Orthodox opinion of Our Lord and Atonement of Sins

I have read on a few Orthodox websites that Our Lord did not die on the cross for atonement for our sins, nor the original sin of Adam. The Orthodox claim that Adam’s sin has no relevance to our sins, and that Christ rather conquered death and not a particular sin. Can any Orthodox explain this better to me?

What website did you read that says Christ did not die for our salvation? Jesus Christ is the one who redeemed us by His suffering, death, and resurrection and through Him we have Life.

Original Sin however is believed to be an erroneous belief that Saint Augustine interpreted. Orthodox and Eastern Catholics do not believe that we inherited the stain of Adam and Eve. Sin is not something one can inherit, sin is like a disease, and through our prayers and faith in God, we strive to be healed from sin. Because the belief in Original Sin is not accepted, the dogma founded on it is not accepted, which is the immaculate conception.

We inherit Adam’s fallen state of humanity and spirituality, which is collectively called Ancient Sin. Christ took the form of a human being, and as a human he has raised us, by redeeming mankind as God and Man.

This icon best explains the Eastern belief in one image

To put it another way –
Roman Catholics define “original sin” as meaning that I, the individual person named Scott, am guilty of the sin that Adam and Eve back in the Garden of Eden. Orthodox Christians say that’s wrong. I, the individual person named Scott, am not guilty of Adam and Eve’s sin, but I have inhereted the consequence of their sin. The Earth produces weeds, and everything dies, and so on. And I have inherented an unerring knack for sinning myself. It’s a disease of sorts, this thing called “sin.”

So whereas Roman Catholics think of sin in terms of a courtroom scene of guilt and innocence, Orthodox Christians think of it like a illness to be cured by a medical doctor. The fact that sin causes death, and therefore I’m going to die, is akin to a disease, in Orthodox eyes. Jesus is the doctor who can, and did, cure that disease. That icon is very cool and conveys the idea of Jesus healing the sinful condition and thereby conquering death. (He is pulling people out of the grave in that picture.)

It is not true that Orthodoxy denies the immaculate conception per se. The Roman Catholic vocabulary is denied on the grounds of being foreign to and utterly irrelevant to their “illness” and “medical doctor” idea of sin, but the concept is definitely part of Orthodoxy. In the Divine Liturgy of John Chrysostom, for example, the Orthodox faithful pray to Mary at least six times, and each time she is invoked as “most holy, pure, blessed, and glorious ever virgin Lady Theotokos,” or some such wording. The meaning is that she never sinned.

This is an excerpt from a question pertaining to original sin as answered by Fr. John Matusiak, and posted on the Orthodox Church in America website’s Q & A section:

"With regard to original sin, the difference between Orthodox Christianity and the West may be outlined as follows:

In the Orthodox Faith, the term “original sin” refers to the “first” sin of Adam and Eve. As a result of this sin, humanity bears the “consequences” of sin, the chief of which is death. Here the word “original” may be seen as synonymous with “first.” Hence, the “original sin” refers to the “first sin” in much the same way as “original chair” refers to the “first chair.”

In the West, humanity likewise bears the “consequences” of the “original sin” of Adam and Eve. However, the West also understands that humanity is likewise “guilty” of the sin of Adam and Eve. The term “Original Sin” here refers to the condition into which humanity is born, a condition in which guilt as well as consequence is involved.

**In the Orthodox Christian understanding, while humanity does bear the consequences of the original, or first, sin, humanity does not bear the personal guilt associated with this sin. Adam and Eve are guilty of their willful action; we bear the consequences, chief of which is death. **

One might look at all of this in a completely different light. Imagine, if you will, that one of your close relatives was a mass murderer. He committed many serious crimes for which he was found guilty * and perhaps even admitted his guilt publicly. You, as his or her son or brother or cousin, may very well bear the consequences of his action -* people may shy away from you or say, “Watch out for him -* he comes from a family of mass murderers.” Your name may be tainted, or you may face some other forms of discrimination as a consequence of your relative’s sin. You, however, are not personally guilty of his or her sin.

There are some within Orthodoxy who approach a westernized view of sin, primarily after the 17th and 18th centuries due to a variety of westernizing influences particularly in Ukraine and Russia after the time of Peter Mohyla. These influences have from time to time colored explanations of the Orthodox Faith which are in many respects lacking."

I hope this helps. Here is the link:

I think much of this is semantics and the Orthodox aren’t as different on this issue as they’d like to think they are. The guilt of Adam’s Sin or the “first” sin, call it what you like, thanks to Adam and Eve, we’re stuck in a fallen state with a stain upon our souls. If Orthodox don’t like the word “stain,” again, it’s semantics. The stain is our proclivity to sin and turn our backs on God. The concupiscence we have, that is, the natural desire to please God coupled with a selfish internalized ego that is oriented toward self-gratification, is the stain. Call it what they like, it’s really a stain, a defect, a virus on our programming…thanks to Adam. So the guilt of their sin is alive and well. We inherited it so it’s ours. If we didn’t inherit it, then we would be in a state of grace with the beatific vision firmly in our grasp, total peace and joy and sinlessness would be ours.

Isaiah 53, which everyone knows is the prophecy of the suffering servant, the Christ, is a splendid example of the Atonement and really supports the Catholic Atonement rather than this medicinal life-breathing style lingo of the Orthodox:

“Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings he endured.” Isaiah 53:4
This is plainly Christ taking on the punishment we deserve. This isn’t just Christ dying to breath life into us with grace, it is substitutionary, plainly.

“But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins” Isaiah 53:5
Again, plainly Atonement language, not at all the Orthodox approach

“but the Lord laid upon him the guilt of us all.” Isaiah 53:6
He is standing in our place, taking the guilt we should have endured, plain and simple

“Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear”
Isaiah 53:11
Plain as day, Atonement language, substitutionary, Christ standing in our place, an offering, a blood offering to God to atone.

“Because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked”
Isaiah 53:12
Christ is being considered “wicked” which is obviously ISN’T! Atonement, substitutionary scripture, Christ being counted as something to save us, sacrificial

Paul also tells us that Christ was nailed to the Cross and with this sacrificial death, the Law with “its legal claims against us” were nailed to the Cross as well.

So the Atonement in the Augustinian language is perfectly logical, holy, common sense, and rational. I cannot see how the Orthodox focus so much on conquering death at the expense of the sacrificial, blood sacrifice, legal substitutionary side of things that is the huge elephant in the theological room. Makes no sense to me.

I would recommend you read St Athanasius, “On the Incarnation”

Hi prodromos,

I don’t want to be egocentric but I assume you’re talking to me? Maybe the OP? I don’t know. I’ll definitely read your link. Thanks.

In good Western fashion I’d recommend Ephesians 2:16 and Colossians 2:14 Lev 16:29-34 and Isaiah 53, straight from Scripture.


Ha ha :smiley:
No I’m afraid I’m going to have to burst your ego, I was responding to the OP.

ohhh, I feel so bursted! :stuck_out_tongue:

I may be way off, but I tend to think of the Western way of explaining original sin as likening it to a genetic disorder, and the Eastern way as likening it to being brought up in a seriously dysfunctional family.

However, I think Catholics have been back-peddling on this in recent times.

Well also with the Atonement they seem to emphasize this doctor, medicinal, healing, overcoming death aspect but they don’t want to look at the sacrificial aspect of it, the bloody sacrifice, the substitutional aspect of things that Isaiah and Paul make so apparent. How does he overcome death without being sacrificial and atoning for our sins in our place? The emphasis of deification at the expense of the sacrificial emphasis, the legality of it that Paul spells out so well just doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

I don’t know gurney - I’ve talked to a number of Orthodox who don’t have a problem with the sacrificial image, in fact think it is important, so long as it is not the only image used. They feel that it can become a very cold image when used alone; but maybe more importantly, they feel that the Catholic Church has set it up as more than just an image, so that they begin to derive things like the “Treasury of Merit” from it, as if the image is the reality and not something to point us to the reality.

I’m not sure I disagree - I see the same problem with the way the use of the term transubstantiation, linked specifically with Aristotelian categories, has been treated - it seems to be a Catholic tendency for some reason to mistake the images for the reality.

Excessive attachment to images is an unhealthy thing on both sides at times. Have you ever read “Knowing God” by JI Packer, the Anglican evangelical? I can kind of see his points in there. But also hogwild iconoclasm is somewhat impious IMO too.

I know there are Orthodox who appreciate the sacrificial atonement views of Anselm and Augustine, etc. Those are my kinda folks! I think Christus Victor is the common Orthodox angle and that minimizes the Atonement too much. I am more of a Calvinist with Atonement than anything. The one and only time Calvin and I are close to agreement! LOL

I have to get going. It’s time for Giants baseball!

I think we have to be careful when talking about the sacrificial nature of Christ’s crucifixion. There are many Christians who look at Christ’s sacrifice and think that Jesus needed to offer a blood sacrifice in order to appease God’s anger. Obviously, this view of Christ’s sacrifice is more than a little off. While the OT did speak a lot about sacrifice and about God’s anger, it never said that God needed a blood sacrifice to appease his anger. God isn’t a vampire. Christ sacrificed Himself so that we may be cleansed.

The Orthodox believe that through man, sin came into the world, and through sin came death. Through Christ, the power of sin and death is eliminated. Christ died so that we could have victory over death also.

Oops, since writing the above I did a little reading and found that catholics believe in substitutionary atonement so I should probably re-explain my first point. Think about it in terms of a father-son relationship:

A father is angry at one of his sons for something and as punishment, decides that his son deserves death. His other son, out of love for his brother, tells his father that he desires to take his brother’s place and accept the punishment. The father accepts the proposition and lets his innocent son be killed in place of his guilty son. After killing his son, the father is satisfied and is no longer angry at either son.

If we were to meet a man like that, we would loathe him, so why would we attribute a quality that we would detest in a man to God. God is love and justice, and what we see above is neither loving nor just. God sent his Son to cleanse humanity and to open the doors of salvation, not to satisfy his own desire for blood sacrifice. That doesn’t mean that Christ did not take on our sins and our infirmities, just that it he took on our sins and our mortality in order to connect man to God, to open a path for us to salvation.

I’m sorry if my tone comes of as crude or brutal, I guess I’m not great at expressing myself :slight_smile:

It’s a nail biter tonight.

Sickening. Sergio Romo put Brian Wilson in such a bind and Wilson’s stuff was lousy tonight anyway. It just wasn’t meant to be. But the media, anti-Giants as ever is already trying to call this a “death blow” to us tonight. LOL :rolleyes: I just crack up at stuff like that. It’s tied 1-1. We get mad, retool, go back Sunday in Atlanta with our ace, Jonathan Sanchez, who is better than what they have, and come out swining. I am bummed we dropped that one tonight. That’s Giants baseball—torture!

I hate to say it, but your argument here is EXACTLY what Bishop Spong, the notorious liberal, left-wing quasi-athiest used to say about how Augustinians and Anselmians/Calvinists in their Atonement thinking. It’s “child abuse” by a nasty, angry god supposedly, chastising and punishing a son. Any father that would do that, supposedly, is someone evil and to be feared. That’s what Spong said and it’s ludicrous. I would try to compare your statement here to Spong’s and I live my life by this axiom: if Spong said it, I take the opposite position! :stuck_out_tongue:

Jesus Christ took our places on the Cross. We all deserved death for being sinners who have offended God. Isaiah 53 makes this so clear. Paul does as well. Christ came to destroy the Law. The Law is a death sentence to us, pure and simple. It must be fullfilled by a righteous man being the one, true, pure sacrifice that can be substituted for us. The sacrifices of the Old Testament didn’t take place for fun and kicks. They existed as precursors, as preview, as a foretaste of the Atonement. The blood of animals, however, was inadequate and insufficient wholly. Only a perfect sacrifice could appease divine justice. Christ Jesus is that perfect Lamb. Paul tells us the Law and its legal claims against us were nailed to the Cross. He is a victim, Isaiah tells us as much. He is taking the blows, the whip, the thorns, the rejection, the hate, the nails, the blood, the suffering that we should have taken. To see it any other way is to miss the point IMO.

I wouldn’t try to put our human thinking into God’s plan either. That’s what Spong did with his human to Christ/God comparison and I’m afraid, as I said, respectfully, your argument is analogous to his.

blessings, brother…

I have no idea who Bishop Spong is, and I’m sure I not would agree with his teaching, nor would I call it child abuse. I can understand why you would completely reject my argument just because it sounds like Spong’s (and I’m sure I would generally agree with your anti-Spong approach to life), but try to weigh it logically.

Jesus did take our place on the cross. And yes, He suffered because we couldn’t make that sacrifice. The only thing we disagree on is that “Only a perfect sacrifice could appease divine justice”. God is loving, He doesn’t need us to suffer, or his Son to suffer, so that He can be happy. Don’t you see how sadistic and evil that makes God. God does not need anything from us, He doesn’t need us. He created so that He could share His love, and Christ’s sacrifice is a symbol of that love.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

We needed Christ so that we could be saved, God did not need His Son’s blood in order to tolerate His creation.

Don’t have a clue who Spong is and quite frankly I don’t care. The idea of God you put forward is one of a schizophrenic maniac. Do you really believe that God (the Father), killed God (the Son), in order to save humanity from Himself? I don’t have time right now as I am off to work, but there are other analogies used in Scripture do describe our salvation besides the ones you are emphasizing. The Prodigal Son is the first one that comes to mind.

In Christ

One could argue that Spong-ism is a direct result of an over-emphasis on this view of the Atonement.

What do you think Gurney?

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