Story of Adam, Eastern Orthodoxy and the arc of the Bible’s story

Joel Willitts has posted a great blog post (8th Dec 2013) about what Andrew Louth, Introducing Eastern Orthodox Theology, says about one theological aspect of Eastern Orthodoxy.

Here is a quote from Willitts’ post.

Orthodox theology begins its doctrine of sin with the story of Adam, as you would expect. Louth sets Orthodoxy apart by beginning his discussion addressing two problems with non-Orthodox approaches to the story of the “Fall” in Genesis 3. First, Louth makes the point that this theology expressed through the telling of stories. Storytelling he says “is fundamental to how we humans come to understand ourselves.” Louth wishes to stress the storied nature of our theology of sin because he is concerned about an approach that is anxious about whether we are to take the stories in Genesis “literarily”. He writes, “It seems that they were neither taken at a simply literal level [by the Fathers], nor at a level that dispensed altogether with a literal interpretation” (68-69). Second, he observes that many “objectify” the “Fall”. “The Fathers simply do not talk about ‘the Fall’ as some objective event” (69). They don’t even use the term “Fall” when telling the story. Instead the Fathers, according to Louth, just describe what Adam did: he sinned, he was disobedient, he turned away from God (69). The consequences were disastrous of course, but they are pictured differently for Orthodox theology, or at least the emphasis is differently placed. The world of harmony that God created and intended of the cosmos was destroyed. Harmony was taken away and elements that should fit together for blessing disintegrate and fragmented and became opposed to one another. Louth talks about this as a process. And consequently not an objective complete event. (Emphasis added)

In many ways I came to similar conclusions independently when I did some research on Romans 5 and 8 (and Genesis 1–3).

Willitts also highlights another theology aspect of Orthodoxy from Louth’s book. Here is the citation from Louth’s book (from Willittts’ blog post here).

In treating the question of sin and death and destruction, it seems to me that the theology of the Fathers never lost sight of a more important consideration; that the world had been created to be able to draw close to God and bring into being a union of wills . . . if what God wants is a loving union between himself and the being that he has created primarily the human beings he has made, then these beings need to learn to love. They cannot be created knowing what that emans: it is something that comes form experience, either innocent experience or (as it turned out to be the case) an experience that has to learn by its mistakes. God created human beings that need to learn to love; he created a beginning that needed to move towards fulfillment (page 69).

Since I do not share the same Eastern Orthodox faith background as Louth, I don’t think I can fully appreciate this. But my reading of Romans 8 is that we are to share in Christ’s suffering and glorification (8:17), and that we are being conformed to the image of the Son (8:29). I think these are important verses in Paul’s letter.

Finally, Willitts says the following regarding Louth’s observation.

The greater arc of the story of the Bible is not “fall to redemption” (this is a “lesser arc”), but from “creation to deification”.

Much to ponder!

2 thoughts on “Story of Adam, Eastern Orthodoxy and the arc of the Bible’s story

  1. Pingback: The “Salvation Story Arc”. | So long, and thanks for all the fish.

  2. I have recently been made aware of Louth’s new book and hope to pick it up soon. I have read his historical work concerning the period surrounding the Great Schism., “Greek East, Latin West”.

    I am enjoying reading your summary and following the links to the resources you have provided. I have recently finished writing a series which deals almost specifically with the Orthodox understanding of human growth in relation to God’s Will.

    An Image of The Image | The Grand Inquisitive

    After reading through your post here I feel like I might need to go back and clarify a few things. Thanks for the read!

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