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Author Topic: St John Cassian, Semipelgianism, and the Councils of Orange  (Read 2171 times) Average Rating: 0
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dantxny
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« on: March 21, 2007, 02:46:11 PM »

Well, here is a really broad question and I am hoping that some of you theologians may be able to assist me.  I'm doing a research paper over Cassian's Conferences especially Book 13. 

1.)How does the Orthodox Church receive his teachings and would you describe them as semipelgianism?  Are there any specific parts you would argue are acceptable if the Church deems it not?

2.) How is the Council of Orange traditionally placed in Orthodoxy?

3.) Does anyone happen to know, by chance, where Augustin's alternate view on will and grace is expressed?

I really apreciate any help I can receive and I look forward to your answers.

Daniel
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« Reply #1 on: March 21, 2007, 07:13:33 PM »

Among the fathers of the ancient church, I always thought that the concept of salvation was best expressed in the works of Cassian. Was Cassian semi-pelagian? I would say no. Besides, the charge of semi-pelagianism is one often brought against the Eastern Orthodox view of salvation generally, though I doubt many Orthodox would consider their view heretical. I'm sure there are statements in the works of Cassian that wouldn't be acceptable to everyone, as everyone makes mistakes.

I am obviously not saying that I agree with him about salvation, I just think that Cassian takes the various statements and contradictions (free will vs. determinism and such) in the bible and synthesises them pretty well, not falling into extremes. I guess one of the things that might catch someone's eye in Book 13 is something like this...

"For we should not hold that God made man such that he can never will or be capable of what is good: or else He has not granted him a free will, if He has suffered him only to will or be capable of evil, but neither to will or be capable of what is good of himself." - John Cassian, Conferences 13, 12

However, there are also ideas like the following in the works of Cassian...

"'For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do according to good will.' (Phil 2:13) What could well be clearer than the assertion that both our good will and the completion of our work are fully wrought in us by the Lord?" - John Cassian, Conferences, 3, 15

Half this 3rd Conference discusses free will in this way, emphasising the part that God plays and minimizing the part that humans play (esp. Chapters 11-22)

Here are some other quotes from his works...

"...the initiative not only of our actions but also of good thoughts comes from God, who inspires us with a good will to begin with, and supplies us with the opportunity of carrying out what we rightly desire: for 'every good gift and every perfect gift cometh down from above, from the Father of lights,' (James 1:17) who both begins what is good, and continues it and completes it in us, as the Apostle says: 'But He who giveth seed to the sower will both provide bread to eat and will multiply your seed and make the fruits of your righteousness to increase.' (2 Cor. 9:10)" - John Cassian, Conferences, 13, 3

"Whence human reason cannot easily decide how the Lord ...draws men against their will to salvation, takes away from those who want to sin the faculty of carrying out their desire, in His goodness stands in the way of those who are rushing into wickedness." - John Cassian, Conferences, 13, 9

(There are a lot of other parts in the 13th Conference that are closer to Augustinianism than Pelagianism). But one last quote, from the Institutes...

"For the will and course of no one, however eager and anxious, is sufficiently ready for him, while still enclosed in the flesh which warreth against the spirit, to reach so great a prize of perfection, and the palm of uprightness and purity, unless he is protected by the divine compassion, so that he is privileged to attain to that which he greatly desires and to which he runs. For 'every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.' (James 1:17) 'For what hast thou which thou didst not receive? But if thou hast received it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it?' (1 Cor. 4:7)" - John Cassian, Institutes 12, 10

Can't really help you much regarding the Council of Orange or Augustine, leastwise I can't help any more than going and doing a Google search and posting the findings here (which you could do yourself, you don't need a wicked apostate for that Grin )
« Last Edit: March 21, 2007, 07:16:09 PM by Asteriktos » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: March 22, 2007, 06:10:18 PM »

Hi everyone! I'm no theologian but I do have a pretty good library!  Cheesy

St. Maximus stated: "the Spirit does not generate a will that is not willing, but he transforms into deification a will that has the desire."

I don't see the same antithesis between divine grace and human freedom, which dogged Western theology for so many centuries, in Eastern Christian thought.

Be Well.
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« Reply #3 on: January 22, 2012, 12:35:34 PM »

ok, people of this forum,
This is a really good and important question.  Horrible attention it got.  Let's give this OP a better answer. 

Also something I wonder about too.

Council of Orange...good or bad? 

John Cassian...semi-wrong or right? 

Thanks!
-K
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Justin Kissel
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« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2012, 02:47:54 PM »

ok, people of this forum,
This is a really good and important question.  Horrible attention it got.  Let's give this OP a better answer. 

Also something I wonder about too.

Council of Orange...good or bad? 

John Cassian...semi-wrong or right? 

Thanks!
-K

You're welcome  Tongue  Seriously though, I'm not sure what I could say that I haven't already said. Not only is St. John not semi-pelagian, but in his writings we actually find one of the best examples of orthodox thought on the matter.
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« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2012, 09:26:15 PM »

Of course that wasn't directed at you Asteriktos.  Appreciate your input.

But specifically does Orthodoxy disagree with the Council of Orange?  Does Catholicism embrace Orange wholly?  Papist, where you at? 

K
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« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2012, 10:36:56 PM »

This thread is not for non-Orthodox poster to present their beliefs. I you want to get to know them start a thread in the proper section.
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« Reply #7 on: January 29, 2012, 10:58:25 PM »

oh good heavens.

Just move it to whatever place you want/approve then so we can get some comments-

K
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« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2012, 09:15:31 AM »

I wanted to come back and make a post here for two reasons. First, to act as a bump so that it can perhaps be revived, as I think it could make for an interesting discussion. And second, so as to not be merely a bump, I'm going to post an overview of the Thirteenth Conference of St. John (mentioned in the OP)...

Abba Chaeremon makes the following points:

Chapter 3 - We can do nothing without God's aid and mercy, and we should not boast that our good fruits were produced by our own works. Both the initiative to do good and our good thoughts come from God; God inspires us to do good and gives us the opportunities to carry good intentions out.

Chapter 4 - [A question is asked by Abba Gemanus: what are we to make of the heathen who are virtuous?]

Chapter 5 - Abba Chaeremon argues that the heathen are virtuous insofar as they can be, but are not and cannot be virtuous in the same way that Christians are. To truly achieve virtuous conduct, though, it is not enough to just be a Christian, but to receive this gift you have to "serve God with full contrition of their spirit".

Chapter 6 - We always need God's help in everything, which obviouslky includes salvation. Without the aid of God we cannot accomplish anything related to salvation.

Chapter 7 - God made man to live forever, not originally intending him to die or sin. Therefore he tries to start a fire of good in us, and when he sees the fire starting to develop, he tries to fan the flames so that they grow. God sometimes gives us things that we do not want, because like a good physician he knows that sometimes the necessary treatment will not be pleasant.

Chapter 8 - Divine protection "is inseparably present with us." God inspires us to do good, and when He sees these thoughts to do good take root, He tries to nurture them so that they produce fruitful activity.

Chapter 9 - It is hard to understand how God provides and guides us, how he can draw us against our will towards salvation without violating our free will, etc. However, our own will clearly has a part to play.

Chapter 10 - Freedom of the will is not merely illusionary, but real. "The Apostle writing to the Philippians, to show that their will is free, says 'Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,' but to point out its weakness, he adds: 'For it is God that works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.' (Phil. 2:12-13)"

Chapter 11 - Many questions can be raised about how all of this fits together, how we can be guided by grace, have free will, play our part in cooperating with God, etc.  Free will and grace seem opposed to each other, but actually work together.

Chapter 12 - Either God has made man in such a way that he is naturally capable of choosing to think or do good, or there is no free will. But there is indeed free will, and so we should not claim that everything good in humans is from God, and that people are naturally evil. Every soul has been given some grace by God to do good, and people are assisted by God, yet the "freedom of the will is to some degree in a man's own power".

Chapter 13 - "And so the grace of God always co-operates with our will for its advantage, and in all things assists, protects, and defends it". Human effort alone cannot get someone to heaven. Paul said: "And His grace in my was not in vain; but I laboured more abudantly than they all: and yet not I, but the grace of God with me" (1 Cor. 15:10). Of this Abba Chaeremon says: "'when he says: 'I laboured,' he shows the effort of his own will; when he says: 'yet not I, but the grace of God,' he points out the value of Divine protection; when he says: 'with me,' he affirms that it cooperates with him when he was not idle or careless, but working and making an effort."

Chapter 14 - The testing of Job by Satan shows that we are free to choose to do good, for while God gave Job enough grace to be victorious, it was not so much grace that victory was assured. It was up to Job to do his part. The Gospel story of the Centurion, and the testing of Abraham, are other examples of this. God does not guarantee that certain people do or think good; rather He might be likened to someone who feeds a baby, teaches it to crawl, to walk, etc.

Chapter 15 - We are each given grace in a way that is to our best advantage, according to our measure of faith.

Chapter 16 - None of this is meant to argue that everything having to do with salvation, or even the most important parts of it, are of our own doing.

Chapter 17 - "God brings salvation to mankind in deverse and innumerable methods and inscrutable ways". We cannot understand God's ways in this matter, as even St. Paul said.

Chapter 18 - [summing up] God puts into us "the very beginnings of salvation, and gives to each the zeal of his free will; and now grants the carrying out of the work, and the perfecting of goodness". When we do not resist, "everything is granted to us by God, the main share in our salvation is to be ascribed not to the merit of our own works but to heavenly grace". "the first state in the Divine gift is for each man to be inflamed with the desire of everything that is good, but in such a way that the choice of free will is open to either side: and that the second stage in Divine grace is for the aforesaid practices of virtue to be able to be performed, but in such a way that the possibilities of the will are not destroyed: the third stage also belongs to the gifts of God, so that it may be held by the persistence of the goodness already acquired, and in such a way that the liberty may not be surrendered and experience bondage".
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« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2012, 09:54:14 AM »

The OP has posed an important question, one that I have asked over the past several years.  Unfortunately, I am no closer to having an answer than I was when I first began researching the subject.

A helpful book on the Semi-Pelagian controversy is Divine Grace and Human Agency by Rebecca Hardin Weaver.  Weaver sees the Synod of Orange as re-affirming a moderate Augustinianism.  In his review of the book Michel Barnes (who knows his Augustine) disagrees with this conclusion:  "If the theology of the Council of Orange is said to be Augustine's, that theology is from Augustine as he thought and wrote no later than 412 or 414 CE. Indeed, we might better say that the Council of Orange represents the triumph of the early and middle Augustine and the defeat of the late Augustine."   If Barnes is right, then I would think that Orange might be amenable to an Orthodox reading.

I have yet to come across a scholarly Orthodox discussion of this topic.   I would love to read an Orthodox theologian comparing, say, Maximus the Confessor, Augustine of Hippo, John Cassian, and the Synod of Orange.  This would make an interesting PHD thesis, I would think.  

In a way, the Semi-Pelagian question has become irrelevant, at least for contemporary Roman Catholicism.  Catholic theologians affirm  God's universal salvific will and they believe that sufficient grace is given to every person.  Practically, therefore, no substantial difference on this question exists between Orthodoxy and Catholicism:  every individual possesses or is granted the freedom to respond to and embrace the gospel.  But it still remains an interesting theological question.  
« Last Edit: April 30, 2012, 09:56:43 AM by akimel » Logged

Tags: St John Cassian  Semipelgianism Council of Orange Original Sin salvation 
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