St. Photios on Total Depravity

St. Photios the Great ca. 810-891

Read a book whose subscription reads, “Theodore of Antioch, Against Those Who Say That Men sin by Nature and not by Intention.” His polemic against those is developed in five books.  He wrote this work against Westerners touched by this ill…

The principles of their heresy are, in summary, the following:  Men sin, they say, by nature and not by intention; and ‘by nature’ they do not mean that nature which was in Adam when first created (because this, they say, was good because made by a good God), but that nature which was his later after the fall because of his ill conduct and sin.  He received a sinful nature in exchange for the good and a mortal nature in exchange for an immortal; it is in this manner and by nature that men became sinners after having been good by nature.  It is in their nature and not by a voluntary choice that they acquired sin.

The second point is connected to the preceding propositions. They say that infants, even newly born, are not free from sin because, since the disobedience of Adam, nature is fixed into sin and that this sinful nature, as was said, extends to all his descendants.  They quote, he says, the verse, “I was born in sin” and others similar: the holy baptism itself; the communion with the incorruptible body for the remission of sins and the fact that these apply to infants as a confirmation of their own opinion.  They claim also that no man is just, and this is thus obviously a corollary of their initial position, “because nothing of flesh can be justified before you,” he says, and he cites other texts of the same kind.

The fourth point (O blasphemous and impious mouth) is that Christ Himself, our God, because He put on a nature soiled by sin, was not Himself free from sin.  However, in other places in their impious writings, as the author says, it can be seen that they apply the Incarnation to Christ not in truth and in nature, but only in appearance.

The fifth point is that marriage, they say, or the desire of carnal union and the ejection of seed and all that is of that domain and by which our species perpetuates itself and increases itself are works of the evil nature into which Adam fell through sin to receive all the weight of the evils because of his sinful nature.  Such are thus the positions of the heretics. (Myriobiblion 177)