Did you know that original sin is understood differently in Western culture in contrast with the understanding in Eastern / Oriental culture? Fr. Ernesto gives a correct rendering of both understandings, as well as segueing into some information on vampires and werewolves. You can read his book review on his blog found in my blogroll.
Fr. Orthoduck, aka Fr. Ernesto Obregon, has a soft spot for science fiction. He recently posted a book review of Never Ceese. This book deals with vampirism and lycanthropy (human vampires and werewolves). He makes a real and valid connection, believe it or not, with the theology of original sin as understood in the East and in the West.
Post by Fr. Ernesto on Orthocuban, Feb. 8, 2010
So, you do not know why the book, Never Ceese, fits the worldview of Roman Catholic Christianity? Well, let Father Orthoduck tell you. But, let Father Orthoduck warn you that there is some heavy theology ahead.
OK, here is the theology. All Christians agree that the Fall has damaged humanity, but they do not agree on what it all means. Both the East and the West agree that Free Will has been damaged, as versus the Pelagians who insisted that Free Will was undamaged. The West, by and large, has gone with Saint Augustine of Hippo’s version of what the Fall has meant. The West has a conception of Original Sin which the East has nicknamed Original Guilt. Now, the details are not important for the purposes of this post. Suffice it to say that the transmission of Original Sin, or hereditary guilt, was physical transmission. The transmission of this hereditary guilt is a form of traducianism:
In Christian theology, traducianism is a doctrine about the origin of the soul (or synonymously, “spirit”), in one of the biblical uses of word to mean the immaterial aspect of man (Genesis 35:18, Matthew 10:28). Traducianism means that this immaterial aspect is transmitted through natural generation along with the body, the material aspect of man. That is, an individual’s soul is derived from the souls of the individual’s parents. This implies that only the soul of Adam was created directly by God (with Eve’s substance, material and immaterial, being taken from out of Adam), in contrast with creationism (not to be confused with creationism as a belief about the origin of the material universe), which holds that all souls are created directly by God (with Eve’s substance, material and immaterial, being taken from out of Adam).
Thus, in traducianism, the act of begetting a child transmits a body that is composed of both the father and the mother (and this was pre-genetics, too). It also transmits a soul, “derived from the souls of the individual’s parents,” but, in the West, it also transmits sin. Let Father Orthoduck be clear, in the West, it is not simply a damaged human nature that is transmitted, sin and guilt are transmitted. (This is not the way in which either Eastern or Oriental Orthodoxy explain it.) This means that, for the West, the child is a sinner from the day of its conception, while it is still in the womb, before it has done anything right or wrong, and is deserving of hell. This is why the Roman Catholic doctrine of limbo developed. The thought of a baby who is stillborn or dies within a few days of birth being condemned to hell was repugnant to many theologians, and so limbo was a place where a baby (and others, but that is another discussion) could live out eternity in happiness but never be able to experience the joy of God’s presence. (All Protestants have a different explanation for babies. Some Calvinists are willing to say that babies of non-believers may indeed go to hell. Eastern and Oriental Orthodox do not have that problem since they do not believe in Original Guilt.)
SPOILER ALERT DO NOT READ IF YOU PLAN TO READ NEVER CEESE
OK, with that background, let’s look at the transmission of either vampirism or lycanthropy on the book Never Ceese. In the book, both vampirism and lycanthropy are the result of a two fold process. On the physical side, part one of the process appears to be the transmission of pluripotent cells which become or are stem cells of different types and do the physical job of transforming the genetics of the affected person into either werewolf or vampire. A vampire has more pluripotent cells than a werewolf. But, the transmission is not merely that of physical characteristics. Rather, as in traducianism, there is a transmission of an immaterial aspect, and that is what is labeled the “curse” in the book. And, just like in the Western conception of Original Sin, the person who has been attacked is automatically guilty of sin and worthy of hell despite the fact that they have personally done nothing to deserve this punishment. (Neither Eastern nor Oriental Orthodoxy would agree with this conception.) This is a very Augustinian conception.
Father Orthoduck will say that there is a twist to the book Never Ceese that is neither Orthodox nor Roman Catholic nor Protestant. And that is the idea that the curse becomes permanent if you pass on the curse. This means that passing on the curse is the equivalent of the unforgivable sin. Matthew 3 says, “But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, but is guilty of an eternal sin.” This is the only twist in the book that slightly disappoints Father Orthoduck. He would have preferred that the book would have been written in such a way that passing on the curse would have required a much stronger act of abnegation rather than being unforgivable. On the other hand, Father Orthoduck must admit that it certainly adds some significant dynamic tension to the book to realize that once one curses someone else one is going to hell with no hope of reprieve. But . . . but . . . but, uhm, that is not a very Christian conception of sin and forgiveness.
There are other touches in the book that put it in the realm of an Eastern Orthodox or Roman Catholic conception of how the world works. These are touches that would not be present in Protestantism. Nevertheless, Father Orthoduck will not cover those in this post.
Two comments on Orthocuban relating to original sin. Check out his site for more exchanges, Fr, Orthohippo
8 February 2010 at 11:28
One small correction: while it would seem that Augustinian “original guilt” would logically entail traducianism and/or vice-versa, the RCC explicitly denies traducianism, maintaining that each human soul is created separately and independently by God at the moment of conception.
Fr. Orthoduck says:
8 February 2010 at 12:02
Now I find that very interesting. I did not realize that they specifically deny traducianism. This means that God creates each soul separately and independently and then . . . uhm . . . how does that soul become stained with Original Sin? If it is by “contact” with flesh, then that is still a form of traducianism in which the clean unstained soul is “infected” and damaged by the physical body. If God deliberately stains the created soul (or creates it impaired) because of Adam’s sin, then, uhm, does that not make God the author of evil? It would also make Federal Theology the only possible way to understand salvation. If God imputes the created soul with evil, well, that is one of the big arguments that the East has with the West.
I do notice that they do point out that Generationism is more common in the East, though I will point out that New Advent has the tendency to vastly minimize any viewpoints with which they do not agree. The Popes, etc, that they cite against Generationism are, uhm, not exactly major citations, but individual letters and private opinions. This is a long way from a condemnation of generationism.