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With Osipov on sin

Filed under: Uncategorized — Vitali at 7:39 am on Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Today I am going to look in detail at Eastern Orthodox view of sin, based on Prof. Osipov’s talk entitled “Sin and human nature”. 

Osipov begins by pointing out that Eastern Orthodoxy disagrees with Protestant and Catholic view of sin as violation of external God’s law that leads to punishment. Instead, it prefers to see God’s law as the law of the nature of our being and sin as the violation of this nature. So our motivation for avoiding sin should be not the punishment, but understanding that we contradict and damage our own nature.

Then he proceeds discussing three categories of sin:

  1. Personal sin. This includes sinful attitude inside the person (e.g. covetousness) as well as sinful acts toward others (stealing, murder).
  2. Inherited sin. The sinful passions we inherit from our parents. Osipov acknowledges that people are already born broken, with sinful desires, some with more, some with less. To Osipov this is common sense – everybody knows that in a criminal family the children often turn to crime. His own opinion is that this is how we are to understand God’s punishing people up to third or fourth generation. Nevertheless, the amount of inherited sin in us has nothing to do with our likelihood of becoming Christian. After all, the way to Christianity is not an absence of sin or sinful desires, it is the ability to see our own sinfulness and desire to overcome it. 
  3. Original sin. Here Osipov’s criticizes the Western view of original sin as our guilt (and corresponding punishment) for Adam’s sin. He also criticizes the view of Jesus’ sacrifice as earning our justification from this guilt and appeasement of God’s wrath. Instead, Eastern view is that it is not the guilt that is transferred to us from Adam but depravity and sickness. We are not guilty of Adam’s sin, we are sick. The death was not the punishment for Adam’s action but a result of the corruption of human nature due to his sin.

What do you think? Which points do you agree with and which do you disagree?If you have an opinion please leave a comment. I will post my own response in a couple of days in a separate post.




Comment by Edward Sim

April 22, 2008 @ 6:03 pm


Personal sin and inherited sin seems all right (not much objection there). It would seem that imputation of sin and imputation of righteousness would become a major ground of difference between Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy.

I think that if I am not mistaken, the Protestant reformed teaching on original sin is not that we are actually guilty of Adam’s sin but rather the guilt and sin of Adam is imputed upon the entire human race i.e. counted as effective against the entire human race. (To use a computer science lingo, it’s more of a logical transfer rather than a physical one. :) )

Furthermore, I am unhappy about the avoidance of God’s wrath as a great problem of sin. It is clear that while Adam and Eve hid from God in the garden of Eden (thus suggesting an inward alienation from God due to sin), God actively expelled them from the Garden of Eden as a display of divine wrath. It’s a both-and and not either/or. Sin is both acting against the way God design us to be and a personal offense against God.

In the light of this, a Eastern Orthodox reading of Romans may be interesting to facilitate the discussion. Especially Romans 3-5. John Chrysostom, Anyone?



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April 28, 2008 @ 6:23 am

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Comment by Fyodor Soikin

May 25, 2009 @ 10:24 pm


The notion of “God’s wrath” cannot be relevant: God is perfect, cannot have a sin, while rage is definitely a sin.

The consistent use of this notion through the Old Testament is explained quite simply: how else would you explain it to people on the stage of development that the Jews of Moses’ times were on? The general purpose was to raise the Jews in such a way so they will be able to produce Christ, and the notion of God’s wrath was simple to understand and effective enough to keep them on the [relatively] right path.

– Fyodor


Comment by Fyodor Soikin

May 25, 2009 @ 10:35 pm

I can also give an analogy for better understanding: when a mother picks her baby’s nose, and baby is kicking and screaming, would the baby be correct to see it as the “Mother’s wrath”? Or would you rather see it as a necessity based on baby’s internal state?

And yet another one: when a kid refuses to put on his coat, he won’t be allowed to go outside. Why? Because of “Parent’s wrath”, or because the parent knows the kid will get cold out there without a coat, and does it out of caring? Yet, from the kid’s point of view it seems like a perfect case of “sin-punishment”: you don’t want to put your coat on, and for this I prohibit you to go outside and play.

One could argue that you may explain the reason to the kid, and the kid would agree. But that is only partially true. Being a parent of a two-year-old, I know perfectly well that this kind of things cannot be explained to a small kid. But to an older kid they can. And this thought perfectly completes my analogy: at Moses’ times, humankind was too young to understand the real reasons, so the only option was “because I said so”. And when the Christ came, the humankind was mature enough to be allowed a more precise explanation.

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