Original Sin

What are the essential differences between Eastern and Western Catholicism in regards to the doctrine of original sin?

From what I gather from the little I have read on the subject, it seems that the Western Church, following Augustine, affirms that original (or hereditary, or inherited, etc.) sin transfers guilt, whereas the Eastern Church denies this.

Am I correct in thinking this?

Thanks,
FCCopleston

The Latin Rite Church believes in the stain of original sin. We believe in the Sacrament of Baptism, babies are cleansed from the original sin of Adam and Eve. Eastern Catholics also believe in original sin, but do not believe in the stain of it or that it needs to be sacramentally erased.:signofcross:

Actually, the Christian East rejects the stain of Original Sin insofar as the guilt of the sin of Adam is inherited by us (if that is truly the authentic teaching of the Latin West - FRANKly, I don’t know).

But the consequences of Original Sin is something we inherit i.e. death, concupiscence, moral weakness of the will, and a darkening of the mind.

The Christian East does INDEED believe that baptism is needed for infants to place us in God’s Grace as His children reconciled through Christ in the Holy Spirit. That is the beginning of Theosis for us which lasts throughout our lives.

For the Christian East, the Most Holy Virgin Mary was not exempt from THIS understanding of Original Sin, but was sanctfied at her Conception and throughout her life so that the EFFECTS of Original Sin were mitigated in her i.e. she felt no pain at giving birth to Christ and her death was a light falling asleep or dormition (the liturgical texts of the East refer to her death, so this would mean she was not exempt from the Eastern view of Original Sin).

The East affirms that at no time did the Most Holy Mother of Christ our God ever have a sin on her soul. Therefore, the Immaculate Conception dogma is outside the theological and Mariological (Theotokological) tradition of the East. But, in pith and substance, both East and West affirm her as being All-Holy and Ever-Holy.

Alex

You are quite a knowledgeable fellow, Alexander Roman; and I thank you again for your reply.

In it you wrote:

…the Christian East rejects the stain of Original Sin insofar as the guilt of the sin of Adam is inherited by us…But the consequences of Original Sin is something we inherit i.e. death, concupiscence, moral weakness of the will, and a darkening of the mind.

Let me see if I understand this properly. The Eastern Church does not believe that the guilt of Adam’s sin is inherited to the soul, but that the inheritance of Adam’s sin is limited to the “stain” or “effects” of Adam’s sin. The effects include death (physical and spiritual?), concupiscence, a limited knowledge and ability to carry out moral action, and a mind that is darkened so as to be unable to see the Divine Light of salvation clearly without the aid of God’s grace.

Does this sound like an adequate description of Eastern faith in relation to its doctrine of original/inherited sin?

I am not sure I understand the relationship between inheriting the effects of Adam’s fall, and the non-inheritance of the guilt of these effects. That is to say, am I not guilty before God for possessing concupiscence? At what point do I become accountable for these effects within me? It seems to me that wherever sin is present, guilt is present also. Does the Eastern Church believe that concupiscence is not itself sinful? Or does it believe that it is only after we commit a sin that we become guilty of this inheritance? (sorry for so many questions)

In Christ,
FCCopleston

The only thing I can think of where it makes a meaningful difference is that without the stain or guilt from sin, an unbaptized baby would assumedly still be allowed into Heaven under the Eastern view.

Other than that, the consequences are the same. We are prone to temptation and sin due to the Orginal Sin of Adam and Eve.

However, rather than it being inherited, it is a consequence. It would kind of be like if one’s parent’s squander all their money and at their death, their house is taken by the banks.

The children do not inherit the debt of the parents but are left with the consequences of not having any money or a house left for themselves.

I think similarily the East believes that we did not inherit the sin of Adam and Eve but are likewise left with the consequences which from an Eastern perspective would be the fact that we will all age and eventually die before being reunited with God.

I actually like the Eastern perspective because in my opinion, choosing to mortally sin, really is a desire for instant gratification and a doubt in our Heavenly reward in Heaven.

Death is a scarry thought and even with a devout belief it is easy to think that God will understand or just in case God doesn’t exist one better do this and have some fun now and then if God does exists, which one may be almost postive that He does, God will forgive him. Stuff like that. So I think that is the Eastern Perspective of Orginal Sin, a fear of one’s own mortality and the temptation to sin that comes with it.

Speaking for myself, I agree 100% with your reflection on Original Sin in the Eastern theological and Patristic tradition.

“Guilt” as such is only “active” following the exercise of our will, even if our will is affected by the darkening of the mind brought on by Original Sin. There is also the qualitative aspect of the “ravages of Original Sin” that is different between East and West. The Patristic tradition of the East, following the Cappadocian and Alexandrian Fathers, does not admit to a complete or even overwhelming idea of the soul being ravaged by Original Sin i.e. absence of Divine Grace. Be that as it may, our weakened, darkened state that we inherit from Adam is one that requires the life of Grace via the Sacraments and the life of prayer.

In some sense, YES we are implicated with the personal sin of Adam because of the pull of concupiscence in our nature. When we pray “forgive me a sinner” - this is quite irrespective of whether we have actually committed an actual sin or not. Our nature is inclined to sin and “likes” sin. Prayer and the life of the Spirit are not things that come easily or naturally to us - because our nature is damaged. Our nature is in a state of the rebellion of sin which is why we will always refer to ourselves in prayer as “sinners.” By the same token, to be a “sinner” does not necessarily mean that we bear the guilt of actual sin. When actual sin is forgiven us, our state of rebellion remains with us to be mollified and transformed by Divine Grace through the life in Christ.

Alex

I’m reading Fr. John Romanides Ancestral Sin, which addresses the differences between the West and East on “original sin” (ancestral sin), and one point he repeatedly makes is that the West sees death as created by God as punishment, while the East understands that God did not create death as punishment for sin. I have not further looked into this, but if true, I would think this significant in how West and East approach Original Sin differently.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.