Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Was it ever possible for our Lord Jesus Christ to have sinned?


  • Please log in to reply
115 replies to this topic

#1 Darlene Griffith

Darlene Griffith

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 253 posts

Posted 14 September 2011 - 02:29 PM

I ask this question sincerely because many Christians believe Jesus Christ could have sinned while here on earth, but that He resisted thus becoming the perfect sacrifice. Two of the verses used to defend this position are, "Because He Himself has suffered and been tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted," and, "For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 2:18 & 4:15) The argument being that temptation would be pointless if Christ was unable to sin in the first place. Thus, He struggled against sin in order to be victorious over it and become our perfect sacrifice.

I look forward to your responses.

Edited by Darlene Griffith, 14 September 2011 - 02:30 PM.
wrong wording


#2 Brian Patrick Mitchell

Brian Patrick Mitchell

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 719 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 14 September 2011 - 02:33 PM

As man He had the freedom to sin, but as God He did not do so. God does not sin.

#3 John Mitchell

John Mitchell

    Regular Poster

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 53 posts

Posted 14 September 2011 - 02:45 PM

This is a great and ancient question, surely questions like these among others necessitated St. Athanasius' doctrine of the Holy Trinity to be written! Three persons of one nature and one will. The miracle of the incarnation shows us a unique being. 100% man and 100% God all in one. Did he have a human will? Yes. as we see from his prayer in the garden, "not my will but thine be done" . A perfect illustration of how our will should be, every step we take in life, not seeking our own decision but submitting our will always to that of Gods will, just as the human will of Christ always submitted to His devine will.

Help us o Lord, have mercy on us and save us for as much as thou art good and lovest mankind.

#4 Brian Patrick Mitchell

Brian Patrick Mitchell

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 719 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 14 September 2011 - 02:59 PM

One point (so to speak) of the Incarnation is that man, when united with God, also does not sin, even though he has the freedom to sin. Christ proves this by uniting the two natures in Himself and not sinning.

#5 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 14 September 2011 - 03:33 PM

I ask this question sincerely because many Christians believe Jesus Christ could have sinned while here on earth, but that He resisted thus becoming the perfect sacrifice. Two of the verses used to defend this position are, "Because He Himself has suffered and been tempted, He is able to help those who are tempted," and, "For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin." (Hebrews 2:18 & 4:15) The argument being that temptation would be pointless if Christ was unable to sin in the first place. Thus, He struggled against sin in order to be victorious over it and become our perfect sacrifice.

I look forward to your responses.


No. It was never possible for our Lord Jesus Christ to have sinned. Freedom of will after all is related to nature and person. Since then Christ as both God and man is sinless He could not sin. I think that we often get this issue confused with the question of God's sovereignty which we make into a theoretical question of might and power rather than related to the Person we are asking the question about.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#6 Effie Ganatsios

Effie Ganatsios

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,725 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 14 September 2011 - 03:42 PM

I love our Lord so much more when I think about his loneliness and suffering the night he was arrested. He was human just as we are and he was afraid but he said "Thou will be done." He must have felt temptation just as any other human does but he rose above it. Remember how the devil tempted him in the wilderness where he spent 40 days fasting and praying.

Hebrews 4:15

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.

#7 Darlene Griffith

Darlene Griffith

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 253 posts

Posted 14 September 2011 - 04:26 PM

As man He had the freedom to sin, but as God He did not do so. God does not sin.

Father,
So does this mean that the answer is a paradox? Do you think there is a definitive answer, one that both holds Christ divinity and humanity in balance?

#8 Darlene Griffith

Darlene Griffith

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 253 posts

Posted 14 September 2011 - 04:28 PM

This is a great and ancient question, surely questions like these among others necessitated St. Athanasius' doctrine of the Holy Trinity to be written! Three persons of one nature and one will. The miracle of the incarnation shows us a unique being. 100% man and 100% God all in one. Did he have a human will? Yes. as we see from his prayer in the garden, "not my will but thine be done" . A perfect illustration of how our will should be, every step we take in life, not seeking our own decision but submitting our will always to that of Gods will, just as the human will of Christ always submitted to His devine will.

Help us o Lord, have mercy on us and save us for as much as thou art good and lovest mankind.

Where can I read St. Athanasius doctrine of the Holy Trinity? Can it be found here on Monachos? Does St. Athanasius address this very question? I started the thread in the first place because I have witnessed discussions on this question at various times, albeit among Protestants mostly.

#9 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 14 September 2011 - 04:43 PM

As far as Orthodox theology is concerned the definitive answer is that Christ as God and man could not sin. Not merely that He did not sin as if He could have sinned as man but His divinity did not permit this (or perhaps that His human will is split as is ours between what is good and sinful desires). This is actually heretical for it does not see that Christ's will as human is one and at once in full & free accord with His divine will.

I guess you could say this another way in that Christ's will is not split like ours is as a result of the Fall with the will trying to govern what is unruly and sinful.

In other words Christ could not have sinned because as Incarnate His human will is in full accord with what is of His divinity. In Him is no possible choice to be or do something other than this. Apart from this we actually have no basis to be saved in Him. He is just as the prophets or other good men were- he is not God and man at once.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#10 Darlene Griffith

Darlene Griffith

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 253 posts

Posted 14 September 2011 - 04:46 PM

One point (so to speak) of the Incarnation is that man, when united with God, also does not sin, even though he has the freedom to sin. Christ proves this by uniting the two natures in Himself and not sinning.

Father,

Could you elaborate on this a bit? I know Calvinists who would stridently disagree, even believing that our very works are "filthy rags." Having worshipped with them for nearly a decade I suppose some of that thinking has not completely unfastened itself from me.

However, to get back to what you say here, it still seems a bit unclear. While in this mortal body, we sin. Thus, the purpose of confession. Now I can understand the proposition that while we are praying and worshipping in the Divine Liturgy we are not sinning at that moment. However, we are not always in that disposition. We live in this world and dirty our feet, and Christ our Lord washes them over and over again through the course of this lifetime. We are not living in a state of perfection, and I do not subscribe to the doctrine of Christian Perfection taught by John Wesley.

So the way I understand it, the way some wise monks have described the process, we fall down and get back up over and over again.

#11 Darlene Griffith

Darlene Griffith

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 253 posts

Posted 14 September 2011 - 04:57 PM

No. It was never possible for our Lord Jesus Christ to have sinned. Freedom of will after all is related to nature and person. Since then Christ as both God and man is sinless He could not sin. I think that we often get this issue confused with the question of God's sovereignty which we make into a theoretical question of might and power rather than related to the Person we are asking the question about.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

Father,

Could you point me to some Fathers of the Church and/or councils that would support what you have said? Please understand, I'm not disagreeing with you, I'd just like more explanation than what you have given here, even though I have no doubt you speak from Holy Tradition. Along this line, when witnessing discussions on this subject (and a myriad of others) among Protestants (a situation I find myself in from time to time), they have various opinions, but more often than not their understanding is separate from Holy Tradition and the Church.

#12 Darlene Griffith

Darlene Griffith

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 253 posts

Posted 14 September 2011 - 05:04 PM

I love our Lord so much more when I think about his loneliness and suffering the night he was arrested. He was human just as we are and he was afraid but he said "Thou will be done." He must have felt temptation just as any other human does but he rose above it. Remember how the devil tempted him in the wilderness where he spent 40 days fasting and praying.

Hebrews 4:15

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has similarly been tested in every way, yet without sin.


Effie, thanks for what you have shared here, but none of what you've said answers my question. Unless perhaps I've overlooked something. That's always a possibility since I can be quite dense at times.

#13 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 14 September 2011 - 05:34 PM

Father,

Could you point me to some Fathers of the Church and/or councils that would support what you have said? Please understand, I'm not disagreeing with you, I'd just like more explanation than what you have given here, even though I have no doubt you speak from Holy Tradition. Along this line, when witnessing discussions on this subject (and a myriad of others) among Protestants (a situation I find myself in from time to time), they have various opinions, but more often than not their understanding is separate from Holy Tradition and the Church.


Darlene,

I wouldn't give an opinion on such a crucial question. The fundamental position of the Church is that if Christ could have sinned then He is clearly not God.

Maybe apart from the angle of God's sovereignty some also come at this from the idea that Christ has truly condescended to our condition. If He fully adopted what is ours then He must have been capable of sinning.

However here lies a fundamental misunderstanding about Christ's incarnation and also of what is truly ours. What is ours and inherent to our human nature is not sin. For this reason Christ adopts the fullness of humanity but without sin at His incarnation. This does not make Him less human precisely because again it is not sin that defines what we really are.

Also though we need to add that Christ does not need to be capable of sinning to know what sin is. Christ as God was already aware of sin on the most profound level before the Incarnation. That after all is a basic logic of the Incarnation, which as explain the Fathers & hymnography, actually arises from the pre-eternal counsel of the Holy Trinity. In other words the pre-ternal Word of God was not lacking in some sort of knowledge of humanity that then necessitates the Incarnation (this would be to ascribe ignorance to God which again is a basic heresy). Rather Christ in His pre-ternal love for man takes on the human condition in its fullness apart from sin (this latter is a universal and ecumenical proclamation of the Church); and then through His Incarnation as Pre-eternal and divine Word He offers salvation and deification to man.

In Christ-Fr Raphael

#14 Anna Stickles

Anna Stickles

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,365 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 14 September 2011 - 05:38 PM

Darlene,

Having also come from a Calvinist background, I would suggest that there is not any simple easy answer that can be given to this question. To really understand is going to take a complete redo of how we understand man's nature, and God's relationship with man, and this takes time. When you talk about how Jesus could have sinned but didn't what you are really describing is the way in which we call the Theotokos sinless. And really Effie is talking about this too. This is one of the reason's we venerate her so highly.

Maybe this will help, Adam could sin because he had the free choice to turn away from God. Part of the very nature of man is to be changeable. But God incarnate is not changeable in this way.

You might want to check out this discussion. It turned toward this topic and Michael has a few quotes that you might find helpful, as well as some good posts by Fr Raphael.

#15 Fr Raphael Vereshack

Fr Raphael Vereshack

    Moderator

  • Moderators
  • 4,420 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member
  • Verified Monastic Cleric

Posted 14 September 2011 - 05:45 PM

When you talk about how Jesus could have sinned but didn't what you are really describing is the way in which we call the Theotokos sinless. And really Effie is talking about this too. This is one of the reason's we venerate her so highly.


That's it exactly! It is absolutely crucial to the Church's teaching that we keep to the fundamental theological difference between Christ's relation to sin as God & man; and that of the Theotokos and the saints. Otherwise without recognizing it we make Him fallen man. And this is to deprive us of the whole reason for His adoption of our humanity in the first place.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

#16 Brian Patrick Mitchell

Brian Patrick Mitchell

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 719 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 14 September 2011 - 06:00 PM

As far as Orthodox theology is concerned the definitive answer is that Christ as God and man could not sin. Not merely that He did not sin as if He could have sinned as man but His divinity did not permit this (or perhaps that His human will is split as is ours between what is good and sinful desires). This is actually heretical for it does not see that Christ's will as human is one and at once in full & free accord with His divine will.

I guess you could say this another way in that Christ's will is not split like ours is as a result of the Fall with the will trying to govern what is unruly and sinful.

In other words Christ could not have sinned because as Incarnate His human will is in full accord with what is of His divinity. In Him is no possible choice to be or do something other than this. Apart from this we actually have no basis to be saved in Him. He is just as the prophets or other good men were- he is not God and man at once.


My concern is that Darlene's question asked whether it were "possible" and implied that if it were not "possible" then there is some natural limit to what God can do that makes His resistance to temptation no great feat, as if He simply doesn't experience temptation the way we do and isn't really tempted as we are. That's why I answered saying (a) Christ was free to sin and (b) Christ did not sin because God does not sin, which I think is a better way of saying things because the English word possible could be used in two different ways to say both yes and no: Yes, it was possible for Christ to sin because He had the freedom and power to do so, but no, it was not possible for Christ to sin because sin is by definition not what God is or does.

That said, it is true that neither Christ's divine will nor His human will needed to deliberate on what to do, doubting what was right and wrong. He did not have what some have called a "gnomic will" deficient in its ability to know right from wrong.

#17 Darlene Griffith

Darlene Griffith

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 253 posts

Posted 14 September 2011 - 06:24 PM

Fr Raphael Vereshack;114086]As far as Orthodox theology is concerned the definitive answer is that Christ as God and man could not sin. Not merely that He did not sin as if He could have sinned as man but His divinity did not permit this (or perhaps that His human will is split as is ours between what is good and sinful desires). This is actually heretical for it does not see that Christ's will as human is one and at once in full & free accord with His divine will.

But if His will is free then doesn't that at least imply that Christ had a choice to sin? Please understand, I ask not out of being disrespectful, but rather to give an answer to Christians who believe our Lord could have sinned. Also, so that I have an answer to satisfy my own longing to understand this matter. Saying such a thing, or even suggesting Christ could sin seems irreverent to me, (though that is not my intention whatsoever), yet I still must ask the question and have an answer.

I guess you could say this another way in that Christ's will is not split like ours is as a result of the Fall with the will trying to govern what is unruly and sinful.

If I understand this properly, would it mean that Christ could only be made like us in that He took on human flesh, so that He hungered, thirsted, was tired, etc., but He did not and could not have the "baggage" that came with it, that is the propensity to sin?

In other words Christ could not have sinned because as Incarnate His human will is in full accord with what is of His divinity. In Him is no possible choice to be or do something other than this. Apart from this we actually have no basis to be saved in Him. He is just as the prophets or other good men were- he is not God and man at once.


This subject has caused me to think about the conception of our Lord in the womb of Mary the Theotokos. Is our Lord's conception within the womb of a virgin a sign, or proof, (not sure what word I'm reaching for here) that it was not possible for Christ to sin? Otherwise, why couldn't He have been conceived within one who was not a virgin? In other words, why was it necessary for Him to be born of a virgin, other than for the reason to fulfill the Scriptures? I've often wondered about this. Because on one hand, the Scriptures say He was made like His brethren in every respect....yet, we know that none of us were born of a virgin. So in that respect He was unique and set apart from us.

How do we address this subject properly without reiterating the heresy of Monophysitism, specifically in the respect that Christ's humanity was absorbed by His deity? It seems to me that we can sound like we're saying that Christ is one person with only one nature, in which that nature is divine and human, and that His human nature was dissolved so that only His Divine nature was in operation.

#18 Darlene Griffith

Darlene Griffith

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 253 posts

Posted 14 September 2011 - 07:00 PM

=Anna Stickles;114095]Darlene,

Having also come from a Calvinist background, I would suggest that there is not any simple easy answer that can be given to this question. To really understand is going to take a complete redo of how we understand man's nature, and God's relationship with man, and this takes time. When you talk about how Jesus could have sinned but didn't what you are really describing is the way in which we call the Theotokos sinless. And really Effie is talking about this too. This is one of the reason's we venerate her so highly.


Dear Anna,

While I have come to love and honor Mary the Theotokos, I do not consider her sinless. She needed a Savior as she rightly proclaims in her magnificat. Thinking Mary to be sinless sounds quite a bit like the RC dogma of the Immaculate Conception. I could even believe that at the Annunciation she was cleansed of sin to be made a pure vessel in which our Lord could dwell. But to believe that she never sinned her entire life...well, I just don't believe it. Only our Lord Jesus Christ was pure and sinless and only He could be the perfect sacrifice for all humanity. Further, if Mary was sinless, that implies that Christ didn't die for her. I cannot even consider such a thing. The Theotokos is part of the human race and not some super human being.

Maybe this will help, Adam could sin because he had the free choice to turn away from God. Part of the very nature of man is to be changeable. But God incarnate is not changeable in this way.

Yet the argument could be made that since Christ was given free will (as Adam was also), this is the way in which He identifies with us. And in that identification, Christ's freedom made it possible for Him to turn away from God as well. Otherwise, what is the point of Christ having a will that is free? Perhaps then we should say Christ's will was not free because it was not possible for Him to exercise that free will. That is, if it was impossible for Christ to succumb to temptation, then it must therefore mean that He did not have a will that was free. Rather, it would seem His will was (constrained)restrained by the Father, therefore not making it possible for Christ to choose good over evil, since the only option He would or ever could choose is the good.

#19 Rdr Daniel (R.)

Rdr Daniel (R.)

    Very Frequent Poster

  • Validating
  • PipPipPipPipPip
  • 704 posts
  • Orthodox Christian Member

Posted 14 September 2011 - 07:09 PM

Dear Darlene,
I thought I would say a few thoughts,

That is, if it was impossible for Christ to succomb to temptation, then it must therefore mean that He did not have a will that was free

But is freedom in the choice or in the saying yes to God where true freedom lies.

Rather, His will was (constrained) restrained by the Father

No beacuse He is God and has the same will as the Father.

Just a thought but when Christ became man He united man to Himself but man before he fell. Now man fell beacuse he chose to sin but if he had not and had united himself to God then he would then not have sinned like in heaven so as Christ is God and where the King is there is the Kingdom so as in Christ the GodMan man is united to God then sin is no longer possible as in heaven. Does that make any sense and also I welcome correction from some one if I am wrong.

#20 Darlene Griffith

Darlene Griffith

    Frequent Poster

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 253 posts

Posted 14 September 2011 - 07:11 PM

That's it exactly! It is absolutely crucial to the Church's teaching that we keep to the fundamental theological difference between Christ's relation to sin as God & man; and that of the Theotokos and the saints. Otherwise without recognizing it we make Him fallen man. And this is to deprive us of the whole reason for His adoption of our humanity in the first place.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael

But what do we make of Mary the Theotokos if we say she never sinned? Then why did she call God her savior? Mary is most blessed of all women and a pure vessel for Christ. But to never have missed the mark, to never have once erred in any respect? Well, I can't accept this. Christ died for Mary His mother as He did for all of humankind, because all humankind, including Mary the Theotokos, needed forgiveness.




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users