The Problem with Original Sin
Original sin is the idea that human beings all possess a certain degree of depravity which is a direct result of Adam's sin. It's thought of as a disease that's inherited.
I recently produced a video concerning my issue with the idea of Original Sin. Within hours of me uploading it to YouTube people started unsubscribing from my channel. While this may cause a normal person to freak out, I was encouraged by it because I knew I was weeding out those who had only subscribed assuming I was going to be pushing the "same ole Christian" content they were comfortable with. I'm sorry to disappoint. My goal has always been to seek God's truth, not baste myself like a rotisserie chicken in the traditions of men veiled in passionate sermons.
Original sin is the idea that human beings all possess a certain degree of depravity which is a direct result of Adam's sin. It's thought of as a disease that's inherited. But it's a deeply flawed idea and unfortunately most people don't think critically about its implications or areas of incoherence. The theological talking points used to defend it don't even correlate to the issue at hand, as I'll explain. So let's start.
No biblical support for Original Sin
The idea of Original Sin was not a widely held view according to Second Temple literature. Biblical Scholar Miryam T. Brand) -author of Evil Within and Without: The Source of Sin and Its Nature as Portrayed in Second Temple Literature (Journal of Ancient Judaism)- analyzed available Second Temple literature in order to determine the origin behind the Jews belief of sin and evil. Her book -which contains the study of ancient Jewish prayers- is available on Amazon. The ancient Jews believed there were two sources for evil in the world; man's innate desire to sin and evil commissioned by the fallen Sons of God as well as demons referenced in scripture and in other source materials.
Dr. Brand also wrote her dissertation on this topic. Here's a quote from it which you can download:
The idea that humans are sinful because Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit (“original sin”) is rarely found in surviving Second Temple literature. The earliest reference to this idea may be found in Sir 25:24, which, while referring to a wicked wife, reflects a familiarity with an “original sin” tradition whereby death and sin both originated from the eating of the forbidden fruit, at Eve’s instigation. However, only the two works written in the aftermath of the temple’s destruction, 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch, explicitly present the idea that the desire to sin originated with the transgression of Adam and Eve. Both 4 Ezra and 2 Baruch lament Adam’s sin, blaming Adam for the subsequent sins of his descendants. 4 Ezra describes the desire to sin as an inheritance from Adam; it is thus both innate and inevitable. However, 4 Ezra is not consistent regarding the manner in which Adam received his “evil heart.” This evil heart is alternately described as originating either with Adam’s creation or as a result of his sin. It is apparent that the manner in which the evil heart was obtained is of little import to the protagonist Ezra and his contemporaries, who must deal with its consequences regardless.
While this may not seem like a big deal, I'd implore you to think about the case she's making. And before you think she's an outlier, she's not the only bible scholar who holds this belief. There others such as Dr. Michael Heiser (author of Unseen Realm) who have come to the same conclusion by conducting proper research and analysis of ancient Jewish culture. The truth is 99% of ancient Jewish literature does not blame Adam for humanity's sins. It's believed that the idea of Original Sin gained traction sometime shortly after the destruction of the 2nd Temple.
In the event you're not inclined to respect the work of scholars, I'd implore you to find just one author of scripture -either in the old or new testament- that blamed Adam and Eve for humanity's sins. You simply can't. Why? Because the authors never put forth that idea. They laid culpability squarely at the feet of the sinner. Jesus did the same.
But you will find verses that speak to the fallen Sons of God in Genesis 6, corroborated with Jude 6 and 2 Peter 2:4. Also, don't forget the dividing of the nations in Deuteronomy 32:8 after the Tower of Babel judgement. The very same nations that Israel was constantly at war with which were governed by rebellious Sons of God -supernatural beings. This is where the worship of other "gods" originated.
In scripture, you will find demons and other supernatural beings that have been the achilles heel of humanity starting with Genesis 3. You will also find in the scriptures man's own innate desire to reject God and commit sin. But what you won't find is any manner of finger pointing, blaming Adam and Eve for the corruption in the world or even the reason why man sins. It is simply not there no matter how much this is preached from pulpits or written about on the internet. Evil has two sources; man's innate ability to sin based on choice and the rebellious supernatural beings who also exercised choice.
The heresy called Pelagianism
If you reject the idea of Original Sin you'll be labeled a heretic -one who subscribes to Pelagianism; you believe all humans are born sinless or righteous. The issue with this is that rejecting Original Sin -the idea that we inherit sin from Adam and Eve- does not necessarily mean the acceptance of a righteous birth. Meaning, you can absolutely reject the idea of blaming Adam and Eve for corrupting humanity and still reject the idea we're all born righteous. But people don't like this idea because it causes them to question if God created us with imperfection. The thought is if we aren't born diseased with sin then we must be born righteous. I'll get to this later.
However, this nuance is often not respected. And so people will claim that Original Sin can be proven by observing children who sin from birth. But that defense has nothing to do with the idea that humans inherited Adam and Eve's sinful nature. It only speaks to the fact that humans have an innate desire to sin. Origin of such desire is not found in this defense.
I believe the failure in understanding is a result of not realizing humans were given free-will to exercise. And Adam and Eve were no different than you and I. Free-will does not equal corruption. Which takes me to my next point.
Humanity was not created perfect
There seems to be this concept of perfection as it pertains to Adam and Eve. However, scripture never ascribes this label to them. This is an idea that has been imported into the text. God's work in creating man was good, but it wasn't perfect in the sense man could never sin. If that was the case Adam and Eve would have never sinned. Why? Because they would have lacked the innate desire. But it also means they would be absent true free-will. We can't have it both ways. We can't declare Adam and Eve were righteous with no innate desire to sin, but somehow managed to sin and corrupt future humanity. This leads me to my next point.
Original Sin lacks Coherence
If humanity is corrupt because of Adam and Eve's sin, which leads us to sin, then one must account for the same with Adam and Eve. Every Christian believes sin starts in the heart. It must first be a thought that comes into agreement with one's desire before it becomes an action. All Christians believe this. This means one must account for the innate desire to sin which precipitated Adam and Eve's actions to sin. In short, the idea of Original Sin does not account for how Adam and Eve were diseased. It only attempts to account for the disease post sin. It ignores the elephant in the room in an attempt to protect the holiness of God. But God doesn't need our protection.
The idea of Pelagianism was ascribed to the British monk Pelagius who lived in the 4th century. He kicked back against Original Sin, fearing that Christians would adopt a posture that placed blame for their sins on Adam and Eve. He feared they would abuse God's grace. I agree with his concern. Not because I think Christians everywhere are necessarily doing this, but because his line of thinking was correct. We are responsible for sin. Not Adam and not Eve. We need to stop blaming them for the evil in the world. What we can blame them for is the spreading of death, as Romans 5:12 states and as God assured would happen:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—, Romans 5:12.
Is God to blame for our sin
If we are to blame Adam and Eve for our desire to sin by way of Original Sin, then how does God hold us accountable? The idea behind Original Sin is that humanity contracted the "disease" of sin by way of Adam and Eve. Because humanity is now tainted we have a desire to sin. But if that's the case, how and why would God hold us accountable for our sins? What is the point of the law and grace? Why does one need to repent and believe? My point here, is that if humanity became sick due to Adam and Eve's transgression, then God can't hold us accountable for our actions that are bred out of such sickness. Scripture does not support this idea. In fact, the entire narrative of scripture speaks to man choosing sin and God holding him accountable for sin, starting in the Garden.
This all begs the question. Who is truly culpable for sin? If sin is a disease that started with Adam and Eve then they could have only contracted it from God. It would have been baked into their DNA. It is disingenuous to speak of sin existing in the heart and then remove Adam and Eve from the the very same concern they're blamed for perpetuating.
It is completely biblical to reject the idea of Original Sin, believing that all humans including Adam and Eve have always possessed the innate desire to choose sin. We also have the innate desire to choose not to sin. I believe it is also biblical to hold to the belief that we are all born with this innate desire and begin exercising it as children. Believing this ideas does not make one a heretic anymore than the writers of scripture who did not posit the belief of Original Sin.
Shout out to Pelagius.
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