Thursday, September 3, 2009
Original Sin Or Original Blessing?
Many Christians believe that the flawed, selfish nature of our humanity is due to “Original Sin.” This doctrine, formulated by St. Augustine in the 4th century, contends that Adam’s sin was passed down to all humans. Therefore, sin is hereditary, universal, and inescapable.
I’m sorry to disagree with so great a theologian as Augustine. Before I tell you why, I want to say that I do agree with Augustine that sin (defined as being separated or alienated from God) is inescapable.
That humans have the capacity for evil is indisputable. History is rife with human terrorism, violence and the murder of innocents. Sin is not hard to find in human words and actions. However, I don’t believe sin’s inevitability has anything to do with Adam,Eve or any other person other than myself.
Humans are also capable of incredible acts of goodness and kindness. The same story in which Augustine saw Original Sin, also presents humans as created in the “image of God.” As those created in God’s image, we have Original Blessing.
It’s not naive to believe that humans have both the capacity for good and evil. We see evidence of both every day—in ourselves and in the wider human race. Yes, we are flawed, full of selfishness, laziness, rebelliousness and willfulness. But we are also loving, generous, helpful, compassionate and willing to sacrifice for others.
The main flaw in the doctrine of Original Sin is that it takes the responsibility for our choices away from us. In Genesis the great sin of Adam and Eve wasn’t eating the forbidden fruit (disobedience) but not taking responsibility for it. Adam blames Eve and Eve blames the snake.
It’s when we don’t take responsibility for our choices, good or bad, that we get into trouble. For nothing undermines a good relationship with God more than refusing to admit our sins. Once we take responsibility, we can accept the forgiveness God offers and move on.
God calls us to become the best persons we can be. God doesn’t expect perfection, but progress. As those made in God’s image, we have the freedom to choose the path we will follow. We are originally blessed!