The Doctrine of Original Sin

This year, Pope Ratzinger made a statement that made the Roman Catholic Church less medieval somewhat – look, Big Bang Theory is a fact and God was behind it, Pope says. Most Catholics in the Philippines seem to have missed this development. The Pope also declared that Genesis is an allegory. So, Genesis is fiction, the fall of man is fiction and Original Sin is fiction. Why do Filipinos need to hand 250 bucks for their children’s spiritual betterment?

Below is a comment by M. Sonny found in this thread, reproduced here with his permission. It contains more information on original sin, why the Eastern Churches don’t have it as a doctrine and why it’s downright stupid  branding innocent children as unworthy or sinful.

The  doctrine of “original sin” is unique to the Roman Catholic Church. The eastern Orthodox churches to which I belong do not have such a dogma. The doctrine was developed in the early 5th century primarily by Augustine (bishop of Hippo) who reacted to the Pelagian heresy that taught that infants need not be baptized since they have committed no personal sins. Augustine countered Pelagius by arguing from common Church practice and mixing it with traducianism via Romans 5:12: “…sin came into the world through one man and death spread through sin, and so death spread to all men because [literally, “in that” or “in which”] all men sinned.”

To briefly summarize Augustine’s argument, which originated from 3rd century Latin-speaking church father, Cyprian, bishop of Carthage: “The Church universally baptized infants; therefore, since baptism confers remission of sins, and since infants have committed no personal sins, the Church baptizes infants obviously in order to remit or remove the original sin which they receive hereditarily from Adam because all of humanity was seminally present in Adam.”

“The church is saying we are also guilty due to Adam’s sin even though we didn’t personally commit it.”

So for the past 16 centuries, the Roman Catholic church taught a biological and even a genetic transmssion of “original sin”, which started with Adam and then passed down to all of humanity, from one generation to the next.

This is problematic to the Eastern (Greek-speaking) fathers of Christianity. The Eastern Church finds repugnant the notion that God would consider someone guilty of something which he or she did not commit personally. The Greek Fathers saw the relationship between the first man (Adam) and his descendents as organic and existential in nature without the notion of an inherited “guilt”. We inherit the same mortal and corrupt nature which Adam possessed because of his and Eve’s transgressions, but we do not inherit the guilt of that “original sin” which changed our human nature.

Let’s put this in layman’s language for the readers to easily understand. Suppose we have a loved one (a family member) who committed a crime (say, murder). He was arrested, tried in a court of law and found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. What will be the consequences of his crime on his immediate family? First, there is the family shame. We might even hypothesize that many of our friends and other relatives might distance themselves from us (because of the crime committed), and so on and so forth.

Now, it will be totally unjust if other members of the family will also be sent to jail because someone else committed a crime, isn’t it?

This is what the RCC dogma on “original sin” is. The church is saying we are also guilty due to Adam’s sin even though we didn’t personally commit it, and the only remission of that original sin is through the Church, in Baptism.

I’ve long struggled with the concept of “original sin” which is one of many reasons why I left Roman Catholicism. And I’m exceedingly glad I did.

Summary on Roman Catholic versus Eastern Orthodox teachings on Original Sin


31 thoughts on “The Doctrine of Original Sin

  1. The Catholic Church does not believe there to be a personal or actual sin present in original sin (this was partially postulated by St. Augustine, but not accepted at the Council of Orange or in Catholic dogma). The Eastern Orthodox retain a belief in ancestral sin whereby the Orthodox refer to a certain inclination to sin in man on account of the Fall of Adam and Eve. For the Catholic Church original sin is similarly that inclination to sin on account of a human nature unaided by what is called sanctifying grace and by a disordered will harmed by the Fall. Infants who have no sin of their own are said to have original sin not that they did anything sinful in their lives but that they lack an indwelling of grace that was given to Adam and Eve prior to the Fall and by which a person is incorporated into God’s inner Trinitarian life of love.

    With the full wishes that you return to the Church, God bless

      • The Secular Burger,
        It is a reflection of theology and morality through a combination of philosophical dialectic and the Scriptures. Of considerable work are the works of the Church Fathers, and the early Scholastics who generated the bulk of the current understanding of the Catholic Church’s thoughts on original sin. Regarding original sin typically the points in Scripture are considered as Romans 5 and Genesis 2, that not withstanding there are probably various other dictates within the Bible that help to clarify an understanding of what original sin is.

        As G. K. Chesterton jokes, original sin is the only dogma of the faith that can be seen by empirical evidence. He means to say that original sin explains why I want to do XYZ but just can’t muster the will against the other part of me that wants to do ABC.

  2. C’ est moi Robyn,
    In reply to, “Basically, some people made it up.”

    Not quite. Scripture is a divine book and a human book so in a sense human beings did write the Bible and so the doctrine of original sin does come from human beings, but this does not mean that it does not come from God also. Such would be a flaw of monocausalism, meaning that some effect only has one cause, which isn’t a very good way to build your philosophy unless of course you’re a materialist.

    Within the Church she has always had a teaching on original sin, but it has been further clarified by the work of theologians and religious persons so as to further understand the revelation of God.

    You may object to a God, but if we want to be fair then we’ll have to hear each other’s arguments back and forth [that’s what dialectic is].

    • “Clarified by the work of theologians…” Did some ‘god’ help them clarify? What about some experiment? Some people sat down and decided on something. There’s no verification whatsoever – how can there be? It’s all made up. You and I can have a sit down and decide Jupiter is made of cheese or that human virgin births happen all the time. Did we arrive at some fact? No.

      • Yes, God assisted them in clarification, that is the understanding of what an ecumenical council is. I didn’t expect you to approve of it, but you have to understand that there is a hierarchy of claims that the Church holds that follow one after the other. So obviously before you believe in the infallibility of the Church regarding issues exclaimed by an ecumenical council or by ex cathedra proclamation from the Pope, you would have to understand the authority of the Church and of the divine revelation given to the Jews and the Christians in the first place.

        You would first have to believe in the divine revelation of Christianity before you can begin to question whether the bit about clarified by theologians comes to make any logical or reasonable sense.

        I am not arguing about Jupiter being made out of cheese or virginal births being common, these are non sequitur [see your post about Carl Sagan].

      • I read it already. Thanks. I don’t think I committed any logical fallacies in my post.

      • It wasn’t the logical fallacies I was worried about, Steven.

        Anyone can claim some deity guided them. That’s the line of the violent fundies as well. Belief must be proportional to the strength of the evidence. Since there is virtually no evidence of a divine instructor and there’s no method of verifying “evidence” for the claim of a divine instructor, there’s no reason for me to believe such claim. :) Peace.

  3. basically, what he is saying is that you have to believe that the bible and the church hierarchy is always telling the truth before you hear what the bible and the church hierarchy have to say. wow. you sir are gullible.

  4. Is this how atheist are so gullible? They will take anything just accuse God and the church and subscribe to it like triumphant little children?

    I just finished my explanation on Original Sin and Fritz Favati sent this blog to us on TRTF so it deemed to me to reply also on this page as I already sent a similar PM to M Sonny

    This is my reply to Fritz

    The article gave this example as his excuse

    [Let’s put this in layman’s language for the readers to easily understand. Suppose we have a loved one (a family member) who committed a crime (say, murder). He was arrested, tried in a court of law and found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. What will be the consequences of his crime on his immediate family? First, there is the family shame. We might even hypothesize that many of our friends and other relatives might distance themselves from us (because of the crime committed), and so on and so forth.]

    This example is right for the stigma of the sin of the father is there but let us look at the conclusion

    Now, it will be totally unjust if other members of the family will also be sent to jail because someone else committed a crime, isn’t it?]

    The conclusion is hardly valid for the word Man as one coherent entity and not as individuals for example only human beings will produce human beings and we cannot produce for example cats or even mice :)

    [Original sin is transmitted with human nature, the Bible reveals all have sinful flesh. All men are implicated in Adam’s sin, the Bible reveals all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. The apostle Paul taught original sin, the apostle Paul taught “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned … For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Rom 5:12, 19). Little children are an example of humility, little children are not an example of one not having original sin. ] sin

    The infection is not on us humans but on our human nature

    The result of original sin is deprivation of grace but as experience of our daily existence shows this is to be true as compared to my example below the result of original sin is Pride, Greed, Lust, Selfishness, Sloth etc. If you can see that you are plagued by this experience in your daily life…. Welcome to the club FRITZ :)

    That is my excuse :)

      • The reason a bystander knows what he know is that he learns on observing the world around him and not commit an idea before he sees the proof of it in nature and his readings. The bystander always reflects and the bystander always reads :) Will that answer your questions :)

      • hahaha but you reject anything that is opposite to your dogma. how dare you say you ‘observe’ and not commit an idea without proof. and you think the bible is proof of god’s mind because the bible says so? where is the proof of genesis? and i asked you a question. do you have access to god’s mind?

      • Not so for centuries this topic is one that troubled many thinkers in the past. both secular and theologians alike. My reading is backed up of centuries of human thought from Genesis to Jesus to the saints and the theologians like Agustine and Thomas Aquinas. Now if you wonder, there is a teaching authority in the church called the magisterium whose authority came from Jesus himself. You have the right and M. Sonny has that right to struggle for this question because that question is also MY question before that is

        [Now, it will be totally unjust if other members of the family will also be sent to jail because someone else committed a crime, isn’t it?]

        It came to light if we view Adam as not a single separate entity as M Sonny puts it here but one person that represents us all. For example the president of the philippines will always reflect in us what he does, if he is weak the nation is also seen as weakling for he represents us as a a nation and we voted him in power.

        My proof is based not the proof of scientific proofs but an understanding of human nature as seen in our everyday lives and others. The question should include many others not related but somehow connected.

        Since I told you how I arrive at the truth now may I ask you how do you arrive at the truth? By just thinking about it and since it conforms to YOUR own world view took it hook line and sinker?

        My last question is also as seen in my reasons above. How do you know that I do not have access to God’s mind, Unless you can answer this you are attacking a strawman :)

        The bystander knows what he knows coz he reads and observe :)

    • you’re the one making stuff up and making YOUR OWN interpretations of genesis and how god works. YOU are the ones making the these assumptions. YOU are the ones who have to convince us that what you are saying is how god wants it to be interpreted. so far you’ve proven nothing.

      • strawman? you have no idea what you’re talking about. you claimed to arrived at the truth without providing evidence. all you have given us is your own view of the bible. your own ‘experience’ that we have to take as infallible. and you’re the one who’s claiming that this book is the will of god and that theologians are divinely inspired without any proof. anyone can read and interpret the bible in their own way and claim that they were divinely inspired. you’re just evading the discussion by claiming that i’m attacking a strawman LOL

  5. Joseph Perez wrote “The infection is not on us humans but on our human nature.”

    @Joseph Perez, Are you saying Adam’s actions “infected” other humans and without Adam’s actions, humans wouldn’t have Pride, Greed, Lust, etc.? That’s a convoluted way to argue. It’s essentially the same as the confused bullshit Reyes wrote.

    Humans are subject to human nature. There’s no way around it. If human nature is tainted, then humans are essentially tainted. We are tainted according to the dogma no matter what. Even newborns who haven’t done anything are tainted. That’s the horse dung you teach.

    You just destroyed Free Will. Congratulations.

    • You are right Fritz and you got the idea of what is original sin is. Your brilliant! Just a comment on your side comments

      Was it convoluted? Look around you everyday wasnt it that everyday you are bombarded by this evil of lust, pride, selfishness, greed, anger, sloth, anger, gluttony, and envy? How does your human nature responds to them? Now to quote Oscar Wilde

      “I can resist everything but… temptation”

      Is as true of what every human being is experiencing right now :)

      What you really missed Fritz is this human nature is not bad but it will follow its very own instincts if this is not tamed with grace (more on that later)

      If every human being in the whole world has the power to eliminate the sins mentioned like selfishness etc etc. This will not be earth at all but heaven in itself. But as you know this is impossible, and you know that is true :)

      The baby problem that you have said here was a problem to the theologians in the past that is why they proposed a place called “limbo” but recently the pope overturned the theory the news report as said in a summary

      Pope Benedict XVI has approved “a church report released Friday that said there was reason to hope that babies who die without baptism can go to heaven.”

      Also this is the document for it that explains the church position on it

      This is where this blog going downhill when It said I “that I destroyed freewill”

      Everyday as I said we are tempted to commit the sins enumerated above for freewill is the power of man to choose now you can choose lust and greed over the virtues of temperance, and charity or vice versa. This always happens in human nature. Human nature can accept or reject any temptation for the deadly enemy of temptation is grace. And grace is only given by God himself and not inert in human nature. For responding to grace is in effect is going against human nature in itself not that the we subscribe that human nature as always evil, but always it is geared towards what is evil and the infusion of grace will help human nature to overcome whatever temptation human nature is always subjected too. That is IF the will cooperates with grace :)

      Now can this be true? Are there persons that overcame their human nature and responded to grace by their own choosing? Except Christ of course :) Study the saint and their lives. If this true to them why it cannot be true to you?

  6. @Joseph Perez

    1. Adam – We’ve established he’s fiction. The Pope agrees. If you keep making excuses based on Adam (the man), you go against your Catholic doctrine.

    2. No it’s not “free will” if your thoughts, words and deeds are driven by the biological states of your body. Let’s say a deity gave you a body that has a high probability of “sinning” regularly. Where’s the “grace” in that? Or the free will?

    3. Your ideas are contradictory.

    • 1. As I said Adam is just a name but he exist. You can call him Man or First Man it doesnt make a difference. The thing that is important and the Pope will agree to this is this that God created Man or the first human being.

      2. Freewill means free to make a choice based upon the action of the will. Now your question is

      [Let’s say a deity gave you a body that will “sin” regularly. Where’s the “grace” in that? ]

      Firstly the assumption that the body tends to sin regularly is incomplete. Yes the body left alone will self destruct. (This is not the topic at hand so I wont even even debate it here.) God has made us so but he never left us alone without a fight for he built within us also in our human nature something we called conscience as a simple example

      If we take a exams and suddenly we dont know the answer our instinct is to look at our seatmates answers. Now if we are tempted in doing so there exist a small voice within us that always says cheating is wrong. You can follow this voice or not is the action of the will :)

      Where does grace in there? I at the moment our consciences react to a situation that troubles human natures instincts that is what we call grace :)

      3. Not so you just look around and you will see that any single or group of human beings is not altogether bad and evil. The “not” in there is where grace resides :)

  7. Pingback: The Doctrine of Original Sin « Coreys Views

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