You Are Not Your Sin



Shame is powerful. Having begun writing on the topic, it is important to say more. The Tradition, particularly in the texts that discuss the spiritual life, contains many references to shame. In recent times, it has become a topic within the field of psychology and in the community surrounding recovery from drugs and alcohol. Strangely, it has been largely neglected in spiritual writing, even among the Orthodox. I am not surprised at this neglect. The centuries-long use of the legal/forensic model of the Christian spiritual life, not actually native to the Christian East, has a history of using shame as a means of moral engagement. The assumption has been that, if an individual feels sufficiently bad about something, they will be motivated to change. It seems to make sense. However, it’s not a true assumption, and the damage such an understanding can do is enormous. Thus, it is not surprising that many Christians in our contemporary world shy away from dealing with shame, assuming it to be nothing more than an artifact of a moralistic, censoring Christianity.

An added problem is that the legal/forensic worldview has so dominated the spiritual landscape (including several centuries within Orthodoxy itself) that many people assume a text to be using that worldview when it speaks of shame and the like. The criticism I have received from some Orthodox writers for my dismissal of the moralistic framework is a testimony to how prevalent this worldview remains. But it would be tragic to let several centuries of error destroy our ability to appropriate and understand the riches of our spiritual inheritance. Shame has not disappeared (and will not) even when moralistic thinking does. The sexual revolution and moral relativism within our culture have done nothing to remove shame. There are certainly public behaviors that appear “shameless” by earlier standards, but the existential and psychological problems of shame have not been altered in the least. Shame is not a cultural phenomenon – it is human and it is universal.

There are vast numbers of people who experience shame about how they look, even though not being “beautiful” is beyond their control. The mega-business of modern cosmetic surgery (some $10 billion annually in the US) is driven by shame. Many experience shame about things that have been done to them (sexual molestation, for example), when they were, in fact, helpless victims. Anything that touches our core experience of “who I am” is a candidate for producing shame.

Needless to say, any reflection on the sins we have committed will likely touch on places of shame. In an attempt to avoid this experience, we may reflect that the things we have done are “what everybody does.” But this is simply a life lived at the shallow end of the pool, a place where we are least likely to encounter God. Doubtless, the foolish thief who railed at Jesus on the Cross simply thought of himself as having done some things that weren’t really all that bad. He had hidden from his own heart and thus remained in the dark.

But what about those of us who carry a great burden of shame? Those whose experience of the toxic burden within them is almost unbearable? The nature of toxic shame is that it is involuntary. Any number of things can produce such an effect. Abuse, in all of its many forms, thrives on shame. To strike at a person’s core sense of “who they are” can reduce them to a point of such weakness that control and other abusive measures become easy. There are also those who have been shamed, not by others, but through the simple accidents of life itself. Handicaps, flaws in appearance, every conceivable failing of nature or nurture can yield an experience of shame. And, again, this shame can be so strong as to become unbearable.

We can also experience, at a toxic level, shame that is self-inflicted. Any number of sinful actions can yield that result. And it is here that I want to intervene in this article and drive home a point: we are not our sin.

No human being is evil by nature. We are created fundamentally good (even “very good” in the language of Genesis). And though we may do many things, and many things may be done to us, none of them change “who we are.” Sin is not a constitutive part of our existence. It is extra-human, and external to our nature.

I recently cited St. Gregory of Nyssa in this regard:

…In any and every case evil must be removed out of existence, so that, as we said above, the absolutely non-existent should cease to be at all. Since it is not in its nature that evil should exist outside the will, does it not follow that when it shall be that every will rests in God, evil will be reduced to complete annihilation, owing to no receptacle being left for it?

Regardless of how one views St. Gregory’s expectation of the final destruction of evil, his contention that evil exists only in an abuse of the will is a matter of dogma. Evil has no existence of its own. As such, evil does not constitute any part of our being.

Admittedly, the healing of the will can be extremely difficult. The efforts we bring – prayer, fasting, almsgiving, repentance and confession – are not without benefit. But we generally experience a persistence of sin. St. Gregory refers such persistent sin to a purgatorial fire (cf. 1 Cor. 3:13-15). Such fire should not be confused with the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory in which sinners undergo temporal punishment as a satisfaction for the damage caused by sin. St. Gregory sees this fire described by St. Paul as therapeutic – it is for our freedom and deliverance.

Within our conscience, it is important to make a distinction between sin and the self. The animus, anger, even hatred, that is properly directed toward sin becomes deeply destructive and harmful when directed towards the self. In many consciences, particularly among the young, these two are confused. The result becomes a very dark, toxic shame. Within that darkness, the good news of the gospel is easily perverted and taken to be nothing more than additional condemnation and shame.

Pascha (Christ’s death, descent into Hades and Resurrection) should always hold the center point of all Christian thought. That is true on the historical and the cosmic level, but it is also true on the personal level, as well. My sin holds the position of death and Hades within this personal understanding. It may even be likened to the devil himself. It is thus true that my sin crucifies Christ. But Christ descends into the depth of my sin (Hades), and acts to destroy it (trampling down death by death) and to rescue me from destruction. You are not your sin. Christ’s Pascha is a personal deliverance from the bondage of sin and death. God is utterly and totally on your side. He is not your enemy.

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Heb 2:14-15)

This image of bondage is consistent in St. Paul, used to describe the life under sin (and the life under the Law, as well). Sin is an oppressor. It is Pharaoh. It enslaves. But it does not adopt us and make us its own. It does not and cannot transform us into sin itself. We are not the enemy.

The modern concept of the Self has no room for these distinctions. The Self, with all of its actions and tendencies, is conceived as the product of choice. We are what we choose to be. It denies that there is such a thing as human nature, and therefore, unwittingly consigns us to an identity of our own making. In the modern world – you are your sin. It is little wonder that we have undergone persistent efforts to redefine various things as something other than sin. How else could we escape the burden of shame created by such a false consciousness?

This is the fundamental liberating message of Christ’s Pascha. We are not the enemy. By nature, we are created good. We are in bondage to sin and death, manifest in the evil that infects our lives and our world. But Christ has come to trample down sin and death, by becoming sin and entering death, destroying them both by the resurrection. This is the liberty that is promised to the children of God, and to all of creation as well. (Romans 8:21)

This is the liberty proclaimed each year at Pascha in St. John Chrysostom’s Paschal homily, read in all the Orthodox Churches of the world: “Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave.”


About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a retired Archpriest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present: Christianity in a One-Storey Universe, and Face to Face: Knowing God Beyond Our Shame, as well as the Glory to God podcast series on Ancient Faith Radio.



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67 responses to “You Are Not Your Sin”

  1. Corey Avatar

    Have you read Sartre’s “Existentialism is a Humanism?” His thought (which has older roots) seems to be the fountainhead for much of what you say is wrong with the modern project. In short: everything is what it is before it is made. One has plans for what a chair shall be even before the chair is made. But humans are the exception to this rule: we create ourselves- even what it means to be human- as we go along.

  2. Byron Avatar

    This is the fundamental liberating message of Christ’s Pascha. We are not the enemy.

    This is so powerful! And it lends a great help to Jesus’ command to “pray for your enemies”. They are not our enemies; pray for each other. Love our neighbors.

    Still so hard, but many thanks, Father!

  3. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Yes. Sartre is just more iteration of the modern project.

  4. Sunny Avatar


    I hesitate with this because the Scriptures seem to suggest that, at the final judgement, those who do not want to be united with Christ are sent away into outer darkness *together with their sin.* I won’t bother quoting because I’m sure you know very well and have considered the passages I’m referring to. I know you have done a metaphorical reading of one of these passages before, “the sheep and the goats” passage–that it is a parable referring not to saved and damned people but rather to what will happen within each person at the last judgement. And I believe that is a legitimate way of understanding that passage and even some other passages (the wheat and the tares, for example). But frankly I fear dismissing the doctrine of eternal death almost as I fear eternal death itself. I have no true noetic knowledge of the matter so I will just repent like I am escaping Gehenna until I can repent because I am perfected in love!

    Forgive me, Father.

  5. Randy Evans Avatar

    Wonderful explanation, Father, both of the modern mentality surrounding us, of “the legal/forensic worldview that has so dominated the spiritual landscape (including several centuries within Orthodoxy itself)” — which, in spite of my many efforts through the years to remove, still almost automatically becomes the filter thru’ which I read much of Eastern Christian spirituality, and yes, of the healing, freeing Truth of our Lord’s Paschal victory which alone has preserved me as a Christian.
    The “legal/forensic worldview” especially as it inadvertently colors my reading of the pre-communion prayers, is such a horrible and destructive view of God. The prayers are not the problem, but that filter is.
    Father, how am I supposed to understand this quote I recently read from St. Tikhon of Zadonsk: “Keep in mind and remembrance that a man could die and perish in the very act of sin. . . . let us be prepared. From that hour on a man will be either eternally blessed or eternally unhappy.” Of course, the first part is true and helpful to our journey. But that last sentence, in my opinion, comes straight from a juridical “terrorist” view of God Who, seemingly, is just waiting to catch us and eternally condemn us at every single solitary moment of our existence”, especially — be very very careful — the possibility that we could have a heart attack at the very moment we are stretching the truth a bit at work. This, to me, seems, much like the horrendous heresy espoused in “Sinners in the hands of an angry god” by Edwards. Yikes!!!

  6. Corey Avatar

    I think at some point, recently, I read the phrase “Be ye perfect” and I was struck with terror as I realized, perhaps for the first time, that He wasn’t joking when said that.

  7. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I do understand. What I know to be true, however, is the nature of Christ’s Pascha. We are not our sin but are held in bondage to sin. That, too, is clear in the Scriptures. It describes what is actually and truly the case. Whether some will be sent away “together with their sin,” is another matter. If it is true, then we have to ask of God, “Why does Christ’s Pascha not seem to be effective for some? What is the nature of their sin that makes them irretrievable?” People may speculate on that as they wish. But if, somehow, in such speculations, they change the nature of Pascha, or claim that sin is somehow not external to us, then they err.

    I have described the privileging of a forensic reading of the final judgment, particularly when it is used to trump Christ’s Pascha, as problematic. I suggest that the burden of proof is with any account that marginalizes Pascha. It is interesting to me, that in the practice of Scriptural interpretation, this treatment of various parables is held to be inviolable, while other Scriptures that carry the clear import of what I have just written, and the whole thrust of the Paschal tradition, to be surrounded with caveats and “yes, but” and “except those” and “however.”

    If it is true that some are cast away with their sin – then I leave that in the hands of God. But He has sent us to preach deliverance to the captives. I do not believe He has sent us to preach the mechanics of heaven and hell. The latter is filled with incredible problems and fraught with dangers to our own hearts. My heart leaps to tell my fellow prisoners, “Let’s get out of here!” And then I do not want to be like Lot’s wife, looking back to see what happens. Rather, following the admonition of St. Andrew of Crete, “I take refuge in Zoar.”

  8. Maria Avatar

    “The Self, with all of its actions and tendencies, is conceived as the product of choice. We are what we choose to be.”

    And this can be the source of great, crippling shame, if one cannot will oneself to become all one “chooses” or wishes to be, this reveals a fundamental flaw in the core of one’s being. Will to power! and if you can’t, you are weak–an unforgivable sin in the modern world. The god of the will/power (the Self?) seems very unforgiving….

    One can carry this mindset easily into modern Christianty, reading for example the parable of the talents as those who do not develop their “talents” (and become wonderful in the eyes of the world) are to be thrown “outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth,” only adding despair to paralysis. Blessed Theophact was liberating to me, reading “talents” (or minas) as God’s grace given to us to love our neighbor (please forgive my faulty memory if this paraphrase is not quite right.)

  9. David P Avatar
    David P

    Father, thank you for this. I have been reflecting on the role played by shame in my own past sins; in my case, for years it served to prevent me from opening up to others about what I was struggling with, how I was being tempted and failing. How I wish I had more clearly heard this message, and how thankful I am for it now!

    Also, trivia question: you mention that St. Gregory’s “contention that evil exists only in an abuse of the will is a matter of dogma.” Which council established it as a matter of dogma?

  10. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I do not know that there is a specific conciliar definition on this…but it is the consistent and persistent teaching of the Fathers, thus having the force of dogma. We must say, “It is the clear teaching of the Church…”

  11. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Yes. This is very important. I think that there is a powerful aspect of modernity at work in the notion that we are destroyed together with our sin. It is the moralistic approach that is one of the bulwarks of modernism. Human beings a thoroughly responsible for their sin, and are thus in charge of every aspect of their lives. They create themselves. Ayn Rand couldn’t say it better.

    And though the Scriptures do not absolve us of complicity in our bondage, neither do they see us as utterly free in the sense that we create ourselves. We cannot turn ourselves into demons (maybe the demons can’t either). We are created with a nature, our being, our essence. And that nature is good. Will God destroy the good with the wicked? The Scriptures rail against such a thing.

    I believe that the forensic/legal model of what it means to be human is flawed and fails to properly address our situation. It makes for bad pastoring and spiritual direction. I have been a confessor now for over 35 years. I’ve seen some pretty messed up people in my time – but I have yet to see someone who is evil, who is not worth redeeming, or whose goodness should be swept into outer darkness. I believe that the lens of Pascha teaches us to see humanity’s bondage. We are in Egypt, but we are not Egyptians. Moses refused to buy into that lie and renounces the invitation to be a prince of Egypt.

    Again, there are only fellow slaves that surround me. My word is, “Let’s get out of here!” and then take refuge in Zoar (without looking back).

  12. Byron Avatar

    Sunny, here is a quote from a previous post by Father Freeman that may help.

    It is said that Olivier Clement once asked Elder Sophrony what would happen if a person does not agree to open his or her heart and accept the love of God. Sophrony replied, “You may be certain that as long as someone is in hell, Christ will remain there with him.”

    It reflects the love of God towards us in even this situation. It is this which gives us hope for all, even if we do not know if all will be saved. Our hope is in Him. Blessings!

  13. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Is sin, all sin, then a perversion?

    Does shame perhaps lie in the disquieting intuition that we are not separate from one another in quite the way we think we are and therefore our opportunity to “remake” ourselves independent of others is not as real as we are led to believe?

  14. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Maria, the god of the will to power is entirely without mercy and can only destroy–but even that is an illusion I think.

  15. Chesterton Avatar


    As a Catholic, I find this post compelling, and yet I am confused. At one point you say that sin resides solely in the will—a point with which Catholics would agree. And then towards the end of your post, you state that choice has nothing to do with whether you are bad or good. “The Self, with all of its actions and tendencies, is conceived as the product of choice. We are what we choose to be.”

    If our will is the locus of sin, would not our choices determine our fate, what we become, to an extent? Satan fell because he rebelled. His bad will caused him to fall, and in a way, to “become” evil. It distorted his nature.

    It seems to me that if our wills were perfectly pure and lost in God, we would not make make sinful choices and would remain unmarred by evil. Likewise, consistently making evil choices does in a sense mar and warp our nature. Just as a drug addict destroys his body, a “sinner” can destroy his soul. Is this not true?

    I appreciate your feedback.

  16. Robert Avatar


    Where’s the “like button”? 🙂

    “I have described the privileging of a forensic reading of the final judgment, particularly when it is used to trump Christ’s Pascha, as problematic. I suggest that the burden of proof is with any account that marginalizes Pascha”

  17. Margaret A. Avatar
    Margaret A.

    Fr. Stephen, what do you mean when you say Christ became sin? ” But Christ has come to trample down sin and death, by becoming sin and entering death, destroying them both by the resurrection.”

    I struggle with figuring out what sin even is, actually, because of the legal/forensic worldview inculcated in me during childhood. It’s so much easier to think about going to Confession and saying something like “I didn’t fast on Wednesday” than to say that and be told it isn’t a sin not to fast… to have to think of things honestly and know myself. The true struggle of the spiritual life reveals itself here. The same action can be a sin or not a sin, based on the reason behind our actions and whether we are mindful of God. Learning to recognize this true type of sin in myself is proving to be a long process.

  18. Sophia Avatar

    I can’t thank you enough, Father.

  19. Christopher Avatar

    I do understand.”

    I do.

    “And though the Scriptures do not absolve us of complicity in our bondage, neither do they see us as utterly free in the sense that we create ourselves.”

    True – and is that not what the Judgement also points to – a final limit to the freedom we do have? Yes, we have “a nature” but within that created nature is exactly freedom and choice (putting aside it’s ontological and/or metaphysical shape/limits for a second) and the ability to create (contingently of course) rightly or wrongly. By thinking in terms of “nature” (and a Pascha in terms of “becoming”) we are limited to a non-personal account of humanity, and the we start looking like pawns in a naturalistic and metaphysical (wrongly called “ontological”) process or event. This is immediately seen for what it is because my “I” can ask “what is the point of all that – why not skip the suffering and “becoming” and get right to the Paschal end?”. This question does NOT (not genuinely) come from a false modern “Self”, that insatiable little god, it is a genuine question from the Image…

    ““I take refuge in Zoar.”

    Is this “I” a “nature”, or rather does the “I” have a nature?

  20. Sunny Avatar

    I appreciate the responses to what I said earlier.


    I really liked the way you used the image of Lot’s wife, and I wish I understood the significance of your reference to Zoar.

    I am not equipped to debate with you, for my understanding is very small indeed, and it seems to be shrinking all the time. But to risk digging myself into a position about which my heart not convinced, I will share with you my thought… I am not yet persuaded that your insistence on the nature of Christ’s Pascha actually answers the problem I brought up. For I also believe in the power of his death-defeating death as much as I am now able. However, I also know that our tradition upholds the terrible reality of our free will, which can reject this marvelous, self-emptying love of Christ but which also enables us to love Christ in return.

    But, on the other hand, my heart secretly hopes that, in the end, his love will win even these souls, of which I fear I am one.

    P.S. Have you read any Dee Pennock? “God’s Path to Sanity” and “Who is God? Who am I? Who are you?” are just simply wonderful books and I think you would find in them a very good perspective on the subject of shame, among other things. I would be delighted to see you reflect on her books.

  21. Janine Avatar

    Father, what of our capacity to reject our relationship to Christ? Or to abuse our spiritual relationship, for instance, to our spouse? I am not talking about the things we do everyday to distance ourselves, the world as separated and all that we take on, but rather our own capacity to understand and to reject. I agree that there is none who can judge this except Christ, and even that the fire of hell is the love of God for those who reject. But what of Christ’s statement to the religious leadership in Matthew 21:44, as He speaks of Himself as the cornerstone, and warns of those on whom the stone falls? Is this simply about the birth of the Church, the covenant to the Gentiles? It seems to speak of more. Sincerely desiring your point of view here.

  22. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    What a feast of questions and conversation to come! I’ve been out on pastoral rounds this afternoon and have a Vigil tonight and Liturgy in the morning (Annunciation). But I’ll look forward to some moments in between or after to answer and respond. Off to Zoar!

  23. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    Father this is a remarkably simple post, radically simple even. Exactly where the challenge lies I think.

  24. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    2Cor. 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

    It is right there in the Scriptures (so often overlooked or misread). It doesn’t just say He took sin away, or that He forgave, etc. It says that He made Him to be sin. Obviously, Christ does not become a sinner (He is without sin). But He becomes what we are that we might become what He is.

    What is sin? Sin is death, pure and simple. There are actions that we do that are called “sins,” but sin itself is death – a movement that deviates from our proper direction. We were created by God, given being, according to the Fathers, with the purpose that we move towards well-being, ultimately, in union with God to eternal being. Sin is moving away from that. Any number of actions move us in that direction.

    In the same manner, sin is death, and can be thought of as a disease, a disease of “corruption” (literally, “rot”). That process of disease and death at work in us kills us and threatens to do more, even beyond the grave.

    If life in union with God is a fullness of life, then sin is an emptiness, or a movement towards emptiness.

    All of these images describe sin – and all of them are true. What is not helpful is to think of sin as extrinsic, as external to us, such that it’s just a breaking of the rules depending on God to take action and punish us with consequences. That’s just legal nonsense, and does not fit with the Scriptures.

  25. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I’m not certain whom to direct this answer to…so, to everyone…

    We love the notion of freedom in our modern world. At its extreme, modernity thinks that we are so free that we can choose our identity…we get to make up who we are. This is not true. We can try not to be who we are, living an inauthentic existence, but we cannot and do not become somebody else or something else.

    And there is this modernist (dare I say “Western”) nonsense about the freedom of the will, that God created us with free-will and that’s the problem, and that’s why there must be an eternity in hell because of free-will, etc.

    In point of fact, our freedom is rather limited. St. Paul is quite clear about this. He says, in that wonderful passage full of angst: “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do. If, then, I do what I will not to do, I agree with the law that it is good. But now, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” (Rom 7:15-17)

    So, apparently our will is also broken. We’re a mess. Sin dwells in us. We are in bondage. Who can get anything right? We’re a mess and we need a Savior.

    In truth, people generally don’t choose evil, or not very often. They choose what they perceive to be a good (pleasure, less pain, etc.) but they are broken and distorted and their choices turn out to be evil. But pretty much no one ever chooses something that they think to be evil. Hitler thought destroying the Jews was a good thing. He was terribly and tragically wrong. But he thought it was going to be good. It was a “necessary evil” or some such nonsense. But people do this sort of thing all the time, in the trite ways of our lives.

    Even a person indulging in what seems to be willful self-destruction seems to will it in order to escape pain. Or they think they must punish themselves (but they punish themselves for something they perceive to be a good reason).

    This is the nature of the perversity of our hearts. We don’t know the good and we choose badly. But our nature inherently tends towards the good. We want good things. Only we are deeply confused and mistaken about what is good. Atheists don’t believe in God because they think it’s good not to believe in God and that believers are making the world a worse place. They’re wrong, but they are not willingly doing evil. They are, in fact, willing what they think is good.

    All of this, of course, is the sadness of the human condition. But the human condition is not rightly described as people seeing the good, perceiving it correctly, and then perversely choose something else. Our rebellion against God is not rightly described by such a notion. But this is precisely what many people who argue for the ultimacy of free-will want to say is the case. That in the end, God says to us, “Thy will be done.” Nonsense. Why give such ultimacy to something that is as broken as cancer? And for which we have little more control over.

    Instead, we have to look at the human condition with St. Paul and wail, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”

    For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (Rom 7:19-24)

    This is precisely what I have seen over 35 years of confession. But now people want to tell me that there’s some other kind of person out there. Some goat-type who delights themself in their inner person in evil and so hates God that they would rather be miserable for all eternity. I’m just hoping I never meet such a person. I haven’t yet.

    God loves us. He’s doing all of this for us. He delights in us.

    Christopher suggests that without an eternal hell that there is no personal account of existence, that only the freedom to say no to God forever makes sense of personal existence. Of course, that’s silly. God has personal existence and He doesn’t need to be able to say no to Himself forever. Adam and Eve were free even before they said no and did not become more free when they did (they became less free).

    Why not “skip the suffering” and “becoming” and get right to the Paschal end? Of course, positing eternity in hell does make any better sense. I believe that Pascha is the purpose of creation. I believe Pascha existed before the foundation of the earth (since the Lamb was slain before the foundation according to the Scripture). So God always knew, even before He created us, that we would do what we did. And yet He saw that the good He intended for us was completely worth all of it, and provided for our deliverance even before we had fallen. Could He have done it differently? I don’t know, though I suspect not. That’s a bit of a mystery. But I believe this:

    “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Rom 8:18)

    I’ll take St. Paul’s word for it. But the glory which shall be revealed in us is the point.

    Why not skip everything and start at the point? I think it would miss the point. The point is a self-emptying life of fullness. Christ’s Pascha is what that looks like. And our journey of sin and death, forgiveness and union with Him in the resurrection is what Pascha looks like for us.

  26. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Yes. It seems just that simple to me. And simply wonderful beyond all imagining.

  27. Karen Avatar

    Wonderful beyond all imagining, indeed, Father!

    Now, I can see somebody bringing up Romans 1 as a sort of refutation that Romans 7 applies to humanity as a whole, though, and this is how many Protestants treat it. This does seem to be another of those potentially perplexing paradoxes in the Scriptures. My first thought is that Romans 1 seems to summarize the entire history of the fall of man, while Romans 7 highlights the dilemma of each person’s present condition, as has been further explained in Romans 5:11-14. I also remember reading a statement of one of the Fathers on the subject of God’s capacity for forgiveness emphasizing that none of our personal sins has the same depth as that of Adam in that, unlike Adam, we were all born into a world already fallen, darkened, and broken (affirming the brokenness and bondage of our will). So if God can redeem even Adam & Eve from their sin, which He clearly does, He can certainly also forgive us our sin which is less than that of our first parents.

  28. Brian Avatar


    With regard to your reply to Margaret, there is another, often skimmed over phrase of Saint Paul’s in his epistle to the Romans.

    “For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, 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.”

    The phrase, “in the likeness of sinful flesh” has long been a source of meditation to me. I do not know, but the phrase would seem to communicate a number of things at once – doubtless more than I can articulate.

    I always thought of Christ as ‘the perfect Man’ in His earthly life (and indeed He was without sin). And yet a perfected man is a glorified man with glorified flesh (the risen and glorified Christ) not subject to “the body of this death.” This is to say that He became man not with a glorified body, but with the same “body of this death” we all share – subject in a very real, yet paradoxical (for we are speaking of God), way to all the same natural necessities, limitations, and temptations to which we are subject. His flesh was, as it were, ‘sinful’ (although He Himself was without sin) in that it was the same (I believe the Fathers would say “coarse”) flesh to which Adam became subject in contrast to the flesh of His risen and glorified body. And it was this sinful flesh of ours (and His) that was put to death in Him by His own good will.

    If any of these pondering is in any way true, it adds another dimension to “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

  29. Kathie Dadjou Avatar
    Kathie Dadjou

    Dear Father,

    I read through every persons comments and your answers as well and now remain more confused about it all. Could you deliver your message to a third grader? I think then I might begin to understand some of it.



  30. Karen Avatar

    I have also read that the same term applied to Christ where it is said He became “sin” for us, is a word referencing the “sin offering” prescribed in the Mosaic Law in the OT. It would be informative perhaps to study the meaning and form of that offering in order to more deeply understand the sense of this NT verse.

  31. Christopher Avatar


    Where is repentance in this account of man, sin, and redemption? It appears you are saying it simply happens to you. If the point is “self-emptying”, how do “I” participate in that if it is a duel between a “law” happening within (sin), and a “law” (Pascha, Grace, etc.) acting upon an “I” from without in a literally irresistible manner (the will being reduced to almost nothing in this account)?

    “Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” appears to almost be a cruel taunt to a nature with no volition (yet somehow still “personal”) in this account, or at best a disguised message of some sort (a kind of gnosis maybe??).

    Is the Church of the East simply the opposite side of the same coin of Calvinism – a kind of “irresistible grace” where volition is of no account just with a different outcome (than Calvinism)?

    The image of “healing” (of everything, including the will) is just that (a symbol of the worst kind – a “mask” hiding something) because what is really happening is a metaphysical operation/action where a “nature” is being “transformed” (as a Caterpillar into a butterfly) and the Person is a mere bystander (quite innocent, as you point out – no “goatness” is even an ontological possibility, let alone would actually be chosen). “lose your life for my sake to find it” & “you are not your own” etc, become insights into not only into our contingency and dependency, but into our complete and utter annihilation – Christianity as nihilism! Never thought I lived to see something like that!!

    Something is terribly wrong if any of this is so (and that something is a coherent theology of human nature, will, and personhood)…

  32. Sunny Avatar

    There is much to consider and digest here. I still suspect there is an imbalance in what you say about the freedom of the will, but I don’t have enough time to give a careful, well-thought out answer. Do you have a volume of St John of Damascus? Maybe you could consider Ch 25-30 in book 2 of “The Orthodox Faith.”

    My belief in the freedom of the will is not “We are free to do anything and become anything.” That is a silly caricature of my belief in the freedom of the will. I believe we can either become what we are made to be, or live in denial and delusion, which is hell.

    It is up to us to cultivate the soil of our hearts, to constantly pull up the weeds that spring up there so that when the Sower throws His seeds, they will take root, grow, and bear fruit.

  33. Karen Avatar

    Christopher, whenever you protest that only a permanent hell for the wicked in the Eschaton can validate the meaningfulness of the righteous enduring suffering in this life, it convinces me you do not yet have a true understanding of either the nature of our salvation in Christ or of sin. The first is an internal state of communion with Christ which is its own intrinsic reward even while in this life, and which is merely consummated in the next. The suffering of the righteous is like that of a woman in labor, in that it is a suffering and labor borne of love in communion with Christ that produces life and is quickly forgotten when it is past. The wicked certainly do not escape suffering in this life, but rather live in a constant fear of death that fuels their bondage and addiction to sin and wreak havoc on all their relationships with self, God and others. Sin is an exceedingly cruel master! The sinner may enjoy for a short time worldly and physical comforts, but in ways that exact an extremely high price on their souls which live in constant torment even while in this life. Compare the suffering of the drug addict with his alternating cycles of an artificial high followed by ever deeper crises of withdrawal and never-satiated craving for more of the degrading passion to which he is subject to that of the woman in labor. This the true comparison of the fate of the righteous and the wicked in this life and the next. Truly it seems to me you need to understand, or understand more fully, that love is its own reward and sin its own punishment both in this life and the next.

  34. Janine Avatar

    Father, you wrote “In truth, people generally don’t choose evil, or not very often. They choose what they perceive to be a good (pleasure, less pain, etc.) but they are broken and distorted and their choices turn out to be evil. But pretty much no one ever chooses something that they think to be evil. Hitler thought destroying the Jews was a good thing. He was terribly and tragically wrong. But he thought it was going to be good. It was a “necessary evil” or some such nonsense. But people do this sort of thing all the time, in the trite ways of our lives. ”

    Just to stick to this one example, the Nazis elevated ruthlessness to a principle. Among themselves — with one another — they were ruthless and murderous. Did they know better? Did they consciously reject Christianity? Quite so. Did they have pure motives? How many of us can say our motives are always pure? Did they want to hang onto power, and was it easy to scapegoat Jews (and others) in order to do so? Not a doubt in my mind.

    I say this not to argue about Nazis, but about human motivations. Selfishness is a powerful motivation for all kinds of things.

  35. Kevin Avatar

    Thank you for all you do. Those of us steeped in modern protestant / evangelical theology have much to learn from you.

  36. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    You push my statements to an absurd point in order to refute them. Yes we have freedom. I did not say we do not. But we do not have it in the manner or measure that some seem to posit (witness Romans 7 – that’s Paul, not me). And we have repentance. But neither you nor I are now in Christ because we first repented. No, He did something first. He acted first. He intervened. He made repentance possible. He first loved us. Repentance is a response, not an initiation. St. John descended into Hades and said the same things there he had said on earth. And to all who are saved, there will have been repentance.

    The will resides in the nature. Its accompanying performance in the person is currently broken (the gnomic will as we experience it). But the will is not initiated in the person. That much is clear. Are you familiar with Maximus’ teaching that there is no gnomic will in Christ? Was He not free?

    Do please refrain from pushing things into an absurdity. It muddies the water and creates false arguments.

  37. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    We are indeed free and we are responsible. We are free to the extent we are responsible and responsible to the extent we are free. But, all I am suggesting is that both have limits. We could not and cannot do any of this alone. Only Christ initiates and only Christ makes possible anything that we do towards our salvation. I only mean to suggest that we often, unwittingly, fall into the modern mode of being free to do anything and become anything and grant to the will more power and freedom than is actually the case. We are in bondage and without a deliverer, none will be saved. Christ’s Pascha is our deliverance.

    Again, as to whether or how all will be saved, God alone knows.

    But I think people go too far when they think that their understanding of freedom explains how some might be lost. That’s theory that depends on things outside of Scripture and the Tradition. It is rooted more in the modern/Western model. All I’m suggesting is that it must be pondered much further and deeper and the “freedom argument” allowed to rest for awhile.

  38. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Absolutely. I agree. What I’m saying is that they mistakenly thought ruthlessness was a virtue, etc. It doesn’t absolve them, but rather it affirms that our nature’s constant will towards the good is inexorable. The problem is when a false good is mistaken for the true good.

    Once a desert father saw a prostitute and wept. He said, “If only I pursued repentance as she pursues sin!” But he recognized the same “energy” of pursuit in her.

  39. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Sorry. I’m doing my best. If I had more comments and questions from third graders, it would help. But I’m an old man and I have the thoughts of an old man.

  40. Darla Buhler Avatar
    Darla Buhler


    A wish, and a question.

    I would love to see your blog posts available in book form. I would love to leaf thru the pages for the many encouraging thoughts and heartwarming truths. That is my wish.

    Every time you write on shame I can’t help wondering if you are at all acquainted with the work of Brene Brown. Are you?

    Thank you.

    Darla (Maria)

  41. Kevin Avatar

    Fr. Stephen:

    “You are not your sin. Christ’s Pascha is a personal deliverance from the bondage of sin and death. God is utterly and totally on your side. He is not your enemy.”

    I agree with this thought in my spirit. It makes more sense than some of the thoughts I’ve been taught from my evangelical / protestant circles.

    In light of your views, how would you read Romans 5:10?

    “For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

  42. Byron Avatar

    What I’m saying is that they mistakenly thought ruthlessness was a virtue, etc.

    I find this all to common in our society and our world. Many things get classified as a “virtue” simply by being the means that brings about a desired end. This is often the application of the “necessary evil” of which we are all too familiar. But evil is never necessary and it is certainly never a virtue. Better to suffer until God brings about whatever end may be than to fall into a pattern of justifying evil in order to do good (and considering it a virtue).

    I believe this to be the suffering that Karen spoke of (that of a woman in labor) in her reply to Christopher. It is not that it is always required in life (as in pregnancy, for example) but that we must meet it with trust in God and expectation of His making something good of it.

  43. Bess Avatar

    Interesting article. I’m a big fan of Gregory of Nyssa (and of Origen as well), at least from my admittedly very limited understanding/knowledge of his theology.

    What I’m curious about is how you (the author) would view the matter of associating our individual choices with the concept of personal responsibility as opposed to maintenance of a “perpetual victim” mentality that eschews said responsibility in favor of distancing ourselves from said choices and blaming them on something “exterior to” ourselves. Saying “my sin made me do it!” is really no nobler than saying “the devil made me do it!” when, in fact, our greatest need in this world today — at least here in America — is for all of us, when the situation warrants, to stand up and own simply, “I did that, and it was wrong, and I need to make it right.”

    I am also curious, in the light of this article, how you, the author, would deal with a biblical passage such as Hebrews 10:26-31 and Hebrews 6:4-8, which seem to indicate clearly that once you know better — and more than just “know better,” have tasted the manifest fruits of the spiritual life in Christ — there is no further excuse, period, and to sin after that point marks you for destruction. That might be another entire article in itself, so if you have already written one on this subject, please do drop me the link. I am not a regular reader here, just followed the link from a friend.


  44. Mark Avatar

    Fr. Stephen
    Wow! I can understand the opposition you have faced. Real freedom consists in the ability to choose to worship the Lord. Nine healed lepers re-joined the church, one Samaritan joined with Jesus.

    I have come to realize over the last couple of months that I do not really “see” people – even myself (“fuzzy icons” that we are). I see a blur of behaviors and appearances and dole out understanding and compassion, even mercy, to the degree I do understand and seldom beyond.

    Thank-you for this latest – it is helping to open more than my eyes …I hope.

    I’m sure you have better people around you to offer suggestions, but I see an entire book in this direction. I hope you will consider it.

  45. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    Important to note that Ro. 5:10 says that we were God’s enemies, not that God was our enemy. If God were our enemy, no one would be saved.

  46. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    The dominant philosophy of modernity is utilitarianism, whose core belief is that the end justifies the means. It what drives notions of “progress.” It’s ok if it’s for progress, etc.

  47. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I do not say that we have no responsibility. I’ve only said that freedom and responsibility are not as ultimate as many imagine or try to say. I’m saying that we are in a situation (sin) from which we cannot extricate ourselves. Only Christ can extricate us. There are plenty of elements of responsibility that remain, but we should make no mistake, it’s Jesus who drowns the Egyptians. When I “play the victim,” I’m simply joining the wrong side and persecuting myself. No, we should be soldiers, fighting in a cause that we would surely lose were God not on our side.

    What I find interesting is how Pelagian most modern Christians are (including many Orthodox) whenever it comes to the ultimate end of salvation. I’m not suggest no freedom or no role for the will. Only that it is not ultimate. And here is the argument: Romans 7 really describes our experience. Anyone who thinks they “chose” Christ in an act of pure freedom is in delusion. “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you…” Christ says. What I hear people say who inveigh so strongly about freedom actually condemns them. If you’re so free, why are you so sinful, and how will you possibly be saved?

  48. Janine Avatar

    Father, thank you for your answer, but I’m going to have to digest it a little bit. I can’t quite make that leap from “they thought ruthlessness was a virtue” to where that places their responsibility.

    However, I have been thinking about freedom. It seems to me the Gospels (and the rest of the Bible) tell us that once we’re aware of a truth, that conveys responsibility. I am talking about a spiritual truth. We then choose to reject or accept. Sure, there are lots of “mitigating circumstances” out there, the world gives us so many things to sort through. But I’m not certain at all that the mere fact of “pursuit” is enough to say that they weren’t aware they were pursuing evil. Somehow it is the awareness itself — and our capacity for it — that makes choice significant and conveys responsibility, not an abstract freedom.

    As an example, we spoke once about the powerful presence Christ must have had. His rejection by elements of the religious leadership — what does that constitute then? Certainly there was pure self-interest involved. And we have Christ’s words to them about their hypocrisy, and also His warnings about those upon whom the cornerstone would fall. It opens many questions; what of “hard-heartedness”?

    Again, thank you for your patience and time in responding to these questions. They are really puzzling me. God bless.

  49. Bess Avatar

    Thank you for your prompt response! I was hoping for a bit longer of an exposition, but you have no idea who I am and I’m sure your time has other demands upon it.

    In light of your comment though, just one further question. Would you consider yourself a monergist, or leaning in that direction? And if so, how do you reconcile the tension between the idea that God chooses us and the idea that salvation is provided universally and unconditionally to “whomsoever will” accept it? Because the former would suggest an almost Calvinist sense of predestination while the latter would appear to put the choice in our hands rather than God’s.

    And don’t invite me to draw you water … I really DO want to discuss theology. I appreciate you indulging me even if just for a couple minutes. Thanks again.


  50. Sunny Avatar

    Father, Thank you for the clarification.

    Can we say,
    “I don’t know about this. But I know that God is good.”

  51. Byron Avatar

    However, I have been thinking about freedom. It seems to me the Gospels (and the rest of the Bible) tell us that once we’re aware of a truth, that conveys responsibility. I am talking about a spiritual truth. We then choose to reject or accept.

    Possibly, we are all viewing this in too extreme a light. I am reminded of the monk who said (when asked what they do), “We fall down and we get back up. We fall down and we get back up.” Our “choice” is not a one-and-done decision as we seem, at times, to be implying in the conversation here. As Father pointed out, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you…” Christ says.” Perhaps our only real choice is to cry out to Him for mercy, even as we keep falling down. Just my thoughts.

  52. Robert Avatar

    Fr Stephen,

    It seems to me that at some profound level we fail to see everything through the “lens of Pascha”. If Pascha is the central truth and reality of history, nothing then can remain untouched by Christ’s victory over death and hades.

  53. Christopher Avatar

    “Do please refrain from pushing things into an absurdity. It muddies the water and creates false arguments.”

    Exactly, such as:

    “Of course, that’s silly. God has personal existence and He doesn’t need to be able to say no to Himself forever.”

    Philosophy is *hard* (many perplexing corners and dead ends is just one consequence that rubs us the wrong way), and if you don’t like the consequences of doing it then don’t do it. Perhaps that is why you are changing the rules after only one dialectical iteration.

    “The will resides in the nature. Its accompanying performance in the person is currently broken (the gnomic will as we experience it). But the will is not initiated in the person. That much is clear. Are you familiar with Maximus’ teaching that there is no gnomic will in Christ? Was He not free?”

    Yep, AND Maximus avoids the Orgenisitic Problematic (i.e that what is natural is compelled – thus and irresistible apokatastasis of not only nature but Person(s) which is nothing less than the collapse {i.e. a destruction} of both will and Person back into a “nature”) by (amongst other things) recognizing the will as having diverse “modes” (i.e. a mode of mode of willing) which is of course in the end an affirmation of the Judgement and its (our) *Personal* character and NOT a metaphysical cul de sac of a dialectic between “freedom” and “nature” that is a two sided coin (one side going by the name of “ontology” {its not – its really metaphysics} and the other being called “forensic”) and false choice no matter which side the flip ends up (head or tales leads exactly to the same place – no Personal salvation – actually, I would take the forensic because at least “the elect” are personally saved whereas in Origenism the personal is castrated…just like Origen himself…).

    St. Maximus is a good philosopher, as well as other things of course.

    Allow me to be perfectly honest: What we have here is a bunch of amateur philosophers (except Hart – he is at least aware of what he is doing and has the decency to be openly schizophrenic about it) trying to deconstruct the Tradition to fit it into their false understanding (of good and evil, love and His Love, “nature”, “freedom”, “will”, etc.). It apparently is a very old problem and habit of the Church of the East – one that has never been adequately dealt with, for clearly the 5th ecumenical council has holes large enough to drive my SUV through.

    I confess I feel shame in participating in this madness, even if only to resist it. I am not “with Paul” or “with Stephen” or “with Origen/Nyssa/Isaac” – Christ is not divided. So where is the undivided Church?

  54. Janine Avatar

    I am not ruling out the possibility of repentance. I am still pursuing the topic of responsibility and where that is. Also the notion that freedom, however limited, exists to the extent of choice present in awareness

  55. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    No I’m not a monergist. The Orthodox faith (I’m an Orthodox priest) does not hold to that, but rather speaks of synergy. We cooperate in our salvation. It’s just that it’s very, very lopsided (with Christ doing all the heavy-lifting).

    I believe God chooses us – all of us. And I believe that accept it is important. But again, I simply think the choice business is very lopsided, with God doing most of the heavy-lifting. It’s not nearly so either/or.

    I think people try to keep all of this from being messy, when it is very messy indeed. So much so that the closer you examine it, the harder it is to see.

  56. Fr. Stephen Freeman Avatar

    I think my blog writing is adequate to its scope and concern. I think that some want to push it to places that I don’t care to go. I’ve got plenty of academic training…I’m not an amateur. But I do not like debate or argument. It tends to skew things and is unhelpful. I frankly think you keep wanting me to do what Fr. Kimel does, or to be Hart’s defender. I think it derails the conversation here and keeps dragging things into a state of confusion. As you admit, the 5th Council has holes large enough to drive an SUV through. I do not and have not made arguments that insist on universalism, and yet you keep trying to force that into whatever I say. It’s a straw man. It’s not what I say or have said.

    For what it’s worth, you skate very close to the boundaries that are the limits of what I allow on the blog. Sorry you feel shame. Why do you keep insisting that there is some sort of universalist madness being espoused here? Why do you insist on sharing the shame with everyone else?

    It’s simply enough.

  57. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    In truth, people generally don’t choose evil, or not very often. They choose what they perceive to be a good (pleasure, less pain, etc.) but they are broken and distorted and their choices turn out to be evil. But pretty much no one ever chooses something that they think to be evil. Hitler thought destroying the Jews was a good thing. He was terribly and tragically wrong. But he thought it was going to be good. It was a “necessary evil” or some such nonsense. But people do this sort of thing all the time, in the trite ways of our lives.

    “Choices” made, decisions taken, circumstances endured early in our lives often have quite large effects throughout our lives. Since the “choice”, or decision is veiled by the mists of time, such things are often hidden from our view. At least in my case a great load of shame is there for apparently no real reason at all (as best as I can determine at this point).

    Everything else since has been perverted in ways gross and subtle. Some of it will never be undone or even known by me. Only by entering into God’s grace as fully as I am able (a micro-millimeter further each time) can the perversion be healed.

  58. Sophia Avatar


    Many of Father’s blogposts are in his book Everywhere Present.

  59. Janine Avatar

    Michael & Byron
    Thank you for replies to my posts. I agree with what you both have said. But still thinking about awareness/responsibility. That of coursr will continue to perplex me….Thank you Father Stephen et al for the ongoing conversation

  60. Karen Avatar

    Christopher, for what it’s worth I have always had hesitations about taking Hart’s route (as much as his conclusions hearten me rather than discourage me as I see is your reaction). For one thing, I don’t have his philosophical training nor his learning in the Fathers by which to judge whether he fairly represents their teaching. My fervent hopeful prayer for UR is virtually entirely nurtured by Christ’s teachings in the Gospels and by His Pascha, and what the Tradition says about these, and also by the lives and words of Saints like St. Silouan and St. Porphyrios, and Elders like Elder Joseph of Mt. Athos and Fr. Sophrony of Essex.

    Secondly, Hart goes, obviously, where certain Scriptures would seem to prohibit us (though, certain other Scriptures seem to me to proclaim it outright and in so many words–such are some puzzling paradoxes of the Tradition!), and the Church has never dogmatized UR.

    So . . . I hear you in that area and, like Fr. Stephen, it is not even close to my intention or concern to say yes, we must understand that UR is so and insist that in certain eras the hierarchs of the Church must have made a mistake not to dogmatize it as such (though, that UR should be dogmatized is a stance I doubt even folks like Hart would take!). I see no reason to change anything in the Tradition as it is presented in the Liturgy and upheld in our canons. I understand this life (and everything in the Tradition) is given us for repentance. Period.

    That said, and as I’ve admitted, I find deeply wrong-headed and disturbing your insistence that unless not all are saved, and the goats (as individual souls) into the fire is, in fact, the endgame, the suffering of the righteous in this life will have had no purpose or meaning. Hogwash! In addition to the reasons I have already given for that, it also occurs to me I can see no essential difference in the nature of your objections in that regard from those of the guy in Luke 15:25-30. Can you? Red flags are flying all over the place for me when you write those sorts of things. It strikes me as very treacherous spiritual ground for your own heart. At the very least, it seems to me these are the words of one who still thinks of himself as a servant earning his keep, and has not realized he is, in fact, a beloved son!

    In fact, the whole discussion around UR occasioned by this particular objection of yours just rings all the same notes in my mind as that of the arguments of the conventionally pious (throughout history) against Jesus’ and the Apostle Paul’s insistence on the completely gratuitous nature of our salvation in Christ–that it is essentially our non-qualification for it that qualifies us to be saved (as in the Parable of the Publican and Pharisee and Romans 3:8 & 4:5-8). This was as deeply scandalous to the pious people of Jesus’ day (and even his own disciples!) as the apparent antinomianism of UR seems to be to you. Now, the gospel is not truly antinomian as we know (and neither is the version of UR I and others envision as possible). But, as many scholars have pointed out, if it isn’t exactly antinomian, it is something extremely close to that . . . or the accusations wouldn’t keep coming.

  61. Margaret A. Avatar
    Margaret A.

    Thanks, Fr. Stephen. I thought maybe because sin can be thought of as separation from God, the idea of Christ becoming sin meant His leaving the Father and taking flesh. But that path makes it too easy to slip into Augustinianism and forget that God created as “very good.”

    I am learning that the legal/forensic worldview considers moral failings to be sins, when Orthodoxy (as usual) takes a deeper view and recognizes that moral failings are merely a symptom of sin. The sin is whatever drew us away from the path of God, and the failing happens because we have left the path.

  62. Doug Sangster Avatar
    Doug Sangster

    Thank you Father. Your patience is exemplary. Glory to God.

  63. Hugh McCann Avatar
    Hugh McCann

    Such *were* some of us. But, God…

    1 Corinthians 6:9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,

    10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

    11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

  64. Michael Bauman Avatar
    Michael Bauman

    ….but still we persist in sin.

  65. Hugh McCann Avatar
    Hugh McCann

    Yes, Michael, the flesh dies hard. But we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin because God has said it’s so!

    Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?

    2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

    3 Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

    4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

    5 For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

    6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.

    7 For he that is dead is freed from sin.

    8 Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:

    9 Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.

    Further, all of St Paul’s imperatives (mortify, put off, lie not, etc.) are grounded in this reality (indicative):

    Colossians 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.

    2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

    3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

    4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.

  66. Eustace Frederick III Avatar
    Eustace Frederick III

    Dear Fr. Stephen Freeman:

    Which version of “shame” is toxic/forensic and which version of shame will actually edify a grieving soul?

    Typically, I’m not able to parse this fine of a line here Father.

    1. Is the only real difference simply of that between an extrinsic (society/moderns, as you call them) vis-à-vis an intrinsic or what the Church would simply call a conscience?

    2. …or in other words, how can my “feeling’s” –which are extrinsically susceptible to being (bogus) extrinsically hurt; know the edifying or intrinsic difference? It is my feelings that make these mistakes, not the patristic tradition(s). Though that is (much) easier said than, done…

    TIA Sir.

    may St.Anne bless and intercede for you and your flock’s Fasting this Great Lent,

  67. Dewberry Avatar

    I work with recovery groups and this was so helpful to me. As usual, I will need a long time to digest the comments but an up front “thank you” for the initial blog piece is in order.

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  1. Greetings, Father Stephen, Thank you so much for this reflection and all of the tremendous amount of work you have…

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