Talk:Original sin

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Name change proposal

I propose that we change the name of this article to "Controversy over the doctrine of original sin" and then create a new article on original sin. An article about original sin does not need to tell the reader all the things that original sin is not and be constantly in a defensive attitude. Just plainly state what the doctrine is, some of the theological justification behind it, quote and and reference tertiary sources. If I knew nothing about Christianity, after reading this article I would come away believing that original sin is considered a heretical doctrine by Orthodox Churches and is being covered by orthodoxxwiki as it covers other heresies such as Arianism or Palegianism. Look at the first sentence describing the doctrine, it contains the word "not" to inform the reader what the doctrine is not. And what the doctrine is "not" is a red hearing, as I have stated elsewhere. No one, except some extreme Calvinists, believes that original sin is defined as "inherited guilt." As it is, this article is so deeply flawed, it should probably be deleted and be replaced by one by a competent scholar. It fails to meet even the basic definition of an encyclopedia article and instead comes across as the ramblings and ravings of a conspiracy theorist.

Then there is the problem with the last section, which is basically a series of extended quotes from a Vatican document on the Limbo of the Infants that the previous editor claims sheds light on historical development concerning original sin. Do I even need to say that orthodoxwiki is not a storehouse for quotes from the Vatican website. And the conclusions that the editor leaves at the end of the quotes constitute original research and speculation.

Is this all Orthodoxy has to offer? When people want to know what Orthodox Christian believe and how we present ourselves to the world, if they come here they will get some of the most poorly written and rambling content which contains less information than confusion, nitpicking, falsehood, and incompetence. Just give a simple explication of the facts in an encyclopedic style.

--Ryan Close (talk) 15:10, March 30, 2018 (UTC)


Hello, "Original Sin" has its origins in Augustine who bases his theology on a bad latin translation of Romans 5:12 and who the Catholic church have based a lot of their theology; the great fathers of the church in Augustine's time would call this the "Ancestoral Sin" and of course there are major theological differences between the two.

This OW article does not really differentiate this point within the first paragraph - which allows for a misconception that the term "Original Sin" is an Orthodox term when it clearly is not ...

For someone simple, like myself, this article does not clearly differentiate its Orthodox basis from its non-Orthodox basis ... I hope somoene who is fluent in writing could create a new article called "Ancestoral Sin" to which a clearly Orthodox definition is provided and this article is re-worded to clearly state the Catholic definition and that the term is not Orthodox.

I hope a simple split like this could save a lot of us "simpler" readers the confusion and the necessasity to debate the difference between the body of ONE article? :-)

Vasiliki 01:52, November 28, 2008 (UTC)

Dear Vasiliki, despite your claims to simplicity, you seem to want to complicate the simple biblical and patristic doctrine of original sin with totally new term like "ancestral sin". You want the article to "differentiate" a fine point of doctrine that happens to be your hobby horse. Just leave the Orthodox Faith alone. We don't need to "fix" it by renovating everything to match the insane rantings of Fr John Romanedies.
Behold the Orthodox Christian doctrine of original sin:
For behold I was conceived in iniquities; and in sins did my mother conceive me. (Psalm 50:7)
Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned."
[Jesus did] away with that disobedience of man which had taken place at the beginning by the occasion of a tree...rectifying that disobedience which had occurred by reason of a tree...the disobedience which had been incurred towards our Maker…[for] it was by these things that we disobeyed God, and did not give credit to His word...indeed we had offended [God] in the first Adam, when he did not perform His commandment. … For we were debtors to none other but to Him whose commandment we had transgressed at the beginning.” (Saint Irenaeus. Against Heresies. Book 5 Chapter 16 Paragraph 3)
When Adam had transgressed, his sin reached unto all men, so [that], when the Lord had become man and had overthrown the Serpent, [His] great strength…[could] extend through all men, so that each of us may say, “For we are not ignorant of his devices.” (Saint Athanasius. Against the Arians. Book I Chapter 51)
Little given, much gotten; by the donation of food the original sin is discharged. Just as Adam transmitted the sin by his wicked eating, we destroy that treacherous food when we cure the need and hunger. (Saint Basil of Caesarea. Eulogies & Sermons, Famine & Drought 8:7)
Our forefather Adam was cast out [of Paradise] for disobedience, and exchanged a Paradise bringing forth wondrous fruits of its own accord for the ground which bringeth forth thorns. What then? some one will say. We have been beguiled and are lost. Is there then no salvation left? We have fallen: Is it not possible to rise again? We have been blinded: May we not recover our sight? We have become crippled: Can we never walk upright? In a word, we are dead: May we not rise again? He that woke Lazarus who was four days dead and already stank, shall He not, O man, much more easily raise thee who art alive? He who shed His precious blood for us, shall Himself deliver us from sin. (Saint Cyril of Jerusalem. Catechetical Lectures 2:4-5)
We were all without exception...partakers of the same Adam, and were led astray by the serpent and slain by sin, and are saved by the heavenly Adam and brought back by the tree of shame to the tree of life from whence we had fallen. (Saint Gregory Nazianzen. Against the Arians 33:9)
Let the word of Christ persuade you of this, also, as He says that no one can enter into the kingdom of heaven unless he is born again of water and the Spirit. Through Him the stains of the first birth are cleansed away, through which we are conceived in iniquity and in sins have our mothers brought us forth. (Saint Gregory Nazianzen. Oratio in natalem Christi.)
When Adam sinned that great sin, and condemned all the human race in common, he paid the penalties in grief. (Saint John Chrysostom. Letter to Olympia)
It is clear that it is not the sin which comes from transgression of the law, but that sin which comes from the disobedience of Adam, which has defiled all. (Saint John ChrysostomHomily on Romans 10)

We don't need a new doctrine, we don't need to fix Orthodoxy, we don't need "differentiate" or over complicate it. This is the truth revealed by God in Divine Revelation, preserved by the Church, preached by the Apostles and Hierarchs, and died for by the martyrs. If you prefer the "religion" of Fr Romanedies that he made up concerning religion as a neurological disease, balancing your blood and spinal fluid, and how he rejected the Bible as the revealed Word of God but only witness to revelation, then fine. But don't try to change the Faith once delivered to the Saints.

Ryan Close (talk)

Original Guilt?

The current Orthodoxwiki article on Original Sin says, "Orthodox Christians have usually understood Roman Catholicism as professing St. Augustine's teaching that everyone bears not only the consequence, but also the guilt, of Adam's sin. This teaching appears to have been confirmed by multiple councils, the first of them being the Council of Orange in 529." Just as a matter of fact, the cannons of the council, in the english translation on line, do not even contain the word guilt. So there is that. The Council of Orange is an Orthodox council and it defends the Christian Faith undefiled against heresy. Christians would do good to carefully read and meditate on the contents of this council and the Scripture the holy fathers reference before presuming to stand in judgement of our saints and holy hierarchs.

If you have been been around Orthodoxy for a while you have heard something like this: Orthodoxy doesn't believe in Original Sin, We believe in Ancestral Sin. This position is usually a simplified version of Fr John Romanides’ book "The Ancestral Sin." These theories usually contain some of the following features:

Orthodoxy doesn’t believe in inherited guilt like the West does.
Orthodoxy teaches that only the effects of the first sin were inherited (death not sin).
There was an important translation issue from the Greek into early Latin texts of Romans 5:12.
St Augustine was misled by the above translation issue to invent a notion of inherited sin, including inherited guilt.

Lets just look at the first. I agree that Orthodoxy doesn't believe in inherited guilt. I don't believe the last four words: "like the West does." Whether Saint Augustine taught this, I don't know, but the Augustinian doctrine was never taught by the Roman Catholic Church with the full authority of either the Extraordinary or the Ordinary Magisterium. Full Stop. There was always a distinction between original sin as a "state of being" and "actual sin" being the sins each person actually commits themselves. For example, the Catechism of the Council of Trent said, “They are to be taught, in the first place, that such is the admirable efficacy of this Sacrament that it remits original sin and actual guilt, however unthinkable its enormity may seem.” This demonstrates a Western distinction between "original sin" and "actual guilt" at a time when Rome was allegedly teaching "inherited guilt" doctrine.

And if you read the Catechism of the Catholic Church it is clear that they still make this distinction very clearly:

By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called "sin" only in an analogical sense: it is a sin "contracted" and not "committed" - a state and not an act. . . Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence".

This error that falsely accuses the Roman Catholic Church of teaching the doctrine of "inherited guilt" is so widespread it is easy to feel despair over the damage it has done to Holy Orthodoxy. First of all, nothing good comes of spreading factually false claims, especially when they are so easy to debunk. Secondly, the integrity of Orthodoxy is maligned and broken when it becomes evident that Orthodox Christians accept rumors and conspiracy theories so uncritically. Third, the wholesale renovation of the Faith Once Delivered to the Saints in the name of anti-Western polemic and uncritical obsession with celebrity priests like Fr John Romanedies is creating a new religion that looks very different from the Orthodox Catholic Christian Faith of Our Fathers that has been preserved in the Church for 2000 years by the witness of the Holy Hierarchs and the Blood of the Martyrs!

Summary: The Orthodox Church does not believe in "inherited guilt", but neither does the Roman Catholic Church, and it never has. We should not use anti-western hysteria drive us into rejection of the One True Faith.

--Ryan Close (talk) 15:11, March 30, 2018 (UTC)


Affirm that there is a difference between the orthodox conception of orthodox sin and the roman catholic one, wrongly understood as the men would inherit the Adam's guilty, is a form of modernism heresy. There is no difference, as Roman Catholic Catecism confirm:

" 400 The harmony in which they had found themselves, thanks to original justice, is now destroyed: the control of the soul's spiritual faculties over the body is shattered; the union of man and woman becomes subject to tensions, their relations henceforth marked by lust and domination.282 Harmony with creation is broken: visible creation has become alien and hostile to man.283 Because of man, creation is now subject "to its bondage to decay".284 Finally, the consequence explicitly foretold for this disobedience will come true: man will "return to the ground",285 for out of it he was taken. Death makes its entrance into human history. (...)

By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state.294 It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called "sin" only in an analogical sense: it is a sin "contracted" and not "committed" - a state and not an act.

405 Although it is proper to each individual,295 original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence". Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ's grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle."

Having been exposed that, the wrong affirmation of the article was deleted.

--Philippe Gebara 15:56, February 13, 2007 (PST)Philippe Gebara

It would seem better instead to correct, rather than to delete. As the article stands now, the paragraph regarding the definition of RC doctrine comes out of nowhere. In any event, many Orthodox scholars are of the opinion that the RC and Protestant teachings differ from the Orthodox one, and since original sin is such a widely known theological concept among English-speakers, it would seem appropriate to include such information in the article rather than simply deleting it. Perhaps some of the many links included might be used as a basis for a correction and expansion of the article. As such, I've reverted the deletion and added the expert tag. —Fr. Andrew talk contribs 07:24, February 14, 2007 (PST)

Dear Father Andrew, but I corrected... deleting and posting the Catholic Cathecism's passage! By the way, do you want to know more about the Roman Catholic Church than the Cathecism of the Catholic Church itself? It is more than clear that RC original sin's view is wrong in the article. Thank you! --Philippe Gebara 13:22, May 8, 2007 (PDT)Philippe Gebara

I'm sorry it's taken so long for me to step in here. Actually, I agree with Philippe -- it's better to delete misleading information like this than have it linger, though I agree with Fr. Andrew that this really needs to be expanded. This article, BTW, was recently linked on Yahoo Answers. — FrJohn (talk) 17:42, September 16, 2007 (PDT)


I rolled back the recent revision because the argument was not clear with regard to "only Adam was personally responsible for his own sin" in Catholic teaching. It seems like an attempt to reassert a polemic, but is not well-enough rooted in actual RC teaching. — FrJohn (talk)

Ryan Close's deletion

I am not in favor of these changes. Ryan seems to conflate what is in the current Catechism of the Catholic Church with what it has taught historically. I am not at all convinced that the article has historical error. --Fr Lev (talk) 15:59, March 30, 2018 (UTC)

From the Baltimore Catechism: Q. 265. What is the sin called which we inherit from our first parents? A. The sin which we inherit from our first parents is called original sin. Q. 266. Why is this sin called original? A. This sin is called original because it comes down to us from our first parents, and we are brought into the world with its guilt on our soul. Q. 267. Does this corruption of our nature remain in us after original sin is forgiven? A. This corruption of our nature and other punishments remain in us after original sin is forgiven. --Fr Lev (talk) 16:13, March 30, 2018 (UTC)

From the Council of Trent V: "5. If any one denies, that, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted; or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away; but says that it is only rased, or not imputed; let him be anathema." I would ask that the slander against St John Maximovitch one removed. --Fr Lev (talk) 16:33, March 30, 2018 (UTC)

I undid Ryan's change. The Latin text of the papal bull defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception clearly indicates it is related to keeping the Theotokos free from the guilt of original sin. "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful." But here "stain" is translating culpae (guilt). See the Latin: Declaramus, pronuntiamus et definimus doctrinam quae tenet beatissimam Virginem Mariam in primo instanti suae conceptionis fuisse singulari Omnipotentis Dei gratia et privilegio, intuitu meritorum Christi Jesu Salvatoris humani generis, ab omni originalis culpae labe praeservatam immunem, esse a Deo revelatam, atque idcirco ab omnibus fidelibus firmiter constanterque credendam.

Thank you Father, your frank and honest assessment is welcome. Thank you for backing up your refutation with clear examples. Very respectful! You are very right. However, the word "guilt" did not actually appear in the definition of the IC, it said stain. I thought "culpas" meant defect, fault, liability, or guilt. So one of the meanings of the word can be stain. It would be kind of conspiratorial to assume the English translation was being intentionally misleading.
Furthermore, it should not be surprising that a theological school of thought within the Church might have once said something that was problematic from the point of view of the whole Church and then be corrected in the course of time. Such was the case with Saint Cyril's phrase "Mia physis tou theou logou sesarkomene" which was remediated by the formula of the Council of Chalcedon when the whole Church came to a consensus that the words "Mia physis" had the potential to be misinterpreted in a way that was unfaithful to the Christian Faith. I wonder if the word "guilt" in relation to the doctrine of original sin, even if used analogically, has gradually been removed because it has not been accepted by the Church. As the quotes in the article say, the western fathers and the eastern fathers were using the words sin and guilt in different ways. I personally have no problem with western fathers who used the word "guilt" in association with the doctrine of original sin because I know this does not mean "personal actual sin." But the word has been removed and the meaning of the doctrine clarified to exclude the problematic interpretation. The consensus of the whole Church seems to be having a clarifying effect. Now, I don't think we have to excise history of the fact that these problematic views were once the norm within the Roman Catholic Church. I'm not in favor of historical revisionism. However, I don't see why the Roman catholic Church's latter authoritative clarification isn't significant.
I did not delete any content. I attempted to improve content. The only thing that was removed was reference to the Council of Orange. Do you think that the Orthodox Council of Orange contained the idea of "inherited guilt"? I think it talks about an inherited fallen condition that affects each person on both the physical and spiritual level. So according to the fathers of Orange, original sin does not just causing physical death, as Fr Romanedies says, but also a spiritual condition necessitating prevenient grace. Failure to admit this is tantamount to pelagianism.
Lastly, what about the problems with the last section. Is orthodoxwiki supposed to be a storehouse for quotes from the Vatican website? If this information could be rewritten so that it did not need to be quoted from directly and could be made to better suit the purposes of this encyclopedic article that would be good. I did not delete this content because I think wiki's work better when community consensus can be built. Some people believe that offending or poorly written content should be deleted quickly to avoid confusion or misinformation and maintain high quality standards. I'm more moderate, preferring to keep badly written material around for a while with hopes that the community can improve the content. So, I'm not saying that there is not good information in this section, it is just not adequately incorporated into the article. High quality encyclopedia articles do not, as a rule, have extensive amounts of quoted material like this.
For a good website that promotes the "anti-original-sin" position, see: This article, though I don't necessarily agree with it, is more organized and coherent. I personally don't care if it is called ancestral sin or original sin. That's just terminology. The question is, what is the Orthodox doctrine of "whatever you want to call it"? Because reading this article doesn't seem to help. If I read it to my kids, do you think they would come away with a good clear and easy to understand explication of the biblical and patristic doctrine?
Thanks again. --Ryan Close (talk) 22:05, March 30, 2018 (UTC)
164. What came of Adam's sin?
The curse, and death.
165. What is the curse?
The condemnation of sin by God's just judgment, and the evil which from sin came upon the earth for the punishment of men. God said to Adam, Cursed is the ground for thy sake. Gen. iii. 17.
166. What is the death which came from the sin of Adam?
It is twofold: bodily, when the body loses the soul which quickened it; and spiritual, when the soul loses the grace of God, which quickened it with the higher and spiritual life.
167. Can the soul, then, die as well as the body?
It can die, but not so as the body. The body, when it dies, loses sense, and is dissolved; the soul, when it dies by sin, loses spiritual light, joy, and happiness, but is not dissolved nor annihilated, but remains in a state of darkness, anguish, and suffering.
168. Why did not the first man only die, and not all, as now?
Because all have come of Adam since his infection by sin, and all sin themselves. As from an infected source there naturally flows an infected stream, so from a father infected with sin, and consequently mortal, there naturally proceeds a posterity infected like him with sin, and like him mortal.
169. How is this spoken of in holy Scripture?
By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. Rom. v. 12.
(From the Orthodox Catechism, popularly used in the early 20th century, which Saint Tikhon had translated and published in the Americas.)

I'll tend to this as soon as I get past our Holy Week! --Fr Lev (talk) 13:16, April 2, 2018 (UTC)

Awesome! I'm excited. I'm not in favor of making any changes to the article until we build community consensus. My position on this would be adequately summarized by Fr. Vladimir Moss, especially in his critique of Fr. John Romanides & Kalomiros. See:

I think the article should be re-written, but here are my observations. (1) While Fr John Romanides work early work, Ancestral Sin, is clearly relevant to the article, his later work and Vladimir Moss’s attack on him is not particularly relevant. (2) Fr John’s view on ancestral vs. original sin is hardly unique. One finds the same position expressed by Orthodox theologians across the board – Metropolitan Kallistos Ware, Metropolitan Hilarion Alfeyev. Fr John McGuckin, Fr Andrew Louth, etc. (3) The article should be titled “Ancestral Sin” and any distinctions drawn between the traditional Orthodox viewpoint and those of Roman Catholicism and Protestantism should be secondary. (4) It is simply a fact that the Roman Catholic Church, from shortly after the time of St Augustine through the late 20th century did teach a doctrine of original guilt, i.e., a view of original sin where all humans are born guilty with the guilt of original sin, and that such guilt is sufficient to warrant eternal damnation. In the case of babies who die unbaptized, there was a mitigating doctrine of limbo that was not proclaimed as a dogma of the Roman Church but was nonetheless understood to be official teaching. (5) It is also true that this played a role in the proclamation of the Roman dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1950 – a feast which began in the Orthodox East but which did not include any notion that the Theotokos was conceived without original sin. (6) While one may certainly rejoice that official Roman teaching on original sin has been moderated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is anachronistic to read that teaching back into the last two millennia and to impute error to Orthodox theologians and saints such as St John of Shanghai because their teaching reflected the Roman teaching of their day. St John reposed in 1966, and the Catechism was not promulgated by Pope John Paul II until 1992. Having said all this, I do not want to re-write the article. --Fr Lev (talk) 21:26, April 9, 2018 (UTC)

Father Lev, thank you. "Let us call brothers even those who hate us and forgive all by the Resurrection."
Concerning the history of the doctrine in the Western tradition: I will agree to concede to most of what you say for now. I have been told by Roman Catholics and Anglicans that while Saint Augustine believed this, it was never dogmatized by the Extraordinary Magisterium. As such, even if it was taught by individuals it was never accepted by the entire Church as an irreformable part of the Regula Fidei. The Baltimore Catechism, being a tool of the local hierarchy in the exercise of their teaching office, is not an expression of an infallible dogma, but rather a potentially fallible exercise of the ordinary magisterium and therefore reformable. The examples that you give provide reason enough to doubt the certainty of my previous hypothesis. I will make a serious inquiry into the references you provided.
Concerning the terminological discussion: Provisionally granting that the "caricature" of Original Sin was widely believed and taught as part of the Western tradition, wouldn't this constitute an aberrant view of or an erroneous teaching of the actually doctrine? Not a different doctrine all together? To my mind there are not two doctrines, an incorrect one called "Original Sin" and a correct one called "Ancestral Sin." Rather there is one doctrine, understood in a variety of ways, some of which are highly problematic or flat out wrong. Again, whatever you choose to call it, "Original Sin" or "Ancestral Sin", I don't care. As far as I can tell they are two names for the same thing. I acknowledge, as you have pointed out, that the term "Ancestral Sin" is not new or unique to Fr Romanides, but is there any actual grammatical or etymological justification for distinguishing the two terms so concretely?
Concerning Fr Romanides: If Fr Vladimir Moss is correct, then Fr Romanides' version of "Original / Ancestral Sin" is itself a significant departure from the traditional doctrine. That means we are potentially dealing with three views, not just two: (1) the Orthodox Doctrine of Original / Ancestral Sin, (2) the incorrect western version of the same, and (3) the incorrect Romanides version of the same. And since Fr Romanides called his version "Ancestral Sin" most people may have become confused, assuming that (1) is accurately described by (3). Obviously (3) can be compared with (2), but (1) can be compared with both (2) and (3), and is most correct.
Concerning the Immaculate Conception: I don't think a detailed discussion of this is relevant to this article, but in as much as it is referenced in connection with Original Sin #2, what versions of the doctrine were held by Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Gennadius Scholarius? Saint Thomas obviously taught #2 but he denied the Immaculate Conception. Saint Gennadius, who loved Thomas and adopted his methodology, nonetheless defended the Immaculate Conception against Thomas. What does any of this say about the supposed implications of #2 supposedly necessitating the IC? Thomas didn't draw that conclusion.
Lastly, concerning Re-writing: I believe that the focus of the article should be primarily to accurately describe the Orthodox Doctrine of Original / Ancestral Sin. Secondarily, it should make necessary comparisons and describe relevant historical disputes and controversies in subsequent sub-sections. As such, the first section need not be polemical at all, but rather a straightforward description of the doctrine in positive terms, the way you would describe it to my children or to the average lay person.
--Ryan Close (talk) 20:43, April 18, 2018 (UTC)