Re: Ancestral versus Original Sin
Editor’s Note: Some within modern evangelicalism (Oden 2003, Packer and Oden 2004) have begun to examine the writings of the Patristics in an attempt to inspire unity within the Christian church. While somewhat controversial, the present article was invited in hope of beginning dialogue among the tributaries of Christian spirituality on a topic of great importance to a spiritually sensitive psychotherapy — sin.
We are the tributaries. I find this trend a good one that we are seeking to become one in act and deed rather than a psuedo unity where we just acknowledge that we believe in Jesus but we really don’t experience the unity which our Lord spoke of.
As we have seen, for the early Church Fathers and the Orthodox Church the Atonement is much more than a divine exercise in jurisprudence; it is the event of the life, death and resurrection of the Son of God that sets us free from the Ancestral Sin and its effects. Our slavery to death, sin, corruption and the devil are destroyed through the Cross and Resurrection and our hopeless adventure in autonomy is revealed to be what it is: a dead end. Salvation is much more than a verdict from above; it is an endless process of transformation from autonomy to communion, a gradual ascent from glory to glory as we take up once again our original vocation now fulfilled in Christ. The way to the Tree of Life at long last revealed to be the Cross is reopened and its fruit, the Body and Blood of God, offered to all. The goal is far greater than a change in behavior; we are meant to become divine.
This sums it up.
Pelagius is regarded as a heretic in the East (as is the case in the West). He elevated the human will and the expense of divine grace. In fairness, however, the Orthodox position is expressed best by John Cassian — who is often regarded as “semi-Pelagian” in the West. The problem — to the Orthodox perspective — is that both Pelagius and Augustine set the categories in the extreme — freedom of the will with nothing left for God versus complete sovereignty of God, with nothing left to human will. The Fathers argued instead for “synergy,” a mystery of God’s grace being given with the cooperation of the human heart.
So it is important that we understand what the difference. In the west we often bounce between the two extremes. And that can totally warp ones understanding of the faith.