Recent reports claim that more than one child in one hundred is born with the mental/developmental deficiency known as autism. One need read very little to realize that new mental/developmental disorders are identified frequently or at least come to the public attention for the first time because of increased diagnosis. This increase in awareness of mental/emotional deficiencies among the general population has profound implications for Christian Orthodoxy with its insistence on the idea of free will and the individual’s personal responsibility to participate in their own salvation.
If a significant number of people are subject to behavior dictated by mental impairment, then one must ask whether much aberrant behavior doesn’t occur because of factors largely outside the control of the perpetrators. In that case, the entire concept of free will and personal responsibility is called into question for many. Additionally, considering the mental condition as an extenuating factor in bad behavior reinforces the biblical contention that all are equally guilty of wrong doing. Thus, I am left to conclude that it is fallacious to judge others as more wicked and deserving of God’s punishment than me. We are effectively rendered the same, regardless of how we may want to differentiate one man’s sin from another’s, even the most heinous.