Archive for the 'The Importance of Concepts' Category

The Concept of The Fall

FRIDAY

What is the Fall of Man?

It refers to the time when Adam and Eve violated the spoken will of God. The event is recorded in Genesis 3: 1-24. God had communicated His standard for living in His presence within His Garden. Adam and Eve knew the standard.  They also knew the consequences for disobeying the standard.

After disobeying and being confronted by God they experienced the consequences of their disobedience – they were removed from the presence of God by being expelled from the Garden (spiritual death), and they would later also experience physical death. Adam and Eve fell from innocence and complete fellowship with God. About 6,000 years later, all mankind continues to be spiritually dead and to experience physical death…. Unless, one accepts God’s plan of redemption as foretold in Genesis 3:15!

But when you read Genesis 3:1-24, you cannot miss the point that Adam and Eve had a relationship with God before the Fall and lost that relationship with God after the Fall. And you cannot miss the point that the relationship was lost because of disobedience.  This is the interpretation and understanding upon which Western Christianity bases its worldview. Adam and Eve were perfect before the Fall but they became imperfect by their disobedience to God’s revealed will. And we all suffer under that consequence. Christ’s work on the cross gives to those who believe the promise of reconciliation with God. Our restoration is based upon our confidence that Christ absorbed the wrath of God we deserve as sinners like Adam and Eve, and in return received the righteousness we could not earn (read Romans 3 – 5).

The worldview of the Eastern Christian is different. From their viewpoint, Adam and Eve never had complete communion with God before the Fall, nor were they created perfect. Instead, from the East’s perspective, Adam was created with the desire and ability to obtain perfection (the image of God within man) if he would only try hard enough (the likeness of God within man)! Does this remind you of yesterday’s discussion on theosis or deification?

Here is what the Eastern writers say about the Fall:

‘As man approaches Christ he comes as a somewhat crippled creature not as one thoroughly destroyed. His fall was not from the heights of heaven, but from a previous road, so man is not to be judged too harshly for his error.’ Auxentios

‘Adam did not fulfill his vocation. He was unable to attain to union with God, and the deification of the created order.’ Vladimir Lossky

‘Adam fell from undeveloped simplicity’. Timothy Ware

From the Eastern Christian’s worldview, the cross does not bring one back into a relationship with God, it only puts one back on the road that can result in deification. The cross (from the Orthodox perspective) only allows you to begin again doing what Adam and Eve lost the opportunity to do as a result of the Fall.

This is good theology for those who want to focus on obtaining God’s favor through their own efforts rather than to trust solely upon the finished work of Christ on the cross. Some Protestants have the same concept of ‘being on a journey of good’ that will result in God’s acceptance. The counsel of Scripture (especially Isa 64:6) demonstrates that nothing could be further from the truth.

Which worldview do you identify with concerning the Fall of man? The concept you choose will have a profound effect on your relationship with God.

NAU Isaiah 64:6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

NIV Isaiah 64:6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

KJV Isaiah 64:6 But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.

  
NAU Romans 5:18
So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.

NIV Romans 5:18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.

KJV Romans 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

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The Concept of Image and Likeness

THURSDAY

What does it mean to be created in the image and likeness of God? Genesis 1:26 says:

NAU Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

NIV Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

KJV Genesis 1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

Western Christianity has derived their understanding of these terms not only from defining the terms but by noting the contrasts in the context.  God created many things over the previous six days but not once did He say that the elements, the fishes, the birds or land animals were created in the image and likeness of God.  These terms were reserved for man alone. When we examine man in contrast with the rest of creation we notice that man alone has a complex internal development that includes advanced mental development, conscience, reasoning abilities, will, and desire.  Furthermore, Genesis 2:7 says uniquely of the creation of man that God breathed into man and he became a living soul. There is something different about man when compared with both other created things and God Himself. We should note these differences, compare them and define them within the context of the language used to describe them.

By contrast, Eastern Christians define being created in the image and likeness of God as having the propensity (ability and desire) to pursue perfection (which they then define as image) as well as the ability to become perfect after great effort (which they define as likeness).  Where did Eastern Christians get this idea? Not from the definition of these Hebrew terms (or even their Greek counterparts in the Septuagint). It comes from going outside the context of Genesis and flows from their understanding of theosis and their interpretation of the divine nature in 2 Peter 1:4. As the Eastern Orthodox writer Leonid Ouspensky has said: ‘Man, created in the image of God is consequently called to realize his likeness to God. To be in the image of God is to have the possibility of acquiring divine likeness.’ A noble thought but not based on appropriate contextual and biblical concepts.

Selecting the right concept of image and likeness will have a profound effect on one’s view of the Fall of Man as we will see tomorrow. But today, a contextual study of these terms will show that image and likeness are synonymous terms that describe similar characteristics, resemblance or correspondence with the Person of God not a propensity to become perfect if the effort is put forth.  Note the use of image and likeness in Genesis 1:26 and Genesis 5:3 where they are used together, and then in Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 5:1 where they are used interchangeably. This indicates synonymity rather than redefinition.

Example of Image and likeness used together:

NIV Genesis 1:26 Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

NIV Genesis 5:3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.

 
Example of image and likeness used interchangeably:

NIV Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them

NIV Genesis 5:1 This is the written account of Adam’s line. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.

The Concept of Theosis

WEDNESDAY

I like Athanasius. He is one of my church history heroes because he was used by God to lay the foundation for understanding the relationship of the Persons within the Godhead.

And I like Irenaeus. He was discipled by Polycarp who was discipled by the Apostle John.

But both of these men made statements that have been interpreted by the Eastern Orthodox that led to the development of the concept of deification or theosis. Irenaeus said, “If the Word is made man, it is that man might become gods.” A little over one hundred years later, Athanasius said, “God became man so that men might become gods.” Don’t get hung up on the idea of men being called ‘gods’ because Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34 appropriately call men ‘gods’ (proper interpretation will have to come in a future blog!)

But what is alarming is interpreting Irenaeus and Athanasius to be saying that the purpose of the incarnation is to make men ‘gods’. Modern Eastern Orthodox writers have taken this to mean that if humans are to share in the glory that is God’s, they (humans) must be deified. Where did this thinking come from? The Eastern Orthodox answer by pointing to 2 Peter 1:4 – their prime justification for their concept of deification:

NAU 2 Peter 1:4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.


If we just examined the above underlined phrase out of context, we might conclude that Christians become ‘gods’ as they partake more and more in the divine nature. But where in the verse (or the Bible for that matter) is the idea that we need to accumulate grace in order to eventually partake in the Divine nature? The context very clearly states that whatever ‘partaking of the divine nature’ is comes as a result of God granting (not man earning) through His promises (not man’s efforts)!


2 Peter 1:2, 3 further dispels the Eastern Orthodox concept of deification. The grace which the Eastern Orthodox attempt to acquire through deification is granted (according to Peter in verse 2) through knowledge from God and Jesus, and results (according to Peter in verse 3) in everything pertaining to life and godliness!


NAU 2 Peter 1:2
Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; 3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

Clearly, the Eastern Orthodox have read ‘deification’ into the text instead of allowing the context to shape such an important concept.

What is your concept of salvation and sanctification? Are you attempting to acquire enough grace to be made like Him, or are you resting in the promises of God in the work of Jesus?

The Concept of Grace

TUESDAY

If you asked a Protestant and an Eastern Orthodox Christian, ‘How are you saved?’, both would answer ‘By Grace alone’ (Sola gratia). However, if you asked both ‘How do you receive grace?’ and to explain their answers, you would get very different responses.

How would you answer?

In the Greek language, the word for ‘grace’ (charis) means ‘unmerited favor’, and is understood as ‘receiving something that is not deserved’. In the biblical context it is used in association with faith and emphasizes that the grace that saves is received through faith alone.

Regrettably, this is not the Eastern Orthodox understanding of saving grace. Instead, to the Eastern Orthodox, grace is an ‘energy’ given by God when man participates in the process of deification (theosis or acquiring godly characteristics and gaining immortality, incorruptibility and union with God) that was mentioned yesterday. According to the Eastern Orthodox, you can acquire grace by attending church, receiving the sacraments, praying, fasting and following the commandments. Does this sound like unmerited favor to you or receiving something that is not deserved?

 
NAU Romans 5:1
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

 
NIV Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

 
KJV Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: 2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.