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Macrina on Eliminating Evil

I found this quote in a Facebook group I am a part of, so I cannot personally vouch for it. I trust it is correct. This is Macrina (the Younger) teaching her brother Gregory of Nyssa:

“For evil must be altogether removed in every way from being, and, as we have said before, that which does not really exist must cease to exist at all. Since evil does not exist by its nature outside of free choice, when all choice is in God, evil will suffer a complete annihilation because no receptacle remains for it.”

(Recounted by Gregory in *On the Soul and the Resurrection*.)

It seems to me that this fits very well with a Wesleyan-Arminian perspective. God is good and eternal. Evil is not eternal. Evil exists because of free choice. As human choices change to being more and more in God, evil becomes eliminated — Macrina actually says “evil will suffer a complete annihilation”.

The alternative view would be… what?

  • Evil is eternal and a co-equal principle to good?
  • The human creation was neither “good” (ט֑וֹב) or “very good (ט֖וֹב מְאֹ֑ד)?
  • Evil is a necessary part of human nature?
  • What?

It follows that evil will be eliminated in this life or the next — it is not clear to me to which she is referring.

John Wesley said:

“‘But surely we cannot be saved from sin, while we dwell in a sinful body.’A sinful body? I pray observe, how deeply ambiguous; how equivocal, this expression is! But, there is no authority for it in Scripture: the word, sinful body, is never found there. And as it is totally unscriptural, so it is palpably absurd. For no body, or matter of any kind, can be sinful; spirits alone are capable of sin. Pray in what part of the body should sin lodge? It cannot lodge in the skin, nor in the muscles, or nerves, or veins, or arteries; it cannot be in the bones any more than in the hair or nails. Only the soul can be the seat of sin.”

— John Wesley, “Christian Perfection” Sermons.

Most of Western Christianity has settled for a view which sees evil as an inherent part of human nature. But, how can this possibly be right? I think Macrina and many others are pointing us in the right direction: evil is a dysfunction.

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Eradication of the Sin Nature? Huh?

I am about to launch into a rather long post — and one that will not be of interest to everyone. Nevertheless, because of the nature of this site, and because of the issues I commonly address and raise here, I need to post a statement — about a problem often encountered in the literature of the holiness movement. It is common in these writings to encounter the language of eradication: the eradication of “sin” or of “inward sinfulness” or of “inbred sin” or of “the sin nature” or of “the carnal nature” — or similar language. What is to be made of these claims?

internet-wrldI have recently re-affirmed the purposes of this web site, saying: “I intend this as a site that is focused on the Wesleyan teachings about holy living.” I have often expressed my appreciation of the Holiness Movement and (to a lesser extent) the Pentecostal movement for the formative influence they had on shaping the earliest stages of my Christian journey.

I maintain here a growing collection of resources on the holiness movement here — and hope to have more soon. I also maintain two blogs that feature the writings of nneteenth century holiness writers Daniel Steele and Thomas C. Upham. . All of this, I am presenting “as is.” I am seeking make this material accessible, so that people can grapple with these writings on their own — without having them filtered through my own opinions and evaluations of them.

I am a retired United Methodist pastor. I realize that the message of Christian Perfection / Entire Sanctification (the main theme of the Holiness Movement) is almost completely unknown among contemporary United Methodists. Many United Methodist pastors heard of this theme for the first time in their life while attending Seminary. (And, some who did may not have been paying attention that particular day.)

It has been my intention, from the beginning of this site, to raise up this particular part of the Wesleyan tradition — I am not seeking to indoctrinate anyone in anything — I am raising an issue that (I believe) needs re-consideration and re-appropriation. My personal reasons for harping on the Christian Perfection theme of the Wesleyan tradition are given here: Sanctification as a Central Theme.

This naturally raises the question: do I agree with everything in the teachings of the 19th Century Holiness movement? And, the answer is: no, I don’t.
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