Friday, December 19, 2014

Raise what up?

Old Jamestown Church has some interesting comments on Joseph Farrell and Maximus the Confessor.  When it comes to philosophy, Farrell/Maximus (and I speak of the earlier Farrell; the more recent Farrell probably wouldn't care) these two are probably the biggest guns Orthodoxy has to offer.  Responding to the Reformed/Augustinian reading of John 6, Farrell (via Fr Kimel) writes,

Farrell cites St Augustine’s exegesis of John 6:39 (“This is the will of the Father who hath sent me, that of all that he hath given me I shall lose nothing”) as an example. Who are the “all”? According to Augustine, the “all” are the specific individuals who have been divinely elected to salvation: this “number is so certain that one can neither be added to them nor taken away from them.” For Augustine, predestination pertains to persons. Maximus, on the other hand, interprets “all” as referring to the human nature assumed by Christ in the Incarnation.

OJC remarks,

Let's take a look at that verse in context:
38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.
39 And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day.
40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.
That Maximus could find human nature and not individuals in verse 39 is a testament to his wholly philosophical and theological approach to the text, one that is devoid of every necessary exegetical control.  The text CLEARLY refers to individuals.  There is nothing in this passage that suggests human nature is being resurrected; everything in it points topersons being resurrected.  And this just highlights the fundamental problem with Eastern Orthodoxy (and to a lesser but significant extent Anglo-Catholicism), which is that its theology is structured more around the mystical and philosophical nature of Greek theology rather than the exegetical nature of Augustine's later theology.  Any number of Augustine scholars will tell you that while he started out as a strong Neoplatonist, and that Neoplatonism did continue to exercise a deleterious effect in some of his theology, in later years he turned from a philosophical theologian to a much more exegetical one, and in his struggle against Pelagianism he resorted to all of the apostolic material -- including verses such as John 6:39 -- which buttress the case for the view of unconditional election reflected in Article XVII and in the theology of the (Augustinian) Reformers generally. 

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