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What Does Eastern Orthodoxy Say About Original Sin?

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1054

This is a fantastic question.  Generally Orthodoxy refers to the fall as 'ancestral' versus 'original' sin.  I will look into some good links/quotations for you from those that have expressed it better than I ever could.  (This is one of my favorite talking points.) 

Some very quick basics in the meantime:
The Orthodox Church holds that:
- Adam and Eve were spiritually childlike at the time of the fall, therefore the fall was not as great as it could have been.  (If a child does something wrong it's not as bad as an adult since they can not be fully aware of the repercussions of their actions.) 
- While we do not inherit the guilt of their sin, we do inherit the fallen condition.  There is a fantastic retelling of the story of the Prodigal Son by Father Thomas Hopko that illustrates this well. 

Going to find some of my favorite sources on this subject before I misrepresent anything! 
 

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1054

We don't inherit the guilt, but we inherit the 'pigpen'. 
Father Thomas Hopko: http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/hopko/the_prodigal_son_and_the_fathers_house/print
"We find ourselves in the pigpen, forgetting the house of the Father, that we have to remind ourself again. And that’s why some fathers say that the forgetfulness of God, the forgetfulness of the Father’s house, is the cause of every sin." 

Father Antony Hughes: http://www.stmaryorthodoxchurch.org/orthodoxy/articles/ancestral_versus_original_sin
"His (Augustine's) misinterpretation of a key scriptural reference, Romans 5:12, is a case in point (Meyendorff, 1979). In Latin the Greek idiom eph ho which means because of was translated as in whom. Saying that all have sinned in Adam is quite different than saying that all sinned because of him. Augustine believed and taught that all humanity has sinned in Adam (Meyendorff, 1979, p. 144). The result is that guilt replaces death as the ancestral inheritance (Augustine, 1956b) Therefore the term original sin conveys the belief that Adam and Eve's sin is the first and universal transgression in which all humanity participates."

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1054

Why, thank you! 
So many excellent sources to quote, it's hard not to flood the system!

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John Ryan

Does the Roman Church declare that we inherit the "guilt" of Adam and Eve's sin? I have read and re-read that part of the Catechism and I do not find that belief. 

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1054

Does the Roman Church declare that we inherit the "guilt" of Adam and Eve's sin? I have read and re-read that part of the Catechism and I do not find that belief. 

 

I am hesitant to say definitively, however it is something I have come across both when reading about Catholicism and discussing with Catholic clergy.  The matter of guilt pertaining to original sin is one that has been heavily influenced by Augustine's writings, I think it fair to say he has had greater influence in the West than the East. I am grateful for any clarification those better versed in Catholic teaching are able to supply. 

The causes of the Great Schism can be brought up elsewhere, but it is important to remember the language barrier has caused many misunderstandings.  Perhaps it has influenced this as well? 

From the online Catholic Encyclopedia at New Advent the entry is much closer to the idea of an inherited condition: 
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11312a.htm
"Original sin may be taken to mean: (1) the sin that Adam committed; (2) a consequence of this first sin, the hereditary stain with which we are born on account of our origin or descent from Adam."

Roman Catholic and Orthodox differences on Original Sin:
http://http://www.frpeterpreble.com/2010/02/roman-catholic-and-orthodox-differences-on-original-sin.html
(This is significantly shorter than those links I posted above.) 
 

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rkwright

I had this discussion with Apo a long time ago - back in 2010 I believe.  But Its been a while since I've been on PM and can't find the search button for that topic.  

 

Part of the issue I had was the understanding of what the result was from the Original Sin.  It is my understanding that the Eastern Tradition does not see the Original Sin as a sin attributed to the us now, but simply as fallen nature.  I remember I asked Apo what this meant, if say Jesus had never redeemed us.  His answer was that the souls would simply fall out of existence.  Thus Christ died for "all" in the sense that he restores existence to all souls, but through a life of theosis each soul is individually judged on their eternal fate.  The argument being that even a life in hell is in some way better than non-existence.  

 

I really wish I could find that topic! Apo is extremely educated on these issues and it would be good to re-read his comments on this.   

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Selah

Rome teaches that we are born with a stain of original sin, even though no personal sin was committed

 

The East teaches that we have no such stain at birth.

 

Is that right?

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rkwright

Rome teaches that we are born with a stain of original sin, even though no personal sin was committed

 

The East teaches that we have no such stain at birth.

 

Is that right?

Basically - the East still teaches that we have a "stain" of original sin at birth but the result of that stain is a fallen nature, a loss of unity with God.  Rome teaches that the stain is not a personal sin, but the CCC states that it is an individual sin.  

 

My question for Apo back then was, fine we can call it different things - a fallen nature or a non-personal but individual sin - but what is the result of each teaching.

 

My concern for EO theology was that if it isn't a sin per se, why is the cross necessary? Can we simply be good and make it to heaven.

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Selah

Basically - the East still teaches that we have a "stain" of original sin at birth but the result of that stain is a fallen nature, a loss of unity with God.  Rome teaches that the stain is not a personal sin, but the CCC states that it is an individual sin.  

 

My question for Apo back then was, fine we can call it different things - a fallen nature or a non-personal but individual sin - but what is the result of each teaching.

 

My concern for EO theology was that if it isn't a sin per se, why is the cross necessary? Can we simply be good and make it to heaven.

 

Life. The purpose of the cross is that Christ died, and by dying conquered death, so we may live. 

 

I actually do not think the EO teaches that we have a stain, but I will wait for 1054 to answer. 

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1054

We inherit the fallen nature as stated.  Through the Incarnation God restores fallen creation.  As Saint Athanasius says, "God became man so that man might become god."  With the feast of Theophany (the Baptism of our Lord) it is not He who needed to be baptized, but rather through His baptism the waters were sanctified.  Death on the cross was needed to overcome death making it powerless.  The Paschal (Easter) troparion states this beautifully: "Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and upon those in the tombs bestowing life!" 

Fr. Stephen Salaris says:
"First, Jesus is our scapegoat. At His baptism, the Sinless One took upon Himself, willingly and voluntarily, all of the sins of humanity – past, present, and future. Every sin, every transgression, every fault, and every error of fallen humanity is now laid upon Jesus’ head. In doing this, He fulfills the type seen in the Levitical scapegoat. After being baptized and assuming the burden of humanity’s sins, Jesus exits to the wilderness for forty days. The new scapegoat is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world."

There is an excellent talk available on YouTube given by Metropolitan Kallistos (Timothy) Ware on the Orthodox perspective of the Crucifixion.  I don't have access to find it at the moment, but I will search for it for those who may be interested.  I also heartily recommend his book, "The Orthodox Way" which gives an in depth, yet extremely readable, overview of the Orthodox understanding.  He also wrote, "The Orthodox Church" however the focus of this book tends towards the historical whereas "The Orthodox Way" is more theological. 

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Credo in Deum

What is the EO's take on baptism?  I was reading on oca.org, that in the sacrament of Baptism we put on the garments of salvation, our new humanity, which is Christ Himself; the new Adam.   Now calling Christ the new Adam is something that interests me.  Is Christ the new Adam because He was sinless?  If so then wouldn't us putting on His humanity, be a declaration that we need Him because unlike Him, we have not been created sinless?  

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1054

What is the EO's take on baptism?  I was reading on oca.org, that in the sacrament of Baptism we put on the garments of salvation, our new humanity, which is Christ Himself; the new Adam.   Now calling Christ the new Adam is something that interests me.  Is Christ the new Adam because He was sinless?  If so then wouldn't us putting on His humanity, be a declaration that we need Him because unlike Him, we have not been created sinless?  

 

Going to rely heavily on quotations in this response as well.  The below excerpts are on the idea of Christ as the New Adam.  (The first one, “Adam’s Fall” doesn’t directly mention it whereas the second does.)  I suggest reading them in context from the source, but I thought I’d give a few quick points here. 

In Orthodoxy sin is seen as ‘missing the mark’.  There is an oft told story of someone asking a monk what they do in the monastery.  He replied, “We fall, we get back up, we fall, we get back up...”  This is repentance, getting up and trying again.  You’ll often come across the idea that each day we put off the old Adam and put on the new.  The idea is to strive for perfection – the perfection that can only be found in Christ.  ‘Perfect God, perfect Man.’  We will miss the mark, but we keep trying

I will address your questions concerning baptism as best I can.  Expect more quotations…   
 

Adam's Fall
By Fr. Patrick Reardon
http://www.antiochian.org/node/17955
“When we think of Adam's fall, there are two passive participles that should come forcefully to our minds: lost and cursed. These two words sum up the human condition without Christ.”
…
“If man was to return to God, God had to take the initiative. If God had not sought man out, he would keep going in the same direction-away. This is very clear in the biblical story of Adam's hiding from God immediately after his disobedience. He and all his descendents would still be lying low there in the bushes if God had not come after him, inquiring, "Where are you?"”
…
“The curse incurred by fallen man was related to the very earth from which he was taken: "Cursed is the ground for your sake. . . In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread/ Till you return to the ground,/ For out of it you were taken;/ For dust you are, And to dust you shall return." The curse, that is to say, was man's mortality. What Adam handed on was domination by death; "sin reigned in death" (Romans 5:21). By reason of Adam's Fall, man without redemption is under the reign of death and corruption, because "the reign of death (regnum mortis) operates only in the corruption of the flesh" (Tertullian, On the Resurrection 47).

This is what Adam bequeathed to his offspring, "the reign of death." To die without the grace of redemption is to die eternally. This is the real curse of death, because to die such a death is to be "lost" in a most radical way, lost in the sense of putting oneself beyond the possibility of being found.”
 

Jesus Christ, The ‘New Adam’
http://www.sourozh.org/orthodox-faith-texts/jesus-christ-the-new-adam.html
“The first-created Adam was unable to fulfil the vocation laid before him: to attain deification and bring to God the visible world by means of spiritual and moral perfection. Having broken the commandment and having fallen away from the sweetness of Paradise, he had the way to deification closed to him. Yet everything that the first man left undone was accomplished for him by God Incarnate, the Word-become-flesh, the Lord Jesus Christ. He trod that path to the human person which the latter was meant to tread towards Him. And if this would have been the way of ascent for the human person, for God it was the way of humble condescension, of self-emptying ( kenosis ).

St Paul calls Christ the 'second Adam', contrasting Him with the 'first': 'The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven' (1 Cor.15:47). This parallelism was developed by St John Chrysostom, who emphasized that Adam was the prototype of Christ: 'Adam is the image of Christ ...as the man for those who came from him, even though they did not eat of the tree, became the cause of death, then Christ for those who were born of Him, although they have done no good, became the bearer of righteousness, which he gave to all of us through the cross'.”

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