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Questions on Coptic beliefs


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#1 M. Markewich

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Posted 14 May 2007 - 02:06 AM

While I was in the Coptic Church on Friday again, I was talking with one of the leaders and my friend who goes to college with me. The leader, who says he reads Pope Shenouda's works all the time, said that Copts believe:

1) A person could exist who never sinned in his life, but if he is not baptized, he will go to Hell for Adam's sin; God will ask him to make an account for Adam's sin.
2) God put His wrath He had for man's sin on Christ at the crucifixion, and that at the Eucharist we put our sin on the cross so our deserved wrath is put there as well.
3) The Catholics are sacramentally better off than Protestants because they have communion like the Orthodox do, which is implicitly acknowledging that Catholic sacraments are valid.

This has just been somewhat confusing for me. Does Pope Shenouda actually teach this? Even my Coptic friend, who comes from Egypt (came to the US three years ago) said he used to believe that we inherited guilt for Adam's sin.

#2 Athanasius Abdullah

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Posted 14 May 2007 - 04:59 AM

Dear Matthew,

Just as an initial response to the, intentional or otherwise, implication that "Coptic belief" is determined by the views of His Holiness Pope Shenouda III. This is no more true than saying that "Greek belief" is determined by the views of His Holiness Bartholomew. First of all, the Pope of Alexandria is no more than an ArchBishop, and has no more theological authority than any other Coptic Bishop around the world. Furthermore, the notion of "Coptic belief" is a bit misleading in the context of the fact that the Coptic Church is but a local Church within a wider Communion which shares one common belief. In this sense we speak only of "Orthodox belief" (at least within our own Communion, and yet for the sake of clarity, convenience and ecumenicity, we can speak of "Oriental Orthodox belief" in dialogue with members of other Churches).

Given the above problems inherent in the presentation of your inquiry, I am not sure how to address your questions. Do you wish me to address them in consideration of His Holiness' views exclusively, in consideration of the views of various contemporary Coptic Bishops, in consideration of the views of the entire heritage of Coptic authority, or in consideration of the entire consciousness of the Church?

I will actually go ahead and address the questions in terms of His Holiness' views (which, insofar as the issues in question are concerned, I believe to in fact be representative of Oriental Orthodox belief), but will gladly address the questions from any of the above mentioned wider perspectives if you wish.

1) A person could exist who never sinned in his life, but if he is not baptized, he will go to Hell for Adam's sin; God will ask him to make an account for Adam's sin.


I don’t recall His Holiness saying that anyone “will go to hell”; that kind of talk is just not part of his language. Baptism is ofcourse, nevertheless an essential element to our recovering from Adam’s sin, and His Holiness certainly stresses the slavific necessity of baptism.

As for the definition of "Adam's sin" that His Holiness attributes to man, His Holiness seems to regard it as nothing more than the penalty of death inherited from Adam. It thus doesn’t make sense to have to “account” for incurring a penalty that we incur by virtue of being human descendents of Adam’s race. In response to the question:

Why should a person whose parents were baptised and saved from Adam's sin, be baptised as well?


His Holiness responds (on p. 52 of his work Comparative Theology):

We did not inherit the penalty of death from our immediate parents so that we are saved if they are baptised, but we inherited it directly from Adam and Eve: the first of the human race. We were in Adam's loins. When Adam's nature sinned and he was condemned to death, everything in his loins became mortal. We came out of Adam's loins under the penalty of death. Therefore the sentence of death was passed on Adam and all his offspring; not only on Cain, Abel and Seth...death was a judgement on the entire human race, being the offspring of Adam. Every born human being is condemned to death because He was in Adam's loins when Adam was condemned to death.


2) God put His wrath He had for man's sin on Christ at the crucifixion, and that at the Eucharist we put our sin on the cross so our deserved wrath is put there as well.


I’m not even sure what this means.

3) The Catholics are sacramentally better off than Protestants because they have communion like the Orthodox do, which is implicitly acknowledging that Catholic sacraments are valid.


That’s just plain false. The official policy of the Church upon receiving converts from Roman Catholicism--a policy which His Holiness insists upon in spite of requests from RC representatives that we revise such a policy--is that they receive full baptism. We are, in a sense, more “conservative” than EO’s in that regard—we don’t have a policy of not baptising those who have been baptised in the right “form” (i.e. name of the Trinity etc.).

In XC
Athanasius




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