The following are quotations form several sources which present how the Eastern Orthodox Church views the doctrine of justification. I post it here as a reference for all of those who ask. For more nitty gritty on how Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Protestants view the doctrine of justification differently click here and here.
Saint Nikolai of Zica wrote on the November 9th entry of the Prologue of Ochrid:
[W]e are saved by God’s grace, and not by our merits and work.
Father John Beck on the Orthodox Church of America’s website devoted a whole article to justification:
Medieval Catholic piety held that this occurs through infused grace, which confers upon us the power to perform righteous deeds and thereby actually to become or be made righteous. This enables us to build up a “treasury of merits,” the term “merit” being understood as a gift of divine grace rather than our own accomplishment (Council of Trent, 1547). The popular notion that we are saved only if our merits outweigh our sins on the scales of divine justice is usually attributed to Roman Catholics. It is shared, nevertheless, by many Orthodox, who have failed to appreciate the fullness of God’s grace, both in enabling us to perform good works and in forgiving us fully when we sincerely repent of our sins…
[T]hrough the action of the indwelling Spirit, enables us finally to share in Christ’s own resurrection and glorification, attaining what the Greek Fathers call theôsis or “deification” (which means existential participation in God’s life, and not ontological confusion between God and His human creatures). Good works should thus be understood to be a response rather than a means to salvation.
The following are excerpts from Bishop Jeremias II who wrote in response to Lutheran theologians from Tubingen:
…good works are not separate from, but necessary for, true faith. One should not trust in works nor be boastful in a Pharisaic manner.
One should not boast of them [works] nor depend on them, for that would be sinful; but as much as you are able, fulfill the works which are the result of faith and are necessary.
Therefore, wherever religious awe of divine things and obedience to the words of the Holy Fathers are abandoned, there no good works can be built up, nor the true faith which proves itself by good works.
[A]part from faith, hope, and love, it is impossible to be saved.
Lay Theologian Vladimir Lossky wrote: “The notion of merit is foreign to the Eastern tradition” (The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church, 1957, p. 197).
Bishop Kallistos Ware wrote, “Even though we affirm that, ‘Human free will is an essential condition,’ in no way does this signify that salvation can be ‘earned’ or ‘deserved.’ It remains always the free gift of God. … Any attempt to compare in this way the respective contributions of the divine and human partners, assigning percentages to each, is utterly misguided” (How are we Saved, p. 38).
The Orthodox Study Bible’s comments on Eph 2:8-10– “[G]ood works flow out of authentic faith. Works cannot earn us this great treasure–it is a pure gift–but those who receive the gift do good. We are not saved by good works, but for good works” (p.1600).
Comments on James 2:14-19, 20-24– “The faith that saves is a complete faith, not the mind and the tongue but the whole man trusting in the living God. This means our faith and our relationship with God–our justification–are dynamic and living. Our faith grows and affects our actions…It [justification] is dynamic, a growth process that finds its natural and normal realization in good works” (p. 1676).
Lastly, the following is a prayer that Orthodox ask God of every morning:
My Most Merciful and All-merciful God, O Lord Jesus Christ: in Thy great love, Thou didst come down and take flesh in order to save all. Again, O Savior, I pray Thee, save me by Thy grace. For if Thou shouldst save me for my deeds, it would not be a gift, but merely a duty. Truly, Thou aboundest in graciousness and art inexpressibly merciful. Thou hast said, O my Christ: “Whoever believeth in Me shall live and never see death.” If faith in Thee saves the desperate, behold: I believe! Save me, for Thou art my God and Creator. May my faith replace my deeds, O my God, for Thou wilt find no deeds to justify me. May my faith be sufficient for all things. May it answer for me; may it justify me; may it make me a partaker of Thine eternal glory. And may Satan not seize me, O Word, and boast that he has torn me from Thy hand and fold. O Christ my Savior, save me whether I want it or not. Come quickly, hurry, for I perish. Thou art my God from my mother’s womb. Vouchsafe, O Lord, that I may now love Thee as once I loved sin, and that I may labor for Thee without laziness as once I labored for Satan the deceiver. Even more, I will labor for Thee, my Lord and God Jesus Christ, all the days of my life, now and ever, and unto ages of ages. Amen (Arhipov, Sergei. Orthodox Daily Prayers, Kindle Locations 229-231).
Very interesting. I always thought Orthodox and Roman Catholics were on the same page on this issue.
The other interesting thing it seems that all Orthodox Catholics are not on the same page. Is there an official teaching on this or are they free to agree to disagree?
Good question. In my humble opinion, Orthodoxy has a lack of epistemological certainty on pretty much everything other than Christology. So, Orthodox will affirm the Catholic Canon or view of justification, let’s say, but merely as a condescension to western categories and modes of thought. So, they won’t say your view of justification is wrong–it is merely true within the constraints that your philosophical categories force it to fit into. Because Orthodoxy does not fit into those categories, they can say that the “true” doctrine of justification is not fully summed up by Rome.
Orthodox synods in the 1600-1700s were quite comfortable in employing Catholic language when speaking of justification. The most recent council of 2016 re-affirmed the value of those 17th-18th century synods. However, they believe the wording of the synods is condescension to the West. They deny Protestant soteriology because it denies sacraments and appears antinomian. Honestly, I find the classic Reformed doctrine of justification sans the forensic emphasis and anti-sacramental view is pretty much the majority Orthodox view. Much of what Roman Catholics view as justification, with merits, demerits, and treasuries of merit, is completely foreign to Orthodox thought in the present if we go by their publications.
However, Orthodoxy allows for much more diversity on this matter. Not on Christology.
“it is merely true within the constraints that your philosophical categories force it to fit into”
Is this the line of thought that they use to allow contraceptive sex, divorce and remarriage, etc? Because they don’t hold, like the Roman Church, that we can really know about an objectively true metaphysics? And so claims of intrinsic rightness/wrongness are not given as heavy a weight?
To a degree, yes. But the Roman Church has allowed for divorces and to this day allows for annulments for all the same reasons the Orthodox allow for divorce. So, it is really an argument over what word is being used, not the practice. For the record, I think they are both wrong. “Abandonment” and other loose criteria are not grounds for annulment/divorce.
Abandonment is not grounds for annulment and when has the Church taught that one is allowed to get a divorce?
This is news to me.
Can one get a divorce as an Orthodox because of infidelity? On what grounds can’t one get a divorce?
What is an annulment?
The formal term is “Decree of Nullity’ and ‘annulment’ has become the common phrase. It’s not to be confused with a civil annulment.
It doesn’t make your children illegitimate. It doesn’t deny the love, affection, family ties and other goods between you and your ex spouse. It doesn’t deny that you had a valid civil marriage.
According to the Catholic Church a valid, sacramental marriage can never be broken. If the marriage is authentic, it has been “caught up into” and become part of the unbreakable marriage bond between Christ with His Bride (all of us in His church). He never breaks His promise, He never leaves us. No divorce. Ever.
But some people just aren’t capable of entering into a sacramental union. Like some people can’t drive a car even though their feet reach the pedals and they really want to drive. And the church recognizes—with the same love of justice and desire for mercy as Jesus—that imperfect people enter into what are called “attempted marriages”. Despite good intent, something was seriously obstructive or missing that prevented the union from ever being able to rise to the level of a a true marriage. Or maybe the intent of one or both of them was defective, like one or both parties really believing that divorce could be an option.
Maybe one spouse was married before and not free to marry again. Or one was grossly immature, under age, under grave fear or pressure to marry (shotgun weddings), severely addicted, or refused to remain open to the gift of children. These are areas that do not reflect the free, total, faithful, fruitful love of the Bridegroom for His Bride and therefore are not “sacramental” (pointing to and becoming caught up into the Mystical Marriage).
Orthodox have the same nonsense criteria, so pretty much anyone Orthodox or Catholic can get a sham divorce/annulment. God knows better. The issue has never been settled dogmatically, so good Catholics and Orthodox can avoid impugning their whole epistemology over the issue.
I agree that anyone can get a sham annulment just like you can go to confession and a sham forgiveness but God knows better. I don’t understand why you think what you posted is nonsense. It’s a sacrament and one can’t be tricked into it or lie their way into it.
By the way indissolubility of marriage is dogma.
No disrespect CK, but “lack of maturity” is not valid grounds for annulment under any circumstances unless we applied the very loosest meaning of the term “pornea” and applied it to child brides or something—but I am sure annulments are not being given in situations such as these.
So, the point is the RCC criticizes the EO for divorce, but the EO only allow for divorce for the same reasons the RCC allows for annulments. So, if there is a problem with EO the same exact problem exists with the RCC, THey are merely calling divorce by two different words.
I don’t consider disagreement to be disrespectful so we are good there I wasn’t trying to criticize EO on divorce because frankly I don’t know what their teaching is on the matter.
The Sacrament of Marriage is not like the baptism of a baby. Just because you go through the motions does not make it valid in of itself. Someone who is so enamored with a person’s looks to the point where they could care less whether they married in a Christian church or a Satanic temple and really doesn’t believe in marriage until death etc… is not in a Sacramental marriage. These are matters of the heart, faith and mind. You are trying to impose a secular view on who is mature or not.
As an example there are plenty of adults who are less mature than a 12 year old. To assume that all 12 year olds lack maturity and all adults are mature when it comes to marriage is not necessarily a good assumption. Like you said before, God knows the truth, but the Church doesn’t have God’s knowledge and has to work with the tools she’s been given.
More to the point jemsande was making above. If we take your view, that this is not such a big deal and lack of maturity is not grounds for an annulment and also assuming your right that Roman Catholic and EO’s teaching are the same (I have my doubts), then we have a situation where if we follow the Church’s official teaching as intended by the Church people are being led to a situation where they would be adulterers. As Paul tells us adulterers will not inherit the Kingdom of God. The logical conclusion is that you are about to become a member of a church that can lead you away from Christ and thus can’t be the church Christ founded.
I get the impression you still have the essential and not essential attitude Protestants use to deal with their divisions. Hopefully you can see how something that seems so trivial can have a huge impact on our salvation.
Sorry for the name-change. Same guy as before, but made some changes to this very old account that I forgot I had.
“But the Roman Church has allowed for divorces”
Interesting– I’ve not heard this. Although I’m not sure it is a relevant consideration. Truth can come to be understood over time.
“and to this day allows for annulments for all the same reasons the Orthodox allow for divorce. So, it is really an argument over what word is being used, not the practice.”
I don’t follow. It is my understanding that the core issue is strictly metaphysical. One Church claims that authentic marriages can indeed be severed by man in certain circumstances (it’s just that when you have at it again you have to express penitential prayers/not celebrate), while another Church claims that authentic marriages cannot in any circumstance be severed by man (they can merely be determined after-the-fact to actually not have been authentic). Correct me if I’m wrong; is this not a proper framing of the issue?
“For the record, I think they are both wrong. “Abandonment” and other loose criteria are not grounds for annulment/divorce.”
I wasn’t getting at the Roman Church’s prudence in investigating or granting annulments, eg whether the conclusions to their marital investigations in annulment applications tend to be accurate. I honestly wouldn’t know, but those line graphs of increasing annulment permissions post-V2 bother me, sure. I was only getting at the objective essence of marriage, and which Church appears to have the more correct understanding.
This response should address both yours and CK’s concerns. In short, I am not too concerned about the supposed metaphysical differences in the positions between Orthodox and Catholics when in fact their positions are practically the same. Arguing over semantics I do not think is very productive, as we must all admit that neither side is knowingly disobeying God, and obviously the Orthodox do not think they are tearing apart what God has made one in marriage.
But, to argue that because of differences in terminology that Orthodoxy has lost the moral high ground, seems to me, a little bit of an exaggeration. A better case can be made with family planning.
I’m not sure why the differences would be merely “supposed”. One definition demanding that it is impossible for man to tear asunder, while another demanding that it is in fact in some situations possible for man to tear asunder, is a significant difference. It is not difficult to imagine how folks approaching the two different definitions might have different levels of commitment going in. Again, that’s not to say anything about the prudential handling of the former, more demanding, definition by the Roman Church; it’s obviously pretty doubtful that most Western Catholics have any idea what the magisterium actually teaches about what they’re getting into, or even if they do, the gravity of the situation should they divorce.
But I don’t think much of our faith and faith-life operates on the ‘it’s practically the same’ motto. A devout, wonderful, kind Hindu family who have considered and actively deny the existence of Christ and so are unwilling to convert to Christianity are deficient in something quite serious. You didn’t say that seeming like a pretty good person is the same thing as being a candidate for eternal salvation, but I think that is sort of the natural conclusion of your line of reasoning here. But there must be spiritually meaningful differences of philosophy and theology; first, it seems like things you might be inclined to personally dismiss as ‘semantics’ (from what you say here) were taken quite seriously by leaders in the early Church. Second, if ‘knowingly disobeying’ is the only criteria for meaningful wrongness, then does schism even actually exist? What could it possibly mean for someone to be in schism? What would heresy be? Would ordained teachers of the faith (that is, priests and bishops and popes) have no authority to identify or condemn heresy?
Got this from an EO apologetic site.
Orthodox canon law (and therefore Orthodox Churches) do not allow or recognize divorce as such.
What actually happens is that in some cases of divorce that has taken place (in spite of every effort by the Church to prevent it), a party may after some time approach the bishop and seek permission to obtain a penitential second marriage under specific circumstances: (1) the innocent party who is the victim of adultery, according to Matthew 19:9 in plain translation (2) the innocent party who is the victim of another absolute end of the marriage for other extraordinary reasons (3) a party who has tried to save the marriage but at the end of the process is able to convince the hierarch (bishop) that a second marriage would be a safeguard toward salvation.
Remarriage is permitted up to three times in Orthodoxy.
Orthodox Christianity recognized that the unthinkable may sometimes happen, and that the best approach is not to deny that there was a marriage in the first place, but rather in some cases to recognize that a second penitential marriage with reconciliation to the Church is better than the alternative.
Craig how is anything like RCC view? What I gather from reading this explanation is that the person is allowed to be married to up to 3 persons at the same time because being an active adulterer who is reconciled with Church (how is this even possible?) is better than trying to live a celibate life in union with the Church. How is this even close to being biblical? This sounds a lot like birth control and Protestantism. The masses complained and the law of men prevailed.
You can try to wave it away, but something is horribly wrong with this.
“Craig how is anything like RCC view? ” I have to say I am flabbergasted, as if I were a Catholic, I can have my marriage annulled over much less an infinite number of times. So, I honestly do not understand the warring over this topic, as if God is impressed that one side calls a divorce a divorce, and another calls a divorce an annulment in order to justify oneself. The Western Church in early times actually had divorce (https://shamelessorthodoxy.wordpress.com/2016/09/17/divorce-remarriage-in-the-latin-west-a-forgotten-history/) so I find this who line of argumentation that is being pursued here as either misguided or disingenuous. But hey, I have been wrong before, I can be wrong again. I will give you the last word.
I’ll read the link and see what’s it’s all about. Something tells me it’s going to be a list of Church fathers That support EO and no mention of the ones that don’t.
What is disingenuous is to force your definition on someone else. Annulment is not divorce per RCC. It’s the same bull Protestants pull all the time. Pray means worship therefore you worship saints its irrelevant how the RCC defines the word. You are doing the same thing you used to do when you argued from the Protestant side.
Rome defined annulment and divorce. Jesus says you can’t divorce and re-marry. We could discuss the possible exception.
You can only marry if you have not been married or if married your spouse dies…full stop.. show me in the Bible where it says otherwise. Funny you haven’t mentioned the Bible to support divorce and re-marriage. And yes if you force 1000 women to marry you you can get 1000 annulments.
If the Church is right about annulments then a marriage did not occur and one is free to marry. Very biblical though we could argue annulments. What EO says you can divorce for other reasons than adultery (assuming their interpretation is correct)and remarry up to three times. The NT specifically forbids remarriage.
Why do I make a big deal about this ? What you consider as a non-essential. Very Protestant by the way.
I want people not to be misled (unintentionally) by you. I also find it interesting that you are willing to join a church that you know allows and encourages to do something that will keep one from entering the kingdom of God (I know in your view this includes RCC). It just blows my mind.
Btw nothing personal. I do care about your wellbeing which is another reason I’m here.
For the record, I personally oppose divorce and liberal annulments. neither would fly in the first few centuries of the Church. By God’s grace, the Church will correct these errors.
CK, as I fully disclose in that article that Craig has kindly linked, my purpose was to show that there was a diversity of thought within the Latin West regarding divorce and remarriage. I linked to other blogs that have long lists against divorce and remarriage. All I did was provide a list for the other side of the debate. As to which one is correct, well I leave that to the reader. As I have said in the blog post:
“Now, without further ado, let us look at the list! The purpose of this list is not necessarily to prove anything against the present Latin position, most notably held by the Catholic Church (although held by some Protestants as well), about the indissolubility of marriage. Rather my purpose here to highlight a tradition of councils, two Latin Church Fathers, and early medieval penitentials used by priests that clearly allow divorce and remarriage in a variety of circumstances. This tradition in the Latin West goes back to at least the beginning of the fourth century.”
I mean, to avoid engaging the philosophical question and just instead link to a blog post with a guy offering his own personal anachronistic translations AND interpretations of very old councils and writings that the Church has already thoroughly digested for us (and passed on her conclusions to the matter as Tradition) is maybe a little silly and probably at least mildly question begging in this case, right? Why does it matter that the early Roman Church debated or didn’t largely/with vigor/officially condemn non-death remarriage (assuming any of those were the conclusions of the post, and assuming those conclusions are actually correct– glancing at the entry, it seems like there is a LOT there to debate)? The question is just what is marriage, and if it’s not what the EOC endorses, the follow up would be to what extent it matters (especially in terms of its claims to authority) that the EOC officially and actively teaches a matter of morality of presumably grave seriousness incorrectly.
I am not sure where the accusation of being disingenuous comes from. I’m merely pursuing discussion I thought was relevant, especially since you are so seriously considering conversion. But I will stop now. God bless.
If I might ask, what specifically is wrong with my translations? If I am in error, then please point out exactly where in the Latin I am wrong.
Alura, how would you personally address the metaphysical difference or do you think it is unimportant?
In terms of general overview of theology as a whole, I can only say it depends on a case by case basis.
As for the issue of marriage, I don’t think it matters except for satisfying a sort of tautology. Marriage, at least in my view, ought to have a component that is active and realized in the world. Simply saying that it presently exists because it has existed in the past seems like an alien idea to me which has led me to question the historical basis for the Catholic Church’s understanding. In the end, it really comes down to how one understands Matthew which is understood of course in many different ways. Do I think annulments exist as distinct from divorce? Yes, but I also think that many of the annulments given these days are in fact divorces, which are called annulments because it is convenient.
It was a cool, thought-provoking post. And I am absolutely unqualified to tackle the particulars of the Latin. Even assuming that you did not merely achieve spot-on grammatical translations, but that you absolutely nailed the intended meaning of the documents (which would require pristine historical linguistic insight and absolute fluency in ancient and regional uses of the language in question), it is not clear to me why the selections you chose are relevant with respect to the questions I raise above. Unless they are reflective an infallible piece of Tradition, the article reveals nothing more than just a) scandal or b) regional and perhaps faulty administrative results of early misunderstandings/debates/discussion. I mean not to say that it is uninteresting, but only that it is not a ‘gotcha’ point of the Roman Church being incorrect on the matter then in the same way the Greek church is incorrect on the matter now, or of the Roman Church ‘actually changing its mind after all!’ in the way people would want it to mean. Those points would take much more to positively establish.
Again, all of that is not to say that it’s something to ignore, but that I don’t think it proves what Craig wants it to in this context. That’s all. The questions from my posts above dealing with the metaphysical issues of marriage and schism still stand.
Alura did his own translations…He reads the Latin.
hospitalists, I understand what you are saying. By no means do I consider my blog post to be a “gotcha” moment. I know its limitations and implicitly acknowledged them in it. My only purpose was to show the broader range of historical evidence. In terms of what the “Roman Church” decided and the “Greek Church” decided in the past, I consider that question tricky. Those terms have a wide variety of metaphysical assumptions in terms as to what exactly qualifies as a unified institution. So for me, determining what the Latin Church decided as a whole before 1000 AD is difficult, mostly because I don’t see the Latin West as being under any one single institutional church. I consider the Latin West composed of many churches – Visigothic, Frankish, Anglo-Saxon, Celtic, Roman, etc. Agreements in dogma, yes. But one governing apparatus for all of the Latin West, no. That’s my position at least. So I would never make the argument that any of these canons signify the Latin Church flipping its position.
The stated goal from the get-go was that it shows that there was no consensus on the issue.
The following are not exactly related, but for the sake of my “records” I will leave them here as a comment:
St. John of Kronstadt: “What shall I give You, Lord, for all Your mercies, which You continually bestow so bountifully on me? Only my faith, for I have no works that shall justify me. I have done no good thing before Thee. But even my faith is Your gift.” – My Life in Christ, pg. 138
[O]ne sees a controversy over the frequent reception of Holy Communion, which unites us with the Lord. Some people think its not that important, that one can somehow ‘earn’ one’s salvation. However, they do not realize this is the heresy of Pelagius–that one can earn one’s salvation by one’s own efforts. (New Martyr Daniel Sysoev, The Orthodox Word, Vol. 45, No. 5, p. 214)
All the people bear witness that salvation, honor, glory and power belong to God, and thereby millions of the saved emphasize that none of them was saved by his own efforts, and that salvation is a gift from God. And glory belongs inherently to God; all men are merely sharers in His glory. (New Martyr Daniel Sysoev, Explanation of the Apocalypse, p. 254)