Original and Ancestral Sin: A Church Dividing Issue?

When asked about the topic of Original Sin, many Orthodox Christians will proudly claim the Orthodox Church does not believe in Original Sin. They explain they believe in “Ancestral Sin,” instead. Some even go so far as to call Original Sin, as understood by the Roman Catholic Church, “a heresy.” This, again, is a typical response from many Orthodox Christians, especially those who have a negative attitude towards anything “western.” But is this the official teaching of the Orthodox Church, and do all subscribe to that understanding? Has the Orthodox Church ever condemned or denied Original sin in favor of Ancestral Sin? 

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Aquinas in the Orthodox Tradition

A talk given at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota on October 2, 2014. By Marcus Plested

I’m going to begin by taking you back in time to the 12th of December 1452, to Constantinople, and to the great Church of The Holy Wisdom, Hagia Sophia, in Constantinople. These were dark days for the Byzantine Empire.  Little remained of the Byzantine Empire apart from the city of Constantinople itself, held in a strangle-hold by the Turks. It seemed inevitable that the city would fall, sooner or later, despite its great wall. For one thing, the Byzantines were lacking the men to man the wall, and in desperation, the emperor, the last emperor of Rome  —  (the Byzantines never called themselves Byzantines, you know; they were always Romans living in “New Rome” which is Constantinople) — the Byzantines were desperate for help, desperate for help even from the wicked West with all its theological errors, and in a sort of last-ditch attempt, on the 12th of December 1452 they formally proclaimed the union that had been established, at least at a formal level, between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches at the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438-39). There it was ratified officially. At the time it was only proclaimed in Constantinople until the end of 1452. 

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St. Gregory Palamas and Thomas Aquinas: Between East and West

A talk given at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University Conference in Moscow on May 10, 2016. By Marcus Plested

My title is “St. Gregory Palamas and Thomas Aquinas between East and West.” The notion of East/West opposition, as you are doubtless aware, has been a prominent feature of Orthodox theology since at least the time of the Russian Slavophiles in the early-to-mid 19th century. With this overall paradigm of opposition, one of the distinctive feature of 20th century Orthodox theology in particular, especially in the Russian diaspora, has been the elevation of St. Gregory Palamas to the status of a kind of archetype of the Christian East to set against Thomas Aquinas understood as an archetype of the Christian West. In other words, Orthodox neo-Palamism has emerged as a conscious counterweight to Catholic neo-Thomism. So what I want to do in this paper, which is based on the research I did for my book on Orthodox Readings of Aquinas, is to not only trace the contours of this development but also to demonstrate its inadequacy and inaccuracy.

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Original Sin and Ephesus: Carthage’s Influence on the East

I have argued elsewhere that the doctrine of original sin as defined at the Council of Carthage in 418 is just as authoritative in the East as it is in the West because of the inclusion of the canons from Carthage in Canon 2 of the Council in Trullo (692, also known as the Quinisext or Penthekti Council). At first glance, this case may appear significantly overstated; yet another wooden canonical reading by an Internet pedagogue. After all, Trullo has long been understood in the East to be merely administrative in function: a standardization of various canonical norms. Surely, one might propose, Trullo did not intend to take on so weighty a theological matter as original sin!

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Ancestral/Original Sin

A florilegium collected by Eric Lozano and originally published here. Used with permission.

“For what is sin? Could a child who has only just been born commit a sin? And yet he has sin for which it is commanded to offer a sacrifice. For this reason the Church received from the Apostles the tradition to administer baptism to the children also. For the men to whom the secrets of divine mysteries had been entrusted knew that in everyone there were genuine sinful defilements, which had to be washed away with water and the Spirit.”

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Inherited Guilt in Ss. Augustine and Cyril

© Alexis Torrance and Dylan Pahman, ed., Treasures Old and New: Themes in Orthodox Theology in Memory of Fr. Matthew Baker (Jordanville: Holy Trinity Seminary Press, forthcoming).

Introduction: “Why can it be so hard to see the face of Christ in [historical] scholarship? Perhaps we forget how that face was beaten, spat upon, and crowned with thorns for our salvation and fail to recognize it before our eyes. Or perhaps, more likely, the problem is that the image in us and the scholarship we produce is obscured by the overgrowth of our sin and corruption. As the chanters pray in the person of Adam during memorials for the dead, ‘I am an image of Your ineffable glory, though I bear the scars of my transgressions.’ Whether studies of texts new or old, the contributions to this volume sift through the dragnet of history and human thought, endeavoring to sort the good from the bad. This even applies, as is the custom of the Fr. Georges Florovsky Orthodox Christian Theological Society, to the works of Florovsky himself. And so it does, far too soon, to the works of Fr. Matthew Baker.” Continue reading “Inherited Guilt in Ss. Augustine and Cyril”

Theological Aesthetics East and West: The Reception of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (Nicaea II)

By Sarah H. Begley (ThM Thesis)

“A world in need of redemption is a world in which vision of God is not an optional extra. . . Art, faith, theology and doing good can provide paths to such glimpses of the transcendent.”
– G. Thiessan, Theological Aesthetics Continue reading “Theological Aesthetics East and West: The Reception of the Seventh Ecumenical Council (Nicaea II)”

The Most Sacred Heart of Jesus: Taken From Paraliturdical Devotions of the Western Church and Their Role in Orthodoxy 1992

The devotion to the Sacred Heart also is rooted in intuitions of the early Church and even in the Old Testament. Fundamentally, it is a recollection of the sacrificial love of Christ as witnessed in His Incarnation, passion, and death. It includes also, the fullness of Divine love for mankind which is evidenced throughout the history of our race and is fulfilled in Christ’s act for the salvation of man.

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