Calvinism and Eastern Orthodoxy




Just as there is a serious difference between Calvinism and the Lutheranism, there is much more serious difference between Calvinism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

On Depraved Nature

In Eastern Orthodoxy Adam was created as the Son of God in order to partake of the Divinity of God himself and be co-creator with God.  Just as we provide the privileges to the children in accordance with their maturity, God also does that.  The disobedience of man brings wrath of God but it does not dispossess man of his sonship. Man still retains his freedom of choice and freewill (more so as Adam disobedience was an exercise of his freedom) and just as every father would care even for a wayward prodigal son God is waiting for his prodigals to come home of his own will and choice. Man still retains his sonship and the image of God he bears inspite of the fall.

"The Orthodox concept of synergism, far from being a departure from Apostolic Faith, is attested to in Scripture and repeated throughout the centuries. “It is for God to grant His grace,” said St. Cyril of Jerusalem; “your task is to accept that grace and to guard it”. St. John Chrysostom exclaims, “All depends indeed on God, but not so that our free-will is hindered. [God] does not anticipate our choice, lest our free-will be outraged. But when we have chosen, then great is the assistance He brings to us.” St. Augustine himself witnesses to a synergism between God and Man, as Thomas Oden explains: “Though not the first, Augustine was the most brilliant exponent of how the action of grace can be both ‘from the will of man and from the mercy of God.’ Thus we accept the dictum, ‘It is not a matter of human willing or running but of God’s showing mercy,’ as if it meant, ‘The will of man is not sufficient by itself unless there is also the mercy of God.’ But by the same token the mercy of God is not sufficient by itself unless there is also the will of man.” Commenting on Romans 9:16, St. Augustine states that “If any man is of the age to use his reason, he cannot believe, hope, love, unless he will to do so, nor obtain the prize of the high calling of God unless he voluntarily run for it.” Finally, Oden notes “That the synergy of grace and freedom became the consensual teaching of the believing church is clear from the Third Ecumenical Council, held in Ephesus in A.D. 431: ‘For He acts in us that we may both will and do what He wishes, nor does He allow those gifts to be idle in us which He has given to be used and not to be neglected, that we also may be cooperators with the grace of God’”.

"The Orthodox doctrine of synergy came to its fullest and most refined articulation with the Sixth Œcumenical Synod (680-681). This Synod declared that Christ has both a divine and a human will, and that these two wills co-operated synergistically. This has tremendous ramifications for Christian anthropology. Those who have been organically united to Christ in Holy Baptism (Gal. 3:27) have the Spirit of God living in them; and this Spirit quickens our soul and makes it alive unto God. Our own will then freely co-operates with this newly given Divine Energy which is ever renewed in us through ascetic struggle and participation in the Mystery of His Body and Blood. Thus, the Œcumenical Synods that defined and refined the doctrine of the Person of Christ set forth that, for us who are made in His image, it is not only God’s will that is operative in us , nor is it our own will working apart from God (this would be Pelagianism), but rather it is the two working together in harmony, neither overwhelming the other (cf. Phil. 2:13-14).” Carmen Fragapane, Salvation by Christ

The image of God has been defaced. Did Adam has transmitted his actual sinfulness, i.e. his guilt, to posterity? The answer is that is is in as much as the DNA transmission with a tendency to do evil - but nothing that cannot be surmounted by the freedom.  The Greek fathers, with their insistence that man’s free will remains intact and that is the root of actual sinning, but it not something that cannot be reversed just because of that freewill.  The use of the freewill to choose to disobey has only strengthened the DNA of freewill in the posterity in spite of the sinful tendencies.

There is hardly a hint in the Greek fathers that mankind as a whole shares in Adam’s guilt, i.e. his culpability. This partly explains their reluctance to speak of his legacy to us as sin.  But they have the greatest possible feeling for the mystical unity of mankind with its first ancestor. This is the ancient doctrine of recapitulation, and in virtue of it they assume without question that our fall was involved Adam’s. Again, their tendency is to view original sin as wound inflicted on our nature. (J.N.D. Kelly Early Christian Doctrines, pg. 344, 349, 350)

Since Adam was the son of God and God's mercy followed him even outside of Eden to him and to all his progeny through the ages, how is there need of a second mercy for those who have been prepared once for salvation, and who will by all means become blessed on account of their nature? Unless perhaps, since they are capable of incurring destruction, if they did not receive mercy, they will obtain mercy, in order that they may not incur that destruction of which they are capable, but may be in the condition of those who are saved. (Origen of Alexandria Book 3.14)

On Limited Atonement

“I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord our God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live” (Ezek. 18:32, 23; 33:11). “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto myself” (John 12:32). “God so loved the world” (that is, all mankind) “that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). “God our Saviour willeth that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth “(1 Tim. 2:4). “The grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men” (Tit. 2:11). “The Lord is long-suffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). “Jesus Christ is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for (the sins of) the whole world” (1 John 2:2). It is impossible to state the doctrine of a universal atonement more clearly in so few words.

To these passages should be added the divine exhortations to repentance, and the lament of Christ over the inhabitants of Jerusalem who “would not” come to him (Matt. 23:37). These exhortations are insincere or unmeaning, if God does not want all men to be saved, and if men have not the ability to obey or disobey the voice. The same is implied in the command of Christ to preach the gospel to the whole creation (Mark 16:15), and to disciple all nations (Matt. 28:19).

The greatest, the deepest, the most comforting word in the Bible is the word, “God is love,” and the greatest fact in the world’s history is the manifestation of that love in the person and the work of Christ. That word and this fact are the sum and substance of the gospel, and the only solid foundation of Christian theology. The sovereignty of God is acknowledged by Jews and Mohammedans as well as by Christians, but the love of God is revealed only in the Christian religion. It is the inmost essence of God, and the key to all his ways and works. It is the central truth which sheds light upon all other truths. (Philip Schaff HCC Vol. VIII Chap. XIV § 114. Calvinism examined: THE GENERAL LOVE OF GOD TO ALL MEN)

On Irresistible Grace and Synergy

[N]o man is saved mechanically or by force, but through faith, freely, by accepting the gift of God. This implies the contrary power of rejecting the gift. To accept is no merit, to reject is ingratitude and guilt. All Calvinistic preachers appeal to man’s responsibility. They pray as if everything depended on God; and yet they preach and work as if everything depended on man. And the Church is directed to send the gospel to every creature. We pray for the salvation of all men, but not for the loss of a single human being. Christ interceded even for his murderers on the cross.

Here, then, is a practical difficulty. The decree of reprobation cannot be made an object of prayer or preaching, and this is an argument against it. Experience confirms election, but repudiates reprobation.

There is a logic of ethics as well as of metaphysics. God is holy as well as almighty and omniscient, and therefore cannot be the author of sin. Man is a moral as well as an intellectual being, and the claims of his moral constitution are equal to the claims of his intellectual constitution. Conscience is as powerful a factor as reason. The most rigid believer in divine sovereignty, if he be a Christian, cannot get rid of the sense of personal accountability, though he may be unable to reconcile the two. The harmony lies in God and in the moral constitution of man. They are the two complementary sides of one truth. Paul unites them in one sentence: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to work, for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). The problem, however, comes within the reach of possible solution, if we distinguish between sovereignty as an inherent power, and the exercise of sovereignty. God may limit the exercise of his sovereignty to make room for the free action of his creatures. It is by his sovereign decree that man is free. Without such self-limitation he could not admonish men to repent and believe. Here, again, the Calvinistic logic must either bend or break. Strictly carried out, it would turn the exhortations of God to the sinner into a solemn mockery and cruel irony. (Philip Schaff -History of the Christian Church VIII The Theology of Calvin § 114. Calvinism examined.)

On the Perseverance of the Saints    

 There is a paradox here. Do anyone know who is the elect and who is the non- elect. Because it is determined by God even though it is done before the creation of the world. According to Augustine “it is uncertain whether anyone has received this gift so long as he is still alive.”   Augustine  held that God’s elect will certainly persevere but that one’s election could not be infallibly known in this life — and that in fact one’s justification and baptismal regeneration could be rejected and lost through sin and unbelief. Thus this understanding does not help us in any way unless we can be sure we are one of the elect.


On Predestination

As long as God permits freewill to his sons and daughters, what route they will take is totally dependent on them and not to God.  This is what free will means.  Time does not exist even for God because time is only a measure of the change.  Unless the change take place time is does not exist.  Predestination makes man a machine and not human nor sons of God.  Sonship implies freedom.  Even slaves have freedom.  Life is Spirit of God.  Where there is the Spirit of God there is freedom.  It is not a violation of God's sovereignity it is an affirmation of it.

"The Greek church ignored Augustin, and still more Gottschalk, and adheres to this day to the anthropology of the Nicene and ante-Nicene fathers, who laid as great stress on the freedom of the will as on divine grace. John of Damascus teaches an absolute foreknowledge, but not an absolute foreordination of God, because God cannot foreordain sin, which He wills not, and which, on the contrary, He condemns and punishes; and He does not force virtue upon the reluctant will. The Latin church retained a traditional reverence for Augustin, as her greatest divine, but never committed herself to his scheme of predestination. (Philip Schaff- History of the Christian Church IV Chap XI § 119. The Predestinarian Controversy)




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