A.Suarez's Treatment on a Pope's Formulation for Original Sin's Transmission!

I see the nature of all flesh as coming short of the glory of God. Over the span of Evolution, hominids were already compromised.

The only thing that was left was achieving the threshold of Moral Agency. Whether it be awarded to the first qualified pair of hominids or it arrived as a natural consequence of God’s intentional evolution of the hominids.

Because of the imperfection of flesh and of the human mind, the arrival of moral agency automatically laid the foundation of the requirement for redemption.

As a Universalist, my basic presumption is that God will “checkmate” all humanity to sanctification, without violating human free will in any way.

In my mind, all these involved, erudite “explanations” of how ‘original sin’ is transmitted become unnecessary as soon as ‘original sin’ is replaced by ‘propensity to sin’, and that arises from the selfishness that is an intrinsic part the mechanism of evolution. The true selfishness that I refer to here cannot be applied to any creature that has no true sense of self. Thus the ‘programming’ of brain into Mind initiated self-consciousness, as well as conscience. It initiated morality and the possibility of moral sin. To be capable of sinning, one must possess the Homo sapiens brain which is potentially programmable into Mind. The Homo sapiens brain is inherited by biological reproduction, as noted by Ratzinger, but as far as we know (or believe), Jesus was the only human to have remained sinless.

Note: Some unorthodox Christians believe that Jesus’ truly human nature results from the fact that Joseph was his biological father, and that the story of his virginal birth was a much later addition to the NT to ‘compete’ with the virginal birth claims of many other famous persons (e.g. Alexander the Great). For those Christians, Jesus was born with the same propensity to sin as the rest of us, but, as noted in Mathew, Mark, & Luke, he was able to rise above the temptations that his evolved nature thrust upon him.
Al Leo

@AntoineSuarez as quotes by George @gbrooks9

A agree to some extent with A) Everyone is free not to sin, but also that everyone has a propensity to sin @aleo.

Sin is separation or alienation from God. We are separate from God since we are not God, but are limited, finite creatures. However we have the spiritual need to find our fulfillment, completion, perfection in God, as Augustine once said following Plato. The problem is that we much too often settle for something less than God as our object of worship and worship a false idol which results in sin.

Sin is relational. It is worshiping an idol made by God, but less than God. It is settling for a wrong Ultimate Concern. I am glad that Pope Benedict accepts the relational nature of sin, because it points to relational nature of humanity created in the Image of God and thus relational nature of God as Trinity.

B) The need for redemption by Jesus Christ means that sin is linked with humanity and not to nature. Redemption is being in right relationship to God. Nature and humanity were in right relationship with God until the Fall of Humanity or the first sin.

Sin is social and humans are social. Original Sin happened because humans uniquely have the ability to make conscious decisions, and they chose and continue to choose to worship things that are not God. That is most evident in our world today. We share this through our relational human social nature.

C) The need for Redemption is NOT caused by the Original Sin per se. The need to be in Christ is caused by our need to be in right relationship to God.

Gen 3 is like a chapter in a medical book which describes the disease of sin. It tells what it is and how it works in story form. What it does not include is its cure which is found only in Jesus Christ.

Antoine, I am in general agreement with the history of humankind that you present, but I believe that you, like so many others, have tried to give a primary role to the Flood Story. I believe it was a devastating but local event that has become a red herring in the efforts to reconstruct ancient history. I also believe, as you do, that God generated a relatively small number of free-willed persons out of a large population of Homo sapiens that roamed widely over the earth (how did you come up with the figure of 14 million?). Until such time as science finds an epigenetic mechanism for this, I like the analogy of a brain programmed to become Mind.

This Great Leap Forward occurred in Europe and the Mideast about 40K yrs ago, which appears to be much earlier than Homo sapiens are thought to have reached Australasia. My hypothesis, that modern humankind results from a ‘programming’ of brain into Mind, leads to the following speculations: 1) the GLF was "carried’ by later migrants and transmitted via language (perhaps not fully) to the earlier inhabitants; or 2) there was a second ‘programming’ of Homo sapiens brains in Australasia that left less cultural evidence (except for, perhaps, the Dream Time legends).

Today we tend to fault early explorers of Tasmania and Tierra del Fuego for questioning the true humanity of the aboriginal peoples they found there because of the crude culture they had developed. Darwin showed that three of these troubled spirits, York minster, Jemmy Button, Fuegia Basket, could adapt very quickly to modern English society. So, by that measure, they seemed to be ‘truly human’ and thus ‘in need of redemption’. However, when returned to their homeland, they quickly reverted to their previous way of life. Was that the work of the Devil?
Al Leo

Thanks George for this interesting clarification.

In the following I compare your explanation (please correct me if I misinterpret you) to my explanation:

Your explanation:
Shortness of God’s glory is inherent to Evolution and leads to flaws of flesh and mind (cruelty, deception, selfishness, illness, pain, catastrophes, etc.)
These evolutionary flaws contaminated automatically will and intellect of the “first qualified hominids” when they were endowed by God with Immortal Soul and became capable of Moral Agency.
Thereby these human persons “were necessarily in need of Redemption” from the very beginning of their existence.
Accordingly, “the requirement of Redemption” does not depend of a first sin on the part of the primeval humans with Immortal Soul.
If one defines (as I do) “Stage of Original Sin” = Stage of being in need of Redemption,
then your explanation amounts to state that there is “stage of Original Sin” even before the arrival of the first sin.

My explanation:
The glory of God shines in Evolution along with flaws of flesh and mind.
These flaws are planned by God for the sake of Redemption (see later).
When God endowed the “first qualified hominids” with Immortal Soul, He empowered their will and intellect in order they remain unaffected by evolutionary flaws of flesh and mind.
So these primeval humans capable of Moral Agency had unimpaired freedom of decision.
Nonetheless they preferred “to be like God despising Him”.
Instead of sending them to the “eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41), God mercifully decided to give them the possibility to repent. To this aim He decided that after the first sinners all new humans endowed with Immortal Soul come into existence in “the stage of need of Redemption” (according to Romans 11:32). And to further facilitate that human sinners are moved to repent, God permits they to be affected by the evolutionary flaws in flesh and mind, so that they realize “they are not like God”.

If this comparison is correct, it seems that we actually agree regarding “the stage of Original Sin” but disagree regarding “the stage of Original Grace”: Since you accept “the requirement of Redemption”, you accept “the stage of Original Sin” after all; however you don’t accept that this stage is the consequence of the loss of “the stage of Original Grace” through the first sin.

In summary, our explanations differ from each other only for the (possibly very short) period between the arrival of the first humans capable of Moral Agency and the arrival of the first sin they committed. As well for the time before this period, as for the time after it when “the need of Redemption through the grace by Jesus Christ” matters, our explanations are equivalent for all practical purposes.

Anyway, what I refer to as “Your explanation” above seems to me not only original but also more coherent than “Homo divinus” and “Relational damage”, and respects human free-will better than the explanation proposed by J. Richard Middleton. Accordingly it would be useful we go ahead discussing pros and cons of my assumption that the first humans endowed with Immortal Soul were also endowed with “Original Grace” by God.

The question of Universalism is certainly a very interesting one but, as far as I can see, it is not necessarily related to that of “Original Grace”. So I would like to suggest we discuss it separately afterwards.

In coming postings I will address the comments by Relates and aleo: I think they are also related to the question of “Original Grace” discussed here.


You will probably not agree with me about yet another point: I see Paul as a bit of a Gnostic! Gnostics consider imperfect flesh to be a kind of “prison of the soul” … and so, I do not find it strange to see the first humans as flawed simply for being mammals, rather than purely spiritual entities.

If we look at what Paul writes here:
Ephesians 6:12-13
"For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but
[1] against principalities,
[2] against powers,
[3] against the rulers of the darkness of this world,
[4] against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand."

This list of principalities, powers and rulers of the darkness - - this is almost right out of a book of Egyptian metaphysics concerning pagan “Aeons” and “Emanations” that are in charge of the material world!

In fact, I would argue that even Adam and Eve had never been expelled from Eden, the two hominids in question were still in need of reconciliation with the Cosmic Divine.

It is almost universally believed that if Adam & Eve had been able to stay in Eden, it would have demonstrated their holy stature. But that’s just magical thinking! God makes it quite clear that immortality has nothing to do with being sin free.

After the couple touched the forbidden fruit, God was still so worried about them successfully living forever, that he had to put a flaming sword as a barrier. God does not equate the capacity for immortality - - immortality of the fleshly kind - - as equivalent to being holy.

Are you following what I mean here?

I would propose that God’s concern was in fact the necessity of morally educated humans of experiencing death of the flesh, or they would never be in a position to experience spiritual sanctification!

To follow this text by Paul:
Col 1:16
"For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth,
visible and invisible,
whether they be thrones,
or dominions,
or principalities,
or powers:
all things were created by him, and for him…"

Here’s some additional discussion about the gnostic viewpoint held by some of the early Christian “schools” - -

**Encyclopedias - International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Aeon **

AEON [ e’-on ]
This word originally meant “duration,” “dispensation.” In the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle the word is Aion, from which this word is transliterated. In the Gnostic philosophy it has a special meaning and is there used to solve the problem of the world order.

In the infinite separation between God and the world, it was taught, there must of necessity be mediating powers. These powers are the eons and are the successive emanations from God from eternity. They are spiritual, existing as distinct entities.

. . . The idea of the eons in various forms may be found in nearly all oriental philosophy that attempted to deal with the problem of the world order. It appears in the writings of Philo . . .
[End Of Text]

More at this page:

PRINCIPALITY [ prin-si-pal’-i-ti ]

In the New Testament “principality” occurs for arche, “rule,” generally in the plural, referring
[a.] to men in authority (Titus 3:1, “Put them in mind to be subject (the King James Version; “in subjection,” the Revised Version (British and American)) to principalities (the King James Version; “rulers,” the Revised Version (British and American)), and powers” (the King James Version; “to authorities,” the Revised Version (British and American));

[b.] to superhuman agencies, angelic or demonic (Romans 8:38; Ephesians 3:10; 6:12; Colossians 1:16; 2:10,15). ****

“This dualism was objectified in Zoroastrianism, and among the Babylonians the several heavenly bodies were regarded as ruled by spirits, some good, some evil. The same belief, appropriated by the Jews during the captivity, appears also in Greek thought, as e.g. in Plato and later in the Stoics.”

“The higher spheres, which hold the even tenor of their way, were in general regarded as ruled by good spirits; but in the sublunar sphere [i.e. the world below the moon], to which the earth belongs, ill-regulated motions prevail, which must be due to evil spirits.”

Here the writer quibbles over what Paul intended by these words:
". . . While Paul clearly recognized a hierarchy of such powers (Colossians 1:16, “thrones or dominions or principalities or powers”), it is not certain that he had elaborated a system of eons to serve the purposes of metaphysical theology and ethics, such as appears among the Gnostics, although they evidently believed they were developing his thought."

"In 1 Corinthians 2:6 he repudiates the wisdom of this world (aion) and of the rulers of this world aion), and declares (Ephesians 6:12) that the Paul was keenly sensible of the dualism of mind and body . . . "

". . . (Romans 7:14).Christian[s] [have] to contend with “the world-rulers of this darkness,” and proclaims the triumph of Christ over “the principalities and the powers” in the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 2:15). "

“The same personification of such agencies or powers appears also in another passage, where the rendering of English Versions of the Bible obscures it (Ephesians 1:20,21 “when he raised him (Christ) from the dead, and made him to sit at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all (read “every”) rule . . . and authority, and power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this world (aion), but also in that which is to come”).”

"Not the least interesting passage is Ephesians 3:10, where the church is said to be the means of revealing to “the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places” “the manifold wisdom of God.”

“One naturally inquires what was the purpose of this revelation. Was it to effect a redemption and reconciliation of these demonic powers to God? To this question Paul supplies no answer.”
[End of Text]

I beg to disagree. The human body, mind, and spirit do not have flaws, but they do have limits, even the best of them.

We are limited, finite beings, therefore we are born and we die. We are flawed because of this, but we are flawed, that is sinful when we pretend that we are not limited, when we pretend that we are God, Who never makes mistakes and needs to say I’m sorry.

We modern folk seem to think that suffering is evil. Jesus knew better. He knew that He needed to suffer and die for others and this is good. We are called to do likewise. He used the suffering of the mother in child birth as an example of good suffering.

Because humans are limited we must work together for the common good. That is right except that many fail to do this. Because our minds are limited we must study and share information with others, which is good, except when we try to cheat. Because our spirits are limited we must love and be loved, except that many fail or do not know how to love.

The limits on our existence give us the reality of freedom of choice. Our mortality means that we are born into a family and community and have the ability to create our own family and community. These ate not flaws, but opportunities to fulfill our potential as those created in the Image of God.

Adam and Eve changed history when they choose selfishly to be like God and not be with and for God. They blamed others, failed to admit this failure, and fix the problem.


Roger, I don’t know anyone who would agree with you on that …


I understand that you and most people probably do not agree with me, so I took the time to explain why I take this position. Please read and criticize as needed.

If you think that limits are flaws, then you need to explain how a world of unlimited humans would function.


Ah… marvelous debate-jitsu !!!

You are characterizing humanity in a way that favors your analysis.

I see the “flaws” of Humanity as having very little to do with limits. Humans and many apes can no longer create their own vitamin C. Is this a limit? I suppose it is technically speaking. But of course, we can get vitamin C in other ways.

The emotionality of humanity is a terrible flaw … but we live with it and offer apologia for how sweet the good emotions are.

Would you use the term “limitations” to describe human greed, corruption and avarice? I would say these behaviors are limit-less !!!

Thank you for the response.

I hope that if you read my whole statement you would understand why we act selfishly.

We do because we act out of fear of our limits, rather than faith in God.

We act selfishly because we do not accept our limits, so our wants and emotions of fear are limitless.

P.S. this is not a fight or debate. If one rejects one alternative as false, one needs to show how another is true. That is what I have done. I am just asking you to do the same.

“Explanations” of “how ‘original sin’ is transmitted” aim actually to explain how “the stage of original sin” is transmitted.

If one assumes, as I do, that “the stage of original sin” means nothing other than “the stage of being in need of Redemption”, then my explanation works as follows:

The first creatures endowed by God with free will and moral sin (say Adam and Eve) were also endowed with Original Grace and had spiritual power to master the selfishness intrinsic to the mechanism of evolution. In this “stage of Original Grace” Adam and Eve had no propensity to sin: Their sin (the Fall) was not prompted by the selfishness intrinsic to evolution but was a pure spiritual sin coming from pride, the delusion of wanting “to be like God despising Him”.

After the Fall (the first sin in human history) Adam and Eve lost the stage of Original Grace and fell into “the stage of need of Redemption” (“stage of Original Sin”) along with “propensity to sin”.
After the Fall, all new human persons come into existence lacking Original Grace, that is in “stage of Original Sin” with “propensity to sin”.

According to my explanation “the stage of being in need of Redemption” is caused by the first sin in human history and is possible thanks God’s mercy; and “Transmission of Original Sin” means transmission of the “lack of Original Grace”, and as a consequence transmission of “propensity to sin”.

If I understand well (please correct me otherwise) your explanation works as follows:

The first creatures endowed by God with free will and moral sin (say Adam and Eve) were NOT endowed with Original Grace and could NOT master the selfishness intrinsic to the mechanism of evolution. Thereby Adam and Eve were in “the stage of need of Redemption”, that is in “stage of Original Sin”, and have a propensity to sin since the very first moment of their existence.

In this case “the stage of being in need of Redemption” (or “stage of original sin”) does not originate from any human sin committed before, but is caused entirely by God. And since there never was “a stage of Original Grace”, Original Grace never went lost. In other words as well Adam and Eve as the human persons coming into existence after them (Adam and Eve) are all created by God in the very same “stage of being in need of Redemption”, and hence there is no transmission of “lack of Original Grace”.

So, if I interpret you correctly, your explanation is basically the same that George proposes.

In summary, it seems that we are primarily debating not the question of “how Original Sin is transmitted” but rather whether Adam and Eve were created or not in the stage of “Original Grace” with perfect mastery of the selfishness intrinsic to the mechanism of evolution.

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I would suggest that the “propensity to sin” was within Man from the very moment of creation.

So the sequence you propose is:

  1. Adam and Eve were created with mastery over their selfishness. So it wouldn’t cause them to sin.
  2. Adam and Eve were created with no propensity, or natural inclination, to sin.
  3. Adam and Eve then sinned.

How do you get from 2 to 3?

How do you go from being sinless by creation to sin by choice?

Isn’t “a pure spiritual sin coming from pride” a sign of selfishness?

Are you saying A&E had the power to master selfishness but choise not to do so? Which sure sounds like an inclination to sin.

You and I seem to be in agreement in ascribing "selfishness intrinsic to the mechanism of evolution"--a view which Roger definitely opposes. However, you go on to state that, even with this intrinsic selfishness, A & E had no propensity to sin. How do you define “propensity”? Some synonyms (Google) are: predisposition, proneness, proclivity, readiness. Are you saying that God endowed A & E with sufficient ‘Original Grace’ to overcome this innate selfishness, but not enough to overcome their pride in wanting to become like God? In my opinion, this is an example of how Genesis 2 & 3 is so often misinterpreted. If modern science does nothing else good, it has shown us the Creator of this Universe is enormously powerful and wise–not the jealous deity of the Old Testament. God is not threatened by humankind’s desire to be like Him. He wants us to. It is His will that one of his creatures to advance to the stage of wanting to be an imago Dei. Christians believe that Jesus was the only human to actually achieve this goal, but he encourages us to try. And if there is ever to be ‘Peace on Earth’, we Christians must find ways to get Muslims an Jews (and others) to accept some version of this argument. The long range future of humankind may depend upon it.
Al Leo

Thanks for these remarks, which help me to formulate my position more accurately by distinguishing different cases:

1. The sin of the fallen angels:
Angels are pure spiritual beings and come into existence through a creative act of God without any process of evolution. Therefore they had no “propensity” or “predisposition” to sin due to any “evolutionary mechanism of selfishness”. Notwithstanding they were “limited, finite beings” (in Roger’s wording), and could in principle use their freedom of choice to sin, as some of them did. The sin of these fallen angels consisted in desiring to be like God, that is reach God’s power, majesty and eternal happiness by their own without God’s Grace. This is what properly defines the sin of pride.
Because of their mighty will and intellect angels are not ready to atone after sinning and thus they fell into the stage of eternal damnation (according to Matthew 25:41).

2. The selfishness of lions:
When a male lion takes over a pride he kills the cubs generated by a predecessor male. Such infanticide is caused by “selfishness intrinsic to the mechanism of evolution” to the aim of ensuring the survival of the fittest. It cannot be considered a sin since lions do not share free will and sense of law, and hence are not guilty of sin. Notice that we can state this because there is no evidence that lions have ever enacted laws forbidding infanticide nor constituted courts to judge murderers.

3. The sin of David (2 Samuel 11)
David coveted Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, and slept with her. Then he managed that Uriah was killed in battle, brought Bathsheba to his house, and she bore him a son. David deliberately decided to sin. Although he shared the “propensity to sin” (“concupiscence”) originating from evolutionary selfishness, he freely lightened the fire of passion within himself. Nonetheless, when the prophet Nathan opened his eyes, David acknowledged his sin and repented: His marvelous Psalm 51 remains as the paradigm of a prayer to ask God for forgiveness.

4. The first sin of humanity (the sin of “Adam and Eve”)
I assume that “Adam and Eve” (that is the primeval human persons) were created by God in the stage of Original Grace: Like the angels they were finite limited beings who could in principle sin but could master any propensity to sin deriving from “evolutionary selfish mechanisms”. In other words their freedom of choice was not impaired by “concupiscence”, contrary to the case of David. Notwithstanding they freely trespassed God’s law seeking “to be like God”. So the first sin in the history of humanity is rather comparable to the sin of the fallen angels than David’s sin: By means of “Original Grace” God created the best conditions in order that “Adam and Eve” (the first human persons) can freely choose to love God instead of loathing Him.
After this first sin “Adam and Eve” deserved in principle eternal damnation (according to Matthew 25:41). Nonetheless God mercifully decided to let them and all human sinners thereafter on earth in the “stage of being in need of Redemption” (“stage of original sin”) so they can be moved to atone. This way all human persons coming into existence after the first sin of humanity lack “Original Grace” and consequently mastery of “evolutionary selfishness”. In other words they come into existence with “propensity to sin” in the same stage as “Adam and Eve” would have been created, if God had not endowed them with “Original Grace”, and “propensity to sin” had been” within Man from the very moment of creation” (according to George’s view).

In summary, the question of “the stage of original sin” is the question of “the stage of Original Grace” after all. In my view “Original Grace” follows from God’s wisdom and justice because it ensures that the first sin originates from a perfectly free human will without any responsibility on the part of God. Once the first sin happened, God’s mercy “invents” the “stage of being in need of Redemption” (“the stage of original sin”) to save the sinners, but the cause of this stage is the first sin. The story of David and his Psalm 51 confirms how wise was God’s decision “to bond all in disobedience to have mercy on all” (Romans 11:32).

I think that the Old Testament, when it is read in the light of the New Testament, also shows that “the Creator of this Universe is enormously wise” and not a “jealous deity” (read for instance Psalms 51 and 104). For the rest I fully agree with what you say: God wants us to be like Him. If one reads Genesis 3 in the light of the New Testament one sees that sin does not consist in “wanting to be like God” but in “wanting to access eternal happiness without God’s help”.

In my view the way we have to go is to promote the acceptance of the foundation of law:

Personhood is inseparably united to humankind; the fundamental rights of a person cannot be established by belonging to a subgroup of humankind, be it by race, religion, nation, stage of development, political class.

Actually this is the very foundation of Christian faith as well.

In my mind I have always turned the idea of original sin around. I believe God created A&E with the free will to chose to worship God or worship themselves. There was no contribution by evolution because this was the result of being made in God’s image. A&E and in fact all other humans always chose to worship their self. This is the sin that God knew would result for their free choice and therefore in His love he provided a means of redemption.

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The first humans were tempted into choosing contrary to what God instructed them - we can see that the Gospel shows us Satan is the ruler of the world. The profound teaching in Genesis shows us that we as human beings can be persuaded to choose error and act contrary to God’s will. From this we can see that evil (sin) originated from fallen angels, that God is unaffected by this, but both angles and humans are held responsible for their choices and acts.

The question has a lot to do with understanding the origin of evil and sin (Satan) and the weakness of human beings by falling for lies, and the capacity for humans to repent once they understand their error. They were placed in a space that did not have any worldly problems, so theirs was a simple choice - believe what God said, or listen to a snake (devil). Why they chose the latter seems to me a mystery, as the alternative was eternal life and this is being with God - so what was the temptation? We can discuss this if you wish, but for now I leave it at this.

I think I understand your reasoning, but I fail to see why you use the phrase “original Grace?” Everything God does is in eternity and Grace is unmerited - your phrase may be mistaken for a temporality to Gods Grace.

Apparently we share the same view regarding the stage in which “Adam and Eve” were created: Evolutionary selfishness was not an ingredient in the temptation which led to their Fall (the first sin of human history).

However history and daily evidence show that evolutionary selfish tendencies contribute a lot to the temptations humans undergo: In this respect David’s “concupiscence” is paramount. So I conclude that after the Fall “Adam and Eve” lost the perfect control of the evolutionary selfish tendencies, and also each new human person comes into existence with this “lack of control” and the resulting “propensity to sin”. This is an important ingredient of the so called “stage of original sin”, which at the end of the day is a “stage of being in need of Redemption”.

I would be thankful to know whether you agree to this view as well.

In any case, as you very well say, “God provided a means of Redemption” for the first sin in human history (the sin of “Adam and Eve”) and all the subsequent sins humans do. Part of this “means” is that God has bound everyone over to “the stage of original sin” so that “He may have mercy on them all” (Romans 11:32), as David’s story and his Psalm 51 magnificently demonstrate.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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