Original Sin: Paul, Romans 5, and the Heart of the Issue

The Original Sin Series

Well, now we get to the heart of the matter, and the passage that so many of my blogopponents have been waiting for: Romans 5.  It’s in this chapter that Paul writes most specifically about the inherited nature of sin, and it is from this passage that the two most articulate proponents of inherited guilt (Augustine) and the total depravity of humankind (Calvin) get their material.

Whether we like it or not, Romans is Paul’s magnum opus.  While it’s not the systematic theology text that some make it out to be, it is his most theological and most systematic epistle.  As he states in chapter 15, Paul is concerned about the conflict between Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus the Christ in the Roman church, and he writes this letter in order to clear up some of the issues that have provoked the conflict.  And, it seems, the understanding of sin, justification, guilt, and salvation seem to the source of the conflict.

In other words, yes, this is a letter about how the human being is justified before God.  But it is, first and foremost, a letter about the relationship between Jewish and Gentile Christ-followers.

Although Paul was, famously, a Roman citizen, he was first and foremost a Jew — what we today would call and “observant Jew.”  That is, prior to his conversion to Christianity, Paul (Saul) knew and followed the Law (Torah) and considered himself to be in good standing before Yahweh.

Paul’s Jewishness is important to remember when approaching Romans 5.  Jews in his day, as today, consider Jewishness to be a matter of matrilinial descent: If you’re mom is Jewish, you are Jewish; if your dad is Jewish but your mom is not, then you are not Jewish.  In Jesus and Paul’s day, there was much debate among rabbis about how, exactly, this happened, and even about how semen was involved.  As one New Testament scholar recently emailed me, “In the air at the time of Jesus and Paul was a Jewish belief in the physical transmission of one’s status through reproduction.”

So, with that in mind, let’s see what Paul wrote.

 Romans 5:12
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death
through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all

To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is
not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14
Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses,
even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who
is a pattern of the one to come.

But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the
trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift
that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the
many! 16 Nor
can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The
judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift
followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one
man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of
grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one
man, Jesus Christ!

Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all
people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life
for all. 19
For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made
sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be
made righteous.

    20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21
so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign
through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our

Immediately we can see why Augustine, Calvin, and so many others propose that Paul is authoritatively writing about inherited guilt.  Paul states clearly that Adam’s sin resulted in every one of his descendants being sinful, too. So it seems that part of our interpretation of this passage in Romans hinges on exactly how we interpret and understand Genesis 2-3.  Were Adam and Eve real, historic persons?  Are they, indeed, the father and mother of the entire human race?  (Did they really live into their 900s?  Who was Cain’s wife? Etc.)

If one believes that there is some kind of spiritual nature that is passed from mother (or father) to child by a biological process, as Paul likely believed, then this passage will be taken one way.  If, however, one does not believe that the taint of Adam’s sin is genetic but is instead an archetypal account of the human condition, then it will be taken another way.

As I’ve stated before, I do not deny the reality of sin.  What I want to do is make the best sense of the biblical account of the human condition, and to ask whether the authors of the doctrine of Original Sin and Total Depravity rightly understand this biblical account.

So, my question to you is this: Does your understanding of Romans 5 indeed hinge on your interpretation of Genesis 2-3?  Do you think that something changed in Adam’s genetic code when he ate the fruit, and this genetic mutation was subsequently passed on to every human being (except Jesus and, possibly, Mary)?

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  • EricW

    Paul states clearly that Adam’s sin resulted in every one of his descendants being sinful, too.
    Many have pointed out that Augustine mistranslated Romans 5:12d. The Greek is not “in whom,” but Augustine translated it thus and taught that all sinned “in Adam.”
    Others argue that the common translation “because” can also be challenged. The Greek is “eph’ hô,” which could quite rightly mean “on the basis of which” – meaning that “and on the basis of this spreading of death to all men, all sinned.”

  • Tony Myles

    The question we must ask before your question –
    Why are we about to talk with assurance about what Paul really meant/wrote while prefacing an implied skepticism about Genesis? (Come on, T – you certainly implied a context to Genesis while trying to throw in some objectivity at the end via a question.)
    Or as Tickle might ask, “Who defines what is and isn’t authority/authoritative?”
    To me that is the deeper question here versus what is/isn’t sin.

  • Angela Harms

    I’m really struggling right now with Paul and his view of salvation. His view seems simplistic, and it looks to me like he’s very clearly saying what most of our churches have been saying for centuries. “You suck, and God would smite you, but for the lobbying efforts of Jesus Christ. Oh, and if you can’t make yourself believe this, even Jesus can’t save you.”
    What if Paul just got that part wrong? Can I say that, even though his words are enshrined in the Bible?

  • rick

    This is so stupid. There is no such thing as original sin or sin period…since sin as a concept implies breaking divine mandate…and there is NO source of revelation, at least any of that sort. So how can one break a mandate that doesn’t exist? I’m open to Tillichian notions like estrangement, alienation or separation…but sin? Thats an archaic and worthless concept if there ever was one.

  • Scott M

    To me this passage says what it has always said. Death is the consequence of sin and it is into death we were born and thus sin. Adam here seems to pretty clearly be a type. With Adam as our source, death reigns. When Christ replaced Adam as the source of humanity, life reigned instead. It was no longer our nature to die.
    I understand how Augustine, steeped in Platonic philosophy as he was, and fueled by some Latin misinterpretations of the Greek text, connected this passage to the philosophy of seminal reasons and reached the conclusions he reached. I somewhat understand how Calvin, steeped in his culture and philosophy of Natural Law, read the text through the lens of both Augustine and his philosophy, and arrived at the conclusions he reached. But the text doesn’t actually say what either of them wish it to say here.
    Nor is that the traditional interpretation of the Church. I have a copy of the new English Orthodox Study Bible. I checked their notes. They pretty much interpret the text the way I’ve always read it. It makes it easy for me to agree with them, of course. No argument there. However, I find it baffling that so many today, who reject both the philosophical idea of seminal reasons and the Enlightment philosophy of Natural Law, nevertheless embrace Augustine and/or Calvin.

  • Virgil Vaduva

    “Does your understanding of Romans 5 indeed hinge on your interpretation of Genesis 2-3?”
    Tony, this question is really at the heart of the issue, and my answer is an emphatic YES! Our understanding of the Creation story, and the nature of the fall is at the center of this debate. A “fall” which has physical consequences demands a physical sort of restoration, so as you can see, this issue has even bigger implications because it ends up affecting the doctrine of resurrection and eschatology as well.
    However, as you pointed out, a Jesus born out of Mary, a human, fallible and sinful as she was, seems to negate the doctrine of original sin. Could it be that God chose this avenue for the arrival of Jesus to demonstrate what the nature of the “new creation” is not about physical kingdoms, armies, and cities? Perhaps Christ born out of a human is indicative that spiritual redemption is here…that “in Christ, we are a new creation?” That the old has passed, and new things have already come?
    How could someone fit original sin into this “new creation,” which is real, here, and now?

  • Dan H

    What makes the question really thorny is that it is both an issue of “how do we interpret Genesis 2-3?” and also “how did Paul interpret Genesis 2-3?” If we interpret the original Genesis story as more paradigmatic, but Paul didn’t, then our own moves from Genesis to how we understand sin may be different from Paul’s. Which goes back to the whole question of authority, and to what extent are we in the church best off by following Paul’s lead in understanding these things?
    That all said, I think all these questions are open questions. While I would that that a literal interpretation of Adam and Eve would be a necessary part of a sense of ‘inherited’ guilt (at least in a biological sense), I’m not sure that it would be an essential part of a view that still maintains a pervasive or universal guilt among humanity.
    While I find Scott M’s (and, by extension, the Orthodox view) pretty compelling: it does seem, at least in verses 12-17, that the focus is on the reality of death, not so much an inherited guilt. The issue that ‘we all die’ seems to be more the obstacle that needs overcoming, rather than ‘we’re all sinful’. However, I don’t think this holds up absolutely: the language in verse 18 and 19 does seem to link death with the sinfulness of all of us in a pretty strong way.
    I’ve been asking myself, what is the real cash value of this discussion of sin, as we live our lives and try to follow Jesus and want to live a life trusting God and enjoying his love and living in his spirit? Why not just say that we have equal opportunity to choose good things or bad things, and sin is just when we choose bad things? I think that what Paul’s teaching tries to get at is that our propensity to not trust God, to act in our self-interest at the expense of others, and also our participation in wider systems of injustice, is very deep. To the extent that it colors all of our actions, and cannot be escaped easily by just being better informed or making better decisions. There is a real sense in which we need rescue. And I do see this articulated a bit more in Romans 7. While I do accept that the thrust of Romans 7 is what it is like being under the ‘old covenant’ as opposed to living in Christ and the Holy Spirit, there is nevertheless a sense of *why* it is so impossible to live under law, because “sin is right there with me” and “the evil I do not want to do, this I keep on doing”.
    However we understand the context of that passage with regard to law/grace old covenant/new covenant or whatever, what is undeniable for me is the intuitive resonance of those passages personally. And a look at the world-wide situation resonates with a reading of Romans 5 where all die, yes, but also all have sinful tendencies, and the world is in need of a Savior, to save us from strong tendencies in ourselves. Whether this tendencies happen through “inherited guilt” or not, they are there–beyond that I’m not 100% sure exactly what the mechanism was that made us that way. I’m not copping out on that discussion–I think it’s an important question, but I do think there’s plenty of mystery there to be plumbed.

  • I’d like to present a very good conversation that took place on the radio last week that was focused on the topic of original sin. This conversation took place on Issues, Etc. and is a great pastors roundtable on this topic.
    Since, Tony seems hell bent (pun intended) on denying the historicity of Genesis 2 & 3 despite the fact that Jesus taught and believed that it was literal historical, I thought it be of benefit for people to hear a group of Pastors discussing this topic and NOT ONE of them denies the historicity of Genesis.
    Here is the link.

  • Joe

    Original sin is clearly taught throughout the bible. If you are a Christian you know this. If you’re not, compare yourself to some of the commandments and you will see you have broken most if not all. Why? Because that is your nature, bent on sinning. You’re not a sinner because you sin, you sin because you’re a sinner.
    Where are the Christians? Please stand up and proclaim rhe truth of the word of God so we can shutdown these bogus teachings. Degrees, doctorates, and phd’s don’t let those intimidate. There are plenty of educated false teachers.
    Wake up!!

  • EricW

    Joe February 16, 2009 4:31 PM Original sin is clearly taught throughout the bible. If you are a Christian you know this. If you’re not, compare yourself to some of the commandments and you will see you have broken most if not all. Why? Because that is your nature, bent on sinning. You’re not a sinner because you sin, you sin because you’re a sinner. Where are the Christians? Please stand up and proclaim rhe truth of the word of God so we can shutdown these bogus teachings. Degrees, doctorates, and phd’s don’t let those intimidate. There are plenty of educated false teachers. Wake up!!
    But that is precisely what Paul does NOT say. “Your nature” is not bent on sinning. Read Romans 7. There is a hostile power/force, what he calls “sin in the flesh,” a force that gets its strength from the Law and makes mortals captive to sin and sinning. This force/power causes Paul to do the opposite of what he – i.e., his “nature,” his true self, his mind – believes and agrees is holy, righteous and good.
    People don’t have a “sin nature” and/or their “nature” isn’t naturally sinful. They are in bondage to sin because sin derives its power from the Law, the same Law that is too weak to free bound men and women from the power of sin.

  • Joey

    Eric W…..I read Romans 7 (NASB) and I’m not following you. Can you elaborate more on this?
    What exactly am I to read besides Romans 7 that clearly states that people don’t have a “sin nature”?

  • EricW

    I don’t know that anything clearly states that people don’t have a sin nature, but on the other hand, I don’t know anything that clearly states that people do have a sin nature. E.g., read the Bible and see if you can find the phrase “sin nature” in it. The Greek word for sin is hamartia, and the Greek word for nature is phusis/physis. See if the Bible ever conjoins the two. Don’t use the NIV – the NIV chose at many points to translate the word “flesh” (sarx) as “sinful nature,” IIRC. (“Sinful nature” may be better than “sin nature,” since it’s saying that our nature is “sinful” – i.e., prone to sinning – without identifying us as having “sin” as our “nature.” Of course, that could all just be semantics.) Read Romans 5,6,7,8 re: what Paul says about sin and deliverance, and about Adam and Christ.
    I, too, may just be playing a semantic game. There may be no real difference between “sin nature” and “sinful body” and “sinful flesh.” But Paul in Romans 5-8 presents sin as an alien force from which Christians can get delivered and be set free. If that’s true, how can Christians be said anymore to have a “sin nature” if they have been set free from sin, having died to the Law and having died to sin? Perhaps unregenerated, unsaved, unbaptized, unspiritual people have a “sin nature.” But do those who have received the Spirit of Christ, having been baptized into His death and been raised up to walk in newness of life, who have put on Christ and have been set free from the law of sin and of death, have a “sin nature”?

  • Joey

    EricW………Wouldn’t your last question you posed then, be the never ending battle of the flesh vs. the spirit on this side of Heaven? This is what I’m understanding Paul to say about it.
    Back to the OP’s topic at hand, if sin did not enter the world through Adam, then how did it enter the world?

  • Joey said”Back to the OP’s topic at hand, if sin did not enter the world through Adam, then how did it enter the world?”
    That’s the point of Tony saying that HOW you read the Gen. Story is important. If the story is historically true (historicity), then that would seem to be the very question that the story is addressing. However, if it was not historically true, but was a cultural story passed down to give a metaphorical truth to how the Jews understood the problem of evil/sin/transgressions (I think the latter is a better word, less baggage), then we need to look at and understand this new (for us), yet ancient understanding of the text.
    There is no real evidence that this story was meant to explain the history of sin. Rather the narrative seems to give a picture of our tendency to pull away from God. We have raised this story to be this ultimate explanation of how Sin entered into the world, but if we look at it through the lens of Jewish history and understanding, it is another story that falls into the reoccurring theme of “turning from God”. This theme pops up again and again throughout Israel’s history (golden calf, fall of Jerusalem, etc…). However, the beauty and significance of this passage is now open to new understandings because we’ve freed the text from our tendency to read our doctrine back into the text to make it mean something it never did.
    Now the text (in light of the common theme of Israel’s independent streak), now show us that 1) that it is not always a nation that turns from God, it happens on an individual level first, and then can easily spread through an abuse of relationships. And 2) that even in the midst of “perfection” (the Garden), we would find some way to try and pull away from our dependence and relationship with God. We would, and always will “break the covenant”. However, God never will turn from us, even if we urn from him. Yes, there will be consequences for our actions, but even in the midst of those consequences we can see the hand of grace reaching to us. Even though the “Garden” (ideal) doesn’t exist, God’s covenant relationship with his creation will always remain.
    I think there is far more to teach from this passage but one can begin to see the untapped richness (at least untapped in modern Christianity) when a text like this is freed from our held-fast doctrines and allowed to speak life, hope, and truth once again.
    Just my $.02

  • Justin

    Sorry, didn’t answer the question I began with (whoops)
    It seems that, for the Jewish tradition at least, “how” is not a question they ask. People acting in transgression and brokenness just IS. “How” is more of a modern and contemporary question that ancient texts do not seem concerned with. Why? because the truth found in the narrative is more important than the “nuts and bolts”. It wasn’t until enlightenment and afterwords that the scientific method became our template for thinking and understanding. Again, we are bad about reading backwards into the text things that prob. were not there.
    So, like it or not, the “how” is a mystery. But perhaps the lesson here from the scriptures is that we should spend less time on uncovering the “how” and concentrate instead on healing, loving, and relational living (both with God and other).

  • Jeoy

    So are you saying the account of the garden didn’t exist? Am I understanding this to mean that the Bible is figurative and not literal coming and it’s to be studied from a Jewish perspective?
    G-d’s covenant relationship with his creation will always remain…..sorry, not understanding that either………..
    Geeze I sound so uninformed of what exactly it is I’m suppose to be doing/learning/applying……Help me understand this…

  • Joey

    Justin, I think you just answered my question before I got mine posted. Thanks….
    But what does this mean? It wasn’t until enlightenment and afterwords that the scientific method became our template for thinking and understanding.

  • –What if Paul just got that part wrong? Can I say that, even though his words are enshrined in the Bible?–
    You may say whatever you want, but if that is what you believe, then at least have the integrity to not call yourself a Christian.
    Perhaps best for you would be to say that Paul got it right–it may be hard, it may not be nice, but truth is true even it doesn’t really taste good at first. We may like sweets, but it is the things that don’t always taste as good that are best for us.

  • –Paul states clearly that Adam’s sin resulted in every one of his descendants being sinful, too.–
    At least you admit that, Jones.
    Now, let the spin begin.
    –So it seems that part of our interpretation of this passage in Romans hinges on exactly how we interpret and understand Genesis 2-3. —
    And since you “know” that Genesis 2-3 is just a “myth”, then Paul is just pre-enlightened pre-post-modern idiot who thought miracles happened and people were raised from the dead, right?

  • Ethan

    How are we going to arrive to a conclusion that Adam was not a real, historical person when he is mentioned in MULTIPLE genealogies with specific ages? If we start discrediting Adam’s historical existence, we can just go ahead and start questioning Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’s, as well as David’s and even Jesus Christ’s because they’re in the same genealogy.
    Genesis 5 – Adam to Noah
    1 Chronicles 1 – Adam to Abraham to Noah’s Sons
    Luke 3 – The Genealogy of Jesus
    Scott W,
    I think you have the most put-together argument, IMO. From what I understand, you are stating that death is inherited and not sin. But because of this death, we sin. Am I being true to what you are saying?
    The only problem I have with that is the Bible is pretty clear that death is the result of sin (“wages of sin is death”) and not the other way around. So if death is reigning through Adam, it is understood that sin is also reigning and is the cause of this death.
    I think the main danger in this argument is how we view ourselves and how we view God. Do we view ourselves as someone who is merely crippled by sin, or do we view ourselves as one who is completely broken by sin? And do we view God as a God who chooses us or as a God who is chosen by us? If we are merely marred by sin and not totally broken (or “depraved”, as Calvin would say), then we can choose God of our own accord without any help of the Holy Spirit. But if we are completely enslaved, or depraved, by sin, then the Holy Spirit must do an incredible work within us before we can believe.
    Another danger, of course, is when we start to discredit the authors of the New Testament, e.g. the apostle Paul, in favor of our own views that may make us feel better about ourselves.

  • Your Name

    Is it possible that it’s not the original sin itself, but the result of that sin? When Adam and Eve sinned, everything changed. All of God’s creation changed. The garden changed. Child birth changed, humanities worldly responsibilities changed. They became biologically mortal. They suffered biological death. They suffered separate from their Father – their creator. Before sin, the garden was perfect – the Father was ever-present. There was no death. If you really think about it, there was no reason to even consider sin.

  • Justin

    Joey “the scientific method became our template for thinking and understanding.”
    I think this would have been better said by me worded: “the Scientific method became humanity’s (esp. western culture’s) PRIMARY way of thinking and understanding.” The way we use logic and a hypothesis-> prove method of understanding was not a part of the culture that wrote these scriptures. The search for “how” was not a primary question in ancient times. Don’t get me wrong, Paul uses a logical approach, but he was after Aristotle and the likes. modern philosophy, logic, and the scientific method approach (which assumes that all things are provable without doubt if true, which is not the case with God at all)became our primary way of understanding and approaching our world. It became our Zeitgeist. So we have read the Bible with our Zeitgeist and assumed that those that wrote the Bible and the characters in the Bible shared the same Zeitgeist as us. They didn’t, and it isn’t realistic to read them like they did. My mind is blanking on books that speak about this (most Postmodern Primers, perhaps McLaren, Grenz, Tony??) So the question becomes, what was their template for understanding these stories (whether they happened or not).
    This is why it is important to understand the Jewish context and understanding. No, we are not Jews, but these are Jewish stories before they are Christian. Yes, we can read them in light of Christ, but remember he understood them in a Jewish/Ancient context as well. So, not only is “how” not the correct question, neither is the question, “did it really happen”? The best question is, regardless of IF it happened or didn’t, WHY was this story important to the Jews? What deep truth(s) did it have to teach that were worth preserving (we’ve lost more Jewish teachings, wisdom and stories than we’ve salvaged). I won’t say, like Gordon Fee does, that the Bible can’t mean what it never meant, I think it can because I consider it a living document(s). But Knowing what it meant reigns in our outlandish interpretations that we adhere to at times. So yes, Jewish understanding is important because the Bible wasn’t written in a vacuum, it was written in a specific sociological and theological context.
    Personally, I think this is why genealogies are so important to the Jewish tradition. Yes it goes back to Adam, but are we reading too much into that? Perhaps the simple message is not to forget where you came from, and that there is a whole rich (narrative) history to the story that you are now writing. Knowing your heritage will help you to write your story in a productive and loving way.
    The last parts were to all, not just to Joey…but Joey I hope that helps.

  • Joey

    My question becomes, why exactly is the doctrine of original sin an issue? What would be the point in proving that it’s not Biblical?

  • Justin

    IMHO, Joey,
    It helps us to see that people are not inherently evil/bad, and helps us to see the best in people. The hope that people are inherently good (because they are made in God’s image and called “good”) allows us to 1) not be judgmental, and 2) to help us understand that although this world is broken, that it wasn’t because people were born sinful, but that the environment in which they were brought up in, the exposures they had, and perhaps some genetic factors (not the “sin gene”, but other psychological dispositions) ALL work together in a person. When approaching someone who is “sinful” we learn that the best way to understand them and help them is through a the long process of relationships, listening, and providing them with a new environment outside of the suicidal system that they are stuck in.
    Some believe that people in bad situations are a “product of their own choices and sinfulness”… but I think that freedom from the doctrine of “Original Sin” allows us to see that they are both a perpetuate and a victim. Unfortunately, belief in Original Sin leads to apathy in a lot of situations.
    Also the original sin doctrine is a BIGGY for those of more Calvinistic beliefs. At the same time, it ties us to certain views of atonement rather than allowing us to look at the full spectrum of theological discourse on that subject.

  • Joey

    Justin……Thank You
    To all…..I’m not trying to split hairs, I’m really trying to understand your POV and why you believe the way you do……That’s why I’m asking questions……….

  • EricW

    Take off your theological spectacles, whatever they be, whether Calvinist or Arminian or Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, and read Romans 5-8 afresh. Diagram Paul’s thought-flow as you do, trying to follow his arguments, his comparisons, his contrasts and his conclusions. Note which words he uses, and where he uses different words for the same or related thoughts. Pretend you never heard the term “original sin,” and also let your understanding of “justification”/”righteousness” (same word in the Greek) come from what he says/writes; i.e., don’t predetermine its meaning by what your particular theology says.
    AFTER you have done this thoroughly so you have a basic inductive idea of what he’s saying and setting forth, then take your theological grid and see how well its teachings about original sin and justification, etc., map to your conclusions about what Paul is saying.
    If you can’t read NT Greek, you will not be able to do this as well as those who can; in that case, at least use an interlinear.

  • Joey,
    Thanks to you also. Glad I could help. Disagree or not, these conversations are worth it. New perspectives are what Christ was all about!
    May I suggest Marcus Borg’s “Reading the Bible Again For the First Time.” It helped me a lot with perspectives in scripture. May not agree with it all, that’s ok, but it is a good book to engage! Also Kugel’s “The Bible As It Was” is worth a read! you can find them and their description on Amazon.
    peace man!

  • The text may say that sin entered the world through Adam’s sin, because of Adam’s sin, or as a result of Adam’s sin, but to me the point is that we are all sinful. Whether the first man was Otis or Korey instead of Adam, he too would have sinned at some point. If Adam’s nature changed as a result of his sin, and this altered human nature on down the line, then how did Adam sin in the first place? Or if it was always in Adam’s nature to be capable of sin, why were we to be somehow exempt until he actually did sin?
    Ultimately, if the Doctrine of Original Sin means that Adam was capable of sin unlike some other humans might have been (had they been in his place) and by sinning Adam ensured that we are all sinful by changing ALL of our natures, then I reject it as unbiblical. I simply do not think that is what Paul is trying to say in Romans. On the other hand, if the Doctrine of Original Sin means that Adam was simply the first sinner by whom we were all made sinners because we are all humans descended from Adam, then I accept it. Moreover, the many were made sinners because the many were made from Adam the first sinner; they like Adam are human.

  • Joey, I think earlier you asked the question regarding why we should even try to demonstrate that the doctrine of original sin is extra biblical.
    For me, the reasons, broadly are:
    1. It is incredibly hard for me to accept the idea that once apon a time there were two humans who were the sum total of the entire humans race, that these two humans were ‘immortal’ due to their total obedience to God. But one day the broke their obedience and death resulted. Now, the reason humans die is becasue of them. This is not, as some in this post would suggest, becasue this idea is morally repugnent to me (or a non-sweet). The reason is becasue this would force me to hold to two things that contradict each other (what I know of biology, geology, history from inquiry and what I know of of those things from a single set of religious books). This is impossible to do.
    2. I believe the Bible to be my faiths authoritative book. I want to belive it is truth. However, what am I to do when it seems to say something quite clearly that I know to be wrong based on other facts. Perhaps I am reading it wrong? Perhaps I need to adjust my definitino of authoritative?
    3. Sometimes the most efficient path to resolving 2. is to question whether or not the things I think the bible are saying, really are what it is saying. If I’ve got the interpretation part wrong, then it lets the Bible off the hook (as it were). This is, for me, the first path to reconciliation. The next step would be to consider my definition of “authoritative”, but as seen from some of the responses, doing this can result in you being branded an outcast from the faith, even though the bible itself (as a whole) makes no specific authoritative claims, authority is justified using logical argument – which conincidentally is the framework used to develop our scientific understanding of the world. . . . .

  • EricW

    1. I think the (Eastern) Orthodox belief is that Adam and Eve were neither mortal nor immortal before the Fall. If it’s not the official belief, it’s one that is taught or mentioned.
    2. Perhaps when Adam and Eve “fell” they collapsed the quantum wave function, thus affecting everything and putting it in (or condemning it to) a state that it neither had nor didn’t have prior to their sinning. I.e., when their eyes were opened, they “observed” the state of things, collapsed the quantum wave function, and it became what we know it to be. See Schrödinger’s Cat. ;^)

  • I think that we inherit something of the soul of our parents. This seems to make sense from a Biblical perspective, in that we aren’t some sort of detached souls before we are born. We are the product of the union of a man and woman, through whom God works a literal miracle in the formation of a life. This life is taken from the body and soul of our parents to form a new person.
    Even with this inheritance, it is not necessary to follow in the misguided footsteps of Calvin or Blessed Augustine. If what I said above is true, and if our parents are not perfect, then we will inherit that imperfection. I think any contemplation into a “genetic change” in the primordial couple of Adam and Eve (whatever they were or weren’t) is unnecessary.
    We may inherit the tendency toward sin, but we cannot possibly inherit their guilt. Adam and Eve’s fallen nature produce a distortion in their persons that required healing, not a legal solution (I’m referring to a screwed up view of ‘justification’).
    And regarding the question of Adam and Eve being “real” and “really” living to be 900 years old. I think that we have to see those scriptures as somewhat historical, but that very history is of secondary importance to the revelation of Christ in those scriptures. People get so hung up on the history that they fail to see the actual point of those scriptures in Genesis: we were created for perfection, but fell and still fall needing someone perfect to fix us and lift us up to perfection (i.e. Christ).

  • Has this series been abandoned? Will the Augustine, Calvin and Conclusions be coming? Maybe I misread but earlier I thought this was a one week thing.

  • Benjamin

    2 Timothy 4:3
    i am truly saddened to hear philosophy and emotions overtake scripture and doctrine

  • You seem hung up on a materialist explanation of the transmission of sin from Adam. Perhaps we inherit some of our parents’ spritual essences as well. However, it does seem mysterious, but why should mystery prevent us from accepting plain doctrine?
    God is good

  • Romans 5 is THE passage for grounding the doctrine of Original Sin. But apparently nobody has noticed that Paul does not say “all are guilty because Adam sinned” which is the traditional view. Instead Paul says “death entered the world because of Adam’s sin” and “death came to all because all sinned”.
    We only get to traditional Original Sin (e.g. as Mike Wittmer defines it “all are guilty because Adam sinned”) when we read Paul as a small footnote to what Reformers or Church Fathers wrote. Ironically, tradition is the leading hermeneutic in conservative circles as John Piper’s critque of Wright’s view of justification shows. Piper’s complaint is not that it’s bad exegesis but that it’s new exegesis.

  • Romans 5 is something of a mistranslation, actually. I highly suggest you read Chapter 18 of Daniel Gracely’s book, A Closer Look at Calvinism.
    I personally hold essentially the same views as Gracely: man inherited the knowledge of good and evil from the Fall. I find it telling on the doctrine of original sin that at the Fall God said, “the man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil”, not “the man has now become completely corrupted and so all of his offspring are horribly guilty” or “now all of mankind is totally depraved.”
    I believe that God does allow us the grace to choose between good and evil (as it says in Deuteronomy, the word is very near you, in your mouth and your heart so you may obey it) but during this hard life it’s impossible for us to make the right choice every single time over the course of our existence. I am in between Augustine and Pelagius. Augustine held that man can do no good whatsoever thanks to the fall of Adam, whereas Pelagius held that man can morally perfect himself and so become righteous and saved.
    Unlike Pelagius, I believe that once you sin, you’re done. That’s it. No more saving yourself. And no one can claim to be sinless. Like James (I think) says, if you claim to be without sin, you deceive yourself.
    But unlike Augustine, I don’t hold that since the Fall of Man God does not extend the grace to us to be able to do good. It’s just a very steep uphill climb now, and no one can make it all the way, which is why Christ’s death was necessary for anyone at all to be saved. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t climb and shouldn’t try to climb the hill of righteousness.
    So like Pelagius, I say that man can still do good even after the fall, but like Augustine, I say that it is only by God’s grace that we can do anything, including breathe, move, and have our being.