Monday, August 3, 2009


One thing that I think has always bothered me about Christian theology is the concept of Original Sin.

By his sin Adam, as the first man, lost the original holiness and justice he had received from God, not only for himself but for all human beings. Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called "original sin". As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called "concupiscence"). Catechism of the Catholic Church, 416-418

The thought that one person, thousands of years ago, defying God resulting in the punishment of all, throws off my Internal Sense of Justice. Of course, my research (wikipedia) leads me to the Book of Dicipline of the Methodist Church, which says:

Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually.

At least this doesn't carry with it the insinuation that one need not do evil to be a sinner; rather, it states humans are naturally inclined towards evil due to their nature. Perhaps this is true - there has been enough evil in the world to justify this hypothesis. Surely Wesley would believe that while people may be inherently evil, by following God/Jesus they're set right. (Methodism also doesn't hold Predestination, another concept which throws off my ISJ).

I think I've stated this before, but I just don't think that people are inherently evil. Perhaps this is why I have such a problem with this.

Maybe more thoughts later.

1 comment:

Wildflower said...


Theological Anthropology (what the nature of man is) is a tricky issue. That said, many Christians (and denominations) do not have a low theological anthropology. Many groups of Christians (the social gospel of the 19th/20th centuries, for example) actually had a fairly high view of humanity. They were not alone in Christian history.

That said, I don't exactly have a high theological anthropology either - simply put, there is too much human-caused suffering in this world to believe humans are purely good at heart. We are truly ambiguous creatures, and much is possible before us (good and evil). While I find arguments on theological anthropology interesting, I typically find they ignore our inherent (and rather obvious to me) ambiguity.

A couple of other points worth mentioning - first, many myth-telling enterprises rely on a myth of disintegration to rally power around the myth. I've talked some about myths of disintegration on my blog, and I don't think highly of them, but they are not unique to Christianity (or organized religion as such). Remember when we talked about Rand needing a fall (to explain how "good" humans fell into the trap of evil-leaning society)? Even though she may never talk about it, a myth of disintegration is present in her philosophy as well. Both stories gain authority (negatively) by reaching into the past to explain a present predicament as static, as natural. They simply disagree where "human" evil comes from. Either way, I find explanations of human evil distasteful because they are never simply explanations - rather they are cleverly hidden ethical injunctions. We might as well be honest when we are storytelling.

Secondly, on a non-explanatory level (purely mythic), one might be able to understand original sin as simply attempting to explain that something IS wrong with the human condition (whether we are fundamentally good, evil or both/neither). We do cause suffering. In our heart, something feels off. Our reality is not as it should be. Reality is not potential. If we are honest when we talk about the myth of original sin, and acknowledge that it is a story about a present moment, namely a story of our present discomfort/angst over the current moment, then I think the myth might be worth telling. Or at least considering.

Regardless, we should talk more about this sometime. An interesting topic.