Original Sin, Augustine, Synergy and Theosis

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Jul 17, 2009
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#1
The Approach of the Orthodox Fathers

by Father Antony Hughes

As pervasive as the term original sin has become, it may come as a surprise to some that it was unknown in both theEastern and Western Church until Augustine (c. 354-430). The concept may have arisen in the writings of Tertullian, but the expression seems to have appeared first in Augustine’s works. Prior to this the theologians of the early church used different terminology indicating a contrasting way of thinking about the fall, its effects and God’s response to it. The phrase the Greek Fathers used to describe the tragedy in the Garden was ancestral sin.


Ancestral sin has a specific meaning. The Greek word for sin in this case, amartema, refers to an individual act indicating that the Eastern Fathers assigned full responsibility for the sin in the Garden to Adam and Eve alone. The word amartia, the more familiar term for sin which literally means “missing the mark”, is used to refer to the condition common to all humanity (Romanides, 2002). The Eastern Church, unlike its Western counterpart,never speaks of guilt being passed from Adam and Eve to their progeny, as did Augustine. Instead, it is posited that each person bears the guilt of his or her own sin. The question becomes, “What then is the inheritance of humanity from Adam and Eve if it is not guilt?” The Orthodox Fathers answer as one: death. (I Corinthians 15:21) “Man is born with the parasitic power of death within him,” writes Fr. Romanides (2002, p. 161). Our nature, teaches Cyril of Alexandria, became “diseased… through the sin of one” (Migne, 1857-1866a). It is not guilt that is passed on, for the Orthodox fathers; it is a condition, a disease.


In Orthodox thought Adam and Eve were created with a vocation: to become one with God gradually increasing in their capacity to share in His divine life — deification2 (Romanides, 2002, p. 76-77). “They needed to mature, to grow to awareness by willing detachment and faith, a loving trust in a personal God” (Clement, 1993, p. 84). Theophilus of Antioch (2nd Century) posits that Adam and Eve were created neither immortal nor mortal. They were created with the potential to become either through obedience or disobedience (Romanides, 2002).


The freedom to obey or disobey belonged to our first parents, “For God made man free and sovereign” (Romanides, 2002, p. 32). To embrace their God-given vocation would bring life, to reject it would bring death, but not at God’s hands. Theophilus continues, “… should he keep the commandment of God he would be rewarded with immortality… if, however, he should turn to things of death by disobeying God, he would be the cause of death to himself” (Romanides, 2002, p. 32)


Adam and Eve failed to obey the commandment not to eat from the forbidden tree thus rejecting God and their vocation to manifest the fullness of human existence (Yannaras, 1984).Death and corruption began to reign over the creation. “Sin reigned through death.” (Romans 5:21) In this view death and corruption do not originate with God; he neither created nor intended them. God cannot be the Author of evil. Death is the natural result of turning aside from God.


Adam and Eve were overcome with the same temptation that afflicts all humanity: to be autonomous, to go their own way, to realize the fullness of human existence without God. According to the Orthodox fathers sin is not a violation of an impersonal law or code of behavior, but a rejection of the life offered by God (Yannaras, 1984). This is themark,to whichthe wordamartiarefers.Fallen human life is above all else the failure to realize the God-given potential of human existence, which is, as St. Peter writes, to “become partakersof the divine nature” (II Peter 1:4). St. Basil writes: “Humanity is an animal who has received the vocation tobecome God”(Clement, 1993, p. 76).


In Orthodox thought God did not threaten Adam and Eve with punishment nor was He angered or offended by their sin; He was moved to compassion.3 The expulsion from the Garden and from the Tree of Life was an act of love and not vengeance so that humanity would not “become immortal in sin” (Romanides, 2002, p. 32). Thus began the preparation for the Incarnation of the Son of God and the solution that alone could rectify the situation: the destruction of the enemies of humanity and God, death (I Corinthians 15:26, 56), sin, corruption and the devil (Romanides, 2002).


It is important to note that salvation as deification is not pantheism because the Orthodox Fathers insist on the doctrine of creation ex nihilo (Athanasius, 1981). Human beings, along with all created things, have come into being from nothing. Created beings will always remain created and God will always remain Uncreated. The Son of God in the Incarnation crossed the unbridgeable chasm between them. Orthodox hymnography frequently speaks of the paradox of the Uncreated and created uniting without mixture or confusion in the wondrous hypostatic union. The Nativity of Christ, for example, is interpreted as “a secret re-creation, by which human nature was assumed and restored to its original state” (Clement, 1993, p. 41). God and human nature, separated by the Fall, are reunited in the Person of the Incarnate Christ and redeemed through His victory on the Cross and in the Resurrection by which death is destroyed (I Corinthians 15:54-55). In this way the Second Adam fulfills the original vocation and reverses the tragedy of the fallen First Adam opening the way of salvation for all.


The Fall could not destroy the image of God; the great gift given to humanity remained intact, but damaged (Romanides, 2002). Origen speaks of the image buried as in a well choked with debris (Clement, 1993). While the work of salvation was accomplished by God through Jesus Christ the removal of the debris that hides the image in us calls for free and voluntary cooperation. St. Paul uses the word synergy,or “co-workers”, (I Corinthians 3:9) to describe the cooperation between Divine Grace and human freedom. For the Orthodox Fathers this means asceticism (prayer, fasting, charity and keeping vigil) relating to St. Paul’s image of the spiritual athlete (I Corinthians 9:24-27). This is the working out of salvation “with fear andtrembling” (Philippians 2:12). Salvation is a process involving faith, freedom and personal effort to fulfill the commandment of Christ to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).


The great Orthodox hymn of Holy Pascha (Easter) captures in a few words the essence of the Orthodox understanding of the Atonement: “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, And upon those in the tombs bestowing life” (The Liturgikon, Paschal services, 1989). Because of the victory of Christ on the Cross and in the Tomb humanity has been set free, the curse of the law has been broken, death is slain, life has dawned for all. Maximus the Confessor (c. 580 – 662) writes that “Christ’s death on the Cross isthe judgment of judgment” (Clement, 1993, p. 49) and because of this we can rejoice in the conclusion stated so beautifully by Olivier Clement: “In the crucified Christ forgiveness is offered and life is given. For humanity it is no longer a matter of fearing judgment or of meriting salvation, but of welcominglove in trust and humility” (Clement, 1993, p. 49).
 
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#2
Augustine’s Legacy

The piety and devotion of Augustine is largely unquestioned by Orthodox theologians, but his conclusions on the Atonement are (Romanides, 2002). Augustine, by his own admission, did not properly learn to read Greek and this was a liability for him. He seems to have relied mostly on Latin translations of Greek texts (Augustine, 1956a, p. 9). His misinterpretation of a key scriptural reference, Romans 5:12, is a case in point (Meyendorff, 1979). In Latin the Greek idiom eph ho which means because ofwas translated as in whom. Saying that all have sinned in Adam is quite different than saying that all sinned because of him. Augustine believed and taught that all humanity has sinned in Adam(Meyendorff, 1979, p. 144).



The result is that guilt replaces death as the ancestral inheritance (Augustine, 1956b) Therefore the term original sin conveys the belief that Adam and Eve’s sin is the first and universal transgression in which all humanity participates.


Augustine famously debated Pelagius (c. 354-418) over the place the human will could play in salvation. Augustine took the position against him that only grace is able to save, sola gratis (Augustine, On the Predestination of the Saints, 7)4. From this a doctrine of predestination developed (God gives grace to whom He will) which hardened in the 16th and 17th centuries into the doctrine of two-fold predestination (God in His sovereignty saves some and condemns others). The position of the Church of the first two centuries concerning the image and human freedom was abandoned.


The Roman idea of justice found prominence in Augustinian and later Western theology. The idea that Adam and Eve offended God’s infinite justice and honor made of death God’s method of retribution (Romanides, 2002). But this idea of justice deviates from Biblical thought. Kalomiros (1980) explains the meaning of justice in the original Greek of the New Testament:


The Greek word dikaiosuni ‘justice’, is a translation of the Hebrew word tsedaka. The word means ‘the divine energy which accomplishes man’s salvation.’ It is parallel and almost synonymous with the word hesed which means ‘mercy’, ‘compassion’, ‘love’, and to the word emeth which means ‘fidelity’, ‘truth’. This is entirely different from the juridical understanding of ‘justice’. (p. 31)


The juridical view of justice generates two problems for Augustine. One: how can one say that the attitude of the immutable God’s toward His creation changes from love to wrath? Two: how can God, who is good, be the author of such an evil as death (Romanides, 1992)? The only way to answer this is to say, as Augustine did to the young Bishop, Julian of Eclanum (d. 454), that God’s justice is inscrutable (Cahill, 1995, p. 65). Logically, then, justice provides proof of inherited guilt for Augustine, because since all humanity suffers the punishment of death and since God who is just cannot punish the innocent, then all must be guilty in Adam.Also, by similar reasoning, justice appears as a standard to which even God must adhere (Kalomiris, 1980). Can God change or be subject to any kind of standard or necessity? By contrast the Orthodox father, Basil the Great, attributes the change in attitude to humanity rather than to God (Migne, 1857-1866b). Because of the theological foundation laid by Augustine and taken up by his heirs, the conclusion seems unavoidable that a significant change occurs in the West making the wrath of God and not death the problem facing humanity (Romanides, 1992, p. 155-156).


How then could God’s anger be assuaged? The position of the ancient Church had no answer because its proponents did not see wrath as the problem. The Satisfaction Theory proposed by Anselm of Canterbury (c. 1033-1109) in his work Why the God-Man? provides the most predominant answer in the West5. The sin of Adam offended and angered God making the punishment of death upon all guilty humanity justified. The antidote to this situation is the crucifixion of the Incarnate Son of God because only the suffering and death of an equally eternal being could ever satisfy the infinite offense of the infinitely dishonored God and assuage His wrath (Williams, 2002; Yannaras, 1984, p. 152). God sacrifices His Son to restore His honor and pronounces the sacrifice sufficient. The idea of imputed righteousness rises from this. The Orthodox understanding that “the resurrection…through Christ, opens for humanity the way of love that is stronger than death” (Clement, 1993, p. 87) is replaced by a juridical theory of courtrooms and verdicts.


The image of an angry, vengeful God haunts the West where a basic insecurity and guilt seem to exist. Many appear to hold that sickness, suffering and death are God’s will. Why? I suspect one reason is that down deep the belief persists that God is still angry and must be appeased. Yes, sickness, suffering and death come and when they do God’s grace is able to transform them into life-bearing trials, but are they God’s will? Does God punish us when the mood strikes, when our behavior displeases Him or for no reason at all? Are the ills that afflict creation on account of God? For example, could the loving Father really be said to enjoy the sufferings of His Son or of the ****ed in hell (Yannaras, 1984)? Freud rebelled against these ideas calling the God inherent in them the sadistic Father (Yannaras, 1984, p. 153). Could it be as Yannaras, Clement and Kalomiris propose that modern atheism is a healthy rebellion against a terrorist deity (Clement, 2000)? Kalomiris (1980) writes that there are no atheists, just people who hate the God in whom they have been taught to believe.


Orthodoxy agrees that grace is a gift, but one that is given to all not to a chosen few. For Grace is an uncreated energy of God sustaining all creation apart from which nothing can exist (Psalm 104:29). What is more, though grace sustains humanity, salvation cannot be forced upon us (or withheld) by divine decree. Clement points out that the “Greek fathers (and some of the Latin Fathers), according to whom the creation of humanity entailed a real risk on God’s part, laid the emphasis on salvation through love: ‘God can do anything except force a man to love him’. The gift of grace saves, butonly in an encounter of love” (Clement, 1993, p. 81). Orthodox theology holds that divine grace must be joined with human volition.
 
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#3
Pastoral Practice East and West

In simple terms, we can say that the Eastern Church tends towards a therapeutic model which sees sin as illness, while the Western Church tends towards a juridical model seeing sin as moral failure. For the former the Church is the hospital of souls, the arena of salvation where, through the grace of God, the faithful ascend from “glory to glory” (2 Corinthians 3:18) into union with God in a joining together of grace and human volition. The choice offered to Adam and Eve remains our choice: to ascend to life or descend into corruption.For the latter, whether the Church is viewed as essential, important or arbitrary, the model of sin as moral failing rests on divine election and adherence to moral, ethical codes as both the cure for sin and guarantor of fidelity. Whether ecclesial authority or individual conscience imposes the code the result is the same.


Admittedly, the idea of salvation as process is not absent in the West. (One can call to mind the Western mystics and the Wesleyan movement as examples.) However, the underlying theological foundations of Eastern Church and Western Church in regard to ancestral or original sin are dramatically opposed. The difference is apparent when looking at the understanding of ethics itself. For the Western Church ethics often seems to imply exclusively adherence to an external code; for the Eastern Church ethics implies “the restoration of life to the fullness of freedom and love” (Yannaras, 1984, p. 143).


Modern psychology has encouraged most Christian caregivers to view sin as illness so that, in practice, the juridical approach is often mitigated. The willingness to refer to mental health providers when necessary implies an expansion of the definition of sin from moral infraction to human condition. This is a happy development. Recognizing sin as disease helps us to understand that the problem of the human condition operates on many levels and may even have a genetic component.


It is interesting that Christians from a broad spectrum have rediscovered the psychology of spiritual writers of the ancient Church. I discovered this in an Oral Roberts University Seminary classroom twenty-five years ago through a reading of “The Life of St. Pelagia the Harlot.” My journey into Orthodoxy and the priesthood began at that point. These pastors and teachers of the ancient Church were inspired by the Orthodox perspective enunciated in this paper: death as the problem, sin as disease, salvation as process and Christ as Victor.


Sin as missing the mark or, put another way, as the failure to realize the full potential of the gift of human life, calls for a gradual approach to pastoral care. The goal is nothing less than an existential transformation from within through growth in communion with God. Daily sins are more than moral infractions; they are revelations of the brokenness of human life and evidence of personal struggle. “Repentance means rejecting death and uniting ourselves to life” (Yannaras, 1984, 147-148).
In Orthodoxy we tend to dwell on the process and the goal more than the sin. A wise Serbian Orthodox priest once commented that God is more concerned about the direction of our lives than He is about the specifics. Indeed, the Scriptures point to the wondrous truth that, “If thou, O God, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand, but with Thee there is forgiveness” (Psalm 130:3-4). The way is open for all who desire to take it. A young monk was once asked, “What do you do all day in the monastery?” He replied, “We fall and rise, fall and rise.”


The sacramental approach in the Eastern Church is an integral part of pastoral care. The therapeutic view frees thesacrament of Confession in the Orthodox Church from the tendency to takeon a juridical character resulting in proscribed, impersonal penances. In Orthodoxy sacraments are seen as a means of revealing the truth about humanity and also about God (Yannaras, 1984, p. 143). After Holy Baptism we often fail in our work of fulfilling the vocation to unbury the image within. Seventy times seven we return to the sacrament not as an easy way out (confess today, sin tomorrow), but because humility is a hard lesson to learn, real transformation is not instantaneous and we are in need of God’s help. Healing takes time. Sacraments are far from magical or automatic rituals (Yannaras, 1984, p. 144). They are personal, grace-filled events in which our free response to God’s grace is acknowledged and sanctified. Even in evangelical circles where Confession as sacrament is rejected the altar call often plays a similar role. It is telling that the Orthodox Sacrament of Confession always takes place face to face and never in the kind of confessional that appeared in the West. Sin is personal and healing must be equally personal.



Therefore nothing in authentic pastoral care can be impersonal, automatic or pre-planned. In Orthodoxy the prescription is tailored for the patient as he or she is, not as he or she ought to be.
The juridical approach that has predominated in the West canmake pastoral practice seemcold and automatic. Neither a focus on good works nor faith alone are sufficient to transform the human heart. Do positive, external criteria signify inner transformation in all cases? Some branches of Christian counseling too often rely onthe application of seemingly relevant verses of Scripture to effect changes in behavior as if convincing one of the truth of Holy Scripture is enough. Belief in Scripture may be a beginning, but real transformation is not just a matter of thinking. First and foremost it is a matter of an existential transformation. It is a matter of a shift in the very mode of life itself: from autonomy to communion. Allow me to explain.


Death has caused a change in the way we relate to God, to one another and to the world. Our lives are dominated by the struggle to survive. Yannaras writes that we see ourselves not as persons sharing a common nature and purpose, but as autonomous individuals who live to survive in competition with one another. Thus, set adrift by death, we are alienated from God, from others and also from our true selves (Yannaras, 1984). The Lord Jesus speaks to this saying, “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew16:26). Salvation is a transformation from the tragic state of alienation and autonomy that ends in death into a state of communion with God and one another that ends in eternal life. So, in the Orthodox view, a transformation in this mode of existence must occur. If the chosen are saved by decree and not by choice such an emphasis is irrelevant. The courtroom seems insufficient as an arena for healing or transformation.


Great flexibility needs to exist in pastoral care if it is to promote authentic transformation. We need to take people as they are and not as they ought to be. Moral and ethical codes are references, certainly, but not ends in themselves. As a pastor entrusted with personal knowledge of people’s lives, I know that moving people from point A to Z is impossible. If, by the grace of God, step B can be discovered, then real progress can often be made. Every step is a real step. If we can be faithful in small things the Lord will grant us bigger ones later (Matthew 25:21). There need be no rush in this intimate process of real transformation that has no end. As a priest and confessor I tell those who come to me, “I do not know exactly what is ahead on this spiritual adventure. That is between you and God, but if you will allow me, we will take the road together.”


A Romanian priest found himself overhearing the confession of a hardened criminal to an old priest-monk in a crowded Communist prison cell. As he listened he noticed the priest-monk begin to cry. He did not say a word through his tears until the man had finished at which time he replied, “My son, try to do better next time.” Yannaras writes that the message of the Church for humanity wounded and degraded by the ‘terrorist God of juridical ethics’ is precisely this: “what God really asks of man is neither individual feats nor works of merit, but a cryof trust and love from the depths” (Yannaras, 1984,p. 47). The cry comes from the depth of our need to the unfathomable depth of God’s love; the Prodigal Son crying out, “I want to go home” to the Father who, seeing his advance from a distance, runs to meet him. (Luke 15:11-32)
What this divine/human relationship will produce God knows, but we place ourselves in His loving hands and not without some trepidation because “God is a loving fire… for all: good or bad.” (Kalomiris, 1980, p. 19) The knowledge that salvation is a process makes our failures understandable. The illness that afflicts us demands access to the grace of God often and repeatedly. We offer to Him the only things that we have, our weakened condition and will. Joined with God’s love and grace it is the fuel that breathed upon by the Spirit of God, breaks the soul into flame.


Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said: Abba, as much as I am able I practice a small rule, a little fasting, some prayer and meditation, and remain quiet, and as much as possible keep my thoughts clean. What else should I do? Then the old man stood up and stretched out his hands toward heaven, and his fingers became like ten torches of flame. And he said: If you wish you can become all flame. (Nomura, 2001, p. 92)


As we have seen, for the early Church Fathers and the Orthodox Church the Atonement is much more than a divine exercise in jurisprudence; it is the event of the life, death and resurrection of the Son of God that sets us free from the Ancestral Sin and its effects. Our slavery to death, sin, corruption and the devil are destroyed through the Cross and Resurrection and our hopeless adventure in autonomy is revealed to be what it is: a dead end. Salvation is much more than a verdict from above; it is an endless process of transformation from autonomy to communion, a gradual ascent from glory to glory as we take up once again our original vocation now fulfilled in Christ. The way to the Tree of Life at long last revealed to be the Cross is reopened and its fruit, the Body and Blood of God, offered to all. The goal is far greater than a change in behavior; we are meant to become divine.
 
L

Leilanii

Guest
#4
ryan ryan ryan..... i just want you to know i tried really hard to read this........... i made it past the first three sentences then you lost me.........
 
Jul 17, 2009
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#5
ryan ryan ryan..... i just want you to know i tried really hard to read this........... i made it past the first three sentences then you lost me.........
No worries. :)

God bless, Leilanii
 
S

suaso

Guest
#6
Have you made confession in a Latin Church before? Just wondering. I have always experienced the pastoral care/hospital for sinners approach from our priests each time, never the juridical approach described above. Granted, I am sure it was so in the past, but nowadays, not so much. Even the Abbot here on campus, who can be pretty intimidating in class, is one of the best and most gentle of confessors I've ever come across. Maybe all those Eastern fathers he studied for his Patristics degree influenced him :p
 
Jul 17, 2009
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#7
Have you made confession in a Latin Church before? Just wondering. I have always experienced the pastoral care/hospital for sinners approach from our priests each time, never the juridical approach described above. Granted, I am sure it was so in the past, but nowadays, not so much. Even the Abbot here on campus, who can be pretty intimidating in class, is one of the best and most gentle of confessors I've ever come across. Maybe all those Eastern fathers he studied for his Patristics degree influenced him :p
Never been to a Latin Church. I think the article's theology tries to explain the "disposition". Like, having to sit in a box separated by a wall and talk through a screen thing is foreign to Orthodoxy. Do they still do that or does it depend? In Orthodox confession it's pretty open. And the priest stands right there with you with his arm around your shoulder, giving his ear. Maybe pre-Vatican II would be more applicable to some of the more apparent dispositions being touched on in the article.

It's really interesting to see how our view of Original "sin" effects all this other stuff. Even the way we explain the "good news". It seems like in the west when people want to be saved, they ask all these questions and you can't help but touch on original sin (and baptism always comes up if the person asks in a certain way).

protestant example:

"How can I be saved?"

"Say the sinners prayer and let Jesus into your heart."

"Then I'll be saved?"

"Yep."

"And I'll have the Holy Spirit?"

"Yep."

Hey, saved from what, anyway?"

"From hell and God's wrath. You see, back in the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit and so God kicked them out of the garden. After that, everyone born was and is born a sinner. We inherit it in our DNA. God set up the law but it's impossible to keep and then God sent His Son to die to for our sins and now we are forgiven and He's no longer mad at us and we don't have to keep the law because we belong to Him."

"Hm. What about babies?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, babies don't say the sinner's prayer or let Jesus into their heart.What happens when they have untimely deaths?"

"But God's not mad at babies, He loves them."

"But babies are sinners too."

"Yeah but they don't know any better."

"What about the guy that lives in some weird jungle that never heard of Jesus before? Or the guy that doesn't know that what he is doing is wrong?"

"Oh, well. He goes to hell."

"Wait. Why? He doesn't know any better."

"He's still a sinner. He has to let Jesus into his heart."

"But the baby...."

"Well, the baby is protected under the age of accountability."

"Sweet. So it's better to die before you get past the age of accountability b/c then no matter what, you get to go to Heaven and you don't even have to believe in Jesus. Why are we against abortion again?"

"Wait. No."

"No? Why?"

"I don't know. Ask the pastor"

"I already did and he told me to ask you."

"Oh. Well, um. Just pray about it. Now that you have the Holy Spirit you can ask Him questions and He'll give you the answers."

"How long ago was Jesus crucified?"

"About 2000 years ago. Why?"

"You'd think someone would have asked him by now."

"... "
 
S

suaso

Guest
#8
Well, I dunno about the second half of the post there, not being Protestant and all.

Catholics these days do have the option of going into a traditional style of confession or the face-to-face kind. It's the choice of the penitent. I know at my college, you can just walk up to a random monk-priest, and he'll here your confession right there. It's really nice with the monks, when they give absolution, they tend to place a hand on the penitents head while praying for them. Very touching (no pun intended!).

I personally like the screen in many cases, because it does help preserve anonymity which encourages more honest/thorough confession for me. It's not easy telling someone how you've sinned recently sometimes, depending on the sin of course, so the screen can be helpful in such instances. Not because of fear of the priest being judgmental or angry (because I have never experienced that), but because it is a little embarrassing to say things sometimes! But yeah, we can go either way, and I've had plenty of great face-to-face confessions with some of my more favorite confessors. That being said, monks tend to be awesome confessors!
 

Graybeard

Senior Member
Aug 6, 2009
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#9
Never been to a Latin Church. I think the article's theology tries to explain the "disposition". Like, having to sit in a box separated by a wall and talk through a screen thing is foreign to Orthodoxy. Do they still do that or does it depend? In Orthodox confession it's pretty open. And the priest stands right there with you with his arm around your shoulder, giving his ear. Maybe pre-Vatican II would be more applicable to some of the more apparent dispositions being touched on in the article.

It's really interesting to see how our view of Original "sin" effects all this other stuff. Even the way we explain the "good news". It seems like in the west when people want to be saved, they ask all these questions and you can't help but touch on original sin (and baptism always comes up if the person asks in a certain way).

protestant example:

"How can I be saved?"

"Say the sinners prayer and let Jesus into your heart."

"Then I'll be saved?"

"Yep."

"And I'll have the Holy Spirit?"

"Yep."

Hey, saved from what, anyway?"

"From hell and God's wrath. You see, back in the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the forbidden fruit and so God kicked them out of the garden. After that, everyone born was and is born a sinner. We inherit it in our DNA. God set up the law but it's impossible to keep and then God sent His Son to die to for our sins and now we are forgiven and He's no longer mad at us and we don't have to keep the law because we belong to Him."

"Hm. What about babies?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, babies don't say the sinner's prayer or let Jesus into their heart.What happens when they have untimely deaths?"

"But God's not mad at babies, He loves them."

"But babies are sinners too."

"Yeah but they don't know any better."

"What about the guy that lives in some weird jungle that never heard of Jesus before? Or the guy that doesn't know that what he is doing is wrong?"

"Oh, well. He goes to hell."

"Wait. Why? He doesn't know any better."

"He's still a sinner. He has to let Jesus into his heart."

"But the baby...."

"Well, the baby is protected under the age of accountability."

"Sweet. So it's better to die before you get past the age of accountability b/c then no matter what, you get to go to Heaven and you don't even have to believe in Jesus. Why are we against abortion again?"

"Wait. No."

"No? Why?"

"I don't know. Ask the pastor"

"I already did and he told me to ask you."

"Oh. Well, um. Just pray about it. Now that you have the Holy Spirit you can ask Him questions and He'll give you the answers."

"How long ago was Jesus crucified?"

"About 2000 years ago. Why?"

"You'd think someone would have asked him by now."

"... "
That's a pretty lame attack on protestants...it's like you have over heard a conversation between an unbeliever and a "babe in Christ" who maybe is just trying to spread the Good News as Jesus commanded .

On another note...could you briefly explain why is it that you have to confess sins to a priest?....I have often wondered why.
 
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#10
That's a pretty lame attack on protestants...it's like you have over heard a conversation between an unbeliever and a "babe in Christ" who maybe is just trying to spread the Good News as Jesus commanded .
Hm. Sorry about that. Been in a funk past couple of days and seem to be getting more cynical. I think I've been reading to many of the posts here. ;)

I was just coughing up what it was like for me and people I know, first visit to a protestant church and first run across the good news, baptism, membership, the body of Christ, forgiveness, lack of public confession and the whole, do babies go to heaven question. Didn't mean for it to be an attack so much as an illustration of the confusion (in a humorous way).

Personally, I found that the confusion had to do with Original Sin. Original Sin relates to how we explain the good news and yet there are different models of Original Sin and most of the ones in the West start the explanation at the point when Adam and Eve disobeyed.


On another note...could you briefly explain why is it that you have to confess sins to a priest?....I have often wondered why.
I'll post an answer to the question on a different thread. Otherwise anyone that might want to talk about Original Sin (which seems unlikely :p) won't be able to. The history of how confession came to be in the form we have it today, in both RCC and Orthodoxy is available via google. The theology is quite beautiful if you can get past any presuppositions.

Next few days I'll try and put together something on confession.


God bless
 

Graybeard

Senior Member
Aug 6, 2009
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#11
Hm. Sorry about that. Been in a funk past couple of days and seem to be getting more cynical. I think I've been reading to many of the posts here. ;)

I'll post an answer to the question on a different thread.
Next few days I'll try and put together something on confession.
No worries:)
great
 

Graybeard

Senior Member
Aug 6, 2009
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#12
Personally, I found that the confusion had to do with Original Sin. Original Sin relates to how we explain the good news and yet there are different models of Original Sin and most of the ones in the West start the explanation at the point when Adam and Eve disobeyed.
So where should one "start"?
 
Jul 17, 2009
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#13
So where should one "start"?

The bible's a good start but just google for separate terms and check multiple references against others. For search terms, google (with quotes) "confession" and "history". Or, "history of confession." And, Catholic apologetics for, "is confession biblical" etc. Anything someone might have written or said in regards to why or how confession came about will pop out. There's always encyclopedias and all that but that's like, gas money. :D

You'd be surprised how many folks in seminary write their thesis on nich histories on stuff like this. It's a good way to get bits of info that help you construct a less biased construction of the past.


James 5:16 (New International Version)

16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.


Basically, early early Christians were all confessing to one another in assembly. If you look at the fact that the early Church was liturgical it's pretty interesting to get into the root words for words like, Minister etc. Because Minister is basically someone that performs a certain liturgical function. A minister is basically a liturgist. One who, on behalf of the whole, offers the "leading" call and response style of worship.

When it came to confession people were all freely confessing their sins to one another and out in the open. In other words, everyone was carrying everybody else' burdens (as it should be). It was a time to be transparent and also offer help and support to others in order that we be able to realistically lift each other up and comfort one another. You'd be surprised how therapeutic it is to hear that everyone is basically struggling with all kinds of things. If I know you're weaknesses and you mine, we can help look out for each other, etc. However, as the number of Christians grew, this became problematic.

The early Christians were, often, no-hold barred. They would confess EVERYTHING. One guy might confess how he has been looking at so and so's wife and had covetous thoughts.

Houston, we have a problem.

So the overseers/Apostles and company decided it would be better to have one on behalf of the whole, to listen to everyone's confession so it would not be chaotic. That doesn't mean that brothers stopped confessing to each other. It was just a way to keep the entire body pro-active in regards to confession and in a way that was even more helpful. Imagine if everyone tried to help each other through the myriad of problems. You'd have one guy giving this advice and that guy that advice. So, it only made sense to have the more spiritually wise elders to handle such sensitive matters. We're dealing with the souls of mankind, after all.

And it's not like you can possibly confess every little thing. Also, we still confess privately as well. The Priest is there to help us work out that which is contributing to our missing the mark.

When I first heard that the Priest also confesses to us I found it very revealing. It just makes sense. *shrug

That and it has continuity with the early early Church.

It also has to do with Catholic ecclesiology. The way we believe Church to be organized with its hierarchies etc. If God's our Commander and Chief and He has hierarchies in heaven in regards to function and purpose then should it surprise us that there is such a hierarchy established in His Church?

This relates to Apostolic Succession, Overseers (or Bishops) and also the Priestly functions and I'm still learning about this in a way that is surprising to me - through the liturgy. Everyone in the liturgy has a certain function according to His purpose and I mean everyone. Even the babies are part of the liturgy. There is no "daycare" for kids. They are just as much part of the liturgy as is the Priest. I won't get into it but I'll just leave you with the following verses and how these verses were interpreted and clearly understood for two-thousand years.


Luke 11:4 (New International Version)


4Forgive us our sins,
for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.[a]
And lead us not into temptation.[b]' "




( Notice it says, 'us'. "Liturgy" comes form the Greek, meaning "the work of the people". )


John 20:23 (New International Version)

23If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."




(Mucho important and it's vital to our understanding of ecclesiology)


2 Corinthians 2:10 (New International Version)

10If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake

(Just showing what it started to look like after Jesus said what he said to Peter)

Hebrews 10:19-25 (New International Version)

19Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.




(I think this explains confession well without actually talking about confession [though it kind of alludes to parts in the liturgy]. On behalf of all and for all, it's love and encouragement spurring us toward love and encouragement as one body instead of a group of individuals.)




I wasn't going to reply because I just see people responding negatively to something that is anything but and I'm not gonna lie. It's not easy to continually hear people talk smack about Catholics and yet don't really know much about why it is they do what they do. However, I need to keep my cynicism in check because I think I'm getting a bit hard-hearted when it comes to protestants. Hope you got something that will help you on your journey toward God.



God bless.
 

Graybeard

Senior Member
Aug 6, 2009
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#14
When it came to confession people were all freely confessing their sins to one another and out in the open. In other words, everyone was carrying everybody else' burdens (as it should be). It was a time to be transparent and also offer help and support to others in order that we be able to realistically lift each other up and comfort one another. You'd be surprised how therapeutic it is to hear that everyone is basically struggling with all kinds of things. If I know you're weaknesses and you mine, we can help look out for each other, etc. However, as the number of Christians grew, this became problematic.
thanks, that was very informative and really makes sense as well.
but something stood out for me, could it not be that the power of confessing our sins one to another that was originally intended, was lost when we stopped?, because like you said in the above quote, that is how it should be, which I totally agree. but now confessing one to another has basically been done away with as it is so much easier to go to just one person who you know will keep it a secret so the transparency among the brethren is no more transparent..if you know what I mean. I'm having a hard time with this because along with what I've just tried to explain(and that is just my thoughts), I feel that it has changed what the scripture has told us to do.
 
Jul 17, 2009
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#15
thanks, that was very informative and really makes sense as well.
but something stood out for me, could it not be that the power of confessing our sins one to another that was originally intended, was lost when we stopped?, because like you said in the above quote, that is how it should be, which I totally agree. but now confessing one to another has basically been done away with as it is so much easier to go to just one person who you know will keep it a secret so the transparency among the brethren is no more transparent..if you know what I mean. I'm having a hard time with this because along with what I've just tried to explain(and that is just my thoughts), I feel that it has changed what the scripture has told us to do.
It hasn't stopped. We still confess as a whole. That is, there is still public confession going on, in the Orthodox Church anyway. I'm not familiar with the RCC. We also have confession to a priest to help us with our individual weaknesses. Some people also regularly confess to others that are familiar with the types of weaknesses specific to our personal weakness. Like, if the Priest isn't familiar with alcoholism but one of your brothers is, you might confess, seek ways to overcome your weaknesses and get support from a brother that is familiar with your illness. We're all sick. Sin is a sickness, like a flu bug or the common cold. When we confess it's not confessed in order to receive a prescribed punishment but to help overcome your cold. It has to do with forgiveness, which is why we still pray for forgiveness privately but it also has to do with strength and encouragement and practical spiritual advice that the entire body (the Church) may be in a continual process of healing and perfecting herself - to be built up in love.

The transparency is still there. Trust me - lol. However, there is good reason why there is anonymity in many respects. Imagine all of the things people struggle with. There's little reason why every member of the Church would need to know you're specific illness. Especially if that particular illness might be a stumbling block to another or possibly cause the other to sin against you or judge you, which is harmful to the soul. Imagine being a therapist. You will be hearing about marriage problems and a persons issues with their parents etc. Now, if the parents or husband/wife is present during each confession of confusion and weakness, it becomes counter to the healing that the individual needs. I don't believe that the scriptural context and the purpose of confession has been lost. It's one of the sacraments of the Church. It's a vital part of The Way. It's a therapeutic system (not a religion) that is salvific. To try and tear down what was built upon into the fullness of what it is today would be to undo the wisdom that was born out of the experiences of those early Christians. It's to try and recreate the early early Church which will only lead us into the same errors they encountered and then corrected. If someone has traveled the path before you and put up markers that denote danger, left journals of the dangers that lay ahead and created bridges (led by the Holy Spirit) where there were gaps, we'd be foolish to ignore them and attempt to go at it alone.

Where you see "change", a "falling away" and "error", I see continuity. I pray for my sake and the sake of all Orthodox Christians, that you are wrong and I will pray for your sake that you look into the matter without presuppositions and will judge rightly.

God bless.
 
Jul 17, 2009
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#16
thanks, that was very informative and really makes sense as well.
but something stood out for me, could it not be that the power of confessing our sins one to another that was originally intended, was lost when we stopped?, because like you said in the above quote, that is how it should be, which I totally agree. but now confessing one to another has basically been done away with as it is so much easier to go to just one person who you know will keep it a secret so the transparency among the brethren is no more transparent..if you know what I mean. I'm having a hard time with this because along with what I've just tried to explain(and that is just my thoughts), I feel that it has changed what the scripture has told us to do.
Ah, just came to mind. There's a saying and I can't quite remember it but it has to do with the burdens we carry that are not our own. The saying is (kind of like), "be responsible for the sins of all men".

That is to say that we should view our brothers weakness as we view our own weakness. When you see your brothers weakness you should not judge it or count it against him because in fact you are not seeing your brother's weakness at all but your own. What plagues you, plagues me and as I am called to love others as myself, I must do what I am able to help you along The Way just as much if not more than I am called to help myself along The Way.

This is still present in The Church. It hasn't been changed, swept under the rug or shoved into a closet. It's fully accessible to all.

It's strange, but I've been thinking about this as it relates to the board. I often come across heretical teachings on this board and I find myself getting angry which is a sure sign that I'm ignoring my own shortcomings. I MUST remember that insofar as I am not in communion with God that, no matter how little the teaching sways from the truth, that I too am a heretic and hold heresies. I may not be a Heretic with a capital "H" as in, "an enemy of the Truth" but regardless and in regards to that which I should truly be focused on, I am still a heretic - a sinner.

This isn't advocating any kind of false ecumenism, relativistic pluralism or the notion that the Truth is subjective. It's just an admission that we all miss the mark and must rely on the fullness of His Grace and Mercy that we might continue to be perfected and built up in love. Glory and thanks to God that others have traveled The Path before us and left bread crumbs along the way that we might not get lost.
 
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Graybeard

Senior Member
Aug 6, 2009
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#17
That is all very well but surly the scriptures got it right and it is the people (followers) that swayed from the truth "love others as you love yourself". For all the Word is inspired of God. Anyway I see what you are saying and I suppose we could go on and on, the main thing to me is that Jesus is Lord
God Bless
 
S

suaso

Guest
#18
in the RCC, we only confess our sins to the priest. There is what is known as the "Penitentiary rite" at the beginning of mass, which is generally when the congregation as a whole recited "I confess, to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault...etc etc etc" where are "lesser" venial sins are forgiven. It's the mortal sins we are required to confess (though confession of venial sins is encouraged) to priests.

There is also General absolution, which is for forgiving the sins of a large number of people during dire circumstances. For instance, a plane is crashing and there's a priest on board and a planeload of folks. No time for normal confession, everyone gets absolution right there, quickly. It is effective to the extent that those present are contrite and would normally desire to make a normal confession if it weren't for the whole dire circumstance problem. It isn't meant to be used by a lazy priest with a line of penitents out the door :D
 
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