Jesus, a sinner?
My friend Paul over at Prodigal offered a recent post in which a couple of folks posited and/or asserted that in order for Jesus to be fully human He would have had to have sinned. I offered a word or two of disagreement, but it got me wondering why in my Eastern Orthodox tradition we view it as being essential that Jesus was sinless and yet it seems that more and more western traditions are entertaining the idea that Jesus’ humanity might, probably did, or even had to include sin. What differences in our thinking account for this?
Now I realize, having been in the ECUSA for a spell that many folks would be willing to affirm a sinning Jesus, but that typically these are the same people who have no qualms in denying a literal resurrection. To them I really have nothing to say on this matter, it has become clear to me that we are apart of two different religions. But, are more theologically "conservative" people coming to affirm a Jesus who might have sinned?
I wonder if the difference may be growing forth from diversified understandings of the nature of humanity, the Incarnation, and our salvation. It may be, I am sad to say, further evidence of the vast religious distance between here and there. But, not an unbridgeable distance I should think.
The claim is made that to be human in some way delivers forth a default “sin” attachment. I suppose I can understand this thinking, for certainly this has been our experience in the world, no? However, in the Orthodox understanding of human nature we do not affirm a “total depravity” or anything akin to it. Rather we uphold a much more positive image of humanity in that our “normal” state of being is just the opposite of sin: it is to be in perfect union with God. This is the Eastern Patristic understanding to be found in Genesis, whereas IMAGE and LIKENESS are recognized as distinct. We have the IMAGE, but must yet grow into the LIKENESS of God. Hence, this is how Adam and Eve were so easily tempted and deceived – they were offered a quick shortcut to what they intrinsically knew to be their “goal” in life. However, in detouring around God in order to become God (this is patristic language folks, not mine so don’t freak out on me!) they do not enter into Light and Life, but instead partake of darkness and death: sin. In so doing, they damage the IMAGE and lose all hope of the LIKENESS. The goal of perfect union with God appears lost and humanity is plunged into the most unnatural state of sin, sickness, suffering, and death – all the “natural” consequences of turning from Him who embodies the ontological reality of the very opposites of these things.
Salvation is, in the Orthodox understanding, a restoration of the IMAGE and LIKENESS to us. We are brought back into the pre-fall state in which we are free to pursue a perfect union with God - to fullfill our LIKENESS. We must be clear about this, in no way can we affirm that it is “normal” for us to sin, that it is “natural” for us to embrace death, or that we ought to capitualate to our love for darkness. The natural and normal state of being for us is to “partake of the Divine Nature” and to be Holy just as He is Holy. Sinlessness IS OUR NATURAL CONDITION. And so to say that Jesus is FULLY human does not in any way necessitate the presence of sin…as I have said, just the opposite is the case. Jesus is FULLY human in the same sense that you and I are probably NOT FULLY human yet.
Let me try my hand at a little human logic and reason…yes, I know, a dangerous game to play – especially in the hands of someone like me. Let me preface with that fact that Jesus’ sinlessness is a revealed truth (I think we could play a scriptural proof text game, but that REALLY bores me these days) fully upheld by the Paradosis (*ding*ding*ding*) of the Church…and so logic and reason can take a seat at the right hand of Paradosis. But for the sake of fun-filled, “damn I want a Whopper”, Lenten argument, consider this:
Jesus is fully human and fully God. Now, I think we can all agree that God cannot sin…I mean I believe I have made my point that sin is anti-God; God sinning makes as much sense as black being white. Now, in the person of the Theoanthropos, how can sin be present? And since I am arguing that sin is not a necessary part of being human, it makes perfect sense, YEA even necceary sense, for Jesus, being both God and Man, to be wholly without sin.
But, it doesn’t end with simple plausibility or even solid hardcore “CSI” proof. With Orthodox theology it never ends, it goes on and on and on…and it will all come back to the beginning and hopefully you’ll say: wow!
More to come…
...offered by Dn. James Ferrenberg, a sinner at 7:25 AM [+]