What does original sin actually mean and what are its consequences?


This would have to be as the result of something that God has done. He did create Adam in a different state after all. At the very least He changed the process by which we are all knitted together in our mother’s womb. So this makes God responsible for our sins if we lack the ability to not sin.

As they like to say, that is a false dichotomy. The other option is we are lost when we do not accept the grace that is freely given. The grace is not offered because of anything we have done which is a very good thing indeed.

(David Heddle) #22

In this view (with which, of course, many disagree) Adam was punished in that his DNA (perhaps literally) was corrupted and passed to his descendants. Adam is responsible for his sin and the consequences, not God.

I fail to see a false dichotomy. Perhaps you can explain further.

(Randy) #23

I have great respect for the Reformed–my family are mostly from this viewpoint with regard to original sin, and my grandparents on both sides were at least originally either Dutch CRC or RCA. However, here are things I’ve spoken about with my dad since I could first read the Bible in church–and I don’t expect an easy answer, but it’s a privilege to bring these questions up with someone else who has a great heart for God.

To me, it’s a double sticky wicket if we are condemned to sin; and even the smallest one can throw us in Hell. It’s the same thing, isn’t it, as inheriting sin itself?

Not to say we don’t sin, but when my 5 year old daughter looks me in the eye and says “No,” I don’t throw her into everlasting perdition; but I do correct her lovingly and firmly. The wages of sin is correction, not vindication. George Macdonald thought that Jesus was the way we learned about God’s real character; and this link is very attractive. http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2010/06/george-macdonald-justice-hell-and.html

As I understand it, the allusion to “No one is righteous” by Paul, he’s alluding to Psalms 14 and 53–Hebraic poetry which in context there is talking about the wicked (the fools). There are many allusions in Psalms and elsewhere to the righteous, and to God saving them.

It seems to me very odd to say that we are condemned to death for following a nature we can’t help; then only some of us get saved from the sin accompanying that nature. It would indeed be cruel to make us try to be perfect if we weren’t able to be perfect in the first place. But that doesn’t seem to really be the problem.

On the other hand, throwing ourselves on God’s mercy, as the prodigal son did, every day, is something that the Reformed do very well at–and can teach us better. Tim Keller, who I don’t agree with completely but exhibits daily grace, is a wonderful example of that. Thank you for your patience. Respectfully, Randy

(Marvin Adams) #24

The question of original in and punishment is one of the most misunderstood messages in the bible despite it being core to the Christian worldview. Ideas put in peoples minds are not genetically inherited. To suffer death / mortality is a logical consequence of defining your “self” in your material existence as opposed of defining your self as a being under the authority of God and thus part of this eternal existence. Only if you define yourself as an individual you suffer death. Otherwise you pass on your “self” to others of give it back to the creator. So if you can live in the hearts of others - as Jesus showed us - you will not die, only your physical body will cease to exist.

Your ability to passage your soul into this other sphere is dependent on being at peace with your loved ones when the time comes, as any frustrations/ aggressions you deal with on the way out will become a stumbling block that cause you to burn out on reentry as you lack the ability to act out those desires. And a few seconds in mortal time-space can be years in perceived time so 5 minutes in physical time space can easily be an eternity in metaphysical time as I found out when in and out of Koma.

So original sin is humanities puberty to withdraw from God’s authority over the self, symbolised by rejecting his authority in doing what he asked us not to do, to eat from the tree of realisation of good and evil. In becoming your own,one is putting ones self automatically in conflict with every other self.as well as the overreaching self of God.

(David Heddle) #25

Fair enough. I don’t think this is the forum to debate Reformed theology. I just wanted to answer the OP question from that perspective (not that I’m qualified!)

I will say that as much as I am convinced by Reformed theology there are two things I try to keep in mind. One is that, as far as getting the ducks lined up in a row in a self-consistent manner (with scripture), Reformed theology is very good, maybe even very very good, but not perfect. And the other is that in lining up those ducks there are presuppositions–so I have to remember (why is it so hard?) that I could be wrong!

Like many, when I came to Calvinism (from atheism) I went through a prolonged cage-stage. I’ve been released, and turned in my zealot’s creds.

(Randy) #26

Dr Heddle, thank you for your kind reply and humorous response to my own, perhaps overzealous message. You are right–I should not have diverted this thread. You did a great job of answering the OP. I am sorry I diverted the topic. There is a big tent of reasoning available in Christianity.
I can empathize with the cage stage–thanks for the smile. One can do worse than send “books, tapes, CD’s, DVD’s, and e-mails to all unsuspecting victims, regardless of whether or not they have ever shown an interest in these things.” I have done that to my family in the past with regard to science.


And of course with which many agree. So why bring it up?

Seeing how Adam’s DNA has very little chance of actually surviving to this day how is this supposed to work?

Can you explain what changed so Adam could not sin but we have to sin? And was God responsible for this change?

You said it was all grace or we are all lost. There is a third option, which is what makes it a false dichotomy, of it is a combination of grace and belief.

The grace only option is a comforting one if one is sure they are a member of the Elect and therefore in receipt of said grace.

(David Heddle) #28


I hope I never said that Adam could not sin.

I made that point within the confines of Reformed theology. Obviously any theology espouses a subset of all the possibilities. Reformed Theology excludes the combination of grace and (vestigial, self-mustered) faith. (Just to be sure, RT says you are saved by faith alone, but the faith is a gift.)

That’s true. And in the non-Calvinistic view where you choose God before conversion, well that’s only comforting if you have the life experience, education, intelligence, parenting, missionaries, intestinal fortitude, or what ever it takes to enable you to cooperate with prevenient grace and, in your own volition, choose God. If you don’t have what it takes, then it sucks to be you.

You see the only group with a universally comforting soteriology are, well, the Universalists.

Edit typo

(Albert Leo) #29

[quote=“heddle, post:17, topic:39404”]
As a result of the fall, man (in his unsaved state) lost the ability not to sin. Everything we do, from the time of conception (Ps 51:5) is done in rebellion to God. All our righteous deeds are like filthy rags–as Isaiah wrote. Or as the apostle wrote, No one is righteous, not no one.

IMO, @heddle, your position stated in the above quotation can only be held if Adam were created as a finished product–NOT as a product of evolution that God has chosen to mold life from its simplest form to eventually becoming a complex creature and a worthy recipient of a conscience and the role of Image Bearer. In other words, the interpretation of Gen. 1-3 as stating that the first humans, who were created ‘perfect’, disobeyed God and FELL, thus bringing Sin & Death into the world–this ‘dogma’ has caused considerable mischief in interpreting God’s intentions for humankind. For example:

To defend evolution, one must not overlook the evidence that selfishness has played an important role in the survival of individual life forms (see Dawkins “The Selfish Gene”). Evolution had to operate for a long period of time before it would be reasonable to ascribe to it acts of 'sacrifice’ (usually a mother aiding survival of offspring; or an individual acting for group survival) IMO, these were the forerunners of characteristics that God saw as essential to any creature becoming His Image Bearer–even if if given the opportunity to freely choose to make the sacrifices to rise above his/her evolutionary instincts. It makes sense to me to believe that Homo sapiens, prior to being given Free Will, could not sin. But afterward (after A&E) a choice had to be made: to Sin (refuse the offer to become Image Bearers) or not to Sin (become as Christ-like as possible and not yielding to the ‘temptations of the flesh’–residues from our ancient, instinctual natures. See Math. 4:1-11; also Mark & Luke)

I do not doubt that the arguments for Reformed Theology (or present Catholic dogma) have greater appeal to more Christians than the views I outlined above. However, it has been my experience that the insistence in the dogma of A&E’s Fall is the primary reason so many of my scientific colleagues have abandoned their Christian Faith. In caring for our youth heading for careers in science, I wanted to construct an alternative that was more ‘reasonable’. I realize that, from a Faith point of view, being ‘more reasonable’ does not assure it being closer to the Truth, but I find it more comfortable non-the-less.
Al Leo

(David Heddle) #30

My view of theistic evolution includes the well-known concept (pure speculation) that when the hominids were ready, God ensouled two of them, Adam and Eve. When he breathed life into them, he gave them a prefall moral ability–they could choose not to sin. This moral ability was lost after the fall. They were “good”, and they were the first true humans although they were sexually compatible with the other hominids (in fact indistinguishable) , and from them (I’m just making this up I have no basis) the sons of Adam and Eve chose their mates. While you may not like that view, it includes both evolution and a historic, morally unfallen Adam and Eve. My theology does not permit me to go as far as many of my friends on biologos go–which is to deny the historicity of Adam and Eve.

This will probably come across worse than I intended. While I despair when someone walks from the faith I cannot jettison the truth (which for me is what I believe the bible states, in a Chicago statement kind of way) of the fall in the hope that it keeps someone in the pews, so to speak. To me the fall (and a historic Adam and Eve) are non-negotiable.


Randy! Thanks A TON for that Pete Enns link. It’s hard to say how important such an article is.

(Albert Leo) #32

So…what’s so bad about that? Before joining in this forum, I had no idea what Universalists stood for. Since then, I find I have much in common with what True Grace Ministries puts on their website. So now I consider myself both Roman Catholic and Universalist. Is that a contradiction in terms?
Al Leo

(David Heddle) #33

I stated it as an observation, not a value judgement. It is indeed true that the only group with a universally comforting soteriology is the Universalists. In fact, with all my heart I wish Universalism were true. However the bible unequivocally (IMO) teaches that some will be lost. In my mind I am required to believe what the bible teaches, not what I wish it taught.

(David Heddle) #34

No offense intended but since you asked I would say: yes it is a contradiction. Although not a Catholic, I believe I have solid purchase when stating that Universalism is utterly incompatible with RCC dogma, which not only includes the concept of the lost but also the concept of hell. Put differently, I don’t see how it is possible to reconcile Universalism with the Catholic doctrine (dogma) of mortal sin.

(Albert Leo) #35

Actually, my worldview leaves open the possibility (not probability) of a historical Adam & Eve: the first Homo sapiens to have some sort of ‘programmed’ brain (epigenetic??) that changed it to Mind and allowed for conscience, appreciation of art, and an appreciation of an afterlife (i.e.soul). This stupendous change in behavior is evidenced by the Great Leap Forward (that Richard Dawkins accepts but cannot explain except by ‘brain programming’), an effect that A&E could transmit epigenetically through language taught to other Homo sapiens whose brains were already ‘primed’.

So you could accept my view and keep a historic A&E non-negotiable. But NOT the Fall.
Al Leo

(Albert Leo) #36

Granted, it is NOT possible. I just have the ‘Don Quixotian’ belief that the Catholic Church will eventually come around to embracing my point of view. I hold this view in spite of the shabby way the Vatican treated the two priests, Teilhard de Chardin and Mathew Fox.
Al Leo

(Randy) #37

I am sitting in a meeting in Grand Rapids with Richard Mouw, Praveen Sethupathi and Deborah Haarsma. Dr Haarsma remarked that the image of God is not [just] how we are created but what we are called to. Deep thought (they are speaking…I am not, of course)

(George Brooks) #38


That is the Noble part of your soul trying to rescue itself from Purgatory!

(Albert Leo) #39

At some point on my journey to adulthood (I think it was in eighth grade) I was told the most important thing in life was to create an informed conscience. To be sure that it was truly informed, I had to read in depth what wise, inspired, and holy persons had written in the past. At the top of the list, of course, was the Holy Bible (Douay version, preferably). The importance of a ‘self-constructed’ conscience was that, when facing my Maker at the time of immediate judgement and faced with a list of my failures, I could not plead that some of them resulted from how I misapplied the lessons taught by my forebears. “It’s their fault, not mine.

I found much to admire in Tertullian’s works, but his view–that saints in heaven get pleasure from viewing the torments of souls damned to hell–makes me shudder.

This knowledge and sight of hell does not detract, in any way, from the joys of heaven; rather, it even contributes to it. By this visual display of the end result of rebellion against God the saints are allowed to “enjoy their beatitude more thoroughly. [A few canonized saints echo this belief.]

If one of the ‘saintly Fathers of the Church’ held this belief, based on his reading of Scripture, then I was convinced I was better off relying on how I had informed my conscience. This is more than being willing to bet my life on my belief, I am willing to bet my immortal soul on it. I will soon find out how good a bet it was. (my 93rd birthday is this week.) Call it a matter of ‘supersized ego’, but I believe God is as eager to inspire any human being today as he was 3,000 yrs. ago.
Al Leo

(Randy) #40

I understand and agree. Though, to be fair, I don’t get that straight from the Bible. It’s a bit scary.