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Original sin, in Christian doctrine, the condition or state of sin into which each human being is born; also, the origin (i.e., the cause, or source) of this state.
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But, also like an inherited genetic condition, we are not responsible for being born with this moral defect. We do not bear any guilt for having original sin as such.

Nevertheless, possession of original sin renders us unfit for the presence of God, much as possession of leprosy used to render those who had the disease unfit to enter normal human society. Someone bearing original sin may be disbarred from enjoying the delights of heaven, say, because they are morally unfit to be in the nearer presence of God. It is our actual sins for which we are culpable, on this view.

The Origins of Original Sin

Indeed, it is because we have the moral corruption of original sin that we commit actual sin. These actual sins make us guilty in the sight of God. Consequently, those who bear original sin and commit actual sin—which includes you and me—are rendered doubly unfit for the presence of God, on account of both original and actual sin. On the face of it, this seems unjust. How am I responsible for actions carried out because of a moral defect for which I am not responsible? Perhaps it is similar to a predisposition to sin.

The Origins of Original Sin

Suppose someone is genetically predisposed to alcoholism or to violent behavior. In a similar manner, perhaps we are disposed to sin and culpable for acting on the basis of such dispositions. Nevertheless, how did human beings come by this condition?

Traditionally, Christians have thought that our first parents sinned, and we inherited the consequences of their transgression in original sin. That picture seems rather more difficult to square with current scientific views about human origins and the size of breeding populations of humans which are much larger than one pair at any one time.

But suppose humans developed from other hominids. At some time in their development the members of this early human community come to know God perhaps it is a moment in time, perhaps it happens over the course of some time. However, through some primeval act or acts of dereliction these early humans come to be estranged from God, a moral condition that is passed on to succeeding generations of humanity.

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For comparison, consider the tribe that is sold into slavery through the immoral action of some of its members—an action that has moral consequences for succeeding generations of tribal members. This sort of view may have some theological merits as an attempt to provide an account of original sin that preserves traditional theological claims as well as modern scientific ones. Yet it still raises some important theological questions about the biblical texts on original sin, and how we should treat them. We shall turn to these in a third and final post in this series.

Jewish Anticipation of Eternal Salvation

He is the author of nine books, and co- editor of ten other books, as well as over 80 articles and essays. Join our email list to see the latest blogs, events and more. The world from which Paul came had a very different view of sexual relations, especially within marriage. Sex was not evil; it was part of the physical creation that God had decreed was good Genesis 1: The apostle Paul takes the idea further in his First Epistle to the Corinthians, where he instructs married couples not to defraud one another but to render appropriate conjugal dues.

He states that in the sexual relationship each partner should focus on providing benefit to the other, not just on his or her own satisfaction. Paul presents a scenario in which humanity is held captive by a spirit being who enslaves them to sin 2 Corinthians 4: Paul mentions that the human spirit can be subject to either the spirit of the world or the Spirit of God 1 Corinthians 2: Hence in Psalm 51 the author speaks of being conceived in sin.

Elements of Original Sin in Judaism

So Paul saw sin within a spiritual domain rather than a biological one. This is reinforced later in his Epistle to the Romans, where he describes humanity as being in a state of bondage to spiritual forces Romans 6: Jesus Christ came to replace Satan as the ruler of the world, so that sin, by which humanity is enslaved, could be removed Romans Such freedom is accorded to those God draws to His Son now, but it will be accorded to all who are willing after the return of Jesus Christ.

Paul certainly recognized the lack of a spiritual relationship and saw sin resulting in death Romans 6: He saw the world alienated from its Creator Ephesians 2: But Paul also saw an opportunity for humanity to be restored to a right relationship with God after losing access to Him in the Garden of Eden. He describes those who reject the truth once they have had a relationship with God as having fallen away Galatians 5: Skip to main content.


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