This is a follow up to my previous post on genesis.
But I still had so many questions and any minor dent in my scriptural knowledge threatened to bring the whole system of beliefs. I had been told that the bible was the inspired word of g-d.
The theological implications for me were pretty high. If I can’t fully trust Genesis as a literal creation event then what do I do with the belief in original sin. This belief states that Adam and Eve were initially created perfect. But after falling to temptation and eating the forbidden fruit sin entered the world. Because Adam and Eve sin the whole world was cursed, and every child born thereafter would be born a sinner doomed to hell.
St. Augustine is the one credited with formulating this theory. It means that all of mankind since Adam and Eve are born as sinners. As fallen men we all have urges to do wrong and disobey g-d.
I can see why it appeals to people. It takes a very complex problem: the problem of evil and injustice. And it gives a simple answer.
According to this theory it was Adam and Eve that brought sin into the world. Before that, man and g-d walked together in harmony in a perfect paradise. G-d’s plan was perfect. It was man that brought sin into the world.
This theory was pushed towards me at a very young age. And I was told that it was a central part of my faith. G-d created man, man rebelled, sin entered the world, and now all mankind is fallen and doomed to hell.
I was told that the very reason Jesus came to earth was to be a sacrifice for our sin. And that man can never find a way to g-d without first accepting Jesus as his personal savior. Jesus was sent to provide a fix for the first sin of man. I was told that the concept of original sin was essential to my faith.
Augustine argued that sin was passed down through each human from conception onward. If you are interested in reading more, just read a little bit about Augustine’s life. The Original View of Original Sin (vision.org) It explains a lot about his views on sin and sexuality.
Unfortunately the idea of original sin also brings with at of baggage as well. If you believe in the idea then you must also believe that all of mankind is naturally evil. And as my parents often state even kids are “natural born sinners.” With the further implication that they are also doomed to hell because of that sin nature.
It also adds in the implication that as humans we are naturally worthless and evil. I can even remember being taught those words as I grew up. And I’ve heard those same words recently from my ex-pastor as I spoke with him. He told me of an “unsaved” family member who, without g-d, was living a worthless life. Simply because they weren’t saved. According to him no morality or worth could ever found be outside of g-d.
The first book I turned to was The Evolution of Adam by Peter Enns. I read it to help me come to terms with how to reconcile Adam and Original sin. It helped me to look at the first five books of the bible in a new light. Originally I viewed Moses to be the author of these books. Peter Enns presents a compelling argument for a historical view of the pentateuch. The follow quotes come from Peter Enns in an article for Biologos. When was Genesis Written and Why Does it Matter? – Articles – BioLogos I’ll also attach a copy of the article as a PDF.
“The Pentateuch and the Bible as a whole do not accurately recount events in neutral fashion, but tell us
what the writers understood or believed about those events. The historical value of the Bible must be
mined beneath the surface of the text and corroborated by outside sources, textual and archaeological.”
“The Pentateuch as we know it was not
authored out of whole cloth by a second millennium Moses, but is the end product of a complex literary
process—written, oral, or both—that did not come to a close until sometimes after the return from exile.”
Enns does not come to these conclusions alone, but from a wealth of sources including archaeology and textual studies. He argues that the Israelites in their babylonian exile rethought their faith. Thus producing the bible as a way forward for future generations.
The exile prompted Israel to put down in writing once and for all an officialPeter Enns
declaration, “This is who we are and this is the God we worship.” The Old Testament is not a treatise on
Israel’s history for the sake of history, and certainly not a book of scientific interest, but a document of self-definition and persuasion: “Do not forget where we’ve been. Do not forget who we are—the people of God.”
“Genesis and the creation stories are part of a larger theologically-driven collection of writings that answers ancient questions of self definition, not contemporary ones of scientific interest.”Peter Enns
This really helped me to reframe my faith in a way that I could deal with a non-literal interpretation of genesis. Also it helped me move closer to coming to terms with a more complete non-literalist view of scripture. It also helped me to fully accept the idea of moving to an older-earth / evolutionary view of creation. Helping me to let go of the guilt of my “evil” and “worthless” view of self.
I highly recommend any book by Peter Enns. He has helped me re-evaluate my views on scripture as a whole, and especially my views on Genesis and the origins of man. His website is PeteEnns.Com. He also helps run a podcast called “The Bible for Normal People.” I would also recommend the website Biologos.com if you are looking for a way to integrate faith and science.
8 thoughts on “Original Sin”
Looking over your writing. Your pain really comes through and lets me feel an ounce of the pain you face. You clearly describe some of the issues with many Christians: problems with original sin, silliness of eternal hell fire, cruelty toward those who believe differently, and so on.
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