...are the ones that make the biggest difference

1.05.2005

Could He have...

I'm going to work through Luke with my kids this semester and since we covered most of the birth narratives during Advent, we're starting in chapter 3. I'm looking at the temptations Jesus endured in chapter 4, and am wondering - could He have actually sinned? Could He have succumbed to the temptation?

Thoughts and on-line resources are greatly appreciated.

3 comments:

basil said...

I'm not sure there is an entirely united patristic consensus on this question. But here are some points to consider.

First, if you're going to talk about this question, it is essential that you familiarize yourself and your students with Chalcedon and St. Maximus the Confessor. Period. You can't avoid heresy without a foundation in the theandric union and the two wills in Christ.

Second, I tend to side with those who say that Christ adopted a fallen human nature, which means his temptations were as thorough as ours. To be more blunt, I think that "of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin" means that, according to his human nature, he could have sinned. Our belief commits us to the hypothetical possibility of it while also commiting us to the historical non-actuality of it. Of course, according to his divine nature, he could not have sinned; this goes without saying.

This is deep stuff, and I do not recommend handing a copy of St Maximus or even a commentary on him to your youth. Rather, you need to work through him yourself, digest his work, and provide them with a summary of the summary, as it were. I'm sure you knew that already, I just wanted to make sure I wasn't misunderstood.

Nathan said...

Kevin -

"First, if you're going to talk about this question, it is essential that you familiarize yourself and your students with Chalcedon and St. Maximus the Confessor. Period. You can't avoid heresy without a foundation in the theandric union and the two wills in Christ."

Thanks for the reference - I'll see if I can't locate his writings in my Church Father's volume. But this made me laugh - not at your suggestion, just the idea of trying to familiarize them with St Maximos and Chalcedon. I'm still struggling for them to get a grip on the definition of of the word "Trinity" much less a grasp on its reality! :)

Doug said...

I’ve been listening to a CD recording of a series of lectures given a couple years ago by Bishop Kallistos Ware. This question comes up in one of his talks. Essentially, Bishop Kallistos sides with Kevin here. To paraphrase, Bishop Kallistos says that while we cannot pretend to understand the inner psychology of Christ, and the Scriptures give us little information on this arena, we can affirm that as God it was impossible for Him to sin, and yet as Man it was in fact a real possibility. We don’t understand how this is so, but we believe that both of these are true in Christ. One of Bishop Kallistos’s favorite sayings is that “There is no play acting in Christ.” He did not just seem to be Man, but was truly Man, and was “not untouched by our infirmities” (para. Hebrews). If, in His manhood, Christ truly took on our nature, then it was possible for Him to sin. And really, in my opinion, it doesn’t matter whether or not He took on our fallen or prefallen nature. After all, Adam and Eve themselves were “pre-fallen” when they sinned and fell, not after.