I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
while Luke, writing in Acts 20:29-30 records Paul telling the Ephesians in his farewell speech that:
The areas in which mainstream Christianity has deviated from the apostolic message are needless to say well-known to us, and range from the unity of God to the innate mortality of humanity. One major theological aberration about which we tend not to think is original sin, which is defined as the loss of the freedom and ability to do what God wants, which has been inherited by humans from Adam after his transgression.
I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.
Not all of the major Christian faith traditions accept original sin, with the Greek Orthodox Church rejecting this doctrine. However, the Roman Catholic and Reformed traditions accept Original Sin. The Roman Catholic Catechism asserts:
There are two things which leap out at you. The first is the ready use of the term ‘mystery’ which often is used to paper over gaping chasms in logic, The second is the patently unbiblical nature of the concept that people are punished for what others are done:
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.” 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 had received original holiness and justice not for himself alone, but for all human nature. By 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. 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.
Ezek 18:1-3 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, What do you mean by using this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers eat the sour grapes, But the children’s teeth are set on edge? As I live, declares the Lord God, you are surely not going to use this proverb in Israel anymore.
Deut 25:16 Fathers shall not be put to death for their sons, nor shall sons be put to death for their fathers; everyone shall be put to death for his own sin.
The Westminster Confession of Faith goes even further, by arguing that humans inherit the guilt of Adam’s sin:
Ignoring the contradiction between the Biblical evidence that people do not die for the sins of their parents and the central theme of Original Sin which asserts otherwise, it is the blatant immorality of such a doctrine which has offended many Christians over the years. It has also been responsible for the loss of faith of many. In an exhortation some time ago, I referred to a study of deconversion anecdotes which found that doctrines which these ex-believers found to be illogical or immoral were responsible for a significant number of deconversions.
By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion, with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body. They being the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed; and the same death in sin, and corrupted nature, conveyed to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.
Annalise Fonza, an ex-pastor who has abandoned her Christian faith observes that Original Sin was one of the reasons behind her loss of faith. Writing on the atheist blog Black Skeptics, she observes:
The first thing is that many Christians have a VERY negative view of the human condition. They typically think that as human beings we are deeply flawed or incapable of making reasonable and rational decisions. The doctrine of original sin, proposed in the fourth century of the Common Era by Saint Augustine is partly to blame. Augustine (who was African) had many personal struggles with his humanity, including a tremendous guilt for his sexual practices, and, consequently, he concluded that the human condition was “depraved” or corrupt from birth. As the Church continued to institutionalize, first as the Catholic Church, it also continued to incorporate Augustine’s theory of original sin into the systematic development of Christian theology. All over the world this theory dominates Christian thinking and practices to the extent that many contemporary Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, demonstrate that they believe like Augustine: that it is impossible for us as humans to be good or moral without supernatural help.
The doctrine of the Trinity arguably is the most serious of all the deviations from original Christianity as it completely distorts our understanding of the nature of God, and his son Jesus Christ, as well as the doctrines which directly impact on them. Original Sin, I would argue, runs a close second as it not only contradicts the concept of justice as revealed in the Bible, but has prepared the ground for mainstream Christian views on the atonement such as the penal and satisfaction theories of the atonement.
The 11th century theologian Anselm was the founding father of the satisfaction theory of the atonement, which asserted that God’s honour demanded satisfaction for man’s sin. In his work Cur Deus Homo, Anselm wrote, in the form of a dialogue between himself and a monk named Boso:
Anselm. Let us return and consider whether it were proper for God to put away sins by compassion alone, without any payment of the honor taken from him.
Boso. I do not see why it is not proper.
Anselm. To remit sin in this manner is nothing else than not to punish; and since it is not right to cancel sin without compensation or punishment; if it be not punished, then is it passed by undischarged.
Boso. What you say is reasonable.
Anselm. It is not fitting for God to pass over anything in his kingdom undischarged.
Boso. If I wish to oppose this, I fear to sin.
Anselm. It is, therefore, not proper for God thus to pass over sin unpunished.
Boso. Thus it follows.
Anselm. There is also another thing which follows if sin be passed by unpunished, viz., that with God there will be no difference between the guilty and the not guilty; and this is unbecoming to God.
The Reformed theologian Paul Wells, writing in the journal Themelios summarises the penal satisfaction theory, which is widely held in the Evangelical world:
Unsurprisingly, Wells continues by noting that these “theological notions, both individually and collectively are extremely offensive to the modern mind. Our contemporaries do not like crime and punishment!” It should go without saying that we’d argue such theological notions are extremely offensive to the Divine mind, particularly as Paul has written in Romans 3:21-26
The model of one who takes the place of another is qualified, indicating that the replacement is penal. The notion of penal substitution means that Christ acted on behalf of others in the sense of liability to punishment, judgement and retribution. It involves the character of God who demands reparation, the need of a substitute, the anger of God against sin undergone by the sacrificial substitute and condemnation. Penal substitution effects expiation and the propitiation of God. The result is reconciliation, which must imply not only our reconciliation to God but primarily God’s reconciliation to us.
Paul notes that the righteousness of God is shown by his mercy in passing over sins previously forgiven. The contrast with the God depicted in the atonement theology of Anselm could not be sharper. The God of Anselm also is hard to reconcile with the God who revealed himself before Moses, as Exodus 34: 6-7 notes:
But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
The God Moses worshipped is compassionate, forgives iniquity and is slow to anger. He is also a just God, who does not leave the guilty unpunished, but as we do not inherit the guilt of Adam’s sin, the idea that we are punished for that guilt is alien to the nature of God.
Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”
As Original Sin and the atonement theories that are contingent on it find no substantive Biblical support, this raises the question of how this deviation from apostolic Christianity emerged. Although many early Christians contributed to it, by far the leading figure was Augustine of Hippo, without doubt the most influential early Christian theologian.
Augustine, who lived from the mid 4th to the early 5th century AD was born into a Christian family of some status. He undertook an academic career, lecturing in Carthage and Rome. Early in his life, he abandoned Christianity for the Gnostic cult of the Manichaeans, which viewed the world in a starkly dualistic fashion, and – significantly – viewed humanity as the product of light and darkness, with humanity as the site of a grand battle between good and evil. Later in life, Augustine was strongly influenced by Neoplatonism. Augustine was converted back to Christianity in his early 30s, largely due to the influence of Ambrose of Milan.
Three other factors were responsible for Augustine’s theory of Original Sin. One was his morally dubious past – he took a mistress at an early age, and was famous for his quote “Lord make me chaste, but not just yet.” His sense of guilt and shame at his debauched earlier life strongly influenced his thinking on a connection between sexual sin and the original transgression in Eden. The second was his reading of Romans 5v12, which was influenced by the flawed Old Latin Bible.
This, significantly is recognised by non-Christadelphians. For example, the respected Jesuit professor of theology Jack Mahoney is willing to point out exactly where Augustine went wrong in his theory of Original Sin:
The conflict between Augustine and the British monk Pelagius is the final factor responsible for the formulation of Original sin. It is difficult to get an objective picture of this conflict as much of what we know of Pelagius is filtered through his opponents such as Jerome and Augustine. In the Encyclopedia of Christianity, we read that:
In her study of modern sociobiology, Patricia A. Williams identifies three strata in the formulation of the Christian belief in the Fall: the original text in Genesis 2:4 to 3:24, the theological reflections produced on this by Paul in chapter 5 of his epistle to the Romans, and the further theological interpretation of Paul that was elaborated by Augustine of Hippo. To this last stratum the Catholic tradition would add the subsequent official formulation of the doctrine of original sin as drawn up by the Council of Trent (DS 1510–16), which has been summarized most recently in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (nos. 379–421).
The formal teaching of the Council of Trent, then, is that Adam’s original sin is inherited by everyone through procreation and that its guilt is forgiven by the conferring of baptism, yet something of its results remains even in the baptized, experienced as concupiscence or sinful desires, fomenting or fueling sin in each of us. On this several comments can be offered, the first crucially relating to where it all starts, namely, to what Paul meant in Romans 5:12 when he used the Greek phrase eph’ hō relating to Adam’s action. Augustine and others, including the council fathers at Trent, relying on the Old Latin translation, took this to mean in Latin in quo, or “in whom,” with the clear implication that everyone had sinned in Adam. Most exegetes today understand this phrase as using the common Greek preposition epi to imply succession rather than inclusion, thus giving the meaning “since when” all have sinned rather than “in whom” all have sinned. We must conclude that if this is the original Pauline meaning, it removes from divine revelation any reference to Adam’s descendants being incorporated in solidarity “in him” (in quo), and as a result it dispenses with the conclusion that the whole of succeeding humanity has been condemned en masse as a sort of “condemned mass in Adam,” as Augustine and others explained. J. N. D. Kelly delivers his considered verdict in explaining how the Old Latin version of the New Testament (which had influence only in the West) gave “an exegesis of Rom 5:12 which, though mistaken and based on a false reading, was to become the pivot of the doctrine of original sin.”
As a consequence of this reflection, it follows that there is now no need for theology to find a method by which to explain how all Adam’s offspring inherit his original sin. Trent’s insistence that Adam’s original sin was transmitted among all subsequent human beings by propagation, or by generation, rather than simply by imitation (which Pelagius was considered to have maintained) was clearly due more to the theological polemic of Saint Augustine against Pelagius and his supporters than to Paul’s writing centuries earlier. The Council of Trent’s teaching on original sin (DS 1512) appealed to the sixth-century Second Council of Orange, which itself drew explicitly on Augustine’s views on original sin, including his quotation and his understanding of what he considered Paul’s in quo and what he considered its implications (DS 371–72; Catechism no. 406).
Mahoney notes how Augustine’s theology was sharply defined by his opposition to Pelagius’ views, which many argue reflect the original Christian position on the subject:
Pelagius took issue with the dualism of Manichaeanism, which treated evil as an independent principle and thus regarded sin as a natural necessity. In opposition to this physical determinism he set his own doctrine of freedom on the basis of God’s gracious action. In line with the early Augustine, Ambrosiaster, and Origen, Pelagius first stressed the grace of creation. By this grace God has given us the ability, if we will, to avoid sin and to decide for the good. Nevertheless, by the fall of Adam reason has been darkened and the law of nature forgotten.
Pelagius did not deny the fundamental freedom of the will that is the basis of responsibility for our actions. But the power of sin manifests itself in the fact that committing sin has become a habit. Since we cannot overcome this habit in our own strength, God has shown us the grace of revelation. By the law of Moses he reminded the people of Israel of the gift of reason that he gave at creation.
Israel, however, refused to render obedience and turned aside from God. Hence God revealed to all of us the better righteousness of Christ, whose commands supplement those of Moses and the observing of which is urged upon us by the seriousness of coming judgment. By his life and teaching, Christ is an example of perfect obedience. All Christians can fulfill Christ’s commands in their own lives and in this way bring to fulfillment God’s will at creation. Sin, though, will not be completely overcome in this life, and thus God gives the grace of forgiveness, which is grounded in the death of Christ. We appropriate this grace in baptism and receive it as justification by faith.
Augustine’s version of Christianity, as even some mainstream Christian theologians admit, owes more to his Manichean and neoplatonist past, as well as his own moral struggles and intellectual battle with Pelagius than the Bible itself. Not only does his concept of Original Sin run counter to the Biblical concept of justice, in which humans are not punished or held accountable for the crimes of other people, it has riddled Christianity with a totally negative view of creation, and indirectly contributed to a medieval view of God as one whose honour has been wounded, and will not forgive unless he is appeased. In contrast, as Paul notes in Romans, God’s righteousness is seen in his willingness to forgive, a characteristic reinforced by the parable of the Prodigal Son, where the father not only is willing to forgive his son, but has been waiting anxiously for any sign of repentance.
Augustine himself, under severe pressure from Pelagian sympathizers, found himself denying vehemently that he had “invented original sin.”
Perhaps he was protesting too much. As Edward Yarnold observes of Augustine in his book The Theology of Original Sin, the “traditional Catholic expression . . . [of original sin] is to a large extent that saint’s thought.” John Muddiman puts the point more sharply: “It is well known that the New Testament basis for the Augustinian doctrine is meagre, namely Romans 5:12 in the Vulgate translation, and a great deal even then has to be assumed.”
Augustine’s insistence on original sin was, in fact, influenced by his implacable opposition to Pelagian claims for moral self-sufficiency, as well as by Augustine’s own humiliating struggle for chastity and his pessimistic theology of human sexuality. As I have commented elsewhere, it is not surprising that the troubled Augustine saw in human disruptive sexual experience “not only the terrible effects of original sin, but also the very channel through which that sin was transmitted from generation to generation.”
In light of the above, Romans 5v12 simply does not provide the support for Augustine’s view. Since everyone sins, everyone will die and remain dead, unless they stop following the malign example Adam set, and follow the example set by Christ. Romans 6v23 puts eternal death and eternal life into opposition: the wages of sin is eternal death, while the gift of God is eternal life through the example of Jesus Christ, which we need to follow. From this we can clearly see the participatory concept of the atonement, where we follow the example set by Jesus. We are baptised into his death, burial and resurrection, and by participating in his life, crucifying the flesh constantly, we have hope of eternal life. John 15:4-11 is as good a passage as any to emphasise the point that we cannot blame Adam – or anyone else – for our failure, for only if we abide in Christ and follow the right example will we live:
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
Edited by Ken Gilmore, 10 July 2013 - 02:56 AM.