Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Baby, We Were Born to...Sin?

Okay, the title is a take-off from the old Bruce Springsteen song, "Born to Run".

But my spoofed title speaks to the Christian doctrine of Original Sin.  Sometimes this is called Birth Sin in that it is inherited as human begins pass it down from generation to generation.

It is the sin of Adam and Eve when they disobeyed God and were exiled from the Garden of Eden.

As the archetypal humans, they then pass on this exiled or fallen state to the rest of humanity.  The "cure" is that those in Christ are as without sin before God.
"The Expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise" by Benjamin West

This was the doctrine of the Church for a long time.  Within the United States, this has taken hits from two major schools of thought: the Enlightenment and Democracy.  The former in the way we know and the latter in the rise of the individual.

As we are used to the American court system, we can't imagine the injustice of being found guilty for what someone else did.  Why must we bear the sin of Adam and Eve?

Although derived from the Bible, the doctrine of Original Sin is not spelled out in the Bible but comes from theologians and church councils.

Augustine was a chief proponent of original sin.  He carried this to another level altogether.

In fact, Augustine believed that the souls of babies that died before they were baptized went to Hell.  This was a belief of the Roman Catholic Church for a number of years before the church decided on a theological position that did not reflect so poorly on God.

As United Methodists, our Book of Worship states that "...United Methodism does not teach that infants who die before they are baptized will be denied full salvation.  United Methodism has always strongly affirmed the biblical teaching that Christ died for all, and that God's prevenient grace is available to all and is sufficient for such children." (The United Methodist Book of Worship, p. 83).

Is sin a state that we are in or is it merely something we do?

How does being "in Christ" make a difference with regards to sin?  Certainly, Christians continue to sin after baptism and after justification.

This is an important topic that comes from the epistle reading in this Sunday's lectionary: Romans 7:15-25.

I'll be dealing with this in my sermon on Sunday entitled, "Sometimes This is the Message We Hear from the Church: 'You're a Really Horrible Person but Luckily Jesus Loves You Anyway'."

What do you think, are people inherently evil or innately good?  Or something in between?

In Christ,


A little musical reflection on the topic:

Benjamin West [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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