Synergy in Christ According to Saint Maximus the Confessor
by Daniel Jones(Photios)
What are the implications of viewing free-choice and predestination in a Christological context? I will conclude this essay with investigating one further implication of the Confessor’s doctrine: the apokatastasis. The Patriarch of Constantinople rooting the will in the hypostasis not only was a reductio ad absurdum to two different Triadological heresies,73 but it also
implied an apokatastasis reminiscent of Origenism with respect to one’s hypostatic state. A denial of a natural will in Christ was a denial of His full humanity, and Christ’s humanity being consubstantial with all men was moved fully by the divine will:
Pyrrhus: Was not the flesh moved by the decision of the Word Who is united with it?
But doesn’t Maximus’s view of the logoi being naturally in all men at creation74 and being recapitulated in the One divine Logos also imply a determinism75 that is every bit as strong as Origen? Indeed it does. The difference between Origen and Maximus goes back to the robust distinction of nature and person/logos and tropos that the Confessor holds in his doctrine of free-choice. The apokatastasis for Maximus—which is what his doctrine of predestination is—is to all created nature and man having “ever-being.” This is God’s purpose or predestination for his creation to have eternal existence.76 The Incarnation, Life, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord are a process that reversed the effects of Adam’s sin that would’ve introduced corruption or a tendency to go back into non-being in God’s creation. It is a life of our Lord “that healed and restored with a certain compulsion, by the mighty power of God’s omnipotence and invincible grace” in the word of Fr. Georges Florovsky.77 However, one’s hypostatic state, either to “ever-ill being” or “ever-well being,” is up to the personal use of that natural faculty and is not determined by God, but is utterly free:
The Church knoweth three apokatastases. One is the [apokatastasis] of everything according to the principle (logos) of virtue; in this apokatastasis one is restored who fulfills the principle of virtue in himself. The second is that of the whole [human nature] in the Resurrection. This is the apokatastasis to incorruption and immortality. The third, in the oft-cited words of Gregory of Nyssa, is the apokatastasis of the powers of the soul which, having lapsed into sin, are again restored to that condition in which they were created. For it is necessary that just as the entire nature of the flesh hopeth in time to be taken up again into incorruption in the apokatastasis, so
also the powers of the soul, having become distorted during the course of the ages had instilled in it a memory of evil, so that at the end of ages, not finding any rest, will come unto God Who hath no limit. And thus the distorted powers of the soul will be taken up into the primeval apokatastasis, into a merely discursive knowledge of, but not into the participation in, the good things [of God], where the Creator is known yet without being the cause of [their] sin.78
God’s glory is for all and will be communicated to all in “ever-being.” Those that have their hypostasis united with the logoi by constantly recapitulating these virtues in this life (by prayer, asceticism, and sacramentally in the Church), God’s glories are “ever-well being.” Likewise, those that choose not to practice these virtues, God’s glories are “ever-ill being.” Because the damned have not integrated or brought back into harmony their hypostasis with their natural virtue, it is God’s presence [as opposed to his absence] that is their misery.
I conclude this paper by noting that in all the debates that have plagued the West in the confrontations between predestination and free-will, the great gem of Saint Maximus the Confessor who wrote the most definitive explications on the will has been absent amongst all the great contenders. One must wonder with Jaroslav Pelikan if Western theologians have been able to successfully implement the results of this Eastern Christian controversy.79
73 Disputation 15, pp. 5-6: “For if one suggests that a “willer” is implied in the notion of the will, then by the exact inversion of this principle of reasoning, a will is implied in the notion of a “willer.” Thus, wilt thou say that because of the one will of the superessential Godhead there is only one hypostasis, as did Sabellius, or that because there are three hypostases there are three hypostases there are also three wills, and because of this, three natures as well, since the canons and definitions of the Fathers say that the distinction of wills implieth a distinction of natures? So said Arius!”
74 Maximus is not a semi-Pelagian, for the uncreated logoi being uncreated have no similarity whatsoever with created essences. This is a strong metaphysical distinction between nature and grace from this perspective. In regards to man’s abilities after the Fall, man’s ignorance of whether or not acts end in good or an evil act becomes much worse, and his ability to actualize the divine energy is only under girded by the Incarnation itself. Maximus calls the logoi and virtues natural only insofar as the type of participation that man has in them, and not the notion of grace AS nature as the Pelagians held.
75 I make this statement when we take the Resurrection of Christ as a reference point.
76 Thunberg, Micrcosm, p. 430
77 Florovsky, Creation and Redemption, p. 147
78 Ad Thalassium, PG 90:796BC. Cited in the Disputations with Pyrrhus trans. by Farrell, Introduction, p. xxxii
79 Jaroslav Pelikan, The Growth of Medieval Theology, p. 116. Pelikan quotes St. Anselm in Cur Deus Homo I:9: “Christ came to do not his own will but that of the Father, because the righteous will that he had did not come from [his] humanity but from [his] divinity.”
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