Original sin if there is no historical Adam

Regarding the theological dilemma of original sin and total depravity if the Adam Eve story isn’t historical: have we considered that we may have our argument backward?

Early in my Christian faith I noticed several curious passages that that struck me as odd, such as the “evening and morning” repeated in Genesis 1. Shouldn’t it have said “morning and evening”?

Anther was the redundant argument in Romans 5:12, “for all have sinned”. Why would Paul have bothered to add that when he just stated that everyone inherited the sin nature from Adam?

Later I noticed in 1 Kings 8:46 - Solomon’s prayer dedicating the temple, that he stated “for there is no one that does not sin” without reference to A&E nor the fall.

So why did Paul link the fall (the original sin) to universal depravity? Consider the issue he was addressing in Romans, that Jews were no better than Gentiles, that Yahweh loves the Gentiles as much as He loves the Jews, and that the need and means of salvation (faith) is the same for the two groups.

So is A&E’s original sin the foundational argument for universal depravity? Or is universal depravity - as inherited through all generations - the foundational argument for common need and opportunity for salvation by faith, to Jews as much as to Gentiles?

Looking at it from the latter perspective, the idea that A&E is not historical in no way impacts my belief in universal depravity through all generations.


Universal total depravity is not a belief of the majority of Christianity. To me it sounds like justification for sinful behavior, to say that you cannot help sinning because you were born that way. But more importantly, we frequently find in the Bible, that God finds people who are good character and God praises them: Noah, Enoch, Moses, and Job for example. Yes all have sinned, but not all have sinned equally. History is full of people who have done good things.

Because they inherit sin not by being born but by doing it.

to what???

Romans 5:12 Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.

…to sin. Paul linked Adam to sin. Why? Because that is where the self-destructive habits started - using the increased ability God gave us with the human mind for self-destructive ends. In this case, Adam used it to shift the blame to God and Eve. The good and helpful thing to do would have been to beg God’s forgiveness and ask God how he could make up for it. Instead we get denial of responsibility and no willingness to learn from his mistake. And the fact is that we humans learn by imitation. So the inheritance we have from what God taught to Adam was corrupted by a pattern of abuse, using our mind and abilities not to learn and improve ourselves but to avoid responsibility and the effort of changing ourselves for the better.

Thus like the inheritance of language, culture, and technology, the inheritance of sin in no way depends upon biological descent for they are not contained in our DNA. We do not have any such excuse. And no I am not talking about any tendency to violence or anything like that which might be found in our DNA or attributable to our predatory ancestry - I am talking about the misuse of the mind for self-destructive ends, a completely different thing entirely.

It has certainly been abused in that direction, but many Christians believe apply it as “all have a sinful nature, and that is a problem that can only be overcome by God’s workings.”


Total depravity isn’t total?

Anyone who looks at a newborn infant and sees depravity and sin is abusing it in that direction… it sounds like an excuse to be unloving and abusive toward children, and even if not, I think many children might take it that way.


Maybe total is an unfortunate choice of words and maybe only technically correct in an academic sense.
I like the way this describes original sin, too, @Antoine_Suarez:

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Total in the sense of “every human action is tainted by sin”.

They are still humans, therefore they have a sinful nature. They have had far fewer opportunities for exercising that nature, but they still have it.

Absolutely no one that I know has any tendencies in that direction, despite affirming total depravity.

That article nicely summarizes things.

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I would look at how John Muir was raised.

Abusive parenting can be found everywhere and any misunderstanding can be propagated within communities. Judging on a small sample can be misleading.

No. They do not have any such thing. This is human made up Calvinist dogma. People are sinners because they have chosen to sin, not because they were born.

Matthew 18:2 He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. 3 And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

What??? Jesus is saying that it doesn’t matter that we are sinners but only that we are big and old? Jesus is saying that we must become totally depraved sinners who are smaller in size? It is a very strange dogma which these people have invented. Must be pretty useful in crushing the spirit of children to make them into obedient little slaves believing and doing only what they are told without question.

Then they give their children up for adoption? They don’t teach children these things? I would consider it abusive to teach children that they are bad no matter what they do.

Lifting some citations from the Westminster Confession of Faith

Psalms 51:5
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Romans 7:18
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.

Romans 3:10-12
as it is written:
“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”


That is an abusive interpretation of what is being said.

I realize that, but I just pointed out one example.

There are innumerable counter examples. Corrie ten Boom comes to mind as likely to be one.

Yes, in current connotations, it would seem so.

All of this is about what they do, over and over again it says this. It says they DO evil not that they are BORN evil. It is not your birth nor your religion but only what you do.

Romans 2:14 When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts

Romans 2:26 So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. 29 He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. His praise is not from men but from God.

Original sin - the idea that all mankind has inherited from Adam a proclivity for sinning (sin nature) and is thus condemned because of Adam - has been held by all Christian orthodoxy from the earliest fathers. Though there are variations on the doctrine, it is held across the board: Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Reformed, Anabaptists, Pentecostal, Holiness…

This notion that sin is limited to actions also has no support among Christian orthodoxy. Sin not only involves actions, but also intent. Envy, coveting, pride. Not having a heart toward God is sin, as pointed out by numerous Old Testament prophets.

Though Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and other Christian branches reject the Reformed doctrine of total depravity, they all nonetheless agree with its tenet that the universally inherited original sin has tainted all aspects of humanity- our souls, our minds, our bodies, our relationships with each other and our relationship with nature in general. So sin also includes our inability to achieve the level of humanity necessary to full bear the image of God. This is key to the meaning of “depravity”. It isn’t just about committing a morally wrong action. It’s also about our inability and failure to meet God’s mark.

I use the term “universal depravity” to describe the previous statement in order to distinguish from the Reformed “total depravity” by omitting statements regarding predestination and lack of free will.

All orthodox Christianity has held the tenets I described above as universal depravity, original sin, and sin.

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So we don’t bear the full image of God? Since when?

I think you may mean that we have fallen from a state that measures to the divine state required by God - humanity is create in the image divine.

I don’t believe that the Eastern Orthodox church believes in original sin, which was developed by Augustine in the West. Probably the Oriental Orthodox churches doesn’t have it either.


“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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