Thursday, March 20, 2008

ABC News: Why Men Should Pair Off With Younger Women

via LRC--Why Men Should Pair Off With Younger Women

Last year, a study of Swedish census information suggested a 4 to 6-year age gap is best, but new research has found that in some circumstances a surprisingly large gap – 15 years – is the optimum.

Martin Fieder at the University of Vienna and Susanne Huber of the University of Veterinary Medicine, also in Vienna, Austria, studied the Swedish data and found that a simple equation related the age difference of the parents to the number of offspring. For people who had maintained monogamous relationships throughout adulthood, the most children were found in couples where the man was 4.0 to 5.9 years older than the woman.

The probable reasons behind this state of affairs are not controversial: "Men want women younger than themselves because they are physically attractive," says Fieder, while women tend to prioritise a partner who can provide security and stability, and so tend to opt for older men.

Mum's the Word

However, Fieder and Huber's calculations drew criticism. For example, Erik Lindqvist at the Research Institute of Industrial Economics in Stockholm, Sweden, pointed out that the age of the mother is likely to be more important than any age difference: the older the mother, the lower her chances of having more children.

"We added that factor into the calculation," says statistician Fred Bookstein at the University of Washington, a colleague of Fieder and Huber. "The importance of the age difference didn't change."

Even if it holds true for Sweden, the 4 to 6-year age gap is unlikely to be optimal in all cultures. Samuli Helle at the University of Turku in Finland read Fieder and Huber's paper and says it stirred memories of an unpublished study he conducted a few years ago.

Statistical correlation coupled with sociobiological nonsense? How about looking at it from a developmental/maturity perspective?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

2008 ISN Summer Seminar

ISN website seems to be down still. Info about this year's summer seminar (to be held at MIT) at Real Physics. I expect that info about the summer conference will be available eventually.

Doubting Darwin blog

Zenit: Interview with Cardinal Aponte

5th Marian Dogma Nothing New

Interview With Puerto Rico's Cardinal Aponte

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, MARCH 18, 2008 ( By declaring Mary the Spiritual Mother of All Humanity, Benedict XVI wouldn't be saying anything new about her, only clarifying her role in salvation, says Cardinal Luis Aponte Martínez.

The retired archbishop of San Juan is one of the five cardinal co-sponsors of the 2005 International Symposium on Marian Co-redemption, held in Fatima, that are asking Benedict XVI to declare a fifth Marian dogma.

The petition urges the Pope to proclaim Mary "the Spiritual Mother of All Humanity, the co-redemptrix with Jesus the redeemer, mediatrix of all graces with Jesus the one mediator, and advocate with Jesus Christ on behalf of the human race."

In this interview with ZENIT, Cardinal Aponte discusses his views in favor of the proposed dogma.

Q: Your Eminence, what has led you to take a leadership role in the present petition to Benedict XVI for this new Marian dogma?

Cardinal Aponte: Our Lady has always been a source of particular strength and the object of particular love for me. These roles of the Blessed Virgin as our spiritual mother have always been part of our Catholic tradition. For Latin American Catholics, it is all contained in her manifestation as Our Lady of Guadalupe who shows herself as a merciful mother, ready to intercede for us in our gravest needs, and to use her maternal intercession to bring us closer to Jesus.

I first spoke of the importance of this dogma to my brother cardinals in the presence of Pope John Paul II in Rome in 2002. There I related this Marian proclamation to the Church’s new evangelization. As the first great evangelization of Latin America was led by Our Lady of Guadalupe, so should the Mother of Christ be invoked to lead this new evangelization of the third millennium.

The solemn definition of her motherly roles as co-redemptrix, mediatrix, and advocate will simply release Our Lady all the more to perform these motherly functions of intercession for our age for the maximum effectiveness in leading a new evangelization.

There are new times for the world and the Church. Just imagine how much Our Lady can help us in the new evangelization and with other elements of difficulty and crisis in our present age if we solemnly acknowledge her in these God-given roles of intercession for humanity.

Q: How would you respond to the objection that the Church doesn’t need a new teaching on Mary at this time?

Cardinal Aponte: There is nothing new in this teaching. It is actually very ancient. It is important to keep in mind that this truth is already an official doctrine of the Church regarding Mary as taught at the Second Vatican Council -- "Lumen Gentium," Nos. 57, 58, 61, 62 -- and has been the consistent teaching of the papal magisterium for centuries.

John Paul II called Mary the “co-redemptrix” six times during his pontificate. The role is always understood in complete dependency to Jesus and as a human participant with the redeemer in the work of salvation.

When Blessed Pope Pius IX proclaimed the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception as a dogma in 1854, he explained that a dogmatic statement would add greater light and appreciation of the doctrine, leading to its “perfection.” That’s what this definition would do for Our Lady’s spiritual motherhood -- add nothing new, but provide greater appreciation, understanding, and clarity of the existing truth.

Q: Do you think that these functions of co-redemptrix, mediatrix, and advocate within her general role as our spiritual mother may be too difficult for the common person to comprehend?

Cardinal Aponte: On the contrary, I think, for example, that the faithful in Latin America both comprehend this Marian doctrine in their hearts and already experience these maternal roles of Mary in their lives. Once again, Our Lady of Guadalupe embodies these motherly roles in a dynamic way, as a mother who suffered with Jesus for us, a mother who comes to nourish us with the graces of Jesus, and a mother who intercedes for us in our needs. That’s co-redemptrix, mediatrix, advocate.

John Paul II, in his brilliance, always spoke of Our Lady’s mediation in terms of her motherhood, using the expression “maternal mediation.” What is more common and understandable than a mother who suffers, nourishes, and pleads for her people? That’s what Our Lady does for us as a spiritual mother. It is really quite simple and already part of the daily experience of the Catholic faithful. What may be challenging to some of the learned has already been revealed to the little ones and accepted within the Church.

Q: The principal objection to this new Marian dogma seems to be ecumenism. Would this papal definition hurt the Church’s critically important mission of ecumenism in your view?

Cardinal Aponte: Mothers by their very natures and vocations are unifiers of families. So, too, with the Mother of Jesus within the family of Jesus. The Church’s mission of ecumenism is extremely important, but by leaving the Mother out, we only impede our own progress toward eventual Christian unity in the one body of Christ.

John Paul II made it clear in his encyclical on ecumenism, "Ut Unum Sint," that authentic Catholic ecumenical activity could never include either compromise of Catholic doctrine or impede proper doctrinal development, and this includes the doctrine regarding Mary.

A solemn definition regarding Our Lady’s spiritual maternity would actually be a giant step forward in ecumenism, as it would clearly distinguish what the Church definitively teaches -- that Mary is not a goddess, that Catholics don’t place Mary on a level of equality with Jesus her divine son, and that Mary as a human participated in the historic act of redemption in a way absolutely and completely dependent on Jesus. This would clear up a myriad of misunderstandings amidst our non-Catholic Christian brothers and sisters, leading to greater dialogue and unity regarding Jesus’ mother and within his body. This is true ecumenism from a Catholic perspective.

At the time preceding the definition of the Assumption in 1950, the same objections regarding ecumenism were raised to Pius XII. After the definition, the Church experienced its greatest progress to date in ecumenism leading up to the second Vatican council.

Mary is the Mother of the ecumenical movement, the Mother of unity, not is obstacle. Let us give her the opportunity to unite us in ways only a mother can by openly and proudly declaring her maternal roles of intercession for us. Just think of how powerfully she could help us in the mission of Christian unity if we solemnly invite her to intercede for this goal.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Zenit: Holy See Address to UN Human Rights Council

Holy See Address to UN Human Rights Council

"Respect of the Person Is the Only Measure to Judge Any Policy"

GENEVA, MARCH 17, 2008 ( Here is the address delivered March 5 by Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, permanent observer of the Holy See to the Office of the United Nations and Specialized Institutions in Geneva, at the 7th session of the U.N. Human Rights Council, under way through March 28.

* * *

Mr. President,

1. The current debates at the Human Rights Council (HRC) provide a useful supplement of reflection that leads us to the heart of the world’s expectations: a recognition of fundamental rights and their implementation. But underneath the statement of high ideals, different perceptions and convictions risk to build barriers and stifle concrete respect for people. Perhaps history can help us out of the impasse.

Walls and fences built to keep peoples apart have not blocked their movement in the long run nor prevented the flow of ideas and exchanges. At this moment in time dialogue appears more urgent than ever both to sustain mutual knowledge and to prevent dangerous misunderstandings. Now that the HRC has practically successfully completed its organizational structure and developed its operational mechanisms, an even more critical task is left to accomplish, the building of a larger sense of trust and a more precise understanding of the different points of departure and of the different visions that persist in the interpretation and daily implementations of human rights.

2. The core rules of human rights is often coloured by the historical experience and cultural traditions of the States and regions where it must be applied. In particular, it seems that at the root of various conflicting positions is the focus of attention placed on the relationship between persons and collectivities. Thus, it becomes important to clarify and identify where the source and foundation of human rights are found. In reality the very expression ‘human rights’ offers the key for an appropriate understanding because it deals exactly with what is ‘human’, that is the common link among every person and the foundation of human rights.

3. The great progress achieved in articulating human rights and in improving their application is due in large part to the wisdom of the framers of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights where the universal value of the inherent dignity and worth of the human person was deliberately agreed upon as the cornerstone of all rights. Avoiding a purely collectivist or individualistic approach to human rights, this historical document sets out rights as well as duties and thus it establishes a range of connections between the individual, community and society. In this way, rights attributed to groups or collective entities are rooted in the dignity inherent equally in each of their individual members.

This approach cannot be turned upside down by deriving fundamental rights of persons from the community to which they belong as if it were the subject of basic rights. If the latter were the case, the whole architecture of human rights would crumble. But human rights are universal, interdependent and indivisible: civil, political, economic, social and cultural, and all require effective implementation through an engagement at various levels of social life, of the village, the city, the nation and the international community through its institutions. An integral implementation of all human rights expresses the concrete position of the person in society. A new understanding of the tension between individual persons and community becomes possible by balancing the attention to the rights of the individual within a social dimension.

In this context, it remains a concerted responsibility to eliminate those destructive structures that see war, the arms race and unlimited military spending, unbridled profit and unfair trade as acceptable options since they undermine the universal protection of human rights. An essential expression of human dignity is the right to freedom of religion, and here as well the tension between individual persons and community takes on significant dimensions that demand new reflection stemming from the solid base of the UDHR and the two Covenants of 1966.

4. A person’s fundamental right to believe and to practice a specific religion, in the ways proper to it, provided these will not discriminate or condone i.a. torture genocide or slavery, is the juridical foundation of the organized form of that belief, of its functioning in freedom and of its preserving and defending its own specific identity. It is a bottom-up approach. With his fundamental rights, starting with that of religious freedom, the individual person contributes to defend the identity and the freedom of the organized form of his religion and develops harmoniously in relation to others.

Identities, however, cannot be used as a means to justify violations of human rights that are a common heritage of the entire human family and of every culture. Then, respect of the human person from conception to natural death is the only measure to judge any policy be it the fight against terrorism or the fight against hunger and underdevelopment. Dialogue and interaction become possible when our common human dignity is the guiding value. On its part, the State does not have the power to create human rights by enacting a law, but it has only the capacity to recognize and discipline their existence and ensure their protection, specifically in case of discrimination. Persons then can exercise their human rights individually and in community: it is a continuum for the common good.

Mr. President,

5. As the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief has reminded the Council, present instruments protect religious freedom in its manifold manifestations and forbid any advocacy of national, racial and religious hatred that leads to discrimination or violence. The implementation in every country of existing human rights protection instruments, especially the UDHR and the related Covenants, is the best way to ensure respect of all beliefs and of a peaceful coexistence within pluralistic and interactive contemporary societies.

Unfortunately, victims of religious intolerance are particularly numerous where the international law of human rights is not incorporated into national legislations that risk in this way to allow impunity of violators of fundamental human rights. The way ahead includes a renewed engagement in appropriating through education the juridical instruments developed by international law. But it is not enough to communicate a series of documents. It is important to change attitudes, a long range process that transforms the person and ensure an effective support for dignity and freedoms such as freedom of religion and expression and freedom from want and fear.

6. In conclusion, Mr. President, allow me to recall the well known aspiration of Pope John XXIII, a still valid and timely message expressed in Pacem in Terris "that the United Nations Organization may be able progressively to adapt its structure and methods of operation to the magnitude and nobility of its tasks. May the day be not long delayed when every human being can find in this organization an effective safeguard of his personal rights; those rights, that is, which derive directly from his dignity as a human person, and which are therefore universal, inviolable and inalienable. This is all the more desirable in that men today are taking an ever more active part in the public life of their own nations, and in doing so they are showing an increased interest in the affairs of all peoples. They are becoming more and more conscious of being living members of the universal family of mankind." (n. 145)

The HRC, as the other organs of the United Nations, are called to realize this wish in our time. The human family and the peoples of the United Nations cannot wait another 60 years.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Michael Heller, Deciphering the Mind of God

Via First Things

March 17, 2008

Deciphering the Mind of God

By Michael Heller

The seventeenth-century German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz is my philosophical hero. I am proud (but not quite happy) that I share with this great philosopher at least one feature. He was a master in spreading, not to say dissipating, his genius into too many fields of interest. If he had a greater ability to concentrate on fewer problems, he would have become not only a precursor but also a real creator of several momentous scientific achievements. But in such a case, the history of philosophy would be poorer by one of its greatest thinkers. This is not to say that in my case the history of philosophy would lose anything. This is only to stress the fact that I am interested in too many things.

Amongst my numerous fascinations, two have most imposed themselves and proven more time resistant than others: science and religion. I also am too ambitious. I always wanted to do the most important things, and what can be more important than science and religion? Science gives us Knowledge, and religion gives us Meaning. Both are prerequisites of a decent existence. The paradox is that these two great values seem often to be in conflict. I am frequently asked how I could reconcile them with each other. When such a question is posed by a scientist or a philosopher, I invariably wonder how educated people could be so blind as not to see that science does nothing else but explore God’s creation. To see what I mean, let us go to Leibniz.

In a copy of his Dialogus, in the margin we find a short sentence written in his own hand. It reads: “When God calculates and thinks things through, the world is made.” Everybody has some experience in dealing with numbers, and everybody, at least sometimes, experiences a feeling of necessity involved in the process of calculating. We can easily be led astray when thinking about everyday matters or pondering all pros and cons when facing an important decision, but when we have to add or multiply even big numbers everything goes almost mechanically. This is a routine task, and if we are cautious enough there is no doubt as far as the final result is concerned. However, the true mathematical thinking begins when one has to solve a real problem, that is to say, to identify a mathematical structure that would match the conditions of the problem, to understand principles of its functioning, to grasp connections with other mathematical structures, and to deduce the consequences implied by the logic of the problem. Such manipulations of structures are always immersed into various calculations, since calculations form a natural language of mathematical structures.

It is more or less such an image that we should associate with Leibniz’s metaphor of calculating God. Things thought through by God should be identified with mathematical structures interpreted as structures of the world. Since for God to plan is the same as to implement the plan, when “God calculates and thinks things through,” the world is created.

We have mastered a lot of calculation techniques. We are able to think things through in our human way. Can we imitate God in His creating activity?

In 1915, Albert Einstein wrote down his famous equations of the gravitational field. The road leading to them was painful and laborious—a combination of deep thinking and the tedious work of doing calculations. From the beginning, Einstein saw an inadequacy of Newton’s time-honored theory of gravity: It did not fit into the spatio-temporal pattern of special relativity, which was a synthesis of classical mechanics and Maxwell’s electrodynamical theory. He was hunting for some empirical clues that would narrow the field of possibilities. He found some in the question, Why is inertial mass equal to gravitational mass in spite of the fact that, in Newton’s theory, they are completely independent concepts? He tried to implement his ideas into a mathematical model. Several attempts failed. At a certain stage, he understood that he could not go further without studying tensorial calculus and Riemannian geometry. It is the matter distribution that generates space-time geometry, and the space-time geometry that determines the motions of matter. How to express this illuminating idea in the form of mathematical equations? When finally, after many weeks of exhausting work, the equations emerged before his astonished eyes, a new world had been created.

In the beginning, only three, numerically small, empirical effects corroborated Einstein’s new theory. But the world newly created by Einstein soon became an independent reality. Yet, in his early work, the field equations suggested to Einstein the existence of solutions describing an expanding universe. He discarded them by modifying his original equations, but in less than two decades it turned out that the equations were wiser than Einstein himself: Measurements of galactic spectra revealed that, indeed, the universe is expanding. In the subsequent period, lasting until now, theoretical physicists and mathematicians have found a host of new solutions to Einstein’s equations and interpreted them as representing gravitational waves, cosmic strings, neutron stars, stationary and rotating black holes, gravitational lensing, dark matter and dark energy, late stages of life of massive stars, and various aspects of cosmic evolution. In Einstein’s time, nobody would have even suspected the existence of such objects and processes, but nearly all of them have been found by astronomers in the real universe.

Perhaps now we better understand Leibniz’s idea of God’s creating the universe by thinking mathematical structures through. We should only free the above sketched image of creating physical theories from all human constraints and limitations, and take into account a theological truth that for God to intend is to obtain the result, and to obtain the result is to instantiate it. Einstein was not far from Leibniz’s idea when he was saying that the only goal of science is to decode the Mind of God present in the structure of the universe.

And what about chancy or random events? Do they destroy mathematical harmony of the universe, and introduce into it elements of chaos and disorder? Is chance a rival force of God’s creative Mind, a sort of Manichean principle fighting against goals of creation? But what is chance? It is an event of low probability which happens in spite of the fact that it is of low probability. If one wants to determine whether an event is of low or high probability, one must use the calculus of probability, and the calculus of probability is a mathematical theory as good as any other mathematical theory. Chance and random processes are elements of the mathematical blueprint of the universe in the same way as other aspects of the world architecture.

Mathematical structures that are parts of the composition determining the functioning of the universe are called laws of physics. It is a very subtle composition indeed. Like in any masterly symphony, elements of chance and necessity are interwoven with each other and together span the structure of the whole. Elements of necessity determine the pattern of possibilities and dynamical paths of becoming, but they leave enough room for chancy events to make this becoming rich and individual.

Adherents of the so-called intelligent design ideology commit a grave theological error. They claim that scientific theories that ascribe a great role to chance and random events in the evolutionary processes should be replaced, or supplemented, by theories acknowledging the thread of intelligent design in the universe. Such views are theologically erroneous. They implicitly revive the old Manichean error postulating the existence of two forces acting against each other: God and an inert matter; in this case, chance and intelligent design. There is no opposition here. Within the all-comprising Mind of God, what we call chance and random events is well composed into the symphony of creation.

When contemplating the universe, the question imposes itself: Does the universe need to have a cause? It is clear that causal explanations are a vital part of the scientific method. Various processes in the universe can be displayed as a succession of states in such a way that the preceding state is a cause of the succeeding one. If we look deeper at such processes, we see that there is always a dynamical law prescribing how one state should generate another state. But dynamical laws are expressed in the form of mathematical equations, and if we ask about the cause of the universe we should ask about a cause of mathematical laws. By doing so we are back to the Great Blueprint of God’s thinking the universe. The question of ultimate causality is translated into another of Leibniz’s questions: “Why is there something rather than nothing?” (from his Principles of Nature and Grace). When asking this question, we are not asking about a cause like all other causes. We are asking about the root of all possible causes.

When thinking about science as deciphering the Mind of God, we should not forget that science is also a collective product of human brains, and the human brain is itself the most complex and sophisticated product of the universe. It is in the human brain that the world’s structure has reached its focal point—the ability to reflect upon itself. Science is but a collective effort of the Human Mind to read the Mind of God from the question marks out of which we and the world around us seem to be made. To place ourselves in this double entanglement is to experience that we are a part of the Great Mystery. Another name for this Mystery is the Humble Approach to reality—the motto of all John Templeton Foundation activities. True humility does not consist in pretending that we are feeble and insignificant, but in the audacious acknowledgement that we are an essential part of the Greatest Mystery of all—of the entanglement of the Human Mind with the Mind of God.

Michael (Michał) Heller is a Polish cosmologist and Catholic priest. These remarks were made at the news conference announcing his reception of the 2008 Templeton Prize.

Zenit: Papal Address to Greek Envoy

Papal Address to Greek Envoy

"Paul's Memory Is Forever Planted in Her Soil"

VATICAN CITY, MARCH 17, 2008 ( Here is the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday in English upon receiving in audience Miltiadis Hiskakis, the new ambassador of Greece to the Holy See.

* * *

Your Excellency,
It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to the Vatican and to accept the letters by which you are appointed Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Hellenic Republic to the Holy See. I am grateful for the courteous greeting which you have conveyed from His Excellency Mr Karolos Papoulias, and I would ask that you assure him, the leaders of your country and the people of Greece of my good wishes and prayers for their well-being and peace.

Recently, several significant encounters have strengthened the bonds of goodwill between Greece and the Holy See. In the wake of the Jubilee Year of 2000, my venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II visited your country during his pilgrimage in the footsteps of Saint Paul. This led to an exchange of visits from Orthodox and Catholic delegations to and from Rome and Athens. In 2006, I was happy to receive your President here at the Vatican, and I was graced by a visit from His Beatitude Christodoulos, whose recent death Christians in your country and throughout the world continue to mourn. I pray that the Lord will grant this devoted pastor rest from his labours and bless him for his valiant efforts to mend the breach between Christians in the East and West. I avail myself of this occasion to extend to the new Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, His Beatitude Ieronymos, my sincere fraternal greetings of peace, together with an assurance of my constant prayers for his fruitful ministry and good health.

Let me also take this opportunity to reiterate my eagerness to work together as we travel the road towards Christian unity. In this regard, Your Excellency has highlighted the signs of hope emerging from the ecumenical meetings that have taken place over the past decades. Not only have these reaffirmed what Catholics and Orthodox already hold in common, but they have also opened the door to deeper discussions about the precise meaning of the Church's unity. Undoubtedly, honesty and trust will be required from all parties if the important questions raised by this dialogue are to continue to be addressed effectively. We take courage from the "new spirit" of friendship that has characterized our conversations, inviting all participants to ongoing conversion and prayer, which alone are able to ensure that Christians will one day attain the unity for which Jesus prayed so fervently (cf. Jn 17:21).

The imminent Jubilee dedicated to the bi-millennial anniversary of the birth of Saint Paul will be a particularly auspicious occasion to intensify our ecumenical endeavours, for Paul was a man who "left no stones unturned for unity and harmony among all Christians" (cf. Homily at the Vespers celebration of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, 28 June 2007). This brilliant "Apostle to the Gentiles" dedicated his energies to preaching the wisdom of the cross of Christ amidst the people of Greece, who were formed by the highly sophisticated Hellenistic culture. Because Paul's memory is forever planted in her soil, Greece will play an important role in this celebration. I am confident that the pilgrims who come to Greece in order to venerate the holy sites associated with his life and teaching will be embraced with the warm spirit of hospitality for which your nation is renowned.

The vibrant exchange between Hellenistic culture and Christianity allowed the former to be transformed by Christian teaching and the latter to be enriched by Greek language and philosophy. This enabled Christians to communicate the Gospel more coherently and persuasively throughout the world. Even today, visitors to Athens can contemplate Paul's words -- now etched on the monument overlooking the Areopagus -- which he proclaimed to the learned citizens of the polis. He spoke of the one God in whom "we live and move and have our being" (cf. Acts 17:16-34). Paul's powerful preaching of the mystery of Christ to the Corinthians, who highly esteemed their philosophical heritage (cf. 1 Cor 2:5), opened their culture to the salutary influence of the Word of God. His words still resound in the hearts of men and women today. They can help our contemporaries to appreciate more deeply their human dignity, and thus promote the good of the entire human family. It is my hope that the Pauline Year will become a catalyst that will spark reflection upon the history of Europe and stir its inhabitants to rediscover the inestimable treasure of values they have inherited from the integral wisdom of Hellenistic culture and the Gospel.

Mr Ambassador, I thank you for the assurance of your government's resolve to address administrative issues concerning the Catholic Church in your nation. Among these, the question of its juridical status is of particular significance. The Catholic faithful, though few in number, look forward to the favourable results of these deliberations. Indeed, when religious leaders and civil authorities work together to formulate fair legislation in regard to the life of local ecclesial communities, the spiritual welfare of the faithful and the good of all society are enhanced.

In the international arena, I commend Greece's efforts to promote peace and reconciliation, especially in the surrounding area of the Mediterranean basin. Her efforts to quell tensions and dispel the clouds of suspicion which have long stood in the way of a fully harmonious coexistence in the region will help to rekindle a spirit of goodwill between individuals and nations.

Finally, Mr Ambassador, I cannot help but recall the devastation caused by the wildfires that raged through Greece last summer. I continue to remember in my prayers those who were affected by this disaster, and I invoke God's grace and strength upon all those involved in the process of rebuilding. As you assume your responsibilities within the diplomatic community accredited to the Holy See, I offer you my prayerful good wishes for the success of your mission and assure you that the various offices of the Roman Curia will always be ready to assist you in your duties. I cordially invoke upon you and all the beloved people of Greece the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

© Copyright 2008 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Sunday, March 16, 2008

"Symeon" on St. Augustine (and St. Maximos)

@ Energetic Procession

Go to the original thread for the responses from others. I'm just pasting his comments about St. Augustine and original sin here for future reference.

# Symeon Says:
March 8, 2008 at 6:59 pm

—Where does Maximus say that he is guilty for the sin of another? Where does he speak of guilt in an analogous sense? Where does he condemn the unbaptised to hell on account of original guilt? I agree that he divides sin in the way you proffered. I have done pretty much the same here numerous times before. But that is not the crucial question. I am not guilty for the corruption I inherit on his account. The “sin that I caused” can’t be my fall in Adam for exactly the reasons I stated, either my nature is Adam’s person or my gnomic will pre-existed. In fact the “sin I caused” Maximus indicates is the inherited corruption, but as far as I know, he doesn’t refer to this in terms of guilt or collective culpability or blameworthiness.—

As I wrote before, I made a mistake. St. Maximus says that the “fall of the will from good to evil” and “the mutability of my free choice” is “my sin,” indeed, because of “my sin,” another is caused, which is the corruption of human nature. Further, he says that this first sin is shared by the entire human race; this sin, “culpable indeed,” that “caused” the nonblameworthy one. Now, obviously that has to be primordial, because the nonblameworthy sin wasn’t just “caused” yesterday. It sounds a lot like shared blameworthiness and collective culpability to me.

—If you think Augustine and Maximus are on the same page, then does Augustine think that reatu is correctly said of Christ? I don’t think so. How many Catholic or Protestant scholars refer to the corrupted humanity of Christ?—

No, Augustine wouldn’t say that reatu could be correctly said of Christ. Nor would Vincent. Nor would Maximus. “Reatu” does not refer to corrupted humanity. Maximus says that the “fall of the will from good to evil,” which is “my sin,” is worthy of blame. However, the corruption of human nature, the “sin that I caused,” which Christ inherits, is not worthy of blame. Indeed, it is the fact the Christ is not reatu, that he is totally guiltless, which makes his victory over Sin, the Devil, and Death, so perfectly just. He shared in our condemnation, which is death, but since he is not “reatu,” he justly overthrew this unjust condemnation. But I think I’m preaching to the converted on this point.

—Again there is only so much mileage one can get out of the distinction between original and actual sin. Augustine damns people, children even, for original sin because he views them as responsible in some way. The “some way” is the rub and he never really gets a clear gloss on how this is possible, let alone how it is transmitted. I would still like an explanation of what kind of guilt this is and how I can be responsible for it. Being under the charge or domain of sin I have no problem with that language and usage from many of the Latins, but Weaver and other monographs I have read on this, from Catholic and non-Orthodox writers, agree that Augustine is innovating at this point.—

For Augustine, it isn’t so much a personal fault in the infants as that their unbaptized status and sinful state puts them under the power of the Devil. Since they will not be found in Christ, they will go down to the left. And his doctrine of unbaptized infants going to Hell is less shocking when you realize the rule of “many stripes/few stripes” is applied to them. The end result is perhaps only slightly more harsh than when St. Gregory the Theologians says that unbaptized infants do not go to Heaven but will not be tormented in Hell. As for the more fully grown unbaptized, they’ll have all their countless personal, actual sins weighing them down. A similar idea can be found in St. Symeon the New Theologian, when he writes that Ancestral Sin puts people under the power of the devil and, apart from any personal fault, is sufficient to send men to Hell. He doesn’t mention infants, but the logic is the same. As for how its transmitted, it’s the concupiscence of carnal procreation. St. Maximus has pretty much an identical idea of how sin is transmitted.
# Symeon Says:
March 8, 2008 at 7:35 pm

I should also point out that at the time even Pelagius couldn’t bring himself to say that unbaptized infants can go to Heaven.
# Symeon Says:
March 8, 2008 at 8:07 pm

[]: The doctrine you are attacking is the idea of a “sin nature,” which St. Augustine never held and in fact strongly repudiated. He discusses all of this in his Marriage and Concupiscence.

I think its important to keep in mind what the Council of Orange says in its first two canons:

CANON 1. If anyone denies that it is the whole man, that is, both body and soul, that was “changed for the worse” through the offense of Adam’s sin, but believes that the freedom of the soul remains unimpaired and that only the body is subject to corruption, he is deceived by the error of Pelagius and contradicts the scripture which says, “The soul that sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:20); and, “Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are the slaves of the one whom you obey?” (Rom. 6:16); and, “For whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved” (2 Pet. 2:19).

CANON 2. If anyone asserts that Adam’s sin affected him alone and not his descendants also, or at least if he declares that it is only the death of the body which is the punishment for sin, and not also that sin, which is the death of the soul, passed through one man to the whole human race, he does injustice to God and contradicts the Apostle, who says, “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned” (Rom. 5:12).

We might break this down thus: The death of the soul corresponds to St. Maximus’ first original sin, and the death of the body to his second. Both come from Adam. The first “death of the soul” is Adam’s sin “that passed through one man to the whole human race.” And since, as Ezekiel says, “the soul that sins shall die” we receive the second sin of bodily death. The death of the soul renders us slaves to the devil. As Maximus says, again, “humanity did not become sin but did commit and know sin-both the deliberate “sin” which man committed first, and the subsequent natural “sin” to which the Lord submitted himself on humanity’s account…”

What worries me is that the ideas now prevailing in pop Orthodoxy, that we only receive “death” from Adam (with no elaboration), and an overemphasis on the Church as spiritual hospital, lead to a lessening of awareness of the severity of sin. You seem to have a healthy awareness of it, so I’m not reproaching you.

Symeon Says:
March 9, 2008 at 2:02 am

[]: Orange can’t possibly be “heretical and schismatic,” since it isn’t even as Augustinian as, oh say, the Council of Carthage, which has Ecumenical authority in the east through Quinisext

# Symeon Says:
March 9, 2008 at 2:16 am

Andrea: I’m Orthodox actually. My Christian name is taken after St. Symeon the New Theologian. ;)
# Symeon Says:
March 9, 2008 at 2:39 am

[]: And anyway, here’s a quote from St. Symeon the New Theologian’s Ethical Discourses 1 which perfectly parallels Orange:

“This is because Adam, when he ate from the tree which God had forbidden him to eat of, suffered the death of his soul as soon as he transgressed, but that of the body only many years later. Christ therefore first raised up, vivified, and deified the soul which had suffered first the punishment of death, and then, to the body condemned by the ancient judgment to return to the earth in death, He granted the reception of incorruptibility through the Resurrection.”

As for the “guilt” being the corruption of our wills, or the “death of the soul,” I agree with that. And as for Adam being “guilty” of our sins, thats true too.

Symeon Says:
March 9, 2008 at 7:16 pm

[]: I never said it was ecumenical. Who ever did? But I do think it offered a good summary of Original Sin for my purposes. And it’s strange, because you are the first Orthodox person to object to Orange. Perry certainly doesn’t have a problem with it. Anyway, I am not Western Rite and am in fact anti-Ecumenist. Nor do I have sympathies with Calvinism. I think its one of the worst heresies, actually.

And anyway, the East did receive Carthage as Ecumenical, and that is far more Augustinian than Orange ever was. You might want to stop being Orthodox now if this irks you so much.

Andrew: Fr. Romanides’ explanation of Orange is pretty bogus. He obviously never looked at the history of Orange, why it was called, or who called it. And because it uses the Greek, and not Latin, version of Romans 5:12, it somehow becomes a condemnation of Augustine’s views!, despite the fact that they condemn the view that it is only the death of the body we receive.

Symeon Says:
March 9, 2008 at 7:38 pm

Although I should say, I don’t think Fr. Romanides views are even all that far from the west generally. I think he mostly attacks a strawman in his book.

Symeon Says:
March 9, 2008 at 7:55 pm

—The question is what is the sense in which all share in that sin? Is it that they were personally and metaphysically united and hence collectively committed it or that they are all participate in it through its effects?—

The latter.

—Second, the culpability for the first sin Maximus ascribes to Adam, and not to everyone in the passage you cite on page 119 of blowers translation. 2ndly, in the liturgical tradition of the Church the theotokos is said to be a cause of creation. Creation didn’t occur yesterday either. Was therefore the Theotokos present prior to her own creation? I don’t think so. There is no explicit supper here for the idea that humans are collectively guilty for the first sin.—

Yes, he applies it to Adam, but that’s pretty much a distinction without a difference since he also goes on to apply these same two sins to us. Sometimes he even applies this sin to both Adam and to all humans in one and the same sentence, as when he writes, “Just as in Adam, with his own act of freely choosing evil, the common glory of human nature, incorruption, was robbed-since God judged that it was not right for humanity, having abused free choice, to have an immortal nature…” And in the section where he says the first sin is “culpable indeed” he is referring to the two sins which came into existence generally as a result of Adam. And Jaroslav Pelikan writes, “Maximus saw Adam… as the entire human race embodied in one concrete but universal person.”

As for the Theotokos being a cause of creation, I understand that as referring to God’s predestination; that the world was created for her sake and thus for the sake of the incarnation. Maybe I’m totally wrong though. How do you understand it?

—If Christ takes up our corruption and that is reatu and not culpa then it follows that Augustine would be forced to say that Christ was reatu like us. Here the confusion between person and nature becomes apparent. If reatu doesn’t refer to corrupted humanity and neither does culpa then Original Sin does not refer to human nature at all, and the distinction you proffered before, given by our Catholic friends falls apart. If reatum is inherited then it is conjoined with human nature. Let me put the question more directly. Does Christ inherit concupiscence or no? Does Augustine think that the inherited corruption is worthy of blame? He sure talks as if it is. And do you know of any place where Augustine says that Christ inherits our corrupted nature? Does Augustine make the logical space available for an inherited corruption that is not worthy of blame and hence lacks any kind of guilt? Maximus surely does, but I don’t think Augustine does.—

Again, no one is reatu for corrupt human nature, but rather for the corrupt gnomic will. Christ is not reatu for the corrupt nature he inherits. And no, concupiscence is not inherited by Christ since Christ does not have a corrupt gnomic will.

Anyway, a quick google search reveals that according to Oliver Crisp in “Did Christ have a Fallen Human Nature?” from International Journal of Systematic Theology 6 (3), “[I]t is clear Augustine believed that Christ is both sinless and yet possesses a human nature affected by the fall.”

—Augustine from my reading thinks that children are personally guilty with a kind of collective personal guilt. To speak of a “sinful state” again brings out the confusion between person and nature unless of course you mean blameless inherited corruption.—

I don’t think he thought that infants are personally guilty, since he ridicules the idea that infants are personally guilty for sins and says it isn’t even worth taking seriously enough to refute. For Augustine, personal guilt only attaches to actual sins. He sees Original Sin as proceeding from the corrupt will, such that we can do nothing good without God’s assistance.

—But if children only at that stage have guiltless inherited corruption, why send them to hell? In the broad sense, everyone is found in Christ, which is why Christ is the judge of all. Hell is hell so saying that children go there is shocking.—

But punishments in hell are proportional to the amount of wrong done, as the rule goes: “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” (Luke 12:47-48) And so Augustine says, “It may therefore be correctly affirmed, that such infants as quit the body without being baptized will be involved in the mildest condemnation of all.” The “mildest condemnation of all” is in all probability next to nothing.

—And from my reading Chrysostom and Gregory don’t say that children go to hell but that they aren’t ranked as high as martyrs in heaven.—

Perhaps baptized infants aren’t ranked as high as martyrs, but unbaptized infants are a different matter. It’s an important distinction. Here is what St. Gregory says in his Oration on Holy Baptism:

“Others are not in a position to receive it [Baptism], perhaps on account of infancy, or some perfectly involuntary circumstance through which they are prevented from receiving it, even if they wish… [They] will be neither glorified nor punished by the righteous Judge, as unsealed and yet not wicked, but persons who have suffered rather than done wrong. For not every one who is not bad enough to be punished is good enough to be honoured; just as not every one who is not good enough to be honoured is bad enough to be punished.”

Pelagius took this idea of a middle place for infants because he could not say they went to heaven, being unbaptized. St. Augustine disagreed that there was a middle place, and so he consigned them to hell.

—For Augustine, concupiscence isn’t per se of the procreative act, for that was created by God and same for the desire to procreate, but it is rather through the procreative act by which libido is transferred. And this is why Augustine thought that the instability and lack of control over our sexual organs was proof that libido was transferred through them. Of course Augustine could never specify how it was in fact transferred because it implied various heterodox views no matter which way he took it.—

I agree. It isn’t the procreative act itself so much as the passions that accompany it. But St. Maximus pretty much says the same thing, that ancestral sin is transmitted through the “unrighteous enjoyment” or “unlawful pleasure” of carnal generation. If its a problem for Augustine, its a problem for Maximus too.

—As for Orange, in canon 1, I agree with Augustine that human freedom is impaired after the fall, but Augustine endorses some kind of theological determinism, either in a soft deterministic variety or in a Source Incompatibilist way. Take your pick since in the end they both come to the same nonsense. In any case, Augustine is no libertarian. I don’t think Maximus thinks that human freedom is curtailed in the way that Augustine does, and I think that is a significant difference.—

Yes, there may be some truth to this. However, an attentive reading of his To Simplician will show his view of predestination to be more nuanced than it is usually presented.

Speaking of which, I am not quite clear on your own view. You reject many western views, even ones that I had thought were reasonably close approximations of the Orthodox view (like Arminianism). Do you agree with the following excerpts from St. John of Damascus on predestination?

Symeon Says:
March 9, 2008 at 11:16 pm

[]: It looks like Dr. Farrell has an essentially positive view of Orange also.

Anyway, Augustine’s position of predestination is laid out in To Simplician. He explains how the initial call comes from God in this way:

Here someone will say, why was not Esau called in such a way that he would be willing to obey? We see that people are variously moved to believe when the same facts are shown or explained to them. For example, Simeon believed in our Lord Jesus Christ when he was still a little child, for the Spirit revealed the truth to him. Nathanael heard but one sentence from him, “Before Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree I saw thee” (John 1:48); and he replied, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” Long after, Peter made the same confession, and for that merit heard himself pronounced blessed, and that the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven were to be given to him. His disciples believed on him when by a miracle in Cana of Galilee water was turned into wine, which the evangelist John records as the beginning of the signs of Jesus. He stirred many to believe by his words, but many did not believe though the dead were raised. Even his disciples were terrified and shattered by his cross and death, but the thief believed at the very moment when he saw him not highly exalted but his own equal in sharing in crucifixion. One of his disciples after his resurrection believed, not so much because his body was alive again, as because of his recent wounds. Many of those who crucified him, who had despised him while he was working his miracles, believed when his disciples preached him and did similar miracles in his name. Since, then, people are brought to faith in such different ways, and the same thing spoken in one way has power to move and has no such power when spoken in another way, or may move one man and not another, who would dare to affirm that God has no method of calling whereby even Esau might have applied his mind and yoked his will to the faith in which Jacob was justified? But if the obstinacy of the will can be such that the mind’s aversion from all modes of calling becomes hardened, the question is whether that very hardening does not come from some divine penalty, as if God abandons a man by not calling him in the way in which he might be moved to faith. Who would dare to affirm that the Omnipotent lacked a method of persuading even Esau to believe?

So it’s not so much “irresistable grace” as that God knew that this particular call would be irresistable to this particular person in this particular circumstance. Essentially, its closer to Molinism. But also ties this in with a sort of “passive reprobation.”

# Symeon Says:
March 14, 2008 at 1:21 am

—I don’t think that Augustine thinks that we share in the sin of our first parents by virtue of the effects. Rather I think that he thinks that we collectively sin in Adam which is why guilt can be ascribed to us, even if it is not the guilt of culpa but reatu.—

I’m not even necessarily opposed to the latter idea on some deeper metaphysical level, but for now I will argue only for the former.

Anyway, St. Augustine defines Original Sin, or at least the guilty aspect, as concupiscence itself in 1.25 of Marriage and Concupiscence: “Now this concupiscence, this law of sin which dwells in our members, to which the law of righteousness forbids allegiance, saying in the words of the apostle, “Let not sin, therefore, reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof; neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin:”—this concupiscence, I say, which is cleansed only by the sacrament of regeneration, does undoubtedly, by means of natural birth, pass on the bond of sin to a man’s posterity, unless they are themselves loosed from it by regeneration. In the case, however, of the regenerate, concupiscence is not itself sin any longer, whenever they do not consent to it for illicit works, and when the members are not applied by the presiding mind to perpetrate such deeds. So that, if what is enjoined in one passage, “Thou shalt not covet,” is not kept, that at any rate is observed which is commanded in another place, “Thou shalt not go after thy concupiscences.” Inasmuch, however, as by a certain manner of speech it is called sin, since it arose from sin, and, when it has the upper hand, produces sin, the guilt of it prevails in the natural man; but this guilt, by Christ’s grace through the remission of all sins, is not suffered to prevail in the regenerate man, if he does not yield obedience to it whenever it urges him to the commission of evil. As arising from sin, it is, I say, called sin, although in the regenerate it is not actually sin; and it has this designation applied to it, just as speech which the tongue produces is itself called “tongue;” and just as the word “hand” is used in the sense of writing, which the hand produces. In the same way concupiscence is called sin, as producing sin when it conquers the will: so to cold and frost the epithet “sluggish” is given; not as arising from, but as productive of, sluggishness; benumbing us, in fact.”

It is the “guilt” of concupiscence that is remitted in baptism. Augustine makes it quite clear that it is only called sin in an analagous manner, in so much as it is produced by sin and produces sin.

The other two aspects of Original Sin for Augustine appear to be death and ignorance.

—I believe that Maximus applies the same two sins for us in a secondary sense, along the lines of Paul in Romans 5, death spread to all men because all men in fact sinned. The sentence you cite does use both but it strikes me as using both in terms of an antecedent, Adam’s choice and a consequent, our loss of divine power. The common glory was lost because in Adam all of the race is derived. That doesn’t seem to be the idea of a collective guilt.—

Yes, the loss of divine power is a consequent of both Adam and us, but what is the antecedent? Not only Adam’s sin, but humanity’s abuse of free will. Adam’s abuse of free will is humanity’s abuse, which is why he calls the first original sin “my sin.” In other words, Adam’s sin is our sin.

—I agree with the Pelikan quote that Maximus Christ as the font of the race, but I’d offer a note of caution. Pelikan is not a specialist in Maximus and his historical work treats themes over persons. Second, he devotes no more than 2 or 3 pages in vol 2 to the entire monothelite controversy and it least a fair amount to be desired. I’d worry about putting too much weight that slim of a reed. Secondly, it is one thing to take Christ as the archetypal man in terms of being the font of the race and the image of that race, and quite another to take Christ as the “universal person” with all persons in seminal form summed up in him as him. The latter seems to be more of what Augustine has in mind and that seems to me to be problematic.—

Pelikan’s quote was specifically in re: how Maximus views Original Sin, and it is about Adam as a universal person. I was just using it to show I’m not the only one who sees this in Maximus.

—As for the Theotokos, that depends on what you mean by predestination. Certainly she is not predestined in a personal manner with respect to her choices. Her choices are not fixed by divine decree. Since the Incarnation hinged upon her assent, there is a sense that while she is posterior to the act of creation, her choice explains the world in so far as it is related to the incarnation. In this sense I understand her to be a cause of creation. My point being that we need to be careful of being anachronistic and reading notions from other theological systems and authors back into sources based on similar terms.—

Well, that was all I was really saying about the predestination of the Theotokos. Anyway, I don’t see how the liturgical quote about the Theotokos has much bearing on what Maximus says about “my sin” and “the sin that I caused.”

—I think Augustine thinks that everyone save Christ is reatu for their corruption which is why he denies it to Christ.—

People are not “guilty,” or “reatu,” for their bodily corruption alone. Do you think St. Vincent, for instance, would say that Christ participates in the guilt of Adam’s sin? I don’t. Our nature is “guilty” in a certain sense, and so Christ took it and did away with the guilt that was in it. St. Gregory Palamas, homily 5. Translation is Veniamin:

“Before Christ we all shared the same ancestral curse and condemnation poured out on all of us from our single Forefather, as if it had sprung from the root of the human race and was the common lot of our nature. Each person’s individual action attracted either reproof or praise from God, but no one could do anything about the shared curse and condemnation, or the evil inheritance that has been passed down to him and through him would pass to his descendants. But Christ came, setting human nature free and changing the common curse into a shared blessing. He took upon Himself our guilty nature from the most pure Virgin and united it, new and unmixed with the old seed, to His Divine Person. He rendered it guiltless and righteous, so that all His spiritual descendants would remain outside the ancestral curse and condemnation.”

—If concupiscience is a corruption of nature for Augustine and we inherit it, how is it that Christ does not inherit it since he inherits our nature?—

Christ had no concupiscence because of the fact that Christ was born of a virgin, without concupiscence. And St. Gregory Palamas says the same thing in Homily 14:

“If the conception of God had been from seed, He would not have been a new man, nor the Author of new life which will never grow old. If He were from the old stock and had inherited its sin, He would not have been able to bear within Himself the fullness of the incorruptible Godhead or to make His Flesh an inexhaustible Source of sanctification, able to wash away even the defilement of our First Parents by its abundant power, and sufficient to sanctify all who came after them.”

St. Maximus agrees. Ad Thalassium 61:

“But the Lord, when he became a man, did not have a birth in the flesh preceeded by the unrighteous pleasure that caused death to be elicited as a punishment of our nature. He naturally willed to die, to take on death amid the passibility of his human nature.”

Further, St. Augustine writes, “Inasmuch, however, as in Him there was the likeness of sinful flesh, He willed to pass through the changes of the various stages of life, beginning even with infancy, so that it would seem as if even His flesh might have arrived at death by the gradual approach of old age, if He had not been killed while young. Nevertheless, the death is inflicted in sinful flesh as the due of disobedience, but in the likeness of sinful flesh it was undergone in voluntary obedience.”

And St. Maximus agrees. Christ’s death was voluntary, not a natural due. He willed his own death. St. Maximus also agrees that death is the just penalty of sinful flesh which partakes in unlawful pleasure (i.e. all of us).

—I have read Crisp’s article and I think it turns on the same kind of confusion between person and nature. First notice the gloss he gives on the medieval notion of inherited guilt.—

I agree, his article is full of the typical Reformed confusions and nonsense. I was just citing him for Augustine’s views of Christ’s human nature.

—To say that Augustine thinks that Christ possess a human nature affected by the fall is ambiguous. Augustine doesn’t think that Christ bears a corrupted human nature. Just look at how he glosses 2 cor 5 for example in the Enchiridion, On the Grace of Christ and Original Sin, and Against the Two Letters of the Pelagians. He understands “likeness” in terms of something like a similar appearance rather than after the Greek notion of, after the pattern of, found in say Romans 6, which is anthropologically meatier.—

Having a human nature affected by the fall is all I have in mind, because if it is subject to the various blameless passions. Of course his flesh isn’t actually sinful. And can you say he understands it differently than St. Basil, in Letter 261?

“It is the property of flesh to undergo division, diminution, dissolution; of flesh endowed with soul to feel weariness, pain, hunger, thirst, and to be overcome by sleep; of soul using body to feel grief, heaviness, anxiety, and such like. Of these some are natural and necessary to every living creature; others come of evil will, and are superinduced because of life’s lacking proper discipline and training for virtue. Hence it is evident that our Lord assumed the natural affections to establish His real incarnation, and not by way of semblance of incantation, and that all the affections derived from evil that besmirch the purity of our life, He rejected as unworthy of His unsullied Godhead. It is on this account that He is said to have been “made in the likeness of flesh of sin;” not, as these men hold, in likeness of flesh, but of flesh of sin. It follows that He took our flesh with its natural afflictions, but “did no sin.” Just as the death which is in the flesh, transmitted to us through Adam, was swallowed up by the Godhead, so was the sin taken away by the righteousness which is in Christ Jesus, so that in the resurrection we receive back the flesh neither liable to death nor subject to sin.”

—a corrupt will can only be had by individual persons who corrupt it, so unless we inherit a person, this won’t be a feasible explanation.—

If our rational soul has died in Adam as well as our body, due to loss of divine grace, and human will proceeds from the rational soul (which it does), we will in essence have inherited a corrupt will from Adam. But Christ “first raised up, vivified, and deified the soul which had suffered first the punishment of death,” according to St. Symeon. And thus, he had no corrupt gnomic will, because he was God. Only later, at the resurrection, did he destroy the body’s death.

Do you mean to say that we don’t inherit our corrupt will from Adam but merely imitate his sin and thus fashion for ourselves a new corrupt will? Of course not. Obviously, our corruption affects our gnomic will.

—In any case, here we can see the problem with what constitutes nature in respect to grace. Is nature good? If so, is it pleasing to God? Secondly, he excludes them from punishment, which Augustine doesn’t and if he excludes them form punishment, then he logically excludes them from hell and so I can’t see how this citation helps Augustine’s gloss that unbaptized infants go to hell.—

Well yes, I’ve always said that St. Gregory sees unbaptized infants as in a middle place, neither heaven nor hell. What was I trying to establish? Only this: There is something that makes unbaptized infants qualitatively different from baptized ones, and that this is recognized by the Church. Augustine couldn’t see how there could be a third place between heaven and hell, and that is all it really comes down too.

It is a dogmatic fact, as the Council of Carthage established, that the form of Baptism for remission of sins is a true one in regards to infants. This council has Ecumenical status in the Church from Quinisext.

—Pelagius has the same problem in how nature and grace (as well as person and nature) relate. He just takes it in a different direction.—

Pelagius’ view is the same as St. Gregory’s in respect to unbaptized infants.

—Consequently, I don’t think Maximus has the same problem on how original sin is transmitted since it is simply the nature in a deficient or disempowered state that it is transmitted.—

I think Maximus would say that even married couples partake of “unrighteous enjoyment,” since thats how Original Sin is transmitted, in his view. For Maximus, all sexual pleasure is “unrighteous enjoyment.” Let me quote him, from his Ad Thalassium 21:

“The first man received his existence, and free from corruption and sin-for God did not create either of these. When, however, he sinner by breaking God’s commandment, he was condemned to birth based on sexual passion and sin. Sin henceforth constrained his true natural origin within the liability to passions that had accompanied the first sin, as though placing it under a law. Accordingly, there is no human being who is sinless, since everyone is naturally subject to the law of sexual procreation that was introduced after man’s creaturely origin in consequence of his sin. Since, therefore, sin came about on acount of the transgression, and the liability to passions connected with sexual procreation entered human nature on account of sin, and since, through sin, the original transgression continued unabatedly to flourish right along with this passibility of childbirth, there was no hope of liberation, for human nature was deliberately and indissolubly bound by the chain of evil. The more human nature sought to preserve itself through sexual procreation, the more tightly it bound itself to the law of sin, reactivating the transgression connected with the liability to passions. Because of its physical condition, human nature suffered the increase of sin within this very liability to passions, and it retained the energies of all opposing forces, principalities, and powers-energies which, in view of the universal sin operative in human passibility, used the unnatural passions to hide under the guise of natural passions. Wherefore every wicked power is at work, amid human nature’s liability to passions, driving the deliberative will with the natural passions into the corruption of unnatural passions.”

Humanity was bound by the “chain of evil,” and the “law of sin.” There is a “universal sin operative in human passibility” due to passionate sexual generation.

Ad Thalassium 61:

“After the transgression pleasure naturally preconditioned the births of all human beings, and no one at all was by nature free from birth subject to the passion associated with this pleasure; rather, everyone was requited with sufferings, and subsequent death, as the natural punishment. The way to freedom was hard for all who were tyrannized by unrighteous pleasure and naturally subject to just sufferings and to the thoroughly just death accompanying them.”


“What I am saying is that in the beginning sin seduced Adam and persuaded him to transgress God’s commandment, whereby sin gave rise to pleasure and, by means of this pleasure, nailed itself in Adam to the very depth of our nature, thus condemning our whole human nature to death and, via humanity, pressing the nature of (all) created beings toward mortal extinction.”


“Because of Adam, who by his disobedience gave rise both to the law of birth through pleasure and the death of our nature which was its condemnation, all of his posterity who come into existence according to this law of birth through pleasure are necessarily linked with this birth and serves to condemn our nature. It was time for human nature to condemned for its sin, while the birth through pleasure was ruling our nature.”

Note: See how he says human nature sinned? But of course, he is speaking analogically and not confusing person and nature.

Here’s what Fr. John Meyendorff says in Christ in Eastern Christian Thought, p. 232,

“on the psychological and practical level, Maximus was on this point very close to the Augustinian position on sin and concupiscence . . .”

So, how is the nature in a deficient or disempowered state transmitted through sexual pleasure? Obviously, there is something more.

—I don’t think that To Simplician in the end helps matters since at best his view amounts to a version of Source Incompatibilism since he doesn’t think that alternative possibilities are a necessary condition on free will. If that is so, any reasonable theodicy or defense is out the window, or so I’d argue. This will also manifest itself in problems in Christology, which bubble up in Anselm and Aquinas with respect to the free human will of Christ. In any case, Jesse Couenhoven’s article, Augustine’s rejection of the free-will defence: an overview of the late Augustine’s theodicy, in Religious Studies, 2007 (43) is a nice summation of Augustine’s views and how I understand their development.—

Well, I don’t agree with the premises of Source Incompatibilism, but I’ll cede this to you because 1.) I’m not terribly familiar with the debate and 2.) the issue is peripheral.

—As for my views on foreknowledge, I for the record think that God has complete and exhaustive knowledge of all actual and possible future contingents and all actual and possible true propositions. I do not think that God’s knowledge is necessarily a cause and I do not think that God’s knowledge fixes the actions of agents. I reject the simultaneity view offered by Boethius as well as Molinism since persons aren’t essences. In my understanding predestination is to nature and not as to person. Consequently I don’t find anything in my view that contradicts what St. John has to say on the matter. If you think there is a conflict, please bring it to my attention.—

First, how do Boethius and Molinism entail that persons are essences? I don’t follow.

Second, an objection just off the top of my head: how is predictive prophecy at all possible, since prophecy foretells the actions of free agents?
# Symeon Says:
March 15, 2008 at 10:57 am

In addition to my citations from St. Gregory Palamas, St. Basil, and St. Maximus about concupiscence of the flesh, Christ’s human nature, and how the former was not assumed by the latter, here is some additional material to chew over.

St. Cyril of Alexandria, Letter 45 to Succensus
Therefore we say that, since from the transgression of Adam human nature suffered corruption and since our intellect within us is tyrannized by the pleasures of the flesh or by the inborn motions of the flesh, it became necessary for the salvation of us who are upon the earth that the Word of God be made man in order that he might make his own the flesh of man although it was subject to corruption and sick with the love of pleasure. Since he is life and life-giver, he would destroy the corruption in the flesh and rebuke its inborn motions, plainly those which tend toward love of pleasure. For thus it was possible that the sin in our flesh be killed. We recalled also that the blessed Paul called this inborn motion in us the “law of sin.” Wherefore since human flesh became the Word’s own, the subjection to corruption has come to an end, and since as God, he who made it his own and proclaimed it as his own “did not know sin,” as I said, he also put an end to the sickness of loving pleasure. And the only begotten Word of God has not corrected this for himself, for he is what he always is, but obviously for us. For even if we have been subject to evil from the transgression of Adam, by all means there will come upon us also the good things of Christ, which are immortality and the death of sin. Accordingly he became man, and did not assume a man, as it seems to Nestorius. And in order that it might be believed that he became man even though he remained what he was, God by nature obviously, therefore it is reported that he was hungry, and was weary from the journey, and endured sleep, and trouble, and pain, and the other human blameless experiences.

St. Maximus the Confessor, Ad Thalassium 21
Taking on the original condition of Adam as he was in the very beginning, he was sinless but not incorruptible, and he assumed, from the procreative process introduced into human nature as a consequence of sin, only the liability to passions, not the sin itself.

St. John of Damascus, De Fide III.20
Moreover, we confess that He assumed all the natural and blameless passions of man. This is because He assumed the whole man and everything that is his, except sin — for this last is not natural and it was not implanted in us by the Creator. On the contrary, it grew up in our will from the oversowing of the Devil, freely and not prevailing over us by force. Now, those passions are natural and blameless which are not under our control and have come into man’s life as a result of the condemnation occasioned by his fall. Such, for example, were hunger, thirst, fatigue, pain, the tears, the destruction, the shrinking from death, the fear, the agony from which came the sweating and drops of blood, the aid brought by the angels in deference to the weakness of His nature, and any other such things as are naturally inherent in all men. So, He assumed all that He might sanctify all. He was put to the test and He conquered that He might gain for us the victory and give to our nature the power to conquer the Adversary, so that through the very assaults by which the nature had been conquered of old it might conquer its former victor. Now, the Evil One attacked from the outside, just as he had with Adam, and not through thoughts — for it was not through thoughts that he attacked Adam, but through the serpent. The Lord, however, repelled the attack and it vanished like smoke, so that by being conquered the passions which had assailed Him might become easy for us to conquer and the new Adam thus be restored by the old. Actually, our natural passions were in Christ according to nature and over and above nature. Thus, it was according to nature that they were aroused in Him, when He permitted the flesh to suffer what was proper to it; whereas it was over and above nature, because in the Lord the things of nature did not control the will. For with Him nothing is found to be done under compulsion; on the contrary, everything was done freely. Thus, it was by willing that He hungered and by willing that He thirsted, by willing that He was afraid and by willing that He died.

And as a bonus, here is St. John of Damascus on what is concupiscence.

St. John of Damascus, De Fide IV.22
For, once we succumbed to the suggestion of the Evil One and freely violated the law of God, we allowed this suggestion to gain entrance and sold ourselves to sin. For this reason our body is easily brought to sin. Hence, the odor and sense of sin which is inherent in our body, that is to say, the concupiscence and pleasure of the body, is also called a law in the members of the flesh. Accordingly, the law of my mind—my conscience, that is to say—rejoices in the law of God, or His commandment, and wills it. On the other hand, the law of sin—that is to say, the suggestion that comes through the law in our members, or the concupiscence and base tendency and movement of the body and the irrational part of the soul—fights against the law of my mind, that is to say, my conscience, and captivates me. It does this by insinuating itself, even though I do will the law of God and love it and do not will to sin, and it deceives me and persuades me to become a slave to sin through the softness of pleasure and the concupiscence of the body and the irrational part of the soul, as I have said.

I could also cite such modern theological giants as Fr. Georges Florovsky that Christ did not assume Original Sin. But I think the point is made. It is not Orthodox to say that Christ assumed Original Sin, and so we should not fault St. Augustine for this plainly spurious issue.