There was no fall (almost)

Yes, I did lose sight of the specific issue when I got to Calvin. I saw that he acknowledged guilt due to Adam, but as you point out, this doesn’t distinguish the two positions. It’s not, according to Calvin, that we are guilty for Adam’s sin, but that we are created guilty because of Adam’s sin. So from conception each person is “guilty not of another’s fault but of their own” because they were created as rebels due to how Adam corrupted human nature.

Augustine wasn’t content with that option since he thought it made God too directly responsible for sin. Either God is creating rebel souls, or if the corruption is located in the body instead of the soul, God is ensuring the corruption of good souls by placing them in rebel bodies (see his The Nature and Origin of the Soul 1.34 and 1.6, among many other relevant chapters). For Augustine it was necessary to show each human’s culpability for the condition they were born into, and he did so by claiming we were all present in Adam and sinned in Adam.

Certainly there are alternative views, including among those within the Augustinian camp on original sin. Many Augustinians don’t follow him on the need for infant baptism. Most recognize that modern biology makes it untenable to view males as containing all their progeny in their loins. Many take a different position on how God creates each human soul. To be Augustinian does not need to mean sharing all of Augustine’s views.

But I haven’t seen evidence here that serious scholars read Augustine as holding these alternatives. Calvin was not writing to exegete Augustine: he was giving his understanding of Christian doctrine. He quoted or referenced Augustine and other church luminaries to support many points, but felt no need to itemize where he disagreed with each one. The Reformed confessions, likewise, are attempting to distil Christian teaching, not Augustine’s thought.

When Reformed theologians do trace the history of original sin, I’m often impressed by their care to get Augustine right rather than read their own views into him. For instance, Louis Berkhof notes that Augustine shared the “realistic conception of Tertullian” in which the whole human race is really in Adam so that all “sinned when he sinned and became corrupt when he became corrupt.”[1] But original sin “is not merely corruption, but also guilt.”[2] He also notes that Augustine sometimes comes close to the idea of Adam as representative, that his idea of “imputation” was not fully developed, and that he emphasized how the sexual act propagates Adam’s sin. He gives a good taste of the complexity of Augustine’s view without watering it down to a few ingredients that fit in his own system.

I am still interested in seeing how some read Augustine differently. If you have sources for your V1 and V2 positions that show how they are present in Reformed scholarship, I’d be grateful.

[1] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1938), 237.

[2] Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 244–45.

I follow theologians more than scholars-- and I do not who rises to your standard of “serious scholar.” If my V1 is not clearly equivalent to the position of Calvin, or the confessions/catechisms (for a couple more see The Belgic, article XV, and John Knox’s) then it is because of my lack of clarity. I will rest on the circumstantial evidence that many/most/all who authored these positions would claim to be Augustinian in their view of Original sin.

I think we have reached diminishing returns, thanks for the discussion.

Oh, I certainly agree that Calvin is within the “serious scholars”: I was borrowing that phrase from you, actually. I think we were just focused on different things. I was focused on getting Augustine right, and you were focused on getting the Reformed tradition right.

Hopefully, if nothing else, it’s now clear that the two overlap significantly but are not the same.

I appreciate the time you put into the conversation.

People take the Hebrew word for “good” (which actually does not denote “goodness” in a moral sense) and conflate it with a Platonic conception of perfection. I don’t believe that’s in the original text or meaning of the text.

I think it’s also helpful to distinguish between sin as “transgression” (i.e., specifically of Torah or even a command or law) and sin as “less than perfect” (i.e., hamartia, missing the target). When we ask “when did sin enter the world,” which do we mean?

I also think the Augustinian view of “the Fall” is deleteriously challenged by Genesis 4:6.

“Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.’” (NIV)

Sin crouches at the door and “desires to have [or master] Cain.” But this is “post-Fall.” A strong view of depravity would say that Cain should already be “mastered by sin” and that he is incapable of ruling over it. Surely God is not being disingenuous here…

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Yes. This is also a good counter to the Articles of Remonstrance nonsense claiming that doing good only counts if you are a Christian.

Quite right.
The human life is too HUGE to be left to humans.
To live a human life you had better be God; that is what Jesus-Christ did.

Obviously you don’t read the news. Humans are not flawed??? Sheesh, murder, theft, battery, abuse, rape, war (123 million dead in 20th century), oppression, racism in ALL groups not just one, hatred, jealousy that someone got the promotion and we didn’t, envy that someone else makes more than us, resentment at the result of our own choices, lust when looking at a pretty girl or gorgeous guy walking down the street when we should we thinking of our spouse instead, cheating on marital vows, lying both to ourselves and others,kidnapping, slavery(even exists today), embezzlement, sex trafficking, getting rich off other people’s addictions to drugs and not caring about them, etc etc etc.

Yeah we are a pretty wonderful species. Not flawed in ANY way at all.

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