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Christanity and Sin
How far do Christians go to explain the human condition?
Although there is a consensus that sin is that which sets up man in place of God, that same consensus does not exist when looking at all aspects of the nature, origin and consequence of sin. The earliest arguments can be seen with the views of Pelagius and Augustine. Pelagius believed that we were all born into the same state as Adam, in other words we had the ability not to sin. Because of conscious free will we could live as Adam did before he chose to sin. Augustine was fiercely critical of Pelagius’s claims; he developed what has become known as the realist theory of the transmission of sin. He emphasised the need for grace or divine help in rescuing people from sin, as humans cannot save themselves.
John Calvin and the reformers as well as the Roman Catholic Church incorporated Augustine's theory of sin into their own formulations. One conservative view that was developed form the reformation was the basis for Westminster Larger Catechism. Rather the Augustine's realist theory they favoured a federalist theory, a development within Calvinism. Adams sin was imputed - transferred to all his offspring because Adam was the covenant head. A covenant is binding upon those who make and their children.
The Westminster Larger Catechism refers to the nature of sin as falling short or rebelling against God’s perfect standards (Q24). It accepts Paul's argument in Romans 5 that sin is connected to an historical Adam. We sinned because Adam sinned (Q22). The consequences from sin are alienation from God, our neighbour and the environment and because of sin we will suffer and die because Adam sinned.
“The wages of sin is death” Romans 6:23
However there are of course some Christians who cannot connect sin to an historical Adam. They believe that the theory of evolution shows evidence that we have evolved from simple life forms. They cant accept that view point of traditional Christians that the bible is the inspired, infallible and inerrant word of God. They understand that book of Genesis as mythological storybook.
Liberal Christians Hanson and Hanson take the above stance in their book “reasonable belief”. They cannot connect sin with an historical Adam. They say story of Adam and Eve is a story used to connect sin with us all, it is a story with a religious meaning, or myth. As for Theories of original sin being related to Adam and Eve they say “thoughtful and responsible Christians should be ashamed to teach such a doctrine”. For them the origin of sin lies in the fact that humans have free choice, to choose to do right or wrong. The truth of Genesis 3 is that we all do wrong things sometimes, when we disobey God it is as if we are safely in a Garden however when we disobey him it is as if we have been banished. The root of sin lies in mans unique characteristic of self-transcendence.
Christina existentialists such as Soren Kierkegaard agrees with liberals such as Hanson and Hanson, that there was never an historical Adam. According to him “truth is subjectivity” it is impossible to know the truth in an objective way. Therefore sin is not an object reality; it is a subjective experience, universally experienced to different degrees. He dismissed the reformed concept of sin as ‘legal fiction in the courts of heaven’. Sin is always more than just doing wrong things, but must always be related to the reality of God, not as a God ’out there’ does but as God universally available in experience ’within’. Conservatives W.F. Albright and C.S. Mann in their book “Mathew have little time for the above approach to Christianity, referring to existentialism “as a method of interpreting the bible is based upon a whole series of indemonstrable postulates of platonic, Neo-Platonic, left-wing, scholastic and relativist origins”.
To conclude, it can be seen that the majority of Christians agree on the fact that sin is universal, however some Christians differ in opinion as to its origin, some cannot accept it comes from Adam. There seems to be a general consensus that, in a positive sense, there are ultimate standards for humanity to aim for and in a negative sense, where humanity is in relation to those ultimate standards.