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Annihilationism

Alveus Lacuna

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Isn't Annihilationism a theologically unacceptable position for Orthodox Christians to hold?  Wasn't it condemned at an Orthodox council at some point?  If so, could someone please provide me with pertinent quotes from the council with citations?
 

Asteriktos

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Some of the beliefs attributed to Origen (e.g. universalism, etc.) were condemned by the 5th Ecumenical Council, but I'm afraid that I'm not aware of a specific Council which condemned Annihiliationism.
 

Alveus Lacuna

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I thought the idea that the punishment of Hell not being eternal was condemned at some point.
 

PeterTheAleut

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For those of us who aren't so savvy with theological terms, could you please define annihilationism?
 

Asteriktos

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Universalism was indeed condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Council. The idea that the wicked will be annihilated, though, I don't know about.  

Regarding universalism, from the anathemas of Justinian against Origen:

"If anyone says or thinks that the punishment of demons and of impious men is only temporary, and will one day have an end, and that a restoration will take place of demons and of impious men, let him be anathema."

And in the anathemas of the Fifth Ecumenical Council there is this:

"If anyone shall say that all reasonable beings will one day be united in one, when the hypostases as well as the numbers and the bodies shall have disappeared, and that the knowledge of the world to come will carry with it the ruin of the worlds, and the rejection of bodies as also the abolition of [all] names, and that there shall be finally an identity of the γνῶσις and of the hypostasis; moreover, that in this pretended apocatastasis, spirits only will continue to exist, as it was in the feigned pre-existence: let him be anathema."
 

Asteriktos

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PtA,

The wiki article on this is correct, I think:

"Annihilationism is the minority Christian doctrine that sinners are destroyed rather than tormented forever in 'hell' or the lake of fire. It is directly related to the doctrine of conditional immortality, the idea that a human soul is not immortal unless it is given eternal life. Annihilationism asserts that God will eventually destroy or annihilate the wicked, leaving only the righteous to live on in immortality. Some annihilationists believe the wicked will be punished for their sins in the lake of fire before being annihilated, others that hell is a false doctrine of pagan origin."
 

PeterTheAleut

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Asteriktos said:
PtA,

The wiki article on this is correct, I think:

"Annihilationism is the minority Christian doctrine that sinners are destroyed rather than tormented forever in 'hell' or the lake of fire. It is directly related to the doctrine of conditional immortality, the idea that a human soul is not immortal unless it is given eternal life. Annihilationism asserts that God will eventually destroy or annihilate the wicked, leaving only the righteous to live on in immortality. Some annihilationists believe the wicked will be punished for their sins in the lake of fire before being annihilated, others that hell is a false doctrine of pagan origin."
That's what I thought annihilation was.  I'm just aware that not everyone has as big a theological vocabulary as Alveus. ;)
 

Alveus Lacuna

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Asteriktos said:
"If anyone says or thinks that the punishment of demons and of impious men is only temporary, and will one day have an end, and that a restoration will take place of demons and of impious men, let him be anathema."
This was what I was thinking of.  Based on this translation, there doesn't seem to be an outright condemnation of Annihilationism.  It seems to me that being absolutely annihilated is not a 'temporary' punishment, but instead a rather permanent one. 

But another angle to this would be to ask if the Orthodox church requires us to believe in humans having an immortal soul, and what such 'immortality' actually means.  If the human soul is immortal, is it eternally 'preexistent'?  Would such immortality somehow prevent the soul from being destroyed?  Or is immortality really only something awarded to those who receive eternal life?
 

GammaRay

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An mmortal soul by Grace, not by nature.

(Jehovah Witnesses are annihilationists.)
 

Asteriktos

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But another angle to this would be to ask if the Orthodox church requires us to believe in humans having an immortal soul, and what such 'immortality' actually means.  If the human soul is immortal, is it eternally 'preexistent'?  Would such immortality somehow prevent the soul from being destroyed?  Or is immortality really only something awarded to those who receive eternal life?
I'd echo what GammaRay said, I've always been told that our souls were immortal, but only through grace and not as a natural attribute. It is my understanding that, according to both the Christian scripture and Orthodox tradition, everyone is granted eternal life, though obviously some spend it in heaven while others spend it in hell. I also believe that the concept of the pre-existence of souls is considered heretical by the Church, though the doctrine seems to be entangled with other beliefs in the actual condemnations. For example, from the Fifth Ecumenical Council:

"If anyone asserts the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema."

And from the anathemas of Justinian against Origen:

"Whoever says or thinks that human souls pre-existed, i.e., that they had previously been spirits and holy powers, but that, satiated with the vision of God, they had turned to evil, and in this way the divine love in them had died out and they had therefore become souls and had been condemned to punishment in bodies, shall be anathema."
 

Alveus Lacuna

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GammaRay said:
An immortal soul by Grace, not by nature.
Thank you for explaining this important distinction.  Can one of you point me to some places where this teaching comes from, such as Holy Scripture, patristic writings or from the canons of an ecumenical council?
 

Asteriktos

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Fwiw, this article might be of some interest to you, and it has some patristic references to the soul being immortal by grace rather than by nature: The Immortality of the Soul. It was written by Fr. Georges Florovsky.
 

Jetavan

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Asteriktos said:
Universalism was indeed condemned by the Fifth Ecumenical Council. The idea that the wicked will be annihilated, though, I don't know about.  

Regarding universalism, from the anathemas of Justinian against Origen:

"If anyone says or thinks that the punishment of demons and of impious men is only temporary, and will one day have an end, and that a restoration will take place of demons and of impious men, let him be anathema."
This statement doesn't condemn universalism. Universalism is simply the belief that all beings will be saved. This statement condemns restorationism, which says that beings will be re-stored to their original condition (which was the state of living as spirits in God's presence, according to Origen). Universalism can be true, without restorationism being true, for instance, in an case where the humanity's original condition was x, and salvation is x+y, salvation not being a "re-storing" to the original condition, but something in addition.

 

Asteriktos

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This statement doesn't condemn universalism. Universalism is simply the belief that all beings will be saved. This statement condemns restorationism, which says that beings will be re-stored to their original condition (which was the state of living as spirits in God's presence, according to Origen). Universalism can be true, without restorationism being true, for instance, in an case where the humanity's original condition was x, and salvation is x+y, salvation not being a "re-storing" to the original condition, but something in addition.
I must admit, you have me at a disadvantage... I haven't heard this before, and don't know how to respond to it.
 

Alveus Lacuna

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Jetavan said:
This statement doesn't condemn universalism. Universalism is simply the belief that all beings will be saved. This statement condemns restorationism, which says that beings will be re-stored to their original condition (which was the state of living as spirits in God's presence, according to Origen). Universalism can be true, without restorationism being true, for instance, in an case where the humanity's original condition was x, and salvation is x+y, salvation not being a "re-storing" to the original condition, but something in addition.
Well, I'm going to disagree.  Salvation is the restoring to the fullness of the divine image.  This canon clearly states that punishment is everlasting for the impious.  How someone can be simultaneously 'punished' and 'saved' is beyond me, and it goes against Orthodox notions of what salvation is and what Hell is.  The two states of being are juxtaposed.  To move toward one is to move away from the other, because both are experiences related to the receptivity of the person to being unified with God.  For the perpetually obstinate, to be pulled into God is torture.  For the one who is perpetually cooperative, it is bliss.
 

Jetavan

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Alveus Lacuna said:
Jetavan said:
This statement doesn't condemn universalism. Universalism is simply the belief that all beings will be saved. This statement condemns restorationism, which says that beings will be re-stored to their original condition (which was the state of living as spirits in God's presence, according to Origen). Universalism can be true, without restorationism being true, for instance, in an case where the humanity's original condition was x, and salvation is x+y, salvation not being a "re-storing" to the original condition, but something in addition.
Well, I'm going to disagree.  Salvation is the restoring to the fullness of the divine image.
If by salvation you mean theosis, then how can theosis be the "restoration" of something we had before, but lost?
 

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Jetavan said:
If by salvation you mean theosis, then how can theosis be the "restoration" of something we had before, but lost?
Because the process of restoration that occurs through theosis is salvation.  It is "being saved", not "I am completely saved."  The way that I am seeing it, the restoration process actually is never ending, because the depths of God are infinite.  So it's not completely logical.  We are being restored to a previous state of union with God, but that union is eternal.

Theosis occurs in this life, but it continues in the next life in a closer proximity to God.  That closer proximity is without sin and death, but it is still not even the fullness of God.  So I suppose I am saying that whatever state man existed in prior to the Fall was still not his full potential.  Of course then that's probably some heresy, so what can you do?
 

Asteriktos

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If by salvation you mean theosis, then how can theosis be the "restoration" of something we had before, but lost?
But isn't that what many Fathers considered to be salvation: the restoration of the "likeness" to God, which we had before the fall but lost?
 

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Asteriktos said:
If by salvation you mean theosis, then how can theosis be the "restoration" of something we had before, but lost?
But isn't that what many Fathers considered to be salvation: the restoration of the "likeness" to God, which we had before the fall but lost?
I don't think so. I think, and have always been told through priests, and read in a number of books, that the Orthodox understanding is that "salvation" and even the restoration of all things, is not just restoring what was lost, but salvation is BETTER than what was lost. It's not merely a "return to Eden" but something far better. I do think many fathers saw it as merely a returning to what was lost, but I also think many fathers explained it as something better than before, particularly at Christ's Second Coming when the cosmos will be filled with God's glory. I suppose it depends on if one is coming from a Western or Eastern POV on "the fall" though....I'm not saying they aren't compatible because they were pre 1054, but still there is a difference in ways of looking at it. Of course considering I understand Adam and Eve as not having been "perfect" before the fall, but in a state where they were to offer up the world to God and make God's kingdom present on earth and in the universe.....where they failed Christ succeeded, the Kingdom is inaguarated with the Resurrection, and one day will be openly manifest. But then maybe I've read and had it explained wrongly to me.
 

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I agree with many of your points. I also have read that Church Fathers considered Adam and Eve immature, and that what we are capable of achieving (here or in the afterlife) is greater than what they had. Nonetheless, I also believe that many of those same Fathers also believed that we were made in the image and after the likeness of God, and that while we kept the image, the likeness was lost to some extent and has to be recovered or restored. I would also not disagree with Alveus Lacuna, and at least some Fathers (e.g. St. Gregory of Nyssa) speculated that we would grow in likeness of God for eternity, always growing closer and closer.
 

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Saint Irenaeus writes that, in God's plan for us "we are not made gods from the beginning; first we are mere humans, then we become gods". To be a god by grace is the true human potential and the point of theosis is to become truly human. From what I have read, it's not a restoring of something we have had and lost, but a transformation to something that is an unaccheived potential in Adam and the reality in Christ. 
 

Asteriktos

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I don't think anyone would disagree that Adam and Eve had some degree of likeness to God before the fall, as God Himself said that that is how he wanted to make humanity (Gen. 1:26). So, with that in mind, I'd like to post a few quotes that sort of gets at what I'm thinking about when I speak of recovering or restoring the likeness of God:

"Moreover, the spiritual life is a dynamic journey. It begins with baptism,which is the purification of the 'image', and continues through ascetic living aimed at attaining 'likeness,' which is to say communion with God. ...the aim of the Christian is to attain the blessed state of deificaiton. Deification is identical with 'likeness,' that is, to be like God. However, in order to reach the likeness, to attain the vision of God, and for this vision not to be a consuming fire but a life-giving light, purification must previously have taken place. This purification and healing is the Church's work." - Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, Orthodox Psychotherapy: The Science of the Fathers, (Birth of the Theotokos Monastery, 1994), p. 26

"But let me now examine the third point--whether this is the reason why they call Him a deceiver, viz. that He has not ordained that God should be honoured with sacrifices of bulls or the slaughter of unreasoning beasts, or by blood, or fire, or by incense made of earthly things. That He thought these things low and earthly and quite unworthy of the immortal nature, and judged the most acceptable and sweetest sacrifice to God to be the keeping of His own commandments. That He taught that men purified by them in body and soul, and adorned with a pure mind and holy doctrines would best reproduce the likeness of God, saying expressly: 'Be ye perfect, as your Father is perfect.'" - Eusebius, Proof of the Gospel, 3, 3
 

Riddikulus

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Theosis: The True Purpose of Human Life - http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/general/theosis.aspx

For anyone interested, this is a great little book. It can be downloaded in pdf form.

 

Alveus Lacuna

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Asteriktos said:
But let me now examine the third point--whether this is the reason why they call Him a deceiver, viz. that He has not ordained that God should be honoured with sacrifices of bulls or the slaughter of unreasoning beasts, or by blood, or fire, or by incense made of earthly things. That He thought these things low and earthly and quite unworthy of the immortal nature, and judged the most acceptable and sweetest sacrifice to God to be the keeping of His own commandments. That He taught that men purified by them in body and soul, and adorned with a pure mind and holy doctrines would best reproduce the likeness of God, saying expressly: 'Be ye perfect, as your Father is perfect.'" - Eusebius, Proof of the Gospel, 3, 3
Uhhh...does this mean that fourth century Christians were not using incense in their services?
 

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I'm not sure. Actually I don't recall ever reading about incense, either in ancient or modern works (apart from the Eusebius quote). It's just not something that would normally catch my attention, I guess.  Perhaps Christianity didn't use it at the time, or perhaps they just didn't use it in the area that Eusebius was located.
 

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Alveus Lacuna said:
We are being restored to a previous state of union with God, but that union is eternal.
In our previous state, there was a union between our gnomic and natural wills. Our divinisation is a state greater than what Adam had.
 

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Alveus Lacuna said:
Asteriktos said:
But let me now examine the third point--whether this is the reason why they call Him a deceiver, viz. that He has not ordained that God should be honoured with sacrifices of bulls or the slaughter of unreasoning beasts, or by blood, or fire, or by incense made of earthly things. That He thought these things low and earthly and quite unworthy of the immortal nature, and judged the most acceptable and sweetest sacrifice to God to be the keeping of His own commandments. That He taught that men purified by them in body and soul, and adorned with a pure mind and holy doctrines would best reproduce the likeness of God, saying expressly: 'Be ye perfect, as your Father is perfect.'" - Eusebius, Proof of the Gospel, 3, 3
Uhhh...does this mean that fourth century Christians were not using incense in their services?
The quote is speaking specifically of *sacrificing* these things--and incense is on the standard list with bulls, sheep, doves, etc of things sacrificed by both the Jews in the Temple and by pagans. We use incense (and fire/candles, also on the list) in worship but it's not something we are sacrificing on the altar which is the contrast Eusebius is setting up.
 

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Why does the Rudder attribute one of Justinian's anathemas to 5th Ecumenical council?  Is it generally understood as having been something discussed and agreed to by the Fathers of the council?
 
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