Hello, I’ve been pondering sin, particularly original sin, and also Orthodox arguments against the Catholic conception of original sin and the Immaculate Conception. I wanted to see if my thoughts have strayed against Church teaching. So, is sin a positive or negative attribute?
By positive attribute, I mean something that has been added to us. You often see sin spoken of in positive terms. For example, sin is often described as a stain. But would describing sin in negative terms be more specific. The Catechism of the Catholic Church offers this explanation of original sin:
405 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". 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.
The emphasis is mine. This conception of sin as a deprivation seems to fit better with Augustine’s and Aquinas’ view of good and evil, where God is goodness, and evil is a deprivation of good. The more I’ve thought about it, the more preferable I’ve found it. Sin is a willful deprivation of good such that it creates a disunity between God and man.
This leads us to original sin. It’s not about what we inherit, but about we don’t inherit. We are not born in a state of grace. That is, men are born in a state of disunion with God. As such, I can see why Augustine had such concerns about whether unbaptized infants would be saved. However, is it accurate to say that we are *guilty *of original sin if we are being technical? Or would it be more specific and accurate to say that we are born in a state that is not in union with God, due to what we don’t inherit due to Adam’s sin? [Let me pause here and clarify that I don’t believe such a formulation is at all original to me, or that it would solve disagreements between Catholics and Orthodox.] Such a lack of union [outside of extraordinary action of God], while not implying true guilt in how we normally conceive the term, would seem to explain the Church’s movement on the question of the unborn, while explaining how there’s been no change in doctrine. I think it also still successfully does away with Pelagianism and the idea that men can merit salvation apart from the grace of God.
To follow this through to the Immaculate Conception, whereas we are no formulating sin in negative terms, the Immaculate Conception also reverses and becomes a statement of a positive attribute. Instead of phrasing it negatively as “Mary was preserved from the stain of sin,” we instead, if we’re being technical (and pushing our glasses up our noses while we explain it), formulate it positively that Mary was filled with the grace of God at the moment of her conception. Rather than preserved, she was imbued, much like we are at Baptism, and then was never at a moment of disunion with God throughout her life (or after).
First, thank you for reading this far. Second, forgive me. I know I must seem as if I’ve carved a wheel and am presenting it as a new invention. I can’t recall seeing this fully expounded anywhere, though, which is why I ask, and I find this preferable to the idea of newborns being guilty (in an un-nuanced sense of the word). Is anything of what I’ve stated above at odds with any teachings of the Church?