Monday, May 18, 2020

We Are Born Sinners


Romans 3: 23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God

If I was to describe to you the hodge-podge of Christian influences that have resulted in my understanding to date, half of you would say “no wonder he sounds so confused,” while the other half would say “it is truly a miracle that he makes any sense at all.”  Well, this post should satisfy both sides….

The idea of Original Sin is difficult for many to accept.  In brief:

Original sin, also called ancestral sin, is a Christian belief in a state of sin in which humanity has existed since the fall of man, stemming from Adam and Eve's rebellion in Eden, namely the sin of disobedience in consuming the forbidden fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.


Original sin, in Christian doctrine, the condition or state of sin into which each human being is born; also, the origin (i.e., the cause, or source) of this state. Traditionally, the origin has been ascribed to the sin of the first man, Adam, who disobeyed God in eating the forbidden fruit (of knowledge of good and evil) and, in consequence, transmitted his sin and guilt by heredity to his descendants.

Depending on your point of view, Original Sin can be something rather insignificant or can mean total depravity (another loaded phrase, but not the subject for today).

Despite its importance for understanding Jesus’ sacrifice, the doctrine of original sin has been minimized since the European Enlightenment.

What is this relationship of Original Sin to the Enlightenment?  Perhaps it is as simple as seeing the myriad utopian schemes for the perfectibility of man that have been born from this age of so-called reason. 

From communism (you will be perfect, under penalty of death), to National Socialism (our people are perfect, the rest will suffer the penalty of death), to liberalism (you will have perfect liberty, and you will accept it or risk punishment up to, and including, death), to progressivism (science will make you perfect, even if it kills you) to cultural Marxism (some are perfect, the rest are deplorable and deserving of death), to post-modernism (all of these schemes for perfection are nonsense; there is no such thing as truth, so how can there be perfection?  You might as well kill yourself).

After that list (and tell me that my descriptions are wrong…), the Apostle Paul doesn’t sound so bad, does he, when he writes (citing from the Hebrew Scriptures):


Romans 3: 10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

What to do with this seemingly damning doctrine?  Perhaps it will come across in a more agreeable manner if we consider a different source.  From The Gulag Archipelago, by Alexander Solzhenitsyn:

The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either -- but right through every human heart -- and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained.

We might hate the concept of Original Sin, but how is it possible to deny that the line separating good and evil is evident in each one of us?  How could it be in each one of us, just like we each have an epidermis (original “skin”)?  What term do you want to use to explain this?  “Oh, but it isn’t fair that God damned us this way.”  Maybe, maybe not.

I have been listening to a series of lectures by the Thomistic Institute: Aquinas 101.  One of these lectures is by Abp. Augustine Di Noia, OP: "Aquinas on Original Sin: The Promise of an Interdisciplinary Approach."

It is a long lecture, about ninety minutes including a short Q&A at the end.  At about the 44-minute mark, Abp. Di Noia offers (either quoting or paraphrasing Thomas):

Original Sin is not an inclination to evil, but a lack of facility in choosing the good. …It is not something positive, it is something missing.

Keep in mind this “lack of facility.”  Original sin is not something God put in us; it is something missing from that which God created.

Man chose the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; man chose to develop his reason without God.  Human history is littered with too many examples to list that demonstrate the consequences of this: sin, driven by man’s reason without God, permeates each one of us. 

That “lack of facility in choosing the good” is evidence of the facility we lost when the idea of good and evil became divorced from God’s wisdom.  It has nothing to do with “fair.”  It has to do with the free will that is in each one of us.  From C. S. Lewis:

The sin both of men and of angels, was rendered possible by the fact that God gave us free will.

Further, from Lewis:

God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can't. If a thing is free to be good it's also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible.

You still scream: it isn’t fair!  Lewis responds:

Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.

Or perhaps you enjoy plain oatmeal three times a day, seven days a week, week after week after week.

Conclusion

We see the evil, and we know what the evil is, yet we choose it.  As Tom Holland as pointed out, it is from Christianity where we have gained our understanding of good and evil:

[Prior to Christianity] there is nothing at all about the emergence of the qualities or the values or the teaching of Christianity at all. … The idea that human rights kind of hangs in the ether waiting to be discovered is as theological as believing that the Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead and sits at the hand of God the Father.  It requires a leap of faith.

Yet we have evidence regarding the source of our ideas on good and evil; look at the ethics of Rome and Greece before Christianity swept the Mediterranean. Of course, the reshaping of our ethics didn’t happen overnight, but it cannot be denied that it happened.

For some reason, this quote from Abp. Di Noia struck me.  We do lack the facility in choosing the good.  It is the facility we lost when we went around God; it is inherent in our capacity to choose.  Whether you believe the story of Adam and Eve is actual history or if you think it portrays this inherent reality within all humans, there it is.  The fruit from that tree in the Garden is evident, daily, in each one of us – in our lack of facility to choose the good.

Epilogue

Abp. Di Noia has also introduced me to a website, Thomistic Evolution.  I will spend some time with it.

44 comments:

  1. Do you really believe that free will is the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having? If so, why? This is where, for me, the argument fails.

    Steven

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    1. What do you mean by free will?

      Why does this cause the argument to fail for you?

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    2. By free will I mean the ability to act on one's own discretion. I don't see how it follows that not having the ability to choose evil makes love or goodness or joy not worth having. I would prefer being in a state where I could not choose evil. That sounds like heaven to me.

      Steven

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    3. Setting aside artificial intelligence, take a robot. It has no free will; assume it is programmed only to do good, and specifically to avoid evil.

      Can it experience joy or goodness or love in its actions, even if its actions are for the benefit of another, even if its actions are self-sacrifical toward saving the life of another?

      If I am programmed only to do good, how do I take joy out of doing good? It's just what I am - like a rock is just a rock.

      It doesn't seem possible to me, but I am open to a different view.

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  2. Original sin is a doctrine which cannot be supported by scripture. Ezekiel 18 utterly smashes that idea. God hates any proverb which ascribes man as guilty of the sins of his father.

    But if Adam handed down "sin" through what Augustine told us was concupiscence, How could Jesus have said Abel was righteous?

    Well he couldn't. Sin is disobedience to God. It isn't a "nature" that man possesses. Paul himself wrote that there were people who were capable of obeying the law even though they weren't born Jews.

    Babies are not born going to hell. As Paul explains in Romans, where there is no law, there is no sin charged. A baby has no concept of law and disobedience to God. The whole idea of original sin is just slander against God, claiming that he charges us with the actions of another person. That's not remotely just.

    Augustine's doctrine was built upon a bad Latin text and scholars at the time pointed this out and he still wouldn't come off his ridiculous theory. There was no concept of original sin until Augustine introduced it. It wasn't taught though it's clear that the Jews of Jesus time, including his own disciples had some erroneous ideas about sin.

    "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents that he should be born blind?"

    "Neither this man or his parents sinned..."

    Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged has one of the most devastating arguments against original sin ever crafted. It's a shame this doctrine has had support over the centuries. It paints God as an unjust God and has turned away many from Christ.

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    1. Yes, but what do you make of the description of Original Sin as described above by Abp. Di Noia?

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    2. Your statements don't really conform to Romans 5. I think it and Ezekiel 18 fit together a little differently than you describing. Sin nature and active guilt being related but different things.

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    3. Adam and Eve were the only humans created with a free will. From Romans 5-7, we are not free in the way CS Lewis describes.

      We have wills, we make decisions, and therefore have agency. But that is not the same thing. If it was no reason for Paul to write Romans 1-7 or Ephesian 1-2.

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    4. Demidog,

      If it is true, as you say, that babies are not born going to hell, then would you also say that they are not born going to heaven either? If they die one minute after they have been born, do they go to hell or to heaven? Are they left in limbo forever? Why?

      What do you make of this verse?

      "Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death resulted from sin, therefore everyone dies, because everyone has sinned." Romans 5:12, International Standard Version

      If sin brought death to everyone and babies are not born sinful, then why do they die? Is it really true that we MUST have knowledge of the law and understand that we are disobedient to God before we can die and go to Hell? Doesn't this blend into the doctrine of the Age of Accountability and, if that's the case, then at what age does one become accountable? Who can make that decision besides God?

      Just asking questions. I am interested in your answers.

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    5. Yes, babies are born to be with God, just as Adam was.

      That phrase says it all: "BECAUSE every man sinned."

      Not "because we're all charged with Adam's sin." We're not charged with Adam's sin.

      Paul makes it clear that one has to have knowledge of sin and the law before he can sin.

      The word death in the context of disobedience to God means spiritual death, not physical death.

      Adam already had an expiration date. He was already mortal. Had he been immortal as created, there would be no need for a tree of life. Had Adam eaten of the tree of life he WOULD have been immortal. He "surely died" at the moment he ate of the fruit. He didn't begin dying, he was dead. It took God's forgiveness, covering of his sin, for him to come alive.

      Ezekiel 18:

      The son will not bear the punishment for the father’s iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son’s iniquity; the righteousness of the righteous will be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked will be upon himself.


      Period, exclamation point. God's justness surpasses man's. He does not punish by association. And Paul prefaced everything in Romans by explaining that.

      "For there is no partiality with God."

      To read Romans 5 and 9 as proof of partiality is to repudiate the context of the entire letter.

      "Is it really true that we MUST have knowledge of the law and understand that we are disobedient to God before we can die and go to Hell? Doesn't this blend into the doctrine of the Age of Accountability and, if that's the case, then at what age does one become accountable? Who can make that decision besides God?"

      It's obviously an individual thing but it's about knowledge.

      Romans 7
      9 I was once alive apart from the Law;
      but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died;

      (note: "revived is exactly the wrong word to translate αναζαο into in this context. NASB gets it right.)

      How on earth did Paul write this letter to the Romans if sin literally killed him. And if he did finally repent why isn't he still alive?

      And...if he was born "in sin" and destined to hell, then he could never have been alive apart from the law. What he's talking about here is coming of age. He was born "alive" and "without the law." Then he came to know the law and died. Because he coveted.

      Because death in the sense of sin and what it causes is separation from God, it isn't physical death and never was.


      10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.


      And his stressing here of the commandment and how it relates to our death, is to show that it is our disobedience - our own personal disobedience, not Adam's - is how we die to God.


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    6. After Adam, EVERYONE sinned that is the point. No one is being punished for Adam's sin. I agree with you there. The point is humanity has a slavery to sin because of Adam's sin. Romans 6. But we are only punished for the sin we personally commit.

      If a baby dies before committing a sin, then they could go to heaven. Some theologians believe there is an age of accountability,before which there is no condemnation no matter what. Maybe that fits into your belief.

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    7. A human's slavery to sin is because of his insistence on following his own will instead of God's. If there isn't an age of accountability - and that accountability actually spans adulthood when there's no knowledge of sin - then aborted and stillborn and newborn babies go to hell. That's a pretty weird and cruel kind of God. David understood God differently. We should too.

      2 Sam. 12
      22 He said, “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who knows, the Lord may be gracious to me, that the child may live.’ 23 But now he has died; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

      Jesus said that even the Jewish leaders had to hear his message before they would be charged with sin.

      John 15
      21 "But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know the One who sent Me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 He who hates Me hates My Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would not have sin; but now they have both seen and hated Me and My Father as well."

      Knowledge is Key and God is just. He's not like us. He doesn't charge people for crimes they have committed in ignorance.

      Original Sin is a slander against God, just as is individual predestination. The letter to the Romans has been used to twist all kinds of things (Just as Peter wrote). Pharaoh, for instance was not pre-programmed to disobey in order that God would look more glorious. He doesn't need man to err in order that he will look better. That would mean that God glories in man's sin. Crazy. It would also mean he is literally insane, complaining about a person's disobedience whom he made to be disobedient.

      Had Pharaoh obeyed and let the Hebrews leave, God would have been just as glorious. The point Paul was really making was that God had great mercy on Pharaoh and gave him many chances to repent, not that he had programmed him to disobey him so that the Jews would have a great story to tell their children.

      God "hardens whom he hardens" through his words. It is man's responsibility for being hardened, not God's pre-destined programming.

      We're born with free will. This is self-evident. The most obvious way this manifests itself is man's aversion to the truth and the inability of well meaning people to make a person believe it. A person cannot be made to accept the truth. His resistance is of his own will, not programming and not Adam's sin.

      Sin - disobedience - "entered" the world through Adam. And Paul was using hyperbole when he said "every man sinned." Jesus didn't sin. And he was a man subject to the same temptations we are. He proved that it can be done. Often we miss that. The 4 minute mile wasn't broken until one man set the example and then it was like an avalanche. We sometimes gloss over Jesus' humanity that and use the "impossibility" of obedience to God as an excuse not to strive for perfection.

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    8. "If there isn't an age of accountability - and that accountability actually spans adulthood when there's no knowledge of sin - then aborted and stillborn and newborn babies go to hell. That's a pretty weird and cruel kind of God. David understood God differently. We should too."

      Those are your words, not mine. I would never call God cruel just because He doesn't act as I would want Him to.

      All are sinners, so He is justified to kill and send to hell any person He wants. He is holy. We are sinners. Punishment of sinners is Just.

      "Knowledge is Key and God is just. He's not like us. He doesn't charge people for crimes they have committed in ignorance."

      Read need to understand Romans 1 and 2. There are none who are ignorant. We all suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Romans 1 is specifically about the guilt of Gentiles apart from the Law. Romans 2 about guilt of Jews who have Law.

      "Original Sin is a slander against God, just as is individual predestination. The letter to the Romans has been used to twist all kinds of things (Just as Peter wrote). Pharaoh, for instance was not pre-programmed to disobey in order that God would look more glorious. He doesn't need man to err in order that he will look better. That would mean that God glories in man's sin. Crazy. It would also mean he is literally insane, complaining about a person's disobedience whom he made to be disobedient."

      I think you have trouble with the clear message of Scripture. Romans, Ephesians, 1 Peter, and many more teach in plain language the doctrines you say are slander.

      You are also quick to accuse God of being insane or unrighteous if He doesn't operate according to some kind of logic or philosophy that you have.

      God being God how He is described in the Bible, does not make Him insane.

      "We're born with free will. This is self-evident."

      Sorry. Theology isn't self-evident when special revelation is pretty clear. Where in the Bible does it say there is free will? Why do you reject Romans 3 and 6 and Ephesians 1-2, etc. If there was free will not everyone would be a sinner. We know from Romans 3 (from a quote of Psalms) that NO one is righteous or seeks God.

      "We sometimes gloss over Jesus' humanity that and use the "impossibility" of obedience to God as an excuse not to strive for perfection."

      I am not glossing over Jesus' humanity. But he isn't an example of "man". He was the God Man, begotten of God, yet fully man too. A bit of a unique case. I would say in a completely different category than me. Maybe you are a God Man too. I'm not.

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    9. "Those are your words, not mine. I would never call God cruel just because He doesn't act as I would want Him to."

      But that's not the issue. God says his justice is far superior to man's. His justice is the example that we use to set the standard. He isn't arbitrary. To say it's ok for him to be arbitrary and cruel, is to use man's standard of justice and then say God could do that if he wanted because he's God. He would be cruel if his justice were so arbitrary. It's really just slander. "God is arbitrary and unjust and we are just too stupid to understand why this would be wrong for God to do. Might makes right."

      "Read need to understand Romans 1 and 2. There are none who are ignorant."

      Romans 1 and 2 cannot be saying that people are never ignorant. It has to reconcile with other scripture, it can't contradict it. He says he himself was ignorant (in Romans 7) and it wasn't until he understood the law that he sinned. Perhaps no adult is ignorant or "has no excuse" but Jesus taught otherwise and Paul is not attempting to contradict Jesus.

      You whistle past John 15 for whatever reason.

      "Sorry. Theology isn't self-evident when special revelation is pretty clear. Where in the Bible does it say there is free will?"

      Ezekiel 18 for one. What "special revelation" says that man has no free will?

      "Why do you reject Romans 3 and 6 and Ephesians 1-2, etc."

      I don't. They don't teach what you claim.

      "I am not glossing over Jesus' humanity. But he isn't an example of "man"."

      Hebrews 2
      4 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. 16 For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. 17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted."

      He was fully man. He suffered the same temptations as we do and if he was man, he had to be born with the same "sin nature" as we are since it says he was made like us in all things, not some. But this "sin nature" doesn't exist. It's not a hereditary trait but our own will that causes us to sin. Jesus perfectly submitted his will to God's which means that it is possible to do so as a man.

      "We know from Romans 3 (from a quote of Psalms) that NO one is righteous or seeks God."

      And we know that this is hyperbole because Jesus called Abel righteous. In Ezekiel 18 Jesus attributes a man's righteousness (obedience) to those who perform it. If it was God "caused" against a person's natural will, the language there is all wrong.

      In Luke we discover that Zacharias and Elizabeth were "blameless" under the law. Paul calls himself blameless as well - because there was a remedy for sin under the old law. Some people did obey even if not perfectly.

      He was preaching against partiality. Jews are no better than Gentiles when it comes to disobedience to God. Some Gentiles were obedient and faithful even though they didn't have the law.

      And if it isn't hyperbole he's using, then he's wrong because we know Jesus perfectly obeyed. This is an example of going way too far with scripture. That passage does not say man is incapable of obedience.

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    10. Again. I would never say God is arbitrary or unjust. Original sin does not make Him that. Election doesn't make Him that. You are the only one claiming that. If God doesn't conform to your desires then you think He is unjust. That is your problem. Not mine.

      "Romans 1 and 2 cannot be saying that people are never ignorant. It has to reconcile with other scripture, it can't contradict it. He says he himself was ignorant (in Romans 7) and it wasn't until he understood the law that he sinned. Perhaps no adult is ignorant or "has no excuse" but Jesus taught otherwise and Paul is not attempting to contradict Jesus."

      It cannot? Based on your authority I guess. Because the plain statements say exactly that. In addition to many places in Scripture. Romans 7 is an interesting chapter. But if sin only comes through the Jewish Law, then most people in history haven't sinned. Murder and theft are not sin if I haven't read the Jewish Law. But we know every human knows that is wrong. How is that? Read Romans 2. Every man's conscience is the Law of God written on our hearts. So Romans 7 is an explanation of Paul's experience about the Law but it can't be expanded to say no one who is ignorant has sinned. Psalm 58:3-4 talk about mankind sinning from birth.

      But let me stop there. This isn't the place for this. We obviously disagree on much of what the Bible says.

      I stand by BM in his article on Original Sin. If you don't you aren't going to change minds here I don't think.

      I am not slandering God. I worship God as Holy and Righteous even in my belief of original sin and unconditional election. It makes Him much more worthy of glory and honor in my mind. If you disagree, please go your own way. Insulting and disrespecting me don't make your life any better. Peace.

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    11. Demidog, I asked you after your first comment what you thought about the key statement in my post (at the end of my comment, below). Instead of answering this, you went off on other tangents. I avoided commenting on these because I knew where the conversation would go - more specifically, how the conversation would go.

      You confirmed my suspicion with your comment: "Period, exclamation point." There are very few things in the Bible with which I would state "Period, exclamation point." If it was that simple, we would have figured it all out by now; instead, we seem to be splintering in evermore directions.

      So I will return to the statement upon which I asked you to comment after your first comment:

      "Original Sin is not an inclination to evil, but a lack of facility in choosing the good. …It is not something positive, it is something missing."

      Beyond addressing this specific statement, I think there is no reason to continue this discussion in this manner.

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    12. I used 'period exclamation point' because this is God speaking to Ezekiel and he uses the plainest language possible. There's really no way to misinterpret what he says there - that each person is responsible for his own behavior - unless one intentionally does so.

      "Original Sin is not an inclination to evil, but a lack of facility in choosing the good. …It is not something positive, it is something missing."

      What he's trying to do is redefine an unscriptural doctrine to something more palatable or understandable.

      This author is simply redefining "original sin" to a lack of free will on our part to obey. Ezekiel 18, which puts the sole responsibility of a person's sin or obedience on him or her alone, has to be in error if we are created with no capability to obey.

      There's nothing missing. To say that we're born without the capability to obey is to put us in a different class of human being than Jesus. He obeyed perfectly. But, Paul writes that he was made like us in "all ways."

      Thus, if we were born with something "missing," than so was Jesus. How did he manage to obey? Was he the one person on earth born with free will?

      Also, his statement is logically inconsistent. There is no "neutral" when it comes to sin. There are some behaviors that aren't sins, but those things which are commands from God, when disobeyed, are 'evil.'

      Thus, if we cannot incline ourselves to goodness using our own mental faculties, we are, by definition inclined toward evil.

      Ephesians makes it pretty clear that the commands we obey are not our own. We must have God and his commands in order to achieve righteousness. A man can't invent for himself the righteousness required to achieve salvation. In that, every man is the same. This isn't about capability however, but information.

      Given the information, a man can obey and gain the salvation promised by God. We're not missing anything when we're born. When we come of age, and have the information, we either reject or accept Christ. We chose that. And we're responsible for that decision. Rejection results in our "death" or separation from God. Acceptance allows us to share in the "life of God" as Paul put it.




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  3. If you want to understand sin and how we are related to it, keep reading Romans. Chapters 5-7 do a good job. Ephesians 1 and 2 as well.

    I think this is where Aquinas really goes awry. Look at the descriptions of man in the Scriptures I listed above and see if Aquinas includes those ideas in his philosophy.

    Wasn't it Aquinas who taught that a man's rational faculties are not fallen?

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    1. I do not know the answer to your last question.

      Romans 5: 12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned

      I believe I can read this verse through the lens of Abp. Di Noia's statement:

      "Original Sin is not an inclination to evil, but a lack of facility in choosing the good. …It is not something positive, it is something missing."

      Maybe I am wrong. We are created in God's image (the perfect form), yet have this defect - a defect inherited from Adam (man cannot hold the perfect Form of God): this defect which is the lack of facility to choose good. With this defect - common to all men - we all sin

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    2. I more or less agree. I think it is a little more forceful than that, but it is also hard to explain.

      "lack of facility to choose good" - I like lack of ability to choose good. But then again humans do choose good things at times. How I think about it is that a human can choose a good thing but only in ways that the sin nature allows, since we are described as being slaves to sin in Romans 6.

      As to my last question, I do think I read somewhere long ago that for Aquinas believed in depravity but not total depravity. I agree with the doctrine of total depravity, but that is another conversation.

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    3. Total depravity....maybe a Calvinist theologian could write a book examining the history of this view, and come to conclude that the historic Catholic / Orthodox view is not so different from his own - just as Salkeld is doing with the Eucharist!

      :-)

      RMB, thank you for your continued engagement here; I always appreciate your comments.

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  4. For contrast, Islam holds that people are born sinless. In the nature of prophets actually. That and that no person could bear the sin of another. Jesus understood this, which is why he said:

    "Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." —Matthew 19:14

    Interestingly, St. Augustine's doctrine which held that unbaptized children ended up in hell necessitated the idea of limbo, i.e., purgatory. The Catholic scholar of Islam Louis Massignon believed the Christian concept of limbo was inspired by the Muslim interpretation of A'raf, which came from the Qur'an. This was a misunderstanding of the Qur'an as Islam has no concept of limbo.

    As an interesting aside:

    "Al Aaraaf" is an early poem by American writer Edgar Allan Poe, first published in 1829. It tells of the afterlife in a place called Al Aaraaf, inspired by A'raf as described in the Quran. At 422 lines, it is Poe's longest poem.

    In any event, limbo is now gone, as I've recently discovered in this Slate article quote:

    "The Vatican announced on Friday (2007) the results of a papal investigation of the concept of limbo. Church doctrine now states that unbaptized babies can go to heaven instead of getting stuck somewhere between heaven and hell. If limbo doesn’t exist, what happened to everyone who was supposed to have been there already?

    They’ve probably been in heaven all this time, but no one knows for sure. Until the recent announcement, the limbo crowd was thought to include anyone who hadn’t been baptized but would otherwise deserve to go to heaven—like infants (including aborted fetuses), virtuous pagans, and pre-Christian Jews. Those who had been baptized, on the other hand, either joined God in heaven, made up for their sins in purgatory, or suffered forever in hell.

    If limbo never existed in the first place, you might assume that these souls passed straight through St. Peter’s gates. But the carefully worded document from the Vatican’s International Theological Commission stops short of certainty in this regard, arguing only that there are “serious theological and liturgical grounds for hope,” rather than “sure knowledge.”

    source: The End of Limbo https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2007/04/what-happens-to-the-babies-who-used-to-be-in-limbo.html



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    1. Ahmed,

      See my comment above to Demidog.

      Your quote includes this phrase, "...would otherwise deserve to go to heaven..." I only have one question. Why does anyone 'deserve' to go to heaven?

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    2. Roger,

      Men purify gold of its dross by placing it in fire. Those who do faith and good works, God purifies them in this life by tribulation. As for those who lack faith and do evil works, their purification is in the next life in hell which is a fire.

      Now a child that is born and dies, is like gold that is pure and has no dross. As such, it goes to heaven, because hell would serve no purpose here. Gold which is pure cannot be made purer. Faith and good works do not enter into the discussion here because they did not live long enough to be tested, therefore they can not be judged in that regard.

      To continue, those who are in heaven become bored with heavenly delights and yearn for something higher. These continue to work until they return to God. As for the people of hell, after purification, they too enter heaven, and also eventually end up with God.

      There are some however who go directly to God, bypassing heaven altogether. This is because they sought God for God's sake, and not because of love of heaven, or fear of hell.

      So ultimately, everyone ends up with God, except that some do so sooner than others.

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    3. If true, this would be very nice, but you never answered my question. I will ask it again. Why does anyone DESERVE to go to Heaven? And I will add one more. Why does anyone DESERVE to go to Hell?

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    4. Definition of DESERVE: do something or have or show qualities worthy of (reward or punishment).

      We are created to glorify God and life serves no other purpose. If we do that, we go to Heaven. Those however, like the secular humanists who glorify themselves or others, go to Hell. The latter because they see the creation but not the Creator.

      If we interact in a good way with our fellow human beings, we deserve to go to Heaven. If not, we deserve to go to Hell. Either way, it's what we have earned, all based on free choice to be good or evil.

      So faith and good works. This is the Catholic position, and this is the Islamic position.

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    5. Do you have any biblical scriptures which can back up your assertion? By biblical, I mean Old and New Testament. If you do, please produce them--book, chapter, and verse.

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  5. "transmitted his sin and guilt by heredity to his descendants"...and their is the problem with Original Sin...We are not descendants of Adam & Eve. When I say, "we", I am talking, "us", the Gentiles. When you read the Bible...you must read with wisdom and understanding.

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    1. Arent Jew and Gentile both descended from Adam? That is what it says in the Bible.

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    2. No...they are not...and that's not what the Bible says. The bible reads...Genesis1:26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. So...God made Man(the Gentiles) on the sixth day. We move on to Genesis2:7
      And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. So...God creates Adam and the Garden of Eden among the Gentiles. How do we know that? We know that from when Cain kills Abel and the Lord God tells Cain his fate...13 And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear.14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me...Cain knows he is a dead man outside of the Garden of Eden...because Cain has seen the people outside the Garden of Eden...hostile people...the Gentiles.

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    3. Just from a hereditary point of view, yes, we're all descended from Adam, Jew and Gentile. There weren't any Jews until Abraham, a Gentile, produced them.

      Cain never saw the Garden of Eden. He was himself a Gentile. There weren't any Jews at that time.

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    4. "Cain knows he is a dead man outside of the Garden of Eden...because Cain has seen the people outside the Garden of Eden...hostile people...the Gentiles"

      You added that to the Verses. Isn't found in the Scripture.

      I believe Genesis 2 is a retelling of Genesis 1, but that is hard to prove. But Cain's motivation is not listed, so it is not good to base belief on something that isn't there.

      More importantly Paul disagrees with you in Acts 17:26.

      "He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth"

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    5. @RMB Yes, those are my words. Sorry for my poor prose. Cain's motivation was to stay alive amongst the Gentiles...and that is there. Every Chapter...every word, has meaning in the Bible, there is no retelling, every Chapter has a message. As for Paul...he merely says Man is from one blood...all men are the same. @Demidog...Adam and Eve are the beginning of the Hebrews, more importantly...Adam's third son, Seth. His descendants(Abram would be one) would be the beginnings of the Hebrews. Cain was cast out to live amongst the Gentiles...Genesis 4:16 And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. The important wording of this passage is that Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, you are right, Abel was cast out of the Garden and then had Cain, however,they still lived in the protection of the Lord, Cain would be exiled among the Gentiles where he would take a wife. Abel would be avenged by the Lord...all of Cain's seed would perish in the flood.@RMB...you should only quote from the King James Bible, the definitive source of the Word.

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    6. "We are not descendants of Adam & Eve. When I say, "we", I am talking, "us", the Gentiles."

      Adam and Eve were Jews? I have heard a lot; I have never heard that one before. What do we make of Noah's three sons? How does this work? I mean, either all of them were Jews or none of them were Jews. And per the account, all others died in the flood. Even those "gentiles" that you point to that caused Cain fear.

      Is there an authoritative source you can provide for this understanding - whether a Jewish theologian, an early Church father, something like this? Because I can't wrap my mind around this concept at any point before Abraham.

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    7. My source is the King James Bible. You are confused as to the origin of the term Jews and Hebrews. I suggest you research it, instead of a lengthy post here. Adam and Eve were the beginning of the Hebrews...God's Chosen people.The story of Noah's three sons is well documented in the Bible. Only descendants of Shem would become the Children of Israel. And no...there aren't any theologians,Jewish or Christian, you won't find what has been revealed to me in any previous manuscripts or writings of early Church historians. You have not been able to refute what I have said using scripture. For me to continue discussing what has been revealed to me, I request that we do it privately. I will attempt to email you.

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    8. In 2000 years of Christianity and a few thousand more of Judaism, no one has come up with this but you? This really isn't going to work with me.

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    9. Genesis 21 - If you want to begin the Jew/Gentile division with Abram/Abraham, then, it is with his descendants that the division is manifest - Isaac is the son of promise (the Muslims calim it is Ishmael) and if you are not Isaac or a descendant of Isaac's then you are a Gentile.

      Genesis 35 - If you want to begin the Jew/Gentile division with Jacob/Israel. Israel's children were the fathers of the 12 tribes that became slaves in Egypt and were granted the lanf of Caanaan. Gentiles are anyone not descendant of Israel.

      Bottom line, there were no Jews/Gentiles division, at least, until Abraham.



      As to Cains's motivation:

      Genesis 4

      Adam[a] made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain.[b] She said, “With the help of the Lord I have brought forth[c] a man.” 2 Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.

      Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. 3 In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, 5 but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

      6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 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.”

      (snip)

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    10. BM, this is a King James only guy it sounds like. Very problematic belief from what I have read. Basically they think the translated Bible into English has become less reliable the more Greek manuscripts have been found, analyzed, and included in formulating what we read as the Greek NT.

      As far as Hebrews and Jews. The best I can tell is that the term Hebrew is from Genesis 10:21 from Eber son of Shem. From Shem we get Semite. From Eber we get Hebrew. To use the term strictly I think is missing the point because we only use Hebrew later in the Bible to describe the descendants of Jacob. Then Jews is a further distinction after the Exiles. After the kingdom split the Northern 10 tribes, Israel, in many ways were lost after the Assyrian Exile except for those who intermixed with Assyrians who were called Samaritans in Jesus' day. The Jews were associated with the nation of Judah. During the exile and after they returned you see the name Jew(s) used. It isn't that exact of course but that gives my general understanding. It isn't esoteric is exegetic.

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  6. As to animals, babies (born or unborn) and mentally deficient people going to heaven when they die, the bible is silent but I trust in God's mercy and goodness to handle it appropriately.

    Judgement, The Fall, came about when Adam deliberately chose Eve over God and blamed God (as Adam said, "the woman you gave me") for Adam's disobedience.

    The result was that God, mercifully, condemned His creation to die ("in dying you will die" , paraphrase) so that redemption is sought during man's lifetime. No redemption for Lucifer and his demons since they have no bodies where they can bear the judgment against Adam and Adam's race.

    Do you suffer pain of anykind, minor like a headache or major like cancer? Does all creatures die? That is the result of original sin's judgment.

    We are born in/with the original sin - death.

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    1. Jaime, your opening sentence captures my view on this specific point. From conception until one has volition (if that's the right word), I can only leave this in God's mercy and righteous judgement.

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    2. I have nothing more to say on the subject. Thank you all.

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    3. I agree. That first sentence is the best way to think about it.

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  7. I guess this thread is long since dead, but ...

    BM said "Total depravity....maybe a Calvinist theologian could write a book examining the history of this view, and come to conclude that the historic Catholic / Orthodox view is not so different from his own - just as Salkeld is doing with the Eucharist!"

    Actually, "Total Depravity" (in a Reformation understanding) does not mean people are as bad as they could be, but rather, the totality of man's faculties are "depraved", and depraved is defined as an INABILITY (in fact "total inability" or "moral inability" are often used instead of "total depravity") to do what it takes to please God and make ourselves pleasing to him (that is, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength). This inability is not physical, but moral. Our WILLS are not willing to love God with our totality, and if we are not willing, we are not able. (Which is why Reformation Christianity would never say that we have "free will". We have a free choice, but our chooser (will) is bound by sin (self-will) until God sets us free. So, free choice, yes, but bound wills, before God's action to free us.

    Given this, though I am far from an expert, I would think that Calvin and Luther (both Augustinians, BTW) were fairly in agreement with Rome on Original Sin. And with Abp. Di Noia (as you have summarized him) as seeing this as an inability. Culpable, to be sure, because it is based in our stubborn wills, but an inability.

    - Jay

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    1. Jay, I am reading (thought stopped writing about) a book by Brett Salkeld on Transubstantiation. There are a few posts on this site covering this book.

      The reason I raise this in the context of your comment: he concludes that what Aquinas meant when he used the term is much the same as what Luther meant; Luther was arguing against a false meaning of the term. I believe this is true regarding Calvin, albeit I don't recall enough to say; it was, however, a Reformed pastor that found this book very worthwhile).

      The issue is this: many Catholics believe the false meaning of the term, and many Protestants take this false view as the Catholic teaching. Salkeld's book clarifies this in detail.

      Total depravity has a meaning in the minds of many - of a body so riddled with cancer that a scan shows nothing of normalcy. Yet, from what I have read elsewhere (and in accord with your comment), this isn't the Reformed view - and it corresponds, at least with the view of the Catholic Di Noia.

      A Calvinist can write this book, just as a Catholic wrote the book reconciling the meaning of Transubstantiation.

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