Original sin  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Original Sin (disambiguation)

According to Christian theology, original sin (also called ancestral sin, hereditary sin, birth sin, or person sin) is the fallen state of humanity. Western Christian tradition regards it as the general condition of sinfulness (lack of holiness) into which human beings are born. In the history of Christian dogma this condition has been characterized as something as insignificant as a slight deficiency to something as drastic as total depravity. Eastern Christian Tradition identifies Original Sin as physical and spiritual mortality, which in turn leads people to commit actual sins.

Used with the definite article ("the original sin"), it refers to the first sin, committed when Adam and Eve succumbed to the serpent's temptation, commonly known as "the Fall".

Contents

Christian doctrine

There are wide-ranging disagreements among Christian groups as to the exact understanding of the doctrine about a state of sinfulness or absence of holiness affecting all humans, even children, with some Christian groups denying it altogether.

New Testament

The scriptural basis for the doctrine is found in two New Testament books by Paul the Apostle and Corinthians 15:22, in which he identifies Adam as the one man through whom death came into the world.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. —Romans 5:12-14, ESV "Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 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. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." —Rom. 5:18-21, ESV

Catholicism

The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

By his sin Adam, as the first man, lost the original holiness and justice he had received from God, not only for himself but for all humans. Adam and Eve transmitted to their descendants human nature wounded by their own first sin and hence deprived of original holiness and justice; this deprivation is called "original sin". As a result of original sin, human nature is weakened in its powers, subject to ignorance, suffering and the domination of death, and inclined to sin (this inclination is called "concupiscence").

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that in "yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin, but this sin affected the human nature that they would then transmit in a fallen state … original sin is called "sin" only in an analogical sense: it is a sin "contracted" and not "committed" — a state and not an act" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 404). This "state of deprivation of the original holiness and justice … transmitted to the descendants of Adam along with human nature" (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 76) involves no personal responsibility or personal guilt on their part (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 405). Personal responsibility and guilt were Adam's, who because of his sin, was unable to pass on to his descendants a human nature with the holiness with which it would otherwise have been endowed, in this way implicating them in his sin. The doctrine of original sin thus does not impute the sin of the father to his children, but merely states that they inherit from him a "human nature deprived of original holiness and justice", which is "transmitted by propagation to all mankind" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 404).

Though Adam's sinful act is not the responsibility of his descendants, the state of human nature that has resulted from that sinful act has consequences that plague them: "Human nature, without being entirely corrupted, has been harmed in its natural powers, is subject to ignorance, suffering and the power of death, and has a tendency to sin. This tendency is called concupiscence" (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 77), but is distinct from original sin itself, since it remains even when original sin is remitted. In Catholic theology, the meaning attached to the word "concupiscence" is the movement of the sensitive appetite contrary to the operation of the human reason. The apostle St Paul identifies it with the rebellion of the 'flesh' against the 'spirit' Concupiscence stems from the disobedience of the first sin. It unsettles man's moral faculties and, without being in itself an offence, inclines man to commit sins" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2515).

The Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception of Mary is that Mary was conceived free from original sin: "the most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin." The exceptional character that Catholic doctrine attributes to the conception of Mary thus depends on the reality of original sin. If, as some hold, original sin did not exist, not only she, but all humans would be conceived "immune from all stain of original sin".

The Church has always held baptism to be "for the remission of sins", and, as mentioned in Catechism of the Catholic Church, 403, infants too have traditionally been baptized, though not guilty of any actual personal sin. The sin that through baptism was remitted for them could only be original sin, with which they were connected by the very fact of being a human.

The first comprehensive theological explanation of this practice of baptizing infants, guilty of no actual personal sin, was given by Saint Augustine of Hippo, not all of whose ideas on original sin have been adopted by the Catholic Church. Indeed the Church has condemned the interpretation of some of his ideas by certain leaders of the Protestant Reformation. Augustine articulated his explanation in reaction to Pelagianism, which insisted that humans have of themselves, without the necessary help of God's grace, the ability to lead a morally good life, and thus denied both the importance of baptism and the teaching that God is the giver of all that is good. Pelagius claimed that the influence of Adam on other humans was merely that of bad example. Augustine held that the effects of Adam's sin are transmitted to his descendants not by example but by the very fact of generation from that ancestor. A wounded nature comes to the soul and body of the new person from his/her parents, who experience libido (or concupiscence). Augustine's view was that human procreation was the way the transmission was being effected. He did not blame, however, the sexual passion itself, but the spiritual concupiscence present in human nature, soul and body, even after baptismal regeneration.

Sexual desire is, according to bishop of Hippo, only one - though the strongest - of many physical realisations of that spiritual libido: Cum igitur sint multarum libidines rerum, tamen, cum libido dicitur neque cuius rei libido sit additur, non fere assolet animo occurrere nisi illa, qua obscenae partes corporis excitantur. Haec autem sibi non solum totum corpus nec solum extrinsecus, verum etiam intrinsecus vindicat totumque commovet hominem animi simul affectu cum carnis appetitu coniuncto atque permixto, ut ea voluptas sequatur, qua maior in corporis voluptatibus nulla est; ita ut momento ipso temporis, quo ad eius pervenitur extremum, paene omnis acies et quasi vigilia cogitationis obruatur. (De civitate Dei, XIV, 16; CCL 48, 438-439 [1-10]).

Christian parents transmit their wounded nature to children, because they give them birth, not the "re-birth".

Eastern Christianity

Eastern Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Oriental Orthodoxy which together make up Eastern Christianity, acknowledge that the introduction of ancestral sin into the human race affected the subsequent environment for mankind (see also traducianism), but never accepted Augustine of Hippo's notions of original sin and hereditary guilt. The act of Adam is not the responsibility of all humanity, but the consequences of that act changed the reality of this present age of the cosmos. The Greek Fathers emphasized the metaphysical dimension of the Fall of Man, whereby Adam's descendants are born into a fallen world, but at the same time held fast to belief that, in spite of that, man remains free. Instead of accepting the Lutheran interpretation of Augustine's teaching, Orthodox Churches accept the teaching of John Cassian, which rejects the doctrine of Total Depravity, by teaching that human nature is "fallen", that is, depraved, but not totally (see also semi-Pelagianism).

Mainstream Protestantism

The notion of original sin as interpreted by Augustine of Hippo was affirmed by the Protestant Reformer John Calvin. Calvin believed that humans inherit Adamic guilt and are in a state of sin from the moment of conception. This inherently sinful nature (the basis for the Calvinistic doctrine of "total depravity") results in a complete alienation from God and the total inability of humans to achieve reconciliation with God based on their own abilities. Not only do individuals inherit a sinful nature due to Adam's fall, but since he was the federal head and representative of the human race, all whom he represented inherit the guilt of his sin by imputation. Redemption by Jesus Christ is the only remedy.

John Calvin defined original sin in his Institutes of the Christian Religion as follows:

"Original sin, therefore, seems to be a hereditary depravity and corruption of our nature, diffused into all parts of the soul, which first makes us liable to God's wrath, then also brings forth in us those works which Scripture calls "works of the flesh" (Gal 5:19). And that is properly what Paul often calls sin. The works that come forth from it--such as adulteries, fornications, thefts, hatreds, murders, carousings--he accordingly calls "fruits of sin" (Gal 5:19-21), although they are also commonly called "sins" in Scripture, and even by Paul himself."

The Methodist Church, founded by John Wesley, upholds Article VII in the Articles of Religion in the Book of Discipline of the Methodist Church: {{quote|Original sin standeth not in the following of Adam (as the Pelagians do vainly talk), but it is the corruption of the nature of every man, that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and of his own nature inclined to evil, and that continually.

Lutheranism

Martin Luther agreed with John Calvin that humans inherit Adamic guilt and are in a state of sin from the moment of conception. The second article in Lutheranism's Augsburg Confession presents its doctrine of original sin in summary form:

"It is also taught among us that since the fall of Adam all men who are born according to the course of nature are conceived and born in sin. That is, all men are full of evil lust and inclinations from their mothers’ wombs and are unable by nature to have true fear of God and true faith in God. Moreover, this inborn sickness and hereditary sin is truly sin and condemns to the eternal wrath of God all those who are not born again through Baptism and the Holy Spirit. Rejected in this connection are the Pelagians and others who deny that original sin is sin, for they hold that natural man is made righteous by his own powers, thus disparaging the sufferings and merit of Christ. "

Luther, however, also agreed with the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (that Mary was conceived free from original sin) by saying:

"[Mary] is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin. God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil. God is with her, meaning that all she did or left undone is divine and the action of God in her. Moreover, God guarded and protected her from all that might be hurtful to her."

The New Church (Emanuel Swedenborg)

The New Church interprets the first 11 chapters of Genesis in a symbolic manner, and does not view Adam as an individual person but instead sees Adam as a symbolic representation of the "Most Ancient Church", which had a more direct contact with heaven than all the successive churches that succeeded it. So although there is no "Original Sin" derived from an individual man named Adam, there is hereditary evil derived from parents. Swedenborg stated: "But as to hereditary evil, the case is this. Everyone who commits actual sin thereby induces on himself a nature, and the evil from it is implanted in his children, and becomes hereditary. It thus descends from every parent, from the father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and their ancestors in succession, and is thus multiplied and augmented in each descending posterity, remaining with each person, and being increased in each by his actual sins, and never being dissipated so as to become harmless except in those who are being regenerated by the Lord. Every attentive observer may see evidence of this truth in the fact that the evil inclinations of parents remain visibly in their children, so that one family, and even an entire race, may be thereby distinguished from every other."

Hereditary evil can not be completely abolished, but it can tempered when someone reforms his own life. "There are evils in man which must be dispersed while he is being regenerated, that is, which must be loosened and attempered by goods; for no actual and hereditary evil in man can be so dispersed as to be abolished. It still remains implanted; and can only be so far loosened and attempered by goods from the Lord that it does not injure, and does not appear, which is an arcanum hitherto unknown. Actual evils are those which are loosened and attempered, and not hereditary evils; which also is a thing unknown." "It is to be observed that in the other life no one undergoes any punishment and torture on account of his hereditary evil, but only on account of the actual evils which he himself has committed."

See also




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