Original Sin and Orthodoxy: Reflections on Carthage

Augustine and Pelagius

Augustine and Pelagius

Anyone who has been around Orthodoxy for a while has heard an argument like the following: Orthodox don’t believe Original Sin but rather Ancestral Sin. At least one book has been written on the topic. Numerous essays of semi-scholarly quality and lay appeals, have been proffered. Podcasts were recorded. Even this blog has written an article on the topic.

The content of this position is generally a distilled version of Fr John Romanides’ book, The Ancestral Sin, containing some or all of the following features:

  1. Orthodoxy doesn’t believe in inherited guilt like the West does.
  2. Orthodoxy teaches that only the effects of the first sin were inherited (death not sin).
  3. There was an important translation issue from the Greek into early Latin texts of Romans 5:12.
  4. St Augustine was misled by the above translation issue to invent a notion of inherited sin, including inherited guilt.
  5. That Western doctrines like Limbo are due to the outgrowth of Augustine’s doctrine (see also infant baptism).

Let’s ignore for a moment that, generally speaking, Rome does not in fact teach inherited guilt. Let’s also bypass the fact that Limbo was taught by Greek Fathers before it was taught by Latin ones and that the doctrine of Limbo has explicit liturgical mention in the Synaxarion on the Saturday before Meatfare (this mention is intentionally excluded in the English translation overseen by Metropolitan Kallistos Ware for reasons unknown). Let’s also forget that Limbo as a doctrine exists precisely to solve the problem of infants with no personal sin, hence a distinction between (analogous) inherited guilt and (actual) personal guilt is presumed.

To get to the heart of what Orthodoxy teaches about Original Sin, we cannot merely look at what authors and theologians have said over time. Orthodoxy is a conciliar church; as such, if she has an official doctrine on a topic, it will be recorded in the acts of a council. Fortunately, we have such a council in Carthage around the years 418-419. In fact this council was personally attended by St Augustine and it reviewed the small inquiry into Pelagianism that occurred some time earlier in Jerusalem (this inquiry deferred judgement to Western church). The decisions of the council of Carthage are codified in its canons which were incorporated into the Greek Nomocanon via the 2nd Canon of Trullo (692). All that is to say that, in the Orthodox Church, Carthage (418) has ecumenical authority.

Two records exist of the council at Carthage. The first is the aforementioned Greek Nomocanon. The second is the edition preserved in Latin. The differences between these two surviving texts are, at times, quite large. How exactly these discrepancies emerged is not quite clear. Nevertheless, the differences in the canons covering Original Sin are generally not noteworthy, with one exception that we will deal with shortly. One further difference between the Greek and Latin texts is different numeric ordering.

The canons of Carthage on Original Sin are canons CIX-CXVI (Latin numbering; inclusive). All of the canons are important to read, if only to avoid some common theological errors. However, we will only be dealing with one canon here.

Canon CX (Latin) / CXXI (Greek)

Likewise it seemed good that whosoever denies that infants newly from their mother’s wombs should be baptized, or says that baptism is for remission of sins, but that they derive from Adam no original sin, which needs to be removed by the laver of regeneration, from whence the conclusion follows, that in them the form of baptism for the remission of sins, is to be understood as false and not true, let him be anathema.

For no otherwise can be understood what the Apostle says, “By one man sin is come into the world, and death through sin, and so death passed upon all men in that all have sinned,” than the Catholic Church everywhere diffused has always understood it. For on account of this rule of faith even infants, who could have committed as yet no sin themselves, therefore are truly baptized for the remission of sins, in order that what in them is the result of generation may be cleansed by regeneration.

[Also it seemed good, that if anyone should say that the saying of the Lord, “In my Father’s house are many mansions” is to be understood as meaning that in the kingdom of heaven there will be a certain middle place, or some place somewhere, in which infants live in happiness who have gone forth from this life without baptism, without which they cannot enter the kingdom of heaven, which is eternal life, let him be anathema. For after our Lord has said: “Except a man be born again of water and of the Holy Spirit he shall not enter the kingdom of heaven,” what Catholic can doubt that he who has not merited to be coheir with Christ shall become a sharer with the devil: for he who fails of the right hand without doubt shall receive the left hand portion.]

- Latin Text

It has pleased the Synod to decree that whosoever denies the little ones newly born from the wombs of their mothers when they are being baptized, or asserts that they are baptized for the remission of sins, but that they have inherited no propatorical sin from Adam obliging them to be purified in the bath of renaissance (whence it follows that in these persons the form of baptism for the remission of sins is not true, but is to be regarded as factitious), let him be anathema;

for no other meaning ought to be attached to what the Apostle has said, viz., “Sin entered the world through one human being [and death by sin*]” (Rom. 5:12), and thus it passed over into all human beings; wherefore all of them have sinned, than that which the Catholic Church diffused and spread abroad every where has ever understood those words to mean. For it is on account of this Canon of the faith that even the little ones too, who are as yet incapable of committing any sin of their own to render them guilty of any offense, are truly baptized for the remission of sins, in order that what sin they inherited from the primordial birth may be purified in them through the process of renaissance.

- Greek Text

I have quoted here both the Latin and Greek texts for full comparison. In general, the canons in the two texts are nearly identical in meaning. There are two discrepancies of note.

First, the Greek text lacks the final paragraph of the Latin text which rejects Limbo. That Limbo has remained an open question in the Roman communion since this point indicates that Rome considers authoritative essentially what is maintained in the Greek text. Hence, we can essentially discard this paragraph except to note that inherited guilt is conspicuously absent. This later point is important since, as I maintained above, the Latin articulation of inherited guilt is nowhere canonized (except perhaps via ‘reatus’ at Trent, a rather weak argument) and where it is mentioned it functions analogically. There is no sense in the Latin version of this canon that children are sent to hell because they inherit guilt.

Second, the Latin text quotes Romans 5:12 in full, while the Greek text truncates it. While this fact is true, the truncation is somewhat worse in the English translation of the Greek (Denver Cummings, 1957). The English translation unfortunately leaves out καὶ διὰ τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὁ θάνατος from the Greek original. I have translated this in brackets above to correct this glaring omission. The reason this error in the English translation is so critical is because it establishes that the Greek canon asserts, with St Paul, that death comes by sin. The magnitude of this error will shortly become plain.

Augustine’s Error in Romans 5:12?

The assertion that Augustine’s theological notions are derived from a faulty translation of Romans 5:12 into Latin is unfounded. This thesis comes from St Augustine’s work A Treatise Against Two Letters of the Pelagians (IV.6). This argument presumes that Augustine drops the word “death” and incorrectly interprets the antecedent of a pronoun. The problem is that if St Augustine’s theology were based on this error alone, it would be corrected by Carthage where the translation is found in its correct form. But it is not. In fact, the current canon under consideration maintains the correct translation and Augustine’s theology simultaneously. This argument is even weaker when we arrive at the Greek canon. There is definitely no translation issue for Romans 5:12 since Greek is the original language. And yet, something very similar to Augustine’s theology is maintained in the Greek. If Augustine’s theology is merely the result of a translation issue, then surely it would have been corrected by the time it reached Carthage, where Greek speakers were common, and Trullo, where Greek was the primary language.

The Interpretation by St Nikodemus

“Perhaps the Greek world read this canon in a drastically different way than Augustine did?” one might ask. Fortunately, we have St Nikodemus’ commentary on this canon to clarify this for us. It reads:

This view too was a product of the heretical insanity of the Pelagians: this refers to their saying that newly begotten infants are not baptized for the remission of sins, as the Orthodox Church believes and maintains, but, instead, if anyone say that they are baptized for the remission of sins, yet the infants themselves have not incurred any taint from the original (or primordial) sin of Adam, such as to require to be removed by means of baptism (since, as we have said, those men believed that this original sin is not begotten with the human being, simply because this was not any offense of nature, but a mischoice of the free and independent will). So the Council in the present Canon anathematizes the heretics who say this: First, because the form of the baptism for the remission of sins which is given to infants is not true according to them, but false and factitious, since, according to them, those infants have no sins to be pardoned. Secondly, because the Apostle in what he says makes it plain that sin entered the world through a single human being, namely, Adam, and that death entered through sin, and thus death passed into all human beings, since all of them have sinned just like Adam. This passage, I say, cannot be taken to mean anything else than what the catholic Church of the Orthodox has understood and believed it to mean, to wit, that even the newborn infants, notwithstanding the fact that they have not sinned by reason of any exercise of their own free and independent will, have nevertheless entailed upon themselves the original sin from Adam; wherefore they need to be purified through baptism necessarily from that sin: hence they are truly, and not fictitiously, being baptized for the remission of sins.

The emphasis added above highlights for us perhaps the most crucial passage of the section. The articulation is slightly different than Augustine’s, but the emphasis is clearly the same. Original Sin is inherited. It is remitted at baptism. The only apparent difference in language comes in the language used in describing the relationship between sin and death.

Greek and Latin Views of Original Sin

In the Latin text, this is described in the final paragraph as a negative: those who have “not merited to be coheir with Christ shall become a sharer with the devil.” Note here that the Augustinian theology of this extra paragraph assumes that in the case of infants there may be no action or motion. Hence, even though an infant has done nothing, because he has failed to do something to earn merit, he is bound with the devil.

St Nikodemus, on the other hand, articulates this in a positive way: all humans have sinned, and therefore all are deserving of death. For Nikodemus, it is not inaction which merits death, but rather action. This difference arises from a distinction made by St Maximus. He says, at the beginning of Ad Thalassium 61:

But at the instant he was created, the first man, by use of his senses, squandered his spiritual capacity – the very natural desire for the mind of God – on sensible things. In this, his very first movement, he activated an unnatural pleasure through the medium of the senses. … After the transgression, [the pleasure of sexual reproduction] naturally preconditioned the births of all human beings, and no one at all was by nature free from birth subject to the passion associated with this pleasure; rather, everyone was requited with sufferings, and subsequent death, as the natural punishment.

Both St Augustine and St Maximus share a notion of concupiscence passed on through sexual reproduction. Both follow a formula of: Genesis (Creation), Kinesis (Motion/Activity), Stasis (Rest). The distinction between the Greek and Latin views of Original Sin is entirely wrapped up in the question of the transition between Genesis and Kinesis. For Augustinian theology, there appears to be a state between Genesis and the generation of merit/demerit. The precise nature of this state is undefined. Two possible explanations are: 1. no motion at all occurs in this state 2. some motion may be ameritorious. However, it is clear that for St Augustine, at least in the form of the challenge being put to him, it may be possible for a child to die without earning either merit or demerit. In this state, for St Augustine, the child has not earned the merit required for heaven. Hence, the negative articulation.

On the other hand, for St Maximus the very first motion after Genesis is intrinsically disordered. This disordered action generates demerit, and hence every person’s first motion is sinful. For St Maximus it would not be possible for a child to die without demerit since his first motion was demeritous and there is no temporality between his Genesis and his first motion. Hence, for both St Maximus and St Nikodemus: all people deserve death because all have sinned. Thus, the positive articulation.

Put another way, in the Latin tradition God created man with his end (τέλος) in God. Heaven, in this tradition, is nothing other than man actualizing this end. By sin Adam and his progeny are estranged from God and as such are unable to, apart from baptism, actualize this end. Hence, mankind, apart from baptism, “has not merited to be coheir with Christ” and therefore “shall become a sharer with the devil.” St Maximus, in the Greek tradition, takes this a step further and attributes actual, personal sin to the disorderedness of the very first motion of our existence. Where for St Augustine we fail to actualize divine life, for St Maximus we have actual sin by the mere fact of our existence. The great irony here is that St Augustine is arguing from theosis!


Far from being irreconcilable differences, these two approaches are hair-splitting differences in philosophical models. Where the notion of inherited guilt may exist analogically in the Latin model, guilt is personal and actual in every person in the Greek model. Further, the Latin model falls on the side of negative articulation (failure to obtain merit) where the Greek models uses a positive articulation (actual sin of all leads to the death of all). The distinction between these models is the result of St Maximus’ articulation of the transition from Genesis to Kinesis.

However, regardless of the model used, one thing is certain: Orthodox Christians who wish to make a distinction between Original Sin and Ancestral Sin will have to deal with the canons of Carthage.

Editor’s Note: Comments on this post have now been closed, due to the enormity of attempting to respond to so many. Nathaniel McCallum will be posting more on this subject in the future. As always, submissions are welcome. You are free to take an opposing view, to write something else on original sin, etc.!

After obtaining a BS in Christian Ministries and Music Composition from Indiana Wesleyan University, Nathaniel McCallum studied Historical Theology and Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. He is a member of St Athanasius Orthodox Church in Nicholasville, KY, along with his wife and four children.

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193 thoughts on “Original Sin and Orthodoxy: Reflections on Carthage

    • It seems to be rare, but Google tracks several uses of both propatoric and propatorical. In any event, it seems as good a word as any to provide an adjective form for the concepts of forefathers, first parents, etc. (Interestingly, propatores (untranslated) is used in some English liturgical texts to refer to the relationship of Ss. Joachim and Anna to the Lord Jesus.)

  1. Nathan,

    The Roman Catholic source linked in your article acknowledges an early Eastern-Western difference in understanding:

    “Very few Greek Fathers dealt with the destiny of infants who die without Baptism because there was no controversy about this issue in the East. Furthermore, they had a different view of the present condition of humanity. For the Greek Fathers, as the consequence of Adam’s sin, human beings inherited corruption, possibility, and mortality, from which they could be restored by a process of deification made possible through the redemptive work of Christ. The idea of an inheritance of sin or guilt – common in Western tradition – was foreign to this perspective, since in their view sin could only be a free, personal act.”

    Also, I recently read St. Fulgentius’ correspondence with the Scythian Monks (all of them Augustinians) and they repeatedly rail against those who would say that humanity didn’t inherit the guilt of Adam’s act.

    The teaching on fate of unbaptized infants really helps to illustrate the difference in Eastern and Western understanding. The Roman Catholic document also acknowledges that Carthage didn’t follow Augustine completely but the great Western Fathers did:

    The Council of Carthage of 418…This council did not, however, explicitly endorse all aspects of Augustine’s stern view about the destiny of infants who die without Baptism.

    So great was Augustine’s authority in the West, however, that the Latin Fathers (e.g., Jerome, Fulgentius, Avitus of Vienne, and Gregory the Great) did adopt his opinion. Gregory the Great asserts that God condemns even those with only original sin on their souls; even infants who have never sinned by their own will must go to “everlasting torments”. He cites Job 14:4-5 (LXX), John 3:5, and Ephesians 2:3 on our condition at birth as “children of wrath”.

    If infants inherit guilt then of course they should go to everlasting torments. Notice also the subtle merging of Hades and Gehenna that would result in other misunderstandings later. I would say that the Orthodox view of the Middle State would have something analogous to Limbo:

    St. Gregory the Theologian – and that the third [group i.e. unbaptized infants] will be neither glorified nor punished by the righteous Judge, as unsealed and yet not wicked, but persons who have suffered rather than done wrong. For not every one who is not bad enough to be punished is good enough to be honoured; just as not every one who is not good enough to be honoured is bad enough to be punished. (Oration 40.23)

    We only reject later scholastic precision in reference to the regions. The Church acknowledges many places/states in Hades. In the East original sin will land you in Hades, but “everlasting torments” in the West. Why? I think because there is a real difference in what they mean.

    Thank you for the article and I’m misunderstanding anything I welcome correction.

      • Would you say that it was a theory held and taught for a long time so as to acquire a certain authority?

      • Daniel,

        I would like to add that in my reading of the Fathers, unbaptized children can be delivered from the Middle State (“limbo”) by the prayers, love and acts of the Church on their behalf. It is not a permanent state between Heaven and Hell after the Last Judgment.

        St. Isaac the Syrian: In the future separation there will be no middle realm between the state that is completely on high and the state that is absolutely below. A person will either belong entirely to those who dwell on high, or entirely to those below; but within both the one state and the other are diverse degrees of recompense… Scripture has taught us nothing about the existence of three realms, but ‘When the Son of God will come in His glory, He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left.’ (Mat. 25:31-33)…How have you not understood by these things that falling short of the order on high is, in fact, the Gehenna of torment?

        • Linda,

          Thank you. I don’t think we are taking the consciousness of a church seriously. What the body of a church has believed and taught by its saints, the hierarchy and the people. How they understood. A top-down conciliar approach does not do enough to explain the consensum traditio to me.

          • I think what Nathaniel is arguing is that the Romanides approach to the question is actually a novelty out of step with the greater tradition, that the sense of this subject that has become popular in Orthodoxy in the West is not actually what has been believed always, everywhere and by all (i.e., the Vincentian canon). In order to argue that Romanides’ approach is really the tradition of the Church, one would have to demonstrate. Appealing to ecumenical councils isn’t a “top-down” approach, is it? Or are you arguing that the ECs actually are not authoritative?

            Anyway, I’m still learning here, so I’m not staking a claim in this, but I think that the authority issue is an important one. Is it really possible to argue against the doctrinal decrees of the ecumenical councils and be faithful to Orthodox tradition?

            • I’m not sure to what extent one can give the apparent theological position reflected in the Carthaginian canon ecumenical conciliar authority, notwithstanding Nathaniel’s thesis. First of all, I cannot find evidence that the body of the African Code was fully accepted by Rome. Second, Trullo does not specify that the Code as promulgated by 418 is necessarily referred to. There were other Carthaginian councils. This may seem weak but it is still enough to create ambiguity. Third, it is assumed that the Greek translation existed before Trullo but I can find no solid evidence of that. Fourth, adopting by reference to Carthage does not necessarily imply that all canons and their rationale have been adopted. Witness the fact that Carthage only canonizes two Maccabees and the EO has traditionally included three Maccabees. Specifically, it seems reasonable to believe that what they gave ecumenical conciliar authority to, by this ambiguous process, is to concur in the issue of whether infants need to be baptized, rather than the theology underpinning the need for such baptism as expressed by Carthage. In other words, they were adopting the conclusion of the canon but not necessarily its expressed rationale. For all these reasons, I find the thesis to be built on a weak/ambiguous foundation.

              Of course, I admit to having an Athanasian bias in regard to the Fall.

            • OMG Fr. Andrew! Haven’t we already established that Romanides has nothing to do with this argument?

    • Maximus,

      I’m not denying that there is an earlier Greek model. There is. As I see it there are actually three groups of models:
      1. The pre-Pelagian models. This is Greek only as a function of the universality of Greek in earliest Christianity, though there is some limited Latin support. It is also predominantly Syrian, owing to a certain set of Syrian exegetical concerns.
      2. The post-Pelagian Latin models. There are multiple actual models here. The most predominant of which is Augustine’s. Augustine’s model eventually loses in Rome. In fact, some have described the Reformation as the split between the Augustinian (Protestant) and non-Augustinian models (Rome) of original sin.
      3. The post-Pelagian Greek models. Again, multiple actual models. The most predominant of which is Maximus’. There is less debate in Greek on this topic, however, than there is in Latin. However, what debate exists is incredibly nuanced and comes to a head in the 5th council.

      It is the Pelagian controversy which forces the Church to think deeply about Paul’s theology of the power of sin and death. What the Church comes to ecumenically realize is that the pre-Pelagian models are inadequate to deal with the Pelagian problem. This is precisely similar to how the Christology of Justin Martyr is inadequate to deal with Arius and a new articulation is formed. What is abundantly clear is that Carthage is ecumenical for Orthodoxy, so much so that later Greek thinkers no longer feel safe to use the pre-Pelagian models.

      While it is true that few early Greek thinkers dealt with death of infants without baptism, this is precisely because there was nobody forcing the issue like Pelagius/Celestius. Nevertheless, both Ss Gregory Nyssan and Nazianzen do in fact deal with it. And their discomfort, *before Augustine*, with allowing unbaptized people into heaven is telling that there is something deeper going on in Greek thought than merely inherited death. This latent discomfort is precisely the theology of St Paul as of yet unexamined (since there was no controversy).

      The real question looming behind all of this is that of Origenism. This is explicitly mentioned by both Augustine (Civitas Dei 12.20) and Maximus (Ambiguum 7). Because of this, Augustine is treated as father and doctor of the Church in the 5th ecumenical council. Why? It is precisely because Augustine’s role at Carthage was immediately understood, even in the Greek world, as solving a real problem. That is not to suggest that Augustine is irreformable dogma, in this topic or in any of his writings. Put simply, he is an important step in what would become a more articulate formula in later writers.

      Regarding guilt, it is a problem which arises mostly subsequent to Augustine due to this negative approach (failure to obtain merit). Inherited guilt is by analogy or metaphor only, precisely the same way the “corruption of Adam’s nature” is by analogy or metaphor (Retractions 1.10.3). This is why it is best to see Maximus as a later development on Augustine. The analogy of inherited guilt is gone in Maximus precisely because every human has actual, personal guilt. That this is simply a more articulate phrasing of “inherited guilt” is important to notice.

      It is important to notice that there are differences between Augustine and Maximus. What is also important to notice is that Rome has over time defined dogmatically is far closer to Maximus than it is to Augustine. This is important because it means that, although articulated differently between Rome and Orthodoxy, the topic of Original Sin is not a church dividing issue and the (real) differences that exist are not irreconcilable.

      • “This is important because it means that, although articulated differently between Rome and Orthodoxy, the topic of Original Sin is not a church dividing issue and the (real) differences that exist are not irreconcilable.”

        I can completley agree with this since Rome has not dogmatized “inherited guilt”. However, my point was that there has been a significant difference in understanding on the popular levels. Yes, these differences have been caricatured; yes, obviously a more nuanced approach is required BUT Orthodox criticisms of “original sin as inherited guilt” are not completely unwarranted. It’s not merely West-bashing.

        Also, you may be reading “discomfort” into the Greek Fathers but the fate of those outside the Church has always been a mystery. Can you please provide examples of their discomfort? I just have a hard time believing that the Eastern Fathers left the theology of Paul unexamined. The West should definitely be consulted on this but I also can’t say that he Fathers of the East did not feel safe without Carthage. Does St. Maximus ever mention St. Augustne or Carthage and do you read him as holding to the opinion that he is departing from unsafe elements in the theology of the East on this specific issue?

        Thanks for your response and I’m grateful for the prolonged study you’ve put in.

          • Connecting the dots I made:
            It’s not that the RCC is too un-punishing in their official position, not at all! It’s that the EOC now seems to hold a doctrine that comes way closer to “total depravity” than I previously thought. That is really disturbing.

            To support the point that Catholics don’t actually appear to hold out much hope for unbaptized infants: I went to a catholic funeral recently for a child who lived only a few minutes after birth. She had had a emergency baptism. All good. But at the funreal, the priest’s homily could have been summed up thusly: “Well, it’s a good thing she was baptized, since otherwise, well, um, you know….” Like he was mildly ashamed of the thing he had to imply in talking of her baptism. A child who had only known suffering, who was only barely baptized–it was as if the baptism was the thread dangling her over Jonathan Edwards’s hell!

            • Inheriting sin doesn’t mean that we believe in total depravity. The latter is just one way of interpreting the former. Indeed, Romanides’
              “ancestral sin” position also teaches that we inherit sin. Nearly all Christians teach that sin is inherited from Adam. Only the most extreme Pelagian (far more extreme, I think, than Pelagius himself) would teach that we do not inherit sin.

              As for what is preached at a Roman Catholic church, well, I know faithful Roman Catholics who say it is not uncommon to hear heresy (even by RC definition) preached in their churches. I wouldn’t pay it too much mind. They do have official statements on these things, and we should stick to them.

  2. I love this post!

    And if I may, the Catechism that followed Trent said, “They are to be taught, in the first place, that such is the admirable efficacy of this Sacrament that it remits original sin and actual guilt, however unthinkable its enormity may seem.”

    That shows a Western distinction between original sin and actual guilt at a time that Rome was allegedly teaching that actual real and tangible guilt was transmitted from Adam to us.

    • “That shows a Western distinction between original sin and actual guilt ”

      Of course there is a distinction between original sin and actual guilt. The issue of dispute is whether original sin ENTAILS actual guilt.

    • Fr. Andrew,

      I would never argue that EC’s are not authoritative and I hold to every doctrinal decree of the Church. I also hold that commonly held beliefs, understandings, prayers and catechisms should be taken into account with the councils “because the protector of religion is the very body of the Church, even the people themselves” (Encyclical 1848). I should have said that a MERE top-down approach falls short of explaining how a church funtions to me. Linda makes a great point.

      Again, Augustinians have been teaching that “guilt is inherited” therefore unbaptized infants suffer eternal torments since St. Augustine, so to accuse Fr. Romanides of novelty because he responded to commonly taught theology is flat wrong. St. Photios and others responded to the Filioque as commonly taught in Rome and the West before it was officially promulgated by a Pope (I’m not sure if St. Photios or too many others were even aware of Toledo 589). Even the Synod of Jerusalem responds to this phantom doctrine that supposedly no one in the West ever taught.

      I really question if the East left St. Paul “unexamined” and was “uncomfortable” with this topic until some major Augustinian paradigm shift occured when Trullo accepted various local canons wholesale. The Council of Trullo was convened with the intention to complete the disciplinary canons that the 5th and 6th Councils lacked and the West never accepted it as ecumenical. I just question the framework which undergirds the conclusion. I’m still learning as well and Nathan has certainly raised the bar.

  3. Reblogged this on Eclectic Orthodoxy and commented:
    One doesn’t often find on the internet a thoughtful comparison of original sin (Western) and ancestral sin (Eastern) by an Orthodox writer. Too often caricature prevails. But this article by Nathaniel McCallum is an exception. I found it very interesting and I suspect you will, too.

  4. Interesting post. The quote from St. Maximus puts into my mind a topic I’d like to see addressed sometime, about how to understand the authority of the ‘consensus’ of the fathers. In particular, for example, unless I’ve misunderstood them, almost all of the early fathers that I’ve read on Genesis agree that sexual reproduction is a consequence of the fall (and that God’s pre-fall command to be fruitful and multiply was supposed to be accomplished somehow asexually?). Yet I don’t think very many nowadays accept that view (I certainly have a hard time understanding it). The approach of some would be to say “Oh, well, it’s in several of the fathers (indeed I can’t find anyone who comments on it and says anything different), so it must be true.” Others would take a more nuanced approach, perhaps by comparing what the Fathers say with the creeds, canons, scripture, contemporary knowledge of historical context, etc. Others might take a more sparse approach and say that all an Orthodox Christian *must* believe (of course, the bigger part would be practice) is what is contained in the Creeds and perhaps the liturgical texts, and the rest is theological opinion (Fr Bulgakov says something like this). Maybe this is too complex and controversial a topic, but it’s something I’ve not really seen addressed in a reasonable way. (I’m open to suggestions for resources)

    • “Consensus patrum” is a Reformed concept. Orthodoxy’s dogmatic structure is *not* this but rather “consensus concilium.” Hence, we start with the councils and move outward from there. Hence my attempt to start with Carthage and move outward.

      The earliest reference I have found to sexual reproduction being a consequence of the fall is 2 Baruch 56:6 (late 1st century / early 2nd century). This notion has never been canonized by council to my knowledge, although it is prominent among the Fathers (East and West). This fact makes it important for theological consideration, but not dogma that must be held. It may also be possible to tweak some of these early theological assertions based upon modern knowledge of human sexual reproduction.

      • Nathan,

        The councils have not spoken on every aspect of the Church’s teaching because they convened to address heresies and problems. Is the teaching of the Dormition of the Theotokos and all that accompanied her repose defined by a council? Rome has made it so. Is our teaching on life after death? Rome has one so. I would even assert that our of canon of Scripture is not dogmatically settled because Trullo accepted various scriptural canons. Rome dogmatized this as well.

        If many generations of our saints have spoken on an issue then surely we as Orthodox can hold to it with confidence.

        • Dormition is canonical in a liturgical sense. In fact, this is of a high degree of relevance to the topic of original sin.

          The fact of life after death is certainly affirmed by the Holy Scriptures. The full details of it are not, however, canonized (though some are, like non-chiliasm).

          Our NT has long been canonized. As has the OT, with slight variances. None of the variances are significant enough to merit a council. I suspect the most authoritative one for us is in the Confession of Dositheus.

          And yes, we can have confidence in an answer until a conflict arises which makes it unclear. Then a council decides. Councils have greater authority than commonly held theology. This doesn’t make commonly held theology irrelevant or untrustworthy.

  5. It’s worth noting, at least as trivia, that the earliest detailed reaction to Augustine in Greek was written by Theodore of Mopsuestia and is preserved in Latin fragments in the Collectio Palatina (republished in Latin and English in John Behr’s The Case against Diodore and Theodore, pp. 252-263). The basic issue that Theodore takes with Augustine is whether or not Adam was created mortal. For Theodore, he was and so mortality did not come about through sin. In any case, of course, Theodore winds up being condemned by the Orthodox and accepted as the gold standard of exegesis by the Assyrians. It might be of interest to poke around and see if his opinions regarding original sin pop up among more acceptable Antiochene writers…

    • Both Theodore and Augustine represent interpretations of Athanasius on this point (the latter deals with this explicitly in On the Incarnation). In fact, I suspect some of the Syrian hermeneutical concerns (from Diodore) are what made the Jerusalem council decide to forward the Pelagian dispute to the West. And yes, Romanides’ study of early notions of original sin shows a fairly strong Syrian bias.

  6. Nathaniel,
    Thank you for your article. I think it is very important that we do our best to get this right. Not only because “Doctrine Matters” as we read in the header above but because it is so important for the Orthodox mission. How many have walked away from their all to brief investigation of Orthodoxy after hearing misrepresentations and caricatures of the West.

    When a thinking inquirer hears rhetoric they know is not true we undermine our position, I have seen this happen again and again among people I am personally involved with, and quite frankly it is usually the more stable and educated, (not saying the educated are always the more stable). These tactics may work in the short term but they will not produce lasting fruit, not to mention the truth does matter.

    Took me 17 years to become Orthodox and one significant reason was what seemed to me– at the time– a contradiction between the Orthodox claim of catholicity and the rejection of Western Orthodox/Catholic Tradition (from the books I was reading and the Orthodox I was speaking to which were the most prominent among converts). It’s still a problem although is obviously no longer a stumbling block for me.

    Perhaps this is a bit off topic and has been said enough but I just want to encourage you and other capable students to continue this very important work, in the interest of truth yes but also in the interest of accurately presenting the Orthodox faith to inquirers. We don’t need to make up reasons not to be RC, there are a few very good reasons to be Orthodox and not RC let’s try to understand them and convey them accurately,this will be in our best interest in the long term, not to mention, truth matters.

    Fr. Patrick

  7. Whatever one believes about this subject, the idea that unbaptized infants or children for that matter will not be saved by the all merciful God is a horrendous thought.

    • Thank you Seraphim.
      Holiness is nothing other than Love. God is Love. Christ demonstrated such mercy, such tenderness; the God who created all and wills that all will be saved- he will not be constrained by the limits of these arguments, councils or misunderstandings of councils.
      This is not really helpful.
      The Orthodox Way is a way of life that softens our hearts, fills us with the love and compassion of the Good God. Anything that distracts from this- as this current inquiry threatens for myself and perhaps many- this is not salvific. It’s a distraction.
      The Tradition is in the hearts of Elders transfigured and made vessels of mercy; their thoughts and words are like healing oil to all who would listen. They have no room for this vein of thinking; their hearts are transfigured by the light of Christ.

      Love God; love neighbour. Anything that distracts from this is not helpful, not Orthodox.
      If some can engage in these sorts of inquiries and find it helpful in humbling themselves and loving their neighbours- good. But I suspect many like you and I are only hardened by this. And so for us, it is not Orthodox. Not salvific. Not helpful. And in so far as it does not transmit the Light of Christ to us, it is not true.

      whatever is beautiful, whatever is good, whatever ls lovely- set your mind on this. St Paul showed us the more excellent way: The way of Love. This is Holy Tradition. christ alive in the hearts of those who humble themselves and love even their enemies.
      St Silouan prayed even for reposed atheists! The Holy Spirit taught him this; he would not be troubled by what is discussed here; it would not change his prayer. St Seraphim teaches we can never be too gentle, too kind. We are not even to appear to be harsh; this is not supported by discussions and inquiries like this one.

      Yes- faith is simple. It is a product of humility and repentance. Utterly simple– only those who become like little children will find the narrow way that leads to life. This is simple, child-like faith.
      Cling to it!

      -Mark Basil

      • This is all quite true in its way, of course, but isn’t the gist of what you’re saying that we just shouldn’t be discussing theology? If so, why read the post and why comment?

        While what you wrote isn’t rancorous or anything, since it’s essentially just saying that this site shouldn’t exist, it’s somewhat off-topic. :) Please keep comments about the topic at hand. Thanks!

        • Is anyone here saying that Fr. Romanides understanding of these matters, ancestral vs. original sin, or whatever, is not exactly correct, and is not in keeping with the teaching (understanding) of the Orthodox Church? Has anyone read the book “For Those Who Hurt: An Orthodox Perspective on Suffering”, by Fr. Michael Keiser (Minneapolis, MN: Light and Life Publishing Company), and read what Fr. Keiser has said on Augustine, original sin, and Ezekiel 18, in that book? After you have read from that book, if you will, feel free to comment on what Fr. Keiser says. I don’t have a copy of this book in my library now, but I have read from that book, and I remember that it discussed that (this) subject we are talking about here now. God bless all of you. All of you, Christ remember in His Kingdom! Amen! God save us. In Erie PA SRH Gospodi pomiloi.

  8. Pingback: Over at “Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy” | Be As A Light

  9. Maximus,

    Yeah I think that hits upon a topic that Clement touches on above…just how authoritative is ‘commonly taught or commonly believed’ in the Western understanding. I suspect we will never hear a dogmatic assertion of limbo or a dogmatic denial of limbo. I personally lean towards denial, assume all unbaptized perons who aren’t culpable for any bad action end up in paradise. *shrug*

    • St. Vincent of Lerins: But what, if in antiquity itself there be found error on the part of two or three men, or at any rate of a city or even of a province? Then it will be his care by all means, to prefer the decrees, if such there be, of an ancient General Council to the rashness and ignorance of a few. But what, if some error should spring up on which no such decree is found to bear? Then he must collate and consult and interrogate the opinions of the ancients, of those, namely, who, though living in various times and places, yet continuing in the communion and faith of the one Catholic Church, stand forth acknowledged and approved authorities: and whatsoever he shall ascertain to have been held, written, taught, not by one or two of these only, but by all, equally, with one consent, openly, frequently, persistently, that he must understand that he himself also is to believe without any doubt or hesitation.

      St. Vincent advises that we refer to the consensus concilium and the consensus patrum. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive concepts. If I was Roman Catholic I would’ve consider Limbo as normative until otherwise notified.

        • Nathan,

          How do you read this decree?

          We believe the first man created by God to have fallen in Paradise, when, disregarding the Divine commandment, he yielded to the deceitful counsel of the serpent. And hence hereditary sin flowed to his posterity; so that none is born after the flesh who beareth not this burden, and experienceth not the fruits thereof in this present world. But by these fruits and this burden we do not understand [actual] sin, such as impiety, blasphemy, murder, sodomy, adultery, fornication, enmity, and whatsoever else is by our depraved choice committed contrarily to the Divine Will, not from nature; for many both of the Forefathers and of the Prophets, and vast numbers of others, as well of those under the shadow [of the Law], as under the truth [of the Gospel], such as the divine Precursor, {St. John the Baptist} and especially the Mother of God the Word, the ever-virgin Mary, experienced not these, or such like faults; but only what the Divine Justice inflicted upon man as a punishment for the [original] transgression, such as sweats in labour, afflictions, bodily sicknesses, pains in child-bearing, and, in fine, while on our pilgrimage, to live a laborious life, and lastly, bodily death. ( Confession of Dositheus, Decree VI)

  10. I’m afraid there has been much misunderstanding of and injustice done to the teachings of the Fathers and Romanides here. We need to realize (or at least entertain) a few points:

    1) Western fathers did inherit from Augustine an idea of original guilt. This was a necessary by product of their misunderstanding of the Fall, according to Romanides. By believing that death and the fall were acts of punishment by a wrathful God and not the consequences of the deception of Satan, they were forced to find a reason to impute guilt for that punishment upon all mankind. If we understand the fall in the light of the Eastern Fathers as the falling away from God–life itself, with the resulting consequence of mortality of the soul and body, we do not need to impute guilt for a punishment, we need to properly diagnose the disease. If God is the author of death, it must be as a just punishment of our sins–thus all mortal souls, even infants, must be conceived, not just born, guilty themselves. The Orthodox fathers have avoided this theology of terror by recognizing from the first that the devil was the author of sin and death and God is the life-giver, not taker.

    2) The Catechism of the Catholic Church has been modified to take into account Orthodox critiques of the Augustinian notion of original sin. To say that the RCC has never taught, explicitly or implicitly, a notion of inherited guilt seems specious to me. Anselm celarly taugh it, coming out of the Augustinian tradition. The Council of Trent session V clearly uses it: “If any one denies, that, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in baptism, the guilt of original sin is remitted; or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away; but says that it is only rased, or not imputed; let him be anathema.” Here can and should distinguish between the notion of inheriting the guilt of adam’s personal sin to the inheriting of some generic guilt (analogous guilt?) but really what’s the difference? To call this passage a weak argument for evidence that the RCC taught inherited guilt is Clintonian! To a certain extent, the dogma of Immaculate Conception seems to require it–for to what “stain” of original sin do they refer?

    3) Without taking into account the whole picture of salvation and difference between East and West on the questions of from what or whom are we being saved and how does God accomplish it and what is the nature of that saving grace (e.g. the essence-energies distinction)–the argument over original vs ancestral sin of course appears to be hair-splitting. But I assure you it is not.

    • 1) This is a very large accusation with no support from the original texts. Please don’t make assertions without arguments.

      2) I absolutely agree that Anselm does teach it. In fact, while the notion of “inherited guilt” does arise earlier, it only becomes important after the rise of Anselm’s system (monergism and all; Anselm seems to have little knowledge of the 6th ecumenical council).

      The phrase translated “the guilt of original sin” is, in Latin, “reatum originalis peccati.” Reatus means something like “liability” or “charge.” “Guilt” is a minor translation, but the context does not warrant this translation. Hence, the official English translation is unfortunately misleading. You can read more about this problem here: http://mliccione.blogspot.com/2007/04/development-and-negation-vii-original.html

      3) Again, assertion without argument. Please feel free to make your case.

      • as for 1 and 3, the case has been made succinctly and masterfully by Romanides in his classic The Ancestral Sin which you mention without citing and then completely misrepresent. Your “distilled” view of his argument is only distilled if distillation now means adding mud to clear water. As for 2–who is hairsplitting now? If i go in to a court and admit to “charges” then I am essentially pleading “guilty.” Nevertheless, making a distinction in Trent between reatus poena and reatus culpa is irrelevent: they both carry the same problem of making God the punisher and thus the author of death (see pts. 1 and 3).

        I’m honestly confused why a supposedly Orthodox thinker would take such blatantly scholastic views.

        • 1. Romides’ work deal exclusively with pre-Pelagian articulations of Original Sin. I have not attempted in this article to summarize Romanides’ work, but rather the popular arguments that reference his work.

          2. Carthage is the official teaching of the Orthodox Church on Original Sin, not Romanides. Your beef on this point is with Trullo, not me.

          3. Liability is not guilt. Sorry. Even Calvin makes this distinction… If we wish for the Latins to take seriously our theological distinctions, we need take theirs seriously too.

        • Dear Nathaniel, (In response to your last reply)
          1. If you admit that you are not trying to summarize his actual work, why would you associate him with popular arguments that reference his work? It seems a bit of guilt by association. How many times have many of us chaffed at equating Augustine’s own work with that of much later so-called “Augustinians?” Perhaps you would be so kind as to amend your introduction which, as written, implies that it is a representation of the departed father’s work, and simply take his name out of your caricature.
          1a. “Pre-Pelagian articulations?” Are you suggesting that post-Pelagius these views were no longer normative? One should consider that Romanides point in focusing on pre -Augustinian fathers (particularly western ones like Ireneaus, Clement, and Tatian) was to show that Augustine’s view was a clear departure from the Biblical and Apostolic teaching of the early church (clearly in opposition to the many westerners who felt that Augustine was the first to really “get” Paul). I don’t think Romanides would accept the idea that the period he was looking at had become obsolete after Augustine.
          2. I don’t have a beef with Carthage, or Orange, or Trullo. I don’t seem to remember ever suggesting I did have problem with the doctrinal formulations of the councils. I don’t think Romanides did either. Are you suggesting (for the record) that you believe Romanides teaching on the Ancestral Sin to be in error due to a real opposition to the the councils?
          2a. You’ve repeatedly appealed to the idea that Trullo, by approving the doctrines of councils like Carthage, give them authority equal to that of the ecumenical councils. I would caution that this does not mean that a) the entirety of Augustinian thinking that went into his stand against Pelagius have therefore been approved and b) only really the very minimum that needed to be established to protect the faith was approved (i.e., that what Pelagius held and taught was wrong). As others in this thread have pointed out, not all canons carry equal weight (e.g. disciplinary vs dogmatic), and not many canons mean much more than exactly what they say.
          No matter what, at least I hope we can all agree with Carthage when it holds that no one, especially infants, can be held guilty of something they did not do.
          3. Fair enough. I accept the distinction, but my second point holds: either type of “reatus” imply a legal understanding of or approach to original sin which can and does easily lead to thinking of God as the punisher of all mankind for original sin, as opposed to the Deliverer from its consequences. In this lies some of the problem between East and West, and why the West shed so much ink over the subject.

          Thanks for the time and consideration.

    • The difference in the God of Original sin and the God of Ancestral Sin you put forth is exactly what I’m talking about. The former teaches me by example to spare no possible rod when raising a child, to “be offended” at their wrongdoings, and to assume the worst in them. The latter teaches me about the triune God of whom the second person came to earth and forgave sins even at times without being asked. Who showed endless mercy and only love.

      • I couldn’t disagree more with this assessment. Parenting requires Godly discretion of knowing when to apply justice and mercy. Both are required. And none of this has anything to do with Original Sin.

        • It has everything to do with original sin and whether God is a punishing God or not. Is “River of Fire” now considered neo-orthodox garbage, too? This is seriously shattering most of what I thought I knew. Pretty rough. I appreciate those who point out that we don’t believe all of Carthage. That helps.

          • Could you connect the dots a little? How does learning that the RCC doesn’t really teach something that different from Orthodoxy make God into a “punishing God”? (And it’s worth noting, BTW, that there has been a lot of criticism of “River of Fire” from very qualified people. It’s not an authoritative teaching, in any event — just one writer’s interpretation.)

        • Umm, I’m not sure what I can say to help but I actually agree with Nathan in that parenting should not be reduced to such simple stereotypes. We should remember that God is His loving wisdom and mercy still allows death until the last day so that there may be an end to sin and we will not go on in this fallen state forever. And as above, I don’t reject Carthage at all, God forbid, just the assumption that it somehow approves of Augustinianism. But I wouldn’t whole-heartedly endorse Seraphim Rose on anything, as compelling as River of Fire may be, either. And lastly, I do whole-heartedly disagree with the contention that “the RCC really doesn’t teach something that different from Orthodoxy,” (even vis-avis original sin). I’m a little shocked to hear Fr. Andrew suggest it.

  11. My intense interest in this issue stems from how it influences our anthropology in everyday life. If human beings are so depraved as to be guilty of even sins they did not themselves commit, then it becomes justification for all sorts of evil acts. Not necessarily a correct response, but one that seems too harsh. The view I had thought was the eastern one, the view taught to me in Orthodox catechism as I was converting, was the one refuted by this article. I loved this view because it released me from the horrible burden I felt to pass lots of anger and condemnation down to my children for every little thing they did wrong. I was raised in a very Protestant environment which included an excessively penal approach to parenting, IMO.

    How fallen are we? Do we have a capacity for goodness? Is it wrong (as I once believed) to assume goodness in a person, to trust people, to avoid suspicion? In the world I grew up in, it was considered an act of essentially heresy to see people this way. Lots of pain and harm came from that idea.

    Summary: God made us good. I’ve been taught in Orthodoxy that we still are good, just fallen. In the West it’s more like we are bad to the core because we are fallen. If the East really believes as the West on this, I’m devastated. How should we then live?

    • “If human beings are so depraved as to be guilty of even sins they did not themselves commit, then it becomes justification for all sorts of evil acts.”

      It is a good thing that I am claiming the exact opposite. :)

      Nobody, least of all Augustine, claims that we were made evil. We were made with great potentiality for good, but we very commonly fail to actualize this potential.

      • Okay, I’m really having trouble parsing your argument then, Nathan. I’m sorry about that. A second try: perhaps it’s that you mean to say that the RC church doesn’t hold a position as close to that of Calvin’s as many have claimed? And that the RC position is quite compatible with the Orthodox one? I’m relieved to read your response, but I am going to have to try again with the original post. “Facing up to Carthage” sounds a lot like accepting some things I thought we did not hold in the East.

  12. I’m not sure what the point being argued is. Has Rome taught that all human beings inherit the guilt of Adam? Certainly. Are they backing away from this teaching. Certainly. They have increasingly watered it down for some time now. Now it is reduced to some supposed taint or shadow, not legal guilt, from which supposedly the Theotokos was spared.

    Does the Orthodox Church teach that the guilt of Adam, the moral culpability for consuming the forbidden fruit, passes on throughout humanity? No, never has. Did Adam’s sin result in a curse from God condemning the human race to death? Most certainly. Does the Church teach that Adam’s sin results in an ancestral sin that predisposes mankind toward sin? Certainly, always has. Is this predisposition intimately related to the curse of death which man inherits? Certainly. Is this cleansed by baptism? Well, yes and no. We die in Christ and are reborn with Him. We suffer death in this world. But we need not suffer the second death in the next.

    Beyond that, I’m not sure that there’s much to be said except that the Immaculate Conception was only proclaimed dogma quite late in Roman Catholic history. Augustine and Anselm seem to be at the root of this teaching. And that original sin, as understood by Catholics for most of their history apart from the Church, and by Protestants, is not the teaching of the Orthodox Church.

    • I think the point being argued is that mankind does inherit sin, which is something that is downplayed if not outright denied by a lot of the popular-level convert market materials out there. I’m still not clear on exactly what the proper Orthodox interpretation of this inherited sin is, except that it precedes the actual sins we commit:

      …even the little ones too, who are as yet incapable of committing any sin of their own to render them guilty of any offense, are truly baptized for the remission of sins, in order that what sin they inherited from the primordial birth may be purified in them through the process of renaissance.

      I think there are probably many converts who can sympathize with nivchek’s comment above.

      • clay930,

        What I have always understood the Orthodox teaching to be is that mankind inherits the curses (death being foremost) associated with Adam’s sin, but not the actual guilt (that is, we are not to blame for Adam’s sin, not having committed it ourselves), as is taught in the West. However, our fallen state is in and of itself an occasion for sin – - reactions to death and the other limitations of our nature. If the West is backing away from their teaching, good for them. But that is what they did teach.

        Nothing I have read here makes me doubt that understanding. Fr. Johannes Jacobse and I had this same conversation with a Catholic visitor on AOI about two years ago. We both went to considerable trouble to document the “drift” in Catholic teaching on the subject over the centuries, explaining that they had backed themselves into a corner and were trying to redefine their way out. This takes time and is not really honest. However, they’re trying to hold their church together. That is why, I believe, Met. Hilarion of Volokolamsk suggested that Rome might be reconciled to Orthodoxy, in two or three hundred years.

    • “Has Rome taught that all human beings inherit the guilt of Adam? Certainly.” – Where? And keep in mind I don’t want some random quote from a saint but an official dogmatic teaching of Rome. Please cite.

      As regards what Orthodoxy teaches, Orthodoxy had no official teaching until Carthage. Afterwards, Carthage *is* Orthodoxy’s official teaching. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Again, quotes from random saints don’t apply. Official teachings of councils represent the Church’s teaching.

      • Nathan,

        If Carthage is to be accepted as the teaching of the Church without some qualification then how do we deal with these canons?

        Faustinus, the bishop of the Potentine Church, in the province of Picenum, a legate of the Roman Church, said: It seems good that a bishop, a presbyter, and a deacon, or whoever perform the sacraments, should be keepers of modesty and should abstain from their wives.

        By all the bishops it was said: It is right that all who serve the altar should keep pudicity from all women. (Canon 4)

        Fortunatus the bishop, said: In former councils we remember that it was decreed that the chrism or the reconciliation of penitents, as also the consecration of virgins be not done by presbyters: but should anyone be discovered to have done this, what ought we to decree with regard to him?

        Aurelius the bishop said: Your worthiness has heard the suggestion of our brother and fellow bishop Fortunatus; What answer will you give?

        And all the bishops replied: Neither the making of the chrism, nor the consecration of virgins, is to be done by presbyters, nor is it permitted to a presbyter to reconcile anyone in the public mass (in publica missa), this is the pleasure of all of us. (Canon 6)

        All I’m saying is that other things can be considered (like the Holy Fathers in consensus) as well Carthage. The Church does not dogmatically accept everything from Carthage.

        • Multiple canons from Trullo override the rules on celibacy from Carthage. Trullo has both a higher rank and scope than Carthage and as such is freely able to do so.

          Trullo does the same with St Cyprian’s and St Basil’s canons on baptism. They are received at Trullo and overridden in Canon 95. This is a pretty normal occurrence in canon law and a few hours’ research could probably produce a dozen or so examples of this.

          There is further a distinction between canons which promulgate doctrine and those which simply create common liturgical policy.

          Returning to my original post, it is clear that St Nikodemus sees these canons as both binding and implying a theology similar to St Augustine.

      • The Council of Trent decreed that, “If any one denies, that, by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is conferred in baptism, the reatus of original sin is remitted; or even asserts that the whole of that which has the true and proper nature of sin is not taken away; but says that it is only rased, or not imputed; let him be anathema.”

        Now, the argument goes, this “reatus” is not really guilt, but the status of being liable to punishment, not of actually having committed the sin; i.e., there is a reatus culpa and a reatus poena.

        The text does not specify which. Yet no one accuses a baby of having committed anything, even those who believe it inherits original guilt. In other words, if “culpa” only refers to one who actually committed the sin, a baby would not qualify, even under the alleged (mis)understanding of Western theology that asserts “original guilt”. Moreover, for the “poena” to be taken away would result in immortality, would it not? To put a fine point on it: If we consider reatus in the above quote to be reatus poena and not reatus culpa, what causes us Christians to die? New sins after baptism? What about the Theotokos?

        How would this work if we read reatus as “the stain of guilt”? The “guilt” would be removed but the person would still be subject to death, the “poena”.

        Now, all rationalizations aside, it is easy to tell which is meant. According to Catholic doctrine, the Theotokos was preserved from original sin and was either preserved from death at the moment she would have otherwise expired and assumed, or expired and then was assumed, correct? Why might this be? How did she get old and near the point of death? She most certainly could not have been preserved from reatus poena which she otherwise would have acquired at the Immaculate Conception.

        “By his sin Adam, as the first man, lost the original holiness and justice he had received from God, not only for himself but for all humans. Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called “original sin”. As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called “concupiscence”).[47]” – CCC

        Notice the change in language. At Trent, original sin is something negative removed by baptism. In the modern CCC, original sin is an absence of something positive. I’m glad they seem to be evolving. But bear in mind that they’re always just one pope away from being the Episcopal Church because of the fact that they evolve concupiscently.

        • Nice one Scott. I don’t like it when the CCC is flashed around as an authoritative representation of historical Catholic teaching. It was only promulgated in 1985!

    • Not necessarily, though this post does seem to imply it. Then again, certain passages in Scripture seemed to imply Arianism. More theological work is needed.

      Personally, I believe the answer is no. I have some theological ideas of how to get there. But again, more work is needed.

      • Naturally, my gut instinct also inclines me to believe they won’t be suffering. But like you said, more work is needed. I’ll look forward to that. Great article, either way.

        • Interestingly Augustine, though he believes they go to hell, explicitly states they receive by far the least punishment.

  13. I do love these lines though in Nathaniel’s link to Roman teaching on original sin at the top of the article. They are so true:

    “This is not the place for a long discussion of what I call the semi-Marcionite impulse in contemporary Orthodoxy, and its opposition to and reinterpretation of everything in the Scriptures and the Fathers that has to do with God’s justice, wrath, etc., out of a presumed need to protect His goodness and lovingkindness from other aspects of His self-revelation.”

    This is a standard facet of neo-Patristic “Orthodoxy”, unfortunately. And it does not do my heart good to agree with Fr. John Romanides on the point at issue, nonetheless . . .

    One other little note: I am always very wary of a sort of Uniatist tendency in certain quarters of Orthodoxy. As an attorney, I know that what you seek, you will find. If you look for exceptions to the narrative propagated by the Orthodox over the centuries, you will find them. If you look for support, you will find it. This has been my experience dealing with Byzantine Catholics and with those involved in the neo-Patristic v. traditionalist controversies.

    Theories that take exception to the prevailing wisdom do make for academically attractive material, though.

    • Scott,

      There is definitely some semi-Marcionite elements in Orthodoxy these days. I would suggest that there are some semi-Origenist elements too.

    • Reading the two quotes, Latin and Greek, several times, it sounds like the Latin statement about infants is: “unbaptized=hell”, but the Greek is something like: “babies do, indeed, require baptism just like everyone else.” But makes no statement about the fate of infants.

      • As I noted above, this paragraph in the Latin is probably a later addition and Rome doesn’t consider it authoritative (as the first two paragraphs are). The fate of unbaptized infants is undefined both in Orthodoxy and Rome.

        What this paragraph does provide us is keen insight into how the Latins at the time the paragraph was added thought about the topic. That is the approach I take.

    • “neo-Orthodox”, “neo-Patristic”, “semi-Marcionite”, semi-Pelagian… lines these up with “Palamite” and “Photian” and “schismatic” in the dust bin of polemics against the Orthodox.

  14. nivchek, “perhaps it’s that you mean to say that the RC church doesn’t hold a position as close to that of Calvin’s as many have claimed? And that the RC position is quite compatible with the Orthodox one?”


    Problem #1 – Lots of people, including Catholics, tend to interpret Rome similar to Calvin. This is far from true. Calvinism has long been condemned by Rome, as has Jansenism (a Calvinist like movement within Catholicism). See Cum Occasione.

    Problem #2 – Orthodox people, having encountered problem #1, have tried to make a very early theology of Original Sin to be the canonical Orthodox articulation. This too is far from true.

    Problem #1 pushes Rome further left of center and problem #2 pushes Orthodoxy right of center. The truth is more in the middle. And we do this by recognizing that, in Orthodoxy, our official teachings are the teachings of councils. Hence, Carthage is the official teaching of Orthodoxy.

      • Carthage was ratified as ecumenical by the Council in Trullo (a.k.a. the Quinisext / Penthekti Council), which is considered ecumenical. And so even though it isn’t one of the Seven Ecumenical Councils as such, the tradition of those councils brought Carthage in and gave it the same authority.

        • Fr Andrew,

          Trullo also accepted the Council of Carthage under St. Cyprian that ruled that all converts should be baptized and any oikonomia is unacceptable. Is this the official teaching of the Orthodox Church?

          • I won’t be baited into that particular discussion today. :)

            In any event, it’s fairly clear from any close reading of the councils that they’re not entirely consistent in every point (especially non-dogmatic, canonical questions like you raise). The general best approach in that regard is to take later councils as more authoritative than earlier ones.

        • A distinction has to be made between ecumenical decrees and disciplinary canons, the latter of which are amendable and applied at the bishops’ discretion. Even in ecumenical synods.

        • Perhaps Maximos’ question would be an excellent occasion for taking up the year-old sequence of posts on Cyprian and Augustine and Baptism though? Maybe?

    • Problem #2 is not a Problem because the canonical Orthodox articulation does not contradict the early fathers. If it did it would not be the canonical articulation. This is my main disagreement with Nathan at this point.

  15. I myself echo some of the sentiments here of a ‘neo-orthodox’ movement in the Church that tends to characterize the West and misrepresent our actual teachings on a variety of subjects. Though I have yet to read it (and really don’t have the background to do so), I’ve heard this was one of the great boons of ‘Orthodox Readings of Thomas Aquinas’ that was recently put out by OUP. I have recently found myself even admonishing friends of mine for pulling out the ole ‘scholasticism is evil’ card.

    I guess my question is, other than the Scriptures and the Fathers, what are good theological books to read on these subjects to a get a far more balanced view rather than the ‘pop-orthodoxy’ that swells the market today?

    • The book you already mentioned is great. Orthodox Readings of Augustine is pretty balanced. But in general, nuanced readings of Western theology by Orthodox is pretty new following a period of “anti-ecumenist” writings (since about the 18th century). Writing subtle reviews is hard work. So please be patient. And as always, read the primary sources not people’s explanations of them. :)

      On the Catholic side of things, several good works have emerged. Anatolios’ Retrieving Nicaea is excellent. Ogliari’s book on Augustine is a new classic.

  16. Nathaniel:

    Two questions: First, I’m having trouble seeing how you get from Adam sinned in his first movement to we sin in our first movement.

    Second, maximos says

    After the transgression, [the pleasure of sexual reproduction] naturally preconditioned the births of all human beings, and no one at all was by nature free from birth subject to the passion associated with this pleasure; rather, everyone was requited with sufferings, and subsequent death, as the natural punishment.

    It seems that he’s talking not about the sin that Christ did not become, but the sin that He did become, namely the passions which are the result of sin, which Christ orders toward the Good. Is your suggestion then that the passions are there at the beginning, but undirected toward and by Christ, and so actively sinful?

    • 1. If Adam, in full communion with God, sinned in his very first movement, how could we do otherwise being marked by sin and death?

      2. St Maximus says the following, also in Ad Thalassium 61:

      “For this reason, the Logos of God, who is fully divine by nature, became fully human, being composed just like us of an intellectual soul and a passible body, *save only without sin (cf Heb 4:15). His birth from a woman within time was not preconditioned in any way by the pleasure derived from the transgression, but, in his love for humanity, he willingly appropriated the pain which is the end of human nature, the pain resulting from unrighteous pleasure, which tyrannizes our human nature.* Moreover, he did it so that, with the Lord’s own death being not a penalty exacted for that principle of pleasure, like other human beings, but rather a death specifically directed against that principle, he might erase the finality which human nature encounters in death, since his own end did not have, as the cause of its existence, the illicit pleasure on account of which he came and which he subjected to his righteous punishment.”

      St Maximus here defines what it means that Christ was “without sin.” For him this means that Christ, born of a virgin, is born untainted by the pleasure of sexual reproduction and thus does not have original sin. Then then willingly assumes the *punishment* without the sin. And by sin in this last sentence, he means what is passed down from Adam (“that principle of pleasure”).

      Put in Latin terms, Christ assumes the penalty of original sin (death) without original sin itself.

      3. “Is your suggestion then that the passions are there at the beginning, but undirected toward and by Christ, and so actively sinful?”

      This is a great question. But what do you mean by “at the beginning”?

      The telos of our motion is clearly God, via the image of God. But after Adam’s disordered first motion, our motion seems to be intrinsically disordered. Nevertheless, the telos of our being is still in God. Hence, the image of God is tarnished but not destroyed (by analogy). Thus, we still move, but our movement is no longer toward God. Movement that is not toward God is hamartia. And since God is life, movement away from life is death. God didn’t create it, we did.

      Thus, when Maximus talks about the corrupted nature (an analogy both in Augustine and Maximus), he is talking about a nature whose design is motion toward God but the hypostasis of that nature has its very first motion away from God, causing death. By contrast, Christ’s motion according to his human nature is always with God by the hypostatic union. Thus, his death is unjust.

      • Didn’t St. John Chrysostom argue that there was nothing wrong with the pleasure of sex later on in his life? Was he wrong on this point, or am I missing something?

      • Thanks for the thoughtful response.

        1. But the first moment Adam existed, he was adult, whereas, when we first exist, we are one cell. It seems it’s natural for an adult to move, but it’s not clear to me that a foetus moves, so much as is moved. But, if it is moved away from God, your point stands, nevertheless.

        2. I’m still a little confused. I’m looking at ad Thalassium 42, where he says that there are two sins: “The first sin, culpable indeed, was the fall of free choice from good into evil; the second, following upon the first, was the innocent transformation of human nature from incorruption into corruption…the first sin was culpable, when his free choice willfully rejected the good; but the second sin, occasioned by the first, was innocent, since human nature unwillingly put off its incorruption.” Based on that distinction, he argues that “[The Lord] became the sin I caused; in other words, he assumed the corruption of human nature that was a consequence of the mutability of my free choice.” It seems to be this second sin that he’s referring to in that passage from 61, so that then Baptism can be for the remission of sins of the infants, in the same sense that Christ became sin; and infants need baptism to save them from this sin since they need to be given Christ’s birth, and have their passions turned from corruption toward incorruption. (So that now, even death is a weapon to destroy sin, and thus leads to life–to Resurrection.)

        But the point then is that the pleasure in the child’s conception is part of the active movement of the child toward pleasure, and away from Christ? Hence, the child not only needs healed of the second sort of sin, but of the first? But that seems to contradict the council which says “[infants] are as yet incapable of committing any sin of their own to render them guilty of any offense.”

        On the other hand, I’m having trouble understanding what the distinction between the punishment of sin and original sin are.

        3. At the beginning of each particular hypostasis, though also, since Adam’s sin, which was in the beginning–though after creation.

        • I deal with the “two sins” from AT 42 extensively in a comment below. Feel free to search for it. In summary: passions, corruption and death are the penalty of the “principle of pleasure” in AT 61. We assume the penalty “justly” by necessity of sexual reproduction. Christ, born of a virgin, assume the penalty “unjustly” by willing it. This “principle of pleasure” is St Maximus’ wording of St Augustine’s notion of “desire.”

        • As an interesting aside, St Irenaeus teaches that Adam and Even were children. There is a direct line of thought from St Irenaeus into later authors as the similarity of philosophical convictions between Origen and the gnostics becomes clear. In fact, Maximus depends on Irenaeus extensively for his notion of the gnomic mode of willing.

  17. Nathaniel,

    Let’s assume you are right in your thesis for the sake of discussion.

    What are your thoughts on ancesteral sin and the immaculate conception of Mary?

    If you could touch upon these points here: http://eirenikon.wordpress.com/2008/07/31/the-immaculate-conception-and-the-orthodox-church-2/

    as you have masterfully touched upon the relevant points in the original post.

    This, by the way, is my favorite Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy so far (though I haven’t read them all yet).

    • I’m planning on doing a subsequent post on the topic. You are right that it is very relevant.

    • The Roman Catholic belief of the Immaculate Conception comes off as all over the place.

      Catholic Catechism:
      411 Mary benefited first of all and uniquely from Christ’s victory over sin: she was preserved from all stain of original sin and by a special grace of God committed no sin of any kind during her whole earthly life.

      She had “sanctifying grace” from the beginning.
      But then, the Catholic teaching on original sin seems to preclude her from concupiscence:

      418 As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called “concupiscence”).

      However, Pope Francis had this to say:
      “In his resurrection, Christ “entered into eternal life with all the humanity he had drawn from Mary; and she, the Mother, who followed him faithfully throughout her life, followed him with her heart, and entered with him into eternal life, which we also call heaven.”

      In her solidarity with her son in the “martyrdom of the Cross,” Mary lived the Passion “to the depths of her soul” and so was given “the gift of resurrection.”

      “Christ is the first fruits from the dead and Mary is the first of the redeemed, the first of ‘those who are in Christ.’”

      “She is our Mother, but we can also say that she is our representative, our sister, our eldest sister, she is the first of the redeemed, who has arrived in heaven.”


  18. the interpretation of St. Maximus here seems to be forced to me. He did not literally mean that Adam fell at the exact moment of his creation. Fr. Damascene comments on this in Genesis, Creation, and Early Man. As he notes, St. Maximus speaks in his Ambiguum 45, and elsewhere, of Adam’s unfallen state as an actuality in a temporal framework with a time lapse between his creation and the Fall (p. 701n). St. Maximus teaches that time is measured from the creation of the world and that man’s nature, as subjected to change, unfolds in time (Ad Thalassium 90, 760A, cf. Mantzaridis, Time and Man, p. 9). From a temporal viewpoint, St. Maximus is most likely rebutting the Origenist notion of an extended prelapsarian state, and so translator Paul M. Blowers writes that the phrase “at the instant he/it was created” ought not to be interpreted strictly literally, but is “a significant nuance … Fallenness has been the dilemma of humankind virtually from the beginning” (On the Cosmic Mystery of Christ p. 85, n. 10).

    To say that Adam’s first movement was demeritous I would have to ask what you mean by movement? And even if St. Maximus was saying that Adam immediately fell in his first movement, how does this make the first movement of all men INTRINSICALLY demeritous such that we have actual sin simply by virtue of existing? What of the Theotokos?

    • I’m open to this critique. I do not claim to be an expert.

      I don’t have Genesis, Creation and Early Man, so I can’t comment on it.

      I don’t see any relevance in Ad Thalassium 90. But please show me how it relates (with quotes).

      Blowers’ translation of the phrase in Ad Thalassium 61 is accurate. However, he does not claim it isn’t literal, he just explains the background. The problem here is how you explain the accumulation of merit/habit in Adam and then a subsequent fall. St Maximus articulates this most poignantly in Ambiguum 7 (1069C): “If God can be abandoned once for the sake of experiencing something different, there can be nothing to prevent this from happening again and again.” This is Origen’s problem of the cycles.

      Motion is, for St Maximus, the creator/created distinction. The uncreated is unmoved and the created is moved towards the uncreated. Again Ambiguum 7 (1072Bff): “no creature is by nature unmoved, not even those which are inanimate and perceptible by the senses. … nothing that comes into being is its own end, since it is not self-caused. For if it were, it would be unbegotten, without beginning and unmoved, since it has nothing toward which it can be moved in any way.”

      The problem that arises if Adam’s first motion is not disordered is seen slightly later in Ambiguum 7: “If the intellectual being is moved intellectually in a way appropriate to itself, it certainly perceives. If it perceives, it certainly loves what it perceives. If it loves, it certainly experiences ecstasy over what is loved. If it experiences ecstasy, it presses on eagerly, and if it presses on eagerly it intensifies its motion; if its motion is intensified, it does not come to rest until it is embraced wholly by the object of its desire.”

      If Adam’s first motion was towards God, there is nothing within him that would stop his natural progression into God. If such a thing does exist, then we are back in Origen’s cycles.

      The interesting thing is that St Maximus appears, to me, to be inverting Origen’s divine simplicity. For Origen the entirety of sin in the cosmos is a necessary identity with God’s decision to create the world. In St Maximus, the chain of sinful causation all relates back to Adam’s first choice.

      A created being exists in one of two states: 1. motion or 2. rest in its end. I don’t see anything in Maximus which posits Genesis as a temporal state. We all agree “rest in its end” is something akin to the beatific vision or theosis: a dwelling in God. This state of rest cannot describe the unbaptized child. I would hope we could all agree on that (otherwise St Maximus’ whole system against Origen is a sham). One could perhaps argue something like “mankind is an intellectual being and thus our motion is intellectual; hence a child has no motion until he is older and able to be moved intellectually.” This is roughly the reasoning behind an age of accountability. But we’re basically back in Augustine’s system at this point. It also runs into difficulty explaining the leaping of the Forerunner in his mother’s womb. If this is not a motion towards the telos of man I don’t know what is. We also know that a child in utero will move away from the instruments during an abortion. Empirically, we have also witnessed in utero genital stimulation. So, if we are following Maximus’ notion of disordered motion according to the faculties of pain and sensory pleasure, it is all there in utero.

      Even if you are right that it is not what St Maximus intends, various points of his system are now empirically falsifiable. That he also insists this occurred in Adam from the very beginning seems, to me, more than a coincidence.

      I will not address the Theotokos since this topic deserves a well thought-out post of its own. Let it suffice to say for now that, for Rome, the Immaculate Conception has resolved this problem, though not without new difficulties.

  19. and on the Razilazenje blog that you linked to as demonstration that the west does not teach inherited guilt, the author writes in one of his comments: “I do not deny that each person is guilty from conception of being a sinner. I hold that all are guilty, and that guilt is indeed transmitted as part of the body of original sin – it is just that the concept of guilt is far more than a simply judicial one. And it is a real, personal guilt belonging to each person.”

    do you agree with this?

    • “I do not deny that each person is guilty from conception of being a sinner.”

      Psalm 51:5 – For, behold, I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother conceive me.

      “I hold that all are guilty, and that guilt is indeed transmitted as part of the body of original sin – it is just that the concept of guilt is far more than a simply judicial one.”

      Analogically only: yes. I’m not sure if this is what the author intends or not.

      “And it is a real, personal guilt belonging to each person.”

      This is how I am reading St Maximus.

      • The Orthodox Church does not consider any individual Church Father to be infallible. So if what you said about Maximos on “original guilt” was true, he seems to be mistaken. Maybe he did not teach that. In any case, I am not infallible. All men are alike: fallible. Even St. Peter, who was blessed among men, because he confessed Christ (Matt. 16:16), fell into error, and had to be corrected by St. Paul (cf. Galatians). So we all need to be careful. Anyone can make a mistake. The Ecumenical Councils and the Nicene Creed of the Church (381 AD, without the Filioque) are considered infallible by the infallible Orthodox Church.

      • Psalm 50 is referring to our passionate mode of reproduction – it is not saying that we are born with guilt.

        St. Athanasius, Commentary on the Psalms (50:5): “The original intention of God was for us to generate not by marriage and corruption. But the transgression of the commandment introduced marriage on account of the lawless act of Adam, that is, the rejection of the law given him by God. Therefore all of those born of Adam are “conceived in iniquities,” having fallen under the condemnation of the forefather.”

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  21. I believe that Augustine’s misunderstanding of original sin as original guilt is based both on his ignorance of Ezekiel, chapter 18, and his faulty Latin translation of Romans 5:12 in Jerome’s Latin Vulgate. I believe the conventional Eastern Orthodox rejection of the Augustinian conception of original and inherited guilt and sin is justified by both the traditions of the Orthodox Church and the teachings of the Orthodox Bible.

    • Of all the passages in Ezekiel, St Augustine quotes from chapter 18 the most by far. He cites it 14 times across his works in Schaff’s NPNF series. Outside of Schaff’s edition, Julian of Eclanum writes a treatise against Augustine in which he deploys Ezekiel 18. Augustine’s response to Julian was over 800 pages before he died, leaving the work unfinished.

      You can disagree with Augustine’s interpretation of Ezekiel 18 all you want. But to claim he is ignorant of it is beyond belief.

      Similarly, Augustine didn’t use Jerome’s Vulgate, which was not yet widely distributed.

      Where does the Orthodox Church reject Augustine’s teaching? For the Orthodox Church to do that, it would have to be in a council. In fact, the only council we have is Carthage which upholds Augustine’s theology and is of ecumenical stature in Orthodoxy. The notion that there is a “conventional Eastern Orthodox rejection of [Augustine]” is exactly the point under dispute.

      • I was ignorant about Augustine and Ezekiel 18. But if he believed in original guilt, he did not believe Ezekiel 18, which limits guilt to personal sin. So if Augustine actually believed all people are born guilty of Adam’s sin, he was wrong. Was that what Augustine meant by “original sin”?

        • Ezekiel 18 also teaches that death is not inherited. Inasmuch as Ezekiel cuts against Augustine it cuts against Romanides (and ultimately St Paul) as well.

          • Dear Nathaniel, Kindly please explain what you mean that Ezekiel 18 ultimately cuts against “St. Paul as well”? Do you mean that? Is it possible for St. Paul to contradict Ezekiel, and Ezekiel to contradict St. Paul, if they both are filled with the same Holy Spirit, Who is promised by Christ Himself to lead His Church into all of the Truth (John 16:13)? What is wrong, then, with St. Paul’s teaching regarding Ezekiel 18? Isn’t death inherited? If not, that would mean people are born with eternal life in them? But according to Christ, eternal life comes only by being born again (from above) in Christ Jesus through faith in Christ as Lord and Savior, cf. John 3:3,5,16; cf. Mk. 16:16, Matt. 28:19, Titus 3:5, Eph. 4:1-6, and so on (Hebrews, etc.). We might be able to come to God like the good thief, who was saved with baptism, but that is an exception that Christ Himself made, and not the general rule of Christ’s intention, as in Matt. 28:19. God save us. In Erie PA SRH

      • The Orthodox Church does not have to accept everything in a Church Father. I have read Fr. Michael Azkoul, and he told me something about what I have heard about Augustine. We are obligated to believe the teachings of the 7 ecumenical councils. So far as I know, no council ever endorsed every teaching of Augustine. In any case, I am sure we can have more confidence in the doctrines by St. John Chrysostom and the other Church Fathers, such as St. John Damascene and so on, more than Augustine. Augustine still speculated on things, and even Augustine himself stated that we don’t have to believe in the Filioque, or not in so many words, but he did say when he was offering a human notion regarding the Trinity, an analogy, and not a required dogma. Since God is incomprehensible, anyway. As Chrysostom says.

        • Nobody is claiming the infallibility of Augustine. I don’t know anyone that takes Fr Azkoul seriously. Nor should we consider a schismatic as an authority on Orthodox teaching.

          • I would say it unfair and not correct to call Fr. Azkoul a schismatic. I am aware of the problems of HOCNA, and I believe he may be affiliated with that questionable group from Boston, but even so, his opinion can be correct and right, even if he personally actually is a schismatic. I believe we should give him the benefit-of-the-doubt. I may not go as far as he seems to go in any disrespect for Augustine; that is not right. But I would say the approach of Blessed St. Photios was (is) the correct one: he counts Augustine as a valid Church Father, who had some teachings which were not valid, or which were less than fully valid. As for what the West actually does, whether intentionally, or unconsciously, and without any real awareness of what it is actually doing, they tend to side with Augustine simply because he says so on many questions, and they are unlikely to take any criticism of any of his teachings very seriously. That has been my experience. Anselm of Canterbury, Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, Martin Luther, John Calvin, etc. all take Augustine of Hippo so seriously, that they seem to be unaware or unconcerned about what the Lord Himself says in John 15:26, and what St. Photios, St. Gregory Palamas, St. Mark of Ephesus, have said in defense of the Orthodox teaching of Monopatrism (ek monou tou Patros, from the Father alone) against the Filioque, nor do they accept the Acclamations and Anathemas of the Synodicon of The Holy Spirit of the Orthodox Church. If they are forced to deal with a dispute over an issue of controversy between a Latin Father, or a Greek Father, they will tend to side with a Latin Father simply because they prefer Latin Fathers to Greek Fathers; true Orthodoxy is Catholic, and accepts all of the Church Fathers, and so it esteems also St. Ambrose of Milan, and St. Jerome, Latin Fathers, as valid fathers of the One Orthodox Catholic Church. Anyway, the followers of Roman Catholicism consider Blessed Photios, some of them do, to be a schismatic. I would say that Thomas Aquinas would probably consider Photios to be a heretic, as well, as he considers believing in the Filioque dogma, and in papal authority and infallibility, jurisdiction, to be “necessary for salvation” (sic). In any case, I don’t accept what Fr. Azkoul says, merely because he says it. I consider the approach of Photios and Fr. Seraphim Rose to be a fair way of looking at Augustine. Augustine was a product of his times, just as we, in our faults (that is me in my faults) and sins, are somewhat products of our times. It is difficult to fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil, and the general spirit of the age, the Zeitgeist, which is intrinsically heterodox and non-Orthodox. Augustine retained some of his worldly philosophy in his theological thinking, and I believe no Orthodox Christian would dispute that fact. God save us.

  22. If you look at Trent, then look at this:

    http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07674d.htm, on the Immaculate Conception

    then look at what the CCC says, you will notice a progression. Trent essentially calls it guilt (see my comment above). The New Advent Encyclopedia, written and approved by the RCC at the turn from the 19th to 20th centuries, refers to it both in positive terms, as does Trent – - a thing transmitted and a “stain” – - but also as implying or resulting in an absence of grace. The modern CCC conceives of it as an absence of grace.

    There is a problem with the approach here which I alluded to before. Uniatism essentially claims that the differences between Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy are differences of expression, not substance. I’m not accusing Nathaniel of Uniatism; however, it is the type of argument you hear coming from Byzantine Catholics as well as contemporary Roman Catholics.

    The Church does not say, “Interpret your statements of faith in a manner compatible with Orthodoxy and we will share the chalice.” but rather, “Accept Orthodox theology as formulated within the Orthodox Church and we will share the chalice.” After all, if ones theology is truly Orthodox, this should not be a tall order.

    • Also, as someone above pointed out, canon law is not necessarily dogmatic but is the record of the Church’s rules of discipline to be applied by the bishops either strictly or more leniently, as the occasion calls for. The canon you cite expresses the council’s rule regarding anathemas against those who deny that baptism is for the remission of sins and who claim that, in the case of infants, this is a fiction. Other than that there may be something in infants that can be described as sin, I’m not sure that much doctrine can be derived from it, other than the surface meaning that baptism is not a fiction. Surely it does not mean that babies have sinned, as is denied in the canon. So, “that all have sinned” cannot refer to them as infants. I would suspect that a lot turns on the precise meaning of the words “generation/regeneration” and “primordial birth/renaissance” used in the canon. It seems like what they are referring to is birth and rebirth. Thus baptism may not be seen as just the immersion itself, but the process which it initiates, regeneration. After all, we are not saved at a moment in time but are left to work out our salvation. This is why we have godparents, to help raise us in the faith. Beyond that, there may be some type of “sin” in an infant that is neither guilt nor temporal death. But I don’t care to speculate, being content with the Creed’s simple explanation.

      • Right, so Rome has taught original guilt (as demonstrated by their own words at Trent), has backed away from it, and we have some vague notion from Carthage, a minor council whose canons were later adopted en masse, that infants may have some undefined sin in them, or not, but that baptism is definitely for the remission of sins and not a fiction, and that infants are incapable of committing sins. That about sum it up?

        I really wouldn’t get too wedded to the notion that the Church was attempting to formulate a grand theory of original sin at Carthage. Looks to me like an anathema directed at a peculiar little teaching which is being yoked to serve ecumenical interests.

        • Scott,
          Your last paragraph seems to be an integral point on this topic. I’d be very interested in seeing commentary on Carthage by the Fathers. So far, i’ve only seen St. Nicodemus.

          Can anyone provide other sources?

  23. When speaking about sin, St. Maximos also expresses a way of considering sin that appears to be independent of any kinesis, and this might be relevant to the above article on original sin/ancestral sin. St. Maximos discusses it in Ad Thalassium Question 42, where he speaks about Christ becoming sin though he knew not sin. He says that two sins were produced by Adam’s transgression, one worthy of blame and one not worthy of blame. “The first, worthy of blame, is the fall of free will from the good into evil; the second, which comes from the first, is the change, not worthy of blame, from incorruptibility into corruption. … The free will voluntarily puts the good aside; nature involuntarily abandons its immortality because of free will.” This involuntary change from incorruptibility to corruption is the fall of nature into passibility. Of course it is this second sin that Jesus becomes, without knowing the first sin — that of the will, the deliberate, gnomic sin. In other words, St. Maximos’ idea of sin, at least as expressed in this text, is both the action of sin and the result of sin, or its condemnation. St. Maximos distinguishes between “my sin” (the sin of my will, or any human’s will) and the sin caused by “my sin.” “Not knowing my sin, that is the change in my free will, the Lord didn’t assume or become my sin, but assuming the corruption of nature because of my sin, that is the change in my free will, he made himself passible by nature, removing my sin by means of the sin caused by me. And just as when Adam had turned what is proper to his own will to evil, the common glory of incorruption was taken from him, God judging that it was not good that man should be immortal with his free will given over to evil, so in Christ, having what is proper to his free will anchored in the good, he takes away from the common the shame of the corruption of the whole nature, making it incorruptible through the resurrection, through the steadfastness of his free will …”

    “This condemnation due to the sin of my free will the Lord assumed (I mean passibility, corruption and death) and became sin for me, in this passibility, corruption and death, in voluntarily taking on himself my condemnation, him who couldn’t be condemned when it came to his free will, in order to condemn my sin of free will and nature, and my condemnation, expelling all in one sin, passibility, corruption and death from nature.”

    These passages do seem to suggest that for St. Maximos, the passibility, corruption and death shared by all humans, may not particularly be linked to merit/demerit. Even the passage quoted above from Ad Thalassium 61 makes no specific mention of merit but rather of passion. Also, in the above-quoted passage from Question 61, St. Maximos writes about the transition from genesis to kinesis in Adam and then speaks about the passionate birth of all subsequent human beings. But the commentary that follows seems to suggest St. Maximos’ genesis-kinesis words apply to all of Adam’s progeny. That’s not what the passage appears to say at all. Relating it to what I’ve quoted above from Question 42, St. Maximos seems instead to be painting a picture of all the descendents of Adam being born into passion, corruption and death independent of any kinesis on their individual parts, and that this is the result of Adam’s first kinesis (though St. Maximos still seems to include that first kinesis under the heading of “my sin”). Thus, the first movement of each human being will be disordered, but death is already there, even before any movement. Even Christ took this on, despite having made no movement in the direction of evil. So when the article above points out that “for St. Maximus we have actual sin by the mere fact of our existence,” it is an accurate observation, but we need to remember that for St. Maximos, sin is not only what is willed. It is also the condition inherited.

    Also, in this passage quoted from Question 61, which mentions “everyone was *requited* with suffering, and subsequent death, as the natural *punishment*” seems to lead astray a bit from St. Maximos’ thinking in the overall passage, where he specifies first of all that the results of sin pain and death are meant by God as corrective and limiting forces. Death follows because there is no other conceivable means to be liberated for those tyrannized by unjust pleasure and the just sufferings that follow those unjust pleasures. Sufferings are something attached to pleasures because the capacity for pleasure in the things of God has been disordered in its orientation to sensible things (and is thus pleasure without a true cause, St. Maximos says).

    I leave it to better minds to consider whether this comment adds anything to the conversation here or whether it is just a useless rabbit trail.

    • Great question! Indeed, the context of question 42 is somewhat different than in 61. In 42 he says: “Yet the Lord took on this very condemnation of my deliberate sin, that is to say the passibility, corruptibility and mortality of our nature.” I won’t quote it here, but your estimation of the first paragraph from 42 is correct: “the passibility, corruptibility and mortality of our nature” He assumes without culpability.

      The key distinction is in how we receive this “condemnation” and how Christ receives it.

      We receive it, in Maximus, via the concupiscence of sexual reproduction which “causes” our motion to be disordered. It is the disordering of the very first motion which brings about PCM in us. Note how Maximus describes the solution to this problem (AT 61.87):

      We were “tyrannized by unrighteous pleasure and naturally subject to *just* sufferings and to the *thoroughly just* death accompanying them. In order for unrighteous pleasure, and the thoroughly just death which is its consequence, to be abolished … it was necessary for an *unjust* and likewise *uncaused* suffering and death to be conceived – a death ‘unjust’ in the sense that it by no means followed a life given to passions, and ‘uncaused’ in the sense that it was in no way preceded by pleasure.”

      So the way in which we receive the “condemnation” of “passibility, corruptibility and mortality” is just and caused, but the way Christ receives it is unjust and uncaused. How then does Christ receive it?

      “His birth from a woman within time was not preconditioned in any way by the pleasure derived from the transgression, but, in his love for humanity he *willingly* appropriated the pain which is the end of human nature, the pain resulting from unrighteous pleasure. He did this in order that, by suffering *unjustly*, he might uproot the principle of our being conceived through unrighteous pleasure, which tyrannizes our human nature. Moreover, he did it so that, with the Lord’s own death being not a penalty exacted for the principle of pleasure, like other human beings, but rather a death specifically directed against that principle, he might erase the *just* finality which human nature encounters in death…” (AT 61.89)

      So we receive the condemnation *justly* from pleasure of our first motion via the concupiscence of our parents. Christ on the other hand receives the condemnation *unjustly* since he wills to receive it even though he has no exposure to pleasure via concupiscence.

      Hence, what Maximus seems to be saying in AT 42 is that the condemnation which Christ receives “passibility, corruptibility and mortality” are not themselves sin, but rather death. This maps exactly to St Paul’s twin powers/laws of sin and death. It also maps exactly to Augustine’s metaphysics of will and desire.

      The key point to be understood from Augustine here is this: we aren’t guilty of Adam’s sin directly. Adam’s sin makes it so that we, in our free will, desire sin and therefore without fail sin ourselves. We are guilty in the direct sense only of our own sins. But *by analogy* we are guilty in Adam. This is exactly the schema that Maximus is picking up from Augustine. Adam’s willful first motion against God makes our first motion disordered. We are justly condemned because of this.

    • William, thanks for the helpful clarification.You are expressing at greater length what I mentioned in a comment to the previous post on original sin. The distinction between the two meanings of sin, clearly explained by St. Maximos, is essential. Since much of the distinction revolves around baptism of infants, I think your explanation of St. Maximos here can be applied to that question. He sees baptism as, among other things, a second birth, not subject to unjust pleasure, which thus frees us (potentially) from the vicious circle of pleasure and pain by incorporating us into Christ and his own salvific mode of bearing sin and death. Thus baptism of infants for remission of sins — although they have not committed any personal sin and do not bear personal guilt for Adam’s primordial sin — can be understand as entering into the process of Christ’s overcoming of sin, and thus obtaining, immediately, a kind of first-fruits of remission of the second kind of sin (sin as blameless passibility) and, thus, the capacity to receive remission of the first kind of sin (self-willed sin) if (or, realistically, when) they commit such sins. All this is, of course, contingent on the actual struggle to make our call and election sure, as St Maximos succinctly explains in Quaestiones ad Thalassium 6, if I remember correctly.

      If I may dare to extend this reasoning a little bit, it seems that this understanding of the remission of sins in infant baptism is not exclusive, i.e. does not entail the necessity of believing that lack of baptism precludes salvation, since it is not a mechanical process of exculpating someone of guilt. If indeed God has mercy on whom he will have mercy, he will not condemn someone who never had the chance to obtain second birth through baptism and enter into the life-long process of repentance unto remission of sins. When we say apophatically that God is not just, we don’t mean that he is less just than us — rather, that he is incomparably more so.

      I’m wary of drawing on liturgical texts as doctrinal proofs, because occasionally questionable legends have been absorbed into them by medieval hymnwriters, but since some on this thread have cited them, what are we to make of the Holy Innocents, commemorated on December 29th? Historically, their case is particular, but not “by nature.” They may be viewed as martyrs for Christ, but in that case they were involuntary martyrs — they could not choose to die for Christ, just as they could not choose to sin. Yet they are considered not just saved, but holy. Granted, they would have been among the souls to whom Christ preached in Hades; but if they could receive his preaching and believe, then why could not every other infant? And incidentally, the Holy Innocents were very popular in the medieval West.

      • Actually, I think the Holy Innocents are one of the keys to solving the problem of the unbaptized death of infants *while* upholding Augustine (and my reading of Maximus). Nevertheless, whether or not infants have in fact committed personal sin is part of the material debate.

  24. Nathaniel: Carthage is addressing infants. How does the theology articulated in the Carthaginian canon at the heart of your essay relate to the Old Testament patriarchs and saints who did not receive baptism? From the time, at least, of Irenaeus’ rejection of Tatian’s assertion that Adam is not saved, the Church held that Adam and the Old Testament saints are saved.

    • That is a great question, and one I’m not prepared to answer fully. However, we do have this paragraph from Irenaeus:

      For hereby the Son of God is proclaimed both as being born and also as eternal King. But they shall wish that they had been burned with fire (is said) of those who believe not on Him, and who have done to Him all that they have done: for they shall say in the judgment, How much better that we had been burned with fire before the Son of God was born, than that, when He was born, we should not have believed on Him. Because for those who died before Christ appeared there is hope that in the judgment of the Risen One they may obtain salvation, even such as feared God and died in righteousness and had in them the Spirit of God, as the patriarchs and prophets and righteous men. But for those who after Christ’s appearing believed not on Him, there is a vengeance without pardon in the judgment.

      - The Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, 56

  25. It’s disheartening that those of Eastern persuasion think their interpretation of older Western dogmatic assertions are more accurate than modern Western interpretations of older Western dogmatic assertions.

    Perhaps cooler heads like Fr. Damick or Mr. McCallum will at some point do a post on the hermeneutic of anti-ecumenical bigotry?

    • Daniel,

      Why must we who disagree be insinuated to have hotter heads? This is the way things become clarified, by discussion and disputation. I’m grateful to Fr. Andrew, Nathan and everyone who comments for helping to clarify and/or change my thinking.

      • I’m not sure who the hot head is, if anyone. Nathaniel asked for a cite from Roman doctrine, I provided the cite and an explanation. Nathaniel then replied (to someone, possibly me but I don’t know):

        “Actually, what the Church says is Carthage. So we need to judge Rome based upon the standard of our own canonical tradition, not some perceived position.”

        Now, perhaps the Church did choose a canon of a local council to settle its teaching on original sin once and for all (by adopting it with all the other canons of that council and others), using ambiguous language, and that somehow this was forgotten by the greater part of the Church for some extended period of time only to be rediscovered by ecumenical apologists.


        Or perhaps there is a simpler explanation?

        And perhaps the “reatus” referred to in the statement of Trent is referring to an “absence of grace” passed down somehow from generation to generation. And perhaps the Theotokos had to be prevented from incurring this “absence of grace” (?!) at the Immaculate Conception, Roman dogma which all Catholics are bound to accept.


        Or perhaps there is a simpler explanation?

        I’m not trying to be a blue meanie about it.

        Isn’t the Church bigoted regarding homosexuality and women’s ordination? No? Hmmm. Perhaps the Church is simply preserving its Tradition. And perhaps that Tradition is not “bigotry”, anti-gay, anti-women or anti-ecumenist.

        • But part of what’s being debated is whether the “ancestral” approach is actually any older than the 20th century, not that the Church forgot its own tradition for a long time, but that only a few in a certain place have become out of touch with it.

        • Father,
          It’s a great point indeed. For my part though, it’s a subset to say “is ancestral more ancient than original”. The framework or wording does not come from a new concept (as has been well agreed upon here). Fr. Romanides, it seems, sought to show that the Orthodox understanding is a continually lived reality. It was the West that struggled for continuity. The term ancestral is preferred because it provides a clear distinction.

          Of course, whether this course of action is right or not, the underlying issue of this approach was to safeguard confusion. If using original sin is associated with the “traditionally refuted” Augustinian notion, then why not adopt a Greek term into English? Hence, ancestral sin.

          I’m just thinking out loud here. The conclusion of the article has some good ideas, but comes off too strong. Do we need to/have to reconcile the differences of the Roman model from us, or is the Roman model irreconcilable from the Faith? What mandates or would drive us to “have to deal with the canons of Carthage”? There seems to be an overplay on the place of authority or relevance that the canons of these local councils hold. Don’t we submit the canons of councils (called to defend the Faithful against heresy, not to simply define aspects the Faith) to the Holy Tradition of the Church and not the other way around? Just some observations/questions.

        • BTW, it’s interesting to note that Romanides actually saw himself as “rediscovering” what has been “forgotten by the greater part of the Church for some extended period of time”:

          It is the mission of Orthodox theology today to bring an awakening to Western Christianity, but in order to do this the Orthodox themselves must rediscover their own traditions and cease, once and for all, accepting the corroding infiltration of Western theological confusion into Orthodox theology. (Source)

          • He was not the only one but part of a general movement in the 20th century to recover Orthodoxy from its previous few centuries of “Latin Captivity.” The Burning Bush movement in Romania that included such great thinkers as Dumtiru Staniloae also were doing the same kind of work. To a great extent, this itself was a continuation of the Philokalic revival of the 19th century. Its in this context that we should understand Romanides, as I am sure he understood himself, and by no means as an isolated figure.

            • Right, but my point is that one can’t have it both ways. One of the complaints against Nathaniel’s arguments here has been that they are supposedly a departure from what is alleged to be the unbroken mind of the Church and that Romanides is a representative of that. Yet Romanides himself said that he was trying to bring back something that had been lost. That’s why the criticism of “We’ve believed X all along, and now you come along and say we really should believe Y, yet Romanides said we should believe X” doesn’t really work.

              Or perhaps there is a Z in here somewhere. :)

            • z= forgotten but not lost. It was there all along right in front of us and still is. It was lost perhaps in the mind of academia but not in the hearts and prayers of the faithful. I just came back from serving a baptism and was amazed at how much the “pre-pelagian” view as some have called it, or the “Romanides” view as others might say, is still clearly visible in the prayers of the Sacrament. What I did not see/hear/read anywhere was any kind of Augustinian pessimism. Its my opinion that only in that early church view does the Orthodox Sacrament even make sense, as written. I’m not familiar enough with the Roman rite to comment.

            • Who exactly is pushing “Augustinian pessimism”? There seems to be this unexplored notion that this post is promoting total depravity. I’m not Nathaniel, but I’m definitely not reading him that way.

            • Now don’t get exercised, Father. I didn’t say anyone was pushing anything. I merely stated that the Orthodox baptismal service reflects a view much closer to an early church view than to an Augustinian one, for what its worth. Please don’t read anything into it. It’s just fascinating and interesting to me that’s all, and provides evidence to the point I was making that the ancient theology has been there all along, even if overlooked.

            • ahh… that’s the inherent weakness of social media–the inability to convey one’s meaning fully or properly interpret another’s through text alone without the emotional cues of the human face and voice–emoticons not withstanding. ;)

    • To be abundantly clear. I am not interested in arguing for one school or another. I am neither ecumenist nor anti-ecumenist. I just want the truth. If this truth happens to bring us closer to Rome or happens to show major faults in Rome’s narrative, glory to God.

      • Fr. Andrew,

        Real questions.

        Have you ever read any Orthodox council, saint, cleric, scholar or historian that suggests that Trullo convened to deal with weighty theological issues? Or that there was a 7th century controversy in the East that was finally settled by the acceptance of the canons of Carthage 418?

        Have you ever read anyone in the West suggest it?

        • You’re asking the wrong person. I’m also not sure why what I happen to have read is really relevant. I’m not a scholar! Who cares what I’ve read? :)

          That said, why would Trullo explicitly incorporate conciliar texts into its authority without being bothered with what they say? Do you mean to suggest the Fathers at Trullo didn’t know what they were doing?

        • Trullo was administrative. It was attempting to normalize things which had already been long accepted policy in the East. The theological conclusions of Carthage were already ratified at Ephesus via the condemnation of Celestius. The trajectory here is Carthage => Ephesus => Justinian (contra Origen) => Maximus (contra monothelites) => Trullo => later controversies (such as John Italus). Origenism and the problem of cycles are looming in the background of all these controversies.

      • I’m horribly confused. Are we–and by we I mean some and only some of you– tsk tsk’ing Rome for what they officially used to believe, what they currently officially believe, what they unofficially used to believe, or what they unofficially believe now?

        In my estimation, what the EO and RCC used to officially believe is the same as what the EO and RCC currently officially believe–a point that Mr. McCallum makes connecting Carthage to the CCC. If there were some rogue hyperAugustinians screwing everything up for a thousand years, I don’t really see why that would warrant criticism against Nathaniel McCallum’s post or criticism against the RCC. The only ones that would deserve that criticism would be the hyperAugustinians.

        Unless of course we had a different standard, that said it is perfectly fine to criticize a Church because of its rogue hyperWhoeverians pontifficating in an unofficial nondogmatic way.

        Rightly or wrongly, I suspected that there were some people at some time somewhere who were of the Orthodox persuasion who used the first standard to deal with Orthodoxy and used the second standard to deal with the RCC and everybody else.

        *That* hypocritical approach is the hermeneutic of anti-ecumenist bigotry. That doesn’t mean that any poster here is any kind of bigot, or even an anti-ecumenist.

        I take full responsibility for wording my post in such a horrible way that implied it was posters here.

        • Why is it not possible to be an anti-ecumenist without being considered a “bigot”? If everything must go by ecumenism, what guard is there against syncretism? If the truth is known and loved by all, do the Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the Muslims all have the same truth? I don’t think it’s very fair minded to throw words like bigotry around lightly. Genuine differences of opinion on what is valid Christian doctrine is in no way whatsoever any kind or form of any bigotry.

        • I should clarify my remarks. Some on this thread are tsk tsk’ing Rome for ‘original sin.’ Some are not tsk tsk’ing Rome.

          Some, not on this thread but out there in the ether somewhere, are tsk tsk’ing Rome while using a double standard. I’m not trying to offend anybody.

  26. Okay, generally speaking, I’m not going to reply to any more comments. That isn’t because there are great thoughts happening here, but rather because I’d prefer to focus my limited time on developing some of the points mentioned here as a subsequent post. Thanks for the discussion everyone!

    • Fr. Andrew,

      The reason I asked is because you have suggested that Fr. Romanides and contemporary Orthodox may have been innovating but no one seems to have heard of the Eastern churches changing their view on this topic based on a Augustinian Trullo-Carthaginian paradigm shift. Or that Trullo was understood to have dealt with any weighty theological topics instead disciplinary topics.

      Everyone, including the Roman Catholics who’ve commented, have heard and believed that the RCC and other western confessions popularly taught an “inherited guilt leading to eternal torment or eternal limbo” for infants and all that entails. I think that maybe we should shift the burden of proof and be wondering if Nathan is suggesting something novel instead.

      Again, I believe in the authority of the Church and I’m not suggesting that the Fathers “didn’t know what they were doing”. I just don’t put so much theological and ecumenical weight behind the various local canons accepted by Trullo, especially during a time when the disputed issue was not in controversy. It seems like no one else has at least in the 20th century either. Would the Trullan Fathers just vaguley bring it up in Canon 2 and drop it if it was important as are taking it?

      • But I think Nathaniel’s point is precisely that Carthage (and its acceptance at Trullo) is actually not a view change but is rather a clarification/elaboration and official doctrinal ruling in the wake of the Pelagian controversy.

        • Fr Andrew,

          I understood Nathaniel’s whole problem with Romanides and contemporary Orthodox critiques of “original sin as heredity guilt” to be that we utilized pre-Pelagian theology on this issue. A theology that was ignorant of St. Paul and one that the East thought was inadequate and unsafe, thus the Augustinian Trullo-Carthaginian shift.

          Nathan stated: “What is abundantly clear is that Carthage is ecumenical for Orthodoxy, so much so that later Greek thinkers no longer feel safe to use the pre-Pelagian models…And their discomfort, *before Augustine*, with allowing unbaptized people into heaven is telling that there is something deeper going on in Greek thought than merely inherited death. This latent discomfort is precisely the theology of St Paul as of yet unexamined (since there was no controversy).”

          Parintele David understood him this way as well: “ ‘Pre-Pelagian articulations?’ Are you suggesting that post-Pelagius these views were no longer normative? One should consider that Romanides point in focusing on pre-Augustinian fathers (particularly western ones like Ireneaus, Clement, and Tatian) was to show that Augustine’s view was a clear departure from the Biblical and Apostolic teaching of the early church (clearly in opposition to the many westerners who felt that Augustine was the first to really “get” Paul). I don’t think Romanides would accept the idea that the period he was looking at had become obsolete after Augustine… I don’t seem to remember ever suggesting I did have problem with the doctrinal formulations of the councils. I don’t think Romanides did either. Are you suggesting (for the record) that you believe Romanides teaching on the Ancestral Sin to be in error due to a real opposition to the the councils?”

        • Correct. Trullo is not a change because Carthage had already been accepted tacitly in the East by Ephesus’ condemnation of Celestius. Further, the metaphysical distinctions that arise out of Carthage are already deployed by St Justinian and St Maximus (as I’ve shown above). By the time we get to Trullo, adding Carthage as ecumenical is just a statement of what is already true.

          The Pelagian controversy doesn’t cause a “change” per se, but a greater reflection on Paul in the wake of Origenism, the denial by the Pelagians that sin caused death in Adam and their further insistence that Grace was proper to nature and the law. These latter two assertions are obviously contrary to Paul’s writing, but how you answer them without ending up in the middle of Origen’s problem of cycles is the tricky part.

          Notice that the assertion that we inherit sin and death is a superset of the previous notion that we inherit death. These two opinions cannot be said to conflict with one another unless the latter opinion also adds a rejection of sin as natural corruption.

          • Nathaniel: That is a stretch. Just because Carthage condemned Celestius and Ephesus condemned Celestius does not mean that Ephesus implicitly accepted the theology of the Cathaginian canon dealing with infant baptism. Chalcedon condemned Dioscorus, not for his Christology but because he excommunicated Leo. This does not follow. You are reading too much into this.

            • 1. Chalcedon condemned Dioscorus because of his role in the Robber Council. Serious injustice was perpetrated by his hand.

              2. I actually think there is strong evidence here that the condemnation of Celestius in 418 and 419 was so widely accepted everywhere around the empire, East and West, at this point in history that the purpose of his re-condemnation in Ephesus was a political tool to gain acceptance of the council. When the schism of John occurs it threatens the reception of the council. So the leaders of Ephesus know they have to make it political suicide to defend those rejecting the council. Celestius was being harbored by Nestorius. Hence, the accusation made by the council is that those who departed were following the heretics Nestorius and Celestius into their heresy. The preface to the canons of the council says:

              “These men [in schism], having no privilege of ecclesiastical communion on the ground of a priestly authority, by which they could injure or benefit any persons; since some of them had already been deposed; and since from their refusing to join in our decree against Nestorius, it was manifestly evident to all men that they were all promoting the opinions of Nestorius and Celestius; the Holy Synod, by one common decree, deposed them from all ecclesiastical communion, and deprived them of all their priestly power by which they might injure or profit any persons.”

              Notice how propagandistic this section is. Some of the bishops are already deposed. They won’t sign on to condemn Nestorius so they are following Nestorius *and Celestius* into heresy. The condemnation of Nestorius is the very item in question, so it bears no argumentative weight. That some of the bishops are already deposed might carry some weight, although it would bring no public shame to question a bishop unjustly deposed. Rather, it is the public shame of being associated with Celestius which would push people to support Ephesus. Let’s see if this thesis follows up in the rest of the council.

              Canon I condemns anyone who follows Celestius. Celestius is *presumed* condemned already. His doctrines aren’t named. This canon is a shot over the bow: anyone who follows Nestorius is *already* excommunicated via association with Celestius.

              In Canon IV, we find the exact same thing. Celestius is not condemned, but is *presumed* condemned. Anyone who follows him is excommunicated. This canon goes one step further than Canon I: anyone who even follows Celestius in private thought is condemned. In modern language: “If you even think about siding with Nestorius, you’re gone.”

              In the epistle to Pope Celestine at the conclusion of the council, we find Celestius mentioned again. Again, he is *presumed* to be a heretic. Those who left the council are justly deposed because: 1. some were already deposed 2. they are following Celestius.

              All of this becomes imminently clear when you consider one other fact: the primary lay leader against Nestorius *in* Constantinople was, St Melania the Younger, a matron who donated a considerable sum of her wealth founding monasteries and churches. Before arriving in Constantinople, St Melania had spent significant time under the direct tutelage of St Augustine in Hippo, and may have even derived her monastic rule from him.

              We must then conclude that Ephesus did not condemn Celestius directly but rather used the *already widespread acceptance* of Carthage to drum up ecumenical support for the validity of Ephesus, especially in Rome and the anti-Nestorian party of Constantinople. When we further consider that, after Ephesus, the strongest bastion of support for the inherited-death-only position of original sin is in East Syria, we begin to see the whole puzzle.

              It is impossible for us to know how much of the details of Carthage are known in the East at this time. However, what we can see that an ecumenical council draws credibility *from* Carthage in order to establish its own success. If it were not already politically impossible to mount any sort of theological attack against Augustine and Carthage, it is after Ephesus triumphs in the East. Then end result of any scenario such as this will be the eventual integration of the theology of Carthage into the East’s theologians and canons. In the above post, I have demonstrated precisely this latter point.

          • While I essentially agree with his conclusions, his case is way overstated and presumes a lot of material.

            • Nathan,

              1) how does your view differ from Dr. Marshall’s?

              2) do you believe that the Orthodox Church has dogmatized that unbaptized infants cannot be saved??

      • Can some Orthodox Christian inform us on the facts? Are the councils of Trullo and Carthage (which one of Carthage?) considered ecumenical and catholic, binding on all Christians (at least on Orthodox Christians)? I think I’ve learned that Truilo (Quinisext?) was called ecumenical and catholic by someone I thought was an Orthodox Christian. I think that not everyone would consider the council of Constantinople IV of 879-880 AD to be an ecumenical council, at least the RCC doesn’t number that as ecumenical, but numbers the council of 869 AD as Constantinople IV and ecumenical. One council was against Photios, and one was for him. I am for Photios’ teaching, as I believe it is Orthodox Christian (Catholic) and in keeping with Christ our Savior’s holy words (John 15:26). Lord have mercy on all of us. In Erie PA S RH

        • Scott: The Photian Council of 879-880 was attended by Rome and accepted by Rome. However, later on, Rome changed its mind a rejected it.

        • Nathan,

          Thanks for the clarification but in my opinion some of your statements sound very similar those with a Western prejudice towards the Eastern fathers. Basically, that eastern theology was primitive and ignorant of Paul until it was advanced by St. Augustine. Alister McGrath provides a common example:

          It is quite possible that what some consider to be the curious and disturbing tendency of some of the early fathers to minimise original sin and emphasise the freedom of fallen humanity is a consequence of their anti-Gnostic polemic. While it is true that the beginnings of a doctrine of grace may be discerned during this early period, its generally optimistic estimation of the capacities fallen humanity has led at least some scholars to question whether it can be regarded as truly Christian in this respect.

          The pre-Augustinian theological tradition is practically of one voice in asserting the freedom of the human will. (Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, pg. 34-35)

          A theology that is ignorant of St. Paul can hardly qualify as “apostolic” or “catholic” and yet we call Chrysostom “the lips of Paul”. J.N.D. Kelly’s view is closer to the truth in my opinion:

          It was in the fourth and fifth centuries that the doctrine of human nature became an issue of prime importance in the Church. For the fathers, with their Biblical presuppositions, the problem was one of history rather than analysis. They sought to explain man’s present situation, and also to throw light on his hope for redemption, by expounding the story (whether taken literally or allegorically) of his creation and fall. During the larger portion of our period, when Greek writers are being passed in review, we shall find that the estimate formed of man’s plight is relatively optimistic. This was partly due to the Hellenic temperament, but partly also to the fact that the rival philosophy was Manichaeism, with its fatalism and its dogma that matter, including the body, was intrisically evil. When we turn to the West and approach the Pelagian controversy, the shadows deepen, and the picture of man passed on to the Middle Ages by Augustine is sombre, even pessimistic.

          …The customary verdict, however, seems unjust to the Greek fathers, perhaps because it depends on the assumption that no theory of original sin holds water except the full-blown Latin one. It is imperative to get rid of this prejudice. Admittedly there is hardly a hint in the Greek fathers that mankind as a whole shares in Adam’s guilt, i.e. his culpability. This partly explains their reluctance to speak of his legacy to us as sin, and of course makes their indulgent attitude to children dying unbaptized understandable. But they have the greatest possible feeling for the mystical unity of mankind with its first ancestor. This is the ancient doctrine of recapitulation, and in virtue of it they assume without question that our fall was involved Adam’s. Again, their tendency is to view original sin as wound inflicted on our nature. (Early Christian Doctrines, pg. 344, 349, 350)

          He admits that the “customary verdict” by western scholars is unfair and I don’t think he holds that the Greeks ever adopted the full-blown western view of original sin (whatever that may be).

          I’ve said enough!! Thank you again for all your research. I definitely look forward to more of your perspective.

          • “in my opinion some of your statements sound very similar those with a Western prejudice towards the Eastern fathers.”

            Genetic fallacy

            “Basically, that eastern theology was primitive and ignorant of Paul until it was advanced by St. Augustine.”

            I would disagree sharply with this statement. Actually, I think Romanides’ himself uncovers a latent thread in many Greek Fathers on this topic (it goes against his thesis, but it is there nonetheless). What the Pelagians force is a systematic analysis of St Paul’s “law of sin.” It is there earlier on, but not fully developed. Nor do I think it is fully developed in St Augustine. St Augustine is a waypoint to further reflection. Only the nine canons at Carthage are canonical, not all of St Augustine.

            “Alister McGrath provides a common example”

            I don’t really consider McGrath a competent scholar. Sorry if there is no better way to put that. :)

            “J.N.D. Kelly’s view is closer to the truth in my opinion”

            Agreed! I’m trying to trace the impact of this controversy on the East. I think this impact is real and substantial. Further, I think we accomplish several important things by this observation:
            1. We need to quit with the pop-polemics against Original Sin because …
            2. … we need to demonstrate that significant development of this doctrine occurred in the East.
            3. I think this Eastern development can help resolve some Western theological problems.

    • Scott,

      I don’t think individual patristic opinions will hold much weight here but these are to be considered.

      St. John Chrysostom

      You see how many are the benefits of baptism, and some think its heavenly grace consists only in the remission of sins, but we have enumerated ten honors [it bestows]! For this reason we baptize even infants, though they are not defiled by [personal] sins, so that there may be given to them holiness, righteousness, adoption, inheritance, brotherhood with Christ, and that they may be his [Christ’s] members. (Baptismal Catecheses)

      St. Cyril of Alexandria

      We became sinners through the disobedience of Adam in this way: he was created in immortality and in life; and in the paradise of pleasure his manner was always and entirely absorbed in the vision of God, his body in tranquility and quiet, without any shameful pleasure; for there was in him no uproar of untoward movements. But when he fell into sin and became subject to corruption, then impure pleasures crept in upon the nature of the flesh, and the law of the violent was brought forth in our members. Our nature, therefore, contracted the illness of sin “through the disobedience of the one,” that is, of Adam; and thus “the many were made sinners,” not as if they had sinned along with Adam, for they did not yet exist, but having his nature, which fell under the law of sin. (Commentary on Romans, 5:18. Pusey, p. 186)

      Has Orthodoxy moved away from this way of thinking based on theological inadequacy is the question…

      • Actually, I don’t see that as the question being debated because I don’t see that Orthodoxy has moved away from the opinions you quote from Ss. Chrysostom and Cyril. I don’t think we are opposed to the wording, “contracted the illness of sin” and Chrysostom seems to me crystal clear. To me, the question at hand is the guilt, not the inheritance of sin in the sense of death and the other curses mentioned in Genesis as a consequence of original sin. These do afflict humanity as humanity because we are in the line of Adam. Granted.

        However, we share no part in the guilt of Adam and we are not tainted by his guilt. It just so happens that as a result of the curses we are mortal, we labor, we suffer in other ways, etc. All the references to inheriting sin and death can be understood in this way, including Carthage.

        Now, what is also apparent to me is that Roman Catholic teaching was for most of its history apart from the Church that we all inherit the guilt of Adam. The pope or any Roman council can steer their ship to any doctrinal modification they want and introduce it with the words, “As the Church has always taught . . .” Fortunately, there are history books, so we can see when they are lying. One such falsehood or, to put it more kindly, modification, is that original sin in their Tradition is a matter of a lack of a certain grace. Historically, it was the taint of inherited guilt.

        In summation, the stereotypical view put forth by the neo-Patristics, on this particular issue, just happens to be the truth. It is certainly part of the Russian tradition (see St. John of Sh. and SF above). This may make for a novel theory and be conducive to those who are inspired by Ut Unum Sint, but we are already one, the one Orthodox Catholic Church.

        However, some caution is probably warranted as to the spirit in which we take these differences in teaching. I do not agree with those who consider God to be a God of unconditional love. In fact, the mere fact that He condemned all of humanity for one man’s sin is somewhat disturbing. It just happens that we are only predisposed by our fallen state to sin, not guilty of Adam’s. The practical consequences of this only relieve God of the burden of being accused of kicking a dog for having four legs. It does not mean He is an excessively indulgent master, though He most certainly is the Lover of Mankind.

  27. Just as SOME of Orthodox EAST overlooks the works of Augustine of Hippo, SOME of the Latin WEST overlooks the works of Photios. Gregory Palamas, and Mark of Ephesus. The West would favor Augustine’s SPECULATIONS on the Filioque as DOGMA, whereas Augustine never intended it as a necessary dogma, but ONLY as speculation (theologoumenon), though the West has made the Filioque into a dogma, and the East has accepted being against the Filioque as a dogma made necessary by the truth: See John 14:6, John 16:13, John 15:26, Acts 2:33.

  28. Scott Robert Harrington,

    Regarding Ezekiel 18 and Augustine / Romanides / Paul;

    This technique is called a reductio ad absurdum. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reductio_ad_absurdum

    I’m demonstrating that to view Ezekiel 18 as being against Augustine is *also* to view it as against Paul. Since the interpretation is the same in both cases, but produces absurd results when applied to the Holy Apostle, this interpretation is false. Thus, the true meaning of Ezekiel 18 does not argue against either Augustine or Paul.

    Ezekiel 18 says that neither sin nor death are passed down *if* the legatee is perfect in obedience. The theology of Paul, Augustine and Maximus is that all sin so all die. Augustine and Maximus just represent later philosophical glosses on Paul. Since both sin and death are passed down, there is no conflict with Ezekiel 18. If just suffering and death and not sin are passed down (Romanides’ position), then you have a serious problem with Ezekiel 18:20 — “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”

    The Pelagians realize this problem, which is precisely why for them *neither* death nor sin are passed down, and therefore death is not caused by sin. This is the beginning of their heresy.

    • The verse in Ezekiel 18 merely says that the soul that actually sins shall die; it says nothing that says the soul that inherited sin and inherited guilt from Adam shall die, or that any soul is guilty of someone else’s sin(s) other than being guilty of one’s own actual sins. Augustine seems to be saying we are blamed for what Adam did, instead of having culpability only for what we ourselves do that is sin. Since Augustine does seem to contradict Ezekiel 18, and since St. Paul nowhere says we are guilty because of what Adam did, and not because of what we ourselves do (or did) that was sinful, Augustine does contradict both St. Paul and St. Ezekiel. Unless you can show that Augustine repudiated and rejected the notion of original guilt and culpability for the sin of other people, including Adam’s. The important thing in all of this is not a technical discussion of Augustine, but a call from Christ for all of us to repent of our sins, and seek forgiveness for all of our past sins in confession, repentance, faith, faith in Christ and baptism in Christ, in the Trinity (Matt. 28:19), and seeking to live a life of being sanctified by God’s Truth from now on: obedience to Christ, and going and giving up sin, and not sinning any more. And confessing and sins we may commit at any time. And praying that Christ will have mercy on all of us.

      • What is in fact needed is a technical discussion of Augustine to disprove this point. But that will be in a future post.

        • I already know that Augustine was speculating regarding a double procession of the Holy Spirit from both the Father and the Son, a speculation that none of the Greek Church Fathers made, and that the Eastern Orthodox Church has never accepted. If he is going astray because of Greek philosophy in this, Augustine may also be going astray because of some philosophical concept in his doctrine regarding sin, that is, about original sin. It is clear Augustine does not always agree in everything with the rest of the Latin and Greek Church Fathers.

          • The double procession of the Holy Spirit is taught explicitly by Origen more than 100 years before Augustine.

      • St Cyril of Alexandria has an extended discussion of inherited guilt in his commentary on the Gospel of St John, with reference to the healing of the man born blind. I don’t have the reference with me, but if you browse the text for the relevant Gospel passage you will find it. He goes to great lengths to show that children are not punished for their parents’ sins, including managing to interpret Ex. 35:6-7 in such a way (primarily by punctuating it differently — “rightly dividing the word of the truth”!). I’m not trying to adduce this as a proof here, but just mentioning it as a further resource for inquiry on the topic.

    • “If just suffering and death and not sin are passed down (Romanides’ position), ” Evidence for that assertion, if you please, Nathaniel. I’m getting really sick and tired of the unfounded attacks on a pillar of Orthodoxy.

      • I mean no disrespect, Father, but isn’t “pillar of Orthodoxy” reserved for people like Ss. Photios the Great, Gregory Palamas and Mark of Ephesus? Romanides is certainly a significant figure in 20th c. Orthodoxy, but “pillar of Orthodoxy” is, I think, a bit much for someone who is not only not canonized but whose theological work remains controversial. This is hardly the first time someone has criticized his work.

        And, if I may politely suggest, perhaps if reading here makes someone “sick and tired,” he might wish to take a break lest things become too acrimonious. Are we not all trying to be faithful sons and daughters of the Church?

      • Romanides’ often uses the language of sin passing down, but I have not come across any passage where he explains on this usage of the word. On the other hand, Romandies’ main thesis is that sin caused death in Adam and that death passes to all men and that *inherited death makes people sin*. For instance:

        “Because of the sins that spring forth from the fear of death ‘the whole world lieth in wickedness’. Through falsehood and fear, Satan, in various degrees, motivates sin.” – The Ancestral Sin, p. 77

        “All human unrest is rooted in inherited psychological and bodily infirmities, that is, in the soul’s separation from grace and in the body’s corruptibility, from which springs all selfishness. Any perceived threat automatically triggers fear and uneasiness. Fear does not allow a man to be perfected in love… The fountain of man’s personal sins is the power of death that is in the hands of the devil and in man’s own willing submission to him.” – Ibid., pp. 116, 117

        “Through the power of death and the devil, sin that reigns in man gives rise to fear and anxiety and to the general instinct of self-preservation or survival. Thus, Satan manipulates man’s fear and his desire for self-satisfaction, raising up sin in him, in other words, transgression against the divine will regarding unselfish love, and provoking man to stray from his original destiny. Since weakness is caused in the flesh by death, Satan moves man to countless passion and leads him to devious thoughts, actions, and selfish relations with God as well as with his fellow man. Sin reigns both in death, and in the mortal body because ‘the sting of death is sin’. Because of death, man must first attend to the necessities of life in order to stay alive. In this struggle, self-interests are unavoidable. Thus, man is unable to live in accordance with his original destiny of unselfish love. This state of subjection under the reign of death is the root of man’s weaknesses in which he becomes entangled in sin at the urging of the demons and by his own consent. Resting in the hands of the devil, the power of the fear of death is the root from which self-aggrandizement, egotism, hatred, envy, and other similar passions spring up.” – Ibid., pp. 162-163

        “In addition to the fact that man ‘subjects himself to anything in order to avoid dying’, he constantly fears that his life is without meaning. Thus, he strives to demonstrate to himself and to others that it has worth. He loves flatterers and hates his detractors. He seeks his own and envies the success of others. He loves those who love him and hates those who hate him. He seeks security and happiness in wealth, glory, bodily pleasures, and he may even imagine that his destiny is a self-seeking eudaemonistic and passionless enjoyment of the presence of God regardless of whether or not he has true, active, unselfish love for others. Fear and anxiety render man an individualist. And when he identifies himself with a communal or social ideology it, too, is out of individualistic, self-seeking motives because he perceives his self-satisfaction and eudaemonia as his destiny. Indeed, it is possible for him to be moved by ideological principles of vague love for mankind despite the fact that mortal hatred for his neighbour nests in his heart. These are the works of the ‘flesh’ under the sway of death and Satan.” – Ibid., pp. 163-164

        For Romanides, we inherit death/passion and that this causes sin. All men, including Christ, inherit death/passion, but Christ never falls victim to Satan’s temptation.

        For St Maximus, we inherit ‘the principle of pleasure’ which causes disordered motion which in turn causes death/passion. All men, except Christ, inherit ‘the principle of pleasure’ and by consequence death/passion. Christ, on the other hand, assumes death/passion *without* ‘the principle of pleasure’ by choice. In all men, death/passion are just, but in Christ, death/passion are unjust, since there is no ‘principle of pleasure’.

        I hope this sufficiently resolves in your mind the point I am trying to make.

  29. Nathaniel, are you identifying our first movement with our parent’s act of procreation? in one of your comments it seemed that way. if i’m reading you correctly that seems rather strange to me.

    • No. Sorry if I was misleading. However, I actually get the same confusion on this point in St Maximus. So I may have just been using his language.

  30. A suggestion to the blog owner: as presently configured, the replies to the replies are hard to read. Perhaps you might reconfigure the replies settings, perhaps only nesting them one column. (I probably didn’t say this right, but I’m not sure how to phrase this.)

  31. The author states: ///”Augustine’s Error in Romans 5:12?The assertion that Augustine’s theological notions are derived from a faulty translation of Romans 5:12 into Latin is unfounded. This thesis comes from St Augustine’s work A Treatise Against Two Letters of the Pelagians (IV.6). This argument presumes that Augustine drops the word “death” and incorrectly interprets the antecedent of a pronoun.”/// Before one can pronounce an assertion wrong which is held by most major contemporary critical scholars (in this case an assertion that is made by every major critical scholar of whatever persuasion I have read that discusses Augustine’s interpretation of Rom 5:12) one should first properly identify what scholars say the error was and provide some sort of specific counter argument. Nathan’s essay doesn’t provide any convincing basis for us to see that the mainstream thesis is wrong. Here is what Jaroslav Pelikan observes with regard to Augustine’s extrapolation from, yes, a mistranslation from the Latin:

    “In Augustine’s Latin Bible Romans 5:12 read “Sin came into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, through one man in whom all men sinned [in quo omnes peccaverunt].” Although this last clause really meant “because [ἐφ’ ᾧ] all men sinned,” the translation “in whom all men sinned” had lead an earlier Western theologian to conclude that “all have sinned in Adam, as it were in the mass, for he himself was corrupted by sin, and all whom he begot were born under sin” (Ambrosiast Rom 5.12.3). Quoting these words, Augustine insisted that “all men are understood to have sinned in the first man, because all men were in him when he sinned” (Pelag 4.4.7). Just how they were in Adam, he usually explained by referring to the “carnal begetting” (Augustine, Pecc Merit 1.15.19) by which their lives began. For “by the begetting of the flesh… that sin is contracted which is original” (Pecc Merit 1.15.20as distinguished from that which a man committed himself. Sin and death had been transmitted to all men from one man “by the propagation of the human race” (Pecc Merit 1.9.10). A variant reading of Luke 20:34, “The sons of the age beget and are begotten,” meant that even Christian parents begot “sons of this present age” (Nupt et concup 1.18.20) who were born of the lust of the flesh and to whom its contagion was passed on. Because it was transmitted by natural propagation, original sin was as universal and inevitable as life itself. “Behold,” wrote Augustine in summary, “what harm the disobedience of the will has inflicted on human nature! Let him be permitted to pray that he may be healed [orare sinutar, ut sinutar]. Why should he presume so much on the capacity of his nature? It is wounded, hurt, damaged, destroyed. It needs a true confession, not a false defense; it needs the grace of God, not that it may be created, but that it may be restored” (Augustine, Nat et grat 53.62]. The use of such a term as “destroyed” rather than only “damaged” to describe human nature after the fall of Adam could lead to the impression that as a result of sin man had ceased being man and was now being created, at least partly, in the image of the devil rather than in the image of God. Such had been Augustine’s personal belief during the nearly nine years that he was a Manichean (Augustine, Conf 3.6.11; 3.11.20). For the Manicheans had taught that the begetting of men took place in “madness and intemperance” of sexual lust and that therefore it was blasphemous to suppose that “God forms us according to his own image” through the madness and lust of our parents (Augustine, Faust 26.1). Augustine’s theory of the transmission of sin from generation to generation through carnal begetting, as though this were some sort of venereal disease, seemed suspiciously reminiscent of the Manichean doctrine, enough so to prompt the charge of one of his contemporaries that “anyone who defends [the doctrine of] original evil is thoroughgoing Manichaean” (apAug Nupt et concup 2.29.49). For Augustine as an orthodox Christian, the image of God had not been lost through the fall and man had not ceased being God’s good creature: God created man according to his image, “not as regards the possession of a body and of physical life, but as regards the possession of a rational mind by which to know God.” He distinguished his view of innate and radical evil from the Manichean by holding two doctrines together which the Manicheans (as well as the Pelagians) treated as mutually contradictory. Man had “a good creation but a corrupt propagation, confessing for his goods a most excellent Creator and seeking for his evils a most merciful Redeemer” (Aug Pelag 4.4.4). The nature of man as a creature of God remained even after the fall into sin, which as a turning away from God to evil did not mean the creation of another and evil nature but the corruption of that nature which had already been created good; for “although there was a fault present in nature, yet nature was not itself a fault” (Grat Christ 19.20; Nat et grat 3.3). It still possessed life, senses, and intellect as gifts of the Creator. And therefore man was neither created in the image of the devil nor degraded to the level of the brutes. “For man has such excellence [even after the fall] in comparison with the brute that what is a fault in man is nature in the brute. Still man’s nature is not changed into the nature of the brute. God therefore condemns man because of the fault by which his nature is discraced, not because of his nature, which is not abolished through his fault” (Aug Pecc orig 40.46). Nature had not been destroyed, but it had been gravely wounded and needed to be healed by divine grace which had been lost in the fall but was now restored in Christ. Grace was more than nature, more than free will, more than even the forgiveness of sins and the gift of God’s commandments; it was the divinely given power to avoid and conquer sin” (Gest Pelag 31.56; Ep 177.4). -From Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol 1: The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), pp. 299-301.

    • It would seem to me that Augustine’s own words reflecting on and struggle with Romans 5:12 reveal that the “Romanides view” either widely existed or was the prevalent view of Augustine’s time:

      “But these speak thus who wish to wrest men from the apostle’s words into their own
      thought. For where the apostle says, “By one man sin entered into the world, and death by
      sin, and so passed upon all men,” they will have it there understood not that “sin” passed
      over, but “death.” What, then, is the meaning of what follows, “Whereto all have sinned”?
      For either the apostle says that in that “one man” all have sinned of whom he had said, “By
      one man sin entered into the world,” or else in that “sin,” or certainly in “death.” For it need
      not disturb us that he said not “in which” [using the feminine form of the pronoun], but “in
      whom” [using the masculine] all have sinned; since “death” in the Greek language is of the
      masculine gender. Let them, then, choose which they will,—for either in that “man” all have
      sinned, and it is so said because when he sinned all were in him; or in that “sin” all have
      sinned, because that was the doing of all in general which all those who were born would
      have to derive; or it remains for them to say that in that “death” all sinned. But in what way
      this can be understood, I do not clearly see. For all die in the sin; they do not sin in the death;
      for when sin precedes, death follows—not when death precedes, sin follows. Because sin is
      the sting of death—that is, the sting by whose stroke death occurs, not the sting with which
      death strikes. Just as poison, if it is drunk, is called the cup of death, because by that cup
      death is caused, not because the cup is caused by the death, or is given by death. But if “sin”
      cannot be understood by those words of the apostle as being that “wherein all have sinned,”
      because in Greek, from which the Epistle is translated, “sin” is expressed in the feminine
      gender, it remains that all men are understood to have sinned in that first “man,” because
      all men were in him when he sinned; and from him sin is derived by birth, and is not remitted
      save by being born again. For thus also the sainted Hilary understood what is written,
      “wherein all have sinned;” for he says, “wherein,” that is, in Adam, “all have sinned.”Then he adds, “It is manifest that all have sinned in Adam, as it were in the mass; for he himself was corrupted by sin, and all whom he begot were born under sin.” When he wrote this, Hilary, without any ambiguity, indicated how we should understand the words, “wherein all have sinned.”

      The key sentence is “But in what way this can be understood, I do not clearly see.” If he were merely responding to something Pelagius said, he would off hand have dismissed is as a wrong interpretation. But he is struggling with this by saying “I do not clearly see”. The reason he is struggling is that he is having a problem with what was a normative or near-normative teaching of the time.

      • This passage demonstrates that:
        1. some read it differently. There is no indication that such is the predominant or normative view.
        2. Augustine is relying here on a tradition (both of a Latin translation and of another Saint).
        3. his inability to understand the other translation is not merely a matter of grammar but also of the broader strokes of St Paul’s theology. Namely: sin causes death in St Paul, not the other way around.

        Augustine’s choice of Romans 5:12 was a poor one. He esteemed it to be one of his best arguments and obviously failed. But we must not make the mistake that this is his only argument. Nor that there is a one-to-one relationship between what he argues and how he arrived at these conclusions.

    • I do not deny that Augustine made an error, only that Carthage’s articulation of Original Sin does not depend on the error. Hence, the doctrine of Original Sin, particularly as canonized in Carthage, doesn’t succeed or fail based on Augustine’s interpretation of Romans 5:12. I am not attempting to argue against scholarly consensus on this point (with which I also agree). In fact, there are lots of translation problems in Augustine’s early Latin version. Several of them are significant errors, including Romans 1.

      I admit the wording of this sentence isn’t the clearest in this regard: “The assertion that Augustine’s theological notions are derived from a faulty translation of Romans 5:12 into Latin is unfounded.” I believe this sentence to be true as written since Augustine is borrowing from a wide array of materials, not merely a single verse (the volume of his writings should betray this fact immediately). But for the sake of my argument I should have written something like: “The assertion that Original Sin exists only in the Latin speaking world due to a faulty translation is unfounded.”

      Pelikan’s assessment is good (as always). It is important to note that Augustine’s theory of sexual reproduction is not likely to be from Manichaen origins. Similar theories had already been espoused by 2 Baruch, Athanasius, Gregory and others, and would later be articulated by many fathers (including Maximus as I have already mentioned). Augustine is no odd man out here. I am not claiming that such an assertion is true, but rather that it is common in the theological milieu of the time.

      However, the Manichaen accusation is a particularly powerful rhetorical device against Augustine. It, of course, commits the fallacy that correlation is not causation. But it is a great way to score points with an unscrupulous audience.

      • Nathaniel’s reference is likely to 2 Baruch 56:6:

        For when he transgressed, untimely death came into being, mourning was mentioned, affliction was prepared, illness was created, labor accomplished, pride began to come into existence, the realm of death began to ask to be renewed with blood, the conception of children came about, the passion of the parents was produced, the loftiness of men was humiliated, and goodness vanished.

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