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Original Sin

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Doctrines are used as a foundation to Christian beliefs. They serve to many churches as fundamentals in the direction their members chose to live their lives. It is important to understand the historical backgrounds of the doctrines that pertain to one's particular beliefs. I will be discussing this very information for the doctrine of original sin. The doctrine of original sin mostly pertains to the Roman Catholic religion. I will be covering when, where, and why the doctrine was originated. Original sin is the theory that every man is born into sin because our mother and father have sinned. The definition given by the Catholic Encyclopedia is: "(1) the sin that Adam committed; (2) a consequence of this first sin, the hereditary stain with which we are born on account of our origin or descent from Adam."# Saint Augustine was the fundamental theologian in the formulation of this doctrine, which states that the essentially graceless nature of humanity requires redemption to save it. The purpose of Baptism is to wash away original sin and to restore the individual to an innocent state, although even after baptism a tendency to sin remains as a result of original sin.

Although the concept of original sin is derived from the story of Adam and Eve's disobedience recorded in Genesis, the term "original sin" and the concept of a hereditary sin passed on to the entire human race are totally absent from the Old Testament and the gospels. Jesus is not recorded as ever having mentioned original sin, and Genesis relates only that the sin of the first parents brought consequences upon them. The theology of original sin developed out of questions that arose in the third century concerning the custom of infant baptism. "St. Augustine (354-430 A.D.) is credited with developing the traditional doctrine in response to Pelagius, who denied original sin."# Augustine appealed to Scripture to blame Adam for original sin and to the existing practice of infant baptism to defend the idea that the sin is passed on to all Adam's descendants, an idea subsequently endorsed by St. Thomas Aquinas. Original sin was taught by the Council of Carthage in 418 A.D. and the Second Council of Orange in 529 A.D. "The doctrine was formally defined by the Council of Trent in its Decree on Original Sin (1546 A.D.)"# The basis of this doctrine comes from Paul's Letter to the Romans. Ro 5:12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), "the doctrine of original sin is in some sense the reverse side of the doctrine of Redemption."#

"In 529, a moderate form of Augustinianism was adopted, involving the theory that every man as a result of the fall is in such a condition that he can take no steps in the direction of salvation until he has been renewed by the divine grace given in baptism, and that he cannot continue in the good thus begun except by the constant assistance of that grace, which is mediated only by the Catholic Church."#

In the old testament according to the account in Genesis 3, the original humans lived in a state of intimate fellowship with God, and enjoyed a perfect harmony with one another and with nature. They were, however, forbidden by God to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The serpent persuaded Adam and Eve to disobey this commandment. "This led to several dire consequences, including the loss of intimate fellowship with God, man's susceptibility to physical death, a distortion of the relationship between the man and the woman, a predisposition to sin, and the loss of man's harmonious relationship with nature."# All these consequences were inherited by Adam and Eve's descendents.

The experience of original sin, and the spiritual pain it produces in the person who wishes to please God, is dramatically summed up by Paul in the following verses: "I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. So then it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:15-24) The solution to this problem is stated by Paul in these terms: "For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (Romans 8:3-4) "Though the New Testament doctrine of original sin is most clearly expressed by Paul, it is also implicit in the teachings of Jesus: for example in such words as: "And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone." (Mark 10:18) and "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him,



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