Orthodox original sin


Thats interesting. But how does that work? I mean, why would the awareness of death cause disordered passions to arise?



This isn’t what I heard from other Orthodox. I was told that the Orthodox objection to the IM is that it invites an infinite regression: if a man (Jesus) without sin can only be born of a woman (Mary) without sin, then why would it stop there? Surely then such a woman can only be born of parents without sin? So then we get an immaculately conceived Joachim and Anne. And so forth. I thought this was a compelling argument against IM.

As for your argument (as I understand it) that IM is unnecessary because it’s obvious in a theology that does not accept individual guilt, doesn’t this come down to saying that everyone is conceived immaculately, and that therefore declaring Mary as immaculately conceived is moot?

1 Like


I’ve been studying both the RCC and the EO.
I must say I agree more with the RCC teaching on original sin(coming from a Lutheran Background )
but I struggle with the IC. I agree with the post above by Roguish.



The Council of Trent excluded the Blessed Virgin Mary from the dogma of original sin. Eventually the Immaculate Conception was defined, which resolved the arguments between the Jesuits, Franciscans, and Dominicans over it. The Blessed Virgin Mary had a state of sanctifying grace at conception vs the ordinary state of mankind without that state.

1 Like



For those who don’t want to read it, my (probably flawed) summary;

  1. The early Church does not seem to emphasize the doctrine
  2. Because of the Orthodox understanding of original sin all people are “immaculately conceived”
  3. If Mary was somehow separate from the human race, then Christ’s ability to be “fully man” would be impaired, affecting the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice

Third one is heavier and only briefly mentioned toward the end. If I were trying to regale everyone on “The Orthodox Position” (with extra capital letters), I’d probably emphasize the Orthodox understanding on original sin.



This is the number-one go-to objection my protestant friends raise over the doctrine (which makes sense, since their understanding of original sin is largely derived from Catholicism)



I think what’s happening here is that you’re trying to start from one, and move to the other. That can’t work.

You pretty much need to start with no assumptions/precepts/whatever and approach completely open.

Even trying to “specify” the differences isn’t really going to get you there–western thinking is specific and quantified, while eastern just plain isn’t. The classic example is asking, "At what point does the bread and wine change to the Body and Blood—the Words of Institution, the Epiclesis, at elevation, the priest’s reception, or some other time? There is a specific answer in the West, while the East is happy to answer, “yes.”

Specifying the difference is a lost cause (and in all seriousness, a western approach.).

If you do get an answer about the East in terms that a Western approach understand, it’s probably wrong :rofl:

That creates it’s own new set of problems, indeed :scream::exploding_head:

Let’s leave the wester term “immaculate” out; it only complicates.

But, yes, with no-one having individual guilt, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to make an issue of Mary not having it.


1 Like


Regarding what Roguish said and from what I know, I believe it can be summarized in several points (my perspective of course).

  1. Original Sin seems to be the same on paper for both Orthodox and Catholics, but nevertheless seems to have the smaller nuances, emphasis, and baggage that leads to different application of this teaching. I really don’t like Orthodox polemics saying Catholics teach inherited guilt, since based on the texts of Trent, inherited guilt isn’t taught (and this is reflected in the CCC paragraph 405). Nevertheless, a lot of theology, including Original sin, is heavily derived from St. Augustine in the West who did teach inherited guilt. This aspect of his theology wasn’t accepted by the larger Western (and RC) Church, but nevertheless I do believe inherited guilt did color Augustine’s theology as a whole and by extension, also influences RC teaching on anthropology, justice, soteriology, and Original Sin, even if inherited guilt isn’t taught proper.
    It’s why unbaptized infants seem to merit damnation by virtue of original sin alone moreso in a Western context than an Eastern one for example. Also why if we are to talk of Mary’s holiness, having original sin (and no personal sin) has a connotation of something less than holy more so in a Western context, while an Eastern understanding has no problem exemplifying her holiness even if she has original sin (where original sin is a state of bondage to death, and is less connected to personal sanctity for an Easterner although connected). It makes sense why the Immaculate Conception (which also appeared in the East as well) would be much more championed in the West.
    So at least in my opinion, it seems in a very general overview, the East and West have on PAPER a very similar view of Original Sin. It’s the baggage and much smaller nuances I don’t understand leading to conflicts between East/West.
1 Like

  1. Regarding the immaculate conception, I believe it’s a false argument to say the Immaculate Conception leads to an infinite regress of Joachim/Anna’s immaculate conception, and so on. In Catholic teaching, it’s that it is fitting, not required, for the Theotokos to be immaculately conceived since clearly a child (Theotokos) can be born from parents with Original Sin in this scheme, and likewise then so too can Christ be born without original sin of His mother. Although interestingly Easterners tend to say only a person of great sanctity could have conceived God in the womb since like in the OT, touching the Ark led to a person’s death.

  2. As far as the early church, it seems to be a rather nowhere near unanimous position that the Theotokos was immaculately conceived. There is a lot of mentions of her unblemished state, all-holiness, etc., but a lot of this is also read in EO services, and can really only be used as evidence for the belief of her personal sanctity (ie. personal sins), and not in regards to original sin. Also again, Original Sin seems to more-so merit a personal blemish that merits damnation alone in a Western context (even if not personal sin proper), so any mention of all-holiness and original sin seems to sound like a contradiction. For the East, Original Sin is seen as just an inherited state but has no direct affect on personal sanctity (although it may have influence with concupiscence, passions, and a un-illumined nous). There are some occasions theologians throughout history seeming to believe in an immaculate conception without original sin, but this seems to be one of a theologian’s theologizing and not a unanimous position handed down as an obvious teaching.

  3. Sum it up, I don’t even have a problem if a Catholic or Orthodox believes in the immaculate conception as a personal belief. I think it in the category of theologumenon. And original sin again seems to be the same for both RC and EO on paper (generally speaking).



It’s that second point that I was trying to get at earlier in this thread. To be immaculately conceived, in the sense of Our Lady, means to be conceived as a saint. The stain of original sin is primarily the absence of original holiness, and thus to be free of it is to be conceived holy…that is partaking of the divine nature. I thought we already established that the Orthodox do NOT believe that everyone is conceived a saint?
I think these polemics, for or against the IC, Catholic or Orthodox, tend to talk past each other a lot.



This is such an important point you make. In fact this is the most profound reason for me to never feel 100% Roman Catholic even though I was raised RC, was an active member of the Church for years, am quite devout, well-read in scripture and theology, etc. etc. I grew up in Asia, and somehow the more you know Roman Catholicism, the more you discover that deep down it is tied up with this obsessive hyper-rationalism that characterizes Western thought, and that is thankfully absent from the Asian mind. It’s disturbing, this hyper-rationalism, because I believe this mode of thinking is not only “pointless”, but actually harmful to one’s spirituality. It’s the very thing I wish to be rid of. (That, and the terribly lacklustre community, but that is easily avoided.) But it seems there’s no getting away from it as long as one remains a Roman Catholic.

But to be fair, I tend to favor the Catholic teaching of original sin over the Orthodox position as you have explained it. My personal experience is that little children can exhibit surprisingly evil tendencies even when it’s obvious that they’ve not (yet) been exposed to any experiences that could have “tainted” them. So where does this come from? An inherited tendency to sin, passed down to us from our primal ancestors strikes me as a very compelling explanation. The Orthodox notion that we are all born free of sin, which implies that therefore our sinfulness is acquired in youth due to exposure to the world, does not quite cut it, in my opinion.



What we established was that the Orthodox believe that children are conceived free from sin. In another word, their souls are “immaculate”.

Now, Catholics can debate the issue if they like, but it’s historical fact that Roman Catholicism in years past had a very intimate attachment to personal guilt even to the point that the pseudo-doctrines like Limbo developed to calm the hearts of everyone that was concerned about the otherwise doomed souls of unbaptized, dead babies.
Moreover, the CCC still states in CCC 402 that “All men are implicated in Adam’s sin”. And the dictionary gives “implicate” as “to show someone to be involved in a crime”.

But that said - if Catholics are moving away from a classic Augustinian view on original sin, I think that’s great.

1 Like


Oh? So they’ve not been exposed to adult people?




You’re implying that if a child exhibits evil tendencies then surely this is due to the grown-ups the child has been exposed to. This simply isn’t so. More than a few well-intending adoptive parents have gone through he awkward experience of discovering that the child they’d adopted as a little baby, and whom they treated very well, turned out by the age of 3 of 4 to exhibit a few rather undesirable traits, to put it mildly.

Another example is children torturing insects and other small animals. This is very common unfortunately, yet children do not learn this from the grown-ups around them. Grown-ups obviously don’t do this (anymore) – at least not when children are present – nor do children learn this behavior from each other, for it is well known that children who are raised in isolation exhibit this sadism as well. It seems to be some sort of fascination with the discovery that one is capable of putting another creature at one’s mercy.

Anyway, whoever wants to get away from the idea of inherited sin, always can. If it wasn’t the parents, maybe it was the TV? If it wasn’t the TV, surely it was the neighbors shouting abuse at each other which the child overheard through the open window? If not that, then it must have been a chemical in the local water, the food, the air, which led to an “imbalance” in the child’s brain? Etc. etc. But to me, an inherited penchant for sin makes more sense.

1 Like


“People can’t be immaculately conceived because kids are sometimes mean” is an idea that has so many holes that it could only feasibly exist as a religious idea. But suit yourself.

Excellent, excellent observation. Maybe it’s so easy to get away from the idea because it’s untrue?

Perhaps - just as a long shot - we’re sinless, blameless creatures when we come into this corrupt world and then the world corrupts us.



The EOs used to agree with us on original sin. Their current position is more of a symptom of the neo-Palamite movement, which included a general anti-Latin element, with special disdain for anything associated with St. Augustine. For example, this was never a point of division at the reunion councils like Lyons II or Florence, even though much more minor things were.

They professed our understanding at their Council of Jerusalem in 1672:

And, therefore, baptism is necessary even for infants, since they also are subject to original sin, and without Baptism are not able to obtain its remission. Which the Lord showed when he said, not of some only, but simply and absolutely, “Whoever is not born [again],” which is the same as saying, “All that after the coming of Christ the Savior would enter into the Kingdom of the Heavens must be regenerated.” And since infants are men, and as such need salvation, needing salvation they need also Baptism. And those that are not regenerated, since they have not received the remission of hereditary sin, are, of necessity, subject to eternal punishment, and consequently cannot without Baptism be saved. So that even infants should, of necessity, be baptized

Here’s an old Catechism that was used for a long time in the EO world:

Question 20.
What is Original Sin ?


Original Sin is the Transgression of that Law of God which was given to Adam, the Father of all Men, in these "Words {Gen. ii. 17), Of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil thou shall not eat ; for in the Day that thou eatest thereof thou shall surely die. This original Sin spreadeth over all human Nature ; forasmuch as we were all then contained in Adam. Wherefore by one Adam Sin hath passed into us all. And we are conceived and born with this Blemish, as the Scripture teacheth us {Rom. v. 12), By one Man Sin entered into the World, and Death by Sin ; and so Death passed upon all Men, for that all have sinned. This hereditary Sin cannot be rooted out or abolished by any Repentance what-ever, but only by the Grace of God, through the Work of Redemption, wrought by our Lord Jesus Christ, in taking upon him our Flesh and pouring out his precious Blood. And this is done in the Mystery of holy Baptism; and whosoever is not a Partaker thereof, such an one remains unabsolved from his Sin, and continueth in his Guilt, and is liable to the eternal Punishment of the divine Wrath : As it is said {John iii. 5), Verily, verily, I say unto you, that except a Man be horn of Water, and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

(The approval of this Catechism by the four traditional EO Patriarchates of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem, states: "this book is in perfect accordance with the dogmas of the Church of Christ and with the sacred Canons; that it contains nothing contrary to the Church: and we declare, assembled in Synod, that every pious and orthodox Christian, who is a member of the Apostolic Church of the East, ought to read this book, and not to reject it.).



Seems there’s a diversity of opinion among Catholics on what the Orthodox believe concerning original sin. :sweat_smile:

1 Like


To be fair, it is a bit hard to pin down. Every modern EO website (other than certain Old Calendarist sources) I read or person I talk to describe it it as merely physical ailments, physical death, and concupiscence, without the element of spiritual death, and consider the Catholic view an error. But older sources clearly present the Catholic view as the EO doctrine.



Reminds me of the Catholic pseudo-doctrine of Limbo as an intimately related concept.



In that case, it wasn’t really about what original sin is, but what happens in the afterlife to one who dies in it. It has always been the dogmatic position of the Church and still is that original sin excludes one from salvation–from the beatific vision–unless it is remitted before death. Early on there was a diversity of opinion as to the degree of actual suffering such souls experienced, with the general opinion solidifying on the opinion that it is very little or none at all because they have no actual sins (that state is called Limbo because if the torments of Hell are a spectrum based on the degree of one’s sins, it would be on the outskirts of that experience).

In more recent times there has been a greater focus on the extraordinary means God may take to cleanse a soul of original sin, but again, this is merely a matter of degree, since the possibility of such means have always been acknowledged.

The different EO positions, at least to me, seem more substantially diverse.


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.