Original Sin Explained and Defended

A reply to an Assemblies of God pastor


From a FidoNet discussion (Nov 1996 to Jan 1997), an Assemblies of God pastor (Ron Stringfellow) denied Original Sin in a series of posts. In summary, he stated:

"Needless to say I do not hold to this thinking in spite of the obvious dangers from my denominational brethren. Man, however, did not call me to preach, and it is not man that I shall ultimately answer to for the Gospel I preach. We hold this thinking to be a gnostic idea and a severe error, and will endeavor to prove such both by the Scriptures and by reason....this ghastly doctrine was foisted on a gullible and ignorant church, brought into being through the teaching of Augustine of Hippo....making it church doctrine and thus wedding a heathen concept to Christian doctrine....I for one cannot accuse God of this doctrine and I hold this to be akin to blasphemy."

This is part of a reply I gave to him. I cover the definition of Original Sin, the major biblical texts, the relevant Church Fathers, and a couple of his objections to the doctrine. Below are the sections linked in this article:

Definition of Original Sin
Bible on Original Sin
Fathers on Original Sin
Objections to Original Sin


DEFINITION OF ORIGINAL SIN: Catechism and Ludwig Ott

The Consequences of Adam's Sin for Humanity (paragraphs 402 ff)

402. All men are implicated in Adam's sin, as St. Paul affirms:

"By one man's disobedience many [that is, all men] were made sinners":
"sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned..." [Rom 5:12,19]

The Apostle contrasts the universality of sin and death with the universality of salvation in Christ.

"Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men." [Rom 5:18]

403. Following St. Paul, the Church has always taught that the over- whelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination toward evil and death cannot be understood apart from their connection with Adam's sin and the fact that he has transmitted to us a sin with which we are all born afflicted, a sin which is the "death of the soul." Because of this certainty of faith, the Church baptizes for the remission of sins even tiny infants who have not committed personal sin.

404. How did the sin of Adam become the sin of all his descendants?

The whole human race is in Adam "as one body of one man" [St. Thomas Aquinas, -De Malo- 4:1]. By this "unity of the human race" all men are implicated in Adam's sin, as all are implicated in Christ's justice. Still, the transmission of original sin is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. But we do know by Revelation that Adam has received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature.

By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve commited a PERSONAL SIN, but this sin affected THE HUMAN NATURE that they would then transmit IN A FALLEN STATE [Council of Trent, Session V]. It is a sin which will be transmitted by propagation to all mankind, that is, by the transmission of a human nature deprived of original holiness and justice. And that is why original sin is called "sin" only in an analogical sense: it is a sin "contracted" and not "committed" -- a state and not an act.

405. Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it; subject to ignorance, suffering, and the dominion of death; and inclined to sin -- an inclination to evil that is called "concupiscence."

Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ's grace, erases original sin and turns a man back toward God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.

406. The Church's teaching on the transmission of original sin was articulated more precisely in the fifth century, especially under the impulse of St. Augustine's reflections against Pelagianism, and in the sixteenth century, in opposition to the Protestant Reformation.

Pelagius held that man could, by the natural power of free will and without the necessary help of God's grace, lead a morally good life; he thus reduced the influence of Adam's fault to bad example. The first Protestant reformers, on the contrary, taught that original sin has radically perverted man and destroyed his freedom; they identified the sin inherited by each man with the tendency to evil (concupiscentia), which would be insurmountable.

The Church pronounced on the meaning of the data of Revelation on original sin especially at the second Council of Orange (529) and at the Council of Trent (1546).

IN BRIEF

416. 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 human beings.

417. 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."

418. 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.")

419. "We therefore hold, with the Council of Trent, that original sin is transmitted with human nature, 'by propagation, not by imitation' and that it is...'proper to each'" [citing Pope Paul VI, CPG 16].

From Ludwig Ott Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma pages 107ff

Adam's sin is transmitted to his posterity, not by imitation, but by descent. (De Fide)

Original Sin consists in the deprivation of grace caused by the free act of sin committed by the head of the race. (Sent communis)

Original Sin is transmitted by natural generation. (De Fide)

In the state of Original Sin man is deprived of sanctifying grace and all that this implies, as well as of the preternatural gifts of integrity. (De Fide in regard to Sanctifying Grace and the Donum Immortalitatis, Denz 788ff)


MAIN BIBLICAL TEXTS

(1) Romans 5:12ff and the Vulgate -in quo omnes peccaverunt-

ROMANS 5:12-21 (NIV) -- Therefore, just as SIN entered the world THROUGH ONE MAN [Adam], and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, BECAUSE ALL SINNED [Latin Vulgate reads -in quo omnes peccaverunt-] (verse 12) [translated: "IN WHOM all have sinned"] ...Consequently, just as the result of ONE TRESPASS was condemnation for ALL MEN, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the ONE MAN [Adam] the many [all] were MADE SINNERS, so also through the obedience of the one man [Christ] the many [all] will be made righteous. (verses 18-19)

(2) 1 Corinthians 15:21f -- in Adam all die

1 CORINTHIANS 15:21-22 (NIV) -- For since death came through A MAN [Adam], the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man [Christ]. For as IN ADAM ALL DIE, so in Christ all will be made alive.

(3) Eph 2:1-3 -- dead in sin...by nature children of wrath

EPHESIANS 2:1-3 (NIV) -- As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath.

(4) Genesis chapters 2-3; 6:5; 8:21 -- Fall of Mankind

(5) Psalms 51; 58 -- conceived in sin...astray from womb

PSALMS 51 and 58 -- Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (51:5 NIV); Behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. (51:5 RSV); Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies. (58:3 NIV); The wicked go astray from the womb, they err from their birth, speaking lies. (58:3 RSV)

(6) Job 14:1ff; 15:14 -- born of a woman...unclean

(7) Wisdom 1:12f; 2:23f; Sirach 25:24 -- from Eve came death

WISDOM 1:12-13; 2:23-24; SIRACH 25:24 (RSV-CE) -- Do not invite death by the error of your life, nor bring on destruction by the works of your hands; because God did not make death, and he does not delight in the death of the living....for God created man for incorruption, and made him in the image of his own eternity, but through the devil's envy death entered the world, and those who belong to his party experience it....From A WOMAN [Eve] SIN had its beginning, and because of HER WE ALL DIE.


CHURCH FATHERS

Statements of the Fathers are not meant as a direct proof of doctrine since the patristic writings are not inspired Scripture nor in Catholic theology are the Fathers considered infallible as individuals. However, they ARE witnesses to the authentic Christian faith as it was handed down and developed in the early Church.

On the doctrine of Original Sin -- if the Catholic belief is true -- we should find in the Fathers that Adam's [and Eve's] Sin resulted in the following consequences --

Concerning Baptism, we should find the Sacrament results in --

ST. IRENAEUS (c. 180 AD)

....having become disobedient, [Eve] was made the cause of death for herself and for the whole human race; so also Mary, betrothed to a man but nevertheless still a virgin, being obedient, was made the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race....Thus, the knot of Eve's disobedience was loosed by the obedience of Mary. What the virgin Eve had bound in unbelief, the Virgin Mary loosed through faith. ...But this man [of whom I have been speaking] is Adam, if truth be told, the first-formed man....WE, however, are all FROM him; and as WE are FROM him, WE have INHERITED his title [of sin]. ...Indeed, THROUGH the first Adam, WE offended God by not observing His command. Through the second Adam, however, we are reconciled, and are made obedient even unto death. For we were debtors to none other except to Him, whose commandment WE transgressed at the beginning. (Against Heresies 3:22:4; 3:23:2; 5:16:3)

TERTULLIAN (c. 200 AD)

Finally, in every instance of vexation, contempt, and abhorrence, you pronounce the name of Satan. He it is whom we call the angel of wickedness, the author of every error, the corrupter of the whole world, through whom MAN was deceived in the very beginning so that he transgressed the command of God. On ACCOUNT of his transgression MAN was given over to death; and the WHOLE HUMAN RACE, which was INFECTED by his SEED, was made the TRANSMITTER of condemnation. (The Testmiony of the Soul 3:2, c. 200 AD)

"Because by a man came death, by a man also comes resurrection" [1 Cor 15:21]. Here, by the word MAN, who consists of a body, as we have often shown already, I understand that it is a fact that Christ had a body. And if we are all made to live in Christ as WE were made to DIE IN ADAM, then, as in the flesh we were made to DIE IN ADAM, so also in the flesh are we made to live in Christ. Otherwise, if the coming to life in Christ were not to take place in that same substance in which WE DIE IN ADAM, the parallel were imperfect. (Against Marcion 5:9:5, c. 210 AD)

ORIGEN (c. 244 AD)

EVERYONE in the world FALLS PROSTRATE under SIN. And it is the Lord who sets up those who are cast down and who sustains all who are falling [Psalm 145:14]. IN ADAM ALL DIE, and THUS the world FALLS PROSTRATE and requires to be SET UP AGAIN, so that in Christ all may be made to live [1 Cor 15:22]. (Homilies on Jeremias 8:1)

EVERY SOUL that is BORN into flesh is SOILED by the filth of wickedness and SIN....And if it should seem necessary to do so, there may be added to the aforementioned considerations [referring to previous Scriptures cited that we all sin] the fact that in the Church, Baptism is given FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS; and according to the usage of the Church, Baptism is given EVEN TO INFANTS. And indeed if there were nothing in infants which REQUIRED a remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of Baptism would seem SUPERFLUOUS. (Homilies on Leviticus 8:3)

The Church received from the Apostles the tradition of giving Baptism EVEN TO INFANTS. For the Apostles, to whom were committed the secrets of divine mysteries, knew that there is in everyone the INNATE STAINS OF SIN, which must be WASHED AWAY through water and the Spirit [cf. John 3:5; Acts 2:38]. (Commentaries on Romans 5:9)

ST. CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE (c. 250 AD)

If, in the case of the worst sinners and of those who formerly sinned much against God, when afterwards they believe, the REMISSION OF THEIR SINS is granted and no one is held back from Baptism and grace, how much more, then, should an INFANT not be held back, who, having but recently been BORN, has done no sin [committed no personal sin], EXCEPT THAT, BORN OF THE FLESH ACCORDING TO ADAM, HE HAS CONTRACTED THE CONTAGION OF THAT OLD DEATH FROM HIS FIRST BEING BORN. For this very reason does he approach more easily to receive the REMISSION OF SINS: because the SINS FORGIVEN HIM are NOT his OWN but THOSE OF ANOTHER [i.e. inherited from Adam]. (Letters 64:5 of Cyprian and his 66 colleagues in Council to Fidus)

ST. METHODIUS OF PHILIPPI (c. 300 AD)

Man too was CREATED WITHOUT CORRUPTION....But when it came about that he transgressed the commandment, he suffered a terrible and destructive fall and was reduced to a state of death. The Lord says that it was on this account that He Himself came down from heaven to the world, taking leave of the ranks and armies of the angels....It was to this end that the Word put on humanity: that He might overcome the serpent and that He might Himself put down the CONDEMNATION which had FIRST COME INTO BEING WHEN MAN WAS RUINED. For it was fitting that the evil one should be conquered not by another, but by that one whom he had deceived, and whom he was boasting that he held in subjection. In no other way could sin and condemnation be destroyed, except by that same man's being CREATED ANEW -- he of whom it was said: "Earth you are, and unto earth you shall return" [Gen 3:19] -- and by his undoing the sentence which, BECAUSE OF HIM [Adam], had been pronounced upon ALL. Thus, just as IN ADAM ALL DID FORMERLY DIE, so again in Christ, who put on Adam, ALL ARE MADE TO LIVE [1 Cor 15:22]. (The Banquet of the Ten Virgins or On Chastity 3:6)

APHRAATES THE PERSIAN SAGE (c. 340 AD)

For from Baptism we receive the Spirit of Christ. At that same moment in which the priests invoke the Spirit, heaven opens, and he descends and rests upon the waters; and those who are baptized are clothed in Him. For the Spirit is ABSENT from all those who are BORN OF THE FLESH, until they come to the WATER OF RE-BIRTH; and then they receive the Holy Spirit [cf. John 3:5; Acts 2:38]. Indeed, in the first birth they are born possessed of an animal spirit, which is created within man, nor afterwards does it ever die, for it is written: "Adam became a living soul" [cf. Gen 2:7; 1 Cor 15:45]. But in the second birth, that through Baptism, they receive the Holy Spirit from a particle of the Godhead; nor is He afterwards subject to death....Of all those who have been BORN and who have PUT ON FLESH, there is ONE ONLY who is INNOCENT: namely, our Lord Jesus Christ, who in fact testifies to such in His own regard [John 16:33; Isa 53:9; Mal 3:6; 2 Cor 5:21; Col 2:14; 1 Cor 9:24 are then alluded to or cited]....Moreover, among the SONS OF ADAM THERE IS NONE besides Him who might ENTER THE RACE [are born] WITHOUT BEING WOUNDED or swallowed up....For SIN has ruled from the time ADAM TRANSGRESSED THE COMMAND. By one among the many was it swallowed up; MANY [i.e. ALL as in Rom 5:18-19] DID IT WOUND, AND MANY DID IT KILL; but none among the many killed it until our Savior came, who took it on Himself and fixed it to His cross....Indeed, because the first human being gave ear and listened to the serpent, he received the sentence of malediction, by which he became food for the serpent; and the curse PASSED ON TO ALL HIS PROGENY. (Treatises 6:14; 7:1; 23:3)

ST. EPHRAIM OF SYRIA (c. 306 - 373 AD)

Adam sinned and EARNED ALL SORROWS, AND THE WORLD, FOLLOWING HIS LEAD, ALL GUILT. And it took no thought of how it might be restored, but only of how its fall might be made more pleasant for it. Glory to Him that came and restored it! (Hymns of the Epiphany 10:1)

ST. ATHANASIUS (c. 360 AD)

Adam, the first man, altered his course, and through sin death came into the world....When Adam transgressed, SIN reached out TO ALL MEN. (Discourses Against the Arians 1:51)

ST. CYRIL OF JERUSALEM (c. 350 AD)

The crown of the cross led into the light those who were blinded by ignorance, loosed all those who were chained by their sins, and redeemed the totality of men. Do not wonder that the whole world is redeemed. It was no mere man, but the only-begotten Son of God, who died on its behalf. Indeed, ONE MAN'S SIN, THAT OF ADAM, HAD THE POWER TO BRING DEATH TO THE WORLD. If by the transgression of one, death reigned over the world [Rom 5:17], why should not life more fittingly reign by the righteousness of one? If they were cast out of paradise because of the tree and the eating thereof, shall not believers now enter more easily into paradise because of the tree of Jesus? If that man first formed out of the earth USHERED IN UNIVERSAL DEATH, shall not He that formed him out of the earth bring in eternal life, since He Himself is Life? (Catechetical Lectures 13:1-2)

ST. BASIL THE GREAT (c. 379 AD)

Little given, much gotten; by the donation of food the ORIGINAL SIN IS DISCHARGED [Greek given by Jurgens]. JUST AS ADAM TRANSMITTED THE SIN by his wicked eating, we destroy that treacherous food when we cure the need and hunger of our brother.....For prisoners, Baptism is ransom, FORGIVENESS OF DEBTS, DEATH OF SIN, regeneration of the soul, a resplendent garment, an unbreakable seal, a chariot to heaven, a protector royal, a gift of adoption. (Eulogies on the Martyrs 8:7; 13:5)

DIDYMUS THE BLIND (c. 313 - 398 AD)

If Christ had received His body from a marital union and not in another way it would be supposed that he too is liable to an accounting for that SIN, WHICH, INDEED, ALL WHO ARE DESCENDED FROM ADAM CONTRACT IN SUCCESSION. [See Jurgens comment on this passage, vol 2, pg 64] (Against the Manicheans 8)

ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM (c. 344 - 407 AD)

You see how many are the benefits of Baptism, and some think its heavenly grace consists only in the remission of sins; but we have enumerated ten honors. For this reason we baptize even infants, THOUGH THEY ARE NOT DEFILED BY SIN [or though they do not HAVE PERSONAL SINS]: so that there may be given to them holiness, righteousness, adoption, inheritance, brotherhood with Christ, and that they may be his members. (Baptismal Catechesis cited by St. Augustine in Contra Julian 1:6)

On this passage, St. Augustine remarks in Contra Julian 1:6:22 after quoting the above line in Greek:

"You see that he (John Chrysostom) certainly did not say, 'Infants are not defiled by sin,' or 'sins,' but, 'NOT HAVING SINS.' Understand 'of their own,' and there is no difficulty. 'But,' you will say, 'why did he not add "of their own" himself?' Why else, I suppose, if not that he was speaking in a Catholic church and never supposed he would be understood in any other way, when no one had raised such a question, and he could speak more unconcernedly when you were not there to dispute the point?"

Further, Jurgens comments that Julian of Eclanum had appealed to Chrysostom in support of Pelagianism by quoting the line above from -Ad neophytos- "We baptize even infants, though they are not defiled by sin" and he took this as a denial of original sin. However, Augustine had not just the Latin but the original GREEK of the same text which reads: "We baptize even infants, though they do not HAVE SINS." Augustine insists that the plural SINS makes it clear that Chrysostom was speaking of personal sins. Augustine further exonerates Chrysostom and deprives Julian of his source by quoting numerous other passages of Chrysostom.

Christ came once. He found OUR paternal note of hand, which Adam wrote. That man [Adam] brought in the beginning of the debt. We INCREASED the interest by OUR LATER sins. (cited by St. Augustine in Contra Julian 1:6:26, the original Greek of Chrysostom is given by Jurgens, vol 2, pg 101, n2)

Augustine comments: "Was he content to say 'the paternal note of hand,' without adding 'our?' He added the 'our' so that we might know that BEFORE we INCREASED the interest by our LATER sins, the debt of that paternal note of hand ALREADY pertained to us."

What does this mean, "Because all have sinned" [Rom 5:12] ? In that fall even those who did not eat of the tree -- ALL DID FROM THE TRANSGRESSION [of Adam] become mortal....For [Adam's sin in paradise] was productive of that death in which WE ALL participate....From this it is clear that it was not this sin, the sin of transgressing the Law, that ruined everything, BUT THAT SIN OF ADAM'S DISOBEDIENCE....What is the proof of this? The fact that even before the Law, ALL DIED. "Death reigned," he says, "from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned" [Rom 5:14a]. How did it reign? "In the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come" [Rom 5:14b]. This too is why Adam is a type of Christ: ....That when a Jew would say to you, "How by the righteous action of this one Man, Christ, was the world saved?" you might be able to answer him, "How by the wrong-doing of one Adam, WAS THE WORLD CONDEMNED?" (Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans 10:1)

Jurgens comments, vol 2, pg 115-116, n5 on the above and Rom 5:12 --

"Chrysostom knew Greek too, and he never supposed it meant anything except BECAUSE. He still refers the passage to original sin, and understands by the clause "because all have sinned" that what is meant is "because all have sinned [IN ADAM]." It is not just that all have sinned in sequence after Adam, but all have sinned in consequence of Adam.....The final clause clearly calls for the interpretation "because all have sinned IN ADAM." It need not exclude personal sin, but it must include original sin..... Chrysostom and the Fathers at large would have seen Rom 5:12 as referring to original sin. The mention of sin causing death, and death being therefore the lot of all men were enough; for it must be admitted that the Fathers in general do not easily distinguish between original sin and its effects. Thus, for Chrysostom, the very fact that men do die, even without the "because all have sinned," would point to original sin." (Note the following)

We have been freed from punishment, we have put off all wickedness, and we have been reborn from above [in Baptism, John 3:3,5], and we have risen again, with the old man buried, and we have been redeemed, and we have been sanctified, and we have been given adoption into sonship, and we have been justified, and we have been made brothers of the Only-begotten, and we have been constituted joint heirs and concorporeal with Him and have been perfected in his flesh, and have been united to Him as a body to its head....All of this Paul calls an "abundance of grace" [Rom 5:17], showing that what we have received is not just a medicine to counteract the WOUND, but even health and comeliness and honor and glory and dignities going far beyond what were natural to us. And each of these was able by itself to do away with death; but when all of them seem to run together at the same time, there is not a vestige of it left, nor a shadow of it to be seen, so completely has it disappeared....Christ paid out much more than the debt we owed, as much more as the boundless sea exceeds a little drop...."For just as by the disobedience of one man the many were MADE SINNERS, so too by the obedience of One, the many will be made just" [Rom 5:19]. ....What does the word "SINNERS" mean here? It seems to me that it means LIABLE TO PUNISHMENT AND CONDEMNED TO DEATH. (Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans 10:2)

ST. PACIAN OF BARCELONA (c. 392 AD)

After Adam sinned, as I noted before, when the Lord said, "You are earth, and to earth you shall return" [Gen 3:19], Adam was condemned to death. THIS CONDEMNATION PASSED ON TO THE WHOLE RACE. FOR ALL SINNED, ALREADY BY THEIR SHARING IN THAT NATURE [ipsa iam urgente natura], as the Apostle says: "For through one man sin made its entry, and through sin death, and thus it came down to all men, because all have sinned" [Rom 5:12, and see Jurgens note, vol 2, pg 144, n3]....Someone will say to me: But THE SIN OF ADAM DESERVEDLY PASSED ON TO HIS POSTERITY, because they were begotten of him: but how are we to be begotten of Christ, so that we can be saved through Him? Do not think of these things in a carnal fashion. You have already seen how we are begotten by Christ our Parent. In these last times Christ took a soul and with it flesh from Mary: this flesh came to prepare salvation.... (Sermons on Baptism 2; 6)

ST. AMBROSE OF MILAN (c. 383 AD)

Before we are born WE ARE INFECTED WITH THE CONTAGION, and before we see the light of day we experience the INJURY OF OUR ORIGIN. IN INIQUITY WE ARE CONCEIVED [cf. Psalm 51:5] -- he does not say whether the wickedness is of our parents or our own -- AND IN SINS each one's mother gives him life. Nor with this did he state whether his mother gave birth to him in her own sins or whether the sins of which he speaks pertain in some way to being born. But consider and see what is meant. NO CONCEPTION IS WITHOUT INIQUITY, since there are NO PARENTS WHO HAVE NOT FALLEN. And if there is NO INFANT WHO IS EVEN ONE DAY WITHOUT SIN, much less can the CONCEPTIONS of a mother's womb be WITHOUT SIN. We are conceived, therefore, in the sin of our parents, and it is in their sins that we are born. (Explanation of David the Prophet 1:11:56, Jurgens comments that in the above passage "the emphasis is upon concupiscence")

Adam was brought into being; and WE WERE ALL BROUGHT INTO BEING IN HIM. Adam perished and IN HIM ALL PERISHED. (Commentary on the Gospel of Luke 7:234, c. 389 AD)

AMBROSIASTER or Pseudo-Ambrose (c. 366 - 384 AD)

"In whom" -- that is, IN ADAM -- "all have sinned" [Rom 5:12]. And he said "in whom," using the masculine form, when he was speaking of a woman, because the reference was not to a specific individual but to the race. It is clear, therefore, that ALL HAVE SINNED IN ADAM, -en masse- as it were; for when he himself was corrupted by sin, all whom he begot were BORN UNDER SIN. On his account, then, all are sinners, because WE ARE ALL FROM HIM. He lost God's favor when he strayed. (Commentaries on 13 Pauline Epistles, In Rom 5:12, see also Jurgens comments vol 2, pg 179, n1-3)

ST. AUGUSTINE (c. 354 - 430 AD)

For by this grace baptized infants too are ingrafted into His body, infants who certainly are not yet able to imitate anyone. Christ, in whom all are made alive, besides offering Himself as an example of righteousness for those who would imitate Him, gives also the most hidden grace of his Spirit to believers, grace which he secretly infuses even into infants. In a similar way Adam, IN WHOM ALL DIE [1 Cor 15:22], besides being an example for imitation to those who willfully transgress the commandment of the Lord, by the hidden depravity of his own carnal concupiscence, depraved in his own person all those who come from his stock...."Through one man," the Apostle says, "sin entered the world, through sin death" [Rom 5:12]. AND THIS REFERS NOT TO IMITATION BUT TO PROPAGATION....Unless we voluntarily depart from the rule of the Christian faith it must be admitted that inasmuch as infants are, by the Sacrament of Baptism, conformed to the death of Christ, they are also freed from the serpent's venomous bite. This bite, however, they did not receive in their own proper life but in him who first suffered that wound....IN ADAM ALL SINNED when, by that power innate in his nature, by which he was able to beget them, all were as yet the one Adam. (Forgiveness...and the Baptism of Infants 1:9:10; 2:27:43; 3:7:14)

Concupiscence, which is atoned for [expiatur] only by the Sacrament of regeneration [Baptism], does most certainly, by generation, pass on the bond of sin to the progeny, if they are not loosed from it by the same regeneration. For concupiscence itself is certainly no longer a sin in the regenerate, when they do not consent to illicit deeds and when their members are not applied by the ruling mind to the performance of such deeds....But because the guilt of concupiscence is prevalent in man who was born, that is called sin, in a certain manner of speaking, which was made by sin and which, if it conquers, produces sin. This guilt, however, through the remission of all sins, is not allowed to prevail in the man who is reborn, if he does not obey it when in some way it commands him to perform evil works....This concupiscence of the flesh is the daughter of sin, as it were, and, as often as it consents to shameful deeds, it is the mother of more sins. Whatever offspring is born of this concupiscence of the flesh is BOUND BY ORIGINAL SIN [originali est obligata peccato], unless it be REBORN in Him whom the Virgin conceived without that concupiscence; for which reason, when He designed to be born in the flesh, He ALONE WAS BORN WITHOUT SIN....Marriage is not the cause of the sin which comes with being born and is expiated in being reborn [at Baptism]; rather, THE WILLFUL SIN OF THE FIRST MAN IS THE CAUSE OF ORIGINAL SIN [voluntarium peccatum hominis primi originalis est causa peccati]....Why, then, does [Julian] ask us: "Whence is it that sin is found in an infant: through will, or through marriage, or through his parents?"....For all this the Apostle has an answer. He accuses neither the will of the infant, which is not yet matured in him for sinning; nor marriage as such, which has not only its institution from God, but a blessing as well; nor parents as such, who are licitly and legitimately joined together for the procreation of children. Rather, he says:

"THROUGH ONE MAN SIN CAME INTO THIS WORLD, AND THROUGH SIN DEATH, AND THUS IT PASSED THROUGH INTO ALL MEN, FOR IN HIM ALL HAVE SINNED." [Rom 5:12, see Jurgens comment, vol 3, pg 138, n22]

"If sin," [Julian] says, "is from the will, the will is evil because it does sin; but if it is from nature, nature is evil." I quickly respond: "Sin is from the will." He asks, perhaps, "And ORIGINAL SIN too?" And I answer: "Absolutely original sin too. Because this too was sown by the WILL OF THE FIRST MAN, so that it existed in him and PASSED ON TO ALL." (Marriage and Concupiscence 1:23:25; 24:27; 2:26:43; 27:44-45; 28:48)

You are convicted on every side. The numerous testimonies in regard to original sin, testimonies of the saints, are clearer than daylight. Look what an assembly it is into which I have brought you. Here is Ambrose of Milan....here too is John of Constantinople [Chrysostom]... Here is Basil...Here are others too, whose general agreement is so great that it ought to move you. This is not, as you write with an evil pen, "a conspiracy of the lost." They were famous in the Catholic Church for their pursuit of sound doctrine. Armed and girded with spiritual weapons, they waged strenuous wars against the heretics; and when they had faithfully completed the labors appointed them, they fell asleep in the lap of peace....See where I have brought you: the assembly of those saints is no common rabble. They are not only sons but also fathers of the Church....Holy and blessed priests, widely reknowned for their diligence in divine eloquence, Irenaeus, Cyprian, Reticius, Olympius, Hilary, Ambrose, Gregory, Innocent, John, Basil -- and whether you like it or not, I will add the presbyter Jerome, while omitting those who are still alive -- have pronounced against you their opinion about original sin in the guilty succession of all men, whence no one is exempted except Him that the Virgin conceived without the law of sin warring against the law of the mind....What they found in the Church, they kept; what they learned, they taught; what they received from the fathers, they handed on to the sons. We were never involved with you before these judges; but our case has been tried before them. Neither we nor you were known to them; we but recite their judgments delivered in our favor against you.....These men are bishops, learned, grave, holy, and most zealous defenders of the truth against garrulous vanities, in whose reason, erudition, and freedom, three qualities you demand in a judge, you can find nothing to despise....With such planters, waterers, builders, shepherds, and fosterers the holy Church grew after the time of the Apostles. (Against Julian 1:7:30-31; 2:10:33-34; 2:10:37)


OBJECTIONS TO ORIGINAL SIN

OBJECTION (1) -- The Apostolic Fathers do not mention Original Sin

RS >> The idea of "inherited sin" was never heard of in the Christian church until the days of Tertullian in the third century. No Apostolic Father ever mentioned such a thing. There are some that hint that Irenaeus mentioned such but as yet this is unfounded in this author's view. >>

ANSWER: I'm glad Ron concedes Tertullian as his writings are early third century or before (200 AD) and this is an important witness for the Christian faith in Africa. As for St. Irenaeus of Lyons (late second century) and the Fathers through St. Augustine, see the above litany of quotes which covers both eastern and western Church Fathers.

St. Irenaeus explicitly states that we "sinned in Adam" in the following from Against Heresies (written from 180 - 199 AD) --

"...THROUGH the first Adam, *WE* offended God by not observing His command...whose commandment *WE* transgressed at the beginning" (5:16:3).

This is very important since St. Irenaeus repeatedly affirms he is preserving the apostolic faith handed down to him by the Apostles and the churches founded by the Apostles (see 1:10:1f; 3:3:1f; 3:4:1; 3:24:1; 4:26:2). All the orthodox Fathers affirmed the same.

The Shepherd of Hermas states (written probably at Rome 140/155 AD), that the effects of Baptism are the remission of sin and regeneration (cf. Acts 2:38; John 3:3,5), and, if given to infants, this would also be early support of the Church's belief in Original Sin.

"They had need," [the shepherd] said, "to come up through the water, so that they might be made alive; for they could not otherwise enter into the kingdom of God [cf. John 3:5], except by putting away the mortality of their former life. These also, then, who had fallen asleep, received the seal of the Son of God, and entered into the kingdom of God. "For," he said, "before a man bears the name of the Son of God, he is dead. But when he receives the seal, he puts mortality aside and again receives life. The seal, therefore, is the water. They go down into the water dead [or dead in sin, cf. Rom 6:1ff; Eph 2:1f], and come out of it alive." (Shepherd Par 9:16:2)

While Hermas, author of the Shepherd and brother of Pope St. Pius I (c. 140 - 155 AD), does not mention INFANT baptism, it IS explicitly taught by Origen and St. Cyprian in the early third century that infants WERE baptized "for the remission of sin" and that this is an authentic apostolic tradition (cf. 2 Thess 2:15). See previous quotes.

Further, it was UNANIMOUSLY held that John 3:5 referred to Baptism and I have many other quotes I could provide to the sixth century on that. The burden of proof would fall on those who assert this is NOT a true apostolic tradition given the Fathers were unanimous. And this is a burden I do not believe Pastor Ron or anyone who denies these are true Christian teachings can meet. Even the majority of historic Protestants receive infant baptism as biblical although they disagree among themselves (and with the historic Church) on the effects of the Sacrament of Baptism.

The Apostolic Fathers include St. Clement of Rome (c. 95), St. Ignatius of Antioch (d. 110), St. Polycarp of Smyrna (d. 155) and other first and early second-century Christians who had direct contact with the Apostles or the apostolic age. I find it no surprise they would not mention or deal with such complex doctrines of Soteriology and the Redemption. The first concern of the Church was Christology -- Who is Jesus? It was not until the early fourth century (at the Council of Nicaea, 325 AD) that that question was finally settled for the whole Church (even though Arianism still raged in the East) so it is not surprising (indeed, it is logical) that it would take until the fifth century for the Church to work out fully how Christ effects salvation, what Baptism does, and questions on Original Sin contracted from Adam.

B. R. Rees in his work Pelagius: A Reluctant Heretic (England : The Boydell Press, 1988) is a source that Ron has quoted to me before but I'm not sure he has read the whole book since Rees answers most of Ron's objections -- Rees says on St. Paul, Romans 5, and the Apostolic Fathers

"Thus Paul identifies the source of death and sin as the Fall of Adam and insists that the inbred disease in man which resulted resided in his 'flesh' or 'members' as an impulse to evil curable only by the grace offered to man by the redemptive act of Jesus. But, of course, he left many questions unanswered, since he was not engaged in writing theological monographs but in addressing letters of rebuke, advice or encouragement to different congregations as the need arose. And so the early Fathers did not inherit from him an unambiguous doctrine of original sin, and the evidence shows that they did not give it serious consideration: according to one authority, 'In all the writings of the Apostolic Fathers the name of Adam occurs but once, and the Earthly Paradise and the fatal tree are not mentioned at all.' [citing G. Boas, Essays on Primitivism and Related Ideas in the Middle Ages]....neither the Fall nor original sin appears to be mentioned in local baptismal creeds or even in the Nicene creed; for a genuinely Catholic doctrine of both we must apparently go back to the New Testament and Paul." (Rees, Pelagius [1988], page 56-57)

And I intend to go back to the NT and St. Paul when I cover the biblical evidence for Original Sin. Thus, given the Christological controversies of the ante-Nicene Church, it is to be expected that the doctrine of Original Sin, the Fall, and the Redemption would receive little treatment by the Apostolic Fathers. We may have more mention of the subject were it not for the scarcity of early documents. However, the same applies to such complex doctrines as the Trinity and even the canon of the NT itself which wasn't "closed" until later in the fourth century at Hippo and Carthage.

Catholics see all of this as part of a true development of doctrine in the Church guided by the Holy Spirit of truth (John 14:16f; 16:13). So the objection "no Apostolic Father mentioned Original Sin" carries little (if any) weight. The second objection which I will next deal with regarding Manicheism appears to be more valid since it is even suggested by prominent scholars as the liberal Protestant Harnack.


OBJECTION (2) -- St. Augustine "developed" the idea from his former Manichean beliefs, not from Sacred Scripture

RS >> It was Augustine in the 5th century that "developed" this idea into a Christian doctrine. However, I maintain that Augustine could not have gotten this from Scripture, but rather out of his gnostic background known as Manicheism of which he had been a devotee for nine years before his conversion to Christianity. >>

RS >> For four hundred years the church was not troubled by this "inherited sin," but then this ghastly doctrine was foisted on a gullible and ignorant church, brought into being through the teaching of Augustine of Hippo. He being unable to divest himself of his false doctrine of Manicheism brought parts of it into the church with him, making it church doctrine and thus wedding a heathen concept to Christian doctrine. >>

ANSWER: I will ignore the pejorative comments about the "gullible and ignorant church" being "foisted" upon since my previous evidence from the Fathers proves there already existed a doctrine of Original Sin (though less developed before St. Augustine). What I will now answer is the objection that St. Augustine "invented" the idea of Original Sin (which I understand Ron means by "developed" since he adds the Church "for four hundred years" did not believe in inherited sin) out of his Manichean past before he became a Catholic Christian.

Several sources I have deal with this objection and I will quote them.

"On account of a superficial resemblance between the doctrine of original sin and the Manichean theory of our nature being evil, the Pelagians accused the Catholics and St. Augustine of Manicheism. [see Against Two Letters of the Pelagians 1:2:4; 5:10; 3:9:25; 4:3]. In our own times this charge has been reiterated by several critics and historians of dogma who have been influenced by the fact that before his conversion St. Augustine was a Manichean. They do not identify Manicheism with the doctrine of original sin, but they say that St. Augustine, with the remains of his former Manichean prejudices, created the doctrine of original sin unknown before his time. 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 [liberal Protestant historian Adolph] Harnack maintains, that St. Augustine himself acknowledged the absence of this doctrine in the writings of the Fathers. St. Augustine invokes the testimony of eleven Fathers, Greek as well as Latin. [see Against Julian 2:10:33, the 11 are Irenaeus of Lyons; Cyprian of Carthage; Reticius of Autun; Olympius, a bishop of Spain who wrote against the Priscillianists; Hilary of Poitiers; Ambrose of Milan; Gregory of Nazianz; Pope Innocent I; John Chrysostom; Basil the Great; and Jerome; see Jurgens, vol 3, pg 144, 147n5]

"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 [in Romans 5:12-21 which I will discuss later]. It is found in the fourth Book of Esdras [called the second Book by Protestants], 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 (7:48), as having transmitted to all his posterity the permanent infirmity, the malignity, the bad seed of sin (3:21,22; 4:30). Protestants themselves admit the doctrine of original sin in this book and others of the same period [reference made to Sanday and Hastings -- I will cite from the later Jewish sources when I discuss the biblical evidence from the deuterocanonical books which Catholics, Orthodox, and the early Church have always accepted as inspired Scripture]. It is therefore impossible to make St. Augustine, who is of a much later date, the inventor of original sin." (Catholic Encyclopedia [1913], volume 11, page 313)

B. R. Rees, in his work on Pelagius, concludes much the same as above.

"In constructing his doctrine of original sin over a period of years Augustine, as we have seen, did not begin with a -tabula rasa- [or blank slate] : Cyprian, Ambrose and 'Ambrosiaster' can all be said to have at least suggested the idea of original guilt, the idea of concupiscence is found in Tertullian and that of seminal identity in Ambrose and others....Augustine did not pluck his doctrine out of the air nor did he proceed to force a doctrine of his own invention on the African Church. His colleagues there had certainly by this time come to regard him as 'le grand porte-parole de la theologie africaine' [citing Bonner] but there was nothing to prevent them from opposing his views if they considered them to be extreme or even 'unorthodox'; instead, they gave him their unqualified support throughout the Pelagian controversy. As [Gerald] Bonner has pointed out, not only was Aurelius, Bishop of Carthage, enunciating an Augustinian doctrine of original sin as early as 411 at the Council of Carthage which condemned Celestius but more than two hundred African bishops reaffirmed it in the canons of the Council held in 418, the first two of which are 'un sommaire satisfiant des quatres premieres theses de 411'. There is thus an element of continuity in their decisions which gives the lie to anyone trying to suggest that there had been a sudden change of front on the subject of original sin brought about by Augustine." (B. R. Rees, Pelagius [1988], page 64-65)

Kenneth Scott Latourette, a Baptist church historian and one of Ron's favorite sources, says on St. Augustine and his former Manicheism --

"Augustine held that at the outset angels and men were created rational and free, the only created beings of which that could be said. In the beginning, moreover, so Augustine, true to his Neoplatonic background, taught, there was no evil anywhere. What we call evil, he said, is but the absence [or a privation] of good. In this he REVOLTED from his Manichean stage with its belief in a primal dualism, with an evil as well as a good principle in nature. Evil, as he saw it is degradation [or corruption of good], a decline from one's proper rank. His capacity for rational free choice, so Augustine went on to hold, is at once man's highest quality, a gift from God intended for his own good, and his chief peril." (A History of Christianity [1953], page 177)

The teaching of St. Augustine and further of St. Thomas Aquinas that Original Sin is a negative "deprivation of grace" (see the Catechism 404-405, 417) resulting in a fallen human nature rather than some positive evil substance transmitted at conception (which would be Manichean dualism) is an important distinction to make and, once understood, helps solve the difficulties involved in Ron's further objections.

Philip Schaff, a prominent 19th century Protestant church historian, presents the charge of Manicheism that was leveled by the Pelagians --

"If original sin propagates itself in generation, if there is a -tradux peccati- [transmission of sin] and a -malum naturale- [natural evil], then sin is substantial, and we are found in the Manichean error, except that we make God, who is the Father of children, the author of sin, while Manicheism refers sin to the devil, as the father of human nature. This imputation was urged repeatedly and emphatically by the sharp and clear-sighted Julian [of Eclanum, the Pelagian bishop]. But according to Augustine all nature is, and ever remains, IN ITSELF GOOD, so far as it is nature (in the sense of creature); evil is only a CORRUPTION of nature, vice cleaving to it. Manicheus makes evil a substance, Augustine, only an accident; the former views it as a positive and eternal principle, the latter derives it from the creature, and attributes to it a merely negative or PRIVATIVE existence; the one affirms it to be a necessity of nature, the other, a free act; the former locates it in matter, in the body, the latter, in the will."

Schaff then cites in a footnote two passages in Augustine's book Marriage and Concupiscence written against Julian of Eclanum and his charge of Manicheism. The Latin reads:

"Non est ulla substantia vel natura, sed vitium" (There is not any substance or nature, but vice) and "Non ortum est malum nisi in bono; nec tamen summo et immutabili, quod est natura Dei, sed facto nihilo per sapientiam Dei" (Evil has not arisen except in good; but neither from the highest and immutable, which is the nature of God, but with nothing done through the wisdom of God), from De Nupt et Concup.

Schaff comments that these two passages were overlooked by historians Baur and Milman who also think there is a foundation for the charge of Manicheism in Augustine's doctrine of sin. (Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol 3, page 838)

Is there any merit at all to the charge that the doctrine of Original Sin is St. Augustine reverting back to his former Manichean system? I believe the above statements from Church historians and Augustine's own writings refute that idea. Augustine firmly believed he was deriving his doctrine of Original Sin from St. Paul (and other passages of Scripture which I will discuss in detail later).

There may be some merit to the charge if you limit this to Augustine's views on sexuality and theories of transmission rather than to Original Sin as such. John Ferguson, in his scholarly treatment of Pelagius from a historical and theological perspective, writes on Augustine --

"...for nine years he was profoundly influenced by Manichean dualism. Its radical contrast of good with evil responded to his own psychological experiences; for that reason it deepened his conviction of evil as something endemic, and, perhaps less happily, left him with a morbid attitude towards concupiscence and sexual intercourse....when Augustine is questioned as to the precise nature of this physical transmission [of the human soul] he uses language which suggests that original sin is revealed in the act of concupiscence, in the fact that man's physical response to sexual stimulation seems not to be under the control of his will. It is perhaps here more than anywhere that a modern critic would feel inclined to press hard upon Augustine. It is indeed more than a little curious that Augustine accuses Manicheism of undermining the sense of personal moral responsibility by its doctrine of eternal substantial evil. By the ironies of time it is this identical accusation which modern scholars, like Harnack and Ottley, bring against his own doctrine of original sin and human depravity. As Julian of Eclanum saw in his own time, he never completely threw off his Manichean past. Disavow it though he might, residuary elements remain." (John Ferguson, Pelagius: A Historical and Theological Study [W. Heffer and Sons/AMS Press, 1956/1978], page 53, 164)

The New Catholic Encyclopedia deals with this in the article on "Original Sin" and St. Augustine's view of marital relations --

"There can be no question that the nexus between a personal sin of a remote ancestor and a condition of guilt in a descendant has received different nuances of understanding in the history of Christian thought. St. Augustine was hesitant when it came to deciding whether parents passed on merely a body or a body and soul both directly affected by Adam's sin (C. Julian 5:4:17, PL 44:794). Nevertheless, the connection between original sin in offspring and concupiscence in parents is something he asserted as well (C. Julian op imperf 2:45, PL 45:1161; cf. Nupt et concup 1:24:27, PL 44:429). One can hold with Trent for transmission 'generatione, non imitatione' [by generation, not by imitation of Adam] without being constrained to accept such a view of marital relations. The assertion that the sin of Adam affects man before his own personal sin is by no means coincident with stating that he contracts it by a sin his parents commit at his generation or by some result of sin present therein though his parents may not actually be guilty." (New Catholic Encyclopedia [1967], volume 10, page 780)

So while St. Augustine may have had some incorrect views on sexuality (perhaps along with some of the earlier Latin Fathers, see previous quotes and notes from Jurgens) we are not constrained to accept these. His doctrine of Original Sin, based squarely on Scripture and the Tradition of the Church, is what is affirmed by the Councils and the Catechism, not his views on transmission.

The next objection is also complicated and deals with the slight difference of emphasis between the Latin and Greek (Eastern) Fathers.


OBJECTION (3) -- Eastern Christendom "never" accepted Original Sin

RS >> While the Western church became enmeshed in it the Eastern branch of Christendom was not so gullible. Dr. Edward Beecher in his Conflict of the Ages wrote that the idea of an inherited sinful nature "is not found in the early fathers; was never given to passage (acceptance) till the fourth century; was never adopted by the Greek church." (Quoted by E.W. Cook) >>

ANSWER: There also appears to be some merit to this objection although these sweeping generalizations need to be properly nuanced. Baptist historian Kenneth Scott Latourette writes on the East/West differences

"In general the East, while by no means denying the grace of God, believed in the freedom of man's will and in the ability of the individual man to do what God commands. The great preacher of the Eastern Church, John Chrysostom, for example, insisted that men can choose the good and that when they do so grace comes to their aid to reinforce them in their effort to do what God commands. In the West, however, even before the time of Augustine, Tertullian, Cyprian, and Ambrose had declared for what is usually known as original sin. Ambrose, for instance, taught that through the sin of the first man, Adam, all Adam's descendants come into the world tainted with sin. 'Adam perished and in him we all perished,' he said. He held that no one is conceived without sin and that, therefore, the new-born infant has it. In contrast with Chrysostom, who maintained that man by his free will turns to God and that then God supports man's will, Ambrose believed that God's grace begins the work of salvation and that, when grace has initiated it, a man through his will cooperates." (A History of Christianity [1953], page 177)

Protestant historian Philip Schaff outlines the differences this way --

"The Greek, and particularly the Alexandrian fathers, in opposition to the dualism and fatalism of the Gnostic systems, which made evil a necessity of nature, laid great stress upon human freedom, and upon the indispensable cooperation of this freedom with divine grace; while the Latin fathers, especially Tertullian and Cyprian, Hilary and Ambrose, guided rather by their practical experience than by speculative principles, emphasized the hereditary sin and hereditary guilt of man, and the sovereignty of God's grace, without, however denying freedom and individual accountability. The Greek church adhered to her undeveloped synergism, which coordinates the human will and divine grace as factors in the work of conversion; the Latin church, under the influence of Augustine, advanced to the system of a divine monergism, which gives God all the glory, and makes freedom itself a result of grace...." (History of the Christian Church, volume 3, page 786)

I will also quote two Orthodox theologians, Fr. John Meyendorff, a modern scholar, and Nicholas Cabasilas, a 14th century Eastern Father. You might want to compare this with Fr. Jurgens' previous comments.

From Meyendorff's Byzantine Theology (1974), under "Original Sin" --

"The Greek patristic understanding of man never denies the unity of mankind or replaces it with a radical individualism. The Pauline doctrine of the two Adams [cf. 1 Cor 15:22], as well as the Platonic concept of the ideal man, leads Gregory of Nyssa to understand Genesis 1:27 -- "God created man in His own image" -- to refer to the creation of mankind as a whole [De opif hom 16; PG 44:185B]. It is obvious, therefore, that the sin of Adam must also be related to all men, just as salvation brought by Christ is salvation for all mankind; but neither original sin nor salvation can be realized in an individual's life without involving his personal and free responsibility.... A number of Byzantine authors, including [Patriarch] Photius, understood the -eph ho- to mean 'because' [from Romans 5:12 "because all men sinned"] and saw nothing in the Pauline text beyond a moral similarity between Adam and other sinners, death being the normal retribution for sin. But there is also the consensus of the majority of Eastern Fathers, who interpret Romans 5:12 in close connection with 1 Corinthians 15:22 -- between Adam and his descendants there is a solidarity IN DEATH just as there is a solidarity IN LIFE between the risen Lord and the baptized....The sentence [of Romans 5:12] then may have a meaning which seems improbable to a reader trained in Augustine, but which is indeed the meaning which most Greek Fathers accepted:

'As sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, so death spread to all men; and BECAUSE OF DEATH, all men have sinned....'

"There is indeed a consensus in Greek patristic and Byzantine traditions in identifying the inheritance of the Fall as an inheritance essentially of mortality rather than of sinfulness, sinfulness being merely a consequence of mortality." (John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology : Historical Trends and Doctrinal Themes [NY : Fordham Univ Press, 1974], page 143-145)

Meyendorff further states that St. John Chrysostom, the greatest of the early Eastern Fathers, "specifically denies the imputation of sin to the descendants of Adam" (page 145) and refers to Chrysostom's commentary on Romans, chapter 10 which I have cited previously from Fr. Jurgens. The pertinent passages from Chrysostom would be --

"What does this mean, 'Because all have sinned' [Rom 5:12] ? In that fall even those who did not eat of the tree -- ALL DID FROM THE TRANSGRESSION [of Adam] become MORTAL...."'For just as by the disobedience of one man the many were MADE SINNERS, so too by the obedience of One, the many will be made just' [Rom 5:19]....What does the word 'SINNERS' mean here? It seems to me that it means liable to PUNISHMENT and condemned to DEATH." (Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans 10:1-2)

It does appear that Chrysostom equates the inheritance from Adam as the death penalty, rather than (or perhaps along with) an inherited sinfulness (that we "sinned in Adam" as Fr. Jurgens tries to argue).

Concerning the effects of infant baptism, Fr. Meyendorff continues --

"The contrast with Western tradition on this point is brought into sharp focus when Eastern authors discuss the meaning of baptism. Augustine's arguments in favor of infant baptism were taken from the text of the creeds (baptism for "the remission of sins") and from his understanding of Romans 5:12. Children are born sinful, not because they have sinned personally, but because they have sinned 'in Adam'; their baptism is therefore also a baptism 'for the remission of sins.' At the same time, an Eastern contemporary of Augustine's, Theodoret of Cyrus, flatly denies that the creedal formula 'for the remission of sins' is applicable to infant baptism. For Theodoret, in fact, the 'remission of sins' is only a side effect of baptism, fully real in cases of adult baptism, which was the norm, of course, in the early Church and which indeed 'remits sins.' But the principal meeaning of baptism is wider and more positive: [writes Theodoret]

'If the only meaning of baptism were the remission of sins, why would we baptize the newborn children who have not yet tasted of sin? But the mystery [of baptism] is not limited to this; it is a promise of greater and more perfect gifts. In it are the promises of future delights; it is a type of the future resurrection, a communion with the master's passion, a participation in His resurrection, a mantle of salvation, a tunic of gladness, a garment of light, or, rather, it is light itself.' [Theodoret of Cyrus, Haeret fabul compendium 5:18; PG 83:512]

"Thus, the Church baptizes children, not to 'remit' their yet non- existent sins, but in order to give them a new and immortal LIFE, which their mortal parents are unable to communicate to them. The opposition between the two Adams is seen in terms not of guilt and forgiveness but of death and life....Communion in the risen body of Christ; participation in divine life; sanctification through the energy of God, which penetrates true humanity and restores it to its 'natural' state, rather than justification, or remission of inherited guilt -- these are at the center of Byzantine understanding of the Christian Gospel." (Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, page 145-146)

So in summary, the Orthodox stress the "positive" teaching of Baptism as new birth (John 3:3,5) and seem to play down the "negative" aspect of Baptism as washing away the inherited guilt of Original Sin. The creedal formula "one Baptism for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38) is fully applicable to adults who commit personal sins, but in Orthodoxy is understood differently for infants.

However, in a translation from the Greek, Nicholas Cabasilas, a 14th century Eastern theologian, comes closer to the Augustinian teaching in his The Life in Christ as he explains in Book Two --

"It was neither yesterday nor the day before that the evil began, but at the time that we began to exist. As soon as Adam despised his good Master by believing the evil one and was perverted in will, his soul lost its health and well-being. From that time on his body agreed with the soul and was in accord with it, and was perverted with it like an instrument in the hand of the craftsman...Because our nature was extended and our race increased as it proceeded from the first body, so wickedness too, like any other natural characteristic, was transmitted to the bodies which proceeded from that body...It therefore followed that each man's soul inherited the wickedness of the first Adam. It spread from his soul to his body, and from his body to the bodies which derived from his, and from those bodies to the souls." (Nicholas Cabasilas, The Life in Christ [St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1974], translated from the Greek by Carmino J. deCatanzaro, page 76-77)

Now it might be that this 14th century Orthodox book, translated as it is from the Greek, is not as technically and theologically accurate as Meyendorff, but the above certainly appears to be the classic Catholic doctrine of Original Sin, without the emphasis upon the deprivation of grace, holiness, and sonship as worked out by Augustine and Aquinas.

"This, then, is the old man whom we have received as a seed of evil from our ancestors as we came into existence. We have not seen even one day pure from sin, nor have we ever breathed apart from wickedness, but, as the psalmist says, 'we have gone astray from the womb, we err from our birth' [Psalm 58:3]. We did not even stand still in this unhappy lot of the sin of our ancestors, nor were we content with the evils which we had inherited....there was no intermission of the evil, but the disease progressed continually....It is from these most terrible bonds, this punishment, disease, and death, that the baptismal washing sets us free. This it does so easily that there is no need to take a long time, so perfectly that not a trace is left. nor does it merely set us free from wickedness, it also confers the opposite condition. Because of His death the Master Himself gave us the power to slay sin, and because He came to life again He made us heirs of the new life. His death, by being a death slays the evil life, by being a penalty it pays the penalty for sins to which each one of us was liable for our evil actions. In this way the baptismal washing renders us pure of every habit and action of sin in that is makes us partakers of Christ's life-giving health." (Cabasilas, The Life in Christ, page 77-78)

Meyendorff, in citing Cabasilas, summarizes the Orthodox view --

"As we have seen, the [Eastern] patristic doctrine of salvation is based, not on the idea of guilt inherited from Adam and from which man is relieved in Christ, but on a more existential understanding of both 'fallen' and 'redeemed' humanity. From the 'old Adam,' through his natural birth, man inherits a DEFECTIVE FORM OF LIFE -- bound by mortality, inevitably sinful, lacking fundamental freedom from the 'prince of this world.' The alternative to this 'fallen' state is 'life in Christ,' which is true and 'natural' human life, the gift of God bestowed in the mystery of the Church. "'Baptism,' writes Nicholas Cabasilas, 'is nothing else but to be born according to Christ and to receive our very being and nature.' "The emphasis, in both the rite of baptism and the theological commentaries of the Byzantine period, is on the POSITIVE meaning of baptism as 'new birth.' "'The salutary day of Baptism,' Cabasilas continues, 'becomes a name day to Christians, because then they are formed and shaped, and our shapeless and undefined life receives shape and definition.' "Again according to Cabasilas all the scriptural and traditional designations of baptism point to the same POSITIVE meaning: '"Birth" and "new birth," "refashioning" and "seal," as well as "baptism" and "clothing" and "anointing," "gift," "enlightening," and "washing" -- all signify this one thing: that the rite is the beginning of existence for those who are and live in accordance with God.'" (Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology, page 193)

Catholics agree with all of these positive effects of the Sacrament of Baptism (see Catechism 1213-1284) but also emphasize Original Sin

1250. Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in Baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called. The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism.

1263. By Baptism ALL SINS are forgiven, original sin and all personal sins, as well as all punishment for sin. In those who have been reborn nothing remains that would impede their entry into the Kingdom of God, neither Adam's sin, nor personal sin, nor the consequences of sin, the gravest of which is separation from God.

Finally, I'll end with a Meyendorff comment on Mariology and Marian devotion and piety, which is perhaps even more robust in Orthodoxy --

"Quotations can easily be multiplied, and they give clear indications that the Mariological piety of the Byzantines would probably have led them to accept the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary as it was defined in 1854 [by Pope Pius IX], IF ONLY they had shared the Western doctrine of original sin." (Meyendroff, Byzantine Theology, page 148)

We thus see how important is a correct understanding of the sinful state into which we are born, which the Western Fathers and Latin Church has more fully developed from the theological premises accepted by the Greek Fathers and by St. Paul himself (Romans 5).


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