(Musings) On Original Sin (Part 2)
This is a continuation of a small series on Original Sin. In this article I’d like to examine how their sin was “original” and what that means for us as descendants of sinners.
The Original Sin
When it comes to mankind’s first sin we can track it to a person and a place. Really two people. Eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was the sin. It was sin because God told them not to eat from that tree. The place is the Garden of Eden, also known as Paradise in the Greek. While this may have been mankind’s first sin we should not forget that this was not the very first sin ever to be committed by a being. We understand from Scripture and tradition that Satan was a being who tempted both man and angels to fall. Satan can be tracked to be the first being who has ever sinned. Adam and Eve stand as the original human sinners. Fortunately for God’s grace Adam and Eve were given mercy and because of that we were born.
Son of Man; Son of Sin
When we are born it is like we arrive “late on the scene” from an adult’s perspective. An adult has had time to grow and mature and when we see a new person born we typically think of the baby as something totally different to us. It is true that in ways we are different, but we all started from that same point as they did. We just often, practically speaking, forget this. When we see a child we often judge them, so to speak, based on the parents. “He is the son of a lawyer. Her father is a drug addict. His father is a faithful Christian.” Even though the character of a child has not yet even been decided by the child a lot of times we typically group the child in with the parent’s likeness. We judge the future unseen character of a child from the character of the parents. When it comes to mankind we are the sons and daughters of sinners. Both of our original mother and father, while repentant, have sinned against God. And while it is true that each and everyone of us sins, we are still considered sinners without even acting anything out. This is because of our parent’s likeness. They were sinners and so every person born to man is also considered to be under sin. Christians have always understood that corporately we are all sinners. The consequence of this depends on the Christian tradition. Eastern Christianity (Orthodoxy) maintains that mankind is considered sinful because of Adam and Eve and inherit the same proclamation that God gave to them, which is death. Western Christianity (Roman Catholicism) tends to lean more on the side that says we inherit original on a more personal level and not only corporately. The main implication of this is that because all mankind comes from Adam we therefore are all guilty of personal sin which is understood to be punishable with eternal damnation. The East maintains that we are not guilty of eternal damnation for being the sons of Adam, while the west typically does. I agree with the East that we only inherit a more corporate type of sin rather than personal and as such not every man is worthy of eternal damnation simply for being born of Adam. Of course as I discussed in the last article all mankind still inherits the effects of sin which is a nature that is incapable of not sinning. Of course our Lord is the only exception because while He “came in the likeness of sinful flesh” it is also true that “no sin was found in Him.”
Rabbit Trail; How was Jesus not infected with Original Sin?
If it is true that Jesus was born a human then how comes He did not sin? Those coming from a more Roman Catholic and Protestant background have a little more to deal with on this topic than the those in the East. Paul says that Jesus was “born in the likeness of sinful flesh” which possibly highlights the more corporate nature of original sin. When it comes to personal sin, however we know our Lord committed no sin. He was complete and perfect in obeying the Father. So when we understand that original sin is corporate only and not personal, then we have no problem with Jesus and His sinlessness. Since I sit with the East on this I will not discuss the topic any further.