation of Adam's guilt he has no thought. Clement rejects the idea of imputing Adam's sin to his children. Strom., iii, 16. Origen teaches that guilt arises only when we freely yield to the temptations to which our depravity exposes us. De Princ., iii, 2. So teach also Tertullian (De Bapt., 18) and Cyprian. Ep., 64. The latter calls original sin contagio mortis antiquae, (Ep., 59,) but says that it does not annul freedom. De Grat., c. 2. Cyril of Jerusalem (ob. 386) says, “When we come into the world we are sinless, (avauáptntol,) but now we sin from choice.” He has the highest ethical notion of virtue: “There is no kind of souls that are either sinful or righteous by nature, but that we are either the one or the other proceeds only from free choice.” Shedd, ii, 38. And with Cyril agree the other eminent Greek fathers—the two Gregories, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Chrysostom, Theodoret, and the rest. Gregory Nazianzen declares (Orat., xl) children to be drovúpous, (innocent.) Gregory. Nyssa denies that depravity in infants is sin. Opp., iii, p. 317. Chrysostom held that, though mortal Adam could beget mortal descendants, yet sinful Adam could not beget sinful descendants. “No one owes any thing to justice until he first becomes a sinner for himself,” (δίκοθεν.)
Evidently the idea of imputing the guilt of Adam to all of his descendants, and then of damning a large part of them because of that imputation, is an unorthodox invention of a later age.
As to the process of conversion, the Greek fathers of the fourth century are well represented by Gregory Nyssa, ob. cir. 395. “With him," says Schaff,“ human freedom plays a great part.” He lays far more stress upon heart-purity than upon a mere forensic justification. The path to deliverance from sin is the path of ethical endeavor, of humiliation, and self-mastery. When the soul in obedience to conscience heeds the voice of God, divine grace meets the soul and leads it into self-mastery. His general view (see Luthardt, p. 18) is as follows: "In consequence of the fall the divine image in us is
marred and affected with imperfection, (appúornua.) We have from birth a tendency to sin, (Tapos kakláv oquń.) But this tendency does not break down our moral freedom. Freedom is of the essence of man; it is lost only when man ceases to be man. Moral freedom conditions the possibility of virtue. Take it away, and we cease to be moral agents; we could be neither praiseworthy or blameworthy. Now, freedom of will involves freedom to good as well as freedom to bad. Man is no longer a moral agent if he is unable to shun sin. But when a man has once fallen into sin, how is he to recover himself? First, under the experience of life and the guidance of the Spirit he is awakened to serious thought; he comes to himself. Then, when thus brought to see his real moral condition, he opens his eyes and welcomes the light, as a mortally sick man welcomes the physicians. His soul is thus filled with new light and life. The germ, the basis, of this new life lies hidden in every human being. It was not forfeited or annihilated by the fall. It is the ethical conscience, the God-consciousness. Were this lost there would be nothing of the human being left, and the regeneration of such an un-man would be a pure creation out of nothing. But does man regenerate himself ? No! he becomes regenerate by accepting the chastenings of Providence, welcoming the visitations of the Spirit, and co-operating with divine grace.”
These views of Gregory are fully shared by Basil the Great, ob. 379. “He teaches the co-operation of human liberty with divine grace, as the Greek Church has always taught.”—Lichtenberger, Encycl., ii, p. 104.
So also taught Gregory Nazianzen, ob. 390. He holds that the sinner is not to wait until some visitation of overpowering grace drives him to repentance, but rather that the grace necessary to his regeneration is congenital with him, and is ever ready to co-operate with him, whensoever he will.
Such is, also, the opinion of the great Chrysostom, ob. 407. “ Chrysostom's theory of regeneration was firmly synergistic. --Shedd, ii, 40. “His synergism is that of the whole Greek Church.”—Schaff, ii, 937. His general position is thus summed up by Neander, (ii, 659-661 :) “Gregory's deep feeling of the need of redemption led him to appreciate the necessity of divine grace, while his correct ethical conception induced him to
set a high value on the free-will of man as a necessary condition of all the operations of grace." In explaining Rom. v, 19,
passage is not to be so understood, as if by the sin of one all became actual sinners; it teaches, rather, simply that the condition of human nature, which to the first man was a punishment, was thus transmitted to all his posterity. But this misfortune only redounds to man's benefit if he is not remiss in the use of his will.” “If we but will, not only death, but even Satan himself, shall never harm us." There is no such thing as irresistible grace. Grace is effectual in proportion to our co-operation with it. God draws us to him not by force, but by our own free-will.
The next great theologian of the East, Theodore of Mopsuestia, (ob. 428,) stood upon the border of the great Augustinian controversy. He endeavored to keep the true synergistic mean between the fatalistic divine monergism of Augustine and the merely human monergism of Pelagius. He distinctly rejected the imputation of Adam's sin to his descendants. Man's inherited nature is not sinful, but corrupt. New-born children are not guilty of sin; hence they do not need baptism and the eucharist in order to their forgiveness. On the subject of grace Theodore held the orthodox view. Redemption extends to the whole human race. We are saved by faith in Christ, and by an obedient life. See Herzog, xv, 718. That Theodore was utterly opposed to all moral determinism is clear from the mere title of the work which he wrote against Augustinianism. It was entitled, “Against Those who say that Man Sins not by Freewill, but by Nature,” (pvoer.) That this system was, on the other hand, not Pelagian, is thus stated by Neander, (ii, 656 :) With the Pelagians he insisted on “man's inalienable freedom, as opposed to the doctrine of a constraining grace and of predestination. But the great difference between the two systems was this-that in the Pelagian the doctrine of a redemption and a Redeemer had no foothold whatever, while in Theodore's system it had a thoroughly essential one, and, indeed, constituted the central point of the system.”
Kindred to the position of Theodore was that of Theodoret, ob. cir. 457. He co-ordinated the operations of grace and freedom in the manner of Chrysostom, making the efficaciousness of grace dependent upon its reception and use by human freedom. Great and original thinkers in the Greek Church appeared occasionally throughout the Dark Ages. Their theology uniformly follows strictly in the wake of the orthodox synergism of Chrysostom and the Gregories.
Maximus Confessor, of the seventh century, (ob. 622,) produced profound works in the spirit of Gregory of Nyssa. On the subject of grace and free-will he says: “The faculty of seeking after the godlike has been implanted in human nature by the Creator. In consequence of sin this original faculty is overwhelmed by sense. But the Holy Spirit restores it to its pristine freedom and purity. Grace alone, however, does not operate independently of the natural faculties. Nor do the natural faculties work independently of grace. The Holy Spirit guides the spiritual striving of those who are seeking after the godlike to its desired end. The Spirit works not wisdom without a mind which is susceptible of it; nor knowledge without a recipient reason; nor faith without a rational conviction in the receiver; in a word, it produces no charisma whatever without the recipient faculty of each. The grace
of the Spirit destroys not in the least the natural faculty, but much rather makes that faculty which has become inapt by unnatural use once more efficient by employing it conformably to its nature, when it leads it to the contemplation of the godlike.”-Neander, iii, 172-3. From Palmer's account of Maximus (Herzog, xx, 136–7) we further cite: “In regard to depravity, Maximus is true to the orthodox Greek view. Moral freedom, (tò aùtečovolov,) as a constituent element of spiritual rationality, was not forfeited by the fall. This freedom is the principle of sin on the one hand, and the basis of redeemableness on the other. It is the element which receives and cooperates with regenerating grace.”
Greatest among the later Greek theologians was John of Damascus, ob. 754. His "Exdoors ñs TiÕTEWÇ is one of the ablest and most systematic dogmatics which the Church had yet produced. In his soteriology he lays great stress on the role of human freedom. God made man innocent by nature, and autonomous (free) as to his will: 'Etroinge dè &vtòv qúoel åvapápτητον και θελήσει αυτεξούσιον.-ii, c. 12. The source of sin is not in man's nature, but in his volition : Oủk ús ¿v TĨ PÚgel tò dưapτάνειν έχοντα, εν τη προαιρέσει δε μάλλον. Μan has the power
to continue and to advance in the good, co-operating with God's grace; as, also, to turn away from the right, and to become involved in evil, God permitting it in the interest of human freedom : Εξουσίαν έχοντα μένειν και προκόπτειν εν τω αγαθώ, τη θεία συνεργούμενον χάριτι; ώσαύτως και τρέπεσθαι εκ του καλού, και εν τω κακό γινέσθαι του θεού παραχωρούντος θιά το αυτεξούσιον. For virtue is not a something that can be externally compelled : Οκ αρετή γαρ το Βία γινόμενον. Man, being a rational being, rules over his nature rather than being ruled by it: 'O dè åvθρωπος, λογικός ών, άγει μάλλον την φύσιν ήπερ άγεται. It is God's will neither that sin should exist, nor that human holiness should be the fruit of a merely divine eficiency : Ου γαρ θέλει την κακίαν γινεσθαι, ούθε βιάζεται την αρετήν. This is amply confirmed the statement of Hagenbach, as to this great theologian, (ii, 13:) “He every-where retained the principal definitions of the earlier Greek theologians concerning human liberty.”
The views of John of Damascus were fully shared by all the eminent Greek theologians of the later Middle Ages: by Theodore Studita, (ob. 826) Theophylact, (ob. cir. 1107,) Euthymius Zigabanus, (ob. cir. 1118,) Nicetas Choniates, (ob. çir. 1206,) and Nicolas of Methone. Euthymius, one of the best minds of the twelfth century, thus expresses the inefficaciousness of human effort without divine grace, and also the fruitlessness of grace without the co-operation of man's will: Méya dóyua μανθάνομεν, ώς όυτε ανθρωπίνη προθυμία κατορθοί τι χωρίς της θείας ροπής, όυτε θεία ροπή κέρδος φερει χωρίς ανθρωπίνης προθυμίας.Herzog, iv, 250. Nicolas of Methone had even more eminent abilities than Euthymius. “He laid great stress on the freedom of the will.”—Hagenbach, ii, 26.
As to the formal symbols of the Greek Church, they uniformly reflect the views of the above-mentioned great orthodox theologians: the Gregories, Chrysostom, John of Damascus, etc. These symbols embrace, 1. The decisions of the first seven Ecumenical Councils, (from A. D. 325 to 787;) 2. Certain extended confessions of modern times, framed in antagonism to Romanism and Protestantism. The decisions of the first seven councils are held in common with the Romish Church. They relate chiefly to the doctrines concerning God. So far as they are anthropological they reflect the Greek view. Of the later confessions we mention the following: