Original sin is a condition, not something that people do: It's the normal spiritual and psychological condition of human beings, not their bad thoughts and actions. Even a newborn baby who hasn't done anything at all is damaged by original sin. In traditional Christian teaching, original sin is the result of Adam and Eve's disobedience to God when they ate a forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden.
Original sin affects individuals by separating them from God, and bringing dissatisfaction and guilt into their lives. On a world scale, original sin explains such things as genocide, war , cruelty, exploitation and abuse, and the "presence and universality of sin in human history".
Some Christians believe that human beings can't cure themselves of original sin. The only way they can be saved from its consequences is by the grace of God. Modern thinkers don't think the doctrine of original sin is literally true, but they do think it contains real truths about the human condition:. Original sin is part of the Doctrine of the Fall , which is the belief that when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, they 'fell' from perfection and brought evil into a perfect world. For Christians, the fall is inseparable from redemption - the act by which human souls are washed clean of the stain of original sin.
Christians believe that the story of the fall and redemption is a story of two Adams, and sometimes refer to Christ as the "Second Adam". The first Adam sins and causes humanity to fall; the second Adam atones for that sin with his death and redeems humanity. The story behind original sin is told in the Old Testament book of Genesis:. God originally made a perfect world.
He created Adam and put him to live in the Garden of Eden - a blissful place where he had nothing to do but take care of the garden. God told Adam that he could do anything he wanted, except eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Later, God created Eve to be Adam's wife.
Eve was tricked by the serpent into eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of life and death. She gave some of the fruit to Adam and he ate it too. Adam and Eve realised that they were naked and hid in shame. When God next visited the Garden he realised that they had disobeyed him. God also banned them from eating the fruit of the tree of life, and so death entered the world.
Christians believe that when Adam and Eve sinned in Eden and turned away from God they brought sin into the world and turned the whole human race away from God. The doctrine absolves God of responsibility for the evils that make our world imperfect by teaching that Adam and Eve introduced evil to a perfect world when they disobeyed him. An alternative understanding of the story of the fall emphasises that Adam and Eve did wrong because they 'gave in' to the temptation of the serpent in the Garden of Eden.
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This second understanding fits well with human psychology. Looking at it this way, original sin becomes the tendency for human beings to 'give in' when tempted by the prevailing evils of the society around them, rather than standing up for good, and it helps explain why each individual finds temptation so hard to resist. As the Bible puts it:. A third understanding teaches not so much that Adam's sin brought sin into the world, but that it removed from humanity the gift that enabled people to be perfectly obedient to God.
Adam was created in the image of God with the potential to be perfectly fulfilled through his existence and his relationship with God. But Man failed to fulfil his potential and opted to go it alone and estrange himself from God. Jesus as the "Second Adam" re-established the relationship with God and showed how man can become perfectly human - which puts him in right relationship with both the creator and his creation.
Original sin is a difficult doctrine, and a rather gloomy one, but it had some key theological benefits that have kept it as a mainstream Christian teaching:. What effect has the concept of original sin had on Western culture, and how did it influence gender and morality in Christian Europe? One rather difficult explanation says that the whole human race was somehow contained in Adam and so when Adam fell, they fell too. The other explanation, expanded below, is that all human beings are descendants of Adam and Eve. Modern Catholic teaching is less clear about the mechanism of transmission and refers to it as a mystery.
St Augustine, who largely devised the theory of original sin, thought that original sin was transmitted from generation to generation through sexual intercourse. Augustine did not say exactly how this happened. He said that it was transmitted by "concupiscence", when people had sex and conceived a child. Concupiscence is a technical theological word that Augustine used to refer to sexual desire as something bad in the soul that was inseparable from normal human sexual impulses. Sexual desire was bad, he taught, because it could totally overwhelm those caught up in it, depriving them of self-control and rational thought.
This disapproving view of passion was quite common among Christians of Augustine's time. Augustine thought that concupiscence was present in all sexual intercourse. He thought that it was just as bad and uncontrolled in a marriage as it was in non-marital sex, but that an excuse could be made for it within marriage because its purpose was to produce legitimate children. This bad element in sex provides the means by which original sin is transmitted from father to child.
It transmits both humanity's guilt for Adam's crime and the sickness or defect that gives human beings a sinful nature. Now from this concupiscence whatever comes into being by natural birth is bound by original sin The Council or Trent , or Trentine councils were a series of Roman Catholic theological meetings in response to the Reformation. The Council of Trent gave the official stamp to the idea that original sin was transferred from generation to generation by propagation - which means during the sexual act that led to conception. This formalised the notion of Original Sin as part of Roman Catholic doctrine.
The Council explicitly ruled out the idea that original sin was transferred by "imitation"; in order to block the idea that human beings just copied the bad example set by their parents and others. These closely related ideas teach that original sin is passed on by copying the sinful tendencies of other people. The Council of Trent decreed that this idea was false. Many churches accept that infants can be cleansed of original sin by being baptised soon after birth.
The other elements required are carried out by adults on the baby's behalf during the ceremony. In St Paul's letter to the Galatians, he wrote: "Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery". This conception of Redemption as freedom from bondage is crucial for Judeo-Christian thought. On the face of it, original sin doesn't answer the question as to how evil got into the world; instead it leaves other questions to be answered.
As one writer puts it:. Why is there original sin? Because Adam sinned? Then why did Adam sin? If it was because of the serpent, why did the serpent sin? If the serpent is supposed to have been a fallen angel, why did the angel sin? And so on. And there is a second, but related, question. If evil did not exist before Adam sinned, how could Adam know that what he was about to do was evil - how was he to know that it was wrong to disobey God? For modern people the idea of being punished for a crime committed by someone else is unethical and unacceptable.
The doctrine of original sin blames Eve for tempting Adam into sin and has been responsible for centuries of Christian bias against women. Augustine's theory of original sin was so intrinsically tied up with his disapproval of human sexual love that for centuries it contaminated all sexual passion with the idea of sin. Some Christian thinkers are unhappy with the idea that human beings start out so bad that they can't become good without God's help. Science shows that the Biblical creation story is not literally true, and demonstrates that Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden are myths and not historical figures.
This destroys the idea of original sin as being caused by the misbehaviour of the first man and woman, and the idea of inheriting guilt or punishment for that misbehaviour. Most modern theologians don't think this a good reason to abandon the doctrine of the fall.
They believe that although the story is not historically true, it does contain important truths about the state of humanity. The doctrine of original sin is based on the idea that God created a perfect world, and that humanity damaged it and themselves by disobeying him. Evolution, on the other hand, suggests that life in the world is steadily changing and becoming more diverse. Scientists do not tend to think of this as a moral good or evil, but in a sense evolution sees life on earth as moving closer to 'perfection' - becoming better adapted to its environment.
The biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense. A more modern idea is to give an ethical spin to the evolutionary idea and suggest that humanity should not be concerned about a past fall from grace, but concentrate on becoming more ethical beings and thus bringing about a better world.
Bishop Richard Holloway has described the idea that unbaptised babies go to hell as "one of the most unsympathetic of the Christian doctrines," and not greatly improved by the teaching that there is a special "limbo" for unbaptised babies on the outskirts of the inferno. Original sin has been criticised for inspiring excessive feelings of guilt.
The 18th-century politician and philosopher Edmund Burke once said: "Guilt was never a rational thing; it distorts all the faculties of the human mind, it perverts them, it leaves a man no longer in the free use of his reason, it puts him into confusion. Is the feeling of guilt a vital part of our moral lives or can it do more harm than good? One of the biggest problems the Catholic Church faced over the years was the problem of children who died before they were baptised.
Before the 13th Century, all unbaptised people, including new born babies who died, would go to Hell, according to the Catholic Church. This was because original sin had not been cleansed by baptism.
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This idea however was criticised by Peter Abelard, a French scholastic philosophiser, who said that babies who had no personal sin didn't even deserve punishment. It was Abelard who introduced the idea of 'Limbo'. The word comes from the Latin 'limbus', meaning the edge.
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This would be a state of existence where unbaptised babies, and those unfortunate enough to have been born before Jesus, would not experience pain but neither would they experience the Beatific Vision of God. The idea of Limbo was defined in by Pope Pius X in his catechism. Why does it matter?
No one can do an exhaustive treatment of this great theme. This is a simple, straightforward message. If you have not put your faith in Christ, now is certainly an appropriate time to do so. The coming of Jesus of Nazareth was the climax of this series of redemptive events; and his resurrection is the event that validates all that came before.
The Bible speaks of creation as virtually the finger-painting of God, while the resurrection of Christ required the strong arm of God! It is his mighty work! In other words, the resurrection of Christ implicitly contains an argument from the greater to the lesser. If we can embrace this miracle, what is to prevent us from embracing lesser ones? Matt ; Luke ; Rom ; ; 1 Cor , As Ladd pointed out p. If the resurrection of Christ is not reality, then we have no assurance that God is the living God, for death has the last word.
Faith is futile because the object of that faith has not vindicated himself as the Lord of life. Christian faith is then incarcerated in the tomb along with the final and highest self-revelation of God in Christ--if Christ is indeed dead. But if Christ is raised from the dead, then God is sovereign over all things, even death.
Matt ; Luke ; John ; ; 1 Cor Again, several texts point in this direction. Note two in particular: John ; 1 Cor Thus, if Christ is not raised from the dead, he is a liar. And if he is a liar, then his death did not pay for our sins. John , 26; Acts ; ; ; , 10, 33; , 34; ; Rom ; 1 Cor ; 2 Tim We have seen some of the passages in Acts. Note now two other texts: John and Rom All others who were raised from the dead returned to their graves e.
Clearly, if Christ raised himself from the dead, he must be more than a man!
His resurrection without human agency is an implicit affirmation of his deity. And "death" must mean something other than annihilation. Rom ; 1 Cor , 20; Col ; 1 Pet ; Rev The bodily resurrection of Christ speaks volumes about the spiritual status of the body: it is not inherently evil, with the mind being inherently good. Both were created good by God; both were corrupted in the fall of man.
Thomas Aquinas (1224/6—1274)
The ancient gnostics felt that only the mind was good. Some Christians have adopted this stance and have taken on an ascetic lifestyle, trying to deny the body its natural functions and pleasures. And if they will be redeemed, then there is something salvagable about them. Not only this, but they can be dedicated to God and used for his glory NOW! But the fact that they need to be redeemed means that they are utterly sinful. Note 2 Tim , which condemns those who embrace other than a bodily, future resurrection of the saints.
The Spirit was promised to those who put their trust in Christ. It is vital for us to understand that apart from the Spirit in our lives we would not believe.
Catholicism and Capital Punishment
He seals us to God and grants us the power necessary for sanctification. Note especially John This word was used in commerce at the time. It was often written across a bill to indicate that the bill was paid in full. His resurrection is proof that our sins are forgiven! Two points: First, forgiveness was costly the cross , but because of the resurrection, there should not be lingering guilt for sin.
If God slew his own son and kept him in the grave, every time we sinned the guilt would be too much! But the resurrection means that no sin is so heinous that we cannot forgive ourselves. Some of you have done some pretty foul things in your time. Second, you have no right to withhold forgiveness from someone else. You need to forgive your spouse, your friend, your boss, your neighbor, and even your enemies. If God in Christ has forgiven all people, for me to withhold forgiveness says that I am more righteous than God!
To sum up: life, relationship, forgiveness, sanctification, the future, sanctity of the body. A whole philosophy, an entire world view, is wrapped up in the resurrection of Christ.
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Act as if your life depends on the resurrection of Christ--because it does! He is risen!
That is the best news we can possibly tell a dying world! Questions About the Old Testament Law. Is it okay to involve an unbeliever in church ministry? What Denomination Does Bible. Psalms Of Kindness. You are here Home. Introduction Shirley McLaine celebrated her birthday this past spring: she turned 62 and and Daniel is the principal text: it speaks of the resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous: At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people.