Ask the Patriarch 239
The Question of Original Sin
from: Dr. Halle
(This continues from the questions submitted in the previous article.)
Since I already have your ear...Any recommendations re sources that particularly cover the source of many of the weaknesses of Fundamentalist/Literalist Christianity, such as the absolute obsession with sin (and especially inherent or "original" sin), shame, eternal damnation to hell, and the nutty idea that one can be saved vicariously via acceptance of J.C. and his sacrifice?
I happen to feel some affinity with Christianity, but have come to see that much of this--apparently--was co-opted from the Mystery Religions, and a lot of the "good stuff," like mystical or Gnostic elements got "left on the cutting room floor," and there was wholesale selection and/or altering of texts according to a particular agenda, through the years. And, of course, the sin junk was emphasized. And, yes, whatever value the N.T. contains, is allegorical, not literal.
After receiving my acknowledgement, Dr. Halle wrote with more information he had discovered on his own.
Since then I have reviewed some books in my library and have examined additional website material, so have much in the way of the answers to the questions I posed (though NOT on believing "on" Jesus).
E.g. here is a pretty decent outline of the B.S. of Original Sin, a particularly noxious piece of doctrine and dogma of the Official Church.
All of this doctrine/dogma is based on the presumption of the Adam & Eve's "Fall from Grace" being real, not allegorical, and that their "sin" passed onto all mankind. An absurd proposition!! Compare the "Breaking of the Shells" in Jewish Cabala, which we assist God in helping mend/resolve by our mitzvahs ("good acts").
Synopsis of the Doctrine (and definitions of terms):
- Original Sin in us ["peccatum originale originatum"]
- "Formally" (i.e. essentially) it is the privation of sanctifying grace
- "Materially" it is
- the absence of the "preternatural gifts" intended originally for humans by God, and
- the resulting disharmony of our being aggravated by sin
- [and its cumulative effects throughout history]
- = "concupiscence"
- "Sin" is understood here in an analogous sense
- it is a condition contrary to God's will and due to human disobedience to God, and thus sin
- yet, it is not due to our personal decision. Rather it antecedes it, and therefore it is not personal sin [as our own "mortal" and "venial" sins are].
- This condition is due to a disobedience at the origins of human history.
- God, who created human beings in order to adopt them in Christ [cf. Ephesians 1:4ff] offered divine grace from the beginning.
- Had humans accepted and persevered in God's grace, the first parent(s) or the first human community would have transmitted sanctifying grace to their posterity—together with certain "preternatural gifts" intended by God, i.e. exemptions from human imperfections such as "death" as we now experience it, disharmony between soul and body, etc.
- Though these imperfections are "natural" (per se) to the human person, they are in a sense contrary to the higher dignity to which she is called by God.
- By freely rejecting God's grace [peccatum originale originans], the human person or persons deprived also posterity of these God-intended gifts.
- This condition is not unjust, for:
- We are, as human creatures, in no way entitled to God's supernatural grace or preternatural gifts.
- God had certainly the right to make the conferring of these at the very beginning of our existence dependent upon the response of the first representatives of humankind [in accordance with the social nature of humanity and the communitarian nature of the divine plan of salvation].
- Finally, and most importantly, our condition of not inheriting sanctifying grace is contrary to God's will precisely since God had called and IS STILL CALLING US to supernatural communion with the divine Self, offering us— in and through the Redemption accomplished by Christ—God's `grace even more abundantly' [cf. also Romans 5].
- The difference is (to express it in a somewhat simplified manner) that instead of receiving God's grace as children of "Adam and Eve" by our human origin, we receive it as redeemed by Christ through our Christian re-birth [cf. the teaching of the Church, especially Trent, on Baptism and "justification"].
- "Concupiscence"—the lack of the "preternatural gifts"—is not taken away by Baptism [cf. Trent, Canon 5, above].
- This, however, should not be seen only as an occasion for temptation (concupiscence) and suffering (sickness and death), but also as a way to share in the sufferings of Christ and thus to follow Christ more perfectly.
- God truly wants the salvation of all.
- Christ died for each and every human person, and the grace of Christ is offered to all.
- For the possibility of salvation outside the visible limits of the Catholic Church, but still always (even if unawares) through the grace of Christ that always links the person to some degree to the people of God, see Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, Chpt. II, #13-17.
- In Karl Rahner's terminology, also used widely by other theologians, such persons who freely cooperating with God's offer are in the state of the sanctifying grace of Christ, but without their—or others'—knowing it, are called "anonymous Christians."
- As for the salvation of those who die before having arrived at a personal decision for or against the grace of God—think, for example, of the multitude of unbaptized infants—the Church's teaching is not fully defined yet. The following points, however, can be confidently affirmed:
- God does not inflict positive punishment on anyone who is not guilty of personal sin. Therefore, IF these infants die without having received Christ's grace, they will not share in the beatific vision but will attain a state of natural happiness in the knowledge and peace of God [cf. also TCF # : Pope Innocent III, AD 1201]. This state, assumed by a part of the theological tradition, is called "Limbo."
- We cannot exclude the possibility that Christ's grace reaches also these infants.
- Indeed, God's universal salvific will and Christ's death for all gives—at the very least—positive hope for such a possibility.
- Some theologians would speak, for example, of a possible "baptism of desire" in virtue of the faith of the parents or of the whole Church.
- Another theological theory [viz., e.g., Ladislav Boros, The Mystery of Death] would maintain that, in the process of the "separation" of soul and body, such infants also would be given an opportunity to accept or reject God's grace.
- Vatican II spells out very clearly that our faith and hope in the universal power of God's grace in Christ should not weaken the missionary work of the Church (see Lumen Gentium, Chpt. II, #16 end, and #17 [quoting Mt. 28:18-20]).
The Patriarch replies:
As you say, Original Sin is a noxious doctrine - and reading the Catholic synopsis you found only amplifies this opinion.
But that synopsis only provides the rational for the doctrine. Where did this idea even arise?
As you note, Original Sin is foreign to Judaism. They got along quite well without it for several millennia (and they still do). It is something that is uniquely Christian - and not really the Christianity of Jesus. There is no record that he mentioned the concept. It seems to be an element invented by Paul.
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—
13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come.
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! 16 Nor can the gift of God be compared with the result of one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. 17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!
18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
20 The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, 21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Invented by Paul, but it took several of the Church Fathers and several centuries to be refined into the concept we have today.
And it is tied in with the idea of Christ dying for everybody's sins. (Another idea with no statement by Jesus to support it.) If someone lives a blameless life, how could it be said that Jesus died for her sins? Original sin solves this problem making everyone - even a two week old fetus by current Catholic anti-abortion propaganda - a sinner.
Here's a problem. If Christ died for everyone's sins - meaning everyone who ever lived - then he died for the sins of Adam and Eve. It is commonly held that they went to heaven - so they must have been forgiven. If that is the case, the punishments visited on their descendents in Genesis 3: 16-24 should be reversed. We should all be living in the Garden of Eden. We are not. Therefore, Jesus did not die for the sins of Adam and Eve. Therefore he did not die for everybody's sins. Therefore both original sin and Jesus dying for those sins are false doctrines.
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