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Born in sin? Fallen Nature vs. Personal Sin


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#1 Reader Luke

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Posted 30 July 2013 - 12:51 AM

I have a question about our fallen human nature.

 

Most often, the question arises today, about if one is born in sin, more specifically being gay.

 

What I mean, is that, if someone is born fallen as we are, and if they are broken because of their fallen nature, such as being born blind, being born autistic, being born with predisposition to addictions, being born addicted to crack, or even being born homosexual, does that nature, of being blind, or being already addicted, or even being born homosexual mean that person is sinning or has sinned?

 

I know we are all born sinners and born with sinful natures. But for example, the Theotokos was born like the rest of us, but she lacked any personal sin. Or that our Church will give Orthodox funerals to babies who die before their baptism or at a very young age because they are understood to lack personal sin and aren't and cannot sin, but are still fallen.

 

So what about if someone is born with a defect in their psychology? Whether that be a severe handicap such as autism, or whether that be less slight like homosexual attraction, or predisposition to addiction, does that automatically make that person guilty of a sin?

 

Beyond that, and I guess at the heart of my question, is that, for example, are homosexuals sinning just because they are attracted to the same sex, or do they only sin if they act upon that attraction? Are those pre-disposed to alcohol addiction sinning just because they are pre-disposed to addiction, or do they only sin if they act upon that and get drunk and fall into alcoholism?

 

My understanding, which comes from the various Priests I've known, from what I've read and what I've heard, is that I'm led to conclude that the Orthodox Church teaches we are born sinners and fallen, but having a certain nature doesn't actually mean we sin just because we have a tendency to something. So for example, at least as I'm taught, we'd agree with a recently statement by the Pope of Rome in that homosexual acts, thoughts & lusts are sinful, but that people who have a homosexual orientation aren't in sin, though they may be broken.

 

What is the Patristic teaching? I know the typical Augustinian interpretation of sin and inheritance of sin, but what do the rest of the Fathers say? Do we automatically sin by having something broken within us, or are we not guilty of a sin until we commit a thought or action?



#2 Phoebe K.

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Posted 30 July 2013 - 12:21 PM

This is a complex subject, as I understand it we are all born with fallen nature as a result of the fall, the passions and death being the inheritance of the fall. we do not as Augustine suggested that inherent any actual sin only the inclination to it.  I understand the distinction I however cannot remember whether I lurnt it as a theology undergraduate or in catechism.

 

Personal sin is something which requires our action, the sinful inclanation is something we are born with but for it to be a sin we must accept the temptation and them act on it ether in thought or in the world.  our nature as we experience it is fallen and the natural inclinations which pree fall were benine to help us look after ourselves have become disordered and can now lead us to sin.

 

we also need to make a destinctan between disabilitys which can be a blessing and well as a challenge and cannot be equated with sin in any way apart form the falleness of creation due to the sins of humanity.  These are not a reflection on a persons spiritual state, as our Lord himself said when healing the man born blind, that neither he nor his parents had sinned to course the lack of sight.

 

Inclanations to sin such as addictions are in all of us as a result of the fall, this is primarily is an addiction to sinning but can also express in many other forms of additction.  A inclination to wanting sexual relationships with people of the same sex as yourself is not a sin, it is lusting after a pertculer person or doing the act which is a sin, as any sexual act outside of marage is.

 

I hope this hepls and I am shore someone more experneced in the faith will corect me if i have got something wrong in my explanation.

 

Phoebe



#3 Lakis Papas

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Posted 30 July 2013 - 10:32 PM

 
Being a sinner is not the vital problem. Not to seek a way out of this situation is the problem.
 
Romans 6:17-23

But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves of righteousness for holiness.
 
For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 



#4 Reader Luke

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Posted 30 July 2013 - 10:41 PM

 
Being a sinner is not the vital problem. Not to seek a way out of this situation is the problem.
 
Romans 6:17-23

 

 

I can understand that, but seeking a way out for some, would that be seeking a way to overcome it and temptation? Because arguably, alcoholics can never cease being alcoholics, homosexuals can never become heterosexuals. Yet they can live in repentance and resist the temptation, both can live chaste lives.



#5 Rdr Daniel (R.)

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Posted 30 July 2013 - 10:56 PM

I can understand that, but seeking a way out for some, would that be seeking a way to overcome it and temptation? Because arguably, alcoholics can never cease being alcoholics, homosexuals can never become heterosexuals. Yet they can live in repentance and resist the temptation, both can live chaste lives.

We are born fallen and weak to temptation but still in the image and likeness of God, certain genetic factors may predispose us to certain sins more than others but not to the extent which people sometimes attribute. 

 

Alcoholism and homosexuality are learnt behaviours they are not natural ones, they are generally formed sub-consciously as responses to the persons situation especially when young and are in a way coping mechanisms. Due to the way they are formed and the emotional dependency attached to them they are very hard to "let go of" that does not mean it is impossible or that Christ cannot heal them. A important point to make however is that a homosexual is not a homosexual unless he is committing such acts, emotional and sexual feelings do not make someone homosexual, an alcoholic is not an alcoholic when he has his drinking problem under control, applying such labels make it seem imposable for such people to truly be free of such sins, it makes the sins part of them and who they are. A man is not his sins but an image of God however dirty that image may be. 

 

In Christ.

Daniel,


Edited by Daniel R., 30 July 2013 - 10:57 PM.


#6 Lakis Papas

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Posted 30 July 2013 - 11:05 PM

I can understand that, but seeking a way out for some, would that be seeking a way to overcome it and temptation? Because arguably, alcoholics can never cease being alcoholics, homosexuals can never become heterosexuals. Yet they can live in repentance and resist the temptation, both can live chaste lives.

 

We are not called to live with our passions in inactive mode, but to transform them into virtues. This is the point of being a Christian.

 

This is not a self healing process. It is the work of the Spirit.

 

As St Paul said: we should undress the old man and put on the new one.



#7 Lakis Papas

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Posted 30 July 2013 - 11:24 PM

 A important point to make however is that a homosexual is not a homosexual unless he is committing such acts, emotional and sexual feelings do not make someone homosexual, an alcoholic is not an alcoholic when he has his drinking problem under control.

 

I am afraid this is problematic. According to neptic fathers our goal is to remove the passions from our hearts. The external performance of the act is taking place after the consent done internally. When a person say yes to a passion in his heart and refuse to act accordingly, why does he do this ?

 

Our heart is where our treasure is. Split is not the way of life.

 

Temptation is not passion, but engaging in temptation and accepting it as having a legitimate place in our hearts is the foundation of passion.



#8 Reader Luke

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Posted 31 July 2013 - 01:09 AM

The point is, is that homosexuality denotes orientation, it denotes who you are attracted to. Just because you don't commit a homosexual act doesn't mean you cease being homosexual. It isn't a sin to be homosexual, it is a sin to commit homosexual acts.

 

Someone born attracted to the same sex isn't sinning because they are attracted to the same sex. But if they entertain those feelings and act on them (whether by thought or deed), then they sin.

 

Alcoholism is also an illness, not just a sin. So yes, an alcoholic is always an alcoholic because they have an illness that will not go away. I know at least one alcoholic who cannot receive the body of Christ because of his alcoholism. I know of other alcoholics who can never drink alcohol again, even though they are completely sober, they still suffer from their alcoholism.

 

I can be naturally attracted to blondes. That doesn't make me a sinner or mean I sin by being so inclined. If I decide to sin because of that attraction, then it's wrong. But who you are psychologically attracted to isn't a sin.


Edited by Devin B., 31 July 2013 - 01:14 AM.


#9 Lakis Papas

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Posted 31 July 2013 - 08:53 AM

I really do not understand this view. Orthodoxy is not about a state of inaction.
 
Orientation and action are different, but we have been instructed to clean our hearts. This command refers to our sinfull orientations.
 
Our struggle is about gaining a pure heart, throught ascesis. Ascetic life has the purpose of changing our orientation. The acquisition of orthodox spirit is our goal. This means that we are trying to transform ourselves in Spirit. Our orientation becomes spiritual. Our passions are rendered less distinct and eventually are transformed into virtues. Ιt takes time for all this, but sinful orientation is not acceptable.
 
Refraining from committing sin is an essential piece of the ascetic effort against our passionate orientations. But we must not stop there. This is the start. The main struggle is the purification of our heart, which is not compatible with sinful orientations.
 
Having sinful orientation is a sin! Not in the sense of the practical application of sin, but in the sense of impure heart. Besides, the act of sin is condemned not because it causes damage, nor because it breaks a rule, but because it confirms an impure heart with sinful orientation. In that respect the act of sin is the symptom of wickedness that exists in our hearts. We first treat the symptom, by stopping doing sin. Then, we treat the disease of sin that is in our heart as a specific passion, as a sinful orientation.


#10 Owen Jones

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Posted 31 July 2013 - 01:32 PM

Lakis is exactly right.  It is important to recognize that God wants us to completely reorient our lives, our conscious minds (and this actually includes what we call the subconscious as well) and our desires toward Him in all things.  This is our true, "natural," state.  The unnatural state is when our thoughts and desires are oriented to a lesser object -- not just an evil object but any lesser object.  That's really what the 1st Commandment is all about.

 

Ascetic practices are the means to do this.  They are not the means of salvation per se.  They are given to us for the purpose of eliminating self-delusion.  One should not have to arrive at theosis to be able to state these things simply and clearly.  I only say that lest someone here might think that I actually demonstrate this in all my affairs.  I do not.  That does not mean that I should rationalize my false and perverted, unnatural desires as somehow things that I was born with and can do nothing about.  I believe that Orthodoxy recognizes this by not having such a dogmatic formulation such as "original sin." 

 

Interestingly, if you examine the New Testament and the Church Fathers, there is very little said about sodomy, or the syndrome, if you will, associated with it.  It is referred to by the Fathers as the sin with no name.  They are trying to be discreet and not resort to unseemly characterizations.  But the teaching of the Church has always been clear on this.  The act is a sin, oral copulation is a sin, but the thoughts and rationalizations that lead up to them are equally at fault. 

 

One of the problems with contemporary "religion" is that it really does not focus on the inner man.  Only on his beliefs and outward actions.  Orthodoxy is really the science of the inner man.



#11 Reader Luke

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Posted 31 July 2013 - 03:45 PM

Do you two REALLY think that the spiritual goal of homosexuals is to become heterosexuals? No, I hope you don't because its absolutely impossible.

Being attracted to women as a man isn't a sin. Neither is being attracted to the same sex, it's no more of a sin than being born addicted to crack. The sin only lays in the action.

You can never make a homosexual into a heterosexual. You can never make someone addicted to crack not addicted to it. You can never make an alcoholic be able to freely drink alcohol in moderation again.

The call of the Church is to sobriety and to chasteness. Look at Fr Seraphim Rose, he was a homosexual. Do you think he ever became a heterosexual man? No... He probably still felt an attraction to other men, but he fought it and stayed chaste and directed his energy toward God and fought his temptations.

We aren't all called to monasticism, so that lifestyle is less relevant to those who are to be married. But homosexuals can never marry their own sex. Thus they are called to chastity. But they are NOT called to try to change to become heterosexuals.


If I looks at a woman and think she is pretty, and even want to date her, that is NOT a sin. But if I go beyond that and entertain lustful thoughts, then I'm sinning. Same for homosexuals, they can't alter their attraction/orientation, they will always be attracted to the same sex, but they can and should fight lustful thoughts.

Edited by Devin B., 31 July 2013 - 03:49 PM.


#12 Anna Stickles

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Posted 31 July 2013 - 04:51 PM

I think a careful reading of posts #9 and #10 shows that Lakis and Owen are both saying that our orientation becomes spiritual, Godward. This is something different then the orientation of our desire being primarily toward men or toward women.  It is neither a homosexual nor heterosexual orientation,  but rather the desire is oriented toward God. 



#13 Owen Jones

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Posted 31 July 2013 - 06:42 PM

The trend is to say that homosexuality is unique, or falls into a unique class, so that even if you are a Christian who operates from a concept of sin and redemption from sin, homosexuality because of its unique class simply doesn't fall into the same category as other sins.  But that's not the case.  Homosexuality is treated like any other sin, most of which we struggle with on an ongoing basis, and not something that just goes poof (if you'll forgive the pun).  So I don't see why homosexuals are supposed to get a pass (no pun intended), when my sins are different in terms of the action or object but otherwise involve exactly the same dynamic.  Paul sums it all up quite nicely.  (St. Paul that is).  I don't do what I should and keep doing what I shouldn't. 



#14 Reader Luke

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Posted 31 July 2013 - 06:59 PM

The trend is to say that homosexuality is unique, or falls into a unique class, so that even if you are a Christian who operates from a concept of sin and redemption from sin, homosexuality because of its unique class simply doesn't fall into the same category as other sins.  But that's not the case.  Homosexuality is treated like any other sin, most of which we struggle with on an ongoing basis, and not something that just goes poof (if you'll forgive the pun).  So I don't see why homosexuals are supposed to get a pass (no pun intended), when my sins are different in terms of the action or object but otherwise involve exactly the same dynamic.  Paul sums it all up quite nicely.  (St. Paul that is).  I don't do what I should and keep doing what I shouldn't. 

 

 

I don't think you understand what I'm saying. Being heterosexual isn't a sin. Being homosexual isn't a sin. But, being a heterosexual and entertaining sexual lusts and thoughts IS a sin. Same for homosexuals, being a homosexal and entertaining sexual lusts and thoughts IS a sin. But, heterosexuals can marry, and live a holy life in marriage. However, homosexuals cannot marry, and must live a life of chastity. To expect homosexuals to somehow cease being attracted to the same sex is ridiculously stupid. To expect them to live chaste lives and to combat sexual lusts is exactly what our Church expects.

 

Like I said, look at Fr. Seraphim Rose. He was a homosexual. That doesn't mean he was sinning just by being a homosexual. Yet, he fought against his temptations. He may have still been attracted to other men, but he fought against any temptations or lusts that may have come from his orientation.



#15 Owen Jones

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Posted 31 July 2013 - 08:33 PM

I get your point, Devin.  My comments were not intended exactly or specifically in response to yours or to contradict the specific point you make above.  Although in practice in the real world I think it tends to be a bit more complicated than you make out.  So let me just go for broke.  I would argue that there is something about "being a homosexual" that is indeed sinful in the sense that it is an unnatural state or condition to be in, as long as we understand the proper Orthodox teaching on what sin is.  There may be parallels with alcoholism.  So your argument I suppose would be that "being an alcoholic" is not a sin.  But what does it mean to be an alcoholic?  An alcoholic is a person who actually cannot manage alcohol.  Ever.  At least based on the current state of medicine.  There is no treatment or cure for that condition.  A person with an alcholic mind cannot resist the temptation to drink.  A person with a sober mind can.  In fact, he is not even tempted.  But he still remains an alcoholic because if he chooses to drink, he will have the same reaction.  I do not think the exact same things apply to homosexuality.  I suppose you could argue at least in theory that a homosexual who takes the right spiritual approach to his condition -- which never really goes away -- would not have to live in fear of being tempted.  There are such cases.  Is this what you are saying.

 

By the way, it is no longer true that homosexuals cannot marry.  There are many places in which they can, legally, be married by the state and there are plenty of churches willing to marry them, and it is probably just a matter of time before more states jump in and legalize it.  In the not too distant future, a homosexual couple is going to visit my priest and ask him to marry them.  He will (hopefully) refuse.  At which point he will be sued, the Church and its parish council will be sued, and the priest may even be arrested for a hate crime. 

 

Regarding Orthodoxy and birth, it is not correct to say that we are born sinners.  At least to my knowledge.  If I am wrong, I stand corrected.  So going back to your original post, I agree with Lakis that the orientation is still a sin.  We try to avoid chicken or the egg arguments in Orthodoxy and just deal with the problem as it presents itself. 



#16 Reader Luke

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Posted 31 July 2013 - 09:29 PM

I get your point, Devin.  My comments were not intended exactly or specifically in response to yours or to contradict the specific point you make above.  Although in practice in the real world I think it tends to be a bit more complicated than you make out.  So let me just go for broke.  I would argue that there is something about "being a homosexual" that is indeed sinful in the sense that it is an unnatural state or condition to be in, as long as we understand the proper Orthodox teaching on what sin is.  There may be parallels with alcoholism.  So your argument I suppose would be that "being an alcoholic" is not a sin.  But what does it mean to be an alcoholic?  An alcoholic is a person who actually cannot manage alcohol.  Ever.  At least based on the current state of medicine.  There is no treatment or cure for that condition.  A person with an alcholic mind cannot resist the temptation to drink.  A person with a sober mind can.  In fact, he is not even tempted.  But he still remains an alcoholic because if he chooses to drink, he will have the same reaction.  I do not think the exact same things apply to homosexuality.  I suppose you could argue at least in theory that a homosexual who takes the right spiritual approach to his condition -- which never really goes away -- would not have to live in fear of being tempted.  There are such cases.  Is this what you are saying.

 

By the way, it is no longer true that homosexuals cannot marry.  There are many places in which they can, legally, be married by the state and there are plenty of churches willing to marry them, and it is probably just a matter of time before more states jump in and legalize it.  In the not too distant future, a homosexual couple is going to visit my priest and ask him to marry them.  He will (hopefully) refuse.  At which point he will be sued, the Church and its parish council will be sued, and the priest may even be arrested for a hate crime. 

 

Regarding Orthodoxy and birth, it is not correct to say that we are born sinners.  At least to my knowledge.  If I am wrong, I stand corrected.  So going back to your original post, I agree with Lakis that the orientation is still a sin.  We try to avoid chicken or the egg arguments in Orthodoxy and just deal with the problem as it presents itself. 

 

The thing is, temptation isn't a sin. If you entertain that temptation it's a sin. So an alcoholic who is tempted to go drink, but who doesn't go drink, has done well, and hasn't sinned. Same for a homosexual, if a homosexual is tempted to go sleep with another person, but they don't, they have resisted the temptation and haven't committed any sin. A person with an alcoholic mind can resist the temptation, but it is much harder for them, and they can't drink, because once they do, they give in. So if they think about drinking, but don't, they've committed no wrong.

 

Also, it is very true that homosexuals cannot marry, because secular marriage between homosexuals isn't marriage in the eyes of the church.

 

I would say we are "born sinners" in the sense of being born with a tendency to sin. But we haven't committed any sin when we are born, and we don't inherit any sin. 

 

The homosexual orientation cannot be a sin,  because it is something they are born with, it is their psychological orientation. It's no different than you or I being attracted to girls, as men. But the difference is that they can't marry, we can. We have a choice between celibate lives or married lives, their only choice is celibacy (unless they marry someone of the opposite sex, even though they aren't attracted to them).

 

Being born broken and fallen doesn't make one's "nature" a sin. This applies to homosexuality, which, a person, being born homosexual, is in no more sin than a baby born addicted to crack.

 

I think we agree, for the most part. But being someone who has a lot of gay friends, and knowing that most of them were that way from childhood/birth, I know that just being homosexuals, they are in no sin. It is when they entertain those feelings. Like my heterosexual friends, who are in no sin for being heterosexual, but once they start lusting, and start sleeping around, then they commit a sin. If I look at a girl and think she is pretty, I've committed no sin. If I look at a man and think he's handsome, I've committed no sin. When I turn that feeling into sexual feelings or thoughts, or actions, then I've committed a sin and given into temptation.



#17 Rdr Andreas

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Posted 31 July 2013 - 09:58 PM

we don't inherit any sin. 

 

Presumably, this is meant in the sense that we do not inherit guilt from Adam.  We are, however, subject to the consequences by way of ancestral sin as I believe the Orthodox position to be.



#18 Lakis Papas

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Posted 31 July 2013 - 10:27 PM

First Ι feel that I must clarify that salvation also involves homosexuals, all people will be judged by God. Thank God, glory to merciful God. It is not our job to judge others.
 
Fathers teach that sin is anything that binds and blocks the Grace to transform me into a saint. This is happening both in doing sin and in willing to sin; committing the sinful act is more serious than the mere desire for it. So, first I need to see clearly what is blocking Grace. This proccess is called repentance. I need to see inside me, in my heart, to find what passions are there. In my effort, the Spirit of God is a helper that illuminates my inner self to reveal the pathogenesis in my heart. Then, as I become aware of my passions, the Spirit of God helps me to replace them with analogous virtues - through a spiritual guide who determines the ascetic means for catharsis. In the end of this transformation process the original beauty of the image of God is restored in my heart.
 
A question was asked in a previous post: "Do you two REALLY think that the spiritual goal of homosexuals is to become heterosexuals?" Let me answer by saying that the spiritual goal of homosexuals (of all persons for that matter) is to see the clear image of God that is inscribed in their hearts. But a clear image view  requires to clean the heart from the dirt of passions. Fathers say that when a person take awareness of the beauty of God's image in his/her heart, then this person is led to heartbreaking and absolute repentance. So, catharsis leads to even greater repentance. 
 
Maybe some do not manage to complete the process of cleansing, for various reasons. Some will do. For those who succeed, the answer for the above question is yes. For those who do not, their authentic incomplete effort is enough for them to be accepted by the mercy of God and be forgiven.  


#19 Lakis Papas

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Posted 31 July 2013 - 10:42 PM

The thing is, temptation isn't a sin. If you entertain that temptation it's a sin. So an alcoholic who is tempted to go drink, but who doesn't go drink, has done well, and hasn't sinned. Same for a homosexual, if a homosexual is tempted to go sleep with another person, but they don't, they have resisted the temptation and haven't committed any sin. A person with an alcoholic mind can resist the temptation, but it is much harder for them, and they can't drink, because once they do, they give in. So if they think about drinking, but don't, they've committed no wrong.

 

The homosexual orientation cannot be a sin,  because it is something they are born with, it is their psychological orientation. It's no different than you or I being attracted to girls, as men. But the difference is that they can't marry, we can. We have a choice between celibate lives or married lives, their only choice is celibacy (unless they marry someone of the opposite sex, even though they aren't attracted to them).

 

I think we agree, for the most part. But being someone who has a lot of gay friends, and knowing that most of them were that way from childhood/birth, I know that just being homosexuals, they are in no sin. It is when they entertain those feelings. Like my heterosexual friends, who are in no sin for being heterosexual, but once they start lusting, and start sleeping around, then they commit a sin. If I look at a girl and think she is pretty, I've committed no sin. If I look at a man and think he's handsome, I've committed no sin. When I turn that feeling into sexual feelings or thoughts, or actions, then I've committed a sin and given into temptation.

 

It looks like you describing homosexuality as a birth generated mental condition/disorder. Do you?  



#20 Owen Jones

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Posted 31 July 2013 - 11:27 PM

Being attracted sexually to the same sex is different than being attracted sexually to the opposite sex.  One may assert that there is no difference, based on the current social environment, but that doesn't mean it's what the Church teaches.  It's a condition in opposition to the purpose for which we were created.  Actually, the ideal is to be celibate and chaste and dedicate ourselves to God, body and mind.  But as St. Paul says, if you cannot avoid fornication, it is better to marry.  The problem for homosexuals is not that they are barred from being married by the Orthodox Church.  The problem is their same sex orientation.  That's not going to be mended by the Church being willing to marry them. 

 

By describing a certain state of mind, inner disposition, attraction, etc. as sinful does not, by the way, equate with condemnation.   Could it be that you are looking for a way not to condemn your friends by coming up with a rationale for homosexuality, rather coming to a proper understanding of what the Church teaches on the nature of sin.  Sin is a diagnostic tool that the Church uses, not a condemnation. 






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