Saved by Virtue

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen . . . by it the elders obtained a good report . . . By faith we understand that the worlds were made by the word of God, that from invisible things, visible things exist . . . without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He exists, and that he is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him . . . . by faith Abel offered . . . Noah, moved with fear framed an ark . . . Abraham went out to a place he knew not . . . Sara received strength . . . Abraham offered Isaac . . . . Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau . . . Jacob blessed both of Joseph’s sons . . . . Moses esteemed the reproaches of Christ, et cetera. . . . all these being approved by the testimony of faith, received not the promises; God providing some better thing for us, that they should not be perfected without us (adapted from the Douai-Rheims version).

We were created for Heaven, for a true apprehension of God, and for a Divine life that this life cannot yet perceive. True, it has been granted to a bare few to glimpse it even in this life, but as St. Paul said, the things he saw “it is not permitted for man to utter.” This difficult saying can admit of several readings: the King James has “it is not lawful for a man to utter,” the Douai-Rheims “it is not granted to a man to utter.” The verb has the force of a man has not the sovereignty or imperium or wherewithal to express what things St. Paul saw. And this is a constant refrain among the mystical writers, especially in the western monastic tradition, that words cannot do justice to that which the soul has experienced. Indeed a great debate has raged among western thinkers whether the mystical experience is affective or intellective (cf Heiko Oberman’s The Harvest of Medieval Theology). Albeit, this has not stopped the mystics from spending immense energy in writing about it. The inexpressible nature of our end, our telos, the life in God in the Kingdom of God, however, is not simply something for the mystics, though all those who have experienced the Divine Light will be quite precise about its preconditions, and I believe these are actually summed up in Kierkegaard’s title Purity of Heart is to Will one Thing. For the saints in light, their souls sated by the good, have no will, for they have no desire – – to turn from the Good. This is not to say that they are bereft of choice in the eschaton, nor true freedom of will, for they are always presented with the infinity of goods “around God” and within the faces of the saints, a thought distilled wonderfully by Dante in his phrase (at the third level of paradiso I believe) “Here come some other souls to share our love.”

This telos, this goal of our creation, animates the Orthodox doctrine not only of creation but also of redemption. Redemption is not merely “saving us from sin,” even though it certainly involves saving us from corruption, death, the Devil, the power of the demonic, and thus of sin; but it speaks of a restoration of us back to the path of divine contemplation, through the purgative power of askesis, and at last to attain to theosis, the life in God, the life in communion with the Trinity which the Persons of the Trinity now already share by nature, but extend to us by grace. Further, grace here, as with redemption, is not merely the activity of God which grants pardon for sin and puts us into a “right relationship with God.” Grace instead is the activity of God which brought about our creation from the very beginning, so that it would be wrong to say, as does both Pelagius and Calvin, that Adam at creation was some “mere natural man” who had existence, but lived apart from grace in what later Reformed theologians would call the “covenant of works.” As St. Athanasius put it, without the constant vision of God, beholding always by the light of Christ and participating in the life of Christ, we would (and we did), begin falling back to our nature of non-existence. Creation is not some neutral thing, but is predicated upon the infinity of logoi that surround God, the rationes or patterns of the world’s blueprint. This is why, from St. Irenaeus to St. Maximus, to Fr. Alexander Schmemann of blessed memory, the world is seen as a sacrament, since it is made, as are we, after the image of Christ.

But here a distinction must be made: the inanimate creation and the brutes have no part in immortality, for the image of God that includes life in the Trinity, communion with the divine nature, has no part in either their formal cause, or their material cause, or their final cause (to use some Aristotelian lingo). Yes, they are patterned after the many divine logoi, and indeed, as St. Maximus says, the myriad logoi are the one Logos, and the one Logos are the many logoi. But the logoi exist in the Logos not as constitutive parts, for being God the Word is not composite, but exist with Him as the eternal manifestation of his energies (His love for the Father and Spirit, the glory He has with them and shares with us, what the disciples saw on Mt. Tabor). Thus all of creation speaks to us of Christ, who is the Sacrament of the Father, and they exist as well as God’s sacrament to Adam, in which he is to behold the Creator (and thus why we can love Jazz, David Fraser, and the rigors and brilliant stratagems of the game of soccer). But Adam turned from beholding Christ in them to behold the created things for what they were not, ends in themselves. Thus instead of seeing “things” as not only our soul writ large, and thus the divine image within them that should be windows to see Christ, we saw them as what they were not, ends in themselves. And so if we see food only as pleasing to the eye, and as something that makes us wise so that in ourselves we can determine good from evil (the dialectic which turns God’s means into decadent ends), we have desacralized life, and instead created what we see so baldly today: secularism. St. Maximos wrote in his 7th Ambigua wrote:

The mode of willing, like the mode of seeing, i.e., to will to walk or not, or to look right or left . . . or to see out of concupiscence or in order to understand the logoi of beings, is a mode of the use of willing and seeing and belongs only to him who uses it . . . To will to eat or not; or to will to walk or not is not a negation of the natural will, but of the mode of willing, viz., the coming to being and passing out of existence of the objects of willing.

The key is the line “to see out of concupiscence or in order to understand the logoi of beings.” here we see what concupiscence entails, that it is the opposite of seeing things for their proper ends, for seeing the proper logoi of their existence. We view things as ends in themselves, instead of seeing that things in the universe stand in relationship to the Logos, the creator.

And this brings us back to faith. Faith is not mere trust, nor is it merely acceptance of what God offers in Christ, nor is it a combination of the two. Neither is it only mental assent, nor a sure and firm confidence in the promises of God. Each of these are ways to talk about faith, but the Bible makes faith something far grander: it is the essence of everything for which I have hoped, the very confirmation of the invisible and the spiritual. While it may involve a trust in God’s promises, an acceptance of all the creed teaches, and a certitude of God’s love unto me, it far transcends each of these. Thus when St. Paul says that we are justified by faith he means that it is the efficient cause of my salvation in that faith is the nature, essence, and substance of my life in God. As such it far supersedes confidence, trust, belief, and assent: in short, it is greater than a mental volition. We can see this in Hebrews, for there not only do we have this definition of what faith is, but we see how it operates and why we can say it is efficient cause: it moves us to act virtuously in a way that wold almost make it the form of the other virtues. St. Thomas asserted that love was the form of all virtues, but I will dissent from the angelic doctor for the same reason that I would dissent from saying that faith is the form of all virtues: Christ is the form of the good, for He is, as St. Paul says in Philippians 2, the very form of God, and the Wisdom and Power of God. Thus all virtues draw their efficacy from Christ, and without them, and here I mean the theological virtues, we cannot be saved. Can he who despairs of God be saved? Can he who loves not God be saved? Can he who has no faith in God be saved? The answer to all is no. Doubts arise, love can grow cold, and the vision of our ultimate end may dim, but this is not the same as despair, nor lovelessness, nor unbelief. Further, the Bible is also pointed about the fate of those unskilled or lacking in the cardinal virtues: justice, prudence, courage, and temperance (think of what God requires, about the foolish virgins, about those who put their hand to the plow and turn back, and what would happen to St. Paul were he not to keep his body in subjection). What St. Paul says about faith as substance and evidence, we can see also in hope (we are saved in hope, and just prior to Hebrews 11 St. Paul equates faith and hope, and in Ephesians that life without Christ is life without hope) and love (I Corinthians 13, and of course, love perfects faith).

All these virtues exist in us naturally, that is, they are part of us as created, and while hindered by concupiscence, that is by us using and thinking about creation for an end in itself, they are not eradicated by the Fall. Like life itself, the virtues are God’s gifts to us at creation, instilled in us so that we might have life in Him. As Christ is the form of all the virtues we find the end of all of them in him. Thus to speak of justification (being made righteous) by faith alone detracts from all that God not only asks of us, but also gives to us in all the virtues, including faith. This is not to say that we are saved by the works of the law, even though St. Paul says that the law is just, holy, and good; for to be saved by the law is to obligate God. For Adam to look to God was to be animated in all his virtues into the life in God, to be suited by theoria/contemplation and be ensconced in the Divine life. I shall return to this matter about the contrast of faith and works in my next post, for how does St Paul specifically use faith when in Romans he contrasts it with the works of the law, and also when he speaks about being made righteous by faith.


About Cyril Jenkins

Professor of History
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20 Responses to Saved by Virtue

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  2. landsperson says:

    Interesting stuff and my mind is still processing, I’ll probably have to read it again tomorrow (after some coffee). An initial thought is how your words on faith, especially in regards to justification sola fide, have mirrored some of what we have been discussing in our seminary class on Galatians. More specifically the phrase “faith in Christ” or “the faith(fulness) of Christ” as the correct translation of pistis christou (subjective genitive I think). If faith in Christ is correct then mental assent would be of prime importance. If it is the faith(fulness) of Christ then that alters the definition of justification. I hope i’m not misunderstanding or mis-stating the New Perspective on Paul but from what I’ve been reading the New Perspective may just be the Protestant rediscovery of the classic Orthodox understanding not of justification as of prime importance but of union with Christ.

    Growing up in the word of faith movement we were taught that the “substance” Hebrews 11:1 talks about was an actual literal spiritual substance of some type. One well known minister in the movement colloquially said that if you were to cut God open he’d be comprised of “faith guts.” Every word we say then is some sort of spiritual container that contains faith so when we say something it releases that faith to do something good or bad. This is, of course, nonsense but the idea of there being spiritual substance prepared me, slightly, for the teaching on God’s essence and energies. For me, grace was,”the activity of God which grants pardon for sin and puts us into a right relationship with God.” If you were to ask me a year ago what grace was I would have said something like that, but if you were to press me and say “Yes but what IS grace?” I probably would not have said anything like, “Grace instead is the activity of God which brought about our creation from the very beginning…” I’m not sure Im making much sense so I’ll just end here because its late.

  3. marcusjosephus says:

    I to am still ruminating on all and dwelling on A. Schmeaman. I have always held that the greatest sin of the founders of Protestantism was the reduction of FAITH to mean, an assent of individual will or an agreement with the plan and actions of God. Ultimately the early heresies come back to haunt us. An Arian Christology leads to a Nestorian Sotierology & Eccliesiology and ultimately a non sacramental (Secular ) Cosmology. Or perhaps a total non-Cosmology if I follow your thought.

  4. landsperson says:

    The founders of what came to become Protestantism never reduced faith to a mere mental assent, that’s one of the pervading myths concerning the Reformation. That understanding owes more to later pietistic movements and revivalism. Luther may have developed justification sola fide but he never subscribed to the belief of mere mental assent, nor did Calvin and his successors. Luther’s doctrine of Christians simultaneously being sinners and righteous and his belief in the continual need for repentance and good works in the life of a Christian are pretty clear on his non belief in mere mental assent.

  5. (Please excuse the typos and the tendancy to ramble. I respond in the darkness of a transit barracks on my cell phone. Editting anf fat fingering are a major challenge.)

    The Founders of Protestantism may not of practiced 19th century Individualism but they “sure as Hell” (pun intended) made grand mis steps for their generation . Luther’s writings are replete with an obsession about His personal salvation. He describes sitting for hours with his priest, needing to have his hand held as he languished over his salvation.

    Letters and instructions of John Calvin to magistrates instruct, in detail, how the government now needs to take over the charity once dispensed by the Church. Whatever his true heart believed is overwhelmed by his sense of making thing convenient to the government. To his credit Calvin, tried to ensure a Protestant could receive communion at least once a week by making the round to stational churches. Yet this request displays that religion had quickly devolved into when administered by a government The practice of religion in public life becomes almost a matte of accomadation. The subjegation of “religion” into AN aspect of life is the major movement of the 16th century.

    Luther’s began by relying on Augustine then was forced to say “A thousand Augustines and a a thousand Councils can not inform me.” He was being out debated and came to realise he was wrong on Augustine, Faith, works, merit and other issues, and his own relvancy. He found out this debate was settled by Augustine against the Pelagians, then re-inforced by The Council of Orange. He was really old news and a rehash. But, of course he pressed on.

    Thomas More notes at this point of history that that these “New Men” did not agrue or debate, they simply waited for you to stop speaking and carried on with a polemic speech unrelated to the subject at hand. After being accused by Luther that catholics never use Scripture, Erasmus points out to him that he is guilty of the Sin of Korah (all the people are priests vs. constituting a royal priesthood) Luther responds with the a new rant against a totally unrelated subject, and so it continued

    “Faith” under Calvin, Luther, et al. was definety rediefined, and made a “subject” of debate rather and a Virtue or Vital movement of the soul.

  6. landsperson says:

    Yeah great point about Luther. I can’t blame him though given the Roman Church’s view on salvation (meritorious deeds, etc). Good point about Calvin, however it has to be noted that just because he wrote magistrates on what he thought they should do doesn’t mean they heeded his instruction. There was only a very small window where he and his supporters had the majority in the Geneva city council, and he met with intense opposition throughout his life there, though many changes in his time were implemented. Maybe Cyril could comment on this? I’m not sure about charity but he believed that church and state could cooperate with each other and it was the deacons who administered charity to the poor. It would be a generality to sweepingly tie Luther solely to Augustine and to say that there was nothing but polemic speeches having nothing to do with the subject. Luther was very well trained in the Scholasticism of his day, and as a Doctor of Theology was one of the few scholars who were permitted to add glosses to the handbook used for instruction in Scripture. Dr James Payton notes that as a scholastic theologian Luther was doing what other scholastics had done before: scholastics would fasten on one fundamental aspect of God and that insight became the foundation for all of their work (Getting the Reformation Wrong:2010:93). For Luther, his was justification sola fide. We could debate the validity of his idea but his actions place him well within the scholastic movement of his day. One of his chief differences with Erasmus was that Erasmus was trained in humanism not in scholasticism. As a humanist Erasmus said that he was not warmed to prayer by scholasticism but primed to argue. Luther absolutely was a polemicist and was outdebated a few times, but he was capable of having debate though he did sink to some pretty foul behavior. For Luther and Calvin faith became a matter of debate because they had to not only define their doctrine but also had to defend it against those who continually misinterpreted it or misrepresented it. I’m not saying Luther and Calvin were right, but I can see how the religious climate in Europe in a corrupt church could lead these men to their theological conclusions.

  7. Cyril Jenkins says:

    Hmmm, much to comment on here. Just some few quick thoughts. First, Calvin controlled Geneva from 1554 onward. Once the Perrinists were vanquished following their ludicrous attempt to use Servetus to embarrass Calvin had backfired, the elections fell strongly to Calvin’s friends. Following the elections the Genevan government granted citizenship to some 5000 French refugees, all of whom had come to Geneva due to Calvin’s influence (Calvin was originally from Noyon in Picardy). As Geneva was a city of only about 30,000 at the time, this granted Calvin’s party the upper hand for his vision of reform from then till his death in 1564. But it is interesting that what Calvin really wanted all along was not, as I have heard so many Calvinophiles opine of late, a Eucharistic discipline and piety. For despite now having the ability to institute weekly communion throughout the city (I think there were eight parishes by then, including the former abbey church of the poor Claires), he never did it. What he wanted all along, what got him expelled in 1538, was the book of discipline. This he got.

    Also, what so many people think of as Calvin’s ecclesiastical system, i.e., Presbyterianism, he never really adopted. In places where the magistrates were godly, there was no need for a lay eldership that functioned as moral watchdogs. This system for him would be fine in France, but I would imagine that he would have had little sympathy for the efforts of Cartwright in England to establish Presbyterians when the prince was godly.

    As for Luther and Erasmus, yes, Erasmus was the prince of the humanists, but he had also been trained in scholasticism. He had, ironically, attended the same college in Paris as did Calvin, the Collège de Montaigu, whose masters and principles were among the most virulent opponents of the “new learning.” It is all a complex web, I am afraid, and despite having spent most of my academic life there, it is at times still a mystery. Luther, for all the capital he clearly borrowed from the Scholastics, was also an Ockhamist, and thus on the critical question of what union with God entailed was always going to fall short of those categories of union embraced by them, from Anselm down to Scotus. One of the best books to read on this is F. Edward Cranz’s An Essay on the Development of Luther’s Thought on Justice, Law, and Society. Get before everyone scarfs it up from Amazon.

  8. landsperson says:

    Cyril, was Calvin’s discipline issue focused on the Eucharist? (specifically banning those who did not profess his confession of faith from partaking?) Or was it a larger issue than that? Also If you know any good Calvin biographies off the top of your head I’d be much appreciative. Thanks for the info, specifically on Luther, Erasmus, and Calvin, and the book suggestion. (basically everything above haha)

  9. “Dr James Payton notes that as a scholastic theologian Luther was doing what other scholastics had done before: scholastics would fasten on one fundamental aspect of God and that insight became the foundation for all of their work (Getting the Reformation Wrong:2010:93). ”

    Thx for this reference I need to dig into it more. I believe that Luther was going don a Scholastic rabbit hole that others dug, The Humanists were going a seperate path. I am sure Cyril or another Orthodox reader can better elaborate on how Ockham and even Anselm (pr. “Anslum” in Philly) would lay the ground work in the thought of Calvin, Luther, et al.

    While a “Child of the kindly West”, I do thing we have lost something in as we travelled away from the East. I am a bit of a “Byzantween” , I guess. Dr. Gary’s musings are helping.

  10. landsperson says:

    Byzantween.. I like that. I also find myself in that same space. Blogs like this one have been really helpful for me too as I navigate that space.

  11. Joshua says:

    “the Bible makes faith something far grander: it is the essence of everything for which I have hoped, the very confirmation of the invisible and the spiritual. While it may involve a trust in God’s promises, an acceptance of all the creed teaches, and a certitude of God’s love unto me, it far transcends each of these.” (Dr. Jenkins)

    Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of
    God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it.
    Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy,
    joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The
    Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you
    freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve
    everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who
    has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to
    separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from
    fire! (Dr. Luther)
    It sounds like you accept justification by faith alone but do not want to put the “alone” part at the end because somebody might think it ignores the virtues.? What it could do and what it is are two different things. Not including it could lead people to believe that salvation can be earned or merited. You do not seem to believe this, but to my understanding that is what Luther was fighting. The doctrine of justification by faith alone was never intended to take away from the virtues but to show that they come from God. maybe were not totally depraved but if we could bridge the gap that exists between us and God then what is the purpose of the crucifixion? Granted Jesus is more than just our fire insurance.

  12. Cyril Jenkins says:

    Joshua, thanks for your thoughts and questions.

    Right off I must assert that no, I reject justification sola fide because neither the Bible nor anyone prior to Luther taught this doctrine. I don’t reject sola fide because “somebody might think it ignores the virtues,” but because it becomes for Luther in an amplified manner what Love had been for Aquinas, something other than one of the virtues. Is faith a virtue, or does it animate all the virtues? Aquinas saw love as the form of all the other virtues, but never as something other than virtue. For Luther faith is not a virtue at all, not in any patristic or medieval sense. Further, affirming a doctrine is true because it excludes an error is not how we arrive at doctrine. Doctrines are to flow from first principles (God is revealed in Christ). None of the Orthodox believe that we can merit salvation by our works or otherwise, but we are also quick to point out that when St. Paul compares faith and works, it is always with the works of the law as a system to obtain righteousness. Secondly, since when does not being “totally depraved” (a rather sorry extrabiblicum) mean that a human can bridge the gap to God. Adam was not totally depraved, yet he still needed the Incarnation. Were a person never to have sinned, he would still need union with Christ and the grace of the Incarnation to bring him into life. Has anyone in either Rome or Orthodoxy taught, or do they now teach, that we could get to God apart from grace? No. So why bring this up? We are separated from God be dint of being created our of nothing. It’s not “what was the purpose of the crucifixion,” but “what was the purpose of creation and the Incarnation?” Through the cross “joy has come into the world,” that is, we rejoice because death is vanquished and life is again before us.


  13. Joshua says:

    well Dr. Jenkins, I would say that Christ is the sole justifier. Faith is not the cause of our justification, Jesus Christ is. With faith being a gift from God, I would say that the other virtues likely flow from faith. I must admit that I have a difficult time following you. i would say that faith is a virtue but it is a virtue that has to be given as a gift from God. A virtue is just a right inner disposition. I do not know that Luther would not consider faith a virtue. A previent imputed virtue is still a virtue. HOW DO THE orthodox view those without faith? Does God see any good in them? If not, how would any of the other virtues come before faith? The Bible also clearly teaches that believers will do good works. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10). “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17). Faith must and will bring forth good works.

    These works do not save us but show the invisible faith that is in our hearts: “Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do” (James 2:18). Indeed, only believers can do good works in God’s eyes. For the Bible teaches “everything that does not come from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23), and “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Hebrews 11:6). Without faith everything a person does is evil in God’s eyes. Romans 3:28 “For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.”The text does not say works of the ceremonial law. It says works of the law. in general it is necessary to have faith in Christ, be baptized, and then regularly receive the Eucharist. This brief answer needs elaboration.
    It usually is easier and safer to speak positively about salvation than negatively. God has told us infallibly what we need to do to be saved. God does not tell us infallibly who in particular will not be saved. God is free to save anyone anyway he pleases, for “the Spirit bloweth where he listeth.” That God promises to save people in a certain way, however, does not mean that he cannot or does not save people in other ways. We don’t know about that. We are not invited to make judgements about who is not saved. We are commanded to do what God tells us so that we will be saved.
    So, what is necessary for salvation? The general picture we get from the New Testament is that salvation is a two-fold process. It requires that we die to self and live to God. We die to self by repentance for past sins, which are revealed by the light of God’s command­ments, and with faith in his promises. This dying to self is accomplished `generally’ by faith in the heart and by baptism: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved…” (Mk 16:16). So too when the Philippian jailer asks Sts. Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved,” Paul answers, “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,” and then baptizes him “straightway” (Acts 13:30-33).
    After we die to self by inner conversion and baptism, we live to God by following his commandments, especially concerning love. The Eucharist both enables and symbolizes this `new life’ (Book of Common Prayer, p. 75) in God, for it feeds us constantly in and with the Body of Christ into which baptism incorporates us. Naturally the other sacraments and practices of Christian piety enter into this new life.
    This is the general, positive rule. It does not follow that there are no exceptions.

  14. Joshua says:

    The more I read your post the more i come to agree with it. How does this compare with the Roman Catholic understanding? I find that Rome has a double understanding of grace. When they say we are saved by grace, through faith, and not because of anything we do: This means that it is by grace through faith and not because of what we do that we begin the process where we earn/keep our salvation by our actions. How do the Orthodox understand this?

  15. Cyril Jenkins says:

    Joshua, just a note to let you know that I will get back to you on this tomorrow. I teach all day and have obligations this evening. Thanks for your comments, and will be back at you later.

    Christ’s peace,

  16. marcusjosephus says:

    A good view of Grace by the Western Roman Church can be found in any online version of the recent Catechism (CCC).

    It usually shocks some good Protestant friends when they read the longstanding belief that even the Faith to come to Christ is a Grace. The Western Roman Church has seen Grace not only as a free gift, but perhaps, more essentially as Divine Life in our Souls.

    I would paste some CCC para.# but I am on my phone.

  17. Cyril Jenkins says:


    We certainly need faith to be saved, and without faith we cannot please God, and I think this in a round about way gets to your question about the salvation of those “who have never heard.” But first, we must address the notion of faith, and indeed of all the virtues. Yes, faith is a gift of God, just as all the virtues are, but they are the gifts of God to us from creation, that is, as St. Maximus the Confessor says, virtues are natural things. Since this is true, even the unregenerate have them, and have the ability to even to perform virtuous acts (love and care for their family, help the homeless and the poor, et cetera), but none of these acts will ever make the cut with God, for they will be done in the absence of the grace of life given to us by union with Christ. Justification by faith then, even though faith exists to some degree even in the unregenerate (for they must first believe that God is, before they ever come to him in repentance), is more than the mere active assent to the Gospel, willing submission to its claims, and trust that Christ shall save me on the Great and dreadful day of judgement – – though it most assuredly does comprehend these things – – but entails an abandonment of our old life just as Abram left Ur, seeking affliction with God’s people as did Moses instead of the allure of the world, trusting in God even in the midst of death as did the Phoenician woman with Elijah, and assuming the life in Christ by dying to self as we see in St. Paul and all the other disciples. This requires purification (askesis), contemplation (theoria), and deification or theosis. So thus we see that faith while justifying, requires also the other virtues which are given a renewed status in the life in Christ. We see that by love we fulfill the law, and that through the Holy Spirit’s presence made effective in baptism we are able to do all those things which God requires of us, even though after we have done everything required of us, we are still but unprofitable servants, we have only done that which our Master required of us. We see St. Paul’s teaching about baptism in Romans 6 that this is what gives us the benefits of Christ’s death, and then we see following this that the life of the Spirit so effected allows us to do those things that the law requires.

    When Marcus Josephus writes of the Latin Church that “the Faith to come to Christ is a Grace,” and that the “Western Roman Church has seen Grace not only as a free gift, but perhaps, more essentially as Divine Life in our Souls,” he is stating something very close to what Orthodoxy professes. The life of Christ is the life we were created for, it is our telos as creatures, and within us by dint of creation is the aptitude to come to this life, and this is all grace. Thus grace itself, the life of the age to come, was part of us from the divine “faciamus hominem ad imaginem et similitudinem nostram” (I realize, of course, that the original was in Greek). From the garden we had both aptitude and ability (these are terms that Richard Hooker uses, but we find the very thought in Maximus about the natural will and the personal will), but it is the ability we have lost that without the renewing of the Spirit even what faith we had would not be sufficient, for after all, the devils believe in God.

  18. Excerpts from St. Maximos the Confessor. Most worthy of our consideration.

    St Maximos the Confessor
    On Deification

    “God made us so that we might become ‘partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Pet. 1:4) and sharers in His eternity, and so that we might come to be like Him (cf. 1 John 3:2) through deification by grace. It is through deification that all things are reconstituted and achieve their permanence; and it is for its sake that what is not is brought into being and given existence.” p. 173
    “A sure warrant for looking forward with hope to deification of human nature is provided by the incarnation of God, which makes man god to the same degree as God Himself became man. For it is clear that He who became man without sin (cf. Heb. 4:15) will divinize human nature without changing it into the divine nature, and will raise it up for His own sake to the same degree as He lowered Himself for man’s sake. This is what St. Paul teaches mystically when he says, ‘…that in the ages to come He might display the overflowing richness of His grace’ (Eph. 2:7). p. 178
    “Deification, briefly, is the encompassing and fulfilment of all times and ages, and of all that exists in either. This encompassing and fulfilment is the union, in the person granted salvation, of his real authentic origin with his real authentic consummation. This union presupposes a transcending of all that by nature is essentially limited by an origin and a consummation. Such transcendence is effected by the almighty and more than powerful energy of God, acting in a direct and infinite manner in the person found worthy of this transcendence. The action of this divine energy bestows a more than ineffable pleasure and joy on him in whom the unutterable and unfathomable union with the divine is accomplished. This, in the nature of things, cannot be perceived, conceived or expressed.” p. 240
    “The Lord gave clear evidence of His supreme power in what He endured from hostile forces when He endowed human nature with an incorruptible form of generation. For through His passion He conferred dispassion, through suffering repose, and through death eternal life. By His privations in the flesh He re-established and renewed the human state, and by His own incarnation He bestowed on human nature the supranatural grace of deification.” p. 246
    “Since the devil is jealous both of us and of God, he persuaded man by guile that God jealous of him (cf. Gen. 3:5), and so made him break the commandment. The devil is jealous of God lest His power should be seen actually divinizing man: and he is jealous of man lest through the attainment of virtue man should become a personal participant in divine glory.”
    “To reconcile us with the Father, at His Father’s wish the Son deliberately gave Himself to death on our behalf so that, just as He consented to be dishonoured for our sake by assuming our passions, to an equal degree He might glorify us with the beauty of His own divinity.” p. 248
    “And as in His providence He became man, so He deified us by grace, in this way teaching us not only to cleave to one another naturally and to love others spiritually as ourselves, but also, like God, to be more concerned for others than for ourselves…” p.263
    “Everyone who does not apply himself to the spiritual contemplation of Holy Scripture has, Judaic-wise, also rejected both the natural and the written law; and he is ignorant of the law of grace which confers deification on those who are obedient to it. He who understands the written law in a literal manner does not nourish his soul with the virtues. He who does not grasp the inner principles of created beings fails to feast his intellect on the manifold wisdom of God. And he who is ignorant of the great mystery of the new grace does not rejoice in the hope of future deification. Thus failure to contemplate the written law spiritually results in a dearth (lack, an indequate supply) of the divine wisdom to be apprehended in the natural law; and this in its turn is followed by a complete ignorance of the deification given by grace according to the new mystery.” p. 267
    “A crown of goodness (cf. Ps. 65:11) is a pure faith, adorned with eloquent doctrine, and with spiritual principles and intellections, as if with precious stones, and set as it were on the head of the devout intellect. Or rather, a crown of goodness is the Logos of God Himself, who encircles the intellect as if it were a head, protecting it with manifold forms of providence and judgement – that is, with mastery of the passions that lie within our control and with patient endurance of those we suffer against our will; and who makes this same intellect more beautiful by enabling it to participate in the grace of deification.” p.271

    The extreme importance of St Maximos the Confessor (580-662) for the Orthodox spiritual tradition is indicated by the fact that no other writer is assigned so much space in the Philokalia. In his numerous writings St. Maximos discusses almost all aspects of Christian truth, including the interpretation of Scripture, the doctrine of the incarnation, ascetic practice, and the Divine Liturgy. He insists upon the close link between dogma and prayer. When he opposed Monotheletism, this was not because of some technicality, but because such a view subverted the understanding of the full reality of man’s salvation and deification in Christ. St. Maximos maintained that human nature without a human will is an unreal abstraction: if Christ does not have a human will as well as a divine will, He is not truly man; and if He is not truly man, the Christian message of salvation is rendered void. What we see in Christ our Saviour is precisely a human will, genuinely free yet held in unwavering obedience to His divine will; and it is by virtue of this voluntary co-operation of manhood with divinity in Christ, which restored the integrity of human nature, that we are enabled to make our own will freely obedient to the will of God and so attain salvation. St. Maximos’ teaching was confirmed after his death by the Sixth Ecumenical Council, meeting at Constantinople in 680-1.

  19. Joshua says:

    Thanks Dr. Jenkins, I plan on doing some more study into Orthodoxy and the ECF’s on some of these things. I was raised in a confessional Lutheran household (wels). I became an Anglo-catholic due to the fact that I came to believe that the Lutherans had gone a little to far in trying to reform things. I fell in love with Catholic spirituality that I saw lacking in Lutheran services. I now have an icon corner in my house and some of the Icons have been blessed by an OCA priest. There are a minority of high Church Lutheran parishes that have obviously seen the the same things I have. However, half of my family is Catholic on my Dads side. When I look at the virtues you talk about, I see them lived much more in my Lutheran family than I have ever seen them in my Catholic family. If I took you into the home of one any of my Lutheran relatives you could tell within minutes that you were in a Christian home. You would see this by the way they act. If I took you to my Catholic family, you would see very little that told you these people were Christians. I have attended many Catholic masses and have seen nothing there that would lead someone to repentance. The Confessional Lutheran (not ELCA) services are just the opposite. I also live in a heavily populated Catholic area and its the same way, I find that Lutherans are far more devout and the virtues are lived much more by confessional Lutherans. This is not to say that all Catholics are this way. I watch EWTN and am quite impressed with what I see. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is also very good as far as I understand it, but I see very little of that reflected by my Catholic family nor in any of the masses that I have attended personally. I think everything you say here is taught within those Churches who hold to Sola Fide although in spins around a different sphere. Justification and sanctification are separate for defining purposes but really they are one in the same. For us righteousness is imputed but it is not only imputed. It is also infused. The Sanctification process is more than just brownie points that doesn’t make you better in the eyes of God as some Orthodox have suggested. This is because if you are not cooperating with the Holy Spirit you will fall away. The faith must be lived but we wouldn’t say that an individual sin damns a person but a loss of active faith (which included virtues). Granted some sins pull as further away from God than others.



  20. Joshua says:

    lol..Thanks Dr. Jenkins,


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