Original Sin?

I’m going to be frank in this post, and it might sound heretical. So I’m sorry. Especially to all my SAGU friends. This is probably a product of my reading (and re-reading) of A Better Atonement by Tony Jones.

The doctrine of Original Sin bugs me for a couple of reasons.

Reason #1

In the Genesis account of the Fall, there is never any mention that Adam’s guilt would be passed on to future generations. Death seems to be the true consequence, when Adam and Eve are chucked out of the Garden. Check it:

Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
(Genesis 3:22-24 ESV)

Reason #2

I’m not arguing that I think Adam wasn’t guilty. It seems pretty obvious that he was, considering he was punished by God for what he did. However – and yes, I know this is not a “biblical” (as in, taken straight from the Bible) argument – it does not seem logical to me that I should be guilty for another person’s sin. I’m not denying that I myself have sinned. I’m simply saying that Adam’s sin is not something I chose to do. Therefore, why should I be placed on the chopping block and labeled as guilty simply for some other person’s mistake? This should (logically) mean that the second my daughter was born, should she die, she would be headed straight for hell (at least according to typical Evangelical doctrine). Believing that Adam’s guilt is our guilt forces us to this conclusion.

I think the more responsible way of looking at the story of the Fall is to view it as paradigmatic of all of our situations. Adam’s story is our story. Thus, we can maintain the reality of sin in humanity without all of these complicated hermeneutical gymnastics to find an answer to the problem of evil.

I’m aware this has implications for the atonement of Christ. I’ll address that soon enough. Stay tuned, dear readers…


umbach6 says:

I think you bring up good points and challenges to our typical view, yet most can be addressed and answered by digging deeper into where the typical Evangelical view comes from. Here is a post by a missionary that my church supports that looks at this idea – http://elliott.typepad.com/accreditationhelps/2011/12/7-describe-the-problem-of-sin.html

I will look forward to see where you go with this. Thanks for the post.

atcarmichael says:

Interesting. Since the Genesis passage you quoted doesn’t defend your position, I’d be curious what you say to passages that seem to point out the opposite, like Romans 5 (pretty much the whole passage).

“In these verses we see deep theological truths. When Paul says in verse 12 ‘because all sinned’ he is using what is called the aorist indicative in Greek. This means that it is an action is completed in the past. Therefore, there is a logical implication that we can draw from this. Wayne Grudem in his systematic theology says, ‘But it was not true that all men had actually committed sinful actions at the time that Paul was writing, because some had not even been born yet, and many others had died in infancy before committing any conscious acts of sin. So Paul must be meaning that when Adam sinned, God considered true that all men sinned in Adam.'” (http://carm.org/federal-headship)

You don’t really have to do any gymnastics here, you just have to read the text…and I think that’s the most “responsible” thing we can do, isn’t it?

You said, “I’m simply saying that Adam’s sin is not something I chose to do. Therefore, why should I be placed on the chopping block and labeled as guilty simply for some other person’s mistake?” You’re probably well-versed, but it’s what is called federal headship. The doctrine that Adam’s sin was imputed to humankind, and in the same way, Christ’s perfection is imputed to us (Romans 5:12, 19). Adam acted on our behalf, so we fell in his sin.

Just a couple thoughts.

I can believe this and not believe infants and children go to hell 🙂

I have been pondering the original sin for a couple months. I wrote about it a little bit in http://simplifiedtheology.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/to-be-or-not-to-be/

I would argue that if anyone who ever lived (with the exception of Jesus) were in the Garden would have made the same decision that Adam and Eve did to eat from the tree.

atcarmichael says:

(Sorry, I never saw your response.)

That’s interesting, but, as you alluded to earlier, I don’t see how it’s biblical. I also don’t see how that’s a position on sin; it just seems like an observation, “we probably would have too.”

What are your views on Romans 5? Also, if we are not participatory in Adam’s sin, how do we acquire sin?

Romans 5…are you a descendant of Adam?

Just as we are the descendants of Adam we have the same propensity to sin just as he did. Thus, my argument that in the same situation ever human being that ever lived would have made the same decision.

As far as in your post about a newborn that dies. I would say that as Romans 5 alludes to that sin existed before the law but sin was not counted where there is no law. Is there a personal awareness a newborn possess of their sin? If someone is not able to come to a conscious awareness of their offense against God or is “of a certain age” if you will, that I would be hard pressed to believe that Jesus would not “let them come to Him.”

atcarmichael says:

I think you might be missing what Paul is saying. He’s not just saying we have a ‘propensity’ toward sin, just like Adam did.

Romans 5:12 states, “Sin came into the world through [Adam] and death spread to all men because all sinned…[Adam] was a type of the one who was to come.” So that “…if many died through [Adam’s] trespass, much more have the grace of God…by the one man Jesus Christ.” Therefore, the logic flows, “…as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men” (v. 18). And again, “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (v. 19).

Adam’s one trespass led to your condemnation. Not, “because you would’ve done the same thing, you’re condemned.” Paul’s whole case is about Christ as the true and better Adam, so what you’re saying undermines this primary understanding of who Christ is for us.

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