May 22, 2021
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v2.1 Reference

Salvation through Temptation

Maximus the Confessor and Thomas Aquinas on Christ's Victory over the Devil

Salvation through Temptation describes the development of predominant Greek and Latin Christian conceptions of temptation and of the work of Christ to heal and restore humankind in the context of that temptation, focusing on Maximus the Confessor and Thomas Aquinas as well-developed examples of Greek and Latin thought on these matters.

Maximus and Thomas represent two trajectories concerning the woundedness of human emotionality in the wake of the primordial human sin. Heidgerken argues that Maximus stands in essential continuity with earlier Greek ascetic theology, which conceives of the weakness of fallen humankind in demonological categories, so that the Pauline law of sin is bound to external demonic agents that act upon the human mind through thoughts, desires, and sensory impressions. For Thomas, on the other hand, this wound consists primarily of an internal disordering of the faculties that results from the withdrawal of original grace: concupiscence or the fomes peccati. Yet even in this framework, the devil plays a significant role in Thomas's account of postlapsarian temptation.

On the basis of these differing frameworks for human temptation, Heidgerken demonstrates the centrality of Christ's exemplarity in the Greek account and the centrality of Christ's moral perfections in the Latin account. As a consequence of these emphases, the Greek tradition of Maximus places distinct limits on the ability of human emotionality (even that of Christ) to be perfected in this life, whereas Thomas's approach allows Christ to completely embody a perfected form of human emotionality in his earthly life. Reciprocally, Thomas's account of Christ's moral perfections and virtue places distinct limits on his affirmation of Christ's experience of postlapsarian temptation, whereas Maximus's account allows for Christ to experience interior forms of temptation that more closely mirror the concrete moral experiences and circumstances of fallen human beings. Salvation through Temptation recommends a retrieval of early ascetic theology and demonology as the best contemporary systematic and ecumenically-viable approach to Christ's temptation and victory over the devil.

About the Author

Benjamin Heidgerken teaches at St. Paul Seminary, St. Paul, MN. Paul M. Blowers is the Dean E. Walker professor of church history at Emmanuel Christian Seminary.


"Heidgerken successfully assembles numerous texts that show the importance of the concept of demonic temptation in the realms of Maximus's ascetical theology and his understanding of Christology and the economy of salvation. That is a valuable contribution."—Joshua Loller, University of Kansas

"This is a wonderfully rich work of historical theology and contributes significantly to the ongoing theological understanding of Christian anthropology, human emotion, temptation, the deleterious effects of the Fall, moral virtue, and the exemplary role of Christ. Especially valuable is its treatment of Maximus the Confessor and more generally of the Greek ascetical tradition, which merits to be better known in western theology."—Paul Gondreau, author of The Passions of Christ's Soul in the Theology of St. Thomas Aquinas

"In an era when East-West ecumenism seems to be flagging, Heidgerken offers a nuanced and rich comparative reading of Maximus and Thomas. That he does so in a neglected area of Christology that has notable implications for our understanding of salvation makes this book even more important. Building on the example of French scholars such as Garrigues, Heidgerken opens up what should become a major new field of ecumenical study. Heidgerken's achievement augurs well for the future of Thomism."—Matthew Levering, James N. and Mary D. Perry Jr. Chair of Theology, Mundelein Seminary

"Tempted in every respect like us, save without sin' (Heb 4: 15): what could be meant by a 'sinless' solidarity of Christ with fallen humanity? Benjamin Heidgerken probes the different ways in which Maximus the Confessor and Thomas Aquinas grappled with this question. Heidgerken's arguments, necessarily dense and detailed, open up new ways of understanding what these teachers shared and how they differed. A profound and rewarding study."—Andrew Louth, Durham University

9780813234120 : salvation-through-temptation-heidgerken
336 Pages
$75.00 USD

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