In my previous post I outlined Eastern Orthodox view of sin, represented by Moscow Theological Seminary professor Osipov. Here are my own thoughts on the subject.
1) Definition of sin. The original word for sin in the Bible has the meaning of “missing the mark”, “taking a wrong path”, “breaking a command”. Hence Western Christianity is simply trying to be biblical. However, I do not see anything wrong with defining sin as sickness or slavery. Moreover, I find these extremely helpful, even thought that is not how Bible commonly sees it. Tim Keller once shared about his experience of starting Redeemer Church in Manhattan. Defining sin as breaking God’s command worked well in 1950s during Billy Graham times, but Keller was surprised to find that it leaved New Yorkers completely cold. Yet when he started talking about sin as slavery, people immediately responded.
This makes me think. Evangelicals often pride themselves in being true to the Bible, even when it is not relevant to the culture. Take for example gospel presentation that mentions forgiveness of sins. When reading the Bible I have the impression that forgiveness of sins was a big thing in those time. Yet now most people need a lecture on why it is actually good that their sins are forgiven. So, should we change the way we proclaim the gospel?
Let me push it a bit further. What if Satan, knowing that we constraint ourselves to purely Biblical ways of explaining things, would change the culture in such a way as to make these explanations less and less relevant? A scary thought. But I also understand the danger of making the Bible too culturally relevant that it dilutes the message. Clearly, a great wisdom is required to tread the fine line between the two extremes.
2) Personal and inherited sin. There is a common agreement here between all Christians, although Protestants would usually avoid speculations on what exactly is been transferred from generation to generation.
Personally, I like the Orthodox explanation. I’ve read 6-7 articles in popular evangelical dictionaries and they are too vague on this point. Yes, some corruption of body, mind, soul. etc. is being transferred. Our whole being is affected by sin. While this is true, it is too general for any practical application. Orthodox, on the other hand, emphasize that it is sinful passions that are been transferred, our sinful desires for something bad or too much of something good. Much clearer.
3) Original sin. Again, Western Christianity is staying closer to the Bible on this one. The whole idea of us being guilty of Adam’s sin (or as Edward commenting of my previous post said “the guilt and sin of Adam is imputed upon the entire human race”) is clearly stated in Romans 5. But Orthodox are correct in saying we also inherit corruption from Adam. This is a logical conclusion of inherited sin – if we are to inherit it from our parents and they from theirs, you can easily trace the line back to Adam.
It is unfortunate that Orthodox do not want to see God as the God of wrath and Jesus as the one who saves us from the punishment of sin. Jesus of Eastern Orthodoxy is a healer (e.g. savior from our disease of sin) rather than a savior from our sins. The truth is that he is both. The reason they want to emphasize the healer part is to make people want to get healed rather than just forgiven. But more on this in my future posts.