Ben Myers recently posts on baptism and ordination with some helpful thoughts, and so I have decided to post some remarks from Gregory of Nyssa on baptism as well. The following passage is from his Catechetical Oration, but I’m quoting from Mikoski’s volume that I am reviewing here on page 119:
If the washing is applied to the body, while the soul does not wash away the stains of its passions, but the life after initiation is of the same character as the uninitiated life, even though it is a bold thing to say, yet I will say it and not draw back, in such cases the water is water, and the gift of the Holy Spirit nowhere appears in what takes place, whenever not only the deformity of anger dishonours the Divine image, or the passion of covetousness, and the uncontrolled and unseemly thought, and pride, envy, conceit, but also when a man retains in his possession the gains made by injustice, and the woman he has made his own by adultery continues to minister to his pleasures even after baptism. If these and the like vices mark the life of him who has been baptised after, no less than before, I cannot see how he has been changed; for I behold the same man as I formerly did. He who has suffered injustice, he who has been falsely accused, he who has been thrust out of his own possessions, these, for their part, see no change in the man who has been washed…. If then, you have received God and become a child of God Who is in you, show yourself Him who has begotten you…. If you share these characteristics [of God], you have in truth become a child of God. But if you persist in exhibiting the characteristics of vice, it is in vain for you to babble to yourself of a birth from above.”
What do we think about this? Is this simply Aristotle? Should we invoke Luther here?!