Originally Posted by Daniel
Nova- I love reading you posts, especially as the law in concerned. However, your desription of original sin as understood within the Eastern Orthodox faith, which you describe as less abstract and more understandable, seems anything but to this reader. Perhaps that is because you use 'inheritence of mortality' and 'inheritence of immortality' both within the breath of one sentence, thus making my brain synapses fry?
Wanting to undertand what you are trying to convey, would you consider a restatement for this lowly layman?
Hehe, I guess I did write it in an abstract way, didn't I? Let me see if I can explain it better.
I guess the way that my Eastern priest friends taught it to me was that when we are born, we are born into a life of death -- that is to say, death is in our flesh and bones, it is a part of our condition existentially. We're all mortal -- from the moment we are born, one of the great realities of our life is the reality of death. Eastern theology sees this as being the mark of original sin -- we inherit this mortality from the sin of Adam (and Eve) -- it was that first sin, the original sin, that changed Adam and made him mortal, and therefore it was only his mortality that could be passed down unto all subsequent human generations. It's this mortality that is the mark of Adam's sin in all human beings.
In Jesus Christ, the mortal human nature inherited from Adam in the flesh of Mary is united with the immortal divine nature of the Son of God in one person. Christ's human nature is united with his divine nature by means of being united together with it in the one person of Jesus. And because it is united to Christ's divine nature, his human nature -- by virtue of this union -- is no longer a mortal human nature (i.e., that which was inherited from the post-fall mortal nature of Adam), but an immortal one, restored to its original pre-fall state of immortality by virtue of being united with the immortal divinity of the Son of God.
Individual Christians are born into mortality as everyone else is. By virtue of baptism, the person dies with Jesus and is raised with Jesus and "puts on Christ" -- that is, one's mortal nature is transformed through union with Jesus (not a union by incorporation into Christ's person, as it was for Christ's human nature, but a union by grace and communion with God in and through Jesus) into an immortal nature. That doesn't mean that people don't die -- even Jesus died. What it means is that when death happens, it is the same experience for the Christian who dies "in Christ" as it was for Christ, because the Christian's mortal nature has been transformed into an immortal nature through a transformative life of communion in Christ. [***-- see below]
Now what I wrote there makes it sound like baptism is magic, but that's not generally the way it's understood by Orthodox -- baptism is the beginning of the transformative life, not its dispositive end. The tradition is that one's entire life is a way of living out one's baptism, of growing ever closer to Christ, into ever more perfect communion with him and, through him, with God. It's a life of transformation and grace that the Orthodox refer to as "theosis" (often translated as "dvinization", but that's really a poor translation ... what it means is that the individual's human nature is being transformed by grace into the kind of human nature that Jesus has -- into a "divinized" human nature thoroughly flooded with God's grace (which the Orthodox refer to as "divine energy")).
So when original sin is looked at as the "inheritance of mortality", that means that we're all born into a mortal state as human beings. It doesn't mean, from this perspective (and I'm not saying other perspectives are invalid, I'm just trying to clarify this perspective), that one is not "justified" in the eyes of God. It simply means that one is mortal, and this is not what God intended us to be when he created humankind. The tremendous act of self-giving by Jesus in undergoing a human death (so that death could be transformed for all of those who live "in him") was done, per this perspective, not to pay off a debt, or to satisfy divine justice, but to restore humanity to its intended state of immortal life and communion with God. This perspective doesn't view the crucifixion from the perspective of substitutionary atonement, but rather from the perspective of triumph and restoration -- God's voluntary act of undergoing death so as to take away the "sting" of death, and restore his creation to the way he intended it to be, despite its own flaws and mistakes.
I think I've probably still stated what's a very simple idea in a complicated way. Stated as simply as I can manage: God became human so that humanity can become what God intended humanity to be
-- not just morally (although that's very important because it reflects a life of growing communion with God in Christ), but in terms of humanity's very *nature*.
*** -- The liturgical traditions of baptism differ, and in some ways also reflect the divergent ideas about "Original Sin". In most "mainline" Western traditions (not all, but most), baptism is normally done by the sprinkling of water over the head, or perhaps the pouring of water over the head. The liturgical symbolism in either case is primarily one of "cleansing" -- washing away the stain of Original Sin and making one a part of the Body of Christ. In the Eastern tradition, the baptism is performed differently. Most typically with infants (but also with adult newcomers), there is a large font, and the child is thrust down into the water and up again out of the water rather vigorously three times by the priest (a typically trinitarian formulation), with the liturgical symbolism representing not only washing/cleaning (also present, of course), but also a "dying" (going down into the water) and a "resurrection" (coming up out of the water). This up and down way of performing "immersion baptism" is an intrinsic part of the rite, and is also performed for adult converts -- it's never done by pouring water over the head because that symbolism -- while perfectly appropriate for a more Augustinian approach towards Original Sin -- doesn't really reflect what the Orthodox theological tradition has become about these issues. It's interesting to see these kinds of liturgical diversities as a reflection of underlying theological diversities.