Original Sin: Revisted

original-sinFour years ago during a systematic theology class through Vineyard Leadership Institute, I started to question the doctrine of original sin. Specifically, I started asking the question, “Is original sin was genetic or social?”

This questioning lead to a two part blog series in which I talked about Augustine and Pelagius view on original sin (Augustine – genetic; Pelagius – social). The end result of the series was to grudgingly follow Wayne Grudem’s conclusions, which was the best view I had heard at the time.

Fast forward a few years.

Yesterday I was reading about the Creator God in the book The Orthodox Way by Bishop Ware. This is an Eastern Orthodox theology book which has really watered my soul over the last few weeks.

In this selection, Bishop Ware talks a bit about original sin and the Eastern Orthodox view on it. As I read it, my heart jumped because it was very close to the view that I had to hold over the last four years. This, however, was the first time I have ever seen it written down – hence the excitement of my heart.

Therefore, with out further ado, here are the paragraphs from The Orthodox Way about original sin that hit me:

The divine image in man was obscured but not obliterated. His free choice has been restricted in its exercise but not destroyed. Even in a fallen world man is still capable of generous self-sacrifice and loving compassion. Even in a fallen world man still retains some knowledge of god and can enter by grace into communion with him….Yet it remains true that human sin – the original sin of Adam, compounded by the personal sins of each succeeding generation – has set a gulf between God and man such that man by his own efforts could not bridge.

Original sin is not to be interpreted in juridical or quasi-biological terms, as if it were some physical ‘taint’ of guilt, transmitted through sexual intercourse. This picture, which normally passes for the Augustinian view, is unacceptable to Orthodoxy. The doctrine of original sin means rather that we are born into an environment where it is easy to do evil and hard to do good; easy to hurt others, and hard to heal their wounds; easy to arouse men’s suspicions, and hard to win their trust. It means that we are each of us conditioned by the solidarity of the human race in its accumulated wrong-doing and wrong-thinking, and hence wrong-being. And to this accumulation of wrong we have ourselves added by our own deliberated acts of sin. The gulf grows wider and wider.

No man is an island. We are ‘members one of another’ (Eph. 4:24), and so any action, performed by any member of the human race, inevitably affects all the other members of the human race. Even though we are not, in the strict sense, guilty of the sins of others, yet we are somehow always involved.