Did Christ Have a Fallen Human Nature? – Part 3 of 8

by Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis | July 7, 2013

In this series of blog posts we are addressing the subject of the human nature of Christ from the perspective of the Orthodox Church. In this, Part 3 of 8, we will address the following question:

Did Christ assume voluntarily the blameless passions?

The following quotations from Church councils, Church fathers, services and contemporary authors bring the Church's answer to this question into focus.

I must have left you quite confused and puzzled with our previous post. In our very first post we proposed that there is an alternative to fallen or un-fallen. But then we brought evidence that Christ had a nature like Adam before the fall. We will clarify that in becoming human the Son of God voluntarily accepts only certain consequences of the fall, called the blameless or innocent passions, while rejecting the sinful passions.

1) Official pronouncements of the Church

St. Sophronios of Jerusalem, Synodical Epistle

"God the Logos operates through humanity. However, Christ experiences everything human ‘naturally’ and ‘in a human way’ although not by necessity or involuntarily."

Second Confession of Orthodox Bishops at their Consecration

"The Word of God…took our whole fallen human nature from the pure and virginal blood of the only immaculate and pure Virgin…Furthermore I confess that He assumed all our human blameless passions that constitute our nature, excepting sin, i.e. hunger, thirst, weariness, tears, and such like: He underwent them not of necessity as in our case, but by His human will following His divine will; for willingly He hungered, willingly He thirsted, willingly He wearied, willingly He died."

Note: It does not say that His human nature is fallen, but that He assumed our fallen nature (what happened when He did that will be addressed in a future post). Later on it explicates that by this expression it means that He assumed only the blameless passions of our human nature (and it lists them, excluding any sinful consequences). It also makes clear that He assumed the blameless passions “not of necessity as in our case.” These are the two points postlapsarianists need to understand and accept. Otherwise they are outside the pale of Orthodoxy.

2) The witness of the Holy Scripture

John 19:30

"He bowed His head and gave up His spirit."

John 10:18

"No one takes [My life] from Me, but I lay it down on My own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again."

3) The witness of the Fathers of the Church

St. Gregory the Theologian

"Are you then to be allowed to dwell upon all that humiliates Him, while passing over all that exalts Him, and to count on your side the fact that He suffered, but to leave out of the account the fact that it was of His own will?"

St. John Damascene

"Of a truth our natural passions were in harmony with nature and above nature in Christ. For they were stirred in Him after a natural manner when He permitted the flesh [by an act of His human will] to suffer what was proper to it: but they were above nature because that which was natural did not in the Lord assume command over the will. For no compulsion is contemplated in Him but all is voluntary. For willingly He hungered, willingly He thirsted, willingly He feared and willingly He died."

4)The witness of the hymnology of the Church

Vesperal hymn

"Let us sing hymns of praise to Him who of His own free will was crucified in the flesh, suffered, was buried and rose from the dead for us."

Holy Saturday Matins

"Rise up of Your own will, You who willingly gave Yourself up for us."

5) The confirmation by Orthodox Theologians

Fr. Georges Florovsky

"Like the First Adam before the fall, He is able not to die at all (potens non mori), though obviously He can still die (potens autem mori). He was exempt from the necessity of death, because His humanity was pure and innocent. Therefore Christ’s death was and could not but be voluntary, not by the necessity of fallen nature, but by free choice and acceptance."

Some of this material was drawn from my book, Jesus: Fallen? The Human Nature of Christ Examined from an Eastern Orthodox Perspective (Orthodox Witness: Clearwater, FL, 2013).