Rumraket Asks About Original Sin

Original sin isn’t even an essential doctrine is it? I’ve heard Craig argue so. Eastern Orthodox don’t hold to it, correct?

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Most Christian traditions other than Easter Orthodox seem to have some for of Original Sin. It features fairly centrally in Protestant traditions (i.e. the doctrine of total depravity is usually based on original sin). I think the idea of the Fall more generally is probably more important to many traditions than original sin itself.


Eastern Orthodox actually does hold to original sin, but they emphasize it as a lost chance at immortality over the western emphasis on inherited debt. WLC does not hold to original sin, it seems, but he does affirm the fall. There is a lot of debate about the precise nature of original sin, but the bigger question is really about the nature of the fall.

I’d be interested to understand how Adam created his own physical corruption.

I read them. I understood them like this.

  1. Here’s a whole bunch of different ways that original sin has been understood by different people, together with some of my own thoughts.
  2. Which one is right? Well does that really matter? Just pick one you like.

The closest you came to articulating your own position was your description of something you called “genealogically imputed debt from Adam’s sin”. You said “The inherited debt from Adam spreads by genealogical descent”. I have no idea what this debt is, and how it is inherited and spread by genealogical descent.

This is all I could figure out about what you think people inherit from original sin.

  • “Physical corruption”: seems to be the idea that since our ancestors (back to Adam), were mortal, then we inherit their mortality; no explanation of how this is inherited genealogically from Adam

  • “Moral corruption”: which apparently “guarantees that every one of us will do wrong, if given the chance to live perfectly”; no actual explanation of how this is inherited genealogically from Adam

  • “Imputation of debt”: apparently this is “on everyone, even before we personally sin”, so that “All of us are born with a debt we cannot pay”; no explanation of what this debt is, or how it is inherited genealogically from Adam

You described three possible ways all this stuff could have been inherited; “Instantly” (upon the original sin of Adam, affecting all humans instantaneously, possibly even moving through time to do so), “Contagiously” (by “social norms and cultural interactions”, “not by biological contact, but by cultural exchange”), “Inherited” (by “natural descent”; possibly spreading to Adam and Eve’s biological descendants “by a mechanism of genealogical inheritance”).

You suggest physical corruption was spread instantly, moral corruption is spread contagiously, and imputed debt is spread by geneaological descent. Still no description of what this debt is or how it works.


You might need to reread those chapters. I certainly do explain.

Also, the brevity here misses the rationale and explanations. That is important to have straight to constructively engage with what I wrote.

How did Adam create original sin? How could he have created it if God had not already made its existence possible?

Some apologists explain that God wanted to create humans with free will, because He wanted people who would be able to choose whether or not to follow and love Him. Love necessitates a choice. Love cannot be coerced. Love means we have the option to decline a relationship. If God had made people who only had the ability to choose to obey, but not disobey, then those people would be like “robots,” not free agents, not capable of love.

Thus, to be given the gift of free will, it is necessary that people would be capable of choosing to go against God’s good and perfect will. So in a sense, creation of free will meant that humans could make sinful choices. Since the Fall, all people make choices that are against God’s perfect will.

The Reformed tradition (doctrine of depravity) teaches that, since the Fall it is impossible for people to make good (nonsinful) choices without God’s help in doing so. Our own human experiences speak to this being true. It seems a common human experience that we make harmful mistakes that hurt ourselves and others, even when we don’t intend to, for example.

I found @swamidass’s reference to the concept of Felix cupla helpful on the linked thread:

As one example, there has long been questions about why God would create Adam if he knew that he would sin and corrupt us all. This paradox isn’t rejected in traditional theology, but embraced in the Felix culpa tradition:

Felix culpa - Wikipedia
Felix culpa is a Latin phrase that comes from the words felix, meaning “happy,” “lucky,” or “blessed” and culpa, meaning “fault” or “fall”. In the Catholic tradition, the phrase is most often translated “happy fault,” as in the Catholic Exsultet. Other translations include “blessed fall” or “fortunate fall”.[1] As a theological concept, felix culpa is a way of understanding the Fall as having positive outcomes, such as the redemption of humankind through the Resurrection.[2] The concept is paradoxical in nature as it looks at the fortunate consequences of an unfortunate event, which would never have been possible without the unfortunate event in the first place.[3] In the philosophy of religion, felix culpa is considered as a category of theodicy in response to the problem of evil. As an interpretation of the Fall, the concept differs from orthodox interpretations which often emphasize negative aspects of the Fall, such as Original Sin. Although it is usually discussed historically, there are still contemporary philosophers, such as Alvin Plantinga, who defend the felix culpa theodicy.[4]

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@Rumraket and @nwrickert
Was my above reply to @Roy helpful?
And might it be helpful to think of these distinctions?

  • Original Sin = corruption = the spiritual condition of humanity that has been our state since The Fall. This was NOT the first act of sin committed by Adam and Eve
  • sin = act of transgression

The ideas of Original Sin and The Fall are great mysteries. They are theological concepts to explain the condition in which people find themselves in that we often make “wrong” and “hurtful” choices that we often regret. We find that we can often fall short of holding to even our own moral standards for ourselves, (and thus, we certainly fall short God’s even higher and perfect moral standards).

I do not think that the condition of Original Sin is physically transmitted or inherited, but it is a spiritual condition in which all of humanity finds itself. However, the consequences of acts of sin can be inherited (There are many examples of this. One example might be that the abuse of a father can dramatically affect the emotional and physical well being of a child, which can further result in negative outcomes for future generations in that family. Another example that @swamidass mentions in his book is systemic racism resulting in poverty for whole people groups who have been marginalized throughout generations)



Your description (above) would NOT be considered St. Augustine’s version of Original Sin by the Orthodox.

The test case is infant baptism. The Eastern Orthodox offer multiple reasons for Baptism… BUT EXCLUDE SIN as one of them.

I wrote a fairly detailed summary of 23 entire pages, in response to Rumraket asking what you believe about original sin. I’m sure he’ll ask if he’s interested in more detail about rationale and explanations. I could just write out the entire 23 pages instead.

Thanks but we will stick with the original plan.

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These distinctions, in my opinion, are overly simplistic and certainly wrong at times.

First there are many different understandings of original sin in the tradition. This is just one, and it is not necessarily the most important one.

Second, hamartia (the term for sin) is used in ways that clearly indicate it can mean different things in different contexts. There is a whole field of biblical theology, hamartology, that studies this precise issue. Transgression seems to mean knowledgeable violation of a command, which is one type of sin. The word also can indicate Unknowledgeable wrongdoings. Sometimes it is connected to iniquity, or sickness. Sometimes it is discussed as ancestral. The concept of sin is far too rich and complex to reduce this way.


Sadly, only in the sense that it left me with more questions than I set out with.

I appreciate that you take the time to answer, and (sorry to pull a Trump) believe me when I say I do not ask these questions to insult anyone or trash Christianity, nor to put anyone down, or call them stupid, or anything of the sort. People’s thoughts on moral philosphy are interesting to me, both within and without a religious context, and I think it’s an important subject. Perhaps one of the most important ones. I can think of few things as important as the problems and questions that arise from thinking about how we should treat one another, how we should behave, what is right and wrong, what is and do we mean by words like responsiblity, culpability, guilt, sin, and free will.

I’m a bit confused about the capitalization of the word Sin in the first bulletpoint. Am I to understand that to mean ‘Sin’ in ‘Original Sin’, is not the same as just ‘sin’?

Normally I’d take what you wrote to entail that Original Sin = original act of transgression. Which I’d normally take to mean the first. The original idea = the first idea, the origin of the idea. Something someone did that was the wrong thing to do. And it was the original, as in first, wrong thing they did.

But then you write that it was not the first act of sin, as in the first act of transgression, not the first wrong thing to do. I hope you can see why this would lead me quite confused?

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Thank you for the clarifications and for taking the time to try and summarize @Swamidass positon. Unfortunately he doesn’t seem to be satisfied with your characterization of his position, and since I haven’t read it myself I can’t comment on it’s veracity. That is not to say I have any reason to find things you say untrustworthy, because I do not.

But as with so many things, what people mean by things they say always has to come up against both their ability to express themselves, and the ability of the reader to comprehend it. I guess that just means I’ll have to read it myself at some point and then ask for further clarifications where I feel it necessary.


Ladies and gentlemen:

Considering how entrenched the doctrine of Original Sin is in Western traditions of Christianity, I am not convinced that analyzing, or even attempting to dismiss it, is very helpful to the PeacefulScience.Org mission.

Not really.

I never had a problem with the idea that humans have a sinful nature. And I never had a problem with the idea that human nature is inherited.

What seemed unjust, to me, was the idea of inheritance of blame or guilt.


Must everything discussed around here be very helpful to the mission?

I’m interested in where you came to understand we inherited blame or guilt. My background is pretty conservative YEC / evangelical, but my understanding was alwas that guilt was based on our own actions.


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The term “sin” already has that implication.


The point I was trying to make (and evidently failed to make, sorry for my failure @Rumraket :slightly_frowning_face: ), is that the doctrine of the Fall, tells us that all of humanity is corrupted in such a way that now we most often choose evil instead of good. God could have made us to choose good all the time, but that would mean we would be automatons, not agents with free will. In this sense, Original Sin, is not physically inherited, rather it is just part of the spiritual condition of being human in the present time (since the Fall). However, we are to be redeemed in heaven, as we choose to believe in the sacrifice Jesus made to save us from this fallen condition.

Yes, I agree, that is how I understand it, as well. Our own actions are what condemn us. This is taught in both the Old and New Testaments:

Ezekiel 18

25 “Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear, you Israelites: Is my way unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust? 26 If a righteous person turns from their righteousness and commits sin, they will die for it; because of the sin they have committed they will die. 27 But if a wicked person turns away from the wickedness they have committed and does what is just and right, they will save their life. 28 Because they consider all the offenses they have committed and turn away from them, that person will surely live; they will not die. 29 Yet the Israelites say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are my ways unjust, people of Israel? Is it not your ways that are unjust?

30 “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. 31 Rid yourselves of all the offenses you have committed, and get a new heart and a new spirit. Why will you die, people of Israel? 32 For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live!

Romans 3

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement,[i] through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished— 26 he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded.

Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.