cover of book

Salvation through Temptation: Maximus the Confessor and Thomas Aquinas on Christ's Victory over the Devil
by Benjamin E. Heidgerken
Paul M. Blowers
Catholic University of America Press, 2021
Cloth: 978-0-8132-3412-0 | eISBN: 978-0-8132-3413-7
Library of Congress Classification BT725.H39 2021
Dewey Decimal Classification 232.95

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.
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