Posts Tagged ‘philosophy’

[Editor’s note: this post has been thoroughly reworked due to some invigorating discussion in the comment section. Check out the refined version here.]

Original Sin Defined

The writers of the Augsburg Confession (found in the Book of Concord) defined Original Sin as the belief that “…since the fall of Adam all human beings who are propagated according to nature are born with sin, that is, without fear of God… [we] teach that this disease or original fault is truly sin, which even now damns and brings eternal death to those who are not born again through baptism and the Holy Spirit” (BOC, 39).

One Objection

Ezekiel 18:20a states, “The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son.”

The word used for “soul” in this passage is the Hebrew word, nephesh. This passage leads to the objection that original sin cannot be true as I have outlined it, because it involves the son inheriting the guilt of the father.

The Question of the Soul: A Metaphysic of Original Sin

Three views of the soul are prevalent in Christianity. All of them presuppose metaphysical dualism. They are:

1) Our soul is constructed just as our physical body: Our soul is a half-and-half combination of the souls of our mother and father. One problem with this view is that it seems to treat the soul as a physical object. How exactly does a non-physical entity get combined half-and-half into a new non-physical entity. It certainly isn’t impossible, however. This view is quite popular.

2)  God specially creates each soul for each person when he/she is conceived/born/etc. Alternatively, God has already created every soul for everyone who will ever live, and puts them in a body when one is needed. The main problem with this view is that it would seem that if original sin is true (in the sense I have outlined it above), then God creates sinful souls for us.

3) Our soul is from Adam. There are no new souls for mankind, rather, we all share, in some sense, Adam’s soul.

I shall focus on 3) because it is the view I am forwarding. In Genesis 2:7, we are told that God breathed the breath (nephesh) of life into Adam. I contend that this (nephesh), which is in all humanity (and has been alternatively explained as our reason, soul, life, ethical awareness, etc.) is indeed our soul. Furthermore, because this nephesh is the same as that breathed into Adam, original sin is passed on, not through the inheritance simply of our parents’ genes, but through the fact that we share one and the same nephesh with Adam.

So how does this answer the objection from Ezekiel 18:20? Initially, one may argue it seems to purge the passage of all meaning. This is not the case, however. What Ezekiel is referring to is the sin of commission. That is, it refers to a sin which requires an action. Ezekiel is telling us that the actions of the father do not condemn the actions of the son. This does not, however, preclude the original sin, through which all are condemned equally.

Source:

The Book of Concord. Augsburg Fortress. 2000.

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