Posts Tagged ‘Adam’

Greetings. My name is Lee (aka Disciple) and I’ll be representing the Catholic view on our new site, Christian Diversity. Our first topic is Original Sin. Key to understanding the Catholic doctrine on Original Sin is the teaching of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans (especially Chapter 5) in which he gives us a profound meditation on Original Sin and its effect on all of creation, and in which he also presents us with a view of Adam as the father from which all humankind is descended and by whose sin all were wounded; and Christ as the Second Adam Who came to give us new life and by Whose obedience all were redeemed.

A common objection to the doctrine on Original Sin is that no one should have to pay for the sins of another, for being condemned through no fault of one’s own. On the other hand, I have rarely heard anyone object to being redeemed by Christ through no effort of one’s own. The problem seems to be one of viewing Original Sin as punishment and as unjust punishment, at that. Let us realize that Original Sin is not so much an act as a state, the state which we inherit when we are born into the world as descendants of Adam. All of us are born into this state of Original Sin; all of us humans are born as infants; therefore, all human infants are born into this state of Original Sin. We are not talking here of personal sins of infants. No infant has the ability or opportunity to commit a personal sin of any kind. But all infants inherit human nature from their parents, who inherited it from their parents, and so on, all the way back to the beginning.

Now the following is a very imperfect analogy and it wouldn’t do to take it too far, but consider this. Suppose I have the misfortune to live near a site filled with harmful radiation. And suppose that this radiation is capable of damaging my genes and that it does so. Suppose that I marry a man who also lives in this neighborhood and that he is similarly damaged by the same radiation. Now suppose that we have children. Our offspring will be born with the same damage in their genes. That’s not so much fair or unfair but, rather, the way nature works.

In the case of Original Sin, human nature itself was changed, not merely Adam and Eve experiencing change on a personal level. Human nature itself was changed, and all humankind would be born ever after in that changed state. This is not fair or unfair but simply is, and also is just. But even then, while God’s Justice was at work, so was His Mercy. For already God was preparing to mend the rift between Himself and His creation, preparing to send His Son into the world. Preparing to give us greater gifts than those our father Adam had lost.

14 And the Lord God said to the serpent: Because thou hast done this thing, thou art cursed among all cattle, and the beasts of the earth: upon thy breast shalt thou go, and earth shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.

15 I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.

16 To the woman also he said: I will multiply thy sorrows, and thy conceptions: in sorrow shalt thou bring forth children, and thou shalt be under thy husband’s power, and he shall have dominion over thee.

17 And to Adam he said: Because thou hast hearkened to the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldst not eat, cursed is the earth in thy work; with labour and toil shalt thou eat thereof all the days of thy life.

18 Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou eat the herbs of the earth.

19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread till thou return to the earth, out of which thou wast taken: for dust thou art, and into dust thou shalt return.

20 And Adam called the name of his wife Eve: because she was the mother of all the living. 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and his wife, garments of skins, and clothed them.

(Genesis 3:14-24, Douay Rheims version.)

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I’m going to take a slightly different approach than J.W. on this one. One thing I’ve been learning/thinking about while going through a Systematic Theology class at our church is that everything must be viewed through the lens of its relevance to the truth of Christianity. There are three levels of this, and they are as follows:

1)   Primary issues – essential beliefs to Christianity (e.g. Jesus is God, any issue dealing with salvation)
2)   Secondary issues – not essential to the truth of Christianity, but still very important (e.g. inerrancy of Scripture)
3)   Tertiary issues – more dogmatic things (e.g. views on the Rapture, Calvinism vs. Arminianism)

Where does original sin fall? I would consider it a primary issue, because if salvation is a primary issue, it doesn’t become an issue at all unless there is something that we need salvation from.

Now Christians generally agree that man is born inherently sinful. No arguments there. Paul further refers to original sin as “the sin of Adam.” (Romans 5:12). This of course begs the question why sin entered the world with Adam, since it was Eve that ate the fruit first. Part of me likes to think that Adam first sinned by not assuming the responsibility that God had entrusted to him by giving him Eve. He was falling down on the job; he wasn’t being the king, warrior, mentor or friend that God had called him to be (see Stu Weber’s Four Pillars of a Man’s Heart for this reference).

So Adam gave us a sin nature, it seems. J.W. appears to be on the right track here. We can’t have been given our sin nature from God, because God doesn’t have sin in His nature to give. It is something that makes man different from God; Norm Geisler calls this distinction “potentiality.” God has pure Actuality, and it is this He can give us and does give us in things like morality, love, wisdom, etc. But He cannot give what He does not have in His nature, which is sin.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that we all possess a piece of Adam’s soul. But we do inherit the nature of his potentiality, and it is this that makes us sinful, and therefore finite in nature and also in understanding. It’s this sin that blocks our view of God’s Actuality, because we are separate beings from God due to this sin. We can understand what God is like, but not who He is in a perfect sense. I can dive more deeply into this in the comments section if anyone would like, but it seems to me that this would be a good stopping point for digestion and reflection.

Ultimately it all points to the need for a Savior, and thankfully our Father loves us enough to send us His Son to die once for all original sin we possess. Amen!

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