Original Sin According to St. Paul (Page 4 of 7)

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By: Fr John S. Romanides
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III. The Destiny of Man and Anthropology

Before making any attempt to determine the meaning of original sin according to what has been said thus far, it is necessary to examine St. Paul’s   conception of   the   destiny of   man and   his anthropology.

(a) The Destiny of Man

It would be nonsense to try to read into Paul’s theology a conception of human destiny which accepts the aspirations and desires of what one would call “natural man” as normal. It is normal for natural man to seek security and happiness in the acquisition and possession of objective goods. The scholastic theologians of the West have often used these aspirations of natural man as proof that he is instinctively seeking after the Absolute, the possession of which is the only possible state of complete happiness, that is, a state wherein it is impossible to desire anything more because nothing better exists. This hedonistic type of approach to human destiny is, of course, possible only for those who accept death and corruption either as normal or, at most, as the outcome of a decision of God to punish. If those who accept God as the ultimate source of death were to really attribute sin to the powers of corruption, they would in effect be making God Himself the source of sin and evil.

For St. Paul, there is no such thing as normality for those who have not put on Christ. The destiny of man and creation cannot be deducted from observations of the life of fallen man and creation. Nowhere does Paul call on Christians to live a life of security and happiness according to the ways of this world. On the contrary, he calls on Christians to die to this world and the body of sin,[87] and even to suffer in the Gospel, according to the power of God.[88] Paul claims that “all who want to live godly lives in Christ Jesus shall be persecuted.”[89] This is hardly the language of one who is seeking security and happiness.[90] Nor is it possible to suppose that for Paul such sufferings without love could be considered as the means to reach one’s destiny. This would fall under the category of payment for works and not eh personal relationships of faith and love.[91]

St. Paul does not believe that human destiny consists simply in becoming conformed to the rules and regulations of nature, which supposedly remain unchanged from the beginning of time. The relationship of the Divine Will to human wills is not one of juridical or hedonistic submission of the one to the other (as St. Augustine and the scholastics thought), but rather one of personal love. St. Paul claims that “we are co-workers of God.”[92] Our relationship of love with God is such that in Christ there is now no longer need for law. “If ye be led by the Spirit ye are not under the law.”[93] The members of the body of Christ are not called on to live on the level of impersonal ordinances, but are now expected to live according to the love of God as revealed in Christ, which needs no laws because it seeks not its own,[94] but strives to empty itself for others in the image of the love of Christ.[95]

The love and justice of God have been revealed once and for all in Christ[96] by the destruction of the devil[97] and the deliverance of man from the body of death and sin,[98] so that man may actually become an imitator of God Himself,[99] Who has predestined His elect to become “conformed to the image of His Son,”[100] who did nothing to please Himself but suffered for others.[101] Christ died so that the living should no longer live unto themselves,[102] but should become perfect men, even “unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”[103] Christians are no longer to live according to the rudiments of this world, as though living in this world,[104] but are to have the same mind as Christ,[105] so that in Christ they may become perfect.[106] Men are no longer to love their wives according to the world, but must love their wives exactly “as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it.”[107] The destiny of man is not happiness and self-satisfaction,[108] but rather perfection in Christ. Man must become perfect, as God[109] and Christ are perfect.[110] Such perfection can come only through the personalistic power of divine and selfless love,[111] “which is the bond of perfection.”[112] This love is not to be confused with the love of fallen man who seeks his own.[113] Love in Christ   does not seek its   own, but that of   the other.[114]

To become perfect according to the image of Christ is not restricted to the realm of love, but forms and inseparable part of the salvation of the total man and creation alike. Man’s body of humility will be transformed to become “conformed” to Christ’s “body of glory.”[115] man is destined to become, like Christ, perfect according to the body also. “He Who raised Christ from the dead shall bring to life also your mortal bodies by His Spirit which dwells in you.”[116]

St. Paul claims that death is the enemy[117] which came into the world and passed unto all men through the sin of one man.[118] Not only many, but all of creation became subject to corruption.[119] The subjugation of man and creation to the power of the devil and death was obviously a temporary frustration of the original destiny of man and creation. It is false to read into Paul’s statements about the first and second Adams the idea that Adam would have died even though he had not sinned, simply because the first Adam was made eis psychen zosan –which expression, according to St. Paul’s usage within the context, clearly means mortal.[120] Adam could very well have been created not naturally immortal, but if he had not sinned there is no reason to believe that he would not have become immortal by nature.[121] This is certainly implied by the extraordinary powers St. Paul attributes to death and corruption.

(b) Anthropology of St. Paul

As we have said, for St. Paul, the law is good[122] and even spiritual.[123] According to the “inner man” this is obvious.[124] But in spite of the fact that he can possess the will to do good according to the law he cannot find the power to do the good[125] because he is “carnal and sold under sin.”[126] If he himself, according to the “inner man,” wants to do good but cannot, it is no longer he who does the evil, but sin that dwelleth in him.[127] So he asks, “O wretched man that I am! who will deliver me from the body of this death?”[128] To be delivered from the “body of this death” is to be saved from the power of sin dwelling in the flesh. Thus, “the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has liberated me from the law of sin and death.”[129]

It is misleading to try to interpret this section[130] of Paul according to a dualistic anthropology, which would make the term, sarkikos, refer only to the lower appetites of the body–and especially of the sexual desires–to the exclusion of the soul. The word, sarkikos , is not used by Paul in such a context. Elsewhere, St. Paul reminds married people that they have not authority over their own bodies and so should not deprive one another, “unless it be with consent for a time that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer, and come together again that Satan may not tempt you for your incontinency.[131][132] To the Corinthians he declare that they are an epistle written not with ink, “but with the spirit of the living God, not in tables of stone, but in fleshly tables of the heart–en plaxi kardias sarkinais.”[133] Christ was known according to the flesh[134] and “God was manifested in the flesh.”[135] St. Paul asks whether, if he has planted spiritual things amongst the Corinthians, it is such a great thing if he shall reap the sarkika[136]. Nowhere does he use the adjective, sarkikos , exclusively in reference to the sexual, or what is commonly called the desires of the flesh in contrast to those of the soul.

It seems that St. Paul attributes a positive power of sin to the sarx as such only in the epistle to the Galatians, who, having begun int he Spirit, now think that they are being perfected in the flesh.[137] The sarx here has a will which desires against the pneuma.[138] “The works of the flesh are manifest, which a re these; adultery, fornication, uncleanliness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings and such like.”[139] Most of these works of the sarkos would require the very active, and even initiative, participation of the intellect, which here is an indication that the sarx, for Paul, is much more than what any dualistic anthropology would be ready to admit. The flesh as such, however, as a positive force of sin, found over-emphasized in Galatians, where Paul is infuriated over the foolishness of his readers,[140] cannot be isolated from other references, where sin parasitically dwells in the flesh[141] and where the flesh itself is not only not evil,[142] but that in which God Himself has been manifested.[143] The flesh as such is not evil, but has become very much weakened by sin and the enmity which dwells in it.[144]

To understand St. Paul’s anthropology, it is necessary to refer not to the dualistic anthropology of the Greek,s who made a clear cut distinction between soul and body, but rather to the Hebraic frame of references, in which sarx and psyche (flesh and soul) both denote the whole living person and not any part of him.[145] Thus, in the Old Testament the expression, pasa sarx (all flesh), is employed for all living things,[146] as well as for man in particular.[147] The expression, pasa psyche (all souls), is used in the same manner.[148] In the New Testament, both expressions, pasa sarx[149] and pasa psyche,[150] are used in perfect accord with the Old Testament context.

Thus we find that, for St. Paul, to be sarkikos[151] and psychikos[152] means exactly the same thing. “Flesh and blood  (sarx kai haima)  cannot inherit the kingdom of God”[153] because corruption cannot inherit incorruption.[154] For this reason, a   soma psychikon is “sown in corruption” and raised in incorruption; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.”[155] “A soma psychikon is sown, and a soma pneumatikon is raised. There is a soma psychikon and there is a soma pneumatikon!”[156] Both the sarkikon and the psychikon and dominated by death and corruption and so cannot inherit the kingdom of life. This only the   pneumatikon can do. “However, the pneumatikon is not first, but the psychikon, and afterward the pneumatikon. The first man is from the earth; earthy; the second man, the Lord, from heaven.”[157] That the first man became eis psychen zosan (a living soul), for Paul, means exactly that he became psychikon, and therefore subject to corruption,[158] because “from the earth, earthy…”[159] Such expressions do not admit of any dualistic anthropology. A soma psychikon “from the earth, earthy,” or a psyche zosa “from the earth, earthy,” would lead to impossible confusion if interpreted from the viewpoint of a dualism which distinguishes between the body and soul, the lower and the higher, the material and the purely spiritual. What, then, would a psyche zosa be, which came from the earth and is earthy? In speaking of death, a dualist could never say that a soma psychikon is sown in corruption. He would rather have to say that the soul leaves the body, which alone is sown in corruption.

Neither the psyche nor the pneuma is the intellectual part of man. To quote I Corinthians 2:11 (tis gar oiden anthropon ta tou anthropou ei me to pneuma tou anthropou to en auto?) or I Thessalonians 5:23 (Autos o Theos tea eirenes hagiasai hymas holoteleis, kai holokleron hymon to pneuma kai he psyche kai to soma amemptos en te parousia toy K.H.I.X. teretheie) does not prove otherwise. One cannot take these expressions in isolation from the rest of Paul’s writings for the sake of trying to make him speak the language of even a Thomistic dualist, as is done, for example, by F. Prat in La Theologie de s.Paul, t.2, pp. 62-63. Elsewhere, in speaking against the practise of certain individuals’ praying publicly in unknown tongues, St. Paul says, “If I pray in an unknown tongue my pnuema prays, but my mind is unfruitful. What is it then? I will pray with the pneuma and I will pray with the mind also.”[160] Here a sharp distinction is made between the pneuma and the nous (mind). Therefore, for St. Paul, the realm of pneuma does not belong within the category of human understanding. It is of another dimension.

In order to express the idea of intellect or understanding all four evangelists use the word, kardia (heart).[161] The word, nous (mind), is used only once by St. Luke.[162] In contrast, St. Paul makes use of both kardia[163] and nous[164] to denote the faculty of intelligence. Nous, however, cannot be taken for any such thing as the intellectual faculties of an immaterial soul. Nous is rather synonymous with kardia, which in turn is synonymous with the eso anthropon.

The Holy Spirit is sent by God into the kardia,[165] or into the eso anthropon,[166] that Christ may dwell in the kardia.[167] The kardia and the eso anthropon are the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. Man delights in the law of God according to the eso anthropon, but there is another law in his members which wars against he law of the nous.[168] Here the nous is clearly synonymous with the eso anthropon, which in turn is the kardia, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit and Christ.[169]

To walk in the vanity of the nous, with the dianoia darkened, being alienated from the life of God through ignorance, is a result of the “hardening of the heart– dia ten perosin test kardias.”[170] It is the heart which is the seat of man’s free will, and it is here where man by his own choice either becomes blinded[171] and hardened,[172] or else enlightened in his understanding of the hope, glory, and power in Christ.[173] It is in the heart where the secrets of men are kept,[174] and it is Christ “Who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and will make manifest the counsels of the heart.”[175]

It would be absurd to interpret St. Paul’s use of the expressions, eso anthropon and nous, according to a dualistic anthropology by ignoring his use of the word, kardia, which is in perfect accord with the New Testament and Old Testament writers. By using such words as nous and eso anthropon, Paul is certainly introducing new terminology, foreign to traditional Hebraic usage, but he is definitely not introducing any new anthropology based on Hellenistic dualism. St. Paul never refers to either psyche or pneuma as faculties of human intelligence. His anthropology is Hebraic and not Hellenistic.

In both the Old and New Testaments, one finds the expression, to pneuma tes zoes (the spirit of life), but never to   pneuma zon (the living spirit).[176] Also, one finds psyche zosa (the living soul), but never psyche tes zoes (the soul of life).[177] This is due to the fact that the psyche, or sarx, lives only by participation, while the pneuma is itself the principle of life given to man as a gift from God,[178] “Who alone hath immortality.”[179] God gives man of His Own uncreated life without destroying the freedom of   human personality. Thus, man is not an intellectual form fashioned according to a predetermined essence or universal idea of man whose destiny is to become conformed to a state of mechanical contentment in the presence of God whereby his will become sterile and immobile in a state of complete self-satisfaction and happiness (e.g., according to the Neo-platonic teaching of St. Augustine and the Roman scholastics in general concerning human destiny). The personality of man does not consist of an immaterial intellectual soul which has life of itself and uses the body simply as a dwelling place. The sarx, or psyche, is the total man, and the kardia is the center of intelligence where the will has complete independence of choice to become either hardened to truth or receptive to divine enlightenment from without. The pneuma of man is not the center of human personality, nor is it that faculty which rules the actions of men, but rather it is the spark of divine life given to man as his principle of life. Thus, man can live according to the pneuma tes zoes or according to the law of the flesh, which is death and corruption. The very personality of man, therefore, although created by God Himself, remains outside of the essence of God,a nd therefore completely free either to reject the act of creation, for which he was not consulted, or to accept the creative love of God by living according to the pneuma, given to him for this purpose by God.

“The mind of the flesh is death, but the mind of the spirit is life and peace.”[180] Those who live according to the flesh shall die.[181] Those who mortify the deeds of the flesh by the spirit shall live.[182] The spirit of man, however, deprived of union with the vivifying spirit of God, is hopelessly weak against the flesh dominated by death and corruption[183]“Who shall deliver me from the body of this death.”[184] And, “the law of the pneumatos tes zoes (spirit of life) in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”[185] Only those whose spirit has been renewed[186] by union with the Spirit of God[187] can fight the desires of the flesh. Only those who are given the Spirit of God and hear Its voice in the life of the body of Christ are able to fight against sin. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God.”[188]

Although the spirit of man is the principle of life given to him by God, it can still partake of the filthiness of fleshly works. For this reason, it is necessary for Christians to guard against the corruption not only of the flesh, but of the spirit, also.[189] The union of man’s spirit with the Spirit of God in baptism is no magical guarantee against the possibility of their separation. To become again enslaved tot he works of the flesh may very well lead to exclusion from the body of Christ.[190] The Spirit of God is given to man that Christ may dwell in the heart.[191] “Now if any an have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His.”[192] To have the Spirit of God dwelling in the body is to be, also, a member of the body of Christ. To be deprived of the one is to be cut off from the other. It is impossible to be in communion with only part of God. Communion with Christ through the Spirit is communion with the whole Godhead. Exclusion from the One Person is exclusion from all Three Persons.

“The works of the flesh are manifest…”[193] “The mind of the flesh is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.[194] Such people are enslaved to the power of death and corruption in the flesh. They must be saved from the “Body of this death.”[195] On the other hand, those who have been buried with Christ through baptism have died to the body of sin and are living unto Christ.[196] They are no longer living according to the desires of flesh, but of the spirit. “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy,   peace,   longsuffering, gentleness,   goodness, faith,   meekness, temperance–against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”[197]

It is clear that, for St. Paul, the union of man’s spirit with the Spirit of God in the life of love within the body of Christ is life and salvation. On the other hand, to live according tot he desires of the flesh, dominated by the powers of death and corruption, means death–“For the mind of the flesh is death.”[198] St. Paul is dealing throughout his epistles with the categories of life and death. God is life. The devil holds the reins of death and corruption. Unity with God in the Spirit, through the body of Christ in the life of love, is life and brings salvation and perfection. Separation of man’s spirit from the divine life in the body of Christ is slavery to the powers of death and corruption used by the devil to destroy the works of God. The life of the spirit is unity and love. The life according to the flesh is disunity and dissolution in death and corruption.

It is absolutely necessary to grasp the essential spirit of St. Paul’s usage of the words, sarx, psyche , and pneuma, in order to avoid the widespread confusion that dominates the field of inquiry into Pauline theology. St. Paul is never speaking in terms of immaterial rational souls in contrast to material bodies.   Sarx and   psyche are synonymous and comprise, together with the pneuma, the total man. To live according to the pneuma is not to live a life according to the lower half of man. On the contrary, to live according to the sarx, or psyche, is to live according to the law of death. To live according to the spirit is to live according to the law of life and love.

Those who are sarkikoi cannot live according to their original destiny of selfless love for God and neighbor, because they are dominated by the power of death and corruption. “the sting of death is sin.”[199] Sin reigned in death.[200] Death is the last enemy to be destroyed.[201] So long as man lives according tot he law of death, in the flesh, he cannot please God[202] because he does not live according to the law of life and love. “The mind of the flesh is enmity against God for it is not subject to the law of God, neither can it be.”[203] In order to live according to his original destiny, man must be liberated from “the body of this death.”[204] This liberation from the power of death and corruption has come from God, Who sent His own Son “in the likeness of sinful flesh” to deliver man “from the law of sin and death.”[205] But, although the power of death and sin has thus been destroyed by the death and resurrection of Christ, participation in this victory can come only through dying to this world with Christ in the waters of baptism.[206] It is only by dying in baptism and then continuously dying to the rudiments and ways of the world that the members of   the body   of Christ   can become   perfect as God   is perfect.

The importance that St. Paul attributes to dying to the rudiments of this world in order to live according to the “spirit of life” cannot be exaggerated. To try to pass off his insistence on complete self-denial for salvation as a product of eschatological enthusiasts is to miss completely the very basis of the New Testament message. If the destruction of the devil, death and corruption is salvation and the only condition for life according to man’s original destiny, then the means of passing from the realm of death and its consequences to the realm of life, in the victory of Christ over death, must be taken very seriously. For Paul, the way from death to life is communion with the death and life of Christ in baptism and a continuous life of live within the body of Christ. This new life of love within the body of Christ, however, must be accompanied by a continuous death to the ways of this world, which is dominated by the law of death and corruption in the hands of the devil. Participation in the victory over death does not come simply by having a magical faith and a general sentiment of vague love for humanity (Luther). Full membership int he body of Christ can come only by dying in the waters of baptism with Christ, and living according to the law of the “spirit of life.” Catechumens and penitents certainly had faith, but they either had not yet passed through death, in baptism, to the new life, or else, once having died to the flesh in baptism, they failed to remain steadfast and allowed the power of death and corruption to regain its dominance over the “spirit of life.”

In regard to St. Paul’s teaching concerning baptismal death to the rudiments of this world, it is interesting to note his usage of the word, soma , to designate the communion of those in Christ who constitute the Church. The word, soma, in both the Old and New Testaments, apart from Paul, is used predominantly to designate a dead person, or corpse.[207] At the Last Supper, our Lord used the word, soma, most likely to designate the fact that He was to pass through death, while his use of the word, haima, was to show his returning to life–since, for the Old Testament, blood is the element of life.[208] Thus, at the Last Supper as at every Eucharist, there is a proclamation and confession of the death and resurrection of Christ. According to the presuppositions set forth by St. Paul concerning baptismal death, it is very possible to describe the Church as the soma of Christ no only because of the indwelling of Christ and the Holy Spirit in the bodies of Christian, but also because all the members of Christ have died to the body of sin in the waters of baptism. Before sharing in the life of Christ, on must first become an actual soma by being liberated from the devil in passing through a death to the ways of this world and living according to the “spirit.”[209]

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