Fascination with wickedness obscures what is good, and roving desire perverts the innocent mind.
Wisdom of Solomon 4:12

Friday, June 29, 2012

Blind Pride and Faith

Proverbs 16:18-19

Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the proud.    NKJV (10th cent. BC)

St. Anthony the Great

Abba Pambo asked Abba Anthony, 'What ought I to do?' and the old man said to him 'Do not trust in your own righteousness do not worry about the past, but control your tongue and your stomach.'  (5th cent. AD)

St. Silouan the Athonite

Unbelief proceeds from pride. The proud person believes he will know everything with his mind and from science, but the knowledge of God is impossible for him, because God is known by the revelation of the Holy Spirit. God reveals Himself to humble souls. To these the Lord shows His works, which are unknowable to the mind.  (20th cent. AD)


As is demonstrated above, one of the beauties of Orthodoxy is its consistent witness of God to the world.  Whether one goes back one day, one century, or even three millenia, we find one constant unchanging message from God to mankind through mankind.   Whether we look into scriptures, the writtings of the fathers, or the saints, we find one unified the message.

 One such message is that of the destruction brought about by our pride.  Pride is enemy number one, it deceives individuals into a state of blindness; A state wherein we don’t want to know the truth because we would prefer to be right in our own minds rather than right in truth.   Pride can appear in a myriad of ways. It can show itself as a notion that says, “I am good, and even better than others”. Or, it may rear its head by a notion that tells us that “we are smarter than others”.  In any case, it always accomplishes one thing; it closes the possibility of our inner understanding (the nous) to God.

 This reality is something that we should be aware of both in dealing with ourselves, and in dealing with others.  It can be helpful to ask oneself regularly, “is this the truth according to the unbroken witness of Orthodoxy, or is it my own preference?”  When dealing with others, it is impossible to bring such a question about and expect any positive results. It is in dealing with others that the instruction of Nikolai Velimirovich is of immeasurable help.

“It is difficult to convince the atheist, the unreasonable man and the embittered man with words. You will convince them easier by deeds. "They may through observing you by reason of your good works glorify God" (1 Peter 2:12). Do good deeds to those who wish to argue with you and you will win the argument. One deed of compassion will bring the unreasonable man to his senses and will pacify the embittered man quicker than many hours of conversation.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

For Troubled Christians and Dropouts

In keeping with the mission and purpose of this blog, I am adding a new “Orthodox Doctrine” section to the links on the right side of the page. My hope is to make posts related to it in a way that helps to present a well rounded introduction to Orthodoxy.   The only problem with that goal is my own lack of “wellroundedness”.  Thus, the reality is that I will be working on my own understanding of Orthodox doctrine as I go, and sharing that work with any who may have interest.  

I do have a target audience in mind; it is primarily those who think that the church is beyond salvation (Christian dropouts), those persons who look at Christianity and find so many flaws in it they can hardly number them (usually due to western distortions). As well as those who feel the need to save the church (the troubled Christian) because its problems are so self-evident (usually due to western distortions).  If you are one who sees no problem in your denomination, and thinks everything is just a God intended it to be within it, then this blog is probably not for you. However, if you look at your group, denomination, or communion and find problems, then this new section might interest you. The subject matter is laid out in the nine sections listed below.

Sources of Othodox Christian Doctrine

The Liturgy
The Councils

The Fathers
The Saints
Church Art
These sections are from Thomas Hopko’s book series, “The Orthodox Faith”.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Who Is A Christian?

Below is an excellent post by Fr. Andrew S. Damick (Link attached):

Most Christians in America at least formally believe in the core doctrines of Christian tradition—traditional Triadology and Christology. Our Bibles are even mostly the same. But even though I can agree with many such people on these essentials, I would not agree that they are the only essentials, nor even that doctrines and practices that are not so near the core are non-essentials.  It seems to me that the real reason why I am supposed to accept as Christian those who believe certain things is actually that I am supposed to accept the anti-ecclesiology of denominationalism, the idea that there can be multiple “denominations” (including the non-denominational denomination) of Christianity who have conflicting doctrine and practice and yet are somehow all legitimately the Body of Christ, the Church. But I don’t believe that. That presupposition is antithetical to my faith. I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, not myriad, conflicting, fragmented and innovative denominations. I do not accept that there are different “brands” of Christianity. There is only the Church, and as an Orthodox Christian, I believe that that one Church is the Orthodox Church.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Life and Death - pt2

The Gospel of John; 3:17-21 (ca. 70 AD)

"For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.  "For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.  "But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God."

St John the Theologian and Apostle

The Philokalia, Sayings of St Anthony #29 (ca 310 AD)

He who does not know how to distinguish what is good from what is evil cannot judge who is good and who is evil.  He who knows God is good. If one is not good, he knows nothing about God and never will know; for goodness is the way to God.

St. Anthony the Great
Orthodox Pre-communion Prayer (ca. 500 AD)

I believe, O Lord, and I confess that Thou art truly the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Who camest into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first. I believe also that this is truly Thine own pure Body, and that this is truly Thine own precious Blood. Therefore I pray Thee: have mercy upon me and forgive my transgressions both voluntary and involuntary, of word and of deed, of knowledge and of ignorance. And make me worthy to partake without condemnation of Thy most pure Mysteries, for the remission of my sins, and unto life everlasting. Amen.

 An Introduction to the Synaxarion  (20th century)

 Until the coming of the Lord Christ into our terrestrial world, we men really knew only about death and death knew about us. Everything human was penetrated, captured, and conquered by death. Death was closer to us than we ourselves and more real than we ourselves, and more powerful, incomparably more powerful than every man individually and all men together. Earth was a dreadful prison of death, and we people were the helpless slaves of death.

 Only with the God-man Christ "life was manifested"; "eternal life" appeared to us hopeless mortals, the wretched slaves of death. And that "eternal life" we men have "seen with our eyes and handled with our hands," and we Christians "make manifest eternal life" to all. For living in union with the Lord Christ, we live eternal life even here on earth. We know from personal experience that Jesus Christ is the true God and eternal life. And for this did He come into the world: to show us the true God and eternal life in Him.

 Genuine and true love for man consists of this, only of this: that God sent His Only-Begotten Son into the world that we might live through Him and through Him live eternal life. Therefore, he who has the Son of God has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life —he is completely in death. Life in the one true God and Lord Jesus Christ is really our only true life because it is wholly eternal and completely stronger than death. Can a life which is infected by death and which ends in death really be called life? Just as honey is not honey when it is mixed with a poison which gradually turns all the honey into poison, so a life which ends in death is not life.

St. Justin Popovich

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Life & Death

St Paul the Apostle  (ca 60 ad)

Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed -- in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: "Death is swallowed up in victory." "O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?" The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

1st Letter to the Corinthians, 15: 51-58

If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.  Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Letter to the Colossians 3:1-4

St Anthony the Great  (ca. 330 ad)

Life is the union and conjunction of [1] the mind, [2] the soul. [3] and the body. Death, on the other hand, is not the destruction of these conjoined things, but the dissolution of their union.  For by God we are preserved after the disolution, too.

Philokalia #93

Mortal beings are sorry because they know in advance that they will die. Immortality, being good, comes to the holy soul.  Mortality, on the other hand, comes to the foolish and wretched soul.

Philokalia #169

Paschal Troparion (ca 500 ad)

Christ is risen from the dead,Trampling down death by death, And upon those in the tombs, Bestowing life!


In the year AD 302, Diocletian issued an edict that every Christian soldier in the army should be arrested and every other soldier should offer a sacrifice to the Roman gods of the time. However George objected and with the courage of his faith approached the Emperor and ruler. Diocletian was upset, not wanting to lose his best tribune and the son of his best official, Gerontius. George loudly renounced the Emperor's edict, and in front of his fellow soldiers and Tribunes he claimed himself to be a Christian and declared his worship of Jesus Christ. Diocletian attempted to convert George, even offering gifts of land, money and slaves if he made a sacrifice to the Roman gods. The Emperor made many offers, but George never accepted.  Recognizing the futility of his efforts, Diocletian was left with no choice but to have him executed for his refusal.


Fr. John Romaindes (1955 ad)

St.  Paul clearly says  that "the sting  of death  is sin,"  that "sin reigned in  death,"  and that death  is "the last enemy  that shall be destroyed." In  his epistles,  he is  especially inspired when  he is speaking about the victory of Christ over death and corruption. It would be highly   illogical  to   try   to  interpret   Pauline  thought   with  the presuppositions (1)  that death  is normal or  (2) that at most,  it is the outcome of  a juridical decision of God to punish  the whole human race for one sin,  (3) that happiness is  the ultimate destiny of  man, and (4) that the soul  is immaterial, naturally immortal and  directly created by God at conception   and  is   therefore   normal  and   pure  of   defects  (Roman scholasticism).  The Pauline  doctrine of  man's inability  to do  the good which he  is capable of acknowledging  according to the "inner  man" can be understood only if one takes seriously the power of death and corruption in the  flesh, which  makes it  impossible for  man to  live according  to his original destiny.

The moralistic problem raised  by St. Augustine concerning the transmission of  death to  the descendants of  Adam as  punishment for the  one original transgression is  foreign to Paul's thoughts. The  death of each man cannot be considered the outcome  of personal guilt. St. Paul is not thinking as a philosophical moralist  looking for the  cause of the fall  of humanity and creation in the breaking of objective rules of good behavior, which demands punishment from a God  whose justice is in the image of the justice of this world. Paul  is clearly  thinking of the  fall in terms  of a personalistic warfare between God and  Satan, in which Satan is not obliged to follow any sort of moral rules  if he can help it. It is for this reason that St. Paul can  say  that the  serpent  "deceived Eve" and that  "Adam was  not deceived, but the woman  being deceived was in the transgression." Man was not punished by God, but taken captive by the devil.

It is  only when one understands the meaning  of death and its consequences that one can understand  the life of the ancient Church, and especially its attitude toward martyrdom. Being  already dead to the world in baptism, and having  their life  hidden with  Christ in  God, Christians  could not falter  in the face  of death. They  were already  dead, and yet  living in Christ.  To be  afraid of  death was  to be  still under  the power  of the devil--II  Timothy 1:7: "For God hath not given us  the spirit of fear, but of power, and of  love, and of sound mind." In trying to convince the Roman Christians not to hinder  his martyrdom, St. Ignatius wrote: "The prince of this world would fain carry me away, and corrupt my disposition toward God. Let none  of you therefore, who are in Rome,  help him." The Cyprianic controversy  over  the  fallen during  times  of  persecution was  violent, because the Church understood that it was a contradiction to die in baptism and then  to deny Christ for  fear of death and  torture.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Orthodoxy for Orthamerica - Faith and Love

As I learn to put on this great Tradition known as Orthodoxy, almost every part of my person is being affected. It is truly a glorious thing, and I am very grateful for the experience. With that said, I find that my blog might also benefit from a more Orthodox approach.

For some time now I have been trying to grasp the way that the Orthodox experience operates (no small task). While, I am but an infant in this Orthodoxy, some things are beginning to pull together. One of these things is the purposeful design within Orthodoxy for transmitting the whole paradosis (tradition). For example, in the liturgical cycles there are a series of interweaving themes that continuously pass on particular aspects of the paradosis (tradition). These themes are found in the yearly, seasonal, weekly, daily, feasts, and fasts that are assigned to each day of the year.

To each day falls a set of hymns and readings that encompass the whole tradition. These all work together to present the fullness of that which we call Orthodox Christianity.

I intend to bring my blog inline with this methodology. Not that I will necessarily write about the theme of a particular day, but I will be attempting to weave the scriptures, the ancient fathers, the hymnody, the liturgies, and the contemporary fathers writings together into one unit. I have chosen to try this approach because I believe that this is precisely the beauty and the power that drives Orthodoxy.

At times I may even comment on them. However, if I do comment I will clearly state is under “COMMENTS”. I do not want to confuse my comments with that which the church has called the paradosis.

My hope is that this approach might in some tiny way make the beauty of Orthodoxy visible to America.

Here goes:


Faith and Love

St Paul of Tarsus (1st cent.)

Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin… But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man's offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many… For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. Rom 3:20; 5:15;10:10-12

Yet, though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own… 1 Cor 13: 2-5

An Anonymous Hermit (4th cent.)

A hermit was asked, “How is that some struggle in their religious life, and yet do receive grace like our predecessors?” Because for them love was the rule, and each one drew his neighbor upward. Today, love has grown cold, and each one draws his neighbor downward, and so we do not deserve this grace.

The Epithegmata

COMMENT: Grace here is used in the classical sense and not in the reinterpreted post Augustinian sense. To our Lord, the apostles, and the early fathers, grace meant the actual presence of God by His energies and not merely a created gift bestowed upon man. Thus the hermit is saying, due to our lack of love we do not deserve to experience the presence of God.

 The Resurrection Hymn from the Octechos (8th cent.)

Let us praise him who was willingly crucified in the flesh for our sake; who didst suffer, was buried, and who rose from the dead, saying, O Christ, confirm thy Church in sound doctrine and preserve our lives; for thou art good and the Lover of mankind.

 Fr. John Romanides (20th cent.)

The justice of God as revealed in Christ does not operate according to objective rules of conduct, but rather according to the personal relationships of faith and love. "The law is not made for a just man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners..." Yet the law is not evil, but good and even spiritual. However, it is not enough. It is of a temporary and pedagogical nature, and in Christ must be fulfilled and surpassed by personalistic love, according to the image of God's love as revealed in Christ. Faith and love in Christ must be personal. For this reason, faith without love is empty. "Though I have all faith, that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing." Likewise, acts of faith bereft of love are of no avail. "Though I bestow all my goods and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love, it profiteth me nothing." 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Scripture, Tradition, & Humility

Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.

2 Thes 2: 15

The Devil appeared to an angel disguised as an angel of light, and said to him, ‘I am the angel Gabriel, and I have been sent to you.”  But the monk said, “Are you sure you weren’t sent to someone else? I am not worthy to have an angel sent to me.” At those words the Devil vanished.

The Epithegmata

“The Holy things are for the Holy”

The Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom


Do not consider it sufficient for yourself to read the Gospel alone, without the reading of the Holy Fathers! This is a proud, dangerous thought. Better, let the Holy Fathers lead you to the Gospel, as their beloved child who has received his preparatory upbringing and education by means of their writings.

Many people, all who have senselessly and presumptuously rejected the Holy Fathers, who have come without any intermediary, with a blind audacity, with an impure mind and heart to the Gospel, have fallen into fatal delusion. The Gospel has rejected them; it grants access to itself only to the humble.

The reading of the Fathers' writings is the father and the king of all virtues. From the reading of the Fathers' writings we learn the true understanding of Holy Scripture, right faith, the way of life in accord with the Gospel's commandments, the deep esteem which one should have toward the Gospel commandments—to say it in a word, one learns salvation and Christian perfection.

The writings of the Holy Fathers are all composed by the inspiration or under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Wondrous is the agreement among them, wondrous is the anointing! One who is guided by them has without any doubt whatsoever the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

All the waters of the earth flow together into the ocean, and it may be that the ocean serves as the beginning of all the waters of the earth. The writings of the fathers are all united in the Gospel; they all incline towards teaching us the exact fulfillment of the commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ; of all of them both the source and the end is the holy Gospel.

The Holy Fathers teach how to approach the Gospel, how to read it, how to understand it correctly, what helps and what hinders in comprehending it. And therefore in the beginning occupy yourself with the reading of the Fathers. When they have taught you how to read the Gospel, then read the Gospel primarily.

St Ignatius Brianchaninov

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

True Spiritual Guidance

The following letter was written by Hieromonk Seraphim in response to a question concerning spiritual guidance.

Dear brother in Christ:

Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ! Thank you for your letter. I appreciate the seriousness of what you have written, and I will reply with the same seriousness.

I must tell you first of all that, to the best of our knowledge, there are no startsi today—that is, truly God-bearing elders (in the spirit of the Optina elders) who could guide you not by their own wisdom and understanding of the Holy Fathers, but by the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. This kind of guidance is not given to our times—and frankly, we in our weakness and corruption and sins do not deserve it.

To our times is given a more humble kind of spiritual life, which Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninov in his excellent book The Arena (do you have it?) calls life by counsel—that is, life according to the commandments of God as learned in the Holy Scriptures and Holy Fathers and helped by those who are elder and more experienced. A starets can give commands; but a counsellor gives advice, which you must test in experience.

We do not know of anyone in particular who would be especially able to counsel you in the English language. If this is really needful for you, God will send it to you in His time, according to your faith and need, and without your making too deliberate a search for it.

Since you have written me, I will venture to give you a word or two of general advice, based upon what you have said in your letters, as derived from the experience of our small monastic community and our reading of the Holy Fathers.

1) Learn first of all to be at peace with the spiritual situation which has been given you, and to make the most of it. If your situation is spiritually barren, do not let this discourage you, but work all the harder at what you yourself can do for your spiritual life. It is already something very important to have access to the Sacraments and regular church services. Beyond this you should have regular morning and evening prayers with your family, and spiritual reading—all according to your strength and the possibilities afforded by your circumstances.

2) Among spiritual writings you should read especially those addressed to people living in the world, or which give the ABCs of spiritual life—such as St. John of Kronstadts My Life in Christ, St. Nikodemos Unseen Warfare, the Lives of Saints in general, and Bishop Ignatius Brianchaninovs The Arena (this book, while addressed to novices, is suitable for laymen insofar as it gives in general the ABCs of spiritual life as applied to modern times).

3) To help your spiritual growth and remind you of spiritual truths, it would be good to keep a journal (the hardbound record books sold in stationery stores are good), which would include excerpts from the writings of spiritual books which you find especially valuable or applicable to you, and perhaps comments of your own inspired by reading and reflection, including brief comments on your own shortcomings which you need to correct. St. John of Kronstadt found this especially valuable, as can be seen in his My Life in Christ.

4) Dont criticize or judge other people—regard everyone else as an angel, justify their mistakes and weaknesses, and condemn only yourself as the worst sinner. This is step one in any kind of spiritual life.

I offer this for whatever help it may be to you. I would be glad to try to answer any specific questions you might have, especially on the teaching of the Holy Fathers, almost all of which we have access to in Russian-language editions.

Asking your prayers,

With love in Christ,

Seraphim, monk

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Salvation of The Soul

After a large number of people had gathered around our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord spoke these words: "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?" In addition, He spoke these words: "What can a man give in exchange for his soul?"

This means that a man's soul has more value than the whole visible world. And if a man loses his soul, with what can he make payment, with what can he buy it back again? With nothing in the world. Not even if he gives the whole world can he buy his lost soul.

Blessed is he who knows this, and who guards his soul as his greatest treasure. Blessed is he who stands guard over his soul every day and does not permit his soul to suffer harm in any way. For he who saves his soul will save everything, and he who loses his soul will lose everything.

In a small town there once lived a very rich man. He lived in a small dilapidated house. He did not want to renovate his house, but saved and guarded his wealth.

Now this one night his house happened to catch fire and burn down. The man, however, jumped out of bed undressed, searched out his saved-up treasure, and leapt out of the house. His whole house was reduced to ashes, but he did not feel sorry about it at all. Rather, with his wealth he moved to a large city, and in this large city he built a beautiful palace, and there he continued to live cheerfully and free from worry.

What does this story symbolize? The small town represents this world, in which men live as guests for a short time. The small dilapidated house represents man's body, the home of man's spirit. The rich man represents a sensible Christian, who has heard, understood, and laid up in his heart the words of Christ: "What does it help a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?"

The great wealth of the rich man represents the rich soul of a sensible Christian, who labored for a whole lifetime to live according to the law of Christ and amass into his soul all those good works which shine more brightly than gold or silver or precious gems. That spiritual gold and silver, that great spiritual treasure is: faith and hope in God, love for God, prayerfulness, mercy, goodness, peace, brotherly love, humility and purity.

What does the burning down of the house represent? It represents bodily death. The unexpected fire in the night represents unexpected bodily death, of which no mortal knows the day or the hour. The awakening of the rich man from sleep at the moment of the fire and the moving to the large city represent the freeing of the soul from the body at the hour of death and the moving to the other world.

The large city represents the eternal kingdom of Christ, in which only the angels and the righteous live. The beautiful palace in the large city represents the dwelling place of every righteous soul in that world, in the eternal and everlasting kingdom.

This story is clear and the moral is beautiful. Whoever has ears to hear, let him hear. Let no one place his hope in this transitory life, which passes as quickly as a cloud driven by the wind from Perister to Oblakov. Let no one take pride in his body, for every human body is a dilapidated house, which death will soon reduce to ashes.

But let every Christian man and woman ceaselessly take thought for their souls, for that unique treasure, which can save them from death and destruction. Whoever takes thought for his soul, listens to Christ's words and carries out His holy commandments--the meek Christ helps such a man and helps him without ceasing. He watches over him as a mother over a child in a cradle. And He nourishes him and waters him day and night with His Holy Spirit. And He gives him a guardian angel to protect him in all the paths of life and to take away his soul at the hour of death and lead it into the Heavenly Kingdom.

To our God be glory and praise. Amen.

Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich

Monday, June 4, 2012

Ancestral Sin pt 1

 © John S. Romanides

[ This article originally appeared in the St. Vladimir's Seminary Quarterly, Vol. IV, Nos. 1 and 2, 1955-6. ]

I. Fallen Creation
St. Paul  strongly affirms  the belief that  all things created  by God are good.[1] Yet,  at the  same time,  he insists  on the  fact that not  only man,[2]  but also all of creation has fallen.[3]  Both man and creation are awaiting  the final redemption.[4]  Thus,  in spite  of the fact  that all things created  by God are good,  the devil has temporarily[5] become the "god of this age."[6]  A basic presupposition of St. Paul's thought is that althought the  world was created by God and as such  is good, yet now there rules  in  it the  power  of  Satan. The  devil,  however, is  by no  means absolute, since God has never abandoned His creation.[7]
Thus, according to St.  Paul, creation as it is is not what God intended it to be--"For the creature  was made subject to vanity...by reason of him who hath  subjected  the  same."[8]  Therefore,  evil  can  exist,  at  least temporarily, as a parasitic  element alongside and inside of that which God created originally  good. A  good example of  this is one who  would do the Good according  to the "inner man," but finds  it impossible because of the indwelling power  of sin in the flesh.[9]  Although created good and still maintained and  governed by God, creation as it is  is still far from being normal or  natural, if  by "normal" we  understand nature according  to the original and final destiny of creation. governing this age, in spite of the fact that God Himself is still sustaining creation and creating for Himself a remnant,[10] is the devil himself.[11]

To  try  to read  into  St.  Paul's thought  any  type of  philosophy of  a naturally  well balanced  universe with  inherent and  fixed moral  laws of reason, according to which men can live with peace of mind and be happy, is to do  violence to the apostle's faith. For St. Paul,  there is now no such thing as a natural world with an inherent system of moral laws, because all of creation  has been subjected to the vanity and  evil power of Satan, who is ruling  by the powers of  death and corruption.[12]  For this reason all men  have become  sinners.[13] There  is no  such thing  as a man  who is sinless simply because he is living according to the rules of reason or the Mosaic  law.[14]  The  possibility of  living according to  universal reason entails, also, the possibility of being without sin. But for Paul this is a myth, because  Satan is  no respecter of  reasonable rules of  good conduct[15] and has under  his influence all men born under the power of death and corruption.[16]

Whether  or not  belief  in the  present, real  and  active power  of Satan appeals to  the Biblical  theologian, he cannot ignore  the importance that St. Paul  attributes to the power  of the devil. To  do so is to completely misunderstand  the problem  of  original sin  and its  transmission  and so misinterpret the  mind of  the New Testament  writers and the  faith of the whole ancient Church. In regard to the power of Satan to introduce sin into the  life of every  man, St.  Augustine in combating  Pelagianism obviously misread St.  Paul. by relegating the power  of Satan, death, and corruption to the background and  pushing to the foreground of controversy the problem of  personal  guilt in  the  transmission  of original  sin, St.  Augustine introduced a  false moralistic  philosophical approach which  is foreign to the thinking  of St. Paul[17] and which was  not accepted by the patristic tradition of the East.[18]

For St.  Paul, Satan is not simply a negative power  in the universe. He is personal with will,[19] with thoughts,[20] and with methods of deception,[21] against whom Christians must wage and intense battle[22] because they can still  be tempted by him.[23] He is active in  a dynamic manner,[24] fighting for  the destruction of creation  and not simply waiting passively in a restricted corner  to accept those who happen to rationally decide not to follow  God and the moral laws inherent in  a natural universe. Satan is even capable of transforming himself into an angel of light[25]. He has at his disposal  miraculous powers  of perversion[26] and has  as co-workers whole armies of invisible powers.[27] He is the "god of this age,"[28] the one who deceived the  first woman.[29] It is he who led man[30] and all of creation into the path of death and corruption.[31]

The power of death  and corruption, according to Paul, is not negative, but on the contrary, positively  active. "The sting of death is sin,"[32] which in turn reigns in  death.[33] Not only man, but all creation has been yoked under its  tyrannizing power[34] and  is now awaiting redemption. Creation itself shall  also be delivered  from the slavery of  corruption.[35] Along with the  final destruction of all the enemies  of God, death--the last and probably  the greatest  enemy--will be  destroyed.[36]  Then death  will be swallowed  up in  victory.[37] For  St. Paul,  the destruction of  death is parallel to the destruction of the devil and his forces. Salvation from the one is salvation from the other.[38]

It  is  obvious from  St.  Paul's expressions  concerning fallen  creation, Satan, and  death, that  there is no room  in his thinking for  any type of metaphysical dualism, of departmentalization which would make of this world and intermediary  domain which for  man is merely a  stepping stone leading either into the presence of God or into the kingdom of Satan. The idea of a three  story universe,  whereby God  and His  company of saints  and angels occupy  the top floor,  the devil the  basement, and  man in the  flesh the middle,  has no  room in Pauline  theology. For  Paul, all three  orders of existence  interpenetrate. There  is  no such  thing as  a middle  world of neutrality where  man can live according to natural  law and then be judged for a life of  happiness in the presence of God or for a life of torment in the pits of outer  darkness. On the contrary, all of creation is the domain of God,  Who Himself cannot be  tainted with evil. But  in His domain there are other  wills which He has created, which  can choose either the kingdom of God or the kingdom of death and destruction.

In  spite of the  fact that creation  is of  God and essentially  good, the devil at the same  time has parasitically transformed this same creation of God into a temporary kingdom for himself.[39]  The devil, death, and sin are reigning in this world and not in another. Both the kingdom of darkness and kingdom  of light are  battling hand to  hand in  the same place.  For this reason, the  only true victory possible over  the devil is the resurrection of the  dead.[40]  There is no escape from  the battlefield. The only choice possible for every man  is either to fight the devil by actively sharing in the victory of Christ,  or to accept the deceptions of the devil by wanting to   believe  that   all   goes  well   and  everything   is   normal.[41]

[1] I Tim. 4:4
[2] Rom. 5:12
[3] Rom. 8:20
[4] Rom. 8:21-23
[5] I Cor. 15:26
[6] II Cor. 4:3
[7] Rom. 1:20
[8] Rom. 8:20
[9] Rom. 7:15-25
[10] Rom 11:5
[11] II Cor. 4:3
[12] I Cor. 15:56
[13] Rom. 3:9-12; 5:19
[14] Rom. 5:13
[15] II Cor. 4:3; 11:14; Eph. 6:11-17; II Thes. 2:8
[16] Rom. 8:24
[17] Col. 2:8
[18] e.g., St. Cyrill of Alexandria, Migne, P.G.t. 74, c. 788-789
[19] II Tim. 2:26
[20] II Cor. 2:11
[21] I Tim. 2:14; 4:14; II Tim. 2:26; II Cor. 11:14; 4:3; 2:11; 11:3
[22] Eph. 6:11-17
[23] I Cor. 7:5; II Cor. 2:11; 11:3; Eph. 4:27; I Thes. 3:5; I Tim. 3:6; 3:7; 4:1; 5:14
[24] II Cor. 11:14; 4:3; Eph 2:2; 6:11-17; I Thes. 2:18; 3:5; II Thes. 2:9; I Tim. 2:14; 3:7; II Tim. 2:25-26
[25] II Cor. 11:15
[26] II Thes. 2:9
[27] Eph 6:12; Col. 2:15
[28] II Cor. 4:4
[29] II Cor. 11:3; I Tim. 2:14
[30] Ibid.
[31] Rom. 8:19-22
[32] I Cor. 15:56
[33] Rom. 5:21
[34] Rom. 8:20
[35] Rom. 8:21
[36] I Cor. 15:24-26
[37] I Cor. 15:54
[38] Col. 2:13-15; I Cor. 15:24-27; 15:54-57
[39] II Cor. 4:3; Gal. 1:4; Eph. 6:12
[40] I Cor. 15:1 ff.
[41] Rom. 12:2; I Cor. 2:12; 11:32; II Cor. 4:3; Col. 2:20; II Thes. 2:9; II Tim. 4:10; Col. 2:8; I Cor. 5:10