The Roman Catholic dogma of the Immaculate Conception, whereof
we spoke in the last discussion, contradicts the clear teaching
of Sacred Scripture on the universality of original sin (Job 14:4-5,
John 3:6 and many others).
The sin committed by our progenitors in paradise, with all its
consequences, passed and passes from them to all their posterity.
What the first people became after the Fall, such also till now
are their descendants in the world. "Adam begat a son in
his own likeness, after his image" (Genesis 5:3, KJV). Estrangement
from God, the loss of grace, the distortion of God's image, the
perversion and weakening of the bodily organism, which ends with
death - here is Adam's sad legacy, received by each of us at our
very appearance in the world. "As from an infected source
there naturally flows an infected stream," teaches the Orthodox
catechism, "so from an ancestor infected with sin, and hence
mortal, there naturally proceeds a posterity infected with sin,
and hence mortal."
Therefore, each of us can repeat after King David: "For behold,
I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother bear
me" (Psalm 50:7). The Apostle Paul expresses this thought
still more clearly: "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered
into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all
men, for that all have sinned" (Romans 5:12).
Inherited sin does not contradict either psychological or physiological
laws, but, on the contrary, finds confirmation in those and other
laws. The transmission of certain psychical and moral attributes,
certain depraved inclinations and also physiological defects (for
example, predisposition to certain diseases) from parents to children
and later generations is a completely ordinary phenomenon. From
a purely psychological point of view, it would have been unnatural
if the damage to the moral nature of the progenitors of the human
race through sin had remained only with them and had passed away
without leaving a trace on their posterity, without touching it.
"Original sin is the damage to human nature [caused] by sin,
which makes it incapable of fulfilling God's plan, God's design
for man as the crown of the creation of the whole visible world",
writes Archbishop Nathaniel ("Discussions on Sacred Scripture
and on Faith", Volume 1, page 96 [in Russian]).
According to the teaching of the Roman Catholics, the essence
of human nature did not change after the Fall; man remained such
as he was created by God, only he was deprived of the supernatural
gifts of grace (immortality of the body, the primordial righteousness
and dominion over nature), in consequence of which he began to
change for the worse in soul and body. In this deprivation of
supernatural grace consisted the punishment of our progenitors,
and after them of all men as well. Fallen man, according to the
teaching of Catholic theologians, is a former courtier, who once
was elevated and exalted by a special mercy of the king, and then
for his fault was cast down from his high post and returned to
his former condition.
Catholics exclude the Most Pure Virgin Mary from this notion.
"According to the Roman Catholic notion", writes Vladyka
Nathaniel, "original sin lies in the taking away by God from
the first people, who had sinned, of the gift of 'original righteousness'
(justitia originalis), which people had before the Fall, which
was taken away from them after the commission of sin by them,
but, by an exception to the general law, was given to the soul
of the Virgin Mary at its introduction into the body. Therefore,
the Virgin Mary is completely similar to Eve before the Fall,
who had the gift of justitia originalis " ("Discussions
on Sacred Scripture and on Faith", volume 1, page 98 [in
According to the teaching of the Orthodox Church (from the first
centuries and up to our days), all men are subject to original
sin - all, including also the Mother of God. And all have to
be redeemed by the sacrifice of the Son of God. The Most Holy
Virgin herself numbers herself among the saved, calling God her Saviour,
"and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour"
(Luke 1:47). Sacred Scripture knows only one man who did not
partake of original sin - the God-Man Christ Jesus, Who was conceived
in a supernatural manner - by the Holy Spirit.
The Catholic view on original sin and on its consequences contradicts
the clear testimonies of the word of God that point out the damage
[caused] to man's very nature through the sin of our progenitors
and the consequences of this sin, which show the violation of
the natural order of human life. The Apostle Paul says: "For
the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not,
that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that
do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law that, when
I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the
law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members,
warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity
to the law of sin which is in my members" (Romans 7:19-23).
The infinite grandeur of the redeeming sacrifice of the Lord Jesus
Christ is demeaned by the Catholic teaching on the Fall, and too
great a significance is attributed to the participation of man
himself in the work of salvation. Here the juridical approach
characteristic of Catholics is again expressed: man not only receives
salvation as something due and earned, but he can even perform
more good works than he needs for acquiring eternal salvation.
Protestantism, in its teaching on original sin, as in many other
points, fell into the opposite extreme. In its notion, man's
Fall perverted human nature to such an extent that not even a
trace of the powers and abilities bestowed by the Creator remained
in him, and all his desires are directed solely toward what is
evil and sinful. Man, according to Luther's expression, was turned,
as it were, into a pillar of salt, like Lot's wife; he became
a soulless block and even worse, because a block does not act
and does not oppose, while man opposes the action of divine grace.
It is true that many Protestants later acknowledged their
extremeness in this teaching and some drew near even to the Orthodox
view, but others, unfortunately, fell into rationalism and went
as far as a complete rejection of original sin and even the very
historical fact of the fall of our progenitors.
The Protestant view of original sin contradicts all those places
in Sacred Scripture wherein an appeal to man's free will is contained
for correction and salvation, and wherein, consequently, it is
confirmed that man did not pervert his nature so much that he
cannot take any part in the work of his salvation (see Matthew