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Author Topic: Did Christ Have the Ability to Sin?  (Read 5276 times) Average Rating: 0
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Alveus Lacuna
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« on: November 04, 2011, 11:08:19 PM »



I was listening to the series of podcasts on Christ the Eternal Tao by Hieromonk Damascene of Platina on AFR, and during one of the talks he repeated a couple of times that Christ was not able to sin. He distinguished this reality from that of the Theotokos, because she had an inclination toward sin as did all other people, but because Christ was fully God it was impossible to sin. I suppose that Fr. Damascene meant this in the sense that if he had sinned he would have ceased to have been fully God. But that's my interpretation of what he was saying, not what he said.

However, this got me thinking. If this is in fact true, how is it impressive to be sinless when you can't sin? Furthermore, how can such a one be considered fully human when not possessing the fallen nature that we possess? I suppose this is because our fallenness is "unnatural" and not really "fully human"?

Wouldn't it make the Mother of God somehow better than her Son, if she remained sinless while still having the fallen inclination toward it? We are told in the Holy Scriptures that "we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).

One Protestant website put it this way:

Those temptations, however, unlike every other person, did not originate from within. They were not temptations arising from fallen sinful flesh, but the temptations placed in front of him by Satan and his demons, and also other people. The phrase in Hebrews actually says “kata panta kath homoioteta” meaning “according to every respect, according to the likeness” in which we are tempted. There is thus discontinity and continuity between Jesus’ temptations and ours.

I guess I am just having trouble understanding how something can be "tempting", or at least like what we experience with temptations, if it is impossible for one to do it.

The whole thing is very confusing to me and I may just try and shoot the monastery in Platina an email and see if I get a response, that is unless you whizzes set me straight.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2011, 11:13:38 PM by Alveus Lacuna » Logged
orthonorm
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« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2011, 11:13:47 PM »

It is deja vu all over again . . .

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Alveus Lacuna
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« Reply #2 on: November 04, 2011, 11:14:54 PM »

It is deja vu all over again . . .

My apologies. Did I miss another thread on this very topic that happened recently?
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« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2011, 11:18:46 PM »

It is deja vu all over again . . .

My apologies. Did I miss another thread on this very topic that happened recently?

It needs to be done again with a clean slate. It went a lot of nowhere.

It is a great question. I thought you might have been raising it again because of the mess the one was.

Let me link you the other in a bit.

I am interested in seeing wider participation if possible with nil Pastristic quote mining.

And God forbid if we actually keep the entirety of Scripture in mind while discussing it.

Thanks.
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« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2011, 11:21:24 PM »

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,8268.0.html

I dunno if studying it carefully will yield much. Skim it.

Someone thanks you.
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« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2011, 11:52:19 PM »

If He didn't then the Temptation makes absolutely no sense.

As Hebrews says, we have a High Priest who can sympathize with us. How can He sympathize with us if He could never have fallen?
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Alveus Lacuna
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« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2011, 12:21:57 AM »

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,8268.0.html

I dunno if studying it carefully will yield much. Skim it.

Skimming the thread now. I've never heard of a "gnomic will" in my life, and now I've got to try and get my head around whatever that is.

But this is bringing up a totally different tension, which is between the omniscience of Christ as a hypostasis of the Holy Trinity and his supposed lack of deliberation as a man. I know that to believe that Christ solely had a divine mind is a heresy (Apollinarianism), but how do his divine and human mind work together? He was ignorant or facts like any human, but he was omniscient?

Real theology makes my fully human mind hurt...
« Last Edit: November 05, 2011, 12:22:23 AM by Alveus Lacuna » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2011, 12:26:33 AM »

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,8268.0.html

I dunno if studying it carefully will yield much. Skim it.

Skimming the thread now. I've never heard of a "gnomic will" in my life, and now I've got to try and get my head around whatever that is.

But this is bringing up a totally different tension, which is between the omniscience of Christ as a hypostasis of the Holy Trinity and his supposed lack of deliberation as a man. I know that to believe that Christ solely had a divine mind is a heresy (Apollinarianism), but how do his divine and human mind work together? He was ignorant or facts like any human, but he was omniscient?

Real theology makes my fully human mind hurt...

Bro,

I'll weigh in as this thread picks up, but those Christologicals thread that were firing on the OO forum were killing me. I serious.

They are dangerous. Tread carefully.
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« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2011, 12:50:58 AM »

The more I am thinking about this the more difficult it becomes.

I suppose the question becomes: What does Christ's "human nature" really look like? Are we talking about true humanity as it existed before the Fall? If so, how does that functionally operate? Obviously Adam was not omniscient in the mythos or he would not have been deceived. But obviously Adam had the potential for deliberation, or the temptation of the serpent would have been a non-starter.

If Christ lacked a "gnomic will" or the potential for deliberation, then how was He really like Adam? If our mind is not assumed then how is it healed?

I suppose that if He inherited the limitations of the human mind in terms of factual knowledge, such as how to speak Japanese, but He lacked the ability to deliberate, it could still in some way reflect the pre-Fallen mind which is the true human mind. This could still be a true assumption of our nature, but it's very hard to grasp.

I suppose He was able to bear our sin without being sinful, so it's not as though He had to assume sin to heal it. Perhaps the same is true of our intellectual deliberation, as it is not a product of our nature but rather comes from the darkening of our nature? In that case, it's an argument whether human freedom is the "freedom to choose" or it is the "freedom from choice". But if one lacks the ability to choose, then how is one really anything?

Next brain level wonders if real freedom is freedom "from" choice, then how is humanity really privileged with the divine image? I thought that it was our ability to choose or reject God that reflected the divine image and likeness within us. The lower creatures; the beasts, lack the ability to choose or reject God. So if choice is a reflection of divinity as I have always been led to believe, then God would have to have the ability to choose. But one person says that God is unchanging and immovable, while another says He is moved to compassion, love, et cetera. Which is it? Both or neither; one or the other?

If God cannot choose then He is static and He is not alive. But if He can choose, He is not all knowing and He is not God.

Apophaticism in action, folks.

Am I knowing God right now by unknowing Him?
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« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2011, 12:59:10 AM »

If Christ sinned he would no longer be God. There is no way to reconcile God sinning against himself.

Can God lift a rock too heavy for him to lift? Can God sin against his own will? No, because the definition of sin is not doing God's will. What God does is his will, therefore he can't not do his will, therefore he can't sin.
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« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2011, 01:23:29 AM »

If Christ sinned he would no longer be God. There is no way to reconcile God sinning against himself.
Yeah. But that depends on how you define "impossible".

Was it impossible because the Logos as a human was humanly incapable of sinning? Was it impossible because his "divinized" humanity was affected by the union, becoming a humanity that could not be utilized to sin? Was it impossible because the Person of God who was made man is always faithful?

I'm going for the latter. The former two have some issues.
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« Reply #11 on: November 05, 2011, 02:02:38 AM »

If He didn't then the Temptation makes absolutely no sense.

As Hebrews says, we have a High Priest who can sympathize with us. How can He sympathize with us if He could never have fallen?

I thought this post made sense:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,8268.msg657405.html#msg657405
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« Reply #12 on: November 05, 2011, 02:05:17 AM »

If Christ sinned he would no longer be God. There is no way to reconcile God sinning against himself.
Yeah. But that depends on how you define "impossible".

Was it impossible because the Logos as a human was humanly incapable of sinning? Was it impossible because his "divinized" humanity was affected by the union, becoming a humanity that could not be utilized to sin? Was it impossible because the Person of God who was made man is always faithful?

I'm going for the latter. The former two have some issues.

I like your conclusion.
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« Reply #13 on: November 05, 2011, 02:55:50 AM »

I'm curious, if Christ has two wills, human and divine, but they are always perfectly aligned, whats the point of the distinction between the two? Isn't it just essentially one will, then?
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« Reply #14 on: November 05, 2011, 08:26:21 AM »

I'm curious, if Christ has two wills, human and divine, but they are always perfectly aligned, whats the point of the distinction between the two? Isn't it just essentially one will, then?

It has to do with Him having and uniting all aspects that pertain to both natures.

Anyway, I am having trouble aligning my will to God's right now (speaking of wills), so if you want to discredit the above statement (and any others I've made over the last couple of days), go ahead.

As to the OP, I remember talking about thus with a friend while I was still in my "right mind" (to use biblical terminology), and my opinion that I gave was a paradoxical "both yes and no".
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« Reply #15 on: November 05, 2011, 12:21:22 PM »

I'm curious, if Christ has two wills, human and divine, but they are always perfectly aligned, whats the point of the distinction between the two? Isn't it just essentially one will, then?
As St. Gregory Theologus says, Christ assumes a human will, deifies it and makes it perfectly united with the Divine will, and by this assumption of will He eradicates our own inclination to sinfulness.

"The Logos of God has united Himself not only to the flesh, but also to the soul, which is endowed with will and understanding, in order to allow our souls, which are inclined towards evil, to lean towards choosing good and turning away from evil. For God as God does not need to choose good; but because for our sakes He assumed flesh and spiritual soul, He took for us this redress."

-Saint Severus of Antioch; OO Bishop of Antioch 512-518 A.D.

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« Reply #16 on: November 05, 2011, 01:37:33 PM »

I'm curious, if Christ has two wills, human and divine, but they are always perfectly aligned, whats the point of the distinction between the two? Isn't it just essentially one will, then?
As St. Gregory Theologus says, Christ assumes a human will, deifies it and makes it perfectly united with the Divine will, and by this assumption of will He eradicates our own inclination to sinfulness.
Is the implication, then, that Christ redeemed our fallen inclination toward sin at the moment of incarnation, but our bodies in the resurrection?
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« Reply #17 on: November 05, 2011, 02:09:57 PM »

when I see verses like this, it looks to me like Christ had a human and a divine will, and the human will struggled to conform to the divine will:

"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

How else are we to interpret this verse? Christ inherited our fallen humanity, which had a tendency towards sin. Surely it would be a constant struggle to conform the human will to the divine will in such a state?
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« Reply #18 on: November 05, 2011, 02:37:25 PM »

Do some individual human beings struggle with a greater tendency to sin than other individual human beings?
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« Reply #19 on: November 05, 2011, 02:38:25 PM »

Do some individual human beings struggle with a greater tendency to sin than other individual human beings?
In general or regarding specific sins?
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« Reply #20 on: November 05, 2011, 04:57:18 PM »

Do some individual human beings struggle with a greater tendency to sin than other individual human beings?
In general or regarding specific sins?

In general.
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« Reply #21 on: November 05, 2011, 07:55:43 PM »

If He didn't then the Temptation makes absolutely no sense.

As Hebrews says, we have a High Priest who can sympathize with us. How can He sympathize with us if He could never have fallen?

I thought this post made sense:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,8268.msg657405.html#msg657405
I don't have access to the private fora.
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« Reply #22 on: November 05, 2011, 07:57:53 PM »

If He didn't then the Temptation makes absolutely no sense.

As Hebrews says, we have a High Priest who can sympathize with us. How can He sympathize with us if He could never have fallen?

I thought this post made sense:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,8268.msg657405.html#msg657405
I don't have access to the private fora.
I was the one who posted it. I provided a quote from St. Hilary of Arles pertaining to the discussion.

St. Hilary of Arles says:

"Temptations come in three ways, by persuasion, by attraction, and by consent." [From his Commentary on the Epistle of James; quoted in Fr. T. Malaty's "The Epistle of James; a Patristic Commentary"]

In the wilderness, Satan sought to tempt Christ or to persuade Him, but He was not attracted by the temptation/persuasion of Satan, and He certainly did not consent to it. So, to say that he "tempted" and saying that He was incapable of sinning is not contradictory.

(I paraphrased my post so as to not break forum rules)


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« Reply #23 on: November 05, 2011, 08:07:31 PM »

If He didn't then the Temptation makes absolutely no sense.

As Hebrews says, we have a High Priest who can sympathize with us. How can He sympathize with us if He could never have fallen?

I thought this post made sense:

http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,8268.msg657405.html#msg657405
I don't have access to the private fora.
I was the one who posted it. I provided a quote from St. Hilary of Arles pertaining to the discussion.

St. Hilary of Arles says:

"Temptations come in three ways, by persuasion, by attraction, and by consent." [From his Commentary on the Epistle of James; quoted in Fr. T. Malaty's "The Epistle of James; a Patristic Commentary"]

In the wilderness, Satan sought to tempt Christ or to persuade Him, but He was not attracted by the temptation/persuasion of Satan, and He certainly did not consent to it. So, to say that he "tempted" and saying that He was incapable of sinning is not contradictory.

(I paraphrased my post so as to not break forum rules)




How can you persuade someone who is without a gnomic will?
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« Reply #24 on: November 05, 2011, 08:12:23 PM »

^What I mean is that Satan attempted to persuade Christ, but He was not enticed by Satan. And Christ's lack of enticement is by very virtue of the fact that He lacks a gnomic will.
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« Reply #25 on: November 05, 2011, 09:22:18 PM »

He was not attracted by the temptation/persuasion of Satan,

I'm sure Christ was fully aware of the worldly pleasures he was turning down when He was being tempted.
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« Reply #26 on: November 05, 2011, 09:28:05 PM »

I am NVM'ing this post until I have the time to clarify what I mean tomorrow.

Good night.
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« Reply #27 on: November 05, 2011, 09:38:49 PM »

He was not attracted by the temptation/persuasion of Satan,
I'm sure Christ was fully aware of the worldly pleasures he was turning down when He was being tempted.
Aware, yes. What I mean was that Christ was not enticed by Satan's efforts.

Are you saying that when Christ was hungry, that He had no desire for food, though He was aware that it would subside the hunger?
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« Reply #28 on: November 05, 2011, 10:25:02 PM »

when I see verses like this, it looks to me like Christ had a human and a divine will, and the human will struggled to conform to the divine will:

"Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

How else are we to interpret this verse? Christ inherited our fallen humanity, which had a tendency towards sin. Surely it would be a constant struggle to conform the human will to the divine will in such a state?

this verse bothers me, almost seems like it implies Christ's will is separate from God's...and that he didn't want to do God's will. No doubt this is one of the verses used by JW and Mormons...nevertheless I have no idea how it fits into an Orthodox framework.
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« Reply #29 on: November 05, 2011, 10:52:00 PM »

The temptation as is explained was not for Christ, but rather for the devil.  Christ turned the tables on the Tempter to destroy His worst temptations he would give to any man, enticing the Tempter to do them to God incarnate Himself, without Satan knowing He was God.  Just as Christ would destroy sin by "being sin" on the Cross for us all.  He did this so that we may have the ability to pray, "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."

People seem to forget what sin is.  Is not sin, or evil the antithesis of good?  God who is the only true existent one, gave us a form of existence, and yet when we sin, we lose communion with the True Existent one, and we become more prone to sin.  To have the ability to sin means to have the ability to lose communion with God.  The ability to sin is not a part of human nature that God intended.  It's "natural" only when one seeks to do his own will, not the will of God.  So why should that be a "consubstantial" part?  Why should Christ have a human will that is prone to not doing the will of God unless He's not God?
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« Reply #30 on: November 06, 2011, 12:09:43 AM »

Alveus Lacuna

I think this topic has much to do with Augustine's dogma of "Sinful Flesh" and "Sinful Nature". I think we should define what is sin first.

Even today, Jews reject Catholic understanding of "sinful nature" and declare it alien to the Old Testament.

The Fall of Adam, didn't bring a sinful flesh, but more inclination to sin, because we have to work for our food. Adam was given wife from God, as well as free food. After the fall, you have to work for both, which arises a higher possibility for sin. (And also, we lost direct contact with God, so lack of faith is also an issue)

Thus: Hunger, Thirst, Sex - these things aren't sinful by nature and they can't be. But if you are hungry, sexually deprived, thirsty, you have higher inclination to do something sinful - rape, kill, steal or purchase a whore.

That's why even today, there are lot of atheists who are excellent in terms of morality except one thing - they don't consider sex out of marriage a sin. (And that's why Pelagius said that "Christian can and should become sinless.")

So regarding Christ, I don't understand why there is even slight idea that He sometimes wanted(or theoretically could have) to murder, rape or steal.

But to say that he was hungry when he was fasting, or he may have liked a girl/woman visually - this is not a sinful nature or even a sin. And could Christ have emission of semen as presented in Old Testament? What we call "wet dreams". If he didn't, he didn't have a human nature. (The Natural - emission of semen, or the menstruation - wasn't considered sin in old testament, while Augustine and some did)

Now I don't find it necessary to touch the idea of 1 or 2 natures, I think it's evident even without that.
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« Reply #31 on: November 06, 2011, 01:31:31 AM »

I'm curious, if Christ has two wills, human and divine, but they are always perfectly aligned, whats the point of the distinction between the two? Isn't it just essentially one will, then?

*wait*, did you mean two wills or two natures?  Thread has my head spinning.  Trying to find some references on different "wills"...  The two natures of both human and divine seems easier to understand because obviously his human nature (I would assume with human freewill) was put to the test in the desert, so much that "the angels came to him" after. 

Are "wills" and "natures" separate?
Does God have a will? (as in isn't God's will not a "will" but just "is"?)
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« Reply #32 on: November 06, 2011, 03:16:00 AM »

Severian, think about this:

You know that bad metaphor for one's conscience used in old cartoons, where a man has a devil on his left shoulder and an angel on his right, each fighting the other to influence the man's decision?

Are you saying that Christ has free will like us, but doesn't have that devil on his shoulder?
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« Reply #33 on: November 06, 2011, 04:32:30 PM »

The ability to sin is not a part of human nature that God intended.

God wants us to have (created us with it and said we were "very good") the ability to sin, He just doesn't want us to utilize it.
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And FWIW, these are our Fathers too, you know.

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« Reply #34 on: November 06, 2011, 04:35:07 PM »

Are you saying that Christ has free will like us, but doesn't have that devil on his shoulder?
Yes, because the "Devil on a person's shoulder", to use the words of St. Severus of Antioch, "is not part of the ousia, but a sickness which, as I have said, occurs as a result of inattention".

(http://www.orthodoxchristianity.net/forum/index.php/topic,38842.msg646063.html#msg646063)
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« Reply #35 on: November 06, 2011, 09:48:26 PM »

The ability to sin is not a part of human nature that God intended.

God wants us to have (created us with it and said we were "very good") the ability to sin, He just doesn't want us to utilize it.

Freedom of choice is part of human nature.  Also, because are created, not uncreated, therefore, whatever we do, we have the propensity due to our nature by which God bestowed, to not do the will of God, since we are not God.

Now, God incarnate, He utilizes human choice in Himself, and uses it as a fulcrum by which we see the will of God in it.  He's God, not created like us.  He became created in order that we may be in communion with the Uncreated, not that He would learn how to be uncreated.  That's ridiculous!

The problem is you are using the word "sin."  It's this where Christ differs from us.  Whether it be doing it or ability to do it, we have nothing in common with Christ on this regard because it's not a part of human nature to begin with.  Theoretically, if we unite our will to His, we become in a way also adverse to any sin, and easily shun it like Christ did.  This is what the Church fathers seem to be teaching.  So technically, we may one day be able to also be unable to sin at some point.

And having a devil on one's shoulder does not mean one has the ability to sin.  In fact, if anything, Christ enticed the devil on His shoulder.  Sure, you can say that, imo.  But no human would entice the devil on his own.  That's why Christ was no mere human.

In addition, would Christ have the ability to do anything?  If you ask that question that way, then yes.  But would you call it sin?  No!  Whatever Christ does is the standard.  That's the point.  It's His standard we follow, not the other way around.  He's not a mere human "learning" to fight against sins.  He's God who became man fighting against OUR sins.
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« Reply #36 on: November 06, 2011, 09:53:15 PM »

^Nice explanation. Smiley

And to further clarify myself, I interpreted having a "Devil on one's shoulder" as meaning "the ability to sin", so perhaps I did not fully understand what you were asking of me, originally.
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« Reply #37 on: November 06, 2011, 09:55:29 PM »

Alveus, where does this illumination come from?
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« Reply #38 on: November 06, 2011, 10:19:36 PM »

This is in response to one particular post:

1) Adam did not have a gnomic will before the Fall.

2) There is no such thing as *a* gnomic will.  It does not exist as something distinct.  Christ doesn't have *a* gnomic will and either do we, properly speaking.
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« Reply #39 on: November 06, 2011, 11:48:33 PM »

Where did you get that icon? Love the style, would like to see more.
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« Reply #40 on: November 07, 2011, 12:53:15 AM »

This is in response to one particular post:

1) Adam did not have a gnomic will before the Fall.

2) There is no such thing as *a* gnomic will.  It does not exist as something distinct.  Christ doesn't have *a* gnomic will and either do we, properly speaking.

How do you figure? If the teleological will is all we have, then it seems to me we're just robots.
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« Reply #41 on: November 07, 2011, 12:55:51 AM »

This is in response to one particular post:

1) Adam did not have a gnomic will before the Fall.

2) There is no such thing as *a* gnomic will.  It does not exist as something distinct.  Christ doesn't have *a* gnomic will and either do we, properly speaking.

How do you figure? If the teleological will is all we have, then it seems to me we're just robots.

I would like for Ionnis to expand on this as well. The emphasis on the indefinite article is not for naught.

He rarely throws his hat into many discussions much less those theological. I would really interested to see that post fleshed out.
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« Reply #42 on: November 07, 2011, 12:59:20 AM »

This is in response to one particular post:

1) Adam did not have a gnomic will before the Fall.

2) There is no such thing as *a* gnomic will.  It does not exist as something distinct.  Christ doesn't have *a* gnomic will and either do we, properly speaking.

How do you figure? If the teleological will is all we have, then it seems to me we're just robots.
The emphasis on the indefinite article is not for naught.
Good point. I forgot he did put the emphasis.
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« Reply #43 on: November 07, 2011, 01:05:07 AM »

^Nice explanation. Smiley

And to further clarify myself, I interpreted having a "Devil on one's shoulder" as meaning "the ability to sin", so perhaps I did not fully understand what you were asking of me, originally.
I was leaning more toward understanding the gnomic will/how christ could still be authentically tempted without one.
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« Reply #44 on: November 07, 2011, 01:23:26 AM »

I don't know if this is what Ionnis has in mind, but something just came to me:

In the sense that God providentially (not ontologically) wills all that occurs, sin is a part of our teleos. In the same sense then, always resisting temptation is part of Christ's teleos as a human.

The temptations can then be genuine plays upon His human desires, but from the beginning it was known He would not succumb.
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