Arminian Today

A Jesus-Centered Arminian Blog

Athanasius on the Fall of Mankind

I have been reading a bit from the early Church Fathers.  What is interesting to read is, apart from Augustine, the early Church Fathers were not Calvinists.  I knew this previously having heard a Calvinist theologian state once that Augustine was the first Calvinist and Calvin merely borrowed from Augustine.  Reading the Church Fathers helps one to see their theology and I find it fascinating that they nearly all held to libertarian free will, conditional salvation, and required disciples of Christ to be obedient to Christ until the end (necessary perseverance).

However, this morning I was reading from Athanasius on the fall of mankind.  There is no doubt that Athanasius would not agree with Pelagius and say that man is born innocent and perfect.  Athanasius taught that mankind is wretched because of the direct link to Adam and Eve’s lapse into sin.  While he taught that man fell in Adam and Eve, he did not hold to the Calvinist view of total depravity but instead taught that while man has lost immortality of his body, he retains that of the soul, and his will remains free.  He taught that man inherits a sinful nature from Adam but he never hints that we participate in Adam’s actual guilt.

Ironically, Athanasius even hints at the possibility of being sinless.  He even claims that Jeremiah and John the Baptist actually did this and were sinless.  This is not to say that they were born sinless as Jesus was and remained His entire life but rather they overcame sin by the act of their own free will.

All this comes from Early Christian Doctrines by J.N.D. Kelly (pages 346-348).

Advertisements

Written by The Seeking Disciple

05/03/2013 at 7:00 AM

4 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Noticed a typo: “man has lost immorality” Should be “immortality” 🙂

    kangaroodort

    05/03/2013 at 9:19 AM

  2. “There is no doubt that Athanasius would not agree with Pelagius and say that man is born innocent and perfect.”

    True, but this point is somewhat pointless for those who want to establish an original sin that damns to hell, since Athanasius did not believe in hell. Athanasius’ position was that mankind is tending towards non-existence, and without Jesus’ intervention each and every one of us would cease to exist upon death. This is what is meant by “dying you shall die” in the story of Eden, to Athanasius. Hence, for him, the unsaved cease to exist and the saved are resurrected to live forever. There is no eternal torment in hell in his system; as such, even a Pelagian would not really object to Athanasius’ views. After all, the same view is found in the Pauline epistles, if you isolate them from the Synoptics and Acts: 1 Cor 15, Rom 5, First Christ is raised as the firstfruits and then those that belong to him are raised at his coming — where is the resurrection of the damned in the Paulina? It is missing. Where is hell in the Paulina? Missing. Athanasius is more explicit, but Paul also seems to be setting forth a scheme in which original sin simply means we are all damned to die and cease to exist. Salvation then is the resurrection itself; being raised = being saved, for both Paul and Athanasius. Would a Pelagian object to this? I think not. Its the notion that we are damned to eternal torment for another man’s sin that is what the Pelagians object to, not that we are damned to die and cease to exist for another man’s sin which is pretty tame in comparison.

    descriptivegrace

    05/04/2013 at 6:45 PM

  3. “instead taught that while man has lost immortality of his body, he retains that of the soul, and his will remains free.”

    Part of this statement is false: for Athanasius there is only one type of immortality, it is not segregated into immorality of body and immortality of soul. All immortality is the result of a “super-added grace” which was lost in the fall. Consequently, no man posseses any immortality since the fall, neither in body or soul, until he gets saved in Athanasius’ system.

    descriptivegrace

    05/04/2013 at 6:49 PM


Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: