Creation and Redemption in Fr. John S. Romanides’ Ancestral Sin

©James L. Kelley 2017

In “Creation, Fall, and Salvation According to Greek Philosophy in General,” the opening chapter of Fr. John’s Ancestral Sin (pp. 41-50),[1] a Hellenistic view of creation and redemption is contrasted with the Orthodox teachings on the same. In true neopatristic fashion, Fr. John presents the two standpoints as incompatible, indeed as inimical. In his introduction to the same work, Fr. John even emphasizes that the discernment of the worldly view of the philosophers from the saving path of the Church is the same as the discrimination (Gk. diakrisis) of demonic from divine energies, which is the whole basis of the life in Christ.[2] In the “Creation, Fall, and Salvation” chapter, Fr. John points out that for the Greek philosophers, the critical distinction that explains the nature of man/God/creation is matter versus reality: since all material beings are subject to change and corruption, “reality” must reside in creation’s absolute opposite, a transcendent principle that is immutable and incorrupt (the God of the philosophers). Matter itself is either wholly evil or, at best, a negative principle of non-reality that must be canceled out or seen through by the seeker. The Greek philosophers also fail to distinguish between the creation and the fall. For them, the world is not created through divine energies, but from God’s nature or essence. This allows the philosophers (and the Gnostics along with them) to view created beings as copies of (or phantasms pointing to) ingenerate forms or archetypes. God in the philosophers’ scheme is motionless and self-satisfied; thus the deity is forever unmoved toward anything outside of His own nature, while the individual human is separated from the divine only until he reaches eudaemonia which is happiness through direct intellectual contact either with the divine nature, or with divine archetypes.[3] From the human point of view, this means that “man has the intellectual power to penetrate to the deeper meaning of phenomena and identify his mind directly with the ingenerate reality. [Thus,] he is able to save himself by his own powers.”[4]

Orthodox Fathers of the Church, on the other hand, have always distinguished between “the wholly positive creation of the world and the fall of the world.”[5] God created the world directly, freely, and without any intermediary. No preexisting matter, principle, or archetype came into play in the creation of the world; the world did not flow or emanate directly from the essence of God. Though it is a bulwark of Greek philosophy, Fr. John points to this emanation doctrine as the reason why these writers are forced (through a dialectical dilemma) into pantheism (God is the world) or theo-eudaemonism (God is eternally unmoved toward an eternally moving world).[6] The significance of the Orthodox doctrine of creation ex nihilo is illustrated by considering the related teaching on the uncreated energies of God. If what God is (His nature) is identical to His acts (His energies), then God cannot freely choose to create, nor can He truly love the world, since such a Being always acts according to Its nature, and thus cannot not create. As a result, this God’s love is unfree.

This God is not love.

Fr. John’s query seems to be: Is any love, not freely chosen, that is attributed to an unmoved deity, worth the name?


[1] Fr. John S. Romanides, The Ancestral Sin…, translated by George S. Gabriel (Redgewood, NJ: Zephyr, 2002). Orig. pub. in Greek as Ton Propatorikon Amartema… (Athens: Ek tou Typographeiou tes Apostolikes Diakonias tes Ekklesias tes Hellados, 1957).

[2] Ibid., p. 36. 

[3] Ibid., p. 47.

[4] Ibid., p. 45.

[5] Ibid., p. 42.

[6] Ibid., p. 43.


This entry was posted in Creation, Eastern Orthodox Theology, Eastern Religions; Orthodoxy; Eastern Orthodox Theology, Gnosticism, Greeks, Hellenes, Orthodoxy, philosophy, Platonic Forms, Pseudomorphosis of Orthodoxy, Romanides, Romanity, Romeosyne, Soteriology, Western Christianity and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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