Monday, May 25, 2009
1. Adam's "original sin" in the book of Genesis, and
2. Humanity's "inheritance" of Adam's sin.
Now, growing up as a fairly traditional Baptist, my understanding of that second idea was this: That because Adam sinned, all of humanity inherited a "sin nature," or a "bent to sin." That is, we all have it within us this tendency towards sinning. It is because we sin and because God can't abide sin that we need the salvation of God, the reasoning goes.
This was the orthodox view in my traditional circles back then and, with some modifications, I'm still in the same ball park today. I certainly believe that we all, as humans, are less than perfect, we make mistakes, we sin. Each one of us. So, I'm not too far astray from orthodoxy on this point.
I bring this up because of a recent conversation at another blog (who won't be identified, to protect the innocent - although, according to his line of thinking, there are NO innocent...) where the topic came up.
His view on this point appeared to be (and I could never get a straight answer from him, so it may still be that I'm mistaking his view), that what this doctrine means is that we all inherit guilt for sin right at birth AND that we begin sinning right away. So that, this two minute old infant who is whining and "demanding" that he be attended to is placing himself in God's place, or ideas to that effect.
Now, as it turns out, there are (I believe) three theories of original sin - the term, "Original Sin," is not found within the Bible, these are all extrabiblical extrapolations that derive these theories.
The first two, Augustinian and Federal hold that, because Adam sinned, we all inherit the guilt for that sin AND that we are born sinners. So clearly, this fella I was talking with was more Augustinian in his viewpoint.
The third theory, the Theory of Mediate Imputation, holds that we don't inherit the guilt for Adam's Sin, just that we inherit a "sinful nature," and that is what makes us guilty and in need of salvation. With this line of thinking, babies aren't considered to be sinners, just that they have inherited a sinful nature. So, apparently, I'm closer to this theory.
(There are other Christian groups that reject the theory altogether, saying merely that each person is held accountable for their own sins, so it may be that I'm closer to this group... I'm not quite clear on the distinctions...)
I bring this all up to consider the differences between those who believe Babies = Sinners and those who believe just that we have a tendency towards sinning.
This fella's opinion (it appeared) was that we were utterly depraved and wholly incapable of good. Humanity is evil. Worms. And, further, this is how god views us, as reprobate abominable hideous slime whom god can't even bear to look upon. We can do NO good, and that is why we need the blood of Christ, to cover our hideous sins. Even newborn babies come out and begin sinning.
This appears to be fairly consistent with the Augustinian (and later, Calvinist) thinking.
On the other hand, prior to Augustine (in the 5th Century BCE), Jewish theology did not swing this way. It was a new take on both the nature of God and the nature of man, is my understanding. And, I believe (and maybe I'm wrong, I don't have any evidence beyond observation), since the enlightenment (which is when the third Theory of Original Sin developed), I believe that utter depravity view has lost ground, along with the Augustinian Theory.
We recognize that logically and biblically, there is no reason to assume that newborn babies sin. It is a ridiculous, absurd point to hold. What sin could a newborn possibly commit?! In my Baptist circles (and I believe beyond), we held to a belief in an "Age of Accountability," some point at which children become aware enough of their actions to understand the difference between right and wrong, but before which, one could not suggest that these little ones actually sin.
Beyond the infant thing, there is the more reasonable understanding of humanity that holds we are beloved children of God, capable of good and bad - not that we are utterly vile in every possible way. This fella balked at my suggestion that God may despair over our sins, but that ultimately God thinks of us as God's Beloved, not as filthy worms.
I found the whole conversation interesting and it made me wonder: Is it the case that some of the more strident of the Religious Right and some of the more vitriolic amongst the Political Right, if it's the case that they would tend to self-identify as Augustinian in their view of humanity? Such a low opinion of humanity would explain a lot and I'd be willing to bet that this is the case (with the acknowledgment that betting is a sin and I'm a vile, disgusting worm for suggesting such...)