Human Nature and the Purpose of Existence
Written by: Beth Davies-Stofka
Some Christians believe that these events actually took place, while others understand this story to be symbolic of the human condition. But all Christians tend to view the story as essentially meaningful for all of humanity–that God is in a personal relationship with humans who must decide how to respond to God. They can obey God's will, working together with God to take care of each other and creation, or they can follow their own desires, rebelling against God's will and design.
The story illustrates the Christian belief in the inevitability and universality of sin. Throughout their lives, people will pursue their personal interests instead of seeking to serve God and follow God's will. Some believe in the doctrine of original sin, following Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, who theorized that the rebellion of the first human parents is physically passed on to all human beings from one generation to the next. Others believe that sin originates with Satan, who first tempted Eve and now preys on humankind, seeking souls to devour. Many contemporary Christians seek ways of understanding sin separately from the story of Adam and Eve, believing that we must take responsibility for our tendency to sin and the harm it does to our loving fellowship with both God and each other.
Christianity teaches that everyone is equally prone to sin and so it focuses not only on human behavior, but also on human nature. In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote that "there is no difference, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:22-23). Even though there can be a considerable scale of wrongdoing in sinful human activity, a person's sin does not make him or her less valued by God; everyone is equally a candidate for redemption.
1. Why might Christians argue that humanity is inherently good?
2. What is meant by reason? Why must it be coupled with grace?
3. Where do Christians believe sin originated?
4. Why is sin part of everyday life? How is it overcome?