Tuesday, April 04, 2006

"Insufficiently good"

Robinson (along with “Photios Jones”) continues to weigh in over at Evan’s blog.

“All I pointed out is that at a point in time Jesus willed contrary to the Father. Do you deny this or no?”

I, for one deny this on a couple of grounds: (i) it fails to distinguish between desire and will, and (ii) it fails to take into consideration the conditionality of the desire. Elementary qualifications are disregarded.

“As for being “enslaved” by our wills this is a category mistake. The relation between us and our will is natural (even pre-fall natural) and hence slavery simply doesn’t apply. The will is a faculty of nature used by the person.”

This is true, but beside the point. Evan is simply using standard theological nomenclature. It doesn’t mean he isolates the will from the agent.

Because libertarians talk about the freedom of the will, Calvinists talk about the bondage of the will. This doesn’t mean that either side regards the will as some inner homunculus, operating apart from the person or agent.

“Moreover, the “strongest desire” line is wrong for the simple reason that akratics (addicts for example) sometimes win out against their strongest desire.”

How do addicts sometimes win out against their strongest will? They may swear off their addiction. They may make a resolution never to drink or gamble or do drugs again. They mean it at the time they say it. But then the same overpowering desire returns.

Those addicts who do conquer their compulsive behavior do so because an alternative desire trumps the addictive desire.

“Furthermore, since the will is a faculty of nature, it is the person using the will that “wins” not a faculty. This is why sin is personal and not natural. To think otherwise is to confuse the categories of person and nature. Nature doesn’t determine the acts of a person.”

This is true, but beside the point for the same reason. Once again, Evan is simply using standard nomenclature. Evan didn’t invent dogmatic terminology.

Other terms might well be more exacting, but there’s nothing wrong with using conventional jargon. This doesn’t mean that Evan is opposing “nature” to “person.”

“Did Jesus desire contrary to the Father? You have simply moved the question rather than answered it. And if Jesus has such a desire contrary to the Father, which nature is this contrary desire residing in?”

Once again, this disregards the conditionality of the desire. Perry can only make his point by being simplistic.

“Since you think that one desire/will trumps another, does this mean that there is only one operative will in Christ by your account?”

Perry is trying to maneuver Evan into a trap by accusing him of monothelitism.

This is what Perry does. Instead of sticking to the issues, he attempts to redirect the discussion so that he can win the debate (without winning the argument) by screaming “heresy!” and pounding the gavel.

“Jesus did otherwise and it wasn’t evil, or at least I don’t think so, but perhaps you do.”

No, Jesus never “did” otherwise. He never acted contrary to the Father’s will. Rather, he did the Father’s will.

The only point of tension was a conditional desire to do otherwise, all other things being equal. Since all other things were unequal, his desire to do his Father’s will took precedence. And Jesus willed accordingly. And Jesus acted accordingly.

“Anthropology is subsumed under Christ and not the other way around.”

According to Greek Orthodox anthropology.

“More specifically, the relation to anthropology is that persons subsist in a nature which is good, but insufficiently good such that it can will the good, but not in a way that pleases God.”

“Insufficiently good.”

Isn’t that a lovely phrase? Perry should be a defense attorney for the Old Serpent. When, on the Day of Judgment, the Devil faces the tribunal of God, Perry will cope the following plea on behalf of his client:

“My client pleads innocent to the charge of evil. My client pleads no contest to the charge of being insufficiently good.”

“This is why it is fundamentally wrong to start with the Fall rather than the Divine Logos.”

There is no one place to start in systematic theology, but the most logical place to start is with passages of Scripture most directly germane to the subject matter. So, in dealing with sin, we start with passages discussing sin, rather than passages discussing the person of Christ.

“The problem here is that you have an interposition of a divine “attribute” (predestination) between the Father and Christ, and thus make Christ fall under the “divine decree” This is nothing short of Arianism, and the reason for it is because it puts the order of doing theology on its head which is common to Western theology: essence, attributes, and persons. Instead of first starting with Persons and then consider the activities of the Persons. Hence, the Father’s decree that the Son go to the Cross takes into account the Son’s decision since the elective act falls UNDER the Persons and not interposed between.”

i)“Arianism.” Photios resorts to the same smear tactics as Perry. Ignore the issue at hand and reach for a heretical adjective to tar your theological opponent.

ii) Calvinism doesn’t deny, but rather affirms, that the decree takes the Son’s decision into account. Photios needs to bone up on the covenant of redemption.

“First, the text doesn’t say Jesus had a ‘desire.’ The text says he wills otherwise.”

This assumes the Greek text is using ordinary words as if they were technical terms to draw fine psychological distinctions.

The explanation turns, not on overloading an isolated word, but on the conceptual context in which it is being used.

“In any case, do you affirm that Jesus willed contrary to the Father at one point in time or no?”

Not will, but desire.

“Since you agree that Jesus desired contrary to the Father, is that desire sinful or not?”

A conditional desire.

“Monenergism is first and foremost a Christological problem. Solve the problem there–as Maximos did–and you solve it everywhere, or you at least unlock the key to solving it in anthropology. Start with a theology “from above” rather than a theology “from below.” Christ is the key. Scrap Augustine on predestination. The *logic* of his view (rather than his *spirit*) led to Spanish adoptionism: as Christ is the perfect example of predestination (as said in Rebuke and Grace). Think it through in this order:

Persons–Answering the Question–Who are they doing the act?
Energies–Answering the Question–What operations are they doing?
Essence–Answering the Question–What are they that allow them to do these kinds of acts?

You’ll see John 6:37-44 open up a different light.”

i)Yes, there’s no doubt that we will see Jn 6:37-44 in a very different light if we disregard the text and context, the flow of argument, Johannine theology, or the historical occasion, as well as the immediate audience (whom Jesus is addressing), and instead filter the passage through an extrinsic hermeutical lens.

ii)And Photios also bandies another heretical label (“adoptionism”) to insinuate guilt-by-association.

Perry is the Roy Cohn of polemical theology, and like a dutiful apprentice, Photios has learned the fine art of innuendo from his mentor.

“Start with the passage Christologically rather than from the stand-point of a divine attribute (Persons come first!)”

The Reformed exegete isn’t beginning with a divine attribute. He is simply taking the text as it stands before him, and following the train of thought whenever this leads him.

But Photios is correct in observing that theological method is a primary dividing line between the Orthodox and the Reformed.

This was well illustrated in Perry’s previous discussion.

a) Perry begins with the denial that God is the “author” of sin.

Now, there’s no compelling reason why this particular metaphor should control our analysis. Does the Bible frame the issue of God’s relation to sin in terms of this picturesque metaphor? No.

b) Perry then stipulates what he takes to be the intuitive conditions which would absolve God of complicity in sin.

c) Perry then constructs a libertarian theology around this postulate.

Just one more example of his monadic theological method. Don’t consult revelation. Just do it all in your head, like mental arithmetic.

“As a former Calvinist, I am familiar with the doctrine of common grace. Are acts done under common grace, sinful or good?”

Another simple-minded question. They can be objectively good, but they are subjectively the issue of mixed motives.

“The reason why you think that without common grace there could be no goods in the civitas or the polis is because your anthropology is Manichean, contrary to Augustine.”

Yes, “Manichean.” Using an adjective to do the work of an argument. The same moth-eaten bag of tricks.


  1. "[L]ike a dutiful apprentice, Photios has learned the fine art of innuendo from his mentor."

    Well, perhaps I am still an apprentice, but hopefully, my paper I'm about to finish up on Eunomius and Gregory of Nyssa would indicate my graduation of apprenticeship into a fully fledged Jedi.

  2. As long as you don't succumb to the dark side of the force. Robinson might always be a Sith Lord in disguise.

  3. Haha! Actually we both are under an unknown Sith Lord named Dark Plagius the Wise that I shall leave anonymous. We proceed from him!

    Anyways, despite our strong disagreements, this is one of the few blogs that I read.


  4. For the record, in the few direct exchanges which Photius and I have had over the last couple of years or so, it's been a pretty civil and amicable.

    So Photius, at least, takes after Luke Skywalker rather than Anakin.

  5. Thanks Steve.

    Anytime you want to get into the "luminous darkness," we have a REC open for a "St. Mark of Ephesus." It seems like you'd fit that position pretty well.