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Author Topic: St. Symeon and Ancestral Sin  (Read 1721 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: December 15, 2009, 10:18:58 PM »

I'm reading St. Symeon the New Theologian's The First-Created Man.  In Homily 37, section 3, he makes some interesting claims concerning "ancestral sin."  He says, among other things, that human nature is sinful from conception and birth, and that even infants who have not performed any sin are sinful by the ancestral sin. 

Can this be understood in an Orthodox way?
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« Reply #1 on: December 15, 2009, 11:04:32 PM »

I'm reading St. Symeon the New Theologian's The First-Created Man.  In Homily 37, section 3, he makes some interesting claims concerning "ancestral sin."  He says, among other things, that human nature is sinful from conception and birth, and that even infants who have not performed any sin are sinful by the ancestral sin.  

Can this be understood in an Orthodox way?

Since St Symeon was a deified, God-bearing Elder and Saint, the statement is an Orthodox statement by nature.  The question is how can we, in our fallen and ignorant way, properly put it in to context and understand it.

I think Psalm 50 makes it clear that we are conceived in iniquity and born in sin.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2009, 11:06:24 PM by Fr. Anastasios » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: December 15, 2009, 11:42:32 PM »

I'm reading St. Symeon the New Theologian's The First-Created Man.  In Homily 37, section 3, he makes some interesting claims concerning "ancestral sin."  He says, among other things, that human nature is sinful from conception and birth, and that even infants who have not performed any sin are sinful by the ancestral sin. 

Can this be understood in an Orthodox way?

Since St Symeon was a deified, God-bearing Elder and Saint, the statement is an Orthodox statement by nature.  The question is how can we, in our fallen and ignorant way, properly put it in to context and understand it.

I think Psalm 50 makes it clear that we are conceived in iniquity and born in sin.

All right.
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« Reply #3 on: December 16, 2009, 03:08:30 AM »

Because of ancestral sin, we are born into a fallen Creation, and are prone to sin and subject to death.
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« Reply #4 on: December 16, 2009, 09:08:19 AM »

Quote
Since St Symeon was a deified, God-bearing Elder and Saint, the statement is an Orthodox statement by nature.  The question is how can we, in our fallen and ignorant way, properly put it in to context and understand it.

So it is your contention that saints are... what? infallible?
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« Reply #5 on: December 16, 2009, 11:15:28 AM »

Quote
Since St Symeon was a deified, God-bearing Elder and Saint, the statement is an Orthodox statement by nature.  The question is how can we, in our fallen and ignorant way, properly put it in to context and understand it.

So it is your contention that saints are... what? infallible?

No, but I am trying to offer a corrective to the approach that if we find a statement in a saint's writing that seems at odds with what modern theologians have interpreted Orthodox theology as, that we can assume that there was some kind of Western captivity or that the saint was wrong, and it's our job to excise the external influence.  I don't believe that saints are infallible, but I believe we should presume them to be correct unless we can find clear examples from other fathers that contradict them. I thought the way the question was phrased was backwards and I am trying to point that out. But I do recognize that saints can have errors in their writings.
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« Reply #6 on: December 16, 2009, 11:35:18 AM »

In keeping with Fr. Anastios' point, if the OP could perhaps expand about what he finds problematic about St. Simeon's use of the term 'ancestral sin', he might get correspondingly more expansive answers. In terms of what he quoted, I didn't see anything you can't find in literally dozens of other Fathers so I wasn't even sure what he was questioning.
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« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2009, 11:41:11 AM »

Quote
Since St Symeon was a deified, God-bearing Elder and Saint, the statement is an Orthodox statement by nature.  The question is how can we, in our fallen and ignorant way, properly put it in to context and understand it.

So it is your contention that saints are... what? infallible?

No, but I am trying to offer a corrective to the approach that if we find a statement in a saint's writing that seems at odds with what modern theologians have interpreted Orthodox theology as, that we can assume that there was some kind of Western captivity or that the saint was wrong, and it's our job to excise the external influence.  I don't believe that saints are infallible, but I believe we should presume them to be correct unless we can find clear examples from other fathers that contradict them. I thought the way the question was phrased was backwards and I am trying to point that out. But I do recognize that saints can have errors in their writings.

Ahh, I understand now, thank you for your response.  Smiley
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« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2009, 02:27:59 PM »

From what I understand, the OP is wondering whether the quote from St. Symeon is asserting that people inherit the guilt from ancestral sin. Is this correct, StGeorge?
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« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2009, 02:44:15 PM »

Regardless of what he said, we do inherit the effects of ancestral sin.  Adam sinned, and incurred Death.  Thereafter, all humans incur Death innately, and this drives us to sin, which only incurs Death.  To break this vicious cycle, Christ had to become Man, die, rise, and ascend for us, that we might be fully restored to that which God originally intended us to be.
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« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2009, 03:25:11 PM »

^Exactly.  We've inherited the corruption of ancestral sin but not the guilt.  At conception and birth we have been corrupted.
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« Reply #11 on: December 16, 2009, 11:27:21 PM »

From what I understand, the OP is wondering whether the quote from St. Symeon is asserting that people inherit the guilt from ancestral sin. Is this correct, StGeorge?

The passages from St. Symeon begin with the title, "A man is sinful from his very conception."  He states directly that human nature is sinful from conception, and he goes on to say that even those who have not committed any sin are already sinful.

He mentions that we are participants of the Ancestral Sin, although he nowhere mentions "guilt."

By my question, I was not impugning the orthodoxy of St. Symeon's words.  I just hope to understand what he is saying.  I've read and heard about how we share in the effects of Adam's fall, how we suffer corruptibility, suffering, death, but I have not come across mention of us actually being sinful from conception, and I'm wondering what he means by that.         
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« Reply #12 on: December 16, 2009, 11:33:20 PM »

^Exactly.  We've inherited the corruption of ancestral sin but not the guilt.  At conception and birth we have been corrupted.

Is St. Symeon saying then, when he writes of being sinful from conception, that we are born with a human nature that bears the consequences of the fall, which lead men towards sin?--and not of an original sin, or a personal responsibility for the sin of Adam?   
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« Reply #13 on: December 16, 2009, 11:38:34 PM »

Yes.
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« Reply #14 on: December 17, 2009, 01:04:34 AM »

^Exactly.  We've inherited the corruption of ancestral sin but not the guilt.  At conception and birth we have been corrupted.

Is St. Symeon saying then, when he writes of being sinful from conception, that we are born with a human nature that bears the consequences of the fall, which lead men towards sin?--and not of an original sin, or a personal responsibility for the sin of Adam?   

Remember the basic meaning of 'sin'. In Greek, it is 'to miss the mark' i.e., to not be perfect. The effect of Adam's sin is that human nature is separated from God. We are born separated from God. That is why we are subject to death (because we are separated from the ultimate source of Life) and why we are inherently sinful (because we are separated from the ultimate source of goodness). We aren't 'guilty' until we actually sin ourselves, but we are separated from God which by definition means we are sinful.
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« Reply #15 on: December 17, 2009, 02:23:12 AM »

So we then are born sinful, or with sin?
« Last Edit: December 17, 2009, 02:24:02 AM by Ortho_cat » Logged
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