Episode 034: On Original Sin

podcast Theology / Biblical Studies

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Time to go to Sunday School. I was prompted to write this one just because the doctrine of original sin is one that I have never personally heard a sermon on in all the churches that I have attended. Now that’s not to say that these churches reject the idea, but it does mean that for a lot of Christians, they haven’t been directly taught about it. I don’t want to presume to teach people stuff they already know, but at the same time I thought it couldn’t hurt to do my part to make sure that Christians actually understand their theological heritage. So here’s my take on the doctrine of original sin.

 

 

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{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Anon April 8, 2010, 1:35 am

    What has been heard, can not be unheard!!! o__O

  • David April 8, 2010, 2:36 am

    Um… where is it?

  • Dave April 8, 2010, 6:25 am

    Great post. Although, by way of friendly debate, I would dispute the claim that baptism has no effect on the person’s heart and is merely a sign of a character renewed by faith. I am not endorsing the Catholic view, but Paul does seem to argue that baptism is a crucial moment involving the crucifixion of the old self and the commencement of life in the Spirit.

    Romans 6:4:
    “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

    Adding onto this in verse 6, Paul adds:
    “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with…”

    Then, Colossians 2:11-12:
    “In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.”

    I don’t think Paul sees a strict distinction between inward conversion and outward baptism, as is commonly taught in Baptist theology. He seems to identify baptism, rather than an inward emotional moment of faith, as the moment at which a person definitively splits from the world and joins the Body of Christ.

  • Dave April 8, 2010, 6:37 am

    Also, regarding the connection between evolution and original sin, I think it is possible to believe in theistic evolution and also affirm a literal Adam and Eve. Though they were doubtless coexistent with other early humans, they act as the federal representatives, the primary patriarch and matriarch.

    The same principle is at work throughout the Bible. For example, Abraham is considered the patriarch of Israel, even though several other men must have contributed to the gene pool. Benjamin is the patriarch of the Benjamites, even though his immediate children would have had to intermarry with children from other families. And so on.

    This solution is advantageous because it allows us to take the OT genealogies at face value (in the way ANE people would have taken them, allowing for gaps and convenient structuring, but literal nonetheless) and doesn’t force us to identify a point at which etiological myth melts into literal historical narrative.

    This still leaves open a number of questions, but it’s one avenue toward a solution at least.

  • Glenn April 8, 2010, 8:42 am

    “He seems to identify baptism, rather than an inward emotional moment of faith, as the moment at which a person definitively splits from the world and joins the Body of Christ.”

    Yes he does, but this doesn’t require that baptism changes one’s heart. After all, the above is compatible witht he view that baptism signifies one’s change of heart. And of course, Baptists all over the world agree that baptism is in some important sense a burial with Christ. It’s just a question of what is the dog and what is the tail. (You’ll also be aware of New Testament references to being united to God through faith, rather than baptism, for example)

  • geoff April 8, 2010, 9:57 am

    i preach on the fall all the time… to the point where people ask me to preach about something else.. but then when you ask them about the fall, they still dont understand it..
    Its like a mental block..

  • Haecceitas April 11, 2010, 8:39 am

    “Also, regarding the connection between evolution and original sin, I think it is possible to believe in theistic evolution and also affirm a literal Adam and Eve. Though they were doubtless coexistent with other early humans, they act as the federal representatives, the primary patriarch and matriarch.”

    It might also be possible to affirm evolution and think that literal Adam and Eve were the only genuinely human creatures at the time. If one accepts substance dualism, one may hold that A & E were the first hominid individuals who were given human souls, and that the other hominid creatures weren’t human since they had a different kind of a soul.

  • John April 12, 2010, 6:06 pm

    Of course the idea of “original sin” is a very convenient idea for letting Christians off the hook for being truly responsible for their moral presence and actions in the world.

    I could not help my self. I am a “fallen” being tainted or crippled by “original sin”.

    Another version of this is: the “devil” or “satan” made me do it.

    So too with the “catholic” confession. Confess your “sins” or transgressions and then say a few hail Mary’s or whatever.
    But where is the moral truly human demand to never ever commit or do that “sinful” action again.

  • Peter Byrom January 4, 2011, 3:31 am

    John: “I could not help my self. I am a “fallen” being tainted or crippled by “original sin”.”

    The atheistic alternative is hardly better:

    “I could not help myself. Causality through my brain is a one-way street and I was determined to do it”.

    And notice that on the Christian worldview:

    1. This “fallen state” is not an excuse. Humans need saving from it and from where it eventually takes them.

    2. It does not violate your free will. Do you have no free will because you cannot fly? Just because there are influences affecting you, it doesn’t mean you don’t have the choice to swim against the current (or, simply, accept the offer of the lifeboat).

    3. Have you ever done anything wrong, and does it matter?

  • Glenn January 4, 2011, 9:14 am

    “But where is the moral truly human demand to never ever commit or do that “sinful” action again.”

    Actually it’s in the Bible. Injunctions like “Go and sin no more” come to mind.

  • Terry Bolson August 29, 2011, 5:20 pm

    You conveniently left out the Eastern Orthodox view. There is no such thing as Original Sin.

    Augustine could not read or write Greek, and based his theology on a faulty Latin translation. In the original Koine Greek, Romans 5:12 literally means “because Adam sinned, Death spread to all men, and on account of death, all men sin”.

    Adam was kicked out of the Garden and denied access to the tree of life.
    That is our inheritance. We inherit death, not sin or guilt.

    The Bible specifially says: DEATH spread to all men, not sin or guilt.

    DEATH reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, not sin reigned.

    The sting of DEATH is sin, not the sting of sin is death.

    We sin because of our fear of death.

    When Jesus rose from the dead, he overcame the power of DEATH.

    Hebrews 2:14-15 He(Jesus)too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery(slaves to sin) by their “fear of death.”

    Jesus said, those who give up their life for His sake will save it, those who try to keep their life will lose it.

    Jesus said, we must become as little children to inherit the Kingdom of
    God. If we are born totally depraved and full of sin, why would he command us to become like that??

    By placing our trust in Him, we overcome our fear of death, and are then free to love God and love our neighbor and to look forward to the
    hope of the ressurrection.

  • Geoff August 29, 2011, 6:14 pm

    Terry,

    the wages of Sin is death (by sin we dont mean “bad things you do”, but rather the state of being that results in death).

  • Glenn August 29, 2011, 9:04 pm

    Terry, if there’s no Eastern Orthodox version of the doctrine of original sin, that would be why I didn’t cover it 🙂

    More seriously though, Orthodoxy is often left out of discussions of systematic theology. Part of the reason for that, I suspect, is that their doctrines are generally less formally defined than those of Roman Catholicism. Once can often not be sure that they are really identifying the Eastern Orthodox view.

  • Dicky P August 29, 2011, 10:41 pm

    Evolution!!!!!!!

  • Hugh January 8, 2015, 2:14 pm

    Hey Glenn,

    Apologies for being a few years late on this. I’ve just started listening through most of your podcasts in the last couple of days.

    I have a question for you about this particular podcast. The Representation Theory, or “Federal Head” theory, I agree, seems to dodge some of the difficulties faced by Imitation theory and Transmission theory. But to me it doesn’t really seem to have wide enough explanatory power of what we know about humanity and also what we see in Scripture.

    To unpack: Representation/Federal Head theory may account for our guilt before God, but I don’t see how it accounts for our actual propensity to sin as human beings. How does Adam representing us turn into us being depraved from the womb (Psalm 58:3)? Whence our tendency to defy our conscience (Romans 7:15) ? It seems that the other two theories, for all their faults, have some way of answering this, but Representation/Federal Head does not.

    I would be interested in your thoughts on this.

  • Chris January 25, 2015, 4:36 am

    I agree with you Hugh,

    Rom 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

    I believe however, that it is not sin, but the sin nature that is passed from generation to generation. I don’t believe the sins of my earthly father will affect me at all. However, I was given a nature of sin (carnality). This is enmity with God. Therefore I have to take on the nature of Christ, a sinless nature, in order to be saved from my sins. God will not save us in our sins, but from our sins.

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