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


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#21 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 07:13 PM

We use the term "sinless" in regard to the Theotokos to mean that we believe that she consciously chose NOT to sin, not that she was uniquely "immaculate" in the Roman term, but then there are respected Orthodox who say that we are ALL born "immaculately" in the Roman sense because we are, none of us, GUILTY of Adam's sin. Which means that in that sense the Theotokos was NOT unique in condition. So we can say that the Theotokos was indeed sinless, even if she shared our fallen condition.

Another term for sin is to be something other than what God intended. How can God not do what God intends to do? If God is the "mark", how can God possibly miss that mark?

Little thoughts from a bear of little brain
Herman the Pooh

#22 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 07:15 PM

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

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.

Daniel, I have no idea what point you are trying to make here. Perhaps you could clarify just a bit.

#23 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 07:18 PM

Sorry Darlene, What I mean is if Adam had not sinned and had been united to God like the saints in heaven, then he would not then after have choose to sin. So as Christ united the nature of man to Himself then as it is united to God then his human will would not choose to sin. Also I think Herman's point that God could not miss the mark sound good.

#24 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 07:49 PM

Brian Patrick Mitchell;114098]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.

Father Brian, that's it exactly. That's the argument I hear from Protestants. They say things such as if Christ was not really tempted so that it were possible for Him to sin, then He can't really relate to me and therefore cannot be a true high priest who overcame evil and resisted temptation. His suffering and temptation from Satan can only be meaningful in the context that Christ had two options laid before Him. 1) He could be obedient to His Heavenly Father and His calling and resist evil and overcome sin victoriously. Or 2) He could have been disobedient to His Heavenly Father and His calling thereby sinning and being overcome by the Evil One. As far as many Protestants are concerned, if there are not two options, then the temptations Christ overcame and His sufferings are meaningless/pointless, if the end result could only be number 1.

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.


And that's why I asked you if the answer is a paradox. Sort of like the question, can God make a rock so big that He cannot lift it? Yes He can but no He can't. Well, can He or not? I suppose even the asking of the question can be unarguable (or pointless to argue) when looking at it in this respect. Because the nature to this paradox is, well...paradoxical. The answer is an answer, but isn't an answer at the same time.

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.

Ok, now we're getting somewhere. So, when Christ was faced with pure evil, such as when Satan tempted Him, He instinctively knew to resist Him and there was not even a miniscule thought to do otherwise. There weren't two options laid before Him in which He had to make a decision. I hope I'm understanding this properly. So, how would Christ "growing in wisdom and stature" relate to His ability to always choose good? If Christ did not have a gnomic will, what sort of will did He have?

#25 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 08:38 PM

So, when Christ was faced with pure evil, such as when Satan tempted Him, He instinctively knew to resist Him and there was not even a miniscule thought to do otherwise. There weren't two options laid before Him in which He had to make a decision. I hope I'm understanding this properly. So, how would Christ "growing in wisdom and stature" relate to His ability to always choose good? If Christ did not have a gnomic will, what sort of will did He have?


Christ knew exactly and exhaustively who was tempting Him and what the temptation entailed. He knew better than we do how He would suffer in the body and how much pain He would feel and did feel, and this knowledge did trouble His humanity to the point where he wept at the death of Lazarus and sweated blood in the garden. So he truly felt fear, ached with hunger, and shivered in the cold. What he didn't do is shrink from doing the right thing because of such suffering.

He didn't shrink from doing the right thing because He was God, but being also fully man He demonstrated for us that nothing that He did is beyond man when man is likewise united to God through Him. All men are also able to suffer and not sin inasmuch as they unite themselves to Christ. They can even perform all of the miracles Christ performed if they have enough faith to unite them to Christ. All such things are within the range of human power when we are one with God.

Thus we cannot blame our human nature and its weaknesses for our sin. We cannot excuse our sins as natural to us. We cannot live as we see brute beasts living, preying upon each other in a desperate struggle for survival. We are meant for greater things, which we can only achieve by uniting ourselves to Christ and imitating Him.

#26 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 08:49 PM

I just realized that I put this question in the wrong thread. It should be in the Christology section. Is there some way it can be moved?

Moderator's note: The thread has been moved.

Edited by Herman Blaydoe, 14 September 2011 - 08:52 PM.
Added note


#27 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 11:02 PM

My husband asked "Why was it necessary for Christ to suffer temptation if there was no possibility to sin?" In other words, why is there a challenge if there is no possibility to lose? Or, how can there be victory if there is no possibility to lose? Winning requires a battle that must first take place in which one of the opponents will necessarily lose. In this case, we can say that the battle was between Jesus Christ and Satan. Was the battle pre-ordained to be won by Christ before His incarnation? If so, did our Lord know that He was going to be victorious over the devil when His earthly ministry began? Did God the Father know that His Son would be victorious over sin? Somehow I wonder if the verse in Revelation 13:8 doesn't apply here when it mentions Christ being slain "from the foundation of the earth."

#28 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 11:39 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.

This comment made me think about something further. In speaking of the Holy Trinity you say, "three persons of one nature and one will." I know that Christ Incarnate had two natures, human and divine. Did He have one will? This is probably an elementary question, but I think it has everything to do with this subject. I would say that Christ only had one will as He said, "My will is to do the will of Him who sent me." I don't think one could describe Christ's stuggles in the same way that St. Paul describes his in Romans 7. The apostle's struggle is between his flesh and spirit, his old Adam and new Adam. Jesus had no old nature/old Adam that was intrinsic to His being.

And yet, in the garden of Gethsemene our Lord went through such an intense struggle that he sweat drops of blood. What was the nature of this struggle? Was Christ going through some inner conflict in which the destiny of humankind hung in the balances, contingent upon whether or not Christ would be obedient to the Father's will? Was there any question as to whether or not Christ would willingly be crucified for the sins of the world?

#29 Herman Blaydoe

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Posted 14 September 2011 - 11:53 PM

Christ shows us what can be accomplished when we keep our will in harmony with God. Christ's human will was in perfect harmony with His Divine will. In as much as we strive to hit the mark and be in harmony with God, we too can resist temptation and avoid sin. It is when we decide to go it alone, to do it ourselves, to think that we do not need God that we start missing the mark.

#30 Bryan J. Maloney

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 12:19 AM

If Christ could have sinned because he was fully man in addition to being fully God, then man is more powerful than God.

#31 Anna Stickles

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 01:05 AM

Darlene,

In Orthodox theology, personal sin, and sinfulness as inherited from the fall are not the same. And what is inherited from the Fall is far, far more then simply a propensity to sin. Sin in the sense of what is inherited from the Fall includes the whole set of things often labeled corruption. A person can suffer from these things unwillingly and though they are suffering, yet if it is unwilling, it is not sin. So we say that the Theotokos suffered from the state of corruption that we are all in but had no personal sin. There is a subtlety here that is totally missed in PC theology.

But the Church puts Jesus on a whole other level.

#32 Father David Moser

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 01:32 AM

In speaking of the Holy Trinity you say, "three persons of one nature and one will." I know that Christ Incarnate had two natures, human and divine. Did He have one will? This is probably an elementary question,


The God/man Jesus Christ had two wills - the Divine will and the human will, which was completely in sympathy with the Divine. This question was "asked and answered" at the 6th Ecumenical Council (680-681) which condemned the monthelite heresy which taught that although Christ had two natures, He had only one will. The Council affirmed that because He had two natures, He must also have two wills as to think otherwise would make the human nature of Christ less than human (so He would be "fully God" but not "fully man").

Fr David Moser

#33 Darlene Griffith

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 02:12 AM

The God/man Jesus Christ had two wills - the Divine will and the human will, which was completely in sympathy with the Divine. This question was "asked and answered" at the 6th Ecumenical Council (680-681) which condemned the monthelite heresy which taught that although Christ had two natures, He had only one will. The Council affirmed that because He had two natures, He must also have two wills as to think otherwise would make the human nature of Christ less than human (so He would be "fully God" but not "fully man").

Fr David Moser

Thank you so much, Father! I need to start reading those councils in depth. I had never really even pondered this matter before discussing this subject. So, now I know. Again, thank you.

#34 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 02:21 AM

And yet, in the garden of Gethsemene our Lord went through such an intense struggle that he sweat drops of blood. What was the nature of this struggle? Was Christ going through some inner conflict in which the destiny of humankind hung in the balances, contingent upon whether or not Christ would be obedient to the Father's will? Was there any question as to whether or not Christ would willingly be crucified for the sins of the world?


There was no internal struggle in the garden or at any other time, and there was no question of whether Christ would willingly suffer, because the actor in this case was the Person of the Son, who exercised both His human will and the divine will He shared with the Father and the Spirit. But Christ's humanity did feel the strain of His exercise of will. The human body and the human psyche naturally respond in certain ways to certain stimuli. Dread, for instance, is a natural response to an anticipated pain, with both physical and mental effects, but suffering these effects doesn't necessarily challenge our determination to endure the anticipated pain.

Remember that Christ's body was a very real human body, not just something that looked human. It had naturally human limitations. Christ accepted these limitations. He didn't go around like Superman leaping tall buildings in a single bound. This is why it was necessary for Christ as a child to "grow in wisdom and stature." The divine mind is omniscient, but the human mind is limited by its size. It can only manage so much information at the same time. Thus as Christ's mind and body grew, they became more useful to Him.

#35 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 02:32 AM

My husband asked "Why was it necessary for Christ to suffer temptation if there was no possibility to sin?" In other words, why is there a challenge if there is no possibility to lose? Or, how can there be victory if there is no possibility to lose? Winning requires a battle that must first take place in which one of the opponents will necessarily lose. In this case, we can say that the battle was between Jesus Christ and Satan. Was the battle pre-ordained to be won by Christ before His incarnation? If so, did our Lord know that He was going to be victorious over the devil when His earthly ministry began? Did God the Father know that His Son would be victorious over sin? Somehow I wonder if the verse in Revelation 13:8 doesn't apply here when it mentions Christ being slain "from the foundation of the earth."


Again, the problem is what we mean by "possibility." But winning does not in fact require the possibility of the victor's defeat. When contending forces are greatly unequal, we might say there's "no contest," but what we mean is that the result is not in doubt, not that the result is not victory for one side and defeat for the other.

#36 Effie Ganatsios

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 05:47 AM

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.


Darlene, you are certainly not dense, I just did not make myself clear.

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.


The Orthodox Study Bible explains the above : "Christ's empathy with sinners rests on His being tempted in every way we are.

He is both Priest and King. He does not sin; His sacrifice is the human sacrifice of Himself and His perfect priesthood continues in the Church to this day."

Father Vereshack, I believe, has already explained this.

Romans 8 3:4


For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh,[a] God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Orthodox Bible Study Book

8:3,4
"The law of Moses failed because of the weakness of human nature. The term "sinful flesh" does not imply our nature is inherently sinful, but that our flesh has become corrupt and given over to all manner of sin (see 7:17).

Christ fulfilled both the law and human nature by becoming flesh Himself. Christ [B]did not sin
for He came in the likeness of our sinfulness, but did not succumb to it. In doing so, he condemned sin itself, destroying its power over mankind. In Christ, human nature has final victory over sin. "

We need to ask ourselves : what is sin? Isn't it going against the commandments of God. Can you honestly believe that our Lord did this?

"SIN literally means "to miss the mark." (Aristotle : Poetics). As Saint Paul writes, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). We sin when we pervert what God has given us as good, falling short of His purposes for us. Our sins separate us from God (Isaiah 59:1,2), leaving us spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1). To save us, the Son of God assumed our humanity, and being without sin, "He condemned sin in the flesh" (Romans 8:3). In His mercy, God forgives our sins when we confess them and turn from them, giving us strength to overcome sin in our lives. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

http://www.protomart...rg/believe.html



Greek αμαρτια = miss the mark (archery + Aristotle). But, "in the Bible hamartia is the Greek word used to denote "sin."[4] Bible translators may reach this conclusion, according to T. C. W. Stinton, because another common interpretation of hamartia can be seen as a “moral deficit” or a “moral error” (Stinton 221). R. D. Dawe disagrees with Stinton’s view when he points out in some cases hamartia can even mean to not sin (Dawe 91). "

(h)amartitos means "he who is without sin"
(h) amartia means sin

"One of the most important words is ἁμαρτία and its kindred forms, in which sin is viewed as missing the mark, “coming short of the glory of God.” In παραβαίνω (parabeno), we see sin as transgression, characterizing sin as a breaking of moral law and a turning from the perfect will of God. In παράπτωμα (paraptoma) , sin is viewed as a fall. In παρακούω (parakouo) there is a picture of sin in the light of failing to listen to God, with open and flagrant disobedience being the result of this failure. The verb ἀδικέω (adiko) and its kindred words point to sin as being unrighteous, unjust, void of God’s approval, and contrary to the holy character of God. ᾿Ασεβέω (asebeo) defines sin as rebelling against God, open and active sinning in defiance of God and His judgement."

Christ was the son of God. He would not be capable of sinning.

If He was and did, then what we believe is just a film or a mist with nothing solid under it.

#37 Antonios

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 07:54 AM

And yet, in the garden of Gethsemene our Lord went through such an intense struggle that he sweat drops of blood. What was the nature of this struggle? Was Christ going through some inner conflict in which the destiny of humankind hung in the balances, contingent upon whether or not Christ would be obedient to the Father's will? Was there any question as to whether or not Christ would willingly be crucified for the sins of the world?


I think there was indeed inner conflict in Christ Jesus in the garden of Gethsamane. It was His human fear of pain which He overcame and healed by aligning His human will with the divine will of the Father. From that point on, nowhere in Scripture is there any sign of Christ skirmishing from threats and from physical violence or avoiding the suffering that lay ahead. Even up to the point of sheer human exhaustion, stumbling with the Cross on the path to Golgotha, requiring a bystander to come and carry the Cross the remainder of the way.

To the point of collapsing from reaching the limits of his human strength did He follow the will of God, not dissuaded by the pain, for He had destroyed the fear of pain in the garden and the power it had over humankind, for once and for all.

Likewise, His final crying out 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?' was not for show. He did not speak the psalm of David in order to fulfill a prophecy, but rather, the psalm is a prophecy precisely because it foretells Christological truths. It was what He truly felt, what His human nature was experiencing, which was namely the abandonment of God. The fear now no longer in the anticipation and experience of physical pain, that long overcome, but now the fear of death and separation from God.

Again, in usual Christ-like fashion, as only the Son of God could do, He overcame this fear and doubt and healed it, destroying death and breaking open the locks of Hades. In faith and assurance, crying out loudly 'Into your hands I commend my spirit!', then bowing His head down, saying 'It is finished'.

And with this, the earth shook!

And the centurion said 'Truly this man was the Son of God!'

Edited by Antonios, 15 September 2011 - 08:14 AM.


#38 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 02:58 PM

Likewise, His final crying out 'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?' was not for show. He did not speak the psalm of David in order to fulfill a prophecy, but rather, the psalm is a prophecy precisely because it foretells Christological truths. It was what He truly felt, what His human nature was experiencing, which was namely the abandonment of God. The fear now no longer in the anticipation and experience of physical pain, that long overcome, but now the fear of death and separation from God.


He didn't quote the psalm to fulfill prophecy; He quoted the psalm to make the connection between the prophecy and Himself, to show us that He is the fulfillment of the prophecy. He was never separated from God. How could he be? He was Himself God.

Edited by Brian Patrick Mitchell, 15 September 2011 - 03:18 PM.


#39 Brian Patrick Mitchell

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 03:17 PM

I think there was indeed inner conflict in Christ Jesus in the garden of Gethsamane. It was His human fear of pain which He overcame and healed by aligning His human will with the divine will of the Father. From that point on, nowhere in Scripture is there any sign of Christ skirmishing from threats and from physical violence or avoiding the suffering that lay ahead.


There was never at time when fear or dread caused uncertainty in Christ or made Him shrink from obeying the Father. He kept Himself from danger while He still had work to do; when His time came, He faced the danger and gave Himself up to it.

#40 Fr Raphael Vereshack

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Posted 15 September 2011 - 03:22 PM

Fr Dn Brian wrote:

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.


Greetings Father!

I could sense that this was where the original question was coming from. The idea that since God is all powerful and sovereign then why is not everything possible to Him? Connected to this as you point out is also the question of how can we maintain that Christ is really of us if He is not tempted as we are.

These are indeed very powerful questions and I don't suggest treating them lightly. But I would say that what God can or cannot do is not bound by limitation as it usually is for us. Rather as it relates to Christ being able to sin, this is much more a question of Who Christ is as God and man. Seen in this way if we say that Christ does not sin, then this does not refer to some limitation on His part but rather to Who He is. In other words it is not possible for Christ to sin because He is by nature sinless. From this then it is wrong to say that He has the freedom and power to sin, since not only is Christ sinless, but also there is no potential in Christ- instead He is Who He is.

As to the second question of Christ experiencing our condition. Note that the way the original question was put: "was it ever possible for our Lord Jesus Christ to have sinned?" and 'does Christ experience temptation the way we do?' are not exactly the same question. If by 'experience temptation' we mean 'in a sinful manner', then this is most impossible for the reasons stated above. But if we mean that Christ experiences sin in a sinless manner then that's something else entirely. After all He did die on the Cross and directly experience death which is the fruit of sin. Many Fathers even comment that this experience of His Passion was achieved in a cosmic sense. So then Christ does experience and know of what afflicts us. This is a vital aspect of His love for us.

What we must avoid in this however is any idea that Christ's fully taking on our condition means that He must also have experienced our life in a sinful manner. Our life after all is a matter of life and not death and so Christ came to bring us life- indeed His life. In this sense then we go full circle to the above explanation that Christ could not experience what assails us except in a manner that leads to life- not death.

But anyway isn't there in some of what is put forward nowadays, about Christ sharing with us, the idea that sharing in itself is redeeming? But I think not- instead what Christ comes to share with us is His life, ie something specific and also that inevitably asks something of us.

In Christ-
Fr Raphael




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