The New Christians

The New Christians

Comment of the Day

posted by Tony Jones

So many great comments under Original Sin: A Depraved Idea, so I’ll just highlight Virgil’s.  Do yourself a favor and go read the others.

There is very little that is “traditional” about the doctrine of
original sin, until we get to Augustine and his revivalist Calvin to
promote the doctrine. Again, numbers do not necessarily bring validity
and objectivity to an issue, in fact the opposite is probably true.

What if instead we consider the covenantal aspect of creation, and
look at the imagery presented in the narrative? Order is created out of
chaos, life out of death, purpose out of purposeless existence. The
story is presenting Eden as the place where “God is” and the outside as
the mythical place of chaos, danger, thorns and “no God.”

In this mythical covenantal context one would be hard pressed to
show that something went physically wrong with the bodies of Adam and
Eve when they sinned; can we justify this biblically?

Could the story of the fall be illustrative of life without God,
which brings thorns, distress and pain to one’s life. The idea that the
first (original) sin brought about physical pain, and thorns is simply
unreasonable. Are we to understand that pre-sin Adam could have jumped
off a cliff and not go splash when he hit the ground; or not even feel

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posted January 27, 2009 at 9:14 am

“Are we to understand that pre-sin Adam could have jumped off a cliff and not go splash when he hit the ground; or not even feel pain”
Indeed! If adam we’re to step on an ant, would it have died?
Adam was not created immortal, hence the need for a “tree of life”. What if we posit this tree as a “tree of survival”? The garden story pits the simple need for “survival” against the the effects of “knowledge”. If culpability is proportional to knowledge (seems just to me) then knowledge is the path to judgement before God. . .
The issue here is not necessarily the role of Sin (in seperating us from God) but the role of death and decay.

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Jeff Toobin

posted January 27, 2009 at 10:16 am

Ugh. Augustine did not invent the doctrine, he merely reported on it and defended it. Look up primary sources in paragraph below.
From Catholic Encyclopedia:
It is not true that the doctrine of original sin does not appear in the works of the pre-Augustinian Fathers. On the contrary, their testimony is found in special works on the subject. Nor can it be said, as Harnack maintains, that St. Augustine himself acknowledges the absence of this doctrine in the writings of the Fathers. St. Augustine invokes the testimony of eleven Fathers, Greek as well as Latin (Contra Jul., II, x, 33). Baseless also is the assertion that before St. Augustine this doctrine was unknown to the Jews and to the Christians; as we have already shown, it was taught by St. Paul. It is found in the fourth Book of Esdras, a work written by a Jew in the first century after Christ and widely read by the Christians. This book represents Adam as the author of the fall of the human race (vii, 48), as having transmitted to all his posterity the permanent infirmity, the malignity, the bad seed of sin (iii, 21, 22; iv, 30). Protestants themselves admit the doctrine of original sin in this book and others of the same period (see Sanday, “The International Critical Commentary: Romans”, 134, 137; Hastings, “A Dictionary of the Bible”, I, 841). It is therefore impossible to make St. Augustine, who is of a much later date, the inventor of original sin.

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posted January 27, 2009 at 10:46 am

Yes. Tertullian arguably put forth the doctrine before Augustine, (only after Paul, Jesus, God, etc. did in the bible first).

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posted January 27, 2009 at 10:48 am

“The idea that the first (original) sin brought about physical pain, and thorns is simply unreasonable.”
I thought the emergent movement was trying to move past modernism!? Is it a Christian approach or an Enlightenment approach to the Bible that leads Virgil to exalt up his “reason” and criticize the Scriptures? Is the incarnation too “unreasonable” to believe? Is redemption from sin and death too “unreasonable” to believe? Is a perfected New Heavens and New Earth simply “unreasonable?”
Furthermore, is it really too much for God to protect people from pain and suffering? Isn’t the same ‘logical predicament’ of the Garden found also in God protecting a redeemed humanity from cliffs and thorns and ants in the New Heavens and New Earth? If it is logically unreasonable that God could satisfy this predicament in the Garden, then on what basis can we trust that He will really create a Kingdom without thorns, cliff-falling, and my sin?
Yes, Genesis 3 is a story about the cosmic consequences of sin and the consequent separation from God, but nothing precludes it from also being a reliable account of the first sin of mankind – except man’s “reason.” In fact, the other Scriptures would lead us to read it in exactly this manner. If Tony shows clearly that the Scriptures teach otherwise, I will be happy to stand corrected.

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Virgil Vaduva

posted January 27, 2009 at 11:11 am

Thanks Tony, this is a topic close to my heart mostly due to the consequences of the doctrine: depression, despair, inadequacy, etc.
phil_style, could the Tree of Life in Genesis be a type for what was to come later, the antitype Jesus and the life found in Him (see the Eucharist)? And what if the Tree of Life we see presented in Revelation is simply Jesus himself rather than an actual physical tree, i.e. the ultimate spiritual fulfillment of God’s covenantal promises made to Adam and the entire humanity?
Ben, you are reading this into the story; the narrative says nothing about physical pain, physical death, physical thorns as being the outcome of original sin. Please try to read the story in its ancient eastern context, not as a westerner who reads a dramatic literal news story. Virtually everything we have been told by the original sin doctrine is debunked by the biblical narrative itself: Adam and Eve were always able to eat from the tree of life (Gen 2:16), they were physically working an tilling the ground before they sinned (Gen. 2:15), etc. You would have us believe that their sweat glands did not function (no sweat), that their nerve endings did not operate (no pain) and that God created thorns after he wrapped up his creative process. To me, it seems that the story is using this language and events to communicate a deeper meaning and it should not be interpreted mechanically and literally.
Also why do you expect a physical type of Kingdom with the characteristics you described when Jesus said “My Kingdom is not of this world…the Kingdom is among you…the Kingdom is within you?” And if the Kingdom you imagine and expect to come at some point in the future is truly without about physical pain, why does the book of Revelation describe a Kingdom with many nations which are in need of life and healing? (see Revelation 22:2) Why wait for a future time to provide healing to the nations when we can do it now?
I do not believe that Tony needs to prove himself because he is well within the bounds of the scripture on this issue.

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posted January 27, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Ben, while I do agree that Gen 1-3 relays an account of the first to “Sin”, I do think there are things that “preclude it from also being a reliable account of the first sin of mankind” IF that first sin ALSO meant the first historical physical death within mankind. among those things which preclude this are;
1. Biological (DNA) evidence to the contrary
2. Fossil evidence to the contrary
3. Other human written histories to the contrary (potentially depending on when wnats to date the Adamic event)
4. Other human tools/ artifact evidence to the contrary (archaeology, once again depending on when one wants to date the Adamic events).

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Seth R.

posted January 27, 2009 at 9:05 pm

“Furthermore, is it really too much for God to protect people from pain and suffering?”
I would say yes, it is.
But as a Mormon, I’m probably a man without an opinion in this fight (not that I don’t have one personally of course…).

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mike lamson

posted January 28, 2009 at 9:07 am

I would say biblically in Genesis maybe death (in our bodies) would have been a consequence for sin? I’m pretty sure it’s in there.

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Chris Russell

posted February 12, 2009 at 2:02 pm

I like how Tony’s favorite post uses no scripture to back it up. Hmm makes you wonder doesn’t it.

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